With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: The Trump administration withdrew Sam Clovis’s nomination to be undersecretary at the USDA in November after special counsel Bob Mueller revealed that he had encouraged foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to meet with Russian officials overseas during the 2016 campaign. But two months later, Clovis continues to work as a “senior adviser” inside the department. It’s a prominent role that does not require Senate confirmation and leaves him unaccountable to Congress.
Clovis pulled out just days before his scheduled confirmation hearing. That spared him more than just tough questions about Russia: He has described himself as “extremely skeptical” of climate change, argued that protecting gay rights could lead to the legalization of pedophilia and was the mastermind behind Trump’s 2015 proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
He’s one of multiple Trump picks who couldn’t pass muster with a GOP-controlled Senate yet continues to wield immense authority inside the government.
-- Brett Talley’s nomination to be a federal judge in Alabama failed when multiple Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee turned against him. Among other things, it emerged that he posted a defense of “the first KKK” online in 2011. He failed to disclose that his wife is the chief of staff to the White House counsel on required paperwork about conflicts of interest. He’s also never tried a case. He has, however, written science fiction novels and pulled all-nighters as an amateur ghost hunter.
Talley continues today to be the deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy, which (ironically) oversees the Justice Department’s vetting of candidates for judicial nominations.
-- Matthew Petersen withdrew from consideration to be a federal judge in the D.C. district court after one of the most cringeworthy performances during a confirmation hearing in modern times. He was unable to answer basic questions about legal procedure that were posed to by him by Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy and acknowledged that he lacked meaningful courtroom experience.
But Petersen gets to finish his term as a Republican commissioner on the Federal Election Commission, where he holds a pivotal vote to determine how campaign finance laws are enforced.
-- Andy Puzder withdrew as Trump’s nominee to be the secretary of labor last February. His ex-wife had gone on Oprah Winfrey’s show to allege domestic abuse in 1990, though she later recanted her story and he denies any wrongdoing. He acknowledged employing an undocumented housekeeper and not paying taxes on her for years. As the chief executive of the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, he greenlighted commercials that demeaned and objectified women.
Now the White House is considering finding a place for Puzder in the administration where he wouldn’t need to get confirmed by the Senate, three people familiar with the discussions told Politico this week. “It’s not clear what role Puzder might take … [He] is generally well-liked inside the West Wing and has maintained a strong relationship with the president,” Nancy Cook and Marianne Levine report.
-- Trump this week renominated 75 controversial picks for administration and judicial posts who couldn’t make it through the Senate last year because of questions about their qualifications, temperament or extreme views.
On the list is K.T. McFarland, a Michael Flynn loyalist who Trump named as ambassador to Singapore after she was pushed out as deputy national security adviser. The former Fox News talking head testified under oath this summer that she was “not aware of any of the issues or events” surrounding Flynn’s contact with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but the New York Times obtained emails in December that showed she was very aware of at least one of their exchanges that Flynn subsequently lied to the FBI about.
“Others include a nominee who would be the first politician to lead NASA, a pick to lead the Council on Environmental Quality who has cast doubt on climate change, a choice to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission who has drawn opposition from consumer groups and two judicial nominees rated ‘unqualified’ by the American Bar Association,” John Wagner reports. “Under Senate rules, a single member can object to a nomination being carried over into the new year. About 150 Trump nominees drew no objections in December, but an unusually large number — nearly 90 — were sent back to the White House at the end of the year. All but 14 of those have been renominated by Trump.”
-- It’s possible that there are additional people who couldn’t get confirmed by the Senate that are now working under the radar inside the executive branch. Every president gets to bring on about 4,000 political appointees, but only around 1,200 of those need to be confirmed by the Senate. It’s hard to find out the identities of the other 2,800. This opacity means that a lot of apparatchiks who have been installed in somewhat important government jobs aren’t being vetted.
“There’s no way to know. That’s a problem. It ought to be the case that there’s transparency on all appointees in some central database,” said Max Stier, the president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that tracks executive branch nominations. “It’s a big blind spot not to have a requirement that all political appointees … are in a single location available for the public, the media and [members of Congress] to know that they are there.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Trump administration has issued guidance allowing states to enforce work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid. Amy Goldstein reports: “The letter to state Medicaid directors opens the door for states to cut off Medicaid benefits to Americans unless they have a job, are in school, are a care-giver or participate in other approved forms of ‘community engagement[.]’ … The new rules come as 10 states are already lined up, waiting for federal permission to impose work requirements on able-bodied adults in the program. Three other states are contemplating them. Health officials could approve the first waiver — probably for Kentucky — as soon as Friday, according to two people with knowledge of the process.”
-- Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who was considered a rising GOP star, acknowledged to the St. Louis CBS affiliate he had an extramarital affair with his hair stylist. From Lauren Trager and John O'Sullivan of News 4: “In a recording … a woman says she had a sexual encounter with [Greitens] and that he tried to blackmail her to keep the encounter quiet. … The details were provided … by the woman’s ex-husband, claiming the sexual relationship happened between his now ex-wife and Greitens in March 2015.”
The now ex-wife, who is not named, didn't know her then-husband was recording their conversation as she confessed intimate details to him: “In the recording, the unnamed woman describes going to Greitens’s house, where he brought her downstairs: ‘[H]e used some sort of tape, I don't what it was, and taped my hands to these rings and then put a blindfold on me. … He stepped back, I saw a flash through the blindfold and he said: ‘you're never going to mention my name, otherwise there will be pictures of me everywhere.’”
In a joint statement co-signed by Greitens's wife, the governor did not address the issue of the photograph: “A few years ago, before Eric was elected Governor, there was a time when he was unfaithful in our marriage. This was a deeply personal mistake. … [W]ith God’s mercy Sheena has forgiven and we have emerged stronger.”
GET SMART FAST:
- The death toll in the Southern California mudslides climbed to 15, with dozens of others still awaiting rescue after being stranded by the fast-moving sheets of mud and debris. The powerful torrents dislodged boulders, buried cars and swept away at least 100 homes — prompting one sheriff to compare the situation to a “World War I battlefield.” (Max Ufberg, Noah Smith, Marwa Eltagouri and Avi Selk)
- North Carolina’s GOP pledged to go to the Supreme Court following a federal-court decision overturning the state’s congressional map. The nation’s highest court is already considering challenges to gerrymandered maps in Wisconsin and Maryland. (Kirk Ross, Robert Barnes and Sandhya Somashekhar)
- Another 215 workers will be laid off today at Indianapolis’s Carrier plant. Trump visited the plant after his election, promising to save jobs there from being sent overseas. (The Indianapolis Star’s John Tuohy)
- A House Democrat introduced the “Stable Genius Act,” which would require presidential candidates to disclose the results of a mandated medical exam before an election. The full name of the bill, introduced by Rep. Brendan Boyle (Pa.), is the Standardizing Testing and Accountability Before Large Elections Giving Electors Necessary Information for Unobstructed Selection Act. (CBS News)
- The White House’s ban on personal cellphones goes into effect next week. Chief of Staff John Kelly sent a memo warning staffers that bringing a personal cellphone into the West Wing from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday could result in “disciplinary action.” (Politico)
- Egypt’s prosecutor general ordered a criminal inquiry into a Jan. 6 New York Times article, which described a secret effort by Egyptian intelligence officials to sway public opinion on Jerusalem. In a statement, the prosecutor said the article “undermines Egypt’s security and public peace,” while another lawmaker accused the Times of being “at war” with Egypt. (New York Times)
- In Myanmar, prosecutors are seeking to charge two Reuters journalists under the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. The reporters were detained last month while attempting to cover the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, who are being driven from the country by a violent military campaign. (Reuters)
- Dutch journalists hammered ex-congressman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), Trump’s ambassador to the Netherlands, over controversial statements he previously made about Islam. “There are cars being burned, there are politicians that are being burned,” Hoekstra had said before taking his ambassadorship. But when a journalist asked yesterday for “any example of a Dutch politician who was burned in recent years,” Hoekstra responded with silence. (Eli Rosenberg and Amar Nadhir)
- Thousands signed a Swiss petition calling for Trump to be banned from attending the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. Swiss authorities warned that Trump’s attendance increases the likelihood of protests during the gathering of world elites at the end of this month. (AFP)
- Michael Wolff’s new book about the Trump administration, “Fire and Fury,” is selling out at stores across the country. But so is a very different book with the exact same title. Nearly a decade after its publication, the Canadian author of “Fire and Fury: The Allied Bombing of Germany, 1942-1945,” says sales have gone through the roof following the publication of Wolff's tome — landing his work at the top of three different bestseller lists. (Samantha Schmidt)
- Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner are planning to continue their divorce privately, attorneys confirmed, moving quickly to stanch rumors of reconciliation after the couple withdrew their case from court. An attorney for Abedin cited the ex-couple's desire to protect their 6-year-old son and said the split will be finalized “swiftly and privately.” (Emily Heil)
- A Japanese astronaut called out his own “fake news” of having grown 3½ inches since arriving at the International Space Station. Norishige Kanai told his Twitter followers that, after remeasuring, he realized he had only grown less than an inch, which NASA considers more in line with expectations for space walkers. (Alex Horton)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Trump declined to say whether he would sit for an interview with Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors — attempting to deflect questions from reporters by claiming there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia. Josh Dawsey reports: “We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House, after he was asked directly about the interview request. “When they have no collusion — and nobody’s found any collusion at any level — it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview,” Trump said.
This is a shift from the president's previous remarks: “In June, after [James Comey] told a congressional panel that Trump had privately asked for his loyalty, the president said he would be willing to testify under oath to dispute the fired FBI director’s claims. ‘One hundred percent,’ Trump told reporters when asked if he would give a sworn statement to Mueller.” Just last weekend, he said would cooperate fully. So something significant has shifted internally in the past few days.
Trump criticized the FBI’s handling of its 2016 interview with Hillary Clinton, who was then under investigation for mishandling information found on her private email server. “When you talk about interviews, [Clinton] had an interview where she wasn’t sworn in, she wasn’t given the oath, they didn’t take notes, they didn’t record," Trump said. “That’s, perhaps, ridiculous, and a lot of people looked upon that as being a very serious breach.” (Wouldn't this seem to be a reason Trump should be interviewed under oath and recorded when he's interviewed?)
-- Staffing up: Mueller added a veteran cyber prosecutor to his special counsel team, filling a gap and potentially signaling a heightened focus on computer crimes. Matt Zapotosky reports: “Ryan K. Dickey was assigned to Mueller’s team in early November from the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual-property section[.] … Dickey’s addition is particularly notable because he is the first publicly known member of the team specializing solely in cyber issues.
- Why it matters: “Legal analysts have said that one charge Mueller might pursue would be a conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if he can demonstrate that members of Trump’s team conspired in Russia’s hacking effort to influence the election.
-- Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made sure Trump knows what is getting done at the Justice Department, in an attempt to “wash away the sin of recusal,” as one White House official put it. Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky report: “[Sessions] has told allies he hopes policy decisions that garner news coverage will please Trump. Sessions’s team at Justice has crafted a public campaign to highlight the work it is doing to advance the president’s agenda. The department has also begun looking into matters that Trump has publicly complained are not being pursued. … But Sessions … has, by all accounts, been unable to repair his relationship with the president. … White House officials have begun privately guessing who will replace Sessions — even though he has said he has no plans to leave.” Rumored replacements include Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
-- “This Is How Trump’s Lawyers Are Probably Prepping Him for the Mueller Showdown,” by Politico Magazine's Bradley P. Moss: “When Trump sat for a deposition in the summer of 2016 for a breach of contract lawsuit involving a planned restaurant at the Trump International Hotel, the opposing side’s lawyers’ mouths likely hit the floor when the president stated he had done ‘virtually nothing’ to prepare for the deposition. During the deposition, he often gave boisterous and self-serving descriptions of events that were not completely factually accurate. That cannot happen here. The president is now facing a prosecution ‘dream team’ the likes of which he has never previously encountered. … If the president approaches this interview with the same haphazard approach to which he seemingly handles everything else … he could find himself in a world of political hurt from which there may be no rescue but impeachment.”
-- Trump attacked Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for releasing the full congressional testimony of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, perhaps because it undercut a false narrative his allies have been pushing that the FBI only started investigating the Trump campaign because of the dossier compiled by a former British agent employed by that company. POTUS called the California Democrat “sneaky” as he urged Republicans to “take control” of the Russia investigation. He tweeted that the investigation is the “single greatest Witch Hunt in American history" and added that “Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing.” (Josh Dawsey)
-- Feinstein’s decision to release the transcript reflects congressional Democrats’ growing frustration with their Republican colleagues, who they think are not just slow-walking but actively trying to undermine the Russia probes. Karoun Demirjian reports: “In the House, [Nancy Pelosi] endorsed a letter sent Tuesday to [Paul Ryan], accusing him of orchestrating a campaign to bury a congressional probe into Trump’s alleged ties to the Russian government and defame the agencies investigating those matters. … Increasingly, Democrats see Republicans as dedicating more energy to attacking federal law enforcement than seriously investigating the allegations that have been unearthed. For them, the criminal referral of [dossier author Christopher] Steele … was ‘a breaking point,’ according to one congressional aide[.]”
-- Trump’s businesses sold more than $35 million in real estate in 2017, mostly to secretive shell companies that obscure the identity of the buyers. USA Today’s Nick Penzenstadler reports: “In Las Vegas alone, Trump sold 41 luxury condo units in 2017, a majority of which used limited liability companies — corporate entities that allow people to purchase property without revealing all of the owners’ names. … In the two years before [he won the GOP] nomination, 4% of Trump buyers utilized the tactic. In the year after, the rate skyrocketed to about 70%.” (How many of these buyers are foreigners? What are they trying to hide?)
TRUMP STEPPED ON A LANDMINE WITH OFFSHORE DRILLING DECISION:
-- The Trump administration's decision to exempt Florida from expanded offshore drilling at the request of Gov. Rick Scott (R) prompted a bipartisan uproar in other coastal states, with governors from both parties asking: Why not us? David Weigel and John Wagner report: “The Florida carve-out … created new doubts about the fate of the entire offshore drilling decision — and immediately became another challenge for Republicans as they work to hold off Democrats in the midterm elections. Nine of the 11 states that opposed the drilling order have gubernatorial races this year, and many of the most competitive [House races] will unfold in districts that touch coastline. By Wednesday afternoon, state attorneys general, joined by environmental groups, were suggesting that [Ryan] Zinke had undermined the entire drilling rule with his high-profile visit to Tallahassee, where he heaped praise on ‘straightforward, easy to work for’ Gov. Rick Scott … whom Trump has repeatedly urged to run for [Senate]. . . . The White House declined to say whether Trump was personally involved in the decision to exempt Florida.”
-- Republicans who represent coastal states are aghast. This is what they're saying in one of the reddest states in the country:
- “We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline,” said South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R).
- Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), a former governor who represents his state’s Atlantic coastline, said the president is treating the Palmetto State differently because he does not own property there. “It smacks of what we never want to see in politics which is: Is it self-serving?” Sanford said on CNN. “I mean, you can’t say, ‘I don’t want to see an oil rig from Mar-a-Lago’ as you look out from the waters of Palm Beach, but it’s okay to look at an oil rig out from Hilton Head or Charleston.”
-- Trump has handed Democrats another winning issue in two 2020 presidential battlegrounds:
- “Not Off Our Coast,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) wrote in a tweet. “We’ve been clear: this would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment, and our coastal communities.”
- Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) unloaded on Zinke and Trump, saying that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) had asked for an exemption and heard nothing back. “Is it because the governor of Florida is a Republican and the Virginia governor and governor-elect are Democrats?” Kaine said. “Are they putting Florida off-limits because President Trump has a vacation property — Mar-a-Lago — on the Atlantic coast of Florida and he worries about the environmental risk there, but he’s not worried about environmental risk in Virginia?”
THE REST OF THE AGENDA:
-- Trump floated the idea of a massive gas tax increase to help fund a national infrastructure overhaul, but the idea was quickly shot down by GOP leaders. Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report: “During a [meeting] with House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) several weeks ago, Trump mused about a gas tax increase to 50 cents per gallon, almost triple the current level, according to a person briefed on the exchange[.] … The discussions underscore the difficulty Trump faces as he seeks to finance his 2016 campaign promise of a $1 trillion national infrastructure upgrade. The White House is expected to release an infrastructure plan as soon as this month, but that plan is not expected to dictate how the projects would be paid for, in part to avoid controversy and preserve flexibility.”
-- Republican congressional leadership is considering bypassing a budget this year, a maneuver that could seriously weaken its chances of getting through major legislation before the midterms. Politico’s Rachael Bade and Sarah Ferris report: “White House and Hill GOP leaders discussed the possibility of forgoing the painful budget process during last weekend’s Camp David legislative summit, according to four sources familiar with the talks. [Mitch McConnell] has argued that he cannot pass controversial deficit-reduction legislation using powerful budget procedures with his new 51-vote majority — and wasn’t even sure he could find the votes for a fiscal blueprint in the first place. … Only with passage of a joint House-Senate budget can Republicans deploy reconciliation tools, which allow them to circumvent the Senate filibuster and bypass Democrats[.]”
-- Politico obtained an internal document, prepared last year, outlining the Trump administration’s plans to sabotage Obamacare by using executive authority. Jennifer Haberkorn reports: “The document lists 10 executive actions the Trump administration planned to take . . . Those include calling for stricter verification of people who try to sign up outside of the open enrollment period; cutting the sign-up period in half; and giving states authority to determine whether insurers had to cover the full range of benefits required by Obamacare and whether their networks of doctors were sufficient. Those policies are among seven proposals in the plan that have since been implemented. … The document also said the administration would encourage states to build less robust exchanges than required by Obamacare and prevent health care providers from steering patients to Obamacare plans instead of to Medicaid — two policies that have not yet been enacted.”
-- The administration has suspended a national database of addiction and mental health programs used by thousands of professionals and community groups across the country. Lena H. Sun and Juliet Eilperin report: “The [registry] offers a database of hundreds of mental health and substance abuse programs that have been assessed … and deemed scientifically sound. Getting a program or therapeutic approach included in this registry amounts to receiving federal recognition as an evidence-based practice. Mental health and addiction specialists say they rely on this database as a key source for finding appropriate and effective therapies.”
-- The administration plans to propose changes to banks’ mandatory lending practices to lower-income borrowers. The Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Louise Ensign and Ryan Tracy report: “Changes to the regulations of the Community Reinvestment Act — a law first enacted in 1977 — could potentially transform the way banks make billions of dollars in loans, investments and donations to poorer customers. In all, they could make it easier for banks to meet certain lending requirements and lower penalties for compliance problems.”
-- Trump is expected to once again waive sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program amid protests in the Middle Eastern nation. Anne Gearan, Carol Morello and Karoun Demirjian report: “He also is expected to announce new sanctions linked to human rights and other issues that would not directly affect the nuclear agreement but would underscore U.S. concerns about Iran’s response to recent anti government protests and other actions, officials and others said. The decision … keeps the United States in the Iran deal, at least for the time being, despite Trump’s suggestion last year that he was inclined to walk away from it.”
-- Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Sen. Cory Gardner to discuss the Colorado Republican’s strong opposition to a crackdown on states that have voted to decriminalize marijuana. Karen Tumulty reports: “[Gardner] said the two are no closer to agreement beyond a pledge to ‘continue our discussions and conversations, and perhaps even expanding those conversations to others who are in Congress.’ Meanwhile, Gardner said he is marshaling fellow lawmakers to oppose the new policy. A dozen senators met Tuesday in Gardner’s office ‘to talk about what we need to be doing legislatively and the direction we should be pursuing in Congress on this matter,’ he said.” Sessions’s stance also threatens to become a burden for Republicans running in competitive states — including Gardner, who faces reelection in Colorado in 2020.
-- Zinke is proposing a sweeping reorganization of his department that would include moving tens of thousands of workers. Juliet Eilperin and Darryl Fears report: “The proposal would divide the United States into 13 regions and centralize authority for different parts of Interior within those boundaries . . . This new structure would be accompanied by a dramatic shift in location of the headquarters of major bureaus within Interior, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation.” The changes would require congressional approval.
-- Shot: Trump declared that his administration will take a “very, very strong look” at tougher libel laws. “Can’t say things that are false, knowingly false, and be able to smile as money pours into your bank account,” the president said at a Cabinet meeting yesterday. Josh Dawsey notes the unlikelihood of Congress taking up this constitutional issue, when both conservatives and liberals largely agree that public officials should face a high bar for proving libel claims.
-- Chaser: Trump has now made over 2,000 false or misleading statements in public since taking office, per Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly.
THE LATEST ON IMMIGRATION:
-- Congressional negotiators met again to try to reach a compromise on immigration overhauls that would protect “dreamers” from deportation. Maria Sacchetti, Patricia Sullivan and Ed O'Keefe report: “[L]awmakers said a bipartisan proposal could come as early as Thursday or Friday, but such legislation would probably face fierce resistance from progressives opposed to ceding any ground on immigration rights and conservatives who feel the same on security issues.”
-- An immigration proposal from House Republicans underscored how difficult it will be to reach a consensus. The New York Times’s Thomas Kaplan and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report: “The proposal, championed by the chairmen of the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees, would crack down on illegal immigration and sharply reduce the number of legal immigrants to the United States … ‘This is the only bill that’s going to unify the conference, and it’s going to get us to a majority of the conference,’ said Representative Raúl R. Labrador [R-Idaho].”
-- Trump stressed during his news conference yesterday that he would not support a DACA replacement without money for a border wall. “It’s got to include the wall. We need the wall for security. We need the wall for safety. We need the wall to stop the drugs from pouring in,” Trump said. “I would imagine the people in the room, both Democrat and Republican — I really believe they are going to come up with a solution to the DACA problem that’s been going on for a long time, and maybe beyond that immigration as a whole.” (Ed O'Keefe)
-- Meanwhile, the administration pledged to fight a judge’s nationwide injunction on Trump’s decision to end DACA. Our colleagues report: “Lawyers said the lawsuit and perhaps the injunction could drag on for years, and could also be appealed by the Justice Department, which spokesman Devin O’Malley said ‘looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation.’ The Department of Homeland Security did not say whether it would begin renewing work permits, despite an order . . . to do so, and provided no guidance on its website, which includes a message in red letters: ‘DACA is ending.’”
-- Over 100 prominent business owners signed a letter to lawmakers urging them to protect “dreamers.” Ed O’Keefe reports: “[The letter states,] ‘The imminent termination of the DACA program is creating an impending crisis for workforces across the country.’ … The letter is co-signed by Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook; Tim Cook, CEO of Apple; Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com and owner of The Washington Post; Mary Barra, chairman and CEO of General Motors; Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T; and media mogul Barry Diller. The leaders of other big-name brands, including the Gap, Target, Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, Warby Parker, Uber and Lyft also signed the letter.”
-- Republican congressional negotiators say Stephen Miller, a top White House aide and immigration hard-liner, is standing in the way of an immigration deal. McClatchy DC’s Anita Kumar reports: “They blame him for insisting the administration gets approval for an unrealistic number of immigration policies in exchange for protections for [‘dreamers.’] They loathe his intensity when delivering his hardline views. And they accuse him of coordinating with outside advocacy groups that oppose their efforts. ‘It's no secret that he’s an obstacle to getting anything done on immigration,’ said a Republican House member involved in the immigration talks."
-- ICE blitzed dozens of 7-Eleven stores before dawn yesterday as part of a bid to crack down on undocumented workers. Federal agents showed up at 98 stores and made 21 arrests, carrying out what the agency said was the largest operation targeting an employer since Trump took office. Nick Miroff reports: “ICE [described the] operation as a warning to other companies that may have unauthorized workers on their payroll . . . In total, ICE sent agents to 17 different states to deliver audit notifications and conduct interviews in the pre-dawn raids.”
MEET THE YOUNG PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES ARE IN LIMBO:
-- “With jitters and with prayers, with countdown clocks in their heads and their immigration lawyers on speed-dial, hundreds of thousands of young immigrants have spent all fall and winter watching [Trump] and congressional leaders negotiate their fate, every fleck of news a tantalizing omen,” the New York Times’s Vivian Yee, Caitlin Dickerson and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report. “Perhaps more than any other single group of people in the country, the Dreamers … have had their lives shaped directly by the mood swings of national politics. [And since] the Trump administration announced that it would shut down [DACA] … the goings-on in Washington have felt especially personal.”
- “Hafsa Mamun, 18, spends about 30 minutes a night scrolling through news stories about the negotiations after she gets home from classes at Hunter College in Manhattan, where she is a freshman. ‘It’s like you’re on edge constantly,’ she said. ‘One day you have hope that it might go through, and then something else comes up.’”
- Every time Dallas resident Ramiro Luna looks down at his iPhone, a countdown clock reminds him of the days he has left before DACA expires. On Wednesday, the clock stood at 280 days. "Every single day," he said, "I feel like I have one day left to consider myself safe here."
A BLUE WAVE IS BUILDING:
-- Republican Rep. Darrell Issa announced he will not seek reelection in his Southern California district — bolstering predictions for a Democratic “blue wave” in the midterm elections. Mike DeBonis reports: “Issa built a national profile as the chief congressional antagonist to Obama [as chairman of the House Oversight Committee]. But Issa’s hold on his San Diego-area district became increasingly tenuous in recent years, and he only barely fended off a Democratic challenger in 2016. In a statement Wednesday, Issa did not give a reason for his departure but reflected on a two-decade political career that included jump-starting the process that led to the 2003 recall of Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis.”
- Issa is the fourth Republican from a district carried by Hillary Clinton to announce that he will not seek reelection in 2018.
- The Cook Political Report switched its rating for Issa's district from a “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic.”
- The Fix’s Philip Bump analyzed how close California could get to an all-Democratic House delegation in 2018.
-- “The number of House Republicans planning to forgo reelection this year is on track to outpace majority-party retirements in any recent election where control of the chamber flipped,” Mike DeBonis reports. “At least 29 House seats currently held by Republicans will be open in November; only 22 GOP seats were open in 2006, and 19 Democratic seats in 2010. The 1994 ‘Republican revolution’ that swept the GOP into power after decades of Democratic rule saw 27 Democratic retirements. A striking feature of the slate of GOP retirements is the number of committee chairmen, including [Ed] Royce and Issa, who had already lost or were about to lose their leadership posts due to party-governed term limits. The prospect of losing control of the chamber … will leave House GOP conference with far fewer experienced lawmakers.”
“It kind of reminds me of 2006,” said retiring Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), referring to the year Democrats picked up 31 seats and regained the majority. “It felt like you were running uphill every day in terms of the environment[.] … I think that’s how it feels now.” (A lot of Republicans also tell us privately that they too feel like its 2006.)
-- Rep. James B. Renacci (R-Ohio) reportedly plans to end his gubernatorial bid to challenge Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). Sean Sullivan reports: “Renacci discussed his political future at a Wednesday White House meeting that political director Bill Stepien also attended[.] … Renacci could officially announce his plans as soon as Wednesday night or Thursday morning, the Republicans familiar with his plans said. … His decision comes as Republicans are scrambling to find a top candidate in Ohio. [Top GOP recruit Josh] Mandel told supporters last week that he was ending his campaign, citing an unspecified health issue with his wife as the reason for his decision.”
MEN BEHAVING BADLY:
-- Veteran Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach has been suspended for 90 days without pay for “inappropriate workplace conduct” involving current and former women colleagues. Paul Farhi reports: “Achenbach, a veteran reporter, is the first Post journalist to be disciplined for misconduct of this kind [in the post-Weinstein era.] … [Achenbach’s suspension is the] most severe newsroom punishment the paper has handed out in recent years for violations of its workplace or journalistic standards. His suspension began immediately. The paper’s top news managers declined to describe Achenbach’s misconduct in detail and said the investigation into his behavior took two months.”
-- James Rosen, who left his post as Fox News’s chief Washington correspondent last month, was pushed out over sexual misconduct allegations. NPR’s David Folkenflik reports: “According to Rosen's former colleagues, … he had an established pattern of flirting aggressively with many peers and had made sexual advances toward three female Fox News journalists, including two reporters and a producer. And his departure followed increased scrutiny of his behavior at the network[.] … In the winter following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, a female Fox News reporter joined the bureau from New York. In a shared cab ride back from a meal, Rosen groped her, grabbing her breast. After she rebuffed his advance, Rosen [allegedly] sought to steal away her sources and stories related to his interests in diplomacy and national security.”
-- Moira Donegan identified herself as the creator of the “Sh---y Media Men” list, a Google spreadsheet that eventually grew to name 70 men in media who had allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct. Donegan writes in an essay for the Cut: “The anonymous, crowdsourced document was a first attempt at solving what has seemed like an intractable problem: how women can protect ourselves from sexual harassment and assault. … Women began to anonymously add their stories of sexual assault; many of the accounts posted there were violent, detailed, and difficult to read. Women recounted being beaten, drugged, and raped. Women recounted being followed into bathrooms or threatened with weapons. … I took the spreadsheet offline after about 12 hours, when a friend alerted me that [Doree] Shafrir would soon be publishing an article at BuzzFeed making the document’s existence public. By then, the spreadsheet had gone viral.”
Donegan chose to come forward after learning that a soon-to-be published piece in Harper’s magazine by Katie Roiphe would be naming Donegan publicly for the first time: “[A] controversy ensued on Twitter after Roiphe’s intention to reveal my identity was made public. People who opposed the decision by Harper’s speculated about what would happen to me as a result of being identified. They feared that I would be threatened, stalked, raped, or killed. The outrage made it seem inevitable that my identity would be exposed even before the Roiphe piece ran. All of this was terrifying. I still don’t know what kind of future awaits me now that I’ve stopped hiding.”
-- Some House Democrats plan to invite victims of sexual assault to Trump’s State of the Union later this month. NBC News’s Jonathan Allen reports: “Several Democrats told NBC News that there had not been discussion of inviting victims of Trump's alleged harassment to the State of the Union, but that the invites would be extended to other victims.”
-- The House could soon pass an overhaul of its workplace misconduct system. Politico’s Elana Schor reports: “The chairman of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), said that he hoped to release the harassment legislation next week, send it from his panel to the House floor and possibly also steer it to House passage before the end of the week. … [Harper] said the forthcoming legislation had enough ‘broad bipartisan support’ that it was likely to pass on the so-called suspensions calendar, which the House reserves for the most uncontroversial bills.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
In a tweet this morning, Trump returned to Hillary Clinton’s private email server:
Disproven and paid for by Democrats “Dossier used to spy on Trump Campaign. Did FBI use Intel tool to influence the Election?” @foxandfriends Did Dems or Clinton also pay Russians? Where are hidden and smashed DNC servers? Where are Crooked Hillary Emails? What a mess!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2018
Trump criticized a court's nationwide injunction on his decision to end DACA:
It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 10, 2018
A Boston Globe reporter commented on Trump's calls for stricter anti-libel laws:
President Trump, who has said Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States and Ted Cruz’s father was behind JFK assassination, says laws should make it harder to say things that are false.— Matt Viser (@mviser) January 10, 2018
The communications director for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) struck back against claims that Feinstein's release of the Fusion GPS transcript could make witnesses less likely to testify:
1) It's not a leak. She sent it to her press list, from her office & posted it online.— Lily Adams (@adamslily) January 10, 2018
2) She not only had the permission of the witness, it was a request of the witness
3) There is no rule against what she did - committee rule, law or otherwise. https://t.co/tH3EcExJZP
From a former House GOP staffer and CIA officer, who ran for president as an independent:
The FBI didn’t pay Steele for the dossier; Republicans and Democrats did.— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) January 11, 2018
Here’s a better question: What would possess a US Congressman to mislead the American people about a federal investigation? https://t.co/iecuPBajqc
Breitbart went after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.):
When you're a willing Deep State tool. https://t.co/O5RgUljGzx— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) January 10, 2018
A writer for Media Matters replied to Breitbart's tweet:
you literally just fired your ceo after the white house told you to https://t.co/4oakJcmOxL— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) January 10, 2018
From the communications director of the Obama-aligned group Organizing for Action:
at least 15 House Rs now vacating winnable seats:— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) January 10, 2018
From former congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.):
Glad to see so many House Republicans joining me in retirement. Welcome.— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) January 11, 2018
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) encouraged her colleagues to join the sexual harassment protest planned for Trump's State of the Union:
My colleagues and I in the @HouseDemWomen are calling on our fellow MoCs - women & men, Democrats & Republicans - to wear black to this year's #SOTU in solidarity w/survivors of sexual harassment/violence in Hollywood, politics, the military, academia, etc. #TIMESUP #MeToo— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) January 10, 2018
The White House press secretary bragged about some poll numbers:
66% of voters say the economy is "good" or "excellent" - the highest since 2001 - according to new Quinnipiac poll. America has turned a corner under the President’s strong leadership.— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) January 11, 2018
But a CNN anchor rained on her parade a bit:
Also in same poll:— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 11, 2018
49 percent of voters say former President Barack Obama is more responsible for the state of the economy
40 percent say Trump is more responsible. https://t.co/lZY2bYCv7n
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) established a new test for judicial nominees:
Starting today, I'm asking nominees to our courts, under oath, whether or not they have a history of sexual assault or harassment. Like in other industries, our judges are in positions of power & #TimesUp. pic.twitter.com/Jk0NcTBi3h— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) January 10, 2018
A House Democrat trumpeted her plan to block a taxpayer-funded border wall:
What we know about @realDonaldTrump's border wall:— Rep. Gwen Moore (@RepGwenMoore) January 10, 2018
1) 🇲🇽 won't foot the bill
2) It will likely cost $18B
3) @SpeakerRyan will cripple #Medicaid & other social programs to pay for it
My bill blocks @POTUS from using your 💵 for this absurd proposal.
The Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee blamed Trump for the Carrier layoffs:
Despite the GOP tax law, Carrier is still moving forward with its layoffs – more than 200 people will lose their jobs tomorrow.— Ways and Means Dems (@WaysMeansCmte) January 10, 2018
Looks like President Trump struck a very bad deal for Carrier employees and their families. https://t.co/wAdl0zcSbC
A Post data reporter analyzed North Carolina's congressional map that was just thrown out in court:
NC GOP says their districts can't be gerrymanders because gerrymanders are "strange looking monster drawings" and "this map is not that." NC-2 literally looks like a monster eating Raleigh. https://t.co/VGmppXW7NI pic.twitter.com/1TMcspA6s9— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) January 10, 2018
A Reuters correspondent rallied behind his jailed colleagues:
This is my Reuters colleague Kyaw Soe Oo, in handcuffs, saying goodbye to his 3-year-old daughter outside a Yangon court today. He and Wa Lone (right) are brave and decent men who face 14 years in jail simply for doing their jobs. Please read and share: https://t.co/59qZ2CZXKs pic.twitter.com/tLFlhlrCwo— Andrew RC Marshall (@Journotopia) January 10, 2018
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The New Yorker, “Michael Wolff Says That Washington Will Bury Trump,” by Susan B. Glasser: “When I asked Wolff about the book’s factual errors, … he was dismissive, saying that he saw them as more or less irrelevant to the larger truths that he had told about Trump. Mostly, Wolff talked like a man who couldn’t help but marvel at his own good fortune: he’d written a book that he thought might just bring down the President — and he was making a killing.”
-- The Atlantic, “It Is Silly Season in the Land of Cryptocurrency,” by Derek Thompson: “It is officially silly season in the land of cryptocurrency. To borrow a reference from the show Portlandia, this is the ‘put a bird on it’ stage of crypto, where seemingly every multinational company, small business, and fledgling entrepreneur is desperately slapping blockchain onto press releases and venture-capital pitches. Some of these companies might conjure an actual consumer business from this exercise in magical word choice. So far, most of them are doing no such thing. … Even blockchain’s biggest defenders can’t say what the technology’s most obvious consumer use-cases are going to be, because they plainly don’t exist yet. It is possible they never will. … [And it is] altogether possible that a distributed, anonymous ledger is simply an elegant mathematical solution in permanent search of a human problem.”
-- New York Times, “Tonya Harding Would Like Her Apology Now,” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner: “In the movie, ‘I, Tonya,’ the disgraced figure skater looks back on the 1994 Nancy Kerrigan scandal and her struggles to tell her side of the story. … This has nothing to do with exoneration; it hasn’t for a long time. Her side of the story is not about guilt or innocence … but about the finer points of being Tonya Harding: respect, mitigating circumstances, how we treat people and what we expect from them in the first place.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Republicans Have 4 Convicted Criminals Running For Congress In 2018,” from HuffPost: “When [Joe Arpaio] announced his Senate candidacy … he became the fourth viable Republican 2018 congressional candidate who’s been convicted of a crime. And like two of the other GOP cons running for office, he has cited his criminal record as a partial justification for his candidacy. The other convicted criminals running for office as Republicans are Don Blankenship, the former head of the coal mining company Massey Energy who is running … to challenge West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D); former Rep. Michael Grimm, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) to reclaim the Staten Island congressional seat he once held; and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana), who is running for re-election.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“A high-ranking Obama Commerce Dept. official commuted by taxi — and billed the government,” from Lisa Rein: “On at least 130 occasions over two years — the majority during a four-month stretch in 2016 — [Vikrum Aiyer], then-chief of staff for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office called a taxi to pick him up near his home in the District. He was chauffeured across the Potomac River 10 miles or so to the agency’s headquarters in downtown Alexandria. And then, according to a report released Tuesday … Aiyer billed the government for each ride. To escape notice, Aiyer impersonated current and former high-level agency officials, writing their names on cab receipts and vouchers he submitted to the taxi company, which then billed the government, investigators found. The patent office paid the taxi company more than $4,000 for Aiyer’s rides …”
Trump will lead a prison overhaul roundtable this afternoon and later meet with his national security team.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Kellyanne Conway told CNN’s Chris Cuomo of the White House’s impression of Hillary Clinton, “We don’t care about her. Nobody here talks about her. Nobody here talks about Hillary Clinton, I promise you.” In fact, Trump had brought up Clinton multiple times earlier that day to explain why “it is much better to work with Russia.” (Samantha Schmidt)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washingtonians will see rain and warmer temperatures today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Fog is likely to hang in parts of the area in the morning given the calm winds. … Otherwise, some sun and clouds, but more clouds with time. By afternoon, better progress should be made, with readings pushing through the 40s and into the 50s many spots. A few showers are likely to show up by late afternoon as well but should be too light to impede the warm-up.”
-- The Wizards lost to the Jazz 107-104. (Candace Buckner)
-- Virginia Democrat Shelly Simmonds conceded in the House of Delegates race that was decided by pulling a name out of a ceramic bowl. Paul Schwartzman and Laura Vozzella report: “Simonds tweeted her concession less than an hour before the House reconvened in the state Capitol for its 60-day session and cleared the way for her Republican opponent, Del. David Yancey (Newport News), to take his seat without protests from Democrats. Simonds, in a telephone interview from Florida, said she chose not to seek a second recount — one to which she was entitled — because she did not expect to prevail in a dispute that captured national attention.”
-- A federal appeals court also declined to intervene in a separate House of Delegates race that was won by a Republican but faced legal challenges over errors in voting data. (Rachel Weiner)
-- The settling of those two cases allowed Virginia Republicans to begin the new legislative session yesterday with a 51-49 majority. Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella and Fenit Nirappil report: “Members voted 98 to 0 for Republican M. Kirkland Cox (Colonial Heights) to take over as speaker[.] … In return, Democrats won some concessions on the rules under which the House will operate. Republicans put in writing that they will continue to observe proportional representation on committees, and extended that practice to subcommittees — meaning the newly empowered Democrats will have a greater voice in determining which bills reach the full chamber.”
-- Gregory S. Schneider analyzes the legacy of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe as his term comes to an end this week: “[W]hen he steps aside Saturday for his chosen successor and fellow Democrat, Gov.-elect Ralph Northam, the 60-year-old McAuliffe can point to a slate of achievements — low unemployment, $20 billion in promised business investment, a revived Port of Virginia, increased money for education, positive approval ratings. As it turns out, being a manic salesman has its political advantages, especially in a divided state government where the opposing party controls the legislature. Issues don’t have to be partisan if they’re hitched to the all-American ideal of making a buck.”
-- A new poll found Rushern Baker leading the Democratic primary in Maryland’s gubernatorial race. 24 percent of likely voters backed Baker, putting him 10 points above both Kevin Kamenetz and Ben Jealous. (Josh Hicks)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Jimmy Kimmel recognized the 2,000th false or misleading statement Trump has made since taking office — with a shout out to The Post:
Samantha Bee probed the United States' relatively high rate of maternal mortality:
Fox News's Tucker Carlson criticized Trump's “negotiation skills” during his bipartisan immigration meeting:
Here's what it would take for Trump's personal attorney to win a libel lawsuit over the dossier:
The Post's Heather Long graded Trump on his handling of the economy so far:
And Netflix shared a preview of David Letterman's interview with Barack Obama: