THE BIG IDEA: Hillary Clinton joined the Senate Armed Services Committee after the Sept. 11 attacks, a central element of the strategy to re-brand herself as a tough-as-nails American version of Margaret Thatcher after eight years as first lady. She often mentioned her work on this committee in 2008 and still brought it up in 2016, after four years as secretary of state. The relationships she forged while on the panel, touring bases around the world, prompted a lot of retired brass and advocates for veterans to support her who might not have otherwise.
Tim Kaine was the first statewide elected official outside of Illinois to endorse Barack Obama when he launched his long-shot 2008 campaign, and his loyalty got the then-Virginia governor on the short-list for vice president. But Obama, himself a first-term senator, passed Kaine over for Joe Biden because he lacked foreign policy experience. This is why, after he got elected to the Senate in 2012, the freshman sought out spots on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. By 2016, no one questioned his bona fides.
Clinton considered both Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren as potential running mates this summer, but a big knock on both was their lack of foreign policy experience. This calculus seems quaint now, but Clinton World feared that going with either of them might undercut one of their candidate’s best contrasts against Donald Trump. Recall that on the eve of one of Clinton’s sit-downs with Warren, basically a job interview to be vice president, Clinton ally and former DNC chair Ed Rendell told a Philadelphia radio station: “I think Elizabeth Warren is a wonderful, bright, passionate person, but with no experience in foreign affairs and not in any way, shape or form ready to be commander-in-chief.”
Booker and Warren very clearly want to seek the presidency for themselves in 2020. Neither wants to be anyone else’s second fiddle. And both recognize the need for some kind of experience in this arena. This week they took big steps to shore up their shared liability: Warren joined Armed Services, and Booker gave up his seat on the Homeland Security Committee to jump over to Foreign Relations.
Both committees carry real cachet and bring with them classified intelligence briefings, as well as the chance to travel the world on really cool CODELs. They offer a platform to speak about issues like Russia's interference in the U.S. election, the atrocities in Aleppo, the Iran nuclear deal and, down the road, sequestration.
Booker, the Stanford-educated former Rhodes Scholar, described himself as “excited” about the assignment because it will “enable me to keep fighting to strengthen America's national security” in a statement sent by his press office. “I’m looking forward to continuing the work to build bipartisan bridges and deliver for New Jerseyans, while standing by my values and serving as a check and balance on the new Administration,” he said.
“All three of my brothers served in the military,” Warren, the former Harvard Law professor, said in her statement announcing the new role. “I understand the sacrifices America's servicemembers make to defend our country, and the important work that our Defense Department does to keep Americans safe. As a member of the Committee, I will focus on making sure Congress provides effective support and oversight of the Armed Forces, monitors threats to national security, and ensures the responsible use of military force around the globe.”
-- Kaine pulling himself out of the 2020 sweepstakes has created a real opportunity in this space for Booker and Warren. The junior senator from Virginia gets that there’s no obvious path to the nomination for him at this juncture. He intuitively understands that the base of the party right now has little appetite for a mild-mannered white guy who makes dad jokes to be its standard bearer. Though he represents the purple state of Virginia, Kaine believes that he can follow the John Warner model of sticking around in the Senate for decades and becoming an elder statesman. Though he still needs to win his second term in 2018, he’s well on his way to playing this role.
-- Both senators will join these committees on the eve of high-profile confirmation hearings:
Booker will have an important platform during the made-for-cable Democratic grilling of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, next month. “At a time of global turmoil, when there are more refugees than at any time since World War II, and when the incoming administration -- including the nominee for secretary of state -- has disconcertingly close ties with Russia despite their attempts to undermine our system of free elections, I look forward to being a voice for American diplomacy, compassion, and justice," Booker said in his statement.
Warren will be involved in the confirmation hearing for Jim Mattis, Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense. Remember her devastating takedown of the CEO of Wells Fargo this fall when he testified before the Banking committee? Mattis will be the first retired general since George Marshall to get a waiver to serve as SecDef, a potential flashpoint, but he’s also widely respected as a grand strategist and should have a much easier time coasting through.
John McCain, the chairman of Armed Services, is the master at using the confirmation process to get presidential appointees from both parties to make commitments for the record to support various projects and doctrines he cares about, which he then doggedly holds them to. Warren could play a similar role, if she’s savvy about it.
-- Republicans also seek out these roles for the same reasons: Marco Rubio may have trashed the Senate as a presidential candidate, citing his distaste for the chamber as a justification for missing so many votes and hearings, but he figured out a way to note that he sits on Foreign Relations and Intelligence in almost every speech. I don’t recall ever hearing him brag that he’s on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee…
Other Republicans who could one day wind up on a national ticket have also sought out spots on both committees: Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz and Joni Ernst are on Armed Services. Rand Paul and Cory Gardner are on Foreign Relations.
-- Another Democratic senator to keep an eye on for 2020: New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand. She inherited her seat by appointment (including the slot on Armed Services) after Hillary resigned to become secretary of state. Gillibrand has used her perch on the committee to target sexual assaults in the military, an issue that has helped bolster her national brand and improved her standing with women’s groups.
-- What will be Warren’s issue? Every smart politician who wants to run for higher office identifies an issue or two to claim as their own. Kaine used his platforms to become the most outspoken advocate in the legislative branch for getting Congress to formally authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State, for example. Warren already has Wall Street reform. Maybe she’ll use Armed Services as an avenue to look out for service members who get taken advantage of by big financial institutions? It seems implausible that she will refashion herself as a hawk a la Clinton. That’s just too off brand.
-- It should go without saying that there is no obvious favorite for the Democratic nomination in the next election. National polls mean little at this point, but the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling just released a survey that asked voters what they’re looking for in a 2020 nominee. Democrats largely agree that they want a younger candidate who has never run for president before. Six in 10 Democrats want the 2020 nominee to be under 60, and eight in 10 want the person to be under 70. For what it’s worth, Warren will be 71, Biden will by 77 and Bernie will be 79. (Booker will be 51. President Trump, assuming he seeks reelection, will be 74.)
Most of the likely 2020 presidential candidates are still unknown to a majority of Democratic primary voters. Biden and Sanders are pretty universally well-liked by the base. Warren is viewed favorably by 59 percent of Democrats and unfavorably by 13 percent. The only other person that PPP tested who is even known to a majority of Democratic voters is Al Franken (at 44/15). Pollster Tom Jensen notes that Booker (34/15), Andrew Cuomo (27/20), Julian Castro (20/20), Sherrod Brown (23/14) and Gillibrand (22/13) have less than 50 percent name recognition in their own party.
-- Happening this morning: IT’S NEWT. I am interviewing Newt Gingrich at The Post’s headquarters this morning about the transition, the first 100 days, what “Trumpism” means, how congressional Republicans will grapple with it and much more. Watch my conversation with the former Speaker, live from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Eastern, here.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Trump tapped one of his own lawyers, a hard core supporter of West Bank settlements, to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. And the statement announcing it reiterates the plan to move the embassy. In a statement from the transition, David Friedman said he would work “tirelessly to strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries … and look forward to doing this from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
Some background from Karen DeYoung: "Trump has indicated he will overturn more than 20 years of presidential waivers overriding the 1995 law mandating that the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that is weighted with heavy religious and political significance. ... Friedman has been outspoken in describing as ‘legal’ Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which every U.S. administration since 1967 has considered illegitimate. ... In an interview last summer with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, he said Trump would support Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank. He has called liberal Jews supporting a two-state solution with the Palestinians ‘worse than kapos,’ a reference to Jews in World War II concentration camps who were assigned by Nazi guards to supervise forced labor and camp administration. Liberal Jews have returned his views in kind. J Street, the Washington-based organization … said it was ‘vehemently opposed’ to the nomination.'"
The ambassador-designee has made a host of other incendiary statements, including alleging (falsely) earlier this year that Clinton aide Huma Abedin is tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and adding that he "does not know one way or the other" whether she's also tied to al Qaeda. Watch:
IN BOMBED-OUT ALEPPO, RELIEF COMES SLOWLY:
-- The painstaking evacuation of civilians and rebels from Aleppo was halted once more this morning, after gunfire hit a convoy that was ferrying people from the city. Hugh Naylor and Andrew Roth report: “Now — on the verge of the Syrian military’s biggest victory of the civil war — the country’s biggest backer, Russia, suggested new talks for a countrywide cease-fire at a time when Damascus appears to have increased leverage over a scattered and weakened opposition. There were competing claims over who was behind the attack … Syrian government TV blaming rebels for targeting the convoy. Rebels maintained it was government-allied militiamen. And Turkey — which joined with Russia to broker the evacuation — also pointed the finger at pro-government groups.” Witnesses near the evacuation point said they heard at least one explosion, and humanitarian organizations, including the World Health Organization, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent said they were told to leave the area.
-- Nearly 50 orphans in Aleppo appear in a heartbreaking video pleading for help from humans and childrens’ rights groups. “Today might be the last time you see me and hear my voice,” begs 10-year-old Yasmeen Farmouz, recalling how both her parents were slain by airstrikes. “Please, help get us out of Aleppo!” (Jennifer Hassan)
-- It is unclear how long the latest suspension will last, but the waiting is undoubtedly unbearable for those still trapped inside the besieged city. Reports coming from Aleppo remain alarmingly disjointed, with often-contradictory statements coming within minutes.
This is how the news looked for most of the night:
#BREAKING Russian military: Aleppo rebel evacuation operation 'finished'— AFP news agency (@AFP) December 16, 2016
Then, less than 20 minutes later:
#BREAKING Aleppo evacuations 'suspended, not finished': Syria military source— AFP news agency (@AFP) December 16, 2016
From our Syria reporter:
It is freezing in east Aleppo as crowds wait this morning for evacuation. They're burning fires in the street to keep warm. pic.twitter.com/j7pMwpHrMq— Louisa Loveluck (@leloveluck) December 16, 2016
-- “When they go high, we go home," Leon Wieseltier writes in a Post op-ed on the total hypocrisy of Obama’s high-mindedness in Aleppo: “Contemplating the extermination of Aleppo and its people, I was reminded of a sentence that I read [honoring the late Elie Wiesel.] ‘We must never be bystanders to injustice or indifferent to suffering.’ The problem with the sentence is that it was … attributed to Obama. How dare [the Obama administration] speak this way? Their angry and anguished utterances are merely the manipulation of the rhetoric of conscience on behalf of a policy without a trace of conscience. You cannot be cold-hearted and high-minded at the same time. Historians will record — they will not have to dig deeply or interpret wildly to conclude — that all through the excruciations of Aleppo, and more generally of Syria, the United States watched. As we watched, we made excuses, and occasionally we ornamented our excuses with eloquence. The president is enamored of his eloquence. But eloquence is precisely what the wrenching circumstances do not require of him. In circumstances of moral (and strategic) emergency, his responsibility is not to move us. It is to pick up the phone.”
-- “The fall of Aleppo is a human catastrophe. It’s also a demonstration of the perils of choosing the middle course in a military conflict,” Post columnist David Ignatius writes. “In Syria, the U.S. decision to pursue a dual-track, halfway approach made the mayhem worse. [John] Kerry’s critics argue that his efforts to negotiate a settlement were always doomed to failure. Maybe so, but after the Russian military intervention in September 2015, the administration concluded that diplomacy was the only viable strategy in Aleppo. Having made that decision, officials needed to make it work. Instead, they continued to toy with an armed opposition they weren’t prepared to fully support … Kerry had the impossible job of trying to manage a policy that was going in two directions at once. Perhaps he should have quit, if he sensed it was undoable. But it’s Kerry’s strength and weakness that he believes he can move mountains. Not this time. Instead, he got crushed in the rubble of a confused policy.”
-- Facebook will begin alerting users when they are about to share “fake news.” A new feature on the social media site will now flag news if it has been disputed by an independent third party fact checker, Facebook said, and will alert users before they share it. Flagged stories will also appear lower in the newsfeed than unflagged news. (Hayley Tsukayama)
GET SMART FAST:
- South Carolina jurors found Dylann Roof guilty on all counts in last year’s Charleston church massacre, capping off a week of painful testimony from survivors and family members of the victims. (Dustin Waters and Mark Berman)
- A federal judge temporarily blocked Texas from enacting a rule that requires hospitals and abortion clinics to bury fetal remains, siding with pro-choice activists who have argued the measure serves no purpose and are meant only to shame women. The injunction stops the law from taking effect until more oral arguments can be heard in early January. (AP)
- Over the past 20 years, 368 American gymnasts have been sexually exploited, according to a nine-month investigation from the Indianapolis Star and USA Today. The report found that predatory coaches were permitted to move from gym to gym, and USA Gymnastics often turned a blind eye to such abuses. Many suspected abusers were allowed to stay in their roles. In 2009, USA Gymnastics named as “coach of the year” a man who was under investigation for predatory behavior. (More from the investigation.)
- A former Milwaukee police officer was charged with homicide for fatally shooting a black man, Sylville Smith, during an August traffic stop. Authorities initially said Smith was armed but had thrown his gun away and fallen to the ground before being gunned down. His death prompted a wave of violent protests. (Mark Berman)
- A D.C. Metro Transit Police officer was indicted on charges of helping the Islamic State. Authorities said he provided the terrorist organization with support and resources as recently as July of this year. If convicted, he could face up to 60 years in prison. (Victoria St. Martin)
- Islamic State militants now have the ability to create weapons on a scale and sophistication that nearly matches that of national military forces, according to an arms monitoring group. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
- Federal health officials pushed back the date for consumers to sign up for 2017 coverage under the Affordable Care Act, extending enrollment deadlines for the second consecutive year due to high caller volume and web traffic. (Amy Goldstein)
- The Obama administration denied renewing two mining leases in a Minnesota wilderness area. The move sets in motion a formal review process to examine whether all mining activities in in the 234,000-acre expanse should be barred, and highlights the extent to which Obama is intent on flexing his executive muscle with just one month left in office. (Juliet Eilperin)
- The entire University of Minnesota football team is boycotting all activities, including their potential bowl game, until they get “satisfactory answers” from the university about the suspension of 10 players. The suspension comes after a fresh investigation into a sexual assault case from September. (AP)
- Princeton suspended its men’s swimming and diving team for “misogynistic and racist” content found on a team email list, joining several other Ivy League universities who have temporarily shuttered sports programs over vulgar and sexist remarks. (Valerie Strauss)
- Gun-friendly Liberty University is planning on opening a million-dollar, state-of-the-art shooting range on campus range next fall. The move is part of the evangelical school’s commitment to promoting gun ownership and firearm sports, T. Rees Shapiro reports.
- In another act of aggression, China is adding new antiaircraft weapons to a string of artificial islands in the middle of the South China Sea. New satellite images give the lie to the vows by China’s leader not to “militarize” the disputed area. (Emily Rauhala)
- U.N. officials in South Sudan gave weapons to a rebel leader whose troops massacred hundreds of civilians just four months later. Officials have admitted to transferring up to 80 assault rifles before fleeing in 2013, but a new report suggests the number may be closer to 500. (Jason Patinkin)
- Paris is facing its worst rat crisis in decades. The rodent infestation has forced the shutdown of NINE parks and public areas in the bustling city, and many officials say disgusted residents have only the E.U. to blame. (New York Times)
- The apple doesn't fall far from the tree: The father of that Texas teenager notorious for his “affluenza” defense in a deadly drunk-driving accident has been found guilty of impersonating a police officer. Fred Couch, 51, showed authorities a badge and told them he was a reserve officer responding to a disturbance in 2014 in a small town outside Fort Worth. Couch was convicted and sentenced to 120 days in jail, but given a year of probation instead. (Lindsey Bever)
- A new experimental lazy eye treatment requires living with a total stranger, in complete darkness, for 10 days. The New Yorker followed the stories of its first-ever human participants.
- There is an uproar in Chile after a group of male lawmakers posed with an inflatable doll of a woman meant “to stimulate the economy.” (AP)
PODESTA SPEAKS OUT:
-- “Something is deeply broken at the FBI,” John Podesta, who has kept a low profile since the election, writes in an op-ed for today’s Post: “The more we learn about the Russian plot to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and elect Donald Trump, and the failure of the FBI to adequately respond, the more shocking it gets. The former acting director of the CIA has called the Russian cyberattack ‘the political equivalent of 9/11.’ Just as after the real 9/11, we need a robust, independent investigation into what went wrong inside the government and how to better protect our country in the future.”
Podesta rips very hard into James Comey for having the wrong priorities: “As the former chair of the Clinton campaign and a direct target of Russian hacking, I understand just how serious this is. So I was surprised to read in the New York Times that when the FBI discovered the Russian attack in September 2015, it failed to send even a single agent to warn senior Democratic National Committee officials. Instead, messages were left with the DNC IT ‘help desk.’ … What takes this from baffling to downright infuriating is that at nearly the exact same time that no one at the FBI could be bothered to drive 10 minutes to raise the alarm at DNC headquarters, two agents accompanied by attorneys from the Justice Department were in Denver visiting a tech firm that had helped maintain Clinton’s email server. … Comparing the FBI’s massive response to the overblown email scandal with the seemingly lackadaisical response to the very real Russian plot to subvert a national election shows that something is deeply broken at the FBI.”
-- Clinton’s campaign chairman has four calls for action:
1. “The Obama administration should quickly declassify as much as possible concerning what is known about the Russian hack.”
2. “The administration should brief members of the electoral college on the extent and manner of Russia’s interference in our election before they vote on Dec. 19.”
3. “Congress should authorize a far-reaching, bipartisan independent investigation modeled on the 9/11 Commission…”
4. “Congress should more vigorously exercise its oversight to determine why the FBI responded overzealously in the Clinton case and insufficiently in the Russian case. The FBI should also clarify whether there is an ongoing investigation into Trump, his associates and their ties to Russia. If ever there were a case of ‘intense public interest,’ this is it.”
-- Podesta will sit down with Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” live this Sunday to elaborate.
-- Related: Huma Abedin said neither she nor estranged husband Anthony Weiner received FBI search warrants for emails found on his computer. The claim, made in a newly-filed court document, raises questions about whether warrants were indeed issued, and if so, to whom. (New York Post)
NEW DETAILS ABOUT THE CYBER-ATTACK ON AMERICA:
-- Obama said the U.S. will take retaliatory action against Russia for meddling in our election: “I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections, that we need to take action, and we will,” Obama said in an NPR interview Thursday. “At a time and a place of our own choosing. Some of it may be explicit and publicized; some of it may not be.”
-- A new NBC News report says the Obama administration didn’t respond more forcefully to the Russia election hack before the election for three reasons: They didn’t want to appear to be interfering in the election, they thought Clinton was going to win, and they thought a potential cyber war with Moscow was “not worth it. "They thought she was going to win, so they were willing to kick the can down the road," said one U.S official. They noted that Obama did take action – privately confronting Putin about the attacks at the G-20 summit in China and warning of “unspecified consequences” if they continued. And in October, the DHS and the Director of National Intelligence issued an unprecedented joint statement pointing the finger at Moscow. (William Arkin, Ken Dilanian, Robert Windrem and Cynthia McFadden)
-- White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest sharply criticized Trump for failing to seriously address U.S. intelligence reports of Russian interference, a newly combative approach to the president-elect. “It's just a fact -- you all have it on tape -- that [Trump] was encouraging Russia to hack his opponent," Earnest noted, adding that he “obviously knew that Russia was engaged in malicious cyberactivity that was helping him and hurting Hillary Clinton's campaign.” "It might be time to not attack the intelligence community but to actually be supportive of a thorough, transparent, rigorous, nonpolitical investigation into what exactly happened,” he added. (CNN)
-- Trump hit back hours later, slamming Earnest as “foolish,” “so bad” and “incapable” of delivering a message during his victory lap tour in Hershey, Pa. John Wagner reports: “In the middle of a meandering speech, Trump said that he had recently had ‘a great conversation with President Obama,’ a mention that elicited boos … Trump first started to tamp down the reaction but then turned his attention to Earnest. ‘This foolish guy, Josh Earnest, I don’t know if he is talking to President Obama,' Trump said. ‘He is so bad, the way he delivers a message.’ He added that Earnest could say, 'we totally defeated ISIS,' and it wouldn’t sound good.”
-- Russian hackers tried to penetrate RNC computer networks using the same techniques that allowed them to infiltrate the DNC, but they failed to get through security. The Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett, Shane Harris, and Julian Barnes report that the intruders failed to get past security defenses on the RNC’s computer networks: "People close to the investigation said it indicated a less aggressive and much less persistent effort by Russian intelligence to hack the Republican group than the [DNC]. Only a single email account linked to a long-departed RNC staffer was targeted.” Those emails were quarantined by a filter meant to detect spam and potentially malicious traffic, RNC officials said. They first learned of the potential hacking in June, after DNC leaders said hackers had successfully gained a foothold inside their networks." The possibility that Moscow tried to infiltrate the RNC doesn’t necessarily conflict with the CIA’s conclusion. Analysts now believe what began as an information-gathering campaign on both parties narrowed in scope, with a focus of leaked emails about Clinton and Democrats.
-- Lindsey Graham threatened to vote against Rex Tillerson for State unless the Exxon CEO comes out very strongly against Russian hacking – and in favor of sanctions – after receiving intelligence briefings on Moscow’s interference. “I want you to come forward and say whether or not you believe they interfered in our elections, they are interfering in other democracies,” the South Carolina senator said on Fox News, delivering a message to the businessman. “And if you say they’re not, I will be troubled by your judgment.” He later added, “If he doesn’t, it’d be very hard for me to vote for him.” (HuffPost)
--After signaling he was skeptical of Tillerson's nomination, Marco Rubio got a call from Dick Cheney: At the start of the week, [Rubio] seemed bent on opposing the nomination of [Tillerson]...By the end of it, Rubio had heard directly from former vice president Richard B. Cheney, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation, as well as other key supporters of the ExxonMobil chief executive..Rubio...is fresh off a career-saving reelection to his Senate seat and, according to associates, eager to establish himself as a leading voice on foreign policy in the next Congress...The Floridian's navigation of the Tillerson confirmation process early next year will offer one of the first concrete signs of how he plans to position himself on world affairs during the Trump presidency. It will also serve as a test of how effective the kind of behind-the-scenes nudging underway now from Republican power brokers will be in the era of Trump." (Sean Sullivan)
-- “To understand Trump, learn Russian,” writes Times’ columnist Andrew Rosenthal. Their language has two words for truth: “The word that [most Americans] know is ‘pravda’ — the truth that seems evident on the surface. It’s subjective and infinitely malleable … Despots, autocrats and other cynical politicians are adept at manipulating pravda to their own ends. But the real truth, the underlying, cosmic, unshakable truth of things is called ‘istina’ in Russian. You can fiddle with the pravda all you want, but you can’t change the istina. Trump and Tillerson clearly think they are a match for the wily and infinitely dangerous Putin, but as they move forward … they might keep in mind another Russian saying, this one from Lenin. ‘There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience,’ he wrote. ‘A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.’ Putin has that philosophy hard-wired into his political soul. When it comes to using scoundrels to get what he wants, he is a professional, and Trump is only an amateur. That is the istina of the matter.”
WHO IS GETTING JOBS?
-- Conservative cable television commentator Larry Kudlow has emerged as a leading candidate to chair Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, a position typically held by one of the nation’s most preeminent economists. Steven Mufson and Max Ehrenfreund report on yet another potentially unorthodox nominee: “Under both Republican and Democratic presidents, the council has provided expert economic advice to the president and attracts a staff of top-flight young economists. But Kudlow lacks a graduate or undergraduate degree in economics and has not written scholarly papers on the subject. In recent years, he has become a popular figure on television, but his record as an economic forecaster is full of potholes. Less than nine months before the economic crisis hit in 2008, Kudlow wrote in the National Review that ‘There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen. The Bush boom is alive and well...’ Earlier, in 2005, he made fun of people worried about inflated housing prices, calling them ‘bubbleheads.’”
-- Fox News analyst Monica Crowley is joining Trump’s administration as senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council. Crowley, who began her career working as a foreign policy assistant to Richard Nixon, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has hosted a weekend radio show since 2002. She will succeed Ben Rhodes, who emerged as one of Obama’s influential staffers. (The Daily Beast)
-- Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg was named chief of staff and executive secretary of the National Security Council. Kellogg served in the Army from 1967 to 2003 and after his retirement was chief operations officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. He has worked for several defense contractors. (Abby Phillip)
-- Richard Haass is under consideration for State Department deputy. Politico reports that Haass, the Council on Foreign Relations president and veteran of both Bush administrations, is being floated as Rex Tillerson’s No. 2 at the State Department. He’s also acquaintances with his potential boss.
-- “Available to the Highest Bidder: Coffee With Ivanka Trump,” by the New York Times's Eric Lipton and Maggie Haberman: “Ozan M. Ozkural, a London-based investment manager, found a creative way to gain one-on-one access to the new first family: He bid nearly $60,000 to have a cup of coffee with Ivanka Trump for a charity event she was hosting. Mr. Ozkural is one of several high-profile bidders in a feverish competition to win time with one of Mr. Trump’s children. Other bidders include the owner of a Tex-Mex restaurant chain from Houston who wants to press Mr. Trump, through his daughter, about immigration policy, and a real estate executive and fringe presidential candidate from Florida … Now they may not get a chance[:] Eric Trump told The New York Times on Thursday that he was considering shutting down the bidding — 10 days after it started — about an hour after The Times raised questions about the auction.” “You never, ever want to have government officials using their public office for the private gain, even for a worthy charity,” former Obama White House counsel Norm Eisen said. “That was how we did it.” (Current bidding is currently at $72,888.)
-- A CBS News poll finds that just one in three Americans think Trump will be either a good or very good president, while 23 percent think he will be average and 36 percent think he will be a poor commander-in-chief. As a point of comparison, 63 percent said they were either optimistic or very optimistic about Obama’s presidency in 2008. And while nearly two in three Americans say that Trump will bring “real change” when he takes office, 58 percent think he will divide the country rather than unite it. Views on Russia remain split: 36 percent of Americans think Trump will be too friendly towards Moscow while in the White House, including six in 10 Democrats. Just nine percent think he will be too hostile, and 48 percent think his approach will be “about right.”
-- Democratic pollster Peter Hart conducted a post-election focus group in Ohio with a dozen Trump voters. Abby Phillip flew to Cleveland for it. The most interesting nugget from her write-up: “Although his supporters have a laundry list of projects they hope he will tackle, most of all, they want him to prioritize bringing back jobs and fixing the health-care system on Day One. Asked by Hart how they would judge Trump as a success or a failure, most cited the state of the economy and the affordability of health care as key tests. ‘He’d be failing if he didn’t do anything with the health-care system,’ Viersulz said. The promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which had been a centerpiece of Trump's campaign, seemed to have faded to the background for this group. None named it or immigration as a top priority. ‘That was all just talk,’ said Derek Knuth, 39, a Republican engineer from Lorain County. When asked what Trump should do about immigration, most in the room said they supported a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”
-- Conservative radio host Charlie Sykes says it was not Trump’s crude nativism that reluctant voters bought into, in the end – but the argument that the presidential election presented voters with a “binary choice.” “You simply cannot overstate this as a factor in the final outcome,” he writes. “As our politics have become more polarized, the essential loyalties shift from ideas, to parties, to tribes, to individuals. Nothing else ultimately matters," he writes in a New York Times op-ed. "In this binary tribal world, where everything is at stake, everything is in play, there is no room for quibbles about character, or truth, or principles. If everything — the Supreme Court, the fate of Western civilization, the survival of the planet — depends on tribal victory, then neither individuals nor ideas can be determinative. I watched this play out in real time, as conservatives who fully understood the threat that Mr. Trump posed succumbed to the argument about the Supreme Court. In this political universe, voters accept that they must tolerate bizarre behavior, dishonesty, crudity and cruelty, because the other side is always worse … To resist was an act of betrayal."
-- A grand jury returned an indictment bringing two additional charges against the North Carolina gunman accused of firing shots in a D.C. pizza parlor earlier this month, Spencer S. Hsu reports. “Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, N.C., who was charged Tuesday by police complaint with a federal count of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition, was also accused in the indictment of two D.C. offenses: assault with a dangerous weapon and possessing a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.”
-- A nightclub in Clarendon, Va., says it has gotten harassing phone calls after backing out of hosting a “DeploraBall” inauguration party to celebrate Trump. The owners emphasized that no binding contract had been signed, and said they balked after reading alarming political views of some of the attendees listed online. (Rachel Weiner)
-- D.C. police issued a permit for the Women’s March on Washington to gather for what is expected to be the largest demonstration around the inauguration. The march, scheduled for the day after the Jan. 20 inauguration, plans to start its rally at Independence Avenue and Third Street SW, in front of the Capitol. From there, demonstrators will march west along Independence, although organizers said that they have yet to determine an official route. (Perry Stein)
-- The Republican elector who earned national attention for refusing to vote for Trump was apparently not a 9/11 first responder, as he has claimed to be for years, including in a New York Times op-ed this month. The rest of his career is even more questionable. From WFAA: "’He claimed to be a first responder with the Manassas Park [Virginia] Fire Department on September 11, 2001 and personally told us stories 'I was fighting fire that day at the Pentagon.’ No, I was on a medic unit that day at the Pentagon … he wasn't even employed there until October 2001,’ said a first responder who knows Suprun … The City of Manassas Park confirmed to WFAA that it hired Suprun on October 10, 2001, one month after the 9/11 attacks.” Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the company he claims to work said he is not an employee, and one company he claimed to work at as a paramedic not even exist.
-- A constitutional crisis in North Carolina: “Legislative Republicans clashed fiercely with Gov.-elect Roy Cooper (D) Thursday as the House and Senate voted to sharply limit his appointment powers – and Cooper vowed to sue them over any law he deems unconstitutional,” the Raleigh News & Observer’s Colin Campbell and Will Doran report. “The legislature is holding a hastily called special session to restructure many aspects of state government after Cooper, the state’s attorney general and a Democrat, defeated Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in November. Thursday’s action featured party-line votes, hundreds of protesters and about 20 arrests. Final votes on the most controversial bills are scheduled for [today], when the legislature could adjourn for the year.” The response: “Most people might think that this is a partisan power grab,” Cooper told reporters. “But this is more ominous.”
-- “In Obama administration’s waning days, a push to cement legacy of police reform,” by Matt Zapotosky, Wesley Lowery and Mark Berman: “The Justice Department is pushing in the waning days of the Obama administration to cement major police reform agreements in Baltimore and Chicago, mindful that President-elect Donald Trump and his chosen attorney general are far less likely to impose change on local law enforcement when they take over. Ending discriminatory and heavy-handed police practices has been a hallmark of the Justice Department under Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, and the ‘pattern-or-practice’ investigations of the Baltimore and Chicago police departments are cornerstones of her legacy. But with less than two months before Lynch will leave office — giving way to a president who has endorsed tougher policing and an attorney general nominee who is wary of consent decrees that bind departments to changes — time is running out for her to secure legal agreements to guarantee reforms.”
-- “‘They crushed me’: Tunisians reveal abuses they endured before the Arab Spring,” by Naveena Kottoor: “Nada Elwikil was still in high school when she was taken to Interrogation Room 27 for the first time. Security services ordered her to take off her clothes and headscarf. When she refused, they stripped her … [and] pushed her head in a toilet filled with excrement. More than five years after Tunisia’s authoritarian leadership was overthrown in the Arab Spring revolution, a still-tormented country is revisiting its brutal past in hopes of healing. Since last month, Tunisians have been riveted by heart-wrenching testimony as witness after witness appears before a Truth and Dignity Commission. The rare public airing of abuses committed during nearly six decades of authoritarian rule is being broadcast nationally … [and] in the turbulent aftermath of the wave of uprisings, many international observers say the hearings are vital not only for Tunisia but also for the region. ‘The hearings send a message that after years of dictatorship and abuse, it is still possible to speak in peace … and avoid acts of vengeance,’” said one official.
-- Our Fact Checker identifies a dozen of the biggest lies of 2016 in a year filled with so many of them! From Glenn Kessler: “During the campaign, Trump earned 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings, compared with seven for Hillary Clinton. Since winning the presidency, Trump has earned four more Four-Pinocchio ratings, and his staff has earned one, as well. Unfortunately, we see little indication that this pattern will change during his presidency.”
Glenn’s list of year-end doozies includes these four quotes from Trump:
- “I won in a landslide — and millions of people voted illegally for Clinton.”
- “I was totally against the war in Iraq.”
- “My father gave me a small loan. I started a business.”
- “92 million Americans represent a silent nation of jobless Americans.”
Four other lies:
- Hillary Clinton: “Director Comey said my answers were truthful.”
- Obama: “We have fired a whole bunch of people who are in charge of these [VA] facilities.”
- Sean Hannity: “Trump sent his own plane to rescue 200 Gulf War Marines who had been stranded.”
- Donna Brazile: “CNN has never provided me with questions, absolutely ever.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A troubling scene from Trump's Pennsylvania rally last night:
From a CNN reporter:
Man near press pen, of Trump & Middle East: "He’s going to push the button and get rid of them all...He's the new Hitler. Heil Hitler."— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) December 16, 2016
An NBC reporter adds:
Lindsey Graham continues to show leadership on Russia:
My goal is to put on President Trumps desk crippling sanctions against Russia. They need to pay a price. https://t.co/RtAIEoOUpz— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 14, 2016
Claire McCaskill is ready to go:
I'm down Lindsay. https://t.co/OaNW1KAAOo— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) December 15, 2016
Mark Salter, a longtime aide to John McCain, had this to say in response to Trump's tweet:
If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2016
@realDonaldTrump This is not true. Do you ever not lie? You are the lowest character to be elected President in my lifetime. God help us.— Mark Salter (@MarkSalter55) December 15, 2016
A lot is being unearthed from Monica Crowley's prior comments and social media posts:
Monica Crowley, who has PhD in international relations, also believes we are in a "holy war" right now https://t.co/ASFwCQnDxw— Sam Stein (@samsteinhp) December 15, 2016
The same went for Larry Kudlow, who whistled past the graveyard throughout the 2000s -- until it was too late:
Kudlow has been so wrong, so often that it's hard to keep track:
And Ryan Zinke:
Interior Secretary nominee sent '11 X-mas card depicting him as Capt. America riding in Santa's sleigh w/ an assault rifle & an oil derrick. pic.twitter.com/3MDSjkDaga— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) December 15, 2016
Franklin Graham, Billy's son and a big Trump booster, posed this head-scratcher:
Do you think the Russians interfered with the outcome of the U.S. election or was it God?— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) December 14, 2016
Meanwhile, check out the intense trolling from the Russian embassy in London:
DNC hacking is revealed as inside job: will Russia-bashers be left unemployed? (not likely) pic.twitter.com/2n8CpOCX8e— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) December 15, 2016
Speaking of Russia:
I am surprised we haven’t heard anything about czars for various things in the Trump administration.— Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) December 16, 2016
A day after Vanity Fair said that the food at Trump's restaurants is terrible, he attacked the magazine and its editor on Twitter:
Has anyone looked at the really poor numbers of @VanityFair Magazine. Way down, big trouble, dead! Graydon Carter, no talent, will be out!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2016
Twitter is full of photos and jokes about food at the restaurant:
Right-wing Trump Grill defenders will soon insist it's not a Bloody Mary, but a Manhattan clam chowder after the joint ran out of spoons. pic.twitter.com/L8UCrY18P7— Nick Mamatas (@NMamatas) December 15, 2016
The man next to me at Trump Grill ordered a vodka martini and this is how it came out. pic.twitter.com/9sx8jbY8uT— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) December 15, 2016
If I were Trump I would have tweeted, “Why are you getting up in my grille?"— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) December 15, 2016
Mike Huckabee is still cracking jokes on Twitter:
I'll be on Outnumbered at Noon ET today on Fox; I'm the eye candy on the couch today. They have me on so women will want to watch.— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) December 15, 2016
Lawmakers celebrated the birthday of the Bill of Rights:
The Bill of Rights was ratified on Dec 15, 1791. 225 years later, may we uphold these venerable amendments & the freedoms they protect. pic.twitter.com/BzMFoiK8EN— Senator Angus King (@SenAngusKing) December 15, 2016
Some tough road conditions in Montana:
Just another afternoon in Helena helping a fellow Montanan. pic.twitter.com/OLX0vXoHFD— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) December 15, 2016
Spotted in Alaska:
Debbie Wasserman Schultz hosted a Hanukkah celebration:
Finally, a beautiful shot of the sun setting over the National Mall by one of the Senate's best photographers:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Trump wasn’t the first president-elect to camp out with transition staffers in Manhattan. The New York Times’ Jim Dwyer reports: “At the stately age of 108, the handsome double-width townhouse at 47-49 East 65th Street bears no resemblance to a certain tower of gilt, glitz and high security just 12 blocks away. Yet the last time a president-elect ran a transition from the east side of Manhattan, it took place in that 65th Street residence, the home of [Franklin D. Roosevelt], on a street of understated grandeur. “It was the Trump Tower of 1932-33,” said [Hunter Colleges’] Harold Holzer … As the new Roosevelt administration took shape, a crowd of reporters — along with police and Secret Service security details — smoked cigarettes and made messes in a modest ground-floor parlor while they kept watch on who went upstairs.” Seated by a fireplace just one day after the election, Roosevelt began speaking to the nation in a radio address that would become tradition. “A 1932 form of tweeting,” Holzer observed.
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“We Wanted To Find Troubled Jails, So We Counted The Bodies,” from HuffPost: “In any given year, the vast majority of the thousands of jails in the U.S. do not report a single death. That makes sense. Jails are supposed to be controlled environments. But each year, about 1,000 Americans die in jail anyway. Many die without the public knowing why, or whether their deaths could have been prevented. Although the federal government collects data on jail deaths, it only publishes that data years later, and in aggregate, making it impossible to identify facilities that have particularly high death rates. Earlier this year, [HuffPost] sought to fill the gap by tracking jail deaths [for a year]… Although our list remains incomplete, we uncovered hundreds of deaths that were never reported in the media. We identified 15 jails that had death rates more than double the last available national average, which is 135 deaths a year per 100,000 inmates.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Whoopi Goldberg: Celebrating Christmas And Getting An Abortion Is The Same Thing,” from the Daily Caller: “Whoopi Goldberg thinks the right to celebrate Christmas and get an abortion are the same thing. ‘The View’ host was talking about the right to display Nativity scenes on Tuesday when she brought up abortion out of nowhere. ‘You cannot pretend that Christmas doesn’t start with the birth of Christ!’” Goldberg said. The conversation then became one about the separation of church and state, where Whoopi brought up abortion: “But it’s the same conversation with a woman’s right to choose,” Goldberg said. “What I do with my body is my right. It is not your right to tell me. The same thing is it’s — if you believe in Christmas, it’s not my right.”
In Trump's world: Trump holds an evening rally in Orlando, Fla.
At the White House: The Obamas depart for Honolulu, Hawaii.
On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Filmmaker Ken Burns penned a letter to a despairing Stanford University student who asked how to move forward in Trump’s America. “I hear in your anguish a call to action that ought to awaken anyone — including myself — who misread this election,” he replied. "We need to be thoughtful in that action. Blind, angry protest will not help … We must choose a middle ground: engagement. But the engagement we seek must understand that those people who did not vote as we did are not our enemy. In fact, true engagement is walking into the heart of that constituency, offering shared stories and real solutions rather than narratives that are calculated to divide, offering fellowship and unity, where fake news has helped stoke tribal angers.” (Read more.)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- A little warmer than yesterday – but not by much. Today’s Capital Weather Gang forecast: “Cold, yep, but not as bad. Big thanks to lighter 5 to 10 mph breezes that come with some higher gusts. They may slowly shift from northwest to a more southerly direction during the afternoon as well, the beginning of warmer air coming back. Bad news is increasing clouds, which sock us in by afternoon. High temperatures are still well below average, mainly in the upper 20s to lower 30s. But you have all the mid-winter gear dug out to wear anyway, right?"
-- Former Prince George’s county executive Jack B. Johnson has left federal prison and entered a residential facility in Baltimore six months ahead of his expected release next summer, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons registry. From Arelis Hernandez: Johnson pleaded guilty in 2011 to corruption charges connected to a wider conspiracy involving bribes and transactions that entangled county business officials, developers and his wife, Leslie Johnson. "The once-popular Democratic county executive served most of his 87-month prison sentence at the federal correctional institution in Cumberland, Md., before being transferred to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons’ residential reentry management program, which has an office near Fort Meade, Md. Bureau spokeswoman Jill Tyson said Johnson, 67, will serve the remainder of his sentence at a halfway house in the region. She said the agency does not disclose the specific locations of such facilities."
-- Every uniformed police officer in D.C. is now equipped with a body camera, completing a 2,600-camera rollout that became one of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s signature issues. It also equips Washington police with the highest number of body cameras in the U.S. (Peter Hermann)
-- A nursing home in Northwest Washington finalized the sale of its building and land to Sidwell Friends School, capping months of controversy over the displacement of poor and elderly residents in the expansion of a wealthy private school. (Emma Brown)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Jimmy Kimmel presented another edition of his segment "Drunk Donald Trump":
Stephen Colbert noted that even Trump was surprised by his win:
Obama got personal at a youth initiative event this week:
For local readers -- will the Arctic blast bring sleet and snow to D.C.?
Finally, a baby giraffe was born at an Iowa zoo!