with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
The Koch party was held at the Flagler Museum, a 75-room mansion that was built by one of the founders of Standard Oil for his third wife at the turn of the last century. He was the business partner of John D. Rockefeller, who was as big a boogeyman among anti-monopolists in the 1890s as the Kochs are now on the left.
We are living through another Gilded Age, with growing inequality and a government that is once again tipping the scales in favor of the rich at the expense of the little guy.
“You all just got a lot richer,” Trump boasted to members of Mar-a-Lago on Dec. 22, according to CBS.
He was talking about the tax bill that he had signed a few hours earlier, which will add more than $1 trillion to the national debt to line the pockets of the 1-percenters who can afford the $200,000 initiation fee to join Trump’s club.
In the week that followed, Trump kept giving his members new reasons to celebrate. While cable news fixated on how much he was golfing — NBC reports that Monday was Trump’s 91st day at a golf course as president – his political appointees back in Washington worked overtime to deconstruct the administrative state, eviscerate several of Barack Obama’s signature achievements and roll back significant environmental protections.
Underscoring how politically unpopular these moves are, most were rolled out on the Fridays before Christmas and New Year’s Eve to minimize media coverage and public notice.
Like Richard Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell said, watch what they do — not just what they say. Trump campaigned like a populist. Now more than ever, he’s governing like a plutocrat.
Connecting the dots, here are 10 important stories you might have missed while on vacation:
1. Overturning key regulations on fracking:
“On the last business day of the year, the Interior Department rescinded a 2015 Obama administration rule that would have set new environmental limitations on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public lands,” Chris Mooney reported Friday. “The regulation from the Bureau of Land Management, which had been opposed by the oil and gas industry and tied up in court, would have tightened standards for well construction and wastewater management, required the disclosure of the chemicals contained in fracking fluids, and probably driven up the cost for many fracking activities.”
Fracking entails blasting enormous volumes of water into wells to crack open rock layers and unleash oil or natural gas. “The technology has been transformational for the industry, driving down the price of natural gas dramatically,” Chris notes. “But it has also raised many environmental concerns, including that fracking fluids could pollute water supplies and that the flowback fluids or liquids that reemerge from the earth after hydrocarbons are released may be improperly stored and get into waterways.”
2. Weakening the rules that were designed to prevent another Deepwater Horizon spill:
At the request of the oil companies, on the Friday before New Year’s Eve, the administration softened a pair of rules enacted in the wake of the 2010 BP spill.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) published new regulations for what’s called the production-safety-systems rule, which addresses devices used during offshore oil production. The agency also moved to water down the well-control rule, which is intended to prevent the kind of blowout that killed 11 workers.
“Neither proposal amounts to a wholesale reversal of existing regulations, according to experts, but instead each minimizes some of industry’s obligations and changes compliance terms in several instances to language favored by drillers,” Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni report. “The proposed rule, for example, eliminates a requirement that safety and pollution prevention equipment be inspected by independent auditors certified by the BSEE. A bipartisan presidential commission established after the disaster had recommended such inspections. Instead, under new regulations, oil companies will use industry-set ‘recommended practices’ for ensuring that safety equipment works — as was done before the Deepwater Horizon incident. Recommended practices by industry groups such as the American Petroleum Institute ‘are simply that — they make recommendations but don’t require anything,’ said Nancy Leveson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who served as a senior adviser to the presidential commission. ‘The documents are filled with ‘should’ instead of ‘must.’’
“The BSEE’s proposed revisions also include several other changes that the industry has long sought,” Juliet and Dino note. “For example, while it does not change the level of downhole pressure the agency requires operators to maintain in a given well to avoid an accident, it removes the word ‘safe’ in describing that balance. In the case of pressure tests, which failed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, those no longer have to ‘show’ that a well is in balance. Instead, they should ‘indicate’ that. Some changes are more substantive. The existing well-control rule requires that companies complete any investigation and failure analysis within 120 days of an equipment failure. The proposed rule, by contrast, calls for this process to start within 120 days and provides no specific end date.”
3. Declaring open season on migratory birds:
On the Friday before Christmas, the Interior Department quietly rolled back an Obama-era policy aimed at protecting migratory birds by announcing that oil, gas, wind and solar operators who accidentally kill birds will no longer be prosecuted.
The new interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), another big win for energy interests, was written by a former lawyer for the political network financed by the Koch brothers, whose fortune comes from oil. It was pushed hard by another billionaire, Harold Hamm, who advised Trump on energy issues during the campaign and in 2012 successfully challenged a fine under the law in court.
“While exact estimates are difficult to find, hundreds of thousands of birds probably die each year when they become caught in wind turbine blades,” Juliet reports. “Oil-waste pits kill between a half-million and 1 million birds each year, according to Audubon, while power lines cause the death of up to 175 million birds per year.”
Without the risk of fines for killing birds, energy exploration businesses are certain to spend less on precautionary measures and technologies that might prevent unnecessary deaths.
4. Reinstating mining leases for Ivanka Trump’s landlord:
If you’ve never been to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota, try to get out there this summer. It is one of the most pristine and beautiful places in America. I believe this despite getting hypothermia there while dogsledding as a Boy Scout.
On the Friday before Christmas, though, the Interior Department moved to renew expired leases for a copper and nickel mining operation on the border of the park, reversing a decision that was reached by the Obama administration after careful deliberation.
This directly benefits the Chilean mining firm owned by billionaire Andrónico Luksic, who rents a six-bedroom mansion to the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, in the posh Kalorama neighborhood of Washington.
Reflecting the terrible optics of this, the Interior Department didn’t even put out a release to let reporters know the news. They also didn’t give a heads up to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D), who opposes the mines. Instead, Juliet reports, aides from Interior notified Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R), who then broke the story.
“This shameful reversal by the Trump Administration shows that big corporate money and special interest influence now rule again in Republican-controlled Washington,” Dayton said in a statement. “We will have to uncover why the financial interests of a large Chilean corporation, with a terrible environmental record, has trumped the need to protect Minnesota’s priceless [crown jewel.]”
Luksic says there is no connection between his business and his real estate relationship with the Trumps, and a White House spokesperson said Ivanka and Jared were “not aware of the situation, had nothing to do with it and have never met their landlord.”
5. Letting nursing homes off the hook when patients suffer in their care:
“The Trump administration — reversing guidelines put in place under [Obama] — is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury,” Jordan Rau of Kaiser Health News reported on Christmas Eve. “The shift in the Medicare program’s penalty protocols was requested by the nursing home industry. … The new guidelines discourage regulators from levying fines in some situations, even when they have resulted in a resident’s death. The guidelines will also probably result in lower fines for many facilities. … ‘They’ve pretty much emasculated enforcement, which was already weak,’ said Toby Edelman, a senior attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy.”
This is just the latest example of the Trump team taking the side of business over the elderly: “In November, the Trump administration exempted nursing homes that violate eight new safety rules from penalties for 18 months,” Rau notes. “In June, CMS rescinded another Obama administration action that banned nursing homes from pre-emptively requiring residents to submit to arbitration to settle disputes rather than going to court.”
6. Civil servants may not get a bonus because the rich got a tax cut:
“By the end of September, all Cabinet departments except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January — with most shedding many hundreds of employees,” Lisa Rein and Andrew Ba Tran reported over the weekend. “The falloff has been driven by an exodus of civil servants, a diminished corps of political appointees and an effective hiring freeze. The White House is now warning agencies to brace for even deeper cuts in the 2019 budget it will announce early next year, part of an effort to lower the federal deficit to pay for the new tax law, according to officials briefed on the budgets for their agencies. One possible casualty: a pay raise that federal employees historically have received when the economy is humming …
“Federal workers fret that their jobs could be zeroed out amid buyouts and early retirement offers that already have prompted hundreds of their colleagues to leave, according to interviews with three dozen employees across the government,” per Lisa and Andrew. “‘Morale has never been lower,’ said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 federal workers at more than 30 agencies.”
7. Undercutting enforcement by waging a war of attrition against the bureaucracy:
Several important government offices that enforce the laws and ensure public safety have been decimated by neglect during Trump’s first year. From Lisa and Andrew’s must-read story:
“In some agencies, the number of people leaving has been crippling, according to former officials. At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a wave of recent retirements has depleted the managerial staff at the enforcement agency’s 70 field offices, said Jordan Barab, who was a top OSHA official in the Obama administration. In all, the agency shed 119 permanent workers by the end of September, a 6 percent drop, personnel data shows. ‘It’s starting to create major problems,’ Barab said. Enforcement actions must be reviewed by supervisors in multiple offices, he said, and if too many months pass, they can be thrown out. ‘You can’t run an enforcement agency with no managers.’
“Meanwhile, other federal workers are in limbo because their jobs could cease to exist. That’s the precarious state right now of the tiny Chemical Safety Board, one of 19 small agencies Trump has marked for elimination. The $11 million office investigates the causes of major chemical accidents and makes recommendations for safety improvements. In early December, a White House budget official told Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland that because the deficit has grown, the safety board must do its part and prepare to shut down, she said.”
8. Reneging on a federal commitment to fund a major infrastructure project:
“Trump dropped his own New Year's ball — in the form of a wrecking ball — with a late Friday afternoon announcement that effectively wipes out plans for perhaps the nation's most crucial infrastructure project,” Will Bredderman of Crain’s Business reported on Dec. 29. “The president officially scrapped his predecessor's proposal to have the federal government underwrite half the cost of a multi-billion-dollar Amtrak tunnel connecting New Jersey to Penn Station, the busiest transit hub in the U.S. The lone existing tunnel is rapidly deteriorating, threatening to sever Amtrak's popular Northeast Corridor and to divert tens of thousands of New Jerseyans from their daily Manhattan commutes via New Jersey Transit …
“The administration released the news on the cusp of a holiday weekend in a letter from a top Federal Transit Administration official to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his New Jersey counterpart Chris Christie, who had agreed with the Obama administration to split the project's costs 50-50,” Crain’s notes. “Obama's Department of Transportation, which encompasses the FTA, had consented to that framework with Christie, Cuomo, now-Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker in 2015. Friday's letter, in response to an updated proposal by the two states to fund their half of the plan with federal loans, declared the deal null and void.”
There’s speculation up and down the Acela Corridor that this is a political maneuver by Trump to punish Schumer or perhaps coax him to come to the table to negotiate for this money as part of a bigger infrastructure package.
But this is part of a pattern: Trump governs as if he’s the president of the Red States of America, not the United States. He routinely pushes policies that are tailormade to help places that elected him at the expense of those who voted against him. This was on vivid display during the tax negotiations.
Reflecting his red-state mentality, he just became the first president since 1953 to skip a visit to California during his first calendar year in office. “A president so fixated on the 2016 election results as Trump may not want to be reminded that just 31% of California’s voters chose him,” the Los Angeles Times noted last week. “Of the 29 states Trump has visited since taking office, just eight are west of the Mississippi River. He’s mostly visited friendly red states in the Southeast and the Northern industrial belt that he won … Of the 20 states that went to Clinton, Trump has been to eight.” (And that includes New York, New Jersey and Virginia, where he owns golf clubs.)
9. Firing all the members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS:
“Months after a half-dozen members resigned in protest of the Trump administration's position on health policies, the White House dismissed the rest through a form letter,” Ben Guarino reported on Friday. “The notice ‘thanked me for my past service and said that my appointment was terminated, effective immediately,’ said Patrick Sullivan, an epidemiologist at Emory University who works on HIV testing programs. He was appointed to a four-year term in May 2016. … The council, known by the acronym PACHA, has advised the White House on HIV/AIDS policies since its founding in 1995. Members, who are not paid, offer recommendations on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, a five-year plan responding to the epidemic.”
The termination letters were delivered without warning by FedEx, according to the Washington Blade.
This follows a New York Times report on Christmas Eve that an enraged Trump blew up at members of his national security team during a June meeting over the number of immigrants who were being given visas to enter the country: “Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They ‘all have AIDS,’ he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there. Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never ‘go back to their huts’ in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.” (The White House denies that Trump made any derogatory statements about immigrants during the meeting.)
10. Maneuvering behind the scenes to “sabotage” the Census:
“The Justice Department is pushing for a question on citizenship to be added to the 2020 census, a move that observers say could depress participation by immigrants who fear that the government could use the information against them,” ProPublica’s Justin Elliott reported on Dec. 29. “That, in turn, could have potentially large ripple effects for everything the once-a-decade census determines — from how congressional seats are distributed around the country to where hundreds of billions of federal dollars are spent. The DOJ made the request in a previously unreported letter, dated Dec. 12 … to the top official at the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department. A Census Bureau spokesperson confirmed the agency received the letter and said the ‘request will go through the well-established process that any potential question would go through.’”
Trump political appointees at DOJ claim that their goal is to use the information to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, but this spin doesn’t pass the smell test. “A recent Census Bureau presentation shows that the political climate is already having an effect on responsiveness to the bureau’s American Community Survey, which asks a more extensive list of questions, including on citizenship status, to about one in 38 households in the country per year,” ProPublica notes. “In one case, census interviewers reported, a respondent ‘walked out and left interviewer alone in home during citizenship questions.’”
The framers of the Constitution wanted to count everyone in the country, not just citizens. The 1790 census illustrates that, and the full census hasn’t included questions about citizenship since 1950. “This is a recipe for sabotaging the census,” Arturo Vargas, a member of the National Advisory Committee of the Census and the executive director of NALEO Educational Fund, a Latino advocacy group, told ProPublica.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Georgia will face Alabama in next week’s national college football championship:
The Bulldogs defeated Oklahoma in double overtime. Chuck Culpepper reports from the Rose Bowl: “Oklahoma had led 21-7, 31-14 and 31-17 at halftime. Georgia had led 38-31. Oklahoma had led 45-38. Regulation had ended 45-45, and the first overtime 48-48. Oklahoma had 531 total yards to Georgia’s 527.” The final score was 54-48 after Georgia tailback Sony Michel broke away for a touchdown.
The Tide rolled over Clemson 24-6, as Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne decided the Sugar Bowl with brute force and surprising dexterity. Barry Svrluga reports from New Orleans: "With Clemson somehow within four points in the third quarter, Payne came up with an interception of Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant, and seven plays later lined up in the backfield and — get this — caught the touchdown pass that broke the game open. What remained after that were just the details, the little parts that made up the whole of Alabama’s 24-6 victory.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Recreational marijuana use is now legal in California. The law — which residents approved on a 2016 ballot — allows anyone over 21 to possess and grow limited amounts of cannabis. But local rules and regulations vary widely, prompting some officials to issue words of caution as the nascent industry takes form. “We’re building an airplane while we’re flying it,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire (D). (Katie Zezima)
- The minimum wage went up in 18 states on New Year’s Day. Economists estimate that the hike will benefit about 4.5 million workers across the country. (The Hill)
- A suspect was identified in the Colorado shooting that killed a sheriff’s deputy. Officials allege Matthew Riehl, a 37-year-old military veteran, committed the shooting that killed Zackari Parrish and injured four others. (Kristine Phillips)
- A new survey found that 1 in 10 young adults — and 1 in 30 adolescents — have experienced homelessness in the past year. Researchers say the spike is largely because of low wages, a pricier rental market and family instability. (Moriah Balingit)
Newly obtained DHS records reveal the department considered the chaos accompanying the rollout of Trump’s first travel ban to be a “crisis.” As White House officials were publicly describing the implementation of the executive order as a success, DHS was deploying a crisis action team to respond to concerns about the ban. (Politico)
- Funding shortfalls have forced the U.N. to slash food aid to hundreds of thousands of refugees — reducing their daily calorie intake by as much as 20 percent. The agency has warned that, if new funds do not come by March, the refugees will see an even further caloric drop. (Paul Schemm)
- Anthony Scaramucci has reportedly told friends that Trump wants the former communications director to return to the White House. Advisers to the president dismissed the idea as ridiculous, also claiming Trump no longer talks to the Mooch. (The Daily Beast)
- A Newark-area teen was arrested after he fatally gunned down his parents, sister and a family friend with a semiautomatic assault rifle just minutes before the start of the new year. The incident unfolded about 11:43 p.m., authorities said. They did not say what sparked the fatal outburst. (Eli Rosenberg)
- Berlin officials set up a “safe zone” for women on New Year’s Eve — staffed with medical personnel and police ready to quickly aid victims of sexual assault and rape. The rapid-response team came two years after more than 1,200 women were sexually assaulted in various German cities on New Year's Eve. (Rick Noack)
The New York City Ballet’s Peter Martins resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse. Martins led the company for more than 30 years, and he denied the accusations against him in a letter announcing his immediate retirement. (The New York Times)
Gretchen Carlson was named chairwoman of the Miss America Organization’s board of directors. Carlson, who won Miss America in 1989, will be the first former winner to lead the organization, which lost its CEO late last month after emails emerged showing him criticizing the appearance, intelligence and “sex lives” of former pageant winners. (AP)
- More than 100 patients are suing an obstetrician-gynecologist in Maryland, after learning that the man — who spent more than two decades doing exams and delivering babies — used a fake name and stolen Social Security number to obtain his medical license. (Lynh Bui)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- The death toll in Iran’s anti-regime protests rose to at least 20, as Trump tweeted support for the demonstrators. “Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration,” Trump tweeted. “The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!” Meanwhile, Erin Cunningham reports: “The unrest has raged now for six days and confounded leaders who have struggled to respond. The protests have been stunning in their ferocity and geographic reach, spreading to far-flung towns and cities that are strongholds of the middle and working classes. . . . On Monday, demonstrators appeared to be leaderless and their demands diffuse, ranging from better living conditions to more political freedoms and even an end to the Islamic republic. Their chants and attacks on government buildings broke taboos in a system that brooks little dissent. . . .
“The prospect of a harsher response from security forces, whose brutality is notorious, raised fears of further violence in a country buffeted by conflict elsewhere in the region. … President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who has allied with reformists, has appealed for calm, saying that demonstrators have a right to protest and criticize the government, but that they should refrain from violence. … Monday, in a statement, he called the protests ‘an opportunity, not a threat.’ It was unclear whether his message would mollify the demonstrators.”
-- The Trump administration is reportedly threatening new sanctions against Iran if the government cracks down on protesters. The Wall Street Journal’s Aresu Eqbali, Asa Fitch and Michael R. Gordon report: “New U.S. sanctions could target the Revolutionary Guard Corps — a force answerable only to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei —in an effort to avoid doing economic harm to the Iranians who are carrying out the protests, U.S. officials said. The Trump administration is also lobbying nations to support the right of Iranians to carry out peaceful protests, U.S. officials said.”
The Post’s editorial board: “The West should support the protesters in Iran.”
-- Trump again lambasted the Iranian government in a tweet this morning:
The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their “pockets.” The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
He also posted this:
Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid, Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailors pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dept must finally act? Also on Comey & others— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
-- Trump lashed out at Pakistan, threatening in a tweet to cut off U.S. financial assistance to the country and accusing its leaders of “lies and deceit.” “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help,” Trump said of Pakistan. “No more!” The tweet drew immediate backlash from Pakistan, with Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir-Khan angrily responding that Pakistan, as an “anti-terror ally” of the United States, had given Washington land and air communication, military bases and intelligence cooperation that “decimated Al-Qaeda.”
“Officials in the country’s capital scrambled to arrange a cabinet meeting to be held Tuesday to adopt a response to the Twitter attack, while Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said [his] country is ready to publicly provide an accounting of ‘every detail’ of U.S. aid it has received,” Shaiq Hussain and Annie Gowen report.
-- Mike Pence’s planned trip to Israel has been “indefinitely” postponed. News of the scuttled Jan. 14 visit comes after Pence also pushed back a visit to the region in December in anticipation of Congress's tax vote. Israeli officials said no new date has been set for the vice president’s visit. Arabs are still outraged that Trump says he is moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. (The Times of Israel)
--But, but, but: Pence’s office claims the trip is still on for later this month. A spokesman for the vice president declined to provide a specific date for the trip. (AP)
-- Israel’s right wing is taking bold steps to oppose a two-state solution in the wake of Trump’s Jerusalem announcement. The New York Times’s David M. Halbfinger reports: “The actions have come on multiple fronts, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party for the first time has urged the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the nation’s top legal officers pressed to extend Israeli law into occupied territory. In addition, the Israeli Parliament, after a late-night debate, voted early Tuesday to enact stiff new obstacles to any potential land-for-peace deal involving Jerusalem, while also easing the way to rid the city of several overwhelmingly Palestinian neighborhoods[.] … [T]he moves showed that the Israeli right senses a new opening to pursue its goal of a single state[.]”
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2018:
-- Lawmakers are returning from their recess to a jam-packed to-do list, with deadlines looming on a number of pressing issues — including the future of “dreamers,” the stabilization of the Children's Health Insurance Program and funding to avoid a government shutdown. Jeff Stein reports: “[The] negotiations will test whether Congress and the White House still have the potential to craft any form of bipartisan agreement. If so, several of the year’s most contested issues might be resolved with months to spare before the 2018 midterm campaign heats up. … A big unknown is whether the shortened timeline will prove an asset in addressing all the issues before Congress, or a hindrance.”
- “I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it, at least in recent years, where so much high-profile stuff has to be done right out of the gate,” said Jim Manley, who served as an aide to [former Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
- “Some of these things they’re talking about are huge, contentious issues,” said Jane Calderwood, former chief of staff for then-Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine). “I can’t imagine it’s doable, and certainly not doable in a thoughtful way.”
“Officials in both parties hope to make progress by Jan. 19, when a short-term government funding bill … expires,” Stein notes. “On Wednesday, senior congressional leaders from both parties will meet at the Capitol with [Trump officials Mick Mulvaney and Marc Short] to renew talks on the [DACA] program, which expires on March 5. [Meanwhile], Democrats are under intense pressure from Hispanic lawmakers and liberal activists to reject any government funding deal that does not resolve the DACA issue. Lawmakers also will have to increase the debt ceiling by March, when the Treasury Department can no longer meet the federal government’s financial obligations without additional borrowing, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center.”
-- White House officials have expressed limited confidence in their ability to achieve legislative victories in 2018. Politico’s Eliana Johnson, Annie Karni and Andrew Restuccia report: “While Republicans were unified in their desire to reform the tax code, they are now split over which legislative initiative to tackle next — a dispute the Trump White House, which has sometimes delegated the nuts and bolts of legislating to congressional leaders, has done little to settle. … At issue: whether to appeal to traditional conservative voters by tackling welfare reform or instead push forward on the president’s long-promised infrastructure plan, which could attract Democratic support and win over a broader slice of the electorate. … [Some] advisers have told the president that passing infrastructure legislation could help Republicans hold the House, pointing to polling that shows the issue is popular with the public.”
-- Republicans also remain split on whether to attempt an Obamacare repeal again. Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn reports: “The reality is the GOP is so divided on Obamacare, they don’t have the votes to achieve either objective — repeal or stabilization. That means former [Obama’s] signature legislative accomplishment could keep limping along, crippled by the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax law but lifted by the surprisingly strong enrollment for the coming year.”
-- Trump is now on track to exceed 2,000 false or misleading claims during his first year in office. Glenn Kessler, Meg Kelly and Nicole Lewis report: “As of Monday, the total stood at 1,950 claims in 347 days, or an average of 5.6 claims a day.” (Our full interactive graphic can be found here.)
-- The Post has a comprehensive preview of 2018, hitting the themes and issues our writers believe will dominate the year ahead. Ashley Parker breaks down what to expect from our unpredictable president: “The president begins his second year in office facing down the momentum of all he could not control and all he failed to accomplish. His lawyers promised him that [Robert Mueller’s] Russia probe would be over by now. The longer it goes, the more it’s likely to anger the mercurial president … [And] the 2018 midterm elections will have him traveling the country to fight for his party’s political survival. But Trump has repeatedly defied political gravity and expectations. In 2018, the president will be gracious and disciplined when even his aides are bracing for an explosion. And he will be brash and erratic when triggered by something as simple as an errant comment on cable news. With this president, prognosticators would be wise to save their money. Just don’t forget to set your @realDonaldTrump Twitter alerts.”
-- Trump's popularity tested: In 2016, Iowa went big for Trump, but there are now signs residents may be souring on the commander in chief. Dave Weigel files from Des Moines: “Why Iowa has turned against Trump and Republicans is a mystery that both parties are eager to figure out ahead of the 2018 midterms, looking to understand whether it’s an aberration or a sign of a greater political trend. Republicans took charge of Iowa’s legislature last January and since then have advanced the agenda they promised voters — pushing through tax cuts, passing labor rules … and maintaining a privatized version of [Obamacare’s] Medicaid expansion. [Now], the discrepancy between the rosy economic picture and the public’s distaste for Trump in Iowa has confounded both parties and complicated one of the major political stories of the decade — the Republican romp through the Midwest.” “If Trump were to run again, he’d be in deep trouble,” said Janet Petersen of Iowa’s Senate Democrats. “A dog bites you the first time, it’s not your fault. The second time it bites you, it’s your own damn fault.”
-- This year could set a record for women seeking governorships. Karen Tumulty reports: “[A]t least 79 women — 49 Democrats and 30 Republicans — are running for governor or seriously considering it as filing deadlines approach[.] … The numbers are more than double what they were four years ago and on track to surpass the record 34 women who ran for governor in 1994. … Their candidacies are testing long-held attitudes about women and leadership. Voters tended to see women as ‘well suited for legislatures, where it’s collaborative,’ said Debbie Walsh, director of the [Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University]. ‘It runs up against the stereotype to see women as the chief decider, the place where the buck stops.’”
-- Meanwhile, Bill de Blasio was sworn in for his second term as New York’s mayor and declared the beginning of “a new progressive era” in the city. David Weigel reports: “The mayor made several less-than-subtle references to [Trump’s] administration, describing New York City as a bulwark against it. He noted that the city’s 2017 homicide rate was the lowest since 1951, crediting the drop to community policing reforms that conservatives had opposed. And without mentioning the president by name, he warned that ‘overt and gleeful prejudice is suddenly in vogue’ and that New York was standing against it. … De Blasio was sworn in at City Hall Park by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a decision that gave the frigid outdoor ceremony a national political tilt.”
-- From the opinion pages:
- The Post’s editorial board: “Welcome to 2018. Is this a turning point?”
- E.J. Dionne Jr.: “This new year, tell Trump: Enough.”
- Jared Bernstein: “Five things we’ll be arguing about in 2018.”
- The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board: “About That Trump ‘Autocracy.’”
- The New York Times’s David Leonhardt: “7 Wishes for 2018.”
- Bloomberg’s Stephen L. Carter: “13 Things to Look Forward To (or Fear) in 2018.”
- Kurt Bardella for CNN: “No matter your take on Trump, the fight is real.”
- John Bolton for the Hill: “Expect America's tensions with China and Russia to rise in 2018.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A Senate Democrat predicted a chaotic 2018:
Trump denial of Russian collusion rotten at core and doomed to unravel. Expect more serious convictions and indictments early in 2018 as Special Counsel climbs ladder of criminal culpability - and more panicky, preemptive attacks from Republicans. https://t.co/XnF1Jf16jP— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) December 30, 2017
The former director of the FBI was a bit more optimistic:
Here’s hoping 2018 brings more ethical leadership, focused on the truth and lasting values. Happy New Year, everybody.— James Comey (@Comey) December 31, 2017
As was Monica Lewinsky:
may we be free from danger in 2018.— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) January 1, 2018
may we have physical + mental happiness in 2018.
may we have ease of wellbeing in 2018.
may we be happy in 2018.
may we be free from suffering in 2018.
may we find our joy in 2018.
may we come home to the light in 2018.
may be at peace in 2018.
Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) expressed this hope:
The DNC chairman wished for a blue House in 2018:
Happy New Year, Democrats. Looking ahead to 2018, let's work together to turn this great country blue.— Tom Perez (@TomPerez) January 2, 2018
Government officials rang in the new year at the president's private club:
But others took note of this difference from past holiday seasons:
Among all the many things that have changed under Trump is the disappearance of the "what books did POTUS take with him on vacation" feature because everyone just accepts that this president doesn't read.— Amy Sullivan (@sullivanamy) December 26, 2017
George W. Bush's former chief strategist, who now works for ABC, posed this question to Trump's supporters:
I have a question for the Trump fan club who applauded every time he said Obama played too much golf. if that was a problem, why is it ok that Trump in less than a year has played more golf than Obama did in eight years as President?— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) December 30, 2017
The mother of the Charlottesville rampage victim participated in the Rose Parade:
CNN's Don Lemon had a good New Year's Eve, per Entertainment Weekly's social media director:
A reporter for the Center for Public Integrity shared this statistic:
2018 is the first year since 1799 during which nobody born in the 1800s is alive.— Dave Levinthal (@davelevinthal) January 1, 2018
Conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt called for more coverage of the Iran protests:
It is a moral obligation of western media to cover #IranianProtests 24/7. The freedom fighters will be mowed down without attention. It is Tiananmen Square ‘89 but right now, right here in age where every platform/network has to make a choice to cover or look away.— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) January 1, 2018
From the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol:
President should convene NSC meeting tomorrow, make sure different parts of US government doing everything possible on communications for protesters, sanctions for regime entities, inducements for elements that might desert regime, curbing business deals, rallying allies, etc...— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) January 2, 2018
After Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted about the White House's support for the Iranian protesters, Obama's former U.N. ambassador responded:
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) stood by the press in his fiery defense of the First Amendment:
New York City's first lady looked forward to another term:
The New York Times's television critic provided this throwback:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The Atlantic, “Grieving for Aleppo, One Year After its Fall,” by Lina Sergie Attar: “Today, one year after the fall of Aleppo, many of my Syrian friends on Facebook still post in Arabic when they mourn for their country. Once, these people — mostly high-profile social media activists — wrote primarily in English. It was their job to tell the story of Aleppo to a wider English-speaking audience. But during the besieging of the city, many began to post in Arabic … We had moved past broadcasting tragic events, [abandoning] our naive and failed logic that if people only knew what was happening, then it would stop. [As] one well-known activist from Aleppo recently posted on Facebook[:] ‘… We didn’t just come into existence in 2011. We are humans, with our losses, our stories, our romances, and our brokenness …’ [Still] … an unspoken question haunts us all: What was all of this for?”
-- The New Yorker, “Making China Great Again,” by Evan Osnos: “[For] years, China’s leaders predicted that a time would come — perhaps midway through this century — when it could project its own values abroad. In the age of ‘America First,’ that time has come far sooner than expected. … [In recent years, China] has taken steps to accrue national power on a scale that no country has attempted since the Cold War, by increasing its investments in the types of assets that established American authority in the previous century: foreign aid, overseas security, foreign influence, and the most advanced new technologies, such as artificial intelligence. It has become one of the leading contributors to the U.N.’s budget and to its peacekeeping force, and it has joined talks to address global problems such as terrorism, piracy, and nuclear proliferation . . .
Chilling: “In a speech to Communist Party officials last January 20th, Major General Jin Yinan, a strategist at China’s National Defense University, celebrated America’s pullout from the trade deal. ... '[Trump] … has given China a huge gift,' he said. 'That is the American withdrawal from T.P.P. . . . As the U.S. retreats globally, China shows up.”
-- The Wall Street Journal, “A Trump-Era Military Dilemma: Enlisted, but Unwelcome,” by Nancy A. Youssef: “Pvt. [Kyungmin] Cho, in fact, isn’t exactly an American soldier. He is an undocumented immigrant who has lived in the U.S. since he was 8 years old. Due to restrictions on his activity, reciting the military oath is one of the few things left to him when he shows up to fulfill the six-year commitment he made to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Aspiring soldiers like Pvt. Cho once had a path to citizenship through the military. But the Trump administration announced in September that [DACA] would be phased out by March, and with that, the future of DACA recipients in the military became uncertain.”
-- The New York Times, “Partisans, Wielding Money, Begin Seeking to Exploit Harassment Claims,” by Kenneth P. Vogel: “As the #MeToo movement to expose sexual harassment roils the nation’s capital, political partisans are exploiting the moment, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support accusers who come forward with charges against President Trump and members of Congress, even amid questions about their motivation. As accusations take on a partisan tint, activists and lawyers fear that such an evolution could damage a movement that has shaken Hollywood, Silicon Valley, media suites in New York and the hallways of Congress — and has taken down both a Democratic fund-raiser, Harvey Weinstein, and a conservative stalwart, Bill O’Reilly.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Trans Activist Who Called Caitlyn Jenner A ‘F**king Fraud’ Is Running For Office,” from HuffPost: “Following the resignation of California Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, Ashlee Marie Preston announced Dec. 30 that she plans to run for the District 54 seat. If elected, she would represent Century City, Westwood and a number of other Los Angeles neighborhoods. Preston gained widespread attention after she was seen confronting Jenner at a Trans Chorus of Los Angeles event in August. The activist . . . blasted Jenner, a longtime Republican, for her support of President Donald Trump. ‘It’s really [f---d] up that you continue to support somebody . . . that’s erasing our [f---ing] community,’ [Preston told Jenner at the time]. ‘And you support it!’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Democrats more fearful about 2018 than Republicans: poll,” from The Hill: “Democrats are more fearful about what 2018 holds than Republicans, according to a poll released early Monday. The new Axios survey showed 55 percent of Democrats are more hopeful personally about the new year while 44 percent are more fearful. Among Republicans, 90 percent are more hopeful about 2018, and just 9 percent are more fearful. When asked about the world in general, 29 percent of Democrats said they are more hopeful, compared to 70 percent who said they are more fearful. Pollsters found 67 percent of Republicans are more hopeful about the world in general in the new year, and 32 percent are more fearful.”
Trump has a lunch with Pence and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said while swearing in Bill de Blasio in 18-degree weather, “By Vermont standards, this is a warm and pleasant afternoon.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. should see sun and freezing temperatures today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “For many returning to work, we must dress very warmly as temperatures only manage to lift into the 20s despite mostly sunny skies. Very dry air dominates, with dew points below zero for most or all of the day. Even though it’s cold, be sure to stay hydrated — and moisturized.”
-- The D.C. Department of Transportation plans to add new buses and streamline routes for the Circulator. Officials hope to add 40 new buses by the end of the year, improving on-time arrivals, which sagged in 2017. (Luz Lazo)
-- Officials at U-Md. want to spruce up College Park in the hopes of bringing more professionals into the area to eat out, shop and live. They specifically want to add new businesses and apartment buildings to the Route 1 corridor. (Katherine Shaver)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Wolf Blitzer sang the lyrics to some of 2017's top songs for CNN's New Year's Eve broadcast:
The Post compiled other awkward moments from New Year's Eve live shows:
Trump's New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago drew attention for its glamour and its potential conflicts of interest:
A plane crash in Costa Rica left 10 American citizens dead:
And nearly 300 New York City sanitation workers cleaned up after the festivities in Times Square: