Bloomberg grilled TRANSCRIPT: Hardball with Chris Matthews, 12/6/2019

Guests: Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Jill Colvin, Chuck Rosenberg, Kim Wehle, Eugene Scott, David Rubenstein

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  This is it at the town hall in New York, tickets at msnbc.com/withpdotour.  That`s msnbc.com/withpodtour.  And if I were you, I`d want to go see Jeremy and Chris, so check it out if you have the time or in you`re in New York.

That does it for us.  We`ll be back Monday 6:00 p.m. Eastern.  I also have a special series this Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, a new impeachment special.  So a lot that you can see, that`s Impeachment, White House in Crisis, this Sunday 9:00 p.m. right here on MSNBC.

HARDBALL starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Speechless.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews up in Washington.

President Trump was left speechless today passing up his last chance to defend himself, acknowledging he faces the near certainty now of impeachment by the House of Representatives.  The president, through his attorney, informed the House Judiciary Committee he will not participate in the committee`s hearings next week.  He did so just under the wire of the panel`s 5:00 p.m. deadline.

In a letter to Chairman Jerrold Nadler, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone called the impeachment inquiry, quote, completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness, arguing Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, quote, ordered House Democrats to proceed with articles of impeachment before your committee has heard a single shred of evidence.  Well, that`s his account.

He added, you should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.

Well, this letter came Monday or come after right before the Monday coming hearings at 9:00 A.M. this coming Monday.  The judiciary will hear evidence from the House Intelligence Committee Counsel as it prepares to draft articles of impeachment next week.  And that should setup a House vote before breaking for the Christmas recess on December 20.  I personally think they`ll be there by a couple of days.

In a letter to Nadler, Cipollone cited President Trump`s tweet yesterday telling Democrats, if you`re going to impeach me, do it now fast so we can have a fair trial in the Senate.

Well, a senior administration official explained the White House`s decision telling The Wall Street Journal, we don`t see any reason to participate because the process is unfair.  The speaker has already announced the predetermined result and they will not give us the ability to call any witnesses.  Well, the president is banking on acquittal by the Republican- led Senate, of course.  But today, Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy suggested there are some possible cracks in the Republican firewall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIE GEIST, MSNBC HOST:  Have you spoken to a single Republican colleague in the Senate who`s even considering voting for impeachment?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (R-CT):  Yes.

GEIST:  You have?

MURPHY:  Yes.

GEIST:  OK, would you like to name them?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST:  How many?

MURPHY:  It`s a small list on one hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  He didn`t say full hand.  He said it could fit on that list on that hand.

Anyway, I`m joined by Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, what a great committee, Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press, Chuck Rosenberg, one of my favorite guests, former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official.  Congresswoman, it`s great to have you over here right here in the room with us.

What do you make of the president`s no mas, I`m not going to talk, I`ve had it?

REP. DEBBIE MUCARSEL-POWELL (D-FL):  Look, it doesn`t surprise me, to tell you the truth.  We actually have given him the opportunity to come and present his side of the story.  He can`t complain that he doesn`t have due process.  But if you notice they`re not contesting the evidence or the facts, they continue to attack the process, because they cannot say anything about the evidence that has been presented, which is very damning for the president.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about that because we`ve all watched criminal cases on television and good cases, we try to figure them out.  And even in the worst case situation with the worst defendant who is totally clearly guilty, O.J., for example, they come up with an alternative theory.  They come up with something.  A guy drops some banana peels on the way in, so he must be doing a cowered or whatever killing.

So you always come up with something to get the jury thinking about stuff they didn`t try.  What do you make -- they accept the fact the president was shaking down a foreign leader.

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  They`re trying to dismiss the evidence and the facts.  And the reality is that we have clear evidence, especially after that phone call, and we had that hearing this week.  And you heard from the witnesses that they said that that phone call shows that the president is abusing the power of his office to solicit a foreign government for his own private and political gain.  And so that undermines the integrity of our elections, and that goes to the very heart of our Constitution.

And so I think that he knows and I think his advisers probably don`t want him to speak under oath, and they`re protecting him in some sense, I think.

MATTHEWS:  Jill, the partisan nature of our times, it`s not just this case, this impeachment, it`s the world we live in.  There are very few people you walk up to and say what do you think of Trump, and they say, well, I`m a mixed mind on that.  They don`t -- there`s a very few mixed minds around.  People who are Democrats, Republicans, pro-Trump, critical of Trump, everybody, I think the Democrats have the facts but that`s my opinion too.

But this time around, there`s a reality, and the reality is this president now faces impeachment.  He probably will be impeached in two weeks.  He knows that.  It will be engraved in law.  It will be for every school kid that goes to a good school and learns the history of the presidency this two-week period, impeach the president.  Do they in the White House get it?

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS":  Well, I think that`s what you saw that was so extraordinary this week was basically the president, his campaign, White House officials openly saying, look, we get it, the writing is on the wall, it`s done.  There`s no point in us even engaging because we know how this is going to go.  So let`s pivot, let`s do what we can politically to try to put our faith in the Senate process, try to go where we think that we`re going to get a better shake where the president seems to think he`s going to be able to create this made for T.V. moment with all his Republican allies --

MATTHEWS:  Well, what`s this Macbeth we`re getting at, if it were done to our best done quickly?  I mean, it`s right out of Macbeth.  And why are they talking like that, get it over with?

COLVIN:  Because -- I mean, that`s the reality.  If you know that this is already going to happen, it`s like just do it, get it done with, they want it done as quickly as possible so they can move over and they`re putting their faith --

MATTHEWS:  OK.  They`re thinking, since they`re not too good on the law, the president is not too sure about the Constitution to put it lightly, they`re better at reality T.V.  Chuck, are they thinking -- I`m going to the law expert for the reality question.  Are they thinking, let`s get the Democrats reality T.V., which is real off the television, get it off quick before Christmas, then two weeks of Christmas and the holidays and the other holidays, we don`t have that on our mind, it will fade a bit.  And then we`ll come in January and create a new reality, this show trial they`re going to put on the Senate with calling Hunter and Joe Biden and calling Pelosi and Schiff.  Is that what they`re thinking, a new reality T.V. show?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  They might be thinking that.

But I`ll tell you what surprises me.  If you analogize the House proceeding to a grand jury and the Senate proceeding to the actual trial in a federal criminal court case, defense attorneys normally don`t have the opportunity to go to the grand jury, right?  And I don`t know many defense attorneys that would turn down any opportunity to take a shot at the case, right?  So in my world, as a federal prosecutor, your turn as a defense attorney only comes at trial.  So I`m a little bit surprised on one hand that they`re passing up an opportunity to attack it in the House.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s talk about television for a second because we are here on television.  If Donald J. Trump said, December10th or 15th or somewhere in that week, I`m going to do a little rehearsal and I`m going to go before that committee myself, and I`m going to make a case for my innocence.  I will be as good as any of these clowns on the committee.  I could think like that if I`m Trump.  And I`m going to beat them at their own game?  What would happen?  Do you think he`s afraid to do that?

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  I think that he has a very hard time telling the truth, Chris.  And I think that if he is under oath in front of the Judiciary Committee, in such a judicious moment in the history of our country, it could be very dangerous for him.

And I do think that it`s the reason why he has obstructed this entire time.  He has obstructed many witnesses from coming forth in front of the Judiciary Committee.  We have been trying to go with an investigation for this president for months.  And he hasn`t allowed key witnesses to appear before the Judiciary Committee.  So that`s why I`m not surprised that he`s not coming.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he would be in a perjury situation, to put it lightly?

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  You know, I can`t make any assumptions because, obviously, he`s not going to be coming in front of the committee.  But what I`ve seen from this president is say one thing one day and then say a completely different thing the next day.  So, yes, it wouldn`t surprise me if he lied under oath, yes.

MATTHEWS:  Well, there`s big breaking news right now as we speak.  Moments ago, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence asking for him to declassify the supplemental testimony of Jennifer Williams, his special adviser on Europe and Russia.  That`s his adviser, Pence`s.

In the letter, Chairman Schiff said, the testimony contains information about the vice president`s September 18th call, telephone call, with Ukraine`s president, adding the classification on this supplemental testimony will allow the Congress to see further corroborative evidence.  Jill?

COLVIN:  That`s interesting.  I mean, keep in mind that the White House and even Pence`s office has really been tried to distance themselves from her, saying, look, she is just a State Department.  Sources told me the vice president wouldn`t even recognize her if he was in the room with her.

And remember that she had testified not only that she was on that call but also that she had been told that it was the president who directed the vice president to cancel his trip to Zelensky`s inauguration.  There was some debate within the vice president`s office about exactly the chain of command and how that went through.  I have no idea what`s in that supplemental testimony.  I didn`t realize that there actually was other testimony that we haven`t seen.  But that`s really interesting.

MATTHEWS:  Who gets to declassify something like that?

ROSENBERG:  The executive, the president.

MATTHEWS:  Not the V.P.?

ROSENBERG:  Well, no.  The entire classification system, the entire system is built for the president, and so the president can delegate to other officials the ability to classify or declassify.  But in the end, it`s his call.

And by the way, with all the concern that Republicans expressed about the depositions being secret and not transparent, now, in part, you see why.  There`s classified information there.

MATTHEWS:  What do you think the V.P.`s role is here?

COLVIN:  I mean, I think that has been one of the biggest questions that has been hanging over all of this.  The vice president`s office has tried very consistently to distance himself, claiming, he didn`t know anything about this.  I mean, the case where it was actually after his meeting in Warsaw with Zelensky where there was that kind of pull aside conversation where apparently some of these threats were made.

Pence didn`t know about that, Pence knew nothing about any of these pressure efforts.  It`s an interesting argument that Pence`s folks try to make because what it essentially then suggests is that, well, how much did the vice president know if he was in the room with this guy and didn`t even know any of this was happening.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  I think there`s downsides to being Donald Trump`s vice president.

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  I mean, I doubt that there are many things that are happening without them getting approval from the president.  I mean, what we`ve seen is that he has -- this all comes back to the president.  This is not about the vice president.  It`s not about Giuliani.  I`ve heard a lot of stories about all the people surrounding him.  I think that, ultimately, it falls back on President Trump and what he has directed the people to do around him, which is to violate the Constitution, to seek foreign interference, to help his re-election campaign, and, again, for me it was a clear national security issue.

MATTHEWS:  You`re an American citizen.

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  I became an American citizen, yes.

MATTHEWS:  I`ve been reading your amazing American story, born in Ecuador.

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  And so you -- did you have to go through the citizenship test?

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  Yes, I did.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Would Trump pass it?

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  I don`t know if he`s even read the Constitution, Chris.  I wonder.

And I`ve gone now to a few citizenship ceremonies.  And every time you stand up to take that oath and I speak to them and tell them, look, it`s not just taking an oath for allegiance of this country, it`s also having the responsibility as a citizen of this country to participate to give back to your community and to take the right to vote.

And we today passed a monumental bill that restores the Voting Rights Act.  And so we are working in Congress regardless of what anyone thinks.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  I want to talk about that at the end of the show.

Anyway, a little news coming up here, Senator Murphy this morning on Joe, Morning Joe, said he had an idea from conversations on the Senate floor in the (INAUDIBLE) that there`s five -- maybe five Senate Republicans who might vote to convict.  What do you think about that, Congresswoman?

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  I have heard that there are a couple of Senate Republicans that are concerned or worried that -- we`ll wait to see all the evidence, but it wouldn`t surprise me that we have --

MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s look at the names.  Mitt Romney, of course, he shows maverick occasional nature, Lisa Murkowski, who is a maverick, she won a general after losing a primary up there in Maine -- in Alaska, and then there`s Maine`s Susan Collins, who`s facing a tough re-election, maybe Cory Gardner.  I don`t know.  Any suspects?

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  I mean, at the end of the day, we all have to remember why we`re here.  And we`re here to represent the people that sent us to Washington, D.C.  So I hope to see that our Republican colleagues, not only in the House but in the Senate put their country before their party.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about that -- I`m going to stay with because you`re just great to have, I`m sorry guys, this congresswoman.  I am impressed by Nancy Pelosi.  I`ve known her a long time.  It`s like her whole career is leading to these two weeks that puts her soundly in the history books.  She is a great political leader.  When they tried to rattle her the other day, a reporter from Fox said you hate -- and she gave him the stone face, the poker face and she lectured him about her religious beliefs, her culture.  And she took advantage and control of the situation.

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  And I can relate to that.  She is an incredible leader.  She listens to each and every one of us.  She understands the diversity in our districts.  And she wants to make sure that what we`re doing really represents the will of the people.  And that it`s going to be not a political decision but really a decision that`s going to be for the progress of this country and to protect our democracy and freedoms.

And I relate to that.  Because one of the witnesses in the hearing on Tuesday said, you know, I`ve seen people very angry and I was thinking I`m not angry, Chris.  I`m very concerned.  I am concerned about the future of this country.  I left a country where I`ve seen what happens when a president abuses his power and is surrounded by corruption and is trying to hold onto that office and puts his private, political gain in front of the gain of the people.

MATTHEWS:  And we`ve had the (INAUDIBLE) thing.  We`ve had the thing with the big name.

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  And for immigrants.  And I`m proud of all the immigrants that have stood up and had the courage to really come forth and tell us their stories.

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about the last two week -- the next two weeks, I`m sorry, the most exciting probably in many of our lives.  The next two weeks, you`ve got the counsel for the Intelligence Committee, we`ve watched in action, coming over to the Judiciary Committee to lay out the case for impeachment.

COLVIN:  Yes, that will happen on Monday.

MATTHEWS:  All starting Monday morning at 9:00.  It`s all going to happen.

COLVIN:  And then, potentially, I mean, Tuesday, Wednesday, we might even see those articles of impeachment.  We`ll see how broad they decide to go or if they stick to the Ukraine issues or whether we see something about the Mueller report, potentially something about the emoluments clause, and then it comes time to vote.  And by Christmas, I mean, we`re getting really close at the end of the year, they`ll be done.

MATTHEWS:  I get the sense that the speaker, who`s the strongest speakers we`ve had since Tip O`Neill, I worked for him, she`s a helicopter.  She`s riding around these committee chairs right above them.  This is going to stay on track, focused, sharply focused, disciplined, no people clattering in the halls and saying stupid things on the hard left or whatever, very logical.  I`m impressed.

ROSENBERG:  I am too.  But we should ask the congresswoman because she knows her better than we do.

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  I`m always so impressed by her.  And, again, I just want to come back to the fact that she understands the intricacies of all our different districts.  A lot of us come from districts where there are a lot of people that are still not completely clear as to what has happened.  And I think that, for us --

MATTHEWS:  How strong in your district?  50/50?

MUCARSEL-POWELL:  No.  He`s a little bit under 50, but people are working very hard, Chris.  They are working 40, 60, 80 hours a week trying to pay their bills.  They don`t have time to tune in and understand all of the things that are happening.  So I think it`s going to be our job in the judiciary, and that`s what Speaker Pelosi is trying to do.  This is not political.  This is about protecting our democracy.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of the best part of Florida down in the keys in Miami.  All those great little palm islands you got in the Key West.  What a district to represent.  Anyway, thank you, Jill Colvin, so much and Chuck, one of my favs.

Coming up, what`s Rudy Giuliani doing in Ukraine?  Good question.  The president`s lawyer says he`s continuing to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.  But there`s new reporting today that senior White House officials are startled and concerned that Giuliani`s out there in his latest escapade.  Apparently, he`s not in the loop anymore.  Who knows?

Plus, Joe Biden says most Democratic voters are not onboard with the push for Medicare-for-all.  He says, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does not represent the future -- at least that she is not the total future of the Democratic Party.  Is he right?

And here is what Michael Bloomberg said today when asked why he jumped into the Democratic primaries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I watched all the candidates and I just thought to myself, Donald Trump would eat them up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  We`re going to talk about.  I`m not sure about that.  Saying all the other candidates will lose, but I will win.

I want to talk to Carlyle Group co-founder and Bloomberg News T.V. Host David Rubenstein about tonight`s hot news and his new book The American Story.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Rudy Giuliani -- what a character -- being himself under investigation, of course, continues his expedition for political dirt out there abroad, despite the imminent charges his client, the president, is now facing, like impeachment.

With stops in Budapest and Kiev, he`s overseas to interview the former Ukrainian -- Ukrainian prosecutors that promoted unfounded claims about Joe Biden.  Still at it.  And all themselves are facing allegations of corruption, because they`re corrupt. 

Furthermore, Giuliani also met with KGB-trained lawmaker, one of them, of the pro-Russian political party in Ukraine who is also pushing similar claims against Ukraine. 

Well, no surprise that Giuliani is now leveling a new round of unverified allegations against Joe Biden, former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and the Obama administration, all with the dubious promise that he will release evidence soon.  He`s going to release the news.

According to "The New York Times," the trip is for a TV series on a conservative, I think, right-wing cable channel, but its aim is to -- quote -- "give the president`s supporters new material to undercut the House impeachment proceedings."

Yet The Daily Beast reports today that Giuliani`s trip was so startling to senior administration officials and national security brass that they began tracking his movements in an effort to get a read on his objectives abroad. 

So how connected is he?

  I`m joined now by Shannon Pettypiece, NBC senior digital White House reporter.

Thank you. 

And Kim Wehle, former federal prosecutor and author of "How to Read the Constitution."  That`s appropriate for this week coming up, two weeks.

KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSOCIATE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL:  It is.

MATTHEWS:  Let me start with Shannon about this. 

Tell me about Rudy.  We`re hearing from Hogan Gidley today again that he is the president`s lawyer.  He is his agent. 

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, NBC DIGITAL SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, there`s a lot of questions we have seen over the past two, three years about what makes someone your lawyer.  When is Michael Cohen your lawyer?  When is he your fixer? 

Rudy Giuliani has said...

MATTHEWS:  I thought a dollar.  I thought you give a guy, a woman a dollar and say, you`re my lawyer, you`re a lawyer.

PETTYPIECE:  Well, so I have been told you don`t even have to give them a dollar.  You don`t even have to pay them anything. 

Rudy Giuliani had said -- I don`t know if that is still the case now, but during the entire Mueller investigation -- that he was doing this for free, he was not getting paid at all. 

So I maybe suppose Trump can`t argue he didn`t get what he paid for, or didn`t get his money`s worth.  But he had been working for free on this. 

During the Mueller investigation, of course, Rudy was very in the loop.  He was part of the legal team.  They were talking with the president weekly, if not more. 

Since then, we have these call logs to indicate he has been in contact a lot with the White House, but it`s unclear how much that contact continued.  And right now, Trump continues to say very nice, flattering things about him,, brings up the point about he was the mayor of New York, is not trying to distance himself too much from Rudy at this point. 

So, as far as it seems, there`s no big gap between those two. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the government, the -- well, what is left of the government, the New York -- U.S. attorney in New York perhaps?

Aren`t they going after his people?  I mean, they are going close to him with his two Russian or Ukrainian pals. 

WEHLE:  Sure.  Yes.  They have to have his pals under indictment. 

And the reports are that they`re actually investigating him as well.  But I think we have to take him at his word when he says he`s still operating on behalf of his client, because, when it comes to impeachment, there is no factual counternarrative to what the Democrats have put forth. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, what is he looking for over there?

WEHLE:  So, I think he`s generating basically propaganda that this -- that Trump basically was really interested in, concerned with corruption in Ukraine.

And most people can`t follow this story with the kind of detail and intricacies that we do.  And that makes sense.  And then we have members of the Republican Caucus reiterating this falsity, which has actually been planted a year ago by Vladimir Putin.

So that`s quite disturbing.  But I think he`s -- Trump knows how to shape public opinion.  And in this moment, as Chuck said in the last segment, they`re not interested in actually posing a defense like lawyers on the merits with actual facts. 

The defense is going to be, let`s dupe the American public again into thinking this was no big deal, no collusion, no quid pro quo, it`s a nothing burger, foreign policy.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Shannon, it seems like we learned from the testimony in the last couple weeks that what the president wanted, his people wanted was somebody over there in Ukraine -- it`s so far away culturally in every way. 

You wonder how this happened.  They wanted somebody over there to say that they`re investigating.  They wanted the president over there to say, I`m investigating.  They didn`t even want him to say, we got him, just that we`re investigating. 

It seems like the latest attempt by Rudy right now as we speak, he`s over there, different time zone, but he`s over there looking for dirt, is to try to get somebody over there from the old government, the recent garments, somebody over there to throw some mud at Joe Biden and his son in the next couple days. 

PETTYPIECE:  Well, I mean, I think it`s, one, that it could maybe dig up some dirt or put some bad publicity on Biden to hurt him as a political rival. 

But I also think it is to try and give some legitimacy to this argument that the president genuinely had concerns about corruption in Ukraine or that there was a genuine problem with 2016 election interference that the president was asking the Ukrainians to look to. 

But, of course, we have seen this before during the Mueller investigation, to go back to that, where Rudy worked very hard to create a counternarrative this entire time, with spies inside the Trump campaign, and agents here and there, and the Australians and the Italians, to create this very confusing counternarrative. 

And you can see the same thing could take shape here and muddy the waters.  And that is why I think the case for the Democrats to move quickly is very strong.  The quicker they can move, the harder it`s going to be for this counternarrative to muddy the water.

MATTHEWS:  And who believes this stuff?

PETTYPIECE:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Who believes what Rudy comes back with?  Who would believe it?

PETTYPIECE:  I -- as we saw during the Mueller investigation, there became a general sense of confusion and fatigue and a sense of people, not everybody, but a certain group of people throwing their hands up and not knowing what to believe. 

Right now, I believe the latest poll polls I saw is about 47 percent of people are for impeachment or removing the President Trump office, and 44 percent are against.  And you continue to have those independents who are almost evenly divided for or against.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  They`re working them.  Anyway, maybe they just think confusion works.

Anyway, meanwhile, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, continues to face questions about his own involvement in the president`s scheming. 

Yesterday, he was asked about the call record showing that he, the congressman, spoke to Rudy Giuliani`s indicted business associate Lev Parnas, who was helping Giuliani dig up dirt for the president over in Ukraine. 

Let`s watch the questioning. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  What did you discuss with Lev Parnas? 

REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA):  Well, I don`t even know, because I don`t -- I have never met Parnas.

And like I filed in federal court, and so it`s a great question, because many people want to know, including myself.  So, we`re working...

QUESTION:  So, you never had any phone conversation with him?

NUNES:  We -- we have not been able to confirm that yet. 

QUESTION:  I mean, you don`t -- you don`t think you would remember if you had a conversation?

NUNES:  You have to -- you have to remember -- you have to remember we are the House Intelligence Committee Oversight Committee.  OK?  So we get calls from people every day, all walks of life. 

QUESTION:  OK.

NUNES:  I get them from all over the world, allies and people that aren`t our allies. 

In this case, I -- I just don`t know. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "I just don`t know."

Well, an attorney for Lev Parnas himself tweeted at the congressman last night saying: "Hey, Devin Nunes Lev remembers what you spoke about.  You don`t remember?" 

Kim.

WEHLE:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  This seems like a guy who`s involved in -- like he got involved with the mob or something, this congressmen, like he`s doing all this operations of going down to the White House and back and delivering dirt for -- stuff for Trump. 

Does he even know what he`s doing?

WEHLE:  Deeply -- deeply, deeply, deeply disturbing as a matter of the legitimacy of the Congress now, not just problems with the presidency, but problems with Congress.

And, remember, we know that there were call records that were gotten from AT&T where it showed that he spoke with Lev Parnas.  Documents don`t lie.  They don`t die. 

MATTHEWS:  What`s the motive for this guy to do all this for the White House? 

WEHLE:  Gosh, I think that`s the under -- the undercurrent here is Vladimir Putin. 

For America, we need to find out at some point.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but I don`t think that Congress was working for Putin.  Maybe Trump is working with him, but what`s...

WEHLE:  Well, what is happening in the Congress and in the White House consistently benefits Vladimir Putin. 

MATTHEWS:  It does.  Well, that`s the Pelosi argument. 

And, by the way, it`s -- almost every time something comes up, you ask yourself the question, does this how Putin?  Yes.

WEHLE:  Yes.  And who are these people working for?  Are they working for the American public?  And that`s, I think, the question.

MATTHEWS:  OK, great.  We will be looking for a grand motive here.  Maybe it`s just Putin.

Anyway, thank you, Shannon Pettypiece.  Thank you, Kim Wehle. 

Up next:  Joe Biden says that most Democrats are more moderate than Medicare for all.  The numbers actually support that, but what about the passion issue?  Who cares most?  Is he right, by the way?

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE:  Sixteen years ago this month, pundits and the polls had written me off.  But, in this state, I saw that you take the measure of the candidates themselves. 

Polls don`t speak for you.  People do you.  You lean in and you listen.  So, I would never dare tell an Iowan how to vote.  But I can tell you why I`m voting for Joe Biden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was the former Secretary of State John Kerry, who won the Iowa caucuses back in 2004.  And, today, he joined former Vice President Joe Biden on his No Malarkey Tour in Iowa, after endorsing him yesterday. 

We`re now less than 60 days from the Iowa caucuses, and Biden is taking his campaign from a simmer to a boil.  A new online national poll by Reuters published just yesterday shows Biden leading the crowded field with 19 percent of the vote nationally. 

During an interview with Axios, Biden made a pitch for his view of the Democratic Party, saying it isn`t as progressive as some people think.  Let`s take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You guys got it all wrong about what happened and what...

QUESTION:  You sound like Trump.

BIDEN:  Yes, I do.

QUESTION:  Fake news?

BIDEN:  No, look -- no, it`s not fake.  It`s just bad judgment. 

You all thought that what happened was the party moved extremely to the left after Hillary.  AOC was the new party.  She`s bright, wonderful person.  But where`s the party?  Come on, man. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, Joe Biden might benefit from another development that happened just this week, open fighting now, open fighting between two of his opponents. 

We can`t wait to get to that, of course.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

As Joe Biden tries to regain the lead in Iowa, the two candidates who are currently duking it out there for the top spot in Iowa are also duking it against each other. 

Last night, for example, Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized Pete Buttigieg for a lack of transparency -- that`s getting into it -- when it comes to who he`s raising his money from.  It`s a point she made again today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have a unique opportunity here to build a grassroots movement across this nation.  And the way we build a grassroots movement is not by going behind closed doors, selling access to time, giving special titles and special access to bundlers. 

Look, people across this country are sick of a political system where it`s typical politicians just keep selling access to their time.  He needs to make clear who`s raising money for him, who the bundlers are, and he should open up the doors, so that anyone of -- particularly the press, can come in and hear exactly what`s being said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, it was a rare direct personal attack really for the senator, who has tried to remain above the fray so far. 

Mayor Pete, who has tried to carve a more moderate path than Senator Warren, has made some of her proposals, like Medicare for all, a target of his.

For the latest, I`m joined by Sam Stein, politics editor of The Daily Beast, and Eugene Scott "Washington Post" political reporter.

Gentlemen, thank you. 

Let`s talk about what`s -- the interstices of what motivates people.  She`s been above the fray.  Now she can`t afford to be about the fray, I would argue, because Pete Buttigieg looks like the guy who`s leading and may stay in the lead in Iowa.  And she has to win Iowa. 

SAM STEIN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes, I think that`s right. 

What interested me here was the turf she chose, because she could have chosen to do this on his attacks on health care, right?  He went after her.  She could have responded with a volley of her own.  She didn`t.

She went after him on transparency.  I think she views this as more fertile ground now.  Health care obviously is a complicated one.  It`s proved complicated for both her and Kamala Harris, who obviously has left the race. 

And she I can stake some legitimacy to saying, look, I`m open book on this stuff.  I`m all transparent.  I don`t do big fund-raisers like this.  I am a complete grassroots-oriented fund-raising apparatus. 

So she has the high ground here.  I just think it`s very interesting that she chose to choose this fight, and not for the health care. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, it could be, because everybody I meet -- like, all of us meet people.  And they all ask us, what do you hear?  What do you think? 

STEIN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  All the fine people I know are for Buttigieg, the ones that would have been 100 years ago for Adlai Stevenson.  They`re always for the smart people, the well-educated people who have good values and are tolerant about people who have the gay -- who are gay in their orientation.

No problem.  They really like him.  Is that what she`s afraid of, that the people that tend to show up at caucuses are going to be for this guy? 

EUGENE SCOTT, REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  Well, I think she is.  And she should be, based on how he`s doing in the polls. 

But I think she`s also mindful of the fact that people on the left, be they moderate or closer to the base, are really concerned about transparency right now, considering what people are dealing with in the White House. 

They know they want a response to a president who has not been very open about his conflicts of interest, his business dealings, and they`re holding Buttigieg to that as well.  They want to know what he was doing...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  What would be pay dirt for her?  What would she find on Pete, Mayor Pete, that would hurt him with the Iowa caucus-goer?

STEIN:  Two things.

One, some person who`s raising tons of -- let`s define what a bundler is.  A bundler is someone who gives the max, but also gets other people to give the max to your campaign.  If someone who`s doing that is a representative of a shady industry, a pharmaceutical industry, maybe some sort of...

MATTHEWS:  There`s a lot of them.

STEIN:  There are. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  In the Democratic Party, that could mean fossil fuels. 

STEIN:  Of course.

MATTHEWS:  It could be pharmaceuticals.  It could be cigarettes.  It could be guns. 

STEIN:  So, that`s one vulnerability.

And to her point, Mayor Pete does have a vulnerability here.  He should probably open up the fund-raisers.  The second one...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  By the way, Trump shows you never have to do it. 

STEIN:  No, of course.  And Trump has proven all rules don`t apply. 

The second thing for Mayor Pete that is a vulnerability now is his work in McKinsey, famous consulting firm, which he was there for two-and-a-half years.  He says he`s bound by a confidentiality agreement.  He can`t disclose his clients.

But they are really hammering away...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  We`re in television.  So television shows how people behave, not just how their -- finances don`t really work on television.  You have probably learned this by now. 

STEIN:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  The stories that work on television are what you see.

Yesterday, during a campaign event in Iowa, Joe Biden get into a heated exchange with a voter.  And, today, he was asked if he was worried that he would get smeared questions -- or similar questions -- well, that was a slip -- similar questions in the future. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Are you concerned that you`re going to get more questions like the one that you got yesterday from voters on the trail? 

BIDEN:  Well, we have had over 2,000 people show up on this bus trip.

No one has done it except that fellow.  So, sure.  Look, I think that is going to be part of what is the opposition`s case. 

Look, Trump`s already spending 12 million bucks to try to make the same message, send the same message.  And there`s nothing to the message. 

But, any rate, I probably shouldn`t have challenged to the pushups. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  He made light of it, but I watched that tape yesterday, Eugene.  It wasn`t fun.

SCOTT:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  It was awkward for everybody.  The older guy -- first of all, he said the guy is too old to vote, which I wouldn`t push if I were Biden. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That`s not his strong territory, to use your phrase. 

SCOTT:  But Joe Biden is going to have to find a way to answer these questions... 

MATTHEWS:  The Hunter question.

SCOTT:  ... without getting angry and challenging people to pushups.

(LAUGHTER)

SCOTT:  And I think one thing many people notice is how Biden seems to -- this is not his first time hitting someone with a pushup challenge and getting upset. 

But this is something that Julian Castro has not been able to do.  And Elizabeth Warren was called angry, right?  And Kamala Harris got pushback for responding very firmly. 

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN:  Let me play the contrarian.  Let me play the contrarian.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me try this.  Can`t they all do the poker face like Nancy Pelosi?  The guy attacked her as a hater.  And she just looks at him and says, I`m not a hater.  I`m a Catholic.  We don`t believe in hate. 

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN:  Absolutely, she could do that.  There`s ways -- I think there`s ways to handle this.  One is to just get a better answer. 

But let me be a little bit of a contrarian here, to your point, which is, a lot of politics is visceral and imagery, right?  And I think, unfortunately, for a good section of the country, they probably look at it and they were like, I like this guy. 

SCOTT:  Sure. 

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN:  I like that he`s in his face and defending his son, calling it all -- liar.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Hey, Jack.

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN:  Of course there`s a double standard here.  It`s an incredibly bad double standard for gender -- on gender, I should say.  And there`s no way...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I`m going to push you on this.  Go ahead.

STEIN:  But this is it.  I mean, this is the politics...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  OK, Sam, I`m going to push you on this.

STEIN:  Sure, push.

MATTHEWS:  The Iowa caucus voter, their sort of sense of sensibility. 

STEIN:  You`re saying Midwest nice. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I`m just wondering, sensibility of that crowd.

STEIN:  Maybe it would play better in New Hampshire.  I don`t know.

(CROSSTALK)

SCOTT:  There was an editor of a newspaper in Iowa who said, Iowa voters, especially the older ones, think Castro has fangs in attacks. 

And so it`s really interesting... 

MATTHEWS:  Oh, my God.

SCOTT:  ... who gets called angry and who doesn`t. 

STEIN:  Of course.

SCOTT:  And I think if Biden wants to prove that he has self-control and actually can provide policy answers, and in response to this question about his son...

MATTHEWS:  Young man, I have got a great line for you.  Ready?  I`m going to call you Jack. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Winston Churchill said, I like a man who grins when he fights. 

SCOTT:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  That`s a great one, grin.

SCOTT:  Not fighting at all is an option as well. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, sir.  Thank you, Sam Stein.  Thank you, Eugene Scott. 

Up next:  Mike Bloomberg has already spent millions to try to shoehorn his way into this already crowded field of Democratic candidates.  Let`s talk about him a little and a new book. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

rMDNM_MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I watched all the candidates, and I just thought to myself, Donald Trump would eat them up. 

QUESTION:  You think all the candidates who are running today, he would eat them up? 

BLOOMBERG:  Let me rephrase it.  I think that I would do the best job of competing with him and beating him. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning not mincing his words about the other 2020 Democratic candidates.

And for more, I`m joined by David Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group, author the new book "The American Story: Conversations With Master Historians."  He also hosts the show on Bloomberg TV. 

Let me ask you about the economy, because you know the economy better than anybody I know.  We have a 3.5 percent -- when I studied economics in grad school, you couldn`t get that low.  Structural problems stopped it. 

We have 260,000 new jobs, and this president is below water in approval.

  DAVID RUBENSTEIN, AUTHOR, "THE AMERICAN STORY: CONVERSATIONS WITH MASTER HISTORIANS":  The economy is better than anybody thought it would be.  Nobody can completely explain it. 

We are at full employment by any measure.  Inflation is low.  Interest rates are low.  I don`t see an economy as good as this in decades. 

MATTHEWS:  So putting that together with what Bloomberg, who also knows the economy, is thinking, everybody else running will lose to Trump.  That`s what he said.  Everybody else but me, Mike Bloomberg, is going to lose to Trump.

That is an amazing statement, but is that based on the economy being strong?

RUBENSTEIN:  Well, economy is strong, but those aren`t the only -- only thing that people take into account, as we know.

We have had good economies before, and presidents have lost.  But, generally, when the economy is good, the president gets reelected.  When economy is in a recession, presidents don`t get reelected. 

You and I worked for a president who had a recession and didn`t get reelected. 

MATTHEWS:  We had inflation too.

RUBENSTEIN:  High, very high inflation.

MATTHEWS:  Very high interest rates too.

RUBENSTEIN:  We had a lot of challenges, for sure. 

But I don`t think it was the economy that was the principal problem there.  I think the hostages were a big issue. 

MATTHEWS:  I do too.

I think there`s an atmosphere, I know you`re cognizant of it, being a billionaire, and this is this.  There`s almost a French Revolution atmosphere out there.  The Democrats for years were just about helping the average person get a little ahead, get a better education, get economic chances, minimum wage, things like union power, labor collective bargaining.

But now there`s a feeling there`s something wrong with the very rich.  There`s a mood out there.  It`s not one or two people like -- there`s Bernie, who says billionaires and millionaires.  There`s Elizabeth Warren.  But it`s the people too.

What`s going on?

RUBENSTEIN:  Well, clearly, there`s an income gap that`s bigger than it`s ever been.  It`s not as -- we have never had something like this since the late `20s.  But it`s social mobility too.

People at the bottom don`t think they can get to the top.

MATTHEWS:  Can they? 

RUBENSTEIN:  It`s much harder.  I believed in the American dream.  I came from a family that had -- didn`t have college education or high school education.  I thought I could work my way up to the top.

MATTHEWS:  Your dad -- your dad was a postman. 

RUBENSTEIN:  That`s right. 

But I think today a lot of people at the bottom don`t think they can rise to the top.

MATTHEWS:  What can change?  Why can we -- how do we change that politically or economically? 

RUBENSTEIN:  If I had the answer, I`d be in Iowa.  I don`t have the answer. 

But one thing I would like to mention is literacy.  Right now, we have a situation where 14 percent of the American people can`t read.  And you`re at the bottom of the social strata and you can`t read, you`re never going to get to the top.

MATTHEWS:  Are they immigrants or native-born?

RUBENSTEIN:  No, no, no.  These are native-born Americans; 14 percent cannot read, functionally illiterate, can`t read past the fourth grade level. 

And we have 1.7 million people dropping out of high school every year.  Those people are very often illiterate.  You have got to deal with that problem.  If you can tax all the rich people in the world you want, people in the bottom can`t read, they`re not going to get to the top. 

MATTHEWS:  Let`s talk about politics again.  I think you`re right. 

But let`s talk about politics.  And the -- imagine the Democrats do nominate Mike Bloomberg.  And he`s a competent as hell guy.  We know that.  He goes against Trump, we got two oligarchs running against each other.

Is that good for democracy in this country, those two guys going against each other, two...

RUBENSTEIN:  We have had situations that...

MATTHEWS:  And, by the way, Michael, I just checked his net worth today.  He is $18 billion or something.  It`s probably more.  He`s really rich.

RUBENSTEIN:  Well, I don`t really know what his net worth is.

I would say, I have a show on his network.  So, obviously I`m...

MATTHEWS:  I know.

Yes, but you`re allowed to talk. 

RUBENSTEIN:  OK. 

I think he`s an unusual candidate in this sense.  We have never had a candidate before who was a very successful businessman, an enormously successful philanthropist, and an elected official previously.  Usually, you don`t get all three of those things. 

 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RUBENSTEIN:  So he`s got a unique set of experiences.

Whether he can come in late and win, I don`t really know.

MATTHEWS:  Well, he spent $70 million to become mayor of New York.

Can he spend an extrapolation of that nationwide to become president?  I mean, if you figure out New York City cost me $70 million, the whole country costs me how many billions?  I mean, is that acceptable?

RUBENSTEIN:  In 1976, John Connally had more money than anybody, and he got one delegate.

Nelson Rockefeller was richer than anybody.  In 1960, he didn`t get very far.  So, money doesn`t always win these things. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

Let`s talk about your book, because it was a great read.  It is a great read.  And what I like about it, you got all these master historians.  Basically, you put it together.  You edited it.  You put them all together.

And what I liked about it is, you can put this up at night and read about how we got here.  The stuff about Nixon, great stuff. 

You had Bob Woodward, who knows all about the Nixon -- when he got in trouble with Watergate.  And you got him, basically, Nixon saying, I kept the tapes, I didn`t burn them, because when I read them -- or Nixon -- he thought they would read positively for him.

Isn`t Trump just as crazy?  He thinks that conversation with Zelensky helps him.

RUBENSTEIN:  I`m not...

MATTHEWS:  Are they deluded men, both of them?

RUBENSTEIN:  I can`t comment on whether there`s delusion.

I would simply just tell you about this book.  So...

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s in the book. 

RUBENSTEIN:  Well, let me explain what it is.

You worked in Congress.  And, as you know, sometimes, members of Congress don`t know as much about history as maybe they would like to know. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RUBENSTEIN:  So I started a program six years ago to educate the members of Congress...

MATTHEWS:  I know.

RUBENSTEIN:  ... about history by having these great historians come once a month.  I interview them.

MATTHEWS:  Many congressmen showed up?

RUBENSTEIN:  We would get about 250 to 300 people every time.

MATTHEWS:  Congressmen?

RUBENSTEIN:  About two-thirds of those are congressmen, and then they have guests.

MATTHEWS:  Really?

RUBENSTEIN:  So about 150 to 200. 

And they do -- it`s bipartisan.  They sit with people from the opposite party.  And, as you know, because we don`t have a lot of legislation now, the senators and the congressmen don`t know each other, because we don`t have conference committees so much. 

So they actually get to meet with each other.

MATTHEWS:  What`s the most important thing you learn in this, for the reader?

RUBENSTEIN:  The most important thing is that we don`t know as much about history as we should. 

And right now, sadly, three-quarters of Americans cannot even name the three branches of government.  We don`t teach history.  We don`t teach civics very much anymore.  The result is, we don`t have an informed citizenry. 

MATTHEWS:  Your next career. 

RUBENSTEIN:  Well, I will see.

MATTHEWS:  Become a teacher.

RUBENSTEIN:  Thank you very much for having me, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  No, thank you, David Rubenstein, an old-time, longtime friend of mine.

Up next:  Once again, Democrats are the ones pushing for voting rights.  This is an important thing we`re going to talk about in the next minute.  It`s about -- it`s about the Democrats and how they`re different than Republicans.  They care about everybody voting. 

How`s that for a difference? 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Politics isn`t complicated. 

Generally speaking, Democrats want everyone to vote.  If you`re 18 and an American citizen, they want you in that booth on Election Day. 

Republicans, again, generally speaking, lean toward ways of limiting the franchise, I.D. cards, registration requirements, reduced number of days for early voting.

Feeling outnumbered, they want the act of voting to be like one of those prime-time reality shows, where contestants have to swing from tire tubes, climb walls, and manage all kinds of obstacles simply to complete the requirements. 

Well, today, the U.S. House of Representatives, the people`s house, voted to reinstate the mission of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  Its goal was to protect voters from states who try to manipulate election laws in order to reduce minority participation. 

The vote today was along party lines, with only one Republican, one, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting aye.

And, by the way, I say good for Brian.

But I have seen this before in my native state of Pennsylvania.  How many times have Republicans up there tried screwing around with election laws in order to shrink the Democratic vote? 

American citizens should be allowed to vote in this country.  It`s that simple.

And that`s HARDBALL for now.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

 

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