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DOJ watchdog TRANSCRIPT: Hardball with Chris Matthews, 12/9/2019

Guests: Madeleine Dean, Yamiche Alcindor, Greg Brower, Berit Berger, Eddie Glaude, Bret Stephens, Devlin Barrett

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  We have a lot more keeping you covered on everything that`s been happening today at MSNBC tonight, starting with, of course, up next, HARDBALL with Chris Matthews.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Battle to the finish.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews up in New York.

Today, the country heard the final case for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump.  Like a prosecutor`s summation to the jury, counsel for the House Judiciary Committee told America how the president abused his power and obstructed the Congress.  And today was the last scheduled public hearing before the House majority and their articles of impeachment this week against President Trump.

Lawmakers heard from lawyers representing both the Democratic majority and the Republican minority, each making their final closing case in this phase of the House`s impeachment drive.

Democratic Counsel Danny Goldman summarized the 300-page report from the House Intelligence Committee, highlighting the overwhelming evidence, he said, that showed the president abused his power.  He said there`s an urgency to now stopping him.

Citing Rudy Giuliani`s latest expedition to Ukraine for more political dirt, for example, Goldman said, the president`s solicitation of foreign interference represents a clear and present danger to this country.


DANIEL GOLDMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE MAJORITY COUNSEL:  President Trump`s persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security.

The evidence from these witnesses cannot seriously be disputed.  The president placed his personal interests above the nation`s interests in order to help his own re-election efforts.


MATTHEWS:  Most important, Goldman made clear that, from start to finish, the president himself was directing the scheme to extort Ukraine.  Here`s how he answered a series of rapid fire questions posed by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA):  Who sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to smear Joe Biden?

GOLDMAN:  President Trump.

SWALWELL:  Who fired the anti-corruption ambassador in Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch?

GOLDMAN:  President Trump.

SWALWELL:  Who told Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador to Volker to with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine?

GOLDMAN:  President Trump.

SWALWELL:  Who told Vice President Pence to not go to President Zelensky`s inauguration?

GOLDMAN:  President Trump.

SWALWELL:  Who ordered his own chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold critical military assistance for Ukraine.

GOLDMAN:  President Trump.

SWALWELL:  Who asked President Zelensky for a favor?

GOLDMAN:  President Trump.

SWALWELL:  Who personally asked President Zelensky to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden?

GOLDMAN: President Trump.

SWALWELL: So as it relates to President Trump, is he an incidental player or a central player in this scheme?

GOLDMAN:  President Trump is the central player in this scheme.


MATTHEWS:  That was so well done.  The Republican`s counsel, Steve Castor, offered a bizarre explanation for Trump`s July call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.  That`s the conversation, of course, where the president personally asked Zelensky for two investigations, one into Joe Biden, the other into that discredited conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 American election.

Well, the Republican counsel said Trump`s intent in that call was to help the United States, I love this, move forward after the Russian probe.


STEPHEN CASTOR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE AND JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MINORITY COUNSEL:  To impeach a president who 63 million people voted for over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney.

Contrary to Democrat allegations, President Trump was not asking for a favor that would help his re-election.  He was asking for assistance in helping our country move forward from the divisiveness of the Russia collusion investigation.


MATTHEWS:  For that part, their part, rather than defend the president`s actions, committee Republicans resorted to partisan attacks and complaints about the process.

I`m joined right now by U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, a Democrat from Pennsylvania who serves in the House Judiciary Committee, Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney, Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for PBS NewsHour.  Thank you all.

I want to get to what seems to be the end of the fight.  Congresswoman, tell us about the role of today.  It seemed to be like a summary -- summation by a prosecutor, bringing the case home to the jury.

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA):  I believe that that`s an apt description.  This was a presentation of the overwhelming damning evidence of a president who sought foreign interference in our elections for his own political and personal gain.  And what he did was he put our national security at risk, he put our elections at risk.  And what was interesting was the Republicans, the minority party, did not have one fact they could dispute.

MATTHEWS:  That`s what struck me again, not just the overwhelming nature of that interplay back and forth between Eric Swalwell, your colleague from California, and the committee counsel, Danny Goldman, which was thorough, I thought thorough, going and getting to all of the points, but the absolute lack of a point by the Republicans.  I mean, I`m not saying I felt sorry for them, but the Republican counsel couldn`t handle any central question.  Every time it came up to what was the president saying on the phone with Zelensky, he just had to play dumb or say something almost Orwellian to get out of it.

DEAN:  The testifying and the questioning from the minority party was extraordinarily weak.  I thought Lt. Vindman, Col. Vindman, summarized it appropriately and it was echoed by 12, 13, 14 other patriots, it is improper for the president of the United States to say to a foreign leader, I need a -- we will need a favor from you though.  I`m going to hold up the aid to your desperate country who is under attack by Russia.  You are losing lives.  I`m going to hold up aid that is not mine to hold up until you do me a favor though.  And the only favor he wanted was the announcement of an investigation into his top political rival, an American citizen.  It`s extraordinary.

And I just stood -- sat there stunned to think, don`t the rest of the minority members care about our precious constitutional rights?  Because what this does is it makes us less safe and it makes us less free if we allow a president to be above the law.

MATTHEWS:  Congresswoman, I`ve been watching all day and watching for weeks, like you have as a participant, in your case.  I get the sense listening to the summation today by what I said sounded like a prosecutor`s final statement to the jury that we`re looking at probably two articles here sometime later this week.

DEAN:  I think you`re probably right.  I`m not going to predict.  I know we`re going to be taking a look at drafts.  We have been able to talk to our committee and give our input on the drafting of the articles, but I don`t want to presuppose them.  We`re supposed to see them soon.

MATTHEWS:  Okay.  Thank you so much, U.S. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania.

Let me go to Yamiche Alcindor in this and the reporting of this thing.  You know, I wish everybody in America watched today, and I know they didn`t.  And I watched the needle move a little bit into a plurality position for impeachment, conviction, removal from office but not a lot.  Have we reached a point and that this is a good time to bring this to a vote, have we reached the point of diminishing returns?  Is this timely to vote this week?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR:  It`s definitely clear that Democrats are getting to the point where they are rehashing some of the key things that they`ve been talking about since the beginning of this impeachment inquiry.  And I had a colleague today tell me that this was the least attended public impeachment hearing, so you had all sorts of empty seats in there today.  So that tells you that there is probably a point where Democrats are going to say, okay, let`s on with this vote.

But one of the most striking things that I saw was that Republicans are now trying essentially blame people close to President Trump.  They turned on the European ambassador -- the European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, saying that he was an intelligence risk that no one understood why he was involved in Ukrainian issues.

They also said -- Steve Castor said, there`s evidence that Rudy Giuliani wasn`t acting at the direction of the president.  Of course, Democrats, and according (ph) to the president and these witnesses themselves, Rudy Giuliani has said, I was acting and I`m working very close with President Trump.  Gordon Sondland testified very clearly, I thought the president was asking for a quid pro quo.

I also spoke to the attorney for Gordon Sondland today.  He didn`t want to comment on Republicans going after his client, but he did say that Gordon Sondland`s testimony speaks for itself.  His testimony is that he was doing all of this because he was having multiple phone calls with the president and the president made clear what he wanted.

MATTHEWS:  Barbara -- I want to get to Barbara McQuade on this question of law and prosecution and what a trial looks like.  I want you to tell me how the defense, if you want to call that, by the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee today reflects a weak defense.  The hearing highlighted the difficulty they have of defending Trump.

Under cross-examination, Republican Counsel Steve Castor denied the meaning of the words that the president spoke to Ukrainian President Zelensky.  He denied the meaning when he was asked him to, quote, look into Joe Biden, the president and Zelensky, look into Joe Biden.  And here is how this poor counsel, Castor, had to defend himself.


BARRY BERKE, DEMOCRATIC JUDICIARY COMMITTEE STAFF COUNSEL:  President Trump was asking Ukrainian President Zelensky to have the Ukrainian officials look into Vice President Joe Biden, correct?  Is that correct, yes or no?

CASTOR:  I don`t think the record supports that.

BERKE:  It doesn`t say, can you look into it?  President Trump is not asking him that?

CASTOR:  Yes, I don`t think it supports that.  I think it`s ambiguous.

I don`t think the president was requesting an investigating into Joe Biden.  He just mentions an offhand comment.


MATTHEWS:  Well, Castor is not only contradicting what`s made clear by the call or record itself, the document we`ve all been looking at that the government kept in that conversation.  And he`s also contradicting the president`s admission that he did want Ukraine to investigate Biden.  He said it himself.


REPORTER:  Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after the phone call?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they`d start a major investigation into the Bidens.  It`s a very simple answer.  They should investigate the Bidens.


MATTHEWS:  Barbara, we all remember Baghdad Bob.  Remember him?  That character in Baghdad that was denying they were under attack and probably going to be losing that war.  He seems to be -- is this what lawyers do when they`re caught without a case and their client won`t give him anything?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Not good ones.  Good lawyers concede points when they know that they need to, otherwise they lose credibility.  And I think that`s what happened with Mr. Castor today.  And even Mick Mulvaney, the chief of staff, has said this was a quid pro quo, get over it.

I think the Republicans would be so much better served to take the position to concede the facts that are so clear and just say, we don`t think this is sufficient for removal from office.  Why don`t they do that?  I think they don`t do that because they realize that the conduct is so egregious that if people conceded those facts, everyone would agree that it is sufficient for removal from office.  So they believe that`s the only thing they have left.

But I think they destroy any credibility they might have when they deny obvious facts.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Well, what about this denial of the number of words by saying it`s only four sentences.  I can imagine a mob boss saying terrible things in five or six words, like get rid of that guy, I don`t want to see him again, you know what I want.  I mean, it seems to me, language is very economical if you want to make a point.

MCQUADE:  Yes, I will kill you is only four words but those could be pretty damning.  And I really think that one of the things that Republicans are trying to do here is focus all attention on the call as if the call is the entire case.  I thought one of the things that Dan Goldman did so effectively today was to explain that this is about a months; long scheme.  It was about all of the pressure.  It wasn`t just this particular call.  So I think that framing is important to understanding what was really happening here.

MATTHEWS:  Yamiche, and you put your vision, your high beams on right now and you`re looking ahead on the road, is this going to be the Republican trial in the U.S. Senate which they control, that they`re going to avoid discussing the merits of the main case against the president that he traded public trust for personal political gain to get around and talk about everything else from Joe Biden to Hunter Biden to Adam Schiff to Nancy Pelosi?  Will they stay away from the central charge because they can`t challenge it?

ALCINDOR:  Republicans have been loath to talk about the actual allegations against President Trump and whether or not -- and most of them, including White House officials, refuse to answer the question, is it okay for a president to pressure foreign government to investigate a political rival.  That`s been a key question that`s been asked over and over again and they won`t answer that.

The other thing they know is that the White House is already saying that they`re going to have lawyers at this Senate trial.  So the White House is saying that they`re going to have to take this very seriously.

And on Steve Castor`s language, he said today that President Trump didn`t mention the 2020 election during the July 25th call, but, of course, he mentioned Joe Biden, who is a 2020 presidential candidate.  So we`re going to see a lot of language and nimble defenses of the president going forward, for sure.

MATTHEWS:  In fact, Biden was at the top of the heap.  Well, he still is.  But he was clearly at the top of the heap in the Democratic candidate side as they had that conversation on July 25th.

Thank you, Barbara McQuade, thank you, Yamiche Alcindor.

Much more on the impeachment drive coming up, including Giuliani`s latest trip abroad to Ukraine?  Why is it always Ukraine?  Because he`s digging up dirt on Joe Biden, he`s still at it.  The White House says it has no idea, I love of this one, plausible deniability, they have no idea, they say, at the White House what Rudy is up to over there.

Plus, the DOJ`s inspector general obliterates Trump`s claims about the Mueller investigation, his claim that Obama was spying against him and that a so-called deep state had launched a coup against him.  Nothing of the kind, according to Michael Horowitz, the inspector general at DOJ.  But the president`s A.G., personal A.G., his consigliere, William Barr is once again twisting the facts to please his boss giving his own interpretation of the Inspector General`s report, just like -- remember how he did it with the Mueller report, the way he sold it his way, the package, the way he packaged it his way, totally dishonest.  They`re coming up, more of it.

Stay with us.



TRUMP:  This was spying on my campaign, something that has never been done in the history of our country.  This was after overthrow attempt at the presidency.

They actually spied on my campaign.  Can you believe it?

They spied on my campaign, it`s as simple as that.  It`s so illegal.  It`s probably the biggest political scandal in the history and they got caught doing it.

In my opinion, it was illegal spying, unprecedented spying and something that should never be allowed to happen in our country again.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

For years now, you just heard him, Donald Trump has accused the Intelligence Community of, his words, spying on him.  And today, the Department of Justice`s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, found no evidence to support those claims, none.

According to Horowitz, quote, the FBI had an authorized purpose when it opened cross fire and hurricane, the investigation into the Trump campaign, to obtain information about or protect against a national security threat or federal crime.  Quote, we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions to open the four individual investigations.  That`s from the inspector general today.

The inspector general was critical, however, the Intelligence Community for, quote, serious performance failures in handling of FISA applications.  That`s when you apply to court to surveil anyone.

Responding today, the president misrepresented the I.G.`s findings and promoted results of a, quote, partisan investigation currently being conducted by the U.S. attorney, John Durham, at the direction of the president`s personal attorney general, Bill Barr.


TRUMP:  I look forward to the Durham report, which is coming out in the not too distant future.  He`s got his own information, which is this information plus, plus, plus.  And it`s an incredible thing that happened and we`re lucky we caught them.


MATTHEWS:  In a shocking breach of precedent, U.S. Attorney John Durham, he mentioned there, weighed in on the inspector general`s report today objecting to the non-partisan findings.

In a public statement, Durham, who is in charge of an active investigation, wrote, while our investigation is ongoing, last month, we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report`s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.  And the attorney general also weighed in on the findings, quote, the inspector general`s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken."

For more, I`m joined by Berit Berger, former federal prosecutor, Ken Dilanian, NBC News correspondent, of course, and Greg Brower, former assistant director of the FBI and former U.S. attorney. 

I want to go to Greg on this, because it`s about the credibility of the FBI.  How will this work?  How is it going to be received at the FBI, this report today?


Chris, as you saw, the director of the FBI, Chris Wray, today essentially accepted the findings of the inspector general, accepted and agreed to consider the recommendations.  And I`m sure his team is working on taking a very close look at those recommendations. 

Compare that, though, with the attorney general`s reaction, and I don`t see how it`s tenable or sustainable that you could have an attorney general rejecting, essentially rejecting the fundamental conclusions by the apolitical, nonpartisan professional inspector general, and the FBI director, whose agency is most directly impacted, accepting those same conclusions.  I don`t know how this is going to work. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Ken on this.

You have been covering everything for us.  And I -- I -- the power of words.  You say spying, when, in fact, the FBI is an investigative body, and part of its role is counter -- counterintelligence, you`re supposed to look for any influence in the United States from abroad that`s illegal. 

It seemed to me that`s exactly what the FBI was doing.  They got the word that there was Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.  They began to investigate it.  And then Trump says, well, because it`s me -- my campaign, it`s wrong. 


And there`s an important distinction here, Chris.  The FBI uses confidential human sources to gather information.  They did so in this investigation.  They ran informants at members of the Trump campaign. 

That`s not the same as saying they spied on the Trump campaign.  Those informants were not talking to Trump aides about political strategy or about what they were doing in the election. 

They were talking to them about their interactions with Russians and whether the campaign knew anything about the Russian hacking of the e-mail and that sort of thing.  And that, Horowitz found, after reviewing a million documents and interviewing 100 people, he found that that was justified and also that it was untainted by political bias. 

At the same time, though, he did find significant -- and we should not minimize this -- huge mistakes by the FBI in how they applied for secret national security warrants.  And this is a subject that has concerned civil libertarians for years. 

He`s really exposed some sloppiness, some mismanagement that the FBI has to answer for.  But it wasn`t politically motivated.  And that`s very important, because it shatters the conspiracy theories that President Trump has been putting forward for years now, as you said.

MATTHEWS:  One of my mental tricks to check myself, Berit, is to say -- and welcome to the show -- is to ask, what if they hadn`t done it? 

Suppose the FBI had heard about this, heard about it through the Australian ambassador, heard about there was back and forth, some sort of getting together, the fact that the campaign, the Trump campaign, knew all about the Russian hacking, knew -- were totally in cahoots, it seemed, and if they hadn`t investigated it, what would that have said about the FBI? 

I mean, that`s the -- a question you got to ask. 


I mean, there would be hearings going on right now for the gross misconduct if they hadn`t opened some sort of an investigation.  I mean, you have to remember, the threshold for opening an investigation, even a full investigation, which they were authorized to do here, is pretty low. 


BERGER:  The inspector general found that they -- this investigation was well-predicated.  They had plenty of evidence to start this.

And any errors -- exactly like Ken said, any errors that happened -- and he was critical of how they happened -- none of those were political in nature at all. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to Greg, because you`re the institutional guy here. 

I just watched "Midway" this weekend.  It`s a pretty good movie.  And the big question was asked was the smart guy, who did know there was trouble, he didn`t know where the Japanese navy was.  He didn`t know what Yamamoto was up to.  But he knew he didn`t know. 

And because they didn`t know where the Japanese navy was, they had reason to worry it was coming for an American site, like Pearl Harbor.

If you knew the Russians were up to hacking the Democratic National Committee, and you knew that, and you knew the Republicans were somehow cognizant of the whole thing, how they were in the know, it seems to me it would be your job to blow the whistle and to do an investigation, again, back to the point, it`s their job. 

BROWER:  Right.

Chris, I don`t think there`s any doubt about it.  I have never thought there was doubt.  I was not involved in this investigation, although I was at the FBI at the time.  But I have since heard it briefed many, many times, both within the FBI at the Department of Justice and on Capitol Hill. 

So the I.G.`s findings didn`t surprise me at all.  And -- but more, importantly, the I.G.`s findings confirm, as was said earlier, that this investigation had to be done, it was reasonable to do it, based upon the information the bureau had.

I would -- I would suggest that it would have been a dereliction of duty for the bureau and for the department with which the bureau does its investigations to not open this investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  So, let`s talk about this Durham report. 

I mean, Kent, he`s gussying it up.  He`s dressing it up like it`s some big profound thing coming out, because the toady`s toady out there is digging up stuff about somehow misbehavior by the -- where`s that going to take us, the Trump counterattack? 

DILANIAN:  Look, Chris, as Greg said, it was absolutely extraordinary that John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, chose today to issue a statement saying that, even though his investigation isn`t over, he disagrees with the I.G.`s findings. 

I have never seen that before.  He`s a sitting U.S. attorney talking about a pending investigation.  It really raises questions about his independence. 

Look, he has a great reputation.  A lot of people speak highly of him.  He investigated the CIA.  He was hired by Eric Holder in the Obama administration to do that. 

But this statement today was stunning.  And it`s going to cast, I think, a shadow over everything that he does.  He and Barr have been traipsing around the world grilling foreign intelligence services about what the CIA was up to.

Look, they may find some things that were inappropriately done, just as Horowitz did, but the idea that there was some criminal conspiracy at the heart of this just doesn`t seem to be supported.  And there`s a lot of questions right now about what Durham is up to.

MATTHEWS:  Yes, there`s an M.O. here, Ken, and everybody.

There`s an M.O. about this president.  If he doesn`t like the government he`s got, he goes around and creates some little side government of his.  He creates this little -- he deputizes a bunch of people and makes them into his own government, just like Nixon. 

Berit, thank you for coming, Berit Berger.  It`s great to have you on.

BERGER:  Yes. 


MATTHEWS:  Ken, as always, sir. 

Greg, as always -- Greg.

DILANIAN:  Thanks, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Anyway, up next:  Congressional Republican show outrage at everything except Trump`s misconduct.  They don`t like anything in the world, but they like Trump.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I insist on my point of order, unless you`re willing to immediately schedule a minority hearing day.

  REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY):  That is not a proper point of order in today`s hearing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have a parliamentary inquiry. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I haven`t removed my objection yet.

NADLER:  I will not recognize a parliamentary inquiry at this time. 

We will have now have presentations of evidence from counsels to the Judiciary...


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL):  Is this when we just hear staff ask questions of other staff, and the members get dealt out of this whole hearing?

NADLER:  The gentleman will...

GAETZ:  And for the next four hours, you`re going to try to overturn the result of an election with unelected people giving testimony?

NADLER:  The gentleman will suspend.


MATTHEWS:  Feign outrage. 

Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Those were some of the Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee today trying to stall today`s impeachment hearing by repeatedly interrupting with procedural requests, points of order.

And while Democrats used today`s hearing as a closing argument in their prosecution of the case against President Trump, Republicans focused on distraction and changing the subject.

In one particularly heated moment, the committee`s ranking Republican, Doug Collins, berated Intelligence Committee counsel Danny Goldman, demanding to know who decided to include call records in the Intelligence Committee`s report showing contacts between Rudy Giuliani and his indicted associate Lev Parnas and with Congressman Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intel Committee? 


REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA):  Who did it?  Was it Chairman Schiff, or was it you? 

Be careful.  You`re under oath. 

DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL:  I know I`m under oath, sir. 

I am going to go on record and tell you that I`m not going to reveal how we conducted this investigation. 

COLLINS:  And that`s the problem we have with this entire thing.  Mr. Schiff said behind closed doors...


GOLDMAN:  But I can tell you what the importance is of it. 

COLLINS:  I`m done with you for right now.  We`re done. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that was well done. 

Anyway, during member questioning, Republicans made no effort to defend the president, which is so interesting, choosing instead to complain about the investigation itself and, of course, attack Democrats. 


REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R-WI):  Folks, you have made Joe McCarthy look like a piker with what you have done with the electronic surveillance involved. 

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX):  I came up here from a court where we had order and we had rules.  And I have say nothing of the kind in here today.  And it`s outrageous that we`re trying to remove a president with a kangaroo court like this. 

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH):  They built their case around so and so tells so and so what somebody said to someone else.  And there you have it. 

That`s their effort to impeach the president of the United States 11 months before an election. 


MATTHEWS:  We`re joined right now by Eddie Glaude, a professor at Princeton University, and Bret Stephens, columnist at "The New York Times." 

This is great character study opportunity.  There`s, what`s his name, Jordan, who looks like he sits at the jock table at dinner. 


MATTHEWS:  You recognize him as one of the bullies at school.

Gohmert -- Gohmert is a birther.  How does he even talk in public?  He says Obama was born overseas, he snuck in the country, his mother worked it so she could be in Hawaii and have the baby in Kenya and all this.  And he`s a nut. 

GLAUDE:  No, it`s...

MATTHEWS:  And he`s out there talking like he`s a judgment of truth.

GLAUDE:  It`s true. 

I mean, what we saw was a display of bad faith.  I know the politics of it all, but it was bad faith through and through.

MATTHEWS:  But these characters, talk about them.  Who are they? 

GLAUDE:  I -- this is what I have been trying to figure out, Chris.  Maybe you can help me.

I don`t believe -- or maybe I should believe -- that all of these folk are defenders of Donald Trump, that...


MATTHEWS:  Are they really?

GLAUDE:  No, this is what I`m saying, that Trump must be an avatar for something else.


GLAUDE:  What is that something else?  Is it power?  Is it greed?  Is it racism?  What is it?


MATTHEWS:  It could be all those, but it`s survival, because they`re afraid to go home to their MAGA people, all the MAGA hats looking at them, and they`re afraid they`re going to get beaten in the next primary, I guess. 

GLAUDE:  So, that`s self-interest. 

But it just seems to me that the general consensus is that Donald Trump is who he is.  He`s not this kind of statesman.  He`s not this important person. 

For most of these people, he`s not very bright.  He might be a buffoon.

MATTHEWS:  Sensenbrenner is not an evil guy.  He`s been around a long time.  He an institutionalist.  Why is he behaving like this? 

BRET STEPHENS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES":  Well, I think everyone is in it to just defend the president.  It`s as simple -- it`s really as simple as that.

Look, the Republican case is, it`s all very confusing, and so this impeachment is illegitimate.  That`s essentially what it comes down to.

MATTHEWS:  But they`re just as smart as we are, Bret.  They know what happened on the phone call.


STEPHENS:  But the reality is that it`s incredibly clear and has been incredibly clear from nearly the very first day in which we learned about the president`s call and how he behaved. 

And so the idea is essentially to throw marbles on the floor and see if someone flips -- slips. 

MATTHEWS:  I remember an example of that.

Back in 1984, when Reagan bobbled the first debate with Mondale -- and everybody was surprised.  Mondale killed him in the first debate.  Reagan was wandering down the Pacific Coast Highway by then and nobody knew where he was going, literally.  He had lost his concept of where he was. 

So, Lee Atwater, the genius, the evil genius, you would say, of the Republicans, said, change the subject from how brain -- Trump`s brain -- or Reagan`s brain is working to, what side are you on?  Make it tribal. 

That`s what it seems like they`re doing right now.


STEPHENS:  Well, that`s exactly -- and, by the way, it was very effective in 1984. 


MATTHEWS:  No, because all you got to do is say, are you a Republican or some of those lefty Democrats that aren`t to be trusted?  That`s the way they played it.

GLAUDE:  Right.

And look at what`s happening to our democracy as a result.  So, that play has short-term political gain.

MATTHEWS:  That play, the M.O.

GLAUDE:  The play, the tribal play.


GLAUDE:  But look what it`s doing to our country in this moment.

We are in -- we are on a knife`s edge.  And today, for nine hours, we saw exactly what it means to dance on that knife`s edge. 

Well, here it is, the proof of the pudding.  Here`s Kevin McCarthy, another guy.  I have had him -- I have been to private briefings with him, at least one I remembered.  He`s very smart. 

But here he is in an interview with FOX News, of course.  House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy offered a bizarre defense of the president when the host cited a Republican poll suggesting impeachment is helping President Trump in key states.  Let`s watch. 


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA):  Well, you just answered why they want to impeach him.

In modern history, we have never gone after impeaching a president in the first term. 



MATTHEWS:  OK, I have heard a lot of defenses.  No first term impeachment.  I can`t find that in the Constitution. 

GLAUDE:  Well, right.

STEPHENS:  I mean, if only we had learned about the Watergate break-in a little bit sooner.

MATTHEWS:  Which was in the first term.

STEPHENS:  Which actually was, in fact, in the first term. 

And, by the way, in the case of Johnson, that was also a first-term impeachment, if you consider...


MATTHEWS:  Because he never was elected.

STEPHENS:  He was never elected. 

MATTHEWS:  But you`re right, June 23, a conversation, trying to use the CIA to cover for the -- get the FBI off the case was in June 23 of 1972, his first term.

GLAUDE:  I just -- I don`t know.

This -- I mean, obviously, these folks aren`t very bright, because that just isn`t a very smart defense at all.  So, I -- they`re just throwing stuff against the wall.


STEPHENS:  Well, you have to ask them.

So let`s assume that the story, the Lewinsky saga had emerged in public not in 19 -- what was it?  1998.


STEPHENS:  1995, contemporaneously with when it actually occurred.

Would the Republicans have therefore said to themselves, well, this is a first-term situation, we clearly have to wait for the mandate of the voters?

Of course they wouldn`t have.

MATTHEWS:  You know the provision in the title 2, section -- Article 2 of the Constitution, it says, first term, anything goes. 


MATTHEWS:  I think it`s in there.  Right? 

This is Kevin McCarthy`s argument.  Anything goes for a president first term.

GLAUDE:  Right.

And what we do know is, consistency is not a value that...


STEPHENS:  Look, there is one point that we should say, which is that the Democrats -- the truth is, there two imperatives here. 

They want to -- they want a fair and constitutional process.  But let`s face it.  Many of them are eager to get this over with before Christmas. They don`t want it interfering with their own -- their own political and election calendar. 

And that`s -- that`s a fair criticism of the process, that one can say this actually -- if we`re really doing this, if we really want to get to the bottom of this, we should let it play out.


MATTHEWS:  No, no, no, I disagree, because you will never get the witnesses, not in real time, because look at people like McGahn.

He will -- it`ll be like a death row thing.  He`s going to go from one appeal to the next.  He`s not coming to testify. 

STEPHENS:  You don`t want to have Bolton testify?

MATTHEWS:  Who says he wants to?

STEPHENS:  Oh, I think he does. 

MATTHEWS:  I think he`s got another plan. 

GLAUDE:  And to be honest with you, I see it as a fair argument when you have people who are engaging in good faith.

But I still have the Kavanaugh hearings in my -- these folks aren`t invested in process at all. 

MATTHEWS:  Justice delayed is justice denied. 

Eddie Glaude, thank you for agreeing with me.

Bret Stephens, thank you for not.


MATTHEWS:  Anyway -- just kidding. 

Up -- no, I really think you got hit while the fire -- the iron is hot.  And I really think the American people are focused on this.  Two months from now, after Christmas and the holidays, they will be focused on the election.  They won`t have the focus. 

The people have to understand this.  You need an audience for this.  And there`s an audience right now.

Up next:  President Trump`s Giuliani problem.  Talk about having a strange relative out there wandering around somewhere in the attic.  What is he doing in Ethi -- I was going to say Ethiopia.  What is he doing in Ukraine?

New reporting that Attorney General Barr now sees Rudy as a liability, a political liability.  And he works with Ukrainians to dig up political dirt on Biden.  He`s not stopping.  The fingernails keep growing on the body. 

How Giuliani went from mayor`s America to a power broker for foreign interests -- next on HARDBALL.

Bad Rudy.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As the impeachment investigation was driving on President Trump`s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Biden, going along again this week -- in fact, it`s finishing up this week -- Rudy Giuliani continued to do what he was doing.  Giuliani went to Ukraine again to meet with former Ukrainian prosecutors, what "The Daily Beast" described as a group seen at home as odious and discredited.  Great company you`re keeping, Rudy. 

His travels there part of a television show for OAN, a conservative network that Trump often praises.  It`s Russian owned, by the way. 

The first two installments that aired this weekend included more of the same debunked theories on Ukraine and the 2016 election.  Maybe it`s not Russian owned but of that point of view. 

But a preview of the next episode of OAN correspondent reached a new level of bizarre with faulty claims that troops were sent to Kiev to monitor Giuliani.  And a possible encounter at the airport with none other than George Soros. 

Let`s watch.


OANN REPORTER:  Within hours of our news breaking of our presence in Ukraine, word came from sources in Kiev, roughly 1,000 troops were suddenly patrolling the city.  No public statement was made on why.  As media started closing in on our location, security determined we needed to leave the country. 

Three major testimonies taped and recorded, we chartered a midnight jet to Vienna and sped to the airport.  We came upon an entourage of black Mercedes aligned along the terminal.  Our security ushered us immediately away from the vehicles.  And we were told Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk was seen entering one of these vehicles.  Two other eye witnesses claimed to have spotted George Soros, but we have not confirmed this. 


MATTHEWS:  Obviously, didn`t confirm it.  It didn`t happen. 

Christopher Miller, reporter based in Ukraine, tweeted that none of what the correspondent claims is true.  There was no increased police presence in Kiev.  There are always black cars at the airport because it has a business terminal. 

Giuliani said today that he planned to present the findings of his Ukraine trip to congressional Republicans this week. 


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL ATTORNEY (via telephone):  I was going to do an outline of it and try to present it at the convenience of the Republicans in Congress and the attorney general at the end of this week.  I should probably have it ready on Wednesday or Thursday.  I don`t know exactly when it should be made public, but it should be ready by then.  I worked on it all weekend. 


MATTHEWS:  But not all of Trump`s allies are on board with Giuliani`s investigations.  There are some high level defectors out there that don`t think this is good for Trump.  That`s up next. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

First of all, the OAN, the new sort of to the right of Fox News Network, I thought that was Russian owned.  It`s owned by an American.  So, I`ll straighten that out right now.  I just did. 

Anyway, in the House Judiciary hearing, the Democratic counsel pointed out that President Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, posed, said they pose a clear and present danger for what Rudy is doing.  Even one of the staunchest allies in the Judiciary Committee called Giuliani`s recent trip to Ukraine weird.  Here it goes. 


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL):  It is weird that he`s over there and I`m grateful that very soon after I made those comments on CNN, the president put out a statement that said that Rudy Giuliani does want to come into Congress and explain his role, explain what he`s been up to, and I believe that the president urging Mayor Giuliani to provide that clarity to the Congress will be helpful in what seems to be odd having him over there at this time. 


MATTHEWS:  And when Matt Gaetz says it`s weird, it`s weird. 

Meanwhile, "The Washington Post" is reporting that, quote: Attorney General William Barr has counseled Trump in general terms that Giuliani`s become a liability for him and a problem for the administration.  In one discussion, the attorney general warned the president he will not be -- it`s not being well served by his lawyer.  That`s an understatement. 

I`m joined by Devlin Barrett, national security for "The Washington Post".  Thank you, sir, and thank you, Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist. 

So, you work with Rudy.  You love to do those recognitions.  So, what is he up to?  Is it he have a lot of, what, alimonies to pay?  Why is he so desperately over there?  This is risky business. 

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Right.  First, let me say this is not the Rudy I worked for.  I worked for him when he was mayor of New York City.  A lot of us do not recognize the Rudy Giuliani of today.  That`s clear because he is --

MATTHEWS:  Looks like him. 

DEL PERCIO:  It looks like him but it doesn`t act like the man who I worked for. 

MATTHEWS:  What`s your hunch about why he`s so driven to do all this? 

DEL PERCIO:  It`s all about attention and wanting relevance and you --

MATTHEWS:  There`s big articles this weekend, "New York Times" and "Washington Post".  It is what you said.  He wants to be in the papers. 

DEL PERCIO:  Exactly.  I mean, and let`s not forget, he never thrived as much as he did in the last 10 years as when he went on the campaign trail for Donald Trump.  He loved the attention.  He loved being number one with Donald Trump and being out there.  The more outlandish, the better, he got more attention.  That`s what he`s about.

MATTHEWS:  That`s so great.  That`s what Peggy Noonan calls the habit of importance. 

Let me go to Devlin who wrote that piece this weekend, with "The Post". 

Is that it?  Is that what drives -- is that what makes Rudy run? 

DEVLIN BARRETT, THE WASHINGTON POST:  I think it really is.  But I also think there`s another layer of that.  And that`s that he is really -- he really wanted to be the secretary of state in the Trump administration. 


BARRETT:  And he didn`t get that job. 

MATTHEWS:  Why not? 

BARRETT:  And what you see a lot of his dealings -- well, he didn`t get that job because he had so many business deals with questionable clients, and some weird arrangements. 

MATTHEWS:  So does Trump. 

BARRETT:  Well, sure, but he got elected. 


BARRETT:  And, look, he didn`t get to be the secretary of state.  But I think a lot of what you see him doing now, if you`re talking about his internal motivation, I think Susan is absolutely right.  Hey, Susan.


BARRETT:  But I also think that he`s in his own mind trying to do some of the job of secretary of state that he always wanted. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, being the overseas envoy to the president. 


MATTEHWS:  Over the weekend, President Trump said that Giuliani should present his findings to Congress. 


REPORTER:  Did Rudy Giuliani tell you why he was going to Europe?  And do you approve?

DONADL TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, I just know he came back from someplace and he`s going to make a report I think to the attorney general and to Congress.  He says he has a lot of good information.  I have not spoken to him about that information. 

But Rudy, as you know, has been one of the great crime fighters of the last 50 years.  And he did get back from Europe just recently.  And I know -- he has not told me what he`s found, but I think he wants to go before Congress and say -- and also to the attorney general and the Department of Justice, I hear he`s found plenty. 


MATTHEWS:  You know, Susan, it sounds like when Trump would say I have investigators down in Hawaii, and they`re coming back with really interesting stuff.  It was all B.S., totally fabricated. 

DEL PERCIO:  Yes, absolutely.  I mean, unless he put something together on some Trump property stationary like he did for Pompeo and decides to give it to Barr.  But, you know, Devin wrote such a great story this -- that just came out today, because it also talked about --

MATTHEWS:  Did he interview you? 

DEL PERCIO:  He did not.  But it was a great story. 


DEL PERCIO:  And what was important is that the back and forth with Barr, the tension that exists, because Rudy is moving in and out.  You said an envoy, kind of jokingly, but he is moving in and out of the private sector of representing his client and working in government.  And that`s really dangerous.  That`s why he`s a lot of liability in a lot of ways to the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about that, Devlin, in your piece.  Did you get to -- I don`t remember, did you get to the president`s attitude towards it?  Because he didn`t throw him under the bus, but he put some distance there.  He said he hasn`t talked to me yet.  I don`t know what country he`s coming back from.  He was playing a little dumb there, the president. 

BARRETT:  Well, look, I think privately and publicly, the president loves what Rudy does.  I think the president loves having someone who is out there fighting for him and making these arguments on a regular basis.  Whether those arguments hold up is a completely separate question.  I mean, if you think back a sec, when we were waiting for the Mueller report, Rudy kept saying we`re going to have a big counter-report, and it`s, you know, 110 pages, or it`s 57 pages, and the page number kept clanging. 

At the end of the day, there was no report produced by -- no counter report produced to any of that, and -- but it was a thing to just argue about and yell about and make the points about, and the president clearly loves having someone doing that for him.  Whether there`s any meat to it or substance to it, you know, it`s almost irrelevant at this point. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, but all the guys that did it for him before are in jail.  Thank you.  They are.  It`s incredible.  Go through the list --

DEL PERCIO:  Oh, Rudy is under investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  Paul Manafort and all these guys.  Devin, all them are going away, Parnas and the rest of them.

Devin Barrett, thank you, sir.  Great reporting, big piece, big take-out piece as we say.  Susan Del Percio, thank you. 

Up next how we`ve been misled, I`m saying lightly, like in Vietnam we were lied to all those years about how we`re wining over there with the body counts.  Same horrible deal just been reported by "The Washington Post" that we`ve been thrown at with Afghanistan. 

We`re not winning over there.  There`s no progress.  The Taliban needs to be dealt with, and we have no idea how deal with it. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  From the time we went into Afghanistan, after 9/11, U.S. forces knew the time would come for them to return home.  So did the Taliban, who wished to retake power when we did. 

According to "The Washington Post" today, the U.S. has send three quarters of a million troops to Afghanistan since 2001, 2,300 of them have died over there, and over 20,000 have been wounded.  In fact 157,000 people have been killed in our Afghan war. 

And through all of this, through all 18 years we`ve been in Afghanistan, the world from the Oval Office has always been positive. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT:  We remain on the offensive in Afghanistan, where a fine president and a national assembly are fighting terror while building the institutions of a new democracy. 

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT:  We are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. 

TRUMP:  Together, we`re making tremendous progress. 


MATTHEWS:  And through all of this, through all 18 years we`ve been in Afghanistan, the word from the Oval Office has always been positive, I said.  You hear and see it over and over again, where we`re, quote, making progress. 

And today, we are face-to-face with a "Washington Post" report after they obtained more than 2,000-page of government documents, that all these gung- ho assessments were wrong, that we have failed to build a counter force, to the Taliban, that the Afghan army is not up to defending itself or the country against the Taliban.  That stable areas of Afghanistan don`t outlast the on-the-ground presence of American allied troops. 

And new report with notes of interviews with individuals who play direct rules in the war offers reasons for our failure, the fact that Afghanistan lacks a history of a central government, that our military commanders could never articulate a mission over there, that Afghan security forces lack motivation, NBC News has, of course, not verified the findings of this report yet. 

But the central reason for our failures is the American forces will eventually come home.  We know it, the Taliban knows it.  And the Afghans who fear the Taliban know it.  Why haven`t our leaders been honest about Afghanistan?  Why the 18 years of rosy predictions whose prime purpose was to keep us there? 

And that`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.