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First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
One month later, hard feelings hang over 2016 race
Nearly a month has now passed since Election Day, and it’s clear we’re living in the most divided post-election environment since the 2000 Florida recount. Don’t want to take our word for it? Well, try these voices from the candidates, their top staffers, and their supporters yesterday. “We did have a lot of fun fighting Hillary, didn’t we?” President-elect Donald Trump said at his “Thank You” rally in Cincinnati, OH. And the crowd erupted in chants of “LOCK HER UP!!!” In addition, after being interrupted by a protestor, Trump responded, “They don't know that Hillary lost a couple of weeks ago. They forgot.” And then a Harvard post-election panel featuring top Trump and Clinton aides turned into a shout-fest, as NBC’s Kasie Hunt reports:
"If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am proud to have lost," said former Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri. "I would rather lose than win the way you guys did."Trump Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway snapped, "Do you think I ran a campaign where white supremacists had a platform?"“You did, Kellyanne. You did," Palmieri replied."Do you think you could have just had a decent message for white, working-class voters? How about, it's Hillary Clinton, she doesn't connect with people?" Conway said.
So a month later, and people still aren’t over the election. And what’s striking to us is how defiant the winners are. You expect the losers to have hard feelings -- that’s only natural. Which is why it’s up to the winners to handle themselves with grace.
Trouble for Keith Ellison’s DNC chair bid
At 3:00 pm ET, four candidates to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee (Ray Buckley, Howard Dean, Keith Ellison, and Jamie Harrison) will speak at a forum in Denver, CO. But there’s now trouble for the early frontrunner for this job -- Ellison, the Democratic congressman from Minnesota. The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday issued a scathing statement that Ellison’s remarks reportedly criticizing Israel in a 2010 speech were “disturbing and disqualifying.” Here’s what Ellison said in 2010, according to audio that the Investigative Project on Terrorism unearthed: “The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people. A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes. Can I say that again?” Said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, “Rep. Ellison’s remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying. His words imply that U.S. foreign policy is based on religiously or national origin-based special interests rather than simply on America’s best interests.” The criticism that Ellison would be a part-time DNC chair (since he would also be holding on to his day job as a congressman) was already a tough obstacle. But the Anti-Defamation League now stepping in could be too much for DNC members.
Ellison responds to the Anti-Defamation League
The New York Times: “In an open letter to Mr. Greenblatt, Mr. Ellison wrote that he recalled his  remarks differently. ‘My memory is that I was responding to a question about how Americans with roots in the Middle East could engage in the political process in a more effective way,’ he said. ‘My advice was simply to get involved. I believe that Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship are, and should be, key considerations in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East.’ Mr. Ellison said that the release of the audiotape — by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a nonprofit research group in Washington — amounted to ‘an attempt by right-wing interests to drive a wedge between longstanding allies in the fight for equal rights.’” Here’s Ellison’s full letter.
Trump announces Mattis as Defense pick
“President-elect Donald Trump has chosen retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to head the Department of Defense, a move that could signal the incoming administration's tougher positioning with nations such as Iran,” NBC’s Hans Nichols and Halimah Abdullah write. “Trump made a surprise announcement of the expected appointment during a rally in Cincinnati on Thursday night, as the crowd cheered wildly. ‘We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense,’ Trump said theatrically. He then added: ‘But we're not announcing it 'til Monday, so don't tell anyone — Mad Dog. He's great. He is great.’”
But Mattis needs a waiver first
“Mattis' confirmation by the Senate is not assured. Only three years out of uniform, he would also need a Congressional waiver for a 1947 law that requires a seven year wait,” Nichols and Abdullah add. “Democratic New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, came out against voting for an exception for Mattis in a statement Thursday evening. ‘While I deeply respect General Mattis's service, I will oppose a waiver,’ she said. ‘Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy, and I will not vote for an exception to this rule.’” Our take: Fundamentally, this waiver shouldn’t be a problem for Mattis unless Trump picks another former general (David Petraeus, John Kelly) to be secretary of state. Then it could be a big issue.
Here is our running list of possible candidates we’ve been hearing about so far. We’ll continue to update it as the president-elect’s team makes its choices final.
- Secretary of State: Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, Bob Corker, Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Rex Tillerson, Lee Raymond
- Attorney General: Jeff Sessions OFFERED
- Treasury: Steve Mnuchin OFFERED
- Defense: Mattis OFFERED
- Homeland: Michael McCaul, David Clarke
- Interior: Sarah Palin, Mary Fallin
- HHS: Tom Price OFFERED
- HUD: Ben Carson OFFERED (but hasn’t accepted)
- Education: Betsy DeVos OFFERED
- Commerce: Wilbur Ross OFFERED
- Transportation: Elaine Chao OFFERED
- Agriculture: Rick Perry, Sid Miller
- CIA Director: Mike PompeoOFFERED
- UN Ambassador: Nikki Haley OFFERED
- National Security Adviser: Michael Flynn OFFERED
- RNC Chair: Ronna Romney McDaniel, David Urban