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MTP Daily, Transcript 11/29/2016

Guests: Molly Ball, Robert Traynham, Ben Cardin

Show: MTP DAILY Date: November 29, 2016 Guest: Molly Ball, Robert Traynham, Ben Cardin

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: How do you fight the man after you become the man?

(voice-over): Tonight, picking fights. From flag burners to baseless charges of voter fraud. Why the president-elect always seems to be looking for a fight.

Plus, conflicts of interest. Trump has many and one of the most obvious is right here in Washington. And why I`m obsessed with how the press handles Donald Trump and how Trump handles the press.

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

(on camera): Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington. And welcome to MTP DAILY. I am fired up to be back.

So, Ali had Frazier (ph), that man had the joker, Coke had Pepsi and Trump had Obama, or 16 primary opponents or the entire political establishment. Like the others though, Trump thrives when he has a clear enemy or 10.

Right now, the president-elect finds himself in an unfamiliar and, perhaps, uncomfortable position. The enemies he`s been fighting against are gone. Obama, he`ll be out of office soon and, frankly, Trump relies on him right now.

Clinton, she conceded. He beat her. The establishment? Well, guess what? Donald Trump now is the establishment. His primary opponents, many of them are interviewing for White House gigs.

Here`s the big point. Right now, Trump appears to be searching for an enemy. Is it flag burners, recounts, the press, the popular vote? Trump has gone after them all at times, using wild experience theories even as president-elect to do it.

He even quoted a tweet from a self-identified 16-year-old as a way to justify crazy unsupported claims about the popular vote. Trump seems to be begging for a fight or is it begging for a distraction?

Trump`s hunt for a cheap enemy right now comes as journalists and members of Congress are looking at potentially serious conflicts of interest at Trump`s sprawling multinational business empire.

We`re going to dive into that issue later in the show, because Trump`s business conflicts are big enough and have come up throughout various aspects of this transition. Not only can it not be ignored, it needs to be dealt with really front and center before he can conduct his presidency.

Trump continues to dismiss those concerns though, even as some Republicans, like Lindsay Graham, are making the case that Trump`s business ties deserve the scrutiny. Here`s Senator Graham talking with reporters today about it.


SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM, SOUTH CAROLINA: I think concerns with a member of Congress with a cabinet official being active in business. I don`t see why it wouldn`t apply to the president.

I don`t think most people would want me to have a business relationship as a senator where my business partners can reap the benefit of my position and I one day get the share the profits. I don`t think that would be good for me. I don`t think that would be good for my state. I don`t think it would be good for the country.

But let`s give him a chance to figure this out.


TODD: Trump`s pension for distractions is starting to frustrate members of his own party. House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, slammed Trump`s wild claims about election fraud, saying, quote, "The election is over, let`s move on."

Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, echoed those criticisms saying, quote, "I don`t see any evidence of systemic fraud." Newt Gingrich called it Trump`s biggest mistake since he won the election, these crazy accusations about voter fraud.

Senator majority leader, Mitch McConnell, slammed Trump`s comments about burning the American flag which is protected under the first amendment should lead to jail time.

Republican Michigan Congressman Justin Amash said, no president is allowed to burn the first amendment.

Trump is most comfortable when he is hammering something. But as the saying goes, when you`re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

I`m joined now by NBC`s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, host of "Andrea Mitchell Reports." She, of course, has been following this transition very closely. And you`ve followed many other transitions.

Andrea, this one is unusual because it seems as if he is going out of his way to find controversy rather than the controversy finding him. He`s got his own controversies to deal with. The business conflicts are a big one. But he`s creating new ones. There`s no precedent for it.

ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: There isn`t but this is, in some ways, perhaps, a useful distraction from other things, giving him more space to make his decisions as unusual the process is because he`s making them in public. Almost you can see the ups and downs and ins and outs, most notably in the secretary of state decision where there is a reality T.V. style pageant of people parading through Rudy Giuliani, now on the phone, if he doesn`t come in person today to get his two cents in.

We`ve seen Senator Corker who had indicated to me, the week before last, that he didn`t think he was still in the running but might now be a fallback position if this Mitt Romney versus Rudy Giuliani dispute is that serious.

TODD: Right.

MITCHELL: And certainly Kellyanne indicated to you it was on "MEET THE PRESS."

[17:05:02] And then, you`ve got David Petraeus and whatever the pushback might be against him. Despite the fact that he is now very highly regarded in foreign policy circles because of his record in both Republican and Democratic circles. It`s all pretty extraordinary.

TODD: You know, it really is. Let me drill down. The State Department has been your beat for so long. It has always smelled like Bob Corker was the in case of emergency, the easy guy.

And he has -- of the four people we`re talking about here, one could argue Corker has been more supportive of Trump`s foreign policy skepticism of the establishment than anybody else of those -- of that quartet that we`re talking about. And I include Rudy Giuliani here who, in many ways, is more comfortable as a neocon.

MITCHELL: Absolutely. And Senator Corker has been, first of all, discreet and loyal. He has not signaled the internal mechanisms. He`s been pretty honestly saying, I wasn`t a real insider in the campaign.

He was an early endorser. But then, sort of fell by the wayside. He was not the inside man that, certainly, Senator Sessions was. And he doesn`t telegraph what`s going on. He`s been much more discreet about that.

If Rudy Giuliani`s offense was that "Wallstreet Journal" did a round table where he --

TODD: Right.

MITCHELL: -- openly campaigned for it, and said he didn`t want to be attorney general and that he was --

TODD: Sure.

MITCHELL: -- better qualified for it, then certainly Senator Corker would seem to be, you know, among the best choices.

Romney looks the part and is well known around the world and has a lot of experience. But how does he explain all of those terrible things he said, you know, that -- to the Kellyanne point.

And then, you`ve got David Petraeus who, yes, did, you know, something for which he pleaded guilty. And you`ve got James Comey on camera on Capitol Hill saying, --

TODD: Right.

MITCHELL: -- no, it is not much less of an offense than Hillary Clinton. In fact, it is far more serious. It was prosecuted.

TODD: All right.

MITCHELL: But, you know, one quick thing -- one quick point about this.

TODD: Yes.

MITCHELL: Nobody is talking about the different -- until you raised the issue just now. But nobody is really talking about the different world views of these people.

TODD: Oh, I know.

MITCHELL: And what does it say about Donald Trump? That he might be comfortable with any one of them, depending on how much blow back he gets.

TODD: Well, I think it just tells you, he does not have an ideology.


TODD: Which has been both his strength and a weakness. And, at times, it`s both at the same time.

Anyway, Andrea Mitchell in our newsroom. Andrea, thanks very much.

Let me bring in the panel tonight very quickly. I want to talk about this search for an enemy. Maria Teresa Kumar, MSNBC Contributor. Molly Ball is staff writer at "The Atlantic." Robert Traynham, a one-time adviser to the Bush-Chaney world. And he`s with the Bipartisan Policy Center. Welcome to you all.


TODD: Let me play this Newt Gingrich byte for you. Because I think Gingrich who`s been the -- among the truth tellers to Trump, I think, in public, take a listen.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think the worst thing he did was the tweet the other night about illegal votes. I mean, you know, presidents of the United States can`t randomly tweet without having check - - having somebody check it out. I mean, it just -- it makes you wonder about whatever else he`s doing. It undermines much more than just a single tweet.


TODD: Newt Gingrich gave voice to something that was said throughout this campaign from Democrats and Republicans.

TRANUM: Right. Well, you`ve got to remember, Newt is a historian.

TODD: Yes.

TRAYNHAM: He also is someone that understands the history of the presidency and so forth. So, I`m not surprised. But he`s also an intellectual. So, he`s intellectualizing this.

And I think what he`s trying to be is a grown up big brother to Donald Trump by saying, Mr. President-elect, stop this. There are so many things that are so much more important right now. Tweeting at 4:02 in the morning is not the most important thing.

MARIA TERESA KUMAR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: But Newt Gingrich is also the one that said that he would grow into the role.

TODD: He did.

KUMAR: He was the one that basically said he could be the apprentice of this presidency.

TODD: He keeps trying to find a rationale.

KUMAR: He`s trying to find a rationale.

TODD: No, no, no, he does. Gingrich says, if you`re Donald Trump, you appreciate that because Gingrich continues to finds a rational to support Trump.

KUMAR: Exactly. And, at the same time, coach him. And, if anything, the fact that he is saying this so visibly and the reason, again, that Kellyanne Conway basically talks to the press is because it makes me realize that the only way you can communicate even inside his inner circle is through the media. And that should be concerning for a lot of reasons.

TODD: Molly, I want to go to this. It does feel like he does thrive on an opponent. I think he is trying to basically turn us into the opponent. He desperately wants it.

This -- I know there`s some people who say, no, Trump doesn`t think three moves ahead. He just does what he feels in the moment.

But just when the business interest stories were gaining traction, all of a sudden, now, there`s -- I`m watching cable T.V. do all of these, oh, let`s talk about the First Amendment flag burning. This is, like, Roger Ailes distraction 101 from the Bush 1988 years.

MOLLY BALL, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I mean, I think both things are true, right? Trump is someone who thrives on conflict and someone whose world view is all about conflict, someone who really fundamentally views this as a dog-eat-dog world where you always have to be engaged in competition with something or someone.

[17:10:11] So, I think that that part -- and I thought that you were spot on in that part about him needing an enemy. But it is also the case that he loves to stage spectacles and he knows the effectiveness of staging spectacles. And, as you say, he knows the effectiveness of creating distractions from things you don`t want to talk about.

He did this again and again during the campaign. This is no different than the campaign, in terms of Newt Gingrich`s role. This is no different from the campaign, in terms of people who could talk to Trump privately, feeling it`s more effective to talk to him publicly --

TODD: Yes.

BALL: -- and him being influenced by what`s out there in the media. And him going on Twitter without a filter, without a staff doing it for him --

TODD: Yes.

BALL: -- and saying whatever the heck he feels like.

KUMAR: But it -- yes, but I think that it also demonstrates the fact that he keeps saying, look over here when you -- the whole $25 million fraud allegation that he had to face and the loss that he had to pay. Instead, he started tweeting about Hamilton, right?

Then, you saw today about the voter fraud. It makes you wonder who`s actually helping him make the decisions. And I`d say that Pence is playing a much larger role in helping to decide his cabinet.

TODD: Yes.

KUMAR: While everybody is saying, look over here. The cabinet positions are very much a direct line of Pence`s policy position.

TODD: No, it`s funny you say that. Robert, I totally agree with Maria here in that so far, at least on the domestic side of things that you`re seeing, Pence has that influence --


TODD: -- big time. But when it comes with what political fights to have?


TODD: This feels like a Steve Bannon whispering in his ear. Hey, that`s a fun wedge issue. Watch the media screw up the handling of this and your base will love it. Like, it feels like every controversial tweet is about poking the base.

TRAYNHAM: Absolutely. Donald Trump --

TODD: Or poking the bear at the rebel (ph) establishment.

TRAYNHAM: -- Donald Trump is best when he`s on the offense. He is so good on the offense. And the question becomes when he becomes the president, who will be his opponent? And I think it`s going to be the Democrats in the Senate. I think that`s -- and possibly the press.

TODD: I think it`s definitely going to be the press.

TRAYNHAM: Yes. And, I mean, there`s no one else to beat up later.

TODD: He made it clear in an off-the-record meeting that --

TRAYNHAM: Well, I also think he`s also going to beat up on --

TODD: He decided to leak out.

TRAYNHAM: -- Wallstreet and any organization that moves their operations overseas. So, it`s really him against us, in many ways. And I think Donald Trump is going to probably thrive off of that type of conflict because he`s very good at it.

But behind the scenes, you`re probably going to have Jared Kushner.

TODD: Yes.

TRAYNHAM: And you`re probably going to have Reince Priebus and also the vice president.

KUMAR: Right. But I think the concern with that is that he`s so used to everybody -- everything he`s doing right now, there is outrage over everything. And slowly, folks basically start tuning out. They start getting desensitized to it. And that is a real danger.

TODD: Well, I`m glad you brought up the desensitization issue.

TRAYNHAM: I don`t know if that`s the case.

TODD: I had some people say to me, you don`t -- you wouldn`t give air time to a holocaust denier. Why bother covering if his tweet is totally crazy? And it doesn`t -- like, and it doesn`t stand up to scrutiny.

TRAYNHAM: But it makes news. So, by default, don`t you have to cover it?


TRAYNHAM: Look, if the president saying this --

TODD: This is the challenge for everybody at this table.


TODD: The American voter. The American citizens listen to this.

TRAYNHAM: Because the news part is not that he`s sweeting. The news part is that, potentially, it`s false.

TODD: Yes.



KUMAR: So, when he starts going after this idea of voter -- that 11 million people -- that illegal people voted, first of all, you also -- you also already know who he`s trying to -- he`s trying to state who`s doing that, number one. And number two, he`s preparing the case of why we should have stronger voter suppression laws that already exist for setting himself up for the next election. That`s frightening.

BALL: And that`s the point of all of this. The point of all of this is how it translates into policy because he`s not running a campaign anymore. He is -- he is supposedly going to be the president of the United States and govern.

TODD: And so, we have to be focused on, as you were saying about all the cabinet appointments, not just who is in his favor and who is in his good graces and who looks right or what the palace intrigue is.

But how does it actually translate into America`s role in the world? There are policy consequences of all these appointments. There are -- there are potential policy consequences to a president who doesn`t believe in our election system and believes that there`s rampant voter fraud.

But that is the point of all of this, not who`s winning and who`s losing. And Trump still thinks he`s in a campaign. He`s going to Ohio on Thursday. He still thinks he`s running for the campaign.

TODD: Well, that`s his comfort zone is in a campaign. That`s the whole point of this. And when you have an enemy, you need a committee.


BALL: (INAUDIBLE) you`re not governing.

TRAYNHAM: Let`s be -- but let`s be honest here. Barack Obama was better as a campaigner than as a -- as a president sometimes in this same position. It is easier when you have a foil.

KUMAR: But President Obama had conviction. He knew where he stood on things. And he knew how to govern.


TODD: Which is no doubt. But the point is, when was he comfortable? He was comfortable when he had the foil.

KUMAR: Right. But if I -- if -- basically, if you realize that you have - - that you have surrounded yourself with -- if you basically are a Mike Pence or a Steve Bannon, you want him on the road because then you can go ahead and identify and you can govern.

TODD: That`s the power.

KUMAR: Like Dick Cheney.

TRAYNHAM: Right. The true power center is going to be on the other side of Pence (INAUDIBLE.) I think that`s where a Paul Ryan --


TRAYNHAM: No, I`m serious. I think Paul Ryan is all about policy.

TODD: I think Paul Ryan -- I think Paul Ryan (INAUDIBLE) think that. It`s the center of gravity until it isn`t. And that`s where Trump, every once in a while, like he has right now with Romney.


TODD: With Rudy, he will -- the minute they push him too far and start manipulating, he will -- he will lash out.

[17:15:06] KUMAR: He does not like to feel like he`s getting rolled. And if they think they can roll him and he --

TODD: That`s right. That`s the dangerous game those guys are playing. That`s fair.

All right, we`re going to have -- we get to get into this some more. I promise. So, you guys are sticking around.

Coming up, we`re going to dig more into the conflict of interest issue. It is literally on Trump`s road to the White House.

Plus, Senator Ben Cardin joins me to discuss how the Democrats are trying to push Congress, an institution they have no control over, to take a look at Trump`s finances. Stay tuned.


TODD: We have been following the breaking news in Tennessee all day today, as you know, where wild fires have killed three people and destroyed more than a hundred homes in a popular resort area of the great Smoky Mountains. More than 14,000 people have already been evacuated from the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge areas, as flames burned also to the edge of Dolly Parton`s famed Dollywood theme park.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says this is the largest fire in a century in Tennessee. This, of course, follows months of record-breaking draught in the region. So, there`s definitely been a climate impact here, too. Wildfires in the Smokey Mountains, it`s not something we are used to seeing.

Anyway, more MTP DAILY right after this.


TODD: Welcome back, folks.

There are a lot of question the present-elect is facing about his business ties, both foreign and domestic. We`re on uncharted waters here and we`ve known that for some time. Democrats in Congress are making it clear that they plan to keep asking those conflict of interest questions and asking them loudly.

Yesterday, all 17 Democrats on the House Oversight Committee signed a letter addressed to Chairman Jason Chaffetz requesting an investigation into Trump`s business ties. Now, Kevin McCarthy, one of the House GOP leaders dismissed the idea, saying, wait until he is president before calling for hearings.

Today, though, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, another Democrat, introduced a resolution calling on Trump to take the proper measures to ensure his dealings are in compliance with the U.S. Constitution. His resolution has 22 Democratic cosponsors.

Senator Cardin joins me now. Senator, thank you, sir.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: It`s a pleasure to be with you. Thank you.

TODD: So, as you know, even the president-elect himself in the interview with "The New York Times" says there is no law that governs conflict of interest in -- with the president. And, you in Congress, because of the separation of powers, you legally cannot create laws that would directly impact the president or the vice president, even though you have passed laws that impact the rest of the executive branch.

So, how would this law -- what would the law, that you`re intending to try to pass, look like?

CARDIN: Well, that`s not exactly correct. This is a constitutional provision. The Emoluments section shares with the Constitution. That`s not a law that Congress could change or the president could ignore.

The first thing he does on January 20th is take an oath to defend and adhere to the Constitution of the United States. It couldn`t be clearer, any person who holds an office of trust is not allowed to accept favors or gifts from foreign governments.

And with Trump holdings all over the world, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for him to be able to conduct business without there being either favors given to his companies or the appearance of favors.

He needs to take action today before he becomes president so he doesn`t violate the Constitution.

TODD: So, do you believe -- so, for instance, the country of Bahrain has decided to hold a Bahrain national day celebration in Washington, D.C. at Trump`s hotel. Is that a case -- this is the national government of Bahrain spending money at Trump`s hotel. If Trump`s president, is that a violation of the Constitution? Is Trump accepting -- even a Trump organization, accepting that money, does that violate the Emoluments Clause?

CARDIN: Well, we do know that they are foreign missions today that are using Trump Towers, they say, why wouldn`t we want to show favor to the president of the United States? It would be offensive if we stayed at his competitor`s hotel.

So, they are doing things because they think it will show favor to Donald Trump. Once he takes the oath of office as president of the United States, the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution makes it clear that he cannot accept those favors.

Therefore, the only way he can protect himself is to set up a blind trust or to divest in these holdings. It`s the only way. Every president since George Washington --

TODD: Right.

CARDIN: -- has respected this clause in the Constitution.

TODD: Well, I think there`s no doubt -- and he`s getting a lot of advice that says just -- the safest thing is full divestment.

But let me ask you this. If he doesn`t do that, who has standing? How do you enforce the Emoluments Clause from your perch at Congress other than impeachment?

CARDIN: Well, you know, quite frankly, we want to avoid that problem. We want to avoid that Constitutional potential crisis. And the way to do it is for Donald Trump -- it`s not about him. It`s about the presidency. And he has a responsibility to protect the office of the president and adhere to the constitutional restrictions. He should take steps before January 20th so we never have to answer that question.

TODD: Yes. But I`m sure you`ve talked to some lawyers. Who has standing to enforce this clause in the Constitution?

CARDIN: Well, --

TODD: If it would take somebody with standing to bring this up, who has it?

CARDIN: It`s a question that may have to be answered by the courts. I hope that is not going to have to be answered because I hope Donald Trump will take steps.

But it`s -- if another business -- U.S. business is damaged as a result of favors, they may have standing to bring a suit. We don`t want that to be the case. We want to take care of the issue now.

Congress, as an institution, has a responsibility as an independent branch of government to let the president-elect know he needs to take steps.

TODD: Well, it`s funny you say that because that`s my most intriguing phrase in the Emoluments Clause is, without the consent of the Congress, which means you can give him some -- it sounds like if he decided to create a blind trust that allowed his kids to run it, and some could argue that the kids getting money could actually still be a violation, Congress would have to pass, basically, an exemption for him. Is that what -- how you interpret the clause?

CARDIN: Well, I think the framers put that into the Constitution because they thought that maybe a particular gift that`s appropriate for the president of the United States to receive from a foreign government. I don`t think that was meant to mean that the Congress can avoid the requirements that the president not receive as a general matter of gifts from foreign powers.

However, we do have that responsibility. And it`s clear to me that Congress should give advice to the president-elect, clean this up before the take the oath of office.

TODD: Right. Do you have any Republican cosponsors yet? Do you think you`ll get any?

CARDIN: We`re reaching out to Republicans. We don`t think this is a partisan issue. This really is to avoid a potential problem for the president and the Constitution.

[17:25:05] So, we are reaching out. Hopefully we will work with Republicans and Democrats, House members and Senate members to get this done.

TODD: Democratic Senator Ben Cardin who`s the ranking member on foreign relations. Thanks for coming on. Appreciate it.

CARDIN: My pleasure. Thank you.

TODD: Let`s take a look, actually, at one specific example here for President-elect Trump and a potential conflict of interest. And it actually has to do with his brand-new hotel in downtown Washington at the Old Post Office Building. Let me walk you through it. Trump, a businessman, trying to contract the U.S. government that barred any U.S. official from being party to the hotel`s lease.

Now, come January 20th, Trump will be president. And guess what? A party to the lease which could set off a court battle. Basically, he would be technically both the landlord and tenant of his new hotel.

Is it this cut and dry? Let me bring in our Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber. So, walk me through this a little bit. So, Ari, on its surface, he signed this piece of paper saying that he agreed that no member of the government would be a party to the lease because, obviously, it would create an automatic conflict of interest.

Because, again, the hotel is on land that`s owned by the federal government. So, they had to get this lease from them. On January 20th, is it clear cut that he would be in violation of this contract or not?

ARI MELBER, MSNBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: It`s probably not clear cut. It`s a situation where the words of the contract make it sound like a violation or even, potentially, a breech, that`s a broken contract. Because it states so flatly that you can`t have elected officials benefiting for the reasons that you clearly explained in your introduction here, Chuck.

And the GSA, the General Service Administration, is essentially an executive style agency that now would be also just run by the administration.

Having said that, the counter argument that the Trump folks would make is, well, yes, we struck a deal then. We didn`t know. No one knew at the time that a party of the deal was going to become an elected official. And that, itself, doesn`t mean it`s an automatic breech.

TODD: So, what would -- because you could make a case that, hey, it`s not like he`s changing the terms of the deal. Is it a better argument to say he can`t be involved in the -- in a renegotiation when the lease is up?

MELBER: Exactly. There`s everything that happened before which you could argue was the fair market value. That`s one of the terms of art that`s used in these situations. Are you getting something special? Are you getting a special deal or special cut rate because you`re involved, right, because of the power you have.

Well, he can say, well, back when we made the deal, obviously, I wasn`t president. I didn`t have that power. But we, in the legal unit, have been pouring over this contract which is publicly available in a slightly redacted form.

And we can tell you, Chuck, here on your show tonight, that there are provisions of this contract that have future negotiations, that have gross revenues timed by a certain number that will be worked out down the road, in addition to what is a 60-year land deal.

So, even if you give them the benefit of the doubt that this was fair market value, the fact is they are on a collision course crash --

TODD: Right.

MELBER: -- between the benefits that will accrue to the Trump organization and deals that will be struck by the General Service Administration that agency people don`t think about and maybe don`t care about.

But it will be in the driver`s seat of potentially millions of dollars that will either benefit the Trump organization or not.

TODD: But it -- and it all depends on a potentially an appointee that comes from president Donald Trump.

MELBER: You don`t have to be a lawyer to know that if you please your boss at work, if there`s a way to do it, you might as well try to do it. And I think that`s the point.

And, again, I want to stress something that you pointed out and I just mentioned here just briefly. A conflict of interest doesn`t mean you are a bad person, right? It doesn`t mean you`re setting out to do something nefarious.

The reason the conflicts of interest in the law and government are generally restricted is because even a good person would be stuck choosing between one interest and a conflict with another. Maybe their children, maybe their wallet. That`s not a bad thing. It`s a thing people think about.

TODD: Sure.

MELBER: So, the question here is, is this government administration going to do anything to avoid those kind of conflicts?

TODD: And why -- right. And how does Donald Trump pick between the public and his kids? If that`s what you`re asking him to do. Nobody wants to be put in that situation.

Ari Melber, our Chief Legal Correspondent at MSNBC. As always, thanks for --

MELBER: Thanks, Chuck.

TODD: Speaking in English as well.

MELBER: You got it.

TODD: The regular English. Not that lawyeree. Appreciate it.

Still ahead, a Trump transition update, some more new faces and the secretary of state reality show continues.


TODD: It`s a big decision day for house democrats tomorrow. Did they go with the future or the past. More MTP Daily ahead. But first, Hampton Pearson has the CNBC Market Wrap.

HAMPTON PEARSON, CNBC REPORTER: Thanks, Chuck. Stocks end today higher just barely. The Dow climbing about 23 points, the S&P up by two, the Nasdaq rises by 11 points.

Tiffany was a winner today. The high-end jeweler reported revenue and earnings that beat estimates sending shares up more than 3 percent.

Consumer confidence got more than expected in November according to the conference board and home prices are up 5.5 percent over a year ago levels. Seattle saw the biggest games with prices surging 11 percent. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.


TODD: Welcome back. President-elect Donald Trump continues stocking his cabinet today with some very familiar Washington faces. This is not a new team of outsiders. NBC News confirms that Trump will nominate Elaine Chao to lead the Department of Transportation.

She was labor secretary for all eight years of George W. Bush`s presidency. She is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who told reporters today that he will not recuse himself from voting to confirm his wife.

Another well-known Washingtonian name is Trump`s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Congressman Tom Price of Georgia. He`s an outspoken critic of Obamacare. It is a clear signal that the president-elect is serious about repealing the Affordable Care Act.

But who will be Trump`s secretary of State had still a bit of a mystery and feels like we`re being delivered a sideshow here. Rudy Giuliani is openly campaigned for. John Bolton and Donald Trump both seem to have the ideology to share but he`s on the list.

Bob Corker and of course there`s the Mitt Romney dinner tonight and General David Petraeus apparently met with him about it. And then take a listen at what Bob Corker said when leaving Trump Tower this afternoon.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Secretary of State role is so important to a president. You need to choose someone that he is very comfortable with and knows there is gonna be no daylight between him and them.

The world needs to know that the Secretary of State is someone who speaks fully for the president and again, that is a decision he is gonna have to make.


TODD: It was Bob Corker basically disqualifying Mitt Romney from the job. Just now, Trump is having dinner with the former republican presidential nominee tonight. We will see what comes of that. Panel is back. Maria Teresa Kumar, Molly Ball, Robert Traynham.

Molly, the Corker commends. Frankly, that`s my read on it. That`s the part of the Romney thing I could never bring my forget the personal animosity. Kellyanne Conway has a very strong point. Romney went over and above to try to defeat Trump.

He wasn`t just against the primary. He recruited candidates to run third party. Like that`s -- so I get her beef on that. But they also so disagree on Putin. How can they live in the same administration?

BALL: Yes, but I think that there has always been a part of Donald Trump that has never stopped seeking Mitt Romney`s approval anyway, right?

He wanted it four years ago and he was desperately injured on a very personal level when, you know, he gave Romney the endorsement and then Romney never wanted to see or hear from him again and shut him off stage and didn`t let him speak at the convention.

And, you know, Trump has been trying to prove himself not just to Mitt Romney but to the entire republican establishment ever since. And so to be able to bring the establishment inside in this form and literally be its boss.

TODD: Yeah.

BALL: . be able to tell it what to do by the extension of Mitt Romney I think would mean a lot for him to certain level on personal validation.

TODD: This is -- to me, that was the chief motivator for why this kid decided to say no, dad, I want to be a developer in Manhattan.


BALL: Right.

TODD: I want to make those Manhattanites respect us.


TODD: Is that the Romney -- it is an interesting theory. Maybe right.

TRAYNHAM: Yeah, I thought about.

TODD: I thought about it.

TRAYNHAM: I was gonna go a different route. I`m gonna say, you know, look, his head, the logical part of his brain probably should go with Mitt Romney because Mitt Romney is straight out of central casting. He`s very thoughtful. He`s very deliberative. But his heart probably wants to go with Rudy Giuliani.

The reason why is because Donald Trump is a loyalist and Rudy Giuliani has been there from get go. But Mitt Romney is also a patriot. And so the question becomes whether or not he can drink the Trump Kool-Aid and be on the Trump train and travel around the world and negotiate or be at the Trump administration. I`m told that Mitt Romney really, really wants this badly.

TODD: It`s clear Romney wants this job or he wouldn`t allow himself to be essentially be publicly humiliated by half of Trump staff every day.

KUMAR: Every single day. But I also think that he also recognized that because he is a patriot that it would be good for the country if he was the face of America abroad.

He is steady. He`s someone at the end of the day people respect. Donald Trump said he fits the part and looks the role. I think that`s one of the reasons why he picked Pence. Pence looked like he could be a vice president.

TODD: I go back to.

KUMAR: It`s not substance but.

TODD: . no. I go back to -- it`s Bob Corker`s point though. Isn`t Senator Corker right? I mean, President Trump better serve with somebody who shares the foreign policy.

TRAYNHAM: But you could say that about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I mean, the women ran against him back in 2008.


TODD: Their world views.

(CROSSTALK) BALL: The central issue in that primary was.


TRAYNHAM: It was also the 3 a.m. ad with Barack Obama not being qualified. Look at General Haig. This goes way back.


TRAYNHAM: . he ran for president and he became Ronald Reagan`s.


TODD: He ran for president after.

TRAYNHAM: That`s true.

TODD: But you are right. I mean, Haig was part of sort of forced upon.

KUMAR: But I think if he were to pick Romney, the biggest challenge Romney has is that when he does meet privately with leaders worldwide, are people going to believe that he is an extension of the inner circle?


TODD: By the way, that`s Molly another reason why if you`re president, you don`t want people to not fully trust that the secretary of state speaks for you.

BALL: Of course. I mean -- so that`s an obviously self interested statement by Bob Corker, right? Because he is campaigning for this job, but it`s not incorrect and I think your point is well taken. We are going to have world leaders being like is Trump going to tweet something that contravenes this negotiation I just had in the middle of the night.

Can I rely on anything that gets said? But, you know, I think exactly right that, you know, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are in very much the same place on this. They don`t like Donald Trump. They don`t particularly respect Donald Trump. But they feel like they have to do everything possible to help him succeed for the good of the country.

TODD: Let me move to the Elaine Chao pick. By the way -- I mean, talk about like reliving history.



TODD: . was a major senate leader at the time, not senate majority leader when -- was then, you know, labor, I believe, in Reagan and then transportation in Bush and here we go Elaine Chao, labor, and now transportation. You`re just like, my God.

TRAYNHAM: Also, there is a nonprofit thing with the record.

TODD: Is this just Trump and the transaction? Mitch McConnell but I`m gonna make sure there is one area that he has got to listen.

TRAYNHAM: I think it`s two for the price of one. I think that`s probably it. But also Elaine Chao is competent in the role. She also is a female and brings a lot of diversity to the role as well. So I think there`s a lot of things that she checks the box for.

KUMAR: I have to agree with you. I think he basically wants to bring in somebody to say I need you to work with Mitch McConnell. Whether you like it or not, I am going to bring your wife in. It is a way of neutralizing. It doesn`t speak whether or not she is qualified or not at all. But it is more of him playing chess. Like he really is.

TODD: I think he is playing more chess than people gave him credit for. All during this campaign, to many people it is just a bad checker`s play.

BALL: Here is what we are not talking about. What does it mean for transportation policy? Do we have any idea?


TODD: I will go with Medicare. Tom Price is somebody who would advocate a more privatized version of Medicare.

BALL: Gets privatized.

TRAYNHAM: That`s right.

TODD: But Donald Trump does not believe in a privatized Medicare. I think that this is what`s going to be interesting. Transportation I think was one of the best in this administration and a great gig to have. Normally Secretary of Agriculture is the best job in the cabinet. Everybody loves you.

This time, transportation will be about that. Let`s take a pause here. When we come back, we will talk a little bit. There is a loyal opposition party. They have to figure out who is their leader. We are going to find out if Nancy Pelosi is still one of the leaders tomorrow or will Tim Ryan pull the upset. He claims he is within striking distance. Stay tuned.


TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m way more obsessed than usual. In fact, there`s an issue that quite literally is keeping me up at night. I don`t usually like naval gazing about the press. I don`t feel sorry for us ever. But we in the media are facing a challenge unlike any before.

It used to be we believed presidents when they talked, we believed they had facts to back up their statements. Lying got them in trouble, got one president impeached, it forced another to resign.

So what do you do when the president-elect is willing to spread falsehoods like the charge that voter fraud caused him the popular vote and claims how the media is covering this up? What do you do when he thinks any unflattering coverage is by definition unfair?

What do you do when he tells top national reporters that half of them are blatantly dishonest at the job that they do and he does it to them in their face? What do you do when millions choose to believe face news stories simply because they like what they hear and the candidate they like re- tweets those stories?

What do you do when half the country believes one set of facts and the other half believes another set of something? In short, what do you do when millions simply don`t want to believe the media anymore and now have a candidate or a president that will encourage them not to that?

Here is one answer. We are going to keep working on what we do. We are going to try to distinguish real from fake, fact from fiction, news from propaganda. We will always going to be fair. We have always been fair. Here`s something we won`t do. Somehow balance facts. We will see you in a minute.


TODD: Time for The Lid. House democrats pick their leader tomorrow morning. Nancy Pelosi who has led house democrats for the past 13 years is facing a challenge from Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan.

Ryan said he is within striking distance after spending the Thanksgiving holiday talking with caucus members and their spouses. Here`s what Ryan told my colleague Kasie Hunt early this afternoon.


TIM RYAN, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FOR OHIO`S 13TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: I think Nancy Pelosi understands what the needs are. But our focus has not been on those needs all the time. And that needs to be the heart and soul of our message.

How can we help working class people, whether they`re white, black, brown, male, female? How do we help working class people get ahead? Because that`s the one issue that really ties all these little demographic groups together.


TODD: The panel is back. Maria Teresa Kumar, Molly Ball, Robert Traynham. Maria, let me start with you. First of all, why do we think only Tim Ryan is challenging her? There is part of me that has been wondering, you know, as he points out, this is now four cycles in a row where house democrats are essentially getting their you-know-whats handed.

KUMAR: I think that`s one of the reasons, he`s trying to elevate his name. And frankly, if you look at the history of Nancy Pelosi, this is not the way she wants to go out. She does not want to lose an election after being the first woman speaker. I think that`s.

TODD: I think that has been her rationalization though every two years.

KUMAR: Right, but I think that`s the challenge. Because everybody is intimidated and fearful of her, because she has -- she wields enormous power, not just on the hill, but also off, when it comes to fund raising and that sort of things. And she brings the war chest. So for someone to come in and challenge her, it`s a junior guy who basically says, I will get it one day.

TODD: He`s making the case against identity politics to a conference that I believe is majority/minority.

BALL: Well, look, there`s a lot of loyalty to Nancy Pelosi on the surface. There`s a lot of grumbling behind the scenes as well. I think there are a lot of democratic members who are deeply frustrated with being in the minority, deeply frustrated with how the election turned out. And deeply frustrated that she`s making them stay loyal to her, right?

TODD: Her and, you know, all over the age of 70, no offense, but, it has frustrated a bunch of juniors.

KUMAR: That`s the thing. The uprising is actually coming from a lot of the juniors coming in.

TODD: No. And Tim Ryan wouldn`t have done this if he didn`t have enough support.

KUMAR: Right.

TRAYNHAM: Well, interesting about this is there`s no vision. Where is the democratic party going? What do we stand for? What do they stand for? A lot of young people don`t exactly know what that message is and who is this spokesperson.

KUMAR: You`re talking about the generational divide we saw, even with Bernie Sanders.


TODD: He is making her case about tactics and he is making it about.


TODD: Right. Now, the problem is house members do think tactically, right? KUMAR: Of course.

TODD: They think -- but you`re right. What is her vision to win back the house?

KUMAR: And they have two years, right? They have two years basically for this person, Tim Ryan, to come and organize.

TRAYNHAM: And an establishment person from San Francisco that`s been in the congress since, what, the mid-80s, should that be the spokesperson to bring the democrats back to power in 2018? And if you take a look at the map, it`s really, really difficult.

TODD: But the argument is, Tim Ryan does not look like the 21st century democratic party. And should that matter?

TRAYNHAM: Yes and no. But the good thing about it, he comes from Ohio. He seems like he`s a little bit more of a populist. And it seems like he does have a little bit more of a following. KUMAR: This is the challenge. This is the challenge for the democratic party and progressive politics, oftentimes, is that they go from election to election, instead of learning historically what happens. So they`ll start to pivot and say, now we need to focus on one.

And it`s interesting that you actually have to make sure that you are talking to all constituencies all of the time. So just because he`s Ohio -- well, it doesn`t reflect the larger patchwork.

TRAYNHAM: But it does speak to that rust belt -- right.

BALL: But the house minority leader is not going to be the face of the new democratic party. I mean, this is only going to get harder and worse for the democrats once they`re out of the White House. And there is no national leader for the party. There`s a fight for the DNC chair.

There`s, you know, a new minority leader in the senate. There`s going to be a new -- probably won`t be a new minority leader in the house. But the leaderlessness of the democratic party is a much bigger issue than that. And I think if Pelosi has an advantage, it`s that the house democrats know that fixing that is not going to fix the house.

TODD: I was just going to say, the DNC chair races, we`re probably going to see more flexing, I think, about -- I`ve talked to plenty of Latino democrats that are like, Latinos were the one constituency group that delivered for her. No other constituency group can claim that. And by gosh, Latinos should have a larger voice.

KUMAR: And by 2020, you`re going to have close to 6 more million Latino eligible voters. And in less than 17 years, you`re going to have literally -- by 2030, you`re going to have 17 million more Latino voters. So it`s the only constituency that`s constantly growing, at a quick.

TRAYNHAM: But the question is, who is on the democratic bench that speaks to that in 2018 and in 2020 and beyond?

TODD: Xavier Becerra was challenging Nancy Pelosi, and I`m not saying that would happen, he`s loyal to her.

BALL: Incredibly loyal.

TODD: But Becerra would probably win in a walk, right?

BALL: Yes. TODD: There`s a desperate -- there is this desperation for change. And he would start with a block at the CHC, right?

BALL: Right. There is desperation for change. But no one is stepping up to address it. And that is true in the house and I think it`s true for the party generally.

TODD: So a New Yorker and a Californian are going to be the leaders of the democrats in the house and the senate.

TRAYNHAM: Deja vu all over again.

TODD: And the democrats are a coastal party. There you go. All right. You guys were a terrific panel. Appreciate it. Maria, Molly, and Robert. We`ll get you an "M" name.


TODD: The unpopular stat that`s still dogging the president-elect. Stay tuned.


TODD: In case you missed it, president-elect Donald Trump is not happy that he lost the popular vote. And this stat is probably not going to make him feel any better. According to the Cook political report, Hillary Clinton`s popular vote lead is now up to 2.3 million votes, but get this, Trump`s percentage of the popular vote has now dropped to 46.4 percent.

So even with rounding, he isn`t going to get above 46. Since 1900, only three other presidents have won the White House with a smaller percentage of the popular vote. Woodrow Wilson in 1912, Richard Nixon in 1968, and Bill Clinton in 1992.

And each of those outcomes have an asterisk. The big difference between those three elections and this one? The third party vote. 1912, third party candidate Teddy Roosevelt, he of the bull moose party then, got 27 percent of the vote! He technically finished second.

Taft, the incumbent president, wound up third in the popular vote. In `68, George Wallace got more than 13 percent of the popular vote. Did really well in parts of the south. Ross Perot got 19 percent of the vote back in 1992.

But this year, the third party candidates combined, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, only got north of just north of 5 percent of the vote. So what more in all of these cases by the way Wilson, Nixon, and Clinton.