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Democrats craft plan for impeachment inquiry. TRANSCRIPT: 9/27/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Eli Stokols; Elise Labott; Paul Butler; Jeremy Bash, LaurenceTribe, Michael McFaul, Katrina Mulligan, Susan Del Percio, Brendan Buck

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Weeks, not months.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Today marks the end of the most consequential week of Donald Trump`s presidency, a presidency that now faces the dire threat of impeachment.  That impeachment drive is fueled by one central realization, that the president has proven his readiness to deal away the national interest in favor of his own.

By freezing military support to Ukraine while soliciting dirt on a political opponent, Trump used the power of his office to extort a U.S. ally.  Quote, I would like you to do us a favor though.  Trump told Ukrainian President Zelensky when Zelensky asked for the missiles he needed to defend his country from the Russian tanks.

The favor Trump wanted was a commitment from Ukraine to deliver dirt, whether true or not, on Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden.  Trump has admitted to the conduct in question.  The White House has confirmed with notes of his conversation.  And officials around the president showed consciousness of guilt by attempting to hide it.

Those are the facts underlying Speaker Nancy Pelosi`s commitment to an impeachment proceeding on this president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  I think we have to stay focused as far as the public is concerned on the fact that the president of the United States used taxpayer dollars to shakedown the leader of another country for his own political gain.  The rest of it is ancillary.

It wasn`t a question of changing of mind.  People say that to me, when did you change your mind?  I didn`t change my mind.  The facts changed the situation and they cannot be ignored.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, with Pelosi`s backing now, Democrats are on message and moving expeditiously to capitalize on their momentum with some working through recess this week.

Meanwhile, NBC News reports that panic has now set in at the White House, where, according to one source, aides are, quote, increasingly wary that the president could respond erratically and become unmanageable.

Well, Trump`s fury was evident in his outburst on Twitter today where he continued to attack Democrats and defend his behavior as being perfect.

Meanwhile, there`s breaking news tonight, Democrats on three committees took a dramatic step of issuing a subpoena from one of the president`s top aides, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  He has until next week to turn over relevant documents to the committees.

And Congressman Adam Schiff, the chair of the Intelligence Committee of the House, said tonight, more subpoenas and investigative steps will occur next week.

I`m joined now by Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times White House Reporter, Elise Labott, Journalist-in-Residence at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor, and Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Department of Defense.

I want to start with Eli.  Summarize the consequence of this week.

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES:  I mean, I don`t think you can overstate how big a week this is.  This may be a turning point in this presidency.  Although we may get to November of next year and we`ll look back on this as a blip.

At this point, we don`t know, but it`s safe to say that this president is facing the most dire political situation of his entire tenure so far.  And I think the president understands that on some level.  We didn`t see him today.  You saw the rage tweets this morning, the 11 tweets.  It hasn`t really found a strategy.

And there are a lot of concerns from people around the president inside the White House and outside the White House, campaign officials who worry he doesn`t have much of a team around him at this point and who also worry -- one person told me today, they`re worried about his mental state.

I know a lot of folks, the psychologists may be worried about that for some time, but these are people who are really close to the president worrying now whether he is going to be okay getting through this or if he`s going to sort of implode and make things worse.  People are very concerned.

And they`re concerned about the fact that, in this case, unlike Robert Mueller, who he could attack and know he wasn`t going to respond, he`s facing a really savvy, experiences lawmaker, someone who knows intelligence.  And they worry about Nancy Pelosi.

One Trump ally today told me that they think of her as an assassin.  They`re afraid of her.  And you see that with Trump really going after more Adam Schiff on Twitter than he is, Pelosi.  He`s not been able to sort of guess what Pelosi is doing from moment-to-moment and nobody knows how this is going to go.

MATTHEWS:  Nancy Pelosi may be the most savvy politician of our time.  I watched the way she waited for the opportunity.  She may have wanted to get rid of this president for all kinds of partisan political reasons, but she wasn`t going to do it unless she had a sound real reason to get rid of the president because he`s abused his authority as president.  And now, she has, I think, all she needs.

Once you force the Democrats to vote, up or down, and she has the power to bring that vote some time before Thanksgiving this year, once to you force them to go aye or nay, they`re all going to say, aye, because I can`t think of a Democrat go home to Democratic district and say, I voted to protect this president from impeachment, I don`t see that nay vote, I don`t see it.  She`s got 218.  It`s up to her when it looks good to do it, that she`s got the case, it seems to me.  Your thoughts.

ELISE LABOTT, JOURNALIST-IN-RESIDENT, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF FOREIGN SERVICE:  Well, I mean, I think this is -- if you listen to the -- look at the transcript of the call and you look at the whistleblower complaint, it seems very bad.

And anybody -- what I really think though is where are the Republicans.

MATTHEWS:  Why do you need to them to get to 218?

LABOTT:  You don`t.  But you do want his voters to think this is not --

MATTHEWS:  But they`re never going to do this.  Why are you waiting for something that will never happen?

LABOTT:  I think that you`re going to see Some cracks in the Republicans, especially in some of these swing states.  And, look, it is going to go to the Senate --

MATTHEWS:  That`s a good argument.  What would be -- why do you believe that?

LABOTT:  I have to believe that -- I have to believe that any congressmen or senator who vote --

STOKOLS:  Well, Congressman Amodei from Nevada today is the first Republican in the House to say they support the inquiry.  So there you go.

LABOTT:  And you had Romney come out, you had Mike Turner, who is a very big supporter of the president up until now, say that he looked add that whistleblower complaint and he thinks it`s bad.  I`m not saying you`re going to get enough in the Senate to vote him out.  But I think once this happens, I think the Democrats are going to want more Republican support.

MATTHEWS:  Why do they need more?  Is this a jury that stays in three or four more hours longer, Paul, because they know it looks good?  We have already seen the case.  It`s open and shut.  But we`ve had a cup of coffee, wait around here a little bit, we don`t want to look like we`re rushing this thing.  I don`t think they need anything else, so I agree with you.

LABOTT:  Do you want to get him or do you want get him out?  I mean, just the Democrats --

MATTHEWS:  Well, they`re never going to get him out so let`s go.

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  So this week, we learned that --

MATTHEWS:  You actually think you get two-thirds of the Republican Senate - -

LABOTT:  I said, I don`t think so, but you do want some Republicans to say, enough, that they can`t just say, oh, this is Democratic witch hunt and throw it away.  I mean, you`re still going to go to an election and you want --

MATTHEWS:  What are the odds they`ll say that anyway?  They call them all socialist.  They`ll all say they (INAUDIBLE) to judgment.  It would be nice to get a handful.  Your thoughts.

BUTLER:  So this week, we learned that the president of the United States directed a months` long criminal conspiracy to shakedown Ukraine to get dirt on his political opponents.  So one thing is to learn who the co- conspirators are.  So we understand that the message to Ukraine was to reach out to Giuliani, reach out to the attorney general.  What happened?

Again, this isn`t the first time that Ukraine understood that if they got dirt on the president`s opponents, that something vital to their security would occur.  Because remember Russia invaded Ukraine.  It`s very vulnerable.  It depends on U.S. military aid for its survival as a nation state.  So in a very real way, the president was holding a gun to Ukraine`s head.

And then the question for the Republicans, and, really, the number is 20 in the Senate, assuming that the president is impeached, he`s got to get that two-thirds vote in the Senate.  Now, if all the Democrats vote to remove him from office, he needs 20.  So the question is are there 20 Republicans in the United States Senate who care enough about our national security and the integrity of the Oval Office to remove this man from office?

MATTHEWS:  Jeremy, your thoughts about the whole situation that Pelosi sort of got -- I think she`s got it figured out what she wants to do.

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA AND DEPART OF DEFENSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  I think she smartly defined the deviancy up.  She basically said that impeachment is a very high bar, and that only when the president`s conduct is at question.

And, by the way, this the most serious impeachment allegation against any president in our nation`s history.  This is much more serious than lying about sex in the `90s or during the Andrew Johnson era, the Office of Tenure Act.  This is about national security and undermining elections.

And I think her perspective is we care not about the co-conspirators, the ancillary issues, we care about presidential conduct, abuse of office and we care about whether or not he abused that office to benefit himself politically and violate our national security.

It`s a pretty straightforward case if you look at the transcript --

MATTHEWS:  Paul, make the case why it`s important to bring in the fellow conspirators here.  Why is it important to bring Giuliani`s guilt (ph) and that of Barr as well?

BUTLER:  So part of that is you want to make as strong a case as you can, a way to get the Republicans onboard is to have overwhelming evidence of the president`s criminality.  And so we know 12 people at least heard this call.  It`s going to be presented as secondhand information from the whistleblower.

Now, to be sure, the smoking gun is the president saying, do me this favor, and it was very obviously connected to the military aid.  But, again, you want to make the case as tight as possible.  We`re not talking about months.  We`re talking about weeks.  We`re talking about how many people end up (ph) making them talk.

LABOTT:  It`s a tight case.  I don`t think that`s a smoking gun because he doesn`t say, if you don`t do this for me, I`m going to withhold the aid.  Obviously, that`s the --

MATTHEWS:  I thought he did say that.

BASH:  It`s a smoking Javelin.  He said --

MATTHEWS:  He said, I want a favor from you though.  You`re not going to get this and except this.

LABOTT:  It`s not just about trying to shakedown a foreign leader.  It`s about the use of the instruments of state.  It`s about talking to the White House officials about putting in another server and containing whose --

MATTHEWS:  (INAUDIBLE) of conscience guilt.

Let me ask you about something that I`ve been thrilled to think about for two or three days now.  If they had an electronic word-for-word transcript, is that written, typed up electronically, robotically by listening to the conversation or does it come off of a tape?

BASH:  No.  I think they had a stenographer listening live to that conversation.

MATTHEWS:  So there`s no tape of that conversation?

BASH:  I don`t believe there are tapes.

MATTHEWS:  Too bad.  Meanwhile, Bloomberg News has acquired a video of the president`s remarks to U.S. diplomats yesterday when the president threatened the whistleblower`s sources.  Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I want to know who`s the person that gave the whistleblower -- who`s the person that 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 them a little bit differently than we do now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  So this is someone who let the spy, or in other words, the CI agent perhaps, information on what the president was doing.  It wasn`t like they were smuggling it out to outside people, they were enemies of the United States.  This is all within the inner circle of apparently a White House tasked CI agent, you know, someone who`s really there.  So what would a spy be here?  What would a spy be doing here?

STOKOLS:  That`s just the president letting you know how he feels about leaks and how he feels about loyalty.  He believes that any leak betraying him is a betrayal of the nation.  And that`s why he`s equating the whistleblower and anybody who spoke to the whistleblower to a spy and saying, it was great back in the old days what we used to do with spies and traitors.

That`s what the president was saying yesterday morning at 9:00 A.M., at the same time the acting Director of National Intelligence is testifying on Capitol Hill and saying that, no, the whistleblower is credible, did everything right, followed the protocol, is worth listening to.  That juxtaposition is sort of something that we`ve seen before in terms of what the administration is saying, what the president is saying.

But this president has always kind of had a nostalgia for violence, wanted to intimidate people and he`s trying to do it again.  And there was a really strong reaction last night from Chairman Schiff and a few other chairman on the Democratic side in the House saying basically that that`s witness intimidation and that is against the law.  And so they asked him to cease and desist but the message is already out.

MATTHEWS:  Well, the news is breaking now.  Among those implicated in the Trump-Ukraine scandal is Ambassador Kurt Volker, a special envoy to Ukraine, who late today resigned from the State Department.  According to The New York Times, it was Volker who introduced Rudy Giuliani to a key Ukrainian official as Giuliani sought dirt on Joe Biden.

The whistleblower says that he learned in May that, quote, Volker had spoken to Mr. Giuliani in an attempt to contain the damage to national security that Giuliani was causing.  Elise?

LABOTT:  I spoke to a source close to Volker just before we came on.  He did give his resignation to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this evening.

Look, up until this point, the administration was kind of pushing ahead on a new policy with Ukraine, a new government trying to crack down on corruption.  They were giving -- they were talking about giving them aid, and then this all happened.  And I think Volker felt that he wouldn`t be able to be effective anymore.  And this is the frustration for State Department officials.

And I`d like to really hear from Secretary Mike Pompeo.  I don`t know if he`s going to answer that subpoena.  But he`s trying to serve his audience of one with the president but at the same time trying to get this policy ahead.  And he is frustrated that Rudy Giuliani kept coming in and trying to, you know, make it about Joe Biden.

And there was this kind of covert effort to try and contain the damage, try and help the Ukrainians navigate this.  I think they were really upset.  They don`t want to say no to Trump because they need Trump and need the aid, but they also don`t want to say yes to Trump because they like Biden.  They didn`t really find anything, any evidence of wrongdoing and they know that they`re going to need the Democrats later on.

MATTHEWS:  That`s conundrum.

LABOTT:  They don`t know if he`s going to be president.

MATTHEWS:  The president of Ukraine.

What about getting in to the -- sort of the intern (ph) -- you worked there.  You get into the National Security Council, the staff people there, some professional, some political, they seem to -- six of them, more than half a dozen, according to the whistleblower, came forward with evidence against the president here.  Let`s call it what it is.  Then you have these people in the president`s cabal who would defend him against any attack, they`ll circle the wagons.

What`s it like over there right now tonight?  Are they ready to crumble or is it the usual battle lines?

BASH:  I think many of them heard the call or saw the transcript and they said, oh, my God, we`ve got to clean up aisle 8, this is a horror show.  And they`re like the people walking behind the elephant with a shovel.  And sometimes they get splattered on.  And they didn`t really know how to react.

I don`t think many of the professionals at the NSC or the White House were in on the conspiracy.  They want to look into dig up dirt on Joe Biden.  I think they were looking to try to figure out how to contain the damage.  But --

MATTHEWS:  The damage to the republic or to Trump?  There`s a big difference there.

BASH:  You`re exactly right.  I think they thought that the president was going to be harmed and they tried to help him.

MATTHEWS:  That`s not good.

BASH:  I agree.

MATTHEWS:  That`s a cover-up.  Paul?

BUTLER:  The attorney general appears to be participating in the cover-up.  Again, he was named by this whistleblower as one of the people who the Ukraine could reach out to.  And one of the reasons he has to come clean to the Senate if he`s subpoenaed is for us to understand what was the cover- up.

Again, as you indicated, a cover-up indicates consciousness of guilt that might not be ground -- independent grounds for an article of impeachment, but it sure makes them look guilty.

MATTHEWS:  Can I just think politically, and I think about this all the time, politics.  I think that Pelosi, the minute she called for a proceeding, called for a vote maybe two months from now or maybe a little bit after Christmas, but I think it`s sooner than Thanksgiving, even weeks, she says today.  I think she knows when she calls for a vote, which is what she`s done.  She`s set the clock going.  It`s going to be a certain number of weeks but it`s going to happen.  She knew she has to get to 218.  She must win in her own house.  She must win with her own majority.  We`re going to get impeachment.

Now, we may go further to conviction.  We may get those 20 votes you talk about in the Senate.  But I think we`re going to start with impeachment before Thanksgiving.  Thank you, but (ph) that`s my call.

Eli Stokols, Elise Labott, thank you.

LABOTT:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  And thank you, Paul Butler, as always, and thank you, Jeremy Bash, for your incredible experience in life.

Coming up, the case for impeachment.  What constitutes a high crime, and does extorting an ally for personal gain clear that bar?  The esteemed Harvard law professor, Laurence Tribe, joins us here live in just a minute.

Plus, Rudy Giuliani runs for cover, implicating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, I`m talking street talk here because that`s how they`re behaving, others in the Ukraine scandal.  Let`s watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY:  And his State Department, you know, asked me to do this.  So, Mike, if you`re unhappy with me, I`m sorry, but I accomplished my mission.

I have no idea if he`s unhappy with me or not.  I frankly don`t care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  It`s street talk.  He tells somebody to shut up, shut up.  This is the way Rudy is going these days.

Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi says Attorney General Barr has gone rogue.  What`s Mike Pence`s role in all this?  He`s a little priestly back there in the corner.  What`s he really thinking?  We`ve got much more on that comment.  Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  I would say to Democrats and Republicans, we have to put country before party very clearly in the public view. 

And this is about the Constitution of the United States.  The clarity of the president`s actions is -- is compelling and gave us no choice but to move forward. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was, of course, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier today making her appeal to lawmakers, as she leads the impeachment proceeding into President Trump`s conduct.  It was just three days ago that Pelosi announced the formal inquiry. 

And now members of Congress say they could potentially draft articles of impeachment in a matter of weeks. 

This well may be, by the way, the fourth time in our country`s history that a president has faced the imminent threat of impeachment.  President Trump would be following in the footsteps of Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, of course.

For more, I`m joined by Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law professor and author of "To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment."

Professor, tell us, what`s different now about the charge that now lies against the president, compared to all that we have discussed for the last two to three years? 

LAURENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL:  Well, actually, what`s different, not only compared to the last two or three years, but compared to the rest of our history, including all of the prior impeachments, is that this is the first time a president will have been impeached for violating his oath in a way that threatens national security, in the sphere of foreign policy and military policy. 

We are now talking about not just what happened in the past, in 2016, we`re talking about what`s going to happen to the 2020 election.  And we have a case where the president of the United States deliberately withheld $400 million worth of desperately needed military aid that had been voted in a bipartisan way by Congress from a vulnerable little ally of ours in Europe under attack, military attack, by an adversary, Russia, that had helped this president win election, and that now he`s beholden to. 

This is the paradigm case.  This is the case the framers had in mind.  We have never had it before, a case in which the president demonstrably, and even by his own confession, uses the power of his office, the majesty of his office, not to serve the national security interests of America, but to serve the personal interests for reelection and perhaps eventual wealth and fame and power by the president. 

This is it.  This is the case they were waiting for. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s talk about that and the language of the Constitution, sir. 

High crime.  Is this a high crime we`re talking about? 

TRIBE:  This is the example of a high crime.  It`s a crime against the nation and an abuse of the president`s oath.  That`s what they meant.

They didn`t necessarily mean jaywalking or tax violation or shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.  Those are crimes.  But a high crime is a betrayal of the United States. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you now about the evidence that is now before us.  It`s unique to beginning a discussion when you have the evidence before you like this in such clear terms. 

TRIBE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  The language of the president`s conversation with the president of Ukraine, the language at least kept, commemorated by the notes kept by the White House and the national security staff. 

It does have that combination of sentences.  The president of Ukraine is asking for missiles to stop Russian tanks, Javelin missiles, a particular set of weapons he needs to stop the tanks from further coming into his country, the president of the United States saying, I`d like a favor from you, though, stopping him in his tracks and saying, this is what I want. 

TRIBE:  Yes.  It couldn`t be clearer.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do we need more here?  What do we need more here?

What more evidence or hearings or subpoenas or citations for contempt, or what more busywork does Congress have to proceed to? 

TRIBE:  Well, citations for contempt aren`t needed.

And, essentially, we already have the core of what we need.  But the nation is going to demand and the Congress is going to provide a flood of subpoenas to make sure that guys like Pompeo and Giuliani and Barr and maybe Pence are at least given an opportunity to come and tell their side of the story. 

But those subpoenas, including the one that was issued today, wisely, to Pompeo, all have to have a terminal date.  They can`t be an excuse for dragging things out indefinitely. 

And what the House Intelligence Committee needs to tell these people is, if you invoke some phony version of a nonexistent absolute immunity or executive privilege, we will infer against the president everything that we need to infer.  We`re not going to allow you simply to stonewall.  We`re going to treat your stonewalling as evidence not only of consciousness of guilt, but of actual guilt. 

That`s what has to happen.  And we don`t need more evidence, but we need to look for it and draw the right inferences from people`s refusal to provide it. 

MATTHEWS:  I understand that you appreciated what I said last night about 1940 and what would have happened had...

TRIBE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Churchill offered or asked for destroyers, about 50 old destroyers, Mr. President, and our president said, yes, but I won`t give them to you unless you give me some dirt on Wendell Willkie. 

It`s unimaginable.

TRIBE:  Right. 

And I liked what you said that he wouldn`t have to put it quite that way.  He wouldn`t have to say, I won`t give them to you unless.  That`s a little bit crude. 

But if he had said, I know you need defense against the Luftwaffe, and, by the way, I need some help against Wendell Willkie -- you know, it doesn`t take a stable genius to connect those dots. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

TRIBE:  It seems to me that`s what we have got here.  It`s really out in the open. 

And, right now, although there are risks to impeachment, I agree -- that the 20 Republicans might see the light -- but there are bigger risks to non-impeachment.  Whatever happens in the Senate, the House now has to do its constitutional duty, if it cares as much as I hope it does about our republic and about saving our Constitution. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s an honor to have you on, sir, an even greater honor to know you`re watching when you`re not on. 

Thank you so much, Laurence Tribe, professor of law at Harvard.

TRIBE:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  And up next:  Speaker Pelosi says Attorney General Barr has gone rogue -- gone rogue, as Trump`s allies fight among themselves now, Giuliani against Pompeo.  That`s a battle. 

Something`s gone wrong when you start fighting openly with each other, and we`re all watching it. 

There`s a lot more to come tonight.  Stick with us. 

You`re watching it, HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is one of the many officials in President Trump`s close circle drawn into the Ukraine scandal, after three congressional committees subpoenaed him this afternoon for documents in the impeachment inquiry. 

And late today, Trump`s special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, resigned from his position.  It was Volker who introduced Rudy Giuliani to a key Ukrainian official as Giuliani sought dirt on Joe Biden. 

As details of the whistle-blower complaint emerged this week, the infighting over the growing scandal has escalated, with the president`s dirty digger in Rudy Giuliani, who`s mentioned 31 times in the whistle- blower complaint, throwing the first punch. 

Giuliani has repeatedly claimed he was acting the request -- totally ridiculous -- of State Department officials, namely Volker, indirectly implicating, of course, Secretary of State Pompeo. 

According to the whistle-blower, Volker was one of the two State Department officials who had spoken with Giuliani in an attempt to contain the damage to U.S. national security. 

On Wednesday, "The New York Times"` Maggie Haberman reported that Secretary Pompeo was unhappy with Giuliani, adding: "Among other things, he believes Giuliani`s public statements have been problematic, as has his involvement overall with the Ukraine issue."

In an interview with FOX News, Giuliani said Pompeo should be thanking him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  I actually think they should all congratulate me, because, if it weren`t for me, nobody would be -- nobody would have uncovered and faced massive corruption by the vice president of the United States. 

In fact, I`m a legitimate whistle-blower.  And his State Department, you know, asked me to do this. 

So, Mike, if you`re unhappy with me, I`m sorry, but I accomplished my mission. 

I have no idea if he`s unhappy with me or not.  I, frankly, don`t care. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I love it with the police ambulances or the squad cars coming.  It`s amazing, that sound in the background.

For more, I`m joined by Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Katrina Mulligan, managing director for national security at the Center for American Progress.  And she has held supreme -- senior positions that the DOJ, NSC and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

Thank you for your expertise coming here. 

Ambassador, I have to ask you about this, because you -- if you have worked in State and have been an ambassador, you know how these fights go. 

Is it a case of Pompeo being used by the president and his henchman, Rudy Giuliani, now getting caught up in it because he lent them a hand?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA:  Of course. 

I mean, let`s just underscore how just incredibly bizarre this situation is.  Mr. Giuliani works for the president as his personal lawyer, but is somehow then flying to Ukraine, meeting with the prosecutor general, Mr. Lutsenko, and then being invoked by a phone call by the president to say to the new president of Ukraine, you should meet with Giuliani.

That -- that should never happen, period.  But, in addition, it should never happen to be pursuing the private interests of the president.  And if you`re the secretary of state, if you`re anybody in the State Department, this has to be just incredibly annoying to have to have dealt with this. 

MATTHEWS:  So here`s the president of the United States calling the president of Ukraine. 

This is like a horse and rabbit stew.  The president of the United States and little old Ukraine that`s vulnerable to the Russians?  And he`s saying, if you want to deal with me, first of all, deal with the stuff I care about.  I care about getting dirt on my political rivals. 

You want your anti-tank missiles, you want your Javelins, well, here`s what I want first.  And, by the way, start dealing with my henchman.  Don`t be talking to ambassador types.  Don`t be talking to the State Department.  Talk to my guy Rudy, right, Katrina?

KATRINA MULLIGAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  It`s nice. 

There are many layers of problem with the way that this has unfolded.  You have somebody who`s not accountable to the public, who is not confirmed by the Senate, you know, going and inserting himself into the middle of U.S. foreign policy. 

And you have a president commingling his private affairs and the affairs of the United States of America.  And, at this point, I don`t -- we can`t even figure out, whose interests is he acting in?  How do you untangle these things?

And then you have the extraordinary inclusion of Attorney General Barr in this conversation.  And you have the president suggesting that he meet not only with his private lawyer, who, you know, represents him and is presumably being paid by him, and the United States.

MATTHEWS:  His consigliere, his wartime consigliere, basically. 

MULLIGAN:  Yes, and the United States attorney general, who works -- who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and works for us. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, who also has a reputation as a Roy Cohn type who will do anything for this president. 

In alleging a pattern of misconduct, the whistle-blower complaint also raised questions about Mike Pence`s role and has presented a big test for the president`s most loyal soldier. 

The vice president has been -- not addressed questions since the release of the whistle-blower complaint Thursday morning, hasn`t said word.

It notes that in May of this year, the president instructed the vice president to cancel plans to attend the Ukrainian president`s inauguration, sending Energy Secretary Rick Perry instead. 

Meanwhile, "The Wall Street Journal" reports that, privately, Pence advised against releasing the notes of the president`s July call with Ukraine`s president.  The vice president raised concerns about the precedent the release would set, but ultimately fell in line behind Trump, who felt he had no choice but to release it. 

Well, after the notes were released from the whistle-blower, President Trump seemingly threw the vice president under the bus, noting that Pence also had communication with Ukraine`s president during the same time period mentioned in the complaint.

Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Actually, you know, that was the second conversation.  I think you should ask for the first conversation also. 

I think you should ask for V.P. Pence`s conversation, because he had a couple conversations also. 

I can save you a lot of time.  They`re all perfect. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Ambassador, it seems to me -- imagine this from the point of view of the Ukrainians. 

I watched that poor guy sort of bow and kowtow to the president yesterday at that U.N. event where -- they shared, sitting next to each other, that presser.

And I was thinking, this poor guy needs Trump more than Trump needs him.  And he`s willing to do anything to kiss up to him, basically, diplomatically.  What`s he think?  What`s he think of Trump and what`s going on in Washington?  Are we just a totally corrupt state now, from the Ukrainian point of view? 

MCFAUL:  Well, I`d say two things, Chris. 

Number one, just remember -- just to underscore what you first just said, the asymmetry of power here, the leverage that the president, any president would have on the Ukrainian leader, they are fighting for their life with the Russians.  They need the leader of the free world to be on their side.

Javelins or not, he needed to have a good conversation in that phone call.  And he went out of his way.  I`m sure he was coached to say, you need to flatter President Trump to get him on your side.  And that was very embarrassing, that transcript, for him. 

But the second thing is the paradox of what you also pointed out.  For years we have been lecturing the Ukrainians to stop being corrupt, stop using political power for private interests. 

And that`s exactly what the president of the United States was doing on that phone call. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, Ambassador, shadowing all this is what we know about the president`s seeming on the hook, in hock to President Putin.

And my wonder is, shadowing all of this is the idea of playing tough with Ukraine must have been wonderful news to Putin. 

MCFAUL:  I couldn`t agree more. 

And if the president`s offering up transcripts of calls, I want the Putin calls.  Those would be extremely revealing, because you`re right.  And another thing, notice what wasn`t said in that phone call. 

You know, I used to do a lot of those phone calls for President Obama with leaders around the world, mostly Russians.  A normal call would have said, I stand with you in your fight against Russia.  Of course Crimea should be returned to Ukraine.  We are going to continue to put the sanctions in place.  We`re going to maintain them. 

None of that was in that call.  That is very disturbing, if you`re President Zelensky fighting against President Putin.  None of that laudatory conversation, we stand with you, was in that phone call. 

MATTHEWS:  Katrina, it just seems to me laced with pro-Russian attitude, everything we watch from this president.  What`s he afraid of Putin for? 

MULLIGAN:  He`s just not acting in American interests. 

You didn`t hear about it because that wasn`t the focus of the engagement.  The focus of the engagement was on Trump`s personal situation, his political situation, and what he wanted to get out of the relationship.  It`s very transactional. 

MATTHEWS:  And I keep thinking about Deutsche Bank and where that pass- through money went there to the Trumps.

And I keep wondering about the dossier again.  I just wonder why this president is so scared of Vladimir Putin. 

Anyway, former Ambassador Michael McFaul, an honor to have you on.  Katrina Mulligan, as well, thank you for coming.

MULLIGAN:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  What a resume you have.

  Up next:  Washington braces for Trump`s scorched-earth anti-impeachment playbook.  Here it comes. 

He`s going to slime everybody.  And he can`t wait to get to this whistle- blower -- next on HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Inside a shell-shocked White House right now, a cornered President Trump has been lashing out at Democrats and, of course, the whistle-blower who exposed him. 

According to NBC News tonight, there appears to be a rising sense of anxiety, unease and concern at the White House right now.

President Trump and his allies, adopting a defensive crouch, are turning to a well-worn play book to divert attention.  First, they deny the crime. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  The call, it was perfect.  I didn`t do it. 

QUESTION:  Mr. King, did you read the transcript?  What were thoughts on the president`s phone call with the president of Ukraine? 

REP. PETER KING (R-NY):  Totally appropriate.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  It was a nothing burger for me, the phone call with the president and the Ukrainian president. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And then they discredit the person shining a light on the alleged criminality. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  This guy has got concerns with both, right? 

I mean, he had no firsthand knowledge, wasn`t on the call.  And the inspector general even told us that he had a bias against the president. 

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX):  I got to say, the transcript sure didn`t live up to its billing.

REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH):  Who was involved with this and why?  And was there a bias coming from this? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Then they deflect attention to another person. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  There was no quid pro quo, but there was with Biden. 

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS:  Did Joe Biden do anything wrong? 

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA):  Well, that needs to be investigated. 

REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC):  When the story really comes out, it`ll be the Democrats that`ll have a problem, not President Trump. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the tactics are predictable, of course, but will they deliver the same results this time around? 

One former Republican senator isn`t so sure.  And that`s next. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Amid the scandal, Republican Congressman Mark meadows Of North Carolina, a Trump devotee, told "The Washington Post" he hadn`t seen this level of intensity of support for the president since the 19 -- or the 2016 campaign among his Republican colleagues. 

In fact, yesterday, former Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona told "Slate" magazine that, if an impeachment vote, if there was one held in private over in this Senate, there would be at least 35 Republican votes for.

Well, today, he was asked to explain those comments on WBUR.  Here`s what he said.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JEFF FLAKE (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  Anybody who has sat through two years, as I have, of Republican luncheons realizes that there`s not a love for the president.  There`s a lot of fear of what it means to go against the president. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  And, today, Nevada Republican Congressman Mark Amodei told reporters that he supports the House impeachment inquiry. 

He said -- quote -- "Let`s put it through the process and see what happens."

For more, I`m joined by Susan Del Percio, Republican strategist, and Brendan Buck, former chief communications adviser to Speaker Paul Ryan. 

Let me start with Susan on this thing, because we`re already sitting around here thinking, how`s Susan going to vote up there in Massachusetts, Susan Collins, and how`s Murkowski going to vote, and how these people like Gardner out there in Colorado -- these people who are fringe Republicans right now, who are fighting for their lives, do they want to be voting to exonerate this president on an impeachment vote? 

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  They don`t want to have to take that vote, because they`re going to be torn. 

Most of those three that you mentioned want to vote their conscience.  I think Mitch McConnell, he doesn`t have to bring this up for a vote.  So maybe he lets it stay. 

But there are a few steps between now and then.  I agree with you, Chris, that there`s enough there to go after the president today and take the vote, and he would get impeached by the House. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DEL PERCIO:  But I think it`s important that they build their case for the American public. 

Conduct the interviews, find the documents, lay it all out, because what we`re hearing from some Republicans right now is, let`s see where this takes us. 

That`s a danger sign for this White House. 

The other thing we have to -- that Republicans are concerned about is how much the president lies.  They don`t have a trust -- a relationship built on trust.  It is only built on fear. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, we have the document.  We have the notes put out in that hearing, that conversation with the president of Ukraine. 

It`s pretty much there in the -- what the president is saying:  I want the dirt on Biden. 

BRENDAN BUCK, FORMER ADVISER TO PAUL RYAN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  You want your missiles, I want my dirt on Biden.  Got it? 

BUCK:  Yes. 

I worked in the House Republican Conference for many years.  I can tell you that none of them are turning on the president. 

Mark Amodei, who you mentioned, it wasn`t 45 minutes after that story hit, he`s already walked it back.  He`s put out a press release saying, I`m...

MATTHEWS:  What keeps them together?

BUCK:  The fear of a primary, fear that -- it`s -- people talk about fear of Trump.  It`s really fear of their voters, who are rabid in support of the president. 

And in the House Republican Conference, the only election that really matters is your primary.  And we`re almost next -- in the spring, it`s primary season.  Right now, we`re in filing season. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s a good point.

You know, that`s exactly why I think why Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, will get almost all the Democrats, because it`s fear of a primary. 

BUCK:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  It`s the same deal. 

Anyway, earlier today, FOX News anchor Chris Wallace, a great man, called the spin from some of the president`s defenders deeply misleading, deeply misleading. 

Let`s watch Chris Wallace. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY":  The spinning that`s been done by the president`s defenders over the last 24 hours, since this very damaging whistle-blower complaint came out, the spinning is not surprising, but it is astonishing and I think deeply misleading. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Brendan, what do you make of this? 

Because so, while this is on FOX, he`s independent, he`s a real journalist, comes from a journalist`s background, obviously.  He and Shepard Smith are real -- the real deal, as far as I`m concerned. 

BUCK:  Yes, I think it is important to appreciate, though, that a lot of voters, Republican voters, are getting their news from Twitter or various places that there`s a very different conversation going on than the one in the mainstream media. 

And a lot of these people are hearing, nothing wrong, what`s the big deal?  Mostly, they`re hearing it`s Joe Biden`s -- Joe Biden`s fault, and that`s who we need to be talking about.

MATTHEWS:  Well, they can go after Joe Biden, and it`s fair game.  But here`s the question.  They don`t hear that the press was holding up a foreign leader to get dirt on a political opponent?  They don`t know that part of it yet?

BUCK:  They don`t hear it in the same way that it`s being talked about in a lot of the mainstream media.

MATTHEWS:  How are they hearing it?

BUCK:  They`re hearing that maybe he probably shouldn`t have done that, but what`s the big deal?  Or people are overblowing it

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

BUCK:  Or, really, it`s that Democrats always wanted to impeach the president, and now they have found something that they can latch on to.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s -- both true.  By the way, that is true.  A lot of them did want to impeach him.  But they found real stuff. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Susan on this.

We keep arguing about partisan point of view, which there is a lot of, a lot of bias, partisan -- there always has been.  I have been reading about the American Revolution of the people who were for the revolution, those against it.  And there were some people in the middle that didn`t decide.  It`s all real and very, very American. 

But the question is, why can`t the fact of the president`s betrayal of the country be true, and also be hateful of the Democrats?  You can be a Republican and not like Democrats, but still see what the president just did.  What`s so hard about it?

(CROSSTALK)

DEL PERCIO:  It`s not hard. 

And I think the message is very simple.  Donald Trump put his self before this country.  He compromised national security. 

He`s going to -- I do feel that these -- the hearings will show this and a lot more.  And that`s why I really do believe, Chris, we do need to go forward and have them, have the hearings, wrap it up, like you said, by Thanksgiving, but still get as many facts out there as you can that the people can read and see. 

MATTHEWS:  I think what we most need is a vote.  We will get to the Republican Senate.  But I think the Democratic House has to vote in the next several weeks and make it clear it should be on one -- I think we`re going to find out the weekend. 

It`s going to be on one article of impeachment.  It`s going to be about, did the president betray this country for his own political purposes?  That`s the heart of it.  It`s pretty simple.  Keep it simple. 

Thank you, Susan Del Percio, as always.

Thank you, Brendan Buck.  Thank you for coming on.

Up next:  Republicans have some soul-searching to do in the days and weeks said.  I think everybody does. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I think all Americans have a vital question to think about this weekend and I suppose in the weeks ahead.

It goes to our personal judgments, as citizens of this country, on what to do with the knowledge that our president is on record now having dealt away our country`s interests, a matter of national security, for his own, that he deliberately traded his public trust for some dirt on a political rival. 

Look, I grew up praying each Sunday for the conversion of Russia, caring deeply for those captive nations on its borders, countries denied their freedom, aware that every reach for freedom would be crushed by Russian tanks. 

And now, even with the Cold War, thank God, behind us, it`s hard to absorb the news that an American president would, with the coldness of a safecracker, extort political dirt from an ally by denying him the arms his country needs to deter further Russian aggression. 

This is something we have to deal with in our own souls in the days and weeks ahead, that we have such a mind and heart at the helm of our country. 

Look, each of us as citizens has a member of Congress who will vote -- cast a vote on this matter.  Do we want that member of Congress to condemn this presidential abuse of power or condone it?

Because if it is the latter, never again complain about corruption or politicians out for themselves or the swamp in Washington, because, if we say, that`s all right, keep it up, it`s exactly what we will get and deserve. 

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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