ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: I hope you enjoy some of it, if not, all of it. And I will see you back here on THE BEAT tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
Don`t go anywhere though, because tonight with all these breaking news, HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Impeachment, full speed ahead. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
I come to you tonight on a split screen nation. Just as we`re getting news that the impeachment train is moving forward at full speed, President Trump is down in Florida this hour rallying his never die troops.
There`s also breaking news tonight on that White House order to hold up military aid to Ukraine. We`re learning that two staffers at the Office of Management and Budget resigned at least in part over that freeze in aid. That`s according to the closed-door transcript of a senior OMB official released just a little while ago. Much more on that a little later.
But the big news of the day is that House Democrats are taking the next big step on impeachment. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, announced today that his committee will begin action on impeachment with its first big hearing next Wednesday. That`s a week from now. That came in a letter Nadler sent to the president inviting Trump to defend himself in hearings with his counsel present.
It comes as the president`s men, all of whom have refused to testify, became further embroiled in the unfolding scandal. In a press conference today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would not refute the fiction that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked the 2016 election. And that`s the same debunked conspiracy theory that Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate in that infamous July 25th phone call.
Unbelievably, Pompeo said that the U.S. should investigate that discredited claim of Ukraine interference, lending credibility to the president`s false narrative.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you believe that the U.S. and Ukraine should investigate the theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that hacked the DNC emails in 2016?
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Any time there is information that indicates that any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right but a duty to make sure we chase that down.
So whatever nation it is that we have information that so much as suggests that there might have been interference or an effort to interfere in our elections, we have an obligation to make sure that the American people get to go to the ballot box and cast their ballots in a way that is unimpacted by these malevolent actors trying to undermine our western democratic values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the word isn`t duty. It`s toady, sir. You`re a toady.
Pompeo is embracing that discredited narrative after we learned it`s a fact that it was a product of Russian intelligence which deployed a network of agents to blame Ukraine for its 2016 interference. In other words, the American secretary of state right there is giving credence to a disinformation campaign being run out of the Kremlin. Never seen anything like it.
I`m joined right now by Ashley Parker, White House Reporter for The Washington Post, Ned Price, former Senior Director at the NSC, and Malcolm Nance, former Naval intelligence officer and author of, The Plot to Betray America. There it is.
In another breaking story just moments ago, The New York Times revealed that President Trump had already been briefed on a whistleblower`s complaint, the whistleblower`s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze the military aid for the country in September. That means that Trump was well aware that he was being accused of wrongdoing when he released the aid and when he denied a quid pro quo to Ambassador Sondland.
Let me go to Ashley Parker on this.
Ashley, this is a Times story but what does this mean?
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, it just adds another detail to this rapidly unfolding story, but it`s one thing the White House and the president`s allies have always said is that there`s nothing untoward, there`s no quid pro quo because the president ultimately released the aid.
This now shows perhaps that the reason he released the aid was because he knew he was in trouble, he knew there was a whistleblower complaint coming, and that is what prompted him, and it wasn`t quite the picture they are painting that he put a hold on the aid but, of course, he was always going to release it. So it doesn`t mean that it`s right but it certainly raises the very plausible question that he had to be prompted by a whistleblower complaint in a congressional investigation.
MATTHEWS: Ned, this is the argument made by the Democrats on the House Intel Committee. He was caught. That`s why I gave back the money.
NED PRICE, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: It`s as simple as that. And I think there`s a confluence of these two things that Trump knew he was going to be in a political vice, if not, a legal vice. It was news of this whistleblower complaint.
And I often think we forget this, but Congress put these data points, some of these data points at least, together itself, and on September 9th, announced the start of an investigation into Giuliani`s meddling in Ukraine tied in with the withholding of this aid. They didn`t know all that we know now, but it`s clear that they were at least on to pieces of this.
But this is really a pattern we`ve seen throughout this administration, Chris. They don`t act until they`re caught. Remember Mike Flynn, Trump`s first national security adviser? He wasn`t fired until he was caught by The Washington Post in his lies after 24 days. Same with Stormy Daniels. Trump, at first, denied it and then he was caught. And, ultimately, his lawyer fest up, and then they fest up on FEC paperwork, and now we`re seeing it with this. It`s a pattern that has played out time and again in this administration.
MATTHEWS: Malcolm, it looks to me, like today, there`s so much news today. We`ve got the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, there clawing away, trying to sell the president`s argument. It was Ukraine pushing that on the same that John Kennedy, the senator from New Orleans, from Louisiana, admitting that he was not telling the truth the other day when he said it was Ukraine.
But there`s seems to be like -- it`s a war of attrition. How long is it going to take to stop them from lying? That`s really the blunt fact here. Malcolm?
MALCOLM NANCE, AUTHOR, THE PLOT TO BETRAY AMERICA: Well, what you see happening right now is an information warfare technique. It is a disinformation operation that they have sat down and thought about. This isn`t happening that everyone is speaking about it spontaneously using the exact same words.
They are using this meta narrative for their constituency, the Fox News consumer, that Ukraine did this, and even knowing this is Russian intelligence-developed theme which Fiona Hill gave us a brilliant warning about last week saying that they were spreading Russian disinformation deliberately.
It gets their ultimate client off the hook. And you would think that would be Donald Trump, but it, in fact, is Vladimir Putin. They are actually shilling for Vladimir Putin to make it look like Ukraine did this.
I have one way we can start this. We are just going have to categorize these people who are denying this as Trump-Russia truthers. I mean, this is like people who deny the moon landing or September 11th. It`s absolutely ludicrous.
MATTHEWS: Well, I want to get to Ashley on this question. Ashley, I mentioned the fact that John Kennedy, the Republican Senator from Louisiana, recanted -- that sounds rather biblical, but he recanted his false assertion that Ukraine might have carried out the hacking of the DNC. And here`s what Senator Kennedy of Louisiana said on yesterday -- actually, he said on Sunday to start this saga.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator Kennedy, who do you believe was responsible for hacking the DNC and Clinton campaign computers, their emails? Was it Russia or Ukraine?
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I don`t know, nor do you, nor do any of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not true because Kennedy admitted last night, to his credit, I believe, that he was wrong, saying he misheard the question from Chris Wallace. Let`s watch him go at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: Now, Chris is right. I was wrong. The only evidence I have, and I think it`s overwhelming, is that it was Russia who tried to hack the DNC computer.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: That`s what the consensus says.
KENNEDY: I see no -- yes, I see no indication that Ukraine tried to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Ashley, I`m not a media critic, but it`s fascinating, isn`t it, that se Said they`re wrong, what isn`t true on Fox and he`s corrected it on CNN. There`s an interesting point.
But I want to get to you in a bigger question. The train is moving. Next Wednesday, they`re beginning the action in the House Judiciary. It seems to me they will have plenty of time in that three-week period beginning on next Monday and Tuesday to get this thing done and get articles to the floor.
PARKER: Yes. They are trying to move very quickly. And you`re seeing that even in the House Intelligence Committee, there`s a favorable ruling with Don McGahn that he could testify. But what you`re seeing is they are keeping the focus, as Leader Pelosi wanted very narrow, and they are moving quickly ahead. And that`s why they`re moving it over to the House Judiciary Committee, and they hope to have a vote potentially before the Christmas holiday.
The Democrats have not always been an easy issue for them but they have been incredibly, incredibly disciplined on this, and that`s what we`re seeing in this very quick timeframe.
MATTHEWS: Why is it working? I know -- I mean, the Democratic Party has a lot of interesting political personalities in it from the very left, if you will, the very progressive wing, Maxine Waters, for example, some of the newer members, AOC, and you have somewhat more moderate people over more established members, more like Pelosi and her people that she grew up with politically. How is she reeling (ph) the people in? How is she keeping them so together, historically together in this campaign to bring the president to justice?
PARKER: Well, that is Pelosi`s skill as a leader. She can count votes. She knows where her caucus is. And the one thing she said going forward was that this inquiry would have to have bipartisan support. That seems as of now not likely to be the case.
But one thing you are hearing echoed from all Democrats as more information comes out is this isn`t an issue of them they say of about politics, it`s one of morality and the Constitution and what they will tell their grandchildren. And so in that manner, she`s sort of have been able to push them toward this outcome that the left wing of the party was pulling them towards while giving them a rationale that they all seem to be comfortable even though it doesn`t have much of any Republican support right now.
MATTHEWS: Malcolm, you`re up there and I can see the cityscape of Philadelphia behind you, a familiar likeable setting for me. But it seems like the people in the color (ph) counties up there, like Madeleine Dean, I saw her an hour or so on T.V. here on M.S., they seem very comfortable with this effort right now led by Pelosi to bring this president to justice, to impeach him.
NANCE: and I think you`re absolutely right. But in the ultimate universe that is another channel, all evening, I`ve been seeing people tweet that the Democrats are backing off of impeachment and that 30 percent -- they`ve lost 30 percent support.
You know, we -- the Democrats are keeping their effort strong and straight and focused, and as it exactly should be because they are following the constitutional norms and trying to maintain the dignity of this process and be factual.
But they are going up against opponents who do not believe that they are even on the same planet and that this process is completely falling apart. And that meta narrative, as we keep saying, works for them, and it will work for their Senate acquittal to a certain extent.
MATTHEWS: Ned, give me some psycho history here, because I understand people out there -- I know them, ones in my family. I know people that are pro-Trump and never quitters, they`re just with Trump. But they`re civilians, if you will. Why do people like Pompeo, who`s certainly a smart person, why is he hooking his cart in the history books -- in the history books, whenever he runs for the Senate or wherever, he will go down in history, his capsule statement, his obit (ph) will be Trump. Why are they doing this? They`re smarter on Trump on this stuff and they might be morally better than him.
PRICE: Look, Pompeo is not thinking of Trump, first and foremost. He`s thinking of one person, himself. Obviously, he has grander political ambitions. He wants to go on to the Senate in Kansas and potentially onward from that.
MATTHEWS: As a Trumpee?
PRICE: As a Trumpee. But right now, he sees Trump as a vehicle, as a vessel. He sees Trump as the only person to whom he can attach himself to remain in good political bases with this base and good political graces with this base that he needs. We`ve seen the name from Nikki Haley, and we`ve the same from any number of senators, and we`ve seen the same from Jeff Sessions who, of course, had a tumultuous relationship with President Trump when he was his attorney general.
I think this will remain the case until and unless the president becomes so politically toxic.
MATTHEWS: He is.
PRICE: But he`s not with the base these people need. Until that day comes, I think you will see them attached at the hip. But as soon as that day nears, I think you will see them run so far and so fast in the other direction that they`ll forget his name.
MATTHEWS: Did I hear you, Malcolm, with that sound? What did you mean by that sound? Like I can`t leave you there.
NANCE: I`ve seen a lot of phenomenon in my life. I`ve seen a lot of operations. You know, the behaviors that I am seeing here, and this anecdotal, are very similar to the way that ISIS members are. They are true believers, and this is their reality, and they will not surrender it. You know, they`re dead-enders.
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m glad to see John Kennedy, a nice name, by the way, to have in your career down in Louisiana, a Republican, a conservative said today, I`m not on the train anymore. He basically said, I will not argue that the Kremlin line that it was Ukraine that hacked the DNC server. I don`t believe it`s sitting over there somewhere in Kiev. I mean, he did show something today, some good today, I think.
Ashley Parker, congratulations on your monitoring of that debate the other night. That was first-grade work for a print guy and you`re really something to jump into that scene out there. It was great work. Thank you. You made us all proud. Ned price, sir, thank you, Edward Price. I know your real name. Anyway, Malcolm, I love your attitude. As we say in Philly, attitude, you got it. Thank you for coming on tonight.
Coming up, breaking news tonight, new transcripts were just released in the impeachment investigation, including from OMB Staffer Mark Sandy who has testified in the transcript that two colleagues of his at OMB quit their jobs in large part because of the president`s Ukraine shakedown. So some people are pulling off this -- jumping off this train.
Plus, President Trump believes there are no limits to his -- how do you like that, find that in the Constitution. It`s available on Google. Try and find in the Constitution where it says the president can do anything he wants to. But the courts are now pushing back, thank God, with a federal judge telling Trump, presidents are not kings.
And it`s anybody`s race, by the way, right now. Meanwhile, the Democrats on national poll, this is amazing, shows a four-way contest. Now, nationally, for the Democratic presidential nomination with mayor Pete Buttigieg surging, Warren dropping hard, big surprise going on out there. We`ll get to that tonight.
We`ve got much more to get to on HARDBALL. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Late tonight, impeachment investigators released transcripts from the testimony of Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state, and Mark Sandy, a senior official to the Office of Management and Budget, the OMB. Sandy was involved in implementing the president`s hold back of security aid to Ukraine last summer, and he`s the only budget official to testify in the House inquiry. He testified that he received the order to freeze aid to Ukraine by email, noting that the email did not mention any other country nor any other aid package. It targeted just Ukraine.
He testified that throughout all of July and August, he could get no explanation for why the hold was put in place. It wasn`t until early September that Sandy received an email that attributed the hold to the president`s concern about other countries not contributing more to Ukraine. His testimony appears consistent with the reporting from The Washington Post, that the White House had engaged in extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision to freeze that money to Ukraine.
Sandy also testified that he`s aware of the two former staffers who left the OMB at least in part because of concerns related to that aid freeze against Ukraine. And one of them worked in the office`s legal counsel division.
I`m joined right now by Josh Lederman, NBC News National Political Reporter, and Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney.
Let`s go to some of the reporting here. It seems like there was a lot of covering up and fussing around and fixing and gussying up, if you will. They didn`t want it to look -- some people didn`t want to look like they were just screwing Ukraine to get them to do the dirty word digging up stuff about 2016, bogus, crazy stuff, and Joe Biden and his son.
So, they came up with this other stuff.
JOSH LEDERMAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.
And we have been combing over these 400 pages that were just released in the last hour or so, Chris. And one of the things that we learned was that one of these two officials who resigned partially because of their concerns about this Ukraine assistance being suspended was a lawyer who was specifically concerned about a possible violation of a law that says, when Congress approves money, and the president signs it into law, the executive branch can`t then just not spend it.
So, in real time, you had officials that were so concerned that this was not even possibly legal that one of them, in fact, left because of that.
The other one leaves...
MATTHEWS: This was a huge issue during Watergate, was impoundment.
Nixon was denying -- refusing to spend money that Congress had appropriated.
And we have heard from a whole parade of witnesses who have testified there were legal concerns, not only at the White House, but also at the Defense Department, about how this could be done. And you see negotiations going on that Sandy was testifying about, about how they`re going to do the footnote, what exactly they`re going to say to explain what the legal justification is for what they`re doing.
MATTHEWS: Sequence this. Was this something that was being done, this effort to justify the shakedown, basically, was it done after the president knew about the complaint, the whistle-blower?
LEDERMAN: This would have happened -- based on the reporting from "The New York Times" as well tonight, most of this would have been happening after...
MATTHEWS: So, they were caught?
LEDERMAN: Well, certainly part of that.
And we don`t know if these officials that are in question, these budget officials, would have known about that whistle-blower complaint necessarily.
MATTHEWS: But the president did, according "The Times" tonight.
LEDERMAN: The president, according to "The New York Times," certainly did learn about it.
MATTHEWS: Barbara, how does this fit into a criminal case and how you watch how people behave and move things around, evidence around, to try to create a different setting, a different look to something?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think one of the things that does is, it creates what`s known as consciousness of guilt evidence, that if you`re trying to hide facts, it`s because you believe the truth may be incriminating.
I think one other really significant part about this here, about this empowerment concept, Chris -- and you`re absolutely right. A law was passed in 1974, in response to Nixon`s abuses, called the Impoundment Control Act, that says that the president cannot play around with distributions by Congress, appropriations by Congress.
It`s Congress who has the power of the purse. And so what`s so important about this, I think, is that even if there is no quid pro quo that`s ever proven, we now have an illegal act in the withholding of the aid, as well as an illegal act in the request for an investigation.
So even if you can`t tie those two things together, there`s an abuse of power by the president here.
MATTHEWS: Well, just when you think nothing could do to add to this stew, moments ago, in an interview with former FOX host Bill O`Reilly, President Trump distanced himself -- distances himself from his personal lawyer`s role in the Ukraine effort, denying he sent him to look for dirt on the Bidens.
That would be Rudy Giuliani. Let`s watch.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, TALK SHOW HOST: What was Rudy Giuliani doing in Ukraine on your behalf?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you have to ask that to Rudy.
But Rudy, I don`t even know -- I know he was going to go to Ukraine, and I think he canceled a trip. But Rudy has other clients other than me. I`m one person.
O`REILLY: So, you didn`t -- you didn`t direct him to go there on your behalf? You didn`t...
TRUMP: No, but -- no, but you have to understand, Rudy is a great corruption fighter.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Oh, my God, I can smell the diesel fuel of the bus as it rides over him, the diesel exhaust.
LEDERMAN: And one thing that Democrats are going to point out is, Trump is saying this on television, but when you go to the testimony that it`s been done under oath, Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified explicitly that these moves by Giuliani, that everyone knew that this was because it was Trump`s wish that they have Ukraine open these investigations.
MATTHEWS: Full loop, and the president was in it. And we heard from Dr. Hill right the next day it was Trump calling the shots.
It wasn`t just him in the loop. And here he is saying you would have to ask Rudy.
LEDERMAN: That`s right.
And we saw from additional testimony today that everybody knew this was an important thing.
LEDERMAN: They knew Burisma meant Biden.
MATTHEWS: Barbara, in the mob situation, the lower-level people, the minor capos, these guys go to prison for four or five years. And they get -- they get stuff sent into them, so they will make their life more enjoyable, so that the big guy, the big guy gets off.
But in a RICO case, you just assume certain things about somebody calling the shots. This president looks like a RICO defendant right now. He looks like the guy calling all the shots and now blaming it on his lower captains, his capos.
Saying, I didn`t know anything, I had other people who were doing these things is really a way of distancing oneself from criminal activity. It is reminiscent of a drug kingpin or of a mob boss to have the underlings do things.
We even heard President Trump would frequently say, talk to Rudy, as if he didn`t know it. But I think one of the things that really undermines his own claims is the very call that he had with the president of Ukraine, in which he insists that you should talk to my lawyer Rudy.
And he ties that conversation to investigation of the Bidens and investigation of the 2016 election. So I think this effort to distance himself to Giuliani just isn`t going anywhere. It`s only a matter of time where he claims he doesn`t even know who Rudy Giuliani is.
MATTHEWS: Why did it take Bill O`Reilly to get this out of him, to force him into the corner like this, to force the president to go into a corner and hide there and say, was Rudy doing it?
Something about O`Reilly`s not so much credibility, because that`s a problem with him, but his toughness. There`s something he was afraid of lying to O`Reilly. He did lie to him.
But what do you think -- how did he force him to this, to throw Giuliani under the bus just like that.
LEDERMAN: Well, we have seen that the president really only wants to talk about these issues with conservative outlets and conservative journalists.
MATTHEWS: It`s O`Reilly`s people are his people.
LEDERMAN: Well, certainly, that has been that pattern of when he and the White House officials are willing to talk about these issues.
So, in a way, he was to handling the audience of O`Reilly when he was talking to O`Reilly. He said, oh, my God, all those right-wingers out there and anti-establishment types and all those angry white guys, I`m talking to them.
LEDERMAN: Well, and to Barbara`s point, not only did Trump make this pretty clear on his call with Zelensky, but you also have White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who said explicitly from the podium at the White House that the aid was held back because they wanted these investigations.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think Bill O`Reilly got a two-run double right then.
Thank you, Josh Lederman. Thank you, Barbara McQuade.
Up next: A federal judge rejects the Trump administration`s claim of -- well, who would make this claim? Absolute immunity. That`s the president`s claim, Article 2 the Constitution, his reading says he can do anything he wants, and he doesn`t have to answer any questions for it.
This doesn`t mean that key figures, however, like former National Security Adviser John Bolton, will be forced to actually give information about Trump`s Ukraine shakedown. They may have to show up, but will they talk or just write books?
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
President Trump has repeatedly argued he can do whatever he wants -- Do you hear that? -- whatever he wants, saying it`s in the Constitution.
He says, specifically, it`s an Article 2, which outlines the powers of the presidency. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Article 2 allows me to do whatever I want. Article 2 would have allowed me to fire him.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: When the president does it, it is not illegal?
TRUMP: I`m just saying a president, under Article 2, it`s very strong. Read it. Do you have Article 2? Read it.
Also, take a look at one other thing. It`s a thing called Article 2. Nobody ever mentions Article 2. It gives me all of these rights at a level that nobody has ever seen before. We don`t even talk about Article 2.
Then I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president. But I don`t even talk about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: He acts like he`s found something in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
I mean, what -- everybody knows the Constitution. He`s got one thing right, of course. Article 2 of the Constitution does grant the president executive power. It does not, however, grant him unlimited power.
And from the Mueller report investigation to the current House impeachment inquiry, the administration, Trump, has refused to comply with subpoenas, using the argument that the president`s advisers have absolute immunity against having to testify before Congress.
But then this week, a federal judge in Washington tore down that argument, yesterday, in fact, in a scathing decision, ordering former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify.
She wrote: "Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that presidents are not kings."
Well, the Justice Department has already filed an appeal challenging that decision that presidents are not kings. But last night, one of the president`s strongest defenders, Alan Dershowitz, brushed off that judge`s ruling and argued that Trump is more powerful than a king.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, ATTORNEY: She went nuts, talking about how the president`s not the king . Of course the president is not the king. The president`s far more powerful than the king.
The president has the power that kings have never had. He`s -- very, very powerful office, and the framers wanted it that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Jon Meacham, presidential historian. And Elizabeth Wydra is president of the Constitutional Accountability Center.
I will start with Elizabeth, because I think that was -- I don`t understand Dershowitz`s psychobabble, so I will drop it. But his argument that presidents are more powerful than kings, kings can have people killed just because they didn`t like them.
ELIZABETH WYDRA, PRESIDENT, CONSTITUTIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY CENTER: Yes, that would be news to the American revolutionaries who fought and died against rising up against a king.
And, look, any "Schoolhouse Rock" viewer knows that that is not true. We have Article 2, the president`s right. But as is indicated by the number, we have Article 1 and Article 3. And those lay out the other two branches of government.
We set out a tripartite government with checks and balances. At first, we didn`t even have an executive. The Articles of Confederation didn`t even have one, so not a king.
MATTHEWS: So, John, if a king -- a president has more power than a king, why do we have a procedure for impeachment? Why do we have a procedure for not getting reelected?
Kings don`t have to run for reelection. He is not a king. He has to run for reelection, had to be elected in the first place, and he can be impeached. That`s in the Constitution too, sir.
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes, an absolutist argument about Article 2 flies in the face of everything, really, from Magna Carta in the 13th century, Thomas Paine in "Common Sense," which was published in January of 1776, five, six months before we declared independence.
He wrote: "Some say, who is the king of America? Well, in America, the law is king." And as in monarchies, kings are the law, in free republics, the law should be the king.
And so this is even older than the republic. And I think the flirting with, and even the full embrace in Dershowitz`s case and in Trump`s case occasionally, with this absolutist ethos, I think, is dangerously authoritarian and fundamentally un-American, in the sense of our constitutional and political norms.
MATTHEWS: Well, John, I love the way you said that, because I always liked the -- I always liked the guy you mentioned there, "Common Sense."
And he also said we can start the world anew. And we wanted to live ourselves without that king. And by proving that he wasn`t all-powerful, we dropped him. We dropped George III. Thomas Paine was right.
MATTHEWS: You can start the world anew. Trump things we`re living in the old world.
Let`s talk about this immunity thing. If -- it`s been argued in the last couple of days that if White House aides, administration figures, are immune from testimony, there is no checks and balances, because if you can`t haul them in and force them to testify, there`s no way to get evidence in an impeachment process.
Congress has its oversight role in our checks and balances system set up by the Constitution. And in order to conduct oversight, they need to get information from executive officers. This has been true since the beginning of the republic.
And what Trump is trying to do is not just push back here or there, which has happened throughout history with administrations, but to have this blanket immunity. And that is what the judge this week really said no go. And we have seen two other judges do that at least in the cases involving his accounting firm and tax records.
Congress has the right to get this information to do its job.
MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about the idea that there`s pride in the Senate.
And I do think Mitch McConnell, Jon, is in fact a guy who loves the Senate.
MATTHEWS: A lot of people we disagree with politically love the Senate. They have pride.
And my question is, if the Senate doesn`t convict this president and remove him from office under an article that talks about obstruction of Congress or obstruction of justice, they`re basically saying the president can do what he damn well pleases, no matter what Congress, the Senate, run by Republicans, the House run by Democrats, or it flips next time.
They`re saying this president or any president do any damn well wants to, if Congress tries to subpoena him. Not one document, not one witness has been forced to come forward from this administration because of a court ruling.
MEACHAM: Yes. It is frightening.
And Aaron Burr, of all people, who was one of the demagogues that a lot of the framers had in mind, that kind of person, when they wrote the Constitution, which was to make the legislative power central, said that, if a demagogue was ever finally to be stopped, it would happen on the floor of the United States Senate because of the conviction power.
And so that is the last arena. And there are a couple of things here just to think about. There`s -- the American presidency since World War II, New Deal, World War II, and then what happened in August of 1945 with the ushering in the nuclear age, has become unimaginably powerful.
This is not -- you can`t conscript the framers and say to James Mattis and Alexander Hamilton, the presidency was going to be like this, because it was just a different universe. We had it in our power not to begin the world over again, as Paine said, but after World War II, we had the power to end the world.
MEACHAM: But all of those occupants of that office, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, all understood that they were executing a sacred duty.
Some of them overreached. Some of them under-reached, but they understood the basic framework that had kept us going for all these years. Where we are now is, we are increasingly detached from that reality-based sense of the Constitution.
And that`s the big thing to worry about.
MATTHEWS: It`s a good thing to worry about too.
Thank you, Jon Meacham. It`s great to have you on tonight.
Elizabeth Wydra, thank you. I like your constitutional expertise, because the president has none.
MATTHEWS: Up next: the Obama factor. New reporting today on what the former president -- that would be Barack Obama -- has said about Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates, plus his initial thoughts about meeting Donald Trump in 2016.
Wait until you get his take, Obama`s, on meeting Trump.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A new Quinnipiac poll out today shows that the Democratic presidential primary this season is essentially a four-person race with Joe Biden back in the lead with 24 percent of the vote, Buttigieg at 16 percent, Warren at 14 percent, Bernie Sanders at 13 percent. They`re all bunched together. Warren`s lead, by the way, was cut in half in just one month down from 28 percent where she was a month ago, down to 14 percent now.
A new "Boston Globe"/Suffolk University poll shows that they`re virtually tied up in New Hampshire with Bernie Sanders holding a slim lead with 16 percent, followed by all Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Biden, all four of them within the poll`s margin of error. So, that one is anybody`s game.
About one in five, by the way, of the Democrats nationally, 21 percent, they haven`t made up their mind. I`m sorry, that`s in New Hampshire. Twenty-one percent haven`t made up their mind in New Hampshire, which is a state that usually makes up its mind early.
And it`s not just those New Hampshire voters who are undecided. "Politico`s" Ryan Lizza reports that Barack Obama has been meeting with many of the presidential candidates, which allows him to collect his own intelligence about what he and his close advisors have made clear is all that matters to him who can beat Donald Trump. That`s what Obama wants to know.
And while it might be closest to Joe Biden, those are reports Obama told people close to him before Biden entered the race back then that Biden would have to earn it. There would be no endorsement at least at the outset.
It`s also reported that Obama told one candidate during his own 2008 campaign he had an intimate bond with the electorate, especially in Iowa, that he no longer has. That`s an amazing statement by Obama, he doesn`t have that connection anymore.
And then he added, and you know who really doesn`t have it? Joe Biden, that`s Obama talking.
Well, Biden`s currently polling in fourth place in Iowa, according to a Real Clear Politics polling averages, behind Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren.
But Lizza reports that Obama also had misgivings about the other leading candidates. Quote: In early 2015, when Warren was considering running for president, Obama said privately that if Democrats rallied around her as their nominee, it would be a repudiation of him.
He was deeply skeptical about the prospects of Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
And back when Sanders seemed like more of a threat than he does now, Obama said privately that if Bernie were running away with the nomination, Obama would speak up to stop him. Wow.
There`s also reporting on exactly what Obama thought after he met with Donald Trump, shortly after the 2016 election. Hint: he wasn`t impressed. Wait until you hear this. It`s ludicrous.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
"Politico`s" Ryan Lizza reports that after meeting with Donald Trump in the White House in the days after the 2016 election, President Obama said, he, meaning Trump, knows absolutely nothing. It`s a hell of a statement.
It`s a very similar remark to what former McCain campaign strategist, our friend Steve Schmidt, said after Sarah Palin, meeting her a few days after she was chosen to be McCain`s running mate, according to the book "Game Change." He reportedly told another campaign adviser giving Palin a policy tutorial that, you guys have a lot of work to do, she doesn`t know anything.
I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, who knows a lot, senior director of the progressive programming for Sirius Radio XM, of course, and Howard Fineman, MSNBC news analyst.
Howard, we were just -- we were chatting beforehand. A couple of things are going on. Buttigieg, we`ll put him aside for a second because he is appeal to all my fine friends, the kind of people that were living 30 or 40 years ago or 50 years ago, would be for Adlai Stevenson, highly educated, smart guy, got it together, very articulate, blah blah blah, OK.
What`s going on with Elizabeth Warren? I thought she was going to sweep Iowa, sweep New Hampshire and do a fast break right across the schedule.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC NEWS ANALYST: Chris, having covered presidential politics for a long time, I`ve learned that whatever the candidate`s greatest strength is can usually be their biggest weakness because they set themselves up to be judged by that. In Elizabeth Warren`s case, she said, I`m the smarty-pants with all the plans. I`ve thought this all through so carefully and I have a plan for this, a plan for that and a plan for that. Well, when it came time for her to defend and then explain and expand on her plan for Medicare or health care for all --
MATTHEWS: Single payer.
FINEMAN: Single payer. She got caught up -- leave the ideology aside for a minute, she got caught up in the details of the plan she was developing more or less on the fly it seemed.
FINEMAN: So I think people started taking a second look --
MATTHEWS: The senator did a two step.
Let me go to Zerlina.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) half of this.
Certainly she did -- the senator did a two step. First of all, she said I`m going to charge to the millionaire and billionaire class, there`s not going to be tax increase for the middle class, and then said she pulled back and said it won`t be immediate. I`ll get to it in two or three years. Which of those steps hurt her, some that hurt her?
ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUS XM, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING: Well, I think that, you know, her communications director had a good term for it, I saw it today, it`s called a polar coaster. And I think that, you know, the polls are going to change.
I do agree with one point that Howard made which is that when you put out detailed proposals, that does leave you open to attacks and criticism and perhaps, you know, it forces you to adjust some of those plans.
But to the other candidates in the race, it`s interesting that a candidate like mailer Pete is surging, and yet he doesn`t have any detailed plans released. He has a Douglass Plan for black Americans and then there was a controversy about the fact --
MAXWELL: -- that they said black people endorsed it and they in fact did not endorse the plan.
So I think that the polling right now is very fluid.
MATTHEWS: That`s true.
MAXWELL: And if everybody remembers the name Gary Hart, I wouldn`t bet on anybody in this race right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, I think the difference between these two candidates is more than any candidate I`ve seen, Elizabeth Warren is running an agenda. She said, this is what I`m going to do from day one, I`m going to do this later, I`m going to do this, she had a lot of plans, I`ve got a plan for everything.
Buttigieg is running himself. He says, I`m a mayor. I know how to be an executive. I can do it. It`s a different way of running this campaign.
Who the voters want, we`ll find out.
MAXWELL: Well, I will point out one is a man and one is a woman and that matters in this case. Women can`t show up and be praised just based on the potential that you see in them, and I think that is one of the dynamics at play with Mayor Pete. And I do very much like him and think he`s a great candidate. However, Julian Castro and Cory Booker have similar biographies and yet they`re not polling as high.
So, all I`m saying is, this race is very fluid, and there are some dynamics at play with regards to race and gender, and the lens through which we`re judging candidates that I think is having an impact on some of these polling numbers.
MATTHEWS: Hard to argue with that historically.
Moments ago, Trump again attacked the impeachment process and the Democrats. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The same maniacs are pushing the deranged impeachment -- think of this, impeachment. Impeachment.
A witch hunt, the same as before. And they`re pushing that impeachment, witch hunt and a lot of bad things are happening to them. Because you see what`s happening in the polls, everybody said that`s really bullshit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I think Barry Commoner said that a hundred years ago and now the president uses that language. I mean, I`m not the pastor of the country, but it does tell you about where we`re headed -- Howard.
FINEMAN: Yes, and you have made the point on the show before that you think suburban voters, especially women are going to be put off by that kind of language, and that kind of person as president --
MATTHEWS: Because a lot of them spent 20 to 30 years of their life trying to --
MATTHEWS: A different generation than him.
FINEMAN: Well, this reminds me of a kind of secular, weird, almost revival meeting. It`s not religious, but he`s setting up a light and dark, good and evil, devil and savior kind of thing. And that fits into the rhythm of the people that he`s going after.
MATTHEWS: Well, he`s got -- he`s figured people.
Anyway, thank you so much, Zerlina, always have you on, great on.
MAXWELL: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: That was a good sense. It`s always great to have you on. Thank you very much. Have a nice Thanksgiving both of you guys. Howard Fineman, as well.
FINEMAN: Thank you. You too.
MATTHEWS: Up next, Trump fiddles while the Earth burns. Think about it.
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MATTHEWS: In "French Connection", two New York police detective Popeye Doyle played by Gene Hackman proclaimed: I`d rather be a lamppost in New York than the president of France.
I get it. The street level of nationalism is what Donald Trump has been panhandling since he declared himself a political figure in the run-up to 2016 and here he is in 2017 selling the same regular guy against the world number when he first announced the U.S. would leave the Paris climate accord in the Rose Garden of the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It is time to put Youngtown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many other locations within our great country before Paris, France.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What he`s selling here is demagoguery. Stick your head in the sand while you vote for him. But meanwhile on the planet which we all live on, there`s the reality that the world has wasted so much time dealing with climate change that according to a new United Nations report today, rampant, unprecedented cuts in greenhouse gas emissions offer the only hope of averting an ever intensifying cascade of consequences.
It doesn`t take an expert to see what`s happening on this Earth of ours. In Africa, we see the disappearance of trees, the widening of the Sahara, the climate devastation that`s setting peoples against each other for a limed supply of good land in places like Somalia. In Africa and Latin America we see the effect the heat has wrought on the population surging north in rafts across the Mediterranean, and families racing across the Rio Grande River. I
n Europe, we see the historic flooding of Venice. Here in the U.S., the rising sea levels are about to swamp Miami and not far off threaten the foundations of Manhattan. In both California and Australia, we see the wildfires devastating communities. We see huge chunks of ice falling from the Arctic.
What more do we need to see? What more do we have to hear from Donald Trump?
We thought Emperor Nero was wrong to fiddle as Rome burned, this guy`s worse. He uses the reality of climate change to posture himself as the little guy taking on the experts, the sophisticates, the foreigners.
Donald Trump gets votes by consciously lying about the scourge facing the only planet we have. He`s telling us that none of it is true, none of what we see is true, none of what our eyes and minds and instincts are telling us. He`s using idiot nationalism to take us down, not just we Americans, but the world with us.
Next Monday, I`m going to talk to former Secretary of State John Kerry about his new initiative on climate and much more.
And that`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END