Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/19/2016

Guests: Polly Baca, Zeke Turner, Jennifer Rubin

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 19, 2016 Guest: Polly Baca, Zeke Turner, Jennifer Rubin

JOY REID, GUEST HOST: The Electoral College makes it official. Donald Trump surpasses 270 and wins the White House.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Joy Reid in New York, in tonight for Chris Matthews.

We`re following breaking news at home and abroad. A gunman shot and killed the Russian ambassador to Turkey earlier today. The attack was caught on camera as the ambassador was speaking at an art gallery in Ankara. The gunman, an off-duty police officer, shouted in Turkish, "Don`t forget Aleppo. Don`t forget Syria."

Meanwhile, there was devastation at a Christmas market in Germany tonight. A truck drove through a crowd in the center of Berlin, killing at least nine.

There`s also news on the Russia hacking story. An NBC News exclusive report tonight has new details about how serious the Obama administration`s response became. On October 31st, in a highly unusual move, the administration sent a message to the Kremlin using the so-called red phone, warning it not to interfere with the U.S. election.

We`ll have more on those stories coming up, but we begin with the big political news of the day. Across the U.S., state electors cast their votes for president, and Trump surpassed 270 in the Electoral College. But the electors were met by thousands of protesters pushing them to deny Trump an electoral win.

This weekend, Donald Trump praised the Electoral College.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: The electoral vote -- and I never appreciated it until now, how genius it was, what they had in mind, because at the time, they didn`t want everybody going to Boston and New York and everything else would be forgotten. And now it`s the same thing. It`s genius. I`m telling you, it`s genius.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: So "genius" is not how Trump described the electoral system back in 2012 when he incorrectly tweeted that Mitt Romney won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College. In fact, Barack Obama won by about 5 million votes.

Back then, Trump told his Twitter followers, "This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy." And he added, "The Electoral College is a disaster for democracy." He also tweeted but later deleted this. "He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!" To repeat, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 5 million votes and an Electoral College landslide.

Now, of course, Trump`s view of the Electoral College has changed. He is now, of course, a fan.

Meanwhile, a brand-new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll out this evening shows a majority of the country isn`t hopeful about a Trump presidency. Fifty-four percent say they`re uncertain or pessimistic. Only 45 percent say they`re optimistic or hopeful.

For more on today`s Electoral College vote, I`m joined by Jacob Soboroff is in Austin, where a few hundred protesters gathered earlier today. Jacob, tell us how the scene looked earlier today.

JACOB SOBOROFF, NBC CORRESPONDENT: You know, Joy, it was a fascinating thing to see, but it was not exactly a squeaker, as some had hoped. Ultimately, what happened here was we saw two faithless electors vote for a candidate other than Donald Trump. One vote went to Ron Paul, believe it or not, and another went to John Kasich.

As a matter of fact, I think the most interesting part of today is that Hillary Clinton had more faithless electors than Donald Trump. Four defected from her on the Democratic side and voted for presidential candidates other than Hillary Clinton.

Again, what`s really interesting to me about this is that this is a test of on-line activism translating into real-world effects. We saw almost 5 million people sign a petition urging the electors to vote for anybody but Donald Trump. That`s the exact opposite of what happened today. They were arguing that, according to Federalist 68, Alexander Hamilton had said that electors should be a deliberative body. They can do ultimately whatever they want.

That is not what the electors chose to do today, for whatever reason they had in their own minds as a justification for that.

Now what happens is that the electors and their votes that were cast today across the country in all 50 states will be put in envelopes, quite literally, sent to Washington, D.C. A copy goes to the federal archives. Another copy goes to Joe Biden in his role not as vice president but president of the Senate. And on January 6th, those votes will be tabulated officially at the nation`s Capitol in Washington, D.C.

And then Donald Trump will become officially, believe it or not, after all this time, the president-elect of the United States. And on January 20th, as we all know, the president of the United States on inauguration day, Joy.

REID: Jacob Soboroff, thanks very much. I think we all remember Al Gore, ironically, playing the role that Joe Biden will back in 2000, very awkward there. In Austin, Texas, thank you.

And in a statement today, Trump thanked the American people for what he called an historic electoral landslide victory. Last week, he boasted about the size of his victory. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We had a massive landslide victory, as you know, in the Electoral College. I guess the final numbers are now at 306, and she -- you know, down to a very low number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would the CIA put out the story that the Russians wanted you to win?

TRUMP: I`m not sure they put it out. I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Well, in reality, Trump`s victory was not one of the greatest in history. In fact, out of the 58 presidential elections, Trump`s win ranks 46th.

I`m joined now by Polly Baca, a Democratic elector from Colorado. Polly, thank you so much for being here. Tell me what you hoped to happen today. Give us the scene of what actually happened.

POLLY BACA, COLORADO DEMOCRATIC ELECTOR: Well, I had hoped today that we would get 38 Republicans who -- electors who would put country before party and would support, if they -- I really wanted them to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I knew that that probably wouldn`t happen. So then we encouraged them to vote for, you know, Governor Kasich or Senator McCain or one of the Republicans that we know would be a reliable president, anyone other than Trump.

And we had hoped that if that happened, we, as Hillary electors, would then join them to elect a president who would be responsible and not a demagogue or not somebody who was indebted to a foreign power. So that didn`t work. Then we hoped that maybe we could get -- we could deny Mr. Trump 270 votes. Had that worked, then it would have gone to the House of Representatives.

And so, of course, I`m disappointed today and somewhat troubled by the fact that we could not find 38 Republicans that would join us. However, I want to thank those Republicans that did have the courage to withstand the pressure that they received and vote for an alternative to Mr. Trump.

REID: And Polly, you know, during the campaign, I was fond of saying about the primary campaigns against Donald Trump that you really can`t beat something with nothing, right? Do you think that maybe the Hamilton elector strategy suffered because it didn`t have a -- vote for this person, this is the alternative to Trump. Maybe was it a mistake to just say just vote for anybody but Trump. Had it gone to the House of Representatives, they, too, would have voted for Donald Trump?

BACA: We actually did support Governor Kasich, but we found that, you know, we had to expand it from Governor Kasich. We actually wanted to see a ticket that would be Governor Kasich and a vice president, Senator Kaine. And that, I think, would have been the unity ticket that would have helped heal our country.

REID: Yes. Well, Polly Baca in Denver, Colorado, you`ve given us all a civics lesson. This is an Electoral College vote everyone paid attention to. Thank you so much for being here.

BACA: Thank you.

REID: Thanks.

And Donald Trump`s boast about his fictional landslide victory seems to have had at least one affect. According to a new poll, a majority of Republicans, 52 percent -- get this -- they think Trump actually won the popular vote. The reality, of course, is that Hillary Clinton currently leads by nearly 3 million votes.

Then there`s former Republican congressman Joe Walsh, who tweeted this pearl of wishful thinking over the weekend. Quote, "I know California is a state and we have to count it, but if you remove California, Trump won the popular vote by 1.4 million."

Joining me now is former general counsel to the Republican National Committee Ben Ginsburg and "Washington Post" opinion writer Jonathan Capehart. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Ben Ginsburg, maybe you might have wanted to saw Florida off of the map back in 2000 when you were the general counsel to the Republican Party...

(CROSSTALK)

REID: ... but I don`t even remember y`all saying that. What do you make of this idea that Republicans are now sort of deciding that they can`t handle the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote, so they`re saying, Well, just discount California?

BEN GINSBERG, FMR. RNC GENERAL COUNSEL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think -- I think what you can`t do is listen to polls. If there was one lesson that we learned from this election, it`s that sometimes, we should not -- we should not be listening to what the polls tell us.

So in this case, if you`re a Republican voter, you know that Donald Trump won. So if somebody asks you, Did he win? You`re going to say yes.

REID: Yes. And Ben, to stay with you for just one second, are you surprised that there weren`t more defectors from Donald Trump among the electors today?

GINSBURG: No. I mean, at the end of the day, this is a vote that was taken. And a few people trying to play elitist opinion makers and get electors who have pledged to do certain things and vote a certain way to change their minds, I don`t think that that was really in the cards.

REID: Yes. Jonathan, I want to play -- read you what Bill Clinton had to say. He told a local newspaper in Westchester County last night that Donald Trump actually reached out to him, called him after the election. The comments were first flagged by Politico. And according to "The Record Review," which is the paper, it`s a weekly newspaper in Bedford, New York, Bill Clinton said, yes, Bill Clinton did receive a phone call from the president-elect the day after the election.

Mr. Trump came across as cordial, he said, incredulous, like it was 15 years ago when the Clintons and the Trumps were seen socializing. Mr. Trump also lobbed what was meant as a compliment about his opponent saying, She was tougher than I thought she`d be.

Clinton also reacted to Trump`s claim that he won in a landslide saying, Landslide? I got something like 370 electoral votes. That was a landslide. Shade from the former president (INAUDIBLE) I mean, Trump only got, like, 306. He got 370. He got a little less than 306.

What -- your thoughts, Jonathan Capehart?

(LAUGHTER)

JONATHAN CAPEHART, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, what do you say to that? I mean, what we`ve seen since election day is a president-elect who lives in his own world where he won the popular vote, he won in one of the biggest landslide victories in the history of ever, and then decides to call the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, and you know, sort of give a compliment to him about his wife, clearly not apparently being mindful of what that conversation might do to the former president. I mean, his wife lost the election. He took it very personally.

And so while I understand former president Bill Clinton accepting the call from the president-elect, I`m not sure what the president-elect was hoping to get out of it.

REID: I mean, and it is weird, OK? And I`ll throw this to either one of you. I mean, Donald Trump`s campaign trotted out accusers, women accusers of Bill Clinton, during the campaign and tried to force Bill Clinton to get on stage with them and have to pass them at a debate back in October.

They held this weird press conference before that debate to try to bait the president -- I mean, Ben Ginsburg, can you explain, what could possibly be in Donald Trump`s mind to think he could have a chitchat, as if it was 15 years ago and they were buds?

GINSBURG: Well, I think they`re both members of the former presidents club -- or Bill Clinton is a member of the former presidents club. I think that`s a source of knowledge and wisdom for people who have to take on the awesome job of president. So give (ph) Donald Trump for picking up the call, picking up the phone and giving him a call.

REID: That had to be the most awkward conversation ever. Go ahead, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: You know, Joy, but also, let`s give President Clinton credit for actually taking the call.

REID: Yes. He should have put him to voicemail!

(LAUGHTER)

CAPEHART: He didn`t have to take the call, given especially since what you reminded everyone was, like, the ultimate indignity of the former president to have all of those accusers there. And if anyone remembers the debate that night, the shots of President Clinton in the audience -- if his eyes and nose and mouth could breathe fire, they would have.

REID: Absolutely!

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Let`s listen to some poll numbers. According to our new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, 40 percent of Americans have a positive view of Donald Trump, President-elect Donald Trump. To put that into context, Trump`s favorability a month before inauguration is actually the worst in the history of the NBC poll.

In December of 2008, 67 percent of Americans had a positive view of President Obama. In 2000, President Bush, even after the recount, was at 48 percent. And in 1992, President Clinton was at 60 percent.

Ben, you went through that recount nightmare with the country. You were the general counsel, you know, leading the charge on the legal side on the Republican side. Why do you suppose George W. Bush was able to come out of all that and still have a pretty decent approval rating and more optimism, much more optimism going into 2001 than there is now?

GINSBURG: Well, I think the country as a whole is much more polarized in 2016 than it was in 2000. The Florida election was certainly a polarizing event, and President Bush, despite the narrowness of the victory, treated it as a mandate to do what he wanted.

He actually got a lot done legislatively. He passed comprehensive tax reform by March of that year. No Child Left Behind, the Patriot Act, Sarbanes-Oxley, even the campaign finance bill all came within that first two-year period.

So the point is, is that if you`re a president, no matter what your poll ratings may be, no matter what people may say about your mandate, if you go in with your agenda, you`ll do fine.

Donald Trump will have a Republican Senate and a Republican House. George W. Bush had a 50/50 Senate and then ultimately lost the Senate in May of 2001, when Jim Jeffords switched. He still got significant legislation through.

REID: Yes. And I think a lot of people will remember that legislation not so fondly!

(LAUGHTER)

REID: Think that`s why so many Americans are pessimistic! Ben Ginsburg and Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.

And coming up, the Russian ambassador to Turkey is dead after being shot by a gunman in Ankara. And then nine people were killed when a truck plowed into a Christmas market in Berlin. We`ll have the latest on that.

And later, a bipartisan group of senators are calling for a special investigation into Russia`s cyberattacks on the U.S. election. But is it too little, too late?

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

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REID: Today, President Obama pardoned 78 people and shortened the sentences of 153 others convicted of federal crimes, the greatest number of individual clemencies in a single day by any president per a White House announcement. President Obama focused primarily on shortening the sentences of those convicted of drug offenses, rather than pardons.

We`ll be right back.

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REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL. The Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated today, surrounded by onlookers during remarks at an art gallery in Turkey`s capital city of Ankara. Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot by a lone gunman standing behind him in a suit and tie, who after the shooting could be seen on video pointing the gun at onlookers and shouting, "Don`t forget Aleppo. Don`t forget Syria."

Now, warning. The video you`re about to see is disturbing. The shooter, who was described as an off-duty policeman, was killed in a shoot-out with Turkish officers.

For more on the ambassador`s assassination, let`s bring in NBC News foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin. Ayman, thank you very much for being here. Tell us what you know about this gunman.

AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: We`ve learned a little bit more about his identity. He`s obviously been identified by Turkish authorities, saying he was a 22-year-old policeman. He was part of Ankara`s riot police, kind of like their -- I wouldn`t say like their, you know, internal security force, but they`re involved in, like protests, and riot protests and stuff like that.

What we don`t know yet is motivation. We know that the police have searched his family home. They`ve also spoken to his roommate, who is also a police officer, to try to establish if there were any links there. They`ve gone to his family home. They`ve detained his family possibly for questioning.

No clear identification yet if he has any links to terrorist organizations or whether or not he was just an individual who was disgruntled by what he was seeing happening in his neighboring country, particularly in Aleppo, and decided to act out on that.

REID: Yes.

And you can see in the video before the shooting, you can see him standing sort of behind the ambassador.

MOHYELDIN: Yes.

REID: Do we know if he was -- was he working security at the event? Was he supposed to be?

MOHYELDIN: So, what we have learned is that he was able to get into the facility, which was being held by the Russian Embassy there in Ankara, with his badge.

Whether or not he was on duty at the time or assigned to some kind of diplomatic protective detail, that remains to be clear. But I suspect that he was able to get into that facility -- we know that for sure -- but then was able to make his way around the facility, get close to the ambassador, because people either felt familiar with him, or at least he made them feel like he is part of the police force, part of the security at this facility.

REID: Yes.

MOHYELDIN: And so that`s why he was able to get as close as he was to the ambassador.

REID: Very quickly, reaction in terms of the Turkish government and Russian government right now?

MOHYELDIN: Both condemning it, both calling it an act of terror.

The Russians have gone forward. The president -- Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has said that the bandits will pay for this, whoever they may be. Not likely to kind of create any rift between the two countries, perhaps escalate Russia`s role even more in Syria.

The Turkish government saying they will continue the investigation. They`re blaming the Gulenists on it, which could be a whole other conversation. But they believe it`s linked to a larger network of what they call terrorists operating out of the United States. And so that`s who they`re blaming for this assassination.

REID: Yes.

All right, Ayman Mohyeldin, thank you very much. Appreciate your expertise.

And in Germany today, a truck slammed into a crowded Christmas market in Berlin, killing nine people and injuring dozens of others. The driver of the truck was arrested. But police are still investigating, though the White House is calling it an apparent terrorist attack.

And Joining me now on the phone is Zeke Turner, a Berlin correspondent for "The Wall Street Journal."

And, Zeke, what can you tell us about that attack? And do we know anything about the attacker?

ZEKE TURNER, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Yes, I mean, you basically said everything that we can really confirm at this point.

There`s some explanation going around about the attacker`s background, but we really can`t confirm that at this point. It`s just we know nine dead, including one man in the cab of the truck. That may have been the driver of the truck, who apparently worked for a company in Poland that was transporting steel in this black semi-trailer to Berlin.

He may have been overtaken in this car, and then, you know, been the passenger for this attack on the Christmas market. We can`t even really say it`s an attack yet. But the German interior minister is saying everything points that way. But he`s really urging calm, sort of a cool head in this. And we probably won`t really know more until the morning in Europe.

REID: And just give us a sense of what is going on right now on the streets of Berlin, the atmosphere.

TURNER: There`s a ton of ambulances at the scene, obviously.

You know, Berlin is an enormous city. It`s very low-density. It`s not a Paris or a London, where sort of waves of panic can spread very fast. So I would say that sort of shock has dissipated. In the center of the city, the streets are empty, as they usually are after midnight.

I was just at the hospital here. And the scene is very calm, although there may be some victims inside. It`s a scene. You know, there are onlookers, but mostly journalists trying to get and take pictures of the truck.

REID: All right, well, Zeke Turner in Berlin, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

And up next: An NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows a majority of Americans are bothered by Russia`s interference in November`s presidential election. Now a group of senators want to open a bipartisan congressional investigation. That`s coming up.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

The winter weather system that moved across large portions of the U.S. left 22 people dead from California to Maryland.

Today, more than 180 million Americans are enduring temperatures below freezing, including Chicago, where it was minus-13.

And three people are injured after a gunman stormed into a mosque in Zurich, Switzerland, and opened fire. Two of the victims were seriously injured in the violence. The suspect fled the scene -- now back to Joy Reid and HARDBALL.

REID: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

A bipartisan group of senators has called for a special investigation into Russia`s cyber-attacks on the U.S.

Here`s Arizona Senator John McCain on Sunday, calling for a select committee to investigate Russian interference in the just-completed 2016 election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The president has no strategy and no policy as to what to do about these various cyber-attacks that have possibly disrupted an American election.

I`m sure that when -- when Vladimir Putin was told "Cut it out" -- unquote -- I`m sure that Vladimir Putin immediately stopped all cyber-activity. The fact is, they are hacking every single day in other areas of our military and on all kinds of different aspects of American life that they are able to penetrate.

We need a select committee. We need to get to the bottom of this. And we need to find out exactly what was done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Meanwhile, McCain`s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, whose wife has been nominated to a post in the Trump administration, says he backs a congressional investigation, too, but he says it should be led by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

McCain and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer disagree.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The fact that the Russians used cyber- security to hack our infrastructure, our economics, our countries is well- known. The fact that they`re hacking our political system and trying to influence the outcome, as it seems to be, that is serious, serious stuff.

Leader McConnell has said, let the Intelligence Committee do this alone.

That is not good enough. We want to find out what the Russians are doing to our political system, what other foreign governments might do to our political system, and then figure out ways to stop it. Only a select committee can do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: An NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll revealed that 55 percent of Americans are significantly bothered by the Russian interference in November`s presidential election; 23 percent say they`re not bothered at all by the news, while 8 percent said very little, and 10 percent say just some.

Tonight, NBC News senior investigative correspondent Cynthia McFadden reported on the drama that took place between the White House and Putin`s government just days before November`s election, including the warning sent through the red phone.

Here`s part of that report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, NBC NEWS SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: By the afternoon of October 31, Halloween, when ghosts and goblins were welcomed to the White House, another kind of drama had already played itself out.

Two senior intelligence officials, both nonpartisan career officers, tell NBC News that morning began with a highly classified and unusual event at 8:30. Using the so-called red phone system, a direct link to the Kremlin, a message was transmitted telling the Russians that the U.S. would consider any interference on Election Day a grave matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: David Corn is Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and an MSNBC political analyst. And Jennifer Rubin is the author of "The Washington Post"`s "Right Turn" belong.

Thank you both.

And, Jennifer, I want to start with you on this, because Mitch McConnell has some very specific ideas about the way he thinks it should be done. He thinks it should -- that any investigation should go through the regular Intelligence Committees.

Why are the Republicans so adverse to select committees? We saw about eight on Benghazi. We saw them on IRS. We saw a zeal for investigations during the Obama years. Why so passive now?

JENNIFER RUBIN, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think your question answers itself.

Evidently, they`re very afraid of making too much of a big deal of this. And, frankly, Mitch McConnell is at the center of this. From reporting, we know that he was one of those who opposed going public before the election, after they had a briefing by the intelligence agencies explaining that the Russians were intending to upset the election, were intending to help Donald Trump.

So, frankly, I don`t even think there should be a select committee. I think there should be an independent commission akin to the 9/11 Commission, which is truly independent.

But, listen, the Republicans think that they`re going to get away with this. They think that in the temporary euphoria of having Donald Trump elected, they will bury this. The intelligence agencies like to operate behind closed doors. They`re hoping people will sort of forget about this, this will get pushed to the back burner and it will all sort of drift away.

And I think John McCain is exactly right. Chuck Schumer`s exactly right. And I think, ultimately, they`re going to have to back down and put this in a forum that the American people have confidence in.

Otherwise, it really does look like Donald Trump is shilling for Vladimir Putin.

REID: And, David, there`s a certain shamelessness to it all.

DAVID CORN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: A little?

REID: And you -- one hates to ascribe a quid, a pro, and a quo, but you do have Mitch McConnell pronouncing what he thinks should be done, when his wife is literally about to be working for Donald Trump, when she got a job out of it, and he did thwart releasing this information or having a bipartisan statement on it at least, during the campaign.

CORN: How convenient.

The whole thing is a quid pro quo, with the Republican Party checking its principles and core convictions at the door, so they can walk into the promised land with Donald Trump and have these majorities in Congress and start attacking social programs and doing all the things they wanted to do.

You know, I`m happy, believe me, Joy, I`m happy to jump on Mitch McConnell here, but he`s at least has said that there should be an investigation, which is a little bit more than Paul Ryan has done, who seems to run away anytime this is brought up.

And I like Jennifer`s idea of a bipartisan commission. It`s something I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, that Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat in the House, has proposed. The bottom line here is that there needs to be a public accounting.

The FBI, the CIA, the NSA are doing their reviews, per the president`s order. And those may become public, they may not become public. What happens with Intelligence Committees often gets bottled up for a long time.

But to have a committee, a select committee, or an independent committee, that`s part of its job, its description is to make as much public as possible is absolutely necessary, because we have to know what the Russians did.

We also need to know how members of Congress and people within the Obama administration and security agencies reacted to this, and whether they did everything they could to prevent such meddling.

REID: Well, we do know that one of the reactions, Jennifer, was the use of the red phone, which I think the last time it was used was during the Cuban Missile Crisis, for the president to directly open up a channel to Vladimir Putin to insist that this stop. That seems to make it a pretty serious concern.

Meanwhile, you have got about 55 percent of the American people, according to our new NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll, saying they`re very concerned about this.

I`m wondering, what becomes the lever that forces Republicans to act? Is it Marco Rubio`s ambitions to be president himself? Is it -- is there some is there some lever that can force Republicans, despite their partisanship, to take this seriously?

RUBIN: Well, I think there are two things.

One, I think, on the way out the door, President Obama can declassify a lot of this material and put it out there. And once he does that and it`s in the press, I think there`s going to be plenty to push the White House and push Congress towards a more open proceeding.

The other is to use, frankly, the confirmation hearings to do this. We haven`t talked this evening about Rex Tillerson, who is the CEO of Exxon, who, lo and behold, just happens to be a great pal of Vladimir Putin. And, obviously, both Democrats and Republicans have an opportunity to make all kinds of questions out there and put them all to Rex Tillerson in the context of a confirmation hearing.

But I think a great deal is going to ride on what the Obama administration does before they leave office.

REID: Yes, absolutely.

And, you know, David, Rex Tillerson is just one of many Putinites that are -- that Donald Trump is bringing with him to Washington. I`m wondering if, in your reporting, you have been able to figure out, what is it that causes Donald Trump to be so reluctant to agree that it was the Russians? Is it his personal affinity? Have you been able to find, is it some indebtedness? What is it?

CORN: Well, I think there are a lot of things.

And I put out a story today with Russ Choma at "Mother Jones" about how Wilbur Ross was working with one of the major Russian oligarchs that the Trump campaign was even attacking during the campaign. Now they`re welcoming Wilbur Ross in. So, it`s not just Rex Tillerson. It`s across the board.

Looking at why Trump is doing this, I think there`s a strong sense of narcissism there that hasn`t -- that has him relating to Putin, who has been kind of nice and positive to him. But, also, I did a story before the election, noting that a counterintelligence officer from another country`s service was sending reports to the FBI throughout the summer saying that Russia has had a five-year-long program, intelligence program, to co-opt and cultivate Donald Trump.

We don`t know all the details about this. We don`t know to what degree the FBI investigated this, whether they found any legitimacy to these reports or not. But there have been lots of business links and a lot of -- we have seen a lot of desire on Donald Trump`s part going back to the aughts to do business and be considered an important person in Russia, up to Miss Universe in 2013.

REID: Yes.

CORN: So, there`s a lot more there to learn.

REID: Absolutely. As our Malcolm Nance says often, or asks often, when did he adopt the ideology? That`s a key question. When did he adopt this pro-Russian ideology?

And, hopefully, we will get more reporting on that over the next four years.

David Corn and Jennifer Rubin, thank you so much.

CORN: Thank you, Joy.

REID: Thank you.

And up next: State electors met today across the U.S. to cast their votes for president. And despite some protests, Trump did, indeed, pass the 270 threshold. The roundtable is coming here next.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

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(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

JOY REID, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL."

That was Hillary Clinton played by "SNL`s" wonderful Kate McKinnon, urging an Electoral College voter to dump Trump. The "Love Actually" parody has gone viral and even inspired hilarious parodies of the parody.

But today, the real Electoral College voters certified Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. So, what kind of mandate have they delivered him?

For more, I`m joined by our roundtable, Annie Karni, politics reporter for "Politico", Mike Lupica, MSNBC contributor and columnist for "The Daily Beast", and Phillip Bump, political reporter for "The Washington Post."

Thank you all for being here.

I am going to defer you to you Mike Lupica, because you probably know Donald Trump or covered Donald Trump more than anybody else at this table. Why do you suppose Donald Trump seems to be so fixated on convincing his supporters that he won in a landslide when he didn`t?

MIKE LUPICA, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Yes, it starts to sound like his real party is the flat earth society. And, you want to say to him sometimes, dude, you got the gig, OK? You can stop running now. But he -- he is going to -- Joy, he thinks the next four years, he`s going to be carried along by the sound of applause. And that`s not the way it works. I don`t care if you`re the most popular president in history.

REID: Yes, ask Obama about the being carried along thing. It actually really doesn`t work that way.

Well, let`s talk about what kind of a mandate he really has. He is getting in by a very low sort of sneak-in margin, right? It`s not a landslide, even though he keeps saying it is. What kind of mandate does that deliver to --

ANNIE KARNI, POLITICO: It`s definitely not a landslide, if you look at the percentage of the electoral votes he won, he`s in the bottom quadrant, I think.

REID: He`s in the bottom five.

KARNI: Like, below Martin Van Buren, I think I saw.

But he won the election. So, like, this idea of a mandate, I kind of think mandates are overrated. He has a Republican Senate, a Republican House to work with. Like, he can do whatever he wants.

And what -- like, what`s going to stop? What would a mandate give him that he doesn`t have now? I think the whole concept is a little overrated.

I do think that the circumstances of the election where Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 3 million by the time we`re done with this would call for some humility from a more normal candidate. But that`s not really part of the Trump brand and I don`t think that`s who he is. So, these victory rallies don`t really match what actually happened. But I don`t know that like having a mandate or not having a mandate really matters.

REID: You know, Phil, that is an excellent point, because, with, you know, Barack Obama won decisively, particularly in his re-elect, by 5 million votes. He won two times. Never, like, in barely. I mean, he won 360- something electoral votes. It was not even a question.

And yet, Republicans treated him as if he had lost the election and had been appointed by some outer borough judge in the Bronx. They treated him like he had no right to even be in Washington, let alone be president.

So, Republicans didn`t respect this idea of a mandate when Barack Obama won. Should Democrats even respect the idea of a mandate, even if Donald Trump claims one?

PHILIP BUMP, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it`s an interesting question, in part because Democrats have different attitudes towards government than do Republicans, right? So the Republicans, you know, digging in their heels and saying, we`re going to oppose everything Barack Obama does. Republicans as a base are more likely to say, yes, we don`t want government doing anything.

However, it`s important to notice that over in recent polling, we`ve seen shifts among the Democrats. Democrats are more liberal than they used to be. They`re more likely to say they support Democrats on Capitol Hill dragging their feet. So, it will be interesting to see what happens there.

But it`s a fairly simple formula here, which is that Donald Trump wanted to win and he lost the popular vote and he`s mad about it and that`s why he keeps talking about it.

REID: Yes, absolutely. It`s arguable that the person who thinks he has a mandate is really Paul Ryan. Let`s go on the table quick.

Do you think that Paul Ryan, given the fact that they completely unified Republican government, does he then go through and go ahead and gut Medicare, go after Social Security? These are the things he wanted to do his whole adult life. Does he do it?

KARNI: I think he tries. I mean, it just remains to be seen who`s really running the White House?

REID: Yes.

KARNI: Like, is Trump going to be doing these victory tours and Mike Pence is going to be running the government with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell or --

REID: That`s what they said during the campaign and primary.

What do you think?

LUPICA: Ryan is going to have to overcome the stomach problem that he showed too often during the campaign, which was no guts. And if he wants to be the next thing in this party, maybe this would be a good time for him to show some.

REID: Yes. Is guts going after Medicare?

LUPICA: Well, I mean, it is from the standpoint that we know it will be a big political fight. But, look, Paul Ryan, yes, he has a House that has been with him for years now. The Republicans, you know, have a solid majority in the House.

And this goes back to your point about mandates. That is enough for them to say, we have a mandate to do what we want to do, even though Donald Trump stood against those things during the campaign.

REID: We see if he still does.

All right. The roundtable is staying with us.

And up next, the Clinton campaign chairman reveals exactly when he heard from the FBI about his e-mail being hacked. This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: You can play HARDBALL all week long, online. Follow the show on Twitter and Instagram and like us on Facebook. You`ll get access to interviews, videos, and behind-the-scenes photos as we cover the Trump transition.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN PODESTA, CLINTON CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I will share this with you, Chuck. The first time I was contacted by the FBI by the FBI was two days after WikiLeaks stopped dropping my e-mails. The first --

CHUCK TODD, MEET THE PRESS MODERATOR: Let me pause here. Two days after?

PODESTA: Two days after. So, October 7th -- October 7th, let`s go through the chronology. On October 7th, the "Access Hollywood" tape comes out. One hour later, WikiLeaks starts dropping my e-mails into the public. One can say that those things might not have been a coincidence.

TODD: OK.

PODESTA: Two days later, the FBI contacted me and the first thing the agent said to me was, "I don`t know if you`re aware, but your e-mail might have been hacked." I said, "Yes, I was aware of that."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: That -- we are back. And that was Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta telling Chuck Todd that the FBI did not reach out to him until two days after his hacked e-mails appeared on WikiLeaks. He added that he did not hear from the agency since.

So, did the Comey letter cost Hillary Clinton the election?

For more on that, I`m back with my roundtable, Annie Karni, Mike Lupica and Philip Bump.

I`ll throw this out to the table. I mean, does the FBI -- how does it get its credibility back at this point? It does seem that they were in the partisan position during the campaign.

BUMP: I feel as though that`s a subjective assessment to some extent. I mean, Comey has said the reason he released the letter when he did, he knew that this information was going to come out that they had this additional laptop with emails from Hillary Clinton, he wanted to get ahead of it.

I mean, look, here`s the thing -- Hillary Clinton should not have been in a position where the Comey letter should have killed her candidacy, right? This race was way closer than it was expected to be. That comes back to John Podesta. John Podesta`s job is to win that campaign. She lost the campaign.

Did the Comey letter help? No, absolutely, it didn`t. But she should not have been in a position where the Comey letter could tip just enough votes in just enough states to --

REID: And I think it`s legitimate except that the FBI also apparently knew, from what we just heard, that John Podesta was being hacked. They had two pieces of information. One of which was hurtful to Hillary Clinton, one of which was harmful to Donald Trump. They not only only release the Hillary Clinton, they didn`t even bother to follow up with Podesta.

KARNI: The new information about what else they had and didn`t release makes it more concerning and questionable of why Comey released that second letter, but I think Comey`s mistake was in July --

REID: Yes.

KARNI: -- when he held the press conference clearing Hillary Clinton saying no prosecutor would file criminal charges based on this information. That set the precedence for him. I don`t think he was being partisan. I don`t think James Comey necessarily wanted to help elect Donald Trump, but I think he was caught in a bind and was covering his own butt a little bit and saying I already made this statement. This will leak. People will know I have this and then put it out --

REID: And so with the hacking.

KARNI: And so, that`s why I put it. But now, to have sat on the other information, the plot becomes more inscrutable --

REID: Absolutely.

LUPICA: It started in the summer where he started talking like he was a perp, you know, to the point where you started to wonder if he was ever going to run out of saliva, OK?

You`re 100 percent right. It started then. And then he`s just covering himself. And that is why John McCain is a thousand percent right. You cannot leave this to the intelligence community which starts to sound -- the committee -- which starts to sound like an oxymoron, OK? You need a select committee.

And one of the people I want to see hauled in front of that committee is James Comey, who can explain the conduct of his department from the time he first learned about Russian hacking.

REID: But here`s he problem: now, James Comey will soon be working for on Donald J. Trump, who whether he intended to or not, you know, Nate Silver has come out with an analysis saying that he did help him. They were talking about 77,000 votes in three states. If only 1 percent of voters were impacted negatively by that information and decided not to vote for Hillary Clinton, that`s all -- that`s the margin.

He`s going to be working for Donald Trump. How does he have an independent review ability?

BUMP: Well, I mean, I think there`s a lot of questions about what happens with James Comey`s career moving forward. But I mean, look, the bigger question there is what Donald Trump wants to do with this thing, right? I mean, yes, Congress can act and Congress can hold hearings on this thing.

But Donald Trump -- like there`s very little indication that on the whole, Republicans and Donald Trump are interested in figuring out what exactly happened here. I will just go back and note that part of the challenge with the Comey -- with the hacking stuff was there was this overlay of foreign policy and as we saw from "The New York Times" last week, that was tricky as far as the administration was concerned, which I think may play - -

LUPICA: But if I`m Trump, I`m wanting to get behind this investigation. I want get to the bottom of this because if there`s any pushback from him and his people, other people are going to say, are you trying to hide something here?

REID: Yes, does it help you?

All right. The round table is sticking with us.

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

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place in politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

REID: And we are back.

Annie, tell me something you don`t know.

KARNI: I`ll tell you what you would know if you read "Politico" today, which is that Ivanka and Jared are shul shopping in Washington, D.C.

REID: What shopping?

KARNI: Shul shopping. They`re looking for a mono orthodox synagogue that they will attend once they make --

REID: I thought you said shoe shopping.

KARNI: Shul.

REID: OK.

KARNI: They may also shoe shopping.

REID: Yes, so --

KARNI: They are looking, they will be attending regularly, walking to services. So that`s --

REID: And you said if we read. Ha, yes, of course, we read.

Mike Lupica?

LUPICA: I was talking to John McCain yesterday, somebody that we need more than ever, about the dumpster fire that American politics has become and he was talking about John Glenn who he called the most honest, decent man he`s ever known.

REID: Yes. I mean, and I think everyone can agree on that. There`s not much all Americans can agree on but I think they can agree on that.

Philip?

BUMP: You pointed out earlier there were 77,000 votes in three states that made the difference in this election. But I think it`s important to note that on average, we`re talking about 0.6 percent. And that`s the sort of margin that`s supposed to be made up by a good field to get out to vote campaign, which is another sign that the Clinton campaign dropped the ball because this is where -- it`s called the field goal units come in and we win at the game, and they didn`t win the game in the end.

REID: Yes, the biggest mistake by the Clinton campaign this year, you think is field?

BUMP: Absolutely.

REID: It`s field, the biggest mistake?

LUPICA: I think they ran an awful campaign, that was marginally better than the one she ran eight years ago.

REID: Annie?

LUPICA: I`d say like not going to Wisconsin and not playing in Michigan enough.

REID: Yes, absolutely.

All right. Annie Karni -- yes, go to Michigan, go to Philly and do these things early.

Annie Karni, Mike Lupica and Philip Bump, thank you very much. That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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