Trump mocks Pelosi for her "teeth". TRANSCRIPT: 121619, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Pramila Jayapal, Paul Rosenzweig, Leon Panetta, Eli Stokols, BetsyWoodruff Swan, Brendan Buck, Joel Payne

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  So we`ll keep an eye on that.  He famously left the Republican Party over his support for impeachment.

I`ll be back here at 6:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow.  But don`t go anywhere.  "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Trump`s date with history.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Trump has brought us to this.  Tonight, he stands at the edge of a dreaded destiny about to become only the third American president to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.  This Wednesday, the House is set to debate and vote on two articles of impeachment against the president, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Early this morning, House Judiciary Committee Democrats formally presented their final case against the president, releasing their impeachment report, arguing that President Trump has, quote, betrayed the nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections.  Well, the House is all but certain to approve those two articles, paving a way for trial next month in the U.S. Senate.

Senate Minority Leader, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has delivered the Democrats` opening salvo on how the trial should be conducted, should.  In a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Schumer said, Senate Democrats believe strongly, and I trust Senate Republicans agree, that this trial must be one that is fair, that considers all the relevant facts and then exercise the Senate`s sole power of impeachment under the Constitution with integrity and dignity.

Schumer argued that the Senate should subpoena testimony from former National Security Adviser John Bolton, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, as well as Robert Blair, a senior adviser to Mulvaney, and Michael Duffey, an official in the Office of Management and Budget.  Well, speaking today, Schumer argued that those four men had the most direct contact with the facts regarding the president`s efforts to pressure Ukraine to pursue his own political investigations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  I haven`t seen a single good argument about why these witnesses shouldn`t testify, or these documents be produced, unless the president has something to hide and his supporter want that information hidden.

The president and House Republicans have resisted letting all the evidence and facts come out.  The president hasn`t offered a single exculpatory bit of evidence that refutes what`s in the House impeachment charges.  They have not refuted them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, impeachment moves forward again tomorrow in the House as the Rules Committee of the House needs to set the parameters for the debate process ahead of Wednesday`s historic vote.

For more, I`m joined by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington State, I think Seattle, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, Paul Rosenzweig, who served as senior counsel in the investigation of President Clinton and Heidi Przybyla, who`s been everywhere in the last couple of weeks, NBC News Correspondent, every time I turn the T.V. on NBC, you`re on.  Heidi, thank you.

Let`s start with the congresswoman about the report.  What is the stronger language in the report as you`ve seen it and you`ve read it and you`ve reported it?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA):  I have, yes, over 600 pages.  And I would say the strongest language is that these two constitutional crimes of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are the highest constitutional crimes that any president can commit and that they absolutely destroy any sense of democracy.

Because, remember, this is -- the democracy depends on the power of the people giving all of our votes to a president.  That`s where the power derives from.  Not from the bloodlines of monarchs but from the votes of the people.

So if a president is asking for a foreign country to interfere in our elections, he is essentially destroying that democracy.  Now, add to that that he has put himself above the law.  He and his team say that they cannot be indicted, he cannot be indicted while he`s a sitting president.  Now they are saying that they don`t have to provide information to Congress so that we can actually investigate this.

So I think that is really the strongest case and there are lots of ways to describe that.  But at the cores of it, he is destroying our democracy and taking votes away from you and me and giving it to a foreign government.

MATTHEWS:  Here is your chance, Congresswoman, to say what you think of Trump.  Because I know you`ve all been constrained by party unity to agree with two articles, great.  But throughout the language of both articles is the language about pattern, who is this person?  Is this the person who would do something like the deal on the phone, who would set up that kind of deal, put up Giuliani there to do it, follow-up, hold up arms aid necessary to save a country?  Who is that person that you`re impeaching here this week?  Who is he?

JAYAPAL:  Pattern of conduct is in both of the articles because it is bad enough that the president is doing this and it`s unfolding in front of us with Ukraine as the president of the United States.  But we know that he did this before.  That`s what the Mueller report was about, 400 pages, saying that this is exactly what he did.

MATTHEWS:  This is who he is.

JAYAPAL:  Everybody heard him, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  I want you to tell me who he is.  Who is this president, this human being?

JAYAPAL:  He is a guy who believes he is above the law, that he is not accountable to the American people, that he does not have to represent the interests of this nation.  He is the smoking gun.  Anybody who is looking for a smoking gun just needs to look at this president.

And let me tell you something, not only is he the smoking gun.  He`s done it before, he`s doing it now, he`s going to do it again.  That smoking gun is reloaded.  And whether or not it fires for the 2020 election is up to us if we actually are able to hold him accountable.

MATTHEWS:  You know, we see this in life, a guy can get into sports into college, he`ll still be from -- he hasn`t changed.  People don`t change.  In fact, I was ask people, know anybody has ever changed?  It`s a brutal question especially for married people, because most people stay who they are all their lives.  And Trump, who is this guy that I know from reading about it, you think, deserves to be impeached.  What is it about him essentially?  Not what happened on a July day in a phone call, but what that represents about his being, this guy, Trump, and why he shouldn`t be president?

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL KEN STARR INVESTIGATION:  I mean, on the narrow questions, I agree completely with the congresswoman, that he`s destructive of democracy and his resistance to congressional subpoenas is essentially a thumb in the face of checks and balances.

But I think more fundamentally, Donald Trump is about the destruction of the norms of the American republic that go back to the founding, free press.  Free and independent press you is now enemy of the people, a president not subject to subpoena.  That`s why we had a revolution against a king, right?  You could go on and on.  A president not taking money for his own personal benefit out of his presidency, that`s the emoluments clause.  There are suits going on about that.  It reflects in the long run --

MATTHEWS:  Is he a crook?

ROSENZWEIG:  Absolutely.  I signed a letter with a thousand,000 other prosecutors saying that the Mueller report had anyway between three and eight, depending on your view of it, instances of obstruction of justice that most of us would have taken to any jury in America and won a conviction on where he -- anybody other than the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Well, meanwhile there`s behind -- I wanted to get to this because I think years from now, if we`re all still around, we`ll all be trying to explain this to somebody or your grandkids.  I`m on the way to doing that now.  I got them.  Why is?  You can`t just say it`s just a phone call.  You can`t just say with Nixon it was a break-in.  It`s something about the character of the person that`s being targeted here by reasonable people.

Anyway, meanwhile, there`s a behind the scenes effort by some House Democrats to bolster their argument in a Senate trial with the help of a former Republican.  The Washington Post first reported this.  Some House Democrats are pushing to include Michigan Congressman Justin Amash who left the Republican Party over his support for impeachment as one of the impeachment managers when they get to the Senate next month.  The campaign has been pushed by 30 freshmen in the House.  That means new members in the House.  The thinking is that Amash would reach conservative voters in a way Democrats can`t.  He also would provide Democrats` cover from GOP accusation that they`re pursuing a partisan impeachment.

Heidi, how far is this going as you see it?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  As of this morning, my sources close to leadership poured cold water on this, Chris.  They said that the speaker has plenty of qualified candidates and it would be unlikely.  That said, the currents around here are moving so swiftly, obviously, anything could happen.  But in 1999, there were 13 different managers.  Will she, in the end, decide to possibly lump him in and might that be a good call?  Maybe.

But right now, there is much way to your questions on the Senate side.  It is where I am right now.  Because we kind of know what`s going to happen in the House and the Senate -- it`s not just who the managers are.  But most critically, whether they`re going to have witnesses and whether they`re going to have a real trial.

And you saw Senator Schumer today saying that he is extending this offer to Mitch McConnell.  And, again, my reporting is that those close to Mitch McConnell are calling it a stunt.  So where does that leave us?  It leaves this in the hands potentially of some of the most vulnerable Republicans.  They only need, they meaning Democrats, two Republicans to peel off and dig their feet into the ground and say, no, we`re not going to just adjourn after the attorneys make their case.  We want to have witnesses.

And so right now, we`re trying to talk to some of those vulnerable Republicans and just not wanting to talk.  Senator Ron Johnson said that`s -- I just talked to him a few minutes ago -- above my pay grade.  And Lisa Murkowski kept saying, I`m hoping for a deal, I`m hoping for a deal and the subway elevator has closed on us.  So we`re just not getting many answers.  You know how that works.

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is really just fighting to the last (ph).  Let me ask you about the first question.  Do you think there should be witnesses in the Senate?

JAYAPAL:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Especially Bolton, I guess?

JAYAPAL:  Yes.  I mean, I think -- look, I think we have a tremendous case in front of us.  The president has obstructed us at every step of the way.  We asked Mick Mulvaney to come a testify, he hasn`t testified.

MATTHEWS:  And he knows it all.

JAYAPAL:  Absolutely, he does.  And Bolton, based on what Fiona Hill said, very, very credible.  I mean, these are people that are not Democrats.  These are people who were supporting President Trump.  And she said this was outrageous.  These are real patriots who came forward to put country over party.  And so I think that we should make sure that we have the ability to present all of these folks in the Senate.

And let`s just be clear that what Mitch McConnell has done, I would say, is not just a thumb.  It`s maybe a different finger in the face of our Constitution and our framers.

MATTHEWS:  How do you explain these people?

JAYAPAL:  I really don`t know, Chris.  I mean, how can you have -- I just ask any American out there.  How can you have the foreman of the jury, the chief juror, the person who makes all the rules for the Senate trial actually say that he is coordinating completely with the defendant?  That makes no sense.  And I know as a former prosecutor, you know this, but I think the American people will see through this as well.  This is not going to be a fair trial if that`s the case.

So I appreciate that Senator Schumer has put forward this plan.  We need to make sure that there is a fair trial, and that we have the ability for the American people once again to hear all the facts, including from the people who know it all, all in the loop, as Ambassador Sondland said.

MATTHEWS:  The people that really know aren`t talking.

Anyway, one Democratic who has been -- except for Sondland -- who has been outspoken in the opposition of impeachment is expected to change parties as a result.  Sources tell NBC that New Jersey Congressman Jeff Van Drew, there he is, is likely to switch his party affiliation to Republican after his own internal polling showed he was unlikely to win re-election in the Democratic primary.

Van Drew was one of two two Democrats to votes against the resolution formalizing the inquiry.  Collin Peterson was (INAUDIBLE), I don`t care.  There`re always going to people like -- there was Gene Atkinson back in the Reagan era.  There`s always someone who`s going to flip.  So what?

To me, the trial, I expected this.  Because an equivalent to me, to me, Paul, impeachment is tar and feather.  It`s a community, it`s a society saying, this guys is no damn good and we`re going to humiliate this person to an extent.  Because if that`s all you get, you don`t get conviction and removal, that`s all you end up with.

Trump has this crazy ability to create craziness all around him so that we get a 50-50 vote every time we poll people.  In a polarized society, which Trump loves, you don`t get justice, at least you don`t get the perception of justice because it`s always a 50-50 split.

ROSENZWEIG:  That`s his super power.  He can withstand chaos.  He can create chaos and withstand chaos in a way that normal members of society can`t.  I think --

MATTHEWS:  He wallows in it.

ROSENZWEIG:  He wallows in.  He revels in it, I would actually say even more.  He loves it because it`s all about him.  It makes him the focus of the attention.  My friend, George Conway, says that he`s got this narcissistic personality disorder.  And while I`m not a psychiatrist, that seems to be the case.

MATTHEWS:  You think -- look, personalities -- I`m going to Heidi on this as a student watching this, a reporter, Nixon didn`t shake off Watergate.  He knew he was guilty.  He was shamed by it.  He said things like, I gave them the sword and they struck it in me with relish, and I would have done the same thing to them.  He knew he brought it on himself.

Bill Clinton was the classic compartmentalizer.  I mean, he could give a speech on healthcare with all of those hanging on him.  He could still do it.  And, by the way in life (ph), as long as there`s 40 or 50 percent of people that loved him, he hung out with the 40 or 50 percent who loved him.

Trump, it scares me, I`m not sure this even is going to affect his brain, his soul, his gut.  How do we know if this is even going to leave a mark on him, Heidi?  A tough question.

PRZYBYLA:  Chris, on inauguration day, I was standing in rain poncho on Pennsylvania Avenue listening to the speech, and it was pouring, and the president said that the sun was coming out.  And I checked around just to make sure I wasn`t going crazy.  And, yes, it was raining.

The difference today is we have people, a number of them in the party who are agreeing that it`s raining -- or agreeing that the sun is coming out.

You saw Debbie Lesko in the Judiciary hearings afterwards on network television say that the president didn`t ask a foreign power to investigate his political rival when he actually did that on camera on the south lawn, and he did it in a call summary.

So the big difference today is it`s not just the character of the person that we can sit here and analyze and dissect, and I am not a psychologist either, but I do have eyes and ears, and I do see that people are telling us things that are just not true.  And this is the environment that we are dealing with as news reporters, that people are telling us things to our face that are not true.

So the difference hopefully in the Senate will be -- we interviewed Senator Toomey over the weekend on MEET THE PRESS, and he said, look, there shouldn`t be much difference about the facts, the question is whether they rise to the level of impeachment, and that should be where the debate is, according to a lot of the Democrats here in the Senate who I talk to.  If the Senate is supposed to be a cooling saucer, maybe that will be where things go, is that we do have a debate about the facts.

MATTHEWS:  What a perfect answer.  Thank you so much, Heidi Przybyla.  That was analytical, factual, objective and a straight reporter`s assessment of the truth.  Anyway, thank you.  Congresswoman, thank you for coming over here.

JAYAPAL:  Thank you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Pramila Jayapal, thank you, from Seattle, the liberal bastion.  Thank you, Paul Rosenzweig.

JAYAPAL:  And even facts.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  And that`s a fact too.

Much more ahead on this historic week of reckoning for President Trump, and it will be a reckoning.

And coming up, a divided country braces for a divisive impeachment trial.  Hopefully, it will be a real trial.  Senator Lindsey Graham has admitted he will not be a fair juror and that he will acquit the president no matter what happens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  But I think what`s best for the country is to get this thing over with.  I clearly made up my mind.  I`m not trying to hide the fact that I have disdain for the accusations in the process so I don`t need any witnesses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  I don`t need any witnesses.  This is invasion of the body snatchers.

Plus, Rudy Giuliani`s misadventures over in Ukraine.  Giuliani tells The New Yorker Magazine, I believe that I needed Ambassador Yovanovitch out of the way.  It sounds like a mob action or worse.  And tonight, the president, again, came to Rudy`s defense.

We`ve got a lot to get through this week and we`re all doing it tonight.  Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Two new polls out tonight are showing just how divided this country is on the question of impeaching President Trump. 

In a FOX News poll, 50 percent, right half there, half the country of registered voters, say they want President Trump to be impeached and removed from office.  That`s the FOX poll, 50 percent; 41 percent take a different position, against impeachment. 

A new Quinnipiac poll out today shows that 45 percent of voters believe the president should be impeached and removed from office, while 51 percent disagree, so a flip of the others in a margin of about five points.

On Capitol Hill, some Republican senators, the future jurors in the impeachment trial this January, have signaled they have zero interest in holding an objective trial, after the House formally charges the president.

Not only has their leader, Mitch McConnell, signaled that he`s taken his -- quote -- "cues from the president`s lawyers."  That`s what he said, like it`s a theatrical production.  I`m taking my cues, like he`s an actor, from the president`s lawyers.

But Senator Lindsey Graham is openly and repeatedly admitting that he intends to be a biased juror by himself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC):  This thing will come to the Senate, and it will die quickly.  And I will do everything I can to make it die quickly. 

QUESTION:  The Senate has a constitutional duty in holding this trial and comprehensively evaluating the case.  Agree?

GRAHAM:  No, it doesn`t say that in the Constitution.  It says that the Senate will dispose -- I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind.  I`m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here.

QUESTION:  I wasn`t in any doubt at this point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Wow.

Well, this is a dramatic departure for Graham, who, 20 years ago, implored the country to give impeachment -- the impeachment process a chance. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM:  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. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, "The Wall Street Journal" explains that -- quote -- "Several Republican lawmakers view the president`s dealings with Ukraine as inappropriate, but not worthy of impeachment, and fear that opening the door to witnesses may make it harder for them to acquit him." 

For more, I`m joined by Leon Panetta, who served as director of the CIA, secretary of defense, White House chief of staff, and as a member of Congress. 

Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us. 

Let me ask you about your view of Clinton -- I`m sorry -- I keep getting my presidents mixed up. 

Let me go with -- let`s go through the one that matters.  That`s Trump. 

What is it about Trump?  I`m trying to get to this because I want our grandkids and great-grandkids, if we`re lucky, to be able to understand why this guy is in the trouble he`s in.  It`s not because of a phone call.

It`s something about the nature of the person that would make such a phone call, that would abuse the office the way he has.  Your thoughts about what that nature is, his nature?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  You know, I think we all know the nature of this -- this individual that occupies the White House.  He`s a New York developer. 

And he operated like a New York developer.  And he basically did what he had to do, took what he had to take, rejected what he wanted to reject, and basically ran that operation in a way in which it would benefit him. 

And so he`s taken that whole mode of behavior and brought that to the White House.  He`s not experienced in the White House.  He doesn`t have the larger country at interest in terms of what he wants to do for the country.

This is solely about what the presidency does for Donald Trump.  And, as a result of that, understanding that kind of mentality, that`s what led him basically to, when it came to an election, say what the hell, I`m going to ask a foreign leader to conduct an investigation of my political opponent.  I don`t see anything wrong with that, because that`s the way he operated in New York, and that`s the way he`s operating as president. 

MATTHEWS:  So, the White House to him, the American presidency, to sit in Lincoln`s chair is to him just an acquisition, another power position?

(LAUGHTER)

PANETTA:  I think...

MATTHEWS:  You said it.

PANETTA:  I think that`s right.  I think this is about -- this is about -- this is about power. 

It`s about -- he was that way when he was doing television.  He was basically doing television in order to get ratings.  So he`s now in the presidency, and he`s doing the presidency in a way to try to get ratings. 

It has very little to do with the interest of the country.  And that -- I think that`s what`s always bothered me about President Trump, is that you normally look to presidents of the United States who speak to what is in the national interest, what is in the interests of unifying the American people and bringing them together? 

What is in the interests of our children in terms of their future?  Those are the kinds of values that presidents used to talk about.  That`s not the case with President Trump.  This is all about him.  It`s about going after everyone who tries to in any way criticize him or do anything to undermine him. 

This is open warfare for him.  And it`s reality TV in the Oval Office.  That`s the way you have to look at this president of the United States, and that`s what history is going to say about what`s going on right now, and that this is, instead of being a serious moment in which our Constitution is truly being tested, it`s going to look at this moment in time as nothing but a reality TV show, in which the president rejected his own behavior, and a group of Senate Republicans basically went along with that. 

  MATTHEWS:  Well, let`s get to that.

On Friday, President Trump, Mr. Secretary, said he saw a political advantage to the impeachment process. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My poll numbers, as you know, have gone through the roof. 

The people are disgusted.  The people are absolutely disgusted.  Nobody`s ever seen anything like this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What about the United States Senate, Mr. Secretary? 

I mean, I look at Mitch McConnell.  He`s a political leader.  I don`t think he`s evil or anything like that.  He`s just usually wrong on everything.  But here he is acting pretty rough. 

He`s saying, basically, I`m going to be the defender of the president.  I`m going to shorten this thing up.  I`m not going to let there be any witnesses.  It`s not going to be any worse than it was in the House.  I`m going to freeze it up and protect the fact that it`s a 50/50 proposition in the country. 

And then Lindsey Graham just baffles me.  He`s coming out saying, I`m not even a fair juror.  I have already voted to acquit.  In my mind, I have already -- I have never heard -- you can`t get in a courtroom if you talk like that.  You don`t get through voir dire if you talk like that, you know?  The judge throws you out the door. 

PANETTA:  Chris, look, I -- having worked on the Senate side, and having been a member of Congress for 16 years, I have -- I have tremendous respect for that institution. 

And I have always found, whether you agree or disagree with someone, that you try to work together to try to make sure that you`re fulfilling your responsibility as an elected member of the United States Congress. 

I`m very disappointed that Mitch McConnell and the other Republican leaders in the Senate side are not sitting -- standing back and saying, look, we have got to make this in every way a fair trial that looks at the truth, looks at the facts, that allows for these kinds of -- this kind of evidence to be presented, so that members can make an independent decision as to what happened here.

That is their responsibility.  That`s what they`re sworn to do in enforcing the Constitution of the United States.  So, if they try to shortcut the process, if they just try to kind of ram this down the throat of the country, in order for them to get the hell out and basically get to the election, which is obviously the political desire they all have...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

PANETTA:  ... I think what history will say is that this is the most depressing moment in the history of the United States Senate, if they allow that to take place. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you ask me -- answer one short question?  If you don`t want to answer it, don`t.

Who`s the favorite, the Democrats or Trump, next November?  Who`s the favorite? 

PANETTA:  Who`s the favorite?  What do you mean?

MATTHEWS:  To win, to win, in your thinking.  Who`s going to win the next election, 2020?

PANETTA:  You mean for the election?

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  Who is going to win?

PANETTA:  For the election?

(LAUGHTER)

PANETTA:  You know, I would say, right now, it depends a great deal on who the Democrats nominate to be their candidate. 

If they nominate somebody who can appeal to the entire country, then I think the Democrats have a good chance of winning in November.  If they elect somebody who is ideological, then I think Trump has a good chance of winning.  That`s what it comes down to. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, Leon Panetta. 

You have served the country well.  And it`s always great having you on, sir. 

Up next: new reporting on Rudy Giuliani not getting anywhere or anything, by the way, or anybody, get in the way of -- will get in the way of his digging up his client`s dirt. 

I`m telling you, all he wants is dirt on Joe Biden.  He will go to any country, but especially Ukraine, back again, apparently.

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

An explosive new story today in "The New Yorker" magazine sheds new light on Rudy Giuliani`s quest for dirt in Ukraine.  The article explores Giuliani`s collaboration with former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, revealing how their efforts to smear the Bidens, Joe and Hunter, led to the impeachment drive into day. 

Most notably, Giuliani admits to "The New Yorker" magazine that he pushed for the removal of former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch because she stood in the way of the investigations Trump was seeking. 

According to today`s report in "The New Yorker," Giuliani saw Yovanovitch as an obstacle hindering his attempt to dig up dirt against his client`s rival in advance of the 2020 election. 

Quote; "I believed that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way," he said.  "She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody."

Well, Lutsenko was among the Ukrainian officials who provided Giuliani with unsubstantiated allegations against Yovanovitch and the Bidens, which Giuliani then passed along to the State Department this March. 

I`m joined right now by Betsy Woodruff Swan, politics reporter for The Daily Beast, and Eli Stokols, White House reporter for "The L.A. Times."

Eli, let`s start with you in this one. 

What`s in here, in terms of trying to figure out this whole thing, this whole escapade by the president, Trump, and Giuliani?

ELI STOKOLS, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES":  Well, it paints a picture with stunning detail of what Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, his relationship with this former prosecutor, and how he was -- what he was seeking. 

It was any information that could expose Ukraine interference, potentially, in the 2016 election, and anything that would reflect poorly on Joe Biden.  And through the reporting, the -- Adam Entous, the reporter, spends a lot of time with the prosecutor, with Giuliani.

Giuliani doesn`t just admit that he wanted Yovanovitch out of the way.  The prosecutor, the former prosecutor, you get a sense of him as someone who will just kind of say anything.  That`s the reason this guy was removed from his position as prosecutor general, because he wasn`t prosecuting corruption.

He`s feeding Giuliani things.  Then he`s telling the reporter, you know, actually, I don`t know if that was true.  Just...

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

STOKOLS:  There`s just not a lot of scruples that come across for either of them, given that they`re trying to stand up this counternarrative that they`re just so concerned about corruption. 

MATTHEWS:  And, again, what comes back is not -- as you say, they weren`t really concerned about corruption.  They wanted some dirt they could throw at the Bidens, at Joe Biden, because he was at the time -- he`s again the front-runner right now. 

And they just wanted to get the front-runner, the biggest threat to the president`s reelection.  But, again, the nuance is, they didn`t want a real investigation.  They wanted a declaration that there was -- just like he wanted to keep it up in the air, something he could say they`re even over investigating -- they`re right now investigating him over in Ukraine. 

BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, THE DAILY BEAST:  Giuliani exhibits an extraordinarily high level of credulity toward allegations against Joe Biden that any reasonable person would see as totally laughable. 

He even floats on the record to this reporter the idea that Biden might have somehow participated in the hack of the DNC that the Russians conducted in 2016. 

That`s totally outlandish.  It doesn`t pass the laugh test.  But Giuliani says...

MATTHEWS:  By the way, the laugh test is, do you think Joe Biden knows anything about hacking? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, he`s not exactly state of the art about the social media deal, not...

WOODRUFF SWAN:  That`s a good point. 

MATTHEWS:  I mean, I just think he`s not a likely suspect of hacking into a machine.

WOODRUFF SWAN:  Something tells me, probably not.

MATTHEWS:  Even I said it, machine.

WOODRUFF SWAN:  Perhaps not.

MATTHEWS:  Into a computer, yes, server.

WOODRUFF SWAN:  And another piece of this, going back to what you said about the investigations that`s so important, is that, over this entire period of time, when Giuliani and his allies and the other Trump allies are trying to get Zelensky not necessarily to open an investigation, but just to say there was an investigation...

MATTHEWS:  That`s right. 

WOODRUFF SWAN:  ... the Justice Department never actually asked for what.

DOJ, according to Kurt Volker, the former Trump diplomat who`s testified under oath, never went to their counterparts in Ukraine and asked them to look at the Bidens or to look at the 2016 alleged -- alleged Ukrainian collusion.

That`s because American law enforcement, at least up to this point, appears to have no reason to believe that the allegations that Giuliani has been floating for months and months and months actually pointed to a crime.

MATTHEWS:  M.O., this president:  I have got a lot of investigators down in Hawaii.  They`re coming up with some really interesting stuff about how President Obama was an illegal immigrant, that he was from Kenya. 

That`s just something he wanted, something he could float up there.  We have got some people doing a lot of investigating over there in Ukraine.  The government over there is investigating this.  This is serious something coming out of that. 

That`s all that Trump ever wants, smoke. 

When asked about Giuliani`s latest trip to Ukraine, President Trump today signaled that he will continue to stand by his personal attorney. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Mr. President, how much has Giuliani shared with you about his recent trip to Ukraine?

TRUMP:  Not too much.  But he`s a very great crime fighter.  He was the best mayor in the history of the city of New York.  He`s a great person who loves our country. 

And he does this out of love, believe me.  He does it out of love.  He sees what goes on.  He sees what`s happening.  He sees all of the hoax that happens when they talk about impeachment hoax or the Russian collusion delusion.  He knows what he`s doing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there`s an endorsement, for now. 

STOKOLS:  I`m thinking back about 15 minutes in your show, when Heidi Przybyla talked about people saying things that you just know are not true. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes.  That`s why.

STOKOLS:  The president knows that a lot of what he`s saying is B.S.

But he`s saying it.  He`s talking to Rudy.  They`re talking about the what- if, right?  It doesn`t have to be true or even plausible, that he knows that there are enough people out there who will want it to be plausible, who will say, well, why wouldn`t you at least want them to investigate to see about the Bidens?

Because they just need enough of a believable pretext for the president asking for this favor.  Well, if we didn`t know what was going on in Ukraine, why wouldn`t he at least ask them to find it out? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

And I think a lot of this goes to the politics of this president, that he knows he can win the presidency in the Electoral College without California, without New York, if he can stay in the low 40s, and then destroy his opponent next fall, just destroy the person.

WOODRUFF SWAN:  And President Trump perhaps, just as much as any other American political figure, knows the immense political value of having someone announce an investigation into your opponent, because a big part of the reason that the Clinton folks say Trump beat them because Comey announced -- 

MATTHEWS:  Eleven days on.

WOODRUFF:  -- in the final days of the 2016 campaign, that he was looking at the Clinton campaign.  And that is a big part of the reason that Trump became president.

MATTHEWS:  I think that`s the reason she lost, in the end.  It shouldn`t have been that close, but that`s the reason why. 

Anyway, Betsy Woodruff, thank you.  Betsy Woodruff Swan.  Thank you, Eli Stokols.  Thank you. 

Up next, with the impeachment vote looming right now, this week, it looks like, President Trump isn`t holding back his ire, aiming his attacks at Nancy Pelosi now, Jim Comey, teh aforementioned, and even Fox News.  He used to love Fox. 

We`re back after this. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Heading into a week where President Trump will likely find himself becoming the third U.S. president to be impeached, he unleashed a Twitter tirade this weekend.  He attacked former FBI Director James Comey, calling him a sleaze bag, and suggests he should spend years in jail as the result of the inspector general`s report. 

The report concluded no political bias in the Russia investigation.  That doesn`t stop Trump from claiming the exact opposite.  Trump wrote: There was tremendous bias. 

He also added without providing any evidence, that former President Barack Obama, quote, knew everything about it.  Trump also unless an attack on his favorite or used to be favorite news outlet, Fox News, for having Comey, as well as Congressman Adam Schiff as guests this weekend. 

The president tweeted: Fox is trying so hard to be politically correct.  He also went after the network for a new poll that showed the majority of Americans want the president or impeached from office.  He wrote that Fox News polls are, quote, always inaccurate, and are, quote, heavily weighted towards the Dems.  Get a new pollster.  That`s how he talks.

But it was the president`s personality attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her teeth that was the most bizarre. 

And that`s coming up next.  That`s what we call a tease.  How do you skip this baby?  He`s talking about Nancy Pelosi`s teeth. 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER:  You yourself accused him of bribery.  Why did you decide not to make bribery one of the articles of impeachment?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I myself am not a lawyer.  Sometimes I act like one.  Not as often as I act as a doctor.  I`ve practiced medicine on the side, without benefit of diploma, too.  This was a decision that was recommended by our working together with our committee chairs, our attorneys and the rest. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

This is kind of a strange segment.  Anyway, that was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, last week, not a million years ago, responding to reporters` questions about the articles of impeachment.  Over the weekend, President Trump responded with his own explanation for the speaker`s answer.  He tweeted, because Nancy`s teeth were falling out of her mouth, and she didn`t have time to think. 

Well, as the video showed, there did not appear to be anything wrong with the speaker`s teeth.  However, if the president has been target of dental troubles of his own, if you will, after having trouble delivering remarks when announcing the moving of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Let us rethink old assumptions and open our hearts and minds to possible and possibilities.  Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless Israel.  God bless the Palestinians and God bless the United States. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  What?  United what? 

For more, I`m joined by Brendan Buck, former chief communications advisor to Speaker Paul Ryan and Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist.

I need some communications advice.  Maybe they both have, I don`t know what.  Let`s talk with Trump.  He threw the stone here.  What do you make of his inability to get that last word out?  What, did he have a Chiclet in his mouth? 

BRENDAN BUCK, FORMER CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS ADVISER TO REP. PAUL RYAN:  I don`t know.  Mine --

MATTHEWS:  This is psycho babble time. 

BUCK:  He is a strange guy.

  MATTHEWS:  Why would he make fun of Pelosi`s teeth? 

BUCK:  I think he went after Pelosi because he has this weird affection for Nancy Pelosi.  He always wanted to work with her.  He is impressed by her strong arm style of politics.  He thought that she`s the type of speaker that he would love to be working with and so the fact that she is the one bringing hip to impeachment which we know really riles him up because of his place in history, I think it really gets under his skin.  He has this strange-like affection, love-hate thing going on. 

MATTHEWS:  Is this dancing teeth to teeth? 

BUCK:  Sure. 

MATTHEWS:  What is so strange -- sorry.  I don`t buy this theory.  Is it just a typical personal shot? 

JOEL PAYNE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  I`m a different version of what he said.  I think he is tired of getting his butt kicked by Nancy Pelosi.  She`s been kicking his butt, not just since she`s been speaker again, but for the entire three years he has been in office, all he can do is resort to schoolyard taunts. 

If it was me, he would talk about the gap in my mouth.  If it was you, you were too tall.  This is what bullies do.  He doesn`t have anything to say.  She is kicking his butt --

MATTHEWS:  I guess he`d stay way from that. 

PAYNE:  I know. 

MATTHEWS:  Be nice to him, not me. 

Let me ask you about this inability to shake things off.  You are suggesting she is going to impeach him.  The House is going to impeach him this week.  It`s going to be on his record the rest of his life.  It will be long after he`s gone.  His progeny will read about their granddaddy whoever who got impeached.

PAYNE:  And he keeps claiming that that this thing is unpopular and it`s a loss for Democrats.  She is overseeing the most popular impeachment in history.  This is 20 points more popular than Bill Clinton`s impeachment.  A Fox News poll shows 50 percent. 

The fact that Democrats wrestle it to a draw is a loss for the president.  I think you will see Republicans start running away from this.  Maybe they won`t vote against him in the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  I think the boxing -- the draw goes to the champ in boxing. 

PAYNE:  I don`t think we are -- I don`t think there is a championship belt on the --

MATTHEWS:  I missed it.  Anyway, this morning, President Trump threatened to pull out of the general election debates because he believe the non- partisan commission is biased against -- how do you -- anyway.  The president tweeted the Commission on Presidential Debates is stacked with Trump haters and never Trumpers and avoid the nasty politics of this biased -- OK. 

Argue about the commission.  I don`t think they are biased. 

BUCK:  He is doing so we will talk about it.  And he does this all the time.  He throws out these vague threats.  We talk about it. 

MATTHEWS:  Who is afraid of?  Who would he not want to stand on that stage with half the country at least watching?  Who would he be afraid to share the stage with? 

BUCK:  I don`t think he`s afraid of anybody.  I think he loves being on television.  He is going to debate.  He is not going to pass up the opportunity to stand in front of the American people for two hours and talk. 

What he wants to do is create drama and he wants to be able to set the terms of the debate.  He wants to set the terms of what we are talking about.  That`s what he always does. 

He throws it out.  We talk about it.  We chase it.  He walks it back.  We have a debate. 

PAYNE:  Any president doesn`t like being on stage with somebody lesser than them.  Barack Obama, if you remember in 2012, struggled with Mitt Romney.  That`s the first debate because that`s the first time someone could really challenge him. 

MATTHEWS:  This happens every time.  Every time a president, Reagan, every time the president who is incumbent faces a challenger, they are not used to getting sassed from somebody.  They always lose the first debate. 

PAYNE:  Yes.  It`s times 100 with Donald Trump because he is the biggest egomaniac we have had in offense.  It`s like the normal president ego times 100. 

MATTHEWS:  You are good at this.  Imagine somebody taken him down personally the way Mitt Romney did to Obama, just treat him like a lesser being.

PAYNE:  I think every Democrat is capable in their own special way of doing that. 

MATTHEWS:  Everyone?  You must be a progressive. 

PAYNE:  Each of the five leaders could do that.  Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, even Amy Klobuchar, I think they can all take him down in their own unique way. 

MATTHEWS:  You are a real hallmark card, aren`t you?  You want them all to like you.  You are a hallmark card. 

Thank you, Joel Payne.  Brendan Buck, good work coming on. 

Up next, does it make sense to re-elect a president who has been impeached?  Kevin McCarthy variant.  Does it make sense to reelect a guy who has been impeached, tarred and feathered? 

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was wrong when he said a president shouldn`t be impeached in his first term.  But he is on to something. 

Does it make sense for the country to elect, re-elect a president impeached in his first term to a second term? 

Look, in Nixon`s time, the desire to have him driven from office amount to a weather condition in this country.  It dominated the air.  The Clinton matter was, of course, what it was, about a president and his behavior and how he used his office in big doubt of dishonesty to get out of trouble it caused himself and the country.

This one came to us not just as a matter of involving Trump, but in the time of Trump, the craziness of which makes seriousness even in the process of getting rid of him hard to come by.  Half the country wants this guy gone, not just convicted but banished from the scene. 

But because he is such a lesser figure, more comic figure, it`s hard to feel the tragedy that Richard Nixon suffered.  I gave them a sword, Nixon said afterward, and they stuck it in and twisted it with relish.  I gave them a sword. 

It`s hard to hear Trump speak with such self-awareness, such understanding of his central role in the high misconduct that has already damaged the presidential office and perhaps enduring damage to the confidence we had so long in our self-government.  And he will run for re-election -- you betcha -- as he hadn`t a thing to do with it. 

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