ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: We did have fun and we needed that. Let me also show you one more thing you might want to see, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree live right here in New York City. We wish you Happy Holidays to you and yours. I`ll be back here 6:00 p.m. Eastern Monday night.
But don`t go anywhere. I`m going to be on THE LAST WORD tonight filling in for Lawrence at 10:00. And right now, it`s HARDBALL with Chris Matthews.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Impeachment, our greatest liberty. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
For just the fourth time in history, a House committee today passed articles of impeachment against an American president. The Judiciary Committee has now triggered the greatest constitutional check that a president can face, advancing two articles against President Donald Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): The question now is on Article I of the resolution, impeaching President Donald J. Trump for abusing his powers. The clerk will call the roll.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman, there are 23 ayes and 17 nos.
NADLER: The article is agreed to.
The question now is on Article II of the resolution, impeaching President Donald J. Trump for obstructing Congress. The clerk will call the roll.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chairman, there are 23 ayes and and 17 nos.
NADLER: The article is agreed to. The resolution that`s amended and it`s ordered and reported favorably to the House.
MATTHEWS: Well, the party line vote paves the way for a vote by the full House next week, likely on Wednesday, to make President Trump the third president impeached by the entire House of Representatives. The vote to report articles of impeachment by the same committee caused Richard Nixon to resign before the full House had a chance to vote.
And this afternoon, appearing alongside the president of Paraguay, President Trump blasted the vote by the House committee and by the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s a witch hunt, it`s a sham, it`s a hoax. Nothing was done wrong. Zero was done wrong.
I got to see quite a bit of it yesterday. And I watched these Democrats on the committee make fools out of themselves, absolute fools out of themselves.
To use the power of impeachment on this nonsense is an embarrassment to this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the president went onto argue that impeachment is helping him politically. But The New York Times reports that behind the scenes, quote, he nurses resentment over the red mark about to be tattooed on his page in the history books as only the third president in American history to be impeached. No matter what some of us critics say, the advisers said he generally does not want to be impeached, viewing it as a personal humiliation. Adding, even in private, he accepts no blame and expresses no regret, but he rails against the enemies he sees all around him.
Meanwhile, impeachment continues to move forward after the Judiciary Committee vote today. The House Rules Committee announced a meeting for next Tuesday to establish procedures setting the terms for the debate before the full House of Representatives votes.
For more, I`m joined by NBC News Digital National Political Reporter Jonathan Allen, Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor, Victoria Nourse, Director of the Center of Congressional Studies at Georgetown Law School, she was chief counsel to Vice President Joe Biden from 2015 to 2016, and Charlie Sykes, Editor at Large for The Bulwark.
Charlie, I guess the first question is about the historic nature of what happened today and whether it will withstand the terrors of history. Will it look as good 20, 30 years from now, as it to those in the Democratic, especially, and those who supported the action view it today, these articles of impeachment?
CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK: Well, I think that history -- one of the questions history will have is all of the abuses and crimes for which Donald Trump was not impeached. And I also think the verdict will depend in large part about what happens in the Senate. You know, is the Senate going to have a full and fair trial? Is it going to be a sham trial? Mitch McConnell`s comments certainly suggest that it is, in fact, rigged. So I think that this is something that I think the Democrats, moving ahead quickly, need to keep in mind.
And, Chris, just remember, they don`t have to immediately message this over to the United States Senate. And, in fact, I think in light of Mitch McConnell`s, basically, his pledge or his, you know, admission that he intends to coordinate with the White House, I think the Democrats might want to say that you know what, until we have 51 senators who are willing to commit to not go along with Mitch McConnell`s rigging plans, maybe we will sit on this, we will continue the investigation because this is ongoing crime scene.
MATTHEWS: How much do you want to bet on that?
SYKES: I don`t know. I`m just trying to encourage --
MATTHEWS: Charlie, how much do you want to bet on that? I`m serious. Are you seriously betting that the speaker of the House will not send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate? You want to bet on that?
SYKES: No, I would not want to bet on that. I used to having advice ignored.
MATTHEWS: Why did you say it? Do you believe it?
SYKES: Because I think it`s something to think about. Because I think that what Mitch McConnell said yesterday was extraordinary. And I think that we need to pause and recognize this is a historic moment. It is a grave constitutional requirement. And what Mitch McConnell is essentially saying is I`m going to turn this into a joke. And I think the Democrats need to be very concerned about if in fact this does take place.
Will Donald Trump be emboldened and empowered to be even more abusive if he thinks he is exonerated? Because once you`ve taken your shot and you have failed to get the shot, Donald Trump is going to feel absolutely unaccountable knowing there will be no consequences, and I think the Democrats need to think through that plan B.
MATTHEWS: OK. The reason I challenged you so directly is that I`ve watched Pelosi the last several months. She`s acted very conservatively and very cautiously about the way she`s going about this. And if she did something like that, it would be walking out on the plank and letting the Republicans decide how they`re going to portray that and they would portray this probably a refusal to carry out her duty and send those articles over to the Senate. That would be very vulnerable for her to take that position. I really look at it that way. That`s why I challenged you so brutally, if you will.
Let me go back to John on another question, and this is the question which is the cutter. Will this affect the 2020 election, what happened today, that he was called -- when he will be called out next year, next week? When he is impeached next week, it is all likely to going happen by a partisan vote. What effect would the effect that have on the election next year, the impeachment of Donald Trump?
JONATHAN ALLEN, MSNBC DIGITAL NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, I think there are two things that are likely to happen. Number one, he gets the aggrievement. He gets what he always like to do, which is paint himself as a victim and then say he was exonerated by the Senate. We`ve heard that before. He`s going to add that to the arsenal of the Democrats and Bureaucratic state and everybody is against me.
The new piece of this --
MATTHEWS: Every mob leader that walks out on the courthouse steps after being acquitted says he was exonerated. Not just that he beat the judge, he`s exonerated, he`s innocent.
ALLEN: But the new piece on this, Chris, is the House of Representatives, a majority of the House of Representatives will have impeached him. And when you line up what they are going to impeachment on against what Bill Clinton, against what Andrew Johnson did, against what Richard Nixon did, there is no comparison. Orders of magnitude --
MATTHEWS: OK. Back to the question to Paul, which I know this is speculative. Between now and next November, will this carry the weight history against the president?
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So, certainly, the act of impeachment by the House will. History will understand that the House had no choice given the president`s bad acts and corruption. The Senate is a different question. If the Senate fails to remove the president from office, that will go down as a day that our democracy took a giant step backwards.
Mr. Trump, if he`s exonerated, he`s not a good follower of the rule of law, but he`s a quick study with what he can get away with. We know that the day after Mueller testified before Congress, and Trump understood there wouldn`t be any legal consequences for his exploits in Russia, the day after Trump picks up the phone, calls the president of Ukraine, I need you to do us a favor though.
So the day after the Senate fails to remove the president from office, what`s to stop him from calling Russia and China? I`ve got a tough election coming up, how can you help us?
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Victoria. You know, when Nixon was caught, he had shame and he said I gave them the sword. I gave them a sword and they thrust it in with relish. He admitted, he gave them because of his behavior in trying to cover up the Watergate break-in, he gave his political enemies, rivals, a chance to kill him politically, and they did.
VICTORIA NOURSE, DIRECTOR OF CENTER ON CONGRESSIONAL STUDIES, GEORGETOWN LAW SCHOOL: Well, this is what`s so extraordinary about this president. He does not seem to have the same level of shaming that accompanies other Republicans.
MATTHEWS: Will that save him, shamelessness?
NOURSE: No, I don`t think it is going to save him. I think he could have had this done in a minute if he had acted like Ronald Reagan, who had his own investigation and then buried it. There are lots of ways you can handle these scandals and he has just relished the fact he is going to put his thumb in the nose of all our Democratic processes.
And, ultimately, I don`t think that`s to his benefit because there are rule of law Republicans out there who understand that this is about our election system and this is about --
MATTHEWS: Who do you think will challenge him on the floor when we come back after the holidays? Who`s going to -- which Republican senator is going to do what you just said?
NOURSE: Mitt Romney.
MATTHEWS: Do you expect that?
NOURSE: I hope so.
MATTHEWS: You want to bet? Do you think he`ll go with it? Because I do wonder about these speculations mean anything. We keep hoping for the Republicans to do something interesting, and they`re all in line. I don`t see anybody breaking -- Murkowski, I could see, showing some guts. At least one, I think, has guts.
ALLEN: One thing you don`t have to speculate is that 9 million or so Americans voted for House Democrats and House Republicans in the mid-term elections. They voted to put this check on Donald Trump. They understood that he might be impeached for some of his activity, and this is the result. And when they vote for this on the House floor next time, that is a majority of the American people, the people representing a majority.
Republicans like to talk about coastal elites. A majority of the representatives of the American people are going to impeach him and recommend to the Senate that he be removed from office and not allowed to hold the office of public trust again. That is not a small thing. We see the reporting that he feels humiliated by this. People don`t feel humiliated if they feel they got railroaded.
BUTLER: Although the abuse of Congress article is about how the president totally rejects the idea that he should be checked by Congress. And, again, if he is not removed from office, the message will be that`s OK. He does not have to follow the Constitution and be limited by this system of checks and balances, separations of power.
MATTHEWS: Charlie, if this were some sort of parole border or something, this guy is not going to apologize. He`s not going to confess. This guy says I`m right and you guys screwed me, that`s his whole thing, aggrievement.
SYKES: Yes, that`s exactly right. And I think Paul makes the important point here is like what is a post-impeachment Donald Trump is going to be like, what will his behavior be?
I guess my main point is that if in fact you believe, and I do, that Donald Trump is an existential threat, then we ought to treat him like that, and Democrats need to treat him like that. Don`t just check the box. Don`t just look to move the calendar, because this threat is going to go on long after there is that vote.
And by the way, I think that they need to push back hard against the argument that failure to convict means that he`s exonerated. It just means he is not going to be removed.
The one thing of hope that I think we need to maybe hold out a little bit of hope for is that maybe some of those Republican senators, like Murkowski, Collins, Cory Gardner, maybe Joni Ernst, will stand up to Mitch McConnell and say, look, we are not going to provide you the votes to rig this trial to turn this thing into a circus. If they would at least commit a to having an open honest search for the truth, in which you get documents and important testimony, I think that that would be at least a short-term win, and I think there`d be a lot of pressure on them right now to say, are you going along with what Mitch McConnell is threatening to do?
MATTHEWS: Let`s go around the table here. But, again, it`s speculation and it`s fair enough. You have to put some money behind you sometimes, Charlie, but let`s take a look at this.
First of all, how many Democrats do you think will not vote to impeach next Wednesday, Charlie, in the House Democrats?
SYKES: Fewer than six.
ALLEN: I`m with Charlie.
BUTLER: I agree.
MATTHEWS: OK. How many Republicans are likely to join with the Democrats in voting to convict and remove from office in the U.S. Senate?
BUTLER: One maybe.
MATTHEWS: Charlie, how many do you think?
SYKES: I think one, maybe two.
MATTHEWS: I think that`s about right. That averages out to about one, I would say. We`re all looking -- I know we`re all looking at Mitt Romney. I think we`re looking at -- I`m looking at Murkowski because she had the guts to take on a primary challenger, defeat -- I mean, lose the challenge, come back and win the general election. That says bulletproof to me. I think that woman has guts more than Mitt. Mitt likes to be -- he likes flirt with greatness. He never gets there.
Meanwhile, yesterday`s marathon debate over the articles of impeachment came as Republicans tried to minimize the president`s misconduct, dragging the debate well into the night with amendments to gut the resolution. All of them, by the way, failed -- strike the last word, didn`t go any further than that. They didn`t strike the last word. Their antics were met with resistance from their colleagues across the aisle. The decision by Chairman Jerry Nadler to table the vote until this morning left Republicans at least, on the face of things, infuriated, publicly infuriated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA): There was no consulting from the ranking member on your schedule for tomorrow, in which you just blow up schedules for everyone. You chose not to consult the ranking member on a schedule issuing of this magnitude.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So typical.
COLLINS: This is the kangaroo court that we`re talking about.
REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): Stalin-esque and --
COLLIN: Not even consult.
GOHMERT: Just Stalin-esque.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Jon, is this politics of aggrievement, which was not a dance learned from the occasion last night? They`ve been doing this for years. We`re getting screwed, we was robbed. It`s always this. We`re the white working guy and we`ve been screwed by the illegal immigrants, we was screwed by the rich liberals and media. Everybody is out to get us. This was, to me, a personal demonstration after all these days. Will it work? We were screwed.
ALLEN: Nobody complains in Congress about going home at 11:30 at night. I mean, the complaint is that they have to go home that late. It`s absurd. They would have complained about anything.
MATTHEWS: That guy said -- Doug Collins said -- or somebody -- was it Gohmert?
ALLEN: Let me tell a guy in his district that`s working that late at night.
MATTHEWS: No. What he said it was Stalin-esque to make him come in and -- Joseph Stalin.
ALLEN: It`s absurd.
MATTHEWS: Anybody think it worked? I don`t think so, but he keeps on --
ALLEN: No. Nobody is listening to this --
MATTHEWS: Charlie, does anybody give a darn how late they work or what time they get up in the morning? Iƒ_Tm asking,
SYKES: No. And I don`t think it`s Stalin-esque to make you come in on a Friday morning, and maybe it does in Congress these days. But, look, whatever Jerry Nadler had done, they would have complained about it. Imagine if today they had a vote at midnight, this would have become the talking point, you know, the midnight vote to impeach the president. And I think Jerry Nadler understood that. So he did was let`s do it in broad daylight where the American people can see it, and, again, this is not even a footnote.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Charlie. I completely agree. It would be like spooky at midnight. They met in basements, it was partisan. They met in the dark basements down the (INAUDIBLE). It was all partisan and then they ended up voting at midnight.
Anyway, thank you, Jonathan Allen. Thank you, Paul Butler. Thank you, Victoria Nourse and Charlie Sykes.
Up next, looking ahead to the impeachment trial of President Trump, Mitch McConnell is one of the hundred Senate jurors, so-called. But if this was an actual criminal trial, McConnell would already have been dismissed for bias. He admits he`ll do whatever Trump and his lawyers tell him to do. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Everything I do during this, I`m coordinating with the White House Counsel. There will be no difference between the president`s position and our position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And Rudy Giuliani -- there he is. He`s back, back from Ukraine. He`s at the White House today with his son there and from his latest adventure where he spent the last week digging for political dirt. He reportedly told the president, quote, has more than you can imagine. That`s perfect for Trump.
We`ve got much more to get to tonight. Thank you. Stay with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
As the House inches closer to impeaching President Trump next week, the Senate is preparing for a trial. And the Republican leader over there, Mitch McConnell, told FOX News that there is no daylight between the Republican jurors -- that`s the Republican senators -- and the defendant. That would be the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We will be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with the White House Counsel`s Office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate.
Everything I do during this, I`m coordinating with White House counsel.
There will be no difference between the president`s position and our position as to how to handle this. There is no chance the president is going to be removed from office.
My hope is that there won`t be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who is expected to defend Trump in the Senate trial, was seen leaving McConnell`s office just yesterday.
Isn`t that cute? Ahead of the trial, which has not been scheduled yet, Republicans are debating just how long they want it to last, and who they want to hear from.
According to Politico, Republicans` plan could be, would be to call no witnesses and simply allow House Democrats, and then the president`s attorneys, to make their case before the public. And after that, the Senate would consider calling people either for live testimony or closed- door depositions, probably in committee.
Well, earlier today, when asked if he had a preference, President Trump provided no clear answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will do whatever I want. Look, there is -- we did nothing wrong. So I will do long or short.
I have heard Mitch. I have heard Lindsey. I think they are very much on agreement on some concept. I will do whatever they want to do. It doesn`t matter. I wouldn`t mind a long process, because I`d like to see the whistle-blower, who`s a fraud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by former Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat from Massachusetts -- there you are -- and Ruth Marcus, "Washington Post" deputy editorial page editor and author of the big new book "Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh and the Conservative Takeover."
I like to say to liberals, friends of mine, 7-2. This guy gets back in, 7- 2 Supreme Court. Think about it.
RUTH MARCUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You know what the president says? He likes to say, I will get five. He wants to have five nominees.
MATTHEWS: He will get his seven the way he`s going.
Let me go.
Barney Frank, thank you, sir, for joining us.
The president is supposed to be tried by the Senate, yet the leader that senator, who culls the majority under his huff, is acting like he`s thrown it already, thrown the trial.
BARNEY FRANK (D), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS CONGRESSMAN: No question.
The -- there`s an arrogance there. By the way, when the Clinton impeachment came, that was not that degree of coordination. In fact, the leading senator at the time, or one of them, was Robert Byrd, who ultimately voted not to convict, but was a man who understood the institutional and constitutional requirements of independence.
I remember one case where the White House had a proposal for who was going to be presenting their case. They Senate overruled.
By the way, the Democrats in the House, totally contrary to the Republicans in the House, who`ve been 100 percent supportive of whatever Trump says or does, we were ready to vote to censure Bill Clinton. In committee, we voted to censure him. The Republicans were afraid that censure would pass, instead of impeachment, in the House, and manipulated the goals and defied the rules not to allow it to come up.
So, no, there was -- yes, most Democrats, were skeptical. In the end, no Democrat voted for the impeachment. But they respected the constitutional separation of powers. And the White House was not dictating the strategy.
MATTHEWS: Well, Ruth, you know everything. And you`re a lawyer, as well as a great journalist and editor, but the fact is that we all know that -- I didn`t know this, but there`s an oath that U.S. senators must take as they go into a trial for president for impeachment, removal from office, where they have to strongly swear that they -- that in all things pertaining to the trial, and now pending, which will be -- they will be impartial and giving justice, according to constitutional law.
They will be impartial.
MARCUS: Oh, they are going to do impartial justice.
MATTHEWS: And there we -- I don`t know whether he`s Elmer Fudd or he`s bugs Bunny sometimes. Is he was running from or running the show, Mitch McConnell?
MARCUS: Well, he`s -- it`s interesting that he said that, because he knows what`s coming, and he knows that his oath is to do impartial justice.
And he knows that he`s going to hit -- get some criticism for what he said. But he also knows he has a constituency of one and a constituency of his base that he also needs to satisfy.
MATTHEWS: Why are they so afraid of his guy, of Trump? He`s on trial.
MARCUS: Because -- yes, Trump`s on trial, but Trump`s voters can put McConnell on trial.
He`s the most unpopular senator. He has other senators to worry about. He wants to signal that he`s in line with this guy. But it`s yet another situation where the Senate is not doing its -- its constitutional role.
MATTHEWS: Barney, why do you think the senators aren`t -- why isn`t the president kissing up to the senators? He needs the votes to save himself from impeachment, from conviction.
Why are they acting like the supplicants here to him?
FRANK: Because of the voters.
I understand criticism of people in your profession and my former profession. I often agree with it, but the voters are no bargain either sometimes.
FRANK: And what you have in -- the people who vote in Republican primaries demand slavish obedience to Donald Trump.
And there`s no question there are senators who in a secret ballot who would certainly be much more likely to vote no -- or vote to convict, but they are all afraid of losing their primaries. They think of Jeff Flake. They think of Bob Corker.
The Republican electorate -- and then what happens is, there`s a dynamic. As the Republicans get harder and harder in this kind of far-right Trump fealty, some people leave the Republican Party. So that means the remainder are this hard core.
Now, Mitch McConnell is going to pay a price for it. And, frankly, I think the way this is going to play out, the Republican senators are now making the toughest choice a politician can make between the primary and the final, between making sure you get renominated, and then winning in November.
And I think you have a number of Republican senators -- you mentioned any of them -- who are very much in that bind. And I will tell you, I have a slogan that I am suggesting to the Democratic candidates for the Senate all over the country. You don`t have to live in Kentucky to vote against Mitch McConnell.
He doesn`t get to be majority leader unless Cory Gardner and Susan Collins and Joni Ernst all those other people are reelected. And that`s where I think this is going to play out politically.
MATTHEWS: Well, speak of the devil, I guess.
Here`s Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who tried to House this case against Bill Clinton back in 1998. He called today`s historic vote in the House to -- on the impeachment articles -- quote -- "A sad, ridiculous sham in the United States House of Representatives. This needs to come to a quick end."
Well, in 1998, as a congressman from South Carolina, he had a very different point of view.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Please give us a chance, American people, to document what the president did, actually did. I know what people want to do with this case. I know they want to get it over. I know many of them don`t want the president to be impeached.
But I have got a duty far greater than just getting to the next election. Some House members that said, I will not vote for an impeachment.
Let me tell you, please don`t say that until you understand what you`re voting on. Members of the Senate have said, I understand everything there is about this case, and I won`t vote to impeach the president. Please allow the facts to do the talking. Don`t decide the case before the cases is in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Barney, what do you make of this guy right now?
FRANK: Very little.
I think Lindsey has -- he has been a master of the fake. He was going to do this and he was going to do that. And then he never does. He comes out the right-wing side every time.
I have proposed -- I have asked the Kennedy Library people whether they have a procedure for sending a Profile in Courage Award. Apparently, they don`t.
FRANK: But what you have -- and let me just say, again, let`s be clear what`s going on here.
Yes, you can say there`s a duty to ignore politics. But there is one ineradicable fact here. If you want a question to be decided wholly without political influence, don`t ask 535 politicians to make it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Barney Frank.
And thank you, Ruth Marcus.
MATTHEWS: The name of your book is "Supreme Ambition." It`s all about where Brett Kavanaugh came from and why.
Up next: Rudy Giuliani picked an auspicious day to drop by the White House. There he is. I love this walk with his son there walking across from the Eisenhower Building to the West Wing. What is he up to with the president? Probably the same thing Mitch McConnell is up to with Cipollone.
Was he briefing officials on his recent dirt-digging in the Ukraine, as he said he would? He reportedly told the president that his mission turned -- quote -- "turned up more than you can imagine."
Of course, that`s Rudy`s account.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Just minutes before the House Judiciary Committee held its historic impeachment vote this morning, President Trump`s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was seen entering the White House accompanied by his son Andrew, who works for the administration. There they go under that umbrella.
Giuliani confirmed to NBC that he met with the president today. And the last time we heard from Rudy, he was in Ukraine, of course, this week, gathering evidence to defend, as he said, "my client." That would be the president.
Giuliani described his trip to "The Wall Street Journal" as just having fun. Then he added that, upon his return on Saturday, the president called him as his plane was still taxiing down the runway.
"What you get?" he said Mr. Trump asked.
Quote: "More than you can imagine," Mr. Giuliani said he replied.
For more, I`m joined right now by Ken Dilanian, NBC News correspondent.
Thank you, Ken.
You have got a hell of a beat.
Rudy, he`s paying for all these trips out of something. He travels first- class. He is either in general aviation or first-class. He`s in five-star hotels. He`s bopping around everywhere. Who`s paying for it? What`s he actually delivering? What other clients does he have?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It`s such an interesting story.
There`s not much mystery left about what happened with Ukraine. But there`s a lot of questions about, what is Rudy up to? Well, he`s under criminal investigation. We`re not exactly sure what the scope of that investigation is, but it`s serious.
There have been reports about subpoenas and money laundering and foreign lobbying, and yet he`s traipsing over to Ukraine, meeting with these people. It`s almost like he`s trying to send the message, hey, if I`m doing it, it can`t be wrong, if I`m doing it, and I`m in the open.
But there`s a real sleaze factor here even before the Ukraine stuff. He`s been representing the president for free, but also representing private clients before the administration, a Venezuelan oligarch, a Turkish money launderer, massive conflicts of interest, the kind of stuff Obama never allowed.
And who`s paying the bills is a great question right now. There was -- there`s a transaction where a friend of Rudy`s, a Trump supporter, paid a half-a-million dollar investment to this company called Fraud Guarantee run by Parnas and Fruman, the now indicted associates, and that money went to Rudy.
There`s no evidence that that company ever did anything. So that may be part of what the federal government is investigating. The same office that Rudy used to run is now investigating him.
MATTHEWS: Isn`t his bullseye over there to get some former corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor to say the reason that Joe Biden got me out of my job and bragged about it was because I was investigating his son`s company?
DILANIAN: That is what he wants to say.
But it`s been debunked. And yet, of course, you heard Republican House members bring it up again and again during the impeachment hearings.
MATTHEWS: All they need is some sleazebag over there to say it.
DILANIAN: That`s right.
MATTHEWS: And then they will say, a top official or a former top official, and they have got their talking point for the rest of the election.
DILANIAN: But they have got to be careful, because if they`re paying people to say this stuff -- there`s already been an affidavit from that prosecutor Shokin, who was fired...
DILANIAN: ... that Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova helped perpetuate and hand out to a reporter here.
And the question of money changing hands and all -- how all that happened, I think, is a really interesting one. If these people are being paid to say things, that would be very bad.
Just hours after walking into the White House today, Giuliani was tweeting about the impeachment investigation.
He called impeachment today "a smokescreen for the Obama/Biden administration`s corruption. It will soon be proven."
What`s that? Is that what we were just talking about?
DILANIAN: Yes, exactly. That`s the whole thesis.
I mean, look, everybody acknowledges it was a terrible optic for Joe Biden`s son to be on that board with no experience.
DILANIAN: And that`s a sleazy story. If it was just that they were going after, you can`t really argue with that, although normally a president would have an opposition research firm quite removed from him doing this work, right?
But this whole idea that Biden threatened to withhold a billion dollars in aid if they didn`t fire the prosecutor, I mean, they played that tape during the impeachment hearing. That`s completely misleading.
Biden was doing what the United States government, the E.U., good government groups wanted to do, fire this prosecutor because he was corrupt, because he wasn`t investing Burisma.
We have been talking about what possible circus we could see come January starting probably the 6th, when everybody`s back.
What are the chances we`re going to get Rudy Giuliani basically going through a stop and frisk with the -- with the Senate Democrats and Republicans?
DILANIAN: I cannot imagine that his lawyers would let him testify, because he`s got criminal jeopardy. It would be insane for him to go under oath and talk to Congress about all these dealings.
We don`t even know in terms of money changing hands and who`s paying them. I mean, but you know what? Rudy has done some pretty crazy things in terms of -- like, a lot of his friends and associates are telling him to stop going on television, stop talking to the media, but he`s continuing to do that.
So maybe he will throw caution to the wind and come testify. He seems so sure that he`s -- what he`s doing is right.
MATTHEWS: Which party, the Democrats, who are bringing the charges of impeachment, or the Republicans, who are defending the president actively now, stands to benefit from a Wild Wild West circus this January?
In other words, bringing in Lewandowski did not work for the Democrats. I will give an example.
DILANIAN: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: Bringing in Giuliani may not work for the Democrats. You just never know with these characters. Or Joe Biden could be a sympathetic figure, and the Republicans would wished they never brought him in.
DILANIAN: Right, because they have their organs of propaganda.
Giuliani was over in Ukraine making a television show with one American news network which makes FOX look like PBS. So as long as you have that getting out into the ether, you have got millions of Americans who believe this stuff, no matter what you and I say or the Democrats in Congress say.
DILANIAN: So you`re absolutely right. It could backfire.
Rudy`s a persuasive guy. He gets out in front of the cameras and start saying this stuff, people believe it.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Ken Dilanian.
DILANIAN: You bet. Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Happy holidays, buddy.
Up next: Is Boris Johnson`s landslide victory in the U.K. yesterday a cautionary tale for American Democrats? This is a hot topic around the office today. And that`s next.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We did it. We did it. We pulled it off, didn`t we?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
JOHNSON: We pulled it off. We broke the deadlock. We ended the gridlock. We smashed the roadblock, and in this glorious, glorious pre-breakfast moment, for a new dawn rises on a new day and a new government.
This election means that getting Brexit done is now the irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson celebrating early this morning after his Conservative Party won yesterday`s election in a landslide, giving the party its biggest parliamentary majority since Margaret Thatcher`s victory back in 1987.
Johnson campaigned on a promise to get Brexit done. And his party`s win means the United Kingdom is all but certain to leave the E.U. on January 31.
Conservatives now hold 365 seats in Commons, compared only 203 for Jeremy Corbyn`s Labor Party, which was 59 seats last night. A staggering 61 percent of voters had a negative opinion of Corbyn, according to a recent poll.
He announced, by the way, that he will step down as the party`s leader, the Labor leader, before the next election, which I think has to be within five years, maybe sooner.
As "The Washington Post" put it: "Johnson largely united those who wanted to leave the European Union, while his opponents and those who wish to remain were splintered."
"The Post" also drew a parallel to the U.S. political climate, noting that: "Just like in the United States, there`s been a growing urban-rural divide in the U.K. Like Trump, Johnson capitalized."
Johnson capitalized, like Trump.
Well, today, President Trump congratulated Johnson and hinted it was a good sign for his reelection in 2020, just like Brexit was for him in 2016.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to congratulate Boris Johnson on a terrific victory. I think that might be a harbinger of what`s to come in our country. It was last time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: And it`s not just Republicans who think the British election might be a sign of what`s in store for the U.S. in 2020.
And that`s up next. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
At a fund-raiser last night, Joe Biden use the Conservative landslide in the British elections yesterday to bolster his argument that the Democratic Party shouldn`t move too far to the left.
According to a reporter who was there, Biden predicted headlines that say: "Look what happens when the Labor Party moves so far to the left. It comes up with ideas that are not able to be contained within a rational basis quickly."
"Well, you`re also going to see people" -- this is Biden -- "You`re also going to see people say, my God, Boris Johnson, who is kind of a physical and emotional clone of the president, is able to win?"
I`m joined now by Neera Tanden, a reasonable person, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, and Andrew Sullivan, a contributing editor to "New York Magazine," as Cary Grant would say, New York.
OK, look, let`s not -- let`s just go. Application here. Message from last night. Application in this country coming into the fights for the primaries?
ANDREW SULLIVAN, "NEW YORK MAGAZINE": Absolutely devastating, I think, for where the Democratic Party is, where their intellectuals are.
What they`re proposing next year will result in a -- I think a pretty catastrophic result for them. And I think this has been clear for a while. The reason they lost was because they were ambivalent about Brexit, which means they were an ambivalent....
MATTHEWS: The Laborites -- the Laborites, yes.
SULLIVAN: Yes, they were ambivalent about controlling immigration, which was a huge issue.
And they didn`t want to do what the people had already voted for. And they delayed it. And people were mad that their decision in 2016 was being delayed deliberately and blocked by these parliamentarians.
And so Boris also saw the thing to do right now, if you`re on the right, is to move left on economics. So he was very different than Thatcher, lots of money on public spending, tax cuts only for the working class and poor.
MATTHEWS: Big on health care. Big on health care.
SULLIVAN: And lots of spending on health care.
And that combination, with a belief in the nation, devastating.
MATTHEWS: Mixing it up -- the question is, why did so many working people in Britain vote Tory?
NEERA TANDEN, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Because I think the Labor Party did not give them a real choice.
I think the challenge is, Corbyn was not a realistic leader, he was not a realistic alternative. People -- his approval or disapproval was much greater. I mean, both Johnson and Corbyn were unpopular, but Corbyn was significantly less popular.
And there were -- the second most important issue, other than Corbyn himself, was economic issues as well. I think the individual issues may have been popular, but the weight of all of them -- and I agree that Boris Johnson -- I think Labor allowed Boris Johnson to capture the middle on economics.
Now, I do think that we should recognize a big difference between the U.K. and the U.S., which is, in the United States in 2018, Democrats were able to capture suburban voters, can make up for losses in rural communities.
That did not...
SULLIVAN: By not being as left as either Sanders or Warren and by not being Jeremy Corbyn`s Labor Party, as someone who, one should remember, Bernie Sanders endorsed only last week.
TANDEN: There is a robust debate in the Democratic Party. There is not one vision of how to win.
There are arguments across the board. They`re -- not everybody is making the case about Warren and Sanders.
SULLIVAN: But aren`t you concerned about what happened?
TANDEN: I am deeply concerned. I am deeply concerned.
TANDEN: But I take from that there`s -- there is a concern about particular policies.
I think that Democrats would look at that and say, you have to put together an electoral coalition. The purpose of an opposition party is to win elections. And you have to put a broad coalition together.
MATTHEWS: Look, let me go -- let`s talk about the Democratic Party now, it`s happening right now, and how this might affect it.
I think Bernie`s having a comeback of sorts, a little bit of a comeback. He`s holding his vote, holding it solid. His believers are his believers. He`s authentic.
Elizabeth Warren is having a problem because she moved away from the very progressive position on Medicare for all, because she was being hit hard on it. And in moving over to this -- to the center left a bit further, I think she`s lost some enthusiasm.
Buttigieg is a moderate running as a moderate. And you could say he`s done the same thing that Boris Johnson did. He saw an opportunity and moved to the center. He saw his opportunity.
Biden is there, but he`s not moving up. I think this race is moving a bit to the center a little bit, but just my hunch.
SULLIVAN: I sure hope so.
There are two key issues here. One is that people do want to move left. But when Corbyn presented them with a very similar proposal as the Democrats have on the Green New Deal, for example, or massive spending and borrowing, the working-class people of Britain decided, we don`t trust him. That`s too much. That`s too expensive. We don`t think you can afford it. We don`t want it.
So, the Medicare for all, this is a huge defeat for that kind of argument, a huge defeat for that kind of radicalism. And it is a very good argument for the things that Buttigieg is arguing for, which do capture the middle.
TANDEN: Yes, I think I would say that...
MATTHEWS: You`re a pro at this, by the way. I want to hear what you say.
Is there a slight movement toward the center in the part right now, absent what happened in Britain yesterday?
TANDEN: I think the last month you have seen both Biden and Buttigieg rise, just as a factual matter. And, in fact, in some places, you see Klobuchar rising as well.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
TANDEN: I don`t think this is static.
I do think Democrats are more anxious about putting together an electoral win than they have been in any election cycle in recent history. And I do think issues like what happened in Britain, but also recent polls that show that there`s a greater chance to win the swing states with more moderate candidates, are having an impact on the primary itself.
TANDEN: And you can say Democrats, but there`s a bit -- actually, Pete Buttigieg is arguing, Joe Biden is arguing with Warren and Sanders about Medicare for all
There is a deep debate on the substantive issue here.
SULLIVAN: Key question, immigration, which was the key force behind Brexit, the key force behind Trump, all the Democrats are essentially incredibly weak on that subject.
No one is talking about how we can control it. No one is talking about how we can stop illegal immigration to the country
TANDEN: I would say, today, support for comprehensive immigration reform, which includes both strong borders and a path to citizenship, has 65 percent.
SULLIVAN: You know it doesn`t contain strong borders.
TANDEN: No, but, actually, in 2018, Democrats argued for both.
SULLIVAN: They all want to decriminalize crossing the border. You think that is a good message?
TANDEN: There is a big difference amongst Democrats on the topic.
MATTHEWS: Which Democratic candidate in the front is pushing for...
TANDEN: Joe Biden has not supported decriminalizing border entry, and I believe Pete Buttigieg has not, and nor has Amy Klobuchar.
SULLIVAN: No, he fell for it too.
MATTHEWS: Who did?
SULLIVAN: Buttigieg, I think, in the first debates.
TANDEN: A lot of people raised their hands, and a lot of people have changed since then.
I do think that there is a disagreement on some of these topics. And one of the reasons why this debate has really moved on put -- who can put together an electoral victory is the central question.
And people like Biden and Buttigieg are arguing -- and Buttigieg argues this a lot of the time, that we can`t alienate people on particular policies. And I think this is a robust debate in the party.
But I don`t think one side...
MATTHEWS: Why aren`t the voters who are torn here -- what they do if they have to choose between a very progressive, very left, if you will, Democratic candidate, and Biden -- not Biden -- and Trump?
How do they vote? What do they do?
SULLIVAN: They`re going to vote for some -- for people who actually believe in borders.
They`re going to vote for people who they think can deliver for that.
SULLIVAN: They`re going to vote for people who don`t think they`re deplorable.
TANDEN: Donald Trump campaigned on the caravan day in and day out in the three weeks before the midterm elections, and he lost the House. Nine million more people voted for House Democrats.
So, I agree. I think we have to have a position, a reasonable position.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Neera Tanden.
This is the fight that is going on right now.
TANDEN: I think facts matter. Facts matter. I`m sorry.
MATTHEWS: Neera Tanden, thank you. Thank you, Andrew Sullivan.
Welcome back to the show.
SULLIVAN: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next -- you`re always welcome, Neera.
Up next: how impeachment of a president constitutes the highest power of citizens.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: As of today, a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has approved articles of impeachment against four American presidents.
As a citizen and journalist, I have lived through three of those four historic events. And, to me, they represent together the power we have to exercise through our elected representatives and also the limits to the power we set on the highest of our elected officials.
Impeachment is, let`s face it, the ultimate expression of liberty on behalf of the American people, to indict a president for failure to honor his or her oath to a Constitution that embodies the very principle of limited government.
I think of it this way. As Americans, we can walk out onto any street, speak into the most powerful microphone, address the largest audience that can be called together and say whatever we wish about those at the height of our government, and that`s the right asserted in the First Amendment.
Impeachment honors a higher liberty, to bring the most powerful elected figure in the country to account, to judgment, to dismissal from office for having committed acts antagonistic to the country`s highest office.
I have spent my life witnessing the liberties guaranteed here, liberties is not guaranteed elsewhere. I have spoken my mind and criticized actions I believed inimical to my country and those who committed them.
But I have not -- not often enough, certainly -- spoken up on the liberty I and other Americans have enjoyed to speak so freely and so loudly and to challenge elected authority with such confidence as the American people did today.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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