‘Hardball’ Goes DEFCON-1 Over Memo Causing ‘Constitutional Crisis’; GOP Putting ‘Party Over Principle’

In another sign of tension ahead of the highly-anticipated intelligence memo’s release, Thursday’s Hardball was in DEFCON-1 territory with MSNBC host Chris Matthews and his A-Block guests melting down over the “all-out war” that could lead to a “constitutional crisis.”

Matthews began with a grim mood, almost as if he were reading a script announcing the end of the world, declaring that “[i]n a year of all-out war between the President of the United States and the American justice system, this latest battle might reach a new height all together.”

 

 

“President Trump appears now to be ready for war with his own FBI director. It's over whether or not to release a partisan report dressed up as an intelligence document. It's authored by the staff of Trump's chief congressional defender, Devin Nunes. The battle lines are as clear as they are astounding,” he added.

After speaking for awhile longer in his apocalyptic tone, he seemed as exhausted as he told Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell (Calif.) that “this is extraordinary” and wondered if President Trump “understand[s] what he's doing here basically trying to crash into the very people protecting this country's security.”

In a follow-up, he insinuated that Nunes was betraying America and the Constitution, asking if he’s “working for the United States Congress and fulfilling his oath or is he working for the White House.”

Former intelligence official Frank Figliuzzi decided to flash his partisan credentials, hyping that “in the long term, they're going to come to regret this as an party” by releasing the memo. 

“I think it's going to irreparably harm in the near term and long-term the Republican Party. So there's many things wronging with this picture,” he complained before arguing, using fake news, that Nunes could have committed a crime by putting together the memo.

Meanwhile, The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand showed just how little daylight there is between reporters and liberal politicians, blasting the memo and criticism of the FBI as “contrived from the beginning because it was as if the White House was laundering kind of classified information through Devin Nunes.”

Going back to Matthews, the doomsday pundit told his panel that “[w]e’re going to talk about a constitutional crisis some day” because “[i]t seems to me the Constitution has always been turned on its butt” with Nunes turning the Intelligence Committee “into a tool of a President who’s playing defense.”

Matthews capped off the A-Block with previews for the rest of the show, including one wondering if Republicans would be acting the same way if Hillary Clinton were in Trump’s spot:

Can you imagine is the outrage from Republicans had it been Hillary Clinton who were president right now and had done the kinds of things Donald Trump has been doing and Chelsea. I mean, imagine, just flip it around and say suppose they had done anything like this. When you lay it out like that and we will tonight, it's staggering to see how Republicans continue to put party over principle[.]

Here’s the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s Hardball on February 1:

MSNBC’s Hardball
February 1, 2018
7:00 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: In a year of all-out war between the President of the United States and the American justice system, this latest battle might reach a new height all together. President Trump appears now to be ready for war with his own FBI director. It's over whether or not to release a partisan report dressed up as an intelligence document. It's authored by the staff of Trump's chief congressional defender, Devin Nunes. The battle lines are as clear as they are astounding.

(....)

MATTHEWS [TO DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN ERIC SWALWELL]: Congressman, this is extraordinary and I wonder, does — does the President understand what he's doing here basically trying to crash into the very people protecting this country's security?

(....)

MATTHEWS [TO SWALWELL]: Is the chairman of your committee working for the United States Congress and fulfilling his oath or is he working for the White House? 

DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN ERIC SWALWELL (Calif.): I’m afraid he never left the transition team.

MATTHEWS: They are not the same thing. 

SWALWELL: He never left the transition team just by his actions. He continues to work hand-in-hand to try and protect the President and that's such a damn shame, Chris, because we've always been a bipartisan committee. We travel to the hardest and roughest spots in the world to meet with our military and we've always just, you know, worked to, you know, keep our nation safe and he has — I'm afraid — destroyed that and he — it's almost irreparable now as long as he's there. 

MATTHEWS: Does he know he took an oath to the Constitution and not to one man? 

SWALWELL: I don't know. I can be tell you again his actions. His actions are destructive. 

(....)

MATTHEWS: I'm going to get to the goofiness of the entire Republican party led by President Trump to hang their hat on the goofy performance of Carter Page and the goofiness of defending him against any kind of surveillance as if all his years of Russian connections and his selling of his Russian connections to the Trump campaign and his involvement as an intermediary back and forth, God knows who he’s working for, if that's not worthy of investigation, I don't know what is in terms of this. We know the Russians screwed with our election. We know the Trump people were involved and we want to get to one of the people doing it. And for some reason, Chairman Nunes says that is man must be protected from surveillance. We must not know what Carter Page was doing with the Russians over in Moscow. I find it an incredible thing for the party that the long fought communism in Russia around the world has somehow decided they're going to go down on the issue of defending Carter Page and the role that the Trump people played with the Russians. Your thoughts? Frank? 

FRANK FIGLIUZZI: I think — I think in the long term, they're going to come to regret this as an party. I think it's going to irreparably harm in the near term and long-term the Republican Party. So there's many things wronging with this picture. Let’s just pick one or two. First, the testimony of the committee that was released by Congressman Schiff where they asked Nunes, did you conspire? Did you talk with anybody in the White House about this memo about drafting it? And the lack of response on that. I'm not answering any further questions. I don't know if anyone talked to the White House on this. This smacks of further obstruction because remember, the obstruction statute speaks to the need for intent and if you're talking to the White House about crafting this memo, when to release it, what the contents are, you're essentially conspiring to obstruct. Let’s pick one more wrong thing with this. If you don't trust your FBI director to deal with alleged misconduct involving an affidavit submitted to court, get rid of him. If you don't trust the Department of Justice Inspector General to deal with allegations of misconduct, get rid of him. They're not choosing to do that. They’re choose to do a dramatic release tomorrow in the form of essentially a press release.

(....)

NATASHA BERTRAND: The whole thing was extremely contrived from the beginning because it was as if the white House was laundering kind of classified information through Devin Nunes so he could then make it public and create a case to go after the FBI and the DOJ. 

(....)

MATTHEWS: We're going to talk about a constitutional crisis some day. It seems to me the Constitution has always been turned on its butt. We've got a chairman of a Committee on Intelligence which has historically been a bipartisan committee. It’s usually an even-even members. They're basically there to work together and find out if our Intelligence Committees are doing their job and it's been turned into a tool of a President who’s playing defense.

(....)

MATTHEWS: Plus, role reversal. Can you imagine is the outrage from Republicans had it been Hillary Clinton who were president right now and had done the kinds of things Donald Trump has been doing and Chelsea. I mean, imagine, just flip it around and say suppose they had done anything like this. When you lay it out like that and we will tonight, it's staggering to see how Republicans continue to put party over principle and back to the real world with the Hardball roundtable tonight and the reckoning coming for the Republican Party as they for an whatever historical reasons defend Trump in what is sure to be a collision with Robert Mueller.

(....)

MATTHEWS: Ken, it goes back to something we all understood. The Clinton [sic] family, I always them the Romanovs. They all seemed to move as family. The son-in-law Jared and they brought in the — I'm sorry, the son Jared, the son-in-law and, of course, Don Jr. and they all went in with the Manafort has all those Russian ties to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, the opponent and then they had it say we didn't do that because that seems sleazy, maybe illegal.

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