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More Diplomats to testify TRANSCRIPT: 10/18/2019, Hardball with Chris Matthews

Guests: Frank Figliuizzi, Ayesha Rascoe, Michael Steele, Philip Bump,Walter Shaub, Anita Kumar, Michael Bennet, Jennifer Rubin, Christina Greer

Show: HARDBALL Date: October 18, 2019

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  It`s Trump and the Ukrainian Crisis.  It`s 9:00 P.M. Eastern right here on MSNBC.  And we think it`s more delicious than eating polenta right off the table.

I hope you have a great Friday night and weekend.  And don`t go anywhere.  HARDBALL is next.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  What`s the defense?  Let`s play HARDBALL.

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

Tonight marks the end of yet another consequential week for Donald Trump`s presidency.  The case for impeachment is coming into focus with the recent depositions of four current and former foreign policy officials.

Their testimony this week alleged that the president himself put his personal lawyer in control of his agenda on Ukraine, that ambassadors were used to advance domestic political objectives while other career professionals were sidelined, and that Rudy Giuliani`s, quote, shadow policy alarmed top national security officials inside the White House, and perhaps more troubling still for the president his White House and his Republican allies are all over the place when it comes to a defense against the impeachment drive.  Trump has tried attacking the whistleblower.  He`s also tried to block officials from testifying, although many have now defied that order.

He also -- he continues now to insist that there was no quid pro quo, but his own White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said otherwise yesterday.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF:  Did he also mention to me in the past that the corruption related to the DNC server, absolutely, no question about that.  But that`s it.  That`s why we held up the money.

REPORTER:  So let`s be clear.  What you just described is a quid pro quo.  It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well?

MULVANEY:  We do that all the time with foreign policy.

I have news for everybody, get over it.  There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.


KORNACKI:  Now, while Mulvaney later tried to take back those comments, the political damage was already done.  Politico reports that, quote, Republican lawmakers felt exasperated by the White House`s lack of discipline and that White House lawyers were similarly aghast Mulvaney undercut so many of the legal arguments they could use to defend the president.

Here`s how Intel Chairman Adam Schiff summed it up.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Things have just gone from very, very bad to much, much worse.  The idea that vital military assistance would be withheld for such a patently political reason for the reason of serving the presidential election campaign is a phenomenal breach of the president`s duty to defend our national security.


KORNACKI:  All of this could spell trouble for the president as he tries to resist the unfolding impeachment inquiry.  As The Washington Post put it, quote, contrary to weeks of denials from the president and his defenders, a growing body of evidence makes clear it was Trump himself who repeatedly pushed his own government and a foreign power to intervene in domestic political concerns, enlisting and ensnaring a growing number of administration officials.

I`m joined now by Ayesha Rascoe, White House Reporter for NPR, Philip Bump is a Political Reporter for The Washington Post, Frank Figliuzzi is former Assistant Director for Counterintelligence at the FBI, and Michael Steele is a former chairman of the RNC.  Thanks to all of you for being with us.

Frank, let me just start with you.  Big picture, the testimony this week behind closed doors, there are some opening statements that have made their way into public, certainly a lot of reporting, a lot of leaks coming out of what was said there.  What is the picture that has emerged to you this week in terms of what the Ukraine policy was and who was setting it?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI OFFICIAL:  Well, let`s review just the last three weeks where, Steve, we`ve gone from an anonymous whistleblower complaint to dedicated professional after career professional after career professional now providing depositions that I think are beginning to crack the Republican armor.  And we`ve heard that those depositions will eventually be released to the public.

These people who are giving depositions and telling the truth are really our modern day version of heroes.  This is a form of heroism and bravery that we see occurring all broken first by that anonymous whistleblower who said, I`m not going to take it anymore.  And the public sentiment and certainly the GOP sentiment seems to be we`ve got a problem here.

When we hear a Congressman from Florida like Francis Rooney, saying, I may have to think about impeachment, Nancy Pelosi might be right about all roads leading to Putin, we know there`s a problem developing.

KORNACKI:  Ayesha, we cite that reporting at the top that there are folks around the president, folks in the White House who I think the word was aghast at what Mick Mulvaney came out there and said yesterday.  You were there questioning him.  Does that extend -- does that sentiment extend to the president himself?  How is Trump reacting to what Mulvaney said yesterday?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR:  Well, President Trump publicly, when he was asked about this, he said that he felt like Mulvaney clarified this topic or clarified his statement.  But it seems the fact that Mulvaney had to issue that clarification amid that something went wrong at that press conference because, basically, he was walking back what he explicitly said and that he had multiple opportunities to clarify.  And hours later, he comes back and says, basically, he didn`t say what he actually said.

And so that can`t be a good sign for him.  And he`s standing in a White House where he`s still the acting Chief of Staff and has never even, I guess, been promoted to full Chief of Staff.

KORNACKI:  Well, Frank, you were mentioning this a minute ago.  Mulvaney`s defense of that quid pro quo with Ukraine appears to have potentially had an impact on some Republican lawmakers who are taking him at his word.  Here`s Republican Congressman Francis Rooney of Florida today.


REP. FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL):  Whatever might have been gray and unclear before is certainly quite clear right now, that the actions were related to getting some of Ukraine to do some of these things.


KORNACKI:  And not a Republican lawmaker here but a prominent Republican nonetheless.  John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio today came out in favor of impeachment, saying Mulvaney`s remarks were the tipping point.


FMR. GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH):  When I heard what Mulvaney said, the chief of staff to the president, it pushed me really all across the Rubicon.

Look, I fought with people on the air about is there a quid pro quo and did this rise to the level of impeachment.  I now believe that it does.


KORNACKI:  And this also comes as Senator Mitt Romney speaks out against Trump`s solicitation of foreign of dirt on Biden from China in an interview with Axios.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT):  -- going on T.V. and saying, China, will you investigate my political opponent, is wrong, it`s a mistake.  It was shocking in my opinion for the president to do so and a mistake for him to do so.  I can`t imagine coming to a different point of view.

We certainly can`t have presidents asking foreign countries to provide something of political value.  That is after all against the law.


KORNACKI:  Romney is among the Republican senators who are thought to be at least potentially in position to break with the president if he is impeached and he goes on trial in the Senate.

Well, Michael, let me ask you about that.  I think Rooney today, Congressman Rooney, his comments, he`s not saying he`s for impeachment but he`s not saying he`s dead set against it either.  How significant is that to you?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIR:  I think it`s a loosening of the tether between the president and Republicans in the House and the Senate.  The Senate has always been sort of that backstop for whatever the House does because, you know, the consensus is, Steve, the House members are all going to line up and be against any form of impeachment.  That may be a little soft right now.

What I think is going to be more telling than what a Republican senator or congressman does is the fact that you have now a number of people inside the administration who said I don`t care about your executive privilege moniker you want to lay on top of what I have to say.  I`m going to go testify.  That could be the biggest and most significant break in the wall that Republicans have tried to put up around the president, you know, to explain all of this, you know, from Marco Rubio going, oh, he was just kidding, to others saying, well, I`ll just have to wait and see.

Well, what they`re waiting and finding out is the Republicans have a problem now that members of Trump`s administration are going before the House committees and really giving more context to the bigger problem the president has.

KORNACKI:  You know, Philip, we`re having the conversation here, will Republicans in the Senate end up breaking with Trump, will there even be Republicans in the House who do.  To get to the Senate, it has to get through the House.  Democrats control the House.

There is an assumption built into a lot of this speculation that impeachment is inevitable, it`s going to happen.  Does it seem inevitable that the House will vote to impeach him?

PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST:  The only way in which I would say it that doesn`t seem inevitable is whether or not Speaker Pelosi wants to make sure that there is some semblance of bipartisanship if she is going to wait until she has, say, 20 or 30 Republicans who are willing to join the cause.

It seems pretty clear right now.  We passed the 218 mark on an impeachment inquiry three or four weeks ago.  It seems pretty clear right now that she could probably corral enough Democratic votes to be able pass an impeachment in the House.

Whether or not she wants to send it to the Senate with at least the imprimatur of some Republicans, I think that`s probably the question mark.  But if they put up to a vote tomorrow, I wouldn`t be surprised with that.

KORNACKI:  And, Ayesha, in terms of -- Michael was talking about this.  There`re different signals that have been sent from Republicans, it seems, who are hesitant, I would say, to break politically with the president and they seem to be trying to find a line here that they can all latch onto.  What does the White House want them saying?

RASCOE:  Well, they clearly don`t want them to say that aid was held up so that there could be an -- Ukraine could investigate the DNC server.  What they seem to want to be focusing on is this idea of there was corruption and the president was concerned about that.  And then he was also concerned about other countries chipping in, and that`s why aid was held up.

But even that idea of corruption, it`s never really clear what exactly they mean by corruption because the only corruption that was discussed on that call that we have the transcript of with the president -- with Trump and the president of Ukraine is the DNC server and the Bidens.

And so when they talk about corruption, even that seems to include the president`s political opponents and they haven`t really outlined what other corruption concerns they have.

KORNACKI:  Michael, I mean, you were alluding to this a minute ago.  But it seems like, just politically speaking here, Republicans are in a very tricky position because what Trump is forcing them to say if they want to be on team Trump on this is that they`re okay with the call, that it was a perfect call, that there was no quid pro quo even though Mick Mulvaney came out and said that yesterday.  That has to be the line.  If they don`t take that line, that puts them in opposition to Trump.

And then they`ve got to answer the question, well, if you have a problem with what Trump did and he doesn`t, don`t you have to do something about it?

STEELE:  Well, yes.  I mean, that`s the ultimate question.  If you have a problem with what Trump did, if you have a problem with what Mick Mulvaney said, if you are concerned by the testimony that is, as far as we know so far, is indictable in terms of what the president`s behavior and actions were with President Zelensky of Ukraine, then Republicans have to act accordingly.

The problem is, Steve, to your point, is that they can`t.  Because in order to stay on the good side of Trump, you have to fall in line and begin to spew out the same problem of lies and distortions and misdirections that he himself are putting out every day.

Classic example this week is, one, Senator Lindsey Graham, who was so outraged by the president`s behavior and efforts with respect to Syria, pushed back hard.  And what did the president say, Lindsey stay in your lane, do judiciary, don`t think you are bigger than this.  And what did Lindsey do, chirped it down.

So this is what the members are seeing, that even with with someone who gets to play golf with the president on Sundays and supposedly has his ear, when they step a half of foot out of line, gets the Twitter smack down and they go silent.

So back to my earlier point, it doesn`t matter what the senators and congressmen do.  I think the country is going to be looking more and more at what people inside the administration decide to do who were in the room, heard the call and realized this is a constitutional problem.

KORNACKI:  Phil, we were talking a minute ago about the House, the assumption built in the Democrats have the votes in theory, that they`re going to go ahead and impeach.  The other assumption is the Republicans have the votes in theory and the Senate.  There is going to be an acquittal there if it gets there.  How safe do you think that assumption is?

BUMP:  So I was describing to someone earlier today that last week, I wouldn`t have to put a dime in Vegas on the bet of removing him from office.  Now when I put a dime down, it would give me a really good option (ph).  I think things have changed at least a little bit.

KORNACKI:  What kind of odds are you on, 100-1, 50-1, 20-1?

BUMP:  I think we`re talking about (INAUDIBLE).

But that said, the graphic that you guys showed earlier, which was sort of an expansive view, well, here are some Republicans that might move.  You only had 13 senators on it, right?  I mean, you need to have 20 senators from the Republican side who join this vote to actually remove President Trump from office.  That`s a lot of senators.  And it seems really, really unlikely at this point in time.  But, again, you asked me two weeks -- you asked me, of course, four weeks ago, I`m like, no, it`s not going to happen.  You ask me a week ago, it still seems that way.  This week does seem as though something has shifted (ph).

KORNACKI:  This is the week some hesitation entered into the --

BUMP:  But also with Syria, right?  I mean, Mitch McConnell spoke out and he has an op-ed in The Washington Post tonight blasting Trump on Syria.  If he is losing his base on other issues as well, it gives them more of an incentive to say, you know what, maybe someone else is better.

KORNACKI:  Frank, what are you looking for -- we had some testimonies this week and there will be more coming.  What are you looking for next in terms of what folks in the administration might be able to provide in these hearings?

FIGLIUZZI:  Well, first of all, I`m eager to see the depositions released publicly.  Because as you guys just discussed, this is potentially what`s going to change public sentiment.  And if you change public sentiment, you change the hearts and minds of those senators who realize it`s too painful to stay joined at the hip with the president.

But I think if we see more national security threat concerns come through, if we see the president placed squarely even more than he is in the center directing all of this behavior, he can`t be Teflon anymore.  He can`t say, well, with regard to -- like he did with the Special Counsel investigation, I couldn`t control the Russians and hacking and social media propaganda, I couldn`t control Papadopoulos, he was a coffee boy, Manafort was just with us for a short time.  He had plausible deniability.  He won`t have that anymore if these career professionals keep putting him in the center of the problem.

KORNACKI:  All right.  Frank Figliuzzi, Ayesha Rascoe, Philip Bump, Michael Steele, thank you all for being with us.

And coming up, President Trump decides that millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent at his own golf resort next year when he hosts the G7 Summit.  The White House not at all concerned by those who say this means Trump is profiting from the presidency.


STEPHANIE GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  We had members of our military office, Secret Service, advance teams, we had several people, the State Department.

All of them came back and made the recommendations to the president that Doral is the perfect place to hold such a summit.


KORNACKI:  Plus, sharp criticism of the president, Syria policy from retired U.S. military commanders, his former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, getting in a jab last night.


JIM MATTIS, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY:  I earned my spurs on the battlefield, Martin, as you pointed out.  And Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor.


KORNACKI:  We have much more to get to.  Stay with us.



DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  It`s very importantly only five minutes from the airport.  The airport`s right next to it.

With Doral we have a series of magnificent buildings. We call them bungalows.  They each hold from 50 to 70 very luxurious rooms, with magnificent views.

And we have many hundreds of acres, so that, in terms of parking, in terms of all of the things that you need, each country can have their own villa or their own bungalow. 


KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was President Trump back in August making a sales pitch for his Trump National Doral, Miami, golf course in Florida. 

The president made it clear he hoped to host next year`s Group of 7, G7 meeting, of world leaders at his personal property.

And, yesterday, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney made it official.  Mulvaney said a dozen locations were vetted, including one in Hawaii and two in Utah.  But he declined to provide details on how and why Doral was ultimately picked.


MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  Became apparent at the end of that process that Doral was, by far and away, far and away, the best physical facility for this meeting, almost like they built this facility to host this type of event. 

I don`t talk about how this place runs on the inside.  So, if you ask us -- if you want to see our paper on how we did this, the answer is, absolutely not.


KORNACKI:  Mulvaney argued that the summit would be put on, on -- at cost - - excuse me -- and said the president would not profit from the event. 

"The Washington Post" reports -- quote -- "That decision is without precedent in modern American history.  The president used his public office to direct a huge contract to himself."

It adds, the resort -- quote -- "has been in sharp decline in recent years, according to the Trump Organization`s own records.  Its net operating income fell 69 percent from 2015 to 2017."

Two House committees, Oversight and Judiciary, have already demanded information about efforts to steer government business to the president`s resorts. 

The choice of Doral brought widespread condemnation from Democrats and some Republicans. 

Here`s Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL):  I`m not happy with it. 

Now, when you -- I actually read the Emoluments Clause again yesterday, and it talks about titles of nobility and all this kind of stuff.  I don`t know if it`s a direct violation, but it`s -- I don`t understand why, at this moment, they had to do that. 

I mean, do it in D.C.  Do it in Miami at a different resort. 


KORNACKI:  For more, I`m joined by Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and currently senior adviser at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, CREW, Anita Kumar, White House correspondent and associate editor at Politico. 

Thanks to both of you for being with us. 

Walter, let me start with you. 

Mulvaney says, the president won`t profit from this, therefore, not a conflict.

Assess that claim. 

WALTER SHAUB, FORMER DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT ETHICS:  Well, that`s a ridiculous thing for Mulvaney to say.

Essentially, it boils down to this.  The president of the United States participated in a contract award to his own business.  This is the figurative equivalent of, he reaches in to the treasury, grabs a chunk of money, and says, don`t worry, I`m not taking more than I`m spending. 

That`s no defense at all.  And, certainly, if he had been -- if it had been Mick Mulvaney who owned this property, he`d be prosecuted and convicted of a felony.  And he wouldn`t be able to say, oh, don`t worry, I broke even. 

KORNACKI:  So, Anita, that comment there we just played from Adam Kinzinger, Republican from Illinois, he said, he`s not happy about this. 

But then he said -- he said, why?  Why not, just given all the questions this raises, given all the grief it causes the White House, why not just have it somewhere else?  What is the answer to that? 

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO:  That is a great question and the one I was wondering yesterday, because, as you know, as you mentioned, the House is investigating this.

This is part of the impeachment inquiry right now.  Why would he do this?  No politician would do this, because of the optics alone. 

And so I was talking to people -- people that are close to the president, who say, at this point in his presidency, he`s done so many outrageous things, things that aren`t the norm, that -- and he knows he can get away with it. 

His supporters still support him.  It`s about the same as it`s been for the last two-and-a-half years.  And he feels -- fearless was the word that was used with me.  And he also feels bulletproof.  Why not go ahead and do it?  He can get away with it. 

KORNACKI:  Also, Anita, we mentioned there, they say -- Mulvaney says yesterday, 12 different sites were considered, I think Hawaii, Utah.

What else do we know?  Do we know anything else about this?  He`s saying there was a selection process here.  Do we know anything about that?  Is there -- are there any record -- records to support it? 

KUMAR:  They haven`t been -- I`m sure there are some records, but we don`t have access to them.  They`re not being transparent about it at all. 

And you heard that comment from Mick Mulvaney, saying, if you want the paperwork, we`re not going to give it to you. 

It`s been shrouded in secrecy.  Basically, they claim that there were 12, that they did certain site selections, and that everyone came back and said this was the place to go.

But we just have no idea if that`s the case and what they really looked at.  I mean, if you look at this property there, I`m sure there are some benefits, but there`s also some negatives.

And one of the things that I have heard is that they will probably have to do some changes, some upgrades to accommodate all these world leaders, that there are not enough of these spaces that are exactly the same. 

So are they going to put in money to upgrade the facility?  We just don`t know that.

KORNACKI:  Well, just a few days before his inauguration back in January 2017, then president-elect Trump said he would sever management ties from the Trump Organization and play no role in its operations, saying he would give complete and total control of the business to his sons. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And what I`m going to be doing is, my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company. 

They are going to be running it in a very professional manner.  They`re not going to discuss it with me.  Again, I don`t have to do this.  They`re not going to discuss it with me. 


KORNACKI:  Walter, he says, they`re not going to discuss it with him.

At the same time, this whole set segment is about the president using his platform to promote his -- to promote his club, and now to bring the G7 summit there. 

SHAUB:  You know, on the day he gave that press conference and said those words, I spoke out and said that this is meaningless, because the conflict of interest doesn`t stem from running the day-to-day operations.  It stems from his financial interests. 

And now we`re seeing he`s determined to prove me right, because he is the one who`s going to profit from this.  He owns the business.  He participated in the procurement. 

I mean, the bottom line here is, there is no definition of corruption that would not cover the president participating in a contract award to himself. 

So, if this is not corrupt, nothing is corrupt.  And that`s exactly what he wants.  And it seems to be exactly what the United States Senate is determined to have be the case. 

KORNACKI:  Anita, what do we know about -- actually, we can show you this, too.

They asked if it was appropriate for the president to hold the G7 at his own resort.  A couple different reactions from Republican senators.  Take a look. 


SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND):  I don`t have any concerns about it, other than just, politically, how it appears. 

But, on the other hand, he is the president.  And if he feels like he isn`t doing anything wrong, he just doubles down on it and talks louder.  And I - - to some degree, I don`t mind that.  I admire it. 

It`s -- it may seem careless politically, but, on the other hand, it`s -- as I always say, there`s -- there`s tremendous integrity in his boldness and his transparency.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD):  Show me where there`s a violation of law.  I`m not sure that there is, not that I`m aware of.


KORNACKI:  So a little mix of comments there, Anita. 

I`m curious, though.  In this moment, the president is asking Republicans in Congress to defend him on Ukraine, to defend him on the call, to defend him on quid pro quo, to defend him on Syria -- a lot of them haven`t been willing to do that -- and now to defend him on this.

Is that causing any kind of a -- is that causing resentment among Republicans in Congress?  Is that going to have any consequences? 

KUMAR:  I have actually been surprised at how few people have -- few Republicans have called him out.  You mentioned a couple. 

But, for all of those, there were several who said what was said at the end, which is they admire him and it`s fine and they don`t think there`s anything wrong with that. 

Remember, he`s been doing this, not on this scale, but he`s been doing this exact same thing for the last two-and-a-half years. 

Foreign leaders have been to Mar-a-Lago.  He`s met with seven of them there.  The prime minister of Japan stayed at Mar-a-Lago.  So there have been other things that are exactly the same, where he is getting money from foreign governments, and he`s also getting money from the taxpayers through federal agencies, Secret Service staying there when he`s there. 

It`s been the same issue for the last two-and-a-half years.  This is on a grander scale, but we didn`t hear much about it in the last two-and-a-half years from Republicans.  So there`s no reason to think that they would be any different. 

KORNACKI:  All right, Anita Kumar, Walter Shaub, thank you both for joining us. 

And still ahead:  Public support for impeachment may be on the rise. One new poll shows it is.  But is it the kind of issue that will bring voters to the polls next November?

Presidential candidate and Senate Intelligence Committee member Michael Bennet joins us next. 


KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As House Democrats continue to pursue more depositions and documents in their impeachment inquiry, a new survey finds a majority of Americans support their efforts. 

According to Pew, 54 percent of Americans approve of the House`s decision to start an impeachment inquiry.  It was 50 percent when they polled it last month.  That was before details about the president`s call with the Ukrainian president were made public. 

Several state polls are also showing support for the inquiry.  A new poll in Colorado shows 54 percent back it there. 

And joining me now is the senior senator from that state and a candidate for president, Senator Michael Bennet. 

Senator, thank you for joining us.  Appreciate it. 


KORNACKI:  Let me start on the question of impeachment. 

A couple weeks ago, you gave an interview to Politico.  You drew a distinction between -- you said Trump had committed impeachable offenses, but you had not reached a conclusion if he should be impeached.

Given the reporting this week about those depositions, and given what Mulvaney said yesterday, is that still your view, or has it changed? 

BENNET:  No, I mean, I think the guy has clearly flaunted the rule of law.  He`s committed impeachable offenses.

And I think, if the facts continue to support what we think that he`s done, he should be impeached as a result of it. 

KORNACKI:  What is the difference between saying you have no doubt he committed impeachable offenses, but you`re not sure on impeachment?  What is the distinction you are drawing there?

BENNET:  Well, about -- we`re in -- I didn`t say -- I think that, if the facts hold up the way they are, he should be impeached. 

But we`re just at the beginning of the impeachment inquiry.  They`re going to go through it.  They`re going to look at the facts.  The facts are pretty terrible. 

I mean, the guy clearly tried to enlist a foreign power to advance his own political interests.  He`s now got the G7 coming to his failing resort in Florida. 

I mean, I can tell you this.  The founding fathers are rolling over in their graves with this guy as president of the United States.  He has flaunted every single norm that`s important in our democracy and what we should expect of a president.

And I think he`s put himself in a terrible position. 

KORNACKI:  You don`t need a reminder of this, but if the House does vote to impeach President Trump, it would be up to you and your fellow senators to either acquit him or remove him from office.

Here`s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday laying out what would happen in the Senate if there were an impeachment trial. 


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  Under the impeachment rules of the Senate, we would -- we will take the matter up.  The chief justice will be in the chair. 

We will have to convene every day, six days after -- out of seven, at 12:30 or 1:00 in the afternoon. 


KORNACKI:  And just before making that statement, McConnell met with Republican senators.

According to NPR, he told his caucus the trial could last as long as six to eight weeks. 

Senator, there`s been a lot of speculation about how Mitch McConnell would handle a trial.  You hear six to eight weeks, you would expect that to be a pretty meaty thing. 

What is your confidence level, if this gets to the Senate, that this is going to be a thorough trial? 

BENNET:  My confidence level is very low. 

But the American people need to insist on this.  I mean, Mitch McConnell will do whatever he can get away with.  We learned that during the Merrick Garland episode.  And I think it`s really important for us not -- I wouldn`t want anybody I know to be as cynical or as malevolent as Mitch McConnell is, but we need to be as strategic as he is. 

And he has been incredibly strategic all the way along, when it comes to judges, when it comes to climate, when it comes to guns.  And he`s going to do exactly the same thing here.  And we`re going to have to be as strategic as he is. 

KORNACKI:  I want to ask you about your campaign for president.

The fourth Democratic debate, it was held earlier this week.  There was a lot of discussion about Medicare for all, the plan that Senator Sanders -- Warren and Sanders are supporting.

You have said it would be a mistake for Democrats to sign on to this plan.  You talked to somebody from Politico during the debate, Tim Alberta.

You told him this.  You said: "Just listen to this debate.  Medicare for all shouldn`t even have made it to the debate stage."

Why is that? 

BENNET:  Well, only 30 percent of Democrats support it to begin with.

And I think that, if we pursue Medicare for all, we`re going to fight a losing battle for the next 10 years over Medicare for all, when what we should be doing is creating universal health care for everybody in this country. 

What we should be doing is make sure we have a tax code that actually supports, as Sherrod Brown says, the dignity of work, to make sure that we`re dealing with climate change, so that we`re pursuing a progressive agenda again in this country, reforming the way our government works, making sure that everybody in this country that has the right to vote is eligible to vote. 

We have got an important agenda that we have got to pursue in this country.  And I appreciate Bernie`s ideological commitment to Medicare for all.  He`s been for this for 30 years. 

He is, unlike other people, at least honest enough to say how he would pay for half of it.  And that`s by raising taxes on people making $29,000 a year. 

The American people are not going to go for something that raises taxes by $31 trillion over the next 10 years for the privilege of giving up the choice for themselves and their family about whether they want to buy private insurance or have a public option. 

And I don`t want to give up that progressive agenda.  We have spent the last 10 years not accomplishing a lot of things that the kids in my old school district in the Denver Public Schools and their families need us to accomplish, like my plan to reduce childhood poverty by 40 percent, which we could do in one year in this country, without adding one federal bureaucrat and for what 3 percent of Bernie`s plan for Medicare for all would cost. 

So that`s why I`m in this race, because I think there`s a -- there`s a completely different agenda that is a progressive agenda, that`s about making sure everybody in this country`s got the economic opportunity they need for themselves and for their family, and for us to be able to sustain this democracy, Steve, which I`m deeply worried about, not just because of Trump, but because of the massive income inequality we have in this country. 

KORNACKI:  I have just got to ask you too.

This week -- we mentioned the debate.  You weren`t in the debate.  You didn`t meet those polling thresholds that were set there.  Next debate in a month, the thresholds get higher.  Some of the candidates who were on that stage this week, it looks like, aren`t even going to make that. 

Certainly, right now, it doesn`t look like you`re in line to make that. 

Can your campaign keep going if you can`t get on these debate stages? 

BENNET:  I think it can. 

And I think that I have got an agenda that cannot just unify Democrats, but also bring back some of the nine million people who voted twice for Barack Obama and once for Donald Trump.

I`m the only candidate in this race that`s ever won a national election in a swing state.  And I think that -- I think that`s important as well. 

So I`m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  We`re running a vigorous campaign in Iowa.  We`re seeing a good response to the ads that we`re running there. 

And I had to make the decision about whether I was going to continue to spend money to try to launder my way onto the debate stage, or whether I was going to communicate with Iowa.  And I made the choice to communicate with Iowa.

And, Steve, you know what these polls look like.  I mean, you know better than anybody else, the support for the leading candidates in this race is actually pretty soft. 

Then you get to Mayor Pete, and then you have got a whole bunch of us who were trading at somewhere between zero and 3.  And, frankly, it was hard to watch people on that stage who are either polling the same as I am or polling worse than I am now.

It turns out -- it turns out it`s a lot easier to go from 9 to 2 or 9 to 1 or zero than it is to go from zero to 2.  But I`m not as well-known as the rest of the candidates in the race. 

I do think I have got an agenda that, when people hear about it, they`re going to say, this is the direction we should go, because it`s not -- it`s the way we win the presidency.  And it`s how we win purple states that`s going to give us the chance to get the Senate majority back. 


KORNACKI:  All right, Senator Michael Bennet, candidate for president, thank you for joining us. 

BENNET:  Thanks, Steve.  Thanks for having me. 

KORNACKI:  All right. 

Up next: Trump claiming victory with his deal in Turkey.  Turkey gets everything it wants.  What does the U.S. get, other than a reputation, some say, for abandoning its allies?

You`re watching HARDBALL. 



TRUMP:  I just spoke to President Erdogan of Turkey.  We`re doing very, very well with Turkey.  There`s a cease-fire or a pause or whatever you want to call it. 

There was some sniper fire this morning.  There was mortar fire this morning.  That was eliminated quickly.  And they`re back to the full pause. 


KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was President Trump insisting that a cease-fire in Northeastern Syria was still in effect, despite reported gunfire and explosions.

Just yesterday, Turkey and the Kurds signed off on a pause in fighting, after talks between Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Turkish President Erdogan.  The cease-fire was supposed to last five days in order to allow Turkish -- Kurdish-led troops to withdraw from a safe zone along the border. 

The United Nations is reporting that roughly 1,700 people from the region, mostly women and children, have now fled.  The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that nearly 500 people have been killed since the offensive started. 

But during his rally in Dallas last night, President Trump compared the deadly fighting in Syria to a fight between schoolchildren. 


TRUMP:  And it was unconventional, what I did.

I said, they`re going to have to fight a little while.  Sometimes, you have to let them fight a little while.  Sometimes, you have to let them fight.  Like two kids in a lot, you got to let them fight.  And then you pull them apart. 


KORNACKI:  The president, who was once a fierce defender of the Kurds, seems to have shifted positions. 

Take a look. 


TRUMP:  I think the Kurds are great people.  They`re incredible fighters.  They`re wonderful, warm, intelligent allies.

The Kurds, who, by the way, are no angels.

The Kurds great fighters and they`re great, great people.

The Kurds are some very good people, some very bad people. 

I do respect the Kurds.  They seem to be -- they seem to be the ones that have most helped.

They didn`t help us in the Second World War.  They didn`t help us with Normandy, as an example. 


KORNACKI:  Yesterday, Trump told reporters that the Turks wanted to clean out -- his words there -- a 22-mile region currently inhabited by Syrian Kurds.

And, today, he tweeted that President Erdogan wanted a cease-fire to work and that -- quote -- "The Kurds want it and the ultimate solution to happen."

The president has spent the past 24 hours showering President Erdogan with praise. 

Stay tuned after the break to find out what the Turkish president has said in return. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 



TRUMP:  I just want to thank and congratulate, though, President Erdogan.  He`s a friend of mine. 

And I`m glad we didn`t have a problem, because, frankly, he`s a hell of a leader.  And he`s a tough man.  He`s a strong man.  And he did the right thing.  And I really appreciate it, and I will appreciate it in the future. 


KORNACKI:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was President Trump yesterday praising Turkish President Erdogan, after having warned the Turkish president days earlier not to be -- quote - - "a tough guy."

Speaking to foreign journalists today, President Erdogan suggested he was offended by that letter, saying that Turkey would -- quote -- "Do what`s necessary when the time comes.  We haven`t forgotten it.  It would not be right for us to forget."

Amid scattered fighting, Erdogan has threatened to resume military operations, despite the negotiated cease-fire.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that, after Thursday`s cease-fire negotiations: "The Turkish side was surprised and relieved at how easy the negotiations were.  `We got everything we wanted,` said the official."

For more, I`m doing by Jennifer Rubin, opinion writer with "The Washington Post," and Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University. 

Let me start with you, Jennifer.

And just something we don`t see often, and I think I have never seen during a Trump presidency, the newspaper you write for, "The Washington Post," now is also running an opinion piece that was written by the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, criticizing in strong terms Trump`s policy here.

He says: "Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake.  It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances."

What do you make of the significance of this?  And will it ultimately have -- criticism like this ultimately have any effect on the policy?

JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  Well, it would be nice if Mitch McConnell mentioned in that very, very tough op-ed President Trump`s name.

Somehow, this policy seems to have operated on its own, if you read that letter. 

So I think there is bipartisan criticism, both of the initial decision and this ludicrous -- quote -- "deal," which makes, I think, Neville Chamberlain look like a great negotiator. 

Essentially, we have given the Kurds everything -- the Turks everything we want -- they want.  We have lifted any sanctions.  They now have absolute control over this area, a much larger area than we were willing to initially give them. 

They have air cover over this area.  And they are in the process of ethnic cleansing, that is, moving or killing all of the Turks in this area. 

It is a humiliating defeat by the United States.  And that`s why this week, in overwhelming terms, the House, including 129 Republicans, joined in condemning this move. 

So I think, if Mitch McConnell feels this strongly, perhaps he should be a little bit tougher on the president on things like buying influence from foreign governments and his entire relationship with Putin. 

I find it remarkable that he can be so harsh and so exacting on this absolutely inane policy move that really serves no one, other than perhaps Trump`s ego, Erdogan, Syria, Iran, and yet write an op-ed that doesn`t mention the president`s name. 

KORNACKI:  Christina, we -- a few polls have come out on this, and it seems there`s pretty strong opposition to Trump`s policy here on Syria.

How -- watching the events of the last 24 hours, the news developments we`re getting right now, how deeply do you think the American people -- because, oftentimes, you have that reality in politics, if it`s happening overseas, it doesn`t necessarily register.

How much is this one registering, do you think?

CHRISTINA GREER, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY:  I`m not exactly sure how deep it`s penetrating into the American psyche, because, quite frankly, many Americans don`t really know where Syria is.  They don`t know the history of Syria and Turkey. 

But what is sort of permeating in various communities is that they`re seeing Democrats and Republicans saying that this is a very bad idea, and it will destabilize not just that region, but possibly our country as well. 

I mean, we still have not -- knock on wood -- had sort of an external threat sort of at the magnitude of, say, a 9/11.  And so I think that conversation about making ISIS sort of a greater threat with some of these deals that the president is making, I think that is actually resonating when some people are perking up and saying, well, if Lindsey Graham, who has literally been the puppy of the president since he came -- since he was sworn in, if he`s slightly saying that this is a bad idea, then... 

KORNACKI:  Well, right.

You`re making a good point there, that this is one of the only times in the Trump presidency you have got Democrats and Republicans saying the same thing.

GREER:  In lockstep. 

And so I think there`s certain Republicans and definitely Democrats who are saying, well, if you get people like Lindsey Graham or even Mitch McConnell who will have a somewhat tepid op-ed -- but he even had the courage to write the op-ed, without having the courage to mention the president`s name -- but that is an alarm for a lot of American citizens. 

And so, even if they don`t really know about the region, they still know that something is off. 

We also have to remember, we have so many, thousands, hundreds of thousands of Americans who have family members who are in the military, whether they are deployed or not.  And so they`re also paying attention to what we do and don`t do in some of these dangerous areas, because that could mean that their family members will be deployed or sort of put in harm`s way for a president who has absolutely no fundamental understanding of international policy whatsoever. 

And his generals have now said as much. 

KORNACKI:  All right, Christina Greer, Jennifer Rubin, my apologies.  We`re a little tight here.  We ran long somewhere in the show. 

Anyway, appreciate you both being here. 

And we`re back after a quick break.  A couple exciting announcements we want to tell you about. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


KORNACKI:  And before we go, I want to tell you about a new project I`m working on. 

Today, we are launching a new podcast.  In fact, within the last few hours, it went live.  It`s called "Article II: Inside Impeachment.

We`re going to have new episodes every Monday, every Wednesday, every Friday, maybe more, if news warrants.

I`m going to be joined by my NBC News colleagues.  We`re going to break down what is new, what matters, what it means for the 2020 election and for our country.  The first episode available now, as they say, wherever you get your podcasts.

And even more exciting news than that, even more important news than that, Monday night, Chris Matthews will be back in this seat.  Well, not this seat, but the equivalent seat in Washington. 

The important news there, though, Chris Matthews back on Monday.

That`s HARDBALL for now.  Thank you for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.