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Hardball celebrates 20 years. TRANSCRIPT: 11/4/19, Harball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Gerry Connolly, David Frum, Chris Murphy, Susan Page

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  So I hope you mark your calendar and join us.

And don`t go anywhere right now because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Twenty years of HARDBALL.  Let`s play.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington, as I said, on the week of the 20th anniversary of HARDBALL on MSNBC.

Well, today, we`re learning what happens to anyone who gets in the way of President Trump`s shakedown of a foreign government.  Democrats from the committees overseeing the impeachment inquiry released over 500 pages of testimony from the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and former State Department Senior Adviser Michael McKinley.  Those transcripts paint a horrific portrait of a president and his allies who waged war against a career diplomat who got in their way.  Ambassador Yovanovitch was pushed out in the dark of night, told she was under threat.

In her testimony, she explains how the director general of Foreign Service called her at 1:00 A.M. in the foreign, quote, she said that there was a lot of concern for me that I needed to be on the next plane home to Washington.  She said, I don`t know, but this is about your security.  You need to come home immediately.  You need to come home on the next plane.

And she goes on to say that her removal was the result of a smear campaign orchestrated by Rudy Giuliani, a Ukrainian prosecutor and Giuliani`s his business associates, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, who were indicted last month on campaign finance charges.

Late today, NBC News reported that Parnus, in a sudden reversal, was now willing to comply with the Congressional subpoena.  According to his lawyer, we will honor and not avoid the committee`s request to the extent they are legally proper while scrupulously protecting Mr. Parnas` privileges, including that of the Fifth Amendment.  Well, here`s going there.

Yovanovitch said she was told by a Ukrainian government official had been on the receiving end of inquiry from Giuliani and company that, quote, I really needed to watch my back.

Yovanovitch also testified that the Ukrainian government official raised concerns to her about Giuliani`s interest in the Bidens and Burisma, a company Biden`s son was connected to.  The official told her, it was dangerous to get involved because it would appear that Ukraine would be getting into U.S. politics.

Yovanovitch also testified that she felt threatened by President Trump, telling the Ukrainian president on July 25th in that telephone call, well, she`s going to go through some things.  That`s Trump talking, ominously.

She said she was shocked the president would speak about me or any ambassador that way to a foreign counterpart.

For the latest, I`m joined by Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent, The New York Times.  Thank you, Peter.

Well, this is ominous because it talks about what happens to someone, especially a public servant, a foreign service officer if you get in the way of this cabal.

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, what we`ve seen from the beginning of Trump presidency, of course, is this, basically a war with the government that the president actually presides over.  From the very start, he didn`t trust them, he expressed that, he called the intelligence agencies or compared them to Nazis.  He has used phrases, like scum, to describe the leadership of the FBI.  He has used other phrases to describe civil servants and foreign service diplomats.

And so I think that this is sort of the ultimate culmination of that struggle that this had been going on for three years.  These civil servants and foreign service diplomats have served under Republicans and Democrats for decades in many cases, in Ambassador Yovanovitch`s case, I think for three decades.  Their job, as they see it, is to serve who ever happened to be president regardless of their personal agenda.

But when you obviously get in the way of Rudy Giuliani and his campaign to pressure Ukraine, Ambassador Yovanovitch paid a price.  And that was, I think, really stunning to a lot of the people who worked for the State Department over these last few months, how that played out.

MATTHEWS:  There`s no perfect parallels to Watergate.  But the idea of this separate government led by Giuliani on behalf of this president, we don`t have a name for them yet.  We had a name for that group back in the Nixon era, which were the Plumbers, originally brought into plug leaks.  They began to be a government of their own, breaking into houses, breaking into Brookings Institution, breaking into the Democratic headquarters, the whole works.

In this case, these people seem to be breaking into the State Department or anybody that gets in their way.  They did seem to have the authority of the president behind them.

BAKER:  Right.  What`s interesting, of course, any president is, of course, within his rights or her rights to remove an ambassador for not supporting his policies.  That`s traditional.  In fact, that`s happened before, plenty of times.  They serve with the pleasure of the president.  Well, what happened here was she seemed to have gotten in the way of what was going on the side, outside of policy, outside of the structure of the State Department, the structure of the national security apparatus.

She was perceived to be an enemy of the president in terms of his political interests, and that`s where she got -- she was smeared not just -- it wasn`t just a matter of the president saying, okay, that ambassador is not serving my agenda, I`m going to remove her, they went after her on Fox television, they went after her -- the president`s son himself went after her, accusing her of disloyalty publicly.

It was something different than the traditional way a president enforces his policy through the civil service.  And I think that`s one of the things that really stood out for other people who worked for years and years in this government and in this foreign service, because it seemed so different than what they had gotten used to.

MATTHEWS:  How did she stand as an obstacle to the plan, the shakedown, if you will, the Ukrainian government for dirt on Biden`s son?  I mean, how did she stand in the way of that as they saw it to the point where they had to get rid of her and scare her out of the job?

BAKER:  Well, she didn`t buy into the theory for one thing.  I mean, the theory of the case was, of course, that the Ukrainians, not the Russians, were the ones who had really hacked the election in 2016 in favor of the Democrats.  She thought this was nonsensical, there was no evidence for it, but mostly people who are professionals in the government have said the same thing, even President Trump`s own Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, at the time, told the president repeatedly that this has been a completely debunked theory.

And so in that vein, they saw her as somebody who was not going to help get the Ukrainians on board to find information that would be helpful in discrediting the Mueller report, discrediting the investigation, discrediting the whole idea that Russia was involved in the 2016 campaign to begin with.

MATTHEWS:  Well, now, we have her transcript, and all day in the papers tomorrow, you`re going to be reading a lot about what Yovanovitch has come forward with, all on the record, all on the road.  Former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified that Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told her to counter the smear campaign by tweeting her support for the president.  That was the plan.  Say something sweet about him on tweet.

According to the transcript, she claimed he told her, you need to tweet out there that you support the president and that all these are lies and everything else.

Back to this idea of the sort of the smallness of the Trump space, if you say something nice about him, then you`ll be okay with him.  It`s as simple as that.

BAKER:  Well, we know flattery works, obviously, with this president.  That`s important to him.  Loyalty matters to him, at least as he perceives it.  But I can`t think of an instance where a sitting ambassador, a career ambassador was expected to go public with that kind of praise of a president in order to kind of keep her job.  That`s not something that normally happens.  That`s a very unusual circumstance.

And that tells you something that that was what Ambassador Sondland thought was the key to keeping her job.  That`s the kind of thing that does work in Trump environment.  He does not -- a typical president, as we have said multiple times, of course, over the last three years.  But, I think, obviously, that goes against the grain of the career of the foreign service who doesn`t see their job is being publicly reinforcing a president`s ego in that sense.

So that`s where things really fell apart.  She wasn`t able to sort of adapt to that kind of environment in a way she had been told to do it.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much.  Great having you on, Peter Baker of The New York Times.

I want to bring in U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who serves in the House Foreign Affairs and the Oversight Committee.

How did this strike you, Congressman, to hear this woman`s story?  Now that we have the transcript, you can talk about it, about how she was threatened.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA):  Very, very disturbing that the professional foreign service would be subject to this kind of political corruption, frankly, and to smear her because they couldn`t get her cooperation in the parallel process of corrupting the Ukrainian government to get political dirt on a perspective political opponent of the president`s, they had to smear her to get her removed.

And they enlisted the help of congressman or former congressman like Robert Livingston.

MATTHEWS:  Former almost speaker.

CONNOLLY:  Almost speaker, and Pete Sessions of Texas, apparently.

Now, Pete Session was chairman of the Rules Committee.  He had no foreign policy responsibilities.  What is he doing calling and urging the firing of Ambassador Yovanovitch?  And here is an honorable, patriotic American being smeared and even the president pursuing that narrative with the president of Ukraine.

MATTHEWS:  And the president of the United States behind it all.

What did you read into the idea that she gets a call at 1:00 in the morning, I guess local time where she is in Kiev, get home, your safety is involved, there`s a threat on you, we don`t know what it is?  What was that?  How did that hit you when you heard that?

CONNOLLY:  Really horrifying, because I`m old enough to remember U.S. ambassadors who were killed in line of duty, who really truly had their personal safety and security and that their family is at risk.  So to tell her that is using the ultimate threat to any foreign service diplomat, but especially the ambassador in Ukraine, especially while there`s active combat going on in the eastern part of the country.

MATTHEWS:  And all of this is I the context of the president of the United States wanting dirt on his political potential rival, Joe Biden, and doing anything he can to get, including scaring this ambassador out of Kiev.

In a sworn testimony, former State Department official Michael McKinley, the other transcript that came out today, he spoke three times, he said, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about a public show of support for Ambassador Yovanovitch.

In October, Secretary Pompeo told ABC he never heard anything from McKinley.  Let`s watch.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  From the time that Ambassador Yovanovitch departed Ukraine until the time that he came to tell me he was departing, I never heard him say a single thing about his concerns with respect to the decision that he`s made.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS HOST:  So you were never asked --

POMPEO:  Not once, George, did Ambassador McKinley say something to me during that entire time period.


MATTHEWS:  Congressman, somebody is lying here.  McKinley has testified that three times he told Pompeo to back-up Yovanovitch.  Is this a murder (ph)?  Is this some sort of administration thing where you cover up for the president no matter what?

CONNOLLY:  I would say it`s a very convenient memory by Secretary Pompeo and it is shameful moment.  When you are the secretary of state, one of your sacred duties is to protect the foreign services of the United States.  We have done that for over 200 years.

And for him to completely cave and not -- by the way, even if McKinley had not talked to Pompeo, you are the secretary of state.  Why weren`t you defending the ambassador in Kiev from this slander and smear campaign by Giuliani.

MATTHEWS:  Why wasn`t he?

CONNOLLY:  Because he`s a coward and an enabler and, frankly, I think, has disqualified himself from continued service as secretary of state.

MATTHEWS:  You wonder how pricey public office is at the top now, what people will do, the price they will pay in terms of character.

CONNOLLY:  And for what?

MATTHEWS:  And for what?  For whales?

CONNOLLY:  For whales.

MATTHEWS:  Unbelievable.

Congressman Gerry Connolly, it`s great to have you on.

Coming up, the president`s weak impeachment defense.  Trump says there was no quid pro quo, but if there was, there`s nothing wrong with it.  Do you like that?

Plus, the president is demanding the outing of the whistleblower.  He`s looking for another Peter Stzrok, of course, someone to bash like a pinata to distract and divert attention from his own misdeeds.

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


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

House Democrats are moving up the impeachment inquiry even as President Trump`s defense grows increasingly more frenzied, and as the Republican defense on impeachment is showing cracks right now, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff said the four administration no-shows for testifying to Congress would only add to the case against President Trump.  Watch this.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  This will only further add to the body of evidence on a potential obstruction of Congress charge against the president.


MATTHEWS:  But over the weekend, The Washington Post reported a growing number of Senate Republicans are ready to acknowledge President Trump used military aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, noting, in this shift in strategy to defend Trump, these Republicans are insisting the president`s action was not illegal and does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

Well, these Senate Republicans are saying conflicts with the argument President Trump tweeted last night, quote, false stories are being reported that a few Republican senators are saying that President Trump may have done a quid pro quo, but it doesn`t matter.  There`s nothing wrong with that.  It is not an impeachable event, perhaps so.  But read the transcript.  There is no quid pro quo.  Well, that`s all Trump`s argument.

It also conflicts with the argument from top House Republicans who are sticking with the president`s argument that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  Look, for instance, anybody that they brought forth.  There is no quid pro quo.  There is nothing this president has done wrong.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  You`re saying you believe it just didn`t happen?

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA):  It wasn`t about the 2020 election.  It was about what had happened prior in 2016, corruption in Ukraine.

REP. TOM COLE (R-OK):  No, I don`t think there was a quid pro quo.  I look at it this way.  The aid is there and the investigations didn`t happen.  So if there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn`t a very effective one.


MATTHEWS:  That guy, Tom Cole, is so much smarter than those guys.  I would like to slam a lie detector on that guy right now.  I didn`t believe a word he said on Meet the Press yesterday.

For more, I`m joined Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney, and David Frum, Senior Editor of The Atlantic and former George W. Bush speechwriter.

Barbara, can you tell if somebody is lying through their teeth?  Did you watch him yesterday?  His eyes were all over the place.  He couldn`t look at Chuck Todd.  He couldn`t answer directly.  There was all this misdirection and quibbling and gee whiz and everything but believe me because nobody will.  Your thoughts.

BARBARA MCQAUDE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Yes.  Shifting stories are certainly something that raises a red flag for investigators that somebody may not be telling the truth, discomfort, shifting, all of those physical signs of discomfort.  But I think one of the reasons President Trump is adamant about this mantra of no quid pro quo, read the transcript, is he`s a salesman.  He knows how to persuade people.  You don`t shift the story.  You stick with one story that`s easy to understand in the same way the Mueller investigation for him was all about no collusion, no obstruction.  His mantra in this case is no quid pro quo, read a transcript.

And it is, I believe, to draw attention away for what he actually did, which is, in my view, impeachable.  He was selling the nation`s national security in terms of military aid and inviting a foreign government to interfere with our election.  Both of those, whether they were part of a quid pro quo or either one standing alone, to me, is an abuse of power that`s impeachable.

MATTHEWS:  Well, David wrote speeches like I did for presidents.  Let me tell you something.  This would be a challenge, because the transcript or the summary, which he will make available, he says he`s going to recite ala FDR fireside chat style.  He says he`s going to recite it.  But is he going to say the words, I want a favor from you though?  Is he going to say that?



MATTHEWS:  Is he going to say that? 

FRUM:  Well, the summary, as you say, is also a distortion already.  He will say that -- he won`t say that.  And he won`t mention the word that -- he won`t say the words Biden and Burisma, which are apparently in the original. 

The difference between the House and Senate Republicans is, the House Republicans are willing to look like morons for the cause.

MATTHEWS:  Because they represent Republican districts.

FRUM:  And the Senate Republicans are a little bit more...

MATTHEWS:  Because they represent states.

FRUM:  Right. 


MATTHEWS:  With a lot of Democrats and independents in them.

FRUM:  They don`t want to look like total idiots. 

But here`s, I think, the answer to this question about, is attempted extortion a problem? 

Today, the FBI announced -- and thank God for this -- they had apprehended a man who had planned to blow up a synagogue in Colorado over the weekend, and dozens of people would have been killed.  And, fortunately, the FBI was able to apprehend this would-be killer before he killed anybody. 

MATTHEWS:  Good for you. 

FRUM:  And the question is, is that a crime?

MATTHEWS:  But he`s guilty. 

FRUM:  The bomb never went off.  No one was hurt.  No crime.  No foul, no crime.


MATTHEWS:  I agree with the morality of that and the truth of that and the relevance.

Now, let me give you another one. 

Barbara, here`s another one.  Richard Nixon tells Haldeman, his chief of staff, tell the FBI -- I`m sorry -- tell the CIA to tell the FBI to get off this case of investigating Watergate because it`s a CIA matter.  It has something to do with the Bay of Pigs.

The CIA never did that.  They never followed through.  They never told the FBI to get off the case.  Nixon was impeached for that conversation, where he tried to do something that wasn`t followed through with, just like now.

Your thoughts? 

MCQUADE:  Yes, it makes perfect sense. 

MATTHEWS:  That was impeachable.

MCQUADE:  It makes perfect sense. 

As David was explaining, attempt is a crime.  The person is just as morally blameworthy and just as dangerous and just as in need of criminal punishment when they attempt and fail as when they succeed.

Through no effort of their own, sometimes people are successful and sometimes people fail because other people intervene before they can succeed.

What President Trump did was expose our nation to danger through withholding military aid and through inviting a foreign government to interfere with our election. 

MATTHEWS:  And they did withhold the military aid.  They did -- held back on the Javelin missiles to fight the tanks with.  They did do that.

FRUM:  When they use the language of attempted, there`s the suggestion that, oh, well, no harm was done.

MATTHEWS:  Well, there was harm done.

FRUM:  A dozen Ukrainian soldiers died in the month of August because they didn`t have... 


MATTHEWS:  They held it up.

FRUM:  Fifty Ukrainian soldiers were killed or wounded in September because they held it up. 

MATTHEWS:  Good work.

FRUM:  The aid was released on September 11 of this year. 

The whistle-blower report went to the Intelligence Committee on September 9.  What caused that aid to be released was not that Trump changed his mind or became less committed to the Russian cause in Ukraine.  It was he knew the cops were at his door.  And at that point, he let the Ukrainians have their money. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, during an interview with CNN, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said she doesn`t know if President Trump held up military aid to Ukraine, doesn`t know.


DANA BASH, CNN:  Was -- was there a time when military aid was held up because the president wanted Ukraine to look into the Bidens?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT:  I don`t know.  But I know they`ve got their aid.  And I know that...

BASH:  So it`s possible that that happened?

CONWAY:  Here`s what`s -- here`s what`s absolutely, unimpeachably true. 

Ukraine has that aid.  They have more aid than they had under the previous administration.

BASH:  Kellyanne, you very notably won`t say yes or no.

CONWAY:  It doesn`t...

BASH:  Quid pro quo, yes or no?

CONWAY:  First of all, I just said to you I don`t know whether aid was being held up and for how long. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, she`s a little bit conflicted there, Barbara, because she said, I don`t know whether the aid was held up or not.  And then she said it was not held up.  But then she said it was held up. 

And she just wouldn`t admit whether it was a quid pro quo deal here, because she doesn`t know, because she doesn`t want to ask.  That`s -- if you`re Kellyanne, that`s the smart role.  Don`t ask the boss what happened, because it did happen. 



Well, as David points out, there was a delay.  So that alone means that it happened. 

But even if it didn`t happen, if you took the military a piece out of this and you focused solely on the part where President Trump is asking Ukraine to interfere with our election, that alone is an abuse of power that`s impeachable. 

So either one of these occurring alone, regardless of whether one was tied to the other. 

I think the other reason that President Trump wants to focus so much on this transcript and talk about no quid pro quo is, he wants to divert attention from all the other illegal activity involving Rudy Giuliani. 

We know he traveled to Spain, and France, and Ukraine, and Poland, and met with Ukrainians in New York to talk about all of this, that he was intimidating the ambassador in Ukraine because she was an anti-corruption crusader. 

And so all of this other activity is something that I think he wants to divert attention from by saying, read the transcript.  But it`s the whole episode that matters. 

MATTHEWS:  I don`t know how Republicans, in their conservative thinking -- because they do have conservative values, many of them -- how they can say it`s OK for a president to hold up military aid to an ally who is under duress to get dirt on his political opponent. 

I go back to this.  If FDR had said to Churchill, when Churchill asked for the 50 old destroyers to fight the Nazis, if Churchill had been told, first you have to get some dirt on Wendell Willkie, my political opponent in the next election, is there a single Republican in the country that wouldn`t have found that impeachable, a single Republican?

And yet, in this case, which is identical, they won`t admit it. 

Thank you, Barbara McQuade.  Thank you, David Frum.

Up next:  President Trump and his allies are ramping up their attempts to learn the identity -- you will believe this now.  They want to go after the little whistle-blower, with an eye on discrediting that person.  They want another Peter Strzok. 

I know what they want, but it`s irrelevant, because the facts are out.  The whistle-blower simply told us about the facts, but they`re out. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Exposing the Trump-Ukraine scandal.  The anonymous whistle-blower who set Trump`s impeachment in motion has become peripheral figure in the unfolding inquiry.  That`s because an avalanche of hard evidence now and eyewitness testimony have corroborated the stunning details of the whistle-blower`s complaint originally. 

Yet, with the facts aligned firmly against him, the president continues to target the whistle-blower with smears and disinformation.  And he remains fixated on revealing the whistle-blower`s identity, which is protected by our laws. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The whistle-blower should be revealed, because the whistle-blower gave false story. 

Some people would call it a fraud.  I won`t go that far.  But when I read it closely, I probably would.  But the whistle-blower should be revealed. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, Trump`s obsession with the whistle-blower reveals the absurdity of his thinking, that he believes he can somehow erase the direct evidence of his wrongdoing by outing the person who first exposed it. 

This comes as the whistle-blower`s attorney said yesterday that his client is willing to answer questions from Republican lawmakers under oath in writing.

Trump responded this morning, saying: "He must be brought forward to testify.  Written answers are not acceptable."

But a little memory here, as NBC News points out, written answers are what Trump provided to the special counsel during the Russian probe.  Written answers.  He insisted on only giving written answers. 

I`m joined right now by Democratic U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. 

The contradictions here are unending, Senator.  Your thoughts about the whistle-blower.  Why is Trump -- I will play dumb here.  Why is he going after the -- probably a guy -- I`m not sure -- man or woman, we`re not sure. 

The whistle-blower told us what to look for.  The Congress investigated.  It got three -- 13 witnesses to point out what the truth of it was.  Why does it matter who first gave us the tip? 

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT):  Yes, it doesn`t matter at all, right.

As others have pointed out, if somebody calls in a fire, and the fire department arrives and sees a burning building, they don`t really care who called, because, in fact, what he reported was true. 

And, as you said, you now have over a dozen witnesses who have corroborated everything that the whistle-blower said, and then some.

Listen, what he wants to do is try to change the story, is to try to...

MATTHEWS:  For who?  Who is his audience? 

MURPHY:  Well, I think he`s in the business of base protection right now. 

He knows that the story is out.  He knows that there are enough people in the House of Representatives, I think, that are likely going to move forward on impeachment.  And so he`s trying to hold his Republicans together, so that he survives what right now is the biggest corruption scandal that this country has seen in many of our political lifetimes. 

MATTHEWS:  I think sometimes he devilishly projects the low-information voter. 

And he says there`s a guy at a bar somewhere on Route 40 somewhere on Friday night that is going to say, well, he actually -- you can`t trust that whistle-blower. 

MURPHY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And that`s all he wants, even though that`s irrelevant, as you point out.  We know the facts now.

MURPHY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  That guy will say that to the guy sitting next to him.  And the guy will say, yes, I guess that`s true. 

That`s all he wants.

MURPHY:  And he will create an agenda for this whistle-blower.  And he will focus all of his energies on the whistle-blower, all of his energies on the transcript.

MATTHEWS:  Because he gave 50 bucks to Hillary four years ago or something like that. 


And, listen, what we know is that we`re spending a lot of time talking about this, but folks out in America, this is not the top of mind, right, issue for them.  They`re still talking about health care. 


MATTHEWS:  Oh, I know.  It depends which bar you go to, though.  I think, some places, they`re talking about it. 

Meanwhile -- a guy wearing a MAGA hat at the baseball team went to see the president today.  There are people out there. 

Meanwhile, NBC News is reporting that Trump`s allies are still seeking dirt from Ukraine, as we speak, on the president`s Democratic opponents, despite the impeachment inquiry itself, in real time.

Quote: "While Congress heard closed-door testimony last week, Rudy Giuliani was holding his own private Ukraine meeting in his Manhattan office."

Specifically, Giuliani -- quote -- "met with a former Ukrainian diplomat who alleges that Ukraine`s government conspired with the Democratic National Committee to hurt Trump in 2016."

So he`s out there with the malarkey team.  He`s out there trying to build the case that Ukraine got involved in the 2016 election to the advantage of Hillary Clinton and that somehow they got the server from the DNC over to Kiev. 

MURPHY:  Right. 

I mean, this conspiracy theory is totally bananas, because you don`t have to move more than two or three steps before you just come to an absolute dead end, right?  There is no server, right?  Nobody has it. 

The information is in something called the cloud that is beyond the realm of understanding by this president.  And so this one just makes absolutely no sense, but because right now he`s getting almost complete protection from Republicans, because he likely believes he`s going to be able to survive this...

MATTHEWS:  Do they believe this stuff?

MURPHY:  Of course he`s trying to get more information.

MATTHEWS:  People like Kevin McCarthy -- do you think Kevin McCarthy -- do you think Mitch McConnell believes any of this grassy knoll crap they`re putting out?


MATTHEWS:  These guys are smart pols.

MURPHY:  These are smart...

MATTHEWS:  Why do they -- why -- they -- I do believe sometimes we need lie-detector tests.

They say this stuff -- like Tom Cole.  I have watched that guy for years.  He`s smart. 

MURPHY:  Of course.

MATTHEWS:  He`s a moderate.  Why is he out there selling this stuff? 

MURPHY:  Well, listen, why have they put up with any of it going back for the last two-and-a-half years?

I mean, I it`s hard to get inside of all their heads, but part of it is that they still have primaries to get through.  Their filing deadlines aren`t done. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, that`s true.  Bullseye.

MURPHY:  And they are scared of this guy.  They are trying to look out for themselves. 

Unfortunately, the liability, unfortunately, the victim here is the country. 

MATTHEWS:  Well said.

Following the House impeachment vote last week, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert -- he`s one of those birthers -- called the vote a coup and warned of a civil war. 


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX):  It`s about to push this country to a civil war if they were to get their wishes. 

And if there`s one thing I don`t want to see in my lifetime, I don`t want to ever have participation in, it`s a civil war. 

Some historian, I don`t remember who, said guns are only involved in the last phase of a civil war. 


MATTHEWS:  You got Stonewall Gohmert there trying to start it again.  He says he`s not, but he`s talking it up. 

MURPHY:  Yes. 

I mean, Republicans weren`t this worried about civil conflict during the Clinton impeachment.  And, listen, ultimately, this debate is going to be red hot on both sides. 

But this president has committed offenses that, frankly, make those committed by Richard Nixon appear as child`s play.  And in the 1970s, it was Republicans that ultimately went to the president and convinced him that it was time to step down. 

It`s really up to Republicans in this case as to whether we want to go through this all the way to the end, or they want to have a similar conversation with the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Maybe Mitt Romney.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Anyway, thank you, Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Up next:  We`re 364 days from the presidential election itself next November, with some new polls on battleground states show surprising numbers, disturbing, you might well say, about Trump.  He is in the running in all those top states that matter. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


DEBRA MESSING, ACTRESS:  Chris, 20 years?  I have been watching you for 20 years. 

BEN STILLER, ACTOR:  Hey, Chris.  It`s Ben Stiller.  I just want to say I really love your show.  I`m a huge fan.  Happy 20th anniversary. 

WOODY HARRELSON, ACTOR:  Chris, congratulations.  A warm greeting to you from Bangkok at 3:30 in the morning.  Twenty years, man, that`s awesome. 

MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER:  Yes, I just wanted to say congratulations to Chris Matthews from one Irish Catholic to another. 

Only one of us is getting into heaven.  And I think you know who that is.





REPORTER:  Mr. President, according to several polls, more Americans want you to be impeached and removed from office than the number and Americans who don`t -- 

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You`re reading the wrong polls. 

REPORTER:  Fox News, "Wall Street Journal", NBC, ABC, "Washington Post", all of these polls.

TRUMP:  I have the real polls.  I have the real polls.  The CNN polls are fake.  The Fox polls have always been lousy.  I told them, they ought to get themselves a new pollster.

But the real polls, if you look at the polls. 

REPORTER:  Fifty percent of Americans -- 


TRUMP:  You look at the polls that came out this morning, people don`t want anything to do with impeachment.  It`s a phony scam.  It`s a hoax. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump, obviously, yesterday, downplaying a series of recent polls showing at least a plurality of Americans think the president should be impeached and removed from office. 

The new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, for example, shows 49 percent of adults say they want Trump, out, period.  Forty-six percent don`t.  That`s a nine point swing from early October.  So, he`s losing on the trend line here. 

In the midst of the impeachment inquiry, itself, new national polling on 2020 election has the president trailing most of the leading Democratic rivals.  The NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, for example, shows both former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren leading the president by high single digits. 

In a Fox News poll, shows Biden is leading larger at 12 points.  Both Senators Warren and Bernie Sanders are also ahead in that poll.  Mayor Pete Buttigieg runs even with the president in that poll. 

Well, national polls are one thing.  But the election will be won or lost, as we know, in a handful of battleground states because California and New York are overwhelmingly for anybody but Trump. 

But today, we got new head to head polls showing six of those states, battleground states that paint a picture of where this contest really stands. 

Stick around.  That`s coming up next.  And you`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL now.

One year for the 2020 election, you believe it?  And new polling today from six battleground states that President Trump won in 2016 shows the president still highly competitive in those states most likely to decide his re-election.  "The New York Times" and Siena College poll looked at Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona and North Carolina and found former Vice President Joe Biden with small lead in five of those states, among likely voters.  That`s a good poll. 

Again, Senator Bernie Sanders, the president is even -- either even or leading or even in all but Michigan.  So, the president leads there.

And again, Senator Elizabeth Warren, the president is leading her in all but -- every single of those six states except Arizona where they are even.  She doesn`t win anywhere. 

All these matchups remain within the margin of error which is critical, I think.

For more, I`m joined by two experts, Lisa Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today", and Kimberly Atkins, senior Washington news correspondent for WBUR.

I want to start with Kimberly this time. 

What do you make of that?  It was a shocker to me that after all this hell that Trump has been facing in the news, he is quite within striking distance of winning all the states he needs. 

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SENIOR WASHINGTON NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, it`s not that shocking to me when you look at it, when you look the support he`s had among his base.  It`s remained steady for four years.  If you look at how many Republicans support him, it`s dipped a bit but it`s still well over 80 percent. 

He has basically created this wall, I hate to use it, I hate to use that term of support that`s remained really inelastic over this period of time. 

So, the difference has to be what the Democrat does in this race.  He still has that same sort of -- the same issues that he`s pushing are the ones from 2016 that brought people around and bring them around again. 

The economy is still fairly good as of now.  There are signs that could change.  But that makes him strong.  So, what you have to have is the Democrat who Democrats believe can beat him and I think at this point, Joe Biden is the known commodity and we see him doing a little better. 

We see Elizabeth warren slipping a bit.  But remember, she`s the second choice right now of a lot of voters and we see in a lot of these polls.

So, there`s room for her to move up but the fact that the race is this close in these battleground states and Donald Trump is winning against some of these candidates, I don`t think, if you`ve been paying attention, is surprising. 

MATTHEWS:  What`s your reaction to these numbers that show them so close?  In fact, Trump very much not in command but very much in the game. 

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  I think these should be sobering for Democrats because the president -- how much more water could the president be taking on than at this moment where he`s on the verge of being impeached by the House for easy to understand scandal involving Ukraine.  And yet, his supporters are still with him. 

And you see at the rallies how energized many of these supporters are.  Those people are going to turn out --

MATTHEWS:  What happens to the well-educated voters that know?  They may have voted for him last time because they are tired of the two party establishments.  But those people now exactly know this guy is.  And they teach their kids not to use that language and tell the kids don`t this, and grand kids. 

How can they vote for this guy? 

PAGE:  So, there are energized voters on the other side to be sure, but what about voters who think, Chris, maybe in the middle, swing voters maybe soft Republicans who are terrified of Medicare for All or very concerned about not making immigration, coming across the border illegally a crime anymore.  These are issues that puts some of those swing voters in peril and those are issues that Elizabeth Warren --

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that 17 percent you were mentioning, people who say I`m waiting to see who the Democrat is? 

ATKINS:  Yes.  There`s a lot of the candidates still in this race, you have because of the impeachment a lot of these candidates who are not named Joe Biden are having a tough time to breakthrough a and introduce themselves nationally to voters. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they will like him when they breakthrough? 

ATKINS:  We`ll have to wait and see.  I mean, there`s more debates up ahead.  We`ll see how they perform.  But I don`t think it`s that surprising at all. 

And when you see, I mean, one thing that was interesting in this poll was two-thirds of voters who voted for Trump but voted for Democrat in the midterm say they are likely to vote for Trump again.  I don`t think this is black and white.  There are a lot of people who can move around. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s stunning.

ATKINS:  I mean, and who -- when you can`t point directly to the midterms to say there`s a sea change, there`s a blue wave, presidential elections are different than congressional ones.  There`s still a lot of unknown here.

MATTHEWS:  That`s why we call it a battleground because they go back and forth. 

President Trump is speaking right now at a rally in Lexington, Kentucky.  It`s his fifth rally since Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry.  The president just talked about impeachment.  Let`s watch. 


TRUMP:  But the media and the Democrats have launched an even more brazen assault on our nation with a deranged hyper-partisan impeachment witch hunt.  They have been plotting to overthrow the election since the first hour that we won, and actually before we won.  With last week`s vote, the far left has declared war on American democracy itself. 


MATTHEWS:  So those shirts worn by the people who were put up behind him, everybody does this, they place them there, say read the transcript.  So people believe, first of all, that it`s a transcript and not a summary, and they believe it exonerates this president. 

PAGE:  Right, which is it`s the reverse.  You read the transcript and you`re convinced that there`s a quid pro quo.  How can you come to any other conclusion?  Yet he has --

MATTHEWS:  If you read the transcript. 

PAGE:  If you read the transcript.  But the president has a narrative here which is pretty consistent, persuasive to his voters.  The challenge is, will Democrats present an easy to understand, convincing narrative themselves --

MATTHEWS:  Who`s going to do it? 

PAGE:  They hope to do in the public hearings.

MATTHEWS:  Who`s they?  Who`s the person?

PAGE:  Well, I think Adam Schiff leading the committee, hopes to do this in the public hearings. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there`s a Democrat you could put on television right now for 15 minutes, that`s all you need, to explain why this president should be impeached, for the American people to actually absorb and many of them accept it?  Is there such a person who can talk to the American people? 

ATKINS:  I mean, it would have to be the speaker I think would probably be the best person of all of them.  I think the problem with is Trump has already labeled Adam Schiff.  Adam Schiff is already a villain among Trump world.  And that makes it really hard.

MATTHEWS:  A mistake, he made a mistake, not one mistake anyway. 

Thank you, Susan Page.  Thank you, Kimberly Atkins.  Well said.

Up next, 20 years of HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST:  Chris Matthews, 20 years.  How do you do it?  I don`t know.  You`re an inspiration, you`re a joy, you`re a pleasure and you`re one of my favorites to be on the air with and to watch.  Congratulations, my friend. 

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Congratulations on 20 years.  This is not a career, by the way.  This is 20 years playing one position, on behalf of this loyal viewer.  Thank you, my friend, for always asking the questions that matter every night of the week.  Congratulations. 




MATTHEWS:  Should the woman be punished for having an abortion? 

TRUMP:  Look --

MATTHEWS:  This is not something you can dodge.  If you say abortion is a crime or abortion is murder, you have to deal with it under the law.  Should abortion be punished? 

TRUMP:  Well, people in certain parts of the Republican Party and conservative Republicans would say yes, they should be punished. 

MATTHEWS:  How about you? 

TRUMP:  I would say that it`s a very serious problem. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe in punishment for abortion, yes or no, as a principle? 

TRUMP:  The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment. 

MATTHEWS:  For the woman? 

TRUMP:  Yes, there has to be some form. 



Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was my interview with then-candidate Donald Trump back in 2016, my last interview with him obviously. 

Over the past two decades, I`ve had the honor of interviewing many presidents, from Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama. 


MATTHEWS:  What are you going to do in that first debate when Al Gore tries to knock your teeth out with one chop after the other, you`re going to scare the old ladies, you`re going to change the women?


MATTHEWS:  What are you going to do with this guy? 

BUSH:  I don`t know if I can stay on the same stage with him. 


MATTHEWS:  You`ve made it a statement that you`re standing by the decision that you made, the momentous decision to pardon your predecessor in the White House.  Just talk about your feelings about that decision after all these -- well, it`s a quarter century ago.

GERALD FORD, FORMER PRESIDENT:  I feel more strongly today, Chris, than I did when I actually signed the pardon document.  And I`m pleased to see that the public are now supportive of what I did in that very tough decision. 

MATTHEWS:  Has a woman president, has that time arrived, obviously talking about Secretary Clinton? 

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it`s always been here.  We should have considered long time ago that women were equal to men in public office in this country.  I`m not taking a position in this election but just to show America lags behind in women holding public office and women getting equal pay. 

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT:  It`s worth reminding Americans that every election is a choice.  If you have to run against the ideal, if it`s a referendum, every one of us would get beat.  Nobody would get elected.  We`d have nobody in office because there`s no such thing as the perfect public servant. 

MATTHEWS:  How many kids here want to go into politics? 

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT:  That`s a pretty good number. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they right? 

OBAMA:  It continues to be a way to serve that I think can be noble.  It`s hard.  It can be frustrating.  You`ve got to have a thick skin. 

But I tell you, the satisfaction you get when you`ve passed a law or you`ve taken an executive action and somebody comes up to you and says, you know what, my kid`s alive because you passed that health care bill, because he was uninsured.  He got insurance, got a checkup and we caught a tumor in time.  Or you see somebody that says, you know, you helped me save my house.  I can`t tell you what that means.  It`s pretty hard to get greater satisfaction than that. 


MATTHEWS:  Tune in all week to catch more exciting moments of the past two decades. 

Be sure to follow HARDBALL on Twitter and enter to win exclusive HARDBALL 20th anniversary commemorative prizes.  I`m not kidding you, some prizes out there. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.