MTP Daily, Transcript 12/7/2016

Guests: Karine Jean-Pierre, Brad Todd, Cedric Richmond, Joni Ernst

Show: MTP DAILY Date: December 7, 2016 Guest: Karine Jean-Pierre, Brad Todd, Cedric Richmond, Joni Ernst

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it Wednesday.

Donald Trump pushes the envelope of power. How far can he go?

(voice-over): Tonight, how Donald Trump is testing the limits of his new powers. Plus, surprise selections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: First Flynn, then Mattis, now Trump adds a third general to his roster. And remembering the attack on Pearl Harbor, 75 years ago today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: The deadly day that pushed America into World War II and on top of the leadership of the world. This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

(on camera): Good evening and welcome to MTP DAILY. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington.

We do, of course, have a lot of politics to get to tonight. And we`re going to get to that in just a minute. But we begin with a look at the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. It`s been 75 years to the day since the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor which killed more than 2,400 Americans. Half of them were aboard the USS Arizona. Pearl Harbor is the final resting place for hundreds of those sailors and Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country that day. If you haven`t been there, it`s an eerie sight. It`s really, perhaps, our only living war memorial, if you will. You see the oil rise as the battle ship rests at the bottom at the water surface. And the oil leak up top makes it feel as if you see the Arizona still alive today. Ceremonies are taking place today in Hawaii and here in Washington, D.C. at the World War II memorial and across the country to honor the men and women. NBC`s Tom Brokaw, of course, has coined these folks the greatest generation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To America`s World War II patriots here and watching at home, we will never forget your courage under considerable fire and seemingly insurmountable odds.

We remember your lost shipmates. We salute your sacrifice and that of your families.

December 7, 1941 is one of the dates on which history swing on its great hinge and the world was forever changed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: If you have a family member who is a member of this greatest generation, cherish this time and cherish this day with them today.

We`ll have more from those ceremonies throughout the show, by the way, as we continue to remember this historic day in American history. Including - - and in case you missed it, but we`d like you won`t want to miss as well.

Let`s turn back to politics and what`s going on now here in Washington. President-elect Donald Trump, I believe, is testing the limits of his newfound power. In recent days, we`ve seen Trump push the envelope with big corporations, with foreign power houses, with members of his party, even with his own base. And you know Trump is paying attention to the reactions to his tests, because he does seem to be testing for soft spots. Think of that bayonet holder, poking the wall. Poking to see where there`s softness. It`s almost as if he`s saying to himself, what happens if I tweet this about Boeing or that about China? What if I continue to publicly reject U.S. intelligence about Russian hacking? How will Paul Ryan react if I threaten massive tariffs on U.S. companies? Is my base going to care that I`m embracing Obama a little bit right now or what about embracing Romney? And how will the public handle an oil CEO as secretary of state, what about a wrestling magnet in the cabinet? Folks, the answers to those questions now may establish the boundaries for everything Trump touches as president. How he runs the economy, how he runs the cabinet, how he battles China, how he handles the press, how he steers the base or how it steers him. And how he reacts when things don`t go his way. And my colleague, Chris Matthews, is as fond of saying about Trump, Trump has some of the best ears in politics. So, you can bet he is listening when, for instance, China`s state media threatens retaliation over his tweets. Could that be why, just today, Trump named a good friend of the Chinese government and the Chinese president, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, as his ambassador to China. A little good cop, bad cop? And you can bet he`s listening when Matt Lauer asks him if his criticism of Boeing is revenge for something their CEO said? Trump said it isn`t. [17:05:02] And "The Washington Post" is reporting he`s taking more shots at Boeing today while talking to donors. And you can bet he`s listening when Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy rejected the idea of a tax war with companies that lead the United States. The big question is, when Trump pushes the envelope, who or how do others push back? Let`s dive into that question right now with tonight`s (INAUDIBLE) Republican strategist Brad Todd, and MoveOn.org`s Karine Jean-Pierre, and NBC senior politics editor, Mark Murray. Mark, I`ll start with you. It is -- it`s been interesting to watch him on these things. And I could have thrown the press in there. You know, we`ve certainly -- but he`s had sit-downs, both on the record and off the record. And he`s -- it`s almost as if he`s trying to establish his boundaries while others that are working with him are trying to figure out, OK, they`re letting him establish boundaries, to a point.

MARK MURRAY, SENIOR POLITICS EDITOR, NBC NEWS: Right. I think two things are very true right now, Chuck. One is when he is tweeting about Boeing and when he`s tweeting about good companies, he`s actually trying to say, who is in charge right now? And actually kind of a power play. You`re good to me, I`m going to be good to you. You`re not good to me, I`m not going to be good to you.

The other characteristic, I think, is the uncertainty factor. And that uncertainty really did benefit him during the campaign, where, at least on policy, it was hard to keep track of where was he or what was he doing? And even, as you just mentioned, even on climate change. On the one hand, you end up having Al Gore going to Trump Tower. On the other hand, you have his new pick to head the EPA. TODD: Right.

MURRAY: So, that uncertainty exists. And I think those are the two constants of power and uncertainty that we`re seeing right now.

TODD: The whiplash for some on Obama has got to be interesting. Let me play a little bit of what president-elect said about today about President Obama. And that`ll be followed by a mash up of how he campaigned against Obama. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have now gotten to know President Obama. I really like him. We have a really good chemistry together. We talk. He loves the country. He wants to do right by the country and for the country. And I must tell you, you know, I had never met him before this and I never spoke to him before this. I really -- I do like him. I love getting his ideas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Barack Obama has been the worst president ever.

You know, some people say that was not his birth certificate. I`m saying, I don`t know. Nobody knows. And you don`t know either, Jonathan. You`re a smart guy. You don`t know either.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Can you imagine supporting or being comfortable if a Muslim ever became president if the United States?

TRUMP: Some people said it already happened, frankly. But, of course, you wouldn`t agree with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it`s appropriate to call the sitting president of the United States the founder of a terrorist organization that wants to kill Americans?

TRUMP: He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: So, the whiplash on Obama.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON, MOVEON.ORG: The whiplash, indeed. Look, I think it goes to Donald Trump being a showman, a competitor. And that`s how he saw these last -- you know, this last year.

But then, you know, for me, for people like me who saw him as, you know, attacking Obama and disqualify him by saying, hey, you`re saying that our first --

TODD: Now he respects him.

JEAN-PIERRE: Now he respects him. But I really do believe that it is the competitor inside of him. It is me -- it is him saying, hey, that was -- oh, that didn`t matter. We`re all good now. You know, I actually like you.

TODD: And so, even -- one thing that, what you`re saying there, ends justify the means. I think that`s, ultimately, the best way to describe him, Brad. He`s an end justifies the means kind of guy on a whole slew of issues.

BRAD TODD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He is. And as I said on the show in August`s interview.

TODD: You did. Nobody`s given you enough credit here. I guess, do you want the credit?

BRAD TODD: You`ve got to take Trump seriously and not always take him literally.

TODD: Yes. BRAD TODD: He sells condos. He`s got to get a condo building out of the ground and the sales pitch is going to vary from time to time. He`s going to be judged on the results. And I think that does get to your point about it being ends to justify the means. Can I get this condo tower out of the ground?

TODD: You know, but look at what Boeing -- how Boeing`s CEO responded. Well, you can`t always take his tweets as policy.

So, if that`s the word that`s going out and people start seeing that, well doesn`t that, over time, weaken his ability to use?

MURRAY: Yes. And I also think now is the glowing part of the president- elect phase. I mean, this is as good as it almost gets for someone before you even have to govern.

And, Chuck, he is testing a lot of these boundaries. But the question is, what ends up happening when the going gets tough? And, certainly, a lot of the unpredictability when you get to the office. You`re talking about the B.P. oil spill, Ebola in 2014, those types of story lines. And do people end up, really, kind of acquiescing?

TODD: By the way, it wasn`t the Boeing CEO who said that. It was another air space. But that was what they`ve advised their clients. Don`t take it all as policy.

JEAN-PIERRE: I was just going to say, he uses Twitter for grand proclamations, right? He gets on Twitter and says, hey, I`m saving 1,100 jobs. And then, days later, it takes a while for the real story to come out. And then, we found out, OK, you save 730 jobs but 1,300 jobs are going to Mexico.

TODD: And, meanwhile, he suckered all of us into --

[17:10:02] JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly. TODD: -- this fight over here. And his supporters are going, oh, you people in the media, you`re such knit picks.

BRAD TODD: One thing we`re missing here, though, this is the most independent president we`ve ever elected. He owes fewer people. And they`re -- corporate American wasn`t with him. They weren`t with him in the primary. They weren`t with him --

TODD: Not a single fortune -- what is it? Not a single Fortune 100 CEOs supported Donald Trump. The first a Republican nominee hadn`t had that in probably -- BRAD TODD: He has a lot more independence and he also is very aware that his coalition is conservatives and populists fused together. And he`s going to play to both those coalitions. You know, you -- we don`t see presidents in this era much who have more than one strong element in their coalition. He does.

TODD: And the question is going to be, though, then is how do these folks push back?

BRAD: So, Chuck -- TODD: And, you know, there`s different ways. Carrier capitulate, to a point. China doesn`t -- they don`t do that. They want to stand tall here. That`s what`s going to be interesting to me is how do people respond to him? What`s worked? MURRAY: Well -- so, I think what`s actually worked is that you end up knowing what he -- what really pushes his buttons. And so, for example, what I actually think Pakistan, for example, in that readout that we ended up hearing about last week, boy, that really worked for them.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. MURRAY: They congratulated him and they were able to accomplish their goals -- TODD: And he didn`t -- MURRAY: in India. TODD: -- and he didn`t correct them. MURRAY: No. TODD: He let them do that on that one. China and Taiwan, he chose to engage. That was a different decision.

BRAD TODD: Well, you know, two things work in foreign affairs, currency and consistency, for the United States. He`s going to have strength in spades. He`s going to have to have discipline to have consistency.

And so, the question is, can he learn enough consistency to marry it to strength? If he does, he`ll have a very successful foreign policy.

TODD: You know, his theory, I think on China, is that there has been too much care for China.

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes.

TODD: He believes they need more stick. And if you`re going to get him to work on North Korea -- so, it looks like his approach, people familiar with his thinking he wants to stick them for a little while and see how they respond.

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, look, I would not want to be the -- a new ambassador to China right now. Because that`s --

TODD: It`s going to be a tough job for Terry Branstad. JEAN-PIERRE: It`s going to be a tough job, exactly. Because while he`s trying to execute diplomacy, China`s going to be looking at his Twitter feed, Donald Trump`s Twitter feed, trying to figure out, what is he saying? And so, it is going to be tricky and a problem. But the thing about Donald Trump, he`s so unpredictable right now.

TODD: And there -- you can see how this can be effective and you can see how this could blow up and you could see how both things are likely to happen sometimes in the same week.

BRAD TODD: You know, I think we`re going to have to learn how to translate literally and seriously into mandarin. It is.

And I think there will be a new rhythm established with Trump and foreign leaders. TODD: I do, too. BRAD TODD: They`re going to understand that the back-channel communications is what counts and that they -- and they -- but they`ll have to realize there`s politics.

TODD: And we can learn one thing, it depends on your personal relationship with him. Sure and simple.

So, by the way, this side show about the secretary of state, it`s going to matter what your relationship is looking at it. All right, guys, you`re sticking around. Coming up, Democratic leaders presenting a united front to oppose President-elect Trump today. I`ll get reaction from one of the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman Cedric Richmond. And as we go to break, as we promised you at the top of the show on this anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The current commander of U.S. Pacific Command reflects on the sacrifice that was made 75 years ago today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. HARRY HARRIS, JR., COMMANDER, U.S. PACIFIC COMMAND: It was a day of gallantry and unquestionable heroism. Even as it was a day of sacrifice and immeasurable loss. For those who gave their last full measure of devotion for their nation that day, we feel a deep sense of sorrow. Yet, we`re also inspired by their great gift to the world, the gift of freedom itself. [17:15:38] (END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: Welcome back. As Vice President Joe Biden might say, this isn`t a bunch of malarkey. It was a big bleeping deal on the Senate floor today with Biden in chair presiding Senators on both sides of the aisle joined together to pay tribute to the president of the Senate, the vice president who spent 36 years as a U.S. Senator. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: The greatest honor of my life is serve in the seat that you held for 36 years. And not just literally this seat in the Senate, but also a seat on the 715 Amtrak train down from Wilmington every morning. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (D), KENTUCKY: I don`t always agree with him, but I do trust him, implicitly. He doesn`t break his word. He doesn`t waste time telling me why I`m wrong. He gets down to brass tacks. And he keeps in sight the stakes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, in Joe`s heart, with all his accomplishments, he`s still a Senator, our Senator. SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I just want Joe Biden to know that we all respect him. And I think most all of us love him. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: Welcome back. Democrats are gearing up for their first battles against Trump. And, today, you saw the House and Senate Democrats join together for what they call a hands-off Medicare event.

Trump, himself, had said he wouldn`t touch Medicare during the campaign. But Democrats are arguing his nomination of Congressman Tom Price as head of HHS does not bode well for that promise. Democrats who haven`t been totally in the minority in a decade, no House, no Senate, no White House, say they`re ready to go to war when it comes to Medicare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: Mr. Trump, we are going to hold you accountable. You said you would not cut Social Security. You would not cut Medicare. You would not cut Medicaid. You know what? Millions of us are going to demand that you keep your promise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: The Democrats plan to deliver over a million signatures from citizens that are demanding no changes to Medicare. (INAUDIBLE) House leader, speaker of the House Paul Ryan and majority leader McConnell. Joining me now is Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana who was just elected himself, by the way. The new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. He was the youngest person to chair the CBC in 31 years. Congressman Richmond, welcome to the show, sir. REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), LOUISIANA: Well, thank you for having me. TODD: Let me start with just Medicare. It`s clear that the party wants to be a united voice on this, on Medicare. Donald Trump, the candidate, sounded more like a Democrat when it came to Medicare and Social Security than Paul Ryan, for instance. Is this a goal -- is this an attempt to drive a wedge between Ryan and Trump? RICHMOND: No. Actually, we don`t care about the relationship Ryan and Trump. We care about the millions of people that rely on Medicare on a daily basis. And that is one of the things that we put down as our litmus (ph) test, in terms of fairness and in terms of responsibility.

And Trump, the candidate, is different than Trump, the president-elect, who is nominating people who I think are inconsistent with our desire to protect the Medicare guarantee.

TODD: It goes to this larger question here that I know some Democratic activists are struggling with but Democratic lawmakers are not.

[17:20:06] I have not interviewed a Democratic lawmaker that hasn`t said they`re willing to work with a president Trump wherever is necessary. But there are a lot of Democratic activists, that I guess you hear from, that say, don`t work with him at all. What do you tell those activists that don`t want Democrats to work with Trump at all? What do you tell them why their wrong about that? RICHMOND: Well, look, I think for the activists, it`s they are taking Trump at his word. All the things that he said he wanted to do. They believe him. And for those young activists that are out in the streets, it`s driven out of fear and unknown. Now, as policy makers, I think we have a responsibility to govern the best we can with the hand that we`re dealt. Now, that doesn`t mean we`re going to be running over to president Trump anytime soon to do anything.

I think our first line of action is to make sure that we protect those things that we believe in, equality, anti-discrimination, economic opportunity, public education, all of those things. Fair housing. All of those things are very important to us. And as we look at his nominees that he has -- that he is putting forward, they`re really contradictory to our values. So, if you`re asking me where -- immediately, do I see room for us to work together on something? I don`t necessarily see it. And I have not seen his outreach to offer any areas where we can work together. So, we`re preparing to fight. And we`re going to fight from day one because we just don`t have room for error. And the people that we represent are far too vulnerable.

TODD: Let me ask you about the leadership inside the Democratic Party. It`s interesting to me that House Democrats, at a whole -- as a whole, did not change leadership, did not move in a -- look for a new generation of leaders. The congressional black caucus did.

You`re the youngest head of the CBC, as I noted in three decades. Even as the CBC is technically getting older, collectively on average age, why do you think two different messages were sent? It seems as if African- American members of Congress said, you know what? We need to reach to a new generation of leaders. It`s time to make way. Why wasn`t that heard to all of House Democrats?

RICHMOND: Well, I think it was heard by House Democrats. If you look at our entire leadership team, it has been broadened. And we`ve added very capable young members, like Hakeem Jeffries, to the fold, and others, who I think they can speak to younger generations in a language that they can understand and understand their priorities.

Just because we didn`t change the top three, doesn`t mean that we didn`t have a large amount of change within our body.

I think Tim Ryan, who ran for leader, did a great job of guiding the conversation about where we need to go in the future. And I think that leader Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn received it. And they are embracing the younger generation to come in and help shape our leadership team.

TODD: Let me talk about the election at second place inside our campaign 2016. If you miss it, a message to 49 other states, you can come down to go to your home state of Louisiana and go experience the last race of 2016, the U.S. Senate race there. The Democrat is Foster Campbell.

You know, you put out a statement, essentially yesterday, welcoming President-elect Trump to campaign in the state. He`s going to campaign in the state. He`s going to campaign on behalf of Republican John Kennedy. But making the case that he`s a better fit with Trump, ideologically on some issues, than Kennedy is. What`s your message to Democrats when it comes to this uphill battle in Louisiana?

RICHMOND: Well, look, for Democrats, we`re not -- we don`t always take the easy road. And the things we fight for are life and death issues. And the things we fight for, when you start talking about equality and anti- discrimination, those are things that people have died for before. So, we`re going to -- we`re going to fight. We`re going to continue to fight. I urge everyone to come to Louisiana.

We have a candidate who did a commercial, talking about he`s going to bringing jobs back and he showed a cotton field. Those types of messages that we`re still sending, in this day and age, I think that the country should stand up and fight against. And Foster Campbell has a proven track record of fighting for the little man, fighting for working people. And I think he would be a great senator.

TODD: It sounds like you think John Kennedy has run a race-based campaign?

RICHMOND: Well, I think he was pandering on his last commercial and a lot of his ads, whether it`s his consultants or him, border line on flat out racist images or wording in his commercials.

TODD: One final question. What do you think -- what do you say to Democrats that say, you know what? Can`t win in the south anymore. Can`t win state wide in the south without the Republican Party having a scandal or having some major splint -- split like what happened in the Louisiana governor`s race last year?

RICHMOND: Well, if you recall the Louisiana governor`s race, our governor ran on expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage and all those other popular issues. It`s just that he took them to the people and talked to people in a language that they can understand.

[17:25:09] We can`t govern and campaign with just slogans. We have to talk to people about what`s important to them. And that`s things people are talking about at the dinner table. How to pay the mortgage. How to get the kids in a better school, whether it`s private school or public school. Whether they can afford a bigger house. Whether they can save for retirement. Whether they can take a vacation.

And until we start talking about the issues that people talk about every night when they`re at the dinner people, we`re going to keep losing. And I think that that`s the biggest thing that came out of this election. And I don`t think it`s just the rust belt. I don`t think it`s just a problem with white males. I think it`s a problem with every person in the country that receives a paycheck. They`re not happy and they want us to focus on their upward mobility. And that, I think, we lost the message on economics.

TODD: All right. Senator Richmond, Democrat from Louisiana, the new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Thanks for joining the show, appreciate it.

RICHMOND: Thanks. TODD: Congratulations on your election, by the way.

RICHMOND: OK.

TODD: Up next, at the campaign, he claims that he was smarter than most of the generals. Donald Trump has added a third military man to his roster of appointees. Senator Joni Ernst will join me to discuss what`s behind Trump`s apparent change of heart. Meanwhile, on this 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Senator John McCain were among those who marked the day here in Washington, D.C. Senator McCain praised the lasting achievement of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: That we were defeated by our enemy for a moment does not diminish the mobility of the sacrifices made by Americans that day for the sake of duty, honor and country. Neither does it obscure the magnitude of their real achievement. They fought the first battle and set the first example in the long campaign of America`s enlightened leadership of the free world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back to MTP Daily. Donald Trump is still enjoying keeping everyone guessing about who will be his next secretary of state, but he did name four more people to his team today.

In just the last hour, the transition announced wrestling mogul Linda McMahon will serve as the administrator of the Small Business Administration, SBA. McMahon is the co-founder and former CEO of the WWE, also the largest outside donor to the Trump Foundation.

This afternoon, NBC News also confirmed Trump`s pick to lead the EPA. It`s Oklahoma`s attorney general Scott Pruitt who is currently by the way suing the EPA or at least on behalf of the state over emissions rules.

Pruitt doesn`t have any obvious experience or qualifications for the EPA job but he is a close friend and longtime recipient of donations from the oil and gas industry and Oklahoma obviously a friendly oil and gas state.

This morning, Trump announced that the longest serving governor in the country in American history, by the way, Iowa governor Terry Branstad, will be his ambassador to China. As we mentioned, Branstad is a longtime friend of the current Chinese president. He has traveled to China four times in the last seven years. The current Chinese president spent sometime in Iowa.

According to Iowa state law, by the way, the lieutenant governor will become the governor until the next election and will serve out the remainder of the term. So there is no special. By the way, the new governor of Iowa assuming that Governor Branstad is confirmed will be Kim Reynolds, the state`s first ever woman governor.

And finally today, Trump named another general to his cabinet, retired marine general John Kelly is his pick for secretary of homeland security. Kelly is a four-star general who lost a son in combat in Afghanistan in 2010. He led U.S. southern command which oversees military activity in south and central America.

But, how many generals is too many? That`s a question we will get into in just a moment. First, here`s Hampton Pearson with CNBC Market Wrap.

HAMPTON PEARSON, REPORTER, CNBC: Thanks, Chuck. A mid-week rally for stocks. The Dow surges 297 points to its 12th record close since election day. The S&P jumps 29, also hitting a new high. The Nasdaq climbs by 60 points.

Costco shares are lower after-hours. The wholesale retailer profit fell short of estimates. Revenue also miss targets. Job openings fell slightly in October after hitting an all time high earlier this year. Openings were down nearly 2 percent to 5.5 million. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Welcome back. As we mentioned, Donald Trump named yet another general to his team today. Retired marine general John Kelly has been picked to lead DHS. Kelly is the third highest ranking former military leader to officially join Trump`s team after retired lieutenant general Mile Flynn and retired general James Mattis.

And don`t forget retired general David Petraeus is one of the names Trump has floated for secretary of state. And Trump picking all those generals is sort of surprising given what Trump said about some of the military brass during the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Who do you talk to for military advice right now?

TRUMP: Well, I watch shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great -- you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows.

Our military is a disaster.

I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.

I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it`s embarrassing for our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Folks, it has been accepted fact for a long time that military service is the best asset in politics when you run for office but there is such thing as too much military might in one executive branch.

Joining me now is Iowa senator Joni Ernst herself, a retired member of the military and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and by the way Homeland Security as well. So, we will talk to you about both of those. Senator Ernst, welcome to the show.

SEN. JONI ERNST (R), IOWA: Thank you very much, Chuck.

TODD: So I ask you this. What is -- explain the importance of what you believe is the civilian military split that we cherish in this country and what is your -- when do you think he is walking up to the line on that and where don`t you? Where are you in this?

ERNST: Well, one thing I would point out is that to everyone he has mentioned as nominees, they are civilians. So they were civilians. They have served honorably in the United States military. We see a number of members coming forward.

And they have great management skills and they are very well respected by their peers, their colleagues. And I think it`s brilliant on his part, on Mr. Trump`s part to look at these fine gentlemen for leadership positions in the federal government. So they are civilians. We have to keep that in mind. Looking at General Mattis.

TODD: Right.

ERNST: . for secretary of defense, he is a civilian. He has been out for a number of years now.

TODD: Three years.

ERNST: A number of years. So three years.

TODD: We made seven the buffer before. Why do you think we made seven the buffer, why aren`t comfortable with three?

ERNST: I don`t know why seven was a magic number. I think that was the compromise between the senate and the house many years ago. But what is the right number?

I think we have to look case by case example and what does that person bring to the equation? I think it`s our job as congress to do the vetting process and make sure it`s the right person for the right job. TODD: Let`s talk about General Kelly. You, on Homeland Security, I want to go to that first. Immediate reaction to the pick?

ERNST: I think that General Kelly is a very wise selection for Mr. Trump. He served as south commander and has a lot of wonderful experience in protecting our homeland. So he is bringing some really great people into the administration and I think that General Kelly will do a phenomenal job.

TODD: What`s interesting about this pick is it`s the least partisan Homeland Security Department that we had. I say partisan leader before we had former elected officials or people that served in -- traditionally Jeh Johnson with democrats or Michael Chertoff with republicans.

This is almost an apolitical appointment when it comes to homeland. Shouldn`t this be always the way it is with homeland, with the HS, that it should almost always be somebody totally removed from politics?

ERNST: Well, I think so. I think this is all about protecting our citizens here on the homeland. And that`s exactly what General Kelly is bringing to this position. He really does cherish America, cherish its citizens, and he has had that perspective of working to protect our homeland whether it`s from drug trafficking or otherwise in his position from south com.

So I think he is a very wise selection. I think he is someone both republicans and democrats will agree will do a fine job. Again, we do have to vet them very carefully and I look forward to sitting down with General Kelly.

TODD: You are not ready to commit yet, right? You feel as if wait until you spent some time and wait until the hearings.

ERNST: Yes, I would typically say that of every nominee that we see coming forward. I would much rather sit down in a setting where we can discuss some of those issues. What are their personal feelings? What are their feelings in this position? And what do they bring to the aspect of that seat? What qualification do they have?

TODD: One of the things that this person may or may not have to do with has to do with some executive orders that a president Trump may rescind or not rescind the president Obama, one has to do with DACA, the so-called dreamers, undocumented immigrants of this country when they were kids.

Senator Lindsey Graham has a bill to sort of protect them if the executive order gets rescinded. Number one, do you want the executive order rescinded and were you on Lindsey Graham`s bill?

ERNST: Well, I have made it clear even through my campaign when it came to DACA that these children that were brought here by their parents, they didn`t have a say in that. For many of them, this is the only home they have truly ever known.

TODD: You would like to see President Trump keep that executive order?

ERNST: I think that certain part of it with the original -- those they call -- the first scenario.

TODD: Right.

ERNST: The expansion of that that President Obama did, I am not fond of. No, I am not.

TODD: If he rolled back that one and kept the other one, that would be acceptable to you?

ERNST: I -- I would be accepting of that, absolutely. Because again, they are great young men and women in our country. And I would say that they are probably -- many of them that don`t fully realize they are not United States citizens.

TODD: Two more questions. One has to do with the ad that sort of put you -- made you a national name for a lot of us. It had to do with cutting spending. Let`s just say you were cutting other things. But it was clear. You`re gonna cut. Donald Trump today said something interesting in the interview with Time. He said -- he was talking about the idea of deficit spending. He said, well, sometimes you have to prime the pump.

So sometimes in order to get jobs going and the country going because, look, we are 1 percent growth -- the hint being he is on the deficit spending. This could be something that I feel like there gonna be a lot of conservatives like yourself that are, wait a minute, we got here because we ran on some fiscal conservative policies. Where are you on this? ERNST: Exactly. I think we need to manage our budget and spending very carefully. And I don`t like the idea of deficit spending. Moving forward, we go to take a serious look at this. How much is too much? We are already $20 trillion in debt and growing everyday.

So I would encourage Mr. Trump to slow down a bit on that. There are ways that we can look at our federal government and find areas of waste and abuse that we can get rid of. I think that his intentions moving forward with infrastructure --I think that is very important. But I think we need to look at ways we can say it.

TODD: Are you going to support anything that is not paid for?

ERNST: That`s a good question. We are going to have to look at it. I would -- you now, I do want to look at it carefully. I don`t want a deficit spend. I don`t like doing that. But I think the best way we can overcome this is to simply grown our economy.

TODD: And final question, your governor has been nominated the ambassador to China, long ties with the president of China. Tell me something about Kim Reynolds. Did you expect her to run for a full term?

ERNST: I do expect Kim Reynolds to run for a full term.

TODD: Do you encourage it?

ERNST: I am encouraging her, absolutely.

TODD: You`re not gonna be running for governor?

ERNST: I will not be running for governor, but I do admire Kim Reynolds very much. I am thrilled that she will be our first female governor ever of the State of Iowa. She brings a lot of talent and energy and compassion into that seat.

TODD: All right. Joni Ernst. I will leave it there. You were the first woman elected from Iowa as governor or senate. Now, Kim Reynolds as first woman governor.

ERNST: Absolutely. Thank you.

TODD: Thanks for coming. Thanks for sharing your views.

ERNST: My pleasure.

TODD: Up ahead in The Lid, what Donald Trump says he is doing to avoid some conflicts of interest. As we head to break, survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack reflect on the word hero.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not the heroes. They are the heroes. They gave their life for the United States. Everybody should remember that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who will serve in our country at that time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not exactly a hero because there were thousands of other heroes too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Tonight, I`m obsessed with empty promises, specifically the ones that a party out of power makes when it wants to be the party in power and then quickly breaks once they are actually in power. We see it all the time. Both sides of the aisle. I`ll give you two examples on each side of the aisle.

Republicans promised regular order if they took control of congress. They typically means you don`t attach a completely unrelated writer over a presidential appointment into a must pass government spending bill over an issue that the next congress should really be dealing with. That`s exactly what they have done to help get retired general James Mattis confirmed. It doesn`t exactly sound like regular order now does it?

But folks, we see this kind of monkey business all the time, despite a constant flood of promises that it won`t happen. When republicans were in the minority, Mitch McConnell promised that (inaudible) would become their number one priority. When they won the majority, that promise quickly south.

And it`s not just the republican party right now. When Harry Reid ran, the minority for democrats, he was furious when republicans talked about the nuclear options and make confirming presidential appointments easier for the party in power. Well then Reid invoked that said nuclear option when he was in the majority.

And now democrats are back in the minority and a bunch of them are unhappy about this change that they all reluctantly voted for because some of them never wanted to do it in the first place and they were really not fond to that nuclear option anymore.

Here`s the point. You want the press to hold everyone to the same standard, hold yourself to the same standard. No wonder we can`t break the cycle of this function and bitterness in Capitol Hill. How can you when both sides are stocked in a cycle of broken promises? We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: It`s time for The Lid. We showed you that Biden tribune in the senate earlier in this hour. Well, as the vice president was leaving the capitol, he told reporters, quote, I have no intention of running for president in 2020. Come on, Joe. You have ruined a good story in two days. Come on, man.

Let me bring the panel. Brad Todd, Karine Jean-Pierre, Mark Murray. Oh, well, Corinne, there went the 2020 campaign already. The Biden campaign is done. I thought what was interesting about that though in the democratic party is how everybody wanted to take it seriously. Nobody laughed at it. Which to me tells you the vast empty gap that is in the party right now. KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, SENIOR ADVISOR, NATIONAL SPOKESPERSON AT MOVEON.ORG: Yeah, and also for the DNC chair. People were really -- there were democrats who were really wanting, you know, to have Vice President Joe Biden to take that mantle. Because -- I mean, let`s be clear, he`s a very popular, popular politician that rule America. He speaks to them. I mean, the.

TODD: Sounds like you`re in.

JEAN-PIERRE: Well.

(LAUGHTER)

JEAN-PIERRE: I am a fan of Joe Biden. But I have to say, it`s just too soon. I think democrats need to really refocus figuring out what, you know, kind of looking into the mirror, figure out how they will move forward, and also how are they going to fight against Donald Trump when it`s necessary.

TODD: I was going say, we haven`t heard yet, Medicaid will be an interesting fight. What do you tell your clients because it may be going against the president?

BRAD TODD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think there will be -- Donald Trump is gonna end up working a deal with the congress on this subject.

TODD: You think he will?

TODD: Well, I think both sides are gonna not quite get everything they want, you know. I think that once you appeal Obamacare, we`ll have a little more comedy in the locker room. And I think that gonna have to be a very good basis to move forward. Clearly, we had an election where Medicare was not a big issue and we won a lot of things.

(CROSSTALK)

JEAN-PIERRE: Can I just say I was at the press conference today.

TODD: Yeah.

JEAN-PIERRE: . with leader Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Senator Sanders. And it is the fight that they are spoiling for, right? Because it wasn`t something that was on, you know, as a policy that voters voted for to privatize Medicare.

TODD: The trick for republicans is to put wins on the scoreboard. Put some wins on the scoreboard. They will feel a whole lot better about how you fuse this populism and conservatism together. If you do it right, it`s a winning formula that can work in another election. But they got some wins on the board.

TODD: It`s interesting democrats almost -- I think what Brad is trying to say is, if you`re going to do Medicare, can you wait? Democrats almost want to force the issue early.

MARK MURRAY, SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR AT NBC NEWS: Absolutely.

TODD: Is that what you think?

MURRAY: It is. I think that they want to be able to -- democrats need some wins, too. After the surprise loss. But what I`m going to find fascinating about the democrats is what do they actually decide to go off of. We mentioned Medicare.

Republicans in 2010 going after the health care law and repeated this in 2014, they used it as a Medicare attack. Republicans never used that before. Democrats said, boy, PolitiFact says that this arguments are wrong, you know.

This money that was used, the $787 billion was to actually keep up Medicare. Republicans used that into a big attack. But you never know and it will be interesting what they decide to fight on with issue.

JEAN-PIERRE: Really quickly. Democrats were successful in 2005 and 2006 when George W. Bush made privatizing social security part of his, you know, his go to. And they won after -- years later, they won the house and it was a fight that they won. So I wouldn`t be surprised that Medicare would be it.

TODD: The Medicare politics has changed. Gross overspending and debt in the Obama years made the Medicare sensitive voter aware that both sides, they have risk with both sides. They don`t either side has got Medicare as the number one priority.

TODD: I don`t want to say you won the argument on Medicare, but you didn`t lose it as badly as you used to, I would argue in 2014. Is that fair to say?

TODD: Yeah. Give you strategy credit for some of it. But a lot of it was the fact that those voters were pretty savvy and they saw the Washington overspending and president`s other priorities as a big threat to Medicare. And so it was not a partisan issue in the eyes of those voters, it`s an issue about the issue.

And so I think democrats thought that they would have that base forever. Right now, near seniors and seniors are the most reliable republican votes.

MURRAY: We`re still in the phase of the president-elect. Remember the big republican meeting where they were going to decide their strategy to go after Barack Obama didn`t happen until President Obama`s inauguration. And so there is, you know, we still have a ways to go. We still have ups and downs. And I`m gonna be fascinated what the democratic party looks like and what methods they use.

TODD: That`s right, we don`t know yet. All right. I`ll leave it there. Brad, Karine, Mark. Excellent panel. Appreciate it. After the break, the lessons we`ve learned in the decades since Pearl Harbor. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TODD: Finally tonight, in case you missed it, it`s Pearl Harbor Day. 75th anniversary of Japanese attack that brought the United States into World War II. Perhaps it has more resonance today than most years. The 20th century was by far the bloodiest in history. Upwards of 200 million people died in wars. After World War II, the U.S. moved away from the isolationism that defined us between the two wars.

There was the Marshall Plan that rebuild Europe. We defended Europe and Japan which helped them rebuild their shattered economies. In short, we made the decision that free market economic competition should replace military confrontation and competition. For decades, we Americans did very well. Then the world begin to catch up.

Increased automation at home and cheaper labor abroad has slowed our economic growth and that`s created a restless and often scared workforce that has become a soft target. For a populist economic message left and right. Ronald Reagan used to argue that freedom, democracy, and the free market would end tyranny and raise our common humanity. He wasn`t entirely right, but he wasn`t entirely wrong either.

So let`s think twice when we made line foreign governments, impose tariffs, or threaten trade wars. The system has worked pretty well for tens of millions here and across the globe over the last 75 years. Just something worth considering on this most sacred of anniversaries.

And once again, like I said, if you have a member of the greatest generational live today, spend a little time with them, ask them about today and what it means. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY. Chris Matthews pick up our coverage right now.

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