CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Snow fight. Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews up in Manchester, New Hampshire.
We`ve got big news out of Washington tonight. The president has begun his purge. He`s having those who testified against him removed, in one case at least, physically, from their positions in the government. We`re going to get to that Trump nastiness in a bit.
Here in New Hampshire with just four days to go until the primary, we`ve got a duel on our hands. Our brand new NBC News poll out tonight shows Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg fighting it out at the front of the pack. The NBC News/Marist poll taken after Monday`s Iowa caucuses show Sanders leading with 25 percent, up three points here since last month. Pete Buttigieg is in second place, and within the margin of error at 21 percent. He`s up four points. Elizabeth Warren is next at 14 percent, up 1 percent from last month, followed by Joe Biden at 13, down two points since January, so you get the picture. Senator Amy Klobuchar and the other candidates are in single digits.
The new poll caps off a turbulent week here, which began with Monday`s Iowa caucuses fiasco that led to both Buttigieg and Sanders, both of these guys, claiming victory. And the numbers released by the Iowa Democratic party, Buttigieg has a razor thin lead in the state`s delegate count, typically used to determine a winner while Sanders won the raw popular vote. The latest Boston Globe/Suffolk University tracking poll shows how the week has changed things here in New Hampshire, released overnight, it shows Sanders and Buttigieg roughly tied at 24 to 23 percent, with Buttigieg jumping 12 points since Monday. Meanwhile, Joe Biden has dropped seven points.
Tonight`s seven candidates will spar on stage here in Manchester in the final debate before New Hampshire voters head to the polls Tuesday. In an event I witnessed here in Manchester earlier today, Senator Sanders gave what I think is a glimpse of what we might see tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Pete Buttigieg has most exclusive billionaire donors of any Democrat. That was from Forbes. The Hill, Pete Buttigieg tops billionaire dollar list. Fortune, Pete Buttigieg takes lead as big business candidate in 2020 field. Washington Post, Pete Buttigieg lures even closer look from Wall Street donors following strong Iowa caucus performance.
I like Pete Buttigieg, nice guy. But we are in a moment where billionaires control, not only our economy, but our political --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by Faiz Shakir, Campaign Manager for Bernie Sanders. Faiz, you know, I think it was Frank Mankiewicz, the great press secretary for Bobby Kennedy, who said, in Washington, ignore everything said before the word, but. It`s after but that matters. Your candidate has basically called Pete Buttigieg the candidate of billionaires. He said he`s the leader in getting money from the billionaires. And then he said, quoting Woody Guthrie, what side are you on?
The theme of his talk this morning at the Institute of Politics (INAUDIBLE) was about. What side are you on? And he put -- is he putting himself on one side and Pete Buttigieg on the other? Explain.
FAIZ SHAKIR, BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: For sure. You and I were both there this morning, Chris Matthews. And we saw the case that Bernie Sanders made and the choice is clear for voters. Do you want a candidate to kowtow to the billionaire class or do you want a candidate who fights for the working class? And then Pete Buttigieg, somebody who`s received donations from over 40 billionaires, who kowtows to corporate executives, who receives money from big drug companies and big healthcare companies.
And why does that matter? Because at the end of the day, he fights for policies that reward those companies. He`s not going to take them on. He doesn`t put out a fight for Medicare-for-all. At one point in time, he used to be for Medicare-for-all. He has since backed away from that. Bernie Sanders, clear flag planted in the sand, has been where he`s always been fighting for the working class, saying, I will fight for Medicare-for-all when I`m in the Oval Office.
MATTHEWS: Has he been bought? Is he in the tank? Is that what your candidate is saying, he`s in the tank? Rather than using a Chinese word, let`s use American words. Is he in the tank?
SHAKIR: Well, Chris, you and I both know that the political system is corrupt. It`s rigged. Billionaires have a lot of influence over it. Big money has influence over it. It`s no surprise to any of the people watching this who. And question is, are you willing to take them on, and if so, how? Tell me how you are going to take them on.
Well, one way we know you aren`t going to take them on is when you take their money, that when you take their Super PAC money and you sit in close- door rooms and tell them, yes, you can have special access to me. That`s not what Bernie Sanders does. It`s not what he`s ever done.
And so if you are looking for someone who had the credibility to go up against Donald Trump and say here`s a guy who is a fraud, who said he was going to fight for the working class, who sold you out, who betrayed you, now, I`m somebody who you can believe in, and that`s Bernie Sanders.
MATTHEWS: All right. People who want to vote for Pete for all kinds of reason, are they corrupt?
SHAKIR: No, not at all. I think there`s a lot of things that people take into consideration about when and why they vote for certain candidates. And our job, Chris, and you appreciate this as a campaign needs to make the choices clear from our perspective on why one person is a better choice than another. And I understand voters will take a lot of different issues into consideration --
MATTHEWS: No, I know how this works. I know a congressman who would tell me when he went in the subcommittee markups, he could tell who in the room was in the tank with some special interest. He could tell. Are you saying to me that you predict, or your candidate does, that Pete Buttigieg will be in the tank if he`s president?
SHAKIR: He always -- he already has been. He already has been. That`s the point. I mean, let`s not sugar coat it. He already has been sitting in those rooms, talking to those people, receiving their moneys, more corporate CEOs giving to his campaign than any other --
MATTHEWS: OK. Last question. Faiz, look, I have been in New York -- let me just tell you this. Are you willing to say tonight why your candidate has all of a sudden gone after Pete Buttigieg when Pete Buttigieg now threatens him winning in New Hampshire? And you didn`t do it before.
SHAKIR: It`s a tight race, Chris.
MATTHEWS: What`s new? Pussycat, as I like to say, what`s new? Why are you all of a sudden now attacking Pete Buttigieg? Could it be that you`re even in the polls? Could that be the reason?
SHAKIR: Yes. Yes. And there`s a tight race now at the top. And it`s our job --
MATTHEWS: An honest man. I have found an honest man in politics, Faiz. The reason you`re trashing this guy is he`s catching up to you. Thank you, Faiz Shakir, with the Bernie Sanders campaign.
SHAKIR: Clear choices, clear differences.
MATTHEWS: Well said. All right, definitely different. I watch both on the last two days. They are very different.
Joining me right now is Maura Sullivan, New Hampshire co-Chair of the Pete Buttigieg campaign. Maura, I saw you yesterday with the service people. What do you take -- how do you respond to that attack from Bernie Sanders against Buttigieg saying he is basically in the corruption business? He`s part of the problem. He`s on the wrong side of the working people. That`s what he said today.
MAURA SULLIVAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE CO-CHAIR, PETE BUTTIGIEG CAMPAIGN: Yes. Well, first of all, Chris, it`s great to be here. And there`s just so much excitement on the ground and you saw it yesterday in Merrimack at the town hall, where we had veterans from all around our state, veterans of all eras who were there to hear Pete`s message of unity. And that`s what he is going to do. He`s got an agenda that is inspiring progressives, moderates, independents and even future former Republicans, as you`ve heard him say.
And there`s just no denying what`s happening here. You know, the results in Iowa are exciting. But what`s happening on the ground here is really a movement. And it`s just -- it`s been an electrifying few days and really exciting to be a part of.
MATTHEWS: OK. You know, one thing I`ve learned in politics, we learned it from the swift voting of John Kerry. We learned what they -- the trash they threw at John McCain. If you don`t respond, you don`t get it -- Mike Dukakis years ago. If you don`t challenge that threat, they cause you -- this guy just came on the campaign manager for Senator Sanders, said your candidate, Pete Buttigieg, is -- not only is corrupt, he`s owned by the -- he`s in the tank with the big corporations. He`s corrupt. That`s what they just said. Do you have a response? Will you have a response at your candidate`s opportunity tonight in the debate?
SULLIVAN: Yes, absolutely, Chris. Let me just be very clear. Pete is a veteran. He`s a fellow veteran. He served our country with Honor, with courage, with commitment. He raised his right hand and swore an oath to something greater than himself, the Constitution of the United States. He put his life on the line for our country.
And I got to tell you, as I look around at all the candidates and think about who I trust to be in the situation room, Pete has the judgment, he`s got the experience and he`s got the temperament to be our next commander- in-chief.
MATTHEWS: And you`re not going to respond to the charge of being corrupt by the guy you`re about to pass perhaps in the polls? He is getting a little worried apparently and he is taking the shot -- he said -- his campaign manager just said, the reason they`re taking shots at your candidate is your candidate is catching up to him. No response from you. Is that the campaign position? No response?
SULLIVAN: No. Chris, let me be clear. That`s absolutely false. You know, Pete Buttigieg is a great American. And let me remind you and all of our viewers, he is part of the 1 percent of our country who has served our country, out his life on the line for our country. And to suggest anything otherwise is just simply not true.
MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. By the way, I like your appearance yesterday with all the service people. It was great. It was non-partisan. It was uplifting. Thank you so much, Maura Sullivan with the Buttigieg Campaign.
Former Vice President Joe Biden was not in Manchester yesterday in the wake of a fourth-place finish in Iowa, he called a gut punch to him. The Washington Post reports that Biden gathered with his top advisers at his home in Delaware seeking a, quote, reset, close quote.
Well, today, in a staff shakeup by an elevated senior aide and Obama White House veteran he needed done to a leading role in the day-to-day operations ahead of Tuesday`s primary.
With me now is Symone Sanders, Senior Adviser to the Biden Campaign. Symone, thank you.
It`s a challenging time for you folks, and I`m just wondering what does this shakeup mean? Is it cosmetic? Is there a new campaign leader?
SYMONE SANDERS, SENIOR ADVISER, JOE BIDEN CAMPAIGN: Thank you for having me today, Chris. Look, I don`t want folks to read too much into what they`ve seen in the news today. The reality is that Vice President Biden came out of Iowa, came here to New Hampshire, and he told the people of New Hampshire and folks across America that he was ready to fight, that he has been knocked down before. This is the first time. This won`t be the last. And he is ready to fight for this nomination and what he believes in.
So our campaign has made some additions, some expanded roles, to ensure that we are putting together the best operation not just here in New Hampshire but Nevada, South Carolina and in Super Tuesday. We intend to compete in this nomination, Chris, and we think we`ve got a great shot. We think Vice President Biden will be the Democratic candidate and the next president of the United States of America.
MATTHEWS: I think changes are in the works. The fact, for the first time ever, a whole year of run-up to this night, we`re facing this weekend, for the first time in over a year, well, more than a year, your candidate, Joe Biden, has agreed to do a Sunday interview show. Why now, after all these months of refusing to do those programs, and I know everybody has been after them. And they will be. I`ve been after him for a year too. Everybody has been after him. He`s finally agreed to do an interview program on Sunday. Why has he changed his strategy now?
S. SANDERS: Well, Chris, as I noted at the beginning of my comments, we`re ready to fight for this nomination. And so we -- Vice President Biden has been a fighter. And, look, we feel good about our operation here in New Hampshire. I do believe that our Sunday show interview will be out on the campaign trail with us tomorrow. So, look, I just don`t think folks will read too much into this. I know the media wants to write our campaign off. But the reality is --
MATTHEWS: No, no. I want Joe Biden on my show. What are you? Crazy? Are you crazy? I want him on the show. I want him on the show. I want a piece of the guy. I`ve always wanted to interview him. But you guys won`t come out and meet -- you`ve been hiding from us. Go ahead.
S. SANDERS: Chris, now, I take offense to that. Let me tell you why. We have really prioritized local media in this campaign. I know it`s not just you, Chris, lots of reporters and lots of correspondents across this country would love Joe Biden on their program. But the reality is that we have prioritized local interviews everywhere Vice President Biden goes. He does local print, local radio, local television. And we know folks are watching. We also know folks are watching your show on MSNBC. So we`re going to get around to all of you all but but we have made it a priority to make sure we are speaking directly to the voters through their local media. And that`s what frankly we`re also going to continue to do. Local media has been very important to us.
But let me just say one thing, Chris. We`re excited to be here in New Hampshire. We know it`s going to be fight here. But we are looking forward to Tuesday.
MATTHEWS: OK. Symone, I`d like to have him HARDBALL with my 2 million viewers every night. I would like to have him on HARDBALL. I`d like to hear from him. They`ve known him for years. They want to talk to him. We want to talk to him. But thank you.
S. SANDERS: That`s our new strategy. We just go on put the question right here on live air.
MATTHEWS: Let me tell you. My request has been in.you can talk to -- let`s see -- T.J. You can talk to Kate Bedingfield. You can talk to everybody. I keep asking. Please, release Joe Biden. Release him. Unleash him. Symone Sanders, thank you for coming on HARDBALL tonight.
S. SANDERS: He has been, Chris. He has been released and unleashed. I look forward to seeing you guys tonight on the debate stage.
MATTHEWS: OK. Good luck.
By the way, we have a program ready to see him.
Coming up -- Thank you, Symone -- it`s a purge. Donald Trump today retaliated against two of the national security officials who testified in the impeachment trial against him. Trump promised payback. Well, apparently, it`s begun. You pay for telling the truth. And my colleagues, Joy Reid and Chris Hayes, will join me a little later.
We`ve got much more to get to here in Manchester, New Hampshire. Here we are in such a beautiful place. There it is. Stay with us.
MATTHEWS: Welcome to HARDBALL.
Two days after being acquitted in his impeachment trial, President Trump is already getting his vengeance. In the last hours, news broke that Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, a prominent witness in the impeachment inquiry, has been fired. In a statement, Sondland writes, I was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately as the United States ambassador to the European Union.
It comes just hours after Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted from the White House, physically removed from his position as an aide on the National Security Council. Vindman, a decorated combat veteran, was one of many administration officials to testify during the impeachment proceedings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR OF EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I was concerned by the call. What I heard was inappropriate, and I reported my concerns to Mr. Eisenberg. It is improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: The president brought up Vindman, personally, during his White House impeachment remarks yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fortunately, for all of us here today and for our country, we had transcripts. We had transcribers, professional transcribers. Then they said, oh, well, maybe the transcriptionist is not correct. But Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and his twin brother, right, we had some people that were really amazing --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, actually, you know, I got to stop here. The president has made fun of physical handicaps. He`s made fun of people who are not tall enough for him, Mini Mike and all that. Now, he`s making fun of people`s perhaps a trace of a foreign accent. Isn`t that clever? Isn`t that really clever?
Vindman`s attorney released a statement saying in part, there is no question in the mind of any American why this man`s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving in the White House. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. His honor, his commitment to right frightened this powerful person.
People familiar with the president`s decision tell The Washington Post that Trump is eager to make a symbol of Vindman soon after the Senate acquitted him of the impeachment charges. A source says that Vindman`s twin brother, who was an attorney at the National Security Council, was also removed from the NSC.
For more, I am joined by Howard Fineman, MSNBC Contributor, Bina Venkataraman, Boston Globe Editorial Page Editor, and John Heilemann, co- Host of SHOWTIME`s The Circus and MSNBC National Affairs Analysts.
All three of you, I want to get your thoughts. First of all, Bina, this thing, going and throwing this guy out the door, escorting him, like he`s a -- he`s been -- like he was stealing money from the cash register or something, treating him like he`s something, really a bad news character.
BINA VENKATARAMAN, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Well, and his brother, the NSC lawyer.
And I think what you`re seeing is, the president doesn`t feel like an acquittal is enough. And I think it says something about what Senator Mitt Romney did, which is to say, he pierced through the sort of myth that the White House was casting about this impeachment trial, that it was just a partisan witch-hunt.
And the fact that Mitt Romney came out and voted for one of the articles of impeachment to convict, I think, caused a reaction in the White House. And what they`re doing is, they`re showing people that speaking out, even under oath, even telling the truth, is something that`s punishable behavior in this White House.
MATTHEWS: He is trying to expunge. He wants to expunge everything. None of this bad stuff ever happened. These people are all asterisks or whatever.
HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, no, no, he doesn`t want to expunge them until he makes a spectacle of them.
FINEMAN: This is Roman Colosseum stuff, OK?
Donald Trump is coming up here on Monday to have a huge rally in the arena across the street from here.
FINEMAN: And he`s trying to steal the attention away from everybody else for the Democratic thing.
I wouldn`t be surprised -- if he could get away with it, he`d bring Vindman and his brother up here to parade them through the Southern New Hampshire...
MATTHEWS: Like conquered barbarians.
FINEMAN: Yes, because it doesn`t prove his point about his power unless he humiliates other people.
And, by the way, I talked to one White House person yesterday who said you`re going to see a long line of stuff. In other words, they`re going to take every one of these people and make a spectacle of all of them as he gets rid of them to show that he is not only vindicated, but further empowered.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, Sondland and Vindman`s removal comes a day after the president raged against Democrats and others he sees as his political enemies.
Here is the president from earlier today:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Your press secretary said your political opponents should pay? Who should pay, and how will they pay?
TRUMP: Well, you will see. I mean, we will see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: We will see what happens.
John Heilemann, you`re the last one to comment on this. Is it the spectacle? Is this the Roman Colosseum, where he wants to torture before killing, if you will?
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Sure.
But the political analysis and the semiotics of it are interesting, but it`s also against the law. It`s illegal to practice retribution, to mete out retribution against witnesses. Just as witness intimidation is against the law, retribution against witnesses in a court proceeding is against the law.
So what it shows me, apart from all the things the other panelists, Howard, are right. Obviously, the president is not just trying to expunge. He is trying to send a message. This is mafia territory, as usual.
HEILEMANN: It`s like, he hates -- he looks at the Vindmans, and he says they`re rat -- he`s a rat and says, I`m going to punish the rat, not just because of the spectacle, but also to send a message to other rats, because the president knows that he`s done a lot of bad things.
And he wants to make sure that everyone who might come forward in the future recognizes that he will force them to pay a price.
MATTHEWS: Yes, it`s a warning.
HEILEMANN: But I do also want to point out that a president who`s just been acquitted on two counts impeachable -- of impeachable offenses, just like in the last go-round, the moment the Mueller thing was over, he went and did something that was impeachable.
Just now, the impeachment is over, he`s doing another thing that is, again, an illegal act. The president cannot stop himself, Chris, from not just behaving the way he behaves, but from breaking laws left and right. He is a lawless president.
MATTHEWS: Well, sounding like a vengeful count of Mar-a-Lago, Trump made clear he won`t let go of his desire for retribution anytime soon.
"The Washington Post" reports that, in this year`s election -- quote -- "Advisers to the president said Trump is already thinking about a scorched earth nine-month campaign against the Democrats."
Let`s talk about what`s happening up here, up here in New Hampshire. And it looks to me, according to all the polls, including The Globe`s poll, that it looks like a two-person race right now.
VENKATARAMAN: I`d say yes.
And I`d say the big news from our poll in particular, with Suffolk University as well, of course, is that Pete Buttigieg has been inching up, upwards since Iowa. And I think that`s evidence of the fact that Iowa, even with the debacle that`s happened there around the results reporting, still is having an effect.
It`s still able to catapult certain kinds of candidates. I`m happy to talk about why I think that`s a bit of a distortion of our electoral politics. For one, I think Iowa and New Hampshire play an outsized role they really shouldn`t be playing in shaping our presidential field.
But for the time being, yes, we`re down to a two-person race.
MATTHEWS: The assault has already begun on his enemies.
He`s going to aim at mini-Mike, he calls him. Makes fun of the stature of the mayor -- former mayor of New York. He makes fun of everybody`s appearance. He makes fun of their accents now. Everything`s fair game.
People call it a scorched earth. How rough -- you are a Democrat. Even Bernie has been through a lot of fights. What are you facing with Trump?
FINEMAN: Well, I think that`s what the voters here that I have talked to and that I have seen at events are asking themselves.
Who do they have -- to use my Colosseum analogy, who do they have who`s going to get in there with this guy?
MATTHEWS: Is Russell Crowe available?
FINEMAN: Yes, and do the combat?
FINEMAN: And even at the Buttigieg thing that were both at yesterday, I had some of these people tell me, you know, I sort of like Pete. I think I might -- going to vote for him, because they don`t want to vote -- these people, older people, don`t want to vote for Bernie.
But I kind of -- one guy said to me, wouldn`t it be great if Mike Bloomberg is up against Donald Trump and Donald Trump calls him little Mike or mini Mike? And Mike Bloomberg says, well, let`s compare sizes, Mr. President. Mine is 60 times bigger than yours.
MATTHEWS: Oh, you`re talking loot.
FINEMAN: No, I`m talking $60 billion.
FINEMAN: So, that -- in the reasoning of New Hampshire voters, one of the things they`re thinking down the road -- and, by the way, Bloomberg`s advertised enough up here that he is sort of in the background of people`s thinking.
FINEMAN: They`re just desperately looking for whoever it is who can survive in the ring with him.
Let me ask John Heilemann, who knows politics as either of -- any of us know.
John, who has the fortitude, to use that word, to stand face to face with Trump, when he starts purging people all around him?
HEILEMANN: Well, I think, Chris, it`s a little -- in a weird way, it`s a little too early in this campaign to tell.
We have had a very gentle Democratic primary so far. What has passed for negative campaigning in this race has been minimal to this point. We are finally starting to see a little bit of gloves being taken off.
And what I think -- what Democratic voters that I talk to are looking for is a lot of what Howard is talking about. But that`s what this test -- these next few months is going to be about. The race is going to get down and dirty. There is going to be more conflict in this race.
And I think that part of the question that voters are asking is, who can throw a punch and who can take a punch? And, right now, that`s one thing that hasn`t been tested. Policy`s been tested up the wazoo.
But what hasn`t been tested so far is that very question. And I think we are finally about to get there, maybe starting tonight on this debate stage, in a real way.
I think, tonight, we`re going to see a big fight with Bernie going after Buttigieg, and also Joe Biden trying to punch his way back into this fight.
Thank you, Howard Fineman. Thank you, Bina Venka -- I`m sorry, Bina Venka - - Bina.
MATTHEWS: I worked on this.
Bina Venkataraman. It`s not a hard name. I just didn`t do it right.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, John Heilemann.
Up next: much more on Trump`s vengeance tour and the stakes for 2020.
My colleagues Joy Reid and Chris Hayes join me next here in Manchester.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL, live from New Hampshire and Manchester itself.
As Donald Trump begins the campaign of payback he promised after his impeachment acquittal, Democrats are battling for the chance to take him on. The stakes couldn`t be higher.
Joining me right now are two expert colleagues of mine, Joy Reid, host of "AM Joy." What a great name.
MATTHEWS: And Chris Hayes, host of "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES."
You can start, Joy.
I think -- let`s go with the pattern of -- we all are students, unfortunately, of this president.
JOY REID, HOST, "AM JOY": Yes.
MATTHEWS: And we watch him. We watch him like a bullfighter watches a bull.
And we`re watching him. And we notice one thing about him. He gets emboldened.
MATTHEWS: When he beats the judge, when he skips town, when he escapes justice, which he did this week, he becomes the worst.
REID: Yes. Yes. Yes.
I mean, Susan Collins, who came out and said, well, you know, I think, you know, being impeached taught him a lesson.
REID: I don`t know if she`s ever met Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Can I make one of my classic laughs?
REID: You can do it. I will do it with you.
Has she learned anything? Has she ever met Donald Trump?
To put it in showbiz terms Donald Trump might understand, he`s Joffrey Baratheon, right? And when he`s encouraged by the...
MATTHEWS: Tell me who that guy is.
REID: Joffrey Baratheon was the teenaged king of Westeros in "Game of Thrones."
REID: And he got worse and worse and worse the more he was enabled by his family, the Lannisters. The more permissive they were with her (sic), the more sadistic he got.
The more they tried to give him freedom, the more cruel he got.
MATTHEWS: So, Lord Acton is still right.
MATTHEWS: So, Lord Acton said, power tends to corrupt.
MATTHEWS: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
REID: And the Republicans gave it to him.
Let`s just not forget, they have given him permission to act as a monarch. And they should not be surprised when he acts as a monarch.
MATTHEWS: Like a kid, he`s getting out of hand, she`s getting out of hand.
CHRIS HAYES, HOST, "ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES": Well, and it`s also -- I mean, the thing that I keep thinking about is, he could have done this during the trial.
HAYES: I mean, if the if the president has the power -- the president has the power to recall his E.U. ambassador. The president has the power to fire the people that work in his NSC.
MATTHEWS: Does the guy get his million dollars back?
HAYES: Yes, right. exactly, Does he get a refund?
REID: Has anyone ever gotten a refund?
HAYES: What is the bidding for the replacement?
But what it shows to me is, like, there is a degree of calculating-ness here and a degree of restraint and discipline that is dangerous, right, because he is generally extremely undisciplined and extremely impossible to restrain and his impulses.
But whoever it was that got in his ear, the white shoe lawyers that defended him in the well of the Senate, they stopped him from make -- doing this during the trial, because it would look terrible, because he was being impeached for abuse of power.
And he basically sort of stayed out of the limelight. As soon as it was done, he`s out with the entire sort of angry patriarch wedding toast that we saw in the East Room.
HAYES: And now taking these concrete steps that, as John Heilemann said, it`s unclear whether they`re lawful. And they go against promises that were made by the secretary of defense, Esper, that they would not stand for any retaliation.
REID: Well, here`s the question. Does it matter if they`re lawful, if the Republican Party, backed by their new Dershowitz theory of Donald Trump`s ability to rule, is that nothing he does is unlawful?
So long as he gives them judges, he can do anything he wants. Even if it`s unlawful, does anybody here legitimately believe that William Barr is going to defend the law, the rule of law? They`re all the hand of the king at this point.
Well, a certain dictator whose name we dare not use, when they tried -- when they when the people tried to kill him around 1944, the collaborators, he not only hanged them. He hanged them with wire. He had movies taken of them being hanged
He said -- made it so their clothes would fall off, so he could watch the movies. Is this guy that bad?
REID: Well, I mean, I thought of -- when I was watching this sort of feast to Donald Trump that took place in the East Room yesterday in the -- after the prayer breakfast, it was a bit like sort of no one wants to be the last to stop clapping for Saddam.
REID: That everyone wanted to make sure they were the loudest applause, and the greatest cheers, and the greatest encomiums.
MATTHEWS: Really? Did you notice?
I was thinking North Korea, Chris, when I watched the synchronization of the applause in the chamber of the House, when they were all almost -- their faces, like in North Korea, their faces have the same...
REID: They must all smile.
HAYES: But let me say this.
I mean, this is clearly someone who, from the -- from 10 or 20 or 30 years back, if you look at interviews of him, had this kind of authoritarian impulse, right?
He has contempt for democracy. He thinks it`s kind of a bad system.
HAYES: He admires other systems that don`t have democratic input. He`s been very clear on that. He`s also...
MATTHEWS: But he wants the mob, though.
HAYES: Well, right.
But he`s also -- he`s also fundamentally a coward. And he`s fundamentally incontinent in his ability to control himself.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but wait a minute. You -- just two things.
You said -- one of you said he showed restraint.
HAYES: No, I know.
MATTHEWS: So, he`s not incontinent on that...
REID: He was restrained.
HAYES: He can keep it together for small periods of time.
But then the dam bursts, right.
HAYES: And so one of the things I think it`s important...
MATTHEWS: Changed your metaphor.
HAYES: ... important to sort of keep your eyes on here is, I think, in a bizarre way, if you looked at the approval ratings of the president, right, during impeachment, his approval rating ticked up.
And here`s my theory for that. Even though the subject of the news was the president`s misdeeds, the president himself was absence from the proceedings.
REID: He was done.
HAYES: He was not actually in the chamber.
When he comes back out and he gives the weird wedding toast he gave, when he comes back out, and he starts firing and going after people...
MATTHEWS: Yes, well...
HAYES: ... people are reminded of the person who is actually sitting in the White House.
MATTHEWS: He also is money conscious. And he saw that 250,000 jobs were created in the last month. And he heard that this morning to start his day off.
He feels very confident that he can knock somebody`s block off politically. He thinks so.
REID: Speaking with Republican friends who know Trump well enough, I texted one of them to say, what`s going to happen next? And they texted me back one word, "bloodbath," that Donald Trump is out for revenge, that if he gets a second term -- this is Republicans talking -- that he...
MATTHEWS: Well, who is left on the list?
REID: That he -- well, that he will -- he will try to get rid of anyone he thinks has ever displeased him, anyone...
MATTHEWS: Oh, the Bidens.
REID: And I -- what I think should be -- we should be worrying about right now is, his sense of vengefulness is so complete, and his sense of being completely free to do whatever he wants is so complete, that they`re now looking at -- you have Republicans looking to go after the Bidens, to do the work that they couldn`t get Ukraine to do.
He will now direct -- we don`t know. We don`t know what he`s going to direct the Department of Justice to do. We don`t know what he`s going to direct the IRS to do. Suddenly, the IRS is free to turn over Hunter Biden`s information, when they couldn`t turn over Trump`s.
This is an unrestrained force. And it is not a democratic force. This is not the way democracy works.
MATTHEWS: What is your hunch when the New York -- we get the judgment from the Supreme Court about the New York push to get his tax returns?
Could he be in the woods again? Could he be not the free man he thinks he is?
HAYES: I mean, the question -- the question that is going to come before the court, as I understand it, not as a lawyer, but married to a very good one, is fairly clear-cut legally.
I mean, the -- both the district courts and certain courts have found, like, this is not that hard a case, you got to hand them over. It`s very clear-cut.
The question is, we all saw at the State of the Union when he shouted out Brett Kavanaugh, and he shouted out Neil Gorsuch, and they looked at each other, and they smiled while Mitch McConnell smiled.
REID: Right. That`s right.
HAYES: It was a perfect moment of what Trumpism is.
REID: They`re all on the team.
HAYES: It`s Mr. McConnell. It`s Trump. It`s Gorsuch.
REID: They`re all on the team.
HAYES: It`s Gorsuch and it`s Kavanaugh sitting there.
And the question is, are there five votes on the Supreme Court to order the president to actually follow the law? And that is an absolute question...
HAYES: ... even if the law is clear.
MATTHEWS: He embraced the chief justice too.
REID: Exactly. That`s what I was going to say.
MATTHEWS: He went up there and really huddled with him.
REID: You don`t know, because he seems to be on the team.
MATTHEWS: That huddling is not what -- I don`t think John Roberts liked that picture.
Thank you so much, Joy.
You guys know your stuff, Joy and Chris Hayes. Thank you.
Chris will be back at 11:00 for live post-debate coverage.
HAYES: It`s true.
MATTHEWS: Great late night, Friday night. Great night for him and the people, the American people, who are actually going to see some of the -- some of the guys who have gotten through the -- and people got through the earlier debate are coming into another one.
Up next: What do Democrats in 2020? While other voters are still trying to decide which candidate to support, Iowa entrance polls show they have made up their minds about which issues matter. They do want Medicare for all, based upon the entry polls.
I`m going to talk to presidential candidate Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and Deval Patrick, the former governor of neighboring state here Massachusetts. Actually, it`s a commonwealth.
And check out my new podcast, "So You Wanna Be President?" That`s the name of it. It gives you the half-dozen rules for winning a presidential campaign. Episode three, "The Walls Have Ears," is available right now wherever you get your podcasts.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado is staking his campaign on a strong showing here in Tuesday`s primary in New Hampshire, coming up soon.
Since he won`t be on tonight`s debate, here is your chance to hear what he has to say.
I`m joined right now by Colorado Senator and presidential candidate Michael Bennet.
I am hearing a lot of good things about you. You got James Carville, the Ragin` Cajun, rooting out for you out there everywhere.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s in town. He`s coming.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.
So, let`s -- tell us. You`re not talking. Suppose you had an opening statement tonight. Roughly, what would it be?
BENNET: I think it would be that we got to take Donald Trump on, on the facts. This guy is an expert at being born on third base and saying he hit a triple.
When I saw the State of the Union the other night, and he is talking about the jobs, and we know that, during the Obama administration, we were actually creating more jobs than under Donald Trump.
And the American people need to hear that. The American people need to know that farm bankruptcies are up 25 percent this year. Farm income is down 16 percent. Our farm exports are down $4.6 billion; 30 percent of farm income in this country, Chris, this year is from the federal government, and it`s from Trump borrowing $28 billion from the Chinese to try to soften the blow of his idiotic trade war that he is claiming credit for during the State of the Union.
MATTHEWS: Why have his numbers and job approval come up?
BENNET: Because we are in the 11th year of a recovery. And, you know, he`s lucky to be president when we`re in the 11th year of recovery.
I think there`s no evidence that he has had anything to do with it.
MATTHEWS: OK. Why such a brutarian, who is out there hauling people out of their offices because they dared testified to the truth under subpoena, like Vindman did, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman?
BENNET: Right. Right.
MATTHEWS: He did what he had to do under the law.
And this guy had him -- escorted him out of the EOB today, like he`s some sort of miscreant, some sort of bad guy.
BENNET: This guy...
MATTHEWS: But the public seems to like it.
He says in his rallies, beat up that guy, the cops. Beat him up on the way out.
MATTHEWS: Don`t hold his head when you put him in the squad car. Let him bang his head.
What kind of thinking is that?
BENNET: Let me ask you something.
Our democracy is at risk, Chris. It was at risk before he got there. I don`t think he`s the essential cause of all our problems, but he is a massive symptom of our problems. And he is making matters much worse.
Nobody is above the law in this country. Donald Trump is testing the outer boundaries of that, but he is not the only one.
When Mitch McConnell says -- when he is the majority leader of the Senate, he says I`m not even going to give Merrick Garland a hearing, just because I can get away with it, and Donald Trump says, I`m going to fire these people and use retribution because I can get away with it, that`s when ancient Rome starts to collapse.
These guys are -- Trump, it`s like he`s one of these ancient Roman emperors who`s turned his army around. He`s marching on Rome. And that`s what`s happening.
You know how you make Jell-O, it gels eventually? This primary fight doesn`t seem to be gelling. It just doesn`t.
MATTHEWS: I know you`re not doing that great. You`re not at the top of the heap, but it`s not gelling.
And I don`t sense it going anywhere, except to a big cataclysmic fight with a guy with billions of dollars to spend. And I don`t know if that`s good for the party.
BENNET: I think we have to get into a place where our head is straight, and we are focused on what matters.
We succeeded in 2018. We flipped the House.
MATTHEWS: I know.
BENNET: We won 40 seats; 39 of 40 people ran on a public option. They did not run on Medicare for all. And we flipped suburban seats in Pennsylvania, all over the country.
MATTHEWS: I know.
BENNET: He was on defense on health care. And he should be on defense on health care again.
He`s the only president in American history who`s taken it away, health care, from millions of Americans.
And we can make that case .
MATTHEWS: OK. Michael Bennet, you would do very well in those suburban collar counties around Philadelphia that you`re talking about. I agree with you.
BENNET: That`s how we win.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Thank you.
BENNET: Thanks, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, Senator.
Up next, we got still ahead, presidential candidate Deval Patrick says it will take an act of radical grace -- an interesting phrase -- to reunify America once Trump leaves office, assuming he does.
The former Massachusetts governor will explain how he thinks he can make this happen, when he joins us next on HARDBALL in about a minute.
Don`t go anywhere.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL live tonight from Manchester, New Hampshire, where the Democratic presidential primary is now four days away.
Deval Patrick, who was a late entry to the race in November, has been traveling the state of New Hampshire hoping to get his message out and gain the support of undecided voters.
I`m joined right now by himself, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, great guy to have on.
DEVAL PATRICK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: So, your basic scoop on this is, you want to get that 5 percent that`s sitting out there.
PATRICK: I`m not...
MATTHEWS: That`s what I hear.
PATRICK: I`m not thinking about percentages.
I`m thinking about particular voters and meeting them where they are in every sense of the word.
MATTHEWS: Well, I meet everywhere.
MATTHEWS: And people say to me, I don`t know.
MATTHEWS: I have never had so many people...
PATRICK: Isn`t it amazing? Even this close, yes.
MATTHEWS: I don`t know. People -- and they say, I don`t know,.
What`s causing the clog in the arteries of the Democratic Party?
PATRICK: Well, you know, I have a theory.
And it`s like we have been bullied for so long by this president, by the circumstances, that we do what happens when people are bullied. We swing from rage to resignation and back again. Want to get even or get over.
And I think, you know, having been bullied myself when I was in the seventh grade, in a way, you just have to outgrow the bully. You have to be bigger than the bully. And we have to offer an alternative for voters, which isn`t just our version of what he does, which is bully back, and belittle, and trivialize people who may not agree with us.
We have got to offer different kind of policies.
MATTHEWS: I remember being bullied in like the fifth -- third grade by a fifth grader. I got him behind the neck in a choke hold.
PATRICK: And it felt good.
MATTHEWS: Well, I was hanging on for dear life, actually.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about -- I watched Bernie this morning.
MATTHEWS: And he gave a very strong, very passionate case about health care.
That was where he gets red in the face. He gets very passionate. It`s an ideological approach.
MATTHEWS: I saw Buttigieg yesterday with a lot of service people, not an ideological, sort of a, I will get you home tonight.
MATTHEWS: The designated driver.
MATTHEWS: Does the party want cultural and ideological shift? Do they want a revolution, as Bernie puts it, or do they want to just get the government straightened out?
PATRICK: Well, it`s probably some combination of both.
But, sooner or later -- and I hope sooner -- and certainly what I`m trying to do is to respond to people the way they come at me, the way they ask questions of me.
They`re not asking questions about their health care from the perspective of being a Democrat. They`re not asking about climate change from the perspective of being an independent.
What they want is a country. They want someone to speak to them as a patriot and to say, look, we can solve these problems and bind our divisions.
MATTHEWS: Thank you.
PATRICK: We can do that. And -- but we haven`t...
MATTHEWS: That was your friend Barack Obama`s -- I was with him in a tough neighborhood in North Philly, North Broad. That`s a neighborhood above City Hall.
PATRICK: Yes, sure. Yes.
MATTHEWS: Around Temple.
And it was a poor people crowd. It was 5:00 -- 9:00 in the morning, and huge crowd.
PATRICK: Yes. Yes.
MATTHEWS: And it wasn`t when he promised benefits or he promised -- when he talked about unity.
MATTHEWS: I was so struck.
MATTHEWS: These people would have -- they don`t have a lot. They live in row houses. They may be tenants.
MATTHEWS: And what they wanted to hear a guy that was going to unite people. It`s so powerful to hear that.
PATRICK: Chris, you know, when I think about how my faith in the American dream was given to me by poor black people on the South Side of Chicago who had every reason to question whether the American dream was about them, it makes me tremble.
PATRICK: But I got it, and I got it deeply.
And I know that that anguish and hunger for a place in tomorrow, that`s being felt all over the country today. And we need to speak to that. That`s what I`m trying to do. And I do that...
MATTHEWS: By the way, the patience to me -- and I think about it a lot -- 250 years of slavery, 100 years of Jim Crow, 50 years of whatever, and there`s still this hope.
PATRICK: Yes. There has to be.
The whole country is founded on hope. The whole idea was a shot in the dark, and the notion that you can have a country organized around civic ideals, instead of the way things -- countries are usually organized, geography, religion, race.
MATTHEWS: Stay at it. Stay at it, Governor.
PATRICK: I`m going to. I`m going to.
MATTHEWS: Stay at it.
PATRICK: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You don`t need me to say so, but please do.
PATRICK: Thank you, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Former Governor Deval Patrick, a highly respected public official and civil servant to the country.
PATRICK: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Up next -- up next: my thoughts on what the New Hampshire primary and the other early contests are all about.
You`re watching HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: It snowed today in New Hampshire, like it did here in 1968, when Eugene McCarthy trudged through the state to prove that Lyndon Johnson`s days were numbered.
I love it here, have loved it since my parents took my brothers and me on those wonderful summer road trips, and that time we rented a farmhouse along a country road in Bradford, where I played a piano much of an afternoon all by myself in a summer stock theater, even if I didn`t really know how to play a piano.
And now I`m watching Bernie and Pete duke it out up here, fighting what looks to be a run of preliminary bouts to see who could outlast the outspending Mike Bloomberg.
Yesterday, I watched Buttigieg standing in the midst of a veterans group, and this morning, I watched Sanders before the Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.
The senator from Vermont hit on an issue that we have addressed here on HARDBALL, and will again many times, voter suppression.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I cannot win an election based on my ideas, then I shouldn`t win the election.
How cowardly can you be? If you don`t think your ideas are going to prevail, then get out of politics and get another job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: I like what Sanders said, because the only reason to be in politics, as Maine Senator Edmund Muskie once told us, is to be out there all alone, and then be proven right.
And that`s what this presidential election is about, at least in the early going, from here in New Hampshire, into Nevada and South Carolina. It`s about standing out there and hoping that people will listen and agree.
Up here in wintry New Hampshire, it looks like a snow fight between Pete and Bernie.
Stay with MSNBC for our analysis of tonight`s Democratic debate.
Chris Hayes will be here in New Hampshire with a live studio audience.
And that`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.
A special edition of "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END