Most thought Sean Spicer went too far with his Saturday night statement in the press room, delivered in an extended shout and brimming with falsehoods. Trump himself, however, had personally ordered the fiery response and actually thought his spokesman was not forceful enough. The president was also bothered when his spokesman read haltingly from a printed statement at times.
That nugget is part of an excellent look at some of the drama inside the West Wing by my colleagues Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Matea Gold, based on interviews with nearly a dozen senior White House officials and other Trump advisers. “Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements, and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment,” Ashley, Phil and Matea report.
To give himself the recognition that he feels others are not, Trump officially declared his own Inauguration Day as “A National Day of Patriotic Devotion.” A proclamation that was signed by the president and entered into the Federal Register reads: “A new national pride stirs the American soul and inspires the American heart.” (Abby Phillip has more.)
Even with all the accoutrements of the presidency, the thin-skinned Trump still maintains a childlike need for constant affirmation: Reporters filed into a conference room for a photo opp yesterday afternoon of Trump meeting with union leaders. But, as they began to exit the room, the president called out. “Hey press, get back in here,” Trump said. According to the Boston Globe, he then commanded Doug McCarron of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters to repeat the praise he had just privately given Trump about his inaugural address. “It hit home for the people who have been hurting,” McCarron told the reporters, obliging the most powerful man in the world.
The conservative Weekly Standard explains why the Spicer episode from Saturday matters: “If media reports about crowd size are so important to Trump that he'd push Spicer out there to lie for him, then it means that all the tinpot-dictator, authoritarian, characterological tics that people worried about during the campaign are still very much active. You know who obsessed about crowd size? Fidel Castro. You know who did not? George Washington, John Adams, Andrew Jackson, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, and every other man to ever serve as president of these United States of America.”
The president’s whining and inability to handle anything but good news, it turns out, is contagious. During a press briefing yesterday that was designed to clean up the mess he created over the weekend, Spicer still could not let go of the fiction that Trump’s inauguration was the most watched ever.
Instead, he repeatedly bemoaned the media’s coverage of his boss and complained that Trump and his staffers are not getting enough credit for the “sacrifice” that they’re all making. In response to three separate reporter questions, Spicer used the word “demoralizing.”
“It’s demoralizing … when you sit here and you realize the sacrifice the guy made, leaving a very, very successful business because he really cares about this country,” the press secretary said. “There’s this constant attempt to undermine his credibility and the movement that he represents.”
Trump didn’t need to run for president, of course, and almost everyone who works in the White House would have killed to get their new job. Some will become wealthy cashing in on the experience they’re about to get. But those rewards are apparently insufficient.
“When you're constantly getting told, ‘That can't be true. We doubt that you can do this. This won't happen,’ … it's a little frustrating,” Spicer griped. “And I think that for those people around him, his senior team especially … it's a little demoralizing to turn on the TV day after day and hear.”
A reporter chimed in to say every president has faced dissent and critical coverage: “Isn’t that just part of the conversation that happens in Washington, D.C., that comes from being president of the United States and working at the White House?”
“No, it's not,” Spicer said. “No. No.”
Here’s how that exchange is playing in one of the president’s hometown papers:
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Trump plans to sign executive orders today to revive both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, which stalled under the Obama administration. (Fox News's John Roberts)
-- President Trump has been invited to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, Paul Ryan announced at a press conference this morning.
-- Israel approves huge expansion of West Bank settlements. The announcement of 2,500 new settlement homes in the West Bank signals a new approach by Israel in response to Trump taking office. Barack Obama opposed such a move. (Developing…)
-- FBI director James Comey told his top agents from around the country that he had been asked by Trump to stay on the job, the New York Times reports. “A decision to retain Mr. Comey would spare the president another potentially bruising confirmation battle. It also would keep Mr. Comey at the center of the F.B.I.’s investigation into several Trump associates and their potential ties with the Russian government. … When Mr. Comey and the president-elect met in Trump Tower for the first time earlier this month for an intelligence briefing, Mr. Trump told the F.B.I. director that he hoped he would remain in his position … And Mr. Trump’s aides have made it clear to Mr. Comey that the president does not plan to ask him to leave … Then, last Wednesday, during a weekly conference call, Mr. Comey relayed the news to his senior employees, who are known as special agents in charge.”
-- “La La Land” is the big story from the nominations announcement for the Academy Awards this morning, garnering 14 nominations to tie “Titanic” and “All About Eve” for the most of any movie. The musical’s nominations include best picture, best director for Damien Chazelle, leads Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and two in one category, best song. Per Stephanie Merry, other standouts include “Moonlight,” which is up for eight awards, including best picture, director (Barry Jenkins) and supporting awards for Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris. Tied with “Moonlight” is “Arrival,” which wasn’t singled out for acting, but is a contender for production design, cinematography and sound awards, not to mention best picture and director (Denis Villeneuve). “Lion,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Hacksaw Ridge” also had an impressive showing with six nominations apiece. The Oscars ceremony, which will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, airs Feb. 26 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC. (See the full list of nominations here.)
-- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton collapsed 40 minutes into his State of the State address last night, slurring his words and striking his head on a lectern before collapsing. Samantha Schmidt reports: “Aides caught him as he fell, and legislators immediately adjourned the meeting at the Minnesota state capitol … Dayton, 69, was not injured and appeared to sit upright shortly after passing out. He quickly recovered, walked out of the capitol on his own and returned home, the governor’s chief of staff said in a statement.” Medics joined the governor at his home to perform a routine check, and a senior adviser said the likely cause was dehydration. House lawmakers said that Dayton was acting normally within 20 minutes of the collapse and was poking fun at himself, and Dayton’s son said in a tweet on Monday night that his father was “doing great.”
-- Kellyanne Conway allegedly punched a man in the face at Trump’s inaugural ball, according to the New York Daily News, after apparently stepping between two tuxedo-clad men after they got into a scuffle at Friday’s invite-only Liberty Ball. “But the two men wouldn't break up the fight and Conway apparently punched one of them in the face with closed fists at least three times, according to the stunned onlooker.” Fox Business correspondent Charlie Gasparino recounted the alleged brawl in a Facebook post: "Inside the ball we see a fight between two guys in tuxes and then suddenly out of nowhere came Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway who began throwing some mean punches at one of the guys," he wrote. "Whole thing lasted a few mins no one was hurt except maybe the dude she smacked."
-- Related: Conway has received threats against her life and has been assigned a Secret Service detail. (Parker/Rucker/Gold)
-- A disturbing trend: A Pittsburgh man bit his roommate’s ear off after they got into a heated political argument over Trump and immigration policies, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
-- Separately, police were called to remove an unruly passenger from a flight leaving the Washington area on Sunday after she began interrogating anyone in a Trump shirt – and then lashed out at her seatmate when she learned he was in town for the inauguration. “You pretend you have the moral high ground, but you put that man’s finger on the nuclear button,” she told him in a rant captured on video. (Avi Selk)
-- After reviewing intercepts of communication between the Russian ambassador to the U.S. and Trump’s national security adviser, the FBI did not find any evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to Moscow. Michael Flynn is not the active target of an investigation, U.S. officials say. From Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller: The news comes after the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. counterintelligence agents had probed communications between Flynn and the ambassador. “The calls were picked up as part of routine electronic surveillance of Russian officials and agents in the United States, which is one of the FBI’s responsibilities. … [Spicer] said that the call covered several subjects. They included a Russian invitation to the Trump administration to take part in Russian-sponsored Syrian peace talks that began Monday in Kazakhstan. The men also talked about logistics for a post-inauguration call between Trump and [Putin]...
“The FBI’s counterintelligence agents listen to calls all the time that do not pertain to any open investigation, current and former law enforcement officials said. Often, said one former official, ‘They’re just monitoring the other [foreign official] side of the call.’ Both Flynn … and [the Russian diplomat] are probably aware that [their] phone calls and texts are being monitored. ... That would make it highly unlikely, the individuals said, that the men would allow their calls to be conduits of illegal coordination."
GET SMART FAST:
- Members of a predominantly Jewish golf club in Maryland have decided to invite Obama to join after all, ending weeks of internal division over whether the former president – who angered some by his Middle East policies in office – should be allowed to tee off at the course. (Bill Turque)
- A federal judge blocked Aetna’s proposed megamerger with rival insurance giant Humana, upholding the Justice Department’s decision that the $37 billion deal would violate antitrust laws. (Carolyn Y. Johnson)
- Yahoo is now facing an SEC probe over the two massive data breaches that together affected more than 1 billion consumers. The probe will seek to determine why the beleaguered internet company waited to disclose to investors its knowledge of a hack that occurred in 2014. (Brian Fung)
- Iraq’s prime minister ordered an investigation into human rights violations and other abuses purportedly carried out by government troops battling the Islamic State to wrest control of Mosul. The move comes just days after the U.N. demanded an investigation into a video appearing to show the brutal treatment and killing of at least three ISIS suspects in a newly-captured area. (AP)
- As America’s opioid crisis continues to rage, desperate drug addicts are finding new, horrifying ways to get their fix – including intentionally harming their pets to obtain controlled substances from veterinarians. Sick! (Lindsey Bever)
- A popular YouTube stunt in which participants dip their hands into flaming hand sanitizer has prompted urgent warnings from parents and doctors alike – especially after an eight-year-old New Hampshire boy was nearly killed when he attempted the trick. (Ben Guarino)
- A father and son accused of raping a teenage girl for years and keeping her shackled inside their basement waived their constitutional right to a lawyer – so long, they said, as they can bring along the Bible to defend themselves instead. “Professionals built the Titanic. Amateurs built the ark,” they told the judge, in arguing their faith would prove more beneficial than legal help. (Kristine Guerra)
- In Iceland, where the police do not carry firearms and the country has gone entire years without a single homicide, residents are in mourning after the disappearance and murder of a 20-year-old girl. Her death has prompted a nationwide outpouring of grief – and vengeful residents who are dead-set on finding her killer. (Avi Selk)
- A stretch of Milwaukee highway that was found covered in hundreds of thousands of strawberry-flavored Skittles – “stretching as far as the eye can see,” recalled one responder -- has prompted more questions than answers after it was revealed that the sugary candies were intended to be used as cattle feed. The Mars Company has launched an investigation into the matter. (Travis M. Andrews)
WEST WING INFIGHTING:
-- The competing power centers within the White House are already clashing behind the scenes. In Trump World, they are known as the “Big Four”: chief strategist Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus, counselor Kellyanne Conway and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. Here are five insights from the Ashley Parker, Phil Rucker and Matea Gold story I mentioned in the Big Idea:
1. Spicer is a Reince guy, and some Trump insiders suggest that Conway is trying to undermine him and Priebus: “During the campaign, Trump was suspicious of both Priebus and Spicer … As Trump thought about staffing his administration, he hesitated over selecting Spicer as White House press secretary. He did not see Spicer as particularly telegenic and preferred a woman for the position, asking Conway to do it and also considering conservative commentators Laura Ingraham and Monica Crowley … before settling on Spicer at the urging of Priebus…
2. Because Conway operates outside of the communications department, some aides grumble that she can go rogue when she pleases, promoting herself as much as the president: “One suggested that Conway’s office on the second floor of the West Wing, as opposed to one closer to the Oval Office, was a sign of her diminished standing. Though Conway took over the workspace previously occupied by Valerie Jarrett, who had been Obama’s closest adviser, the confidant dismissively predicted that Trump would rarely climb a flight of stairs. Yet that assessment may misunderstand the Trump-Conway relationship. … Trump watched Sunday as Conway sparred with NBC’s Chuck Todd on ‘Meet the Press.’ Some Trump allies were unsettled by her performance, but not the president … He called Vice President Pence to rave about how she handled questions from Todd … and called Conway to offer his congratulations.”
3. Another reason Conway has juice is that she’s close with Mike Pence after years of serving as his pollster.
4. “A number of Trump’s most loyal campaign aides have been alarmed by Kushner’s efforts to elbow aside anyone he perceives as a possible threat to his role as Trump’s chief consigliere. At one point during the transition, Kushner had argued internally against giving Conway a White House role…
5. Tensions have already plagued other parts of Trump’s fledgling orbit, too: “Efforts to launch an outside group supporting Trump’s agenda have stalled amid fighting between Kushner loyalists, such as the campaign’s data and digital strategist Brad Parscale, and conservative donor Rebekah Mercer … Major disputes include who would control the data the outside group would use, with Mercer advocating for Cambridge Analytica, a firm in which her father is invested, and who would control the lucrative contracts with vendors.”
THE FEDERAL FREEZE:
-- President Trump instituted an immediate hiring freeze on federal workers, signing a presidential memorandum that would affect a large swath of the executive branch but leave wide latitude for exemptions for those working in the military, national security and public safety. From Juliet Eilperin: “The move — coming on the new president’s first full working day in the White House — represents the opening salvo in what could be the most concerted effort to overhaul the federal workforce in 35 years.”
The details at this point are a little bit murky: “Officials at the Pentagon said Monday evening that it wasn’t yet clear whether the freeze would exempt civilian Defense Department personnel, which number roughly 750,000, or only uniformed employees. One Defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to address internal discussions, said that Pentagon lawyers were examining the directive. Veterans — who make up 31 percent of the federal workforce — could also be disproportionately affected by the move because they receive a hiring preference when it comes to federal jobs. One unit of the Pentagon, according to an official who asked for anonymity to discuss personnel matters, is in the process of hiring between 20 and 30 veterans and is now looking at whether to put the hires on hold.”
Some historical context: “The last two major, across-the-board freezes were instituted by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, who imposed them after taking office. In 1982, the General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) issued a report concluding that both freezes ended up costing more money than they saved and were ‘not an effective means of controlling federal employment.’ Part of that expense stemmed from the hiring of contractors to compensate for staff reductions; Trump’s memorandum makes clear, however: ‘Contracting outside the Government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted.’ President George W. Bush imposed a hiring freeze in 2001, but it affected only selected agencies. Under President Obama, some agencies, including the Pentagon, imposed hiring freezes because of budget constraints.”
-- Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) criticized the freeze: “The federal budget cannot be balanced on the backs of our federal workforce. I don’t support this type of across-the-board freeze and think it is better to look at priorities and areas where appropriate cuts can be made and where we can consolidate efforts or identify unnecessary costs that can be eliminated.” As Jenna Portnoy notes, “The two-term congresswoman represents a moderate northern Virginia district, including Loudoun and Fairfax counties, which is home to thousands of government employees.”
-- Federal labor leaders also predictably criticized the move. “President Trump’s action will disrupt government programs and services that benefit everyone and actually increase taxpayer costs by forcing agencies to hire more expensive contractors to do work that civilian government employees are already doing for far less,” said American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox Sr. “This hiring freeze will mean longer lines at Social Security offices, fewer workplace safety inspections, less oversight of environmental polluters, and greater risk to our nation’s food supply and clean water systems.” (Joe Davidson)
TRUMP SPENDS HIS FIRST FULL WORK DAY PUSHING PROTECTIONISM:
-- Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership has begun recasting America’s role in the global economy, creating an opening for our adversaries and rivals to flex their muscles. Ylan Q. Mui reports: “Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto declared Monday that his country hopes to bolster trade with other nations and limit its reliance on the United States. Chinese state media derided Western democracy as having ‘reached its limits’; President Xi Jinping had touted Beijing’s commitment to globalization during his first appearance at the annual gathering of the world’s economic elite last week in Davos … ‘This abrupt action so early in the Trump administration puts the world on notice that all of America’s traditional economic and political alliances are now open to reassessment and renegotiation,’ said [Cornell trade policy professor Eswar Prasad]. ‘This could have an adverse long-run impact on the ability of the U.S. to maintain its influence and leadership in world economic and political affairs.’” Ishaan Tharoor calls it a "big win" for China in his new WorldViews newsletter.
GOP LEADERS ANXIOUS:
-- Paul Ryan’s allies on the Hill are alarmed that Julia Hahn, a 25-year-old Breitbart writer known for her torrent of scathing reports against the Speaker, is joining the White House as “a special assistant to the president” under former Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon. Robert Costa reports: “Although Hahn will serve in a midlevel role as a special assistant to the president, her hiring alarmed and angered several allies of Ryan, who expressed concern Monday about what they see as a brazen move by Bannon that threatened the fragile comity between Trump and Congress — and brightly underscored the Trump team’s insouciance about enlisting Ryan’s fiercest critic. Privately, a number of House Republicans [said] that Hahn’s involvement signaled Bannon’s plans to possibly put her to use against them, writing searing commentaries about elected Republican leaders to ram through Trump’s legislative priorities and agitate the party’s base if necessary.”
Key quote: “This is obviously a provocative act and clearly an intentional act,” said longtime Ryan ally Peter Wehner. “Bannon is willing to napalm the bridges with congressional Republicans.”
-- Mitch McConnell made a joke/threw a thinly-veiled barb as he left last night’s reception at the White House. “I enjoyed (listening to) the president and (Chuck) Schumer talking about all the people they knew in New York,” he said with a smirk. Conservatives who know how to read between the lines know what the Kentuckian was conveying: I recognize that he’s not one of us, but I’ve got to work with him to advance our agenda.
-- As the head of the AFL-CIO was celebrating the formal withdrawal from the TPP, several Senate Republicans publicly expressed hope that Trump won’t follow through on his promises to renegotiate NAFTA. “I don't see any benefit in trying to crawl back into our shell as a country,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who represents the border state of Texas, told CNN. "We won't benefit economically, we're obviously next door to Mexico, as I frequently tell my friends in Mexico, ‘We can't get a divorce. We need to figure out how to make this marriage work.’”
-- A group of senior Senate Democrats plans to unveil a $1 trillion “Trump-style” infrastructure plan today, urging the newly-minted president to back their proposal, which they say would create 15 million jobs in the next decade. Ed O'Keefe and Steven Mufson report: “The Democrats said their infrastructure plan would rely on direct federal spending and would span a range of projects including not only roads and bridges, but also the nation’s broadband network, hospitals run by the Department of Veterans Affairs and schools. Eager to drive a wedge between the new president and congressional Republicans, Democrats consider talk of infrastructure projects as a way to piggyback on Trump’s frequent vows to repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges and persuade him to adopt ideas that would put him at odds with GOP leaders, who have done little to embrace what would amount to a major new government spending program. Advisers to Trump have said they would rely on federal tax credits and public-private partnerships rather than federal spending.”
-- But, but, but: POTUS gave social conservatives something they want --> “Trump reverses abortion-related U.S. policy, bans funding to international health groups,” by Laurie McGinley and Amy Goldstein: “Yet again, a rule is back in effect to block U.S. aid to foreign organizations that use funds from other sources to perform or discuss abortions. President Trump, in reinstating a rule first instituted by President Reagan, gave foreign nonprofits a stark choice: Stop providing abortions, or any information about abortions, or lose valuable dollars from the United States, the biggest global funder of family-planning services. The move drew immediate denunciations from family-planning groups and their Democratic allies and praise from pro-life officials and Republicans. Since its inception in 1984, the funding ban — officially known as the ‘Mexico City policy’ and referred to as “the global gag rule” by its critics — has been repealed and reinstated every time a different political party has assumed power in the White House. … The wording of the executive order raised the possibility that the rule will now apply to any of the government’s global health assistance. Previously, the rule was limited to State Department funding of family-planning programs.”
How it’s playing--
On the left:
On the right:
TRUMP ALREADY MAKING A MARK ACROSS THE GOVERNMENT:
-- DJT tapped an outspoken critic of net neutrality, Ajit Pai, to be the next FCC chairman: “Pai's new position will give him control over the nation's most powerful telecom and cable regulator, with a 2-to-1 Republican majority that is widely expected to begin undoing some of [Obama's] most significant tech policies,” Brian Fung reports. “The Indian American who grew up in Kansas had until now been a sitting Republican commissioner at the FCC — meaning he will not need to be confirmed by the Senate before serving as the agency's 34th chairman. Pai was a staunch critic of Democratic efforts aimed at breaking the dominance of some of America's biggest Internet providers, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.”
-- The new administration has also instructed EPA officials to freeze all grants and contracts, a move that could affect everything from state-led climate research to localized efforts to improve air and water quality to environmental justice projects aimed at helping poor communities. Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report: “An email went out to employees in the agency’s Office of Acquisition Management within hours of [Trump’s] swearing-in on Friday. ‘New EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately,’ read the email … ‘Until we receive further clarification, which we hope to have soon, please construe this to include task orders and work assignments.’"
-- The CDC abruptly canceled a long-planned conference on climate change and health shortly before Trump’s inauguration, sending a terse email to scheduled speakers just one month ahead of the Atlanta event. They did not offer any explanation, though one of the scheduled speakers said it was a “preemptive” move so the agency would not risk running afoul of the incoming president. (Brady Dennis)
-- The updated White House issue pages reflect Trump’s Nixonian embrace of “law and order.” From Janell Ross: “Some of the Trump White House website’s few references to policing appear on a page labeled, ‘Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community.’ It evades the question of equitable policing entirely. ‘The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong,’ the page says. ‘The Trump Administration will end it. ... Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.’”
-- President Trump dispatched two aides to scope out the government-funded news outlet Voice of America, prompting concerns that he may quickly attempt to put his own stamp on the broadcasting arm that has long pushed U.S. news outside of the country. VOA received blowback from Trump boosters for a series of tweets about Sean Spicer’s false claims on the crowd size on Inauguration Day. (Politico)
-- Team Trump is walking back some of the president's biggest campaign promises. From Dana Milbank: “Trump had pledged that on his first day in office he would, among other things, rescind Obama’s orders protecting from deportation those brought here illegally as children; begin work on the border wall; stop all federal funding to sanctuary cities; suspend the Syrian refugee program and immigration from areas affected by terrorism; announce plans to withdraw from or renegotiate NAFTA; label China a currency manipulator; propose a constitutional amendment for term limits on members of Congress; and eliminate gun-free zones in schools. But Spicer on Monday showed no administration interest in deporting the ‘dreamers,’ nor in reversing Obama’s executive orders protecting them. He walked away from Trump’s inflammatory pledge to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (‘we’re at the very early stages of that decision-making process’). He had nothing to say about changes to refugee policy. He said that ‘we have not triggered the trigger’ to get out of NAFTA, and he appealed for patience to work with Congress on the border wall and Obamacare.”
-- Speaking of promises that won't be kept: Trump announced that he will wipe out at least 75 percent of all government regulations on business. That’s what he told CEOs during a “listening session,” who stayed longer than planned to continue talking with Trump in the Oval Office. The president also promised the corporate titans that he would cut their taxes and fast-track their plans to open factories. But he warned them not to send jobs overseas and again threatened to impose a “substantial border tax” on companies that move production out of the country.
-- Trump’s real estate and merchandising business filed paperwork removing the president as an officer in various corporate entities, a sign that he is following through on his pledge to shift from managing his businesses while in the White House. Rosalind S. Helderman reports: “Trump’s son Donald Jr., for instance, replaced his father as president of corporations associated with Trump’s private Palm Beach. Fla., club, Mar-a-Lago. Eric Trump was named president of a business associated with Trump’s Doral golf course and resort in Miami. The filings did nothing to address the broader concerns from ethics experts … But the filings provide the first public confirmation that Trump is following through on his promise to step down from officer positions related to his global business empire. Also Monday, a Trump lawyer released to CNN an internal company letter dated Thursday, the day before his inauguration, in which Trump said he was resigning from 400 corporate entities associated with the Trump Organization. CNN reported that the list stretched 19 pages.”
-- A fresh Gallup poll finds that Trump begins his presidency with the lowest initial approval rating in the history of modern polling. While 45 percent of adults said they approve of Trump’s first few days in office, a full 45 percent also said they disapprove – placing him the highest in Gallup history dating back to Dwight Eisenhower. Reactions to Trump’s early days are also heavily split along party linse: Trump earned a 90 percent approval from Republicans, while 81 percent of Democrats disapproved.
THE LATEST ON TRUMP'S CABINET:
-- After Marco Rubio caved, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson was approved 11-to-10 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last night. That sets up a confirmation vote in the full Senate that is all but guaranteed to succeed. “Tillerson’s cautious embrace by Capitol Hill Republicans marks an unexpected marriage between Trump and traditional GOP hawks, who have long been at odds on foreign policy,” Sean Sullivan and Karoun Demirjian explain. “It’s an alliance that would have seemed unlikely during the presidential campaign, but as Trump has ascended to power, his party has increasingly acquiesced to his idea of what it means to be a Republican. … The vote on Tillerson was also the first big test of how [Rubio] plans to deal with Trump, with whom he clashed in the campaign. By voting yes, Rubio spared himself what his allies anticipated would have been an angry backlash from the new administration in private. But at the end of [a written statement outlining his support], Rubio added a note of warning: ‘Upcoming appointments to critical posts in the Department of State are not entitled to and will not receive from me the same level of deference I have given this nomination.’”
-- By not following through on his empty threats, Rubio has hardened the conviction among skeptical conservatives that he's not actually principled, Business Insider columnist Josh Barro argues in a column several hawks have now sent me: “On January 12, speaking to reporters after the hearing in which he grilled [Tillerson] over his views on human rights, Rubio said: ‘My view is that the president deserves wide latitude in their nominees. But the more important the position is, the less latitude they have. It's like a cone.’ Subsequently, Rubio decided that he could indeed vote to confirm Tillerson despite serious reservations … and despite Tillerson being up there at the tip of the scrutiny cone. I guess the cone got inverted or something. Maybe the Senate has become a snow cone, with the point at the bottom and Tillerson up at the delicious, wide-latitude top … A week and a half ago, I asked [Rich Lowry]: If Rubio is going to vote for Tillerson, what was the point of the attention-grabbing grilling? It would only reinforce the existing knock on Rubio — that he talks a good game but won't stand up for his principles if it's politically costly. Rich told me I shouldn't assume Rubio had thought his strategy all the way through when he acted. He was right.”
-- HHS nominee Tom Price is under increasing scrutiny for a “trifecta” of financial, campaign and legislative activities that some longtime ethics lawyers have described as “extremely rare” and revealing “an extraordinary lack of good judgment.” Kimberly Kindy and Amy Goldstein report: “In recent years, Price has repeatedly traded stock in dozens of health-related companies while pushing bills that could have benefited many of them. At the same time, he has been uncommonly reliant on campaign contributions, accepting more than $700,000 from physicians, hospitals, drug companies and insurers during his 2016 run for a seventh congressional term. … Price’s investments and donations coincide with a pattern, dating back to his years as a state senator, of strenuously promoting legislation that advances the interests of the medical profession.” “I haven’t seen anything like this before, and I’ve been practicing and teaching about securities law for 30 years,” said former White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter.
-- Today’s Wall Street Journal has another example, as well: “Three months after investing in four companies with manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico, (Price) introduced legislation that would directly benefit those companies. The proposed House legislation—which would have made permanent an expiring tax deduction for Puerto Rican facilities—didn’t pass, and the tax deduction expired Jan. 1. And Mr. Price, a Georgia Republican, testified last week that his broker made all of his stock investment decisions except those involving an Australian biomedical firm. The bill nevertheless marks another instance in which Mr. Price was involved in legislation that could have benefited his stock holdings.”
-- It is unclear why, but the energy and natural resources panel just postponed plans to vote on the nominations of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry to lead the Energy Department and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to lead the Interior Department. (Ed O’Keefe)
-- Drip, drip, drip continues: In two 2011 speeches, Secretary of Labor nominee and fast-food executive Andrew Puzder described employees hired at his restaurants as the "best of the worst" in the workforce. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reports: “It’s not like if you run a fast food company you're hiring graduates of MIT or people that were gonna go work for Microsoft, you know,” he can be heard saying in an audio recording of one speech. "In the employment pool, you're hiring the best of the worst. You know, it's kind of the bottom of the pool. And at Hardee's it was so bad, we were hiring the worst of the worst and hoping they would stay."
-- The Senate confirmed Mike Pompeo as CIA director, putting the conservative Kansas lawmaker in charge of an agency bracing for its most contentious relationship with the White House in decades. Greg Miller reports: “As CIA director, Pompeo will be responsible for managing a global spying network at a time of escalating security problems, including renewed aggression from Russia, the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and the splintering terrorism threat posed by the Islamic State. But, at least initially, Pompeo’s most vexing task may involve finding a way to establish a functional relationship between the CIA and President Trump."
-- Meanwhile, U.S. government sources said there is a “sense of unease” in the intelligence community after Trump’s visit to CIA headquarters. CBS News’ Jeff Pegues reports: “An official said the visit ‘made relations with the intelligence community worse’ and described the visit as ‘uncomfortable.’ Authorities are also pushing back against the perception that the CIA workforce was cheering for the president. They say the first three rows in front of the president were largely made up of supporters of Mr. Trump’s campaign.” (Which is why it seemed like there was cheering.) Spicer denied there were any “Trump or White House folks” in the first rows – but a source familiar with the planning of the president’s CIA visit firmly denied that Spicer’s response was accurate.
-- Senate Democrats penned a letter asking Sen. Lamar Alexander to have a second confirmation hearing for Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, arguing that they need another opportunity to further scrutinize her potential conflicts of interests and preparedness to lead the department before a vote can be held. “Education is too important an issue, and the Secretary of Education is too important a position for the country and for this Committee, to jam a nominee through without sufficient questioning and scrutiny,” the minority members wrote in a Monday letter. A Republican aide shot down the possibility of a second hearing. (Emma Brown)
THE PRESS SECRETARY FINDS HIS FOOTING:
-- Sean Spicer stood by his assertion that Trump’s inauguration had the largest-ever viewing audience, even as he acknowledged there were “some problems” with the explanation he gave over the weekend. Jenna Johnson reports: “Our intention is never to lie to you,” Spicer told reporters. “There are times when we believe something to be true or we get something from an agency or we act in haste because the information available wasn't complete, but our desire to communicate with the American people and make sure that you have the most complete story at the time, and so we do it. But, again, I think that when you look net-net, we're going to do our best every time we can. I'm going to come out here and tell you the facts as I know them, and if we make a mistake, I'll do our best to correct it.”
-- Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer has some advice for Spicer so that he doesn't lie to the press again, via Aaron Blake:
- Avoid statistics and hard facts unless they have been proven: “If you are ever uncomfortable or are unsure of something, you attribute it. You say, ‘From the president’s point of view, from where he stood, it looked to him like the crowd went all the way back to the Washington Monument.’ ... That’s better to say it that way than to use facts and statistics if the facts and statistics are in and of themselves wrong.”
- Use name attribution. “[If] … you’re not sure if what the staffer is saying is 100 percent accurate, you tell the staffer you’re going to attribute the answer to him on the record. It’s a real fast way to sniff out whether the staffer is comfortable having his or her name attributed to the statement."
-- An SNL writer who was suspended indefinitely after joking on Twitter that 10-year-old Barron Trump “will be this country’s first homeschool shooter,” apologized. “I sincerely apologize for the insensitive tweet,” she said on Monday. “I deeply regret my actions & offensive words. It was inexcusable & I'm so sorry.” Her remarks were first posted during Friday’s inaugural ceremony and prompted outrage online, as well as a petition calling for her firing. (Emily Yahr)
-- A NEW TRUMP PODCAST: Our Allison Michaels and a rotating case of political reporters will interview presidential historians and other experts every week for a podcast called “Can he do that?” Check it out here.
THE DEMOCRATIC CIVIL WAR:
-- Cenk Uygur, founder of the Young Turks video network, is launching a project called "Justice Democrats" to defeat members of the Democratic Party who have cast votes seen as unacceptable. Dave Weigel reports: “Justice Democrats cohered after the 2016 election, when Uygur began talking to veterans of the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders about ways to challenge Democrats from the left. The Justice Democrats project counts [Sanders campaign veterans] Saikat Chakrabarti and Zack Exley … among its founders; their first goal was to provide the infrastructure and resources for progressives who wanted to challenge ‘corporate Democrats.’ The Justice Democrats platform mirrors much of what Sanders ran on, some of which had been adopted into the 2016 Democratic platform. Where Sanders called for renegotiating trade deals, the platform doubles down. It goes even further than Sanders, however, in asking candidates to ban foreign aid to human rights violators. ‘I was hoping someone else would do this, but when no one else was,’ Uygur said, ‘somebody had to do it.’”
-- “A mosque is at the center of a raw debate in the South of France,” by James McAuley: “The Mosque En-Nour is hidden on the outskirts of town, tucked away in an anonymous office park … No feature betrays its identity; no sign marks its entrance. Yet many people know exactly where to find it, and some are convinced that it has to go. On two occasions since it opened in June, nearby residents … have left the bloodied heads of pigs outside the mosque’s door. Shortly thereafter, regional authorities resumed their push to shut it down, after nearly 15 years of trying — and failing — to prevent it from opening. This modest, nondescript house of worship, the largest yet to open in the region, has become a symbol of the precarious position occupied by French Muslims, the country’s largest minority, in a society reeling from terrorist violence and hurtling toward a watershed presidential election. If the mosque is forced to close, it would violate the age-old promise of a proudly secular republic never to discriminate among citizens on the basis of race or religion. But a forced closure is a real possibility …”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
-- Tom Brady, the quarterback of the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots, said he’s known Trump 16 years and considers him a friend: “I have called him, yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,” he said on WEEI’s “Kirk and Callahan” show. “He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.” Brady has tried to dodge political talk about Trump throughout the regular season, and he was taking evasive action again last week after Trump addressed Patriots owner Robert Kraft during a pre-inaugural dinner, saying, “Your friend Tom just called. He feels good. He called to congratulate us. He feels good.”
Brady doesn’t like when reporters ask about it, Cindy Boren notes: “Why does everybody make such a big deal?” the QB said. “I don’t understand it.” It has been a rather big deal ever since a “Make America Great Again” cap was spotted in Brady’s locker during the 2015 season. During a campaign stop the weekend before the election, Trump proclaimed in New Hampshire that Brady had voted for him. But Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, replied “NO!” to an Instagram user who asked if she and Brady supported Trump. If the Patriots win the Super Bowl, maybe Brady won’t skip the White House visitthe way he did in April 2015.
Speaking of legendary quarterbacks, John Elway was in the crowd on Friday:
And three’s a trend: Peyton Manning will speak to the retreat of congressional Republicans in Philadelphia later this week, according to Politico.
Scott Walker spotted his likeness at D.C.'s Hay Adams hotel:
This photo of George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush went viral:
Hard not to read into this tweet from the Pentagon:
Spicer opened his briefing by taking questions from the New York Post and the Christian Broadcasting Network:
An interesting point:
Unearthed -- Spicer's old hatred of Dippin' Dots:
The company even responded:
Two other flashbacks -- one for Spicer, one for the White House briefing room:
First, one of the last times that Spicer was in the previous room was to sell a free trade deal as a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative during the Bush years:
Second, this is what the press room used to look like:
#SpicerFacts and other hashtags are still gaining steam:
Jake Tapper riffed on the idea during his opening (click to watch):
An important reflection:
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) delivered this tweetstorm on Trump:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Former NC Governor Chased And Cornered By Pro-LGBTQ Protesters,” from HuffPost: “North Carolina’s former governor found himself in a tight spot last week when he was heckled by a group of pro-LGBTQ protesters. Pat McCrory was visiting Washington, D.C. for President Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20 when he was chased by a small pack of demonstrators outside the Capital Hilton hotel … The Republican, who left office Jan. 1 after being defeated by his Democratic opponent, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, in November, hurried down an alleyway as he was being confronted by the protesters, who chanted, ‘Shame on you!’ … The protesters’ bone of contention seemed to be McCrory’s support of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, as evidenced by video footage of the incident that was posted to Facebook Jan. 20. The protestors can be heard blasting McCrory as an ‘anti-gay bigot.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Limo torched in DC protests belongs to Muslim immigrant, may cost $70,000 in damages,” from the Washington Examiner: “The limousine that was set on fire during the anti-Trump anarchist protest in downtown Washington on Inauguration Day is owned by a Muslim immigrant who says the damage could cost his company $70,000. In an exclusive interview … [chauffer company owner Muhammad Ashraf] said he wasn't a supporter of Donald Trump during his campaign, but Friday's protests were completely counter-productive. ‘I have a different point of view,’ Ashraf [said] ... ‘I did not agree with many of the things he said, but that still does not give me the right to go and affect someone's livelihood.’ Ashraf explained that with the loss of the vehicle, his company is now in the hole for $70,000 (if insurance doesn't cover riots) plus commission and the medical bills for his driver.”
At the White House: Trump holds a listening session with leaders from the auto industry, meets with chief of staff Reince Priebus, signs an executive order, speaks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, meets with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, meets with key Senate leadership and wraps the day with a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
On Capitol Hill: There will be House votes this afternoon, with the final round expected between 4:45 to 5:45. The Senate meets at 10:45 a.m. Here's what the committees have scheduled:
- Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee votes on Ben Carson for HUD secretary at 10 a.m.
- Finance Committee holds a hearing on Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), nominated for HHS secretary, at 10 a.m.
- Judiciary has mark-up on Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for attorney general at 10 a.m., with a vote expected to be pushed to next week.
- Commerce, Science and Transportation votes on Elaine Chao for Transportation secretary at 10:15 a.m.
- Committee also votes on Wilbur Ross for Commerce secretary at 10:15 a.m.
- Small Business & Entrepreneurship holds a hearing for Linda McMahon, nominated to lead the SBA, at 10:30 a.m.
- Senate Budget Committee holds a hearing for Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), OMB director nominee, at 10:30 a.m.
- Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs holds a hearing for Mulvaney at 2:30 p.m.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"We've got the IT folks working overtime,” Sean Spicer said when asked why there’s no Spanish-language White House web site
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It’s the last day of the monster Nor’easter – but get ready for some final hours of rain and wind ahead. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds dominate, with scattered light showers through the morning hours. Winds continue to whip around mainly from the northwest direction. … As this big storm pulls away, we have a shot to mix in some sunshine especially by middle to late afternoon. Highs end up within a few degrees of 50.”
-- Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett vetoed legislation that would have made the county the first jurisdiction in Maryland to require a $15 minimum wage, saying it would harm the local economy and its ability to compete for jobs in the region. Currently, D.C. is the only locality that has adopted the $15 minimum, slated to be fully adopted by 2020. (Bill Turque)
-- The U.S. Department of Transportation is conducting a review of Maryland’s civil rights compliance on projects, seeking to determine whether state officials violated civil rights regulations in their policies and decisions. The review comes in response to complaints filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and other groups challenging Larry Hogan’s decision to shutter a long-planned light-rail project in a poor area of Baltimore. (Michael Laris)
-- An American University student appeared in court on a federal felony charge of aiming a laser pointer at U.S. police during Inauguration Day. He was released from court pending his next appearance, but could face up to five years in prison for the offense. (Spencer S. Hsu)
-- The Wizards beat the Hornets 109-99.
-- The Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Trump and a black clergyman apparently did not shake hands during the weekend service at the National Cathedral (click to watch):
This clip of Melania Trump from the inauguration went viral (click to watch):
Spicer promised honesty as press secretary, but added: "Sometimes we disagree on the facts."
Here's a clip from the press conference on the elder Bushes' health:
John Lewis got swarmed by well-wishers at DCA baggage claim:
Seth Meyers took a closer look at "alternative facts" and the women's march:
Here's Trevor Noah's take:
Actor Jack Black compared Trump to Charlie Sheen "when he was on crack" during an interview with Variety at Sundance:
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was asked about the women's marches and responded with a four-minute broadside against Trump:
Finally, check out these sweet puppies who were rescued at a hotel destroyed by an avalanche: