The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/27/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: December 28, 2016
Guest: John Harwood, Amber Phillips
ARI MELBER, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Good evening, Chris. And thank you.
And thank you at home for watching. I`m in for Rachel who is out tonight.
We have a lot on this breaking news here. The day after “Star Wars”
actress and longtime mental health activist Carrie Fisher passed away at
the age of 60. Her mother, as Chris was just reporting, her mother Debbie
Reynolds passed away at the age of 84. She is perhaps best known for her
role as Kathy Selden in “Singing in the Rain.” She was just 19 at that
time. She was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, notably for her role as
the title character in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
In addition to acting, she was a successful business woman and a
humanitarian. We have some political news in the show tonight, but we want
to begin with NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez who has more on this story.
GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight as mourners
gather at Carrie Fisher`s memorial on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, well-
wishes are pouring in for her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who was rushed to
the hospital. According to law enforcement sources, the 84-year-old was at
her son`s home in Beverly Hills when someone called 911 around 1:00 p.m.
This video from TMZ shows an ambulance leaving Reynolds` son`s home this
afternoon. Reynolds` career has spanned nearly seven decades, including
some of the most iconic films of the 20th century. She`s Hollywood
royalty, the first wife of pop mega star Eddie Fisher who divorced Reynolds
to marry her best friend, Elizabeth Taylor.
DEBBIE REYNOLDS, ACTRESS: I don`t choose well. I don`t blame anybody but
myself. But I just seem to have very pore taste in men.
GUTIERREZ: “Singing in the Rain” made her famous back in 1952, casting the
19-year-old alongside song and dance veterans Gene Kelly and Donald
REYNOLDS: They`ve been dancing 30 years. I was dancing for 3 months. So
I was hysterical.
GUTIERREZ: Decades later, her daughter would become Princess Leia. Hours
after Fisher`s death Tuesday following a heart attack, Reynolds thanked
fans for their support and condolences. “I am grateful for your thoughts
and prayers. They are now guiding her to her next stop. Love, Carrie`s
mother,” she wrote on Facebook.
MELBER: NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez there with a report on the passing of Debbie
Reynolds just a day after we were reporting Carrie Fisher`s passing. So
many fans of both of these actresses and leading ladies around the country
We are going to get to some political news tonight. But first in addition
to that report we just aired, I want to go to our Los Angeles bureau where
NBC News`s Gadi Schwartz is also reporting the story.
What can you tell us?
GADI SCHWARTZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just spoke with Debbie
Reynolds agent Tom Markley (ph). He has confirmed that Debbie Reynolds has
passed away. He spoke with her son a little bit earlier. Here`s what he
had to say, “She`s gone to be with Carrie now. She loved taking care of
her and now she`s gone to be with her.”
The mother and the daughter so famously close here in Hollywood. Many
people showing their support right now online. But obviously, Debbie
Reynolds, one of the most famous actresses of her time, mother of Carrie
And when Carrie Fisher was hospitalized, Carrie Fisher passed away, it was
a very, very difficult time for Debbie Reynolds. She was obviously in
mourning. We understand that she was taken to the hospital because of
shortness of breath. And now, we can confirm that she has passed away.
Once again, her son saying she`s gone to be with Carrie now and she loved
taking care of her.
Back to you.
MELBER: And you mention the family. Obviously, this must be quite a toll
on them when you think about a mother and daughter dying a day apart.
SCHWART: It absolutely is. But you also have to remember that this was a
family that was embracing of all their problems, all their tribulations and
they were also a family that seemed to embrace the humor in it all.
So, we saw that in a lot of the interviews with Carrie Fisher. We also saw
that in her mother. So, you have to imagine that both of them right now
may be finding solace in each other.
MELBER: NBC`s Gadi Schwartz in Los Angeles, thank you for your reporting.
We appreciate it.
Again, tonight, we can confirm legendary actress Debbie Reynolds dying at
the age of 84. We will update on the story as we learn more. This
happened, confirmed by NBC News just moments ago.
We do turn back to politics. You are watching THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. I`m
Ari Melber, in for Rachel.
And it was exactly 16 years ago on this day, December 28, 2000, when Bill
Clinton had 23 days left as president. And being the ambitious type on
this day he told folks he was still working on one thing to do before
leaving office, and that was peace in the Middle East. Clearly, that`s a
topic that tends to arise at the end of some administrations. And on this
day in 2000, it wasn`t going well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: A final push in the last weeks of Clinton`s presidency, but
Clinton`s demand that Israel and the Palestinians agree in principle to his
peace proposal hits a wall.
At the White House today, President Clinton clearly frustrated.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, THEN-U.S. PRESIDENT: We`re all operating under a
deadline. It`s just some of us know what our deadline is. Both sides know
exactly what I mean and they know exactly what they still have to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, that December, there was also a president-elect, of course.
And that day, George W. Bush was announcing his pick for defense secretary,
Donald Rumsfeld, reporters gathering there asked about then-President
Clinton`s Mideast effort.
Here`s how Bush used his voice to discuss America`s view on the world
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Would you push the Palestinians and the Israelis at this point
to conclude a peace treaty? Or would you allow the status quo? And do you
favor this Clinton plan, which in effect calls for a de facto division of
GEORGE W. BUSH, THEN-PRESIDENT-ELECT: We have one president and we`ll have
one president. And the current president is President Clinton. And our
nation must speak with one voice. Therefore, his is the voice that needs
Having said that, I will tell you, I`m impressed by his efforts to bring
the folks together. Obviously, we hope it works. We hope it works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Now, Bill Clinton`s last-minute peace deal did not work and the
Bush administration didn`t get much further on that front. Eight years
later, when Barack Obama was president-elect and he was asked about the
Middle East, Israel was three days into a ground invasion of Gaza.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, THEN-PRESIDENT-ELECT: With the situation in Gaza, I`ve been
getting briefed every day. I`ve had consistent conversations with members
of the current administration about what`s taking place. That will
continue. I will continue to insist that, when it comes to foreign
affairs, it is particularly important to adhere to the principle of one
president at a time, because there are delicate negotiations taking place
right now and we can`t have two voices coming out of the United States when
you have so much at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You can see the simple pattern here. A long bipartisan tradition
especially on foreign affairs where presidents-elect tend to stay out of
the fray because it can be confusing and in some cases even literally
dangerous for the U.S. to have two foreign policies appearing to happen at
And even on matters not as dire as war in the Middle East, presidents-elect
have generally respected this unwritten rule.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Clinton was a study in transition today attending a meeting on
the state budget, reading briefing books on how to set up a national
government. One of Clinton`s first problems may be an escalating trade war
with Europe. The U.S. just raised tariffs on some European products 200
CLINTON: I don`t want to comment on it. We`ve got one president. He has
to make those decisions. I don`t want to get in the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Bill Clinton there staying out of George H.W. Bush`s way, just as
Bush`s son would later stay out of his way, just as, yes, Barack Obama
would stay out of George W. Bush`s way and on it went.
So, it is that long history that makes the actions from the current
president-elect over the last few days so completely unusual. Past
presidents have declined to offer an opinion on the outgoing
administration`s foreign policy. But Donald Trump has gone farther than
that after the Israeli government contacted the president-elect`s team to
ask for help in blocking a U.N. resolution on Israeli settlements, the
president-elect publicly called on the Obama administration to veto the
resolution in a statement nearly identical to the one issued by Israel`s
Trump also spoke directly with the president of Egypt, which had sponsored
that resolution, direct interference, obviously. The U.N. vote even was
briefly canceled and for a moment it appeared perhaps the president-elect
was scuttling a U.N. resolution against the wishes of a sitting American
Now, that is a big deal on process regardless of how you feel about the
individual resolution. Now, the vote did happen. The U.S. abstained.
That infuriated the Israeli government.
And the president-elect took to Twitter to say this, quote, “We cannot
continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect.
They used to have a great friend in the U.S. but not anymore. The
beginning of the end was the horrible Iran deal and now this U.N. Stay
strong, Israel. January 20th is fast approaching.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, who is still right now America`s top
diplomat, and he will be so until January 20th, responded directly to the
president-elect`s tweets today in an interview with NBC`s Andrea Mitchell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think there are limits to what the
administration can undertake at this point in time. We understand that,
but I`m not going to get into a debate with the president-elect on, you
know, Twitter or whatever. It`s just not – I`m not going to do that.
There`s plenty of time afterwards –
REPORTER: Is it confusing allies and adversaries?
KERRY: I think it`s having some impact, obviously, on allies who are
questioning what`s going on. But they have their own policies. They`re
not going to be swayed and intimidated by a tweet. They`re going to pursue
their interests and their own values and that`s what diplomacy is all
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: They`re not going to be intimidated by a Trump tweet. John
Kerry`s actually telegraphing a lot in that new response. He`s waving off
Trump`s tweets as so much digital piffle and he`s saying that neither the
current administration nor serious allies are going to take Trump`s typed-
out slogans very seriously.
It`s more than rebuttal. It`s kind of philosophical and strategic choice
about how to deal with Trump`s Twitter alter-ego. And it might come all
the way from the top, because on the day that Twitter Trump was kvetching
and complaining about Obama`s approach to the transition, the president
took time from his Hawaii holiday vacation and called actual Trump.
Then, Donald Trump announced that call before the White House telling
reporters today – this was around 5:00 Eastern, that he`d spoken with
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: He phoned me. We had a very nice
conversation. We had a very general conversation, very, very nice.
Appreciated that he called.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: There`s a tradition of some circumspection about these
conversations, after Trump announced it, about a half hour later, the White
House released their official statement, quote, “This morning from Hawaii,
President Obama phoned President-elect Trump. Today`s call like the others
since the election was positive and focused on continuing a smooth and
effective transition. The president and president-elect committed to
staying in touch over the next several weeks and agreed their respective
teams would continue to work together to effectuate a smooth transition of
power on January 20th.”
Now, that`s official speak, but it`s Obama`s way of saying pay no attention
to the man behind the Twitter machine. We`re good.
And tonight, we can tell you that worked. After whatever Obama said on
that private call, Trump rushed out to tell the world it was, quote, “very,
very nice,” so the two sides of this same phone call coming out pretty
similar. The only other side to this call is, of course, Twitter Trump,
the man you just saw about your own eyes coming out and saying this is all
very, very nice and he appreciates Obama`s transition call and work.
He was talking tough on Twitter today, just this morning, apparently upset
that Obama had suggested that he could have beaten Trump if they had been
able to face off against each other.
Trump was tweeting, quote, “Doing my best to disregard the many
inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks. Thought it was going
to be a smooth transition. Not.”
Once you take a moment to get over the fact that our incoming president is
making a “not” joke, that`s “Wayne`s World,” I`m not even sure he did it
correctly, then you wonder what does he mean it was not a smooth
transition, especially when he was saying on Twitter the opposite. The
custom is we have one president at a time. And when you see Donald Trump
come out you get the feeling that that custom is actually alive and well.
But that`s just some of the time. On Twitter, un-chaperoned and shouting
out to the world and to the U.N. and to the Israelis, if Donald Trump
hasn`t been recently soothed by his newfound perhaps mentor, President
Obama, there are again suddenly two presidents at a time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He called me. We had a very, very good talk about generally about
things. He was in Hawaii. And it was a very, very nice call. And I
actually thought we covered a lot of territory. A lot of good territory.
REPORTER: Are you satisfied with the transition thus far?
TRUMP: Well, our staffs are getting along very well. And I`m getting
along very well with him, other than a couple of statements that I
responded to. And we talked about it and smiled about it. And nobody`s
ever going to know because we`re never going to be going against each other
in that way. So, but he was – it was a great conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: President-elect Donald Trump this evening, that was hours
basically after tweeting that the fact, in fact, the transition was not
going smoothly because of inflammatory statements and roadblocks from
President Obama, leaving some wondering which is it.
Joining us now is John Harwood, CNBC chief Washington correspondent.
Nice to see you tonight. And what do you make of the two Trumps and this
ongoing effort by Obama initiated with this phone call to be in his ear?
JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WASHIGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ari, what we`ve
seen with Donald Trump is somebody who has got a very strong ego and who is
So, when he reads an account of David Axelrod interviewing President Obama
and President Obama suggesting that he could have beaten Donald Trump in
the election, that feels wounding to him. He responded aggressively in a
tweet making fun of the fact that President Obama had campaigned and not
been able to pull Hillary Clinton across the finish line.
And then, he reacts to the Israel resolution at the United Nations and then
sends out those tweets this morning. Then, when he actually talks to
President Obama, he then comes out and says, oh, it`s fine.
You know, people have said that one of the idiosyncrasies of Donald Trump
is that the last person who is with him who speaks to him has a lot of
influence. There`s an example of that.
MELBER: Are you saying he has poor impulse control and is malleable?
HARWOOD: I don`t think I would be the first person to say that. Donald
Trump has not restrained himself from lashing out against people during the
campaign in ways that was counterproductive, that his staff wishes he
didn`t do. And you know, in the way this played out today on the
transition, Sean Spicer was on a transition conference call and was asked
about Donald Trump`s tweets and said, well, they speak for themselves.
And, you know, earlier, he had said in interviews the transition was going
smoothly. And Donald Trump later affirmed that in his own comments today.
So, it`s difficult to know from what one moment to the next what words from
Donald Trump are important. You know, one of his advisers said after the
campaign was, well, his supporters took him seriously but not literally.
HARWOOD: People in the press took him literally and not seriously. That`s
sometimes a difficult thing to parse.
MELBER: Right. As I was talking about before the commercial, both John
Kerry and Barack Obama seemed to be striking the tone that you don`t at
least take the tweets that seriously. You can dispatch with them or you
can reach out to the man directly. And there may be something to that,
something for a lot of folks to learn not only in diplomacy and politics
but certainly in the press. On the flip side, when we think about
parenting sometimes we say, when children can`t get positive attention,
they will seek negative attention because any attention is better than
With Donald Trump, he may feel that the tweet was a cycle of negative
attention but he got a call from the president. So, in his mind, this may
be all good.
HARWOOD: There`s no question about it. And first of all, attention is
something that Donald Trump clearly relishes.
And he – wholly, separately from this, he made very effective use of a
slow day in the middle of a holiday week by having Sean Spicer on the call
today say, well, later in the day he`s going to have a big economic
development announcement, then he walked out at the end of the day, he had
a phone call with the CEO of Sprint and made a brief statement saying that,
well, they`re going to bring 5,000 jobs to the United States because of me.
These had previously been announced as part of another event Donald Trump
had with a Japanese bank executive. But he managed to transfix a lot of
people for the course of the day on the fact that what`s this big
announcement that`s coming. It wasn`t that big. It`s not nothing. And
certainly 5,000 families are going to be happy with those jobs and another
3,000 from a different company.
But this is the way Donald Trump manages to seize the spotlight and hold
MELBER: Well, it`s bizarre. Talk about jobs. He may be saving Sprint`s
job, VP of corporate communications, if he`s willing to do their
announcements of things they already agreed to do, it had nothing to do
with him, just so he can stand there.
I`m sure it will work for some time. I`m not sure for how long. We have
an economist on later this hour to actually break it down and probe into
the point you raised, which is there`s documented evidence these are not
new jobs that relate to Donald Trump at all. We`re out of time, but
HARWOOD: And, Ari, this is fantasy football right now. Reality is going
to hit the new president and his team in the face when they come in, and
that`s when we`re going to decide whether any of these tactics work or not.
MELBER: Exactly. That`s sort of why we`re in this two presidents period.
CNBC chief Washington correspondent John Harwood, thank you as always for
Much more ahead on the busy news night. Stay with us.
MELBER: Quick question for you guys. Do you all spend New Year`s Day
doing that big family dinner with the whole gang, maybe the one uncle who
watches FOX News all day or these days reads breitbart.com? Well, if
that`s how you spend New Year`s Day, then, it`s in your best interests to
please stick around for our next segment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This year it is estimated $70 million of taxpayer
money was wasted on food stamp fraud. So, is it time to end the program
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It is estimated. Is it?
Now, that was FOX News just yesterday reporting on the use of food stamps
formally known in the federal government as Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance. FOX News sourced that $70 million fraud claim to the federal
government, specifically the Agriculture Department.
But the Agriculture Department has not put out any new information about
fraud. And we called them today to ask about that figure. They say they
don`t know where FOX got it.
Fact checkers who review these claims find there`s zero evidence that fraud
is at an all-time high. It`s declined in recent years.
Now, the Agriculture Department does try to track it generally. In 2013,
not exactly news, they said the program had a fraud or trafficking rate of
1.3 percent. It`s not exactly clear why this topic is arising now. We
know it`s not a response to actual news from the Ag department.
But Breitbart News, which used to be run by Trump White House senior
adviser Steve Bannon, just published its own article saying that food stamp
use has risen during President Obama`s presidency. That`s technically true
although it wasn`t linked to new data either. It also – it ignores key
facts. The food stamp use also rose under President Obama`s predecessor,
for example. The case loads do spike during recession and a number of
recipients has very broadly, but declining in more recent years.
But that`s just the numbers. On politics, there are two dynamics are at
play here. Making the program sound flawed so that you can try to cancel
it. And secondly, the effort to tie President Obama and liberals to
providing food stamps as if it`s something bad, a tactic that`s been tried
many times, most memorably by Newt Gingrich back in his 2012 run for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama is the best
food stamp president in American history. The fact is Barack Obama is the
best food stamp president in American history. That`s a fact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You just say it. You say it over and over.
Now, when Newt Gingrich was challenged on what he was really saying
basically in that claim there at a FOX News debate, it was very clear where
the Republican audience was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS: Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black
Americans should demand jobs not food stamps. I got to tell you, my e-mail
account, my Twitter account, has been inundated with people of all races
who are asking if your comments are not intended to belittle the poor and
racial minorities. You saw some of this reaction during your visit to a
black church in South Carolina.
WILLIAMS: You saw some of this during your visit to a black church in
South Carolina where a woman asked you why you referred to President Obama
as the food stamp president. It sounds as if you`re seeking to belittle
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, Juan, the fact is that more people have been
put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.
GINGRICH: Now, I know among the politically correct, you`re not supposed
to use facts that are uncomfortable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Notice there that the politician complaining about uncomfortable
political correctness is literally backed by a crowd that`s so
uncomfortable with the topic itself, they don`t even want that question to
be heard. Yes, let`s talk about political correctness. More broadly
Gingrich`s answer is a classic sleight of hand blaming a solution for the
underlying problem. When more people are unemployed or hungry, more food
assistance is needed. Just like when more floods strike, more housing
assistance is needed.
It`s quite the political feat to blame the government providing those basic
provisions for the underlying causes that made them a necessity. And
that`s just a point on policy, before you even get to the politics of using
coded language and race to drum up images of a welfare queens or rampant
food stamp fraud.
Now, if what is old is new again, we have to ask absent new facts or
government data, why is this all coming up again now?
Joining us is Joan Walsh, a national affairs correspondent at “The Nation”.
JOAN WALSH, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, why now is because we have FOX
News, which is awaiting a President Donald Trump by rerunning their
greatest hits. I mean, FOX has done this before. They did it under Obama.
They chased this idea of food stamp fraud.
But it goes way back – it goes back to Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan in
the `60s talked about young – strapping young bucks buying t-bone steaks
with their food stamps and everybody knew who he was talking about.
So, when Newt Gingrich talked about Obama that way, it`s a dog whistle.
We`ve heard it before. We`ll hear it again and we`ll hear it a lot under
But I think there`s one really interesting thing here. First of all, seven
out of ten states that are top food stamp recipients are red states. They
voted for Donald Trump. So, the politics of this is very interesting.
Also, most able-bodied adults on food stamps actually work as well. So,
it`s not just people sitting around, you know, lazy, flipping channels,
it`s really a crisis of the low wage job market that we`ve gotten ourselves
into, which Republicans have no solutions for.
MELBER: Right. You mentioned there`s a lot of this nutrition assistance
this states that went for Trump, those are the states we found with the
highest Obamacare enrollment. And so, what is the linkage, it may not even
be that the Trump transition folks are thinking about this policy strategy,
or strategy, but their punitive allies here are trying to paint the picture
of what these programs do.
WALSH: Well, this is what`s going to be interesting in the transition, but
also in the next two, three, four years, is that Donald Trump actually ran
against cuts to the underlying safety net specifically Social Security and
Medicare, but he didn`t rail against food stamps. He didn`t talk like a
budget cutter, whereas he`s going along with Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan`s
budget, as well as Donald Trump`s tax cuts, are going to require food stamp
cuts. So, we don`t really know what he thinks.
But we`ve got this tradition of the white working class sadly hating
programs that actually benefit them. Really believing – they`ve come to
blame the government for their joblessness or the fact that their jobs pay
low wages. So, they resent, even though they benefit.
And this is a weird conundrum for Democrats, that obviously poor Hillary
Clinton couldn`t sort out, and I think we`re going to be spending a lot of
time thinking about how to do that in the years to come.
MELBER: So, what do you want to hear from Donald Trump on the racial
component of this after the campaign he ran?
WALSH: Oh, he`s never going to talk about the racial component. He`s not
going to admit it. He`s not – you know, he would defend Newt Gingrich
from that. So, I don`t expect that.
I just think it will be very interesting as to which side he comes down on.
Is he a new kind of populist Republican who really wants to spend money
whether on infrastructure or a safety net, or is he going to not pay much
attention and go along with the people who want tax cuts, he wants that?
But also major, major changes to the cuts slashing the safety net.
MELBER: And if these are his messages and will he be their vessel?
Joan Walsh, from “The Nation” – as always, great to talk with you.
WALSH: Thanks, Ari.
MELBER: I appreciate it.
President Obama may only have 22 days in office, but today, he took a major
step towards protecting his legacy here at home. That`s next.
MELBER: All right. Check this out. These are the Bears Ears Buttes, two
land forms, each about 8,700 in height that sit right next to each other in
the deserts of southeastern Utah. Beautiful like barriers. These buttes
and 1.35 million acres of land around them have long been considered sacred
land to Native Americans and for decades, getting back to FDR, there have
been efforts to place this area under federal protection from any outside
Today, something you may not have heard about yet, in one of his final acts
as president, President Obama did just that. He declared the barriers
buttes of southeastern Utah and the Gold Butte in Nevada to be officially
national monuments, over a million and a half acres of land that is now as
of today under federal protection with the stroke of the president`s pen.
Of course, the question is always with things these days, will it stay that
way? Opponents of the monument designation are already asking President-
elect Trump to rescind President Obama`s national monument designations.
Now, it`s unclear if he can. That`s an unfolding story.
President Obama`s designation was made under a 110-year-old act, in 1906
Antiquities Act. And so far, no president has ever tried to actually test
another president`s authority under that. Will Donald Trump be the first
to try? Watch this space.
MELBER: Trump transition officials told reporters on a call today, there
would be a big announcement from Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I was just called by the head people at sprint and they`re going to
be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States. They`re bringing them
back to the United States. And Masa and some other people were very much
involved in that. So, I want to thank them. And also One Web, a new
company, is going to be hiring 3,000 people. So, that`s very exciting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That was the announcement. No economic plan, no real details, no
explanation of how this deal came, which raises the question of whether it
even is a new deal and whether Trump was involved in bringing the 5,000
jobs from Sprint to the U.S., and a new company named One World delivering
these 3,000 jobs.
Now, Donald Trump isn`t even in office yet but he`s pioneering a new type
of government rollout for quite small business announcements. Consider it
the PR version of corporate welfare. Trump makes an announcement on behalf
of U.S. company about jobs for U.S. workers. He ensures that he`s not only
in the headlines, but on screen, since he, not the CEO, is literally
announcing news and it draws coverage and it allows him to take a bow
before any of the details are even known.
Several weeks, Trump got to announce he, he said, was bringing $50 billion
and 50,000 jobs into America from a deal with a Japanese company, Softbank.
But in actuality, reporters demolished those claims revealing the
investment was likely destined for the U.S. regardless of who was elected.
In the case of Carrier, you may remember, Trump said he was saving, not
adding, saving 800 jobs that were going to be moved to Mexico. And then
with further documentation, we learned Carrier was granted millions in tax
breaks to keep a plan in Indiana, by the state government there, the kind
of deal Donald Trump had previously attacked politicians for plus, yes,
folks, we`re stay on the story, it turned out Carrier was still sending
many of those plant`s jobs to Mexico and shuttering a separate Indiana
plant and sending those jobs to Mexico, too.
Now, tonight, hours after Donald Trump was happy to announce those supposed
8,000 new jobs, again some demolishment. We are learning these are not new
jobs. They`re the same jobs from that Softbank announcement from earlier
This was just the president-elect repackaging an old announcement of jobs
and trying to tell everyone they`re new, like a hand me down stimulus.
Consider for a moment that studies have estimated Obama`s auto bailout
saved 1.5 million jobs. We want to be clear here so this chart is as clear
as possible. That is your comparison, 1.5 million to the 800 in the
Carrier deal. If Barack Obama was like Donald Trump right now and held
individual announcements for every 800 jobs he saved, the size of that
Carrier deal, he would have held one of these thank me press conferences
every day for more than five years.
Now, most presidents do have pretty strong self-esteem, but only Donald
Trump has the rapper level chutzpah to literally thank himself. Folks, he
just channeled Aubrey Drake Graham to basically say, you could thank me
Here`s the tweet. Quote, “The U.S. consumer confidence index for December
surged nearly 4 points, the highest level in more than 15 years. Thanks
Donald!” end quote. Thanks, Donald.
The consumer confidence index, of course, not exactly a pure economic
metric. It doesn`t rate the economy. It doesn`t have anything to do with
counting jobs or the markets. It`s a poll about how people feel about the
Donald Trump taking credit for a four-point bump in an economic feelings
poll before he takes office. That`s gone up, if you`re keeping track, more
than 80 points during President Obama`s time in office. We`re waiting on
that thanks Barack tweet from the Barack Obama account.
And it`s not just the index. Donald Trump would like you to thank him for
some recent stock market activity, quote, “The world was gloomy before I
won. There was no hope.” “Star Wars” tweets here. Now, the market is up
nearly 10 percent and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollar.
Now, we can report, we don`t think Donald Trump brought on the Christmas
shopping. We think it was Christmas.
But the markets have seen gain since the election. The Dow Jones is up not
a full 10 percent but a little over 8 percent since November. What you`re
looking at is now the recent gains in the Dow. That Dow gain there is a
steady climb over the last four years under President Obama.
Here`s the portion that Donald Trump is taking credit for, and he hasn`t
taken office. So, it`s not about his policies. He`s just showing up after
somebody else built something, and then trying to profit off their work or
trying to slap his name on the side of someone else`s building.
Now that you think about it, maybe Donald Trump has unveiled his economic
plan. It looks a lot like his business model.
Joining us now is Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities and, of course, former chief economic adviser to Vice
So, you were of this administration. We showed some of the numbers. The
point there wasn`t really tit for tat, it`s how small Donald Trump`s tat is
compared to this record. And yet, he`s obviously very happy with it.
JARED BERNSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES: Well, that`s
definitely a big part of the point. It`s really great that you`re sticking
with those stories. I was reminded of this comedian I once heard that said
I have the world`s greatest collection of seashells. I keep them on
beaches across the world.
He`s obviously making claims for a trend that he`s inheriting, a trend
that`s obviously as different as the one Obama inherited as day versus
night. Now, I was there in the Oval Office when Obama made the decision to
help rescue the auto industry. And let me tell you, there was a lot of
pressure pushing against him. He made that call and that bar chart you
showed is accurate.
MELBER: But did he go and make these weird announcements? I mean, this is
a very different style here where with a lot less, there`s a lot more
BERNSTEIN: Well, yes. Donald Trump`s noisiness is, if you had a bar chart
of Donald Trump`s noisiness relative to Obama`s, you`d have the same kind
of relationship there.
So, look, I mean, on the stock market, there`s an interesting thing going
on there. There`s a bit of a Trump bump in the market.
BERNSTEIN: And you`re right. It`s part of a much longer term trend.
But what`s going on is an expectations game. Trump is talking about
cutting taxes significantly on high income people. He`s talking about
deregulating financial markets. If that sounds to you like the George W.
Bush 2000 agenda that got us into that mess in the first place, I agree
with you. It sounds that way to me, too.
And there`s a very conspicuous absence between the kinds of policies he`s
espousing and the kinds of things what will help a lot of his constituents.
MELBER: Right. And Wall Street is pricing in what they expect happen that
will help them, separate from Main Street. He ran very much against Wall
Street. So, we`ll see where that goes.
The other question is a little more economic, metaphysical but I want to
ask you –
BERNSTEIN: Bring it.
MELBER: Is there something wrong with someone with incoming power, a
federal official, in this case the president, getting into this level of ad
hoc casual detail about which companies are going to do what while he
oversees a federal government, regulatory approval of deals? Is there
anything that concerns you about that? Or do you buy the argument from
some Trump boosters this is different, we need different.
BERNSTEIN: Now, I think there`s something wrong with this in particular.
What we often have and this is just the way presidents will always be, is
that if something good happens in the economy, the president is going to
take credit for. I don`t care who he or she is.
BERNSTEIN: This is something different. We`re seeing a level of kind of
micro management and tweet shaming China around trade and all Carrier play.
This – that`s not a systemic approach to the kinds of manufacturing job
promises that Donald Trump made. And the kinds of – those kinds of
interventions are very much at the level of micro managing specific firms.
And I don`t think that does end well. And it`s not characteristic of that
level of policy.
MELBER: And letting them off the hook easy if all a company has to do is
go along with spin for jobs they`ve already made a deal on and let the
government official do the announcement – well, that`s the easiest
corporate welfare ever.
BERNSTEIN: Exactly. So, Donald Trump like with the carrier thing, Donald
Trump talks sticks but someone`s handing out a $7 million carrot check
there. So, you also have to look very much at the details. So, what we`re
not seeing is systemic economic policy that`s truly targeted at the many
constituents who voted for him because they`ve been on the wrong side of
globalization, they`ve been on the wrong side of inequality, they`ve
experienced wage stagnation. Instead, what we`re seeing is an
infrastructure plan to give to investors and more of that sort of thing.
MELBER: Jared Bernstein, not tired of winning yet, I think it`s fair to
say. Thanks for being here this evening. We appreciate your time.
Much more to come. Stay with us.
MELBER: Back in October on this show, Rachel reported how President Obama
was bearing down and how he wanted to focus his efforts after leaving the
White House. He was interested in the structural democratic reform that
many people agree is important but tend to say is either too intractable,
too diffuse, or either too far in the weeds to ever be anyone`s national
We are, of course, talking about redistricting. Obama plans to team up
with former Attorney General Eric Holder to take what some are calling a
holistic political grassroots and legal approach to this, filing challenges
to unfair redistricting maps, targeting these crucial but often forgotten
down-ballot races that can determine who draws the maps for congressional
districts all the way down the road. The next rewrite, by the way, is in
So, we know this is President Obama`s big plan after he leaves office.
That had dribbled out. Now what`s new is we know who is going to lead this
massive ambitious effort. Literally the one thing President Obama is
saying he is going to focus on.
Now, that person is going to be on THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW tomorrow for her
first big TV interview about the big job. We think you won`t want to miss
MADDOW: You ever read those life advice books that say while you have to
go after your goals, the biggest goals often come down to timing?
Dick Cheney charted an incredible career path, going from a House seat in
Wyoming, to a hawkish military leader with stint at the Pentagon and
serving as one of the most powerful veeps in history.
The key to Cheney`s rise was his time as defense secretary. But as for
timing and life goals? Well, he wasn`t the first choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: With John Towers defeat today, the big
question is, who is next for defense secretary? Who does President Bush
nominate now? Lots of speculation tonight, but no announcement.
The vote against Tower went about as expected, 53 against, 47 for. Three
Democrats for Tower, one Republican against him. It was a historic moment,
only the ninth time in history that a president`s cabinet choice had been
rejected by the U.S. Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: John Tower was President George H.W. Bush`s pick for the Pentagon.
He was defeated. It was the ninth time as you see there in history, first
since 1959 when the Senate rejected President Eisenhower`s nominee for the
Now, only after the Senate blocked John Tower did the door open and the
timing become ripe for Dick Cheney. After the Senate flexed its muscles in
stopping Tower, it found no issue with Dick Cheney at all. He was
confirmed 92-0. Now, are there any other Dick Cheneys in the House
circling the Trump transition?
Well, that, of course, depends on how all the first round draft picks do in
the Senate. These are the president-elect`s choices for his cabinet. And
there is usually deference from both parties to cabinet picks on the idea
what the president ought to get to pick his team. So, cabinet rejections
by the Senate are really historically rare.
But there have been rejections of presidential nominees to the judicial
branch. One of those guys is a guy now nominated to be the president-
elect`s attorney general, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.
In 1986, Rachel has reported on this, he was not confirmed by the Senate as
a federal judge after the Senate Judiciary Committee reviewed allegations
against him that he said racially insensitive things as a prosecutor, which
he denied. A Republican-controlled Senate, though, effectively blocked his
And now here he is back up for a cabinet position. His confirmation
hearings begin less than two weeks from now. How hard will it be? And how
many other Trump nominees will actually have trouble getting confirmed by
the Senate, something that is so rare?
Joining us now for context is Amber Phillips, a “Washington Post” reporter
who wrote about the four Trump nominees that are potentially headed for the
Amber, what`s the scorecard?
AMBER PHILLIPS, THE WASHINGTON POST: Hey, well, yeah, like you said, it is
super rare not only for cabinet nominees to get blocked, but for members of
one party to block their own president`s nominees. The last time that
happened was in the 1920s in the Calvin Coolidge administration.
Donald Trump also has partisanship on his side, right? You only nowadays
51 senators, a bare majority to get through your nominees. Republicans
But there are at least four, maybe even five nominees that Trump has picked
that are just totally out of the box, and at least in a couple of the
cases, the Republicans have mentioned they`re not really comfortable with
them. You only need one, two, three Republicans to block a nomination from
MELBER: Yes, you mentioned that they`re far outside the box. And no one
is against thinking outside the bun. But when you look at Rex Tillerson
here, under normal rules he is up for a post where you normally wouldn`t
get tax returns. But given his business tire, some are calling for that.
PHILLIPS: Yes, exactly. Republicans like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Jeff
Flake all very prominent Republicans on the committee that would review his
nomination are really skittish about Rex Tillerson`s ties to Russia and
especially his sort of friendship, his buddy with Russian President
Marco Rubio tweeted, you know, after Trump announced Rex Tillerson, “being
a friend of Vladimir is not really what I wanted in a secretary of state.”
MELBER: And briefly, I want to get you on Jeff Session here.
MELBER: Obviously, the only one in that unique position of having been
blocked before. Where do you see that going?
PHILLIPS: Well, so senators tend to give deference to fellow senators,
right? Not only the fact – not only this idea that the president gets to
pick his or her team, but that you should give deference to your own
colleagues. It`s a decorum kind of thing.
But Jeff Sessions in some way is a mirror of a lot of things that people
are uncomfortable with in the Republican Party about Donald Trump. You
know, Donald Trump`s ties to the alt-right movement or his tendency to sort
of play up that movement.
Jeff Sessions` trouble getting confirmed by a Republican controlled Senate
in the 1980s because of statements he made or allegedly made about race
could raise some political pressure for Republicans to kind of block that
up, shut that out.
MELBER: And he has denied them, but other folks under oath pressed that
case. So, that`s certainly going to come up.
Amber Phillips from “The Post” – thanks for coming on the show.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.
MELBER: That does it for the show. I`m Ari Melber, in for Rachel. Now,
you can always email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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