MICHELE NORRIS: I'm Michele Norris.
Donald Trump taps another retired general and a
couple of business tycoons to join his administration.
And President Obama launches an
investigation of the 2016 election.
We look inside the Trump transition
tonight on Washington Week.
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: (From video.)
We will have two simple rules when it comes
to rebuilding this country: Buy American and hire American, all right?
MICHELE NORRIS: Days after striking a deal that provided millions in tax breaks to keep
hundreds of jobs in Indiana, the president-elect threatens to slap other companies with a
35 percent tax if they transfer operations overseas.
Republican leaders say there may be a better way to keep jobs here.
SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): (From video.)
The real solution down the
road is to have America be the most competitive place in the world to do business.
That involves two things: a tax structure that works and not overregulating.
And we don't have either right now.
MICHELE NORRIS: The incoming president adds a third combat-experienced general to his
Cabinet, raising concerns about the influence of the military on American policy.
And two unlikely Cabinet choices are sparking controversies.
A fast-food executive,
opposed to raising the minimum wage, is nominated to be secretary of labor.
climate change skeptic gets the nod to head up the EPA.
Plus, the person of the year now
says he really likes the person he's replacing, and vows to unite the divided nation.
Joining me around the table with news and analysis, Michael Scherer of TIME Magazine,
Alexis Simendinger of Real Clear Politics, Michael Crowley of POLITICO, and Jeff Zeleny of CNN.
ANNOUNCER: This is Washington Week.
Once again, from Washington, Michele Norris.
MICHELE NORRIS: Good evening.
President-elect Donald Trump stepped up his transition
process this week, naming a third retired general to his Cabinet, and announcing his
choices to run the Pentagon, the Labor Department, Environmental Protection Agency,
and the Small Business Administration.
Some nominees are expected to get quick
confirmation, while others are more controversial.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt will lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Pruitt is currently involved in a lawsuit with 23 other states against the EPA.
He's an outspoken skeptic of climate change and supports the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Democrats are gearing up for a confirmation fight.
SENATOR TIMOTHY KAINE (D-VA): (From video.)
I don't mind having an EPA critic.
That is not my concern.
He's a climate science denier.
MICHELE NORRIS: And corporate fast-food executive Andrew Puzder has been - Puzder,
excuse me - has been named labor secretary.
Puzder does not support raising the
federal minimum wage.
He's opposed to expanding overtime pay.
Joining us now are our panel to discuss this week.
We have a lot to cover.
I want to begin with Pruitt.
Does he send a signal about what we can expect from the EPA?
And what does this say about Donald Trump's real sort of fist in the eye, you know, style
of politics right now, Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY: Look, I think what we're seeing among all of the - or the majority of the
members of the Cabinet we know right now, a lot of outsiders, very limited government
experience, if any, and in those cases not much, and people who are opposed ideologically
to some of what their agency regulates.
And this is not to be a big surprise or shock.
Had any Republican won, it would have been, you know, a complete turnaround from the
Obama administration, obviously.
But this goes, I think, a little bit farther here.
These people individually are people that Donald Trump uniquely chose.
I think had an establishment Republican won, I don't think these people would have been
in a Jeb Bush Cabinet, per se.
So these are people who are going to roll back a lot of the Obama-era regulations.
But I think the theme of outsiders here is super interesting.
And Democrats can certainly raise objections, but can do very little about it.
I'd be very surprised, unless we learn some things - we always learn things in
these hearings - they may all get confirmed.
MICHELE NORRIS: Michael Crowley, what does this mean, for instance, for the Paris
If Donald Trump, with Steve Pruitt now at the EPA, wants to start to roll
back some of this, how easy is it for them to actually do that?
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the U.S. doesn't have to live up to its commitments
in the Paris accord.
They're not binding.
You know, there are reasons why other
countries might want to follow through.
China, for instance, has terrible pollution
problems in its major cities, and has an interest in pushing on with clean energy on
And, you know, the United States isn't the only country where people realize
the dangers of climate change.
But I will say, it's a real setback to people who
thought that Donald Trump, when he went in to see The New York Times editors and said
some things that suggested he might be taking climate science seriously, might want
to stick with the Paris agreement, were encouraged by that.
Then Al Gore comes in
and meets with Trump and his daughter, tells them all about climate change.
And I think some people thought, wow, he might surprise us.
And this is really - throws a wet towel on those rising hopes, I think.
MICHELE NORRIS: Alexis, can you tell us a little bit more about Puzder, his view of
unions, some of the statements he's made about overtime pay, and interesting things he's
had to say about robots possibly replacing workers in fast-food franchises, and elsewhere?
ALEXIS SIMENDINGER: Well, Andy Puzder, if confirmed, would come into the Labor
Department representing the prospective of low-wage, you know, low-educated workers in
the fast-food business.
And what he's described - and he has been as outspoken as
Donald Trump in many ways in what he's said and he's written - is an antipathy towards
the kinds of things that in his industry he has felt have held down growth or productivity.
So, for instance, he's in favor of automation, which is interesting because Donald Trump
has said he is for, you know, growing jobs and helping working class Americans, right?
Andy Puzder has said that he is very wary of what minimum wage has done in the
What Democrats and advocates for the Labor Department are
arguing is that the Labor Department is supposed to represent workers, right?
And he is coming into this environment representing the perspective of a business
community, or part of an industry - not manufacturing, not construction, not, you know,
middle class, middle wage kind of incomes, but lower wage.
And he's also said he'd be very interested in letting more international workers to come
in to fill out his restaurant business.
MICHELE NORRIS: Donald Trump is also turning to an old friend, and fellow billionaire,
to head the Small Business Administration.
Former professional wrestling executive Linda
McMahon and her husband turned a small, Connecticut-based business into a global sports
McMahon also invested an estimated $100 million of her own wealth
into two failed campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 2010 and 2012.
Michael, this is an interesting choice, not just in terms of her selection to head this
administration, but also in the way that it tells us something about his view of
campaigning, his connection to the crowds in the campaign, and the celebrity status that
he walked into this campaign with.
MICHAEL SCHERER: Well, yeah, I think he's been friends with Linda and Vince McMahon for
quite a while.
He appeared as a guest wrestler, essentially, body-slamming her husband
in an episode of, I think, one of the pay-per-view wrestling matches.
And I think, you know, what it does show - the similarities for people who've spent some
time watching professional wrestling and a Trump event are pretty clear.
I mean, what Trump brought to politics was this idea that there is a bad guy and there is
a good guy and they are both in the room at this rally.
And we are going to jeer the bad
guy and we're going to cheer the good guy.
And he really transformed the spectacle of
And I think he's always admired that culture.
I think also, you know,
the - a lot of his supporters were attracted to his ability to play on that level.
Whereas other politicians would look at something like professional wrestling and say
it's beneath the dignity of what I'm after, or the statesmanship of the presidency,
Donald Trump, you know, if you read his tweets to this day as president-elect, just
doesn't ascribe to that view.
MICHELE NORRIS: And he knew his audience.
MICHAEL SCHERER: He knows his audience.
MICHELE NORRIS: He knew his audience would hear that message.
Donald Trump named a third combat-experienced general to join his team.
General John Kelly will lead the Department of Homeland Security.
Not only will he be responsible for combatting terrorism at home, but he'll be in charge
of executing Trump's plan to crack down on illegal immigration.
Jeff, has he signaled at all his views on how exactly he would carry out some of the
statements that Donald Trump had said repeatedly on the campaign trail, or what he thinks
about the possibility of building this wall?
JEFF ZELENY: I think the idea of the wall is slowly falling by the wayside.
I was out with Donald Trump this week at a rally in North Carolina and a rally in Iowa.
The wall was barely mentioned, if at all.
That was a rallying cry during the campaign.
The reality here is, A, no one knows - everyone knows that Mexico is not going to pay for
And, B, the U.S. can't afford it.
And it's not practical.
So I think what
we're going to hear are some more specifics about a fence probably, more than a wall.
But in terms of John Kelly specifically, I think he was picked, again, as part of a
pattern of strength.
I think that one thing that - or, the thread through most of
these choices is strength, someone who - you know, Donald Trump, for all his criticism
of the generals during the campaign, likes to surround himself by strong men, and I
think - and strong women, in some cases.
And I think that that's what he brings to it.
But in terms of the specifics he's talked about, he has border experience, of course.
But I haven't heard many specifics in terms of how we are going to address - how the U.S.
will address the people here in the country already.
And that is certainly one of his
But there were a lot of people sort of breathing a sigh of relief at
Homeland Security because they think he's very experienced.
MICHELE NORRIS: So let us address the other big question on the table: Who is going to
be Donald Trump's secretary of state?
This is a long and drawn-out process, carried out
in a very public fashion.
When do we expect this decision to be made?
And what can we glean from the way he's carried out this decision?
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Well, I mean, it feels a little like a reality show, doesn't it?
I mean, everything about Donald Trump feels like a reality show, but this particular part
of it feels like this very public audition, and you come and you meet with him and you're
paraded before the cameras and then people are kind of gossiping and sniping at you
behind your back, and in some cases saying nice things.
And so one thing it tells me,
which I find peculiar, is it suggests that Donald Trump didn't spend much time thinking
about this incredibly important job before he was elected.
Now, he may not have had expected to have had to do a transition, because like many
people there was this assumption that Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead.
But you would have liked to have think that he would spend some more time on this
The other striking thing here is just the spectrum.
I mean, on the one side you have Dana Rohrabacher, a California congressman who has
talked about the need to mend fences with Russia, we can cooperate with Vladimir Putin,
no Russia did not interfere in our election, all the way over to Mitt Romney who in 2012
called Russia America's greatest geopolitical threat, is fairly hawkish, has maybe even
slight what you would call neocon tendencies, whereas Donald Trump is very much opposed
to the neocon project of American intervention and democracy promotion.
Then all these other people in between, including James Stavridis, who he met with I
think today or yesterday, who was on Hillary Clinton's short list to be her vice
presidential running mate.
So it's a real mess.
And you ask me when we might get a
Maybe next week, but no one's sure.
MICHELE NORRIS: Just very quickly, though, the timing of this.
Isn't this usually
one of the first things that a president will announce, or president-elect?
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Well, it's - the timing is always a little different.
But there is
precedent for a really fast pick.
In fact, I think a good historical data point is that
Bush on the morning after his election, the Wednesday after the Tuesday of
Election Day, announced James Baker as his secretary of state - came right out of the
gate with him.
So this is a very different kind of thing.
MICHELE NORRIS: So, turning from the president-elect to the president, with less than
six weeks until the end of his term, President Obama delivered his final speech on
national security as commander in chief.
Speaking to troops at MacDill Air Force Base,
the president defended his record on counterterrorism, and talked about the importance
of fighting terrorism without sacrificing people's civil rights.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From video.)
The United States of America is not a place where
some citizens have to withstand greater scrutiny or carry a special ID card or prove that
they're not an enemy from within.
MICHELE NORRIS: This was a somewhat emotional speech for the president.
He talked about how sentimental he was, hearing on the road the ruffles and flourishes as
he approached the podium.
But when he's speaking there, who is the president's intended
He's not just speaking to the troops.
He's obviously speaking to the people on
the other side of the camera.
But is he also sending a signal to Donald Trump?
ALEXIS SIMENDINGER: Oh, absolutely.
The audiences are multiple, but he was definitely
talking - and the White House made no bones about it - that part of the message was
supposed to be received by Donald Trump.
And let's remember, President Obama has been
talking to Donald Trump personally.
This is not a mystery.
He doesn't need to use the
microphone to necessarily transmit this message to Donald Trump.
But what's interesting is that there's an international audience for this.
There's a domestic - half the country, the president believes, voted for someone, you
know, other than Donald Trump.
And that message is for them and it's for his legacy,
and obviously his supporters.
But the argument the president made that I thought was
so interesting was to try to make the point, again, this is not a new message, that
the rule of law and the Constitution helps us be a safer country.
And it helps us with
our values and to transmit a message.
And so he was trying to argue - because we know
Donald Trump initially was enamored with the idea of waterboarding as torture.
And let's, you know, try to target the relatives of terror suspects, and try to see if
that threatens them, right?
And so part of this message is to encourage Donald Trump
to expand his thinking.
And General Mattis, who is Donald Trump's pick for DOD, does
not agree with Donald Trump on torture.
MICHELE NORRIS: So you were at a breakfast this morning where some interesting news
Lisa Monaco talked about - from the national security team - talked about
the fact that she has not met with her counterpart in counterterrorism on the Trump
And she also announced that the Obama administration will begin an
investigation into the possibility of hacking in the U.S. election.
ALEXIS SIMENDINGER: Well, Lisa Monaco is the homeland security and counterterrorism
advisor to President Obama.
And, you know, she was saying, I haven't had - she was
asked - I haven't met with my counter - you know, my counterpart.
I'm looking forward to it.
There's lots of information to transmit.
We should stipulate right here that Donald Trump has only named four people to the White
House staff, which is - you know, we've got 40 days left.
That's a big staff to fill.
MICHELE NORRIS: And they will all leave.
ALEXIS SIMENDINGER: And then they will - the place empties out, right?
So we're waiting
to see more.
What she announced today in response to a question was that this question
about would the president declassify information about Russian hacking during the
election, she said the president ordered up a report that he hoped would be completed by
the time he leaves office to be distributed to stakeholders and members of Congress.
And she described it as the president's desire to describe lessons learned.
get that message, lessons learned, meaning the administration has believed and has said
that Russia was behind hacking during the election.
Donald Trump has refuted that.
JEFF ZELENY: I thought the White House - it was interesting, though.
Eric Schultz, the press secretary - acting press secretary, the other day said this is
going to go back to 2008.
Any malicious cyber attacking in elections since 2008.
So they're trying to make it look like it's not just this most recent election.
MICHELE NORRIS: It's not just this.
JEFF ZELENY: You know, but they have 42 days to get that report on the president's desk.
MICHELE NORRIS: And, Michael, how hard is it to do that in 42 days?
MICHAEL SCHERER: I think they can do something.
I mean, how comprehensive the report
is - I mean, I think they have most of this already done.
I mean, they've already
reported they have a high confidence that Russia was behind these hacks.
They've already been investigating this for months.
It's just a matter of compiling the report.
I think this is planting a public flag.
This is a report that can be leaked after Donald Trump becomes president in some
classified or unclassified form, because Donald Trump when I spoke to him last week - not
only does he say I don't believe Russia was behind the hacks of Hillary Clinton's emails,
we asked him, do you think the intelligence assessment is politically motivated?
And he said yes.
Which is a remarkable thing, to have a president-elect basically
publicly fighting his own intelligence community before he comes into office.
And I think the White House and the intelligence community wants to have a document in
place in case that same view -
MICHELE NORRIS: A benchmark.
That would make sense.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Quick, two more beats on this.
One, it will be frustrating to
Democrats, including Hillary Clinton campaign staffers, who wish we could really throw
a counterpunch to Russia.
But I think the White House feels like we can't win a cyber
escalation game with Vladimir Putin.
He will always be a little more crazier than us,
and we are more vulnerable.
If Obama does sanctions through executive orders, Trump
can just repeal them.
But Republicans in Congress have said that in January they want
to have hearings about this, and they might consider steps.
And this report will sort of throw a log on that fire and give them fodder, give them
momentum to try to do something that might include sanctions.
MICHELE NORRIS: President-elect Donald Trump added to another title to his name this
He was named TIME Magazine's Person of the Year.
Donald Trump called it a tremendous honor during a phone-in interview with morning
television, and he reminded everyone in that interview that he thought he should have won
this title last year.
Michael, you did the original cover story with the team - with
You visited him in his three-story penthouse apartment.
You've spent a
lot of time with him.
I'm curious how you've seen him change, and particularly as he
moves closer and closer to walking into the front door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
This is someone who takes his own counsel, who lives a life where he enjoys quite a bit
And the White House is much like a gilded cage.
MICHAEL SCHERER: It is.
So I mean, how - what's remarkable is how he hasn't changed,
first of all, and that he's so different to interview or talk to than any other
politician I've dealt with - so much more freewheeling, also much more enthusiastic,
in strange ways, to be talking with reporters.
I mean, he really enjoys the process.
He likes the give and take.
He wants to sort of respond to where you're going with a
To the extent he has changed, I think there is a weight on his shoulders
now that there wasn't, you know, when I talked to him last year, or in August of
last - of 2015, or even in 2011 when he was first talking about running for this
Then he was very much still someone who was sort of playing in this new
He was sort of, you know, experimenting with what he could do in politics.
He was coming up with ideas as he went.
I think he has internalized the gravity of
the position he's in.
It doesn't mean he's not tweeting.
It does mean that he's aware - more aware of where his provocations could lead.
And it'll be interesting to see how much he reins himself in, because the reality is
he has advisors around him who are regularly telling him to do things differently than he
chooses to do them.
And he often doesn't follow their advice.
And so it will be interesting to see what he chooses when he becomes president, when he
takes that office, how to - how to adjust his performance.
MICHELE NORRIS: You mentioned his tweeting.
He's taken to Twitter again this week.
And people wonder if this sort of improvisational communication strategy is just that, is
it improvisational, or is there some strategy behind it?
Is there - is this strategic
in some way?
Is there some logic behind what he's doing when he takes to Twitter, often
late at night?
JEFF ZELENY: He often is tweeting on something he's seen on television.
You can sort of mark a pattern exactly of him watching something, or potentially reading
something but usually watching something.
The flag incident last week, "Fox and Friends"
was airing an episode on burning the American flag, 20 minutes later he tweeted.
This week the union president in Indiana at the factory there was pretty harsh on him.
He said that he sort of built the workers up there thinking that they could all keep
their jobs, and they can't.
Donald Trump went after him hard, directly by name.
Unprecedented for someone who's about to be president to call someone out directly on
Twitter like that.
But Donald Trump believes it's a good form of communication.
going to keep doing it.
He hopes he is.
We'll see if his advisors sort of rein him in.
But I think for all the talk about is there going to be a new Donald Trump, no, there's
We see sort of several Donald Trumps.
But I think we're going to see all of
these as president.
I don't think he's going to suddenly change.
MICHELE NORRIS: So from external communication to internal communication, one of the
things we've also learned is he's approaching his office with a different tempo in terms
of the security briefings that he receives.
Normally at this point they would be
receiving - he would be receiving daily security briefings.
He does it once a week.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: That's what we're hearing.
Once a week, very unusual.
And, you know, you would assume that if you have access to this miraculous intelligence,
this information that the great apparatus of the United States can gather, you
would want to see it, especially when it was a new thing.
I would certainly want it, want as much of it as possible.
And when you're going to be commander in chief and confronting a very unstable, fluid,
dangerous world, and you don't have a background in government or foreign policy, you
presumably would want to use this opportunity, as many people are encouraging him to do,
to learn up, get the vernacular and vocabulary, understand how things work, get the feel
And he doesn't seem to want to.
And so that fits in with this larger concern, which is: Does Trump really understand -
you talked about the weight he seems to feel on his shoulders.
But does he yet really grasp what it means to be commander in chief and have - be at the
helm of the greatest country in the world, the strongest country, the largest military,
and all the responsibilities that entails.
That's reflected in concerns about some of
his early national security appointments, his national security advisor, General Michael
Flynn, very controversial figure.
So it's very worrisome to foreign policy professionals.
MICHELE NORRIS: Alexis, you had noted that Donald Trump has talked about - and as have
some of his advisors - talked about the frequent phone calls that he's had with the
How often are they actually talking?
ALEXIS SIMENDINGER: Well, it's interesting, because it's an unusual thing for a
president-elect, who's basically denounced his predecessor as just a disaster, to reach
out to that president and then later, as Donald Trump has said, say we've built respect.
I think on my end there's respect.
And I think he's a great president.
You know, he's
had all these effusive things to day.
They've talked, the White House says, about a
handful of times.
Donald Trump has done more talking with his team about the calls
than President Obama has done to disclose the nature of the calls.
But it's very clear, to me, that President Obama approached Donald Trump from that very
first meeting that they had in the Oval Office with respect, talked about trying to be
helpful, and has made good on that.
The White House says, when Donald Trump calls, President Obama gets on the phone.
MICHELE NORRIS: OK. Well, before we go tonight, we want to acknowledge the passing
of a man who inspired millions of Americans to reach for the stars.
John Glenn was a World War II veteran who became an astronaut for NASA and, in 1962, was
the first American to orbit Earth in space.
He went on to serve his home state of
Ohio in the United States Senate for 24 years.
He made history again when he returned
to space in 1998 at age 77, becoming the oldest person to ever fly in space.
President Obama awarded Glenn the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
John Glenn was 95 years old.
Our conversation continues online on the Washington Week Extra, where we'll talk about
how the Trump administration's writing a new playbook when it comes to disseminating
policy and communicating with the press and the public.
And while you're there, check out some interesting behind-the-scenes stories about the
everyday people on the trail who made a lasting impression on some of our Washington Week
political reporters during the 2016 presidential campaign.
You can find both at
I'm Michele Norris, have a good night and a great weekend.