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House Dems subpoena the White House. TRANSCRIPT: 10/4/19, Hardball, Hardball w/ Chris Matthews.

Guests: Ben Rhodes, Joaquin Castro, Elise Labott, Jeff Mason, Jamie Raskin,Anita Kumar

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Just love him.  That`s a message we could all take home.  And don`t forget to come back Sunday 9:00 P.M. Eastern live, our very special program, Trump and Ukraine Impeachment Crisis.  We`re going to get into everything.  Mark your calendar.  I hope you join us this Sunday 9:00 P.M. Eastern.

That does it for THE BEAT.  "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST:  Quid pro quo, QED, it has been proven.  Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

We`ve learned today that President Trump personally conditioned military assistance to Ukraine on getting political dirt on his political opponents.  That`s the favor he asked of Ukraine President Zelensky in his infamous July phone call.

And now explosive text messages between American diplomats shed new light on the extent of the transaction Trump sought from Ukraine and they confirm that a visit to the White House was dangled as leverage.

Those texts were turned over to Congress by former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker yesterday and the detail his conversations with fellow diplomats and with a top aide to Ukrainian President Zelensky.

In the days before Zelensky`s phone call with Trump in July, Volker tells his colleagues the goal of the call is for Zelensky to say he will help with the investigation.  Well, two days later, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, warns that Zelensky is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic re-election politics.

Well, then in the morning of Trump`s call with Zelensky, Volker tells Zelensky`s aide that he has heard from the White House and he`s very specific about what it would take to get a meeting with Trump.  He says, assuming President Zelensky convinces Trump he will investigate and get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, we will nail down a date for a visit to Washington.

After the call, Zelensky`s aide describes it as a success and asked to schedule a visit to Washington.  He later appears to confirm his end of the bargain, telling Volker, once we have a date for a White House visit, Zelensky will call for a press briefing, announcing the upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigation, that means going after Biden`s son.  Those investigations would give Trump a talking point to say Ukraine is trying to get dirt on Biden.

Well, soon thereafter, Zelensky`s aide text Volker saying, we need to talk with you along with a link for an article from Politico.  That article publicly confirmed that President Trump had frozen the military support that Ukraine needed to fend off Russian aggression.

Two days later, Ambassador Taylor writes his colleagues, are we now saying that security assistance and a White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?  Well, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., doesn`t appear to want Taylor`s allegation to be memorialized in writing and simply replies, call me.

Days later, Taylor appears worried that Zelensky will give a briefing committing to deliver on Trump`s wishes but won`t get anything in return.  He says, the nightmare is that they give the interview and don`t get the security assistance that Russians love it, and I quit.

The next day, he reiterates, as I said on the phone, I think it`s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.

I`m joined right now by U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Elise Labott, Journalist-at-Residence in Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Jeff Mason, Reuters White House Correspondent, and Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Adviser.

Ben, I want you to get in here and interpret all those documents, all those emails.  What do they tell you about the workings of U.S. foreign policy apparatus around this trade of you give us some dirt, you get a meeting at the White House, you`ll get your arms to fight the Russians?

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  Well, Chris, first of all, it`s important to understand what we`re seeing here is not just the corruption of the Ukrainian government by President Trump pressuring the Ukrainian government to dig up dirt on his opponents, we are seeing in those text messages the corruption of the national security and foreign policymaking apparatus of the U.S. government, the State Department.  Normally, what you have is the U.S. White House setting priorities for U.S. interests, not the president`s personal political interests and then American diplomats implementing that policy.

I think what`s so important for viewers to understand is this is not how American foreign policy works.  You are not supposed to have diplomats who work for the American people on taxpayer dimes essentially leveraging the foreign relations of the United States to get a country to help the president get re-elected.  And what you see here is all of the most important instruments that we have to bring to bear to pressure another country, White House visits, foreign assistance, hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable military assistance, diplomatic negotiations, all of that being leveraged to get a particular outcome that prioritizes President Trump`s personal political interests.  There is no national interest event, whatsoever, in having this investigation of a totally false allegation against Joe Biden, his family, pursued.

But Donald Trump has so fundamentally corrupted U.S. foreign policy that you have career diplomats put in a position where they`re basically acting on behalf of the president`s re-election campaign.

MATTHEWS:  Congressman, it sounds like a RICO charge, running a criminal enterprise at the State Department.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX):  Yes.  I mean, you basically have based on the text messages, the transcript of the phone call, everything else we know, two major departments in the federal government, the Justice Department through the attorney general and then through these diplomats, the State Department, and through the Secretary of State, quite possibly, the State Department doing the political work of Donald Trump.  He`s basically running his re-election campaign out of the White House on U.S. taxpayer dollars and with employees of the federal government.

MATTHEWS:  Elise, I want to talk to you about this foreign policy student, you`re an expert on this thing.  What we see here, it seems to me, is everything is coming from the top, that this political opponent, this rich guy put in the European Union, he`s not a diplomat, he`s working for Trump.

ELISE LABOTT, FOREIGN AFFAIRS JOURNALIST:  That`s right.  He`s a political appointee.  He is the E.U -- U.S. ambassador to the European Union.  Ukraine isn`t even an official member of the European Union.  There`s no reason for him to be involved.

And you kind of see in these texts, Kurt Volker is trying to thread the needle between giving the president what he wants to get this meeting and to get Ukraine the aid but also trying to tell the Ukrainians, hey, stay out of the election interference, don`t get involved in U.S. politics.  Then you have Rudy Giuliani.  I don`t know why he`s involved in the first place.  He is the personal attorney to the president.

And where is Secretary Pompeo in all this?  He knew that he was on the call with the president and the president of Ukraine.  He did not tell Kurt Volker about what happened in terms of telling the Ukrainian president to look into charges about Biden.  And Kurt Volker is then saying to Pompeo, hey, I`m trying to thread the needle here and Pompeo doesn`t say anything.

MATTHEWS:  There is a history of lies by this president.  Back when he was going after Obama, he said, I`ve got investigators in Hawaii coming up with good stuff, all made up.

Now, he seems to want to be setting up here a lie he can use which says, the Ukrainian government is now investigating Joe Biden son`s relationship with whatever, with the gas company.  Once he gets that, he seems to want that draft.  So he`s got Giuliani over there, his fixer, writing the draft for the Ukrainian government so that Trump will have this document.  He says they`re over there investigating, I`m right, this guy is a crook, just totally fabricating a reality.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS:  And writing the draft is a key point there.  I mean, Elise and I have probably covered a zillion G7s or G20s.  Countries work together joint statements if it`s a joint statement.  In this particular case, it was supposed to be a statement from Ukraine, a press release or something like that, and you`ve got these American officials, U.S. officials, some who work for the government, another, Giuliani, who is working directly for the president in a private capacity, giving advice and sort of having editorial control over what Ukraine government admits or puts out.

LABOTT:  And what the president thinks -- Giuliani started this poison pill.  He was the one that started filling the president`s ear with all this corruption about Ukraine and then the Ukrainians reached out to him to say, hey, we`re not corrupt, we`re a new government, we`re fighting corruption, and he said, okay, prove it, put it in a statement where you say that you`re going to investigate this company that happens to be employing Hunter Biden.

MATTHEWS:  New reporting confirms that American diplomats viewed U.S. military support as being linked to Trump`s quest for dirt from Ukraine.  According to Wall Street Journal, Republican Senator Ron Johnson said he learned of a potential quid pro quo from the U.S. ambassador, Gordon Sondland, who told him that aid to Ukraine was tied to the desire by Mr. Trump and his allies to have Kiev undertake investigations that the president has sought.  Johnson reportedly raised the issue with the president by phone, the president, of course, denied it.

Congressman, I guess today, we`ve got such an avalanche of documentation today.  All the State Department dialogue among the very diplomats, the foreign service people, the Trump people, but all of it points in one direction, a deal that they were going to squeeze this government which is desperately in need of arms to fight the Russians saying, you want a deal with us, you want to have the prestige of a White House meeting, you want those Javelin missiles to fight the Russian tanks, you`ve got to play ball and get dirt on Joe Biden.

It seems like it`s all there now.  What more do you need?  I mean, I`m not pushing you but it seems to me you`ve got a case there for abuse of power.

CASTRO:  I think that`s right.  The president clearly abused his power.  He has betrayed his oath of office.  I think there is enough information, the president has admitted enough, we have got enough information at this point.  He just went out on the White House lawn yesterday and asked China to look into and Investigate Joe Biden.  I think that we have enough to bring articles of impeachment.

That said, I also don`t think that it`s going to happen in the next few days.  We`re going to continue this investigation.

As you saw, the House of Representatives today, we just subpoenaed the White House for documents related to all of these matters, specifically I want to see what other phone calls are hidden away in that secret file and what those phone calls say, the transcripts of those phone calls.  But, yes, you`ve got a president that`s abusing his power.

And, Chris, I think this is important because now some Republicans and including the president are starting to defend this by saying that he has the right to basically extort these foreign leaders to do his political dirty work.

Think about the long-term implications of what that means.  That means that any president, Democrat or Republican in the future, could use the -- leverage the full force of the United States government to try to ask any country, not just the Ukraine, to dig up dirt on a presidential candidate and opponent or somebody running for Senate, somebody in the U.S. House of Representatives or an American business person, anybody that might have done business over there.

So this is a very, very dangerous precedent that Republicans are trying to setup just because they`re bowing down to Donald Trump.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Ben because I think that was so well said by the congressman.  Because even during Watergate, which I well remember, it was a matter of it being mad at Nixon or being mad at (INAUDIBLE) all the rest of them.  It was the fear we had that if this went on, it would get worse, that it would escalate into worse and worse abuse of power.

Ben, you`ve been on the inside.  What do you think this kind of precedent would set if Trump walks on this?

RHODES:  Well, look, I mean, Trump has done a lot of things that have been upsetting.  The reason that this is fundamentally different, first of all, I think he`s breaking the law, right, because he`s essentially leveraging the resources of the U.S. government as a campaign contribution, right, as people who will use their time and effort to squeeze a foreign government to investigate his political opponents.

But beyond that, this is why we have a system of checks and balances.  This is why we don`t have dictators in this country.  We don`t have presidents who treat the Justice Department, the State Department as extensions of their own personal political interests.  Those are institutions that are meant to serve the American people.

And if we allow them to be completely corrupted to just serve the conspiracy theories and narrow short-term political interests of the president of the United States, and by the way, to deny the American people a truly free and fair election because the election itself will include all kinds of foreign intervention that has been invited by Trump, then we`re not truly living in a democracy.  So this gets at the heart of what kind of government we want, what kind of powers do we want the president, what kind of corruption are we willing to tolerate in the highest office of the land?

I think it`s very important that in that text exchange, the person who spoke up against this, who said are we really going to do this, is the career person, it`s the career diplomat, Ambassador Taylor.  And I think if I were the Democrats, I`d be going to out to the career at State, in DOJ, and making sure I`m talking to them because they are deeply uncomfortable with this because it violates the oath that they swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

MATTHEWS:  Well, this comes amid new signs that Attorney General Bill Barr`s Justice Department is shielding the president from further inquiry.  NBC News reports that weeks before the whistleblower`s complaint was made public, the CIA`s top lawyer made what she considered a criminal referral to the Justice Department about the whistleblower`s allegations that President Donald Trump abused his office.  So this means that she and other senior officials had concluded a potential crime had been committed, raising more questions about why the Justice Department later declined to open an investigation, questions the referral was made over the phone and it was relayed to the attorney general himself.

However, quote, Justice Department officials now say they didn`t consider the phone conversation a formal criminal referral because it was not in written form.  And this was the first of two criminal referrals that the DOJ received.  And after the second made by the Director of National Intelligence himself, the DOJ said in a statement that no further action was warranted.

Congressman, this State Department led by Pompeo, this Justice Department led by Bill Barr looks like they`re in cahoots with this president politically to the extent that they`re no longer serving the country.

CASTRO:  Yes.  You know, it took Donald Trump a while to put in place these guys that are yes men and at this point stooges that are helping him carry out his very narrow personal political agenda.  But it`s become very danger for the American people because they`re no longer working on behalf of the American people.  They`re only working on behalf Of Donald Trump.

And I saw the reporting on the criminal referral.  And for the Department of Justice to say, we`re not going to take that seriously and look into it because it was in a telephone conversation and not in writing, Bill Barr should resign right now.  He has no integrity, no credibility if that`s his standard.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I hope, Congressman, at the end of a couple of weeks of requesting information from this White House and getting stonewalled that U.S. Congress will stop issuing paper, stop issuing subpoenas and all the rest because this crowd is going to get what they deserve.  They`re not going to answer those, they`re not going to respond to you, they`re not going to give you anything, they`re going to play the clock a little bit.

Anyway, thank you so much, U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas.  My other guests are sticking with us for the second segment, by the way.

Coming up, President Trump publicly asked China, he`s doing it again, it`s his M.O. now, an adversary with a deeply flawed justice system of its own to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden.  He`s doing it everywhere.

And now, two Republican senators are calling Trump out, somewhat.  Mitt Romney says it`s wrong and appalling what Trump has been doing.  Ben Sasse, as Americans don`t look to, quote, Chinese commies for the truth.

Well, where are the hundreds of other Republican members of Congress and when will they say, enough is enough or will they just continue to enable this president?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT:  By the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened to China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.

REPORTER:  Have you asked President Xi to investigate Joe Biden?

TRUMP:  I haven`t, but certainly something we can start thinking about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was President Trump yesterday calling on China to investigate the Bidens, putting his transactional use of American foreign policy for his own political benefit right out there in the open. 

And while the president said he hadn`t previously asked President Xi to investigate his political potential rival next year, CNN is reporting that, during a phone call with Xi on June 18 of this year, Trump raised Biden`s political prospects, as well as those of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who, by then, had started rising in the polls.

So he`s watching his enemies here. 

The report ads, in that call, Trump also told Xi he would remain quiet on Hong Kong protests as trade talks progressed.

The White House record of that call was later stored in the highly secured electronic system used to house a now infamous call, of course, with Ukraine`s president.

President Trump`s request to China yesterday came immediately after he referenced a new round of trade talks set to resume next week, saying, "We have tremendous power."

Hmm.

Today, the president was asked what he`d privately communicated to the Chinese and how it could impact the ongoing trade war. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  All I can tell you, this.  When I speak to foreign leaders, I speak in an appropriate way. 

QUESTION:  Would you be more willing to do a trade deal with the Chinese if they investigate Biden?

TRUMP:  I`d like to do a trade deal with China, but only if it`s a great trade deal for this country.  One thing has nothing to do with the other, let me tell you.

I`m only interested in corruption.  I don`t care about politics.  I don`t care about Biden`s politics. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Elise Labott joins us again and Jeff Mason and Ben Rhodes.

They`re all back with us. 

Jeff, thank you. 

I was so impressed by your exchange with the president the other day, because you were totally cool, and he kept refusing to answer. 

Why was he unwilling to answer your question, what did you want from the president of Ukraine?  And yet the next day, he smattered it all over the headlines:  I did it. 

MASON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Why wouldn`t he say it that day? 

MASON:  I don`t know.  I mean, I really don`t know. 

The question was clear.  The follow-ups were clear.  He had been saying for days, weeks maybe, before that that his call with the Ukrainian president had been perfect.

So I just wanted to ask him, all right, then what did you really want?  If you want to dispute that transcript, go for it.  But he...

MATTHEWS:  Second question.  We all know that people deal with people on a number of issues.  We all deal with people on a number of issues. 

MASON:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  We`re dealing with the Chinese on the trade issue. 

And, by the way, it`s a corrupt country anyway.  Everybody knows everything`s fixed over there.  It`s not a free market.

Anyway, they`re running -- they go in their power.  They do it.

But for him to go there looking for dirt on an American seems ridiculous, I mean, really ridiculous and awful. 

MASON:  And a trade deal, if they were to get it, which is not going to happen anytime soon, would be massive. 

So you have to imagine, if you`re the Chinese and you`re seeing these mixed signals, even though the president of the United States says one doesn`t have to do with the other, you can`t expect another country to necessarily read that signal and agree.

MATTHEWS:  Ben, this president is in his toes -- down to his toes transactional.

Everything is a transaction.  The idea that he comes out on the back of the White House, the South Lawn, and says, oh, there`s no connection between with trade I`m making -- deals I`m making them on trade, or whatever else, Hong Kong, my silence on Hong Kong -- I would, though -- I would be thinking, if I were one of those young people in Hong Kong, I`d say, he sold us out, so he could get dirt on Joe Biden.

That`s what I would be thinking. 

RHODES:  There`s no question about that, Chris. 

And we haven`t even talked about, what does this look like to the rest of the world?  The United States used to be an exemplar of democracy.  And now we look like the most transactional, corrupt country imaginable, where the only thing you really have to do for the United States is take care of the political interests of the president. 

Just think of China.  We are in a trade war that has at stake trillions of dollars.  There are studies that show that hundreds of thousands, 300,000 American jobs might have already been lost because of this trade war, decimation in parts of the agricultural sector in this country. 

And Donald Trump is focused on what?  Dirt on Hunter Biden?  So we`re going to take the most important bilateral relationship in the world, the principal geopolitical adversary of the United States, China, and we are going to put into that mix a corruption investigation of Hunter Biden?

And, by the way, the Chinese know how to do this.  They are corrupt, as you said.  They do, do politically motivated corruption investigations.  It would be very easy for them to say, oh, sure, we will light up the corruption investigation and try to get some dirt for President Trump. 

And maybe he will make some concessions on things that actually matter to American workers. 

So, if I was Democrats in this election, I`d say, Trump said he`d stand up to you when he faced off with the Chinese, and all he`s really doing is leveraging that, what, to get dirt on Joe Biden? 

That is not how you run a foreign policy. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you hear that thing, Elise?  He`s on the driveway there on the South Lawn, and he said, the Chinese are investigating the -- Biden, Biden`s son. 

And then somebody said, are you going to ask him to investigate -- I might ask them to do it. 

In other words, totally contradictory statements by him.  We might ask them to do it.  By the way, they`re already doing it. 

But they`re not doing it.  He just lied. 

LABOTT:  And he`s also sending a message to any other country in America where he is open for business weaponizing, you know, trading away U.S. foreign relationships. 

But it`s not just about the U.S.  He`s telling all of these despots and authoritarians around the world.  He`s not just giving them a dog whistle to give information on the U.S. election.  He`s saying to them he`s giving them a green light to do it at home. 

And, as Ben said, this is -- America was always a kind of beacon.

MATTHEWS:  Why is so he quiet about Hong Kong?  Normally, we are the world`s democracy.

(CROSSTALK)

LABOTT:  He wasn`t quiet.  He congratulated President Xi for his 70 years of success and ignored what`s going on...

MATTHEWS:  I know, and ignored what is going on, the day when just somebody was killed.

LABOTT:  ... when his -- when his Republican colleagues are calling it ghoulish and abhorrent.  He`s kind of congratulating them. 

And this is -- he respects strongmen.  And what kind of message is this sending to China right now?  Are they going to crack down?  Do they think that the United States is going to go against them?  Are we going to see another Tiananmen Square? 

I mean, all of these authoritarians right now feel that they have a green light to really just go ahead and do whatever they want, because they -- once, they thought the United States would speak up for defenseless people around the world.  That`s kind of over.

MATTHEWS:  He wants to create a -- recreate the pre-World War II world, where there`s a bunch of tough countries, like -- led by Stalin and Hitler and the rest, Mussolini, and the big boys just chopped up the little people and nobody got in their way. 

Meanwhile, in an off-the-rails interview with CNN tonight -- or today -- White House trade adviser Peter Navarro refused to answer questions about President Trump asking China to investigate the Bidens.  Let`s watch this show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER NAVARRO, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY:  I`m not here...

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN:  Well, is it OK for a U.S. president...

NAVARRO:  Is this like -- is this like an interrogation here?

SCIUTTO:  Is it OK...

NAVARRO:  It`s like I -- I feel like I`m in -- like, Adam Schiff is sitting in front of me. 

We went through witch-hunt part one for two-and-a-half years.  Adam Schiff, sociopath, looked you in the eye and the American people in the eye and said he had irrefutable evidence of a Russia hoax.

SCIUTTO:  The president said on the White House lawn yesterday.  It`s not a secret.

NAVARRO:  Now -- hang on.  Let me just finish.  You had -- you had your hectoring.

SCIUTTO:  Before we go, I just give you the opportunity.  Have you ever raised investigating Joe Biden or his son in Chinese negotiations?

NAVARRO:  Have you ever -- have you ever given me a source that`s other than anonymous for any of this crap? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you. 

I think he`s learned all the techniques for not answering questions from reporters, Jeff.

MASON:  Peter Navarro is clever in that way. 

And he channels the president in a lot of ways, certainly on trade, but I think also on impeachment and some of these other issues that have upset his boss. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, well, the question is, why is Navarro like this?  Why are these people like this? 

MASON:  Yes, I don`t have an answer to that. 

I mean, he is -- he is definitely an influential member of the team advising President Trump on trade on, some other issues as well.  There are a lot of others around.

MATTHEWS:  Have you figured out what the Trump thing is, this sort of -- this sort of disease, I would call it, that spreads where people become Trumpite, like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"?  What is this?  Have you figured out what it is? 

Is it fear?  Is it power they`re attracted to? 

MASON:  I think that there are some people around him who have figured out how to work with him, some people who haven`t. 

And some of the things that he says and does definitely complicates things for his advisers.  I mean, on the opposite spectrum of Peter Navarro, Larry Kudlow was speaking to a few journalists, including myself, this morning.

And he was asked as well about whether or not the Biden issue was going to be part of the trade talks.  And he said, oh, I wasn`t privy to that conversation, but I can`t imagine that it would be.  And he also said Hong Kong protesters should be pushing for peace and pushing for democracy. 

Those are contradictory messages from what his boss is saying.

MATTHEWS:  Well, I like -- good for him.  Good for Lawrence. 

Anyway, thank you, Elise Labott.  Thank you so much, Jeff Mason.  Great show this week.  Not show.  Great professionalism.  Thank you, Ben.  It`s great to have you on as sort of a steadying anchor to this conversation.  Thanks so much. 

Up next:  House Democrats warn the White House, turn over documents related to this impeachment inquiry, or be subpoenaed.  Tonight, they`re following through on that. 

And one of those House Dems will be with us in a moment next on HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL.

House Democrats vowed to issue a subpoena if the White House failed to turn over documents related to the Ukraine investigation by today.

And, tonight, the Democrats have followed through on that.  In a letter sent to the White House, the chairmen of the House Oversight, Intelligence -- all chairs -- and Foreign Affairs committees warned the White House that its failure to -- or refusal to comply with a subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House`s impeachment inquiry.

NBC News has learned the White House is expected to send a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi arguing that the administration will not consider turning over any documents unless the House votes to officially authorize an impeachment inquiry. 

The chairmen responded to that impending letter, writing: "Speaker Pelosi has confirmed that an impeachment inquiry is under way.  And it`s not for the White House to say otherwise."

For more, I`m joined by Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who sits on a couple of big committees, House Judiciary and Oversight. 

Thank you. 

This, to me, is harebrained. the president of the United States telling the Congress that there`s rules in the House.  The rules in the House are up to the House.  And the House speaker is saying, we`re going to go ahead and act. 

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD):  Well, they`re our rules.  They`re not his rules. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

RASKIN:  He doesn`t -- he wouldn`t know rules if they hit him over the head with a brick. 

And we`re complying with our rules.  The Constitution doesn`t require any prior vote by the House of Representatives before the committees can investigate.  And neither do the House rules.  So the committees are doing our job.

And the president should busy himself with complying with our requests returns, so he turns over all the documents relating to that perfect phone call that he had.  If he`s got nothing to hide -- and he continues to say he`s got nothing to hide -- turn everything over. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, I think you guys have him.  And I mean that as a non-lawyer. 

But when I look at abuse of power, this is it.  I see it.  I see a president using his power, control of U.S. foreign policy, control of U.S. foreign military aid that he had the ability to freeze.  He said, I will unfreeze it if you give me some dirt on my opponent.  Same thing with the Chinese.

He`s exploiting public office and public trust for personal political gain.  You got him.

RASKIN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  And, also, a second article, I think you have got him on resisting all these subpoenas you have been issuing.

I -- anyway, your thoughts.  Do you have him yet? 

RASKIN:  Yes, we do. 

First of all, you stated it perfectly right, Chris.  This is a corruption of his public office for private ends.  And that`s what he was doing with the foreign emoluments, bagging millions of dollars from foreign governments at the hotels and resorts. 

It`s what he`s doing when he spends federal taxpayer dollars down at Mar-a- Lago and in New Jersey and in Virginia at all the golf courses and hotels. 

That actually is the constitutional meaning of bribery in the impeachment clause.  It`s not a quid pro quo.  And I think we have got that anyway, but...

MATTHEWS:  Do you have 218 for this?  Because I agree with you completely, Congressman. 

RASKIN:  Yes.

MATTHEWS:  Do you have 218 for this to do it, if you had a vote next week or two weeks from now?  What are you waiting for? 

RASKIN:  Look, nobody`s counting votes at this point. 

Right now, what we`re trying to do is to get the story out to the American people.  We`re in an unprecedented posture here. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

RASKIN:  The president of the United States tried to use the military and national security muscle of our country to shake down a foreign leader, in order to obtain political leverage over an opponent, to get him to produce dirt on Joe Biden. 

That is an absolutely scandalous and untenable situation we`re in.  And now we`re seeing his mental state rapidly unraveling on a daily basis, where he calls American citizens traitors and liars and spies and uses profanity in public and so on. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure does.

RASKIN:  So it`s an alarming situation. 

I think that, before this is over, we`re going to have significant defections from the Republican Caucus.

MATTHEWS:  Really?

RASKIN:  Yes, on the House side and on the Senate side.

And they are going to be begging us to do something about it, because, you see, he`s an albatross on the Republican Party.  He`s going to drag their entire party down. 

Abraham Lincoln was our first Republican President.  Donald Trump could be our last Republican president.  He could destroy the whole party.

MATTHEWS:  Well, tell me about that.  That`s really news.  Congressman, that`s news.

RASKIN:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Have you heard -- have you had conversations with Republicans on your committee or elsewhere on the House floor that lead you to believe they`re ready to break? 

RASKIN:  I -- well, they`re certainly ready to break psychologically. 

They don`t know what to do about this situation, because Donald Trump politically has stolen their base from underneath of them. 

MATTHEWS:  Sure. 

RASKIN:  He`s still at 70 percent maybe in the polls with Republicans.  It`s going down, but he`s still got a majority of Republicans for him. 

But his support is rapidly dwindling and almost nonexistent among Democrats and independents. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  When I was growing up politically, I was watching the Watergate hearings on the Senate side.  They were on every day.

People become -- they knew all the characters.  People knew everything about it.  Then we had the House Judiciary Committee hearings, when they actually considered articles of impeachment against Nixon, prime-time television.  Everybody watched it. 

What opportunities do you have to get this before the American people, the full account of this? 

RASKIN:  Well, we think the whole country is watching very carefully.  We think that everybody`s heard about it, understands exactly what happened with this shakedown of Ukraine, this sellout of our Constitution and our national security, and then the cover-up of the whole thing. 

And people understand that what they`re doing now is trying to drag their feet...

MATTHEWS:  Sure.

RASKIN:  ... to run out the clock, while obstructing Congress. 

And your point that you started with is absolutely right.  This was article three in the Nixon impeachment articles, contempt of Congress.  You are instructing Congress in our role. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

RASKIN:  And Donald Trump goes way beyond Richard Nixon...

MATTHEWS:  Sure does.

RASKIN:  ... in both the underlying criminal conduct, but also in his attempts to shut down all access to information. 

We`re Congress.  We`re the people`s representatives.  We have the right to get the facts that we want. 

MATTHEWS:  Get out there.  You`re great. 

RASKIN:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Doing great.  Thank you, Jamie.  Thank you, U.S. Congressman Jamie Raskin, my congressman.

Up next: what it`s going to take -- what`s it going to take to get congressional Republicans to say, enough is enough?  We just heard something about that. 

The silence from the right so far is starting to sound a bit like cowardice?

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

It`s been a week now since a whistle-blower`s urgent complaint was made public.  In it, the whistle-blower alleged the -- quote -- "president of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election."

Well, the whistle-blower went on to detail efforts by the president`s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General Bill Barr to act as his personal envoys on these matters, these matters. 

Well, that very same day, the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, testified about the whistle-blower`s claims. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH MAGUIRE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  I want to stress that I believe that the whistle-blower and the inspector general have acted in good faith throughout, the decision and the recommendation by the inspector general that, in fact, the allegation was credible. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Meanwhile, a five-page summary released by the White House of a 30-minute conversation between President Trump and President Zelensky corroborates the initial claim. 

In it, the president places a condition on the sale of military arms, with President Trump telling Zelensky: "I would like you to do us a favor, though."

Yesterday, Ambassador Volker confirmed another aspect of the whistle- blower`s allegations.  During his nine-and-a-half-hour testimony, Volker told the House Intelligence Committee that Giuliani was acting on the president`s behalf. 

And, in that capacity, he wanted -- quote -- "Ukraine to investigate what happened in the past and apply its own laws," moments after discussing Vice President Biden and the conspiracy theories about Ukraine`s role in the 2016 election.

And now we have the text messages that further -- offer further evidence that the White House wanted to make the relationship with Ukraine conditional. 

But if that`s not enough, President Trump confessed to the misconduct right in front of the entire world. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Mr. President, what exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call? 

TRUMP:  Well, I would think that, if they were honest about it, they`d start a major investigation into the Bidens.  It`s a very simple answer.  They should investigate the Bidens. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  But despite all of this evidence, many Republicans are being asked, what more do they need?  When do they say, enough is enough? 

Stay tuned after this break to find out what they have to say. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Where is the line?  When are you guys going to say, enough, and stand up and say, you know what, I`m not backing any of this? 

SEN. JONI ERNST (R-IA):  OK.

So, with President Trump, I can say yea, nay, whatever.  The president is going to say what the president is going to do. 

I don`t care who it is, when it is.  Corruption is corruption, and it should be combated. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But it`s OK for our president to extort other countries to investigate...

ERNST:  OK, we`re going to move onto another question.  But what I would say is, we can`t determine that yet. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that`s one thing both parties are guilty of.  Whenever they`re in trouble, they say, let`s move on. 

Well, that was Senator Joni Ernst saying that out in Iowa.  She`s up for reelection this year -- or next year, rather -- deflecting a question, you could see her, from one of her constituents about President Trump`s behavior. 

But most of her fellow Republicans are choosing to do the same thing. 

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida tied himself into knots trying to avoid confronting the president. 

Let`s take a look at that.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION:  Do you think it`s OK for President Trump to ask China to launch an investigation of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL):  I don`t know if that`s a real request or him just needling the press, knowing that you guys were going to get outraged by it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Figure that one out.

One of the few Republicans to publicly reject the president`s behavior is, of course, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who`s dying to be president.

He tweeted: "When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China`s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it`s anything other than politically motivated.  By all appearances, the president`s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling."

Will he be the first or the last Republican willing to speak out? 

For more, I`m joined by a couple experts, David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida, Anita Kumar, Politico White House correspondent and associate editor.

Thank you both.  Thank you, Anita.

First of all, do you keep contact with any Republican congresspeople? 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, I say -- you say you`re not a Republican.  So, therefore, are they mad at you, or do they talk to you? 

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  Oh, no, they`re very angry with me, because I feel like I have been speaking the truth, while they remain silent.

And what you saw from Marco Rubio today was the type of shamelessness that we have seen from Republicans in the last two or three years.  They have lost all compunction to feel humiliation around wrongdoing. 

What you saw from Joni Ernst is -- if you are acting politically in this moment, there`s no good answer for Republicans, none.  And so you see them flailing.

You see McCarthy throw these crazy trial balloon, intellectually vapid legal arguments out. 

But if you act on conviction, this is a pretty easy moment right now.  But what we`re seeing from Republicans is, no one will act on conviction. 

MATTHEWS:  The interesting thing, Anita, is the president on different days admits it.

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO:  He does.

MATTHEWS:  This isn`t a mystery story.  This isn`t Columbo. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  He tells you what`s going on. 

He said, I wanted to get the dirt on my opponent in those conversations. 

KUMAR:  He doesn`t think he did anything wrong. 

I have been talking to a lot of people that are close to him.  And he said it again, that he would ask China, because he does not think he did anything wrong.  And so why not say it again? 

But, listen, I have talked to Republicans that are close to him.  They will say that it was a mistake, that it was stupid, naive, but they won`t say it out loud.  They won`t say it with their name attached, because they`re afraid of the wrath of Trump. 

MATTHEWS:  What about the -- what is the omerta about here?  What is the loyalty that`s here? 

Because we do hear Ben Sasse, who has been sort of equivocal, right, from Nebraska.  How would you rate his obedience on this? 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

KUMAR:  Well, I mean, on one side, you have him and Mitt Romney.  But it`s still not that -- I mean, they haven`t come out and said -- they have -- it`s negative, but they`re not...

MATTHEWS:  Where`s Susan Collins on this?  She`s up for reelection?  Where is Cory Gardner out in... 

KUMAR:  Right, but they don`t want to face a primary opponent.

And they will.

MATTHEWS:  Oh, so they`re waiting until the primaries to say something?

KUMAR:  No.

(CROSSTALK)

JOLLY:  Well, the senators in cycle...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I`m sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

KUMAR:  No, no, I was just going to say, if you still look, President Trump this week lost a little bit of support in the Republican -- by Republicans.  But it`s still pretty strong.  It`s still 80 percent. 

JOLLY:  The senators in cycle desperately need the support of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.  They need money for very expensive races. 

The ones I`m watching are ones that are not in cycle who have two or three years to recover from whatever their impeachment vote might be, as well as those who are retiring, Johnny Isakson being a good case. 

MATTHEWS:  Richard Burr. 

JOLLY:  Richard Burr being another.  Who knows?

MATTHEWS:  He`s so impressive in the way he carries himself.  But he hasn`t come out yet. 

How about Lisa Murkowski? 

JOLLY:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  There`s somebody who is gutsy.  That woman beat -- she loses a primary, comes back and wins the general.

JOLLY:  You know what may push a few Republicans over to take a harder look at this is anger, because, right now, they`re angry with the president because they can`t talk about socialism, their number one poll-tested theme.

And they`re angry because they can`t come up with a strategy for how to be the minority during an impeachment investigation.  The Clinton White House worked very well with Hill Democrats to be a strong minority during the impeachment investigation, even proffering at the last minute a censure resolution as an alternative.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

JOLLY:  This White House would never do that. 

Members of Congress and the Senate have to wake up to a new narrative every morning by the president.  And they`re angry about it. 

MATTHEWS:  It`s hard to keep up with his cover. 

Anyway, President -- former Vice President Joe Biden swung back hard at President Trump today.  Let`s take a look at him. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  All this talk of the president about corruption comes from the most corrupt president we have had in modern history. 

He`s the definition of corruption.  He`s corrupted the agencies of government, from the Defense Department, from the State Department, from the Justice Department, all about making sure that he, in fact, allows somebody else to pick his opponent for him. 

This is a guy that`s unhinged.  He is unhinged.  I worry about what he`s going to do, not about me or my family.  I`m worried about what he will do in the next year of the presidency, as this thing continues to rot on his watch. 

This guy, like all bullies, is a coward.  He does not want to run against me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  Well, what do you make of that, Anita?

KUMAR:  When you talk to people close to the president, the one thing they have in common right now that they`re saying over and over again is that, whatever has happened this last two weeks has -- has pushed Joe Biden out, that he`s not going to be the nominee.

MATTHEWS:  They feel that he`s collateral damage?

KUMAR:  They feel that the president, quietly, they`re saying, did things wrong, but they feel very strongly and positively that it`s not going to be Joe Biden.  They have already moved on. 

They think it`s going to be Elizabeth Warren. 

MATTHEWS:  David?

JOLLY:  I agree with that. 

I think Elizabeth Warren is the perfect contrast to Trump in two areas.  First, she`s smart. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  That`s for sure.

JOLLY:  And, second, she`s happy.  She`s a happy warrior. 

MATTHEWS:  She loves this.  She relishes this campaign.

JOLLY:  Look, Joe Biden, understand, when he launched his race, he came right at the Charlottesville issue.

And now he`s showing he wants to mix it up with the president.  Look, the president -- the vice president and his son were cleared of any wrongdoing and criminality.  But there are voters who will still see the Hunger Biden story as swampy, right? 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

JOLLY:  But, look, in this town, a lot of family members of politicians make a lot of money that they`re otherwise unqualified to do. 

KUMAR:  Like the president`s.

JOLLY:  If that was a disqualifier, Donald Trump wouldn`t be in office and half the Senate would be empty. 

MATTHEWS:  Anita?

KUMAR:  Yes, I mean, I just feel like it -- I mean, they are feeling very good about that one piece of it, right, 2020. 

They also feel good about they`re not going to get enough Senate Republicans to vote.  They feel that the House will go -- move forward, but there`s not going to be the votes in the Senate.  They feel strongly about that. 

MATTHEWS:  And I wonder if the Democratic left might feel very confident right now they can beat Trump with somebody on the left.  They don`t have to go to the center. 

JOLLY:  Look, I think this is a turnout election, not a persuasion election. 

And so I think Democrats can choose whichever candidate they want with whichever ideology and put them up against the president.  I think Democrats can win.

KUMAR:  Let just tell you one little thing, which is this week -- or after the inquiry last week was launched, the Trump campaign says they got 50,000 new donors in two days. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

I always wonder about the far out on the right especially.

David Jolly, thank you, sir. 

JOLLY:  Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Anita Kumar.  Great reporting.

Up next:  Will Congress do its constitutional duty and hold this president accountable?  The clock`s ticking. 

You`re watching HARDBALL. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)    MATTHEWS:  An abundance of evidence now sits in our faces that President Trump has been trading American interest for his personal interests.

The text messages show that the whole apparatus of American diplomacy knew the deal.  Trump would deliver U.S. goodwill if, and only if, a foreign government delivered dirt on his political enemies. 

The prime question now is whether the United States Congress will proceed to its duty under the Constitution and hold this president accountable.  Those opposed to a judgment will exploit, no doubt, every opportunity to delay and ultimately prevent a congressional verdict on the president`s conduct. 

The goal of such delays will be not justice or constitutional rule, but their denial. 

Knowing this, Speaker Pelosi is wise to keep the focus tight, on those presidential activities that clearly reveal abuse of power. 

If there is a member of Congress who believes it is legitimate for a president to demand dirt on a partisan rival as a price for administering his office and the country`s interests, that member of Congress should say so, and -- but let his or her colleagues render their own judgment as well. 

I`m confident that few Americans think it is legitimate or constitutional for a president to sell out his interests -- U.S. interests, in what`s now been clearly documented as a sleazy, desperate search for anything that could force people into voting for the incumbent president. 

What`s important now is committed action and a House of Representatives` schedule that gets impeachment decided while it can be decided, a drive that president and his allies will use every tactic to stall and eventually kill. 

That`s HARDBALL for now. 

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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