Show: MTP DAILY Date: December 14, 2016 Guest: Dan Lauria, Carrie Dann, Peter Hart, Bill Kristol, Susan Page, Jamil Smith, Joe Manchin, Deirdre Bosa, Jim Baker
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: That`s going to do it for this hour here. I`m Steve Kornacki in New York. Up next, "MTP DAILY" with Chuck Todd.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Yes, it`s Wednesday. We`re right here in West Virginia, of course. Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd. At the Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, and welcome to MTP DAILY.
Here in West Virginia, this used to be the most reliable of Democratic states. Now, it`s solidly Trump country. Clinton lost here by 42 points. We`ve seen a historic realignment. It sent shock waves through American politics in general. But, here, big time.
Donald Trump takes the oath of office in 36 days. He is battling bipartisan criticism right now, surrounding a couple of his cabinet picks. His rejection of U.S. intelligence and business conflicts.
But as the saying goes in politics, loyalty is everything. And so, we begin tonight with a test of that loyalty. Trump supporters don`t just trust him, they seem to trust only him right now.
He questions U.S. intelligence on Russia, so do they. He puts his assigned questions about conflicts, so do they. He picks a cabinet of billionaires to champion the little guy, and they love it.
How do we know? NBC News got an exclusive look inside a focus group of 12 Trump voters conducted last night in Cleveland, Ohio. It was moderated by Democratic pollster Peter Hart, of course, on behalf of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Peter, a part of our NBC-"Wall Street Journal" polling team. It was a fascinating and eye-opening look at the Trump phenomenon. When Trump talks, his supporters listen. And not only that, what Trump says, they say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can`t be bought. You know, I just can`t be bought.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can`t buy him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can`t buy him.
TRUMP: We use political hacks. They have no clue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Politicians are not good deal makers.
TRUMP: They made a tremendous mistake when you chose Mitt Romney four years ago. He was a disaster as a candidate. No energy. No life. No nothing. He was just stiff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He fought back and that`s something that McCain and Romney refuse to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Trump has come under intense bipartisan fire for his business conflicts. He was supposed to hold a press conference on this issue tomorrow. But he`s canceled it. And these supporters couldn`t care less about the issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s not putting his financial affairs into a blind trust like other presidents. Anybody bothered by that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, this is unprecedented, what`s going on with his wealth and everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. No concern around the table?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Trump has also come under bipartisan scrutiny for rejecting findings that Russia tried to interfere with our election. Are his supporters worried? Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not concerned at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Right now, I guess I`m not concerned.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that the media twists a lot. And so, it wouldn`t surprise me if they are just putting that out there as a theory.
UNIDENTIFIEDE MALE: Julian Assange, who gave us all these e-mails, came out and said that it wasn`t the Russians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think that it`s nonsense.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It doesn`t matter if the Russians did it or whatever. I mean, what came out came out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And, folks, I know what some of you are thinking after watching this. Oh, these must be all lifelong hard right conservative Republicans. Well, guess what? They`re not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIEE MALE: Did you vote for either Reagan or -- I mean, for Clinton or Obama?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My favorite president would probably be -- probably Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I voted for Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did vote for Clinton in the past.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I voted for Clinton in the past.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did vote for Obama once.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: That`s right. Seven out of 12 of that Trump voter focus group voted for either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.
I`m joined now by the moderator of that focus group, Peter Hart. He`s also the Democratic -- one part of the Democratic team of our NBC-"Wall Street Journal" poll. As well as NBC News political editor, Carrie Dann, who attended the focus group.
So, Peter, I have to say I think the most -- maybe it`s not that surprising. But if you`re Donald Trump and you saw that focus group and the intro we did you have to feel pretty good about your core base and your ability to talk to your core base.
Oh, Peter, did you not hear that? Carrie, let me go to you on that. I think we`re having a little bit of an audio issue with Peter. So, a similar question. I think it was interesting there that it is clear that if you`re Donald Trump and you`re the Trump White House team and you see this focus group and you realize your core base is with you through thick and thin right now.
CARRIE DANN, POLITICAL EDITOR, NBC NEWS: Absolutely. This group was willing to give Donald Trump just a very, very wide berth, almost limitless leeway, at least at the beginning of his presidency. Saying that they`re totally unbothered by the stories that are plastered on the front page of newspapers and of nightly news. About his conflicts of interest, the Russian CIA story. His involvement in celebrity "Apprentice."
He is given sort of just carte Blanche. Because what these voters want to see is results on two, really, key issues. They want to results on jobs and they want to see Obamacare either changed or repealed.
Those are really animating issues. Those are the things that they will probably hold his feet to the fire. Those are the things that they definitely want to see action on right away.
But as the day-to-day tone, a lot of these voters said, you know, I think that he need to moderate his tone after the election. And he has and to the extent that maybe he tweets a little bit more than we would like him to or maybe he could be a little bit more presidential there.
That`s a far less concern than his bold action, than his business savvy and the things that they really liked about him that got him elected in the first place with these folks.
TODD: Peter, I think we have the audio issue fixed. So, let me just go up to 30,000 because I think Carrie did a pretty good job of answering that first question for you.
So, let me go to the 30,000 feet there. What surprised you about this focus group?
PETER HART, AMERICAN POLLSTER: (INAUDIBLE) what surprised me are two things, Chuck. First and foremost, not only the leash that he gets but sort of the breath of saying, he`s the person in charge. He`s the one who deserves the power. Congress should listen to him. And there`s not necessarily a sense of an independent brand.
But I think more importantly than that is how these voters sort of looked at the world. And that is, these are the people who chant USA, USA. But when it really comes down to it, they`re talking about themselves. Us.
And what they care about is not that the Russians are hacking or being involved, in terms of the election. They are not being concerned about what may happen, throwing out people on immigration.
It`s a sense of what it means to us. And so, it`s not necessarily a bigger view of the world. It is what can be done to help us as individuals. And I think that`s sort of different from the Democratic Party.
TODD: Carrie, if you -- what -- you talked about that there were two sort of core promises, you got the sense, that if he has to fulfill there. But you said he gets a wide berth. You know, how much patience did you get a sense that these folks are going to have?
DANN: Oh, nearly infinite patience, at least from these voters right now. When asked what would disappoint them about Donald Trump, they pointed kept on pointing back to his campaign promises. They said, we want him to stick to what he talked about during the campaign on jobs and on health care.
They were less focused on issues like immigration and terror which have been two really big, of course, planks for Donald Trump during the primaries. They were much more interested on economic issues.
But they said, over and over, that the reason that they liked him was his boldness and that he`s not beholden to anybody. If that was to change, that would be what would disappoint these voters.
They were saying that he cannot be bought. That the reason that they were willing to give him a pass on things like conflict of interest is he`s already made his money. He`s not beholden to anybody. He doesn`t need any more money. So, he`s going to be a representative for the people.
If their patience runs out, it`s going to be because he pivots on those issues. But on issues of tone day to day, they are willing to give him a lot -- a very, very long leash.
TODD: Peter, if you were still an active Democratic consultant and had a slew of clients trying to figure out, OK, I`ve got to figure out how to win in Trump`s America and win over Trump voters, what would you tell them you learned from this about how to communicate with these people?
HART: Well, I think the most important thing is to get back to the neighborhoods. I think that we`ve ignored people from west of New Jersey all the way out to the west coast. And I think that they need to get back there.
Number two, I think that we had a good economic message, Democrats. But I think that they`ve stopped telling that message. And I think the sense that people wanted, and Carrie`s got it, is change. And how are we offering change and what`s going to be different?
And I think the long leash is right. But I`ve been here before. I`ve watched it for the last 40 years. And people always say they`re going to give a long leash. But in the end of the day, you`re either delivering and things change more quickly than you expect.
So, while they say two years from now, if he hasn`t accomplished that much, I`ll give him more time. Wait and see.
As always, they want him to be president. They want him to act presidential. Right now, in this interim period, they are giving mild criticism. It will get heavier if he continues as president doing the same thing.
TODD: All right. Peter and Carrie, I`m going to leave it there with the two of you. Peter, as always, we appreciate you bringing these focus groups to us.
Let me bring in the panel for this evening. It`s Bill Kristol who is the editor at "The Weekly Standard." A big change though. He`s going to become editor at large, I believe. Susan Page, a Washington bureau chief at "USA Today." And Jamil Smith is MTV News Senior National Correspondent.
So, Bill, I should say congratulations. I think, right? This feels good. No more day-to-day management?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, a good hand-off to Steve Hayes.
TODD: It puts the burden on my buddy, Steve Hayes.
KRISTOL: Exactly. Steve Hayes and Richard Starr. It`s in good hands and I can spend time --
KRISTOL: -- doing God knows what.
TODD: There you go. More time coming on here.
Susan, though, I`m going to let you have the first word. What -- anything surprise you at what you saw there in that focus group and how -- just how connected they are with their candidate?
SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": You know, I watched this focus group last night remotely. And what struck me is how unhappy these voters were with how things are now. How willing they are to have things blown up.
They don`t care that he`s -- that Trump is appointing people who haven`t worked in government before and don`t have experience. They don`t really care what they do. They just want things to change.
And that gives, I think, Donald Trump enormous running room to do things. But it also means they expect things to change. And if in a year from now, things are not different, especially the way Washington works, I think these voters could become disenchanted with him.
Remember, half of these voters were people who were Democrats, as recently as four years ago.
PAGE: They are not dedicated Republicans. But they have certainly signed on to Donald Trump.
TODD: Jamil, how about that, though, that more than half of them were voters for Democratic presidents in the last two last Democratic presidents that there were. That tells you the Democratic Party has a messaging problem.
JAMIL SMITH, SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, MTV NEWS: Well, I think, really, what it tells you is the power of Trump`s messaging. And specifically the central message of his campaign was not about economics or about anything, really, that is typically a political topic. It was about identity. It was about taking America back to a point where, frankly, white Americans had significantly more advantages than they do now. And -- or at least perceptively had those kinds of advantages.
So, I mean, that`s the question I would have liked to hear in them -- heard them ask. Is identity, is white identity specifically, a driving force behind your support for Donald Trump?
TODD: Bill, what did you -- what do you make of the fact that it -- I was struck by how much that -- what Donald Trump says, they say.
And, look, it`s not unusual that supporters or the president`s supporters of a candidate will echo some things. But it seemed almost -- it seemed almost verbatim, of sorts. It`s almost as if he is also -- he`s not just their president. He is who they get their news from. He`s their filter, pure and simple.
KRISTOL: You know, I think Trump identified with those voters or they identified with him in a way that`s somewhat unusual.
Though, maybe like Peter, I`ve been around so long. I seem to -- if he was on a focus group with the most committed Obama millennial voters in 2000, December 2008, I think they would have sounded a lot like Barack Obama. And would have echoed Barack Obama and would have had great hopes and expectations for Barack Obama.
And 2010 was a rough mid-term election for him. Not so much because of his core voters, they probably stuck with the Democrats less. But because swing voters swung. And I do think that`s the question here.
I mean, for all the talk about this. And it`s interesting. And it`s important. And it`s great that you`re there in Charleston doing these interviews and stuff.
But it wasn`t that different from 2012, right? I mean, Trump lost the popular vote by two and a half percent. Romney lost by four percent. Whatever. You know, Romney won West Virginia with 63 percent. Trump won with 67 or 68 percent.
I mean, the Democrats aren`t as in as bad of shape right now as people being. And Trump and the Republicans, and here`s my only (INAUDIBLE), my real point, are not in as strong shape as they would think if they looked at a friendly focus group and think, whoa, we are just in charge. We could do whatever we want.
KRISTOL: They need to really execute on some of these policies and executing on good policies isn`t easy.
TODD: You know, the other thing that struck me, Susan, is, I`ll tell you, now you understand, you know, Democrats who say, how come -- oh my god, his business deals or oh my god, this. Boy he was clear. Any of the personal stuff just washed away.
PAGE: You know, they didn`t care about potential conflicts. They assume he -- it won`t matter to him because they think he`s already so rich. They didn`t care about the Russian hacking. They didn`t -- they didn`t know much about it. They didn`t really care to find out more about it.
They cared about two things, jobs and Obamacare. And, in fact, Peter had trouble getting (INAUDIBLE.) This is on the third issue they really cared about. So, build the wall. That didn`t get a lot of play.
They care about, are there going to be jobs for them to go to and can they get out of what has clearly been a burden, for at least some of them, to pay for their premiums for coverage?
TODD: That`s for sure.
All right, Bill, Susan and Jamil, you guys are sticking around for the hour.
We`re here tonight at Black Sheep Burrito and Brews in wild, wonderful West Virginia.
Coming up, I`m going to talk with Senator Joe Manchin about his meeting with Donald Trump and whether he can work with the president-elect. Stay tuned.
TODD: Welcome back.
Four billionaires, three generals, two CEOs, one wrestling managing and a partridge in a pear tree. Trump`s picks are a diverse collection of individuals.
But Trump`s cabinet does appear to have a diversity problem. White men dominate his top cabinet post. There`s Steve at Treasury, Jim at Defense, Jeff at A.G., John at the H.S., Tom at HSS, Rick at Energy, Mike at CIA, Brian in Interior. You can see where I`m going here.
Our friend at the "RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" noted that if Trump picks a white male to run the Ag Department, the line of succession to the presidency would go uninterrupted through 12 white men. Now, to be fair, there is some diversity in the cabinet, including Ben Carson, Nikki Haley and Elaine Chao.
But if they`re all confirmed, the top four cabinet posts, the big four, state, defense, justice and treasury, oh and DHS, if you want to call it the big five, some will want to do that, it will be all white men. And it`s the first time, in the big four at least, since Bush 41`s first cabinet was assembled in 1989.
How much will Donald Trump pay a price for that, if at all? We`ll be back.
TODD: Welcome back.
There are now 10 Democratic senators in states that Trump won. And one of them is a senator from right here in West Virginia. It`s Joe Manchin. A former governor, turned to senator, met with the president-elect on Monday in Trump Tower and characterizes his meeting as productive and informative.
Machin was under consideration to be Trump`s secretary of energy. That job ended up going to another former governor. This one from Texas, Rick Perry. But Manchin said in a statement yesterday that he will stay in the Senate where he is up for reelection in 2018.
Senator, thanks for coming in.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: It`s good to be with you, Chuck.
TODD: Well, it`s good to be in your home state.
MANCHIN: Trust me, it`s good for me to be in my home state.
TODD: I`m sure it is.
MANCHIN: It`s where I like to be.
TODD: Secretary of Energy. Why did you take the interview?
MANCHIN: I thought it was anything I can do to propel my state and energy is something that -- you know, it`s what we`re all about. And I think you`ve been able to observe that first hand.
TODD: No doubt.
MANCHIN: And I had a chance to go there and talk about our minus (ph) protection bill we`ve been fighting for.
MANCHIN: And we fought right up to the last minute. And we`re going to get that done and it`s something we need to do.
President-elect Donald Trump has won every coal region in the United States. Not just West Virginia. But he won West Virginia overwhelmingly. And he wants to help coal mines. So, I wanted to make sure. I wanted to look at him and talk to him and make sure that we were on the same path. Try to get this done. We`ve got to get the mining protection.
MANCHIN: And we`ve got to find a pathway forward so that we can have a balanced energy policy with coal winning.
TODD: What does it look like? I mean, I know I`ve talked to miners here and they`re all -- the thing they`re most excited about, they assume a whole bunch of regulations are going away. Is that the magic blixer (ph)?
MANCHIN: Well, there was an overreach. There was definitely an overreach. I`ve always said there was kind of a nuisance. What happens is all West Virginians want clean water and clean air like everybody else in America. But there`s a balance to be had. We built this country on the energy we produced right here.
So, we`re looking for that balance again. But they`ve overreached and President Obama and his administration, which I`ve been at odds at from day one. They overreached and basically that shut us down.
So, don`t tell me you`re for the working person when you really are basically stopping the working person from working.
TODD: Do you have any concern about over promising to the coal workers? Where they sit there and they think, OK, we finally got what we`ve been asking for and we`re going to get it.
MANCHIN: My concern is this. And, really, in reality, we know that the low price of natural gas can bring on just an absolute wash on the market. And the energy market has had an effect and will. We`ve ridden the low and high tides of market changes. We`ve done that many, many years in my life time.
But we`ve never had the federal government jump on our back and try to hold us under the water while we were trying to swim or just trying to tread. That`s what -- that`s what we felt like. And I said --
TODD: This is going to -- so, you get rid of these regulations. That`s going to allow the coal industry to tread water again.
MANCHIN: It`ll allow -- it`ll allow us to stabilize. Now, --
TODD: Can it grow?
MANCHIN: Well, it can only grow, basically -- this is so intertwined.
MANCHIN: The Federal Energy Regulation Commission determines on how energy comes onto the grid. If they`re only looking at, basically, the cheapest way on the grid and not reliable and dependable, coal is the most reliable, dependable and affordable energy up until this bout (ph) of natural gas.
But there has to be a balance. And what we`ve said, give us a chance to survive. The coal plants that scares me, they closed. So, we don`t have the markets we had before. So, even with all the ability for us to go back and mine, we`ve lost a lot of markets through these last eight years that just shut down and changed over to cheap gas. So, there`s a challenge.
TODD: What does West Virginia`s economy look like in 30 years?
MANCHIN: We`ve got to diversify. And here`s the thing, we`ve got to have broadband throughout. For West Virginia to succeed, we`re a rural state, we`re a mountainous state, as you can see. It`s hard to get the signals. We`ve got to --
TODD: I`ve been hearing about the promise of rural broadband. It started with George W. Bush. Barack Obama talked about it.
MANCHIN: It`s a shame. It`s really a --
TODD: What`s the hold up?
MANCHIN: Well, it was the money. They won`t commit.
TODD: I thought we had a new tax --
MANCHIN: Well --
TODD: -- that they were supposed to -- like, a quarter of a penny.
MANCHIN: Oh, it went all right. It went right to the urban areas again, too. So, we finally got Tom Wheeler here, the head of FCC.
MANCHIN: And got him down here and took him in the most desolate rural area we have which is --
TODD: Open your phone, right?
MANCHIN: We couldn`t get anything. We couldn`t get a thing. Took him to (INAUDIBLE) County. And Tom says, I`m committed to getting that rural band money back to you. Without that, it`s -- the market`s not there. We don`t have the population, basically. But if you ever want to stop poverty, you`ve got to get people connectivity. And that`s the thing that does it.
TODD: What role do you want to play for Donald Trump in the United States Senate?
MANCHIN: My role, I want to play for the United States of America but also, basically, to make the Senate work again. I`ve been there for six years and it hasn`t worked. And I`ve been miserable. A lot of other senators have been miserable. And I`m being honest. And I --
TODD: Yes. Why did you stay? Why are you staying?
MANCHIN: I`ve got -- I`ve got --
TODD: A lot of people wanted you to run for governor and you probably would have won.
MANCHIN: I`ve got a lot of hope and faith that my friend and Chuck Schumer is going to change and give us that new spark that we need. And, basically, allow us to -- you know, I`m different.
I am not a Washington Democrat. If you`ve been in West Virginia, Democrats are different. And with that being said, you know, we still believe in hard work. We believe in helping everybody that needs help. But, boy, get off your butt and do something.
MANCHIN: And you don`t wait for a handout.
So, this is where we are and I think we`re going to be able to say, fine, I can go over and talk to Paul Ryan. I can go over and talk to Mitch McConnell and his team. I know John and I know Kevin McCarthy and all of these people. I know now the Trump team. I`ve been up and spend a little time and felt very comfortable. I think he wants to really do something.
TODD: Are you still comfortable being a West Virginia Democrat?
MANCHIN: Absolutely. I`m comfortable who I am. And if I change my brand, OK?
MANCHIN: My identity as a Democrat. My brand is very independent. That`s who I am. Why do I have to change my identity just to think I`m somebody different?
MANCHIN: And I`ve told him that.
TODD: So, Keith Ellison or tom Perez come up to you and say, Senator Manchin, help us reach out to rural America, coal country. What advice do you give them?
MANCHIN: Well, let`s get a chairman from rural America coal country.
TODD: Do you think that`s a problem?
MANCHIN: It would be.
TODD: You would like a third choice?
MANCHIN: I would like another choice, absolutely.
And I think, basically, and speaking from a rural Democrat from a rural state, that`s getting our brains beat in because Washington doesn`t listen to us. The Democrats in Washington don`t really speak for us.
It`s hard for them now to represent us. And that`s hard. So, you`ve got to fight to be a Democrat in West Virginia today.
TODD: Why did Bernie Sanders do better than Hillary Clinton here? What did Bernie get about West Virginia that Hillary Clinton didn`t?
MANCHIN: You know, I have -- I have a hard time explaining that one because I really don`t get it either, Chuck. I don`t -- I don`t understand it.
TODD: Do you think it was showing up? Do you think part of it was showing up and caring about -- you know, he was --
MANCHIN: (INAUDIBLE) change so bad. How did Donald Trump do so well everywhere? I mean, how (INAUDIBLE) as we knew it. He was going to win West Virginia. I knew that from day one.
MANCHIN: And you know what?
TODD: But did you think he was going to win it by the --
MANCHIN: No, no.
TODD: -- biggest margin --
TODD: -- in history of this state?
MANCHIN: No, I did not. I did not. I did not. And he didn`t either. We were talking -- we were talking about that and he said, I won big. And I told -- he told me how big he thought he won it at first, 35, 37. I said, I think you won it a little bigger than that. And so, he was surprised at that.
But anyway, people were so mad. And I keep -- and I felt it. They get mad at everybody. Anybody would get mad at me and everybody else who`s up there if you`re elected. And they wanted change. And they, basically, didn`t think that anyone would bring them change that had been there.
MANCHIN: Well, Bernie`s been there for a long time and they just didn`t know it.
MANCHIN: And Bernie spoke of all these things against Wall Street. They got bailed out. And when you think about it, Wall Street got bailed out.
TODD: Oh, I heard this from the coal guys today.
MANCHIN: They got bailed out and we couldn`t even take care of our coal miners.
TODD: Auto worker -- everybody (INAUDIBLE.) Auto workers get bailed out. Bankers get bailed out. How come (INAUDIBLE)?
MANCHIN: And they -- we didn`t even ask for a bailout. We had the money to pay for it. (INAUDIBLE.)
TODD: A quick senatorial question. Rex Tillerson, his relationship with Putin.
TODD: Is that a problem for you?
MANCHIN: That, specifically, is not a problem for me. And I`ll tell you the reason why. You`ve got to have relationships. We haven`t had any dialogue. I spent time over in Germany and I went over for a Russian conference.
MANCHIN: Why? And I started talking to some of them and became pretty friendly with a couple. And I said, what`s wrong? I said, it`s the cold war. They said, the cold war is colder today than when it was on.
MANCHIN: And they said, no one`s communicating. But that`s our job. We`re the leaders of the free world. We`ve got to reach out to these people.
With that being said, I`m concerned about Rex. They say, follow the money.
MANCHIN: That`s always what I hear, follow the money. I don`t know how intertwined are his dealings. It`s personal. And his --
TODD: And this is going to matter to you as --
MANCHIN: Well, I think from that standpoint, you want to make sure that the person, basically, is going to say no matter what, it`s about America. It`s about the security of our country. It`s about basically the things we believe in.
It`s not about, do I protect my investments so when I retire, I`ve got this, this, this in place. Those are the things I hear a lot of my fellow Democrats speaking about. Him having a relationship, no, maybe we need that relationship so somebody can talk to them. But I hope they can say no to him.
You know, and I think I know Rex. I know Rex from this standpoint. He has the heart of a lion. He really does. And he has the compassion, too, because I watched him with the Boy Scouts. He come down and he`s very big. He`s an Eagle Scout. Very big in the Boy Scout movement. So, we got together on that and we put the scout camp in. (INAUDIBLE.)
TODD: I`m going to leave it there.
TODD: Good to see you, sir.
MANCHIN: Thank you.
TODD: All right.
With some Republicans questioning Trump`s choice of ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson, as secretary of state, I`m going to talk to a Republican who`s already held the job. Former secretary of state, James Baker, joins me just ahead.
TODD: We`ve been live here in West Virginia for this special edition of MTP Daily so stay tuned for special interview tonight later on MSNBC. Hardball with Chris Matthews sits down with the cast of Hidden Figures.
It`s a new film that tells the untold story of three African-American women for among the brains behind one of the greatest space operations in the history of NASA. The launch of John Glenn into orbit. That`s tonight at 7:00 p.m. eastern. Fascinating conversation. We don`t want to miss it. We will have more MTP Daily up ahead, but first here`s Deirdre Bosa for the CNBC Market Wrap.
DEIRDRE BOSA, CNBC TECHNOLOGY REPORTER: Thank you, Chuck. Stocks pulling back from record levels. The Dow sliding 118 points, the S&P shutting 18, and the Nasdaq sinking 27 points. As expected, the federal reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a percent. The second increase in about a year.
At her final news conference of 2016, FED chair Janet Yellin said the Central Bank is, quote, operating under a cloud of uncertainty as it relates to the policies of the incoming Trump administration. FED policy makers now expect three rate hikes next year. That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide.
TODD: Welcome back. Jim Baker knows his way around a presidential cabinet. He has served as chief of staff to both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush under Bush 41. He was also secretary of the state under Ronald Reagan. He was also secretary of treasury.
And he also happens to know the man who may be the next secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, of course the Exxon CEO. Jim Baker`s law firm has had a long relationship with Exxon and with Mr. Tillerson. And he joins me now. Secretary Baker, Welcome back to the show, sir.
JIM BAKER, SERVED AS WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF, U.S. SECRETARY OF TREASURY, AND U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you, Chuck. Nice to be with you.
TODD: Let me start with just a simple question about Rex Tillerson. What gives you the confidence that he can make a good secretary of state?
BAKER: Well, what gives me the confidence is that I know him personally. I will have to admit to you up front, he is a friend. And yes, my law firm has done work for Exxon in the past. But I watched Rex as he has managed that huge big corporation for the benefit of the shareholders of the corporation which is what he should be doing.
And in my opinion, he is an excellent choice for secretary of state and has the opportunity now to become a very, very effective one because he has the international experience, he has the managerial skills, and he has got the knowledge.
TODD: You said something this morning, sir, that you thought hey, don`t judge Rex Tillerson`s relationship with Vladimir Putin beyond his time at Exxon. Do you know that he`s going to have -- does he have a different view of Putin as a civilian than as he did as -- as he does as CEO of Exxon?
BAKER: No, of course I don`t know that. I haven`t talked to him since his nomination and the president-elect indicated he was going to nominate him. And in fact, I didn`t talk to the transition team about him until the Monday afternoon before he was mentioned Tuesday morning by the president- elect. So I`m not one who has been out here talking to him about all of this. I have no idea. I`m just telling you what I think. TODD: What would your advice be to president-elect Trump and if it is secretary of state Tillerson on how to handle Putin? Is this a time for closer ties with Russia? What is it? What should we be doing?
BAKER: Well, look, you are talking to somebody here who supports the current approach to Russia and to what Russia has done. I have not been bashful about that. I don`t think if you -- I don`t think if we can stand back and permit countries, if they don`t like what`s going on in a neighboring country to just roll the tax.
I think that violates all norms of international behavior. So I have been a supporter of the idea of sanctions. And I will continue to be a supporter of that in terms of the national interest of the United States.
TODD: Let me go to other trips around the world here. First, I want to start with China. Donald Trump has decided to be pretty tough on China already. Some see the phone call with Taiwan as one level of provocation and, you know, he doubled down on it himself. What do you make of it? Do you have any warnings for him on saber rattling with China?
BAKER: We got a lot of things at stake with China. You know we got areas where we can cooperate with China. I`m thinking about North Korea, I`m thinking about trade, I`m thinking about security in the pacific. There are a lot of areas where we have tensions with China, the South China Sea, Taiwan, Tibet, human rights.
My view is that the Obama administration has done a pretty reasonably good job of cooperating with China where there is room for that cooperation and managing the tensions that exist in the relationship. I do know this.
It is extraordinarily important that the United States and China have the best possible relationship that they can important to both countries. And so I think that`s the way I would approach this. And you need to approach it as a whole and not in discreet elements of the relationship.
TODD: And final foreign policy question for you. It has to do with Israel and the American Embassy. Apparently Donald Trump is very serious about actually moving the embassy to Jerusalem. It is a -- what are the -- what are the upsides and downsides if he does go through with this decision?
BAKER: The downsides of course are you still -- you also have to get along with a heck of a lot of Arab countries surrounding Israel with whom the United States has interests and relationships. And that is something that runs counter to improving those relationships or maintaining those relationships.
On the other hand, it is something that is very important to the government of Israel. And they always would like to see an administration come into office and do that. So he is going to have to make the same judgments. He is going to have to sit down, listen to his advisers, and decide whether that is something he is going to do or whether it`s not, listening to the pros and cons. The pros and cons on the most arguments on both sides of the issue.
TODD: Before I let you go, I know you are very active in trying to essentially stop African elephant poaching. And this is something that you worked on when you were secretary of state and you continue to work on it. What warnings to be done and what you do you need done here by congress and the administration?
BAKER: We need to do something about it. What I did in 1989 and 1990 as secretary of state is what we ought to do again. And that is push for and find a way to implement with other countries a global ban on the trade of ivory. That`s the only thing that is going to stop this.
We did that. We saw great progress with the herds coming back for about eight or ten years and then there were exceptions put into the ban and we lost the progress we made. Today the situation is far more dire. We need to take that kind of action again.
TODD: Secretary Baker, I could go on, it would be nice to do that, but it`s always an honor to talk with you, and I appreciate you sharing with us, sir.
BAKER: Thank you, Chuck, my pleasure. Thanks so much.
TODD: You got it. Talk soon. We will be back. We have a lot to chew over. We`ll be back in a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TODD: Welcome back. Tonight, I`m obsessed with people who have to shower after work, not before. People who work with their hands and not at a keyboard. People like the ones I met today at the Hobet coal mine. I promise there will be a lecture on working class heroes. I`m gonna leave that to the poets and songwriters.
I want to talk about people, how people hear or feel about whether their voices are heard. Democrats used to win these voters. It`s hard to believe, but West Virginia is one of six states who voted for Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan.
West Virginia went for Mike Dukakis in 1988. Those days are gone. This year, West Virginia State made up largely of working class white voters was the most pro Trump state in the country. Democrats will argue that it`s their policies that help folks here, that republicans talk a good game, but ultimately they are all about the rich.
Right now, either these voters don`t hear the democratic argument or they don`t like what they`re hearing from the democrats nationally. A party seen as representing secular coastal elites is not a party that is going to be embraced comfortably by religious voters around here. And what is often dismissed to fly over country.
Look, Donald Trump is not gonna be able to bring back coal mining. He`s not gonna be able to bring back manufacturing as easily as he may promise. And he may not unravel decades of automation and globalization. But there is one thing he has done. And I heard it in all over, not just here in West Virginia. He has given people here a sense that their voices are now being heard.
Finally, someone in Washington is listening. Even they don`t act, at least they are listening. You don`t think anybody was listening. Is Donald Trump going to be their champion as president? We don`t know yet, and they don`t know yet.
But so far, he has won their trust and their gratitude for simply listening. For now, that`s enough for them. We will see if it`s enough in two and four years. We will be back right after this.
TODD: Back now with The Lid. Panel is here with me now. Bill Kristol, Jamil Smith, and Susan Page. So Bill let me start with you. Secretary Baker, is he and Gates and Rice, are they big enough names for Tillerson to overcome nervousness from Rubio, Graham, and McCain? What have you heard from Baker that made you feel better?
KRISTOL: Nothing much, honestly. This is not a matter where you testify that someone is a good guy and he gets in the country club or he`s a good guy to have around at the bar or whatever. I mean, this is a serious job which your previous views and your activities have to be looked at.
I think the senate will take a serious look. This is a man who has no foreign policy experience in government at all obviously. He has not expressed many views on foreign policy issues. The only thing we have to go by is what he has done as CEO of Exxon. There he has been a good buddy of the Putin regime. Then he has been against sanctions.
Those create problems as matters of policy for a fair number of republicans on the hill and off the hill.
TODD: Susan, I have to say -- you tell me. You have been around Washington as long as I have. This feels like a nomination that is going to be tough to get through. Where do you assess things?
PAGE: You know, I think this is definitely a nomination where we are going to have hearings. There gonna be tough members of the foreign relations committee who are going to want to him about particularly policy to aggression, also get a sense of his views on policy toward other parts of the world.
But I actually think the endorsements by James Baker and Bob Gates and Condoleezza Rice are pretty important because these are highly respected figures, particularly in the republican party who are saying, this is a guy we think would be good in this job. You saw Baker talking about his managerial experience among other things.
So for Tillerson to really have problems getting confirmed, there needs to something else to have. He needs to fumble answering questions about Russian policy or there needs to be something that comes out through the vetting that raises some questions.
TODD: Right. You know, Jamil, one of the things Senator Joe Manchin said to me about Tillerson is that, you know, he wants to -- he has no problems with him having trying to have a better relationship with people we don`t get along with.
His issue was he wants to make sure he knows it -- Tillerson won`t be profiting from this job, essentially. You know, those things, and he said that`s the type of conversation he`s heard among democrats here. How hard should democrats work against Tillerson?
SMITH: Very hard. I think it is as hard as any, you know, Trump nomination frankly that is on the board right now. I think what we have here is this. Tillerson`s only pros for democrats is that he seems to recognize the reality of climate change and he is in favor of the Paris climate deal.
So given the fact that if Trump actually took us out of that deal, he would have to deal with the immediate consequences of that, I think that`s important to note. But at the same time, you can`t have a secretary of state that is close ties business wise and perhaps even personally with a murderous regime.
I mean, that`s really what Putin`s regime is. And to support a murderous regime in Syria with Bashar Al-Assad. So, this is not somebody we want to be close to. And so what democrats need to understand and hype up those facts the really help people understand the severity of this. TODD: You know, Bill, it was just interesting to hear Jamil describe the Putin regime the way he did. And I have noticed a fascinating split but I would argue it is inside the republican party a little bit on Tillerson which is it does seem as if the business wing of the party is a lot more comfortable with Tillerson than maybe the national security wing of the party.
You know, I`ve seen plenty of business republicans say, you know what? I guess that what has changed China policy in this country. Is the business community pushing this because they they want to do deals with Russia?
KRISTOL: They may be or they`re supporting a fellow businessman or they don`t think it is as important. What you think about what`s happening in Aleppo. Some of us do, you know. And I think that is for me this would be a continuation of Obama`s policy. Obama`s weakness with regard to Putin and in general has led to this unbelievable horror in Syria.
And as far as we can tell, Trump is comfortable with that. And as far as I can tell, Mr. Tillerson might be comfortable with that. We don`t even know. That what is startling about this. I think he`s getting too easy to your eyes. Jim Baker, Condy and everyone speaking up. We have not had a secretary of state in modern times.
I mean a long time as far back as I have been able to think who had no government experience or no foreign policy experience either on the hill or the executive branch or who had a record of being in the foreign policy debates.
Is that a necessity? No, of course not. Someone could come in totally from the outside and do a great job. But it is very reasonable to have skepticism about it. And then look at the ties with Russia. He accepts this order of friendship from Putin.
What does that mean? Well, you know what? You could just say politely, no, Mr. Putin, I don`t want to be accepting some order of friendship from you. The other recipients if you look at them were basically a bunch of thugs and murderers.
TODD: You know, Susan, I want to switch gears slightly here and that goes to how some democrats and the perhaps the Clinton campaign is reacting to the narrative that is coming out of the both -- we saw the New York Times report yesterday about the narrative of the Russian hacking plus the CIA`s allegation that it was more than just disruption, that it was intended to help Trump.
But there seems to be a split in the democratic party of how hard to fight on this front. How hard to push president Obama to be more aggressive on this. Where do you think this falls?
PAGE: Well there is a lot of disappointment among democrats, I think, with additional information coming out in The New York Times story this morning and elsewhere about the fact that the White House did not make this more public during the campaign. That they didn`t make a bigger public deal of it so that voters and operatives and everybody was more aware of what was actually going on.
I think this -- you know, I guess there are some democrats who hope maybe this somehow will return the results of the election. I don`t think that is going to happen. But I think there`s a sense that this is really serious. This is an assault on our democratic institutions and whether or not it had a real effect on the outcome of the election.
It seems to me this is something that needs to be pursued really aggressively and democrats are concerned that once Obama is out of the White House, republicans control both house and congress, it won`t get the kind of scrutiny it ought to have.
TODD: Yeah. Jamil, that`s what I hear from some democrats. They think the Obama White House lacks a sense of urgency on this.
SMITH: Well, I think the democrats really lack a sense of urgency with regards to both and general sense. I think really they need to use this opportunity to highlight the fact that the mocking around with elections is actually happening right here at home.
Republicans have sponsored any number of different new, you know, voting restrictions, 14 in this election alone. So let`s take a look at what`s happening here as well as what happened with Russia.
TODD: All right. Bill, Susan, Jamil, I`m going to have to leave it there. I appreciate it. Thank you much. We are doing this remote panel. It was fun. Sorry you`re not here in Charleston. It has been a lot of fun. We got a lot more of MTP Daily from Charleston, West Virginia right after this. Stay tuned.
TODD: Before we go, I want to give a big shout out of thanks to the staff here at Black Sheep Burrito & Brews here in Charleston, West Virginia. They have been gracious hosts for us. I also want to thank all the folks I met today at the Hobet mine and all around town here in Charleston.
We`ll have much more from my trip this Sunday on Meet the Press. Of course, we will be back tomorrow with more MTP Daily. But for now, Ari Melber picks up our coverage.
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