ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And when that client is the president, well, it goes to this witness fight at the coming Senate trial. We`ll stay on all of it.
But don`t go anywhere right now. HARDBALL with Chris Matthews starts right now.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Fight night. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews here in the spin room in Des Moines, Iowa.
There`s a major news now, a bit of news that the Democratic race for president, of course, with the two key progressives stuck in a war of words, you might say, about gender ahead of tonight`s final debate between the Iowa caucuses.
And back in Washington, Nancy Pelosi made it official today announcing Democrats would vote tomorrow to send those articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate. It`s a huge development, of course. And a little while, I`m going to talk to a key House Democrat about what happened in the caucus today and what we can expect tomorrow.
But, first, the turmoil in the Democratic race, as an unexpected battle between Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over gender threatens the dynamic of the race just three weeks before the Iowa caucuses. The fight between the long-time progressive allies escalated yesterday after reports surfaced that Warren alleged Sanders, told her during a December 2018 meeting, a woman could not win the presidency.
Sanders denied the charge saying that it was ludicrous. His campaign manager later told NBC, I believe strongly what we are talking about here is a lie. He also called it a smear. Warren countered in her statement of her own confirming the conversation saying, I thought a woman could win. He disagreed.
Moments ago, Sanders Campaign Senior Adviser Jeff Weaver told my colleague, Chuck Todd, the dispute came from, I don`t know if you can believe this one, different recollections of the conversation. Here goes Weaver.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY WEAVER, SANDERS CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Senator Sanders never said a woman could not win the race in 2020. We are certainly all aware of the difficulty that women face running for office in the era of Trump, misogynist, sexism types of attacks that Trump will launch. But, look, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 3 million votes. How can you say a woman couldn`t win for the presidency?
So, Again, I think that there was what they said was not correct. And what we said is correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, the progressive wing will almost certainly upend tonight this fight. Of course, the debate here in Des Moines is going to be affected by heavily in the beginning where six candidates will face-off for the last time before Iowa`s caucuses February 3rd.
But NBC News reports that Joe Biden is staying out of the progressive fray tonight, he says, well, even though the former V.P. will literally be standing between Warren and Sanders. Literally, by the way, is a big Biden word.
It`s telegraphed that he will do his best to stay out of a spat between his rivals. We`ll see.
I`m joined right now by John Heilemann, Editor-in-Chief for The Recount, and MSNBC National Affairs Analyst, of course, and Annie Linskey, National Political Reporter at The Washington Post.
Annie, I want you to start here. This thing bubbled up because four people said through various means they heard Elizabeth Warren said that Bernie said no woman could win the election in 2020. How did it get out into the ether out there and how much has it been promoted now by the attacks from both sides? Elizabeth Warren`s claim that it`s exactly what he said. He said -- I said a woman could win. He said they couldn`t. He disagreed. And then the campaign manager for Bernie Sanders said it was a lie, that it was a smear on Bernie. The whole thing was being cooked up by his enemies. Your thoughts on the reporting?
ANNIE LINSKEY, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. The Washington Post has been doing some reporting about this, this conversation that Senator Warren and Senator Sanders had in December of 2018. And what we learned is that Senator Warren asked Senator Sanders a question, do you think that a woman could win in 2020?
And for us, you know, I think that shows that this question that -- this question of electability which has hung over this primary for the last 12 months was something that the very top -- two of the top candidates were hashing out and discussing before either of them had gotten into the race. And I think that it`s bringing this question to the forefront in a way that is a little unexpected and can go in all sorts of different directions.
You know, there`s certainly a lot of discussion about who might have leaked this, whether this is a sanctioned leak from the Warren campaign or not. I had conversation with some of Obama`s advisers to say, look, would you guys have done something like this when Obama was running and there were big questions about whether a black man could be president of the United States? And they said, absolutely not. Because the questions about gender, questions about race are so difficult, they become brush fires. And I think that is what we`re seeing right now, is brush fire.
MATTHEWS: I can say, I remember back when it was Hillary Clinton versus Obama, that the word from Bill Clinton was it`s a fantasy. The whole thing is a fantasy. And that was translated to be, he was saying, an African American -- I don`t think that`s what he meant and I don`t think that was the context, but that certainly got out there.
Let me go to John Heilemann. John, this is a classic case I think of a dynamic. I used to not like that word. One side says one thing and the other side reacts to it, says it`s a smear, the other side then goes on the record and says he did say that a woman can`t win.
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: So let`s not forget a couple of things, right? The weekend, this last weekend, Bernie Sanders comes out, the Des Moines Register poll comes out and looks like he`s got momentum. And rather than kind of deciding to sit back and say, hey, I`m playing the hot hand, they go negative on Biden in South Carolina on race, on the Iraqi War, on social security, telegraphing they are going after Biden.
And then there`s this reporting that says there`s this script that the Sanders people had volunteers that were -- they have now confirmed today they have used it in two states trashing Buttigieg, trashing Biden and trashing Warren.
So the Warren campaign Sunday night is hot. I can report definitively on Sunday night. They`re making plans for this debate. They are upset --
MATTHEWS: They didn`t like being called the elitist candidate.
HEILEMANN: They did not. And they thought Bernie was going after her. They thought, in some sense, that Bernie was the one who was breaking the truce from the past year, the non-aggression pact. So, suddenly, so mysterious, we have a piece that has Elizabeth Warren allies and campaign finger prints all over it. Read the sourcing. Two other sources are said who have been Warren aids, Warren friends, Warren confidants in that piece. It was tit from Bernie Sanders, it was tat the next day from Elizabeth Warren. Then you`re in this war escalating, the dynamic thing you`re talking about, right, where they`re calling each other liars.
And by the end of the day on Monday, you effectively had what I think the question is for the two of them today, Chris. Bernie Sanders and his campaign are effectively calling Elizabeth Warren a liar. Her statement on Monday night effectively calls Bernie Sanders a liar. And I don`t know that any reporting is ever going to get to the truth of this. Two people in the room, they could very well remember it differently.
MATTHEWS: Well, you can take a lie detector test, I suppose, if you want to get ludicrous about it.
HEILEMANN: You have done reporting like this when we know these two people in a room can legitimately, honestly remember things differently. But I`m telling you, the campaigns --
MATTHEWS: Then you`re getting into mansplaining because she is -- the senator from Massachusetts is so clear, I said a woman could. He disagreed.
HEILEMANN: I`m not mansplaining. I`m certainly not mansplaining. I`m just telling you, I have done enough reporting where I have heard two people in a room, two years later and they remember the conversation differently. They`re not lying but they just remember it differently. So I`m not --
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s what Weaver is saying. That`s one of the guys -- that`s a flag statement.
HEILEMANN: I`m not crediting Bernie Sanders in this or Elizabeth Warren, but somebody -- if there was a reality and their position on it are (INAUDIBLE) opposed. So either people are misremembering or someone is flat out lying.
But I`ll tell you, but as a political matter, here is the reality. In this debate where the pressure, the tension, the stakes are higher than they`ve been in any of the debates of all last year. We are less than three weeks from Iowa. The Iowans are watching this race. In this moment, these campaigns are mad at each other. They are hot. And I`m telling you, it will be hard for either one of them emotionally on that stage to try to de- escalate from this right now.
MATTHEWS: Well, the non-aggression pact, as it was called, between Sanders and Warren began to fray, keep going here, over the weekend, as you said, John, when Politico reported the Sanders campaign distributed a script to volunteers instructing them to call Senator Warren the candidate of the elites. That`s the word elites. Both candidates responded to the allegation that trailed over the weekend. Here it goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never said a negative word about Elizabeth Warren who is a friend of mine. We have differences on issues. That`s what campaigning is about. But no one is going to be attacking Elizabeth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, I`m joined right now by Nina Turner, National co-Chair of the Sanders campaign. We reached out to the Warren campaign, by the way. They declined to provide a representative tonight. Nina, thank you for this.
I`ve got two words now coming from your campaign. The campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, is calling it a lie, saying it`s a smear. Jeff Weaver, another top aid in the campaign, he`s saying, no, it was just a misunderstanding. Which is it?
NINA TURNER, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR, BERNIE SANDERS FOR PRESIDENT: Let`s take the Senator`s words, Chris. He said it was ludicrous and he said he did not say it. For three decades, the senator has been talking about women, believing that a woman cannot only run for president but win. As we know in his book, Our Revolution, he wrote in that book that in 2015, he asked Senator Warren to run for president.
Senator Sanders has always been one to believe in women and to stand up for women. And it is ludicrous to think that he would change that now. We also have the Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, Chris, who said she had a one-on-one meeting with the senator as well. And he was nothing but courteous and encouraging. So Senator Bernard Sanders stood up for women three decades ago and he`s still standing up for women right now.
MATTHEWS: Has he told you that he didn`t say it?
TURNER: The senator did not say it. He said it was ludicrous. He did not say it.
MATTHEWS: How do you know he didn`t say it? Let`s get back to your campaign manager. Why is he calling the other side a liar and saying they`re smearing Bernie? That was the phrase. They`re smearing Bernie. Why do you think Elizabeth Warren campaign are sticking to their guns and saying, she said a woman could be elected president, he, that`s Bernie Sanders, your candidate, disagreed? Why would she say that on public record last night if she didn`t believe that it happened, if she didn`t believe that he said it?
TURNER: Chris, why would the senator say that he didn`t say it? It makes no sense that you can look at his track record, roll the tape, we got him on video talking about, you know, wanting women -- he was in a classroom talking to children about how girls should participate in politics. He wrote in his book in 2015, wanted Senator Warren to run for president. Why would he all of a sudden change that to this day?
The facts are that is the --
MATTHEWS: Well, look, I don`t know. But you`re a political person.
TURNER: Chris --
MATTHEWS: Nina, you`re like maybe we`re both political, I mean, know what happens in conversations.
TURNER: We are.
MATTHEWS: And think about this. When Bernie, who wants to run again in 2020, finds out in the home of Elizabeth Warren that she wants to run, he might have wanted to discourage her. He might have said, it`s going to be tough for a woman to run against Trump. He might have said that. I don`t know what he said and you don`t either.
TURNER: Well, I will tell you this. I do know Senator Bernard Sanders and this -- I do know, and you know this too. He is consistent. So may the best person run the race. The senator has never discouraged anybody from running from anything. Just run the race. He is even on the record talking about Republicans and their cowardice when they try to stop people from voting, by voter suppression. So why would he say something like that? It is just the antithesis of who he is.
The real question we should be asking tonight, the real war on women is the fact that black women die at higher rates in this country during child birth. The real war on women is the fact that women need to be paid dollar for dollar, and those are the kinds of conversations we should be having right now about the real war on women.
MATTHEWS: Well, I have to give you one credit, and I do believe this myself just as an observer and commentator, I have an opinion. I just went and studied the entry polls four years ago in Iowa and in New Hampshire. And Bernie Sanders, your candidate, had a 90 percent support on issues of honesty and integrity, so people really do believe him. I hope he`s telling the truth here. You believe him. That`s the record. Thank you. It`s always great to have you on, Nina Turner, for the campaign.
Thank you, John Heilemann, as well, Annie Linskey, great reporters, and it`s always great to have Nina on.
Coming up, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will send the impeachment articles to the Senate. This thing is rolling again. With the trial starting as early as next week, it looks like Tuesday, that`s a good guess, for the trial to begin, next Tuesday, a week from today.
And Mitch McConnell admits Republicans don`t have the votes. Mitch, Moscow Mitch, says they don`t have the votes to dismiss the charges, so they`re not going to get away with a quick dismissal.
Plus, Robert Mueller warned us, the Russians hacked our elections once and they`re likely to do it again. And now, we have more details on reports that the Russian spies have hacked Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company at the center of Trump`s impeachment, the company that employed Joe Biden`s son, Hunter.
And James Carville (ph) joins me tonight to talk about the latest in the 2020 race for president and what he learned about impeachment from the Clinton era.
We`ve got a lot to get to tonight, a big show tonight. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
A historic vote is coming tomorrow, first of all, to set the stage for the president`s impeachment trial over the Senate. After meeting with her fellow Democrats this morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House will approve a resolution to send the articles of impeachment, the two of them, over to the Senate tomorrow -- actually, it`s Wednesday. From there, the articles will be presented to the Senate in a formal procession and Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath.
According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that means the trial itself is likely to be next on Tuesday, as I said. Despite President Trump`s to have his case dismissed, that`s Trump talking, McConnell has surveyed members of the Senate Republican caucus and is unlikely to hold a vote on that matter, so no quicky dismissal.
Here is McConnell today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The president has suggested that you should just move to dismiss. You clearly want to get this over sooner rather than later. Why not push to try and dismiss?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Yes. There is little or no sentiment in the Republican conference for a motion to dismiss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, McConnell deflected when asked about the question of calling witnesses Trump`s trial in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Can there be a fair trial if there are no witnesses?
MCCONNELL: Well, you know, if you look at the House product, you really got to wonder what the definition of a fair trial is.
And with regard to what witnesses are necessary, we`re going to vote on that at the appropriate time after we listened to the argument.
REPORTER: And would the White House be able to block those witnesses?
MCCONNELL: 51 senators will decide who to call. After that, who knows who will employ what kind of legal devices. I have no idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California, who is on the House Intelligence Committee, Andrew Weissmann, by the way, is a former DOJ, Department of Justice prosecutor who worked on the Mueller probe, Elise Jordan, of course, former Aide to George W. Bush at the White House and the State Department. Thank you all for joining us tonight.
This is a big move. The trains are moving. Congresswoman, explain about what happened in the caucus. They would move this now to the Senate.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): So, Today, there was unanimity among my colleagues to take up a resolution tomorrow that would make it appropriate to move the articles of impeachment to the Senate and to name the managers.
MATTHEWS: What would -- what would be the success that you could point to of the delay?
What do you think was accomplished in not sending over the articles of impeachment by the speaker right after you passed impeachment in the House?
SPEIER: Well, I think what is most telling is that, by waiting, we were able to determine that Ambassador Bolton is willing to come before the Senate if he`s subpoenaed.
We also got a recognition that, through the Center for Integrity in and the Security Justice organization, that there were documents that were never made available to us in the House, even though they were subpoenaed, that, by court order, by a Freedom of Information Act, was made available.
And then, of course, what we uncovered after that was that, in fact, again, another cover-up has taken place.
Now, today, there are documents that have been provided by Lev Parnas, who has been one of those individuals that has been charged under the Federal Elections Commission with having a fraudulent organization providing foreign money to President Trump`s campaign.
And there is a treasure trove of new documentation that shows there is a criminal enterprise being operated, I believe, out of the White House. And the cover-up is so ubiquitous, so widespread, that it has prevented us from accessing documents that would have shown a direct relationship by the president seeking this investigation for his personal gain, again, indication of a bribery.
And now we have more documentation to support it, even though we have not been able to get one paper, one page of documents from this administration through the subpoena process, and, again, a cover-up in the making.
MATTHEWS: Andrew, a couple of points.
First of all, do you think the House delay in turning over the two documents, the two articles of impeachment until this week was part of getting the Senate Republicans to agree not to dismiss the charges in the Senate? That`s at least one step back from the president, who asked just a couple days ago for them to dismiss all charges.
ANDREW WEISSMANN, FORMER DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE PROSECUTOR: You know, it`s unclear what kind of negotiations there were behind the scenes.
But I think it`s really clear that, with delay, what`s come is more evidence. There are more witnesses who are now willing to testify, and there are more documents out there.
So, one message, I think, to Republican senators is, you really act at your peril at this point if you don`t really treat this as a trial. Americans understand that a trial involves witnesses and documents.
And if you ignore that, if you say, we don`t really want to hear from witnesses or documents, I think history is going to really be a judge of that, because documents and witnesses are going to come out at some point, and you`re going to look really foolish down the road if you have not made an effort to really understand what went on here.
MATTHEWS: It`s to me somewhat confounding that all this new evidence is apparently going to pile on the evidence we already have.
The president was on the phone with Zelensky, the president of Ukraine. He did say, I want a favor, though. It`s pretty clear what he wanted in exchange for the delivery of those weapons, the missiles.
So, the question now is, if you find out there`s a memo that just surfaced, which has, that basically says, get Zelensky to agree to investigate the Burisma, how does that add to the case in the U.S. Senate?
WEISSMANN: So, I think that the Democrats are going to say, look, the proof is already overwhelming.
But I think the issue is that you have a number of Republicans who are likely to say, I don`t think there`s enough evidence, I don`t think there`s enough firsthand evidence.
Now, we may all disagree with that, but, if that`s going to be the argument that Republican senators make, that we haven`t heard enough, this is the opportunity. They are not frozen in time, and have to take just what the House presented. They are -- this is a trial. They are entitled to hear from witnesses, new witnesses and new documents.
So I don`t think it`s going to come with good grace to say, gee, we wish that there was more evidence, but we actually are not going to look for it.
MATTHEWS: Well said.
Anyway, McConnell, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, also indicated that Senate Republicans may try to justify the president`s extortion of Ukraine by propagating allegations against the Bidens.
Notably, McConnell would not rule out calling Hunter Biden as a witness. Here he goes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Some in your conference have suggested that if Democrats are calling witnesses like John Bolton, they may also want to call witnesses such as Hunter Biden. Would you support calling Hunter Biden?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, I think we will dealing with the witness issue at the appropriate time into the trial.
And I think it`s certainly appropriate to point out that both sides would want to call witnesses that they wanted to hear from.
So when you get to that issue, I can`t imagine that only the witnesses that our Democratic colleagues would want to call would be called.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Elise, I`m thinking about the squirrelly mind, but sometimes he is Bugs Bunny. He`s not Elmer Fudd sometimes. He knows what he`s doing, this guy.
Mitch McConnell will say to the Democrats, OK, if you want Mick Mulvaney, if you want John Bolton, fine. I want Hunter and Joe Biden. I also want the whistle-blower.
Could he knock off some of the Democratic senators with that? They will say, well, wait a minute. I`m not that excited to get John Bolton that I`m going to drag Hunter Biden in here. And I`m not going to expose the whistle-blower just to get John Bolton.
But could he play it that heard, that hardball?
ELISE JORDAN, "TIME": We will have to see what McConnell ends up doing, but I think that Democrats have less to lose by having Hunter...
MATTHEWS: What about that? What about that kind of a trade?
Elise, what about that kind of a trade? Hardball. You want these guys, I want your guys.
JORDAN: Yes, I think -- I don`t think the Democrats have much to lose by having Joe Biden or Hunter Biden come forward.
You look at what John Bolton potentially saw and what he has been quoted by direct eyewitnesses as seen going down in the White House, his testimony promises to be much more explosive than what certainly Joe Biden and then Hunter Biden, who has been pretty forthcoming about the details of his involvement when he was on the Burisma board.
I think that those witnesses will likely -- it`ll be similar to in the House trial when Republicans thought Ambassador Kurt Volker and then Jonathan Turley, the law -- the George W. -- the G.W. law professor, were going to help their case, and then, instead, it was just a nothing burger, as Republicans are fond of calling this entire process.
MATTHEWS: Well, as Congresswoman -- Congresswoman Jackie Speier just said, Rudy Giuliani`s indicted business associate Lev Parnas has turned over evidence now seized by prosecutors.
The House Intelligence Committee released some of those materials which include a handwritten notice, as I said, on stationery from the Ritz- Carlton in Vienna. It says, "Get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated."
Parnas also provided a letter that Giuliani wrote to president-elect Zelensky asking to meet in May. Giuliani says: "In my capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent, I request a meeting with you."
There are also texts between Parnas and Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde of Connecticut. The committee says that the texts suggests that Hyde -- quote -- "had Ambassador Yovanovitch under physical surveillance in Kiev."
Congresswoman, what do you make of all this latest stuff?
SPEIER: It`s explosive.
And what`s interesting about this is, we had asked for documentation production by Lev Parnas. And at that point, he hired Dowd, who was the president`s attorney. He then got rid of Dowd, hired another attorney.
And, lo and behold, he`s willing to comply with the subpoena. So here`s someone who is complying with the subpoena with explosive documentation that shows that this has been an effort under way dating back to early this -- early last year, to be able to build a case to tear down Biden, as he saw him as the most likely opponent in his presidential race.
This is a strong case of bribery, where the president has used his office to ask for something of personal benefit, and to do so by virtue of being the president of the United States seeking this specific favor.
Again, it is a very strong case of bribery. This is precisely what our founding fathers were concerned about, using the office for personal gain.
And the president, I think, has been caught red-handed.
MATTHEWS: Well, most ominous about those new documents is that Robert Hyde, the Republican from Connecticut told Parnas, the Russian, in March -- or I think he was Ukrainian -- that his contacts who appeared to be tracking Yovanovitch were -- quote -- "willing to help if we or you would like a price."
He then says: "Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money."
Andrew, what do you make of this? It looks to me like -- I don`t know what they`re doing, setting up something sort of physical, but I don`t know against Yovanovitch. Who knows?
WEISSMANN: Well, I think that another witness who is now somebody who the Senate could call is Lev Parnas.
I think the letter that you just put up from Rudy Giuliani is a real smoking gun, because you have Rudy Giuliani saying that he`s acting in the president`s personal capacity. That shows that the president and Rudy knew this would be improper to use the office of the presidency for a personal errand, to use Dr. Fiona Hill`s phrase.
And yet the president on the call with President Zelensky was using the office of the president. That is precisely what has been charged in the impeachment counts.
MATTHEWS: And that`s what John Bolton referred to as a drug deal.
And we`re all waiting to see whether he`s going to testify in the U.S. Senate trial.
And thank you, U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier, as always, Andrew Weissmann, sir, for your expertise. And, Elise, thank you for your reporting.
Up next, I`d say Russia is at it again, but they never actually stopped trying to interfere in our elections. They`re back in 2020. It`s unbelievable. They`re hacking now into Burisma, so they can hurt the Bidens, I guess.
So now Russian hackers are trying to pick up where President Trump left off, digging for political dirt in Ukraine.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): In your investigation, did you think that this was a single attempt by the Russians to get involved in our election, or did you find evidence to suggest they will try to do this again?
ROBERT MUELLER, RUSSIA PROBE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Oh, it wasn`t a single attempt. They`re doing it as we sit here.
And they expect to do it during the next campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: They`re doing it as we sit here.
Well, welcome back to HARDBALL. I should say, welcome back to the Russians.
That was former special counsel Robert Mueller, of course, last year warning (AUDIO GAP) the center of the President Trump`s impeachment investigation.
According to a report from the cybersecurity firm Area 1 Security, the phishing campaign targeting Burisma, the company where Joe Biden`s son served as a board member, started in early November -- that`s this year -- at the same time the House was holding impeachment hearings.
The report indicates -- quote -- "The timing of the GRU`s campaign in relation to the 2020 U.S. elections raises the specter that this is an early warning of what we have anticipated since the successful cyberattacks undertaken during the 2016 U.S. elections."
As "The New York Times" points out -- quote -- "The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia`s hacking of e-mails from Hillary Clinton`s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign."
Responding to this report, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, tweeted -- quote -- "Russians appear to be rerunning their 2016 hacking playbook once again to benefit Donald Trump. Will the Russians helped pick our president again?"
And while there has been no reaction yet from President Trump, top Democrats are raising the alarm, not just about Russia`s actions, but how they found out about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are certainly tracking all of the threat actors that are active in this landscape as we move to the heyday of election season coming up not only for the primaries but certainly for the main Election Day in November.
So, of course, we`ve long talked about the Russians as a threat. So, we certainly are tracking that.
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS: And I don`t want to misunderstand what you`re saying. You`re speaking broadly. But can we assume that you`re pretty up to date on what the GRU is doing in terms of going after targets?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, it`s a top priority for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back.
That was the top national intelligence official in charge of election security saying our intelligence agencies are on top now of Russia`s malign activities.
That includes the report the Russians hacked the Ukrainian energy company that the former vice president`s son Hunter worked for. But if the intelligence community has been aware of the Kremlin`s recent actions, that`s news to top congressional Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
Here is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, describing how he learned about Vladimir Putin`s latest actions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I have to say, Rachel, I`m a bit distressed to see this for the first time in a newspaper report if the intel committee -- community is aware of this, that should have been brought to our attention by now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Clint Watts, former FBI special agent and author of "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in A Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News".
What`s your reaction? Are you surprised that the Russians are going after Burisma, that gas company over in Ukraine that Hunter Biden was working for?
CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Not at all, Chris. I -- the Russians, even in their overt state-sponsored media have been talking about Hunter Biden and Burisma for at least nine months now in their open news. So, this is not surprising at all. Whatever they talk about overtly, you can suspect they might be doing something covertly. And if you look at what they`re doing in terms of these hacks, they`re taking a different approach this time.
In 2016, what we saw them doing was hacking critical nodes. They were hitting the DNC, campaign managers, even government officials, even reporters trying to dig up dirt or find information that they could launder and push out to advance a narrative against Hillary Clinton. This time though the narrative is always out there.
The White House has already brought this up. It is part of the impeachment trial. They are hacking to confirm the narrative. That`s what is different about this scenario. They know where to go because the story is already out there.
They want to push it out there and make it surface in the news. And even in this failure, even in this attempt, we haven`t seen them push anything out and we got this story back out in the news again, and they`re keeping it going over and over again against Biden.
MATTHEWS: Clint, it`s just so blatant. I mean, let`s face it, whatever your politics, if you watch this president, you watch him pursue almost everything to the benefit of Vladimir Putin. I mean, Pelosi points that out. Everything is for Vladimir. Everything.
And now we find that the Russians, it`s everything now to defeat Joe Biden. You pointed out, I guess you mentioned implicitly, the RT, the Russian TV network over here in the United States, is out blasting away regularly against Joe Biden.
That`s sort of the pattern they did last time. Was it use every one of their platforms to get the same message across?
WATTS: That`s exactly right, Chris. From overt to covert, they`re going to use any means that they had out there.
What the Russians do that others don`t do, though, is hack to compromise presidential candidates and then dump information out there. What they`re doing this time is a little bit different from last night. I call it upstream hacking.
Last time, they were hitting things that would be maybe dot-gov or dot- mail, or related to the campaign. Right now, part of the reason why Congressman Schiff probably didn`t hear about it from the U.S. government is because the U.S. government doesn`t do cyber security and detection for a Ukrainian company like Burisma. We have to actually rely on corporations like Area 1 or CrowdStrike, even a Mandiant to let us know when these sort of breaches occur because they`re the ones out in the dot-com world where you and I or corporation are.
And if you look at the narratives are that they`re advancing against former Vice President Biden, it`s his son. It`s Burisma. It`s about his gaffes or his health.
Who are you going to hack to confirm those things? You`re not going to go to the government or the military of the U.S. to hack them. You`re instead going to go to soft places like law firms and banks, multinational corporations, medical facilities.
That is how they`re going to try and farm that information, launder it and get it out in the open to push narratives against Biden, and that could be somebody else if you see them rise up in the polls. You`ll see how Russia will twist back and forth on any emerging candidate in order to help President Trump be reelected.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s out there. As you say, it`s in and it`s out, it`s public and it`s not public, and it`s secret and it`s social media. It`s their own network. It`s their hacking.
They got one plan, help Trump. Thank you so much, Clint Watts. It`s so flagrant.
Up next, Democratic strategist James Carville joins me to talk about just about everything, especially tonight`s debate. The primary race is going right now, impeachment. He had some experience with that with Clinton and more.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Six Democrats will be taking the stage tonight for the last debate for the candidates before the Iowa caucuses which are coming now three weeks from yesterday. One of the candidates missing from this stage is Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. That`s Bennet with one T.
He just scored a major endorsement however, from the great James Carville who gained national intention as Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton`s lead campaign strategist back in 1992.
James Carville joins me now.
James, you`re wearing a hat of a winner there I noticed. I watched the game every minute last night. I had to say, I watched Sonny Jurgensen, Bart Starr, all the greats, Y.A. Tittle. I can`t think of one that`s as good as this guy. I`ve never seen anything like it in my life and --
MATTHEWS: And everything you like. What a great victory. It was clean, he only missed that one the guy wobble at way back in the left side, the end zone. That would have been another one. That was in the guy`s hands and he dropped it.
Anyway, congratulations. As occasion, I know this means a lot religiously to you.
Michael Bennet, here you are, the pro-am building you up and come in to this race in mid-January and you`re picking a candidate, why this late? Why this one.
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Because I think that Trump and Trumpism is the greatest threat this country has faced since the fall of communism. And the only way to deal with it is defeat it resoundly.
If Michael Bennet is a Democratic nominee, you`re going do get 55 percent of the popular vote and pick up 55 Senate seats. It will be the end of Trumpism.
Trumpism doesn`t have to just be defeated at the polls. It`s got to be decimated. It`s got to look like a beat -- it`s got to look like Clemson looked like night. Beat and ready to quit. And Michael Bennet is the best choice among any Democrat to accomplish that.
MATTHEWS: How`s he get from here to there?
CARVILLE: He just got to get out there and get in front of as many people as he can and have people go and people see him and they come back and tell me, James, you know Michael Bennet would be the best president, you know his temperament is entirely different than Trump`s. Or you know if we nominated him, we would have a great election.
So, why not be for him? Why not? I think the -- temperament --
MATTHEWS: I agree with it, James. I don`t see how he gets there. How does he get past Bernie, Elizabeth, and Biden, and ultimately get past Michael Bloomberg? They`re all out there out running hard, spending money, he can`t do it. He`s not doing it.
CARVILLE: Because the levels of engagement are so high. And people are paying attention, that if they start seeing him and paying attention to him, then things can break very quickly in this environment.
This is not a normal environment. These Democrats know it`s their responsibility to save this country. If that`s what you want to do, then Michael Bennet is your choice. And he`s got to go out there and get in front of as many people as they can and when he does, I think he can turn things around. I honestly do.
And I keep hearing that and people just like you say the same thing, well, yes, he would be great, but how does he get there? The way he gets there is by being out there early every day and staying out late every day, and talking about how this country has to change from what we have right now. If he does that, who knows?
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk --
CARVILLE: I`m there for him.
MATTHEWS: James, you know more than I know. I want to ask you this, you know how you get to be president. You have to have that fire in your belly that`s unstoppable. Bill Clinton had it. I don`t know if Barack Obama had it or not. Barack Obama.
But he had -- Clinton had it. That drive that makes you get up in the morning, go to bed at night, never stop about anything else, calculate, strategize, raise money until you`re sick. Shake hands until your hands are bleeding.
That is the way to do it. To be a little bit crazy. But Michael Bennet doesn`t seem to be a little bit crazy.
CARVILLE: Well, I don`t think the country is looking for a little bit crazy right now. I think we`re worn out on craziness. And you`re right, he`s a kind of sedate guys in many ways, he`s very thoughtful. He`s very organized.
I think these are appealing traits in 2020. I think we`ve had enough craziness.
MATTHEWS: I agree.
CARVILLE: I`m done with crazy.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you --
CARVILLE: He`s hardworking. He`s competitive. And he`s determined.
MATTHEWS: Is there any way that this impeachment trial that`s beginning a week from today is going to accomplish anything good for the country? The trial in the Senate. Is there any way it can be good so we look back on it, even if Trump survives and, say, that was a good bid of governmental business, that was good thing to do?
CARVILLE: The most critical thing is to vote on the fair trial and that`s the best vote the Democrat have going. If you have a fair trial and the country sees this, it will be a good lesson in civics. If Mitch McConnell is successful and shuts down a fair trial, then you`re going to have a different result, but they have to push the idea.
Now we have Parnas has got his text messages, John Bolton wants to testify. There`s all kind of evidence out there. If Mitch McConnell denies the American people the right to evidence, an unfair trial, then the people will take it out on Republicans in November, and they know that.
Tillis knows that. McSally knows that. Cornyn knows that. And Cory Gardner knows that. Joni Ernst knows that.
Force the vote on a fair trial.
MATTHEWS: What happened to the Republican Party? The opposition party, from your thinking, the party that wasn`t evil, wasn`t stupid. Now, I mean, I noticed in the whole day of defending Trump not a single Republican member of the House, they`re all some of them smart, in the one of them said one good thing about Donald Trump personally.
Nobody -- nobody spoke for his character. Nobody said he`s a good, honest, guy. I mean, it was immaculate, immaculate. Not a single positive comment, yet, they bow to him like he`s the emperor of Siam. They bow to him without ever respecting him personally.
How do you explain?
CARVILLE: Right. Look, the Republican Party that you and I knew does that exist. There`s only Trump and Trumpism. The Republicans are going to do nothing about it. It is up to the Democrats. It is up to the Democrats to eradicate this scourge, and the way to do that is by massive and humiliating election defeat.
There`s no Republican is going to come up and save us. Everybody keeps waiting. Pretty soon, maybe Rob Portman will say something. They`re not going to say anything. They`re scared to death.
CARVILLE: And the Democrats have to save the United States. That`s it. There`s no other choice. The Republicans are not going to do it for you.
MATTHEWS: OK. Spoken like a great partisan, sir. Thank you, James Carville.
CARVILLE: Geaux, Tigers. Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Speak with integrity and true partisanship. Geaux, Tigers. But they don`t have to go anywhere. They`re the best team ever.
MATTHEWS: Maybe the Washington Redskins, maybe Snyder will end up getting this guy as his quarterback.
We`ll be right back. You`re watching HARDBALL.
CARVILLE: Don`t forget my Nationals. Don`t forget my Nats.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. OK. I`m a Phillies guy, but let`s go on. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: That`s HARDBALL for now from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Join me later tonight for MSNBC`s live post-debate coverage along with Brian Williams. I`ll be here at 11:00 in the spin room.
I love it right here. Interviewing the candidates and bringing you the key moments from tonight`s debate.
And tomorrow, I`ll be back in Washington as Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats vote to send the articles of impeachment over to the United States Senate tomorrow. It`s going to be an historic day.
Thanks for being with us.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES", of course, starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END