Trump attacks judge TRANSCRIPT: 2/13/20, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews

Guests: John Brennan, Paul Butler, Thomas Friedman, Thomas Friedman, Michael Moore, Jill Colvin, Jason Johnson, Greg Brower

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Love your lead-in. He`s right before me.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: And he might be working on a memoire too, so he can get tips from you. My special thanks to Debbie Harry and Chris Matthews. Again, go out and get the book. It is, Face It.

MATTHEWS: Barr to Trump, stay off my lawn. Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

In an extraordinary move today, Attorney General William Barr is standing up to President Trump. Late today, Barr hit back at his boss saying the president is making his job impossible with his public nosing into Justice Department business. Barr had been derided for his intervention and reducing the sentencing recommendations of Trump`s longtime political adviser, Roger Stone, especially after the president congratulated him for, quote, taking charge in the matter.

In an interview with ABC News today, Barr said the president never asked him to intervene in the criminal case but condemned Trump`s tweets. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors and the department that we`re doing our work with integrity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, Barr was also asked if he`s prepared for blowback from the president for speaking out this way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I am responsible for everything that happens in the department. But the thing I have most responsibility for are the issues that are brought to me for decision. And I will make those decisions based on what I think is the right thing to do, and I`m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.

And, you know, I think the -- I cannot do my job here at the department with constant background commentary that undercuts me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: But Barr`s remarks came as Trump was again praising his attorney general in a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GERALDO RIVERA, AMERICAN TALK SHOW HOST: Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you had picked William Barr instead of Jeff Sessions when you --

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes, my life would have been a lot easier.

RIVERA: A lot of the country`s life --

TRUMP: Yes, my life would have been a lot easier.

RIVERA: What about --

TRUMP: But I might have been less popular.

Because they say they like that I fought it, they like that I won. They like that -- my base is much more energized.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: According to The New York Times today, Barr`s criticism of the president was a shock. Quote, people close to the president said they were caught off guard by the interview.

In an interview, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said, quote, the president wasn`t bothered by the comments at all and he has the right, just like any American citizen, to publicly offer his opinions. President Trump uses social media very effectively to fight for the American people against injustices in our country, including the fake news. Well, the president has full faith and confidence in Attorney General Barr to uphold and defend the law, she says.

I`m joined right now by Jill Colvin, Associated Press White House Reporter, Greg Brower, former Senior FBI official and former U.S. Attorney, and Jason Johnson, Politics Editor at The Root.

Jill are we going to believe -- first of all, I don`t generally believe this press secretary. We don`t believe that the president is jolly about being rebuked by his own attorney general.

JILL COLVIN, WHIE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, what we know right now, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions, is that the president knew that Barr was going to do this interview but did not know what Barr was going to say.

MATTHEWS: What does it mean when you say knew -- this is the Justice Department reporter for The New York Times. Why would that even be brought to the president as tension? There`s something fishy about this, he knew ahead of time.

COLVIN: The White House knew ahead of time.

MATTHEWS: Of course, they knew. It`s an interview. Did they know he was going to trash the president?

COLVIN: They did not know he was going to go there.

MATTHEWS: But why do they put out the word they knew he was going to have the interview? This looks like they`re putting little kissing cousins together, this thing. Like they`re making it look like, we`re all in this together, when they just took a shot from the attorney general.

COLVIN: Yes. And it`s unclear at this point. There are a lot of questions about how -- whether this was a disingenuous kind of statement from Bill Barr, who you have to understand was under a tremendous amount of pressure from DOJ employees, from Republicans to act.

MATTHEWS: I think Barr, whatever you think of him, knows what`s coming next when he does something. He`s a very careful person. He`s a classic Washington lawyer. He must know if he tells the president to shut up and stay off my lawn, if the president goes back on his lawn again and starts talking about justice cases, which he will do, they`re going to have a reckoning.

JASON JOHNSON, POLITICS EDITOR, THE ROOT: I don`t believe any of this, Chris. I don`t believe it at all.

MATTHEWS: What do you believe? In a certain planet, are we sitting here?

JOHNSON: I believe the earth is round. That`s about as good (INAUDIBLE). Look, I don`t believe they didn`t know about this. They knew about the interview. I`m pretty sure --

MATTHEWS: You think they knew ahead of time he was going to take a shot at the president?

JOHNSON: I believe that somebody in the White House had an idea, one way or another. William Barr has done everything that Donald Trump has wanted him to do. And the idea that he`s suddenly mad now about Trump --

MATTHEWS: So you don`t --

JOHNSON: So Trump has been doing it for years. He never had a problem.

MATTHEWS: You don`t think he`s made a point, Greg, where I`m just not going to be made a fool of anymore? I`m not going to look like the president`s puppet?

GREG BROWER, FORMER FBI OFFICIAL: I`ve always assumed that Bill Barr has that point, but there is a lot of cynicism in town right now about this particular episode. I for one don`t think the president`s ego can handle even an orchestrated wink and a nod criticism. But the bottom line is still that we still don`t know what happened. Why was this supplemental sentencing memo filed? The first memo, some 25 pages, made perfect sense to me. It was aggressive. I`ll tell you as a former U.S. Attorney, I`ve never read a sentencing memorandum that was not aggressive. That`s what federal prosecutors do.

MATTHEWS: Is seven to nine years a lot for lying to Congress and intimidating witnesses, tampering with witnesses?

BROWER: Yes and no. For lying to Congress alone, yes, that would be a lot. The guidelines wouldn`t provide for that much. But for threatening a witness with physical violence, that`s the kind of thing that changes this equation and that`s what happened here. Never mind the fact that the audience to that threat says, well, I`m not sure I believed it.

MATTHEWS: Yes, he did.

BROWER: But nevertheless, when targets of criminal investigations threaten with physical violence witnesses, federal prosecutors take that seriously, and I think Americans want them to take it seriously. So that`s what happened.

MATTHEWS: My view is I`m not sure but I`m skeptical. I`m not cynical. But I don`t laugh at everything. I think he is tired of being -- looking like he looks. Reputation is everything in D.C. among the other lawyers. Do you ever walk into the metropolitan club or somewhere or some nice restaurant, everybody laughing at you? Anyway, even though they`re all frauds and say great to see you.

Anyway, in a radio interview today, Trump again attacked the four prosecutors who withdrew from the case, the Stone case, in apparent protest over the Justice Department`s reduction of their sentencing recommendation. Here he goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I don`t think they quit the case. I think what they do is they felt they got caught, if you want to note truth. I don`t think they quit for moral reasons. I think they got caught in the act by me. Now, what am I going to do? Sit back and let a man go to jail maybe for nine years when murderers aren`t going to jail? Look, you have some of the most serious, horrible rapists and everything else, they don`t go to jail for nine years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So he`s acting as if we in the public and the press believe that these prosecutors were trying to sneak this sentencing guideline by him, like he wouldn`t know that his lackey, his henchman, Roger Stone, getting nine years, up to nine years, wouldn`t be noticed by the president. That`s what he just said. They were trying to sneak it by me and they got caught.

COLVIN: It is indeed what he said there. And the president hasn`t just gone after these prosecutors. He`s also gone after the judge in the case --

MATTHEWS: Who has yet to sentence.

COLVIN: -- who`s going to sentence next week. What does this mean for --

MATTHEWS: Why would he do this? This is the wacky part, Greg. Why would he publicly tweet he wants the sentences reduced? And why does he publicly threaten the judge, who has yet to render a sentence?

BROWER: None of it makes sense. Of course, what he could do is simply let the process play out, let the judge sentence Stone, and then if he doesn`t like it, exercise his constitutional prerogative to issue a pardon or commute the sentence.

But, of course, this president doesn`t do anything the way that normal presidents do anything. And so it makes no sense at all.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s try to figure out -- is Barr on the level or is Barr playing a game?

JOHNSON: I think Barr is playing a game, and I think this is working the refs. This isn`t just about Roger Stone. This is about this larger message, I am Donald Trump and if you do anything, if you investigate anybody, if you prosecute anybody, if you look into anything, if I don`t like it ,I`m going to come after you so you better keep your head down and do what I want you to do.

MATTHEWS: Is it a joke? Is Barr playing a game here, pretending to challenge the president when he`s simply in bed with him?

COLVIN: I honestly don`t know. But I think a lot of people will point to Barr`s previous conduct again and again coming to the president`s defense, declaring that he didn`t obstruct justice in the Mueller investigation, when that`s not something that Mueller`s team actually concluded on. He has come to the president`s defense again and again. He`s described this all as a hoax. He has described the Ukraine investigation as unfounded. He is somebody who`s continuously stood by the president`s side. And, clearly, regardless of his intention here, the president, at least according to the statement tonight, is taking this --

MATTHEWS: So you don`t believe he`s on the road to Damascus here?

JOHNSON: No.

BROWER: No. Well, Timing is everything, right? There are no coincidences. So you have the president`s criticism and then you have this inexplicable supplemental filing, which the interview today, as tough as he was on the president, I didn`t think that the A.G. adequately explained the supplemental filing. That makes no sense.

MATTHEWS: He didn`t explain why they`ve lessened it?

BROWER: Why a supplemental filing had to be made the day after the original filing? The original filing made perfect sense --

MATTHEWS: What do they want to give Stone? At his age, he`s almost as old as me, he`s in his late 60s. Four or five years is a long time in your late 60s to face prison.

BROWER: Well, you could make that argument with a lot of white collar, purely white collar criminals. Is Bernie Madoff really a threat to society or does he deserve to be in prison for a long time because of the way he victimized innocent people?

MATTHEWS: And the amount of money involved.

BROWER: Exactly. I prosecuted large Ponzi scheme-type cases where victims - -

MATTHEWS: Ask Kevin Bacon. Ask everybody.

BROWER: Victims who have lost their life savings have come to me and they`ve asked why isn`t the death penalty being imposed in this case? And I said we don`t do that in white collar cases. But you have --

MATTHEWS: They do in China.

BROWER: Well, that`s a whole other story.

Look, the sentencing recommendation made sense under the federal guidelines. It`s ultimately up to the judge. There was simply no reason for the president to weigh in. But when he did, for the A.G. then to direct a supplemental filing is making everybody very cynical about this.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I would think that normally in a normal presidency, which we may get back to in a year or five years, maybe one year hopefully, maybe, a president would stay away from a case directly affecting himself. When your henchman is caught, your henchman is caught working for you, not robbing gas stations but doing dirty work for you and covering up for you, I would stay away from the prosecution.

COLVIN: Especially since the president has indicated every time he has asked, been asked whether he intends to pardon Stone, he`s really suggested that that`s something he`s at least considering.

MATTHEWS: I mean, Stay in there, Roger. Hang in there. Roger Wilco.

Anyway, according to The New York Times, the handling of the Stone case has had a chilling effect inside the Department of Justice. Quote, prosecutors across the United States who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals, that`s cool, said this week that they`ve already been wary of working on any case that might catch Mr. Trump`s attention and that the Stone episode only deepened their concern.

They also said they were worried that Mr. Barr might not support them in politically charged cases. Greg, this is your piece of work here. You`re working on a top case, you`ve got to bring a tough case against a scary guy and you have to wonder is the president behind me or the attorney general?

BROWER: Any U.S. Attorney out there in the country worth his or her salt should simply do their job, they should be explained to their AUSAs today - -

MATTHEWS: AUSA?

BROWER: Assistant United States Attorneys, right, the folks who try these cases. They need to know that they`re going to be supported by the U.S. Attorney, they`re going to keep their heads down, they`re going to do their jobs, they`re not going to worry about Washington and certainly not what the president thinks. Yes, there are certain reporting requirements that U.S. Attorneys have to do through the deputy attorney general and the attorney general, but they should not be worried about the tough cases and certainly not worried about political cases. They should just do their jobs.

MATTHEWS: The key word by Barr in his statement to the reporter for The Times, integrity. He wants it back. Whether he deserves it or not, he wants it back, clearly.

JOHNSON: I don`t think he has any, and I honestly think -- his statement to me was, look, I`m already doing what you asked, don`t make it so obvious. I mean, I think it was a performance. He`s already doing what the president wants.

And this isn`t just --

MATTHEWS: Are you comparing it like the guy did to the guy that Bob and -- was it Goodfellas, went out and bought a big fancy car with the stolen money. Don`t buy expensive cars after you steal the money with me.

JOHNSON: Exactly. You`re making it too obvious and I`m working for you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Jill Colvin. You laugh at this commentary. I love it. Anyway, thank you. I love the commentary. Thank you, Greg Brower. Thank you, Jason Johnson.

Coming up, since last week`s impeachment acquittal, President Trump has been freewheeling in pursuit of his enemies. And a new report tonight indicates he`s using the DOJ to undermine the Mueller report. Here he goes again. And one those perceived enemies, by the way. One of them is former CIA Director John Brennan. He`s coming next right here.

Plus a blistering escalation in the ongoing duel between Trump and former White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly, they`re at it. Kelly`s speaking out again with Trump responding to Kelly, just can`t keep his mouth shut. Who`s talking about that?

And later, two polar opposites, the Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders on one side and the billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg on the other. Michael Moore is here to take -- make his case for Sanders. And Thomas Friedman joins me on why Democrats should choose Michael Bloomberg.

We`ve got much more to get to tonight. Stick with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump has made clear his goal of using the government to fulfill his political goals. He`s weaponizing the government, you might say.

But now, after being rebuked by his own attorney general late today for intervening in the case of Roger Stone, Trump`s still trying to intimidate the federal judge who will decide Stone`s fate next week.

Believe it or not, he`s still at it on Stone`s case.

Yesterday, he targeted Judge Amy Berman Jackson about another case, that of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Trump said -- quote -- "Is this the judge that put Paul Manafort in solitary confinement, something that not even mobsters -- mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking."

I don`t think Hillary Clinton was in prison.

Anyway, now "The New York Times" is reporting that the ongoing investigation into the origins of the Russian probe itself also appears to be driven by Trump`s political interests.

According to people familiar, the U.S. attorney leading that inquiry, John Durham, appears to be pursuing a theory that the CIA, under its former director, John Brennan, had a preconceived notion about Russia or was trying to get to a particular result, and was nefariously trying to keep other agencies from seeing the full picture.

However, FBI and NSC officials -- quote -- "have told Mr. Durham and his investigators that such an interpretation is wrong and based on a misunderstanding of how the intelligence community functions."

I`m joined right now by John Brennan, former CIA director in the Obama administration, and Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor.

Thank you.

He is at Georgetown University.

Let me ask you, Mr. Director, how do you respond to this inquiry?

(LAUGHTER)

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, I think it`s kind of silly.

Is there a criminal investigation now on analytic judgments and the activities of CIA in terms of trying to protect our national security?

I`m certainly willing to talk to Mr. Durham or anybody else who has any questions about what we did during this period of time in 2016. And so I don`t know what -- I have not -- I have not talked to him yet. I understand that I`m on his list of people to be interviewed.

But it clearly, I think, is another indication that Donald Trump is using the Department of Justice to go after his enemies in any way that he can.

MATTHEWS: Could his indictment against you, at least what`s leaking out about it, could it, in fact, be simply the effort by you, as director of CIA, to protect sources, perhaps even in the Kremlin, from other agencies that don`t need to get their nose into it?

BRENNAN: Well, obviously, that was -- it was a counterintelligence investigation that was under way at that time.

And that is the most sensitive type of investigation, particularly when you`re talking about the possible involvement of U.S. persons.

And so there has been a history of trying to keep information very tightly held, because you don`t want to expose sensitive sources and methods, and you don`t want to put them at risk of being exposed, and, therefore, not giving you the insight that you need in order to prevent Russian troublemakers.

MATTHEWS: Well, how does he interpret that method of keeping information what it has to be, secret, when you`re going after somebody who doesn`t know they`re being gone after, how does he interpret that to mean covering up evidence?

BRENNAN: I have no idea. This -- you know, I have a lot of questions about, you know, this investigation and what was the predication for it and what they`re trying to uncover.

MATTHEWS: I will give you a predication. He`s trying to -- he`s trying to expunge the whole hellishness that went through in 2016 with the Russians.

BRENNAN: Yes, I don`t think there`s any legitimate predication for it.

But I do think this is Donald Trump directing William Barr and the Department of Justice to go after those individuals that he wants to punish for speaking out against him.

But no matter what Donald Trump does, I`m not going to stop talking out against what I think has just been a trampling of our democratic principles.

MATTHEWS: Paul, what`s going on here?

PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The Department of Justice engaged in...

MATTHEWS: In this particular case of going after the CIA, trying to go back and backfill and somehow undermine the whole Mueller report -- it seems that`s what he`s up to. He can`t live with it.

BUTLER: It`s political.

The president is weaponizing the Department of Justice to bring cases against his enemies and to support his friends, to give favors to his friends, like Roger Stone.

Here`s how we know this is political. There has been an investigation about how the Russian investigation started. The inspector general of the Department of Justice looked at it and said that the Russian investigation origins were in good faith, that there was nothing criminal about it, and, in fact, it was a legitimate investigation that found that the Russians did in fact interfere with our election.

That was not good enough for Trump. So he wanted a do-over. So he asked this other person, this U.S. attorney in Connecticut, some random guy, look and see what you can find.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BUTLER: And remarkably, when the inspector general said that everything was on the up and up with the beginning of the Russian investigation, William Barr and John Dowd, the guy who`s doing the investigation in Connecticut, publicly dissented.

That never happened. And here`s the relationship between what happened today. It`s public dissent. So Barr talks the talk. Does he walk the walk? So, today, Barr said Trump is -- implied Trump`s a bully, he needs to watch it.

Does he just say that on TV, or does he say that to Trump? We had Don McGahn tell Mr. Trump, no, you cannot fire Robert Mueller. Even Jeff Sessions told Trump , no, I`m not going to unrecuse myself. Does Bill Barr ever tell Trump, no, you can`t do that? He`s an enabler.

MATTHEWS: Well, we will see. He did say in public he thinks Trump thinks he didn`t mean it.

BUTLER: Well, I think, in this case, it`s all about public relations. The Department of Justice is in an existential crisis. Four prosecutors quit a case. That never happens.

MATTHEWS: I see what you mean. They have to get some kind of look of integrity.

Anyway, meanwhile, Trump`s former Chief of Staff General John Kelly is blasting the president`s request of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

According to "The Atlantic," Kelly praised Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman for reporting his concerns on that July call, saying Vindman "did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave. We teach them, don`t follow an illegal order. And if you`re ever given one, you will raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order and tell your boss."

What do you make of that? I mean, this guy Kelly`s not going to walk away.

BRENNAN: No.

And I worked very close with John, and I`m friends with John. And I don`t agree with everything he`s done or said, but he is somebody who I think really believes in defending the people who are under assault by Donald Trump.

And that`s why -- John Kelly is somebody who`s going to speak out. I wish others would as well, former officials. There needs to be more people who have actually witnessed what Donald Trump has done inside of the White House to speak out against it.

And John Kelly, you know, good on him for speaking out, because it`s overdue.

MATTHEWS: Well, he walks like a general, and he`s talking like a general.

Anyway, President Trump struck back at Kelly today, tweeting: "When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn`t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head. Being chief of staff just wasn`t for him. He came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X`s" -- it`s not clear what he`s talking about here -- "he misses the action and just can`t keep his mouth shut."

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: I don`t know. What is he talking about, X -- I don`t know what he`s talking about.

That is very different from how Trump described Kelly in 2018 when announcing Kelly`s departure.

Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: John Kelly will be leaving, retiring -- I don`t know if I can say retiring. But he`s a great guy. I appreciate his service very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: He`s made a lot of enemies, this president, John.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Well, rightly so.

MATTHEWS: I`m speaking to you.

(LAUGHTER)

BRENNAN: Well, rightly so.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

BRENNAN: Because, again, he is just so self-centered, Donald Trump, that anybody who has the audacity to challenge him or to criticize him is going to be within the line of fire.

And that`s why I do have questions about what happened today with William Barr, whether or not this was coordinated with the White House.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I know.

BRENNAN: And I think, as Paul was saying, I think Barr was trying to prevent a full...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: How long will Barr lasts if it`s real, if he really is rebuking the president in public?

BRENNAN: Well, I think -- I think even Trump will recognize that, if he were to can Barr at this point, there`s going to be reverberations on this.

BUTLER: Yes, so Trump needs Barr more than Barr needs Trump.

So I think Barr has some room. But, again, the question is, how will he exercise his power? And from everything we know, he will continue to be the president`s Roy Cohn.

MATTHEWS: Yes. That`s pretty bad, isn`t it?

BRENNAN: He was preventing a full-scale revolt within the Department of Justice.

MATTHEWS: Well, the scary thing about this, the scary thing, isn`t it, is four more years.

John?

BRENNAN: Bite your tongue, Chris.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, because he`s not going to get more hesitant in his use of power.

BUTLER: So, what the House managers said is, if the Senate failed to remove the president from office, he would be unhinged, he would be unrestrained.

And we see that. The only check now is, he wants to win reelection. If he does win reelection -- if this is how he`s acted the first week after the Senate acquittal, what`s he going to do if he`s reelected? He will be out of control.

MATTHEWS: And if he`s reelected, he will think that`s a confirmation of, everything he`s done is right.

BRENNAN: Absolutely. He`s not going to learn lessons, as Senator Collins said after he was acquitted or so in the Senate.

He is just going to continue to do what he`s always done in the past, which is to lie, cheat and steal to get his way, but also do it with greater impunity, because he believes that he can get away with it from the Republicans in Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

BUTLER: And so that`s a lesson he learned, because, when the Senate failed to remove him, that was a clear sign he can get away with it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

You notice who was missing? I have said it before on the air, but I like to repeat a couple thoughts.

One is, there were no character witnesses in the entire impeachment process. No -- nobody stood up and said, he`s a good man, he wouldn`t do this sort of thing, because there wasn`t anybody who thought that.

Thank you, John Brennan, sir.

Thank you, Paul Butler, as always, sir, Professor. Thank you.

Up next: President Trump is shifting his focus from Joe Biden now. He thinks, I guess, he`s beat him maybe -- to Mike Bloomberg, he`s a little bit afraid of, I guess.

But Bloomberg isn`t taking Trump`s attacks lying down. His cutting-edge social media campaign is spinning out some zingers of his own.

And later on this show, Michael Moore joins us live.

There`s still a lot to get to tonight on this program. You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Little shifty Schiff.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: He`s got the little -- little 10-inch neck.

Little rocket man.

Look, George, you`re being a little wise guy, OK?

Mitt Romney is like this. He`s a little tiny peanut, little. L-I-D-D-L-E. Little. Little Marco. You know, we have to -- you have to brand people a certain way when they`re your opponents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: You have to? You have to make fun of people`s height?

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Trump has consistently used his opponents` height as an insult, even if they`re not actually that short.

He`s recently focused his attacks on Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: What happened to mini-Mike? Where is he?

Mini-Mike has spent a fortune.

There`s nobody I`d rather run against than little Michael. That, I can tell you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, this morning, he took his attacks to Twitter, the president did, posting his altered image of the man he`s dubbed mini-Mike and calling him a loser who has money, but can`t debate, and a 5`4`` inch of dead energy.

You`re putting a lot of thought into this, Mr. President.

Bloomberg is actually 5`8``, though "The New York Times"` Maggie Haberman noted that the height thing is one of the few things that actually does bother him, if that`s important to you.

Anyway, Bloomberg quickly hit back, tweeting at Trump: "We know many of the same people in New York. Behind your back, they laugh at you and call you a carnival barking clown. They know you inherited a fortune and squandered it with stupid deals and incompetence."

And he said this at an event today, Bloomberg did:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president attacked me again this morning on Twitter.

Thank you very much, Donald.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOOMBERG: He calls me little Mike. And the answer is, Donald, where I come from, we measure your height from your neck up.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Bloomberg has shown that he can hold his own against Trump, as you just saw.

But can he win the Democratic nomination?

We have two high-profile guests coming up to answer that question.

First, I will talk to "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman, who says Bloomberg -- quote -- "has the right stuff to beat Trump."

Then, I will talk to filmmaker Michael Moore, who supports Bernie Sanders.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

"New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman says that Democrats must nominate the right person if it wants to defeat President Trump in November.

In his column today in "The New York Times," Friedman writes: "In an age when political extremists go all the way and moderates tend to just go away, Michael Bloomberg has the right stuff, a moderate progressive with a heart of gold, but the toughness of a rattlesnake for what is going to be an incredibly big, brutal task, making Donald Trump a one-term president."

I`m joined right now by Thomas Friedman, "New York Times" foreign affairs columnist and the author of "Thank You For Being Late."

Thomas, you`re highly respected in your big thoughts about politics. I don`t know. The question is, are you right? What gives you the confidence to write today`s column that Mike -- Trump -- Mike Bloomberg`s the right candidate and Bernie Sanders is not?

  THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think Mike has the experience. I think that he has the right values. And I think he has the capability to take on what is just an incredible machine, which is going to be the Trump reelection campaign.

I`m a moderate Democrat. I think, if you look at the polling, Chris, the way it`s come out, if you add Buttigieg and Biden and Klobuchar together and Sanders, you know, it`s about a party that`s split.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FRIEDMAN: Probably about two-thirds you would call moderates, about one- third you would call more liberal and progressive.

I would love to see Bloomberg paired with a liberal and progressive candidate, so you have a wall-to-wall coalition, because I think what is at stake right now, Chris, is not Medicare. It`s not any particular policy.

What`s stake is -- at stake is the whole ball of wax, the norms, standards, and institutions that have sustained and shaped this country, you know, since it`s founding. We have a man who is unhinged as president.

And if you let this man rule for four more years unencumbered by the need to get reelected, I think he will do permanent damage to this country. And I have simply made a cold, hard calculation of who I think has the ability to pull the party together and also has the resources and capability to take this man down.

And that`s where I come down, in a very unsentimental way. And what I have noticed in the reaction to the column, which had over 4,000 comments in "The New York Times," before they just stopped the comments, was that so many people are making a similar calculation.

They might not be in love with Mike. Mike`s a tough guy. He`s not cuddly. He`s had controversial positions on stop and frisk. But they`re making the calculation that we cannot allow four more years of a president without shame, a party without spine, amplified by network without integrity.

MATTHEWS: What makes you confident that Bernie can`t win a general election against Trump?

FRIEDMAN: You know, I think he will be so easily caricatured by this Trump machine.

Bernie, who avowedly calls himself a socialist -- I realize he`s not a socialist in the Russian sense or Chinese sense of the word. He`s more of a European social Democrat, a point my colleague Paul Krugman has made.

But he will be so easily caricatured by them, number one. Number two, this is not -- I think his positions are outside the mainstream of the country. I think this is a center-left, center-right country.

And you cannot win this election without appealing to independents, suburban women, and moderate Republicans, the very people who voted for Trump over Hillary in 2016, then shifted their vote in 2018, when enough moderate Democrats appealed to them...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FRIEDMAN: ... abandoned Trump.

And we have to have them if the country is going to retake the White House with a sane, rational, decent, moderate person. If you abandon that center...

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let`s talk politics for a second.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk politics for a second, because I do worry and think about it all the time.

They say, in Massachusetts, that the shape of the field determines the winner.

When we went into this race, even a couple weeks ago, it looked like there would be two people on the Democratic left. That would be -- that would be Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Warren for whatever reason has faded for a while. Maybe she`ll come back in Nevada. But she`s faded.

So Bernie owns that lane right now. On the other side, as you mentioned, we`ve got Klobuchar, we`ve got Buttigieg, and now, Mike Bloomberg. If they split the moderate vote in California, for example, and the rest of the 14 states that vote on Super Tuesday, Bernie could win the whole thing because if you own the left wing, even if it`s only a third of the vote, if he owns that third how do any of the other three beat him including Bloomberg?

THOMAS FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I don`t know. I assume we`re heading for a brokered convention, highly likely. Who knows? We might get a combination where Klobuchar -- Bloomberg-Klobuchar ticket or Bloomberg and a progressive that before the actual convention, who knows, Bloomberg may name a vice presidential candidate, someone from the progressive camp. I don`t know. But I could imagine that.

But I think -- I think in general, Chris, we are about to see the most unusual election in so many dimensions that we have ever seen in our lifetime. And this will only be part of it. What goes on on the Trump side will be the other side of it.

MATTHEWS: I think the oddity of it is the nature of the background of the two people. Certainly Bernie Sanders has chosen -- I`m not knocking him. I`m trying to figure out why he`s been like this. But he never wanted to actually join the Democratic Party. He said he would last time. That`s his call. That`s your decision.

But Mike Bloomberg ran as a Republican. His office that he won, New York City mayor, he ran as a Republican. So, you have two people vying with different means, different strengths. It`s an asymmetric warfare.

Money against ideology perhaps and youth. Not his youth but the people behind him, the kids behind him, and neither have actually said, I`m a Democrat. It`s strange.

What do you make of it historically?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think actually what`s going on, to be honest, and I`m actually writing a book about it, is every major political party in the industrial world has actually blown up in the last five or six years.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

FRIEDMAN: The Conservative Party blew up in England. The Liberal Party blew up there. The Republican Party has blown up. France is the only country in the world ruled by a president with no party. It has an opposition with no leader.

The Israeli political system has blown up. They`ve all blown up. I can explain why. There`s a reason --

MATTHEWS: And Canada changes majority parties every four or five years. I mean, you never know, social credit party, the reform party, what is it this time, you know?

Thomas Friedman --

(CROSSTALK)

FRIEDMAN: Both -- in Italy and Ukraine are both governed now by former comedians. Something`s in the water. And we can talk about it next time.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re too close to that. Thank you so much, Friedman. Thomas Friedman, it`s great to have you on tonight. People read the column. They`ll keep commenting on it I`m sure.

Up next, filmmaker Michael Moore tells us why America needs, there he is, Bernie Sanders.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are the strongest campaign to defeat Trump, because the way you defeat Trump is by having the largest voter turnout in the history of this country. I think if you look at Iowa and you find that we saw a 33 percent increase in voting for younger people, voting at a higher rate than ever. In New Hampshire, you saw us doing extremely well in working working-class communities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont, off the campaign trail today, back in Washington.

Of course, no matter where he is, he can`t get away from questions surrounding his campaign for the White House. That`s the issue. And here`s the answer to answer your questions about Sanders is Michael Moore, filmmaker and host of the podcast "Rumble with Michael Moore." Moore has endorsed Senator Sanders for president.

Michael, thank you. Come on and make the case. We just heard Thomas Friedman. Do you have any reaction to what Thomas wrote -- wrote and said?

MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: Yes. Everything he said about Trump is true. Everything else, I can`t get behind it because Michael Bloomberg -- I`m going to post this actually on my podcast this weekend, from his speech at Madison Square Garden 2004 at the Republican National Convention where he endorsed and gave some sort of a keynote in favor of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq.

That`s who he is. He ran as a Republican for the mayor of New York and then he didn`t just inherit the stop and frisk program, which I don`t like that name anyway. It wasn`t stop and frisk. If you ask any African-American in this city, in New York, they will say that it felt like they were being hunted by the police. And the -- it rarely gets said in these last few days how many people under Bloomberg got stopped. Five million black and brown mostly men, mostly young, stopped by the police as Bloomberg said, thrown against the wall.

And it`s -- it`s so repulsive. Charles Blow, the wonderful columnist --

MATTHEWS: He`s great. I love him.

(CROSSTALK)

MOORE: Yes, in "The New York Times." When Bloomberg announced in November he was running, Charles wrote in "The Times" that no one who is black or brown or is an ally of the minority community, white people, should not ever think of voting for this individual considering what he did.

MATTHEWS: But what do you make of the latest polling? At least it`s internal polling. You`ve got to give it some credibility, that there`s 14 states coming up on Super Tuesday, March 3rd, a little less than a month from now, that the African-American vote`s running about even between Biden and Bloomberg overnight it seems.

MOORE: Well, quite a -- yes. Ads help, by the way. That`s why we`re going to cut to one here in about five minutes. They work. And so I`m not surprised that Bloomberg has done well with that.

But the fact is that this isn`t going to happen. I don`t understand why we don`t talk more about the fact that Bernie Sanders is the front-runner. He`s gotten the most votes now in two states.

MATTHEWS: Yes. He won the popular in Iowa and he won the popular in New Hampshire. In any other country --

MOORE: They don`t call it the popular vote. They call it the vote.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

MOORE: In any other country that`s a democracy it`s called the vote. The fact that the Democratic party in Iowa, I did not know this until I went there, that they have an electoral college type system where they weight the votes for the rural counties over the urban counties or the college town counties, that -- a vote is a one person one vote. The Democratic Party should support that.

But Bloomberg, not just the racism, not just his support of Bush, how about the fact -- you know, a lot of liberals will say, oh, they`re really worried that Trump won`t leave the White House or he won`t -- he`s going to demand a third term. Well, that`s exactly what Bloomberg did in New York City. You remember that? It`s a term limited two-term mayor in New York City and he said, I don`t want to go and got the city council to vote to let him run for a third term.

MATTHEWS: I know all about it. I know all about how it was done.

MOORE: Yes, you know what I`m talking about.

MATTHEWS: I didn`t like it, either. I didn`t like it either how he pulled - - used his money and clout.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I want to know what you think of the other candidates. I mean, you`re with Senator Sanders then there`s also, you have Buttigieg in the race, came out of nowhere. Amy Klobuchar ran I think a stellar campaign lately. She doesn`t have any money. She rides around with one staffer.

MOORE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: She seems to have no money.

MOORE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: And yet she seems to be doing something and then Bloomberg is, going to be a four-way going into California, are you going to campaign for Sanders? I mean, I guess you will. Will you?

MOORE: Yes. I have. I`ve been out to Iowa. I`ve been to New Hampshire. I`ve -- I`ve listened to people. I know why he`s number one. I know why he`s number one in all these polls, the Morning Consult poll --

MATTHEWS: Tell me.

MOORE: -- this morning. He`s ten points ahead of number two which nationwide is still Biden.

It`s -- people are -- this is also why you guys talk a lot on this network, too, about the Bernie bros or the anger from Bernie supporters and it`s not so much the Bernie supporters that are angry, the country is angry.

They`re angry that they`re having to live under the rule of Donald J. Trump. They`re angry because they have to live from paycheck to paycheck. They`re angry because they can`t afford the day care. They don`t know whether if they end up in the hospital they`re going to have to lose their home as a result of it.

Yes, people are angry. And they don`t want half measures anymore. Obamacare was great for what it did. You know, got rid of pre-existing conditions. The kids get to stay on until they`re 26. But it did not -- it didn`t go all the way.

We have to go all the way. We can`t -- no more half measures on these things.

MATTHEWS: OK. I understand. Let me ask you about politics because --

MOORE: Yes, yes.

MATTHEWS: -- if you read Machiavelli who is brilliantly true, maybe awful but true, it said in the French, it`s very hard to sell new ideas and new program because people who have what they have want to hold on to it and never know how they`re going to do under the new system. So, you got people, 140 million people with health care, they pay for it, may not be the best healthcare, but they got it. It`s a burden to hand (ph).

You got the culinary workers out in Clark County out in Vegas who are going to vote next week, they have refused to endorse. Now, that`s a pretty progressive union, a lot of working people, waitresses, waiters, all kinds of people.

MOORE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: People in the gaming industry.

MOORE: Sure.

MATTHEWS: Why are they not endorsing? How do you -- they`re afraid of losing their health care plans, apparently. That`s what they negotiated for.

MOORE: No, they`re not. The leadership of the union, they did negotiate really good health care. The problem with that is, is that the employers, just as we saw with General Motors during the strike in the fall, the third or fourth day into it the chair of general motors ended all health care for all UAW workers.

The CEO could do it just like that because it`s not a right. It`s not guaranteed by the law. If you are leaving your health care up to the fact that your employer is going to actually follow through, if you think that`s something that`s permanent, if you think it`s a system that works, I mean, I made whole movie about this about just people who have health care and how the insurance companies, the private insurance companies will fight you tooth and nail if you get sick, if you have a family member in the hospital, they will try to deny every single claim because it`s the only way they make a profit.

So they have to do that. That`s just why we have to remove profit and private health insurance from the system.

MATTHEWS: I know.

MOORE: We would not allow a private police force, a private fire depart, a private library, the things that we consider to be rights in a democratic society. This is -- this is where -- and the union -- ask any UAW member in Detroit or Flint what -- on that day when the CEO just said, that`s it, health care, over. You`re not covered as of this minute. They have the power to do that you can never put the power of your health care in the hands of your boss.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think it was "Roger & Me".

Let me ask you this. Senator Sanders who you endorse says he`ll back any winner coming out of this nomination fight in the Democratic Party, all the way to Milwaukee. Will you?

MOORE: Of the people who are running, Democrats that are on that stage, yes.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, Michael Moore. It`s an honor.

MOORE: I have to say, let me just say this. George Wallace won the Michigan primary the first time I got to vote in 1972. So, I would never say I`ll just support anybody.

You wouldn`t support George Wallace or David Duke or any of that.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MOORE: You`re saying of the people who are running --

MATTHEWS: I give you worse, when he won the Maryland primary, too. That`s not funny. That`s even worse.

Anyway, thank you, Michael Moore.

MOORE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: You`re always welcome here. Spread the word among Bernie people, we want the surrogates like Ro Khanna. We want Nina Turner.

MOORE: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Please come again and again and again. Please come back.

MOORE: We want to assure you we`ll never take you into Central Park and do any harm with you.

MATTHEWS: I knew that was coming. You and I can argue about that at a different place. But you`re always on.

And, by the way, whatever my opinions are, don`t ask me, don`t ask me, this place is for the argument. Not for my views.

Thank you so much.

MOORE: No, no, we love you, Chris, 30 years.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Michael Moore.

MOORE: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next, there`s a reckoning looming in Washington tonight.

You`re watching HARDBALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Attorney General William Barr declared today, late today, that he cannot do his job, cannot ensure the integrity of the Justice Department if President Trump keeps attacking its officials and their judgments.

So the reckoning looming this night in American history turns on an earlier declaration made during the recent impeachment hearings. Remember what Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman said about our country? He said that America right matters, that good behavior and truth wins the argument against bad behavior and lies.

That here in this country, justice isn`t some Orwellian term, a word used to mean the opposite of itself. That here in America, justice actually means justice.

So, let`s watch how this plays out. Will it be Barr who stands his ground and forces Trump to back off? Or will the attorney general of the United States be squashed like a bug, like all the other Trump cabinet secretaries who dared to take seriously their trusted roles in the world`s greatest democratic republic?

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

 

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