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MTP Daily, Transcript 1/3/2017

Guests: Carl Hulse, Leo Wise, Ramesh Ponnuru, Cornell Belcher, Susan Page; Eric Dezenhall

Show: MTP DAILY Date: January 3, 2017 Guest: Carl Hulse, Leo Wise, Ramesh Ponnuru, Cornell Belcher, Susan Page; Eric Dezenhall

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Yes, it`s Tuesday.

It`s Trump versus House Republicans, and round one goes to Trump.

(voice-over): Tonight, drain the swamp. House Republicans back down on gutting the ethics office after the president-elect`s social media slam.



TODD: Plus, Boeing, Carrier and now General Motors. How will corporate America deal with the new normal of Trump`s 140-character public shaming?

And, finally, it`s the Joe show. Live photo ops in the Senate may never be the same.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody else want to be sworn in?


TODD: This is MTP DAILY and it starts right now.

Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Washington. Happy new year. I`m back. Glad to be back. Welcome to another edition of MTP DAILY.

It`s opening day for a lot of us here. And for the new Republican Congress, school`s in session. And it appears Republicans learned their first lesson the hard way, especially when it comes to dealing with Donald Trump. Ethics and a public outcry.

But at the end of a wild day, we`re left with more questions than answers about what all the drama really means. And by the looks of things, we`re not the only ones.

Let me explain. On the eve of this new Congress, House Republicans held a vote behind closed doors to strip what was -- is known as the independent bipartisan Congressional ethics watchdog group called the Office of Congressional Ethics of its power.

That vote, after hours, on a federal holiday no less, and without the support of House leadership, was supposed to be ratified today in a larger passage of rules` bills. On the opening day of this new Congress.

Well, the effort, of course, blew up. But more than that, Republican leaders appear to have been cowed by Trump in their first act in the new Congress.

And here`s why. This morning, it looked like this effort to gut the ethics office was moving full steam ahead. Here`s House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, this very morning before we heard from President-elect Trump.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), U.S. MAJORITY LEADER: The reforms do not change the entity. The public still registers a complaint. They still do the work with the ethics` review. And it still goes forward to ethics, whether they should dismiss it or review it. Same thing as before as today.


TODD: And House Speaker Paul Ryan initially put his best spin on things this morning, assuring the public of the following. Quote, "This House will hold its members to the highest ethical standards, and the office will continue to operate independently to provide public accountability to Congress."

Now, you need to remember, both Ryan and McCarthy, apparently, opposed this move behind closed doors last night which also makes you scratch your head, if that was the case. Why didn`t they exert some influence in power here to stop this in the first place?

Well, but then, around the same time as Ryan`s statement this morning, came Trump`s tweets. Quote, "With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the independent ethics watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act in priority? Focus on tax reform, health care, and so many other things of far greater importance."

Well, within two hours of those tweets, House Republicans had withdrawn the effort, unanimously by the way.

But there`s more to this story than just ethics. Because if you`re still trying to figure out what the 2016 election was really about, today`s evidence that apparently are not alone. Because elected officials haven`t figured out the message that voters sent them.

Was it about draining the swamp? Was it about disruption of the way things are done in Washington? Was it simply about selective ethics, essentially, we`re here to clean up the party that we don`t belong to, ethically.

Everybody still seems to be grasping for that answer. But if you don`t play it right by ethics, it could bite you.

We`re going to move on and talk more about this. Joined now by Carl Hulse, who is the Chief Washington Correspondent for "The New York Times." He`s been covering Washington and government politics for 36 years. And, as I always like to say, the unofficial mayor of Capitol -- of the Capitol Hill Press Corps.

So, all right, let me start with this.


TODD: Happy new year, sir. Nothing like getting Congress back into session to give us something to do.

HULSE: Not an audacious, not a great start there.

TODD: Let me start with this. Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Ryan, we`re told were against this move from the get-go. So, how the heck --

HULSE: Right.

TODD: -- did we get as far as we got before it got withdrawn?

HULSE: I think that`s what a lot of Republicans around town are scratching their head about. As I ran into them today and talked to them on the Hill and elsewhere. How did it get that far if Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy didn`t want this to happen? You know, where`s their power?

So, in some ways, I think that the way that this unraveled, reflects probably pretty badly on them for the start of this.

[17:05:01] You know, you talk to Republicans. They`ll say, well, we knew we were probably going to have to undo this. The Trump tweet, you know, wasn`t the deciding factor. We were getting tons of phone calls.

But, they do say that the decision came after the Trump tweet. So, the new message to Congress from the White House is obviously going to come in the form of Twitter rather than documents.

And, I mean, I think they`re mainly chagrinned. Honestly, that`s the word I would use --

TODD: Yes.

HULSE: -- talking about it. Here`s the big opening day. This is the start of their big united government and they totally stepped in it. It was a big fiasco.

And I think, you know, it was funny hearing some of the Republican members talking. I know they liked Trump`s tweets when he was taking on the media or people they didn`t like. I think finding out that it can be aimed at them was a new discovery and they`re like, wow, that guy really has a big bully pulpit.

I heard one member actually say he was a little scared of it. So, you know, that`s a shape of things to come.

TODD: Well, now, Carl, it just brings up this next question. So, you`re right. So, McCarthy and Ryan are against this. Couldn`t stop it. Trump does two tweets and he stops it.

HULSE: Right.

TODD: Who`s got a bigger constituency in the House Republican conference, Paul Ryan or --

HULSE: Or who are they really --

TODD: -- Trump?

HULSE: -- who are they afraid of, right?

TODD: Who are they more afraid -- that`s right. Who are they more fearful of politically, Paul Ryan or Donald Trump?

HULSE: I mean, I had one Republican say to me, you know, it was scary to him that Ryan and McCarthy would be so strongly against this. And then, their membership would go ahead anyway and do this.

You know, it`s hard to see that happening to Tip O`Neill or even to Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn in the Senate.

So, I think that Mr. Ryan and Mr. McCarthy have to probably take some steps to reestablish them. You know, who is running the House Republican caucus right now? Which seems to be the question we`ve been asking for about six years, by the way.

TODD: No, that`s a fair point.

HULSE: Who`s in charge of the House?

TODD: Let me ask you quickly on the -- on the ethics office itself.

HULSE: Sure.

TODD: Would you say that ethics -- that ethics investigations, the ethics committee, this office, would you say it was functioning very well before this episode?

HULSE: No, no. I`ve been saying that to people all day. You know this isn`t -- although the office of Congressional ethics has been a little tougher and willing to do things on the -- than the committee on ethics that has lawmakers.

You know, it`s not like the ethics enforcement in the House is this, you know, rabid law enforcement. It`s -- it just doesn`t work that way.

I think that they were -- they spent a lot of capital. It blew up in their face on trying to tamper something that really isn`t that huge a threat to them to begin with, honestly.

TODD: Carl Hulse. Mr. Mayor, good to see you.

HULSE: Thanks, Chuck.

TODD: Your term will never end, as far as I`m concerned.

HULSE: All right. All right.

TODD: All right, there you go. Thank you, sir.

I`m joined now by Leo Wise. He is the man who ran the Office of Congressional Ethics when it first began. And I thought it would be beneficial to at least understand the actual office we`re talking about here.

Mr. Wise, thank you, sir.

LEO WISE, ATTORNEY: My pleasure.

TODD: So, this is what Republicans wanted to do. We`re playing -- and this is what got passed last night. And I want you to help walk me through what this would have meant.

It was have stripped the offices that you ran of the following. The ability to investigate anonymous complaints, conduct reviews, free of interference from members of Congress, maybe referrals to law enforcement without, I guess, Ethics Committee approval and to publish your findings publicly.

If all these four powers were taken away, what`s the point of the office?

WISE: Well, I think there isn`t much left if those are taken away, particularly the published findings. I mean, that was the real genius in how this was set up. That the office would gather evidence, interview people, collect documents, find the facts, present those to the lawmakers.

And then, after a certain period of time, those facts became public, whether the committee chose to act or not.

And then, the public could judge for itself. The conduct of their elected officials, and then how the House dealt with that conduct. So, it was -- really it was about transparency, --

TODD: Sunshine.

WISE: -- throwing light on the kind of dark corners --

TODD: Good old fashioned sunshine. Hey, put the line in over there. And if everybody sees it and the public approves it after that, well, so be it.

WISE: Exactly.

TODD: Let me ask this. So, the creation of this. It was in 2008. And I guess the question is, in response to what? What was -- what did -- describe what you feel as if your charge was -- what was the -- what was broken that you were charged with fixing?

WISE: So, I think there were primarily two things. One was the sense that the public had no way to raise concerns about their members and their behavior with the institution.

TODD: So, let me pause you. Before the creation of this office, an average citizen could not file an ethics complaint?

WISE: They would have to have had a member agree to --

TODD: Do it for them.

WISE: Which, historically, almost never happens.

TODD: Of course.

WISE: For all the reasons that anybody would imagine.

[17:10:00] TODD: Right.

WISE: And then, once an allegation was made or a complaint was made and questions were raised, it was a black box. And nobody knew what happened.

You know, and prior to the office`s creation, there was the raft of scandals about Jack Abramoff and the members that went to prison over there, interactions with him. And nobody knew what was going on in the institution that was primarily responsible for policing --

TODD: The Ethics Committee was totally, basically, non-player during the Abramoff mess.

WISE: Well, nobody knew.

TODD: Right.

WISE: Right.

TODD: And that`s -- and that was the trigger. Is that fair to say?

WISE: Yes, I think that`s fair to say. And that`s why this was really about opening up the win -- a window to the process. Both on the front so that people could raise concerns and then on the back end to see what happened to him.

TODD: All right. Now, let me -- the chief concern of the average member of Congress, though, was the following. No due process and the fact that you get to publish your findings means guilty until proven innocent. What do you say to that?

WISE: So, on the due process question. In the two years I was there, there were -- there were no due process issues. Members had the right to address this board that voted on whether the case should move forward.

They couldn`t be compelled to testify. They couldn`t be subpoenaed for documents. All their involvement was voluntarily. They retained council. There really was no due process. There were no due process violations at all.

And in terms of the findings being published, I mean, these are the facts. The facts are the facts, right? If someone went on a trip and it was paid for by someone that shouldn`t have paid for it or if they sponsored an earmark for a company that benefitted one of their donors, that`s what happened.

And the objection that anybody should know about that is really a different animal from members are being slammed.

TODD: Is there any part of the due process argument that you think is a fair critique?

WISE: I never saw any part of that. I mean, this was a very member friendly process, starting with them being told what was being investigated all the way through to having the last word in front of -- in front of our board.

TODD: It`s interesting you say member-driven. You`ve had plenty of experience. You prosecuted Enron. You`ve had plenty of experience going after -- in your opinion, you`re not there now, is the -- was the -- is this office too friendly to Congress? Even as it stands now?

WISE: You know, I think it works. It worked within the confines that were put on it. But it produced very intense, very vigorous fact-based investigations. And then, the chips fell where they -- where they fell after that was presented to the House, presented to the members and presented to the public.

TODD: All right. Leo Wise, you would like to see the office stay?

WISE: I think it -- I think it delivered a valuable service and if -- and it the House -- if the House wants that service, then that`s what -- that`s what they were getting.

TODD: All right. Leo Wise, the man who ran this office when was first created in 2008. Thanks for coming in, sir.

WISE: My pleasure.

TODD: Appreciate it.

Before I bring in the panel, I want to play something that Republican Congressman Eric Cantor said when he was in House leadership. Cantor was in Congress in 2006 when Republicans lost control of the House. They lost control amid of a wave of ethics investigations.

This is an interview that Cantor did with "The National Review" in 2010 as Republicans were campaigning to take back control of Congress.


ERIC CANTOR (R), FORMER U.S. HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I think it`s for Republicans who emerge as a new governing majority, it`s incumbent upon us to execute a zero on zero tolerance policy that, you know, we understand there are reasons for our being fired in 2006 and 2008.

Some of that had to do with ethics` violations. I mean, we had several members under public investigation during the time of the 2006 elections.

I think we`ve learned that that`s not a good way to gain the confidence of the people and that we ought to be instituting a zero-tolerance policy here.

It`s time for us to live up to the people`s expectations and that is we cannot tolerate any ethics` violations or behavior, in terms of compromising the ethics that the people expect us to have as their representatives.


TODD: So, let`s bring in the panel. Cornell Belcher is a Democratic pollster. Ramesh Ponnuru, Senior Editor at said National Review. May have been part of that interview, actually, way back when. And Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief at "USA Today."

You know, Ramesh, I will start with you since it`s your publication that did that interview. That -- and it strikes me today that some of these Republicans that are in the House apparently forgot why they lost it before.

Because that`s what made this, to me, so head scratching in the -- in the first place. And it`s like, where was Eric Cantor sentiment yesterday when this was happening?

RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW INSTITUTE: Well, there`s been a lot of turnover among House Republicans.

TODD: Including Eric Cantor.

PONNURU: Including Eric Cantor, that`s right. And it would be interesting to see a breakdown between the older members and the newer members --

TODD: Yes.

PONNURU: -- on this vote. But I think there`s no question that this was politically a colossal blunder. Just a terrible way to start off the new year. And if Trump hadn`t intervened --


PONNURU: -- one wonders whether they would have had the sense to pull back.

TODD: Now, Trump didn`t say he was for this office. He just said, what are you prioritizing here? But it was -- it was actually a more effective shaming, I think.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Politically and I`m glad you showed that because I remember. I was in the meetings that -- when -- in going into 2006 election where we -- where we rolled out, you might remember this, Chuck, a culture of corruption.

TODD: Yes. It was the 2006 campaign.

BELCHER: It was. And, by the way, there a lot of fighting to have Democrats land on that. And we finally landed on that and what we did, over time, was under -- Republican`s had two big advantages. They were over security as well as values, right. And over the culture of corruption, we undermined that big gap they had in middle America around values and doing the right thing.

And this sort of spoke to -- spoke to me exactly the same problem as this fundamental overstaff, that if Republicans aren`t seen as a value, sort of center party, and middle America and church-going America, it`s a real problem for them. This was a colossal mistake.

TODD: And Susan, what`s interesting here, and this is where Trump -- I`m going to quote Chris Matthews. He likes to say this. He`s got the best ear in politics. He`s not stupid. He knew -- he knew where this was headed and he almost -- he basically -- you could argue it probably gets repealed anyway that they were getting a lot of grief.


TODD: Perhaps, at some point. And he decided, I know how to -- I know how to make it happen today.

PAGE: That`s right. Or at least I know how to appear to make it happen --

TODD: That`s right. That`s right.

PAGE: -- because of me. Because you know --

TODD: A good deal.

PAGE: -- members of Congress were also getting a lot of calls from constituents saying, what in the world are you doing? It`s not just a political mistake. It goes to why do they think they were sent here?

TODD: And that goes to my question, what was the message for the voters? Right?

PAGE: That`s right. That`s right. So, in secret, on an issue that no one ever talked about during this entire campaign, --

TODD: Right.

PAGE: -- they choose to do that first.

PONNURU: You know, the other thing is -- and I`m not one who is quick to praise President-elect Trump. But it was also deft because the careful, gentle way in which he did it. He didn`t say, you guys are being corrupt - -

TODD: That`s right.

PONNURU: -- or being crooked. He said, basically, stop and take a second. Is this really the way you want to start things off?

PAGE: And, you know, two things. One was --

TODD: It was a mature -- it was, actually, a very mature way of handling it.

PAGE: Smart. It was subtle.

TODD: Very subtle.

PAGE: Not usually the adjective we use with Donald Trump`s tweets. You know, not only were they willing to listen to him, he was willing to give them a hard time in a public way. He didn`t, like, call the leader and say, quietly, please, you`ve got to get out of this. This is a bad idea. He did it in public.

And that tells you something about how this is, like -- this count is likely to operate for the next two years with this Republican (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD: This was a new sheriff in town. It`s a small moment but it`s a new sheriff in town moment.

BELCHER: But it showed us also who -- and, again, I`m not meaning to be partisan here. But that`s who Congress is. Look, eight percent of Americans think that members of Congress are highly ethical, according to Gallup poll.

TODD: Yes. There is bipartisan -- there is bipartisan agreement on one thing. They`re always getting corrupt.

BELCHER: All these guys are corrupt. And you feed into that (INAUDIBLE) when the first thing you do is scratch this office.

TODD: And let me paint another scenario. Donald Trump`s got his own conflicts of interest issues that people -- that Democrats certainly believe is going to trip him up, at some point.

The question`s always been, how are House Republicans going handle those issues when they have to do this? Congress, we`ve heard from a lot of Congressional Republicans who say they`re going to hold him accountable personally on this stuff.

Hasn`t that undermined that effort in time with their mess today?

PAGE: Is it ironic? I mean, is it possible Congressional Republicans thought they could do this because of Donald Trump? Because Donald Trump - -

TODD: That`s what I`m wondering.

PAGE: -- has not released his taxes. He`s not going to --


The public doesn`t care so we might as well do it as well.

TODD: And that`s -- I guess they got a message today that, well, the public actually still cares.

PONNURU: I do think that these things, they matter if they`re added to other things. If there`s a perception that the Republicans are more interested in their own personal advancement, than they`re in doing anything good for (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD: And that`s what today looked like.

PONNURU: And that`s what happened in 2005 and 2006 also.

BELCHER: And that`s what Democrats have to take advantage of. I mean, this whole idea that they`re corrupt and they`re for special interests. If Democrats can roll that into the next midterm election, I think they`ll be successful.

TODD: Well, day one.

BELCHER: Day one, I`m already starting.

TODD: There it is. All right, stick around.

Coming up, the big challenges facing both parties in the new year. What will Republicans really do about health care, in between repealing it and repealing it again? Will Democrats try to stop president Trump the way Republicans tried to stop President Obama or finds way to work with him?

Stay tuned.


TODD: Welcome back.

No drama this year. Paul Ryan was easily elected to his first full-time as House speaker this afternoon. Ryan captured 239 of 240 votes cast by Republicans. Remember, he doesn`t vote for himself.

The lone Republican defection, Kentucky`s Thomas Massie. He voted for Daniel Webster. The current Congressman from Florida`s tenth district, not the 19th century senator. Massie has never voted for the establishment Republican pick in any speaker election so that wasn`t exactly news.

Let`s look at the full tally here, a little more dissent on the Democratic side believe it or not.

Ohio`s Tim Ryan received two votes. Remember, he challenged Nancy Pelosi for the Democratic leader spot.

Congressman John Lewis and Jim Cooper also received a vote of peace for this second consecutive speaker election.

A lot fewer defections this year on the Republican side compared to two speaker elections in 2015. And with four descending votes this year, defection is slowly growing in the Democratic caucus.

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


TODD: Welcome back.

As you know, it`s like the first day of school here in Washington. So, for the first time since 2007, Republicans control both Congressional chambers and the White House. It`s actually just the 10th congressional term in the last 100 years with Republicans running the entire show.

With a new Congress today and a new administration taking office in a couple of weeks, very quickly, here`s a quick overview of the big storylines that we are watching as we kick off 2017.

First, change or experience. What will define the Trump administration?

Next up, health care. Are Republicans prepared to own the repeal? Supreme Court. Who will be Trump`s pick and what type of fight will really follow? How ideological will it get? And what will the Democratic strategy be? Will they change a little or a lot?

Opposition tactics. Will Democrats borrow from the GOP playbook to counter Trump or do they feel they can do it piecemeal?

What about the economy? Will it keep humming along and how much credit will Trump try to take if it does?

And finally, Trump and Russia. Will the new administration`s ties and stance on Russia become a liability or is Trump right that the public doesn`t care as much as Washington?

Let`s bring back the panel, Cornell, Ramesh, Susan. Susan, I`ll start with you. Of those storylines that we are outlining, what to you is the biggest question you want to get answered to understand this year better?

PAGE: You know, I think Russia is the surprise there, because all the others were things you could`ve said on election night. But the fact that Russia looms as big problem for Donald Trump. That he is at odds, not just with Democrats and not just with the intelligence community, but with congressional Republicans, like John McCain and others, on this issue.

It strikes me that this is something he`s going to need to address in a way that he hasn`t. And I guess he feels the same way because he`s meeting with intelligence agency leaders, of some sort, he says, this week to get more information about it.

TODD: Well, and it`s more than just the intelligence investigation and all the hacking issue. It`s also -- if he`s going to have a policy closer to Russia, Ramesh, it also means he`s making a decision to pick Russia over China. And China is going to feel that.

I mean, you know, when you play world chess, you`re playing -- you`re really playing the game of risk.

PONNURU: Yes, it reverberates all through the world with respect to our Middle Eastern policies as well.

And one of the other question that we`re going to have -- we`re going to watch unfold is, what kind of Republican resistance there is there?

TODD: And who leads it besides McCain and Graham? They`re sort of, to me, the usual suspects.

PONNURU: Well, and then --

PAGE: Ryan maybe.

PONNURU: And what happens with Senator Rubio on this issue?

PAGE: Yes, that`s a good point.

PONNURU: He did initially say about the Tillerson pick that he was going to have questions on it.

TODD: Well, he had a great tweet, right. I think it was friend of Vladimir was not among, I think, the qualifies he was looking for in the next secretary of state.

Cornell, let me ask you a bit of -- I`m going to put you a little bit on the spot on the Democratic side which is this.


TODD: You got your shots in the last time, right? It seems as if this fight between Keith Ellison and Tom Perez is a proxy fight. It could be turning into a proxy fight for the following. The Democrats that think there needs to be a wholesale change inside the party, Keith Ellison.

And the Democrats that think, hey, Hillary Clinton was an awful candidate. But she still got three million more votes anyway. We don`t need to change much next election. We`re going to win. And that`s the Tom Perez camp.

Too simplistic or does that sound about right?

BELCHER: I think there`s a nuance there. I think there really is some nuance there. And part of the argument going on in the Democratic Party right now was, so which direction do they go? Do -- in fact, some people say, we`ve got to go more after some of these blue-collar voters than went for Trump.

Some of them say, you know what? Barack Obama won back to back majorities, 51 percent, while winning House and Senate seats. But while losing those same blue collar -- those same blue collar voters, do you try to expand the electorate? And with younger voters and take -- and taking that diversity into account.

But what all of them are saying, which is interesting to me, is that we actually do need to rebuild the party. I mean, how realistic is 50-state (ph) strategy is ideal in investing in the party is on both sides of that (INAUDIBLE.)

TODD: But that`s structural. And that`s something that`s going to resonate with either one of them. But I think the -- and I guess I`m going to --

BELCHER: So, you`re -- I didn`t answer the question.

TODD: You didn`t answer the question. Because -- and I guess this is the question that Schumer has to answer. Is it Schumer`s job to decide, are they full-fledged opposition? Or do they think there`s -- what say you, Susan?

PAGE: Schumer is the only guy who has a tool to use for the next two years, right?

TODD: Right.

PAGE: So -- and Schumer`s speech today on the floor was interesting but not determinative. I don`t -- I think you could read it any way you wanted.

TODD: And it`s classic Schumer, actually. He`s very good about that.

PAGE: Right. There were quotes to fulfill any kind of analysis you want.

TODD: Bernie sanders, happy. Joe Manchin, happy. Schumer knows how to give a speech to do both.

PAGE: When you look at the future of the Democrats, it`s -- one thing that`s interesting to me is that Barack and Michelle Obama have a say. I`m not sure Bill and Hillary Clinton do. I`m not sure Bill and Hillary are going to very much influence. The first time in a quarter century that they haven`t been the family with the most to say.

BELCHER: Right? And people are stepping up and saying, you know, and Barack`s going to do his farewell -- big farewell address in Chicago coming up.

TODD: And, by the way, I -- we have it -- I have to say, I have never seen so much fanfare.


TODD: Around this. Good idea or bad idea? It feels like a party-building exercise, Cornell.

BELCHER: Exactly. Well, clearly, someone who`s not -- you`re going to see step completely off the stage and say that you`ve seen other people step completely off the stage. And his -- and his library (ph) is going to be sort of aggressive in trying to do things in the community as well.

So, I think -- I think we`re still going to be under the influence of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for some time.

TODD: This isn`t the Oval Office farewell address as well, you two. Although, you know, I was just waiting (ph) to say --

PONNURU: It`s a new political era, Chuck.

TODD: No, no, no, no. And it -- but I think it does --

PONNURU: (INAUDIBLE) snarkily (ph).

TODD: -- but it does set up Barack Obama the anti -- the face of the Democratic opposition?

PONNURU: You know, that`s an interesting question. One thing that I don`t see among the Democrats. I see some Democrats who are talking about how the party needs to appeal more to white working class voters, on the basis of economics.

What I don`t see is them saying what other Democrats have done in the past which is we also need to try to cater a little bit to their cultural sensibilities, in a way that Bill Clinton did in the 1990s.

And I wonder if a merely economic message is going to be enough to try to cut those margins.

BELCHER: No. No, they`re absolutely not. I wrote a whole book about it. No. I mean, there are -- there are a cultural -- (INAUDIBLE) White House.

There are -- there is a cultural riff right now going on in this country and progressives. And particularly some of my liberal friends, they think everything`s transactional.

And you know what? To that middle America family and middle American that goes to church every Sunday, everything isn`t about their pocketbook transaction to them. There`s -- Howard Dean used to talk about it. They`re not voting for this for economic interest. They`re voting for higher interests. I don`t think enough of our progressives understand that.

PAGE: You know, I would disagree with one thing you`ve said though. I don`t think Barack Obama will become the face of the Democratic opposition.


PAGE: And if he did, that would be at odds with a century of precedent for presidents leaving office. That doesn`t mean he can`t weigh in on issues that he cares a lot about. But --

TODD: (INAUDIBLE) a century because Teddy Roosevelt.

PAGE: . he said - not since Teddy Roosevelt.


TODD: But we`re arguing not been in a tumultuous political period in American Politics who oddly enough in this case since then we have two parties so .


PAGE: Why do Americans have so much more respect for Jimmy Carter than they had when he left over (ph) for George W. Bush .

TODD: Yes.

PAGE: . or George H. W. Bush and it`s because they took a different path.

TODD: All right, guys. We`re pausing here.

Still ahead, as the Twitter and chief picks his latest corporate target, is he helping to keep jobs in the U.S. or are we looking at crony capitalism? Stay tuned.


TODD: Welcome back to more presidents of the President`s Club have now RSVP`d for the upcoming inauguration. We learned today that both President Clinton and former Secretary State Hillary Clinton will attend Trump`s inauguration, and we know that President George Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush will be there as well. President Carter said in late December he plans to attend the inauguration.

George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, who are 92 and 91 years old respectively, will not be attending traditionally, all former presidents, if they can, physically, attend the inaugural, and they`re all always invited. All of the living presidents attended President Obama`s first inauguration in 2009. We remember this famous photo, the last there and then the last time all five of the current members of the President`s Club were together was at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library in 2013.

More MTP Daily ahead, including tweeting Trump and corporate America, but first, here`s Deirdre Bosa take at (ph) corporate America with the CNBC Market Wrap.

DEIRDRE BOSA, TECHNOLOGY REPORTER, CNBC: That`s right. Thanks, Chuck. Well. markets started the New Year with gains. The Dow -- the Dow -- excuse me, rising 119 points, the S&P adding 19 and the NASDAQ higher by 46 points. American factory activity hit a two-year high in December, thanks to a surge of new orders. It could be a sign of a rebound from the effects of a strong dollar overseas and lower demand for oil drilling equipment.

And more than a quarter of consumers say, they plan to try mobile payments for purchases this year according to a study by Visa. That amount to an increase of about 8 percent over 2016. That`s it from CNBC, first in business, worldwide.


TODD: Welcome back to MTP Daily. First, to Carrier, then Boeing and Lockheed Martin now, General Motors each in the crosshairs of tweets from President-Elect Donald Trump. This morning Trump tweeted the following, "General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers tax free across border. Made in USA or paid big border tax."

Now, GM explained later that only a small number of Chevy Cruzes are built in Mexico, and all of the Sedans are actually built in Ohio, but the hatchback which accounts for only 2.4 percent of the models sold in the United States in the last year are indeed made in Mexico. Before the market is open, GM shares initially fell, but did end up the day -- higher for day.

And on the same day, by the way, the Trump took after GM, he`s been heaping praise on GM`s chief competitor, Ford. Ford announced today that its scrapping plans to build a plant in Mexico, remember Trump hinted at this a few weeks ago. Instead, Ford said it is investing $700 million in the State of Michigan.

The company`s president and CEO said it was encouraged to do so because of Trump`s pro growth policies. And of course, Trump immediately took credit for that on Twitter. Let`s not forget, a few days after the election, Trump tweeted about speaking to his friend and Ford`s chairman, Bill Ford, about keeping one of the companies plants in Kentucky.

Folks, keeping jobs in the U.S. is a good thing, but this could begin to some to smell like crony capitalism, saying they -- Ford makes this big announcement, it goes after GM, ouch, those who are friendly to Trump are profiting while other American companies get vilified and could risk watching their stock value plummet as a result before things open at 9:00 a.m.

So, what if you`re one of these companies, what do you do? Well, joining me now is the man many companies turn to, to get the answer to that question, Eric Dezenhall. He is a crisis management consultant. He`s also author of the book, "Glass Jaw: A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in the Age of Instant Scandal." Mr. Dezenhall, wow. So .

ERIC DEZENHALL, AUTHOR: What are your options?

TODD: What are your options. You wake up. You`re married Dara (ph), this morning, and you think, first day at work, holiday, you came back and went, oh good grief. President-elect is after us. What do you .


DEZENHALL: Company is -- company is under attack by Trump on Twitter have three options. Number one, you can capitulate; number two, you can minimize; three, you can fight back. Let`s look at them one at a time.

TODD: Yes.

DEZENHALL: If you want to capitulate, that`s a great example of what essentially happened today. What basically .


TODD: What Carrier did?

DEZENHALL: . well, yes, but -- but take a look at what Ford did, it`s interesting, because what they essentially did by capitulating, not because they were tweeted against, but they preempted. They gave Trump a win. And that`s what I mean by capitulation.

TODD: Yes.

DEZENHALL: You, sir, in your brilliance, wisdom, and handsomeness were right. We are going to do what we want you to do, problem solved, you`re out of the news. And that`s what companies really want. So, that is always your first choice. Second, you have the issue of minimization. If you look at what Trump did a few weeks ago, he went after the pharmaceutical companies for pricing.

TODD: Yes.

DEZENHALL: Well, they can`t capitulate. How do hundreds of drug companies come together inside of three minutes and read pricing .

TODD: Right.

DEZENHALL: . policy on thousands of different drugs. You can`t. So, what did they do? Vanilla (ph) sort of statement that we look forward to constructive dialogue with the administration. The thing about Twitter, the bad news is Trump tweets. The good news is he tweets about a lot of stuff.

TODD: Yes.

DEZENHALL: And you never know when your issue is going to move out of the news. And the good news for the drug companies is, that issue did move out of the news, temporarily. It will be back, but sometimes the better of your bad options is to be boring.

TODD: And it -- to be boring or do you just stick your head in the sand and just hope it goes away?

DEZENHALL: But that`s - but that`s what I mean .

TODD: Yes.

DEZENHALL: . but get off and does (ph). One area where the crisis management industry is 30 years behind is they keep telling their clients, "You must respond immediately." No.

TODD: Sometimes the best response is just saying nothing, right?

DEZENHALL: Well, sometimes the problem goes away quickly. I mean, the bad news about Twitter is it`s out there. The good news is there`s millions and billions of tweets.

TODD: Yes.

DEZENHALL: The third issue -- the third option is when things get interesting. Fighting back.

TODD: Yes.

DEZENHALL: And this is what companies are terrified of because what companies don`t do .

TODD: They don`t know how to do it.

DEZENHALL: Well, what they -- what they`re good at is behind the scenes work.

TODD: Yes.

DEZENHALL: What they don`t do is they don`t -- they don`t want to get on TV with you and defend their companies. Why? Because number one, it`s not what they do. I`m telling you that there are companies with 20,000 employees that don`t have one person who is trained, willing, and able to get on TV, why? And not because they`re stupid, but as a general rule, whoever goes on TV and defends .

TODD: Yes.

DEZENHALL: . the company, probably loses their job. And so, what -- the big unknown .

TODD: Yes.

DEZENHALL: . right now in corporate America and where there is a lot of teeth gnashing right now is what if Trump does something that is so permanently onerous to our business that we must go on TV and Twitter .

TODD: Fight.

DEZENHALL: . and fight.

TODD: You`re going lose that fight. More times than not.

DEZENHALL: You`re probably -- you`re probably going to, but what if you have no other choice? And what companies are now trying to figure out, under what conditions will we fight back? Who goes on? What they`re probably going to decide is number two, minimization and take their hit because nobody really wants to fight of the president of the United States.

TODD: So, the goal is going to be a lot of companies are going to do -- to go back to your one, two, three, number -- preemptive strike. Ford knew it could be in the crosshairs in the campaign. Find a way to give him a win.

DEZENHALL: Right. That is your best choice, but the second option is what`s more likely is minimization.

TODD: Right. Let me ask you for the last question, is this a boom for your business, crisis management? Knowing that a president-elect is willing, at any moment in time, to upend the apple (ph) cart of corporate America or because Trump is so personal about it? Does it actually make CEOs think they have to do this themselves?

DEZENHALL: I think that everybody is terrified and when they`re terrified, yes they call and ask, but it doesn`t mean they`re going to take my advise because what companies usually decide to do is hide.

TODD: Well, there you go. Eric Dezenhall, thanks for not hiding. Always fun. Appreciate it.


TODD: Is the country too obsessed with scandals? I`ll explain. Plus, dueling messages President Obama and President-Elect Mike Pence ended the Hill (ph) to rally their parties on ObamaCare. That`s ahead on the Lid. Stay tuned.


TODD: Tonight, I`m obsessed with what the dictionary defines as in action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage. We used to have a word for those in American politics, scandals and at my best, kids get off my lone voice. I tell you that back in my day, there were real scandals. Watergate, that`s a scandal, Teapot Dome, Iran- Contra, Lewinsky Affair. Those were scandals.

Now, it feels like people have gotten so numb to the word because it`s now use by both sides to describe pretty much everything they don`t like about the other side. Just look around. Conservative (ph) my point to this break part (ph) article which lists 18 major scandals under President Obama, but folks, they include stuff like the 2013 government shutdown in ObamaCare which are not scandals. Those are political disagreements.

On the left, Democrats might point to this piece in the Atlantic which lists 19 scandals involving Donald Trump. They include Trump four bankruptcies and his hiring campaign manager of Corey Lewandowski. Again, not scandals at all. Both legally -- the legal things they could do. We`re not at the point where every eyebrow raising thing gets a gate tacked on to it as if two brand it -- like a piece of USDA the certified scandal.

We even do it with the pressure readings on a football deflategate (ph) anyone which raises a bigger problem. What is a scandal anymore, especially in this ultra-partisan environment? Russian hacking, using a private e-mail server, presidential conflicts of interest, here`s a real problem, if everything is a scandal, then nothing is a scandal. Not everything has to go to 11.

We`ll be back.


TODD: Time for the Lid. Republicans have started the ball rolling, again, on the effort to repeal ObamaCare. This time they have the vote on the president just signing the bill, but the bill that such repeal in motion was introduce today and the debate is expected to begin on the set up floor tomorrow. But what are they repealing and when are they going to repeal it?

But anyway, tomorrow, both President Obama and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence will on Capitol Hill to huddle with their respective caucuses about the next steps when it comes to president health care law. Democrats, of course, are strategizing ways to save it. Republicans trying to figure out how they legislatively kill it but as for whether there will be a replacement option in place, if and when Republicans repeal the law, listen to what Trump advisor, Kellyanne Conway said this morning.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR AND STRATEGIST: Some experts say that it could take years to actually complete the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, do you or do you not have a replacement plan ready to go ramp up -- ready to go say tomorrow?

CONWAY: We have pieces of it that we need to discuss, but we don`t have an HHS secretary confirmed yet.


TODD: Panelist are back. Cornell, Ramesh, Susan. Well, Cornell, President Obama`s job tomorrow is to figure out new roadblock that the Democrats can put in to save his health care?

BELCHER: Well, I`m laughing because, you know, they don`t have any pieces that particularly about how to replace it because, you know, what ObamaCare is? It was a Republican idea, Chuck, and it was Republican idea, put in place by a Republican governor in Massachusetts, right, because a lot of the Liberals and progresses in the House quite frankly, wanted something a little more progressive, wanted a single payer .

TODD: Yes.

BELCHER: So, this was actually a Republican idea that President Obama tried. But politically, here is the problem, we almost run a table. It is really hard to repeal some that we have 20 some million people using, right?

TODD: Yes.

BELCHER: And not just on blue states but in -- go to -- go to Mitch McConnell`s state. You know, where ObamaCare is going to be really successful?

TODD: Yes.

BELCHER: In Mitch McConnell state.

TODD: My favorite anecdote like (ph) President Obama used to go into like the communications office in 2014. He said, "Kentucky, Kentucky."


He had another word a pan (ph) to the skin -- there was another word that he used to elaborate the word Kentucky.

BELCHER: Right. And this sort of takeaway and I know the Republicans wanted to take away so the whole idea of the mandate, but if you take away the mandate, and look, we know -- because they include (ph) the mandate it all collapses because young people won`t do it, right? So, this is I think they got themselves in quite a box here with having to try to repeal this but quite frankly is really tough to find a replacement.

TODD: Ramesh, rhetorically, they have no choice but to vote on this repeal. But at this point, why not -- is it -- is it in their interest to pretend they are repealing and saying it`s a three-way or do they own up to the fact that look, we`re not repealing the whole thing, we`re getting rid a lot of it. We promise but we know we can`t rid of all of it. Why don`t they just say that?

PONNURU: I think that they ought to say it. I think that the fact is the regulatory heart of the ObamaCare is something that they don`t think -- seem to think they can get to with a simple majority with the Senate. They think they need 60 votes to get their middle (ph) half 60 votes. So, what they`re going to do is try to repeal the parts that they can repeal with the civil majority, but they haven`t figured out a way that will make that work.

Speaker Ryan in his press releases in ObamaCare keep saying, he wants a quote, "stable transition to new system." What they are talking about will not provided that stable transition.

PAGE: You know, their problem is they can repeal and delay, that`s OK. That will get them past and I think they have to vote to repeal it -- to just so that they can say they repeal because that`s been a Republican mantra for so long but the trouble is in four years. They`ve got to have Trump care in operation, right?


PAGE: And how -- and they -- I`m a bit surprised that they`ve -- that they`ve now committed to the preexisting conditions provision which is very difficult to manage as you -- as you were -- as you were noting that today Kellyanne Conway said they weren`t going to -- people are going to lose their health care insurance if they gain it (ph) to ObamaCare. That`s a very hard thing .


BELCHER: I know -- I remember that promise.

TODD: I remember that .


BELCHER: . a democratic bridge (ph).


PAGE: You complete the doctrine (ph).


TODD: You like and play. They can keep an eye. Good luck with that.


PONNURU: A year of disruption of your health care arrangement has been the dominating political fact of health care, all the way through here .

TODD: Right.

PONNURU: . and that`s the problem they`ve got

TODD: How many of you think this will be the following reality over the next decade on ObamaCare which is it becomes the new doc fix or the new -- the new tax fix where every Congress right at the end, they have to pass the law that they such - we repeal it, but we`re continuing -- if there`s a continuation of it for another two years.

BELCHER: I think absolutely, and by the way, this is why Americans don`t like politics and this is why their politics is broken because that`s not real because they -- that`s exactly what`s going to happen.

TODD: You know, the headline will be repeal Ramesh, but they have to keep punting and keep punting and keep punting, and in 2022, they punt (ph) again.

PONNURU: The problem with that scenario though is that ObamaCare needs continuing patching up. You can`t just extend it or changes are all ready in trouble. Obama was calling for legislative fixes. It`s hard to see this Congress and this president actually doing that.

TODD: Well, maybe he takes apparently the advice of President Obama also apparently is ready to give Donald Trump push (ph) -- just slap on your name, call it Trump care and then .


. agenda through. Cornell, Ramesh, Susan, thank you. After the break, the Joe Show, the best of Vice Presidents Biden`s from today`s Senate photo opt. Stay tuned.


TODD: In case you missed it. This afternoon for the final time, the vice president welcome the new Senate class. Remember, the vice president, he is still vice president until January 20th and he`s still president of the Senate and a new Senate is coming. Well, here`s all the Joe Biden welcoming them.





BIDEN: You sound like my daughter, Susan (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vice president, I do. Congratulations. I know that they`ve gone through (ph).

BIDEN: To that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don`t you kiss me?


BIDEN: Please sit down. Mom, I what to know what you`re drinking. God, you look like little sister.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And doing it (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you blow the vice president with kiss?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She blew you a kiss? Oh.


BIDEN: Over there and may love it (ph).



TODD: Man, the baby avoided him, ouch. But come on we`re all going to miss the bipartisan effort and resolution in the United States Senate, Joe Biden should be the greeter for all in these Senators all the time regardless of whether he`s still vice president.

That`s all for tonight.