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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 11/23/2016

Guests: Ben Cardin

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: November 23, 2016 Guest: Ben Cardin

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: All right. That is "ALL IN" for this evening. I hope all you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And everyone, let`s try to be good to each other, OK?

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.

Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Because I know you are an earnest and non- cynical man, it gets me a little teary. You make me want to be good to other people, Chris.

HAYES: Let`s do that, OK, everyone?

MADDOW: I believe you. Happy Thanksgiving, Chris. Good to see you, my friend.

HAYES: You too.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.

I hope you that get some time off for Thanksgiving. And if you do not get any time off for Thanksgiving, I am sorry about that. And I hope you get at least time and a half for your troubles.

I feel like everybody I talked to this week, this week, week and a half, oh, you`re getting any time off for Thanksgiving felt like seven out of ten times people were saying, "No, I don`t get Thanksgiving off." If that is you, if that is members of your family, I am sorry. But I do hope you darn well get paid for it. And in any case, I`m happy to have you here tonight.

OK. Ready? Here is a story. The South surrendered to the North. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. That surrender happened on a Sunday, April 9, 1865, Sunday. The following Friday on April 14th, the president was assassinated.

And when Lincoln was killed, that was just a devastating, disorienting disaster for our country. And we`d also just been through four straight years of staggering, going -- ongoing rolling disaster in the form of our Civil War. Lincoln was killed the same week that the civil war ended. Three million Americans fought each other in that war. Over 600,000 Americans died in that war.

And then when it was over, and immediately Lincoln was killed, and the country was exhausted and traumatized and still split, I mean, the South was defeated, right, in its efforts to leave this country. What was going on at that point is they were forced in defeat to stay in the country that they tried to leave, to stay in the country that they had waged war against. So, we are in this incredibly desolate time as a country, discombobulated, tragic, uncertain. And from the bottom of that desolate barrel, that was where we needed to start to rebuild.

And for African Americans, of course, the north winning the civil war, that meant emancipation. In the most heavily African American part of the country, in the South, rebuilding after the civil war, rebuilding after Lincoln meant trying to create a whole new society in the American South that was no longer a slave society, that was no longer a slave economy.

So, the task in the defeated South after the civil war was to make that part of the country a place where black men and white men were both free, free even to vote, free even to hold office. Of course, if you think the South was going to go along with that idea at the time, you are nuts. And so, after the civil war, the federal government sent troops to the South. Not to fight the war anymore, but to stay there, to literally administer government in the Southern states that had tried to secede from this country and then waged war against it.

In 1867, two years after the war ended, 1867, civilian governments in the Southern states were dissolved. They were removed and the U.S. Army came in to run things instead. And they ran elections. And yes, freed slaves could vote in those elections. And no, the traders and the secessionists who waged war against the United States, those people could not stand for office in those elections.

And those election series why we have all of these very compelling, now hard to contextualize images of elected African-American public officials, of state senators, state legislators, U.S. senators, congressmen, governors, African-American officials at every level of government from the Deep South right after the civil war. And from that same time, that is also why we`ve got images of the Ku Klux Klan in full force in the 1870s, right, fighting it all tooth and nail as a huge secret terrorist organization dedicated to reinstating white rule in the states of the confederacy.

That time after the civil war is just such an incredible, incredible time in American history. It`s such a scary, such an interesting time. And one of the most unnerving things about it is that for all of the things, all of the things going on in American history that led to it, the slave economy, the civil war, Lincoln and everything that his presidency meant, with all of the things that created, that went into creating this reconstruction period after the civil war, you know, eons of things that had to all happen in the right way in order to make those moments happen, in order to make the black elected public officials possible -- out of all of the things that had to come together to make that moment, when it ended, it ended like this. It ended, boom, like it had been struck by lightning. And it ended because of a lost presidential election.

In 1876, it was Republican versus Democrat, just like it is today. The Republicans then were the Party of Lincoln. They were the anti-slavery forces.

And in that presidential election in 1876, the Republican Party`s candidate lost the election. He lost clearly by a quarter of a million votes. He lost the popular vote by a lot. That said, we all know that the popular vote is not how you win a presidential election. You win a presidential election through the Electoral College.

But here is the thing. In this 1876 election, the Republican candidate lost the popular vote by a ton, hundreds of thousands of votes. About 3 percentage points at the time. Lost the popular vote.

He also lost the Electoral College by 19 votes. Kind of.

The country was so nuts at the time, so riven, so crazed by our differences and our resentments and our fear that in three states we actually have no idea what their electoral votes were in the presidential race that year. This was such a nuts time in U.S. tests they in South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana, each party, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in each of those states, each announced that its candidate had won the electoral votes of that state.

So, like, when it came time to cast electoral votes in that presidential election, the Republican Party in South Carolina stood up and said we hereby declare that South Carolina is casting its electoral votes for the Republican. And then, the South Carolina Democrats came out and said, no, no, no, we hereby declare that South Carolina is casting its electoral votes for Democrat.

So, what are you going to do, right? I mean, these states would not, could not come to an agreement about how its votes for president should be counted. And that happened not just in one place. It happened in three states. That happened South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. They never clearly cast their votes.

And so, what do you do? The Republican candidate in that election lost the popular vote by a lot. Of the Electoral College votes that were clearly cast that year, the Republican candidate lost that vote, too.

But you know who ended up being president after that election? The Republican did. It doesn`t even make sense now from this distance, 140 years later that the dude who lost the popular vote and who lost the Electoral College vote with these weird votes outstanding, that they would give the presidency to him anyway? What?

They gave it to him anyway. And they gave it to him because the other party, the Democratic Party at the time, they were so dedicated to Southern racism, they were so dedicated to bringing back white supremacy in government in the South, they were so torn up about how the war ended and how the South lost, they were so unnerved by, frankly, these pictures, that they made a decision that year to trade away the presidency.

Their candidate won the popular vote. Their candidate won the Electoral College, with those weird disputed votes still outstanding. But they nevertheless gave it away. They nevertheless negotiated a compromise in which all of the disputed Electoral Vote, all of the Electoral College votes where it wasn`t clear who it should go to, all those disputed Electoral College votes, they made a deal where all of those votes would go to the losing candidate. They would all go to the Republican candidate. And so the Republican candidate would win the presidency.

And in exchange, you know what the Democrats would get? They would get the Yankee troops out of the South. Here, Party of Lincoln. Sure. You can have the presidency, which you did not win in this election. But in exchange, the Confederacy gets the South back.

And that`s how reconstruction was switched off in the South, like somebody taking an ax to a junction box. Reconstruction got traded away. It got traded for the White House, which then went to a guy who did actually lose that presidential election. He lost arguably in the Electoral College. He lost definitely in the popular vote.

And that insane election, that piece of tragic American political history, that bizarre moment in time, right, it really feels like it`s written about some other country, right? Nothing like that could ever happen here. But that catastrophic, bizarre election, that was the last time anybody ascended to the presidency after losing the popular vote by as big a margin as Donald Trump just has.

Hillary Clinton now leads Donald Trump by over two million votes in the popular vote. She leads him by more than 1.5 percentage points, which means the last time we ever had anyone take the presidency after losing by this much in the popular vote, it was that insane race, emphasis on race, in 1876 where they made a deal for.

They made a deal for it. Sam Tilden, the Democrat, won, but he gave it up to Rutherford B. Hayes in exchange for taking the troops out of the South and leaving the Klan reassert white supremacy in southern government. I mean, it is weird that you have to go back that far to find a margin that matches what happened this year. But that`s how far you have to go back.

I mean, this year, of course, there is not going to be a compromise of 1876. Nothing is going to be traded or bought. The Clinton campaign apparently passed this week on a pitch from some academics who argued to them that they should challenge and force a recount of the voting results in a handful of swing states. It does look like the green party candidate may try to fund the recounts now, anyway. But nobody on any side of this expects any recounted results to change the overall winner in the Electoral College.

And so, now, we are proceeding with I think what has to be seen as a lurking question in the background as to whether a popular vote loss this big, a loss bigger than anything we have seen in 140 years, we`re left with this question of how that hangs over this next presidency. I mean, whether or not you think it should affect how the new president governs or how he puts together his administration or what he perceives his mandate from the people, whether or not you think should it affect those things, it is now awkward not to talk about it, because we really haven`t seen a president win this office after losing the vote this badly. We haven`t seen it since the immediate aftermath of the civil war when things are so weird, even looking back with hindsight of history affords us, things are so weird 140 years ago the last time this happens, it doesn`t even seem like the history of our own country when we read it.

All right, that was not a good precedent. But 140 years ago is how far you have to go back to get to something this big. And I`m saying this now. And honestly, I`m putting it at the top of the show the night before Thanksgiving because in beltway conversations, and sort of polite political conversation right now, this has become already a taboo topic. This is something that only amateurs talk about, right?

We are assured out of hand this popular vote loss by the new president means nothing. It will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the perceptions of the next president or how he is able to govern or how he should govern or how he should be viewed. Be suspicious of anybody who says that with complete confidence, because honestly, it has been well over a century since anything like this happened. We really have not seen this before in modern times. And we do not know how this is going to go.

Meanwhile, however, the motions are being gone through, as they say. We got a Thanksgiving Day message from the president-elect today. We also got another day of unusual news about who he wants around him in office, including one of those choices I think that is getting funnier and funnier as the day has turned into night and as the night has gone on into this evening.

So, stick a pin in this popular vote thing. Her lead is now over two million votes. It`s over 1.5 percent. That`s the biggest in 140 years. And anybody who tells you that`s not going to matter, for sure that`s definitely not going to matter doesn`t know what they`re talk about, because we`ve never seen anything like in the modern era. Stick a pin in that.

We have a lot more to come tonight. Stay with us.



REPORTER: Donald Trump proposed yesterday a travel ban on Muslims into the United States. What is your reaction to his proposal?

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It`s just an embarrassment to the republic at large and it is absolutely un-American. It`s unconstitutional. It defies everything this country was based on. And it`s just wrong.


MADDOW: You wouldn`t think somebody who thought that would then take a job with the person who proposed something that`s an embarrassment, un- American, unconstitutional, defies everything this country was based on, and is just wrong. You wouldn`t think that a person who felt that way would then take a job with the person who made that proposal.

But every day is a new day. And it turns out that`s not the most surprising thing about South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley accepting the new job she just took.

That story is ahead. Stay with us.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: He took a knife and he went after a friend, and he lunged. He lunged that knife into the stomach of his friend. But lo and behold, it hit the belt. It hit the belt. And the knife broke.

Give me a break. Let me tell you, I`m pretty good at this stuff. So, I have a belt. Somebody hits me with a belt, it`s going in because the belt moves this way. It moves this way. It moves that way. He hit the belt buckle.

Anybody who has a knife want to try it on me? Anybody? It ain`t going to work. You`re going to be successful.

But he took the knife. He went like this. And he plunged it into the belt. And amazingly, the belt stayed totally flat and the knife broke.

I`m not saying it. He said he`s got pathological disease. He actually said pathological temper, and then he defined it as disease. So he said he has pathological disease.

Now, if you`re pathological, there is no cure for that, folks. OK? There is no cure for that. If you`re a child molester, a sick puppy, you`re a child molester, there is no cure for that.

There is only one cure. We don`t want to talk about that cure. That`s the ultimate cure. No, there is two there is death and the other thing.

But if you`re a child molester, there is no cure. They can`t stop you. Pathological, there is no cure. So, he is a pathological, damaged temper, a problem.


MADDOW: Pathological, damaged temper, a problem.

If the president-elect really believes that, watch out for everybody in his cabinet to get like big fricking rodeo star belt buckles that like definitely don`t move, because there is no cure for that. And Donald Trump appears to be choosing Ben Carson, whom he once compared to a child molester and called a pathological killer.

He appears to be recommending him for his cabinet. Now this is funny for a couple of reasons. Number one, because of what Donald Trump has said about Ben Carson in the past. Number two, because just a week ago, Dr. Carson commented on reports he was being considered as potential nominee for secretary of health and human services. Dr. Carson responded to those reports and said that he was not only uninterested, he was unsuited to do that kind of work.

Ben Carson told "The Washington Post" a week ago today, quote, "having me as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water, quite frankly." At the same time, his long-time business manager Armstrong Williams flushed that out a little bit to "The Hill". He said, quote, "Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience. He has never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do is take a position that could cripple the presidency."

Now, see, that`s hilarious, because Ben Carson ran for president. If he is a person who feels he has no government experience, he would be a fish out of water in any government bureaucracy simply by taking a position in somebody else`s federal government working for a different president, that could cripple that presidency, Ben Carson would be so terrible. That is a funny view to have of yourself while asking the American people to vote for you to be president of the United States, running the whole government.

So this is not like funny weird. This is like funny ha! But now, tonight, it gets better. Because tonight, Ben Carson posted on Facebook that after all this, we should in fact expect a forthcoming announcement from the Trump transition team about Ben Carson getting a big new job in the federal fish bowl.

But it`s not that Health and Human Services job that they talked about last week. That might have made no sense to put somebody like Ben Carson in charge of Health and Human Services. But at least you can connect him to that field. He is a doctor. So, technically, that`s related to Health and Human Services.

But that, even with that tenuous connection, that is not apparently the job he is up for. What he tells FOX News is he is up for something entirely different.


BEN CARSON (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`ll be thinking and praying about it seriously.

INTERVIEWER: Has it been offered, sir?

CARSON: We have had offer, yes.

INTERVIEWER: And is it the HUD position?

CARSON: I would say that was one of the offers that`s on the table.

INTERVIEWER: What would steer you to take a job for a lot of folks say hey, you have these ample medical degrees and one of the nation`s top neurosurgeons. What do you know about doing this?

CARSON: Well, I know that I grew up in the inner city and have spent a lot of time there. And have dealt with a lot of patients from that area.


MADDOW: By that area, he means that urban area of America on which Ben Carson will now be doing brain surgery. He`ll not be in charge of doing brain surgery on -- I don`t know.

The Trump campaign has not announced they are picking Ben Carson to run Housing and Urban Development. Ben Carson has kind of announced it. That he has been offered that job and he is taking it.

Ben Carson has no qualifications in housing and urban development, and no expertise in that field whatsoever. He has never worked in that field or shown an interest in it. And by the field, I mean housing and urban development, not just having ever been to an urban area.

But hey, why not? He did endorse Donald Trump after Donald Trump compared him to a child molester, said he was an incurable murdering maniac. So, after you endorse somebody once they said that about you, that`s got to count for something. Woo-hoo!

The experience issue also loomed large today over another one of the president-elect`s personnel announcements. And that was his nominee for U.N. ambassador. The U.N. ambassador nomination has taken on sort of unusual weight in this transition, particularly because it`s the first personnel announcement made by the transition since what I continue to believe is just their outrageously super-duper controversial decision to name General Mike Flynn as national security adviser.

General Flynn is not a typical choice for a job as important as national security adviser, especially a job that is designed to bring in all points of view and fairly present the world of informed opinion on matters for the president. Mike Flynn is not a person who, you know -- let`s just say he says that religion -- the religion of Islam is a malignant cancer. So, is he a guy who is synthesizing all views in the world and giving you a centrist take? No. Islam is a malignant cancer.

During the campaign, Mike Flynn accused Hillary Clinton of being a child rapist. The chief of staff of his consulting company, who is also his son, regularly posts conspiracy theories and hash tags from the mother ship Info Wars which says that the shooting at Sandy Hook, the shootings at Sandy Hook were fake. The Boston bombing was fake. 9/11 was fake. President Obama is literally possessed by demons. And you can tell it because of the demonic way he smells.

That`s the chief of staff for his intelligence group, and he is leaving that intelligence group to go be national security adviser?

So, after picking General Flynn as national security adviser, this next national security foreign policy announcement has felt like it would be a very important signal, particularly given what else is going on at the top, right? This is a president obviously though who has no foreign policy, no national security experience.

The vice president, other than sitting on foreign policy committee in Congress has no other foreign policy experience, no national security experience. The chief of staff obviously has no foreign policy, no national security experience. The chief strategist, who apparently is going to be at the same level as chief of staff has no foreign policy, no national security experience other than his own time serving in the Navy a long time ago.

None of them have any substantive, current foreign policy and national security experience. And now, they have named their new U.N. ambassador, and it`s Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, who also has no foreign policy and national security experience other than the traveling she has done to try to get business for South Carolina from foreign countries. No national security experience of any kind. No diplomatic experience of any kind.

In terms of being diplomatic, though, it should be noted that she does know how to keep people on message.


INTERVIEWER: Governor, thanks very much for coming.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you, Wolf. It`s a pleasure to be with you. It`s a great day in South Carolina.

INTERVIEWER: Joining us right now is the governor of the great state of South Carolina, Nikki Haley.

Good morning to you, Governor.

HALEY: Good morning. It`s a great day in South Carolina.

INTERVIEWER: Governor Nikki Haley.

Governor, good to see you. Do you any horses in this race?

HALEY: Hi, Neil. First of all, it`s a great day in South Carolina.

Whenever someone calls your department, we need to say, "It`s a great day in South Carolina how. Can we help you?" Every person, not just the main person. Every single person that is called, "It`s a great day in South Carolina. How can I help you?"


MADDOW: How are they going to answer the phones at the U.S. mission at the U.N.? Like she says, every person, every line, every day, no matter what kind of day it actually is in South Carolina, when you pick up that phone - - she will now be America`s ambassador to the world, to the United Nations.

Dr. Ben Carson, if he is named to be secretary of HUD, he has no experience in governing. He says he in fact is unsuited to the business of governing. Betsy DeVos who was named by the transition team to be secretary of education, she also has no experience in governing. We`ll talk a little bit more about her in the show tonight.

Nikki Haley, who was just named to be our diplomatic envoy to the United Nations, she has no experience in diplomacy, which is what she is being hired to do.

How does that look from a historical perspective in terms of how presidencies generally turn out?

Joining us now is the great Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian.

Michael, thank you for joining us. Happy early Thanksgiving to you.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Happy early Thanksgiving. What can I say, Rachel, it`s a great night here in Washington, D.C.

MADDOW: And it`s a great night any time I get to talk about Nikki Haley getting a job like this.

Michael, the thing that seems surprising to me about this is I expected that because Trump is who he is, I sort of thought he would make the kinds of appointments that George W. Bush did when he brought in --

BESCHLOSS: Same here.

MADDOW: -- all the gray hairs from his dad`s administration to kind of reassure everybody. Yeah, I may not have any experience, but I`ll bring in a lot of people who will reassure you. These don`t feel like he is following that pattern.

BESCHLOSS: No, they don`t. And he kept on saying during the campaign, elect me and I will look everywhere and I will bring in the best people to do this. I would have thought he would have been sensitive to the thought that as we`d been saying, this is the first president with zero public service experience, zero military experience you. Would expect him to know what he does not know and do, for instance, what Jimmy Carter did, who had been one term governor of Georgia, although he had spent years in the Navy. He brought in Cyrus Vance, who had been deputy secretary of defense.

Or as you said, George W. Bush bringing in Colin Powell, secretary of state, who had been chairman of the joint chiefs, or Barack Obama not only did all that, but he held over George W. Bush`s secretary of defense, Bob Gates.

MADDOW: Right, right.

BESCHLOSS: That`s what they usually do.

MADDOW: In terms of past president, not just past precedent, you know, whether we should be worried, is there any hard and fast rule that history teaches us in terms of whether or not experienced people are better at these kinds of jobs? Are there track records that we should know about where people came in who appeared to be totally, totally unsuited for the jobs for which they`re being picked but it ended up being a nice refreshing change, it ended up something where the president had more wisdom than we can see from afar?

BESCHLOSS: Oh, yeah. It very much, you know, could be. I mean, Harry Truman himself came in, had been senator for ten years. You know, not great foreign policy experience himself like Franklin Roosevelt, but was able to pick up the reins.

But the point is we`re in a world that is -- we don`t need to say how complicated it is. Barack Obama apparently said to Donald Trump you`ve got to watch North Korea. That could be one of your first tests there is a world of terrorism, everything that is going on in the Middle East. Donald Trump is coming in as a war president. Not all presidents do.

And the other thing, through this campaign, he has talked about big changes in foreign policy of the kind that we rarely see. Changes in NATO, changes in our alliances, perhaps changes in what we think is a good idea for other countries controlling nuclear weapons. And to do that with a team that is as traditional terms unexperienced as this one is, it`s really amazing.

MADDOW: Michael Beschloss, NBC presidential historian. I never like it when presidential historians use words like amazing because it means we`re in shaky territory.

BESCHLOSS: One precedent going after another, but have a great holiday, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Michael. I really appreciate it.


MADDOW: You too.

I should tell you that NBC News confirmed something reported from "The Washington Post", which is that, apparently, since the president-elect has been president-elect, he has only taken two intelligence briefings. He has been turning intelligence briefers away. By this point, everybody thought Donald Trump was getting a daily presidential brief. President Obama okayed both Vice President Pence and President-elect Trump to be getting the presidential daily brief every day.

Apparently, Donald Trump is not interested. He has done it twice. And every other day he said no, doesn`t want to hear it.

We`ll be right back.


MADDOW: Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina was one of two women named to a cabinet position in the Trump administration today.

The president-elect also announced billionaire Betsy DeVos as his pick for secretary of education. She is fairly well-known in Republican circles. She`s a big party donor. She served as former finance chair of the RNC. She was chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

She is also one of the country`s leading advocates for school vouchers and charter schools, which means her appointment drew scathing criticism from public school advocates today.

She is also the sister of Erik Prince. Remember Erik Prince? That name sounds familiar it`s because he is the guy that founded Blackwater, the mercenary company that made a ton of money off the Iraq war.

Four Blackwater guards, of course, convicted two years ago and given huge sentences for opening fire at a Baghdad traffic circle during the war killing 17 innocent civilians. Those Blackwater guards went directly to prison, but their boss is still very rich from the war. And he spent at least some of his fortune on electing Donald Trump president.

He contributed $100,000 in the late days -- $100,000 to one of Mr. Trump`s key super PACs in September. And now, today, his sister was named as the Trump administration`s new education secretary. It`s a small world, you know, if you know the right donors.



TRUMP: According to the law, see I figured there`s something where you put something in this massive trust and there`s also nothing is written. In other words, in theory, I could be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent. I hope whoever is writing this story, it`s written fairly. The president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants.


MADDOW: "Allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants."

That`s in the audio that they released there is also this from the transcript where they haven`t released the audio yet. This quote from the transcript, "As far as the, you know, the potential conflicts of interest, the law is totally on my side, meaning the president can`t have a conflict of interest." No such thing for the president.

Now, the president is not necessarily bound by the same conflict of interest laws as other members of the government. Rules that say you can`t use the government or use your office to enrich yourself. One of the greatest barriers to that kind of impropriety for a president is supposed to be the desire of a president to avoid the appearance of any kind of impropriety.

In other words, the seat belt here is supposed to be shame. Shame is supposed to guard the office from looking like it could be bought and paid for. But if you are not affected by that shame, then -- how did he put it? Play it one more time.


TRUMP: I hope whoever is writing this story, it`s written fairly. The president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants.


MADDOW: Allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants.

This system was not designed for somebody who doesn`t mind violating the ethical expectations around the presidency. This system is not designed for somebody who doesn`t care if people know that he is self-dealing.

I mean, if you`re already using a dot-gov website to advertise your properties, if you`re using another government website to advertise your wife`s jewelry line on QVC, if you`re wining and dining foreign diplomats and telling them that it might behoove them to spend their money at the D.C. hotel that`s owned by the president-elect, if you`re interrupting the presidential transition practice to take business meetings in the same office with the people who are building your power in Mumbai, if you`re bringing executives from your business into meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders, if you`re using foreign leader discussions as president- elect to press for specific business interests that will help your bottom line, which he has now admitted to in the case of Brexit leader Nigel Farage where they discussed Trump`s fight against wind farms near his Scotland golf course, that is also the implication of the story out of Argentina, where three days after he spoke with Argentina`s president, it was reportedly announced that Donald Trump`s long stalled Buenos Aires building would move forward.

I mean, if all of this stuff is already happening, if this new president really does not care about the very blatant appearance that he is already using the presidency, he is already using the office as a means of making him and his family more rich, if he doesn`t care that we can see that, what`s the solution to that, then? I mean, these are the types of things we assume a president or a president-elect would hide the fact that he was doing these things. And eventually some intrepid journalist would uncover them and win a Pulitzer Prize.

But in this case, no Pulitzer. Donald Trump is not hiding this. Everybody gets to report it. He is doing all of this stuff in plain sight, thought the open. Those dot-gov websites are still up now.

I mean, if the Republicans decide that they are OK with this, the Republicans are OK with this, and if Donald Trump is clearly OK with this, then what? I mean if Democrats aren`t OK with it, what can they do?

We have a way to answer that next.



TRUMP: I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. And there was never -- there has never been a case like this where somebody has had, like if you look at other people of wealth, they didn`t have this kind of asset and this kind of wealth, frankly. You know, it`s just a different thing. But there is no -- I assumed that you would have to set up some type of trust or whatever, and you know. And I was actually a little bit surprised to see it.


MADDOW: President-elect telling the "New York Times" that he has been happily surprised to learn that there is no rule blocking him from if he wants to continuing to run his business and the country at the same time. Nothing stops him from doing that.

Joining us now is Senator Ben Cardin. He is the ranking Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Cardin, thank you for being here, particularly the night before Thanksgiving. I really appreciate your time tonight.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD), SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Rachel, it`s good to be with you. Thanks.

MADDOW: So, you were planning on introducing a resolution aimed at conflicts of interest between the president-elect, his assets, his business ties, his ongoing involvement in his business, and his work as president- elect and ultimately president. I -- what`s the basis for doing that? Is he correct when he says he is not violating any rules, even if he keeps running his business?

CARDIN: Donald Trump is absolutely wrong. The Constitution is very clear that all public officials, including the president of the United States is prohibited from receiving gifts from foreign governments. If the president owns business interests in other countries, it`s impossible to determine whether the foreign government is giving that business a break, which would be an unconstitutional gift.

That`s why every president has used blind trust or have sold their assets in order to avoid violating the Constitution of the United States and the appearance of a conflict. Donald Trump is just absolutely wrong on this issue.

MADDOW: Now, what you`re talking about there in terms of that constitutional prohibition, that`s the Emoluments Clause, and it`s specific governments. The justification for that being in the Constitution is obvious, right? You basically don`t want a foreign agent in the U.S. government. You don`t want other countries able to use money to affect decision-making of the presidency.

But what about his domestic assets? I mean, I`ve been struck by this story, one of the stories in the last few days that foreign diplomats were apparently brought in for a sales pitch that when they`re coming in to do business with the U.S. government, when they`re coming in to plead their case for the U.S. government and they`re staying in Washington, D.C., they ought to think about staying at the Trump hotel.

I just imagine myself as a foreign -- somebody working for a foreign government thinking about going to meet with the new president and saying oh, yeah, I stayed at the St. Regis last night, sir. It was very nice.

But those are his domestic asset.

CARDIN: Oh, absolutely. But that`s a gift. That`s a gift to the president. That`s doing a favor to the president of the United States.

The framers of our Constitution wanted to prevent that type of influence by foreign powers here in the United States. It is unconstitutional. It can`t be done.

What Donald Trump continues to cite is the conflicts statutes that were passed to make it clear the president has the authority always to act as commander in chief and as president of the United States. But that doesn`t avoid the constitutional prohibitions against gifts by foreign powers.

The only way, and the only way he can deal with this is to set up a blind trust or to sell the assets. The resolution that I`m following in Congress, Congress will speak to that effect. I hope Democrats and Republicans will join me to make it clear that in the next 60 days, before January 20th, it`s important that the president-elect avoid this constitutional problem and take the appropriate steps to divest or set up a blind trust.

I hope Democrats and Republicans will join me to make it clear that in the next 60 days, before January 20th, it`s important that the president-elect avoid this constitutional problem and take the appropriate steps to divest or set up a blind trust.

MADDOW: Senator, do you have any indication that any Republicans are going to be with you on this?

CARDIN: Well, we`re just starting conversations on this. I think most of my colleagues in the congress, both Democrats and Republicans will be very firm about the fact that it`s wrong for Donald Trump to continue to own his assets and to benefit from foreign governments telling their missions to use the Trump Towers or for a permit to be given by a foreign power to allow the Trump enterprises to build in their country.

That is an apparent -- that is a definite conflict, and it violates the Constitution. I am very hopeful that this is not going to be a partisan issue in Congress. We have a responsibility as the legislative branch of government to be very clear on this. So, I`m hoping that I will have support on both sides of the aisle.

MADDOW: Senator Ben Cardin, top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- really appreciate your time tonight, sir. Happy Thanksgiving.

CARDIN: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: To you and your family, sir. Appreciate it.

CARDIN: Same to you.

MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.


MADDOW: Behold. Excellent dad jokes.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After a long campaign season finally turned our attention from polls to poultry. No way I`m cutting this habit cold turkey. I want to take a moment to recognize the brave turkeys who weren`t so lucky, who didn`t get to ride the gravy train to freedom.


MADDOW: We didn`t show my favorite. My favorite was the oh, yes we cran, thing. You don`t even know the joke. Yes we cran.

We have a really, really, really good, really interesting exclusive Thanksgiving story here to end the show next.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: We just got some new news today on the eve of Thanksgiving. New news about a family in Flint, Michigan, named the Browns. We met them back in January.

Oscar Brown and his family were kind enough to let me into their home to get a sense of the real life effects of the man-made water disaster in their town. The Browns showed me their water bill, showed me how they were paying still a lot for the city water that they really could not use.

Flint City water, of course, was contaminated with lead thanks to a series of disastrous decisions by the state government after the state came in and overrode local democracy and took over the town.

After we met the Brown family in Flint about ten months ago, a group of local plumbers banded together to help them out. They put a whole house filter on the water supply inside Oscar Brown`s house. But that filter can only do so much with the wrecked system in the city, right? Even with that whole house filter, they`ve still got water coming out of the tap that tests positive for lead.

And so, the Browns are still relying on bottled water for many of their basic needs, including bathing, including bathing Denettra Brown`s 4-year- old son.


DENETTRA BROWN, FLINT, MI RESIDENT: The hardest part has been trying to cook and bathe with the bottles of water. So, that`s been what`s been the hardest part. But really, the cooking.

I don`t bathe with the bottled water. You know, I still will get in the shower. But trying to bathe my son with it was -- that was stressful. I would take two of these and warm them on the stove. And then take another two without warming them and balance it out in the tub. And then that would be his little bitty water that he bathed in.


MADDOW: Over the course of this year, the city of Flint led by their mayor, Karen Weaver, they have begun this massive project of fixing this crisis they didn`t cause. They started a house to house project of replacing the pipes that carry this wrecked city water into thousands of homes. Mayor Weaver announced this week that 460 homes have had their bad service lines replaced so far.

But here is the news for Thanksgiving Eve. Today, the Brown family got their turn. Workers came this morning to their house, tore a couple of holes in the street, pulled out the old lead pipe that connected the Brown`s house to the water main. They replaced the service line with a brand-new copper pipe. So, now, the water that is gushing out of their tap is no running directly through a lead pipe.

That said, the Brown family cannot drink it yet. They`re waiting on a new round of testing. Even after the city some day will be able to declare the water safe, I got to tell you, it`s still going to take time to restore the trust of people like Denettra Brown who have been living with it all this time -- I mean, for half the life so far of her young son.


BROWN: I think probably -- we`ll probably try cooking with it. But it`s like once your trust has been broken and token for so long, so many years you`ve been lied to and say, oh, it`s safe, it`s safe. And then it turned out to not be safe. How do you jump straight back into just using something that was harmful, harming people?

So I think it will be a process. It will be steps need to be took first before we just jump into using the water but I will let my son bathe in it, though.

It`s going to take some time to jump back in to start using the water. This is something that has been kept -- actually have kept people alive. Sad to say, God thank it haven`t done that much harm to nobody in my family.

But this was a crucial thing. This was serious. And it was something that was caused by, you know, the hands of another man. It`s a sad thing, you know, when you can`t have access to clean water.


MADDOW: Flint still has many thousands of homes to go. But it is something to see people not give up, to see a city not give up after what has been done to them, after they`re still having to fix this problem on their own. But as you make your list of things to be thankful for tomorrow, now that Oscar Brown`s house got new pipes today, it would not be a terrible idea to think about a 4-year-old American boy, look at how cute he is, who may soon get to take a bath in a full tub for the first time in more than half his life.

This does it for us tonight. Happy Thanksgiving.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD". Ari Melber sitting in for Lawrence tonight.

Good evening, Ari.