ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for watching The Beat tonight. We had a wild one from Sherman Waters (ph) all the way to Michael Moore. I hope you join me again at 6:00 P.M. tomorrow.
And up next, it is "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The whistleblower versus the tweeter. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
For ten days now running, in fact, this president has attacked and attacked and attacked the whistleblower who dared tell the American people what Trump was up to in trading U.S. national security for something he could use against his political rivals. It is all about Trump trying to hide his wrongdoing now by making this about how he was caught in the wrongdoing.
Unable to justify his betrayal, Trump`s attacking the messenger, of course, like a boss in the rackets. He calls the whistleblower`s sources spies and obsesses about finding out the person`s true identity, which the law says should be protected.
Trump today tweeted, why aren`t we entitled to learn interview and learn something the whistleblower and also the person who gave all the false information to him? Well, Trump is caught and refuses to admit. The fake whistleblower complaint, he tweets, is not holding up. I deserve to meet my accuser, he demands, and says he or she isn`t a whistleblower after all.
Well, it`s all about part of what The Washington Post characterized as an increasingly frenetic counterassault targeting the anonymous intelligence officer. Trump`s strategy, however, ignores the fact that the whistleblower`s complaint is now beside the point because Trump`s wrongdoing is already established, well-established by the White House summary of his call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
Responding to the president`s attacks on the whistleblower, Democratic Senator Mark Warner of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, that kind of rhetoric can only serve one purpose, intimidation of this whistleblower.
And while he didn`t mention Trump by name, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Indiana says -- or Iowa rather -- said, this person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. That`s from one of the top Republican senators.
I`m joined right now by Ned Price, a former NSC Senior Director, Greg Brower is a former Senior FBI official and former U.S. attorney, Valerie is a former CIA operative officer and current Democratic candidate for Congress in New Mexico.
Valerie, thank you for coming on tonight and I`m so sorry about your ex- husband, the man who`s the father of your children, Joe Wilson.
VALERIE PLAME (D-NM), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Thank you so much, Chris. I decided to come on this evening because I know Joe watched you every night and, of course, you were in on the very beginning of the story back in 2003 when my CIA covert identity was betrayed. I remember coming into the room and Joe hanging up the phone saying, Chris Matthews just said the White House called you fair game.
So our family is devastated and we`ve lost not just, you know, from a personal side but a true American hero.
MATTHEWS: Well, thanks for coming on in this time and especially because of the news now. And the news is about a whistleblower who this president seems to try to demonize (ph), if that`s it, to shrink an importance to curse with some sort of evil. What`s it like to be a target of that kind of targeting?
PLAME: Yes, I know exactly what that feels like. I compare it to falling down Alice`s rabbit hole where white is black and black is white, same thing happened to us. The Bush White House tried to demonize us and make it about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson rather than why there`s no WMD in Iraq.
This is what`s happening here with Trump in this whistleblower. It`s already been confirmed, his wrongdoing, his flagrant abuse of power, it`s a threat to national security. So he is seeking to undermine the whistleblower, which is enshrined in law, should be protected, because what does whistleblower do? They`re seeking to expose wrongdoing, wrought corruption.
And so Trump is a master at this. He will continue do so. But I think he is caught this time.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Greg on this. This strategy of the president, he does seem caught this time. He`s not really challenging what he said. He weakly defends what he says in trying to (INAUDIBLE) advantage for partisan political gain, using U.S. foreign military assistance as his lever. But now he`s going after who he`s treating like a rat, a fink. He`s like some mobster who`s saying, we`re going to get that fink.
GREG BROWER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, it`s a pattern that we`ve seen for some time now. First, it was attacking the FBI for doing its job and doing an investigation --
MATTHEWS: Oh, spying on him, that`s a nice word.
BROWER: And then attacking, of course, the Special Counsel despite the Special Counsel`s long record of dedicated public service, and now it`s attacking a whistleblower.
The facts will come out. There`s a lot there. And it`s interesting you see House Republicans now, some of them, starting to caution against jumping to conclusions. Ben Sasse, the senator from Nebraska, said let`s not circle the wagons around the president quite yet. Let`s get the facts. And I think you`re seeing the right response by many Republicans finally on the Hill who want the facts before rushing to judgment.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to the point here in the beginning, Ned, which is in the days of Nixon and Watergate, it was, you know, John Dean said, I remember, because he had a photographic memory, and he remembered all these things Nixon said. He was important for a while. He should have lit that thing. But when we got the tapes of the June 23rd phone call, they used the CIA to cover for the FBI to get the FBI off the case, it was established that Dean was right. Then you move on to the tape.
Now, we have the White House released memo of the conversation with the Ukrainian president. We don`t need the whistleblower. And now it`s Trump chasing after this whistle man or woman. It`s sick. It`s also weird because that`s not the issue anymore, Mr. President.
NED PRICE, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, June 23rd becomes July 25th. It`s the same dynamic. I think what we`re seeing Trump recognize is that this scandal, this betrayal is too big for him to take on, so he has to personify it. He has to boil this down to a single individual, someone whose credibility he can go after, someone whose affiliations he can try to attack, someone he can try undermine just the way he did with Christopher Steele, just the way he did with Bob Mueller, just the way he did Bob Mueller`s the prosecutors.
We all know this is not about a person. The whistleblower is almost ancillary to this. This is about our democracy, it`s about our national security, it`s about the sanctity of our elections.
MATTHEWS: Well, he does everything based on -- Valerie, what he does is he -- you could tell this from personal history. He looks for weakness, the fact you had to remain on the background in your role with the CIA, the fact he knew you wanted to stay and do your job and stay on background, so he played with that, these Republicans, in that case, did.
Now, Trump is like if he finds a woman whose looks he doesn`t like, he attacks her looks on television. If he sees a person with a physical disability, he attacks their physical disability. If he sees a president of a country border with Russia, scared of the fact that more of its countries are going to be taken over than Russians have already taken over with their tanks, need some anti-tank missile, he needs some Javelins to stop the tanks, he says, I guess I got you down where I need you and I need some dirt on Joe Biden. Working the weakness of his opponents, it`s sick. Your thoughts.
PLAME: Yes, it is. I was really taken with an op-ed piece that was written last week in The Washington Post by seven former Intelligence Community members. They are now members of Congress, and they said the time has come. They have taken an oath, as I did, to protect and defend the Constitution, and everyone from Secretary Pompeo down has taken that oath as well, and they need to protect the Constitution. Their loyalty is not to a person. This is not a monarchy, as he seems to believe, or a mob boss, as he acts like. So we really need to keep that in mind.
What the whistleblower did was really patriotic. His identity should be further protected. It probably won`t be, it seems. But what he did was really courageous in coming forward.
MATTHEWS: Well, amid the president`s efforts to intimidate the whistleblower, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today refused the congressional request for sworn depositions from five current and former State Department officials, trying to block key figures in the whistleblower`s complaint from testifying.
Ironically, in a letter of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Pompeo accused House Democrats of, catch this, trying to, quote, intimidate, bully and treat improperly career diplomats at the center of the request.
Well, despite Pompeo`s letter, two of those five officials are still said to be deposed, according to NBC News.
And another breaking development tonight, NBC News now reports that the inspector general at the State Department today requested an urgent meeting for tomorrow to brief key committees of the Hill of the House about documents related to Ukraine.
And so, Ned, here is what`s going on now. Issuing subpoenas for sworn depositions is a normal way Congress gets information. It`s not intimidating, it`s trying to get the people perhaps who gave the information to the whistleblower to do so publicly, but it`s certainly a legitimate use of the checks and balances.
PRICE: The Mike Pompeo of today, of 2019, will have some very harsh words for the Mike Pompeo of 2012. You`ll probably remember that Mike Pompeo was a member of Congress, was one of the chief authors and propagators of the Benghazi conspiracy theories and he railed against the Obama administration. He accused the Obama administration of stonewalling when, in that case, the Obama administration turned over tens and thousands of pages and could never --
MATTHEWS: Okay. I`m getting a little (INAUDIBLE) motion on this. I`m realizing what`s going on. I thought Pompeo was just an ambitious guy. I thought he`s another one of these people that say, you want interactions (ph) with Trump, you`ve got to play ball with Trump.
Now, I`m finding out that he, like William Barr, are Trumpian. They believe in all these crazy right wing Trumpian conspiracy theories. They go there completely down the rat hole or rabbit hole with all these nonsense. He believes them. Well, they want to believe this crazy stuff about something that the server is over in Kiev somewhere, the DNC -- how did they get over there? They don`t care just as long as they can create a crazy distraction.
BROWER: Well, the problem, I think, for both the Department of Justice and Department of State is at least half of Washington does believe that about the attorney general and the secretary. And so --
MATTHEWS: Believe that they`re a part of this thought process?
BROWER: Whether they are or not, and that can be debated, I guess. But it`s unusual for half of Washington to think that both cabinet secretaries are in the tank for the president for political reasons. That`s not something that`s normal.
MATTHEWS: Is that the better than thinking there`s an invasion of the body snatchers here, that people are really taken over mentally by this guy`s thinking? That`s scary.
BROWER: It`s hard to explain. But, again, if the perception is that DOJ is not playing it straight or that the State Department is not playing it straight and is instead, you know, playing politics, that`s just -- it`s not good for the rule of law and for our system of government.
MATTHEWS: Valerie, people like you -- I know people like you who have joined the administrations over the years as civil servants, not party of Democrats or Republicans. They just love this country and they`re willing to serve in dangerous roles, especially deep background overseas. We used to give awards to them because we couldn`t do it publicly and we had to give them secret awards for their incredible courage because they might have been killed in action and you can`t even talk about that, the courage of these people, true spies, the good guys.
And what do they think of this crowd that runs the country right now, the Pompeos and the Barrs of this president?
PLAME: Yes. You serve overseas not as a Republican, not as a Democrat, you serve as an American. And they are all sick and tired of the president denigrating everyone within the Intelligence Community. He`s called them names. He`s undermined them. And as a result, it`s been quite harmful to our national security.
I joined the CIA because I wanted to serve my country. That`s why I`m running. Again, I think our institutions are under attack. I want to get back into a public service role and be able to do what I can for my community and for my country.
MATTHEWS: Well, after being served with a subpoena for documents yesterday, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said he`s weighing whether or not to comply.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S LAWYER: Well, I don`t know. I`m weighing the alternatives. I`ll kind of like go through it. I`ll get all my evidence together. I`ll get my charts. I don`t know if they`ll let me use video tapes and tape recordings that I have. I gather all these evidence before the Mueller probe ended, so it was clearly under my responsibility as the lawyer for the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Giuliani, also told NBC News, quote, I think it`s extraordinary, people are asking me will I comply. No one seems concerned that this is a subpoena on an attorney.
Now, he`s dancing in the end zone there. It`s like he`s loving this weird role he`s in right now.
PRICE: I think Giuliani probably should have considered his options before he went on Fox News multiple times and held up his cell phone and said all the texts are right there before he read that liner (ph).
MATTHEWS: Back in 1950 or so, Joe McCarthy, I have here 265 names of communists -- he didn`t.
PRICE: He has made it very hard for himself, I think, to avoid a subpoena. If this does, in fact, go to court, if Rudy Giuliani defies Congress, defies the law in this case, the best prosecution, the best witness against Rudy Giuliani will be Rudy Giuliani on Fox News reading those texts, making the case that he has pertinent records, that he knows and he has records that Congress should certainly have access to.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s hope we have a good trial in this presidency and these people are called to witness and they have to answer questions under oath. That seems to change things when you have to speak under oath.
Valerie Plame, good luck in your campaign. I mean it. You know that. We want you to do well out there.
PLAME: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: It`s great that people like you are public servants are risking it all in the arena of politics. It`s a tough arena but good luck with that.
My other guests will stick with us right now for the next segment.
Coming up, all the president`s men, Trump`s private eyes, ain`t that an interesting term for them, Attorney General Bill Barr and Rudy Giuliani, also with the secretary of state, are traveling the globe, trading America`s prestige and goodwill for dirt on the president`s rivals.
Plus, more evidence tonight that public support is building for impeachment and there are reports the White House doesn`t have a clear plan to stop it.
We`ve got much more to get to tonight. Stick around.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: The attorney general is one of the most respected people in this country, and he has been for a long period of time. He`s going to look at a lot of documents, some he might find interesting, maybe he`ll find none interesting. He can look. And I hope he looks at the U.K. And I hope he looks at Australia. And I hope he looks at Ukraine. I hope he looks at everything, because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was President Trump, of course, back in May previewing what he wanted Attorney General William Barr to find out about the origins of the Russia investigation. The nation`s top law enforcement officer is one of the many president`s men now wrapped up in the ballooning Ukraine scandal along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
And now William Barr faces scrutiny over what we have learned are his globetrotting efforts to dig up dirt on the 2016 election, asking foreign officials for their help in an investigation into the investigators in the Mueller probe.
The Department of Justice confirms to NBC News President Trump sought help from Australia`s prime minister during a recent phone call at Attorney General Barr`s request. Back in May, Barr assigned Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham to examine the origins of the Russia investigation. And The Washington Post reports Barr has personally taken an active role. Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials seeking their help in a Justice Department inquiry that President Trump hopes will discredit U.S. intelligence agency`s examination of possible connections between Russia and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016.
It adds, Barr has already made overtures to British intelligence officials. And last week, the attorney general traveled to Italy, where he and U.S. Attorney John Durham met senior Italian government officials.
Ned Price and Greg Brower, of course, are back with us right now. I`m joined by the Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for "PBS NewsHour."
Yamiche, let me ask you about it.
It seems like it`s Captain Ahab. And he`s put together a crew, right? And they`re out there chasing the white whale, the white whale being any evidence that Trump and the Russians had nothing to do with each other, the Russians had nothing to do with the 2016 victory by Trump. He wants to whitewash the whole thing. He wants -- and he`s obsessed with this.
So the purpose of U.S. foreign policy, the purpose of U.S. justice, the purpose of the entire federal government, led by this gang, is to prove the Trump is clean.
That`s a hell of a plan, a hell of a mission, that he`s clean.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "PBS NEWSHOUR": Obviously, there was a lot of turnover at the White House to gets to these people.
MATTHEWS: To find this type.
ALCINDOR: And now he`s arrived -- now he`s arrived at Attorney General William Barr, who critics of the president will say is acting much like his personal attorney, who`s really there to prove that he is rightfully elected and that he has absolutely -- that Russia had nothing to do with the 2016 erection.
Now, there`s not anybody saying that he -- that President Trump wasn`t rightfully elected, but there is this idea obviously the intelligence has said Russia meddled in the 2016 election. And that has continued to bother President Trump.
I will say, I have been talking to a lot of White House sources who tell me this is what Attorney General Barr is supposed be doing. He`s supposed to be traveling around trying to get to the bottom of the 2016 election.
MATTHEWS: To prove that Trump is clean.
ALCINDOR: Yes. Well, not to prove that Trump is clean.
They say it`s to prove that the 2016 election was meddled in, that there was some interference.
MATTHEWS: Why did that become a priority of the U.S. government?
ALCINDOR: The White House says it`s always been a priority.
And they kind of throw this back at Democrats and say, well, now the Democrats aren`t interested in this because it`s no longer top of their list. Now they want to focus on this call with Ukraine, which, of course, a lot of critics of the president will say are -- it`s a pretty clear violation of U.S. laws, and it`s showing the president pressuring a foreign government.
MATTHEWS: It`s really interesting.
I`m sure the leaders of organized crime are happy to know that the entire U.S. law enforcement effort has been directed towards finding this white whale, finding out that Trump is somehow clean.
So, forget about the mob. Forget about the opioid problem. Forget about all the problems we face in law enforcement in the United States. Forget all that, because these guys, starting at the secretary of state level, are in charge of Trump`s agenda, which is to somehow prove what happened in 2016 didn`t happen.
BROWER: Well, Chris, we have to remember that the issue of Russian interference and the issue of the origin of the DOJ Russia investigation has been a priority and is well-documented by now.
Numerous senior DOJ and FBI officials have testified in open hearings on the Hill about how the investigation started. They have testified about the Russian interference. So, the department, the A.G., the bureau, members of Congress, we all know the facts. The Mueller report goes into it extensively.
This review by a U.S. attorney from Connecticut...
BROWER: ... appears to be nothing more than a political exercise.
If, in fact, all of that which has been done already to examine these issues is not adequate, then, of course, the DOJ I.G., the CIA I.G., the ICIG, they could all do reviews of bits and pieces of things that are still uncertain.
But nobody who`s really paying attention believes that any of this is uncertain. And so that just leaves one explanation, which is politics. And that`s not the purpose of an investigation.
MATTHEWS: Ned, it seems like what he does in each case is, he gets caught. There was Russian help in that campaign. Whether it was marginally important or not is not important. The fact is, they tried to screw with our elections. They rooted for him. They helped him. They wanted him to win. They wanted Hillary definitely to lose.
He seems to want to prove not so much it didn`t happen, as much he wants to get the people who caught him. Like, he wants to get the whistle-blower today. It`s a punishment. It`s a punitive raid on all the institutions that we`re talking about. It`s to go back there and get even for catching him.
PRICE: He doesn`t take these issues...
MATTHEWS: Because he`s not going to prove that he is innocent.
PRICE: Well, exactly.
And that`s why he can`t take these issues head on. Instead, he goes on the margins. It`s just like before. We have not heard President Trump proclaim that he`s completely innocent when it comes to Ukraine. He`s really focusing his ire, his energy on the whistle-blower.
It`s the same thing here. He`s not taking on Russia as a whole. He is taking on the origins of the Mueller probe, trying to undermine the origins of this probe, sending his attorney general out to do just that.
There`s a remarkable line in "The Wall Street Journal" writeup of this. It says that Donald Trump refers to Rudy Giuliani and Bill Barr interchangeably. And just imagine that. This is the president`s personal lawyer and the attorney general of the United States. And the president of the United States can`t distinguish the interest of America vs. his own personal prerogatives.
MATTHEWS: That is well said. That is the problem.
And all corruption comes down to someone using public trust for purpose of personal gain. That`s what corruption is. He`s corrupting a whole system for his purposes.
ALCINDOR: The White House...
MATTHEWS: Our whole government is working to prove that he`s a good guy.
MATTHEWS: Which is a laugh, which is a hoot.
ALCINDOR: Critics of the president would say that that`s almost an impossible task, and that the idea is now that he has -- he also has this idea that he`s trying to prove a conspiracy theory, which is that all of these agencies that were honorable agencies before he was elected, that now somehow the DOJ and the FBI, that the people working for them, they can`t do the job that is set out before them.
And, instead, it has to be his personal guys that are doing this. That`s something that`s very clear. And that`s, of course, why people think this is a political game for him personally.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s even deeper than that?
Do you guys -- this just in general. Just I will throw this up, because I think about this guy, Trump, a lot, more than I should, but I do.
Could it be -- I remember Woody Allen once said, what has reality ever done for me? Because he`s in fiction. He writes these movies. He makes them up.
But Trump, I think, believes that too. I don`t think Trump believes in objective fact. I think it`s -- to him, it`s just whatever bully-ish way you can get something sold to people.
The house is worth $20 million because I said so. Maybe it`s not. You know what I mean? It`s like he can actually -- it`s all about power. You can shift people`s belief in objective fact if you scare them enough.
And we see that from time to time in certain people. I guess what`s surprising to me and so many others is that so many Americans have bought into that, and so many people who otherwise have good reputations and careers in Washington have bought into it.
MATTHEWS: I know. Why? Well, they hate the establishment. Fair enough. But why -- do they hate it this much to like this guy`s truth?
PRICE: Well, I think it`s two things.
I think Trump may not be able to distinguish truth from facts. But I also don`t think he can distinguish right from wrong. I think when President Trump says it was a perfect phone call, in his own warped mind, he may actually -- he may actually believe it.
MATTHEWS: He put it out.
PRICE: He put it out.
MATTHEWS: He put out the summary.
PRICE: Over the objections of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, over the objections of his treasury secretary.
He may think...
MATTHEWS: Didn`t he read the word though? Like Kevin McCarthy didn`t read the word though. I`d like you to do me a favor, though, before you get your guns.
PRICE: He may actually think that`s appropriate.
He may not have this developed sense of propriety of right and wrong that...
MATTHEWS: You`re being very delicate. You`re being careful as a journalist. You`re being careful as a gentleman, because what you`re saying, he may not, may not.
I think you know what he is.
ALCINDOR: But he also has plainly told us, as Americans, what he would do.
In that interview with George Stephanopoulos, he said, I would invite foreign leaders to give me dirt on my political opponents.
So the Republicans I have been talking to say, well, part of the reason why Republicans are kind of shrugging at this is because the president has laid this out. He`s at least started the American people down this idea that it`s OK for him to do that.
Of course, we will have to see whether or not there are actually consequences.
MATTHEWS: Did he get a mandate to do it? He claims a mandate from the American people to get dirt on his opponents?
ALCINDOR: I don`t think he`s claiming for a mandate. I think he`s saying, why wouldn`t anybody else do that?
If you`re sitting at home, and you`re a supporter of mine in Wisconsin who maybe doesn`t understand the laws of this country in the same way, wouldn`t you want anybody to give you dirt on your political opponent, if it`s Russia or anybody else?
MATTHEWS: Well, the rats are scurrying.
Attorney General Bill Barr is also reportedly at odds with President Trump`s lawyer, I guess you could him that, Rudy Giuliani.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports that Trump`s two highest-profile lawyers are again struggling to get on the same page, this time in the face of an impeachment inquiry launched by congressional Democrats just last week.
Quote: "The president`s relationships with his private lawyer, who once aspired to be his attorney general, and the man who currently has that post, are complicating White House efforts to build a legal and public relations strategy to keep Mr. Trump in office."
You think they got a plan on that, Greg? What are they up to? Rudy wants to be Rudy. He wants to be a little crazy around 9:00 at night.
BROWER: Yes, that`s Rudy.
MATTHEWS: And it seems to be his time, his bewitching hour, whatever.
He likes 9:00 at night. He goes on FOX and does his stuff.
BROWER: And that`s the irony here.
For those who think that the attorney general is acting too politically and too much like the president`s personal lawyer, it`s just kind of funny to watch the fact that Rudy Giuliani is now frustrating the attorney general.
And so the team can`t get it quite together. And that will be interesting.
MATTHEWS: What a mob.
Thank you, Ned Price. Thank you, Greg Brower. Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor. It`s great to have you on.
Still ahead: It`s an all-out messaging war now being waged around the issue of impeachment, Pelosi saying keep it simple truth, troops -- boy, is she smart on this one -- while the White House is making outrageous claims and accusations to confuse people.
So who`s winning? We have got some new polling from the front lines next on HARDBALL.
I think the lady on the left is winning.
Back in a moment.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
There`s been a dramatic uptick in popular support for an impeachment proceeding and even for removing the president from office right now.
A new Monmouth poll shows that 49 percent think it`s a good idea for Congress to conduct an impeachment inquiry. The Monmouth poll also found that 44 percent of Americans are ready to impeach and expel him from office right now, no need for an indictment by the House, no need by a trial in the Senate; 44 percent say, be gone.
Additionally, a majority of Americans -- a majority believe that President Trump`s call with the Ukrainian president was inappropriate.
Well, Trump supporters are standing firmly behind him, of course, but do they support the scorched earth war he`s waging right now?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
According to "The Washington Post," the White House has not yet set up anything resembling a war room to coordinate its response. And officials spent Monday at meetings trying to determine a path forward. This is at the White House.
The president`s outside legal team played down the threat of impeachment and dismissed the need for any kind of coordinated war room base like the Clinton operation back 20 years ago, where they did a very good job of defending Bill Clinton.
Devoid of a coordinated response, President Trump has taken the lead on a scattershot defense, lobbying threats of a civil war and calling Adam Schiff, who`s the smart guy coming after him, a traitor.
Well, "The Washington Post" is also reporting that some Republicans have pushed the White House to set up a more organized approach and have lamented that there`s no clear plan or strategy to follow right now.
For more, I`m joined by a couple experts, Neera Tanden, president and CEO - - I love those titles -- of the Center for American Progress. CEOs. I used to have that title somewhere.
MATTHEWS: And John Brabender, a Republican strategist.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about this from the Republican end.
This president is -- how would you rate his defense in the last week against what looks to be a growing American popular support for an impeachment proceeding? Let`s call it that.
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I see it as the defense of everything since the day he announces as a candidate. The defense starts with Twitter.
And, frankly, this is why Republicans have a much more difficult challenge of trying to stay on message on this, because we`re following the president, who puts out lots of different messages.
MATTHEWS: And what is his message right now?
We will get to Neera.
But is his message, I didn`t make the phone call? But he put out a summary of what he did say on the phone call. He didn`t deny -- it`s not a fact argument. It`s, it doesn`t matter. Leave me alone.
What is his defense?
BRABENDER: Well, in fairness to the president, I agree with him on this. I think he thinks it`s much broader than that.
First, oh, we`re going to impeach him because he said to Comey that Flynn`s a good guy, go easy on him. That`s impeachable. Nah, didn`t happen.
Then he fires Comey. That`s impeachable.
MATTHEWS: Did I say that? Do you pay attention to this show?
BRABENDER: Then, all of a sudden, Russia and Mueller is going to get him.
The problem is, this president feels...
MATTHEWS: But that was never a big percentage of the Democrats.
MATTHEWS: No, you`re characterizing some of the Democratic Party, who were very aggressive on this, as the party.
BRABENDER: Like Maxine Waters.
MATTHEWS: Most of the Democrats were not for impeachment.
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: How about the speaker of the House?
MATTHEWS: Go ahead. You`re trying to do this. You`re doing what Trump does.
TANDEN: Nancy Pelosi.
I think one of the reasons why there`s growing and continual support for the -- an impeachment inquiry at this moment is because, factually, Nancy Pelosi has been resisting, resisting an impeachment inquiry, until this moment, where we had a new set of facts, in which the president, in his own words, in his own words...
BRABENDER: Well, wait a minute.
TANDEN: Just a second.
In his own words -- let me finish the sentence -- is admitting to essentially extorting an ally to dig up dirt on Biden. And then he`s like, it`s OK. It`s all OK.
BRABENDER: But you`re missing one thing.
She announced the investigation the day before anybody even knew what was in the transcript.
TANDEN: No. No.
BRABENDER: She knew? She secretly knew?
TANDEN: The whistle-blower complaint had been circulating around.
And she wanted an inquiry, because the president has been obstructing all other investigations.
MATTHEWS: "The Washington Post" broke that story.
TANDEN: Yes, they broke the story.
BRABENDER: But she couldn`t even wait until the day that he put the transcript out.
TANDEN: That was the next day.
BRABENDER: Let me ask you this. Let me ask you this.
BRABENDER: Did -- did everybody is saying, it`s quid pro quo, right? Did they investigate Biden?
MATTHEWS: OK. What are you pushing here?
TANDEN: I`m sorry. I`m sorry.
BRABENDER: I don`t understand.
MATTHEWS: Here`s your minute. Here`s your minute.
MATTHEWS: What is your case against Joe Biden?
BRABENDER: Here`s a guy -- here`s what they`re saying is -- he promised aid if they investigate.
BRABENDER: They got their aid. He didn`t get his investigation.
MATTHEWS: Everybody in the world thinks that attorney general should go. Everybody thought.
BRABENDER: But here`s the deal.
TANDEN: It`s not -- let me be clear.
I`m -- you have asked a question. I will answer it.
TANDEN: A quid pro quo is not necessary.
This looks like a shakedown and extortion to the American people because literally the president is asking for a foreign government to dig up dirt on Biden, end of story. That`s there. The president has already admitted to it.
MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go to the key details of the whistle-blower`s complaint. They`ve been proven accurate by the White House`s own memo summarizing Trump`s call for Ukrainian President Zelensky. For instance, the whistleblower said Trump was pressing for an investigation into the activities of Joe Biden. The White House confirmed the Trump raised substantial allegations against Biden and asked Zelensky to look into it.
The whistleblower said Trump urged Zelensky to meet or speak with two people, Mr. Giuliani and Attorney Barr to all. The whistleblower alleged that Trump withheld a meeting while waiting to see whether Zelensky would be willing to play ball. Similarly, the White House memo suggests Trump conditioned military support on getting something in return when Trump says, I would like you to do us a favor, though.
So, this whistleblower is like John Dean, you don`t like to him, we don`t know this person, male or female, but they damn well are good in their report over what was in that phone call.
BRABENDER: Yes, but --
MATTHEWS: Pretty amazing how well they know it.
BRABENDER: What the president said is, look, congratulations on your election. We`re thrilled but you`re going to get rid of corruption. Oh, by the way, Joe Biden bragged he was part of that corruption.
TANDEN: He never bragged he was part of that corruption --
MATTHEWS: -- they got rid of that guy.
BRABENDER: Can I ask you a question?
BRABENDER: Should we do an investigation of Joe Biden and his son?
TANDEN: I think we should look at the facts we have, which has been investigated, ad nauseam, and no, it`s not necessary because there`s nothing there.
BRABENDER: How would we know if they don`t have a investigation?
MATTHEWS: Who would investigate?
BRABENDER: I think it`s fair to see if there`s quid pro quo in the sense that there was anything that they benefitted by --
MATTHEWS: You mean just in general --
TANDEN: No, no, no, I`ll make a deal with you. Let`s investigate all elements of corruption against all the children. Ivanka Trump, Don, Jr., Eric and all -- there`s no investigation in this. There`s no investigation of --
BRABENDER: The Democrats have hijacked the United States Congress and now it`s --
MATTHEWS: Should we investigate -- no. Should we investigate the Romanovs, the Trump family and all their participation?
BRABENDER: I think you guys want to investigate everything --
MATTHEWS: Let me let -- me go back to my topic.
BRABENDER: There`s one Democrat coming out and saying, you know what, if we`re going to go after Trump, we owe to the American people --
MATTHEWS: Let`s face it, everybody is going to be investigated before this is over.
Let me ask you about the whistleblower here. Are you with Trump and his attempt to intimidate this whistleblower? All the attacks he`s been under for the last several days, just attacking.
BRABENDER: I think the context Donald Trump looks at is there were people with political ideologies opposed to his and they`re going to use that undermine --
MATTHEWS: Do you believe this whistleblower did something wrong?
BRABENDER: I have no way of knowing that and I --
MATTHEWS: You have evidence they did?
BRABENDER: I have none. I have no idea, but I`m telling you, that`s the context that he --
MATTHEWS: Should we have whistleblower laws? Should we have whistleblower protection, than when somebody see -- like they say when you take Amtrak, if you see something, say something. Should people be able -- we know that during in the 1930s, that people went -- who were working in the British government and knew about the German arms, they`d leak that stuff to Churchill.
Sometimes, leakers within the government, within politics, are really valuable to us. It`s very valuable.
BRABENDER: And we did learn last week there is a loophole that the whistleblower technically doesn`t have -- can`t do it necessarily. There wasn`t a protocol for doing it against a sitting president. And so, I do think that law should be changed.
TANDEN: No, no, this was disputed all yesterday. We know that they have the right. The whistleblower followed all the laws that the time.
BRABENDER: So, you think in the hearing last week that was wrong when that was said?
TANDEN: No, I`m saying this was reported out yesterday and these allegations you`re making are wrong.
BRABENDER: Yes, look --
MATTHEWS: I`m going back to my belief that Barack Obama had ever held up foreign military assistance to get some dirt on one of his opponents, the Republicans would be unbelievably --
MATTHEWS: Neera Tanden, you`re great, you`re winning here. John Brabender, a manful -- a manly defense of a hopeless case.
Up next, former British Prime Minister David Cameron, a conservative, joins us to talk about actual conservative values as opposed to those of the current Republican lawmakers here.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump continues to defend his phone call with the Ukrainian president, repeatedly calling it perfect. The president today tweeted again about that July 25th call saying it, quote, could not have been nicer, warmer or better.
Well, not everyone has agreed with the president`s assessment, of course, and late today, I spoke with former prime minister of the U.K., David Cameron, who`s out with a new book "For the Record."
I began by asking him how our countries ended up with leaders like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.
MATTHEWS: David Cameron, the big question is what happened to our two countries? How did we get Donald Trump and Boris Johnson? What is in the water of our two countries?
DAVID CAMERON, FORMER U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think there`s some background we share on both these issues which is the 2007, 2008 economic crash and crisis.
CAMERON: We have both had the biggest banking collapses, the deepest recessions. I think from that came a lot of economic insecurity and also perhaps quite a lot of cultural insecurity with high levels of immigration and people looking for different answers. And I think that`s one of the things that perhaps lies behind the Brexit vote and perhaps President Trump`s election.
There were other things, too. And what we have to do now in politics is trying to address those underlying causes.
MATTHEWS: Well, we both have constitutions, so what would happen in Britain if the prime minister, the role you played, for example, was caught going to another country and saying, we`ll condition foreign military assistance on you giving me some dirt on my political opponents. What would happen in your constitution?
CAMERON: I think the next prime minister`s questions would be pretty tough, possibly even terminal I suspect. It`s not a conversation I ever had or ever would have, but I`m going to probably leave it there because I think one of the strengths of the U.K.-U.S. relationship is, whoever is the president, whoever the prime minister, we want them to get along.
And so, we shouldn`t spend too much time getting involved in each other`s domestic politics.
MATTHEWS: Let me try it again. Let me go -- let me ask, from your book, David Cameron, "For The Record".
For the record, here`s my question. We all know what happened in 1940 when Britain was under attack by the Nazis and all alone and Churchill went to FDR, our president, and said, I need 50 destroyers.
MATTHEWS: Supposed Roosevelt had said, yes, I`ll give you the 50 if you give some dirt on the guy running against me.
CAMERON: It wouldn`t have been --
MATTHEWS: Wendell Willkie.
CAMERON: No, no, there`s no doubt --
MATTHEWS: Do you see how absurd (INAUDIBLE) here?
CAMERON: I can see, I can see how you`re doing that. I`ve said what I said. I don`t want to --
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a philosophical question because I think this is some -- Donald Trump was lifelong Democrat, pro-choice, all the Democratic cultural positions, and he decided to run as a Republican and posed himself as a conservative.
Do you see Trump as a fellow conservative? You`re a Tory.
CAMERON: No, I don`t see the economic policy as particularly conservative. When I was elected prime minister in 2010, we had the biggest budget deficit forecast for the entire world and we had to reduce that. That meant cutting spending, even putting up some taxes. We were fiscal conservatives.
And to me, a real conservative is someone who recognizes that if you rack up big deficits and you rack up big debts, you put that on your children and your grandchildren and that`s not a conservative thing to do.
MATTHEWS: And another conservative mode, position in modern times has been free trade.
CAMERON: Indeed. And I`m a convinced free trader. I think --
MATTHEWS: Trump`s not.
CAMERON: And that`s one of the -- there are many areas where we don`t agree.
Climate change would be another one. The future of NATO and the vital importance of NATO might be another one. But the point I`d make is we have to work together. We are -- we did work together.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about that because, I mean, most Americans are Anglophiles basically.
MATTHEWS: Even Irish Americans like me. I mean, we`re all Anglophiles. We do like the special relationship.
MATTHEWS: We love the facts the Brits are with us when we have the face the world in tough, troubling times. We do appreciate that relationship. Is it still there?
CAMERON: I think it is still there. I was -- I`m a romantic believer in the special relationship when I became prime minister seeing how our military worked together, our intelligence worked together, the relationship I formed with Barack Obama, I think it is there.
It`s always going to be more difficult when you have a president who takes these positions on trade and climate change and what-have-you. But even with that going on, we`ve been working together very effectively on combating ISIS.
CAMERON: Actually, the president has turned out to be perhaps more of a supporter of NATO than we thought he was going to be, even on Ukraine, a country I didn`t entirely want to get into but actually Britain and America have led the way on sanctions --
CAMERON: -- against Russia.
So the relationship is still there, but it`s obviously going through an interesting phase with the way our country --
MATTHEWS: On your book -- let`s talk about the book a bit. In your book, you talk a lot about Brexit, of course. And, now, three years after you initiated the big vote over there, the referendum, the United Kingdom is still in limbo on that one.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, there he is, has said Britain will leave the European Union at the end of this month with or without a deal. In your book, you claim that -- you say that Johnson never actually believed in Brexit.
You write: the fundamental conclusion I am left with is that he risks an outcome he never believed in because it would benefit his political career.
CAMERON: Well, the point I make as you say in the book, is that he had never previously argued for Brexit. He was a Euro skeptic, to be fair to him. He was -- the bits of the European Union he didn`t like, just as I did didn`t like some bits of the European Union. But he had never argued for leaving.
And what I said to him is if there`s a better deal on the table which there was, why argue leaving now?
But anyway, we`re past that point. The U.K. voted to leave, but as you say, we`ve been in limbo for three years and we need to resolve that. The best way is for him to go to Brussels, get this deal for us to leave with the deal.
Leaving without a deal I do not think is sensible politics or sensible economics. And parliament has now effectively legislated to stop it from happening. So I don`t think it`s a realistic choice.
MATTHEWS: Can you keep the border open between the North and the Republic of Ireland?
CAMERON: Yes, we must and we should. I think there`s going to need to be some compromises on both sides. You know, the European Union has to understand that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, we are one country. The British have to understand the single market and making that work matters usually to the European, but there must be some for compromise.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much, former Prime Minister David Cameron. Your book is "For The Record". It`s available in bookstores now. There it is. Great book.
MATTHEWS: Of course, a lot would see -- of Americans would like to see a united Ireland.
Up next, are Americans themselves ready to stand up to Trump the bully?
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MATTHEWS: When Donald Trump went up against Hillary Clinton, his strategy was to bully her. Look at him lurking over her, looking at -- look at how he`s trying to intimidate her physically, dominate her before the camera, showing off like an eight grader in recess time.
Watching him today threaten the whistleblower, I`m tempted to say, there you go again, Mr. President, because this isn`t a debate, this thing Trump is doing with the whistleblower. This isn`t about arguing your way to the truth or even trying to win the national audience over to your side.
This is about Donald Trump caught without an alibi, caught on the very account his White House released of his phone call with the Ukrainian president, caught red-handed trying to extort dirt from a leader who needs weapons, caught trying to exploit his role as America`s commander-in-chief and yes, leader of the free world, to score some chief oppo on a potential Democratic rival.
And now that he`s caught, Trump is trying to punish the person caught on the tip, the way a big-shot in the rackets puts a contract on a guy who`s got the guts to testify. And this whole Trump story is the same from chapter one on, making fun of the face of a rival who`s a woman, bragging about his ability to assault or women, lampooning a reporter with a disability, and more recently, asking a desperate leader for a favor, a favor in trade for the only thing that leader wanted, the United States to give him the weapons he needs to hold off those Russian tanks.
And now, he wants to bully the one person who tipped us off to it. Trump never changes. The only question is whether the American people are ready as a proud people to stand up to him.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us tonight.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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