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Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript 11/21/2016

Guests: Susan Milligan, John Stanton, Tim Mak, Karine Jean-Pierre, Steven Cortes, Richard Cohen, Asawin Suebsaeng

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 21, 2016 Guest: Susan Milligan, John Stanton, Tim Mak, Karine Jean-Pierre, Steven Cortes, Richard Cohen, Asawin Suebsaeng

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Boos over Broadway.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, Donald Trump continued meeting with prospective cabinet appointees and others today at Trump Tower. Over the weekend, Trump held a series of 21 different meetings at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Among the prospects, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, retired general James Mattis, Governor Chris Christie, Scott Brown, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.

But even as President-elect Trump focuses on putting together his government, he spent part of the weekend reacting to perceived slights from "Saturday Night Live" and the cast of the Broadway musical "Hamilton."

On Friday night, the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, attended a performance of the popular Broadway show. He was greeted by a few cheers and a swell of boos from the audience.




MATTHEWS: Well, you could hear it there. And after the show, one of its stars read a statement to Pence written by the show`s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Here`s part of that.


BRANDON DIXON, "HAMILTON": Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at "Hamilton" (INAUDIBLE). We really do.

We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our families...


DIXON: ... our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us -- all of us.



MATTHEWS: Well, Donald Trump responded, as you might expect, with a series of angry tweets. Quote, "Our wonderful future VP Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of "Hamilton," cameras blazing. This should not happen. The cast of "Hamilton" was very rude last night to a very good man. The cast and producers of "Hamilton," which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior."

Trump also answered a question about the incident over the weekend.


QUESTION: Mr. Trump, are you still upset about "Hamilton"?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: They were very inappropriate.


MATTHEWS: Well, today, the actor who read the statement, Brandon Dixon, told CBS he wouldn`t apologize.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When Donald Trump tweeted that this was harassment of his vice president-elect, your response was?

DIXON: I simply informed him that harassment -- or rather conversation is not harassment, you know? And I was really appreciative that Vice president-elect Pence stood there and listened to what we had to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president-elect is demanding an apology.

DIXON: I heard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We assume that no apology is forthcoming?

DIXON: There`s nothing to apologize for.


MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now, "The Washington Post`s" Robert Costa -- he`s an MSNBC political analyst, Steven Cortes -- Steve Cortes, a Trump supporter and former adviser, Karine Jean-Pierre, senior adviser for I think we have all bases covered now.

Let me talk, first of all, to Steve Cortes. Let me just tell you -- put my cards on the table. I thought what the cast had to do was fine with me. We`ll argue about that. I thought they did it very professionally and respectfully. They made a point. It was about diversity. It was about respecting all Americans. I`m all with it.

The booing was low-brow. It was the booing of an elite audience that paid 800 bucks to be there. They were dumping on a fellow member of the audience. It was not a sports event. It wasn`t a Phillies game or an Eagles game. It was inappropriate behavior, low-brow, from beginning to end. But I`m with the cast 100 percent. How do you split it?

STEVEN CORTES, FMR. TRUMP CAMPAIGN SURROGATE: Well, Chris, I have to tell you, I don`t know that we can excuse the cast, either, because...

MATTHEWS: Well, for it. You go for it.


CORTES: No, listen, I think you`re exactly right that, you know, 99 percent of Americans, by the way, could never afford to be there in the first place. And both audience and cast, I think, live in a cultural bubble of New York City and yet talk condescendingly to the vice president, who was just elected by a country that they don`t understand, frankly, very well. And they don`t understand the economic angst that exists out there in America, which I think was the primary impetus behind this revolution at the ballot box. So...

MATTHEWS: You don`t consider that cast elite, do you? A lot of those people would have a hard time -- let me tell you about show business.

CORTES: Culturally, Chris. It doesn`t mean...


MATTHEWS: My kids are in it. Being able to afford an $800 ticket is not what one of those cast members normally does. They can`t afford to get in that place. They`re working their butt off to make that cast and to stay with that case.

CORTES: But that doesn`t mean they don`t live in a cultural bubble. That doesn`t mean that they`re not in a cultural bubble of New York City. And I think that that is important here.


CORTES: And also, by the way...

MATTHEWS: It`s not elite.

CORTES: ... no matter -- whether -- whether you`re in a bubble or elite or not, if you hold the rostrum, right -- imagine going to church on Sunday, going to yesterday to church, and having the preacher or the priest call you out, and you have no -- you know, he said that that was a conversation, the actor. That`s not a conversation. That`s one-way.


CORTES: That`s dictation. That is me calling you out and you have no ability to effectively respond!

MATTHEWS: Well, we`ll get back to that because I thought Mike Pence was a genius, the way he handled it. Your thoughts?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MOVEON.ORG: Look, I think that free speech -- it should be everywhere, right? It applies everywhere, whether it`s on Twitter, to Broadway, to the streets, to the White House. And Donald Trump lecturing anyone on bullying is just a joke!

And so what`s happening here is that he`s using this as a classic misdirection. It`s a diversion to talk about the real issues happening right now with his transition campaign. And also, him going to Twitter -- he uses Twitter like a Jedi mind trick, right? It`s, like, Here`s a shiny object. I`m going to distract you. I`m going to manipulate the media so that we`re not talking about what`s happening, actually, which is, the conflict with his business, when it comes to his administration.

MATTHEWS: OK, your thoughts on this, Robert? You`ve covered this guy for a year at least now. Is Trump just using this as a shield, this culture war, to shield the fact he had to pay a lot of money in the Trump U. case, or is he just the kind of guy that thinks there`s a real culture war and benefits from it?

I personally believe he`s canny as a fox. He wants this fight because he knows the New York elite at that theater are not America and he can take them on. Your thoughts.

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: As a public figure, he`s always been more comfortable coming through things as a -- political theater, as an actor, in a sense, embracing confrontation and the fight. He`s of the culture more than he is of any political ideology, and this is his natural mode.

MATTHEWS: What do you make of the fact -- let`s talk (INAUDIBLE) the audience booing Mike Pence. Well, nobody asked them to do it. They did it, free speech, as just been pointed out. Fair enough. They had the right to do it. There`s no doubt about that.

The cast members knew what they were doing, and they`re professional. Lin- Manuel actually wrote the script for that admonition. I think you can call it admonition. Trump didn`t come up with all that.

So his only opportunity to play this card was how to react. Tell me how it fits into his mode of reaction. Was it a cover-up of his Trump U giveaway, where he had to pay the money? He lost. He lost that case. He had to pay. Or is it something else?

COSTA: Trump`s sitting there in Trump Tower tonight, and he`s got Steve Bannon at his side, son-in-law Jared Kushner, but it`s the Bannon relationship that`s key. You look at Breitbart and how they engage with political theater and how they go after their opponents.

This is something that Trump is not walking away from. He has -- he wants to be fully immersed not just on the policy, but in the culture, not in the traditional Pat Buchanan culture sense. This is someone who wants to change and use the divisiveness within the culture to his political advantage.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, the vice president-elect, Mr. Pence, Mike Pence, responded very differently than his boss, if you will, to this controversy. Here`s what he said yesterday on Fox.


GOV. MIKE PENCE (R-IN), VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: My daughter and I and her cousins really enjoyed the show. "Hamilton" is just an incredible production.

When we arrived, we heard a few boos and we heard some cheers. And I nudged my kids and reminded them that`s what freedom sounds like. And -- but at the end, I -- you know, I did hear what was said from the stage, and I can tell you I wasn`t offended by what was said. I`ll leave to others whether that was the appropriate venue to say it.


MATTHEWS: Do you think, Karine, this is all a setup so he gets to be president?


MATTHEWS: You think the whole thing here -- (INAUDIBLE) Steve, you can jump in on this, too. I just wonder whether the whole thing is aimed at making -- because that`s what a president would say -- you know, I brought my daughter and I brought my cousins, her cousins, and you know, it was a cross-cultural thing for a conservative from the Middle West.

CORTES: Right.

MATTHEWS: There`s a largely minority cast...

COSTA: And Chris-

MATTHEWS: ... very diverse -- no, no. I want to get Karine in here...


MATTHEWS: ... because he did walk in -- not enemy territory, but different territory for him. He was trying to reach out culturally to see something he`d heard about. It wasn`t -- you know, it wasn`t conservative culture, it was new culture.

JEAN-PIERRE: I agree it was new culture. And look, I think to say that the staff or the performers of "Hamilton" are elitist -- you have to get to know who they are and read their bio, and you wouldn`t -- that`s not what you would get from that.

But I think, Chris, the thing is, if you look at what happened last week, we learned so many -- there was so much conflict of interest. There was the meeting that Ivanka Trump sat in with the Japanese prime minister, you know, while they are doing -- you know, Trump does business in Japan.

There was -- we learned that during the campaign, while he was hammering, right, at Hillary Clinton about her foundation and Saudi Arabia, he was actually doing business in Saudi Arabia, too.

So there was so much that happened in just one week. Imagine what the four years of a Trump administration...


MATTHEWS: That`s what he accused the Clintons of doing.



MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, Steve. You wanted to say something? Then we`ll go to "Saturday Night Live" because it was fascinating. Go ahead.

CORTES: Well, I want to say this. I think there is a double standard that Americans see. And it would be this, I believe. And it`s a hypothetical. But if this same scene had unfolded in 2008 with then president-elect Obama, do you believe in all honesty that this cast -- would they have lectured him? At the time, he was vehemently against same-sex marriage. Would they have lectured him in the same manner that they lectured Mr. Pence?

I don`t believe so. And I think that`s evidence of a double standard.


CORTES: I think it`s part of why, by the way, we won this election!

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s look at this, "Saturday Night Live," which no one would accuse of being conservative, also got under Donald Trump`s skin this weekend. Here was part of their opening sketch with Alec Baldwin as Trump.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve been stuck fighting ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra for six years now. So when we found out that you had a secret plan, it really energized us.


ALEC BALDWIN, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": That`s right. A plan. Very secret.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, whatever it is, we`re really looking forward to hearing it come January. It`s only seven weeks away, so let`s save some lives together, sir.

BALDWIN: Tremendous. Love it. Thank you.


BALDWIN: OK, right. Here we go. Here we go. Big plan. Big plan. Google "What is ISIS?"



MATTHEWS: Well, Trump tweeted yesterday, I watched parts of "Saturday Night Live" last night. It is a totally one-sided biased show, nothing funny at all. Equal time for us."

Well, it is funny, I`ll give them that. Let me go back to Steve on this. Or actually, I want to go to Costa. Robert, my friend, is this the beginning? I`m going to do this at the end of the show. I get the feeling we`re all in the middle of a reality show, that all these candidates trooping forward, all doing their jumps and their elephant (ph) handstands, whatever he`s asked them to do, including Mitt Romney -- they`re all pretending they like him. They all are dying to get jobs. He could do this right through Christmas! This is a hell of a show. He`ll bring every Republican wannabe in the country in to see him, to beg for a job!

COSTA: We`re seeing a show, but let`s look at what`s really happening politically. You have a president-elect who hasn`t had a news conference. He brings in all the network executives today, is dismissive of the press coverage of the campaign. He`s sitting there making all these cabinet picks. He`s having a highly orchestrated video come out about his first 100 days.

And at the same time, he`s got all this cultural distraction. "SNL," fighting with "Hamilton." This is how Trump operates, distract, make it about the culture, but at the same time, he`s not talking to the press and he`s making all these conservative policy plans.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think he knows what he`s doing. I think his part of the country may be a little bit bigger than the "Saturday Night Live" audience. We`ll see. But he is duking it out with these people. And by the way, it`s always, You talking to me? You talking to me? He wants to fight.

Anyway, Robert Costa, thank you. Steve Cortes and Karine Jean-Pierre, thank you all.

And tomorrow on HARDBALL, by the way, I just got the word, Trump`s campaign manager -- well, I guess the campaign`s over, but she`s still the manager - - Kellyanne Conway is going to be here on HARDBALL.

Coming up -- two thirds of Democrats want their party to stand up to Donald Trump even if it hurts the government`s ability to function. But Democratic leaders might not be willing to do such a thing.

By the way, what`s the best strategy for Democrats looking right now? You work with Trump, or do what the Republicans did last type to Obama, do nothing, stop him in his tracks.

Plus, white nationalists converged on Washington this weekend jubilant over Donald Trump`s victory. But are we hearing enough from Trump or the Republicans to renounce (ph) this stuff? Wait`ll you hear what`s coming and what happened this weekend here.

And the HARDBALL roundtable and Trump`s opening salvo in the culture wars and what it says about how Trump will govern as president, or divide as president.

Finally, let me finish with tonight`s edition of "Trump Watch." I`m going to fail this thing.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We got some tragic breaking news now to report. It came out of nowhere, a fatal school bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Thirty-five children were on this bus, 23 are injured and officials say there are multiple deaths.

NBC`s Kerry Sanders joins us now with more -- Kerry.

KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, the authorities say at this point, at least six children may have died in this accident, five at the scene, one rushed to the hospital who did not make it, the district attorney saying that there could be more deaths. The medical examiner is currently at the scene.

This is a parent`s worst nightmare. As you said, 35 kids on a bus. The bus in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as you can see, mangled, turned on its side, wedged between two trees, into a house. The driver of the bus is cooperating with police.

The medical examiner is there on the scene, but parents have been told to retreat back to the elementary school where the children were all attending. These kids are from kindergarten through 5th grade. And the parents are there, some holding their loved ones, others waiting anxiously for some news about their loved ones. But as each hour goes by, that much more difficult for the parents when they`re not seeing their children run up to them or getting word that they`re at the hospital -- Chris.

MATTHEWS: Kerry, is there a bigger responsibility than driving a school bus? I can`t think of one. Thank you so much, Kerry Sanders in Chattanooga.

We`ll be right back after this.



SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: I hope on the promises he`s made to blue collar America on trade, on carried interest, on infrastructure, that he`ll stick with them and work with us, even if it means breaking with the Republicans, who have always opposed these things.


MATTHEWS: That`s one tough customer. That`s Chuck Schumer, the next Democratic leader of the United States Senate.

Back to HARDBALL right now. That was Chuck Schumer himself of New York yesterday on "MEET THE PRESS." Schumer said there are several ways Democrats can and should work with President-elect Trump. Let`s watch.


SCHUMER: We`re not going to work with him for the sake of working with him. We`re not going to oppose him just because he says something -- it`s something that Trump sponsors.

But let me give you a couple of examples on both sides. Surprisingly, on certain issues, candidate Trump voiced very progressive and populist opinions. For instance, getting rid of the carried interest loophole, changing our trade laws dramatically, a large infrastructure bill, cleaning up the swamp in Washington.

But on issues where our values are at stake, where the president goes in a divisive direction, where his campaign did before, we`ll go against him with everything we`ve got.


MATTHEWS: Well, "New York Times" columnist James Stewart has an idea for how Trump and Congress can unite the country. He writes, "Here`s how President-elect Trump could unify a bitterly divided America, provide well- paying jobs to many of the millions of disaffected workers who voted for him and lift the economy, stock market and tax rolls. All he needs to do is do what he presumably does best, build something, build something awe- inspiring, something Americans can be proud of."

But a new Pew Research poll out today says that 65 percent of Democrats want Democratic leaders to stand up to Trump on issues that are important to them, even if it means that less gets done in Washington.

What does this mean for the spirit of bipartisan cooperation? Is that even possible anymore?

Howard Dean is the former governor of Vermont and former chairman of the Democratic National Convention. He`s seeking to win that post back at the DNC right now. Nina Turner is a former Ohio state senator and MSNBC political analyst.

I want to start with the governor now about, you know, I look at Trump and I never know which Trump we`re going to get.


MATTHEWS: Because, if it`s infrastructure, big spending, Democrats like to spend and build. That should be a deal right there.

DEAN: Yes.

And Trump has talked about doing that with public/private partnerships, which is really a good idea, because you don`t jack the national debt up by $5 trillion, which is what his plan would do. So there are some places we can work with him, and we should.

I do not think we should do what the Republicans did, which is basically put their party in front of their country for six years and get nothing done.

MATTHEWS: They were SOBs.

DEAN: Yes. Well...


MATTHEWS: Mitch McConnell and Newt Gingrich, that whole gang, said, we`re going to screw this guy, bring him down early.

DEAN: They were also bad for America. Nothing happened.


DEAN: And it may have been a good political idea, but it wasn`t a very patriotic idea.

But there are some areas that -- Trump, for example, has talked about a student loan forgiveness program. Let`s take a look at that. We`re not going to stand in the way of a student loan forgiveness program just to make a political point like the Republicans did for six years.

MATTHEWS: You know what`s been talked about, Nina, Senator, a couple ideas that I think most people who watch this show would say let`s take a look at it, one is we have got about $30 trillion sitting overseas because of the tax laws of this country, the corporate tax rates and things like that.

You say, why don`t we find a way to grab it, all of that, in fact, and put it into development of a public/private thing? I personally want a public road. I want to see high-speed rail. I don`t want to just fix our old highways. I want to reunite this country right across it, like Lincoln did. Rebuild and reunite America geographically.

Spend the money. We have low interest rates right now. You can borrow it and pay it -- it will pay back. Call them Trump bonds. I don`t know what the hell you call them. I`m not worried about the deficit, because it`s a real investment. It`s not giving money away for survival. It`s using money to invest in our whole total future.

Your thoughts?

NINA TURNER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: That`s right. That`s right, Chris, and it is a big deal, both from an economic perspective, but also from a safety perspective, too.

We have some of the worst roads and bridges in this country. And it`s unsafe, it`s bad for business and it`s bad for everyday families.

And you may remember, Chris -- and I know the governor remembers this -- when President Obama gave states -- states had to compete and they got money for high-speed rail. My state, my home state of Ohio, gave back $400 million. I mean, we have to start somewhere.

Not only is it good jobs, but it brings our country up to the 21st century. So, in areas where we can work president-elect Trump, I think the Democrats should do that. As Leader McConnell said, he wanted to make President Obama a one-term president, and we see what that got us. They shut down the government. That cost taxpayers 26 -- about $26 billion went up in flames.


You`re up first again here. I want to ask you this, Senator. How do you dog train Trump? I mean, it`s tough, dog train. You know how you talk to a dog? If he poops in the hole, you make his nose go in it. How you make sure he doesn`t do it again?

If he come out there and says, we`re going to build a wall, we`re going get rid of Obamacare, a big waste of time for everybody, ain`t going to happen. The Democrats can at least stop that stuff from happening. And, by the way, the Mexicans are going to build that wall or they`re not going to build it. It has got nothing to do with us.

So, ain`t going to be no wall. That`s my thinking. But what do you do? How do you teach him?

TURNER: I would like to think that president-elect Trump is going to follow through on the things that he said for the economy, because there are people depending on him to do that.

But let me tell you something. He tries to build a wall, this registry that`s percolating out there, the Democrats and all conscience-minded Americans are going to have to go ham -- and my young millennials know what that means -- and go there hard, because the moral integrity of this country is at stake.

And so we cannot sit back and let any type of racism, xenophobia and all that other stuff take place. But if the president-elect is serious, very serious, Chris, there are wonderful things that he can do to show that. And investing in infrastructure is one way.

MATTHEWS: OK. This is why I don`t know what he`s up to. OK?

I don`t know. I got along with him every time I see him. He`s civilized when you`re with him. He can be charming. But Trump`s talking about John Bolton as secretary of state. Then he`s talking about Rudy Giuliani. Now he`s talking about Rudy Giuliani for director of national intelligence. Is FEMA next for Rudy?

He`s playing all these name games. How can he be for Bolton one day, three days later be for Mitt Romney? Where is he going? You don`t know where he`s going.

DEAN: The big mystery of Donald Trump. And it`s also, nobody knows what`s going to happen.

Most of the Republicans that I know who did work on the campaign have no idea what he`s going to do, because he`s got three positions on every issue in a single day. We have no idea, until he announces something or he puts in a bill, have any idea what he`s going to do.

MATTHEWS: But it tells you -- Nina, it tells you who you pick. He picks John Bolton, who`s never seen a war front he didn`t want to bring our troops into, a classic neocon, or he brings in even Rudy, I don`t know what Rudy`s foreign policy is. He`s never had to have one.

And maybe putting out Mitt Romney looks calm and sophisticated and Ivy League and al, and I don`t even know what his foreign policy is, Mitt. It sounds to me it`s going to be Trump`s foreign policy, no matter who he picks.

TURNER: Well, true that, Chris.

But if he picks Bolton or Mayor Giuliani, it goes contrary to what president-elect Trump said on the campaign trail in terms of not being a hawk. And it would not be good for this country.

MATTHEWS: That`s true. Well said. Thank you.

Well, today, Trump met with Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. This is amazing, what is going on here.

Gabbard released a statement after the meeting, saying: "While the rules of political expediency would say I should have refused to meet with president-elect Trump, I never have and never will play politics with American and Syrian lives. For years, the issue of ending interventionist, regime change warfare has been one of my top priorities. Let me be clear, I will never allow partisanship to undermine our national security when the lives of countless people lay in the balance."

There`s a woman, a politician, Tulsi, who is very anti-intervention, like yourself, about this Middle East thing. She`s against the whole regime change number. And now she`s going there with a way of maybe saying, maybe we can cut a deal with Russia. Maybe there is a way to somehow end the bloodshed in Syria and keep us out. That`s what she believes in.

DEAN: Well, she`s an interesting person. And the people from Hawaii basically have her tabbed as extremely ambitious with flexible principles.


DEAN: Yes. She was a lefty for Bernie, and now she`s talking about running against Mazie Hirono, who is a left-wing or liberal senator from the Hawaii. So who knows what this is all about?

MATTHEWS: What`s in it for Trump?

DEAN: That`s a very good question. Maybe he wants to be seen as reaching out to Democrats.

Just to get back to the Rudy thing for a minute, you know how this game is played. For all we know, Rudy`s floating his own name, and then it`s coming come around.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but he met with him again this weekend.

DEAN: Well, because he`s close to Trump.

MATTHEWS: Well, they floated the idea of DNI for him, director of national intelligence. That`s not as high-level as secretary of state.

DEAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: They`re hurting him a little bit.

DEAN: The question is, why is it foreign policy? This is a guy with a lot of domestic experience, but not much...

MATTHEWS: Well, I think -- I`m going to talk more about this at the end of the show. I think this is one reality show we have never seen before, this Trump parade of elephants.

DEAN: That`s true.

MATTHEWS: It`s right out of Ringling Brothers. It`s a show like we have never seen, and he`s the ringmaster.

Anyway, Howard Dean, thank you, sir.

TURNER: Chris?

MATTHEWS: Yes, Senator?

TURNER: Well, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is a combat veteran, so I have got to say that she`s been true to her heart and what she believes in. And I think it was very smart of her to take the invitation of president-elect Trump and put people over politics.

So, I don`t agree with the governor and that comment he made about the congresswoman.

MATTHEWS: Well, we will find out about that soon.

Thank you, Howard Dean. Thank you, Nina Turner.

Up next: White nationalists come to Washington, energized over Trump`s victory. That`s coming up. This is a little scary.

But this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


RICHARD LUI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi. I`m Richard Lui with breaking news for you this hour.

Tennessee authorities saying at least five people are dead in a school bus crash in Chattanooga. More than 20 others have been taken to hospitals; 35 children were on board. No other vehicles were involved. We will stay on top of that story here on MSNBC.

And a magnitude-6.9 earthquake shaking Japan`s east coast near the site of the deadly 2011 quake that killed nearly 19,000 people. A two-foot tsunami wave was observed near Fukushima. The quake could be felt more than 100 miles away in Tokyo -- now back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump`s candidacy emboldened many on the right-wing fringe to speak their minds more freely during the campaign. Now some of those voices say they believe his presidency will help to bring their movements out from the shadows and into the mainstream.

This weekend, for example, at the Ronald Reagan Building here in Washington, a group of white nationalists -- that`s what they are -- celebrated Trump`s victory at an event hosted by a think tank called the National Policy Institute.

The group was led by a Richard Spencer, who says his first -- he first coined the term alt-right, he did it, to describe his ideology. According to "The New York Times" -- quote -- "Spencer railed against Jews and with a smile quoted Nazi propaganda in the original Germany."

Anyway, "America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the children of the sun, a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized, but now, in the era of president-elect Donald Trump, were awakening to their own identity."

Those are his words.

Reporters from "The Atlantic" captured the reaction at the close of Spencer`s speech. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hail Trump. Hail our people. Hail victory.



MATTHEWS: Well, you saw those arms up there, the Nazi style.

Anyway, in attendance was former MTV reality show personality Tila Tequila, who tweeted a chilling photograph of herself and others engaging also in the Nazi salute.

Anyway, reached for comment, Richard today said that alt-right is not a neo-Nazi movement. That`s his position.

Anyway, Ryan Lanza of the Trump transition team also released this statement: "President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American. To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds."

Joining me right now is Asawin Suebsaeng of The Daily Beast, as well as Richard Cohen of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I want to start with Richard, because we trust your organization.

This big meeting over the weekend is the kind of thing that I think deserves note from everybody. And it shouldn`t just go by with the people who did the Nazi salute. Everyone should know what`s going on. What is this group up to, this National Policy Institute, with what looks like a nationalist -- a white nationalist crusade going on within our borders?

RICHARD COHEN, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: That`s exactly right, Chris. It`s a scary development.

And Trump and Bannon have given them a new platform. You know, these groups used to exist on the fringe of society. You know, Breitbart, in Bannon`s terms, has given them a platform for their ideas. And Trump has been their champion ever since he came down that escalator at Trump Tower and called Mexicans rapists.

So they see a kindred soul in Trump. They have a champion in Breitbart and Bannon, and they`re feeling their oats now. That`s what is going on.

MATTHEWS: What do they want? What do they want? If you had to go to a police station right now and report them, if they committed a crime, what would you say was their motive in life? Why do they meet together? Why do they do the Nazi salute? What excites them about Trump winning?

COHEN: Richard Spencer is very clear. He wants an ethno-nationalist state. He wants a white America.

He believes in peaceful ethnic cleansing. He wants a state that`s built on very different principles than the Declaration of Independence. Those are his words.

MATTHEWS: How do you get people who are African-American, Jewish, or whatever they don`t like to leave peacefully from this white world he`s created? How would that happen peacefully, this ethnic cleansing? Why would anybody leave their own country?

COHEN: I don`t think that they would. And I think that that`s one of the dangers here.

You know, we`re seeing, you know, around the country now a lot of Trump people not just talking, or a lot of people in Trump`s camp, but also lots of racial incidents. You know, we have tracked almost 900 at this point. And I think it`s a very disturbing thing that we`re seeing.

MATTHEWS: Asawin, give us a thought here from your reporting. Tell us about the group as you understand it, this group, National Policy Institute, that doesn`t look like a think tank to me.

ASAWIN SUEBSAENG, THE DAILY BEAST: No, but it brands itself as a white nationalist think tank headed by Richard B. Spencer, who has become one of the leaders of the white nationalist alt-right in this country, which is a fancy, dressed-up term for white supremacist.

These leaders include Jared Taylor and Peter Brimelow.


MATTHEWS: What do they do in politics? What do they call for as first steps, if you will?

SUEBSAENG: Well, much like the other guest was saying, their ideal vision for America would be transforming it into an ethno-white-only state.

MATTHEWS: Well, that`s not working out too well, is it?


MATTHEWS: That`s not the way we`re going demographically. So, what are they going to do to change the direction of the country?

SUEBSAENG: Well, the things that they like about what presidential candidate and now president-elect Trump has said that he wants to do as president is Muslim ban, kicking out the immigrants, Mexicans are rapists. Political correctness, however you want to define it, is bad.

These are things that excite his white nationalist supporters and why they have been drawn to him for over a year now.

MATTHEWS: Well, tell me about your view of Bannon.

SUEBSAENG: Steve Bannon?

MATTHEWS: Yes. Tell me about him. He`s in the White House now, apparently. He`s going to get a job inside the White House.

SUEBSAENG: He`s about to become one of the most powerful people in the world, yes.

MATTHEWS: Well, he once described -- let me read this -- his conservative news site as -- keep going here -- quote -- "the platform for the alt- right."

But in an interview with "The Hollywood Reporter" conducted just last week after he was named Trump`s White House strategist, he said: "I`m not a white nationalist. I`m a nationalist. I`m an economic nationalist."

He also defended his behind-the-scenes role within the Trump campaign, which he says confounded the mainstream media -- quote -- "Darkness is good. Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan, that`s power. It only helps us when they get it wrong, when they`re blind to who we are and what we`re doing."

What do you make of this weird way of talking? It`s not ingratiating to act like Darth Vader or Dick Cheney.

SUEBSAENG: I guarantee you that Stephen K. Bannon is loving his new pure evil, bad boy reputation that he`s getting on the left.

But, now, you asked me, how would I describe Steve Bannon? Because there`s been a good deal of debate about this in media circles. Should we call him a racist? Should we call him a white nationalist?

I would say he is a nationalist -- that is how he self-identifies -- with hard-right views who has used his Web site as a platform for, in part, white nationalist and the racist alt-right. So, that is an accurate way to frame this, I would say.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, look, I think we`re all patriotic. And, sometimes, that is called nationalist. We will have to find out more about this. It looks like it`s worse than that.

Thank you both, Asawin Suebsaeng. Thank you.

And, Richard Cohen, sir, thank you. Always from your group, we like to hear from you.

Up next: the HARDBALL -- scary, small, hopefully, a very small threat to the country, at least in the numbers.

We are going to be back with the roundtable tonight to talk about Donald Trump`s new culture war. It looks like he wants to fight the Broadway left, as he sees it. He wants to take on the people with $800 seats. That seems to be his latest play for publicity to keep us from thinking about the conflict of interest issues maybe?

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



While Donald Trump continued to wage his public war against the cast of "Hamilton" and "Saturday Night Live" via Twitter, he also went about the business of putting together a government. Unlike past presidential transition, this one is a reality TV show, all about him. "The New York Times" described this election process as "a Trump-branded, made-for-TV spectacle, parading his finalists for top administration posts this weekend before reporters and the world" exactly how we all saw it.

For more, I`m joined by our roundtable: Susan Milligan, senior writer with "U.S. News and World Report", John Stanton, senior correspondent for "BuzzFeed", and Tim Mak, maybe not a senior, another one, senior correspondent for "The Daily Beast".

Let me start with this. Your reaction to the whole weekend mishmash. The booing of -- first of all, I was surprised Pence even went to the -- this is progressive stuff for him, getting booed, talked down -- dressed down I think by the cast and later Trump going crazy and then Pence being a gentleman, acting like a president, and the whole thing about "Saturday Night Live." Put it all together, this culture war, that Trump seems to like and the left, I think, likes.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: I think that, yes, I think both sides like and I think what happened in the election was not so much a political fight but a culture war between sort of, you know, earlier, nostalgic America and the new America. I think, though, that Donald Trump`s reaction to that and the tweeting and just the thin-skinned nature of his response is kind of alarming, because being president of the United States is not just about policy, it`s about gravitas and it`s about dignity.

And the more I watch him behave in the transition and see him not move from campaign mode to governing mode, the more I become concerned that he`s going to lose not only for himself, but for future presidents the moniker of leader of the free world, because you cannot behave that way and be see as leader of the free world.

MATTHEWS: It`s like that guy in stripes, you touch my stuff, I`ll kill you.

Go ahead, John.

JOHN STANTON, BUZZFEED: Well, you know, what`s interesting to me is that Hamilton essentially has become the place where rich people, where liberals fight with each other the way that the rest of the country is fighting with each other right now, but it`s not -- calling it a culture war is a little bit too nicety. I think it`s a race war, essentially. It`s angry white people versus everybody else, right?

MATTHEWS: Why did Pence go to the play to see a minority casts do this sort of, not satire, but a take on American history that`s never been done before, as a minority experience?

STANTON: I go to that play all the time. It`s an interesting experience. "Hamilton" is I don`t know, I have lots of opinions about Hamilton --


MATTHEWS: There were people in that audience that were well brought up, but they booed like hell when he walked in the door. Your thoughts?

TIM MAK, THE DAILY BEAST: That`s fine. I mean, look, even though the campaign is over, it doesn`t feel like it`s over, right? And all these people in D.C., they`re trying to prepare for a Trump administration, what that would look like. Will he be a conventional Republican? And all indications have been, he`s not going to be a conventional Republican and he doesn`t change. Seventy-year-olds don`t change.

MATTHEWS: But he`s got to walk into a job.

MAK: He`s got to walk into a different job, but he`s going to act the same way he has. I mean, he likes the attention, he understands the attention that a culture war brings and he`s got the same thin skin that he did six months.

MATTHEWS: But it`s sort of like a marriage. You walk in, the other person walks in, you`ve got to cut a deal. You don`t create the American presidency -- it`s not an acquisition. He didn`t just acquire the U.S. government, he`s got to put up with the constitution, with opposition.

STANTON: But he did acquire it. It`s what people voted for, I mean, a lot of ways because he`s a business man and there are a lot of people did say, OK, we`ll bring a businessman`s attitude.

MATTHEWS: But who owns the U.S. government? The people do, the Constitution reigns. What about when Rand Paul comes along and says, nice try but you`re not putting a neocon at secretary of state. You just not going to do it and I`m going to stop it.

STANTON: That`s like the environmentalist shareholders of Ford. They may complain and bitch and moan a little bit, but --


MATTHEWS: It takes 50 votes. I don`t think he`s going to get it.

MILLIGAN: I disagree and I think one of the problems and I`ve seen this when I`ve seen House members have come in, in the business community, they say, it takes a while for them to adjust to the fact they`re not a CEO anymore. You can`t make the rules and just have everybody follow it.

I think Trump looks at Congress and thinks that there has middle managers or something, you can get some freshman from state, some random state holding you up and it`s going to drive you crazy, but that`s --

STANTON: No, they are afraid of Donald Trump. I think Mitch McConnell is afraid of Donald Trump. I think Paul Ryan is afraid of Donald Trump. He represents voters that terrify him.

He is the physical embodiment of everything they`ve been doing since 2010. They let them run their conference in the House. They`re doing it increasingly in the Senate. And I don`t think they`re going to stand up to him. I don`t think they`re going to make him change.


MATTHEWS: What are the Democrats going to do when they put a right-wing pro-lifer, never a pro-lifer is these days, somebody who wants to outlaw and get rid of Roe v. Wade, I think it`s that what it means according to Trump, throwing it back to the states so we have this craziness of laws about abortion rights. What happens when these Democrats say, there`s no way on God`s earth I`m going to vote for that. So, he doesn`t get 60 votes. What`s he do?

MAK: He might get a short-term honeymoon, in the medium term, but he`s going to have a brutal reckoning with the law, right? Already, he`s operating his business in a way that`s sketchy, might be --

MATTHEWS: OK, let`s go to that question. What is he doing on the phone talking, maybe, with the governor -- the president of Argentina about his business interests now? What is he doing bringing Jared and his daughter into the meeting with the prime minister of Japan? What are they doing in the room talking business?

MAK: It turns out the term blind trust only means blind to reporters who are here trying to figure out about it, all right? It`s not -- he has said that he would delegate that to his family. That continues to be a conflict of interest, because his family continues to be sitting in with business, in business meetings. It`s a --

MATTHEWS: Last seen as President Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo, like, king what`s-his-name, the king he replaced years before, they own the Congo, but he doesn`t own this country. Trump doesn`t own this country. He can`t just use every, you know, public encounter with a foreign leader as a business opportunity.

MAK: Well, it`s going to be a brutal reckoning with the law and the Constitution of the United States.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s going to come up against a wall. We`ll see. You don`t think so? You think he`s going to walk over the city?

STANTON: Well, I don`t think on this stuff, but the Republicans are standing in his way.

MATTHEWS: This city is pretty good at fighting back.

Anyway, thank you. The roundtable is sticking with us. Up next, these people will tell me something I don`t know.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, coming up, it`s Black Friday. So, make time for black humor on the special edition of HARDBALL. Join me at 7:00 Eastern as we look at all of the traditional political rules Donald Trump broke on his way to winning the White House. We`re calling it "How Not to Run for President and Win". And that`s Friday at 7:00 Eastern. We`ll be right back.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Susan, tell me something I don`t know.

MILLIGAN: The Democrats are devastated and shell shocked and got a big reprieve with this election because it sort of papered over the differences between the progressive wing of the party and establishment wing of the party. Senate is already pulling it together with their new leadership team and I think this is time for them to regroup and become stronger.

MATTHEWS: The Pelosi thing, how that fights, we`ll see how that is going to go.

STANTON: I think Katie Baker has a great story out about college kids that supported Trump and see themselves as the new hippies. They feel like they are being attacked on their campuses and they sort of get together in these small groups to talk about Trump because they feel that they were being ostracized.

MATTHEWS: What do they like about him?

STANTON: A lot of them don`t like -- most of it is about the anti- political correctness and they feel that`s so rampant on their campuses that a lot of them voted for him just because of that. That`s a great story.

MATTHEWS: I sort of get that attitude. Go ahead.

MAK: You mentioned Tulsi Gabbard earlier on the show. People in Hawaii are steamed about her meeting with Donald Trump. Also, she was one of the very few Democrats who didn`t sign a letter last week asking the Trump administration to rescind the Bannon appointment. So, she is a progressive darling --

MATTHEWS: Rescind which appointment?

MAK: The Bannon appointment. Steve Bannon appointment.

MATTHEWS: Oh, yes. So they think she`s playing with them?

MAK: Yes. I think people in Hawaii think --

MATTHEWS: Would jump over the side for this guy.

MAK: Yes, I mean, they are deeply concerned.

MATTHEWS: Howard Dean said that earlier. There`s a lot of anger about that. It`s interesting.

Thank you so much, Susan Milligan, John Stanton and Tim Mak.

When we return, let me finish with tonight`s edition of Trump Watch. It`s tough. Warning.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Trump watch, November 21st, 2016.

Well, the star of "The Apprentice" is now the star of a brand-new reality show, picking a cabinet. We see the contestants parade before us one at a time. They present themselves at Trump Tower or out at his golf course in Jersey, or angling, charming their way to a job. Trump`s got their number that have killed him in this political (INAUDIBLE) they had their chance.

The problem is they had their chance. Now, they just want a job from him, some prestige to take the edge of their failure of winning the presidency himself. Their second failure, to keep it from him.

What does America they of these guys marching and parade before the same guy who once got to say "you`re fired" and who now gets to say "you`re hired"? Is Rudy Giuliani still on the list for secretary of state or is he losing out to Mitt Romney? Is Giuliani now up for director of national intelligence and Romney is the guy for state, or is this all to keep it exciting, to give it a little drama like "The Apprentice"?

They used to say Lyndon Johnson was sadistic, how he wanted to have two candidates for vice president, ride with him in the helicopter to the Democratic convention in Atlantic City so that he could pick the winner when they landed and tell the loser to get lost. But not even Johnson could get away from this kind of ego trip. Today, Trump is making an ever growing list of wannabes walk the walk, paraded in front of the cameras to show how much they want his approval and guess what, have you noticed the more press he gets out of the State Department job, the more the list of possible candidates grows?

Everyday, a publicity encourages to add to the list so he can keep it going, this new reality show of his. We are a country absorbed by the man with the tall hat and the wand, the ring master out there in the center ring, introducing the acts, making the elephants climb up on their hind legs for the enjoyment and diversion of the greatest show on earth.

You can`t make this up, folks.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.