It remains to be seen whether this energy will persist through 2018 and into 2020. Winning in red House districts remains difficult — just ask Jon Ossoff — and the president may still have time to course-correct, if he so chooses.
But Tuesday raised the specter that the Trump era will one day be remembered as the last gasp of white male privilege. If that’s the case, this week will be an essential element of the narrative. The backlash to Trumpism is accelerating long-term demographic trends, emboldening the rising American electorate and motivating core Democratic constituencies that were relatively ambivalent about Hillary Clinton in 2016: millennials, Latinos, African Americans, the LGBT community and college-educated women.
With the unexpectedly strong Democratic wave sweeping from coast to coast, a lot of candidates won mainly because they had a “D” after their name. There were a lot of “firsts” that highlighted the party’s diversity and inclusivity. Now these newly elected officials will get a shot to prove themselves in office. We’re still getting to know most of them, but here are six people who won on Tuesday that are likely to develop national profiles:
During the Women’s March in January, a Republican county commissioner in the GOP stronghold of Atlantic County, N.J., mocked the protesters on Facebook. Above a picture of a woman stirring a pot over a stove, John L. Carman wrote: “Just asking? Will the woman’s protest be over in time for them to cook dinner?” In another, he wrote: “There must be a large sandwich making class going on in DC today.”
Carman, 58, said he was joking and that the “strong, confident” women in his life didn’t mind.
Ashley Bennett, 32, did mind. She couldn’t come to Washington for the march that Saturday because she had to work at her job as a screener for a 24-hour emergency crisis hotline. But she watched on TV, and when a friend sent her Carman’s post, she was so furious that she went to a council meeting to confront him. When he wasn’t contrite, she decided to run. He’d been a fixture of local government for two decades in the area around Atlantic City, but he went down on Tuesday.
“I never saw this coming, ever,” Bennett told our Samantha Schmidt. “If you would have asked me back in November, would you run for office? I would have looked at you strangely. I surprised my family and I surprised myself.”
In Montana’s capital city of Helena, a Liberian refugee who was distraught about Trump’s travel ban and harsh rhetoric toward immigrants toppled the four-term mayor.
“All refugees are looking for is a second chance. If they could only be granted that second chance, they will prove themselves,” Collins told ThinkProgress yesterday. “It bothered me a lot as a former refugee myself to hear some of the things being said about refugees [by Trump]. But what I think the community is saying is, ‘We don’t care about the color of your skin, your creed or your sexual orientation. We are looking for the best possible candidate to move us forward’ and they believed I was the one.”
“Collins lived through a bloody civil war, fleeing to Ghana, coming back to Liberia and then being forced to flee again to Cote d’Ivoire before coming to the United States,” according to the Helena Independent Record. “He lost two younger brothers in the conflict, one killed by rebels and one dead at the hands of government soldiers. He waited three days in line to get on a cargo ship to Ghana with his wife and when they disembarked, Collins says they were dying of starvation. ‘I weighed 97 pounds,’ he said in a tight voice. His pregnant wife came back to Helena to attend Carroll College on a student visa and Collins joined her on a refugee visa two years and seven months later … when he got to see his daughter for the very first time.”
Collins was mostly welcomed in the community, but once their home was vandalized with the letters “KKK” and graffiti telling them to “go home to Africa,” according to a 2016 story from Public Radio International.
“The country is still not what Mr. Trump wants it to be,” Collins told HuffPost yesterday. “The citizens of this state and this city where I have lived for the past 23 years have spoken and they are saying we want the best candidate. They’re not looking at color, at background and creed.”
Collins, 54, is a child protection specialist for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. He focused his campaign not on Trump but addressing homelessness and ensuring access to clean water. He celebrated his win by going to a bar and singing Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon,” and he told the local paper that he hopes his newfound celebrity might bring some development to Helena.
Helena is one of at least seven cities that elected its first black leader on Tuesday.
An immigrant from Peru trounced a retired Army colonel who has served in the Virginia state House for 15 years in the traditionally Republican-leaning D.C. suburb of Prince William County.
“Guzman campaigned as an immigrant who like so many others had juggled several jobs to pay for her apartment and education. She ran, she said, ‘to protect the American Dream’ and because she was saddened to hear children say that the president of the United States ‘does not like people who speak Spanish,’” per Mary Jordan, Karen Tumulty and Michael Alison Chandler.
Guzman and Hala Ayala, who defeated a Republican incumbent in Manassas, will become the first Latinas elected to the House of Delegates. Ayala is a single mom who helped organize buses to go to the Women’s March.
Mary, Karen and Michael report that we could be heading into a new Year of the Woman a la 1992: “In 2018, 40 women are already planning to run for governor. Dozens more are considering congressional and other statewide office bids. And Tuesday’s result has already become a rallying cry for activists seeking to draw even more women into the public square.” (They have several more examples in their story.)
A community activist who earned a reputation for addressing youth violence in one of Minneapolis’s most violent wards won a seat on the city council, making history as the first openly transgender black woman elected to public office in the United States.
“As an African-American trans-identified woman, I know firsthand the feeling of being marginalized, left out, thrown under the bus,” she said in her victory speech. “Those days are over. We don’t just want a seat at the table, we want to set the table.”
In Virginia, Democrat Danica Roem beat a 13-term Republican incumbent who called himself the state’s “chief homophobe” and who introduced a “bathroom bill” earlier this year that would have restricted the bathrooms his opponent could use. In Pennsylvania, an openly transgender candidate won a seat on the Erie school board.
“Transgender people have been here forever, and black transgender people have been here forever,” Jenkins, 56, told our Marwa Eltagouri. “I’m really proud to have achieved that status, and I look forward to more trans people joining me in elected office, and all other kinds of leadership roles in our society.”
In Blacksburg, Va., former television news anchor Chris Hurst – whose girlfriend, Alison Parker, was fatally shot during a live broadcast in 2015 – toppled Republican incumbent Joseph Yost.
Nine days after he proposed, a disgruntled ex-employee of the station where they worked killed her while she was interviewing a leader of the local chamber of commerce.
As he searched for meaning in his life following the loss of his fiancee, the 30-year-old decided to quit his job at the station and run as a Democrat for a seat that’s been held by a Republican since 2011.
“I came through the other side believing that I wanted to stay here and give back to the people who gave me such strength and support when I needed it,” Hurst told our Gregory Schneider.
“While many expected him to campaign on gun control, he told voters that both he and Parker liked to shoot. He didn’t want broad restrictions,” Avi Selk reports. “He fought for the political center …”
The NRA endorsed his opponent.
“I think all of us last year were wondering, where is our country going?” Hurst said in his victory speech. “And I have said from the very beginning of this campaign that I know what that feeling is like.”
Asked if he thought the results were a rebuke to Trump, Hurst paused to consider. “I still think politics is local,” he told the New York Times. “But I think there are many people who got active and started organizing who were trying to send a message as a sign of resistance against President Trump and his administration.”
Ravi Singh Bhalla won a contentious mayor’s race in Hoboken, N.J., to become one of the first turbaned Sikh mayors of a U.S. city.
He was a target of xenophobic fliers left on doorsteps and tucked underneath windshield wipers. “Don't let TERRORISM take over our Town!” one said.
“For Bhalla, whose parents immigrated to the United States, being labeled a terrorist because of a head garment he wears as part of his faith is not new,” Kristine Phillips reports. “People tend to confuse Sikhs — members of a 500-year-old monotheistic Indian religion that is not related to either Islam or Hinduism — with Muslims. ‘However, I want to be clear that this type of incident is not reflective of Hoboken or the state of New Jersey,’ he said. “And I hope the result of this election affirms that. … We responded to hate with love, and we showed that at the ballot box.’”
MORE FALLOUT FROM TUESDAY:
- Pennsylvania: “Republicans picked the lock on this state’s presidential vote last year — and one year later, lost the keys to local offices. Democrats surprised themselves by scooping up local offices throughout the Philadelphia suburbs, and easily holding city halls in places where the party suffered last year, like Erie and Scranton.”
- New York: “Some of the first electoral warning shots of the Obama era came in November 2009, when Republicans ousted struggling Democratic county executives in Westchester and Nassau counties, which border New York City. On Tuesday, Democrats grabbed both counties back, taking Nassau narrowly and taking Westchester — home of Hillary Clinton — in a landslide. Republicans held off a Democratic wave only in the western city of Binghamton.”
- Colorado: “Local progressives helped Crystal Murillo, a Democrat, take a Republican-held city council seat in Aurora, a suburb of Denver.”
- Massachusetts: “Boston’s Democratic mayor, Marty Walsh, won a second term as was widely expected. But further down the ballot, left-wing Democrats made serious gains, starting with lawyer Lydia Edwards winning a seat on Boston’s city council. Members of (Democratic Socialists of America) unseated more conservative Democrats on Somerville’s board of aldermen; the liberal city’s board now consists entirely of candidates backed by (Bernie) Sanders’s group Our Revolution. In Worcester, the Working Families Party helped put an education activist on the school board.”
THE REPUBLICAN CIVIL WAR:
-- “‘Canary in the coal mine’: Republicans fear Democratic wins mean more losses to come,” by Robert Costa and Philip Rucker: “A year ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans are increasingly uncertain about keeping their majorities on Capitol Hill and are worried about how damaging Trump’s jagged brand of politics may become to the party. ‘Donald Trump is an anchor for the GOP,’ said veteran party strategist Mike Murphy, a Trump critic. ‘We got that message in loud volume in Virginia. The canary in the coal mine didn’t just pass out; its head exploded.’”
-- “Tuesday’s elections offer fresh evidence that the ground is shifting beneath GOP,” by Paul Kane: “Beneath the top-of-the-ticket races, in many fundamental places, the ground shifted against Republicans in ways that have properly struck fear in the hearts of GOP consultants. Of eight Republican-held districts in the Virginia House of Delegates that touched at least part of the congressional district of Rep. Barbara Comstock (R), Democrats won at least six.”
-- “Democrats, Republicans, take note: A new era has begun,” by E.J. Dionne Jr.: “[A] brief memo to Democrats: You’d be fools to descend into sectarian infighting between your moderate and progressive wings. The results on Tuesday showed that voters across a broad spectrum backed candidates of various ideological hues to demand a new political direction. Your first job is to rally what we now know is an American majority that sees Trump’s presidency as a disaster for our nation.”
THE *NEW* DOMINION:
-- “Is it finally blue? Democrats speed Virginia’s transformation — thanks to Trump,” by Gregory S. Schneider: “The sweeping gains won by Democrats in Tuesday’s elections complete Virginia’s transformation into the only blue state of the old Confederacy. … Change has been coming to the increasingly diverse state for years, but the evolution was turbocharged by the provocative influence of Donald Trump.”
-- “After Virginia blowout, Barbara Comstock’s road to reelection grows steeper,” by Jenna Portnoy: “No one who knows Comstock is counting her out — she’s a relentless campaigner and operative — but as the polls closed Tuesday night, a new reality set in: She could do everything right and still lose at the hands of Democratic voters bent on defeating anyone who shares a party affiliation with Trump.”
-- “Potential chaos ahead as control of Virginia House of Delegates hangs in balance,” by Fenit Nirappil: “Republicans, who held 66 of 100 seats in the lower house of the state legislature, saw their majority melt away Tuesday in a Democratic wave that felled at least 12 GOP incumbents and flipped three open seats to the Democrats — an unprecedented shift. With four races still too close to call, both parties are bracing for the messiest of all outcomes: a dead-even 50-50 split that requires power-sharing and a potentially ugly fight for the speakership. That would be triggered if Democrats pick up one of the four races that are close enough for a state-funded recount.”
-- “Reverting to quiet bedside manner, Northam says Virginia rejected Washington’s divisiveness,” by Laura Vozzella: Northam said during an appearance on Richmond’s Capitol Square, “I think what this message was yesterday that Virginia sent not only to this country but to this world, is that the divisiveness, the hatred, the bigotry, the politics that is tearing this country apart, that’s not the United States that people love. It’s certainly not the commonwealth of Virginia that they love.”
-- “How Northam gained in a more polarized Virginia,” by Ted Mellnik and Kevin Schaul: “Neighborhoods where most adults have a college degree showed one of this election's largest shifts. Northam increased the Democratic win to 63 percent, up by almost 10 points. Gillespie gained five points in neighborhoods where most adults stopped their education at high school. According to statewide exit polls, Clinton lost the white college-educated demographic in Virginia by four points last year, while Northam won it by three.”
-- “Voters repudiate not just Trump but the white-supremacist hatred seen in Charlottesville,” by Metro columnist Petula Dvorak: “These gains, these baby steps to finally make the ruling class reflect the rest of the nation, are huge. Because Charlottesville this summer was scary. Those torches evoked dangerous times in our history. And it was Trump, with his angry rhetoric, with his rowdy and often violent rallies, with his divisive executive orders, with his milksop take on white nationalists who snuggled up so close to him, who helped light those torches. But guess what, torch boys? We still have a long way to go, but you’re being reduced to a flicker.”
-- “Jubilant Democrats to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan: You’re next,” by Ovetta Wiggins and Rachel Chason: “The party faces multiple obstacles, including Hogan’s record-high approval ratings, his huge campaign war chest and a crowded field of little-known primary candidates. Still, polls have shown that many Democrats, even those who think Hogan is doing a good job, would prefer to vote for a Democrat in the wake of last year’s presidential election.”
HOW IT’S PLAYING ELSEWHERE:
-- The New York Times: “Suburbs Rebel Against Trump, Threatening Republicans in Congress.”
-- Politico: “Republicans have a serious suburban problem in 2018.”
-- The Wall Street Journal: “In Virginia, Democrats Learn the Shape of an Anti-Trump Coalition.”
-- Los Angeles Times: “Democratic surge in suburbs forecasts a potentially rough 2018 for Republicans.”
-- Columbus Dispatch: “Ohio Democrats hope Virginia signals legislative gains here in 2018.”
-- Business Insider: “A year after Trump’s surprise election victory, the cracks in his movement are starting to show.”
-- Forbes: “Marijuana Won Tuesday's Election.”
-- New Republic: “The Left Had a Great Election Night. Will Democrats Take Advantage?”
-- Baltimore Sun: “Don't get too cocky, Dems.”
-- Vox: “A simple, boring lesson from Democrats’ landslide in Virginia and beyond – There’s no microtargeting magic — when you win you do better everywhere.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
TRUMP IN ASIA:
-- Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping that he doesn’t blame him for the trade imbalance with the United States. David Nakamura and Ashley Parker report: “Speaking at a joint appearance with Xi in front of business leaders, Trump said the U.S. trade relationship with China is ‘a very one-sided and unfair one.’ But, he quickly added: ‘I don’t blame China. Who can blame a country that is able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.’ . . .
Trump blamed past U.S. administrations ‘for having allowed it to get so far out of kilter. We'll make it fair, and it'll be tremendous for both of us. My feeling toward you is incredibly warm. We have great chemistry. I think we'll do tremendous things, China and the U.S. … In contrast to Trump's effusive praise, Xi appeared reserved and spoke in carefully scripted language about ‘win-win’ cooperation and a ‘new starting point’ for the bilateral relationship[.]”
Flashback to Trump in May 2016: “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country and that’s what they’re doing. It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world.”
--The most senior former North Korean official to defect says that Kim Jong Un won't negotiate with Trump, for now. The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin reports: “[Thae Yong Ho, the former] deputy chief of mission at North Korea’s embassy in London before [defecting with his family in 2016], said Kim is not going to sit down to talk until he reaches his nuclear objectives and even then, he won’t talk on Washington’s terms. [After] Kim achieves the capability he seeks, he does intend to negotiate, Thae said. Kim believes he can compel the United States and the world to accept North Korea as a nuclear state and lift sanctions. But the United States shouldn’t rush to the negotiating table, Thae said.”
-- Japan rewind: Video footage shows that, while golfing with Trump, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fell into a bunker — without Trump noticing. Anna Fifield reports: “The Japanese prime minister, dressed in a white sweater, had just hit his ball out of the sand and was running up out of the bunker. But when he got up onto the grass, he apparently lost his balance and rolled backward into the sandy hole. An aide quickly rushed to help the prime minister. But Trump was already walking off and had his back to Abe, and apparently remained oblivious to his golf buddy’s gymnastics in the bunker behind him. Lucky for the Internet, however, a Japanese television network that had sent helicopters into the sky caught the whole thing on camera.”
Here’s the video:
GET SMART FAST:
- Renaissance Technologies founder Jim Simons urged Robert Mercer to step down from his role as co-CEO of the world’s most profitable hedge fund, citing concerns that Mercer’s backing of Breitbart News was damaging company morale. At a fundraiser, Simons — a major Democratic donor — said he was less concerned about investor revolt than about tensions in the company and future recruiting efforts. (Bloomberg)
- Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) is recovering after undergoing a preventive triple bypass surgery. In a statement, aides confirmed his surgery went well and said he is looking forward to a “speedy recovery” and return to Washington.
- Over 1,000 former congressional staffers signed a letter urging the House and Senate to address sexual harassment. “The letter, which had 1,034 names attached Wednesday afternoon, endorses mandatory training for both lawmakers and staff and canceling the requirement that victims undergo counseling and mediation in the process of reporting misbehavior. ‘We believe that Congress’s policies for preventing sexual harassment and adjudicating complaints of harassment are inadequate and need reform,’ the letter stated.” (Elise Viebeck and Kimberly Kindy report)
Multimillionaire investor and Republican megadonor Foster Friess is contemplating running for the Senate in Wyoming. Steve Bannon has encouraged him to challenge. Sen. John Barrasso (R). (Buzzfeed News)
Twitter has given verified status to the creator of the Charlottesville white supremacist rally — who previously used his account to praise the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer as “payback time.” Ironically, Jason Kessler's blue check mark comes less than a month after Twitter’s latest vow to more aggressively crack down on harassment. (The Daily Beast)
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited schools in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands affected by the hurricanes. DeVos spoke with local officials about how best to help schools there, some of which remain closed. (Moriah Balingit)
- Lin-Manuel Miranda is reprising his starring role in “Hamilton” for a three-week stint in Puerto Rico. His announcement comes after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria — Miranda said a “large portion” of tickets will be available for $10 each. (Hollywood Reporter)
- A close friend of child star Corey Haim accused Charlie Sheen of sexually assaulting Haim in the 1980s. Sheen said in a statement that he “absolutely denies” the claims about Haim, who died in 2010. (People)
- A flight to Bali was forced to make an emergency descent on Sunday after a wife accused her husband of infidelity. Airline officials say the woman was a “few drinks in” when she lifted her sleeping husband's finger and pressed it to his iPhone – thus unlocking the ultimate Pandora’s box of information and suspicion, midair. While details of the woman’s outburst were unclear, it was ultimately enough to divert the entire aircraft — and get the couple booted off early in Chennai. (Avi Selk)
- Nutella elicited outrage after it admitted that its recipe “underwent a fine-tuning” recently. “Real cool,” wrote one Twitter user in response to the news, adding, “why not draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa too?” (Travis M. Andrews)
TAX DANCE MOVES TO SENATE:
-- Senate leaders are reportedly whipping votes to gauge support for including a repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate in their plan, which is expected to be released today and differs significantly from the House version. Trump has touted the idea and conservatives would be happy to see at least part of their Obamacare repeal dream come true — but such a move could seriously damage a bid for passage of the GOP's push to accomplish something big before being subjected to voters in 2018. (Politico)
-- But, as with health care, Trump is already causing headaches for Republican lawmakers by making it sound like he doesn't exactly support the House plan in a call from Asia to Senate Democrats. The Wall Street Journal’s Eli Stokols reports: “‘You’re going to like it a whole lot more,’ said Mr. Trump of the Senate version, according to two people who attended[.] … Publicly, the president has praised the House plan, but his comments could fuel doubts among lawmakers about how wedded he is to that version. Many GOP lawmakers in competitive districts already have concerns about supporting the bill, and could balk at being asked to cast a politically risky vote on a plan that may never become law.” Trump's comments could strike a chord with House Republicans who felt burned by Trump’s description of their health-care bill as “mean.”
-- Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has released legislation to open her state’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling (in a move to try to fund the tax rewrite). The bill calls for the sale of two major leases over the next 10 years, and the revenue from them would be split between the federal government and Alaska. (Juliet Eilperin)
-- Meanwhile, House negotiators are scrambling to fill a $74 billion hole in their plan, forcing negotiators to choose between individual cuts or benefits to businesses. Mike DeBonis and Ed O'Keefe report: “Congress’s nonpartisan tax accountant found that changes made to the [House] bill since its introduction mean it would add $1.57 trillion to the deficit over a decade. That is $74 billion over the maximum amount of debt a GOP bill can add if Republicans want to take advantage of special rules to pass the bill through the Senate with 50 votes[.] …
Here's where the individual mandate comes in: Repealing the mandate would “save the government $338 billion over 10 years, according to an analysis published Wednesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, but it would also decrease the number of people with health insurance by 4 million in 2019 and by 13 million by 2027. That change, which Trump has pushed personally, would add to the degree of difficulty of passing the bill through the Senate.”
-- House leadership wants to pass its bill ASAP. Politico’s Rachael Bade reports: “House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s team has been pulling district-by-district data to prove to skeptical lawmakers from high-tax states that their constituents will see a tax cut under the plan. That strategy successfully flipped Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) from a ‘no’ last week to a ‘lean-yes’ over the weekend. … While they won MacArthur, they just lost Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose defection on Tuesday shocked senior Republicans. Issa and several New York Republicans are pushing to restore the state and local tax deduction frequently claimed by their constituents.”
-- Tuesday's GOP thumping in the elections has scrambled the calculus. Mike and Ed report: “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said the losses could complicate the tax push. ‘I mean, it could, because the elections went against the Republicans,’ Hatch said[.] … Asked whether he is feeling pressure to tilt the tax plan’s benefits more toward the middle class, Hatch said, ‘I think we’ve been moving that way anyway.’ Other top Republicans, including [Paul Ryan], said the election results underscored the importance of the GOP delivering on promised changes to the tax code. ‘It doesn’t change my reading of the current moment,’ Ryan said[.] … ‘It just emphasizes my reading of the current moment, which is: We have a promise to keep, and we have to get on with keeping our promise.’”
-- AND YET: “Despite the difficulties ahead, GOP leaders feel they have momentum on the tax bill simply because of the political pressure to get it done,” Politico’s Rachael Bade notes.
-- A bonus read from Wonkblog’s Christopher Ingraham: “Who really pays the estate tax?”
-- The Justice Department demanded that AT&T sell CNN before its proposed merger with the network’s parent company, Time Warner, can be approved. The highly unusual request from DOJ comes amid Trump’s intense criticism of the network — and AT&T officials noted Wednesday that “a vertical merger like this hasn’t been blocked for over 40 years.” Officials for AT&T said they are opposed to selling the network as part of the deal and are prepared to take the Trump administration to court. (Financial Times)
-- The White House implemented tight new restrictions on travel to and trade with Cuba — effectively reversing an Obama-era push to normalize relations with the island. The new regulations were announced by Trump earlier this year and take effect today. Karen DeYoung reports: “Under the new rules, most individual visits to Cuba will no longer be allowed, and U.S. citizens will again have to travel as part of a licensed group, accompanied by a group representative. Americans will also be barred from staying at a long list of hotels, and patronizing restaurants, stores and other enterprises that the State Department has determined are owned by or benefit members of the Cuban government, specifically its security services.”
-- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt vowed to continue pushing ahead with his dismantling of an Obama-era clean power initiative, despite an “alarming” new government report that says human activity is the main driver of global warming. USA Today's Ledyard King reports: “[Pruitt] said a newly released government report that lays most of the blame for the rise of global temperatures [on] human activity won't deter him from continuing to roll back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, a major rule aimed at combating climate change. 'We're taking the very necessary step to evaluate our authority under the Clean Air Act and we'll take steps that are required to issue a subsequent rule. That's our focus,' Pruitt said . . . 'Does this report have any bearing on that? No it doesn't. It doesn't impact the withdrawal and it doesn't impact the replacement.'”
-- Two former U.S. diplomats penned a letter blasting the White House for its “decapitation” of the State Department — joining a growing chorus of former staffers who say the Trump administration has sidelined the department. Foreign Policy reports: “’Our leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed,’ Barbara Stephenson, a former U.S. ambassador to Panama and current president of the American Foreign Service Association, [wrote in a letter]. …. Scores of senior diplomats, including 60 percent of career ambassadors, have left the department since [Trump took office in January], according to the letter. There are 74 top posts at State that remain vacant with no announced nominee. “Were the U.S. military to face such a decapitation of its leadership ranks, I would expect a public outcry,” Stephenson wrote. [Meanwhile], New recruitment is falling dramatically as well[:] The number of applicants registering to take the Foreign Service Officer Test this year will be fewer than half the 17,000 who registered just two years ago, she wrote.”
- QUOTE DU JOUR: “In a Nov. 2 interview, Trump responded to a question about unfilled positions at the State Department by stating, ‘I’m the only one that matters.’”
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S WOMEN (AND MEN):
-- Kirstjen M. Nielsen sailed through her confirmation hearing to become the next DHS secretary. Nick Miroff reports: “Nielsen, 45, the White House deputy chief of staff, was challenged on several topics by Democratic members . . . but her hearing produced no controversies that might jeopardize a swift confirmation. … Asked whether she would be capable of standing up to the White House, Nielsen told lawmakers that she would not hesitate to challenge Trump if asked to do something ‘in violation of the law.’ When Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) sought her views on Trump’s plans for a wall along the Mexican border, Nielsen echoed [Chief of Staff John] Kelly’s assessment, telling the panel that ‘there is no need for a wall from sea to shining sea.’ Hard-line conservatives, including author Ann Coulter, seized on those remarks and attacked Nielsen online[.]”
-- Kathleen Hartnett White, Trump’s pick to lead the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, continued to express doubts that humans affect climate change during her own grilling on the Hill. Chris Mooney reports: “‘I’m not a scientist, but in my personal capacity, I have many questions that remain unanswered by current climate policy,’ Hartnett White [said.] . . . ‘I think we indeed need to have more precise explanations of the human role and the natural role.’ She did acknowledge that there was probably some human contribution, ‘the extent to which I think is very uncertain.’ … The statement is likely to add fuel to an already contentious fight over confirmation, which Democrats strongly oppose.”
-- Bill Clinton’s former Treasury secretary has launched a war of words against his successor, Steve Mnuchin. The New York Times’s Alan Rappeport reports: “In podcasts, blog posts, op-eds and on Twitter, Mr. Summers, the former president of Harvard and a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, has accused Mr. Mnuchin of damaging the credibility of Treasury by making ‘irresponsible’ economic assessments of the administration’s tax plan and acting as a ‘sycophant’ to President Trump. The attacks have alternately amused and angered those who run in economic circles, with some saying it is Mr. Summers who is damaging the credibility of the office by leveling public attacks on a sitting Treasury secretary.”
-- The Education Department is shrinking under Betsy DeVos. Moriah Balingit and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel report: “In all, the department has shed about 350 workers since December — nearly 8 percent of its staff — including political appointees. With buyouts offered to 255 employees in recent days, DeVos hopes to show even more staff the door. At the same time, the Trump administration has moved slowly to fill key roles, making nominations for just eight of the 15 key positions that require Senate confirmation. … [C]urrent and former officials with the department express concern that the loss of staff will compromise the department’s ability to perform key functions, such as enforcing civil rights law and aiding debt-burdened students defrauded by for-profit colleges.”
-- The Wall Street Journal’s Anupreeta Das and Jean Eaglesham scoured financial disclosure forms to build a fuller picture of Betsy DeVos’s family office.
-- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s shipping holdings are reportedly much greater than previously realized and could create conflicts of interest. APM Reports’ Tom Scheck and Maria Curi write: “An APM Reports investigation reveals Ross has financial ties to 36 previously undisclosed ships that are spread among at least nine companies. Combined with the Russia-tied company — Navigator Holdings Ltd. — Ross has a financial interest in at least 75 ships, most of which move oil and gas products across the globe. The value of those ships stands to grow as Ross negotiates trade deals on behalf of the U.S. and advises on U.S. infrastructure policy. And one fund linked to Ross was still buying and selling ships after Ross was confirmed as Commerce secretary.”
-- Former Trump adviser Carl Icahn has been subpoenaed for information on his efforts to influence biofuel policy. Bloomberg’s Miles Weiss, Jennifer A Dlouhy and Mario Parker report: “When Trump named Icahn as an unpaid ‘special adviser’ on Dec. 21, he tasked the billionaire with helping to shape his regulatory agenda. By August, Icahn had left the role, after drawing criticism from senators and watchdog groups for pushing a change to the renewable fuel program that would benefit CVR Energy Inc., the independent oil refiner in which he owns a majority share.”
-- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) vowed to reject any Trump administration nominee who supports torture. Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports: “McCain was the sole GOP senator to vote against confirming Steven Engel to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel earlier this week, citing his role in the controversial torture memos under the George W. Bush administration. … [I]t means McCain will almost certainly oppose confirming Steven Bradbury to be general counsel at the Department of Transportation. Bradbury authored the so-called torture memos under the Bush administration[.]”
-- Mike Pence traveled to Sutherland Springs, Tex., where he vowed the administration would “find out why” the gunman was able to obtain firearms for the horrific shooting despite his violent past and pledged to work with Congress “to ensure that this never happens again.” John Wagner reports: “’Three days ago, evil descended on this small town and on this small church,’ Pence said as he stood on the street in front of First Baptist Church, where 26 churchgoers were killed … 'He lied on his application. He had a history of mental illness, and there were bureaucratic failures,’ [Pence said of gunman Devin P. Kelley], promising an Air Force investigation of the matter would be completed ‘in days, not weeks.’ Pence said the Pentagon is also reviewing policies on how such convictions get entered into a national database used to screen gun purchasers.”
-- ANOTHER IMPORTANT LEGAL FIGHT --> The Texas church gunman’s iPhone could reignite another encryption feud between the FBI and Apple. Devlin Barrett and Ellen Nakashima report: “The federal government and the company have shied away from open confrontation since a 2016 standoff [over the iPhone of a San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist, which] led to a major court battle. In that fight, the Justice Department tried to force Apple to unlock the dead man’s phone. The company refused, saying to do so would create a security weakness in the phones of all customers. That legal fight sparked a national debate[.] … But the larger legal question of whether the government could force companies to provide access to phones and other electronic devices was never answered by the courts, because in the middle [of the fight] the FBI found a private firm that could access it.” FBI officials confirmed Tuesday the Texas gunman had an iPhone, but said they are first working to determine whether they can obtain access to its data through alternate methods before reaching out to Apple.
-- Front page of The Post today: “With every gunshot in Texas church, a new horror,” by Peter Holley, Eli Rosenberg, Joel Achenbach and Wesley Lowery: “Terrie Smith, 54, and her fiance, Lorenzo Flores, 56, had just walked into the Valero gas station that houses the small Mexican food kitchen that she runs and where he works as a cook. When they’d parked next to gas pump No. 3, just a few moments before, the soft singing of a hymn was drifting across the street from the church. Now, the singing had gone silent. The sharp sound of gunshots pierced their ears. They ran outside, and that’s when they saw him: Kelley, dressed in all black, carrying a long rifle and standing across the street, beneath the tall, blue sign that reads ‘First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.’”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Michael Flynn has expressed concern about the potential legal exposure of his son in Robert Mueller’s mounting Russia investigation — which could factor into any decisions about how to respond to the special counsel’s probe. CNN’s Jim Sciutto and Marshall Cohen report: “[Flynn's] wife, Lori, shares his concerns about their son's possible legal exposure, according to a person who knows the family. Interviews conducted by special counsel investigators have included questions about the business dealings of Flynn and his son such as their firm's reporting of income from work overseas … [Lobbying disclosure law] requires people acting as agents of foreign entities to publicly disclose their relationship with foreign countries or businesses and financial compensation . . . Flynn Jr., who served as his father's chief of staff and top aide, was actively involved in his father's consulting and lobbying work at their firm, Flynn Intel Group. That included joining his father on overseas trips, such as Moscow in December 2015. During that trip, Flynn dined with [Putin] at a black-tie gala for the RT television network[.]”
-- Meanwhile, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos — who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts — met with an official from the British Foreign Office for a “working level” meeting two months before Election Day. The BBC reports that the British government “apparently treated him with the type of deference due to a top-level political adviser.”
- “While such meetings may be routine diplomacy, the fact that Papadopoulos was presenting himself to the government of one of the US's closest allies as a representative of the Trump campaign undercuts the White House's recent assertion that Papadopoulos was a campaign volunteer of little importance,” Anthony Zurcher writes.
-- Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor who allegedly told Papadopoulos he had damaging information on Hillary Clinton, appears to have vanished. CNN’s Tim Lister and Nic Robertson report: “Last Thursday he disappeared from the private university in Rome where he teaches. Repeated attempts to reach him since have been unsuccessful, though he appears to have read some messages from CNN. … An associate also told CNN that [Mifsud] repeatedly bragged about how Moscow had ‘compromising material’ on the Clinton campaign in spring 2016, contradicting Mifsud's assertion that he never talked about Russian ‘dirt’ on the Democratic presidential bid.”
-- Corey Lewandowski said that his “memory has been refreshed” regarding an email exchange with Carter Page, a former Trump adviser who requested his permission to travel to Moscow during the election (and whom Lewandowski, in March, claimed to have “never met”).
Page provided details of the pair's exchange during his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, which was made public on Monday. Politico’s Cristiano Lima reports: “During an appearance on Fox News Tuesday, Lewandowski maintained that he scarcely knew Page, whom he described as a ‘low-level volunteer’ … ‘To the best of my recollection, I don't know Carter Page. To the best of my knowledge, Carter Page . . . had no formal role in the campaign,’ Lewandowski said. … Lewandowski, who'd previously rebuffed questions about whether he knew of Page's planned Moscow trip, acknowledged after being challenged that he had been aware and had communicated with Page about the trip. ‘My memory has been refreshed,’ Lewandowski said, while noting that the exchange came just prior to him exiting the campaign and so ‘there were many other things on my mind.’ Lewandowski stressed that he told Page the trip was not to be done under the veil of Trump campaign business.”
-- The U.S. judge overseeing the trial of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates issued a gag order, barring all parties — including potential witnesses — from making statements that could possibly taint jurors. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “In a two-page order, [U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson] … barred any prejudicial statements ‘to the media or public settings’ to safeguard the defendants receiving a fair trial, ‘and to ensure that the Court has the ability to seat a jury that has not been tainted by pretrial publicity.’ The ruling applied to all participants in the case, including the parties, potential witnesses and attorneys.” On Wednesday, Jackson said she was considering ending home confinement for Manafort and Gates — but also ordering the men to stay away from transportation facilities, meet a curfew and continue electronic GPS monitoring. Jackson set a Dec. 11 hearing to schedule a trial as early as April.
-- Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) has asked the DOJ to explain why U.S. Attorney Dana Boente was asked to resign, a development that was reported just hours before news of Mueller’s first indictments broke. Rachel Weiner and Matt Zapotosky report: “While aspects of the investigation initially involved the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, it is now being handled by the special counsel’s office and the cases made public are in federal court in the District. … While it is typical for a new president to ask for resignations of U.S. attorneys to make way for new appointees, Boente had previously been told by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he could remain in his Virginia post as long as he liked[.] … People who had spoken with Boente and were familiar with the process to replace him said, as far as they understood, his removal was unconnected to anything related to Mueller.”
-- Meanwhile, congressional investigators are probing yet another looming question in the 2016 race: whether the Trump campaign made its party platform more Russia-friendly as part of a broader effort to bolster Kremlin relations. Politico’s Josh Meyer reports: “Congressional investigators have interviewed ex-Donald Trump aides and advisers including J.D. Gordon, the national security policy representative at last year's GOP convention, about the campaign's push to remove proposed language from the 2016 Republican platform that called for giving weapons to Ukraine. People involved with crafting the platform also were expecting interest from special counsel Robert Mueller's team, such as witness interviews or producing documents, some of those sources said …”
-- Alex Jones’s conspiracy site InfoWars has copied over 1,000 articles from the Kremlin-backed network RT without the broadcaster’s permission. (BuzzFeed News’s Jane Lytvynenko)
FIGHTING KREMLIN AGGRESSION ON THE WORLD STAGE:
-- As tensions with Russia rise to nearly a three-decade high, NATO defense ministers have decided to expand the alliance’s operations for the first time since the Cold War. Michael Birnbaum reports: “[Jim Mattis] briefed fellow defense ministers Wednesday morning about Russian violations of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, underlining the nuclear risk that is a worst-case consequence of the bitter back-and-forth. [Meanwhile], defense ministers approved plans that would bolster their ability to keep an eye on Russian submarines in the Atlantic Ocean, where crucial undersea communications are at risk of being cut. They committed to establishing a command dedicated to sweeping away barriers preventing their forces from being deployed quickly across Europe in the event of war. And they said that cyberweapons would now have as big a role in NATO planning as guns and tanks.
“The holes that opened in NATO’s defense came as the alliance shifted in the years following the 1991 demise of the Soviet Union. … Now, with a conflict in eastern Ukraine still burning, leaders have returned to planning for a conventional war with Russia.
THIS STORY JUST GETS WEIRDER:
-- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted that he suffered six broken ribs and a “pleural effusion” when he was assaulted by a neighbor. His condition could increase the severity of charges against his attacker, who is slated to appear in court today. (Ed O’Keefe)
-- And the story of Paul’s “dispute” with his neighbor keeps getting weirder as Paul allies are disputing the notion that neighbor Rene Boucher attacked the senator over a landscaping conflict. Aaron Blake writes: “Paul's chief strategist, Doug Stafford, is apparently calling the landscaping theory into question, tweeting a link to a Breitbart story that casts doubt on it. Stafford has not elaborated further.”
There's some pretty elaborate praise for Paul from his neighbors in that Breitbart piece, which you should read. One neighbor wrote in an email to Breitbart, “As a friend and neighbor of the Paul family, I have been disturbed by the inaccuracies in numerous media accounts of the assault that occurred on Friday, November 3rd. The stories of a ‘landscaping dispute,’ or a dispute of any sort between Rand Paul and Rene Boucher are erroneous and unfounded. The reason for Mr. Boucher’s bizarre attack is known only to him. Statements to the contrary are irresponsible and unnecessary.”
-- Paul Bedard from the Washington Examiner says that Boucher “was aggressively anti-Trump and anti-GOP in his social media, calling for the impeachment of the president and urging Russia investigator Robert Mueller to “fry Trump’s gonads.”
ONE YEAR AFTER WINNING THE PRESIDENCY, TRUMP'S PERSONAL BRAND IS TAKING ON WATER:
-- At the Trump Tower in Manhattan, condominium prices have fallen sharply compared to other similar properties in the city. The Wall Street Journal’s Josh Barbanel reports: “The median sale price and average price per square foot both are down sharply since 2015, when Mr. Trump launched his campaign for president, and now are plumbing depths last visited during the financial crisis. Brokers aren’t sure whether the weakness is due more to Trump Tower-specific issues, such as tightened security, demonstrations and antipathy toward Mr. Trump or to a slowing luxury condo market in general … In five transactions so far this year, the average price per square foot in Trump Tower of about $2,100 was down 13% from 2016 and 23% from 2015[.] That was the lowest figure since 2009. The median sale price of $2.2 million … was the lowest since 2007. In contrast, prices per square foot across Midtown [Manhattan] have risen 0.3% since 2015, while the median price has increased 5.6%, …”
-- Meanwhile, Trump has also drawn the ire of conservationists in Scotland — who suspect construction on his Aberdeenshire golf resort will likely strip the spectacular dunes habitat of its legal protection. The Guardian’s Severin Carrell reports: “Expert ecologists, including one who backed the US president’s original plans for the course of 10 years ago, believe the sand dunes will be stripped of their status as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) by the government’s conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage. The agency has confirmed that it is reviewing whether the lengthy stretch of dunes north of Aberdeen, known as Foveran Links, which is partly covered by Trump’s course, still qualifies for special conservation status. These disclosures have added to mounting concerns that Trump has failed to honour the promises he made in 2008, which led to a planning enquiry over-riding the local development plan and ignoring the dune’s status as an SSSI to give the golf course the go-ahead. Normally, both the local plan and its conservation status would have prevented any significant development on the site."
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
One year after winning the presidency — and one day after his party suffered devastating losses at the polls — Trump celebrated his 2016 victory:
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama applauded Democratic victories:
Joe Biden called Danica Roem after she became the first transgender lawmaker elected in Virginia:
Biden retweeted the photo with a note for Roem:
This quote from Trump in China elicited shock, per a White House reporter for The Post:
An FCC commissioner spoke out against the DOJ's demands before AT&T can merge with Time Warner:
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) called for investigating the matter:
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) warned of future national security threats following reports that Alex Jones's InfoWars republished content from the Kremlin-backed RT:
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) offered his thoughts to his colleague, Rand Paul (R-Ky.):
Obama's former NSC spokesperson criticized Donna Brazile's media appearances promoting her new book:
Former White House official Sebastian Gorka has a new gig:
"Meet the Press” is celebrating its 70th birthday:
Barack Obama reported for jury duty at Cook County's courthouse. From an NBC Chicago reporter:
The former president shook hands with his fellow potential jurors:
Obama was later dismissed from duty:
And government agencies had fun with their 280 characters:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Politico Magazine, “Johnstown Never Believed Trump Would Help. They Still Love Him Anyway,” by Michael Kruse: “Over the course of three rainy, dreary days last week, I revisited and shook hands with the president’s base—that thirtysomething percent of the electorate who resolutely approve of the job he is doing, the segment of voters who share his view that the Russia investigation is a ‘witch hunt’ that ‘has nothing to do with him,’ and who applaud his judicial nominees and his determination to gut the federal regulatory apparatus. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how readily these same people had abandoned the contract he had made with them. Their satisfaction with Trump now seems untethered to the things they once said mattered to them the most.”
-- The New York Times, “Puerto Rico Deaths Spike, but Few Are Attributed to Hurricane,” by Frances Robles: “Puerto Rico officials, facing increasing questions about the accuracy of the official death toll from the storm, acknowledged for the first time that 472 more people died this September compared with the same month last year. The storm made landfall on Sept. 20. The government’s official death toll is 55. The numbers confirmed what had been speculated for weeks: After the waters receded and the roads were cleared, people here continued to die at rates far beyond normal.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Emails Show Richard Spencer Bounced A $10,565 Check For Florida Event,” from HuffPost: “Spencer has spent the last several months bullying universities into letting him preach his racist vision to college students. Most recently, he spoke at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The event, which the university tried to counter by courting an appearance from legendary former quarterback Tim Tebow, eventually took place, with Spencer parading onto campus to his own personalized Depeche Mode-heavy playlist. But in the leadup to his speech, Spencer and his colleagues at the National Policy Institute — Spencer’s white nationalist think tank — struggled to complete basic chores required to stage the event, according to hundreds of pages of university emails obtained by HuffPost. They bungled money, forgot appointments, and appear to have failed to read all of their rental contract.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Members irate after elite NY golf club refuses to hang Trump portrait,” from Page Six: “[Trump] is a member of the elite Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester, and members have come out swinging because the club will not honor him by putting up a POTUS portrait. Insiders say that the Republicans among the 800 members of the exclusive golf club — which charges as much as $200,000 in initiation fees — have been lobbying for a portrait of Trump to be hung inside Winged Foot’s stone clubhouse. But opponents aren’t putting up with it. One insider said, ‘Trump has been a member since 1969[.] We should be proud … But the senior club management has refused to put up a Trump portrait[.]’ The Winged Foot insider added that club bosses seem to be trying to erase signs of Trump’s membership. ‘Each member has a locker with their name on it, but Mr. Trump’s name has been mysteriously taken down.’”
Trump is still in China, where he attended a state dinner earlier today.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It will be cloudy with some afternoon rain possible in D.C. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds are ever present with only a few rare breaks well north of the city. Patchy light rain and drizzle are most likely south of the city but could occasionally dampen much of the area. Winds are mainly calm, which makes highs in the low to mid-50s bearable.”
-- Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democrat Attorney General Brian E. Frosh are at odds over the cross-shaped monument in Prince George’s County. Ovetta Wiggins reports: “Frosh said in a letter to the governor he had not decided whether to file an amicus brief, as directed by Hogan, in the federal court’s ruling that the monument, which sits on public land, is unconstitutional. Instead, he said he would continue to monitor the situation. Frosh’s letter resulted in a strong rebuke from Hogan.”
-- Iconic D.C. bookstore Politics and Prose is expanding. The store wrote in a website post, “The recent closing of Regal Customs Cleaners next to P&P has opened the way for a further expansion of the bookstore. Plans call for a part of the former cleaners to be converted into new retail space for books and non-book items. The rest will be turned into offices and storage areas[.]”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Samantha Bee invited the Harlem Gospel Choir to her show to pray for action on gun control:
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) called for the resignation of Robert Mueller on the House floor:
The Post's “Department of Satire” imagined a world where Hillary Clinton won last year:
The first trailer for “The Post,” which covers our response to the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, was released:
And two House Republicans — Steve Scalise (La.) and Sam Johnson (Tex.) — faced off in a “scooter race”:
Former congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.) wanted in on the fun: