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Trump goes ballistic on Whistleblower. TRANSCRIPT: 10/2/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Joyce Vance, Elissa Slotkin, Kamala Harris

Thanks as always for watching The Beat with Ari Melber.  HARDBALL is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Trump knows he`s in trouble.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

We`re witnessing a presidential meltdown.  Trump seems to be deeply agitated now by the impeachment investigation.  He`s calling his critics traitors and calling the investigation itself a coup.  And today, in tweets, and before the cameras, Trump spun himself into a frenzy.  The president was asked to acknowledge what the evidence in the impeachment inquiry shows already that this president used the power of its office to push a foreign leader for dirt on a political opponent.  But pressed several times, Trump refused to answer.


REPORTER:  Mr. President, can you just make clear right here what do you or what did you want President Zelensky to do with regard to Joe and Hunter Biden?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Well, I was having a problem with the two things.  Number one, Ukraine is, before him, for tremendous corruption, tremendous, more than just about any country in the world.  In fact, they are rated one of the most corrupt countries in the world.  And I don`t like giving money to a country that`s that corrupt.

REPORTER:  What did you want about Biden?  What did you want to look into on Biden?

TRUMP:  Look, Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked.

REPORTER:  The question is what did you want President Zelensky to do about Vice President Biden and his son, Hunter?

TRUMP:  Are you talking to me?

REPORTER:  It`s just a follow-up of what I just asked you, sir.

TRUMP:  Listen.  Are you ready?  We have the president of Finland.  Ask him a question.

REPORTER:  I just wanted you to have a chance to answer the question that I asked you.

TRUMP:  I`ve answered everything.


MATTHEWS:  That`s from Taxi Driver.  Are you talking to me?  That`s Robert De Niro`s line.

Anyway, Trump`s rage over impeachment says he knows he`s in trouble.  He`s accusing the Congress of overthrowing the government, saying last night, what is taking place is not an impeachment, it`s a coup.  And he said today that Democrats are wasting everyone`s time and energy on B.S.  I think he used the word, in fact.  He also threatened a civil war if he`s impeached and called the whistleblower`s complaint treasonous and many others as well.

REPORTER:  Mr. President, I`d like to ask you about your use of the word treason.  You`ve used it repeatedly in the last few days.  Do you consider anyone who opposes you treasonous?

TRUMP:  No, I consider when they lie, when they stand before our great body, in our great chamber and they make up a story that`s fiction, like Schiff did.

Believe it or not, I watch my words very carefully.  There are those that think I`m a very stable genius.


MATTHEWS:  Very stable genius, obviously.  Well, now, The Washington Post is reporting the Trump-Ukraine scandal has ensnared Vice President Mike Pence.  At the same time, Trump was seeking dirt on Joe Biden, President Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine.

I`m joined now by Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Thank you, sir, for joining us, as always.

This is not fun.  It`s serious.  But the vice president now, according to reporting as of tonight, seems to be engaged in the same thing Trump was engaged in which is basically shaking down a foreign leader to get dirt on a political candidate, the candidate you`re supporting, Joe Biden.  Shouldn`t he be the subject of an impeachment inquiry as well at this point?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE):  Look, Chris, I think it`s important that we focus on the facts here.  The facts are that --

MATTHEWS:  I`m talking the facts.

COONS:  I`m sorry?

MATTHEWS:  I`m talking the facts.  The facts now point that he and not showing up for the inauguration, for his conversation with President Zelensky.  He was working the same vein of opportunity that the president himself was working, to leverage the need of that country for foreign military assistance, particularly weapons to use against tanks to get dirt on the candidate you support.

COONS:  That`s right, Chris.  As you well know, Ukraine has been under withering assault over the last five years from Russian-supported separatists.  And the newly elected president, President Zelensky of Ukraine, was desperate to get this additional military assistance.

And what we just heard this afternoon, just learned this afternoon in a Washington Post article was that Vice President Pence may have been much more actively engaged in a series of actions designed to send a message as President Trump conveyed in the call with the new president, Zelensky, that we now all have a summary of, he asked them to do a favor, to dig up some dirt on his leading political opponent.

And he then used the vice president later to deliver a message by directing him not to attend the inauguration of a justifiably nervous President Zelensky and to convey to him that the aid was not going to be released, was not going to be forthcoming until they did something more.

I frankly think if I were working for or advising Vice President Pence, I`d tell him to be concerned because it seems that President Trump has engaged him quite centrally in this series of facts, these actions that are really shocking.

I think this is happening, Chris, frankly, because President Trump views Joe Biden as his strongest rival for re-election.  He thinks Joe Biden has the best chance of beating him and that`s why he`s making these smears against Joe and Hunter Biden.  And I`ll remind you in the 2016 election, President Trump attacked virtually all of his Republican primary opponents in some cases, even famously, just making things up, such as when he accused Senator Ted Cruz`s father of being involved somehow in the assassination of JFK.

This isn`t about who Donald Trump is.  We know who he is.  This is about what he`s done as our president.

MATTHEWS:  I think this raises above even presidential politics right now, Senator, because look what happened with the Russian media response when Pence called off his attendance at that inauguration over there.  They jumped with glee at this because it made the point that our administration led by Donald Trump and supported by the vice president are supporting Putin in his war basely on endangered Ukraine.  This is serious geopolitical stuff here.

Does it bother you just as an American we have a foreign policy and a national security driven by cheap, cheap oppo-negative politics?

COONS:  Yes.  Obviously, Chris, the situation with regards to Ukraine generate, brought bipartisan concern.  Several months ago when members of the Foreign Relations Committee and Appropriations Committee learned that this vitally needed assistance to Ukraine was being held up for undetermined reasons, there were a number of senators who pressed the administration for answers, for insight.

And one of the striking things is that Senator Durbin of Illinois offered an amendment to the appropriations markup on September 12th that would put -- essentially would set aside some of the Department of Defense funding if this money to Ukraine wasn`t released.

The money to Ukraine was only released the night before that vote.  And during that markup, a number of senators, Republicans and Democrats, said that supporting Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression is an important national security goal, it enjoys wide bipartisan support, and there was a lot of expressions of concern by Republicans and Democrats at that early September markup about why the president was holding up this aid.

We`ve seen President Trump give two, I think, conflicting suggestions.  He was doing it because he wanted the Europeans to contribute more when, in fact, the Europeans have contributed far more than we have to Ukraine`s stabilization or rebuilding, or he doesn`t like giving money to countries that are corrupt.  There are many other countries around the world that face corruption challenges.  I`m not aware of that having been a concern of the Trump administration in the face of critically needed aid either.

So I frankly think that Speaker Pelosi today did a great job of laying out a measured fact and law-based approach to this vital investigation and I`m hopeful that it will move forward swiftly and with cooperation from the administration.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Senator Chris Coons from Delaware.

I want to, by the way, bring in right now Peter Baker, New York Times Chief White House Correspondent and co-author of Impeachment, an American History, and, of course, Mary McCord, Professor of Georgetown Law and former acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

You know what I`m pressed with is the national security piece of this.  I think that`s what will drive this, if anything will, to impeachment and possible removal from office.  The idea that the United States` foreign policy support for a country, which is clearly endangered, and we`ve spent ever since World War II looking around, looking out for those little countries on the border of Russia from being absorbed by them.  And then we see this country being absorbed slowly again today more than aggressive (ph), and we`re trying to be the good guys, and now we have a president who`s not interested in that priority at all of being the good guy.

MARY MCCORD, FMR. ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY:  The message it sends, of course, is that, you know, the support of this government is for sale and it`s for sale by doing the political bidding of the president, not for any of the reasons that Congress or others may want to be involved in those countries, especially to push back on Russian aggression.

And the message that sends, of course, to the rest of the world, the diminution of our leadership in the world is significant.  And now that we see the secretary of state drawn into it, potentially Vice President Pence drawn into it, whether it`s wittingly or unwittingly in some ways, it doesn`t matter in terms of what this does to this country`s national security.

MATTHEWS:  Peter, in the reporting, which I rely on from The Times, and The Journal, and The Post, the way I get the fix on this in the past is different than I have it now.  My first sense was Trump was this sort of odd ball political figure and anomaly who came into the U.S. government surrounded by people that weren`t one of his.

And now I see a cabal.  I see him, and now, Pence, maybe by force, being drawn into this, like in a mob or a gang.  And I see Pompeo and I see Barr, all of them together now of like mind.  They seem to have to have the same sort of -- they share in the same faction of thought, of ideology that they can get away with breaking all the rules, that there`s some sort of supreme purpose they have that surrounds Trump.

What do you make of the fact that you`ve got Barr part of this mow, Pompeo part of this, and now, for whatever hook or crook reason, the V.P. tonight?

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  This president came in with the least experience, which is to say, none in government or military than any president before, right?  No president before this one had come into office in a single day in government or military office.

And so he surrounded himself with people who actually he thought would be the grownups in the room.  We thought they were going to be the H.R. McMasters, Rex Tillersons and Jeff Sessions, people who had been in office for a while.  And they did, in fact, resist some of his desires.  They said, no, sir, that`s not something that you can do.  They`re gone.  Most of those are gone.

MATTHEWS:  So what`s Pompeo doing on the phone?  The president of the United States, the secretary of state, both on the same phone call, one guy listening in to go after the new government of Ukraine, what`s this focus about?  Is this prior to the United States to get dirt on Biden?  Is that the priority of our government?

BAKER:  Clearly, it`s a priority of the president to get cooperation on these investigations that he`s interested in, the 2016 investigation, pressuring the prime minister of Australia.  There was a report today that he also asked Boris Johnson of the U.K. to cooperate on this investigation to determine whether the Mueller probe was legitimate or not.  He has fixated on proving that the Mueller probe was, in fact, a hoax, as he likes to say, and he`s fixated on Joe Biden, absolutely, and he`s looking for information.

Now, if there was actual allegation to be pursued, you would think they would be pursued by law enforcement officers, not by the president of the United States, who has an obvious political interest in it.  That`s what draws questions.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confessed today that he listened in on Trump`s July phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.  Here he goes.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  As for was I on the phone call?  I was on the phone call.  The phone call was in the context of, now, I guess I`ve been the secretary of state for coming on a year-and-a-half.  I know precisely what the American policy is with respect to Ukraine.  It`s been remarkably consistent, and we will continue to try to drive those set of outcomes.


MATTHEWS:  I like to way he tucked that fact in that he was on the line.

Anyway, The Washington Post reports that it is very unusual for a secretary of state to listen in on calls with leaders from a country as small as Ukraine.  That`s according to former NSC staffers who say Pompeo`s presence on this call suggests the subject or the purpose of the call had high importance to the president, and thus to him.  Mary, they`re together in this.

MCCORD:  Well, I mean, you know, I can`t speculate about that.  I know there are times certainly probably with foreign leaders of countries more significant than Ukraine that it`s probably not unheard of for the secretary of state to be on the phone.

But I think what we see here happening is we have so many of President Trump`s political appointees, his cabinet level appointees that seem, as you said earlier, to basically have swarmed around and now being a part of this pressure to investigate and not just to investigate generic corruption but to investigate corruption involving supposedly candidate Biden`s son and, of course, the beginnings of the 2016 Russia investigation, all things that would be very helpful.

MATTHEWS:  Last point for both of you, and that is that there seems to be a change in the president in the last 24 hours, the president, good reporting in yesterday, saying that the president wasn`t aware of the urgency of this situation.  For example, he put out a summary of his conversation with Zelensky.  That`s an odd thing for him to do.  He seemed to be playing on defense, I can handle this, I can handle this.

Today, he wouldn`t be repeat the admission that he made in putting out that summary.  What`s going on?

BAKER:  No, I think you`re right.  He`s becoming increasingly concerned about what`s happening here.  He`s watching the impeachment rolling forward at a break-neck speed.  I think he had thought that he was past the danger point when the Mueller report came out, and he Testified and didn`t look like the House Democrats were going to really do anything.  Now, he`s recognizing the danger.

You see the agitation that we saw today, right?  He was about as riled up as, I think, we`ve seen him, and pushing back, fighting hard, using a lot of these fighting words like treason.  But it`s one-man war room.  There`s nothing around him right now.  There`s no strategy and a lot of Republicans are concerned because the only defense is one-man and a Twitter account.

MATTHEWS:  Well, we`ll see who eats crow on Thanksgiving this year.

Anyway, thank you, Peter Baker of The Times, and thank you, Mary McCord of Georgetown law.

Coming up, the president angry and frightened, he`s lashing out, as I said, against his perceived enemies who are all around him now, except for those three or four he`s got, there they are, including Mike Pence.  The impeachment inquiry has the president at a state of extreme agitation as the walls seem to be closing on on him and he`s acting that way.


TRUMP:  These are bad people.  These are dishonest people.  And when the American people find out what happened, it`s going to be a great day.


And presidential candidate Kamala Harris joins me next here.  We`ll talk to her about President Trump, what he should be worried about as the impeachment inquiry moves forward onto Thanksgiving.

We`ve got so much more to get to tonight.  Stick with us.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Democrats in Congress are still working on arrangements to hear directly from the whistleblower whose complaint has triggered this impeachment inquiry into President Trump.  And there continues to be concern about, of course, the whistleblower`s safety.

Dismissing those concerns, including those some members of his own party, Trump continued his attacks on that person today.


REPORTER:  How do you respond to concerns that you are putting the whistleblower`s life in danger?

TRUMP:  Well, the whistleblower is very inaccurate.

REPORTER:  Some Republicans have raised concerns --

TRUMP:  No Republicans have raised concerns.

REPORTER:  -- about the whistleblower, that the names -- that the identity of the whistleblower should be protected?

TRUMP:  I don`t care.  Look, I think the whistleblower should be protected if the whistleblower is legitimate.

He either got it totally wrong, made it up or the person giving the information to whistleblower was dishonest, and this country has to find out who that person was because that person is a spy, in my opinion.


MATTHEWS:  Trump`s unfounded accusations there came after House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said the president is inciting violence against the whistleblower.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  The president wants to make this all about the whistleblower and suggest people that come forward with evidence of his wrongdoing are somehow treasonous and should be treated as traitors and spies. 

This is a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses.  It`s an incitement to violence. 


MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris of California.

Senator, what do you make about this, as a prosecutor, a former prosecutor?  This witness intimidation, scaring witness, it seems almost mob-like, racketeer-like to say, all right, if you`re going to go up there, you`re going to turn evidence against us for the state, look out. 

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Well, there`s -- I mean, there`s no question. 

I mean, it`s just so obvious, Chris.  It`s really -- it`s not actually -- it doesn`t require much creativity to figure out what exactly Donald Trump is trying to do.  He`s trying to intimidate this witness and others.

And it is typical of his behaviors, which is that he is not only a bully, but he also is, actually, obviously motivated by fear...


HARRIS:  ... which is that -- the fear that this whistle-blower is going to come forward and give credible information, which has already been deemed on its face to be credible by the I.G., that it`s going to lead to an inevitable conclusion, which is the impeachment of Donald Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you your big thoughts about the range and scope of what`s going on right now. 

I said in the earlier segment I thought Trump was in this on himself, for himself.  And now I realize he`s got William Barr, the attorney general, in cahoots with him.  He`s got the secretary of state...

HARRIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  ... Pompeo, in cahoots with him.  Now he`s got the vice president dragged into this cabal. 

They`re all working together to get dirt on one of the presidential candidates, Biden.  It seems like it`s all down to the nasty business of oppo research, all run by the president, with these guys, men, behind him. 

They`re not just sycophants, like Lindsey Graham.  They`re in it.  What do you make of it? 

HARRIS:  Yes, I -- well, I agree with you. 

But I`d make one point of distinction between what you said and what I think is going on.  It`s not like he made them do anything.  These are grown men who all have preexisting roles of leadership, and as members of the United States Congress, as governors, and a former attorney general. 

And so they know what they`re getting into when they`re dealing with him and when they have engaged in the behaviors they have engaged in, apparently. 

They need to come before Congress.  They need to testify, and under oath, and tell the American people, because they also have violated, apparently, the oath of office that they have taken. 


HARRIS:  And so I would be cautious about just putting this on -- to just to suggest that they have been lulled or seduced into something.

If any of these individuals, if any of these men want to walk around wearing the lapel pin that they wear, and have a bunch of staff running after them, calling them by their title, well, now they need to come before the United States Congress wearing that title and speak truth about what they have or have not done, in terms of either violating the oath of office they have taken or adhering to the promise they made the American people, which is that they hold these offices in the public trust, that they hold these offices with loyalty that they should be pledging to the United States people, the people of our country, not Donald Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, if possible, if it comes to a Senate trial -- and it may well by the end of this year.

Well, you will be a juror in that trial for removal of the president from office after he`s impeached, if that develops, as the -- as the history of this year.  You`re going to have a vice president of the United States who would take the presidency, after having been involved personally in the cabal that we`re -- that we would be impeaching the president for.

How does that make sense historically?  If Pence was part of this, how could he survive as president when Trump goes? 

HARRIS:  Yes.  Well, I -- you`re raising a very important point, which is that the vice president has a lot to answer to. 

And he also should be brought before the United States Congress to speak about what exactly what was involvement and what, if any, solicitations were made by the president to have the vice president engage in unethical conduct...

MATTHEWS:  Also...

HARRIS:  ... and potentially illegal conduct. 


Also, if Trump is guilty of trading U.S. security and -- security arrangements with a country...

HARRIS:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... that`s endangered by the Russians, and maybe he did the same thing.

Let me ask you about -- earlier today, House Speaker Pelosi said she thinks President Trump has been lashing out at the Democrats because of his fear of impeachment. 

Let`s watch her analysis. 

HARRIS:  Mm-hmm.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  I think the president knows the argument that can be made against him, and he`s scared. 

And so he`s trying to divert attention from that to we`re standing in the way of legislation. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of her performance so far, especially in the last two weeks? 

HARRIS:  I think we should all be very thankful that, at this moment in time, that Nancy Pelosi is the speaker, because she has -- and no one can question this -- she has been thought full.  She has been reflective.  She has been measured every step of the way. 

I, like so many other Democrats, have been calling for impeachment for some time.  Nancy Pelosi has been very measured and very temperate in the way she has approached this. 

And that is -- that is the way that she operates.  And I have nothing but respect for the way she`s been handling this issue. 

MATTHEWS:  At the other end of the spectrum, what do you think of the president`s -- report that the president of the United States wants crocodiles, alligators, snakes, and all sorts of scary animals in the water to keep people from crossing the Rio Grande? 

What do you make of that?  That`s a factual report. 

HARRIS:  I -- I`m at a loss for words, except to say that this president has a mentality that really is about beating people down and destroying them.

You`re talking about a moat with alligators and snakes?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well...

HARRIS:  He`s talking about going back to some medieval tactic, because, apparently, that -- he -- his brain has not evolved to understand that there are modern approaches to dealing with immigration. 

And, in particular, what really needs to happen is comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway towards citizenship. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of Maya Rudolph`s imitation of you last Saturday night?  Was that over the top?


MATTHEWS:  But you apparently said something positive about it.  I thought it was a bit over the top.

Your thoughts? 

There it is.  We`re watching it now.

HARRIS:  Oh, I -- look, I plan on keeping Maya Rudolph in work for the next eight years. 


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, I think you`re much more restrained than that. 

But thank you so much, Senator Kamala Harris of California, for coming. 


HARRIS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

HARRIS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Coming up:  U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff says he`s not fooling around in the impeachment investigation, as Democrats set a deadline for documents in the face of White House defiance.

Of course, I think they want them to defy right now.  Keep being defiant, and that will be part of the impeachment articles.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

President Trump`s outburst this morning came just hours after three chairs of House committees at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Oversight, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence, gave the White House an ultimatum:  Turn over documents related to the Ukraine call by Friday, or a subpoena coming.

In a memo, they wrote: "The White House`s flagrant disregard of multiple voluntary requests for documents, combined with stark and urgent warnings from the inspector general about the gravity of these allegations, have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena."

And one of those chairmen, Adam Schiff of House Intelligence, delivered a sterner warning. 


SCHIFF:  If they are going to prevent witnesses from coming forward to testify on the allegations in the whistle-blower complaint, that will create an adverse inference that those allegations are in fact correct. 

We`re not fooling around here, though.  We don`t want this to drag on months and months and months, which appears to be the administration`s strategy.


MATTHEWS:  Well, President Trump was asked if he would cooperate if the committees follow through on that subpoena.


TRUMP:  Well, I always cooperate.  This is a hoax.  This is a fraudulent crime on the American people.  But we will work together with shifty Shift (sic) and Pelosi and all of them. 

And we will see what happens, because we did absolutely -- I had a great call with the president of Ukraine.  It was 100 percent.  You have the transcript. 


MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan.  She`s held positions in the CIA, the National Security Council, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence itself, and also the Defense Department.  And Joyce Vance is former U.S. attorney. 

Congresswoman, thank you for coming on tonight. 


MATTHEWS:  Is it better for Trump to just continue his policy of stonewalling and not letting anybody testify or turn over any documents, so that, in the end, that just becomes perhaps the second article for impeachment, just move it ahead before Thanksgiving?  Just let them impeach themselves? 


I mean, I think what is the best scenario is that he actually allows this administration to listen to the Constitution and come and testify in front of Congress.

I don`t think it`s good for anybody to just have the executive branch and the legislative branch at loggerheads.  I think he should have let the process play out. 

And if indeed this was all a big mistake, then the onus is on the administration to demonstrate that. 

MATTHEWS:  But what about the fact that they have already demonstrated already, which they know how to slow this game down? 

I mean, they have been doing this now for nine, 10 months now.  They know how to play -- they will say, I will gladly give you the documents December 13 or December 26, or we will get going on this on Tuesday -- sometime -- some Tuesday in January. 

SLOTKIN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s in their interests to drag this out well past Thanksgiving and Christmas, isn`t it?  Isn`t the game they`re playing time? 

SLOTKIN:  Clearly.  I mean, they`re playing this on these hearings, but also related to a lot of other committee work that`s going on for nine months. 

I think one of the things that myself and the six other co-authors of our op-ed a week coming out for an inquiry, we didn`t just talk about the need for an inquiry.  We talked about the need to be muscular about it, and to not let the administration drag this out precipitously. 

And no one wants to get there, but I do think we have to start thinking about, what are the consequences of them not showing up by a certain date?  And I don`t -- no one wants this.  But I -- we did include in our op-ed the possibility of holding someone in contempt. 


SLOTKIN:  I mean, no one in real America gets to just not show up when they`re subpoenaed. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, Congresswoman, you sound like a sound public servant.  I just wonder about the other side.

Joyce, here`s the question.  We have watched this for months.  They laugh.  They stonewall all request for documents.  They have never come up with the president`s tax returns.  The statute is clear.  They shall turn it over to the committees of Ways of Means and Finance in the Senate.  They don`t do it.

All these shalls seem to be nothing to them.  The president is behind every one of these defiances.  Why continue to go through the paperwork of going after them, knowing they`re just playing for time? 

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  It looks like there`s a new strategy.  And I think it`s an interesting idea. 

As you point out, Chris, the litigation process is still very slow.  We`re now waiting months down the road to hear about whether the McGahn subpoena will be enforced. 

But Congressman Schiff seems to be beginning a new narrative, where he will be able to tell a story to the American people about what it means when he`s stonewalled. 

So there are regulations inside of the executive branch that would let the secretary or a lower-level delegate refuse to permit someone to go and testify up on the Hill. 

And what we see in the subpoenas and the narrative that Schiff is releasing is that, if they do that, if they continue to foreclose testimony, he will then make the case to the American people that they`re doing this because they have something to hide and, even worse than that, that they are obstructing Congress, so that instead of being an endless loop of delay, it now becomes, as I think the congresswoman points out, a possible article of impeachment. 

Everyone would like to see the executive branch comply.  The American people are entitled to the truth.  But there has to be accountability and consequences.  It looks like Schiff is starting to walk down that path...

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

VANCE:  ... towards finding a way to combat this administration. 

MATTHEWS:  So, noncompliance is admission of guilt. 

Anyway, the threat of White House subpoenas comes on the same day Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back against congressional requests to interview current and former State Department officials regarding Ukraine. 

Here he goes. 


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  We will, of course, do our constitutional duty to cooperate with this co-equal branch. 

But we are going to do so in a way that is consistent with the fundamental values of the American system.  And we won`t tolerate folks on Capitol Hill bullying, intimidating State Department employees.  That`s unacceptable. 

And it`s not something that I`m going to permit to happen. 


MATTHEWS:  However, during the two-year-long House Select Committee Investigation into Benghazi, then Congressman Pompeo had no problem with pressuring Hillary Clinton`s State Department officials and the Obama White House itself into cooperating. 


POMPEO:  Our task is -- our task is really straightforward.  It`s to take the data, collect the data, get the documents, speak to the folks who know about the events of the run-up to that evening.

Our goal is really quite simple.  It`s to get every single fact we can get, every document, every witness, and to put together the puzzle, the mosaic for the American people. 

My charge is very clear, to get to the bottom of the facts that surrounded this enormous foreign policy failure.  The president didn`t turn over all the documents in response to a congressional subpoena.  And that`s just unacceptable. 

I need to make sure that everyone who was involved in this has the opportunity to speak with us, to share their testimony, their ideas, their thoughts about what really happened that night. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, there`s a picture of FOX and friend.

Congresswoman, let me ask you about something I know is important to you, given your career, your resume, and that`s national security. 

I think this isn`t ethics.  I think it`s something about taking foreign policy, especially military assistance to a country which is beleaguered, under Soviet -- I use the phrase Soviet because it`s the same old behavior.  It`s the same KGB guy running that country. 

The Russians have taken part of Crimea already.  They took Crimea.  They`re taking part of Eastern -- they`re basically occupying Eastern Ukraine.  They`re moving.  And it`s our tanks -- our anti-tank missiles that are used to stop them.

And the Trump people, including the vice president now, holding up that arms shipment to get the dirt on a political opponent here at home.  What do you make of that, as a member of Congress? 

SLOTKIN:  Well, I do think it`s important that we be really, really careful about the facts, right? 

What we know for sure is that the president, because he acknowledged it and the president`s lawyer acknowledged it, is that they reached out to the president of Ukraine, and they asked for dirt on an American, on a political opponent.  They asked a foreigner for that. 

We know that the aid was suspended for a time.  We do not know yet -- and that`s why we`re looking into the facts -- exactly why, and we have two different sides to that story. 

So I think it is important that we actually stick to the facts here.  I know, from my time at the Pentagon, one of the things that I worked on was getting military aid to Ukraine right after 2014, and then up through 2016.

We`re the biggest donor of military supplies to the Ukrainians.  They have lost 13,000 people in their war.  So it`s a big deal that aid would be suspended in any way.  And that`s why it`s important to understand exactly why it happened, because, for me, that`s a second piece of the problem here. 

But the first-order problem is that the president acknowledged that he went to a foreigner for dirt on an American. 


Well, he got to me with this line, "I`d like you to do me a favor, though."

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Joyce Vance, as always.  Thank you, Joyce. 

Up next, later:  Our president can`t distinguish between the United States and himself.  He calls the state himself.  He thinks the Justice Department and the State Department work for him, and his critics, all of them, any partisan critic, is a traitor. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 



President Trump was elected, of course, promising that only he knew how to fix things. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, nearly three years into his presidency, the political novice has bragged about having the power to do whatever he wants. 


TRUMP:  I have an Article II where I have the right to do whatever I want as president, but I don`t even talk about that. 


MATTHEWS:  In that capacity, he`s demanded multiple agencies help him.  The Justice Department is currently conducting a probe to discredit the findings by U.S. intelligence agencies, 17 of them, that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help Trump. 

Well, the State Department`s investigating some of its current and former officials in connection with Hillary Clinton`s e-mails now, right now.  And Trump has enlisted the secretary of the treasury to obstruct Congress` inquiry into his tax returns. 

One explanation, according to "The Washington Post", is that President Trump has grown confident about exercising power, disposing of aids who acted as guardrails and elevating those who prove their loyalty by following his orders.  It`s as if President Trump took President Kennedy`s famous inaugural calls to service and flipped it on its head. 


JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  So, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. 


MATTEHWS:  Unlike Jack Kennedy, President Trump seems to be saying with every act, it`s not what I can do for my country, it`s what my country can do for me. 

Unbounded and emboldened President Trump continues to portray anyone questioning him as attacking America, and that`s coming up next right after this break.  You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The president has frequently claimed that an attack on him is an attack on America. 


TRUMP:  They were going hog-wild to find something about the administration which obviously wasn`t there.  We had nothing to do with Russia. 

This was a coup.  This was an attempted overthrow of the United States government. 

I call the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are.  They are the enemy of the people. 

REPORTER:  Can you explain your decision not to go to Denmark because they really wouldn`t talk about selling Greenland? 

TRUMP:  No, Denmark, I look forward to going but I thought that the prime minister`s statement -- she`s not talking to me, she`s talking to the United States of America.  You don`t talk to the United States that way, at least not to me. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, those who have deigned to question him should be arrested for treason he says and for plotting a coup. 

As "The Washington Post" writes Trump is invoking the muskets-and-ramparts idioms of the country`s beginnings. 

And today, he was asked about those acquisitions.


REPORTER:  Do you consider anyone who opposes you treasonous?

TRUMP:  No, no, I consider when they lie.  When they stand before our great body, and our great chamber and make up a story that`s fiction. 


MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Robert Costa, "Washington Post" national political reporter, and David Corn, "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief. 

Let me go to Bob Costa on this question of Trump`s identification of himself.  You know, he is the States as I said in French.  He is the United States government.  What do you make of it? 

ROBERT COSTA, WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  My colleague Phil Rucker and I on today`s front page of "The Washington Post" documented how President Trump has become more comfortable using executive power 2 1/2 years into his presidency.  When you talk to his confidants and associates they say he`s surrounding himself with people who are supporting his position, not arguing with him at almost every turn and are using his cabinet and officials to try to do his bidding at times for political gain. 

MATTHEWS:  It does seem, David, that now we`re getting into focus with this whole thing with Ukraine, with the vice president involved tonight and the secretary of state and the attorney general.  Everything revolves around saving this president`s keister. 

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES:  Well, Bob made it sounds like it`s a power play, and it is.  It`s also a psychological play.  Donald Trump suffers from some form of pretty extreme narcissism in which he views the world only in terms of how it affects him. 

And so, now, it`s all about saving his presidency, removing the taint of the Russia investigation, which does I think undermine his legitimacy as president and that`s all he cares about. 


MATTHEWS:  And diminishing Joe Biden as a potential opponent.

CORN:  Yes, but I think that was his second -- 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

CORN:  -- point.  And when he goes around -- when Bill Barr going around the world sitting in on these meetings, it`s about getting information to discredit the Russian probe, that`s what`s motivating him now.  And so, that`s really what`s going on here. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, he`s looking back and he`s looking forward.  As we mentioned earlier, Vice President Mike Pence is being dragged deeper into the entanglement here.  A week ago when President Trump first publicly defended himself against the wrongdoing, he alluded to the vice president`s own interactions with the Ukrainian president.  Let`s take a look at that. 


TRUMP:  I think you should ask for VP Pence`s conversation because he had a couple of conversations also.  I could save you a lot of tile.  They`re all perfect.  Nothing was mentioned of any import other than congratulations. 

But the word is that they`re going to ask for the first phone conversation.  You can have it any time you need it, and also Mike Pence`s conversations which were I think one or two of them, they were perfect.  They were all perfect. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that, Robert, had a hint of Richard Nixon.  Nothing wrong with what he did, but he was the guy who didn`t go to the inauguration, he was the guy who talked to President Zelensky about cutting off the aid.  He certainly dragged him in and I don`t think he wants to be part of this cabal. 

COSTA:  As a reporter, I`ve seen up close how Vice President Pence has been dragged into this situation.  Four weeks ago in Warsaw, I was in the room when he met with President Zelensky of Ukraine, not talking about Vice President Biden, but they did talk about in a broad way corruption. 

Vice President Pence`s aides told "The Washington Post" today, he did want have the intent to try to solicit interference in the 2020 election.  At the same time, you see Vice President Pence involved in a similar way to Attorney General Barr and Secretary of State Pompeo.  They`re part of these conversations about Ukraine at some level. 

MATTHEWS:  David, what about the conundrum here?  If this president is impeached, which I think is pretty likely right now and if he`s removed from office which there`s less chance of that perhaps, but if he is removed from office in favor of Mike Pence, Mike Pence is involved in the same cabal which is using U.S. foreign policies to get dirt on rivals. 

This one particular incident in fact involving the president of Ukraine.  That`s a little odd to inaugurate swearing in a president who did a same thing as the one we just kicked out.

CORN:  And remember, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, what is he fifth in the line of secession?  I mean, so, the question is, can Donald Trump go down without taking everyone around him down?  I mean, a sinking -- a sinking --

MATTHEWS:  Well, they will go with him.  They`d go with him. 

CORN:  A sinking ship creates this gigantic whirl pool and everybody who`s been his enabler, whether it was Bill Barr and now, Mike Pompeo, or Mike Pence, they`re all --

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the enablers are like-minded?  Are they all like- minded?  I used to think enablers, but I get the feeling, I think about Bob`s little reporting, it seems like these people are not in a sidecar but they`re riding with him.  You know, they`re riding with him in common thought and purpose. 

Pompeo seems to be a Trumpian, so does Barr, seems to be a Trumpian.  The vice president I thought was keeping his distance, but he`s been pulled in. 

Are they like seeking gentlemen or are they just people who are basically kissing up, this colloquialism, to get what they want to get politically? 

COSTA:  Based on my reporting, Chris, they`re not in ideological lock step with President Trump.  Instead their survival is with an administration where they feel like they need to work with him on some of his projects even if they think privately this is not the direction the president should go in.  They feel like John Kelly, the former chief of staff, Jim Mattis the former defense secretary struggled and then failed to contain this president.  So they don`t even have the allusion, their associates tell us, that they could contain President Trump. 

CORN:  But the issue there is, why do they have to contain him?


CORN:  They see there`s something wrong with the man.

MATTHEWS:  OK, I was only following orders. 

Thank you, Robert Costa.  Thank you, David Corn.

Up next, Trump confesses his real reason for attacking the press like he was attacking them today.  But here`s why he did it, and he will tell you at the moment.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  If you listen to Donald Trump, you`ll find all you need to know about how he thinks, how this man who sits in the Oval Office actually operates. 

Back when Trump was first elected, CBS` Lesley Stahl recalls the reason he gave her for his constant attacks on the media.  Quote, he said, you know why I do it, I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you. 

Do we need to know more get a better explanation of this man`s M.O. and his motives?  He trashes reporters so that no one will believe what they are reporting about him.  Trump was doing it again today, hiking up the name- calling. 


TRUMP:  I don`t even use "fake" anymore.  I call the fake news now corrupt news because fake isn`t tough enough.  And I`m the one who came up with term, I`m very proud of it, but I think I`m going to switch it largely to corrupt news because the media in this country, not everybody, we have some great reporters, some great journalists, but much of it is corrupt. 


MATTHEWS:  Corrupt press, could this explain Trump`s contemptuous refusal to condemn Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man behind the killing and actual butchering of "The Washington Post" columnist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago today. 

And where`s not condemning the man known as MBS, Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have led the killer back to global respectability, sharing the spotlight with him at world gatherings.  Look at them there. 

And as we`ve learned, Donald Trump doesn`t honor the accepted rules of mankind such as you`re not supposed to shoot the messenger.  It`s not the only rule of basic human behavior he`s refused to uphold. 

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.