With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump’s announcement last night that he’s chosen Ronna Romney McDaniel to become the next chair of the Republican National Committee is a big victory for Reince Priebus.
The elevation of the Michigan GOP state chair will allow the incoming White House chief of staff to maintain tacit control of the committee which he has led for six years. The lawyer from Kenosha inherited massive debt when he ousted Michael Steele in a 2011 election. He turned around the struggling committee, successfully navigating a fundraising environment made much more difficult by the proliferation of super PACs in the post-Citizens United World and building a state-of-the-art field operation that helped make up for Trump’s significant organizational disadvantages during the general election.
It stands to reason that Priebus, who is getting the most important staff title in Trump’s White House, would get a big say over who succeeds him. Indeed, it would have been hugely humiliating if Trump declined to follow Priebus’s advice. That said, there were some very powerful forces inside and outside of Trump Tower that were pushing the president-elect to tap someone for the RNC job who would not feel any sense of loyalty to the outgoing chairman.
Mike Pence’s orbit, for example, wanted Nick Ayers, who had been executive director of the Republican Governors Association during the successful 2010 cycle. Nick has been an adviser to the vice president-elect since 2012. He has deep friendships with many current and former governors, who lobbied Trump on his behalf. Ayers also had the backing of Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, according to Politico’s Alex Isenstadt.
Chris Christie told people he wanted the job and tried to get it, apparently seeing it as a platform to rehabilitate his battered image and deepen relationships with donors ahead of a potential 2024 comeback attempt. But the New Jersey governor has been frozen out by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose father Christie once sent to prison.
Mega-donor Rebekah Mercer – who is close to Bannon and Conway – was pushing political consultant Mercedes Schlapp at one point time. Eliana Johnson, who just moved from National Review to Politico, has speculated that it was because the family owns an analytics firm that it wants to get RNC business, at the expense of the data operation that Priebus built up. Some Priebus allies worried Schlapp would get traction because she is on Fox News all the time, which Trump watches, and she defended him during low points in his campaign.
Other names that had been talked about would also have meant much less Priebus influence: Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager, was considered early in the process. David Bossie, who ran the group Citizens United and came on as Trump’s deputy campaign manager in the home stretch, was talked about. He has his own power center from decades at outside groups (and could still wind up as White House political director).
-- Romney McDaniel’s loyalty to Trump during the campaign was perhaps decisive, people familiar with the deliberations said. A month before Trump locked down the nomination with his victory in Indiana, back when a contested convention still seemed like a possibility, she announced that she’d be a Trump delegate in Cleveland because he had won her state’s primary.
This was when her Uncle Mitt was publicly calling him a conman and a fraud. She told local press at the time that the two had discussed the matter and agreed to disagree. (Ronna is the daughter of Mitt’s brother Scott. Her grandfather, George Romney, was the three-term governor of Michigan who ran for president in 1968 and whose example Mitt has spent his entire life trying to live up to.)
"Ronna has been extremely loyal to our movement,” Trump said in his announcement last night, “Her efforts were critical to our tremendous victory in Michigan, and I know she will bring the same passion to the Republican National Committee.”
The president-elect also went out of his way to say he was moved by her loyalty when he visited Michigan last Friday night. “Ronna McDaniel, what a great job you and your people have done,” Trump told the crowd. “She didn’t sleep for six months!”
-- Adding insult to injury: Ronna uses her maiden name (Romney) in emails and press releases. It is how she has been referred to in local press clips since being elected state chair at the beginning of last year. So it was notable when the announcement from Team Trump just used her married name (McDaniel). The word Romney appears nowhere in the release. Mitt loyalists saw it as another indicator that Donald was never actually serious about making him secretary of state – and was just trying to torture him all along.
-- For Priebus, it was always important that someone from within the committee got the job. People in his orbit had also floated Matt Pinnell, the RNC liaison to state parties, for example. He has spent an inordinate amount of time building relationships with the 168 members of the governing body, which includes a chair, a committeeman and a committeewoman for each state and territory. He treats them like family, which is how he became (by far) the longest-serving RNC chair ever. (This group will officially ratify Ronna as chair during their next meeting in the District, from Jan. 17-21.)
-- White House roles are still being sorted out, but several Priebus loyalists are also very likely to get key jobs as he looks out for his own. Sean Spicer, who was RNC communications director and then chief strategist under Reince, has emerged as the leading candidate to be White House press secretary, CNN Money reported last night. (Other contenders are Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is expected to have a third Trump Tower meeting this week, as well as Laura Ingraham and Monica Crowley.)
-- Trump encourages rival power centers as part of his management style and because he tends to get uncomfortable when any one staffer has too much influence. Priebus was also reportedly an advocate for Mitt to become secretary of state but backed off as other aides went public with their distaste for the 2012 nominee.
Providing a telling window into how he might approach governing, Trump encouraged a group of tech CEOs who he met with yesterday in Trump Tower to reach out to him or his staff if they ever need anything: “And you'll call my people. You call me. It doesn't make any difference! We have no chain of command around here!”
-- The Midwest is the heart of Trump’s coalition, and every political move he’s made since Nov. 8 has reflected just how much importance he places on the region. Obviously the vice president is from Indiana and the White House chief of staff is from Wisconsin, but the Carrier deal was all about trying to save jobs in Indianapolis. The governor of Iowa is stepping down to become the U.S. ambassador to China. Trump already chose another Michigander, Betsy DeVos, to be his secretary of education.
The majority of the stops on the “thank you tour” so far have been to the Midwest, including Cincinnati, Des Moines, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids, Mich. (which not coincidentally is where he held the final rally of the campaign). Tonight Trump goes to Hershey, Pennsylvania, for the next rally. While the Keystone State is not technically part of the Midwest, the western half of the state is very much part of the Rust Belt, and that’s where Trump got his winning margins.
-- The vice chair at the RNC, also announced last night, will be Bob Paduchik, who directed Trump’s incredibly successful effort in Ohio this year. He’s viewed as a non-establishment guy, but he also ran the Buckeye State for George W. Bush in 2004. So that reputation is a little overhyped. Paduchik is a talented operative, and insiders expect he will have quite a lot of say over day-to-day committee operations, especially on the field program.
-- Michigan, with its 16 electoral votes, is especially key to Trump’s 2020 reelection hopes. Trump was the first Republican to carry the state since 1988, but he carried it only by 10,704 votes. “They said a Republican could never win Michigan,” Romney McDaniel said at the Grand Rapids rally. “But I knew better. You knew better and Donald Trump knew better.”
To be sure, the hubris and arrogance of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, combined with a lack of voter enthusiasm for her status-quo message, lost her the Wolverine State more than any brilliant Republican maneuver won it for Trump. The analytics team, the field program, Marlon Marshall and Robby Mook all come off poorly in Edward-Isaac Dovere’s new reconstruction of how Brooklyn blew it. (Read it here.)
-- Finally, Trump World believes Romney McDaniel can help with outreach to women. The president-elect has picked very few women for top jobs in his administration, and many observers expect his West Wing to feel even more like a boy’s club than Obama’s did during the first couple of years. He also won despite a large gender gap and the revelations in the final month of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video, along with more than a dozen women coming forward to accuse him of misconduct.
Ronna will be the first woman to chair the RNC since Mary Louise Smith held the job under Gerald Ford. Smith was a loyalist to George H.W. Bush, and she succeeded him when he became the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Iowan’s tenure was fraught, to say the least. She became a boogeyman of conservatives during the 1976 GOP primaries by clearly favoring Ford over challenger Ronald Reagan.
-- HAPPENING TOMORROW: The 202 goes live with Newt Gingrich. Join me on Friday morning at 9 a.m. at The Post’s headquarters for an interview with the former Speaker of the House and Trump campaign surrogate. We’ll talk about the transition and what to expect from the new administration and Republican-controlled Congress. Register to attend here.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The head of the FCC said this morning that he will step down at the end of President Obama's term, paving the way for Trump to nominate a successor when he takes office in January. Tom Wheeler, the Obama appointee who has led the nation's top telecom regulator for three years, was the driving force behind a number of sweeping regulations that aimed to inject competition into the telecommunications sector. Wheeler's signature battle with conservatives over net neutrality ultimately mandated that cable and telecom companies should abide by some of the same rules when providing Internet service as when providing phone service. "Wheeler's departure on Jan. 20 will leave the agency shorthanded and lopsided — with two Republican commissioners and one Democratic commissioner remaining — meaning that conservatives will enjoy an advantage at the agency as some there have vowed to apply a 'regulatory weed-whacker' to the FCC's policies," Brian Fung reports.
FRESH DETAILS ABOUT RUSSIA'S CYBER ATTACK ON AMERICA:
-- U.S. intelligence officials now believe with “a high level of confidence” that Vladimir Putin “became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign” to interfere in the presidential election, NBC’s William M. Arkin, Ken Dilanian and Cynthia McFadden report: “Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a ‘vendetta’ against [Clinton] morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to ‘split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore,’ [an] official said. Their use of the term ‘high confidence’ implies that the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible.”
Lindsey Graham, on Trump's comments about the origin of the Russian hack: "If it was a 400 pound guy, it was a 400 pound Russian guy."— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) December 14, 2016
-- “Moscow has the world’s attention. And for Putin, that’s a win," David Filipov writes in a smart analysis. “A year ago, Russia faced a united Europe, an expanded NATO alliance, a paucity of geopolitical allies and the possibility of four more years of poor relations with the U.S. under a [Clinton] presidency. Today, Putin’s military contingent in Syria just helped the government essentially retake Aleppo. The CIA has concluded that his hackers worked to help elect [Trump]. Whether or not the Kremlin is guilty of doing all the things Western accusers say it is, Russia is now considered a master purveyor of geopolitical disorder …The post-Cold War order he has railed against has been thrown into chaos, and the Kremlin’s fingerprints are widely seen to be all over it."
-- Trump's disciples have begun showing up in Russia. NPR reports: “He hasn't been inaugurated yet, but members of his campaign entourage are already riding the president-elect's coattails all the way to Moscow. On Monday, Jack Kingston, a former Trump surrogate, briefed American businesspeople in Russia on what they might expect from the incoming administration. Lifting Western sanctions … has become the top priority not only for the Kremlin but for foreign companies working in Moscow. ‘He doesn't have to abide by the Obama foreign policy. That gives him a fresh start,’ [Kingston said.] By chance, Kingston's Moscow trip coincided with the visit of another Trump disciple, Carter Page, who once claimed to advise the Republican candidate on energy and Russia policy. On Monday, Page held a news conference at the headquarters of state-run news agency Sputnik, lamenting the 'Cold War mindset' in the U.S. and singing the praises of Rex Tillerson."
-- What would Reagan say? Rank-and-file Republicans are warming to both WikiLeaks and Putin, according to a new Economist/YouGov poll. Vladimir's net favorable rating has climbed by a stunning 56 points in the last two years. The survey found that GOP voters now favor WikiLeaks by a 27-point margin (a 74-point swing since 2013!) while Democrats now view the site unfavorably by a 28-point margin. (Dave Weigel has more.)
Um, wow...— Will Jordan (@williamjordann) December 14, 2016
Net favorability of Putin:
July 2014: -54
Dec 2016: -62
July 2014: -66
Dec 2016: -10
-- A Fox News poll finds that a majority of Americans think the Russian cyber-attacks had “no real effect” on the presidential race. Just 32 percent of voters think Moscow’s meddling aided Trump in the election, while 69 percent said it didn’t make a difference. Eighty-five percent of Republican voters, 36 percent of Democrats, and 64 percent of independents think the Russians did not affect the outcome.
CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, ABETTED BY MOSCOW, CONTINUE IN ALEPPO:
-- A second attempt to evacuate the wounded from Aleppo was foiled on Thursday in a hail of bullets. Louisa Loveluck reports: Volunteers for The White Helmets group said a bulldozer and an ambulance came under “sustained fire” as they cleared a road leading to an agreed evacuation point for the wounded. A rebel official blamed the attack on Assad’s troops or Iran-backed militia, saying they had “targeted injured civilians who were being evacuated.”
The attack comes as negotiators scramble, for the second day in a row, to secure an evacuation deal for civilians in the Syrian city. Nearly 1,000 civilians have been killed in the last two weeks alone, Turkish officials said. Rebel fighters are also expected to leave during the second stage of the evacuation plan.
Jan Egeland, a U.N. humanitarian advisor, said he was hopeful the plan could still proceed, but that Russia — which brokered the evacuation deal along with Turkey — had only just requested his organization’s involvement: "We are now receiving information from the Russians that they would indeed want us to participate in the evacuation, but confirmation only seems to come now, this morning, which is very late, because it is already ongoing and there have already been security incidents," he said. It remains unclear whether the efforts will succeed.
-- “We want to leave .. we don’t want more massacres, let us leave, what is happening,” one former accountant says in another dispatch from Louisa and Missy Ryan. “A video shared on social media showed dozens of children huddled in a basement orphanage. Contacted by phone, the director, Asmar al-Halabi, paused as the sound of warplanes echoed over the phone. ‘Can you hear that?’ he asked. ‘The children are downstairs — they are terrified.’” As the blasts escalated, one radiology nurse in Aleppo said he hoped the world would hear “our final scream.”
-- The U.N. human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said the resumed shelling is probably a war crime: The Syrian government has a clear responsibility to ensure its people are safe, and is palpably failing to take this opportunity to do so.”
-- Pressed by reporters about the lacking U.S. response to the bloodshed, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the Obama administration continues to support humanitarian assistance and seek a negotiated end to the conflict. But he rejected suggestions that the U.S. has a responsibility to do more to halt the violence: “They do cross just about every line that I can think of,” he said. “And frankly, they cross lines I hadn’t previously thought of.” (Louisa and Missy)
-- In August, Nicholas Kristof penned a column on the U.S. response to suffering in Aleppo: “But what if my dog had been a Syrian?” Even months later, it’s worth the read. And, in a new piece, Michael Kimmelman asks: In an age of unprecedented digital connectedness, how did the world manage to keep its eyes so closed to Syria’s horror? “The faces of the besieged, staring into the camera, at us, and at death, pleading for help, baffled by our indifference to the slaughter, describing the atrocities outside their bedrooms or just on the other side of the door. They are bearing witness, in real time, refusing to disappear without a trace. And in this era of connectedness, they are refusing to let us off the hook.”
-- In an unexpected reversal, President Barack Obama declined to sign a renewal of sanctions against Iran but let it become law anyway, in an apparent bid to alleviate Tehran’s concerns that the U.S. is backsliding on the nuclear deal. From the AP: "Although the White House had said that Obama was expected to sign the 10-year-renewal, the midnight deadline came and went Thursday with no approval from the president. ... Josh Earnest said Obama had decided to let it become law without his signature. ... Under the Constitution, the president has 10 days after Congress passes a bill to sign it, veto it or do nothing. If Congress has adjourned, failing to sign it is a 'pocket veto' that prevents the bill from becoming law. But if Congress is still in session, the bill becomes law with no signature. Although lawmakers have returned home for the holidays, Congress technically is still in session and holding 'pro-forma' sessions this week. Though Obama’s move doesn’t prevent the sanctions renewal from entering force, it marked a symbolic attempt by the president to demonstrate disapproval for lawmakers’ actions."
-- Metro has fired six employees following a probe into the July 29 derailment of a Silver Line train outside the East Falls Church station. The employees include four track inspectors and two supervisors. Six more track inspectors are pending termination or unpaid suspension. (Developing.)
GET SMART FAST:
- Yahoo announced that more than one billion user accounts were hacked in 2013, including telephone numbers, dates of birth, and other personal information. The news comes just months after Yahoo announced another, separate hack of 500 million accounts – making them the victim of the two largest data breaches ever reported. It’s another major blow for Marissa Mayer and could crater an acquisition agreement with Verizon. (Craig Timberg and Hayley Tsukayama)
- The Federal Reserve raised interest rates for just the second time in a decade, voting unanimously to increase key rates by a quarter point, and releasing projections for three more rate increases next year. The move reflects Fed officials' confidence in the strengthening of the U.S. economy and what officials see as budding signs of higher inflation. (Jim Tankersley; Here’s how the rate hike will affect your wallet.)
- Marijuana is officially re-legalized in Massachusetts, as of this morning, 105 years after New England’s Watch and Ward Society – created to eradicate drugs and other “special evils” in the early 19th century – outlawed it. The initiative passed last month despite intense opposition from several politicians and the Catholic Church. (Boston Globe)
- A mass casualty event in Brooklyn that left 18 men hospitalized for alarming and “zombielike” behavior was the result of a brand-new, dangerous designer drug. The synthetic cannabinoid is 85 times as potent as marijuana and could be a precursor of more potent and havoc-wreaking drugs still to come. (New York Times)
On the four-year anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary, which killed 20 children and six adult staff, a Colorado school district voted to allow teachers and administrators to carry guns in the classroom. The vote split almost evenly down the middle, with the greatest opposition coming from students who attend the schools. (Travis M. Andrews)
Cuisinart recalled eight million food processor blades sold in the last decade – the largest recall in kitchen appliance history. The move comes only after 70 people reported finding pieces of the blade in their food! (Becky Krystal)
- The CDC is urging pregnant woman to consider postponing trips to the border town of Brownsville, Tex., after five local cases of the Zika virus were reported. Health officials said there is no evidence of widespread transmission but are urging an abundance of caution. (Lena H. Sun)
- The number of people signing up for 2017 health plans through the Affordable Care Act has risen slightly since last year, even as Trump and a Republican Congress threaten – on differing timelines – to dismantle the law. (Amy Goldstein)
- A Tunisian captain who ferried migrants from Libya to Italy on a small fishing boat has been sentenced to jail time after at least 700 of his passengers drowned mid-journey. Firefighters who later recovered the bodies from the decaying ship said they had been “packed in like on the trains for Auschwitz.” It is the single deadliest migrant-involved shipwreck that has occurred on the Mediterranean. (Samantha Schmidt)
- Amazon made its first commercial drone delivery in England. (AFP)
- A blind man has successfully traveled around Austin – unaccompanied – in Google’s driverless car. He’s the first non-employee to ever ride solo in the gumdrop-shaped vehicle, and his trip is a huge success for Google, which just announced that it has spun off its autonomous vehicles division into a stand-alone company. (Ashley Halsey III and Michael Laris)
- Uber expanded its self-driving car service to San Francisco yesterday, but state regulators shut it down within hours after vehicles ran red lights. The California DMV threatened legal action, telling the ride-hailing company it must first obtain a special permit to test the autonomous vehicles on its roadways. (Steven Overly)
- A New Jersey state trooper was suspended for targeting females at traffic stops – allegedly seeking out young women to pull over before deactivating his microphone and asking them out on dates. Authorities said he altered his police reports to hide the fact that he was pulling over a disparate number of females. ( Katie Mettler)
- A treasure hunter who found three tons of sunken gold is being jailed until he reveals the location of his treasure. The feds are even fining him $1,000 a day, desperate to find what is believed to be the biggest loot in U.S. history. He refuses to talk. (Avi Selk)
- Paul Ryan tapped an African American, 38-year-old Jonathan Burks, to be his chief of staff. (Paul Kane)
- Humayun Khan, the Muslim American Army captain who was killed in action in Iraq, is being honored with a plaque at the University of Virginia's rotunda. Khan gained recognition after his parents spoke out against Trump at the Democratic National Convention. (T. Rees Shapiro)
- Lane Kiffin just signed quarterback De’Andre Johnson to play for Florida Atlantic, even though he was caught on video punching a woman at a Tallahassee bar in June! (Matt Bonesteel)
- CorePower founder Trevor Tice, whose rapidly-expanding company was known as the “Starbucks of yoga,” was found dead in his San Diego home under “suspicious circumstances.” Police declined to release additional details, but the homicide unit was called to investigate. (Amy B Wang)
Lawyers for a Virginia death row inmate are suing to stop his lethal injection, saying a newly-passed law that allows unidentified pharmacies to manufacture the drugs is a due process violation. Instead, they suggest he receive death by firing squad instead. (Rachel Weiner)
The Knoxville News Sentinel said it can no longer stand by its story of a terminally-ill five-year-old who got his dying wish to see Santa just minutes before dying in his arms. The sentimental story was quickly picked up by a swarm of national news outlets, including the 202, and has not been disproved, but the paper says it’s having trouble verifying details from the account. Our Sarah Larimer, Paul Farhi and Monica Hesse spoke to the Santa Claus actor, who maintains that the story is true.
- Miss World organizers, who have been kowtowing to the Chinese regime in Beijing for business reasons, have finally agreed to let Chinese-Canadian actress and pageant contender Anastasia Lin speak to members of the media, ending a nearly month-long silencing effort of a human rights activist that prompted international criticism. (New York Times)
- On an island in the Philippines, divers are paying to swim with sardines. The fish cluster together in schools of thousands to millions, forming a single, sparkling cloud of silver that one diver dubbed the “sardine disco ball.” (New York Times)
A 12-year-old boy building a snow fort in upstate New York died after he was trapped in a snow bank, and authorities are trying to determine whether road crews unwittingly dumped hundreds of pounds of snow on him. (Cleve Wootson)
Traveling for the holidays this year? If so, you’ll be part of a record-setting horde doing the same: At least 103 million Americans said they’ll be traveling around Christmas and the New Year – close to one third of the U.S. population, and the highest-ever number recorded by the AAA. (Ashley Halsey III)
THE WAR OVER CLIMATE SCIENCE:
-- "The oil and gas industry is no stranger to political influence. But the sector’s breathtaking power grab during the first month of Trump’s transition is palpably different — and has alarmed environmentalists, who fear the new administration will undo what they see as a decade of progress in combating climate change," Juliet Eilperin, Steven Mufson and Philip Rucker report on the front page. “After eight years of being banished and sometimes vilified by the Obama administration, the fossil fuel industry is enjoying a remarkable resurgence as its executives and lobbyists shape [Trump’s] policy agenda and staff his administration. The oil, gas and coal industries are amassing power throughout Washington — from Foggy Bottom, where ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson is Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, to domestic regulatory agencies including the departments of Energy and Interior as well as the EPA.”
-- Under pressure, the transition team backed off a controversial questionnaire sent to the Energy Department last week that asked for a list of all department staffers who have worked on climate change initiatives under Obama. Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin report: “'The questionnaire was not authorized,' Trump’s transition team [said]. ‘The person who sent it has been properly counseled.’ The disavowal marked one of the earliest apparent instances of the Trump transition team changing course and seeming to acknowledge a mistake, although even that is unclear. The issue of the potential political interference with science has risen quickly to the top of many minds, with scientists demonstrating in the streets of San Francisco outside a major scientific meeting … and some beginning to download publicly available government data for fear the new administration will make it difficult to access or will wipe some of it clean.”
-- Meanwhile, a key adviser on the Trump transition team likened modern climate science to the ancient belief that the Earth was flat. “I know that the current president believes that human beings are affecting the climate,” Anthony Scaramucci, a major GOP donor and a member of the president-elect’s transition team executive committee, said yesterday on CNN’s “New Day” program. “There are scientists that believe that that’s not happening. … There was an overwhelming science that the earth was flat and there was an overwhelming science that we were the center of the world. We get a lot of things wrong in the scientific community.” CNN anchor Chris Cuomo interjected, “It’s called ignorance. You learn over time.” (Chelsea Harvey has more on the back-and-forth. Philip Bump explains why Saramucci's tortured logic is insane.)
-- Outgoing Interior Secretary Sally Jewell urged a group of hundreds of scientists to “fight disinformation” about science that she sees as inevitable under a President Trump. “Make your voices heard and make them relevant to the people you are talking to,” she said in a speech at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco — the largest gathering of Earth scientists in the world. Speaking to reporters just after the speech, Jewell made her call even clearer: “I encourage people to speak up and to talk about the importance of scientific integrity, and if they see that being undermined to say something about it,” she said. In her remarks, she called climate change “the most pressing issue of our time.” (Sarah Kaplan)
-- Gov. Jerry Brown drew a red line in California yesterday, promising to do whatever it takes to fight back. "We've got the scientists, we've got the lawyers and we're ready to fight," Brown said. After lamenting what he described as a "miasma of nonsense,” the man once known as Governor Moonbeam declared: "If Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellites!" (Los Angeles Times)
-- Democratic attorneys general in 10 states are preparing to file a wave of lawsuits to stymie Trump, just as Republicans have with Obama for the past eight years. From the New York Times’ Vivian Yee: " If the Trump administration withdraws from environmental, antitrust or financial regulations, the attorneys general say they will plug regulatory holes that may gape wide open, deploying state laws like New York's Martin Act, which allows the state attorney general to pursue wide-ranging investigations on Wall Street. They have pledged to defend undocumented immigrants, and to combat hate crimes ... And if Mr. Trump's policies veer toward the unconstitutional, several of the 10 current and incoming Democratic attorneys general interviewed recently said they would apply a remedy favored by Mr. Trump himself: a lawsuit."
-- This is not a laughing matter: Reindeer in Norway are shrinking in size due to climate change, scientists say. Warmer temps in the area have turned snow to rain, eventually forming icy sheets – and blocking the antlered creatures from accessing vegetation beneath. As a result, they’re dropping weight, and giving birth to smaller calves. (Karin Brulliard)
-- “Trump doesn’t threaten only President Obama’s legacy. He could ruin Michelle Obama’s, too,” by Caitlin Dewey: “The first lady has spent the past eight years championing anti-obesity initiatives … But now that Trump will soon take power — Trump of the deep-fried taco bowl and 20-ounce Porterhouse fame — lobbyists, activists and outgoing administration officials fear that the president-elect, and his and his advisers’ skepticism of government regulation, will uproot the healthy food movement Obama has championed. At stake is not only her personal legacy, experts say, but efforts to reverse the nation's obesity epidemic."
-- Trump’s presidency could also make it harder to punish campus sexual assault, former DOJ sex crimes prosecutor Shanlon Wu explains in a Post op-ed: “Currently, schools must apply the lowest possible burden of proof used in civil cases … Under this standard, guilt may be determined by the school if the evidence merely indicates that it is ‘more likely than not’ that the sexual assault occurred. Advocates for accused students have long argued that the standard is too lenient and results in too many accused students wrongly being found responsible. This argument is likely to gain traction with a more conservative Education Department, which is likely to increase the burden of proof to a more stringent ‘clear and convincing standard’ either through revising its recommendations or clarifying that its previous recommendations were only guidance, lacking the force of law. This approach is also in keeping with a general approach of ‘de-federalizing’ the campus sexual assault issue.”
AS TRUMP TAKES OVER, ARE HIS NOMINEES READY FOR PRIME-TIME?
-- Trump's staffers have failed to perform meaningful vetting or due diligence on several major cabinet picks, a stark break with tradition that makes them vulnerable to embarrassment and even humiliation during Senate confirmation hearings. From the Wall Street Journal’s Damian Paletta: “In many cases, Mr. Trump has announced his prospective nominees without requiring a review of extensive paperwork about their background and financial records, including tax returns. … That leaves open the possibility that the first officials to study such material will be the Senate committees that next year will conduct the confirmation hearings, a process that can be grueling and disqualifying. The unpredictable process has made it harder for the Trump team to use the cabinet selections to highlight policy priorities or key personnel for the next administration. It is also unclear how much support is being built around the nominees to help prepare them for their confirmation hearings—a process that has become more prolonged with the rise of partisanship in Washington."
-- A taste of what's to come? A group of Senate Democrats is demanding that Trump’s education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos pay $5.3 million in fines for 2008 campaign finance violations in Ohio. “As secretary of education, Betsy DeVos would be responsible for overseeing the nation’s student loan program, including ensuring that students repay their loans, so it’s troubling that she has blatantly ignored her own PAC’s debt to the people of Ohio,” Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said in a statement. (Danielle Douglas-Gabriel)
-- Trump’s protracted deliberations over whether or not John Bolton should be deputy secretary of state have revived some of the same debates that consumed the years of war and strife during the Bush administration. From the New York Times’ Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman: "Mr. Bolton, a State Department official under Mr. Bush … is facing stiff resistance from some of the Republican Party’s best-known leaders in world affairs — some of them veterans of the Bush White House who often found themselves at odds with him during that period. But Mr. Bolton remains under consideration for the job. And he enjoys a powerful ally in Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and Republican megadonor who favors the kind of hard-nosed posture that Mr. Bolton would bring. Mr. Adelson’s backing has gone an especially long way with ... Jared Kushner."
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST:
-- A Trump spokesman pushed back on news reports that Ivanka Trump plans to occupy the office space in the White House typically reserved for the first lady. CNN tweeted the news. Melania and Barron plan to remain in New York after the inauguration, though it is unclear for how long. (The Hill)
-- A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered the president-elect to sit for a deposition in his legal dispute with chef José Andrés during the first week of January, ruling that Trump could be deposed for up to SEVEN HOURS by the chef’s attorney in the days preceding his inauguration. (Jonathan O'Connell)
-- U.S. officials overseeing Trump’s Washington hotel lease said it is “premature” to judge whether the president-elect will violate a clause in the deal before he enters office. Officials from the GSA, which oversees federal real estate, said the agency “does not have a position that the lease provision requires the President-elect to divest of his financial interests.” “We can make no definitive statement at this time about what would constitute a breach of the agreement, and to do so now would be premature,” the agency said. “In fact, no determination regarding the Old Post Office can be completed until the full circumstances surrounding the President-elect’s business arrangements have been finalized and he has assumed office.” (Jonathan O'Connell)
-- More than 100 Jewish protesters gathered outside Trump’s D.C. hotel yesterday to protest a major Jewish organization’s Hanukkah party that was held there. (Julie Zauzmer)
-- As ethics experts push Trump to divorce himself from his businesses, some say it will be difficult for him to stay away. The Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Berzon reports: “From Trump Tower offices next to one another, each of the adult children runs his or her own teams of employees that oversee specific projects. … They each have the same business title—executive vice president of development and acquisitions—but that hardly describes the way they divided up various duties. Eric Trump took on a winery project in Virginia and golf course acquisitions and construction, and has overseen the Las Vegas hotel. Ivanka Trump has been heavily involved in the hotel development business, particularly the redevelopment of the Post Office building. Donald Trump Jr. has embarked on many of the company’s offshore licensing deals as well as domestic commercial leasing deals … Even so, they continued to go to their father for counsel and affirmation in their decisions, and the elder Mr. Trump ran the businesses with a heavy hand." A remarkable quote when you think about it: “Earlier in the year, Donald Trump Jr. was asked under oath if there is a specific entity owned by his father that he works for. ‘I’m sure there is,’ he said in a court deposition. ‘I don’t know exactly what it is.’”
-- Despite his affinity for gold decor and love for headline-grabbing stunts, military officials tasked with planning Trump’s inauguration said the ceremony will be a relatively traditional affair. Perry Stein reports: “The Joint Task Force National Capital Region — the group responsible for coordinating all military support for the inauguration and many of the logistics for the parade — held what is called a rehearsal of concept Wednesday morning at the D.C. Armory, where it presented a rough outline of what Trump’s Inauguration Day will look like. The theme of the inauguration, according to the committee, will be ‘Make America great again!’” Otherwise, things appear to be business as usual: “Generally speaking, inauguration is taking [place] as it has been in the past, though subject to change,” said Brig. Gen. George M. Degnon, a deputy commanding general for the 2017 presidential inauguration. “There’s only so many ways you can make things happen.”
TRUMP'S TECH SUMMIT:
-- The president-elect met with a group of tech titans whose combined net worth — at least $136 billion — was gilded even for the likes of Trump Tower. From Elizabeth Dwoskin and Brian Fung: "After months of acrimony that at times felt personal, they had come to make nice … Trump was also on his best behavior during the roughly two-hour meeting. ‘There's nobody like you in the world. In the world,’ he said, [adding] that his team would be there to help them. ‘And you'll call my people, you call me. It doesn't make any difference. We have no chain of command around here.’ But behind the cordiality was a sense of trepidation: While technology companies were among the most critical of Trump on the campaign trail, many understand that he will soon hold power over issues critical to them and their shareholders, including government contracts, high-skilled immigrant visas, Chinese imports and trade deals.”
-- “Trump seemed willing to back down from a signature campaign promise to end free-trade deals. Rather than raising barriers to trade, which he said he would do against countries such as China, Trump promised executives he would ease the flow of goods. ‘We’re going to make fair-trade deals,’ he told them. ‘We’re going to make it a lot easier for you to trade across borders.’ He also seemed open to keeping a high-skilled visa program open, which he previously said he would shutter. At the meeting, the discussion mostly focused on how to bring jobs back to the United States, immigration and China. Trump’s children and Commerce Department nominee Wilbur Ross were also in attendance."
-- Notably missing from the meeting was Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who Politico reports was cut out from the roundtable as retribution for refusing to allow a “Crooked Hillary” emoji on the platform before the election. Nancy Scola explains: “Trump's campaign also made a $5 million deal with Twitter before the election, in which the campaign committed ‘to spending a certain amount on advertising and in exchange receive discounts, perks, and custom solutions.’” Dorsey allegedly intervened personally to block the Hillary emoji, which would have shown small bags of money being given away or stolen.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer denied this report on MSNBC, saying that "the conference table was only so big." "There was a lot of companies and if you go down the list of the top tech companies, I guarantee you you'll find additional ones that weren't there." (Another transition official said the $13.85 billion company wasn't invited "because they aren’t big enough.")
-- “The eternal mystique of Goldman Sachs,” by Dan Zak: “Goldman Sachs. The name feels like the bob of a yacht in Biarritz and tastes like the marbling of a Wagyu steak. It sounds like money being moved, invested, tripled, then moved again to avoid taxes and bubbles and crashes. Goldman Sachs. Again with Goldman Sachs! Always Goldman Sachs. An alien race could invade Earth, create an economy based on quasars and dark matter, and our new six-eyed overlord would still hire someone from Goldman Sachs. What gives? Why does this white-shoe investment firm always turn up, a tuxedoed stowaway, in the White House? It all stems from a culture of backbreaking work and breathtaking exclusivity, to which Goldman recruits are exposed as soon as they walk in the door. Everything — individuality, ego, feelings — is subordinate to the firm. ‘Those candidates who do not evince a scorching ambition, total commitment, and an inclination for teamwork are quickly weeded out,’ [said one former trader].”
-- “From Senator Warren, a regret,” by the Boston Globe's Yvonne Abraham: “Elizabeth Warren is still mad as hell at the Wall Street takeover of the next White House. But she’s also a little mad at herself. That Facebook excoriation of hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson? She shouldn’t have done it, the senator said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. Afterward, she called Tilson to tell him so. 'I think I took it too far,' Warren said. After we spoke, she removed the post, which … warned that, ‘The next four years are going to be a bonanza for the Whitney Tilsons of the world.’ The problem was, Tilson isn’t that kind of guy. While he is relieved Trump isn’t putting lunatics in charge of the financial system, Tilson is a vehement critic of the president-elect, and a huge fan of the senator. Warren sees that now. ‘There are many things I agree with Whitney on, and I wish my tone had been less heated,’ she said.”
-- Civil rights leader Rev. William Barber is suing American Airlines, saying the company kicked him off a flight earlier this year because he is black. According to the minister from North Carolina, he was harassed by fellow passengers and a flight attendant before being removed from his flight from Washington for no reason. “To be born two days after the March on Washington and still have to deal with this kind of racism and discrimination, it’s troubling,” Barber said. (Rachel Weiner)
-- A Florida man was arrested after he set his girlfriend’s car on fire -- pretending to be a Trump-supporting member of the KKK before staging his own racially-motivated abduction. Authorities think it was part of an elaborate plot to get out of paying child support. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
-- That British tourist who tried to grab an officer's gun during a Trump rally in Las Vegas was sentenced to a year and a day in prison:
TRUMP'S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PRESS:
-- Priebus said “major changes” could be in store for press briefings in the Trump administration. “The traditions, while some of them are great, I think it’s time to revisit a lot of these things that have been done in the White House," he said on Hugh Hewitt's show. "I mean, there's a lot of different ways that things can be done, and I can assure you we're looking at that." When reporters asked Trump’s team if the changes could have a chilling effect on the press, spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded in an email, “Chilling effect? How do you know these are not positive changes that will delight the press?" She did not responded to a follow-up email asking again what the changes might be. (CNN's Tom Kludt and Kevin Liptak)
-- Incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who a Pentagon investigation found inappropriately shared classified information about CIA activities when he was a general in Afghanistan, has finally deleted his tweet to a fake news story that said Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring. (CNN)
-- Politico terminated its contract with Julia Ioffe, a contributing magazine writer who was already about to start a new job at The Atlantic, after a crude tweet suggesting (in explicit terms) that Trump was either sleeping with his daughter Ivanka or "shirking nepotism laws."
- “We have accelerated the close of her Politico contributor contract, effective immediately,” Politico's top two editors wrote in a staff memo. "We understand how absolutely infuriating it is to have incidents like this tarnish Politico... We feel the same."
- Responding to the memo, Ioffe wrote: "The way it was explained to me was that they were already having problems with the Trump administration."
- Ioffe followed her original tweet with a series of apologies.
-- POTUS admitted defeat on Merrick Garland last night. At a White House Hanukkah party, the president noted that Garland was there along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. “We’ve got one of the country’s finest jurists, who I happened to have nominated to the Supreme Court and who’s going to continue to serve our country with distinction as the chief judge on the D.C. circuit, Merrick Garland is here,” Obama said. "It has seemed to most that the end of Garland’s nomination was a foregone conclusion and that [Trump] would fill the vacancy created by the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia. But Obama has not withdrawn Garland’s nomination," Robert Barnes notes. "Some liberals have urged Obama to push the envelope by trying to make Garland a recess appointment. But that would most likely not have resulted in a permanent appointment for Garland, and he would lose his seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit."
-- Amazing stats: How big is the gap between the donor class and ordinary Americans? Bigger than you think. Monkey Cage has the details of a new academic study conducted for Demos: “While white men make up 35 percent of the population, they comprise 45 percent of donors; they also contribute 57 percent of all political donations. … In 2016, 95 percent of Trump’s donors were white, and 64 percent were white men. In contrast, 33 percent of Clinton’s donors were white men. … Although about 3 percent of Americans are millionaires, 17 percent of donors were. … 42 percent of Clinton’s money, and 27 percent of Trump’s money, came from millionaires.”
-- The harrowing story of one refugee --> “7,000 miles to salvation,” by Chico Harlan: “On the 41st day of his journey to the U.S., Dumano Aristide woke up in a dust-caked tent along the Pan-American Highway, with 4,000 miles down, 3,000 miles to go. Just to reach Costa Rica, Aristide passed through five countries, traveling by bus along snow-capped mountain ranges and walking for days through some of the world’s remotest jungle. He used palm fronds as blankets and pulled bread out of trash cans for meals — unwilling, as some migrants did on the run, to eat uncooked spaghetti. Far removed from the cataclysms that have caused attention-grabbing refugee flows into Europe, the journey from Brazil represents an extreme version of a more common tale: one in which jobs and money compel people to move. While Mexicans and Central Americans for years defined migration to the United States, this emerging wave is making a much longer and more harrowing journey on the mere chance to carve out better lives.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A school of sardines in South Africa. Greg Lecoeur. who took this picture, was named the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year:
This New Yorker cartoon has gone viral as an encapsulation of this year:
Trump signed a copy of Time for Kanye West:
An observation from Trump's tech meeting:
On Jack Dorsey's absence:
Jack Dorsey/Twitter were the designated survivor of the Trump Tech Summit.— Publius (@joshsternberg) December 14, 2016
The chief strategist on Rand Paul's presidential campaign tweeted this:
Good for Trump to cut Jack Dorsey out of talks. Love his products but action w/emoji was biased and unfair.— Vincent Harris (@VincentHarris) December 14, 2016
Rand's former Senate chief of staff and a top adviser on his campaign fired back:
@VincentHarris please tell me that you're not saying the PEOTUS should have an opinion and take action on emojis— Doug Stafford (@dougstafford) December 14, 2016
Here's a new trend to adjust to:
Breitbart literally took a Trump press release, changed the headline, and published it as news. https://t.co/EZbdx5nZFg— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) December 14, 2016
Trump surrogate Jack Kingston has been in Moscow:
Katie Couric and Wolf Blitzer ran into each other at the White House holiday party:
Jeff Denham's staff took an 'ugly sweater' photo:
Spotted in D.C.:
The Adams Morgan BID put these chalkboards up a few days ago to welcome our soon-to-be neighbor in Kalorama. pic.twitter.com/wlgvtwxZI0— Benjamin Freed (@brfreed) December 14, 2016
Not a great moment for the TSA:
The TSA instagram account is bragging about confiscating a large bear from a child pic.twitter.com/gVYJbirHIt— Sabine Wolff (@sabinewolff) December 15, 2016
-- The Post had an annual employee award ceremony last night. Mary Jordan received the Eugene Meyer Award for her amazing career of achievement. David Fahrenthold received the new Ben Bradlee Award for his indefatigable pursuit of Trump's charitable giving (or lack thereof):
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“There Have Been Over 200 School Shooting Incidents Since The Sandy Hook Massacre,” from HuffPost: “There have been over 200 school shooting incidents ― an average of nearly one a week ― since the horrifying morning when 20-year-old Adam Lanza marched into Sandy Hook Elementary School and did the unthinkable. According to data from Everytown for Gun Safety … there have been at least 94 gun-related deaths and more than 156 people injured as a result of more than 200 school shooting incidents since Sandy Hook. This doesn’t include plots that thankfully didn’t come to fruition, like the one police stopped this week in Oklahoma, when they arrested a heavily armed 13-year-old girl who had reportedly threatened her classmates.” “What is needed is a federal solution, because this is a national crisis,” said nonprofit founder Shannon Watts.
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Muslim Woman Reportedly Admits To Fabricating NYC Subway Attack,” from the Daily Caller: “An 18-year-old Muslim woman has recanted her claim that she was harassed by a group of Donald Trump supporters on a New York City subway car earlier this month … Sources tell the website that Yasmin Seweid, a student at Baruch College, said that she made up the story because she was having problems at home and wanted attention. Seweid will also be charged with filing a false police report … Seweid claimed that on Dec. 1 she was harassed by three drunk white men who called her a ‘terrorist’ and told her to ‘get the hell out of the country.’ One of the men attempted to remove Seweid’s hijab, she claimed. Worse, she said that other passengers did not come to her aid.” “No matter how ‘cultured’ or ‘Americanized’ I am, these people don’t see me as an American,” she had said.
In Trump's world: Trump holds a rally in Hershey, Pa.
At the White House: Obama has no public events scheduled. Press Secretary Josh Earnest briefs the media alongside Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman and Deputy Press Secretary Jennifer Friedman.
On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines boasted about personally killing criminal suspects when he was a mayor: “In Davao, I used to do it personally — just to show to the guys that if I can do it, why can’t you?” Duterte told business leaders at a meeting in Manila, explaining how he goaded police officers to gun down suspects. “And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also,” he said, according to The Manila Times. “I was really looking for a confrontation, so I could kill.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It is bone-chilling cold out. Wear all your layers. Per today’s Capital Weather Gang forecast: “Lingering clouds quickly dissipate as winds from the northwest build across the area. Gusts could go as high as 40 mph. With temperatures hovering in the 20s much of the day, that means single digit wind chills. Bundle up big time if you have to be out and about.”
-- The Wizards beat the Hornets 109-106.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
When John McGraw sucker-punched Rakeem Jones at a Trump rally in Fayetteville, N.C., in March, it became national news. Yesterday, the two shook hands and hugged it out in court. Watch:
Seth Meyers looked at Trump's cabinet:
And interviewed Bernie Sanders:
What if the Trump kids had to audition to run Trump's blind trust? Funny or Die imagined that:
Conan O'Brien had more of his Obama-Trump conversations (caution: adult language):
Celebrities urged GOP electors to deny Trump his win:
Meet the NASA mathematician recognized by People for her role in launching John Glenn into orbit:
Some scenes from last night's Hanukkah reception at the White House:
Jackie Evancho will sing the national anthem at Trump's inauguration. She got her big break as a 10-year-old YouTube sensation who captivated “America’s Got Talent” judges in 2010. At the time, she was a child with an improbably mature, operatic voice: