House now debating articles of impeachment. TRANSCRIPT: 12/11/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Richard Blumenthal, Nadeam Elshami, Robert Costa, Joyce Vance,Cynthia Schnedar

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

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

For Donald Trump, tonight is the night that history bites.  Any moment now, the House Judiciary Committee is going to take up the solemn task of impeaching the president from his high elected office for his abuse of office and obstruction of the Congress.

You`re looking live now at the first of the committee`s two sessions over the next 24 hours to consider those two articles.  For his part, Trump has remained relatively quiet in public today although he did have lunch with House Republican leadership this afternoon as they prepare to mount their defense of him.

Tonight, we will hear from members on each side of the two articles starting with Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler of New York.

I`m joined right now by Robert Costa, Washington Post National Political Reporter, Nadeam Elshami is former chief of staff to Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, Joyce Vance is former U.S. attorney and Geoff Bennett is NBC News Correspondent.

Geoff, you`ve been carrying us and taking us all this way.  Take us now to the finish line.  We assume tomorrow night in terms of the committee`s work in actually writing these articles.

GEOFF BENNET, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the committee right now, Chris, is opening a markup of these two tightly focused articles of impeachment, as you have mentioned, the one on abuse of power, the other on obstruction of Congress.  And so a markup for people who aren`t familiar with it is the process by which a congressional committee debates and amends measures or legislation.

So tonight, there`ll be a lot of debate, right?  So each member gets his or her five minutes to make an opening statement.  Democrats though, I`m told, are not planning to offer any amendments.  They`re not planning to make any changes to the two articles that have already gotten the blessing of the House speaker and House leadership.

Republicans though certainly will try to do that.  You can bet on that.  But Democrats will likely shut that down.  Here is Chairman Nadler picking that --

MATTHEWS:  Yes, go ahead.  There he is.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY):  Today, we need to begin consideration of articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.  Although it is our custom to limit opening statement to the chair and ranking member of the committee, as I informed the ranking member, I believe that for such an important and solemn occasion as this, it would be appropriate for all members to have an opportunity to make an opening statement.

Before we begin, I want to note the absence of our colleague Ted Lieu who required a medical procedure Monday evening and will be unable to attend this markup. I understand he is in good spirits and plans to be back at work next week. His statement will be made part of the record and I know that all of my colleagues join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.

I will now recognize myself for an opening statement.

                  Today, we begin consideration of two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.  The first article charges that the president used the powers of his public office to demand that a foreign government attack his political rivals.  The second article charges that the president obstructed the congressional investigation into his conduct. 

Other presidents have resisted congressional oversight, but President Trump's stonewall was complete, absolute, and without precedent in American history.  Taken together, the two articles charged President Trump with placing his private political interests above our national security, above our free and fair elections, and above our ability to hold public officials accountable. 

                This committee now owes it to the American people to give these articles close attention and to describe their factual basis, meaning, and importance.  I believe that three questions should frame our debate.  First, does the evidence show clearly that the president committed these acts?  Second, do they rise to the level of impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors?  Third, what are the consequences for our national security, for the integrity of our elections, and for our country if we fail to act. 

                To the first question, there can be no serious debate about what President Trump did.  On July 25th of this year, when he spoke to President Zelensky of Ukraine by telephone, President Trump had the upper hand.  Ukraine had been invaded by Russia.  Zelensky had only recently been elected; he badly needed our help.  He needed it in the form of military aid already appropriated by Congress because of our national security interests in Ukraine.  And he needed help in the form of an oval office meeting so he could show the world that the United States stands with him against Russian aggression. 

                President Trump should have focused on America's national security and on the interests of the American people on that call.  Instead, he completely ignored them in order to push his own personal political interests. 

President Trump asked for a favor.  He wanted Ukraine to announce two bogus investigations: one into former Vice President Biden, his leading opponent in the 2020 election; and another to advance a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia attacked our elections in 2016. 

These were not legitimate requests, neither was supported by the evidence.  One investigation was designed to help President Trump conceal the truth about the 2016 election.  The other was designed to help him gain an advantage in the 2020 campaign.  Both were divorced from reality and from official U.S. policy.

                The evidence proves that these requests were not related to any real interest in rooting out corruption.  President Trump eagerly does business with corrupt governments every day.  The evidence shows that President Trump did not care if real investigations took place.  A public announcement that the government of Ukraine was investigating his rivals would have been enough for him to release the aid whether or not an actual investigation ever took place.

After the call, President Trump ratcheted up the pressure.  He dangled the offer of an oval office meeting.  He withheld $391 million in military aid.  His personal lawyer traveled to pressure the Ukrainians directly.  The President deployed other agents, including outside the official channels of diplomacy, to make his desires clear.

                By September, President Zelensky was ready to comply to announce the two fake investigations.  Then, the scandal broke into the open.  Caught in the act, the President was forced to release the aid. 

When the House of Representatives opened an inquiry into the President's actions, President Trump did everything in his power to obstruct the investigation.  He declared across the board resistance.  He ordered every official in the federal government to defy all subpoenas related to the inquiry, at his command, the administration also refused to produce a single document related to the inquiry, not one. 

                To put this obstruction into context, during the Watergate hearings President Nixon turned over recordings of his conversations in the Oval Office.  Later, President Clinton handed over his DNA.  President Trump's instruction was, by contrast, absolute, those are the facts.  They are overwhelming.  There is no denying them. 

                Having reviewed the evidence, we come to our second question: is the President's proven conduct impeachable?  The answer is simple: absolutely.  Under Article I of the Constitution, the President can be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.  The highest of high crimes is abuse of power.  It occurs when the President uses his official powers to serve his own personal selfish interests at the expense of the public good.  To the founding generation that had fought a king and won our freedom, it was a specific well-defined offense. 

The first article of impeachment charges President Trump with abuse of power.  The article describes President Trump's conduct and lays out two aggravating factors that we must consider.  In pressuring Ukraine for a personal favor, President Trump both betrayed our national security and attempted to corrupt our elections.  When the President weakens an ally who advances American security interests by fighting an American adversary, the President weakens America.  And when the President demands that a foreign government investigate his domestic political rivals, he corrupts our elections.  To the founders, this kind of corruption was especially pernicious.  Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy.  If our elections are corrupt, everything is corrupt. 

                The President faces a second article of impeachment for his ongoing efforts to obstruct a lawful investigation into his conduct.  We have never, in the history of our nation, seen a President categorically defy Congress in this manner.  If the President can first abuse his power and then stonewall all congressional requests for information, Congress cannot fulfill its duty to act as a check and balance against the executive.  And the President becomes a dictator. 

                Later tonight, you will hear more about both articles and how they describe a pattern of behavior that President Trump seems determined to repeat again and again.  My colleagues will also address various procedural objections that have been raised in the President's defense. 

But there is one of those objections that I wish to address right away.  Some ask why not take more time?  Why is this necessary now?  Why do we need to impeach the President?  Why not let the next election handle it?  This brings us to the third and final question: what is the risk if we do not act? 

Over the past 94 days since the House investigation began, indeed, over the last three years, one indisputable truth has emerged.  If we do not respond to President Trump's abuses of power, the abuses will continue.  We cannot rely on an election to solve our problems when the President threatens the very integrity of that election.  Nor can we sit on our hands while the President undermines our national security and while he allows his personal interests and the interests of our adversary Russia to advance. 

                The President's personal lawyer was in Ukraine again just last week.  That was not three years ago, that was not three months ago, that was Saturday.  President Trump's continuing abuses of power jeopardize our security and our elections.  The threat is urgent.  If we do not act now, what happens next will be our responsibility as well as his. 

                I will close with the word to my Republican colleagues.  I know you.  I have worked with many of you for years.  I consider you to be good and decent public servants.  I know this moment may be difficult, but you still have a choice.  I hope every member of this committee will withstand the political pressures of the moment.  I hope that none of us attempt to justify behavior that we know in our heart is wrong.  I hope that we are able to work together to hold this President or any President accountable for breaking his most basic obligations to the country and to its citizens. 

                And while you think about that choice, please keep in mind that one way or the other, President Trump will not be President forever.  When his time has passed, when his grip on our politics is gone, when our country returns as surely it will to calmer times and stronger leadership, history will look back on our actions here today.  How would you be remembered?  We have each taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  I hope to be remembered for honoring that oath.  I hope you feel the same. 

And so with a heavy heart but clear in my duty to our country, I support these articles of impeachment.  I urge my colleagues to support them as well. 

I yield back to the balance of my time.  I now recognize the distinguished Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Collins, for his opening statement.

COLLINS:  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I find it amazing at best, hilarious, I guess, at worst, that we come to quote a solemn and amazing moment.  We've been on this path since November 2016.  This is not new.  We've been trying this for almost three years, if you're a majority member of this party.  The only thing that has changed is the opportunity from last November when you became the majority.  The only thing that changed in your desire to impeach this President was that you became the majority.  And we have spent all year in this committee trying to impeach the President. 

We have occasionally had markups on bills; most of which so partisan they cannot even go forward in the Senate, most of which that do not address any issue that we've talked about.  But it is amazing to me that we're taking it now as such a solemn oath that we've made up something to now come to this point to say this is very solemn like it jumped up and snuck up on you.  It's about like the holiday season.  It doesn't jump up and sneak up on you when you've been expecting it the whole time.  And that's what we've been doing. 

What has been amazing to me was is some things that we have seen.  So let's just take some perspective here for a little while.  What has our committee, this great committee, come to?  That's the question for us.  Let's just take it for just a moment inside these impeachment hearings.  This is our third, I will count it into tomorrow for three, three hearings in this committee of impeachment and that's all we're having.  What did we get out of those three hearings?  We had a bunch of law professors; three of which who cannot stand the President, who cannot stand his voters, and could not stand the fact that he's still in office telling us why he should be impeached.  And that inferences were OK to find impeachment. 

                We had a hearing just two days ago from staff lecturing us on what's relevant and not relevant.  And what they found in a report while the member wrote the report hid in his closet, somewhere, I guess, or in his office, not wanting to come face the questions of this committee.  That should be abhorrent to everyone here.  So let's think about what we've seen and what we've not seen.  And, again, Chairman Schiff is nowhere to be found. 

Well, we understand this.  We look forward.  Tonight, it has started again.  We talk about tearing down of national institutions and we start talking about putting our security at risk when tonight even in the Chairman's opening statement we start with one of the most amazing takedowns I have ever seen.  When they can't make their argument that the President pressured Mr. Zelensky, they then attacked Mr. Zelensky and then say that he was pressured when Mr. Zelensky on numerous occasions he said I have not been pressured, I'm not being used, I have no -- the call was fine.  I'm not paying (ph) pressured to do anything.  Then here's what the majority is saying.  The majority is saying Mr. Zelensky is a liar, and we in this body, the Democrats, are tearing down a world leader in the eyes of those that don't like him in his own country and Russia who is attacking him.

Think about that one for just a second.  Let that sink in.  When we can't make our case, we tear down not only try to tear down the leader of the free world, President Trump, we're tearing down the newly elected leader of the Ukraine.  This is amazing to me.  You can't make your case against the President because nothing happened.  And when President Zelensky confirms nothing happened, we start tearing him down. 

                I never thought we would cross outside of the ocean to try and basically impugn the integrity of a world leader like we have been for the last two hearings.  We have also found other things that we have found in our very minimal hearings here in this body is we have seen that other committees have used political vendettas against ranking members and others, including members of the press who are sitting here tonight by putting phone records in, naming names. 

I mean you talk about getting even.  We put names, Mr. Nunes, Mr. Solomon, others, on those four numbers that we looked at; and nobody would own up to it.  Mr. Goldman, Mr. Schiff, of course, wasn't here, but even Mr. Goldman wouldn't own up to who said to do that when they could have simply put in the record, congressman one, congressman two, reporter one.  No, they got what they wanted.  They got their drive-by.  They got their political smear.  That's the record being built in Judiciary Committee, not a record of facts against this President, a record of a Democratic party who's lost all moorings of fairness and good taste.  That's what we're seeing here.  And we can have all the flowery opening statements tonight we want, but they can't get away from that fact. 

What is the big lie that is being perpetrated here on us?  The big lie is this.  And one of the Democrats have told the American people they have said this for three years the big lie that we're hearing perpetrator tonight is, one, the end justifies the means, the lies that the Sham impeachment is OK because the threat is so real and so urgent and so imminent.  The big lies that political expediency is honorable and justifiable.  And history has shown that to be untrue and dangerous.  The big lies that Adam Schiff had gained evidence in plain sight.  He said President Trump colluding with Russia.  And Special Counsel Mueller's report debunked that lie, but it continues to spread like a cancer every time we meet. 

                The big lies that the evidence of the impeachment are overwhelming and uncontested, the facts are undisputed.  The very fact that people in this committee dispute the facts make them disputed facts not undisputed facts.  The problem that we're seeing here is when you even get to the articles themselves.  Abuse of power, when you look at these articles and compare them to history, I'm glad the Chairman brought up history, because I would not write history.  It will be written for us at a later time.  Because they will not always be the majority as he talked about, this President not always being President.  I do believe he will be President for five more years. 

But, at this time, there will be a turnover at some point, and what have we had?  This is the articles that we wrote?  After all these hearings and all these grand pronouncements, and all these thoughts of crimes in plain sight, we get abuse of power, with no dates on, this is the abuse?  It`s just generic, vague statements? 

You know why I believe that is, is because the Democrats can`t come up with the argument for it.  They don`t have the who knew it and when they knew it.  All they have is it, well, here, members.  We`re going to give you abuse of power.  You go home, pick something you don`t like about the president, there`s your abuse of power. 

This is as much about political expediency as it is anything else.  And that should never be in articles of impeachment.  And anybody to defend that is treading on very thin ice.

And then obstruction of Congress.  The only obstruction we have seen here is obstruction from Chairman Schiff of this investigation.  He did not turn off the documents, as he was supposed to.  We get those last Saturday in a massive document dump, after we have already had a hearing, after we had another getting -- ready for another hearing in which we were supposed to lay out the report. 

And tonight, tonight, he sends a letter of classified information that has been classified over to us tonight.  Don`t think for a second, American public, that this majority wants you to find the truth.  The obstruction has only occurred from Adam Schiff and the HPSCI and the majority keeping people from actually trying to find the truth. 

That`s the only obstruction here.  So, why don`t we just have that as an obstruction charge?  But it would be against Adam Schiff and the majority, not the president. 

Two articles, like that, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress?  In 70-something days, the only abuse of power here is the majority racing the fastest they have ever had the clock and the calendar determining what impeachment looks like.

  That`s the abuse of power, as Professor Turley said.

But, before I finish, I cannot stop without this.  The real legacy of this impeachment hearing will not be the removal of Donald Trump as president.  In fact, if anything, they see the majority for what they are, on a three- year vendetta to get someone that they couldn`t beat, and they`re desperate to do it before he beats them again next year. 

Here`s the real damage.  It is the institutional damage to this body.  It`s the institutional damage to getting information, even after hearings started, from not having the rules followed, for having this committee, as the chairman warned us about 20 years ago, when he said this great committee, the Judiciary Committee, should never accept a report from someone else without verifying and having hearings to make sure it was there, unless, as the chairman said, we become a rubber stamp. 

I don`t know about you, but I`m not a rubber stamp.  And I don`t like what I have been forced to do, sit here, be lectured to by law professors and a staff that does not wear a pin telling us what`s relevant or not. 

We`re a rubber stamp of the worst kind, because we didn`t even try to make a point.

The minority hearing day, which, by the way, get ready.  We will talk about this more.  We`re going to talk about it some tonight, and we will get it shot down tomorrow.  And Rules Committee will take care of it.

But for reporters and for media and people who`ve watched this body and the institution that I have loved all of my life and watched it since I was an intern up here being destroyed day after day, if the minority has no rights -- and, one day, this majority will be back in the minority.  And they will be crying and screaming for minority rights to be upheld. 

And I will just point back to 2019 and say, this is the year you put a dagger in minority rights.  Justify -- the most basic obligations of this committee have been overrun. 

So, tonight, we have experienced -- we`re in December.  After a year of trashing this institution, a year of trying to trash this administration and this president, we come up with abuse of power and can`t define it?

We come up with obstruction of Congress after 72 two days?  I know they`re desperate.  You know how I know it?  Adam Schiff`s own words yesterday.  We can`t go to court.  That would take too long.  An election is coming. 

Let me finish the last part of the sentence, as he liked to put words into President Trump`s mouth when he faked the call transcript.  No, Adam, what you need to continue to say is, we can`t beat him next year.  The only thing we need is a 30-second commercial saying, we impeached him. 

That`s the wrong reason to impeach somebody.  And the American people are seeing through this.  But, at the end of the day, my heart breaks for a committee that has trashed this institution, and this is where we are now. 

With that, I yield back. 

MATTHEWS:  We`re going to continue monitoring tonight`s House Judiciary Committee.

And more, I`m joined by -- for more, I`m joined by Robert Costa, of course, who is the "Washington Post" national political reporter, and Nadeam Elshami, who was former chief of staff to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Joyce Vance, of course, former U.S. attorney D.C., and NBC correspondent Geoff Bennett, who we heard from, and also historian -- presidential historian Jon Meacham, my friend.  He`s also available to us tonight. 

So, let`s go around the room.

And I will look at -- I will take my -- as the chairman says, I`m going to take five minutes for myself, actually about a minute. 

It seems to me that we have reached the point of political know-how at this point.

I want to start with Nadeam.

Political know-how, meaning, this is -- the die has been cast.  There`s going to be articles of impeachment.  They`re going to come out of this committee probably tomorrow.  There will be a vote probably next week, before Christmas.  We know that.

And they will be what they say, beautifully written articles, I think, very economically written, crisply, almost constitutional language, right.

That game of the -- name of the game, I think, is, Nancy Pelosi wants to come out of this with 230 votes.  She went in with 232, maybe one or two.  But if she can bring an impeachment charge against the president, two of them, with the strong Democratic support, 232, say, is what the number she got when she started here with the resolution, she`s a winner. 

NADEAM ELSHAMI, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO NANCY PELOSI:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  And that`s why she wants just two, and she wants it overwhelming unity, so it`s clear, crystal, obvious that these guys believe that the other guy, the president, is wrong. 

ELSHAMI:  And this process was designed just for that, to come up with the best articles that would resonate with the American people, that members could take home and say, look, I voted for articles of impeachment. 

And these are the two articles, because the president of the United States decided to talk to another foreign entity to interfere in the election. 

And, definitely, this is something that`s going to take place over the next two weeks, two months, six months, until the election.

MATTHEWS:  I think the speaker separated, in biblical language, from the -- wheat from the chaff. 

She said, the wheat here, the good stuff, is abuse of power, because we know what he did with Zelensky.  And we knew that it was a -- it was compromising national security.  And national security works in the suburbs, because the people that get up in the morning -- like big people - - they get up in the morning, the women and the men, read the paper.

They know what`s going on, whether it`s "The Inquirer," it`s "The New York Times," or whatever it is.  They know what`s going on.  And they know national security is what counts when you`re a congressperson.  She picked the right spot to beat Trump with.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERT COSTA, "THE WASHINGTON POST":  I was with the president yesterday in Pennsylvania.  He`s stoking that base in Western Pennsylvania. 

But if the Democrats want to hold on to the Philly suburbs and suburbs like it across the country, they`re trying to make this argument on national security. 

And you see Speaker Pelosi is trying to arm her own members.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

COSTA:  Giving them narrow, focused articles on impeachment, at the same time giving them an economic point to talk about with the USMCA. 

This is not just Speaker Pelosi, as the head of the Democratic Party.  This is Speaker Pelosi with her Baltimore roots, a political tactician, saying to her chairmen:  I`m in control.  We`re going to keep this House majority. 

MATTHEWS:  That`s well said.

Let me go to Joyce on this. 

We have been talking politics, but join in here.  It isn`t just the law now.  It`s how the speaker calls it.  And does she call it right and victoriously?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  You know, this is the real intersection of the law and politics.

And I think one of the truisms of the last couple of years of politics is that anyone who questions Nancy Pelosi ultimately comes to see that she is strategically brilliant.  I think she`s very focused here. 

I listened to Representative Collins` complaints about these articles of impeachment, and I don`t think that they serve him very well, because there are specifics in article one.  This is solicitation of a foreign country for helping an election.  This is bribery and extortion and, ultimately, a conspiracy by the president to do both of those things. 

But the real telling point where Nancy Pelosi`s strategy will come through is that, when Collins and his colleagues begin to complain about the damage done to their body, done to Congress by these proceedings, Democrats need only refer to article two, which lays out that the president, in an unprecedented fashion, has categorically declined to engage in a constitutionally mandated process for oversight of the presidency. 

It`s going to be very difficult for Republicans to simultaneously complain about the process and avoid the impact that the American people will see from that second article. 

MATTHEWS:  The history is being made tonight. 

And, Jon, I want to try -- talk to you about one idea about focus.  The old line was, don`t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.  That`s pretty close range.

It seems to me that Pelosi has figured out, after all the months of haggling with the left, and the center against the left, the center did not want to impeach.  The right -- the left did.  Finally, she found an opportunity for close engagement with Trump on an issue where he was questioning -- well, you could argue he`s betraying the national trust. 

JON MEACHAM, NBC NEWS HISTORIAN:  Yes, this is Lexington and Concord for her.  She made a very carefully calibrated decision. 

But I don`t want to just talk about it, about the speaker`s decision, in raw political terms.  I think, at some point, we have to take people at their word.

And I think the Democrats -- the ranking member made fun of -- or attacked the chairman for this, but this is a solemn moment.  It is difficult.  We have only -- we do once every 60 years in this country, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and varying degrees of seriousness, varying degrees of political divisiveness. 

But it`s a very important moment.  And it was the ultimate check put on the executive.  One of the things that is striking -- and so I think the speaker has done a wonderful job, not simply tactically, but strategically, in defense of the Constitution, because one of the things that I think Republicans some day, if they ever choose to have a reckoning about this, will have to figure out is, how did they become the monarchical party? 

How did they become monarchists?  Because that`s basically what they`re arguing, is that the president is acting in a kingly fashion, and that`s OK. 

And you know what? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

MEACHAM:  We have been fighting over this for 242 years, right?  I mean, this is as if the High Federalists are back somehow.

And you and I have talked about it before, but one of Thomas Paine`s most important insights in common sense, arguably the most important thing originally rendered in English in terms of our revolution, he said, people ask, where is the king of America?  The king of America is above where the law is. 

And it is about the law, not simply about the man.  Whether the -- whether the members and the senators are going to be able to hear that music, I don`t know. 

But here`s hoping they do.

MATTHEWS:  Well, -- well, everybody -- Robert, I want to start with you. 

I think that the language in the articles are beautifully done, as I said, economically written.  And they get to the point.  And I do think separating the wheat from the chaff is very important.  She did not go after emoluments.  Nobody`s going to pile -- except for the far left, nobody`s going to kick this guy out of office because he made some money down at the hotel down on Pennsylvania Avenue.

It`s not going to happen.  So I do think it`s solemn, but it`s also political.  She picked the right spot -- the right spot for Max Rose of Staten Island and Madeleine Dean of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and all these people.

And she may have even gotten Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County to vote for this day, because this is, to me, a very good thing to vote for.  You`re voting to defend the interests of this country against a president who didn`t defend those interests. 

COSTA:  You made the case that abuse of power helps people running in the suburbs to talk about the issue of national security.

Give some attention as well to this article the impeachment on obstruction of Congress.  As a reporter, this is the culmination of two-and-a-half years of frustrations among House Democrats that this White House, subpoena after subpoena, says no.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

COSTA:  Whether it`s an agency, a department, or the impeachment inquiry, they are so frustrated that their branch doesn`t legislate anymore. 

And when it comes to their other duty of oversight, they can`t even do that. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

The problem there, Joyce, it seems to me, is the failure of the three branches of government to work together.  Back in Nixon`s day -- it wasn`t his day, but it was the end of his day -- the courts delivered the tapes, the incriminating June 23 tapes, to the Congress in time for them to impeach the president.

This time around, it looks like the courts are working to slow the whole thing down, to the point where they have almost become irrelevant. 

VANCE:  You know, that`s been one of the real frustrations here. 

We heard that from Congressman Schiff yesterday, a little bit of an echo of that this evening, this notion that the courts have not done what, clearly, for anyone who reads the law, sees the need to do, which is to force these witnesses to testify. 

Maybe they have some limited executive privilege.  But these folks that were around the president who are material fact witnesses all need to be in front of Congress now.  They should have been in front of Bob Mueller, and the courts are dragging their feet. 

MATTHEWS:  And why?  How can they get -- why -- what is the motivation of these judges not to render expeditious decisions, so they can be useful to the republic? 

Why do they think they can wait, what, eight months for the McGahn decision?  It`s like they think they`re on a death row situation, where they have got to exhaust every potential appeal.  Is that what`s going on here? 

VANCE:  You know, I think it`s easy to cast blame here, but most of the blame just belongs with the process. 

We have rules involved in litigating that, for instance, give parties 30 days to respond, and then another 30 days.  And the courts, for whatever reason, have typically complied with those rules.  We have seen some expedited proceedings. 

But, as you point out, Chris, there are processes, for instance, in capital cases, in death penalty cases, where courts render decisions very quickly.  Everybody saw this coming.  These matters could have been briefed more quickly.  The Supreme Court could have, in essence,sent the message that it wanted them sped on the way. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

VANCE:  And, in essence, what we`re seeing is this death by 1,000 cuts with no decisions. 

MATTHEWS:  And that`s why I think the president`s defenders are saying, let`s wait for the courts, because that means death of this whole operation. 

Thank you so much, Robert Costa, Nadeam Elshami, Joyce Vance.  Thank you so much, Geoff Bennett, of course, and historian Jon Meacham.

Coming up, much more on tonight`s impeachment debate in the House Judiciary Committee.

Plus, the DOJ`s inspector general presents his report on the origins of the Mueller probe to Congress. 

Senator Richard Blumenthal is going to join us next.  He`s coming here in a minute.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Last night, during his rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania, President Trump used the Justice Department inspector general`s report to slam the investigation into his 2016 campaign and to denounce some of the men and women who serve in the FBI.  And he calls FBI employees or officers scum.  That`s his word. 

Let`s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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 have hurt people.  They have destroyed the lives of people that were great people, that are still great people.  Their lives have been destroyed by scum, OK, by scum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that crowd wasn`t reacting to that.  And good for them. 

Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, was asked if any of that was true. 

Here`s what he said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  Well, is there any evidence that you found that the FBI tried to overthrow the presidency? 

MICHAEL HOROWITZ, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INSPECTOR GENERAL:  No.

BLUMENTHAL:  Did you find any evidence that the FBI tapped the phones at Trump Tower? 

HOROWITZ:  No. 

BLUMENTHAL:  Did you find evidence that the FBI put spies in the Trump campaign?

HOROWITZ:  No, we did not find evidence that the FBI sought to place confidential human sources inside the campaign. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut. 

You just saw him, by the way, of course, in that hearing.

And I`m joined also by Cynthia Schnedar, former deputy inspector general at the Justice Department himself.

Thank you.  You`re a good witness to have tonight. 

Senator, the president -- I know you have to be particular in talking to people like Mr. Horowitz who`s a good public servant, but this president`s trashing of every American institution is just his pattern now.  They`re all scum, including Republicans who don`t like him. 

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  That`s absolutely right, Chris.  And I specifically asked Mr. Horowitz, do you agree with the characterization of our courageous and dedicated FBI as scum, and he said no. 

But the point here is that the president has disparaged and demeaned law enforcement generally.  And he is absolutely wrong when he says that it`s destroyed lives.  In fact, three of the four people who were involved in the investigation have been convicted. 

MATTHEWS:  Wow.  Let me go to Cynthia on this because the question -- I watched the politics today and I watched Republican members of the Congress and Senate mostly the Senate today, just acting like a report said the absolute opposite of what it said.  It said there was no conspiracy here by the FBI to bring down the Trump campaign, to execute a coup.  There was none of that, and yet they kept saying it over and over again as if they were speaking for the report of Michael Horowitz, the inspector general? 

CYNTHIA SCHNEDAR, FORMER DOJ DEPUTY INSPECTOR GENERAL:  That`s right.  And I think that`s why it`s so important we have this function of the inspector general, which is an independent entity.  And we have in Michael Horowitz, a person who`s known to be independent and appointed before by both Republican and Democratic administrations to issue a report to call the shots like they are so that no matter what people call it, you have the written words of the report that speak for itself and you have Mr. Horowitz`s testimony. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Senator, because we hadn`t you on in a while.  I missed you.

So, tell me, what do you think is going on in the Senate when we get over there?  There`s going to be a trial.  It looks like it`s going to be in the beginning in January.  It`s going to be the length of the month basically.  What`s it going to look like? 

BLUMENTHAL:  Well, first, Chris, this inspector general report is profoundly important because it absolutely demolishes all of the conspiracy theories, the claims about a right wing state cabal, a deep state coup and overthrowing the president.  And I think what`s going to happen here is that we`re going to continue to chip away and decimate these kinds of distractions and conspiracy theories that are the ultimate resort of the Republicans, and they are dangerous, profoundly dangerous to our national security. 

One point that the article of impeachment makes so cogently and powerfully is that this president is a continuing threat to our Democratic institution, particularly our elections, and to our national security around the globe and his willingness to give away our national interests to his personal benefit. 

MATTHEWS:  So what do you think the Senate will do when they try him? 

BLUMENTHAL:  I think that a number of my colleagues, and I would put the number between 1 and 10 will side with us on the procedural issues, which will enable us to present additional witnesses and documents.  And I think a number of them will look in the mirror and have some regards for the judgment of history, which will haunt them if they vote against impeachment and come our way.  But, first, we need to win on the procedural issue, and that`s where the fight will begin as soon as early January. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you give a high end of who would vote for a conviction of Republicans? 

BLUMENTHAL:  I would give the high end probably 5 to 10. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

BLUMENTHAL:  I think that`s a realistic number.  But -- and I want to emphasize the but -- we need to keep in mind what`s unpredictable here.  Remember the Watergate case where the Nixon tapes emerged seemingly by chance through Alex Butterfield`s testimony that was completely unanticipated at the beginning.  And the Nixon wall cracked.  And the tapes were produced, and that was the end of his presidency. 

So, never underestimate the possibility of unpredicted evidence.  And so I think that 1 to 10 number may increase as we see more of the evidence.  It is a very, very fluid situation. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think there`s any reasonable hope that Chief Justice John Roberts who will be the presiding judge in the Senate trial might require the presence of a decisive witness? 

BLUMENTHAL:  I think there is a very good chance that Chief Justice John Roberts who presides will delegate a lot of these decisions about the witnesses to a majority vote.  So we will need some Republicans to come our way on those procedural votes.  But I think there are a number of colleagues, some facing tough re-election challenges in states where they won as Republicans and others perhaps retiring and maybe some who actually demonstrate conscience and conviction and real patriotism, dedicated to country who will say this vote is for the history books.  This one is where history will haunt us and the electorate will haunt us if we seem to be undoing partisan. 

So, I would say nothing is impossible, and we should let none of them off the hook. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s great to have you on, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Cynthia Schnedar, thank you.  We`ll have more for you next time. 

SCHNEDAR:  OK.

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, as the historic impeachment investigation moves forward, right now, members of the Judiciary Committee as we`re watching now are making the their final case for or against the impeachment of President Trump. 

And that`s next here on HARDBALL.  You`re watching it. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, this hour, the House Judiciary Committee as I said is officially beginning its debate of the articles of impeachment against President Trump.  Pretty historic stuff, which they could vote on we expect within the day, within the next 24 hours now. 

Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California cited Richard Nixon`s impeachment in her call for Republicans to consider the evidence over party loyalty. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA):  One of my most vivid memories of the 1974 impeachment was Representative Chuck Wiggins, one of the most vigorous defenders of President Nixon when he realized that Nixon had lied to him.  I`ve been waiting for Republican members here to have their Chuck Wiggins moment, but it seems like we live in an alternate reality where as one columnist recently said, if it swims and quacks like a duck, it`s a piano.  It`s understandable that Republicans feel loyalty to the leader of their party.  But loyalty to our country and our Constitution must be greater. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I`ll joined by MSNBC contributor Howard Fineman. 

Howard, let`s take a look back at some footage from the 1974 House Judiciary Committee hearings on impeachment.  Here`s what they were writing back then. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THEN-REP. LAWRENCE HOGAN (R-MD), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  And I cannot in good conscience turn away from the evidence of evil that is to me so clear and compelling. 

THEN-REP. ROBERT MCCLORY (R-IL), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Watergate is a serious matter.  Many in and out of the White House have been involved in this tragic episode. 

THEN-REP. M. CALDWLL BUTLER (R-VA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  We Republicans have campaigned against corruption and misconduct in the administration of the government of the United States by the other party.  But Watergate is our shame. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Howard, those are Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee not a million years ago, 1974, voting articles of impeachment against their co-partisan Republican president.  And look at what`s happening tonight. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  It`s a different political world. 

MATTHEWS:  What about tonight?  You watched Doug Collins tonight making fun -- I know the House rules.  You`re not supposed to make fun of the motivations of another member, whatever the party.  Making fun and just saying you`re a liar basically. 

FINEMAN:  Yes, and also not dealing with any issue of substance at all.  Smearing, calling names, creating scary figures like Adam Schiff, you know, who won`t come out of -- 

MATTHEWS:  Shifty Schiff.

FINEMAN:  Shifty Schiff.

MATTHEWS:   He`s hiding behind it.

FINEMAN:  He won`t come out of hiding.  You know, this is all childish -- childish stuff, and frankly I had just gotten out of journalism school at the time of Watergate, and I remember that and I know the solemnity of the Clinton trial which I covered and so on for "Newsweek". 

This was childish behavior on the part of the Republicans.  They`ve been made into children by Donald Trump, because of the tribalism of Trump`s theory of government.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  And the fact that as you pointed out early in the show, the Trump administration has stonewalled and sneered at every attempt at subpoenas or investigation of his administration. 

MATTHEWS:  Here`s a guy.  They ought to put a big sign on.  I always say to our producers always identify the witness, those people ought to know who`s talked with, a journalist, a straight journalist like you, or somebody with political background. 

Here`s Louie Gohmert.  You know what his background is?  He is a birther.  He`s a guy that only knew one thing about it, claimed Obama was born somewhere in Kenya and his white mother went over there to have him and just so she could claim and run for president.  A nut.  He`s a nut.

FINEMAN:  Chris, when I said that we`re in a different political world, this is an era of emotion and accusation.  When the Nixon trial -- when the Nixon impeachment process was under way the members of Congress who were proud at least to have a veneer if not a deep dedication to the processes of the Constitution and to rule of law. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FINEMAN:  Donald Trump has sneered his entire life at the rule of law.  He views it as a fungible, manipulatable thing that he learned how to do back in New York in the real estate business, and that has given cover to every --

MATTHEWS:  How did he know these guys were a Puppetoons?  How did he know that every one of these guys would act like wound up puppets? 

FINEMAN:  Here`s Donald Trump`s main gift.  He smells weakness and fear in anybody in the room with him.  He took one look at the Republican establishment when he was busy kicking in the door and saw they were all weak and without moral compass. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  And he just kicked the door down, and he`s ruled them ever since, and he`s going to rule them with fear until the very end. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, he called them Little Marco, low energy Jeb, he went to everyone --

FINEMAN:  He looked at the Republican Party establishment and realized, look -- I covered Reagan, Reagan had ideas.  The Republican conservative movement was a real and important thing.  But by the time Trump was knocking on the door, it had completely lost its way and he boarded an empty ship. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Do you think when they have future Republican conventions 10, 20 years from now they`ll have big pictures up on the wall? 

FINEMAN:  I have no idea if there is a Republican Party. 

MATTHEWS:  I thank you, Howard, a profound answer.

Up next, what Donald Trump told me about impeachment 20 years ago on HARDBALL when he was just a businessman. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  In 1998, in the midst of the Clinton impeachment, I asked businessman Donald Trump what his advice would be to President Bill Clinton on impeachment.  His first answer was: take the fifth.  And the second answer he gave was: go on offense. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think he could have gotten away with a complete mea culpa in January when he decided to cover it up?  Do you think at that moment, he could have said, I`m going to throw all my money on the table, the American people like me, they`re going to buy this? 

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESSMAN:  Well, I think he probably couldn`t do any worse, I don`t think he could do worse.  I think his lawyers, and in particular the lawyer I won`t mention names but representing with respect to Paula Jones I think did a terrible job. 

I`m not even sure that he shouldn`t have just gone and taken the Fifth Amendment and said, look, I don`t get along with this man, Starr, he`s after me, he`s a Republican, he`s this and that, and, you know, just taken the Fifth Amendment.  That`s a terrible thing for a president to take the Fifth Amendment, but he probably should have done it. 

MATTHEWS:  You basically have sort of Old Testament view of this thing.

TRUMP:  I do.

MATTHEWS:  Tell us about it.

TRUMP:  Go after your enemies.  I mean, they`re after you, go after your enemies.  I think Clinton is probably too nice a guy in a certain respect.  I think that`s one of the things that happened. 

I really believe he is a nice guy.

MATTHEWS:  That he wants to be liked too much? 

TRUMP:  Maybe but I don`t think he`s going after people the way he should. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe Trump was telling us less about Clinton back then than he was revealing about himself, Donald Trump. 

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END