ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And I can tell you, we have a lot coming tomorrow morning. Special coverage begins at 9:00 A.M. with the Judiciary hearing. Tonight, MSNBC Primetime has you covered. I`ll be filling in with some expert analysis on all in today and, again, at the LAST WORD with Lawrence. And don`t miss any of the lineup, including, of course, Rachel and Chris Matthews, who starts now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: The whole damn story. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
Tonight, we can see that these are not different stories but a single story with a consortium of players playing their distinct parts, a president abusing his power, a former New York mayor digging dirt on a former American vice president, an OMB director telling us to get over it, a partisan California congressman moonlighting as a GOP operative and a fringy columnist pushing conspiracy theories about Ukrainian intervention in the 2016 election.
We`ve learned all these players were dark alley partners in a common scheme to win in 2020. President Trump telling the Ukraine president he wanted a favor, Rudy Giuliani working hand-in-glove with the OMB, which controlled the Ukraine arms aid, Devin Nunes also working the phones with Giuliani`s bunch and the OMB, all working with a fringe columnist who pushed out their dirty message.
And that`s what today`s intel report tells us, not lone operatives, not lone operators, not a vague troop of allies but a confidence gang, a syndicate, a mob all advancing the corrupt plan to discredit the case against Trump in 2016 and destroy the hopes of a Democrat challenging him in 2020, in other words, one and the same criminal enterprise.
And that`s what we`re learning from the final report by the House Intelligence Committee today, which just minutes ago cast a momentous vote to approve their findings in the impeachment inquiry. The 300-page report is the basis for the core articles of impeachment, which the Judiciary Committee will determine later this month.
Following its release earlier today, Chairman Adam Schiff delivered a damning indictment of the president`s conduct.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This report chronicles the scheme by the president of the United States to coerce an ally, Ukraine, that is at war with an adversary, Russia, into doing the president`s political dirty work.
And he was willing to sacrifice the national security of the United States by withholding military aid and diplomatic recognition in the form of that White House meeting in order to get what he wanted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, citing, quote, overwhelming and clear evidence of President Trump`s misconduct, the report states that the House inquiry, quote, uncovered a months` long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign intervention, interference on his behalf in the 2020 election.
The committee found that, quote, Trump conditioned official acts on a public announcement by the new Ukrainian president politically-motivated investigation, and also charges that senior U.S. officials, including the vice president, the secretary of state, the acting chief of staff, the secretary of energy and others were either knowledgeable of or active participants in the president`s scheme.
It could be said that the report was written to support two articles of impeachment at least, one for abuse of power, another for obstructing Congress, which the committee calls unprecedented. In fact, the report today says it would be hard to imagine a stronger or more complete case of obstruction than in that demonstrated by the president since the inquiry began.
The report also contains damaging new revelations about Rudy Giuliani, showing that the president`s personal lawyer was in touch with the office responsible for freezing that military aid to Ukraine. Personally, on the phone with him, AT&T records show that at the peak of the pressure campaign against Ukraine in this past August, Giuliani spoke to the Office of Management and Budget and placed multiple calls to the White House switchboard and situation room. So he was in the loop, so was the president.
The phone lines also showed that back in April, Giuliani received several calls from the OMB, which controlled military aid to Ukraine. And that`s when Giuliani was leading a smear campaign, by the way, against former Ambassador Yovanovitch.
I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, who serves on both the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. Betsy Woodruff Swan, Politics Reporter for The Daily Beast, Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Adviser to President Obama, and Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times.
I`m holding the report here, Congressman. Is this how it`s going to read? I`m asking this dead seriously. Is this where we`re going to get the wording in what used to be the Encyclopedia Britannica? in the What`s it going to be in the history books for all-time? This is the report that`s going to say why Trump faced impeachment, right?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): This report will stand the test of time, Chris. It`s just a question will my Republican colleagues stand the test of courage.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about this Rudy Giuliani role. The fact that Rudy Giuliani was on the phone with the OMB, which controlled the funds, the arms aid to Ukraine, what does that tell you?
SWALWELL: Well, Rudy Giuliani is Donald Trump`s lawyer. So we proved him in our case Donald Trump is Rudy and Rudy is Donald Trump. And they are inseparable, they are bonded together. You could throw almost everyone else under bus if you`re the president, and he has. But lawyers act on behalf of their clients.
And almost every witness that knew of this relationship said Rudy was acting as Trump`s guy. And Trump told them on Ukraine, talk to Rudy, he`s my guy.
MATTHEWS: Were you surprised as a member of the committee on Intelligence, that the ranking Republican committee member, you know, Devin Nunes of California, who`s been opposing all of this investigation was, in fact, an operative? He was moonlighting. He was on the phone with Rudy`s bunch, with Lev Parnas. Did that surprise you when you learned that?
SWALWELL: No. A lot of things has surprise me. That did not surprise me at all. He`s got priors. He was the midnight runner in the Russia investigation going over to the White House. But I guess maybe what was surprising for the American people was that the ranking member used all of his time during a serious impeachment process not to get to the facts, not to understand what it meant, but to falsely attack the chairman when now we`ve learned he was just projecting. He was projecting on Schiff what he was actually doing, which was ensnaring himself and involving himself with indicted witnesses in this investigation.
MATTHEWS: Somebody should tell people. Maybe Oli North would tell people involved in politics that either side, when you`re an adviser to the president, you`re not an operative. You`re not operative. You don`t go out and do stuff on your own. If you`re a member of Congress, you vote, you think, you make decisions where policies should go. You don`t go out and do stuff for the president.
Anyway, the report gives a play-by-play analysis of the president`s scheme. First, the president forced out the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, following a smear campaign led by Rudy Giuliani.
Trump then put Giuliani and the three so-called amigos in charge of Ukraine and they pushed for an investigation of Trump`s political opponents.
And then the president froze military assistance to Ukraine over the objections of career experts and he conditioned a White House meeting on getting the investigations he was seeking.
He went onto personally ask Ukrainian President Zelensky for those investigations and Trump`s aides just demanded a public announcement of those investigations by August. The release of military aid was also conditioned on that announcement.
Finally, the president relented and finally released the aid only when his scheme was exposed to the public when he got caught.
Betsy, this report has got the whole damn thing in it.
BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, POLITICS REPORTER, THE DAILY BEAST: and it`s all in the record. They cite numerous documents and numerous public testimony, public testimony and publicly released private testimony from more than a dozen witnesses with detailed knowledge of the way that this operation played out.
One thing that struck me about this report as important is that it really puts front and center a piece of the conversation that I think got lost over the last few months and that is the extent to which the clearest public example of a quid pro quo had to do with the president of Ukraine wanting to meet with Trump in the White House.
Trump`s associates said explicitly that unless the president of Ukraine announced an investigation into a company linked to the Bidens, that meeting wouldn`t happen. And there`s literally no dispute that the president of the United States was holding that White House meeting as leverage to try to get a political gift.
MATTHEWS: Peter, what struck me is the number of interplays among these people as I open the program within the cold open the connection involving the ranking member -- Republican member on the Intel Committee, Devin Nunes, involved in these conversations with Lev Parnas, the associate working with Rudy Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani on the phone with somebody at OMB and also at the White House. It`s like picking up a rock when you were kid and seeing all the bugs underneath it and how all the bugs were interplaying with each other. It`s all connected, it seems. Your thoughts?
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. And one of the tricks, of course, is it also reveals how much there is still to be learned, right. That this investigation, while it`s gone on for a couple of months and the Intelligence Committee is basically through with this portion of it as they turn it over to the Judiciary Committee, there are still these unanswered questions. There are these gaps in the story line.
We don`t know who Rudy Giuliani was talking to on those phone calls. That`s an intriguing new bit of evidence that was produced today. We don`t know, you know, what some of the people around him, these shadowy figures, who are now under investigation, were doing in some of these phone calls and meetings and so forth. We`ve never seen Rudy Giuliani testify on this. We`ve never seen Mick Mulvaney testify. We`ve never seen John Bolton testify. They all refused or were not asked, mostly refused.
And the House Intelligence Committee decided not to pursue a lengthy court battle because what they argued is we`ve already got enough evidence. What we got here in this 300-page report today is more than enough to prove the case. But it does leave a lot of open questions.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about common sense here, because do you think Rudy Giuliani was calling up OMB to get full funding for titled 20 programs? Come on. Rudy Giuliani had one interest. He`s in Ukraine, he`s fighting to get dirt on Obama -- Biden. What`s going on, Peter? Do you think common sense --
BAKER: Yes, I think -- that`s what -- exactly. That`s what we`d like to know, exactly that. And, for instance, we talk about this phone call, the 13-minute phone call to an OMB number. Well, I don`t know the answer to the question. Does Mick Mulvaney, who is still technically the director of the OMB but now also the acting White House chief of staff, does he still have a phone that would be registered to the OMB? I don`t know the answer to that question. That would be an interesting question to ask and know about.
Mick Mulvaney was deeply involved, as we know, from previous testimony in facilitating a lot of this pressure on Ukraine. So what was that phone call about? A lot of things we`d like to know.
It doesn`t mean we will, it doesn`t mean the next committee won`t try, but one of the things about this report shows is there are still these interesting questions we`d like to ask.
MATTHEWS: Ben Rhodes, tell us about how you see all these connecting rods between these -- among these various figures, Nunes, ranking Republican, Rudy Giuliani, the president`s lawyer and fixer overseas, all these characters, even this guy, John Solomon, who writes these fringy columns supporting all these theories about the Ukrainians back in 2016. It all seems to be connected through phone calls the way you look at it now, the way we can see it.
BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No, it is, Chris. And, look, the bottom line is this is not how our government is supposed to work. All the people that we saw testifying at those impeachment hearings, former ambassadors, public and civil servants, they did not want to carry out this corrupt scheme. They knew that it was a criminal enterprise. They knew that is not in the U.S. national interest. They knew it was putting extraordinary pressure on an ally, Ukraine, that has been invaded by Russia.
So what happened is, in order to carry out this quid pro quo, in order to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political opponents, Trump essentially had to setup a shadow foreign policy through people like Rudy Giuliani, bringing in someone like Gordon Sondland, who has no role in Ukrainian policy, outsourcing, obviously, some of these dirty operative deeds to Devin Nunes, because the normal government won`t carry this out.
And I thought where Chairman Schiff is very powerful is in making the case on why we have to act in that urgently, because this is not how a government works, Chris. The Republicans want to make it seem like, well, everybody does it, everybody is a little corrupt. Well, no, actually. We`ve never seen anything quite like this in American history where the president of the United States is essentially setting up a shadowy foreign policy apparatus. It`s all laid out in this report for people who will carry out his personal agenda, not the national agenda.
And that`s really at the heart of this whole thing, Chris. Not only is this abuse of power but it urgently raises the question whether we can trust, whether we have a government that is acting in the national interest or in the personal political interest of the president.
And the Republicans give this a pass. They`re essentially saying, we are okay with this. And then we as Americans can`t have confidence that the president won`t solicit further foreign interference in the 2020 election and will continue to politicize important foreign relationships like this.
MATTHEWS: Well, the committee cites that. The Intelligence Committee in this report today cites the president`s defiance of lawful subpoenas and his threats to witnesses to make the case that the president has obstructed Congress.
To that point, the report says, the damage to our system of checks and balances and to the balance of power within our three branches of government will be long-lasting and potential irrevocable if the president`s ability to stonewall Congress goes unchecked.
Congressman Swalwell, your thoughts about this. When I read the report, and you`ve been through it, you helped write it, it seems to me it lays out two premises. One is abuse of power by the president through this whole enterprise, criminal enterprise, I believe, and his obstruction or defiance of Congress. Are those to be, do you think, the suggested articles of impeachment coming out of your committee to Judiciary Committee?
SWALWELL: They`ll be considered, Chris. And, first, yes, the president used your taxpayer dollars to ask a foreign government to cheat an election only to benefit him. That`s abuse of power. That`s bribery. Second, yes, he has defied lawful orders to produce documents and witnesses.
And I think what is remarkable is that history will look back on this and say that there is probably no investigation of this size, of this magnitude that relied on so few documents to be able to make such large, sweeping, uncontradicted conclusions. That`s because the brave people who did come forward.
But step back and look at the 12 people the president told not to come, like Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, Secretaries Pompeo and Perry and the 71 different document requests that we made. We were still able to prove 300 pages worth of misconduct by the president.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of both the Intel and the Judiciary Committees of the House. Betsy, Peter and Ben are all sticking, fortunately, for the next segment.
Coming up, startling new details in the impeachment report puts Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, the midnight rider, in the middle of the Ukraine scandal. Why was the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee talking to several key players in the Ukraine pressure campaign? Was he investigating himself or covering up for himself?
And as articles of impeachment start to take shape, the Judiciary Committee takes charge the case against Donald Trump. What can we expect from the committee`s first hearing, which is tomorrow morning at 10:00 Eastern?
Plus, Attorney General William Barr, what a piece of work he is, he is trying to once again put his thumb on the scales to help his boss.
We`ve got much more to get to, his only client, by the way, the president of the United States. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: In terms of the ranking member, it won`t surprise you I`m going to reserve comment. It is, I think, deeply concerning that at a time when the president of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was House Intelligence Committee Chair, of course, Adam Schiff, the hero of this piece, talking about the ranking member of his committee, his opposite member, Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, who sits next to him, not in a warm (ph) company, by the way.
According to the committee`s impeachment report today, Nunes had a number of undisclosed contacts, phone calls with both Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas, who is one of Giuliani`s indicted Ukrainian henchman.
Phone records show that Nunes had three phone calls with Giuliani in April on the 10th of that month and another three with Parnas two days later.
As The Daily Beast points out, the Nunes calls came on the tail end of a long series of communications between Parnas and "Hill" columnist John Solomon, who, on April 1, had published a calm relaying the same conspiracy theories at the center of Giuliani`s Trump-endorsed inquisition on Ukraine.
Well, Nunes has repeatedly attacked Schiff, alleging he coordinated with the whistle-blower. Here we go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): The Democrats have zeroed in on an anonymous whistle-blower complaint that was cooked up in cooperation with the Democrats on this very committee.
They lied to the American people about that cooperation, and refuse to let us question the whistle-blower to discover the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, now these phone calls show it was Nunes himself who was secretly communicating with the same people his committee was supposed to be investigating.
In other words, he wasn`t just defending Republicans. He was defending himself.
And back with me are Betsy Woodruff Swan, who wrote this story, Ben Rhodes, and Peter Baker.
Ben, I want your perspective on this, because here`s the top Republican on the committee of that clown show on that other side of the chairman`s seat. Now we find out he was part of it, that he was on the phone with this Russian guy, character, and he was on the phone with him, Lev Parnas.
And he was on the phone with OMB and all of it. What do you think of the fact it turns out he was one of the gang?
RHODES: Well, I wish I could say I`m surprised, but it`s consistent with what Devin Nunes has done.
And, look, Chris, you have spent time on the Hill. Those people are supposed to look out for their constitutional responsibilities. Even in the Obama years, the most friendly Obama committee chairman or ranking member would stand up for Congress` prerogative.
So it`s kind of unprecedented that you had this guy up there in a very key role, a very important role, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, who sees his role purely as doing whatever Donald Trump`s political interests are.
So the oath is not to the institution of the Congress or the Constitution. It`s, what can I do for Donald Trump? Can I spread conspiracy theories to discredit the very real allegations he was supported by Russia in 2016?
MATTHEWS: Let`s go deep here.
Ben, I want to deep before I get to the reporter here with Betsy.
Why would it congressman behave like this? Why would he go down to the Eisenhower Office Building right next to the White House and pick up some dirt that he supposedly -- then, the next morning, goes the next -- back down to the White House and says, I just found something that supports Trump`s position?
Why would he become an operative? Why would he be out there becoming operational? Why is a congressman who`s elected and paid to represent a district in Congress, to vote and be in committee, running around like he`s an employee of this president? How did they -- do they got something on him? What is going -- does he have a staffer who`s leading him in the wrong direction, because he`s really working with the bad guys?
Why would Nunes do this? What`s his motive, Ben?
RHODES: Well, I think -- you know, it`s a signal of where the Republican Party is today in 2019, right, that Devin Nunes doesn`t see the way that he gets ahead as doing his job, serving his constituents, serving the institution of the Congress, trying to do right by the Constitution, trying to do right by our national security.
He thinks the way to get ahead is to be the most pro-Trump guy up there, to spout the craziest conspiracy theories.
And, Chris, the thing is, when he`s up there during these impeachment hearings putting on these performances, when he`s out there trying to dig up dirt, false dirt, by the way, on the Bidens, what he`s doing is speaking to an audience of one, which is Donald Trump.
But he also knows that there`s an entire media world out there of people who are consuming the same type of conspiracy theory.
RHODES: He`s not thinking about the rest of us. He`s just thinking about Donald Trump and that narrow audience that is going to believe whatever it is Donald Trump tells them to believe.
And it`s -- that`s where the Republican Party, tragically, has come to, that they don`t have an institutional responsibility. They have a responsibility to Donald Trump and Donald Trump`s audience.
MATTHEWS: Betsy, to you.
How did you get the reporting on this? What`s Nunes about?
WOODRUFF SWAN: At Daily Beast, we were first to report that there was a connection between Congressman Nunes and Lev Parnas, who is an associate of Rudy Giuliani, who helped him with his Biden investigation.
MATTHEWS: Ukrainian guy.
WOODRUFF SWAN: One of the lawyers for Parnas told me on the record -- this has been several weeks ago now -- that Parnas was helping Nunes in his investigative work.
And since then...
MATTHEWS: Whose investigative work?
WOODRUFF SWAN: The work that Nunes was doing at the time.
Later, those lawyers went into more detail and said...
MATTHEWS: Was that the same digging up that the Trump people were doing?
WOODRUFF SWAN: Those lawyers have continued to go into more detail. And what they say, based on their conversations with Parnas, is that they were helping Nunes work on this project of investigating the Bidens and Burisma, the Ukrainian natural...
MATTHEWS: That`s the Trump mission.
WOODRUFF SWAN: Exactly, the same basic project.
And the gist of it and what`s important to remember here, based on my conversations with the folks who work with Lev and others involved, is that there`s not the traditional bifurcation that you would see between the legislative and executive branch, but, rather, all these guys were basically team Trump.
And they were all working toward the same end.
MATTHEWS: Let`s go to Peter on this, because there is a Watergate -- and everything doesn`t relate to Watergate, but this dark alley, second government, unofficially, just like in the days of Nixon -- we had the plumbers out there.
All these people without official roles, or outside their official roles, like U.S. congressman from California, or Rudy Giuliani, former America`s mayor and all that, and the head of somebody -- somebody at OMB, Mick Mulvaney, maybe Duffey, somebody over there, they`re all -- and this guy Solomon, who is a columnist, a fringy columnist for "The Hill," they`re all working in league to push one mission that will eventually help get Trump reelected.
Look, obviously, presidents often use or at least have used in the past private citizens as intermediaries and both politics and in policy. We have seen that even with foreign policy.
The difference here is, what`s alleged is that it was being used in furtherance of the president`s own personal political interests, not in furtherance of national foreign policy.
That`s why you saw Fiona Hill, who was running Russia and Europe policy at the NSC, completely left in the dark, while John Bolton apparently objected to this, saying that it was all some sort of a drug deal, metaphorically. It was outside of what was supposed to be the normal channels.
And it wasn`t, as Fiona Hill said she learned through testimony, a rogue channel, because, in fact, it actually was responsible directly to the president, as she concluded. It was not sort of on its own. It was part of what the president wanted.
It just happened to be that he took it outside of the government, because, obviously, people like Rudy Giuliani are ones he actually trusts. He doesn`t trust people inside the government.
And perhaps you would have thought that they might not have gone along with what he was trying to accomplish.
MATTHEWS: Ben, last thought from you, because you have been in these businesses, all these different agencies and institutions.
And it looks to me like we have a band here, a syndicate of people who basically have other jobs, like Congress, or working at OMB, or former mayor or whatever, lawyer.
MATTHEWS: They all had one mission in life, which was to do this dirty deed, to hold up, to shake down Ukraine for dirt, or at least a statement, a declaration of dirt, on the guy at the time Trump figured he was running against.
And I think what we have to keep our eye is on the ball here, which is how fundamentally corrupting this is to our system, that even on a matter of national security, a country like Ukraine that has been invaded by a U.S. adversary, we are using this cast of characters to leverage taxpayer dollars, White House visits, to get announcements of investigations into his political opponents.
If that is OK in our system, then there is no semblance of checks and balances. And that`s why you need this impeachment process, to restore any sense of accountability and order and stability to American democracy, because if this crowd can run around and carry out schemes like this in Ukraine, who knows what we`re not seeing in other parts of the world?
And if this is validated, who knows what further corruption we could see in our government. So that`s why it`s so important for Congress to assert its constitutional role right now.
MATTHEWS: And I think any Republican who is thinking about this, who takes a pause to think, and not just follow, must admit to himself or herself that, if Obama had done this, Barack Obama had done this kind of thing, it`s hard to think what they wouldn`t do to him.
And they have to admit that about themselves. Just everybody who is a Republican now, just admit to yourself -- you don`t have to put out a statement -- that if Obama had done this stuff, had cut a deal against American interests for his own political interests, you would be nailing the guy. And you wouldn`t be worrying about it. You wouldn`t feel hesitant. You would be nailing him.
That`s the truth. Live with it.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Betsy Woodruff, great reporting. You led us to the truth here, Betsy Woodruff Swan, Ben Rhodes, for your expertise. Peter Baker, great to have you on the show.
Up next: Will Republicans turn tomorrow`s impeachment hearing, the first real impeachment hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, into a circus? Buy your tickets already. It`s coming.
A member of that committee joins us next.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Tonight`s vote in the Intelligence Committee formally sends the impeachment investigation over to the House Judiciary Committee, which holds its first impeachment hearing tomorrow morning at 10:00 Eastern.
If that was -- if what we saw in the House Intelligence Committee hearings before is any indication, Republicans already have their playbook -- that`s a good word for it -- of political theater already set, led by two Trump loyalists who also serve on the Judiciary Committee, Texas` John Ratcliffe and Ohio`s Jim Jordan.
Here they go. Let`s watch their shenanigans here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I have a point of order.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The gentleman is not recognized.
Jordan I have a point of order, though.
SCHIFF: The gentleman is not recognized. I do want to respond. I allowed the ranking member to...
JORDAN: I have a point of order...
SCHIFF: The gentleman is not recognized...
JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, there are four transcripts...
JORDAN: That have...
JORDAN: Not been released...
SCHIFF: Gentleman is not recognized.
JORDAN: Holy cow.
REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): Are either of you here today to assert there was an impeachable offense in that call? Shout it out. Anyone?
WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Mr. Ratcliffe, if I can just respond, let me just reiterate that I`m not here...
RATCLIFFE: I have got one minute left.
TAYLOR: I know you do. I know you have only got a minute left. I have just got 30 seconds.
SCHIFF: Please allow the witness -- you asked the witness a question.
RATCLIFFE: I will withdraw the question.
JORDAN: You know how Zelensky announced it? Did he tweet it? Did he do a press statement? Did he do a press conference? You know how that happened? I mean, you got all three of them wrong.
They get the call. They get the meeting. They get the money. It`s not two plus two. It`s oh for three.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the biggest stunt in disrupting the impeachment investigation so far was led by another Republican back this October, when Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz led a group of Trump defenders in storming the secure room where Deputy Defense Secretary Laura Cooper was supposed to testify.
According The Daily Beast, Democrats are bracing for a circus atmosphere from the likes of Gaetz and Jordan, noting -- quote -- "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated she wants Wednesday`s hearing to be somber and solemn. Republicans on the famously combative panel are known for shouting and screaming."
For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass, who`s a pro, and she`s Californian, of course. She serves on House Judiciary. And Yamiche Alcindor is a correspondent for "PBS NewsHour," also a pro.
How can a chairman -- I watch -- I watch Chairman Nadler sitting there like Job in the Old Testament with all these crazy people behaving around him. And he always seems a little bit surprised by their misbehavior.
But they are going to be doing points of order like Joe McCarthy. We know it`s coming. How do you fight with that, that crapola?
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Oh, I think that the chairman is going to be very well prepared and very strong.
He is not going to put up with the juvenile nonsense that you saw in the Intel Committee. And you know what? When you have members act like that, that is an act of desperation, because they have nothing to challenge the report on the substance.
MATTHEWS: Well, Congresswoman, while I have you, nothing stops those people behind the basket at an NBA game from waving those crazy things around to screw up the guy doing the foul shot.
So they`re not going to stop waving those things. These Republicans -- you say it shows they`re desperate. No, they`re just screwing up the foul shooter. They`re just screwing up the presentation of what Nancy Pelosi wants to be solemn.
MATTHEWS: How do you stop it? You`re not telling me how you`re going to do it. How are you going to stop them?
BASS: Oh, I think the chairman is going to stop it using the parliamentary power that he has.
We are the majority. We control the process. If they move to adjourn, we just vote them down, until we continue. I think that we are very well prepared. We know what they`re going to do. We certainly have seen what they have done every time we have a Judiciary meeting.
And I will have to add in too, the ranking member, you know he`s auditioning because he wants that Senate seat.
MATTHEWS: I know.
BASS: So he`s definitely performing for Trump.
And they`re performing so they can get on FOX and the nightly news. We know this.
MATTHEWS: Well, that may be true.
BASS: But I think that -- I think we`re going to be able to push back.
Yamiche, I got to ask you. I went to Catholic school. If you did that, you`re out in the hallway. And then you`re gone. I mean, how do you stop these clowns from being clowns? Because you know they`re going to do it.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "PBS NEWSHOUR": Well, the congresswoman hinted at it. It`s about parliamentary procedure.
It`s about Democrats trying to use their -- the fact that they won back the House and that Nancy Pelosi is speaker to try to really quiet down these Republicans.
ALCINDOR: But I will say that the president has really put out a mandate for Republicans. He said, I want to see you fiercely defend me. I want to see you be strong.
He said, Nancy Pelosi has these Democrats. They all seem to be in lockstep. Where are my Republicans in lockstep?
And then, a few days later, Matt Gaetz shut down that deposition. So what you see is Republicans really trying to prove that they have President Trump`s back.
MATTHEWS: Well, they will do it.
Anyway, it will ultimately fall to the Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment. They`re coming in the next couple of weeks against President Trump, maybe the week after next.
NBC News reports that, according to individuals involved in that process, there could be three to four articles of impeachment drafted by the Judiciary Committee. They include one to two on abuse of power. That`s obviously. We got that in Ukraine and that whole trade, that shakedown.
One on brother contempt and obstruction of Congress. We know that because they won`t let a witness show up or a piece of paper to show up. And potentially one related to the Mueller report and obstruction of justice.
"The Washington Post" reports Democrats have already debated the scope of charges to bring against the president, noting the idea of Mueller-related charges is running into resistance from some moderate Democrats wary of impeachment blowback in their GOP-leaning districts, as well as Democratic leaders who sought to keep impeachment narrowly focused on allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
Congresswoman, my hunch is the Republicans, the ones with brains still, will take the weakest link you guys put out. In other words, the weakest article, they will attack and say that makes no sense. It`s no reason to get -- you can`t throw a president out of the office for tweeting something that could be called witness intimidation. You can`t throw them out of office for that.
They will take your weakest charge and make it your main charge. How do you deal with the choice of articles?
BASS: Well, first of all, I think that tomorrow is going to be a really important hearing, because we`re going to delve into the impeachment process. What does it mean, high crimes and misdemeanors, bribery, et cetera?
I think that the evidence that we have is strong. Again, maybe the president or the Republicans will come forward with some actual evidence that refutes what we already know. I don`t know that they will do that, because they haven`t done that yet.
But I think bribery is written right into the Constitution. And I don`t know how you can look at what the president did any other way. If you -- we need you to do a favor in order to get the aid, and you`re talking about a nation that was under attack, it can`t get more egregious than that.
So we know that they will lie. That`s what they do consistently. But I think that we will have the American public on our side; 50 percent of the public feels that he should not just be impeached, but removed from office.
And you know what the percentages were when it was the Clinton impeachment. It never got above 30 percent.
MATTHEWS: I know.
BASS: So he`s already in very serious trouble.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
Let me go to Yamiche.
Will the troops be home by Christmas? Will this be over by, say, December 18 or 20th?
ALCINDOR: The sourcing that I have is that this -- that the vote to impeach the president, which is -- it seems more and more likely, that that will over before Christmas, and then we will move then to a January Senate trial.
But I think Mitch McConnell has been very clear. He said, I know how this is going to end. This is going to end with the president not being removed in the Senate.
And I think you have to really watch now...
MATTHEWS: But it will end with him being impeached, though.
ALCINDOR: It will end will -- it will likely end with him being impeached.
But you have to really watch the Republicans. And, right now, Republicans are still in lockstep with the president. And, as a result, he`s feeling good about that.
The other thing is, Democrat -- Republicans will continue to say that there`s no one who can say that President Trump specifically told them, hold this money up in order to get this money. And that`s the argument that they`re making, even though if John Bolton or someone else testifies. Maybe you`ll get closer to that.
MATTHEWS: Well, there`s the president in number 10 Downing, meeting with the prime minister. I think, Yamiche, I disagree. I think nobody wants coal in their stocking and impeachment is coal in your stocking.
Thank you so much. Thank you, Congresswoman --
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): They need to have a secret ballot in the Senate. That`s what they need to have.
MATTHEWS: Well, that would be interesting. I don`t know (ph) it`s going to happen though.
Thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass. Thank you. Have a nice -- well, have a nice impeachment.
And, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.
Up next, Trump`s defenders are using a debunked Russian conspiracy theory pushed by Putin to push back against impeachment. Are they unaware or just unconcerned about being played by Putin? That`s literally -- and it`s true.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, since his election, President Trump has successfully brought Republican orthodoxy to its knees. Until recently, the Republican Party presented a hawkish stance towards Russia. Well, that ideology crumbled under the weight of the Trump administration.
Here`s Trump earlier today in London for the 70th anniversary of NATO.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s a good thing to get along with Russia, and I campaigned on it and I go to the big stadiums and people like it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump`s grip on the Republican Party is so strong that some Republican officials are now parroting Russian talking points in order to defend Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): The Democrats were heavily involved working with Ukrainians to dirty up the Trump campaign in 2016.
REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): The 2016 election, Ukrainians were very big in what we now know was a Russian collusion or Russian hoax.
SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC): Every elected official in Ukraine was for Hillary Clinton. Is that very different than the Russians being for Donald Trump?
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We all know Russia that meddled in the election, but that`s not to say Ukraine didn`t influence the election. That`s the words we have used all along.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): Ukraine tried to interfere in the 2016 election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, these men are just a few of the players who seem willing to go to extreme measures to defend this president. Another one is the attorney general of the United States, of course. He`s reportedly set to put his thumb on the scale of justice in a fairly brazen act. And that`s coming up next. Bill Barr at his worst.
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MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Anyway, "The Washington Post" reports today that Attorney General Bill Barr has told associates he disputes a key finding of the inspector general`s report into the origins of the FBI probe, the surveil of the Trump campaign in 2016. The Inspector General Michael Horowitz who works independently with the attorney general is set to release his report next week.
And sources tell "The Post", he will tell the FBI investigation that President Trump`s campaign was opened on a solid legal and factual footing. According to "The Post", Barr has said Horowitz didn`t have the information to reach that conclusion.
For more, I`m joined by Cynthia Alksne, former federal prosecutor, David Frum, senior editor at "The Atlantic" and former George W. Bush speechwriter.
I`m going to start with you as a prosecutor.
This -- I don`t know what the Justice Department is under Barr, but it`s not a Justice Department. It`s something else. He`s coming in and saying the I.G. was wrong to say the FBI was operating cooperatively when it started to surveil the Trump campaign because of its possible connections with Russia.
CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right. Well, here`s the sad truth. We have an attorney general of the United States who has no commitment to the truth. He lied about the Mueller investigation. He lied to Congress when he said he didn`t know Mueller was upset. He made accusations about spying when they didn`t exist.
He put his thumb on the scale of the Durham investigation, flying off to Italy to interview a witness when he`s never put a witness in the grand jury in his whole life. He doesn`t have to do that, but he`s going to do this investigation. So, that`s dangerous.
MATTHEWS: He sounds like Devin Nunes.
ALKSNE: He sounds like Devin Nunes, and he has the same, they both are committed and it`s the same problem that they should recuse. Devin Nunes should recuse to this investigation, and he should recuse when it comes to Trump.
But instead of the rule of law, he`s into the rule of Trump. It`s a very sad thing and it`s not clear to me how we`re ever going to get the independence of the Justice Department again or how we`re going to work together to establish that with the FBI, a working rapport.
MATTHEWS: You can`t simply be a Republican and it`s sort of like Trump with things like taxes. You have to go the deep dive with him. You have to say I believe in all the crazy Ukrainian theories, I believe in all this stuff, I believe the FBI was spying on Trump back in 2016 to use that awful word. You have to buy it all.
DAVID FRUM, THE ATLANTIC SENIOR EDITOR: The Sessions and Tillerson heads are on spikes outside the White House gates to tell you what happens you try to do it the way you just said. You either part way --
MATTHEWS: There`s no cafeteria Trump guys.
FRUM: Exactly, because Trump cares more about -- he doesn`t care about any of the policy stuff, he cares about the crazy stuff.
And Cynthia said the probably most disturbing that Barr is up to is this crazy investigation he`s doing, which is also in its own way a replay of the Ukraine problem because he`s putting pressure on allied governments, not only Italy, but also Australia and others to join him in fabricating accounts, disparaging their own people, their own diplomats, their own intelligence services, to confect a story whereby Donald Trump is the victim of the investigation into his connections to Russia rather than as we all know the perpetrator.
MATTHEWS: Well, last night, Tucker Carlson of Fox told his viewers he supports Vladimir Putin and doesn`t believe we should be in war with Russia. Well, we`re not in war with Russia. Moments later, during an interview with Congressman Jim Jordan, Carlson went even further. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: I don`t think that we should be at war with Russia and I think we should -- we take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine, that is my view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What do you make of that?
FRUM: Tucker Carlson`s father was head of Radio for Europe. It is a sign of the moral decay. I think a lot of the Republican world that you could go from that honorable position to this. Unlike some of the other people - -
MATTHEWS: Well, is the Republican Party pro-Russian now?
FRUM: Well, two things are happening. I mean, I think there are people who it`s just a tactical necessity if you`re going to defend Trump. You have to say it`s just undeniable he`s connected to Russia. So, that must be good.
But I think what also happens is, as you get deeper into it, and Tucker is clever than some of the people in the Fox lineup, you start going to the hat rooms and dealing with the back channels and sinking into a world of white nationalism in which Russia is a kind of Israel, the white nationalist.
Let me go back to something really hot. Ready? Rudy Giuliani`s people, this guy Fruman -- Giuliani`s Parnas and Fruman --
ALKSNE: Parnas and --
MATTHEWS: They`re all going to the calaboose. They`re going to somewhere bad. They`re seriously indicted.
How is Rudy escaping the news?
ALKSNE: Rudy isn`t escaping the news and it doesn`t really --
MATTHEWS: So far.
ALKSNE: It doesn`t matter what the news is doing but what happens in the Southern District of New York. And they`ve already saying there`s going to be some form of a superseding indictment.
MATTHEWS: Because he`s part of this whole thing, the phone calls. There are phone calls.
ALKSNE: He`s part of the whole thing. He is the consigliere of this deal. He is running -- he is running these witnesses.
MATTHEWS: Well, it does have a syndicate aspect the whole thing, a mob aspect.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Cynthia Alksne. Thank you, David Frum.
Up next, the 2020 Democrats lose an early top contender, Kamala Harris. Let`s talk about her. She`s out of the race. But why?
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MATTHEWS: Kamala Harris looked for a while this year like a force to be reckoned with. Remember those 20,000 supporters who came out for her in Oakland? Remember that assault on Joe Biden in that first Democratic debate?
She was on fire as a candidate and then she wasn`t. The experts were right that her failure was not putting out a clear purpose. But is that? Who says policy precision is the name of the 2020 game?
Elizabeth Warren laid out a bold progressive plan on health care and now has to pay for it, literally. Joe Biden has kept it general, championing his ability to win among that wide spectrum of voters who inhabited, who inhabit the central left, center and what`s left of the non-Trump center right.
So, who knows how particular you have to be as a candidate. But in 2019, heading into 2020, the lesson may be that you do need to decide between the appeal based chiefly on an agenda or one based chiefly on the personal. Also, between a position that is left or moderate politically.
Kamala Harris was also caught straddling uniquely between being the passionate prosecutor and pulling yourself back, going after Joe Biden with charges flying and then pulling back into line with other candidates as if it didn`t happen. Only then to find yourself surprised when Tulsi Gabbard laid into her as she had laid into Biden.
People like to me ask what I think of a candidate. Well, based upon a few conversations, one in particular, I got the sense there was more to Kamala Harris than ambition, and more than even politics. And given her youth and position in the country`s most important Democratic state, there`s a good chance this will not be the last national campaign we`ll see her charge to the front. And the next time, she will know better what to do when she gets there.
Actually, there`s a postscript to all that. In a parting shot, Trump tweeted today: Too bad we will miss you, Kamala. And her response is a beaut: Don`t worry, Mr. President, I`ll see you at your trial.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
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