ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I hope to join you Sunday night at 9:00 P.M. Eastern, because I`ll be back with a brand new special, our first since those impeachment vote rules came out. Well, that this Sunday 9:00 p.m., Impeachment, White House in Crisis, with yours truly. I`ll see you there.
HARDBALL starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The reckoning is coming. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, where the reckoning just drew more imminent.
If you`d bet a lot less on Donald Trump getting impeached, bet a lot more today. This Friday marks the end of a harrowing week in the House impeachment investigation, all foreshadowing the day of reckoning that`s to come for this president. And if you`re listening to Donald Trump bragging about what a perfect conversation he had with Ukrainian President Zelensky, you know he deserves what`s coming.
This Tuesday, Congress heard from the first witness who actually listened to that Trump call with Zelensky as Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, whose testimony validated the concerns expressed by the whistleblower. Vindman also filled in the blanks of the White House`s summary of that phone call raising questions about why there were omissions in the first place.
But most important, his testimony, and that of NSC Adviser Tim Morrison yesterday affirmed that military support to Ukraine was indeed conditioned on the investigation into Trump`s political opponents. And that means that, as of this week, three witnesses have now testified under oath to the quid pro quo, military aid in exchange for political dirt.
Finally, we saw more evidence that Republicans are not going to fight this on the facts, which they have neither contested nor defended. The only person defending Trump`s conduct with Ukraine is the president who still describes his call with Zelensky as in the usual word, perfect.
All this was capped by the historic vote in the House yesterday which formalized the path forward in the impeachment inquiry. In making her case to the American people on the late show last night, Speaker Pelosi portrayed that Trump`s call with Zelensky was a smoking gun that could not be ignored.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This was something that you could not ignore. In one conversation, he undermined our national security by withholding military assistance to a country that had been voted on by the Congress of the United States. At the same time, he jeopardized the integrity of our elections, the heart of our democracy. And in doing so, in my view, he possibly violated his oath of office to protect, defend and preserve the Constitution of the United States.
Some people believe that this is one of the investigations where the smoking gun came out first, and that call was a smoking gun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, today, impeachment investigators have received over a hundred hours of testimony from 13 witnesses behind closed doors. Yesterday`s resolution will now bring the inquiry into the open with public hearings set to begin this month. By the way, it`s November according to Speaker Pelosi.
As Politico reports, Democrats plan to showcase, quote, the witnesses who brought the most compelling evidence, such as Ambassador Bill Taylor and Lt. Col. Vindman.
I`m joined by right now Democrat Congressman Joe Neguse of Colorado, who`s a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Natasha Bertrand is National Security Correspondent for Politico, Chuck Rosenberg is a former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official, Ayesha Rascoe is White House Reporter for the National Public Radio.
Let me go to the Congressman first. Congressman Neguse, I know you`re on Judiciary. Tell me how this dance? I think you`re on course to have the public hearings this month, perhaps articles of impeachment as early as next month. How do you see it?
REP. JOE NEGUSE (D-CO): Well, it`s good to see you, Chris. I couldn`t say it better than the speaker did. I mean, ultimately, I think what we`re talking about is a betrayal of the constitutional oath and ultimately the abuse power by the president. And she said it`s likely that the public hearing portion of the impeachment process will begin this month, and so we`ll follow the facts ultimately where they lead us.
I would just say your description at the beginning of the program of a reckoning brewing, I think, is such an apt one. And, really, it`s a reckoning for my Republican colleagues in the House. I was on the floor yesterday for that solemn and serious vote that we took with respect to codifying the procedures for the impeachment process and ultimately the impeachment inquiry.
And I will just tell you I really was aghast at the Republican arguments, these farcical arguments about process because none of them could obviously defend the facts. And, ultimately, they`re going to have a choice to make about whether they choose country over party. And I certainly hope that they choose the former as we move ahead.
MATTHEWS: Well, as a political figure yourself, try to interpret for me why. Why can`t they see the essence of this charge?
NEGUSE: Chris, I ask myself that same question and many of my colleagues, obviously, in the Democratic Caucus are asking ourselves that same question as well. I think anyone who looks at the transcript of the call summary notes, anyone who reviews the text messages from Ambassador Volker, who has reviewed these opening statements from patriots, like Ambassador Taylor and obviously Lt. Col. Vindman this week, recognizes an abuse of power.
And by the way, Chris, the American people know an abuse of power when they see it, which is why the polling has shifted so dramatically in favor of the impeachment inquiry that the House is engaged in.
So, I mean, look, that`s a question that my Republican colleagues are going to have to answer. Ultimately, this will be judged in the history books, right, for decades and decades to come. And they`re going to have to answer as to whether or not they`re going to ultimately choose country over party. So that will --
MATTHEWS: And, Natasha, what brings that point to a head very early in this process, unlike Nixon, when they had to wait until June or whatever. They had to wait until August practically to get the smoking gun. This inquiry began with the smoking gun. We have a summary of a conversation which has not been challenged. The president said I want you to do something for me though. And it`s been backed up now by three star witnesses this week. The smoking gun is already smoking.
And the Republicans don`t need more information. They don`t seem to want to hear any information. They`ve found a way to hide from this.
NATASHA BERTRAND, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yes, and I think Democrats have been pretty smart about this. And speaking to former prosecutors, they say the Democrats have been wise not to focus exclusively on that smoking gun call. They`ve built an entire case around the call showing that this was a vast wide-ranging conspiracy that really led before, during and after.
And that Democrats, with all of the witnesses they`ve managed to bring to Capitol Hill, from the administration, from the Pentagon, State Department, White House, they`ve managed to show that this was a concerted effort being led by the president`s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to essentially extort the Ukrainians. And by not focusing on that one phone call, they have a whole mountain of evidence now that they can build their case around.
MATTHEWS: And you brought it, your organization, it was your reporting that shows that not only did they put this in this hideaway term, they hid exciting stuff like this, especially this political interview, they wanted to hide that conversation. But also Mr. Eisenberg, who`s the lawyer for the NSC, said, and don`t talk about it. Keep it secret.
BERTRAND: So we reported earlier that Col, Vindman was very disturbed by not the fact that the lawyer, John Eisenberg, had placed the call into this top secret NSC code word system where normally those calls don`t go, that didn`t necessarily seem like a cover-up up to him. But later, a few days later, Eisenberg went back to him and said, look, don`t talk to anybody about this phone call. That`s significant because, of course, Vindman was one of the only people that was listening to the call and had firsthand knowledge of it.
Now, the other reason that Eisenberg, of course, could have said that to him was because he was trying to figure out a process to basically clean up the mess that the president had created, but Eisenberg felt like it was stymieing him from doing his job, because he wasn`t able to talk to interagency folks who deal with Ukraine policy about this specific phone call and the backdrop to it.
MATTHEWS: So what do you make of that, before, during and afterwards, seeing confirmation that they had consciousness of guilt, they planned this conversation with the president of Ukraine, they were talking about the deal all the way up to it and afterwards they tried to hide it?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, Natasha made a really important point. There is a nefarious explanation for what the NSC lawyer did, a cover-up, and there`s a non-nefarious explanation. It could be that he is just trying to figure out what happened. Who knows about it and talk to each person so he could get a clean story from each witness.
MATTHEWS: But putting together the fact that he put it on the code word thing, hiding it away, and then say don`t talk about it two days later.
ROSENBERG: This is more good reporting from Natasha, so correct me if I`m wrong. But I believe that the president`s 2017 call with the president of Mexico leaked out, other phone calls with other world leaders and the president were also stored in a similar way. So I don`t know this is it first time that that happened with a presidential phone call.
That aside, I think what I`m seeing from the House is that they`re going about it the right way, Chris. They`re talking to lots and lots of people, right, gathering as much evidence as they can, as you said, before, during, and after, because all of that is part of the tapestry that tells the story. This is what good prosecutors do. This is what good agents do. This is what the House seems to be doing.
MATTHEWS: I`m watching this like presumed innocent that`s got Turow throw (ph) where there`s so much evidence here. It just keeps -- the cake keeps getting baked again. Every one of these witnesses said the same as the other witnesses said, that this was a deal.
AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: And even for the witness that the White House is talking about now, Tim Morrison, who`s on the NSC staff, who said he didn`t think that the call was illegal, he still said that he was concerned about the call and that he immediately went to NSC Council about it, because he was worried that --
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s not voting in the House, by the way.
RASCOE: And he`s not voting in the House. But even so, even there who the White House is calling a star witness said he was very concerned about the call and by the policies.
So I think that should be concerning to this White House, that even the people who they say are saying good things, if the good thing is that it`s not illegal in this person`s perspective, that probably means your argument might have a little bit of trouble.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, you`re going to go home this week and it looks like you`re already home with the mountains behind you there, I just wonder in a purple, how do you make the case for impeachment this week with your people at home?
NEGUSE: Well, look, Chris, in talking with my constituents, if there`s one thing that is very clear, it is that they want us to follow the facts in a methodical way which is precisely what we`ve been doing. As Chuck knows, Mr. Schiff, Chairman Schiff, is a former prosecutor as chuck is. And so he has approached this in a very thoughtful serious way, and we`ve been able to uncover significant evidence of the president`s misconduct. And as I said, the American people and certainly my constituents recognize an abuse of power when they see it.
So as I visit with folks, they want us to approach this with the seriousness that it deserves to meet the moment, so to speak, underscoring the gravity of ultimately the impeachment process. And that`s what the House Democratic Caucus has done. That`s obviously what we`re going to continue to do.
I hope that my Republican colleagues will ultimately, as I said, make the right decisions and start to engage in a thoughtful way, because this matters a great deal for the future of our republic as a republic.
MATTHEWS: Well, Mr. Television himself, Mr. Trump, apparently believes he is FDR, and he`s going to have a fireside chat. He`s talking about where he`s going to sit and talk to the American people presumably with an open - - some networks will give him, maybe Fox, maybe other networks will give him a full opportunity to speak to the American people apparently in primetime and read through the summary of his conversation with Zelensky of Ukraine in a way that suggests his total perfection.
Let me read this to you anyway. Despite reports of the summary of Trump`s call with President Zelensky amid certain words and phrases, the president`s still describes it as an exact transcript defending the conversation itself, as I said before, perfect.
Here is Trump in a radio interview yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s totally false. We have a transcript that was an exact transcript of the meeting. And anybody that reads the transcripts understands it was a perfect phone call. The Democrats are desperate. They`re desperate. They have nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, he ignores the fact that the call record is actually very damning, showing that when Zelensky requested more missiles, Trump asked him to first investigate -- first investigate his political rivals. Additionally, a disclaimer on that memo explicitly cautions it`s not a verbatim transcript. So he`s a president and he doesn`t read his own stuff.
ROSENBERG: Well, let me tell you what it made me think of. When you look at the Mueller report, volume 2, it`s the whole obstruction of justice story. Every pronouncement by Donald Trump, every tweet by Donald Trump, in some way, ended up in the report. What he was doing that whole period of time was creating evidence for prosecutors. I know you can`t charge a sitting president, but every time this president talks about what he did, which apparently he thinks is perfect, he creates more evidence.
I can`t wait to hear him read the transcript because he`s going to adlib inevitably and prosecutors and investigators and agents are going to be listening very carefully. When my subjects talked, when my targets talked when I was a federal prosecutor, my reaction was have at it.
MATTHEWS: Would you put him on the stand?
ROSENBERG: Would I put Donald Trump on the stand if I were his lawyer or if I were a prosecutor?
ROSENBERG: Not a chance.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me go to Ayesha on this because this president has enormous self-confidence and he does have almost 40 percent of the public who will eat it up. Whatever he says, he won`t use the word, though. My bet, he would say, I`d like you to do me a favor though. I don`t think he`s going to mention that word, just guessing.
RASCOE: Well, I think the Democrats would love for him to read it out loud, so then they have it for their ads and whatever they want to do with it. I mean, look, the president clearly thinks that this call was great. But what Democrats are saying is that they don`t think this call was great.
MATTHEWS: Because his people do it. In your reporting, do you know anybody besides Trump who thinks this call was OK with Zelensky?
RASCOE: So even when I talk to people at his rallies -- so these are truly believers. And so even some of them, when I`ve talked to them, said they didn`t really like that call. Like they like Trump but they`re concerned about what he did on that call. So it`s a very tricky thing if he wants to read that out. I mean, independents say that this impeachment inquiry should go forward. So when he starts reading that out, it`s a risk.
MATTHEWS: It reminds me of Mayor La Guardia of New York reading the -- La Guardia reading the comic pages to people because they couldn`t get the newspaper. It is going to be a ludicrous night. This man will not be believed but it will be believed by some.
Congressman John Neguse, thank you so much, coming to us from the mountains, it looks great behind you there. Natasha Bertrand, thank you. Chuck Rosenberg, as always, Ayesha Rascoe.
Coming up, my colleague, Rachel Maddow, joins me in this next segment to talk about the sobering lessons from this momentous week in the impeachment inquiry.
Plus, will Trump follow through with his proposal for that fireside chat. I can`t wait about his Ukraine phone call.
And we`re going to talk about Rachel`s fabulous new best-selling book on the corrupting power of oil.
Plus, it`s a big night in Iowa for the Democratic presidential candidates. A new poll shows the battle out there is wide open and it looks like Elizabeth Warren is rising still, Joe Biden is falling still, and the big surprise could be Mayor Pete winning the whole thing in Iowa.
We`ll see more. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: The most important thing for the American people to realize and understand is no one is above the law, the president of the United States or not.
This, for me, has nothing to do with politics. People said, well, you didn`t want to do it because you would jeopardize some of your -- it had nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with partisanship. It`s only about patriotism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last night just hours after the House voted to formalize the public phase of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Members of Congress are now back to their districts for a week long recess, where they`ll make the case for impeachment directly to their people at home.
As a new poll shows, the public continues to be divided. A Washington Post/ABC News poll just out this week before the House vote showed 49 percent of Americans say President Trump should be impeached and removed from office. 47 percent say he should not.
President Trump is floating a new idea, by the way, of how he`d like to make his case to the American people.
He told "The Washington Examiner" -- quote -- "At some point, I`m going to sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you read it, it`s a straight call."
Joining me right now is my colleague Rachel Maddow, host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC and the author of "Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth."
Rachel, my friend, thank you so much.
We will get to that book in depth in the next segment.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Great to see you, Chris. Great to see you, my friend.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
I never know when you`re going to wear the glasses, but this must be for real tonight. This is great.
MATTHEWS: Let`s get serious then.
First of all, a little frivolous question. Trump as FDR in front of the fireside, warming the cockles of the hearts of the American people, but, in this case, defending himself against impeachment.
MADDOW: You know, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman congresswoman from New York who has such an incredible mastery of social media, she responded to the president`s announcement that he was going to do this thing, and then he tweeted in all caps, "Read the transcript."
Her response to that online was: "We did read the transcript. That`s why we started impeachment proceedings."
And I checked just before I got online. And I think that`s got something like 340,000 likes at this point, 40,000 retweets.
I mean, the idea that the transcript is going to be his way out of this, when the transcript is literally what led Nancy Pelosi to open the impeachment proceedings, I just -- I don`t know -- I don`t -- sometimes, I can follow his logic. In this one, I don`t -- I don`t get it.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of Pelosi in these last several weeks especially, her strategy, her thinking, her leadership?
MADDOW: Nancy Pelosi knows her caucus and has never, as far as I can tell, ever been caught out with the behavior of her caucus surprising her.
We have both been following her for years. I can`t think of a single vote, particularly a single major vote, where things didn`t go the way she intended them to go and the way she knew them to go.
And so I feel like she`s not ever going to be out there crusading for her caucus to do something that they might not do. She`s only ever in front when she knows she`s already got them behind her, and when she can lead from a position of confidence and strength, because she knows where the people are, because she`s got them there.
So, I feel like, watching Nancy Pelosi right now, I`m less interested in sort of figuring what she might want or what she might be -- what might be her own analysis of the political impact of this impeachment. I feel like watching her tells you what the Democrats are going to do, because she`s never wrong about her own folks.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think she`s got a great listening network out there of people who tell her what people are thinking.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Thursday`s House vote -- that was yesterday -- was almost entirely on party lines. Every single Republican voted against the resolution.
"The Washington Post" poll shows the public is just as divided along party lines.
Catholic these numbers -- 82 percent of Democrats say President Trump should be impeached; 82 percent of Republicans say he should not.
The symmetry, the mirror imaging of this --
MATTHEWS: -- is, I guess -- I live in Maryland. You live in Massachusetts and New York. I know we all live in different geographies.
But I`m still -- I do know people, though, relatives, who just will not give. How do you account for that? Evidence is not moving people.
MADDOW: Well, I think it`s important to recognize where we are in the process.
I mean, they`re going to move to their public hearings now. And they believe that they have -- I mean, what we know about how they`re planning the public hearings right now is that they`re taking witnesses who they have already heard from behind closed doors.
They`re selecting some of them, and they`re going to put them in front of the public with staff questioning them in a way that is designed not only to elicit information. They have already got that in the depositions. They can just take that information from the depositions and put it in the report, if they wanted to.
But they`re going to pick the witnesses who they want who they believe can tell this story to the American people. And if people are paying attention to the impeachment, and people are watching the way the evidence is laid out, I think the idea is that honest people will be persuadable.
I think the president will have his defenders forever, no matter what he does, even if he does shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue. But the impeachment process is supposed to be one that persuades the public. And that hasn`t really started yet.
MATTHEWS: I said last night, in introducing the fact you would be on tonight, Rachel, that you and Pelosi have one great strength -- well, one clear strength in common. You`re both teachers.
And I think the way you go about your business, her statecraft, your tradecraft, are very illustrative of how things ought to work and how people ought to think and report.
MADDOW: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And I think -- I want to ask you this question.
Are people learning right now about our Constitution? Are they learning?
Well, I think so. I mean, I don`t know that I have my finger on the pulse of anybody, other than myself. And I`m not even sure how well I know myself sometimes.
MADDOW: But through our own process of reporting on and trying to explain this presidency for the past two-plus years, I feel like, boy, have I learned a lot about, you know, the federal court system. Boy, have I learned a lot about foreign influence operations. Boy, have I learned a lot about the FBI and the CIA and the -- and presidential scandal and the ways that, you know, witnesses can be compelled or not.
I mean, there`s so many aspects of this presidency that we have had to learn in detail, simply because it`s been scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal, and we have to learn it just to stay up on what`s going on.
Now, at the same time, our democratic processes are under direct attack from the president in a way we have never seen in U.S. history before, and I think that`s making us learn about them, if only to understand what it is that`s threatened.
And so it`s a -- this is a time for sort of -- I think for civic dedication, to be dedicated to learning what our own responsibilities are as citizens and to pay attention what`s happening right now.
MADDOW: This is not a time where you can just let the news wash over you.
MATTHEWS: Well, this is where I have been schooling myself. It`s a new book called "Blowout" by you. I have learned so much.
I hope we can get a couple teasing aspects of the book, so people will go out this weekend and get a copy of this, because you learn so much about Putin, what`s been motivating his end of the scandal. It`s not just Trump`s scandal. It`s his scandal -- why he is the way is, especially on sanctions, his insanity in going after them.
I finally figured out. Well, I didn`t figure it out. I learned from you.
And that`s coming up next.
What`s motivating Vladimir Putin in this ongoing Trump scandal? Why was he obsessed with getting all those meetings with Trump`s people up in Trump Tower and his family members? What`s all this oil got to do with all this?
It`s all in Rachel`s new book, "Blowout." And we`re going to talk about it next.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
For the past three years, the country has been following along as investigators pursued Russian interference in our 2016 election, specifically the role President Trump and those around him played.
But understanding what motivated Trump is only half the story. Why was it that Russian President Vladimir Putin was so intent in messing with our elections? Why were there that many -- so many -- actually, 100 contacts between Trump associates and Russians during the campaign?
Those are just some of the questions that led Rachel Maddow to write her new book, "New York Times" bestselling book, "Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth," where she reports Putin did so in an act of desperation, as his country`s soul economic industry of oil and gas was being strangled by U.S. sanctions.
As she graphically puts it: "The Russian Federation ultimately embarked on a deliberate and aggressive campaign to tear apart Western alliances, to rot democracy, and to piss in the punch bowl of free elections all around the world."
Well, that desperation was understood by one world leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- quote -- "I understand why he has to do this, to prove he`s a man. He`s afraid of his own weakness. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this."
Rachel Maddow is back with me.
That is delicious set of paragraphs, Rachel. You have nailed it.
I want to talk -- the key here is, I get to a couple of things. One is sanctions. They needed Western technology to explore the Arctic Circle. If they couldn`t get more oil and gas, they were going to go broke. They needed those sanctions broke. That explains all these goddamn meetings, right?
MADDOW: And -- well, basically.
I mean, it explains their desperation. Russia`s only got one game to play in terms of their economy. Putin could have developed a diversified economy. And he didn`t, in part because he likes what he can do with oil and gas. He likes the way he can use it as a weapon around the world.
But he also wanted to have complete control of it. So he consolidated all the power in the oil and power industry in his own country under his own control. He`s got his henchmen running the Russian oil and gas industry. They`re terrible at it.
Geologically, Russia is running out of all the easy-to-get oil and gas. They now need to be doing the more high-tech stuff, but they have got these terribly, terribly run companies. They need to be able to use Western expertise to be able to get at their future oil and gas.
And they can`t get it because of the sanctions on them because of Putin`s gangster behavior. And that just -- I mean, Putin is strategic, but he`s short-term strategic.
And on the -- in the long run, his short-term behavior that all made sense in terms of grabbing up that industry and wielding influence around the world in such a malign way, those things got to be on a collision course.
And he threw a total Hail Mary when it came to us in 2016 to try to get Hillary Clinton out of there, and specifically to try to get those sanctions undone.
And all of those meetings that you were just describing, basically all of them during the campaign, had something to do with sanctions.
MATTHEWS: And this gigantic country that we look on the map, which includes Europe and Asia, all the way from one ocean to the other, practically, that gigantic country has a GDP smaller today than Italy`s --
MATTHEWS: -- because of that awful decision. He said, let`s just do oil and gas. Let`s not have a real modern economy.
That was his decision to choose personal interest, where he could be a dictator over one sector, over the interests of his country.
MATTHEWS: Just like Trump.
MADDOW: Well, you know, the thing about a diversified economy is that, in order to have one, in order to have a growing, vital economy, you need a few things.
You need the rule of law. You need property rights. You need a relative lack of corruption, so that people can, you know, get permits and hire people, and businesses can grow and compete on the basis of their merit.
Putin wasn`t willing to concede any that, because all of that would have meant him giving up some power and him being susceptible to democratic pressures within Russia`s bounds. He could not take that because he was so personally weak and paranoid about his own stature.
And so, instead of allowing Russia to grow in that way, which they could have done -- they could absolutely be a superpower once again in the world, instead of having their major exports in the world be oil, gas and organized crime.
I mean, they could be a big deal in the world, except for Putin keeping his foot on the neck of his own country. And it`s come to roost for him.
MATTHEWS: Did you think about the parallel between oil and gas and gold and silver in the days of the colonizers, where the Spanish chose just bullion?
They never did trade. They just got to get the gold and the silver. And it destroyed their economies through that specie flow mechanism. You know all about that from history. Destroyed it, because it inflated the economy. And it did the same thing -- it`s doing the same thing in Russia.
They committed the old crime of going after subterranean minerals, as opposed to developing a modern economy, like the Brits did and we did.
And in the modern era, the way you see this writ large is the resource curse, right, which is countries that have natural resources that need to be extracted and then sold on the open -- on the international market, those countries, no matter how remunerative that resource supposedly is and is on paper, it almost always makes your country more poor.
It almost always hurts the rule of law. It almost always results in a worse society with more violence, more propensity to get involved in war, and your citizens end up worse off, even as the elites get rich and corrupt.
That resource curse is an academic thing that people have talked about for years. I think that we should see Russia as suffering from that sort of on its own terms. And I think that`s part of how we got ourselves into their sights in 2016.
MATTHEWS: There`s so much in this book.
I kept thinking of Frank Norris` book "The Octopus." I was thinking of the great muckrakers of the early part of the 19th century. You`re smiling because you know you`re on the same terrain. You`re a great muckraker, because you have pointed out that there`s something -- there`s something malevolent about oil and these extractive industries, not just in destroying economies, but destroying culture, the corruption that comes from it.
I mean, you talk about these oil guys like Tillerson and their coziness with Russia, the fact that Russia had given this guy a medal before he even got to be secretary of state.
What is it about the malevolence of oil? I mean, I don`t know what to say, except you have really captured something about a point of view.
By the way, extractive industries are not particularly good to women over the years, extractive -- as opposed to commercial -- commercial ports, like Seattle, New York, Boston, women can get ahead in those places, because of commerce. Women can rise quickly in those companies.
But extractive industries are particularly deleterious to women. Did you give any thought to that? I gave a lot to it. Your thoughts?
MADDOW: You know it`s a really good point.
It`s part of the reason why micro-finance initiatives are so good for women, because what they do is, they promote diversified lower-level economic growth, where people can write their own plot.
MADDOW: When you have got industries like oil and gas coming into a place like equatorial Guinea or wherever it is that they`re going to drill wells, what you get is billions of dollars of up-front capitalization.
So that means they are in there, and they have to make it pay off for decades to make it worth that up-front capital investment. You get construction jobs for a minute. You get a few jobs associated with the ongoing production of the oil once the well is drilled.
But, really, you end up with a ton of environmental damage, very few jobs for very few people, and a revenue stream that comes from outside the country to the elites, and that benefits when the rule of law favors the outside industry, rather than the people who live in that country.
And you just see it over and over and over again.
MATTHEWS: I`m so excited about the book.
MADDOW: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: The first action of the Trump administration in your book -- I didn`t know this -- was to get rid of the public disclosure requirements on American corporations, oil companies, doing business with African countries like Nigeria.
So there was -- it was meant, that law, to expose the payoffs, the corruption, the kleptocracy that allowed these government leaders to have houses in Malibu, in London, and everywhere else, and in South Africa, while their people are starving to death.
And they got rid of that transparency law as the first act of Congress under Trump.
MADDOW: And never talked about it. Never talked about it. We didn`t have big national fights about it. We didn`t know it was happening. They just quietly got that done.
That`s the power of the industry on our own government, that they got that done as the first thing, the first order of business with the Republican House, Republican Senate, and a new Republican in the White House, literally a provision that singly and only allows oil companies to bribe other countries and get away with.
It`s the first thing they did. And the power of the oil and gas industry to get that done tells you something about how big a deal they are in our own politics and around the world.
MATTHEWS: Well, read this book, everybody.
I know Friday night is a good night to have a book author on. And I`m glad Rachel`s on tonight, because it`s a good night to tell people, when you`re out wandering around -- at least, people used to wander around the walls on Saturday.
MATTHEWS: And they go around. And, occasionally, they see a bookstore that`s still there. Get into that bookstore and buy this book, because this is an education right here.
This is your -- at least a year of good college right here. It is fantastic, because it ties together all the things we have been talking about here, all the things, all this scandal.
I`m not a Marxist, but I do accept there are -- a lot of economic determinism in a lot of what we -- Richard Nixon went down because the economy sucked when he was in trouble.
Bill Clinton survived because the economy was good. Watch the economy. Follow the money.
Rachel Maddow has done just that. "Blowout," get a copy this weekend.
MADDOW: God bless you, Chris. God bless you, my friend.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you so much.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Well, up next: Democratic presidential candidates and their supporters are converging on Iowa tonight. That`s Iowa, the party`s big shindig out there. It used to be called Jefferson Jackson. Now it`s called The Liberty and Justice Celebration. Very woke.
That`s out there in Des Moines, this as a new poll shows an increasingly tight race out there. Can Warren sustain the latest surge she`s on? Can Biden reverse his fade? Could Mayor Pete -- and I`m big on this guy -- surprise everybody in Iowa?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Thousands of people have descended on downtown Des Moines as I speak for the annual Iowa Democratic Party`s Liberty and Justice Celebration, known for years as the Jefferson Jackson Dinner.
Thirteen presidential candidates are expected to speak tonight at the party`s annual dinner, which is expected to draw about 13,000 people. Look at that crowd.
Back in 1975, a little-known Georgia governor named Jimmy Carter began his run for the White House with a victory in a straw vote at that dinner tonight. Since then, it`s helped propel several other candidates to the front of the pack.
In 2011, for example, one "Des Moines Register" political columnist called Senator Barack Obama Jefferson Jackson speech out there the best of his campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America, our moment is now!
Our moment is now!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: I don`t want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s. I don`t want to -- I don`t want to pit red America against blue America. I want to be the president of the United States of America!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, tonight, in front of the biggest crowd in the dinner`s history, 13 Democrats will try to convince Iowa voters that they`re best suited to take on President Trump.
So, could tonight be the start of something big? That`s coming up next.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With just three months to go until the Iowa caucuses -- that`s February 3 - - a new poll shows for candidates locked in a close race at the top.
The poll from "The New York Times" and Siena College shows Senator Elizabeth Warren pulling ahead with 22 points among likely caucus voters. These are good polls. Followed by Senator Bernie Sanders at 19. He is sort of holding there. Pete Buttigieg has moved up to 18. And guess who`s in fourth? Joe Biden, the previous front-runner.
But uncertainty remains about which direction Iowans want to take the Democratic Party. Two-thirds of them say they still might choose a different candidate than they have now before the caucuses.
And late tonight, one campaign came to a sudden end, as former Congressman Beto O`Rourke announced he`s withdrawing from the race just hours after -- or just hours before he was supposed to be talking at the dinner. He`s not showing tonight.
For more, I`m joined by Alexi McCammond, Axios political reporter who is governing -- who is covering the race -- she is also governing the race, maybe.
MATTHEWS: Evan McMullin, executive director of the Stand Up Republic and a 2016 independent presidential candidate, Jason Johnson, of course, politics editor for The Root.
Let me ask you, Alexi, about this.
What do -- your reporting on this race, what do you smell, particularly with regard to the rise, the dynamic of Mr. Pete Buttigieg?
ALEXI MCCAMMOND, AXIOS: You know, what is interesting about that poll that you just showed on screen is that I have been talking with a lot of Democratic strategists in the last few months who have sort of said the wild card, they think, is whether and how Mayor Pete Buttigieg better than expected in a place like Iowa.
A few months ago, I was sort of like, yes, I don`t really know if that`s going to happen. But now this poll is sort of confirming these rumors and these ideas and hypotheses that these strategists have been floating for a while now.
They think that Pete Buttigieg, especially being from Indiana, a Midwesterner plays well in the Midwest. And we shouldn`t overlook someone like him and his ability to sort of surprise people in a very important caucus state like Iowa.
MATTHEWS: I think he`s going to win it.
JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT: I don`t think there`s chance in heck.
I think it`s going to be --
MATTHEWS: In Iowa?
JOHNSON: No, no.
I think Elizabeth Warren`s going to win. Mayor Pete is improving because he`s got the money and because he`s got the connections. I think you have a three-way split with the first three primary states. I think Warren wins Iowa, Bernie wins New Hampshire, Biden blows them all away in South Carolina, and then there`s a mad scrum on Super Tuesday.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think they`re all going to have different -- I think Pete`s going to win Iowa. I think Bernie -- Bernie is going to come back and win New Hampshire, because he`s doing really well up there.
And if she has lost first place, she loses the second one. I don`t know who Harry Reid is going to get behind. But I think you`re right about Biden. So, we agree on one.
EVAN MCMULLIN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. You know, I don`t think Mayor Pete has to win Iowa. Of course he would like to. His supporters would like him to.
MATTHEWS: You have seen his -- projected, how fast he`s moved?
MCMULLIN: He`s moved. In Iowa, he`s been moving up. He`s been gaining ground for the last couple of months.
It`s just as much about expectations, I think, as it is about the result.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
MCMULLIN: No, no. Well, right.
MATTHEWS: You`re schooling me.
MATTHEWS: But let me ask you. You`re schooling me.
Let me ask you this question.
MATTHEWS: Is a vote in Iowa a real presidential vote or is it a February vote? I think it`s a February vote. It`s not a November vote. They don`t have to pick the president.
They can say, right now, I think the best of the candidates is Buttigieg. I`m voting for him.
MCMULLIN: Look, I think Mayor Pete`s going to have a moment after Iowa.
I think, even if he doesn`t prevail there, if he finishes in the top three, he`s the only one who is sort of below 70 years old. He`s proven himself quite capable.
MATTHEWS: He`s 37.
MCMULLIN: And I think that he will have a moment. And we will see how he capitalizes on it.
He is very, very young, but I still think that he will -- he will really arrive on the stage after Iowa -- after Iowa completes. I think he will have a moment.
MATTHEWS: Well, catch this.
A new Morning Consult poll has former Vice President Joe Biden still seen by voters as the best candidate to beat President Trump in a head -- at least, that`s the way they pick it.
The former vice president leads Trump by five points. Senator Sanders leads Trump by two. Warren trails the president by one. President Trump beats Mayor Pete by six.
I don`t know what to make of this. We`re all guessing. And --
JOHNSON: Well, here`s the thing.
People may not want to pick their president in Iowa, but they are thinking that they want to pick somebody who can beat the president of the United States, which is Donald Trump.
So, again --
MATTHEWS: That`s why you don`t think it will Pete?
JOHNSON: Yes, that`s why I don`t think it will be Pete. I don`t think people necessarily believe yet.
Now, again, if he pulls off some sort of Obama surprise and blows everybody away at 30 percent --
MATTHEWS: Well, I will bet he gives the best speech tonight.
JOHNSON: But giving a speech now in November, that`s not necessarily going to --
MATTHEWS: OK, OK, let`s get back to Alexi.
Alexi, do you think people are picking -- my question at the beginning. Is this a November decision, like next November, a year from now? Are they picking the president of the United States or the person is going to beat Trump? Or are they saying, right now, the smartest of the candidates, the one that impresses me, the one I sort of like the most is Pete Buttigieg?
Yes, he`s gay. Yes, he`s married to a man. We know all that. That may be a problem in some parts of the country. But, me, I`m voting for him because I like the cut of his jib -- is that the kind of decisions they`re making out there?
MCCAMMOND: Based on the conversations I have had with voters, I think people very much want to feel courted by these Democratic candidates.
They want someone who will make them feel something. That might be found in someone like a 37-year-old gay presidential candidate like Mayor Pete.
MCCAMMOND: That might be found in someone like Elizabeth Warren, who, although being in the Senate for seven years, eight years, is someone who is new to a lot of people, at least on the national stage.
But one thing remains to be seen. And that`s whether and how voters sort of define what it really takes to beat Donald Trump. Is that someone who can win over voters, white working-class voters in the Upper Midwest? Is that someone who is the so-called leader of the resistance? Is that someone who is a woman?
I think it really remains to be seen, but I think people -- voters increasingly act like pundits. And I think this question of electability really has a lot to do with those folks who can win the Electoral College, not just the popular vote.
MATTHEWS: I think it`s a negative election coming up. People want to beat Trump.
MCMULLIN: Yes, Chris, I`ll just say that there is this obvious tension between those who -- on the Democratic side who want to see this progressive agenda and this even populist agenda go forward.
MCMULLIN: It`s represented by Bernie Sanders and by Elizabeth Warren, et cetera.
But then there are the others who want -- who are worried more about November.
MCMULLIN: But what Elizabeth Warren has done is bridged both. And that`s what her advantage is in Iowa right now.
MATTHEWS: She doing well among moderates. You`re right.
Alexi, thank you so much, Alexi McCammond, Evan McMullin, Jason Johnson, who is probably right in his own mind.
MATTHEWS: Up next: November 8, 1999, what happened on that date, 1999, November 8?
Stay tuned to find out. It matters a lot to this place.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 8, 1999)
MATTHEWS: Let`s play HARDBALL.
Well, HARDBALL is on MSNBC tonight, as well as CNBC, so I have got to explain terms.
I haven`t done this before on the program, but here`s a definition of hardball. It`s clean, aggressive, Machiavellian politics. It`s the discipline of gaining and holding power, useful to any profession or undertaking, but practiced most openly and unashamedly in the world of politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that was from my book from 1988, HARDBALL.
That was the first episode, of course, of HARDBALL on MSNBC, November 8, 1999, 20 years ago next week. It`s a big milestone for us.
So, we`re going to take a look back into the HARDBALL vault for some of the most exciting moments -- some of them really are exciting -- of the past two decades.
As I said last week, this is an important chair right here, this HARDBALL chair. And over the last two decades, I have had the privilege of having not just a front-row seat to American politics and history, but a seat inside the lively political conversation of the country.
And, for that, I`m obviously thankful.
And that`s HARDBALL for us tonight.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END