DNC TRANSCRIPT: 2/6/20, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews

Guests: Sherrod Brown, Jill Colvin, Carlos Curbelo, Jon Meacham, Ruth Marcus, McKay Coppins, Patrick Griffin, Trent Spiner

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Chris Matthews and a lot of our NBC colleagues who are out reporting this 2020 race. I`ll be there tomorrow, Friday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, and Monday as well. So I hope you keep it locked right here on MSNBC, and a lot of news unfolding.

HARDBALL with Chris Matthews is up next.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Payback. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Emboldened by his acquittal, President Trump is taking the politics of personal grievance into unchartered territory. In a stream of consciousness broadside from the east room of the White House today, Trump ticked off the names of the enemies list, all those who took to him to impeachment all the way from James Comey to Nancy Pelosi.

He showcased a vindictiveness we don`t normally see in politics which to come in a war in all those who cross him and may not be thinking of it, or even thinking of it. And that includes vulgarity not expected of public address from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve been going through this now for over three years. It was evil. It was corrupt. It was dirty cops. It was leakers and liars. If this happened to President Obama, a lot of people would have been in jail for a long time already.

We went through hell unfairly, did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong.

And you have to understand, we first went through Russia, Russia, Russia. It was all bullshit.

Then Bob Mueller testified. That didn`t work out so well for the other side. These people are vicious. Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is it a horrible person. All they want to do, in my opinion, it`s almost like they want to destroy our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s a preview of what`s to come over the next months, apparently all the way to the election in November.

Trump also made a show of rewarding those who helped deliver a speedy acquittal, praising individual Republican lawmakers for their allegiance during his hour long remarks today. In contrast, he singled out Senator Mitt Romney who voted aye on the first vote yesterday to convict and remove him from office. Here is Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Say hello to the people of Utah and tell them I`m sorry about Mitt Romney. I`m sorry. OK?

The only one that voted against was a guy that can`t stand the fact that he ran one of the worst campaigns in the history of the presidency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, that throughout Trump`s remarks and yet he never offered even a morsel of self-reproach. The only apology offered was to his family. And even then, he took an implicit, explicit shot at his opponents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want to apologize to my family for having them have to go through a phony, rotten deal by some very evil and sick people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: It was a far cry, of course, from the contrition that former President Bill Clinton demonstrated in the wake of his acquittal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to say again to the American people how profoundly sorry I am for what I said and did to trigger these events and the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Above all else, today`s speech was a demonstration of Trump`s iron grip on the Republican Party. In a New York Times op-ed today, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio wrote, Senate Republicans acquitted Trump not because they believe him but because they`re afraid of him. The Ohio senator wrote, quote, history has taught us that when it comes to the instincts to drive us, fear has no rival.

And he revealed that in private many of my colleagues agree that the president is reckless and unfit. They admit he lies and they acknowledge what he did was wrong.

And with me right now is Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. Senator, what is -- what brought you to write that incredible report today about the motives driving your Republican colleagues?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D-OH): Well, I watched and I took copious notes sitting on the floor, sitting at Desk 88 in my desk on the floor and just wrote about what I was saying, what I was hearing, including just for myself not to publish anything like that.

But then I listened during breaks and at different times during the day for the last three or four weeks. I listened to Republican colleagues. And I could see the fear in their eyes. They`re not going to admit it. No politician is going to admit that she lacks courage or, in a Republican cases, it`s almost always he lacks courage. But they know they tell me this president doesn`t tell the truth. They know he did things wrong.

Some of them, like Lamar Alexander and my colleague, Rob Portman, has acknowledged he did things wrong. But then you watch this rally today. They know it was a rally at the government property at the White House. And you see them all cheer him on and they`re not willing to do or say anything. Fear does the business. Fear does the business and among Republicans of the United States Senate.

The same way you remember, Chris, 20 years ago, President Bush feared the business that led us into the Iraq War. And people make decisions based on fear and it`s almost always the wrong decision for our country.

MATTHEWS: Do you think -- I know it`s hard to speculate, but you`re a member of that body. Do you think the Republicans would have voted differently had it been a secret ballot?

BROWN: Yes, I do. It`s something I don`t think we probably would have got 67 votes, because they know that removal of him would have caused too much upheaval. But if they could have voted in secret, there would have been a number of more votes, I think, that number of more people standing up and saying guilty when the chief justice or when the clerk called their name, absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Well the president has actually shown he has bullets in his gun, politically. Knocked off a couple of the members in the House down in South Carolina, I remember that happening. I remember Jeff Flake being run out of town. Is it the real fear of that experience actually happening to one of your colleagues? Just like he`s going to get rid of me, he`s going to get the voters of my state and the political apparatus against me back home, and they can actually get rid of me.

BROWN: Yes. Well, it`s what I wrote about in that piece. They`re afraid that Fox will turn on them. They`re afraid that talk radio will go after them. They`re afraid the president will tweet about them and give them a nickname, a not very nice nickname. They`re afraid the president will come in and campaign against them. But they contributed to this strong, strong unyielding, intolerant Republican base.

If you live in Cincinnati, Ohio, or more importantly, if you live in Kentucky and you got a Republican House member and two Republican senators and you watch Fox and listen to Limbaugh or one of them, you never hear any dissenting voices because you`re a member of Congress, never, ever stands up to this president. And we`ve never really quite seen that in this country that I can remember. This isn`t worst time in our country`s history. McCarthyism was worst, the divisions of the 60s, civil war, of course. But we`ve never seen a president like this have this kind -- create this kind of ongoing fear, unrelenting fear in this entire caucus, frankly.

MATTHEWS: Senator, when we look at pictures from North Korea, just an example of the dictatorship, when you watch everybody wearing the high peak (ph) hats and everybody is smiling in unison or frowning in unison or marching in unison, a goose step, and you watch the people in their so- called assembly, their congress, so-called. They all are so frozen in fear of being seen as somehow out of line, which is very strict standard in that country. Are Republicans beginning to act like that, fearful of not showing the right sort of emotion in public? You have to be exuberant in this cult when he stands before them, it seems

BROWN: Well, yes. As soon as you said that, I started thinking about three nights ago during the States Union. My wife, Connie, is a newspaper columnist, Connie Schultz, and a journalist. She -- and a novelist. Now, she was in the gallery and she said -- she wrote the next day, I`ve never been to a Trump political rally until the State of the Union. And to watch these -- when you across, it`s almost all white men, not entirely. When you look across their side of the aisle, in the way they stand and cheer for damn near anything that Trump says when he wants them to stand just in unison.

And there`s just -- I know State of the Union speeches are sometimes like that but never ever to this degree (ph). And I`ve been to 20 of them over the years, more or less.

MATTHEWS: Do you fear our government is going to come to a standstill with this kind of intransigent partisanship driven by a president who will brook no opposition at all?

BROWN: Well, that`s what makes this election so important. And I know you hear that from lots of guests. But if we win this time, and I think the planets are aligning that we beat Trump and we win the Senate, if we do, we actually move forward. There will still be plenty of Trump voices in the party. But if we win the kind of decisive win, you know, after the Democrats had Herbert Hoover, the Democrats won so decisively that, one, they enacted a lot of things it mattered for the country, collective bargaining, social security, so much else. But also the Republicans were having to change their tune.

And we have that kind of decisive win we can have this year, we`re going to win the Senate. If we have a decisive win like that, those voices that have stood with Trump, those members that have stood with Trump, a lot of them are going to have second thoughts because they realizes it isn`t working for me and my party and I`ve got to do something different. That`s why not just winning this year but winning in the kind of decisive margins that we need is the way to kind of watch over all this.

MATTHEWS: You`re right about that. Dwight Eisenhower was no Herbert Hoover. Thank you so much, Senator Sherrod Brown, for that great article in The New York Times today.

I`m joined right now by Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press, and Carlos Curbelo, former Republican congressman from Florida.

Well, Jill, this question, the message to Republicans was, to me, frightening, because it wasn`t just anger, it was warning.

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": It was. And he specifically issued a warning, actually asking Senator Mike Lee to deliver a message to his Utah colleague, telling him basically, Romney, watch out.

Romney has been very clearly that understood the political repercussions that would follow from his decision to become the only Republican to vote in favor in one of those articles of impeachment. But the president has clearly got his eyes set on Romney, whether that means finding a potential challenger, making clear that he doesn`t want him in there. We don`t know at this point.

But the president expects at this point loyalty from every person who is sitting in that room and every Republican in the Senate.

MATTHEWS: You know, speaking of cults, Carlos, the Republican Party has been accused of being a cult under the leadership of the pied piper himself, Donald Trump. His press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, made the statement today that Mitt Romney should be banished. That`s the language of a cult, banished. Banished to what, an island somewhere in the Pacific? What does banished mean? I mean, it is the language of a cult, not of a government.

CARLOS CURBELO (R), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE OF FLORIDA: Chris, this is totally unprecedented. We had powerful, strong Republicans presidents in the past, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush. People in the party disagreed with them all the time. And they didn`t suffer repercussions. Sure, they would get a call every once in a while. A president might invite you over, might say something to you quietly, but not these kinds of threats where basically everyone has to have the same exact opinion on every single issue.

So the president today not just does he miss the opportunity to try to heal the country after a divisive impeachment process, but then he goes on to threaten people in his own party. And, by the way, you remember this after 2018. I ran. I lost. Other Republicans lost that year. And the president decided to attack us, the day after members of his own party who had lost elections. So this is not surprising to me but it should trouble all of us.

MATTHEWS: Well, President Trump`s message of vengeance and a payback was echoed by others today in the administration, by his allies and surrogates. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News the president believes that those who spoke out about him should be punished.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANI GRISHAM, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He`s going to speak to the country with honesty and I think with a little bit of humility.

He`s going to also talk about, you know, just how horribly he was treated and, you know, that maybe people should pay for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And a number of Republicans briefed on Trump`s thinking told Vanity Fair that the president, quote, has an enemies list that is growing by the day, which includes Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Mitt Romney and John Bolton.

Jill, your thoughts on that. Do we have any sense of what the incoming is going to be like?

COLVIN: You don`t really need a lot of inside the room reporting to know that the president clearly has an enemies list and he targets them almost every day. The president obviously has a huge megaphone. He tweets all the time. And we know the people that he is angry with. And we know how he tries to attack them. He tries to put negative attention on them and, you know, he`s got a whole government power here. He talked today at one point, not mentioning him by name, but eluding to Hunter Biden and suggesting he wants to continue, you know, investigating and looking into Hunter Biden`s activity in Ukraine.

This is a president who has a tremendous platform and also somebody who, to allude to what your previous guest was talking about, is deeply popular with the Republican Party. You have to remember that although he has historically low approval rating across the country, this is somebody who has serious power in the Republican Party, and people are afraid to cross him.

MATTHEWS: It seems like he`s after Mitt Romney. He`s after the Bidens, for sure. He wants to prove he was right going after them with the Ukraine government. He`s certainly going after them. He wants all three Senate committees working now, to work like hell to get something on Joe Biden, to get something on Hunter Biden. My God, he`s got a tough list. He`s also going after the New York State government because he doesn`t like the fact that they`re after his tax returns. He laid down a lot of fire today and a lot of directions.

Thank you so much, Jill Colvin and Carlos Curbelo.

Coming up, the war between President Trump and Speaker Pelosi widens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): First of all, the whole State of the Union was beneath the dignity of the White House.

TRUMP: They`re vicious and mean, vicious. These people are vicious.

Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

And here in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the stakes are very high for next week`s primary, polls show Bernie Sanders with an overtakeable lead here. Can Pete catch him?

We`ve got much more to get to. Stay with with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOS: I tore up a manifesto of mistruths. He has shredded the truth in his speech. He`s shredding the Constitution in his conduct. I shredded his state of his mind address.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Speaker Nancy Pelosi explaining why she tore up, physically tore up President Trump`s State of the Union Address the other night. The animosity between Trump and Pelosi has intensified over the past few days, of course, with the two trading insults in various events throughout the day.

First, Trump made a nasty reference to Pelosi at the national prayer breakfast while also going after Mitt Romney for speaking about his faith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don`t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong, nor do I like people who say, I pray for you, when they know that that`s not so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Pelosi has emphasized the solemnity of the impeachment process over the past few months, saying multiple times that she was praying for the president.

Here is how she responded to Trump today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: I don`t know if the president understands about prayer or people who do pray. But we do pray for the United States of America.

I pray for him, President Bush still, President Obama, because it`s a heavy responsibility. And I pray hard for him because he`s so off the track of our Constitution. He really needs our prayers.

So, he can say whatever he wants. He can say whatever he wants, but I do pray for him, and I do so sincerely and without anguish. I gently -- that`s the way I pray for everybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, later, in his impeachment speech, Trump brought up Pelosi directly, calling her a horrible person.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I had Nancy Pelosi sitting four seats away, and I`m saying things that a lot of people wouldn`t have said, but I meant every word.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person. And she wanted to impeach a long time ago.

When she said, I pray for the president, I pray for the president, she doesn`t pray. She may pray, but she prays for the opposite.

(LAUGHTER)

TRUMP: But I doubt she prays at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined by Jon Meacham, presidential historian, and Ruth Marcus, "Washington Post" deputy editorial page editor.

I want to start with Jon, because you have written a lot about religion and the way you grew up and everything.

And I -- I know a little bit about Pelosi. She grew up the way I did. When she says she prays, she means it. It`s what we do. And we pray for different people, different supplications, but it`s real. It`s believing. It`s faithful.

And I do believe, knowing a bit about the LDS religion and the way that Mitt Romney grew up, that he`s faithful to his religion. These are not casual about their religion, and they`re not secular people in their -- in their beings, not that there`s anything wrong with a secular person, but they`re not secular people. They`re the faithful.

Trump`s probably among the secular. But I don`t want to get into his soul.

But why would he go so deeply with this attack?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I`m practicing psychiatry without a license here, but it won`t be the first or last time.

I think he`s made uncomfortable by the presence or the intimation of genuine emotion on the other side, because I don`t think he has very many at least genuinely empathetic emotions.

The speaker`s world growing up, yes, it was a lot like yours. It would have been kind of ambient Roman Catholicism, where saints` days were just something that we`re part of the air you breathed.

And I think it`s remarkable that she`s been as straightforward about that as she has. I don`t think you ever score points attacking people on grounds of faith. It`s fundamentally un-American.

Our first freedom was liberty of conscience. James Madison, who has had this great run of being quoted for the past couple of months, his first act as a young guy in Virginia was to change the word from toleration of different religions or no religion to liberty of conscience, because toleration presumes that there`s an authority that`s letting you believe something, and that implies that you can take it back.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MEACHAM: Liberty means it`s innate, you choose or you don`t choose, and it`s entirely up to you.

I just don`t think that`s a vernacular that the president is at all conversant with. And I think it showed once more in vivid terms here.

One more thought. I mean, the idea -- you have written about this better than anybody -- the generational shift from a Reagan-O`Neill president-to- speaker relationship to Pelosi and Trump shows you how far we have we have fallen, I think.

MATTHEWS: That`s a great question for Ruth.

You write about it every day. You lead the editorial page of "The Washington Post," which is the paper for Washington government, how things get done or don`t get done.

How do you get anything done if they don`t even meet? They haven`t met since October, these two people.

RUTH MARCUS, JOURNALIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, a lot -- not a lot was getting done in Washington before they started not getting along.

MATTHEWS: Yes, we got trade reform, the fight with the Chinese.

MARCUS: We got a little bit.

There will be things that are done in Washington, despite these fraying relations, if, but only if, they are in the interests of both of these warring parties, but the -- but only if they`re interested -- in the interests of these warring parties.

And the fact that especially the president has sunk to this level of name- calling about a speaker of the House, even a speaker of the House of the opposite party, is just dramatically bad. And it makes the very little amount that we can get done in Washington these days even less capable of getting done.

MATTHEWS: Well, someone once wrote that friend can mean a lot of things, Jon and Ruth, but enemy has only one meaning.

It seems like they`re enemies now. And, last night, amazingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell bemoaned -- I can`t believe he said it -- the absence of civility in politics while talking about Pelosi tearing up President Trump`s speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): How childish and petty is that?

What kind of example does that set for the American people about how we ought to conduct ourselves? I mean, have we forgotten how to be civil to each other, particularly when we`re in Congress, sitting together, not out on the campaign trail, not at rallies?

But at least among ourselves, we ought to be able to disagree and not behave like a bunch of children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So, how does Mitt say that after holding up Supreme Court nominations for a year, just showing how power works?

MARCUS: Well, I mean, just leave aside the outrage of holding up Merrick Garland`s nomination.

How does he say that, given the way his president talks every single day? Has he not heard of this Twitter thing? Did he not -- has he not seen the way the president talks about...

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

He makes fun of, basically, Robert Mueller`s age, basically. He made fun of Vindman, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman`s accent or background, whatever. He made fun of his accent.

MARCUS: We were sitting here watching you with our mouths open.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I don`t hear presidents making fun of people`s ancestry so openly.

MARCUS: And he -- and, I mean, I think we can`t actually emphasize enough - - and I thought my friend Mr. Meacham was extremely restrained in the way he was talking about this attack on people`s faith.

First of all, we don`t attack people`s faith. Second of all, very bad idea to attack people`s faith when it is clearly and for a long time been a central part of their lives. And that`s true both of Senator Romney and of the speaker.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MARCUS: And especially coming from this president, who has only seemed to use faith as a tool for political ads.

MATTHEWS: You know, Jon, to respond to what you said, because it`s personal with me, when Ronald Reagan was shot, and was really close to death for a couple hours there, Tip O`Neill visited him in the hospital and they prayed the 23rd Psalm together.

Think about that.

MEACHAM: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Pray -- reading the Bible together at a bedside, compared to what stuff we have now.

MEACHAM: And it`s as if we`re talking about Thermopylae. I mean, that`s so far away.

And it doesn`t have to be...

MATTHEWS: Yes, it was not too far.

MEACHAM: And it doesn`t have to be.

I mean, I think Senator McConnell is able to say that because he feels no consequence. And the president feels no consequence. And that`s why it`s up to the -- we the people. Do a majority -- will a majority of us want to say again decisively, and dare I say it, in the right Electoral College states, that this is not who we want to be?

It`s who many of us are. And we have to fight our worst instincts.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think it was once said, not even God himself can sink this ship.

History has events.

Thank you so much, Jon Meacham. And thank you, Ruth Marcus.

Up next: Mitt Romney says he was well aware that there would be consequences for his vote to convict the president for his reckless abuse of power.

Senator Romney made -- had more to say about it today. So, what happens next? What form will Trump`s punishment take toward Utah?

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): The image of my dad comes to mind.

My dad was a person who stood by his word and did exactly what he thought was right, regardless of the consequence. And that is a family tradition which I hold dear.

And I was not afraid of casting my vote. I would have been much more afraid had I cast a vote that was not consistent with my conscience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Senator Mitt Romney, of course, today back in Utah invoking the memory of his father, former Michigan Governor George Romney, and defending his vote to convict President Trump.

In an interview with "The Atlantic"`s McKay Coppins, Romney called it the most difficult decision he has ever had to make and one he tried to avoid.

For more, I`m joined by, himself, McKay Coppins, staff writer for "The Atlantic," who covered Romney`s 2012 presidential campaign, and Patrick Griffin, a Republican strategist who worked on Romney`s 2008 presidential campaign.

McKay, tell us about the role of his faith in that decision he made on the Senate floor.

MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": You know, I met with him the day before he made that speech. The interview was embargoed, but he told me about the decision he was making.

And I have talked to Mitt Romney a lot. Like you said, I have covered him for nearly a decade. This was by far the most open he was about talking about his faith, the most he ever volunteered about his faith, which, by the way, I share. I`m also a Mormon. And, even then, we very rarely talk about religious matters.

But, as he was explaining this, he was very somber. He was very kind of steadfast. But he also just kept -- he spoke very intimately and personally about prayer. And he was quoting Mormon hymns and scripture.

And, actually, you just played that clip of him talking about his father. He said that a favorite pass -- his father`s favorite passage of Mormon scripture had been a guide throughout this whole process.

So, this really was at the center of his decision, as far as I can tell.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to you, Patrick, about the secular thing here, which is, he`s now facing fire.

This president wants everybody to see how he makes life difficult or worse for Romney. It`s important for his message-sending, right? You know what I`m talking about.

PATRICK GRIFFIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I sure do.

MATTHEWS: So, what they did with Flake, a couple of guys they knocked off in South Carolina. This guy`s next.

GRIFFIN: Yes.

No, I think, listen, it`s hard to figure out, Chris, what the political upside is for this thing for Mitt Romney. He`s 72 years old. He`s been a governor. He`s a U.S. senator. He`s been the party`s nominee.

He`s got lots of money. This is not about challenging Trump or trying to find the next political thing. This is clearly a vote of conscience. And I think that what we finally saw in this was the Mitt Romney politically that lots of people have been looking for over the years.

MATTHEWS: Yes, you have heard my line over the months, haven`t you? He flirts with greatness?

GRIFFIN: Well, and -- and we saw some greatness.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

GRIFFIN: I think we saw the real Mitt Romney deep from the heart. Tough vote. He`s going to be a lonely guy in that town.

But you know what? That`s the Mitt Romney I know and respect. I think he`s a terrific guy. Every senator had a vote. They were a juror. Different jurors can see different things from different evidence.

I give him a lot of credit.

MATTHEWS: McKay, as a member of the LDS Church, take a minute to explain the importance of our Constitution in your faith, our founding documents.

COPPINS: Yes, you know, Mormonism is often called the first truly American religion.

It was -- the church was founded in -- in -- here in the United States. A lot of the kind of crucial episodes of our history are also American history. And the Constitution is actually seen in the faith as a divinely inspired document.

And so, when Mitt Romney talked to me about how, when he swore an oath to God to be an impartial juror in this process that was constitutionally set apart, he took that very seriously. This wasn`t kind of a pro forma thing for him.

The Constitution is really -- it`s not quite scripture, but it`s often treated that way when you talk to American members of the faith. And I think that that`s a big part of what was motivating him here.

MATTHEWS: I`m so glad we have had a chance to get that known for the public. This American religion believes so much in the founding documents. They believe they`re inspired by providence.

Thank you so much, McKay Coppins. Thank you, Patrick Griffin, for the political.

GRIFFIN: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Still ahead, new polling out of New Hampshire, which I`m at right now, shows Bernie Sanders ahead here in the Granite State.

We don`t know how that lead will hold. It may well hold. Or Buttigieg or someone else might catch him. They got four or five days.

And be sure to check out my podcast, "So You Wanna Be President?" That`s the name of it. It breaks down the six key lessons from past president (AUDIO GAP) separate the winners from the losers.

The important message so far: Win in Iowa.

Episode three, "The Walls Have Ears," is now available now wherever you get your podcasts.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With no official winter in Monday`s Iowa caucuses, the Democratic presidential candidates have turned their attention here to New Hampshire and to next Tuesday`s primary, which is coming on now.

Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are currently vying for first place in delegates from Iowa. Buttigieg holds a razor-thin lead of two-tenths of 1 percent over Sanders in the results that determine the national delegate count from Iowa.

But a new poll show Sanders out in front here in New Hampshire. The Monmouth University poll shows Sanders with 24 percent, followed by Buttigieg with 20 percent, Joe Biden with 17, Elizabeth Warren with 13. Amy Klobuchar and the other candidates are down in single digits.

Sanders has gained six points in that poll since last month, while Buttigieg support has unchanged. Biden and Warren each lost two points. That follows the latest "Boston Globe" Suffolk University tracking poll, as every day comes out post-Iowa. It also shows Sanders now leading in New Hampshire, 25 percent yesterday, up one point. The day after Iowa, that was the 4th.

Buttigieg follows with 19 points. A four-point jump in the two days after Iowa. So, one poll shows him moving up.

And with the voters here in New Hampshire will get their say just five days from now in the first of the nation actual primary. Won`t that be refreshing? You`ll actually go into a booth and vote.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

The focus of the presidential race is now squarely here in New Hampshire. By the way, it`s snowing up here. Even as there is still tabulating results in Iowa, whatever they`re doing out in Iowa.

Well, there is no official winner in the battle for delegates from Iowa right now. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders claimed victory for having the most votes in the initial count of partisans.

Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When 6,000 more people come out for you in an election than your nearest opponent, we here in northern New England call that a victory. Now that Iowa is hopefully finally behind us, let me take this opportunity to thank the thousands of those here in New Hampshire. We`re out today on the streets in rain and snow, knocking on doors.

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MATTHEWS: Well, the final Monmouth University poll, as I said, ahead of next week`s vote, shows Sanders leading here in New Hampshire with Pete Buttigieg in second. Look at those numbers, 24-20, at a packed event here in New Hampshire, which I went to, Buttigieg acknowledged the challenges ahead for him.

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PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It`s been an extraordinary week and we are absolutely electrified by the energy that we are coming here with and by the extraordinary validation of this campaign`s vision that we had in Iowa on Monday. I`m also mindful and humbled by the fact that New Hampshire is New Hampshire, and New Hampshire is not the kind of place to let Iowa or anybody else tell what you to do. .

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MATTHEWS: For more, I`m joined by Beth Fouhy, NBC News senior editor for politics, David Corn, Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones", and Trent Spiner, reporter for "Politico" who worked for the major newspaper here as executive editor.

That little thing I watched him do today, in Merrimack, seems to be what works up here. Your state, the state, you know, either die for freedom, or whatever, I`m just kidding -- this state seems to like the twist of the national impression of where we`re headed. Like they thought they were going to call this thing. We`re calling it.

TRENT SPINER, POLITICO REPORTER: I`m glad you got in. I`m not famous enough to get in to that event. I got left outside because there were so many people there. They weren`t expecting that many people.

And you`re right, New Hampshire`s live free or die attitude, they don`t care about what happened in Iowa. They really don`t. I`ve heard this joke from people. You hear it every cycle. But I heard it dozens of times so far.

In New Hampshire -- sorry, in Iowa, people pick corn and in New Hampshire, people pick presidents. And I think that`s what New Hampshire Democrats are looking at right now.

MATTHEWS: Well, here`s the question. Who`s going to win?

SPINER: OK. Anybody who tells you who`s going to win in the New Hampshire primary only has a one in five chance of being right, and here`s why, if you actually dig into the polls, somewhere between 50 and 75 percent of people are either only leaning towards or completely undecided about who they`re going o vote for.

MATTHEWS: What are they waiting for this weekend?

SPINER: They`re not waiting -- what they`re waiting for is someone from Iowa to drop out, for Iowa to actually the call --

MATTHEWS: To winnow the candidates --

SPINER: To winnow out, for there to be calling in Iowa and sorry that didn`t happen. And so, now, this weekend everyone is out frantically. Look at that Buttigieg event that you`re at. There were so many people there and people are trying to figure out who they`re going to vote for. And some people aren`t going to decide until they actually walk in to the polling place.

MATTHEWS: Well, David, I want to go this, it seems ideologically what`s going over there now, within the two alleys, two lanes --

DAVID CORN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, MOTHER JONES: Yes.

MATTHEWS: -- within the moderate to conservative lane, it looks like Buttigieg is beating out Joe Biden. Within the progressive or left wing -- lane, it looks to me like Bernie is beating out Elizabeth. I`m asking. What do you -- how do you see it?

CORN: No, we`ve been talking about lanes for a year now. One thing that struck me today, that same event that you`re at, when you talk to a lot of voters, they don`t care about lanes. I talk to people who said, I`m deciding between Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders. I`m deciding between Biden, Buttigieg and Tom Steyer.

I mean, whoa! I said, don`t you understand you`re supposed to be in a lane. And they are just looking for different reasons and on different set of --

MATTHEWS: So, it`s not ideological?

CORN: So, I don`t think a lot of this is ideological. Obviously, a lot of people behind Bernie, his hard core people are indeed one revolution. They`re of the left, and that`s what they`re for.

Some people are going with Biden because they don`t want that as a reaction. But I think a lot of these people who haven`t not made up their mind yet are still weighing people on all sorts of traits and characteristics that may not be ideological.

MATTHES: I think that`s right, Beth. I met some of them today. But go ahead.

BETH FOUHY, NBC NEWS: Yes. I mean, but let`s recall. Bernie Sanders was in this race four years ago. And he bested Hillary Clinton by 20 points. He`s got a lot of popularity here.

I was at an event here that he did, his first event here in New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses or however we left that state, he had so many people at this event that they were bussing in attendees from a parking lot that they had to put people in like about two miles away. He still has a huge, huge base of support here. So, it`s very likely that Bernie Sanders will do well in New Hampshire, it stands to reason that a lot of those people from 2016 are still with him.

So, to me, whoever is up there with him on Tuesday is who I`m looking at. Is it Pete Buttigieg who sort of surprised us all out of Iowa? Joe Biden could come back. We -- let`s not count that guy out, the vice president of the United States. Elizabeth Warren, neighboring state, she`s got a good organization here.

I`m with Trent. I don`t think we really know how this is going to shake out, and that`s why it`s exciting for us.

MATTHEWS: It seems like -- I come here like it`s Brigadoon, and I come here every four years. And I love it up here. My parents used to bring us up here as kids. I love it.

It seems to have a habit of winning the thing, the race in two. It always seems to be Bush versus Reagan, Bush versus Dole. One of those battles or somebody else on the other side, Hillary versus Bernie.

SPINER: Well, you know, it really -- the thing is candidates have already said, look, I don`t need to win New Hampshire. Joe Biden flatly said that. If, you know, if you ask him, do you need to win New Hampshire, he`ll just say no. And they have built campaigns in 30-plus states after this.

So, let`s say Biden doesn`t do well here, OK, that`s all right, he has that fire wall in South Carolina. He`s still doing well nationally.

Let`s say Elizabeth Warren doesn`t well here, she should because she`s been campaigning here forever and has a huge campaign operation for the longest time people thought she has the best operation here, but she`s built up this operation in other states as well.

So, there is a potential that there are five, six, other --

MATTHEWS: OK, I`m going to ask you all the following question -- if Buttigieg ekes out a victory on the delegates, if he does, in Iowa, we`re still waiting for that baby, and waiting for a few days for that. If Bernie wins up here as expected, if somebody else like Elizabeth Warren wins in Nevada, Joe Biden wins in South Carolina, what does that say about the Democratic Party selection process, where are we going?

CORN: I think right now, the party is tremendously fractured. I think Iowa shows that, yes, Bernie can claim more votes but it`s a very small margin, and he got half the votes last time in terms of the Democratic primary. He`s down to a quarter.

So, there is -- you know, I don`t think two people come out of this anymore. I think the party is fractured through South Carolina, Nevada, and then we see what happens when that guy named Michael Bloomberg air drops a hundred million dollars on Super Tuesday.

MATTHEWS: On one day.

CORN: This -- you know, we`re not going to get clarity, I think, on Wednesday morning.

MATTHEWS: OK, not to be depressing, I want to talk about what`s going on in Iowa right now. While we wait for official word of a winner in Iowa, DNC national chairman Tom Perez tweeted today: Enough is enough. In light of the problems that have been merged and the implementation of the delegate selection plan and in order to ensure public confidence in votes, I am calling for the Iowa Democratic Party to immediately begin a recanvas.

A statewide re-canvas would require a hand audit of work sheets. In a statement, the Iowa Democratic Party didn`t address the request from Perez but said the party is ready if a Democratic campaign asks for a re-canvas.

Beth, they`re fighting out there. The national committee is saying recount, the committee in Iowa is saying, no, unless a candidate asks for it.

FOUHY: And no candidate has yet. I think where everybody stands is what the sound bite that you play from Bernie Sanders saying, we`re finally out of Iowa. People want to shut the door on that baby and move on.

It was such a mess. It didn`t yield a clear win. Still so many questions about how those votes were counted, whether they were tabulated correctly.

New Hampshire now has the chance to clarify things a bit. I went to an event where secretary of state, Bill Gardner, who`s been in the job for 40 years runs this operation every single time and the governor of the state, Chris Sununu, got up there basically to say, we`re not going to do it the way Iowa did it, we`re going to get it right.

MATTHEWS: OK. If New Hampshire, last question, is going to mess with Iowa, the way it likes to do, because it always like to do something different than Iowa, how are they going to do something different of Iowa than Iowa if they don`t know what Iowa did?

SPINER: New Hampshire doesn`t care about Iowa.

MATTHEWS: Oh, you`re so full of it. You are such --

(CROSSTALK)

SPINER: They just don`t care.

MATTHEWS: What a -- this is home cooking here. Home cooking.

CORN: Iowa -- but he`s right, Iowa doesn`t matter.

MATTHEWS: They always seem to do something different.

CORN: Iowa doesn`t matter anymore. Whoever was going to get a boost from winning didn`t get that full boost and now all eyes are here on Tuesday to see if they can get it right, and it`s going to be a fractured result as well.

MATTHEWS: OK. Should the last person leaving Des Moines turn out the lights?

CORN: Yes, and say, don`t bother coming back.

MATTHEWS: OK, thank you, Beth Fouhy. Thank you, David Corn. Thank you, Trent Spiner.

Up next, the language of a dictator bent on revenge. You know who I`m talking about.

And you`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: President Trump spoke today with the venom of a black mamba, witch hunt, evil, corrupt, dirty cops, leakers, liars, disgrace. These were the viperous words he spewed in the White House East Room on a day he`d began at a prayer breakfast.

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TRUMP: As everybody knows, my family, our great country, and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people.

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MATTHEWS: Trump spit vitriol at the speaker of the House, he said was alien to prayer, and that the lone Republican senator who dared vote to remove him.

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TRUMP: I don`t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say I pray for you, when they know that that`s not so.

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MATTHEWS: As I jotted down Trump`s words, I wonder what they would mean in a country where the targets of such invective were not protected by a Constitution such as ours. They sounded like the language of a dictator unleashing a violent purge that his targets would be unlikely to survive. I have never heard an American president or any figure in our country declare his anger at so many. He was most fiercely unforgiving of those who played a role in his impeachment from FBI Director James Comey to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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TRUMP: It was evil. It was corrupt. It was dirty cops. It was leakers and liars. And this should never ever happen to another president.

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MATTHEWS: The president`s clearly not on the road to either moderation, much less reformation. And today, there were none of the calls for unity mentioned at his State of the Union just days ago.

Trump is making this personal. He wants pay back. For the Democrats, this is what it means. They don`t know who they`re running for president. They do know who they`re running against, not just Donald Trump but this Donald Trump.

And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END