JUDY WOODRUFF: We take a closer look at what we know at this moment about the Trump transition with two reporters following the process, Jennifer Jacobs, who is with Bloomberg Politics, and Michael Schmidt of The New York Times.
And we welcome both of you back to the “NewsHour.”
Jennifer, let me start with you.
It has been a parade of people over the weekend to the golf club in New Jersey, today back at Trump Tower. Whom are we seeing? Is every one of these people a serious contender?
JENNIFER JACOBS, Bloomberg Politics: Probably not every single one, but the Trump aides have told me that they are really bringing forward as many people of different perspectives as possible.
They’re very serious about getting people with a range of different conservative views in front of Mr. Trump so that he has all these options to pursue, instead of maybe just turning to his inner circle of people who were with him during the campaign, those people who are probably part of his comfort zone.
They wanted to bring in some fresh perspective. So you have got everybody from Michelle Rhee, who is Asian, coming in for possible Education, to — he’s a variety of various people coming in, men, women, black, white.
And I know that that’s part of their strategy is to really to present him a diverse set of people to choose from.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Schmidt, what would you add to that? What are we to make of this steady stream of people from diverse backgrounds and frankly from both parties?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, The New York Times: Well, I had the chance this weekend to be at the country club in New Jersey where Mr. Trump was.
And it was a pretty cold event as we stood outside. And he really did turn it into a spectacle. He would bring folks in, greet them, take pictures with them in front of an American flag, address the press, go inside, interview them, come outside, see them away, talk to the press.
This went on all weekend. And it did have sort of an “Apprentice” feel to it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what do you mean by that, because “Apprentice” is a reality television show. This is for real. He’s the president-elect.
Does your reporting tell you that most of these people are under serious consideration?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, look, he has got 4,000 positions to fill and he’s got a lot of stuff to learn.
It does seem like there is a lot of policy that he doesn’t understand and he really wants to get different people in front of him. At least that’s what their aides say.
But previous presidents haven’t had a such a public spectacle for the way that they have interviewed people. An SUV would drive up. It would drop Mitt Romney off. Mitt Romney would walk up. There would be a photo-op.
It was just a real sort of scene. Obviously, unlike “The Apprentice,” we’re not in the room. But at the same time, it was kind of entertaining. And Mr. Trump would answer questions. He answered about “SNL,” about “Hamilton,” about whether he was concerned about Rudy Giuliani’s finances and his business dealings. He said he wasn’t. So, although it was really cold, it sort of — it went on and on.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jennifer, we’re trying to understand how much of this is a learning process, as Michael was just referring to, and how much of it is maybe to throw us off either in the public, in the media? Because, as you say, it’s diverse, it’s deliberately diverse. And we’re trying to sort out here what is real and what isn’t.
JENNIFER JACOBS: Some people called it speed dating. And then Kellyanne Conway, one of his strategists today, said that he has a voracious appetite to get more and more people in to see him.
He just — it’s like his craving for his rallies. He’s got that same appetite now. He wants more and more meetings so that he can hear from people. It’s also so that he can hear ideas. These are very smart people, very plugged-in people. And now is his opportunity to grill them, to get various counsel and various ideas for his administration that he can maybe steal or use. It’s partly about vetting people and it’s partly just about tapping ideas.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, in fact, Michael Schmidt, we saw — I guess we learned this today — the Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, who was interviewed, went to New Jersey to the golf club, was carrying a sheath of papers under his arm, and I guess the television — we have got some images of it here — television cameras that were there zoomed in.
We think Mr. Kobach is being vetted for secretary of homeland security. There was some language in there about doing away with all Syrian immigrants.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Yes.
No, the language in there was some pretty conservative views on sort of homeland security issues and really tracking foreigners in the country sort of in ways that we did in years after September 11.
But what that sort of shows us and what we have seen so far from Mr. Trump is that he’s really following what he said on the campaign trail. He has not tacked to the middle. He has stayed very sort of far to the right, tough on these national security issues, relying on someone like Mike Flynn, who has been harshly critical of the Muslim religion, and even, you know, talking to a lot of generals, talking to a lot of guys in uniform, and taking Mike Pompeo to run the CIA, you know, somebody who has gone along with the really harsh tactics that the CIA used in the past few years.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the Trump transition folks have just in the last few minutes released this video of Mr. Trump speaking about his priorities. It’s about two-and-a-half minutes long and we have got about a minute we want to share with all of you.
DONALD TRUMP (R), President-Elect: On trade, I am going to issue a notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a potential disaster for our country.
Instead, we will negotiate fair bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores. On energy, I will cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs.
That’s what we want. That’s what we have been waiting for. On regulation, I will formulate a role which says that, for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated. So important.
On national security, I will ask the Department of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a comprehensive plan to protect America’s vital infrastructure from cyber-attacks and all other form of attacks.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Jennifer Jacobs, you have been covering Donald Trump for a while. How much of this is new? Does this flesh out what he has been saying before?
JENNIFER JACOBS: No.
There were — remember his Gettysburg speech, his big Gettysburg address where he laid out what he would do in the first 100 days? And he had 28 points there that he pledged to do. He called his contract with the American people and he said, I will do all these 28 of these things. This is a handful of those 28 things.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Michael Schmidt, what are we to make of this? Are these the first things he’s going to do? How do you read that?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT: Well, even though he lost the general popular vote by 1.7 million voters, he clearly thinks he has a mandate, and he’s clearly going to go after the issues that he thinks are important and that he campaigned on and that his hard-core base really wants.
To some members of the Republican Party towards the center, they’re really not going to like that. And certainly Democrats, I can’t see Chuck Schumer going along with a lot of things that Mr. Trump laid out in that video.
So you could see some real gridlock because, in the Senate, Mr. Schumer has a way with the filibuster of really stopping some things. So, it looks like he’s going to be sort of heading in the direction of his campaign.
JUDY WOODRUFF: The other thing I want to ask the two of you about is questions, concerns that have been raised about Donald Trump meeting in recent days with businesspeople he’s doing business with.
He met with a group of Japanese businessmen. He’s met with — and we’re learning today his new Washington hotel soliciting business from foreign diplomats.
Jennifer, is the transition team answering questions about this? What are they saying?
JENNIFER JACOBS: Not really. We have heard reports too about an envoy from the Philippines being in on meetings — or at least in the room as he was discussing who he would choose for various Cabinet posts.
So there does seem to be some strange conflicts of interests here. But Kellyanne Conway, again, one of his strategists, just assures us that he has the best interests of Americans at heart and we just need to trust that he will do what he says, and that is to follow through on these pledges that he laid out on the campaign trail and that he’s not going to try to enrich himself by passing legislation that is specifically meant to line his own pockets.
It’s just about trust.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Schmidt, just quickly, finally, what are you learning about that?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT: There is some notion out there that he could put all this in a blind trust.
But at the same time, his businesses, and his hotels and his golf courses are everywhere. And sort of a blind trust, it is not really that blind. Certainly, he knows where these things are and foreign leaders know that as well.
So there is a real movement out there for him to divest of everything that he owns. Now, that would take a very long time and have a considerable impact on his bottom line. But people say, for there absolutely to be no conflict, he would have to do that, so that would be a huge step.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Michael Schmidt, Jennifer Jacobs, we thank you both.