ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Remember, Trump told Mueller in written answers that he didn`t recall anything like that, raising the questions of whether that was, at the time, deliberate lie, another thing we wanted to tell you about. We`ll have more on that later this week. I`ll be back at 6:00 P.M. Eastern.
And tonight, if you`re around, I`ll be filling in for Lawrence O`Donnell at 10:00 P.M. Eastern with a lot of news tonight.
Don`t go anywhere, "HARDBALL" is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Showtime. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
15 hours from now, the American people will, for the first time, hear the full case for impeaching President Donald Trump. Tomorrow morning at 10:00 Eastern, the House Intelligence Committee begins the first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent will testify followed by former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Friday.
Republicans and Democrats have already begun to lay out their plans for making a case to the American public. And one Democratic aide told NBC News the first three to testify are, quote, all strong character witnesses. All three bring credibility to the impeachment inquiry. The aide added that Ambassador Taylor, quote, is going to lay everything out tomorrow and Yovanovitch is going to, quote, tug at America`s heartstrings on Friday.
According to an internal memo, Republicans will try to focus on President Trump`s state of mind. But one indication recently of Trump`s state of mind was the latest evidence he just tried to cover up. The New York Times reports he`s discussed firing Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who he blames for reporting the whistleblower complaint to Congress that ultimately touched off the inquiry.
And like the Watergate hearings of 1973 when former White House Counsel John Dean riveted Americans, people watching on television, Democrats plan to use tomorrow hearing`s format and enormous power to sway public opinion.
A Democratic aide told NBC News, if the American people only watched the first hour, they`ll hear plenty. The first hour of each hearing is designed to be a blockbuster.
For more I`m joined by U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California of the House Intelligence Committee itself, Mimi Rocah is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and Heidi Przybyla, of course, NBC News Correspondent.
I want to start with the Congressman. This is big time and not maybe the biggest time in your career, it`s certainly the biggest thing we`ve watched since perhaps Watergate. A couple of days hearings this week with some headliners, will this turn the American people, maybe 20 million people will watch live tomorrow morning? Maybe 20 million more will watch the nightly on the broadcast networks. Millions more tomorrow night on this and other networks who will go through happened tomorrow. How big will tomorrow be, sir?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Good evening, Chris. This will force every American who watches to ask the question, is this who we are as a people, is this who we are as a country, because the facts are not going to be in dispute. There is no dispute to what the president said on that call, inviting a foreign power to involve itself in an election and to investigate his opponent.
The witnesses you`re going to hear from, these are not friends of Donald Trump or unsavory characters. These are career diplomats, military persons, people who served on the battlefield who are straight and right down the middle.
And so we`re going to have to ask, do we want a president of the United States to act this way? I am convinced that once the American people hear from these witnesses in the same way that I have and other members have, that they are going to be very concerned and they are going to want this president to be held to account.
MATTHEWS: Will they hear and see testimony of a bribe, where a president of the United States, Donald Trump, tried to get something of personal value in exchange for doing his duty and providing military assistance to an ally? Will they hear a bribery as a transaction from Trump?
SWALWELL: The American people will hear evidence of bribery, extortion, the president using his office for personal gain, leveraging $391 million of your taxpayer dollars not to benefit anyone else in the United States, solely to benefit himself in an upcoming election.
This is still evidence to be tested, Chris. There`s a time for a conclusion. This is a time to test the evidence. But there`s a reason to move forward from what we heard a couple of weeks ago to where we will be tomorrow.
MATTHEWS: Well, I know you`ll have to vote (ph), Congressman. We`ll be back to you in just a minute or two when you`re back on the air with us.
Let me go to Heidi Przybyla on this. As a journalist covering this thing, do you see the clarity and can you see the drama coming together with the clarity?
I know Nancy Pelosi. I think she`s been wonderful putting together a focused point of contact. This president sold his office to get the dirt he wanted for personal reasons. It was a clear case of bribery. I want, in this case, dirt, but I`ll give you public service in exchange for it.
Will that come across to the person who normally watches not this network but watches maybe something, an entertainment probe or Jeopardy or something like that? Will they come in and say, let me pay attention to this now?
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, MNSBC CORRESPONDENT: There will be drama, Chris. There will be drama in a different way than there was during the Mueller hearing. Because it`s not going to be coming from dice (ph), from the Congress members for questioning every five minutes, it`s going to be coming from the witnesses.
I`ve interviewed people who are very close to this process. They say it`s going to go very quickly. They`re going to bring Bill Taylor in, they`re going to establish his pedigree as a Vietnam veteran, decorated veteran, someone who served in the foreign service for decades, very credible. And then they`re going to move really quickly to the meat of it, Chris.
And I`m told that there are three things in particular from his closed-door testimony that they want to prompt him on that draw a direct line to Trump. First, it is that Gordon Sondland, the E.U. ambassador, told the Ukrainians directly that they weren`t getting any money until they did a statement on Burisma. That`s that energy company linked to Hunter Biden. That for the president, again, Trump`s name, every single time, comes up in this, the president wanted Zelensky himself personally to go to a microphone and announce the investigation.
He just wanted the announcement so that he could muddy Joe Biden and that everything depended on that, the White House meeting, the military aid, everything. He wanted Zelensky, quote, in a box. He wanted to box him in on this investigation. These are things that you`re going to hear tomorrow in rapid succession.
They tell me that they`re not going to go much further than 20 minutes, 25 minutes before they start hitting the public with these facts.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Mimi Rocah on this. It seems to me the Republicans` latest gambit or the latest spaghetti they`re throwing at the wall, if you will, is to say that this entire cabal, of all these pieces, all these tentacles from the president`s chief of staff, to his OMB director, the same person, to Giuliani, his personal lawyer and fixer, all these people working together to squeeze, extort this dirt from the Ukrainian government, all this was somehow done without the direction of the president. That seems to be their latest. They`re going to try to argue he`s not here, he`s not on this phone call, he`s not making these orders.
Can they get away or can they basically get the president on the political equivalent of a RICO charge? He was running the enterprise, and it was clear he was?
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes. Look, I mean, this is a tactic used, frankly, by leaders of companies, leaders of mob organizations. They try to insulate themselves.
Of course, they`re not usually the ones out, you know, actually having the conversations, actually soliciting the bribe. That`s why they have people working for them.
But here, and this is where that phone call does become important, I think it is impossible for Trump to run away from this because of the phone call. The phone call standing alone, I think, is enough. But they don`t need it to be because that`s why you have all this witness testimony about what else was being said, what was going on behind the scenes.
But the phone call makes it impossible for Trump to run away from this and say, I didn`t know anything about this, because he does the same thing in the call himself when he says, we need a favor though. And he`s telling the Ukrainian president that he should talk to Rudy Giuliani who is, you know, the one who`s got his hands all over this bribe.
MATTHEWS: I`m going to go back to Congressman Swalwell. Let`s go back to the Nixon country here because everybody used (ph) my generation and thinks that this is another act of presidential corruption, like Nixon`s.
In that case, we had a tape recording of the president telling his chief of staff go over to the CIA and tell them to get in the way of this FBI investigation. Say it`s a CIA matter. They`ll not go any further.
In this case, we have the president of the United States talking to a foreign leader and saying if you want military aid to save your country from the Russian tanks, I want this thing though, I want a favor from you though. To that, to me, that power -- that word, though, was so powerful, I think it was enough for me as a citizen and as observer and a commentator to think this is corruption. It was enough, I think, for Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, to spot it. And she had been opposing moving toward impeachment until this point. It was enough for us.
How could Republicans worm their way out of this and say, you don`t have evidence of the president`s role here?
SWALWELL: Chris, it is worse than Watergate in that what you described largely dealt with the cover-up. What`s alleged here, yes, a cover-up is taking place, but the leveraging of U.S. taxpayer dollars, asking a foreign government to involve itself and leveraging the White House meeting is much, much more significant.
Again, the Republicans are going to be at crossroads tomorrow. Do they want to continue the stunts and hi jinx that they showed in the depositions or do they want to bring a seriousness to this and recognize if they are going to say this is wrong but it`s not impeachable, what does it mean for future presidents? And do they want future presidents, Democratic or Republican, to just start going abroad to have help inside our elections?
I don`t think they want that. I don`t think their constituents are going to want that. And when they hear tomorrow from these witnesses what the president was doing, they`re going to see this went to the very top.
And, Chris, I want to lay out, this is not just hearsay evidence. There is evidence President Trump told Mick Mulvaney to carry out this quid pro quo. As Mick Mulvaney called it, this extortion scheme, those are Mick Mulvaney`s words that the president asked.
There`s evidence from Ambassador Sondland that the president said, everything is on the line, not just the White House meeting but also the security assistance. And there`s evidence that the president told Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador Volker, Rudy Giuliani is our person. So anything Rudy does, you can attribute to the president.
MATTHEWS: Yes or no, do you think your Republican colleagues, as well as your Democratic colleagues, understand if you let this go as business as usual, this is the way presidents are allowed to play their games, do they understand they`re projecting that value in the endless future?
The two or three presidents from now can cite this precedent and say they said it was okay back in 2019, I guess it`s okay now. Do they see the projecting powers into the future of this bad behavior, Republicans especially?
SWALWELL: Our job is to make them see that, Chris, because if we accept this as normal presidential behavior, there`s no going back.
MATTHEWS: Well, in an interview this morning on the Today show, a great interview, by the way, President Trump`s former U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, backed up the Republican talking points on President Trump`s call with the Ukrainian president but with a mild criticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, MSNBC HOST: The president has said this was a perfect call. Do you think this was a perfect call?
NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: If in his mind he thinks it was a perfect call.
GUTHRIE: What do you think?
HALEY: I think it`s never a good practice for us to ask a foreign country to investigate an American. It`s just not a good practice.
Having said there`s no insistence on that call, there are no demands on that call. It is a conversation between two presidents that`s casual in nature, and, you know, it`s just hard to find anywhere that the president of Ukraine would have thought funds were being held and that he had to do this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Heidi, this is what`s maddening about the Republican method. And I mean not only Republicans but they have an amazing ability, ignore the facts that have been establish and keep going on with the old talking points. It wasn`t just asking for help, it was conditioning his help. He was saying, if you want to save your country from the Russian tanks, you better pony up this dirt on Biden and this 2016 nonsense. I wasn`t just asking that, but she gets away it.
Actually, Savannah cornered it on a couple of points, but there they go again, just repeating the old talking points, as if nothing has been established.
PRZYBYLA: Here is what`s going to happen, Chris. Part of this choreography, I`m told, based on my reporting today is that the bookend witness in this whole testimony could be Lt. Col. Vindman. And he was on that call. And he`s going to tell the American people that there was no mistake about what -- no doubt, that was his exact words, about what the president was asking for, that his tone was very dower, very serious.
And he will also lay out just how perilously close we came to having Ukraine get a significant channel of aid that actually they depend on for their GDP that would have crushed a critical ally that is really our only buffer at this moment, if you look at a map towards Russian aggression. That it really was the whistleblower coming forward that stopped all of this. They were weeks away from this happening, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Extortion is when you say, nice building you`ve got here, nice office you`ve got here, nice family you have here, would you like to keep it? That`s extortion. In this case, it was a country the guy would like to keep he just got elected president of.
As I mentioned, President Trump reportedly blamed the official who considered the whistleblower`s complaint credible and reported to the Congress. He didn`t like this guy. The New York Times reports that according to four people familiar with the discussions, Trump is considering firing Intel Community I.G. Michael Atkinson, Inspector General Michael Atkinson, quote, Mr. Trump first expressed his dismay about Mr. Atkinson around the time the whistleblower`s complaint became public in September. In recent weeks, he has continued to raise with aides the possibility of firing him.
According to one source -- according to another source adds the president has said he does not understand why Mr. Atkinson shared the complaint. He has said he believes Mr. Atkinson, whom he appointed in 2017, has been disloyal.
Congressman, again, back to you. Congressman Swalwell, doesn`t the president accept such a thing as statutes, laws? The inspector general is supposed to report that to Congress. The president considers obeying the law disloyal. This looks like part of a cover-up to me. Your thoughts.
SWALWELL: This is consciousness of guilt. The inspector general is not the president`s personal lawyer. He is America`s lawyer. And if the president were to fire him, we would just conclude he`s doing that because he is guilty.
And, again, Chris, innocent people do not threaten their investigators with a firing or talk about their investigators in this way. So if the president, you know, does this, you know, we will consider it for articles for either obstruction or -- obstruction of congress or obstruction of justice.
But there is enough evidence right now to show there was a shakedown scheme going all the way to the top, and we`re going to have to answer the question as Americans do we want to go there with presidents acting this way. I think most Americans are going to say, no, that`s not who we are.
MATTHEWS: Well said. I think that sizes it up well.
Thank you U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, a member of the Intelligence Committee, which is holding these public hearings tomorrow -- beginning tomorrow. Heidi Przybyla, as always, great reporting. Thank you, Mimi Rocah. We should have more time for you. Please come back. You`re into a legal situation here, I`d say, at the highest level.
We`ve been, by the way, down this road before, a country watching live on television as Congress holds a president and his administration accountable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. SEN. HOWARD BAKER (R-TN): What did the president know and when did he know it?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency, and if the cancer was not removed, the president himself would be killed by it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It turns out to be every word true there.
By the way, those were scenes from the Watergate hearings of 1973. Can we expect drama like that in the first public for Trump`s impeachment tomorrow A.M.?
Plus, a White House divided, top officials are pointing to finger the blame as they jockeyed for position at the top. Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has reportedly said he knows too much to be fired. Isn`t that a dumb thing to say, I know too much about the boss to be fired? I have never heard anybody that stupid to say that.
We`ve got much more coming to get to tonight. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, tomorrow, House Democrats, as I said, will make public their case against the president of the United States. They will attempt to show that President Trump tried to extort Ukraine, got busted doing it, and then tried to hide it.
In a memo released to Intelligence Committee members, Chairman Adam Schiff of California, who`s in charge of the inquiry, laid out the three questions they`re seeking to answer.
This is pretty good.
Number one, did a president ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival for personal gain? Two, did the president or his allies use the office of his presidency to apply pressure to that guy, to the Ukrainian president?
And, three, did the president obstruct or cover up evidence about the president`s actions?
Well, Democrats will turn to Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent to prove that case, all three of those cases, in fact. Both individuals testified behind closed doors that President Trump did link military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for dirt on a domestic political opponent.
On October 15, Kent told the committee that it was made clear to him that the president wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to a microphone and say three things, investigations, Biden and Clinton.
He also testified he was cooperating with the committee`s subpoena for documents, but his personal notes never made it to Congress because they were blocked by State Department lawyers. A little obstruction there.
On October 22, Ambassador Taylor told investigators that it was his clear understanding that aid would not be delivered until Ukraine committed to an investigation of the Bidens.
He affirmed that, if they don`t do this, they`re not going to get that. And when asked, "Are you aware that quid pro quo literally means this for that?" Taylor said, "I am."
Republicans have already made clear where their allegiances lie. They will do anything and everything to dismiss these men and their credibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you believe that Bill Taylor -- you were in Bill Taylor`s hearing, deposition. Is he a credible witness?
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY): No. He is not. Second, third, fourth-hand, no- hand information in some cases, no information, in some cases giving opinions. In one case...
QUESTION: Mr. Jordan, is Bill Taylor a credible witness?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Look, we will -- one thing we know is Bill Taylor never, ever talked with -- never talked with the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Josh Lederman, NBC News national political reporter, and Joshua Geltzer, former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council.
What do you make of these three things that the chairman wants to get out, that, in fact, there was an attempt to get the dirt, there was pressure used to get the dirt, and it was followed up by a cover-up of the whole thing? The president made a -- showed his consciousness of guilt, as lawyers say. He didn`t want this known.
JOSH LEDERMAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, it`s a very deliberate strategy by House Democrats for how they want to lay this out.
And they`re trying to set up a one-two punch first. First, tomorrow comes the fact witnesses. You have these two long-serving diplomats whose records are hard to...
MATTHEWS: Straight arrows.
LEDERMAN: Exactly, straight arrows, Boy Scouts in a sense, who are going to come forward. They witnessed from the inside the evolution of this pressure campaign, and they`re going to lay out that timeline.
Then, on Friday, you have Yovanovitch. And her role is really to be the victim in all of this, the person who...
MATTHEWS: Yes. She was scared.
LEDERMAN: She was scared. She`s going to lay out and make sort of a more emotional case for how the president`s actions had real-life ramifications.
MATTHEWS: She had almost -- I don`t want to accuse people of this, but Giuliani was acting like a henchman here. LEDERMAN: Right.
He was trying to get rid of an ambassador to a foreign country, not for any foreign policy reason, not because he was part of the government, but because he had an outside agenda related to the president`s political...
MATTHEWS: He wanted to rub her out, as they say in mob movies, just rub her out, get her out of the picture, so they could do their thing.
And he was working with Ukrainians, as well as within the U.S. government, to try to get her pulled out of there. And then, ultimately, he was successful.
MATTHEWS: Tomorrow, this is going to be a basically -- I love -- I love courtroom movies. I`m not a lawyer. Maybe I`m glad I`m not a lawyer, but I love courtroom movies. They`re always great.
This is going to be a courtroom drama tomorrow, with star witnesses, where people like Bill Taylor and Kent and later on Yovanovitch are going to stand up there to the pressure of the other side, when they`re cross- questioned by the other side.
JOSHUA GELTZER, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: To keep the Hollywood framing, it`s important, I think, for Democrats and for the public to understand, this isn`t a sequel in a sense. It`s a remake.
And here`s what I mean by that. A lot of us have followed the blow-by-blow over the past few weeks. We think we have an understanding of what happened, why there were improprieties.
MATTHEWS: Down in the SCIF.
GELTZER: That`s right.
The goal here is not to necessarily extend that story. It`s to take the best parts of that story, the clearest parts of that story, and ensure that all of America, not just those of us who`ve been tracking the ins and outs, but the country as a whole, understand...
MATTHEWS: So when we hear Adam Schiff, who is a prosecutor from out in L.A. -- and he`s also he`s a guy who wrote screenplays as part of his avocation. He is interested in the good drama, in the good storytelling.
When he asks these questions, he will know the answers.
GELTZER: I would think so. You always say, as a lawyer, you don`t want to ask a question, at least in front of others, that you don`t already know the answer to.
But they know a lot. Schiff and the others asking questions, they know a lot. They know a lot from not just these witnesses` previous testimony, but also other witnesses who filled out the story, put these characters in context, so to speak.
So they should have a firm basis for trying to draw out crisply the elements of the story we want to know.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Crisply.
Anyway, Congressman Schiff told National Public Radio he has already seen a number of impeachable offenses committed by President Trump. Here he goes.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I don`t think any decision has been made on the ultimate question about whether articles of impeachment should be brought.
But on the basis of what the witnesses have had to say so far, there any number of potentially impeachable offenses, including bribery, including high crimes and misdemeanors.
As the founders understood bribery, it was not as we understand it in law today. It was much broader. It connoted the breach of the public trust in a way where you`re offering official acts for some personal or political reason, not in the nation`s interest.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I think language is important here.
I think they want to use to word from the Constitution, bribery.
But they have to really play carefully. Do they go too far? Overreach is a major concern for Democrats right now. And that`s why they have tried to not tack on all of these other potential issues that a lot of Democrats want tacked on, including stuff from the Mueller report.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes, like Emoluments Clause, which they all love to do.
LEDERMAN: Right, exactly, because then it makes it much easier for the Trump White House to say, look, this is just an attempt to throw anything at the president and see what sticks.
MATTHEWS: You never give them the weakest link, because they will pull it apart.
MATTHEWS: You give only strong links.
GELTZER: That`s right.
The other stuff is in the background. It sets a context of understanding this president inviting, welcoming, amplifying foreign election interference. But you stick to the key story here.
MATTHEWS: There was a great line in the movie "Patton," where I think Patton or one of the other generals said, we could still lose this war in Europe.
Do you think the Democrats could still lose this fight for a full vote of, say, 230 Democratic votes for impeachment, at least the Democratic side? Can they still lose this tomorrow in the next couple days?
GELTZER: I suppose it`s a bit like a trial in this sense, which is, you never know exactly how things will play until you see them play.
But it seems like we have such key primary sources to suggest improprieties, to suggest that a president was trading public trust for personal political benefit, that, if that`s the case they want to make, it`s there to be made.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
And that word "though" just still jumps out at me. The president did not say, I want a favor. He said, "I want a favor, though," in other words, conditional on what you give me.
Anybody heard that. That`s why I always want that word in there.
Thank you, Josh. Thank you, Josh, Josh Lederman, Joshua Geltzer.
Up next: a turf war in the White House, just when the president needs a united -- get that word down here at the White House -- united front.
In incredible new reporting tonight, John Bolton is knocking his former boss who got caught talking out of school, saying the president`s foreign policy on Turkey was motivated by Trump`s personal or financial interests.
In other words, the president here again is being accused by his top security guy of cheating the country because he wanted something of personal worth, not of national interest.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
NBC News reporting tonight that, as the hearings on Wednesday have approached, Trump`s mood has veered between relishing the fight and seething with anger, as he focuses heavily on his television defenders.
There are also multiple reports out today that president`s top advisers are feuding. I love this part.
As "The Washington Post" notes: "The outcome of the messy skirmish between Trump`s advisers could be on full display this week."
"The Washington Post" reports further that: "Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney`s office blames White House counsel Pat Cipollone for not doing more to stop the other government officials from participating in the impeachment inquiry. Cipollone, meanwhile, has fueled that Mulvaney only made matters worse with his October 17 news conference."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Did he also mention to me in the past that the corruption related today the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that`s it. And that`s why we held up the money.
QUESTION: What you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.
MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy. I have news for everybody. Get over it. There`s going to be political influence in foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He`s just admitting the whole ball game.
Anyway, despite Mulvaney`s performance in that press conference, "The New York Times" reports that Mulvaney has privately told associates in recent days that there`s no easy way for Trump to fire him in the midst of the impeachment fight, the implication being that he knows too much about there president`s pressure campaign to force Ukraine to provide incriminating information about Democrats.
I`m joined now by Yamiche Alcindor, "PBS NewsHour" White House correspondent, and Chris Whipple, author of "The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency."
Let me start with Yamiche, my friend, because I know how you cover this stuff.
This is incredible, a chief of staff basically on television with the cameras rolling, saying, yes, there`s a quid pro quo here, we were holding up the money.
And then he attacks Cipollone, his rival for leadership over there, the president`s lawyers, saying, you`re not keeping the other people quiet enough, when you were the biggest talker in the world. You gave it away.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "PBS NEWSHOUR": Well, first, that press conference that Mick Mulvaney had was incredible.
He laid out very clearly that the president wanted this Democratic server that was really a conspiracy theory, frankly, a debunked claim, he wanted that to be investigated by Ukraine. And, as a result, he was going to hold up $391 million in military aid. He made that very clear.
MATTHEWS: He was the witness for the prosecution.
ALCINDOR: He -- Democrats were very -- were smiling when I talked to them after that press conference.
ALCINDOR: Then you have the fact that Mick Mulvaney was trying to join this lawsuit that John Bolton`s deputy was trying to have, which is basically asking them the court, can I -- should I be able to go testify before Congress?
How can you do that at the same time as you`re also blaming the White House counsel for not stopping people from going before Congress?
MATTHEWS: In other words, he was exposing himself to actually testify, yes.
ALCINDOR: And there were some people who think that that was really a message to Trump to say, hey, I know that I could go to Congress if I want to.
MATTHEWS: Chris, here`s my favorite question.
Why would a guy tell anybody, even his most intimate advisers, friends, whatever, intimates generally, that he had enough dirt on the president that the president can`t touch him?
The minute that -- by the way, Tip O`Neill used to say, the walls have ears. That`s gotten out. The president now knows, as I speak, that this guy, his so-called top staffer, has -- saying -- is out telling people he`s got dirt on the boss, so the boss can`t fire him.
Trump, whatever else you think of him, he`s a street fighter. He now knows this guy`s in the street ready to fight him, because he`s got dirt on him. It`s just a matter of time before he gets rid of this guy and makes him pay for that line.
CHRIS WHIPPLE, AUTHOR, "THE GATEKEEPERS: HOW THE WHITE HOUSE CHIEFS OF STAFF DEFINE EVERY PRESIDENCY": Yes.
You know, it`s hard to explain anything that Mulvaney has done over the last 72 hours. But it shows that there really is no impeachment defense here.
The only constant here, Chris, is that this White House has no functional White House chief of staff. I was one of John Kelly`s toughest critics.
WHIPPLE: But Kelly was right when he said that, if you hire a yes-man as my successor, you will be impeached.
He hired Mulvaney, and he has been impeached.
Any competent White House chief of staff, hearing about this so-called drug deal, the shakedown of Ukraine, would have walked into the White House -- into the Oval Office, closed the door, and told the president, don`t even think about going there. And if you do, you will be impeached and I will resign.
But to that extent, Mick Mulvaney has helped to define this presidency. He`s helped to bring about impeachment.
MATTHEWS: And you know. Chris, you`re the expert, but just think about Reagan`s -- just think about how Ronald Reagan`s legacy would be so much better if he had kept Jim Baker for the second term, instead of turning things over to that idiot Don Regan, who didn`t even know what he was doing there, except thinking he was prime minister. And we got Iran-Contra, all that mess.
Anyway, meanwhile, NBC News` exclusive reporting right now that former National Security Adviser John Bolton, the aforementioned former national security adviser, suggested in a private speech for money that some of Trump`s foreign policy decisions are guided by his own personal interest.
According to NBC News, Bolton said he believes there is a personal or business relationship dictating Trump`s position on Turkey, because none of his advisers are aligned with him on that issue.
Your thoughts about this?
I mean, here, this guy`s talking out of school. He says that Trump is once again working for personal interests against national interests.
ALCINDOR: And that`s the heart of this impeachment inquiry, the idea that the president is using his own personal political benefits to try...
MATTHEWS: Why is Bolton doing this? For money?
ALCINDOR: It`s tough to say, because what you have is Bolton still also not going to testify before Congress.
So, in his mind, he hasn`t completely gone over and said, hey, I have all these secrets about the president. But what he is saying is, publicly, that the president is thinking not just of national -- national security, but really of his own personal political interests.
And that, of course, is very problematic, ahead of these very public hearings in this impeachment inquiry.
MATTHEWS: Every president -- every president, Chris, has a certain way of dealing with his staff.
Jerry Ford would sit around the room. He would have his chairs around the Oval Office desk. He`d work in college with other people -- collegially.
Then there are people -- this guy doesn`t seem there`s ever a loop. Is there a Trump loop, can you tell, of people he actually trusts to keep their mouths shut, when "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" and Axios and Daily Beast call up, and Politico, that actually keep their mouths shut?
Can he trust anybody at this point to keep quiet?
WHIPPLE: I don`t know whom he can trust.
And, obviously, there are people he talks to. The trouble is that he doesn`t listen to anyone with any authority. And he doesn`t give any authority to the White House chief.
Mulvaney abdicated the most important duty of a White House chief on his first day, which is to tell the president what he does not want to hear. And what you`re seeing now is the logical outcome when you have a White House chief whose philosophy is to let Trump be Trump.
None of this behavior, presidential behavior, surprises us. What`s really surprising is that you would have anybody else going along, not only going along with a drug deal like this, as John Bolton called it, but to become the chief drug dealer, the way Mulvaney has.
So it`s just they have -- they are headed into a world of trouble without any discernible defense here.
MATTHEWS: Well, the trouble with this president, he`s never read anything. He has never read Machiavelli. And Machiavelli warned leaders, you need a close circle of people you trust to tell you the bad news and advise you.
You don`t let everybody do it. You let a small group advise you that respects you. And if you don`t have them, you blow it.
By the way, General Kelly was right. And Machiavelli was right 500 years before him.
Anyway, thank you, Yamiche Alcindor. Thank you, Chris Whipple.
WHIPPLE: My pleasure.
MATTHEWS: Up next: As House Republicans ready their defenses ahead of tomorrow`s public impeachment hearings, they`re facing new contradictions by the president himself.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
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SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): If you think that a country is acting in a corrupt way, the president can always withhold aid until the corruption is fixed. So, you`re going to have get into the mind of Trump and his advisers and say, well, he didn`t really believe that the Bidens were corrupt. I think he absolutely does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s pretty clever.
Welcome back to HARDBALL.
During tomorrow`s first public impeachment hearings, Republicans are preparing to mount a defense the president was acting in national interest by rooting out corruption in Ukraine and was not digging for dirt on his political rivals.
In their 18-page memo framing the defense, Republican lawmakers make the argument that, quote, Trump holds a deep-seated, genuine, and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine do to its history of pervasive corruption.
Leave it to this president to under cut his defenders, however, only hours after that memo was released by saying it was about the former vice president, his conversation.
In a morning tweet, Trump wrote that he had an obligation to look into corruption, and Biden`s actions before providing the much needed military aid to Ukraine. In fact, if you look at the summary of his July 25th call with the Ukrainian president, Trump never uttered the word corruption, but did say Biden`s name three times.
And President Trump appeared to make his intentions clear last month. Here it goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they`d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It`s a very simple answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: It`s the Bidens.
If the president`s concern was truly only about the level of corruption in Ukraine, why not take the word of his own government? In a letter to congressional committees in May of this year, two months before his call with Zelensky. The Defense and State Departments both certified that the Ukrainian government has taken substantial actions toward decreasing corruption and increasing accountability. They recommended the military aid go forward to that country.
Around the same time that letter was sent, the president`s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, however, told "The New York Times" he was pursuing Ukrainian investigations into the Bidens because, quote, that information will be very, very helpful to my client, President Trump.
Republicans in Congress are showing no signs of holding this president accountable, however, for Ukraine or anything. It was a different story during Watergate when at least some Republicans were willing to speak out. And that`s next.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
We have breaking news tonight, right now in fact. Democrats on the House Intel Committee announced eight additional witnesses to testify next week.
On Tuesday, the committee will hear from four people including Ambassador Kurt Volker and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. On Wednesday, three more people testifying, including Ambassador Gordon Sondland. The week goes out on Thursday with Dr. Fiona Hill, the former national security official who quoted her boss John Bolton calling the efforts in Ukraine a drug deal.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly called the impeachment inquiry a sham and a Soviet-style process, even while faced with thousands of pages of witness testimony depicting a clear case of impropriety by the president.
It`s a stark contrast to what we heard from some Republicans when President Nixon was facing his own likely impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LAWRENCE HOGAN (R-MD): It isn`t easy for me to align myself against the president, but it`s impossible for me to condone or ignore the long train of abuses to which he has subjected the presidency and the people of this country.
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): And the facts on the president`s side, the truth is on his side. Those four facts will not change, have not changed, will never change.
REP. M. CALDWELL BUTLER (R-VA): These things happened in our House and it`s responsibility to do what we can do clear it up. It is we not the Democrats who must demonstrate that we are capable of enforcing the high standard we would set for them.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is political vendetta. I find the whole process to be a sham and I`m not going to legitimize it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
For more, I`m joined by David Corn, Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones", and John Brabender, Republican strategist.
Gentlemen, why do Republicans back the president down the line on this thing, no matter what is said, no matter witness come whatever comes forward, they always say, he`s right, you`re wrong?
JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, let`s put this in perspective. I remember being on this show --
MATTHEWS: That is a perspective.
BRABENDER: -- in this show, in January with Maxine Waters said we`re going to do anything to impeach this president. Wait a minute, that was January of 2017 --
BRABENDER: That was 2017 before the president was even --
MATTHEWS: I`m not going to do this.
BRABENDER: But let`s be honest, let me ask you this --
MATTHEWS: Yes, Maxine Waters --
BRABENDER: Name any witness that`s going to stand there in this testimony and say the president said to me withhold any money for Ukraine until they do this investigation. Tell me which witness is going to say that.
DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: John, you are breaking my heart, John.
BRABENDER: It won`t be the last.
CORN: I mean, I gather you haven`t read the thousands of pages of --
BRABENDER: Tell me who that witness is.
CORN: No, because I can tell you the story.
CORN: The story line is that when top diplomats went to Trump to try to get him engaged with the new Ukrainian president who`s fighting a war against Russia, they wanted him to engage on this front on many different issues. And what did he say? He said you go talk to Rudy.
This is mob boss saying I`ve got a guy out there, he`s taking care of it. What did Rudy say? We need an investigation. We need them to say publicly he`s going to --
BRABENDER: They don`t have the president saying this, do they?
CORN: They have the president directing them to Rudy to cut a deal the way a mob boss would put the pressure on. You know, John Gotti didn`t say he - - I`m going to tell you how to extort someone. He sends you to Sam, I know a guy, you talk to --
MATTHEWS: Let me suggest what you`re suggesting. Your premise is -- if I hear it -- is that all these people from Mulvaney down, the president`s fixer or lawyer, whatever you want to call him, consigliere, Giuliani, all these guys were working to extort the new president of Ukraine all on their own? This is all a rogue operation, the president isn`t leading it?
BRABENDER: The president on everything he said is this is about corruption, all right? There is nobody -- there is nobody that`s going to testify that says the president directed me not to release funds until --
MATTHEWS: Did the word corruption cross the president`s lips during that conversation on July 25th with Zelensky? Did he ever say the word corruption?
BRABENDER: What he did say is -- he went immediately and said you guys --
MATTHEWS: How many times did he say Biden?
CORN: John, John, I really respect you and I want to like you, but if you read the transcript, there are three quid pro quos and this is only one of three. When Zelensky says we`d like to buy more javelin missiles the president says I want you to do us a favor, though. And what`s the favor, it has nothing to do with corruption.
BRABENDER: But the favor has nothing to do with Biden either.
CORN: was I want you to turn up dirt to prove a crazy conspiracy theory that gets the Russians off the hook and show they didn`t help me in the election. And then he says and there`s another thing -- he says the other thing, you talk to Rudy, you talk to Bill Barr, it`s about investigating the Bidens, and everybody will testify that Trump wanted a public announcement --
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you a question, John. Was he conditioning U.S. military aid on getting dirt on his enemies? Was he conditioning it by saying I want a favor from you though? It sounded like conditioning to me.
BRABENDER: But that`s the whole point, is you`re saying it sounded like it to you. So, the context is --
MATTHEWS: Oh, that`s how I do business.
BRABENDER: You have a president that you don`t particularly like. You have a president you don`t particularly like --
MATTHEWS: No, that`s not true with me. That is not as simple.
I am not Maxine Waters. Father Drinan did the same thing with Nixon. There`s always outliers early on who want to impeach everybody on the other side. That`s not what led this.
Pelosi opposed this thing until she had this bit of evidence and said this is against the national interests.
BRABENDER: Wait a minute. When he fired Comey, it was, all of a sudden, it was obstruction of justice.
BRABENDER: Then it was going to be about Russia. You wrote a book on it.
CORN: I did.
BRABENDER: And nothing happened there, right?
BRABENDER: OK, so we`re going to find a way to impeach this guy unless you have a witness who`s going to stand there and say, he told (ph) and directed me to do this, how do you impeach him?
MATTHEWS: John Brabender --
CORN: There are a lot of witnesses.
MATTHEWS: I don`t think John Brabender wants presidents to behave like this.
Thank you, David Corn. I`ll have to speak for you right now.
CORN: You do a better job.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
Up next --
BRABENDER: You`re my Rudy, is that what you`re saying?
MATTHEWS: I`ll be in this moment.
Up next, Democrats bring their case for impeachment to you, the American public. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Fourteen hours from now, we will begin to see how high stands the case for this president`s impeachment. Also, but perhaps as important, how solid in their judgment are those who are arguing for it?
I remember the sobriety with which members of the House Judiciary Committee back in December 1974 voted articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon and today, we face a very basic case that Donald J. Trump sought a bribe from the country of Ukraine, that he demanded that in order for it to receive critical U.S. military aid, it must undertake a public investigation of Trump`s political rivals.
It is a classic definition of corruption to trade public trust for private benefit. The purpose of tomorrow`s testimony from Bill Taylor and George Kent is to exhibit the experience of two seasoned federal employees as they confront a hijacking of U.S. security policy to advance the president`s personal agenda. Twenty million people could be watching these two gentlemen testify tomorrow, an equal number watching on evening network news, millions more in the prime time hours here and on other networks tomorrow night. It`ll be helpful from people who watch from their homes or listen at their workplaces to make their own judgments.
If we believe Trump`s behavior representing this country and this matter departs from what we hold acceptable, this is what we need to say and say loudly. If we think Trump is pressing this foreign leader for political dirt, even to the point of denying him critical military assistance, is business as usual? So, be it. Because if we say this kind of conduct is predictable, I predict we`re going to get a lot of it in the future.
And that`s why we think of tomorrow hearings and those to follow is what truly matters, because it locks in our destiny.
And that`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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