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Drama for the Trump transition team over recounts and Cabinet picks

November 28, 2016 at 6:40 PM EST
More than two weeks after Election Day, the legitimacy of its results are being questioned, both by Green Party candidate Jill Stein and by the president-elect himself, who asserts that “millions of people” voted illegally. Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and NPR’s Tamara Keith join John Yang to discuss that controversy, how Trump's team is communicating and more possible Cabinet picks.
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JOHN YANG: Time now for Politics Monday.

Here to discuss the latest developments, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

Welcome to you both.

For two weeks, no one questioned the outcome of this election. Now, all of a sudden, we’ve got recounts that Jill Stein wants, even though she says she doesn’t think it’ll change the outcome, and now President-elect Trump is saying that there were millions of illegitimate votes, even though he doesn’t offer us any evidence.

Tam, what’s going on?

TAMARA KEITH, NPR: And he’s not disputing that he won. He’s just saying, maybe I would have won the popular vote, too.

So I was on a call this morning with the Trump transition team. I asked them for evidence, like actual evidence, of millions of illegal votes. Or also he was claiming election fraud in three states. Where is the evidence in those states?

What they presented was a report, study from 2014 that has been thoroughly debunked. And they also presented a Pew Research Study that was about voter rolls and housekeeping that could be done in voter rolls.

Neither of those things point to widespread voter fraud in 2016. So his transition team has been unable to offer any evidence of what is clearly nonexistent voter fraud that they’re talking about.

And Jill Stein, for that matter, hasn’t been able to offer any evidence of voter fraud. It’s more like, this happened, and this happened, and this happened, so we should look into it, is all she’s saying.

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Right.

And that goes to, I think, heart of matter here, which is, you have two people. One is the president of the United States. The other is a Green Party candidate who obviously didn’t win many votes, both suggesting that the voting system itself is illegitimate or rigged without any proof of this.

Jill Stein’s case is that maybe it’s been hacked by foreign influencers, Russia, for example. That is a big charge to make. And when you undermine our voting process, you are undermining the cornerstone of our democracy. Right? People trust that their votes are going to be counted correctly.

And then you also delegitimize winners of every election, whether you’re voting for president or city council or whatever it is. Well, how do I know John Yang really won, because the system could have been rigged?

JOHN YANG: But Jill Stein and her campaign for presidency raised $3.5 million.

AMY WALTER: Right.

JOHN YANG: In a week, she has raised about $6.5 million for this recount.

AMY WALTER: Yes. Yes.

JOHN YANG: What does that say? You talk about making the — questioning the legitimacy. What does say that about…

(CROSSTALK)

AMY WALTER: That controversy sells.

There is a big segment of the electorate that believes and has believed for some time that the system itself should be put into the question. Remember, after the 2000 election and the hanging chads and the butterfly ballots, Congress actually dealt with this. There was real concern that there were problem with these machines that were old and broken.

And Congress said — they passed a bill called the Help America Vote Act, donated money — or actually gave federal funds to the states to update their machines. But it doesn’t mean that people feel better about the machines just because Congress now has appropriated more money to help make them more up to date.

JOHN YANG: Another what’s going on moment to me was the — over the weekend, Kellyanne Conway goes on Twitter, goes on national television to essentially campaign against her boss, the president-elect, picking Donald Trump. She can make this advice private.

(CROSSTALK)

TAMARA KEITH: Yes, picking Mitt Romney to be secretary of state.

JOHN YANG: I’m sorry. Picking Mitt Romney. I’m sorry.

TAMARA KEITH: Which hasn’t yet happened.

But Mitt Romney does have another meeting scheduled at Trump Tower with Donald Trump. He’s one of several people in the mix. Now, Mitt Romney was a very outspoken critic of Donald Trump in the primary process and said some very tough things about Donald Trump, many of which were true.

But Kellyanne Conway expresses a viewpoint that I think many Trump loyalists have, that, why would you bring in this guy who insulted you? But it is odd to have someone who speaks for Donald Trump seemingly on television both speaking for him and speaking to him?

But leading up to the election, Kellyanne Conway did some of this as well. She, at times, was tweeting things that seemed to be like a sub-tweet of something that her boss was saying and at others times seemed to be directly communicating through him through television, because he is an avid viewer of television, cable news and the Sunday shows.

But the thing that is also interesting is that then this morning there was a leak from somebody else in the campaign saying, well, Donald Trump was very upset about what Kellyanne Conway said.

We don’t know which of — we don’t know whether Kellyanne Conway was coordinating with Donald Trump or whether he really was upset or whether all of these leaks and statements are part of, you know, an elaborate effort to make sure that Mitt Romney isn’t secretary of state.

AMY WALTER: And this is the bigger challenge that we have had.

And we have talked about this before, which is, we have a president-elect who’s yet to hold a press conference, hasn’t held one since July and certainly has not held one since winning. We don’t have anything to talk about then in terms of his policies. We haven’t heard about his legislative agenda he wants to put forward.

So all we have in front of us is this sort of “Apprentice”-style game about who’s going to be in his Cabinet. Some of them are going to make a big difference. Many of them, we’re never going to talk about ever again.

His policies are the thing that we should be spending the most time talking about, and yet it seems as if we’re not going to get any indication of that until he’s sworn in as president. And even then, it’s unclear if we are going to see this same behavior occur. Well, he thinks this, but then somebody goes on TV and says that, and somebody else is countering behind the scenes over here.

JOHN YANG: Right, whether we going to have Cabinet officers going on television to lobby him.

AMY WALTER: Right.

JOHN YANG: Well, what do we know? From the names he’s picked so far, what does that suggest or what can you conclude about how he’s going to govern as president?

AMY WALTER: Well, I want to be careful to read too much into it, because, again, the Cabinet picks often are not as big of a deal later on as they are right now, when we don’t have much to talk about.

But he has at least four people, Jeff Sessions, Reince Priebus, Michael Flynn and Ben Carson, who are loyalists, who were with him on the campaign trail every single day. Those are the kinds of people that he surrounded himself with immediately.

The only person would fall into the not really always on the team, maybe sort of team of rival type would be Nikki Haley, who, of course, would be — is going to be the U.N. secretary.

It’s interesting with Mitt Romney as well. These are the people that are outfacing, right, the people that we’re showing to the rest of the world, Haley, Mitt Romney, vs. the people that are closest to him, whether as his chief of staff or the attorney general.

TAMARA KEITH: Yes. And Sessions, he’s a hard-liner or immigration in particular, helped Donald Trump develop his immigration policy, which is definitely not in line with what the establishment Republicans thought would be the Gang of 8 immigration reform.

This is definitely a very hard line. So, there is a mix of hard-liners and slightly more establishment people, like a Betsy DeVos for education.

AMY WALTER: For education.

JOHN YANG: And we will get more names this week.

Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thanks for joining us.

TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

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