a.m. tomorrow, eastern time. that does it for us. we'll see you tomorrow. >> good morning, everyone, it's wednesday, november 30th, i'm alex witt alongside ali velshi and louis burgdorf. already this morning, deadly weather breaking out all over the southeast. reports of damage stretch from mississippi to alabama. a church day care center and homes destroyed with three people killed and more in critical condition. for more on this let's bring in meteorologist bill karins. let's talk about these winds, the fires, tornados even in november. >> late season tornado outbreak. we had a report of 27 tornados last night, many of them happened after dark, and a couple happened in the middle of the night. those are the ones that people are sleeping, they don't have a lot of warning. they are woken out of bed and these are some of the pictures we're getting. this is a small town in jackson county, extreme northeastern alabama, a little small community town. this is like the main plaza and shopping area, completely destroyed. we heard about a baptist church there completely destroyed. this is a separate picture from cole bert county and this is what remains of a house. you see a house that looks like this, these weren't weak tornados. some of these tornados appear to have been strong and we'll see many more homes destroyed when we get day break and see more of these pictures. as far as the tornado watch goes, everywhere here still in pink, we should be ending the one in new orleans shortly. tornado watch continues to 11:00 a.m. this morning for northern alabama, we had one tornado warning earlier near coleman, alabama. no longer showing any rotation, so that's good news out of there. the last map i'll show you is the damage path continued last night from mississippi, all the way through northern portions of alabama. 85 total storm reports, 27 of them being tornados. give you updates as we continue to get more pictures this morning. >> that means we'll check back with you in a bit. >>> three people are dead in tennessee after wildfires overtook the communities of gatlinburg and pigeon forge. when we came on the air yesterday, this was the scene, skies red with fire and thousands of people driving to flee with the flames licking at the roads around them. >> there's down my road. oh [ bleep ]. god. we'll get out of it. hit the gas. i can't see. >> you can see. burning around us. every cabin, everything. >> embers raining down on them. from a distance the smokey mountains were just lit up. this is dollywood, the resort and theme park belonging to dolly parrton. some cabins were damaged or destroyed. morning light revealed what fire does. 150 homes, restaurants, businesses, and structures destroyed. 14,000 people evacuated, though now pigeon forge has been given the all-clear to begin returning home. one man came by to collect what was left of his family's belongings after rushing his grandfather out last night. his grandfather didn't want to leave. >> got my grandparents out probably about an hour before it burned. everybody's safe, but their home for 43 years is gone. my grandfather being a vietnam vet, one of the main things is, guns. so the gun i learned how to shoot with, my first bb gun is right here. what's left of it. >> yeah, what's left of it anyway. so it is completely gone. >> mayor mike warner tried to rally his community, though he himself lost his home and business. three people are still in critical condition, but emergency crews haven't been able to get into some mountainous areas yet, so for many there is no rest. carrie sanders caught up with one man who's still waiting for news about his own family. >> reporter: michael reid separated from his wife and two children in the chaos, unsure if constance, 12-year-old chloe, and 9-year-old lilly are alive. >> she called from the house phone and said that there were flames across the street from our house and she didn't know what to do. i told her to call 911 and get out. that was the last time i heard from her. >> that's chilling. the local paper reports that a friend drove to his home to check on that house and it had been destroyed. ali? >> we'll keep staying on that story. >>> president-elect donald trump and his one-time republican party rival mitt romney met last night for a second discussion since trump's victory three weeks ago. the two dined with rnc chairman and incoming chief of staff reince priebus at a pricey and world renowned restaurant at a trump property in manhattan. in case you're wondering, dinner included frog legs and divers scallops, among other things. romney is in talks on position for secretary of state, an uncomfortable choice for some trump loyalist, given romney disdained trump's character through the general election, but "the washington post" reports a mutual acquaintance of romney and trump urged the 2012 nominee to work with the new president. stephen pagliuca told romney when he golfed with trump some years ago trump had talked at length how much he admired bain, the private equity firm romney led until 1999. speaking to reporters after the dinner last night, romney talked about his conversations with trump. >> i had a wonderful evening with president-elect trump. we had another discussion about affairs throughout the world, and these discussions i've had with him have been enlightening and interesting and engaging. i've enjoyed them very, very much. i was also very impressed by the remarks he made on his victory night. by the way, it's not easy, i know that myself. he did something i tried to do and was unsuccessful in accomplishing, he won the general election, and he continues with a message of inclusion and bringing people together. and his vision is something which obviously connected with the american people in a very powerful way. thanchtsst what you call a back pedal. last night kellyanne conway said to expect new announcements around 6:30 a.m. today. stay tuned with "morning joe" interview with reince priebus. >> ali, there's still others in the running for the highest ranking unelected cabinet position. yesterday president-elect met with senator bob corker of tennessee, another potential secretary of state. just two weeks ago corker told nbc that his likely role would continue to be chairman of the foreign relations committee, but yesterday the senator deflected questions about joining the cabinet and instead describing what the job requires. >> secretary of state's role is so important to a president. he needs to choose someone that he's very comfortable with and he knows there's going to be no daylight between him and them. the world needs to know that the secretary of state is someone who speaks fully for the president, and again that's a decision he's going to have to make. >> meanwhile, former new york city mayor rudy giuliani was scheduled to meet with trump yesterday. giuliani has made it plain what he sees as his qualifications for the job. ali? >> thanks, louis. >>> investigators have retrieved two black boxes from the plane crash that killed 71 people in colombia. while investigators work, they are looking into the plane's pilot, who reported an electrical problem and circled before crashing just miles from the airport in medellin. a surviving flight attendant reportedly told rescuers that the plane ran out of fuel. on the brazilian flight, on the flight was a brazilian soccer team and journalists on their way to a south american championship playoff. only seven people survived the initial crash, including three team members. the team's goaltender later died at a hospital. last night fans packed the soccer team's home stadium in brazil for a candlelight vigil. the country's president has declared three days of national mourning. >> so tragic. >>> the remains of fidel castro will remain the trek to their final resting place today, following a massive remembrance rally. tens of thousands packed into revolution square last night to honor castro. greece's prime minister, along with the presidents of mexico, venezuela, and south africa were on hand. cuban president raul castro close the the rally, calling his brother a leader of the revolution for the humble and by the humble. the white house announced yesterday the chief u.s. diplomat in havana and deputy national security adviser will attend castro's funeral, but there will not be an official delegation to cuba. >>> back in the u.s., the former south carolina police officer charged in the death of an unarmed black man took the stand in his own defense yesterday. michael slager is accused of killing walter scott in north charleston in april of last year. this cell phone video of the incident, which appears to show schrager shooting scott as he ran away shocked the nation. >> in my mind at that time, people don't run from -- it's always another reason. >> schrager testified on the stand that he fired his taser at scott three times and while trying to subdue him on the ground, scott wrestled his taser away and pointed it at him before the two men got up. >> i see that barrel, like this big, coming at me. and i knew i was in trouble. at that time i pulled my firearm and i pulled the trigger. i fired until the threat was stopped. like i'm trained to do. >> schrager, who's been housed in a cell block along with accused charleston church shooter dylann roof said his life has been a nightmare, saying his family, along with scott's family, has been destroyed by the incident. slager couldn't witness the birth of his first child and faces life in prison. closing arguments are expected to begin today, ali. >>> two soldiers have been charged with premeditated murder in connection with the disappearance of a fellow soldier. the two, both members of the 101st airborne division also face charges of kidnapping and conspiracy. private first class shadow mcclain went missing back in september. family members say their relationship was tumultuous. authorities have not yet said whether mcclain's body has been found. louis? >>> officials in california say one of the two inmates who escaped from a california jail a week ago has been recaptured. the sheriff's office says campbell was taken into custody last night. the search continues for chavez. officials say the men escaped last wednesday after sawing through the bars that covered a window and rappelling two stories to the ground using a bed sheet. the sheriff's office says it will release more information on the arrest in a news conference later this morning. >>> still ahead, hillary clinton makes a surprise appearance in new york and honors one of her biggest celebrity supporters on the campaign trail. >>> plus, the double overtime showdown between ohio state and michigan has led to a shakeup in college football playoff rankings. those stories and a check on weather when we come right back. (vo) stank face. an expression of disgust caused by inadequate litter tidy cats is the cure. with new guaranteed tidylock protection, you won't have to face one more stank face. tidy cats. every home, every cat. there's a tidy cats for that. i've heard it all. eat more fiber. flax seeds. yogurt. get moving. keep moving. i know! try laxatives. been there, done that. my chronic constipation keeps coming back. i know. tell me something i don't know. vo: linzess works differently from laxatives. linzess treats adults with ibs with constipation or chronic constipation. it can help relieve your belly pain, and lets you have more frequent and complete bowel movements that are easier to pass. do not give linzess to children under six and it should not be given to children six to seventeen. it may harm them. don't take linzess if you have a bowel blockage. get immediate help if you develop unusual or severe stomach pain, especially with bloody or black stools. the most common side effect is diarrhea sometimes severe. if it's severe stop taking linzess and call your doctor right away. other side effects include gas, stomach-area pain and swelling. talk to your doctor about managing your symptoms proactively with linzess. i've spent my life planting a size-six, non-slip shoe into that door. on this side, i want my customers to relax and enjoy themselves. but these days it's phones before forks. they want wifi out here. but behind that door, i need a private connection for my business. wifi pro from comcast business. public wifi for your customers. private wifi for your business. strong and secure. good for a door. and a network. comcast business. built for security. built for business. >>> welcome back. last night hillary clinton made a surprise appearance at the annual unicef snowflake ball in new york city. the former secretary of state introduced her pop star supporter and unicef goodwill ambassador katy perry with a humanitarian award, reportedly bringing the singer to tears. clinton described perry as a champion, while perry said clinton has, quote, lit a voice inside of her that will never go out. you may remember perry appeared with clinton on the campaign trail, one of her most high profile celebrity supporters. louis? >>> chris christie is opening up about his political future and whether it involves a spot in the trump administration. christie announced a news conference yesterday morning, ended up having some fun at the press's expense, using the event to roll out a $300 million renovation to new jersey's state house, but christie also addressed the elephant in the room about what's next for him. >> i have said and for some reason people think i'm equivocal about this, and i'm not, i am completing my term. i want you all to take a deep breath and relax. for those of you who would be distraught over the idea that i would leave before january 18th of 2018, no reason for you to be distraught, i'm not leaving. for those of you looking forward of me leaving before january 18th of 2018, sorry to disappoint you, but i'm not going to. so for whatever camp you fall into or even a neutral one, if there are any neutrals left after seven years, i'm not going anywhere. >> and despite that claim by christie he's not going anywhere, he didn't completely close the door on joining the trump administration, saying he would consider any requests that are made. >> okay. >>> let's get a check on weather now. what's it looking like out there overall? >> the severe threat is diminishing. it's not over with. still could get an isolated tornado throughout the morning. a lot of the worst damage has been done, including mississippi and through alabama. here's a map that shows you the damage path. this is where we started 3:00 p.m. yesterday, northern louisiana, mississippi, and then the storms spread pretty quickly across the state. in the area of greatest concern yesterday afternoon was in central mississippi. a lot of wind damage reports. did get a couple tornados, then overnight numerous tornados forming in northern alabama, red icons where we had tornado reports and this patch here, this is the ones we had the confirmed three fatalities, jackson county, alabama. in all we had 27 what we called unfiltered tornado reports, couple may be double, so somewhere around two dozen. wind damage reports, 40 to 50 of those. in total we've had 68 damage reports throughout this region. so we do expect a lot of the pictures when they come in, we will see structures that were totally destroyed. already had a couple pictures of those in from alabama. we know the small town where the fatalities were, a baptist church was destroyed there, the main plaza in town for shopping and the gas station was destroyed. this is a rural, only two main roads go through the town and they had a lot of damage there. in all, about 550 miles along that damage path. for today, we don't expect a tornado outbreak by any means. we will see isolated severe weather from about northern upstate portions of south carolina, atlanta, augusta area, columbus, and northern florida. wind damage would be the biggest concern, 10 million people under severe risk today, but again, only isolated tornado. here's the timing, there's 11:00, 12:00, as we go throughout the late afternoon, if we get strong storms on that front, that's when they'll occur. cold front moves slowly to the east, so beneficial rain, but need the severe weather we got along with it. some of the rain will move up the east coast, too. we showed you the fires, it's pouring on the fires right now, probably an additional half inch rainfall totals here about an inch to inch and a half. that's fantastic news for the firefighting efforts in that area. probably won't put them all out, but it's a big step in the right direction and everyone in the northeast, too, be prepared, heavy rain this afternoon and significant airport delays, but won't be severe weather up here from d.c. to boston in new york, just heavy downpours this afternoon. >> all right, great mother nature is helping out. thanks so much, bill. >> one good. >> yep. >>> still ahead, all the action from the nba court, including the moment j.r. smith decided it to skip his defensive duties while playing the milwaukee bucs last night. louis will show you next in sports. ordinary tissues left dakota's nose sore and red. so dad slayed the problem with puffs plus lotion, instead. with lotion to soothe and softness to please. a nose in need deserves puffs, indeed. ♪ i want a hippopotamus for christmas ♪ ♪ only a hippopotamus will do at the united states postal service, we deliver more online purchases to homes than anyone else in the country. and more hippopotamuses, too. ♪ so whatever your holiday priority, our priority is you. >>> welcome back. time now for sports and a shakeup in the college football playoff rankings. ohio state's double overtime victory over michigan has the buckeyes sitting at number two behind top-ranked alabama. michigan drops to five, while washington benefits from the wolverines loss moving up to four. the final rankings will be released sunday at noon. >>> meanwhile, after posting a 4-8 record in the duck's worst season since 1991, they have hired mark helfrich, helfrich, who went 37-17 for four seasons led the team to the inaugural college football playoff championship game after the 2014 season. this year the ducks finish at the bottom of the pac-12 north with just two conference wins and won't be appearing in a bowl game for the first time since 2004. >>> all right, turning now to the nba and last night's action on the court, to new orleans, the pelicans anthony davis continuing his hot start to the season with 41 points and 16 rebounds in last night's win against the lakers. it's davis' third game with a 40-plus points and 15-plus rebounds this year, a feat no one else in the entire league has yet to achieve. and in milwaukee, the greek freak, matching a career high 34 points to help the bucks hand the defending champion cavaliers their third loss of the season there. and the bucks also taking advantage of j.r. smith's friendly nature. never seen this before, recording an easy dunk after an inbound play after he greeted on the base line instead of playing defense there. clippers coach doc rivers in rare form, rivers had to be held back by several players and assistants after being ejected for arguing a technical foul called by an official on the opposite side of the court. i did not agree with that foul, alex. he was livid. i've never seen him like that. >> he had a reason to be in his mind. thank you, louis. >>> still ahead, one of donald trump's lofty campaign promises to keep u.s. factory jobs in the country, and it seems he's been able to keep his word in indiana. >>> plus, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are weighing in on trump's pick of congressman tom price for health secretary. at least one top democrat is accusing the gop of plotting war. we'll be right back. where we explore. protecting biodiversity. everywhere we work. defeating malaria. improving energy efficiency. developing more clean burning natural gas. my job? my job at exxonmobil? turning algae into biofuels. reducing energy poverty in the developing world. making cars go further with less. fueling the global economy. and you thought we just made the gas. ♪ energy lives here. mshe said i should think of my rteeth like an apple. it could be great on the outside not so great on the inside. her advice? use a toothpaste and mouthwash that strengthens both. go pro with crest pro-health advanced. it's uniquely formulated with activestrength technology to strengthen teeth inside and is better at strengthening the outside than colgate total. crest toothpaste and mouthwash makes my whole mouth feel amazing. advance to healthier gums and stronger teeth from day one. my check-up was great. >>> welcome back, everyone. i'm alex witt alongside ali velshi and louis burgdorf. it's approaching the bottom of the hour, so we're going to start with the morning's top stories for you. three people are dead this morning from those fast-moving wildfires around the great smokey mountains national park in tennessee. at least 14 people have been taken to the hospital. 150 homes and structures have been destroyed, and some 14,000 people evacuated, but the area of pigeon forge has been cleared to begin returning home. >>> severe weather is being blamed for three deaths in alabama, several others are in critical condition. the jackson county sheriff's office says some 20 buildings have been destroyed, including a church, day care center, and a gas station. there's also this picture from northeastern alabama of a building that was flattened. bill karins joins us later on in the show for an update. >>> and as donald trump continues to fill out his cab fe net, he'll launch his so-called thank you tour in ohio. it starts with a rally at cincinnati's u.s. bank arena and earlier this month a trump transition official told reporters the president-elect will visit swing states that he flipped from blue to red. ali? >>> donald trump is also claiming his first victory on one of his key economic issues, keeping jobs in the united states. the administration and united technologies have reportedly struck a deal to keep roughly 1,000 jobs at the company's carrier facilities in indiana. the company was planning to move production of air conditioners and about 1,400 jobs to mexico. shortly after our colleagues at cnbc revealed president-elect trump was set to travel to indiana tomorrow to announce the deal, carrier tweeted, "we are pleased to have reached a deal with president-elect trump and vp-elect pence to keep close to 1,000 jobs in indy. more details soon." president-elect trump tweeted several hours later, "i will be going to indiana on thursday to make a major announcement concerning carrier ac staying in indianapolis. great deal for workers." now, two things to note. one is, we don't know what the terms of the deal are to cause carrier to stay in indiana, but it is central to this carrier's company is a defense contractor, which could stand to gain from the trump administration. >>> also new announcements from the trump transition team this morning as the cabinet begins to fill out. one of the main positions to go to steve mnuchin. 53 years old, mnuchin worked his way to partner at goldman sachs before starting a hedge fund and later financing major motion pictures, but mnuchin's time as a mortgage lender could be a hurdle in finance hearings. he purchased indymac, which collapsed after bingeing on loans, the bank carried out more than 36,000 foreclosures, according to one estimate. mnuchin sold over a big gain last year according to bloomberg. ron widen, the ranking member on the finance committee stated, given mnuchin's history, i look forward to asking him how his treasury department will work for americans who are still waiting for the economic recovery to show up in their communities. nbc news has also confirmed billionaire investor wilbur ross is the likely choice for commerce secretary. ross is a hard bargaining negotiator, who like trump has been skeptical of recent trade agreements. >> people are tired not of trade, but of bad trade transactions, bad trade deals. >> and yesterday president-elect trump turned to a veteran of republican administrations to run a cabinet department, elaine chao for transportation secretary, a surprise selection for some. chao is the first asian-american woman in a cabinet when she ran the labor department under george w. bush, serving as deputy director of transportation under george h.w. bush, later helping the peace corps. chao is married to senate majority leader mitch mcconnell. yesterday senator lindsey graham joked about potential new spending plans, christmas at the mcconnell household sure will be interesting. louis? >> you got it, alex. president-elect donald trump's selection of tom price as health and human services secretary is at the center of one of his key campaign promises to repeal and replace the president's health care law. price has one of the early plans to dismantle obamacare, including the requirement for americans to have insurance or face a penalty. he has championed efforts to overhaul medicare, which democrats say essentially is privatization. incoming senate majority leader chuck schumer was quick to call the appointment. >> it will be the first thing out of the gate, the appointment of dr. tom price as the head of health and human services, someone who literally for the last half a dozen years has been in the forefront of efforts not only to repeal obamacare, but to put forward common sense free market solutions that will lower the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government. very exciting and should be a source of great encouragement to millions of americans. >> i was just so disappointed to see the president-elect elect congressman price to serve as secretary of health and human services. between this nomination of an avowed medicare opponent and republicans here in washington threatening to privatize medicare, it's clear that washington republicans are plotting a war on seniors. >>> all right, a wisconsin judge denied green party candidate jill stein's request. the hearing took place last night after stein's campaign paid a $3.5 million fee, stein filed a suit to require all wisconsin counties to do the recount by hand to rule out any electronic tampering. the judge said last night that there wasn't clear and convincing evidence that wisconsin voting equipment was compromised, so each county will be allowed to do the recount the way they intended. a lawyer for stein's recount effort later issued a statement saying in part, "tonight's ruling will not deter our efforts and we will continue to work with the wisconsin elections commission to see this recount through." the recount is expected to begin tomorrow. the state aims to finish by december 12th. alex? >>> investigators have retrieved two black boxes from that plane crash that killed 71 people in colombia. on the flight was a brazilian soccer team and journalists on their way to a south american championship playoff, and in spite of this gruesome scene, six people have survived. nbc news correspondent kelly cobiella, what's the latest on this crash? >> well, good morning, alex. investigators will be back out at the crash site again today, and they are making quick progress already. those black boxes, the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder, who were both recovered last night and investigators say they are in excellent condition. the flight was carrying the brazilian soccer team chapecoense from brazil to colombia when the pilot reported an electrical fault, circled above the airport, then crashed into the hillside. the plane has been revised down from 77 people, six people not making the flight, it was in pieces on the hillside. a british aerospace 146, this was a regional jet with four engines, mostly used for short distance flights, and, in fact, one theory is the plane ran out of fuel. in fact, a flight attendant who survived told rescuers that the plane ran out of fuel, so they'll be looking into that. in the meantime, the soccer world still mourning. last night thousands turned out in the stadium at a vigil in brazil. most of the young players from that team were on that flight. they were underdogs on the way to play a championship tournament. alex, six survived, six people in all, three of them players. alex? >> just devastating, kelly cobiella in london, thank you so much for that. >>> ali? >> let's turn back to business. with black friday in the rearview mirror and holiday shopping in full swing, we're getting a first look how americans think the economy is going, and it's doing well. take a look at the consumer confidence index. in october it was 100.8. don't worry about the numbers, it's not a percent, it's an index, it's a number. it's gone up to 107.1 in november. that's the highest it's been since 2007, july of 2007, way before the recession. now this optimism is coming on the basis of a few things, one is the consumer confidence index also has something called a labor index, which is a measure of people who think jobs are plentiful, minus those who think jobs are hard to get. take a look at this. again, don't worry about what the numbers mean, but look where they are. in november of 2015, a year ago, this was negative 4.8. in october it was positive 3.6. now it's positive 5.2. so people think jobs are getting easier to get. now, the average credit score is up about four points from last year to 669. this is courtesy of our friends at experion, compared to 673. it's only six points away from the average credit score in 2007, which was -- back in 2007 it was 679, so we're getting close to where we are. here's one thing to think about, mortgage rates are up since the election. take a look at this, this is just since the election. you're now paying probably a little over 4% for a 30-year mortgage if you have the best credit, but the best credit means having a credit score of 720 or higher. so that's where we stand with the american consumer. now turning to other business, canadian prime minister justin trudeau has given the go ahead to a controversial expansion of an oil pipeline linking the oil sands in alberta to a tanker port in british columbia. cnbc's nancy hungerford joins us live from london. nancy, good morning to you. this is a move that's come as a bit of a surprise. >> that's right, ali, it is a surprise today, environmentalist groups have been protesting the decision, but justin trudeau says, in fact, the expansion of this pipeline does not contradict his environmental goals. when you listen to the local government in alberta, they say the project is essential for the vitality of their energy industry there, and the expansion of this pipeline will improve the capacity to about 890,000 barrels day from 300,000 barrels a day. when you talk about the oil coming from the oil sands to that tanker port, so that is where we stand. expect additional protests, howev however, coming from canada. elsewhere, keep a backlash on the site breitbart. kellogg has dropped advertising from the far right site. this, of course, used to be run by president-elect donald trump's top strategist steve bannon. kellogg has identified customer backlash here saying they do not sponsor advertisements on sites that contradict their values. ali, back to you for now. >> nancy, i've been watching cnbc's coverage of this opec meeting under way in vienna. last i checked oil prices were up 2% on expectations opec will come to a deal to cut production, sending oil prices higher. do we have a deal yet? >> we do not have the deal as we speak, but yes, cnbc has been in the room with the oil ministers speaking to them and overall it was a confident channel, the saudi energy minister saying he's hopeful for a deal, giving willingness for certain countries to have exemptions, especially with the likes of iran hoping for a freeze to be at presanction levels because they have been hit quite hard by sanctions there. signs of willingness, openness coming from vienna, but investors will be keen to see the deal signed. as of now, latest check of oil is moving higher up to 5%. >> if the deal doesn't go through, investors can expect oil prices to drop. nancy hungerford for us at cnbc in london. louis? >>> president-elect donald trump may be facing yet another potential conflict of interest, this time with his organization's lease of the old federal post office in washington, d.c. now the home to the new trump international hotel. federal procurement experts point to a provision in trump's 60-year, $180 million lease, which with the general services administration that states no elected official of the government of the united states shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease or to any benefit that may arise there from. trump, in effect, would breach the contract when he becomes an elected u.s. official on january 20th. experts note once trump becomes president, he will effectively be both the tenant and landlord of the building, and in yet another possible conflict of interest, bahrain has reserved space at trump's washington hotel for a reception next week. if payments are made after the inauguration day, they may violate a provision of the constitution that bars officials from accepting gifts from foreign powers without congressional approval. some argue even the diplomats staying at a trump hotel in an effort to curry favor with the newly elected president would qualify as a gift. the gsa, which runs federal government real estate, declined to discuss specifics when contacted by nbc news. the trump transition team also did not respond to a request for comment, but house oversight chair jason chaffetz called trump's situation with his hotel not unique and that trump and his team needed to organize and get situated. he also said his committee would examine the issues and, quote, be vigorous in our overnight. alex? >>> all right, louis, still ahead, vice president biden expected to return to the senate for one day only. we're going to tell you why. >>> plus, we continue to follow all that severe weather in the south. late season tornados wreaking havoc on parts of mississippi and alabama and the threat is not over yet. ♪ ♪ when you find something worth waiting for, we'll help you invest to protect it for the future. financial guidance while you're mastering life. from chase, so you can. the first rule of is that teamwork is important. remember to do the little things. help each other out. and the second rule of being a viking. there's more than one way to win. vikings: war of clans play free now. when i was too busy with the kids to get a repair estimate. liberty did what? yeah, with liberty mutual all i needed to do to get an estimate was snap a photo of the damage and voila! voila! (sigh) i wish my insurance company had that... wait! hold it... hold it boys... there's supposed to be three of you... where's your brother? where's your brother? hey, where's charlie? charlie?! you can leave worry behind when liberty stands with you. liberty stands with you™ liberty mutual insurance >>> welcome back, everyone. we're going to bring you more now on one of our top stories this morning, the wildfires in tennessee. three people are dead, thousands more have been forced to flee. we're going to go live now to gatlinburg, tennessee, where reporter kevin trager from our nashville affiliate is following the developments for us. kevin, good early morning to you. what devastation there, what can you tell us? >> reporter: right now we know at least 200 to 300 structures have completely burned to the ground. as you said, the death toll at three. yesterday we were told 14 more people were transported to the hospital. we know three patients taken to vanderbilt's burn unit in nashville because of severe injuries from that fire monday night. the real tragedy in all of this, though, the thousands of people who live here full time, full-time residents. we know this as a vacation destination, but a lot of them live here full time and they have been stranded, evacuated, don't know if their homes are still standing and are in a waiting pattern. they have not been allowed back into gatlinburg, officials telling us it's too unsafe for them to come into town right now, so they are just waiting to find out if their houses are still here. alex, back to you. >> kevin trager, thank you very much for that update live for us. >>> we're going to turn now to the weather, bill karins joins us with that, you're tracking all the severe weather in the south, bill? >> by the way, the gatlinburg area and area with the horrible fire, they are under severe thunderstorm warning, which is bad. then they are also going to get an inch of rain in the next half hour, so that will be very welcome and light rain after that all morning long. that's a good relief for the firefighters. as far as last night went, we do have three fatalities to report from our tornado outbreak. looks like about two dozen tornados in mississippi and in alabama. these are some of the new images and pictures coming in. look at the fatalities near rosalie, alabama, jackson county, extreme northeastern portions of alabama, bordering on tennessee and georgia. and this is a small town that the main shopping center was destroyed, a baptist church destroyed, elementary school damaged there also. we'll get more pictures in, three fatalities, four critical injuries earlier this evening, so we have a tornado watch for northern alabama and northern georgia until 11:00 a.m. currently no active tornado warnings, so that's good. we've had 68 reports of tornados and wind damage combined from louisiana, mississippi, and northern portions of alabama. the worst of it is this area of northeastern alabama, where we had the fatalities and the damage swath is about 550 miles. for the rest of today, 10 million people in a slight risk for storms, so new orleans, pensacola, augusta, georgia, that's the area we'll be watching closely. >>> democrats and republicans in the senate are set to come together to honor vice president joe biden as his time in public office comes to a close. lawmakers will pay tribute to the vice president's time on capitol hill and in the white house next week. the ceremony will feature testimonials from top senators including senate majority leader mitch mcconnell and minority leader harry reid, along with chris coons of delaware, who came up with the idea. biden, who represented delaware in the senate for 36 years before coming vice president, he'll focus on initiatives to battle cancer once he leaves office. louis? >>> ali, before we go to break, let's get a check of the stories we're not coffvering today. we'll start in new york where 4,000 rabbis took their best stab at the latest social media craze, the mannequin challenge. if you didn't know, the point is to stand silent and still while music plays in the background. some of them missed the memo, i guess, but a good effort there. now to kansas where police in the city of gardner set up a motion activated camera after getting reports of dangerous animals, but when people found out about it, other species began showing up. check out what appears to be a wolf in high heels. also this gorilla posing for the camera, let's hope the police found what they were looking for in that one. >>> finally our favorite story from canada, where the kensington police service wants to punish drunk drivers by making them listen to nickelback saying, let's not ruin a perfectly good unopened copy of nickelback and don't drink and drive and we won't make you listen to it. i guess the disdain for nickelback still exists. instead, not covering any of those. instead, when we come back, former president george w. bush steps back on the world stage. we'll be back in just a moment. oh, look... ...another anti-wrinkle cream in no hurry to make anything happen. neutrogena® rapid wrinkle repair works... ...in one week. with the... fastest retinol formula available. it's clinically proven to work on fine lines and... ...even deep wrinkles. "one week? that definitely works!" rapid wrinkle repair. and for dark spots, rapid tone repair. neutrogena®. "see what's possible." an expression of disgust caused by inadequate litter tidy cats is the cure. with new guaranteed tidylock protection, you won't have to face one more stank face. tidy cats. every home, every cat. there's a tidy cats for that. did you know slow internet can actually hold your business back? say goodbye to slow downloads, slow backups, slow everything. comcast business offers blazing fast and reliable internet that's 10 times faster than slow internet from the phone company. say hello to internet speeds up to 150 mbps. and add phone and tv for only $34.90 more a month. call today. comcast business. built for business. >>> welcome back, the pentagon is blaming unintentional human error for u.s.-led air strikes that killed dozens of syrian government soldiers. the deadly incident happened in september when nearly three dozen precision guided missiles were dropped on what officials thought were isis militants. british, australian, and danish forces also took part in the strikes. russia says 62 syrian troops were killed, more than 100 hurt. the syrian government maintained the attacks were intentional. louis? >>> earlier this month president obama reportedly warned donald trump about the rising threat of a nuclear north korea. during a forum yesterday, former president george w. bush warned about geon yang, as well. >> the north korean people are pleading in their silence for freedom. and the world needs to listen. and the world needs to respond. this is a timely moment, and for all our country's about to have a new administration, which, of course, has every right to choose its own direction. they can take advice or not, but there's one option that can't be chosen, the option of drifting, because that current would lead to disaster. a successful response will require unprecedented global cooperation, but it can only be led by one country, the united states. >> strong words from a former president george w. bush. today the united nations security council is set to vote on new sanctions against north korea for its fifth and largest nuclear test. alex? >>> when we come back, a look at the stories happening in the day ahead. the first rule of being a viking. is that teamwork is important. remember to do the little things. help each other out. and the second rule of being a viking. there's more than one way to win. vikings: war of clans play free now. [burke] hot dog. seen it. we know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two. ♪ we are farmers. bum-pa-dum, bum-bum-bum-bum ♪ >>> so, before we tosds it over to "morning joe," a check on the stories in the day ahead. vice president mike pence will be in washington meeting with top congressional republicans. pence will sit down with house speaker ryan and senate majority leader mcconnell this afternoon. incoming white house chief of staff reince priebus will also attend the meeting, but not before talking with "morning joe" first. >>> house democrats to vote on whether nancy pelosi will hold on to her position. she faces challenge from tim ryan of illinois, who cites the loss of dozens of democratic congressional seats for the leadership change. >>> may be close to 60 degrees outside, but the holiday spirit will be in full swing with the lighting of the rockefeller center christmas tree, a norway spruce that stands 94 feet tall, the second largest ever to be hoisted in rock center. you can watch all the festivities on nbc starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern. let's hope we keep that rain away. >> yeah, let's hope so. that does it for us on this wednesday, i'm alex witt alongside ali velshi and louis burgdorf, and "morning joe" starts right now. ♪ >> i've had a wonderful evening with president-elect trump. we have another discussion about affairs throughout the world. these discussions i've had with him have been enlightening and interesting and engaging. i've enjoyed them very, very much. >> what did he say? what? >> got the look. >> straight out of central casting. >> with us on set, veteran columnist and msnbc contributor mike barnicle. already chiming in. political writer for "the new york times" nick confessore and in dallas -- >> you know what they call nick? nick the knife.