The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Daily 202: Trump’s pollster says he ran a ‘post-ideological’ campaign

Donald Trump applauds after finishing his speech in Cincinnati, Ohio, last Thursday night. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

with Breanne Deppisch


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Donald Trump won more because of strength than ideology.

The shouting match between top advisers to the president-elect and Hillary Clinton’s senior staff overshadowed several other compelling conversations during last week’s post-election conference at Harvard's Kennedy School.

One revealing exchange came during a panel of the campaign managers for the Republican primary candidates. As they mulled over Trump’s surprising appeal to evangelicals, Trump’s pollster jumped into the conversation with an important window into the winner’s thinking.

“Everybody in this room needs to pull their head out of their a**es,” said Tony Fabrizio. “We really live in a world where everybody thinks that ideology is linear, and that, ‘if you answer these 10 questions correctly, that makes you a conservative.’ But not every conservative is pro-life. Not every conservative is anti-gay marriage. Not every conservative puts 100 percent emphasis on this or that.”

“One of the problems is many people tried to look at the Donald Trump phenomenon through the ideological lenses which had defined previous Republicans presidential nominating contests,” Fabrizio added. “Donald Trump is post-ideological. His movement transcends ideology.… Through his own antennae — and, trust me, many times I had this conversation with him — Donald Trump understood the fold in American politics. It’s the reason so many Trump supporters and so many [Bernie] Sanders supporters agreed on so many things.”

Trump insisted early in his campaign that he did not need a pollster because they are a waste of money. But he signed Fabrizio in the days after securing the Republican nomination in May. The veteran operative polled for Rand Paul in the primaries, but he has worked for clients from across the GOP coalition (from the U.S. Chamber and Bob Dole to Rick Scott and Matt Bevin).

“Every time he said something … and doubled down, that was proof to voters he’d speak his mind and not lie to them. It’s what they wanted,” Fabrizio said of Trump. “His best group of voters were those who said they were ‘angry.’ And let me tell you, in the Republican primary, a third of voters would tell you they were outright angry. With another 60 percent telling you they were dissatisfied. So he had a rich pool to tap into.”

-- Policy didn’t matter. “What we missed was that nobody cared about solutions,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who managed Mike Huckabee’s campaign until he dropped out, then joined Trump’s operation as a consultant soon after.They just wanted to burn it all down. They didn’t care about building it back up. They wanted to burn it to the ground and then figure out what to do with the ashes afterwards. There was no understanding of this electorate and the anger on the front end in terms of just how pissed off they were. You may have the best policy in the world to get every single American the best job they’ve ever had. Nobody cared.”

-- Experience didn’t matter. From Marco Rubio campaign manager Terry Sullivan: “We got hit with commercial after commercial about how little experience [Marco had] and how many missed votes in the Senate. It didn’t matter. People don’t care. The Senate sucks. Why would we want to be there? We’re not voting. Who cares? And voters bought into that. Experience was a liability. It was not an asset. We figured that out early, but Trump took it to the next level.”

-- Ben Carson’s campaign manager, Barry Bennett, argued that Trump’s success was always more about strength than ideology. “We went to Iowa for three or four days before we started and did a bunch of focus groups to try to figure out what people wanted,” he recalled. “I thought Ben’s lack of government experience was going to be a negative. Well, it wasn’t. But what they wanted more than anything else was strength. And Trump was the one that they thought had that.”

Bennett fondly recalled the stretch when his client was riding at the top of the polls. In addition to self-inflicted wounds from a power struggle inside the campaign, he believes that the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris made it impossible for someone with the retired neurosurgeon’s personality to secure the nomination. “We couldn’t really believe it, to tell you the truth,” Bennett told the group. “The first six weeks of the fourth quarter we raised $22 million. We were going gangbusters, and then we ran into Paris, Armstrong Williams and a couple other issues. In the next six weeks of the fourth quarter, we raised $1.5 million. … There was an opportunity for a nice outsider to win until Paris came, and then all of a sudden [voters] needed ‘strength’ again.”

-- All three people who ran the Trump campaign noted, to varying degrees, the billionaire’s lack of a fixed ideology. While his rivals for the nomination were playing multi-dimensional chess, Trump kept winning by playing checkers. In retrospect, there is something so skillfully simple about a message that defied easy categorization. He could never be placed in one of the “lanes” operatives talk so much about: tea party, establishment, social conservative, libertarian or hawk.

Corey Lewandowski: “We didn’t have a traditional campaign of coalitions. It was the same message for everybody: … ‘I’m going to make America great again.’ … With all due respect to Jeb (Bush), he had three of four different launches. There was Jeb 2.0, Jeb 2.5 (and) Jeb 3.0. We just stuck on the same message the entire time. It was so simplistic, and it didn’t target any specific demographic. … We didn’t have this notion where, ‘We have to go win evangelicals in South Carolina to be successful.’”

Paul Manafort:They always tried to pigeonhole him. They’d say, ‘He’s talking to white working men’ or ‘He’s talking to uneducated older people.’ … He had a sense of the country that no other candidate had, and he knew what was bothering the country. So everybody would fixate on the (John) McCain comment, but he was talking about the veterans and how they’re not treated right. … He was talking about terrorists coming into the country and not being vetted, with people being afraid to walk down the streets. The media heard ‘Muslims.’ You can go through almost any one of the ‘faux pas,’ so to speak, and you’ll see the underlying message he was talking about was resonating.”

Kellyanne Conway: “This is the first time that Republicans have resisted the fiction of ‘electability’ from early in the primary.”

-- Could Trump ever have been stopped? “At a certain point, probably August (2015), Trump was Godzilla walking into the power plant,” answered David Kochel, Bush’s chief strategist. “Everybody thought he’d blow up, and he just got stronger every time. He touched the third rail. He touched the fourth rail. He touched the fifth rail. He kept growing. He kept getting bigger. The feedback loop was kind of unstoppable by then. You would have had to define him out of the race real early. Jeb’s ‘chaos candidate’ frame was a late shot that didn’t do that. If you could have hung that big concept around him in July, maybe it would have been different.”

Trump’s GOP rivals now all acknowledge the collective action problem that led them to ignore the first-time candidate – hoping someone else would knock him off – until it was too late. “I thought it was a reality TV gimmick,” said Sullivan, Rubio’s manager. “I didn’t think he’d even necessarily stick in the race. In a lot of previous election cycles, no one maintains a lead as the frontrunner that long. So I assumed, somewhat wrongly, that gravity would take course. Why would I engage in a fight with a skilled knife-fighter? Let someone else go and attack him.”

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).

Sign up to receive the newsletter.


Former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson is now President Trump's housing and urban development secretary. Here's what you need to know about him. (Video: Sarah Parnass, Osman Malik/The Washington Post)

-- Trump announced this morning that he will nominate Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. " the president-elect’s highest profile African American supporter and confidant. A conservative political celebrity, the 65-year-old Carson recently cast doubt on his suitability for a Cabinet role, saying he would be 'like a fish out of water' as a federal bureaucrat," write Elise Viebeck and Karoun Demirjian. "A review of some of Carson’s political commentary on housing policy reveals his views to be at odds with some of the anti-segregation policies championed by minority groups, including the NAACP. On at least one occasion, he criticized efforts by the Obama administration to use its regulatory powers to improve racial integration in housing.”

The army announced Sunday that it would not grant an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. (Video: Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)

-- The Army announced that it will not approve an easement necessary to permit the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, marking a monumental victory for the Native American tribes and thousands of others who have flocked in recent months to protest the oil pipeline. From Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson: “Officials in November had delayed the key decision, saying more discussion was necessary about the proposed crossing, given that it would pass very near the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose leaders have repeatedly expressed fears that a spill could threaten the water supplies of its people. … The decision averts a possible showdown on Monday, the date the Army Corps, which owns land on either side of the lake, had set for cutting off access to the protesters’ camp. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, worried about violence, had sent mediators to the area over the weekend.”

But the victory for the Standing Rock Sioux and its allies could be short-lived: “Trump has vowed to support pipelines such as this one. And Kelcy Warren, the chief executive of the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners, has been a major contributor to the Republican Party and Trump’s campaign. … Trump, who once owned a stake worth between $500,000 and $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners, has sold the shares, his spokeswoman Hope Hicks said.”

-- INSTABILITY IN EUROPE: Italy’s prime minister resigned, the latest victim of 2016’s populist tidal wave that already gave the west Brexit and Trump. From Michael Birnbaum and Anthony Faiola: “Europe’s embattled political establishment lost another round Sunday in its effort to thwart the anti-elite movement, as Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned after voters rejected his constitutional reforms. The thorough rejection of Renzi’s referendum to streamline lawmaking was a significant boost for the country’s surging populist forces … Renzi’s loss also risks unleashing financial upheaval in Europe’s third-largest economy as Italy’s weak banks struggle to contain the fallout.”

What’s next? “A populist takeover of Italy is still an uncertain prospect, since Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party remains in control of Parliament and national elections do not have to be called until 2018. But much will depend on the makeup of the next government and how anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic parties capitalize on their success,” Michael and Anthony note. “Italy, which has had 63 governments in the past 70 years, is no stranger to political chaos. What comes next will depend partially on Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who is charged with picking a new person to try to form a government, as well as with deciding whether to hold early elections. … In the wake of Renzi’s resignation, Italy’s mainstream political parties are likely to change voting laws to make it more difficult to rule without a wide coalition, diluting the possibility that an insurgent force could seize power in the next elections.”

The Trump fan you should keep an eye on now, via Rick Noack: “When Beppe Grillo started to make headlines as the leader of Italy's biggest protest party six years ago, it was hard to avoid the puns. A comedian turned politician, Grillo was laughed at and branded a ‘clown.’ But by 2013, the laughing subsided, and German magazine Der Spiegel already had called him ‘the most dangerous man in Europe.’ Three years later, he may finally be living up to that description … Renzi's resignation could ultimately sweep Grillo's left-leaning and anti-establishment Five Star Movement party into power … Grillo has for years advocated a referendum on Italy's eurozone membership status.” Grillo and Trump are frequently being compared in Europe. The Italian comedian himself made such remarks during an interview following Trump's victory: “Our movement has some similarities,” he said. “We became the first political movement in Italy, and the media didn't even realize it.”

-- But, but, but: A center-left presidential candidate in Austria handily defeated his far-right challenger yesterday. The victory in Austria of an elder statesman formerly of the Green Party suggested the limits to the anti-elite anger. Many thought the far-right nationalist would win, and the result might be the biggest boost the E.U. has received in a while because polls show the electorate is more Eurosceptic than most of its neighbors.

-- A remarkable visualization of just how fast the populist movement has swept the west:

Authorities in Oakland, Calif., say dozens of people have died in a fire that broke out during a party at warehouse that served as an art and music venue. (Video: Claritza Jimenez, Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)


  1. The death toll in the Oakland warehouse fire has risen to at least 33. The artists’ collective, which past visitors describe as a tinderbox, was hosting a synth-pop concert late Friday night when something went horrifically wrong. (Tim Bontemps, Amy B Wang, Kristine Guerra and Jasper Scherer)
  2. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Pearl Harbor with President Obama later this month, becoming the first Japanese leader to visit the site of the attack on Hawaii 75 years ago. The joint visit comes as reciprocation after Obama went to Hiroshima in August. The prime minister's move will anger the more conservative forces in his right-wing government. (Anna Fifield)
  3. A federal judge ordered Michigan election officials to begin a massive hand recount of 4.8 million ballots cast in the presidential election at noon today. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a ruling just after midnight in favor of Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who sought to let election officials bypass a two-business-day waiting period that would have delayed start of the recount until Wednesday morning. ( The Detroit News)

  4. Bloomberg Philanthropies, which is already the largest funder of tobacco-control efforts in the developing world, will announce today an additional $360 million commitment to the effort, bringing Mike Bloomberg’s total contribution to nearly $1 billion. (Ariana Eunjung Cha)

  5. In the College Football Playoff semifinals on Dec. 31, No. 1 Alabama will play No. 4 Washington in Atlanta and No. 2 Clemson will play No. 3 Ohio State in Glendale, Ariz. The winners will play Jan. 9 for the national title in Tampa. The committee left out Penn State despite the team’s victory in Saturday night’s Big Ten championship. ( Adam Kilgore)

  6. Fidel Catro was laid to rest yesterday in a private, closed-door funeral. His tomb is a hulking, 2.6-ton granite boulder set among the mausoleums of Cuba’s most exalted national heroes. His brother and successor Raúl Castro placed a wooden box with Castro’s ashes in a hollow cavity inside the stone. (Nick Miroff)

  7. Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Israel is “heading to a place of danger” because settlement growth is eroding chances for a two-state solution and peace with the Palestinians. “Using unusually blunt language at the Saban Forum, an annual symposium on Israel at the Brookings Institution, Kerry said he had been ‘pushing uphill’ with the Israeli government because a majority of the ruling coalition does not support a two-state solution,” Carol Morello reports. “The Israelis have been fearful that President Obama in the waning days of his term will lay out binding parameters for two states … Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition partners have failed to heed his admonition to not provoke Obama. … Kerry said the Obama administration has not yet decided whether to spell out its vision.”

  8. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his aging coterie of loyalists consolidated power and ousted rivals during a six-day party congress. He emerged last night in firm control of his party, which nominally rules the Palestinian villages and towns of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. His success means a continuation of the status quo, William Booth notes from Ramallah.

  9. The vice president of the Philippines resigned her post as housing secretary in the cabinet after citing irreconcilable differences with President Rodrigo Duterte, who had banned her from attending Cabinet meetings. She spoke in a statement of “major differences in principles and values” with the brash-talking president and an unspecified plot to remove her from the vice presidency. ( AP)

  10. New Zealand’s popular Prime Minister John Key stunned the nation this morning when he announced, in a breaking voice, that he will resign after eight years as leader. Key had been widely expected to contest his fourth general election next year. But he said he wanted to ensure he didn’t make the mistake that some other world leaders have done, and instead wanted to leave while he was on top of his game. (AP)

  11. Citing a national security risk, President Obama blocked a Chinese investor’s proposed takeover of Aixtron SE, a German maker of semiconductor manufacturing equipment. The rare move drew objections from Beijing. ( AP)

  12. A Florida man called a Miami Beach church that had helped him to say he had obtained an assault rifle and planned to attack the Sunday service because it was too friendly to the LGBT community. He declared that he’d kill more people than died in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Police arrested the man at his apartment after an altercation. (Cleve Woodson Jr.)
  13. A University of Southern California student stabbed and killed the psychology professor who served as his mentor, following what was described as a “personal dispute” on campus Friday afternoon. David Jonathan Brown, a 28-year-old brain and cognitive science student, is being held on $1 million bail. (Cleve Woodson Jr.)


-- Uncertain business leaders, nervous about attacks on offshoring, think Trump could be the second coming of Teddy Roosevelt. Tom Hamburger interviewed several lobbyists, board room consultants and trade association executives. He sends this curtain-raiser for the 202:

Dozens of the country's leading CEOs will be streaming to Washington this week for the quarterly meeting of the elite Business Roundtable, which represents the executives of the country's leading multinational companies, many of which have been considering expanded production overseas.

The BRT meeting officially opens Wednesday. On Tuesday, the leader of the organization, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, will hold a press conference with the group's president, former Gov. John Engler, whose friends in the auto industry are particularly unnerved by the threats of Trump to impose tariffs on goods that American firms import from overseas factories.

The BRT executive committee includes CEOs whose companies have become well known for using offshore labor, such as Virginia Rometty of IBM and Ursula Burns of Xerox.

Although details of BRT meetings and receptions have not been released, it is expected that a number of incoming Trump administration officials will participate, along with senior officials from the Obama administration.

-- Late Friday night, Trump took aim on Twitter at a second manufacturer that plans to move jobs from Indiana to Mexico:

Then, yesterday, the president-elect posted a storm of tweets threatening to punish any U.S. company that sends jobs overseas:

-- This kind of rhetoric has created a new level of nervousness. “Sure, there is some concern in some board rooms, just as there was fear under Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican and a trust buster," said Richard Hohlt, a longtime Republican consultant who has advised big banks and supported Trump this fall. Hohlt is telling corporate clients to be prepared for a different kind of presidency: “There is a new sheriff in town, and he is already showing that he will be a president who will do what he said he would do. If you are a CEO planning to move your plants to Mexico, you know how this president will react to that.”

Nina Gross, a managing director of BDO Consulting in Washington, said that many CEOs she talks with are heartened by Trump’s early cabinet picks – including Wilbur Ross for Commerce and Steven Mnuchin for Treasury – which signals that the rhetoric used before the election was hyperbole. “This is no longer a campaign,” said Gross, who did not back Trump in the primary or general but now expressed admiration for some of his personnel moves. "These are not crazy people. … And that's a clear signal that Trump will not blow the world up."

Mnuchin and Ross have already moved to soften some of Trump’s most explosive proposals. As Sean Sullivan and Ylan Q. Mui reported yesterday, both men said they would pursue bilateral trade agreements with other countries. Ross also said that Trump’s threatened double-digit tariffs on goods from Mexico and China would be imposed only as a last resort.

A third person familiar with the mood in the executive suites of major corporations said that, even before Trump’s visit to Indianapolis on Thursday and his stream of tweets this weekend, CEOs of leading companies were “on high alert.” Many of the 75 to 100 CEOs coming to Washington have been watching Trump’s interactions with other CEOs very closely. “And now they are asking ‘who’s next?’” said one corporate adviser,

This is a particularly sensitive moment for any multinational corporation with facilities overseas. While there is always nervousness about a new administration, he said that Trump’s “populist corporate activism” is different. “It is uncharted territory,” the source explained. “They are getting nervous, and some CEOs are asking whether they can get a better deal” to stay in the U.S.

D.C. police on Dec. 4 detained a gunman who had walked into Comet Ping Pong, a popular Northwest Washington restaurant and music venue. (Video: Faiz Siddiqui, Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post, Photo: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

WORDS MATTER – FAKE NEWS HAS REAL-LIFE CONSEQUENCES: “A North Carolina man was arrested Sunday after he walked into a popular pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington carrying an assault rifle and fired one or more shots, D.C. police said. The man told police he had come to the restaurant to ‘self-investigate’ a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign,” Faiz Siddiqui and Susan Svrluga report.

-- The fake story, which went viral online in the weeks before the election, claimed that HRC and John Podesta were running a child sex ring from the backrooms of the popular family restaurant, near Connecticut and Nebraska avenues NW in the Chevy Chase neighborhood. The restaurant’s owner and employees were threatened on social media and received death threats. (BuzzFeed looked last month at  how the false rumor spread online.)

-- How yesterday's incident went down: Police said 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, N.C., walked in the front door of Comet Ping Pong around 3 p.m. and pointed a firearm in the direction of a restaurant employee. “The employee was able to flee and notify police. Police said Welch proceeded to discharge the rifle inside the restaurant; they think that all other occupants had fled when Welch began shooting. Welch has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. Police said there were no reported injuries. … Interim D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said cops safely arrested Welch about 45 minutes after he entered the restaurant. Police recovered two firearms inside the restaurant; an additional weapon was recovered in Welch’s car.”

-- Michael Flynn, the retired general whom Trump has tapped to be his national security adviser, shared stories online about another anti-Clinton conspiracy theory involving pedophilia. None of them were true. But the fake stories and threats persisted, some even aimed at children of Comet Ping Pong employees and patrons. The restaurant’s owner was forced to contact the FBI, local police, Facebook and other social-media platforms in an effort to remove the articles. Bradley Graham, a co-owner of Politics & Prose, said he was told that the gunman walked into the kitchen at Comet Ping Pong, “presumably looking for the alleged tunnels” where children were hidden and tortured.

-- A chorus of powerful Washingtonians expressed outrage at the Trump people who so recklessly circulated these fake stories:

-- Another chilling illustration of the Trump Effect on our politics, via Politico Magazine’s Michael Grunwald: “One conservative Republican congressman who actually supported Trump’s candidacy told me his office was deluged with furious callers after he once dared to criticize Trump during the campaign. He called back one woman in her sixties who owned a vacation home in his district and had donated to his campaigns. He said the chat turned ugly in a hurry, until she said she had just three things to say to him. ‘First: Go f*** yourself. Second: I’m going to raise $75,000 to find a primary challenger to take you out. And third: Go f*** yourself.’ The congressman thought that would be the end of it, but the woman then went on Facebook and posted an account of their conversation, along with his cell phone number. For the next several weeks, Trump supporters called him at all hours to repeat his donor’s first and third recommendations. ‘I’m telling you, the demons have been unleashed,’ the congressman told me. ‘And they’re not going away.’”

-- “In Mr. Pence’s new D.C. neighborhood, not exactly the welcome wagon,” by Ian Shapira: “When news filtered out in late November that Mike Pence was temporarily moving into the white colonial with green shutters on Tennyson Street NW (in Chevy Chase) … neighbors decided to greet the Republican interloper with polite protest: rainbow flags flapping from their homes. … ‘I thought it would send a message in an appropriate way. One idea was to put a ‘Chevy Chase ❤ Hillary’ banner, but we thought that would be too in-your-face,’ said Joanna Pratt, 66, an environmental consultant who came up with the idea and lives across the street from Pence. Now, at least seven homes on the street boast the flags — a response to Pence’s opposition over the years to equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” (Clinton got 85 percent in this precinct.)


-- One of Clinton's top allies, writer and strategist David Brock, will begin a two-day conference of Democratic lawmakers and liberal organizers in Washington this morning with a fiery call to arms and demand for an independent audit of the party's 2016 efforts. Matea Gold has a first look at the text of his remarks: “Hillary’s loss has exposed a collapse of power for the Democratic Party,” Brock is set to tell a gathering hosted by the State Innovation Exchange. The exchange, known as SiX, is seeking to help Democrats regain power in the states by serving as a hub for strategy and training. “The truth is, our party faces a crisis of competence at all levels,” Brock is set to tell the group. “Progressive politics in America is an organizational disaster.”

In his speech, Brock calls for party leaders to appoint an independent commission to audit the work done by Democrats up and down the ballot this cycle, and to publicly release the results of the report. “We can’t have a coherent or effective road map forward unless and until we have a mutual understanding of what happened last cycle, and an accepted conclusion of where we can do better and how,” he will say.

-- A major Republican donor says Trump personally expressed support for ousting the chairman of the Ohio GOP, a close ally of John Kasich, as he seeks another term next month. From the Columbus Dispatch: “Matt Borges survived a closed-door gathering of the Ohio Republican Party's central committee Friday, but he is now facing a direct challenge … backed by President-elect Trump. In an email to committee members, Jane Murphy Timken, vice chairman of the Stark County Republican Party, said: ...  ‘Last week, I spoke with President-elect Trump and he agrees that it is time for a leadership change at the ORP.’ … The Trump campaign officially divorced itself from the state GOP leadership in mid-October. The party's No. 2 leader then created a fake Twitter account in an attempt to ridicule Trump's Ohio campaign chairman.”

Jia Lynn Yang explains the back story on relations between the U.S., China, and Taiwan, and the ramifications of Friday's telephone call. (Video: Alice Li, Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)


-- “Trump’s protocol-breaking telephone call with Taiwan’s leader was an intentionally provocative move,” Anne Gearan, Phil Rucker and Simon Denyer scoop. “The historic communication — the first between leaders of the United States and Taiwan since 1979 — was the product of months of quiet preparations and deliberations among Trump’s advisers about a new strategy for engagement with Taiwan that began even before he became the Republican presidential nominee, according to people involved in or briefed on the talks. The call also reflects the views of hard-line advisers urging Trump to take a tough opening line with China.”

Some critics portrayed the move as the thoughtless blundering of a foreign policy novice, but other experts said it appeared calculated to signal a new, robust approach to relations with China. China reacted sternly to the Taiwan call, suggesting that it shows Trump’s inexperience. But Gordon Chang, an Asia expert and author of “ The Coming Collapse of China,” said Trump’s tweet Friday night that he had just accepted a call from Tsai was “not credible”: “This has all the hallmarks of a prearranged phone call. It doesn’t make sense that Tsai out of the blue would call Donald Trump. She is not known for taking big leaps into the unknown, and it would be politically embarrassing when it was learned that she called Trump and he would not take her call.”

Reince Priebus says Donald Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s leader Tsai Ing-wen was “not a massive deviation of our policy.” (Video: Reuters)

-- Several leading members of Trump’s transition team are considered hawkish on China and friendly toward Taiwan, especially incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus: He visited Taiwan with a Republican delegation in 2011 and in October 2015, meeting Tsai before she was elected president. Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lee called him a friend of Taiwan and said his appointment as Trump’s chief of staff was ‘good news’ for the island. Ed Feulner, former president of the Heritage Foundation, has for decades cultivated extensive ties with Taiwan, and he is also an adviser to Trump’s transition team.

-- MORE CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: Ivanka Trump's presence at her dad's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe struck some as odd. It turns out that the soon-to-be first daughter is nearing a licensing deal with the Japanese apparel giant Sanei International, both parties told The New York Times. “The largest shareholder of Sanei’s parent company is the Development Bank of Japan, which is wholly owned by the Japanese government. ... Discussions for the deal have been active for about two years, Ms. Trump’s company said. In that time, she has become something of a local fascination. 'At the moment,' said Sayumi Gunji, a lifestyle-magazine editor who attended the viewing, 'Ivanka is even more popular here than Mr. Trump.’ ... Ms. Trump, the only sibling to match her father’s instinct for self-commodification, has used the Trump Organization’s payroll, information technology and human resources for her separate brand. Her website’s domain was registered by Trump Organization lawyers."

-- Meanwhile, Charlene Chen, claiming to be a representative of Trump's businesses, arrived Sept. 8 in Taiwan to explore investing in a redevelopment project south of Taiwan's biggest airport. From the Times: “'I told them: Isn’t Mr. Trump campaigning for president? Isn’t he very busy?' the mayor, Cheng Wen-tsan, said ... 'They said she is a company representative. His company is still continuing to look for the world’s best real estate projects, and they very much understand Taiwan' ... On Friday, Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, said that there were ‘no plans for expansion into Taiwan’ and that there had been no ‘authorized visits’ to Taiwan to push for a development project.'" This was directly contradicted by a Facebook post from an executive at the company, who shared pictures from what she described as a work trip.


-- In a huge slap at Mitt Romney, Trump has added longtime rival Jon Huntsman into the mix for secretary of state: Kellyanne Conway told reporters yesterday that he plans to interview additional candidates this week and does not want to rush the decision. “It is true that he's broadened the search, and the secretary of state is an incredibly important position for any president to fill,” she said. “Evidence of the unease with Romney (among the base) was evident at Trump’s first stop on a ‘thank you’ tour last week in Cincinnati, where chants of ‘No Romney’ broke out among the boisterous crowd,” John Wagner reports.

-- David Petraeus, another finalist for Foggy Bottom, went on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday in an effort to show Trump that he could successfully respond to questions about his mishandling of classified material during a potential Senate confirmation hearing. The retired Army general acknowledged his mistake and said that “they'll have to factor that in and also obviously 38½ years of otherwise fairly, in some cases, unique service to our country in uniform and then at the CIA and then some four years or so in the business community.” It went pretty well. Asked how he voted for, he said: “I don’t vote. So that’s an easy answer.”

-- Trump will also meet this week with two other new, long-shot contenders for State, a source close to the transition told Politico’s Alex Isenstadt: ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson and retired Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis. (Clinton vetted Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, as a potential vice presidential prospect.)

-- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) -- who has said that he is talking with Trump transition officials about the secretary of state position, although it's unclear how far those discussions have gone -- was on Fox News this morning to defend the president-elect's call with the president of Taiwan. “I think it's terrific," Rohrabacher said, via Jenna Johnson. “It was a terrific message to them: We're no longer going to be pushovers, and there's going to be consequences for their hostile and aggressive actions." Rohrabacher said that he agrees with the president-elect on most issues -- including "establishing a positive relationship" with Russia to fight terrorism, an idea that worries many Republicans and Democrats. “Russia and the people of Russia are good people, and they have a chance to work with them to defeat this evil that threatens the planet right now.”

-- Speaking of Russia: Vladimir Putin delivered something of a backhanded compliment to Trump on Sunday. “To the extent that he was able to achieve success in business, this shows that he’s a smart person,” Putin said in a TV interview. “And if he’s a smart person, that means that he will totally and quite quickly understand the different level of his responsibility [as a statesman]. We presume that he will act based on this position.” Andrew Roth, one of our men in Moscow, reads between the lines: “Trump has said that he wants to establish better relations with Putin … While that presents opportunities for the Kremlin, Putin’s remarks also signaled concerns, voiced by insiders, that Trump could be an unpredictable partner. Putin called Trump ‘talented’ and ‘colorful’ during the campaign (Trump said Putin had called him ‘a genius,’ thanks to a mistranslation), but the Kremlin has been reserved in its praise since Trump won the presidency last month.”

-- Bloomberg reports that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a longtime friend of Chinese President Xi Jinping, is the frontrunner to be U.S. ambassador to China. From Kevin Cirilli and Jennifer Jacobs: “The longest-serving governor in U.S. history, Branstad will be in New York (this) week for previously scheduled work related to Iowan economic development. … Trump will be in Iowa on Dec. 8 for a stop on his post-election victory tour. … ‘I am not ruling anything out,’ Branstad said on Nov. 19 at an annual fundraiser, the Des Moines Register reported. … Two days before the Nov. 8 election, during a rally in Sioux City, Trump singled out Branstad as an ideal liaison to China. … Branstad and Xi met when China’s leader made his first trip to Iowa in 1985 during a sister-state exchange. At the time Xi was a young agricultural official from Hebei province, working as director of the Feed Association of Shijiazhuang Prefecture.”

-- New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is under consideration for ambassador to the U.K., per Page Six’s Ian Mohr and Emily Smith. Other Trump donors being mentioned for coveted diplomatic postings: Real estate mogul Peter Kalikow could be in the running for an ambassadorship to Italy. Hedge funder Duke Buchan III is being considered for a diplomatic post in Spain. Insiders say Georgette Mosbacher could be in line for a post in Ireland or Belgium.

-- Want a job in the Trump administration? The Plum Book, an official listing of the 9,000 political jobs that will be available in Trump's executive branch, just published. But don't count on all of them to be filled, Lisa Rein notes, as the president-elect has pledged to significantly slash the size of the federal government. “One transition official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be candid, described recent conversations on the team as it considers how to shape the federal government in the Trump era. 'Oh, they had five people doing that? We’re only going to hire two,' the staff has discussed, according to the official ...  As of Friday, 65,800 men and women had applied to serve in the Trump administration through the website" Get your copy today at 10 a.m. at the Government Publishing Office bookstore at 710 N. Capitol St. NW or digitally here.


What Trump and Conway did this weekend, in part:

Without any explanation, 29 weeks after posting it, Trump deleted this tweet at 3:30 a.m. yesterday: “'Duck Dynasty' star Phil Robertson says he'll back Trump for president.” (Via Politwoops)

Trump's vow to levy a 35 percent tax on companies that ship jobs overseas drew a swift rebuke from Republicans Justin Amash and Ben Sasse:

Check out these reactions to Trump's call with Taiwan, starting with the former assistant Secretary of State for East Asia under President George W. Bush:

Former U.K. Labour Party leader:

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.):

The Beijing bureau chief for the New York Times:

Trump defended the call:

Trump is not fielding every call from a foreign leader. It was Pence who spoke with King Abdullah:

The president-elect also went after Saturday Night Live:

Meanwhile, the Alec Baldwin Foundation tweeted this:

And here's a tweet from Baldwin himself:

Spotted on the Internet:

Bobby Scott and Charles Rangel celebrated Founders Day for Alpha Phi Alpha:

Heidi Heitkamp ran into some tourists from Fargo, N.D. in the lobby of Trump Tower:

Heitkamp also joked about riding the elevator with the Naked Cowbody (click to watch):

Sheila Jackson Lee did the Mannequin Challenge:

The Chaffetz family bumped into Kevin Spacey in DC:

View this post on Instagram

Never know who you might bump into in DC @kevinspacey

A post shared by Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) on

The McCains celebrated four generations:

Finally, let this tidbit sink in:

And check out this story:


In Trump's world: Trump formally announces General James Mattis as his pick for secretary of defense. Trump also meets with former U.S. attorney Deborah Yang, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Catherine Templeton, president of the government relations firm Brawley Templeton.

At the White House: Obama has no public events scheduled. Joe Biden speaks about financial regulation at Georgetown University and then presides over the Senate vote on the 21st Century Cures Act.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 3 p.m. to work on the 21st Century Cures Act. The House meets at 2 p.m. for legislative business, with six suspension votes until 6:30 p.m. Orrin Hatch sits down with Jeff Sessions.


"I didn't see this one coming," Paul Ryan admitted of Trump's win in a "60 Minutes" interview that aired last night. “If you would’ve put last year into a movie script and taken it to Hollywood two years ago, they would’ve laughed you out of the room because it wouldn’t have been believable.” Despite Ryan's arms' length support of Trump during the campaign, the speaker told Scott Pelley that he and Trump have decided to "let bygones be bygones" and the GOP Congress is ready to help the new president pass bills. His top priority will be repealing and replacing Obamacare. Ryan said, in January, Congress would use budget reconciliation to set the stage for repealing the healthcare bill while working to replace it. Also at the top of the list are slashing the corporate tax rate (Ryan favors lowering it to 20 percent; Trump wants 15 percent); rebuilding the military and securing the border.



-- Yahoo’s Katie Couric went to Russia to interview Edward Snowden, who denies that he’s a traitor or a spy. Asked about Trump’s tweet that he betrayed the U.S., Snowden replied: “I wonder when it is that he thinks America was great, because if you remember what we did to traitors in 1776 and afterwards, we made them president. We're a country that was born from an act of treason against a government that had run out of control. Now, this is not to say that breaking the rules is something that should happen all the time. But we should always make a distinction that right and wrong is a very different standard than legal and illegal. The law is no substitute for morality here or then… I would not have done it if I didn't believe it was right. I definitely would say-- it's pretty sketchy there. But look, every act of progression in our nation's history has involved tension with law. Whether it was the abolition of slavery, whether it was the enfranchisement of women whether it was the birth of our nation, laws were broken. And that's because the laws were wrong.” (Watch Katie’s full interview here.)


-- Today is one of the milder and more tranquil days in a week that brings bouts of precipitation and then a blast of Arctic air, the Capital Weather Gang forecastsSleet and rain are likely Tuesday and then another round of showers is possible Thursday. The coldest air of the season spills into the region Friday through Sunday when highs are likely only in the 30s. Today: After the overnight rain, clouds decrease this morning with sunshine becoming dominant by afternoon. Temperatures rebound, with highs climbing above 50 degrees.

The Washington Post's Scott Allen and Keith McMillan break down the Redskins' loss to the Arizona Cardinals. (Video: Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post, Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

-- The Redskins lost 31-23 to the Arizona Cardinals. (Recap by Master Tesfatsion)

For the second week in a row, the defense really was to blame. (Mike Jones column)

But Jay Gruden lost it on the whole team after the loss. From Jerry Brewer’s column: “Standing outside the locker room, you could hear the coach berating his team, …. his words thundering through cinder block walls, almost strong enough for snooping ears to translate into sentences. He didn’t have to justify his anger. He was responding to the most deflating moment of a convulsive season, three hours of slovenly poor football in a game that began and ended with infuriating displays of incompetence. If Gruden possessed a hammer, he had to use it. He pounded that thing for a good two minutes. … With four weeks remaining and Washington now trailing Tampa Bay by a half game for the final playoff spot in the NFC, Sunday’s loss at University of Phoenix Stadium — and Gruden’s enraged demand for better — will go down as the defining moment of the season.”

-- Maryland fracking opponents are pushing hard for a state law to prohibit the controversial gas-extraction method, but lawmakers seem more likely to extend the existing moratorium on the practice during the upcoming legislative session. (Josh Hicks)

-- A former athletic trainer at Archbishop Carroll High School has been arrested and charged with sexually abusing a female student at the Catholic school in Northeast Washington, according to D.C. police and the archdiocese. Jimmy Augustin, 33, is charged with a single misdemeanor count of sexual abuse of a minor. The Archdiocese of Washington said in a statement that Augustin has been fired.  (Peter Hermann)

-- Be careful on the roads: Three men impersonating police officers pepper-sprayed and punched a pregnant woman before robbing her. A woman was driving through Worcester County, Md., near Whiton and Snow Hill roads about 6 p.m. Thursday when a black Chevrolet SUV flashed red and blue lights at her. Thinking she was being stopped by the police, the woman pulled over. ‘She said the first suspect approached the driver side of the car and sprayed pepper spray into the vehicle before spraying it onto a towel that he held over her face,’ state police said in a statement. The pregnant woman got out of the car and then was punched in the stomach by the man who pepper-sprayed her, police said. A second person wearing a gold badge on a chain around his neck was armed with a small black gun and stole the woman’s purse.” (Lynh Bui)

-- Censorship watch: A school district in the eastern shore of Virginia has pulled copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” from classrooms and libraries while it weighs whether it should permanently ban the American classics because of the books’ use of racial slurs. In response to a formal complaint from a parent, Accomack County Public Schools Superintendent Chris Holland said the district has appointed a committee to recommend whether the books should remain in the curriculum and stay in school libraries. (Moriah Balingit)


George Stephanopoulos asked Pence about Trump's tweet claiming millions of people voted illegally. "That claim is groundless," the ABC host told the vice president-elect. "There's no evidence to back it up. Is it responsible for a president-elect to make false statements like that?" What followed was an awkward exchange in which Pence attempted to defend Trump's false claim for about three minutes. "Well, it's his right to express his opinion as president-elect of the United States," Pence said, adding that it is one of the things he finds "refreshing" about Trump. Stephanopoulos persisted: "Why is it refreshing to make false statements?" Click to watch:

SNL spoofed conspiracy theory TV shows in this sketch about Clinton:

A recap of his relationship with the show:

From press secretary Sean Spicer's comments about the show to the president angrily tweeting about Alec Baldwin, here is Donald Trump's history with SNL. (Video: Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

That Taiwan company that does the zany animations envisioned Trump's phone call with its president:

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) is very angry at the Architect of the Capitol for trying to shut down his outdoor barbeque (click to watch):

Matthew Broderick tried out his Trump impression:

Stephen Colbert reviewed the latest developments from Trump's transition:

Conan O'Brien imagined more phone conversations between Obama and Trump:

Here's the uploaded audio of Clinton and Trump aides arguing about the election:

High-level aides to both the Clinton and Trump campaigns became involved in a heated exchange during a post-election forum Dec. 1. (Video: Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Photo: Right: Melina Mara/Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government)