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Meet The Press 12/11/16

NBC NEWS - MEET THE PRESS

"12.11.16"

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday morning, Donald Trump, the Russians and the 2016 election. The C.I.A. has concluded the Russians intervened to help elect Donald Trump who, as a candidate, praised Vladimir Putin.

DONALD TRUMP:

I think I'd have a good relationship with Putin, who knows.

CHUCK TODD:

At issue this morning, exactly how did the Russians interfere? Why did they do it? And to what extent did they succeed? I'll talk to President-elect Donald Trump's incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, and the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. Plus, early reaction to Donald Trump's apparent choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil, who has a particularly close relationship with Putin.

DONALD TRUMP:

A great advantage is he knows many of the players. And he knows him well.

CHUCK TODD:

And Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame will be here.

MIKE ROWE:

I just put all our lives at risk, didn't I?

CHUCK TODD:

On what Democrats can learn from Donald Trump on how to win over working class voters. Joining me for insight and analysis are presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-Winning author, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel and former Under Secretary of State, Rick Stengel. Welcome to Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Good Sunday morning. When The Washington Post story about Russian involvement in our election was posted online Friday night, it was nothing less than explosive. The Post reports, and NBC News has since confirmed, that the C.I.A. has concluded that the Russians did not interfere with our election merely to undermine confidence in the democracy and the results, but a senior administration official was quoted as saying this: "It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Donald Trump get elected."

Further, in September, the White House wanted Congressional leaders to sign off on a bipartisan statement supporting efforts to insure the integrity of the election. But according to The Post, at least two Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was not persuaded by the C.I.A.'s conclusion, wouldn't sign onto it.

Partisan politics aside, this is not about the results of the election, it's about a hostile foreign government trying to influence our election, just as the Russians have been accused of doing in Germany and Italy just in the last two weeks. As stunning as the C.I.A.'s conclusion, equally remarkable was Donald Trump's decision to side with a foreign government over our own chief intelligence agency.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Donald Trump declared war on the intelligence community in a statement filled with hyperbole on Friday night: "These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest electoral college victories in history. It's now time to move on and make America great again."

The New York Times is reporting that intelligence agencies have concluded with high confidence that Russia hacked the Republican National Committee's computer systems but chose to leak only Democratic Party documents to the public. R.N.C. spokesman Sean Spicer tweeted defensively, "Don't miss tomorrow's Sanger New York Times exclusive interview with Elvis riding his unicorn on a rainbow with Santa." And Trump has consistently downplayed intelligence about Russian hacking.

DONALD TRUMP:

It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay?

CHUCK TODD:

Meanwhile, he has publicly flirted with Putin numerous times.

DONALD TRUMP:

So I was in Russia, I was in Moscow recently. And I spoke indirectly and directly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer. I think I'd have a good relationship with Putin. Who knows? He's been a leader far more than our president has been a leader.

CHUCK TODD:

Even inviting Russia to conduct espionage against Hillary Clinton.

DONALD TRUMP:

Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

CHUCK TODD:

Leading Senate Republicans are already preparing to launch a probe into Russia's involvement.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM:

If the evidence is what I think it will be, then we'll have a bipartisan effort to sanction Putin and inner circle for their interference not only in our election but destabilizing the world.

CHUCK TODD:

And before he leaves office, President Obama is looking into it, too.

LISA MONACO:

The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election.

CHUCK TODD:

The man who appears to be Trump's choice for Secretary of State, Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, has deep ties to Putin. In 2013, The Kremlin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors for civilians.

REX TILLERSON:

My relationship with Vladimir Putin, which dates back almost 15 years now, I've known him since 1999, and I have a very close relationship with him.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN:

I believe that Vladimir Putin is a thug and a bully and a murderer. And I believe that the relationship between Mr. Tillerson and Vladimir Putin needs to be examined.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Joining me now from Stanford University is the former U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Obama, Mike McFaul who, by the way, was recently banned from Russia for what he said are his close ties to President Obama. Ambassador McFaul, welcome back to Meet the Press, sir.

MIKE MCFAUL:

Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with this. Tell us a little bit about why everyone is so convinced that what happened in the United States fits a pattern of what Russia has been doing in other countries.

MIKE MCFAUL:

Well, because Russia has this capability, and they're motivated, for political purposes, to do these kinds of things. What is really striking about the last 48 hours, of course, is that now the intelligence community is starting to directly give us news about the way these dots are connected.

Remember, you and I, Chuck, have talked about this many times. We knew some things, like, we were pretty certain about the D.N.C. hacking by the Russians. What we didn't have reported before was evidence that they gave that data to Wikileaks. And we also didn't have the data that you just described in your intro that they have hacked the R.N.C., the Republicans. Those are pretty big new facts, and I think they demand real attention in terms of some kind of investigation.

CHUCK TODD:

In your determination, as somebody who, obviously with deep knowledge of the Russian system, what's Putin' motivation? What does he get out of Donald Trump's election?

MIKE MCFAUL:

You know, I think it's two things. One is revenge against Secretary Clinton. Let's remember that Vladimir Putin thinks that she intervened in his election, the parliamentary election in December 2011, and has said as much publicly. And I've heard him talk about it privately.

Number two, President-elect Trump supports a lot of foreign policy positions that Vladimir Putin supports. You just played several of them in your clips, right? And so it's very rational, in my view, that he would rather see President-elect Trump be the next President of the United States instead of Secretary Clinton.

Now, I want to add one thing here. Sometimes people jump to the conclusion that this was somehow coordinated with President-elect Trump. I don't believe that for a minute. But did the Russians take some actions to try to help him? I think the evidence is circumstantial enough that we really do need this bipartisan independent investigation that others are calling for.

CHUCK TODD:

Set aside the hacking aspect of this. Any concerns you have about an administration, if Rex Tillerson is Secretary of State, that wants to forge closer personal ties and closer ties with Vladimir Putin's Russia?

MIKE MCFAUL:

Yes. To be honest, yes. Now, when I was in the government, I supported ExxonMobil's work with Rosneft, the largest oil company there. We thought it was in America's national interest to strengthen economic ties. But then Russia intervened in Ukraine, they annexed Crimea, they supported guerrillas with their own soldiers in Eastern Ukraine.

And in my opinion, the Obama administration rightly sanctioned Russian companies, including Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, ExxonMobil's partner. We can't just reverse those sanctions in the name of economic interests now, unless Russia changes its behavior. So I want to learn more. I want to hear the hearings. I want to know what Mr. Tillerson thinks about a broad set of issues, not just energy ones. But initially, this is disturbing to me.

CHUCK TODD:

Mike McFaul, former ambassador to Russia under President Obama and now from Stanford University, thanks for coming on, sir.

MIKE MCFAUL:

Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

You got it.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

And joining me now is the outgoing chairman of The Republican National Committee and the incoming chief of staff of the president-elect, Donald Trump. It's Reince Priebus. Mr. Priebus, welcome back to Meet the Press.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Thank you, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with, apparently, a big announcement that may be coming this week. And that has to do with Secretary of State and outgoing Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson. The early reaction not very good, Mr. Priebus. "Alarming and absurd," says Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on Senate Foreign Relations. John McCain: "A matter of concern to me, referring to Mr. Tillerson's close relationship with Vladimir Putin. Lindsey Graham called the pick, "Unnerving." Is he definitely going to be the pick, number one? And how do you respond to that criticism?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well first of all, there is no announcement today on Secretary of State. There won't be an announcement, I would assume, until maybe, you know, early to mid-next week. And the President-elect is making a decision. And so he's got a lot of great choices and a lot of accomplished people.

He's talked to a variety of folks from, as you know, Rex Tillerson, to Mitt Romney, to Rudy Giuliani to David Petraeus, Bob Corker, and many others. So, you know, this sort of analysis is a little premature. But as to Rex Tillerson, he's one of the most preeminent business people, not just in America, in the entire world.

And so, you know, I think that, you know, poking this prematurely is something that just isn't, number one, it's not helpful. But it's also not accurate. I mean this is a guy who has business relationships in every continent in the entire world. And so--

CHUCK TODD:

Okay, that's fine. But does that qualify him to be Secretary of State?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

It's amazing to me that immediately everyone's just jumping the shark on this.

CHUCK TODD:

Does that qualify him to be Secretary of State?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Sure, I think he's qualified to be Secretary of State, absolutely.

CHUCK TODD:

Just having business deals, that qualifies him?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

It's not just business deals, it's an extensive knowledge of our relationships across the globe, and extensive knowledge of international law, and extensive knowledge of how deals are put together in places of the world that are very sensitive, and intergovernmental relationships that are very unique to Rex Tillerson. And so yeah, I think he's not just qualified, I think he's someone that's preeminent, not just in business, but in the entire world.

CHUCK TODD:

But should it be troubling if somebody-- for instance, the United States government lobbied Rex Tillerson not to attend an event in Russia earlier this year, sort of a global expo event that Vladimir Putin was hosting. And the United States government was hoping Rex Tillerson wouldn't go. He could, and they didn't prevent him from going.

But he essentially put Exxon's interest over and above the interest of the United States government in that position. Do you understand why that would unnerve some people about the idea of him as America's chief diplomat?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Well, it might unnerve people who think that the best route for our country to go is to ignore people and to have an enemies list and adhere to that list. But look, I just don't believe, and neither does the president-elect, that solving the world's biggest problems are best done by ignoring people and having, you know, crummy relationships across the globe. And so we just don't believe that talking to people and having relationships is a bad thing.

CHUCK TODD:

So should we expect that--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--I would venture to guess that Rex Tillerson doesn't agree with that, either, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

So should we expect that, regardless of who's Secretary of State, that one of the first orders President Trump will do will be to lift the sanctions against Putin and many of his cronies?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No, not at all, Chuck. I wouldn't go to any conclusion. I think the only conclusion you should have is that talking to people is something that President-elect Trump is going to do. It doesn't mean that he is not going to be tough. It doesn't mean that we're not going to make sure that the American position is always advocated for.

The idea is put America first, not just in the United States, but America first across the globe. But these preconceived notions that, "How dare you cut a deal with the Russian government because you need to have -- go where the oil is at," is absurd. Of course he's going to cut that deal. And that's what Rex Tillerson did. But that doesn't mean that the positions of President-elect Trump are not going to be extremely tough in putting America first.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me move to the reports that both The Washington Post, New York Times, NBC News has confirmed it, that the assessment from the C.I.A. is not only that Russia interfere -- make an attempt to interfere on the 2016 election to be disruptive, but they actually were trying to be disruptive in order to help Donald Trump. And the transition put out a statement that essentially humiliated the C.I.A. in saying that Donald Trump didn't believe the assessment from the C.I.A. because these are the same people that said that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Does Donald Trump have confidence in America's intelligence?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Of course he has confidence in America's intelligence. But we don't have confidence in The New York Times releasing a report of unnamed sources of some kind of study that itself, and The Washington Post said was inconclusive to claim that, because the C.I.A. had hacked e-mails of the D.N.C. and the R.N.C. and only used D.N.C. e-mails, that meant that Russia was trying to influence the election. Because the other piece of this, Chuck, is that the R.N.C. was absolutely not hacked, number one. We had the F.B.I. in the R.N.C.. We've been working with the F.B.I.--

CHUCK TODD:

Why--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

We had intelligence experts here.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No, no, no, hang on, Chuck. No.

CHUCK TODD:

No.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

The-- the R.N.C. was --

CHUCK TODD:

Explain why you had the F.B.I there --

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--not hacked.

CHUCK TODD:

Well then, why was the--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Because--

CHUCK TODD:

-- F.B.I. involved?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

It's really simple. Well, it's really simple. Because when the D.N.C. was hacked, we called the F.B.I. and they came in to help us. And they came in to review what we were doing and went through our systems, went through every single thing that we did.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

We went through this for a month.

CHUCK TODD:

I understand that.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

And we were not hacked. So wait a second. If we were not hacked, and that is absolutely not true, then where does that story lie?

CHUCK TODD:

So nobody with the--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

The story is--

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this, Reince.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

Not a single person connected to the R.N.C. was hacked? No Republican vendor who had interactions with the R.N.C. network was hacked? You guys have had a specific denial that the R.N.C.'s network wasn't hacked. That doesn't mean Republicans associated with the R.N.C. weren't hacked. That doesn't rule that out. Do you categorically--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Okay, first of all--

CHUCK TODD:

--rule all that out?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Number one-- I don't know why you're so hot about this. I mean the fact of the matter is you should actually--

CHUCK TODD:

It's not about me.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--be happy that the R.N.C. wasn't hacked.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, no. I'm--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

The R.N.C. was not hacked, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Number one, the R.N.C. was not hacked. I don't know of any employee, on any of their own Gmail accounts, that was hacked. So what I'm trying to tell you is the R.N.C. was not hacked, number one. And by the way, that was the specific allegation that was made in the actual New York Times article.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

The article didn't say, "Affiliates of the R.N.C.."

CHUCK TODD:

Okay.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

The article didn't say, "Employee." No, wait a second, Chuck. The article said, "The R.N.C. was hacked." So don't be defensive with me that--

CHUCK TODD:

It's not about me, man.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--I'm refuting the specific fact. Look, I'm refuting the specific fact that was made in the article--

CHUCK TODD:

I understand.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--to create this entire firestorm. And the specific fact, as we've been told by the F.B.I. repeatedly, including two days ago when we checked back with them about this issue--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--repeated the fact that the R.N.C. was not hacked. So you tell me where this story is at. Why would the press run with something that wasn't true?

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you, though, about the C.I.A.'s assessment. I understand you want a specific denial about the R.N.C.. The C.I.A. has made this assessment: that Donald Trump has so ignored the assessment. Do you not believe Russia was involved? Do you not believe anything that Russia was attempting to infiltrate the U.S. election system in any way, shape or form?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Here is what I'm saying. Number one, you don't have a single source-- I've given you a source specifically, me, who runs the R.N.C., to say that the R.N.C. was not hacked. You tell me who the specific source on the other side of this that says the R.N.C. was hacked. Okay. You say, okay, we covered that.

CHUCK TODD:

Reince, my question's not about the R.N.C.--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

So, now tell me a specific--

CHUCK TODD:

Reince, Reince--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I'm getting to it.

CHUCK TODD:

No, no, no.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Chuck, I'm getting to it.

CHUCK TODD:

My question is about whether or not--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Tell me--

CHUCK TODD:

--Russia tried to infiltrate our election in some way, shape or form, the hacking of the D.N.C., the hacking of John Podesta. You don't believe -- you and Donald Trump do not believe Russia was involved in that at all? Is that--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

And what I'm asking you--

CHUCK TODD:

That's what your statement said Friday night.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

And what I'm asking you, Chuck, is tell me what the specific source that you have, other than a New York Times article that claims that through unnamed sources who they say was also inconclusive, what source are you using to be so adamant to get a response from me on something that doesn't have a source to it? What's your source?

CHUCK TODD:

So what you're saying is, until the C.I.A. comes out and produces somebody on the record, you're going to dispute this the entire time? It is--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No, I'm not dispute-- I just don't know whether it's true or not. And if it is true--

CHUCK TODD:

So you don't believe--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--you can't site to a single source--

CHUCK TODD:

Reince, that means you do not believe--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No.

CHUCK TODD:

--the assessments of the U.S. intelligence community.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

How can-- wait a second, now you're so circuitous here, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

No, I'm just saying--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

You have no source.

CHUCK TODD:

--I'm asking you, you guys have the sourcing. You are getting briefings on this. You have been briefed. The President-elect was briefed on this. It's clear you don't believe it. I'm asking you why you don't believe it.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Number one, I don't have-- I'm not in those briefings, first of all. And eventually I will be. But the second thing I'm telling you is you have no source, no conclusive source that you're using, other than a false article in The New York Times somehow claiming--

CHUCK TODD:

You keep talking about The New York Times.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

--that this is actually a fact.

CHUCK TODD:

You're ignoring The Washington Post report for obvious reasons, because you want to deny the R.N.C. aspect of that. I understand that, Reince.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

No, I'm not ignoring The Washington Post report.

CHUCK TODD:

The Washington Post conclusion had to do with the C.I.A.'s assessment about -- what I'm saying is do you believe, let's just clear this up, do you believe -- does the President-elect believe that Russia was trying to muddy up and get involved in the election in 2016?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Number one, you don't know it, I don't know it, and there's been no conclusive or specific report to say otherwise. So that's the first thing. The second thing I would tell you is that you don't have any proof that the outcome of the election was changed. Forget about who did the hacking.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you want to know?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Even if-- someone did the hacking. No.

CHUCK TODD:

Does President-elect Donald Trump want to know?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Tell me how you know.

CHUCK TODD:

Does he want to know?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

What specific-- of course we want to know.

CHUCK TODD:

So there's going to be an investigation?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Of course we want to know.

CHUCK TODD:

He wants an investigation on Capitol Hill?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Of course-- listen, I don't know what investigations he wants. But yes, we do want to know. But what I don't want to do, Chuck, is have a debate with you over an unnamed source that the article said was inconclusive over who hacked and why they hacked.

Look, someone hacked. We don't like that. I don't like it. No one wants it. We want to protect American interests. It's America first. I don't want the D.N.C. hacked. I don't want anybody hacked. But I don't know who did the hacking. That's my point.

CHUCK TODD:

You dispute 17 different intelligence--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

You have no idea whether the hacking even influenced the election.

CHUCK TODD:

You dispute 17 different intelligence agencies that have assessed that Russia agents were behind this? You dispute this?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Chuck, this is insane. In the same article, about those 17 agencies, that the report was inconclusive. You're forgetting the most important piece.

CHUCK TODD:

It was inconclusive about--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I'm not defending--

CHUCK TODD:

--Vladimir Putin, Reince. It was not inconclusive--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Listen--

CHUCK TODD:

--that Russian agents were involved. There is a difference. And I understand why you're trying to parse this.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

Chuck--

CHUCK TODD:

But there is a difference.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I'm not trying to parse it

CHUCK TODD:

Do you not believe any of this?

REINCE PRIEBUS:

I don't know who did the hacking, Chuck. The article is based on a lie that the R.N.C. was hacked. So the entire premise of the article is false. The sources are unnamed. And the report was inconclusive. Listen, I don't want anyone hacked, okay? The point is, though, we need to find out more facts about this situation. Then we can make intelligent decisions later, and you and I can have more intelligent conversation about what to do about it.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. Reince Priebus, I think we have to leave it there because of time. Mr. Priebus--

REINCE PRIEBUS:

You bet, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

--you got it. Until we meet again. Thanks for coming on.

REINCE PRIEBUS:

You bet.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

When we come back, just 12 members of Congress have seen the full C.I.A. assessment. And we'll hear from the top Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee, one of those 12, Adam Schiff of California. Before we go to break, we have one final election result from 2016 to report.

Louisiana held a Senate runoff election yesterday to replace retiring Republican Senator David Vitter. And Republicans will, indeed, as expected, hold onto the seat. State Treasurer John Kennedy, no relation, by the way, to the Kennedy family, defeated Democrat Foster Campbell with nearly 61 percent of the vote. And with that, we can now finally say officially Republicans will hold 52 seats in the next Congress. Democrats will effectively control 48 when you add the two Independents. We'll be back in a moment.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Now, another perspective on Russian involvement in our election. Back in September, when the White House had sensitive intelligence about Russia and the election to share with Congress, they convened what is called the so-called "Gang of 12" in intelligence speak. These are House and Senate leaders and key committee chairmen.

One of those attending this meeting was Congressman Adam Schiff of California. Schiff heard firsthand the evidence that Russia was trying to tip the scales in Donald Trump's favor. Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and he joins me now. Congressman Schiff, welcome to Meet the Press.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

You, I know you were listening to my interview with Reince Priebus, the incoming chief of staff. And he was denying, was looking for sourced information that would somehow prove this allegation, was not ready to accept the conclusions of these intelligence reports that say Russia was at least trying to do something with this election. Obviously, the C.I.A. went even further. What can you share with us to prove something to Reince Priebus to essentially say, "You're wrong on this?"

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well first of all, I thought that interview was breathtaking. There's really no doubt that the Russians hacked our institutions. So you don't have the director of national intelligence making a public statement the way he did in October, without there being a broad consensus of all the intelligence agencies. And frankly, I don't know a Democrat or Republican who has heard the intelligence that would quarrel with those conclusions. So I think that's fact one, the Russians-- definitely this was not China, this wasn't some 400 pound guy in New Jersey or anyone else, this was the Russians.

Second, in terms of what the Russians were after, plain they were after sowing discord. And in this, they were spectacularly successful. But it wasn't alone sowing discord. They had a candidate with very pro-Putin, pro-Russian views who belittled N.A.T.O., who was willing to potentially remove sanctions on Russia. And by contrast, they had, in Secretary Clinton, a candidate very tough on Russia, and who they blamed, as Ambassador McFaul said, for the protest, the mass demonstrations, against the corruption in the Russian elections in 2011.

You would have to believe, and obviously I can't go into the classified information, but you'd have to believe that the uniform nature of the hacking and the dumping of information that was damaging to Secretary Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump was both coincidental and accidental and the Russians didn't know what they're doing, to believe that they had no interest in helping one candidate. That's simply not credible.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I understand that. But let me play devil's advocate here. And this has happened before with intelligence assessments, which is political figures essentially, it's a form of confirmation bias, right? They only see the intelligence that supports a point of view that they have going into it. Is there any chance here this is confirmation bias on the intelligence community in general, or on those folks that are interpreting the intelligence?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

No, I don't think so. I think the circumstantial evidence, which is all I could talk about publicly, is so profound that you'd really have to believe that, to accept Reince Priebus's argument, that the Russians aren't capable of hacking Republican institutions. Well, the Repub-- the Russians have demonstrated they can hack practically any government institution, any private institution. And that's simply not a credible argument.

And the fact that we have a president-elect who is willing to disregard the overwhelming evidence of the intelligence community, just on the basis of the Russian involvement in the hacking of our institutions, tells me that this will be a president who will disregard even the best assessments of the intelligence community when it doesn't suit his own version of events.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

That is extraordinarily damaging. And I'll say one other thing, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

The reason that this Russian active measures campaign has been so phenomenally successful is that you have the rare specter of a presidential candidate and now president-elect willing to give the Russians cover. This is effective because the Russians can put out on their T.V., their Russia Today and their Sputnik, that the president-elect of the United States doesn't believe that they were involved. And that is so extraordinarily beneficial to Russian propaganda, it's what has made this so powerful--

CHUCK TODD:

Let me--

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

--and so damaging to us.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me ask you this. In The Washington Post story, apparently, the president wanted to go public with this information and wanted to have sort of a bipartisan statement about it. And apparently two Republicans and one of them named is Mitch McConnell, objected to it. What can you say about that allegation in The Washington Post?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Well, you know, I can say this. You know, we certainly have had gang of eight and other briefings on this issue. And we've had plenty of discussions, both before the election, and we've had briefings since the election, about the Russian meddling. And there wasn't a bipartisan agreement either before, and I think we are seeing some bipartisan interest in investigating thereafter.

But I can say this. There was really nothing preventing the administration, on its own, from being even more declaratory in terms of what the intelligence showed. And I have been urging the administration to be more forthcoming with the public. I think they still should. And I think we should work with our European allies to sanction the Russians this behavior.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think that indeci-- Do you think that decision to po-- to not come out as definitively before the election was a mistake by President Obama?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

I do think it was a mistake. I think it was a mistake even earlier, frankly, not to react more forcefully when North Korea hacked us. Because I think those kind of-- that lack of deterrence invited the Russians to meddle, and consider they could do this with impunity. And I hope we will have a bipartisan, nonpartisan joint investigation of the intelligence communities or a commission like my colleagues Swalwell and Cummings are proposing.

This ought to be a nonpartisan issue. This is not about re-litigating the election, it's about getting good information to the American people about what happened and preventing it and deterring the Russians in the future.

CHUCK TODD:

Adam Schiff, I have to leave it there for time. Appreciate you coming on, the top Democrat on the--

REP. ADAM SCHIFF:

Thanks, Chuck.

CHUCK TODD:

--House Intelligence Committee. California Democrat, thanks very much. Coming up, we'll have more on this evolving story about Russia, the U.S. election, Rex Tillerson. And later, someone who's made a career of celebrating blue collar workers, Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs fame on why his shows and Donald Trump have been successful at the same time. Perhaps what Democrats and those of us in Washington can learn from both of them.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. It is panel time. Recently retired Under Secretary of State, Rick Stengel, who officially left that gig this week, he's off to Harvard, he joins us. Welcome back to civilian life.

RICK STENGEL:Nice to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel, great to see you. Presidential historian, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and an NBC News political analyst. Let me start with the former R.N.C. chair. First of all--

MICHAEL STEELE:

That was fun.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. It is clear that they want to-- that the Trump folks want to zero in on this narrow question about whether the R.N.C. was hacked. You, former head of the R.N.C., what do you know?

MICHAEL STEELE:

Well, what I do know is that, for all the evidence, Reince was absolutely right in what he was saying in terms of what the F.B.I. has reported back to them, that there was no hacking, per se, of the R.N.C.. That's been very clear. I think where the cross was, was on the distinction between whether or not Trump is going to accept the report of the C.I.A. that says that there was evidence that the Russians were involved generally in this race in some form -- not necessarily specifically with hacking the R.N.C., there's no evidence of that. But with respect to their involvement, their fingerprint on this election, that's the question, so.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Look, look, there's two parts to this story. And I can see that this is why Reince is unhappy. The first part of this story is was Russia involved in hacking institutions and in generally sowing discord in the election? I think everyone can agree that that happened--

CHUCK TODD:

Not everyone is agreeing to that, yet.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--and is probably true. Okay. Well, right, I understand. But what they're unhappy about, and legitimately so, is the piece of this story for which there is no evidence, that this was done to aid Donald Trump.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Okay? I spoke to intelligence officials. And here's what I know. They got into the D.N.C. site and they actually took information and obviously distributed it. They got on to the R.N.C. system but they weren't able to get information out. So the idea that this was done to help Donald Trump, that that's the evidence for this, that they didn't put any R.N.C. information out as well, so this was them in favor of Trump, that's just not the case.

CHUCK TODD:

But the bigger question here isn't about whether it impacted the election. The--

MICHAEL STEELE:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

We're not-- we're having a dispute about the fact of Russia's involvement.

RICK STENGEL:

So that Chuck--

CHUCK TODD:

Go ahead.

RICK STENGEL:

There's a global information war that is going on now. And Russia is the principle actor and the most maligned actor. We've seen this from State Department for years now. It's a longer continuum. On the hard end of the continuum is cyber terrorism and infiltration. The soft end is Russia Today and Sputnik. By the way, candidate Trump quoted Russia Today stories and Sputnik stories during the campaign. Yes, part of the idea is to undermine our institutions, undermine democracy, question the election. And in fact, it's a victory for Russia and Putin that, here today, we're talking--

CHUCK TODD:

This is the story, yes.

MICHAEL STEELE:

We're talking about it, yeah.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:Yes, exactly.

RICK STENGEL:

And we're questioning the media and we're questioning the election.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Yes, exactly. But that's what they were trying to do.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

And I think what's-- I think what's troubling is that to cast aspersions on the C.I.A. before you've even taken the Oath of Office, he's going to have to use the professionals there. Yes, they've made mistakes. They made mistakes with WMD. But you bring that up as the most embarrassing moment in their history right away, you're going to need those professionals. Many of them have died for us. Many of the men and women who've worked there have done noble things that we may not even know about. Of course they screw up at times. The Bay of Pigs. But to use this example-- I don't see what-- there's nothing wrong with them saying, "They hacked us, and yet, I won the election fairly anyway."

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:Well, wait he--

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Nobody's saying he wouldn't have won it anyway.

CHUCK TODD:Right.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Well actually, people are. I mean that-- you have to put this in the--

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:Well that's what he should argue.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--broader context. There are people out there staging recounts. There are people out there now suggesting in The New York Times that maybe he only won this because Russia interfered with the election. By the way, what makes more sense? I was really struck by Representative Schiff saying, "Well, this just isn't credible." I mean we're essentially, in saying that the Russians did this to help elect Donald Trump, we are saying that the Russians were the only people in the whole world who knew that Donald Trump was going to win, had a possibility of winning this election. Even the Trump campaign didn't think this. What makes more sense, that they did this because they assumed that Hillary Clinton would be the president, and this was a way of de-legitimizing what they thought would be--

CHUCK TODD:

Her presidency--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--her presidency.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah. Michael Steele, let's go to Rex Tillerson here. It seems an odd time to push this idea. In one hand, it's very Trumpian.

MICHAEL STEELE:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

He likes the business guy.

MICHAEL STEELE:

Right. Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

And there's something personally about Rex Tillerson I know that appeals to him personally. I've talked to people close to him. I get his personal-- there's a lot that he likes about him. But it seems a lot for the political system to handle that, the day after the C.I.A. comes out with this assessment, Vladimir Putin's buddy gets the Secretary of State job--

MICHAEL STEELE:

There's a little bit of indigestion there, yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

MICHAEL STEELE:

For the political folks--

CHUCK TODD:

Can he survive this?

MICHAEL STEELE:

I think he can. And I think from Donald Trump's perspective, back to your point, he likes this. He likes this pot being stirred the way it's being stirred right now because he gets to see the mettle of the individuals involved. He gets to measure the circumstances and how the playing field is aligning itself. And right now, Tillerson, from all accounts, is someone he really likes. I don't think this scares him off of Tillerson. I think for Donald Trump, this is an opportunity to double down on that and then to double down on the conversation about the Russians' involvement and show how he's not affected by it.

RICK STENGEL:

Right. But what I'd say about that, though, is Rex Tillerson is-- our diplomacy is not about transactions. It's not about cutting better deals, as Reince puts it. Our diplomacy is about alliances. We have a candidate who undermined the power of N.A.T.O., of Article Five, where "one for all and all for one." We have a Secretary of State in Rex Tillerson who has this personal relationship, which is fine. But if it is just about cutting deals, then that's not what our diplomacy is about.

MICHAEL STEELE:

But actually, it is, I mean in a real sense. I mean those relationships are based on transactions.

RICK STENGEL:

Well, they are, but--

MICHAEL STEELE:

And the way the American people see these transactions over the last 15, 20 years--

RICK STENGEL:

But Michael here's the thing -- I've been in a room--

MICHAEL STEELE:

--has resulted in a lot of bad policies.

RICK STENGEL:

Over and over I've been in the room with the Secretary of State, where he's with foreign ministers and heads of state. And know what he talks about? He talks about freedom of speech. He talks about freedom of religion. He talks about diversity. He talks about tolerance. Those are the issues that we talk about. It's not just about cutting deals.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

And I think what's so important about the Secretary of State role is that right now we've got a lot of generals in the administration, which I think is a great thing. I mean they know leadership more than anybody else. We have more respect for the military than anyone else. They're not going to send people into battle as easily as they need to. But you need the civilian military balance so that Secretary of State role is now even more important than it would have been before we saw these generals.

CHUCK TODD:

All right. As my EP says, "You've got to land this at some point." We've got to go to the commercial break. Terrific conversation. When we come back, we're going to switch topics a little bit. We're going to talk about what Democrats can learn from Donald Trump's success in wooing blue collar voters.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK****

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. We want to remember astronaut and Senator John Glenn, who died this week at the age of 95. He was on Meet the Press at least a dozen times, including after his second trip into space. This time it was on the space shuttle in 1998.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JOHN GLENN:

It's just so beautiful up there, you can't help but look out and you get teary-eyed, almost, just looking out and appreciating the beauty of where we live here. And you can't help but wonder, when you fly over places like the Mideast, that we have so many man-made problems in that area that have gone on for centuries, why we can't get together on this beautiful home that we call Earth and really solve some of these problems here.

(END TAPE)

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. Joining me and the panel right now is Mike Rowe. You may know Mike from his popular series on The Discovery Channel, Dirty Jobs. He's also written a Facebook post that has gone viral, in which he argues that it's no coincidence that Donald Trump got elected at the same time that Dirty Jobs, which focuses on people who do blue collar work, is successful. I want to get into this with him. Mike Rowe, welcome to Meet the Press.

MIKE ROWE:

Thanks for having me at the grownup table.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, there you go.

MIKE ROWE:

It's a big day for me.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks for not posing, po-- being a poser here. You're in what we all want to see you in. No tie.

MIKE ROWE:

Well-- All my suits are rubber, so I figured I'd go--

CHUCK TODD:

You know, you wrote, this has all been about, this election, in many ways, when we've been talking about it, has been about the sort of-- what feels like the forgotten middle class, the forgotten blue collar jobs. You wrote, what will that mean, you wrote this on your Facebook page, or excuse me, back in February '15, "It seems clear that companies are responding to rising labor costs by embracing automation faster than ever. That's eliminating thousands of low-paying, unskilled, entry-level positions. What will that mean for those people trying to get started in the workforce?" Well, we know what it means. They feel desperate.

MIKE ROWE:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean what'd Huxley say, you know, the greatest threat to freedom was total anarchy, the second greatest threat was total efficiency. And so, you know, somewhere between efficiency and effectiveness there's a pretty interesting conversation about, you know, meaningful work, I think. But honestly, it's probably a bit beyond my pay grade.

On Dirty Jobs, the big lesson was there is an awful lot of people who are doing really important work, who nobody really pays affirmative attention to. And when we showed up and started to do that, the conversations that came out of that dynamic were really interesting. And now, with the benefit of hindsight, somewhat prescient. You know, I mean we were hearing things back in 2004 and 2005, at the network, that were uncannily familiar to the conversations we were hearing around the GOP--

CHUCK TODD:Yeah.

MIKE ROWE:

--this year. Th-- We didn't have the show on Discovery that anybody thought would be a hit. And yet, you know, dozens of shows have emanated from that very thing. There are a lot of parallels, and I couldn't ignore them.

CHUCK TODD:

You know, I, when I went to Macomb County, which is a great swing county, working class county, in Michigan, I was talking to a guy that runs a fast, pretty fast-growing manufacturing thing. And he had this to say to me about the whole exercise of job retraining and what it means for somebody in their 40s. Take a listen to this, Mike.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DENNIS MEAGHER:

If you've been out on this floor doing skilled or semi-skilled work, and you're 40 years old, you don't want to go do a computer-based job. You want to make things. And so that's part of the problem. You can have thousands of really good training programs, but the training needs to be the vocational. And then there has to be the job openings.

(END TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

We always focus on job retraining, and it's always about computers. It's always about, when there's skilled labor, it's always about engineering and different things. Nothing wrong with that.

MIKE ROWE:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

But it's almost as if we're saying, "No, those other jobs, they're going away, and that's okay that they go away." Well, some people want to touch things.

MIKE ROWE:

People ask me all the time, "You know, what's the big take-away from that show?" You know, and there were many. But the, for me, the thing I keep coming back to is the idea that, as a group, there was a level of job satisfaction that was undeniable and surprising. And it has to do with the ability to complete a task.

People with dirty jobs, by and large, hate to generalize, but by and large, they always know how they're doing every step of the way. We have almost arbitraged that out of work today. Your desk, I'm sure it's beautiful, but it probably looks an awful lot, you know, at 5PM as it does at-- you just don't have the visual cues--

RICK STENGEL:

Can I ask you a question?

MIKE ROWE:

Sure.

RICK STENGEL:

You touched on this in your introduction. And one of the things I think that got lost in the campaign is the difference between automation and globalization. Everybody's accusing globalization of the thing that lost our jobs. But when I was at Time, I remember we did a story on a factory in upstate New York. It had 5,000 people making batteries. And now it had 20 people making even more than it was before. That's not about-- you know, that, people do lose their jobs because of automation, not globalization.

MIKE ROWE:

That's wh-- Yeah, I wouldn't deny it. But I would also say, at the same time, the thing that always gets left out of the conversation is the fact that there are 5.8 million jobs that are available right now. You know, we have got a lot of people out of work and many more out of the workforce specifically. But 5.8 million jobs in the skills gap has to tell us something, on a deeper, broader level, about opportunity. Our enthusiasm for work, our desire to find a job that may not be our wish fulfillment, but jump into it with both hands and see where it takes us.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Yeah. I think what you've showed a certain way was that there's dignity that these people feel toward their jobs. Job is much more than just how you pay your bills and what you're doing for your family and what kid can go to college. It's what you feel when you go to work every day.

MIKE ROWE:

Yeah.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

And somehow I think that's what Mr. Trump was able to tell the story to those people, saying, "I'm going to make America great again." Whether it's real or not to bring back some of these manufacturing jobs, some of them may be, some may be automation. But he made people feel connected. And that's what a politician does, emotionally connects with the feelings you're feeling. And I think your show shows that.

MIKE ROWE:

Well, it's alchemy, to a certain degree, right? I call it the "It's a Wonderful Life" phenomenon, where, if you look at somebody's job, one of the best ways you can pay an honest tribute to it is ask the viewer or the audience to imagine the world they're in without that job. And the minute you see that, you know, the sewage worker, the garbage person, yeah, all of it gets elevated. And it's, look, it's Horatio Alger stuff. But it's very much for sale today.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

It's real.

MIKE ROWE:

It's real. It's real.

MICHAEL STEELE:

--a good job.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Well can I-- Can I ask-- I mean how much of this, though, is our education system and also our leaders, in that the message these days to every kid is, "If you don't go to four-year college, that somehow-- " yeah. I mean when we got rid of vocational training. The smartest people I know, I blew up-- grew up in a blue collar community, smartest people I know almost all are skilled tradesmen. And it's partly because they knew that that's what they actually wanted to do and were good at, as well, too.

MIKE ROWE:

Because, because you have to be a generalist when you're in that world. In the age of the specialist, the generalist gets short shrift. But you really see it come-- you know, farmers need to be able to dig the spring cellar. They need to be able to run electric. They need to be able to hang drywall. They need to be able to do all of these things. And that doesn't take a small brain, you know?

$1.3 trillion in student loans. We're still pushing the same path for the most people as though it really is some sort of panacea. Those 5.8 million jobs, 70% of them don't require the four-year degree. So somewhere between knowledge, enlightenment, education and basic intelligence, we need a PR campaign--

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Yeah.

MIKE ROWE:

--for the jobs that actually exist.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to end on that note. Because that was what I took away from you in our conversation, which is, "Look, let's celebrate work. Let's celebrate all kinds. Let's celebrate these jobs, make people feel better about working some of these jobs."

MICHAEL STEELE:

Well, a dirty job is a good job.

CHUCK TODD:

Mike-- absolutely, that's right. Mike Rowe, this was great.

MIKE ROWE:

Thanks for having me.

CHUCK TODD:

Hope we can have you back again.

MIKE ROWE:

Oh, I'll be back next week.

CHUCK TODD:

You know. Because if it's Sunday, it's Mike Rowe. Guess what? This is a dirty job some days. It's a different type of dirt. All right, we'll be back in just a minute with Meet the Press End Game. We'll see if Mike Rowe sticks around or not. We're talking about Donald Trump has been saying about Russian involvement in the election just this morning. We'll be right back.

***COMMERCIAL BREAK***

CHUCK TODD:

We are back now with End Game. Donald Trump has been talking this morning and we've been learning he is still not acknowledging this Russian involvement, doesn't believe it. Is there a danger here, Kim Strassel, that he's-- they're over-denying?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Look, I don't think that there is any problem in acknowledging that Russia would like to destabilize this country, and took actions to do so, and to express outrage about that.

CHUCK TODD:

Why isn't he doing that?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

Well again, because I think that this story, as it was presented this weekend mixed up these questions of whether or not Russia was involved, but also, the suggestion that somehow maybe that made his election illegitimate. And that is what they are pushing back against. But there's a benefit to them of separating it out.

MICHAEL STEELE:

And I think they will. I think, I think they're going to get over this little hurdle, they're going to make their case about, as we saw Reince do this morning. But I think, at the end, they will, because the Tillerson nomination potentially will force them to.

CHUCK TODD:

Doris, go bigger picture for me here, as you are better at than anybody, which is to have a President-elect go after the C.I.A. like this--presidents and the C.I.A. have had disputes before.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

Oh, of course. I mean--

CHUCK TODD:

And usually it doesn't bubble up this publicly.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

No. In fact, the interesting thing is that Nixon had enormous hostility toward the C.I.A.. But he knew when he came in that the C.I.A. knew that he had been trying to win his elections by having a back channel talk with the South Vietnamese to stop the peace talks that Johnson had wanted to start in '68. And he promised them somehow, or his campaign did, that, "If you do this deal, I'll give you a better deal." So he, "Uh-oh, I better not be bad to the C.I.A.," so he never said anything. But obviously, as I said before, the C.I.A. has made mistakes, but they've also done extraordinary things. They are professionals. And you're going to have to work with them. And a lot of them are still gonna be there. And what does it do to morale to do this? I hope he pulls back on the whole C.I.A. and just mentioning WMD.

RICK STENGEL:

But I do think the larger issue, which we've been nibbling around, is that there's this existential information threat to the U.S.. And a lot of it comes from Russia.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

RICK STENGEL:

And what are we going to do about it? What happened when the Berlin Wall fell down is it was the end of history for us and we kind of retreated. And the Russians realized, "Hey, the wall fell without firing a shot." It fell because of the information revolution that the U.S. pioneered. And then they started building up. They started building up television stations throughout the periphery. They started all of these places. This is now a threat to us. Because you don't have to invade a country if you control its information space.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

I think we've forgotten about the cold war. I think that's part of the problem. You know, so many of-- not me, but others are young.

CHUCK TODD:

Not John McCain.

RICK STENGEL:

And not Vladimir Putin.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

No, but--

MICHAEL STEELE:

And not Vladimir Putin.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

--it's important to remember. I mean it's a long history.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

We have an adversary there. And this is a direct attempt by what was an adversary, still is, to hack our system.

MICHAEL STEELE:

But what are you going to do?

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN:

And that's cyber warfare. Well, you've got to do something about it.

MICHAEL STEELE:

What are you going to do? But I mean what does the current administration, the Obama administration, has now been pushing to get this information out into the public about Russia's involvement. What does it do between now and inauguration of the incoming administration? And then that becomes the big question for the Trump administration once that's-- if if Obama does something, do they continue that? Or do they do something different?

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

But Chuck, you talked about--

CHUCK TODD:

Last word.

KIMBERLEY STRASSEL:

--picking a fight with the C.I.A.. There's a difference between picking a fight with the entire agency or with the unnamed leadership that is putting out some of this information, which I'm sure, if you're in the Trump camp, does seem to be highly political, to a certain degree.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I will leave it there. Wow, what a show, what a week. I feel like I say that every week. Which I'm sure we will. Guess what? That's all we have for today. The two-hour special that I would always love to have, um, we can't make happen. But we'll be back next week, because if it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *