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Susan Rice plays Hardball. TRANSCRIPT: 10/31/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Denny Heck, Cynthia Alksne, Eli Stokols, Neera Tanden, JoshuaGeltzer, Susan Rice

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  I`ll be anchoring that at 9:00 P.M. Eastern with some very special guests.  I hope you mark your calendars, I hope you have a great Halloween and I hope you have all the candy corn that you and your family want.

"HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.

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

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, the hometown of the World Series champions.

In a historic action today, a divided U.S. House of Representatives set the course for an up or down vote on the impeachment of the president.  It passed a resolution formalizing the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.  It marks the third time we know that the members of the House had taken such a consequential step, and it brings the proceedings into a new public phase.

231 Democrats and one independent stood united behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she affirmed to the American public that they and anyone willing to join them would defend the Constitution.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA):  What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.

The times have found each and every one of us in this room and in our country to pay attention to how we protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.


MATTHEWS:  The vote today comes as new evidence of a quid pro quo has emerged, another key witness has now affirmed that military support to Ukraine was conditioned on the investigations that Trump was seeking from that country to kneecap his political opponents.

Tim Morrison, a top adviser on the president`s National Security Council, testified today under subpoena in the ongoing inquiry, a deposition that comes just a day after he expressed his intent to resign from the administration.

NBC News reports that according to two people familiar with his testimony today, Morrison told Congress that the substance of Ambassador Bill Taylor`s stunning opening statement last week was accurate.

As The Washington Post was first to report Morrison testified that he alerted Taylor to a push by Trump and his deputies to withhold both security aid and a White House visit for the Ukrainian president until Ukraine agreed to investigate the Bidens among other things.

And that would make Morrison the third witness to affirm the deliverables of a quid pro quo, military aid in exchange for political dirt.  It`s the latest in an avalanche of new evidence to emerge from the inquiry and none of it is good for President Trump.

Joining me right now is U.S. Congressman Denny Heck of Washington State, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Eli Stokols is White House Reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Cynthia Alksne is a former federal prosecutor.  Thank you all.

Congressman, as a member of the committee, give us a sense -- take your time -- the historic nature of today`s vote by the House of Representatives.

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA):  Well, Chris, look, let`s put this in perspective.  We already have the president`s confession as it were in the memorandum of the call and Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, having signed that confession in his press conference and the text exchanges.

And now, we have had one, two, three witnesses or more fully corroborate one another and that this deed was done.  The president attempted to coerce Ukraine into helping him against a domestic political rival and he threatened -- explicitly threatened to withhold aid unless that was delivered.

But, Chris, for God sakes, can we please step back and put this in perspective, and we haven`t yet.  Why this is all so important.

After the cold war ended in 1994, Ukraine became, and you`re hearing this correctly, the third largest possessor or landlord of nuclear bombs in the world, the third largest.  And in order to keep the world safer, we had to do defuse that.  And the way we did that was through something called the Budapest Memorandum of Security Insurance, which, in effect, gave Ukraine a guarantee of the sovereignty and fidelity of their borders in exchange for them coughing up and giving over the nuclear arms, which they did.

MATTHEWS:  And so this was a key component of ending the cold war, in effect, ending the threat of a third world nuclear war.

HECK:  Yes.  We got rid of the nukes in exchange for which Ukraine could become a sovereign nation, and now we`re turning our back on them.  This isn`t just the fact that they are a bulwark against a maligned Russian intent, who, as we speak, occupies Eastern Ukraine and has aggressive tendencies of maligned intent for the rest of Ukraine and Georgia and Europe.  This is a nation struggling to stand up, a vibrant democracy which up holds the rule of law and free, fair and open elections.  This is nothing less than our word and commitment to another strategic partner and ally in the fight for democracy.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the nature of impeachment.  The resolution is now through.  We`re going into the final stages of public hearings and finally ending up with some articles of impeachment coming out of the House Judiciary Committee.

My sense of this, get stabbed in the national security.  I want you to talk about that as a member of the committee.  When the president of the United States was asked to approve Javelin missiles, the missiles used to fight Russian tanks, he said I want something from you though.  I want something first.  I want dirt first.  Tell me what you sense that means in terms of this president`s human values and his patriotism.  Your thoughts.

HECK:  Well, his exact words, I would like you to do us a favor though, and I think it speaks for itself.  He shook them down for help in his 2020 election by asking them to manufacture dirt on a potential political rival.  It`s no more and no less.

But, Chris, here`s the deal.  As we now transition to the more public phase of this, as we begin to transition away from the investigation phase, I suspect the Republicans are going to have a much more difficult time because heretofore, they`ve been objecting to everything on the grounds of process.  They have demanded and called for exactly what we did today, which they then all voted against.  And now we`re going to get into the more substantive part of it.

So what is it that they`re going to argue when we are actually dealing with the substance of what the president did?  Any objective evaluation of the evidence to date suggests he did exactly that, shakedown Ukraine and threaten to withhold military assistance to a vulnerable strategic partner.

And then what are they going to argue?  We don`t like that this is out in the open?  We don`t like that we get to call witnesses?  We don`t that we get to cross-examine?  I think they`re going to have a pretty tough time with this.

MATTHEWS:  Cynthia, I want to ask you about a trial here, because this is basically the grand jury part of the trial.  We`re putting together evidence in the back room, like in a grand jury, we`re going to have public testimony to back that up, to dramatize it for the American jury, if you will.  At what point do you say diminishing returns?

We`ve got now three top witnesses all saying the same thing there was a quid pro quo here.  They saw it coming.  They saw it happening.  They`ve seen it in the rearview mirror.  What point do you say to the judge or to say yourself, we`ve got the case, let`s take it to the jury?

CYNTHIA ALSKNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, what you don`t do is wait until you can get Bolton or wait until you`re going to get these guys or having a hearing in December.  It`s really time to stop thinking about that.

After all, today was important because this Morrison guy can confirm there was this quid pro quo.  But before we get carried away about it, remember, he wasn`t there until July 15th.  The key witnesses, the entire arc of this conspiracy was way before he got there.

Giuliani was trying -- was his (INAUDIBLE) to get rid of this ambassador.  They had this meeting, which Sondland has been lying about.


ALKSNE:  And now, they have all this where they have not just three, they have the transcript, they have Mulvaney, they have Giuliani`s statements waving his phone around saying everything he did was for the State Department.  They have Taylor.  They have Vindman and then they have all this tangential people who do other things in addition to Morrison.  They have the bulk of what they need and it`s time to go forward.

MATTHEWS:  That`s a great reporter`s question, Eli.  Republicans watching this have been bluffing, I think, saying, once we get past arguing about procedure and all, we`re going to argue about the merits of this case.  Are they ready to make a case against the merits?

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIME:  Some are starting to.  We`ve heard the bristle about that.  The president obviously wants Republicans to stop carping about process and start defending him on the merits.  The facts of the case, as they`re piling up, what we`re hearing coming out of these closed-door depositions are not favorable for the president.  They`re difficult to defend.  And perhaps that will become even more the case once some of these people are being deposed in public and the country is hearing them.

But, you know, Republicans, they`re talking to the president, the president is courting them, he`s doing a lot of personal outreach.  He had a lunch with more Republicans today.  He is trying to maintain a connection with them because he knows how much he needs them.  They are looking not just at the relationship with him but a public opinion.  And so far, public opinion hasn`t moved in favor of impeachment.  But it hasn`t moved enough to change the calculation.  You saw that vote in the House today.  Not a single Republican crossed the party line and voted just in favor of the inquiry.

And that tells you that this continues to be right down partisan lines.  And and that`s where the White House wants it because they want the country to see this as a partisan decision, not a court case, not a trial.

ALKSNE:  When we`re talking about court cases, and one of the things you`ll learn as a trial lawyer is you only have to have your own witnesses that are really good.  This guy, Taylor, is obviously good.  Vindman is obviously good.

You also have to catch the other side in a lie, if possible.  And it really helps solidify the strength of your case.  And in this case, we have this guy, Sondland, who is lying through his teeth.

MATTHEWS:  Well, this thing about, I forget, I forget, I forget, how long is he going to go with that one?

ALKSNE:  Nobody believes that, no.  He not only says, I forget, he affirmatively lies and says, I didn`t know it was about the Bidens.  We have all these witnesses that say, he was talking --

MATTHEWS:  His lawyer though -- I think his lawyer is being very cute here.

ALKSNE:  But he must have lied to his lawyer too.  He`s a good lawyer.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Anyway, meanwhile there`s new reporting in what happened in the aftermath of Trump`s July 25th conversation with President Zelensky when the records of that call were locked down.  That`s the place, locked down.  The Washington Post reports that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that it was White House lawyer John Eisenberg who proposed moving a transcript of the call to a highly classified server and restricting access to it.

Most astonishing as Eisenberg took that action, it`s not astonishing.  It makes perfect sense to me after Vindman told him that what the president did was wrong.  And so it looks like they have consciousness of guilt here.  In other words Vindman`s testimony suggests that Eisenberg suppressed the records of the call once he learned it would be problematic for the president.

Congressman Denny Heck, thank you, sir.  What do you make -- can you now analyze this sequence of events?  Vindman goes and tells Eisenberg, the lawyer for the NSC, you`ve got a problem with this semi-transcript, this phone record, and he says, okay, I`m going to bury it, not bring it out to the public, I`m going to hide it for history.

HECK:  Completely outside of protocol and tradition and practices.  It`s a very hard thing to defend.

But I want to go back to the comment about Ambassador Sondland`s veracity with respect to some of his utterance.  Frankly, if he were to call me up, I would say to him, Mr. Ambassador, I think really that you ought to prepare an amendment to your testimony before the committee for your own sake, frankly, in light of the number that come before and offer contradictory points of view.

But also I would suggest to him that he`d better get prepared to be thrown under the bus.  Because the truth of the matter is, throughout his entire career, long before he was president, President Trump had a history of using, abusing and disposing of his subcontractors, by the way, and dumping them and getting rid of them and not paying them and ending up in court more than just about any other human being in New York, and that`s saying quite a lot.

And the fact of the matter is you`re going to know they`re going to need to get rid of him over this and I -- frankly, I predict that that activity will start pretty soon.  They`re going to throw him under the bus, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you this because you`ve got a hot hand in the way you`re describing this, Congressman.  The way that this president recruits people, he gets Rudy at the end of his career looking for cash.  Rudy is out there -- yes, he`s trying to raise money for himself, dealing with his own matters he`s got to deal with, making himself famous again or infamous.

You`ve got this Sondland who paid a million dollars towards -- nothing wrong with that, I guess.  It`s only they pay a million bucks towards the inauguration for a president you didn`t want nominated, didn`t want elected, you got him elected.  He`s given you a really nice job, European Union.

But instead of focusing on Brexit and all that stuff that has to do with European Union, he says, as you used, outsourced him to go go over and do the dirty work on Ukraine.  Is this his method, pick up desperate people willing to pay for jobs, people have have no career left and want some prestige and then exploit them and throw them under the bus when you don`t need them anymore?  It looks like the M.O.

HECK:  Highly expendable, Chris.  And actually to the list of Ambassador Sondland, I would add Mick Mulvaney and Rudy Giuliani.  These are the three prime nominees to be the next people thrown under the bus by the president.  If he thinks he needs to do it for his own protection, he won`t wait, pun intended, a New York second to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Well, you know what, he doesn`t have a Midas touch, this president.  He has a schlock touch.  He touches you and your schlock -- I`m sorry, junk.  It`s brutal, right, Eli?

STOKOLS:  Well, I mean this is a president who`s always trying to press leverage, right?  That`s what he does with ambassadorships.  That`s what he does with people in and out of the administration.

MATTHEWS:  Use them up.

STOKOLS:  That`s what he`s trying to do with Republicans right now.  There`s an article today about how he`s trying to basically make sure that he goes and fundraises for Republicans who are loyal to him and supportive of him.  And that`s basically at the crux of what we`re talking in terms of his conversations with Ukraine, seeing no difference between what he can get personally and directing a foreign policy --

MATTHEWS:  And what does he call people who don`t play ball with him?  Scum.

STOKOLS:  Well, disloyal scum or whatever, and that`s always the excuse, is if you`re in his way, you`re out to get him.

ALKSNE:  There`s even hint in --

MATTHEWS:  I`m grateful to have you on.  You have a great reporting here.

ALKSNE:  Yes.  There`s even a hint in this testimony, in Morrison`s testimony, he`s trying to throw Sondland understand the bus.  You can see the preview of it.

STOKOLS:  But I think this is -- just one last point.  I think this is really critical to his ability to inoculate himself because he does this so blatantly and in public.  A lot of people who are going to start defending him more on the merits, they`re going to say things like what Sondland told Zelensky, which is this is just how the president operates.  If he`s going to give you something, he needs something in return.  That`s just how he`s always operated.

And they are going to say, look, this is just his behavior.  And a lot of people who support him have tended to accept that.

ALKSNE:  But why do they put up with it?  I mean, Mulvaney has been humiliated in front of the world.

MATTHEWS:  Mulvaney said he was (INAUDIBLE) hospitality business, again, croaked (ph) for it.


MATTHEWS:  He`s finished for trying to explain this guy`s M. O.

Thank you so much, Eli.  Thank you so much Cynthia.  And thank you, Congressman Denny Heck, for giving us a great exhortation about what this is all about, historically.

Coming up, Nancy Pelosi`s moment, and, boy, it is that, Republicans demand a House vote on the impeachment inquiry, now they got one today.  They got what they asked for.  But with no Republican support, whatsoever, for the inquiry, what happens next?

And former National Security Adviser Susan Rice joins me tonight on the long list line of diplomats coming forward to testify out of patriotism, I think, not on the vendetta against Trump.  Look at these people.  They`re national servants.

We`ve got much more to talk to tonight.  Here`s a great president and there`s Susan Rice.  Stay with us.



PELOSI:  I don`t know why the Republicans are afraid of the truth.  Every member should support allowing the American people to hear the facts for themselves.  This -- that is really what this vote is about.



That was, of course, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi making her argument today before the morning`s momentous vote on a resolution to set in motion the public phase of the House impeachment inquiry.

Pelosi told our representatives, quote, our democracy is at stake as the House is prepared to take the historic step forward.  Ay a stark, that`s the best word for it, party line vote.

At 232-196, the House approved the resolution which sets in place the rules and parameters for public hearings and also the jurisdictions for the committees.

Only two Democrats opposed the resolution, Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of Southern New Jersey, both represent districts President Trump won in 2016. 

For weeks, Republicans have complained that the probe had been conducted behind closed doors.  Well, today, they got what they asked for, the Chinese curse. 

But during the debate on the resolution, they again criticized Democrats` motives. 


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA):  What we`re seeing among Democrats on the Intelligence Committees down in the SCIF right now is like a cult.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn`t make it any less of a sham. 

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA):  This is unprecedented.  It`s not only unprecedented.  This is Soviet-style rules. 

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  Democrats are trying to impeach the president because they are scared. they cannot defeat him at the ballot box. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, the lone independent in the House, former Republican Justin Amash of Michigan, voted with Democrats to approve the resolution. 

Amash excoriated his former Republican colleagues, tweeting: "This president will be in power for only a short time.  But excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name.  To my Republican colleagues, step outside your media and social bubble.  History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous and false defenses of this man."

For more, I`m joined by Jonathan Allen, national political reporter for NBC News Digital, Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, Michael Steele, former RNC chair.

I want all three of you.  I`m going to give you more time than usual. 

This is an historic day.  This has only happened a couple times before, what, Andrew Johnson, what -- I think it happened actually with Nixon, this particular vote to proceed with the resolution -- with the inquiry.  It happened, we know, with Nixon.  It happened with Clinton, with different impacts. 

Nixon was gone.  Clinton was back in fashion again.  He went right through this thing like nothing.

But, today, it was so partisan.

  And I want to ask you, as a Republican, why do the Republicans hold the line against these really star witness that say the president did set up an exercise and execute a quid pro quo, trading public trust for personal political interest?

It`s so stark and really undenied.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, I think primarily because they believe that the public has not in large measure bought that narrative, that that is a narrative that the Democrats have been saying repeatedly, up against this idea that this is a sham effort, that this has been done in secret, and, therefore, because it`s done in secret, there`s a lot of stuff that favors the president that we don`t know.

So they`re going to...


MATTHEWS:  What would that be?

STEELE:  Well, I don`t know what that would be. 


STEELE:  But this is...

MATTHEWS:  I mean, because he`s admitted doing it.  Because his top people -- Mick Mulvaney has admitted doing it.

STEELE:  But here`s the thing, Chris. 

He`s admitted doing it, but they say, yes, I wouldn`t have done it, and, yes, he admitted he did it, but that doesn`t rise to an impeachable offense.

MATTHEWS:  Is that the prevent defense?

STEELE:  That`s totally the prevent defense, absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  You just let -- you say, it was naughty, it was a fib or something, but it wasn`t impeachable.

STEELE:  Well, like all good prevent defenses, you wind up ultimately losing the game in many cases, because the offense is that much better than your prevent. 

And that`s the problem that they face here, the facts, the narrative presented by very credible witnesses, and the overall impeachableness of this president, he impeaches himself, is enough to carry... 

MATTHEWS:  A study -- it`s an interesting study, because the Nixon case is so different. 

He had a 40-year -- he had a history going back to 1946.  Everybody knew who Nixon was.  Everybody had a judgment about him.  The economy sucked.  There`s all kinds of reasons at the time he was in deep trouble.  He got caught lying about the June 23 tape, that he really did obstruct justice.  He got caught. 

Clinton`s thing was essentially about a sex misbehavior case.  And it was very complicated, because a lot of people had crossed the party lines on that; 31 Democrats voted to proceed with the resolution to investigate him, even though they pulled back on him almost every case to -- when it came to impeachment. 

But what`s this?  Is this somewhere in the middle, or what is it, between Nixon and Clinton? 

NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  I think -- I actually think the public is actually making a judgment. 

I would say the fact that, before the trial, essentially, before the public testimony, you have 50 percent of the country, maybe 46, 50, 51 percent of the country, already supporting removal, that is a stark number before the public testimony. 

MATTHEWS:  I agree.

TANDEN:  And I would just say, when you have a fair number of witnesses all validating the same argument, and a witness who will be in uniform who will make the case that the president violated national...

MATTHEWS:  Vindman, dress blues.

TANDEN:  In the dress blues -- violated the national security interests of the United States. 

And the truth is, I think the indictment here is the fact that there is so little defense on the facts for weeks.


Let`s go back to how votes work.  You -- we all know here that members of Congress who can get reelected or not reelected every two years, and they`re basically always in a reelection mode, because they`re very responsive to their voters. 

Whatever you think about American government, the House is pretty democratic, lowercase-D.  You can`t stick around long if the people disagree with you.

Even the two Democrats who didn`t vote with Pelosi`s resolution today, they represent districts which are strong for Trump.  I grew up in one of them.  Ocean City was where we had our summer house, not a big deal, but we had a summer house there. 

And I got to tell you, I know that place, Ocean City, Cape May, those areas, Wildwood, and also the inner parts, regular Jersey neighborhoods.  They`re conservative. 

And the fact is that this guy Van Drew voted with his district makes perfect sense. 

So, what I`m arguing is, it`s the Republican voter out there, not just the politicians, that seems adamantly for Trump.  Explain, Lucy, because I don`t understand, through all this crapola, why they`re still loyal to him. 


JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS POLITICAL REPORTER:  Well, I think a lot of Republican voters are still loyal to him. 

And that`s what we`re going to see, is this fight over not every Republican voter.  There`s a certain base that`s going to...

MATTHEWS:  Ninety percent.

ALLEN:  There`s a certain base that is going to stick with Trump no matter what.

The question is, outside of that certain base that is going to stick with him no matter what, are the Democrats going to make the case that not only did he commit impeachable offenses, but did he commit offenses that require him to be removed from office -- office?

They`re going to say, not only is his conduct something that was bad for the country, but his conduct was something that can`t be allowed to go forward.  And it`s not just...

TANDEN:  And he will do it again.

ALLEN:  Not just in this case. 

And to make a Nixon parallel here, you have the 18 minutes of missing tape that was really the sort of big lie in the Nixon era. 

MATTHEWS:  Rose Mary Woods.

ALLEN:  Now you have got Vindman saying that essentially there`s missing transcript. 


ALLEN:  Right.

So you`re going to have essentially the same parallel that comes out in testimony.

MATTHEWS:  Incriminating missing tape? 

ALLEN:  Well, that`s what the Democrats are certainly going to argue, that this is incriminating. 

And what they`re going to say is, the president of the United States put his personal interest in front of the national interest.  And that`s why not only is his conduct impeachable, but that`s why he can`t be allowed to continue in office, because if he`s somebody who is going to put his personal interests in front of the national interests, and particularly national security interests with regard to Ukraine and foreign government interference in American elections, that`s something that can`t be allowed to continue.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I hope they have you on the Senate floor when the time comes, because I think that was a good argument. 


ALLEN:  That`s what they`re arguing, not what I`m arguing.

TANDEN:  Can I just say really quickly, he did this after the Mueller report. 

So what Democrats are also going to argue is, it`s not -- unless you make him accountable, he will do it again. 

MATTHEWS:  And it`s OK to boo this president, right? 

TANDEN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  I`m a big fan of yours, Neera, but explain that for one second. 

Why is it OK to boo public -- this president at ballparks?

TANDEN:  I think the -- when the public, not political leaders, but when the public is chanting "Lock him up" as a joke against the president, we shouldn`t pooh-pooh the fact that they are very angry at the president`s possible impeachable offenses. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you`re with them?

TANDEN:  I`m with the public. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Jonathan Allen, Neera Tanden, out there at the vanguard.  Anyway, Michael Steele, thank you.  The ramparts.

Up next:  John Bolton reportedly likened Trump`s shadow campaign on Ukraine to a drug deal.  He called Rudy Giuliani a hand grenade, pretty good language, that`s going to blow everybody up, he said.

Well, Bolton scuttled meetings between the Ukrainian officials and Trump proxies, protested the hold on military aid, and urged deputies to report their concerns to the White House lawyer. 

In other words, will Bolton join the growing list of foreign policy professionals in condemning what he`s already called -- and pretty well said it -- a drug deal?

But how likely is it that congressional investigators will hear from him?  We will see.  He could add to this pile.  He could be the cherry on top.  We will see.  I don`t think they need him. 

That`s coming up next. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton has been invited to testify next Thursday -- they have got a date -- on the House impeachment inquiry. 

Through his lawyer, however, he said he`s not willing to appear voluntarily.  But he would be, if he shows up the most prominent and recognizable figure yet to give testimony. 

Bolton is at the center of this inquiry, of course, according to all kinds of witnesses.  Multiple witnesses have described how he was disturbed by the shadow campaign to Ukraine to get Ukraine to testify against -- or investigate the Bidens.

It came to a head during a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian officials at the White House, where, according to former State Department adviser Alexander Vindman, E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure a meeting between Trump and the Ukrainian president, at which time Bolton cut the meeting short. 

And former NSC official Fiona Hill testified that Bolton was so disturbed by the efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate Trump`s political opponents, that he called it a drug deal, according to NBC News. 

NBC reports further that Hill also testified that Bolton told her to report the situation to a top lawyer at the National Security Council.  That would be Eisenberg.

And acting Ambassador to the Ukraine Bill Taylor testified that Bolton told him to relay his concerns over the withholding of military aid to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. 

I`m joined right by NBC`s correspondent Ken Dilanian.  And Joshua Geltzer is former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council. 

Thank you, gentlemen. 

What I like about Bolton is, he used a great compelling phrase, drug deal, smelly, dirty, furtive, shouldn`t be done, illegal, obviously, a deal to try to hold up U.S. military assistance to get dirt. 

And yet he`s holding out.  Can you read -- is he going to be an available witness?  Because Pelosi says, we`re not going to waste time with court fights.  We`re going to move ahead.  If we can`t get him, we`re not going to get him.  But if we can get him, what will we get from him?

KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT:  My analysis would be that he has no patience for Donald Trump, but he`s also a hard-core Republican.  He doesn`t want to be seen as the key witness who took down the Trump presidency. 

So he wants a judge to force him to go.  And his deputy...

MATTHEWS:  But he won`t get that for months. 

DILANIAN:  Well, his deputy was in court today, has filed a lawsuit asking -- and they share a lawyer -- asking a judge to decide, who`s right here?  Do I have to testify or not? 

MATTHEWS:  Can you expedite a judge decision?

DILANIAN:  Well, the judge told the Justice Department, speed it up, guys.  Don`t take vacation.  I want this -- I want this decided. 

So, perhaps that accelerates. 

But, regardless, if Bolton gets up there, particularly in public, if this goes to public hearings, he would be a devastating witness. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  OK.

Because the Republican Party, to the sense -- to the extent there is a schism between the Trumpians and the old hawks, he`s the hawk leader.  He`s the one that has the bona fides of a real patriot of the right. 


And he could add to a story that`s unfolding of a White House and a National Security Council that was not fighting over policy, not disputing what the Republican, the American, the hawkish approach should be to Russia or to Ukraine, but instead was concerned that improprieties were happening, that perhaps the law was being violated. 

That`s a very different type of debate within the NSC for any normal White House or any normal presidency, and he could keep telling that story. 

MATTHEWS:  We`re getting his account from everybody. 


MATTHEWS:  Do we need him? 


MATTHEWS:  Everybody says, Bolton said, Bolton said, Bolton said.  Is that enough? 

DILANIAN:  Here`s the thing.

Bolton was in meetings that these other witnesses were not in.  He`s the -- he was the national security adviser.  So he was in meetings with Donald Trump that perhaps few other people were in. 

So who knows what else he might be able to -- he may significantly add to this story.  And he may go in other directions.  He could be a really powerful witness, if they can get him.

And also he`s kind of a famous guy. 

MATTHEWS:  He`s well-known.

DILANIAN:  Like, these other people are faceless bureaucrats. 

He goes in public and testifies, he`s a credible Republican and a well- known guy. 

MATTHEWS:  What I like about him, again, is this schism in the party between the real hawks and these sort of opportunists, who -- I will just say that.

He -- when he speaks, everybody`s going to know he`s speaking out of national interest, whatever you think of his politics.

GELTZER:  I think that`s right. 

What you would hear from him presumably, is a story that goes one step beyond, did something wrong happen here?  We know something wrong happened here.  We have read the transcript.  We have seen the text messages exchanged. 


GELTZER:  The question now is, how much and how many people knew it?

He seemed to know something had gone off the rails.  He`s the one who said, go talk to the lawyers about this. 

So to keep building on how widespread was the problem and how widespread was the awareness that it was a problem, he can add to that.

MATTHEWS:  He could give a title to a book about this too, drug deal.  Anyway, that`s pretty informative about how sleazy it is.

Anyway, thank you, Ken Dilanian, as always.  Thank you, Joshua, for coming back. 

Up next, President Obama`s national security adviser joins me to share her insights on the attempts to bury the Ukraine call summary in a secret server, her new book, and more.

Ambassador Susan Rice comes here to play HARDBALL after this break.  We have got a great guest coming up, a woman of history.

Don`t go away. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Today, Timothy Morrison, the Trump administration National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia affirmed the link between military aid to Ukraine and political dirt for the president.  He joined 11 other current and former officials who have broken with the president to testify in the House impeachment inquiry.

To date, the White House has refused to cooperate with those proceedings and has pressured key individuals to do the same.  President Trump has targeted some of these public servants himself saying they`re part of the deep state.  And he`s out to get them. 

Like many of these individuals, Susan Rice has spent her career on the front lines of American diplomacy and foreign policy, and her new book there it is "Tough Love" she details those years. 

Susan Rice, former national security advisor to ambassador -- well, to Barack Obama.  She joins me now. 

Ambassador, thank you for joining us. 


MATTHEWS:  When you watch this spectacle, a top national security people who we`ve never heard of before in most cases coming forward testifying in a SCIF, down in the basement of the capitol about the president`s behavior trading national interest, trust for personal political gain, what does it take for those people to come out and talk? 

RICE:  Well, understand, Chris, for the most part these are civil servants who never wanted to be national names.  They just wanted to do their jobs quietly, effectively in service of the country.  So, for them to come forward requires enormous guts and enormous patriotism.  And they`re doing it clearly at great risk to their careers.  So -- and maybe to their personal security. 

So this is quite serious to the extent that they`ve chosen against the wishes of the White House to share what they know. 

MATTHEWS:  So they have the words I think a new deal, a passion for anonymity.  They didn`t want to be famous. 

RICE:  They didn`t sign-up for the public spotlight. 

MATTHEWS:  And then the president of the United States calls one of them, his envoy to Ukraine, scum.  What -- how does that resonate among the people who are right now as we speak going home with homework from the NSC to do their jobs every night? 

RICE:  Well, I hope certainly the men and women who work at the NSC who, in my experience, over two administrations are loyal, committed public servants of neither party for the most part know that the American people respect and admire what they`re doing because obviously, they`re not getting the support they need from their superiors. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you how things are done.  The president has a phone conversation with a foreign leader, in this case an ally, Zelensky of Ukraine, a new president of a very endangered country. 

What happens to that conversation?  How is it archived?  How is it kept, curated, whatever?  How does that work? 

Because we`ve been hearing about it.  Is it a transcript?  Is it a summary?  Was it notes?  What is it?  What is it you`re looking at?

RICE:  Well, I can speak to my experience and most recently in the Obama administration.  What would happen if there was a foreign leader call is that staff and note takers in the Situation Room would draft a transcript of the call.  And it was meant to be as complete as it could be, typically. 

The responsible staff members would review it.  It appears from testimony that Colonel Vindman was one of those that was supposed to review it for accuracy.  And where there are garbles or things that are omitted, they would make those changes. 

In normal times, in my experience, that transcript would ultimately be approved by the national security advisor or the deputy national security advisor and then it would go into the records.  And those records would not be kept in a super secret highly classified setting --

MATTHEWS:  Who could do that?  Who could say I want this squirreled away hidden from history like this guy Eisenberg did? 

RICE:  Well, it strikes me as unusual to say the least.  And in my experience, I wasn`t aware of anybody making the judgment that something should go on a particular server or not.  That server to my knowledge was used for the most secret super classified documents.  Never in my knowledge for a transcript. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about that -- the decision to do that, what would be the purpose of doing it?  Why would you hide something? 

RICE:  Well, obviously, it seems from what we`ve learned already that the intent was to minimize the number of people who could see something that might be embarrassing or worse to the president. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make about Mick Mulvaney -- 

RICE:  Which by the way is not supposed to be the role of a White House lawyer. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make about the fact Mulvaney was acting chief of staff and head of OMB, which is huge job, was not even notified about going after and killing al Baghdadi? 

RICE:  If those reports are true, it`s extraordinary.  I mean, I can`t imagine a situation where the White House chief of staff would not only not be notified but not be part of it planning and discussions around such a consequential decision. 

And there was some statement suggesting he wasn`t near secure communications and couldn`t be notified in time.  If the White House chief of staff isn`t in close proximity to secure communications then we`re all in trouble, the system has broken down. 

I never traveled anywhere -- the White House chief of staff travelled anywhere -- 

MATTHEWS:  Jack Lew -- 

RICE:  Or Dennis McDonough.


RICE:  When was I was national security advisor, never traveled anywhere without communicators very nearby to provide just that type of connectivity.--

MATTHEWS:  Because that`s how you connect with the president.

RICE:  That`s how you are there present when circumstances necessitate -- 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you said the word "system", I`m not sure we got one right now.

Susan Rice is going to stick with us and talk about her book "Tough Love."

Coming up, remember those iconic photo, that one the day after Donald Trump`s election, there it is.  What were they thinking at that moment?  That`s next. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In her new book "Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For", former national security advisor Susan Rice writes about how she recognized the very real prospect of a Trump presidency back in August 2015. 

Quote: During a small dinner party with President Obama and a couple of senior political aides, I said that I could see a way for Trump to gain the nomination.  I persisted saying there`s a lot of hate out there.  You know some people just can`t get over where we are now.  I was not suggesting then that Trump would be president, but I didn`t think the nomination was out of reach. 

Well, Susan Rice is back with us with her clairvoyance. 

So, you thought it was doable that he might just pull that thing off? 

RICE:  I certainly thought it was possible he could win the nomination.  This was August 2015, so we still had quite a ways to go to the nomination, but I saw a path.  I`m not proud to --


MATTHEWS:  Well, you know, I`ve said it 1,000 times in this show, and I believe in it, that Barack Obama was a sterling character, his family was such a sterling perfect family, they are perfect by any standards of traditional American values.  They obeyed all the rules.  They weren`t money grubbers.  They -- public service from the beginning of his career.  He didn`t -- he didn`t even go into private money, he went into helping the country with community development, the whole works -- public service. 

And it drives some people who don`t like the success of anybody that was a minority crazy.  You suggested that was one of the reasons why you thought Trump might win. 

RICE:  I think it was that and more.  I think there was a vein of discontent that I sensed that Trump had the potential to tap into. 

Part of it may have been of course the fact that we had an African-American president who was elected twice and quite successful in office. 

But I think it was broader than that.  And, you know, at that time, the field was very large.  And it seemed almost inconceivable to most people that it wouldn`t be, you know, a Bush or a Rubio or something like that. 

But Trump had a particular brand of tapping into visceral, negative views of, you know, many Americans. 

MATTHEWS:  Demagogues, too. 

RICE:  And they were out to divide us. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you write the day after Trump`s election, quote, I felt like a stinging rebuke of all we believed in, unity, equality, dignity, honesty, hope, and progress. 

The more I thought about it, the worse I felt.  You had early dealings with Michael Flynn who was going to be your successor in national security. 

RICE:  He was my successor for 24 days. 

MATTHEWS:  And you predicted -- well, in the book you say predicted, this guy is not going to last.  What was it in him you saw as fragile, let`s put it that way? 

RICE:  He seemed to me out of his depth.  Interestingly not the man we all saw at the Republican convention shouting "lock her up" but rather quite subdued, quite humble it seemed at the weight of the job as he should have been.  But substantively, strategically he didn`t seem that well-prepared and he didn`t seem that interested in learning what he needed to learn to get prepared.

MATTHEWS:  That grabbed me, the fact that a guy or woman who`s about to take over for the world, the NSC has to cover every continent, every political issue, and he only spent like 10 hours with you total?

RICE:  It was 12 hours and I chased him for those meetings.  He was busy meeting foreigners as well as doing whatever he thought President-elect Trump wanted him to do.  I was trying to get him to understand what he needed to do to hit the ground running in terms of substance, the issues he needed to face on day one as well as running the NSC, how to staff it, what the budget was, basic stuff. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s a great book.  This is real person, by the way, not just an expert. 

So I want to talk about the Nats.  I watched all the games.  Why would it seem only win on the road and win every single game on the road and lose all the home games? 

RICE:  God bless them.  I mean, I`m old enough, Chris, as you are, born and raised in Washington, D.C., as I write about in the book, to remember the Senators and how heartbreaking it was when they left.  And here we now finally, finally have World Series champions. 

I don`t know about you, I know you must have been thrilled last night.  I was whooping and hollering in my hotel room in Boston. 

MATTHEWS:  You threw out a pitch one night. 

RICE:  I did.

MATTHEWS:  And I love the honesty about it because nobody can throw 60 feet at 60 inches without practice. 

RICE:  I practiced.   Hell yes, I practiced.  I didn`t want to be looped on Fox throwing a dirt ball. 

MATTHEWS:   And there you`re throwing a nice overhand and you`re throwing it -- you`re throwing it damn well so it would reach the plate, and I know what that means.

RICE:  And it was a strike.  It was a strike.

MATTHEWS:  You got it in the strike zone.

RICE:  And I swear to God of all the things I`ve had to do, performing in front of crowds, that was the most nervous I`ve ever been. 

MATTHEWS:  Because the one thing you don`t want to do when you get to throw that ball is -- there`s a phrase for it.

RICE:  Dirt ball.

MATTHEWS:  I did that at Double A team up once.  I practiced so hard for the Nats one time and I got that one a little bit outside but definitely over -- definitely credible, but not a strike.  Thank you for you. 

Susan Rice with another strike, author of "Tough Love", a great book about an interesting person. 

Up next, what we can learn from the best leaders and best journalists. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  At their best, great leaders and great journalists are also educators.  By their state craft in the case of leaders, by their trade craft in the case of journalists, they show us how it is done. 

Watch Speaker Nancy Pelosi these past weeks.  Notice her sense of timing, her patience in waiting for the key moment, her quickness in action when it came. 

She held off her caucus until she saw the clear-cut case for the president`s impeachment, that she struck with all her force and intellect. 

Today, we got the accounting from that -- 231 Democratic votes for the impeachment inquiry, just two against.  Better yet, three strong impeachable witnesses to the president`s abuse of power all testifying on the record -- three strikes as every American knows and you`re out. 

Tomorrow night, we have a top journalist on to talk about impeachment but also about her trade craft.  My colleague Rachel Maddow will come on HARDBALL to assess this historic week, to talk to about "Blowout" her huge new best-seller about the fouling corrupting power of oil.  Don`t miss Rachel tomorrow night here on HARDBALL.  She always has something to teach. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.