The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/23/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: November 23, 2016
Guest: Ben Cardin
CHRIS HAYES, “ALL IN” HOST: All right. That is “ALL IN” for this evening.
I hope all you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And everyone, let`s try to
be good to each other, OK?
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Because I know you are an earnest and non-
cynical man, it gets me a little teary. You make me want to be good to
other people, Chris.
HAYES: Let`s do that, OK, everyone?
MADDOW: I believe you. Happy Thanksgiving, Chris. Good to see you, my
HAYES: You too.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
I hope you that get some time off for Thanksgiving. And if you do not get
any time off for Thanksgiving, I am sorry about that. And I hope you get
at least time and a half for your troubles.
I feel like everybody I talked to this week, this week, week and a half,
oh, you`re getting any time off for Thanksgiving felt like seven out of ten
times people were saying, “No, I don`t get Thanksgiving off.” If that is
you, if that is members of your family, I am sorry. But I do hope you darn
well get paid for it. And in any case, I`m happy to have you here tonight.
OK. Ready? Here is a story. The South surrendered to the North. Robert
E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. That surrender
happened on a Sunday, April 9, 1865, Sunday. The following Friday on April
14th, the president was assassinated.
And when Lincoln was killed, that was just a devastating, disorienting
disaster for our country. And we`d also just been through four straight
years of staggering, going – ongoing rolling disaster in the form of our
Civil War. Lincoln was killed the same week that the civil war ended.
Three million Americans fought each other in that war. Over 600,000
Americans died in that war.
And then when it was over, and immediately Lincoln was killed, and the
country was exhausted and traumatized and still split, I mean, the South
was defeated, right, in its efforts to leave this country. What was going
on at that point is they were forced in defeat to stay in the country that
they tried to leave, to stay in the country that they had waged war
against. So, we are in this incredibly desolate time as a country,
discombobulated, tragic, uncertain. And from the bottom of that desolate
barrel, that was where we needed to start to rebuild.
And for African Americans, of course, the north winning the civil war, that
meant emancipation. In the most heavily African American part of the
country, in the South, rebuilding after the civil war, rebuilding after
Lincoln meant trying to create a whole new society in the American South
that was no longer a slave society, that was no longer a slave economy.
So, the task in the defeated South after the civil war was to make that
part of the country a place where black men and white men were both free,
free even to vote, free even to hold office. Of course, if you think the
South was going to go along with that idea at the time, you are nuts. And
so, after the civil war, the federal government sent troops to the South.
Not to fight the war anymore, but to stay there, to literally administer
government in the Southern states that had tried to secede from this
country and then waged war against it.
In 1867, two years after the war ended, 1867, civilian governments in the
Southern states were dissolved. They were removed and the U.S. Army came
in to run things instead. And they ran elections. And yes, freed slaves
could vote in those elections. And no, the traders and the secessionists
who waged war against the United States, those people could not stand for
office in those elections.
And those election series why we have all of these very compelling, now
hard to contextualize images of elected African-American public officials,
of state senators, state legislators, U.S. senators, congressmen,
governors, African-American officials at every level of government from the
Deep South right after the civil war. And from that same time, that is
also why we`ve got images of the Ku Klux Klan in full force in the 1870s,
right, fighting it all tooth and nail as a huge secret terrorist
organization dedicated to reinstating white rule in the states of the
That time after the civil war is just such an incredible, incredible time
in American history. It`s such a scary, such an interesting time. And one
of the most unnerving things about it is that for all of the things, all of
the things going on in American history that led to it, the slave economy,
the civil war, Lincoln and everything that his presidency meant, with all
of the things that created, that went into creating this reconstruction
period after the civil war, you know, eons of things that had to all happen
in the right way in order to make those moments happen, in order to make
the black elected public officials possible – out of all of the things
that had to come together to make that moment, when it ended, it ended like
this. It ended, boom, like it had been struck by lightning. And it ended
because of a lost presidential election.
In 1876, it was Republican versus Democrat, just like it is today. The
Republicans then were the Party of Lincoln. They were the anti-slavery
And in that presidential election in 1876, the Republican Party`s candidate
lost the election. He lost clearly by a quarter of a million votes. He
lost the popular vote by a lot. That said, we all know that the popular
vote is not how you win a presidential election. You win a presidential
election through the Electoral College.
But here is the thing. In this 1876 election, the Republican candidate
lost the popular vote by a ton, hundreds of thousands of votes. About 3
percentage points at the time. Lost the popular vote.
He also lost the Electoral College by 19 votes. Kind of.
The country was so nuts at the time, so riven, so crazed by our differences
and our resentments and our fear that in three states we actually have no
idea what their electoral votes were in the presidential race that year.
This was such a nuts time in U.S. tests they in South Carolina, Florida and
Louisiana, each party, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in
each of those states, each announced that its candidate had won the
electoral votes of that state.
So, like, when it came time to cast electoral votes in that presidential
election, the Republican Party in South Carolina stood up and said we
hereby declare that South Carolina is casting its electoral votes for the
Republican. And then, the South Carolina Democrats came out and said, no,
no, no, we hereby declare that South Carolina is casting its electoral
votes for Democrat.
So, what are you going to do, right? I mean, these states would not, could
not come to an agreement about how its votes for president should be
counted. And that happened not just in one place. It happened in three
states. That happened South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. They never
clearly cast their votes.
And so, what do you do? The Republican candidate in that election lost the
popular vote by a lot. Of the Electoral College votes that were clearly
cast that year, the Republican candidate lost that vote, too.
But you know who ended up being president after that election? The
Republican did. It doesn`t even make sense now from this distance, 140
years later that the dude who lost the popular vote and who lost the
Electoral College vote with these weird votes outstanding, that they would
give the presidency to him anyway? What?
They gave it to him anyway. And they gave it to him because the other
party, the Democratic Party at the time, they were so dedicated to Southern
racism, they were so dedicated to bringing back white supremacy in
government in the South, they were so torn up about how the war ended and
how the South lost, they were so unnerved by, frankly, these pictures, that
they made a decision that year to trade away the presidency.
Their candidate won the popular vote. Their candidate won the Electoral
College, with those weird disputed votes still outstanding. But they
nevertheless gave it away. They nevertheless negotiated a compromise in
which all of the disputed Electoral Vote, all of the Electoral College
votes where it wasn`t clear who it should go to, all those disputed
Electoral College votes, they made a deal where all of those votes would go
to the losing candidate. They would all go to the Republican candidate.
And so the Republican candidate would win the presidency.
And in exchange, you know what the Democrats would get? They would get the
Yankee troops out of the South. Here, Party of Lincoln. Sure. You can
have the presidency, which you did not win in this election. But in
exchange, the Confederacy gets the South back.
And that`s how reconstruction was switched off in the South, like somebody
taking an ax to a junction box. Reconstruction got traded away. It got
traded for the White House, which then went to a guy who did actually lose
that presidential election. He lost arguably in the Electoral College. He
lost definitely in the popular vote.
And that insane election, that piece of tragic American political history,
that bizarre moment in time, right, it really feels like it`s written about
some other country, right? Nothing like that could ever happen here. But
that catastrophic, bizarre election, that was the last time anybody
ascended to the presidency after losing the popular vote by as big a margin
as Donald Trump just has.
Hillary Clinton now leads Donald Trump by over two million votes in the
popular vote. She leads him by more than 1.5 percentage points, which
means the last time we ever had anyone take the presidency after losing by
this much in the popular vote, it was that insane race, emphasis on race,
in 1876 where they made a deal for.
They made a deal for it. Sam Tilden, the Democrat, won, but he gave it up
to Rutherford B. Hayes in exchange for taking the troops out of the South
and leaving the Klan reassert white supremacy in southern government. I
mean, it is weird that you have to go back that far to find a margin that
matches what happened this year. But that`s how far you have to go back.
I mean, this year, of course, there is not going to be a compromise of
1876. Nothing is going to be traded or bought. The Clinton campaign
apparently passed this week on a pitch from some academics who argued to
them that they should challenge and force a recount of the voting results
in a handful of swing states. It does look like the green party candidate
may try to fund the recounts now, anyway. But nobody on any side of this
expects any recounted results to change the overall winner in the Electoral
And so, now, we are proceeding with I think what has to be seen as a
lurking question in the background as to whether a popular vote loss this
big, a loss bigger than anything we have seen in 140 years, we`re left with
this question of how that hangs over this next presidency. I mean, whether
or not you think it should affect how the new president governs or how he
puts together his administration or what he perceives his mandate from the
people, whether or not you think should it affect those things, it is now
awkward not to talk about it, because we really haven`t seen a president
win this office after losing the vote this badly. We haven`t seen it since
the immediate aftermath of the civil war when things are so weird, even
looking back with hindsight of history affords us, things are so weird 140
years ago the last time this happens, it doesn`t even seem like the history
of our own country when we read it.
All right, that was not a good precedent. But 140 years ago is how far you
have to go back to get to something this big. And I`m saying this now.
And honestly, I`m putting it at the top of the show the night before
Thanksgiving because in beltway conversations, and sort of polite political
conversation right now, this has become already a taboo topic. This is
something that only amateurs talk about, right?
We are assured out of hand this popular vote loss by the new president
means nothing. It will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the
perceptions of the next president or how he is able to govern or how he
should govern or how he should be viewed. Be suspicious of anybody who
says that with complete confidence, because honestly, it has been well over
a century since anything like this happened. We really have not seen this
before in modern times. And we do not know how this is going to go.
Meanwhile, however, the motions are being gone through, as they say. We
got a Thanksgiving Day message from the president-elect today. We also got
another day of unusual news about who he wants around him in office,
including one of those choices I think that is getting funnier and funnier
as the day has turned into night and as the night has gone on into this
So, stick a pin in this popular vote thing. Her lead is now over two
million votes. It`s over 1.5 percent. That`s the biggest in 140 years.
And anybody who tells you that`s not going to matter, for sure that`s
definitely not going to matter doesn`t know what they`re talk about,
because we`ve never seen anything like in the modern era. Stick a pin in
We have a lot more to come tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Donald Trump proposed yesterday a travel ban on Muslims into the
United States. What is your reaction to his proposal?
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It`s just an embarrassment to the
republic at large and it is absolutely un-American. It`s unconstitutional.
It defies everything this country was based on. And it`s just wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You wouldn`t think somebody who thought that would then take a job
with the person who proposed something that`s an embarrassment, un-
American, unconstitutional, defies everything this country was based on,
and is just wrong. You wouldn`t think that a person who felt that way
would then take a job with the person who made that proposal.
But every day is a new day. And it turns out that`s not the most
surprising thing about South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley accepting the
new job she just took.
That story is ahead. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: He took a knife and he went after a
friend, and he lunged. He lunged that knife into the stomach of his
friend. But lo and behold, it hit the belt. It hit the belt. And the
Give me a break. Let me tell you, I`m pretty good at this stuff. So, I
have a belt. Somebody hits me with a belt, it`s going in because the belt
moves this way. It moves this way. It moves that way. He hit the belt
Anybody who has a knife want to try it on me? Anybody? It ain`t going to
work. You`re going to be successful.
But he took the knife. He went like this. And he plunged it into the
belt. And amazingly, the belt stayed totally flat and the knife broke.
I`m not saying it. He said he`s got pathological disease. He actually
said pathological temper, and then he defined it as disease. So he said he
has pathological disease.
Now, if you`re pathological, there is no cure for that, folks. OK? There
is no cure for that. If you`re a child molester, a sick puppy, you`re a
child molester, there is no cure for that.
There is only one cure. We don`t want to talk about that cure. That`s the
ultimate cure. No, there is two there is death and the other thing.
But if you`re a child molester, there is no cure. They can`t stop you.
Pathological, there is no cure. So, he is a pathological, damaged temper,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Pathological, damaged temper, a problem.
If the president-elect really believes that, watch out for everybody in his
cabinet to get like big fricking rodeo star belt buckles that like
definitely don`t move, because there is no cure for that. And Donald Trump
appears to be choosing Ben Carson, whom he once compared to a child
molester and called a pathological killer.
He appears to be recommending him for his cabinet. Now this is funny for a
couple of reasons. Number one, because of what Donald Trump has said about
Ben Carson in the past. Number two, because just a week ago, Dr. Carson
commented on reports he was being considered as potential nominee for
secretary of health and human services. Dr. Carson responded to those
reports and said that he was not only uninterested, he was unsuited to do
that kind of work.
Ben Carson told “The Washington Post” a week ago today, quote, “having me
as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water, quite frankly.”
At the same time, his long-time business manager Armstrong Williams flushed
that out a little bit to “The Hill”. He said, quote, “Dr. Carson feels he
has no government experience. He has never run a federal agency. The last
thing he would want to do is take a position that could cripple the
Now, see, that`s hilarious, because Ben Carson ran for president. If he is
a person who feels he has no government experience, he would be a fish out
of water in any government bureaucracy simply by taking a position in
somebody else`s federal government working for a different president, that
could cripple that presidency, Ben Carson would be so terrible. That is a
funny view to have of yourself while asking the American people to vote for
you to be president of the United States, running the whole government.
So this is not like funny weird. This is like funny ha! But now, tonight,
it gets better. Because tonight, Ben Carson posted on Facebook that after
all this, we should in fact expect a forthcoming announcement from the
Trump transition team about Ben Carson getting a big new job in the federal
But it`s not that Health and Human Services job that they talked about last
week. That might have made no sense to put somebody like Ben Carson in
charge of Health and Human Services. But at least you can connect him to
that field. He is a doctor. So, technically, that`s related to Health and
But that, even with that tenuous connection, that is not apparently the job
he is up for. What he tells FOX News is he is up for something entirely
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ll be thinking and
praying about it seriously.
INTERVIEWER: Has it been offered, sir?
CARSON: We have had offer, yes.
INTERVIEWER: And is it the HUD position?
CARSON: I would say that was one of the offers that`s on the table.
INTERVIEWER: What would steer you to take a job for a lot of folks say
hey, you have these ample medical degrees and one of the nation`s top
neurosurgeons. What do you know about doing this?
CARSON: Well, I know that I grew up in the inner city and have spent a lot
of time there. And have dealt with a lot of patients from that area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: By that area, he means that urban area of America on which Ben
Carson will now be doing brain surgery. He`ll not be in charge of doing
brain surgery on – I don`t know.
The Trump campaign has not announced they are picking Ben Carson to run
Housing and Urban Development. Ben Carson has kind of announced it. That
he has been offered that job and he is taking it.
Ben Carson has no qualifications in housing and urban development, and no
expertise in that field whatsoever. He has never worked in that field or
shown an interest in it. And by the field, I mean housing and urban
development, not just having ever been to an urban area.
But hey, why not? He did endorse Donald Trump after Donald Trump compared
him to a child molester, said he was an incurable murdering maniac. So,
after you endorse somebody once they said that about you, that`s got to
count for something. Woo-hoo!
The experience issue also loomed large today over another one of the
president-elect`s personnel announcements. And that was his nominee for
U.N. ambassador. The U.N. ambassador nomination has taken on sort of
unusual weight in this transition, particularly because it`s the first
personnel announcement made by the transition since what I continue to
believe is just their outrageously super-duper controversial decision to
name General Mike Flynn as national security adviser.
General Flynn is not a typical choice for a job as important as national
security adviser, especially a job that is designed to bring in all points
of view and fairly present the world of informed opinion on matters for the
president. Mike Flynn is not a person who, you know – let`s just say he
says that religion – the religion of Islam is a malignant cancer. So, is
he a guy who is synthesizing all views in the world and giving you a
centrist take? No. Islam is a malignant cancer.
During the campaign, Mike Flynn accused Hillary Clinton of being a child
rapist. The chief of staff of his consulting company, who is also his son,
regularly posts conspiracy theories and hash tags from the mother ship Info
Wars which says that the shooting at Sandy Hook, the shootings at Sandy
Hook were fake. The Boston bombing was fake. 9/11 was fake. President
Obama is literally possessed by demons. And you can tell it because of the
demonic way he smells.
That`s the chief of staff for his intelligence group, and he is leaving
that intelligence group to go be national security adviser?
So, after picking General Flynn as national security adviser, this next
national security foreign policy announcement has felt like it would be a
very important signal, particularly given what else is going on at the top,
right? This is a president obviously though who has no foreign policy, no
national security experience.
The vice president, other than sitting on foreign policy committee in
Congress has no other foreign policy experience, no national security
experience. The chief of staff obviously has no foreign policy, no
national security experience. The chief strategist, who apparently is
going to be at the same level as chief of staff has no foreign policy, no
national security experience other than his own time serving in the Navy a
long time ago.
None of them have any substantive, current foreign policy and national
security experience. And now, they have named their new U.N. ambassador,
and it`s Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, who also has no
foreign policy and national security experience other than the traveling
she has done to try to get business for South Carolina from foreign
countries. No national security experience of any kind. No diplomatic
experience of any kind.
In terms of being diplomatic, though, it should be noted that she does know
how to keep people on message.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
INTERVIEWER: Governor, thanks very much for coming.
GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Wolf. It`s a pleasure to
be with you. It`s a great day in South Carolina.
INTERVIEWER: Joining us right now is the governor of the great state of
South Carolina, Nikki Haley.
Good morning to you, Governor.
HALEY: Good morning. It`s a great day in South Carolina.
INTERVIEWER: Governor Nikki Haley.
Governor, good to see you. Do you any horses in this race?
HALEY: Hi, Neil. First of all, it`s a great day in South Carolina.
Whenever someone calls your department, we need to say, “It`s a great day
in South Carolina how. Can we help you?” Every person, not just the main
person. Every single person that is called, “It`s a great day in South
Carolina. How can I help you?”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: How are they going to answer the phones at the U.S. mission at the
U.N.? Like she says, every person, every line, every day, no matter what
kind of day it actually is in South Carolina, when you pick up that phone -
- she will now be America`s ambassador to the world, to the United Nations.
Dr. Ben Carson, if he is named to be secretary of HUD, he has no experience
in governing. He says he in fact is unsuited to the business of governing.
Betsy DeVos who was named by the transition team to be secretary of
education, she also has no experience in governing. We`ll talk a little
bit more about her in the show tonight.
Nikki Haley, who was just named to be our diplomatic envoy to the United
Nations, she has no experience in diplomacy, which is what she is being
hired to do.
How does that look from a historical perspective in terms of how
presidencies generally turn out?
Joining us now is the great Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential
Michael, thank you for joining us. Happy early Thanksgiving to you.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Happy early
Thanksgiving. What can I say, Rachel, it`s a great night here in
MADDOW: And it`s a great night any time I get to talk about Nikki Haley
getting a job like this.
Michael, the thing that seems surprising to me about this is I expected
that because Trump is who he is, I sort of thought he would make the kinds
of appointments that George W. Bush did when he brought in –
BESCHLOSS: Same here.
MADDOW: – all the gray hairs from his dad`s administration to kind of
reassure everybody. Yeah, I may not have any experience, but I`ll bring in
a lot of people who will reassure you. These don`t feel like he is
following that pattern.
BESCHLOSS: No, they don`t. And he kept on saying during the campaign,
elect me and I will look everywhere and I will bring in the best people to
do this. I would have thought he would have been sensitive to the thought
that as we`d been saying, this is the first president with zero public
service experience, zero military experience you. Would expect him to know
what he does not know and do, for instance, what Jimmy Carter did, who had
been one term governor of Georgia, although he had spent years in the Navy.
He brought in Cyrus Vance, who had been deputy secretary of defense.
Or as you said, George W. Bush bringing in Colin Powell, secretary of
state, who had been chairman of the joint chiefs, or Barack Obama not only
did all that, but he held over George W. Bush`s secretary of defense, Bob
MADDOW: Right, right.
BESCHLOSS: That`s what they usually do.
MADDOW: In terms of past president, not just past precedent, you know,
whether we should be worried, is there any hard and fast rule that history
teaches us in terms of whether or not experienced people are better at
these kinds of jobs? Are there track records that we should know about
where people came in who appeared to be totally, totally unsuited for the
jobs for which they`re being picked but it ended up being a nice refreshing
change, it ended up something where the president had more wisdom than we
can see from afar?
BESCHLOSS: Oh, yeah. It very much, you know, could be. I mean, Harry
Truman himself came in, had been senator for ten years. You know, not
great foreign policy experience himself like Franklin Roosevelt, but was
able to pick up the reins.
But the point is we`re in a world that is – we don`t need to say how
complicated it is. Barack Obama apparently said to Donald Trump you`ve got
to watch North Korea. That could be one of your first tests there is a
world of terrorism, everything that is going on in the Middle East. Donald
Trump is coming in as a war president. Not all presidents do.
And the other thing, through this campaign, he has talked about big changes
in foreign policy of the kind that we rarely see. Changes in NATO, changes
in our alliances, perhaps changes in what we think is a good idea for other
countries controlling nuclear weapons. And to do that with a team that is
as traditional terms unexperienced as this one is, it`s really amazing.
MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC presidential historian. I never like it
when presidential historians use words like amazing because it means we`re
in shaky territory.
BESCHLOSS: One precedent going after another, but have a great holiday,
MADDOW: Thank you, Michael. I really appreciate it.
BESCHLOSS: Be well.
MADDOW: You too.
I should tell you that NBC News confirmed something reported from “The
Washington Post”, which is that, apparently, since the president-elect has
been president-elect, he has only taken two intelligence briefings. He has
been turning intelligence briefers away. By this point, everybody thought
Donald Trump was getting a daily presidential brief. President Obama
okayed both Vice President Pence and President-elect Trump to be getting
the presidential daily brief every day.
Apparently, Donald Trump is not interested. He has done it twice. And
every other day he said no, doesn`t want to hear it.
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina was one of two women named
to a cabinet position in the Trump administration today.
The president-elect also announced billionaire Betsy DeVos as his pick for
secretary of education. She is fairly well-known in Republican circles.
She`s a big party donor. She served as former finance chair of the RNC.
She was chair of the Michigan Republican Party.
She is also one of the country`s leading advocates for school vouchers and
charter schools, which means her appointment drew scathing criticism from
public school advocates today.
She is also the sister of Erik Prince. Remember Erik Prince? That name
sounds familiar it`s because he is the guy that founded Blackwater, the
mercenary company that made a ton of money off the Iraq war.
Four Blackwater guards, of course, convicted two years ago and given huge
sentences for opening fire at a Baghdad traffic circle during the war
killing 17 innocent civilians. Those Blackwater guards went directly to
prison, but their boss is still very rich from the war. And he spent at
least some of his fortune on electing Donald Trump president.
He contributed $100,000 in the late days – $100,000 to one of Mr. Trump`s
key super PACs in September. And now, today, his sister was named as the
Trump administration`s new education secretary. It`s a small world, you
know, if you know the right donors.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: According to the law, see I figured there`s something where you put
something in this massive trust and there`s also nothing is written. In
other words, in theory, I could be president of the United States and run
my business 100 percent. I hope whoever is writing this story, it`s
written fairly. The president of the United States is allowed to have
whatever conflicts he wants.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: “Allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants.”
That`s in the audio that they released there is also this from the
transcript where they haven`t released the audio yet. This quote from the
transcript, “As far as the, you know, the potential conflicts of interest,
the law is totally on my side, meaning the president can`t have a conflict
of interest.” No such thing for the president.
Now, the president is not necessarily bound by the same conflict of
interest laws as other members of the government. Rules that say you can`t
use the government or use your office to enrich yourself. One of the
greatest barriers to that kind of impropriety for a president is supposed
to be the desire of a president to avoid the appearance of any kind of
In other words, the seat belt here is supposed to be shame. Shame is
supposed to guard the office from looking like it could be bought and paid
for. But if you are not affected by that shame, then – how did he put it?
Play it one more time.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: I hope whoever is writing this story, it`s written fairly. The
president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants.
This system was not designed for somebody who doesn`t mind violating the
ethical expectations around the presidency. This system is not designed
for somebody who doesn`t care if people know that he is self-dealing.
I mean, if you`re already using a dot-gov website to advertise your
properties, if you`re using another government website to advertise your
wife`s jewelry line on QVC, if you`re wining and dining foreign diplomats
and telling them that it might behoove them to spend their money at the
D.C. hotel that`s owned by the president-elect, if you`re interrupting the
presidential transition practice to take business meetings in the same
office with the people who are building your power in Mumbai, if you`re
bringing executives from your business into meetings and phone calls with
foreign leaders, if you`re using foreign leader discussions as president-
elect to press for specific business interests that will help your bottom
line, which he has now admitted to in the case of Brexit leader Nigel
Farage where they discussed Trump`s fight against wind farms near his
Scotland golf course, that is also the implication of the story out of
Argentina, where three days after he spoke with Argentina`s president, it
was reportedly announced that Donald Trump`s long stalled Buenos Aires
building would move forward.
I mean, if all of this stuff is already happening, if this new president
really does not care about the very blatant appearance that he is already
using the presidency, he is already using the office as a means of making
him and his family more rich, if he doesn`t care that we can see that,
what`s the solution to that, then? I mean, these are the types of things
we assume a president or a president-elect would hide the fact that he was
doing these things. And eventually some intrepid journalist would uncover
them and win a Pulitzer Prize.
But in this case, no Pulitzer. Donald Trump is not hiding this. Everybody
gets to report it. He is doing all of this stuff in plain sight, thought
the open. Those dot-gov websites are still up now.
I mean, if the Republicans decide that they are OK with this, the
Republicans are OK with this, and if Donald Trump is clearly OK with this,
then what? I mean if Democrats aren`t OK with it, what can they do?
We have a way to answer that next.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: I could run my business perfectly and then run the country
perfectly. And there was never – there has never been a case like this
where somebody has had, like if you look at other people of wealth, they
didn`t have this kind of asset and this kind of wealth, frankly. You know,
it`s just a different thing. But there is no – I assumed that you would
have to set up some type of trust or whatever, and you know. And I was
actually a little bit surprised to see it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: President-elect telling the “New York Times” that he has been
happily surprised to learn that there is no rule blocking him from if he
wants to continuing to run his business and the country at the same time.
Nothing stops him from doing that.
Joining us now is Senator Ben Cardin. He is the ranking Democrat in the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Cardin, thank you for being here, particularly the night before
Thanksgiving. I really appreciate your time tonight.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Rachel, it`s
good to be with you. Thanks.
MADDOW: So, you were planning on introducing a resolution aimed at
conflicts of interest between the president-elect, his assets, his business
ties, his ongoing involvement in his business, and his work as president-
elect and ultimately president. I – what`s the basis for doing that? Is
he correct when he says he is not violating any rules, even if he keeps
running his business?
CARDIN: Donald Trump is absolutely wrong. The Constitution is very clear
that all public officials, including the president of the United States is
prohibited from receiving gifts from foreign governments. If the president
owns business interests in other countries, it`s impossible to determine
whether the foreign government is giving that business a break, which would
be an unconstitutional gift.
That`s why every president has used blind trust or have sold their assets
in order to avoid violating the Constitution of the United States and the
appearance of a conflict. Donald Trump is just absolutely wrong on this
MADDOW: Now, what you`re talking about there in terms of that
constitutional prohibition, that`s the Emoluments Clause, and it`s specific
governments. The justification for that being in the Constitution is
obvious, right? You basically don`t want a foreign agent in the U.S.
government. You don`t want other countries able to use money to affect
decision-making of the presidency.
But what about his domestic assets? I mean, I`ve been struck by this
story, one of the stories in the last few days that foreign diplomats were
apparently brought in for a sales pitch that when they`re coming in to do
business with the U.S. government, when they`re coming in to plead their
case for the U.S. government and they`re staying in Washington, D.C., they
ought to think about staying at the Trump hotel.
I just imagine myself as a foreign – somebody working for a foreign
government thinking about going to meet with the new president and saying
oh, yeah, I stayed at the St. Regis last night, sir. It was very nice.
But those are his domestic asset.
CARDIN: Oh, absolutely. But that`s a gift. That`s a gift to the
president. That`s doing a favor to the president of the United States.
The framers of our Constitution wanted to prevent that type of influence by
foreign powers here in the United States. It is unconstitutional. It
can`t be done.
What Donald Trump continues to cite is the conflicts statutes that were
passed to make it clear the president has the authority always to act as
commander in chief and as president of the United States. But that doesn`t
avoid the constitutional prohibitions against gifts by foreign powers.
The only way, and the only way he can deal with this is to set up a blind
trust or to sell the assets. The resolution that I`m following in
Congress, Congress will speak to that effect. I hope Democrats and
Republicans will join me to make it clear that in the next 60 days, before
January 20th, it`s important that the president-elect avoid this
constitutional problem and take the appropriate steps to divest or set up a
I hope Democrats and Republicans will join me to make it clear that in the
next 60 days, before January 20th, it`s important that the president-elect
avoid this constitutional problem and take the appropriate steps to divest
or set up a blind trust.
MADDOW: Senator, do you have any indication that any Republicans are going
to be with you on this?
CARDIN: Well, we`re just starting conversations on this. I think most of
my colleagues in the congress, both Democrats and Republicans will be very
firm about the fact that it`s wrong for Donald Trump to continue to own his
assets and to benefit from foreign governments telling their missions to
use the Trump Towers or for a permit to be given by a foreign power to
allow the Trump enterprises to build in their country.
That is an apparent – that is a definite conflict, and it violates the
Constitution. I am very hopeful that this is not going to be a partisan
issue in Congress. We have a responsibility as the legislative branch of
government to be very clear on this. So, I`m hoping that I will have
support on both sides of the aisle.
MADDOW: Senator Ben Cardin, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee – really appreciate your time tonight, sir. Happy Thanksgiving.
CARDIN: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: To you and your family, sir. Appreciate it.
CARDIN: Same to you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Behold. Excellent dad jokes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After a long campaign season
finally turned our attention from polls to poultry. No way I`m cutting
this habit cold turkey. I want to take a moment to recognize the brave
turkeys who weren`t so lucky, who didn`t get to ride the gravy train to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We didn`t show my favorite. My favorite was the oh, yes we cran,
thing. You don`t even know the joke. Yes we cran.
We have a really, really, really good, really interesting exclusive
Thanksgiving story here to end the show next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: We just got some new news today on the eve of Thanksgiving. New
news about a family in Flint, Michigan, named the Browns. We met them back
Oscar Brown and his family were kind enough to let me into their home to
get a sense of the real life effects of the man-made water disaster in
their town. The Browns showed me their water bill, showed me how they were
paying still a lot for the city water that they really could not use.
Flint City water, of course, was contaminated with lead thanks to a series
of disastrous decisions by the state government after the state came in and
overrode local democracy and took over the town.
After we met the Brown family in Flint about ten months ago, a group of
local plumbers banded together to help them out. They put a whole house
filter on the water supply inside Oscar Brown`s house. But that filter can
only do so much with the wrecked system in the city, right? Even with that
whole house filter, they`ve still got water coming out of the tap that
tests positive for lead.
And so, the Browns are still relying on bottled water for many of their
basic needs, including bathing, including bathing Denettra Brown`s 4-year-
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENETTRA BROWN, FLINT, MI RESIDENT: The hardest part has been trying to
cook and bathe with the bottles of water. So, that`s been what`s been the
hardest part. But really, the cooking.
I don`t bathe with the bottled water. You know, I still will get in the
shower. But trying to bathe my son with it was – that was stressful. I
would take two of these and warm them on the stove. And then take another
two without warming them and balance it out in the tub. And then that
would be his little bitty water that he bathed in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Over the course of this year, the city of Flint led by their
mayor, Karen Weaver, they have begun this massive project of fixing this
crisis they didn`t cause. They started a house to house project of
replacing the pipes that carry this wrecked city water into thousands of
homes. Mayor Weaver announced this week that 460 homes have had their bad
service lines replaced so far.
But here is the news for Thanksgiving Eve. Today, the Brown family got
their turn. Workers came this morning to their house, tore a couple of
holes in the street, pulled out the old lead pipe that connected the
Brown`s house to the water main. They replaced the service line with a
brand-new copper pipe. So, now, the water that is gushing out of their tap
is no running directly through a lead pipe.
That said, the Brown family cannot drink it yet. They`re waiting on a new
round of testing. Even after the city some day will be able to declare the
water safe, I got to tell you, it`s still going to take time to restore the
trust of people like Denettra Brown who have been living with it all this
time – I mean, for half the life so far of her young son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: I think probably – we`ll probably try cooking with it. But it`s
like once your trust has been broken and token for so long, so many years
you`ve been lied to and say, oh, it`s safe, it`s safe. And then it turned
out to not be safe. How do you jump straight back into just using
something that was harmful, harming people?
So I think it will be a process. It will be steps need to be took first
before we just jump into using the water but I will let my son bathe in it,
It`s going to take some time to jump back in to start using the water.
This is something that has been kept – actually have kept people alive.
Sad to say, God thank it haven`t done that much harm to nobody in my
But this was a crucial thing. This was serious. And it was something that
was caused by, you know, the hands of another man. It`s a sad thing, you
know, when you can`t have access to clean water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Flint still has many thousands of homes to go. But it is
something to see people not give up, to see a city not give up after what
has been done to them, after they`re still having to fix this problem on
their own. But as you make your list of things to be thankful for
tomorrow, now that Oscar Brown`s house got new pipes today, it would not be
a terrible idea to think about a 4-year-old American boy, look at how cute
he is, who may soon get to take a bath in a full tub for the first time in
more than half his life.
This does it for us tonight. Happy Thanksgiving.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD”. Ari Melber sitting in for Lawrence
Good evening, Ari.
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