With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: ‘Tis the season for hypocrisy.
The 538 members of the electoral college will gather at state capitols across the country this afternoon to cast their ballots for president. The usually symbolic ceremonies, full of pomp and circumstance, have drawn intense attention this year from progressives who are alarmed about Donald Trump becoming president. Just like the recounts in Wisconsin and Michigan, this last-ditch Stop Trump effort is doomed to fail. Trump will win today, and a joint session of Congress will officially certify him as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 6.
Republican electors report that they’ve been receiving tens of thousands of emails and letters – and late-night phone calls – urging them to ignore the will of the voter in their state. Many say they’ve also received threats.
To be effective, 37 of 306 Republican electors would need to vote for someone else. Only one Republican has announced that he will be faithless, but some activists claim that at least 20 are privately considering such a step. (We don’t buy it.)
Even if this gambit succeeds, it won’t actually work. If Trump does not get 270 electoral votes today, the House will get to choose the president. The House would choose Trump.
-- Throughout U.S. history, transfers of power have offered a revealing window into which politicians are truly principled (not that many) and which are hackish apparatchiks.
Many Republicans who have been outspoken critics of deficit spending, executive power and Russian aggression are suddenly reversing course now that their guy is going to be in charge.
Senator Barack Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling, filibustered his predecessor’s Supreme Court nominees and opposed the Export-Import Bank. President Obama attacked Republicans for doing the same.
Winning’s easy, young man. Governing’s harder. The burdens and responsibilities that come with power have a way of changing one’s outlook.
That ground truth absolves Obama somewhat, but it does not apply to those on the left who are now trying to use the electoral college process to nullify the results of an election.
-- Remember the intense outrage when Trump refused to commit during a presidential debate to respect the outcome of the election? “I will keep you in suspense,” he said in Las Vegas. Hillary Clinton called his answer “horrifying” and said he was “talking down our democracy.”
Two months later to the day, on “Meet the Press” Sunday, Clinton chairman John Podesta declined three times to say that the November election was “free and fair.”
“Hillary Clinton got 2.9 million more votes than Donald Trump, but you know Donald Trump is claiming the electoral college victory. And you know tomorrow, the electors will get to vote,” Podesta replied.
When pressed by Chuck Todd, Podesta replied: “I think it was distorted by the Russian intervention. Let's put it that way.”
Asked what that means, he said: “A foreign adversary directly intervened into our democratic institution and tried to tilt the election to Donald Trump.”
-- There were protests across the country yesterday, from California to Arizona, Washington State and Illinois. Thirty states have laws on the books that bind electors to support the winner of the popular vote in the state. These statutes might not be able to pass constitutional muster, but liberal director Michael Moore offered on Facebook yesterday to personally pay whatever fines are imposed on faithless Republican electors.
National Review Editor Rich Lowry, no fan of Trump, calls out longtime opponents of the electoral college who are now urging the body to overthrow an election: “University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson has called the Electoral College a ‘menace to the American polity.’ Yet he is now a signer of a public letter urging members of this menace to re-engineer the November election to his liking.”
-- The Republican electors are receiving exponentially more attention than in 2000, when George W. Bush also lost the popular vote and the Supreme Court decided the outcome in Florida. Personal contact information has been posted online, and different email software programs make it easier than ever to spam people. The pressure has become so intense that many electors fear for their safety. Some illustrations:
Pennsylvania has assigned each of its 20 electors a plainclothes police officer for protection as they travel to the capitol in Harrisburg to vote today. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
One of Michigan’s 16 electors, Michael Banerian, has received multiple death threats. “You have people saying ‘you’re a hateful bigot, I hope you die,’” he told the Detroit News. “I’ve had people talk about shoving a gun in my mouth and blowing my brains out. And I’ve received dozens and dozens of those emails. Even the non-threatening-my-life emails are very aggressive.” The paper verified one message containing a death wish and another containing a death threat, in which the person told Banerian he would “put a bullet” in his mouth. Banerian, 22, is a college student who is active in youth programs through the state GOP.
Jim Rhoades, another Republican elector from Michigan, says he has “lost a bunch of business” at his home inspection service by holding firm with Trump. “I never can imagine harassing people like this. It’s just f----- up,” he told Politico’s Kyle Cheney.
From a third Michigan elector:
@wdseelig/poli Neither 66,000 emails nor this mailbox-clogging stack of letters will stop this elector from keeping his promise tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/5cYrXhUaCw— Wyckham Seelig (@wdseelig) December 18, 2016
Idaho’s secretary of state put out a statement pleading with people to stop harassing the four electors. “While Idaho is one of 21 states that does not have state-level legislation to force an elector to comply, attempting to sway an elector’s commitment to their party through insults, vulgar language, or threats simply lacks civility,” said Lawerence Denney, according to the Twin Falls Times-News.
One of Arizona’s 11 electors, Alberto Gutier, says he’s received 80,540 emails on his work account about this. Most are auto-generated form letters. “Twenty seconds later, and another six emails trickle in,” the Arizona Daily Star of Tucson reports. “Gutier said people are even calling him in the late hours of the night to urge him to change his vote. Those trying to track him down have mistakenly begun sending letters to his son’s home — noting there is a box full of letters there. He hasn’t read most of them — although one letter disguised as a Christmas card was opened.”
From a Wisconsin elector:
-- The Associated Press tried last week to reach all of the electors and interviewed more than 330 of them. Reporters found widespread aggravation among Democrats with the electoral process, but little expectation Trump would be derailed.
Many of the Republicans admitted that they do not like Trump but told the wire service that they feel a sacred obligation to back him anyway: “Nashville attorney Tom Lawless, who chose Marco Rubio in the primaries, described his vow to cast his electoral vote for Trump in blunt terms. ‘Hell will freeze and we will be skating on the lava before I change,’ he said. ‘He won the state and I've pledged and gave my word that that's what I would do. And I won't break it.’ Nor will Jim Skaggs, 78, a developer from Bowling Green, Kentucky, despite deep concern about Trump. ‘His personality worries me,’ Skaggs said. ‘He is not open-minded.’ … ‘I hope he is far better than I think he is,’ Skaggs said. Even so, ‘I fully intend to vote for Donald Trump.’”
The intensity of the pressure has been counterproductive in some places: Mark Delk, a Republican elector from Asheville, N.C., estimates that he has received between three thousand and four thousand letters. “I would say about four or five were well-written, well-thought out letters,” he told the Raleigh News & Observer.
-- The anger from the left fringe is unnerving, just as it is when it emanates from the alt-right. Post reporter Robert Samuels wrote a balanced piece for Sunday’s paper on the efforts to block Trump, and he received a stream of hate mail in response. Much of it is unprintable.
-- To be sure, the one Texan who plans to not vote for Trump says he too has received death threats. “People are calling to say, ‘Get your ass together, or we’re coming for you,’” said Chris Suprun, who supported Ted Cruz in the primary. “They are doing it with their own phone number, not even blocking the number. That’s not been surprising — look at what Trump says himself.”
-- Many establishment Democrats fume: Where was all this energy during the fall campaign? How many of these demonstrators wasted their votes on Jill Stein or Gary Johnson?
-- Trump is crying foul. Last night he complained that there is a double standard. He’s not wrong:
If my many supporters acted and threatened people like those who lost the election are doing, they would be scorned & called terrible names!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2016
-- We’ll never know how Trump would have reacted had he lost the GOP nomination or the general election. But why does it matter?
-- Spare me the hate mail: Yes, Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million ballots. Yes, Russia meddled with and interfered in the election. Yes, I’ve studied Federalist 68. (If you don’t like the 12th amendment, why not embrace the effort to change the Constitution?)
-- This cycle of hypocrisy already played out within parts of the Republican establishment. Remember how up in arms party leaders were when Trump refused during the first primary debate in 2015 to commit to support the eventual nominee in the general election? Everyone was panicked Donald would run as a third-party candidate and play the role of spoiler. When all the other candidates signed a pledge to support the nominee, Trump relented. Then, when push came to shove and Trump won the nomination, John Kasich, Jeb Bush and, for a while, Ted Cruz refused to honor their promise.
-- In several ways, the quixotic campaign to block Trump in the electoral college is reminiscent of all the other failed efforts to block him since June 2015:
The agitators are overstating their level of support. Smart kids learn only to trash talk on the basketball court when you can back it up; otherwise you very quickly get put in your place. Remember all the talk before the Republican convention about the army of anti-Trump delegates that never fully materialized?
And there is a collective action problem. Some Democrat electors say they’d vote for a moderate Republican like Kasich if enough Republicans agreed to cross over and join them, but this never got any traction. Everyone would have to agree on exactly who to get behind, and getting 270 people on the same page with such an effort was always untenable.
-- The Post’s opinion pages have been full of debate about this issue. Here are eight interesting takes if you want to go deep…
Five arguments for respecting Trump’s victory—
- Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt: “The risks are genuine, but the best way to defend democratic norms is to follow democratic norms. That means recognizing the results of the election.”
- George F. Will: “The electoral college is an excellent system.”
- Charles Lane: “Griping about the popular vote? Get over it.” (“Gridiron teams would play differently under instructions to maximize yardage; candidates would campaign differently if maximizing national popular votes were the prime directive.”)
- Harvard political theorist Danielle Allen: “Don’t blame the electoral college. Here’s how Democrats can take back politics.”
- William M. Daley: “Dump the electoral college? Bad idea, says Al Gore’s former campaign chairman.”
Three takes on the other side—
- E.J. Dionne Jr.: “The electoral college should think hard before handing Trump the presidency.”
- Kathleen Parker: “The electoral college should be unfaithful.”
- Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig: “The Constitution lets the electoral college choose the winner. They should choose Clinton.”
-- A brief history lesson:
- The electoral college, like so much else in the Constitution, emerged as a compromise to keep small states at the table. (The Philadelphia Inquirer tells this story.)
- A lot of papers in rural media markets are running stories today like this one in the Democrat-Gazette: “Arkansas’ lawmakers say dumping Electoral College would hurt small states.”
- The most recent faithless elector came from Minnesota in 2004. Someone anonymously cast a vote for John Edwards, instead of John Kerry. (Washington Examiner)
-- There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. From Michael Wines in the New York Times: “In an election in which more than 137.7 million Americans cast ballots, election and law enforcement officials in 26 states and the District of Columbia — Democratic-leaning, Republican-leaning and in-between — said that so far they knew of no credible allegations of fraudulent voting. Officials in another eight states said they knew of only one allegation. The findings unambiguously debunk repeated statements by [Trump] that millions of illegal voters backed … Clinton. They also refute warnings by Republican governors in Maine and North Carolina that election results could not be trusted.”
-- Finally, a good reminder that feelings are still raw for many: A poll released this morning by the nonpartisan PRRI finds that beleaguered Democrats are significantly more likely than Republicans to report that they unfriended someone on social media or planned to avoid certain relatives during the holidays because of politics. From the press release with the results: “Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to report unfriending someone over politics (24 percent vs. 9 percent), and that number rises even more among women. Three in ten (30 percent) Democratic women say they removed someone from a social network because of a political view. … And while only five percent of Americans say they are planning on spending less time with certain family members because of their political views, Democrats (10 percent) are more likely than Republicans (2 percent) to say they are avoiding certain family members this holiday season because of their political views.”
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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- IMF chief Christine Lagarde was found guilty of criminal negligence over a payout that happened while she was serving as French finance minister. A special French court has ruled that her negligence while serving as finance minister allowed for the misappropriation of funds by other people. The court decided not to punish her or give her a criminal record. (Developing…)
-- Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola has been nominated by Trump to serve as Army secretary. Trump says Viola, a 1977 West Point graduate, is “living proof of the American dream.” Viola bought the Panthers in 2013 for about $250 million. (AP)
-- Merriam-Webster just announced that SURREAL is the Word of the Year for 2016. Lookups of the word spiked after a number of major events worldwide, beginning with the Brussels terror attacks in March, then the coup attempt in Turkey and after the terrorist attack in Nice. The largest spike followed the November election. “Spikes of interest in a word are usually triggered by a single event, so what’s truly remarkable this year about surreal is that so many different stories led people to look it up,” Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large for Merriam-Webster, said in a press release. “Historically, surreal has been one of the words most searched after tragedy, most notably in the days following 9/11, but it was associated with a wide variety of stories this year.”
A LITTLE BIT OF GOOD NEWS FROM ALEPPO:
-- After last week’s heartbreaking cycle of hope and despair, the evacuation deal in Aleppo is back on track, with thousands being ferried away from what remained of the bombed-out rebel enclave. Louisa Loveluck reports: “Most had spent the night trapped on their buses — without food, water or bathroom access — after Islamist rebels scuttled the exit deal by torching vehicles sent to rescue the wounded from a government-held area in a neighboring province. In the meantime, thousands of civilians remain camped out in what is left of the enclave — its streets now shattered beyond recognition. Photographs from the area Sunday night showed fires illuminating the street as residents tried to keep warm. Temperatures drop below freezing at night and many people are sleeping across sidewalks and abandoned buildings.” Those interviewed described a long and difficult night: “Photographs from the arrivals area showed people laughing and posing for pictures, finally freed from an enclave described by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as akin to ‘hell.’”
-- The U.N. Security Council is set to vote this morning on a resolution to immediately deploy monitors to watch the routes, seeking to prevent what France — which drafted the text, in negotiations with Russia — has warned could be "mass atrocities" by Assad’s forces and allied pro-government militias.
-- Bana al-Abed, the seven-year-old girl who has been described as “our era’s Anne Frank,” and whose widely-followed Twitter account came to represent the perils of thousands of suffering children in Aleppo, is safe. Several photos showed Bana among a crowd of residents evacuated from Aleppo on Monday, and the president of the Syrian American Medical Society confirmed that she is among those receiving assistance from NGO workers. (Rick Noack)
-- 300 miles away from Aleppo: “‘Tragedy’ inside Mosul as food runs out and the battle against ISIS drags on,” by Mustafa Salim and Loveday Morris: “Hundreds of thousands of people who remain in this northern Iraqi city are struggling to find food and safe drinking water as the protracted offensive against Islamic State militants batters their neighborhoods. When the battle began seven weeks ago, aid agencies feared that an exodus from the city would overwhelm already crowded camps. Instead, most people heeded government advice to stay in their homes as security forces advanced. Now many of those residents lack even basic services, with water supplies cut by the fighting, and U.N. and government aid distributions unable to reach all of those in need. Meanwhile, in areas still controlled by the Islamic State, a siege by security forces is slowly tightening, pushing up food prices and causing shortages while the militants prevent people from leaving.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Since 2015, police have killed 86 people brandishing highly-realistic looking firearms such as toy pellet or air guns. Authorities say it is virtually “impossible” to train officers to distinguish the lookalikes from afar – portending a potentially violent trend, as consumer demand for replica firearms has surged. (John Sullivan, Jennifer Jenkins, Julie Tate, Shaun Courtney and Jordan Houston)
- Gunmen in Jordan opened fire on police patrols and a historic Crusader castle in Karak, killing 14 and injuring at least 27 others. Authorities said as many as 10 gunmen holed themselves up in the castle, and called on residents to flee as security operations intensified. No group has claimed responsibility yet. (Taylor Luck)
- Zsa Zsa Gabor died at 99. (Adam Bernstein)
- Uber will continue to operate its self-driving vehicles in San Francisco, defying orders from the California DMV to cease running its autonomous vehicles. (LA Times)
- Some baby teething toys marked as non-toxic may actually contain hormone-disrupting chemicals. Out of 59 teethers purchased online, researchers found that all tested positive for the so-called “endocrine-disrupting chemicals,” though most of them claimed to be BPA-free. (Reuters)
- An elusive “ghost shark” chimaera – named for its pale, seemingly-dead eyes, and retractable sex organs located on the forehead, has been filmed alive for the first time ever off the coast of California. Scientists were stunned by footage of the deep-sea fish; previously known to exist only in the waters near Australia and New Zealand. (Amy B Wang)
- A California wedding turned tragic after a massive eucalyptus tree with “multiple trunks” splintered and collapsed, pinning down members of a wedding party who were posing for a photo shoot. At least one is dead, with several others seriously injured. (Amy B Wang)
- New York police raced to save the life of a “frozen” elderly woman, breaking into a vehicle after attempts to rouse her proved unsuccessful. They were stunned to find that their stoic victim was actually a mannequin. (Kristine Guerra)
- An Arizona father awakened by the sound of his crying toddler walked into the living room to discover a real-life nightmare: a stranger, sitting on his couch and holding his two-year-old daughter. The heavily-intoxicated perp claimed he thought he had encountered a midget. (Amy B Wang)
- A Pagan priest has won the right to wear a pair of goat horns in his license photo, arguing his antler-like adornments act as a “spiritual antennae” and therefore qualify as religious attire. Thankfully, courts were not asked to weigh in on the furry goat leg wraps and “hoofs” that often accompany his headpiece... (Peter Holley)
- In Japan, it’s socially acceptable to nap almost everywhere – on a park bench, at your desk, even during a business meeting that’s running particularly long. It’s a practice called “inemuri,” and is often seen as a sign of diligence among white-collar employees. (New York Times)
THE BEAR IS STILL IN THE WOODS -- CYBER ATTACK FALLOUT:
-- Four senators sent a letter to Mitch McConnell yesterday calling for a temporary select committee to investigate the Russian hacking and some other cyber issues. John McCain and Lindsey Graham joined Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed in urging the majority leader to back off his desire to let the Intelligence committee take point. “Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American,” says the letter that the four men singed onto. “Cybersecurity is the ultimate cross-jurisdictional challenge, and we must take a comprehensive approach to meet this challenge effectively.”
-- The smartest people on both sides of this issue know full well that the Russia probe will essentially get buried if this Senate Intelligence Committee is allowed to retain jurisdiction. That’s plainly what McConnell is trying to do, to avoid unwelcome distractions for the new president. And it’s why McCain and Graham have decided to be so public.
-- McCain warned in dire terms on Sunday that Moscow’s aggression threatens to destroy our democracy if it’s allowed to go unchecked. "This is the sign of a possible unraveling of the world order that was established after World War II, which has made one of the most peaceful periods in the history of the world,” he told Jake Tapper. “We're starting to see the strains and the unraveling of it, and that is because of the absolute failure of American leadership. ... This is serious business. If they're able to harm the electoral process, they may destroy democracy, which is based on free and fair elections." (Karoun Demirjian)
-- To be fair, Intelligence chairman Richard Burr promises to “follow the intelligence wherever it leads.” But the active steps he's taken to suppress the torture report since getting the gavel in 2015 raise questions about his sincerity. “We will conduct this review expeditiously, but we will take the time to get it right and will not be influenced by uninformed discourse,” the North Carolina senator said in the statement.
TEAM TRUMP IS NOT ON THE SAME PAGE:
-- Reince Priebus said on Fox that the president-elect will accept allegations against Russia if there is a unified front across the intelligence community and the FBI: The president-elect “would accept the conclusion if these intelligence professionals would get together, put out a report, show the American people that they are actually on the same page,” the incoming White House chief of staff said on “Fox News Sunday.”
-- Meanwhile, on CBS, senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said any suggestion of Russian meddling is “nonsense." “The entire nonsense about the electors trying to use the Russian hacking issue to change the election results is really unfortunate,” she said on “Face the Nation.” “I think that actually undermines our democracy more than any other conversation that we’re having right now.” (Amy B Wang)
-- In case you missed it: FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr. are now formally in agreement with the CIA’s assessment that Russia intervened in the presidential election in part to help Trump. The revelations about Comey’s position, first reported on Friday, could put to rest suggestions that both intelligence agencies were not on the same page regarding Putin’s intentions. (Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima)
-- But former Defense Secretary Bob Gates said Sunday that he still is not convinced that Russians were trying to specifically help Trump in the election, but he said their involvement in the operation seems “undeniable.” “Maybe part of the problem was that it took the intelligence community a while to assemble really firm evidence of Russian involvement and Russian government involvement that delayed a response,” he said on NBC. “Attribution is a challenge, but it seems pretty clear to me that they have developed really reliable information that the Russian government was involved.” (WSJ)
-- Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson was the longtime director of a U.S.-Russian oil firm based in the Bahamas, according to the Guardian’s Luke Harding and Hannes Munzinger: “Tillerson … became a director of the oil company’s Russian subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas, in 1998. His name – RW Tillerson – appears next to other officers who are based at Houston, Texas; Moscow; and Sakhalin, in Russia’s far east. Though there is nothing untoward about this directorship, it has not been reported before and is likely to raise fresh questions over Tillerson’s relationship with Russia ahead of a potentially stormy confirmation hearing … Exxon said on Sunday that Tillerson was no longer a director after becoming the company’s CEO in 2006. This new revelation about Tillerson’s directorship [also] sheds light on the use by multinational companies of contrived offshore structures, now under scrutiny following April’s massive Panama Papers leak.”
-- Russia is outrageously spinning its role in Syria’s war, in which Putin’s henchmen have been accused of committing war crimes, for domestic consumption. Via the Wall Street Journal’s Amie Ferris-Rotman: “At two large photo exhibitions recently held (in Moscow), Russians were shown the bomb-scarred Syrian cities of Aleppo and Palmyra as the West rarely sees them. Instead of images of destruction and starvation, the state-sponsored exhibits showed laughing, healthy children and Russian armored personnel carriers speeding unhindered through desert landscapes. The Russian government and state media describe the situation in Aleppo as ‘liberation’ … inspiring songs, videogames and even the penning of letters by schoolchildren for troops stationed there.”
-- Dan Balz faulted Trump's response to this donnybrook in his Sunday column: “Throughout the campaign, Trump described his philosophy as one of ‘America first.’ But if standing up to Russian attempts to interfere with American democracy isn’t a foundational principle of an ‘America first’ policy, what is? Trump’s response has suggested a different focus and different philosophy, one that might be described as ‘Trump first,’ rather than ‘America first.’ His instincts appear to be aimed at shielding himself. That raises questions about how he plans to conduct foreign policy. Will he seek all available evidence as he weighs decisions? Whom will he listen to and trust? And will he ever have a trusting relationship with the vast intelligence-gathering resources at his command? Trump is still a month away from occupying the Oval Office. But he is already caught up in a controversy that will define the opening of his presidency and is struggling to find his way.”
HOW WASHINGTON COULD CHANGE UNDER A PRESIDENT TRUMP:
-- A WSJ/NBC News poll finds that seven in 10 Americans believe Trump will be a “change agent” in Washington. One third of them, though, said it will be the wrong kind. Including the 32 percent who said business “will continue as usual” in D.C., more than half of Americans believe Trump will bring either the wrong kind of change or none at all. Responses were heavily partisan, with 82 percent of Republicans saying they approve of how Trump is conducting his transition process. Just 12 percent of Democrats said the same.
-- Under Trump, the exclusive Presidential Daily Briefing may lose its luster. From Greg Jaffe: “For eight years, it has been the most exclusive, and arguably most important, daily meeting in Washington. The rules under Obama have been strict and unyielding: No substitutes are permitted if one of the six regular attendees is out sick or traveling. No straphangers are allowed to linger in the Oval Office and watch. Now it looks as if the PDB’s status as Washington’s most indispensable briefing could be coming to an end … Trump’s decision to skip the morning briefing with his top staff members could upend how big foreign policy decisions are made in Washington and shift the balance of power in a city obsessed with access, influence and power. ‘So much of our time is wasted fighting for seats in meetings,’ said a former top White House official ... That’s how you determine your value, and if you don’t make the cut it is soul crushing.’”
-- How much time Trump spends in his Fifth Avenue “White House North” could shift attention from D.C., much to the chagrin of grumbling New Yorkers. From Paul Schwartzman: “The White House may be the nation’s time-honored symbol of power, but Trump is establishing his 58-story colossus at 725 Fifth Avenue as a stage for his new role, potentially nipping at Washington’s reputation as the center of American authority and the stature of its most famous address. … On most days, crowds of tourists, rank-and-file New Yorkers and candidates seeking jobs with the new administration endure a maze of checkpoints, barricades and police command posts on the traffic-choked streets that bound Trump Tower. Their soundtrack is less ‘Hail to the Chief’ and more honking horns, wailing sirens and irritated pedestrians moaning, ‘Are you kidding me?’ How often Trump will be in New York is a looming question … [but his] choices in real estate could test whether Washington’s preeminence in the country’s political order depends on where the president spends his weekends — or weekdays for that matter.”
-- So far, the president-elect has continued to stoke his base with a series of red-meat rich “victory lap” tours – suggesting that attempts at bridge-building or inclusivity will remain scant. From Philip Rucker and John Wagner: “As Trump assembles his administration and prepares to govern, he has continued the divisive rhetoric and showmanship of his campaign. He has mocked his opponents, sneered at the media and trumpeted his electoral feats. To the nearly 54 percent of voters who cast ballots for someone else, Trump’s message has been, in short: Get on board or get left behind. ‘I’ve never seen a president that continues to campaign instead of reaching out to voters that didn’t like him,’ said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. ‘He’s shunning Hillary Clinton’s supporters and almost acting like they don’t matter. … I think he sees himself as a revolutionary figure, and you’re either going to join the Trump revolution or you’re not.’”
WHO IS GETTING THE JOBS?
-- Trump named Mick Mulvaney, a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, to lead the Office of Management and Budget, signaling his intent to slash spending and address the deficit as president. Trump praised the South Carolina congressman as a “high-energy leader” with deep convictions for how to responsibly manage finances and save the country from “drowning in red ink.” (Abby Phillip)
-- By tapping Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, Trump is sending mixed signals on the ethanol mandate. From the Wall Street Journal’s Amy Harder and Jacob Bunge: “During the GOP primary, Mr. Trump emphasized his support for the mandate in Iowa—the nation’s biggest corn-producing state and home to the first nominating contest—in contrast with his Republican rivals who were mostly critical of it. ‘I am there with you 100%,’ Mr. Trump told hundreds of Iowans whose livelihoods depend on the ethanol industry … But [Pruitt] has called the ethanol mandate ‘unworkable’ and filed a legal brief in 2013 backing a lawsuit challenging it. This has set off high-stakes jockeying across the oil, refining and agriculture industries about what will become of the mandate, which requires refineries to blend increasingly large amounts of biofuels—mostly corn-based ethanol—into gasoline.”
-- Sylvester Stallone is rebuffing Trump efforts to get him to serve in a top arts leadership role in the administration, saying in a statement that he thinks there are more effective ways for him to help veterans than serving as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “I am incredibly flattered to have been suggested,” he said. “However I believe I could be more effective by bringing national attention to returning military personnel in an effort to find gainful employment, suitable housing and financial assistance these heroes respectfully deserve.” (New York Times)
-- Top Trump advisers, breaking into rival factions, are jockeying for control of the new nonprofit group being formed to help advance the president-elect’s agenda. Politico’s Shane Goldmacher reports: “The issue came to a head last Wednesday … where about a dozen members of Trump’s inner circle gathered to plot the future of the still-unformed nonprofit. At the head of the table sat Brad Parscale, Trump’s digital director, and Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, with top aides scattered all around, among them Trump’s longtime attorney Michael Cohen, Trump’s deputy campaign manager David Bossie, senior Trump communications adviser Jason Miller, [Mike Pence’s] senior adviser Marc Short, and [influential donor] Rebekah Mercer … But while everyone present agreed the nonprofit would be vital to enact the president-elect’s political agenda, they disagreed on who exactly would control it."
-- Trump is continuing to employ a private battalion of retired police and FBI officials to protect him, a major break from tradition that he is expected to carry, at least partly, into his future administration. Politico’s Kenneth Vogel reports: “Security officials warn that employing private security personnel heightens risks for the president-elect and his team, as well as for protesters, dozens of whom have alleged racial profiling, undue force or aggression at the hands Trump’s security, with at least 10 joining a trio of lawsuits now pending against Trump, his campaign or its security. ‘It’s playing with fire,’ said Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent [who worked with Obama in 2012]. Having a private security team working events with Secret Service ‘increases the Service’s liability, it creates greater confusion and it creates greater risk,’ Wackrow said.”
-- “McConnell Eyed Ryan Zinke for a Senate Seat. Trump Had Other Ideas,” by the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns: The courtship of Ryan Zinke began months before the end of the presidential race. A Republican congressman from Montana and a former Navy SEAL commander, Mr. Zinke was approached over the summer by [McConnell] about running for the Senate in 2018. To Mr. McConnell, Mr. Zinke was an ideal candidate to defeat Senator Jon Tester, a two-term Democrat, and bolster the Republicans’ slender majority. Then [Trump] intervened. Mr. McConnell learned early (last) week that Mr. Trump had grown interested in Mr. Zinke to be secretary of the interior. Mr. McConnell quickly contacted both [Mike Pence] and Reince Priebus … in an effort to head off the appointment … Mr. Trump was not moved. He was so taken with Mr. Zinke during their meeting on Monday at Trump Tower that he offered him the position. Mr. Trump’s defiant selection of Mr. Zinke, 55, dismayed Republicans in the capital and raised suspicions about how reliable an ally he will be for the party.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
--Trump donated $10,000 to a prominent Jewish West Bank settlement in 2003. From the Journal’s Damian Paletta: “The Jerusalem Post cites Trump Foundation records to show that Mr. Trump gave the sum to American Friends of Beit El. Beit El is an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, territory Palestinians seek for the establishment of their own state.” The report comes as Trump announced last week that he is nominating friend and lawyer David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel, who has served as president of American Friends of Beit El for the past several years. “U.S. presidents … have criticized the West Bank settlements, saying they are an obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Friedman has supported the development of Jewish settlements there, and he has also expressed skepticism that a two-state solution agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians can be achieved.”
-- Demonstrators gathered in the Polish capital this weekend, renewing protests that the new populist “Law and Justice” party is attempting to stifle press freedom just one year after coming into power. Inside the parliament itself, opposition MP’s continued a sit-in that began on Friday. (BBC)
-- The Post’s Anthony Faiola has more on the deepening political crisis in Poland: “In the land of Law and Justice, anti-intellectualism is king. Polish scientists are aghast at proposed curriculum changes in a new education bill that would downplay evolution theory and climate change and add hours for ‘patriotic history lessons. In a Facebook chat, a top equal rights official mused that Polish hotels should not be forced to provide service to black or gay customers … The Law and Justice Party rode to power on a pledge to drain the swamp of Polish politics … Opponents, however, see the birth of a neo-Dark Age — one that, as [Trump] prepares to move into the White House, is a harbinger of the power of populism to upend a Western society. In merely a year, critics say, the nationalists have transformed Poland into a surreal and insular place — one where state-sponsored conspiracy theories and de facto propaganda distract the public as democracy erodes.”
-- As Trump uses Twitter to rattle relations with China, Beijing is quietly weighing its options to retaliate. From Bloomberg’s Ting Shi, Nick Wadhams and David Tweed: “‘Beijing will ‘strike back firmly’ if Trump as president openly challenges China’s core interests like Taiwan, Tibet, the South China Sea and the East China Sea, said Shi Yinhong … an adviser to China’s State Council, the cabinet. Options include recalling the ambassador, stopping international cooperation, fighting a trade war -- even severing diplomatic ties. While some policy makers in Beijing initially hoped that Trump would bring a more pragmatic approach, that view is quickly fading. China has so far practiced restraint at Trump’s provocations as he’s yet to enter the White House,’ the [Communist-Party-affiliated] Global Times said. ‘But this attitude won’t last too long after he officially becomes the U.S. president, were he still to treat China in the manner he tweeted today.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Will Trump be ready when the phone rings at 3 a.m.? Tom Toles's latest:
Trump's pepetual thank-you tour, visualized by Ann Telnaes:
Is it just us, or is this picture kind of creepy?
Do you want to build a snowman? ⛄ pic.twitter.com/G7mPRILn7z— The White House (@WhiteHouse) December 17, 2016
Here's the latest from Trump's Twitter feed:
Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 16, 2016
China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 17, 2016
The first version of the tweet misspelled unprecedented as "unpresidented," which is not a word. It took about 90 minutes for Trump to delete the first version and re-post the one above (which signals, by the way, that no staff or national security professionals vetted it beforehand.) The guys who make the dictionary also weighed in:
We should tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2016
A photo ahead of Obama's pre-Hawaii press conference:
Never in four years have seen the White House briefing room this packed. Obama news conference starts momentarily pic.twitter.com/sXRXn6FgPw— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) December 16, 2016
Consider this -- from Google:
Google's "top stories" about Tulsi Gabbard and Syria are from Mintpress, Sputnik and Russia Insider. pic.twitter.com/hJkzeEC5ut— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) December 17, 2016
A good reminder of one of the many reasons HRC lost:
Politicians are getting in the holiday spirit:
Barbara Mikulski posted this farewell message:
Thank you to the people of MD for honoring me with your confidence & trust to be your voice & your vote. God bless you & the United States! pic.twitter.com/oaFwXrv7Ys— Barbara Mikulski (@SenatorBarb) December 16, 2016
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Boston Globe, “Kerry leaves a legacy of hope in role at State,” by Matt Viser: “Under blue skies on a blazing hot day this summer, John Kerry hopped onto his bike, clipped into his pedals, and spent three hours on a grueling ride up a mountain in the Alps. This was a year after he fell off his bike and broke his femur. This was after days in the hospital and months of physical therapy. Now he was back on the bike, trying to ride the same Alpine pass, featured in the Tour de France, that he’d failed to complete a year earlier. It has sometimes seemed, too, that Kerry as secretary of state has tried to change the world’s ills through sheer determination and stamina. [His tenure] has been marked by diplomatic risk-taking and a crushing schedule. [It] is so extreme — and unpredictable — that members of his press corps have called traveling with him the ‘Kerry Go-Round.’ But, as his critics have noted, not all the world’s problems can succumb to individual will …”
-- New Yorker, “Undocumented immigrants brace for a Trump administration,” by Jonathan Blitzer: “In 2015, Roberto Gonzales (a professor of education at Harvard) conducted a survey of five hundred young people in six American cities who had qualified for DACA, [a policy providing federal protection against deportation]. ‘Their early experience of ‘illegality’ was very different” from his other research subjects, he told me. ‘DACA had a huge effect on their sense of belonging and their ability to access the world around them.’ They were less prone to despair and more optimistic about their prospects for a more fully integrated life in America—getting an education, finding a job, raising a family. Trump has vowed to cancel DACA on his first day in office. If he follows through on his pledge, many DACA recipients fear that their once privileged status could put them at risk of being targeted by the government. ‘They have our information. They know where we live,’ Alarcón told me. A source of comfort has turned, overnight, into a cause for greater fear.”
-- New York Times, “When Trump Partied With Nixon,” by Manny Fernandez: “They still talk about the Saturday night here 27 years ago when [Trump] partied with former President Richard Nixon. Dressed in tuxedos, they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Texas royalty — former Gov. John B. Connally … as Nixon played the tune on a white baby grand piano. They dined at Tony’s, the ‘21’ Club of Houston, and Nixon was so fond of the cannelloni pasta that he asked the owner, Tony Vallone, to write the recipe for him on a yellow legal pad. And when it was all over, Mr. Trump flew Nixon back to New York on his 727 private jet. It was one of Nixon’s first public appearances since the Watergate scandal had forced him to resign in 1974. And it was one of Mr. Trump’s first presidential experiences, as he socialized with and had the ear of a former president for two days in Houston at a gala event …” “He obviously had a road map a lot bigger than any of us ever thought,” said one attendee.
-- Wall Street Journal, “The Hidden Hurt of Life on the Police Beat,” by Gary Fields and Zusha Elinson: “The high-profile shootings of civilians at the hands of police, and police at the hands of civilians, has led to some fierce national soul-searching. Much of the national debate has focused on videotaped police shootings of civilians, mostly minorities, prompting calls for more body cameras and changes in training and de-escalation techniques. The International Association of Chiefs of Police … recently offered an unprecedented apology for the profession’s role in ‘society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.’ Less noticed are the thousands more officers assaulted each year. Those numbers increased 2.5% in 2015 to 50,212 from 48,988 in 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says. FBI statistics don’t show how many officers leave the profession, often driven away by stress and trauma, or officers who continue working with permanent physical or mental injuries. That has obscured a routine reality of life on the beat, where the threat of violence is often just behind a door …”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“A&E Imbeds With KKK for New Documentary Series,” from The Hollywood Reporter: “A&E is pulling back the hood on several prominent members of the Ku Klux Klan. The cable network, on a buying spree of serious-minded documentary fare of late, has embedded cameras with the KKK over the last year ... Subjects include an ‘Imperial Wizard’ trying to recruit his daughter into the KKK, an Iraq war veteran indoctrinating his four-year-old son with racist rhetoric and fifth-generation Klan family trying to recruit a close family friend. Sources confirmed … that the cable player has handed out an eight-episode order to Generation KKK, set to premiere in January. To say that the series' arrival is timely would be an understatement.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Gun retailers report a run on firearms ahead of new California restrictions,” from the L.A. Times: “Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval of sweeping gun control legislation in July has triggered a run on firearms in California, with some stores reporting sales have doubled since then. Starting Jan. 1, the general public in California can no longer buy a semiautomatic rifle equipped with bullet-buttons that allow for the quick removal and replacement of ammunition magazines, under a new law signed by the governor. ‘When Gov. Brown signed that bill, the first 30 days in July were just insane,’ said Joshua Deaser, the owner of Just Guns, a store in Sacramento. ‘We have people lined up out the door and around the block,’ [said another]. In the less than six months since the July 1 signing of the rifle ban, 257,895 semiautomatic rifles have been purchased, eclipsing the 153,931 rifle purchases reported to the state in all of 2015.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
As rain picked up at his outdoor rally in Alabama, Trump vowed to keep talking: "I never liked this suit anyway, so we’ll throw it away after."
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Another chilly day is ahead. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’ll have a good deal of sunshine, but it’s a cold one. Highs range from the low-to-mid 30s in our suburbs to the upper 30s downtown (and south and east).”
-- The Wizards beat the Clippers 117-110.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Saturday Night Live's latest takes on Trump:
Brian Schatz welcomed the Obamas to Hawaii:
Michelle Obama spoke to Oprah Winfrey about Trump's election and the feeling of "not having hope":
Here's how Trump responded:
Here are some of the most interesting people who have met with the president-elect:
Seth Meyers joked about the Kanye West meeting in his "Favorite Jokes of the Week" segment:
Conan O'Brien imagined more phone calls between Obama and Trump:
Keegan-Michael Key spoke about playing "Luther, the anger translator" and meeting Obama:
Diego Luna spoke about his pride in being Mexican in light of Trump's election: