THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump has decided to risk a confirmation fight, officially nominating ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state this morning. Tillerson and Trump had no previous relationship, but the Texas oilman and the New York developer hit it off when they met face to face. One of the things that they have in common is their shared affection for the works of Ayn Rand, the libertarian heroine who celebrated laissez-faire capitalism.
The president-elect said this spring that he’s a fan of Rand and identifies with Howard Roark, the main character in “The Fountainhead.” Roark, played by Gary Cooper in the film adaptation, is an architect who dynamites a housing project he designed because the builders did not precisely follow his blueprints. “It relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions. That book relates to ... everything,” Trump told Kirsten Powers for a piece in USA Today.
-- Tillerson prefers “Atlas Shrugged,” Rand’s novel about John Galt secretly organizing a strike of the creative class to hasten the collapse of the bureaucratic society. The CEO listed it as his favorite book in a 2008 feature for Scouting Magazine, according to biographer Steve Coll.
-- This has now officially become a trend. Trump is turning not just to billionaires but Randians to fill the cabinet:
Andy Puzder, tapped by Trump last week to be secretary of labor, is an avid and outspoken fan of Rand’s books. One profiler last week asked what he does in his free time, and a friend replied that he reads Ayn Rand. He is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which is owned by Roark Capital Group, a private equity fund named after Howard Roark. Puzder, who opposes increases in the minimum wage and wants to automate fast food jobs, was quoted just last month saying that he encouraged his six children to read “Fountainhead” first and “Atlas Shrugged” later.
Mike Pompeo, who will have the now-very-difficult job of directing the Central Intelligence Agency for Trump, has often said that Rand’s works inspired him. “One of the very first serious books I read when I was growing up was Atlas Shrugged, and it really had an impact on me,” the Kansas congressman told Human Events in 2011.
-- Trump has been huddling with and consulting several other Rand followers for advice as he fills out his cabinet. John A. Allison IV, for example, met with Trump for about 90 minutes the week before last. “As chief executive of BB&T Corp., he distributed copies of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ to senior officers and influenced BB&T’s charitable arm to fund classes about the moral foundations of capitalism at a number of colleges,” the Journal noted in a piece about him. “Mr. Allison’s worldview was shaped when he was a college student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and stumbled across a collection of essays by Ms. Rand.”
-- Ayn Rand was perhaps the leading literary voice in 20th century America for the notion that, in society, there are makers and takers, and that the takers are parasitic moochers who get in the way of the morally-superior innovators. Her books portray the federal government as an evil force, trying to stop hard-working men from accumulating the wealth that she believes they deserve. The author was also an outspoken atheist, something that oozes through in her writing. Rand explained that the essence of “objectivism,” as she called her ideology, is that “man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.”
-- Some of Rand’s scenes also don’t hold up well in a culture that’s become more intolerant of sexual assault and skeptical of patriarchy. Roark, the character Trump says he identifies with, rapes a woman in “The Fountainhead,” for example.
-- For many Republican elites, Rand is someone whose books they read one summer in high school or college and got super excited about but then grew out of once they were exposed to more sophisticated intellectual influences and/or tried to reconcile her world view with the precepts of the Christian faith. (Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote about this rite of passage in a 2011 column for The Post.)
-- Though many would agree that Christianity and objectivism are incompatible, this is not a consensus view: “There’s no contradiction between raising my children in the church, and urging them to lead the kind of lives of achievement, integrity and independence that Ayn Rand celebrated in her novels,” Puzder, the incoming labor secretary, argued on the Journal opinion page last month, adding that he also had his kids read C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity.”
-- Remember that scene in “Dirty Dancing” when Baby tries to get that waiter who knocked up Johnny’s dance partner to pay for her abortion? He refuses and instead pulls out a weathered copy of “The Fountainhead,” urging her to read it. “Some people count, and some people don’t,” he tells her. Jennifer Grey’s character responds by pouring a pitcher of water on him. In popular culture, the Rand acolytes are that guy.
The fact that all of these men, so late in life, are such fans of works that celebrate individuals who consistently put themselves before others is therefore deeply revealing. They will now run our government.
-- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan also used to be an outspoken booster of Rand, but he distanced himself in order to advance his political ambitions.
In a 2005 speech, Ryan said that Rand was required reading for his office staff and interns. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” he told a group called the Atlas Society, according to a New Yorker profile by Ryan Lizza.
By 2012, looking beyond his safely-red House district to the national stage, the Wisconsin congressman claimed that the idea he was inspired by Rand is “an urban legend.” “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan told National Review. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas…Don’t give me Ayn Rand!”
-- An interesting wrinkle: Stephen Bannon, who will be Trump’s chief strategist in the White House, has been sharply critical of Rand. He outlined his world view in a 2014 speech delivered by Skype to a conference held inside the Vatican. In it, he said that there are two strands of capitalism which he finds very disturbing.
“One is state-sponsored capitalism. And that’s the capitalism you see in China and Russia,” he said, according to a transcript posted by BuzzFeed last month. “The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism. And, look, I’m a big believer in a lot of libertarianism. I have many, many friends that are a very big part of the conservative movement … However, that form of capitalism is quite different when you really look at it (compared) to what I call the ‘enlightened capitalism’ of the Judeo-Christian West. It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost.”
-- In 2014, when no one anticipated that Trump would actually go through with running for president, John Oliver’s HBO show produced a four-minute segment making fun of Rand’s enduring appeal to so many conservatives and rich people. After sound bites of Rand ripping into Ronald Reagan and explaining why she supports abortion rights, the narrator asks: “Why would conservatives hold up as their idol someone who says things like that? Especially when there are so many other advocates for selfishness they could choose, like Donald Trump…”
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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Trump canceled his speech, promised for this week, on how he'll deal with his many conflicts of interest. But last night in a pair of tweets he vowed vaguely to make "no new deals" while he is in the White House and said he will hand over control of his businesses to his sons before inauguration. Elise Viebeck reports: “Trump’s tweets gave no indication that he will give up his ownership stake in his global real estate and licensing empire, which experts have advocated as the only way to ensure Trump could not profit from the impact of his own policies. [He also] gave no details on how his businesses would operate without embarking on new business deals, nor how transparency would be provided so the public could judge whether that pledge is being upheld."
Even though I am not mandated by law to do so, I will be leaving my busineses before January 20th so that I can focus full time on the......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
Presidency. Two of my children, Don and Eric, plus executives, will manage them. No new deals will be done during my term(s) in office.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
I will hold a press conference in the near future to discuss the business, Cabinet picks and all other topics of interest. Busy times!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
-- Trump has settled on Rick Perry to be energy secretary, according to CBS News. He tapped the former Texas governor over a pool of contenders including Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and fundraiser Ray Washburne. Major Garrett has more: “Perry sits on two corporate boards - one of them is Energy Transfer Partners - and that may present a confirmation issue. Energy Transfer Partners has a subsidiary known as Dakota Access LLC, which is attempting to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Recently, the Obama administration blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline easement through Lake Oahe, a move that jeopardized the 1,172-mile underground pipeline. The incoming Trump administration has said it will review the decision. Mr. Trump once invested in Energy Transfer Partners and supports completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline."
-- The DNC candidate that Team Obama hoped for: Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said he intends to run for party chairman, throwing his hat in the ring alongside Rep. Keith Ellison, who had emerged as an early favorite in the race. The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reports: “Mr. Perez, who had also been considering a run for Maryland governor, is expected to reveal his plan to seek the D.N.C. chairmanship this week. … He has been wooed by prominent Democrats for weeks to seek the party post, a lobbying campaign that included entreaties from high-level allies of Mr. Obama. Mr. Perez, who has been on the phone with a number of Democratic governors and other party leaders, is expected to meet with the president himself to discuss the position this week. Mr. Perez’s entry into the race could start a proxy battle between Democrats loyal to the Mr. Obama and those from the more liberal wing of the party represented by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is backing Mr. Ellison, a Minnesota progressive, for party chairman.” The new narrative, via the AP: “Ellison’s star falling as Clinton, Obama allies seek DNC alternative.”
THE WORLD NEEDS TO PAY ATTENTION TO THIS:
-- Syrian forces, with the help of the Russians, have pushed rebel fighters to the brink in Aleppo, pinning them to just a sliver of remaining territory as they continue their push for full control of the northern Syrian city. Aleppo’s fall would deliver a major setback to rebel factions, leaving them struggling for ways to keep the anti-Assad rebellion alive without their territorial stronghold. The humanitarian crisis continues to worsen. (Louisa Loveluck has more.)
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, said they received reports that government forces have killed at least 82 civilians, sometimes entering homes and killing people “on the spot.” Jens Laerke, U.N. humanitarian spokesman, said that it looked like “a complete meltdown of humanity in Aleppo.”
From The Post’s Syria reporter:
Syria reporting so often heartbreaking but nothing like this. A window into hell. https://t.co/Mvfqg5ToW0— Louisa Loveluck (@leloveluck) December 12, 2016
“On Monday night, the phones of most civilians contacted by The Washington Post appeared to have fallen silent,” Louisa writes in her latest dispatch. “Their fate remains unknown.”
From the New York Times's Beirut bureau chief:
Contacts say goodbye, ask forgiveness. 1 writes: "Please tell our stories to the world, please let my son be proud of his father." /5— Anne Barnard (@ABarnardNYT) December 13, 2016
Activists in Aleppo are tweeting out their final, harrowing goodbyes. They will almost certainly be detained/tortured/killed upon capture.— Ben Taub (@bentaub91) December 12, 2016
Bana Alabed, a seven-year-old girl in Aleppo who has been called the “Anne Frank” of our era, tweeted that her father was injured shortly before her account went silent:
My dad is injured now. I am crying.-Bana #Aleppo— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 12, 2016
It is unclear whether Bana or her family survived the blasts:
My name is Bana, I'm 7 years old. I am talking to the world now live from East #Aleppo. This is my last moment to either live or die. - Bana— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 13, 2016
A teacher and activist recorded his final words as Assad’s militia closed in. “No place now to go now,” he says, ducking to hide on a bombed-out street corner. “It's the last place."
From a search and rescue volunteer group in the area:
There is no total number of casualties in Besieged #Aleppo today, all streets & destroyed buildings are full with dead bodies. It's hell.— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) December 13, 2016
GET SMART FAST:
- Ex-Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for a spate of campaign corruption charges, including racketeering and money laundering. Prosecutors had urged the judge to sentence Fattah to up to 22 years, but defense attorneys called the recommendation unduly harsh. (Roll Call)
- Ex-Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Illinois) pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he improperly used campaign and taxpayer money to bankroll his lavish lifestyle, appearing in court for the first time since a federal grand jury indicted him on 24 felony counts. (Chicago Tribune)
- Obama is opening a post-presidency office in Washington. The outgoing commander-in-chief has leased space in the World Wildlife Fund’s Foggy Bottom headquarters -- one of the greenest buildings in the nation’s capital -- where he will likely work to bolster national Democratic redistricting efforts and work on his memoir. (Jonathan O'Connell)
- Major League Baseball has finally banned the practice of hazing rookies by making them dress as women, agreeing to shutter a longtime ritual that became controversial in the social media age. (Des Bieler)
- Reproductive rights activists are suing Texas over newly-passed regulations that require hospitals and abortion clinics to bury aborted or miscarried fetuses. The rule, set to take effect next week, has been blasted by critics as an unnecessary regulation designed to shame women and strap clinics with extra costs. (Sandhya Somashekhar)
- The recounts are officially over. Election officials in Wisconsin named Trump as the winner after tallying votes for a second time on Monday, noting that the margin had changed very little from the original vote. The announcement effectively puts an end to Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s efforts to challenge three state ballots, including Michigan and Pennsylvania. (Sean Sullivan)
- Members of the House Benghazi committee filed their final report on Monday, disbanding for good before Congress adjourned for the year. Findings from the two-and-a-half year, $7.8 million probe were originally released in June, but the professional staff apparently remained in place through the election. (USA Today)
- The Supreme Court declined to review two death penalty cases in Ohio and Florida, rejecting opportunities to weigh in on a law that its opponents have argued is being unconstitutionally applied across the country. (Robert Barnes and Mark Berman)
- Most Americans haven’t heard of the “alt-right.” A Pew Research survey found that 54 percent were unfamiliar with the movement, which has prompted intense debate about how to define and refer to it. Another 28 percent said they have heard “only a little about it,” with just 17 percent saying they have heard “a lot."
- A Missouri woman held hostage in her own home launched a desperate but ingenious escape plan, scrawling off a cry for help to a UPS deliveryman as her captor stood behind her with a gun. Police believe the move saved her life. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- A 58-year-old Pennsylvania man, just minutes before retiring, eviscerated his bosses in a written exit interview – and then hit “reply all” to blast the sharp-tongued missive to 2,000 fellow employees. His boss chose to remedy the situation by also emailing his response to the entire company! (Peter Holley)
- One year after he was found unconscious in a Las Vegas brothel, former basketball star Lamar Odom has decided to enter rehab. The ex-NBA player reportedly checked himself into the California facility just days before finalizing his divorce from Khloe Kardashian. (New York Daily News)
THE TILLERSON ROLLOUT:
-- “The Trump team is planning an aggressive public relations campaign to win confirmation for Tillerson and dispel what it sees as a false narrative about his ties to Russia," Steven Mufson, Philip Rucker and Karoun Demirjian report: "Former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker are planning to go public [this morning] with their support for Tillerson, as is former defense secretary Robert Gates. Former vice president Richard B. Cheney also is supportive and may advocate for his confirmation. Gates was the first person to raise Tillerson as a secretary of state possibility. ... Trump did not know much about Tillerson but started chewing over the idea. He invited Tillerson for a meeting and the two global dealmakers hit it off. They recognized similarities in each other, and the more they talked, the more they liked each other."
-- At least four Republican senators have now publicly expressed their concerns with Tillerson’s Russia ties: Sen. Lindsey Graham called the fact that Putin gave Tillerson the Kremlin’s “Order of Friendship” award in 2012 “unnerving,” while Sen. John McCain questioned Tillerson’s judgment. “I don’t see how anybody could be a friend of this old time KGB agent,” he said in a CNN interview, referring to Putin. (Marco Rubio criticized Tillerson in a tweet this weekend, and Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said he has a “lot of questions” about the oil businessman.)
-- Chris Cillizza analysis: “What Trump offered in the course of the campaign was a radical change in the way of doing the business of the American public. That change included — and, in many ways, was typified by — the sort of people he said he would surround himself with if he were elected. He is, quite literally, making good on a central campaign promise by favoring people like Tillerson. And yet, there is a general sense of shock within the political establishment about the idea that someone with Tillerson's background [was tapped to head the State Department] … Much of this consternation is built on the political establishment's inability to fully grasp that the old rules of ‘how things are done in politics’ are simply not operative with Trump. As he has made clear over and over again, Trump simply see no rules or, if he does see them, he chooses not to acknowledge that he is governed by them."
-- Trump’s long-time adviser Roger Stone acknowledged that the secretary of state job was dangled in front of Mitt Romney primarily to “torture” him for previously opposing the president-elect. During an appearance on InfoWars with Alex Jones, the conspiratorial media outlet that says 9/11 was an inside job and which has become a mouthpiece for the next president (he’s appeared on the show), Trump’s informal adviser called Romney a “choker.” “Donald Trump was interviewing Mitt Romney for Secretary of State in order to torture him,” Stone said. “To toy with him! And given the history, that’s completely understandable. Mitt Romney crossed a line. He didn’t just oppose Trump, which is his democratic right, he called him a phony and a fraud. And a con man. And that’s not the kind of man you want as Secretary of State.” (Daily Beast’s Gideon Resnick)
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- “The CIA assessment that Russia waged a cyber-campaign to help elect [Trump] is based in part on intelligence suggesting that Moscow’s hacking efforts were disproportionately aimed at targets tied to the Democratic Party and [Hillary Clinton],” Greg Miller and Adam Entous report. “U.S. officials said that both parties were repeatedly targeted as part of a months-long cyber-operation linked to Moscow, but that Democratic institutions and operatives came under a more sustained and determined online assault. [They also] said the Republican National Committee’s computer systems were also probed and possibly penetrated by hackers tied to Russian intelligence services, but that it remains unclear how much material — if any — was taken from the RNC. U.S. intelligence officials said that the Russian government appears to have succeeded in penetrating computer systems associated with both parties, but ‘prioritized’ Democratic institutions … Other officials familiar with the CIA’s assessment said there is ‘high confidence’ that the RNC was targeted but less certainty that the Russians got inside the committee and stole material.”
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber plans to investigate Russia’s suspected election interference, but he stopped short of calling for a bipartisan select committee to investigate the hack. “The Russians are not our friends,” McConnell declared at a year-end news conference. “This simply cannot be a partisan issue,” he said, adding that the Intelligence Committee “is more than capable of conducting a complete review of this matter.” (Ed O'Keefe and Paul Kane)
-- Paul Ryan also dismissed calls for a special panel, saying that the House Intelligence Committee is already “working diligently on the cyber threats posed by foreign governments and terrorist organizations.”
-- House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), meanwhile, sent a letter to National Intelligence Director James Clapper demanding answers about why lawmakers weren’t told about conflicting CIA and FBI reports on Russian hacking before reports on the topic appeared in the press. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Nunes took issue with the DNI over some of the details from [reports] … accusing the CIA of changing its tune about Russia’s role in hacking emails from the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman …. Nunes pointed out that Clapper himself had told his committee during an open November hearing that the intelligence community ‘lacked strong evidence connecting Russian government cyber-attacks and WikiLeaks disclosures.’ He asked Clapper to brief the committee by Friday about the CIA and FBI’s latest intelligence of what role Russia played in hacks related to the election, including a coordinated, written assessment of the intelligence community’s current position and update them on the president’s plans to review allegations of Russian hacking.”
-- Harry Reid accused Trump’s campaign of colluding with WikiLeaks in the months preceding the presidential election. The outgoing Senate Minority Leader said someone in the president-elect’s orbit was “certainly” aware of the activity. “Someone in the Trump campaign organization was in on the deal. I have no doubt. Now, whether they told [Trump] or not, I don’t know. I assume they did. But there is no question about that,” Reid told the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim and Sam Stein. “So there is collusion there, clearly. ... Don’t put blindfolds on. Here is the deal: We have a situation where during the campaign … WikiLeaks was heavily involved in trying to hurt Hillary Clinton and it helped Trump. And you have Trump who said he likes Putin better than he likes Obama.”
-- Trump pushed back on Twitter:
Can you imagine if the election results were the opposite and WE tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2016
Unless you catch "hackers" in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking. Why wasn't this brought up before election?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2016
(All the experts agree that Trump is wrong on this point.)
-- Escalation: Last night on TV, Trump's campaign manager questioned whether the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee (Rep. Adam Schiff) has actually been briefed on Russia's meddling (which he, of course, has). That led to this back-and-forth:
The congressman from Los Angeles engaged:
To which Conway replied:
No, I "think" you are hyper-partisan against PEOTUS w/ no evidence of hack effect on election outcome & no idea what briefings he receives. https://t.co/HdTNgHj2XJ— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) December 13, 2016
-- Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta backed a group of Electoral College electors who are asking to receive an intelligence briefing on foreign intervention into the 2016 election ahead of their December 19 vote. From CNN: The 10 electors from five states asked James Clapper for information on "whether there are ongoing investigations into ties between Donald Trump, his campaign or associates, and Russian government interference in the election, the scope of those investigations, how far those investigations may have reached, and who was involved in those investigations." They also asked for "all investigative findings" from the intelligence community on Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. (One of the signatories is Nancy Pelosi's daughter.)
-- Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden writes in a Post op-ed about why it is such a big problem that Trump is already antagonizing the intelligence community: “How does the intelligence community break through and explain itself to the incoming team? Can it convincingly make a case that an evidence-based description of Russian actions is not the same thing as an attack on the legitimacy of the president-elect? Can it explain that, unlike law enforcement that seeks to prove things beyond any reasonable doubt, the purpose of intelligence is to enable meaningful policy and action even in the face of lingering doubt? And can it demonstrate that the incoming administration should want — rather than discourage — this to better anticipate global trends and adversarial moves in time to reflect and decide on its own actions? As I wrote last month, intelligence should be called on to create the basis, and set the boundaries, for rational policy choices. That’s still true. The odds that it will happen, though, seem a little bleaker after this past week. And we are moving in the wrong direction.”
-- Michael Morell, the former acting director of the CIA, calls Russia’s interference "the political equivalent of 9/11.” “The first is, we need to see this for what it is. It is an attack on our very democracy,” he said in an interview with The Cipher Brief. “It’s an attack on who we are as a people. A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life. To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11. It is huge and the fact that it hasn’t gotten more attention from the Obama Administration, Congress, and the mainstream media, is just shocking to me. But what’s important to me is, it’s less important that they had picked the winner and loser, which I thought all along they had done. What’s most important is that they did indeed meddle. I think the implications of that are just absolutely huge …”
-- “We will never know for sure if Russian espionage caused Trump to win,” Post columnist and former Bush adviser Michael Gerson writes. “With Clinton losing by an 80,000-vote margin in three key states, everything — her poor messaging, her consistently bungled response to the email controversy, [James] Comey’s untimely letter — can be posited as the reason she lost. A hypothetical outcome minus Russian involvement is not just unknown, it is unknowable. [BUT] Trump’s blanket attack on the intelligence community for incompetence — as though he were still going after ‘Little Marco’ or ‘Lyin’ Ted’ — is an insanely dangerous antic that materially undermines American security. Given the extraordinary range of threats faced by the United States … a mutual trust between the president and American intelligence services is essential. That relationship has already been seriously damaged.”
MORE TRUMP STAFFING DECISIONS:
-- Trump confirmed that he will appoint Goldman Sachs veteran Gary Cohn as director of the National Economic Council, adding another former Wall Street executive to his administration. From CNN Money: “Trump, in a statement, said Cohn will ‘design and coordinate’ his administration's economic policy, working closely with the Treasury and Commerce departments. The post does not require Senate approval. Cohn, a 25-year Goldman Sachs veteran, made at least $123 million in total compensation since becoming the bank's sole president and chief operating officer in 2009 … He had been rumored to be a candidate for a number of jobs within the Trump administration, including to head up the powerful Office of Management and Budget."
Is anyone else worried that by mid-January there will be no one left to run Goldman Sachs?— Shane (@shaneferro) December 12, 2016
-- Some of Trump’s closest rural advisers are attempting to torpedo efforts to make Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) the next Agriculture secretary, telling him they feel betrayed even at the thought of a Democrat getting the position over a deep bench of Republicans who campaigned on his behalf in rural areas. “In the past 48 hours, since … Heitkamp was [reported as] the front-runner for the position, leaders of Trump’s agricultural advisory committee say they’ve been flooded with furious phone calls from influential farmers around the country, and have reached out to the transition team to fight the consideration of Heitkamp,” Politico’s Ian Kullgren and Catherine Boudreau report. “‘I was blindsided, as was everyone on the Trump agricultural advisory committee who’s contacted me,’ said Gary Baise, a Washington-based lawyer who helped the Trump campaign build a network of rural supporters. The anger is personal … [and] Trump’s rural allies say tapping Heitkamp would be a slap in the face to farm-state Republicans who stuck by the real estate mogul through the darkest days of his campaign.”
-- Michigan Republican Party leader Ronna Romney, niece to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is said to be Trump's pick for RNC chair. CNN reports that an announcement is expected as soon as this week.
-- Kellyanne Conway said she will not serve as Trump’s press secretary, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt in a radio interview that she turned down the high-profile White House gig. "I have politely declined that job," she said. "I think it's an incredibly important position to fill." She has floated the possibility of working outside Trump’s administration to steer a network of political organizations supporting the president-elect and his agenda.
-- Trump has begun to shift his focus from the cabinet to White House senior staff. Politico’s Shane Goldmacher reports that some jobs are now seen as near-locks:
- Stephen Miller, Trump’s chief speechwriter and policy adviser on the campaign, is expected to be named a senior policy adviser.
- Rick Dearborn, the current executive director of the presidential transition team … is widely expected to head the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.
- George Gigicos, one of Trump’s earliest staffers and a veteran of the [Bush] White House, is in line to serve as director of White House advance.
- RNC communications director Sean Spicer is seen as the heavy front-runner to serve as press secretary.
- Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski could have a role in the White House, with a title that is “undetermined” but still close to the president’s ear.
-- The press is bulking up to cover Trump, as well: Fox News announced that John Roberts will be its White House correspondent, an important role because of the network's influence and how much time Trump spends watching cable. Both The Post and the New York Times also announced yesterday that they will devote six reporters full-time to the White House beat, more than when Obama took office. (Erik Wemple)
-- The Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey explores the episode that brought Jeff Sessions and Trump together for the first time: “The year was 2005, and Sessions was astonished by a sensational news report: A project to overhaul the United Nations headquarters in New York would cost more than $1 billion. He was just as stunned that a celebrity New York developer quoted in the article claimed it could be done for about half the cost. Suddenly the junior senator from Alabama took an interest in the New York billionaire. ‘Mr. Trump is very outraged!’ Sessions informed his colleagues in an April floor speech that year. This would lead to a high-profile Senate hearing that, at Sessions’s request, featured Trump as the star witness…
“Indeed, the July 2005 hearing was classic Trump: Some straight talk laced with braggadocio. The developer boasted about his nearby property, he bragged about his smarts negotiating with New York contractors (whom he called ‘major slime’), and railed against a decision by the UN to hire an Italian design firm to do the work. ‘I love Italy. I love the Italians. How do you hire an Italian architect?’ Trump said. ‘What happens? Every time he wants to check the building, he gets on a plane and flies for 8½ hours, and he goes to the New York City Building Department and he does not even speak English? I mean it is ridiculous.’ Sessions loved it. ‘Mr. Trump is a breath of fresh air for this Senate,’ Sessions said at the time. … The UN ended up completing the project, about three years late and costing nearly $400 million more than its budget, even though the scope of the project was reduced vastly.”
Flashback: What Ted Kennedy said during Sessions’s last confirmation hearing before the Judiciary committee: “He was rejected by the Senate judiciary panel in 1986 for a federal judgeship at the behest of opponents including Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy, who were both members of the panel. Kennedy, the Massachusetts senator, pilloried Sessions for indicting three well-known black civil rights leaders on counts of voter fraud. They were later cleared of the charges. ‘Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past,’ Kennedy said in the March 1986 hearing. ‘He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination.’”
-- THE NEW NIXON? Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention was inspired by and modeled after Richard Nixon’s 1968 speech. Now Trump is going to hang a reminder of Nixon in the Oval Office. Politico has sources saying that Trump has told multiple people he plans to prominently display a 1987 letter that the former president, who resigned in scandal, sent him. “Dear Donald,” it reads, “I did not see the program, but Mrs. Nixon told me that you were great on the Donahue Show. As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office you will be a winner!”
AMERICA IS DIVIDED, AND THE ALT-RIGHT IS ASCENDANT:
-- “When tyranny takes hold,” by The New Yorker's Evan Osnos: “What is the precise moment, in the life of a country, when tyranny takes hold? It rarely happens in an instant; it arrives like twilight, and, at first, the eyes adjust. Tyranny does not begin with violence; it begins with the first gesture of collaboration ... Its most enduring crime is drawing decent men and women into its siege of the truth.”
-- Montgomery County educators report a massive spike in hate graffiti since Trump’s victory. In the past month, officials said, they’ve found more on-campus drawings of swastikas and other racist insults then they encountered during an entire one-year span in 2015. (Donna St. George)
-- The grotesque slurs and threats that Jewish political journalists face has only increased since the election. The AP's Lisa Lerer shared this one last night:
I’m glad my holocaust-surviving grandparents didn’t live to see the mail their granddaughter now receives. pic.twitter.com/iILaIffuAU— Lisa Lerer (@llerer) December 13, 2016
-- “When even Frosted Flakes are political, where does that leave us as a country?” by Monica Hesse: Everything is political these days. Every single decision. Five weeks after the end of a bitter presidential election, it hasn’t ended at all: It’s merely reached a new phase in which the things we buy are seen as surrogates for the people we voted for. Consider: A new app, Boycott Trump, allows users to weed out businesses that have even loose ties to [Trump’s] empire. Boycott Trump has a counterpart in the conservative American Family Association’s Naughty or Nice list, which offers shopping guidance based on which retailers are ‘Merry Christmas’-friendly. Avoid PetSmart, the list suggests. Choose Banana Republic over the Gap. Setting aside whether these boycotts are effective in terms of sales … one wonders whether they are effective in terms of our national future. In this fractured, limping mess of a country, whose inhabitants are struggling to not punch one another’s lights out, much less to have a civil conversation — if we can’t even eat the same cereal, then where does that leave us?"
-- “Planned Parenthood fears it may be first casualty of rekindled abortion war,” by Sandhya Somashekhar and Katie Zezima: “Planned Parenthood officials are scrambling to prepare for the likelihood that Congress next year will cut off more than a half-billion dollars in federal funding to the group, fulfilling the wishes of abortion foes who are planning an aggressive push to roll back abortion rights under [Trump]. Officials with the 100-year-old women’s health nonprofit organization are leaning on donors, new and old, and preparing to lobby friendly lawmakers at the state and local level to stem some of the loss. They have started gaming out which communities might be able to withstand a loss of services. They are asking supporters to get their medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics to increase the proportion of privately insured patients. The federal dollars to Planned Parenthood … make up more than 40 percent of its budget. Such a loss, Planned Parenthood officials say, would force them to close many programs and turn away many of the 2.5 million patients their clinics see annually."
-- The parents of “pizzagate” gunman Edgar Maddison Welch said they were “stunned” by the news that their son had driven to Washington and opened fire at a D.C. pizzeria, and they believe he may be showing signs of PTSD after a car crash he was involved in earlier this year. “My heart just stopped and stomach just dropped,” Terri Welch said in an interview with The Post’s Keith L. Alexander and Susan Svrluga, recalling the moment she found out her son had been arrested. They also said they noticed a change in Welch’s personality after he hit and injured a 13-year-old boy on his way to work earlier this year. Maddison, who hopes to be an EMT, stayed with the teen until help arrived and “worried a lot” about long-term effects for the child, they said. “He was very traumatized. We feel that accident changed him,” Harry Welch said, adding that his usually outgoing and energetic son became “melancholy and quiet.”
-- Melania Trump appeared in a Maryland courtroom on Monday for a status hearing in her defamation case against a Montgomery County blogger and a British tabloid. “Mrs. Trump was not required to attend the court conference but chose to do so to meet the judge, meet opposing counsel and show her commitment to the case,” said her attorney, Charles Harder, adding that she “looks forward to seeing the case to a successful conclusion.” The case stems from false assertions that she had once worked as a high-end escort. (Dan Morse)
OBAMA'S LEGACY -- THREE GREAT WAPO STORIES ON THE FIRST FAMILY:
-- “‘The Obamas came from a place we all came from,” by Wil Haygood: “If, at times, the everyday presence of a black American family in the nation’s mind-set has seemed to unleash forces both good and not so good, there are some things that will resonate and be spoken of for generations to come: A black father as president walked his girls hand-in-hand across the lawn of the most powerful address in the world. A black mother gazed at that tableau and took herself back to the stories of beaten-down slaves who once tilled the White House lawns where her husband and daughters loped … As Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama … depart the White House, it is worth looking back at their visage. What did it mean to have a black family, for eight years, astride the political and cultural colossus of American society? How much did the ‘African’ in ‘African American’ resonate? President Obama’s post-presidency plans are bountiful. But his prayed-for attention to black America will be robust … In a nation that has never had a candid conversation about race — unlike South Africa after apartheid, with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission — he will find himself expected to play the role of shaman, poet, conciliator and statesman.”
-- “How Michelle Obama became a singular American voice,” by Peter Slevin: “Obama’s ascendance — as mother, mentor, leader and critic — carries many meanings in American culture, particularly as an African American woman … For all the grief Michelle Obama took from critics who conjured radicalism, grievance or, bizarrely, racism from her finely tuned remarks, her messages were fundamentally timeless and conservative. More than anything, she used the strength of her own Chicago-to-Princeton-to-the-White-House narrative to urge kids to believe in themselves and never quit. In reaching the most rarefied of tables, she figured she had four years, maybe eight, to make something happen, to ‘move the needle,’ as she put it. As the media made a fuss over a new hairstyle, she once explained how she saw the role of first lady: ‘We take our bangs and we stand in front of important things that the world needs to see. And, eventually, people stop looking at the bangs and they start looking at what we’re standing in front of.’”
-- “The Obama-Biden bond is among the strongest in White House history,” by Paul Kane: “Their backgrounds and personalities couldn’t be more different. Obama is cerebral and disdains drama, while Biden is all heart and emotion and prone to theatrics in his own decision-making. [And] it is not the usual course of events for a president and vice president to remain close by the end of their service together. By 2008, Dick Cheney had grown resentful at how often he had been outflanked by other advisers … In 2000, Al Gore ran a presidential campaign that refused to use Bill Clinton because of Clinton’s personal scandals. [But] by the end of their two terms in the White House, President Obama and Vice President Biden had forged a professional relationship and a personal bond that is deeper and stronger than any president and vice president in the modern era. ‘I’m grateful every day that you’ve got such a big heart, and a big soul, and those broad shoulders,’ Obama told the vice president at Beau Biden’s funeral. ‘I couldn’t admire you more.’”
-- Follow the money: “GOP’s hunt for new Trump donors drove millions to low-profile firm,” by Matea Gold: “When it launched in 2012, the GOP email list company Conservative Connector found steady business, collecting $500,000 from various congressional campaigns and several million as a subcontractor to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. But the small Michigan-based firm’s revenue exploded after it was tapped last year to be the email list broker for the RNC … By the end of last month, Conservative Connector had been paid more than $27 million to acquire and rent email lists by the RNC and a joint fundraising committee with [Trump’s] campaign … The gusher of cash that flowed to Conservative Connector illustrates the large sums at stake in the burgeoning email list rental industry, which is driving much of the online fundraising on the right. .. But in the long run, some warn, the GOP’s reliance on list rentals could burn out the donor pool, alienating people with a cascade of unsolicited appeals. 'Eventually, the money is going to dry up,' said digital strategist Patrick Ruffini. 'People are going to get tired of getting endless streams of messages from people they have no prior relationship with.'"
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Mitt Romney reacted gracefully to being passed over for State and totally burned by Trump (which was completely foreseeable, and his advisers warned him about):
It was an honor to have been considered for Secretary of State of our great country. https://t.co/FC9tB7rdoy— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 13, 2016
An amazing coincidence:
Something tells me Mitt Romney will be just fine. pic.twitter.com/qAoB9c1Kte— Matt Viser (@mviser) December 13, 2016
Some commentary on Russia --
From the independent presidential candidate (who spent 10 years undercover at the CIA):
Let this sink in: the American President-elect is resolutely aligned with a foreign power that actively works to undermine our democracy.— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) December 12, 2016
From the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation:
You can hate Hillary, think Trump would have won anyway, and still realize it's vital to investigate Russian meddling in the US election.— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) December 13, 2016
Some thoughts on the intelligence community from Bart Gellman, who contributed to three Pulitzer Prize-winning projects for The Post:
1/ US intelligence does keep some secrets. Here are two hypotheticals. One is that the FBI has identified specific Russian perpetrators...— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) December 12, 2016
2/ of the election hacks and obtained sealed indictments, pending an operation to capture them. Another is that CIA or NSA ...— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) December 12, 2016
3/ have substantially more than circumstantial evidence of Putin's direct involvement and intent in the election hacking.— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) December 12, 2016
4/ Public disclosure of the former could make arrest and prosecution of criminal hackers much harder. Public disclosure of the latter ...— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) December 12, 2016
5/ would presumably blow an extraordinarily valuable intelligence source or NSA access. The FBI, CIA and NSA would be loath to pay ...— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) December 12, 2016
6/ those costs. The dilemmas are genuine. But if either scenario is true, and I have no inside information here, then it is hard...— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) December 12, 2016
7/ to think of a more consequential set of facts. The stakes don't get much higher than a hostile nation weaponizing intelligence...— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) December 12, 2016
8/ for the purpose of tipping a presidential election. This is a secret that simply cannot be withheld from a self-governing people.— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) December 12, 2016
9/ I won't debate distracting claims: Democratic motives, FBI double standards, CIA interventions overseas. This moment is nonpareil. [END]— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) December 12, 2016
Kellyanne Conway called this comment from the deputy editorial page editor at the Wall Street Journal "sexist" -- see how Stephens responded:
He called me ugly. He won. I kissed up. Carly Fiorina, setting a fine example for young women everywhere. https://t.co/EzqRiCjjMX— Bret Stephens (@StephensWSJ) December 12, 2016
Kellyanne Conway calls me sexist and lacking in self-awareness. When you think you've seen it all.... https://t.co/RUZhNY1zYA— Bret Stephens (@StephensWSJ) December 12, 2016
Here's a fascinating note about the importance of Twitter in the current news environment:
So Trump made news on Fox this weekend talking about Lockheed and nobody noticed. He said it on Twitter and immediately moved markets.— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) December 12, 2016
This was the tweet:
The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2016
Why bother giving an interview to a specific news organization, when every network in the world immediately will cover your tweets?— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) December 12, 2016
The market nicely quantifies the extent to which Trump gets ignored if he says something in the middle of a TV interview.— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) December 12, 2016
John Podesta said electors "deserve answers" about Russian hacking:
Serious questions about Russia's involvement in the US election deserve answers. pic.twitter.com/3OV5Q5TO3R— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) December 12, 2016
Speaking of hacking, Julia Louis-Dreyfus thanked the Russians for VEEP's Golden Globe nominations:
Ryan Seacrest was at the White House:
A brief lesson in how McConnell communicates:
McConnell says Biden is "very transactional and a good negotiator"— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) December 12, 2016
For anyone not familiar with Senate-speak, this is extremely high praise. https://t.co/nhpVprn5Zn— Michael Steel (@michael_steel) December 12, 2016
Winter is coming to Vermont:
And has already come to Minnesota:
Kevin McCarthy enjoyed the spirit of the season in New York City. He and his wife got to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree:
Chris Murphy took a selfie -- with a reindeer:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The Atlantic, “My President Was Black: A history of the first African American White House—and of what came next,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates: “This would not happen again, and everyone knew it. It was not just that there might never be another African American president of the United States. It was the feeling that this particular black family, the Obamas, represented the best of black people, the ultimate credit to the race, incomparable in elegance and bearing. This was the ideal—black and graceful under fire. … Against the specter of black pathology, against the narrow images of welfare moms and deadbeat dads, his time in the White House had been an eight-year showcase of a healthy and successful black family spanning three generations, with two dogs to boot. In short, he became a symbol of black people’s everyday, extraordinary Americanness.”
-- New York Times, “Elizabeth Warren Condemns the Wrong Man,” by Andrew Ross Sorkin: “Senator Elizabeth Warren, furious about [Trump’s] appointments of finance industry insiders, took to Facebook a little over a week ago to fire off a message to her nearly 2.5 million followers. She took aim at an individual she described as a ‘hedge fund billionaire’ who is ‘thrilled by [Trump’s] economic team of Wall Street insiders.’ The hedge fund manager she condemned was Whitney Tilson, who runs Kase Capital. There’s one rather glaring problem with Ms. Warren’s attack: Mr. Tilson happens to be one of the few financial executives who publicly fought Mr. Trump’s election and supported Hillary Clinton. A lifelong Democrat who was involved in helping to start Teach for America, Mr. Tilson also happened to be one of the rare Wall Street executives who had donated to Ms. Warren and actively sought new regulations for the industry. Ms. Warren appears to be suffering from the same affliction that Mr. Trump’s critics accuse of him: a knee-jerk, fact-free reaction to something she had read in the news.”
-- Carrier workers held a prayer vigil to save their jobs, pleading for divine intervention after it was revealed that, despite Trump’s intervention to keep the Indianapolis-based work in the U.S., many will still be laid off. “Hundreds of Carrier and Rexnord workers are hoping a Christmas miracle will save their jobs in Indianapolis,” Indy Channel’s Liz Adeola and Rafael Sanchez report. “Many of those workers gathered Sunday night at a prayer vigil at Mount Olive Ministries. Carrier is planning to move 550 jobs, and Rexnord 300 jobs, to Monterrey, Mexico. The workers say they aren't giving up. ‘Treat one another as the way you want to be treated, that's how we're raised. That's all we ask for is fair wages and support for our family,’ said Frank Staples. Rexnord representatives and union officials will meet this week to discuss severance packages and benefits in anticipation of the plant closing in June.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Students remove Shakespeare portrait in English dept., aiming for inclusivity,” from The Daily Pennsylvanian: “Penn English professor and Department Chair Jed Esty was surprised to find a large portrait of William Shakespeare waiting in his office. A group of students removed the iconic portrait from the walls of Fisher- Bennett Hall and delivered it to Esty’s office after an English Department town hall meeting discussing the election … They replaced it with a photo of Audre Lorde, a black female writer. The portrait has resided over the main staircase of Fisher-Bennett — home to Penn’s English Department — for years. ‘Students removed the Shakespeare portrait and delivered it to my office as a way of affirming their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department,’ Esty wrote in the email. He added that the image of Lorde will remain until the department reaches a decision about what to do with the space.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“N.J. judge orders newspaper to stop publishing articles,” from NorthJersey.com: “A New Jersey judge has ordered the Trentonian newspaper to stop publishing articles about a child abuse case — a ruling that First Amendment experts said could violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s most important decisions guaranteeing the freedom of the press. Superior Court Judge Craig Corson issued a temporary injunction in October prohibiting the Trentonian from publishing articles about a confidential child abuse complaint … The document lays out how a 5-year-old boy from Trenton went to school carrying packets of heroin in his lunchbox one day and crack cocaine in his school folder six weeks later, among other sensitive details. Judicial orders that impose a ‘prior restraint’ on a news organization, prohibiting it from publishing articles on a specific topic, are extremely rare in the United States and have been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court several times, including in a case concerning the most closely held national secrets.”
In Trump's world: Trump and Pence hold an evening rally in West Allis, Wis.
At the White House: Obama and Biden meet with the National Security Council to discuss the campaign against ISIS, then speak at the bill signing of the 21st Century Cures Act. Later, Biden holds a roundtable on the Cancer Moonshot to discuss military and first responder care.
On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Joe Manchin obviously is running for a Cabinet spot." – Harry Reid takes a parting shot at fellow Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia during a CNN interview
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Temperatures are continuing to fall ahead of the Arctic air invasion that is heading our way. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds shroud our skies most of the day as temperatures manage to push up only into the middle 40s. Winds are fairly light at least, and lowering humidity helps us dry out from yesterday.
-- A 21-year-old was found fatally shot inside his silver Jaguar in Northwest Washington this weekend, puzzling his parents and members of the community as they struggled to make sense of the bizarre homicide. (Peter Hermann)
-- More homes have been sold in D.C. in the last month than any November in the past seven years, putting Washington on track to close out one of its strongest years since the housing boom. The only problem? Buyers say they don’t have enough properties to choose from. (Kathy Orton)
-- The Wizards lost to the Miami Heat 112-101.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
An arctic blast is set to arrive in the D.C. area Thursday:
Will this puppy move into the White House with Trump?
Seth Meyers talked about Trump's response to the CIA assessment of Russian hacking:
And interviewed Michael Moore about predicting Trump's election:
Stephen Colbert noted one longstanding presidential tradition Trump might not respect:
And walked through a few of Trump's cabinet picks:
Obama talked with cybersecurity with Trevor Noah:
This pastor's anti-Santa rant angered adults and stunned kids at a Texas mall:
Meanwhile, New York and San Francisco prepared for their annual SantaCon pub crawls:
A Metro passenger posted video to social media after a separated train car on the Red Line forced them to walk down the tracks: