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Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 11/28/2016

Guests: Jennifer Jacobs, Mark Shriver, Cornell Belcher, John Brabender, Soledad O`Brien, Steve Cortes, Ryan Williams

Show: HARDBALL Date: November 28, 2016 Guest: Jennifer Jacobs, Mark Shriver, Cornell Belcher, John Brabender, Soledad O`Brien, Steve Cortes, Ryan Williams

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Count the ballots.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Donald Trump says the 2016 presidential election saw millions of illegal voters casting ballots. People who were no entitled to vote did so, thereby rigging the election in favor of his rival, Hillary Clinton.

So why would Trump make such a claim? Why would a man who`s won this historic election, who stands on the verge of becoming an American president, want to discredit the very election that brought him to power? Well, we can suppose why a third of fourth party candidate who finished well out of the money, like Green Party standard bearer Jill Stein, would want to challenge the count, but why would the declared winner want to do anything of the kind? OK. Oh, it is ludicrous.

Over the weekend, the president-elect responded on Twitter to reports that Jill Stein was pushing for recounts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. He called the recount effort a scam and alleged, as I said, massive vote rigging that cost him the popular vote. Hillary Clinton`s currently beating Trump, by the way, by more than 2 million votes nationwide.

Well, Trump wrote, quote, "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote, if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," close quote. He later followed up with, quote, "Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California. So why isn`t the media reporting on this? Serious bias. Big problem."

Well, the allegation of massive voter fraud has been widely disputed. "The Washington Post" fact checker wrote, "This is a bogus claim with no documented proof." California`s top election official told "The New York Times" Trump`s claim was "absurd."

Virginia`s commissioner of elections told NBC the claims of voter fraud in Virginia during the November 8th election are "unfounded." And New Hampshire`s deputy secretary of state said, "We don`t have any evidence and there`s been nothing filed with our office or the attorney general`s office that there`s widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire."

So why is President-elect Trump saying an election he won was rigged? NBC`s Hallie Jackson joins me from Trump Tower to give me the answer. Hallie, you`re only a reporter, you`re only a human being with intelligence to answer a normal question.

How on earth does this justify -- what is he trying to do? First of all, the idea of millions -- who are these people? I guess he means illegal people, people here undocumented. You think millions or hundreds of thousands of people walked into a New Hampshire voting station, Mexicans who just got here, and they voted and nobody noticed? It`s crazy!

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Right. So let me answer that, Chris, as a human being, which is to say that the question was posed to the president-elect`s transition team of exactly this right? He says -- when the president-elect tweets about millions of people who voted illegally, what does that mean? As one person who is very involved in sort of voter fraud detection efforts said to me today, are these imaginary voters? Who are these people?

The transition team sent to NBC a 45-page document that included citations that they said would back up this evidence of voter fraud. Our NBC News political unit did an analysis of those documents. That plus research from independent fact checkers essentially debunked those claims. So the bottom line is, we are back to the question of where we started, which is, where is evidence? Where`s the beef, if you will.

This was a very similar issue to what came up when Donald Trump claimed during the general election that the system is rigged. And even during the primaries he made that claim. And he is relying now, it appears, on some of the same evidence, again, evidence largely debunked, that he used then.

MATTHEWS: Is this coming from Alex Jones?

JACKSON: So I can tell you this, that at least one of the claims appeared on Infowars, which is the Alex Jones conspiracy theory -- or Web site that is often pushing these conspiracy theories. It then, I believe, got linked to Drudge. So it is possible that that is where the president-elect picked up on some of this. We know he likes to go on line and read these, you know, news clippings, or at least when they`re printed out, he reads them.

And so, you know, can you draw a direct link? Well, you can say that these claims appeared on places like Infowars, and now they are being tweeted by the president-elect to his many millions of followers.

MATTHEWS: Is it fair to assume he`s talking about people in the country illegally? Because if you come up with 2 or 3 million additional voters, who are these additional voters? If a person walks in the voting booth and wants to vote, they get to vote if they`re legal. So these must be people who were here illegally. Is that a reasonable assumption?


MATTHEWS: He`s talking about the same millions of people...

JACKSON: Yes, and that...

MATTHEWS: ... that Alex Jones is talking about, people from below the border, probably, the way they look at it.

JACKSON: Right, undocumented immigrants who are in the United States illegally, Chris. And that is based on, again, some of the documentation that the transition team has provided in order to, in their view, back up some of these claims being made by the president-elect, specifically citing one 2014 "Washington Post" piece that has since been debunked, that put forward some claims that this was possible.

MATTHEWS: Thank you so much, Hallie Jackson. Great reporting, as a human being can only do well. Thank you so much. Just kidding. And by the way, happy Thanksgiving and merry Christmas if I don`t see you again, but I will.

Anyway, as a story Timothy Naftali (ph) told Politico today, Trump is the first winning candidate to question the legitimacy of the process that gave him the White House. So why`s he doing it?

John Brabender was senior strategist with Rick Santorum`s presidential campaign. Cornell Belcher was a pollster with the Obama campaign in 2012. He`s the author of "A Black Man in the White House." So you`re laughing, so you go first.


MATTHEWS: The reason I raise this is because I thought he had a pretty good edge against Jill Stein. I wasn`t impressed by Jill Stein`s presidential campaign. I don`t think she got into the argument or even into the conversation. And Now she`s in the conversation with this attempt to a get a recount. She`ll get one in Wisconsin, perhaps other states. But nobody really expects, especially the Clinton people, that to have any impact on their ultimate result.

So why is Trump joining the effort to debunk the election results? It doesn`t make any sense!

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: It is awfully bizarre, but I think there`s a method to the madness. Look, this idea that we rigged this election -- we did a really poor job, by the way, of rigging this election, if, in fact, we rigged the election because he was the winner of it. But it does fall into the continuum of Trump, right? I mean, he`s sort of bent facts when they don`t go along with the narrative of him. We`ve seen this throughout his whole, entire campaign, where if the facts don`t go with the narrative that he wants to set, he bends them. You know, we are, Chris, moving into...

MATTHEWS: But why -- what`s the motive here? I know a lot of times, he`ll say things that make sense.

BELCHER: Because he`s a strongman (ph), Chris, and the strongman (ph) -- and the fact that he didn`t win the popular vote goes against this idea that he`s a big, strong man, and you know, he has a mandate. He doesn`t have a mandate here.


MATTHEWS: OK, that is an argument. You`re making an argument now. But he has a legal right to be president.

BELCHER: He -- well, according to -- well, he won the election, although according to him, he`s calling it into the question of fraud. But again, my point here, Chris, is I`m not surprised by this because every time something`s not going his way...


BELCHER: ... he bends the facts or he rejects the facts. And he`s now the president, which is kind of scary.

MATTHEWS: OK, this is going to get around the world. I mean, he starts say that there`s 3,000 (sic) illegal immigrants, or Alex Jones`s thing he`s tracking -- people are going to believe it.


MATTHEWS: Who`s going to believe it? And the fact is, if people around the world begin to debunk our election, that hurts our country, that we have voters that aren`t even citizens voting here.

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: First of all, I would first say, I don`t think it was a good idea for him to say this. I can`t -- I can`t say, Well, boy, there was brilliance in there.

I do think two things. One is, I do think President-elect Trump had been conducting himself very well. But when you get off the campaign, sometimes you instantly snap back to it. And I think during the campaign, Trump`s reaction was always fight back. Fight back. I`m not going to let them -- and I think this was an example where he quickly tweeted something out that has now exploded to some degree.


BRABENDER: And if you noticed, there`s not a lot of other people in Trump land talking about this today. So I don`t think this was a planned effort, and I think it will probably die out pretty quickly.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s put this all together. You`re the pollster, sir. So let`s talk about this. We know there`s going to be a recount in Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton`s people have joined as sort of as -- you know, an amicus brief, sort of, We`ll go along with it, it wasn`t our idea, because they don`t think it`ll get anywhere. There are other close elections (INAUDIBLE) Pennsylvania, 70,000 votes, Michigan you could say. But nobody believes that the recounting process itself would normally make that kind of a correction, that it wouldn`t be that different than the first count, enough to justify a 70,000-vote turnaround in Pennsylvania, for example.

BELCHER: No. Well, my problem with the third party folks here and now is that if you look at the number of under-30s who protested their vote, third party vote, and if they had, in fact, voted for Hillary Clinton, she would be -- we wouldn`t be having this conversation right now. So I`ve got a big problem with the third party people altogether.

But long-term, we can`t have the president of our country calling into question our process. It doesn`t look good for the country, and it certainly doesn`t look good for us outside. And that`s not whether you`re a Democrat or a Republican, that`s just the office itself.

MATTHEWS: Well, the state of Wisconsin today announced that it would begin recounting votes next week. Green Party candidate Jill Stein, as we said, has raised millions of dollars from donors to mount the challenge in Wisconsin. You have to pay for it yourself. She`s also going to pay for it, apparently, in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Over the weekend, the Clinton campaign`s lawyer, Mark Elias (ph), said the campaign -- her campaign would participate in the recount, as I said. According to Elias, "Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves. But now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure that the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides."

John, I don`t know what do you make of this.

BRABENDER: This -- that`s -- that`s fraud. That`s just making something up. I mean, let`s be realistic. If you look at the numbers, nobody in the world says that there`s a problem that`s going to change the election. I understand why Jill Stein`s doing it. She`s raising a heck of a lot of money, over $6 million so far...

MATTHEWS: But she has to spend it on the recount, she can`t just pocket it...

BRABENDER: No, no, no. In Wisconsin, they said that she said they can also spend it on building for the Green Party. So she can use this. She can us it as a platform.

For the Clinton people to add to this I think is a great insult to American people because it -- it -- there`s no value in it. It`s just going to divide America more.

BELCHER: But you can`t -- you can`t call the process itself a fraud. And I agree with you that, you know, I have issues with a doing a recount because I don`t think it`s going to change anything. But there are rules here, and she`s within the rules and laws here. So I wouldn`t call what she`s doing fraud. I don`t think it`s necessarily helpful. I think it would be more helpful...


BELCHER: ... if she had dropped out.

MATTHEWS: ... this is a...

BELCHER: But I don`t think it`s fraud.

MATTHEWS: I think we`re in a very weird conundrum for Trump. You know, he seems to have a hard time accepting his victory.


MATTHEWS: Who was it that ran for mayor of New York and said, What do you do if you win? He says, I`ll demand a recount.


MATTHEWS: Anyway -- it was Jimmy Breslin or some -- maybe it was William F. Buckley. Anyway thank you, John Brabender. And Cornell Belcher, thank you. (INAUDIBLE) laughing -- you`re too happy for what`s going on in this country! There`s something going on here.

BELCHER: Well, we fixed an election, but (INAUDIBLE) we did a really poor job of rigging it.

MATTHEWS: Be careful of sarcasm. It doesn`t work on TV.



MATTHEWS: I`ve learned the hard way! You say something ironic like that, they`ll go, He meant that!


MATTHEWS: Anyway, coming up, a field of determined candidates led by Rudy Giuliani are busy casting themselves as Donald Trump`s secretary of state. By the way, here`s a vintage bite of Rudy warming up for the position.


DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: You know, you`re really beautiful. And a woman that looks like that has to have her own special scent.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR. NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Oh, thank you. Maybe you could tell me what you think of this scent.

TRUMP: I like that!


MATTHEWS: How could you forget that wonderful moment? Anyway, the intrigue within Trump Tower coming up next.

Plus, the death of Cuba`s Fidel Castro. What of his history will we learn now and what history will we make now?

And imagine a leader very different from the one just elected here in this country. His name is Pope Francis, a man of compassion, whose story has just been written. We`re going to meet the author.

Finally, let me finish with "Trump Watch" for this Monday, November 28th.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Well, officials at the Ohio State University say they`re not ruling out terrorism after a driver ran his car into a crowd and then attacked people with a knife. At least nine people were injured in the attack.

NBC`s justice correspondent, Pete Williams, joins us now with the latest. Pete, what do we know now?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that this was a single person who carried out this attack, and authorities are investigating whether anyone else was involved. There`s no sign of that yet, they say.

The single attacker was a first-year student, a freshman, 18 years old, Abdul Razak Ali Artan. They say he drove that car onto the campus just before 10:00 o`clock this morning, ran into a bunch of students, plowed into them with the car, then got out and attacked several of them with a knife before he was shot by a campus policeman and killed.

He`s a Somali refugee. He came with his family, about eight of them in all, to the United States in 2014 and appeared to fit in quite well, at first. He went to a community college. He graduated cum laude, seemed enthusiastic when he graduated. And then applied and was accepted at Ohio State University and began to study there in the fall. He was interviewed by the campus newspaper in August. He said he felt a little awkward as a Muslim looking for a place to pray because the media, he said, often misunderstands what Muslims are all about.

Now, just before the attack today, authorities say that on his Facebook page, a posting went up in which he had a rant about attacks on Muslims and mentioned the al Qaeda master propagandist Anwar al Awlaki. But authorities say they`re a long way from knowing what his motive was, whether he had personal problems and was using this as some sort of a cover or what, but they`re now investigating social media, interviewing friends and relatives, trying to figure out, Chris, why he did this.

MATTHEWS: I love your reporting, Pete. Thank you so much.

WILLIAMS: You bet.

MATTHEWS: It`s the way we have to look at these things, carefully and understanding the multitude of possible mixes of motives. Thank you so much, Pete Williams.

WILLIAMS: You got it.

MATTHEWS: We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Donald Trump`s White House transition is looking...


MATTHEWS: Well, it`s getting wild.

Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump`s White House transition is looking more like an episode of the reality TV show, you know it, "The Apprentice," rather than a presidential Cabinet selection of normal days.

The two leading contenders to be Trump`s secretary of state appear to be former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- we all know him from this program -- and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Trump is also considering Tennessee Senator and Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, and former CIA Director and retired General David Petraeus.

And here`s what Trump`s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, had to say.


REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He`s going to be making the best decision for the American people. It isn`t a matter of warfare. There`s a lot of opinions about this, and, yes, it is sort of a team of rivals concept, if you were to go toward the Governor Romney concept.


MATTHEWS: Well, Giuliani himself is running his own public campaign for the job, telling "The Wall Street Journal": "I probably have traveled in the last 13 years as much as Hillary did in the years she was secretary of state. I have been to England eight times, Japan six times, France five times. You can`t say I don`t know the world."

But this isn`t the first time Rudy showed a little leg to get a job. Remember this?


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: You know, you`re really beautiful. A woman that looks like that has to have her own special scent.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Oh, thank you. Maybe you could tell me what you think of this scent?

TRUMP: Mmm, I like that.

GIULIANI: This may be the best of all.

Oh, you dirty boy, you. Oh. Oh. Donald, I thought you were a gentleman. Hmm.

TRUMP: You can`t say I didn`t try.


MATTHEWS: What do you make of that? Make your own judgments.

Anyway, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway is running the campaign against Mitt Romney.


CHUCK TODD, MODERATOR, "MEET THE PRESS": Why are you campaigning against Mitt Romney as secretary of state?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, TRUMP SENIOR ADVISER: I`m not campaigning against anyone. I`m just a concerned citizen. I`m not campaigning against Mitt Romney.

I felt compelled to mention it because I -- it`s just breathtaking in scope and the number of people who feel betrayed to think that Governor Romney would get the most prominent Cabinet post after he went so far out of his way to hurt Donald Trump.

There was the never-Trump movement and then there was Mitt Romney. Governor Romney in the last four years, I mean, has he been around the globe doing something on behalf of the United States of which we`re unaware? Did he go and intervene in Syria, where they`re having a massive humanitarian crisis, meaning, when I say intervene, like offer to help?

Has he been helpful to Mr. Netanyahu? I`m all for party unity, but I`m not sure that we have to pay for that with a secretary of state position. But, again, let me repeat, what Donald Trump decides, Kellyanne Conway and everybody else will respect.

Governor Romney ran for the same office four years ago, and lost spectacularly. It`s Donald Trump who just won 306 electoral votes, won states like Michigan. Mitt Romney lost Michigan by 10 points. Donald Trump just won it. Donald Trump won Michigan for the first time since 1984, won Pennsylvania, won Florida, won Iowa.


MATTHEWS: Both Romney and Corker will meet with Trump tomorrow again, actually, tomorrow night, at Trump Tower. I hear that Romney`s having dinner, in fact, with Trump tomorrow night.

Anyway, just moments ago, Mike Pence, the V.P.-elect, promised some very important announcements tomorrow.

Ryan Williams is a Republican strategist and former adviser to Mitt Romney. Steve Cortes is a Republican strategist and Trump supporter.

Steve, you`re shaking your head. Let me ask you about this war on Romney. You have got -- certainly, Kellyanne has made it clear she`s getting a lot of attack information. Nobody seems to want him. You`re also hearing from that Newt Gingrich and from Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee.

What is this that really bugs people about Romney?

STEVE CORTES, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Well, yes, you know, Chris, I will tell you this.

First of all, those of us who are into politics, no matter where you fall in partisan terms, we love palace intrigue, don`t we? It`s fascinating.

And I would say, you know, regarding palaces, the European royal families intermarried a heck of a lot. I`m not sure it was all about love. It was often for political convenience. That might be part of what`s going on here with this dance with Mitt Romney.

But I will tell you, I will echo to some extent what Kellyanne Conway said. When I look at my social media world and when I talk to people, there is almost a visceral revolt against Mitt Romney among Trump supporters. And I will say, personally, he made my life difficult, as a person who came on air every day to promote the candidacy of Donald Trump.

He was a thorn in our side all the way through. So, I get that. I get that visceral reaction. But I guess I would also say to those people, to my colleagues, to my comrades in this movement, trust in our guy in Donald Trump. But if he believes that he needs him by his side, and if he believes that America needs him, then we must trust in his judgment, and that a team of rivals will work and that he will be but one voice among many.

MATTHEWS: Aren`t you cozy? I`m amazed at your openness to this.

Let me ask you, Ryan, do you think Romney voted for Trump?

RYAN WILLIAMS, REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN CONSULTANT: He said he wasn`t going to support Trump. And I think that actually speaks to Trump`s credit.

MATTHEWS: No, did he say -- do you think he voted for him?

WILLIAMS: I don`t know who he voted for, but he said he wasn`t going to support Trump.

MATTHEWS: Well, it`s reasonable to assume he didn`t vote for him?

WILLIAMS: Potentially, yes. I mean, he was pretty clear about his feelings about that.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of a guy is asking to be made secretary of state of a guy he wouldn`t even vote for?

WILLIAMS: He`s not asking.

MATTHEWS: He is. And he`s showing up the third time.


WILLIAMS: Donald Trump brought him in to speak to him about the position. And I think that speaks very well for Donald Trump. He`s willing to put aside personal issues to bring in someone who`s a very bright, dedicated personal servant, someone who he thinks personally could help his administration.

And that speaks well of this administration. He`s going to go beyond just the core of supporters who were on the campaign.

MATTHEWS: Sure. Well, the concern is that he will be -- Mitt Romney, he will not be Donald Trump`s secretary of state. He won`t do what Romney -- he won`t do what Trump wants. He will do what he wants.

WILLIAMS: I think that`s ridiculous. Obviously, anybody who accepts this position, whether it`s Mitt Romney, Giuliani or anybody else, is going to be working for the president of the United States.

Donald Trump will set the foreign policy for this nation. Whoever`s in that position is going to follow the lead. And I`m sure they will discuss it...

MATTHEWS: You never heard of Cabinet members being disrespectful of the president who appointed them? I have. It happens.

WILLIAMS: I assume there would be potentially any disagreements with the Cabinet and the president, probably.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about the...

WILLIAMS: But, look, Donald Trump`s the boss. That`s what his whole career has been about.


WILLIAMS: He`s the CEO. He`s the executive.


MATTHEWS: It`s tricky to fire somebody.

Let me ask you about this other name that popped in today, both of you guys. I hadn`t thought about it, but I think Petraeus is fascinating. For example, he`s not quite Rudy, but he has a Rudy aspect to him. There`s a tough toughness to him, a little more streetwise than, perhaps, Romney.

He`s very popular on the right, on the hawkish right, without being necessarily a hawk himself. He`s no Bolton. I wonder if he isn`t the sweet spot. That`s just me looking from the outside in, Steve. What do you think?

CORTES: Chris, I could not agree more. If Mr. Trump were to ask me, the president-elect, which he has not, but if he did, I would say General Petraeus.

Number one, I think he has fully rehabilitated himself. So, I don`t think we have to worry anymore about the scandals that beset him unfortunately recently.

And when we look at his totality of the record, his service to the country, I think he the combines the toughness of a battle-tested soldier with the intellectual rigor of a Princeton Ph.D, which he happens to hold. And I think he`s a patriot. He would be a wonderful servant.

I think you`re exactly correct. He`s just hawkish enough, because I think Mr. Trump does want a restrained foreign policy, but still at times a muscular one. So, my hope is that it will end up being General Petraeus. But, again, I will support whomever the president-elect decides to pick because I believe in him first and foremost.

MATTHEWS: What do you think?

WILLIAMS: I think he`s an American patriot. I think he`s someone who`s distinguished himself, made a very bad decision, bad...


MATTHEWS: Well, a reporter -- let`s get the facts out. A reporter was covering him, and he became romantically involved with her. And he gave her some classified information he should not have.


MATTHEWS: And he ended up paying a fine of $100,000 and got hit with a misdemeanor.

WILLIAMS: Look, he is an American patriot. He made a mistake. It will come up in the confirmation hearings if he`s nominated. But I think he`s a choice that many people would be comfortable with.

MATTHEWS: Would that be a hurdle, just to be -- we`re all in the same world here? Would that be a hurdle for Trump to name somebody who has been found to have done what he accused Hillary of doing, mishandling classified information?

WILLIAMS: I think it would be...


WILLIAMS: ... a hurdle, absolutely, but I think that he`s someone who has a record that people...

MATTHEWS: I think he would be...


CORTES: Here`s the crucial difference. He fully admitted that he did it. He fully admitted he had apologized. So, it`s, I think, a crucial, crucial difference.

MATTHEWS: What do you guys think about Trump`s thinking here, both?

You first. You know him better, I believe, Ryan. Donald Trump`s looking at -- he`s really turned into this sort of an international spectacle. Everyone`s watching these dinners, these meetings. I mean, these highly qualified people -- you could argue about Rudy and some of the others, but they`re all qualified to do this job. They`re intellectually up for it.

What do you think it`s about? He might string this baby out. What`s your hunch? Or is he going to bring it to a -- we`re hearing from the vice presidential-elect that there may be done -- there may be a big story tomorrow.

WILLIAMS: I think he relishes the attention. This is a man who`s kind of made his mark in the press for 30 years in the public eye. I think he likes the palace intrigue, whether he will admit it or not.

So, I think he will make a decision soon enough, but I think he likes the attention and the attention the transition is getting.

MATTHEWS: Guys, it`s great having you on. This is going to be part of our theater, as well as everything else, for the next couple days.

Thank you, Ryan Williams. Thank you, Steve Cortes.

Now to the death of Fidel Castro this weekend. It comes after President Obama has worked for two years to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Reacting to the news today -- or actually on Saturday -- the president released a statement saying, among other things, that: "History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people" -- actually, "on people and the world around him," to all those.

Trump, who`s threatened to undo Obama`s policy towards Cuba, was less diplomatic, no surprise. He said: "Fidel Castro`s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty, and the denial of fundamental human rights."

And as columnist Anne Applebaum wrote in "The Washington Post," Castro`s history of repression has delayed Cuba`s long overdue reckoning with its past -- quote -- "Castro left behind him a nation that does not in any public space mourn or even acknowledge the 5,600 Cubans who died in front of Castro`s firing squads or the 1,200 murdered in extralegal, extrajudicial assassinations, or any of those who were jailed, tortured, or died escaping his regime. Soon, I hope, the Cubans will be given the freedom to understand their past, to commemorate their dead, to begin to undo the damage wrought by decades of silence."

I`m joined right now by Jose Diaz-Balart of NBC and Telemundo, as well as Soledad O`Brien, CEO of Starfish Media Group and host of "Matter of Fact with Soledad O`Brien."

Soledad, I have to talk to you first, because it`s good to see you again after all -- I haven`t seen you in a long time.

You know, I grew up -- older than you two guys. I grew up during this thing. I never liked Castro. We all liked him when he first came on the stage. We all rooted for him. He was going to be a democratic revolution. He was going to overthrow the corrupt Batista.

And almost Muhammad Ali, he was a cult figure for a lot of us. And then he betrayed us, he betrayed his own people, said he was a communist, formed his bond of steel with Khrushchev and the Soviet Union, became a vassal state of the Soviet Union, to the point of pointing intermediate-range nuclear weapons on his island that were able to reach New York City and all our other major cities on East, West, and East and the Middle East -- Middle West of our country. I didn`t like him for that.

Now, what do you think? What`s his legacy?

SOLEDAD O`BRIEN, CEO, STARFISH MEDIA GROUP: His legacy is, he`s clearly a dictator who unseated another dictator.

And I think you`re right. I think a lot of people both outside of Cuba and inside of Cuba were, at the very beginning, rooting for Fidel Castro and then very quickly it all turned bad. Immediately, he started executing his opponents.

But I think that for people who are trying to understand what some of the folks who live in Cuba -- many of my relatives obviously are still there -- my mom is Afro-Cuban -- for people who are really trying to understand why Fidel Castro was popular, outside of just being a dictator, I think if you`re really trying to understand what he -- the complicated sort of list of things that he brought, in addition to being despot, that he brought to Cuba, I think you then to have to kind of peel the layers back a little bit and really understand some of the things that he did outside of Cuba and inside of Cuba.

And I think there are a lot of people who say, listen, I don`t want to know, he was a dictator, that`s good enough for me.

And I understand that. But I think for people who want to understand him a little more than that, you have to peel back those layers.

MATTHEWS: Jose, you know, people say, oh, he was good for education and good for health. Well, he wasn`t good for the health of the people he executed and he wasn`t so good for their education as he ended their lives because they dared to speak, dared to speak politically.

To this day, are you allowed to speak politically in Cuba?


MATTHEWS: Let me go to Jose on this.

I`m sorry.


JOSE DIAZ-BALART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, no, there`s no freedom -- there`s no freedom of speech.

I don`t really understand peeling the onion, although I know that, in Cuba, finding an onion is very difficult after 1959, as well as any kind of food there.

But peeling the onion, there are some truths and facts, Chris, that you can`t deny. And the article you just mentioned, the 5,600 executions that were carried out, starting the 1st of January of 1959, when much of the world was looking at Fidel Castro as a Robin Hood, after the dictatorship in that Cuba had been under with Batista, which, by the way, just to be clear, was seven years.

Castro`s going on 58-plus years without an election. So, I think there`s some truths that you can`t peel back onions and look at grays. You either kill people or you don`t kill people. Either there are political prisoners, like Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez, Afro-Cuban who spent 17 years in political prison, Oscar Elias Biscet, Afro-Cuban doctor who spent 25 years in prison.

If you talk about Felicia Guillen just last month, Afro-Cuban lady 70 years old in Fomento, central Cuba, who was beaten senseless because she was having a study chat with her neighbors about freedom of Cuba. Those aren`t gray peeling the onions. You either are beaten, you either are facing a firing squad, you`re either facing 25 years in political prison for wanting freedom, or you`re not.

And so I think that it`s important to kind of put it all in perspective. There are things to discuss, whether Fidel Castro was good for, I don`t know, foreign revolutionary movements. Certainly, what you would see, the FARC in Colombia would say that they were very benefited by Fidel Castro and his government.

I think that you would see the Tupac Amaru group in Peru would say that they certainly received support. And there were a lot of people throughout the world who feel that what Fidel Castro did vis-a-vis the United States is something they look up to. So, whether he killed people or not, that`s not a peeling back the onion.


MATTHEWS: Soledad, your chance.

O`BRIEN: And, by the way, no one said that that was a peeling back...


DIAZ-BALART: No, you did. You did. You did.

O`BRIEN: We are absolutely in agreement.


DIAZ-BALART: When you mention Afro-Cubans, you don`t have the right to not mention those other Afro-Cubans who have given their life and who are currently facing jail.

O`BRIEN: You and I are in agreement.


MATTHEWS: Jose, give her -- we only have a little time here.

Go ahead. Soledad, your turn.

O`BRIEN: You and I are in agreement.

DIAZ-BALART: Good. Good. Good.

O`BRIEN: My mother left Cuba. My relatives are...


O`BRIEN: Right? They got on boats to flee Cuba.


O`BRIEN: All I`m trying to do is explain to people who are trying to understand Fidel Castro as a hero to some people, to help them understand some of the contradictions. That is -- I am absolutely not...


DIAZ-BALART: The biggest contradiction is that he promised elections within six months. That was his political posture.


O`BRIEN: We are in agreement. We are in agreement.


MATTHEWS: I got to let Soledad have the time now.

Let me -- Soledad, I want to ask you this. Uninterrupted now, I want to give you a thought here. I think people would say, Cuban people would say he was a nationalist. Is that true? Was he a Cuban nationalist? Did he look out for the interests of Cuba, as he saw them?

O`BRIEN: I think he looked out for the interests of Fidel Castro and the Castro brothers.


O`BRIEN: So, I don`t think -- I think, ultimately, and my mother, who`s Afro-Cuban, would say, he destroyed her country. He brought terrible things to her country. So, I don`t think he`s a nationalist. I think he was ultimately out for himself.

You know, now, certainly, Cuba`s in the hands of Raul Castro and has been for basically 10 years. And I think it`s been so institutionalized that, even after Raul Castro dies, things will continue to remain the same.

I don`t think you`re ever going to get to a place where you have a memorial in the near future for 5,600 people who lost their lives, because I think the system is so entrenched there.

MATTHEWS: Let`s hope you`re wrong.

But I tried to make you -- I tried to get you to say something nice about Castro. You turned down the offer. You ended up sounding a lot more like Jose. So, both of you should shake hands on this baby. Thank you.

I agree with both of you. Thank you. I think there`s been too much romanticism about this guy in this country that`s got to be corrected.

Anyway, thank you, Jose Diaz-Balart, my colleague.

DIAZ-BALART: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: And Soledad O`Brien, I miss you. We used to work together, remember?


MATTHEWS: Up next: the HARDBALL roundtable on the Trump transition.

And later, a new look at the un-Trump, I`m calling him, Pope Francis.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.



It`s day 19 of the Trump transition, believe it or not. Nineteen days since he won the Electoral College, and today`s episode is chock-full of wild conspiracy theories, behind the scenes infighting and public brawls over cabinet picks. Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally, told "The Wall Street Journal" that the transition is the only place so far that we have seen him, that`s Trump, trying to do an open apprenticeship.

For more on the Trump transition, we`re joined by our roundtable, Eugene Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and MSNBC analyst, Jennifer Jacobs, political reporter for "Bloomberg Politics", and Howard Fineman, global editorial director for the "Huffington Post."

So, let`s go this direction over and it gets interesting over here.

Why is Mitt Romney the apple in the eye or whatever of Donald Trump? Why is he falling in love with a guy who basically treated him like something below the cesspool?

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: My reporting tells me is partly because it`s Mitt Romney may have been playing hard to get first time around. In other words, when they had their first meeting, based on this person I talked to today, Mitt Romney kind of said no.

MATTHEWS: Is he going to fall for the charm offensive of Mitt Romney?

FINEMAN: Now, wait a minute. This is what I`ve heard. This is what I`ve been told now. This is from a good source.

MATTHEWS: Donald, this is weak.

FINEMAN: And Trump`s having him back, because I think --

MATTHEWS: For dinner, I hear.

FINEMAN: Not only for a meeting, but for dinner afterwards. And I thought, at first, this was just designed to humiliate Mitt Romney, but I don`t think that`s true. I think it`s serious, and I think Donald Trump, who likes to have a multiplicity of advisers offering conflicting advice, so that he has the final say, might, in fact, have told himself that this is good to balance Steve Bannon against Mitt Romney.

MATTHEWS: OK. Jennifer, your thinking about this? Why Trump -- why Trump seems to be going for Mitt Romney? Bringing him back a third time?

JENNIFER JACOBS, BLOOMBERG: Oh, I think he definitely wants to meet with him again, to make sure they have kind of the same vision. That`s what Trump has repeatedly said. He`s got to make sure he`s got the chemistry with people. He`s got to make sure they`re onboard with his vision and foresee what he wants to pursue.

And, you know, Trump wants somebody -- wants people in his cabinet who will make him look good, look smart. Make him say, this is a great president. And Mitt Romney is somebody who`s respected by world leaders. He had international business experience. He`s studied to be president himself. Nearly was.

MATTHEWS: OK. Did you see "Groundhog Day," the movie?


MATTHEWS: You notice how the character, Bill Murray, kept pretending he was in love with this girl, by pretending -- by knowing everything she said the day before and saying it back to her the next day?

That`s what Romney will do to Trump. He`ll feed him all that Trump wants to hear based on his record. He`s studying right now, what will fluff this guy. Doesn`t Trump know that he`s being fluffed?

JACOBS: I don`t think so. You know, and I don`t know that he necessarily is.

FINEMAN: Trump thinks he`s the fluffer and not the fluffee.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Two words, "Muslim ban", OK? I don`t know how Romney gets past that. I don`t know how Trump gets past that. Even though now it`s extreme vetting from Muslim countries, we don`t have to call him Muslim countries, but everybody knows what it is, right?


ROBINSON: So, if Trump is still determined to do that, I don`t see how Mitt Romney --

MATTHEWS: Morally.

ROBINSON: Morally, as a Mormon, as a religious minority, who has very strong feelings and principles about religious freedom, I don`t see how he goes for it.

FINEMAN: Maybe that`s what the dinner`s about.

ROBINSON: Maybe it is.


FINEMAN: Chris, the fact that Romney`s going back, the fact that he`s meeting him tomorrow afternoon and then they`re going to have dinner, they`ve got to be talking about something. Now, these are both business guys.


FINEMAN: This is Bain Capital versus the Trump Organization. And they may be looking for a deal.

MATTHEWS: Jennifer, in the business world, are they betting on this? Does this have a high stock value right now? Do you think this is going to happen?

JACOBS: It definitely could happen. I mean, I can tell you that, that this is sincere, I think on both sides.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you. We`ll be right back. We`ve got to find out next things I don`t know. They`re going to tell me something I don`t know.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Eugene? And never so formal.

ROBINSON: So, far from the centers of power, Nancy Pelosi is up for re- election as leader, and she`s raring to go again. She says it`s going to be 19 -- 2005, 2006 all over again.

MATTHEWS: She`s got the best Machiavelli, to be feared but loved.

ROBINSON: Yes, exactly.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

JACOBS: Announcements. I have heard this morning that there could be as many as eight announcements for Trump cabinet posts this week. Mike Pence just said to expect some exciting, some big, important announcements tomorrow. I would assume that that could be defense secretary. I know they`re closes to that choice.

(AUDIO GAP) through that.

MATTHEWS: I`m waiting for DOT, which could be a big one.

Go ahead.

FINEMAN: Meanwhile the recount, it`s possible they`re too late in Pennsylvania. In other words, there`s a deadline in Pennsylvania that (AUDIO GAP)

MATTHEWS: You have to go through hundreds and hundreds of --

FINEMAN: You know Pennsylvania, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Yes, 9,000 precincts --

FINEMAN: Home of the Prothonotary and other offices like that. They have to cross the T`s and dot the I`s. I`m not sure they did it in Pennsylvania.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, I`m still getting that through my head that he won Pennsylvania.


MATTHEWS: I`m still getting that -- that was a popular vote, by the way.

Eugene Robinson, Jennifer Jacobs, and Howard Fineman.

When we come back, a new look at the un-Trump, I`m calling him. Catch this, Pope Francis. Think of anybody least like Donald Trump. He`s in the Vatican.

We`ll be right back after this.


MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

At a time this country`s worried about the arrival of Donald Trump as president, many are, given his attacks on immigrants and threats to ban those of the Islamic faith from this country, the world`s largest Christian church is headed by a very different man, Pope Francis.

Since the time of his election in 2013, he`s won the regard and affection of all religions, he`s inspired the hopes of those concerned by the values espoused by Donald Trump and his campaign.

As his first American biographer, author Mark Shriver, explores the pope`s unique appeal in his new book, "Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis".


MATTHEWS: Mark, tell me about your book. You`ve written this book about the pope, the first American I guess to write a book about Pope Francis. I was thinking in the age of Trump we`re about to enter and the values of this pope. Tell me about how they are different.

MARK SHRIVER, AUTHOR, "PILGRIMAGE": Well, Trump and Bergoglio, Mario Bergoglio?


SHRIVER: Well, I think the pope wants to build bridges and he has said countless times that you got to go to the frontiers and bring people in, to talk to them, to be with them, not just the poor financially, but the poor spiritually, those that are suffering psychologically, emotional problems. That`s what he`s talking about. That`s what mercy is, the year of mercy just finished up. He wants people to go to the edges, to the frontier and to bring people into the conversation. I think that`s the difference that we should all adhere to it.

I mean, we should stop building bridges and isolated people. What the pope is doing --

MATTHEWS: Stop building walls, yes.

SHRIVER: Yes, stop building walls, thank you.

MATTHEWS: So, what do you think -- you know, I`ve watched, I read "Shoes of the Fisherman", I saw the movie of course. And this College of Cardinals has a fascinating way of going at and finding the right pope, the one who has papabili. But in this case, something they were looking for and they found in Pope Francis.

How does that work?

SHRIVER: He`s a pastor. I mean, I think, you know, over the 20-some-plus years that he was bishop and then cardinal of Buenos Aires, he showed time and again that he was reaching out to the poor, to the powerless and I think they looked at what had happened over the Benedict papacy and saw that they needed someone who could really reach out to the masses and try to include people and bring people back to the church, not as doctrinal, not as strict.

And Pope Francis is definitely that guy.


SHRIVER: I mean, the fact that he chose Francis I, the only pope to ever chose that name, the guy who cared about the environment, who cared about the poor. I mean, that shows they picked the right guy.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Benedict and Francis have different rings to them.

SHRIVER: They sure do.

MATTHEWS: What about that line -- I think a lot of Jewish people we all know, you and I know a lot of people of different religions seem to like this pope even though they are not connected to him in terms of religious faith per se. For example, when he said, "Who am I to judge?", and he talked about gay people, LGBT community people, divorced people who have left the church, he seemed to be opening his heart to them.

SHRIVER: Absolutely. And, you know, it`s not just interfaith dialogue that he talks about to do it once or twice a year, and then forget about. I mean, I talked to a number of rabbis down in Buenos Aires, Chris, who told me that the pope went out and visited their synagogue and got off public transportation, walked three blocks at their synagogue, drenched in sweat, spent time talking to their parishioners. You know, that`s the kind of guy he is. He`s reaching out to Jews, he`s reaching to Muslims, he`s reaching out to atheists.


SHRIVER: And he`s not judging and I think that`s a great thing. I mean, he tries to get folks to really have a personal relationship with God and that`s what the book is about.

MATTHEWS: The style of maybe Citizen Cane, the movie, or any kind pilgrimage, the name, of course, is "Pilgrimage", but it`s about going on the road, hitting the road and in journalism, you have to go there.


MATTHEWS: You have to go up and find a place and get the story. What was the story that surprised you back in the hills of -- beyond Buenos Aires now, the hills of Argentina? When did you find -- where did you find him, the pope?

SHRIVER: Well, I found -- really, I thought the most stunning one was the fact that he was exiled for a couple of years from Buenos Aires, his beloved town, out to Cordoba, which is in the middle of Argentina. And he was exiled because he was an authoritarian man or his toughness on people. Some Jesuits in Argentina loved him. There`s a whole another group of people really honestly despised him and he was sent two years out in what he called deep interior crisis and he prayed and he listened to confessions, he really didn`t have much responsibility after coming from a very powerful position.

And I think that -- you really get a great sense of who the guy is coming out of that and that`s --

MATTHEWS: How did -- was that his rite of passage? His change, did he more liking and more likable as a human being?

SHRIVER: Yes, and I think he reached out to people and he involved others in the decision-making process. He really -- he`s -- it`s interesting, he said that whenever he stays with a decision, he never goes with his gut reaction because he`s usually wrong.

MATTHEWS: They say that about golf. I wouldn`t know. Don`t do what`s natural.

Pilgrimage, I like to people, "Roman Catholic" like us, I think it`s a hell of a book to buy by the handful, because I think at Christmastime, this is the book.

SHRIVER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: I`m just being commercial here. But if you`re not --

SHRIVER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: -- just take a look at the bookstore. Open it up and read three or four pages, you`re going to buy the book because it`s got texture and brings you into the heart of a guy where he came from. I think it`s a hell of a book.

SHRIVER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: By Mark Shriver.

SHRIVER: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, sir. Thanks for coming on.

SHRIVER: Thank you, Chris. Appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: When we return, let me finish with Trump Watch.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


MATTHEWS: Trump Watch, Monday, November 28th, 2016.

We`re all watching television now. We`re all caught up in this special episode of "The Apprentice", five nervous yet hopeful contestants sit there all in a row. And slightly above them sits Donald Trump there, behind his large desk weighing their applications. It`s an audition for a role, that of U.S. secretary of state, and all that matters it seems is the performance, nothing more. Only Donald Trump`s expectations of what each of these five men might do for him the next four years.

Rudy Giuliani is the most game, of course. After all, he was there in the foxhole when Trump was taking fire from every direction. He proved himself in battle. Can that be said for any other contestant?

Mitt Romney acts as if being who he is justifies naming him the country`s highest appointed position. Wasn`t he born to this rank? Doesn`t his air of superiority, one he used so murderously in that first debate with President Obama justify him getting this superior post?

There are other candidates. General David Petraeus would be taken seriously and show that Donald Trump has the guts and grace to pick someone known to have made a mistake. Much as General Eisenhower gave George Patton a second chance after he slapped that malingering soldier.

Senator Bob Corker made sense because he knows foreign relations. In fact, shares the Foreign Relations Committee. He would start with a burst of trust simply because his fellow senators would show him trust.

John Bolton would be a disaster, a reverse on all that Trump proclaimed during the campaign about the Iraq war and the rest of this regime change business. He`s a personification of this regime change business.

So, we continue to watch the statesman apprentice, hoping that the one you`re rooting for and certainly the one you`re rooting against, get what their performance merits, their past performance, and that winners is not simply the one that Donald Trump likes the cut of his jib.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.