Donald Trump, accompanied by Reince Priebus and Michael Flynn, speaks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach yesterday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

THE BIG IDEA: The more time that passes, the more that the outcome of every presidential election feels inevitable in retrospect – even the close ones. That’s the way the frosted glass of human memory works. We simplify, as our frame of reference shifts from the tactical to the tectonic: This was a change election, and Donald Trump was a change candidate. Hillary Clinton represented the status quo.

In 2016, it often felt like nothing mattered. Not facts. Not gaffes. Not investigative reporting.

The reality, of course, is more complex: Everything matters. History just as often turns on small decisions that don’t seem significant when they are made as the weighty ones that follow weeks of deliberations.

Clinton received nearly three million more votes nationally than Trump did. If fewer than 100,000 votes had flipped across three states, she’d be the president-elect – filling her cabinet from Chappaqua.

Even after all 50 states have certified their results and Trump officially won in the electoral college, many Democrats – including alumni of the campaign – are still coming to grips with the reality that, one month from today, he will be sitting in the Oval Office.

Many Democrats say that it still feels like a bad dream. They wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat as the reality of a Trump presidency sinks in a little deeper, as they realize that this is not Groundhog Day and that there are no do-overs. They lie in bed, staring at the ceiling. Instead of counting sheep, they revisit the events and re-litigate their decisions.

It’s very easy to Monday morning quarterback, of course, and it’s impossible to ever know with any certainty how things might have played out differently if certain choices were, or were not, made. That’s what makes counterfactual history so titillating yet agonizing – and perhaps ultimately unsatisfying.

Would another Republican nominee besides Trump have defeated Clinton? No one else would have picked a fight with Gonzalo Curiel, Alicia Machado or the Khans. No one else was on tape boasting about sexual assault. As far as we know, no one else running would have had more than a dozen women come forward to accuse them of sexual misconduct in the month before the election. But no one else had the raw political talent and showmanship of Trump. No other Republican would have run as such a protectionist, nativist and isolationist as Trump. No one else would have had the same level of credibility as an outsider. These qualities cannot be discounted. That’s why, despite all of his baggage, it is quite plausible that none of the other Republicans could have made the same inroads and shifted the map the way that Trump did.

As we close the book on the 2016 cycle, this will be the final big idea that looks back at the past two years. It’s based on dozens of conversations with operatives from both sides about how things might have played out differently. These are among the questions that Democrats, and some establishment Republicans, are still asking themselves—

Justice Antonin Scalia’s courtroom chair is draped in black to mark his death as part of a tradition that dates to the 19th century. Scalia died in February at age 79. He was the Supreme Court's longest-serving justice. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The Supreme Court vacancy:

What if Antonin Scalia hadn’t died?

What if Mitch McConnell allowed hearings for the president’s nominee to replace him? The lack of a vacancy might have taken away one of the biggest galvanizing forces for conservatives who were uneasy with Trump.

What if Obama had nominated someone who actually excited progressives and/or African Americans, instead of a moderate, milquetoast white guy who literally drove no one to the polls for Clinton? He thought he was making the Republicans an offer they couldn’t refuse by putting up Garland, the most moderate possible justice they could hope for. He thought wrong.

The former editor of the Harvard Law Review, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, refused to let political considerations drive his selection. What if Obama had been more political?

What if Trump had not announced the names of 21 potential justices he will choose from? Many Republicans, especially the pro-life community, got on board with Trump because the two lists he put out signaled that he would govern as a constitutional conservative, even if he himself was not one.

The Obama administration says that Vladimir Putin personally authorized the hacking of Democratic officials’ email accounts in the run-up to the election, which intelligence agencies believe was designed to help Trump prevail. (Toru Hanai/AP)

Russian interference:

On Oct. 7, the intelligence community publicly stated that the Russians were behind the hacking of Democratic emails and that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” What if this announcement had not gone out on the same afternoon that The Post published the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video? Would it have gotten more attention? Or swayed anyone?

What if FBI agents walked over to DNC headquarters, instead of just leaving voicemails for a hapless IT contractor, to let party leaders know they’d been hacked?

What if Clinton I.T. guy had not told John Podesta’s assistant that a phishing email from the Russians was “a legitimate email”? He claims it was just a typo, but hundreds of you emailed me last week to question his story.

What if Trump had not pleaded directly with the Russian government to meddle in the U.S. election by finding and releasing tens of thousands of private emails from his opponent? “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” the Republican nominee said on July 27. “They probably have them. I’d like to have them released.”

What if Clinton had just released the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches during the primaries, when Bernie Sanders pressed her to, instead of waiting for WikiLeaks to publish an email with the juiciest parts?

What if McConnell had not voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence during a secret September briefing for congressional leaders? People present at the meeting say that the GOP leader made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly as an act of partisan politics.

What if Obama had spoken out loudly and publicly on the issue anyway?

What if Reince Priebus had not twice declined to sign onto a statement condemning the Russian meddling before the election?

What if other Republicans had heeded Marco Rubio’s call to not politicize the hacked emails?

What if the Russians had released emails from top Republicans too?

What if the press had not covered the WikiLeaks disclosures so intensively?

Hillary Clinton sends an email as secretary of state. (File)

The emails:

What if Hillary had never set up the private server in the first place?

What if she had not had her lawyers delete thousands of supposedly personal emails, which made it seem like she was trying to hide something?

What if the State Department had just released them all at once, instead of trickling them out?

What if Sanders had not let her off the hook at the first Democratic debate by saying he was “sick and tired” of talking about the “damn emails”?

What if Clinton had been more accessible and less cloistered? What if she gave as many interviews as Trump did?

What if Bill Clinton hadn’t huddled with Loretta Lynch on the tarmac in Phoenix?

What if James Comey had not held the July 5 press conference to announce that Clinton would not be charged with a crime? What if the FBI had just released a short paper statement instead? What if the director had not said she was “extremely careless” in her “handling of very sensitive, highly classified information”?

What if Anthony Weiner had not continued texting inappropriately with strangers after the practice cost him his House seat and the chance to be mayor of New York? The feds might not have come across the computer with his estranged wife’s emails on it.

The Nov. 6 letter from James Comey (Jon Elswick/AP)

What if Comey did not send the first letter to Congress on Oct. 28, saying that there were more emails?

What if Comey didn’t send the second letter the Sunday before the election? Clinton has told donors that this hurt her just as much, even though it again cleared her, by bringing attention back to the issue and helping Trump consolidate Republicans in the suburbs.

“Comey’s intervention is one thing that almost certainly changed the result,” Dana Milbank writes in his column today. “Nationwide, voters who decided in the last week — the time when Comey’s announcement dominated the news — overwhelmingly went for Trump. Late-deciders went for Trump by 17 points in Florida and Pennsylvania, by 11 points in Michigan and 29 points in Wisconsin.”

Barack Obama campaigns in Ann Arbor on the Monday before the election. He had originally planned to go to Detroit but changed his plans. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

The Rust Belt:

Unlike 2000, this election was not decided by just one state. So it’s hard to say, for example, that if Clinton had just done more in Wisconsin, she would have won. Because she still would have lost the presidency had she won the Badger State. But Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin all tipped away from her in the closing days.

What if the Orlando night club attack didn’t happen? Obama and Clinton were supposed to hold their first joint rally in Milwaukee, but it got canceled. It took weeks for it to get rescheduled, and they went to Charlotte instead – and, in terrible timing, it coincided with Comey’s press conference. Hillary never went back to Wisconsin. Her team said just days out that they did not need to because they were comfortably ahead.

What if Clinton had focused more on making an affirmative, economic-focused argument for why people should support her and less on trying to make the race a referendum on Trump?

What if Trump had not picked a fight with Gold Star father Khizr Khan? This was obviously damaging to the Republican nominee, but the Clinton team remains angry that it prevented them from being able to drive an economic message during a post-convention bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio. Instead of talking about Hillary’s plan to create jobs in Youngstown, they were talking about Donald’s latest donnybrook. Again.

What if the Clinton high command had paid attention to the May warning from the Democratic chairman in Mahoning County, Ohio, that she needed to retool her message on trade or risk getting wiped out in the Rust Belt?

What if Obama had campaigned in Detroit in the final days? He was scheduled to, but that appearance got canceled because of concerns that his motorcade would interfere with the funeral for a police officer who had died. She only lost the state by 10,704 votes and under-performed in urban areas that Obama won four years ago.

What if the Clinton campaign had not poured money into Missouri and Indiana, where they lost by double digits, to help Senate candidates? What if that money paid for TV ads in Michigan and Wisconsin?

What if Clinton had not focused so much on fundraising and debate prep in the fall but actually spent more time on the trail? She held far fewer rallies than Trump.

What if Clinton had not fallen ill with pneumonia at the 9/11 anniversary event?

What if she had not been caught on camera stumbling on her way to the motorcade?

What if Hillary had not said, while she was suffering from pneumonia, that “half” of The Donald’s supporters can be placed in a “basket of deplorables”?

What if the media had not believed Clinton was ultimately going to win the election? Would the coverage have been less persnickety? Her team feels like she was treated as a president-in-waiting, and this meant that the stories were tougher than the ones Trump faced.

What if Donna Brazile had not insisted that the DNC waste money on radio ads in Illinois and Louisiana to drive up Clinton’s popular vote total?

What if the Clinton team had not treated its flawed modeling software as gospel?

Why wasn’t Bernie’s huge upset in the Michigan primary this spring a bigger wake-up call that Clinton could have serious problems in the state during the fall?

What if state-level polling had been more accurate?

What if Brooklyn had allowed the SEIU to redeploy resources from Iowa to Michigan? What if the United Auto Workers hadn’t flaked on their GOTV commitments in Michigan, as Clinton world alleges, during the final week?

Vice President-elect Mike Pence warms up the crowd at Trump's thank you rally in Orlando last week. (Evan Vucci/AP)

The running mates:

Putting Mike Pence on the ticket turned out to be one of the smartest decisions Trump made. The Indiana governor helped reassure conservatives and acquitted himself well through the fall.

What if Trump had chosen Chris Christie instead? The New Jersey governor had endorsed him early, and Pence had supported Cruz before the primary in his state. But a federal trial in the weeks before the election included salacious revelations and allegations about Christie’s knowledge of and role in the Bridgegate scandal. Going after Clinton on the Clinton Foundation would have been much harder had Christie been on the ticket.

What if Pence distanced himself more from Trump after the “Access Hollywood” video came out? Remember that he canceled a fundraiser in the immediate aftermath and said he was “offended” by Trump’s comments.

On the Democratic side, what if Clinton had chosen someone besides Tim Kaine? The Virginia senator did not cause any problems for her, and he may have helped put Virginia away.

But what if Elizabeth Warren had won the veepstakes? Would fewer liberals have defected to Jill Stein? She might have drawn bigger crowds. How many more millennials might have voted?

Or what about Cory Booker? Would he have helped to juice African American turnout in Philly, Milwaukee and Detroit?

President Obama walks with Vice President Joe Biden back to the Oval Office after speaking in the Rose Garden. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Looking back to the primaries:

What if Joe Biden had run?

What if CNN had not covered Trump’s rallies wall to wall from the beginning, showing live video feeds of an empty podium?

What if Fox chairman Roger Ailes – who would go on to help Trump with debate prep after he lost his job amidst a sexual harassment scandal – had instructed his on-air talent to go negative on Trump after his nasty attacks on Megyn Kelly? What if Fox producers had pretended like Trump didn’t exist as a credible candidate that summer as relation? Could that have taken away his oxygen?

What if Jeb Bush had not sucked up all the establishment donor money so early, making it harder for other non-Trump candidates to break through?

What if Robotic Rubio had not malfunctioned on stage during the Saturday night debate before the New Hampshire primary? Could he have done well enough to claim momentum in South Carolina and then possibly won his home state of Florida?

What if Rubio had not gone into the gutter with Trump with all the talk about small hands, which made him look so immature?

What if the GOP field had consolidated sooner? Establishment Republicans hated Ted Cruz so much that they refused to rally behind him even when he was the only realistic candidate who could have stopped Trump.

What if Cruz had not dropped out after losing Indiana on May 3? What if he fought on through California?

What if Cruz never came around to endorsing Trump after his “vote your conscience” convention speech?

What if Paul Ryan had refused to formally endorse until after the convention? How would his conference have reacted?

What if Trump had actually pivoted after he clinched the nomination? Would that have turned off some of his core loyalists and made him look like a sell-out? Or would it have put him in the driver’s seat through the fall?

Corey Lewandowski and Michelle Fields in this still frame from video taken March 8 and released by the Jupiter, Florida, Police Department. (Reuters)

Personnel:

What if Clinton had shaken up her campaign team after losing New Hampshire by 22 points? Brooklyn had remarkably few unsanctioned leaks, especially compared to 2008. How might a different team have done things differently?

What if Clinton’s staff had listened more to Bill Clinton, who wanted the campaign to focus more on working-class whites?

What if Clinton had a better slogan than “Stronger Together”?

What if Trump had fired Corey Lewandowski right away after he grabbed Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and then lied about it?

What if Trump had stuck with Paul Manafort as scrutiny grew over his Ukraine ties?

What if the Mercer family had not persuaded Trump to hire Stephen Bannon from Breitbart?

What if Bannon had not brought the women who had accused Bill Clinton sexual assault to the second debate as part of a scorched-earth response to the 2005 video?

What if Kellanne Conway had not been brought on as the final manager? Would Trump have ever shown any sign of contrition?

What if Trump’s access to Twitter was not limited by his staff in the final days?

We will never know which of these things truly made a difference.

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

Sign up to receive the newsletter.

 

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Kellyanne Conway at Trump Tower (Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images)

-- Kellyanne Conway will work in the White House as a counselor to the president. Trump made the announcement in a press release this morning. She was the first female manager of a winning campaign and has been weighing for weeks whether to join the administration or spearhead Trump's outside political efforts. Conway, who has been ubiquitous defending Trump on cable TV, will join a West Wing team that includes Priebus and Bannon.

-- This follow's Corey Lewandowski, Trump's first manager, announcing yesterday that he will form a consulting firm. Called Avenue Strategies, Corey touts the fact that new firm is “just a block from the White House” and, in a release, he says, “I will always be President-elect Trump’s biggest supporter.” His partner is Barry Bennett, a former top adviser to Ben Carson's campaign. ( John Wagner)

Eric Trump at Trump Tower (Albin Lohr-Jones/EPA)

-- Calling it a "quagmire," Eric Trump said he would stop directly soliciting money for his charity, which aims to fight such things as childhood cancer. From the New York Times's Maggie Haberman and Eric Lipton: The move comes following backlash after the Eric Trump Foundation offered an online auction for the chance to have coffee with his sister, Ivanka Trump. Friends of Eric Trump also offered the opportunity for a hunting trip with Eric and his brother, Donald Jr., in exchange for a donation of $500,000 or $1 million to the friends' foundation, with the consent of Eric Trump. With comparisons beginning to be drawn to the Clinton Foundation, Eric said he would no longer directly solicit funds for his foundation: “As unfortunate as it is, I understand the quagmire,” Trump told the Times last night. “You do a good thing that backfires.” The foundation's fate is unclear -- it could be shut down or renamed, or Eric Trump could put distance between himself and the group.

-- In another sign that he is serious about moving to Washington, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner is quietly trying to sell his newspaper, The New York Observer, according to WWD. One potential buyer is American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer, though Observer media chair and chief executive Joseph Meyer denied the paper was for sale.

-- Trump also made significant concessions to the unions at his hotels in Nevada and Washington, per The Times: "The agreements resolve labor disputes that could have posed a conflict of interest for the president-elect and come on the heels of other similar moves in recent weeks. ... One of the two labor agreements provides a union contract to workers at the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, whose union the hotel had previously refused to bargain with. The second agreement eases a hurdle to unionization at a recently opened Trump hotel in Washington." The pacts lower the chance that the disputes would be arbitrated through the National Labor Relations Board, whose members will ultimately be appointed by Trump, along with its general counsel.

Vladimir Putin shakes hands with General Valery Gerasimov today as Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu looks on during a meeting today in the Kremlin. (Alexey Nikolsky/EPA/Sputnik)

-- The cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike has discovered "strong proof" that a group with ties to Russia's military intelligence arm hacked DNC servers, Ellen Nakashima reports. "CrowdStrike linked malware used in the DNC intrusion to malware used to hack and track an Android phone app used by the Ukrainian army in its battle against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine from late 2014 through 2016."

Republican State Sen. Norman Sanderson holds his head yesterday during a failed attempt to repeal HB2 in Raleigh. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. North Carolina lawmakers decided to leave the so-called "bathroom bill" in effect. Despite a special legislative session called to focus on the legislation that had sparked a national controversy, and cost the outgoing governor his job, lawmakers failed to repeal HB2, which requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. (Mark Berman and Sandhya Somashekhar)
  2. A Sahara desert town got a white Christmas. A freak snow shower occurred near the Nigerian town of Ain Sefram, where it hadn't snowed there since 1979. (Jason Samenow)
  3. Egypt circulated a draft U.N. resolution last night that demands a halt to Israeli settlement activities in Palestinian territory and declares that all existing settlements “have no legal validity” and are “a flagrant violation” of international law. The Security Council scheduled a meeting at 3 p.m. EST Thursday to vote on the draft resolution. (AP)
  4. Two Muslim American YouTube stars appear to have been booted from a Delta flight in London because the captain heard them speaking Arabic. New Yorkers Adam Saleh and Slim Albaher claimed they were asked to get off the plane after Saleh spoke to his mom by phone in Arabic and the two friends conversed in the language, but there's skepticism since they've been known to pull pranks aimed at exposing Muslim stereotypes. Delta called their behavior "provocative," including shouting, but other passengers corroborated the friends' account. (New York Times)
  5. Brexit booster and Trump friend Nigel Farage is facing possible legal action after accusing the husband of a murdered British lawmaker of supporting an extremist group. Farage tweeted that the Berlin attack would be "Merkel's legacy." Brendan Cox, husband of murdered lawmaker Jo Cox, called blaming politicians for extremist groups a "slippery slope," prompting Farage to say that Cox "knows more about extremist groups than me," referring to the "Hope not Hate" group formed after his wife's assassination. (New York Times)
  6. A University of Michigan student who told police that a stranger threatened to set her on fire if she didn’t remove her hijab could soon face a felony charge for false reporting. Police say there is no evidence proving the student’s report to authorities in November, when she claimed that an intoxicated man threatened her outside the Ann Arbor campus. (Kristine Guerra
  7. The National Weather Service plans to issue some news-you-can-use. In order to prevent “commutageddons,” the service is testing what it's calling "Potential Winter Commuting Hazard" alerts, to be issued "24 hours before any rush hour under snow or ice threat, and will make phone calls directly to snow crew dispatch centers to alert them of the potential." It's a reaction to the light snow dusting, but nightmarish commuting conditions, in D.C. last Jan. 20. (John Hopewell)
  8. A Virginia woman was sentenced to 33 months in prison for masterminding a high-end purse scam. Praepitcha Smatsorabudh would buy expensive designer purses from department stores and later return knock-offs made especially in Hong Kong and China. She would then sell the originals while keeping some of the genuine articles for herself. (Rachel Weiner)
  9. A poker pro has been ordered to repay $9.6 million in illicit winnings from playing Baccarat. Phil Ivey won the money at the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City through an elaborate scheme known as "edge-sorting," in which Ivey's sidekick memorized minute differences in the patterns on the back of the cards. (Ben Guarino)
  10. James Taylor cancelled a February concert in the Philippines to protest President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial anti-drug policies. Since the anti-drug campaign began, police have killed 2,000 people with 3,500 other killings remaining unsolved. (New York Times)
Tunisian immigrant Anis Amri is suspected of carrying out the truck attack in Berlin. German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA)

THE LATEST FROM BERLIN:

-- The prime suspect in the truck attack on Berlin's Christmas markets was the subject of a previous terror investigation. From Anthony Faiola, Stephanie Kirchner, and Souad Mekhennet: "The 24-year-old Tunisian migrant was not deported even though his asylum bid was rejected... Though he went by several aliases, Anis Amri "became the subject of a national manhunt after investigators discovered a wallet with his identity documents in the truck used in Monday’s attack that left 12 dead, two law enforcement officials told The Washington Post."

-- Angela Merkel's government is taking major heat for its policy of welcoming over 1 million migrants fleeing war in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. "Dozens of terrorism suspects have slipped into Germany and neighboring nations posing as migrants. Amri, officials said, was not part of the surge of migrants who entered Europe via the onetime main route from Turkey and Greece — a path that has been now largely cut off. Rather, he came to Germany last year via Italy, where he apparently had entered as early as 2012. He applied for German asylum but was rejected in June and later faced deportation.

"Amri was the subject of a terrorism probe on suspicion of 'preparing a serious act of violent subversion,' and he had known links to Islamist extremists, authorities said. Why a failed asylum-seeker with such links and no passport was walking German streets is 'the question 82 million Germans probably want an answer to,' said Rainer Wendt, chairman of the German Police Union."

-- Two more nuggets: "In August, Mr. Amri was arrested in the southern city of Friedrichshafen with a fake Italian document and released a short while later ... [Amri's] father told a Tunisian radio station ... that his son left Tunisia about seven years ago and served four years in prison in Italy after he was accused of setting fire to a school. The son was sentenced in absentia in Tunisia to five years in prison for violent robbery, the radio station reported."

-- So how did he slip through the cracks? Our journalists on the ground explain that Amri was in legal limbo, like other migrants without passports, with his country of origin refusing to take him back until a passport was issued. That happened Wednesday. "Amri had 'interacted' with Abu Walaa, a 32-year-old of Iraqi descent arrested in November on charges of recruiting and sending fighters from Germany to the Islamic State."

-- Meanwhile, Trump appeared to reaffirm his support for both an indefinite ban on Muslim immigrants to the United States and support for a registry of Muslims -- and called the Berlin attack a vindication of his approach. Speaking outside Mar-a-Lago, Trump did not walk back the proposals after he was asked by a reporter whether he was rethinking or reevaluating them. "You know my plans," Trump said. "All along, I’ve been proven to be right. One-hundred-percent correct. What’s happening is disgraceful." Note that he has not been at all clear about what his plans are. (Abby Phillip and Abigail Hauslohner)

Clockwise from top left: Trump, James Mattis, George S. Patton and actor George C. Scott (in character as Patton).

TRUMP'S PARADE OF HOPEFULS:

-- "Trump is holding a casting call. He's seeking 'the look,'" by Philip Rucker and Karen Tumulty"The parade of potential job-seekers passing a bank of media cameras to board the elevators at Trump Tower has the feel of a casting call. It is no coincidence that a disproportionate share of the names most mentioned for jobs at the upper echelon of the Trump administration are familiar faces to obsessive viewers of cable news — of whom the president-elect is one. 'He likes people who present themselves very well, and he’s very impressed when somebody has a background of being good on television because he thinks it’s a very important medium for public policy,' said Chris Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a longtime friend of Trump. 'The look might not necessarily be somebody who should be on the cover of GQ magazine or Vanity Fair. It’s more about the look and the demeanor and the swagger.' ... His personnel choices show signs of being 'cast for the TV show of his administration,' said Bob Killian, founder of a branding agency based in Chicago. 'They are all perfectly coifed people who look like they belong on a set.'"

-- Many of Trump's selections for top posts in his administration have something else in common: they are conspiracy theorists. From Elise Viebeck: "Many of Trump’s highest-level appointees have a history of publicly promoting conspiratorial, outlandish and fringe beliefs, particularly about Muslims, the Clinton family and the environment. ... Those who promote such narratives include top Trump national security staff, advisers and Cabinet designees, many of whom will enter the executive branch with long records of public statements from their careers as conservative commentators and politicians. Their open and shared tendency toward repeating false narratives, a more prevalent theme in this administration than previous ones, raises questions about what role debunked and discredited theories might play in Trump’s decisions as president ... Mark Fenster, author of 'Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture,' said touting such unproven or outlandish theories can bias the judgment of people in power, with real consequences. 'You might inaccurately or unfairly interpret information that comes your way. You might seek out a limited number of sources of information and make decisions that are not as good as they could otherwise have been,' said Fenster.

Peter Navarro, center, speaks with Mark Cuban, left, outside the media filing center ahead of the first presidential debate at Hofstra University. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

-- Trump appointed China hardliner Peter Navarro to head a newly-created post within his White House called the National Trade Council, which the president-elect says will be equivalent in status to the National Security Council and the National Economic Council. Navarro, a business professor at the University of California at Irvine, is a globalization critic who is expected to implement Trump's trade strategy. While there have been some signals since the campaign ended that Trump is softening his stance on tariffs and ripping up NAFTA, observers read the appointment of Navarro, who helped shape Trump's economic ideas during the race, as doubling down on that rhetoric. (Ylan Q. Mui and Steven Mufson

-- Trump also enlisted billionaire investor Carl Icahn as a special adviser overseeing regulatory reform, Ylan and Steven add. "It's still unclear what Icahn's role will be. ... The transition team said he would not be a government employee and would have no specific duties. Icahn has expressed skepticism of many environmental regulations. However, he has defended the sweeping financial reforms passed after the Great Recession that Trump has pledged to dismantle."

David Koch (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

-- Trump met with billionaire David Koch at Mar-a-Lago in an informal session brokered by Trump friend and Newsmax chief Christopher Ruddy. It's part of a pattern of Trump seemingly seeking to make peace with some of his adversaries from during the campaign. Trump hosted Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, who he slammed during the campaign, at his Florida getaway over the weekend. (Robert Costa)

-- Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenberg went to Mar-a-Lago yesterday to break bread with Trump after the president-elect threatened in a recent tweet to cancel Boeing's contract to build Air Force One because of its alleged $4 billion price tag. It's unclear what kind of understanding the two businessmen came to, but Muilenberg said afterward that they are "focused on the same thing" in getting taxpayers a good deal. “And his business head set around that is excellent. It was a terrific conversation. Got a lot of respect for him. He’s a good man. And he’s doing the right thing," Muilenberg said. (Abby Phillip)

-- A Virginia winery owned by Eric Trump has applied for permission to import more foreign workers to prune grapevines. From BuzzFeed: “On Wednesday, the Department of Labor posted a petition from Trump Winery, also known as Trump Vineyard Estates, asking to bring in six vineyard workers under the federal H-2 visa program, which permits US employers to bring in foreign laborers on temporary work visas. Since 2003, more than 100,000 foreigners have been brought in under the program each year. Combined with this latest request, companies owned by Trump or bearing his name have sought permission from the Department of Labor to hire at least 263 foreign guest workers since he launched his presidential campaign.”

John McCain and Chuck Schumer in 2013 after the Senate passed the immigration bill. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

-- In another sign of how Trump's presidency is scrambling partisan alliances in Washington, Chuck Schumer and John McCain are working together a lot more closely, Paul Kane reports. "Schumer and McCain could not seem much more stylistically different, but the two have a common ability to command the spotlight and shape debates inside the Capitol, something that becomes exponentially more powerful if they are working on the same side."

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Ben Sasse and his children Elizabeth, Alexandra and Breck in Lincoln, Neb. (Nati Harnik/AP)

Ben Sasse live-tweeted his kids' piano recital:

Here's the final popular vote count, which continues to make Trump uncomfortable:

The Drudge Report, like Trump himself, chose to put a certain spin on it:

Which led to tweets like these:

Trump seems not to have known his response to the Berlin attack:

He's also apparently not going to use "drain the swamp" as a catchphrase anymore, per Newt Gingrich:

A reminder about that:

Maybe it wasn't serious anyway:

Jeff Sessions is clamming up ahead of his confirmation hearings:

Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes, who lost to Mitch McConnell in 2014, was appalled by the viral video of a woman's racist tirade at a mall in Louisville:

Chuck Schumer is no fan of Mick Mulvaney:

Bernie Sanders is attacking Trump's cabinet selections more broadly:

Tom Perez officiated a wedding:

Mark Meadows welcomed a granddaughter:

Rick Crawford enjoyed some fishing:

Lindsey Graham is getting into the holiday spirit:

Olivia Wilde posted this photo of herself with the Obamas:

Finally, check out this model of the Capitol at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Can you guess what it's made of?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“If something happens to him, then it happens to him,” Trump's doctor Harold Bornstein told Stat News. “It’s like all the rest of us, no? That’s why we have a vice president and a speaker of the House and a whole line of people. They can just keep dying."

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- It is pretty warm for Christmas week, the Capital Weather Gang's forecast notes: "You know we are in a mild spell when a cold front pushes through today and we still climb to near 50. In fact, highs through Christmas and beyond remain similarly comfortable. This ensures that precipitation Saturday is only rain and should clear out before the “man in red” begins his deliveries that night. Snow lovers have to look to the New Year for any hopes of the white stuff. Sorry."

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Did you know Chris Matthews loves the movie "Love Actually"? Watch and learn:

Jimmy Fallon recruited Paul McCartney, Reese Witherspoon and other celebrities for this rendition of "Wonderful Christmastime":

David Remnick chatted with Seth Meyers about Trump's looming presidency:

Meyers debuted a new segment devoted to Trump's tweets:

This dramatic video shows an explosion at a fireworks market in Tultepec, Mexico:

Mexico's president held a moment of silence for the victims:

Finally, watch as this Santa gets pulled over by police:

And meet the Hawaiian fish named after Obama: