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GOP Lawmakers invited to WH today. TRANSCRIPT: 9/25/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Joel Brenner, Michael Schmidt, Barbara McQuade, Eric Swalwell, JanSchakowsky, Richard Ben-Veniste, Donna Edwards

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  I made him an offer he couldn`t refuse.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

I would like you to do us a favor though.  Well, those were President Trump`s words to Ukrainian President Zelensky this summer, as Zelensky sought vital military arms from the United States.  That`s what came from the White House notes at that July conversation released just today, which paints a damning picture of the conversation now at the center of an official impeachment inquiry.

Not only does the memo confirm reports that Trump asked for an investigation of Joe Biden, it suggested the president of the United States conditioned defense of a U.S. ally on delivering the dirt on Biden.  Was it true or false?

Trump emphasizes multiple times to Ukrainian President Zelensky that, quote, the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine, and that prompted Zelensky to bring up what he needs to defend his country from Russian aggression, continued U.S. military assistance.

Thank you for your great support in the area of defense, he said.  We are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.  Well, Javelins are those shoulder-mounted anti-tank missiles.  There they are.  There`re different versions of them, there`s one you put it on your shoulder, that U.S. has been deploying to Ukraine for their self-defense.

In responding to Zelensky`s plea for missiles, Trump immediately made some requests of his own.  He says, I would like you to do us a favor though.  Trump then brings up the Mueller probe and its origins, asking Zelensky to get to the bottom of it.  Zelensky then tells Trump that his assistant has already spoken to Rudy Giuliani.

Trump goes onto make another request, saying, the other thing, there`s a lot of talk about Biden`s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution.  So if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me.

Well, President Zelensky assures Trump that his next prosecutor general will look into this situation.  Only after receiving that assurance does Trump then offer Zelensky a personal meeting at the White House.

Throughout the telephone call, Trump repeatedly urged Zelensky to speak to Rudy Giuliani, who was known to be pushing Ukraine to investigate Biden.

The release of this memo came the same day that Trump met with President Zelensky today at the U.N.  Zelensky was careful not to offend the president today.  He`s relying on him for national defense.


REPORTER:  Have you felt any pressure from President Trump to investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT:  I think you read everything, so I think you read text.  I`m sorry, but I don`t want to be involved to democratic open elections -- elections of USA.  No, you heard we had I think good phone call.  It was normal.  We spoke about many things.  And so I think and you read it that nobody pushed me.  Yes.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  In other words, no pressure.


MATTHEWS:  Well, Zelensky underscored Ukraine`s independence and said his prosecutor is free to decide whatever to investigate for himself.

All of this emerged from that urgent whistleblower`s complaint, which after being suppressed for weeks, was delivered to Congress late today.

I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, who just viewed that complaint.  Congressman, thank you.

Can you tell us at least in qualitative terms how much more is there in this compliant, this formal complaint to the I.G. that we saw in the memo today of the conversation between the president and the president of Ukraine?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  Chris, I can tell you what`s described in the complaint is deeply disturbing.  The acting Director of National Intelligence prohibits me from even connecting it to the president`s call with Ukraine.

But I`ll just say this.  The whistleblower, thank God this person came forward, lays out witnesses that we need to follow up with, documents that we need to get and also describes a number of individuals around this disturbing conduct who never came forward.  That`s what`s really concerning to me.

I just also want to speak briefly to what you described as the president`s call to Ukraine.  Not only does he ask the Ukrainian president to investigate a political opponent, that`s seeking a favor and you`re going to owe that person something, in that transcript, he also is essentially doing Russia`s bidding and seeking to exonerate Russia for the work that they did in the election by seeing if someone else was involved with this server that he asked them to follow up on.  So that in itself is betrayal to our country.

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this?  Many people believe that for a president of the United States to condition military support in the form here of Javelin missiles to fight Russian tanks, the condition that delivery of those weapons, defensive weapons on whether a president of that allied country gives him dirt on a political opponent, is itself a high crime?  Where are you on that?

SWALWELL:  Yes, it is, and it`s corrupt.  It`s the way that third world leaders conduct themselves, not the president of the United States.  And, again, the president has made the standard quid pro quo, just the fact that he asks shows that he would have to owe the Ukrainian president something, putting foreign government`s priorities above America`s.

But, again, if you step back here, Chris, the Ukrainian`s aren`t stupid.  They know that militarily, economically and just through credibility, they need the United States.  And if aid is being held back and the president of the United States is asking you to do something, they`re going to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Trump is our Commander-in-Chief.  He`s our head of State, he`s head of government in many ways in a country that has power divided among branches of government.  He is, in many ways, the symbol of our country, the one that the American people have to look up to for their defense.  Has he betrayed that role in using his control over armed supplies to an allied country that`s vulnerable to Russia?  Has he betrayed that responsibility certainly to the American people by serving his partisan interest?

SWALWELL:  President Trump has betrayed America`s moral leadership in the world.  He`s pushed us away from traditional democracies who care about human rights and has drawn us closer to people like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Edorgan of Turkey, Dutrterte of the Philippines.  And, boy, Chris, if this is the way he talked to the president of Ukraine right after he`s elected president, imagine what the transcripts read like when he talks to Putin.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s talk about this.  He likes to say, in his talking points and distribute it to all the Republican, basically robo thinkers and talkers, they put the word out today, it`s not quid pro quo.  I would suggest it might not be the very phrase, quid pro quo.  It sounded to me like extortion.  If you want these weapons to defend yourself against Russian tanks, you better play ball with me and give me some dirt.  You give me that, I`ll give you your White House meeting, I`ll give you your anti-tank missiles.  That sounds more like I made an offer they couldn`t refuse, much more than extortion than -- it wasn`t a deal.  It was a threat.

SWALWELL:  It was a mob shakedown.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  What more do you need?  The thing I`m concerned about, and some people get mad when I raise this, it seems like we`ve got so many lawyers in the House of Representatives now, so many process people.  You guys are always ready to serve a subpoena or have another contempt citation or talking about inherent content and all this crap poll, and all you do is look this thing in the eye and see it.

Is this impeachable or not and have a vote within the next few weeks and move on because it`s not going to look anymore clear in two or three weeks?  What more do you as a congressman, a member of the Intelligence Committee and a member of the Judiciary to know?  What more do you want to know to decide this case yourself?

SWALWELL:  Keep it simple.  As a former prosecutor, nothing is more powerful as evidence than a defendant`s own admission of guilt, and we have that in the notes that were released today.

MATTHEWS:  Great leadership there.  Thank you so much, Eric Swalwell, California U.S. Congressman.

Hours after the release of the White House memo on President Trump`s call with the Ukrainian president, Speaker Pelosi reaffirmed her belief that President Trump`s behavior undermines the rule of law here.  For his part, President Trump dismissed Pelosi and her role as speaker of the House.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  Today`s release of the notes of the call by the White House confirms this behavior which undermines the integrity of our election, the dignity of any presidency and our national security.

REPORTER:  Did you ask House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to find a way out of impeachment yesterday?

TRUMP:  Not at all.  No.  Look, she`s lost her way.  She`s been taken over by the radical left.  And she may be radical left herself and she really has lost her way.

Nancy Pelosi, as far as I`m concerned, unfortunately, she`s no longer speaker of the House.


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, who was the Chief Deputy Whip of the Democratic Caucus, Richard Ben-Veniste is former Watergate Counsel and partner at Mayer Brown.

Congresswoman, thank.  I was just thinking about your long shore (ph) of people along this Chicago waterfront and all those people that lived through, and some of them weren`t old enough to remember World War II, unfortunately, and think about all of the Cold War, how we defended those captive countries along the border of Russia, the Soviet Union, how we were looking out for them.  And here we have a case where one desperate country, Ukraine, all they wanted were Javelin missile, the kind you put on your shoulder to shoot at Russian tanks that take your country apart.

And he says, yes, but, first, let`s talk about what I want.  I want some dirt on my opponent.  Give me that and then we`ll talk business.  Extraordinary icon (ph).  Your thoughts.

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D-IL):  It`s so obvious.  And I think what`s different about this is that any person, you don`t have to be a lawyer, can see what this president has done, that he has compromised the integrity of our Constitution, that he has used his power for his own personal political gain.  I`m really kind of surprised that they released this at all.

But the one quote that I think that is also really important that you didn`t say, the president, after saying, oh, we have done so much for Ukraine, also said, and I wouldn`t say it`s reciprocated.  I mean, he was saying, we want some reciprocation, and then he outlines it.  We want the dirt on my political opponent.

And one other thing, he said, Rudy Giuliani, you should talk to him.  But he also said that I want you to talk to the attorney general of the United States of America.  So he was using every implement of government to also reinforce this political goal of his to get dirt on Joe Biden.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Ukrainian President Zelensky, to make your point, Congresswoman, seemed almost desperate to secure additional U.S. military support during today`s photo-op.  Let`s watch him again.


TRUMP:  If you remember, you lost Crimea during a different administration, not during the Trump administration.

ZELENKSY:  Yes.  So you have chance to help us.

TRUMP:  That`s right, I do.

ZELENSKY:  I`m sorry, but we don`t need help.  We need support, real support.  And we thank everybody, thank all of the European countries who helped us.  But we also want to have more.

TRUMP:  I gave you anti-tank busters that, frankly, President Obama was sending you pillows.  I really hope that you and President Putin get together and can solve your problem.  That would be a tremendous achievement.


MATTHEWS:  Richard Ben-Veniste, this president goes down on this and there`s certainly a good case he should be impeached for this, it`s because of the absurd obsession with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  In the midst of any conversation, it pops out of him like Tourette`s.  He can`t get the names, Obama, gave you pillows.  I`m giving you missiles, I`m giving you Javelin missiles and this stuff happened under somebody else, and we`ve got to get Hillary`s server, somebody -- it`s like one of these National Enquirer things, the servers in Ukraine?  Keep going.  What is --

RICHARD BEN-VENISTE, FORMER WATERGATE COUNSEL:  That CrowdStrike was mentioned, the company that was used to determine that the Russians were behind the hacking.  This is really extraordinary, Chris.  And I have to say that we have seen the evolution by President Trump going from Russia, if you hear me, to Ukraine, listen up.

MATTHEWS:  In the midst of this, Congresswoman, he says -- it`s so pathetic and so condescending.  Here`s a country that`s vulnerable to the Russians.  They`ve grabbed part of their country, Crimea, that they basically inhabited.  But another part in the east, he says, why don`t you settle your problem?  It`s like telling Finland to settle their problem with Russia.  Little countries don`t solve their problems with big countries on their borders.  They give into them.  I mean, what is he talking about?  It was condescending, I thought, in addition to all this other impeachable stuff.

SCHAKOWSKY:  It`s totally impeachable.  And I think the American people have to understand how this misuse of his power is so blatant.  They`ve cut $200 million away from a benefit to Ukraine just a week before this conversation.  So I`m sure that the president of Ukraine understood that this was a shakedown.  It was a shakedown.

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  The fear that Trump would abuse his power with Ukraine was apparent to those around the president even before the phone call with the president of Ukraine.

According to The Washington Post, this is the big stuff, several officials describe tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president`s phone call.  Sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appear prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump`s political gain.

And some senior officials worked behind the scenes to hold off a Trump meeting or even a phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky out of concern that Trump would use the conversation to press Kiev, that`s the capital over there, for damaging information on Joe Biden and his son.

It`s unbelievable.

BEN-VENISTE:  Well, it sounds like, Chris, from what Congressman Swalwell said that this whistleblower complaint is going to provide a roadmap for Congress to question other individuals who will have knowledge of the requests that were made that setup the Zelensky call.  Clearly, he knew what the president was going to say in the call because he`d had contact from Giuliani and others.

And the mention of Attorney General Barr is extraordinary because it`s Attorney General Barr who presumably ruled that the whistleblower complaint did not make out a case.  Now, isn`t this a conflict of interest?

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, I have one concern, and it grows in my head.  I`ll go to bed tonight worrying about it.  This will all get diffused into a lot of committee jurisdictions.  There are six committees looking at this.  A lot of members of Congress have their own particular focuses so far, where they want to put their point.

Can the speaker and you and the ones who really aligned with her, can you keep the focus on Ukraine, keep it a simple up or down vote on whether this is an impeachable act, a high crime or not, and have a vote in a real reasonable time, like a month from now, weeks in rather than months?  I`m afraid this is going to get diffused.  I`m afraid they`ll never even get to a vote.  That is my fear.  Because of the crazy incoherent way this has been handled by the committee.

So just so many different voice, five-minute rule, you know how it works, Congresswoman.  It`s very hard to keep a focus.  Can you (INAUDIBLE) can do that?

SCHAKOWSKY:  So I think this is going to move swiftly.  Tomorrow, we`re going to see an open hearing at the House Intelligence Committee.  We`re going to learn from the whistleblower.  We`re going to talk to the DNI, the Director of National Intelligence.  And I think this is going to build on itself, and I think we will be able to move swiftly.

And as I said, I think the thing that`s different right now is that this is so clear.  The American people are not going to be confused by this story.  And we`re all going to be questioning whether this president is capable of handling the intelligence in this country, dealing with foreign powers, if he is capable of being president of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Well said.  Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Richard Ben-Veniste, a veteran of similar affairs.

Coming up, just a short time ago, the U.S. Congress received that explosive whistleblower complaint itself.  What can we expect tomorrow when the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, testifies publicly, as the Congresswoman just said?

And the man at the center of this Ukraine scandal is, no surprise, Rudy Giuliani, here it is.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY:  Laura, I`m a pretty good lawyer, just a country lawyer, but it`s all here, right here, the first call from the State Department.

By the way, do you have any idea that the State Department --


GIULIANI:  Shut up, moron.  Shut up.  You don`t know what you`re talking about.


GIULIANI:  You don`t know what you`re talking about, idiot.

HAHN:  I do.


MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s (INAUDIBLE), isn`t it?

And tomorrow night, Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris is going at it, joining us live.  She`s a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of the two committees interviewing the Director of National Intelligence and the inspector general for security matters tomorrow.

Much more to get to in a day of fast-moving developments.  Stick with us.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Today, we learned that the White House notes of that July 25 phone call between the president and the president of Ukraine that Trump conditioned - - that`s where he conditioned whether U.S. military support was going to get there if they gave us dirt on the president`s political rival Joe Biden. 

Just hours after the White House release, some lawmakers have gotten a look at the original whistle-blower complaint. 

At his news conference at the United Nations today, President Trump said he supported the release of that complaint. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  But I have spoken with Leader Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans, many of them.  And we were going to do this anyway, but I have informed them, all of the House members, that I fully support transparency on the so-called whistle-blower information.


MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Michael Schmidt, Washington correspondent for "The New York Times."

Michael, what`s the state of play here tonight, Wednesday night?  The president put on a good line today.  He sounded like he was confident that he`s won this round.  And yet all the evidence points to what look like a - - an extortion racket, the president of the United States saying, if you went the weapons you need to defend your country, give me dirt. 

It`s all in the notes from that conversation. 

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Well, the president thought that the Democrats had been overplaying their hand, and that if the transcript came out, that it would help him and it would show that this was not that bad. 

I`m not sure that it has had that impact.  I think what you see in the document is sort of a melding together of some of the worst allegations made against the president in the Mueller report.  It`s talking to a foreign country related to an election, and it`s also trying to use an investigation of a rival to undermine them, and him using the power of his presidency to do that. 

So, in this instance, he has melded together those two things into this problem that sits in front of him. 

And what`s different about this problem than the other ones that we have seen is that it`s sort of a single thing that he has to contend with.

Over the past three years, what it`s been is a lot of different things, collusion, obstruction, different things about his business.  In this instance, it`s sort of one thing, with a transcript with his own words. 

We are inside the room with him behind closed doors, seeing what he is saying to a foreign leader and how he`s using his power. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s the way I read it, where it says in this -- these notes from the conversation put out by the National Security Council, "We`re almost" -- this is the president of Ukraine -- sort of desperate: "We`re almost ready to buy more Javelins" -- these are the weapons used to fight tanks with -- "from the United States for defense purposes."

The next thing the president says after hearing that plea for these anti- tank weapons, he goes -- here`s Trump: "I would like to do -- I`d like you to do us a favor, though."

"I`d like you to do us a favor, though."  How is that not the quid pro quo?  The very moment the guy asks for what he needs to protect his country, the president comes back with, yes, but I want you to do something for us, though. 


MATTHEWS:  That is a trading situation. 

I don`t know why Trump -- except Trump also thought that Rod Blagojevich, the guy who is in jail for 14 years for that kind of a trade, when he`s trading Barack Obama`s Senate seat for his personal political gain, he thought that was OK. 

Is it possible, in your reporting, that the president of the United States, the one we have now, doesn`t know what awful is? 

SCHMIDT:  I`m not sure. 

But in terms of a quid pro quo, when those type of things happen, I don`t think people sit down and say, hey, here`s the quid, here`s the pro and here`s the quo.

MATTHEWS:  It looked like it there.

SCHMIDT:  I think what you have in this instance -- well, in this instance, it certainly comes up earlier in the conversation. 

It looks like the president is trying to build leverage in that, sort of showing, this is what we have done for you.  We have been very good to you with this aid. 


SCHMIDT:  You know, the Europeans aren`t nearly as good as us. 

And then, after building that leverage, as if he`s building an argument, he then goes in and he asks for the favor.  It`s actually -- it`s asking this country to do these investigations that would help him. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, one of the great reporters of our time, Michael Schmidt.  Thank you of "The New York Times." 

I want to bring a Joel Brenner, who is a former inspector general of the National Security Agency and the former head of U.S. counterintelligence in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

I can`t think of a better guest.

Tell me about, well, sort of the context of this. 

When someone goes to the inspector general for national intelligence and says to him, there`s something that I have overheard or discovered that is very urgent to me and concerning, I`m worried about it, I`m bringing up a complaint about it, what`s that all about?  Well, how important is that? 

JOEL BRENNER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY INSPECTOR GENERAL:  Well, that -- it very important, because the reason these rules were created was to give people who had something to complain about a way of elevating that concern without leaking it. 

It was a way of sort of allowing somebody who saw something that was -- that was or that was thought to be really out of bounds, would elevate that and tell the Oversight committees on the Hill about it, without having -- in a secure way, without leaking the information. 

So what we`re having now, what the administration was doing was really to make leaking more likely.  Now, the more we learn today about the -- and as your -- I think your viewers now know, the -- that was stopped by the intervention of the Justice Department...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BRENNER:  ... which said they didn`t think the statute applied, which the inspector general, Mr. Atkinson, thought it did apply. 


BRENNER:  But the more we learn, the more it appears that the acting director, Mr. Maguire, who we will hear from tomorrow, was playing a tough and honorable inside game. 

"The Post" reports this afternoon he threatened to resign if he wasn`t allowed to go to the Hill.  He`s denied that, which -- so one doesn`t quite know what to say about a resignation.  But he must have been playing a tough inside game, because the White House has moved backwards on this.  They have allowed him to go to the Hill. 


Let`s talk the perspective of the man or woman -- we don`t know who -- who issued this whistle-blower complaint.  What`s the risk factor in that, in a person who has got a career in the government to do that kind of thing? 

BRENNER:  Well, the point of the statute is to make that risk -- to eliminate that risk. 

And we looked -- when I was an inspector general at NSA, if one saw a retaliation against someone who had complained, we would come down like a ton of bricks on that person.  You had to protect the person who was a whistle-blower, who was a complainer, because, after all, all complainers are not right about what they`re saying. 

And it`s the I.G.`s job to evaluate those things.  So we had a -- we got a really good mechanism to take care of this.  And the I.G. community does a good job of protecting people who are complaining about things like that. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the I.G., the job that the person has, Atkinson in this case, who has to decide whether he`s going to follow the law or not.

The law says, if it`s an urgent matter, it reaches a certain threshold of national concern, that he has to carry that forward to the Congress, he has to present the Congress the complaint.

BRENNER:  That`s...

MATTHEWS:  What would stop him...

BRENNER:  That`s right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... an I.G. from doing that?

BRENNER:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Why wouldn`t an I.G. deliver what he`s told to deliver to Congress?  Because that`s what happened here with that Atkinson.

BRENNER:  Because the statute says he doesn`t go directly to Congress.  He has to give it to his director or, in this case, his acting director. 

Now the I.G. and the acting director, although the I.G. is a watchdog, he`s an executive branch official, like it or not.  He`s not a free agent.  He works in the executive branch.

And the Office of Legal Counsel and Justice, Chris, is the last word as far as the executive branch is concerned about what the law is.  And they said, no, the law doesn`t apply here. 

Now, I didn`t agree with that, but that puts the -- both the I.G. and the acting director between a rock and a hard place.  They cannot insert their own judgment in the place of OLC`s.



MATTHEWS:  How about some political analysis here?

We have an attorney general who`s being used by this president to do his dirty work collecting dirt over in Ukraine.  We know that on the record now, because it`s in the telephone notes of the president with the president of Ukraine.  We know that.  That`s how this attorney general`s being used, as a Roy Cohn, basically. 

And we also know he sided with the president in terms of the way he presented the Mueller report, before, during and after, everything.  Everything was basically juiced for the president`s purposes by this attorney general. 

Now you cite the attorney general as the one who decides whether to deliver the whistle-caller`s information to the Congress or not, as if it`s an institution that`s immune to politics. 

This Department of Justice is totally politicized.  How can they render a judgment? 

BRENNER:  Department of Justice -- Department of Justice, under our Constitution, Chris, is a political -- is part of the political branches of government.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BRENNER:  The A.G., like it or not, is a political appointee. 

That`s why, Chris, this is fundamentally not going to be solved by lawyers. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

BRENNER:  This is a political conflict between the two political branches of government.  And it`s got to have a political solution, which is either an election or an impeachment. 

Those are the tools.

MATTHEWS:  Mr. Brenner, you have said what I have been thinking not so articulately now for months.  Lawyers are not going to solve this.  It may not be about the letter of the law. 

It`s like pornography.  You know it when you see it.  And this president has been committing a high crime. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Joel Brenner.  I did like the way you said that. 

We`re out of time.  Thank you. 

Up next...


MATTHEWS:  I`m sorry.  Make your thought.  I`m sorry, sir.  Go ahead.

BRENNER:  Well, I wanted to tell people who were focused on this quid pro quo business, about which people are spinning whichever way they want to, to focus instead on the sequence of events. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s what I think too.  Right. 

BRENNER:  That cannot be spun.  That can`t be spun. 

MATTHEWS:  The president froze the money.  He froze the money.  He froze the arms.  Then he met with the guy on the phone and said, you still want those arms?  OK, give me some dirt. 


MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Joel Brenner, for slicing it. 

BRENNER:  And then...

MATTHEWS:  Well, we got to go.  I`m sorry.  I`m sorry, sir.  We will have to have you back. 

Up next:  What exactly is Rudy Giuliani`s role in the U.S. government?  Rudy Giuliani, he is not elected.  He`s not appointed to any real official post. 

So, why is he talking to foreign governments, like Ukraine, on the government`s behalf, or is he just the Roy Cohn of the moment?

You`re watching HARDBALL.



RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  You know who I did it at the request of?  The State Department. 

I never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to do it.  And then I reported every conversation back to them. 

And, Laura, I`m a pretty good lawyer, just a country lawyer, but it`s all here, right here. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump`s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, last night defending his interactions with Ukraine.  Giuliani`s efforts to dig up dirt on the Bidens is a central focus now of President Trump`s July phone call with the Ukrainian president himself. 

And one key quote from the White House notes President Trump told the Ukrainian leader: "I will ask him to call you, along with the attorney general.  Rudy very much knows what`s happening.  And he`s a very capable guy.  If you could speak with him, that would be great" -- close quote.

Well, "The Washington Post" reports on Giuliani`s months-long shadow effort to pressure Ukraine that -- quote -- "involved the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the circumvention of senior officials on the National Security Council, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid administered by the Defense and State departments."

And one official told "The Washington Post": "Rudy, he did all of this.  This S-show that we`re in, it`s him injecting himself into the process."

For more, I`m joined by Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney.

Barbara, thank you so much. 

Here`s the -- that great line in all the old crime shows was, did you notice anything different that night?  Anything special happen that night?

Because that always -- anything changing in the norm tells you something special to that night happened and probably has something to do with the crime that`s being investigated. 

Those officials in the State Department, those officials on the National Security Council for months noticed something weird was happening in our relationship with Ukraine.  It had nothing to do with geopolitical defense against the Russians. 

It had to do with getting dirt, getting dirt on Hillary, getting dirt especially on Joe Biden, who, at that time, in the early parts of the summer, really looked like a threat, more than he does today, in fact, to this president.  That`s what this is about. 

What do you make of the fact that Rudy Giuliani is showing up in all these quarters as the president`s guy? 


I think it suggests that President Trump himself knew that this was shady and not to be done through official channels.  He didn`t send a government official.  He didn`t send somebody who works for the White House. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MCQUADE:  He didn`t send anybody in the State Department.  He sent his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

This is -- in public corruption cases, you refer to someone like that as the bag man, somebody who goes and does the dirty work, has the negotiations, talks about the deal offline. 

If Giuliani was talking with the State Department about this mission, I want to know who -- what`s the name of the person you were talking to at the State Department?  Let`s put that person before Congress and talk about what the scope of this assignment was, because it sounds highly unusual. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s interesting to make the case you just made, that how he`s being set up as almost a cutout, if you will, someone separate that can -- will keep the word to himself what he`s been told to do.

Rudy is probably very loyal to Trump these days.  So, therefore, he will do terrible requests of the Ukrainian government.  I want this.  I want that, keep pushing, pushing, pushing. 

The way that the president set that up in his conversation with President Zelensky was to say, this guy was mayor of New York.  This guy is very impressive.  This is a great lawyer. 

He was, in other words, investing him with this incredible authority to do all kinds of even dirty work.  I know what is going on here.  I know you do, too.  He`s telling him, deal with this guy.  He`s going to be a little rough, but he`s my guy. 


And that is frequently the way it happens in cases of public corruption, that you have some sort of intermediary who actually has the tough negotiations.  And that is a shield for the higher-level person.  They can say, I didn`t know what was going on.  They can speak in code, because they have someone else who is conducting the negotiations at a lower level. 

It`s a way to distance yourself from the dirty work that`s being done. 


MATTHEWS:  You`re so great, Barbara, but one last thought. 

What the hell is the name William Barr doing in Kiev?  Why do they even know about this guy?  What is this?  The president is also going to say, you`re going to hear from another guy.  You are going to hear from Bill Barr, my stooge at the Justice Department.  Here he comes. 

MCQUADE:  Yes, I don`t know. 

And Barr himself, of course, has denied that he had any communications with Ukraine.  But I think it demonstrates why William Barr should be recused from any decision about whether to disclose the whistle-blower`s complaint to Congress.  The Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion saying it need not be disclosed. 

There is a conflict of interests there for William Barr, who has an incentive to keep his name out of it and besmirching his name.  And so the fact that he was involved in that decision strikes me as a conflict of interests. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Barbara McQuade.  Great insight into the law and its surroundings. 

Up next:  The White House hands out talking points on Ukraine.  And Republican congresspeople waste no time toeing the line, reading their lines. 

Wait until see these clips we have got.  It`s mind-boggling how these people told -- say what they`re told to say. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 



NBC News reports that earlier today, Republican lawmakers were invited to the White House to coordinate their messaging ahead of the release of the memo on Trump`s phone call with the Ukrainian president.  Isn`t that sweet? 

Well, the White House also sent out talking points to Congress, which Republican Congress people echoed throughout the day. 

The memo titled "What You Need to Know" states that there was no quid pro quo for anything else -- or anything else inappropriate about the conversation. 


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL):  There`s no quid pro quo. 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  From a quid pro quo aspect of the phone call, there`s nothing there. 


MATTHEWS:  It continues, the president wanted allegations of corruption potentially involving an American official to be investigated. 


GRAHAM:  I think it`s very appropriate for the president of the United States suggests that you`ve got a corruption problem. 

GAETZ:  You have President Zelensky and President Trump both complimenting one another for trying to root out corruption. 


MATTHEWS:  The memo calls the whistleblower`s account a second-hand account. 


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA):  If you`re going to base it on a press report from a secondhand person that thinks they heard something, and that`s the most you`ve got --

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  Based upon a whistleblower that wasn`t even listening to a conversation. 


MATTHEWS:  And accused Democrats of endangering our national security. 


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY):  We`re now in a situation where not only have they hurt national security, but they`re fundamentally abdicating their constitutional responsibility. 

MCCARTHY:  It was a dark day for national security.  But you are willing to jeopardize the national security of our country today and in the future because of your own political bias. 


MATTHEWS:  It`s like a Woody Allen movie.  The keyword here is national security. 

Anyway, the president retweeted statements that reflected those talking points throughout the day.  However, in contrast to the public confidence many Republicans displayed towards defending the president, their public confidence, it`s a very different story in private.  And that reporting is coming up next. 

Republicans in the backrooms are not happy with this president and his dealings with Ukraine. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, "The Washington Post`s" Robert Costa is reporting tonight that several Senate Republicans were privately stunned Wednesday and questioned the White House`s judgment after it released a rough transcript of President Trump`s call with that Ukrainian president. 

An anonymous Republican told "The Washington Post" that the transcript`s release was a huge mistake that the GOP now has to confront and defend -- while the party argues at the same time that House Democrats are overreaching with their impeachment inquiry.  They`re not overreaching today, got it. 

Anyway, two Senate Republicans openly called the memo troubling. 


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT):  I did read the transcript.  It remains troubling in the extreme.  It`s deeply troubling.  At this stage, the process is to continue gathering information, but clearly, what we`ve seen from the transcript itself is deeply troubling. 

SEN. BEN SASSE (R-NE):  Democrats ought not to be using the word "impeach" before they had the whistleblower complaint or read any of the transcript.  Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons and say there`s no "there" there when there`s obviously lots that`s very troubling there.  The administration ought not be attacking a whistleblower as some talking points suggest they plan to do. 


MATTHEWS:  I`m joined right now former Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, of course, who`s a contributing columnist out of "The Washington Post", and Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian. 

Donna, thank you for joining us. 

It seems to me that the Republicans, unless you`re a Mormon -- I`m sorry -- unless you`re a Romney from Utah, it`s scary.  Why do the Republicans so scary to talk about this president when he`s been caught in the act of dealing foreign policy, foreign military aid for dirt on a partisan opponent? 

FORMER REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD):  Because they don`t think the president has been caught for real yet, because they can`t see that in their home districts and their states where among Republicans, the president still enjoys tremendous success.  But, you know, you can see some of the cracks, you know, coming alive. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there anything inside those MAGA hats? 

EDWARDS:  You know, that`s a question for them.  I`m not really good on red hats.

But I do think that Republicans are going to -- some of them are going to try to walk a very fine line until they really know where this president is going, and I think Democrats are on the right path to try to get to the truth.  But they`ve got to be very careful in how they do it. 

MATTHEWS:  The Republican Party at its best has been a party of fiscal responsibility, forget that one after this tax cut.  The party of individual self-identity that you are not a part of an identity group, you`re not part of a society even, as a statute would say, there`s no such thing as society.  They`re just individuals.  Where`s the individualism in the Republican Party today?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  It`s changed a lot.  But, Chris, you know, historically even impeachment processes that ended up with impeachment like Richard Nixon`s, you remember how long --

MATTHEWS:  Well, they ended up with a House call for impeachment, a House Judiciary Committee vote. 

BESCHLOSS:  Yes, it did, but it took -- 

MATTHEWS:  And he walked.

BESCHLOSS:  It took a long time for Republicans to come out against Nixon beginning with Edward Brooke and going on with Jim Buckley.  That was like four or five months after the Saturday Night Massacre. 

And the other thing is if you go back to the Constitution, the framers historically when they wrote about impeachment and when they came up with this sanction, they did so not knowing there are political parties in this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Supposed in 1940, I get to you in this a minute, because you know all this stuff.  In 1940, Winston Churchill basically the last stop on the Nazi claim to Europe, the only guy fighting.  He calls up Roosevelt, the best friend he thought he could have, and he said, I really need some destroyers, maybe 50 of your old ones might do, and Roosevelt said, I have a favor I want from you, though, I want you to get some dirt on my opponent in the next election, Wendell Willkie.


MATTHEWS:  How far we have fallen?  Because that`s unimaginable. 

EDWARDS:  That`s right.  But here`s where the president got it wrong.  He believed in the White House, that releasing this summary, not really transcript but summary was going to somehow exonerate him.  I actually think it dug him further --

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think he thought that because it`s there, these two lines, we need these missiles to fight the tanks with, and he said, yes, but I need some dirt on my opponents? 

EDWARDS:  But he`s transactional and he didn`t say specifically in exchange for those missiles, this is what I want --

MATTHEWS:  No, but he said, you want to survive as a country, you better give me some dirt. 

EDWARDS:  I agree, but in the president`s mind he`s so transactional he didn`t make that transaction, so he didn`t believe it was the kind of thing to come back to haunt him. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he also thinks Blagojevich of Illinois is clean.  Blagojevich did nothing wrong.  He was just trying to trade Barack Obama`s Senate seat for some personal political stuff.  He didn`t think there was anything wrong with that. 

BESCHLOSS:  Might also felt he would get some points for transparency. 

MATTHEWS:  In 1999, then Congressman Lindsey Graham said impeachment was about restoring honor and integrity to the office.  Here he goes.


THEN-REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  Impeachment is not about punishment.  Impeachment is about cleansing the office.  Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Lindsey Graham`s definition of impeachment seems to have changed in the last 20 years.  Here he is last night. 


GRAHAM:  The only reason they`re trying to impeach the president is because they don`t believe they can beat him at the ballot box. 


MATTHEWS:  And here`s how he responded today when asked why his situation is different from when Bill Clinton was impeached. 


GRAHAM:  If you think the president has sold the office, do something about it.  If you think this is an impeachable offense, vote.  Go on the record. 


MATTHEWS:  I`m with him.  Let`s have a vote this fall.

Go ahead, Michael? 

BESCHLOSS:  Well, and the other thing, you know, is that when these processes begin, they go in ways that you can`t predict.  You know, this is the very beginning.  We cannot predict how this is going to --

MATTHEWS:  Well, I`ll predict if it takes as long as you`re suggesting, it`s not going to work out. 

BESCHLOSS:  Maybe not.  And Republicans in `98 thought this was something that was going to help. 

MATTHEWS:  I looked at the O.J. trial.  I covered it the whole year.  I don`t think we got more clarity as it went in.  It got more diffused, more issues raised, actual guilt was never really gotten to.

Anyway, thank you, Donna Edwards.  Thank you, Michael Beschloss. 

HARDBALL back in a moment. 


MATTHEWS:  Bill Clinton won the presidency on a sharply focused highly disciplined campaign theme.  It`s the economy, stupid. 

Well, right now is a vital moment in American history.  The Democrats in the House of Representatives have to seize that moment and not let it get away, away to other topics, other areas of complaint, other misdeeds by this president.  The moment is the realization by the American people now that their president, their commander-in-chief tried conditioning military aid to an allied nation on its president delivering dirt on a Trump political opponent. 

Speaker Pelosi gets it.  She told Democrats they need to strike while the iron is hot.  So, this is the threshold, the all important challenge to move now, to act, to bring an article of impeachment to the floor and get it voted on. 

This is the reality.  They need to hold the moment and make this happen, to get the House to vote on impeachment, while minds and hearts are focused on what Trump has done, how he has so seriously abused his power. 

The information is here.  The members of Congress are here.  The speaker is now here to lead.  All that`s needed now is for it to happen. 

So, don`t let this historic abuse of presidential power get driven away in a fog of subpoenas, document demands, deadlines and eroding headlines. 

That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.