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Trump excoriates a whistle-blower. TRANSCRIPT: 10/9/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Jonathan Swan; Dina Titus; Natasha Bertrand; Kim Wehle, DavidFrench, Christine Todd Whitman, Kelly Magsamen, Sahil Kapur, ChristinaGreer

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  Trump tries to run out the clock.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Steve Kornacki in for Chris Matthews.

After weeks on the defensive, the president is diving head first into a constitutional showdown.  In a sweeping assertion issued in White House letter yesterday, the administration outright refused to comply with Congress in its ongoing impeachment inquiry.  The letter claims among other things that the House inquiry is, quote, unconstitutional, though the Constitution does give Congress the power to impeach a president.

Late today, Trump again challenged Congress` authority.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  The whole thing is a scam.  It`s a fix.  And we wrote a letter yesterday and probably ends up being a big Supreme Court case.  Maybe it goes a long time.  I don`t know.

REPORTER:  If Pelosi holds a vote on the floor on impeachment and commits to the rules of previous impeachment proceedings, you`ll in that investigation?

TRUMP:  If the rules are fair because I don`t know exactly your definition.


KORNACKI:  According to Axios, Trump`s approach suggests, quote, the strategy is to fight the Democrats in court and stonewall the investigation as long as possible.  The news prompted former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden to issue a blistering rebuke of the president today.


JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  With his words and his actions, President Trump has indicted himself by obstructing justice, refusing to comply with the congressional inquiry.  He`s already convicted himself.

In full view of the world and the American people, Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts.

To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached.


KORNACKI:  Meanwhile, new evidence continues to trickle out.  Today, emails obtained by The New York Times show the administration told U.S. diplomats to downplay the release of military aid to Ukraine after the president inexplicably froze it for almost two months.

But the White House refuses to comply with Congress.  It has already released material that is driving the impeachment push.  That is the White House memo of Trump`s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, which shows that when Zelensky asked about U.S. military support, the president replied, quote, I would like you to do us a favor though.  That favor, according to the memo, may have been a commitment from Ukraine to launch investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden.

I am joined now by Congresswoman Dina Titus, a Democrat from Nevada and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Jonathan Swan, National Political Reporter for Axios, Natasha Bertrand, National Security Correspondent for Politico, and Kim Wehle, University of Baltimore School of Law Professor and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and also author of the book, How to Read and Why.  Thanks to all of you for joining us.

Jonathan Swan, let me start with you because it`s your reporting from Axios there that we`re quoting in terms of the White House strategy here.  Take us through this idea, if I`m understanding correctly, you don`t provide any cooperation with Congress, you force Congress to go to the courts to get subpoenas, to try to enforce subpoenas, and it basically runs the clock to a point where impeachment just can`t happen.

JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS:  Yes.  And I should be clear, there are disagreements within the White House staff about how to proceed with impeachment.

There are some who see peril in this and who want to get this over and done with quickly, to have a quick impeachment process, but there are others, including the White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, who see great political upside in dragging out impeachment.

Mick Mulvaney, in a senior staff meeting last week, said -- told the staff that if it dragged on, impeachment dragged on, Trump would win 45 states after impeachment.

You`ve also got a political campaign ran by Brad Parscale that is loving impeachment because it is the biggest money-generator they`ve found so far in terms of raising cash.

But all of this washes away because in moments like this, Trump only really listens to his own instincts.  And his instincts are to fight every single inch of the way, to use extreme rhetoric, described it as a coup, using words like treason and to just flat out refuse to comply with congressional requests.

KORNACKI:  Well, Congresswoman, speaking of congressional requests, let me ask you then.  If that is the White House`s strategy here, if that decision yesterday to say to Sondland, you know, you`re not going to show up for that deposition, you`re not going to provide any documents, if that is the strategy to force you in Congress to try to go through the courts, to enforce these subpoenas, to get the cooperation, to get the documents you`re looking for and just stretch that out over the course of months, do you have a strategy to counter that?

REP. DINA TITUS (D-NV):  Well, we`d like to get it done sooner rather than later.  And the people I`ve been talking to here in my district say, why don`t you just go arrest him?  That`s what would happen to me if I avoided subpoena.  We`ll have to go to the courts.  We can`t have a shootout on the lawn of the White House.  But every time he refuses to appear or won`t let some of his folks appear or won`t turn over any evidence, that`s just one more obstruction of justice.

And remember, one of the charges against Nixon was obstruction of justice.  So if what he did with the president of Ukraine is not enough, every time he does this, it just piles on.

KORNACKI:  Well, in terms of, though, if this is ultimately potentially going to go to articles of impeachment being drafted, one of them, as you say, could be obstruction of justice, do you need for the court process to play out before actually introducing and voting on articles of impeachment, or are you prepared -- will you be prepared to go forward, put on the floor, vote on articles of impeachment even if there`s court cases pending on these subpoenas?

TITUS:  Oh, I think we`ll be prepared to do that.  And I think you`ll see this moving pretty quickly.

Speaker Pelosi hasn`t made any bones about it.  She thinks he`s immoral, unethical and what he`s been doing is against the constitution as well as illegal.  So you`ll see this investigation continue in a deliberative way, but we`re not going to stand for him to continue stone wall, stone wall, stone wall.

KORNACKI:  The president today denied that any White House officials expressed alarm over his conversation with President Zelensky, and he denied having any knowledge of the reported effort by White House aides to hide the record of the call on a secret server.


REPORTER:  Did any White House official express any concern to you or speak to you about that phone call?

TRUMP:  It`s all a big con.  Don`t you understand?  Look, the phone call, you have it.  It`s the transcript.

REPORTER:  Your administration tried to bury that transcript in an extra level --

TRUMP:  Well, that, I don`t know.  Again, I`m not a lawyer.  I can say this.  I assume it was for leaks.  I have no idea.

I assume it was for leaks.  I mean, I`ve read that and it doesn`t seem like a big deal.


KORNACKI:  Natasha Bertrand, take us through what the president is talking about there.  This is the conversation, the record of the conversation and potentially other conversations like it being stored in a place that was difficult to be accessed.

NATASHA BERTRAND, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO:  Yes.  So our reporting at Politico shows that this started happening after the leaks in 2017 of the president`s conversations with the leaders of Mexico and Australia.  Those leaks were extremely embarrassing for him and for the White House.

And so in order to prevent this from happening again, they started restricting access to these phone call records more and more to the point where some of them, if not all of them, we don`t know for sure yet, were placed in this top secret NSC, National Security Council code word system, where only the highest compartmented intelligence matters are placed.

You don`t usually put routine conversations between the president and foreign leaders in this system.  And you certainly don`t put them in the system unless there is some kind of major code word covert operation that these leaders are discussing, which, of course, with regards to the president and president of Ukraine, Zelensky, they absolutely were not.

So this was a way for them to conceal the calls from people within the White House whose job it actually was to read these readouts, that they could actually do their jobs in terms of diplomacy and crafting foreign policy, and it was all in an effort to, I think, shield the president from further damaging leaks.

But it`s not just a matter of embarrassment, I don`t think.  As we saw, the president has a tendency to kind of rift in these calls and ask foreign leaders for personal favors.

KORNACKI:  Kim, I want to get back to you on that question of potentially Democrats in the House going to court to enforce these subpoenas as part of this impeachment investigation.  The White House here, according to Jonathan Swan, seeing that as a way to run the clock.  What would that mean just in terms of -- take us through what the legal process would look like in terms of timing.  If that`s what the White House is trying to do, how much time could they buy themselves doing that?

KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY:  Well, there are three ways to enforce a congressional subpoena.  One is that Congress is inherent power to literally jail someone.  That`s not going to happen in our political environment.  Two would be to go to the attorney general and ask for criminal enforcement process, which, of course, Bill Barr is not going to do.  Number three would be to go to court and file a civil claim, asking a court to issue an order forcing the White House to actually comply with these subpoenas.

It is possible to ask a federal judge to expedite this, to do it on a quick motions practice so the district court would have it quickly.  Then you could also ask for an expedited appeal to the appellate intermediate court and then ultimately to the Supreme Court.

But that process doesn`t mean that the Democrats or the House, in general, couldn`t impeach or issue articles of impeachment in the interim.  They could always amend those or issue a superseding set of articles of impeachment, just like a prosecutor could issue supersedings and indictments.  We saw this with the Mueller probe.

So this doesn`t necessarily slow down the House process.  And, of course, Mr. Trump doesn`t control -- even White House witnesses, they can decide for themselves to actually comply with these congressional subpoenas and people in the private sector can decide to comply.

So we don`t have a situation like with Whitewater, where I worked, where we have Ken Starr handing Congress a whole basically tome of data and evidence and information.  Congress is doing this in real-time, as we speak, and the information is going to continue to come out.  So just sort of obstructing these subpoenas, I don`t think, is going to get the White House to put basically a lid on this process.

KORNACKI:  Jonathan, let me ask you about that, and Congresswoman Titus was speaking to this a minute ago, the idea of Democrats moving forward with the impeachment inquiry, potentially even having on articles of impeachment before the legal process plays out.  If Democrats think they are going to have enough, even without all of these subpoenas necessarily being enforced to go forward with impeachment, what about the other side of it?  What are you picking up from Republicans?  What would the bar be for Republicans to change their thinking on this?

SWAN:  Yes, that`s the big question that we don`t know the answer to.  As we`ve seen people like Mitt Romney express abhorrence, horror, other words to describe President Trump`s conduct on the phone call with Zelensky and also asking china to investigate the Bidens.  But what we don`t have from Mitt Romney or from any of these other senators is a road map or even a criteria for rom how they would get from disgust to I want to impeach this guy.

The White House, in terms of their own private views, there`s probably only four or five silent persuadable Republican senators.  I have no idea whether that`s true or not, but what I do know from talking to lot of these senators over a long period of time, is that the idea there are 20 of them even close to being ready to move on impeaching this president is just fantasy.

So at this point, the most likely scenario appears to be the House impeaching on a pretty partisan vote and then in the Senate, Republicans think the worst outcome for them would be, at this point, a majority vote on the side of impeachment with a few Republican defectors.  That would be seen as a bad outcome at this point.

But all of this is speculative.  No one knows.  They`re very closely watching public opinion.  And there was a fair bit of concern about The Washington Post poll yesterday, just a magnitude of shift in numbers of public opinion towards supporting impeachment.  That is concerning some Republicans close to the White House and leadership.

KORNACKI:  And, Congresswoman, by the way, speaking of public opinion, The Washington Post poll yesterday said, I think, 58 percent of Americans, they said, were in favor of the impeachment inquiry.  Our own poll, NBC News poll yesterday had that number at 53 percent.  There`s been more support than opposition for in every poll that I`ve seen having this impeachment inquiry.

The president is out there, his defenders are out there saying, hey, the House never actually took a vote, never actually put it on the floor and said, hey, every member, you decide, will there be an impeachment inquiry or not.

I know that doesn`t seem to be an official legal requirement here, but it was done with Clinton, it was done with Nixon.  Is there a case for doing it here, just putting it out there and putting every member on the record that this is what you`re going to do?

TITUS:  I think we`ll do it when the time is right, when we have some more evidence.  But you`re right.  It`s not in the rules of the House, it`s not in law, it`s not in the Constitution, so we don`t have to wait until the investigation is finished.

And the poll numbers are trending in the direction of -- in favor of impeachment.  I wouldn`t want Mulvaney to be my political adviser and, plus, the president doesn`t listen to anybody.  Today, he`s worried it might affect his legacy.  Tomorrow he wants to drag it out.  I think if it goes on longer, more and more information will come out and that will work to his disadvantage, not advantage.

KORNACKI:  All right.  Congresswoman Dina Titus joining us from Las Vegas, thank you.  Jonathan Swan, Natasha Bertrand, Kim Wehle, thanks to all of you as well.

And coming up, are Republicans on board with the harsh rhetoric President Trump and his allies are using about impeachment?  One Trump defender says Democrats are committing regicide against the president, regicide, meaning killing the king.

Plus, more of former Joe Biden`s attack on Trump today.


BIDEN:  He believes he can and will get away with anything he does.  We all laughed when he said he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and get away with it.  It`s no joke.  He`s shooting holes in the Constitution.


KORNACKI:  Biden, for the first time, calling for Trump`s impeachment.  But is Biden even the frontrunner anymore?  I`ll have a look at some new polling, some big changes in the Democratic race.

We`ve got much more to get to.  Stay with us.


KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump continues to attack the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment probe.  In multiple tweets this morning, he accused the whistleblower of lying and having political motivations, saying, quote, he or she should be exposed and questioned properly.

But The Daily Beast reports some Republicans would like the president to keep quiet.  Quote, the fear emanating from Capitol Hill and other corners of the GOP is that Trump`s proclivity for going on the attack is harming his long-term political prospects.

But the report adds this, there is no mass panic at this stage from members of the House GOP on impeachment.  That was evident as the president`s staunchest allies came out in force today.


REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R-OH):  Adam Schiff should be a witness at this point.  He should be out of this investigation all together.  The proper procedures should be followed.  And I`m not sure that Nancy Pelosi shouldn`t be a witness too.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  Whether they`ll do the formal inquiry and start this process the way they`re supposed to, I don`t know.  It doesn`t seem like they`re going to do it.  They continue to make the rules up as they go along.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA):  American people are beginning to see that Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff like going behind closed doors where nobody can examine what they`re doing, where they can only leak out information that they want to have and nobody in this country believes that that`s America.


KORNACKI:  And meanwhile, Senator Lindsey Graham said he will ask his colleagues to sign a letter to Speaker Pelosi that argues that the president`s call with the Ukrainian leader is not impeachable.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  They`re about to destroy the nation for no good reason. 

I have read the transcript.  I do not see anything wrong there.  And I want Nancy Pelosi to know that Republican senators are not going to impeach this president based on this transcript, so she can stop now, before she destroys the country. 


KORNACKI: "The Washington Post" collected reactions from all 53 Republican senators about the impeachment inquiry.  So far, not a single one of them supports the inquiry, but 14 have expressed concerns or have questions.  The other 39 have supported the president unequivocally. 

For more, I`m joined by David French, senior writer for "National Review," and Christine Todd Whitman, former Republican governor of New Jersey.

David, Lindsey Graham said he is collecting signatures.  "The Washington Post" looks like there`s -- they -- at least according to their survey, 39 Republican senators ready to echo some of those comments we were just hearing.

Those comments from the Jim Jordans of the world, how widespread do you think that sentiment is among members of Congress? 

DAVID FRENCH, "NATIONAL REVIEW":  I think it`s relatively widespread now, based on the state of play now. 

But there`s a lot still to learn about this controversy.  For example, why was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine recalled precisely?  Why did that happen?  What was Rudy busy doing throughout the -- in his freelance Ukraine diplomacy?

There is much still to learn here.  And Republican senators who would put their name on a piece of paper based on the state of play now -- and we haven`t even talked about what Trump might do between now and then.  How might he defy lawful subpoenas from the House?  How might he behave in a way that could add to articles of impeachment? 

I think it`s extremely premature to judge anything as of the state of facts at this moment. 

KORNACKI:  Governor, it`s interesting.

We show some of the Republicans who are coming out publicly rallying around the president.  But I think, on this one, more than some of the other controversies during his presidency, I think there`s been more silence from Republicans, folks just not saying anything. 


KORNACKI:  Who are you keeping an eye on right now who you think there is a chance, as more comes out on this potentially, or as the situation develops, might go in a direction that we haven`t seen so far? 

WHITMAN:  Well, I think you have to look at those who are up for election. 

Those that are up for reelection are the ones who are going to be testing the pulse of their constituents.  And they`re going to be watching very closely to see what more comes out and what he tweets. 

I mean, every day, he tweets something else that flies in the face of our basic Constitution.  And he doesn`t seem to understand it.  He hasn`t gotten it.  But, so far, those people who are always going to be Trump supporters don`t see that they`re there yet. 

But I think there`s a real possibility that they will.  And this Ukrainian thing, to say that there`s nothing sort of bad about it, I was in Ukraine for the elections, this -- these last elections in June on the parliamentary elections.  And I`d been there in 2014 for another election observation mission.

The difference in the attitude of the Ukrainians, the feeling of hope, the feeling of positiveness, of wanting to move closer to the West, and really believing that President Zelensky is going to move them that way, and is going to battle the corruption -- and he has already taken some major steps in that direction. 

But he`s a neophyte.  He`s brand new to this.  He needs our support.  This is not the time to embroil him in domestic U.S. politics.  And it`s making his life very difficult.  He`s got Russia sitting in part of his country already, in the Crimea, supplying arms to those dissidents that are fighting in two of his other provinces. 

I mean, this is the real world for him.  And it`s just been unfair.  And they`re -- Ukraine is an important buffer for us with Russia, as are the rest of the Baltic states.  Our allies don`t know that they can trust us at all anymore.  And that`s dangerous. 

KORNACKI:  Well, last night, former U.S. attorney Joe diGenova -- he`s a Trump defender who was considered for the president`s legal team back during the Mueller investigation. 

He compared the impeachment inquiry to the murder of a king. 


JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  What you`re seeing is regicide. 

This is regicide by another name, fake impeachment.  The Democrats in the House want to destroy the president.  The Democrats, who used to just love process and procedure and the rule of law, they are literally subverting the rule of law in what really amounts to a seditious attack on the government. 

It really is sedition. 


KORNACKI:  Sedition, by the way, defined under U.S. law, is a conspiracy to overthrow or destroy by force the government of the United States. 

David French, here`s the thing.  I have noticed a few tentative comments from some Republicans.  I`m thinking of Rob Portman here, for instance, who expressed his displeasure, his -- he did not think the president should have made the phone call he did to the Ukrainian president, and has said, but not impeachable, shouldn`t have done it, but not impeachable, trying to find that middle ground. 

And I suspect there`s a lot of Republicans who would like to get there, but I wonder, if the president is going to characterize his call as perfect and beyond reproach, and if his public and his defenders` public posture on this is regicide, as you`re hearing that, how tough does that make it for the Portmans of the world to carve out that middle ground? 


What you`re seeing there is really crazy talk, when you`re talking regicide or sedition.  Impeachment is a constitutional process.  It`s a lawful process, outlined in the United States Constitution. 

So this is not sedition.  This is not regicide.  But what that does is, it stokes the base to a rage.  And a lot of people see, for example, what President Trump did in this series of tweets trying to hammer Mitt Romney, who has been out in front saying, what I have seen is unacceptable. 

And they look at that, and they say, I don`t want that to be me, especially when that kind of language has such a hold over the Trump base, which has disproportionate in power Republican primaries.

I look at that kind of thing as a very shortsighted deterrence operation against Republican dissent.  And the reason why it`s shortsighted is because it doesn`t play with anybody outside of Trump`s base.  That looks like crazy talk to everybody outside of Trump`s base. 

And so, in that way, you`re engaging in a short-term strategy that I think is calculated to keep Republican senators or Republican congressmen in line, but, as a long-term strategy, it just continues to alienate anyone who might be persuadable to Trump`s side, because the language is so unhinged. 

KORNACKI:  All right, David French and Christine Todd Whitman, thank you both for joining us. 

And up next:  President Trump is facing widespread criticism as Turkey begins its assault on America`s Kurdish allies in Syria. 

What message is Trump sending to the world?  And will there be any political repercussions here at home?

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Turkey has launched its ground offensive against the Kurdish militia, U.S. allies who played a major role in the fight against ISIS.  Today, tanks and armored personnel vehicles crossed into the border into Syria -- to Syria, just hours after an aerial and artillery assault on several targets in Northeastern Syria. 

The rapid escalation comes only four days after President Trump privately green-lighted a -- quote -- "small" Turkish incursion in the area.  Trump defended his decision earlier today and made a reference to Normandy. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We have been talking to Turkey for three years.  They have been wanting to do this for many years, as you know.  They have been fighting each other for centuries. 

They have been fighting each other for hundreds of years.  This has been going on.  We were put into this battle.  Kurds are fighting for their land, just so you understand.  They didn`t help us in the Second World War.  They didn`t help us with Normandy, as an example. 


KORNACKI:  According to various reports, the Kurdish militia is said to be holding more than 12,000 suspected Islamic State members in seven prisons. 

U.S. defense officials told reporters that those Kurdish forces have suspended all operations against the Islamic State. 

President Trump was asked if he was at all worried about the release of ISIS fighters.  Here`s what he said. 


TRUMP:  Steve?

QUESTION:  What if some ISIS fighters escape and pose a threat elsewhere?

TRUMP:  Well, they`re going to be escaping to Europe.  That`s where they want to go. 


KORNACKI:  Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who strongly opposes the president`s decision, made an appearance on Trump`s favorite morning show, "FOX & Friends." 


GRAHAM:  We can`t abandon the Kurds now.  We can`t turn it over to Turkey.  To think that will work is really delusional and dangerous. 

Well, it`s a lie that the -- that ISIS has been defeated.  The caliphate has been destroyed, but it will reemerge.  You know, the Kurds can`t fight Turkey and control ISIS at the same time. 


KORNACKI:  Florida Republican Marco Rubio also had a damning assessment of the decision.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL):  To just abandon them like that, so the Turks can come in and slaughter them, is not just immoral.  I mean, it taints our reputation all over the world. 

They`re going to leave to go fight the Turks, and then we`re going to have thousands -- we`re going to have a jailbreak and thousands of ISIS fighters out there.  So I think it`s a terrible mistake.  I hope they rethink it. 

QUESTION:  What -- what would you do? 

RUBIO:  Well, look, he`s -- people have to understand, the president is the commander in chief.  He can order these things.

But it`s a terrible mistake.  And we will have to see what options there are.  I`m sure the Senate will potentially take some vote that would disagree with that decision. 

But my hope is that the president will reconsider, because I think this would have implications that go far beyond just Syria. 


KORNACKI:  For more, I`m joined by Kelly Magsamen, vice president for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress. 

Kelly, thank you for joining us. 

Senator Rubio says he hopes that the president will change his mind on this.  No indication that that`s going to happen, at least in the immediate -- if that doesn`t happen, these dire predictions, the dire possibilities here of a slaughter of the Kurds, the mass escape of thousands, over 10,000 ISIS prisoners, how likely is that to come to pass? 

KELLY MAGSAMEN, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR IRAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL:  Well, I think we have already started seeing it. 

President Trump`s impetuous decision has set into motion a series of events.  And we`re watching it play out as we speak.  I think you`re likely to see a potential resurgence of ISIS. 

I think President Trump has essentially sowed the seeds of ISIS 2.0 in this decision.  And it`s very clear to me that he had no sense of what the potential long-term consequences could be, and no sense of a plan B or contingency plans to deal with the dramatic humanitarian consequences, the dramatic consequences for U.S. interests in the region in the long term. 

KORNACKI:  Again, hearing Rubio, hearing Graham, hearing voices that don`t typically criticize the president criticize this policy in such explicit terms, the possibility is out there -- has been floated, certainly -- that you could have supermajorities emerge in Congress, Democratic and Republican supermajorities, that would be big enough to override any presidential veto, for instance, in terms of imposing sanctions on Turkey if they were to move on the Kurds. 

Do you see any prospect of that happening? 

MAGSAMEN:  Well, I certainly think that Congress, first of all, needs to hold members of the administration responsible and accountable to the president`s decision.

That includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mike (sic) Esper, Chairman Milley, et cetera.  And, certainly, the Congress should be taking steps to find ways to mitigate the very negative consequences of this decision. 

Now, the problem is, as Senator Rubio pointed out, the president is the commander in chief.  He has a large amount of executive power on foreign policy.  And, unfortunately, this is what happens. 

I mean, he has made a decision, and now he`s going to face the consequences of that decision. 

KORNACKI:  Yes, so I guess that`s the question.  If Congress did act, how much do you think could be mitigated or altered in this -- in the policy? 

MAGSAMEN:  Listen, I think -- I think the Turks have made a calculation.  They clearly blew past the president`s warnings -- or false warnings, I guess. 

I think that the Congress can certainly impose some serious sanctions on the Turks.  Whether that will change how the Turks behave or roll back any of the actions we`re seeing right now, I think, is probably unlikely, at most.

But, certainly, the Congress needs to take some attempts to try to hold and lead where the president has not been able to.

KORNACKI:  The polling has certainly suggested there isn`t much of an appetite in this country for U.S. troops to be involved in the Middle East, in Syria. 

What is the way to get American troops out of Syria without running the risk of what`s being described tonight? 

MAGSAMEN:  Well, what`s ironic is that the president`s own strategy was actually to work between the U.S. military and the Turks to create some sort of buffer zone, and to do it over time and to build confidence. 

And the president, in this one decision, has essentially upended his whole administration`s strategy, which had been working.  The U.S. military was being very successful at doing joint patrols, for example, with the Turks.  There had not been any Kurdish attacks against the Turks on Turkish territory. 

So things were in place to potentially get to a stage where maybe the United States could hand off the mission to other European forces.  But none of those decisions were made.

The president, in an impetuous decision on the phone call with Prime Minister Erdogan, made this decision.  And now we are where we are. 

KORNACKI:  All right, Kelly Magsamen, thank you for joining us.  Appreciate that. 

And up next, I`m going to head over to the Big Board.  We are going to look at some brand-new polling on the 2020 race. 

Joe Biden was the front-runner in the national polling average every day since he got in the race -- until yesterday.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  All right.  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

So let`s show you what the Democratic presidential race looked like about six months ago.  This was back when Joe Biden first got in the race.  Remember that announcement speech, all the attention he got?  And he was immediately the clear front-runner in this race. 

Remember this is the national polling average just a couple of days after Biden got in the race.  He was over 40 percent, more than tripling up his near -- or about tripling up his nearest rival there.  Bernie Sanders, no one else even in double digits.  Elizabeth Warren back there at 8, Harris, Buttigieg -- this is how the race looked when Joe Biden got in the race. 

Remember, he was one of the last ones in.  Just about everyone else had been out there and running for a while.  So, that was when Biden got in. 

Fast forward, we had all the debates this summer into the fall.  We had all different developments, controversies on the campaign trail. 

Here is what the national polling average looks like now.  Notice that.  Joe Biden is no longer in first place.  Elizabeth Warren has taken -- now, this is very minor in terms of the difference here, but two tenths of a point.  She still is higher right now in the national polling average than Biden. 

A huge jump over the last few months for Elizabeth Warren.  Joe Biden meanwhile falling from 41 to about 26.  Sanders, look at that, 14.6 then, 14.6 right now. 

So, that`s been the big story over the last few months or so in this Democratic race.  Elizabeth Warren has steadily risen.  She`s now taken the lead.  The question is, is she going to be able to keep rising?  Is she going to be able to keep building to the coalition she`s put together or is she going to hit a ceiling? 

Biden, by the way, has fallen from about 41 to about 26.  Lately, he seems to have stabilized out there.  Is there a chance he`s gong to fall further or does he really? 

So, a big sort of potential turning point here in the Democratic race, but with Warren taking the lead ever so slightly in national polling average, you can see the other advantage she has besides that, not a national primary here, you start in Iowa.  The latest Iowa poll, we`ve taken through this before, but Elizabeth Warren leads in the latest Iowa poll.  You go to the next state eight days later, her next door neighbor stayed in New Hampshire.  Elizabeth Warren leads in the latest poll in New Hampshire. 

Democratic candidate who put together that one, two punch of Iowa and New Hampshire have a pretty good record of turning around and winning the Democratic nomination.  It tends that Democrats in other states start to fall in line when a winner emerges from the first two states. 

And, by the way, if you got through that to Nevada, the third state to go warren is not leading there but she`s close to the lead.  And if she were to win Iowa and New Hampshire, you`ve got to wonder if those numbers would change.  You`ve got to go to South Carolina to find a clear Biden advantage in early states.  It is a clear advantage, extremely strong support from African-American voters in South Carolina and elsewhere. 

But the question for Biden is, if he takes a hit in those first two or three states, is that firewall in South Carolina going to hold?  So, it`s a big question there in terms of where this race is going.  And, by the way, though, what Biden has been running on, he still can sell this in a head to head match up against President Trump.  He still does better than any other Democrats. 

This is Quinnipiac earlier this week, over 50 percent for Biden, double digit advantage over Trump.  And, by the way, in this same poll, Warren not far behind him.  We haven`t seen that in every poll that`s come out, but the closer that Warren can get to Biden`s performance in head to head matchups with Trump, the more like she might have telling folks, hey, Biden is not the only one who can beat President Trump.  So, keep an eye on that as well. 

But, anyway, the headline in the Democratic race, Biden at least for now, not in first place in the national polling average.  We will see where it goes from here. 

Coming up, Biden made one of his most forceful speeches of his campaign today.  He called for the president`s impeachment. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Impeachment isn`t only -- isn`t only about what the president`s done.  It`s about the threat the president poses to the nation if allowed to remain in office. 

He believes he can and will get away with anything he does.  We all laughed when he said he can stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and get away with it.  It`s no joke.  He`s shooting holes in the Constitution, and we cannot let him get away with it. 

The United States cannot afford to have a president who will abuse whatever power is available to him to get re-elected.  That`s what it`s all about.


KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden today calling for President Trump`s impeachment.  Biden also warned the president that his efforts to go after his son Hunter aren`t working. 


BIDEN:  He`s targeted me and my family with lies and distortions and smears.  That`s all they are, because he thinks he will undermine my candidacy for the nomination as well as the presidency if I`m the nominee.  We`re not going to let Donald Trump pick the Democratic nominee for president, period. 

I`m not going to let him get away with it.  He`s picked -- he`s picked a fight with the wrong guy. 


KORNACKI:  A "Politico" report notes that, quote, Joe Biden has been under sustained assault from president Trump for more than two weeks but there`s little evidence he`s been significantly bloodied.  As the "Politico" piece points out Biden`s standing in the primary hasn`t significantly changed in the past few weeks.  The Quinnipiac poll this week has him at 26 percent of the vote.  That`s one point higher than the last Quinnipiac poll.

And the Morning Consult poll out this week has Biden ahead with 33 percent.  That`s also a point higher from their previous poll. 

For more, I am joined now by Sahil Kapur, national political reporter from "Bloomberg News".  And Christina Greer, associate professor at Fordham University and the co-host of the FAQNYC podcast.

Sahil, let me start with you just on the news that Biden made today because in some ways, there are a lot of Democrats out there who have already been calling for the president`s impeachment, been calling for it for a long time.  Biden sort of the last ones to come to it, but this is sort of a major decision on his part. 

SAHIL KAPUR, BLOOMBERG NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Yes, Steve, it`s part of the newer feisty Joe Biden that his campaign kind of rolled out.  A week ago today in Reno, Nevada, I was there for that speech, and he really went after President Trump hard.  This came after some struggling I think on the part of Joe Biden to craft a message.  I think he was stunned the way the president came after him and his son, but Biden`s pitch is so centered around this idea of electability that he and his team, according to the my sources, saw this is an opportunity to paint a one an one match between him and President Trump. 

And this is something that he has to excel at, and show Democratic primary voters that he can not only handle, that he won`t wilt, but that he can defeat President Trump at this game.  So, that`s part of what we`re seeing here.

Now, he has also followed Speaker Pelosi every step of the way on impeachment.  He did not want to get ahead of her.  He`s kind of an institutionalist in that sense, which is why, you know, that`s why he was one of the last Democratic presidential candidates to come out for impeachment. 

KORNACKI:  You know, Christina, it`s interesting.  We quote from that "Politico" piece there, if you look at the polling no obvious sign this has hurt Biden, cost him any support. 

But one of the other questions here, when you sort of end up as a Democratic candidate in the crosshairs of Donald Trump in the way he has, is there an opportunity for Biden to use to rally Democrats around him?  Watching that speech today, that line there where he says Trump picked the wrong guy to go after, does that make Democrats not just say, I`m not going to walk away from Biden but I want to go to Biden because of this? 

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE:  Right, I don`t think the bullying language necessarily works.  I think the fact when he laid out the argument that Trump is putting holes in the Constitution, I actually think that works.  I think a lot of Democrats are fearful this president will not leave office if he`s not re-elected.  I think they`re fearful to what he`s doing not just to his party, with the sort of sycophantic behavior of Republicans and how he`s destroying our reputation, our image abroad. 

And just -- you know, when you have him tweeting profanities and parents have to explain to their children this is the executive of the United States, I think Democrats realize he`s doing so much damage to the fabric of our nation.  But that is actually what`s helping them sort of see Biden`s message in a more clear fashion.

KORNACKI:  And, Sahil, we were talking about this in the last segment, too.  Elizabeth Warren now, if you look at the national polling average at least, she is very slightly ahead of Joe Biden.  How does Biden`s campaign look at where they stand right now, the national numbers extremely tight, down slightly in Iowa, down slightly in New Hampshire, not exactly sitting pretty in Nevada?  What`s the mood inside his campaign looking at this? 

KAPUR:  It`s a remarkable thing.  I mean, it`s pretty much dead even right now between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.  I think 0.2 percentage points separates them.  And what`s interesting here, Steve, is that Biden has held steady between around 26 percent and 32 percent of the vote, pretty much since he jumped in. 

There was a bit of a spike earlier on that went up to 40 percent, but that`s the range he`s been in.  Warren`s gain has not necessarily come at his expense, and that`s the good news for her.  It`s not a flash in the pan.  It`s not a viral moment. 

She has done the work and branded herself and put out a lot of policies and impressed a lot of Democrats and she`s taken a bite out of many of the other candidates not just Joe Biden.  So the Biden campaign sees her as a formidable rival.  They see this as turning into a likely a one-on-one race, which the polls show as well, with Bernie Sanders hanging in third place and a few wildcards, most notably Pete Buttigieg who has a lot of money and campaigning trying to win over the lot of the moderate Democrats who currently viewed Joe Biden as the best bet to win.

If something happens with Biden, if he slips, then there`s some other candidates waiting in the wings to try to pick up the support. 

KORNACKI:  Yes, I keep wondering.  I was talking about this last night.  You look at Iowa, one of those states where the retail politics still work, it doesn`t -- the things that are happening every day don`t necessarily register in the national news, but if we`re going to look up a few weeks from now, or a few months from now, and see an unexpected candidate suddenly up popping up there. 

But let me stay on Warren for a minute because one question with her is, OK, she`s gotten to about 26 percent right now nationally.  Is there a ceiling there or can she keep building that coalition?  Right now, if you look at it, it skews more liberal, more college educated, more white, it`s not the most diverse space.

Can she expand that realistically? 

GREER:  I think she can.  And with Iowa, we always have to remember, it`s a caucus, not a primary.  And so, depending on what types of caucus voters you have, that actually can sort of sway what goes on there. 

With Warren, for many people, she was their second choice and she`s slowly moving into the first choice for a very diverse group of candidates.  I think also, she`s done much better than Biden in the debates. 

And so, for those people who actually are paying attention at this point in time, they`re moving her from the second place to the first place because we know that Biden in debates, you know, doesn`t really finish his thoughts, is essentially using this as if he`s the heir apparent, and Buttigieg hadn`t gotten much time, Kamala had a great first debate but struggled since then.  Cory and Julian Castro haven`t really had their moments. 

But Elizabeth Warren has been quite steady over the past few debates, and so, next Tuesday, we`ll really see if she can solidify and make that argument because this is the Obama 2007, 2008 argument.  Can you see me as a viable candidate?  And I think slowly but surely, beyond just her plans, she`s actually showing Democrats that she can be the executive. 

KORNACKI:  Yes, all eyes will certainly be on that debate next weekend.  And, by the way, the debate coming up a month later, that will be on, shameless plug here, MSNBC.  Got to get that one.

And thank you to Sahil Kapur and Christina Greer for being with us. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In an exclusive interview with NBC News today, Senator Bernie Sanders said he misspoke when he said earlier this week his campaign would slow down in the wake of his heart attack. 


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I misspoke the other day.  I said a word I should not have said and, you know, make people think -- media drives me a little bit nuts to make a big deal about it. 

What I do -- but the word was, I was going to slow down.  Surprise, surprise, we`re not going to tomorrow start doing four events a day, but I -- we`re going to get back into the groove of a vigorous -- very vigorous campaign. 

I love doing rallies, and I love doing town meetings, extraordinary town meetings, and we`ll get back into that quite soon.  But I want to start off slower and build up and build up and build up.  But we`re looking forward to a very vigorous campaign.  We`re starting to do some planning for the debate. 


KORNACKI:  That is HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.