Hardball With Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/7/2016

Guests: Nancy Gibbs, Ted Johnson, Eric Swalwell, Eric Lipton, Margaret Carlson, Peter Emerson, Jenna Johnson

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 7, 2016 Guest: Nancy Gibbs, Ted Johnson, Eric Swalwell, Eric Lipton, Margaret Carlson, Peter Emerson, Jenna Johnson

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: Night of the generals.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Chris Matthews in Washington.

Well, a busy day for the Trump transition. The president-elect announced Iowa governor Terry Branstad will serve as U.S. ambassador to China. But Governor Branstad is still missing a boss? Did you notice? The last major prize of the cabinet, secretary of state, remains unfilled. Will it be Rudy or Mitt, General Petraeus or possibly John Bolton? Oh, my God!

In an interview with the "TODAY" show this morning, Donald Trump himself said the announcement was coming by next week. And he insisted Mitt Romney, one of his fiercest critics during the campaign, was still very much in contention. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, "TODAY" CO-HOST: Let me go back to Mitt Romney. Is he still under consideration?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Yes, he is.

LAUER: Does he have a chance to become secretary of state?

TRUMP: Yes, he does. I mean, I`ve spoken to him a lot. And we`ve come a long way together. We had some tremendous difficulty together, and now I think we`ve come a long way. But the answer is yes, he does.

LAUER: So this isn`t about some case of stringing him along as revenge being a dish best served cold for the comments he made during the campaign?

TRUMP: No, it`s not about revenge. It`s about what`s good for the country, and I`m able to put this stuff behind us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, meanwhile, NBC News reported that Trump will appoint retired Marine general John Kelly to head the Department of Homeland Security. That`s a big appointment. He will also -- the general will join another retired general, James "mad dog" Mattis, who has been tapped as Defense Department chief. Anyway, Trump`s national security adviser is also a retired general, Michael Flynn, of course.

"The New York Times`s" Maggie Haberman tweeted today, "One person close to Trump transition noting all the military folks said it`s beginning to look like `Seven Days in May.`" Of course, that`s a reference to the generals taking over, trying to take over back in the `60s in that novel.

Anyway, for the latest on the transition, I`m joined by NBC`s Hallie Jackson outside Trump Tower. Hallie, thank you for joining us from that dangerous spot on the corner of 5th Avenue.

Let me ask you about this interesting mix. It`s not mix and match, it`s generals and billionaires. It`s pretty consistent now.

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, everybody except for Nikki Haley, Chris. You look at his administration, these high-level picks, they`re all multi-millionaires, billionaires, or as you note, former members of the military, retired generals.

And look at the picks today, right? You`ve got not just General Kelly, but announcing Linda McMahon will head up the Small Business Administration. It`s a good post in the administration. She also is extremely wealthy.

So interesting to kind of watch this play out. It also makes you wonder -- you mentioned General Petraeus at the top of your show as a possible pick for secretary of state, but one has to wonder if the president-elect will pick yet another retired general, given how many are in his administration so far.

MATTHEWS: Well, there must be some concern about the Congress because Congress has to pass, you know, a waiver on this to allow people who`ve served within the last seven years to serve in civilian capacities.

JACKSON: Right.

MATTHEWS: And maybe they can tie that on as a rider to a bill that -- a must-pass bill. But it looks to me like if he keeps naming generals, especially if he names a general like Petraeus to the State Department, he`s really loading it up with generals.

JACKSON: Right. And so -- I mean, listen, you`ve got to compare it, too, right? So we ran the numbers. We had one of our researchers look, take a look at how many generals and former generals were in President Bush`s administration, and President Obama. President Bush had four, President Obama five. Of course, that`s over their eight-year terms. It wasn`t all at once, and it wasn`t so early. But I think that is worth noting.

You know, the other point -- remember, it`s Mattis that -- General Mattis that needs the waiver, but it doesn`t look like there`s going to be a huge fight about that, at least not right now, especially considering the comments today from House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who indicated, Hey, its probably not going to be a huge battle.

That said, he will probably have difficulty in other areas of people trying to get confirmed. I think of, for example, his pick for Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, who came under a lot of fire when he was named. But you`re seeing those problems not necessarily -- or those potential problems not necessarily with the military-linked picks.

MATTHEWS: What do you think of my pick that Rudy`s going to get this, the secretary of state? I know it runs against everything, but I just think that this is the hole card he`s been sitting on. He has never said Rudy won`t get it. Rudy was the front-runner at the outset, the most loyal guy in the campaign. What do you make? What do you make of his prospects? Can you say that?

JACKSON: I love -- Chris, my favorite thing is when you ask me to give my opinion on your opinions. I think it`s a lot of fun, and to predict your opinions.

I will -- I will say this. I just got off the phone, actually, with a source familiar with some of this process who says that the president-elect is diving really into this process and has been diving in, really getting into secretary of state, feels like it is so, so important, which is why you`re seeing the process be so deliberative.

I will tell you that a couple of people who are familiar with the decision- making process are still putting Rudy Giuliani right up at the top of the list for secretary of state, a lot of question marks, despite the president-elect`s public comments, about where Mitt Romney stands.

I mean, you know, listen, it`s also Donald Trump, right? So there`s always the possibility of some kind of a dark horse pick. There are some in the inner circle who are fans of others, like, for example, Jon Huntsman, who`s sort of fallen out of the mix.

So a lot of speculation, and we should know more by certainly the end of next week. So clock is ticking here and we`ll know soon.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Hallie Jackson, right there on 5th Avenue in front of that golden tower.

Anyway, last year, it might be noted, "Time" magazine chose German chancellor Angela Merkel at its Person of the Year for 2015. And there was one very loud voice of dissent, in fact, contempt. His name was Donald Trump. Trump tweeted, "I told you `Time` magazine would never pick me as Person of the Year despite being the big favorite. They picked a person who is ruining Germany."

Anyway, today "Time" announced 2016 person of the year. Not surprisingly,, it was President-elect Donald Trump. There`s the picture.

On the "TODAY" show this morning, Trump said he was honored.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, it`s a great honor. It means a lot, especially me growing up reading "Time" magazine. And it`s a very important magazine. And I`ve been lucky enough to be on the cover many times this year, so -- and last year. But I consider this a very, very great honor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: I`m joined right now by "Time" magazine`s editor-in-chief, Nancy Gibbs. Also joining is us Katie Packer -- she`s with me -- the former deputy campaign manager to Mitt Romney`s 2012 campaign and an MSNBC contributor now, and also Governor Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and an MSNBC political analyst.

Well, Nancy, was it an honor?

NANCY GIBBS, "TIME" MAGAZINE: You know, it doesn`t surprise any of us, I expect, that he would treat it that way. What we always say is the Person of the Year is the one who has had the most influence over events of the year for better or worse.

The weird thing about this year is no one really is arguing that someone else had more influence over the events this year. There`s agreement on that. And there`s still profound disagreement on whether it was for better or for worse.

So the fact that he views it as an honor -- you know, he talks about how often he was on the cover of "Time," and sometimes it was because he was doing very well, and other times, it was when his campaign seemed to be falling apart.

But if he is in the school that there`s no such thing as bad publicity, then of course, having us note that no other figure on the world stage this year dominated it in the way that he did, I think that, you know, would be hard to argue with.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I don`t think anyone has told him yet that Richard Nixon was on the cover I think 56 times for the all-time record.

Anyway, Donald Trump did -- he was impeached. And Donald Trump did take one issue with "Time" magazine`s coverage. Your cover said that he`s presiding over a divided America. Here`s what he said on that this morning to Matt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, I think putting "divided" is snarky, but again, it`s divided. I`m not president yet, so I didn`t do anything to divide.

And I will say this, I`ve now gotten to know President Obama. I really like him. We have, I think -- I can say at least for myself, I can`t speak for him, but we have a really good chemistry together. We talk. He loves the country. He wants to do right by the country and for the country.

And I will tell you, we obviously very much disagree on certain policies and certain things, but you know, I really like him as a person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Governor Rendell. You must be in shock watching this performance. I mean, you are a guy that was district attorney, assistant DA before that, mayor of a big city, governor. You did everything the normal way in politics. You shook hands, you meet people, you serve the public. You got to be the governor.

And here`s a guy with this wacky -- wackiness of saying stuff we don`t know if anything he says is true until it`s proven one way or the other. There`s no reason to be prima facie agreeing to anything he says is true. And he`s on the cover of "Time" magazine as Person of the Year, and he`s president-elect of the United States.

What do you make of earth right now, Governor?

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: What do you make of this world we live in?

ED RENDELL (D), FMR. PA GOV., MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, my successor, Wilson Goode (ph), had an expression saying, It boggles my entire mind.

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL: And that boggles my entire mind. I mean, how Donald Trump, who attacked Barack Obama`s citizenship, led a birther movement in this country and around the world, who called Obama a terrorist sympathizer, who said he was the father of ISIS -- how he could switch after one meeting and a few phone calls, all of a sudden, he`s in love with the guy, they`ve got chemistry together -- good Lord, that`s the type that -- you know, certain chemicals can blow stuff up.

(LAUGHTER)

RENDELL: So it`s mind-boggling to me. And how he can say that he didn`t do anything...

MATTHEWS: This, by the way...

RENDELL: ... to divide the country...

MATTHEWS: ... is gallows humor, for those watching. This is gallows humor. This is...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... happy humor, this is crazy stuff!

RENDELL: And let me tell you, he says he didn`t do anything to divide the country -- well, he sure divided Muslim Americans when he said what he said about not allowing Muslims into the country and maybe even deporting some Muslims. He certainly divided Mexican-Americans when he said what did he about people who come from Mexico. So he was very responsible for a lot of the division that exists in the country.

And what I really fault him for is after he won. After he won, as you recall, Chris, there were incidents in schools all over the country. But particularly in Pennsylvania, we had an incident where some high school sophomores were yelling "White power" in the school.

Well, if I were Donald Trump, I would have called the principal. I said, I`m coming tomorrow, get all the kids in assembly, and I would have reamed those kids out. And I would have said, We`re one America. There`s no white power. There`s no black power. There`s American power. He could have done so much to begin the process of uniting, but he hasn`t done it.

MATTHEWS: Yes, Jack Kennedy once said that those who ride the tiger sometimes end up in the stomach.

RENDELL: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: And riding the tiger on the ethnic stuff is not good in the long run.

Katie Packer, what do you make of this guy? You -- I mean -- and compared to Trump, Mitt Romney looks like -- I mean, he`s a little stiff, but -- to say the least, but some of the Democratic candidates have been stiff, as well -- you know, Al Gore, for example, Kerry sometimes.

And -- so Trump is more the people`s man. But this is still astounding. He`s on the cover of "Time." He is going to be Person of the Year. He`s got all this game going on.

KATIE PACKER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: He should be.

MATTHEWS: And he`s deciding which -- how much torture he`s going to make to inflict on Mitt Romney. I mean, he`s just making the guy dance and he said that he walks like a penguin, and then he shows a picture of him walking up at what looks like a White House down at Mar-a-Lago. He makes him curtsy, genuflect and all this stuff.

What do you make of it? Is Romney going crazy?

(LAUGHTER)

PACKER: Maybe a little. But you know, the one thing that I think is lost on people in all of these appointments of billionaires and generals and governors -- I mean, he`s appointed a few governors -- what is really the common denominator here is he likes people that run things. He likes people that are CEOs, that have served at the top, that have given direction and have had...

MATTHEWS: You mean orders.

PACKER: ... high expectations -- yes.

MATTHEWS: I`m sorry, people who have given orders...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... expectations.

PACKER: But he`s fabulous -- he`s got a fabulously short memory. People insult him, and the minute they say something nice, he sort of forgets it all. And so that may be a thing that serves him well.

MATTHEWS: Let me go back to Nancy Gibbs on the issue of real truth and what you call post-truth. And at "Time," you are in many ways the magazine of record in this country. I mean that. You`re the magazine to go back to when you want to know what happened in history. You take a year, 1960- something, you (INAUDIBLE) Let`s read "Time" and find out what it was like.

This stuff of he says -- he just says things that we know aren`t true. He said the Russians had nothing to do with hacking into the DNC, nothing to do with it. He just says it!

GIBBS: You know, and what was striking -- we pressed him on that when we interviewed him for this story. And that -- you know, the intelligence community has what they call, you know, a high degree of confidence. That`s when they are really sure that it`s the Russians.

And he just dismisses that. And he goes so far as to say he thinks that that intelligence assessment was political. And it makes you wonder what kind of relationship he`s going to be able to have with the intelligence community if he`s dismissing their assessment of some of the issues that are most critical to democracy, like whether a foreign power is trying to undermine your elections, by thinking that assessment was politically motivated.

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, Governor, because you`ve been a popular governor, and I want to ask you about this kind of gun-slinging he`s been involved in now. He goes after Boeing, and says, You charge too much for our airplanes. He goes after Carrier and says, I`m going to keep you in the United States. He brings in a -- somebody from Asia who`s going to give us $50 billion in investments and makes it look like a personal deal he`s got.

I think people like that. I know this isn`t popular among progressives, but people out there in Pennsylvania I bet are saying, Great, somebody`s finally kicking some butt, somebody`s finally acting like president the way want him to be president. That`s what I`m -- what do you think?

RENDELL: I think you`re absolutely right. I said to someone today, you know, the Democrats are all saying, We`ll do well in 2018 because there`s a backlash every two years against the incoming president.

Well, Donald Trump will do these type of things for as long as he`s president. And he`ll do these things that people like, attacking Boeing for charging $4 billion and saying I`m going to get the price down. The average Joe doesn`t know there`s a contract,. Donald Trump has no ability to get the price down if Boeing wants to stick with the contract. But they love the sound of it.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

RENDELL: And to be honest, I did the same thing when I became mayor. I knew I needed to get the public on my side, so I got down on my hands and knees and cleaned up a toilet in the first floor of city hall. I jumped in a swimming pool with kids because we were going to open the pool.

Those type of things reach the common person. So I think Donald Trump is not going to have -- in the long run, he may fail, but I think for the first 18 months or so, people are going to find some of this stuff amazingly appealing.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think people liked when you brought business to Pennsylvania and Philadelphia (INAUDIBLE) have to do that things.

Katie, this is part of the job of being president, jaw-boning on prices. Kennedy did it with big steel. He got them to lower the price of steel after they jumped him on that.

PACKER: Well, what`s going to trip Donald Trump up...

MATTHEWS: People liked it.

PACKER: ... isn`t going to be taking on big business, big banks, the big media...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

PACKER: ... conglomerates. That`s -- those are going to be the things that make people love him, and he`s going to continue to do that. He`s going to do it by Twitter and people are going to love it. The things that are going to trip him up are the things that require more finesse.

MATTHEWS: OK. I want to thank Nancy Gibbs. Congratulations because "Time" magazine still has it. Print has power -- print has the power to make people Person of the Year. There`s nobody in broadcasting who can say, You`re the Person of the Year. Only you guys can do that, Nancy. And thank you so much for coming on. Anyway, Katie Packer, as well, thank you. Governor Rendell, of course. Happy holiday to all of you.

Coming up, a big backlash over Donald Trump`s pick to head the EPA. Believe it or not, he`s picking somebody who`s a -- well, it`s a clear ally of the fossil fuel industry, somebody who`s actually sued the EPA to block its rules against pollution, and he`s going to take the -- he`s putting the guy in charge of the chicken coop. I don`t get it, but maybe that`s what Trump`s up to.

Plus, the pop culture president. As Trump continues to reimagine the presidency, he`s meeting with reality TV producer Mark Burnett and plotting some really big changes for his inauguration.

And the HARDBALL roundtable is here tonight to talk about the emerging Trump cabinet. Trump`s filling it with billionaires, millionaires and generals. Feel like I`m talking like Bernie Sanders now -- billionaires.

Anyway, finally, "Let me finish" with the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Well, today, we were able to call the last state from last month`s election. The results certified now in New Hampshire, and Hillary Clinton is the winner up there in the Granite State. And that`s a little consolation, of course, to Democrats, but Clinton`s lead in the popular vote continues to grow.

According to Politico -- or the political reports of -- the Cook Political Report, her vote total now surpassed the number of votes Barack Obama got in 2012. So she beat Obama at least. She`s also 400,000 votes behind Obama`s total, and she`s received more popular votes than any candidate in history not named Obama.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Well, late today, NBC learned that Donald Trump plans to nominate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator. And that has led to a backlash by many progressives.

As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt joined -- or led state lawsuits to block virtually every major federal regulation on climate and air pollution put forward by President Obama`s EPA.

"The New York Times" wrote that the selection of Mr. Pruitt showed "Mr. Trump`s determination to dismantle President Obama`s efforts to counter climate change."

Well, in May, Mr. Pruitt wrote that: "Climate warming has inspired one of the major political debates of our time. That debate is far from settled."

Well, Pruitt will head the very organization he`s currently suing.

For now, I`m joined by Eric Lipton, a correspondent for "The New York Times," Democratic U.S. Congressman from conflict Eric Swalwell.

Let me go to you, Eric, and this reporting. Where is the status of that suit? Is he currently in litigation against the EPA?

ERIC LIPTON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": He has got quite a number of lawsuits still pending against the EPA and against the federal government in general.

He`s a guy that believes in states` rights and that the states should have the privilege to make their own determination about environmental regulations.

MATTHEWS: And so, down there in the oil patch, they believe that they should be able to do what they want with fossil fuel, period?

LIPTON: They think that they know how to manage oil and gas exploration and that the EPA should largely let them set their own standards.

MATTHEWS: But there couldn`t be any pushback in a state where the industry is oil and gas. Who would dare stand up against the industry of the state? We see that up in Pennsylvania with fracking.

LIPTON: that There`s not a large environmental community in Oklahoma like there is, for example, in Colorado. So, he is largely speaking to a population that agrees with him in Oklahoma. And he`s quite popular in Oklahoma.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to you, Congressman. Thank you for joining us.

What do make of this in-you`re-face decision by the president-elect to say, screw you guys?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes.

MATTHEWS: I don`t believe in climate change. I`m going to prove it by picking a guy who agrees with me.

SWALWELL: He`s putting a climate denier in that position, someone with very little experience with the environment.

Oklahoma, by the way, for all of its fracking, has seen an increase in earthquakes, something that has concerned us in California, why we have tried to really kind of stem the efforts to do that.

But, also, this is the only state in the country that refused to negotiate with the banks after the mortgage crisis; 49 states got relief after what happened in 2008. Oklahoma sat out. And that was his decision.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the whole strategy. Is there any other indication of what Trump wants do with environmental regulations? Because business -- I don`t know why the market is booming right now, the Dow.

But clearly one of the reasons is the sense we`re coming into a new regime which is going to be a lot less environmental, a lot less regulatory. It is going to be smooth sailing for people who want profits, per se. They just want to make some money.

LIPTON: Right.

Well, I say that Scott Pruitt is a guy that believes in the rule of law, as he calls it, and the states` rights. He also thinks that -- he also has ended up in quite a close alliance with the energy companies.

And there are a lot of rules that are pending before the EPA right now that they want to roll back. For example, there is a methane rule that limits emissions of methane, a gas that contributes to global warming.

They want to strike down that rule and block it. There is quite a number of rules that he`s fighting through lawsuits which now, administratively, he may be able to kill or roll back.

MATTHEWS: The Koch brothers must be ecstatic.

LIPTON: He is in alliance -- Devon Energy, which is based in Oklahoma City, is a close ally of his.

Devon Energy, as I wrote in a story in 2014 in "The Times," they were giving him letters to send to federal officials. They were drafting the letters for him.

MATTHEWS: The Koch brothers?

LIPTON: Well, Devon Energy was.

And then he simply put the letter on his own letterhead, signed it and sent it off to the federal agency. He was basically working in alliance with these companies. But he -- if you ask him about it, he says it`s because he believes the same thing that those companies did, which is that the states should have the right to make their own determination.

MATTHEWS: What does it look like in Congress right now?

I know Ed Markey, the senator from Massachusetts, is very concerned about this, very ripped, if you will, about this appointment. It seems like Trump is saying right off the bat, I don`t believe in environment, I don`t believe in looking out for the environment. I`m going to do whatever I want.

SWALWELL: The same week that he meets with -- or has Ivanka meet with Al Gore.

MATTHEWS: What is that about?

SWALWELL: Yes. I think it shows that he will pander, but we know...

MATTHEWS: A photo-op.

SWALWELL: It was a photo-op. Bring Gore to Trump Tower, but the person that is going to make the decisions around climate change is a climate denier.

MATTHEWS: I think there is a quiet backdrop of people. It`s not always front-page, but I have heard this from Lou Harris, other pollsters. There are people who care deeply -- I do, my wife does -- about the environment.

And although it doesn`t get all the noise that some of the other issues do, it`s there and in people`s soul. They really believe we got to protect this planet for the future.

Anyway, the executive director of the Sierra Club, by the way -- they`re the most environmental -- released the following statement upon hearing the news that Donald Trump intended to nominate Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma -- quote -- "Having Scott Pruitt in charge of the United States Environmental Protection Agency is like putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires. He is a climate science denier who, as attorney general for the state of Oklahoma, regularly conspired with the fossil fuel industry to attack EPA protections."

Pretty strong. What is it going to do in Congress?

SWALWELL: Well, I`m on the Science Committee. We call it the Science Committee because over half the members don`t believe in science.

But we`re not going to give up this fight. We have the Paris agreement in place. People at home, I think, want to see this upheld. But what Democrats can do, I think, is talk about what the new clean energy economy looks like for jobs, connect clean energy to jobs, so that people don`t think that climate change means they`re going to lose their job.

MATTHEWS: You know, Eric, this is science, not politics. We look back at Lucy and the first forms of human life back four million years ago, and you think mankind, when he was primitive, did a pretty good job of protecting this climate, no fossil fuels, no climate change, no greenhouse gases.

And now here we are, in the short space of the 20th and 21st century, ruining a planet, after millions of human years, human existence.

LIPTON: Donald Trump has not made it clear what his position is going to be on the Paris accords and whether or not he really believes in climate change.

It`s an open question. It depends on who asks him and what audience he has as to what answer he gives. I think that this is a good test as to how he runs the Environmental Protection Agency. And we`re going to see whether or not it becomes the state attorney general`s -- the liberal attorney generals who become the real environmental force in the United States, as was the case during the Bush administration. That may be coming back.

MATTHEWS: What kind of morale you got on the Hill right now?

SWALWELL: Well, we`re fired up.

We know there is a real opportunity to put our values forward. We are going to miss President Obama dearly, but under Nancy Pelosi`s leadership, we have been in this position before from `02 to `06.

And today we just called for a bipartisan commission to investigate what happened with the election and the campaign, particularly foreign interference.

MATTHEWS: What did you make of that, that Trump just abruptly said -- I will point this at you -- that Trump just said what we all know isn`t true, that Russians had nothing to do with hacking into the Democratic National Committee, John Podesta and all that stuff?

SWALWELL: Yes.

Despite the high confidence assessment from the intelligence community. One, he should start taking his intelligence briefings. He`s taken fewer than any president recently prior to taking office.

Two, for somebody to deny overwhelming evidence would be like a caveman saying that the sun sets in the east. He has no perspective on this. And so what I think is to take him at -- he doesn`t believe it happened? Fine, let`s have an independent commission, bipartisan-appointed, to look at it and make recommendations on how we can make sure it never happens again.

MATTHEWS: Exactly. The sun seems to rise in the east.

SWALWELL: No, the sun sets in the east. It would be like the caveman saying the sun sets in the east.

MATTHEWS: OK. I know. I`m just kidding.

Anyway, thank you, U.S. Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. And, thank you, Eric Lipton, for the expertise of "The New York Times."

Up next: Donald Trump`s plans for a reality TV-style inauguration. The showbiz goes on.

And this is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Two juveniles are under arrest and charged with aggravated arson in connection with the wildfires in Tennessee that left 14 people dead. Officials say more charges are possible.

Authorities investigating the deadly fire at a California warehouse say no conclusion has been reached about the cause of that blaze. No evidence of arson has been found.

And a third U.S. service member injured in last month`s attack at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan has died. Sergeant 1st Class Allan Brown from Takoma Park, Maryland, passed away earlier at Walter Reed -- back to HARDBALL.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Donald Trump ramped up his criticism of "Saturday Night Live" this morning on "The Today Show" when asked about his tweets critiquing the show and Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Well, I hosted "SNL" when it was a good show. But it`s not a good show anymore.

First of all, nothing to do with me, there is nothing funny about it. The skits are terrible.

QUESTION: So, why do you keep watching it?

TRUMP: I mean, Alec -- I like Alec, but his imitation of me is really mean-spirited and not very good. I don`t think it`s good.

And I do like him, and I like him as an actor, but I don`t think that his imitation of me gets me at all. And it`s meant to be very mean-spirited, which is very biased.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: That was Kate McKinnon there as Kellyanne Conway.

Anyway, Trump`s truly a pop culture president, if you haven`t noticed, who has his hand on the pulse of television and social media. He`s the ultimate reality star.

And now he`s producing, if you will, the show of a lifetime, his presidential transition.

"The New York Times" reported that at a fund-raiser this morning in Manhattan, Trump teased the audience about festivities planned for his presidential inauguration.

"The Times" reported -- quote -- "The president-elect said he was paid a visit a day earlier by Mark Burnett, the executive producer of `The Apprentice,` the reality show that helped make the president-elect a household name. Mr. Trump told the crowd that Mr. Burnett proposed reinventing the inauguration with a helicopter taking off from New York City, according to an attendee."

For more on the reality show presidency, I`m joined by an expert, Ted Johnson, senior editor at "Variety."

All night here, I`m in a mood of giddiness, because it`s so absurd, some of the things he`s been saying and what he`s up to, but the show business quality is unending. It`s like he`s a comic that has to keep the audience on its toes every second. He`s scared to death of flop sweat. He has to tell a joke a second.

And here he is hyping the inauguration as some kind of media whiz bang thing where he flies in by helicopter, like one of those old 1930s movie characters.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: Usually the bad guy.

TED JOHNSON, "VARIETY": Well, yes, I think one of the -- the reality is, if Trump wants an inauguration like President Obama had for his first inauguration, and you had this great concert at the Lincoln Memorial, and there were all these stars, and it was Bruce Springsteen, and it was U2 who was out there, the trouble for Donald Trump is, a lot of those figures are not going to show up for him.

They were for Hillary Clinton, or they`re actually upset about his election. And it is going to be very difficult for him to actually get some of these entertainers to show up. I think they can pitch, oh, hey, in the name of unity, you should be out there, but there is still a lot of hard feelings out here in the entertainment community, most of whom -- most of the figures out here of whom lined up for Hillary Clinton.

MATTHEWS: You know, Ted, speaking of show business, it used to be when guys got elected president -- they were all guys and still are, I guess -- they used to practice dancing, because the inaugural event, the balls, you have to go to all the balls, five or seven of them, whatever, and you have to dance in front of everybody.

And that is always hard, even at a wedding, especially at a wedding. You have to dance in front of a bunch of people . And my generation grew up with basically you go get a drink or two before you go dancing. You don`t exactly learn to dance.

Now, here you have Donald Trump who, I don`t know if he can dance or not. Certainly, the last two presidents couldn`t. W. would come out to do the sort of idiotic two-step. It was ridiculous. He pretended to dance. He didn`t.

And I have to say Barack Obama, who I generally support, came out there and did something like the Freddie. I don`t think that was even a dance. I don`t know what it was. It was another one-step thing just for the cameras.

Is Trump going to actually learn to dance and put on a show for us at the inauguration, or is he going to do what they have been doing the last couple presidencies, not even going to the trouble of learning anything?

And the reason I raise this is because W. didn`t think he had to learn anything, and he didn`t, and never did. And Trump acts like it doesn`t matter to learn. You don`t need experts. You don`t morning briefings on what is happening in the world. You just do it by instinct.

Is he going to be one of these presidents like W. who thinks you don`t have to learn anything, like dancing?

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON: I would be very surprised if he showed up and was this expert ballroom dancing, kind of as we see on "Dancing With the Stars." I would be very surprised.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask about the whole show with this thing, the fact that they`re talking helicopter arrivals, they`re talking the fact that he`s bringing in Mark Burnett, who is quite a showman with reality TV. He did "Survivor." He did "The Contender." He`s done a lot of shows. He knew what he was doing. And he did "The Apprentice."

JOHNSON: Now, I`m just a little skeptical about how much they can kind of buck tradition at the inaugural, because, when you think about the swearing-in ceremony, that is really the bailiwick of Congress.

They kind of control what happens on Capitol grounds. The Trump campaign - - or the Trump inaugural committee can kind of have some flexibility in the events that surrounds the inauguration, but the thing that people are going to be tuning in to, I think, is going to end up looking pretty traditional.

MATTHEWS: Yes. Well, we will see.

Anyway, his wedding was traditional. I was at that. He did a nice Presbyterian church, very old-time traditional.

Anyway, Ted Johnson, thank you.

We`re trying to figure the guy out, as always.

Up next, the HARDBALL round -- by the way, thanks for the nice piece.

Anyway, the roundtable is coming here to talk about Donald Trump`s stocks, his Cabinet filled with millionaires, billionaires and generals.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Last year, Donald Trump singled out "Time Magazine" for not choosing him as person of the year. And now, as he`s set to become this country`s 45th president, that distinction is his.

In his interview for the "Time Magazine" cover, Trump said he hopes his legacy as president is also judged by what he`s doing right now, in a presidential transition, as well as what he accomplishes in his term after he`s sworn in.

Let`s watch him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: You already see the stock market and I hope I`m judged from the time of the election as opposed to from January 20th because the stock market has had a tremendous bounce. And people are seeing very good things for business in this country. So, I think we`re going to have a lot of victories.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: In his transition so far, we`ve seen Trump intervene in the affairs of two American businesses, first with Carrier and now with Boeing. One former economic adviser under President Obama suggested in "The Washington Post", quote, "Beyond using the power of the presidency to intimidate in unpredictable and unfair ways, no individual could efficiently manage the economy, company by company."

Well, a poll yesterday showed that the Carrier deal is very popular by the American public.

I`m joined right now by the round table. Margaret Carlson is a columnist with "Bloomberg". Peter Emerson is a "Huffington Post" contributor and has worked in two presidential transitions himself. And Jenna Johnson covers Donald Trump for "The Washington Post".

Let me start with Peter. You talk about transitions. You know, not long ago, in fact a few weeks ago, really, Donald Trump was saying President Obama was illegal.

PETER EMERSONN, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Exactly.

MATTHEWS: He`s an illegal alien. He snuck in the country to get a job called president. Shouldn`t be here, should be in jail. Now, he`s saying we got these warm fuzzy relationships going. What is it -- how quick can person turn? He`s pickle, or is he just knowing that this president is popular right now?

EMERSON: I think he`s very smart. He has the best years, the best antenna of anyone I`ve ever seen in politics. And he has the ability that I`ve never seen before to contradict himself in the same sentence.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

EMERSON: Just as you pointed out. But he`s working.

He`s the circus master. Everybody is in the ring just circling around him and he`s got the whip and hat, and he`s just got everybody dancing, including all of us.

MATTHEWS: Well, Margaret, he`s picking nothing but billionaires as Bernie would say billionaires, not here to make fun of an accent. But billionaires and generals. And then he`s telling then, I`m going to have a society where I tell business what to do.

It has a certain marshal aspect to it. I`ve got generals and we`re going to tell people what to do.

MARGARET CARLSON, BLOOMBERG: Yes. Well, you know, remember during the campaign when he said I know more than the generals?

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CARLSON: Well, he doesn`t maybe know -- he wants people who don`t know as much as him because he`s really peopling it with generals. Kind of an amazing list of people. You know, but if he does do Mitt Romney, it`s part of what Peter is talking about, if you make nice to Donald Trump, and he said this himself, he`s going to like you. He like -- he said quote I like people who are nice to me.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CARLSON: Mitt Romney is now being nice to him, by the way, will bring some sort of diversity as only a multimillionaire.

MATTHEWS: Jenna, it does seem like -- well, first of all, I think it`s embarrassing to watch Mitt Romney. The genuflexion. I mean, a while ago, he was calling the guy a fraud and fake and everything else. And now, conveniently, he loves him.

JENNA JOHNSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, he has --

MATTHEWS: This is why people don`t like politics, by the way. They think it`s all a fraud, in this kind of performance are we`re getting from these people. At least Trump is Trump.

JOHNSON: Well, we`ll see. If he selects Mitt Romney, then maybe this is a sign of Donald Trump putting everything in the past and making a --

BURNETT: Or (INAUDIBLE) it works.

JOHNSON: There are been a lot of Republicans making the pilgrimage to Trump Tower since the election, kissing the ring, making up, saying that voters spoke and that they`re willing to look to him as their president. And he`s more than willing to have them come through the lobby, sit with him at dinner, speak to reporters, praise him. And it`s unclear what they`re going to get out of it.

CARLSON: He kind of likes that they were against him at one time. I mean, look at Paul Ryan. He values Paul Ryan in part because he had to come and kiss the ring. I mean, they have all --

MATTHEWS: Harry Truman said make them like it. He said, make them like it.

EMERSON: This is the board room of "The Apprentice". It`s just set in Trump Tower and it`s on steroids. And it`s remarkable how he`s gotten everyone to just come kiss the ring. But at the same time, I think there is a genuine, as Margaret points out, realization that it`s better to have them inside the board room than outside the board room.

CARLSON: And in the spirit of Christmas, some may want to serve because it`s a good thing to serve their country.

I think Romney as the Mormon missionary serving his country, serving his church has some elements of that.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Thank you.

MATTHEWS: You know, I think because I`m a "Great Gatsby", F. Scott Fitzgerald fan, I read the book every couple years, "Great Gatsby". And there is something about this Trump Tower. It`s like a Gatsby party where strangers come from everywhere to drink his booze and to eat his food and to enjoy the luxury of the place, with no love for the guy or whatever. They just exploit.

I think you called it years ago meal tickets. They want something.

JOHNSON: Well, Donald Trump likes being praised. He likes being visited. Even when people disagree with him, if they tell to him in a way that they feel like they`re giving them an option to agree with him, if they agree with him.

MATTHEWS: Well, in an interview with "Time Magazine", Trump elaborated on his conversations with President Obama. This is really cute. "We talked about some of the potential appointments that I would make. I wanted to get his opinion and he gave me some opinions on some people that were very interesting to me and that meant something to me. I believe in asking people. We have different views, but he loves our country."

So, then he goes out and he has a nice photo-op with Ivanka and who does believe in climate change and brings in Al Gore, Mr. Inconvenient Truth on climate change, who totally believes in it. And then he goes and picks this character from Oklahoma, from the fever swamps of the fossil fuel industry, and gives them full ride over any -- there will be no more EPA basically.

CARLSON: No.

MATTHEWS: So, what is this game we`re getting from Trump? It`s a game of pictures versus reality.

CARLSON: I mean, he`s inconsistent on his feelings about people and he can switch very quickly if you behave in a certain manner. And he`s going around doing Al Gore, listening to Ivanka, or telling us --

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: But the Koch brothers --

CARLSON: But he already had hired as his transition chief a climate denier, an outright climate denier who has made it his business to deny climate change. And this is consistent the Oklahoma guy with that, which is destroy EPA. He`s suing EPA. There is nothing about this person that is non-fossil fuel.

MATTHEWS: I just think (INAUDIBLE) planet for another eight years.

EMERSON: Donald Trump knows that about 8 percent of the American public still trusts the government and about 18 percent trust the media.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

EMERSON: He has full reign to run however he wants to run, erratic as you pointed out.

MATTHEWS: Yes, well --

EMERSON: But at the end of the day, he wants to be successful. That will be defined by Donald Trump, not by us.

MATTHEWS: Jenna, get in here.

JOHNSON: Well, he also --

MATTHEWS: What is he up to? Is he sending these optics of I`m going to be a reasonable guy, Al Gore can come see me, my daughter Ivanka believes in what he believes, what Al Gore, and he picks this guy today?

JOHNSON: Exactly. He`s listening to people, but we`re not seeing him actually take the advice that he`s getting from people who are different than him. Al Gore is a great example. Also, he`s been getting a lot of different advice on issues like education and yet that hasn`t impacted who he`s picking for education secretary.

MATTHEWS: I`ve got to tell you, Matt Lauer`s interview today was unbelievable. I mean, he had 50 questions in three seconds. Just pouring in and he got more news --

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: And he still got "Saturday Night Live."

MATTHEWS: We got more news out of Trump today in one call-in to the "Today" show than we`ve ever gotten before.

Anyway, the roundtable is sticking with us.

And up next, these three will tell me something I don`t know.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: I want to invite you once again to join us tomorrow night at a special time, 6:00 Eastern again for a full hour of news and headlines. It`s a pregame show, if you will before the regular hour of HARDBALL. It`s the hour before HARDBALL.

Get the news and headlines at 6:00 and stick around for all the passion and heat, of course, of the day in politics tomorrow. And things are happening, they still are.

And we`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: We`re back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Margaret, tell me something.

CARLSON: OK. Chris, part of this you know, that Michael -- Lieutenant General Flynn`s son was pushed out of the transition for having spread the fake news about Comet Pizza where you and I have gone together after there wasn`t a fake gun, there was a real gun brought in there.

But it`s obscuring that Lieutenant General Flynn himself spread scurrilous stuff, retweeting things. May I read you one --

MATTHEWS: Sure.

CARLSON: -- if you don`t know it already?

"There was enough evidence to put Hillary Clinton and her crew away for life on child exploitation and sex crimes with minors." A must read tweet of his, retweet. And then he posted something on John Podesta after the whole WikiLeaks thing saying he took part in occult trial, you know the satanic cult that was supposedly in the tunnels under Comet Pizza. And this guy is still the nominee for national security counsel.

MATTHEWS: It`s his problem. These guys have theirs, but they`re related.

Anyway, Peter?

EMERSON: Trump`s conflict of interest are unsolvable. So, consequently, blind trust or selling his assets are not only impracticable or impossible. A few Republican and Democratic congresspersons are starting to write legislation to require disclosure of conflicts of interest, as well release a tax return.

MATTHEWS: OK, great.

EMERSON: Their goal is transparency for the 21st century.

MATTHEWS: Sounds smart.

Jenna?

JOHNSON: Tomorrow night is Donald Trump`s third "Thank You Tour" rally in Des Moines, Iowa. And there`s hope that he will actually fill the house this time. At his first two rallies, he only got maybe half the house, two-thirds of the house. And there`s a worry, why is this happening? Why is he not packing --

MATTHEWS: He`s won. It`s over. People are smart.

I keep telling people about this. The people are smart. They know what`s done and what`s over with.

Anyway, here`s something you might not know. Donald Trump just tweeted a moment ago about the union leader and Carrier at that company, Chuck Jones, who had been critical of the way Trump touted that deal last week to save those jobs.

Trump tweeted, "Chuck Jones who was president of the United Steelworkers 1999 has done a terrible job representing workers, no wonder companies flee this country."

Anyway, that`s Trump punching away all the time.

Anyway, thank you, Margaret Carlson. Thank you, Peter Emerson. Thank you, Jenna Johnson of "The Washington Post".

When we return, let me finish with the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS: Let me finish tonight with a Pearl Harbor story.

It`s from Joseph Alsop, a top American columnist who found himself in Hong Kong the day after the attack on Hawaii. He could hear the Japanese bombs dropping only blocks away. He lay there on the floor of an apartment which was in perfect darkness because of the blackout, listening to an old radio.

Here`s how he described his feelings as he listened to President Roosevelt ask the Congress to declare war. I got the president`s drift, which was easy enough to predict in any case, but caught no more than one word or two, hardly more than enough to be reminded of the timber of his voice. Yet in those fairly gloomy and frustrating circumstance, it never for one moment occurred to me that there might be the smallest doubt about the outcome of the vast war that the president was asking the Congress to declare, nor did I find any other American throughout the entire war who ever doubted the eventual outcome.

Even more than the feeling there were giants in the land, I now feel nostalgia for the absolute confidence in the American future which was the necessary foundation of the total absence of doubt. Hope was, in fact, Franklin Roosevelt`s greatest gift to his fellow Americans. Partly gave us hope by his deeds when he came to office in a time that seemed utterly devoid of hope. But even more, he gave us hope because all can see that he himself felt not the slightest doubt about the future at any time in his years as president. And somehow his mind formed the minds of the overwhelming majority of other Americans who watched him in action in those years of hope.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END