The new narrative is cementing quickly across the mainstream media, which often operates with a sort of herd mentality. On this Friday the 13th, the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times each run similar front-page stories. The AP, Bloomberg, Politico, Huffington Post, Time and NPR also pursued this angle.
“You’re seeing the reality-show aspects of campaigning bending to the reality of governance,” Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, who as an aide to George W. Bush helped sherpa Sam Alito and John Roberts through the confirmation process, told Karen Tumulty for our version. “His rhetoric was so far outside the boundaries — in some instances of reality, and in some instances, of the laws of the nation, and in other issues, outside the boundaries of pass-fail issues for some of these nominees.”
This morning Trump touted the independence of his nominees as an asset:
The transition team says the president-elect was “not looking for clones,” but that agency heads will fall in line once the president makes decisions. “At the end of the day, each one of them is going to pursue a Trump agenda and a Trump vision,” incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on a daily conference call.
-- The most pronounced differences highlighted by the Senate hearings have been on matters of national security:
He said he would “absolutely not” authorize waterboarding of terrorism suspects, even if Trump ordered him to do so: “I will always comply with the law.”
He said he considers the intelligence community’s conclusions on Russian interference in the election “sound” and insisted that he’s “very clear-eyed” about the threat Moscow poses: “It’s pretty clear about what took place, about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information and have an impact on American democracy. It is something that America needs to take seriously.”
On the hacked Clinton emails: “I have never believed that WikiLeaks was a credible source of information.”
He placed Russia first among principal threats facing the United States, even calling Vladimir Putin “an adversary in key areas”: “Since Yalta, we have a long list of times we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia. We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard. The most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with Mr. Putin and we recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance, and that we take the steps … to defend ourselves where we must.”
NATO, he said, “is the most successful military alliance, probably, in modern world history, maybe ever.”
He endorsed the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative, which has bulked up the U.S. military power in Eastern Europe to counter Russian bellicosity in the Baltics.
On Russia’s election interference: “I have a very, very high degree of confidence in our intelligence community.”
On the Iran deal: “I think it is in an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty. But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”
Mattis repeatedly spoke up for traditional alliances with South Korea and Japan: “We must also embrace our international alliances and security partnerships. History is clear: Nations with strong allies thrive and those without them wither.”
On the Muslim ban: “I have no belief, and I do not support the idea that Muslims, as a religious group, should be denied admission to the United States. … I would not favor a registry of Muslims in the United States. … We have great Muslim citizens who have contributed in so many different ways. … We should avoid surveillance of religious institutions unless there’s a basis to believe that dangerous or threatening illegal activity is going on there."
On waterboarding: He voted against making it illegal as a senator but promised to enforce the law, which he said makes it “absolutely improper and illegal.”
On the intelligence community’s assessment regarding Russia: “I have no reason to doubt that and have no evidence that would indicate otherwise.”
On sexual assault: Sessions was asked whether “grabbing a woman by her genitals without consent” constitutes sexual assault. In the context of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video, he said during the campaign that he didn’t know. Now he says, “Clearly it would be.”
On whether millions of undocumented immigrants voted for Hillary: "I don't know what the president-elect meant or was thinking when he made that comment or what facts he may have had to justify his statement.”
On the border wall: “A physical barrier in and of itself … will not do the job. … It has to be really a layered defense.”
On the Muslim registry: “I don't agree with registering people based on ethnicity or religion or anything like that. … I don’t think it is ever appropriate to focus on something like religion as the only factor.”
He said he has “high confidence” in the intelligence community’s assessment regarding Russian interference.
On torture: “I don’t think we should ever come close to crossing a line that is beyond what we as Americans would expect to follow in terms of interrogation techniques.”
On domestic surveillance: “I’m not for the mass collection of data on people. I’d go the other way.”
On climate change: He disagreed with Trump’s claim that it is a hoax and said the U.S. should not pull out of the Paris climate accord. (He even expressed some support for a carbon tax.)
He called the American commitment to NATO “inviolable.”
He called for “a proportional show of force” to push back against Russian belligerence.
On the Muslim ban: He said he does “not support a blanket-type rejection of any particular group of people” and talked about how much he’s come to respect Muslims from his time traveling around the globe.
On trade: “I do not oppose TPP.”
On proliferation, he said it would be bad if Japan or South Korea acquired nukes: “One of the vital roles for the State Department to play … has to be the pursuit of nuclear nonproliferation.”
On Mexican immigrants being rapists, criminals and drug traffickers: “I would never characterize an entire population with any single term at all. … Mexico is a long standing neighbor and friend of this country.”
-- The Associated Press forecasts that some upcoming confirmation hearings will be more contentious because there is less daylight between Trump and those nominees. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, said: “As I meet members of the Cabinet I'm puzzled because many of them sound reasonable. Far more reasonable than their president.” Erica Werner says that will soon change: “Democrats have set up a website to solicit stories from the thousands of people whose homes were foreclosed on by OneWest Bank while (Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin) headed a group of investors who owned the bank. They hope to use Mnuchin's nomination hearing to attack Trump's populist appeal with working-class voters.” Other lightning rods: Tom Price for HHS, Scott Pruitt for EPA, Betsy DeVos for Education and Andy Puzder for Labor.
-- More daylight: It’s not just the cabinet picks disagreeing with Trump. Paul Ryan, during a CNN town hall last night, assured an undocumented Oklahoma woman that he will not allow the kind of “deportation force” that Trump promised to create throughout the campaign.
“Do you think that I should be deported?” Angelica Villalobos, whose family is protected by Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“No,” the Republican speaker said, before she even finished her question. “I can see that you love your daughter, that you’re a nice person that has a great future ahead of you, and I hope your future’s here.”
“CNN host Jake Tapper noted that Trump himself has actually used the term, including in a major August policy speech that called for a ‘deportation task force’ aimed at criminal immigrants,” Mike DeBonis relays.
“And it’s not happening,” Ryan said with an awkward laugh.
“That’s why people think it,” Tapper replied.
“And I’m here to tell you, in Congress, that’s not happening,” Ryan said.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- A WAR ON WATCHDOGS? House Republicans have summoned Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr. to testify in a closed-door, transcribed interview to answer questions about his agency and its criticism of Trump’s business separation plan. Lisa Rein, Tom Hamburger and Mike DeBonis report: “A letter sent late Thursday from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the GOP-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was viewed by ethics experts as a veiled threat to the budget of the Office of Government Ethics unless its director changes his rhetoric and approach.” The unusual letter accuses Shaub of “blurring the line between public relations and official ethics guidance.” While committee staff said Shaub “is not being subpoenaed” and was asked to respond to questions in a setting “much like a deposition,” ethics experts quickly pounced on the letter as a partisan attack. Former White House ethics adviser Richard Painter called the letter a “clear threat to pull the funding of the Office of Government Ethics” unless the agency follows the wishes of Trump and the GOP leadership: “They are saying lay off Trump and push through these nominees or we’ll kill the funding of OGE."
THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION:
-- TEAM TRUMP IS HAVING BACK-CHANNEL TALKS WITH THE KREMLIN: "Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, cultivates close Russian contacts," David Ignatius writes in his column this morning. "He has appeared on Russia Today and received a speaking fee from the cable network, which was described in last week’s unclassified intelligence briefing on Russian hacking as 'the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.' According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about 'disputes' with the United States. Was its spirit violated? ... If the Trump team’s contacts helped discourage the Russians from a counter-retaliation, maybe that’s a good thing. But we ought to know the facts."
-- Meanwhile, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is blocking his own panel from exploring possible contact between Russian agents and Trump campaign advisers. Via Politico’s Austin Wright and Elana Schor: “We don't have anything to do with political campaigns,” Burr said yesterday as he left a closed-door briefing with intelligence officials on Russian election meddling. “We don't have any authority to go to any campaign and request information that one would need to do an investigation.” Asked who should investigate the issue, Burr responded: “I would imagine that would probably be the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Burr’s comments raise more questions about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s piecemeal approach to investigating the foreign plot to throw the election — and who in Congress, if anyone, will investigate the very serious allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia once the president-elect takes office.
-- CNN has fresh reporting that undercuts public denials made by Kellyanne Conway. From Evan Perez: "Multiple US officials briefed on the matter told CNN on Thursday that FBI Director James Comey and Trump had a brief one-on-one conversation at last Friday's intelligence briefing. It's during that pull aside that Comey briefed the President-elect on the two-page synopsis of the claims about Trump and Russia. All four intelligence chiefs had decided that Comey would be the one who would handle the sensitive discussion with the President-elect. The discussion was described by the sources as cordial."
-- Thousands of U.S. troops moved into Poland, arriving as part of a NATO brigade launched across Eastern Europe in response to Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea. The New York Times’ Rick Lyman and Joanna Berendt report: “After years of yearning for a permanent NATO troop presence along the alliance’s eastern flank — to keep [Putin] at bay — leaders in Poland and elsewhere were jubilant when a plan to station a rotating contingent of a few thousand multinational troops was approved at the alliance’s summit meeting in Warsaw last summer. But now, as those troops are arriving on the scene, the situation has radically changed, and the promise of security feels considerably less certain.”
-- Trump invited the pro-Russian president of the Czech Republic to visit the White House in April. From Anthony Faiola: “He is against Western sanctions on Russia ... He has said there is no such thing as a ‘moderate Muslim,’ hates ‘political correctness’ and does not rule out the possibility that the U.S. Embassy in Prague secretly organized a protest against him. His name is Milos Zeman, the 72-year-old president of the Czech Republic. Formerly a member of the ruling Social Democratic Party, today Zeman is the honorary chairman of the Party of Civic Rights and a contentious leader known for attempting to pump up the powers of the traditionally ceremonial president.”
-- Downplaying Russian interference in the U.S. election, a GOP congressman said Mexican entertainers who campaigned for Democratic candidates in Nevada should also be considered “foreign influence.” “Those are foreign actors, foreign people, influencing the vote ... You don’t hear the Democrats screaming and saying one word about that,” Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) told the Dallas Morning News. When asked whether he considered their appearances on par with Russian cyberattacks, Conaway said: “Sure it is. It’s foreign influence. If we’re worried about foreign influence, let’s have the whole story.” (Ed O'Keefe collects quotes from outraged Democrats.)
-- The Justice Department’s inspector general said yesterday that he will review broad allegations of misconduct against Comey and how he handled the renewed election-eve probe of Hillary Clinton’s email practices. Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz report: “The investigation will be wide-ranging, encompassing Comey’s various letters and public statements on the matter and whether FBI or other Justice Department employees leaked nonpublic information, according to Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz.” The inspector general did not say he would investigate Comey’s comments on Trump or any matters related to Russian interference in the election. The announcement drew praise from those on both sides of the political aisle and comes after Democrats, including Clinton, have blamed Comey for her November loss. Former Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon called it “highly encouraging,” and “to be expected given Director Comey’s drastic deviation from Justice Department protocol.”
Trump just reacted:
OBAMA MAKES THE MOST OF HIS FINAL DAYS:
-- The Obama administration is cracking down on companies in a way that it typically did not in its early years – by getting corporations to plead guilty and charging executives in connection with crimes. Steven Overly and Ellen Nakashima report: “The Justice Department is expected to announce (today) that Takata will plead guilty to criminal misconduct related to the installation of faulty air bags in tens of millions of cars … The move follows the arrest of a high-ranking Volkswagen executive last weekend and an admission of guilt by the automaker to criminal wrongdoing. Six executives were indicted this week on charges including defrauding the government and violating environmental regulations. In its early years, the Obama presidency was grappling with the collapse of big financial firms, whose behavior almost toppled the global economy. Hardly any executive of a global bank faced criminal charges. … Some current and former Justice officials say that the flurry of activity this week is the culmination of an approach that took hold a few years ago — when the department codified a requirement that companies under investigation turn over information about their employees.”
-- The EPA also accused Fiat Chrysler of using software on its vehicles to cheat emissions tests, thus enabling certain diesel trucks to emit large amounts of pollutants and breach federal law. (Steven Overly and Brady Dennis)
-- Obama named five more new national monuments yesterday, moving to bolster his environmental legacy through a vast network of public lands. Three of the newly-created monuments honor the history of the Civil Rights movement in the South, including sites of violent acts perpetrated against African American children, as well as an interracial group of civil rights activists. (Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis)
-- DOJ finalized a consent decree with the city of Baltimore to revamp the city’s police department, seeking to end years of discriminatory behavior and other troubling practices uncovered in the death of Freddie Gray. (Ann E. Marimow)
-- In one of its final foreign policy initiatives, Obama ended the special status accorded migrants fleeing Cuba who, upon reaching this country, were automatically allowed to stay. From Karen DeYoung: “Cubans are still covered by the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act, which grants them permanent residency — a green card — after they have been here for one year. Until now, they were given temporary ‘parole’ status while waiting for that year to pass. That will no longer be granted, making the act moot for most by denying them entry on arrival. Effective immediately, President Obama said in a statement, ‘Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United States illegally . . . will be subject to removal,’ treating them ‘the same way we treat migrants from other countries.’ More than a million Cubans have come to this country, many of them in vast exoduses by sea, since the island’s 1959 revolution...
“It ends the ‘wet-foot, dry-foot’ policy, adopted by the Clinton administration in 1996 at a time when illegal seaborne migrants were flooding across the Florida Straits. That policy differentiated between those reaching U.S. soil — who were allowed to stay — and those intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard, who were returned to Cuba or sent to third countries. The policy was agreed upon with the Cuban government, which issued a statement calling it ‘an important step in the advance of bilateral relations” that will guarantee “regular, safe and orderly migration.’ As part of the accord announced in both capitals, Cuba will allow any citizen who has been out of the country for up to four years to return.”
-- The administration is easing some financial sanctions against Sudan, shifting towards broader diplomatic outreach after nearly two decades of hostile relations with the African country. The move is a show of goodwill to recognize positive actions the long-estranged government has taken towards fighting terrorism. (Anne Gearan)
-- At an event in the East Room, POTUS surprised Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom last night, bestowing the nation’s highest civilian honor on his second-in-command and longtime friend during a tearful farewell ceremony. Greg Jaffe reports: “To know Joe Biden is to know love without pretense, service without self-regard, and to live life fully,” Obama said, praising the man who he described as “as good a man as God ever created.” He also spoke of their longtime friendship, saying their two families will be “forever bonded.” “My family is honored to call ourselves honorary Bidens,” he added. For the first time in his presidency, Obama also awarded the medal “with distinction” – an additional level of veneration that his three immediate predecessors had reserved for just three others — Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and Colin Powell.
-- Could Obama’s future golfing options after he leaves the White House depend on his Middle East policy? Bill Turque has a delicious read: “Anger over the Obama administration’s stance on Israel has triggered a nasty fight at a predominantly Jewish country club in the Washington suburbs over whether to offer a membership to the president after he leaves office. Some members of the Woodmont Country Club, in Rockville, Md., are particularly furious about Obama’s decision last month not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that criticized Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank … Woodmont members are reluctant to discuss the matter publicly. But a string of scorching emails to club president Barry Forman … capture the passions in the debate within the Jewish community over Obama’s approach to the Middle East. ‘He is not welcome at Woodmont,’ said one longtime member. ‘His admittance would create a storm that could destroy our club.’”
GET SMART FAST:
- The Trump International Hotel in Toronto is officially up for sale, after being plagued by construction delays, financial problems and lawsuits since its 2012 opening. It’s being offered for $298 million. (Alan Freeman)
- The U.S. military said 33 Afghanistan civilians were killed in a November battle with the Taliban, ending a months-long investigation into the firefight. Military officials also said 26 Taliban fighters were killed in the raid — a claim villagers dispute. (Sayed Salahuddin and Erin Cunningham)
- A U.S. Navy officer who blamed his addiction to sex for giving classified information to an Asian defense contractor in exchange for prostitutes has been sentenced to just 30 months in prison. He’s the seventh current or former Navy official to receive prison time in a massive corruption scandal, which has now dogged the maritime service for more than three years. (Craig Whitlock)
- A new CDC study finds that rural Americans are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, and the three other leading causes of death than their urban counterparts. More than 70,000 of the deaths in just one year were also potentially preventable. (Lena H. Sun)
- A team of Yale researchers used light to control the brains of mice, turning the normally-docile rodents into stone-cold killers. They’re using a technique called optogenetics to manipulate neurons in the brain and trigger a predatory instincts from the rodents – and as fascinating video from the experiment shows, it seems to be working. (Darryl Fears)
- A 24-year-old man with Asperger’s Syndrome has been sentenced to three years of probation and temporarily ordered to stay away from D.C. after he jumped the White House fence draped in the U.S. flag in 2015. A federal judge ruled that the relatively light sentence was enough “to protect the community and also to get [him] the treatment necessary.” (Spencer S. Hsu)
- A libel lawsuit brought by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson against a Wall Street Journal reporter was settled, the newspaper announced, after both sides agreed to dismiss the suit and bear their own legal costs. The suit stemmed from a 2012 article which described Adelson as “foul-mouthed.”
- A lawsuit filed against the federal government on behalf of Native American children in Arizona says the public school on its ancestral grounds has “dismally failed” to educate its children. According to the lawsuit, no subjects are taught other than English and math, students are often taught by non-certified staff, including the janitor, and the school often shuts down for weeks at a time. The school is allegedly so short-staffed that some students are required to attend just three hours a week. (Emma Brown)
- An Arkansas school board member who sparked outrage after dressing in blackface for Halloween, donning a straw hat and sign reading “Blak lives matter,” has been given an award as “Outstanding Board Member.” Officials said they expected many to show up in protest for the event – instead, many in the crowd wore “I Stand With Ted Bonner” shirts. (Avi Selk and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos has purchased the biggest home in Washington. He’s the anonymous buyer of the Kalorama neighborhood’s former Textile Museum, a 27,000 square-foot property that he plans to convert into a single-family home. The move also puts him within blocks of both the Obamas as well as Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. (Emily Heil and Kathy Orton)
- Amazon announced it is planning to create more than 100,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. within the next 18 months. The move, which swells its U.S. workforce to 280,000, could help patch up a “contentious relationship” with the president-elect, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- A four-year-old girl who has read more than 1,000 books on her own – managing to read certain college-level texts before she even enters kindergarten – was invited to serve as an honorary “Librarian for a Day” at the Library of Congress. Her mother says she began recognizing words on her own at 18 months. (Samantha Schmidt)
INAUGURATION IS ONE WEEK FROM TODAY:
-- Far more buses have applied to secure parking for the Women’s March on Washington the day after the ceremony than for the presidential inauguration itself. Just 200 buses have applied for parking through the city of Washington on Inauguration Day, D.C. officials said, while at least 1,200 have applied to come on Jan. 21. (Perry Stein)
-- Charlie Brotman, the beloved 89-year-old inaugural announcer who said he was “heartbroken” when Trump’s team blocked him from narrating this year’s ceremony – a blow that came just weeks after the sudden death of his wife – is back on his feet again after locking down a brand-new Inauguration Day gig. Brotman will continue to fulfill his passion for presidential announcing as the official parade commentator for the Washington region’s NBC station. He tells The Post’s Perry Stein that he is feeling “all young and excited again” after getting to pick from a wave of new offers that rushed in. “Instead of talking to a few thousand people, I’m talking to a few million people,” he said. (Here’s a 2013 video of Brotman explaining his love for the role.)
-- “Legal Sea Foods chowder isn’t on Trump’s menu,” by the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey: “Ever since Ronald Reagan rode into this town, there’s been a certain custom here regarding Boston seafood. When new presidents move into the White House, the festivities include a steaming hot cup of New England clam chowder. Or at least that used to be the tradition. So far the Boston company that has traditionally supplied chowder, Legal Sea Foods, has been frozen out. Trump’s campaign is built on challenging the status quo in Washington, and that evidently includes menus at inaugural lunches and balls. The reason is a matter of speculation. Could it be because Massachusetts voters didn’t support Trump? Or hard feelings over Legal’s ads making fun of Trump’s reported sensitivity about his small hands?”
-- Trump will spend the day in a brand new presidential limo. The $1.5 million “Cadillac One” limousine, also known as “The Beast,” is plated in military-grade armor (with doors so heavy Trump won’t be able to open them from the inside), and contains a tear gas cannon and bottles of Trump’s blood type in case of emergencies. (The Hill)
THE FAKE NEWS EPIDEMIC:
-- Must read: Washington Post homepage editor Doris Truong became the center of her own “personal pizzagate” this week when internet trolls accused her of photographing Rex Tillerson’s hearing. In fact, she wasn’t even there. Here’s her first-person account: “By the time I woke up, trolls had commented on social media channels besides Twitter. My Facebook feed had dozens of angry messages from people I didn’t know, as did comments on my Instagram account. My emails and my voicemail included messages calling me ‘pathetic’ and a ‘sneaky thief.’ A lot of the comments also focused on my Chinese heritage, implying — or outright stating — that I must be spying for China. Some called for an FBI investigation of what they deemed illegal behavior. Even Sarah Palin tweeted it. I’m perplexed and, honestly, shocked by how quickly the narrative went from someone trying to identify a woman in a video to another person attaching a name to hordes seizing upon that information as the truth."
-- A Louisiana man admitted to phoning in threats to a Washington pizzeria located several doors down from Comet Ping Pong, the Northwest D.C. shop where a gunman opened fire last month. Prosecutors said the man telephoned Besta Pizza just days after the Comet Ping Pong attack and said: “I’m coming to finish what the other guy didn’t. I’m coming there to save the kids, and then I’m going to shoot you and everyone in the place.” (Keith L. Alexander)
-- California state lawmakers have introduced a bill requiring students be taught how to spot “fake news.” The measure would put curriculum standards and framework in place to teach “civic online reasoning” to middle- and high-schoolers, seeking to equip them with discernment in the digital age. (Lindsey Bever)
MORE FROM THE HEARINGS:
-- Elizabeth Warren asked Ben Carson to promise he would not allow any of HUD’s budget to financially benefit the Trump family in the form of construction contracts. Carson would not make that promise. (Elise Viebeck)
-- After Mattis’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate voted 81 to 17 to waive a measure requiring defense secretaries to have been out of military service for seven years. (Mattis retired in 2013.) From Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe: “Later in the day, the House Armed Services Committee approved a similar measure along party lines, 34 to 28. The full House must also vote on that measure. The 66-year-old veteran, known for his use of the call sign ‘Chaos’ during overseas deployments, has earned a reputation as a scholarly, plain-spoken officer with an impressive combat record.”
THE SWAMP IS THE SAME AS IT EVER WAS:
-- New York financier and Trump confidant Anthony Scaramucci has been hired for a top position in the incoming White House, serving as the administration’s coordinator for engagement with the U.S. business and political community. Robert Costa and Philip Rucker report: “Scaramucci’s position, which is expected to be formally announced this week, is described inside the Trump team as akin to the job held by one of President Obama’s most powerful advisers, Valerie Jarrett, who directs the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs … Scaramucci, who was a top fundraiser for Trump’s campaign, will work to cultivate relationships between the Trump administration and executives in the financial and technology sectors, as well as other influential people in the political and nonprofit realms. [He] will also advise Trump more broadly, working alongside Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and other top aides.”
-- He said he'd drain the swamp. Instead, he's draining Goldman. Six current or former employees of the investment bank have now gotten plum posts:
Flashback -- Trump said this exactly one year ago:
-- Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right National Front party leader and a contender in the upcoming presidential election, was at Trump Tower yesterday. Le Pen declined to say whether she was there to see the president-elect, and transition officials denied she had a meeting. (James McAuley)
-- Newly-retired Texas Rep. Randy Neugebauer is being considered to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Republican traveled to Trump Tower to meet with the incoming president this week and, if tapped for the job, would replace current director Richard Cordray. (Dallas Morning News)
-- Drip, drip, drip: Reporters keep discovering more egregious plagiarism by Monica Crowley. The problems are in her 2012 book, several columns for multiple media outlets and her Columbia University PhD dissertation. Politico found a dozen examples of copied text earlier this week. Now CNN reports that she lifted nearly 40 separate passages in the dissertation. Lifted portions of her text include paragraphs taken from several scholarly texts, the Associated Press, and Henry Kissinger. She’s still slated to assume the top communications slot at the National Security Council because the incoming administration has no shame about this sort of thing.
-- Cashing in, part one: Puerto Rico’s new governor is in talks to hire former Trump campaign manager Corey's Lewandowski’s lobbying firm. ProPublica reports: “‘There’s no contract, but we have active talks’ with the governor, says Barry Bennett, who recently formed Avenue Strategies with Lewandowski. [The move comes] … at a time when the island’s creditors are hoping that the incoming Trump administration will be more sympathetic to them than the Obama administration has been. Such a shift would add to concerns that the new administration’s tight ties to banks and investment funds could tilt its policies in favor of Wall Street.”
-- Cashing in, part two: Lewandowski just signed a new, high-paying TV gig with a hard-right cable channel. The Daily Beast reports: Corey, who landed a job at CNN after being ousted by Trump last year, is joining One America News Network as a commentator. It’s a growing network that’s attempting to “position itself as a mini-Fox News.”
-- Post columnist and former George W. Bush adviser Michael Gerson says Trump has “stacked the deck against himself” for his early days in office: “First, the congealing organizational chart of the Trump administration is flat and (so far) dysfunctional. By some accounts, Trump likes this sort of management chaos around him. But it is not conducive to policy creation. Second, Trump himself is unfocused and erratic. He is dismissively impatient with policy meetings. He wants others to sweat the details, allowing him to focus on bigger things. Such as Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe remarks. This looks less like delegation than a vacuum. How do you build a decision-making structure around a vacuum[?] To some extent, every presidential transition is chaotic. But not every incoming administration fires its initial transition team after winning and essentially starts over. Or has a president-elect who seems to view public policy as a distraction from his social media calling. It is not too late for a structure to emerge that is capable of making sound decisions and choices. But it would take a president-elect who wants it to happen.”
-- With a big vote scheduled in the House today, Republican lawmakers are increasingly skittish about repealing Obamacare without a plan to replace it. Rank-and-file members are sounding anxious notes, as they realize that they're about to own this mess. Mike DeBonis reports: “Those jitters hint at a rocky road ahead as Republicans start trying to fulfill a long-standing campaign promise. They have forced GOP leaders to reassure lawmakers that they will not move precipitously and open Republicans to charges they threw the health-care system into chaos. ‘This will be a thoughtful, step-by-step process,’ [Ryan] said Thursday. ‘We’re not going to swap one 2,700-page monstrosity for another … We’re going to do this the right way.'"
-- Paul Kane analysis: “Republicans are heading toward a bitter fight over two competing cornerstones of the modern conservative ethos: the read-the-bill, take-our-time, Schoolhouse Rock mantra that fueled this decade’s tea party revolution, and their utter hatred for the Affordable Care Act. Those competing visions landed Thursday at [Ryan’s] feet as he touted the early-morning passage of a Senate resolution that starts the process of repealing the health-care law: 'We’re going to do this the right way, we’re going to do this the way it was designed to do, through the congressional committee system,' he said in a press conference. But in the next breath, he added this caveat: 'Of course, our goal, though, is to deliver relief as soon as possible.' It can be summed up as regular order vs. the aforementioned rescue mission. And it sets up a continuing battle that the GOP will play out for much of the year.”
-- 2018 watch: Nevada’s Dean Heller is the only Republican (of 52) in the Senate who comes from a state in which Democrats hold a majority of its House seats. Mark Kirk was the last Republican in this position, and he just lost by 15 points in Illinois. Meanwhile, according to Smart Politics at the University of Minnesota, nearly one-third of Democratic senators – 14 of 46 – serve states with a GOP-majority House delegation: Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.
-- Ivanka's influence: Top Trump aides have told Republican House leaders that they need to include a provision to make childcare more affordable in any re-write of the tax code this year. This was the first daughter's pet issue, and transition officials told Politico’s Rachael Bade that they made the request during a phone call with staff on the Ways and Means Committee. “It was a very cordial meeting, and the idea of doing this child care effort and having that be a part of the upcoming tax reform legislation was very warmly received by the Ways and Means folks,” the source said. They added that "the childcare pitch has been pushed up to a front-burner status.”
-- “Jared Kushner’s White House job may be legal. But history shows it’s a bad idea,” by GWU’s Matthew Dallek: “The three times in the 20th century when a president appointed a close family member to a formal role had more downsides than upsides. … Just because the Roosevelts, the Kennedys and the Clintons encountered political problems through nepotistic appointments doesn’t ipso facto doom Kushner to automatic disgrace and national opprobrium. But given what happened when the most accomplished political families of the 20th century tried it, Trump and Kushner shouldn’t bank on winning this time, either.”
Eleanor Roosevelt’s troubled time as assistant director of the Office of Civilian Defense during the early 1940s is a case in point: “Franklin Roosevelt appointed his wife to take charge of volunteer participation in September 1941. Like Kushner, Eleanor Roosevelt refused to take a salary … In early February 1942, however, newspapers reported that the first lady had put a dancer friend, Mayris Chaney, on the government payroll with an annual salary of $4,600 (which would be more than $68,000 today). Chaney’s job was to teach dancing to children to raise their morale and relieve pressure from air raids. Her tenure came to an abrupt, ignominious end. The revelation put the first lady at the center of the nation’s first scandal since the attacks on Pearl Harbor.”
As attorney general during the early 1960s, Robert F. Kennedy became a de facto alter ego to his brother John F. Kennedy, an all-purpose aide-de-camp: “His heavy-handed attitude and blind loyalty to his brother — his refusal to brook dissent inside the administration — caused some colleagues to chafe. … Though he held enormous sway as the president’s brother, RFK’s advice was not uniformly sound-minded. He urged a ‘sharp step-up’ of U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam and endorsed a highly aggressive program of ‘espionage, sabotage, general disorder’ to topple Cuba’s Castro regime in the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. ‘Get off your ass on Cuba!’ he barked at generals.”
As first lady, Hillary Clinton’s secrecy and hubris as head of her husband’s administration’s health care task force ultimately crippled their goal: “Some White House aides saw Hillary Clinton as so powerful, with unparalleled cachet, that they watched in frustration as she and the President dismissed their criticisms of the emerging health reform plan.”
-- LEGACY: “John Kerry returned to Vietnam on Thursday for his fourth and final visit as the top U.S. diplomat, his presence embodying the transformation of the two countries from enemies to partners,” Carol Morello reports: “The Vietnam stop is particularly meaningful for Kerry. His fate has been linked to the country for almost 50 years, since he first arrived in 1968 as a young Navy lieutenant battling communist insurgents. When Kerry was a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, he and Sen. John McCain, a former Navy pilot … played a central role in normalizing relations between the United States and Vietnam. [Now], at the close of his career in public office, Kerry will meet with government and ruling Communist Party officials and review the arc of the bilateral relationship in a policy speech. The capstone will be a riverboat trip in the Mekong Delta, where he captained a Swift boat patrol vessel during the Vietnam War. Aides said he will go to the spot in the river in Ca Mau province where he earned a Silver Star.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Yesterday was a weird day in the Capitol.
First, don't look now, but hell is freezing over. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham made a joint appearance on "Morning Joe."
Paul Ryan showed off that he actually knows what it means to dab:
Another strange development -- stunningly nice weather in Washington on Jan. 12!
Suspiciously, the lights went out during Mike Pompeo's confirmation hearing to be CIA director:
Texas Sen. John Cornyn live-tweeted it:
"The Architect of the Capitol’s office said a local power company 'de-energized' a system that feeds power to the Hart Senate Office Building," per the AP. "The office said the power company, Pepco, quickly restored the lost power. The architect’s office said it is examining the surge-breaker that was unexpectedly affected by the planned Pepco work."
Late last night, things continued to be weird when C-SPAN's programming online was suddenly interrupted by a live feed of Russia Today -- the Kremlin's English-language propaganda arm. It lasted about 10 minutes. A spokesman said the network is "investigating and troubleshooting this occurrence" but doesn’t believe it was hacked. It was likely a routing issue. But Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) put out a statement saying she found it curious that she was criticizing Trump for choosing someone with deep ties to Wall Street to lead the SEC when C-SPAN was preempted. Yes, this is the climate we are in now...
Then Rudy Giuliani actually said on this on Fox News last night:
The Capitol grounds are being prepared for the inauguration:
Randy Weber, a Texas congressman, thinks CNN's Jim Acosta should be blacklisted:
Meanwhile, journalists are rallying around Acosta:
Social media was buzzing with news that Obama awarded Biden the Medal of Freedom
This sighting raised questions at Trump Tower:
Cheri Jacobus posted this screenshot to hit back at Trump's team criticism of her:
A moment to ponder:
Barbara Lee, the California congresswoman, will boycott the inauguration:
2020: Cory Booker blocked a Politico journalist on Twitter:
Eric Swalwell Facetimed with his dog:
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Lesbian Latina Politician Takes On Texas’ Transgender Bathroom Bill,” from HuffPost: “Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R) of Texas, who presides over the state senate, says he’s not worried about economic fallout over a bill ― unveiled in a press conference last week ― that mirror’s North Carolina’s HB2, which regulates access for transgender people in public rest rooms based on their birth certificates. Now, State Rep. Celia Israel (D-Austin), a Latina lesbian, has some choice words for Patrick: ‘Let the games begin.’ [Israel] … who was influential in helping to beat back over 20 anti-LGBTQ bills in the legislative session in 2015 with the aid of business leaders, points to a study showing Texas could lose $8.5 billion in revenue because of boycotts as well as companies, sports program and conventions avoiding or pulling out of the state.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“GQ Writer Questions Whether Obama Could Murder Trump and Then Pardon Himself,” from Mediaite: “In a Wednesday tweet, a writer for the British edition of GQ wondered aloud whether President Barack Obama could murder president-elect Donald Trump and vice president-elect Mike Pence and then pardon himself. Rupert Myers deleted the tweet after it was first noticed and publicized by The Daily Wire. Still, Myers took a rather flippant attitude towards the angry responses. His explanation for the tweet varied, with Myers saying that it was only a joke but elsewhere claiming it was an innocent question about the president’s pardon power. For those who were wondering, Law Newz’s Chris White argued in October that the president actually can pardon themselves for federal crimes.”
At the White House: Obama has no public events scheduled.
On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets in pro forma session. The House votes to advance a measure that will repeal Obamacare.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
What was on Ben Carson’s mind during his Senate confirmation hearing? In the final 10 minutes, it was actor Peter Falk. “You remind me of Columbo,” the nominee for secretary of housing and urban development told Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. “I’ve actually heard that,” said Brown. (Elise Viebeck)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washington’s weather roller coaster continues, with temps dropping some 20 degrees from yesterday’s temporary warmth. The Capital Weather Gang reports: “Bundle up a bit, since our bodies may not be used to wind chills in the 30s after yesterday! High temperatures should still briefly warm under some sunshine. Daytime levels (actual highs were near midnight last night) top out in the above-average near-50 zone, although we should spend much of the day in the 40s.”
-- Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay is leaving to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. (Master Tesfatsion and Mark Maske)
-- The TSA seized 67 firearms from travelers at D.C.-area airports in 2016, up by 34 percent from the previous year. (Fredrick Kunkle)
-- Metro released its SafeTrack schedule through June.
-- Six children are presumed to have died in a devastating fire that ripped through a Baltimore home, leaving an eight-year-old and her two younger brothers, whom she helped escape, as the only surviving siblings. (Dan Morse and Lynh Bui)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Ahead of a march he's organizing this weekend, Al Sharpton promises that the civil rights movement will not be invisible during the Trump years:
Celebrities performed a rendition of "I Will Survive" ahead of Trump's inauguration:
Meet two of the lawyers who came forward to call out the next attorney general for exaggerating his work on civil rights cases:
As part of her appearance on The Tonight Show, Michelle Obama talked about life after the White House:
And thanked her mother:
Elsewhere on evening television, Jimmy Kimmel talked about Trump's press conference:
Seth Meyers announced that Fred Armisen is up for a Trump Cabinet position:
And broke down the latest news about Trump and Russia: