ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Thanks for watching. As always, I`ll be back here Sunday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern for that impeachment special, brand new, I hope you`ll join us or DVR it.
But don`t go anywhere now. HARDBALL is up next.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: He`s lawyering up. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.
With his impeachment trial just four days away, the president is lawyering up. Today, NBC news is reporting that the lawyers expected to defend the president will be led by White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. But it`s no surprise that two of Trump`s lawyers will be well-known T.V. personalities. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz is a celebrity criminal defense attorney who says he will make constitutional defense of the president. And Ken Starr is the former independent counsel whose investigation of President Clinton led to his impeachment.
Dershowitz, of course, has a history of defending controversial figures, including Claus von Bulow, Mike Tyson and accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. His most famous client, of course, was O.J. Simpson, whom he held to be a double murder charge in what was called the trial of the century.
As we`ve seen more recently, Dershowitz has argued for expansive powers of Trump`s executive presidency. He said in November that under the Constitution, the president has more power than a king.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, MEMBER OF THE PRESIDENT TRUMP`S DEFENSE TEAM: Of course, the president is not a king. The president is far more powerful than the king. The president has the power that kings have never had, very, very powerful office. And the framers wanted it that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, so never mind what you were taught in civics or history classes.
For Ken Starr, the shoe is now on the other foot, of course, after prosecuting the case against one president, he`s now defending another. As Trump`s lawyer, he`s likely to oppose witness testimony even though he knows its value.
As he said in 1998, there is no substitute for looking a witness in the eye asking detailed questions matching the answers against verifiable facts.
Well, the record from back then also shows that Donald Trump did not hold Starr in very high esteem.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think Ken Starr is a lunatic. I really think that Ken Starr is a disaster. It was a long and terrible process. I really think that Ken Starr was terrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, likewise, Starr has recently criticized Trump, saying his tweet against Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was poor judgment and that Ambassador Gordon Sondland`s testimony bolstered the case for impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN STARR, FORMER INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: The president was not advised by counsel in deciding to do this tweet, extraordinarily poor judgment. The president frequently says I follow my instincts. Sometimes we have to control our instincts.
We have Gordon Sondland`s understanding that doesn`t look good for the president substantively.
This obviously has been one of those bombshell days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, according to NBC News, Trump`s legal defense team will spend the weekend preparing their case before they square off against the seven House impeachment managers named by Speaker Pelosi this week.
Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani will not be joining Trump`s legal team but he tells NBC News that he will still advice the president in unofficial capacity.
I`m joined right now by Mieke Eoyang, Vice President for the National Security Program in Third Way, George F. Will, syndicated columnist, of course, Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor.
Paul, this team, you know Dershowitz. He`s somewhat argumentative. I sometimes thinks he takes just -- points of view just to be beat at. What do you think he is up to here with his expansive notion of what a president can do? I just watched him on Ari Melber`s program. He basically says the president can really put himself in trouble by abusing power because all presidents abuse power. That was his argument.
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. So that`s wrong as a matter with the Constitution. But I think there`re two objectives to this strategy. The first is about not calling witnesses. He wants to make the case that even if everything that the articles suggest Trump did are true, the facts don`t matter. Under the Constitution, his argument is it doesn`t rise to the kind of high crime or misdemeanor that is necessary for removal from office.
Now, again, if you look at the history, that`s just flat out wrong. What Trump is accused of doing falls into categories like maladministration, abuse of office, it`s just what Alexander Hamilton and the other framers had in mind, the concern that someone like Trump would reach office.
And the second thing, really quickly, is to give Republican senators some cover for not voting to remove Trump. They can say it`s not just Trump`s own White House Counsel and his own personal lawyers. These two respected legal scholars also believe that the president should not be removed from office.
MATTHEWS: Well, let`s take a look at what Dershowitz said just moments ago on this network.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DERSHOWITZ: Abuse of power, even if proved, is not an impeachable offense. That`s exactly what the framers rejected. They didn`t want to give Congress to authority to remove a president because he abused his power. They have to prove treason, they have to prove bribery, but they have to prove other crimes and misdemeanors.
MELBER: You`re making news here about what you will argue on the president`s behalf in the Senate trial. The news you are making, as I understand it, is that, quote, abuse of power, in your argument, does not constitute as a high crime under the Constitution?
DERSHOWITZ: If you wanted to charge him with a crime -- that`s what they did Clinton impeachment. They charged him with specific crimes, and that`s what they did with Nixon. But they didn`t -- here, they haven`t charged him with specific crimes as part of the articles of impeachment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll see.
Mieke Eoyang, this is an argument that goes back, I think -- I don`t know why Dershowitz is arguing this because I`ve never heard anybody else argue with it, because high crimes and misdemeanors are meant to be basically a political act, abuse of power, taking the presidency and using it in ways it should not be used under the Constitution.
MIEKE EOYANG, NATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM VICE PRESIDENT, THIRD WAY: Yes. And we`ve had a number of people, not necessarily the president but other lower level officials impeached and removed from office on things that are very similar, about misusing their power. We have the governor of Illinois going to jail for a similar thing of trying to withhold a thing of value and trying to get something for it. Whether that`s a political favor or money, I think that that`s something -- we have an entire public corruption section at the Department of Justice to go after public officials who abused their power this way.
I think it`s very clear that what the president has done here in using, in withholding aid to try and force another country to investigate his political rival is really the kind of abuse of power that the framers were warning against.
MATTHEWS: George, you wrote -- authored really well recently about the abuse of power by presidents with regard to war-making. What Dershowitz is saying basically says a president can take us into war against Switzerland if he wants because there`s no crime against it.
GEORGE F. WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, we did go to war against Libya seven months, probably the longest assassination attempt in world history, what was finally succeeded and regime change in Libya, and Republicans said at the time, Dick Lugar and others who were hardly fanatic, although hat was an abuse of power. The danger was the abuse of power standard for impeachment is, that whenever you have the presidency in one party`s hands and the Congress in another, you could have -- you could come up with a standard for saying that the president has abused power. Because, in some sense, it`s in the eye of the beholder and the beholders will always find an abuse of power.
MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Paul. What about the theatrics here bringing in Dershowitz? He is theatrical. You studied under him, I believe. He also, outside the world of the law, is the world of theater. And he shares that with Trump. There`s a reason why he`s always on television, Dershowitz. He takes these cases like O.J. or classified view though (ph) where he really made his name. How is he going to change the theater here?
I get the feeling having just on Ari Melber`s show, he`s going to be all over the place outside that Senate chamber making the case.
BUTLER: Yes. So he is an intellectual heavyweight and then he`s got the gravitas of being an emeritus professor at Harvard Law School. But don`t get it twisted, he`s a street fighter. He`s a Zellist (ph) advocate for his clients. And so he`ll be willing to not just make the case in the Senate but then to get down and dirty on Fox T.V. and MSNBC, so to make the political case as well as the legal case.
Again, he`s wrong on the merits on the legal case but it will be interesting to see how he goes over politically.
MATTHEWS: I just don`t know how they`re going to have a case or a trial where they prevent the inflow, basically, the avalanche of evidence that just keeps coming in.
Anyway, the House of Representatives just released more material from Lev Parnas, including new text messages that show extensive contact between Parnas and staffer to Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, who is, of course, a ranking member on intelligence.
I want to bring in NBC News National Political Reporter Josh Lederman right now with the news. Josh?
JOSH LEDERMAN, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Chris, I want to say from the get-go we are just going through these documents, a whole tranche that has just come out and there`s a lot in there. But there is new information in there about this story line we`ve been following over the last couple of days about Robert Hyde, this Republican congressional candidate who told Lev Parnas that he had some type of a surveillance operation on Ambassador Yovanovitch.
Earlier today, Robert Hyde had pointed the finger on Twitter at someone else, another Trump supporter that he identified as Anthony de Caluwe, who he said had provided him the information and he had merely copy and pasted it to Lev Parnas. We`ve spent part of the day trying to figure out whether that was accurate or not.
And now in these new documents that come out from the House, we can see that they`re essentially what happened was somebody using a Belgian phone number and a photograph that matches Anthony de Caluwe had sent this information about the purported whereabouts of Ambassador Yovanovitch to Robert Hyrde and then he had forwarded screen shots of those messages to Lev Parnas.
So what he was saying earlier today about getting this information secondhand, from what we can tell from these new documents appears to be corroborated.
There`s a voice mail, basically a WhatsApp audio message that is included from what was turned over by Parnas from -- that he had gotten from Hyde, in which you hear an accented voice say, it`s confirmed, she`s in Ukraine. We can`t tell at this moment exactly who is the voice in that, but it`s further evidence that there were a lot of back and forth messages about Ambassador Yovanovitch`s whereabouts.
Whether the details were correct or this was somebody just making stuff up, we still have yet to be able to tell that. But as we know, the State Department and Ukraine`s Interior Ministry are now investigating this.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Josh Lederman, with that latest report.
This thing just keeps growing. Somebody once said during Watergate, I think I read it on a door in a bar in the Greenwich Village, Watergate is India. This just gets more and more entangled, more and more tangents out into the question, even to the point where now that the Ukrainian government is investigating this use of surveillance over there against one of our ambassadors in their country as breaking their law.
EOYANG: Yes. And, look, Ukraine is a place where there is a tremendous amount of surveillance and lots of people, All these oligarchs have private security services. So the idea there are security services for hire out there is entirely possible. And very clearly the State Department was concerned for her safety and rushed her out of the country.
But this is something that we really need to get to the bottom of. It`s one of the things that we really hope that the government takes seriously. Threats against the United States ambassadors are threats to the United States. These are people who serve as the representatives of our entire nation abroad.
MATTHEWS: George, this is a strange case, because it`s like the beginning of Watergate rather than the end. I mean, you`ve got all this stuff we`re learning right now. This character, Robert Hyde who was a bar fly over at the International Trump Hotel. He apparently went to the expensive bar there, made friends with people, got to know Parnas, got to know Rudy, and they`re all working somehow in the interests of President Trump.
WILL: If these grafters make the Watergate burglars look like PhDs. This is a different class --
MATTHEWS: Carter Page?
WILL: Yes, exactly. The problem is that what we`re talking about tonight is another boulder in the avalanche of information. You`re talking about it but none of it matters because the Republicans are willing, as the lawyers say, to stipulate that everything said against Mr. Trump is true. They`re saying it`s irrelevant, because of the reason that Mr. Dershowitz just said. It`s irrelevant because unless you can point to a clear federal crime, it does not matter.
MATTHEWS: Right. And that, of course, Paul Butler, we have the fact that he broke the law with regard to impounding funds approved by Congress, but that doesn`t carry a criminal sanction remind me the Boland Amendment years ago with regard to aid to Latin America. It`s not necessarily a crime. It`s just against the law.
BUTLER: And, in fact, high crime and misdemeanor, as stated in the Constitution, does not refer to specific statutory crimes. In fact, Chris, those kinds of crimes didn`t even exist at the time that the Constitution was written. High crime and misdemeanor is a term of -- understood by all the founders to mean corruption, maladministration, someone obtaining the high power of being a president of the United States and using that extraordinary power for their own personal ends.
MATTHEWS: So why is Dershowitz, your former mentor to some extent, why is he out there basically showing off, to be blunt about it, and saying that the Constitution doesn`t allow for the prosecution of a president and impeachment of a president unless you have got some criminal code that he violated? Why is he saying that?
BUTLER: Chris, he was a great law professor. He really was one of the reasons I wanted to be a criminal lawyer. He`s a much better criminal lawyer than he is a constitutional lawyer. He`s wrong on the Constitution here. And, again, I think he is using his status in a way that`s not appropriate, that`s not becoming. He`s an emeritus professor and I don`t know if he`s just trying to be relevant. But, again, it`s dangerous for the nation that he might be effective with the Republicans.
Again, he will use his status to give them cover to not remove the president from office.
MATTHEWS: Well, at this table we have one of the country`s great conservative commentators. My question, what happened to the idea of limited government? Isn`t that the heart of conservativism, limited power in the hands of government officials, including the president?
WILL: And not including the president, especially the president. Because the growth of executive power throughout the 20th century is the biggest threat to the institutional equilibrium that James Madison designed.
And progressives, yes, I`m talking to you, MSNBC listeners, the progressives in this country have given us the inflated presidency, and I wonder if they`re enjoying it.
MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll see. I think we enjoyed Franklin Roosevelt now.
Thank you very much, Mieke Eoyang, Paul Butler and George F. Will.
Coming up, with opening arguments in the impeachment trial just days away now, it`s coming Tuesday, can we expect any Senate defectors from the GOP that has increasingly become the party of Trump? Will senators like Mitt Romney, who flirts with greatness, Lisa Murkowski has got guts, toe the party line or push for a fair trial?
Plus, inside the tank with President Trump, shocking new excerpts from an upcoming book that tell a meeting at Pentagon where the commander-in-chief called a room of top military brass dopes and babies.
And with just weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses, three of the five top Democratic presidential candidates will find themselves locked in the Senate chamber for the impeachment trial of President Trump. What will the final days in Iowa would look without Senator Sanders, Senator Warren, Senator Klobuchar?
We have much more to get to tonight. History is coming upon us. Stick with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back HARDBALL.
As the Senate impeachment trial begins next Tuesday, all eyes will be on a handful of Republican senators who hold the cards to determine whether they hear from witnesses or not, witnesses. The Washington Post`s Dan Balz writes, the trial will affect the legacy of senators and their party. Quote, being a Republican during the Trump presidency demands much. He is quick to anger at any Republican who strays from absolute loyalty and at times has sought to punish those who have.
Well, a lot of attention has been paid to five Republican senators seen as potentially -- there they are -- as potential votes for witnesses in the trial in recent days -- in recent days, including retiring Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Colorado`s Cory Gardner, who is up for a tough reelection.
"The Wall Street Journal" today reports that Alexander -- that`s Lamar Alexander -- who has expressed openness to hearing witnesses, is under pressure to weigh his own long political career against bucking President Trump.
Well, his career is pretty much behind him.
Meanwhile, Senator Gardner has repeatedly dodged questions about where he stands. A local NBC station couldn`t get a straight answer when they caught up with him at a Denver airport last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Are you open to hearing from more witnesses in the Senate trial?
SEN. CORY GARDNER (R-CO): We have a trial, and that`s where we`re at right now.
GARDNER: I take my impartiality duty seriously.
QUESTION: You talk talking about impartiality.
Is it possible for any senator to be impartial in this trial, because I know...
GARDNER: Well, that`s their constitutional duty and the oath that we all took.
QUESTION: I know that you hosted a fund-raiser for President Trump. He`s promised to campaign for you.
How do you plan to maintain that impartiality?
GARDNER: Well, there are people running for president against President Trump in the Senate.
So we have a duty to be impartial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Michelle Goldberg, columnist for "The New York Times," and Charlie Sykes, editor at large of The Bulwark.
Charlie, I owe you an apology. You were right the last time you were on. You said that the speaker of the House was going to hold onto those articles of impeachment. I couldn`t believe it. You were right. You had the sniff ahead of every time.
So I will let you start with tonight.
What do you hear about the big magic five Republicans who might break with the pack and give us a real trial?
CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK: I think it`s very possible.
Look, I mean, I`m used to disappointment here. It is sort of like Lucy with the football. But this is a relatively easier vote than voting to convict. So all you need are four Republicans to, say look, we need to hear from the witnesses.
And think about all things that we have learned since that House vote, since Nancy Pelosi held the impeachment, the e-mails that we have received, Lev Parnas coming out, John Bolton saying that he`s willing to testify, the GAO report.
So I think the pressure on Republicans is going to be very, very intense not to ignore this. Plus, think about the risk if they, in fact, obstruct those witnesses and obstruct that evidence, if more things come out. Then their votes become absolutely toxic.
Michelle, I was talking to George Will about the sense I get with this cornucopia of stuff coming at us.
MATTHEWS: I mean, it hits us at 6:30, 7:00 at night. We have to get it into the show, like we just did about this whole thing with Yovanovitch and the surveillance over -- this thing is growing. The fingernails are growing on it.
It`s getting larger and larger. How do you shut it down now and go back to any group and say, we got to the truth?
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right. Trump is basically...
MATTHEWS: They`re not getting the truth, if they shut it down now.
Trump is because asking them to exonerate him without having any idea really what they`re exonerating him up and what`s going to pop out later. So, in some ways, it`s just in their interest to get it all out there and know what`s out there before they take this vote, so that they don`t have to answer for it later.
The other thing -- and you see this with Martha McSally. Martha McSally had this thuggish outburst at a CNN reporter who asked her if she was open to evidence. She`s fund-raising off it. It`s this kind of really pathetic and grotesque display.
But what`s interesting is that, after all that, she goes on Fox News, and she still won`t answer the question of whether she wants witnesses.
MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s show that right...
GOLDBERG: So, if it`s a hard call for someone like Martha McSally, think of how much a harder call it is for Susan Collins.
MATTHEWS: This is really good. I`m glad you keyed us up on this.
As Michelle just mentioned, Arizona Republican Senator Martha McSally, who was appointed to the office, went on the attack yesterday when a CNN reporter dared to ask her whether she thought they should hear evidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN: Senator McSally, should the Senate consider new evidence as part of the impeachment trial?
SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY (R-AZ): Manu, you`re a liberal hack. I`m not talking to you.
RAJU: You`re not going to comment about this?
MCSALLY: You`re a liberal hack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I guess she didn`t see the camera watching.
Anyway, within hours, however, McSally, who`s running to keep her seat this year, was out there fund-raising off that little incident.
In an interview with FOX, she was asked, however, if she regretted the insult to the reporter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCSALLY: No, Laura, I do not. And I said it again, actually, as I went in. I said, you`re a liberal hack, buddy.
They are so biased. They are so in cahoots with the Democrats. They so can`t stand the president. And they run around trying to chase Republicans and ask trapping questions.
I`m a fighter pilot. I called it like it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: But McSally, the senator, wasn`t quite prepared to call it like it is when host -- good for her -- Laura Ingraham, flipped the script on her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: What about Manu Raju`s question?
Do you want witnesses?
MCSALLY: Well, I want a fair trial.
INGRAHAM: OK, you`re not going to play the game with...
MCSALLY: Which they didn`t in the House.
No, no, no.
INGRAHAM: You can call me a conservative hack, but do you want a witnesses, yes or no? Why aren`t you telling us?
MCSALLY: Because we`re going to vote on Tuesday to start the trial and let them present the...
INGRAHAM: Well, how are you going to vote on the motion for more -- for witnesses?
MCSALLY: We`re going to get to that. I mean, I`m not going to tell everybody what all my votes are going to be.
But, obviously, my point...
INGRAHAM: ... easy question, don`t you think, Senator?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: What`s this?
Well, the manner of making all this a big chuckle-worthy? I don`t know. That`s some sort of new thing you do when you have an unpleasant question thrown at you. You get a giggle in there, and you keep laughing, as if you can laugh it off.
I think Laura Ingraham really nailed her, because she wasn`t ready for a simple question, Charlie, a simple question. Do you want to have a vote?
MATTHEWS: Do you want to vote for witnesses or not?
SYKES: Well, yes.
And what you saw there was a display of petulant hackery on Martha McSally`s part, and trickle-down Trumpism.
And this is sort of the cheap play for a lot of these Republicans that don`t want to answer the questions and may feel uncomfortable with defending Trump`s conduct right now, is just lash out at the media. This is the low-hanging fruit that somehow that you insult a reporter, by the way, who, by all accounts, is respected by both sides, who`s just doing his job, asking a straightforward question, and then spiking the football.
Look, the fact is that Martha McSally is trailing in Arizona. Mark Kelly is raising more money than she is. I think she looks cheap. I think she looks desperate. I think this is going to backfire on her.
But I think it also reflects the kind of pressure that`s going to be on the senators over the next couple of weeks. This is not going to be an easy vote for Republicans.
Michelle, when I read your column, I know how smart you are, like George Will from a different point of view.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I mean, you can`t fake it with a column twice a week. You got brains, and you have thoughts, and you have imagination and creativity. And you understand.
MATTHEWS: You ask yourselves the right questions, and you try to come up with the right answers. That`s what the process of writing a column is.
That senator, that appointed senator, acts like she`s never considered the most obvious questions, like, are you for witnesses?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think one thing to know about Martha McSally, right, she is the only senator who lost her most recent Senate election, I mean, as you said, appointed senator.
And so she`s in a very rough position, because she needs to rile up the base. She needs to fund-raise, which this was all sort of a fund-raising ploy. And, at the same time, she`s in a very purple state that might not take kindly to her participating in the cover-up that Trump wants.
MATTHEWS: It`s so great to ask her questions, though, because you always get a reaction.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michelle, great columnist.
GOLDBERG: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much.
Charlie, again, you were right last time.
SYKES: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I will keep score.
MATTHEWS: Up next: President Trump reportedly called America`s top military commanders a bunch of dopes and babies.
This is Mr. Bone Spur talking. And, by the way, he says they don`t know how to win anymore. He never tried to win. He never had a uniform on, except in -- I guess in high school.
Plus, more of that new evidence out tonight from Lev Parnas. We`re trying to get to this fire hydrant of news. It just keeps coming, the news against this president.
Don`t go anywhere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble.
They have been reduced to a point where it`s embarrassing for our country.
I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.
Well, they don`t know much, because they`re not winning. That, I can tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, that was then candidate Donald Trump speaking bluntly, of course, about the country`s top military leaders.
In private, his tirade against went even further, once he won the presidency, calling top generals losers to their faces. That was the word to use.
And that`s according to an upcoming book by "Washington Post" reporters Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker. Quote -- it`s called "A Very Stable Genius." The book is out, I believe.
A new excerpt released in "The Washington Post" describes the president lashing out at the military brass during a Pentagon meeting in the summer of 2017.
Quote: "You`re all losers," Trump said. "You don`t know how to win anymore." He added: "I wouldn`t go to war with you people," and then referred to them as a bunch of dopes and babies.
These are generals he`s talking to.
For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Ted Lieu of California, a member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees. He`s a former active duty officer in the U.S. Air Force and now serves as a member of the Air Force Reserves. Jeremy Bash is former chief of staff at the CIA and Department of Defense.
Congressman Lieu, thank you for your service, of course. And I want to thank you for coming on tonight.
This treatment -- I have to call it that -- treatment of our top military people, how do you react to it?
REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): Thank you, Chris, for your question.
Donald Trump would have more credibility in criticizing our military leaders if he had actually served in the military. But he didn`t. He had -- allegedly had a bone spur of which no credible person could verify. He escaped a draft at a time when many young people were risking their lives.
And Donald Trump lacks the first element, which is courage. He didn`t even have that to go serve. And for him to criticize military leaders is really beyond the pale.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of the scene, though?
A big room over in the -- it`s called the Tank. It`s where the top the Joint Chiefs meet to have their most critical discussions. And he uses it for a dressing down of all of them, everyone in the room, as losers.
It seems like...
LIEU: It`s obnoxious.
MATTHEWS: I hate to make the Hitler connection, but it does look like those movies where you see the guy trashing all his generals, because they`re losing the war. It seems almost like an 8-year-old talking to the grownups.
LIEU: So it`s really obnoxious. It also shows that he doesn`t value service.
The people in that room do not get paid a lot of money. Some of them risked their lives to go fight. And what we have here is a person who is largely ignorant, if you read the excerpt from the book, doesn`t know a lot about the world, and is saying, we should be deploying military troops and making a profit off of that.
MATTHEWS: Oh, yes.
LIEU: Well, military troops are not mercenaries. We should not be making a profit.
The military leaders should not have been dressed down like that. And, frankly, I think the president really should apologize to those military leaders.
MATTHEWS: Someone years ago told me -- advised me how to deal with government officials. He said -- and I want to be not too crude about this. But these are the words. I will clean it up a bit.
He said, people don`t do their best work when they`re being peed on.
And here`s the president trying to get good work out of our top leaders by humiliating them. It doesn`t work.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO LEON PANETTA: No.
And the context of this was, as you referenced, in the Tank, where the Joint Chiefs meet. I have been in that room. There`s an oil painting of Lincoln and his generals that hang over that table.
And the most consequential decisions are made in that room. And here comes President Trump in 2017, after he`s president. And his own advisers realize, this guy doesn`t understand the world, he doesn`t care to understand the world, we have to brief him up.
And in that briefing, he shows, number one, that he`s arrogant, he knows it all. Number two, he`s disrespectful. He`s condemning them for their expertise, when, in fact, that`s what they`re bringing to him as his advisers.
And third is he`s neo-isolationist. He`s basically saying, we shouldn`t have a globally deployed force. We shouldn`t even have a military out there in the world, which is totally inconsistent with national security.
MATTHEWS: Well, it`s the kind of a guy talking at a bar somewhere just B.S.ing.
MATTHEWS: Here`s my attitude. I want to show it you.
Anyway, got some news again, as I mentioned earlier. The House released new material tonight from Lev Parnas, including the text messages that show extensive contact between him, Parnas, and a staffer to, guess who, ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes.
The texts show the Derek Harvey, a senior investigator for Congressman Nunes, was working with Parnas to acquire material about Ukraine`s alleged involvement in the 2016 election, the old theory, the old conspiracy.
The new evidence also includes a slew of new pictures of Parnas with the president`s son, Rudy Giuliani, and Indiana Senator Mike Braun.
Congressman, Congressman Lieu, what do you make of this, one of your colleagues, who sits as ranking Republican on the Intel Committee, investigating himself? No. Doesn`t matter -- doesn`t go after himself, even though he`s party to this whole thing?
LIEU: Well, let me first disclose that the lawyer for Devin Nunes wrote me a letter threatening that Devin Nunes will sue me if I don`t apologize for saying that Devin Nunes conspired with Lev Parnas and conspired to undermine our own government.
Well, it turns out that, based on text messages and the record and the amazing interview on "The Rachel Maddow Show," that I`m right. Truth is a defense. And I basically told Devin Nunes` attorney that they can take that letter and shove it.
So, with this new additional evidence that came out, it`s even more damning, especially for the staff to Devin Nunes. And I think, right now, Devin Nunes should not be sitting on the House Intelligence Committee. He needs to be removed.
MATTHEWS: What I don`t understand is, legislators have a job. That`s their lane that they work in. They vote. They write legislation. They try to figure out what`s wrong and try to right it.
They`re not operational. They don`t operate. Like, Ollie North got in trouble for being operational. He`s an adviser to the president. He is running all this money into the Contras, running missiles over to Iran.
I mean, these guys -- why would a vice -- you have worked in the government in many capacities. Why would a U.S. congressman be a guy running down to the old Executive Office Building, getting some stuff to come back down the next day and give it to the West Wing, working as a staffer, basically, for the president, this president?
BASH: That`s right.
His constitutional responsibility, under Article 1, is to be an overseer, to conduct oversight, to actually be a check on executive branch power and policy.
Instead, he`s gone to the other side. He`s basically decided, I`m going to work for Trump. I`m going to help him advance this false narrative about Ukraine. I`m going to help him politically, so he can win reelection, and maybe reward me -- reward me with more.
MATTHEWS: Congressman, again, thank you for your service and your being here tonight.
Here we are on, on the very eve of a Senate trial for this president. And yet, as we sit here, the news keeps coming through, over the transom, through the door, rushing like a flood.
We keep learning more now about surveillance of a U.S. ambassador over in Kiev. It looks like she was being harassed, or they scared her enough to ever yanked out of the country, she was so -- had such reason to be afraid.
So what is going on here? There`s so much information. Are we going to get this in the trial, or is it going to be kept out of the door?
LIEU: We absolutely need a full and fair trial in the Senate.
I think it`s ridiculous that a simple question such as, should we have witnesses in a trial, can`t be answered by a number of Republican senators. The answer should, of course, be yes. I mean, who ever heard of a trial with no witnesses and no documents?
And then we should take a step back and understand that Donald Trump is not only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. He`s also the first Republican president to be impeached.
And as for abusing his power, soliciting foreign interference in our election, and no one is above the law. No one should be treated differently because they happen to be president. And every trial has witnesses and documents. And that should be the kind of trial we have in the U.S. Senate.
MATTHEWS: Well said. Thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu of California.
And, Jeremy Bash, thank you for your expertise and your service in our government.
A quick programming note. We`re going to have "The Washington Post" Phil Rucker and Carol Leonnig, the author of that new book on Trump`s presidency, here on HARDBALL next Tuesday, coming up quick. This is a great book.
By the way, I sell books here because I like them. This book is fun to read, if you have been following it. This is going to be on Tuesday they`re coming here. This book is fun to read. It`s candy for people that love to follow politics, even if it`s horrible in its nature.
And still ahead: With the caucuses just weeks ahead, what will Iowa look like without three of the top Democratic candidates, because they`re going to be in jury duty?
We will be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With President Trump`s impeachment trial in session, a number of 2020 Democratic hopefuls have been sidelined, locked into the Senate chamber, you might say.
Of the 12 Democrats running for president still, four of them will be out of commission, as they assume their duties as jurors in the impeachment trial, the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.
And some of those senators were asked if they were worried about being off the trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Are you concerned about how this will affect your campaign?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I am.
I would rather be in Iowa today. There`s a caucus there in two-and-a-half weeks. I`d rather be in New Hampshire and in Nevada and so forth.
But I swore a constitutional oath, as a the United States senator, to do my job. And I`m here to do my job.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s my constitutional duty. And when I can go campaign in those early states, including Nevada and South Carolina, I will.
But when I have to be there, I will.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The way I think about it is, it`s out of my control. And I have obviously got to be there to fulfill my constitutional responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, NBC News spoke to a handful of New Hampshire voters about the new reality.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: For those who won`t be able to come out and speak to you in person, are you cutting them any slack?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very little.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They -- Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, if I don`t know enough about them already...
QUESTION: Are you cutting them any slack?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think so. I think that they`re doing their responsibility by being -- by being where they need to be in Congress. That`s a really important thing that they`re doing down there too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, that`s true.
The senators` absence from the campaign trail, however, couldn`t be coming at a worst time. A new poll from Iowa shows just how up for grabs that contest really is.
And that`s next. You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
With just two weeks now left before the Iowa caucuses, do you believe it, two weeks from Monday, the Democratic field will lose four of its candidates from the campaign trail to the impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.
According -- by the way, according to a new "Des Moines Register" poll, 40 percent of the Iowa voters say they have not made up their minds yet. That`s -- well, they have made up their minds. I think it`s 60 have decided not. But nearly half, 45, said they could be persuaded to vote for another candidate. And that leaves a large swathe.
By the way, if you put all those numbers together -- I did it this afternoon -- three-fifths of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers are up for grabs. It`s an astounding thing.
And with a neck-and-neck race with the top four candidates, it could be anybody`s game.
For more. I`m joined by Lily Adams, former communications director for Kamala Harris, and Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist and the host of Hill TV.
Lily, you`re fresh off the trail.
LILY ADAMS, FORMER HARRIS CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes.
MATTHEWS: What do you think? Four people in their seats in the U.S. chamber. Of course, everybody wants to sit in that chamber, but they`re stuck there.
ADAMS: Yes, look, if it`s two weeks to the caucus, the place you want to be is Iowa every day talking to caucus-goers, boosting up your precinct leadership, recruiting more precinct captains.
I was saying I think the hardest thing, though, is that they`re going to be in Washington, D.C., and they`re going to have to be silent, which is the worst -- the worst thing that you could ask for if you`re a candidate.
So, I do think, though, that Iowa caucus-goers are going to be watching these proceedings. They are going to be wanting the response from these senators each night on your show and others.
MATTHEWS: Yes. We will be grabbing them.
ADAMS: So they will get to see them on their TV.
MATTHEWS: That`s right.
ADAMS: But there`s no substitute for being there in person.
MATTHEWS: So we`re going to get some good guests the next couple weeks.
JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You will.
ADAMS: They will be available.
MATTHEWS: Especially if they -- they will be available on MS, probably, and we will get our share at 7:00.
But it seems to me they`re not allowed to have any...
SIMMONS: At what time, Chris?
MATTHEWS: They can`t -- yes, it`s this show.
MATTHEWS: They`re not allowed to have gadgets in there, no phones, nothing.
So they can`t sit there and sneak calls to their people, their troops out there. They can`t do any of that. But the minute they`re off, they will be Skyping, right, won`t they, be doing everything.
SIMMONS: You can`t even have reading materials. It`s like high school detention. And you are going to have to just sit there and pay attention to what`s happening in class all day.
I think it`s going to be tough for a lot of these candidates. The one candidate who may come -- the one senator who may not be as bad a shape as the others is Bernie Sanders, only because his people are just so fervent and there`s so tough.
MATTHEWS: And that`s 20 percent right there.
SIMMONS: And his numbers don`t move that much.
SIMMONS: And so I`m not sure there`s anything he could do that would sway people away from him.
The problem is, can he sway anybody and bring them toward him? And I just don`t know.
MATTHEWS: Well, I said the other day I think his anti-war position on Vietnam and now against the Iranian situation is an ideological rallying cry that the other candidates just don`t have right now.
Let me ask you about how they`re going to use this -- can they -- the senators` role in the trial, as I understand it, is, you go to jail basically if you talk. It`s the real quiet car.
ADAMS: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: So they can`t like raise interesting questions. Even in the Supreme Court, you can do that. They can`t put up their hand like Bernie does and Elizabeth does and be waving at him.
ADAMS: Right. Nobody is going to be calling on them, yes.
MATTHEWS: Nobody calls on them.
ADAMS: Roberts isn`t going to be finding -- calling on each of them one by one, no.
MATTHEWS: So, they have to look like Kennedy did in his debate with Nixon, very studious. They have to look like pensive, right? I mean, that`s all they can do is show some physical connection.
ADAMS: Yes, but then they will come out of the chamber, and they will go talk to a camera, and they will give their analysis of what happened.
And I do think, in a normal year, this would be a horrible, horrible thing for candidates. But I do think, look, every Democrat in the country, every person in this country is going to be paying attention to what`s going on in this trial, is going to want to know what these candidates have to say.
So they are going to be a part of the story going on. I think, also for the candidates in Iowa who are going to be able to be there, they have to figure out how to be a part of this story as well that everyone is going to be paying attention to for the next couple of weeks.
MATTHEWS: And Iowa has got one hour of two. It`s in Central time.
MATTHEWS: So they can get out there at 6:00 or 7:00. If they can get out of there...
SIMMONS: At 6:00, it`s over.
MATTHEWS: And they get two hours. They can talk to people in the early evening. They can still talk.
MATTHEWS: And then they can get some prime-time time at home. If they set up an operation here with a camera, they should be -- especially Bernie or Elizabeth come out and says, yes, I got to tell you what happened in the meeting -- in the hearing today.
ADAMS: People are going to listen.
And surrogates are going to matter, too. I mean, you are really going to have to have a really top-notch operation in the state. You just came out of doing one of these.
I mean, somebody sitting around with a big calendar trying to figure out who can we slot here and there that is going to matter in these smaller communities, because you got to have somebody present, just so you can get the organizing benefit of having people show up and show you can drive...
MATTHEWS: How yucky is it going to be one of those people who`s not been drafted into service, like Biden, and like Buttigieg?
They`re out there. They get out there walking around and say, how come you`re not fighting the war against Trump? Why are you out here? Does it embarrass them a little to be able to skip this trial and be out there campaigning when the others are at work?
ADAMS: Oh, I don`t think so.
I mean, I think, look,a candidate`s time is so valuable to be right there face to face with Iowa voters. The population of the Democratic caucus is no bigger than 300,000 people. So every last person is going to matter, especially when you`re looking at that "Des Moines Register" poll. Everybody is neck and neck up there at the top.
So if -- again, if you had to put a gun to my head, I`d pick to be in Iowa.
MATTHEWS: OK. I will put a gun to your head on a bigger issue out here, talking about guns to your head.
MATTHEWS: What do you think of the vice president -- former Vice President Joe Biden talking about Kamala Harris as a possible running mate?
ADAMS: Look, it`s no secret that I`m a big fan of Senator Harris. I think she`d make a fantastic running mate for anybody.
MATTHEWS: Do you think she would accept?
ADAMS: Oh, I don`t know. You have to have her on the show to ask.
MATTHEWS: Jamal, would she accept?
SIMMONS: Oh, I don`t know either, but I think...
MATTHEWS: Does anybody not accept?
SIMMONS: But I think that she should, right?
ADAMS: I don`t think you ask if you don`t know the person going to accept.
SIMMONS: Right. Exactly. I think that she should.
Listen, I think one thing that happened after the Kamala Harris race is there was a little bit of -- I don`t know what the reverse is of buyer`s remorse, maybe rejecter`s remorse, right?
Particularly in the African-American community, there`s a big wave that went through on Twitter and other places where people said, maybe we were too tough on her. Maybe we held her to a standard that is kind of unacceptable.
MATTHEWS: Is that what you think?
SIMMONS: I think, in some ways, yes. I think we held her to...
MATTHEWS: I kept asking around with people of color. and I said, what is her problem? Well, she`s a prosecutor, that kind of thing.
SIMMONS: Right. You heard that stuff very early.
But the question is, is anybody else going to be held to that standard? People don`t say that about Amy Klobuchar. Nobody`s wondering about her prosecutor record.
So the question becomes, what happens if she gets on the national ticket? At which point, I think there`s a rallying effect around Kamala Harris, and people say, forget about all that. We have a chance to put this great woman into the White House. Let`s do it.
MATTHEWS: Bobby Kennedy was prosecutor. Ted Kennedy was a young prosecutor. Joe Kennedy III is a prosecutor -- was a prosecutor.
That`s -- it`s not a bad way to bring yourself up. It used to be the way you got to be governor of New York.
ADAMS: Well, now, with a lawless president, you kind of need a prosecutor.
ADAMS: So, she could really be good.
MATTHEWS: You should be doing this for a living. You`re good at this.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Lily Adams, who was there for Kamala Harris all those difficult months on the campaign trial.
And, Jamal, it`s great to have you on, as always, sir.
MATTHEWS: Up next: my optimism for Chief Justice Roberts. I may be alone. I don`t think he`s going to be a potted plant for three weeks.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Call me an optimist. Call me a romantic, but I have high hopes for Chief Justice John Roberts.
I have got a reservoir of optimism he will serve more of a role in this Senate impeachment trial than that of a potted plant. I believe he will be a true judge, deciding at one point that the trial cannot be considered fair without the calling of witnesses.
And I can only assume there will be opportunities for him to make that call. It may be in the case of a tie vote. It may be at a point in the presentation of the evidence where it becomes clear that the only way to weigh that evidence is with the fact witnesses to certify to the authenticity of certain documents and certain conversations.
When there`s an argument, and the record shows who can resolve the matter, wouldn`t prudence suggest that the fact witness be heard?
The chief justice will be forced to decide whether to allow himself to be part to a procedure that produces a cover-up or to push the procedures in order to hold a trial and pursue the truth.
So, here`s to the justice and to the chief justice who can help delivery.
And that`s HARDBALL for now.
Stick with us. "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.
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