With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: Tensions emerged underneath the bonhomie at the Republican retreat in Philadelphia.
Will Donald Trump coopt conservatives on Capitol Hill, or will he be coopted? This tug of war will be one of the most important storylines of 2017, and after a week of caving to the new president, there were glimmers yesterday that at least some principled conservatives in Congress will assert themselves after all.
The differences appeared on two issues that are definitional to modern conservatism: spending and trade.
Trump is unabashedly not conservative on these matters. He’s a nationalistic populist who believes in big government, as long as it’s doing what he wants (think eminent domain) and he’s the one who controls the spigot (e.g. a trillion-dollar “infrastructure” package designed to reward his cronies).
The president even told Fox News’s Sean Hannity last night that balancing the budget is no longer one of his priorities. “A balanced budget is fine, but sometimes you have to fuel the well in order to really get the economy going,” Trump said.
Imagine how Republicans would have responded if Barack Obama said that.
As Bill Buckley put it when he launched National Review in 1955, “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling ‘Stop,’ at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”
That’s what we saw last night after the White House floated (and then awkwardly walked back) a 20 percent tax on all imports from Mexico. The ambiguous announcement from Sean Spicer, described as a way to force our southern neighbor to pay for a border wall, was rushed out in order to retaliate against the Mexican president for canceling his trip to Washington next week.
THE THREE NEW AMIGOS?
The president’s tax plan must win approval in Congress. It should go without saying, but just because Trump has Republican majorities does not mean his agenda will make it through. Recall that George W. Bush had GOP majorities in both chambers when his pushes for Social Security and immigration reform failed.
In the Senate, Republicans only have 52 seats – so three defections on anything could mean failure. That’s why it is significant that three free-traders spoke up forcefully last night about Trump’s tax plans:
Border security yes, tariffs no. Mexico is 3rd largest trading partner. Any tariff we can levy they can levy. Huge barrier to econ growth /1— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 26, 2017
Simply put, any policy proposal which drives up costs of Corona, tequila, or margaritas is a big-time bad idea. Mucho Sad. (2)— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 26, 2017
Tariffs are a tax on American families.— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) January 26, 2017
McCain and Graham lost Joe Lieberman, the original “third amigo,” to retirement. Then they lost Kelly Ayotte to last year’s election. Perhaps Sasse, the first-termer from Nebraska, could re-complete the triumvirate?
John Cornyn, the number two in Senate Republican leadership and whose border state of Texas has much to lose if Trump gets his way, also expressed pointed skepticism:
Many unanswered questions about proposed "border adjustment" tax— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) January 26, 2017
Other Republicans had doubts, as well. “Many do not support a tariff. Lawmakers are also concerned that without such changes, there is no way to offset or make up elsewhere the costs of the enormous structure,” Sean Sullivan reports.
“I generally don’t vote for anything that’s not offset,” said Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho). “Everything needs to be offset.”
On the border wall generally, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) would not commit to approving the billions Trump is seeking during a TV interview.
He’s in the House, but Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), whose district includes 800 miles of border, warned that Trump’s wall would harm private property rights. “Building a wall is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border,” Hurd said.
IS TRUMP’S INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN DOOMED?
One of the president's top priorities continues to be passing a massive spending bill to build roads, bridges and other transportation projects. This could blow up the deficit, and congressional Republicans are increasingly making clear that such a package is not really on their agenda.
When Trump mentioned rebuilding infrastructure during his speech in Philadelphia yesterday, he received no applause from the assembled lawmakers.
GOP leadership privately told their rank-and-file that the initial draft of their legislative agenda did not include any measure to boost transportation projects, but Trump himself insisted on it. Still, no details, such as a price tag or structure, were discussed during a members-only planning session, according to people in the room.
John Thune is not just the number three in Senate Republican leadership, he’s also chairman of the Senate’s commerce and transportation committee. So he'd be in line to dole out some of that money. But when a reporter asked him during a press conference, he said that it is a matter of IF – not when – Congress takes up a package.
“An infrastructure bill would have to go through Congress,” the South Dakotan said. “Obviously, it'd have to be funded. … Right now, we've got a very focused agenda of things that we want to get done in the next 200 days. And how infrastructure plays into that, we're not sure yet. It could hitch a ride perhaps on some tax reform bill. But I think at this point, that's probably a preliminary discussion to have.”
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- President Trump and Vladimir Putin will hold their first official telephone conversation on Saturday, the Kremlin said, a first step towards what the president has billed as a “normalization of relations” with Moscow after three years of tensions sparked by the conflict in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Trump is also slated to speak the same day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a source told Reuters, and that call is also expected to focus on Russia. That news comes as the former executive editor of Politico reports that the administration is moving toward lifting sanctions:
Hearing Trump world has text of order floating around to ease Russia sanctions. Will they put out before Tillerson confirmed SecState?— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) January 26, 2017
update: several sources reporting the proposed order would unilaterally lift sanctions. https://t.co/4yU9JMsdkc— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) January 26, 2017
-- Trump spent his first full day as president pressuring the National Park Service to back him up on his inaugural crowd size claims. Karen Tumulty and Juliet Eilperin scoop: In a Saturday phone call, Trump personally ordered [acting director Michael Reynolds] to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the Mall … The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average. Trump also expressed anger over a retweet sent from the agency’s account, in which side-by-side photographs showed far fewer people at his swearing-in than had shown up to see Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. Reynolds was taken aback by Trump’s request, but he did secure some additional aerial photographs and forwarded them to the White House. … The photos, however, did not prove Trump’s contention that the crowd size was upward of 1 million.” The Park Service does not release crowd estimates, but experts have estimated that the 2017 turnout was no more than a third the size of Obama’s eight years earlier.
-- President Trump doubled down on waterboarding during an hour-long sit-down with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Jenna Johnson reports: “The conversation turned to Trump’s interview the day before with ABC News’ David Muir. And Hannity wondered aloud if Muir would have a warmer attitude towards waterboarding if he personally had an opportunity to employ it. “If I had an opportunity to speak with David Muir, I’d say: ‘Okay, two guys go into your house, they kidnap your child, one guy gets away … you tackle the other guy, that guy knows where your child is, would you not waterboard that guy?’” Hannity said. “’So, waterboarding used to be used because they said it really wasn’t torture,’ said Trump, who has previously said that waterboarding is torture. ‘It was the one step slightly below torture. That’s why waterboarding…’ ‘I mean, torture is real torture, okay?’ Trump said. ‘Waterboarding is — I’m sure it’s not pleasant, but waterboarding was just short of torture.’”
GET SMART FAST:
- The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists advanced the famed "Doomsday Clock" to just 2 ½ minutes to “midnight,” a symbolic warning that the end of humanity may be near. It’s the closest the clock has been since 1953 -- after the U.S. tested its first thermonuclear device, followed months later by the Soviet Union's hydrogen bomb test. In announcing the change, scientists cited both a darkening global security landscape, as well as the election of Trump. (Peter Holley, Abby Ohlheiser and Amy B Wang)
- Hundreds of passengers rode the train back into Aleppo this week, four years after the area’s railroad was silenced by war. U.N. officials said at least 40,000 people had returned to the area, now under government control – but few recognize the shattered remains of the bombed-out city they once called home. (Louisa Loveluck)
- More than 220 colleges and universities are under investigation by the federal government for their handling of sexual violence complaints, according to the Education Department. The new report more than quadruples the 2014 numbers released by the Obama administration, which sent shockwaves through the educational establishment. (Susan Svrluga)
- For the first time ever, scientists have grown a part-pig, part-human embryo. It’s a groundbreaking hybrid that gives credence to a future possibility of interspecies organ transplants. (Sarah Kaplan)
- Al Gore, working with private health groups, will convene a conference on climate change to replace the one that the CDC abruptly canceled as Trump took power. (Brady Dennis)
- The Amtrak engineer in a crash that killed two workers operating on Philadelphia-area rail beds last year has tested positive for marijuana, per the NTSB. The positive drug test comes as part of an alarming spike in drug use by railroad workers. A new study finds that some five percent of employees involved in 2016 crashes were on illegal drugs. (Ashley Halsey III)
- Verizon is in talks to merge with Charter, America’s second-largest cable company. The move could create a massive cable and telecom giant as part of the broader consolidation trend. (Brian Fung)
- ExxonMobil has added a climate scientist to its board of directors. The move, however, comes as the oil giant has been besieged by court battles over its past positions on climate change – and some environmentalists say the move is too little too late. (Steven Mufson)
- A longtime auto dealer from Northern Virginia pleaded guilty this week to stealing 15 official State Department vehicles. Prosecutors said he worked with an unnamed government worker for five years to gain access to the ubiquitous fleet. (Spencer S. Hsu)
- A survey of Uber drivers found that their average hourly wage is $15.68 before deducting expenses, or just a little above what labor advocates have been pushing for the minimum wage. It also revealed pay disparity by gender, race, and age – suggesting that the new gig economy is still riddled with many familiar problems. (Fredrick Kunkle)
- A former Pennsylvania mayor’s “almost pathological” preoccupation with Wild West memorabilia could land him in prison, after he shelled out more than $8 million in public funds to buy historical artifacts – some of which were later revealed to be fake – and took them with him when he left office. (Derek Hawkins)
THE TRUMP TAKEOVER:
-- The U.S. Border Patrol chief has been removed after just six months on the job – and one day after Trump announced plans to ramp up immigration enforcement and build a Mexican wall. He has clashed with the powerful Border Patrol union, which endorsed Trump and whose leaders were present at Trump’s announcement Wednesday. Jerry Markon, Lisa Rein and Wesley Lowery report: “Officials familiar with the decision said that [Mark Morgan] — a career FBI official who was the first outsider to lead the agency responsible for securing the U.S. borders — was removed by Kevin K. McAleenan, acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. “It was a change in leadership,’’ said one official.
-- The head of Miami-Dade county ordered his jails to begin complying with the federal immigration detention requests, effectively ending its position as a “sanctuary city,” the Miami Herald reports. Trump praised the decision in a tweet: “Right decision. Strong!” he said. This will be used as evidence that pressure works, and it will prompt the administration to use sticks more than carrots against municipalities.
-- The White House ordered HHS to immediately halt all ads and outreach during the critical final days of the 2017 Affordable Care Act open enrollment period. The move includes a halt to ads that the Obama administration had already bought – and it is unclear whether the government can recoup the funds it already paid TV stations. Amy Goldstein reports: “The White House’s order could hamper one of the two weeks of the enrollment season, which began in November, that has the greatest surge of consumers signing up. In the three years since the ACA marketplaces began, the final deadline for enrollment has been the second-biggest day, topped only by the December deadline for people seeking coverage effective Jan. 1. The directive stunned some staffers within (HHS) … [and] staff members protested to Trump appointees at HHS that the sudden ban on outreach would suppress the enrollment of the most desirable customers — younger, healthier people who tend to buy coverage at the last minute — which in turn could raise insurance prices in the future."
-- Democrats on Capitol Hill are asking the White House to stop gagging federal employees, after an Inauguration Day memo instructed all staff at HHS not to communicate about regulatory policy with members of Congress. Lawmakers note that the HHS memo, along with others sent in recent days, “appear to violate multiple federal laws.” “We request that the President issue an official statement making clear to all federal employees that they have the right to communicate with members of Congress and that he and his Administration will not silence or retaliate against whistleblowers,” write Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.). (Tom Hamburger and Amy Goldstein)
-- The administration moved to replace a number of career State Department officers serving in senior or sensitive roles, creating an unusual leadership vacuum among the top ranks of the State Department. Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung report: “Although the diplomats were not technically fired, the Trump administration opted to remove a number of top officials in charge of the State Department’s 13 divisions responsible for policy and other matters. Officials at the level of assistant secretary and above were affected, the department said. In past administrations, many career diplomats have remained in their posts when the White House changed hands. The Trump administration has opted to retain fewer than usual, State Department officials said, although it was not immediately clear whether it is a majority.” The news comes just days before Trump’s nominee to lead the State Department, Rex Tillerson, is expected to be confirmed. The White House is expected to name a deputy for Tillerson within a few days. The leading candidates are Republican foreign policy specialists who are not serving in government."
-- The Trump administration is considering a draft order that would direct the State Department to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and subject it to U.S. sanctions. From Reuters: Support for the terrorist designation is led by Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn. Meanwhile, other Trump advisors, as well as many veteran national security, diplomatic, law enforcement and intelligence officials argue the Brotherhood has evolved peacefully in some countries.
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- Jon Feere, a prominent advocate of ending U.S. birthright citizenship, may be joining the Department of Homeland Security in an immigration-related position. Spencer S. Hsu reports: Reached earlier this week, Feere told The Post, “I’m in between jobs. That’s all I can say right now.” He previously worked as a legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative group that calls for added immigration restrictions.
-- A former Trump campaign staffer who posted racially-charged material on social media during the presidential race will now join the Department of Education in a senior position. She first drew criticism last summer for posting a video of a black man eating fried chicken and criticizing irresponsibility and having too many children. He asks what fellow African-Americans are mad about and says, “Y’all weren’t no [expletive] slaves.” In other Facebook posts, she called Obama a “terrorist” and charged that he should be arrested for “murder and treason.” She also posted a link to a website alleging that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was assassinated by the government. (HuffPost)
-- The confirmation hearing for embattled Labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder has been delayed for a third time. Now it’s scheduled for February 7th. Hearings for the fast food CEO were previously planned for Jan. 12, Jan. 17 and Feb. 2 but then canceled. “We have yet to receive any of his required paperwork,” said Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the HELP committee. “If those documents raise more concerns about Mr. Puzder’s record or his ability to lead an agency dedicated to standing up for workers and families, Congress and the public deserve to know what they are.”
-- A senior White House adviser who is working for Steve Bannon is facing a potential criminal charge after he tried to bring a handgun onto an airplane. The Wall Street Journal reports that Sebastian Gorka, a national security and terrorism analyst, was confronted by TSA at Reagan National Airport and had his weapon confiscated.
-- Newt Gingrich said his wife, Callista, is being considered by Trump to be the ambassador to the Holy See. "She's under consideration," Gingrich confirmed to CNN on Thursday.
TRUMP'S WAR ON THE PRESS:
-- If you read one thing about the fraught relationship between the White House and the news media, make it yesterday’s chilling New York Times interview with chief White House strategist Steve Bannon. The former head of Breitbart literally says the media should "KEEP ITS MOUTH SHUT." Here is the direct quote: “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while. I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States. ... You’re the opposition party. … Not the Democratic Party. The media is the opposition party.”
“The conversation was initiated by Mr. Bannon to offer praise for Mr. Spicer, who has been criticized this week for making false claims at the White House podium," Michael M. Grynbaum reports. "Asked if he was concerned that Mr. Spicer had lost credibility with the news media, Mr. Bannon chortled. 'Are you kidding me?' he said. 'We think that’s a badge of honor. ‘Questioning his integrity’ — are you kidding me? The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence, and no hard work.”
-- Bannon's remarks prompted backlash from journalists:
-- The Trump administration pushed back on claims that Infowars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been offered credentials to White House press briefings, after Jones claimed on his Wednesday show that he had been offered a spot in the briefing room. “He is not credentialed for the White House,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. (Buzzfeed)
TRUMP ENTITLED TO HIS OWN OPINIONS, NOT HIS OWN FACTS:
-- The Post’s Paul Farhi explores how journalists are thinking about their roles after Trump declared “war” on the media:
- “I think the most important response to the new president is to do our jobs, vigorously and fairly,” said Bill Keller, the former editor of the New York Times. “But his tricky relationship with the truth calls for more than a lot of fact-checking. It bears close attention as a character trait with real consequences.’ Keller points out that Trump’s remarks about his ‘war’ with the press were made at the CIA’s headquarters[:] ‘He was spouting obvious falsehoods to an audience for whom facts are matters of life and death,’ Keller said. ‘The implicit, and truly dangerous, message to the intelligence community was ‘don’t bring me bad news; just tell me we’re winning.’ That’s scary.’”
- The New Yorker’s David Remnick says the answer is more journalism, “rigorous, deep, tireless and fearless”: “More real journalism is the answer,” he said. “If that sounds righteous, so be it. The job, done at its best, has not changed. And when a lie is a lie — when you can discern willful inaccuracy, when you can discern deception and not merely error — we should call it what it is.”
-- “Where will Trump’s aides draw the line on lies?”, by Yahoo’s Matt Bai: “[N]ot since Nixon, perhaps, have White House aides found themselves so plainly caught between loyalty to a boss on one hand and personal integrity on the other. And the questions I have are the same ones they should be asking themselves. Who here will refuse to keep saying things they know aren’t true? And will anyone tell the boss what he doesn’t want to know? Let’s face it: Trump’s not someone who puts a ton of value on the truth. That’s always been his way, and it’s worked for him. … Until this week, we didn’t know that everyone who worked for the president in senior roles was going to feel compelled to emulate him. But maybe someone should remind Conway and Spicer…that they don’t actually work for the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization anymore. They work for us. Their jobs exist to serve the public that pays them, and creating ‘alternative facts’ for the sole purpose of validating the president’s insecurities isn’t in the job description.”
-- The Post has now identified five Trump family members or top administration employees who were registered to vote in two states during the fall election. The list now includes Jared Kushner, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, Tiffany Trump, and Steven Mnuchin. Their dual registrations offer two more high-profile examples of how common it is for voters to be on the rolls in multiple states ― something Trump has claimed is evidence of voter fraud. (Matea Gold and Alice Crites)
-- The German golfer whom Trump invoked in an anecdote about voter fraud – using it to back his false assertion that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally during the presidential election – denied that he was involved in the tale at all. In a statement, Bernhard Langer said: “The voting situation reported was not conveyed from me to President Trump but rather was told to me by a friend.” Langer, who is not a U.S. citizen, is not eligible to vote. (Des Bieler and Cindy Boren)
-- The American Chamber of Commerce in Canada abruptly changed the location of its Thursday night meeting – opting to rent a $2,500 space at Trump’s new Vancouver hotel. (Drew Harwell and Alan Freeman)
-- Meanwhile, at least two of Trump’s wealthy foreign business partners attended his presidential inauguration as VIPs, where they watched the swearing-in from prime seats, partied with Trump insiders, and posed for pictures with Trump's children and grandchildren, Mother Jones reports.
-- Vice President Pence will speak at today’s March for Life, an anti-abortion rally held annually in D.C. Organizers hailed his appearance as a “historic move," since no president or vice president has ever spoken at the event, which has been going on since the year after Roe v. Wade. Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway is also addressing the crowd. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey)
-- A new Quinnipiac University poll finds Trump beginning his presidency with a 36 percent job approval rating. (Only 32 percent of women approve of how he's doing.) In contrast, Obama scored a 59 percent approval rating in his first post-inaugural poll. When asked about Trump’s personal qualities, 56 percent said they believe he is not honest, 53 percent said he “does not care about average Americans,” and 62 percent said he is not level-headed. Meanwhile, 68 percent consider him a “strong” person, and 65 percent said they believe he is intelligent.
-- British Prime Minister Theresa May praised Trump in a speech to congressional Republicans in Philadelphia, telling lawmakers he had ushered in “the dawn of a new era of American renewal,” and said the two countries could “lead together again.” Carol Morello and Griff Witte report: “May walked a tightrope between praise for and criticism of the new administration’s emerging foreign policy, alternating between support for some of the positions … and a clear rejection of others. She urged engagement with Russia but to ‘beware’ of [Putin]. She defended the value of NATO and the U.N, while acknowledging they need changes to meet current-day needs.” And she said the two countries were working together to defeat the ideology of “Islamist extremism,” but suggested she does not back the idea of banning visitors and refugees from majority-Muslim countries. Her remarks were met with “enthusiastic applause” and standing ovations from the group, Morello and Witte report – even more than when Trump addressed the group earlier in the day.
-- Today, May will head to the White House to meet with Trump. But despite the fact that the duo will spend the day preening about the renewal of the countries’ “special relationship,” they’re stepping into tricky terrain. Ishaan Tharoor raises the curtain: “Facing a tough negotiation with Brussels over the terms of Britain's E.U. exit, May needs assurances over a favorable trade deal with the United States. She may get them from Trump in a soundbite, but the actual terms of any pact will only be sorted out as Britain gets closer to leaving the E.U. ... And hashing that out with the Trump administration — which has already announced numerous protectionist policies … may be harder than it looks. May's critics say the logical move in the face of Trump would be to turn closer to Europe by taking a leading role in shoring up NATO and countering Russia, a country whose ties to Trump alarm many European leaders. But the politics of Brexit mean she can't."
-- Before he departed office, President Obama encouraged May to form a “close relationship” with Trump, CNN’s Kevin Liptak reports. Sources say he had hoped May and other center-right leaders could prove a “moderating” and sobering force on the incoming president, and reportedly urged her to remain in close contact with Trump as he assumed office.
-- It's amateur hour at the White House:
White House daily guidance for tomorrow misspells British PM Theresa May's name. Three times.— Reid Wilson (@PoliticsReid) January 27, 2017
The relationship, apparently, isn't quite special enough for the White House to spell British Prime Minister Theresa May's name correctly. pic.twitter.com/mAnYM92uWQ— Matt Viser (@mviser) January 27, 2017
This may seem funny but it's not. This is insulting to a head of state. And amateurish. No one checked w/ Protocol, clearly. https://t.co/hUXrHENksQ— Moira Whelan (@moira) January 27, 2017
MORE ON TRUMP’S LOSE-LOSE TRADE WAR WITH MEXICO:
-- The Wall Street Journal’s conservative Editorial Board rips hard into Trump: “His path to the Presidency as an outsider always implied on-the-job-training. This week’s lesson: The world is not a Republican primary. President Trump’s Twitter broadsides against Mexico have unleashed a political backlash that has now become a diplomatic crisis with a friendly neighbor … Doesn’t the ‘art of the deal’ include giving your negotiating partner room to compromise? When Mr. Trump visited the Journal … we asked if the U.S. should encourage political stability and economic growth in Mexico. ‘I don’t care about Mexico honestly, I really don’t care about Mexico,’ he replied. That’s obvious, but he should care—and he will have to—if Mexico regresses to its ways before its reformation began in the 1980s. For decades our southern neighbor was known for one-party government, anti-Americanism, hyperinflation and political turmoil … Mr. Trump is a foreign-affairs neophyte, but he is already learning that nations can’t be bullied like GOP candidates or CEOs. They have their own nationalist political dynamics and when attacked they push back.”
--- “It took the United States nearly a decade to recover from the economic wreckage of the last recession. A wealth-destroying trade war with one of America’s closest partners would threaten that long-sought recovery,” The Post’s Editorial Board warns this morning. “After decades of economic integration, the United States and its southern neighbor have established a valuable trading relationship exchanging $1.4 billion in goods every day. Mexico is the second-largest foreign market for U.S.-made products. Trade and investment between the two nations create wealth for both nations, and for innumerable American companies, workers and consumers, all of whom would be harmed by a trade war. Moreover, Mexico has become a valuable partner in promoting liberal values, having institutionalized multi-party democracy and steadily increased economic freedoms within its borders. As it has matured into a middle-class nation, the flow of Mexicans north has reversed, with more returning home in recent years than migrating to the United States. … Mr. Trump planted a stick of dynamite under a structure that leaders of various parties in both nations have been carefully constructing for decades. And for what?”
-- Mexico’s economy secretary, Ildefonso Guajardo, promised that Mexico will “mirror” any action by the United States to raise tariffs or impose taxes on imports. “Guajardo has also said it might be necessary for Mexico to walk away from NAFTA — a once-unthinkable idea — if there was no benefit in the negotiations for his country,” Joshua Partlow reports from Mexico City. “If we are going to go for something that is less than what we have, it makes no sense to stay,” the minister said.
-- Some perspective on how Trump’s proposed tax would actually hurt U.S. consumers, via Philip Bump: “Our fact-checkers estimate that constructing the wall would cost up to $25 billion, if it’s of the concrete slab type that Trump has discussed in the past. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put the total at $12 to $15 billion this week, though, so we’ll go with that figure. You can buy an avocado for a few dollars at your grocery store — say, $3. A 20 percent tax on that would increase the price to $3.60. A modest but not insignificant increase. That 60 cents would go to pay down the price of the wall. If we were paying for the wall with only the purchase of avocados, that would necessitate that Americans buy between 20 and 25 billion avocados. In 2014, the United States consumed about 4 billion avocados, 85 percent of which were imported. That’s 3.4 billion avocados from overseas each year, meaning that it would take six or seven years’ worth of avocado consumption for ‘Mexico’ to finish paying for the wall.”
CONGRESSIONAL GOP WORKING TO DOWNPLAY EXPECTATIONS:
-- The Republican retreat included a presentation by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell on the “Two Hundred Day Plan,” outlining how the Republicans want to overhaul the health-care industry and the nation’s tax code. From Paul Kane: “On Thursday morning, Ryan acknowledged that it was really more like a one-year plan, with a goal of getting as much as possible done by the time Congress breaks in early August for the traditional five-week recess, then coming back in the fall to finish off what would become one of the most ambitious first-year agendas of recent new presidential terms…
“Ryan and McConnell seem to be trying to thread the needle, hoping to find momentum coming out of Philadelphia but not promising results too quickly. ‘We don’t want to set arbitrary deadlines on things. We want to get things right. We want to get them done the right way. We want to move quickly, but we want to get things right,’ Ryan told reporters. McConnell said, ‘The speaker understands the challenges of getting things through the Senate. That’s been true for 240 years. But we’re aware of those challenges and we think we can move forward.’”
-- A new timetable on Obamacare: Ryan and McConnell now expect to put legislation repealing and partially replacing the law onto the House floor by the end of March. From Mike DeBonis: “Ryan defended the delayed timeline, saying the scale of the GOP agenda, as well as the need for the Senate to spend scarce floor time on Trump’s nominations, meant taking a longer view.”
-- Interviews with more than a dozen GOP lawmakers revealed a clash of expectations between rank-and-file lawmakers to get started in disassembling Obamacare and party leaders who are all too aware of the obstacles and difficult choices ahead. Two illustrative quotes, via Mike, Kelsey and Ed:
- “Exact, specific and detailed — that’s what people want,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), the chairman of the House Rules Committee. “We’re going to own this stuff, and we better be able to explain it.”
- “I don’t think you will see a plan,” said Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-Ohio), chairman of a key subcommittee on health care. “I think you will see components of a plan that are part of different pieces of legislation that will make up what will ultimately be the plan.”
-- “As France’s far-right National Front rises, memory of its past fades,” by James McAuley: “This was once an antechamber to Auschwitz, the beginning of many ends. In the 1940s, it was here, on the outskirts of Paris, that about 65,000 Jews were interned and deported to their deaths in the [Holocaust] ... For the vast majority of them, the modernist apartment complex that housed this camp was the last image of France they saw before being forced onto trains to the gas chambers. Today, [the housing project] … is still in service … [and] on some level, this is fitting. In the France — and the Europe — of the 21st century, the lessons of the 20th no longer seem self-evident, and certainly not sacrosanct. [And now], the National Front — a political party founded by a convicted Holocaust denier — has mounted a surprisingly credible bid for the French presidency. The party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, now 88, once dismissed concentration camps such as Drancy as a ‘detail of history,’ [landing] him in the political wilderness for decades. Now, a very real scenario exists in which his daughter, Marine Le Pen, could win the upcoming French elections.”
-- Trump’s order to ban refugees and immigrants has triggered fears across the globe. Sudarsan Raghavan, Louisa Loveluck and Kevin Sieff report: President Trump’s executive order to tighten the vetting of potential immigrants and visitors to the United States, as well as to ban some refugees … will shatter countless dreams and divide families, would-be immigrants and human rights activists warned. The shock for Syrian refugees already in the United States cut deepest for those awaiting the arrival of loved ones. [And] in Iraq, where Iraqi military personnel are fighting against the Islamic State alongside U.S. Special Operations forces, the visa ban was considered an insult. ‘They trained me to fight terrorism, and they look at me as a terrorist?’ said one F-16 pilot who trained in the U.S. for five years. ‘It's true that they have the right to protect their country, but that doesn't mean they should treat us like we are germs.’
“Ammar Karim, 37, an Iraqi correspondent with Agence France-Presse, is in the final steps of a [four year] program to resettle in the United States. Karim was one of the first interpreters to work with U.S. Marines in Baghdad following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion … [and] has also worked for large American news organizations, making him a target of militants.” “It’s not fair,” he said. “The U.S. is abandoning the people who stood behind them.”
-- In a Post op-ed, a Syrian refugee living in Baltimore describes the rigorous, emotional process her family went through in order to come to the U.S. “I had only a glimmer of hope that this would work — and that we could have a safe life for my daughters,” she wrote. “We lived on that hope. … Trump says he wants to fight terrorism, but instead he’s fighting the victims of terrorism. I want to ask him: If America is based on diverse people from different cultures and countries, what right do you have to tell suffering Muslims that they are unwelcome. With Trump’s policy, we are telling people who are dying: We can’t help you. Stay where you are, and die there.”
-- “In these six American towns, laws targeting ‘the illegals’ didn’t go as planned,” by Chico Harlan: “Starting a decade ago, a group of small U.S. cities began passing laws to block undocumented immigrants from living within their borders. They were a collection of mostly white exurbs and faded manufacturing towns … More Latinos were arriving in search of jobs, and the towns’ leaders complained of burdened schools and higher crime. And while that sentiment is shared among some advisers to President Trump, the experiences of these towns show how measures targeting undocumented immigrants can leave lasting and bitter racial divisions while doing little to address the underlying forces that often determine where newcomers settle. … Among [the six towns] … all have been foiled by court rulings, settlements or challenges with enforcement. Several have been ordered to pay the legal fees for the civil rights groups … And in five of the six towns, the Latino population — legal or illegal — has continued to grow … ‘It wound up costing our city $9 million in attorney’s fees,’ said Dallas-area mayor Bob Phelps. ‘And we accomplished zero.’”
-- Several thousand protesters converged in Philadelphia on Thursday, massing near a Republican gathering where members of Congress were meeting with Trump. The Post’s Monica Hesse spoke to several demonstrators and wonders: Is this a new era of perpetual protest? “Planning to march in support of the Affordable Care Act, [two] retired schoolteachers donned attire that they sensed, wearily, would get a lot of use over the next four years. ‘Ready?” asked Beattie, 68, putting on the pink knit hat she’d acquired for the Women’s March on Washington just days earlier. ‘I feel like we’re being stirred up,’ said Hamilton, also 68, adjusting the pink sash she got at the same place. ‘Trump is stirring us up and distracting us with all of his — whatever — and meanwhile Congress …’ She trailed off. ‘I’m so angry. I can’t believe we’re having to deal with all this stuff. Still. Again.’"
-- The National Education Association said more than 1 million people have signed an online form in the last month to email their senators to urge opposition to education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, and more than 40,000 people have called senators using a hotline set up to access the switchboard at the U.S. Capitol. “It’s just amazing,” said Eskelsen Garcia, who leads the nation’s largest labor union. “We couldn’t generate this if it weren’t authentic, if it weren’t something legitimately and authentically viral.” (Emma Brown and Michael Alison Chandler)
-- In a Post op-ed, the University of Virginia’s education dean called DeVos’s performance at her Senate hearing “deeply dismay[ing]” and “disqualifying”: On two critically important areas of responsibility for the Secretary of Education — protecting the rights of all students, particularly the most vulnerable students, and on accountability — time after time Mrs. DeVos failed her test,” Robert C. Pianta wrote. “She reflexively offered to devolve all decision-making to the states, even in the face of experience that shows this would lead to poor student outcomes and potentially more youth at risk and left behind. … Time after time during her hearing, DeVos backed away from any federal responsibility to protect the rights of all students — for students with disabilities, students of color, and student survivors of campus sexual assault. If the Senate … were to move her nomination forward despite her disastrous performance, and if Senators were to overlook what it revealed about her attitudes and awareness of education policy … her confirmation would set our reform efforts back years.”
-- A Massachusetts man is accused of attacking a Muslim airline employee at JFK airport in New York. Authorities said the man kicked and shouted obscenities at the woman, telling her that Trump “will get rid of all of you.” (AP)
-- A North Carolina GOP state senator received at least 10 boxes of lard at her office this week, after she suggested in a tweet that Women’s March participants were “short on brainpower.” “Message to crazies @ Women’s March - If Brains were lard, you couldn’t grease a small skillet. You know who you are,” her tweet said. (The News & Observer)
-- Long read of the day à The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik has a must-read comparison on George Orwell’s “1984” and Trump’s America: “There is nothing subtle about Trump’s behavior,” he writes. “He lies, he repeats the lie, and his listeners either cower in fear, stammer in disbelief, or try to see how they can turn the lie to their own benefit. The blind, blatant disregard for truth is offered without even the sugar-façade of sweetness of temper or equableness or entertainment … Trump is pure raging authoritarian id. And so, rereading Orwell, one is reminded of what Orwell got right about this kind of brute authoritarianism—and that was essentially that it rests on lies told so often, and so repeatedly, that fighting the lie becomes not simply more dangerous but more exhausting than repeating it. Orwell saw, to his credit, that the act of falsifying reality is only secondarily a way of changing perceptions. It is, above all, a way of asserting power.
“When Trump repeats the ridiculous story about the three million illegal voters—a story that no one who knows, that not a single White House ‘staffer,’ not a single Republican congressman actually believes to be true—he does not really care if anyone believes it … People aren’t meant to believe it; they’re meant to be intimidated by it. The lie is not a claim about specific facts; the lunacy is a deliberate challenge to the whole larger idea of sanity. Once a lie that big is in circulation, trying to reel the conversation back into the territory of rational argument becomes impossible.”
-- The owner of a knitting store in Tennessee announced she will not sell yarn to anyone shopping for the “vile” anti-Trump protests, including women's marches. “The vulgarity … and evilness of this movement is absolutely despicable,” she wrote in a Facebook post. (Travis M. Andrews)
-- A northern California resort cancelled a white nationalist group’s first-ever conference after criticism from the Southern Poverty Law Center and Media Matters prompted an untold number of calls to the front desk. (Kristine Guerra)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Scary -- Every book but ones by Trump have been replaced:
A contact sends along a picture of a bookcase in what's called the Old State Department Library in the EEOB. It's the first thing you see pic.twitter.com/o4hNMkyDJr— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 26, 2017
Trump's official @POTUS Twitter account is attached to a Gmail address, raising questions about its security:
Seven days! SEVEN DAYS, they've had the President's Twitter account attached to a PERSONAL E-MAIL ADDRESS.— Alex Zalben (@azalben) January 26, 2017
Meanwhile, Spicer seems to be tweeting out passwords by accident:
A reaction to the State Department removals from former career diplomat and nonproliferation expert Laura Kennedy:
As a career diplomat,I experienced many transitions & never saw anything like this dangerous purge of public servants now underway at State— Laura Kennedy (@AmbKennedy_ret) January 26, 2017
Among the public servants unceremoniously dumped at State Dept is our senior military/nonproliferation official,Tom Countryman.Huge mistake— Laura Kennedy (@AmbKennedy_ret) January 26, 2017
Some thoughts on Trump's seven-country immigration ban:
911 Hijackers— Ali H. Soufan (@Ali_H_Soufan) January 26, 2017
None from the 7 listed in ban.
A bizarre statement from the conservative host of a popular show on The Blaze:
And the response from our correspondent covering Syria:
Fascinated to hear how Tomi would "stand up" to barrel bombs & industrial scale mass murder in custody. I'm sure she has plenty of ideas. https://t.co/ki4OBrwgLE— Louisa Loveluck (@leloveluck) January 27, 2017
The former president of Mexico posted several profanity-filled tweets:
Trump,please don't be stubborn.By taxing 20%,again American people pays for the f..wall. You know MX will impose same tax to US exports.— Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue) January 27, 2017
Democrat Jason Kander, who lost to Sen. Roy Blunt in MIssouri last year, thought it was funny that people were attacking him on Twitter for voting to confirm Betsy DeVos. He's not in the Senate!
Sir, I have good news and bad news pic.twitter.com/F9WOUPqoET— Jason Kander (@JasonKander) January 24, 2017
John Dingell trolled Trump, Ryan and McCarthy for Throwback Thursday by bringing up these tweets:
Am I doing Throwback Thursday right? https://t.co/mjmyZfA1KV— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) January 26, 2017
The legislative branch of government needs to be the one writing the laws—not the executive branch. https://t.co/Q2TmobPNSr— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) March 16, 2016
But by staking his legacy on expansive executive actions, POTUS is facing a series of foreseeable roadblocks: the courts & the Constitution.— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) May 27, 2015
GOP lawmakers were eager to share photos with Theresa May:
U.K. political figures criticized May for what they viewed as groveling to Trump:
Today he starts on wall, praises waterboarding, bullies climate scientists.She says they can lead together.Surely decent Tories feel queasy? https://t.co/3NUNuVLi1y— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) January 25, 2017
Please don't do this Theresa. UK can work with US without praising him. Really hoping you are better than this https://t.co/RgMoTk9nth— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) January 25, 2017
As all we know, love & admire about the US falls under a dark shadow, Mrs May arrives in Washington in supplication. We should all quaich.— Paddy Ashdown (@paddyashdown) January 26, 2017
You cannot lead on a global stage by advocating torture, disgusting racial stereotyping & turning back the clock on women's rights worldwide https://t.co/LqNQ08Lgbu— Sarah Wollaston MP (@sarahwollaston) January 25, 2017
One of the protest signs spotted in Philadelphia:
The GOP celebrated Kevin McCarthy's birthday at the retreat:
That time I had to run to the motorcade bc I was talking selfies with congressional wives in the ladies' room. #GOPretreat. Love you girls!— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) January 26, 2017
Ivanka Trump posted video of her son crawling at the White House over the weekend (click to watch):
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Charges Dropped Against Black Mom And Daughter Who Were Violently Arrested On Camera,” from HuffPost: “The Fort Worth Police Department announced Thursday that it will be dropping all charges against a mother and daughter whose forceful arrests last month went viral on Facebook. Jacqueline Craig called Forth Worth police in December, saying her neighbor, a man named Itamar Vardi, grabbed her 7-year-old son by the neck after the child allegedly refused to pick up some litter that he’d dropped. Once police arrived to investigate, Craig, who is black, and Officer William Martin, who is white, got into a heated exchange after the officer failed to take Craig’s allegation seriously. ‘Well, why don’t you teach your son not to litter?’ Martin can be heard asking … The situation escalates, and Martin threatens to throw Craig and her family in jail when one of her daughters approaches them.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Dallas ISD suspends Adamson teacher over faux-assassination of Trump with water gun,” from the Dallas Morning News: “A Dallas ISD teacher has been placed on administrative leave by the district for posting a video on social media that shows her shooting a water gun at an image of President Donald Trump and yelling ‘Die!’ in a classroom. Laughs can be heard in the background, although it is unclear whether students were in the classroom when the video was made. The Instagram account appears to belong to Payal Modi, an art teacher at Adamson High School. That Instagram account has since been made private. Copies of the video have circulated on YouTube and Twitter and have been posted on various conservative websites … Dallas ISD spokeswoman Robyn Harris confirmed that Modi was placed on leave, but added that DISD would not comment as it investigates the incident.”
At the White House: Trump participates in a meeting on trade a commerce, tapes his weekly address and sits for his official portrait. Later, he holds a bilateral meeting, working lunch and press conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May before participating in a briefing with the joint chiefs of staff at the Defense Department and participates in the ceremonial swearing-in of Defense Secretary James Mattis. Finally, at 4:30 p.m., he signs executive orders.
Correction: Yesterday we accidentally wrote "Obama" instead of Trump when describing the presidnet's schedule. It was a brain fart, sort of like when we accidentally write 2016, instead of 2017, on our checks. Sorry.
On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Trump in Philadelphia: “Where the hell is (Mike) Pompeo? Did he come here? Oh, he's working?” (He’s now CIA director.)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Finally, January weather that feels like winter! The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “It’s very breezy, but 15 to 25 mph westerly wind gusts aren’t as tumultuous as yesterday. We should have more sun than clouds, at least until nearer sunset. Despite the increasingly strong sun, cool and dry air will be riding in upon winds from the west — and that keeps it feeling chilly. High temperatures mostly range across the 40s.”
-- American University announced that Obama’s HHS secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, will become its new president and the first woman to lead the school. (Nick Anderson)
-- The Caps beat the Devils 5-2.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Trump spoke to reporters on Air Force One:
The full speech from Theresa May in Philly:
Seth Myers took a closer look at Trump's conspiracy theories:
He also interviewed Matt Taibbi:
And Katie Couric about Trump: