Hillary Clinton speaks last night at a Children's Defense Fund event at the Newseum. It was her first public event since conceding the presidential election to Donald Trump. (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: The economy is Donald Trump’s strongest issue, and the post-election conversation has given short shrift to how significant of a factor it was in his unexpected victory.

A new Washington Post poll finds that 59 percent of Americans are somewhat or very confident that the economy will improve under President Trump’s watch, and 52 percent say they think their standard of living will improve. These numbers are remarkable when you consider that smaller numbers of people believe he will be effective at governing. And just 29 percent in the survey believe he has a mandate.

Other surveys since the election have shown a spike in consumer confidence driven by a feeling that Trump might be able to boost growth and create jobs.

According to the exit polls last Tuesday, 52 percent of voters said the economy is the most important issue facing the country. The next closest issue was terrorism, at a distant 18 percent. Trump had a somewhat narrow advantage on “who would better handle the economy,” 49 percent to 46 percent, but he won nearly every one who chose him on that question.

About one-third of voters in the exit polls said the economy is in good shape. Hillary Clinton won three-quarters of them. But nearly two-thirds said the economy is in poor shape, and Trump won more than six in 10 of that larger group.

Donald Trump wears a coal miner's protective hat during a speech in West Virginia. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

-- The elites took Trump literally but not seriously. Voters took Trump seriously but not literally. Reporters focused a great deal on Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, border wall and desire to pull out of NAFTA. Many of Donald’s supporters never believed he would actually follow through on these plans. They paid more attention to his promise to create 25 million new jobs in the next decade and his guarantee that the GDP will grow at least 3.5 percent per year when he’s president. Ultimately, a lot of Trump supporters took a more generalized view that he is a change agent who has big plans to fix an economy that they think has left them behind.

Democrats relentlessly attacked Trump for his offensive comments about women and Latinos. When they talked about the economy, it was usually more to fault him for making his products overseas and for not paying his vendors than trying to persuade voters he is actually not a very good businessman. (There was more talk about his bankruptcies during the primaries than the general.) A lot of white male voters who are living paycheck to paycheck didn’t care about what Trump called “locker room talk” on the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video or the dozen women who came forward to accuse him of sexual assault.

Clinton supporters watch election returns at the Javits Center last Tuesday. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

-- Celinda Lake, the renowned Democratic pollster, is very angry that her party failed to lay out an economic vision to contrast with Trump’s. During an afternoon symposium at Gallup’s headquarters in downtown Washington yesterday, where dozens of experts on public opinion gathered to discuss the lessons of the election, Lake noted that Clinton’s standing on questions about the economy kept slipping during the final weeks.

“Why would the Democrats stubbornly not have an economic message?” she said. “Sixty-seven white papers don’t make an economic message. Thirty-seven bills you’re going to introduce in the first 100 days do not make an economic message. What we as Democrats really have to deal with is the fact that we didn’t have an economic message. … Someone at a meeting I was just at said, ‘Well, this was the biggest con ever.’ Maybe. But one of the things we know in our business is that facts don’t matter. If the facts don’t fit the frame, people reject the facts – not the frame. … When we sound like we have a tin ear, we end up with Donald Trump as president.” (She also argued that racism and sexism worked against Clinton.)

Barack Obama waves upon his arrival to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Chancellery in Berlin a few minutes ago. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Lake, who has worked for a long list of blue-chip Democratic clients, fretted that Trump will do a better job than Barack Obama at creating the sense of forward progress on the economy. She said one of her “everlasting disappointments” with the lame-duck president is that, “He didn’t do the Roosevelt thing. He didn’t engage in an ongoing dialogue about where we are and where we’re going. … In your deafening silence, you sound like you don’t get it. … Ironically, I think Trump might do more of that.”

“If Democrats don’t have something to offer on the economy, we’re not going to win elections,” she added. “That’s probably the single biggest thing we have to focus on. … You want to know who is going to win in 2020? Look at your crystal ball, and tell me who is ahead on the economy!”

There is irony that Trump won because of concerns about the economy and a yearning for change, the same mentality that in 1992 allowed Bill Clinton beat an incumbent who voters considered more qualified and experienced. Lake recalled a focus group that she conducted for Bill when he was president. She asked a voter in Los Angeles about a line he was using in his stump speech about how many millions of jobs had been created since he took office. “I know. I have three of them,” the woman replied. When Lake recounted that story to the president, he began stressing that more needed to be done to create good-paying jobs. “The candidates live in a pretty rarefied world. They don’t encounter real people that much,” she told the group of pollsters. “We provide a lot of that function.”

Bill Clinton arrives at The New Yorker Hotel last Wednesday for his wife's concession. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

-- But there are real tensions within the Democratic Party about what exactly the right economic message is. Everyone agrees inequality is bad, but how do you solve it? Many coastal, technocratic Democrats support trade. But lawmakers from the Rust Belt do not. The Trans-Pacific Partnership was a top Obama priority, of course, and Clinton felt compelled to flip-flop and come out against it during the primaries.

Jim Kessler and Jon Cowan, moderate Democrats who run the Third Way think tank, say that the party must emphasize more jobs, not just fairer jobs. “The income disparity in the United States isn’t about the one percent versus the other 99,” they write in an op-ed for The Post. “This thinking has led Democrats astray. The truth is that one-third of adults are economically secure and getting wealthier year by year. This is the upper-middle class that economist Stephen Rose found doubled in size and share of national wealth since 1979. The other two-thirds, however, are scared to death. The basic bargain of doing your part, doing your best and living a life of dignity and comfort has been shattered for these people. They don’t want handouts. They want work that provides a living, a career path and a sense of purpose.”

President Obama waded into the debate during a speech in Athens yesterday, arguing that “the current path of globalization needs a course correction” while also stressing that there is no turning back from an interconnected world. “In the years and decades ahead, our countries have to make sure that the benefits of an integrated global economy are more broadly shared by more people, and that the negative impacts are squarely addressed," he said. (Juliet Eilperin filled more from Greece.)

A map showing relative vote change from 2012 to 2016 (Via Liam Donovan)

-- In 2016, the economy was especially important to the blue-collar, non-college-educated whites who handed Trump the election. He made meaningful inroads with traditionally Democratic voters who earn less than $50,000 a year, are members of unions and attended “some” college but did not graduate.

Ten states saw a swing of five points or more toward Trump compared to Mitt Romney in 2012. Working class whites made up a plurality of the electorate in eight of these states, former Republican operative Liam Donovon notes in a blog post he self-published yesterday. On the surface, Trump only outran Romney by six points among working class white voters (67 percent to 61 percent). But Romney’s gains with this group were disproportionately located in the South, while Trump’s gains came in the Rust Belt.

Clinton herself last weekend blamed FBI director James Comey’s two letters for the late movement against her. But polls show that many of the people who broke for Trump late were primarily motivated by economic concerns. According to the exit polls, voters who made up their mind in the final week broke for Trump by just a five point margin. “A modest advantage, though not nearly enough to swing the election,” Donovan notes. “But in the states where it mattered, the picture was very different. In Michigan, late deciders favored Trump by 11 points. In Pennsylvania, Trump carried them by 17 points. And in Wisconsin, a state few saw as truly in play, the fence-sitters—fully 14 percent of voters—broke for Trump nearly two to one.”

A pro-steel sign on a fence just outside the entrance to the coke plant in the battered city of Clairton, Pennsylvania. Trump crushed it in places like this. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

-- Trump performed best in places where the recovery has been slower than the national average and where jobs are most at risk in the future. “Places with higher unemployment rates were no more likely to vote for Trump than those with lower rates,” economist Jed Kolko calculated for FiveThirtyEight. “Unemployment, however, is a crude measure of a local economy. Counties with weaker job growth since 2012, for example, were more likely to support Trump; the same is true for places with lower average earnings among full-time workers. … Trump beat Clinton in counties where more jobs are at risk because of technology or globalization. Specifically, counties with the most ‘routine’ jobs — those in manufacturing, sales, clerical work and related occupations that are easier to automate or send offshore — were far more likely to vote for Trump.”

-- A forecasting model created by Yale economist Ray Fair, based on GDP growth and inflation, suggested strongly all year that the opposition party would win the November election. “If GDP growth is robust, job creation will keep up with the population and workers will be happy. If inflation is restrained, consumers will be happy. So a combination of robust growth and restrained inflation will make voters feel happy about the economy. Happy voters will vote for the incumbent party — and vice versa,” Brad Schiller, an emeritus professor of economics at American University, explains in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. “Simply put, Clinton lost because the economy under President Obama did not perform well enough to meet Fair’s thresholds of happiness. Economic growth was anemic for nearly all of the last eight years. … In the Fair model, GDP growth in the three calendar quarters prior to the election is critical … And on that count, Clinton lost a lot of votes; GDP growth was a paltry 0.8% in the first quarter of this year, 1.4% in the second and 2.9% in the third.”

-- Republican pollster David Winston, who advisers House and Senate Republican leaders, thinks the key indicator was really the number of voters who felt that their children will not be as well off as them. “This was not an angry electorate; this was a frustrated electorate,” he said during yesterday's session at Gallup.

Hillary leaves the stage after speaking last night. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

-- Another emerging narrative: The Clinton campaign was too cocky about the strength of its data and field operations. From the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein: “In Michigan alone … state party and local officials were running at roughly one-tenth the paid canvasser capacity that John Kerry had when he ran for president in 2004. Desperate for more human capital, the state party and local officials ended up raising $300,000 themselves to pay 500 people to help canvass in the election’s closing weeks. One organizer said that in a precinct in Flint, they were sent to a burned down trailer park. No one had taken it off the list of places to visit because no one had been there until the final weekend. A similar situation unfolded in Wisconsin … [where its] state office and local officials scrambled to raise nearly $1 million for efforts to get out the vote in the closing weeks. Brooklyn headquarters had balked at funding it themselves … pointing out that Clinton had never trailed in a single poll in Wisconsin."

-- The 2020 presidential campaign might wind up playing out in very different swing states than 2016. Texas wound up being closer than Iowa! Georgia and Arizona were both closer than Ohio! And Minnesota was closer than Nevada. (Phil Bump made a state-by-state chart.)

-- In Clinton’s defense, she received somewhere around one million more votes than Trump. Democrats have now won the popular vote in six of the past seven presidential elections. Some context:

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Breanne Deppisch (@b_deppy) and Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck) Sign up to receive the newsletter.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Hillary, in her appearance at a Children’s Defense Fund event last night, acknowledged her profoundly painful loss while urging the audience of child advocates to persevere. From John Wagner: “I will admit, coming here tonight wasn’t the easiest thing for me,” Clinton told the crowd gathered at the Newseum. “There have been a few times this past week when all I wanted to do is just to curl up with a good book or our dogs and never leave the house again. The divisions laid bare by this election run deep, but please listen to me when I say this: America is worth it, our children are worth it. Believe in our country, fight for our values, and never, ever give up.” She was greeted with thunderous applause and chants of “Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!” as she strode onto stage in a blue pantsuit and offered a broad wave.

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. A landmark new report from the surgeon general classifies drug and alcohol addiction as "a public health crisis" and describes the overdose epidemic, which has killed more than 500,000 people since 2000, as a “moral test for America.” The report also presents evidence that addiction is a treatable brain disease, with new therapies currently under development. (Lenny Bernstein)
  2. Vladimir Putin signed a decree to withdraw Russia from the International Criminal Court, a signal of defiance that comes just one day after a U.N. panel condemned Moscow for abuses related to its annexation of Crimea. Several African nations have also defected from the international court, raising fears that others may follow. (Brian Murphy)
  3. The Obama administration announced it is cancelling 15 leases in Montana for oil and gas drilling on lands considered sacred by the Blackfeet Tribe. Interior Department officials said the land should “not have been leased to begin with,” noting that they were issued more than three decades ago without proper consultations with tribal leaders. (Steven Mufson and Brady Dennis)
  4. Minnesota prosecutors announced they are charging the police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop earlier this year. Castile’s girlfriend broadcast the shooting’s aftermath on Facebook Live, prompting a national firestorm and a wave of protests. (Mark Berman)
  5. An Anchorage man charged with fatally shooting a police officer over an unpaid taxi fare is under further investigation after police discovered the gun he used has been linked to five other unsolved homicides this year. (Sarah Larimer)
  6. A congressional panel issued a report calling for a new Smithsonian museum devoted to women’s history. Members of the bipartisan committee said the museum would be on or near the National Mall, and issued a 10-year, three-part plan for the project. (Peggy McGlone)
  7. A new study from Harvard Law proposes a dramatic overhaul of the relationship between NFL sports teams and medical staff, outlining a system in which doctors no longer report to team management or coaches. Such an intersection creates “significant legal and ethical quandaries that can threaten player health,” the report finds. (Rick Maese)
  8. Bob Dylan announced he will not travel to Stockholm to collect his Nobel Prize for literature, telling the committee he is busy with “pre-existing commitments.” Dylan has been trying to dodge the Nobel committee – an unusual, but not completely unprecedented response to receiving the award. (AP)
  9. Spanish language network Univision announced it is laying off between 200 and 250 employees –  6 percent of its workforce – after losing $30.5 million in the third quarter. The media giant, which bought out Gawker for $135 million earlier this year, is also planning a millennial-centered restructuring of its company. (Margaret Sullivan)
  10. Former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird died at 94. The onetime Navy officer, who survived a Kamikaze attack, became a Wisconsin congressman and then oversaw the drawdown of U.S. troops in Vietnam. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
  11. The 28-year-old New Jersey man accused of planting two pressure-cooker bombs in Manhattan earlier this year, one of which injured more than 30 people, was indicted. Ahmad Khan Rahimi would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted on some of the counts. (Ellen Nakashima)
  12. A 23-year-old Oregon man who dissolved in a Yellowstone hot spring earlier this year, leaving just a flip flop sandal behind, was attempting to test the temperature of the thermal basin he tumbled in. His sister said the two had breached the park’s protective barriers in attempt to bathe in a thermal pool – illegal conduct known as “hot-potting.” (Ben Guarino)
  13. A foster family that decided to adopt five biological siblings to keep them together, and whose heartwarming tale earned them a 4,000-square-foot home remodeling on ABC’s “Extreme Makeover” show, is under fire after all the children said they were kicked out or given up within a year. (Samantha Schmidt)
Bob Corker leaves Trump Tower earlier this year. (Tim Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

AMERICA IS DIVIDED:

-- Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, walking alone in the woods, was accosted by an angry professor who yelled at him for supporting Trump. The two have slightly different versions of the encounter, however, with the Republican's office saying that the constituent went on a profanity-laced tirade. The professor claims that a brash Corker suggested he “leave the state.” (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

-- Fake election news stories outperformed real reporting on Facebook during the final months of the election cycle – garnering higher total engagement than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined. The news comes as Facebook and other social media sites grapple with how to deal with misinformation masquerading as real news. (Buzzfeed)

-- In other evidence that facts are “meh” this year, Oxford Dictionary has announced “post-truth” as the official international word of 2016. Other top contenders: “Brexit,” “alt-right,” and “adulating.” (Amy B Wang)

-- A Republican lawmaker in Iowa says he is planning to introduce a “suck it up, buttercup” bill taking aim at universities who he feels are “coddling” students in the aftermath of the election. Under his proposed legislation, schools would face budget cuts for using taxpayer dollars to offer election-related grief counseling or sit-ins – which he considers “incredibly annoying.” (Samantha Schmidt)

-- Police in Montgomery County, Maryland, are investigating the driver of a pickup truck who allegedly displayed a handgun to a group of student protesters during an anti-Trump demonstration. (Donna St. George)

-- A D.C. rabbi has begun studying civil disobedience after last week’s election. He said he plans to lead his congregation in direct action against the Trump administration, should the president-elect attempt to carry out some of his most controversial proposals. (Julie Zauzmer)

-- A Tennessee corrections official is out of a job after sharing a Facebook post that called the KKK “more American” than President Obama. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

-- Students at Southern Methodist University in Dallas discovered fliers around campus titled “Why White Women Shouldn’t Date Black Men.” Among the reasons listed were, “He’s much more likely to abuse you,” “He’s much more likely to have STDs,” and “Your kids probably won’t be smart.” (Sarah Larimer)

-- Trump's election has generated to a flood of donations to progressive and civil rights groups: The ACLU says more than $7 million in money arrived since Nov 8. The Anti-Defamation League said contributions jumped 50-fold, and the Southern Poverty Law Center saw ts Twitter following jump by 9,000 in the past week. (Sandhya Somashekhar)

Joe Biden shakes hands with Mike Pence after their lunch at the Naval Observatory. (Reuters/Gary Cameron)

THE TRUMP TRANSITION IS STARTING TO GET ITS ACT TOGETHER:

-- Early efforts appear as though they are – finally – beginning to take shape. Mike Pence will be on Capitol Hill meeting with Congressional leaders today. And Trump transition staffers could finally begin meeting with Pentagon and State Department officials as early as Friday. Members of Team Trump told Dan Lamothe they are building out “landing team” groups to work with current national security officials, chalking up the delay to a matter of transition officials not wanting any lobbyists on the team. “The lack of contact thus far has bucked traditional protocol and raised concerns in the Defense Department, State Department and National Security Council, all of which are typically collaborating with an incoming administration for an orderly transition within days," Dan notes. (It’s hard to believe it has only been nine days.)

-- RNC strategist Sean Spicer said on a conference call last night everyone who is participating in the landing teams will sign a form agreeing to the lobbying ban. They will be banned for five years from lobbying when they leave government; they also will have to sign off that they are not registered lobbyists or are terminating their lobbyist status.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, is greeted by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their meeting at Abe's official residence in Tokyo last month. (Issei Kato/Pool Photo via AP)

-- Trump will hold his first sit-down with a foreign leader today as president-elect. From Reuters: In the hours before Trump’s scheduled meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japanese officials said they had not finalized when or where in New York it would take place, who would be invited, or in some cases whom to call for answers. “Japanese and U.S. officials said on Wednesday the State Department had not been involved in planning the meeting, leaving the logistical and protocol details that normally would be settled far in advance still to be determined. ‘There has been a lot of confusion,’ said one Japanese official. While world leaders sometimes hold loosely planned bilateral meetings at regional summits, it is unusual for foreign leaders to hold high-level diplomatic talks in the United States without detailed planning.”

WHO’S IN THE MIX FOR THE BIG JOBS?

-- The transition team announced that Trump met with several advisers and candidates for administration positions yesterday, including: Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, investor Steve Feinberg, Success Academy Charter Schools chief executive Eva Moskowitz and Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas. Communications Director Jason Miller did not elaborate on which people are candidates to join the administration. Price is considered a candidate to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Miller declined to speculate on the timing of announcements, saying that “the president-elect is going to get this right” and that names would be put forward “when Trump [is] ready.” (Karen DeYoung)

--Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) are seen as the two finalists for SecDef, but neither of them has any real experience overseeing a massive bureaucracy. Jerry Markon, Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller report that the Alabama lawmaker is a top contender for defense secretary, along with the Arkansas freshman. 

-- Sessions people have replaced Christie people in key roles on the transition team: Sessions’ former Judiciary Committee staff director Brian Benczkowski is now managing Trump’s Justice Department transition, replacing former U.S. attorney and associate attorney general Kevin O’Connor,  reports Matt Zapotosky.

-- Coming to meet with the president-elect today are Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas (Treasury?), Florida Gov. Rick Scott (RNC chair?), former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and retired Gen. Jack Keane, a spokesman said.

-- A fun scene-setter --> “Trump Tower: The home of a reality show, a campaign and now a transition,” by Jenna Johnson in New York: “When the doors open to the public at 8 a.m., there is usually a swarm of reporters waiting to get inside. They spend the day sitting on a row of metal benches set up across from the elevators, watching who is coming and going, interviewing possible Cabinet members and trying to keep tabs on the president-elect, who rarely leaves. There are rules of decorum: no sitting on the ground, and no putting your feet on the benches or standing on them to take a photograph. Throughout the day, there [is] a parade of men in suits who [look] important, creating a never-ending game of ‘Guess Who?’ for the gawking media and actual gawkers.”

-- Nikki Haley, who has no foreign policy experience, is now being mentioned as a possible contender for secretary of state. The Post and Courier reports the South Carolina governor, a former Marco Rubio backer who once said Trump represented “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president,” has a meeting at Trump Tower today. Meanwhile, South Carolina Lt. Gov Henry McMaster said he had also been in contact with the Trump transition team and has emerged as a possible choice for attorney general.

-- Irony alert one: Trump ran as an outspoken critic of Common Core education standards (which he often called "a total disaster"), but now he's considering two people who have been outspoken cheerleaders of them to run his Department of Education. Spokesman Jason Miller said during an MSNBC interview that Trump is considering Michelle Rhee and Eva Moskowitz. (Valerie Strauss)

-- Irony alert two: Rudy Giuliani, a leading candidate to run the State Department, has a long record of defending and advocating for undocumented immigrants as mayor of New York City – putting him directly odds with Trump on immigration. From CNN’s Andrew KaczynskiAs mayor, Giuliani even went to court to protect them from being reported to the federal government. “Some of the hardest-working and most productive people in this city are undocumented aliens," Giuliani said in 1994. "If you come here and you work hard and you happen to be in an undocumented status, you're one of the people who we want in this city. You're somebody that we want to protect, and we want you to get out from under what is often a life of being like a fugitive, which is really unfair." And in a 2001 interview: "The city of New York, quite frankly, is quite tolerant of undocumented immigration and this shouldn’t surprise you because I’ve been the mayor for a long time and outspoken on this issue, even nationally, I happen to agree with that."

Michael Flynn arrives for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump in New York. (Timothy A. Clary/Getty) 

WHO’S OUT?

-- Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said today that he has submitted his letter of resignation to President Obama and will not stay on through the presidential transition. Clapper made the announcement during a hearing of the House Intelligence Committee. (Politico)

-- “Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn was still being mentioned as national security adviser, although some with transition connections said his stock appeared to be falling as others questioned his potential effectiveness in the job,” Karen DeYoung writes. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, mentioned as a possible CIA director, is a transition adviser but is “not interested in a post,” a congressional aide said. Meanwhile, former congressman and committee chairman Pete Hoekstra said he told transition team members “he’d be more than happy” to discuss a role if they have one for him.

-- Frank Gaffney, a far-right, anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist who was described in various news reports this week as a “Trump transition adviser” and floated as a pick for a national security job, said he had “not been contacted by anyone from the team.” Trump’s team also denied a Wall Street Journal report that he is advising transition efforts.

Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Minneapolis. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

INSIDE TRUMP’S ORBIT -- HOW WILL HE GOVERN?

-- “As Trump assembles his White House, he is reimagining the traditional staffing chart in the mold of his personality, with a group of aides and outside confidants expected to have direct lines to the Oval Office. "As with all things Trump, there are always people in his ear, including peers such as Carl Icahn, Andrew Beal and Tom Barrack, and casino magnates Phil Ruffin and Steve Wynn," Philip Rucker and Robert Costa report. “Trump sees himself as the straw that stirs the drink,” said Tony Schwartz, co-author of Trump’s 1987 memoir, “The Art of the Deal.” “He has almost no interest in the details of how things happen, but he has an intense interest in being the decision-maker.”

-- Rucker and Costa write that an unusual power grid is emerging in a capital city used to a hierarchical structure"Trump is presiding over concentric spheres of influence, designed to give him direct access to a constellation of counselors and opinions. Such an approach also risks bringing confrontation or even paralysis as feuding factions work to further their own goals, edge out adversaries or distract Trump — as happened more than once during his presidential campaign.”

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner walk with their daughter in midtown. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

CHOOSE YOUR NEWS:

-- The Wall Street Journal’s Monica Langley reports that Jared Kushner could get a critical White House role – and is mulling the prospect of being “senior adviser” or “special counsel.” “Taking a high-level government post would come at a cost. To address potential conflicts of interest with his real-estate business, which has closed some $14 billion in deals under his leadership, Mr. Kushner’s lawyers are exploring options of possible ‘structures.’ One option would be a blind trust over which he would have no control or access. He would agree to suspend receiving any income or distribution from his real-estate and media holdings … It isn’t clear whether a federal anti-nepotism law that bans appointing a relative to a job in an ‘agency’ applies to the White House, and Mr. Kushner has indicated he would avoid the issue by not taking pay for any White House work.” He is also weighing the option of maintaining an “influential role” informally.

-- The New York Times says neither Kushner nor Ivanka Trump will seek a security clearance after all. Sources in his world insist that no such request was made. Meanwhile, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway brushed aside questions on whether it was a conflict of interest for Trump’s children to play a role in his transition when they will also be running his businesses. “You’re presuming that they’re doing certain things that they should not be doing,” she told reporters. And Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, asked for details on the son-in-law's exact role in a letter to Pence, per Politico.

-- “To understand the Trump presidency, we must decipher Ivanka,” Monica Hesse writes: “Ivanka is the fairest of them all, but she also seems like the steeliest, the kind of person who might bring a stiletto to a knife fight. ... ‘What clandestine operation is Ivanka going to run?’ [CNN’s Dana Bash joked.] All the operations, Dana. We can’t shake the feeling that Ivanka is the key to this all. The mystery of Ivanka is that she always does seem to be running some kind of clandestine mission — blowing some kind of dog whistle or bleating some kind of Morse code, or becoming the attractive vessel into which both parties poured their own hopes and dreams. Could Ivanka be reasoned with? wondered the commenters who viewed her father as too unpredictable and were seeking reassurance. Was Ivanka the one secretly running the whole show?"

-- Very smart frame: Trump’s revolution happened so suddenly that it raced ahead of itself, winning without having any of the plans and personnel that actually operationalizing Trumpism would require, Ross Douthat argues. “Every administration tends to have ideological divisions, to rely on an old guard of party people alongside its newcomers … But in this case, there is really no Trumpist new guard at all … no roster of elected officials who rose to power promising to Make America Great Again, no list of policy thinkers who have spent the last decade dreaming of tariffs and mapping out Keynesian infrastructure projects and planning for a détente with Moscow. Instead, Trump campaigned surrounded by politicians, operatives and surrogates whose only real commonality was opportunism. Back when he seemed likely to lose the election handily, this was a reason to wonder about his movement’s staying power — would [Newt Gingrich, Ben Carson and Sean Hannity] really remain European-style populist nationalists once their patron was defeated? But now that he’s won, it raises a different question: Can Trumpism survive a Trump administration?”

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks to reporters after the Senate Democrat party leadership elections. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD IN THE CAPITOL:

-- Chuck Schumer was unanimously elected as Senate minority leader on Wednesday, replacing outgoing Harry Reid. From Ed O’Keefe and Mike DeBonis:

  • Dick Durbin will serve as party whip and Schumer’s chief deputy, the same position he has held under Reid.
  • Patty Murray will be the third-ranking Democrat, forgoing a challenge to Durbin but assuming a new title of assistant Democratic leader.
  • In a nod to his party’s progressive wing, the New York senator added Bernie Sanders to a junior role in a newly expanded 10-person leadership team. (Meanwhile, Sanders said he still plans to identify as an independent.)
  • Schumer also nodded to the moderates in his caucus by putting Joe Manchin on the 10-person team.
  • Tammy Baldwin will be the first openly lesbian senator to hold a leadership role.

-- Republicans unanimously re-elected Mitch McConnell as majority leader. He faced no public challenges to his leadership.

-- Expect heavy scrutiny for Trump’s SCOTUS picks: Dianne Feinstein, who will replace Pat Leahy as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, made crystal clear that Trump’s nominees will go under a microscope. “After the unprecedented and disrespectful treatment of Merrick Garland — a moderate judge who should have been quickly confirmed — the committee will pay very close attention to proposed nominees to ensure the fundamental constitutional rights of Americans are protected,” the senator said, according to Mike DeBonis. Her selection is historic: Elected in the year of the woman, which was a response to Anita Hill's poor treatment by the all-male Judiciary committee, Feinstein is the first woman to be chair or ranking member.

-- A group of rebellious House Democrats is now attempting to woo Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) to challenge Nancy Pelosi for minority leader. From Politico: “Crowley, 54, almost certainly would not be able to beat Pelosi, who claims overwhelming backing to remain in the post. But if he ran against her, it would be a blow to Pelosi, who has faced serious dissension within Democratic ranks since the party's poor showing in the election. Pelosi, 76, has not faced any real threat to her hold on power in the last half-dozen years, especially from someone like Crowley, who is widely liked and respected within the Democratic Caucus.” The congressman has not made up his mind either way.

Sens. John Thune, Mitch McConnell, and John Cornyn speak to members of the media during a news briefing. (Alex Wong/Getty)

TWO LOOMING TESTS FOR CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS:

EARMARKS: Paul Ryan successfully lobbied House Republicans to postpone a vote to bring back earmarks, at least temporarily quieting his colleagues’ complaints that the ban prohibits much-needed funding for projects in their districts. "We just had a 'drain the swamp' election," he said. "Let's not just turn around and bring back earmarks two weeks later." (CNN)

FILIBUSTERS: With the GOP holding just a 52-seat majority next year, it would take only two defections to stop the Senate from going totally nuclear. And at least one key Senate Republican is expressing reservations about the idea. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) yesterday came out strongly against ending the filibuster: “Are you kidding?” the most senior member of the GOP said with some vehemence, according to the Huffington Post. “I’m one of the biggest advocates for the filibuster. It’s the only way to protect the minority, and we’ve been in the minority a lot more than we’ve been in the majority. It’s just a great, great protection for the minority.” 

-- “Intraparty fratricide looms,” Post columnist Dana Milbank argues: “On Wednesday afternoon, House Republicans from the hard-line Freedom Caucus assembled for the first time since the election for the monthly ‘Conversations with Conservatives.’ In one hour, they served up enough intra-GOP disputes to last four years. They differed with [Trump] on a massive infrastructure bill … They split with Senate Republicans, and potentially with Trump, on whether to repeal Obamacare ... They warned Trump, and Ryan, that they would rebel against any attempt to increase spending before Trump takes office. They took positions at odds with Trump on entitlement programs and split with fellow House Republicans on returning lawmakers’ ability to fund pet projects through earmarks. For eight years, they were unified in opposition to President Obama. They were lockstep in opposition to [Clinton’s] candidacy. But while it’s relatively easy to oppose, they’re discovering it’s rather more difficult to govern.”

Lindsey Graham walks around the Capitol yesterday. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

WASHINGTON ADJUSTS TO TRUMP:

-- As Trump continues to stoke concerns that he will pursue warmer relations with Putin, Republican members of Congress – including allies of the president-elect – have begun moving to ensure their tough line against Moscow will be held. From Karoun Demirjian: On Tuesday, the House passed a bill imposing mandatory sanctions on anyone who financially, economically or technologically supports Syria’s government in the civil war there — a category that chiefly includes Russia and Iran.” And Sen. Lindsey Graham promised “a package that would help our Eastern European allies better deal with the threats they face from Russia,” including broad defense aid “to make it harder for Russia to advance beyond where they are today.” Graham also said he hoped to hold “a series of hearings about Russia’s misadventures throughout the world,” focusing on propaganda in the Baltic states, aggressive behavior in Georgia and Ukraine, and Moscow’s track record of cyberattacks on U.S. allies and, recently, on the United States itself.

-- Tax reform tops agenda, but might not be so easy. From Kelsey Snell: "Signs are already emerging that it could be one of the first Republican policy fights during the Trump administration with Senate Republicans advocating a more methodical and bipartisan approach than their GOP colleagues in the House. 'I don’t think it can be done except in a bipartisan way,' Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) told reporters on Wednesday. Senate Republicans this week said the party needs Democratic support to help move the legislation through the upper chamber and to then, more importantly, ensure it has a chance to be a long-lasting policy, arguing President Obama’s signature achievements, such as the Affordable Care Act, are now under threat of repeal because they passed without any GOP support. 'That’s one lesson of the Obama administration,' said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). 'If you do things purely on the party line then its unsustainable.'"

-- AT&T officials are wondering whether Trump will actually follow through on his campaign-trail promise to “crush” their $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. (Wall Street Journal A1)

-- Congressional Democrats, divided and "struggling for a path from the electoral wilderness," are constructing an agenda to align with many of Trump’s proposals that put him at odds with his own party. From the New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer: “Democrats … face a profound decision after last week’s stunning defeat: Make common cause where they can with Mr. Trump to try to win back the white, working-class voters he took from them, or resist at every turn, trying to rally their disparate coalition in hopes that discontent with an ineffectual new president will benefit them in 2018. [Now] on infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with [Trump] and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles. What is not clear is whether Mr. Trump will hew to his stated agenda or turn it over to Republican lawmakers who seek a far more traditional conservative program.”

-- Joe and Jill Biden hosted Pence and his family for a get-together and lunch at the Naval Observatory, where the outgoing vice president pledged to be available to Pence “24-7” after leaving office. Biden, who said the two discussed foreign policy matters during their time together, also told reporters he was not worried that the incoming administration would dismantle the legacy he and Obama forged over the past eight years. “I think there’s a lot of things that were done where [people] can reach some accommodation,” he said. “It’s a whole new world.” (Juliet Eilperin)

-- Many pundits are, like Obama and Biden, convinced that Trump won't actually roll back what the administration has achieved. Frank Bruni is the latest example in today's Times: “My hunch? If some crafty Democrat drafts legislation to keep the Affordable Care Act as is but rechristen it Trumpcare, he’ll sign the bill in a nanosecond. He’s a man in thrall to ego, not policy. President Obama is betting on that. He’s suddenly professing faith in Trump — or, rather, playing a fascinating mind game in which he endeavors to save his legacy by complimenting Trump into compliance."

-- Fifteen journalism groups penned an open letter to Trump after the president-elect ducked his protective press pool to dine in Midtown Manhattan with his family. “The role of the press pool is critically important to our country, whose citizens depend on and deserve to know what the president is doing,” the letter reads.

As Dan Rather noted in a Facebook post: “Every President in recent memory has traveled with the press pool. It is there for a reason. [Trump] is no longer a private citizen. His actions and whereabouts effect all of us. If news breaks around him or involving him, it is the public's right to know about it. That is the nature of democracy. There are certain norms about the press and the presidency that are there for a reason … And the early signs from Trump are worrisome.”

A matryoshka doll with Trump's face is being sold by a street vendor in Kiev, Ukraine. (Roman Pilipey/EPA)

THE WORLD IS WATCHING:

-- “Ukrainians worry they’re the big losers in the U.S. election,” by Andrew Roth: “Vitaly Sych, the editor of the Ukrainian weekly Novoye Vremya, had readied a profile for only one candidate, Hillary Clinton, to run once the results came in on what he called ‘the most closely watched U.S. election by Ukrainians’ of all time. Then came the bombshell that echoed all the way from the Potomac to the Dnepr. If Russia was rooting for a Trump victory on election night, it stands to reason who wasn’t. ‘The big loser of the election is Ukraine,’ tweeted Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Moscow.  But one week after the election, the truth is that nobody here in government wants to discuss the things Trump said about Ukraine. Necessity, in this case, dictates thick skin and a timely bout of amnesia, as Kiev looks to make its case to the president-elect and his Republican Party.  [And] wishful thinking aside, Ukrainian officials are looking to tamp anxiety about a Trump term. “I am certain that his ego will drive him to show who is in charge,” said [parliament member] Victoria Voytsitska. “The rhetoric about Russia? I believe it was just to be different from the usual. In reality, he will start to show the muscles of the great country.”

-- President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel together delivered a rebuttal to the coming era of Trump, issuing a joint plea for more transatlantic cooperation on everything from security to climate change to the defense of a kinder, more inclusive world. From Anthony Faiola: “On his last overseas trip as president, Obama is currently meeting with Merkel, a centrist leader who observers see as the heir apparent to his legacy as the leading global advocate of liberal democracy. Ahead of a joint appearance later Thursday, the two penned an op-ed piece recognizing the painful side of freer trade along with a sober reality check. The two leaders never mention Trump by name. But their statements appeared to serve as a point-by-point refutation of some of the president-elect’s most contentious foreign policy pledges.” “The future is upon us, and we will never return to a pre-globalization economy,” they wrote.

President Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Shimon Peres in 2012. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

-- President Barack Obama named 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elouise Cobell (posthumous), Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Richard Garwin, Bill and Melinda Gates, Frank Gehry, Margaret H. Hamilton, Tom Hanks, Grace Hopper (posthumous), Michael Jordan, Maya Lin, Lorne Michaels, Newt Minow, Eduardo Padrón, Robert Redford, Diana Ross, Vin Scully, Bruce Springsteen and Cicely Tyson. The awards will be presented at the White House on November 22nd. (Read bios for all 21 recipients here.)

Darrell Issa arrives for a Republican caucus meeting. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

TYING UP LOOSE ENDS:

-- Several races remain too close to call. Amber Phillips looks at three:

Since getting elected in 2000, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has never won reelection in his San Diego/Orange County district with less than 58 percent of the vote. But Issa is now leading his Democratic challenger, Doug Applegate, 51 percent to 49 percent. The San Diego Union-Tribune says Issa is ahead by 4,630 votes, but the race isn't being called until tens of thousands of provisional ballots from the Orange County area are counted.

Rep. Ami Bera's (D-Calif.) 83-year-old father was sentenced to a year in jail just three months before the election for illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to his son's congressional campaigns. But the congressman's Republican challenger, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, had his own legal troubles when a deputy accused him of unwanted sexual advances. Bera leads Jones by just 2,583 votes out of more than 205,000 cast. Officials are trying to count 195,000 outstanding ballots. Republicans are confident enough that Jones in at new-member orientation in Washington this week.

On election night, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) declared victory in one of the most hotly contested races of 2016. But Gov. Pat McCrory (R) isn't giving up. He is waiting on thousands of provisional ballots to be counted, and his team is suggesting there may have been mistakes — even voter fraud — in a key Democratic county.

-- Martin O’Malley dropped out of the race for DNC chair, as Elizabeth Warren threw her support behind Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

-- 2018 WATCH: Karen Tumulty reports from the two-day Republican Governors’ Association conference in Orlando, where the GOP govs are "jubilant” about a Trump presidency and elected Scott Walker to be the new RGA chairman: “The governors are well aware that the collective fate of their party at the statehouse level could hinge on whether Trump succeeds in the early years of his presidency. But the map for them will be challenging in the 2018 midterm elections. Of the 36 states where governorships will be on the ballot, at least 15 will be open seats now held by Republicans.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Floyd Mayweather visited Trump:

The Bidens and the Pences shared lunch at the Naval Observatory:

A note on the incoming senators:

Elizabeth Warren spent some time with Kamala Harris:

Sesame Street got political on its Twitter account:

Many journalists were critical of the hosts of "Morning Joe" for seeming to downplay the importance of a protective press pool for Trump:

Here's how Joe Scarborough responded:

Here's the reason the pool matters:

Could this help Rudy Giuliani get the position of secretary of state?

Ari Fleischer cautioned observers about judging the progress of the transition at this stage:

The Richard Nixon presidential library is trying to soften Nixon's image, at least in the Los Angeles media market:

Jeff Merkley's office had a special visitor:

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Diner Buys Anti-Gay Family’s Dinner As Surprise Act Of Love,” from HuffPost: “A Texas woman gave a Christian family the surprise of their lives after she heard them engage in a post-election discussion rife with homophobic language at a restaurant near her home. Natalie Woods … [said she was eating at a local restaurant] when she overheard one of the three family members discussing how ‘disgusted’ he was after learning their ‘liberal’ nephew had come out as gay.  Once the other members of the group said they would ‘pray’ for Jesus to ‘cure’ their nephew, Woods decided to ‘actually act like the Jesus I grew up learning about.’ Rather than confront the family directly, however, she said she chose to ‘show love’ … and paid for their meal.  She left a handwritten note on the receipt, writing, ‘Happy holidays from the very gay, very liberal table sitting next to you. Jesus made me this way.’ She then added, ‘P.S. be accepting of your family.’”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Student wearing Trump hat, arguing with protesters, is punched, kicked to ground,” by Donna St. George: “A Maryland high school student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ cap was injured and taken to the hospital Wednesday morning after he scuffled with a group of anti-Donald Trump protesters who punched and kicked him … Police said the injured student … had joined hundreds of students who poured into the streets to speak out against [Trump] and the divisiveness of his remarks during the presidential campaign. About 10:30 a.m., as the students streamed up Maryland Avenue, a confrontation broke out between the student wearing the cap that had Trump’s campaign slogan on it and another student …Soon, four other students jumped in, and the student wearing the Trump hat was punched and kicked, [officers] said.”

DAYBOOK:

In Trump's world: The president-elect meets with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Adm. Mike Rogers and retired Gen. Jack Keane at Trump Tower, among others.

At the White House: Obama is in Germany, where he meets and holds a press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He'll spend the night in Berlin. In the evening, Biden attends a dinner in Washington hosted by the Colombian ambassador.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. to resume consideration of the motion to proceed to the American Energy and Conservation Act. The House meets at 9 a.m., with first and last votes expected by 11:45 a.m.

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- The last few days of our warm spell are here – so enjoy them while you can! Today’s Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Sunshine is the rule for the day, with clouds a rarity. Only light northwesterly breezes help make highs mainly in the lower 60s comfortable.”

-- A new FTA report estimates that Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance program will cost $118.8 million to complete — nearly twice its original $60 million price tag, and take at least three months longer to complete. Is anyone surprised? (Martine Powers)

-- Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer won the 2016 National League Cy Young Award, making him the sixth pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win both the National League and American League. (Chelsea Janes)

-- The Capitals beat the Penguins 7-1.

-- The Wizards lost to the Philadelphia 76ers 109-102.

-- D.C. police arrested an 18-year-old man after he reportedly robbed five taxi cab drivers of money, cell phones and credit cards in two neighborhoods in Northwest and Northeast. In each case, police said the suspect pretended to be a passenger who took out a gun and threatened the driver. (Peter Hermann)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

A pro-Trump surrogate, Carl Higbie, cited Japanese internment camps as “precedent” for a mandatory Muslim registry during an appearance last night on Fox News. Higbie said the registry proposal currently being discussed by Trump’s immigration advisers would be legal and would “hold constitutional muster.” “We did it during World War II with the Japanese,” said Higbie, a spokesman for the pro-Trump Great America PAC. When Kelly pushed back – “you’re not proposing we go back to the days of internment camps, I hope,” she said – he responded, “I’m not proposing that at all … But I’m just saying there is precedent for it.” Derek Hawkins has the story. Watch the exchange:

What if Putin sent Trump a large wooden horse? Stephen Colbert imagined it:

Colbert also imagined Priebus and Bannon as "The Odd Couple":

Seth Meyers walked through some of Trump's personnel decisions:

Meyers discussed Obamaacare's future with Sanjay Gupta:

Stevie Wonder performed the Star Spangled Banner:

The DNC is releasing a one-minute video today of young people reading offensive headlines on stories published by Breitbart when Stephen Bannon was in charge:

Three high-rises in New York CIty dropped the name "Trump Place" to avoid losing residents:

Three were injured when a food truck caught fire near GWU. Check out the charred remains: 

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is finally getting around to the acceptance phase of Deflategate, appearing to mock all the hubbub in a new commercial for Foot Locker: