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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 11/15/2016

Guests: Jennifer Rubin, Karine Jean-Pierre, Gary Gregg; Karine Jean-Pierre

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 15, 2016 Guest: Jennifer Rubin, Karine Jean-Pierre, Gary Gregg; Karine Jean-Pierre


Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, as Barack Obama landed in Greece and Germany, for his final trip to Europe as president of the United States, his successor continued making plans for the kind of commander-in-chief he will be. In Greece, President Obama warned about, quote, "a crude form of nationalism" taking hold around the world.

Back home, "The New York Times" reports that Rudy Giuliani is the leading contender to be the next secretary of state. According to "The Times," Mr. Giuliani appears to be lobbying aggressively for the State Department position, and Mr. Trump seems inclined to reward his loyalty.

Another possible choice for the nation`s chief diplomat is reportedly John Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations, a man who has called for bombing Iran.

The basic question is, what will President Trump`s foreign policy be? Trump made his opposition to the "stupid wars," as he called them, of the past well known. He criticized President Bush and Vice President Cheney for leading us into the Iraq war. And he called his diplomatic -- or Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, a trigger-happy war hawk. Let`s watch.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Cheney`s the one that started the war in Iraq! You talk about an extremist? I mean, Cheney started the war in Iraq, which should have never been started.

Had I been president, Captain Khan would be alive today. We wouldn`t have been in this horrible, horrible mistake, the war in Iraq.

Unlike my opponent, my foreign policy will emphasize diplomacy, not destruction. Sometimes, it seemed like there wasn`t a country in the Middle East that Hillary Clinton didn`t want to invade, intervene in or topple. She`s trigger-happy and very unstable.

Our new foreign policy will put America first. Now she wants to start a shooting war in Syria, in conflict with a nuclear-armed Russia that could very well lead to World War III.


MATTHEWS: Well, during the campaign, Donald Trump also laid out an aggressive policy of going after ISIS. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: I would knock the hell out of the oil areas because they`re rich as can be.

I would bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them!


TRUMP: I`d blow up the pipes. I`d blow up the -- I`d blow up every single inch! There would be nothing left!

We`re going to declare war against ISIS. We have to wipe out ISIS. These are people that chop off heads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With troops on the ground?

TRUMP: I am going to have very few troops on the ground. We are going to have unbelievable intelligence, which we need, which right now, we don`t have.

Now you have ISIS, and others, but you have ISIS cutting off Christians` heads, and others. They cut off anybody`s head. They`re drowning them. They`re cutting off their heads. We have to go in with force. We have to take the oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are we going to take the oil? How are we going to do that?

TRUMP: You just, you know, would leave a certain group behind, and you would take various sections where they have the oil.


MATTHEWS: Anyway, so which will it be, an "America first" policy or four years of bombing the you-know-what out of them? Anyway, his choice of secretary of state will be a telling fact.

Joining me right now is HuffingtonPost global editorial director Howard Fineman, also an MSNBC political analyst, and "Washington Post" opinion writer Jennifer Rubin.

Jennifer, I`m going to start with you on this. I have to admit, as a somewhat dovish guy -- I`m not a pacifist, but I am dovish -- that he was tickling my erogenous zones when he was saying that Hillary Clinton was trigger-happy, we`re getting into every war, that people like Cheney couldn`t find a country they didn`t want to go to war with in the Middle East. And yet he wants to kick the what out of -- the crap, I guess I can say, out of ISIS.

Does that mean he wants to keep Assad? I mean, how do you read him as a hawk versus dove? Where do you put him on that spectrum, Donald Trump?

JENNIFER RUBIN, "WASHINGTON POST": I think it`s a mistake to think he has an idea of what he wants to do. This is a guy who works off of emotion. This is a guy who works off of impulse. He wants to hit the bad guys and make America great. The details, he`s not so clear on.

And that`s why you have things that are completely inconsistent with one another. You`re exactly right, Chris. On one hand, he doesn`t want to get into wars. On the other hand, he wants to waterboard and do worse, whatever that is. He wants to buddy up to Putin, but on the other hand, he wants to be good to our allies in Europe.

It`s all in a mishmash because he hasn`t really ever thought these things through.

MATTHEWS: Yes. And where it really comes out as a switcheroo is, if you`re against the Iraq war, you tend to be somebody who would support the Iran deal on nuclear, but he opposes the Iran deal with -- the nuclear deal with Iran and he opposed the Iraq war. I mean, he`s not confident of either policy of trying to avoid war or wanting a war. What is he?

HOWARD FINEMAN, HUFFINGTON POST GLOBAL EDITORIAL DIR., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it`s a total contradiction. I think he goes on a case-my- case basis.

MATTHEWS: OK, he`s got to...


FINEMAN: ... that he`s without any thoughts on any of this stuff. I think to the extent he does examine them, he looks at them case by case. And what he looks at in Iran is a bad deal. In other words, he`s the "Art of the Deal" guy.


FINEMAN: He says, I can get a better deal. And that`s why President Obama said yesterday in his press conference, You know what? So far, it`s working. Even the Israelis are saying it`s working. Don`t mess with it, Donald.


FINEMAN: Well, we`ll see. You tell Donald not to mess with it -- excuse me, President-elect Trump -- and he will mess with it.

MATTHEWS: Well, what about -- let`s go -- let`s do -- you know, I find myself rooting for the strangest people in this election.


MATTHEWS: I`m for Reince Priebus, all of a sudden, and Steve Bannon...


FINEMAN: ... whose name has never been taken in vain...


MATTHEWS: I`m rooting for Rudy against Bolton to get -- I mean, Biden would say, every sentence has the word 9/11 in it. But Bolton has said he`s going to -- he wanted to bomb Iran around the nuclear sites, totally for the Iraq war. How can he -- how can -- doesn`t Rudy in the interview for secretary of state say, Where were you on Iraq? I was for it. Where were you on the deal? Well, I`m for bombing Iran.

Doesn`t he ever ask questions before he picks these guys, or he just likes loyalty?

RUBIN: He just likes loyalty. And that`s what a lot of this is about. You know, Rudy is no walk in the park, either.


RUBIN: This is a guy whose temperament is probably worse than John Bolton. In fact, it is worse than John Bolton.

MATTHEWS: I`ve said it`s becoming a "revoltin` development" for me!

RUBIN: Yes. So you know, listen, Rudy also -- he has no idea what he`s doing! He`s never had any national security policy. We thinks he`s Mr. National Security because he was mayor of New York when we were hit. He hasn`t done this job or anything (INAUDIBLE)


FINEMAN: Well, his international business in recent years has involved some security stuff. I`m talking about Rudy. So he would know something about the global security situation.

But the fact is, if you talk to diplomats here, which I`ve been doing all day, they express a few concerns. Number one, if -- they`re worried, their security attaches are worried that Donald Trump is going to be so close to Vladimir Putin that anything Donald Trump learns, Vladimir Putin`s going to learn. They`re learning about security leaks from the people around Trump over to Russia. That`s number one.

Number two, Trump is pursuing a foreign policy already that doesn`t have anything to do with the official governments of the countries they`re supposed to be dealing with. He invited Nigel Farage, the head of the rejectionist movement in Britain, over to the United States. They were together on Saturday night. He`s got direct links to Marine Le Pen in France, so...

MATTHEWS: All the nationalists.

FINEMAN: All the nationalists. So he`s running a foreign policy that`s outside of the box! Typical Donald Trump, outside the box.

MATTHEWS: And the super-nationalist, of course, Vladimir Putin. He was on the phone with him yesterday. According to Trump`s camp, the two talked about, quote, "having a strong and enduring relationship."

Well, today, somebody didn`t like that. Senator John McCain seemed to warn the president-elect not to work with Putin. This is from McCain, who just got reelected.

"With the United States presidential transition under way, Vladimir Putin has said in recent days that he wants to improve relations with the United States. We should place as much faith in such statements as any other made by a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny, murdered his political opponents, invaded his neighbors, threatened America`s allies and attempted to undermine America`s elections. At the very least, the price of another reset with Putin would be complicity in Putin and Assad`s butchery of the Syrian people. That is an unacceptable" -- now, clearly, one thing we know about Rudy Giuliani, and I may be a nuance different than you, Jennifer on this.

He says the only way we`re going to deal with the Assad situation in Syria, which is all part of this fighting ISIS, is to cut a deal with Russia, use their influence with Assad to somehow find our way to creating a state there.

My belief is you`re going to have to do something like what Biden did -- proposed in Iraq, some kind of sectarian breakup of the country, where the Kurds get their own piece of the world, the Sunnis get their piece, the Shia get their piece.

You have to do something like that with the royal family of Assad, give them, the Alawites, some little canton where they can live happily and free the rest of the country to be Sunni.

Now, maybe that`s too complicated, but maybe the Russians can make that happen and it will end the bloodbath.

RUBIN: This is...

MATTHEWS: It can be done.

RUBIN: This is absurd because that`s what President Obama has been trying to do, use Russia to cut a deal with Assad. It doesn`t work because these people do not have the interest in...

MATTHEWS: But maybe there...

RUBIN: ... removing Assad.

MATTHEWS: Maybe there has to be a more sophisticated approach, which is, We`re beginning to break up the country.

RUBIN: Well, this is the...

MATTHEWS: Assad`s never going to...


FINEMAN: OK, but then the question becomes, Chris, what do we give Putin in return for that great favor? Do we give him the Baltic states? Do we go easy on NATO in Europe?

This is what the people I talked to today, the diplomats from Europe, were saying. They`re worried -- you know, supposedly, the president went over there -- oddly enough, the sitting president goes over to Europe to reassure European allies...

MATTHEWS: Right now.

FINEMAN: ... that the incoming president is OK with NATO. Yes, NATO, maybe. But what about the European Union? What about defending the eastern flank of NATO and so on? I mean, Vladimir Putin -- he knows something about the art of the deal, too. What`s he going to want...

MATTHEWS: What`s he want?

FINEMAN: What`s he going to want...

MATTHEWS: Does he want the Baltic states?

FINEMAN: He wants freedom to do what he wants in the Baltic and Eastern Europe.

MATTHEWS: OK. When it comes to Syria, Donald Trump`s approach seems radically different than President Obama and most Republican leaders. Let`s watch.


TRUMP: If Putin wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it 100 percent, and I can`t understand how anybody would be against it.

I`ve been looking at the different players, and I`ve been watching Assad, and I`ve been pretty good at this stuff over the years because deals are people. And I`m looking at Assad and saying maybe he`s better than the kind of people that we`re supposed to be backing.

Now it`s such a mess over there with everybody involved -- and the air space is very limited. You know, it`s not that big an area. The air space is very limited. So you know, you have -- what, are we going to start World War III over Syria?


MATTHEWS: I do think Hillary Clinton had a rather tricky policy of -- you know, she was going to protect the air space over -- protect certain areas of Syria from bombing, no-fly-zone. If you have Russian planes involved -- you know, we`ve spent since 1945 avoiding a war with Russia. I`m with that.

Let`s talk about the two selections. I want to know who you`re for. Give away your hand here, Jen, because I read you in "The Washington Post."


MATTHEWS: You`re a hawk. Fair enough.

RUBIN: Right.

MATTHEWS: What do you -- do you want John Bolton to be secretary of state?

RUBIN: I think between those two, absolutely. I don`t even...

MATTHEWS: You want Bolton.

RUBIN: Why Bolton? Because...

MATTHEWS: I`m saying you want Bolton.

RUBIN: Because, number one, he`s at least been in a position of national security authority. Number two, he is a much more stable, personally stable and sane individual. Number three...

MATTHEWS: Does that look stable, what you`re looking at right now?

RUBIN: Well, you know, listen...


RUBIN: We`re talking about degrees.

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, I...

RUBIN: Aren`t we, Chris?


RUBIN: The other problem is Rudy has his own foreign slushes and messes. You alluded to it earlier, Howard. He barely made it, you know, through a few months of the 2008 campaign. There`s a fabulous interview, Tim -- the late, great Tim Russert, in 2007, really ripping Rudy, shred by shred, over his foreign connections to Hugo Chavez, to the Qataris, to the whole slew of them. This is not draining the swamp, this is imploding, this is expanding the swamp.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I wonder -- I`m not sure city (ph) oil is going to get him in trouble, though.

FINEMAN: No, I don`t think so. But the point I would take from this is that it seems that nothing that Donald Trump is going to do as he puts together his cabinet and his team is going to resemble anything we`ve seen by way of the traditional markers of people who hold high positions. And why should we be surprised?


FINEMAN: Nothing he did in the campaign was by the book. And nothing he`s going to do in this round is going to be by the book, either.

MATTHEWS: So we should think of the bar scene in "Star Wars."


FINEMAN: Well...


FINEMAN: ... I mean, they had a thing going there.


FINEMAN: They seemed to be enjoying themselves.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, I`m still hopeful somebody like Bob Corker is still on the list for secretary of state. That would be profound and brilliant.

Anyway, thank you, Howard Fineman -- he`s senior, top guy on Foreign Relations -- Jennifer Rubin. He wouldn`t be a hawk, thought. You wouldn`t like him. But you know, he might be good for us.

Coming up -- for me. Anyway, it may be small consolation, but Hillary Clinton`s lead in the popular vote is growing, and that`s fueling some conservatives (ph) to call for an end to the Electoral College. Even Donald Trump`s tweeting about it. But could it ever change? I don`t think you can change the Electoral College. The small states will keep it. You`re never going to get three quarters of states in a constitutional amendment. But we`ll see. It`s making a lot of people unhappy.

Plus, chaos in Trump-land. One report called the Trump transition team a knife fight right now. What`s going on right now inside Trump Tower is going to have a big effect on Trump`s presidency. I`d like to see that. I wish we had cameras in there! I want to see these people duking it out or knifing it out.

And with President Obama overseas, how nervous are our allies over President Trump? Apparently, according to Howard, who talked to all the ambassadors today, quite.

Anyway, the HARDBALL roundtable tackles that question of whether Trump even has a concrete plan for foreign -- we got thoughts here.

Finally, "Let Me Finish" with Trump watch.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Late today, outgoing Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid took to the Senate floor and launched a blistering attack on Donald Trump.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: Many of our fellow Americans believe that Trump`s election validates the kind of bullying, aggressive behavior Trump modeled on a daily basis. If we fail to hold Trump accountable, we all bear a measure (ph) of responsibility for normalizing his behavior.

So I say to Donald Trump, take responsibility. Rise to the dignity of the office of president of the United States. Stop hiding behind your Twitter account and show America that racism, bullying and bigotry have no place in the White House or in America.


MATTHEWS: Well, Democratic leader Reid also urged Trump to yank back his appointment of Steve Bannon as chief White House strategist, calling Bannon a champion of white supremacists.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Hillary Clinton`s popular vote lead over Donald Trump is growing, high. As of today, she now leads Trump by nearly 800,000 votes nationwide, and that number is likely to climb much higher.

This has some wondering why the popular vote and not the electoral vote isn`t the ultimate factor that decides the outcome of our presidential elections. Well, protests have been out there taking place across the country. Obviously, they`re all over the place, voicing their dissent over the results of the election.

Donald Trump himself even has reservations, if you apply that word to him, about the Electoral College. Here`s what Trump told Lesley Stahl on Sunday night on "60 Minutes."


LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES": Now, for months, you were running around saying that the system is rigged. The whole thing was rigged. You tweeted once that the Electoral College is a disaster for democracy.

TRUMP: I do.

STAHL: So do you still think it`s rigged?

TRUMP: Well, I think the Electoral College -- look, I won with the Electoral College.

STAHL: Exactly. But do you think it`s rigged?

TRUMP: Yes, some of the election locations are. Some of the system is.

STAHL: Even though you won, you`re saying that?

TRUMP: Well, I mean, I`m not going to change my mind just because I won. But I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes and you win.

There`s a reason for doing this because it brings all the states into play, the Electoral College, and there`s something very good about that. But this is a different system, but I respect it. I do respect the system.


MATTHEWS: Well, four years ago, when it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the 2012 popular vote but lose the Electoral College to President Obama, Trump tweeted, "He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country." Sounds like Bernie Sanders. Revolution! Well, that tweet was deleted, of course.

After that election, Trump tweeted this. "This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy. The Electoral College is a disaster for democracy."

But today, Trump was back on Twitter responding to the critics of the Electoral College system. He tweeted, "If the election were based on total popular vote, I would have campaigned in New York, Florida and California and won even bigger and more easily." And now he says the Electoral College is actually genius, in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different.

Well, anyway, California senator Barbara Boxer released a statement today saying she will introduce legislation when the Senate comes back into session today to eliminate the Electoral College, calling it "an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society and it needs to change immediately. Every American should be guaranteed that their vote counts."

But can and should anything be done? I don`t think you can pass a law to change the Electoral College. It`s constitutional. Karine Jean-Pierre is a senior adviser and national spokesperson for and Gary Gregg is the director of the University of Louisville`s McConnell Center and author of "Securing Democracy: Why We Have an Electoral College."

Thank you, Gary, for taking the unpopular position tonight. Somebody has to be in the barrel, basically, and you`re in there.


MATTHEWS: Let me -- let me ask...


MATTHEWS: Make the case why we need -- why it`s good for this country that we have an Electoral College, rather than popular vote.

GREGG: Look, it works, Chris.

We get presidents. We get presidents with limited controversy 99 percent of the time. We`re not fighting in courthouses across this country recounting in precincts. We had a diverse population that got to weigh in, not just major cities, but those rural people out in Western Pennsylvania and Iowa and Ohio.

It works. It gives us a broad-based democratic, because this is Democratic, in the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. It gives us presidents and ultimately good government, because everyone across the fruited plain had a chance to participate and will feel like they participated in this election.

MATTHEWS: Well, here are people that won`t be happy. This explains what Barbara Boxer said what she did in the Senate, because, if you look at California, Clinton won by 2.9 million votes out there. Those votes don`t count, really.

And New York went by 1.5 million votes. You look at the power of those big states almost made irrelevant, because all those numbers don`t count. They won. Clinton won them, but didn`t get the benefit of all those numbers.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MOVEON.ORG: Yes, I think that`s right, Chris.

I think the idea, the democratic idea...

MATTHEWS: No, I`m right about why those states should be mad. I don`t know what I think about this whole...

JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, OK. Well...

MATTHEWS: We have the Electoral College. There`s not much we can do about it. That`s where I`m at.

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, here`s the thing. It`s not -- you`re right. It`s going to be very difficult to change that, because you need a constitutional amendment. A law is not going to change it.

MATTHEWS: The little states will never go along with it, will they?

JEAN-PIERRE: And I agree. Little states will never go along with it.

But there`s also -- you can debunk that statement, too, because people have said, oh, you know what, Electoral College, you needed it because big states were going to win over little states.

But if you look at the history, most presidents have come from big states. There`s only been three presidents that have come from small states, one including Bill Clinton. But here`s the thing.

There`s the democratic idea of one person, one vote. And that does not happen with the Electoral College.


Let me go back to Gary with that point. We are a United States. We are 50 states and the District of Columbia. They all vote for president. But the question is, are we a country or we a collection of states? If we`re a collection of states, the Electoral College makes perfect sense. If we are one people, e pluribus unum, if we are one people, why not just have a vote, as a principle?

GREGG: Look, we are a diverse country of people and states.

And one man, one vote is exactly how the elections operate. They just operate by states. Look, if we are -- FINEMAN: you abolish the Electoral College, we are going to end up with a situation where, what matter? The coasts matter. Us people in flyover country here will not matter.

If you just look at -- Hillary, you said, was up 800,000 votes, Chris. But if you look in L.A., just L.A., she won 1.1 million more votes than Trump just in L.A., which means she lost the rest of the country, but won one city out West.

We don`t want a country, I think, where you can just run over rural Americans, farmers, hunters, steelworkers across the country. We need to be united and we need to all feel like we are participating in this system. The Electoral College gives us that.

MATTHEWS: How far a distance would you take that argument? If it came out, for example, that a candidate loses an election in the Electoral College, but wins the popular vote by, say, five million people, would you still stick with the Electoral College principle?

GREGG: Yes, you have to. It`s the rule of law.

Look, the election, it`s really a falsehood, this talk about Hillary winning this election. She won no election that actually took place. She got more popular votes in an election that was run to win 270 electors.


MATTHEWS: Well, why should somebody in Idaho have more power than somebody in L.A.?

GREGG: They have very, very little more power. And it`s a very small offset. It`s a the same offset that is in the United States Senate. So you have to abolish the United States Senate if you`re going to use that principle to abolish the Electoral College.

MATTHEWS: That`s another problem, Karine, because it seems to me, Karine, that you are going to have to do this through constitutional means. You are going to have to get three-quarters of the state.

Of course, I have accepted the need to get things done if you can find a statutory way to do it.


MATTHEWS: The civil rights bill of `64 could have been argued against, a stretching of the Interstate Commerce Clause, but it was the only way to get civil rights in this country.

They were never going to get three-quarters of the states, including the South, to go along with the civil rights laws.

JEAN-PIERRE: No, that`s right. It`s going to be very, very difficult.

MATTHEWS: But there`s no statutory route, is there? Give me one.

JEAN-PIERRE: There really -- it`s going to be difficult. It`s an uphill battle.

But I have to say...


MATTHEWS: What about this plan? I`m sorry. There`s one plan out there. I will offer it to you.


MATTHEWS: There`s a statement. It was an idea. A friend of mine, Rik Hertzberg, is pushing it, that if you get enough states to add up to 270 electoral votes, they all pass a statute in those states that no matter who wins their state, they were going to vote for -- their electors are going to go vote for the winner of the national popular vote.

That would work, if they would stick to it.

JEAN-PIERRE: Right. It would. I mean, I think those are 10 states and they`re primarily Democratic states, including D.C.

MATTHEWS: Yes, blue.

JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, it could potentially work. But I think the way that it has to be done is constitutional amendment.

Look, here`s what happens, right, during the general election. You have candidates that focus on 10, 15 states to try and get to that number 270. They`re not focusing on all the 50 states, because one vote -- under the Electoral College, one vote does not equal -- one person does not equal one vote.

MATTHEWS: We also know that there`s only about 10 states in play anymore. The rest are either red or blue permanently, it seems, although that seems to be changing.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani defended Trump over the many demonstrators and protests taking place throughout the country. Let`s watch him.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Tell people to stop doing what they`re doing. He has no more control over them than President Obama or Hillary Clinton have over the goons and thugs that are in my city that are destroying property, that are taking over streets, and that are yelling and screaming at Donald Trump.


MATTHEWS: Well, I don`t know if goons and thugs -- one of my sons, my oldest son is actually one of those protesters.

I`m not really, Mr. Mayor, ready to accept that definition.

Gary, what do you think of the people protesting right now? I`m sure there`s different points of view with all -- among those protesters. Your thoughts?

GREGG: And I`m sure there are some that are fighting because they really believe the -- whoever wins the popular vote should be president.

But, look, these would be happening no matter how Donald Trump won the presidency. This is about Donald Trump. This is about losing power on the other side. This is about his statements. It`s not about the Electoral College.

MATTHEWS: What do you think, Karine?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I think people are starting to lose...

MATTHEWS: What do you think of goons and thugs?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I wouldn`t call them goons and thugs.

But protests should be peaceful, absolutely. Look, people are going to start losing faith in the system if this is the -- this is twice in the past five presidential runs where the person who`s won the most votes hasn`t won the presidency.

And so that -- and people are -- around this country, I have heard stories. I have talked to people who say, hey, I don`t think my vote matters because they`re focusing on those 10 to 15 states.

And I also have to say, there is tremendous push from folks out there to really try to abolish the Electoral College. We have more than 500,000 signatures on a petition.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s get it going. It`s a good debate. It`s a good American debate. We have lots of amendments to the Constitution. But I wonder what you would think of the people out there in those demonstrations, for example, in Portland, Oregon, when we`re learning that 60 percent of them didn`t vote.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. Well, but that goes to my point.

MATTHEWS: A little late in their actions.

JEAN-PIERRE: But that goes to my point that people are starting to not believe in the system.

MATTHEWS: No, these people didn`t vote to start with.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, well...


Thank you, Karine Jean-Pierre.

And, Gary Gregg, thank you, Gary, for coming on. You needed -- we needed your point of view.

GREGG: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Up next: inside the chaos of the Trump transition. One source calls what`s happening right now in Trump Tower, I love this, a knife fight. I think that`s high hyperbole, but we will see.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger. Here`s what`s happening.

Republicans renominated Paul Ryan to be House speaker when the new Congress begins work in January. He says they have to go big to get the country back on track.

In Athens, riot police fired tear gas at protesters as President Obama attended a dinner elsewhere in the city.

And Oklahoma City`s Will Rogers World Airport remains closed after a fatal shooting there. The victim is a Southwest employee. The suspected gunman has been found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

With less than 70 days now until president-elect Donald Trump takes over, his transition team is struggling to get up and running. Behind the scenes, the factions are contending for position.

NBC News reported that former Congressman Mike Rogers, for example, who was Trump`s national security adviser for the transition team and a close Christie aide, Governor Christie ally, was pushed out as part of a Stalinesque purge of people close to Christie, according to people close to Christie.

"The New York Times" also reported that Trump`s -- quote -- "transition operation has plunged into disarray as a result of the second shakeup in a week on that team that has not yet begun to execute the daunting task of taking over the government."

Well, today, both Donald Trump and Mike Pence received their first national security briefing. This came at the same time as Pence took over official control of the transition. He will have to play referee now to differing groups within Trump Tower.

There are the campaign loyalists -- there they are -- who have been early and vocal supporters, like Michael Flynn, the military man, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich, loyalists. Then there are the campaign confidants or Trump whisperers, which include Corey Lewandowski, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Hope Hicks.

The most trusted inner circle, however, includes his children and his son- in-law, Jared Kushner. You will hear a lot about Jared. Finally, you have the D.C. insiders led by Reince Priebus and Jeff Sessions.

With every passing day, Trump`s transition team is looking more and more like an episode of "The Apprentice." Big surprise.

For more on this, I`m joined by a man who`s been covering this, Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter for Politico.

Go ahead. Teach us the warring factions within this Trump Tower.

KENNETH VOGEL, POLITICO: Well, one thing you got to remember here, Chris, is like so much of this personal. It`s personality-driven.

So, Chris Christie, you see the purge of all the Christie people, as you mentioned. The Trump people are really upset about him, because he skipped the second debate. And then he didn`t get an invite to the election night party, and he showed up anyway. And that was like a determining factor, as well as Jared Kushner being -- having a grudge against him, because his father was prosecuted by Christie when Christie was attorney general, when he was a state attorney working for the Justice Department.

MATTHEWS: So, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of the president-elect, has got a grudge against Chris Christie. It`s got nothing to do with Bridgegate or all that stuff?

VOGEL: Well, there was also some concern about Bridgegate, certainly, but, like, so much of it comes down to the personal.

So, Corey Lewandowski, another example, feuded just bitterly with various people on the campaign, was eventually pushed out because Jared Kushner had sort of had enough with him. But he retains Donald Trump`s ear. Donald Trump wants to reward him.

MATTHEWS: OK. Who else doesn`t like each other? Who else doesn`t like each other?

VOGEL: Well, Reince Priebus doesn`t like Corey Lewandowski either.

There`s a lot of concern, certainly, still towards the Christie people. And even within the -- within the transition team, within the establishment types, you have folks like Jeff Sessions and some of the folks who are more socially conservative, who are very happy that Mike Pence is taking over, but were very concerned about Chris Christie and even about Rudy Giuliani, folks who they see as more sort of Chamber of Commerce, Northeastern Republicans.

Those are tensions that are unique -- that are not unique to the campaign, rather, that are sort of inherent in the conservative movement in the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: Well, there`s been some questions if the transition team will reach out to GOP experts who opposed Donald Trump`s candidacy.

Last week, Eliot Cohen, a former State Department official under George W. Bush, urged career officials to work with Trump. And, this week, Cohen blasted Trump`s team, tweeting: "After exchange with Trump transition team, changed my recommendation. Stay away. They`re angry, arrogant, screaming, you lost. It`s going to be ugly."

So, in other words, a guy like Eliot Cohen, who is -- I would call him a moderate neocon, not a hawkish, totally hawkish guy, he was one of the anti-Trump people during the campaign. He went and looked for a position or influence or whatever. They said, get out of here. You lost.

VOGEL: And there`s a lot of that, certainly, where they`re prosecuting these grudges against people who they deem to be not supportive enough of them, not even people who were opposed to them, people who were not supportive enough.

MATTHEWS: Well, this blackballing thing is going to yield a very small core of people he hires, because somebody is going to -- everybody is going have somebody blackballing them.


VOGEL: But the interesting thing is, you look at Eliot Cohen and he`s sort of a neocon.

And as you suggested in the earlier segment, that seems to be different from the noninterventionist perspective that Trump laid out.


VOGEL: But that goes to show you it`s not really about policy, because who do they have up there high on the list as a potential secretary of state?

MATTHEWS: John Bolton, the ultimate hawk.

VOGEL: John Bolton.


VOGEL: Now, where John Bolton sort of crosses some of these lines that we`re talking about is, he is in with the Mercer family, the very wealthy New York hedge fund folks who funded Breitbart, which was run by Steve Bannon, who funded John Bolton`s super PAC.

And you see Rebekah Mercer, who`s on the transition team. That`s the populist wing. That`s the populist power base. Bannon is certainly a part of it, but I think a lot of it comes from the Mercers. And they too have butted heads with factions in the Republican Party.

MATTHEWS: OK. I`m watching this. I`m watching this.

Rudy will get the secretary of state job if it`s announced in the next day or two. If it`s prolonged for a week or so, look out for Bolton, because neocons are very good at what, at what? Networking.

The phone calls will come in from the strangest sources, and Rudy will be hearing them -- not Rudy -- Trump will be hearing them. He won`t even know who`s getting the call to make the call. It`s very much out of -- just read the book "Fountainhead." It`s just like Ellsworth Toohey.


MATTHEWS: Lots of connections. So, the longer the decision takes, the better chance Bolton gets it, because he`s going to have his regiments out there working Trump.

VOGEL: One person who we understand is in communication with Donald Trump is the quintessential neocon, very influential, exactly who you were talking about, Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas casino mogul will probably have some influence there as well.

MATTHEWS: Well, fortunately -- and it`s hard to find the pony in the crap pile these days -- I don`t think Trump owes a lot of people with money.

VOGEL: Yes, that`s certainly one way to look at it, although the Mercers, again, extremely influential.

MATTHEWS: I know, but he did it by self-funding, as much as that can be a very bad thing in America, rich people winning all the offices.

I do think there is hope. Well, I don`t want to give too much hope, because it`s all a limited commodity these days, hope being a limited commodity.

Ken Vogel, you know your stuff. Keep reporting for us. Thank you.

Up next: the HARDBALL roundtable on our top story, the world according to Trump. We`re learning more tonight about what Trump`s foreign policy may look like. And the critics say it`s not what he promised in the campaign. We will see. He ran as a dove against the Iraq War over and over again. I noticed. I liked that part of him. And now he`s out there talking about John Bolton, the super hawk.

Anyway, you`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s fair to say that I was surprised by the election results. And I`ve said so. At times of significant stress, people are going to be looking for something and they don`t always know what it is they`re looking for, and they may opt for change, even if they`re not entirely confident what that change will bring.



That was President Obama speaking today in Greece about the outcome of our election last week. While he tries to ease fears among European allies, the president also warned about the rise of divisive nationalist sentiment around the world, obviously talking about Trump.


OBAMA: I do believe, separate and apart, from any particular election or movement, that we are going to have to guard against a rise in a crude sort of nationalism or ethnic identity or tribalism that is built around an us and a them.


MATTHEWS: He`s so well spoken about this issue we`re confronting right now here and abroad, around Europe and everywhere. It comes as President-elect Donald Trump is in the process of choosing members of his cabinet, many of whom will shape the incoming administration`s foreign policy.

But as "Business Insider" notes, Trump has alienated many of the nation`s most senior national security officials and veteran foreign policy experts, leaving him with an apparent shortage of qualified Republicans willing to serve in his administration.

I`m joined right now by the roundtable. Katie Packer, the Republican strategist, that`s who she is, and former deputy campaign manager to Mitt Romney. And Michelle Bernard, president of the Bernard Center for Women and columnist at "U.S. News & World Report", and Jeremy Peters is a reporter covering politics for "The New York Times."

So, I`ll start with you, Katie. Let me ask you about this, in the Republican Party, which you`re familiar, are there -- do you see this fight -- let me just take it simple. Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, next secretary of state? This could be announced tomorrow morning at 10:00 for all we know.

This to me sets the direction of hawk and super hawk. But it didn`t say -- there`s no option there for moderate, like Richard Haass or, you know, Stephen Hadley or -- he`s not even fishing in that stream. Maybe Bob Corker, the senior guy on foreign relations.

But what do you make of this?

KATIE PACKER, FORMER ROMNEY DEP. CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, you know, we don`t really know a lot about where Donald Trump stands on foreign policy - -

MATTHEWS: Who`s leaking this stuff?

PACKER: He`s made a lot of very vague sort of generalities that allow people to see what they want to see about him. But now that it`s his time to govern, he`s actually got to make some real decisions about what kind of person is going to lead him and lead his foreign policy team and is going to advise him.


PACKER: And, you know, Rudy Giuliani is not somebody that comes to the table with a lot of foreign policy credentials. He was --

MATTHEWS: But he has an attitude.

PACKER: -- the mayor on 9/11.

MATTHEWS: He has an attitude.

PACKER: And he`s very aggressive.

MATTHEWS: You get the message watching him, like, this guy`s tough.

MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN: Yes, he`s tough. Here`s what is so striking about this. As the president gets ready to leave his presidency, think about 2008, when he came and he was senator-elect in 2007, the whole world was, you know, in economic turmoil and it was senator-elect or President-elect Obama who was calming people down. And he`s now doing the same thing on his way out --


BERNARD: -- bookended by two Republicans.

And it will be very interesting to see what he does with the secretary of state. Rudy Giuliani likes to refer to people as thugs. He is a thug. John Bolton, extremely hawkish. Some people have said that he is one of the most hated people in national security.

MATTHEWS: In the world.

BERNARD: So, what does that --

MATTHEWS: But I want to say something positive beyond what you said, the president is such a gentleman.


MATTHEWS: You know, he`s what everybody who`s a conservative -- what they always say, he should behave as a human being, the president does. He`s being a gentleman about this.

Let me ask you about this. What do you think of this message he`s sending by putting Rudy out there? "The Wall Street Journal" led with, your companion`s favorite (ph), that he`s pretty much going to be the front- runner to get this job.

JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, what I`m told from sources inside the Trump administration is that there are two people who are essentially going to have the pick of basically whatever job they want, and that`s Jeff Sessions and Rudy Giuliani. As Katie pointed out, Trump has no guiding ideology or known principles that he applies to foreign policy. But what he does have is this overriding sense that loyalty matters. Rudy was loyal to him. Rudy went on TV and said really nice things about him --

MATTHEWS: And absurd things. No, he did. Let`s remember what he said over and over, Hillary`s sick. Look at her. And when I would challenge him on that, he would so --


PETERS: That goes a long way with Trump. When Trump was in the fox hole and the campaign looked like it was going to lose by 20 points, Rudy stuck by him. And you cannot overstate how much that means to Donald Trump.

PACKER: Not only that, but in the primary, he actually paved the way. He and Chris Christie were the ones that gave him credibility as somebody that should be taken seriously, that could win a Republican primary. And that`s what I think Rudy Giuliani really brought to Trump.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he gigged up the New York offices of the FBI to get them all excited? I always wonder. What do you think? You`re ready to speculate here. Do you think he sort of got the FBI jazzed up to go back into the e-mail situation?

BERNARD: I think that he certainly didn`t do anything to dissuade their enthusiasm from getting, you know, more involved. But I was going to turn back to Rudy Giuliani as secretary of state. Imagine him dealing with Andrea Merkel the way he did with Megyn Kelly, telling --

MATTHEWS: OK, do you think he`s going to do that?

BERNARD: I don`t know if he`s going to do it, but the fact that you have to ask. Like, we should be talking about --

MATTHEWS: I don`t think Merkel is going to do what Megyn Kelly did to him. I won`t consider Megyn Kelly the underdog in any of this stuff.

BERNARD: I`m not considering her the underdog, but we want people who have some --


PACKER: Some manners.


BERNARD: Yes, exactly!

MATTHEWS: I think Angela Merkel has dealt with tougher Germans than this guy.

PETERS: It`s tough to slap an ideology on Donald Trump because he doesn`t have one. He`s totally non-ideological. But if you look at what he said he stood for in terms of foreign policy during the campaign, John Bolton could not be more different. I mean, John Bolton was for the war that Donald -- for the escalation of the war that Donald Trump insisted over and over and over again that he had opposed, when he really didn`t.

BERNARD: And his advocate -- John Bolton has advocated for bombing Iran. He`s anti-Russia.

MATTHEWS: I`m going back to the issue I care about most, the war I was opposed to for a hundred years. And I just don`t understand how you can pick the guy who`s the biggest godfather of the war, next to maybe Bill Kristol or Wolfowitz, there`s nobody more hawkish that Bolton, and yet he`s talking him up as chief foreign policy guy.

PACKER: That`s what kills his chances of actually having that role. Bolton is very good at sort of promoting himself. I`m not sure --

MATTHEWS: Do you think he might get it?

BERNARD: I think he might get it. Bolton has experience at the U.N. Donald Trump has said he wants --

MATTHEWS: I want Josh Bolten (ph).

BERNARD: Look, Trump had said he wants boots on the ground in Syria, Bolton would go along with that.

MATTHEWS: You know what? I`m predicting Rudy, if it`s early. If it`s two weeks from now, anything goes, because the neocons are such networkers, they`ll have more phone calls than Trump`s ever gotten in his life.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these people will tell me something I don`t know. This is pretty hot tonight.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: In that joint conference over in Greece, President Obama was asked by our colleague Chris Jansing to explain the rise of Donald Trump. Great question. Let`s watch the answer.


CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS: Do you believe it`s either a movement away from or an outright rejection of your world view?

OBAMA: Last I checked, a pretty healthy majority of the American people agree with my world view on a whole bunch of things. And I know that that begs the questions, well, how is it that somebody who appears to have a very different world view just got elected? As I said, sometimes, people just feel as if we want to try something to see if we can shake things up.


MATTHEWS: So I thought.

By the way, President Obama`s approval rating has hit a four-year high. In the latest Gallup poll, the president`s at 57 percent. He should stick around a couple more months, he might be going to the 70s.

We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Katie, tell me -- you`ve been very quiet. Tell me something I don`t know.

PACKER: Well, I think what`s really interesting is regardless of what`s being put out on paper, Jared Kushner, who is Ivanka`s husband, is really the guy running this transition. And he`s made it very clear that anybody brought in by Chris Christie, has anything to do with Chris Christie, can just go for the exit doors now.

MATTHEWS: Don`t you feel like we`re covering the Kardashians? This is a reality show about -- how come Tiffany is not getting enough attention and how is the young boy doing, how`s Baron doing? Is Melania really moving to Washington or not? This is the Kardashians.

Your thoughts, Michelle?

BERNARD: My thoughts are I`m going to give you some news that you don`t know on my side, which is that Senator-elect --

MATTHEWS: I think we`re both on the same side.

BERNARD: -- Kamala Harris --


BERNARD: -- my classmate from Howard University, fellow Bison, fellow Jamerican, our fathers went to school together, the wonderful Palaver (ph) in Jamaica -- won 48 percent of the Latino vote against Mrs. Sanchez in California. Sanchez, like Clinton, thought that she was going to get the Latino vote. She didn`t.

MATTHEWS: OK, great. I`m learning a lot here.

PETERS: Regardless of whether or not the defense secretary nominee -- I`m sorry, secretary of state nominee is John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani, I would expect to see some filibusters. I spoke with Rand Paul today who said he would filibuster Bolton. If it`s not Bolton, I would still expect someone like Rand and those more non-interventionist minded senators to --

MATTHEWS: We`re going to have Rand Paul here on HARDBALL to talk about the filibuster when they can stop a hard hawk.

Thank you, Katie Packer, Michelle Bernard and Jeremy Peters.

When we return, let me finish with Trump watch.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Trump watch, November 15th, 2016.

I`ve discovered something about Donald Trump. It`s his ability to cherry pick the one thing he likes and a policy he doesn`t like. He just said he likes the idea of keeping health insurance available to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions, diabetes, for example, or the young adult children still dependent on their parents` insurance. Yet, he declares something of a vendetta against the only program, the Affordable Care Act, that offers such protections.

Trump has assumed a similar position on foreign policy. He says that he opposed the Iraq war but totally buys into the people who sold us on the Iraq war. Why do we believe he won`t take us into another war or Syrian, or Libyan, or what, Iranian war, if he makes the supporter of the Iraq war itself secretary of state? How can he even think of naming John Bolton as secretary of state or national security director if he disagrees so passionately with the war that Bolton supported so passionately?

So, what is it? Is Trump opposed to Obamacare but supports its popular features that are known to be inseparable from the rest of it? Is he really opposed to the Iraq war if he supports the people and the thinking that drove and cheer-led our way into that disaster?

The reckoning is at hand. To save the popular parts of Obamacare, he will need to save a good bit of Obamacare, period. If he names John Bolton secretary of state, he`s creating an administration in search of the next war.

As I said for Donald Trump, the reckoning is at hand.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.