MTP Daily, Transcript 12/12/2016

Guests: David Sanger, Mo Brooks, Anna Palmer, Alfonso Aguilar, Jamal Simmons, Paul Sabin

Show: MTP DAILY Date: December 12, 2016 Guest: David Sanger, Mo Brooks, Anna Palmer, Alfonso Aguilar, Jamal Simmons, Paul Sabin

KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Congress makes a play for a Russia investigation. As President-elect Trump downplayed the intelligence support.

Tonight, the Kremlin intervention. How far did Russian election interference really go? Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are demanding answers.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: The Russians are not our friends. The Russians do not wish us well.


TUR: Plus, king Trump reacts to the backlash of the president-elect`s pick for the nation`s top diplomats.

And why this rendition tactics on climate change have many scientists on edge?

This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

Good evening, I`m Katy Tur in Washington in for Chuck Todd. Welcome to MTP DAILY.

We begin tonight with a question of intelligence. Who do you trust? The CIA, the FBI, Congress, the White House, Trump? The legitimacy of the U.S. election is on the line so you better choose wisely because, right now, it is chaos.

Administration officials have leaked a bombshell report from inside the intelligence community, including Russia tried to interference with the election to help Trump. A congressional official confirmed those reports to NBC News.

The FBI isn`t so sure though. Their conclusions are being described as fuzzy and ambiguous, according to "The Washington Post" compared to the high-confidence conclusion inside the CIA. Congress wants hearings and Trump has gone nuclear on every part of the story.

The transition says the intelligence community is a bunch of hacks. These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, they said in a statement.

And Trump tweeted today saying, unless you catch hackers in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking.

A former senior intelligence officer tells me that high confidence usually means they did just that.

Trump is also going after the folks who leaked the folks to begin with.


CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR, FOX NEWS: So, why would the CIA put out the story that the Russians wanted you to win?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I`m not sure they put it out. I think the Democrats are putting it out, because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country.


TUR: Some reacted to the news by suggesting a historic conspiracy like John Bolton is in line for a top job at the State Department, according to a source. Bolton wants to know if the White House directed the election hacks and not Russia.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: It`s not at all clear to me, just viewing this from the outside, that this hacking into the DNC and the RNC computers was not a false flag operation.

MALE: Are you actually accusing someone here in this administration of trying to -- or in the intelligence community of trying to throw something?

BOLTON: We just don`t know. But I believe that intelligence has been politicized in the Obama administration to a very significant degree.

MALE: But what would --


TUR: Today, amid a flurry of criticism, Bolton walked back those comments, sort of. Bolton says that he hasn`t concluded that the White House carried out the hacks and maybe it was a foreign government`s attempt to frame Russia.

So, what happens now? Hearings and potentially lots of them. The Senate`s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, held a press conference today. There will be probes by at least two Senate committees.

McConnell also took a few not so subtle shots at Trump.


MCCONNELL: It defies belief that somehow Republicans in the Senate are reluctant to either review Russian tactics or ignore them. I have the highest confidence in the intelligence community, and especially in the central intelligence agencies. The CIA is filled with selfless patriots, many of whom anonymously risk their lives for the American people.

The Russians are not our friends. I think we ought to approach all of these issues on the assumption that the Russians do not wish us well.


TUR: Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, today, through his support behind the House Intelligence Committee review and all of it happening as Trump draws closer to naming his secretary of state, potentially one with deep business ties to Russia.

I`m joined now by "The New York Times" national security correspondent, David Sanger, who broke the story for "The Times."

David, your reporting is facing some intense criticism from Trump and the transition, you`re not alone. The criticisms fall into three buckets so let`s go one by one, if that`s OK with you.


TUR: Criticism number one. Are your sources politically motivated as the transition is saying?

SANGER: You know, the transition has maintained that these stories, all the stories, are coming out of the former campaign of Hillary Clinton, the Democrats and all that. It`s not.

These sources, as the stories say, are reporting on what intelligence assessments have been given to Congress and to President Obama and his team. So, the sources are reporting on the conclusions of the intelligence community.

TUR: Well, in light of that, --

SANGER: One could argue -- yes?

TUR: I`m sorry.

SANGER: I said, one could argue with -- one could argue with whether or not the intelligence community is right or wrong. We`ve seen plenty of cases where the intelligence community`s assessments have been wrong or challenged. But that`s -- the assessments are what they are.

TUR: Well, it could`ve been in light of the fact that your sources are not going on the record. The transition is questioning why they won`t go on the record. So, I`ll ask it to you. Why won`t your sources put a name to their comments?

SANGER: Sure. Because they`re describing classified assessments that have been delivered to the president and the Congress and the president`s staff. And in the world of national security reporting, it`s very rare that people, in describing those kinds of documents, will ever go on the record.

I would -- I would really urge them to declassify this material because it goes so centrally to the issue of the sanctity of an American election. And my suspicion is that, eventually, some of it will get declassified once they figure out how to purge out the sources and methods from it.

And you saw -- you`ve seen that happen before. It certainly happened, for example, in the -- in the Rock WMD case that President-elect Trump has cited frequently where, eventually, we did get, within a period of months, the national intelligence assessment on Iraq and they were -- managed to delete from it, the sources and methods issues that they were so concerned about.

TUR: Well, how are your sources defending themselves today with the attacks from the transition?

SANGER: You know, I haven`t actually heard them defend themselves. I mean, they -- there is a fairly unified description among both Republicans and Democrats, and you saw more of this on Capitol Hill today, about the certainty that the intelligence community has had with the source of these hacks were Russian.

You saw a public statement on October 7th from the director of National Intelligence and from the secretary of Homeland Security, attributing the hacks to the Russians and saying that the DNC hack and some of the e-mail hacks had to have been approved at the highest levels of the Russian government.

So, that was all on the record. So, the only question here where people are talking about things that have not been made public, at this point, is a question of whether their assessment of the motive of the Russians was to try to tip the election ultimately away from Secretary Clinton and toward Donald Trump, or whether it was the old motivation that we were discussing a few weeks ago which was to nearly disrupt and undercut its validity. That was the only argument.


SANGER: They`ve been public on the question of whether -- of what the source of the hacking was.

TUR: Yes. And they`re trying to say that this is just another excuse that the Clinton team is making. The third criticism though is that they`re saying that your sources are just downright wrong. Take a listen to what the RNC chair, and now the new chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said yesterday on "MEET THE PRESS."


REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, RNC: The RNC was absolutely not hacked. I`m refuting the specific fact that was made in the article to create --


PRIEBUS: -- this entire fire storm. And the specific fact, as we`ve been told by the FBI repeatedly, including two days ago when we checked back with them about this issue, --

TODD: Right.

PRIEBUS: -- repeated the fact that the RNC was not hacked.


TUR: And they are addiment that the RNC was not hacked. So, David, what is your reaction?

SANGER: So, there are two things. First of all, when we gave them the opportunity, the night that we were running the story to comment -- they decided not to comment. I did note in the story, they previously said the same thing that the RNC was not hacked.

The question is whether or not the data that was in the RNC data bases got out and was hacked in some way. And as some other elements in that interview, I don`t think you played this part yet, Katy, indicated when the question was asked of whether or not that data could have been stored elsewhere. By a contractor or others. You didn`t hear Mr. Priebus answer that.

And I think one of the -- one of the working theories right now is that, like many groups, they send their data off to others for storage. And it was hacked. And this is very common.

I mean, if you think about the Office of Personnel Management hack a year and a half ago in which the Chinese got the 22 million security files, they weren`t actually physically in the offices of the Office of Personnel Management. They had put it off into a remote computing center run by somebody else.

But, of course, your data is your data and you`re responsible for its security. So, that may well end up being the somewhat narrow answer they`re giving and what went on here. But we`re continuing to report to try to understand the exact source of how the data got out.

TUR: Yes, it`s certainly a sensitive topic with potentially far reaching consequences.

Thank you so much, David Sanger, for joining me.

SANGER: Thank you.

TUR: I`m joined now by Republican Congressman Mill Brooks of Alabama. Thank you for joining me, Congressman.

Mitch McConnell earlier today said that the -- today that the Armed Services Committee will be investigating this. You sat on both the House Armed Services and the House Foreign Affairs Committees. Will they be investigating?

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: Well, we have been investigating this kind of issue. Let me be clear. When we have these cyber security briefings, we`re told this, that there are two types of Internet users. Those who know they`ve been hacked and those who don`t know that they have been hacked.

Now, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration. But anyone who gets on the Internet, certainly within a minute, your computer has come under attack probably within seconds. So, it`s important to have a good security system.

And as a part of Armed Services, Homeland Security is doing the same thing. Foreign Affairs were tangibly (ph) related to this particular issue. We try to protect our Internet, in large part because America`s infrastructure now, to a significant degree, is controlled by Internet communications. And you don`t want someone to be able to take out your electrical system, your power system, your communication system. So, we already have those kinds of investigations ongoing.

Should it be expanded to focus on this particular type of breach if it, in fact, occurred? Yes.

TUR: So, absolutely, yes. You are saying yes.

Now, Mitch McConnell says he trusts the intelligence community. Trump, though, does not. Where do you stand and are you concerned about the president-elect`s lack of trust in the intelligence community?

BROOKS: Well, there are a myriad of aspects to this issue. And I try to focus on them one at a time and not get them mixed and mangled which is often the case with what I`ve seen in the news media so far.

The first issue is cyber security. Yes, we need to be more aggressive in the United States not only protecting our own cyber security but in also making sure the attackers, whether it be criminals or whether it be state agencies like Russia or China or some other entity around the planet, that they pay a price any time that they attack our Internet usage here in the United States of America.

Then you`ve got another issue like, OK, in this particular instance, was there an effort to protect the election outcome? In my personal view, and this is an opinion as it is an opinion with everybody else who`s trying to draw conclusions as to motivation. I don`t know if the Russians actually attacked the Democrats` Internet system. They wouldn`t surprise me if they did. But if they did, they had motivation.

In this particular instance, as you may recall, who`s the most hated barbaric person in Russian history? Well, it`s probably Adolf Hitler. And Hillary Clinton went out of her way to compare Putin, the leader of Russia, to Adolf Hitler. A man who`s responsible for roughly 20 million dead in World War II, both military and civilian.

(CROSSTALK) BROOKS: -- Hillary Clinton if not do thereby also help Donald Trump.

And we don`t know. We`ll have to wait and see what the facts reveal.

TUR: Well, Congressman, the intelligence community, though, is saying that Russia -- that we`re the ones. A high degree of confidence that they were the ones that did hack into the DNC and to John Podesta`s e-mails. So, that`s not really an argument among the intelligence community.

What is an argument is whether they were doing so to tip the election in Donald Trump`s favor. Donald Trump, though, is going after the entire intelligence community, not just for their assumption that -- or their conclusion that -- the CIA`s conclusion that they were trying to tip the election. But he`s questioning the entire intelligence community.

He`s throwing in the CIA`s talk about WMDs, you know, decade -- over a decade ago and to say that why they are not credible now? And my question to you is do you feel like that is an issue for an incoming president to have such a low degree of confidence in our intelligence community as it stands now?

BROOKS: Well, sometimes our intelligence community is right and sometimes they`re wrong and sometimes they are acting on judgement which means they`re giving you the best conclusions that they can, based on the evidence that they have. In this particular instance, what`s happening particularly in the news media is we have these dialogues, these discussions, based on rumor and here say.

What I want to do is to see the actual hard evidence that the FBI may have, that the CIA may have, so that we, as policy makers, can make an appropriate decision.

But, ultimately, it comes down to this. We need to do a much better job with cyber security. We need to do it as a country. Individuals who are on the Internet need to have stronger and adequate, not inadequate, security systems on their own computers. If they do not, well, their private communications released to the public. If they don`t want their banking information taken advantage of by criminals.

So, a lot of bad characters out there on the Internet.

TUR: Yes, but I -- nobody is -- nobody is --

BROOKS: And we have to hit all those things.

TUR: No one is disagreeing with you on that line, Congressman. What they are questioning is the president-elect`s just broad stroke against the intelligence community saying that they are not credible on this issue.

And it`s because they are questioning the outcome of this election, certainly to a degree at the very least, saying that Russia had a hand in trying to tip the scales, or, at the very least, that Russia did -- was able to get into our systems.

So, my question to you is why would Donald Trump be so antagonistic towards this?

BROOKS: Well, now, with what you just said, I want to emphasize some points here. We don`t know for sure what the motive of whoever the hackers were, OK?

TUR: But the fact that Russia even hacked security, --

BROOKS: We`re drawing emphasis about --

TUR: -- does that mean that there is something that really does need to be taken seriously. Not only by the Senate and the House, as you said, but by the president-elect?

BROOKS: Well, you`re also making the statement, in your preamble just a while ago, that the purpose was to impact the election. Which begs the question, can you name one voter who changed their mind on how they were going to vote, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, as a result of these allegations of improper involvement with these Internet communications on the part of the Democrats?

Now, I don`t know a single voter who changed their mind one way or the other.

TUR: I think you`re right on that question, Congressman, 100 percent. But I think --

BROOKS: That is -- that is a separate set of issues. On the hacking, though, we need to stop it.

TUR: Well, put that to the side. I think you`re right. There`s no way to tell if it did affect an individual voter`s vote or whether that would have changed the outcome of the election.

But the question is if Russia was able to get in, period. Is this not something that should be taken seriously as it is being taken --

BROOKS: Absolutely.

TUR: -- by the Senate but clearly in the House by the president-elect? And why would he not do so in the interest of the American public and the interest of this democracy?

BROOKS: Well, I`m quite confident that this administration, along with Congress, will continue to do what we can to protect Internet communications. But that`s a blanket statement. It`s one thing to do that kind of protective work which I`m sure this administration will do and which Congress will continue to do. All be it there is an advancement in technology so as soon as you create one set of protections --

TUR: What makes you believe that this administration will take it seriously when Donald Trump is coming out and trying to undercut the intelligence community and saying they have no way of knowing, even though they were in agreement that Russia was able to get in, not necessarily in agreement about whether they were able to affect an outcome or tip the scales. But they were in agreement that they got in.

If Donald Trump is not taking that seriously now, Congressman, why do you have any reason to believe that he will take it seriously when he`s actually inaugurated?

BROOKS: I`m quite confident that the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security and any number of other federal government agencies, as part of a blanket order to protect America`s communications, will be active and will do so.

It`s in everybody`s interest to make sure, for example, that our infrastructure is safe from being tampered with. That our power grid is not shut down by a foreign actor. That our banking systems are not penetrated with the kind of economic damage that can be done with that.

So, in that context, we will use a broad brush to try to stop (ph) all of this. But the problem is technology and the leaps and bounds and as soon as you stop one attack avenue, then another one is launched. It`s a very difficult problem that we`re going to have to wrestle with. And I have a high degree of confidence that this administration, as with Barack Obama and the prior administration, we will deal with it.

Hopefully, we`ll take it a step further. And as we start figuring out who these state actors are and the damage that they`re doing to our economy or to our private communications, we`ll start acting in a retaliatory fashion that goes beyond the Internet, with trade sanctions or some other weapon that we may have at our disposal to deter those actors from continuing to do what they`re doing.

And, by the way, this also involves national security. As you well know, these hackers, particularly the state agency types, have been trying to penetrate our military capabilities going to defense contractors and trying to steal our technology that gives our national defense a technological edge over our opposition.

So, there are many, many motivations to try to protect the use of the Internet in the United States of America. Involvement in elections, that might be one. It should be one. But you`ve got all these other things that indicate to me that that`s going to be a high priority, protecting the Internet. That will be a high priority of this administration in Congress, just as it was the last administration.

TUR: Well, we will see if you were right about this administration. Thank you so much, Congressman Brooks, for joining me.

BROOKS: Thank you.

TUR: Coming up, why the friendship between Russia and Donald Trump`s possible pick for secretary of state has joint concern from both sides of the aisle. Stay tuned.


TUR: Former Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah was sentenced to 10 years in prison today, following his conviction this past year on more than 20 counts, including racketeering, money laundering and fraud.

The former Congressman says he accepts the court`s decision. The charges stem from an illegal loan Fattah received during his failed bid for Philadelphia mayor in 2007. Prosecutors alleged he repaid part of that loan with money from federal grants slated for charitable causes.

Fattah also received bribes from Philadelphia`s former deputy mayor which he used to pay personal expenses. In exchange, Fattah tried to get that supporter an ambassadorship. Fattah announced he would resign his seat in June after his conviction. Fattah has until January 25th to report to prison to begin his sentence.

We`ll be back in 60 seconds with more MTP DAILY.


TUR: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.

The Trump transition says we can expect Trump`s pick for secretary of state by mid-week. And all signs point to ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson. But Tillerson could have a tough confirmation fight ahead of him. He is long ties to Russia and Putin. He was even awarded Russia`s order of friendship honor in 2013 and has been critical of U.S. sanctions on Russia.

And some Republicans are wary of those ties, including Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Marco Rubio. McCain said he`s concerned about Tillerson`s relationship with Putin.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: General Putin is a thug, a murderer, a KGB guy who only wants to restore the Russian empire. When he gets the friendship award from a butcher, frankly, it`s an issue that I think needs to be examined.


TUR: Senator Graham called Tillerson`s ties to Putin unnerving. On MEET THE PRESS yesterday, Chuck asked incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, about concerns some have about Tillerson`s previous dealings with Putin.


TODD: Do you understand why that would unnerve some people about the idea of him as America`s chief diplomat?

PRIEBUS: Well, it might unnerve people who think that the best route for our country to go is to ignore people and to have an enemy`s list and adhere to that list.

But, look, I -- we -- I just don`t believe, and neither does the president- elect, that if solving the world`s biggest problems are best done by ignoring people and having, you know, crummy relationships across the globe. And so, they`re -- we just don`t believe that talking to people and having relationships is a bad thing.


TUR: Let me bring in tonight`s panel. Alfonso Aguilar is the president of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. Anna Palmer is senior Washington correspondent for Politico and coauthor of "Playbook." And Jamal Simmons is a big Democratic strategist. Thank you so much, guys, for being here.

I was speaking with a former CIA official and they were telling me that they could not believe that this Russia hacking news did not get more playback in the summer when it first broke. And they`re glad to hear it getting play now.

But talk to me. How big of a story is this and what sorts of consequences are there down the line? Anna, I`ll start with you.

ANNA PALMER, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yes, I think this is going to be a huge story, I think in part because you saw Mr. McConnell today say they`re going to have a committee hearing. That is going to make this front and center in Washington.

Certainly, the disagreement between McConnell and Donald Trump was on display today and I think you`re going to see that, you know, in the months to come.

TUR: And Alfonso, you were saying, earlier during the break, that you believe that this is political, to a degree, as the transition is claiming it is.

ALFONSO AGUILAR, LATINO PARTNERSHIP FOR CONSERVATIVE PRINCIPLES: Oh, absolutely. Look, it`s serious certainly. It`s not shocking. The Russians have been doing this for decades. So, all of a sudden, the Democrats are very interested in investigating, you know, Russian hacking.

But, clearly, they`re trying to undermine the election on Donald Trump. And let`s be clear, is there a possibility that the Russians were involved in trying to manipulate the election results? Absolutely. But did they decide the election? Of course not.

TUR: Let me talk about it. I mean, even if they -- if it`s unclear about whether they were trying to actually tip the scales, the fact that the Russians were involved, period, were able to get into our systems, is that not something.

Given that there is bipartisan support for investigation that Donald Trump, the president-elect, should be taking seriously to show the American public that he has their interests and the democracy`s interest in mind over his own?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I`ve got to tell you, Katy, what`s shocking to me is that the Republican Party hangs its hat on national security. They hang their hat on being Reagan-like. And Ronald Reagan, all throughout the 1980s, fought the Soviets, fought the Russians.

And now, here we are with the president of the United States, the standard bearer for the Republican Party, making excuses for why we should not be investigating the Russian hack in the Russian attack on American democracy. To me, I find that to be extraordinary.

AGUILAR: Jamal, that`s going to be -- there can`t be a double standard. I`m not defending Trump comment.

SIMMONS: No, no, no.

AGUILAR: But all of a sudden -- all of a sudden, you`re interested in investigating the Russians? What happened to the last eight years? The Russians have been hacking our systems. They`ve been conducting spying. And this administration has been very weak. And I`m not (INAUDIBLE.)


SIMMONS: They going to make them right now.

TUR: This is -- this is -- and this -- let`s be very clear. The only people who had their e-mails released were members of the Democratic Party. This is one-sided. And I`m not saying that Russia was trying to tip the scales. I certainly do not know that. I`m not a member of the intelligence community.

I can say that my sources say that they believe, to a high degree of confidence, that that was the case. But just perception-wise. They were the -- Democrats were the only ones who had their e-mails released.

Do you believe -- if you believe it`s political now, didn`t you -- don`t you have to believe that it was political during the campaign?

AGUILAR: Well, I agree and I think Donald Trump should accept the possibility that the Russians got involved and hacked for political reasons the server, so the DNC and the RNC. I agree with that. And there should be an investigation. TUR: Why won`t you say that?

AGUILAR: Well, I think it`s the typical visceral reaction from Donald Trump. It`s not a great reaction. I agree with you. There should be a congressional investigation. However, at the same time, let`s be fair. On the other side, there are those that are trying to make this a political issue.

We have, today or yesterday, the former Obama CIA director, Morell, saying that this is the political equivalent of 911. That`s not an intelligence assessment. That`s a political statement.

TUR: Morell did work for the Bush administration as well. I mean, I know he campaigns for -- I believe that Hillary Clinton did not necessarily believe in Donald Trump, but he certainly not the most conservative person when it comes to -- or liberal person when it comes to politics.

But moving on, I want to talk about -- so far Donald Trump`s cabinet picks are folks that he -- the folks that he has chosen are folks that have railed against the administration that they are being appointed to, Betsy DeVos, you have Scott Pruitt, et cetera, et cetera.

Does this mean that Donald Trump`s administration will be trying to tear apart these posts and rebuild a new -- a new framework? Or do we expect to see them suddenly get in line with the stated priorities of their post? Any of you.

ANNA PALMER, POLITICO PLAYBOOK CO-AUTHOR AND SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Some of the republicans wonder if some of these positions were maybe their positions of agencies that are a big priority to Trump or going to people that maybe they won`t be very effective. So you see him cut in General Mattis to having, who is probably will be a very effective leader, but if you look at interior or some of this education.

TUR: Stewart is suing the EPA as we speak.

PALMER: And I think there is a lot nervousness. One of the things I`ve heard a lot of from the kind of career officials at EPA is do you want to stay in this position because I have a duty, because I`m gonna fill my position? Or do I leave as a protest movement? I think this is something we are gonna see shake out in the next coming months.

TUR: Harder (ph) doesn`t believe in the federal minimum wage but Carson has been critical of the offices and services that helped for housing. It seems like one after another you`re right that could be the case for this kind of folks that are gonna undermine the authority of those folks.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Claus (ph) also may be asking a question about whether or not she has to stay. Lisa Monaco who is the president`s counter terrorism homeland adviser, who is as of Friday, she doesn`t have a counterpart yet in order to deal with -- to make the transition.

What happens if three or four weeks from now we still don`t have the person in place. That she didn`t have to stay the staff for president. We got the president-elect of the United States who seems to be -- is going to be the captain of our team, is spending more time going to pep rallies than he is going to practices.

He is not taking intelligence briefings. I think we have just the first national security adviser meeting last week with Susan Rice. They got to give them the gain to protect this country.

TUR: I have to leave it there, I`m sorry. We will come back later in the hour. I`ll talk to you, guys. I promise. Alfonso, Anna, and Jamel, stay with us. Still ahead, Donald Trump has some climate questions for the Energy Department. Find out why Energy Department insiders are worried the Trump team`s latest move could be to witch hunts. Keep it here.


TUR: Tonight here on MSNBC, don`t miss a special town hall event all in America. Bernie Sanders in Trump country. Senator Bernie Sanders will be in Kenosha, Wisonsin, taking questions from voters. That`s tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

Then at 9:00, former Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri joins Rachel Maddow for her first national TV interview since the election. There is more MTP Daily just ahead. Stay with us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you on the empire?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m still open minded. Nobody really knows. Look, I`m somebody that gets it. And nobody really knows. It`s not something that is so hard and fast. I do know this. Other countries are eating their lunch.


TUR: That was president-elect Trump hedging the validity of climate change on Fox News this Sunday. The comment comes after a questionnaire distributed by his transition team sent shock waves to the Energy Department. In a 74-question memo, Trump`s team requested a list of all the department employees and contractors who attended climate meetings and worked on related projects.

They go first on information and employees involved in the social cost of carbon metrics. That tool estimates the economic damages associated carbon dioxide emissions but Donald Trump has already made clear that he believes businesses are absorbing too many damages from regulations. (START VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: EPA, you can get things approved. I deal with all the the executives. The big ones and the small executives. I have really gotten to know this country. When you have to wait 10 and 15 years for an approval and then you don`t get the approval, it`s no good.


TUR: It`s unclear how Trump`s administration plan to use the information, but Reuters spoke with a Energy Department staffer who said, quote, this feels like the first draft of an eventual political enemies list. Another employee says this activity seems to, quote, just to make room for which hunts. Paul Sabin is a professor of environmental history at Yale University. Paul, let`s get right into this. How unusual is it for a transition team to ask for a questionnaire like this? PAUL SABIN, ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY PROFESSOR AT YALE UNIVERSITY: Look, every transition team has to collect information on the agency that they are go in and help run, but to try to gather information on specific employees particularly research scientists and civil service employees who are doing the job trying to protect the climate and look for the interest of the country, I think that`s quite unprecedented. I can`t think of an example quite like it myself.

TUR: Let`s talk about his short list for energy secretary. That includes Rick Perry who famously proposed eliminating the Department of Energy entirely when he ran for president, but at the same time, he couldn`t remember the Department of Energy`s name during the debate. Could you speak about the consequences of eliminating the Energy Department? Why does it matter that it exists?

SABIN: Well, the Energy Department has a number of important responsibilities. Principally came out of the responsibility for atomic power and nuclear weapons. But it evolved to have a greater mandate to also address issues like clean energy and renewable fuel vehicles. It funds a lot of basic research as well as commercialization projects that are trying to move us into a clean energy future.

So the Energy Department really is on the cutting edge of where we want the economy to go to make it a more energy-efficient and healthier climate. But to bring somebody in who basically just fundamentally doesn`t believe in the mission of the agency is really astonishing. I mean, the guy wants to, you know, somebody wanted to eliminate the agency and now he`s gonna be put in charge of it. It`s a little hard to know how it`s going to work out.

TUR: Yeah, I imagine it`s not sending a good feeling among the staffers in the Energy Department. Trump bowed to cancel the Paris climate deal. The United states is the key player in the Paris accord. If Trump does that, what happens to the accord? I know it wasn`t legally binding.

SABIN: Well, my understanding is that enough countries have signed on to the accord to allow it to move forward. If the U.S. withdraws, we are really just seeding leadership on the climate issues to other countries including China. So it`s a bit of an odd situation in which the president- elect wants to assert American power in the world and influence would really be seeding it to China.

He complains about its role. So that is surprising. I think the jury is still out on whether Trump is gonna go ahead with that. I`m cautiously optimistic that he will stay with the Paris agreement. Of course, the appointments that he is making to his cabinet positions are not suggestive of that, but we can hope that the administration will see just how vital it is to continue to be part of this international process.

TUR: Paul Sabin of Yale University, thank you so much for being here. Ahead on The Lid.

SABIN: Thank you.

TUR: Thank you. Previewing a busy week ahead for the president-elect. Stay with us.


TUR: An update now on the recount efforts in three states. The Wisconsin Election Commission just certified the recount there and president-elect Donald Trump actually picked up votes, 162 to be exact. Meantime in Pennsylvania, a federal judge blocked the green party recount request. Last week in Michigan, a federal judge stopped the electoral recount there. More MTP Daily right after this.



CARLY FIORINA, CONSERVATIVE BUSINESSWOMAN: We talked about hacking. Whether it`s Chinese hacking or purported Russian hacking. We talked about the opportunity that the president-elect has to literally reset things. To reset the trajectory of the economy, to reset the role of government, to reset America`s role in the world and how we are perceived in the world. And I think It`s why he is getting such fantastic people in his administration.


TUR: That right there is Carly Fiorina at Trump Tower after meeting with the president-elect this morning. Checking in a new tone on Trump much different than the words on the campaign trail. Check out this sound byte from Morning Joe back in April when she was Ted Cruz`s running mate.


FIORINA: Yes, I happen to believe Donald Trump is terrible for our party and terrible for our nation and he would lose in a landslide in November, but as I said, the week he announced his candidacy way back in June of 2015, he doesn`t represent me and he doesn`t represent my party, and I got a lot of heart for this fight.


TUR: Times have changed. According to The New York Times, Fiorina is now being considered for the role of director of national intelligence. It`s time for The Lid. The panel back, Alfonso, Anna, Jamel. Guys, let`s talk about Carly Fiorina as DNI. What do you think?

SIMMONS: I think she (inaudible) United State of America?

TUR: Yes, that`s it, according to New York Times.

SIMMONS: I think that is troubling, right? I mean, we can all laugh and joke. At some point though they have to take this seriously. The president should be appointing people who have experience to the job they are gonna do because they really do can take care of the country. We talked about this in the last segment. At some point, they`ve got to start protecting the country and take it seriously.

AGUILAR: Jamal, I think they`re taking it seriously. The thing is, I think you think and democrats think that, the only way you take it seriously is if you appoint people that come from government. I think it`s a great idea to bring somebody like Carly Fiorina, an accomplished professional, with a lot of international experience.

SIMMONS: (inaudible) secretary.

AGUILAR: She was on the advisory board of the CIA in the Bush administration, so she has experience in intelligence.

TUR: And I want to ask you, he keeps choosing business people over politicians. On the campaign trail, he talks about draining the swamp, basically saying, you can`t trust a politician, but you can trust the CEO of a company. What is the American public going to make of that?

PALMER: I think we have two points here. One, he`s certainly picking people he`s comfortable with, right? People that are the deal makers whether it`s ExxonMobil or or others, Carly Fiorina, but he`s not really draining the swamp.

If you look at the people that he has chosen so far, whether it`s Jeff Sessions or the people that are running his transition, they are mostly all Washington operatives that have a long history. And yes, he`s done some things about lobbying, but he hasn`t really done a kind of whole film makeover of what this government`s going to look like.

TUR: She`s right, he has appointed multi-millionaire, he has appointed billionaires, how is this drain the swamp? And down the line, if he can`t effect his policies, if he can`t put them through, are his supporters going to turn on him?

AGUILAR: That could happen. And at the end, it`s not about the people that he`s appointing, it`s about the policies.

TUR: Why do you have such a degree of confidence that the policy that the folks that he`s appointing will be much better for the country, given that they are oftentimes trying to head an agency that they don`t believe in?

AGUILAR: People voted for Donald Trump because they`re fed up with the path our country`s going in terms of the economy. And if he`s able to do regulate the economy and pass his tax reform bill, it would mean that we can have an economy growing at over 4 percent, that means creation of good- paying jobs, and people would be very happy. I believe in a lot of policies that Donald Trump is putting forward.

SIMMONS: How do we know what to believe in? Donald Trump has a policy in the morning but in the afternoon, he tweets something different. I mean, as somebody who used to be a spokesperson for politicians, it has to be a horrible job because you never know what you`ll say.

TUR: And we have seen his people having to turn on a dime.


AGUILAR: . he is being very consistent. Those are.

TUR: Hold on, I want to talk to Jamal. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump won, and he won on this idea that he was going to change things. He`s talking about appointing Rex Tillerson, potentially, for secretary of state. He`s got close ties with Vladimir Putin. This shouldn`t be a surprise.

I mean, he on the trail would say over and over again that we need to be friends with Russia, we need to be friendlier at the very least with Russia, we need to change what we`re doing because it`s not working. The American public, at least in the electoral college, agreed with him.

SIMMONS: The electoral college agreed with him, 54 percent of Americans agree with him.

TUR: The electoral -- that`s what I`m saying, the electoral college. But should there be as much criticism for this idea, even from his own party, choosing folks who are close to Putin, given that that`s what the American public -- it`s not like he`s pulling the wool over their eyes in that sense.

SIMMONS: I think the American public, if they voted for him, they voted for him to overturn the apple cart of elites here in Washington, D.C. I don`t think they were voting to cozy up to the Putin regime in Russia. If that`s true, I would love to see that in some of the polling data.

This pro-Putin policy, pro-Putin presidency that they`re shaping up with does not to me reflect the values of the American people in the last half century or so of American history.

TUR: And Anna, talk to me about this intelligence information. If it does come out as some of the 10 electors in the electoral college want it to, is there any scenario where this could change the outcome of the election, if they come out and say definitively that Russia was involved and they were trying to tip the scales?

PALMER: I don`t think. I mean, I think this is what you`re seeing with Donald Trump trying to kind of totally debunk this hacking issue in general, because I think he wants to say, I won the presidency, it`s time to move forward. I don`t think you`re even hearing some of the democrats. I mean, they`re very few and far between that are saying, okay, let`s do this, because then we`re going to overturn the election.

I think what you are going to see, and what some of the senators on the republican side have said, in terms of -- we want to do this, because next time, Russia could go after us. It`s not just going to be democrats. That`s what I think the overall mission of this is. TUR: Alfonso, why would Donald Trump not admit that there needs to be a congressional inquiry, that there needs to be a presidential inquiry, do everything he can to show the American public that he is trying to make sure that he knows what happened during the election, definitively, and will stop it in the future.

AGUILAR: I agree with that. As I`ve said in the previous segment, I think he should. I think it`s just one of his visceral reactions. But going back to something Jamal said, the fact that you`re appointing somebody that has ties with Putin, knows Putin, has done deals with Putin doesn`t mean that we`re going to have a pro-Putin government.

For the past eight years, we`ve had a very weak policy towards Russia. And Russia has been able to expand its fear of influencing the world. Perhaps by having constructive engagement, we may be able to check Putin.

TUR: Alfonzo, Anna, Jamal, thank you guys for a spirited discussion. After the break, the final seats have been filled. We`ll have the breakdown of your 115th congress. Stay with us.


TUR: In case you missed it, the Roster for the 115th congress is now complete after a few runoff elections in Louisiana this weekend. John Neely Kennedy, no relation to the 35th president, defeated democrat Foster Campbell by 20 points to take over David Vitter`s senate seat.

Remember, both Donald Trump and Mike Pence stumped for Kennedy in the last week of campaigning. And in the house, republicans Clay Higgins and Mike Johnson won their races without much difficulty. So where does that leave the opening numbers for the 115th congress?

Republicans own a two-seat majority in the senate, with their 52 seats compared to 48 members that caucus with the democrats. And house republicans enjoy a 241 to 194 seat advantage, but that is six fewer seats for the republicans than they held -- than they hold now. Republicans control the white house and both chambers of congress for the first time in over a decade.

Time will tell if Trump, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell will see eye to eye on what should make up a united republican agenda. That`s all for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more MTP Daily. Ari Melber picks up our coverage right now from New York.