So it should come as no surprise that the president-elect is now stocking the federal government with these generals and other people that he’s seen on TV and likes.
Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence have now met with 70 individuals about potential positions within the administration. The visitors to Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago and the Bedminster golf club in New Jersey can almost all be lumped into just a handful of food groups: Current or former members of Congress. CEOs/rich tycoons. Pillars of the Republican establishment. And, last but not least, cable pundits.
Yesterday, Trump sat down with CBS News analyst Frances Townsend, a former counterterrorism adviser to George W. Bush.
Today, he will meet with Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth. After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hegseth tried to run for U.S. Senate in Minnesota against Amy Klobuchar. His campaign went so poorly that he lost the GOP nomination to a random Ron Paul supporter, who went on to lose by 35 points. Afterward, Hegseth was hired to lead a Koch-funded group focused on veterans’ issues and then picked up by Fox in 2014. Now, at just 36, he’s being considered as a potential secretary of veterans affairs.
Scott Brown also came to Trump Tower last week to talk with Trump about the VA job. The former Massachusetts senator served just half of one term before losing to Elizabeth Warren. Then he moved to New Hampshire so he could run for Senate again — and lost. He served 35 years in the Army National Guard, but he’s never managed a large bureaucracy. Since his 2014 comeback bid failed, he’s worked at a bike shop and hawked dubious dietary supplements (which he claimed allowed him to lose 15 pounds in 24 days). But, much more importantly than that, he’s a Fox contributor and on-call guest host. He’s on “Fox & Friends” a fair amount, which Trump keeps on in the mornings.
After his meeting with the president-elect, the onetime male model told reporters that he thinks he is “the best person” for the VA job, which would require him to oversee a staff of 345,000 and a budget of more than $100 billion.
Trump is looking to all of these folks largely because he’s never forged deep relationships with the Republican establishment, and he has a greater sense of familiarity with them — even if many are not anywhere near the most qualified options for the jobs they’re being considered for.
Ironically, even as he derides the press, Trump is making these institutions more powerful since he relies on them so much and pays such close attention to what they’re saying.
At the end of last week, Trump nominated Kathleen T. McFarland to serve as the deputy national security adviser under Mike Flynn. She appeared frequently on Fox News and Fox Business as an analyst. She also anchored a program called “DEFCON3." But the last time she worked in government was more than three decades ago, as a Pentagon spokeswoman and speechwriter. McFarland tried to run against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2006, but she, too, lost in the Republican primary.
In the spring of 2011, then-Fox News chairman Roger Ailes (forced out this year after female employees accused him of sexual harassment) used McFarland as the go-between to encourage David Petraeus to turn down Barack Obama’s offer to run the CIA. Bob Woodward obtained the audio tape of a 90-minute meeting in Afghanistan, during which she told Petraeus that Ailes thought he should accept nothing less than the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And, if Obama did not offer that job, Petraeus should resign from the military and run for president. “McFarland also said that Ailes … might resign as head of Fox to run a Petraeus presidential campaign,” Woodward reported. “At one point, McFarland and Petraeus spoke about the possibility that Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corp., which owns Fox News, would ‘bankroll’ the campaign. ‘Rupert’s after me as well,’ Petraeus told McFarland.”
Yesterday, perhaps not coincidentally, Petraeus met with Trump about possibly becoming secretary of state or taking another top job in the new administration.
Fox News contributor John Bolton, who is routinely on the air, was also mentioned early on as a possible pick for State, though that buzz died down when key people expressed their displeasure to Trump.
Trump is considering Laura Ingraham and Monica Crowley, both on the Fox payroll, for the role of White House press secretary, according to several published reports. Ingraham, best known for her radio show, addressed the speculation on, where else, Fox News. “It’s a big decision, but I’m at the point where, if my country needs me, and if I can do something to actually advance the Trump agenda … then I obviously have to seriously consider that,” she told Tucker Carlson.
It typically works the other way around. Someone like Dana Perino earned her coveted Fox hosting gig after serving as White House press secretary.
Stephen Bannon, who will be the chief strategist in the White House, is not a cable talking head, but he ran Breitbart until August and he had his own radio show. And don’t forget all the pre-election chatter that Trump might launch an anti-establishment cable network of his own had he lost, with Bannon playing some role. (There was even at lease one meeting with a financier.)
The list goes on and on. Donald huddled with Jeanine Pirro (the host of Fox News’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine”), as well as (less surprisingly) Mike Huckabee, whose Saturday night show was canceled when he ran for president but who was re-signed as a contributor in April after he dropped out. Former Fox contributor Elaine Chao, a former labor secretary who is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), met with Trump last Monday afternoon.
Trump has also been meeting with people who are not employed by Fox or other channels but appear regularly. Last night, for instance, he sat down with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke — who is often on Fox in prime time. He’s ubiquitous enough on cable (and recognizable because he wears a cowboy hat) that a New York fire department captain, helping with security in the lobby of Trump Tower, fist bumped him on his way out the door.
The president-elect’s focus on cable talent has become so blatant in recent days that it’s become a punch line. On Fox News’s “The Five” last night, Greg Gutfeld joked that the new administration is emptying out the green rooms. “I'm looking at the roster so far,” Gutfeld told his co-hosts, scanning a list of people Trump has been meeting with. “You've got KT McFarland, Ben Carson, Bolton, Crowley, Huckabee [and] Scott Brown. These are all [Fox News Channel] mainstays. Are they going to replace the Supreme Court with ‘Outnumbered’? Does that make Clarence Thomas ‘one lucky guy’? I'm worried. We're not going to have anybody here anymore. … I’ll be hosting every show!” He added, “What becomes of Fox News?”
The office he’s about to assume has not changed the man, at least not yet. People who have been around Trump say he watches cable as much as ever. During his off-the-record meeting with 25 TV executives and anchors last week, he outlined grievances with coverage about him. Among them: He asked the president of NBC’s news division why the network only uses unflattering pictures of him, according to Politico's Hadas Gold. Last night, he retweeted anti-CNN messages posted by random people online.
Finally, Fox briefly suspended Newt Gingrich as a contributor after it became clear he was a finalist to be Trump’s running mate. But he was quickly reactivated after Trump picked Pence. The former speaker says he will not take a formal position in the new administration, but his stock has certainly risen because of his closeness with the incoming commander in chief. As has his number of television hits. Newt was on Sean Hannity’s show last night to again decry Mitt Romney, who crushed his presidential dreams in 2012, as a bad choice for secretary of state. With the backdrop of the Capitol, Gingrich said: "There is an enormous base that wanted to drain the swamp, and they see Romney as the swamp."
-- More palace intrigue: Trump released a statement yesterday saying that he green-lighted former campaign manager Kellyanne Conway's broadsides against Mitt Romney on the Sunday shows. “Kellyanne came to me and asked whether or not she could go public with her thoughts on the matter," he said in an email to the New York Times. "I encouraged her to do so. Most importantly she fully acknowledged there is only one person that makes the decision."
-- Amid the scrutiny of her influence, Conway posted this photo from Trump's office last night:
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Trump tapped Tom Price, a six-term Georgia congressman and outspoken Obamacare critic, as health and human services secretary. From Philip Rucker: Trump's selection of Price, who chairs the House Budget Committee, is expected to be publicly announced as early as today. “As HHS secretary, Price would become the Trump administration's point person on dismantling and replacing the Affordable Care Act, one of Trump's major campaign promises.… But after meeting with Obama in the Oval Office shortly following the election, he was convinced to perhaps keep some of the more popular elements of the law intact and amend the law rather than repeal it. In picking Price to fill a key Cabinet position, Trump will add to his team a veteran lawmaker who is close to [Paul Ryan]."
-- A charter plane carrying 81 people, including players from a rising Brazilian soccer team headed for a championship match, crashed en route to Medellín’s airport in Colombia on Monday night. From Fred Barbash, Samantha Schmidt and Dom Phillips: "At least five passengers survived and the rest were killed, Colombia’s aviation authority confirmed this morning. It was uncertain whether that was a final count, however, as the figures had fluctuated during the night. General José Acevedo, commander of Medellín police, told a Colombian radio station that 75 people had been killed at the site of the crash and six others had been injured and rescued from the scene. One of the rescued passengers died on the way to the hospital, Acevedo said. A local television station, Telemedellín, reported that a sixth survivor was rescued from the crash at about 5 a.m. Tuesday morning."
-- The Ohio State University student who injured 11 in a knife attack on campus before being fatally shot by police had written in a Facebook post shortly before the rampage that the abuse of a little-known Muslim community in Burma drove him to the “boiling point.” From Annie Gowen: More than 1 million Rohingya Muslims live in Burma, but they have long been denied citizenship and other basic rights. And in recent weeks, thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing into the forests and neighboring Bangladesh on the heels of a brutal military crackdown that followed a terror attack on police posts. Earlier this week, a U.N. refugee agency official was in the Bangladesh region of Cox’s Bazar — where more than 30,000, many of them Rohingya, have fled — and told the BBC that Burmese troops were "killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river" into Bangladesh. He said that the "ultimate goal" of the Burma government is "ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority." The attacker has been identified as 18-year-old Abdul Razak Artan. (Kathy Lynn Gray, Susan Svrluga, Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky have much more on what happened in Columbus.)
GET SMART FAST:
- A federal judge ruled that Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old accused of killing nine black parishioners at a Charleston church last year, can represent himself at a federal hate-crimes trial. The decision means that Roof could potentially confront directly survivors of the attack if they are called to testify in the case. (Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky)
- Texas officials confirmed the first case of the locally transmitted Zika virus in Brownsville, making the border town the second place in the continental United States to have the virus spread directly by mosquitoes. (Lena H Sun)
- The Lone Star State also announced it is requiring all fetal remains to be “properly buried or cremated” regardless of the period of gestation — garnering an intense outcry from pro-choice advocates, grieving mothers who lost children in utero or through miscarriages, and from medical providers, who have questioned who will foot the costly bill. (Texas Tribune)
- The Department of Education released new rules on how to judge schools in accordance with the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” the federal education law that replaced No Child Left Behind in 2015. It is unclear, however, whether a President Trump plans to abide by the contentious new set of regulations. (Emma Brown)
- Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has officially won reelection, narrowly edging out Democratic challenger Doug Applegate in a race that took weeks to tally. (AP)
- Democrats will have supermajorities in both chambers of the California legislature, after a Democratic candidate very narrowly won a tight state Senate race. That will let liberals push through big tax hikes, enact a far-reaching social agenda under an “emergency clause” and override Jerry Brown's vetoes. (LA Times)
- South Korean President Park Geun-hye issued a third national apology for her role in an influence-peddling scandal, saying she would resign if lawmakers vote to impeach her. The unexpected announcement means Park could step down from her post as early as this Friday, Anna Fifield reports.
- Jimmy Carter is urging Obama to grant diplomatic recognition to Palestine before his term ends, stressing the importance of securing a two-state solution because of continued settlement activity. “I am convinced that the United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents, but time is very short,” the former president writes in a New York Times op-ed today.
- Britain’s pro-Brexit party picked Paul Nuttall as its new leader, selecting the former top deputy to replace firebrand and Trump ally Nigel Farage as he seeks to carve out influence in the president-elect’s budding administration. (Brian Murphy)
- Italians are voting on a Constitutional amendment this weekend to help smooth gridlock in parliament and increase the rate of government efficiency. But unlike U.S. elections, voters won’t be compulsively refreshing polls or forecasting sites all day — in Italy, it’s illegal to publish polls during the final two weeks before a vote. (Anna Momigliano)
- A headless corpse served as a most unlikely arbitrator in a years-long land dispute between the Netherlands and Belgium, which was finally resolved on Monday after a tense, years-long dispute. (New York Times)
- Police are investigating the death of a Good Samaritan who was gunned down while trying to help a woman being beaten in the parking lot of a San Antonio Walmart. The 39-year-old had braved the Black Friday crowds to help his wife find a holiday outfit, she said, before attempting to step in and help the woman. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- A Japanese amusement park drew swift condemnation after unveiling its new ice-skating rink — which featured some 5,000 dead fish frozen into the ice. Photos of the now-shuttered exhibit showed some of the fish displayed with their heads partially protruding from the ice, while others were laid out in whimsical patterns (one spelled out the word ‘hello’!) (Amy B Wang)
HAPPENING THIS MORNING: At 9 a.m. Eastern, I’ll interview House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on what to expect from the Republican-led 115th Congress and during President-elect Trump’s first 100 days. Watch live here or on C-SPAN 3.
-- The president-elect remains “unswayed” by the public revolt over the possible choice of Mitt Romney for the State Department and continues to see his foe as a serious contender for the diplomatic post, Philip Rucker and John Wagner report.
Romney plans to have a private dinner tonight with Trump, who is said to be “intrigued” by the notion of reconciling with one of his fiercest Republican antagonists. But he wants assurances that Romney could be trusted to defend and promote Trump’s markedly different worldview.
More people in Trump’s orbit came out against Mitt. Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) blasted Romney as “a self-serving egomaniac who puts himself first, has a chip on his shoulder, and thinks that he should be president of the United States” on CNN.
Mike Pence is viewed as a Romney supporter, “believing that he has a steady hand that would benefit Trump in the turbulent world of diplomacy."
Romney and Rudy Giuliani were seen previously as “co-favorites," but Trump officials now say that Giuliani’s international business ties and consulting could prevent him from winning Senate confirmation.
-- Petraeus, who has emerged as a possible alternative for secretary of state, and whose tenure as CIA director ended amid revelations that he had an affair with his biographer, said he is taking a “wait and see” approach on serving in Trump’s administration. “I was with him for about an hour,” Petraeus told reporters after the meeting. “He basically walked us around the world. Showed a great grasp of a variety of the challenges that are out there and some of the opportunities as well. Very good conversation and we’ll see where it goes from here.” (Jerry Markon and Paul Kane)
Transition officials said Trump has long admired Petraeus and described his candidacy as formidable, despite the baggage he would carry into any confirmation hearings because of his 2015 conviction for mishandling classified information. (Remember when Trump made Hillary Clinton's mishandling of classified information, for which she was never charged with a crime, a central issue in the presidential campaign? That was earlier this month.)
-- A wrinkle: Just as the former CIA director met with Trump in New York yesterday, Defense Department officials confirmed to the AP that they are conducting a new leaks investigation related to the sex scandal that led to his resignation. "Investigators are trying to determine who leaked personal information about Paula Broadwell, the woman whose affair with Petraeus led to criminal charges against him and his resignation. The latest twist in the case could [resurface] details of the extramarital affair and FBI investigation that ended his career at the CIA."
-- Pence: “It’s going to be a busy week. Get ready. Buckle up.” Among those scheduled to drop by Trump Tower today: House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul.
TRUMP TAKES WASHINGTON:
-- Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner could face serious conflict-of-interest questions of his own — even if he only takes a role as an unpaid adviser to the president-elect. From the Wall Street Journal’s Peter Grant on A1: “The real-estate company [Kushner controls] … has hundreds of millions of dollars in loans outstanding from domestic and foreign financial institutions, markets condominiums to wealthy U.S. and foreign buyers and has obtained development financing through a controversial U.S. program that sells green cards. The president himself isn’t subject to the conflict-of-interest law, but all other government employees must follow it. Even if Mr. Kushner were to serve in the new administration as an unpaid adviser, his potential influence on policy would invite scrutiny, legal experts said.” Some wealthy individuals and business people who have joined previous administrations have sold stocks, bonds and a wide range of other assets to comply with conflict laws. “It’s a criminal statute so you don’t want to get too close to the line,” said former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter.
-- Democrats on the House Oversight Committee called on Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to launch a formal probe into Trump’s finances, asking (futilely) that the GOP’s top investigator request copies of Trump’s income tax returns and invite Trump aides to brief lawmakers on “their plans for protecting against conflicts of interest.” (Mike DeBonis)
-- White House officials urged Trump not to reverse Obama’s policies on Cuba, after Trump said in a tweet that he would “terminate” newly thawed U.S.-Cuba policy unless Havana is willing to make a “better deal” for Cubans and Americans. (He did not specify what he wanted or what he would do.) “It’s just not as simple as one tweet might make it seem,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest, noting that Monday marked the resumption of direct commercial flights between the United States and Havana for the first time in half a century. “There are significant diplomatic, economic [and] cultural costs that will have to be accounted for if this policy is rolled back.” (The Hill)
-- “Trump’s election suddenly created an awful lot of international Trump-branded targets for terrorists,” Philip Bump writes. “Protecting Trump Tower is relatively easy. Protecting a Trump-branded resort in Indonesia is something else entirely, and raises a slew of questions. How? Who?”
-- Wall Street Journal, “Will Political Reality Derail Markets’ Bet on Donald Trump?,” by Gerald F. Seib: “So far, the financial markets love the coming Trump presidency, and why not? They look at the combination of a big tax cut, big infrastructure spending and lower regulations … Less obvious is the implicit assumption the markets are making that two looming problems with all this stimulation won’t short-circuit the good times. But are the markets making a safe bet? Let’s look at each element in turn”:
- TAX CUTS: “Republicans have a working majority in the House, but barely hung on to their majority in the Senate. Still, with likely across-the-board Democratic opposition, it also leaves little margin for error.…”
- INFRASTRUCTURE SPENDING: In theory, everybody in Washington loves more infrastructure spending. In reality, there are enormous differences, between parties and within the GOP.… Can Mr. Trump use Republican votes to pass a big tax cut and then Democratic votes to get a big infrastructure plan through? Perhaps that is what an unorthodox president who essentially ran as an independent can do. But it will be trickier than it looks on the potholed surface.”
- TRADE WARS: “Trade tensions still lie ahead, and China is stepping into the free-trade void in Asia quite nicely, to the potential detriment of American companies. But visions of an all-out trade war aren’t as vivid as some feared.…”
- DEFICITS: “This is the big potential showstopper.… Look for a moment of truth in mid-2017, when a Republican president and a Republican Congress have to agree on a plan to raise the federal debt ceiling or face a market-rattling default.…”
-- New York Times, “Trump’s Promises Will Be Hard to Keep, but Coal Country Has Faith,” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg: “Appalachians are eyeing Washington with a feeling they have not had in years: hope. It is difficult for outsiders to fathom how deeply faith and work are intertwined here, or the economic and psychological depression that sets in when an entire region loses the only livelihood many of its people have ever known. Coal has always been boom and bust.… But in West Virginia alone, 12,000 coal industry jobs have been lost during [Obama's] tenure. In this land of staggering beauty and economic pain, Trump backers said over and over again that while coal might never be what it once was, the businessman they helped send to the White House could indeed put them back to work."
-- Some perspective on the favorability ratings of presidents-elect at this point in the past:
-- Trump and Jill Stein continued to raise competing doubts about the election results on Monday, with Trump's transition team voicing more unsubstantiated concerns about “voter fraud” and the Green Party candidate taking legal action to trigger a recount in Pennsylvania. From Sean Sullivan: “Trump was also officially declared the winner in Michigan by a slim margin. (Stein's team said it plans to demand a statewide hand-recount on Wednesday, in accordance with the 48-hour deadline to do so.) In Wisconsin, where Stein asked for a recount last week, elections officials on Monday announced a timeline and procedure for it.” In Pennsylvania, Stein's campaign said requests had been filed by voters in more than 100 precincts already.
“I really do think it’s ridiculous that so much oxygen has been given to recount efforts when there is absolutely no chance of the election results changing,” said Trump spokesman Jason Miller. “This election has been decided. It’s a conceded election.’’ (The Trump camp continues to dubiously cite two sources to back up its claims on voter fraud. Post Fact Checker Michelle Ye Hee Lee explains why neither actually backs up their argument.)
-- An airline passenger who went on an expletive-laden, pro-Trump rant has been banned from flying Delta for life. The incident is the latest in a string of political disputes to break out among passengers midair including one United Airlines flight in which a pilot was forced to ban all talk of politics completely.
-- A Texas Republican presidential elector resigned his post, saying he could not vote for a man whom he does not believe is “biblically qualified” to serve in the White House. “I will sleep well at night knowing I neither gave in to their demands nor caved to my convictions,” welding supply salesman Art Sisneros wrote in a blog post. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
-- Evansville, Indiana, police are investigating racist threats that were spray painted onto a black church last week, as the congregation hosted and fed nearly 300 people during its annual Thanksgiving feast for the needy. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
-- Hundreds of flag-waving veterans gathered at Hampshire College to protest the school’s decision to remove all flags, including the U.S. flag. (Peter Holley)
-- Former students at a North Dallas prep school have started an online petition protesting their ex-classmate Richard Spencer, a white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right” and who last week led a D.C. conference advocating for a whites-only state. Proceeds from the effort will benefit refugee resettlement efforts. (Amy B Wang)
-- Rolling Stone, “'Radically Mainstream': Why the Alt-Right Is Celebrating Trump's Win,” by Sarah Posner: “[Richard Spencer] says he sees Trump as a symbol, a vehicle for white aspirations, in much the same way so many projected their hopes and dreams onto Obama. What has been "legitimized," in the Alt-Right view, is the movement's central creation myth: that white people are being "dispossessed" in contemporary America. As he hungrily eats an omelet … Spencer begins to dream out loud. The Alt-Right ‘can plausibly say we are influencing Breitbart,’ he says – but now, in the wake of the Trump win, he can imagine, even predict, that Fox News will develop a show speaking directly to the movement. He imagines producing a series of white papers that would trickle up into conversations inside the White House.… 'That is influence, where people are thinking things that they had no idea who planted this in their head,' he says. 'It's planting ideas. People will come to the conclusions themselves, but the true influencer is the one who kind of helps them, that kind of leads them there.'"
-- “Angry Woman at Michaels Store Cries Discrimination for Being White, Voting Trump,” from Chicago Patch: “The offer of a $1 reusable bag erupted into a meltdown by a woman who proclaimed she had voted for [Trump] and was being discriminated against by African-American employees at a Chicago arts and crafts store. According to [a bystander,] the woman, who is white, went into a “30-minute racist rant complete with yelling and cursing and repeated references to the fact that both employees were African-American." “Yes, I voted for Trump, so there. You want to kick me out because of that? And look who won,” the customer yelled. The bystander and her son watched the scene for several minutes before she began recording the yelling customer, which she wanted to document to ensure store employees would not get in trouble.
-- If you read one thing --> Joby Warrick has an awesome piece on the rise and fall of a top Islamic State leader: “For a man given to fiery rhetoric and long-winded sermons, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani became oddly quiet during his last summer as the chief spokesman for the Islamic State. The Syrian who exhorted thousands of young Muslims to don suicide belts appeared increasingly obsessed with his own safety.… He banished cellphones, shunned large meetings and avoided going outdoors in the daytime. He began sleeping in crowded tenements … betting on the presence of young children to shield him from the drones prowling the skies overhead. But in late August, when a string of military defeats suffered by the Islamic State compelled Adnani to briefly leave his hiding place, the Americans were waiting for him. The Aug. 30 missile strike was the culmination of a months-long mission targeting one of the Islamic State’s most prominent [and] most dangerous — senior leaders. At least six high-level Islamic State officials have died in U.S. airstrikes in the past four months … all but erasing entire branches of the group’s leadership chart.... The loss of senior leaders does not mean that the Islamic State is about to collapse, [U.S. officials caution]. … But the deaths point to the growing sophistication of a targeted killing campaign built by the CIA and the Defense Department over the past two years for the purpose of flushing out individual leaders who are working hard to stay hidden.”
-- “The mounting death toll in Mosul forces questions about the battle plan,” by Kareem Fahim, Missy Ryan and Mustafa Salim: “Civilian and military casualties are mounting as misery spreads in Mosul six weeks after the Iraqi army launched an offensive to capture the city from the Islamic State. Nearly 600 civilians have been killed, according to one estimate, along with dozens of Iraq’s elite, U.S.-trained special forces soldiers.… The carnage has slowed the army’s advance and revived debate about the wisdom of the battle plan, which envisioned Mosul’s residents sheltering in their homes — a means, it was hoped, of staving off a mass dislocation and the city’s destruction. They also say their U.S. allies are urging them to consider steps that could ease the civilian toll but also hasten a shared victory [in the waning days] of the Obama administration.… But with the Islamic State intentionally targeting civilians, any plan to evacuate them was fraught with risk. ‘If they suffer, it will be on us,’” said Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridhi.
-- “Out of loyalty, obligation, or perhaps a bit of both, Cubans lined up for hours Monday to pay respects to Castro in a hushed procession that was tightly choreographed by their government,” Nick Miroff files from Havana. “Shuffling forward in three columns … the tribute had a dutiful feel, with nothing left to chance. Castro evolved over his half-century in power, and the swaggering, infallible figure he projected as a younger man gave way to something less imposing as he went gray and his lofty socialist ideals crashed into economic ruin. Over the years, many younger Cubans came to see him like a stubborn, grandfatherly figure whose musings on history and geopolitics were divorced from the grinding struggles of their daily lives. [And] just as Castro’s one-party state imposed ideological and political conformity, the public response to his death on Friday night at age 90 has been a kind of state-directed emotional uniformity."
-- “How the far right is trying to woo an unlikely ally — Jews,” by Anthony Faiola: “Attendees gathered this month inside Vienna’s opulent Grand Hotel for an extraordinary event billed as the ‘New Anti-Semitism Conference.’ The Israeli superspy who hunted down war criminal Adolf Eichmann flew in for the occasion, timed to commemorate the 1938 night when the Nazis stormed Jewish synagogues and businesses. What made the event truly remarkable, however, was its sponsor: Austria’s Freedom Party — a far-right movement founded in part by former Nazis and now on the cusp of capturing this nation’s presidency. ‘They are one of the most pro-Israel parties in Europe,’ insisted Michael Kleiner, … a former member of the Israeli parliament. Newly energized by the presidential victory of Trump, far-right and anti-establishment forces are pushing into the mainstream on both sides of the Atlantic. As they do, many are seeking to neutralize one of their oldest and most debilitating labels: as anti-Semites.…”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Here's an update from Trump's Twitter feed, starting with this threat to the Cuban regime:
Trump complimented David Petraeus after their meeting at Trump Tower:
He then proceeded to go after CNN by retweeting random people's attacks on correspondent Jeff Zeleny (including a teenage kid's):
A staff writer at The New Yorker made this chilling accusation:
Ivanka Trump was excited her husband, Jared Kushner, made the cover of Forbes:
The Capitol Christmas tree arrived:
Lawmakers are posting snow pictures:
Jennifer Palmieri is looking forward to catching Hillary Clinton on a hiking trail soon:
This letter to the editor is going viral:
In Trump's world: Trump meets with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.); Pete Hegseth, president of Concerned Veterans of America; Marion Blakey, president of Rolls-Royce North America; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-Tenn.); House Homeland Security Committee Chair Mike McCaul (R-Texas); Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.); and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
At the White House: Obama visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Harry Reid had a private dinner at the White House last night with the president and vice president.
On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and begins consideration of the ECHO Act and the Alexander substitute amendment at 11 a.m. The House meets at 2 p.m. for legislative business, with 16 suspension votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former Iowa governor, compares Democrats to a tree that “looks healthy on the outside, but is in the throes of slow and long-term demise.” “Democrats need to talk to rural voters,” Vilsack told Greg Jaffe. “They can’t write them off. They can’t ignore them. They actually have to spend a little time talking to them."
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- “Waves of rain showers remain likely through much of the day,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “…You’ll want to plan on keeping an umbrella handy throughout [the day]. Despite the clouds and the rain, we should get into the warm air of a storm system to the west. It might even feel a little muggy as temperatures rise from near 60 to perhaps as high as the mid-60s. Winds are from the south around 10 mph.
-- D.C. Council members are voting on whether to pass the most generous family leave law in the country. The measure, which dwarfs the most progressive efforts passed in California and New Jersey, would allow new parents for 11 weeks off with up to 90 percent pay. The proposal – which will be voted on tonight, as well as later in December – is expected to draw wide majority support. (Aaron C. Davis)
-- The Wizards beat the Kings 101-95.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Kathy Griffin walked through how she's preparing for Trump's presidency:
Seth Meyers compiled his favorite jokes of the week:
Celebrities -- including Gloria Estefan and Colin Kaepernick -- reacted to Fidel Castro's death:
Scott Walker thanked residents of his state for a successful deer hunting season:
Reindeers in Japan auditioned for a pizza delivery job: