ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: So that case will continue if he sees (ph) again.
That does it for me. "HARDBALL" is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Truth be told. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Today begins a historic and consequential week for the country as the impeachment inquiry enters a dramatic new phase.
For the first time, the American people will hear directly from the foreign service professionals who witnessed the Trump-Ukraine scandal as it unfolded. U.S. Ambassador Bill Taylor and Assistant Deputy Secretary of State George Kent will testify in a public hearing on Wednesday followed by former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch on Friday.
Impeachment investigators today released additional transcripts from three witnesses, including testimony from Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary for defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. Cooper said that upon hearing that aid to Ukraine was frozen, quote, deputies immediately began to raise concerns about how this could be done in a legal fashion. There was not an understanding of how this could legally play out.
She says that they got no clarification of why the aid was frozen. But she learned from Ambassador Kurt Volker that the Ukrainians were aware of the freeze by mid-August before it was reportedly publicly. She testified Volker told her he was engaged in an effort, quote, to see if there was a statement that the government of Ukraine would make. And she said the path that Volker was pursuing to lift the hold would be to get them to make this statement.
I`m joined right now by Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO and former Undersecretary of State, Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor at Politico, Aaron Blake, Senior Political Reporter at The Washington Post.
Ambassador, tell us, when you think about this witness list, especially these three this week, how will the American people hear this? What will they hear as the central narrative this week?
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, Chris, the public is going to hear but they`re also going to see for the first time three professional diplomats, all non-partisan, all of whom have worked for Republican presidents as well as Democratic presidents, all of whom are there to tell the truth, all of whom -- the three of them, probably Masha Yovanovitch, Bill Taylor, George Kent, the three strongest experts on Ukraine in the entire U.S. government, they`re going to tell this story of the extortion by the Trump administration, the attempted extortion of the Ukrainian government, what it -- how wrong that was, and what it did to our policy, Chris, since 1991.
Four presidents have tried to convince the Ukrainians not to go after their political enemies, not to be authoritarian, and here is Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani telling them to act like authoritarians. That was George Kent`s testimony in the private hearing. I found it incredibly powerful and compelling.
MATTHEWS: Anita, do you expect that the witnesses, one upon the other like I assume, are they going to be stacked like tuna cans, one on top of the other, each making a confirmation what the other is saying or are they going to be complementary? How is it going to work? What kind of evidence (ph) are we getting, redundant, synoptic, same thing from all three or different information from different?
ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT AND ASSOCIATE EDITOR, POLITICO: A little bit of both. But I think they`re going to complement each other because while you hear this quid pro quo or -- some people not calling that anymore.
MATTHEWS: Extortion now.
KUMAR: The extortion people are saying now allegations. You`re also going to hear a second thing, which is how this foreign policy that Rudy Giuliani and perhaps Donald Trump were working on outside of the government, how that affected the career diplomats, how they were cut out of the process and didn`t know what was going on, and were suspicious of what was going on. So you`re going to hear that mostly from Marie Yovanovitch on Friday.
But they`re going to kind of give the whole picture of what this has done to the United States, what it did to the relations both in that phone call and also since then.
MATTHEWS: And what did Laura Cooper contribute today in the testimony that came out late this afternoon?
AARON BLAKE, SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it was actually a little more interesting than I think we thought it would be. One, she said that Kurt Volker suggested to her that there was some kind of quid pro quo between military aid and the statement announcing these investigations. Kurt Volker, of course, alluded to that in those text messages.
The other thing that I --
MATTHEWS: So this phrase, they want a statement, they want a statement, everybody knew what that meant.
BLAKE: Basically, what she says is that he indicated to her that he thought this was the way that they were going to get that aid released and this basically converted --
MATTHEWS: To say they`re investigating a 2016 involvement in the Ukrainians and, of course, Hunter Biden.
BLAKE: Yes, exactly. Those are the two investigations at root here.
The other thing that I think is interesting from the other two testimonies that we`ve seen today, Croft and Anderson, is both of them talk about the idea that not just military aid was withheld, but there might have been a hold at some point on the release of Javelins, on the sale of Javelins to Ukraine. These are the anti-tank missiles that, of course, were alluded to in the president`s phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky.
MATTHEWS: And tanks were coming, Russian tanks.
BLAKE: Right. And so if the military hold went beyond the $400 million we saw before and it was also on these javelins for at least a period of time, that paints a picture of even bigger leveraging of the Ukrainians.
MATTHEWS: Ambassador, I was thinking about when you want to weigh the weight of a ship. You see how much water comes out of a container. And I was thinking, one way, we can understand the gravity of what happened here with this cabal to basically extort the dirt they wanted on their political enemies of the president by holding up the military aid is to see how the professional faces and personalities of the lifetime career people were affected by it, how they were basically displaced, the foreign policy was hijacked in front of their faces.
BURNS: Chris, I think that`s exactly what happened. Rudy Giuliani went after Ambassador Masha Yovanovitch and had her fired. And then he pushed Mike Pompeo away, the secretary of state. But he completely sidelined the career diplomats who actually knew what they were doing, who actually knew that the Ukrainians needed this military assistance. And each of them objected. George Kent, Masha Yovanovitch, Bill Taylor, Mike McKinley, who is not testifying this week but did in a private testimony, they each objected and said this was morally, politically, ethically wrong for the Trump administration to try to extort the Ukrainian government.
And I must say, Chris, I was a former foreign service officer. I`m so proud of them. They`re the silver lining in this very sordid tale of what President Trump tried to do to disgrace our country, I think, in this Ukraine affair.
MATTHEWS: Well, one side, Anita, wants to have a clear statement of what happened. They want clarity, concision and focus. They do not want this to be an interesting conversation about whatever happened in Washington politics.
The Republicans, I think, would like to have an interesting conversation about, who is this Hunter Biden, why does he have this account? And, by the way, who was that whistleblower? Let`s find out the mystery story, because the people, regular people, always want the answer to mysteries. And you say, whistleblower, they want to know who it is. They hear Hunter Biden and said, how did he get the account? Come on. Come on how did he get the account?
So they are playing to their own strengths. Republicans have some aces here. They can say, we want to know certain things. Tell us. Distract the story.
KUMAR: Right, and they`re planning to do that, just like they did in the Russia investigation on some of those testimonies we saw public before. They are -- have things that they want to ask about. You`re right. They want to ask about the Bidens. They want to ask about the 2016 election interference. If you`ll recall even though everybody has said it`s Russia, there`s some allegations that Ukraine was involved. They are unfounded.
But they are going to try to change the subject, basically. They`re going to talk about other things and take it away from President Trump and get it as far away from President Trump as possible.
MATTHEWS: You know in an old movie, a Jimmy Stewart movie, it was Anatomy of Murder. And they said, the defense attorney, Jimmy Stewart, says -- he tells the jury, don`t think of a blue cow. Don`t think of a blue cow right now. And so you`re going to think of a blue cow. And so they throw these ideas out, glittering objects, weird things to think about, Hunter Biden. They have a play here, right? Is that what they`re going to do?
BLAKE: I think they are. But if you look at the deposition transcripts, a lot of the time that Republicans spent questioning those witnesses, they were kind of trying to get them to say something they could use for leverage later on. We haven`t focused a whole lot on what Republicans were actually asking about. I wonder if it`s in a public setting given that what we`re talking about here are basically conspiracy theories that the president has that --
MATTHEWS: Sure. But Nunes is perfect, a ranking Republican. He`ll throw it out.
BLAKE: These were not widely shared theories within the mainstream Republican Party. Are we going to see all these members toe this line as these hearings go on? I don`t think all of them are going to be comfortable.
MATTHEWS: You think some have pride.
BLAKE: I think Jim Jordan is going to go after it. I think Devin Nunes is going to go after it. The rest of them might have a little bit of a qualm, especially since this is the Intelligence Committee. This wasn`t a very politicized committee before a couple years ago.
MATTHEWS: Well, it was never that way, the idea that the Intelligence Committee was a non-partisan committee. That was the equal members, the whole thing.
The Washington Post reports that the GOP`s focus will be to try to minimize Trump`s role in the Ukraine pressure campaign and justify his actions. To that point, as I mentioned, House Republicans submitted a list of proposed witnesses that include as I said, Joe, that would be the former vice president, and Hunter Biden, House Intel Chairman Adam Schiff himself. He pushed back, by the way, in a strongly worded statement saying, this inquiry is not and will not serve as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the president pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit.
Ambassador, I guess, the question is, you get these straight arrow foreign service officers like yourself who, from the time they took the exam in their 20s, have been foreign service officers waiting for more responsibilities, working their way up, learning, learning, learning, proving themselves over and over again they are reliable public servants. How do they stand up to what would look like a distraction campaign by the Republican side in these hearings who don`t want them to look good?
BURNS: You know, these are three people who spent their careers dealing with the Russians and dealing with a lot of hard bitten characters in Eastern Europe. Each of them is a specialist on Eastern Europe. They have faced tough characters in the past. Two of them are ambassadors, George Kent, about the smartest young man in the State Department. I have no doubt that they`re going to acquit themselves, well, because they`re going to be honest. They`re going to tell the truth. And they`re going to explain the policy consequences.
You know, we`re all focused, a lot of people focus on the politics of this, the policy consequences of the United States not helping the Ukrainians who have lost 13,000 soldiers against the Russians since 2014. That`s really a shame for the United States. That was a big part of George Kent`s testimony when he testified two weeks ago.
MATTHEWS: And back to the -- that`s the grand look that I -- that`s the reason I`ve been interested in politics my whole life, the grand reason. Looking out for our country, our role in the world, a better world, a better citizenry, the good things we do care about, and here as a professional.
So Laura Cooper testified today that she thought it was actually illegal to withhold -- for a president, the executive branch, to withhold duly appropriated military aid to a country like -- well, any country.
KUMAR: Right. I mean, the reason Cooper`s testimony is so interesting is because the big question that we don`t really know the answer to is exactly who held up the aid, the foreign aid to Ukraine. We don`t know the details.
MATTHEWS: Who yelled at it (ph) from the OMB that day and that meeting? Do we know, Aaron?
BLAKE: I think the interesting -- I don`t know how to answer that question. But what Cooper said about this was basically that this was not the corruption concern, the corruption concern from the White House that that was the reason this aid was withheld, did not appear in any of the interagency process when this aid was made appropriate.
MATTHEWS: But we heard in the president`s -- in the White House memo of the president`s July 25th conversation. He is the leader of the band. He is the one that said, I have a favor I want from you though. By the way, that word though was left out of The Washington Post today, I don`t know why, in that conversation. That`s somebody`s fault over there.
KUMAR: If you talk to House Democrats, they say it`s the piece of the puzzle they don`t have, that full --
MATTHEWS: They say that but they have the president`s conversation which alerted -- and Mick Mulvaney, the former congressman from South Carolina, the OMB director, the president`s acting chief of staff says quid pro quo. That`s where we started this discussion with Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, recognizing in that conversation impeachable behavior.
KUMAR: Right. But Mick Mulvaney obviously took that back. He said it once but took it back.
But the thing they don`t know is exactly who called up OMB and how that happened with that information. That`s the one piece that Cooper has shed a little bit of light on.
MATTHEWS: You know what I think? I think impeachment, the process is much more like a RICO charge. Who is running the operation? This president is running the operation. I`ve worked in politics all my life. The boss runs everything. Never blame the staff, ever. It`s not Haldeman, it`s not Erlichman, it`s Dick Nixon.
In criticizing the closed-door depositions that have taken place today, Republicans have pushed for open hearings for weeks. But after the public hearings were announced last week, President Trump said on Friday that he now opposes them. Let`s watch him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What do you say to the millions who don`t believe you?
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, they shouldn`t be having public hearings. This is a hoax. This is just like the Russian witch hunt. This is just a continuation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you think about the president`s charge, Ambassador, which he makes whenever he`s at a loss for words that anybody opposes him was always opposed to him and that somehow justifies his position that some people are never-Trumpers? Somehow, that just -- that sort of cauterizes him from any blame because they just don`t like me. I mean, that`s what he -- what do you think about the State Department? Are they essentially anti-Trump?
BURNS: You know, this is a preposterous statement by the president, because all of these people, Col. Vindman, the three foreign service officers, worked for George W. Bush and several of them worked for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Foreign service officers, like military officers, are accustomed to working for whomever the American people elect.
And as you know, Chris, the oath that all of us take and that these three people took was to the Constitution. So they`re not up there to get Donald Trump. They`re up there to tell the truth. And that`s what they did in the private hearings and that`s what they`ll do this week.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s an honor having you on, Mr. Ambassador. Nicholas Burns, thank you for coming on tonight. It was a good, I think, mood- setter for the week because I think it is going to be a very strong week for the country. Thank you, Anita Kumar, for your reporting, and, Aaron Blake, for -- I`ll just remember that word, though. How they dropped that? Anyway, I want a favor from you though. I think that`s conditional, just guessing.
Anyway, coming up, who is going to take the fall for Trump`s Ukraine shakedown? They`re going to try to blame somebody else. Mr. I Do It Alone, I don`t have a team, is now saying, what? Me? Could it be Mick Mulvaney, the president`s chief of staff who is at the center of the scandal? He is doing everything he can to avoid even testifying.
Plus, Nikki Haley`s stunning revelations in her book. The former U.N. ambassador portrays Rex Tillerson and John Kelly as almost traitors, asking for her help to to undermine President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKIE HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It should have been go tell the president what your differences are and quit if you don`t like what he`s doing. But to undermine a president is really a very dangerous thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Is she trying to set herself up to succeed Trump, or even sooner, succeed pence?
We`ve got much more to get to. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump has centered his presidency on the idea that he`s in charge and everyone else is just a supporting player.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.
Let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I`m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that`s what the policy is going to be. You`ve seen that and you`ve seen it strongly.
Here`s the thing. I don`t have teams. Everyone is talking about teams. I`m the team. I did nothing wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m the team.
However, days ahead of the first public impeachment hearings this week, congressional Republicans are now arguing that it`s everyone else`s fault, not the president`s.
According to The Washington Post, quote, Republicans` latest plan to shield President Trump from impeachment is to focus on at least three deputies, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and possibly acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who they say could have acted on their own to influence Ukraine policy, all together, by the way, all together on their own.
One of President Trump`s chief cheerleaders, Republican Congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina, unveiled the strategy last week, telling reporters -- quote -- "When I get to ask questions and when you see all the transcripts, you will understand there is no direct linkage to the president of the United States."
What the argument ignores are the five words that came from President Donald Trump`s mouth to the ears of President Zelensky: "Do us a favor, though."
For more, I`m joined by Ken Dilanian, NBC News correspondent, Katrina Mulligan, managing director for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress.
Thank you both.
It is a little late in the game to deny the ringleader is the ringleader, when all along it`s been a one-man band.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think you`re right. It doesn`t pass the laugh test.
However, as a legal matter and as a public relations matter, it may be the only strategy they have.
MATTHEWS: Who is the audience for this stuff? Well, who is going to buy it, that he didn`t lead the band and he didn`t have it in his heart to get some dirt on Joe Biden, or at least to get the president of a country to say, we have got some dirt on him?
DILANIAN: The audience are those regular people with jobs who aren`t paying attention as closely as you and I are.
And you know what? This is like...
MATTHEWS: Is this showing up in any your -- I don`t see this in the polls. I see people in the polls paying attention to this thing.
DILANIAN: Well, yes.
But, I mean, imagine Nixon without the tapes. Could they have pinned it on Nixon without the tapes? We don`t have yet Donald Trump ordering the aid withheld.
MATTHEWS: Excuse me. I will try you now.
MATTHEWS: Because I like you, of course, my colleague.
He says to the president, you know, you want all this stuff you want, yes, but I want something first. I want something, though.
We have the conversation. That`s where Nancy Pelosi jumped on this and said, impeachable. This guy is trading national interests, public trust for personal political gain, right there in that conversation.
KATRINA MULLIGAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I mean, you know, he has supporters at rallies saying, read the transcript. I have read the transcript.
And the transcript is damning in its own right. I think it defies credulity for the president to claim or for any of his supporters to claim that he wasn`t involved in this decision and.
If that is the argument that they`re making, that actually says something equally damning about the way this White House is run.
MATTHEWS: OK. OK.
If he wasn`t involved -- let`s try the counter point, though. You can play this part, devil`s advocate. You know how to do it, besides being a reporter.
MATTHEWS: Suppose you say, he didn`t do it. The minute he heard somebody was holding up the Ukrainian Javelin missiles or whatever to fight the tanks with, he`d say, who the hell is that? Where did they get that from? Mulvaney, what`s going on here? You are my chief of staff. How can you do this without telling me?
He would have fixed it in a second. Trump listens to every mosquito out there. Every little sound of news, he is listening to.
DILANIAN: Of course.
MATTHEWS: He is watching everything. He is sitting in his bubble bath with -- watching "FOX & Friends" in the morning. But all the time, he is listening for the news.
DILANIAN: The evidence is, it was all him. He was the one who was obsessed with Ukraine, no one else. They were just trying to figure out how to please him.
I`m just arguing that they need the evidence. They got to prove their case to the American public.
MATTHEWS: Do they -- to who? You`re not going to get a single Republican vote no matter what you do. You can jump up and down, you won`t get....
DILANIAN: That is a sad commentary.
MATTHEWS: Well, it is.
DILANIAN: After Bill Clinton admitted that he lied under oath, Democrats didn`t try to defend that. They just argued it wasn`t impeachable.
DILANIAN: If Republicans took that tack, you could respect that. But this is absurd, what they`re arguing now.
MATTHEWS: Amid the cascade of evidence and testimony, Republicans have remained devoted to the president, while testing out evolving and, at times, contradictory defenses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It`s all hearsay. You can`t get a parking ticket conviction based on hearsay.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): There is no quid pro quo. There is nothing this president has done wrong.
REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): If there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn`t a very effective one.
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I have news for everybody. Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Get over it.
You know, I mean, first of all, some of the defenses are ludicrous. One of them is, well, they got the money eventually. They got it in September. After this whole thing exploded, they got the money.
MULLIGAN: Of course -- they got the money.
MATTHEWS: Everybody knew what was going on here.
MULLIGAN: I mean, at this point, we have been through so many different defenses, that people are writing articles about the various different defenses and all of the counterarguments to each of them.
I mean, you know, the truth is, as Ken said, there really isn`t anything that`s stuck. And so I think what you are going to start to see and what we are seeing is different people being, you know, thrown under the bus, for lack of a better word.
We are seeing, you know, Mulvaney`s name floated, Giuliani. But let`s not forget that Vice President Pence was also involved in this situation...
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
MULLIGAN: ... and was communicating with the Ukrainian counterpart.
MATTHEWS: He`s a real renegade, that guy.
MATTHEWS: No, here`s -- I always try to say, you`re at Route 40, you`re at a bar, 11:00 at night.
People aren`t drunk, but they have had a few beers. And the guy is trying to defend Trump. You know, Joe, let me tell you, Joe, it`s all these guys working together against Trump, all the guys. Mick Mulvaney, I don`t trust him. He`s not a Trump guy. And, you know, yes, he is head of OMB. He controls all the money. He can do it on his own.
And, by the way, all these other people involved, Giuliani is out on his own making money.
Though is anybody buying this, that all these guys got together in a secret room, plotted this way to squeeze and extort money out of the -- extort dirt from the Ukrainian president on their own?
DILANIAN: Chris, I think the American public is more sophisticated than that. They know that is not what happened.
But what they might be saying, some people, is, what is the crime here? Don`t all politicians do this?
MATTHEWS: I know.
DILANIAN: Are we going to impeach over this? That is the fear I think the Democrats have.
MATTHEWS: You could argue -- I think that was Nixon`s defense, because there were break-ins his whole career.
There was buggings. Bobby Kennedy. They all bugged each other. Johnson bugged them. And they were all bugging. And he got caught.
DILANIAN: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: And he got caught covering it up on a tape.
DILANIAN: But we haven`t seen the John Dean of this scandal yet.
And it could be Mick Mulvaney. And it could be John Bolton. We need people who were in the room with President Trump.
MATTHEWS: What is Bolton up to? He wants a price, doesn`t he?
He says, I will tell you all the truth. I got some great stuff, his lawyer says, really good stuff, but I`m waiting for the courts, which isn`t -- they`re not going to wait for the courts for four or five months or a year.
I don`t know exactly -- only Bolton knows what is in Bolton`s mind. But I would suspect that he`s enjoying the -- dangling these stories on the outside.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. People like me aren`t attacking him anymore. We don`t mind this neocon for a couple weeks here. We can use him.
MULLIGAN: Yes, I mean, if he is willing to tell the public any of these stories in a book deal, then he should be willing to testify before the House of Representatives.
MATTHEWS: I still remember that guy and the Iraq War.
DILANIAN: But the Democrats called it a rope-a-dope. They were concerned that he is just stringing them along. He doesn`t really have...
MATTHEWS: I`m not a big fan of Bolton. You know? I don`t understand.
The hair color is totally different than the mustache, too. Is that important? Probably not.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Ken Dilanian. And thank you, Nia -- well, not -- thank you.
MATTHEWS: Katrina. They changed your name.
MATTHEWS: Up next: former U.N. ambassador -- last minute, got in there. Thank you for coming on.
MULLIGAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Nikki Haley, by the way, we got to talk about her, because I`m fascinated with her. I have thought -- ever since she took down that Confederate Flag, and then she said, I don`t want to get confused, I said, this is a smart political figure here to watch, maybe a president someday.
Haley details efforts by Rex Tillerson and John Kelly to recruit her to undermine President Trump in order to save the country, overtures which she rejected. This is great stuff.
Does Haley have her sights set on replacing Mike Pence on the ticket in 2020 as V.P. or replacing Trump in 2020 or 2024? Who knows? She is up to big stuff.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is out with a new book and making the claim that two of President Trump`s former top officials tried to recruit her to undermine him.
Haley presents what could be described as a modern-day Marc Anthony speech after the fall of Julius Caesar. According to "The Washington Post," which obtained a copy of the book "With All Due Respect" -- that`s the title -- she writes that then Chief of Staff John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson -- quote -- "confided in me that, when they resisted the president, they weren`t being insubordinate. They were trying to save the country. It was their decisions, not the president`s, that were in the best interest of America, they said. The president didn`t know what he was doing."
Wow. Haley said Tillerson told her that without their resistance, people would die.
In an interview with CBS, Haley defended the president -- that`s Trump -- and said, if they didn`t like what he was up to, they should have resigned. Here she goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Instead of saying that to me, they should have been saying that to the president, not asking me to join them on their sidebar plan.
It should have been, go tell the president what your differences are and quit if you don`t like what he`s doing. But to undermine a president is really a very dangerous thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Margaret Carson, columnist for The Daily Beast, and Eugene Robinson, columnist at "The Washington Post."
Eugene, I have always thought, ever since she pulled down the flag in your beloved South Carolina -- remember, she pulled that Confederate Flag.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
MATTHEWS: She is a smart, timely, quick politician.
And then, when she said, I don`t get confused one time, when Larry Kudlow said she was confused, I liked that again.
ROBINSON: Yes. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: Here she is one-upping all the anti-Trump people and coming in a weird way to the side of Trump.
Clearly, she is, A, an ambitious politician. B, I think she is a pretty nimble politician. She wants to be president. And, you know, she served in the Trump administration. She got out. She`s listed as one of the few who, you know, wasn`t ruined by the experience.
MATTHEWS: She`s clean. A clean departure.
She -- since then, she will occasionally put out a tweet that is kind of critical of something President Trump is doing, but she is careful not to get on the wrong side of the president and the president`s base.
And now she`s, you know, flogging a book, and so she is out with this revelation. I`m not sure if she says -- well, what did she say then to Tillerson and Kelly? And what did she say to the president about this cabal working against him?
MATTHEWS: Cabal, yes. That`s what I was thinking.
Anyway, it appears that Haley`s glowing support for the commander in chief made it to its intended audience. President Trump tweeted praise for her book -- it`s not even out yet -- telling people to order their copies today. This is the president flogging books and wishing good luck to his former U.N. ambassador.
Margaret, she has chosen sides. This is pretty dramatic stuff. And I say Marc Anthony because when the great Brutus took down Caesar, Marc Anthony jumped up and said, Caesar was ambitious, but -- and Brutus of an honorable man, and destroyed the guy.
I think she is just that dramatic, just that dramatic.
MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Mitch McConnell could have said of her, she persisted, in that she persisted in her job. She got through it. She came out clean, as you said.
And then she says in the book one thing I take issue with. Kelly confided in her. The word confide suggests, well, he thought this was between Cabinet members, and we were trying to deal with something.
Kelly thought he was doing his job, which was to try to get the information flow not to be whoever walked through the door, which he said were four secretaries of state.
MATTHEWS: Including Jared.
CARLSON: Jared, Nikki, H.R. McMaster, yes.
MATTHEWS: He said, I just want one.
CARLSON: Right. It would be helpful to have one, but to channel the information in some sensible way.
MATTHEWS: Can we cut to the quick?
You and I have been friends for 1,000 years. I see presidential material here. I could be sarcastic about it. This may be too slick. Is this too slick? Is this too obviously a play for power?
CARLSON: I think it comes off as a weak cup of tea, to me, that she is trying to have it both ways so obviously that in the end she undermines not, you know, John Kelly, but herself.
MATTHEWS: OK, does it work with Trump? Trump is flatterable.
ROBINSON: Oh, absolutely. And absolutely it works with Trump.
MATTHEWS: Can she be on the ticket because of this little gambit, this one gambit?
ROBINSON: If he gets rid of Pence, could she be on the ticket?
ROBINSON: Well, if he got rid of -- I don`t think he will get rid of him.
MATTHEWS: What about when he gets rid of Pompeo, because Pompeo is going to go run for the Senate? Secretary of state?
ROBINSON: Well, possibility. Would she want to jump back into that? I don`t know. She is really walking this tightrope here.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think so.
CARLSON: She wants 2024.
ROBINSON: She doesn`t want to offend Trump, but she doesn`t want to be so close to him anymore that if he goes down, she goes down with him.
CARLSON: She`s waiting for 2024.
MATTHEWS: Well, I spot her as presidential someday. I think she`s got it. I think she`s got that it thing in politics. I thought so with Obama too.
But I`m early. I`m not saying I`m an expert at this, but I`m trying to be.
CARLSON: She has presence.
And maybe she is going to be the one that proves it`s the Trump Republican Party. It`s not the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Well, I also think it is easier for a conservative woman to make it in most political situations, the Golda Meirs, the Thatchers.
Just -- Angela Merkel.
MATTHEWS: It just seems -- they all seem to all be conservatives.
Anyway, both Tillerson and Kelly have publicly spoken out about the president`s handling of his job. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Why didn`t you deny calling the president a moron?
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, that is a really old question.
QUESTION: Do you understand that by not answering the question, some people thought you were confirming the story?
TILLERSON: I think I have answered the question.
QUESTION: You think you answered the question?
TILLERSON: I have answered the question.
JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I said, whatever you do, don`t hire a yes-man, someone that`s going to tell you -- won`t tell you the truth. Don`t do that, because, if you do, I believe you will be impeached.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, Tillerson and Kelly are now pushing back at Haley`s claims.
Tonight, Peter Baker reported that Tillerson said -- quote -- "Ambassador Haley was rarely a participant in my many meetings and is not in a position to know what I may or may not have said to the president."
And in response to Haley`s new book, Kelly told "The Washington Post" that if giving Trump -- quote -- "the best and most open legal and ethical staffing advice from across the government so he could make an informed decision is working against Trump, then guilty as charged."
Not exactly a denial.
ROBINSON: No, absolutely not a denial, nothing close to a denial in either what Tillerson said or what Kelly said.
So, I have to assume it`s true.
MATTHEWS: I think the conversation happened. Do you believe the conversation happened?
CARLSON: I do.
And I think this is what they both wanted to do with their jobs, but were unable to do. They failed at their jobs. And Haley is calling them out. But I think they win as much as she does.
MATTHEWS: You`re from the South. I`m going to ask you an evangelical question, even if you`re not -- can he keep the evangelical support and bump Pence off and put her in there as V.P., if he has a woman opponent and he wants to match her?
ROBINSON: Look, if all that Donald Trump has...
MATTHEWS: Elizabeth Warren.
ROBINSON: If all that he has done so far has not cost him the evangelical vote, then of course he can. Of course he can.
MATTHEWS: I think he would want to -- if it`s Elizabeth Warren as the candidate -- and she has a very good chance of being the Democratic nominee -- he may want to match the woman with a woman. I`m just thinking.
CARLSON: He might.
But doesn`t Nikki Haley really want to wait until 2024 and do it clean?
ROBINSON: I think she does. I think she does.
CARLSON: Because she`s got a distance now from Trump. She is not a never- Trumper. She is right there.
MATTHEWS: Margaret, you`re forgetting, she could become vice president and encourage him to eat more hamburgers.
I`m just kidding.
MATTHEWS: Margaret Carlson, thank you.
MATTHEWS: Women know how to do that, if they want to do it, I think -- if they wanted to do it.
CARLSON: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Margaret, my pal, who cooked our dinner for our rehearsal dinner 40 years ago. Thank you. Did it herself. Thank you.
CARLSON: You`re welcome.
MATTHEWS: Eugene Robinson, thank you.
Up next: Some Republicans are contorting themselves trying to defend President Trump, while others in Congress are simply opting to leave and not seek reelection.
This is no country for old men, I guess. Is this the beginning of an even bigger Republican exodus?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The Republican congressional exodus continues to grow as President Trump`s party prepares for the looming impeachment battle.
Today, long-time New York Republican Congressman Peter King announced he won`t be running for re-election next year. That is a big surprise.
King is now the 16th House Republican to decide not to seek re-election. Another four are running for other offices. That is only a snapshot of the Republican retreat from Congress under President Trump. Look at them all.
Since Trump took office, 51 House Republicans have retired or resigned or announced they`re leaving. That is more than double the number of Democrats who left Congress intentionally during the same time frame under President Obama. Look at that, 51-23. More than twice as many.
Well, today, Congressman King said he is leaving to spend more time with his family. Others are just plain fed up.
And one retiring Congressman Paul Mitchell of Michigan told "The Washington Post" in September, did any member of this conference expect that their job would start out every morning trying to go through the list of what`s happening in tweets of the day?
One of the latest tweets from president Trump was another demand for his allies in Congress to fall in line. He wrote: Republicans don`t be led into the fool`s trap of saying it was not perfect but is not impeachable. No. It is much stronger than that. Nothing was done wrong.
The president`s tweets largely driving the defense on impeachment, his Republican allies are having a hard time keeping up. And that`s up next here on HARDBALL. You`re watching.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Absolute loyalty is now a requirement for Republican lawmakers in the Trump era. We all know that. The president is repeatedly blasted Republicans in the Congress for not arguing. He did nothing wrong in his interactions with Ukraine.
But the performance of some congressional Republicans over the past weekend suggests they are still trying to find their arguments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I consider any impeachment in the House that doesn`t allow us to know who the whistle-blower is to be invalid.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): It is clear now more than ever. This is a calculated coup.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): I would make the argument that every politician in Washington, other than me, virtually, is trying to manipulate Ukraine to their purposes.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): If he asks for an investigation of possible corruption by someone who happens to be a political rival, that is not over the line.
REP. MAC THORNBERRY (R-TX): I believe that it is inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. I do not believe it was impeachable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, Michael Steel is a Republican strategist.
Michael, it is your home base here to explain this.
MICHAEL STEEL, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Always a pleasure.
MATTHEWS: It does seem it is an exercise in creative writing now to come up with how this president`s innocent of what he has clearly been charged with and effectively charged with.
STEEL: Well, and that`s the reason that so many Republicans are trying to get permission from the president to make the argument that what he did is inappropriate but doesn`t rise to the level of impeachment and he should not be convicted or removed from office less than a year before the American people get to vote, which is a very reasonable argument to make. And he just isn`t willing to let them make that argument. He wants the total defense.
MATTHEWS: Who is smart here? The connivers who want to give the critics something, or the guy who says, you know what? You give them an inch, we`re dead.
STEEL: It is entirely possible he is right about that. I think that there is a way to argue that`s the case but at this point if you`re an elected Republican, if there are only 30 percent of the American people supporting the president at the end of this process, that is 60 percent of your primary electorate and most Republicans and most Democrats are more concerned about their primary electorate.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I`m thinking. I`m thinking, you`re wincing.
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS PRESIDENT AND CEO: I mean, I`d say the challenge for Republicans is that public opinion has moved and they have a big risk which is that public opinion won`t move more after this week`s testimony and the public testimony we hear over the coming days and weeks. And so, I think the real problem --
MATTHEWS: How do we know it is going to move? I don`t know. Do you have sense?
TANDEN: We don`t. I don`t know. My sense is that we are going to have wall to wall, right? All the networks are covering it all day. We`ll see. We haven`t had an event like that other than really things like Donald Trump`s rallies.
I think it`s possible that these public servants will really pierce the veil and move public opinion a few more points. The challenge for Republicans is they are facing an election a year from now. If they are in a situation where 30 percent of the country agrees with them and 60 percent of the country disagrees with them, that means they will lose their general elections.
MATTHEWS: Excuse me. Why are they all quitting?
TANDEN: Yes. Why are they quitting?
MATTHEWS: I mean, this is a good thing. People like being members of Congress generally. That`s why they fight it out every year to be elected. But these guys are leaving.
STEEL: Well, Pete King is leaving because it is normal for a Republican like him to leave. He`s a term-limited former committee chairman. He`s 75 years old.
MATTHEWS: Fifty-one to 23. Your party -- your exoduses are beating out the Democrats.
STEELE: There is a reason there`s sclerotic triumvirate at the top of House Democratic Caucus right now . Democrats don`t leave the House. They stay forever and ever and ever. That`s just --
MATTHEWS: So, it`s good to -- you are putting a happy spin on this.
TANDEN: You know what? I am actually -- I`m going to throw some respect to these people who are leaving because I think the truth is they are leaving because the idea of defending Trump constantly from his attacks in this moment particularly is just self-humiliation. They don`t want to deal with it.
I mean, just look at Lindsey Graham. A month ago, a month ago --
STEEL: Who`s I believe standing for reelection.
TANDEN: Standing for reelection, says, if it`s a quid pro quo, it`s not right. And then he gets evidence it`s a quid pro quo and his response is to do nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. I mean, it`s ridiculous.
And I think most of these people --
MATTHEWS: If the job of U.S. Senate from South Carolina required he went to every circus, every carnival coming through town, and he had to sit on one of those seats where you throw the ball and the guy falls in the water, he`d do it.
TANDEN: He`s doing it right now. That`s what he`s doing. He`s doing it right now.
STEEL: I remember riding around New Hampshire with Lindsey Graham when he was Jed Bush`s number one surrogate and I enjoyed his company more than I imagine.
MATTHEWS: He`s fine, he`s fine.
One retiring Republican as Congressman Will Hurd of Texas said it would be a violation of the law to withhold military aid in exchange for investigations, but stopped short of saying President Trump did so. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Specifically, sir, the question is if there was a quid pro quo, U.S. aid for Ukraine was going to depend on their doing these investigations of political rivals of the president, is that an impeachable offense?
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): I think if you`re trying to get information on a political rival to use in a political campaign, it is not something a president or any official should be doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: How about if you condition U.S. foreign military aid on that question? They always get a clever way of not answering the reality.
TANDEN: I think the situation here is that he recognizes that`s wrong. But as Michael said --
MATTHEWS: He didn`t recognize the full dimensions of how wrong it was.
TANDEN: Yes, no, he`s not willing -- he`s not willing to say it`s impeachable. But at least he`s willing to say it`s wrong.
The problem is Donald Trump today tweets out this isn`t an acceptable defense and all of you Republicans must bow down to me and say -- and defend me 100 percent.
STEEL: And this is where House Democrats have a very steep hill to climb as we move into the public sessions of these hearings where they`re going to make a case.
MATTHEWS: Well, they`re going to impeach him anyway.
Neera, by the way, I`ve got to ask you a question. Nikki Haley, future star? Future president? What do you see it? She made a good move this week.
TANDEN: I do not see the Republican Party of Donald Trump moving to Nikki Haley but color me cynical about the --
MATTHEWS: I think you`re wrong.
STEEL: As the Republicans --
MATTHEWS: I think so, I think so.
STEEL: I do think they will.
MATTHEWS: I do think they`re going towards Nikki. My bets on Nikki.
Thank you, Neera. Not Nikki. Neera, maybe you someday. Neera Tanden. Not Nikki she says. I think it`s Nikki.
Anyway, Michael Steel, sir, thank you.
Up next, what I saw in East Germany as the Berlin Wall was tumbling in 1989.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: In November of 1989, when I heard the Berlin Wall was coming down, I was writing a twice a week column for `The San Francisco Examiner". When I got to Berlin, it didn`t take long to see why it was all happening. My taxi driver got me to the Grand Hotel in East Berlin where I quickly learned the humiliating way the communist government over there was running things.
First of all, the hotel didn`t accept the official East German currency, the East mark. Here in the very capital of the country, the hotels refused to accept the official local currency. As far as this state-run hotel, the East mark, the currency minted by the government itself was worthless. You couldn`t get in the door with it.
Second, if you wanted to travel in East Germany, the people I interviewed told me there was only two countries you can visit, Hungary and Poland, because they were the only countries that would accept East Germany`s otherwise useless country. Even in those cases, if a backpacker showed up from West Germany, or some other western country, they were called right to the front of the line and given tickets.
Third, I quickly learned you needed to wait 18 months to buy one of the crappy, noisy polluting cars with two-stroke engines they made in East Germany -- the hideous Trabant.
Fourth, what truly grabbed me was how the communist system screwed its true believers. While the taxi driver had access to good tips from Western passengers, the factory manager, the high school principal, the good party members had to rely on the joke currency the government paid them with. And while the hustler driving a taxi driver could get actual money, dollars, the Deutsche marks, the good communists got paid in useless currency minted by the government.
What this all told me is that the communist system fell from within, it fell because it abused the very faith of its true believers. People fled through that wall because they got better treatment from strangers in the West than they got from their own system.
And that`s HARDBALL for now.
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