Show: MTP DAILY Date: December 13, 2016 Guest: Bob Corker, Molly Ball, April Ryan, Matthew Continetti, Richard
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Tuesday.
Another Kremlin connection is making waves in the Trump transition. Tonight, why the president-elect could be his own worst enemy in confirming his pick for secretary of state.
Plus, another postponement. Just when we thought we might hear from Donald Trump about his business dealings, he cancels his news conference. When will he address his conflicts of interest?
And in case you missed it, the House Benghazi Committee has closed its doors. A spectacularly successful failure. We`ll explain.
This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.
Good evening. I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington and welcome to a Tuesday addition of MTP DAILY.
Russian hacking. A president who doesn`t believe it. An international oil magnet tapped to run the State Department. Under fire for his ties for the Kremlin. This is not a Tom (INAUDIBLE) novel. It`s just Tuesday at the Trump transition.
Folks, a Russian cloud of Trump`s own making hangs over his pick for secretary of state. Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson. A pick that`s cheered by Mitch McConnell, Bob Corker, Condi Rice, Bob Gates, Jim Baker. Would seem to set to sail through confirmation.
In a normal world, we`d be talking about the merits of CEO like Tillerson as secretary of state for having not having government experience. Things like that.
But this isn`t a normal world. Tillerson`s nomination has a chance is likely going to become a referendum on Trump`s Russia fixation and his denials of U.S. intelligence on what Russia wants to do in this country.
And, of course, Tillerson`s ties to Putin aren`t going to help. As the head of Exxon, Tillerson was skeptical of sanctions against Russia, lifting them would have meant billions in business for Exxon at the time.
He did negotiate a lucrative oil deal with Russia in 2011. And in 2013, Russia awarded him its, quote "Order of friendship." One of the highest honors the state gives out to foreign civilians.
We`ve already heard from several top Republicans who are balking at Tillerson`s nomination, referring to those ties of Putin. John McCain said, quote, "I have concerns about what kind of business we do with a butcher, a murderer and a thug."
Marco Rubio, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, which will vet the pick, said, I have serious concerns about his nomination. So, starkly (ph) noted, a friend of Vladimir is not part of his secretary of state criteria.
Lindsay Graham said, if you receive an award from the Kremlin, then we`re going to have some talking.
Folks, Democrats may only need three votes to kill a nomination. That could be the three votes I just referred to.
Also, some of Tillerson`s big endorsements come with an asterisk, Condi Rice, Steven Hadley and Bob Gates all endorse Tillerson. They also run a law firm that represents Exxon. I`m not making this up. The law firm is called Rice, Hadley and Gates.
The same story for Jim Baker who endorsed Tillerson. Exxon, of course, is a Baker`s law firm, too.
All of that said, where would we be today if even last Friday, when the report came out in "The Washington Post" of what the CIA believed the Russians were up to in their -- in their cyber attacks of this country, where would we be today with Tillerson`s nomination, if Donald Trump simply said, these are serious allegations and they deserve further investigating? We might be in a different place.
I`m joined now by Senator Bob Corker, who is a Foreign Relations Committee chair and himself a top contender to be Trump`s secretary of state. Senator Corker, welcome back, sir.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Chuck, always good to be with you and I`m glad you have plenty of material.
TODD: Always do, that`s for sure. So, let me ask you this. You -- are you, at this moment, ready to say, I`m ready to confirm Rex Tillerson?
CORKER: Well, Chuck, that`s why we have hearings is to go through the process. And as you know, the first thing that happens, typically, is you sit down one on one with the nominee for a pretty good period of time and go around the world and talk about things that matter, relative to confirmation.
I will say, the beginning point is that this is a very distinguished and impressive individual who has run a global enterprise. I think you know this that most of these CEOs that run global enterprises are, in essence, secretaries of state for their companies.
He knows the players well. He`s got a working knowledge. Exxon has got about 70,000 employees. The State Department has 75,000 employees. So, it`s a large operation. And there is that side of it that he should be fully equipped to deal with.
So, he comes with a lot of heft. I mean, let`s face it. And I think that President-elect Trump did a great job going through this process. I was honored to be a part of it.
But, you know, Rex Tillerson is a very, very capable individual. But people are, as you mentioned, all of us are going to want to understand his world view.
[17:05:03] Most people think the secretary of state carries out its own policy. That`s -- those are the ones that fail. They carry out the president`s policies.
But, in fact, he does shape it. He`s the -- he`s under the hood and giving advice to the president before they decide what`s that`s going to be.
And I would say most committee members are going to want to understand. What is the relationship to Russia? How do you see the U.S. role in the world?
And so, I`m sure there will be tough questioning. But I would imagine someone of his stature would be able to handle those.
TODD: Are you comfortable if the answer is, look, he does know him personally. He thinks that friendly relations are possible. If that`s his answer to you, look, there is -- it`s not -- it`s not great politics for him right now that there is video of him actually toasting with Vladimir Putin.
I mean, you know, it`s one of the things that can always get taken out of context.
TODD: But it isn`t -- a lot of lawmakers, like yourself, have been telling us for years how bad of a guy Vladimir Putin is.
CORKER: Well, I think he`s demonstrated that. I don`t think there`s much debate there.
Look, you know, someone called today, one of the senators who will be on the committee. And they said, look, I understand that it`s easy to negotiate, as a CEO, a deal where country is going to make money and you`re going to make money.
I mean, at the end of the day, if both entities are going to come out whole, it`s sometimes easier than when, diplomatically, that`s not the case. And people are going to want to explore that.
But, look, I don`t hold it against someone that they have relationships that can, in fact, in many cases, establish a level of trust.
Do I like what Russia did -- is doing with the Baltics or what they did in Crimea or still doing in Eastern Ukraine or what`s happened in Syria? I don`t. Or, by the way, their purposeful destabilization of Europe. And, by the way, trying to discredit our great democracy over the things that you referred to earlier.
So, all those things are nefarious, from my standpoint. They`re not to be tolerated. And the question is, does he share that point of view? And people are going to be asking and I know he`ll be prepared for that.
TODD: Let me ask you this. A lot of -- a lot of Republicans beat Hillary Clinton over the Clinton Foundation and the fact that the Clinton Foundation had some dealings with some hostile governments. Why is Rex Tillerson`s case different?
CORKER: Well, I mean, in his case, he was representing a company and shareholder interest. And if can have a global operation, as was said earlier by someone else, look, you know, unfortunately, a lot of the role (ph) that exists in the world is controlled by people that, in many cases, we don`t like much. So, that was his job.
Obviously -- and I`m sure that by the time he becomes secretary of state, if confirmed, he`s going to have no interest, whatsoever, in Exxon. And his interest will be our national interest.
And he won`t be in a situation where he`s dealing with something that there`s just no way this can happen where he`s making first land (ph) risk.
I think -- and, again, I`m not speaking to the -- you know, the veracity of the other charges but that`s a -- that`s a different kind of scenario.
TODD: Let me as you this. Philosophically, --
CORKER: Very different, yes.
TODD: -- as you run this confirmation hearing, how much should -- and I`ll just ask you your vote. Every senator is going to look at it differently. Are you assessing Rex Tillerson`s ability to be secretary of state or are you also voting on whether you affirm the president`s view, say towards Russia?
CORKER: I think -- I think it bleeds together. I mean, people generally try to give the president -- on both sides of the aisle, try to give him the ability to nominate his own people. People do want to assess whether he is qualified or not.
But, at the end of the day, Chuck, I mean, the other issues do bleed in. I mean, I know in cases of my own when I affirmed, you know, nominees from the -- this most recent administration. There were cases that when I knew the person was qualified.
I didn`t necessarily agree with their views. But, in many cases, tilted to the fact that, in fact, they were qualified. And the president has the ability and elections matter.
You know, --
TODD: But you have voted against --
CORKER: -- the presidents dictate the country.
TODD: -- you have voted against folks that you thought were qualified but you just thought, bridged too far on some issues.
CORKER: There have been cases --- there have been cases. I can`t point to any right now or remember. But I`ve got to believe that there have been cases when I just thought this person was so out in left field, I just really couldn`t bring myself to support them.
[17:10:01] And that`s the kind of thing, by the way, that people will be looking at here. I mean, again, I got a call from a senator. I`ve had multiple calls. There may be senators that just feel that the close relationship that he has with Russia is a killer.
I have to believe, though, that when you`ve got Secretary Rice, you`ve got Dick Cheney, you`ve got Bob Gates, all are people who look at Russia very clear-eyed. They represent him.
I`ve got a feeling they know something about how he views Russia. I don`t think -- I`ve got to believe it`s probably not out of the mainstream. But we`ll see.
And he`ll be up to be able to share his views with you and all of us for these hearings.
TODD: Let me ask you this. Do you believe the intelligence community`s assessment that Russia, as a state, a state-sponsored attempt to disrupt our election -- maybe there`s disagreement, of course, about whether the Russians were trying to elect Trump or not? But let`s -- there seems to be universal agreement in the intelligence community that the Russians were doing something.
CORKER: I believe, based on what I know today -- and we`re going to find out a whole lot more, Chuck, as soon as we get back. Senator Cardin and myself are going to have a whole systematic review of this.
But, yes, I believe that Putin did what he could to try to discredit the Democratic process here. And in doing so, he wins. I mean, anything he can do to get the American people --
TODD: Do you think he`s already won?
CORKER: -- process that we`re going through. I think he`s -- I think he`s had a victory, just by the conversation that you and I are having right now. That people -- you know, there`s discussions about, was there any impact? I mean, anything you can do when you`re, in essence, an authoritarian like Putin who doesn`t have real elections, when you can show to the Russian people that, we here -- have tried to prove it anyway.
We have fallacies that our Democratic process doesn`t work. And when he gets Americans believing that possibly there is some integrity issues there, that`s a victory for him.
And, of course, of course, that`s something that someone like Putin would attempt to do here in our country.
TODD: So, why do you think the president-elect is so adamant that none of this is true?
CORKER: Well, I don`t know what he`s adamant about and not adamant about. You know, I`ve seen tweets in -- look, I happen to have tremendous respect for the intelligence community.
I will say that you can get conflicting reports. And as I understand it, the office of director of national intelligence views this differently than the CIA.
The FBI, because they`re more in a Kremlin investigation mode, in many cases, they look at it in a -- in a different way.
So, I think that there`s a universal belief that Russia has been involved. To what extent, whether they were trying to tilt it towards one person or another, I think that`s where they separate.
And, look, we`re going to go through an in depth review ourselves. I think the Intelligence Committee, the Armed Services Committee will be doing the same. And, hopefully, we`ll get to a place where we have some degree of unanimity here.
But there is confusion, in fairness. Do I think, though, that they have tried to sow confusion? Absolutely. And they`ve been successful in doing so.
TODD: Bob Corker, the man who will lead the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next year in these confirmation processes. Thank you, sir, always a pleasure.
CORKER: Thank you, Chuck.
TODD: Let me bring in tonight`s panel. Molly Ball, staff writer at "The Atlantic." April Ryan, correspondent at the American Urban Radio Networks and the author of "At Mama`s Knee. Mothers and Race in Black and White." And Matthew Continetti is the editor-in-chief at "The Washington Free Beacon."
All right, Molly Ball, it was interesting there with Bob Corker. He does not sugar coat -- he does not think this is a slam dunk. That did not sound like a committee chairman that says, slam dunk. He kept telling me, a senator called me about X and another senator called me about Y. This is going to be a lift.
MOLLY BALL, STAFF WRITER, "THE ATLANTIC": Yes, absolutely. And I think he was very frankly and honestly representing the divisions in the caucus, right?
TODD: I thought he was very (INAUDIBLE.)
BALL: Because you do have -- he was -- and I respect Bob Corker for that. He was very honest about the fact that there are a lot of senators who are going to want to reflect (INAUDIBLE) support Trump.
Certainly, a lot of their constituents want them to reflect (INAUDIBLE) support Trump. There`s a lot of other senators who are having real qualms. And I think that you heard that Bob Corker is one of them.
I thought one of the first statements that he made -- and that was a remarkable interview. But one of the first statements he made was one of the most telling was just we don`t know what this guy`s world view is. This isn`t --
TODD: He himself said it.
BALL: -- that`s literally what he said. We don`t know what this person believes.
BALL: He`s going to be our chief -- he`s going to be our chief diplomat if he`s confirmed. And, therefore, a lot of these hearings, sure it`s going to be about the connections, the conspiracy theories, the relationships and so on.
[17:15:00] But more than anything, just what does he believe when it comes to foreign policy? And in a party that is so divided. The president-elect who is so heterodox.
BALL: They`re just going to want to know what Rex Tillerson -- how he sees the world.
APRIL RYAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORK: Chuck, this is beyond the business of oil. Granted, oil is a global necessity. I mean, he`s dealt with Russia. He`s dealt with China.
TODD: Yes, he`s got the knowledge set. He`s got the knowledge set that you`d want any secretary of state to have.
RYAN: And (INAUDIBLE), yes. But the issue is diplomacy.
TODD: Right, that`s the difference.
RYAN: And the issue is governance. And, yes, he`s --
TODD: Diplomacy without money.
TODD: Diplomacy is a lot easier when you got cash.
RYAN: And it makes -- and it makes you go back to the years of -- the W years. The George W. Bush years when oil was a big commodity that they were talking about when we went into Iraq.
So, it makes you want to -- it brings that back full circle. Is this really about governance and dealing with foreign affairs and oil? Or is it about just putting someone who knows the international players and can deal? It just makes you wonder these questions.
TODD: Matthew, I go to the last -- sort of the -- one of the topics you and I were talking about. Is this going to be a confirmation process about Rex Tillerson`s qualifications or is it going to be about Donald Trump`s world views about Putin?
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON": Well, everything in Washington, for the next four years, is going to be about Donald Trump. What aspect will change given what episode of the show that we`re on.
TODD: Right. This is episode 20, the Tillerson years.
CONTINETTI: Yes. Look, it`s an easy no vote for Democrats.
CONTINETTI: OK. They`ve got the environment. They`ve got Russia.
TODD: Although I could argue weirdly on some parts of the environment on climate but OK.
CONTINETTI: It`s a -- I think the Republican attitude is going to be Reagan maxim (ph), trust but verify. So, they`re going to trust the president`s prerogative in appointing the people he wants in these positions. They`re going to trust those figures that Corker mentioned, Rice, Hadley, Gates, Baker, Cheney, the Republican foreign policy establishment really.
But, as Molly points out, they want to see some verification in that hearing. That Tillerson is able to talk about issues that probably don`t fall under the per view of the CEO of ExxonMobil, right? And there`s a whole lot of global affairs that aren`t business related.
TODD: I go back to this. I feel like Trump`s made it even harder for Tillerson. That Trump`s defiance on the Intelligence Committee is just almost letting -- that`s where Lindsay Graham and John McCain can dig in their heels.
BALL: Well, look, Trump`s admiration for Vladimir Putin and friendliness toward Russia was actually one of the few things he was rock solid consistent on --
BALL: -- throughout the campaign. He was on every side of --
TODD: He didn`t hide it.
BALL: -- (INAUDIBLE) issue.
TODD: Nobody can say he didn`t.
BALL: And he didn`t hide it.
TODD: Yes, completely.
BALL: And it never changed. And so, we have to believe that this is real. It`s heart felt. And it goes very deep for Donald Trump.
And so, I think as you were pointing out, this is much more about, will it be a referendum for the Republicans who actually believed that Vladimir Putin was a bad guy. And we`re now seeing so many of their voters suddenly change their tune because Donald Trump --
CONTINETTI: Very quickly, I want say here. Vladimir Putin is a bad guy but I also think that it may be an asset for Tillerson to have a relationship with him, right? We had that red -- we had that red phone. Diplomacy is based on relationships.
TODD: I also remember the Republican -- I also remember the Republican criticism with Barack Obama when he said he be making -- trying to have better relationship with (INAUDIBLE.)
CONTINETTI: But it failed and might -- it probably will fail for Donald Trump.
TODD: OK, fair enough.
RYAN: Should we go back to our founding fathers. And Alexander Hamilton. I mean, we hear about Hamilton in the play. But he actually did something and talked about something really important. You know, the influence of foreign countries in this country.
TODD: Yes. One of his defenses of the electoral college (INAUDIBLE.)
RYAN: Exactly. So, that is a big piece on the table.
TODD: By the way, before I go to break, I`m not going to ask you to comment on it because we`re going to talk about that. But before I go to break, I`ve got to play you a quick clip because it now turns out to be the very last press conference Donald Trump has held. We thought he was going to have one tomorrow but he`s not. But the very last press conference that he held, this is where he made this infamous statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you call on Putin to stay out of this election?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not going to tell Putin what to do. Why should I tell Putin what to do?
Russia, if you`re listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.
They probably have them. I`d like to have them released.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does that not give you pause?
TRUMP: No, it gives me no pause. If they have them, they have them. We might as well -- if Russia, China or any other country has those e-mails, I need to be honest with you, I`d love to see them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: I played the clip, guys, and we`ll talk about it later. But that`s now the very -- that`s the most recent press conference Donald Trump has held. That`s the last press conference -- that`s when that infamous exchange took place.
We`re going to go to break. Later this hour, "PolitiFact" is going to reveal its the lie of the year. And you get to find out it first right here on MTP DAILY.
And just ahead, concern about President-elect Trump`s conflicts of interest? You`re going to have to wait a little longer to hear him answer any reporter questions on that topic. He`s postponed tomorrow`s news conference until, well, apparently sometime before January 20th.
We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back.
There is another fight brewing between the Obama-Clinton wing of the Democratic Party and the Sanders` wing of the party. Obama labor secretary, Tom Perez, who is on Hillary Clinton`s short list for V.P., is considering running for chair of the Democratic National Committee.
A lot of people trying to recruit him. He`s apparently answered the call. I would put him up against, perhaps, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, a progressive who was a loyal Sanders` surrogate during the primaries. And who is Sanders and Elizabeth Warren would like to see as the chair.
Some people thing he`s an odds-on favorite. I think we`ve got a long way to go before this takes shape and we see what happens. But Perez-Ellison could be quite the internal fight.
We`ll be right back.
TODD: Welcome back to MTP DAILY.
We were expecting to hear from Donald Trump this week about how he plans to handle any potential conflicts of interest with his personal business dealings.
He had a press conference scheduled for Thursday. But last night, the president-elect kicked that can down the road a little bit tweeting this. Even though I am not mandated by law to do so, I will be leaving my businesses before January 20th so I can focus full time on the presidency.
Two of my children, Don and Eric, plus executives, will manage them. No new deals will be done during my term (s) in office. I will hold a press conference in the near future to discuss the business, cabinet picks and all other topics of interest. Busy times.
Now, folks, this isn`t the first time Trump has told us that he would like to buy more time when it comes to deciding when he`s going to talk about his conflicts of interest or his businesses.
He`s said, again and again throughout the campaign, that he would eventually release his tax returns, just as soon as that audit is over. And he said he`d put his business in a blind trust.
But, since Election Day, he`s backed off on that. But he has assured us that whatever he does do, he does believe, no matter what, the law is on his side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I could run my business perfectly. And then run the country perfectly. I assumed that you`d have to set up some type of trust or whatever and you don`t. And I was actually a little bit surprised to see it.
[17:25:09] So, in theory, I don`t have to do anything.
I won`t be involved in my business at all, even though I have a legal right to be under the laws as you know because the president has a certain doctrine that he can do things. But I just don`t want to do it. I -- even if I could do it, which I`m allowed to, I wouldn`t want to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Recently, I spoke with two of the top ethics` experts in this country, Norman Eisin and Richard Painter. They were both chief ethics` lawyers in the White House. Norm served with President Obama. And Richard served with President George W. Bush.
They both now are the chair and vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-profit government accountability watch dog group.
And, again, by asking the gentlemen about the argument that some Trump folks believe that it`s much harder to create a blind trust, when you`re dealing with real estate holdings rather than simply stock.
RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER ETHICS` LAWYER, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: President-elect Trump certainly has a very different portfolio of holdings than any other president that we have had.
But I do believe he needs to take the steps that are required in order to have a conflict-free presidency. That`s going to help him be a much more effective president, to avoid appearances if not actual violations of the Constitution through payments from foreign governments, as well as the concerns that arise when his name is going up on buildings all over the world and people are paying him for that. There are national security issues with that.
So, I really hope that he takes the steps he needs to to be an affective president which is going to mean the investment of a lot of his holdings. And then putting that money in conflict-free assets.
TODD: Norman, if Donald Trump came to you and said, look, I know your recommendation -- and you and Richard have made it clear. Your recommendation is to divest all, that`s what "The Wall Street Journal" (INAUDIBLE) said. That`s the safest and easiest conflict-free way to do it. Put all the money in treasuries, as Richard just put out.
But he came to you and said, I`m not giving up ownership. I`ll give up control but I`m not giving up ownership. I don`t want to do that. Is there a way to put him in some sort of conflict, minimal conflict, situation?
EISEN: There is no way that Donald Trump can serve as the president of the United States and hang onto this enormous web of domestic and international businesses and keep an interest in them.
He`s going to be conflicted. There`s going to be a cloud of question every time he makes a decision. Is he doing it to benefit his businesses or is he doing it to benefit the United States?
He`s going to stumble over the Constitution which prohibits, it expressly prohibits the kinds of flows of money that come to him every day from foreign governments because of his business empire.
And we`re going to have a scandal before too long because you can`t have these kinds of businesses. It`s an invitation for people to offer improprieties, particularly when your children are involved.
Now, he`s going to be an executive producer of a T.V. show. It makes no sense. There`s no way to do it without courting disaster.
So, I wouldn`t -- I wouldn`t agree to it under any circumstances.
TODD: Richard, I want to bring up -- Norman just brought up the emoluments clause. Let me read it here. No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them shall, without the consent of Congress, accept of any present emolument office or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.
Richard, the phrase I want to focus on is without the consent of the Congress. This implies, to me, that it`s Congress that is job to enforce this in the Constitution.
Obviously, any citizen could make a case in front of the court. Well, maybe not any citizen. And I am curious of that. How -- who enforces this clause of the Constitution? Is it Congress? Is it the courts? Who would have standing? Walk me through.
PAINTER: It`s Congress. And the first step is that Congress can get consent. And the Congress has, through the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act. You can take gifts up to I think it`s about $385 from a foreign government. And there are other specific provisions there.
If the president-elect wants to negotiate a deal with Congress where he gets some additional gifts from foreign governments or transactions from foreign governments, then more power to him. He can sit down with Congress and work it out. And that`s a good way to do it on the front end.
On the back end, you deal with impeachment. If you`ve been taken emoluments that Congress does not think you should be taking in violation of the Constitution, well the Constitution says exactly what Congress gets to do about it.
But you know what`s concerning me is this is a constitutional provision and people aren`t taking it seriously.
TODD: It`s funny you bring that up because, Norman, I think that that`s what Trump is counting on here, the public particularly his public, his supporters, who he will argue they knew this going in, right?
That they don`t care. That this is not -- and obviously, you know, my argument is you don`t care until you care, right? That we know that that`s true when it comes to the American public. They may not care during the election then it happens and wait a minute, I don`t like that. But is that -- that may be what Trump is counting on here.
NORMAN EISEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Chuck, it was not a referendum with a specific question put to the American people. Do you want Donald Trump to continue to run his international businesses? Do you want him to have his children in his official meetings with foreign heads of state? Do you want him to take over as the producer of a TV show while sitting in the oval office?
I don`t think the American people bless that, number one. Number two, this is a recipe for scandal. And we have seen again and again in democratic and republican administrations, when the first scandal hits, the people are fed up and disgusted and members of your own party turn against you. We have seen it. TODD: Richard Painter, Norman Eisen, you guys did not pull punches which I appreciate, and I hope a lot of people are listening. Thanks for coming on and for sharing your views.
PAINTER: Thank you.
TODD: You got it.
EISEN: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: These two gentlemen gave an interesting lesson in how to deal with these issues and the different problems you will face. There is a lot more. This was just a small part of the conversation I had with Norman Eisen and Richard Painter. You will be able to see the rest of it on our website meetthepressnbc.com.
Still ahead, It was a wild year on the campaign trail, but what was the biggest pants on fire moment of the past 12 months? Our friends at PolitiFact will unveiling the lie of the year. That`s next. Keep it right here.
TODD: The big night on MSNBC. Special interview on Rachel Maddow tonight. She will talk one on one with the outgoing attorney general Loretta Lynch. That`s tonight at 9 p.m. eastern. Up next on MTP Daily, we will unveiling PolitiFact`s lie of the year. But first, here`s Aditi Roy with CNBC Market Wrap. ADITI ROY, CNBC GENERAL ASSIGNMENT REPORTER: Hey, thanks so much, Chuck. Another record day for stocks. The Dow surged 114 points to a new high just 90 points away from the 20,000 mark. The S&P adds 14 to another record. The Nasdaq climbs 51 to an all time high.
The federal reserve began its final meeting of the year earlier. It`s widely expected to announce rate hike. Investors will hear from FED chair Janet Yellen at 2:30 p.m. eastern tomorrow. Monsanto shareholders voted in favor of a merger with Bayer. The $57 billion deal has been waiting regulatory approval in the U.S. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
TODD: Welcome back. In an election year filled with exaggeration, distortions and of course outright lies, PolitiFact is ready to announce its lie of the year. It`s pretty clear the choice wasn`t easy. Consider some of the finalists.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Director Comey said my answers were truthful and what I said is consistent with what I have told the American people.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was totally against the war in Iraq. You can look at Esquire magazine from `04, you can look before that.
CLINTON: There was never any material marked classified that was sent or received by me. TRUMP: There is tremendous voter fraud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: So in the end, none of the candidates made the cut. So what was the lie of the year? Angie Drobnic Holan is the editor of PolitiFact and I`m not going to announce it. Angie, you are going to announce it. Lie of the year.
ANGIE DROBNIC HOLAN, EDITOR OF POLITIFACT: Are you ready?
TODD: We`re ready. You want a drum roll?
HOLAN: We`ve chosen a category. We`ve chosen a category of fake news. This year, we saw more made up stories. We are not talking here everyday exaggerations or spins.
Things that were literally spun out of thin air, put on the internet, usually Facebook, but they are certainly all over the web and Google searches. And it`s not true, crazy things like the pope endorsed Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is doing nefarious things out of a pizza shop.
HOLAN: Just stuff that was made up and it seemed emblematic of the whole year.
TODD: You know, it seems -- it`s funny, you guys never thought you are gonna become Snopes. Snopes of course is the popular internet site that is basically the unofficial guardian of fake, you know.
TODD: They have over the years been the myth busters on everything, but they seemed overwhelm this year and this fake news situation almost overwhelmed you guys too.
HOLAN: There is some truth there because we are normally looking at the candidates on the campaign trails. We put enormous resources into fact checking the debates. And a lot of these stories went under the radar. They were on social media. I think for people who deal with facts and evidence everyday, there is a temptation to say, oh, nobody can believe that.
HOLAN: But whether people believe it or not, it was being shared and promoted. BuzzFeed did a really detailed analysis to show that some of these Facebook posts were so craftily made, they outranked what I would consider real news.
TODD: Philosophically, PolitiFact, do you feel like you have to turn more of your attention and resources on this issue, sort of almost patrolling this aspect where candidates, you know, leaving it to others to deal with the candidates and the policy makers because there is really nobody guarding this hen house.
HOLAN: We think this absolutely needs attention and we have been putting more resources into it. We always have to make hard decisions about what to cover and what the fact check because there is always more than we can get to. But this needs looking at. And I think we need really a society with a discussion on facts and evidence and truth and critical thinking.
TODD: This had to be such a frustrating year. It was a banner year for fact checkers. And yet, it didn`t have the impact on the populous. Is your glass half full or half empty?
HOLAN: That`s a hard question. I mean, Donald Trump was unlike any candidate we ever saw and his willingness to say things that were not accurate. He would repeat fake news stories. There were some really startling examples of him saying things that were in super market tabloids or on the internet that maybe he saw.
But we feel like as journalists, like our duty is to tell the truth. I think fact checkers, all journalists, that`s our duty. So we just have to keep doing it because what choice do we have?
TODD: Nose to the grind stone. Angie, thanks very much. This was great. Up ahead in The Lid, is there any chance the electoral college members may go off on their own and dump Trump? Stay tuned.
TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with outrage, not just any kind of outrage, but the kind of partisan blinkered outrage if you will on both sides of the aisle that is part of our daily political life. In other words, when we get really angry at stuff that the other guy does, when we really don`t care when our guy does it.
For instance, try to imagine the republican outrage of President Obama channeling Donald Trump and decided to executive produce a TV show or meet with Kanye West the day he announced the new secretary of state or skip daily intelligence briefings or simply dismiss findings by the CIA or cozy up to Vladimir Putin.
Special most head will be exploding. The Wall Street Journal editorial page would be on fire and republicans will be preparing articles of impeachment. Maybe not that last part.
But before democrats start feeling superior, it helps to remember how quiet President Obama supporters were when the president often skipped intelligence briefings himself or only read it on the iPad or when he slow jammed the news or he traded jobs between two firms or was criticized by republicans in 2008 for being the so-called celebrity candidate.
Look, it`s okay to root for an athlete on Monday when he`s on your team and then boo him mercilessly on Tuesday when he gets traded the arrival, but let`s restrict that kind of silly emotionalism to sports. Politics and public service is too important. Try having principals when your red glasses are on and when the blue glasses are on. We`ll be right back.
TODD: Time for The Lid. Members of the electoral college meet in last week to formally elect the president of the United States. But there is a growing group among them that want to make it anything but a formality. Remember, the constitution does not buy the electors to follow the state popular vote. Most states have passed laws to force that though.
Harvard professor and one-time democratic presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig told me earlier today he was aware of at least 20 republican electors who are considering casting their ballot for someone other than Donald Trump.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE LESSIG, HARVARD PROFESSOR AND ONE-TIME DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They can`t be forced by law, but they have an ethical moral obligation once they take the pledge and they must vote that way unless there is an overriding moral reason not to vote that way.
And the disqualification or the failure of a candidate to live up to the qualifications would be one such reason. That`s exactly the issue that is raised by this election. The electoral college was made for this election precisely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Let me bring back the panel. Molly Ball, April Ryan, Matthew Continetti. I have a longer interview with Lawrence. We`re gonna post the whole thing up.
What is fascinating, Matthew Continetti, is he is simply making the argument. The electors should pause, not elect anybody president, force it to the house and if the house after deciding Putin, after deciding Trump and his finances elects Trump, then so be it, but buy more time.
MATTHEW CONTINETTI, CONSERVATIVE JOURNALIST AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF THE WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: That`s ridiculous and the look project is ridiculous. Look, I think there`s one republican elector who said that he won`t vote for Donald Trump.
And there maybe others who end up with -- of course Trump has a pretty nice cushion in the electoral college so he can afford to lose some, but it`s the height of insanity to think that after this election, we would have the electoral college overturn the result and moreover, though, it`s so insane, I can see it happening or at least see electors voting against Trump for exactly that reason.
TODD: Molly, I was starting to go through this and I`m with Matthew. I could see, oh, this will happen, it will get under, and he`ll still be president because the house will decide, the public will blow up. And it`s like, at the end of the day, the safest thing to do is still elect the president.
MOLLY BALL, STAFF WRITER COVERING U.S. POLITICS AT THE ATLANTIC: I mean, so many crazy things have happened in this election that I have learned never to say anything is impossible.
BALL: That`s the main lesson I`ve taken from covering this campaign. However, in practical terms, this is very far fetched. I mean as Matt says, it would be highly unprecedented, Trump does have a very wide margin in the electoral college, so even if he does lose individual electors, there would be a long way for him to go for him to -- it would be seem as him losing a vote even if they were to do this kind of placeholder thing.
And I just haven`t seen evidence of a large scale sentiment to that effect because most of the people who volunteered to be electors in their state were Trump supporters. TODD: Of course, you brought up Hamilton earlier and stole my thunder. It is Alexander Hamilton who essentially defended the electoral college in saying it was essentially necessary for this very -- if there is an idea that a foreign entity was somehow infiltrating the country, of course, then they were worried more probably about the British and maybe less so the French.
APRIL RYAN, JOURNALIST SERVING AS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF FOR AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: And now it`s Russia.
TODD: And now it`s Russia.
RYAN: And CIA and homeland security...
TODD: And you have John Podesta even endorsing the idea that all the electors should get an intelligence briefing. Is that far fetched?
RYAN: You know, again, going to Molly`s point, you know, you never say never. We`ve never seen this before. And I mean, it`s the gift that keeps on giving. Everything`s becoming new. But I think, people -- there`s a concern. There`s a major concern, not just with the folks in the electoral college, but people in this nation. And those people who are in the electoral college are feeling the concern.
The question marks that are rising up. I know you don`t like that. You`re looking at me, but there is a major concern right now. The influence of Russia, the conflict of interest. We have never seen this before. And people want to make sure that they`re doing the right thing because this not only changes the course of history for four to eight years, but 20 to 30 years down the road.
TODD: Look, it`s in the constitution.
CONTINETTI: That`s fine, but you know what, you shouldn`t let emotions influence your decision.
RYAN: It`s not emotion.
CONTINETTI: Well, I think -- I think -- you have the CIA, which is one of over a dozen intelligence agencies.
RYAN: Homeland security.
CONTINETTI: . over a dozen intelligence agencies in this country.
RYAN: He said.
CONTINETTI: There`s one, the CIA, which thinks that it was the intent to elect Trump. That`s 1 out of 14. So there`s a difference between Russia meddling in the campaign, which the community agrees on, and Russia meddling in the election, which there is no evidence for that.
RYAN: Donald Trump himself actually at the debate said that Russia should hack into Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. He gave authorization. And he can say that it was a joke, but he still did it. And look at what`s happening now.
CONTINETTI: You can`t let people`s dislike of Donald Trump upset.
RYAN: It`s not a dislike, it`s what he said.
BALL: I think Matt actually makes an important distinction, though.
TODD: But Molly, we wouldn`t have.
BALL: We don`t have evidence that people didn`t vote the way those votes were recorded.
RYAN: That`s true.
BALL: . maybe they would vote a different way today knowing what they know.
BALL: . but there`s a reason we have an election day on a calendar and people vote when they vote. I think a lot of people who don`t like the way the election turned out, there are a lot of people, the majority of the electorate who feel that way are grasping at straws and getting false hope from stories.
TODD: But I will say this. If we are never going to use the electoral college, we should abolish it. Not that you go popular vote.
TODD: No, my point is, the electoral college was the idea of a college of influencers, right, deciding whether the American public had made the right decision. If you are not going to ever allow them to exercise that power, then why -- I`m not saying get rid of the electoral college and the idea that a state is worth a certain amount of delegates. Then turn it into a delegate.
RYAN: That`s one piece of the puzzle that needs to be changed. This whole election cycle has shown us what the founding fathers have created needs to maybe change. They didn`t foresee social media.
TODD: Actually, I give them credit, you`ve got to give them credit. They thought of almost everything, including the emoluments clause.
RYAN: But they didn`t see social media and the immediacy and how things could change at a moment`s notice.
CONTINETTI: The electoral college is there to prevent the biggest majority states from dominating the presidential process. It`s working exactly.
TODD: But I`m talking about the actual group of people.
CONTINETTI: I agree with it. So there`s laws to make them vote on bloc.
TODD: It`s that group of people. Why do we have them?
BALL: But they`re not that they`re being allowed to do the job that the founders gave them, it just that it looks to me like they`re likely to do the job and the way they feel they were directed by the electoral in their state that`s why they seem to have interpreted their mandate.
TODD: The good news is it makes everybody read the constitution, again. And that`s never a bad thing. Anyway, Molly, April, and Matthew, thank you very much. My entire interview again with Lawrence Lessig, because if you`re really into this topic and you`re kind of a constitutional junkie, you`re gonna enjoy this interview I promise at meetthepressnbc.com. After the break, the end of the Benghazi committee. Stay tuned.
TODD: In case you missed it, the house Benghazi committee quietly filed its final report and shut down. The committee`s legacy will go down as one of the most spectacularly successful failures in American politics. Let me explain.
The committee was a wild political success for republicans and it uncovered Clinton`s use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state which led to an FBI investigation, hearings, and eventually Director Comey`s letter just days before the vote which Clinton`s team still believes today cost them the election.
They omit the fact that Bill Clinton got playing, giving Jim Comey all this power. Let`s set that aside. Let`s go back to the Benghazi committee. It was arguably an investigation failure. It failed to turn up anything significantly new about what actually happened in Benghazi, despite 2-1/2 years of looking, and despite interviews with more than 80 new witnesses.
So in case you missed it, the house Benghazi committee put Clinton for the ringer with subpoenas, an 11-hour grilling on Capitol Hill, interim reports and final reports, and an addendum over an issue that had already been investigated by seven other congressional committees.
And now Republicans face the ultimate test to voter side of President Donald Trump. That`s all for tonight. Ari Melber picks up our coverage in three seconds.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END