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Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript 11/22/2016

Guests: Kellyanne Conway, Yamiche Alcindor , James Stewart, April Ryan, Tamara Keith

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 22, 2016 Guest: Kellyanne Conway, Yamiche Alcindor , James Stewart, April Ryan, Tamara Keith

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hillary walks.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Donald Trump once called Hillary Clinton`s e-mail scandal "bigger than Watergate." His supporters chanted "Lock her up!" Well, today, the president-elect said he wasn`t interested in pursuing a criminal case against Clinton, as he promised to do. He told "The New York Times," "It`s just not something that I feel very strongly about."

Well, earlier today, an adviser to Trump, Kellyanne Conway, was asked about Republicans in Washington who still want to go after Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP TRANSITION SENIOR ADVISER: I think when the president-elect, who`s also the head of your party now, Joe, tells you before he`s even inaugurated he doesn`t wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone and content, to the members.

And I think Hillary Clinton still has to face the fact that a majority of Americans don`t find her to be honest or trustworthy. But if Donald Trump can help her heal, than perhaps that`s a good thing. I do -- look, I think he`s thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the president of the United States, and things that sound like the campaign aren`t among them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, the reversal earned rebukes from Republicans and conservatives. Here was Senator Lindsey Graham this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, so much for locking her up, I guess. I can understand wanting to put the election behind us and heal the nation, but I do hope that all the things that Donald Trump said about how crooked she was, that we just don`t let it go without some serious effort to see if the law was truly violated. I think that would be a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: On the Web site of Breitbart News, by the way, the company once run by Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon, the headline this morning read, "Broken promise, Trump doesn`t wish to pursue Clinton e-mail charges." Joel Pollak, a senior editor at Breitbart, said today, "A decision not to pursue the Clinton investigation would be seen as a betrayal of the voters and bodes ill for other promises. Voters would understand a presidential pardon, perhaps, but not a wholesale abandonment of the investigation."

Another conservative group, Judicial Watch, also called it a betrayal. Quote, "If Mr. Trump`s appointees continue the Obama administration`s politicized spiking of a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton, it would be a betrayal of his promise to the American people to drain the swamp of out-of-control corruption in Washington, D.C."

Well, for months, Donald Trump promised that if he won the presidency, he would have his political rival, Hillary Clinton, prosecuted over her use of a personal e-mail server. Let`s watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: She should be in prison! Let me tell you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: She should be in prison.

I will ask my attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor! After getting a subpoena to give over your e-mails and lots of other things, she deleted the e-mails! She has to go to jail!

(SUPPORTERS): Lock her up! Lock her up!

TRUMP: For what she`s done, they should lock her up.

If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.

HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You know, it is -- it`s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.

TRUMP: Because you`d be in jail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now, senior adviser to Donald Trump`s transition, Kellyanne Conway. Kellyanne, thank you for all this.

Can you give us any tick-tock on this? When during the night or whenever did Donald Trump come up with this decision to basically let Hillary Clinton off the hook in terms of further prosecution?

CONWAY: It`s a recent development. And those are his words, so we respect them. He repeated them today at "The New York Times," on the record briefing, Chris. You talked a little bit about that. He actually went on for a couple of minutes about this issue to "The New York Times."

I was sitting right next to him. He said that it was a vicious primary, vicious campaign. He thinks that she and the Clintons have suffered enough. And he just wants to unite the country and move forward, not backward.

And then he ticked off a whole list of things that he does care about. He said he`s very focused -- he`s most focused right now, on health care, on immigration, on national security, on the many problems he thinks exist throughout the world. This is somebody who`s getting regular intelligence briefings now, and so he is convinced -- there are many -- there are many issues that need his immediate attention, as our commander-in-chief and president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: So much of the voting the last -- you and I talked off and on off the record, I won`t go into details because there wasn`t much really to it, except asking each other questions.

But you know there were a lot of people decided -- a lot of people in the suburbs, for example, where I`m from, or near the suburbs, my parent, my brothers and all, that made last-minute decisions toward Trump. They didn`t like either of the candidates, especially, but they made a decision for Trump because they don`t like Hillary. They just really don`t like her.

And they really, I think, liked the idea that Trump was calling her crooked Hillary. And they liked the idea that he said -- his people said, "Look her up." And now one of the real motivating emotions, if you will, of the campaign near the end was, Better him than her. And now that`s gone by the wayside. And there`s no more belief on the part of him?

CONWAY: No, it`s not.

MATTHEWS: Is there a belief that she`s crooked Hillary, or is that just something that`s been dropped?

CONWAY: Well, Chris, look at the polling, NBC`s polling and other people`s polling. People -- a majority of Americans still think that she has a veracity problem, a casual relationship with the truth...

MATTHEWS: Yes. Does he think that?

CONWAY: This is part of what -- no, no, no. This is important. This is part of why she lost. And look, I`ll say it again, their unfavorability ratings were high for each of them, but for different reasons.

And for her, you had a much higher, more intense number of people saying, I just can`t go there. I just can`t abide the lying or the mistruths or the -- or using the State Department as a concierge for foreign governments and the pay-to-play in the Clinton Foundation. Come on! There`s a whole bunch of thing in what I call their scandalabra.

But with him, you know, we can`t have it both ways because on this network and out of Hillary Clinton`s mouth herself, it was claimed that when Jim Comey came out on October 28th and said he would reopen or start a new investigation into her e-mails, everybody had their head on fire and said, Oh, people already decided what they think about that. It`s baked in the cake. She said it very clearly.

So we can`t have it both ways. Did people decide last minute because of those e-mails or had they already decided because of those e-mails?

MATTHEWS: I think it all helped. Let me ask what you do now. We`ve got people like Trey Gowdy, we`ve got people like Jason Chaffetz and Darrell Issa who make a living on basically going after Hillary, holding hearing after hearing. How do you stop that process, as the president? If he`s -- he will be the president come January 20th. How does he call off the dogs, Donald Trump?

CONWAY: He respects federalism and he respects the separation of power. So he is stating what his position is as the president-elect and the leader of his party now, certainly. And he`s made that very clear. He`s just says he has no interest in pursuing these charges...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CONWAY: ... that he wants to unite the party -- excuse me, unite the country and he wants to move forward, not backward. He has said that. He can`t control what other people do completely. he`s the president of the United States.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but he can control it. He can control it.

CONWAY: No, that`s not true.

MATTHEWS: Well, he could...

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: Well, I`m sorry, but then you`re suggesting that President Obama was interfering or should have interfered somehow with Hillary`s e-mails.

MATTHEWS: No.

CONWAY: There`s no indication of that.

MATTHEWS: No, I just wonder whether he has ruled out a pardon because the advantage of a pardon, just a broad pardon -- the president has the absolute authority to do it. It would basically call off the dogs because it would say there`s no reason for more -- I`m not saying she`s innocent. I`m just saying, Let`s drop this, like Gerry Ford did. Would that be out of the question, just to say, That`s part of magnanimity of taking office, I`m just going to clear the air, there`ll be no more prosecution because I`m pardoning her, end it right there. He can do that.

CONWAY: He hasn`t said that. He hasn`t said that and...

MATTHEWS: Has he ruled it out?

CONWAY: ... that`s not a conversation -- that`s not a conversation we`ve had one way or the other.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he`d rule it out?

CONWAY: It`s not -- I just don`t know where his head is on that. It`s not a conversation we`ve had. You just saw what he said today. I think it`s news. I think he made a lot of news yesterday and today, frankly.

I mean, he`s got -- he`s made some decisions on more appointments. They`ll be coming out in the next couple of days. And he`s just incredibly busy up there getting his cabinet together, his senior staff, making decisions, obviously, sitting with the press yesterday, the electronic press, the TV press, and including NBC and MSNBC, and today, really in an extraordinary on-the-record briefing with a newspaper that told America not to vote for him. And I think their coverage of him has been, well, a bit one-sided.

But he`s happy to go in there and try to have a conversation with them and try to answer their questions. And I thought he was terrific, and I thought they were very -- both sides were very accessible.

MATTHEWS: Do you think "The New York Times" will change its ways because of that meeting?

CONWAY: I hope that many in the media, Chris, will at least see that they missed the cultural zeitgeist that Donald Trump understood and harnessed and brought all the way to the presidency.

I hope what happens is now you`ve got these ombudsmen, you know, these public editors writing all these pieces about, Whoa, we missed it, and we`re sorry, we`ll try to go back out now and understand America. Wow. You spent millions and millions of dollars sending reporters out to America, never actually getting to know America.

What I think will happen is that there is -- you know, these -- I like to say that the press and the president -- President Trump have -- they`re going to have joint custody of the public for the next four to eight years, and I ought to find a way to do that together responsibly.

What I think will happen is "The New York Times" sees in front of them today a very accessible, very candid, frankly, very intellectual peripatetic in the answers that he gave, far-reaching questions, far- reaching answers...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CONWAY: ... they see in somebody who is at least willing to go sit across from them eyeball to eyeball and answer their questions. And they also see that we`re all available to them if they want to call us. I`m very open with the press. I don`t always like what`s written. I don`t always like - - you know, I don`t always like...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You shouldn`t like what`s written. You shouldn`t.

CONWAY: But I think...

MATTHEWS: There`s no reason at all you should like the way the press has treated Trump.

But let me ask you about some of the news things that`s coming. We only get you once in a while, Kellyanne. You`re getting very hard to get, so I want to get some news here.

My mom -- you and I grew up similar, I think. My mom always said wear one nice piece of clothing that will impress everybody, like a tweed jacket or something. And I`m wondering if that`s the reason that Trump`s thinking about Mitt Romney for secretary of state, wear one nice piece of clothing, and all the media and the establishment types and the elite will say, Oh, he`s a finer man than we thought he was because he picked Mitt Romney, who`s a fine man.

Is that part of this garnishing of this administration, that you`re going to have to put a guy like Trump -- Trump has nothing in common with Mitt Romney, at all, nothing in common. And Romney was a big supporter of the Iraq war. He was a hawk like the rest of them. You put him back in there, how`s he going to carry out a Trump foreign policy? It doesn`t make sense to me, at least.

CONWAY: Well, I assure you, no appointment...

MATTHEWS: It looks nice. It looks nice.

CONWAY: Right. But look, no appointment is -- Donald Trump is not somebody who fakes appearances, as we all know. So let`s dispense with that. There`s no one in the cabinet that could be thought of to be, quote, "window dressing" or a nice piece of clothing to sort of get everybody to stop criticizing President-elect Trump.

First and foremost, the person has to be qualified and capable to do the job. And in the case of Governor Romney, many things what he said in 2012 came true. But I still think you`ve got Rudy Giuliani up there for secretary of state. I think people are looking at Bob Corker. There are a couple of other names that have come our way, and Mr. Trump is talking to them. This is not a position that you`re going to get an announcement about today. It`s a very important job.

But you know, Chris, I was thinking about the position of secretary of state today. Why are all these recent secretaries of state flying around the world all the time? I mean, why not the Kissinger/George Schulz model, where you`re actually serving the president and the vice president, and you`re with them a lot and not just flying around the world? It`s not much of an accomplishment. I don`t know that the world is any safer or more prosperous because the last couple secretaries of state sort of, you know, logged a million miles.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: You know why. Because in Washington, you can`t measure output, so you measure input. So you can`t claim you`re getting anything done, so you tell people how many miles you flew. You know the game, Kellyanne. That`s the game they play.

CONWAY: Yes, but this is a guy who`s going to get things done quickly...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: If a secretary of state does that, it`ll be interesting. Anyway, General Mike Flynn has made comments in the past critical of Muslims in general. He even tweeted, "Fear of Muslims is rational."

You know, when Bill Clinton won, and the business community was very scared of him, thinking he was a lefty Democrat, he had a big conference with business people.

CONWAY: Right.

MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) I was there. A lot of the press people, Joe Klein, were all down there covering it. And it worked. It sent a signal, I am not anti-business, and Clinton really wasn`t.

Is there an opportunity in the next couple weeks for the president-elect to meet with the Muslim community and let them know, I`m not out to get you? Is that going to happen? Could it happen?

CONWAY: Perhaps he does things like that privately. Not everything -- you know, this is Donald Trump. He`s not a typical politician, so not everything is meant to be a press-consumable event.

But I will tell you that he speaks to many different people on a given day from many different walks of life. But your point is well taken. And I believe for someone who said moments after he elected, moments after he claimed victory, Chris, and Huma and Hillary were calling him to concede, he said, I`m going to be the president of all Americans.

And he means that, and I see it every day in the decisions he makes and the conversations he has -- and talk about inputs and outputs, in the counsel around which he has surrounded -- and I`m telling you that he will -- - he`s somebody who wants to reach out to everyone.

I don`t want him to become a walking Hallmark card, by the way. People elected him because he`s a tough leader. So let me make that clear, too. We don`t need to go all mush-mush. But at the same time...

MATTHEWS: OK, all right, you`re...

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: ... there`s a certainly responsibility when you become president.

MATTHEWS: I don`t know. You`re tilting at windmills because I`m not for that. But let me tell you what I would like to see. First of all, I`d like to see how he run (ph) against the hawks. Number two, I think there is in this city of Washington, where you and I know this city -- people are open to a deal if you can find a way to get them to the table. There are a lot of things on the table. People want infrastructure. They want public/private. They want public as well as private. They want to get that trillions of dollars, tens of trillions of dollars being hidden overseas brought back home. Some of the -- most of the Democrats want minimum wage.

Can he put it all on the table, put them all together, get Chuck Schumer there, and force them not to leave the room until they cut a damned deal that gets the country booming economically for the working people again? Make them agree on a big deal, not this puny, pissant incremental thing! Oh, gee whiz, we`ll do a little bit of that and we`ll do a little bit of that on road building. Put a railroad across the country! Reunite this country red and blue! Make it happen! Be big! That would be great.

And I think a lot of progressives and moderates like me would say, You know what? It`s better than nothing. And we`ve been getting nothing out of the federal government for years.

Go ahead, Kellyanne. Will there be a big deal...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... or this pissant stuff that the politicians love?

CONWAY: I don`t know -- look, anybody can not -- nobody can accuse Donald Trump of playing small ball. I`ve never heard the word "puny" and him in the same sentence before. So he`s thinking big. He will do big things.

And the way you describe what is needed in terms of negotiating and getting the best deal for Americans and indeed the American worker, that`s who this guy is. It`s not just what he ran on as president. It`s who he`s been for decades. He`s somebody who`s a listener, a learner, a communicator, a connector.

He`s accountable, he delivers, he produces. He`s a guy who has results, things to show for it. He builds stuff. He fixes stuff. That`s what we need in Washington. And you know what, with Chris? For 30 years -- for 30 years -- probably as long as I`ve known you, the country has been telling us all, I want -- I want a deal maker, I want a fixer, I want a businessman, I don`t want a politician.

They finally made good on their self-avowed desire to put that kind of person in the White House. You`re going to be surprised at how much progress is made in such a short time.

MATTHEWS: Speaking of deal makers, before the election, I said, Can I have Donald Trump on the show? And you said, No, but we`ll give him to you right after he wins. I`ll just remind you of that.

Kellyanne, you`re my friend, I know you, a person of a good word.

CONWAY: I am of a good word.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much. An interesting show.

I`m joined right now by "The New York Times" Yamiche Alcindor. Thank you, Kellyanne.

Yamiche, tell me about "The New York Times" meeting today and this Breitbart issue. And Trump has denounced it, it`s racist, all these other words -- I`m not sure he used the word "racist," but he definitely came down on this sort of right-wing group that met in Washington over the weekend, in the Reagan building, of all places.

Where`s he stand -- where did that come -- how`d that come out in the meeting today with Trump?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, in the meeting, Donald Trump really in some way and very clearly disavowed the alt-right meeting that happened in D.C. He was -- he really said that if he thought Steve Bannon was a part of that movement, that he would not have a position in his administration. So he was really doing his best to really distance himself from those groups.

The other thing that he did in the meeting that I thought was pretty interesting, as much as he talked about the idea that he felt in some ways that the paper hadn`t treated him fairly, he went on to say that he really respected the paper, that he reads it regularly, and that he really wants to be able to work with the paper in some real ways.

So I think being able to sit down with all the editors and the reporters at "The New York Times" and to really make that space shows that he`s serious about that.

MATTHEWS: Did he seem to be bothered by the fact that the Breitbart network, the newspaper, whatever you want to call it, the Web site, came out and attacked him for basically letting Hillary get off prosecution as far as he`s concerned?

ALCINDOR: So, he was -- he really -- in some ways, talked really candidly about the fact that he really wants to move past that. He talked about Hillary Clinton as someone that he didn`t want to hurt.

He didn`t speak specifically about that headline in Breitbart saying, Broken promises, but I think what he really is trying to do is tell the American people and tell his base, Look, like, we got what we wanted. You got me in office. Now I want to go and actually create policies and create jobs and focus on that and not focus on someone who has already lost the presidency.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask him about a pardon because that would be one quick to do it. He has the absolute power to pardon. He could just say she`s pardoned, she`d accept it, that`d be the end of the game. She`d (INAUDIBLE) no more worried about Darrell Issa, Jason Chaffetz or Trey Gowdy. They would all be without a job.

Why doesn`t he do that? Just a thought.

ALCINDOR: I mean, In your interview with Kellyanne Conway, she also, as you can tell (ph), said that she hasn`t talked to him about that. He didn`t talk to us specifically about that. So it seems as though his administration and even the spokespeople that you`ve interviewed yourself, they don`t want to go anywhere near talking about a pardon.

MATTHEWS: How does -- are you surprised how Trump is putting out the news? He got on "MORNING JOE" this morning. I don`t know how these things happen. I haven`t talked to Joe. But the fact that these stories are breaking on the morning shows -- is that the power of the morning television audience over the print media now, that that`s where he wants to put a story out, that he allows it out that way?

ALCINDOR: I mean...

MATTHEWS: It seems like a judgment he`s making, I`m going to make more news on "MORNING JOE" than I will in "The New York Times" this morning.

ALCINDOR: But I think in some ways, you could also say that he would (INAUDIBLE) Twitter is more important than any -- any news organization in general.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ALCINDOR: So we could also read into that and say that he feels like the fact that he can tweet out and have people pick that up, that he can put out a statement, a video and have his open staff record him. That also might say that he is more -- that that`s more important than the network news.

But I think the fact that he`s sitting down specifically with "The New York Times," coming to our building, tells me that we are still the paper of record and still a place that he thinks is really important.

MATTHEWS: He started with "MORNING JOE" on MSNBC and he got to you guys later in the day. Thank you, Yamiche Alcindor. That was his -- that was his plan today. I`m just teasing, a little bit.

Coming up, more warning signs that Trump is mixing business with politics. He`s now tweeting, as Yamiche said, that everyone knew of his business interests before the election, they still voted for him anyway. Is Trump planning on running his business empire as a tycoon of the world out of the Oval Office?

Plus, inside Trump`s plans to rebuild the country`s roads, bridges and airports. I talked about that with Kellyanne. He says he wants to put American workers to work, but Democrats are already calling Trump`s plan a trap and a scam. Well, they better stop talking like that.

And the HARDBALL roundtable on how the far right is already angry with Trump over what they`re calling broken promises. Tough. They want Trump to make good on his campaign vow to investigate Hillary Clinton. Yes, good luck with that.

Finally, I`m going to finish tonight with a reminder of this day in history, November 22. Do you remember?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, today in the White House, President Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom, the country`s highest civilian honor, to 21 people, including actors Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro and Robert Redford, TV`s Ellen DeGeneres and Lorne Michaels, musicians Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross, and basketball stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan, the best.

And here`s the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These are folks who have helped make me who I am and think about my presidency.

And what also makes it special is, this is America. And it`s useful, when you think about this incredible collection of people, to realize that this is what makes us the greatest nation on Earth, not because of what we...

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: What a great day for America, a great moment.

Anyway, President Obama has handed out a total of 114 Medals of Freedom in his eight years in the White House, more than any other president.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTHEWS: Well, that was an interesting interview.

Anyway, back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump last night pushed back against concerns that his continued stake in his global business empire could compromise his ability to act in the best interest as president for the country.

His message: You knew what you were getting.

Well, here`s what Trump tweeted last night.

"Prior to the election, it was well-known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal."

Well, Trump`s apparent defiance amid scrutiny of his business dealings earned him a rebuke from Republican Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, who responded last night saying: "You rightly criticized Hillary for the Clinton Foundation. If you have contracts with foreign governments, it`s certainly a big deal, too."

Well, according to Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times," Trump addressed the issue in his meeting with the newspaper`s representatives today, saying -- quote -- "The law`s totally on my side. The president can`t have a conflict of interest. In theory, I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There`s never been a case like this. I had assumed that you would have to set up some type of trust or whatever, and you don`t," adding the quote, "I would like to do something."

Well, I`m joined right now by MSNBC political analyst David Corn, Washington bureau chief of "Mother Jones," and Michael Steele, former chairman of the RNC.

Michael and David, I was once fortunate, I guess is the right word, to get an interview with Yasser Arafat of PLO. And one of the interesting side arrangements, I guess, was, oh, by the way, just to make things work smoothly here -- I don`t know who made the deal, but you have to make it -- would you mind getting your rooms and stay at the motel down there in Ramallah?

Well, nobody wanted to stay at the motel down there at Ramallah, but I guess, as a courtesy, the person who set up the meeting said, basically, that`s the way you do it.

MICHAEL STEELE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

MATTHEWS: How does Trump avoid foreign dignitaries coming to Washington and passing the word through the Office of Protocol, oh, by the way, we have got 20 rooms at Trump Hotel down on Pennsylvania Avenue as a courtesy to our host?

How do you stop foreign people who are used to buying people, used to bribery, from playing the game with Trump enterprises?

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it`s too late.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael first, because I think he might be softer than you.

But go ahead, Michael.

STEELE: No.

No, actually, I`m kind of disappointed in the language I`m hearing about this. You can`t stop that from happening, and there`s no guarantee that it won`t happen. And, yes, the law may be on your side, but the ethical conundrum that you create, and not only that, but just the way it appears to the American people should be concerning to the president.

And, yes, so no one says you can`t be a good CEO, and no one says you can`t be a good president, but you can`t be both at the same time. And that`s the problem. And I think what`s happening right now is that the Trump team and Trump himself is making a story that shouldn`t exist.

You knew going into this what the obligations and the commitment was to be president. It`s a full-time job. You can`t do anything else but that. And all presidents have put their interests, their personal interests and kept separate and away from their public duty and responsibility. And I hope the president does the same thing.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this more directly. He`s in a bag he has to fight his way out of. Of course, it`s difficult. Suppose he`s the cleanest guy that ever lived and closed his eyes to everything being done by Trump enterprises while he`s president. Imagine that.

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Shows no interest in it.

He picks up the financial pages, he reads that somebody in Trump Tower just sold some hotel in Riyadh or bought somehow in Riyadh, and he thinks that`s a stupid decision. Does he not call up somebody and say, some knucklehead and say, why did you make that decision? How does he stay out of something that`s a public enterprise?

CORN: He wants his son-in-law to be his top adviser, in all on the security briefings...

MATTHEWS: In the White House.

CORN: ... who`s married to Ivanka, who will be controlling a company that`s not even separated by a blind trust.

This is untenable. And it`s not just, you know -- he said, everybody knew I had properties. I`m not sure everyone knew that he had almost a billion dollars in loans from Deutsche Bank in Germany and the Bank of China, a state bank, and which may violate the Constitution.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Do you think it`s possible for him to disaggregate, I mean, to disassociate himself from these, and just is it possible? Because, if it isn`t, why are we arguing?

CORN: "The Wall Street Journal" has said that the only possible course forward for him is to put -- sell off his assets and take the funds and put those in a blind trust.

MATTHEWS: Do you think somebody would buy everything he`s got?

CORN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: OK.

Let me go -- "The New York Times," another version of the truth here, also reported on the larger constitutional questions that could come into play when Trump is in office, pointing to an obscure provision that was designed to protect the country from foreign improprieties. It`s not so obscure, actually.

It reads: "No person holding any office of profit or trust under them shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince, or foreign state."

Michael, it`s pretty clear you can`t even take a revered bowl from some foreign government without checking it in somewhere.

STEELE: Right. You can`t.

MATTHEWS: You have to be very honorable about it.

How does he avoid some prince from someplace in the emirates granting him the knowledge that they just bought -- you know, they used his hotel for their latest, what do you call it, ceremonial catering? And I hope the million dollars they just laid on him.

How do you stop crooks from being crooks with us? I guess that is the question.

STEELE: No, you can`t. And that`s why that clause was there, was a concern of the founding fathers that the influences of England and France and other nations at the time on this fledgling democracy would be too much.

And that still holds true today. We are always concerned about the influence that foreign governments may have on our presidency. Look at the reaction to just the idea that Russia may have somehow tampered with the election or been involved with the election.

I mean, we take these things seriously. I hope the Trump team does as well. This is not difficult. This is not complicated. It`s spelled out in the Constitution. It is spelled out even by precedent, even though I know people don`t put a lot of stock in precedent. There`s a reason for it.

And I think the administration coming in the door should acknowledge that, particularly given the particular family entanglements, as well as the other business interests.

MATTHEWS: Maybe he has to make, as you suggest, although you`re not as nice about it, a sacrifice. He said that his sex life discipline during the Vietnam War was his Vietnam. Remember that nonsense?

CORN: Yes. Yes. Yes.

MATTHEWS: This could be a case of true sacrifice. He may have to give up tens of millions of dollars in potential profit if he wants to be a good, clean president. He may have to, to make the point.

CORN: What`s disturbing is, the way he talked about it at "The New York Times" today and, like, I don`t know, gee whiz, maybe something.

This is a problem that was readily identified and we at "Mother Jones" and Bloomberg and other places wrote about for weeks prior to this. It`s not a surprise. A billion dollars in loans from overseas. He`s meeting with partners in India this week. He has Ivanka sitting in the meetings.

MATTHEWS: Who should have known this, the voters or him?

CORN: Both. And having had his tax returns would have been helpful.

There`s a lot we don`t know.

MATTHEWS: Well, we`re over that bridge.

CORN: Chris, there`s still a lot we don`t know about the loans he holds.

(CROSSTALK)

STEELE: And I think, Chris -- hey, Chris, I think that because Trump was able to get away with not having to, you know, show us the tax returns, I think there is this idea that, you know, he can get away with doing this as well.

I think this is very different. I think this is very different for a lot of the American people. This isn`t a partisan issue. This is something that I think really speaks to the integrity of the office.

CORN: He wants to drain the swamp.

MATTHEWS: I know.

CORN: This is like -- this is a swamp. This is a global swamp that he`s stepping right into.

MATTHEWS: He shouldn`t have any other interests but the American people at this point.

Thank you very much, Michael Steele and David Corn. I`m glad you guys agree. I do, too.

Up next: Donald Trump says he wants to rebuild America`s roads, bridges and ports, but some Democrats like Bernie Sanders are already calling Trump`s plan a scam. That`s their point of view. Maybe they want it to be a scam. I think Bernie will deal with him, though.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGI STONE WOODS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. I`m Gigi Stone Woods. Here`s what`s happening at this hour.

Authorities are investigating Monday`s deadly school bus crash in Chattanooga. The bus, which had no seat belts, was traveling faster than the speed limit.

And winter weather could make travel dangerous for the Thanksgiving rush. More snow is expected from Upstate New York through Northern New England -- now back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We`re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump says he has a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to update the country`s roads, bridges, tunnels, and airports.

"The New York Times"` James Stewart says this is one way Trump could -- quote -- "unify a bitterly divided America, provide well-paying jobs to millions, 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 what he presumably does best, build something, build something awe- inspiring, something Americans can be proud of."

But Trump`s fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill may be reluctant to give their new president a blank check. House Democrat -- or Transportation Chair Bill Shuster told Politico he`s working with Trump`s team "to figure out how we`re going to pay for it. It`s got to be fiscally responsible," he said.

Well, Senate Commerce Chair John Thune of South Dakota said, "$1 trillion is a big number."

And Alaska Republican Don Young said: "There`s no pie in the sky, no magic wand. We have to pay for it."

James Stewart, the guy who wrote it, is a columnist with "The New York Times."

Everybody around here loved your article, because you painted out in almost beautiful, graphic manner the ways you can rebuild America, going from Erie, Pennsylvania, from New York, across the country. I have been singing this song, but not so graphically.

I want us to build a high-speed railroad that reunites red and blue America and makes us one country again, brings back Saint Louis and Cleveland, all those cities in the middle.

JAMES STEWART, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I love that.

MATTHEWS: Make us one country, like it used to be in the railroad days. Flyover country`s not been good for this country. Flying from L.A. and New York and back and forth and skipping the country is bad culturally, it`s bad economically.

Why not borrow $30 trillion at low interest right now, sell the bonds, call them Trump bonds, let Trump go out on the road, sell the bonds, and build such a beautiful America that we look like China and Japan and Switzerland, where they have high-speed rail. And in the TGV in France, they go 300 miles an hour, and your little Diet Coke doesn`t even jiggle.

It`s unbelievable. Why are we the backward country? I will let you talk. Why?

STEWART: Well, Chris, I will say I`m impressed at how big you`re thinking.

They`re complaining about $1 trillion. Nobody I talked to thinks $1 trillion is enough, by the way; $2 trillion, maybe we`re getting in the ballpark. If he really wants to be the greatest infrastructure country in the world, we`re definitely looking $3 trillion or up.

So, yes, there is going to be a big price tag. But we haven`t invested in infrastructure now for 30 or 40 years. And I have to say, Trump is absolutely right about that. It`s a disgrace.

I don`t go anywhere by car, train, air where I don`t have anxiety and stress about what`s going to go wrong. And three times out of four, something does go wrong. It`s -- the New York area alone could soak up practically $1 trillion of this.

But, as you pointed out, we -- it should be spread all over America. We could do a tremendous amount with high-speed trains. I don`t know about connecting every one city, but Chicago as a hub connecting a lot of those Midwestern cities with these magnetic trains, a magnetic train connecting Washington and New York.

And one thing I would say to these deficit hawks who are always, like, counting their pennies is, we`re not throwing this money away, like we have on so many projects. It`s an investment, and it`s a sound investment in America`s future. It`s an investment in economic growth.

They`re always saying cut taxes, we will grow, it will pay for itself. Build infrastructure, the economy will grow, and that`s going to pay a lot of itself as well.

MATTHEWS: OK.

The conundrum is, the Republicans are tight. They don`t want to spend money, because it`s some kind of a philosophy based upon years ago. The Democrats would love to spend the money, but nobody trusts them to spend the money, because a lot of it will go to minority set-asides, Davis-Bacon, you know, councilman privilege, everybody will have their fingers out, and by the time you`ve spend -- the money`s gone.

Was it you the other day who wrote, nobody can think of a thing built by the Obama stimulus package --

JAMES STEWART, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, I did write that.

MATTHEWS: -- not a single thing, because by the time the money reaches the street in reality, everybody, every politician and group in the world has got their hands in it. Republicans want to build, but they don`t want to spend a nickel. How do you --

STEWART: Let`s take the best of these two worlds.

MATTHEWS: OK.

STEWART: Let`s take the Democratic willingness to write a check and the Republican hawkishness about making sure it gets spent in the right place. By the way, that`s what Roosevelt did. He was all over these things. Obama wrote checks and delegated. FDR didn`t delegate. He approved every one of these tens of thousands of projects had gone in the New Deal, and he had a big task force that made sure there was no corruption, that rooted it out. There were over 2,000 people prosecuted for graft and fraud of the New Deal era, because they kept this project clean.

It`s a big management task, you need good people, but we have proven it can be done. We don`t want another, you know, frittering away the money, like the Obama reconstruction thing, or worse, what happened in Katrina. Look at all the money that was wasted there.

You`ve got to have management. You`ve got to stay on top of it. But if you do it right and build the right things, it`s going to be a great investment in America.

MATTHEWS: Yes, a great -- a typical Democrat thing is, wait until you have a lot of money to spend with and say, oh, we`ve got to help this deficit in D.C. Let`s pay some of those arrears there. I mean, it`s just unbelievable.

Anyway, thank you, James Stewart, for making us think big.

STEWART: Sure.

MATTHEWS: The piece was, what, two days ago. I`m telling you, people, get the piece by James Stewart and get your mind around something big again in this country. Something like Lincoln building the railroads or scientific farming, which is another thing Lincoln did. We used to do big stuff.

Up next --

STEWART: We can still do it.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir. Well said. Thank you.

Trump`s apparent decision not to push the investigation into Hillary Clinton isn`t going over well with some of his base, Breitbart types. They`re already calling it a broken promise, Breitbart is.

The HARDBALL roundtable is coming here next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump said last month that if he`s elected, he`d hire a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. Well, today he says, forget about it. Conservative organizations are slashing at him, calling Trump`s backpedaling a betrayal.

Yesterday, in another troubling sign, Trump released a video detailing executive actions he would take on day one. Top of that list, repealing TPP, banning lobbyists, and canceling energy regulations.

What didn`t make the list? Building a border wall, repealing Obamacare, and repealing President Obama`s executive actions on immigration.

For more on how candidate Trump transitions into President Trump, I`m joined by our roundtable. April Ryan, White House correspondent of American Urban Radio Networks, Sam Stein, reporter with "Huffington Post," and Tamara Keith, political correspondent for NPR.

So, the new person, start this.

I personally think he had to clear the air with Hillary, but it was rather abrupt. Somehow getting it out this morning on "MORNING JOE." And all of a sudden, we`re in a world in which there`s not going to be any prosecuting Hillary Clinton, crooked Hillary, which was his battle cry and may well have excited his troops is now forgotten.

TAMARA KEITH, NPR: It is going away. But, you know, he eased into this, in the "60 Minutes" interview. He said he didn`t want to hurt her. And then today, he makes it clear that he doesn`t plan to prosecute her. The fact is, it was sort of an empty promise all along.

MATTHEWS: How did you know? I didn`t know that.

KEITH: Well, it was an empty promise, because he didn`t really have the authority to do it. The president --

MATTHEWS: Well, he could have picked a prosecutor as attorney general and said, come on, come on, come on. But I think he could have cheered on her prosecution on the Hill. And now, he`s not cheering them on. He seems to be telling the guys on the Hill to lay off, I guess.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTON POST: I guess. But I think --

MATTHEWS: Is this cynical politics?

STEIN: We need to step back a little bit. And there is something troubling about a president saying, I will not prosecute you and I will prosecute you. The president doesn`t independently get to make --

MATTHEWS: Rudy Giuliani said, how can we let her get by, because then someone will steal 50,000 bucks instead of millions which --

(CROSSTALK)

STEIN: Well, the president -- if he thinks it`s a crime, then they should prosecute. But there`s the precedent that the president doesn`t get to independently choose who he wants to prosecute because who he thinks is violating the law. And so, there`s a lot of --

MATTHEWS: Gerry Ford did.

STEIN: There`s a lot of Justice Department officials --

MATTHEWS: Gerry Ford did.

STEIN: There are a lot of Justice Department officials who are worried about what happened. And I think he hinted at it --

MATTHEWS: Can he pardon her?

STEIN: He can. Of course, that`s a presidential prerogative.

MATTHEWS: April?

APRIL RYAN, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK: You know, there`s a lot of facts about this that need to be brought to the forefront. Number one, when he said this at the debate, that one-liner, when she made a comment, he said, yes, you should be in jail and everyone --

MATTHEWS: You`d be in jail.

RYAN: Yes, yes, that should, you`d be in jail. Everyone -- well, pretty much the large portion of his supporters went ballistic in that debate room. But from that moment on, we knew the fact was, a sitting president is not allowed to tamper in his Justice Department. It is just unethical and it`s not right.

Number two, that was meant to gin up his base. And I remember driving through this country, seeing signs, Hillary for prison. So, where do they go now? Where do those people go?

And I`m not saying that he should do it. But I`m saying, he has let a good portion of his support down.

MATTHEWS: How much -- you know, a lot of people, so many brilliant people who like Trump, didn`t buy his act literally. They just meant, they wanted his attitude. You don`t like Hillary? Screw her! But they didn`t necessarily concern about the prosecution part?

KEITH: It`s basically become a cliche of the post-election analysis, that his supporters didn`t take Trump literally. They did take him seriously. And reporters, we all took him literally and didn`t maybe take him seriously.

MATTHEWS: I never believed it. I never thought the Mexicans were going to pay for the wall myself.

STEIN: I`m not so sure -- you see Breitbart.com, the most pro-Trump site on the Internet, with the headline that says "Broken Promises."

MATTHEWS: So, where`s this going to go? This shattered glass? What`s going to happen now?

STEIN: There`s a whole host of issues that you`ve outlined already that he`s going to have to walk back. Obamacare is one. We already see House Republicans --

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to the particular. Steve Bannon in the White House is his consigliore, his wartime consigliore. He`s going to sit there. He is -- he is Breitbart.

STEIN: Yes.

MATTHEWS: Breitbart, doesn`t the president-elect call him in and say, are you with me, Steve, or are you with me on this or are you with Breitbart? I`d ask him.

STEIN: I think -- so here`s the question, how much of this is attitude and how much of this is policy, right? If you have to go out and you have build a border wall with Mexico, but you have to pay for it, that becomes problematic than just saying, I`m going to make it happen.

MATTHEWS: Attitude is key in this country. I`m from Pennsylvania, attitude --

STEIN: Correct. But when it runs against governance, you have --

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN: I believed I -- when Donald Trump said it, I believed it, and he`s showing us a lot --

MATTHEWS: You believed he was going to put her in a prison?

RYAN: When he said those things -- let me tell you this. He`s talking some issues, putting people in place who have questionable backgrounds when it comes to race, religion, and all sorts of things. He said that on the campaign trail, and things that he would do, and he`s starting to do some things. Now with this Obamacare, I`m just -- I find it interesting that he`s pulling back on those two big things that ginned up his base.

MATTHEWS: I think he`s a politician.

Anyway, the roundtable is staying with us, up and next, they`ll tell me something I don`t think. I do believe they already know he`s a politician.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: On Black Friday, that`s coming up. Make time for some black humor on a special edition of HARDBALL. Join me at 7:00 Eastern as we look at all the rules that Donald Trump broke on his way to winning the White House. We`re calling it "How Not to Run for President and Win". That`s Friday at 7:00 Eastern.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

And, April, tell me something I don`t know.

RYAN: With the concern about Sessions possibly being the U.S. attorney general in the Trump administration, there is a concern about the backlog in the civil rights cases, at Justice, EEOC, as well as in Education.

MATTHEWS: He won`t take them off very fast.

RYAN: Exactly. And they weren`t cleared --

MATTHEWS: I think I got that guy`s number.

Go ahead.

STEIN: My colleagues Mike McAuliff and J.M. Rieger found a clip of Chuck Schumer on "The Apprentice" in 2006 as the prize for the contestants, he meets with them in the Hay Adams. In the clip, he ends up praising Donald Trump for his business acumen. That`s something you didn`t know.

MATTHEWS: Oh, my God. The past is prologue.

KEITH: This is ridiculous, but tomorrow, the president will pardon two turkeys, Tater and Tot. This begun in 1947, but the first turkeys were not pardoned, they were eaten.

MATTHEWS: OK. I predict that Trump will not pardon the next turkeys.

KEITH: He`s going to eat it.

MATTHEWS: He`ll say, "You`re fired".

Anyway, thank you, April Ryan, Sam Stein and Tamara Keith.

We`ll be right back with more rim shots.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, today is November 22nd.

And those of you who lived, as I did, through an earlier November 22nd, you might want to hear what I wrote. In the last page of my book on President John F. Kennedy. In the 2009 national poll, people were asked to say, which president deserves to be added to Mt. Rushmore? Well, it`s a good question because it really gets to heroic stature. Who should be up there with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and especially the old roughrider himself, Teddy Roosevelt? Well, the people chose John F. Kennedy.

In July 1969, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer of mine sat on a hillside in Swaziland with a group of local villagers looking at the night sky. He wanted them to see and watch with him. Finally, it arrived overhead what they were looking for -- a small light moving in the distance. It was his countryman heading to the moon. That Saturn rocket Jack Kennedy loved so much had done its job, and so had his Peace Corps.

Twenty years later, the Berlin Wall came down. I was there in a drizzly night that November with the beaten down East Germans waiting for the Brandenburg Gate to open. When I asked what`s freedom meant to a young man, he answered, "talking to you." Well, Jack Kennedy would like to have heard that, deserved to, I think.

The Iron Curtain has being ripped aside, communist was in its death throes, the Cold War was ending without the nuclear war we so feared. We had gotten through it alive, those of us who once hid under our little school desks. Thanks to him, I`d say.

He came a long way from the kid who caused trouble at boarding school for being Joe Kennedy`s son. In the time of our greatest peril, at the moment of ultimate judgment, an American president kept us from the brink, saved us really, kept a smile from being stricken from the planet -- he did that, Jack Kennedy.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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