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Taylor: I'm not a "Star witness.." TRANSCRIPT: 111/13/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Jackie Speier, Cynthia Alksne, Glenn Kirschner, Larry Pfeiffer,Hakeem Jeffries

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  We'll keep it locked here on MSNBC because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews has a lot more on today and what comes next on "HARDBALL."


Good evening.  I'm Chris Matthews in Washington.

It's been a historic and news-making day on Capitol Hill where the House of Representatives held the first public hearings on the impeachment of President Trump.  Democrats made the case that Trump pressured the leader of Ukraine to investigate his political opponents using the power of his office to do so.

In their debut before the American public, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent spoke clearly and authoritatively about the pressure campaign that was waged against Ukraine.  They described an effort by Trump and his deputies to leverage that country into delivering the politically motivated investigations that the president wanted.  And it was gent that backdrop that the star witness, Ambassador Taylor, dropped an important new revelation, a bombshell, really, linking the president directly to that scheme.

Just one day after the Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to dig up dirt on his political opponents, a member of Taylor's staff heard a conversation between E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland and President Trump himself.  And here is how Taylor described what he heard.


WILLIAM TAYLOR, TOP U.S. DIPLOMAT IN UKRAINE:  In the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev.  The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations.  Ambassador Sondland told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.

Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine.  Ambassador Sondland responded Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  I take the import of that is he cares more about that than he does about Ukraine?

TAYLOR:  Yes, sir.


MATTHEWS:  Yes, sir.  Well, that staffer identified by NBC News as David Holmes is now set to testify to impeachment investigators on that committee behind closed doors this Friday.

And today's hearing lasted five-and-a-half hours, Republicans spent their time trying to poke holes in the testimony and advance the president's counter-narrative.

But the testimony from Taylor and Kent offered some troubling details for the president.  Ambassador Taylor affirmed that military aid was withheld in an effort to extort Ukraine and both witnesses suggested the actions taken in Ukraine were unprecedented.


DANIEL GOLDMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE DIRECTOR OF INVESTIGATIONS:  Ambassador Taylor, in your decades of military service and diplomatic service representing the United States around the world, have you ever seen another example of foreign aid conditioned on the personal or political interests of the president of the United States?

TAYLOR:  No, Mr. Goldman, I've not.

GOLDMAN:  Is pressuring Ukraine to conduct what I believe you've called political investigations a part of U.S. foreign policy to promote the rule of law in Ukraine and around the world?



MATTHEWS:  Taylor also stood behind his text of last September saying that military aid for political gain is, quote, crazy.


TAYLOR:  Because that was so important, that security assistance was so important for Ukraine as well as our own national interests, to withhold that assistance for no good reason other than help with a political campaign made no sense.  It was counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do.  It was illogical.  It could not be explained.  It was crazy.


MATTHEWS:  I'm joined right now by U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, who took part in today's hearing, Cynthia Alksne and Glenn Kirschner are both former federal prosecutors, Larry Pfeiffer is a former CIA Chief of Staff.

Congresswoman thank you for -- I don't know what that is.  But thank you, Congresswoman, for coming on tonight.

What did you make of the bombshell today that we've got ear witness account now coming from David Holmes, a member of the State Department posted over in Kiev, who heard the president talking about following up on the investigation he wanted done by Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, on Biden?

REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA):  It's the piling of more evidence that the president was using his office and hijacking our foreign policy to benefit his campaign for election in 2020.  It's really, as Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kent said, unprecedented that a president would do something like this.

And it, in my mind, is grounds for calling for bribery.  He is a person in his official status who is asking for something of value from another party and then withholding his office and his ability to do something unless he gets what he's asking for.  It's quite simple.

MATTHEWS:  Cynthia, and everyone else, I want your reaction to getting the news now that the star witness today, Bill Taylor, the ambassador to Ukraine, actually has a staffer now ready to testify that he overheard the president following up on a deal that he struck, the extortion he set up with the president of Ukraine, more actual real direct evidence coming.

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Right.  It's a bombshell.  And the reason why it's a bombshell is because it brings the story away from what's going on in Ukraine and brings it to Trump.  And that's what needs to happen more.

MATTHEWS:  Because he was on the phone?

ALKSNE:  Because he was on the phone, because he's actually involved.  He's physically involved.

And one thing that happened today that I thought needed to happen more was they need to take it away from fact, fact, fact, fact, fact, email, email, email, whatever, and make it a story.  This is what this case is about.  It's about Trump trading American integrity and arms for his own political gain.  It's got to be -- and every question has to go back to that.

MATTHEWS:  I thought they were pretty good at that.  You don't think so?  I thought they were pretty good at that.  Glenn?

GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  So, yes, I think this phone call now with Sondland saying Ukraine is ready to move forward.  How do we interpret that?  Bribery successful, mission accomplished.  That's what that is.

And I agree with Cynthia, I love all of the facts and I love an overarching story and an inclusive tale being told by heroes, like Bill Taylor.  50 years, I get patriotic goose bumps listening to that guy.  But now we need a message.  We need to tell it like it is because what this is arms for political dirt.  It's arms for political dirt.

And I think -- we've heard no obstruction, no collusion, which was a lie.  We've heard perfect call, perfect call, which was a lie.  But the truth is this is arms for political dirt.  That's the message.

ALKSNE:  Right.  And every time there's a question, it has to go back to that, every question.  If the president said this, that was a lie, wasn't it?  Because, in fact, what was happening was he was trading arms for dirt.  It has to happen over and over and over again.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Larry, I was impressed of the members of the Democratic side there.  The majority members were, in fact, going -- they weren't going off about emoluments or some other little tangent, they did stick to the question of what happened between our president and the president of this very vulnerable country when he held him up, when he shook him down?

LARRY PFEIFFER, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Yes.  And there was an incredible amount of discipline amongst the Democrats today's hearing, maybe unprecedented to some of the Democrats.  Republicans, on the other hand, seemed a bit scattershot in their approach.

MATTHEWS:  What did you think about the whole thing?  I thought that the witnesses were excellent.  And I like the human interest part of it.  I like Tom Maloney of New York State when he said, wait a minute, let's talk about you for a second since nobody knows who you are, Bill Taylor.  You graduated from West Point.  We all know what West Point is.  It's rigorous, it's serious, it mostly engineers serious straight arrows come out of there.  We know they come in fourth in a class of 800 in any school is pretty amazing.

And we also know in the heat of the Vietnam War, '69, he graduated, he chose infantry, not to go become an egg-headed that's at the Pentagon, he went out in the jungle as opposed to guess who.

KIRSCHNER:  And that's why --

MATTHEWS:  Guess who bone spur is?


MATTHEWS:  Yes, okay.  I think that was pretty smart.

KIRSCHNER:  And that's why these guys give you patriotic goose bumps.  They don't have a dog (ph) in the fight, they are not Never-Trumpers, they're in there just telling it like it is.  They've been doing the peoples work for, in George Kent's case, 27 years, and in Bill Taylor's case, 50 years.  And that's why I think the American people can put faith in what they say.

MATTHEWS:  By the way, I want the counsels -- I want to get to this.  There were two counsels up there today, Danny Goldman and this guy, Castor, okay?  I think Goldman was great.  Every word was important.  The other guy was a dunce.  The other guy got nothing done, nothing, this guy, Castor.  I don't even know what he was doing.

ALKSNE:  The great battle is being set up with Goldman.  Because going back to the bombshell with Sondland and this phone call, Sondland is coming in next Wednesday.  Take off work, get your fire going and your popcorn because that is an epic showdown between Goldman and Sondland, the liar.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let's go.  Democratic Counsel Dan Goldman, as I said, also pushed back against the president's claim to Gordon Sondland and others that there's no quid pro quo.  Here he goes, Danny Goldman.


GOLDMAN:  Even though President Trump was saying repeatedly that there is no quid pro quo, Ambassador Sondland relayed to you that the facts of the matter were that the White House meeting and the security assistance were conditioned on the announcement of these investigations.  Is that your understanding?

TAYLOR:  That's my understanding.  He described conditions for the security assistance and the White House meeting in those terms.  That is dependent upon, conditioned on pursuing these investigations.


MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman Spieier, I thought it was interesting, but I think you have learned, like all politicians and all human beings do, you learn from mistakes.  We have lost a lot of effort back in the days of Iran- Contra when they led Brendan Sullivan and Oliver North win the day against a bunch of people hiding up in these chairs about 50-feet above them in the committee room.  They look like fools and he's in uniform.

This time around, instead of everybody doing scattershot, you people focused your energies through a counsel.  Was that a tough decision to make that Danny Goldman would be the first attack dog?  Your thoughts.

SPEIER:  Not at all.  Dan Goldman is very effective, a trial lawyer, U.S. attorney, great experience.  And we wanted to lay out the facts, and that's precisely what happened today.  Facts do matter.  And I would disagree with some of your speakers in that we need to lay the foundation and then we can tell the story.

What we were doing today was presenting facts while the Republicans were presenting conspiracy theories again.  And I'd like to remind everyone that it was the president's own Homeland Security adviser, Tom Bossert, who said in 2017 to the president that this Ukraine election involvement in 2016 was a myth, was a hoax and there was no relevance to it, there were no facts to support it.  And yet the president is still barking up that tree.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with you completely.  It's also still telling everybody that Ted Cruz's father was involved in killing Jack Kennedy.  He was selling that baby for a long time.  He's still selling it, as far as I'm concerned.

Well, to that point, Both Taylor and Kent, the witnesses today, clearly said that Rudy Giuliani's pursuit of political dirt in Ukraine went against America's national interest in the region.  Here they go.


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL):  The committee's investigation has uncovered a web of shadow diplomacy engaged in and executed by several State Department officials and the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and ultimately directed by President Trump.

Was Mr. Giuliani promoting U.S. national interests or policy in Ukraine, Ambassador?

TAYLOR:  I don't think so, ma'am.

DEMINGS:  Mr. Kent?

KENT:  No, he was not.

DEMINGS:  What interests do you believe he was promoting, Mr. Kent?

KENT:  I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle.

DEMINGS:  Ambassador Taylor, what interests do you believe he was promoting?

TAYLOR:  I agree with Mr. Kent.


MATTHEWS:  Well, that's Val Demings of Florida being sharp in her questioning and getting sharp answers there.  Rudy Giuliani is up to no good.  Larry?

PFEIFFER:  Yes.  I think the key thing we heard today is we have a bipartisan foreign policy associated with Ukraine that was being undermined by Rudy Giuliani and the others.  But not only it was bipartisan, this was actually the declared Trump foreign policy.  They were undermining their own foreign policy.

MATTHEWS:  Well, anyway, I want to thank everybody.  And, by the way, it's tough that they really wasted time today.  It was, how come Ukraine president never admitted he was being pressured?  Because the minute he was being pressured, he would have lost the whole game, right?  These are stupid things, these arguments.

ALKSNE:  Well, I think the Republicans' problem is when they did those scattershot defenses, they have about seven defenses, and they really can't get to the core defense, which is where they want to go, because Trump won't let them, which is we know he did it, we know he liked it, we know he's not sorry, but it's not impeachable.  That's where they want to go, but they can't.  And so they have scattershot defenses that are not effective.

MATTHEWS:  They were really an unpleasant group, and especially that guy with his shirt off all the time, the guy who wears with the shirt all the time.  And there's a bully stuff (ph).  There's a bully thing going on in there.

Thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier, you're on the winning side.  My others are going to stick with us.  We've got a lot more to get to on tonight's assessment of the dramatic impeachment hearing today of President Trump, including the attempt by the GOP crowd and its less than brilliant lawyer to pick apart the Democrats' case.  The problem with his argument didn't make a whole lot of sense, did it?  Let's watch him.  Who is this guy?


STEVE CASTOR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE MINORITY COUNSEL:  You believe he genuinely believed they were working against him, right, Ambassador Taylor?

TAYLOR:  Mr. Castor, I don't know what President or Candidate Trump was thinking about the Ukraine --

CASTOR:  So you certainly can't appreciate President Trump's concerns?


MATTHEWS:  I think what a joke that guy is.  It's a big night, not for him, unfortunately.  Try another line of work, brother.

Anyway, stick with us.



In an attempt to undermine the Democrats' case, Republicans turned to their lead counsel, Mr. Steve Castor.  He tried to legitimize President Trump's unfounded claims about Ukraine and Joe Biden, but it seems to fall flat.


CASTOR:  There are elements of the Ukrainian establishment they were out to get the president.  That's a very reasonable belief of his, correct?

TAYLOR:  I don't know.

CASTOR:  Did the State Department ever express any concern to the vice president's office that the vice president's role at the time in engaging on Ukraine presented any issues?

KENT:  No.  The vice president's role was critically important.  It was top cover to help us pursue our policy agenda.

CASTOR:  And the second member of the irregular channel was Ambassador Sondland, who is Senate confirmed, ambassador to the E.U.  So his involvement here while, you know, not necessarily part of his official duties as the ambassador to the E.U., it certainly is not outlandish for him to be interested and engaged pursuant to the president or Secretary Pompeo's direction, correct?

TAYLOR:  It's a little unusual for the U.S. ambassador to the E.U. to play a role in Ukraine policy.


MATTHEWS:  We're back with Cynthia Alksne, Glenn Kirschner and Larry.

You're all into this business of prosecution and stuff like this and CIA stuff.  What do you make of his presentation of the Republican counsel there?  Because I get the feeling he was a down beaten staffer who was afraid he was going to look like two big a big shot so he avoided that, so he's kind of low key in it.  Whereas the other guy, Danny Goldman, had had tremendous confidence and he had obviously the support of the majority members.  He was willing to be Tyrell (ph).

ALKSNE:  Danny Goldman was outstanding.  He kept it focused.  He was calm.  He moved it along.  He got where it needed. And this guy was just sort of all over the map.  He can do amazing things with his facial expressions. 


ALKSNE:  I mean, you see -- he can move his whole face around. 


ALKSNE:  He's maybe in the wrong business. 

MATTHEWS:  He had no notes either.  Did you notice that?  He was winging it. 

Well, I think he also got undercut by the president, when the president tweeted out that we can't...

ALKSNE:  Right.

PFEIFFER:  What I did was good. 


He's not allowed to do the obvious defense, which is, it's not impeachable. 

MATTHEWS:  You can't fall back with this president.

ALKSNE:  You can't fall back.

MATTHEWS:  And all the -- and it seems to me that -- well, here's my question. 

Television viewers.  You all watched this on television.  Very few people were in the room.  Did it work? 

KIRSCHNER:  I don't....

MATTHEWS:  I think it worked...


KIRSCHNER:  I don't think the Republican attacks worked. 


KIRSCHNER:  I mean, when you look at a Jim Jordan, he's doing the Jim Jordan garble thing...


KIRSCHNER:  ... where he's trying to hit Bill Taylor with, well, you talked to four people in six days and three levels of hearsay and a partridge in a pear tree. 


KIRSCHNER:  And I don't think any of that was effective.

And, at its core, here's what Jordan was complaining about.  He was saying, look, this is all hearsay information, secondhand, thirdhand. 

Well, yes, President Trump is prohibiting the firsthand witnesses, the direct witnesses from testifying. 

So, you can't complain about hearsay information.  It's like the old line about, you can't kill your parents and then cry and complain that you're an orphan.  And that's what Jordan was doing. 

So if you peel back the Jordan garble, it's a bunch of nonsense. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, because Mick Mulvaney is not going to show up.  Bolton won't even show up.

ALKSNE:  Right.  Giuliani.

MATTHEWS:  None of the perpetrators, like Giuliani, are going to show up. 

ALKSNE:  OK, not to be a contrarian, but, apparently, that's my role tonight. 

It would be nice, after Jordan does his partridge in a pear tree thing, if the congressperson who follows the next question is listening, and will deal with it instantly, like Glenn just did, because Dan Goldman can't do all the questioning, right? 

And so when he did some of those spiels, people didn't come back quickly enough, and provides FOX News a nice little section that they can play on the news over and over, because the goal is not to be -- the goal is to convince people to change their minds, right? 

And so we have to counter him right away. 


President Trump has repeatedly attacked anyone who dares to speak up about his questionable behavior, labeling them never-Trump Republicans.  That's his phrase. 

Well, today, Kent and Taylor were asked if they had a never-Trump agenda. 


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  Just about an hour before the two of you sat down to testify today, the president tweeted multiple times about this hearing.  And he put in all caps "Never-Trumpers."

Mr. Kent, are you a never-Trumper?

GEORGE KENT, U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR EUROPEAN AND EURASIAN AFFAIRS:  I am a career nonprofessional who serves whatever president is duly elected and carries out the foreign policies of that president and the United States.  And I have done that for 27 years for three Republican presidents and two Democrat presidents.

SWALWELL:  Ambassador Taylor, are you a never-Trumper?



MATTHEWS:  What do you think of that, Larry? 

PFEIFFER:  Well, I think they are -- the president tweets out in big, bold letter this morning "never-Trumpers."

They proved today that they're actually all-Americans.  That's what these guys are.  They are serving their country.  They're public servants.  They answered the call to public service.  And they have gone in, and that they're the experts.  They're the people that the president should be relying on. 

And, instead, they're being discarded and being mistreated.

MATTHEWS:  I thought what was really effective today were the facts, facts laid -- and like bricklayers, they laid fact upon fact. 

And I also thought that it's going to be very effective in the major newspapers tomorrow.  I think the major newspapers tomorrow will lead with the strong case made by the Democratic majority on that committee, on Intelligence Committee.  They're going to lead with Taylor.

They're going to have his pictures up there.  They're going to make their case very effectively.  But are those the people already converted?  Are they the people in the -- are they in the chorus already?

I wonder whether this reaches beyond to the people who normally watch regular television, that don't watch us and political television. 

ALKSNE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  I wonder if it's a breakout opportunity.  I don't know. 

KIRSCHNER:  You know, I think you're right.

MATTHEWS:  I don't know.

KIRSCHNER:  They were building this brick by brick.  And it's a good start. 

And now they have to follow it up with some, frankly, more powerful, compelling, targeted witnesses who are going to give the American people something to grab on to, like arms for political dirt, something.

ALKSNE:  And you know what else?  We're going to have a bombshell day when silent testifies, because he has been lying. 

He's been saying, I didn't know about the Bidens.  I didn't know about the July 10 meeting.  The president didn't say that. 


ALKSNE:  And the cross-exam will be so dramatic, people will actually watch it.  And you will see then, I predict -- because I think Danny Goldman's really good on cross -- you will see that the White House has been lying about this. 


ALKSNE:  And the one thing you -- Glenn and I know from trying cases, the minute you prove the main witness is a liar, you got him.  You can switch - - you can change minds.

MATTHEWS:  I just wonder -- maybe somebody will agree with me here.

I think it will solidify the case against this president for people who are willing to listen to it. 

But I also heard a lot of Republicans there today who did not want to listen to it, who are playing to their audience at home that doesn't want to hear it.  They want to change the subject to the Bidens or the whistle- blower, who the whistle-blower is, which is totally irrelevant now. 

ALKSNE:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  Besides, as I said before, if somebody tells you it's snowing outside, and you walk outside, it's snowing, it doesn't matter who told you it's snowing. 

ALKSNE:  Right.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, thank you, Cynthia Alksne.  Thank you, Glenn Kirschner and Larry Pfeiffer.

Up next:  While Democrats prosecuted their case for impeachment, House Republicans resorted to distractions, because they couldn't defend the president on the central facts.

You're watching HARDBALL. 



REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  Ambassador, you weren't on the call, were you?

The president -- you didn't listen on President Trump's call and President Zelensky's call?

TAYLOR:  I did not.

JORDAN:  You never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney?

TAYLOR:  I never did.

JORDAN:  You never met the president. 

TAYLOR:  That's correct. 

JORDAN:  You had three meetings again with Zelensky, and it didn't come up. 

TAYLOR:  And two of those, they had never heard about, as far as I know.  There was no reason for it to come up.

JORDAN:  And President -- and President Zelensky never made an announcement?

This is -- this what I can't believe, and you're their star witness. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, trying to undercut damning testimony from Ambassador Bill Taylor by arguing it wasn't firsthand information. 

A top attack dog for President Trump, Jordan was hand-picked to join the Intelligence Committee last week in preparation for the public impeachment hearings this week, as Republicans mounted defenses of the president that relied mostly on diversion. 

The committee's top Republican, Devin Nunes, for example, of California, another Trumpster, said Democrats were trying to overturn the results of the 2016 election. 


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA):  Anyone familiar with the Democrats' scorched- earth war against President Trump would not be surprised to see all the typical signs that this is a carefully orchestrated media smear campaign. 

The main performance, the Russia hoax, has ended.  And you've been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel.


MATTHEWS:  Others pointed to the White House memo of President Trump's July phone call with the Ukrainian president to say it showed no evidence of pressure. 

Well, Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe, who was at one point President Trump's nominee for director of national intelligence, argued that the phone call was no big deal. 


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX):  In this impeachment hearing today, where we impeach presidents for treason or bribery or other high crimes, where is the impeachable offense in that call? 

Are either of you here today to assert there was an impeachable offense in that call?  Shout it out.  Anyone?

TAYLOR:  Mr. Ratcliffe, if I can just respond, let me just reiterate that I'm not here ...

RATCLIFFE:  I've got one minute left.

TAYLOR:  I know you -- I know you only got a minute left.

RATCLIFFE:  Let me just make this point.

TAYLOR:  Mr. Ratcliffe, I would just like to say that I am not here to do anything having to do with having to decide about impeachment.  That is not what either of us are here to do.  This is your job. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, I'm joined right now by David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida, and Jason Johnson, politics editor at 

Congressman, let me ask you about this performance by your former erstwhile members of your party. 


MATTHEWS:  It was certainly an interesting show.  Everyone seemed to be doing their own thing. 

I'm not sure what Nunes was up to.  He didn't seem to be a leader of the pack here, because what he was doing was this out, crazy peripheral stuff about Hunter Biden and Ukraine 2016 and trying to get the whistle-blower exposed. 

I mean, none of that had to do with the conversations President Trump has with Zelensky or the whole cabal to shake this guy down for dirt on Biden.  And he just was walking around the far fringes of the topic. 

Your thoughts.

JOLLY:  Yes, let's deconstruct some of these arguments. 

You're right.  Nunes was feeding the conspiracy theory base that works among some Republican circles.  Nunes also opened by saying, this is just the next step of what the Democrats tried to do to Trump during the Mueller investigation. 

Well, Devin Nunes, it wasn't the Democrats that launched the Mueller investigation.  It was Trump's DOJ. 

And as for Jim Jordan saying that the -- in the meetings with Zelensky, Zelensky wasn't aware, the crime was not in Zelensky being aware. The crime was in the conspiracy.  The crime was in the scheme.  And all of the corroborating evidence supports the fact that Trump was scheming to withhold aid. 

And, as for John Ratcliffe, it wasn't just about the Trump phone call.  That is a distraction.  It is about a pattern of behavior, a consciousness of guilt, and an effort by Donald Trump that we now know was in direct contact with Ambassador Sondland to in fact extract this concession from the Ukraine president. 

What we saw today was not a GOP interested in their oath.  Even when they were pursuing a case to try to deconstruct the witnesses, even when they were saying -- chipping away, if you will, making the hearsay argument, they weren't acting as fact-finders, Chris.  They were acting as defense attorneys. 

That is not their role, to defend the president of the United States.  Their role today was get to the facts of impeachable activity. 


JASON JOHNSON, THE ROOT:  Yes, I thought it was ridiculous.

And you can go down the line, as David did.  But you look at Jim Jordan, and his sort of consistent -- besides his own credibility in what he...


MATTHEWS:  You look at Jim Jordan.


JOHNSON:  Yes.  Yes.  None of us really want to look at Jim Jordan, because he can't see things very well in his own background. 

But here's what -- the most galling thing.  His big argument, you had these meetings, you had these meetings, and no one mentioned it, I'm sorry.  How many people being blackmailed go running to the very same government saying, I'm being blackmailed by your boss, President Trump?

Like, that's not going to happen.  So his core argument didn't make much sense. 

The one weakness -- or the one sort of failing I saw some of the Democrats have is, when Republicans kept saying, well, eventually they got the funding, they got the funding, they got the funding, the Democrats should have pointed out, it didn't happen until the whistle-blower came forward.


JOHNSON:  So that was one thing that I thought was a mistake.

MATTHEWS:  Does that do any good, though?

I have noticed one rhetorical flourish with this crowd now.  And it's new in politics.  The old game in politics, as you know, is, ignore the question when you go on television.  Just say what you -- give your speech parts. 

These guys ignore the corrections.

JOHNSON:  Right.  Right.

MATTHEWS:  They ignore that what they said two weeks ago doesn't work anymore, and they keep saying it.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway, Republicans also blasted Democrats for not bringing the whistle-blower in to testify, despite the fact that lawyers for the anonymous individual have offered to submit written testimony.

Here they go.


JORDAN:  Now, there is one witness, one witness that they won't bring in front of us, they won't bring in front of the American people. 

And that's the guy who started at all the whistle-blower.

REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT):  I say to my colleague, I'd be glad to have the person who started it all come in and testify.  President Trump is welcome to take a seat right there. 



MATTHEWS:  Well, that's so true. 

It's not just a great counterpunch.  It is about Trump. 

That whistle-blower just said, you got to watch what happened here. 

We found out what happened there.  The whistle-blower is irrelevant now.

JOHNSON:  It's funny.

When you have a party that keeps making the argument, the president should have a right to face his accuser, here's your chance, and then he doesn't want to show up, right?  Like, this -- this could all be solved by the president or Mick Mulvaney or several other people who they're refusing to let come forward, which kind of suggests to me they don't really have an answer or an explanation. 

MATTHEWS:  David Jolly, your thoughts in the end.  What is the Republican Party go? 

Is it just mishegas, just create confusion, get a blur, prevent anybody from focusing on what they could learn from the Democratic case today?  Is it just that?

JOLLY:  Yes, that's exactly it. 

Look, they're playing defense to a 2020 strategy to prevent erosion of their base.  They're trying to prevent any strong hit from being landed. 

Here's where I think there is an opportunity for Democrats that I saw today that may have been missing.  And it's this.  An impeachment argument requires the constitutional case and the political case. 

The constitutional case is, the facts were here, in that the president wanted an investigation into the Bidens.  And the constitutional case is about Trump.

The political case is about the American people and about the voters.  And I think the case that Democrats could make to the voters is, look, Trump tried to steal the next election from you.  He tried to cheat by this next election by using foreign aid to dig up dirt on his opponent and tip the balance of the election in his favor. 

And, secondly, voter, he jeopardized America's national security, not the Ukraine's.  And the reason why is, by withholding aid, he emboldened Russian aggression.  And Russia is our enemy, and the president didn't care. 

Make the case about the American people, as much as you can make it about Donald Trump's behavior. 

MATTHEWS:  That's very good.

You should write that article for a major paper.  I would love to read that again.  I love the way you said that. 

JOLLY:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  It is about the country.  And it is, what country do you want to live in?  And we're living in this one. 

David Jolly, thank you, and Jason Johnson, as always. 

JOLLY:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next:  Did the Democrats make a strong case for impeachment to the American public?

We're going to ask one of the leading Democrats in the House.  It's coming up next, in just a minute, in fact.

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REPORTER:  Did you watch the hearings today?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   No, I didn't.  I did not watch it.  I'm too busy to watch it.  It's a witch hunt.  It's a hoax.  I'm too busy to watch it. 


MATTHEWS:  Too busy to watch it. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As the House held its first public impeachment hearing today that could determine the future of that man's presidency, Trump was meeting with President Erdogan of Turkey and the visit comes just weeks after Turkey's strong man invaded Syria and attacked U.S.-allied Kurdish forces. 

After news conference, Trump responded to the new revelation from today's impeachment hearing that a member of Ambassador Taylor's staff overheard a phone call between the president and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland about Ukraine being ready to move forward with the investigations Trump demanded of them. 


TRUMP:  I know nothing about that.  First time I've heard it.  In any event, it's more secondhand information.  But I've never heard it. 

REPORTER:  Do you recall having a conversation?

TRUMP:  I don't recall.  No, not at all.  Not even a little bit. 


MATTHEWS:  I don't recall.  I know nothing.  What is it, Sergeant Craft (ph) or Sergeant Schultz, I know nothing. 

While the president said he was too busy to watch the public hearings today, his schedule did not stop him from lashing out on Twitter with nearly, catch this, three dozen tweets and re-tweets from him.  In one, he appeared to call out today's witnesses as, quote, Never Trumpers. 

For more, I'm joined by Shannon Pettypiece, NBC senior digital, we got to get to the digital, White House reporter. 

Thank you, because that's what we're talking about today.

This guy on a day he claims he's not watching six hours or five hours of testimony against him largely, he was tweeting like a bandit. 

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC NEWS SENIOR DIGITAL WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, he was.  There was certainly a morning flurry of tweets.  And at one point he said he was too busy to watch and then he said, well, I see they've got lawyers off of TV, TV lawyers, referring to Daniel Goldman from the Democrats.  So, maybe he wasn't tuning in but he was aware at least of what the optics were going on out there. 

MATTHEWS:  I'll bet he noticed he had the worst lawyer, too.  The Democrats had a good lawyer.

PETTYPIECE:  Well -- right, the Republican certainly didn't have Judge Jeanine, his favorite lawyer. 


PETTYPIECE:  So, that might be a complaint he raises with them.

But in general, what we're getting from the White House is sort of breathing a sigh of relief today, and they feel like they essentially played this one to a draw.  They don't think anybody's mind changed from this.  Obviously, it was good for the Democrats' case and making their case. 

They felt like they got to make a couple of points they wanted to make.  Firstly, this one you heard the president make about no one having first- hand knowledge, direct conversations of them. 

MATTHEWS:  So, we got a guy this Friday.  He's going to testify he was listening. 

PETTYPIECE:  Right.  So, we'll see what Sondland says.  But everyone else, the president has blocked from testifying, who would have had first-hand conversations or knowledge what the president's thinking was, mostly Mick Mulvaney, who was involved in the funding.  So, they blocked the people with firsthand knowledge, and now they're accusing anyone else who testifies of not having that sort of direct link to the president's thinking on this. 

MATTHEWS:  It's the administration taking the Fifth.

According to "The Washington Post", President Trump has been threatening to fire his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for weeks, but senior advisers have been urging him off that ledge.  Three people familiar with the discussions say the advisers cautioned the president that removing Mulvaney at such a sensitive time could be perilous because -- well, both because Mulvaney played an integral part in the decision to freeze the aid to Ukraine, the military aid, and because of the disruption it would be caused by replacing one of Trump's most senior aides. 

"The Washington Post" reports further that Trump had expressed particular anger following Mulvaney's press conference last month where he admitted Trump froze military aid to Ukraine in part to leverage them to launch investigations that would politically benefit him. 

Well, that's right.  That's why Trump -- this is reasonable, for the first time Trump is actually reasonable.  He should be mad at the guy who said he's guilty. 

PETTYPIECE:  Yes, that was problematic for the president's case, that press conference with Mulvaney.  And yes, our reporting indicated after that, there was a flurry of discontent.  And the people in the White House who have wanted to see Mulvaney move out, including Jared Kushner being one of those, saw that as a moment to make their case to the president about getting rid of Mulvaney. 

The problem has always been for this president, who do you place the person you want to get rid of with?  And there's no real viable options they were able to come up with.  And the moment seemed to pass, the president's mood and the temperature seem to come down, and so, Mulvaney remains certainly through this impeachment vote. 

But going into 2020, people we've talked to say there's certainly the option open the president will bring in a chief of staff who might have some more political campaign stock to go through that.

MATTHEWS:  What a weird situation.  Here's Mick Mulvaney telling friends I've got dirt on the president, he can't fire him.  The president still calls him acting.  They're both conditional.  There's not a lot of loyalty in neither direction here.

Anyway, Shannon Pettypiece for the inside.

Up next, a top Democrat in the House, U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York joins me to discuss the beginning of the public impeachment effort. 

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MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Democrats wanted today's witnesses to answer three questions.  Did the president ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival for personal gain?  Did the president or his allies use the office of the presidency to apply pressure to that president?  And did the president obstruct or cover up evidence about his actions? 

U.S. Ambassador Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kent both pointed to yes.  That was their answer.  Yes, he did all three. 

After the hearing, Chairman Schiff asked the American public if they're OK with that kind of behavior from an American president. 


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA):  Ultimately, what we will need to decide and what I hope members on both sides of the aisle in the House and if necessary in the Senate, what I hope members will think about is, what do these facts mean for the future of our country?  What do these facts mean in terms of what Americans should expect from a president of the United States?  Are we prepared to say that asking a foreign nation now to intervene in our elections is something that is a perk of the office of the presidency? 


MATTHEWS:  For more, I'm joined by Democratic congressman from New York, Hakeem Jeffries.  He's chair of the House Democratic Caucus. 

It's great to have you on, Congressman.  Thank you for joining us. 

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY):  Great to be with you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  You're leader of the caucus.  I thought -- and I've been following politics for a long time, I thought you were disciplined out there, your party members on the House Intelligence Committee.  I thought they all kept the focus on the issue of corruption, of this president using his public office for personal political gain. 

I thought they're very much circling -- defended really the president of the United States, was I thought the Republicans were all over the place.  Some were them were focused.  Some were not.  Some were like the ranking member Nunes who never impresses me. 

And even less impressive was his counsel.  I had no idea what Castor is up to out there.  Your assessment?  Mine is positive.  I think you did a lot of good work today to get the story to the American people. 

JEFFRIES:  I agree.  And we're going to continue to follow the facts, apply the law being guided by the Constitution and present the truth to the American people.  That's exactly what happened today. 

The members of the Intel Committee led by Chairman Schiff are doing a phenomenal job.  They recognize like every single member of the House Democratic caucus led by Speaker Pelosi recognizes this is a serious moment, a solemn moment and a somber moment for our country.  And we're going to approach it in that regard. 

The witnesses confirmed the fundamental facts, which is that Donald Trump pressured a foreign government to target an American citizen for political gain, thereby soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election at the same time as he was withholding $391 million in military aid without justification from a very vulnerable Ukraine.  That is textbook abuse of power. 

MATTHEWS:  I believe the speaker, and I don't know the reporting on this, but I'm going to guess the speaker was the impresario behind everything today, and working with the chairman of that committee, Mr. Schiff.  How did she think the thing went today, the hearing? 

JEFFRIES:  I haven't had an opportunity to talk to her post-hearing.  But in the caucus meeting that we had this morning at 9:00 a.m., she, of course, set the tone that we will continue to be serious, undertake our constitutional responsibilities consistent with the House serving as a separate and coequal branch of government, consistent with what James Madison once observed, that the House should be a rival to the executive branch. 

Why did he use the word rival?  Chris, as you know, because the founders didn't want a king.  They didn't want a monarch.  Excuse me, they didn't want a dictator.  They wanted a democracy, and that's exactly what we're defending. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe right now that the Democratic caucus which voted 332 to begin these proceedings are still together on this?  They are confident they can hold together and bring this to a vote by the end of the year, a vote for impeachment? 

JEFFRIES:  Well, we'll see where the process takes us.  We have to wait until the Intel Committee completes its work.  Upon completing their work, they'll make a recommendation to the Judiciary Committee, which, Chris, as you know, I sit on.  And then we'll make decisions how to proceed in the context of presidential accountability. 

What is clear when you have a witness like Ambassador Taylor, who's a West Point graduate, a Vietnam War hero, someone who's a clear patriot, someone who was appointed by Reagan and Bush and Trump to serve as a diplomat, this is not about Democrats versus Republicans.  This is about right versus wrong. 

And we're going to continue to present these facts to the American people, and hopefully, they'll conclude this type of behavior from the so-called leader of the free world is unacceptable in the context of our democratic republic. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought your colleague from New York, Mr. Maloney, did a wonderful job of bringing about that biographical information about Mr. Taylor, Ambassador Taylor. 

The fact that -- I mean, I don't know anybody that's smart.  He was number four in the class of 800 at West Point, where he could have gotten a nice bill coming, working at the Pentagon or something, a nice job, he'd never leave Washington.  He went into combat.  He became an infantry, you know, combat leader going into the jungles of Vietnam. 

He did all that with his intellectual advantage of not having to do that kind of, you know, grunt work.  It's a very impressive character out there you had with the guy taking the oath right now.  That was impressive that somebody said so. 

JEFFRIES:  Well, that's correct.  And, you know, Bill Taylor is a straight shooter and he's someone that cares about this country, cares about the integrity of our democracy, knows the difference between right and wrong.  And that's why he's come forward.

And what you're going to see over the next few weeks is patriot after patriot come forward and just tell the truth to the American people.  Ultimately, we'll have to make a decision what that means in terms of presidential accountability.  But is clear is that this case, this wrongdoing that's hiding in plain sight, it's about national security, it's about the integrity of our elections, it's abuse of power and betrayal, and it's about the United States Constitution, and we're going to defend our democracy no matter what it takes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I've got to say, the Democratic leadership including you are doing a great job of keeping the focus here so the American people have a choice to make about this impeachment.

Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the Democratic Caucus.

JEFFRIES:  Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Up next, my thoughts about the testimony and some good advice I got my dad years ago. 

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MATTHEWS:  Our father who worked in the Philadelphia court system for three decades once gave me some remarkable advice.  If you're guilty, he said, always ask for a jury because over 30 years as a court reporter, he found juries largely unpredictable.  So if the evidence is weighing heavily against you, he said the smart move he came to realize is simply taking your chances with those 12 people sitting together on the side of the courtroom. 

Now if you're innocent, he argued, just the opposite.  Let a judge decide the case.  A judge will look at the evidence and see what it doesn't add up.  He'll see the argument being put forward by the prosecutors and know they're puffing up a weak case.  If you're innocent, put your faith in a professional judge. 

As I was listening to Ambassador Bill Taylor and George Kent today, I thought these guys know what they're talking about.  They answer questions without parroting the same words.  They're calm, clear and ready to sit there all day dealing with reality.  And they don't strike me as kneejerk partisans.

So I'm going with the judge on this one, I'm going with the straight reporters of the major newspapers, the wire services and the best political journalists.  The president tried using the power of his office to extort some dirt he can use on his rivals and those are the facts. 

And that's HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.