Trump allies resort to attacking. TRANSCRIPT: 10/30/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Dina Titus, Glenn Kirschner, Jackie Speier, Elizabeth Wydra,Charlie Sykes, Anita Kumar, Guy Snodgrass

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  I want to tell you this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, we`ll be back with a brand new impeachment special, I`ll be anchoring, Sunday 9:00 p.m. Eastern at MSNBC.  So we`ll keep an eye on this in tomorrow`s vote and hopefully see as well at 6:00 p.m. Eastern for The Beat tomorrow.

Don` go anywhere though.  "HARDBALL" starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Avalanche.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Powerful new evidence tonight in the impeachment investigation, NBC News is reporting that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified yesterday that U.S. military support to Ukraine was indeed contingent on Ukraine`s willingness to dig up dirt on Trump`s political opponents.  That`s the quid pro quo Trump has been denying.

And that`s according to two people familiar with Vindman`s testimony.  He`s at least the second witness in the impeachment inquiry that draw a direct line between the hold up of military aid and Trump`s demand of political assistance from a foreign power.

This comes as the impeachment committees today heard from two Foreign Service officers with information about the shadow campaign that was waged to influence policy towards Ukraine.

House investigators have also summoned former National Security Adviser John Bolton among others to testify next week.  Bolton`s lawyers said he would not appear voluntarily, but added, I stand ready at all times to accept service of a subpoena on his behalf.

Amid all of this, we`re also getting new details about the Democrats` plan forward on impeachment with a momentous vote scheduled for tomorrow.

When it comes to Lt. Col. Vindman, there`s also new reporting today that he shed new light on Trump`s infamous July 25th call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.  NBC News confirms that Vindman told Congress that certain details of the conversation were omitted from the White House summary of the call, omissions that he tried to put back in.

Vindman identified at least two points that were left out of the official record.  One, Trump mentioning possible recordings of Joe Biden discussing corruption in Ukraine, and two, Ukrainian President Zelensky, quote, mentioning Burisma by name, that`s the company linked to Hunter Biden.

The New York Times was first to report that Vindman said he tried to correct the record.  But while some of his edits appeared to have been successful, he said those two corrections were not made in the final summary of that call.

Well, that call record was already a damning piece of evidence for Trump.  It showed that when Zelensky, quote, requested more missiles, Trump asked him in return to investigate his political opponents.

But these revelations make it even worse.  The omitted details are further evidence Trump knew he was specifically targeting Biden and Zelensky read him loud and clear.

I`m joined right now by U.S. Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Glenn Kirschner is a former federal prosecutor and Geoff Bennett is NBC News White House Correspondent.

Geoff, tell us about your reporting today that Vindman, in his sworn testimony yesterday in that deposition, said that military aid was contingent on the dirt on the Trump enemies.

GEOFF BENNETT, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  And remember, Chris, in the opening statement that we obtained Vindman, the lieutenant colonel, told House investigators that he did not think it was proper for this administration to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen.

That word, demand, struck me as curiously conspicuous.  He could have chosen any number of words.  He could have said request, encourage, suggest, but he used the word demand.  So we did some digging and it turns out over the course of his testimony, he went beyond that prepared statement.

And what he told House investigators, we`re told by two sources familiar was that the president drew a direct line between the White House deliverables, this notion that there would be a meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, this delivery of nearly $400 million in security and aid money and to this demand that Ukrainian officials open investigations into a number of things, Burisma, the company on which Hunter Biden sat on the board of, the Bidens, the 2016 election into CrowdStrike.

And so, basically, what he`s doing, he`s telegraphing this quid pro quo that President Trump and his allies say did not exist, the same quid pro quo that Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, openly admitted to in the White House briefing room before trying to walk it back a day later, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, this gets to the heart of those who think that Trump is a cartoon of a president.  That when he`s alone, when nobody`s listening, he really is bad as people think, that he`s sitting there and thinking how he can get some dirty on a political opponent, how he can explore some crazy conspiracy theory of the farthest right fringe, CrowdStrike, that that`s really who he is.

Your thoughts and how that propels forward this impeachment.

REP. DINA TITUS (D-NV):  Well, I can`t tell you exactly what went on behind closed doors, but I can tell you that that testimony was certainly in keeping with the witness` statement that he made public, and he recorded right it in real-time, reported it to his superior, so you know he was upset about it and knew it was wrong.

As for the president, yes, it doesn`t surprise me.  He`s a transactional president.  He likes to brag about being able to make a deal, and making a deal as really quid pro quo.

MATTHEWS:  Peter, it seems to me -- I`ll say something I said, read years ago when FDR became president, his idea of becoming president, of rising to the office was to beat Franklin Roosevelt.  This president thinks in becoming president, he becomes Donald Trump, at Donald Trump`s worst.  There`s nothing presidential in these conversations what they`re hearing about under oath in the last couple of days from Taylor and now from Vindman.

We`re hearing about a conman, a guy who goes in and said, I can -- in the words of Pelosi, I can shakedown this foreign leader because the Russian tanks are moving.  He needs Javelin missiles to stop them.  I can get some dirt out of this guy because he`s desperate for his own country`s security.  I can use that fear of losing his country to get dirt for my next election.  This is low brow stuff.

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, I think it`s important to remember about President Trump that he`s the first president we`ve had in our history who comes to public office without having served even a day in government or in military before arriving in the Oval Office.

So everything to him is through the prism of his 70-year life up until now, which is in business and entertainment, where the lines are different than they are in diplomacy, they`re different in government.  And he`s chosen not to observe the lines that his predecessors did.

He got there on the strength of his style, his rambunctious, provocative, combative, bracingly blunt style.  And as he sees it, why should he change himself.  He has not need to adjust himself to the office.  The office should adjust itself to him.

Now, this is, of course, what`s got him in trouble because, in fact, there are norms and standards and lines that have been adopted over the years, some of them legal, some of them were simply political or diplomatic.

And now we`ll see what they will add up to in terms of this House impeachment inquiry.  Does that add up to something larger than, you know, shocking the, you know, standards of Washington, or does it actually add up to something constitutional.

MATTHEWS:  Let me try it with you one more time, because you write demand analysis piece of the front page of The Times.  The voice of Trump that we heard on the bus on Access Hollywood, that voice, talking about how he dealt with people and with women, the voice that we heard through his attorney, through Michael Cohen, about how he paid off porn stars for sex and playboy bunnies and the whole works, that guy, is that guy in the White House?

BAKER:  Well, look, he`s a transactional person, and in that sense, yes.  In the sense that he looks at these conversations with foreign leaders in the same way he did with talking to banks or talking with somebody he wants to do a deal with.  It doesn`t see that in a context of Dean Acheson because of your style on diplomacy and statesmanship.

MATTHEWS:  I know why you`re doing it, but you`re skirting it.  I just want to get back to that sounds like the same patois (ph), if you will, to be fancy about it.

I`m going to go to Glenn on it.  The voice is hear as transmitted to us by Vindman, by Bill Taylor, the voice on that phone was Zelensky sounds like the same guy on the bus, sounds like the same guy working through his fixer and lawyer, Cohen, how to pay off women.  That guy who thinks he can get away with anything because he always has is now thinking he can get away with something in those transactions with foreign leaders desperate to save -- they`re being patriotic.  They`re saving their country from the Russian tanks.  What`s he doing?  What`s our guy doing?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  And, Chris, you use the word, shakedown.  That`s what was going on here.  And let me try to break it down in layman`s terms for people, because we hear contingent foreign aid and quid pro quo, and people tend to get lost in that kind of verbiage.

So now I think the Republicans are pivoting.  Why?  Because the process argument is falling by the wayside, the no quid pro quo argument is dead and stinking on the side of the road at this point.  So what do we have?  We have the Republicans saying, well, putting conditions on foreign aid is not out of bounds.  That may be.

Think about this --

MATTHEWS:  Will they go that far?

KIRSCHNER:  They will go that far because that`s all they`re going to have left.  Think about this.  If we say, you know what, we`re going to give $400 million in foreign aid to a country but we`re going to tell that country, you need to stop government sanctioned ethnic cleansing in that country, that would be a good thing, right?  That would be a good contingency.

But what do we have Trump doing?  Trump says, I`ve got your $391 million in aid, but you know what I want, this is hypothetically, he could be saying, I want a piece of it.  I want a $1 million kickback.  We would all say, that`s dead wrong, an abuse of power and an impeachable offense.  He`s doing something worse than that.  Why?  Because a million dollar kickback is only worth so much, dirt on Biden, a fabricated investigation that will help him win in 2020 is worth so much more.

MATTHEWS:  You`re right, a fundamental value to this guy.

Anyway, Lt. Col. Vindman`s account appears to confirm that`s long been suspected, that the White House summary of the Trump-Zelensky call was not entirely accurate or complete.  That`s because the inclusion of ellipses, those little three dots that says something is missing suggests three excerpts have been either removed or simply left out.

The New York Times reports that Vindman`s edits would have filled in one of those blanks, quote, where the third set of ellipses appears.  And while Vindman says he doesn`t know why some of his edits were rejected, his account highlights the unusual way the call record was handled.

The summary of the call was locked down on a secured server that served for this country`s highest, highly classified state secrets.  They squirreled it away in an old lock down somewhere.

Meanwhile, the White House today denied that Vindman tried to fill in any areas that a call record or ellipses were shown.

Congresswoman Titus, tell us about this.  I know you`re bound to secrecy about the word spoken today, but the smell of it, what are you getting here in all of these backdoor hearings in the SCIF?

TITUS:  Well, just the fact that it would not include edits from the professional tells you that they`ve got something to hide.  The fact that they put it in that secret lockdown place, again, tells you it was out of the ordinary.  And although they said they were going to give us a direct transcript, they didn`t.  They gave us a summary.  And don`t forget the summary said, I want you to do us a favor though.

I`d like to go back to your earlier point though.  This is just about not using good diplomatic language and being a good politician and not being a good businessman, this is constitutional issues.  This is national security.  This affects not just us and Ukraine, it`s us and Russia.  I think it`s much greater than that.

And what the president and Republicans are doing is classic wag the dog.  They can`t defend the actions.  They have no defense against the facts and so they try to change the subject.  They order pizza in the secure room.  They talk about how -- some terrorist died like a dog, crying like a child, anything to change the subject, complain about the procedure because they have no defense.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me go to Geoff on that because you`re covering this for NBC News.

Geoff Bennett, tell me about this.  What is their defense when they realize that they can`t argue process anymore because they`re going to get the resolution tomorrow, they`re going to get to testify in the Judiciary Committee and all that?  Those bases are covered now.  What are they saying about the fundamental question whether a president can shakedown a foreign leader for dirt on an opponent?

BENNETT:  Well, here`s the interesting thing, Chris.  You saw the tweet from president today where he was suggesting that Republicans defend him on the merits of the case.  And you are not seeing by and large Republicans do that.  They started attacking the process.  They said it shouldn`t happen behind closed doors.  Well, in a couple of weeks, they`ll get their wish.  This will all be out in the public.

At one point, they were saying that the whistleblower complaint was based on hearsay and couldn`t be believed.  Well, now, the whistleblower complaint is largely secondary because it has been borne out by witness after witness in the testimony.

And then yesterday, you saw some in the conservative chattering class issue this spurious smear against Lt. Col. Vindman based on the nature of his birth, the country where he was born.  And Republicans here on the Hill, for the most part, in leadership, wouldn`t get behind it.

So it would appear to me, and we`ll have to see tomorrow after this vote happens, where where Republicans go next.  So far, we`ve heard some of them say that because the House speaker has called for this vote on a resolution that will happen tomorrow, anything that happened before it is illegitimate.  But that is an argument that really is not catching fire, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, today, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who was hoping to be confirmed as the new U.S. ambassador to Russia.  And here`s what Sullivan said when asked if it was appropriate for a president to ask a foreign power to investigate a political opponent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN SULLIVAN, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE:  Soliciting an investigation into a domestic political opponent, I don`t think that would be in accord with our values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Sullivan was also asked about the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who Trump abruptly removed in May.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ):  In your view, was there any basis to recall Ambassador Yovanovitch early?

SULLIVAN:  Yes, there was.  The president had lost confidence in her.

MENENDEZ:  You were aware that there were individuals and forces outside of the State Department seeking to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch.  Is that correct?

SULLIVAN:  I was.

MENENDEZ:  And to seeking to remove her, is that correct?

SULLIVAN:  I was.

MENENDEZ:  And did you know Mr. Giuliani was one of those people?

SULLIVAN:  I believed he was, yes.

When the president loses confidence in the ambassador, right or wrong, the ambassador needs to come home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, late today, Giuliani reacted to Sullivan`s portrayal of his smear campaign, saying the ambassador doesn`t know what he`s talking about.  This is an orchestrated attempt to harass and hinder me in my role as Trump`s attorney.

Let me get back to Glenn on this.  Giuliani has his own problems now because I think he was mixing his business with Trump`s all along the way, making some money along the way, living off the land, if you will.  And now, is he going to go down with this guy?

KIRSCHNER:  I would be shocked if he doesn`t go down.  After the Parnas and Frumans go down, and we saw how inextricably intertwined those folks were.  I suspect, Chris, if we see Giuliani go uncharged, it`s only because Bill Barr is protecting him.  If you let U.S. Attorney Berman from the Southern District of New York to his own devices, he will follow the evidence and the evidence will result in charges for Rudy Giuliani.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, my God.  Well, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada, Peter Baker, of course, the great Peter Baker, Glenn Kirschner, thank you, and Geoff Bennett for reporting for NBC News.  Great reporting, of course, Geoff, we know that.

Coming up, Democrats will make their case that President Trump committed high crimes and misdemeanors by focusing on the ABCs, abuse of power, betrayal of public interest, corruption, putting private interest among public trust.

From here on out, most of it will play out live on your T.V. screens.  There`re going to be a lot of public hearings coming next month.  We`re going to talk and walk you through what to expect.  This is T.V. coming attraction, step-by-step in the next segment.  We`ll tell you what`s happening all through November, possibly into December, finishing up, we hope, votes on articles of impeachment this year.

Plus, Trump`s impeachment strategy, fight to the death, I guess, with lies, obstruction, and most of all, character assassination, smearing public servants like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.  We`ve shown that.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The House moved one step closer to impeachment today, as the House Rules Committee worked out a resolution laying out the rules and procedures for the next public phases of the inquiry. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM MCGOVERN (D-MA):  This process determining whether he should be impeached will be open to the public view, just as it should be. 

REP. TOM COLE (R-OK):  In my view, it`s not a fair process, it`s not an open process, and it`s certainly not been a transparent process. 

REP. DEBBIE LESKO (R-AZ):  I mean, if you think this is fair, this is not fair at all. 

REP. ALCEE HASTINGS (D-FL):  All of the process that I hear you all arguing about doesn`t address the possibility that this president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the resolution lays out the Democrats` general format and parameters for the impeachment inquiry moving forward. 

The full House is expected to vote or scheduled to vote on the resolution tomorrow, Thursday.  It would give the House Intelligence Committee the lead role in conducting public hearings.  According to "The New York Times," those would begin as early as the week in November -- November 11, which is coming up week after next. 

The Intelligence Committee will then compile its findings in a report, transmit them, the evidence they have collected, to the Judiciary Committee, which would then hold its own public hearings.  If the Judiciary Committee determines it has enough evidence, it will recommend one or more articles of impeachment to the full House. 

So, it`s a three-step, Intelligence, Judiciary, full House.  The full House would then vote on articles of impeachment to send to the Senate, where the president would be put on trial for about five or six weeks, apparently.

House Democratic leaders have stressed they have no formal timetable moving forward, but, according to "The Washington Post," House leaders had initially hoped to hold a floor vote before the November 28 holiday, so that the Senate would hold trial -- their trial before Christmas. 

But the surprising number of witnesses coming forward agreeing to testify behind closed doors in the Capitol over the past few weeks has extended the timeline.  We will see if that`s good or bad. 

For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, a member of the House Intelligence and Oversight committees.  Elizabeth Wydra is president of the Constitutional Accountability Center. 

Congresswoman, thank you, as always, Jackie Speier, from California. 

I guess the question is, do you have a clear-cut vision in your head of how this is going to proceed through the month of November on into getting articles of impeachment on the House floor? 

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA):  So, really, Chris, we don`t know, because we don`t know how many more witnesses will come forward. 

But, certainly, our plan is to start moving into public hearings, wrap that up, and present it to the Judiciary Committee, so that they can do their work.  I can`t put a timeline on it.  I don`t know that anyone else, frankly, can at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  Is there a point of diminishing returns?  We have got enough witnesses to say the same exact thing, that there was a quid pro quo at work in the relationship with Zelensky of Ukraine.  It was a done deal.  We have got all the evidence in the world.

What does two more weeks of witnesses accomplish? 

SPEIER:  Well, it does add more facets to the final articles of impeachment. 

For instance, I will give you an example.  Up until very recently, we didn`t know anything about Mr. Livingston and how he was hounding persons within the National Security Council and how he was trashing the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch. 

So I actually want to know who`s paying him, why he was doing it.  All of the lines that were being used were false.  And they were all contrived.  So, I think there`s more to know, frankly. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, you have got me there.  You have proved your point. 

Who is Mr. Livingston, a new figure?

SPEIER:  He was a congressman who, over the last decade or so, has run a lobbying shop.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, Bob Livingston from Louisiana. 

SPEIER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  I know him.

SPEIER:  That`s correct. 

MATTHEWS:  He was sitting next to me at Cokie Roberts` funeral.  I just saw him recently.  There we go.

SPEIER:  Well, maybe you should have interviewed him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, wrong place.  Anyway, thank you. 

The resolution effectively they`re voting on tomorrow neutralizes Republican arguments along the way about the way Democrats have conducted the inquiry so far.  But the president`s defenders in the Senate continued to blast the process today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  And it`s still a behind-closed-doors, lack-of- due-process process. 

And they`re trying to create something new that I think is just substandard and dangerous to the presidency. 

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  It falls way short, way short.  No due process now, maybe some later, but only if we feel like it, is not a standard that should ever be applied to any American, and it should not be applied here to the president of the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, none of that seems to work with me. 

Let me go on with you, Elizabeth. 

Tell us how you see the particulars as you look at this, how you see the particulars of what this is going to look like.  A lot of it is going to be on television, which is good. 

ELIZABETH WYDRA, PRESIDENT, CONSTITUTIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY CENTER:  Absolutely.

So, if you think about the constitutional impeachment process, impeachment and maybe removal, it`s like the grand jury in a criminal trial coming up with the charges.  That`s the House doing its investigation to come up with articles of impeachment.

And then the trial, which is where you have the due process rights in the criminal system, come into play in the Senate.  So, to be clear, the Republicans` arguments about process are bad and they`re wrong, but I guess they`re not as bad or as wrong as their substantive defenses of the president.  So that`s why they`re going to them.

But what I think is important to think about here is not the immediate political moment, which is obviously important, but this is a constitutional moment for the ages, because the president has abused his office in a way that would be the founders` worst nightmare, selling out national security and democratic integrity. 

And so I think this public nature of the hearings that you mentioned is going to be important, especially leading up to whatever trial might happen in the Senate, because we know that Mitch McConnell is willing to go to bat for this president and is willing to manipulate Senate norms and rules in order to do that. 

And so I think putting these public hearings out in the House will put more pressure on McConnell to have a robust trial in the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, how do you keep the hearings focused on the case against the president, basically the prosecution case before impeachment, and not let it get crazy, like it did with the Corey Lewandowski horror show that day in Judiciary?  That was a disastrous hearing, I thought. 

SPEIER:  So, the hearing, I think, will be very focused. 

You`re going to have staff counsel doing the questioning.  Members are going to sit there and listen to the questioning and the answers.  And then at the end of the hearing, there will be questions that members can ask. 

But to the point of, is this fair, the truth of the matter is that, both for Nixon and for Clinton, they -- the president did not have the opportunity to ask questions and did not have the opportunity to offer a conclusion at the end of the House deliberation. 

So, this is far more generous.  And for all the whining going on by some of my Republican colleagues, when the Benghazi hearing took place, there were over 107 closed-door interviews before the first public hearing took place. 

And the first public hearing was four months after the committee was created.  So, we`re five weeks into this.  We have had about 12 interviews.  The public is going to have the opportunity to hear, and hear a lot, very soon. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have any confidence or any hope among your Republican colleagues that you will get some votes on the House floor when the articles do come up for a vote? 

SPEIER:  I think that`s some speculation that there might be one or two. 

Obviously, Congressman Amash, who was a Republican and now is an independent, could indeed be voting with us.  Francis Rooney from Florida, who was willing to look at an impeachment process and inquiry, has now announced that he`s not running for reelection. 

So persons are in a position to be more frank and I think forward-thinking when they`re no longer part of the Republican Caucus. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Thanks so much.  It`s an honor to have you on.  U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, thank you very much.

And thank you, Elizabeth Wydra.  You`re great a guest.  I like the big sweep of the Constitution.  It`s been helpful to us all these, well, centuries. 

WYDRA:  Exactly.  It`s a good thing.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you. 

Up next:  So far, the Republican line of defense against impeachment is to attack the accusers.  Is this really all they have got?  Is this all there is?  Quoting Peggy Lee, is that all there is, attack these people? 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP:  There`s no there there. 

You know, they bring in -- they do the usual thing, right?  They bring in another guy that they believe is beyond reproach, like they did with Mueller, right?  Well, he`s a decorated guy.  He was head of the FBI.

Meanwhile, it took about 30 seconds for people to realize, when they put him on the stand, that he`d never even seen the Mueller report.  It was a joke.  So now they will do it with this guy.  He`s a decorated -- well, now it turns out he`s talking to the Ukraine, or he wanted to edit the transcript.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  You know, Trump watches that show in his bubble bath every morning.  He just sucks it up. 

But that`s the son.  Making fun of Mueller because he`s gotten a little old, a little slow on the reaction, is not the issue.  That doesn`t mean he didn`t read the report he came out with. 

CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  That was an idiotic statement. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was Donald Trump Jr., of course, attacking Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, the latest Trump defender to do so.  It`s the kind of performance President Trump seems to relish, as he faces the threat of impeachment.  He`s urged Republican lawmakers to go on the attack. 

But as the facts continue to mount up against him, Republicans have been left with two lines of attacks, neither convincing.  The first is on process. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA):  If you want to talk about a Soviet-style process, again, that might be what they do in the Soviet Union, not in the United States of America.  We can`t stand for this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Don`t mention Russia, sir.  It`s not smart. 

Anyway, the second line of attack, the character assassination of witnesses and the people overseeing the inquiry. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL):  When Adam Schiff engaged in a theatrical retelling of President Trump`s conversation with President Zelensky to deceive and disorient the American people, he acted in a way that was not consistent with House rules and was not consistent with House ethics. 

I`m going to go to the Ethics Committee, and I`m going to file an ethics complaint against Adam Schiff. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

For more, I`m joined by Charlie Sykes, editor at large of The Bulwark, a conservative online publication.

Charlie, for the people, tell us about, how are the Republican defenses working out there, starting with process?

SYKES:  Well, first of all, I think yesterday was a bad day, because, you know, they`re going to hide behind process for as long as they can, because they don`t want to deal with the substance and the mounting evidence.

But, also, as you point out, they have a reflex.  It`s the first page of the playbook, which is to attack anyone who is disloyal to Donald Trump, to try to discredit them, to smear them, and then -- and demand that other Republicans do the same thing. 

And it did not work out well.  Just ask Sean Duffy. 

MATTHEWS:  They`re running out of -- well, they have got a lot of people who will do anything.

SYKES:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  But then they have people now who trim it. 

They don`t quite say the right -- Portman, for example, says it`s inappropriate. 

SYKES:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Liz Cheney will say it was wrong. 

SYKES:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  They`re starting to come out with people who say, this is where I get off the bus. 

SYKES:  Yes, this is the problem that I think Republicans have right now, because they`re trapped.

And I think they are realizing that they are now in for, what, five, six months of having to defend the indefensible?  So they`re looking for the safe space.

And the safe space is, the conduct was wrong, but it is not impeachable.

But Donald Trump and Trump world may not let them get away with it, because they`re demanding that you have to say that it was perfect, that the president is a victim. 

MATTHEWS:  Right, perfect phone call.

SYKES:  And That anyone who testifies against him must be vilified. 

And you could see yesterday a lot of Republicans sort of recoiling from that with Colonel Vindman.  This was just a bridge too far for them.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What does Trump do to those people?  He`s not exactly the strongest president in history right now.  What can he do to a Republican who trims him a little? 

SYKES:  Well, that`s the big question.  Is he going to attack them?

Because this is a party that has lived in fear of all of his tweets.  This is the dynamic that we have right now.  This is why Republicans find themselves in this box canyon, where they have no easy choices, because they have empowered Donald Trump. 

They have convinced Trump that he can take them for granted.  And, as a result, his conduct has become more reckless, has become more extreme, has become more lawless.  And now they`re in the position where they are going to face and up-or-down vote about whether or not they`re going to ratify this content.

MATTHEWS:  I opened the show with the word avalanche, because it seems for the first time...

SYKES:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It started with Bill Taylor, the envoy to Kiev. 

They`re talking.  What happened?  Why did all of a sudden these top diplomats come forward, under oath, giving the full case of how Trump shook down that foreign leader? 

SYKES:  Well, that`s the most unexpected part about this. 

I remember seeing a documentary where they interviewed veterans of World War I who were in the trenches, and they said, why did you go over the top and charge into the machine guns?  Is it because you were patriotic or because you were brave?  And they said, no, it`s because the other guy did, too. 

It`s amazing how a critical mass of courage can cause people to step forward.  And I think other people in the government are looking around saying this is important.  The Constitution is at stake.  The national security is at stake. 

And when they started to see other people willing to go over the top, it was a chain reaction.  And I don`t think that chain reaction is done

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think you`re right.  I think there is something moving there.

During yesterday`s testimony by Colonel Vindman, for example, Republicans blamed Intel Chair Adam Schiff for blocking them from asking certain questions that Schiff says was their attempt to identify the whistle- blower.

Republican Congressman Jim Jordan refuted that charge, calling Schiff too sensitive -- that`s a cute line -- while at the same time demanding to learn the whistle-blower`s identity. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  It seems interesting to me that Chairman Schiff is so sensitive.

I mean, I pointed out last week, there are 435 members of Congress.  One of them, one of them, only one of them knows who the whistle-blower is.  And somehow he doesn`t want anyone else to know that.

Him and him -- Mr. Schiff and his staff are the only ones in America who can know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s a cute little line, sensitive. 

SYKES:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  We have been there before. 

What -- on the fence -- on the issue here, though, why are they -- I will ask you the obvious.  This is a setup question. 

SYKES:  Yes.  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do they want to identify or expose the whistle-blower at this point?  Because somebody says it`s snowing outside, we all walk outside and see that it`s snowing. 

SYKES:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  It doesn`t matter who told us it was snowing outside.  We see it. 

SYKES:  Right.  We see it. 

And it`s not -- it is not subtle.  They want to expose the whistle-blower, so they can discredit him, they think, and say he`s part of the deep state, because this, of course, again, has been the playbook that they have gone to reflexively. 

But, as you point out, the whistle-blower is no longer that relevant.  It`s like somebody calling 911 and saying the house is on fire, and people go, and they see that the house is on fire.  You don`t need the information. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

SYKES:  Plus, there are reasons why we have a Whistleblower Protection Act. 

And I think that you see by watching their behavior why you would want to protect the anonymity of that whistle-blower.  But, again, there`s an expiration date on all of this. 

After this vote that`s going to take place tomorrow, all of these process complaints become obsolete. 

And so I think it`s dawning on a lot of them that they`re going to be moving into this next phase, where the president is going to force them to defend, go to the wall, smear patriotic Americans.

MATTHEWS:  I know.

SYKES:  And they don`t know how it`s going to go.  And we have seen how the president behaves when he`s under pressure. 

MATTHEWS:  You know what I think? 

I don`t think they`re convincing their 40 percent of the country, I think they`re simply equipping them with talking points. 

SYKES:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  All those people want or in that amen chorus won.  Give me the talking points that I can recite, so they say this thing about the whistle- blower. 

Thank you, Charles Sykes.  You know the peeps.

SYKES:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

Up next, why was acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney left in the dark on that raid to kill al Baghdadi?  He wasn`t even there.  He`s down in South Carolina hanging out.  Is acting chief of staff Mulvaney even acting anymore?  Does this indicate the White House is in even more disarray than we thought? 

Who`s running -- I`m sorry, I am the team.  That`s what Trump says, I am the team. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

On Saturday, President Trump conducted by his own account one of the most consequential military operations of his presidency.  That raid resulted in the death of one of the most reviled global terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  Well, late today, the chief of Central Command providing additional details and released these dramatic images of American commandos conducting the raid.  There they are in action. 

Missing from the president`s side during the raid was his Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, nowhere to be seen.  One person close to the White House tells NBC News that the president didn`t include Mulvaney because he doesn`t see him as having a role in national security issues. 

But that breaks with precedent.  Chiefs of staff usually play central roles in key moments like this.  Mulvaney was roughly 500 miles away, however, spending the weekend with his family in South Carolina.  It was an oddly timed weekend to take a break. 

But just last week, Mulvaney walked into the White House briefing room and told reporters the president did in fact with hold military aid to Ukraine in exchange for help investigating Democrats.  He admitted it.  He tried to redirect those comments a few hours later. 

But a person close to the president tells NBC that Mulvaney was cooked after that performance and he`s increasingly been sidelined in the White House since. 

What exactly is going on inside the White House?  We`ve got a former insider coming up after the break to tell us what goes on. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has been in hot waters since he admitted to the administration Ukraine quid pro quo earlier this month.  Former George W. Bush chief of staff Andrew Card told NBC News that the exclusion of Mulvaney during the Baghdadi raid was baffling. 

According to a person close to the president, one possible explanation from Mulvaney being AWOL is that, quote, Mick self-immolated.  He got up there, poured lighter fluid on himself and lit the match.

For more, I`m joined by Anita Kumar, White House correspondent and associate editor at "Politico".  And Guy Snodgrass, who served as speechwriter for former Defense Secretary James Mattisen -- no, James Mattis, and author of "Holding the Line: Inside Trump`s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis."

First, Anita, this weird -- well, there`s no chain of command.  There`s just the president now, I am the team. 

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO:  We call it a presidency of one.  We`ve written several -- whole stories about that because more and more, it`s him making decisions without consulting other people, without having his advisers around.  And all the people that we -- that you know, the people that pushed back and really debated things with him told him what they thought, the John Boltons, Gary Cohns, they`re all gone. 

And so, there -- 

MATTHEWS:  So, there`s -- you know, in the loop, we all know that expression.  Like I always ask people, who`s in the room when the boss is in trouble?  Who does he or she bring into the room or on the phone, help me?  Who are they?

KUMAR:  I don`t know that he calls people and says, help me.  But he does call people and talk to people.  But a lot of these people are outside the White House.  They are his -- 

MATTHEWS:  The Tom Barrick?

KUMAR:  Yes.  They`re his friends.  And there are some folks from Fox that he`s friends with, Sean Hannity.

MATTHEWS:  Chris Whipple.

KUMAR:  And so he calls them up and talks to them. 

But I don`t know that he says, I need help, but he says, what do you think of something?  And so, he does consult people but not in the usual way.  Not in the room, not in the Oval Office where they`re all sitting around having a discussion about things. 

MATTHEWS:  When you work for somebody you hope the boss has some loyalty to you. 

GUY SNODGRASS, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR DEFENSE SECRETARY JAMES MATTIS:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  You hope because that`s you`re there, because you`re loyal to him or her. 

SNODGRASS:  Well -- 

MATTHEWS:  Right now, how do you see this situation with chief of staff is sidelined to the point he`s not even in the room when the big -- when the big balloon goes up? 

SNODGRASS:  You know, serving with Secretary Mattis, you realize a lot of times, people read far more into some situations than there`s actually credit to have.  When I was in the room with Secretary Mattis, with President Trump on issues of national significance, and now, we`re talking about where Mick Mulvaney was or was not, it feels like we`re just rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. 

The -- what I saw behind closed doors was alarming enough and that`s why I want to share that experience.  That`s why I wrote --

MATTHEWS:  What is alarming?  Define it.

SNODGRASS:  When you think about where we are today, it`s a highly polarized political environment, we`re obviously distracted.  We`re focused inward and so, of course, our adversaries around the world are seeking to exploit that and not only that, but our alliances are starting to erode as well. 

MATTHEWS:  So, in the room, on the reporting side of this thing, this is his third chief of staff in three years.  He obviously doesn`t run an organized camp, an organized White House.

KUMAR:  He does -- 

MATTHEWS:  It`s 6:30 in the morning when you`re tweeting, you don`t need anybody around to tweet, I guess. 

KUMAR:  Well, there have been a number of times where aides have said they`ve found out what he`s doing and what he`s thinking by his points.  So, he`s not consulting a lot of those aides.  They`re finding out the same way we`re finding out. 

I think Mick Mulvaney, according to NBC News story, found out about the raid by Twitter or by the media.  So he`s not consulting people, but he`s not also cluing them in and telling them what`s going to happen, so that they`re prepared with how to message them, how to talk about it, what to say, whatnot to say.  They`re not clued in from the beginning. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he`s in touch with the reality right now, that he faces imminent impeachment before the end of the year, very positively before the year, he will be impeached by the House of the Representatives, go down in history books as one of the three presidents impeached -- one of the two presidents impeached.  He will be, in fact, impeached -- one of two -- I`m sorry, three.  Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and himself, three. 

SNODGRASS:  And I`m going to defer to experts like yourself and Anita to talk about the political aspects.  What I can say is what Anita just touched on, which is there are a lot of scenes in the book, there are a lot of positive things that have occurred in the last two years as we`ve strengthened America`s military, but when you think about the fact that you rule by tweet, that`s like pulling your pistol out and shooting yourself in the foot.  You want to have your own staff aligned, you want to have the Department of Defense and other agencies aligned, and you want to be in lockstep with our allies --

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of him taking credit for the raid on Baghdadi rather than giving credit to the people who did it? 

SNODGRASS:  I think that credit belongs to all of the American forces that took part --

MATTHEWS:  But he didn`t do that.  He didn`t do that.

SNODGRASS:  I didn`t catch his exact -- what he exactly --

MATTHEWS:  He said I did it. 

Anita? 

KUMAR:  Well, I mean, we see -- 

MATTHEWS:  It looks like he was there. 

KUMAR:  Yes, we`ve seen -- we`ve seen him do this before, right?  When there are accomplishments, he takes the accomplishments, he brags about things and he does take that credit.  Now, sometimes he does talk about other people, but generally it`s not his staff.  He likes to credit other people. 

He does credit the military.  He does talk about the military.

MATTHEWS:  Right.

KUMAR:  -- law enforcement.  But he does do that, and we`re going to see him campaigning on this raid because he`s already started to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  I can`t wait to find out what his war room is because he is facing impeachment and worse. 

Thank you very much, Anita Kumar. 

And thank you, Guy Snodgrass.  Your book`s called "Holding the Line: Inside Trump`s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis."  We all respect Mr. Mattis.

Up next, Democratic voters are not yet convinced they have a general election winner. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  I spotted something in the run up to the Democratic presidential context next year, it`s that yellow flag you see in the stock car races.  It keeps waving the sign from voters, that they want the decision to slow down, that they`re not ready, much less enthusiastic about being forced to make a decision like this. 

I just look at the new "USA Today"/Suffolk poll and it`s a good poll.  It shows 18 percent of likely Democratic voters, people who are going to vote are undecided.  It also shows that 57 percent, a very strong majority of those who have a favorite already aren`t all that committed to him or her, that their minds aren`t firmly made up. 

Well, this openness to try someone else has backed up another polls, it shows in the recent rise of Mayor Pete Buttigieg against the front runners, Biden, Warren and Sanders.  Already, he sits three points behind Bernie Sanders.  The rise of Buttigieg says that the race hasn`t gelled yet, not even remotely.  People are looking for an alternative, even if it`s just February.

All of which tells me this race is still in its early stretches.  It used to be said that the presidential election campaign doesn`t get started until after the World Series.  Well, that used to refer to the calendar in the election year itself. 

But the last game of this series is tonight and the MSNBC/"The Washington Post" debate is November 20th, a week before Thanksgiving.  And so far, I`ll give it to you straight, Warren`s run the best race, Elizabeth Warren.  Biden has yet to do what he has to do, and Bernie is still very much in the contest. 

But Pete could easily win, Pete Buttigieg in Iowa, leaving the whole fight up in the air and that more than anything else tells us that the Democrats have yet to get their hands and heads around the person they strongly believe can beat Donald Trump.  And this explains why this new "USA Today"/Suffolk poll has predicting by a 10 point spread -- this will blow you away -- that Trump will get a second term.  I don`t believe that. 

But I also don`t sense that the Democrats or the country can`t yet see who can beat the guy.  And that`s still up to the candidates, because if you can`t beat Trump, all of this is just a waste of our time. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. 

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