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Special Report

Trump administration continues taking shape

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," November 23, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

DOUG MCKELWAY, GUEST ANCHOR: Donald Trump will be spending the rest of the Thanksgiving holiday through Sunday at his Palm Beach resort in Mar-a-Lago. A new nomination, though, announced today, a couple of them. Betsy DeVos, a longtime GOP activist from Michigan, chair of the Michigan state Republican party for a number of years, also once described as, quote, "a political pit bull" for most of Governor Jennifer Granholm's 16 months in office. A Lansing newspaper once said that if DeVos wasn't Granholm's worst nightmare she was certainly her most persistent. Also a fierce advocate and contributor to school choice, school vouchers and charter schools and an opponent of Common Core. A statement from the American Federation of Teachers in the aftermath of her nomination said this, "The president-elect and in his select of Betsy DeVos has chosen the most ideological, anti public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a cabinet level Department of Education in nominating DeVos. Trump makes it loud and clear his education policy will focus on destroying public education in America."

Let's bring in the panel now, Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon; Heidi Przybyla, senior political reporter for USA Today, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, what do you make of Miss DeVos?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it's very encouraging. It's one of these program specific appointments. That is, this is Donald Trump's way of saying that he is serious about school choice. Republicans talked about it, have talked about it for 30 years. The AFT, the American Federation of Teachers, is probably the single most reactionary organization in American life. They have condemned generations of inner city students to really blighted lives as a result of the fact that as a monopoly they provided the most execrable education. And they look after themselves, which is what unions do. But their pretense to be acting in the public interest is extremely hollow.

And this I think is a tremendous opportunity because it would make a huge difference in the lives of inner city students particularly. It will be an opportunity to demonstrate that conservative ideas can work if implemented. And I think it shows seriousness about policy which has not been as strong point for the president-elect in the form of this nominee.

MCKELWAY: Heidi?

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, USA TODAY: Let me touch on some other points because you went through the ideological bent. She also has some strong opposition from the other side of the aisle, which is because she was -- she served on the board of a company -- of an organization that did support Common Core. She has had to try and push back a little bit on that.

But I think this is a good sign in the sense that if you look at the totality of how Donald Trump is filling out his cabinet, he is not just going with loyal insiders. She wasn't someone who was by his side throughout the march of the campaign. But she does know a lot about the issues and a lot about education. I think she could do a fine job in this role.

One other thing, though, it does also show how difficult it is to keep that campaign pledge of draining the swamp, whatever that means, just because she is -- she's been in GOP politics a long time. She comes from a big donor family. But you want people who are experienced at the same time. You have to strike that balance.

MCKELWAY: She's very wealthy. I saw a picture of the family yacht which is, I think, 140 feet, something like that. It's big. She was an early supporter, by the way, of Common Core. But I think that she pulled away from that as she saw it in practice and evolution.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI, WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: The first rule of being in a Cabinet is if you have a position separate from the president, you know who wins -- the president. So I think she will back president-elect Trump's position on Common Core if she is confirmed by the Senate.

Looking at the Trump administration and it's taking shape, it's very similar to the Reagan administration where you kind of had the ideological conservatives who made up the core of the Reagan movement. Then you also had establishment Republicans like Jim Baker who kind of came on board after Reagan was elected and tried to steer the ship of state in a little bit more of a traditional way. You are seeing that exactly with these later picks. You have the White House is going to be Trumpy. But the cabinet agencies at large I think are going to have more establishment Republicans than people might expect.

MCKELWAY: I want to talk a little about the remarkable reconciliation we are seeing with so many of Trump's former opponents or critics. Listen to what Nikki Haley, who is now the U.S. ambassador, or certainly will be to the United Nations, what she had to say about Donald Trump early in the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. NIKKI HALEY, R-S.C.: Donald Trump is everything I taught my children not to do in kindergarten.

(APPLAUSE)

HALEY: We're talking about a man who has filed for bankruptcy four times. We can't afford for a man to go in as president and bankrupt our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKELWAY: And now Donald Trump's Thanksgiving message, or at least a portion of it today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have just finished a long and bruising political campaign. Emotions are raw and tensions just don't heal overnight. It doesn't go quickly unfortunately. But we have before us the chance now to make history together, to bring real change to Washington, real safety to our cities and real prosperity to our communities, including our inner cities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCKELWAY: Heidi, what do you make of this reconciliation?

PRZYBYLA: She's not the only one, right? He is talking to Mitt Romney. AND the concern was, frankly, with his first couple of appointments he was going to just go with loyalists and pass over people who might present a more diversified cabinet. And so I think it does show from that sense that he is an adult. He is willing to talk to these folks and appoint some of them.

I think with Nikki Haley in particular, the question is going to come down to experience just because she does not have any experience in foreign policy and international relations, and, frankly, neither does Donald Trump. The main selling point that he gave to the American people was that I may not have experience, but I'm a great manager and I am going to bring in people who do. That said, I don't think she's going to have any problem getting Senate confirmation.

MCKELWAY: You mentioned Mitt Romney. There's still some conflict there. A lot of Republicans pushing back apparently behind -- pushing back against that. Listen to Mike Huckabee and what he had to say about the Romney pick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm still very unhappy that Mitt did everything he could to derail Donald Trump. He attacked him on a personal level about his character, integrity, his honor. When you do that, there's only one way that I think Mitt Romney could even be considered for a post like that, and that is that he goes to a microphone in a very public place and repudiates everything he said in that famous Salt Lake City speech and everything he said after that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCKELWAY: Charles, we have about 30 seconds.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's encouraging that Trump appears to be contradicting that kind of advice. His job now, his objective now is to put together a successful presidency to vindicate all the people who support him and to show that he can do what he said he would do. If it turns out that Mitt Romney is the best for that job, given the other candidates that we have heard about he certainly is somebody you might want, he should pick him and show that he can overcome the previous animosity. So I think we're going to learn a lot from Trump by what he does on this appointment.

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