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Trump begins building team for transition

November 13, 2016 at 5:24 PM EST
As President-elect Donald Trump begins his transition to the most powerful office in the world, how will his administration move on from a contentious race? NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Alison Stewart for more analysis.
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Read the full transcript below.

ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: For more analysis of the presidential transition, I’m joined now from Santa Barbara, California, by “NewsHour” weekend special correspondent, Jeff Greenfield.

Jeff, so, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton and President Obama have all struck a gracious tone. The idea is to make a smooth transition. But this was an ugly campaign season and it seems like passion is taking a little bit of a break. Do you think it’s going to be these passions and ugliness will bubble up again?

JEFF GREENFIELD, NEWSHOUR WEEKEND SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it’s hard to say.

You’re right. Donald Trump, President Obama and Hillary Clinton for that matter had gracious statements.

On the other hand, the outgoing Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid, saying of Trump, called him “a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate.” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, already said there might be a lawsuit at that one. You have Omarosa, Trump’s reality show companion, saying that there’s an enemies list that they have.

And it’s also interesting to me that the transition may get ugly or even within the Republican Party, because of some hard feelings. Trump has reached out to Speaker Paul Ryan, but you have ex-speaker, Newt Gingrich, saying about the Republicans who didn’t back Trump, he called them “whiney, sniveling negative cowards who should be consigned to the ashbin of history.”

So, there are some pretty hard feelings not just between Republicans and Democrats, but even among Republicans that I’m not sure have quite called down yet.

STEWART: Well, if the administration starts to take shape and we start to get clues about who will be in important positions, how important is the tone in terms of being productive going forward and also having an effective cabinet?

GREENFIELD: The transition is the first clue we really get about what kind of administration a new president wants to bring, and there’s always tension, always, between the campaign and the seasoned insiders of either party in Washington who are looking to play a role. That is particularly true in this case because Trump’s campaign was so much of an insurgent campaign, and so, ended both parties’ corruption.

STEWART: So, the Republican Party now has the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate, you would think smooth sailing.

GREENFIELD: Well, but remember, when you hear that they now have control of all of the branches of government and presumably soon will have the Supreme Court in the political sense, the question is, what agenda’s going to be pushed?

Yes, there are clearly going to be big tax cuts, most of which will go to the more affluent. They will be some kind of dismantling of Obamacare, but is it going to be a wholesale dismantling, or are they going to try to keep some of the more attractive elements of it? If Trump means to launch a huge infrastructure program, and embrace tax cuts, that’s got to mean an explosion of the deficit, but the Republican Party in Congress is not particularly fond of deficits. So, even though they have control, they’ve got to figure out who is really speaking for Republican Party.

STEWART: If you’re a Democrat and you’re looking left and you’re looking right, and you’re looking around, what do you think about the future?

GREENFIELD: It’s not often appreciated — maybe it is now — how much a disaster the Democratic Party has endured after eight years of Obama who was elected twice with the majority of the popular vote. They lost 11 Senate seats. They lost upwards of 60 House seats. They control state government in six states, the Republicans control it in 24. The Republicans have I think two-thirds of the governorships and Democrats have lost 900 legislative seats.

So, it has been a terrible eight years for Democratic Party. And the only hope they can have is, well, you know, the midterms usually bring bad news for the party in power. But you look at the map and realize that Democratic senators will be up in the reddest states in the country. So, I’m not sure where, I suppose they’ll take heart from the fact the popular vote by 2 million votes. But winning the popular and a buck gets you a newspaper.

STEWART: We started talking to you about peaceful transition of power. And I feel like we really need to discuss that things are not necessarily peaceful on the ground. Is it time for some of the leaders on the left to say to the protesters, peaceful protesters, “Fine, but assaulting officers and damaging property is not”? Is it time for somebody often the right to say, you know what, we won this election, but there is no time for bigotry we’re seeing and some of the hatred? Has anybody ever been in a position also, a president-elect or a president to have come out and say, we need to behave better, we need to be civil?

GREENFIELD:
I think both those messages would be very helpful. When — you know, when people are breaking windows in downtown cities because their candidate lost the race and they really don’t like the new president, it’s kind of hard to figure out what message that sends. And, you know, I think Trump could take a note from Bob Dole, 20 years ago, in his acceptance speech, explicitly said, if there any supporting me, you know, who are bigots, who are racists, there’s the door.

But I do point out that when Trump was asked if some of his language he now regrets, he said, “No, I won”, which suggests he regards some of the rhetoric as, you know, transactional. If it worked, it worked.

Think of the fact that he is about to become president of the United States, we could really use a sign from him that he understands that when a president speaks, every word weighs a ton, and there’s got to be a distinction between what some of his supporters embrace and what he really believes.

STEWART: Jeff Greenfield, thanks for joining us.

GREENFIELD: Thank you.

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