Trump lashes out at accusers. TRANSCRIPT: 12/17/19, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Mary Gay Scanlon, Elizabeth Holtzman, David Jolly, Richard Durbin,Shelby Holliday, Paul Butler, Peggy Noonan, Steve Israel

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  So I want to let you know about that as we keep an eye on everything happening in Congress and beyond.

Thanks as always for watching THE BEAT.  Interesting times, so don`t go anywhere because "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Eve of destruction.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

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

We`re now just hours away from impeaching the president.  As the House is preparing to vote two articles against President Trump, he is raging in protest at those seeking to remove him from office.

In a six-page letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the president issued what he called his, quote, strongest and most powerful protest against the partisan impeachment crusade.  He argued, by proceeding with your invalid impeachment, you are violating your oaths of office, you are breaking your allegiance to the Constitution and you`re declaring opening war on American democracy.

Well, the president`s tirade, that`s what it is, came as the House Rules Committee met all day today to establish the terms for tomorrow`s debate and vote for the entire House on impeachment.  Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland filling in for the Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler made a forceful argument for the Democrats` charges against the president, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD):  The president`s aggressive and unprecedented resistance to congressional subpoenas for witnesses and documents is blatantly and dangerously unconstitutional.

The president`s continuing course of conduct constitutes a clear and present danger to democracy in America.  We cannot allow this misconduct to pass.  It would be a sellout of our Constitution, our foreign policy, our national security and our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the president offered no new evidence to support his claims in his letter today to Speaker Pelosi, only complaints that he`s being impeached.

At the White House this afternoon the unrepentant president again railed against the House proceedings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  The whole impeachment thing is a hoax.  We look forward to getting onto the Senate.  We`re not entitled to lawyers.  We`re not entitled to witnesses.  We`re not entitled to anything in the House.  It`s a total sham.

REPORTER:  Mr. President, do you take any responsibility for the fact that you`re about to be impeached.

TRUMP:  No, I don`t take any, zero, to put it mildly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s his verdict.

Anyway, Democrats go into tomorrow`s vote largely united.  Today, one-by- one, Democratic representatives, including many from districts the president won announced they will vote in favor on the two articles of impeachment.

For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania, vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a member of the House Rules Committee as well, former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate era, and former Republican Congressman David Jolly.  Thank you very much.

Congresswoman, tell us about tomorrow.  This seemed to be this terrible letter from the president, seemed like it was written by Steve Miller or some wild person, I think a wild person.  The language wasn`t even Trump`s.  He doesn`t use words like disingenuous.  I can`t imagine -- that`s a pretty Latin day term for this fellow, calling it a protest.  He says that the impeachment you`re all pushing for and will pass tomorrow offends Americans of faith.  What does he know about Americans of faith?  I don`t get it.

REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA):  I`m not sure at all.  I`ve been in the Rules Committee meeting.  We`ve been having that hearing since 11:00 this morning and we`re not done yet.  So I haven`t had a chance to really go over the letter.  It seems a little disingenuous, shall we say, since the president has repeatedly been invited to participate, including being invited to have his administration respond to subpoenas for documents and to send members of his administration to explain his story, if there is one, that is not impeachable.

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you think of his last guess?  But, I mean, I`ll tell you, it`s in the letter, nothing but anger.  He`s mad, finally, he realized being impeached is not sort of a mixed opportunity.  There`s no silver lining into this baby.  He`s going down in history as one of the few presidents who has been found unfit by the U.S. Congress for the office he`s in.

SCANLON:  Well, from what I`ve heard about this letter, it continues to display a fundamental misunderstanding of what our Constitution provides.  I mean, the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment.  He doesn`t get to say whether he gets impeached or not.  But it is part of this continuing course of conduct where he doesn`t understand the rule of law, he doesn`t understand the Constitution, and that`s what leads him to do things, like approaching a foreign leader and asking a foreign country to interfere in our elections.

MATTHEWS:  He said he did it for us.  He made that appeal, which was a political appeal, to the president of Ukraine.  He said he did it for our country.  I said do us a favor not me and our country, not a campaign.  He`s now trying to claim that was some patriotic zealous effort on our behalf to help screw Joe Biden.  That was some national effort to get rid of Biden as a candidate.  That`s what it`s -- it`s incredible what he`s saying.

SCANLON:  I think his excuse would have a little bit more weight if, number one, he actually said anything about the country.  Instead, his entire conversation with the president of Ukraine had to do with the Bidens, it had to do with CrowdStrike.  So it was about trying to justify his 2016 reliance on foreign interference and then solicit foreign interference for 2020.

But also throughout this entire thing, it wasn`t until after he got caught that he came up with all these reasons, that he was contacting the president.  He never talked to his national security people about having some national security interests here.  He never followed up with the Department of Justice about any, you know, fictitious corruption claims.  So it`s all after the fact, and it`s only when he got caught he`s trying to do another cover-up.

MATTHEWS:  Do you know any Republicans from your area of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the counties of Philadelphia, for example, like Brian Fitzpatrick?  How do they defend this guy at this point?

SCANLON:  Well, we had a conversation about this up in the Rules Committee earlier today.  There are a number of Republicans from Pennsylvania who have come out and said, no, this is impeachable conduct, this is abuse of power.  One of them is Tom Rich, former secretary of Homeland Security, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Vietnam vet, former congressman.  He said that this weekend.  Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania has come out and said it.

What we`re seeing though is we`ve got libertarians, we`ve got conservatives, we`ve got Democrats, we`ve got independents who say this is wrong, this is impeachable.  What we don`t have is people, Republicans who still depend on this president for their jobs.  If he can tank them, they`re not going to speak out against him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, in his letter to Speaker Pelosi, the president argued that the process is unfair.  He wrote, quote, more due process was afforded to those accused in the Salem witch trials.

He went on to argue, I have no doubt the American people will hold you and the Democrats fully responsible in the upcoming 2020 election.  They will not soon forgive your perversion of and abuse of power.

Last question to you, Congresswoman, I don`t think he wrote this letter.  It doesn`t even sound like him.  It is the letter of a wild man.  But I would bet Steve Miller.  I wouldn`t bet on this president.  The language is too complicated, the words are too long.  They don`t sound like him.  Why would he issue this piece -- it has no legal foundation.

SCANLON:  Well, it did sound scripted.  It sounded an awful lot like the scripts we were hearing from our Republican colleagues whether in Judiciary or Rules.  We know that there`s been plenty of due process afforded.  The president has chosen not to come.  He`s chosen not to send his attorney.  Whether or not it can float, I don`t know.  That`s another due process element from the witch trials.  But --

MATTHEWS:  I think floating is the bad part.  I think you`re supposed to sink.  That was the weird Catch-22 -- there was a catch-22 of those witch trials.  You better sink or you float, you`re guilty.

Anyway, hold on for a second, Congresswoman.  I want to go to Elizabeth Holtzman.

It does seem like he`s not throwing himself at the mercy of the court because there`s no mercy out there for him.  And I wonder is he just simply, blah, blah, blah, making noise for his 40 percent?

FMR. REP. ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN (D-NY):  I think that that`s what it is.  It`s part rant, it`s part mobilizing his base.  It`s part whining.  Nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of the world.  I`m the biggest victim that`s ever been victimized.  I mean, all of that is in there.  The whining is in there.

MATTHEWS:  But he was flirting with this -- I`m not crazy, I listen to this guy for months before this when this was building up and percolating all through the year.  He was acting like, oh, I can make a lot out of this, this is going to be good for me.  There`s not a big silver lining to this baby.  He seems like he`s finally got the message, this is all bad.

HOLTZMAN:  Well, I think he realizes how bad it is, and what he`s trying to do is dredge up these old arguments, including the lie about Biden.  If he really was interested in the welfare of the United States, he`d get the facts about Biden from our own State Department, which was that Biden was executing U.S. policy in pulling for getting rid of the prosecutor in Ukraine.  He was corrupt.  And now we see Trump and Giuliani admitting it.  We got rid of the ambassador because she was in our way.

MATTHEWS:  David, who`s he talking to with this sort of cri de guerre or cri de coeur or crying high for help?

FMR. REP. DAVID JOLLY (R-FL):  He is creating a false narrative of history and understanding.  Even in the clip from the today when he said, my attorneys weren`t allowed to be there and neither were our witnesses.  That`s a lie.  His attorneys were invited to the Judiciary Committee meeting when they heard from other constitutional scholars about what rises to the level of impeachment.  House Republicans submitted a list of witnesses that they wanted to hear from.  Democrats accepted about half of them, the legitimate ones, if you will.

But what scares me about the letter he`s written, it`s not that it`s unfair, it`s that he uses words like invalid, illegitimate, unconstitutional, because what he`s doing, Chris, and the danger here is suggesting that somehow the House no longer has this authority, that this impeachment power has been a bedrock of Congress` ability to provide oversight to the president has, in some way, eroded to the point that it`s no longer valid in the modern Congress.

And if House Republicans carry that narrative, we`re in a dangerous spot.  He`s trying to tell his base it`s not even valid.  When I become the third president to be impeached by the House, it`s not really real because it`s not valid what the House is doing.  It`s shameful but it`s also dangerous.  Even Democrats who today would tell you that Clinton should never have been impeached.  They recognize the authenticity and the validity of the impeachment.  They just think it was wrong.

MATTHEWS:  What`s the danger of it?  What`s the possible outcome (ph) on this?  You say dangerous.  What is the danger?

JOLLY:  We talk about the weaponization of impeachment.  In the first 185 years of our republican, we only had one impeachment, Andrew Johnson.  From the last 45 now, we`ve had three.  And we have to ask ourselves as a nation.  Is impeachment becoming weaponized?  Is it simply that we have better tools of investigative reporting?  We`ve always had corrupt politicians.  But why have we had three impeachments for the last 45 years?

And if Donald Trump`s answer is, well, because it`s no longer a constitutional tool, it`s a political weapon that we don`t need to worry about, he`s tearing at the fabric of Article I.  And my fear is that Republican members of Congress are going along with it.  They wouldn`t have done this under a previous president.

MATTHEWS:  I think, Congresswoman, what I`ve been impressed by is not that the House, through its inquiry -- a very good inquiry.  Witnesses were great, especially lawyers, and all the fact witnesses were great.  I think it was a very consistent source of information.  My danger is, what I fear, it was very good at feeding the information to the major newspapers of the country.  Every major newspaper ran at the top of the fold right on the right-hand side, all the news coming out of the House inquiry.  It was a very good way of conveying the facts to the people who were willing to read a newspaper and find out the facts.

But what about the people that don`t want to read about it?  What about the ones that are watching Dancing with the Stars say, I don`t want to be bothered with this, it`s too complicated and it`s all partisan?  Was there ever a way to reach those people?  Your thoughts, Congresswoman?

SCANLON:  Well, I mean that`s what we`ve been trying to do through the series of hearings is give people the information, engage them in active citizenship.  It`s up to us to keep a republic.  I mean, that`s what Benjamin Franklin advised us.  So we`re really asking people to hark back to their grade school civics lessons.  It`s not that complicated.  The president can`t act this way.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think he got a good job starting with the release of the whistleblower`s report and the phone records of the president`s conversation with the president of Ukraine.  I think the country went from 25 to 30, up to about 50 percent.  That`s as far as it got.  It didn`t quite ring the bell at the top.  We`re talking about 70 percent but it got up to about 50.

Anyway, today`s Rules Committee, I think Congressman Raskin, my congressman, did a really good job in arguing the need to impeach this guy.  It`s supported by recent revelations of his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

By the way, Raskin cited a newly published interview with The New Yorker Magazine in which Giuliani admitted, I believed that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way so the president could continue his quest for political dirt.  Here it goes.  This is today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RASKIN:  We present you not just with high crimes and misdemeanors but a constitutional crime in progress up to this very minute.  Mayor Giuliani, the president`s private lawyer, fresh from his overseas travel, looking to rehabilitate once again the discredited conspiracy theories at the heart of the president`s defense, admitted that he participated directly in the smear campaign to oust Ambassador Yovanovitch from her job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, there he is, the congressman bringing it up today.  He`s a constitutional scholar, Raskin, and he brought it up today.  The role of the president`s henchman, his lawyer is playing right now trying to get dirt from Ukraine.

HOLTZMAN:  That`s why the president is a clear and present danger, and that`s why it`s so imperative for Congress to act, to check him, because unchecked, he`s going to continue to do this.  And all that this is about - - let`s get real here -- is about winning the 2020 election at any cost no matter what laws are violated and no matter what he undermines in the process.  And that`s what`s at stake.  That`s a very simple message for the American people, I understand.

And the other message is if he had evidence that would clear him, he could let all these people come and testify.  He has refused to do that.  That`s evidence in and of itself.

MATTHEWS:  I agree with that.  That`s my political rule, by the way, Axiom, if it`s better than it looks, they`ll show you.

JOLLY:  Yes, that`s right.  That`s exactly right.

MATTHEWS:  If it`s worse than it looks, they`ll shut up and that`s what he`s doing.  He`s shutting up.

JOLLY:  And Schumer and McConnell are having that debate right now.  Why would you not want additional fact witnesses?  I think Ari Melber showed just before this, had Henry Hyde, who was the Judiciary chairman for Republicans when they impeached Clinton, saying we didn`t have all of the witnesses testify in the House because we expected the Senate would ask them to testify at trial, at the impeachment trial in the Senate.  We should hear from these people.  And if not, why not, why can`t we hear from them?

MATTHEWS:  I think the House has done a great job.

Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, thank you for your role so far in both the committees.  I think it`s been a great job.  You`ve reached everybody that was listening.  The challenge is to get more people to listen next time.

Anyway, former Congresswoman and the great Elizabeth Holtzman and her time machine, she`s taking us back to Nixon country and it`s always helpful, unfortunately.  What a country to live in.  We live in a country where it`s helpful to know what Nixon did at this point.  David Jolly, thank you, sir.

Coming up, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, one of my favs, joins me in the Senate impeachment committee.  He`s a hard get, as we say in this business, at least for this show.  I`m so glad to have him on.  He`s the number two Democrat in the Senate and he knows everything that`s going on in this fight about how the Senate is going to judge this case.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the legislative body he leads will hold an entirely -- is this wonderful -- partisan trial.  Isn`t that nice to know about our democracy?  He should take one of those citizenship tests.  I swear half these guys would flunk them if they`ll become citizen.

While Schumer wants witness for that testimony, McConnell says forget about it.  Remember what I said, if it looks bad as it is, they`ll show you.  It looks worse.  It`s worse.

Anyway, let`s watch McConnell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  If House Democrats case is this deficient, this thin, the answer is not for the judge and jury to cure it over here in the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Is he Elmer Fudd or Bugs Bunny?

Plus, Rudy Giuliani is still pushing discredited conspiracy theories to anyone who will listen.  There he is still talking.  He`s also admitting that he`s responsible for the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, remember how he got her out of the way, and that President Trump knew what he was up to.  Of course he did.

We`ve got much more to get to tonight.  It`s a big night.  We`re on the eve, as I said, of destruction.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY):  I think we`re going to get almost an entirely partisan impeachment.  I would anticipate an almost entirely partisan outcome in the Senate as well. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

That was Senate majority leader, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, this afternoon laying out his expectations, pretty poor expectations, for what will happen in the U.S. Senate if the House votes to impeach President Trump tomorrow.

And how that trial would proceed still needs to be hashed out by the two Senate leaders, McConnell, of course, Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York.

Today, we got a glimpse of what their negotiations might look, with McConnell slamming Schumer`s proposal that the president`s inner circle be called to testify. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL:  So now the Senate Democratic leader would apparently like our chamber to do House Democrats` homework for them.  He wants to volunteer the Senate`s time and energy on a fishing expedition to see whether his own ideas could make Chairman Schiff`s sloppy work more persuasive than Chairman Schiff himself bothered to make it. 

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY):  Why is the leader, why is the president so afraid of having these witnesses come -- witnesses come testify?  What are they afraid the witnesses would say? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, this morning, Senator McConnell made it very clear how he sees a potential Senate trial proceeding. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

MCCONNELL:  I will listen to the arguments that the House managers appointed by Pelosi make.  We will listen to the response of the president`s lawyers. 

We will have a period of written questions.  And then the Senate will have to make a decision.  Do we know enough, have we learned enough, after listening to all this, to go on and vote on the two very weak articles of impeachment? 

Or do we want to have a show trial, in which both sides try to embarrass the other and put on a -- you know, an embarrassing scene, frankly, for the American people? 

Obviously, I think we have heard enough.  After we have heard the arguments, we ought to vote and move on. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  For more, I`m joined by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

It sounds, Senator, like the Republican leader of the Senate, the majority leader, would like to have something like a replay of the old "Crossfire" show, a lot of political shots back and forth, with no witnesses.

SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL):  Well, and I think the American people expect more.  They want us to take this seriously, as we should, and they want us to carefully consider the evidence. 

What Senator Schumer has asked for, what the Democrats are asking for is what people usually see in a trial, documents, witnesses, testimony. Let the American people and members of the Senate reach that conclusion. 

But if you listen to what Senator McConnell had to say, it`s a show trial, if there`s going to be actual evidence.  I don`t think the American people feel that way.  I think they expect us to do our job and to do it professionally. 

MATTHEWS:  John Bolton is no longer in the administration, but he was director of national security for this president.  He was very the mix for -- in the loop, if you will, on all these conversations. 

He would be a great fact witness.  What are the chances or what could it take on your side?  Can the Democrats offer any deal that would bring him to the trial in the Senate? 

DURBIN:  Chris, what it takes is very basic, four Republican senators who decide that we want to have a trial that is befitting this institution. 

This is a constitutional responsibility.  This just isn`t a political assignment.  And if we`re going to have a trial and a decision made by the Senate, we should do it based on careful consideration of evidence. 

The testimony of John Bolton, in my estimation, would be valuable and important, or at least he ought to be given the chance to make that presentation. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your sense of these.

My hunch is that -- I was very much against the neocons, if you will, the hawks in the Iraq War.  But I do think a number of them are honest people.  The late Charles Krauthammer, for example, I think he told the truth in his columns and everywhere else.

And I think this guy Bolton does too.  Do you think, if you got John Bolton there, he`d be honest? 

DURBIN:  Well, I can tell you this.

His departure from the White House -- and there have been very many under the Trump administration -- was different than most.  It appeared he walked out under his own steam.  He wasn`t pushed out of the door.  He had reached a point where there was something he could no longer tolerate. 

That may -- might be part of the scenario that he would describe to us. 

MATTHEWS:  Mick Mulvaney, who holds two titles, both acting titles, I believe, OMB and chief of staff to the President, Mick is the kind of witness who would not be accused of being -- engaging in hearsay, because he was in the actual -- all the conversations. 

Now, having the White House refuse to let those people testify as fact witnesses from the inside the loop, now the Senate leader is saying, well, now we don`t want them now either, because we don`t want them now having it -- it just seems like they have closed the circle on any chance to get the truth. 

DURBIN:  Well, when Senator McConnell accuses our ask of witnesses to be just to embarrass the president, the bottom line is, Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff for quite a period of time now, would be a person who probably was party to this telephone conversation, as well as any efforts made by the Trump White House to withhold the $400 million in critical military aid for Ukraine. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DURBIN:  I can`t think of a more relevant witness.  And that`s the reason why he led our list of witnesses we`d like to see come before the Senate. 

MATTHEWS:  If you ask for the two guests with -- gosh -- I`m thinking television values. 

No, if you think about the two witnesses, certainly, John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney as prize witnesses, as star witnesses in a case like this, would you negotiate people you would not necessarily want to testify, for example, the Bidens or Joe Biden?

Is there -- is there a deal there to be made, that you would offer up people that you might not like to see as witnesses?  But if it was a way to get the star witnesses to make the case with impeachment, is it worth it? 

DURBIN:  Well, Chris, I`m not going to negotiate it on your show, as important as this presentation may be.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DURBIN:  I`m going to leave that to Chuck Schumer to sit down with Mitch McConnell and reach an agreement. 

But what we`re looking for are witnesses that are relevant to the charges at hand...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DURBIN:  ... an abuse of the power of the presidency for the president`s personal and political benefit. 

We`re also looking for cooperation from the White House.  This is something we don`t spend a lot of time talking about, but under the Nixon articles of impeachment, which obviously didn`t go forward when he resigned, they were alleging interference and obstruction of justice when it came to congressional work. 

In this case, we have had a refusal by this White House to literally provide documents and key witnesses from the start.  You cannot have a functioning constitutional process of impeachment without the presentation of evidence. 

And the president and White House have done everything they can to violate this president and -- precedent -- and to withhold this important information. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, like a lot of Americans, I look up to the U.S. Senate, since the time I was a kid reading "Advise and Consent."  I love the institution. 

Does -- does Senator McConnell still love the institution?  Because he`s not defending it.

DURBIN:  I can tell you -- Chris, let me just tell you something. 

Under his leadership, there`s been more damage done to this institution than I could even describe to you.

Consider one basic fact.  We are now ending a calendar year.  And during that calendar year, there have been 22 amendments voted on the floor of the United States Senate, 22 in an entire year, six by Senator Rand Paul. 

It`s an indication of a Senate that is out to lunch and, frankly, has walked away from its basic constitutional responsibility.  Senator McConnell, who started working as a staffer in the Senate, served in the Senate for many years, has done more damage to this institution than I can imagine. 

MATTHEWS:  I thought he loved it.  I thought he`d fight for the filibuster.  I thought he would fight for all the tradition. 

Let me ask you about your hopes of picking up some Republicans, the one you mentioned, to get you from 47 to 51. 

Do you have any prospects right now?  How`s it look?

DURBIN:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  To get enough Republicans aboard to get the rules set, so you can have witnesses?

DURBIN:  There are only a handful of Senate Republicans who have had the courage to step up and disagree publicly with the president. 

Some have tried it, and then decided that it was just too dangerous for them politically.  I know the names, and you do as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

DURBIN:  And I`m not going to suggest you I have talked to any of them or any promises have been made. 

But we`re hoping during the course of this that there will be four Republican senators who say, we want to write a record in this trial, regardless of the outcome, that really is fitting for this institution, one that we can live with in the course of history. 

We have seen some unusual things.  I don`t know if you have heard about this president`s six-page letter which he sent up to Capitol Hill.  But we received this today.

(CROSSTALK)

DURBIN:  I guarantee you that`s going to be exhibit A in a lot of political science classes for generations to come.  It is a rant by the president on this whole impeachment proceeding. 

It is a concise compendium of his greatest hits of his 15,000 tweets as president.  I have received letters like this.  You did once when you worked on the Hill...

MATTHEWS:  I know.  I know.

(LAUGHTER)

DURBIN:  ... from people who underline every other word...

MATTHEWS:  I know.

DURBIN:  ... and just load up the exclamation points. 

That`s the kind of letter we received from the president of the United States on the eve of his impeachment.

MATTHEWS:  Well, like your hope, sir.  I always have liked your hope, Senator. 

And I just think maybe they won`t vote for either of these two articles of impeachment, but they should recall Article 1 of the Constitution.  What do you think?  Wouldn`t that be nice? 

DURBIN:  Absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much.  That`s the one that...

DURBIN:  That`s what we swore to uphold and -- we swore to uphold and defend it.  And we should. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you so much, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. 

Up next:  Rudy Giuliani brags about his role in forcing out U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.  Since when does the president`s personal lawyer get to force out -- that`s his word -- get out of the way, I think, is his other phrase -- a senior member of America`s diplomatic corps?

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

On the eve of the president`s impeachment -- that`s tomorrow, believe it or not -- Trump`s personal lawyer is still out there advancing the case actually against this client.

Damning revelations from Rudy Giuliani this week have shed new light on Trump`s decision to oust the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, in his pursuit of politically motivated investigations or declarations of investigations in Ukraine.

First, Giuliani admitted to a central charge of the impeachment inquiry, telling "The New Yorker" magazine that he -- quote -- "needed Yovanovitch out of the way, because she was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody."  Those are his words. 

And now he`s gone further and admitted to "The New York Times" now that, earlier this year, he personally told the president just that.  Giuliani said he passed along to Mr. Trump a couple of times, he said, accounts about how the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, had frustrated efforts that could be politically helpful to Mr. Trump. 

In other words, Giuliani confirmed what the president knew and when he knew it.

In fact, Giuliani is taking personal responsibility for Trump`s ouster of Yovanovitch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS:  Now, this hit piece -- and it`s a hit piece...

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:  Of course.

INGRAHAM:  ... also has you on the record admitting that you forced out Marie Yovanovitch. 

GIULIANI:  Of course I did.

INGRAHAM:  You said you needed her out of the way.

(CROSSTALK)

INGRAHAM:  But you`re a personal attorney for the president.  So why do you need her out of the way?

GIULIANI:  I didn`t need her out of the way.  I forced her out because she`s corrupt. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: "I forced her out."

Yet Giuliani`s allegations have been dismissed outright by every witness who testified on that subject in the inquiry.  She`s not corrupt.  She wasn`t corrupt.

I`m joined right now by Shelby Holliday, reporter for "The Wall Street Journal."  And Paul Butler is a former federal prosecutor.

Paul, shake this down into a couple of names, not a Russian novel.  Rudy Giuliani is flagrant.  Is he trying to lock in his relationship with Trump, so Trump can`t throw him under the bus?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  So, Chris, if this is the eve of destruction, Rudy Giuliani is the unwitting agent of President Trump`s destruction. 

He just provided compelling evidence of article one, that the president abused public trust with this shakedown.  We know that there was no corruption reason to get rid of Ambassador Yovanovitch.

She`s an expert on public corruption.  That`s one reason why she was sent to Ukraine.  We know that corruption investigation was Giuliani and Trump`s code word for political dirt from Ukraine. 

And how do we know Giuliani wasn`t doing this on his own?  Because every time President Trump was asked about Ukraine, he said, talk to Rudy.  He said that to Ambassador Sondland.  He said it to Energy Secretary Perry.  He even said it to President Zelensky. 

MATTHEWS:  So what do you make of this, Shelby?  Because it looks like the Thelma and Louise in this case is the president of the United States and his -- quote -- "lawyer."

I don`t -- I have no idea what law has to do with this, except breaking it. 

SHELBY HOLLIDAY, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL":  Well, Rudy Giuliani is doubling down on his criticism of Marie Yovanovitch, as you just played in that clip. 

But what he`s saying to these to the...

MATTHEWS:  Just for the public, just for people that aren`t following is every minute...

HOLLIDAY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  ... her problem was that she was getting in the way of their -- of their escapades. 

HOLLIDAY:  Yes.  That`s what she said in her testimony, and that is what Rudy Giuliani is saying now.

And it`s echoing something he told "The Journal" back in October, which is that he saw her as an obstacle, and he spoke to the president about it, and the president ultimately removed her. 

Now, why does this matter?  Because the president tomorrow will likely be impeached for the charge of abuse of power, something he denies.  But that abuse of power, as Democrats see it ,involved the removal of Yovanovitch, because it was a step that led the president -- it created a vacuum that led the president to set up this unofficial channel led by Rudy Giuliani and involving Volker and Sondland and Perry. 

And as he told them shortly after Zelensky was inaugurated, talk to Rudy.  And these men under oath said, it was pretty clear that we weren`t going to get anywhere with our White House meeting, with anything we wanted with respect to Ukraine, unless Rudy was satisfied.

And so it sort of set into motion what the president is now being impeached for.

MATTHEWS:  Let me simplify it, Paul.  And you can do a better job of this.

The fact is, it looks to me like the president sent Rudy over there.  They put this scheme together.  The president`s have enough time to cook this up.  Rudy did probably.  Hey, I`m going to go over there, Mr. President, and get some people to throw some dirt at the guy most likely to run against you as the Democratic nominee in 2020. 

If can knock down Biden, who is the moderate, maybe that`s enough to knock down the whole field.  So, just get anybody over there, no matter how sleazy they are, no matter how close to corruption they are and how much they are corrupt.  Get anybody over there that has a way of putting out a press release.  Just get them to say they`re investigating Joe Biden and his son. 

Just get -- is that it? 

BUTLER:  Yes, that`s right. 

MATTHEWS:  As sleazy as they are?

BUTLER:  Yes, that`s right. 

And Rudy Giuliani went down and dirty.  He went low down to talk to people who he had to know was lying.  All he wanted was a case to make against the ambassador, even though it was false. 

We will all remember that very poignant testimony during the impeachment inquiry when she asked -- she gets asked, why am I being fired?  And the State Department says, you did nothing wrong.  You just got on Trump`s bad side. 

But payback is something, because now Giuliani doesn`t just have compelling evidence against the president for impeachment.  He`s got his own criminal exposure.  These shady characters Parnas and Fruman, who he was working with, guess what?  One of the reasons they`re indicted in the Southern District of New York is for their role in this conspiracy to get rid of the ambassador. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, and, at least in the movies, Shelby, if a gang is caught robbing a bank, they cool it for a few months.  They don`t go out and rob another bank right away, OK, because they`re -- people are on the lookout.

Why is Rudy still doing exactly what both of those two guys, he and the president, are accused of right now?

HOLLIDAY:  I think what you`re seeing is them using a playbook that has worked for them in the past. 

It worked during the 2016 election.  We heard Rudy endlessly talk about the alleged corruption of Secretary Clinton and all the things she had done wrong.  He talked about that day in and day out.  He loved talking about the investigations and the FBI reopening their investigation. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HOLLIDAY:  He`s doing that again because it worked politically

But it also worked for them when Mueller was investigating the president and his campaign.  Rudy going on television and doubling down on the president`s defense, it worked for them.  Politically, they feel like they won that battle. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, maybe they did.  Hopefully, they didn`t.

Thank you, Shelby Holliday.  Thank you for joining us from "The Journal," "Wall Street Journal," and Paul Butler. 

Up next, moderate Democrats and Republican lawmakers in swing districts are facing some tough decisions on impeachment.  You can`t make everybody happy even when it`s clear.  We`re going to run through the latest info where they all stand at this moment straight ahead on HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

House Democrats won the 2018 midterm elections, flipping 31 seats in districts President Trump had carried two years earlier.  It was the largest Democratic gain since the post-Watergate election. 

Well, because of the current impeachment debate many of those same members have been forced to take a stand, country or politics.  According to NBC News, tally 41 Democrats in competitive districts out of 44 say they will vote, however, for both articles of impeachment.  Another one, Maine`s Jared Golden said today he`d only vote for the abuse of power article, that`s the first article, not the article for obstruction of Congress. 

Well, many of the frontlines Democrats, as they`re called, cited the Constitution and their conscience for their decision to vote aye. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. COLIN ALLRED (D-TX):  I took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution.  And I think that a serious violation of abuse of power happened here. 

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO):  I do not come to Congress to do this, but if we don`t do it now, then when will we? 

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA):  I think it`s equally important today as it will be six months from now to say that I stood up against the president when he did something wrong. 

REP. LUCY MCBATH (D-GA):  I believe the president abused the power of his office, putting his own interests above the needs of our nation, above the needs of the people that I love and I serve.  And for that, I must vote my conscience. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But what about Republicans facing competitive re-election campaigns next year?  People like Senator Susan Collins, the senator from Maine?  What do they do?

That`s up next.  You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Only two Democrats have broken ranks with the party to vote no on the articles of impeachment.  Congress Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Congressman Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey -- I love that name, Van Drew.  Reports said Van Drew was leaving the party over impeachment, but he could not confirm that -- we cannot firm it yet.  I think he`s leaving.

I have to, quote, I have not made a decision, he says, I`m willing to share with anybody.  I`m trying to be gentle, and I`m telling you I am where I am and you`ll hear in a relatively short period of time.  So, he`s playing it cute.

Anyway, just last week, he, the Congressman Van Drew from South Jersey, dismissed the notion he would switch parties. 

For more, I`m joined by a couple of people I like.  Peggy Noonan, "Wall Street Journal" columnist, every Saturday morning, and former Congressman Steve Israel, a great novelist, by the way, Democrat from New York. 

Let`s talk about when you think tomorrow and you think about coming in January, the Republicans have -- have we reached a point where you just vote party, you just keep it simple like Moynihan did when he voted against Clinton`s impeachment?  You just say, it`s a political game, I`m going to play it, I`m not going to stick my neck out of there no matter what you think of Clinton.

Has it reached that point where you can`t have a conscience or even an attitude anymore? 

PEGGY NOONAN, COLUMNIST, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:  I think at the end of the day, political figures have a way of figuring out what is convenient for them and safe for them.  I think the safe place now, let`s face it, is a tribal attitude.  So I think, sure, a lot of them will think of it that way. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think?

STEVE ISRAEL (D-NY), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  Look, I think, I mean -- 

MATTHEWS:  Steve, has it reached the point now where breaking from your PAC, the people that raised you money, who knocked doors for you -- and that`s really what it`s about.  It`s the loyalty of the peeps, the regular people who voted for you.  It`s just so dangerous. 

ISRAEL:  It is. 

And, look, in instances like this, impeachment, highly partisan, a lot of energy on the extremes.  You vote with your base.  You vote your principles, but you don`t discount the polling and you don`t discount the politics. 

If you`re a Democrat of one of those 31 districts that Donald Trump won, this is very tough vote.  Rule number one in those districts, those really competitive battleground districts, you never weaken your foundation, you don`t lose your base.  You have to stick with your base, particularly in a presidential year when the bases are coming out, right?  They`re coming out --

MATTHEWS:  So, you vote your party. 

ISRAEL:  You`ve got to move them down ballot and you`ve got to move them down your party`s ballot.  So you stick with your base.  You can`t forfeit your base and get re-elected. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me -- go ahead.

NOONAN:  Well, I was thinking -- when I was thinking about the position of a House moderate, Democratic moderates in the House, the position of GOP senators seem to Democratic moderates in the House from the purple districts, they got a little leeway there because, you know what, a purple district knows they elected a Democrat, maybe last time a Republican, they elected a Democrat, they do expect a Democrat to act like a Democrat. 

ISRAEL:  Uh-huh.

NOONAN:  Do you know what I mean? 

I think the more sensitive position is Republican senators up for re- election in states that are more pro-impeachment than against --

MATTHEWS:  You`re smart.  I think -- I also think picking national security is a basis was very helpful in the burbs with Nancy.  She picked that.  In the burbs, they cared of it.  They read the paper more frequently, actual newspapers. 

ISRAEL:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Just a comment because I grew up there.

There`s a handful of Republicans who could feel pressure to break with the president on impeachment including Susan Collins, who`s always the tricky one of Maine.  And Mitt Romney of Utah who has had the other night flirts with greatness.  Flirts.

Senator Collins told "Politico" that she will announce her decision any even when to run again at the end of this week.  So, that`s pretty dire.

NOONAN:  Wow.

MATTHEWS:  According to "Politico", Republicans say she`s the only person in the Republican Party who can keep the seat in GOP hands.  She quits, the Democrats own Maine.  Democrats have privately wondered whether she might retire in President Trump`s impeachment amid that, and Maine`s increasingly blue hue. 

NOONAN:  Yes.

ISRAEL:  Look, Mitch McConnell has one imperative and that is to keep to majority. 

There are five senators, five Republican senators who are going to have a tough climb on this.  It`s Cory Gardner of Colorado, Susan Collins in Maine, Joni Ernst in Iowa, McSally in Arizona.

MATTHEWS:  Yes.

ISRAEL:  Maybe Thom Tillis in North Carolina.

MATTHEWS: But what who would do well by breaking with their party?  Who would do well by breaking with their party?

ISRAEL:  I think they face the same conundrum as House members.  You break with your party, you lose your base. 

Now, it`s a little easier to manage in the state.  One other thing, they`ve got a long time to repair the damage. 

NOONAN:  Yes, senators do.

MATTHEWS:  Would Democrats impeach a president for doing exact what this guy did, if he were a Democrat? 

ISRAEL:  Absolutely, absolutely. 

MATTHEWS:  Really? 

ISRAEL:  If he had made a phone call a day after a Mueller report and did what this president did, absolutely.  And Chairman Schiff said that, he said publicly if the evidence was the same as a Democratic president, he would vote to impeach. 

MATTHEWS:  Would Republicans vote against impeachment if it were a Democrat? 

NOONAN:  I don`t know. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

NOONAN:  I`ll tell you I`m afraid that -- I paused so long.  What I was thinking about was the Senate and Susan Collins.  She is dependent as Cory Gardner is, as a bunch of Republicans running for re-election from the Senate are on cross over appeal at a moment when that is shrinking, at a moment when impeachment has made things kind of bitter and torn. 

Maine, Susan Collins state, is pro-impeachment, according to the polls at least.  It`s so very hard for them, for those Republicans. 

ISRAEL:  Just to pick up on that, this is function of gerrymandering.  You don`t gerrymander a state but you gerrymander congressional districts, and that`s gerrymandering has pushed both parties to the extreme.

MATTHEWS:  Eighty-six percent of both parties support the position of their party on impeachment. 

NOONAN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  That`s 9 out of 10.  That`s 9 out of 10 people you bump into, you go door-to-door.  If their Democrats, they`re for impeaching this guy.  If they`re Republicans, they`re against it.  It is polarized out there.

NOONAN:  How`s it going to feel tomorrow on the floor when they vote to impeach?  What is that moment going to be like? 

MATTHEWS:  I don`t know whether it`s going to sink in or not.  It`s historic.  And I were -- someone said the other day that history has lost its consequence.  It`s pretty scary. 

Depth -- we`re not operating enough depth, anybody is, nobody is operating with enough depth, because we have a president who`s not there. 

Anyway, Peggy Noonan, thank you.  Steve Israel.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  How much will tomorrow`s historic impeachment vote weigh in the voters` decision next year?  Well, Trump`s betrayal of public trust in the Ukraine matter carry the weight as the indecency of Trump`s language and overall conduct, the decline in basic human behavior, he`s driven in the four years of his national political life? 

Well, I hedge my bet on the following -- if the Democrats pick the right candidate next year, by that I mean the candidate whose character and conduct contrasts powerfully from what we`ve seen and heard from Donald Trump, he or she will take him down.  Why?  Because the history of American elections is a history of U.S. -- of all of us, electing candidates to repair the damage of the previous president. 

We picked a nonpolitician General Eisenhower to replace a product of the Kansas City political machine, Harry Truman.  We picked the young, dashing Jack Kennedy to replace the tired Eisenhower.  We picked Dick Nixon to make the cold calculation, a cold decision to free the U.S. from Lyndon Johnson`s commitments in Vietnam.  We picked Jimmy Carter to clean up after Nixon.  We picked Ronald Reagan for his strength over a weaker Carter and we picked the first George Bush for a kindler, gentler presidency over the conservative Reagan. 

We picked the young and nimble Bill Clinton from the beleaguered Bush.  We picked "W" -- I`m sorry, the Supreme Court did that one.  We picked the bright, thoughtful Barack Obama to replace the less deliberative W.  We picked Trump to drain the swamp and we`ll pick the next president to rid us of the bathtub ring of dirt and ill behavior of a president who made so many of us embarrassed. 

And that`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now. 

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