This is part of a strategic, full-court press to make America less hospitable to immigrants, both legal and illegal. Immigration enforcement arrests are up 40 percent, Trump has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the United States to the lowest level since 1980 and the Justice Department has tried to crack down on “sanctuary cities” during his first year.
Most consequentially, Trump created an artificial political crisis by announcing the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows about 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children to avoid deportation and obtain work permits.
The president is now trying to use the “dreamers” as bargaining chips to force Congress to pony up $18 billion for his border wall, breaking a campaign promise that Mexico would pay. Congressional Republicans are also offering to negotiate an extension of TPS protections in exchange for scaling back the diversity visa lottery program.
There is a chance of a government shutdown in the next several weeks over the wall and/or DACA.
Immigration is the biggest stumbling block in negotiations about keeping the lights on past Jan. 19, which is next Friday. Republicans say Democrats are holding spending talks hostage to secure a DACA fix, which they’d prefer to consider separately. As he meets with a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House later today, both Trump and Democratic leaders think they have the better hand — a recipe for trouble. The likeliest outcome is another short-term agreement.
Outside Washington, Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio after he was convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge's order to stop racially profiling spoke volumes to Hispanics who see the former Arizona sheriff as a boogeyman. The president is also expected to travel later this month to look at prototypes of possible border walls, creating a visual that his base will love but will further galvanize Latinos.
More consequentially, Trump threatened to abandon Puerto Rico’s recovery in October if people on the island didn’t express more gratitude for his efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria. He has downplayed the death toll, thrown rolls of paper towels at people who lost everything and personally attacked the mayor of San Juan. Meanwhile, many still don’t have power — and electricity might not be fully restored until May. Adding insult to injury, Puerto Rico is one of the biggest losers in the GOP tax bill.
The continuing humanitarian crisis has triggered a massive influx of Puerto Ricans to the mainland, specifically the perennial political battleground of Florida. Unlike those who benefit from TPS, the Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. So they can easily register to vote. Their collective anger at Trump makes that likely.
-- Trump’s nativism may cost Republicans Senate seats this year in Arizona and Nevada, as well as several House seats across the Sun Belt. The party’s top recruit for the Florida Senate race, outgoing Gov. Rick Scott, could opt not to run if the political atmospherics continue to be this bad.
But the much bigger issue is the long-term damage that Trump is inflicting on his adopted party. When they look back a century from now, historians will likely write that immigration and health care were the defining issues of our time. Five years after the Republican National Committee’s “autopsy” of the 2012 election highlighted the urgency of appealing to Latinos, Trump is driving his party down the same path that Pete Wilson followed in California when he embraced Proposition 187 to get reelected in 1994. He won a Pyrrhic victory. The Golden State GOP can’t even field a credible candidate for governor or Senate in California this year.
-- None of this is surprising. Trump literally kicked off his campaign in June 2015 with an attack on Mexican immigrants. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he said. “And some, I assume, are good people.” Trump made dozens of similarly ugly comments before the election, from calling for a “deportation force” to saying that a federal judge who was born in Indiana couldn’t fairly adjudicate a fraud case against Trump University because his parents immigrated from Mexico.
-- The latest moves underscore how much juice the hard-liners still have in the White House, specifically policy adviser Stephen Miller and Chief of Staff John Kelly. But the ultimate decider is Trump himself.
-- Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Kelly’s protege, said Monday that she determined conditions in El Salvador have improved significantly since earthquakes ravaged the country in 2001, which was the justification for the original program. She is giving an 18-month grace period for people to either leave or get legal residency — and to give Congress a window to change the law.
“Immigrant advocates, Salvadoran government officials and others had implored Nielsen to extend the TPS designation, citing the country’s gang violence and the potentially destabilizing effect of so many people being sent home,” Nick Miroff and David Nakamura report. “El Salvador’s homicide rate — 108 per 100,000 people in 2015 — was the world’s highest for a country not at war, the most recent U.N. data shows … The mayors of Houston, Los Angeles and other cities with large numbers of Salvadorans had urged Nielsen to take into account the wider contributions of TPS recipients, a third of whom are U.S. homeowners . . .
“Others urged Nielsen to consider the approximately 190,000 U.S.-born children of Salvadoran TPS recipients. Their parents must now decide whether to break up their families, take their children back to El Salvador or stay in the United States and risk deportation. Senior DHS officials told reporters Monday that Salvadoran parents would have to make that choice.”
-- Meet one of the people hurt by the announcement. From a story by Maria Sacchetti: “Oscar Cortez feels like he has an ordinary American life. He carries a Costco card. He roots for the Boston Red Sox. And five days a week, he rises before dawn, pulls on four shirts and two pairs of pants, and ventures into the frigid air to work as a plumber, a good job that pays for his Maryland townhouse and his daughters’ college fund. At 15th and L streets NW in Washington, Cortez saw the news on his mobile phone while taking a break from laying copper pipe at the construction site of the new Fannie Mae headquarters. ‘You feel like you’re up in the air,’ the silver-haired 46-year-old said. ‘I feel bad and offended. They’re playing with our stability. … I consider this my country.’
“Cortez said he visited his parents in 2016 for the first time since he left and was shocked to see that the house had six locks on every door to ward off burglars. People he knew had left or died. Strangers stared at him on the street. ‘I felt like a foreigner in my own land,’ he said. ‘Everyone is looking at you like you’re from outer space.’”
-- Columnist Petula Dvorak argues that Trump is taking away the American Dream from hundreds of thousands of hard-working people: “Because she didn’t know how else to calm her nerves on Monday, Carmen Paz Villas did what she does best. She went to work, cleaning rooms at the hotel. On her day off. ‘And now, I cry and cry,’ Paz Villas said, in between rooms, when she learned that, no matter how hard she works, the country she’s called home for 18 years doesn’t want her family anymore. ‘Everybody with TPS, all we can do is cry now.’ Because, according to our government today, it’s not enough to work hard, open a 401(k), buy a home, obey the law, start a business, get a Costco card, become a sports fan, win Employee of the Month and have a family to become an American.”
Trump’s announcement means Paz Villas’s husband can’t stay: “He’s from El Salvador. She’s from Honduras, and the administration announced two months ago that roughly 57,000 Hondurans in the United States with protected status like her may also have to leave soon. So much for their home, their kids, their neighbors and their friends in Gaithersburg.”
-- Ishaan Tharoor contrasts the DHS announcement with a speech that Pope Francis delivered yesterday at the Vatican: “He bemoaned the hostile climate in the West toward refugees and migrants. He decried politicians who demonize foreigners ‘for the sake of stirring up primal fears’ and urged greater global action to help asylum seekers. ‘In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the history of salvation is essentially a history of migration,’ said the pontiff. That's a message that clearly doesn't register with President Trump.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- John Dickerson is expected to replace Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning.” It’s not clear if he will continue to anchor “Face the Nation,” which he took over from Bob Schieffer in 2015. (HuffPost)
-- North Korea has agreed to send athletes to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. Yoonjung Seo and Anna Fifield report: “There was no immediate confirmation from the northern side, but the South’s announcement was in line with recent North Korean signals that it was willing to send competitors to the games, which will open in PyeongChang on Feb. 9. The talks are ongoing but the tentative agreement constitutes a rare moment of consensus between Kim Jong Un’s regime, its estranged southern neighbor and the outside world. … The advent of the talks has kindled hopes in the South Korean government that an agreement on sports can be a gateway into broader discussions about thorny issues such as the North’s nuclear program.”
-- Meanwhile, U.S. officials are weighing a possible limited strike against North Korea, according to one report. The Wall Street Journal’s Gerald F. Seib reports: “The idea is known as the ‘bloody nose’ strategy: React to some nuclear or missile test with a targeted strike against a North Korean facility to bloody Pyongyang’s nose and illustrate the high price the regime could pay for its behavior. The hope would be to make that point without inciting a full-bore reprisal by North Korea. It’s an enormously risky idea, and there is a debate among Trump administration officials about whether it is feasible. … Such a debate reflects how tense the situation remains, even though North Korea has scaled back the pace of its provocative actions in recent weeks and opened the door to diplomacy.”
-- Alabama defeated Georgia in overtime at the college football national championship game. Chuck Culpepper reports: “[The last shock of the game] came from the hand of a freshman from Hawaii, Tua Tagovailoa, and as it went up the left sideline, many of the 77,430 lucky to occupy Mercedes-Benz Stadium probably gasped. For there, after all the plays, ran an Alabama receiver, DeVonta Smith, with space behind the defense. Smith reached ahead and grabbed it in the end zone. … Somehow, after a 13-0 deficit at halftime, a 20-7 deficit in the third quarter and a quarterback who arrived at school only last January, Alabama had snared a 26-23 overtime win . . . It had a fifth national title in the last nine seasons. It had [head coach Nick] Saban’s sixth title all told, which pulled him alongside Bear Bryant.”
-- Trump attended the game and was greeted by protesters, while the president made a point to stand during the national anthem. Sonam Vashi and Marwa Eltagouri report: “Hours before, Trump, speaking to a group of farmers and ranchers in Nashville, again criticized athletes who do not stand for the national anthem. … The Atlanta branch of the NAACP on Monday afternoon had encouraged those going to the game to wear white and wave white towels if they disagreed with Trump’s policies and statements, a move meant to mock conservatives who sometimes call liberals ‘snowflakes.’”
The president left the epic matchup early to fly back to Washington. Air Force One landed just as Alabama missed a field goal at the end of regulation that would have won the game. But Trump didn't stay on the plane to watch overtime.
-- Related: The University of Wisconsin football team’s stay at a Trump resort during the Orange Bowl may provide new ammunition to an emoluments lawsuit against the president. Maryland’s attorney general argued the public university’s business with Trump National Doral golf resort represented a gift from a state government. But the Orange Bowl Committee, not the university, chose the resort back in 2014. (Jonathan O'Connell)
-- Delays again today at some D.C. schools because of the winter weather. The full list can be found here.
-- But Washingtonians will start to see warmer temperatures today lasting for the rest of the workweek. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Morning clouds and areas of dense fog burn off after rush hour to make way for a mostly sunny situation and these near normal temperatures (mid-upper 40s) will feel like a big change compared to the past week of frigidity.”
GET SMART FAST:
- New York City fire officials said three people sustained minor injuries in a small electrical fire at Trump Tower in Manhattan, which was first spotted by the Secret Service before it called 911. The small blaze was apparently on the roof of the president's New York City residence not inside the luxury building. (Lindsey Bever)
- Extreme hurricanes and wildfires made 2017 the most expensive year on record for disasters in the United States, according to a new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The disasters caused an estimated $306 billion in total damage, with 16 events causing more than $1 billion in losses each. (Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis)
- A Las Vegas judge dismissed all charges against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and three others over a 2014 armed standoff with federal officers, citing “flagrant prosecutorial misconduct” that violated their due process rights. The judge also dismissed the charges “with prejudice,” barring the prosecutors from retrying the case. (Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
A U.S. spy satellite estimated to be worth billions of dollars is believed lost. Officials said the secret payload, which was meant to reach orbit atop a Space Exploration Technologies Corp. rocket, likely plummeted back into the atmosphere after failing to separate from the rocket. (The Wall Street Journal)
- The fraternity Pi Delta Psi has been banished from the state of Pennsylvania for a decade in connection to the hazing death of Chun “Michael” Deng. A judge also ordered the fraternity to pay more than $112,000 for Deng’s death, which occurred at Baruch College in 2013. (Susan Svrluga)
- The mysterious “Madame Giselle,” who charmed neighbors at her upscale Washington high-rise with stories of access to the rich and powerful, including Ivanka Trump, has disappeared without a trace. In her wake, she left behind only a fog of unpaid rent — and neighbors who say she swindled them out of thousands of dollars each. (Manuel Roig-Franzia)
The title character of “Roseanne” will return to ABC in March as a Trump supporter. The show’s creator, Roseanne Barr, said Monday of the decision, “I’ve always attempted to portray a realistic portrait of the American people and of working class people. And in fact it was working class people who elected Trump.” (Travis M. Andrews)
A fitness chain has banned cable news from its gyms as part of a “healthy way of life.” The Minnesota-based Life Time Fitness removed channels including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC from its 128 gyms. (Samantha Schmidt)
A BUNKER MENTALITY:
-- Trump may be interviewed within the next several weeks as part of Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian influence in the 2016 election. “This is moving faster than anyone really realizes,” a person close to the president told our Carol D. Leonnig. “Trump is comfortable participating in an interview and believes it would put to rest questions about whether his campaign coordinated with Russia in the 2016 election, the person added. … However, the president’s attorneys are reluctant to let him sit for open-ended, face-to-face questioning without clear parameters, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Since [a December meeting with Mueller’s team], they have discussed whether the president could provide written answers to some of the questions from Mueller’s investigators, as President Ronald Reagan did during the Iran-contra investigation. They have also discussed the obligation of Mueller’s team to demonstrate that it could not obtain the information it seeks without interviewing the president.”
-- Michael Wolff’s new book has thrust the topic of Trump’s mental acuity into the national spotlight, overshadowing the administration’s agenda and forcing the White House to confront the issue directly. Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker report: “So far, Trump’s advisers have adopted a posture of umbrage and indignation. Rather than dignifying questions … they attack the inquisitors for having the gall to ask. In an emailed statement Monday, [Sarah] Huckabee Sanders slammed what she called ‘ridiculous reports from detractors[.]’ ‘The White House perspective is outrage and disgust that people who do not know this President or understand the true depth of his intellectual capabilities would be so filled with hate they would resort to something so far outside the realm of reality or decency,’ she said.” A White House spokesman described Trump as “sharp as a tack” and “brilliant” while taking questions yesterday on Air Force One, per Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan.
-- Some congressional Republicans are now scrutinizing contact between Justice Department officials and reporters covering the Russia probes. Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports: “In recent weeks, GOP congressional investigators have publicly and privately questioned senior Justice Department and FBI leaders about interactions with reporters covering the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. The goal, according to a half-dozen lawmakers and aides, is to expose any concerted effort by law enforcement officials to spin an anti-Trump narrative in the media through unauthorized leaks.”
-- Hill Republicans faltered when asked whether they consider Trump to be a “genius.” CNN’s Manu Raju reports: “‘He's smart and capable at getting himself elected president,’ said Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran. But is he a genius? Moran paused for several seconds, smiled and said simply, ‘Got nothing.’ Moran isn't the only Republican to hesitate. In interviews with more than a dozen House and Senate Republicans on Monday, none of them agreed with Trump's assertion that his intellect is far superior than his peers'. … Asked if he agreed with Trump [on his self-description as a ‘genius,’] South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott: ‘I'm not commenting on anything.’ Asked why not, Scott quipped: ‘I don't want to.’”
-- “Fusion GPS Founder Hauled From the Shadows for the Russia Election Investigation,” by the New York Times’s Matt Flegenheimer: “In his early 20s, as a student at George Washington University, [Glenn] Simpson broke his neck in a car crash. In his late 30s, he turned back spinal cancer. In between, Mr. Simpson produced some of Washington’s most important journalism, writing stories on the Keating Five savings-and-loan scandal and the assorted misadventures of Newt Gingrich, then the House speaker. He earned a reputation for dogged, document-based foraging. C-Span 2 once devoted 17 unremarkable minutes to a segment on Mr. Simpson rummaging around the public records room at the Federal Election Commission. ‘He had a very strong sort of ethical backbone,’ said Jim Glassman, the former editor in chief of Roll Call[.] … ‘He was a terrific reporter, kind of a prodigy.’”
-- House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) announced he wouldn't seek reelection, presenting Democrats with a prime pickup opportunity in a district that Hillary Clinton carried. Mike DeBonis reports: “Royce, first elected in 1992, is one of eight House Republican chairmen who have announced they will forego a reelection campaign for the House ahead of the midterm elections. Like most of the others, he would have lost his gavel in the next Congress in accordance with party rules[.] … Even before his retirement, Democrats were eyeing Royce’s Orange County district as a key pickup opportunity. . . . Clinton won . . . by nine points over [Trump] in 2016, and several credible Democratic candidates have launched campaigns for the seat.”
-- Mitch McConnell and other top Senate Republicans have urged “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance to run for Senate in Ohio, following the abrupt withdrawal of GOP candidate Josh Mandel last week. Politico’s Seung Min Kim and Kevin Robillard report: “Mandel announced on Friday that he would exit from the Ohio Senate race — one of the more high-profile battles in the 2018 midterm elections — due to his wife’s health issues. McConnell has told associates that he would prioritize the race if Vance jumps in. Establishment Republicans have not settled on Vance as their favored candidate to take on Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) is also still mulling a run, and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, the chairman of the [NRSC], has also spoken with Renacci about a potential Senate bid.”
-- Mike Pence is gearing up to play an “active” role in the midterms, The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas and Michael C. Bender report. “Mr. Pence, in an interview at his White House office Monday, conceded that history shows it is difficult for the president’s party to stave off midterm election losses, but said that economic gains could help Republicans strengthen their grip on the Senate. … Mr. Pence envisions a game plan in which he helps raise money and makes early visits to competitive districts and states, with Mr. Trump following up with appearances that draw large crowds and stoke voter enthusiasm. [Meanwhile], Pence is planning to visit western Pennsylvania later this month to help Republican Rick Saccone in a March 13 congressional special election, [and] will travel to Nevada later this week for an official appearance with Sen. Dean Heller[.] Mr. Pence also expects to help recruit a candidate for the Senate race this year in Ohio.”
-- Democratic donor Tom Steyer ruled out the possibility of running for office in 2018, telling reporters he will instead pour more money into this year’s elections with the hope of turning the House blue. “People have been asking me for 12 months and five days what I’m going to run for,” said Steyer, who has spent more than $100 million on political campaigns since 2016. “I’m not going to run for anything. I’ve said all along, the question I always ask is: Where can I make the most differential impact? And when I look at the jobs I can run for in California, they all have reputable Democrats running for them already.” Steyer said he plans to spend $30 million on NextGen Rising, his 2018 campaign aimed at increasing millennial voter turnout. (David Weigel)
-- The Democrat running in Pennsylvania’s special election said Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should be replaced as House minority leader. David Weigel reports: “In interviews with Pittsburgh’s two major newspapers, Democrat Conor Lamb, a former U.S. attorney running to represent Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, said that Congress needs ‘new leadership on both sides’ and was clear that he meant an end to Pelosi’s 13-year role as House Democratic leader. ‘My take is, if these people have been around for several years and they haven’t solved these problems that have been hanging around, it’s time for someone new to step up and get it done,’ Lamb told the Pittsburgh Tribune.”
-- Former congressman Dennis Kucinich announced he is running for Ohio governor, joining a crowded six-person field in the Democratic primary. The Dayton Daily News’s Laura A. Bischoff reports: “Kucinich, 71, launched his political career nearly 50 years ago when he served on the Cleveland City Council and later captured the mayor’s office in 1977. He served eight terms in Congress and twice ran for his party’s nomination for president.”
-- An aide to Mitt Romney said the former presidential candidate, who is preparing for a possible Senate bid in Utah, was “treated successfully” for “slow-growing prostate cancer” last summer. Philip Rucker reports: “Romney's prognosis was described by a second person close to the former Massachusetts governor as ‘very good’ and he was ‘treated successfully.’ Romney, 70, is in good heath and went skiing with family in recent days, the person said.”
RACISM IS AN ENDURING STAIN ON OUR NATIONAL CHARACTER:
-- A Republican in Kansas’s House suggested that illicit drugs are illegal in part because of “the African Americans.” Rep. Stephen Alford claimed “all drugs” were outlawed in the 1930s because black Americans “were basically users and they basically responded the worst off to those drugs just because their character makeup, their genetics and that.” Christopher Ingraham notes that federal data shows virtually no difference in illicit drug use between white and black Americans.
-- The Supreme Court gave a black death row inmate in Georgia a chance to appeal his sentence, saying he deserved another chance in court after a white juror in his case used a racial epithet in an affidavit and questioned “whether black people have souls.” (Robert Barnes)
-- Clothing giant H&M apologized for an ad that featured a black child wearing a sweatshirt that said, “Coolest monkey in the jungle.” The image prompted backlash online, with Canadian music artist The Weeknd saying on Twitter that he would decline to work with the company in the future. (New York Times)
-- An ex-Google engineer who was fired over a controversial “diversity memo” has filed a class-action lawsuit, accusing the technology giant of discriminating against white men and conservatives. (Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg)
THE #METOO MOMENT:
-- A top BBC editor resigned after learning that she was paid 50 percent less than her male counterparts at the network. In an open letter, Carrie Gracie, who served as BBC’s China editor, said the network “routinely” pays men more than women for the same work — criticizing what she called the network’s “secretive and illegal” pay structure. (Emily Rauhala)
-- A handful of women in China have come forward about their experiences with sexual harassment, but the movement has not spread in the same manner as in other countries. Simon Denyer and Amber Ziye Wang report: “‘There is still a belief in China, deeply ingrained in traditional culture, that it is a virtue of women to be submissive to the wishes of others,’ said women’s rights activist Ye Haiyan[.] … In October, Chinese state media crowed over the Harvey Weinstein case, arguing that Chinese culture was superior to Western culture, that harassment doesn’t happen here because men are taught to ‘protect’ women, and that the authorities deal harshly with those who misbehave. The reality is quite different. Powerful perpetrators are habitually protected by the Chinese state, Ye said, while women’s rights groups are treated with suspicion by the Communist Party, branded as agents of foreign interference.”
-- The Republican speaker of Kentucky’s House resigned from his leadership position but defiantly clung to his seat, arguing that lewd text messages resulting in a secret sexual harassment settlement with a former staffer were consensual. Derek Hawkins reports: “In remarks lasting more than 20 minutes, [Rep. Jeff] Hoover portrayed himself as the victim of a wide-ranging conspiracy to oust him from power, accusing the governor and fellow lawmakers of lying about his actions. With his wife of 26 years watching from the balcony, he acknowledged having traded sexually-charged texts with the staffer, but denied any misconduct, saying that while the messages were ill-advised, they were consensual. ‘What’s the one thing you’re most ashamed of that you have done in the past five years?’ Hoover asked his fellow lawmakers. ‘What if you woke up one morning and that one thing that you’re sitting there thinking about was on the front page of every newspaper in this state?’”
-- Tina Johnson, the Roy Moore accuser whose Alabama home burned down last week, has received donations to rebuild from more than 5,000 people. Johnson’s GoFundMe campaign has already raised nearly $180,000. (Kristine Phillips and Marwa Eltagouri)
-- The Kennedy Center has canceled its “evening of storytelling” event with Garrison Keillor after the public radio icon and columnist was accused of inappropriate behavior by a co-worker. (Peggy McGlone)
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- Trump is considering finding a role in the administration for Andrew Puzder, who was the president’s first pick for labor secretary before allegations of domestic abuse derailed his nomination. Politico’s Nancy Cook and Marianne Levine report: “It’s not clear what role Puzder might take in the administration, … though it would have to be a non-Senate-confirmed slot given his withdrawal as labor secretary. … Democrats wasted little time in bashing any consideration of Puzder for a new role. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a written statement that ‘at a time when so many women are speaking up about sexual harassment and discrimination on the job, empowering someone with a history of objectifying women . . . would be shocking if it wasn’t par for the course under President Trump.’”
-- The Senate Finance Committee will hold a confirmation hearing today for Alex Azar, Trump’s nominee to lead HHS. Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin report: “The 10 a.m. hearing before the Senate Finance Committee will give Azar’s Democratic critics a forum to contend that his role in helping to approve rising pharmaceutical prices while a top executive of Eli Lilly means he is ill-suited to carry out President Trump’s stated goal of making medicines more affordable. … Such naysaying, however, is widely anticipated to be outweighed by a unanimous wall of support by the committee’s Republicans, along with that of the two HHS secretaries under the previous GOP administration.”
-- Azar may also face questions over reports that, while he was at Eli Lilly, the company protected its patent on the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis by testing it on children. Politico’s Sarah Karlin-Smith reports: “The drugmaker believed the erectile dysfunction drug might help a rare and deadly muscle-wasting disease that afflicts boys. The drug didn’t work — but under a law that promotes pediatric research, Lilly was able to extend the Cialis patent anyway for six months — and that’s worth a lot when a medication brings in over $2 billion a year.”
-- Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was renominated for an ambassadorship after his original nomination expired at the end of the last Senate session. Anita Kumar and Hunter Woodall report for the Kansas City Star: “Brownback was first nominated last July but failed to receive a confirmation vote in the Senate after resistance from Democrats over his record on LGBT rights. He is one of dozens of officials who will be renominated by the president on Monday because they were not confirmed by the Senate after Democrats refused to allow their nominations to roll over into the new year. … Timing of a confirmation vote for Brownback — and its outcome — remains uncertain.”
-- Trump’s renominations also included two judicial nominees rated “not qualified” to be federal judges by the American Bar Association. (HuffPost)
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
-- The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s plan to prop up nuclear and coal power plants. Steven Mufson reports: “Perry’s proposal favored power plants able to store a 90-day fuel supply on site, unlike renewable energy or natural gas plants. The plan, however, was widely seen as an effort to alter the balance of competitive electricity markets that federal regulators have been cultivating since the late 1980s. And critics said that it would have largely helped a handful of coal and nuclear companies, including the utility FirstEnergy and coal-mining firm Murray Energy, while raising rates for consumers.”
-- During his trip to Nashville yesterday, Trump signed an executive order aimed at expanding rural broadband access. (The Tennessean)
-- The administration is finalizing a plan to give diplomats and Pentagon officials a larger role in U.S. weapons' sales overseas. Reuters’s Mike Stone and Matt Spetalnick report: “Trump is expected to announce a ‘whole of government’ approach that will also ease export rules on U.S. military exports and give greater weight to the economic benefits for American manufacturers[.] … The initiative, which will encompass everything from fighter jets and drones to warships and artillery, is expected to be launched as early as February[.] … A key policy change would call for embassy staffers around the world to act essentially as a sales force for defense contractors, actively advocating on their behalf. It was unclear, however, what specific guidelines would be established.”
-- Rex Tillerson defended his September decision to order most U.S. personnel and their families to leave Cuba, even as the FBI has cast doubt on the idea that diplomats in Havana were the victims of “sonic attacks.” “I’d be intentionally putting them back in harm’s way [if the decision were reversed]. Why in the world would I do that when I have no means whatsoever to protect them?” Tillerson said in an AP interview. “I will push back on anybody who wants to force me to do that.”
-- Pence has rescheduled his Middle East trip for late January and has added a trip to Jordan. Jenna Johnson reports: “Pence plans to leave Washington on Jan. 19 and arrive in Egypt on Jan. 20 to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi. Pence will then travel to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II on Jan. 21, a meeting that was not on his original itinerary. Pence will then spend Jan. 22 and 23 in Israel, where he will participate in a bilateral discussion with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and give a speech at the Knesset.” He also plans to visit the Western Wall and Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial while in Israel.
MORE “FIRE AND FURY” FALLOUT:
-- Ex-Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka says he was instructed to cooperate with “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff while working at the White House last year, but ultimately declined because he had a “gut feeling” that the author would be biased against the president. Gorka did not say who instructed him to talk to Wolff, but specified that it was not Trump or Bannon. (The Hill)
-- Wolff told CNN’s Don Lemon that multiple high-level White House officials — including Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway — told colleagues to cooperate with him. “Bannon told people to cooperate, Sean Spicer told people to cooperate, Kellyanne Conway told people to cooperate, Hope Hicks,” Wolff said. Spicer issued a statement in response reading, “Considering his track record, chalk this up to another made up story by Michael Wolff. There is not a single staffer that I asked to cooperate with or meet with him.” (The Hill)
-- Bannon's exile: In 2015, Bannon led a conservative watchdog group that tried to discredit Trump’s nascent presidential bid by shopping a document alleging that he had “mobster” ties. CNN’s Sara Murray, Evan Perez and Jeremy Diamond report: “The anti-Trump opposition research was the work of author Peter Schweizer for the Government Accountability Institute, which he cofounded with Bannon in 2012. It described years of alleged business connections between Trump companies and organized crime figures, allegations that have circulated among Trump detractors for years. … Two sources confirmed that GAI shopped copies of the document to donors for Trump rivals during the GOP primary. The GAI is backed by the Mercer family, one of the largest benefactors for Trump's campaign, [and] Rebekah Mercer … is listed as the group's chairwoman on its website.” When the document was produced, the Mercers were backing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), and Bannon had not yet joined Trump’s campaign.
IS THE “DRAFT OPRAH” MOVEMENT WISHFUL THINKING — OR SOMETHING MORE?
-- Enthusiasm for Oprah Winfrey as a possible presidential contender swept through the Democratic Party after the Golden Globes, as activists and party officials “earnestly considered” the possibility of running their own global celebrity against Trump in 2020. Robert Costa reports: “The clamor also exposed how the crowded class of Democrats mulling over bids for the White House so far lacks a front-runner or someone who could easily unite the party’s key coalitions of women, minorities and working-class voters. ‘Lord, we need passion and excitement,’ said state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-S.C.) . . . ‘I know it’s conjecture right now, but I’d ask her to give it serious consideration. If anybody could bring us together, it’s her.’ While the draft-Oprah buzz struck some Democrats as a red-carpet-turned-Twitter boomlet that could quickly fade, few veteran strategists were ready to ignore the talk about her among rank-and-file Democrats.”
- “I can guarantee county chairs in Iowa would love to have a conversation with her,” said Brad Anderson, who ran Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign in the state. “People could be looking for an outsider who could heal the country, and if that’s the case, I have no doubt that Oprah would be powerful.”
- Nancy Pelosi told reporters that Winfrey could be a “force” in presidential politics if she surrounded herself with experienced advisers, though she stopped short of fully embracing the idea. “I think one of the arguments for Oprah is 45,” Pelosi said, referencing Trump’s celebrity appeal and lack of experience. “I think one of the arguments against Oprah is 45.”
Meryl Streep said Winfrey “launched a rocket” with her speech at the Golden Globes. “I want her to run for president,” Streep said. “I don't think she had any intention [of declaring]. But now she doesn't have a choice.”
-- CNN’s Brian Stelter reports that two of Winfrey’s close friends described her as “actively thinking” about running. Conversations about the idea have reportedly been going on for several months, but the sources emphasized that Winfrey hasn't made up her mind.
-- When asked yesterday about Trump running for reelection in 2020, a White House spokesman said the president was “absolutely” running and would win — even if Winfrey entered the race. (Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan)
-- ABC News’s Meredith McGraw profiled the unexpected figure behind a “Draft Oprah 2020” super PAC — a suburban father and registered Republican who says he never even watched her show. “[A.J.] Stevens recognizes that he’s not who you’d expect to run a Draft Oprah 2020 PAC. A registered Republican who grew up in rural Indiana, Stevens coached lacrosse at Dartmouth College and is now the current executive director for the Midland Railway Historical Association. He is not an Oprah superfan, and he never watched her eponymous show. … [But] in October, he registered Draft Oprah 2020 with the FEC, created a website, www.OprahforPotus.org and made an @OprahforPOTUS Twitter handle. … The website links to recent national news articles encouraging Winfrey's run for office and a recent poll that touts Winfrey as having an advantage over [Trump] in a Midwest 2020 presidential poll.” “She’s just the right person at the right time,” Stevens said. “I was never a big fan of her but what she does is refreshing and it’s needed.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump did say Oprah “knows how to win.” In 2012:
Conservative commentator Bill Kristol tweeted his support of Oprah:
From a New York Times reporter:
But Mitch McConnell's former chief of staff said this:
From a BuzzFeed editor:
From a reporter for BuzzFeed:
Even the president's daughter was encouraging — about the #MeToo movement:
From a Fox News producer:
A former spokesman for Obama's Justice Department addressed reports of Trump's lawyers attempting to avoid an interview with Mueller:
Two retired military officers had this tense exchange:
A writer for the liberal Daily Kos shared this projection:
Tennessee lawmakers joined Trump on his trip yesterday to Nashville:
A House Republican from Tennessee applauded Trump's calls for better rural broadband access:
Trump's Nashville speech included this quote, per a CNN reporter:
Jake Tapper exchanged insults with Andy Puzder, Trump's former labor secretary pick, after Puzder slammed Tapper's interview with White House aide Stephen Miller:
And Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) had this memorable response to a marijuana question:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The New Yorker, “When Deportation Is a Death Sentence,” by Sarah Stillman: “Laura had started dating Sergio when she was eighteen, and he soon became physically abusive. After a particularly horrific night the previous spring, when Sergio assaulted her, Laura had finally called the police, and cooperated with them to secure his arrest. He was later deported. … Still, Sergio haunted her. In Mexico, he’d reportedly joined a local drug cartel. He often texted Laura death threats. … Laura and her friends waited by the roadside until a U.S. Border Patrol agent named Ramiro Garza arrived and ordered the three of them into his vehicle. Laura pleaded with Garza as he drove them to a nearby processing center, where Laura’s friends saw her, under pressure, sign paperwork for a ‘voluntary return.’ Three hours later … he drove them to the McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge, which crosses the Rio Grande[.] … In the final moments before Laura crossed the bridge, she turned to Agent Garza. ‘When I am found dead,’ she told him, ‘it will be on your conscience.’”
-- New York Times, “The Decline of Anti-Trumpism,” by David Brooks: “It’s almost as if there are two White Houses. There’s the Potemkin White House, which we tend to focus on: Trump berserk in front of the TV, the lawyers working the Russian investigation and the press operation. Then there is the Invisible White House that you never hear about, which is getting more effective at managing around the distracted boss.”
-- BuzzFeed News, “Dylan Farrow Is Calling Out People Who Support Both Anti-Harassment Efforts and Woody Allen,” by Alanna Bennett: “Allen’s daughter, Dylan Farrow, has long alleged that he molested her when she was a child; Allen has long denied the allegations. Through it all, Hollywood’s biggest stars have continued to work with the film giant. ‘I fully support women taking a stand, linking arms with other women (and men), advocating on behalf of one another to effect change not only in the entertainment industry but in the world at large,’ Farrow said[.] … ‘That said, the people who join this movement without taking any kind of personal accountability for the ways in which their own words and decisions have helped to perpetuate the culture they are fighting against, that’s hard for me to reconcile.’”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated …” From Vox: “If you attended an American public school, chances are you went to that school because your family lived in that school’s attendance zone. You probably didn’t think twice about it. [But] often the attendance zones are gerrymandered to put white students in classrooms that are even whiter than the communities they live in. The result is that schools today are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Alabama player yells 'f--- Trump' ahead of college football title game,” from The Hill: “An Alabama football player yelled ‘f--- Trump’ as he took the field at the college football national championship on Monday, which was attended by President Trump. Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough yelled the expletive as the team walked onto the field for the game, according to a clip shared by Sporting News. Trump appeared on the field before the game, standing at midfield for the national anthem before moving to a suite. Trump was greeted with applause and some boos.”
Trump has a meeting on immigration with a bipartisan group of senators followed by the signing of an executive order on “Supporting our Veterans during their Transition from Uniformed Service to Civilian Life.” He also has an afternoon meeting with Jim Mattis.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Trump offered this take on American history during his speech in Nashville: “But to ensure that our young people reach their potential and our nation fulfills its destiny, we must remember and honor our history. We have to remember our history. Mostly good, some not so good, but you learn from it.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- The son-in-law of former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, J.D. Merrill, announced that he will run for the state Senate. WJLA reports: “He said he plans to run in Maryland's 41st District, which includes parts of Baltimore County and Baltimore City. Merrill has worked for the past year as special assistant to the chief of staff at Baltimore City Public Schools. He said one of his top priorities will be to improve schools.”
-- Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.) came out against drilling off the coast of his Virginia Beach district, breaking with the Trump administration on the issue. Jenna Portnoy reports: “The freshman congressman, who represents all of Virginia’s oceanfront land as well as the Navy base in Norfolk, said drilling could interfere with military training and faces stiff opposition from coastal communities and industries in his district.”
-- Democrat Shelly Simonds, who famously lost her tied Virginia House of Delegates race after her name was not selected out of a ceramic bowl, already plans to run again. Paul Schwartzman reports: “‘I’m probably stuck in the anger phase,’ Simonds said over lunch [the day after her defeat], reflecting on a two-month saga in which she found herself evolving from a political unknown to the inspiration for the Twitter hashtag #StandwithShelly. With Virginia’s General Assembly convening Wednesday, Simonds, 50, is contemplating whether to exercise her last remaining option: a second recount. She has until Jan. 16. … Whatever her choice, Simonds said she’s preparing to begin fundraising to challenge Yancey in 2019. ‘This seat is mine; I am running again,’ Simonds said. She said her resolve has been fortified by her post-election journey[.]”
-- Despite ongoing legal challenges, Virginia Democrats appear resigned to Republicans maintaining control of the House of Delegates. Fenit Nirappil and Laura Vozzella report: “[O]n Monday, House Democratic Leader David J. Toscano (Charlottesville) seemed to suggest he isn’t putting great faith in either of those two [challenges] and is instead focused on the unexpected electoral inroads his party made in November when it flipped 15 seats.”
-- The National Zoo’s two-toed sloth Ms. Chips died. She was 45. (Martin Weil)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts made jokes about a possible President Oprah Winfrey:
The Post examined how Trump's stance on trade goes back decades:
The author of “Fire and Fury” drew criticism for this interview answer:
Dozens of same-sex couples in Australia got married at midnight as the new gay marriage law took effect:
And the rescuers of a group of North Carolina alligators documented how the coldblooded creatures survived in a frozen pond: