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Whistleblower alleges WH tried to cover it up. TRANSCRIPT: 9/26/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Kamala Harris; Sean Patrick Maloney; Eric Swalwell, David Frum,Maxine Waters

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Whistling impeachment.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews on Capitol Hill, where the case for impeachment escalated today as the whistleblower`s report landed like a bombshell.  The complaint released today portrays a White House that recognized the president`s wrongdoing and covered it up.  It centers on Trump`s attempt to extort a U.S. ally for dirt on Joe Biden, a shakedown delivered in his July phone conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky.

White House notes of that call showed that when Zelensky asked for a shipment of anti-tank missiles, Trump countered with these words, I would like you to do us a favor though.

And now with the release of the whistleblower`s own complaint, we`re learning of the danger the president`s own conversation posed.

In speaking to White House officials, the whistleblower says they were deeply disturbed by what had transpired on that phone call.  They told me there was already a discussion going on with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood they had witnessed the president abusing his office for personal gain.  That`s the White House people.

And then the whistleblower learned that senior White House officials had intervened to lock down all records of the phone call, especially the official word for word transcript they hid.

The complaint says that the officials were directed by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system, which was then loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information.

So the people around the president knew his conduct in that phone call was wrong and used national security protocols to hide it.  The complaint reveals additional potential evidence of the president`s efforts to leverage through Ukraine.

Two months before Trump`s July conversation with President Zelensky, officials told the whistleblower it was made clear to them that the president did not want to meet Mr. Zelensky until he saw how Zelensky chose to act in office.

Additionally, the whistleblower says that U.S. officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or a phone call between the president and President Zelensky would depend on whether, catch this, Zelensky showed willingness to play ball with Trump.  Play ball with Trump.

Across town at the White House, NBC reports there`s rising anxiety, unease and concern that the whistleblower`s allegation could seriously wound this president.

I`m joined right now by U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris of California.  He is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee today, questioned the Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and the Intelligence Community Inspector General, Michael Atkinson.

So, Senator, we know about the quid pro quo, we know about the president saying, if you want your Javelin missile, the anti-tank missiles, if you want them to keep the Russians from invading your country more, help me with this stuff I need to get on Biden.  And now today, we find out that basically the term was if you don`t play ball, you can`t even get on the phone with our president.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I mean, listen, Chris, here`s how I feel about it.  Donald Trump, even when he was running for office, told us who he is.  He told us, if I shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, I will get away with it.  He`s a lawless president.  He literally is.  He believes obviously that he is above the law, that he`s beyond reproach, that he can do anything and get away with anything.  And this is yet another and serious examples about this fact.

And it`s outrageous.  It is outrageous that on top of everything else, on top of everything that Bob Mueller told us in that investigation, that he is on the phone with yet again a foreign government attempting to influence the election for the president of the United States, and in that process, not understanding that the job of Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America should be to defend and protect us against all enemies foreign and domestic.  But this president, Donald Trump, does not understand his job.  And, frankly, this is why, for so many reasons, that the process of impeachment should begin.

MATTHEWS:  Is this guy running a criminal enterprise in the White House?  Is this a racket?  Is this a RICO violation?

HARRIS:  It`s certainly a racket.  And we`ll see in terms how the evidence plays out.

But it certainly reeks of corruption.  It reeks of self-service.  It reeks of a president who is not truthful.  He is lawless, and he is running an administration that reeks of corruption.  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  The reason I bring that up is because what I know -- you`re the prosecutor, you know all the stuff, all the dirty stuff that goes on in business.  Here is -- I hear about the rackets where in the old days of the `30s, the mob controlled ice, so you couldn`t run a saloon without the ice.  So they owned -- they could extort any money.  And then I heard about the construction industry.  They just controlled cement.  If you want cement, you`ve got to talk to them.  It`s like Trump says, you want military aid, you`ve got to talk to me.

HARRIS:  Yes, he says, you`ve got to go through me as opposed to understanding that this is about the integrity of the president of the United States and us as a people.  But it`s all about self-service, because -- here is the other thing that you have to understand.  The guy is scared because he knows that he is going to be defeated in this election.  He is desperate.

And so his natural behavior that is about lawlessness, it has now blossomed into having a conversation with a foreign head of state in front of many people who have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, where he is bartering U.S. aid to support a democracy over what he wants in terms of an investigation into one of his political rivals.

He`s no better than any other dictator when it comes to using the resources of the people and in the name of the people for self-aggrandizement and for benefit, for personal benefit.

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of the report in the whistleblower`s complaint that not only did he conduct this extortionist move against the head of Ukraine but that his people around Trump, but they did was they took the verbatim word for word transcript and buried it somewhere in some sort of catacomb used for very sensitive top secret information.

HARRIS:  Yes, and that`s called a cover-up.  And you are right, my career as a prosecutor in a court, I would be arguing that this is evidence of consciousness of guilt.  This is evidence of knowing that what happened in that phone call was wrong, it violates ethical rules, it violates the law, it violates the position of trust that the president should hold in the name of the people of the United States.

And I`ll tell you, Chris, having been in my career as a prosecutor and an attorney general, I ran the second largest Department of Justice in the United States, second only to the United States Department of Justice.  This is completely, by every act that this president has done including this one, an attack not only on our democracy but our system of justice.

MATTHEWS:  What did you think of Joseph Maguire, the acting Director of National Intelligence today?  He made all -- I watched the early performance, which was on T.V. this morning, public testimony.  He kept saying, I went to the White House to get the approval of whether to release it or not.  It seemed to be he was in a position of asking the people being complained about, the president and his people, whether it was okay to put it out or not.  What did you make of the whole --

HARRIS:  Well, I can`t talk about what we did.  It was in a classified setting.  But you know enough to know that there was clearly an attempt to cover up.  And, eventually, the American people now know and the investigation needs to continue.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he continues here with his cover-up.  Earlier today, President Trump told staff from the United States Mission to the United Nations career foreign service employees, career people, that the whistleblower was, quote, almost a spy.  And that the person revealed the president`s behavior to the whistleblower was treasonous.  He then made a startling reference to punishing the individual.

The L.A. Times was provided with a recording of the video.  Here is part of what the president said.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  They`re almost a spy.  I want to who`s the person who gave the whistleblower -- the person who gave the whistleblower the information because that`s close to a spy.  You know what we used to do in the old days, when we were smart, right, with spies and treason?  We used to handle it a little bit differently than we do now.


MATTHEWS:  He`s talking about the chair.  He`s talking about the Rosenbergs.  That`s what he seems to be talking about.

HARRIS:  He sounds like a criminal, Chris.  He sounds like a criminal.  Who snitched?  Who gave up the goods?  Let`s find out who gave up the goods on us and make sure there`s a consequence and it`s serious and let that be a lesson to everybody else.

And it sounds like it`s straight out of some bad drama, but the fact is this is the president of the United States.  And the concern that I have is that we have created a system for whistleblowers to come forward because we want people to be transparent about the abuses in our government.

And we`ve created laws that say we will protect them, and it should be the president of the United States above all who says that we welcome and we`ll always protect people who are fighting for the integrity of our democracy.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the complaint the whistleblower highlights that during his or her call with the -- the president`s call with the Ukrainian president, Trump implicated his own attorney general in the scandal, Bill Barr.  That fact is also borne out in the White House`s account of the conversation, which shows that Trump repeatedly urged the Ukrainian president to speak to William Barr about the investigations he was pushing, that Trump was pushing.

And while Barr is denying any involvement, it was Barr`s Justice Department that advised the Director of National Intelligence not to pass along the complaint to Congress.  So he was covering up.

And now, we`re also learning that the Justice Department decided not to investigate the concerns raised by the whistleblower`s complaint, saying there was not sufficient cause to even launch an investigation.

It seems to me the president has replaced the normal government with two or three people, Giuliani and Bill Barr who is sort of playing as Roy Cohn, not operating as the head of the department but as his personal lawyer.

HARRIS:  We saw that when Attorney General Barr delayed in sharing the Mueller report, mischaracterized it, let that mischaracterization stand before actually sharing it with the American people.  And let`s talk about so the Attorney General of the United States who seems to think that he is the president`s personal lawyer instead of the people`s lawyer, but on top of that, let`s also talk about Rudy Giuliani.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, he`s got two wartime consiglieres here looking out for him.

HARRIS:  Yes.  But you know what needs to happen?  So I`m actually calling on the I.G. and the State Department to actually investigate and figure out who in the State Department was in cahoots or was facilitating Giuliani`s interactions with Ukrainian officials, who was giving him, if they gave him, any kind of intelligence, and who facilitated Rudy Giuliani, the personal lawyer of the president, to conduct himself as though he is an emissary for the United States.

And the other thing, Chris, the New York Bar Association needs to investigate Giuliani and probably disbar him.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your vote because the way you talk, and a lot of people talk, the high crime is in front of us right now.  We see it.  It was an extortionist effort to try to get a foreign government to get dirt on an opponent.

HARRIS:  He self-admitted it.

MATTHEWS:  He did.


MATTHEWS:  Well, is it done?  Should they just go to a vote in the House in the next couple of weeks and get this done with?

HARRIS:  No.  There should be a process by which the investigation is conducted and the facts are presented, and then let there be a finding.  Let the process take -- this is what we do.  We believe in our democracies.

MATTHEWS:  Weeks or months?

HARRIS:  Well, I think that -- listen, I would like that it would be weeks.  It has to be quickly.

MATTHEWS:  I think that`s what the speaker wants.  Thank you so much.

HARRIS:  Yes, you`re welcome.

MATTHEWS:  We`ll keep covering your presidential campaign.  Good luck in Iowa.

HARRIS:  Thank you.  I`m moving to Iowa.

MATTHEWS:  You`re raising the stakes in Iowa.  Thank you very much, Senator.

By the way, Director Joseph Maguire`s dramatic public testimony for the House Intelligence Committee, here`s a bit of it.


JOSEPH MAGUIRE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  I believe the whistleblower is operating in good faith.

I think the whistleblower did the right thing.  I think he followed the law every step of the way.


MATTHEWS:  That`s something the president, Donald Trump, does not want to hear but he just heard it.

I`m going to talk to two congress people who questioned Maguire today on the significance of what was revealed by the whistleblower.

Plus, where does this go next and how long will it take for the House to vote on an article of impeachment?  I certainly hope they vote before Thanksgiving.

We`ve got much more to get to tonight, as you can see, live from the Capitol.  Stay with us.



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  And the facts are these, that the president of the United States, in his actions in a telephone call with a head of state, betrayed his oath of office, our national security and the integrity of our elections.

This is a cover-up.  This is a cover-up.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back.  It is a cover-up, according to the testimony today from a whistleblower, they did really make an attempt to cover up that conversation between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine.  In fact, they send it off in some sort of catacomb, somewhere where we`ll never see it again.

Anyway, the American people received a detailed accounting of a lens that President Trump and members of his administration went to cover up his efforts to extort a foreign government to get dirt on his political opponent.

The accounting, which was provided by a whistleblower in the Intelligence Community was corroborated by the inspector general and found to be credible and raised urgent concern, he said.  And President Trump denying, of course, he spent the past week to trying to dirty up the whistleblower.


TRUMP:  It`s a partisan whistleblower.  They shouldn`t even have information.  It`s just another political hack job.  I just hear it`s a partisan person, meaning it comes out from another party.

They say it was a very partisan person, the whistleblower.

The so-called whistleblower information.


MATTHEWS:  In his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, defended the whistleblower against those claims.


MAGUIRE:  I want to stress that I believe that the whistleblower and the inspector general have acted in good faith throughout.  I have every reason to believe that they have done everything by the book and followed the law.

The decision and the recommendation by the inspector general, that, in fact, the allegation was credible.

I think the whistleblower did the right thing.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  You don`t have any reason to accuse them of disloyalty to our country or suggest they`re beholden to some other country?

MAGUIRE:  Sir, absolutely not.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA):  Do you believe that the whistleblower was spying on one of our intelligence agencies or spying on the president?

MAGUIRE:  As I said several times so far this morning, I believe that the whistleblower complied with the law and did everything that they thought, he or she thought was responsible under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act.

I would say that the whistleblower`s complaint is in alignment with what was released yesterday by the president.


MATTHEWS:  Joining me right now are two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee who took part in that hearing today, U.S. Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York State and Congressman Eric Swalwell of California.

Let me go to Mr. Maloney on this one.  Do you think that there`s any question about the integrity of the whistleblower at this point?

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY):  No, I don`t see any reason to question that.  In fact, the complaint is very thorough, it`s incredible well written and documented.  It matches very well, by the way, with the memo of the call.  I think we have every reason to believe that it`s largely accurate, but we should check it out.  We should run down those leads and find out.

MATTHEWS:  If it`s knocked down -- if it`s knocked out down, is this a high crime, the president of the United States extorting dirt on his political opponents by holding up U.S. military aid to an ally?

MALONEY:  Yes, it sure as hell is.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Your thoughts, is it a high crime?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  Yes.  What it is is it`s a presidential extortion and ongoing cover-up.  This is a past cover-up.  The cover-up is ongoing right now.

MATTHEWS:  How come the president didn`t know or didn`t care? 

This is the day after he got past Mueller`s testimony.  And it wasn`t dramatic testimony.  It wasn`t what a lot of people wanted it to be. 

Did he think, oh, now that I got rid of that, now I`m done with that, I can now go out and extort -- another -- go have money -- get dirt from another country, because I didn`t get caught getting it from Russia?

REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY):  Well, it`s an incredible baton toss, right? 

I mean, it`s a handoff to interference in the next election. 


MALONEY:  And, this time, he`s soliciting it and willing to smear a political opponent using military aid...


MATTHEWS:  Knowing he`s being taped. 

MALONEY:  Incredible. 

MATTHEWS:  Knowing he`s got people in his own government listening to what he`s saying. 

And he seems to have been the only one that didn`t know or care that he was breaking the law and creating a high crime. 

SWALWELL:  A leopard doesn`t change its spots.  It`s a pattern of corruption.  He didn`t learn his lesson from 2016. 

But what the American people should be offended by is that he is using their taxpayer money, our taxpayer money, to benefit himself in an election.  That`s what this is about.  That`s what extortion is.  It`s a -- no one would get away with this at their job, if you tried to use your employer`s money to benefit yourself.

He`s trying to use our money to benefit himself to leverage it against Ukraine.

MATTHEWS:  It looks like a racket.  It looks like the guy -- the mobster that controls the cement industry, says, you want to put that building up, you got to talk to me.

MALONEY:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  You got to give me what I want. 

It seems like a racket. 

MALONEY:  Look what he said about the whistle-blower today.

The director of national intelligence bent over backwards to say, this person did it right.  He`s following the rules, by the book.

The president said, he`s a spy.  The president said, we used to deal with guys like that. 

That sounds a lot like a mob boss.  And it`s outrageous.

MATTHEWS:  He`s going to rub them out. 


MALONEY:  Look, I don`t know what that -- I don`t know what that language is intended to do, except chill others from coming forward, because we know, from the complaint, that there`s a dozen White House officials who are deeply disturbed by this and a bunch of other folks in the agencies. 

We want to hear from them.  We want to feel -- we want them to feel they can come forward with the truth. 

MATTHEWS:  Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, has held up -- she`s been a resistor to impeachment, to the process for months. 

And then, along the way, she said something I thought was brilliant.  She said, he`s going to impeach himself.

SWALWELL:  Self-impeachment is what she said.


MATTHEWS:  Yes, he`s going to go do it.  He`s going to go do it in broad daylight, and then we will have him.

SWALWELL:  He copped to the crime. 

He said in 2016 he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue.  We`re going to find out if that`s true, and that he could get away with it, as Americans.  I mean, he actually has threatened the execution of anyone that would give information to the whistle-blower.

And we`re going to find out, is that who we are as Americans, that we would let this man in our great country get away with this?

MATTHEWS:  And he`s openly caught on tape.  Well, we have -- we have the summary of the verbatim.  We may get the full verbatim, word-by-word account, because they`re hiding that from us right now. 

But there he is saying to the guy, yes, you want your Javelin missiles to fight Russian tanks.  OK.  I got something I want from you, though. 

MALONEY:  Well, I`m glad you brought that up, because, remember, during the Russia investigation, the big question was, was he doing the Kremlin`s bidding?  Was he undermining our national security? 

Well, here, what he`s doing is absolutely assisting Vladimir Putin`s plan to dominate Ukraine. 


MALONEY:  And, remember, in the complaint, there`s some new information. 

He says, oh, I think the -- I think the president of Ukraine is going to strike a deal with Vladimir Putin.

MATTHEWS:  What does that mean? 

MALONEY:  Where the hell does that come from?  Exactly.

MATTHEWS:  How does a mouse strike a deal with an elephant?  I mean, they`re right on the border of one of the most militarized countries in the world, and they`re half-invaded.  They have lost Crimea.  They have lost Eastern -- Eastern Ukraine is already invaded by the Russians. 


MATTHEWS:  And Trump says, you got to make a deal with this guy.

MALONEY:  This is 10 percent of their military budget. 

They have troops in their country.  The wolf is at the door.  And the fact is, is that that undermines the whole transatlantic alliance.  It undermines the security of Europe. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

SWALWELL:  And one other point.

He`s not just trying to investigate his political opponent by leveraging our tax dollars.  He`s also trying to exonerate Russia. 


SWALWELL:  He`s asking them to look into evidence that would exonerate Russia`s role in the last election. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you said the spots don`t change.

At the House hearing today, Congressman Maloney, you pressed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to explain why he would share the complaint, which involves the president and attorney general, with the White House and the Department of Justice, run by the president`s lawyer, basically.

Here goes.  Let`s watch. 


MALONEY:  Did you think it was prudent to give a veto power over whether the Congress saw this serious allegation of wrongdoing to the two people implicated by it?

JOSEPH MAGUIRE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  I have to work with the situation as it is, Congressman Maloney.

Only the White House can determine or waive executive privilege.  There is no one else to go to. 


MATTHEWS:  Doesn`t sound too good, the way you questioned him.

MALONEY:  Oh, my goodness. 

I mean, this is the man in charge of the henhouse, and he goes to two foxes to ask them who should come in.  I mean, the fact is, is that the idea that you go to the two people implicated and say, should I give it to Congress, when you think about how you just lost perspective on the forest for the trees with that kind of decision.


MALONEY:  He should have threatened to quit, or he should have resigned. 

SWALWELL:  Imagine calling a tip line, and the person receiving the tip says, I`m going to go ahead and ask the person that you`re reporting about what I should do with this. 

That`s what happened.

MATTHEWS:  It sounds like the mob. 

Thank you, U.S. Congressmen Sean Patrick Maloney and Eric Swalwell.

Up next:  Rudy Giuliani says he`s the hero of this whole piece, hero.

More on Giuliani`s outrageous claim next on HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Today`s release of the whistle-blower complaint shows the lengths President Trump was willing to go to the strong-arm a foreign government to help him politically.

And while the whistle-blower focused on the July 25 phone call, new reporting indicates it was not the first time President Trump tried to push his dirt-digger, Rudy Giuliani, on to the Ukrainian president. 

"The New York Times" reports that, just hours after President Zelensky`s victory, on April 21, President Trump placed a congratulatory call to him and -- quote -- "urged Mr. Zelensky to cooperate" -- actually, "coordinate with Mr. Giuliani and to pursue investigations of corruption, according to people familiar with the call."

They were going after Joe Biden back then.

For more, I`m joined by Maya Wiley, an MSNBC legal analyst, and David Frum, of course, senior editor at "The Atlantic."

Thank you both. 

And I just think the thing that grabs me here -- and I`ll use a Godfather" term here -- the use of a wartime consigliere, the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, who had a great reputation until now.

Here he is as the president`s sort of henchman...


MATTHEWS:  ... saying, you give this guy the dirt on Biden, who I think I`m going to have to run against.  This is two, three months ago.  Or else I`m screwing you guys. 

Don`t more anti-tank guns.  No more missiles.  Let the Russians just ride their tanks across your country, because you won`t have any defensive weapons, because you didn`t give me my dirt.  That is the fact of that conversation. 


WILEY:  That is essentially the way any prosecutor would read that exchange. 

And I think the fact that Rudy Giuliani started the process in April -- remember, Chris, what April was.  We had the summary from William Barr, really spinning the Robert Mueller probe report. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

WILEY:  And then, in April, it`s becoming public. 

We have the president then asking Rudy Giuliani to get engaged, their intermediaries, and start setting up his meetings.  And so the July 25 call was not the beginning of it.  It was because Donald Trump himself, as we know, personally got engaged in whether or not military support, not in the defensive sense, was actually going to be delivered to Ukraine.

MATTHEWS:  And backing that up, Maya and David, was the whistle-blower`s statement that the deal was that they wouldn`t even get a phone call from the president until they kicked -- they said they`re going to play ball on getting dirt on Trump`s enemies. 

DAVID FRUM, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:  Congress did not vote that aid to Ukraine, hundreds of millions of dollars, for charity. 

Congress voted that aid because it believed that self-defense by Ukraine was important to the national security of the United States.  So, this is an important legal story, and legal expertise is important, but it`s first and foremost a national security story.

If it was important that Ukraine defend itself, if Americans are willing to spend money to do that, then when Donald Trump said it`s second to my reelection, he was saying the national defense of the country is second to my reelection. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

And he made that clear to the Ukrainians by saying, the guy handling it for me, the person, my -- my surrogate is going to be Rudy Giuliani, not the defense minister. 

Look at this.  Rudy Giuliani, in fact, is mentioned 31 times in the whistle-blower complaint.  It goes into detail about his, Giuliani`s, efforts to dig up political dirt in Ukraine.

In an interview with NBC News, Giuliani blasted the whistle-blower, of course, saying the complaint is nothing more than hearsay.  However, the summary of Trump`s July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president released by the White House backs up many of the claims in the whistle-blower`s complaint. 

Giuliani also spoke to "The Atlantic."  The reporter says he was almost shouting when he said -- quote -- "It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I`m not.  And I will be the hero.  These morons, when this is over, I will be the hero."

There`s Baghdad Bob right there. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of this, Giuliani claiming he`s the hero of the piece?

FRUM:  You know, if you have to tell people you`re the hero, you`re not -- you`re not the hero. 


FRUM:  I mean, it`s an unfortunate -- it`s an unfortunate thing. 

But this point about this hearsay, the reason we don`t accept hearsay is because hearsay is often unreliable.  When the hearsay is corroborated, when it`s proven true...

MATTHEWS:  By more than a half-a-dozen officials.

FRUM:  Exactly. 

But you say, well, it turns out, yes, it would be bad if inaccurate.  It`s true.  So it`s hearsay, but it`s true. 

WILEY:  And there are actually plenty of exceptions to hearsay at the same time, because the issue is about its probity, how valuable it is. 

And, remember, in this case, one of the reasons I think we hear Giuliani saying, wait, wait, I`m a hero, is he actually has some potential legal liability here that he should be very concerned about, because he is a private citizen. 

There is no Office of Legal Counsel memorandum protecting him from indictment for campaign finance violations.  So I think it`s not unusual that he would start to be saying, wait, I`m the good guy. 

But also remember his interview with Laura Ingraham, where he says -- when she says, why you?  Why would the State Department send you to Ukraine?  And he says, I`m Donald Trump`s defense attorney, doubling down on the fact that he is there because he is trying to support and help this president, not as president, as the man.

MATTHEWS:  This is a corrupt act, because it`s using public office, his authority over releasing U.S. military aid to an allied country in trouble with the Russians, who is defending itself basically to its existential existence right now, and he is saying, yes, I`ll give it to you if you give me my dirt.

FRUM:  Yes, there are hundreds...

MATTHEWS:  The dirt is of no value to the American people.  The dirt is only of value to this president.

FRUM:  Hundreds of Ukrainians have died.  Tens of thousands are refugees. 

It -- this is not a -- just a crisis.  This is a big shooting war on the European continent, with real people losing their lives.

MATTHEWS:  Explain the Javelin missile, why it`s important.

FRUM:  Because the Ukrainians have been outgunned, outmanned, out- generaled. 

They`re fighting -- they`re fighting an enemy with a cohesive system.  Their system is not cohesive.  There are important internal divisions.  So any equalization of the technology at least gives them a chance.

MATTHEWS:  And it fights tanks.  It fights tanks.

FRUM:  And it fights tanks, which...

MATTHEWS:  That`s pretty -- that`s -- we`re used to that growing up in the `50s and `60s, Russian tanks coming into your country, whether it`s Hungary or whatever, whether it`s -- whether it`s Czechoslovakia.

We`re used to tanks coming in.  And we usually root for the people -- people blowing up the tanks. 

WILEY:  There is another aspect to this of national security that`s embedded in that call summary that we`re learning more about, which is this notion that, why does he want these servers that are supposed to be in Ukraine? 

Well, it`s a conspiracy theory that has, yes...

MATTHEWS:  How would a server -- Hillary`s server show up in... 

WILEY:  It -- the conspiracy theory is about the DNC`s not being hacked. 


WILEY:  That was, if you remember, the beginning.  But that is a -- it`s Russia supporting that.

MATTHEWS:  I once saw a "National Enquirer" front cover that said -- that showed a picture of Jack Kennedy behind a curtain, like 50 years after he was dead, "Kennedy Alive in Poland."


MATTHEWS:  That`s about as heavy as I give a response to that kind of crazy story. 

Thank you, Maya Wiley.  Thank you, David Frum. 

Up next:  With the majority of House members now on board with an impeachment proceeding -- it`s up to about 218 now -- in fact, I think it`s more now -- how quickly will things move? 

Will Democrats strike while the iron is hot?  That`s what Pelosi wants to see -- wants it done, strike while the iron is hot.  Don`t push this off to 50,000 more hearings.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  The inquiry and the consensus in our caucus is that our focus now is on this allegation now.  We`re seeing the evidence of it. 

This is the focus of the moment, because this is the charge.  All of the other work that relates to abuse of power, ignoring subpoenas of government, of Congress, abuse, contempt of Congress by him, those things will be considered later.  But, right now, we`re in the investigate -- the inquiring stage. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of course, earlier today confirming that the focus of the impeachment inquiry, the proceeding under way right now into President Trump, will be the allegations laid out in the whistle- blower complaint regarding Ukraine.

A majority of the House, by the way, now, 223 Democrats -- 2-2-3 Democrats -- and one independent, have now expressed support for some kind of impeachment action. 

It doesn`t necessarily mean they would vote up or down -- or up, rather, to impeach the president yet, but I think they`re heading there. 

Speaker Pelosi said she doesn`t have a deadline to complete the impeachment inquiry, or to move forward with articles of impeachment.  The house has just 29 days, however, still in session this year between now and when it adjourns December 12th. 

I`m joined now by Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, of course.  She`s so well-known, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. 

Madam Chairman, you`re one of six chairs now. 


MATTHEWS:  I guess the question, can the Congress meet the goal of striking while the iron is hot, while the country is focused on this betrayal of the country with the Ukrainians and the deal for dirt. 

WATERS:  Absolutely.  I am so pleased Leader Pelosi has taken charge and she`s formalized the impeachment inquiry, and we`re going to move as quickly as we possibly can and I`m extremely optimistic we can get it done. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe in focusing on the Ukraine, the complaint -- the whistle-blower`s complaint, the evidence we now have he was trying to deal out foreign military aid in exchange for political dirt? 

WATERS:  Well, I think that has to be an important part of what we do, and whether that is all that we do or is that the focus with other things, it remains to be seen.  We have to discuss that.  The six committee chairs will be getting together with the speaker, and we`ll decide what the impeachment resolution should include, it will be then forwarded to the Judiciary Committee. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you think -- tell me what you have in your mind now of how -- you have six chairs, you`re one of them -- 


MATTHEWS:  -- all been working on stuff the president`s done wrong -- 


MATTHEWS:  -- probably unethical and worse -- 


MATTHEWS:  -- impeachable. 


MATTHEWS:  How do you condense that to perhaps one or two articles that would go to the Judiciary?  Would you guys, together, you chairs put that together before you go to the Judiciary or would the Judiciary Committee decide what would be the articles --

WATERS:  Now, the idea is that we will get together, we will put on the table everything that we know, everything that we`re doing that we think would be good and important and substantive for an impeachment resolution, and we`ll come to some consensus, some conclusion about it, and then it`ll be forwarded to the Judiciary Committee. 

MATTHEWS:  It takes -- you know, I did work up here for a while to know how the game is played.


MATTHEWS:  I mean a game with high personal stakes with the country.


MATTHEWS:  But it comes to numbers. 


MATTHEWS:  Can you get 218, a majority, 218 votes out of the House? 

WATERS:  Oh, absolutely we`re there. 

MATTHEWS:  Really?

WATERS:  Oh, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  For an article of impeachment? 

WATERS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you`re getting into my questions here.  So, I don`t know where to go now.

Let`s talk about this, what do you make the fact that the White House people, all around the National Security Council, went to such an effort to hide the president`s phone call that they took the word by word account of it electronically and buried it in some top secret system where nobody can get to it? 

WATERS:  Well, you know, we`re dealing with a bunch of crooks in the White House.  We have the president who`s dishonest, who has lied, who has done all kinds of things we never expected of anybody who would serve in that high office.  So I`m not shocked or surprised by anything they would do. 

We have an administration that is undermining our democracy, that has aligned itself with Putin and the oligarchs and the Kremlin, who have had secret meetings, who will not condemn Putin despite the fact -- 

MATTHEWS:  What`s he got -- what`s -- I`m sorry.

WATERS:  Yes, what`s he got on him -- I know what you were getting ready to say. 


MATTHEWS:  I always think of something really dirty.  This guy seems to dance through -- he jumps through the hoops whenever the guy has got something. 

WATERS:  Knowing that he undermined our election system, knowing that has been absolutely identified as work that was done by Russia or by intelligence community, and he still will not condemn him, will not -- but more than that, this would be going toward doing the same kinds of things in the 2020 election that was done in the last presidential election.  He was on -- on the road to talking about how do we undermine the elections again to ensure he gets elected.

MATTHEWS:  Every time I see those two guys together the president and Putin -- 


MATTHEWS:  -- Putin has got this weird smirk like he owns him.  It`s awful.

Anyway, thank you.

WATERS:  Well, he knows something. 

MATTHEWS:  You`re the best.  Thank you, Congresswoman.  Great to have you on tonight.

WATERS:  Thank you so very much.  Thank you.  All right.

MATTHEWS: Up next, are we past the point of hoping congressional Republicans will put loyalty to country ahead of loyalty to Donald Trump?  Can they stick with this president in the face of such a blatant abuse of power?  What do you think? 

Back in a moment. 



REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH):  I`ve read the complaint and I`ve read the transcript of the conversation with the president and the president of Ukraine.  Concerning that conversation, I want to say to the president, this is not OK.  That conversation is not OK, and I think it`s disappointing to the American public when they read the transcript. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Republican Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio with a somewhat mild condemnation of President Trump`s conversation with the president of Ukraine.  His critical comment made him a notable exception, however, from his Republican colleagues on the Intel Committee at today`s hearing with the acting director of national intelligence. 

Immediately after the release, by the way, of that explosive whistle-blower complaint, President Trump tweeted in all caps, of course, the Democrats are trying to destroy the Republican Party and all that it stands for, stick together, play their game and fight hard, Republicans.  Our country is at stake!

Well, the president later deleted that tweet, but there was some tiny cracks, however, emerging in the president`s GOP firewall.  Another Intel Committee, Republican, retiring Texas Congressman Will Hurd, tweeted: There`s a lot in the whistle-blower complaint that`s concerning.  We need to fully investigate all the allegations addressed in the letter, and the first step is to talk to the whistle-blower. 

Yesterday, two Republican Senators, Utah`s Mitt Romney, and Nebraska`s Ben Sasse, openly called the complaint by the whistle-blower troubling. 

I`m joined right now by Michael Steele, former RNC chair, and Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The Washington Post."  Now, we always learn from myth and sloganeering that Democrats fall in love -- 


MATTHEWS:  -- and Republicans fall in line. 


MATTHEWS:  But why do they stay in line? 

STEELE:  Because we`re very good at the line. 

MATTHEWS:  What is it about the phalanx?  Why do you guys circle the wagon so quickly? 

STEELE:  Until you can show that there has been a detrimental breach in that line, meaning there`s evidence, information, behavior, something that will cause a crack, they`re going to hold it. 

MATTHEWS:  Wait a minute, we have that.  We have the president of the United States --

STEELE:  Well, Chris, we don`t have that yet.  You have two documents that have been put out, and I think to Congressman Hurd`s point -- 

MATTHEWS:  One by the White House.

STEELE:  -- I think that line should have been broken a long time ago.  So, let`s -- 


MATTHEWS:  The White House document out showing the president of the United States responded to a call -- 

STEELE:  Understood.

MATTHEWS:  -- for defensive weapons, anti-tanks missiles, with gimme dirt. 


STEELE:  Chris, you want -- I`m trying to give you an explanation why the line holds and what you -- what we have so far and I think Congressman Hurd is right, they want to talk to the whistleblower.  Because the whistle- blower is technically or -- in reality the individual that could cause that break.  The Senate -- . 

MATTHEWS:  The whistle-blower simply told us about a conversation --


STEELE:  I`m saying that individual is in front of those members, Chris --  

MATTHEWS:  We got the copy of the conversations, but we got the information from the White House.

STEELE:  -- when that individual is in front of those members, that`s the moment of the crack.  The Senate conversation has been muted today.  They came out.  They weren`t coming out in the same form as a Devin Nunes. 

MATTHEWS:  Just a thought there.

STEELE:  Just a thought. 

MATTHEWS:  You get up in the morning and your wife says it`s snowing outside, you go outside and it`s snowing, it doesn`t matter what she said, it`s snowing.  We now know what was in that conversation because we`ve got the transcript from the White House. 

STEELE:  Chris, you got -- you got -- you got part of a transcript from the White House.  That was not a reflection of 30 minutes of conversation. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, Robert, you see the problem.  Ha!

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST:  I was outside the House chamber tonight.  I was talking to some of these top allies for President Trump, loyal soldiers like Mark Meadows in North Carolina -- 


COSTA:  They`re fully in line with President Trump. 

STEELE:  Thank you. 

COSTA:  They say he has the political capital.  They also say the Democrats are overstepping their bounds, and so that`s the argument they`re making. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, House Kevin McCarthy, a smart guy, continued to fall in line behind President Trump tonight, when asked about impeachment.  Let`s watch. 


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  What in this case rises to impeachment?  This is a president of the United States that had a conversation with a leader in another country.  And when you read the transcript, tell me one thing in there that`s impeachable.

But tell me this, the speaker of the House moved for impeachment against the rules without having the full body vote for it without one bit of evidence. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, I guess I`m having a problem here communing with you, Michael.  Maybe you`re a straight reporter, with you.  To me, it jumps out at me, high crime when I see a president who has unique authority and power over U.S. foreign military aid, which we use to help our allies so that we`re safe ourselves.  We know why we give military aid, to help ourselves. 

We fight a country that`s on the front line against the Russians and we say they`re invading your country, grabbed a big part of it already, we`re going to help you stop those tanks from taking the rest of your country.  And our president says, I`ve got a favor I want from you, though, help me get some dirt on my opponents.  That`s what he said.  That was the condition of getting the support.


MATTHEWS:  How`s that not impeachable? 

STEELE:  I think it is.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.

STEELE:  But I`m not disagreeing -- you asked me a specific question about why the members in that building behaved the way they behave, and I`m telling you as Robert reinforced in his conversation, that`s they`re thinking.  They`ve got -- they`ve got -- until you can show something --


COSTA:  This isn`t 1973, 1974, there`s a conservative media complex in Republican Party that goes beyond just Mitt Romney, the senator from Utah, Ben Sasse on Capitol Hill, there`s a whole group on the outside that`s coming to the barricades for this president, and that`s what the Republicans on Capitol Hill are looking at. 

STEELE:  There`s no Larry Hogan Sr. in that building right now going to say to the president of the United States, sir --

COSTA:  If they think it`s so bad, where`s the challenger behind Bill Weld -- 


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, does this -- does this come down to the question the fight`s more important than the facts? 


MATTHEWS:  Because a very serious question that they`re so angry, so resentful of the Democratic liberal establishment in this country that they see has been running this country for years, they so resent it, they`re willing to back Trump, right or wrong? 

STEELE:  I think you just nailed it.  That is the raison d`etre, whatever that -- 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, raison d`etre.

STEELE:  Yes, that`s the French -- that French phrase, yes, that`s that moment right there for them.  That`s what this fight is about. 

The partisanship has eclipsed the politics.  The partisanship defines everything, and right now, this is a fight to create the phalanx around the president, do or die. 

COSTA:  There`s a lot of quiet.  When I was roaming around the Senate today, a lot of senators when I wept up to them with the notebook and recorder they said, no thanks, haven`t read the full complaint, haven`t read the letter. 

STEELE:  Right, right.

MATTHEWS:  Toomey said that on Sunday.  He was Sergeant Schultz.  I know nothing.

COSTA:  If you`re in a swing state, if you`re up in 2020, Senator Collins, Senator from Maine, she told me, I don`t want to comment because I could be a juror in the trial in the Senate.  So they`re all coming up with remarks that take them away from having to get in the fight. 

MATTHEWS:  By the way, jumping ahead, do you think the Senate would like to skip the vote?  If the House votes to impeach, say, by Thanksgiving --

COSTA:  Constitutionally, don`t they have to have a trial? 

MATTHEWS:  I`m not sure they -- there`s been talk to skip it. 

STEELE:  No, constitutionally, they have to a have to trial.


MATTHEWS:  They`re going to have to vote?  They don`t want to vote or do they want to vote? 

COSTA:  They don`t want to vote especially if you`re up for re-election in 2020.

MATTHEWS:  Right now, your reporting was in the Senate today, my -- I`m hearing from people that they do think they have to do in weeks.  They can`t put it off for months. 

STEELE:  I agree.  I`ve heard that, too.  And I think a lot of folks -- because this has been so narrowly focused by the two documents released so far and the evidence is there, this moment clarifies for a lot of Democrats, some of the Republicans, I mean, as has been reported, I think, Robert, you may be able to comment on this that, you know, privately folks are saying if you could do a blind vote in the Senate where you did want have to put your name --

MATTHEWS:  If you had vote, if we`re going to have a vote to impeach in the House, this building, we`re in this part of the world, is it more likely it`s going to happen in 2019, 2020 or never? 

STEELE:  I think it has to happen now, `19. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you.

COSTA:  Sooner than later if Speaker Pelosi gets that narrow impeachment. 

STEELE:  That`s right.

MATTHEWS:  I think an article on this one on Ukraine makes the most sense and they`ll have it in a couple of weeks. 

Thank you so much Michael Steele and Robert Costa.

HARDBALL back in a moment. 


MATTHEWS:  Stay with MSNBC throughout the night and in the days ahead for the latest developments on the Trump Ukraine scandal and the likelihood of impeachment. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.