Hardball with Chris Matthews, Transcript 12/27/2016

Guests: Matthew Belloni, Anthony Scaramucci, Ken Vogel, Amy Chozick, Azi Paybarah, Caitlin Huey-Burns

Show: HARDBALL Date: December 27, 2016 Guest: Matthew Belloni, Anthony Scaramucci, Ken Vogel, Amy Chozick, Azi Paybarah, Caitlin Huey-Burns

STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: The world according to Donald Trump.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

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

According to Donald Trump, the United Nations is little more than a social club, the president-elect tweeting yesterday, quote, "The United Nations has such great potential, but right now, it is just a club for people to get together, talk, and have a good time. So sad."

Trump was highly critical of the U.N. Security Council vote last Friday that condemned Israel`s settlement building on land claimed by the Palestinians. The United States abstained from that vote, but breaking from past precedent, it declined to veto the resolution, Israel now accusing the Obama administration of orchestrating the vote, the White House denying that claim.

After the vote, Trump tweeted things at the U.N., quote, "will be different" when he becomes president. And over the weekend, he said, "Big loss yesterday for Israel and the United Nations will make it much harder to negotiate peace. Too bad, but we will get it done anyway."

Besides his comments this weekend about the Middle East and the United Nations, Trump also suggested he`s willing to engage in a nuclear arms race, and he called the pre-Trump world a "gloomy place without any hope."

So what does all of this tell us about Trump`s world view? I`m joined by NBC`s Hallie Jackson in Palm Beach, Florida, "The Washington Post`s" Robert Costa and HuffingtonPost political editor Sam Stein. Both of them are MSNBC analysts.

So Hallie, let me start with you. In terms of a formal policy taking shape here right now, Donald Trump obviously very outspoken on this issue of Israel, the United Nations resolution, the Obama administration breaking with past U.S. foreign policy precedent, not backing the Israeli government on that one, Trump saying, Hey, when I`m in there, we will do that.

What is the Trump doctrine that`s coming into focus right now? Is there one?

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I think it`s fairly clear by the person he has appointed to be the ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a rather controversial pick.

Steve, this is somebody who is considered by outside analysts to be even to the right of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, somebody who has supported settlements. You look at, for example, Donald Trump, the president- elect`s, pledge to move the embassy to Jerusalem, again a controversial move and one that raises a lot of eyebrows among experts in the Middle East peace process, who wonder just how helpful that will actually be to that process.

You look at who Donald Trump wants to put in place to try to maneuver some of these pieces around, not just, for example, Friedman, but even his own son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The president-elect has talked publicly in the past about maybe having Kushner, who is Jewish, be some kind of envoy to Israel, to sort of be a part of that discussion.

One thing is clear, he is developing a relationship and has developed a relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu. I`m told by a transition official that the two have not spoken in the last five days or so since this U.N. Security Council resolution happened, but clearly, the two of them developing a far warmer relationship, at least at this preliminary stage in the transition, than Netanyahu has with President Obama.

KORNACKI: And Sam Stein, it seems here, too, there`s also -- you got this sort of circumstance here where Obama, the outgoing president -- he chooses the closing weeks of his presidency, the transition weeks, to make a new statement for his administration when it comes to Israel, when it comes to the issue with the Palestinians, the Middle East peace process.

He chooses the transition period to make that statement, to break with the past precedent, just as Donald Trump is sending indications that he`s going to be more closely aligned with Netanyahu. Hard to miss Obama almost trying to send a message to Trump here, it feels like.

SAM STEIN, HUFFINGTONPOST, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Well, first things first. It`s not necessarily a new statement. The administration has -- past administrations have been critical of settlements in the West Bank and Israeli settlements there.

What`s new here is allowing the United Nations resolution, condemning the settlements to go through. The expectation was that the president would veto that as a sitting member of the U.N. Security Council. And he didn`t.

And I think one of the things that we can ascertain from that is that this administration has long thought that the government -- the Bibi Netanyahu government`s approach to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was basically unsuitable for the conditions of peace, that if you were a believer in the two-state solution, you had to at least publicly condemn and then publicly act on the condemnation of those settlements. And so, obviously, at the door, Obama makes this very bold gesture.

What I`m struck at is that usually during these transition periods, the incoming president will defer to the sitting president`s...

JACKSON: Right.

STEIN: ... foreign policy. We only have one president at a time. Trump is not doing any of that. He`s jumping right into this, sending very strong signals to the Netanyahu government that he will do what he can to - - I`m curious to see where it goes because he`s being to told or encouraged to take some action against the United Nations for allowing this to happen, such as, for instance, cutting off funding. If that`s the end result of this, the

KORNACKI: Well, one of Donald Trump`s top allies, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, echoed Trump`s criticism of the United Nations. He said today Trump should stop funding the organization.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR), FMR. GOV., FMR. PRES. CANDIDATE: We provide most of the funding for the U.N., and it`s time for us to reevaluate it. I`m not sure there`s any value to the U.N. It`s a joke. It`s a worthless organization. It has no moral authority. Zero.

And it`s basically -- Trump is right, a great big club for people to go and have parking violations in New York City and Manhattan, where they never have to pay for them. What a worthless expenditure and waste of taxpayers` money!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Well, Robert Costa, Sam Stein just mentioned it there. We have Mike Huckabee, with that idea of taking funding away from the United Nations. We also had Trump there flirting with the idea of bringing John Bolton, who`s talked about basically just getting rid of the physical building the United Nations is in -- Trump seems to be enamored of him, at least somewhat.

In terms of the United States, its relationship with the United Nations as an institution, what can we expect with Donald Trump as president?

ROBERT COSTA, "WASHINGTON POST," MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Based on my reporting, Trump has certainly in his inner circle antagonism toward the U.N. This is not a group, an institution, they`re going to embrace.

But if you look at their pick for U.N. ambassador for the United States, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina, you do see Trump trying to use that position as a way to show a different kind of face to the world, someone with a different background, a different temperament. So he may not put an emphasis on it in his foreign policy dealing most with Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Rex Tillerson, if he`s confirmed as secretary of state, but he`ll have Haley there as someone who`s an asset and a hawk, who`s a liaison (ph) to the Congress and the rest of the world.

KORNACKI: Last week, Trump also called on the United States to strengthen and expand its nuclear capabilities, something no president has publicly said that way in decades. On Friday, asked about those comments, Trump told Mika Brzezinski, "Let it be an arms race. We`ll outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all."

That was just the latest in a series of comments about nuclear weapons that have unnerved Trump`s critics. During the campaign, he refused to take a nuclear strike off the table in the Middle East or even Europe. He said he was OK with more countries getting nuclear weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was against Iraq. I`d be the last one to use the nuclear weapons.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, HARDBALL: Can you tell the Middle East we`re not using a nuclear weapon?

TRUMP: I would never say that. I would never take any of my cards off the table.

MATTHEWS: How about Europe? We won`t use it in Europe.

TRUMP: I`m not going to take it off the table.

MATTHEWS: You might use it in Europe?

TRUMP: No, I don`t think so, but...

MATTHEWS: Why not just say it, I`ll never use a nuclear weapon in Europe?

TRUMP: I am not taking cards off the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you would rule in the possibility of using, right, nuclear weapons against ISIS.

TRUMP: Well, I`m never going to rule anything out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

TRUMP: And I wouldn`t want to say -- even if I felt it wasn`t -- I wouldn`t want to tell you that...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

TRUMP: ... because at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use it. North Korea has nukes. Japan has a problem with that. I mean, they have a big problem with that. Maybe they would, in fact, be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With nukes?

TRUMP: Maybe they would be better off -- including with nukes, yes, including with nukes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And South Korea with nukes?

TRUMP: South Korea is right next door, just so understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Well, Hallie Jackson, we said with regard -- at the beginning of the show -- to Israel and Palestine, the Trump doctrine, what it actually means -- I`m also curious when it comes to this question of nuclear proliferation because on the one hand...

JACKSON: Yes.

KORNACKI: ... this is the kind of talk certainly on Twitter we`re not accustomed to seeing. On the other hand, the back story here is Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, last week, his year-end press conference. He talks about developing nuclear capability that is capable of penetrating defense systems.

And then after he says that, Trump puts this tweet out that gets everybody talking. So is it a new doctrine that he`s suggesting here? Or is this just -- this is a preview of how he`s going to respond to that kind of rhetoric from Putin or another country`s leader?

JACKSON: Listen, I think that the timing of this particular tweet was interesting, given that it came, as you talk about, as Russia was discussing its hope to strengthen its nuclear capabilities. Remember that you saw some of Donald Trump`s top aides try to walk back his statement a bit, one spokesperson saying he`s talking about, in fact, nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, even though that seemed to directly contradict what Trump himself said in that message.

Is it a new policy? Listen, even though there are some in Donald Trump`s inner circle who will say, Hey, he`s not president yet, he`s not dictating policy just yet, he is still using Twitter as his preferred form of communication and coming out with what appear to be pronouncements, his opinions on different major and serious policy issues, including nuclear weapons.

And so diminishing that, I think, is something that comes with some risk, given that this is the way that the president-elect is choosing to communicate with the American public.

KORNACKI: Yes, Sam, I`m curious what you make of that because Hallie raises the point, look, we`re not used to seeing a president-elect, a president of the United States, say something as sort of dramatic as Donald Trump did, let alone saying it on Twitter. On the other hand, when you start to look at the actual policies that are in place, I know the Obama administration has been calling for, has pushed Congress to spend a lot more money on upgrading the United States nuclear capability, maybe even, you know, developing better, more enhanced nuclear weapons, nuclear capabilities.

So in terms of the policy, I`m trying to figure out how different this actually is, what Donald Trump`s out there saying on Twitter.

STEIN: Well, I think everyone`s trying to figure out how different this is, in part because it`s kind of silly to build nuclear proliferation policy when you have 140-character limit. You know, like, this is heavy stuff. This is deep stuff. I don`t think Twitter is the best mechanism for talking about it necessarily.

But you know, this is the sort of Trump way about doing things. And with respect to nuclear policy, I mean, your montage during the campaign, equal parts frightening and illuminating, really gets to sort of how he sees the world, which is that if everyone has a nuclear weapon, no one will attack anyone else. And that`s sort of the ultimate theory of deterrence, I guess.

Now, there was an interesting thing that came up in the context of last week`s remarks, which was back in the `80s, Trump talked to this writer about this vision that he had, where the U.S. and Russia were sort of in this bilateral agreement where they would house all the nuclear weapons of the world, essentially, and be a monitor for everyone else trying to acquire one.

I`m not sure if that`s what he`s envisioning here, but this is sort of what`s troubling to a lot of people, is that it seems to be that you have a commander-in-chief in waiting kind of winging it on Twitter in response to these articles that he`s reading. And the stakes really could not be higher than when you`re discussing nuclear proliferation.

KORNACKI: Well, Robert Costa, you`ve talked to him. You`ve interviewed him. You have a pretty good, I think, read into Donald Trump. I mean, is there -- is he playing sort of a calculated game here? Is this Donald Trump -- I mean, he talks all the time about strength, about toughness. Is this Donald Trump seeing Vladimir Putin, seeing the Russian president make a statement about nuclear proliferation and basically trying to match it, trying to say, Hey, you`re going to sound tough, I`m going to sound tougher. Or is that the theory behind this?

COSTA: There`s certainly calculations behind the scenes right now as Trump`s at Mar-a-Lago. I`m told by several top sources that Trump really is rethinking global order and that he is not tied to a traditional Republican world view. And so he`s rethinking, Does the U.s. Need to be hostile to Russia? How can he use the relationship with Russia and the relationship with China and perhaps trade negotiations and foreign policy negotiations?

KORNACKI: Yes, is this -- it`s interesting, too, because we`ve talked about and it`s been so controversial in this country, the idea of a different relationship with Russia, and Trump`s openness to that has been clear. But simultaneously, sort of getting into this back and forth with his sort of indirect back and forth with Putin, about who`s tougher. There`s sort of this combined friendliness on the one hand and adversarial nature to the relationship on the other hand.

COSTA: One major test will come after he`s inaugurated. How does he work with Vladimir Putin and Russia in the Middle East? Does he actually have some kind of joint effort to go after ISIS, maybe have a complicated relationship with Assad? That`s going to be something to watch.

KORNACKI: All right. Robert Costa, Hallie Jackson, Sam Stein, thanks to all of you for joining us.

STEIN: Thanks, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right.

And coming up, President Obama said he could have won a third term if he was running. Donald Trump says, No way. That fight is ahead, along with what President Obama is promising to do once Donald Trump takes office.

Plus, Trump gearing up for some major fights with Congress over some of his cabinet picks. We`re going to dig into which nominees could face the toughest confirmation battles.

And a top Trump ally apologizes for saying some really offensive things about President Obama and the first lady. Carl Palladino says he`s not a racist, he`s just wired up.

Finally, the HARDBALL roundtable will be here with three things you might not know heading into 2017.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Tonight, Hollywood is mourning the loss of a major star. Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original "Star Wars" trilogy died this morning after suffering a heart attack last Friday on a flight from London to Los Angeles.

Fisher became a breakout star and pop icon as Princess Leia. She went on to appear in a slew of other films and television shows, including "When Harry Met Sally" and "The Blues Brother."

She was also a prolific writer. She adapted her 1987 novel "Postcards From the Edge" into a box office hit. Fisher, of course, was born into Hollywood royalty. Her mother was actress Debbie fisher. Her father was the pop singer Eddie Fisher.

For more on the impact of her life and her career, we`re joined now by Matthew Belloni, the executive editor of "The Hollywood Reporter." So Matthew, obviously, a very sort of varied career there, a writer, she was a script doctor, a lot of big-name sort of projects she was attached to through the years.

But it`s Princess Leia, it`s "Star Wars" that everybody will remember her for, I think, first and foremost. And you think to that character, princess Leia, you think what that character means to our culture, what "Star Wars" means to it, Carrie Fisher is just indispensable to that.

MATTHEW BELLONI, "HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": Absolutely. And they were the bookends of her career. I mean, she got her start in "Shampoo," the Warren Beatty movie, as a teenager, but everybody knew her and loved her as Princess Leia in the 1977 original. She reprised the character last year in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," and she`s set to appear in episode 8 of "Star Wars," which is coming out next year.

So those are kind of the two bookends of her career, and it`s what she`ll be remembered for, I think.

KORNACKI: And what is that? I mean, it was 1977. It was basically -- it`s 40 years ago when at first "Star Wars" came out, and here we are 40 years later, they are still making new "Star Wars." Everybody knows people in their lives who are obsessed with "Star Wars."

What was it back then that "Star Wars" tapped into in this country, in our culture, that it`s still tapping into today, 40 years later?

BELLONI: I think it`s a lot of things, and Carrie Fisher was a big part of it. It was something that people had never seen before on the screen. It was a big, epic, mythological story that had these iconic characters. And Princess Leia was a feisty, powerful, strong-headed princess who was the leader of the resistance against this evil empire, and she embodied that character.

She was only 19 when she was cast in the role, and she was playing opposite actors -- I mean, Harrison Ford was much older than her, and she really held her own and she made it an iconic character that people were still clamoring to see 40 years later.

KORNACKI: Yes, right, she was 19 years old. And the character lived with her for the next 40 years of her life. How much do you think she enjoyed that, she enjoyed audiences associating her so closely with that, versus how much of that was a burden on her?

BELLONI: She was very open about her love/hate relationship with the character. She was born into a Hollywood family, and she knew everything that came along with that. So she kind of accepted that. And she was very candid throughout her career about the impact that that fame and fortune had on her, both positive and negative, with the drug abuse, alcoholism. She experienced bipolarism, depression.

And she not only was open and candid about it, but she incorporated it into her art as a writer, writing "Postcards From the Edge," writing a one-woman show, "Wishful Drinking." She was very candid in every aspect of how she lived her life.

KORNACKI: All right, Matthew Belloni from "The Hollywood Reporter," thanks for the time. Appreciate it.

And HARDBALL`s going to be back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

President Obama is set to leave the White House in a little over three weeks, but as he said with confidence yesterday, he thinks he could have beaten Donald Trump if he`d been allowed to seek a third term.

Here`s the president in an interview with David Axelrod.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am confident in this vision because I`m confident that, if I -- if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could have mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.

I know that in conversations that I have had with people around the country, even some people who disagreed with me, they would say the vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Despite his improved relationship with President Obama, the comment clearly rattled president-elect Trump. He responded on Twitter soon after that interview was released.

He said -- quote -- "President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me. He should say that, but I say no way. Jobs leaving, ISIS, Obamacare, et cetera."

And he followed that up late today saying: "President Obama campaigned hard and personally in very important swing states and lost. The voters wanted to make America great again."

According to Gallup, President Obama`s approval rating this month has reached highs not seen since 2009. Their latest daily tracking poll shows that 56 percent of Americans say they approve of the job he is doing.

I`m joined now by Anthony Scaramucci. He`s on the executive committee of the Trump transition. And Jonathan Capehart, an opinion writer with "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.

And, actually, Anthony, we were just talking about this in the last block. I wonder if this is an extension. We`re trying to figure out who Donald Trump is and what kind of a philosophy he has. Is this the, you think you`re a tough guy, I`m going to show you I`m tougher? You`re President Obama. You think you would have won the election. I`m going to make sure I feel I have to go out there and say I would have won it?

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM MEMBER: I don`t really see it like that.

I see it more of a spirited, jocular rivalry. They`re both very competitive guys. You caught the president-elect`s first tweet, which, of course he should say that, meaning the president should say he could beat them.

But I like it. I think it`s part of American rivalry, if you will, partisan rivalry. And I don`t think there`s anything really...

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: I`m curious. Is that a window into Trump? Because I thought one of the most revealing moments in trying to figure out who Trump was during the campaign, it was in one of the debates. I think it was the second one, when they said, say something nice about your opponent.

Hillary Clinton, the nice thing she said is the nice thing every politician says, got a great family. What Donald Trump said about what Hillary Clinton, though, is, she`s tough.

And I read that as Trump sees the world as everything is competition, and, in competition, there`s no rules and you hit the other guy with everything you have got.

SCARAMUCCI: But I think you, Steve, you have got to give him a little more credit than that.

She answered it the way you would answer that interview question on a job, what`s your weakness, and you say, oh, I care too much. That`s the classic answer. He looked around to the audience and looked to the 60 million people and said, she`s a fighter. In addition to be a great mom, she`s a fighter.

So, I see it very differently. I think he respects competition, he respects the competitive process. And at the end of the day, I think he likes it. And so I think when the president-elect is going after the president, the current president, in that way, it`s very jocular. It`s two guys -- I`m sure they`re going to play some golf together. That`s my prediction.

It`s two guys on the golf course that are in a heated battle over what their handicap is, and they`re going to see who wins.

KORNACKI: I just -- I don`t mean to belabor it, but this is the thing I have been dying to know about Trump. Is any of it personal?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARAMUCCI: I don`t mean to respect you, but he`s the president-elect really. He`s not really Trump anymore.

KORNACKI: The president-elect.

SCARAMUCCI: Yes. Yes.

KORNACKI: Is any of it personal?

SCARAMUCCI: No.

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: When he says these things about Bill Clinton, for instance, in the campaign, and people say he might go play golf with him again, is it because, in his mind, none of it is personal?

SCARAMUCCI: I don`t see him seeing it as personal.

Look, I`m on the executive committee of the transition team. And just look at the outreach to Governor Romney, outreach to other Democrats, outreach to not other Democrats, but Democrats. Romney`s obviously a Republican.

But my point is, is that he went to the never-Trump community, the Democrats. And we have opened the tent to as many people as possible. And if you go to these meetings and you talk to the president-elect, he`s all about unifying the nation.

But he is a competitive guy, and I sort of like it.

KORNACKI: And, Jonathan Capehart, obviously, President Obama a competitive guy, too.

And, of course, the interview there, we should point out for people who haven`t made the connection, David Axelrod was the guy doing the interview. He was the guy who was the architect of those Obama campaigns.

But what do you make of the point, the argument the president is making there? He says, hey, I would have won this election if I had have been running.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, no, he actually said, I think I could have.

I think one of the problems that President Obama has had throughout his eight years is that he has a tendency, when asked questions, hypothetical questions, he sort of responds at a remove and starts to take on the role that I am presuming right now that you take on from time to time, that -- as a commentator, an analyst, a pundit, and looking at his own administration from a remove and talking about what could happen, what might happen, what he thinks ought to happen.

And the other thing is, we have to keep in mind is the president is giving all -- giving not many, but a few exit interviews, where he gets to -- really does get a chance to take a step back and talk about things, what he got right, what he could have done better, and what he thinks could have happened if he ran for president again.

I think, you know, the president is looking at his track record, at his approval ratings, at the mood of the country, because, like president-elect Donald Trump, who campaigned around the country for two years, the president`s been the president for eight years.

And we saw on the campaign trail the president was able to pull out hundreds, thousands of people at campaign rallies. It`s just unfortunate for the Democratic Party, for the president`s legacy that it wasn`t enough to...

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: Yes, it clearly -- yes, I mean, if I had a dollar for every Democrat down the stretch in that campaign who was telling me, hey, Obama`s approval rating is 58 percent, can`t lose now.

And they lost. It didn`t transfer over clearly. In his interview with Axelrod, though, the president also spoke about his intentions after he leaves office. Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OBAMA: I have to be quiet for a while. And I don`t mean politically. I mean internally. I have to still myself.

You have to get back in tune with your center and to process what`s happened before you make a bunch of good decisions. Now, that doesn`t mean that if a year from now or a year-and-a-half from now or two years from now, that I might not weigh in.

You know, I`m still a citizen. And that carries with it duties and obligations.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Anthony, I thought that was a very interesting answer there.

The precedent on this, you think of George W. Bush, he`s basically been silent when it comes to policy during President Obama`s term. That also comes from his father, George H.W. Bush. He believed very much the former president should not be weighing in with policy disagreements.

But you have Obama there basically saying he seems to intend to do that, but is reserving the right, maybe, to speak up. From Donald Trump`s perspective, is there an expectation here about Barack Obama? Would there be a problem if Barack Obama was speaking up with criticism? Would there be an expectation of deference?

SCARAMUCCI: Listen, I don`t think so, but I think going back to the Bushes, I think they felt that the job is so hard, Steven, that let`s not put more burden and partisanship into the presidency itself.

It`s sort of this unique club. There`s four or five living presidents now. I guess, with President Obama, there`ll be five again. And so why put that person through that level of critique, if you will?

My guess -- and I don`t know the president -- I mean, I went to law school with President Obama 30 years ago. I don`t know him super well. But my guess is, he`s probably not going to opine about the Trump administration. I think he will probably adhere to what the two Bushes did, because whether you like the president or dislike him on policy, I think he`s a very good human being.

He`s got a great family. And my guess is that he will look at the institution of the presidency being such that it`s sacrosanct not to do that. And so my prediction is that he won`t do that. If he does do it, I will be surprised and I will sort of think it`s odd, given his nature and given his peaceful transition.

And, by the way, president-elect Trump, if he was here right now, he`d tell you that the Obama administration has done everything that they can to help us in the transition.

KORNACKI: Well, you mention -- you`re predicting you think Donald Trump and Barack Obama might be playing golf.

SCARAMUCCI: I think they going to...

(CROSSTALK)

KORNACKI: Is he somebody -- is Barack Obama as a former president somebody that Donald Trump is going to be picking up the phone late at night or wherever calling and just saying, hey?

SCARAMUCCI: I think so.

KORNACKI: What do you think of this?

SCARAMUCCI: I think so, because I think, after the 90-meeting they had, he came back to New York and expressed to many of us how impressed he was, how he had a really lengthy conversation about a number of different issues.

And he really enjoyed his time with the president. Again, these guys are Americans. They`re patriots. They will put the country ahead of each other. And so my guess is, even though there`s a partisanship and there`s a divide there in terms of how they think about policy, some of their style points may be different, at the end of the day, my guess is they`re going to get along.

And two-and-a-half years from now, whatever he said to David Axelrod, he will keep to the dictum of not opining on the current president. I just think that`s part of the sacrosanct nature of the institution of the presidency. My bet is he adheres to it.

KORNACKI: All right, Anthony Scaramucci with the Trump team, Jonathan Capehart down in Washington, you, too, thank you both for joining us.

Up next, Donald Trump is getting ready for an inauguration that promises to be like -- unlike -- excuse me -- any other. He`s also gearing up for some potentially tough confirmation fights. That`s ahead.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) DARA BROWN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Dara Brown. Here`s what`s happening.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia`s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, discussed a peace plan for Syria today over the phone. Lavrov warned Kerry that the U.S. decision to loosen rules on arming Syrian rebels will lead to more casualties.

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Abe gave sincere and everlasting condolences to the U.S. service members killed. The president says the historic gesture speaks to the power of reconciliation -- back to HARDBALL.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Who knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

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KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

That was Donald Trump delivering his fiery convention acceptance speech back in July. Now, as he prepares to be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, Trump is expected to pivot from the contentious rhetoric that characterized his campaign to a more unifying message.

To do that, he has again enlisted Stephen Miller, who wrote Trump`s charged convention speech, to craft his inaugural address. Politico reports that - - quote -- "Early discussions of the address have focused on laying out some of the structural problems facing the country, and then framing Trump`s first-term agenda in more nationalistic than ideological terms."

Politico is also reporting that the Trump transition is bracing for a potential showdown over his Cabinet appointments, and is -- quote -- "assembling a war room to promote their strengths and fend off criticism before next month`s confirmation hearings."

For more, I`m joined now by Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter at Politico.

Ken, thanks for joining us.

So, give us a preview here. It`s January 20. Donald Trump gets his chance to address tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people in Washington, tens of millions of people nationally. He is not one, we have seen, who seems to enjoy giving very formal speeches, but what can we expect here?

KEN VOGEL, POLITICO: Well, as we reported, they`re planning a speech that is heavy on sort of this unifying message that we haven`t really heard a whole lot from, from Donald Trump.

Even after the election, I think when people were expecting that he would pivot to sort of sounding more like a president and looking forward to his presidency, instead, we heard a lot of these grievances, a lot of what was wrong with the country, and why he won.

He talked a lot about crumbling bridges and roads, about failing schools, about soaring crime rates, and not so much about what he`s going to do. Even if his sort of thank you tour, when he went around the country to the states that he won after the election, those speeches also were written by this guy, Stephen Miller, who`s going to be writing this inaugural speech.

So it will be a real drastic shift from both Stephen Miller and Donald Trump, if, in fact, they`re going to pivot and sort of speak in a more unifying tone about what Donald Trump`s presidency will look like and even a more optimistic tone.

So, I think we will be watching that, not just in the inaugural speech, but I think throughout the early stages of his presidency, how much he continues to sort of harp on what he sees as the problems with our country that he inherited from his predecessors, vs. what he`s going to do and how he`s going to bring the country together.

KORNACKI: And what about, we also mentioned there, the potential for some confirmation fights?

Now, look, he`s a Republican president. He`s going to have a Republican Senate. So, traditionally, a couple of these nominees at least get roughed up, but the opposition party at least on paper is not going to have the votes to stop any of these. They also don`t have that filibuster. The Democrats won`t be able to filibuster these things to death.

So of all the picks that are out there so far from Donald Trump, where is the most potential trouble with these Cabinet picks? And is any one of them individually actually in danger of being scotched?

VOGEL: Last answer -- last question, no, I don`t think that anyone is going to go down. I don`t think that any of them will be withdrawn either. We have only saw nine Cabinet picks actually defeated in their confirmation hearings over the course of American history.

We have seen another 12 who have been withdrawn. I don`t see the potential for any of that here. What we could see, potentially, are some questions raised by Republicans about Rex Tillerson in particular, maybe some other nominees vis-a-vis their positions on Russia.

That`s where we potentially see the most divergence between Donald Trump`s brand of Republicanism and Republican orthodoxy. We have already heard Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, John McCain raise concerns about Trump`s stance towards Putin, about Russia meddling in the election, and about Rex Tillerson`s stance towards Russia.

So, maybe there, but even then, I see it as just really more showmanship, and that is what, of course, so much of these confirmation hearings tend to boil down to.

KORNACKI: All right, Ken Vogel from Politico, thanks, as always.

VOGEL: Thanks, Steve.

KORNACKI: All right, up next, the HARDBALL roundtable is going to be here. They`re going to talk about Trump`s war of words with President Obama, plus word that Trump`s tweeting isn`t going to be ending once he takes office.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

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STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

Over the weekend, Donald Trump took to Twitter to propose a nuclear arms race, take credit for the booming economy since his election, and to remind his followers that he doesn`t care about A-list celebrities coming to his inauguration.

It is no secret that Trump loves Twitter and here`s what incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer had to say about it.

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SEAN SPICER, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He can put his thoughts out and hear what they`re thinking in a way that no one`s ever been able to do before. But you`re right, I mean, he does communicate in a much bigger, way than ever before. And I think that`s going to be just a really exciting part of the job.

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KORNACKI: For Trump, Twitter is an effective way of circumventing the media and speaking directly to 18 million of his closest followers.

For more on Trump`s Christmas week tweet, I`m joined by our roundtable, Amy Chozick, national political correspondent for "The New York Times," Azi Paybarah, senior reporter with "Politico" New York, and Caitlin Huey-Burns, political reporter with Real Clear Politics.

So, Caitlin, take me through this, you heard Sean Spicer giving a sort of defense about why Donald Trump loves Twitter, what the sort of upside of it is. I also remember, though, the last week, I don`t know, week -- two weeks of the campaign, his people actually got the phone away from him, he wasn`t tweeting. It feels like those were the two best weeks he had politically. He won the election.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: It`s hard to -- I mean, there`s a school of thought that thinks that Trump is doing this strategically. Every time he tweets is part of a bigger plan to distract us from something else. There`s another school of thought, of course, that he can`t just help himself.

What I see the Twitter strategy being, though, is not necessarily speaking directly to his supporters or to the American people, because most people are not on Twitter. It`s really to speak to reporters and have it disseminated through a kind of -- kind of drive the news cycle that way. He sees and he said this before, he sees Twitter as kind of a mini press release type of thing. And it`s a way for him to control the narrative without ever having to address the press if he doesn`t want to. He`s the only president-elect in modern times that hasn`t held a press conference during the transition period. We`ll see if he does, next month.

KORNACKI: It`s interesting, too. I try to think about how the press handles these tweets. Sometimes they`ll be loaded up with information that`s just not factually accurate and the press will correct them, then this whole debate ensues. Are you giving it more attention by pointing it out in the first place?

I know there are people out there who say, hey, the press is being hypocritical on this. On the one hand, they spend their entire time saying, we want politicians to be more often, more transparent, not to give us canned answers. Here`s a guy giving you knee-jerk, often sort of emotional reactions and then the press says, how dare he do this? Give us a formal -- give us a statement, give us a bland, you know, statement. How should the press be handling this?

AMY CHOZICK, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, I think -- I think Trump has changed the game in the way that he communicates with the people and the press and I think the media has to kind of in turn follow. But certainly, any administration needs to articulate their policy positions in more than 140 characters.

And I would quibble with one thing. I think he is using it to speak directly to his supporters. And I think it`s something that we have to give him a little bit of credit for. President Obama, obviously, ran a brilliant campaign in 2008. But once he was president, there was a sense that he was somewhat cut off from the supporters that elected him. You know, you saw that play out in health care.

So, Trump has this very powerful tool to disseminate whatever is going on in his head at the moment to millions of people.

AZI PAYBARAH, POLITICO: Well, just two things. Number one, tweeting is not transparency. Transparency is providing information, especially information that might be unflattering to you. That`s the level of -- that`s the marker of transparency.

And secondly, as we saw with Joe Trippi and the Howard D. campaigned from a million years ago, people can use technology usually in one of two ways. Either as a megaphone to just amplify a one-way message, or as like a telephone to connect people and communicate.

Trump is using this as a megaphone. He`s not really receiving information on Twitter and he`s a person who is very much visually driven. He watches television. He likes people who look the part.

So, the idea that he`s somehow amassing vast amounts of information and being sensitive to what people are tweeting and trends that are happening is ridiculous. He`s using this to circumvent press conferences, not unlike what Obama did when he first started doing town hall meetings.

CHOZICK: The Obama White House does this.

PAYBARAH: Right.

And his press -- and his events were largely him talking to television cameras, literally over the heads of reporters.

CHOZICK: And the Flickr account, the official White House, not allowing photographers to photograph certain things, but they started this Flickr and Instagram and all these beautiful, glossy pictures.

KORNACKI: And there`s two types of transparency. I guess there`s transparency, as the press defines it. Where are your tax returns? Give us information on the businesses, you know, for conflicts of interest.

But there`s also transparency in a sense I think we`re so used to this dance in politics and probably every facet of formal, professional life, where, you know, somebody is fired from your company or leaves your company and everybody issues these very polite statements. So-and-so is leaving to spend more time with her family. So-and-so was very dedicated and thankful for the time here.

And Donald Trump, somebody says something nasty about him, the answer isn`t, I have great respect for so-and-so. Donald Trump will go to Twitter and will be very transparent about his feelings, about his emotions, in a way we just -- there is no precedent that I can think of?

CHOZICK: And that`s refreshing for a lot of people, especially when he was coming after Obama who is much more careful and thoughtful about everything that comes out of his mouth. I covered Hillary Clinton`s campaign and to get that kind of raw glimpse into what she was really thinking was virtually impossible.

KORNACKI: There couldn`t have been more of a contrast.

CHOZICK: Every tweet was focus grouped, you know? So there is something refreshing about this kind of glimpse into the Trump id every time he picks up his phone.

KORNACKI: All right. We`ve got to squeeze a quick break in. The roundtable is sticking with us.

Up next, a top Trump ally apologizes for his racially charged comments about the Obamas.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.

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KORNACKI: All right. You can play HARDBALL all week long online. Follow HARDBALL on Twitter and Instagram and like the show on Facebook. You`ll get access to exclusive interviews and videos as we head into what promises to be a very busy 2017.

We`ll be right back.

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KORNACKI: We are back.

Former New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, he was an honorary co-chair of Donald Trump`s campaign in New York. He issues an apology today for remarks he made to "Artvoice", that is a weekly newspaper in Buffalo.

Last week, Paladino was asked what he would most like to see happen in 2017. His response, quote, "Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before his trial."

He was then asked what he would like to see go away in 2017. His response, quote, "Michelle Obama. I`d like to see her return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla."

The Trump campaign disavowed the comments, telling "USA Today" that his comments, quote, "are absolutely reprehensible and they serve no place in our public discourse." In his apology, Paladino said, quote, "I wanted to say something as sarcastic and hurtful as possible. I was wired up, primed to be human and make a mistake. I could not have made a worse choice in the words I used to express my feelings."

Back now with the roundtable, Amy Chozick, Azi Paybarah, Caitlin Huey- Burns.

So, Azi, I almost -- look, we put the comments out there. He has apologized for these things. So, let`s put the comments themselves aside for a minute. But Carl Paladino, if not this in particular, has a history of making very inflammatory, very provocative comments.

As we say, he was a New York candidate for governor. You covered him. You know something about him.

Here`s what I`m curious about. A lot of people looked at Carl Paladino and his rise in New York politics a few years ago and they said, you saw there the roots of Donald Trump a few years later.

PAYBARAH: Right. He was a precursor to the anger that the Republican voters ultimately sought comfort in by voting for Trump. If you look at the map of New York when he ran against Andrew Cuomo, almost the entire state looked red because so many counties were angry and upset and felt that New York state government was so broken that they would rather go with someone who was volatile, offensive, uncertain about policies and was going to be the bull in the China shop.

So, when he comes across and apologizes for something, that`s really sort of surprising since he had spent so much time sort of not caring about other people`s over -- what he would consider over-sensitivities to these kinds of remarks.

KORNACKI: That line, I don`t want to litigate this individual one. We put it out there, it`s terrible. And he did, you know, whatever it`s worth, make of it what you want, he did say he apologizes for it.

But that line in there of intentionally being sarcastic, trying to say something that was going to provoke -- I wonder if you look at Donald Trump and the provocative, inflammatory things he said during this campaign, the pattern was in the press, we`d look at it and we say, well, there it is. That`s the end of the pain. No one can say this and get elected president, whatever. And then, he would be stronger in the polls.

Do we look at it now and say a lot of things Trump was saying, that`s how they were better received by a larger part of the public than we realize?

HUEY-BURNS: Well, I think also, there`s this -- you have to separate Trump from everybody else. I mean, I don`t know that another person can do and say the things that Trump has done and said and still be as successful electorally, politically as Trump has been. And so, if you look at it in that lens, I also think there`s a tendency to look at everything, pick random Republican who said this and then that becomes a whole thing.

The difference with Paladino, of course, is that context you mentioned and also his prominence in the Trump transition efforts, in the Trump transition team and in the campaign efforts. But I think that some of these things are really distinct to Trump and it`s hard to be successful by another person without the Trump brand really.

KORNACKI: All right. We`re going to squeeze one more break in. Stay with us.

Up next, these three are going to tell me something I don`t know. That`s the easiest job in the world.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.

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KORNACKI: All right. We are back with the HARDBALL roundtable.

Amy, tell me something I don`t know.

CHOZICK: All right. So, last week, I wrote a story about how the Trump transition officials were reaching out to authorities on the border, on the Texas border, trying to figure out where to erect the wall. So, something you may not know is for the first time in 50 years, more undocumented Mexicans are actually returning to Mexico than coming over the other way.

That is actually Pew just released a study saying that Asians will surpass Latin Americans as an immigrant group in the next couple of decades and a record number of Mexicans are returning, there`s more opportunities there, partly it`s because the Obama administration has been so effective at exportation.

KORNACKI: Hurry up, Azi. Tell me something I don`t know.

PAYBARAH: Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, a foil for Donald Trump, acts like Donald Trump in avoiding reporters` Q&As he has once a week. Last one was 15 minutes and 10 seconds, took 20 questions.

KORNACKI: All right. Caitlin, you`ve got five seconds.

HUEY-BURNS: Trump`s approval rating has been ticking up since he was elected. We`ll see if it keeps going upwards before the inauguration which will be his big stage to try and unite a very divided country. Still very low. Lowest unpopular coming --

KORNACKI: All right. Caitlin, Azi, Amy, thank you.

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

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.

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