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Meet The Press November 27,2016

NBC NEWS - MEET THE PRESS

"11.27.16"

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday, the death of Fidel Castro, what it means for the U.S., Cuba and American politics.

MALE VOICE:

He destroyed a country, he destroyed practically a culture.

CHUCK TODD:

Our own Andrea Mitchell is in Havana. And I'll talk with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Plus, is President-Elect Trump backing away from some of his campaign rhetoric? Remember this?

TRUMP RALLY CROWD:

Lock her up. Lock her up.

CHUCK TODD:

Now Trump says Hillary Clinton has suffered enough. From the border wall to global warming, is there a change in the air? I'll talk to Trump's former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.

And shades of 2000, the Clinton campaign joins the effort to recount the vote in three states. Is there any chance it could make a difference? Joining me for insight and analysis are Helene Cooper of The New York Times, Matt Bai of Yahoo News, Danielle Pletka of The American Enterprise Institute and Mark Murray of NBC News. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. We have a lot to discuss this morning on President-Elect Trump, the transition, whether he's backing away from some key campaign promises, and of course the call for a recount now in three states.We’ll get to all of that in a moment.

But we're going to begin with the death, at the age of 90, of Fidel Castro. Not surprisingly, the news has been greeted with joy and celebration in Miami's Little Havana, for Cuban-Americans have been waiting for this moment for more than five decades.

CUBAN-AMERICAN:

This is a topic that really gets to me. Ever since I was very small, I've been hearing stories of cruelty and oppression.

CUBAN-AMERICAN:

He destroyed families. He destroyed a country. He destroyed practically a culture.

CUBAN-AMERICAN:

This may be the beginning of the end of the Castro regimes in Cuba and the beginning of the freedom for the Cuban people.

CHUCK TODD:

While there are some people that may disagree about Castro's legacy, there is no doubt that he is one of the monumental figures of the 20th century. A revolutionary turned dictator who frustrated 11, count them, 11 U.S. presidents from Eisenhower to Obama.

NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell has covered Castro, interviewed him a number of times, done this for many years. She, of course, is right in Havana, Cuba this morning for us. So Andrea, let me start with this. We know how Cubans in Miami are reacting. How are Cubans in Cuba reacting?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, it's somber, it's muted, Chuck. In Havana, people are going about their daily lives. It's really a generational divide. The older generation more emotional about Fidel Castro. For the younger generation, really, since 2006 when he became ill and 2008 when he turned power over to his somewhat younger brother, Raul, he has been less of a figure, of a political presence, more of an aging grandfather, the founder of the revolution, in fact, but more symbolic, I should say, than a real presence.

That there's been so many changes, of course, Raul Castro's gradual economic market reforms, the dramatic opening to the U.S., and now, of course the big question of what comes next? Things are pretty much frozen in place here. They are anticipating changes under Donald Trump, and they're very nervous about that.

CHUCK TODD:

Andrea, short-term, how is Cuba planning to bury Fidel?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, there's going to be nine days in full of mourning. He's being cremated today. They will start processions around the country, paying respects to the remains, which will be in a, in a large box, similar to Che Guevara. Then, in, next Sunday, the days of mourning end, and there will be an official burial.

But on television, of course, his presence ever-present, constant documentaries showing the younger Fidel, the revolution of Fidel, the family. That said, they are moving on. And the question now is the most important relationship with the U.S., where does it turn? Chuck?

CHUCK TODD:

We're going to try to tackle that question throughout this hour, Andrea Mitchell.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

You bet.

CHUCK TODD:

In Havana, Andrea, thanks very much.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

So there are few, if any, foreigners who have done more to shape American policy and politics than Fidel Castro. We're going to have much more on his outsized influence later in the broadcast. But I want to turn now to Donald Trump and a question on the minds of many of his supporters and opponents: Is the president-elect backing away from some of his key campaign promises? We're going to take just one example. During the campaign, Mr. Trump endorsed water-boarding.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

And don't tell me it doesn't work. Torture works. Okay, folks?

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

But this week he told The New York Times that one conversation with a potential defense secretary, General James "Mad Dog" Mattis changed his mind.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DONALD TRUMP:

He said, "I've never found it to be useful." He said, "I've always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture."

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

In other areas, from climate change to prosecuting Hillary Clinton, from building a wall at the Mexican border to renegotiating NAFTA, Mr. Trump has either backed away from some of the rhetoric or just stayed silent. Kellyanne Conway was the manager of Donald Trump's campaign. And she is a big part of the transition and joins me now. Kellyanne Conway, welcome back to the show.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Hi, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with Cuba, because on this issue, you could take some of his statements and say he's been on both sides of the, of what President Obama has done in trying to open up, re-open up relations with Cuba. He said he was fine with it back in the spring. Late in the campaign, he seemed to indicate that he wanted to reverse some of the changes that he made. What can you clarify with us this morning on Cuba policy when it comes to President Trump?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Several things, Chuck. First, President-Elect Trump put out a very strong statement yesterday about Fidel Castro. He is not going to be one of these people romanticizing Fidel Castro as a hero. He knows he was a dictator who oppressed and imprisoned and harmed and murdered people, separated families, and really, has many decades of blood on his hands. So let's be clear there.

On, on the issue of diplomatic relations being reopened with Cuba, what President-Elect Trump says is that he'd be open to that himself, but that we got nothing in return. We're allowing commercial aircraft there. We pretend that we're actually doing business with the Cuban people now when, really, we're doing business with the Cuban government and the Cuban military. They still control everything.

And he doesn't want any of us to be fooled. This is very much in keeping with the America first, Americans first, America, her allies, her interests abroad first. Policies of President-Elect Trump you see in trade, you see it here with respect to Cuba. He wants to make sure we get things in return. And it's not always this unilateral capitulation to these, these foreign governments.

Secondly, he's been very clear that the major priority now is to make sure Cubans on Cuba have the same freedoms that Cubans here in America have, which is political, religious and economic freedom, make sure those political prisoners are finally released into freedom, and make sure the American fugitives face the law.

CHUCK TODD:

So concretely, is he rolling back? Is he just going to reinstitute the embargo immediately and then go to Congress? What is he going to do when he takes office?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

None of that has been decided. The president-elect will make those decisions and will make those announcements once he is president. We have a president in office for eight more weeks, and we're very respectful of that.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I understand that. But doesn't he owe-- if he is going to change it, there are many people who are making plans, based on whether policy is going to change. Is it a definite that policy is going to change? Or is it possible he keeps some of these changes in place?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Nothing is definite. He'll be speaking with his advisors. And he'll be applying the same brilliance and instincts and, that he, that he applied all throughout the campaign to all of these issues. And frankly, Chuck, I think the first order of business here, now that the dictator is gone, is to see how much we can do as, frankly, a world community, if not the United States of America, to try to get these political prisoners to freedom.

I've met some of them, those who have been released. I've met many of these family members whose lives were devastated, whose entire, you know, families were separated, if not destroyed. You know, you know the stories that Senator Rubio, Senator--

CHUCK TODD:

Is he willing to shut down--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

--Cruz have and others certainly have.

CHUCK TODD:

But let me ask you this. I know the stories very well. Is he willing to essentially shut down this diplomatic rapproche, rapprochement for the, on behalf of these political prisoners? Does he want to completely shut that down, or does he still want to keep that open?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

That's for discussion. That's certainly on the table. And this is what, look, this is what leaders do. Leaders listen. They learn. They take the counsel of many people. They see what the circumstances are. And he's even been talking to President Obama. You know, beyond the, beyond the sit-down they had 30 hours or so after President-Elect Trump won the election, they've been talking regularly on any number of issues. They talked just yesterday.

CHUCK TODD:

And can you give an update on what they talked about, since you just said that? We like to hear news here.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Of course not.

CHUCK TODD:

You, they talked yesterday. How long was the conversation?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

They did. About 40 to 45 minutes. And I can tell you from President-Elect Trump's side that he very much enjoys speaking with President Obama, talking about the serious issues that face this country and the world. They get along nicely. They disagree on many things. That's not going to change.

But there is a respect there. And there is a respect for the process and the peaceful transition of power, which is why this recount by Jill Stein and now the Hillary people is just so confounding and disappointing.

Their president, Barack Obama, is going to be in office for eight more weeks. And they have to decide whether they're going to interfere with him finishing his business, interfere with the peaceful transition, transfer of power to President-Elect Trump and Vice President-Elect Pence, or if they're going to be a bunch of crybabies and sore losers about an election that they can't turn around.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm going to ask you about that in a minute. But I want to focus on, on this conflict of interest issue that, that you guys are trying to work through. President-Elect Trump told this to The New York Times. He believes,the conflict of you know, and obviously he legally can do this, he says he can run his business perfectly and run the country perfectly. But he knows he's got to do something. What does he plan on doing? And, and what is that something when it comes to not having the appearance that he's going to profit, his companies will profit, off of his presidency?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

First, let's be fair. It's not as if he said he's going to be doing two things at once. What he's saying is that his company could be run perfectly. And he has been very public about the fact that his three adult children, who are involved in the company, Ivanka, Don Junior and Eric, will, in fact, continue to have very senior roles as executives of the company.

And so he has been talking to his lawyers. He's been talking to ethics compliance folks. Everything will be done the way it needs to be done. But Chuck, there's no question that we're in unprecedented times. This country's not accustomed to having a successful businessman and job creator of tens of thousands of people at the helm. We're just, we’re just accustomed to typical politicians ascending through the ranks. So it is different. But it's a large part of why people elected him.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

And I think the presumptive negativity that some people have toward him that he won't get this right, is counting him out and betting against Donald Trump, which is never a good idea.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me give, let me quote--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

They will get this right.

CHUCK TODD:

--Peggy Noonan.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

He will comply with the law.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me quote Peggy Noonan, no member of the liberal media, here's what she wrote this weekend. "It would be a painful act, selling the business he loves and around which he has ordered his life. But there would be comfort in this: In doing the right thing, in denying his opponents a sword, and enhancing his stature and demonstrating that, yes, he will sacrifice for his country. That's pretty great comfort. You've made your money. Now go be a patriot." She's recommending that he take the advice of The Wall Street Journal editorial page and just simply liquidate it all. Why won't he do this?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

It's not that simple. And that was actually raised in that New York Times on the record interview, as well. And a couple things that President-Elect Trump said in that interview is that selling real estate is not just-- selling off real estate is not just like selling stocks. And that, his, you know, why deny his adult children the ability to do what they do, they do so brilliantly already, which is be--

CHUCK TODD:

Why won’t he put the country--

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

--executives at the highest levels of the Trump Corporation.

CHUCK TODD:

Isn't this a case where he should put the country ahead of himself and ahead of his, of his children, in this case?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

He does. You know, Chuck, he has put the country ahead of everything else. Just running and, indeed winning and becoming the president of the United States, he has shown that he does this. He didn't need to run. He didn’t-- All the usual motivators are, are elusive to him, the power, the money, the fame, the position, the stature. He did it because he loves the country. And he doesn't like-- he and 72 percent of the country did not like the direction in which it was going.

But we have to give, I mean-- I went back and looked at what all the press clips and the conversations on shows like this were eight years ago. It was basically debating just how cool Barack Obama is. So we should at least, if we're not going to do that about President-Elect Trump, we should, at the very least, trust him to do the right thing and comply with the law here.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand every knee-jerk decis-- pushback is going to be to blame the media. That's a crutch. I get it. And I'm used to it.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Not by me.

CHUCK TODD:

But it's not the fact.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Not by me.

CHUCK TODD:

But let me ask you this.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

That's not fair.

CHUCK TODD:

Why are you campaigning against Mitt Romney as Secretary of State?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

I'm not campaigning against anyone. I'm just a concerned citizen. I'm not campaigning against Mitt Romney. But--

CHUCK TODD:

But you don't think he should be the choice?

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

--I can't tell you. I'm not-- look, Chuck, this is very simple. I'm not trying to make the news, I'm trying to reflect the news here. And I am just astonished at the breath, the breathtaking volume and intensity of blow-back that I see, just as one person close to the president-elect, is receiving unsolicited from people on social media, particularly in private communications.

People feel betrayed to think that Governor Romney, who went out of his way to question the character and the intellect and the integrity of Donald Trump, now our president-elect, would be given the most significant cabinet post of all, Secretary of State. And that is a decision that only one man can make, President-Elect Donald Trump. I will respect it and I will support it 1000%. But I'm reflecting what the grassroots are saying.

CHUCK TODD:

All right.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

They feel, they feel a bit betrayed to think that you can get a Romney back in there after everything he did. We don't even know if he voted for, for Donald Trump. He and his consultants were nothing but awful to Donald Trump for a year.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Kellyanne Conway, I'm going to leave it there. Big part of the transition, former campaign manager. Thanks for coming on Meet the Press. Appreciate it.

KELLYANNE CONWAY:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Earlier this morning, I spoke with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who aren't, of course, for the Republican presidential nomination against Donald Trump. Senator Rubio is also a Cuban-American who's been a fierce opponent of Fidel Castro. And I will be bringing you those comments about Castro later in this broadcast. But we also talked about President-Elect Trump. And I asked Senator Rubio about the transition and Mr. Trump's potential conflicts of interest. Here's that part of the interview.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MARCO RUBIO:

He's obviously someone who's not held public office. So he's going into the presidency. He has business ties. We knew that. Voters knew that when he got elected. And now he'll hire, I imagine, a White House counsel, already has. And they're going to work through that and decide the appropriate way to separate himself from his business endeavors.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you think is appropriate?

MARCO RUBIO:

Well, first of all, I don't know the extent-- I really don't know the entire--

CHUCK TODD:

Isn't that part of the problem?

MARCO RUBIO:

--nature of his-- in terms of what? I'm sorry.

CHUCK TODD:

That we don't know, you don't know. Shouldn't you know the nature? Shouldn't we, in the public, all know the nature of his business dealings around the world now?

MARCO RUBIO:

Sure. And my sense is that he's going to declare those now, as he moves forward. And that will be the job of the White House Counsel to lay out exactly what his business interests are and what they are doing to separate those from the decisions he's making in the White House.

I imagine they're well aware that this is something they're going to have to confront. As I said, the elections have been less than three weeks away. So they're working through a transition process. There's nothing wrong with expecting them to show that. And I expect that they will.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. It was interesting. You issued statements praising Donald Trump's choice of Mike Pompeo for C.I.A.. You praised him for picking Nikki Haley for ambassador to the U.N.. But we noticed you didn't have any statements for Mike Flynn as National Security Advisor or Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Should we read anything into that? First, Mike Flynn.

MARCO RUBIO:

No. Mike Flynn doesn't come before Senate confirmations. That's why we didn't comment on it. And I'm not on the judiciary committee, which Jeff Sessions will have to go through before he reaches anything I have to vote on. The three you mentioned, Nikki Haley, will go through the Foreign Relations Committee, which I sit on.

Pompeo will go through the Intelligence Committee, which I sit on. And I also happen to know both of them well and know them personally. I also know Jeff Sessions. We have a good working relationship. But I'll respect the process that we have, which means he'll have to go through the process of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And if he emerges from that, then he'll go to the full Senate. And at that point, I'll have something to say. It's the way we've handled basically every nomination, for the most part, under President Obama and now under President-Elect Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

So you're not ready to say if you'll support the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General?

MARCO RUBIO:

No, I never do until that person works their way through the process. Now, in the case of Pompeo and Nikki Haley, they'll come through our committee. I think they were a good choice. They'll still have to go through the same process as anybody else. And if something emerges from that, which I don't expect, then obviously we'll comment on it.

CHUCK TODD:

Speaking of your committee, you had said, for instance, you would not talk about Wikileaks at all during the campaign. You said the Russian government was involved, and you thought it was inappropriate. And you knew that, okay, this was hurting the Democrats today, tomorrow it could be your party.

You are chair of a sub-committee on Western Hemisphere Trans-National Crime, Civilian Security, democracy, human rights and global women's issues. You could call your own hearing investigating, because this could be a crime that was committed by the Russian government into when it came to Wikileaks. Do you plan on investigating if no other committee steps up and does it?

MARCO RUBIO:

Well first of all, in order for us to investigate that in my sub-committee, we'd need the permission of the full committee. And I imagine that Senator Corker may have an opinion on that. He may himself want to do that. You'll have to ask him. I'm open to--

CHUCK TODD:

Do you want--

MARCO RUBIO:

Look, here's the bottom line. If a foreign government has been involved in injecting chaos into our democratic process, the American people deserve to know that. I've made my feelings known in the midst of the campaign.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

MARCO RUBIO:

And I will continue to focus on that. And I will just say to you that I think it would be inappropriate, and it's something that we should not allow to stand without informing the American people of that reality. Let me just say this. I've never said it's the Russian government, although I believe it was the work of a foreign government.

I will say this. If you look at what happened during our election and the sort of things that were interjected into the election process, they are very similar to the sort of active measures that you've seen the Russians use in the past in places like Eastern Europe, to interfere with the elections of other countries. And what we mean by "interfere" is they try to undermine the credibility of the election. They try to undermine individual leaders. And they try to create chaos in the political discourse. And the fundamental argument behind it is they want people to-- they want to de-legitimize the process.

CHUCK TODD:

Is it worthy of Congressional scrutiny?

MARCO RUBIO:

Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. And final question. Donald Trump is going to rescind a lot of executive orders that President Obama made. Let me ask you one specifically. It's called DACA, essentially for Dreamers, granting essentially amnesty -- we can shorthand it here, amnesty for those who were brought into this country as children so that they're protected and not deported. What is your recommendation to Donald Trump on that specific executive order?

MARCO RUBIO:

So my recommended would be that there are people that have already availed themselves of that, and that there's a period of time for that. I would not retroactively remove their status. I would say that, from some point forward, people will not be allowed to apply for renewal for that status. And that will give us a defined period of time to work through this, beginning with border security and modernization of the legal immigration system.

CHUCK TODD:

So don't rescind it immediately.

MARCO RUBIO:

Well, people already have it. So someone has that DACA permit. But it's not indefinite. It expires. And what I would say is, if you have it, you'll have it for the remainder of that period of time, but you will not be able to renew it. In the meantime, and it's not a long period of time, but it does give us the time to do border security, modernization, and then move to something very reasonable for people like those who came here as children, or those who have been here for a long time who are not criminals to allow them to attain some legal status through a legal way, not an unconstitutional way, which is what DACA is.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

We’ll have more from my interview with Senator Rubio, and his thoughts about the death of Fidel Castro and where the U.S.-Cuba relationship goes from here, later in this broadcast. But first, Clinton campaign joins the effort to recount the votes in three states. You heard what Kellyanne had to say about that. Is there any chance the results could be overturned? And what is the Clinton folks trying to accomplish? That’s next.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, panel is here: Matt Bai, national political columnist for Yahoo News, Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, Danielle Pletka, senior vice president at The American Enterprise Institute, and Mark Murray, political editor of NBC News. Welcome all. Let me start with this recount, only because I heard Kellyanne Conway's reaction to it. Matt Bai, it was pretty harsh on the Clinton campaign. They were almost anticipating Donald--

MATT BAI:

She went out of her way to bring it up.

CHUCK TODD:

She did. I didn't bring it up. Donald Trump has already tweeted about it this morning.

MATT BAI:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

They're sort of enjoying poking them, calling them sore losers.

MATT BAI:

It’s interesting that she brought it up. I don't know what-- it's clear that they don't want this, they don’t want this to become a distraction, though, too. You know, they were a little sensitive about it. I don’t know what the right-- I've been trying to think of what the right analogy of this is with Jill Stein and the Clinton campaign. It's like your neighbor goes in your house and brings all your belongings out to the curb. And then, when somebody takes them, calls the police and says, "There's been a theft" you know I mean you know for, for Jill Stein to want-- I don't know what it is. But for Jill Stein to want--

HELENE COOPER:

How long have you been thinking this up?

MATT BAI:

Well, I was trying. I don't know if that's the right one, you know?

CHUCK TODD:

We got to cut him off now or he'll keep going. I know.

MATT BAI:

Or it’s kind of like, yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

I don't--

MATT BAI:

I won’t get back to the movie bit here--

CHUCK TODD:

But the point is this, is you're like me, you don't get it, do you?

MATT BAI:

No. I don't understand. Look, I just don't think there's any percentage in it for anybody. I don't understand the political play. I don't really understand why Jill Stein is doing it at this point. I don't really understand what the Clinton campaign is doing. And I don't really-- I don’t, if I were the Trump folks, I don't think I'd go out of my way to bring it up, because I don't think it's going anywhere.

HELENE COOPER:

Matt, how old are you?

MATT BAI:

Really? You want me to say? I'm 48 years old.

HELENE COOPER:

This is somebody who, like me and like you, lived through Florida--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

HELENE COOPER:

--in 2000. And once you've gone through that and you've seen just how hard a recount in one state is -- the idea of taking it on in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, just I don't get what Jill Stein is-- I, I don't understand this at all.

CHUCK TODD:

Somebody talked Jill Stein into this, Mark Murray. It smells like.

MARK MURRAY:

Huh.

CHUCK TODD:

That's what it smells like.

MATT BAI:

Was it you, Mark?

CHUCK TODD:

Almost guilting her-- almost guilting her, "Hey, the margin, the margin of victory,” a lot of Clintonites like to point out, “the margin of victory in Michigan and in Wisconsin would be made up if all Stein voters had voted Clinton."

MARK MURRAY:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, you know, and if my-- you know, whatever. But why are they doing this?

MARK MURRAY:

Well so, I ended up reaching out to people at the Clinton campaign to say, "Look, did you guys have anything to do with it? Are you happy that Jill Stein is forming this?" And their response is, "We had nothing to do with this. This is Jill Stein doing on her own."

But they just decided to join it because they feel like it's important to their voters, the people who are still fired up, to basically say, "This is already happening. We're going to go out and piggyback on this." But Chuck, as you mentioned, there is a big irony here. Jill Stein ended up getting 50,000 votes in the state of Michigan. The margin is 10,000. You end up looking at Wisconsin. The margin there was, is about 20,000. Jill Stein got more than 30,000 votes. And so Pennsylvania wasn't going to make a big difference. But having Jill Stein lead this--

MATT BAI:

Yeah.

MARK MURRAY:

--given that she took a lot of votes away from Hillary Clinton--

MATT BAI:

Do you have an analogy?

MARK MURRAY:

I think you had the better one.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I mean we don't-- first of all, we don't know that those votes would have gone to Hillary Clinton. They could have gone, they could have gone any number of other places.

CHUCK TODD:

Or not voted.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

They might not have voted. But the bottom line here is, I agree, I don't understand why anybody is so excited about this. The constitution allows for this. Each state constitution allows for this. Clearly Jill Stein is using it as a way to raise money. The only thing I don't like about it is that it is fueling the fire of this hashtag, Not-My-President.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

And I think that that-- didn’t, you know, don't vote for Donald Trump, don't for Hillary Clinton, but that is, that is wrong.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's pivot to the conflict of interest issue. It, it seems as if more people around Donald Trump are more worried about it than Donald Trump.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I don't think Donald Trump is a big worrier. And that's obviously served him well. But he's getting good advice. He got wise counsel from, from Peggy Noonan. He got wise counsel from The Wall Street Journal. He needs to detangle himself. He needs to be, he needs to be-- I can't remember the analogy now, Matt, purer than whose wife was it? Somebody's. Caesar’s wife?

MATT BAI:

Caesar’s wife, right.

HELENE COOPER:

It’s usually Caesar’s wife.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

You are the analogy guy. He really, he really does. Because otherwise, this will distract from every single thing he does.

CHUCK TODD:

Every story, Turkey, you name it. Especially you name the international story, right, Mark?

MARK MURRAY:

Well, right. And so it's going to be a huge distraction. It's actually going to dominate the political coverage of him for a year if not longer. But also do remember, on the hypocrisy angle, too, one of his closing arguments was about The Clinton Foundation and all the conflicts of interest there and that, you know, you end up having Hillary Clinton having at least a plan to extricate herself and her husband from The Clinton Foundation if they had won. We still really even haven't gotten a rudimentary answer from Kellyanne Conway about how that process is going to play out with Donald Trump.

HELENE COOPER:

I also don't think that this "I can’t beggar my children" argument is gonna cut it. Because, at the end of the day, he made a decision that he wanted to run for President of the United States. And I'm sorry. So at this point, you look at the-- The Times had this great story in today that started with Phil-- It's Philippines, it's Greece, it's Argentina, it's-- you know, the--

CHUCK TODD:

It’s a who’s who of hot spots.

HELENE COOPER:

And this is gonna-- This is just going to continue and continue and continue.

MATT BAI:

He has a point that we've not seen this before. And so it is going to be-- there are going to be entanglements here that we haven't seen, because he is a businessman with all these interests. I think what worries people is that Donald Trump has shown very clearly to the course of this campaign that he doesn't care about conventions, rules. He considers politics a lesser, almost silly arena than business. And he's found himself in it. But he's gonna do what he's gonna do until it costs him something.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

MATT BAI:

And so I think there's a real distrust about will he observe the conventional rules of conflict of interest.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Congress, Congressional Republicans, could put some handcuffs on him. Do you think they'll be willing to do that when it comes to this business stuff? They could pass some bills that quoted the emoluments clause and essentially created a forcible mechanism here. Do you think they're willing to do that?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

That's not been the habit of the United States Congress. They didn't do it to Hillary Clinton. They didn't do it to Bill Clinton. They haven't done it to previous leaders. You know, what you really want to see is you want to see him owning this. And I get it, it is complicated. I get it, there's no precedent. But in fact, he needs to do this. Because, in fact, that is ultimately what will protect his children. Otherwise, when he's out of office, if he continues to have this interest, they will destroy him. Imagine going to a Trump hotel?

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But then nobody goes to the Trump Hotel. Ivanka's already seen this with her brand.

CHUCK TODD:

Peggy Noonan made a-- that was a powerful column about picking patriotism over the business, anyway. When we come back, meet the man who says it's time for Nancy Pelosi to go because it's time for Democrats to start winning again. Congressman Tim Ryan joins me.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. For all the talk this past year of how the Republican Party needs to figure out how to fix itself, it's of course it's now the Democrats who find themselves in the political wilderness. Starting in 2010, Democrats have lost a net of 12 Senate seats and a whopping 63 House seats. Combine that with the Democratic Party's loss of white middle class voters in 2016 and ultimately the White House this time.

And Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio says it's time for a change in the party's leadership all over the place, including the House. So he launched a long-shot bid to replace Nancy Pelosi as the Democratic leader in the House. Well, Tim Ryan joins me now. Congressman Ryan, welcome to Meet the Press.

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

Great to be with you.

CHUCK TODD:

Why do you think it's taken this long for someone like you or Democrats to say, "You know what? It's now been a decade since Democrats won control of the House."

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

"And they've been losing ground ever since." Why has there been so much comfort with her leadership until today?

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

Well, I think you think the next election's going to be different. And the next elections haven't been different. And my level of frustration came from the idea that we're going to have, for two more years, the same conversation as we've been having since 2010.

And I think the level of frustration in our caucus is as great as I've ever seen it. And it's time to do something about it, not just talk about it. Because now we're not even the national party. We're a coastal party. And we've got to move forward. If we're not going to get voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, go back down south. When I first got in Congress, we had members from Tennessee. We've got to go back there and campaign and get those folks back in the fold.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, Bernie Sanders said the following last week: "There's a huge split between young people and older people in the party. The older people have got to recognize this: the model of the Democratic Party has failed. We don't have the House, the Senate, the White House. We don't have three fourths of the governor. You know what? We failed." Do you think he's alluding to identity politics here as the failure? What do you believe the failure is?

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

I think, in part, we try to slice the electorate up. And we try to say, "You're black, you're brown, you're gay, you're straight, you're a woman, you're a man." The reality of it is there's no juice in that kind of campaign. There's no energy in that because it's divided.

The key to, and-- magic of, good campaigns, is when you pull people together. You unite them around a common theme. And look, if you're black, white, gay, straight, brown, you want a good job. You know, we focus sometimes too much on the minimum wage and we should be talking about living wages and middle class wages and pensions and benefits and the kind of thing that people in the industrial Midwest talk about all the time.

CHUCK TODD:

So was this a mistake of message in the Democratic Party? Is this Hillary Clinton? Is this everybody just not talking about economic issues in the way that you wanted them talked about?

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

I think mostly message. Because if you look at the policies, I believe the Democratic Party still has the policies to help move us forward, the blend of public/private partnerships, the infrastructure, the investments in education and research. Those are things that we stand for and believe in and will continue to fight for.

But the reality of it is our message has been wrong. But we can't keep saying, "Oh, we got the message wrong, and so please forgive us." We've been getting the message wrong since 2010. We've got to get the message right. We've got to have the right messenger. And we've got to have someone who can not just go on MSNBC, but go on Fox and Fox Business and CNBC, and go into union halls and fish frys and churches all over the country and start a brush fire about what a new Democratic Party looks like.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. There is also a debate inside the Democratic Party about how or whether to work with Trump. Chuck Schumer has said Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren have indicated, on some things, they would be willing to work with Trump. What should -- but there are others that argue, "Hey, Republicans in Congress chose not to work with President Obama."

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

"And it was good for the Republican Party."

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

So is it good for the Democratic Party to work with Donald Trump?

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

I think it is yet to be seen. I think we have an obligation to respect the voter who put Trump in. And we may not like it. And we may have fought really hard. I traveled the country for a year and a half helping Hillary Clinton to try to become president. But we have to respect what the American people have done.

But this is a unique president in a unique situation with a divided Republican Party. And that is going to reveal itself as we get into the legislative proposals. Now it's just rhetoric, it's positioning, it's tweets. Proposals have to land at The House of Representatives, budgets, real numbers. And we have to wait and see. There may be an opportunity to work with Trump, and other issues, we may have to fight him.

CHUCK TODD:

What is Nancy Pelosi's fireable offense?

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

We're not winning. We're down 16--

CHUCK TODD:

Period? That's what she should be judged on--

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

Period. I mean--

CHUCK TODD:

Forget legislating, forget any of that stuff, judge on that? Forget fundraising.

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

Yes. I mean if money was the answer, Hillary Clinton would be president and we'd be in charge of the House of Representatives right now. But money is not the answer. It's message, messenger. And it's about winning. Winners win. I mean we can't have a standard in the Democrat Party that we're gonna accept being down 63 seats. I mean 33 governorships, 31 secretaries of state, 69 of 99 state legislators, Chuck. We're losing all over the board. We've got to start something new and start fresh.

CHUCK TODD:

What is-- what do you make of the recount decision by the Clinton campaign to cooperate with Jill Stein's call? Do you think that's healthy for the country?

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

I mean it's their decision. They ran a tough race. I'm--

CHUCK TODD:

Are you supportive of it?

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

I'm moving on myself.

CHUCK TODD:

Would you counsel against it?

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

I would counsel against it. But I'm moving on. I mean we've got elections to win. We need to start rebuilding. But, you know, they're in a different position than I am. We're moving into the next Congress. We have this leadership race. We've got to fill the DNC position. We've got to move forward. And I think that's the best thing for us to do.

CHUCK TODD:

You don't succeed here as party leader, are you going to stay in Congress?

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

I'm focused 'til Wednesday. And we're going to win. We're going to surprise a lot of people, Chuck. There's a lot of discord in our conference right now. People want to move forward. They want to change. They've all been home. I've been calling people over the holidays, which wasn't exactly on my agenda. It was supposed to be football and turkey.

CHUCK TODD:

Yep.

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

But people are saying, their families are telling them, it's time for change.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I'm guessing, thanks to Ohio State, you're probably in a pretty good mood this morning.

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

Excellent mood.

CHUCK TODD:

Hey Tim Ryan, Democrat from Ohio, thanks for coming in.

CONGRESSMAN TIM RYAN:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Appreciate it. Up next, there's one man whom we have followed from the time when Americans watched the news on black and white televisions to the modern era when we watch on 65 inch flat screens or on tiny little mobile devices. Coming up, Fidel Castro's more than half a century influence on American politics when we return.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. There was something supremely ironic in the death of Fidel Castro on Friday.

This was a moment the U.S. government and some American citizens have dreamed about, planned for and obsessed over for nearly 60 years. In the 1960’s the CIA plotted to kill Castro. Rumors of his death would move markets, but by the time Fidel Castro died at the age of 90 he was an ill and feeble man who had ceded power to his brother Raul and his death may have little practical impact on U.S. Cuba relations.Still this marks the passing of a man who is not just an international figure but someone who had an outsized influence on domestic American politics.

(BEGIN TAPE)

FIDEL CASTRO:

When am I going to hate to the people of the United States. I don’t hate anybody including my enemies.

CHUCK TODD:

But Castro quickly became an enemy of the United States cracking down at home and punishing U.S. companies in Cuba. In 1961, President Kennedy ordered 1,350 CIA trained fighters to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. The attempted invasion was a disaster. Two generations of Cuban Americans blamed democrat John Kennedy and voted Republican. A year later Castro invited the Soviet Union to base nuclear weapons on Cuban soil. The Cuban Missile Crisis.

PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY:

Missiles in Cuba add to an already clear and present danger.

CHUCK TODD:

By the time he was 35 two U.S. presidents had tried to kill him. In all Castro faced off against eleven U.S. presidents. South Florida policy became foreign policy, and American presidents learned Cuba policy could quickly become a domestic political problem. In 1980, the Mariel boatlift quickly became a political problem for Jimmy Carter when it turned out that some of the 125,000 Cubans Castro allowed to immigrate to the United States had been released from Cuban jails and mental health facilities.

PRESIDENT JIMMY CARTER:

Castro has taken hardened criminals out of prison…

CHUCK TODD:

A governor in Arkansas tried to be helpful to his Democratic colleague in the White House. Bill Clinton agreed to house some of the refugees at Fort Chaffee, a military installation, while privately fuming, "How could you do this to me? I busted my ass for Carter. You guys are going to get me beat."

THEN-GOVERNOR BILL CLINTON:

The only way that we can really adequately secure the area is to have more troops inside.

CHUCK TODD:

In June, a riot broke out. Clinton had to call in the National Guard. Clinton did lose that re-election bid and as president, he would get another hard lesson in Cuba politics 20 years later. In 1999, a custody battle broke out over six year old Elian Gonzalez. After a five-month standoff, in a raid approved by Clinton's Justice Department, federal agents forcibly removed Elian from his extended family in Miami to return him to his father in Cuba. Cuban American voters, a few months later, punished Al Gore, potentially costing him Florida and the election.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, the reaction to Castro's death, including more of my conversation with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back, continuing now with my interview with Senator Rubio of Florida, I spoke with him this morning about the death of Fidel Castro and I asked him if the impact seems more anticlimactic now than it would have if it happened 20 years ago.

(BEGIN TAPE)

MARCO RUBIO:

The bottom line is that, as far as the practical day to day affairs, that transition happened about a decade ago. And so his death is an historical milestone. And I imagine a psychological one for a lot of people.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

MARCO RUBIO:

But from a practical standpoint, Cuba today is governed exactly the same way as it was 48 hours ago.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you hold out any hope that it's possible Raul Castro -- was holding off on making some changes while Fidel was alive?

MARCO RUBIO:

No. I mean Fidel Ca-- I mean Raul Castro's 85. So I know people say, "The younger Castro." The younger Castro's 85 years old. And he's basically been involved in the government of that country since day one. He's basically been governing it for the last ten years.

The thing people don't understand is he's not Gorbachev. He's not a reformer thinking for the best interest of Cuba long term. His number one interest is to make permanent this system of government. Because they have an extended family and friends who depend on the system of government for their livelihood. They want this system of government to become a permanent and accepted way to govern an island nation. And that's what their number one interest is right now.

CHUCK TODD:

You put out a statement a couple weeks ago after the election saying this: "Rolling back President Obama's one-sided concessions to the Castro regime, a key campaign promised shared with President-elect Trump will be a top priority for me next year.

MARCO RUBIO:

Yes. Absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you convinced it's a top priority for president-elect Trump, that he will--

MARCO RUBIO:

I am.

CHUCK TODD:

Ok. So let me ask you this, so you’re going to lift, to put back in the travel sanctions on commercial and private travel? Are you going to put Cuba back on the state sponsor of terrorism list? Are you going to close the embassy? What-- what are you going to do?

MARCO RUBIO:

First of all, I think we want to look at all the changes that were made. Because let's take a step back. Everything should be guided by our goal. Our goal is not to punish. Our goal is to figure out what can we do, through U.S. policy, to, number one, look out for the national interest of the United States, and number two, to help create an environment where we are creating the potential for a transition to democratic order in Cuba at some point in the near future?

So we would examine every policy to see whether or not that policy helps us down the line. And I would add to that that I do think that many of these things, whether it's increased remittances, increased travel, but particularly, some of the banking regulations which I believe are illegal to begin with, that some of these banking changes that have been made, they should all be conditioned upon specific changes on the part of the Cuban government.

For example, I think that, as long as they are harboring fugitives of American justice like Joanne Chesimard, who killed a New Jersey State Trooper and has been living in Cuba, protected by the Cuban government, that should be specifically tied to something that we're doing over here. Not to mention Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Organization.

On the other hand, I have never said that I'm against all changes to Cuba policy. I'm just against unilateral changes from which we get nothing in return for our country or for the freedom or liberty of the Cuban people. So I would look at the model of what we've done with Myanmar or Burma as an example of how you can condition openings in exchange for democratic changes on the part of the other government. And that did not happen here. So we'll examine the entire thing. We'll make suggestions to the Trump administration.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Let me bring in the panel is back, Danielle let me start with you. You’re a foreign policy-- is your wheelhouse. Fidel Castro, had it happened ten years ago, this, you know, would have been a monumental moment. This doesn’t have the same feel that I think we all thought it would have ten or fifteen years ago. But what’s practically, could something change?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I don’t think anything is going to change because as Marco Rubio said rightly, Fidel hasn’t been in charge. Raul is in charge. The transfer happened a decade ago. The problem is not-- was not Fidel. It was the system that he put in place all these many decades ago. And that’s what we need to focus on. We need to focus not on the end of the Castros, not the name. And then to that system which lives off of the back of Cuban people, oppresses them, threatens us, and interferes in the region.

CHUCK TODD:

And I think the question is, obviously, is of what President Obama has done gets left in by Donald Trump. But before we go away from President Obama, his statement yesterday got a lot of people upset because of what it didn’t say. Let me put it up, here’s what he said on Castro. “We know that this moment fills Cubans, in Cuba and in the United States,with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him. I have to say, Helene Cooper, it’s the most positive statement I’ve ever heard a President of the United States put out on Fidel Castro. Why was it so positive?

HELENE COOPER:

Well, first of all, I think I disagree with you guys on the-- you present a very, and Marco Rubio just did that, America-centric view of Cuba. Which is Castro as the, you know, Satanic demon that the United States, and in many ways he has been, but I think what President Obama’s statement reflects is that nobody in the rest of the world sort of agrees with you. The Castro that I grew up knowing as a child growing up in Liberia was a Castro who fought the South African apartheid regime that the United States was propping up. It was Castro that sent Cuban soldiers into Angola and helped to bring down apartheid South Africa. So there is a lot of ambivalence when you look at Fidel Castro that’s usually not reflected here and I think what President Obama’s statement was doing was reflecting that. But I know you disagree with me.

CHUCK TODD:

No, no, no, I mean, but Matt, she brings up a good point. No, no she brings up a good point in that there is -- what Castro’s reputation is around the world is much different than it is here in the United States.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

But that still ignores the fact. Okay, you may like what Castro did in South Africa, I don’t. But you can’t forget that he did this all on the backs of the Cuban people. This was an absolute dictatorship that crushed this island beneath their jackbooted heel. Summarily shot people for disagreeing with the Castros. For 50 years, they have been- they murdered their political opponents and supported groups like Hezbollah, Iran, Medoro, and before that, Chavez, the FARC and others. Let's not forget who he is to America.

HELENE COOPER:

Again, this is a very America-centric view of Castro.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

I’m American.

MATT BAI:

I can't tell where Danielle is on Cuba. Look, she might be vacationing there. But I disagree a little bit with Helene in that I take your point about the world view, although President Obama the president of America, he is not the president of the world. And there is an American view of this.

But I will say there was something very poignant to me about Castro's death in these final eight weeks of the Obama presidency. Because as is look at it, and it's not everybody's view, but I think, you know, when he was elected in 2008, part of the promise, part of what people felt was this sense of turning-- a new generation sort of turning the page on all that history, including the Cold War history. History just wouldn't quite get out of his way on his timetable. And here it is, the very closing act of his presidency, and finally he gets Castro out of his way too late.

CHUCK TODD:

You did a little reporting on this, though, as to why did the White House stay so tepid?

MARK MURRAY:

So this argument that we're having here, the White House decided, "Look, we don't want to perpetuate the past, we want to actually go forward." And the more that you talk about Fidel Castro and his record, at least according to their logic, was you just end up fighting these old fights that have been going on for 50 or 60 years right now. They wanted to turn the page. And I think, to me, the biggest question will be: will we be talking about Fidel Castro and Cuba really come Tuesday, Wednesday, pretty outside of Florida Republican politics? And if not, it's probably the White House' objective on moving on probably wins out.

MATT BAI:

That's a great point, yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we'll see. All right, we'll be back in 45 seconds, Endgame segment and the uneasy relationship that is developing between the Trump administration and old media. Like us at network news and our friends at The New York Times.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Back now with Endgame. Perhaps the biggest story of the week and the transition were these awkward meetings. Look, I was at one. I'm abiding by the agreement. It was an off-the-record with President-Elect Trump. I've done off-the-records with President Obama and President Bush. He deserved deference the first time that he asked for it. And that's what we did.

Had a semi-off-the-record and on-the-record meeting with The New York Times. Mark, you weren't in those meetings, so you get to speak freely on this. What do you see developing here between Trump and the media?

MARK MURRAY:

Well, I do think the first exit, where you were going to end up having some type of detente, potentially. And Donald Trump has a very complicated relationship with the media. He actually loves the media. He loves The New York Times. He loves watching cable TV news. He loved doing the interviews that he did.

But at the same time, he doesn't like a lot of the criticism that goes with it. And so you have that give and take. I will end up saying, and Chuck, you know, you were a former White House correspondent. Helene Cooper, you, as well. And being a White House reporter, you end up-- you see yourself as an institution, always going at the presidency. It's a different job than being a Congressional reporter. It's different than being a political reporter. And I do think that, when you get in that Oval Office, you're at that podium, it is a different ballgame and a much tougher game.

CHUCK TODD:

What do you feel like you can share about the meeting?

HELENE COOPER:

Well, the meeting at The Times was definitely a different Donald Trump than you've seen if you've just looked at his Twitter feed talking about The New York Times we got in New York. This time this was the more amenable Trump. He said The New York Times was a jewel, was a great institution. This is the same guy who, that very morning, had tweeted about the failing of the New York Times and had misrepresented why he cancelled the meeting to begin with. So, you know, there is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde quality to President-Elect Trump. And I worry that somebody who is as thin-skinned as he is, who is as quick to react to any kind of criticism, I mean he's going to get a ton of it when he gets behind that podium. That is the job of the press. That is the entire reason the Fourth Estate exists.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, I want to say this, comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfort, you know, sort of the first rule. Danielle, you're an outsider as far as observing all this. You care about the substance of an administration. But the rules of engagement between an administration and the press matters, too. How do you view all this? What are you seeing?

DANIELLE PLETKA:

So as the only non-reporter at the table, although I used to be one many years ago, the thing that worries me is actually, just listening to you all, you've become very conscious about your reporting. You think about yourselves. You're thinking about your institution. You're not reporting. And the view that the public has is that The New York Times isn't objective, that NBC isn't objective. You see our Twitter feed right now, "Chuck is this, this and this."

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

DANIELLE PLETKA:

This is the problem, we're doubling down. At the same time, you've got a president who many people believe was made by the likes of CNN. He got more air time than anybody else. So how do you square this and go back to the proper relationship? And I don't know the answer to that. But it makes me worry about what I read.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, anyway, we're not going to solve it here. But you guys are a terrific panel to try and do that. So thank you very much. That's all we have for today. We hope you continue to enjoy-- I think today should be turkey chili day, four days after Thanksgiving, it's time for the chili. That's what I'm doing today. We'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *