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power & obstruction TRANSCRIPT: Hardball with Chris Matthews, 12/10/2019

Guests: Eric Swalwell, Maya Wiley, Michael McFaul, Zoe Lofgren; Peter Baker; Marie Echaveste; Elise Jordan, Zerlina Williams, Evan McMullin

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Defending the Constitution. Let`s play 


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

House Democrats pushed President Donald Trump closer to the brink of infamy today introducing articles of impeachment against a president for just the fourth time in American history. On this historic day, House Democrats unveiled two articles against the president, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. And tonight, the Judiciary Committee announced they`re going to start marking up or debating the articles tomorrow night, 24 hours from right now, 7:00 tomorrow night.

And this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler and Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff argued the president is a threat to our democracy and national security.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): On this solemn day, I recall at the first order of business for members of Congress is the solemn act to take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Our president holds the ultimate public trust. When he betrays that trust and puts himself before country, he endangers the Constitution, he endangers our democracy and he endangers our national security.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The president`s oath of office appears to mean very little to him. But the articles put forward today will give us a chance to show that we will defend the Constitution and that our oath means something to us.


MATTHEWS: The drafted articles are narrowly focused, of course, just two articles and just one subject, Trump`s actions to pressure Ukraine for his own political advantage.

On the abuse of power charge, the draft articles note that in soliciting Ukraine, President Trump abused the powers of the presidency by ignoring and injuring national security and other vital national interests in order to obtain an improper personal political benefit. And on obstruction of Congress, Democrats argue that the president, quote, has directed the unprecedented categorical and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives.

Leaving the White House tonight, by the way, for a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, President Trump again said he hadn`t done anything wrong.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Even the Democrats, they couldn`t find very much because they put up two articles that frankly are very weak, and they`re very weak.


MATTHEWS: Well, that`s kind of spooky.

Anyway, but today, Chairman Schiff said the president`s ongoing pattern of misconduct leaves Congress with no choice but to act quickly.


SCHIFF: Now, some would argue why don`t you just wait? Why don`t you just wait until you get these witnesses the White House refuses to produce? Why don`t you just wait until you get the documents the White House refuses to turn over?

The argument, why don`t you just wait, amounts to this. Why don`t you just let him cheat in one more election? Why not let him cheat just one more time? Why not let him have foreign help just one more time?


MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California who serves on the House Judiciary Committee. Actually, Congresswoman Lofgren worked on all three modern day impeachments of presidents, as top staffer to a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon impeachment, as a Congresswoman at the time of the Clinton impeachment in 1998, which she voted against, and the current inquiry into President Trump, all three. Maria Echaveste is a former White House deputy chief of staff under President Clinton, Elise Jordan, former aid to George W. Bush in the White House at the State Department, and Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New Yorkers and one of the authors of Impeachment, An American History.

Congresswoman, I want to ask you about tonight and what I think is the magnificent leadership of your speaker, the speaker of the House. And one of these I think she was smart on and I want you to elaborate on if you`ll agree is focus. You have to know what hill to fight on. You`ve got to know which is hill is important and vital to fight for. She has picked national security. Tell me about your thoughts on that focus.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, I think she`s absolutely right. We had a report from Mr. Mueller was not very focused in the first volume. We never were able to get the actual backup data, and I was really not prepared to move forward based on that nor was Speaker Pelosi. But when we found out about this scheme to utilize the power of the presidency to force a foreign country to intervene in our election, we felt we had to act. We couldn`t sit idly by in the face of that abuse of power.

And so I think the Intelligence Committee, because of the nature of the allegations, they took the lead, they did an excellent job of developing substantial amounts of direct evidence. Really, the picture is very clear to anyone who`s honestly looking at the facts and the evidence.

The president has committed abuse of his powers and he also, in an incredible way, has refused to respond to anything. He said that no one should be permitted to testify. They have responded to no request for documents. That`s never happened before. He`s obstructed Congress wrongfully as well. I think these two articles are sadly warranted, supported by the evidence and should be approved.

MATTHEWS: Peter, I was just reading before the broadcast closely the articles that have been drafted by judiciary. And what struck me is the economy of words, the sharpness and focus of the whole language. It reads almost like -- I don`t want to overstate it -- but it`s almost in constitutional language. There`s no wasted language, there`s no distractions, what do you call it, aggressions at all.

It`s very tightly focused in wording what we all pretty much know now the president basically shook down Zelensky of Ukraine for some dirt or an announcement of looking for dirt on a potential political rival, Biden, and then, of course, the obvious.

I mean, you cannot deny the obstruction of justice and of Congress by the absolute refusal of this administration to release one piece of paper or one live witness to the Congress for its investigations.

What did you make of the quality of the language in these two articles? Peter?

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sorry. I think, look, the language is very narrowly focused on the Ukraine matter. It resisted bringing in other issues the Democrats have wanted to talk about with President Trump for, now, three years, whether it`d be the Mueller case, whether it`d be the emoluments, whether it`d be the Stormy Daniels and the hush money, the campaign violations. It tries to focus it on this one case because they think the narrative is clear and the facts are on their side.

Now, what the president and his supporters are going to say on the obstruction case you mentioned, the president has every right to at least assert his privileges or assert his confidentiality and let it be tested by court. The Democrats said today they don`t want to go to court because it would take too long and they`re simply going to go forward with this obstruction allegation against the president as well.

So that will be an interesting test because that will have precedent for value future presidents beyond this one regardless of how -- whether President Trump stays in office for the rest of this term or not. Future presidents are going to take the lesson from --

LOFGREN: It wasn`t just assertion of privilege. Then you`d have an argument about going to court. He said as a blanket matter that there would be no response by anyone. That is very different matter than assertion of privilege.

MATTHEWS: Maria, let`s talk about leadership and politics. I guess we might talk about gender too. This is woman speaker who`s making history tonight with these articles of impeachment. I watched that press conference. We`re looking at it right now. There`s no doubt who the boss is. I mean, she basically escorted them in, said who`s going to talk. It was rehearsed, organized. She was herding cats, as we might say of any Democratic group. It`s not easy.

Some people in that room didn`t look too happy at the limitations she placed on them. I don`t think Maxine Waters was happy with just two articles. I don`t think that Jerry Nadler is happy about the role he played, which is basically delivering the investigation by the Intel Committee, the fine work done by Adam Schiff, but they all did what they were told and it looked good. Your thoughts about leadership.

MARIA ECHAVESTE, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, absolutely. And I think I want to underscore what Speaker Pelosi said. This is about our democracy.

And I am reminded the impeachment in 1998 did not threaten the republic, did not threaten our country. And it`s quite in contrast to what this president has done. And particularly the second article which obstruction of Congress is basically, if left unchallenged, allows a president to act like a king, to say he is above the law and cannot be -- there can be no oversight by Congress, and that is direct blow to our institution.

So as hard as it was and is for the country, I think these narrow articles of impeachment ought to be something that Americans across party lines, and that`s what I really hope our Republican colleagues will focus. This president has delivered on your agenda in so many ways. Please put the interests of the country ahead of your ideological agenda.

MATTHEWS: What do you think Congress should have done with Clinton when the word got out the country knew that he had lied in the deposition, he perjured himself? What should have been the proper action of the U.S. government in both parties?

ECHAVESTE: Well, you know, hindsight is 2020. I think, at one point, there was talk of censure that I think really would have been appropriate. I`m not condoning what the president did in terms of lying under oath. But, again, it did not threaten national security. It did not threaten our country. What President Trump has done, censure, frankly, is it will not stop a future president from saying I am above the law, and this president obviously believes he is above the law.

MATTHEWS: Well said. Maria, I don`t know you and I think you did a great job of answering that question because that was a smart answer. I rarely hear political people who have been both sides of the aisle, either side, that gives us an honest, non-partisan, intelligent pro-American answer. I thought exactly that censure did make sense, impeachment did not make sense, and here we are.

Congresswoman, your thoughts on today.

LOFGREN: Well, I just wanted to say that in terms of the Clinton impeachment, the Constitution is about the abuse of the powers we give, the special powers we give to the president that injures the state. Now, President Clinton lied about a sexual affair. That was not a good thing. But it wasn`t about his presidential powers. It was his husband powers. But it wasn`t presidential powers that he misused to the detriment of the United States. And that`s why it was never a high crime or misdemeanor. That`s why it was really a very sad thing.

MATTHEWS: He should never have hauled the cabinet into the Roosevelt Room to back him up, which he did, and that, unfortunately, he made it an official event. I`m sorry, Congresswoman, he went further with this personal offense, and se shouldn`t have done it. He should have defended himself personally not as president.

Anyway, for their part -- I`m sorry. I don`t want to interrupt you there. Your thought.

LOFGREN: No. I just wanted to say that the issue is whether you are posing a threat to the United States and the constitutional order. And that`s what we have here, a continuing threat, I might add, as we were talking yesterday, Rudy Giuliani, the agent of the president, was over meeting with legislators who were trained by the KGB, continuing in this scheme.

MATTHEWS: Well said again.

For their part, Republicans defended the president today, of course, arguing that it`s Democrats who are abusing their power in the impeachment process itself.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Now and today, we watched them introduce two articles of impeachment. It changed the course of Congress to take away due process for any point of where we are. It is a fear that Alexander Hamilton had that came to fruition in this Congress. I just hope no Congress ever repeats what we`re going through today.

REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): The writing abuse of power, which is so ambiguous and so vague that, really, there`s nothing that can define what that actually is they can make it up on the block (ph). And obstruction of Congress, are you kidding me? After 70 days, they`re going to charge the president with obstruction of Congress? That is not the way this place works.

So, really, we have two articles of impeachment.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): They`re not impeaching the president because they can enlist an impeachable offense. They`re impeaching him because they`re afraid he will get re-elected.


MATTHEWS: I was just making that point about the Clinton experience because I think it`s important as the Democrats go into this, and it is the Democrats, that they don`t blur the past. Be honest about it. It was overcharging the president those days. And it wasn`t dishonest. It was just way overcharging Clinton.

ELISE JORDAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AND STATE DEPARTMENT AIDE: And just accepting how difficult it was even in that era to have anyone cross party lines to vote to actually remove a president from office. And what the odds are that probably President Donald Trump is going to remain in office because not enough Republicans are going to sway because they see no electoral --

MATTHEWS: Not as many as we`d like perhaps.

Congresswoman, I`ve got to get back to you. I`ve known you forever working for Don Edwards in the old days, and what a great guy he was and a totally honest politician, former FBI guy, great golfer, all the good stuff, I should say. Just kidding.

I want to ask you, do you get any sense -- I know the cloakrooms are different ends of the chamber, but is there any sense that the Republicans know the dire danger of our country if this president continues in the direction he`s so clearly headed to overreach his powers?

LOFGREN: Well, I think some do. You know, I haven`t tried to press any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, on how they should decide, because this is a matter of honoring your oath of office. It can`t be lobbied by anyone. But I do know quite a few Republican members are very troubled by the president`s behavior. I don`t know how they`ll vote.

I think the president has made it very difficult for members to exercise their conscience. Look what he did to people who crossed him. I do understand that. But in the end, you have to honor your own oath.

I`ve been rereading the statements from the Nixon impeachment, and one of the things that struck me were the words of Caldwell Butler about how loyal he was to Richard Nixon and how much he liked Richard Nixon and how he thought Richard Nixon had done wonderful things. But when he saw the facts, he had to vote against a president of his own party because of the danger to our Constitution. I hope there`s some Caldwell Butlers in the current Congress.

MATTHEWS: There were a lot back then and there`re none today, it seems. I hope you`re right, Congresswoman. You know the House and love it. I hope you find some of those guys and women.

The full House vote on impeachment could come sometime next week, the full House paving a way for a Senate trial. And today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it`s not possible for the trial to start before the holiday recess, but he again predicted the outcome.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I said I would be totally surprised if there were 60 or 70 senators to remove the president. That remains my view. However, we are obligated under the Constitution to turn to it when it comes over, and we will.


MATTHEWS: Maria, let me ask you a question. Is there a possible way -- I know I`m asking you to do stargazing here -- is there a way that the Republican Senate can possibly look good in this trial and not just flacks for the president?

ECHAVESTE: I have to say I can`t think of how they look good when from the president`s own mouth, from the testimony that`s been reviewed, even without testimony from White House officials and others who have personal knowledge of exactly what the president was trying to do, based on the evidence to date, it`s very clear President Trump utilized his office to pressure a foreign government to take an action to benefit his political interests. That`s -- any other president, if it were a Democrat, I cannot believe Republicans would let that go.

And that`s why I keep going back to really what protects our country is our institutions. We have seen so much, over 240 plus years --


ECHAVESTE: It`s our institutions. And to have members who swore an oath to the Constitution put their personal ideological agenda -- we`ve been fighting about the role of government from the very beginning. But to put that ahead of our country`s interests, especially when it involves national security is, to me, just chilling and frightening.

MATTHEWS: If this guy gets re-elected, they might as well wear uniforms in Congress.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California, Maria Echaveste, Elise Jordan and Peter Baker of The New York Times.

Coming up, the case against President Trump and the gravity of this historic moment. Right now, the drafted articles of impeachment make a succinct argument, Trump abused his office and betrayed the nation for his own personal political gain.

Plus, Trump`s impeachment strategy, he laid it outright here on HARDBALL, believe it or not, in 1998. He talked about what he would do and he`s doing it right now. Anyway, that for the -- he was talking about the Clinton era and saying what he would have told Clinton to do. It`s pretty scary stuff because I think he`s doing it now.

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



REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution and to our country, the House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment, charging the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, with committing high crimes and misdemeanors.

We must be clear. No one, not even the president, is above the law.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler on the historic changes -- or charges he introduced against the president today.

The nine-page resolution includes two articles of impeachment. The first article charges that -- quote -- "Using the powers of his high office, President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States presidential election."

It explicitly warns that -- quote -- "He will remain a threat to national security" -- that`s Trump -- "and the Constitution if he`s allowed to remain in office."

The second article of impeachment today that came out, the drafted article, is for obstruction of Congress. And the article says: "No president has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensibly the ability of the House of Representatives to investigate."

It describes Trump`s actions as "offensive to and subversive of the Constitution."

Well, it`s hard to underestimate the gravity of this moment, even despite the powerful evidence that`s been uncovered over the last two months.

If this resolution is passed, it will mark only the third time in 230 years of American history that a president has been impeached by Congress.

I`m joined right now by a member of that committee, U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California, who is on the House Intelligence and on the Judiciary Committee. And Maya Wiley is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Congressman, let me ask you about this wonderful clarity today. I think anyone who gets a good newspaper tomorrow or looks it up on a search engine or Google, whatever, will be read a very -- I think very clear, almost constitutionally written set of articles.

How well do you think they addressed what you have learned personally in all these months of investigation?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Chris, they`re written in the active voice, rather than the passive voice, where prior impeachment cases have been about what a president did in the past.

And this reflects that this is crime spree in progress. And that moves us to act with urgency. And it lays out particularly the national security risks that we have here if we do nothing, but also the risk to future elections.

And then, of course, just an institution, if Congress can be obstructed, never would we be able to hold a president accountable.

MATTHEWS: How does a Republican colleague of yours -- and I`m -- it`s not the party of evil. They are just wrong on this one, I think, and some other things.

But how does somebody defend the charge that Trump has obstructed, when he hasn`t turned over a single piece of paper or a single live witness? He`s absolutely -- and said, I`m not going to do it. How do you deny that`s defiance and obstruction of the Congress?

SWALWELL: They have actually never defended that, Chris.

Actually, in all of the hearings you have seen, it`s just attacks on us, as members. It`s attacks on the process. No one has defended the president`s cheating scheme with Ukraine. No one has defended him refusing to give us documents.

And, actually, I think that goes to a larger point here, which is, this is no longer ability what the president did. We know what he did. It`s about what we should do. Should we do nothing? Should we allow this to continue? Should we allow future presidents to do this? Or should we say we have a duty under the Constitution to act, and now is the time to act?

MATTHEWS: You know, Maya, I was around during Watergate.

And I was watching it in Washington. And I thought the same thing. I said, it`s not bad being unsympathetic. I don`t like seeing people go to jail, staffers especially. But if we had let them all get away with it, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Nixon, the rest, Colson, they would have going on and on and kept escalating their evil.

MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, I think this is the big concern here, is, what are we fighting for?

It`s not what we`re fighting against. What we`re fighting for fundamentally is the Constitution and separation of powers.

I think one of the things this does so well, these articles, as Representative Swalwell says, is, it makes clear this is happening now, it will continue to happen. I think it makes a very strong case by referencing, frankly, the fact that Donald Trump has in the past called for foreign interference in our elections.

And it makes very clear that the obstruction itself, it goes straight to the heart of whether or not we`re going to support what the founders themselves wrote and built into our democracy was that there is a separation of powers, there is a balance.

And if we don`t have that balance, how is Congress ever to hold any, any, any executive branch to account?

MATTHEWS: It would also be nice, Congressman, to have an alive court system.

One reason Nixon was brought to justice was because the courts actually forced him to turn over the tapes. It was an 8-0 decision by the Supreme Court.

And my -- isn`t that one of the problems here? To get a court decision on these documents and in these testimonies is almost like waiting out a capital punishment case to -- or a death row case that could go on -- maybe it should -- for months and years and years.

Would we ever get these documents and witnesses before the Congress from these courts?


The president has weaponized the court system. And he has a right to go to the courts, but he does not have a right to say once we start the inquiry that he can categorically refuse to send any witnesses to us, especially on issues that have already been resolved in the courts, particularly around presidential executive authority.

And to Maya`s point, the pattern of conduct here will be extremely relevant. As a former prosecutor -- and I know Maya would probably agree with this -- one of the first things you do when a case is put on your desk is, you look at the defendant`s rap sheet to see if they have any priors, whether this was aberrant behavior, or if you can show that this is just what this person does.

And in the president`s case, and it`s laid out in the articles, this is what he does. He asks foreign governments to help him cheat. And then when the investigations start, he does everything he can to obstruct them and cover them up.

WILEY: And, Chris, can -- I really want to double down on this point about obstruction that you`re asking about, because, if this stands -- one of the things that the White House counsel`s letter to Congress said, essentially, is, you don`t get to ask us for anything ever, period.

It wasn`t like, we`re just going to fight you on a couple of these things that we think are legitimate, but here`s some other documents or witnesses that we will provide you.

That`s what Richard Nixon did. You were there.


WILEY: He didn`t say, you can`t have anything.

This president has said, you don`t have the right to ask me for a thing, even though this is a constitutional impeachment inquiry.

And as the witnesses said in the House Judiciary Committee, the constitutional experts, is, the Constitution says that the Congress has the sole power, the sole power.

And as Representative Swalwell said is, we have court rulings that make quite clear. And the court in the McGahn case, when McGahn -- about McGahn`s testimony, said, this is really an extraordinary argument, and you have gone way too far, because, essentially, then there`s nothing left.

MATTHEWS: I think he is just ignorant of the law and our history and our Constitution and what we stand for and the limits of government.

Limited government is the key to our government.

Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman.

Congratulations, by the way, for your colloquy yesterday with Danny Goldman. That was one of those clearest things I have seen in all these hearings, where you simply said, who made the call? In every case, it was the president. Well done, sir.

SWALWELL: Thank you. My pleasure.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

Maya Wiley, thank you as well, as always.

Up next: In the words of Speaker Pelosi on impeachment, all roads lead to Putin. And, today, the Russian foreign minister had his second Oval Office meeting with the president.

There he is. I mean, there`s always a Russian hanging around this president. What is going on here? The Russians are everywhere. They`re not just coming. They`re here.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Zelensky is still waiting for that White House invitation. He`s not getting in that door with Trumpy. He only lets Russians in the door with him.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

On the same day House Democrats announced articles of impeachment against President Trump for his actions withholding anti-Russian military aid to our ally Ukraine, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office. Do you believe it? There`s a picture.

This isn`t their first meeting, of course. And during their previous meeting in 2017, the president reportedly revealed highly classified information to Lavrov and the former Russian ambassador.

Lavrov flew in from Paris, where, yesterday, Russian President Putin and Ukrainian President Zelensky held talks to end the war on their joint border. I`m not sure what kind of meeting that was.

And as Lavrov gets his second White House meeting with President Trump today, Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, has yet to be given the same honor.

For more, I`m joined by Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia.

I don`t know what to make, because, Ambassador, part of this is just sheer politics and P.R. Why would the president want to be seen with Lavrov the very day he is seeing drafted articles of impeachment going to the American people?


I mean, I hope it`s a coincidence. But it`s highly unusual, because the whole visit, of course, is just symbolic. If you look at the readouts, they didn`t discuss anything of substance. There`s no trigger for the necessity of this meeting.

So, what it is, is symbolism. And the symbolism is, I think, historic, the second time Foreign Minister Lavrov has been in the Oval Office in four years` time. I can`t think of another president that ever had him there twice.

And it`s especially tragic, in my view, because of what you just said. President Zelensky has yet to visit the Oval Office. And yet Lavrov, who is not President Trump`s equal, has been there a second time. It makes no sense to me.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of Trump`s Russophilia? He seems to be obsessed with the East, like a certain world leader in the 1930s and `40s was obsessed with the East.


MATTHEWS: Why is this guy obsessed with these meetings with Russians all over the place?

MCFAUL: It`s truly bizarre.

I confess I do not have a rational explanation for it. I do not think it serves the president`s own political interests, either at home or abroad.

You know, look at -- look at what we`re talking about, right? Why are you doing this? There`s no reason to have Lavrov there today. And yet he very consistently, very persistently embraces President Putin and his government.

And, again, I would support it if it led to some tangible outcome that was good for the American people. But, after three years of happy talk, after three years of fealty towards President Putin, we have not achieved one concrete deliverable, as we used to say in the government, in U.S.-Russian relations.


I grew up in politics, and they used to say every politician in America, before every election, would visit the three I`s. They would go to Ireland, Italy and Israel.

OK, that is where the people are. And I just don`t get this.

Anyway, following Lavrov`s visit, the foreign minister, to the White House today, the White House released a readout of the meeting, saying, in part, that President Trump warned Lavrov against any Russian attempts to interfere in our elections, which is odd because he denies they ever did, Trump.

But Lavrov told reporters that never happened. Let`s watch.


SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Well, you know, we haven`t even actually discussed elections.

Now, the state secretary, Pompeo, at the press conference, at the State Department did mention that the U.S. are warning Russia not to interfere in the elections. I have responded to that.

And President Trump -- by the way, I told him that the state secretary mentioned that publicly.


MATTHEWS: So here`s an inconsistency on the part of the president, no surprise to anybody.

He has for months and years now said there was no Russian interference in the 2016 election. But then his people put out the word today, but he warned Russia not to do it again.

I`m sorry. One of this is B.S. I`m sorry. I use the word too much now. But if he didn`t think they ever did it before, why would he spank them today with a warning not to do it again?

MCFAUL: Of course it makes no sense.

Obviously, the readout was written by somebody else, not the president himself. And note that he didn`t say those words sitting next to Lavrov in a press spray, right?


MCFAUL: I used to work at the White House in the Obama administration.

If we wanted to send a strong signal, that`s the way you do it. And you make Lavrov sit there next to you why you say it. They very conveniently did not do that, because, as you just said, Chris, every time he`s been asked publicly, especially very dramatically when he was asked publicly standing next to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, he sides with Putin, not with our intelligence community.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s who we have as president, a Russophile, without purpose, apparently. Well, maybe it has to do with Deutsche Bank or something else. We will find out in a few years.

Anyway, Ambassador Michael McFaul, it`s great to have you on, sir.


MATTHEWS: Still ahead: NBC`s exclusive interview with Trump`s attorney general, William Barr -- what a flack he is -- on what he had to say about his own department`s inspector general, the FBI, and foreign interference in our elections.

That`s next on HARDBALL.



SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The FISA abuse report is officially out and tonight, the deep state, they need to understand they are all in deep legal jeopardy.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: You had an inspector general just give you a report yesterday to show that a law enforcement agency spied on a presidential campaign.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The headline was initially that James Comey, Andy McCabe, Peter Strzok, they had reasons to launch the investigation into the Trump campaign. Then you read it and there`s a lot of problems with it.



The day after the release of the Justice Department`s inspector general`s report on the investigation into FBI`s investigation to 2016 Trump campaign. The Trump fog machine you just saw it there led by Attorney General William Barr has kicked into overdrive. In a breathtaking interview today with NBC`s Pete Williams, Barr undercut his department`s inspector general and propped up a partisan investigation being conducted by a U.S. attorney under Barr`s direction.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: So that`s hard to explain. The core statement in my opinion by the I.G. is that these irregularities, these misstatements, these omissions were not satisfactorily explained. And I think that leaves open the possibility to infer bad faith. I think it`s premature now to reach a judgment on that. But I think that further work has to be done, and that`s what Durham is doing.


MATTHEWS: Well, Attorney General Barr accused the Obama administration without evidence of using the intelligence community to spy on the Trump campaign in order to undermine that campaign.


BARR: The greatest danger to our free system is that the incumbent government use the apparatus of the state principally, the law enforcement agencies and the intelligence agencies in order to spy on political opponents but also to use them in a way that could affect the outcome of the election.


MATTHEWS: Well, the I.G. did not find evidence to support the claim of spying, nor did he find the investigation into the Trump campaign was unwarranted.

In a recent interview with "The New York Magazine", Barr reiterated a point he`s made in the past, that the Department of Justice was never intended to be independent from politics. Do you like that argument?

Quote: I think at the end of the day if you`re making a decision, it should be made by people who are accountable. Our system puts political appointees in that position. That`s why we have elections.

Well, President Trump used to complain about not having a Roy Cohn at the Justice Department, but he has one now. His name is Bill Barr.

There is one top official who has not been willing to do Trump`s bidding and the president isn`t happy at all about it. And that`s next. We`ll see who he`s mad at now.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Last night, unlike Attorney General William Barr, FBI Director Christopher Wray welcomed the findings of the inspector general`s report on the FBI investigation into Trump`s 2016 presidential campaign.

Let`s watch him.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: I think it`s important that the inspector general found that in this particular instance, the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization. I think there`s a number of takeaways that are important. One, that we fully cooperated with this independent review. Two, that we fully accept its findings and recommendations. Three, that the inspector general did not find political bias or improper motivations impacting the opening of the investigation or the decision to use certain investigative tools during the investigations.


MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump as you might think didn`t like those director`s comments by the head of the FBI, tweeting: I don`t know what report current Director of FBI Christopher Wray was reading but it sure wasn`t the one given to me. With that kind of attitude he`ll never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men and women working there.

For more, I`m joined by Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of the progressive for Sirius XM, and Evan McMullin, executive director of the Stand Up Republic, and a 2016 independent presidential candidate.

Evan, you`ve been in one of those big agencies and I just want to know who the hell is Trump talking about? He`s attacking and trashing the new FBI director that he appointed because the new FBI director can read. And the report by the inspector general is clear as a bell. It says there were some mistakes but there wasn`t any politics involved in the decision to approve those FISA decisions to investigate the Trump campaign. No politics, no bigotry, no favoritism.

EVAN MCMULLIN, 2016 INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, absolutely. But President Trump like any corrupt president or any corrupt leader we`ve seen around the world, he`s trying to pacify law enforcement officials and to subdue them to prevent them from pursuing him any further, pursuing his wrongdoing any further. It`s something that always happens with corrupt leaders.

So you see that`s what his effort is here to suggest that Christopher Wray is currently the FBI director, which he is, but sort of suggesting that he may not be there for much longer.


MCMULLIN: And look, I think what we have to worry about here is I hope Director Wray will be resilient and the rest of FBI leadership will be as well. I think they will be. But this kind of pressure ultimately, even with good people leading these organizations like the FBI, starts to have an impact where it affects decision-making, where it chills their consideration of whether they should pursue investigations of future wrongdoing of the president or of the president`s allies. And it should be deeply concerning to us.

MATTHEWS: You know, the wires are crossed over at Fox because I was watching Fox Business last night. I was in a hotel room, and so I would turn the TV late at night, and there was Lou Dobbs saying this was dismaying this report, he`s admitting they found nothing wrong. He didn`t like it. The word is to say they did say something wrong.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, SIRIUS XM SENIOR DIRECTOR OF PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING: I think this is the opposite of what happened with the Mueller report. With the Mueller report, Bill Barr was able to come out before any of us saw it, while they were redacting things, while they were deeming things classified and not for public consumption. He was able to pre-spin the report.

So by the time we got the report and most Americans didn`t read it, he had already solidified what the president said. This time they got a leak before they were able to spin their report. We got a leak saying that there was proper predicate and no political influence that was improper.

And now, they`re actually trying to post-spin and it`s not working because we have the facts. They didn`t brainwash us before we saw the actual black and white text. And now, they`re in a tough pickle.

I feel like it`s Orwellian what they`re doing today. We have the words, we can read, and they are saying the opposite thing is true. And that is crazy making in a lot of ways and it`s a dangerous moment in this country.

MATTHEWS: Do you think they pulled this off this way by saying it said what we wanted it to say but not what it said because they got way with that with Mueller?

MAXWELL: Well, they`re going to try to do that, and certainly because their media infrastructure is completely insulated from facts at this point, that may work with his base, which is 26 percent of voters. It`s not going to work with the rest of us, and the rest of us have to continue calling them out every single time they flat out lie.

MATTHEWS: Zerlina, great.

MAXWELL: Anyway, President Trump is holding a rally right now in Hershey, Pennsylvania, right now. Moments ago, he brought what he called the discredited allegation of spying on his campaign. Discredited allegation. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The FBI also sent multiple undercover human spies to surveil and record people associated with our campaign. Look how they`ve hurt people. They`ve destroyed the lives of people that were great people, that are still great people. Their lives have been destroyed by scum, OK? By scum.


MATTHEWS: Evan, here he is attacking federal agents and the FBI for doing their job and they`re told to do an investigation and defending some of the odd balls on his campaign team, by the way. They`re not great Americans, especially the people that the FBI was surveilling.

Your thoughts?

MCMULLIN: Look, Chris, I really have a bad feeling about where secretary or where Attorney General Barr is headed with this. Some of his comments today about the Obama administration officials and using this investigation of the Trump campaign to affect the outcome of the election in 2016 and then Trump`s language there about, you know, scum going after his campaign, I sort of get the sense that as Barr and as Trump and the rest of them double down on these conspiracy theories that are so important to the president even as they`re debunked one by one, I really get the feeling that we are going to see Barr use his powers at the Department of Justice to take some kind of further direct action against senior Obama administration officials.

And I don`t know if it`s going to be him issuing his own findings about them and their decisions, their actions alleging wrongdoing. I don`t know if it will go further than that, but I think that`s where he`s headed. I think that`s where he`s -- that`s what he and the president are signaling today.

MATTHEWS: So, Zerlina, you`re only 23 years old, you`re out of college and get recruited by the FBI because you want to be a law enforcement person.


MATTHEWS: You find yourself working in the Trump brigade.

MAXWELL: That would be really disturbing. Perhaps you maybe go and take a couple of years off, study abroad and then come back when we have some semblance of independence of the FBI. The most concerning thing for me is not just what he said but also what he said last week which is that communities of color should comply first --

MATTHEWS: Or risk --

MAXWELL: -- or complain later or risk essentially police being --


MATTHEWS: No more patrols in neighborhoods.

MAXWELL: Right. So, he`s doing a double edged thing. He`s threatening communities of color with not protecting them and putting law enforcement in their communities at the same time he`s attacking law enforcement.

So it`s very interesting that the Trump administration is on the one hand attacking law enforcement and criticizing those of us who credibly criticize the law enforcement.

MATTHEWS: I`m glad you brought up that. I`m glad you brought up that. It began like a reasonable argument for law enforcement and ended the sentence what he`s saying is if you don`t suck up to us and be nice to us, we`re going to let you die.

Zerlina Maxwell, thank you. And, Evan McMullin, sir, thank you.

Up next, what Trump said to me about impeachment about 20 years ago. It`ll scare you as it should have.

You`re watching HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS: Well, we`re too tight on time tonight but tomorrow I`ll show you what Donald Trump told me more than 20 years ago about his attitude towards impeachment. He got it like that.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.