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Steven Levingston plays Hardball. TRANSCRIPT: 11/22/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Josh Marshall, Chuck Nice, Michelle Goldberg, Betsy Woodruff Swan,Javed Ali, Victoria Nourse, Charlie Sykes, Jonathan Lemire, StevenLevingston

JOSH MARSHALL, AMERICAN JOURNALIST:  I almost kind of wonder what are the sort of the -- it`s going to be the one think that kind of unifies everybody on both sides.  So like, dude, what is your problem.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Well, I`ll say I`m closing.  Thanks to Josh Marshall and Chuck Nice.  And I will say, at the end of this week of the impeachment hearings, we can at least tell the Kardashians we tried.



NICE:  We tried.

MELBER:  We tried.

Thank you for watching THE BEAT.  Thanks to our guests.  HARDBALL starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Coming up next, articles of impeachment.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Like the police tracing a sidewalk crime scene, the House Intel Committee has drawn a human portrait of an impeachable offense.  They`ve given a bold print countdown of the next steps against the president.

NBC News reports the House Judiciary Committee could take up articles of impeachment right after Thanksgiving.  And the full House of Representatives will vote on those articles before the Christmas break.

And today, President Trump appear to expect what is now looming as a certainty, his trial in the U.S. Senate.  Trump spent this morning in his usual media bubble bath cuddling with Fox and Friends.  For nearly an hour, Trump was a human spigot for conspiracy theories and attacked an enemies list that includes the usual suspects, the Democrats and the media, but has now expanded to what he calls never-Trumpers in the Republican ranks and any public servant who dares tell the truth about his shenanigans.

But now, heard directly from 12 witnesses who testified before the House Intelligence Committee in seven hearings, all together, they drew a disturbing portrait, as I said, of a president`s abuse of power.  They established that by demanding investigations from Ukraine.  The president was seeking to advance his personal political agenda.


LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR OF EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL:  Is it improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent?

JENNIFER WILLIAMS, STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL AND VICE PRESIDENT PENCE ADVISER:  I thought that the references to specific individuals and investigations, such as former Vice President Biden and his son, struck me as political in nature given that the former vice president is a political opponent of the president.

DAVID HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS U.S. EMBASSY IN UKRAINE:  Of course, the president is pressing for a Biden investigation before he`ll do these things, the Ukrainians want.

FIONA HILL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO RUSSIA:  What we were trying to do was block us from straying into domestic or personal politics.


MATTHEWS:  In pursuing that agenda, the witnesses established that the president used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine with withholding a promised White House meeting as well as military aid, vital military aid.


GEORGE KENT, SENIR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  The possibility of a White House meeting was being held contingent to an announcement.

VINDMAN:  In order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations.

GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION:  We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and the White House meeting reflected President Trump`s desires and requirements.

HOLMES:  My clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians, who had not yet agreed to the Burisma-Biden investigation, or an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.

WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE:  To withhold that assistance for no good reason other than help with a political campaign made no sense.


MATTHEWS:  Finally, in describing this scheme at the heart of this inquiry, Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that everybody was in on it.


SONDLAND:  Everyone was in the loop.  It was no secret.  We kept the leadership of the State Department and the NSC informed of our activities.

They knew what we were doing and why.

And Secretary Pompeo essentially gave me the green light.

I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations.

Again, everyone was in the loop.


MATTHEWS:  Most striking is that after all this public testimony, the president has mounted no actual defense, just the opposite.  In blocking sworn testimony from all of his witnesses, he`s prevented them from denying his involvement in the scheme.  And that speaks volumes about his own guilt and awareness of it.

For more, I`m joined by Betsy Woodruff Swan, The Daily Beast Politics Reporter, Javed Ali, former Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council, and Michelle Goldberg, New York Times Columnist.

Michelle, thank you for joining us tonight.  This is a sort of the summation of two weeks of testimony.  Now, for your summation, did the majority of members of the House Intel Committee get across the truth in the last two weeks?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Well, I think it depends on who are the audience for the truth, right?  And there is no doubt that Donald Trump did the thing he`s accused of.  There is no doubt that Donald Trump did the thing he is accused of.  There is no doubt that he basically extorted Ukraine for help smearing his political enemy and undermining the CIA and FBI and Intelligence Community`s findings that Russia intervened to help him win in 2016.

So it was obvious that he did that as soon as he released the transcript.  These witnesses confirmed it.  They elaborated on it.  They explained the implications of it.  None of them contradicted it, so it`s obvious that he did it.  But it`s equally obvious, I think, that Republicans don`t care.  And so it should be clear to any good faith viewer that the case was made, but we unfortunately don`t have a good faith party who`s going to be judging this evidence.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s talk about a couple.  I want to unpack that a little bit what you say.  It became clear to me early last week that when you pick up the major metropolitan papers of this country that the committee testimony was getting through to your headline writers, to your front page analysis people, to your front main bar people.  The truth, as testified to in these committee hearings the last two weeks has gotten through to the major newspapers who have put it in on a (INAUDIBLE) basically on the front pages.  That`s true.

My second question is what about that third of the country that doesn`t watch Fox and Friends, that doesn`t -- isn`t liberal, doesn`t read the big newspapers, that middle of the country that watches other programming, some of the more entertainment programs of the year they choose over the political programs?  Did they get it?  The people who don`t read regular news, did they get the message it or not?  My question to you, Michelle, as columnist.

GOLBERG:  I don`t think we know yet.  Because although there was -- what was it -- almost 24 hours or maybe more than that of testimony, but I think a lot of people was on all the major networks, and so probably a lot of people who don`t watch cable news or exposed to at least some of it, we don`t yet know how they were able to process all this testimony.  I don`t think there has been polling that`s been able to capture, you know, just the events of the last couple of days yet.

And part of the problem is that there used to be institutions, mediating institutions whose job it was to try to explain the truth to people who don`t have time to watch 24 hours of congressional testimony.  And, you know, trust in those institutions has collapsed.  And meanwhile we have places like Fox News that are devoted to spreading disinformation and propaganda.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I want to go to Betsy on this without getting into media criticism, which I do try to avoid here.  I`m just going to say, this president chooses to get into that bubble bath every morning with Fox and Friends, where he will not be challenged.  He chooses only media that will not challenge him.

BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE DAILY BEAST":  One of the most important things that happened in this past week relates directly to that issue.  And that is Fiona Hill said during her testimony that the notion that the Ukrainian government rather than the Russian government was responsible for meddling in the 2016 elections, first, is incorrect, and second, is being pushed by Russian intelligence services as a new sort of species of disinformation operating in the U.S.

This is so important because it gets right to the heart of the reason for the president`s acute hostility toward Ukraine.  The reason he is so hostile toward Kiev is the result, according to Fiona Hill, of literally a Russian disinformation --

MATTHEWS:  Why does this president and some people I have known in my life, I don`t hate them, I look down on them to some extent, are always driven to conspiracy theories?  They never think anything is on a level.  They always think they go to a party, and when they get there, everybody has been talking about them before they get in the door.  They`re basically paranoid.  That`s who believes in conspiracy theories.  Why is this president paranoid?

SWAN:  Part of one reason that there is such an appetite, I think, for conspiracy theories in this country is because there has been such repeated failure of institutions.  Trump loves emphasizing the failures of the Intelligence Community to the Iraq War.  That`s a valid complaint.  But, of course, it doesn`t justify buying into these notions.

MATTHEWS:  There are certain brains that are queued to this stuff.  OK, I have noticed.

By the way, the people that believe in a conspiracy theory, they believe in all of them.  They believe in all of them.

SWAN:  That`s probably true.

MATTHEWS:  At the outset to drive to advance -- and Trump is one of them, Jesse Ventura, people like that.

Anyway, Trump`s political agenda in Ukraine was described as a separate irregular channel of foreign diplomacy.  Here`s Ambassador Taylor.


TAYLOR:  There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policymaking and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular.

The official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the irregular efforts led by Mr. Giuliani.


MATTHEWS:  And as we learned that irregular channel pushed out Ambassador Yovanovitch who stood in its way.


MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE:  Sullivan told me there had been a concerted campaign against me, that the president no longer wished me to serve as ambassador to Ukraine.

I still find it difficult to comprehend that foreign and private interests were able to undermine U.S. interests in this way.


MATTHEWS:  However, we came to see that the so-called irregular channel was actually the Trump channel sanctioned by the president and his entire administration.  Here`s Ambassador Sondland on that point.


SONDLAND:  I`m not sure how someone could characterize something as an irregular channel when you`re talking to the president of the United States, the secretary of state, the national security adviser, the chief of staff for the White House, the secretary of energy.  I don`t know how that`s irregular.


MATTHEWS:  Well said.

Anyway, Dr. Fiona Hill was on yesterday.  She said she now realizes that Ambassador Sondland had been empowered to pursue Trump`s agenda by Trump.


HILL:  Ambassador Sondland is not wrong that he had been given a different remit.

He was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy.


MATTHEWS:  Javed, one of the, I think, delightful, even delicious ironies of this is people who came to this country from other countries, her for the case of Great Britain and Vindman from Ukraine, and another one of the witnesses from the Soviet Union, and they`re all the most patriotic, of course, gut patriots, and yet this cabal is being carried out by people like Trump.  But our last wall of defense of the people who just got here in one generation, and to me, it`s inspiring.

JAVED ALI, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL:  Sure.  And I actually was part of that community myself as professional intelligence officer but from an immigrant community as well working at the White House.  But when it comes to Fiona Hill`s testimony, I thought she did great.  I know Fiona.  I worked with her in the Intel Community and at the White House.  She was poised, prepared, patriotic, a professional.  Everything that we would see every day showing up to work is what the American public saw yesterday.

MATTHEWS:  And she`s one of those people that -- not one of them -- whose economy of language, she doesn`t waste a word.

ALI:  She doesn`t.  She`s very crisp in both her writing and oral presentation, but she`s also very tough and can be sort of on point when she seeds to.  So I think her performance yesterday was really incredible.

MATTHEWS:  The president probably hasn`t zeroed in on you yet, but I imagine you would be among his counter-Trumpers, Anti-Trumpers, foreign policy deep state.  He has now included in his enemies list everybody who`s ever sworn allegiance to the United States, it seems.

ALI:  Well, I worked in the Trump administration for a year and have a letter from the president thanking me for my service.  So, hopefully, I don`t show up on that list.  And I was glad for the year that I was there.

MATTHEWS:  He signed it?

ALI:  He did.

MATTHEWS:  So what do you think of this character assassination of people like Fiona Hill and the rest of them, and Vindman?  I mean, even the Marsha Blackburn, the senator from Tennessee, I have never anything but respect for her.  I know she`s conservative pretty far over, but attacking Vindman and just making fun of him today.

ALI:  Yes, it`s unfortunate.  Because everyone of us who are in government or are still serving the government, you show up to work for the good of the country.  You`re there for the mission, for service, for the greater good.  The last thing you expect to do is to be attacked personally just for showing up and doing your job.

MATTHEWS:  And justifying the president`s actions, we`ve seen Republicans defend the discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in our 2016 elections.

And as Dr. Fiona Hill warned yesterday, it`s a false narrative, a fiction that`s been pushed by Russia to cover their tracks.


HILL:  This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.  So this falls into a long pattern of deflection and the Russian government trying to pin the blame on someone else.


MATTHEWS:  And this is probably the most important thing you`ll hear tonight on HARDBALL.  New reporting from The New York Times tonight is backing up Dr. Hill`s assertion.  According to three officials now, quote, American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a years` long campaign to essentially frame Ukraine, frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow`s own hacking of the 2016 election.

And starting in 2017, quote, Russian intelligence officials conveyed the information to prominent Russians and Ukrainians who then used a range of intermediaries to pass that material to American political figures and even some journalists who were likely unaware of its origin.

What do you make of this, Betsy?  Have you heard about this effort to sort of push out, push this poison of lies that it was the Ukrainians, not the Russians, who did it?

SWAN:  It`s been very public.  Putin himself has talked about the notion the Ukrainians meddled in the United States election.

MATTHEWS:  But getting into the bloodstream of American journalism?

SWAN:  It`s been pushed in a significant way by far-right media outlets.

One thing that`s really important about this New York Times story is that it shows that every Republican senator who was in that briefing and was paying attention knew as of a couple of weeks ago for sure that the notion the president was pushing was not just incorrect but was the product of a Russian info op (ph).

MATTHEWS:  Back to you, Michelle.  I mean, the days when we had people like Chonkite, who was basically, if knew him, a liberal.  But he spoke absolutely objectively in his news coverage.  He was an objective news (ph).  He was the guy that put us to bed at night.  We were watching the conventions all night and in `60 -- back in `68.  I remember him, get some sleep.  He was Uncle Walter.  Who is Uncle Walter today?  So we don`t have somebody there as the gatekeeper.

GOLDBERG:  And we also have really a profound failure of loyalty by the Republican Party, right?  Republican senators got that briefing, they knew and yet none of them have publicly pushed back on this conspiracy theory.

What a couple of Republicans have done is tried to massage it.  They`ve tried to suggest that when Donald Trump says that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 election, he was really talking about, you know, an ambassador writing an op-ed in the Hill, criticizing Trump`s position on Crimea if that was -- as if that was election meddling.

And Trump has now made it clear that , no, he means CrowdStrike, he means the conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked the DNC and then framed Russia.

And so the other thing that I think is very important about The New York Times story, if you read between the lines about the way that Russia used various cutouts in Ukraine, businessmen and oligarchs, I think if you ready between the lines, you can see that Rudy Giuliani is basically a dupe witting or unwitting of Russian intelligence.  And just consider how alarming it is that our foreign policy has essentially been run on that basis.

MATTHEWS:  Well, America`s mayor is not looking too good right now.

Betsy Woodruff Swan, thank you so much.  And, Javed Ali, I thought that was a great report you gave us about what it looks and feels like to be one of these foreign policy experts, and immigrant family as well.

ALI:  Thank you.

MATTHEWS:  It`s so American.

Michelle Goldberg, I love your writing, thank you so much, from The New York Times.

Coming up, a new phase begins in the impeachment investigation.  Adam Schiff`s Intelligence Committee will hand it off to Jerry Nadler`s Judiciary Committee.  This thing is getting to the history books.  This is going into the Constitution.  What happens next and what would a Senate trial look like, coming up apparently in January with Republicans control of that chamber.

Plus, reports that Trump is now totally consumed by the impeachment -- well, finally, he`s getting rational.  You`re in trouble, Mr. President.  And despite all the evidence against him, Trump continues to claim he did nothing wrong, and his enemies list is growing and now includes an army of distinguished civil servants and diplomats.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Look, the ambassador, the woman, she wouldn`t even put up she`s an Obama person.  You know, I said, why are you being so kind?  Well, sir, she`s a woman, we have to be nice.

But this ambassador that, you know, everybody says is so wonderful, she wouldn`t hang my picture in the embassy.


MATTHEWS:  You know why the president calls in and never shows up on camera because he`s in a bubble bath with these people.

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



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The bottom line, is all of those witnesses, they`re all shifty Schiffs. 

Don`t forget, there was no due process.  You can`t have lawyers.  We couldn`t have witnesses.  We do want to call the whistle-blower.  But you know who I want as the first witness, because, frankly, I want a trial?


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was President Trump earlier today signaling that he would become -- well, he would welcome a trial in the Senate if the House approves articles of impeachment, which they will. 

And that seems to be where the process is definitely heading right now.  It appears that the House Democrats have wrapped up the public phase of the impeachment investigation this week, following 35 hours of testimony by 12 different witnesses. 

Well, House Intelligence Committee staffers, led by Chairman Adam Schiff, will begin work on a report next week laying out the committee`s findings, the case for impeachment, which will then be sent to the House Judiciary Committee for writing the actual articles.

Republicans on the Intelligence Committee are also working on their own report.  God knows what that`s going to be.  That`s going to go to the House Judiciary Committee as well.  And then it will be up to the committee on Judiciary to draft articles of impeachment.  There they are. 

I really think it`s important to focus on those men and women there, because they`re going to be the ones who make history, most likely in early December.  The full House will debate those articles and only vote on whether to impeach the president probably before the Christmas break. 

For more, I`m joined by Victoria Nourse, director of the Center on Congressional Studies at Georgetown Law School.  She was chief counsel to Vice President Biden from 2015 to 2016.  And Michael Beschloss, the great NBC News -- well, he`s bigger than us -- presidential historian Michael Beschloss. 

Let`s just talk about the picture that the members of the Judiciary Committee will -- I said to look at the pictures of these people, because, in the end, we`re going to watch on television as each of those men and women votes aye to articles impeachment.

  And they will make history.  The biggest vote of their lives will be to impeach this guy. 

VICTORIA NOURSE, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL TO JOE BIDEN:  It is the biggest vote of their lives. 

But what people don`t understand is, this is not ordinary politics.  This is, their name is going down in the history books, and they will be remembered.  It is the most important vote.  And we`re going to see a very somber, deliberate hearing, nothing like the kind of theater that you have seen in part at some kinds of hearings on this.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the Republicans will do when it comes to vote nay, when they`re all going to vote nay, on articles?  Are they going to no.


NOURSE:  No way, no how. 


MATTHEWS:  Or -- of course not, 1000 percent no.  What are they going to do to dramatize their resistance? 

NOURSE:  I don`t know.  Maybe say no, 1,000 times no. 

MATTHEWS:  Back in `74, when Nixon was -- he did get this far, as you know.


MATTHEWS:  He didn`t get voted to be impeached by the full House, but the committee did it. 


MATTHEWS:  How many articles do you think they`re looking at this time? 

BESCHLOSS:  I would assume, if history gives us any guide, probably two or three.

MATTHEWS:  Two or three. 

First one being?  Would it be bribery or will it be abuse of power? 

BESCHLOSS:  Could be -- well, one of those two, and then probably something having to do with non-cooperation. 


Do you see it that way? 

NOURSE:  Yes. 

I think it`s going to be maybe three, four, perhaps.

MATTHEWS:  What`s the fourth?

NOURSE:  Well, they should not be focusing -- they`re all going to be abuse of power.

If you look at the Nixon ones, and you look at the Clinton, the way the lawyers draft these, it`s...


BESCHLOSS:  And the Clinton people tried to model theirs on the Nixon.

NOURSE:  On Nixon. 

BESCHLOSS:  That`s right. 

NOURSE:  And they tried to avoid Andrew Johnson, which I know....





MATTHEWS:  Talk to me too.  The audience.  You`re talking to each other.  Go ahead.


NOURSE:  All right, so...

MATTHEWS:  No, first of all, abuse of power.

BESCHLOSS:  Probably knows more about Andrew Johnson.


MATTHEWS:  And maybe bribery -- and maybe bribery in addition.

NOURSE:  Bribery. 

MATTHEWS:  And then what`s it called?  Obstruction of Congress.

NOURSE:  Obstruction of Congress.  That was also in both Clinton and in Nixon. 

And, also, there`s something I want to emphasize, because it came out of Fiona Hill`s testimony.  Everyone who has ever been a top lawyer in the White House knows there`s a key statute, and it says, you cannot use American taxpayer money for political purposes, and it`s a felony. 

And I think they`re going to include that as well, because that`s why all those people...

MATTHEWS:  Give me an example.  How would they be doing it here?  Where would they see it? 

NOURSE:  Well, because it`s a congressional appropriation, right, for Ukraine. 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, using it negatively.


MATTHEWS:  Withholding it.

NOURSE:  Withholding it.  You cannot withhold it for the purpose of gaining personal political gain.


MATTHEWS:  Even though Harry Truman ran in 1948 entirely using federal money. 

NOURSE:  Yes, but you can no longer do this.  I mean, Clinton got into trouble with Travelgate in part because of this.  It`s a very broad statute. 

And the lawyers go around telling everyone in the National Security Council, you cannot use money for -- taxpayer money to promote Republican or Democrat policies.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  When you have to explain this to grandkids -- hopefully, we all get to do that.  They all become teenagers while we`re still around.  We have to explain this to people. 

Nixon was easy.  There was a break-in.  He covered it up.  Right?


MATTHEWS:  What about this one? 

BESCHLOSS:  The president was responsible for our national security and made decisions that were more in the interest of his own political campaign. 

MATTHEWS:  He sacrificed our security and our alliances, right? 

NOURSE:  Yes.  And he`s threatening our elections.  That was 2016.  It`s coming up again.  This is what Ukraine...


MATTHEWS:  Bringing foreign players into our election process. 

NOURSE:  Exactly. 

That is the biggest problem with this and why I think we`re seeing impeachment today.


Explain why no Republican -- whereas, back in Watergate days, a lot of Republicans voted for impeachment in that committee.  It`s always amazing.  I watched it again recently. 


MATTHEWS:  When those Republican hands go up and say aye, you`re taking going on your party. 


MATTHEWS:  Larry Hogan.

BESCHLOSS:  Absolutely.

These were two parties that overlapped a lot.  There were Republican liberals and moderates and conservatives, and the same thing on the Democrats.

MATTHEWS:  What happens this time when there`s no hands go up on the other side?  None.  Zero in that committee.  You know that committee.  Watch the people like -- Jordan won`t even be on it, thank God, but he`s been acting like he`s a member. 

NOURSE:  No, we`re going to see a party-line vote.  There`s no question about that. 

What I want to see is what happens in the Senate, because I think there may be a few.

MATTHEWS:  Who you hoping for?

BESCHLOSS:  Well, Murkowski, Collins, Romney.

MATTHEWS:  You put it in the right order.  I think Murkowski has got more guts.  I was going to say something more organic, but she has got more guts than anybody I have seen in politics. 

She loses a primary.  She comes back and wins the general.  To hell with the party.

NOURSE:  And they have to write in her name.  You know that?

MATTHEWS:  And Alaska is very much a pioneering tough camp -- state. 

I think she might do it too.  I don`t know about Collins.  Collins is going to fight for her reelection carefully, very carefully up there in Maine. 

Anyway, thank you, Victoria Nourse.  Michael Beschloss, my pal, thank you. 

Up next:  How is President Trump handling the threat of impeachment? Apparently, not well.  His enemies list keeps growing, and his fevers keep growing.  For more, the main chore is expanding that enemies list.  That seems to be what he`s working on, the new people he hates.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 



TRUMP:  I think they want to impeach because it`s the only way they`re going to win.  They have got nothing.  All they have is a phone call that was perfect. 

They`re interviewing ambassadors who I`d never heard of.  I don`t know who these people are.  I never heard of them. 

Don`t forget, many of these people were put there during Obama, during Clinton, during the never-Trumper Bush era.  You had a never-Trumper Bush.  You have heard of those people.  Those people might be worse than the Democrats, the never-Trumpers. 


MATTHEWS:  The list grows, the enemies list.

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was President Trump a month ago, sounding unconcerned really about the House impeachment investigation. 

But with the president accusing some witnesses of being never-Trumpers or human scum, his enemies list is expanding.  The president lashed out this morning an interview with "FOX & Friends."  Here he goes. 


TRUMP:  This was an overthrow attempt at the presidency.  They tried to overthrow the presidency.  This is a disgrace.

Now, with this guy, who, by the way, I hardly know him, OK?

QUESTION:  Sondland?

TRUMP:  Yes, I have spoken to him a few times. 

How about the guy with the telephone?  How about that one?  That was a total phony deal.  That was a phony -- again, call it deep state.

QUESTION:  But, Mr. President -- Mr. President...

TRUMP:  Call it bad people.  Call it anti-Trump people. 

QUESTION:  Your...

TRUMP:  The bottom line, is all of those witnesses, they`re all shifty Schiffs. 

Don`t forget, there was no due process.  You can`t have lawyers.  We couldn`t have witnesses.  We do want to call the whistle-blower. 


MATTHEWS:  You think about Trump in his bubble bath with his little ducky.  Those are his little duckies, those three people there.

Anyway, the president saved the brunt of his attacks this morning for former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, accusing her of being not an angel. 


TRUMP:  Look, the ambassador, the woman, she wouldn`t even put up -- she`s an Obama person.  I said, why are you being so kind?  Well, sir, she`s a woman.  We have to be nice. 

This ambassador that everybody says is so wonderful, she wouldn`t hang my picture in the embassy, OK?  She`s in charge of the embassy.  She wouldn`t hang it.  It took like a year-and-a-half or two years for her to get the picture up. 

She said bad things about me.  She wouldn`t defend me.  And I have the right to change an ambassador.  This was an Obama person, wouldn`t -- didn`t want to hang my picture in the embassy.  It`s standard, is you put the president of the United States picture in an embassy. 

This was not an angel, this woman, OK?


MATTHEWS:  Boy, he`s a sensitive guy, isn`t he?  He knows his picture is not hanging in Kiev. 

The former ambassador`s legal team told NBC News that embassy -- the embassy hung the photos as soon as they arrived from Washington. 

In fact, "The Washington Post" reported in September of 2017, eight months after his inauguration, that federal buildings were still waiting for photos because -- quote -- "The president and vice president have not yet decided when they will sit for high-quality official photographs."

But the president`s nasty comments about the witnesses these weeks, these two weeks, apparently reflects his difficulty handling the threat of impeachment. 

We have got brand-new reporting coming up on that question, his condition. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

For weeks, President Trump has publicly insisted he`s not concerned about the House drive toward impeachment, calling it a hoax.  But, according to Politico, behind the scenes, it`s his singular focus.

Quote: "Trump has become monomaniacal -- monomaniacally focused on impeachment.  Policy meetings and listening sessions have taken the backseat as his indignant tweeting and his live analysis of witness testimony."

The report adds: "The president is increasingly interested in how the investigation is affecting his political standing and more paranoid than ever about Republican deflections -- defections," rather.  That`s worse.

Today, one Republican made it clear she`s standing, however, by the president and willing to do his dirty work, smearing witnesses.

Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn -- I mentioned this earlier -- tweeted an attack on Colonel -- Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, writing: "Vindictive Vindman is the whistle-blower`s handler."

For more, I`m joined by Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the Associated Press, and Charlie Sykes, editor at large of The Bulwark. 

Charlie, I want to start with you.

What is it in the water that`s causing pretty good conservative Republicans, who I have no problem with over the years -- and I have covered Marsha Blackburn forever.  I have got no problem with her.  She`s a public servant, right of center, a bit more than I -- certainly further right than I`d like. 

But I have never seen her dip -- why is she making fun of a guy who served the country all these years.  Vindictive Vindman?  What is she in this game for? 

CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK:  Well, Trumpism corrupts, and apparently corrupts absolutely. 

The fact that you have a United States senator who is adopting the sort of puerile playground rhetoric of Donald Trump, and then attacking a decorated veteran, which, again, is -- there`s no point to it. 

It`s the spread of the hackery in this era that`s really so amazing. 


SYKES:  And the way in which Republicans -- and I wonder whether, when they listen to that phone call, they realize what they`re defending, that, really, what`s happened is that they are now becoming co-conspirators to what Donald Trump has been doing. 

And this is an ongoing scandal, the attempt to demean and to degrade the whistle-blowers and the people, the public servants who are coming out and speaking, the attempt to run cover for the Russians, who are continuing to attack the electoral process. 

This is not a scandal that took place in the past.  This is happening in real time.  And so when you have jurors in the Senate trial who decided that they`re going to lower themselves to Donald Trump`s level, they have to realize what role they`re actually playing in history and, frankly, in this ongoing attack on America.

MATTHEWS:  Well, if you roll around with dogs, you get fleas.

Anyway, Republicans have relied on various, sometimes contradictory arguments against the impeachment inquiry throughout this week`s hearings.

Here they go. 


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY):  The fact is, the aid was given to Ukraine without any announcement of new investigations. 


STEFANIK:  And President Trump did in fact meet with President Zelensky in September at the United Nations, correct?

SONDLAND:  He did.

STEFANIK:  And there was no announcement of investigations before this meeting?

SONDLAND:  Correct. 

STEFANIK:  And there was no announcement of investigations after this meeting. 

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  They get the call.  They get the meeting.  They get the money.

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA):  The president of the United States, commander in chief, was concerned about the 2016 elections and Burisma.

At the end of the day, isn`t it the commander in chief that makes those decisions? 

REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX):  Reasonable people could look at all of this and come to different conclusions. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, as Charlie Savage writes in "The New York Times": "The Democrats are trying to paint a coherent picture, while Republicans need only muddy it."

Jonathan, let me ask you about that. 

I thought that from the beginning.  And I used the comparison of a guy in an NBA game trying to make a foul shot, and the people in the stands behind him just waving those stupid things to try to distract him. 

I always thought, come on, let the game go on here. 

But Republicans are happy to wave those dumb things that the air, like the Utah Jazz fans, the Toronto fans.  They all do it. 

Why is the Republican Party reduced to just trying to distract and confuse?  Don`t they have a case to make?  I`m being rhetorical.  I don`t think they got one.  Your thoughts. 

JONATHAN LEMIRE, ASSOCIATED PRESS:rMD-BO_  I`m always impressed when the player can make the free throws, considering the distractions behind the basket there, Chris. 

Yes, I mean, this is -- this is -- right.  This is similar to what they Republicans did during the Mueller probe too, where they weren`t really fighting on the facts.  They just wanted to confuse things. 

Rudy Giuliani certainly did that, the president, the president`s allies on the Hill.  And we`re seeing that again this week. 

And -- but the answer here is clear.  They`re pointing to -- they`re saying, well, look, he may not have gotten a White House meeting, but Zelensky met with Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations. 

We`re saying, well, he never did have a news conference to announce -- announce the investigation.  They`re saying, the aid was eventually released, eventually released.  It was delayed. 

And why was it eventually released?  Because the White House got word of the whistle-blower`s report.  That`s what set this in motion.  There was some pressure from the Armed Services Committee on the Hill.  And, more than anything, the whistle-blower came forward. 

So, to be simple, to be blunt, they got caught.  And, therefore, they stopped.  They released -- they released the aid and they moved forward.  That is why the Republicans` argument this past week, frankly, is in bad faith. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they saying it didn`t happen or it`s no big deal, Jonathan? 

LEMIRE:  They`re now arguing that -- well, it depends who you`re talking to.  Some Republicans are still insisting that nothing happened at all. 

Others are saying like, well, it`s the president`s right to hold up aid, but it moved forward.  So we have heard from some -- certainly from those in the Senate, who have suggested, well, this -- maybe there was sort of a quid pro quo, maybe it`s not the ideal way of doing things, but it`s not impeachable.

And that is where the Republicans, more than any, have landed.  As much as Trump wants them to defend tooth and nail his actions, and not just fight on process, other Republicans are taking a slightly bigger view, taking a step back, suggesting that maybe this wasn`t the most proper course of action, but it shouldn`t be one that costs the president his job. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, yesterday, President -- well, Republican senator Lindsey Graham sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents on former Vice President Joe Biden`s communications with Ukrainian officials. 

As "The Washington Post" puts it: "Graham`s document request suggests he`s seeking to legitimize Trump`s accusations that Biden, then vice president, put pressure on Ukraine to fire its lead prosecutor to protect Biden`s son, a claim without evidence."

What do we make of that, Charlie?  I think old Lindsey is doing the dirty work here. 


SYKES:  Well, that`s really extraordinary, when you think about it.

And, again, this is part of the ongoing -- the ongoing scheme that -- to smear the Bidens, that Lindsey Graham is going to do what Donald Trump wanted the Ukrainians to do, but failed to accomplish. 

And the fact that, in the past, Lindsey Graham has spoken so highly of Joe Biden and of his family and of his honor and of his honesty -- the cynicism of Lindsey Graham is really, really striking here. 

And, again, I do think that there`s a distinction to be made between Republicans who are saying -- or at least prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt or, yes, this happened, it was improper, but it`s not impeachable, and guys like Devin Nunes and Lindsey Graham, who are fully prepared to push for these conspiracy theories, no matter how bizarre, no matter how discredited and debunked they are, to really do Donald Trump`s dirty work. 

That means that they have gone beyond defense to really to be co- conspirators. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Jonathan, do they have to accomplish here?

Because he tried to get the Ukraine president that he was at least announcing he was investigating Biden, and that would be enough, because then he could say Biden`s being investigated over in Ukraine. 

This time, he`s got to further, doesn`t he?  The United States Senate is investigating Biden`s dealings and his son`s dealings and their overlap over there in Ukraine.  But is that enough?  Or is he going for dirt here, all the way, not just an announcement? 

LEMIRE:  Well, they`re trying -- he`s trying to reverse-engineer that he was right.  

They`re trying to go back can suggest like, look, my call for -- this makes my call to the Ukrainian president that much more perfect, to use his word, because, look, there was dirt. 


LEMIRE:  There was the corrupt dealings by the Bidens.

And, again, let`s be clear.  No one was ever charged with any wrongdoing over there. 

But by Lindsey Graham, Senator Graham, carrying the president`s water, it validates the sort of thesis behind this whole scandal, behind this whole impeachment inquiry, is that this is -- they`re trying to argue that there was some -- there was a there there, and that, therefore, it`s worth investigating, even though, of course, the Ukrainians never did follow through, because, eventually, again, the president and the White House, they got caught in their move. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, I think we have to say that again. 

Joe Biden -- whatever you think about Hunter taking that contract -- and that is a question -- Joe Biden`s done nothing wrong here.  No evidence of that. 

Thank you so much, Jonathan Lemire and Charlie Sykes. 

Up next:  As we continue to wonder why Obama hasn`t endorsed Joe Biden yet, a new book explores the close, but occasionally rocky relationship between those two political figures.

The author of "Barack and Joe" joins me next on HARDBALL. 



BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I just wanted to get some folks together to pay tribute to somebody who`s not only been by my side for the duration of this amazing journey, but somebody who has devoted his entire professional life to service to this country, the best vice president America has ever had, Mr. Joe Biden.


OBAMA:  This also gives the Internet one last chance to talk about our bromance. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was then, of course, President Obama joking about his bromance -- that was his word -- with his vice president, Joe Biden, as he awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Can`t do much more for a guy than that. 

And that was just one of many moments like that during the Obama presidency, such as this unforgettable off-the-cuff remark before Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. 


JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama. 


BIDEN:  This is a big (EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.


OBAMA:  Thank you. 



MATTHEWS:  With the mic on, he made his comment.

In his book "Barack and Joe: The Making of an Extraordinary Partnership, Steven Levingston writes that: "As a president and vice president who worked harmoniously together, had mutual respect and even loved each other, Barack and Joe were unlike anything America had ever seen.  There was a unique and renegade quality to their friendship that delivered it into the realm of beauty and for eight years filled the American mind with wonder, hope and optimism."

Steven Levingston, author of "Barack and Me," joins me now. 

Not much romance in this business, even less bromance, Steve. 

Tell us about what brought you to write this book and what you thought stood out in this partnership. 

STEVEN LEVINGSTON, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  Well, I have always been interested in the relationships between people who -- of power.  And these two had power.

And I was just amazed by how they both overcame their great differences and found much to admire in each other.  They found they were able to respect and show much compassion for each other.  They brought in a way -- they did what we`re not doing now.  And that was, they showed moral leadership from the White House.

And they showed it through their relationship, where they were able to get over their differences and they were able to project respect, compassion and dignity for each other.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the debates, which we have been covering here and hosting at MSNBC, of course, a couple times.

You write about Biden`s struggle with stuttering -- I didn`t really know about this -- growing up, noting: "Biden relied on sheer force of will to blast through his obstacles.  He didn`t shrink in the face of his stuttering.  Eventually, he overcame the stutter."

One thing we keep asking about in the debates is, why doesn`t he jump in?  You know what I mean? 

Anyway, well, in that New York piece -- it was a piece of "The Atlantic," John Hendrickson posits that Biden may actually still stutter, which could explain some of his more recent gaffes. 

He writes that: "Biden`s verbal stumbles have voters worried about his mental fitness.  Maybe they`d be more understanding that they know he`s still fighting a stutter."

Hendrickson, who also stutters himself, points out that Biden appears to intentionally not stutter by switching to an alternative word, which can yield mangled syntax.  Sometimes, what is quickly characterized as a memory lapse is indeed a stutter."

I`m guilty of -- I critique.  I don`t say it out loud, but I think about it.  He is trying to find the right word.


MATTHEWS:  And he can`t get to that word or take a chance on that word. 


Well, most people across the nation don`t know that he started as a child.  And it was a terrible debility that he had to overcome.  He overcame it.  He did it by sheer will. 

And he used that, in a sense, to put the fight into himself.  When he was in high school, he became a star football player because he wanted people to look at him for his ability, rather than his disability. 

And he continued to fight that stuttering all the way to today, where he does -- I think a lot of the gaffes that are attributed to him are related to his stuttering.  His momma used to say to him -- and he likes to say this -- that his head, his mind worked a lot faster than his tongue. 

And that caused disconnect between his head and his mouth.  And a lot of the times, when he misspeaks, or when people jump on him for his stuttering, it`s really not very fair, because they`re jumping on him for something that God created in him. 

It`s an innate characteristic.

MATTHEWS:  I`m with you on that.

And I think people that overcome those problems, those challenges are the best people. 

Why hasn`t Obama endorsed him? 

LEVINGSTON:  Well, that`s a very tough question.  It`s a tough question for Joe, but I think, as you know, Obama is the most popular Democrat, and he has basically one big shot for an endorsement. 

And he can`t endorse anybody really until after he has a nominee.  I mean, he`s starting to suggest that maybe Deval Patrick is his nominee.  We begin to see he starts...

MATTHEWS:  He clearly wants to push a moderate.

LEVINGSTON:  Right.  He wants to push a moderate.  And it`s not clear if he really wants to push his old friend Joe. 

But we will just have to wait and see. 

MATTHEWS:  We will see.

Steve Levingston, really a brilliant idea to write -- you`re a book editor at "The Washington Post."


MATTHEWS:  So, you will give it a good review. 


LEVINGSTON:  I have nothing to do with that.


MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much.

Up next:  This is John Bolton`s moment to make some history. 

OK, John, it`s your chance.  You`re at bat.  Let`s see if you have got it. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 


MATTHEWS:  John Bolton has a rendezvous with destiny. 

Should Donald Trump`s recent national security adviser step forward in the next few weeks and tell the country what he`s called the drug deal between Trump and the president of Ukraine, if he talks about that, history will rain down justice. 

If Bolton remains quiet, however, between now and Christmas, he may as well, for all historic purposes, hold his peace, because now -- and, by that, I mean the days between today and the days before Christmas -- the U.S. Congress will be writing and in all likelihood approving articles of impeachment. 

If John Bolton testifies to what he witnessed, his words will matter, his time in the country`s service will matter, his role in history, his very witness itself to that history will matter. 

But if he stays silent in these critical days of Advent, he will have missed his chance to matter. 

I say all this not as one of Mr. Bolton`s allies.  I stand on the other side of the positions he has taken in recent years regarding his championing of the U.S. war with Iraq, his call for a bombing of Iran, and other assorted calls for U.S. military action. 

But I think we both care about our country.  I do.  And though wildly different in the beliefs we hold on how to advance the cause, I believe there`s no doubt that John Bolton cares about this country as well. 

So now, sir, Mr. Bolton, is the time to show it.  You have made it clear you have a story to tell.  You have been out there tweeting.  Now`s the time to share the truth.  Call the hour, invite the cameras, and speak clearly on what you witnessed from a president willing to trade America`s interests and that of an endangered ally for cheap political advantage. 

It would be very good for the country and our Constitution and for all, including you, who have honestly sworn to protect and uphold it. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now.  Thanks for being with us. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.