There have also been so many developments related to Trump’s Cabinet appointees that Tom Daschle's use of a businessman's limousine and chauffeur, which created tax issues that prompted Daschle to withdraw his nomination for HHS secretary eight years ago, look small and insignificant by comparison. Several news stories that might have doomed past nominees have drawn less attention than Trump’s early-morning, made-for-cable tweets.
For the past 10 days, the poster child for this phenomenon has been Monica Crowley, a TV talking head who despite a dearth of serious experience was appointed as the senior director of strategic communications on the National Security Council:
A steady stream of stories since the weekend before last has revealed pretty egregious examples of apparent plagiarism over a period of several years, from a 2012 book to her PhD dissertation and op-eds.
I have little doubt that Barack Obama and George W. Bush would have immediately terminated someone who did what Crowley appears to have done if that person was up for a similar posting (with a role in speechwriting and drafting statements in the name of the president).
There are many precedents: Plagiarism doomed Joe Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign, and just three years ago Montana Sen. John Walsh (D) ended his campaign for a full term after it came out that he’d plagiarized a paper for the Army War College.
But Trump learned crisis management from his mentor Roy Cohn, who had been Joe McCarthy’s chief counsel during the witch hunts of the 1950s. Cohn, who represented Trump when the Justice Department sued him for housing discrimination in the 1970s, taught him to never apologize and to always counterpunch.
That’s exactly how his team initially responded to the revelations about Crowley. The transition team put out a statement saying, “Any attempt to discredit Monica is nothing more than a politically motivated attack that seeks to distract from the real issues facing this country.” Trump continued to stand by her even as publisher HarperCollins announced that it would no longer sell Crowley’s book and more stories detailed fresh examples.
Finally, because a handful of reporters doggedly pursued the story, the pressure became too much. Yesterday afternoon, Crowley sent a statement to the Washington Times to say that “after much reflection” she’s decided to stay in New York. She made no mention of plagiarism.
-- The conventional wisdom that all of Trump’s Cabinet picks will be confirmed by the Senate shifted somewhat over the long weekend, and the odds are increasing that at least one will be stopped. Democrats continue to express some hope about blocking Steve Mnuchin for Treasury or Tom Price for HHS, but secretary of labor-designee Andy Puzder seems like the more vulnerable target. His hearing has already been postponed, and CNN reported last night that the restaurant executive is having second thoughts. "He may be bailing," a Republican source plugged into the Trump transition effort told John King. "He is not into the pounding he is taking, and the paperwork."
The most potentially damning revelations, which could get a full airing during a public hearing, are about past allegations by Puzder’s ex-wife that he abused her. She has now recanted, and he has always denied wrongdoing, but Politico reported last week that she appeared in disguise on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” as a victim of domestic violence, after having accused him multiple times of physically assaulting her in the 1980s.
A public debate about domestic violence is not something the transition team wants because it will distract from his agenda while prompting a re-airing of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video, as well as a round of unflattering stories about the calamitous end of Trump’s own first marriage. (During a divorce deposition, for example, Ivana said that Donald had raped her.)
After CNN’s report, Puzder pushed back on Twitter:
-- Rex Tillerson, on the other hand, is looking like he'll get confirmed. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who has been one of the three Republican holdouts, reportedly told Fox News’s Martha MacCallum last night that he’s likely to support the former ExxonMobil CEO after talking with him privately yesterday. But, on CNN's "New Day" this morning, the Arizona senator said he still hasn't made up his mind: "When I see what Vladimir Putin has done in the way of literally committing war crimes intentionally ... then I question the recipient of a friendship award with Vladimir Putin. You see my point?” Transition officials are expressing a very high degree of confidence that Tillerson is okay. McCain coming around would give political cover for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to fall in line, despite his tough line of questioning during last week's hearing.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Trump is historically unpopular for a president-elect as he prepares to take office. The transition is often the time when a president is at or near the apex of his popularity, but only 40 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the transition right now — compared to 54 percent who disapprove.
Trump's approval and favorability ratings are 20 points to 40 points below what is typical for someone on the eve of their inauguration. His 40 percent favorability mark is 39 points lower than Obama in January 2009 and at least 18 points lower than any president before their first inauguration since Jimmy Carter, who was well-liked. Ronald Reagan was the next lowest, and that's in part a function of a lot of people saying they had “no opinion.” He had relatively low negatives. Even after the 37-day recount in Florida, 7 in 10 Americans at this point 16 years ago approved of the way George W. Bush was handling his transition. Some additional historical context:
Our pollster, Scott Clement, flags that Trump’s current standing is similar to the two low points of Obama's presidency in Post-ABC surveys. His worst was 42-55 in November 2013 amidst the botched Obamacare rollout and 42-54 in October 2011 following the credit downgrade and other economic troubles. (Obama leaves office with a favorable rating of 61 percent.)
What’s driving Trump’s underperformance? Independents have not rallied behind him as they have in the past. And he’s still a little soft with his base: 56 percent of self-identified conservatives say Trump has done a good job during the transition, and only 62 percent have a generally favorable impression of the president-elect.
Honeymoons are usually pretty short-lived, so it's easy to overstate the importance of high inaugural ratings. And there are positive signs for Trump. While general impressions of Trump are negative, he fares pretty well on bread-and-butter issues: Most think he will do a good job on the economy, jobs and terrorism – which are top concerns. Two big exceptions: 57 percent do not think Trump will do a good job on race relations, and more than 6 in 10 do not think he will do a good job dealing with issues of special concern to women. But the big picture takeaway is that very few Americans who disliked Trump during the campaign are approaching his presidency with an open mind. Here's the issue breakdown:
Some additional nuggets from the new poll, from Dan Balz and Scott Clement’s write-up:
- On ethical matters, a bare majority say the steps Trump and his attorney outlined last week to turn over control of his sprawling business enterprise to his children is enough to create adequate separation while he serves as president. But the public is split almost evenly on whether he and his family are fully complying with federal ethics laws and an overwhelming majority say he should release his federal tax returns, which he has long declined to do.”
- When asked generally about their faith in his decision making, just under 4 in 10 say they have either a “great deal” or a “good amount” of confidence in Trump, while about 6 in 10 say they have “just some” or “none at all.” That is the mirror opposite of attitudes eight years ago on the eve of Obama’s first inauguration.
- By 54 to 34 percent, more Americans disapprove of Trump’s overall response to the issue of Russian hacking, with Republicans less united in approval than Democrats are in opposition. Sixty-four percent believe Russia was responsible for hacking Clinton campaign emails, and 45 percent think they intended to boost Trump.
- While Americans are closely divided on repealing the Affordable Care Act (46 percent in support and 47 percent opposed), two-thirds of repeal supporters say this should not occur before a replacement is created.
- 44 percent believe Trump is qualified to serve as president, compared with 52 percent who say he is not. (The good news is that’s the highest number for Trump since he launched his campaign.)
- The education gap persists: Across the board, whites without college degrees express considerably more support for Trump than whites with college degrees.
-- We posted the poll at 7 a.m. At 8:11, Trump attacked the results:
A point of personal privilege: Our final Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll showed Clinton with a four-point edge in the national popular vote, a statistically insignificant lead. Clinton won the national popular vote by two points, which was well within the margin of error. The problem was with state-level polls, not national ones.
-- Trump criticized a cornerstone of the House Republicans’ corporate tax reform plan, calling the border adjustment provision “too complicated” in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
-- By our count, 44 House Democrats now say that they will not attend Trump’s inauguration. The number spiked after Trump attacked John Lewis. Elise Viebeck is keeping a running list of lawmakers who have announced boycotts. It now includes Don Beyer in Virginia and Anthony Brown in Maryland.
GET SMART FAST:
- The underwater search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has officially been suspended, nearly three years after the plane -- and the 239 passengers onboard -- vanished over the Indian Ocean without a trace. "The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly nor without sadness,” officials said in a statement. (CNN)
- The FBI arrested the wife of Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen, who shot and killed 49 people last June, on charges of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting by providing material support to a terrorist organization. Authorities say Noor Salman was detained in San Francisco after extensive interviews to determine what, if anything, she knew about her husband’s plans to carry out the attack. She is expected to make her first appearance today in federal court. (Matt Zapotosky)
- The Turks arrested a suspect in the New Year’s Eve nightclub attack that killed 39. An Uzbek national linked to ISIS was captured in a special operations raid on a house in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district. Four others were also arrested. (AP)
- British Prime Minister Theresa May called for a “clean break” from the E.U., confirming plans to jettison both the bloc’s single market as well as the customs unit. Her remarks put an end to speculation that London may try to seek a “soft Brexit.” (Griff Witte)
- Venezuela’s government began issuing new bank notes this week to replace its 100-bolívar bill, which has been rendered useless by soaring hyperinflation. (New York Times)
- The Clinton Foundation has laid off 22 staffers of the Clinton Global Initiative, pushing forward with plans to downsize their network of offshoots first announced by Bill Clinton in August. Foreign money has also dried up now that HRC is not going to be president…. (New York Observer)
- The top eight richest people in the world now own as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population, according to new research from the charity group Oxfam. It’s a huge gap that has widened significantly since last year, when officials estimated it took 62 of the world’s superrich to match the earnings of the poorest 3.6 billion on the planet. (New York Times)
- A Florida man accused of killing his wife earlier this year is believed to have used her Facebook page as an attempt to cover up her murder and convince family and friends that she was still alive. “I can’t believe I dropped my phone in the toilet,” said one status update, posted hours after her death. “I’m such an idiot. Message me here.…” It’s the latest in an alarming new pattern of killers using social media to distract from and try to cover up their crimes. (Kristine Guerra)
- A Maryland school district worker was fired after correcting a student’s spelling error in a tweet. As a storm approached, a student tweeted a message asking the district to “close school tammarow PLEASE.” She quipped, “but then how would you learn how to spell ‘tomorrow’?” (Tara Bahrampour)
- An 8-year-old autistic boy in California was rescued after falling into a 10-foot sinkhole outside his home. His parents said the hole was filled with two feet of water. (Lindsey Bever)
THE NEW NIXON:
-- AN ENEMIES LIST? With unorthodox candidates getting plum posts, some of the GOP’s biggest national-security stars say they've been told that the Trump team has a blacklist and that they're on it. David Nakamura reports: “They are some of the biggest names in the Republican national security firmament, veterans of past GOP administrations who say, if called upon by [Trump], they stand ready to serve their country again. But their phones aren’t ringing. Their entreaties to Trump Tower in New York have mostly gone unanswered. In Trump world, these establishment all-stars say they are ‘PNG’ — personae non gratae. Their transgression was signing one or both of two public ‘Never Trump’ letters during the campaign, declaring they would not vote for Trump and calling his candidacy a danger to the nation. Now, just days before Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, the letter signers fear they have been added to another document, this one private — a purported blacklist compiled by Trump’s political advisers. The purportedly blacklisted figures report to their jobs at Washington law firms and think tanks in a state of indefinite limbo as their colleagues, some working in the same offices, are flirting with potential administration jobs."
Key quote: “It’s hostile,” said a former Bush national security official, who was excluded from a private briefing for secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson. “It’s not just that we’re frozen out. … I was told they said there was an enemies list.”
-- A good way to think about Trump: He is accessible yet isolated. Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker explain: "He spends most of his days in Trump Tower, with few close friends and few meaningful one-on-one interactions.… Yet Trump remains omnipresent in American life, constantly communicating with the public via Twitter and media interviews without the varnish of news releases or the protection of handlers. In many ways, Trump seems most comfortable communicating at a slight remove, with a stage or a screen — television, Twitter, phone — serving as the intermediary between him and the public. Such tools are both his megaphone and his shield, allowing him to blast out a message undiluted with little risk.” Bob Corker recently told reporters in disbelief that when he wants to reach Trump, he simply dials his cellphone directly — and even though his number registers as “No Caller ID,” Trump picks up. “I’ve never seen anything relative to access like this. Unbelievable,” Corker said. “I don’t think there’s likely been a White House like this, maybe ever, but certainly in modern history.”
-- White House ethics lawyers for Bush and Obama are decrying the chilling "WAR ON ETHICS": “Both of us … have worked with (OGE director Walter Shaub Jr.), a career public servant who, in our experience, provided nonpartisan and wise advice,” Richard Painter and Norman Eisen write in today's Post. “Now, Shaub is being pilloried — and may be at risk of losing his job — for doing just that, and asserting correctly that Trump’s approach ‘doesn’t meet the standards … that every president in the last four decades has met. ... Then, just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. The incoming White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, went on national television to threaten Shaub. Priebus also attacked Shaub’s competence, and so his livelihood, questioning ‘what sort of standing he has any more in giving these opinions.’ In fact, the director is a dedicated and talented ethicist who has served Democratic and Republican presidents alike with distinction. ... If the White House chief of staff had made these kinds of threats against the head of OGE when we were serving in the White House, we would have resigned immediately. We think apologies are due Shaub. In addition, we recommend that Republicans back off of their threats.”
-- Several of Trump’s wealthiest nominees are heading to Capitol Hill for their confirmation hearings this week — but they've still not turned over key documents related to conflicts of interest and their personal finances. CNN’s Laura Jarrett reports: “Of the current list of 21 nominees, 14 must still sit for Senate hearings, and only five of those 14 have finalized their required paperwork. All nominees for Senate-confirmed positions must first work with the Office of Government Ethics to devise a plan for resolving any financial conflicts of interest before they start their new jobs. But the paperwork for two of [Trump’s] billionaire nominees with hearings scheduled for this week — namely, (DeVos) and Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross … were notably missing from the ethics office's website as of Monday afternoon. A Senate source indicated that DeVos's initial hearing date had to be rescheduled because her paperwork ‘was nowhere near ready,’ and Ross had been sluggish in completing his financial disclosure report."
-- In case you missed it: Trump’s transition team acknowledged Friday that DeVos omitted a $125,000 political donation from the disclosures she submitted to the Senate. (Emma Brown)
-- Tom Price, a physician, will put the interests of doctors first in debates about reform. The New York Times’ Abby Goodnough reports from his House district: “His legislative record shows that over eight years in the Georgia Senate and 12 years in Congress, he has advocated at least as much for physician groups and health care companies (as patients) — seeking to limit damages in malpractice cases, for instance, and voting against legislation that would have required the government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries. ... His positions have often coincided with the financial interests of groups whose donations have helped advance his political career. ... Some of his positions even clash with those of Mr. Trump, who wants to pressure pharmaceutical companies on drug prices … and has pledged to largely leave Medicare alone."
-- Price purchased shares in a medical device manufacturer just days before he introduced legislation that would have directly benefited the company, CNN’s Manu Raju reports. The incident raises new ethical concerns ahead of his Wednesday hearing. “Price bought between $1,001 to $15,000 worth of shares last March in Zimmer Biomet,” Raju writes. “Less than a week after the transaction, the Georgia Republican congressman introduced the HIP Act, legislation that would have delayed until 2018 a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulation that industry analysts warned would significantly hurt Zimmer Biomet financially once fully implemented.”
Democrats seized on the story, which was ostensibly the result of opposition research:
-- Scott Pruitt, Trump’s nominee to run the EPA, sued the agency he will soon run more than half a dozen times as Oklahoma's attorney general -- and he even tried to block the clean-up of the Chesapeake. Darryl Fears reports: “Oklahoma is 1,400 miles from the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Md., halfway across the country. But the distance didn’t matter to ... Pruitt, after the EPA drew up a plan to clean the polluted bay. He tried to stop it. Pruitt was one of 21 state attorneys general who signed an amicus brief opposing the largest cleanup of a water body in U.S. history. The brief supported a federal lawsuit … that claimed the EPA usurped the power of states in the watershed to regulate pollution that flows into the bay from cities and farms. [Now], as he prepares to face a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, environmental groups that fought to clean the bay decades ago, when its rockfish disappeared and crab stocks plummeted, are worried. And advocates for clean water in Oklahoma say they should be, given Pruitt’s record while he was responsible for waterways there."
-- Commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross earned his fortune by running businesses that send jobs overseas, Reuters’ Andy Sullivan reports: “As a high-stakes investor a decade ago, Ross specialized in turning around troubled manufacturing companies at a time when the U.S. economy was losing more than 100,000 jobs yearly due to global trade. [But] data … shows that rescue effort came at a price: textile, finance and auto-parts companies controlled by the private-equity titan eliminated about 2,700 U.S. positions since 2004 because they shipped production to other countries … Ross's track record clashes with Trump's promise to protect American workers from the ravages of global trade.”
-- The Education department is poised to undergo a radical, ideological shift. Emma Brown forecasts: “The fiercest critics and most ardent supporters of President Obama’s Education Department … generally agree that the agency’s efforts were rooted in the faith that government has a critical role to play in improving people’s lives. Now the department is poised for a radical shift with the arrival of [Trump] in Washington; the businessman, now president-elect, has often spoken about government as a bumbling failure and an impediment to success. Education Secretary John B. King Jr., who [says] public schools saved his life after he was orphaned young, is preparing to move out of his seventh-floor office. …. His designated successor, Betsy DeVos — a billionaire political power broker who has said public schools are a dysfunctional monopoly and who believes in private-school vouchers and the power of the free market — is preparing to move in. … It is this ideological divide as much as any other that is at the root of what Trump has promised will be a very different approach to the nation’s public schools.”
INAUGURATION IS THREE DAYS AWAY:
-- Trump's inauguration is – surprisingly – shaping up to be a relatively low-key affair. John Wagner and Karen Tumulty report: “President Obama’s first inaugural festivities stretched over five days. [Trump] is spending barely three on his. Bill Clinton hit 14 official balls on the day he was sworn in. Trump plans appearances at three. And while other presidents have staged parades that lasted more than four hours, Trump’s trip down Pennsylvania Avenue is expected to clock in at 90 minutes — making it among the shortest on record. In a word, the 45th president’s inaugural activities will be ‘workmanlike,’ said Boris Epshteyn, communications director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee … Early on, there was talk of something much flashier. [And] the notion of a relatively low-key inaugural bereft of many A-list entertainers may come as a surprise, given the president-elect’s flair for showmanship ... Epshteyn said that Trump settled on a less flashy approach, however, including keeping the ticket prices for the inaugural balls at $50 apiece so that working-class Americans who helped fuel Trump’s victory can take part.”
-- A Bruce Springsteen cover band became the last musical guest to back out of a scheduled performance at Trump’s inaugural event after receiving intense blowback from fans. Members said they also wanted to respect the real Bruce Springsteen – an outspoken Trump opponent who has called the president-elect a “flagrant, toxic narcissist.” (Elahe Izadi)
-- “Trump’s inability so far to secure even one legitimate star for his big day has been a delight to his political foes, who need every opportunity for comfort that they can get in this time of grave uncertainty,” writes The Daily Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi. “For his fans, well, this is just another example of the lamestream elites being out of touch with real America. How’d Katy Perry work out for Hillary, after all? Or Beyoncé, with her polka dotted pantsuit? Still, Trump’s entire existence is a protracted quest for approval from the powerful, the famous and the good looking …To accept the conceit that he doesn’t care who’s on his guest list is to ignore 30-plus years of evidence that, in fact, that’s all that matters to him.”
-- The D.C. National Guard general slated to succeed outgoing Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz – who is being yanked from his post the minute Trump assumes office on Friday – insisted that the mid-ceremony changing of power will not undermine Inauguration Day security. John Woodrow Cox reports: While Schwartz and other commanding generals manage “strategic big, big giant-picture” issues, Brig. Gen. William J. said, lower-ranking officers always lead specific operations. “I’m the joint task force commander,” said Walker, noting that he would be responsible for directing a response to any inauguration crises even under Schwartz’s leadership. “We execute the mission regardless.”
-- Scalpers who purchased inauguration tickets with the intent of reselling them for top dollar say they’re actually losing money. "Nobody wants to buy them," one man told the New York Daily News. "It looks like I'm stuck with them, I might even have to go."
-- White House staffers are prepping for an intense job of their own: flipping the residence from the outgoing to incoming president in a mere five hours. USA Today's Emily Brown reports: “When [Trump] walks into the White House for the first time as president on Jan. 20, his suits will be hanging in his closet, his personal photos will be displayed … and his toothbrush will be near his favorite brand of toothpaste in his bathroom. [But] nothing can be touched until the Obamas pull out of the White House driveway for the inauguration ceremony that same day. … [It’s an] all-hands-on-deck execution of an intricately planned and timed move that would put HGTV flip shows to shame. All of the outgoing president's family's belongings must be carefully packed and moved out. All of the belongings of the incoming first family must be moved in and unpacked. While the Obamas clearly know it’s their last day living in the White House, extreme caution is taken to make sure the first family still feels at home. No one wants the outgoing president ‘to feel like they are kicked out.'"
OBAMA’S FINAL DAYS:
-- Justice Department officials completed their review of more than 16,000 clemency petitions and sent their final recommendations to President Obama, who is slated to commute “hundreds” of federal drug sentences in the final days of his tenure. The move comes amid fears that the incoming Trump administration will dismantle the clemency initiative. (Sari Horwitz)
-- The Obamas personally donated their White House swing set to a family shelter in Southeast Washington on MLK Day, relocating the famous play structure once beloved by a young Malia and Sasha Obama. It was first offered Trump and Melania, who have a 10-year-old son, Barron, but they declined, Tara Bahrampour reports. The Rainbow-brand structure has a plaque reading, “Malia and Sasha’s Castle,” and boasts a slide, a fort, a climbing wall, three regular swings, a tire swing, and a picnic table etched with the names of all 44 presidents.
-- For your radar: Outgoing White House press secretary Josh Earnest will hold his final press briefing today. Obama’s final White House news conference happens tomorrow.
-- As POTUS scrambles to solidify his legacy before leaving office, Michelle is looking ahead – and quietly planning her next act. Krissah Thompson reports: “She's been talking publicly about how eager she is to return to normal life. She has also said she wants to sit in a yard, stroll through a big-box store and open a window in her house, all things she has not been able to do for eight years. Yet a team is already laying the groundwork for what’s likely to be a somewhat busier post-White House schedule for a popular first lady who has signaled her eagerness to continue her advocacy work of recent years — and has proved to be a compelling voice in American politics. The group will be led by Melissa Winter, the first lady’s longtime deputy chief of staff. ‘When she’s ready, our group will come together, and we’ll do strategy. And we’ll talk about what does the first event for the new Michelle Obama look like. How do we want it to feel, and how does she want it to feel?’ Winter said.”
-- Trump may not be able to easily reverse Obama’s progress on fighting climate change. “If you’re worried about climate change, it’s scary to think that the incoming Trump administration could reverse gains made in recent years,” Post columnist David Ignatius writes. “But a recent conversation with departing Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz convinced me that the progress is probably irreversible. Moniz cited a range of economic and technological factors that will sustain the long-term move toward reduced carbon emissions, regardless of the policies adopted by [Trump]: Clean-energy technologies have become much cheaper and more efficient, Moniz noted, and the global market for them will lure U.S. companies. Utility and manufacturing industry executives, who have to plan investments on 30-year time horizons, aren’t likely to make long-term bets on high-carbon projects. As Moniz prepared to leave his post, the Energy Department released several studies that underline his argument that climate-change progress is being driven by the market rather than government.”
-- Before Trump’s victory, Obama had big plans for his post-presidency, GQ’s Jason Zengerle writes. Now, his goals will be played out in the shadow of a President Trump, and “his angle of repose has suddenly become much sharper”: “‘You can lock in progress for generations if you win three in a row,’” says former adviser Dan Pfeiffer, of handing the White House keys to like-minded successor. Added another aide: “’There was one sort of framework for what his post-presidency would look like, which was contingent on Clinton winning. Then Trump happened and that threw it all in the trash bin. Now it’s Plan B …’ But the bigger and more immediate conundrum posed by Trump’s inauguration concerns Trump himself—and the degree to which Obama will break with the tradition of deference and support that outgoing presidents typically offer their successors. But how, exactly, does he confront Trump? Obama’s answer to that question, some close to him believe, will be one of the most important decisions of his political career.”
-- In a New York Times interview, Obama shares his secret to surviving his eight years in the White House: Books. Michiko Kakutani reports: “Not since Lincoln has there been a president as fundamentally shaped — in his life, convictions and outlook on the world — by reading and writing as Barack Obama. ‘At a time when events move so quickly and so much information is transmitted,’ he said, reading gave him the ability to occasionally ‘slow down and get perspective’ and ‘the ability to get in somebody else’s shoes.’ ‘Whether [these things] made me a better president I can’t say,’ [he said]. ‘But what I can say is that they have allowed me to sort of maintain my balance … because this is a place that comes at you hard and fast and doesn’t let up.’ Mr. Obama’s long view of history and the optimism … [are] grounded in his reading, in his knowledge of history (and its unexpected zigs and zags), and his embrace of artists like Shakespeare who saw the human situation entire: its follies, cruelties and mad blunders, but also its resilience, decencies and acts of grace. The playwright’s tragedies, he says, have been ‘foundational for me in understanding how certain patterns repeat themselves and play themselves out between human beings …’
-- More immediately on Obama’s to-do list? A vacation to Palm Springs. TMZ reports that the soon-to-be-ex-president will jet to the sunny locale on Friday, not Chicago.
THE WORLD ADJUSTS TO TRUMP:
-- European leaders grappled with the “jolting reality” of Trump’s E.U. skepticism, saying they might have to stand without the U.S. at their side for the first time since World War II after the president-elect said that the 28-nation bloc was “bound for a breakup,” and that he was indifferent to its fate. Michael Birnbaum reports: “The full ramifications of a potential breakdown in transatlantic ties are so extensive, they are difficult to total. [But] Trump’s attitudes have raised alarm bells across Europe, which is facing a wave of elections this year in which anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic leaders could gain power. Some analysts noted that after Britain’s vote last June to leave the European Union, support for the E.U. in other nations increased. They wondered whether Trump’s frontal challenge to the bloc might have a similar effect. But one said that if global instability rises as a result of Trump’s unpredictable policies, the stress could weigh on the already taxed European Union."
-- Russia’s top diplomat said Moscow is “looking forward to cooperating” with the incoming Trump administration in the war on terrorism and bringing peace to Syria, making overtures to the president-elect even as he slammed the Obama administration for what he called “double standards.” Andrew Roth and David Filipov report: “’If we hear that in the foreign policy of [Trump] the main thing will be the fight against terrorism, then we, of course, can only welcome that, since that is exactly the thing that has been lacking with our American partners,’ [said] Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.” Echoing the caution expressed by Putin, he added that it was “too early to say” exactly how much improvement to expect in U.S.-Russian ties, currently at a post-Cold War low over Washington’s conclusion that the Kremlin ordered a hacking campaign to interfere with the elections. “Only when everyone takes their places in the new administration, when practical work begins, will it be clear how relations between the USA and the rest of the world will be,” he said.
-- Deep dive: “For Trump, three decades of chasing deals in Russia,” by New York Times Megan Twohey and Steve Eder: “It was 2005, and Felix Sater, a Russian immigrant, was back in Moscow pursuing an ambitious plan to build a Trump tower on the site of an old pencil factory along the Moscow River … Letters of intent had been signed and square footage was being analyzed. “There was an opportunity to explore building Trump towers internationally,” said Mr. Sater … “And Russia was one of those countries.” The project on the old pencil factory site ultimately fizzled. But it was not for lack of trying. [Trump] tried — and failed — to start a reality show in St. Petersburg in 2008 starring a Russian mixed martial arts fighter. And [Trump Super Premium Vodka] was presented at the Millionaire’s Fair in Moscow in 2007 … But real estate developments remained a constant goal.” “I’ve seen cities all over the world. Some I’ve liked, some I haven’t,” he said in 1996. But he added that he didn’t think he had ever been “as impressed with the potential of a city as I have been with Moscow.”
-- WHAT CHANGED? In a series of 2014 interviews, Trump singled out Russia as the “biggest problem” and geopolitical foe facing the U.S. His remarks offer a sharp contrast with the cozy, pro-Putin, Russian-friendly rhetoric he’s used since launching his presidential bid. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reports: “In the interviews … Trump goes as far as to suggest imposing sanctions to hurt Russia economically and then later says he supports such sanctions. Trump also expressed his agreement with [Mitt Romney's] 2012 assessment that Russia is the United States' number one ‘geopolitical foe.’ "Well, Mitt was right, and he was also right … [when] he said, 'Russia's our biggest problem, and Russia is, you know, really something,’ Trump said on Fox and Friends. 'He said it's a hell of a problem, and everybody laughed at him. They laughed. It turned out that he's absolutely right.'" He even floated that the U.S. could employ economic measures to harm Moscow: "Russia is not strong economically and we could do a lot of different things to really do numbers on them if we wanted to," Trump said. In an NBC interview, he went even further: "We should definitely do sanctions," he said.
-- The world is entering a period of faster growth – but also greater uncertainty – as Trump readies to assume office and Britain prepares to depart from the E.U., according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund. Ana Swanson reports: “[IMF officials] now expects global growth to rise to 3.4 percent in 2017 and 3.6 percent in 2018, up from 3.1 percent in 2016. That growth will be buoyed by an increasingly robust economy in the United States, which is likely to boost demand for goods manufactured around the globe, especially in emerging economies.”
-- “One family fought the system and stopped Trump’s first venture in India,” by the LA Times’ Shashank Bengali: “When a Mumbai real estate developer acquired a crumbling, 80-year-old apartment building and announced plans to replace it with a luxury skyscraper, two dozen families accepted buyouts and moved. But one tenant refused. Prasad Panvalkar, an ink salesman, argued that city regulations required the builder to resettle his family in the new development, which the company said it wouldn’t do. Panvalkar’s case was not unusual in Mumbai … But it stood out for one reason: The builder’s business partner was [Trump], who had sold the rights for branding the high-rise as India’s first Trump Tower. [He] has since signed agreements to stamp his name on several other properties in India, expanding his involvement in a lucrative but ill-regulated real estate industry that experts say is notorious for graft and trampling on people’s rights.”
-- “U.S. border officials are illegally turning away asylum seekers, critics say,” by Joshua Partlow: “Several weeks ago, a former Guatemalan police officer walked up to U.S. private security guards at the border crossing here and asked for asylum … ‘I am fleeing my country,’ the policeman later recalled telling the guards, explaining that he had survived two attempts on his life. ‘I am being persecuted in a matter of life and death.’ The policeman said he was told he needed to see Mexican immigration authorities, who would put him on a waiting list to make his case to U.S. officials. But Mexican authorities refused to add him to the list … and he has been stuck in northern Mexico. The Guatemalan is one of hundreds or perhaps thousands of foreigners who have been blocked in recent months from reaching U.S. asylum officials along the border … A spokesman for [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] said that there has been ‘no policy change’ affecting asylum procedures. … But the proliferation of problems has raised alarm among advocates for migrants.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
First, curious how John Lewis spent the weekend? Here's how:
Welcome to Trump’s Washington...
From a reporter for The Daily Mail:
The Mall is being transformed:
More boycotts of the inauguration, starting with a big one:
The transition team is working hard to build a crowd for Friday:
A few reactions to Ringling Bros. circus closing:
Laura Ingraham apparently got rid of this tweet from 2013!
Jim Acosta got a Twitter shoutout from John Leguizamo:
Jason Furman is switching Twitter handles:
Yesterday, starting with Chance the Rapper, 15 celebrities tweeted lines, in order, from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech:
Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) joked about the Cowboys losing to the Packers:
Diane Black went fishing for her birthday:
Angus King's Instagram feed is just great:
View this post on Instagram
So, Mary is from Milwaukee, and Milwaukee is in Wisconsin, and Green Bay is also in Wisconsin and, well, you get the idea. This is Mary in her Packers overalls and shirt (didn't her mother ever tell her about stripes and plaid?); what you can't see are the Packers socks, earrings and, of course, cheesehead--just after the amazing Dallas game Sunday night. I'm rooting for an Aaron Rogers-Tom Brady Superbowl; might not be the best for the family dynamic, but it would sure be two real artists at work. It wasn't me who clipped off Mary's head, by the way; that's the way one of the kids took the shot! #packers #greenbaypackers #aaronrodgers #tombrady #packerscowboysgame
Finally, a hearty congratulations to Bo Obama:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The New Yorker, “How jokes won the election,” by Emily Nussbaum: “Since November 9th, we’ve heard a lot of talk about unreality, and how what’s normal bends when you’re in a state of incipient autocracy. But what killed me last year were the jokes, because I love jokes—dirty jokes, bad jokes, rude jokes, jokes that … explode pomposity. Jokes were a superior way to tell the truth—that meant freedom for everyone. But by 2016 the wheel had spun hard the other way: now it was the neo-fascist strongman who held the microphone and an army of anonymous dirty-joke dispensers who helped put him in office. Online, jokes were powerful accelerants for lies—a tweet was the size of a one-liner, a ‘dank meme’ carried farther than any op-ed, and the distinction between a Nazi and someone pretending to be a Nazi for ‘lulz’ had become a blur. By the campaign’s final days, the race felt driven less by policy disputes than by an ugly war of disinformation, one played for laughs. How do you fight an enemy who’s just kidding?"
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Mayor Fouts compares black people to ‘chimps,’ ridicules women,” from the Motor City Muckraker: “Warren Mayor Jim Fouts used the n-word, compared black people to ‘chimps’ and called old women ‘dried-up [expletives]’ in new audio recordings … Fouts, a Democrat, has denied making the statements, saying the recordings were engineered to sound like him. But audio experts disagree. In previous recordings, Fouts made crude statements about disabled people, prompting calls for his resignation. In the latest batch of recordings, Fouts compared black people to chimpanzees. ‘Blacks do look like chimpanzees,’ Fouts said. ‘I was watching this black woman with her daughter and they looked like two chimps.’ In other recordings, Fouts, who is in his 70s, explains why he doesn’t like to date older women[:] ‘I’m not interested in any old ugly hag,' he said. 'I think after a certain age they are dried up, washed up burned out.'"
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Top Divinity Schools: Use Gender-Neutral Language to Refer to God,” from National Review: “The divinity schools at Duke and Vanderbilt Universities have instructed their professors to start using more ‘inclusive’ language when referring to God because the masculine pronouns ‘have served as a cornerstone of the patriarchy.’ For example: This year’s divinity course catalogue at Vanderbilt tells professors to give ‘consistent attention to the use of inclusive language, especially in relation to the Divine,’ because the school ‘commits continuously and explicitly to include gender as an analyzed category and to mitigate sexism.’ And … Duke’s guidelines suggest avoiding gender specific pronouns when discussing Him and suggest using ‘God’ and ‘Godself’ instead.”
At the White House: Obama has no public events scheduled. Biden is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 3 p.m. for morning business and then at 4:15 p.m. to consider the GAO Access and Oversight Act. The House meets at noon. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), nominated for interior secretary, goes before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources at 2:15 p.m. Betsy DeVos, nominated for education secretary, goes before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions at 5 p.m.
At Trump Tower: The president-elect sits with the CEO of Boeing and attends a dinner for Tom Barrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Outgoing CIA director John Brennan unloaded on Trump in an interview with the Wall Street Journal for saying that leaks against him were something that Nazi Germany “would have done and did do.” “Tell the families of those 117 CIA officers who are forever memorialized on our wall of honor that their loved ones who gave their lives were akin to Nazis,” Brennan said. “Tell the CIA officers who are serving in harm’s way right now and their families who are worried about them that they are akin to Nazi Germany. I found that to be very repugnant, and I will forever stand up for the integrity and patriotism of my officers who have done much over the years to sacrifice for their fellow citizens.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- A bleak – but warm – start to inauguration week. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Cloudy with showers at times. Low-to-mid 50s for highs with light winds from the south … Mostly light rainfall totals around a tenth of an inch.”
-- The Wizards beat Portland 120-101.
-- The Capitals lost to the Penguins 8-7.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
At an event on Monday, John Lewis told the audience: "you must never, ever hate":
Trump had a photo op with Martin Luther King III for the holiday:
Obama welcomed the Chicago Cubs to the White House:
The team's general manager gave Obama a "midnight pardon" for his allegiance to the White Sox:
Lin-Manuel Miranda made a 1-minute rap track inspired by The West Wing, called “What’s next?”
Finally, a giant alligator was spotted at a Florida nature reserve: