With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA:
BALTIMORE — Every leading contender to take over the Democratic National Committee believes Hillary Clinton focused too much on attacking Donald Trump at the expense of articulating an affirmative case for holding the White House. During their final showdown before the chairman’s election in Atlanta on Feb. 25, there was consensus that the party’s problems derive mainly from subpar organization and communication — not anything fundamental.
“We forgot to talk to people,” said Tom Perez, who was secretary of labor until last month and a finalist to be Clinton’s running mate last summer. “I’m a big believer in data analytics, but data analytics cannot supplant good old fashioned door knocking. … We didn’t communicate our values to people. When Donald Trump says, ‘I’m going to bring the coal jobs back,’ we know that’s a lie. But people understand that he feels their pain. And our response was: ‘Vote for us because he’s crazy.’ I’ll stipulate to that, but that’s not a message.”
Many Democratic leaders remain in a state of denial about the lessons of the election. They have been in the wilderness for only a few weeks now, and Clinton won the popular vote. The mass protests of the past four weekends and Trump’s sagging popularity have added to their overconfidence that they’ll easily win again in 2020.
It was striking during a two-hour forum here in Charm City that not one of the 10 candidates for chairman suggested the party should moderate in response to last year’s losses. Indeed, there was no substantive discussion about policy at all during the Saturday evening event. It was taken as a given that all the aspirants are committed liberals. This is a stark contrast to the ideological debates that enveloped the party following similar setbacks in 2004, 1988 or 1972. It reflects the degree to which the Bernie Sanders wing is ascendant, and Blue Dogs have left the party.
Perez is seen as the front-runner, but he still does not have the votes locked up. With backing from key figures in Barack Obama’s orbit (Joe Biden) and the Clinton machine (Terry McAuliffe), he is the establishment favorite. But his progressive bona fides are sterling, from his tenure as a Montgomery County councilman to helming the Justice Department’s civil rights division. That makes it harder for Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who jumped in first and won an early endorsement from Sanders and Chuck Schumer, to get too far to Perez’s left. That is part of the explanation for why the chairman’s race lacks much ideological tension.
Pete Buttigieg, the 34-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., has tried to position himself as a consensus candidate who is not part of the Clinton or Sanders wing. Because the winner must get support from a majority of the 447 eligible voters, the election may go into two, three or even four rounds.
Buttigieg’s goal is to be the second choice for as many Perez and Ellison supporters as possible. But his diagnosis of what went wrong in 2016 sounds a lot like Perez’s. “We spent so much time talking about the politicians, like that’s what really matters,” he said. “I was guilty of it. I had a button when we were campaigning for Hillary … that said ‘I’m with her.’ It was all about her. Then when we realized who the opponent was going to be, it was all about him. We said, ‘I’m against him because he is terrible.’ He is terrible. But the people at home were saying, ‘Who is talking to me? Who is talking about me?’ Everything we talk about has to be explained in terms of how it directly touches people’s actual lives.”
Ray Buckley, the longtime chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, likened the DNC to a car that’s broken down on the side of the road but really only needs a tune-up. He said he’d reallocate money from television advertising toward field organizing. “We need someone who can lift up the hood and fix the damn car,” he said.
“While many of you know that I’m openly gay, many of you don’t know … that I come from the lowest of the white working class,” he added later. “We ran hundreds of millions of dollars of commercials telling the voters that, ‘Oh, our opponent if offensive.’ When you’re worried about your damn paycheck, about your job, about where you’re going to live and if your kids are going to go to school, you don’t really give a crap if the president is insulting. The reality is we didn’t have a positive message for anyone I’m related to. We didn’t offer a message to my neighbors. We didn’t offer a message to the people in Indiana or Ohio or Pennsylvania or Kentucky.”
“The Clinton campaign treated this organization with disrespect,” said Jehmu Greene, another long-shot candidate for chairman and a regular liberal commentator on Fox News.
Ironically, every person who complained about how the party was too focused on attacking Trump in 2016 also tried to out-do the other candidates in promising to go after the new president. Ellison called Trump “the most misogynistic person to ever become president.” Perez called him “the most dangerous and destructive person to ever hold the presidency.” Buttigieg described the new commander in chief as “a chicken-hawk.”
Because rural, red states have relatively outsize influence in the DNC voting process, all the candidates for chairman are talking a great deal about reembracing what Howard Dean called the 50-state strategy. “We got into this mess because we didn’t win about a thousand elections,” said Ellison. “I gave five grand to the Louisiana state party. I’ve been out to Nebraska. … You are where the votes are.”
Perez called for more intensive candidate training and the creation of a Center for Best Practices: “So that we can go and say, ‘Hey, Alaska, you flipped your House Democrat. How did you do it? Hey Kansas, you won 14 seats in the state House. How did you do it?’ The answer is: Without any help from the DNC! We’ve got to change that.”
None of the candidates for chairman, however, wanted to argue that national Democrats have lurched too far to the left to consistently compete in these rural places. The closest anyone came was when Jaime Harrison, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, complained that the Democratic National Committee has increasingly become the Democratic Presidential Committee. “All we’ve focused on was the presidency and nothing else. We cannot leave any Democrat or Democratic Party behind,” he said. “I got into a Twitter fight yesterday. Somebody said, ‘Do you support [Joe] Manchin Democrats? I said, I support anybody who is a Democrat! … I support anyone who will give the gavel back to Nancy Pelosi.”
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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Adele swept the Grammy Awards last night, beating out Beyoncé for the night’s heaviest prizes: song, record, and album of the year. Chris Richards recaps the evening: “Having swept every category she was nominated in back in 2012, the British balladeer pulled off a repeat Sunday, also winning best pop solo performance and best pop vocal album earlier in the night. Accepting her statuary for album of the year at the close of the show, the 28-year-old singer tearfully deferred to Beyoncé. ‘The ‘Lemonade’ album was so monumental, and so well thought-out, and so beautiful, and soul-baring,’ Adele said. ‘You are our light.’” So classy. Other big awards of the night were given to Chance the Rapper for best new artist (though his breakout album landed all the way back in 2013), Beyoncé for the best urban contemporary album, and Twenty One Pilots for best pop duo/group performance. (See a complete list of winners here.)
GET SMART FAST:
- Some 130,000 California residents were ordered to evacuate on Sunday after a hole in one of the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillways threatened to flood the surrounding area. Officials predicted the structure would fail early Sunday evening – warning nearby residents of “imminent” damage. (Samantha Schmidt)
- A protest camp in North Dakota, which once housed thousands of demonstrators against the Dakota Access pipeline, is melting. Activists say unseasonably warm weather has turned the camp into a pit of mud, forcing many to pack up and flee. (Joe Heim)
- The United States Tennis Association apologized after it played a Nazi-era version of Germany’s national anthem before a match between the two countries in Hawaii. One German athlete said of the gaffe, “I’ve never felt more disrespected in my whole life.” (Des Bieler)
- The Hamburg airport was evacuated and briefly closed after dozens of people were affected by an irritant gas. German authorities believe the substance was pepper spray, distributed through the air-conditioning system, but they ruled out terrorism. (Stephanie Kirchner)
- Former German foreign minister and vocal Trump critic Frank-Walter Steinmeier was elected as president, becoming the 12th person to assume the country’s largely ceremonial post. The Social Democrat, who served two stints as foreign minister under Chancellor Angela Merkel, made headlines last year after referring to Trump as a "hate preacher." He succeeds Joachim Gauck, a 77-year-old former pastor who did not seek a second five-year term because of his age. (AP)
- Many passengers fled a United Airlines plane minutes before departure when their pilot arrived in a baseball cap and street clothes – and began ranting over the intercom about her recent divorce. She was eventually escorted from the airport, but not before trying to make nice with alarmed travelers: one shaking passenger said she gave him a hug and suggested the two write a book together. (Avi Selk)
- Greece evacuated more than 70,000 residents from its second-largest city after discovering an intact World War II-era bomb buried next to a gas station. The 500-pound bomb was successfully deactivated and moved to a shooting range to be destroyed. (Max Bearak)
- Yale University announced that Calhoun College will be renamed. Grace Murray Hopper, a pioneering mathematician and computer scientist, will be the new namesake. John C. Calhoun was an outspoken proponent of slavery and nullification. (Monica Wang and Susan Svrluga)
- A 29-year-old woman fell to her death from a World Trade Center escalator this weekend after she attempted to retrieve a hat her twin sister had dropped – and tumbled nearly 30 feet down to the concourse floor. (Kristine Guerra)
- A man who identified himself as the leader of a Ku Klux Klan chapter in Missouri was found dead this weekend, several days after he was reported missing. His body was found in a river bank in a rural part of the state, and police are continuing to investigate several conflicting accounts of his disappearance. (Amy B Wang)
- A famous conman who once lied his way into Princeton University with a fabricated backstory has now pleaded guilty after he was found living in an illegal shack atop a Colorado mountain. Police believe he fashioned the structure himself out of materials and tools stolen from nearby construction sites. (Samantha Schmidt)
WEST WING INTRIGUE:
-- National security adviser Michael Flynn is under increasing political pressure — and at risk of losing the confidence of his colleagues — following reports that he misled senior Trump officials about his discussion of sanctions with a Russian envoy. Philip Rucker, Adam Entous and Ed O'Keefe report: “As White House aides scramble to get their stories straight about the exact nature of those communications and as Democrats [like Elijah Cummings] call for Flynn’s security clearance to be suspended or revoked, neither Trump nor his advisers have publicly defended Flynn or stated unequivocally that he has the president’s confidence. Privately, some administration officials said that Flynn’s position has weakened and support for him has eroded largely because of a belief that he was disingenuous about Russia and therefore could not be fully trusted going forward. ‘The knives are out for Flynn,’ said one administration official."
-- In a series of Sunday show appearances, a top White House official declined to say whether Trump stands behind Flynn: Asked whether the president has confidence in his national security adviser, senior adviser Stephen Miller said he did not know. “I don’t have any news to make you today on this point,” Miller said on ABC’s “This Week.” (In response, host George Stephanopolous asked: “Then why are you coming on? If you can’t answer the questions being posed about the White House?”)
-- Today’s Wall Street Journal also leads with the internal deliberations over whether to fire Flynn: “Mr. Flynn has apologized to White House colleagues over the episode, which has created a rift with Vice President Mike Pence and diverted attention from the administration’s message to his own dealings.… ‘He’s apologized to everyone,’ [a White House] official said of Mr. Flynn. Mr. Trump’s views toward the matter aren’t clear. In recent days, he has privately told people the controversy surrounding Mr. Flynn is unwelcome.… But Mr. Trump also has said he has confidence in Mr. Flynn and wants to ‘keep moving forward,’ a person familiar with his thinking said. … Steve Bannon had dinner with Mr. Flynn over the weekend, according to another senior administration official, and Mr. Bannon’s view is to keep him in the position but ‘be ready’ to let him go.… Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, as of Sunday evening hadn’t yet weighed in.…”
-- Bigger picture, turmoil has ricocheted through the entire National Security Council, where staff members are struggling to make policy that aligns with Trump’s Twitter rants and are often kept in the dark about what Trump tells foreign leaders. The New York Times’ David E. Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Peter Baker report: “[While] Mr. Obama liked policy option papers that were three to six single-spaced pages, council staff members are now being told to keep papers to a single page, with lots of graphics and maps. ‘The president likes maps,’ one official said. Paper flow, the lifeblood of the bureaucracy, has been erratic. A senior Pentagon official saw a draft executive order on prisoner treatment only through unofficial rumors and news media leaks. He called the White House to find out if it was real and said he had concerns but was not sure if he was authorized to make suggestions....
“Two people … said Mr. Flynn was surprised to learn that the State Department and Congress play a pivotal role in foreign arms sales and technology transfers. So it was a rude discovery that Mr. Trump could not simply order the Pentagon to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia…. [And] several staff members said that Mr. Flynn, who was a career Army officer, was not familiar with how to call up the National Guard in an emergency — for, say, a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the detonation of a dirty bomb in an American city.”
-- The CIA rejected a security clearance application for a top deputy to Flynn, effectively ending his tenure on the NSC and ramping up tensions between Flynn and the intelligence community. (Politico)
-- Longtime Trump friend Christopher Ruddy made headlines after publicly calling on White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to resign. Philip Rucker reports: “A lot of people have been saying, ‘Look, Donald has some problems,’ and I think he realizes that he’s got to make some changes going forward,” the Newsmax CEO said on Friday, shortly after talking privately with the president over drinks. “It’s my view that Reince is the problem. I think on paper Reince looked good as the chief of staff — and Donald trusted him — but it’s pretty clear the guy is in way over his head. He’s not knowledgeable of how federal agencies work, how the communications operations work.”
Ruddy insisted that he was speaking only for himself and not for the president, and he would not reveal whether Trump had confided in him about Priebus. Early Sunday evening, he attempted to soften his remarks – saying in a tweet that he had “just spoken” to Priebus. “Reince just briefed me on new WH plans. Impressive!” he tweeted. “Told him I have ‘open mind’ based on his results.”
-- Trump has asked confidants whether he should keep press secretary Sean Spicer behind the podium, per Politico’s Josh Dawsey and Alex Isenstadt: “During conversations with Spicer, the president has occasionally expressed unhappiness with how his press secretary is talking about some matters — sometimes pointing out even small things he’s doing that he doesn’t like. Others who’ve talked with the president have begun to wonder about the future of … Priebus. Several Trump campaign aides have begun to draft lists of possible Priebus replacements, with Kellyanne Conway, Rick Dearborn and lobbyist David Urban among those mentioned.” POTUS is also ramping up contact with people outside the White House — a move some said signals his unhappiness with the current state of affairs. "There will definitely be a change by the end of the summer, if not sooner," one source said.
-- Many people inside the White House assume that Kellyanne Conway is playing a "long game" and maneuvering behind the scenes so that she can replace Reince as chief of staff. Politico’s Tara Palmeri reports: “Media snarked, ethics watchdogs barked and even White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Conway had been ‘counseled’ on her behavior … [but] for Conway, the prize for loyalty is eventually landing a spot as chief of staff, becoming the first woman ever to hold the role and cementing her spot at the center of Trump’s inner circle. Currently, Conway is seen within the White House as a ‘Queen without an Army,’ according to a former campaign official. Conway has a vague title of ‘counselor,’ and she recently hired her own chief of staff and an assistant to support her on her quest to dig into the ‘next phase of issues,’ according to Conway. She has taken ownership of opioid-abuse and veterans affairs, a portfolio that Trump cares deeply about. Conway says she plans to turn her office into a war room, and was quick to mention that she has top-security clearance.”
-- President Bannon? Neil Gorsuch acknowledged in a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee over the weekend that Steve Bannon interviewed him for the Supreme Court job on Jan. 5. (Read all 68 pages here.)
-- On the same questionnaire, Gorsuch scaled back his description of the work he did for a pro bono organization in college. The walk-back comes after questions mounted and Harvard alumni questioned his stories. (Wall Street Journal)
PALM BEACH INTRIGUE:
-- Trump faced one of his first foreign policy crises on Saturday night when North Korean fired a missile while he was eating dinner at Mar-a-Lago. CNN’s Kevin Liptak reports: “The iceberg wedge salads, dripping with blue cheese dressing, had just been served on the terrace ... when the call to [Trump] came in: North Korea had launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile.... Sitting alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he'd spent most of the day golfing, Trump took the call on a mobile phone at his table, which was set squarely in the middle of the private club's dining area. As Mar-a-Lago's wealthy members looked on from their tables, and with a keyboard player crooning in the background, Trump and Abe's evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners....
“The patio was lit only with candles and moonlight, so aides used the camera lights on their phones to help the stone-faced Trump and Abe read through the documents. Even as a flurry of advisers and translators descended upon the table carrying papers and phones for their bosses to consult, dinner itself proceeded apace. Waiters cleared the wedge salads and brought along the main course as Trump and Abe continued consulting."
After Trump delivered a set of short public remarks — in which he vowed support for Japan but did not mention the launch itself — he could not resist dropping in on a wedding reception in the Grand Ballroom. He posed for pictures before grabbing a microphone: "They've been members of this club for a long time," Trump said of the newlyweds. "They've paid me a fortune!"
-- Not fake news: Trump has reportedly selected one of his friends to be our ambassador to Austria, in part, because he loves “The Sound of Music” so much. From The Palm Beach Daily News: “Patrick Park is an avid fan of ‘The Sound of Music.’ You might say he’s obsessed with it. ‘Really, I’ve seen it like 75 times,’ the concert pianist/industrialist said. ‘I know every single word and song by heart. I’ve always wanted to live in the Von Trapp house.’ Well, if he can’t live there, at least he’ll be close enough to visit. Park has received unofficial word from President Donald Trump — well, as unofficial as a handwritten note saying ‘on to your next chapter, Ambassador!’ can be — that he is the president’s choice to be U.S. ambassador to Austria. The president said he thought it would be a good match for Park because it is steeped in musical culture….
“Park said he’s already started boning up in order to be ready if and when the call comes. ‘I had a chance to talk to the Swiss and Hungarian ambassadors at the Red Cross Ball and at the diplomats’ dinner the night before,’ he said. ‘They want me to visit them in Washington, and the Austrian ambassador in Washington said he wants us to go for lunch. See? I’m already working!’ First thing on his unofficial to-do list? ‘I’m flying to Vienna to check out the embassy, and then I’m going to Salzburg to see if the Von Trapp house is for rent,’ he said, laughing. ‘And then I’m going to learn to like schnitzel and sachertorte.’”
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, preparing for meetings at the White House this week, faces stark division within his right-wing government as he considers what message to deliver in Washington. William Booth reports: “His education minister and coalition partner, Naftali Bennett … has pressed him to abandon his tentative commitment to the two-state solution. … Calling the upcoming visit to the White House ‘the test of Netanyahu’s life,’ Bennett warned the 67-year-old prime minister that there were two words he could not utter at the meeting: ‘Palestinian state.’ Inside Netanyahu’s own Likud party, activists have been circulating a letter calling for the prime minister to jettison the two-state paradigm. [And] Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Trump meeting should have one overarching goal. ‘The greatest threat to Israel is Iran, Iran and Iran,’ he said.”
-- Thousands of Mexicans took to the streets of their capital and other cities on Sunday to march against Trump — seeking to denounce his depictions of them as rapists and robbers, and to demand “the respecting of Mexico.” Still, others gathered to express discontent with the country’s unpopular leader, Enrique Peña Nieto, whose approval now hovers at 12 percent. Such a balance proved difficult to maintain, as some protesters held signs comparing Trump to Hitler, chanting “No wall!” while others shouted “Peña out!” in protest of the Mexican president. (David Agren)
-- A public school board in Ontario has canceled all upcoming student field trips to the United States, citing what it called an “unsafe” political climate in this country. The National Post reports on the eve of Justin Trudeau’s visit to Washington: “Paramount for us is student safety … we really don’t know what will happen to our students at the border,” superintendent Clara Howitt said. Meanwhile, a Windsor MP said it is “ironic” that some of the canceled trips had been for school classes planning to attend the Holocaust Memorial Center: “If ever there was a point in which the world needed to learn about racism and prejudice and the unspeakable truths that need to be spoken, [now is the time],” he said.
-- “India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have largely escaped [Trump’s] glare on trade, but he may yet come looking,” Bloomberg’s David Tweed reports. “The U.S. runs trade deficits with all of them, in some cases quite big ones. Trump’s exit from the [TPP], his attacks on the trade policies of Japan, China and South Korea, and a Republican push for tax reforms that would impose a levy on U.S. imports from all countries are contributing to concerns that a protectionist era will hurt growth. Countries that the U.S. runs trade deficits with may be particularly vulnerable to attack. Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s National Trade Council, and Commerce Secretary-nominee Wilbur Ross last year wrote a paper where they pinpointed America’s trade gaps as a cause for what they described as its “slow growth plunge. ‘Almost every country in Asia exports somewhere between an awful lot and a lot to the United States,’ said Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre. … ‘Trade deficits are a problem. At any moment there could be an angry Donald Trump in your face or a Twitter coming your way. Have other countries woken up to this problem? Perhaps not.’”
TRUMP'S HOSTILE TAKEOVER:
-- DJT is undertaking the most ambitious regulatory rollback since President Reagan, joining with GOP lawmakers to roll back rules already on the books and limit the ability of federal regulators to impose new ones. Juliet Eilperin reports: “The campaign has alarmed labor unions, public safety advocates and environmental activists, who fear losing regulations that have been in place for years, along with relatively new federal mandates. Business groups, however, are thrilled, saying Trump is responding to long-standing complaints that a profusion of federal regulations unnecessarily increases costs and hampers their ability to create jobs. Before Trump took office, the Congressional Review Act had been successfully used only once, to overturn a Clinton administration ergonomics rule in 2001. So far this year, the House has moved to nullify eight new rules and is considering dozens more. The fallout is already rippling across the federal bureaucracy and throughout the U.S. economy, affecting how dentists dispose of mercury fillings, how schools meet the needs of poor and disabled students, and whether companies reject mineral purchases that fuel one of the world’s bloodiest conflicts."
-- The D.C. region is bracing for shock at the hands of Trump. Robert McCartney reports: “Officials and analysts expect sharp cuts in federal nondefense spending, which would strain local budgets nationwide and pose a particular threat to economic growth here. In addition, proposed tax changes risk stalling the Washington area’s high-priority efforts to provide more affordable housing. And business leaders say President Trump’s demonization of the capital … has hurt the region’s reputation as a good place to work. No one knows what the full impact will be … And since the White House does not release details of its budget proposal for several weeks, local jurisdictions are making plans for next year with no specific information on how much federal support they’re going to lose. But the region is widely expected to fare worse than most because of steps to restrict the size and cost of the federal workforce — an effort already begun with the president’s early freeze on federal hiring.”
-- Fear and panic have spiked in America’s immigrant community after reports that hundreds of immigrants were arrested in a wave of raids by U.S. authorities across at least six states. Janell Ross, Aaron C. Davis and Joel Achenbach report: “Federal officials insist they have not made fundamental changes in enforcement actions, and they deny stopping people randomly at checkpoints or conducting ‘sweeps’ of locations where undocumented immigrants are common.” While officials acknowledged that as a result of Trump’s executive order, authorities had cast a wider net than they would have last year, it is unclear how many of the arrests would have also taken place under President Obama. Trump defended the crackdown in a Sunday tweet: “The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise,” he wrote. “Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!”
-- The list of companies dropping Trump-branded products continued to grow this weekend, with Sears and Kmart discontinuing online sales of 31 items from the Trump Home collection. A spokesman for the company that owns both chains said the decision was made “amid a streamlining effort,” and noted that neither store carries Trump Home products in their retail stores. (Kristine Guerra)
-- President Trump is considering reducing the number of jobs in the office of the first lady, targeting the number of staffers who will serve under Melania as he seeks to cut costs in the White House. (McClatchy)
-- “Trump’s plan to revive US steel industry faces barriers,” by the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey: The appeal of mandating that American steel be used in new pipelines is obvious to a president whose protectionism seems like a throwback to another era. “But scrutiny of Trump’s demand shows that his simple-sounding ‘Buy American’ sloganeering runs headlong into actual economic conditions, legal barriers, and basic requirements of governing. … Industry analysts say the idea of forcing the Keystone and Dakota pipelines to be made from American steel is, well, a pipe dream. The Dakota pipeline is almost complete, so its developers don’t need to buy much, if any, additional pipe. As for Keystone, just drive a few miles east of Scranton in North Dakota, where hundreds of miles worth of 36-inch pipe — already purchased for the project — is stacked in a field and waiting for construction to begin. Add to that the fact that few American steelmakers make the type of steel required for the pipeline….
“All told, it looks as if Trump’s pipeline declaration is another example of facts and details getting in the way of the president’s original wishes — like finding a quick fix for the Affordable Care Act.… Gordon Johnson, a steel industry analyst with Axiom Capital Management, noted that few American steelmakers make the type of steel required for the pipeline, and there is skepticism they will retool their plants to make it in part because margins are low.… ‘Somebody at the White House doesn’t have a clue,’ said Charles Bradford, the president of Bradford Research Inc.… International trade rules and other legal barriers pose another problem, especially on a privately financed project like Keystone.… The World Trade Organization’s Government Procurement Agreement … bans members from granting preferred treatment to domestic companies.”
-- Trump’s ambitious infrastructure plan is likely to face a number of speed bumps — including environmental regulations and neighborhood opposition that have routinely constrained White House ambitions in the past. The Wall Street Journal’s David Harrison reports on Page One: "Many lawmakers and economists agree with [Trump] that America needs to fix a backlog of infrastructure needs, which the Transportation Department pegs at $926 billion. There's a similar agreement that conservation and preservation laws have helped mitigate damage on neighborhoods and the environment. A tour through of the nation's thorniest infrastructure struggles shows how these two goals are often in conflict. As a result, long, costly reviews and legal battles will likely confront Mr. Trump's efforts, just as they delayed much of President Barack Obama's 2009 economic-stimulus efforts. … It can take decades to bring such investments to fruition. ... Completing the process took an average of almost 10 years for major highway projects that received their final review in 2015, up from about five years in 2005."
MORE SUNDAY SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:
-- Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller said the White House is pursuing several options to reinstate Trump’s “travel ban,” days after an appellate court ruled unanimously against reinstating the policy. Philip Rucker reports: “Miller said that officials are considering appealing with the 9th Circuit and having an emergency hearing ‘en banc,’ or before a larger panel of judges on the court; seeking an emergency stay at the Supreme Court; taking the case to trial at the district level; or writing a new executive order for Trump to sign that would withstand legal scrutiny.” In a series of Sunday show appearances, Miller said the court’s decision represents a “usurpation of power” by the judicial branch. “I want to say something very clearly, and this is going to be very disappointing to the people protesting the president and the people in Congress, like Chuck Schumer, who have attacked the president for his lawful and necessary action: The president’s powers here are beyond question,” Miller said on Fox News Sunday.
-- The Post’s Fact Checker gives Miller "Four Pinocchios" for the “bushels” of false claims he made on-air about voter fraud. “It’s pretty ridiculous to cite research in a way that even the researcher says is inappropriate, and yet Miller keeps saying 14 percent of noncitizens are registered to vote,” Glenn Kessler writes. “[And] the Republican governor of New Hampshire has admitted that he was wrong to say buses of illegal voters voted in the election, and yet Miller shamelessly suggests that is the case. Miller cites a supposed expert on voter fraud, [Kansas Secretary of State Kris] Kobach, who has been mocked for failing to prove his own claims of voter fraud. Miller also repeats a claim about people being registered to vote in two states, even though that is not an example of voter fraud. Miller earns Four Pinocchios — over and over again.”
-- Al Franken said “a few” Republican senators think Trump has mental health issues. "It's not the majority of them, it's a few,” the Minnesota senator said on CNN. "We all have this suspicion that he … that he lies a lot, that he says things that aren't true. That is not the norm for a President of the United States, or actually for a human being.”
-- Bernie Sanders called Trump a “pathological liar.” “We have a president who is delusional in many respects, a pathological liar,” he said. “Those are strong words,” Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd interjected, asking Sanders whether he can work with a liar. “It makes life very difficult. It is very harsh, but I think that’s the truth,” Sanders replied. “When somebody goes before you and says that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally … nobody believes that. There is not a scintilla of evidence to believe that, what would you call that remark? It’s a lie. It’s a delusion.” (Ed O’Keefe)
-- “After angry demonstration in Utah, Chaffetz returns to more wrath in D.C.,” by Paul Schwartzman: “Rep. Jason Chaffetz is not yielding. When he gavels in his House committee Monday night, the Utah Republican will begin the rare act of dismantling a D.C. law — one that allows for assisted suicide — despite the wrath of District residents who are planning a massive ‘Hands off D.C.’ rally and accuse him of bullying the city to pander to his conservative base. Chaffetz … faced another horde of protesters at a town hall in his Utah district last week, though they were irate [for his failure to investigate] Trump’s financial dealings.… In both cases, Chaffetz said, he would not be swayed by angry crowds, phone calls, emails or tweets. ‘It doesn’t faze me,” the 49-year-old congressman said at an In-N-Out Burger in his Utah district last Thursday, where he devoured a cheeseburger and french fries moments after his security detail whisked him away from the town hall meeting filled with protesters chanting ‘Do your job!’ ‘It’s a very, very small minority,’ he said between sips of a chocolate shake. ‘It’s a very vocal, very frustrated, scorched-earth mentality that’s not representative of the average person, certainly not in Utah.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
It’s not just the White House that has a problem with spelling. "Someone at the U.S. Education Department, now led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, does, too," Valerie Strauss writes. "At 8:45 a.m. on Sunday morning, the department’s official Twitter account misspelled the name of W.E.B. Du Bois, a black sociologist, historian, civil rights activist and co-founder of the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the United States. Du Bois was misspelled as DeBois — an error that might be understandable from a young student, but the U.S. Education Department?"
Education must not simply teach work - it must teach life. – W.E.B. DeBois pic.twitter.com/Re4cWkPSFA— US Dept of Education (@usedgov) February 12, 2017
Hours after the tweet was posted — and after the error was lampooned by a number of people on Twitter, it was corrected, with an apology:
"Education must not simply teach work - it must teach life." – W.E.B. Du Bois pic.twitter.com/hSg4R1rLHH— US Dept of Education (@usedgov) February 12, 2017
Post updated - our deepest apologies for the earlier typo.— US Dept of Education (@usedgov) February 12, 2017
More egregiously, meanwhile, the RNC tweeted out a made-up Lincoln quote:
Many Republicans were befuddled:
.@GOP Dudes, when I was acting research director at RNC, we checked our facts.— Jack Pitney (@jpitney) February 12, 2017
This Bernie tweet went viral:
I disagreed with President Bush all the time. I never called him a pathological liar. He was just conservative. But Trump lies all the time.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 12, 2017
Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tried repeatedly to get the president's attention via his favorite medium: Twitter.
Whoever monitors twitter at WH for Pres Trump get on subject of my immediate tweet and stop overclassification & start declassifying— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) February 11, 2017
Whoever monitors twitter at WH for President Trump read my previous 2tweets and hv this businessman understand TRANSPARENCY=ACCOUNTABILITY— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) February 11, 2017
Whoever monitors twitter at WH tell Pres Trump to ask Putin"What do u hv agst ElectionOpponents bc they are killed/imprisoned/poisoned?"— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) February 12, 2017
Whoever monitors twitter at WH for businessman president Trump "when is WH going to be opened for public tours?" Mrs G wants to know— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) February 12, 2017
Secret agreement between Obama&Australia 4US to take Aussie refugees shld b declassified/If can't be tell me why/WH:ANSWER MY LETTER— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) February 12, 2017
Many compared Trump's tough talk about North Korea's ICBM program from before the inauguration to his relatively tepid response on Saturday night:
After N. Korea's missile test, Trump said the USA "stands behind Japan, its ally, 100 percent."— Walter Pincus (@walterpincus) February 12, 2017
Will GOP say Trump is leading from behind?
Stephen Miller's Sunday show appearances were widely panned as disastrous (including, privately, by West Wing colleagues):
I can't even begin to list the number of weird statements that Stephen Miller offered on Fox and ABC this morning. And his style? Oh my.— Stuart Rothenberg (@StuPolitics) February 12, 2017
From the NYT TV critic:
Maybe it's time for producers to think about how to do a Sunday show without administration guests. https://t.co/VSyFWaZqal— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) February 12, 2017
The Steven Miller interviews this morning on all the Sunday shows were frightening! Sorry Mr President. No..— Mika Brzezinski (@morningmika) February 13, 2017
A really bad sign...
Whose idea was it to put Steven Miller on all the Sunday shows? What a disaster...— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) February 12, 2017
From a top Kasich adviser:
Hey @PressSec I challenge you, Miller & Trump to produce a shred of evidence re: massive NH fraud in tomorrow's briefing. Put up or shut up!— John Weaver (@JWGOP) February 12, 2017
In the face of such criticism, the president insisted that he was pleased:
Congratulations Stephen Miller- on representing me this morning on the various Sunday morning shows. Great job!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2017
Trump also complained that the media was not covering his well-wishers:
Just leaving Florida. Big crowds of enthusiastic supporters lining the road that the FAKE NEWS media refuses to mention. Very dishonest!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2017
Critics noted that the people Trump was describing as supporters were actually protesters:
At around 5:15p ET, our simple President didn't realize the people lining his motorcade route were mostly protesters. pic.twitter.com/xU8D5F2EpP— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) February 12, 2017
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) published tips in Spanish and English for immigrants if ICE shows up at the door:
I know this is a time of fear and uncertainty for many. If you or someone you love is concerned about ICE, remember that you have rights pic.twitter.com/bsEQRAiCyu— Mike Thompson (@RepThompson) February 12, 2017
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) expressed solidarity with Ukraine:
Chuck Schumer trolled Trump:
Stephen Colbert made fun of Trump's small hands:
Ivanka Trump posted this snap of her kids:
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) praised his dad:
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) did drill duty:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- AP, “The new civics course in schools: How to avoid fake news,” by Carolyn Thompson: “Teachers from elementary school through college are telling students how to distinguish between factual and fictional news — and why they should care that there’s a difference. As Facebook works with The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and other organizations to curb the spread of fake and misleading news on its influential network, teachers say classroom instruction can play a role in deflating the kind of ‘Pope endorses Trump’ headlines that muddied the waters during the 2016 presidential campaign. “It hasn’t been a difficult topic to teach in terms of material because there’s so much going on out there,” [says New Jersey professor Pat Winters Lauro], ‘but it’s difficult in terms of politics because we have such a divided country and the students are divided, too, on their beliefs. I’m afraid sometimes that they think I’m being political when really I’m just talking about journalistic standards for facts and verification, and they look at it like ‘Oh, you’re anti-this or -that.’”
-- A new report from a Washington think tank rebuts Russia’ claims of restraint in Syria’s bombing campaign. The New York Times’ Michael R. Gordon reports: “Russian military officials have vociferously denied that their airstrikes have killed civilians in Syria, going so far as to say that eyewitness accounts that a major hospital was bombed last year in the brutal fight to retake Aleppo were mere fabrications. But a new analysis that draws on satellite images, security camera videos, social media and even footage from the Kremlin-backed Russian television network has challenged Moscow’s claims that its airstrikes on behalf of the Syrian military were an exercise in prudent restraint. The analysis shows that the hospital, contrary to claims by a Russian general, was bombed multiple times. It indicates that Russian aircraft used incendiary munitions and cluster bombs, despite the Kremlin’s denials, and concludes that Syrian forces used chlorine gas on a far greater scale than is commonly believed.” The analysis is published in a report by the Atlantic Council, and comes as Trump has signaled an interest in forging better connections with Putin and potentially working closer with the Russian military in Syria.
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Watch The Anti-LGBTQ Bullying Video That Got A Teacher Suspended,” from HuffPost: “A North Carolina teacher was suspended from her job after parents were reportedly angered by an anti-LGBTQ bullying film she played for students. Kimberly Fernetti, who is a teacher at North Lincoln High School in North Carolina’s Lincoln County, presented Kim Rocco Shields and David Tillman’s ‘Love Is All You Need?’ to her class as part of a lesson on bullying … Released in 2012, the short film is set in a sort of alternate universe where homosexuality in the norm, and straight people are ostracized. The 19-minute film, which has been viewed over 4 million times on YouTube, concludes with a young girl slashing her wrists in a bathtub in a suicide attempt after she is bullied at school for being straight. While it isn’t entirely clear from the complaints were focused on the film’s pro-LGBTQ message or its depiction of suicide, [students] … defended Fernetti’s decision to present it.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“There’s An Alt-Left, And It’s Trying To Make America Ungovernable,” from the Daily Caller: “[Trump’s] White House staff may be longing for the random acts of vandalism committed against the early George W. Bush team by the Clinton White House staff in 2001, including taking the Ws off many White House computer keyboards. Instead, today, a subversive alt-government is emerging, in line with the alt-left’s growing resistance to use any means necessary to slow, stop and obstruct Trump’s agenda, from inside the government, to make America ungovernable. Christian Adams, a lawyer and the author of ‘Injustice,’ has witnessed ideological battles inside the Department of Justice. In this exclusive video interview, he condemns the intolerant left wing, with its violence, fire, riots and ‘totalitarian tendencies’ … As for the ideologically-hostile bureaucrats left in place from the Obama administration, Adams says ‘there are not enough Donald Trumps in the administration.’”
At the White House: Trump will speak with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and South African President Jacob Zuma separately by phone. Later, Trump will host Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House, where the two will have a working luncheon and participate in a roundtable discussion on the advancement of women entrepreneurs and business leaders. Following, Trump will meet with top RNC chairs and participate in a pinning ceremony for Major Ricardo (Rick) Turner.
Mike Pence will meet with staff at the White House before joining Trump and Trudeau for their afternoon meetings and luncheon. Later, he will travel to the Capitol for a series of meetings with lawmakers.
On Capitol Hill: The Senate will convene at noon and proceed to an executive session to consider Steve Mnuchin as Treasury secretary.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“If we live through this precarious moment, if his catastrophic instinct to retaliate doesn’t lead us to nuclear winter, we will have much to thank our current leader for,” Meryl Streep said Saturday during an emotional speech at a Manhattan gala for the Human Rights Campaign. “He will have woken us up to how fragile freedom is. The whip of the executive, through a Twitter feed, can lash and intimidate, punish and humiliate, delegitimize the press and imagined enemies with spasmodic regularity and easily provoked predictability. … It’s terrifying to put the target on your forehead. And it sets you up for all sorts of attacks and armies of brownshirts and bots and worse, and the only way you can do it is if you feel you have to. You have to! You don’t have an option. You have to.” (Read the full transcript of Streep’s speech here.)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- A high wind warning is in effect until this evening – and the winds will be accompanied by some chilly temps as well. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The big story today is the wind, which could gust over 50 mph. They won’t be quite as intense as overnight (when they gusted from 60-70+ mph between 10:30 p.m. and midnight), but we may still have some issues with downed trees and power outages. The highest winds are likely in the morning, but they’ll remain strong into the afternoon, with gusts over 40 mph still possible. Despite the winds, we’ll have plenty of sunshine, with highs 45-50.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Watch Kellyanne Conway go Fatal Attraction on Jake Tapper:
Alec Baldwin is back as Trump in the People's Court:
Melissa McCarthy is back as Sean Spicer, with a cameo from Kate McKinnon as Jeff Sessions:
McKinnon does a mean Elizabeth Warren:
A source provided cell phone video of Trump playing golf on Saturday (reporters were barred from tagging along):
Here's a video with more about that United flight which passengers fled after the pilot ranted about Trump, Clinton and her divorce:
A viral video imagines what life has been like for despondent liberals since the election.
Trump is awkward when he shakes hands:
if you ever meet donald trump do NOT try to shake his hand pic.twitter.com/rFUEhUBEya— Mдтт Иegяiи (@MattNegrin) February 10, 2017
[Trump and Abe hold hands for 19 seconds]— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 10, 2017
Trump: “Strong hands.” [golf swing] pic.twitter.com/ytPGgwlI3W