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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 11/23/2016

Guests: Ken Vogel, Jay Newton-Small, Nancy Giles, Kristin Tate

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 23, 2016 Guest: Ken Vogel, Jay Newton-Small, Nancy Giles, Kristin Tate

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Trump`s new hires.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

And good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.

We are following the latest developments from Donald Trump`s presidential transition, Trump making several key cabinet picks today, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, seen by many as a rising star in the Republican Party -- Trump officially naming her his pick to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Governor Haley a one-time critic of Trump`s candidacy with little international experience. She will now be taking over one of the country`s key diplomatic posts.

Trump also naming philanthropist Betsy DeVos to be the next secretary of education. He called her a passionate education advocate. DeVos has been a major proponent of vouchers and of the charter school movement. The pick was strongly criticized by teachers` unions and by advocates for public education. DeVos, too, was a strong critic of Trump. In March, she called him an interloper who she said does not represent the Republican Party.

Meanwhile, NBC reporting now that Dr. Ben Carson is mulling an offer to join the Trump administration, the president-elect recent tweeting that he seriously considering Carson to be the head of HUD. On Facebook, Carson said an announcement is forthcoming, and he wrote, "After serious discussions with the Trump transition team, I feel that I can make a significant contribution, particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone."

For all the latest on how Donald Trump`s cabinet is shaping up, I`m joined now by NBC`s Kristen Welker in Palm Beach, Florida. So Kristen, let`s start with the two picks that were official today that we do know about, Haley, DeVos. You`re adding some diversity there to the cabinet. You`re also adding voices who were critical of him in the past.

What else does this say about Donald Trump, these two picks in particular?

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, I do think it`s striking because you`re seeing him look outside of his loyalist circle. When he first started to name folks to his administration -- Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus -- there was some concern that he wasn`t looking outside of that inner circle.

So you have the fact these are two former critics of Donald Trump`s, also the fact that these are the first two women that he is picking to serve as a part of his administration. In terms of South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, as you said, she is a rising star within the Republican Party. She`s someone who really gained national praise when she led that fight to have these Confederate flags taken down in her state.

She`s also someone who opposed Donald Trump`s Muslim ban, but supported blocking Syrian refugees from coming into her state. So she has a large range of different policy positions, many of which do line up with Donald Trump.

But as you say, she was a former critic of his. Last week when she spoke after she met with Mr. Trump, she said, Look, I`m not going to pretend that I was always a cheerleader for him, but did I vote for him and I was thrilled when he was elected. So she`s someone who ultimately got on board with him, and I think that that`s something that matters to President-elect Donald Trump.

I spoke with one of his top transition officials who said the president- elect also felt as though they had really good chemistry.

There`s a little bit of intrigue, though, with this pick, as well, Steve, because this move is a win-win for Trump in a number of different ways. It elevates Lieutenant General (sic) Henry McMaster in the state of South Carolina to governor. He was an early ally of Donald Trump`s. So it gives him a little bit of a political edge in a key Southern state.

In terms of the pick of DeVos for education secretary, again, she`s a former critic. She`s someone who`s a little bit more of a lightning rod, though. She was praised by Jeb Bush today, but you had the top teachers` unions coming out and saying that she`s going to be bad for children, bad for education. She`s someone who favors the voucher program and who`s opposed to Common Core. So she could have a tougher confirmation process.

But I think what you`re seeing is Donald Trump trying to diversify his cabinet in a whole host of ways, Steve.

KORNACKI: And Kristen, just quickly then on Ben Carson, all this reporting her suggesting something is happening there maybe imminently. A week, two weeks ago, you had Ben Carson`s people putting out this -- putting out this statement that he didn`t feel ready to lead a federal agency, now maybe on the verge of leading HUD.

What`s happening here?

WELKER: Well, I think one of the concerns from within the Carson camp is that he doesn`t necessarily have expertise in housing and urban development. And so there was some concern expressed from Dr. Ben Carson himself. Would he be ready for this type of position? But I was told, he`s mulling the decision. I was told that earlier today.

And then this evening, I spoke to his spokesperson who reiterated that, who`s (ph) considering taking up President-elect Donald Trump on the offer. And then you read those Facebook postings which are a real indication that not only is he considering it, but he is leaning toward it. And everyone who serves in an administration says, ultimately, they felt as though they couldn`t say no to the president and to such a high offer.

So we`ll have to see what he ultimately decides, but I`m told he`s going to take this Thanksgiving holiday to really consider it, really consider if he`s right for this position -- Steve.

KORNACKI: All right, Kristen Welker down there in Palm Beach, Florida -- Kristen, thanks for that.

And Donald Trump has yet to make his public selection for secretary of state, but Mitt Romney reportedly a leading candidate there, two Trump loyalists, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, both of them publicly lobbying against that selection.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. HOUSE SPEAKER, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: I am for whoever the president-elect picks. I think there are huge advantages to Rudy Giuliani, frankly. I mean, I think the -- if you want somebody who is going to go out and be a very tough negotiator for America and represent American interests in the way the Trump campaign -- I think probably Rudy is a better pick and has the right temperament.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: There`s only one way that I think Mitt Romney could even be considered for a post like that, and that is that he goes to a microphone in a public place and repudiates everything he said in that famous Salt Lake City speech and everything he said after that, where he said Donald Trump wasn`t fit, that he lacked character, I mean, on and on.

It would be a real insult to all those Donald Trump`s voters who worked really hard. That`s what I think he has to stop and consider.


KORNACKI: All right, for more on the state of the transition, joined now by Politico`s Ken Vogel and "Time" magazine contributor Jay Newton-Small.

So let`s start on this issue of Mitt Romney, this choice Trump maybe making here between Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani. Ken, you got Gingrich. You got Huckabee. Nobody I can think of in politics drove them more crazy than Mitt Romney when they ran against him. So their sort of angle here I think is pretty clear, but it does raise the question -- Donald Trump, as he makes these deliberations -- do they have his ear? Does a Huckabee? Does a Gingrich? Do they anti-Mitt Romney forces have his ear?

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: I think Gingrich probably has his ear to some extent because he was an early adopter of -- that got on the Trump train early while a lot of other Republicans were still dragging their feet. And a lot of this comes down to just those are Trump loyalists and those are not, obviously, Mitt Romney in the latter category, Rudy Giuliani in the former category.

One thing I do think we have to look at with Romney, as well as the DeVos pick and some of the folks on the transition team executive committee, is an appeal not just to the GOP establishment but to the GOP establishment donor class.

Obviously, Mitt Romney has a huge Rolodex, probably the best on the right of major donors. DeVos is a major donor. Bekkah (ph) Mercer on the transition committee, Anthony Scaramucci on the transition committee, they`re major donors are going to be able to help to fund the inauguration and bring along folks who are going to fund the RNC through the 2018 election and possibly a Trump reelection in 2020. I don`t think we can overlook that angle.

KORNACKI: Well, both Mitt Romney and Nikki Haley were fierce critics of Trump during this campaign. This was Romney back in March.


MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: Mr. Trump`s bombast is already alarming our allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies.

He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists! This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.


KORNACKI: And Nikki Haley delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union address this year, and she used that speech to go after Donald Trump.


GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest forces. We must resist that temptation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were talking about those loudest voices, those angriest voices. In that context, you were referring to Donald Trump, correct?

HALEY: He was one of them. Yes. Mr. Trump has definitely contributed to what I think is just irresponsible talk.

Donald Trump is everything I taught my children not to do in kindergarten.


HALEY: I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the KKK...


KORNACKI: Well, Jay Newton-Small, we heard Mike Huckabee there a few minutes ago in that clip we played saying, Look, Donald Trump`s base, Donald Trump`s voters, his supporters won`t stand for this. You can`t put somebody in a position like secretary of state like Mitt Romney who said those kinds of things about Donald Trump and never repudiated them, never backed off them.

Is there anything to that risk that Donald Trump would face in putting somebody that forward?

JAY NEWTON-SMALL, "TIME": Well, Steve, I think this is going to be inherent tension as (ph) Donald Trump`s entire tenure, especially as begins to even think about eying reelection, is sort of care-taking that angry base that got him into this vision (ph), that got him elected, and making sure that they`re taking care of and they`re well represented.

And he`s done that last week with his appointments of Michael Flynn as national security adviser, of Mike Pompeo as head of the CIA, as Jeff Sessions (INAUDIBLE) Jeff Sessions as the CIA -- or sorry, Jeff Sessions as AG. And so you saw him sort of do these really bombastic firebrand appointments.

And now he`s looking more towards branching out and to make bridging (ph) to the establishment Republicans, who he has to work with for the next four years. He has -- you know, they control Congress. They -- these are people who obviously did not want to see him elected, who fought very hard in the never Trump groups to never see him elected, and now he has to bridge back and make sure the party`s really behind him.

And so it`s -- he`s essentially creating a team of rivals. I mean, if he does take a Mitt Romney, if he does have Nikki Haley in his cabinet, he`s - - he`s creating a team that`s going to debate very vociferously amongst themselves, and it`s going to be incredibly interesting to watch those debates because they do represent two sides of the Republican Party that he now has to bridge and represent the whole party.

KORNACKI: But Jay, I get feeling, too, the decision here Trump`s facing on secretary of state is bigger even than that, not just the question of establishment Republicans, Ken`s talking about the donor class that obviously is cheering for Mitt Romney here, but I`ve been hearing a lot of Democrats out there, a lot of Trump critics say this is sort of the signal that would -- not that they`re going to be Trump supporters, but that would reassure that there`s going to be some stability in this administration.

NEWTON-SMALL: Absolutely, and this is, like, sort of the, you know, hiring the adult, the grown-up to put a really good face on whatever happens, whatever Trump decides to do in foreign policy to the rest of the world. And Mitt Romney has that gravitas. He -- as Donald Trump said himself, he looks like he was born to play the part of secretary of state.

And so he brings to that also a lot of credibility and -- and his foreign leaders especially are very, very worried about Donald Trump might do. He`s much more isolationist than George W. Bush or even than Barack Obama, withdrawing from international coalitions like NAFTA or NATO. These are -- his job will be is going to be to reassure our international partners that no, Donald Trump isn`t going to blow up the world and make massive change.

But -- and he`s -- and that`s a great face to put on it. It`s a common, reassuring face and it`s one that I think also calms and reassures a lot of people on Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans alike, who are very worried that Donald Trump really might basically screw up a lot of our relationships around the world.

VOGEL: You know, let`s not forget here, guys, Mitt Romney -- you`re right. He is certainly a respected voice in the Republican Party and across politics more broadly. But he also doesn`t have a ton of experience in foreign policy. It`s true he`s a serious guy and he really boned up on it and he -- he pressed the case very aggressively against Barack Obama, including presciently calling Russia our number one geopolitical foe during a debate in 2012.

But he`s a former governor and private equity guy. He very much fits in with this mode that we have seen so far of Trump nominees and prospective nominees who don`t really have a ton of subject area expertise, let alone relevant government expertise.

KORNACKI: Quickly, though, Ken, is it -- is it durable, though? If Donald Trump -- if Mitt Romney`s secretary of state and Donald Trump goes and says something or tweets something intemperate or just something that causes a big controversy, is Mitt Romney going to be able to sit there and say anything, when every reporter`s asking him, Do you endorse what Trump just said, do you stand by what Trump just said?

And if Mitt Romney says or does something that Trump perceives is a slight, is Trump going to be able to just have his back, or is Trump going to lash out at him?

VOGEL: Well, on that last part, I think everything we`ve seen from Donald Trump suggests not. Donald Trump likes people who like him, whether it`s Vladimir Putin -- he praised Vladimir Putin because he said Vladimir Putin said things about him, or his reversal, of course, on Barack Obama, who he criticized so vociferously during the campaign but suddenly has nice things to say about him because Barack Obama is sort of trying to thread the needle with Donald Trump.

I think that we in the press will be on the lookout for anything that anyone in his cabinet, let alone someone like Mitt Romney, who has a history of butting heads with him, says that could be perceived as showing some air space between them. We will jump on that and note that. And then I think Donald Trump, given his inclination, would be hard pressed to not respond.

NEWTON-SMALL: And Steve, remember, this is an uncomfortable position that is not foreign to -- not unique to Donald Trump. Look at Colin Powell and George W. Bush`s administration. He oftentimes bit his tongue, you know, when a lot of the neocons and the hawks were going into Iraq, going into -- you know, to making this case that there are weapons of mass destruction, and he really privately disagreed and those -- a lot of his disagreements were leaked to the press. And that sort of hobbled his relationship with Bush.

And so the big question is, I mean, I don`t know that Mitt Romney`s ever going to be an insider on the Trump team in this case, you know, the way that, you know, for example, Hillary Clinton was an insider on Barack Obama`s team. But he certainly could be a very effective secretary of state the way Colin Powell was.

KORNACKI: All right. Ken Vogel, Jay Newton-Small, thanks to both of you for joining us.

VOGEL: Thank you.

NEWTON-SMALL: Thank you.

KORNACKI: All right, and coming up, Trump`s transition. President-elect Trump sounded a lot different in his "New York Times" sitdown than he did when he was candidate Trump. We`re going to take a deeper dive into his newest comments, see what they could reveal about the direction of his administration. That is next.

Plus, Trump may be preparing for office, but Hillary Clinton`s vote count actually continues to climb. We`re going to tell you just how much her lead has grown in the popular vote count. It`s a historic number we might be looking at here.

And getting ready for the big day tomorrow. We`ve got a survival guide on how to speak to your family members about the polarizing 2016 presidential campaign. (INAUDIBLE) you have to talk to them about it.

And finally, the HARDBALL roundtable is coming here this Thanksgiving eve to tell me and you something that we don`t know.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


KORNACKI: President Obama is enjoying the holiday at his highest approval rating in years, this according to the new CNN/ORC poll, shows that 57 percent of Americans say they approve of the job he`s doing. That is the highest that number has been in that poll since September of 2009. That was Obama`s first year in office. He was 58 percent in that poll in September `09. Forty-one percent of Americans say they disapprove of the job the president is doing.

We`ll be right back.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I will say "The Times" is -- it`s a great, great American jewel, world jewel. And I hope we can all get along. I hope we can. We`re looking for the same thing.


KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL. That was Donald Trump with some rare words of praise for "The New York Times," that during his meeting at the paper`s headquarters yesterday.

As op-ed columnist Frank Bruni described the meeting -- quote -- "He wants nothing more than for his audience to be impressed. And when his audience is a group of people like us who haven`t clapped the way he would like, he sands down his edges."

Not only did Trump back off his promises to prosecute Hillary Clinton, he also showed he was rethinking his support for torture after a conversation with General Jim Mattis.

Here`s Trump.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I met with him at length. And I asked him that question.

I said, "What do you think of water-boarding?"

He said -- I was surprised. He said, "I have never found it to be useful." He said, "I have always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture."


KORNACKI: That`s another example of how Trump now appears willing to reconsider some of the hard-line positions he took on the campaign trail.

For more now, I`m joined by "The Washington Post"`s Robert Costa, who is also an MSNBC political analyst, as well as Perry Bacon Sr., a political reporter with NBC News.

So, Robert Costa, I will start with you.

You have interviewed him. You have been following this guy from the very beginning. The Trump who showed up at "The New York Times" on what looked like sort of a charm offensive, from everywhere I can tell there, how much of that was meant for that room only, vs. how much of that is a reflection of Donald Trump moving into a new role now that he is president-elect and no longer a candidate?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Trump throughout his career has always changed his volume level, his settings politically depending on his audience, not that he necessarily changes the message or the substance, but he changes the presentation.

And I hear this from people who have been working with him at Trump Tower. He wants to make sure he keep the populist conservative side of the party with him. But he knows he has a problem. The establishment and the media and much of his own party remains wary of him. And he has to build some relationships, repair some relationships.


I mean, Perry, it is an interesting situation, because Trump has got all the issues there sort of with the media, with his critics that Robert is talking about.

At the same time, this is a guy who ran basically outside the Republican Party. He has Republican leaders who are just as skeptical. This is a president-elect who is a lot more of a blank canvas than any I can think of when it comes to what he`s going to pursue.

So, you have got the positions he took in the campaign. Even during the campaign, he was at odds with the Republican leadership sometimes. Now he goes to "The New York Times" yesterday. He drops these hints that make a liberal audience maybe get a little bit hopeful.

Do we have any sense where he is really going to land?


That interview was so striking. First of all, he`s been bashing "The Times" the whole campaign, talking about how they`re losing readers and so on. And then he, as you noted, praised "The New York Times," it`s a crown jewel. So, that was odd.

And then he made the comments. If you look at them carefully, he was asked about separating the business from -- separating from his business while he was president. He kind of said things like he might think about that, but he didn`t make any commitments to that.

He was asked about climate change. He gave some kind of liberal words about climate change, didn`t really commit to that. Even on torture, he kind of said he was thinking about changes of view, but he didn`t really change his vision.

So, he kind of spoke in ways I assume "The New York Times" audience would want to hear more, but he didn`t really change his views. Like, remember, about Obamacare, he said he would like some parts of it now, but it is still not clear what he is going to do on the law. So, he is still leaving himself a lot of wiggle room with the right and the left, not committing to anything so far.


Robert, those comments that Perry is talking about there about Obamacare, they came after he sat down with President Obama. And, apparently, also in this meeting with "The New York Times," he is now -- Donald Trump now practically gushing when the name Barack Obama comes up.

So just one meeting with Barack Obama seems to have changed the way he talks about him, maybe got him to reconsider some of what he`s been saying about Obamacare.

I have heard people raise this. I`m curious if you think this is an accurate assessment of Trump or not. Is he one of those guys -- we have seen leaders like this before -- who the last person who gets to them before they have to make a decision, that`s the one that is going to weigh on him the most, that`s the one who is going to have the most influence in shaping where he finally comes down on something.

COSTA: That`s certainly a trait that has defined Trump throughout much of his life.

But the politics of this are more fascinating than Trump just echoing what he`s last heard. What we`re really seeing here is a president-elect who didn`t run on an ideological agenda, didn`t run as part of the movement right with the traditional Republican Party.

And so there is this pragmatism at the core of what he`s doing in these conversations, in the transition, in these interviews that is, in part, part of the chaos and tumult you always see around Trump in the last few years. But there is this undefined pragmatism that is in many ways a blank canvas.

That`s why "The New York Times" takes away that impression from their conversation. And so do people like Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell. They wonder, could their own agenda be Trump`s if the cards are played right?

KORNACKI: All right, Trump also spoke about the role his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, may have in the administration, despite accusations of nepotism.


TRUMP: The president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants, he or she wants.

But I don`t want to -- I don`t want to go there. Jared is a very smart guy. He`s a very good guy. The people that know him, he is a quality person. And I think he could be very helpful.

I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians. I would love it. That would be such a great achievement, because nobody has been able to do it.

QUESTION: Can he be part of that?

TRUMP: Well, I think he would be very good at it. I mean, he knows it so well. He knows the region, knows the people, knows the players.

I would love to -- and you can put that down in a list of many things that I would like to be able to do.


KORNACKI: So, Perry, during the campaign, when the subject of Donald Trump and his business and his family would come up, he would say, look, if I get elected president, I want the family to go run the business. I focus on the country.

Now he`s talking about maybe those lines being more blurry long-term than he was during the campaign. You have also got this role for Jared Kushner clearly on the inside right now.

How do you think this will all ultimately work out when he becomes president in January?

BACON: What I heard is, you have heard a lot of criticism about, one, nepotism and then, two, the family staying involved in the business.

Donald Trump didn`t seem to say anything that he was going to change his mind or move to where his critics want him to. I heard him saying Jared Kushner is going to play pretty big role, potentially even on like a foreign policy issue like Israel and Palestine. That`s a big role.

It sounds like he`s not listening to that criticism. And he kept saying -- he said two or three times in the interview, there is no conflict of interest. The law doesn`t really apply to me.

That is correct technically. That isn`t going to reassure his critics. But he seems to be hinting that he is going to stay involved -- he wants to stay involved in the business in some way, and no one can necessarily stop him from doing that. And I think he is right legally, if not morally or ethically.

KORNACKI: All right.

Robert Costa and Perry Bacon, thanks to both of you.

And coming up: Guess who is coming dinner? Relatives who just love to go there and talk politics. Maybe you have got some in your family. Maybe you are the one in your family. Well, we have got a holiday survival guide for you. That is coming up next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


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

Authorities says the school bus that crashed Monday in Chattanooga was not on its designated route. Five children died in the crash. The drive is in custody.

The first family spent part of the day serving a pre-Thanksgiving meal to retired veterans. They visited the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, D.C.

And in New York City, security will be tight for tomorrow`s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Officials say they are ready. They also say there is no credible or specific threat -- back to HARDBALL.

KORNACKI: And welcome back to HARDBALL.

Thanksgiving is upon us. It is supposed to be a time to gather with family and friends and express our gratitude for health, happiness and good fortune. But this year`s holiday follows an unusually division presidential election. So, some are expecting a few ruffled feathers.

Sorry about that.

A recent YouGov poll found that 37 percent of Americans say it is likely they will discuss politics at their Thanksgiving dinner. I think the real number might end up being higher than that.

So don`t let a political disagreement put you or your loved ones -- get ready for this -- in a foul mood.


KORNACKI: If your family can`t avoid talking politics, it is best not to wing it.

Oh, I promise that`s the last one.

Here now to discuss how to survive a political debate at Thanksgiving, Ron Reagan, author and MSNBC political analyst, as well as commentator and contributor to "CBS Sunday Morning," Nancy Giles.

So, Nancy, 37 percent in that poll say they think this is going to come up at their family Thanksgiving. I think the real number will end up being higher.


KORNACKI: And I think that`s a good thing, because one thing I think that became clear in this campaign, this idea of two Americas where nobody talks to each other, it`s a real thing.

GILES: Right.

KORNACKI: So, you get family members, extended family, you are going to get the two Americas together in a lot of cases.


KORNACKI: And that never happens. But how do you keep it civil? What are the keys?

GILES: Well, OK, so, I`m still in shock. I might as well put that out there.

And I have been doing a lot of kind of creative visualization exercises and whatnot to sort of get me over the hump.

By the way, I really liked your wing and feather jokes. They really -- they weren`t foul at all.

I have been thinking that maybe one way to bridge the gap in the conversation is to treat whatever your eating area is kind of in the same way you would an airplane once they lock the main cabin door. Check your exits to make sure you have an idea like if you have to make a hasty retreat. Keep your valuables under your -- under the seat, under -- a little bit in front, so that if you need to make a fast exit, you can grab those things and bolt.

And if you need use some alcohol, make sure you`re traveling with a designated driver or that you have your apps for Lyft or Uber handy, so that you`re not drinking and driving. But, sometimes, a little booze can smooth over those conversations.

KORNACKI: It can smooth them over...

GILES: Little bit.

KORNACKI: ... although I have also -- in many cases, booze can make it worse.

GILES: Can make it worse too.


KORNACKI: And I think that`s the question, Ron, so sort of thinking about this.

I mean, look, if it is inevitable it is going to come up at your family dinner, the question, I guess, is, how does it start? You don`t want to be the instigator, but somebody is going to bring it up at some point.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I would recommend not being the instigator, particularly if you`re on the current losing side in this election. Just kind of let it go.

It is also important, I think -- a lot of people travel, of course, for the holidays all over the country to join family and things. Probably very important to check whether you`re going to be traveling to a concealed- carry state.


REAGAN: That is probably going to be a Trump state.

And you might want to moderate your discussion accordingly, because uncle Bob in this case might be packing heat. And you might not want to cross him.

I wouldn`t -- no, I wouldn`t instigate the conversation. Let it come to you.


KORNACKI: Let me ask you this, because I say these -- the two Americas that never get together.

Your family, you -- that would have been the situation. You`re on the left, your dad obviously an icon of conservative Republicanism. What were Thanksgivings like in the Reagan household?

REAGAN: Well, like any other family.

I have to say that, in this particular case, we would not be arguing. Nobody in the family would be in disagreement over this particular result of the election.

But, of course, we would have arguments all the time. But presidents` families are just like any other family, it turns out. There is the kid at the table who wants to always be poking dad and all that kind of stuff. That would be me often.


REAGAN: But -- yes. But that -- yes, it is just like any other family. You argue.

But it is about keeping it civil. You can have the discussion. And there is no reason to pretend that we all have to be in a kumbaya mood after this election. You don`t have to go there.


GILES: Actually, what Ron is saying is inspiring me, because there`s the, when they go low, we go high.

And if you are on, as he puts it, the losing side, you can always mentioned -- try to be nice and mention things like nice Republicans. And Ron`s father would be one, Eisenhower, another one who maybe taxed kind of on the high side, but we got roads and bridges and the interstate. There are...

KORNACKI: Find some common ground.



KORNACKI: Should there be some kind of rule here? This is family, ultimately. If it starts getting heated, who can be the hero who comes in and just changes the subject?


KORNACKI: A funny story of the family`s history or something?

GILES: Right.

Well, I have been going on -- families, even without politics, that can be some loaded stuff on Thanksgiving anyway.


GILES: So, I have been going over some phrases like, how about those Cubs, or, hey, what`s up with Kanye, or those Kardashians, just general things that can get you off of the topic.

KORNACKI: Change the subject.

GILES: Just, yes, because I`m still literally having problems breathing.

And, again, going back to the airplane metaphor, I feel like I have to do breathing exercises to make sure that the cabin pressure goes down, and then I can help others after I have calmed my own breathing down.

KORNACKI: Ron, are you feeling any apprehension heading into tomorrow?


Everybody at my table is going to be in agreement on this. But, again, we`re having some fun with this, and we should on a day like today, the day before Thanksgiving.

But this -- this is one of those elections that`s different than other elections. I`m old enough to remember the `60s and early `70s and Vietnam and all that, where the discussions got very heated. There have been other periods of history. You can imagine being in 1776 Thanksgiving and uncle Bob is a royalist. That could get a little scary.

But this is a different -- this is a different sort of election. It is not just that the two sides of the table are going to disagree about, let`s say, tax cuts or foreign policy or something.

GILES: Right.

REAGAN: One side of the table is feeling pretty smug, and the other side of the table is genuinely worried that we have made this terrible, tragic error that is going to drag our country down.

That`s a tough thing to swallow. And we need to be mindful of that.


REAGAN: Both sides do.

KORNACKI: All right. Well, on that note, we will see.

GILES: I don`t know. He brought me down.

KORNACKI: Yes, I was hoping for a more optimistic...


REAGAN: Sorry about that.

KORNACKI: But, hey, it`s been that kind of year.

Well, happy Thanksgiving to you, Nancy Giles, and to you, Ron Reagan.

GILES: Thank you.

KORNACKI: I appreciate both of you joining us.

GILES: Thank you.

REAGAN: Happy Thanksgiving to you both.

GILES: Thank you.

KORNACKI: Thank you very much.

And coming up: back to our top story, Donald Trump stocking his Cabinet. The roundtable is coming here next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: It`s my prayer that on this Thanksgiving, we begin to heal our divisions and move forward as one country, strengthened by shared purpose and very, very common resolve. This historic political campaign is now over. But now begins a great national campaign to rebuild our country and to restore the full promise of America for all of our people.



That was Donald Trump in a Thanksgiving video released by his transition team, calling on the nation to come together. That video came as Trump`s unorthodox transition plowed ahead.

And for more on Trump`s transition, I`m joined by our roundtable: Joan Walsh, MSNBC political analyst, Raul Reyes, contributor, and Kristin Tate, author of "Government Gone Wild: How D.C. Politicians are Taking You for a Ride and What You Can Do About It."

Thanks to all of you for being here.

I`m going to start on the Trump critic side of our panel.

Let`s talk about what we`ve got today. We`ve got a couple new appointments.


KORNACKI: Nikki Haley, absolutely a critic during the campaign. A lot of people looking at as a signal Donald Trump is trying to send. Also a lot of people looking at that and saying, that could presage Mitt Romney, who sort of the king of Trump critics in this campaign joining the administration as secretary of state.

As a Trump critic, if you have vociferous Trump critics like Haley and Romney who are part of this, does that give you any comfort? Does that give you any reassurance?

WALSH: Not really. I cannot believe Mitt Romney would take this job if offered. He would have to put his conscience in a blind trust. After listening to the clip that you played about what you said, to then reverse that.

Nikki Haley, it`s tough for her to reverse it too, but Mitt really went way farther than she did and really made a campaign out of it. So, I`m not necessarily reassured.

What I see about today is, I think they are rattled by the critique of white nationalists being associated with the campaign. So, we`ve got a woman of color. We have a hint of possibly Dr. Ben Carson and a woman. So, there is a little of that.

But there`s also an astonishing lack of attention to any kind of experience on the part of certainly Haley and Carson if he should accept. I mean, it`s really staggering that somebody who turned down Syrian refugees, for example, in South Carolina is now going to be collaborating, representing us with a body that is so important to the resettlement of refugees wherever we think they might belong. So, there is a lot of ignorance here and I find that kind of --

KORNACKI: Well, from Trump critic end, let`s go to the other end of the spectrum here, and, Kristin, from your standpoint, when you look at Mitt Romney or when you look at Nikki Haley now joining the administration today and the things they have said about Donald Trump, and again, especially in the case of Mitt Romney, he was saying, Donald Trump is just basically fundamentally untrustworthy, unqualified. I mean, this is a level you don`t normally see.

Would that be durable in any way, in terms of a working partnership? Having somebody like that be your secretary of state?

KRISTIN TATE, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: Look, I mean, Trump is going to be a very action and results-oriented president. He is not king and he understands that he needs to work with other people to get things done.

So, I think that`s why we`ve seen him tone down his rhetoric to kind his opponents into the fold. And also, why we`ve seen him reach out to folks like Nikki Haley and Mitt Romney, people who haven`t been his biggest supporters. He wants to work with all people. He is not a candidate anymore, he is now president-elect.

And, you know, what he`s really doing is he is consolidating the Republican Party, all Republicans. I think it`s kind of funny that, you know, for the last year, we`ve all been talking about how the Republican Party is in so much trouble. You know, there`s a civil war going on within the Republican Party.

I think it`s the Democrats that are in big trouble and we`ve seen a big divide in that party.

KORNACKI: It is the surprise Republicans who are running to him right now, because they didn`t think he would win this.

So, Raul, what is the message right now many that you`re seeing? Again, Nikki Haley, with the reports of Romney. It looks like Ben Carson might be joining --

RAUL REYES, NBCNEWS.COM CONTRIBUTOR: I see two. One of them is when you look at some of the picks we`re seeing today or discussing today, to me it`s basically an attempt by some of the saner heads on the transition team to mainstream a candidate who we know from his own words, is a bigot, is a sexual predator, has endorsed some of these alt-right groups. So, it`s putting very mainstream faces and maybe tamping down some of that criticism. Remember, the worst that we know about Trump came from him.

And, secondly, what these picks have in common, none of them as you touched on, are particularly suited for their job.

I mean, even Mitt Romney. I mean, Donald Trump said, yes, he looks the part. Remember when Mitt Romney went to Europe in 2012? He went to England. He insulted them by saying they weren`t ready for the Olympics.

Off to the Middle East, where he said that Jerusalem is the definitive capital of Israel and enraged the Palestinians. Then he went back to Poland and insulted them. There were three gaffes in three countries. So, Mitt Romney himself is not ideally qualified for this job.

Nikki Haley, she has no experience of the federal government level. Even Ben Carson, I can see him possibly in health and human services but he doesn`t really have experience -- Housing and Urban Development.

KORNACKI: Go ahead.

TATE: The American people don`t want political experience. That`s what we learned in this election. They want outsiders.


TATE: Trump is going to get doers. People who have experience in the real world. Look at the Trump Organization. He always hires the best of the best. And I want to talk about --


KORNACKI: Let`s let Kristin finish her thought. We`re going to go to Joan quick --

TATE: I think it is really important that we talk about Betsy DeVos, the woman who he chose to be the secretary of education.

Trump has said that he wants to bring prosperity to the inner cities. That was the cornerstone of his campaign. The way you do that is bringing school choice to these inner cities. And I think that is going to be one way that he is going to mark his presidency and be able to lift all Americans up. I think that was a good move by --


KORNACKI: It is an interesting distinction here because Ben Carson, you had Armstrong Williams the other day say Ben Carson doesn`t feel he can be ready to run an agency --


KORNACKI: If you look at Betsy DeVos, her back ground. This is an area she`s been interested in. I can see another Republican president potentially appointing her.

WALSH: She is such an education extremist. That she will preside over public education is actually terrifying.

TATE: How is school choice extreme?

REYES: Betsy DeVos is not just in favor of school choice. That`s a part of what she`s in favor.


KORNACKI: She would be a pick, she would be a pick probably any Republican president.

REYES: No, I disagree.

WALSH: We`re in the process now of normalizing --

REYES: She is a very anti-LGBT candidate.

WALSH: Oh, God, yes.

REYES: She is someone who -- she is not just about school choice. What she is about is using public funds for private schools. She has herself has never, she did not receive a public school education. None of her children have.

KORNACKI: I think we would be having the same debate if John Kasich whom she supported is president now.


KORNACKI: I think she falls into the category --

WALSH: I don`t think he would have. I don`t think John Kasich --


KORNACKI: We have to squeeze a break in. We`re a little late for one. We`re going to do that when we come right back.

The roundtable is sticking. We`ll be right back.


KORNACKI: On Black Friday, make some time for black humor on a special edition of HARDBALL hosted by Chris Matthews. You can join in at 7:00 Eastern as he looks 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. You can catch that Friday night 7:00 Eastern.

And we`ll be right back.


KORNACKI: All right. We`re back.

And some interesting news to tell you about, Hillary Clinton`s national popular vote lead over President-elect Trump has now surpassed 2 million votes. Much of that margin coming from heavily Democratic California where they are sill counting. Remember, Trump made it to the White House by winning 290 electoral votes, could go to 306 when they certify Michigan.

Nearly 5 million supporters have signed an online petition to urge electors to pick Clinton when they vote on December 19. Those chances not good, to put it mildly.

I`m back now with our roundtable -- Joan Walsh, Raul Reyes, Kristin Tate.

So, Joan, Donald Trump will be the next president. Hillary Clinton will win for actual popular votes.

WALSH: Right.

KORNACKI: That is a symbolic thing when you look for the actual specific meaning in it. But from a practical standpoint, next year, Democrats as the opposition party. Is that going to mean anything practically?

WALSH: I think so. I think it will give her some spine. She`s going to get about 2.5 million more votes in the end. That`s unprecedented.

I also think it`s going to cause people to challenge the Electoral College. If this were fair system California would have 200 electors compared to Wyoming. I mean, the per capita mismatch of the Electoral College now given the growth in the blue states, it`s just -- it`s unfair. It`s absolutely unfair.

KORNACKI: What do you make of it, Raul?

REYES: Well, you said the election is over. It`s done. We have our president-elect.

However, we do have researchers from University of Michigan, from MIT, from Stanford saying not that there is any evidence of hacking but that there could be --


KORNACKI: We should be really careful -- we should be careful with this because when you start looking at the vote patterns they`re looking at, they are explained by population distribution.

REYES: But they do also say that there could be. Now, this is something - -

KORNACKI: I got to be honest, this one`s making me uncomfortable. I saw that last night and I took a real close look at it today. I got to say, I can`t see anything to this, because there were no anomalies in Iowa and there were no anomalies in Minnesota and those are paper ballot states.

If the kind of things they`re talking about were happening we wouldn`t see a two-point race in Minnesota and a ten-point Trump win in Iowa.

REYES: But we did some of the anomalies of those states. And I do think that if, just consider for a second if this situation were reversed, without any certainty, the Republicans would be demanding the --

KORNACKI: All right. We`re talking hypotheticals. I get uneasy going down this road.

Anyway, the roundtable staying with us. These three will tell me something I don`t know. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


KORNACKI: All right. We`re back.

Kristin, tell me something I don`t know.

TATE: So, during the last year, the media has been trying tirelessly to paint Trump as an anti-Muslim bigot, but no one`s talking about the fact that three times as many Muslims voted for Trump than for Romney in 2012. I thought that was a really interesting fact.

KORNACKI: Where is that from?

TATE: Actually, CAIR released this figure. Romney received only 4 percent of the Muslim vote, Trump got almost 15 percent.

KORNACKI: All right. Raul Reyes?

REYES: I have a number, 48 percent, 40 percent, basically half, that`s the percentage of people in the agriculture industry who are undocumented. So, when we`re celebrating our Thanksgiving, we should think about all those things come from, look at turkey, sweet potatoes, all those things are labor-intensive and they depend on undocumented workers.



WALSH: Get ready to learn more about the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution because it will be talked about a lot. It prohibits our elected officials from taking gifts or financial donations from foreign leaders. Donald Trump had the hotel in Washington where foreign diplomats are already staying. He`s on a collision course with the emoluments clause in the Constitution.

KORNACKI: OK. That will be the last word tonight.

WALSH: Well, emoluments.

KORNACKI: Joan Walsh, Raul Reyes, Kristin Tate -- I`m going to learn what that word is one of these days -- thank you for joining us.

That is HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us. Have a very happy Thanksgiving.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.