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The Daily 202: Unexpected defeat in rural Wisconsin special election sets off alarm bells for Republicans

Democrat Patty Schachtner was elected to represent a traditionally conservative Wisconsin Senate district in a victory over Republican Adam Jarchow on Jan. 16. (Video: WQOW)

with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: Ten months is an eternity in politics, but a stunning Democratic victory Tuesday in a special election deep in the heart of Trump country suggests a blue tsunami could be forming.

President Trump became the first Republican to carry Wisconsin in a presidential election since Ronald Reagan by running up his score in places like the rural 10th state Senate district, which includes a swath of five counties between Eau Claire and Superior along the Minnesota border.

Trump won there by 17 points in 2016. A special election was triggered when Gov. Scott Walker tapped a popular state senator, who had held the seat since 2000, to become his agriculture secretary. Last night, Democratic candidate Patty Schachtner won by nine points.

-- Wisconsin conservative talk radio legend Charlie Sykes, a Trump critic, called the results ominous and said his prominent friends inside the GOP are freaking out:

-- Walker, who looks a lot more vulnerable in his quest for a third term than he did yesterday, called the results “a wake up call.” In a flurry of tweets that posted around midnight, the governor urged his supporters to take nothing for granted:

-- Unlike with Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, the Trump team cannot blame a flawed candidate. The GOP nominee, Adam Jarchow, is a solid assemblyman who ran a spirited campaign. Four years ago, in fact, he won his seat by defeating Schachtner’s son and has worked hard since then to cultivate a base of support.

-- Mostly under the radar, the special election had become a proxy war and Republicans significantly outspent the Democrats: Americans for Prosperity, backed by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers, poured $50,000 into the race. Two other GOP-aligned groups funded by the business community contributed another $80,000.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, backed by Barack Obama and Eric Holder, spent $10,000. Tammy Baldwin, one of 10 Democratic senators up for reelection this year in a state Trump carried, recorded a get-out-the-vote message for Schachtner:

-- There is an important lesson here for national Democrats: Schachtner is the sort of candidate who can actually defeat GOP incumbents in red congressional districts this fall. She has deep roots in the community, and she is not a fire-breathing liberal.

Her campaign focused not on attacking Trump but fighting the opioid crisis, improving access to health care and bringing good-paying jobs to the region. She didn’t need to talk about the president to benefit from an outpouring of progressive energy and conservative apathy.

She’s the chief medical examiner for St. Croix County, a former EMT and a member of the school board. She is also a trustee for the local food pantry and sits on the board for a community center that helps victims of sexual and domestic violence.

The first paragraph of the biographical page on Schachtner’s website notes that she is “a former member of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters’ Association,” and that “she and her family have enjoyed hunting in Wisconsin for generations.” She’s been married to her husband, Joe, for 39 years, and they have six grown children and nine grandchildren.

Asked whether her win is a harbinger of Democratic gains this fall, she told the Associated Press: “It certainly could be.” “My message has always been be kind, be considerate and we need to help people when they're down,” she said. “We just need to be kind to people who are less fortunate and just help.”

-- Bigger picture: The upset is the 34th Democratic pickup in the 2018 cycle. “Republicans have [already] flipped four seats from blue to red — two in the Republican-trending Deep South, one in New Jersey and one in Massachusetts,” Dave Weigel notes. “But on average, even in races that went against them, Democrats have improved on their margins from the 2016 rout. In other Tuesday elections, Democrat Dennis Degenhardt won 43 percent of the vote in Wisconsin’s 58th Assembly District; in 2016, Hillary Clinton won just 28 percent of the vote there, and no Democrat contested the seat. In Iowa’s 6th House District, Democrat Rita DeJong won 44 percent of the vote; in 2016, the party’s nominee won just 35 percent. In South Carolina’s 99th House District, Democrat Cindy Boatwright lost with 43 percent of the vote; the party had not run a candidate for the seat in this decade.”

-- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says control of the Wisconsin Senate is now in play, which has significant implications for 2020 redistricting: “Once she is seated, Republicans will hold an 18-14 advantage, with one district vacant. That seat belonged to Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere), who joined Walker's administration last month, and won't be decided until November, when 17 of the state's 33 Senate districts are up for election.”

-- Liberals are pumped.

From a Democratic pollster at Global Strategy Group:

From the Democratic robo-poll firm:

From a writer for Daily Kos:

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Senators from both parties commented on a variety pressing issues on Jan. 16. (Video: Jordan Frasier/The Washington Post)

-- House Republican leaders offered a one-month spending bill to their rank-and-file, seeking to avert the growing threat of a government shutdown on Friday as hopes for a deal on "dreamers" continue to fade. Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis report: “The bill would extend existing spending levels through Feb. 16 and include an extension of a popular children’s health insurance program — aimed at winning Democratic votes — and a new sweetener for conservatives and Democrats alike by delaying several taxes in the Affordable Care Act. Few lawmakers were enthusiastic about the legislation, but several described it as a necessary evil to avoid the first government shutdown since 2013. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) said leaders urged lawmakers to get behind the bill and make sure it could garner the Republican votes needed without having to appeal to Democrats. ‘Keep the power of 218 going, so you don’t weaken the majority position by having to get votes from the minority,’ he said.”

  • Democrats are seeking more concessions. Congressional Hispanic Caucus chairwoman Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) said her group of roughly three dozen Democrats will oppose the bill without a “dreamers” fix.
  • White House legislative director Marc Short dismissed Democratic demands. “I’m not sure why funding our troops is tied to a deal for illegal aliens,” he told reporters.

-- Three-quarters of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service abruptly quit, frustrated that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year. Juliet Eilperin scoops: “The resignation of nine out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a functioning body to designate national historic or natural landmarks. It also underscores the extent to which federal advisory bodies have become marginalized under the Trump administration. … In a letter to the secretary, departing board chairman Tony Knowles, a former Alaska governor, wrote that he and eight other members ‘have stood by waiting for the chance to meet and continue the partnership . . . as prescribed by law.’”

-- A former CIA officer was arrested at New York’s JFK Airport for allegedly sharing government secrets with China, resulting in the deaths of several intelligence assets in the country. Rachel Weiner and Shane Harris report: “Jerry Chun Shing Lee, also known as ‘Zhen Cheng Li,’ 53, is charged with unlawful retention of national defense information. … Lee has been a suspect in a long-running probe to determine if a mole inside the U.S. intelligence community had led to the deaths of a number of CIA assets in China[.] … He has not been charged with any crimes in connection with those deaths. People familiar with the matter said that Lee’s arrest would be greeted as cause for celebration among current and former CIA officials. But they said it would be hard to prove in court that Lee had provided the information that proved so damaging to the agency’s operations.”

-- Today’s wintry weather has forced delays for some Washington-area schools. See the updated list here.

-- Washingtonians may also see some flurries in the morning before a cold, windy afternoon. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Take it slow, especially on untreated roads, as light snow or flurries diminish during the early to midmorning. We should see partial sunshine this afternoon, but it’s another cold one with highs in the upper 20s to near 30. And rather breezy too[.]”


  1. Temperatures dipped to -88 Fahrenheit in Russia’s Yakutia region, enough to freeze eyelashes, eat frozen meat and to keep cars running for fear of freezing their batteries otherwise. Oymyakon in Siberia is closer to the Arctic Circle than any other major city in Russia. (Eli Rosenberg)

  2. Five Navy officers face various criminal charges, including negligent homicide, over two deadly collisions that killed a combined 17 sailors last year. The former captains of the USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain were among those charged. (Dan Lamothe)

  3. U.S and Afghan forces launched a total of 2,000 airstrikes in Afghanistan between August and December – nearly as many as all of 2015 and 2016 combined. The massive spike followed Trump's decision to permit U.S. forces to strike Taliban targets at will under new rules of engagement. (Max Bearak)

  4. More than 20 states, as well as the District of Columbia, are suing the FCC over its decision to repeal net neutrality. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), who is quarterbacking the case, said Commissioner Ajit Pai's move was “arbitrary and capricious.” (Hamza Shaban and Brian Fung)

  5. Four Republican state representatives have called for Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’s resignation. The Republican governor has asked for forgiveness after reports emerged that he attempted to blackmail a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair. (Samantha Schmidt)

  6. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) ruled out a run for Senate this year. Republican leaders were attempting to recruit T-Paw to seek the seat of former senator Al Franken (D-Minn.). He could still run for governor, though. (Politico)

  7. Fox News announced it is launching a new seven-part documentary series, “Scandalous,” that will examine the congressional effort to impeach Bill Clinton. The show is slated to debut on Sunday. (Variety)

  8. The 17-year-old girl who alerted authorities to her 12 siblings being imprisoned in their biological parents’ house did so by escaping through a window and dialing 911 on a deactivated cellphone. The California police chief handling the case said at a news conference, “We do need to acknowledge the courage of the young girl who escaped from that residence to bring attention so they could get the help that they so needed.” (Samantha Schmidt and Lindsey Bever)


-- Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s office has subpoenaed former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon to appear before a grand jury. From Karoun Demirjian, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman: “The subpoena was issued last week … Bannon expects to be able to persuade the special counsel’s office to accept a voluntary interview of Bannon by prosecutors in place of a grand jury appearance …

“The news [first reported by the New York Times] came on the same day that the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to Bannon for refusing to answer a range of questions from investigators during a combative closed-door interview … Bannon’s appearance Tuesday before the House panel perplexed and frustrated investigators … He arrived with no documents, saying that if lawmakers wanted emails and other communications, they were likely to be available from other witnesses. And he refused to answer questions about conversations he had with Trump after leaving the administration or communications he had with officials outside government about people serving in the White House. … Faced with Bannon’s resistance, Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), who is running the panel’s probe, said that the committee elected to serve him with a subpoena during the interview. … ‘Only Steve Bannon could unite this committee,’ said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.).”

-- FBI agents reportedly went to Bannon’s home last week to serve the subpoena. NBC News’s Hallie Jackson, Kristen Welker and Julia Ainsley report: “The agents were unaware at the time that Bannon had retained Washington lawyer William Burck just hours earlier, according to two people familiar with the events that took place on Jan. 9. Once redirected, the agents sent the order to Burck, who is also representing two other witnesses in the [Mueller] probe[.]”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) says the White House effectively enforced a “gag order” to prevent Stephen K. Bannon from answering questions from lawmakers. (Video: The Washington Post)

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said that Bannon’s attorney, Bill Burck, told the committee that while Bannon himself was willing to speak with lawmakers and investigators, he could not answer questions because the White House told him not to respond. “This was effectively a gag order by the White House preventing this witness from answering almost any question concerning his time in the transition or the administration,” Schiff said. “The scope of this assertion of privilege, if that’s what it is, is breathtaking. It goes well beyond anything we have seen in this investigation. If the White House is permitted to maintain that kind of gag rule on a witness, no congressional investigation could ever be effective. So this obviously can’t stand.”

A person familiar with the situation said that any executive privilege asserted by the White House with regard to Bannon would not extend to an interview by Mueller, who is also an executive branch official, and that Bannon intends to cooperate fully with the special counsel’s investigation,” our colleagues report.

-- Former Trump manager Corey Lewandowski and senior White House aide Rick Dearborn are also slated to testify before the House intelligence panel this week. (CNN)


-- The criminal trials of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates will begin no earlier than September, a federal judge has indicated — rejecting a bid by Mueller's team to start the proceedings in May. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “The timeline emerging from an hourlong hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson raises the possibility that Manafort and colleague Rick Gates could go on trial at the height of the midterm campaign season, making an already unwelcome distraction for the White House and Republicans even more uncomfortable. Jackson indicated that with hundreds of thousands of documents and electronic files turned over to the defense as recently as Friday, it was unrealistic to proceed with the May 14 trial date prosecutors proposed last week.”

-- Gates was released on a nearly $5 million bond after agreeing to forfeit three properties as well as financial and other assets should he fail to appear in court. Spencer S. Hsu reports. “Under a bail deal, Gates also agreed to abide by a nighttime curfew, electronic monitoring, and a ban on international travel as well as travel outside the Richmond area for anything but court appearances . . . Jackson expressed impatience that Manafort has yet to finalize a similar $10 million secured bond deal. In one of several sharp exchanges. the judge asked, ‘As for Mr. Manafort’s bond, what are we waiting for?,’ adding that the defendant ‘held the keys’ to his freedom.”

The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold takes a look at the Trump Organization’s real estate business since President Trump took office. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)


-- Since Election Day, Trump’s name has been removed from luxury hotels in New York, Rio de Janeiro and Toronto — and behind the scenes, the Trump Organization is fending off even more efforts to shed the president’s name from key properties. David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell report: “The root of the disputes is a growing belief among investors in some locales that the Trump brand has turned from an asset to a liability. ‘It’s a bloodbath, basically. It’s a financial bloodbath,’ said Jeffrey Rabiea, a New York businessman who owns three hotel rooms in [Trump’s Panama hotel]. Like other owners in the building, he blames the Trump company for mismanagement and attributes the low occupancy rates in part to the president’s polarizing brand. ‘Nobody wants to go there. If you’ve got a Marriott and a Hyatt and a Trump, you’re not going to Trump.’”


-- Fox News axed a story about Trump’s relationship with adult-film star Stephanie Clifford just weeks before the 2016 election, CNN’s Oliver Darcy reports: “One of the network's reporters, Diana Falzone, had filed a story in October 2016 about an alleged sexual relationship between Clifford and Trump, people familiar with the matter said. Falzone had an on-the-record statement from Clifford's manager at the time, Gina Rodriguez, confirming that her client had engaged in a sexual relationship with Trump, three of these people said, and Falzone had even seen emails about a settlement. But the story never saw the light of the day, to the frustration of Falzone, two of the people said. ‘She had the story and Fox killed it,’ [said] one of the people familiar with the matter …'

- Slate’s Jacob Weisberg claims in a new article that Clifford spoke to him repeatedly in the run-up to the election because she feared that Trump would not finalize the financial settlement meant to buy her silence: “Daniels said she had some corroborating evidence, including the phone numbers of Trump’s longtime personal assistant Rhona Graff and his bodyguard Keith Schiller, with whom she said she would arrange rendezvous. While she did not share those numbers with me, I did speak to three of Daniels’ friends, all of whom said they knew about the affair at the time, and all of whom confirmed the outlines of her story. … And then, about a week before the election, Daniels stopped responding to calls and text messages. A friend of hers told me Daniels had said she’d taken the money from Trump after all.”


-- The Justice Department said it is appealing a federal judge’s ruling blocking the Trump administration from dismantling DACA. Maria Sacchetti reports: “The Trump administration said later this week it will petition the Supreme Court to intervene in the case, hoping to bypass the 9th circuit altogether in its bid to phase out the [DACA] program in March.” Jeff Sessions said “it defies both law and common sense” that “a single district court in San Francisco” halted the administration’s plans. (He never seemed to mind when a single district court in Texas halted the Obama administration's plans.)

-- The feds are planning to arrest over 1,500 undocumented people in Northern California in an effort to punish the state for its sanctuary status. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Hamed Aleaziz reports: “The campaign, centered in the Bay Area, could happen within weeks, and is expected to become the biggest enforcement action of its kind under [Trump]. … The operation would go after people who have been identified as targets for deportation, including those who have been served with final deportation orders and those with criminal histories . . . The number could tick up if officers come across other undocumented immigrants in the course of their actions and make what are known as collateral arrests.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said that "I did not hear that word" in a meeting with President Trump, but said he was using "tough language." (Video: Senate Judiciary Committee)


-- DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Trump used “tough language” in last week’s Oval Office meeting on immigration but testified under oath that she did not hear him use the term “shithole” to describe Haiti and certain African nations. Ed O'Keefe and Nick Miroff report: “[Nielsen] repeatedly declined to cite specific words used by the president, but otherwise confirmed the general tenor of the exchange. During the testimony, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Nielsen whether Trump had used the vulgarity to describe the countries ‘or a substantially similar word.’ ‘I did not hear that word used,’ Nielsen told members of the committee. When Leahy asked again, Nielsen said: ‘The conversation was very impassioned. I don’t dispute that the president was using tough language. Others in the room were also using tough language.’”

-- Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), making his debut as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, denounced Nielsen’s “amnesia” in a lecture that's quickly gone viral. “Your silence and your amnesia is complicity,” Booker told the DHS secretary. “I’ve got a president of the United States whose office I respect, who talks about the country’s origins of my fellow citizens in the most despicable manner. You don’t remember?! You can’t remember the words of your commander in chief?! . . . I find that unacceptable.” Watch:

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) spoke out against President Trump's "shithole countries" remarks, and Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen's silence on them. (Video: Senate Judiciary Committee)

-- Sen. Lindsey Graham’s questioning of Nielsen became a rundown of how immigration talks broke down. At one point, the South Carolina Republican described the current state of DACA negotiations as “an S-show.” Implicitly rebuking Tom Cotton and David Perdue for unfairly impugning the integrity of a respected colleague, Graham also recognized Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) as a “decent, honest man.” Watch:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) described the events leading up to the Jan. 11 immigration meeting with President Trump. "This has turned into an s-show," he said. (Video: Senate Judiciary Committee)

-- A rising star in the Virginia GOP has quit the party over Trump’s “shithole” comments. Antonio Olivo reports: “Kyle McDaniel, 28, served on the party’s state central committee for two years and has worked as a top aide for Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), who said he had hoped McDaniel would eventually run for public office. But McDaniel said he harbored increasing reservations over where the party has been heading. On Tuesday, he sent a letter of resignation to state party chairman John Whitbeck that described events he ‘could no longer stomach,’ including Trump’s reported reference last week to Haiti as a ‘shithole’ country and the defense by some party leaders of a rally this summer by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville that led to the death of a 32-year-old woman.”

-- In denying that Trump is a racist, Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited his run as the host of “The Apprentice": “Frankly, I think if the critics of the president were who he said he was, why did NBC give him a show for a decade on TV?”

The belief that television networks would never employ a racist is oddly naive, especially for a figure as steeped in criticism of Hollywood as the daughter of famed social conservative Mike Huckabee,” Jonathan Chait writes for New York Magazine. “In case Sanders is confused on this point, there is not, in fact, a racism test applied to reality-television performers. That is how Phil Robertson was able to slip through and gain a starring role in Duck Dynasty despite his belief that African-Americans were happier when they had no civil rights. Indeed, Bill Pruitt, a former producer of Trump’s program, has said that Trump repeatedly made racist comments during the filming of his show. Unsurprisingly, NBC chose not to air its star making racist comments. … As one famous expert in celebrity power dynamics has put it, in a different context, When you’re a star, they let you do it.”

-- “Over a three-day weekend at his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., [Trump] showed little or no concern about the angry reaction set off by his use of obscenities to describe the Third World countries he fears immigrants could come from under a new immigration bill,” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin report. “His base loved what he said, he told guests at the club, Mar-a-Lago, a refrain he repeated in phone calls over the holiday weekend. … Aides to Mr. Trump, and allies of the administration, readily acknowledged that the president sprinkles most private interactions with profanity and rolled their eyes at suggestions that previous presidents did not use such language. They saw his main offense as using it in front of a Democrat[.]

Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, the lead White House doctor, said on Jan. 16 that President Trump’s “overall health is excellent.” (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)


-- Trump was given an “excellent” bill of health by the White House’s top physician, who told reporters that he also achieved a perfect score on a cognitive test designed to detect mild impairment, such as dementia, in older patients. Jenna Johnson and Lenny Bernstein report: “‘There’s no indication whatsoever that he has any cognitive issues,’ [Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson] said. The [10-minute] assessment he took includes asking a patient to name several animals, draw a clock with the hands at a certain time, copy a cube and recall a shortlist of words. It is not a psychological exam. Jackson, who has been the lead White House doctor since 2013, said he has interacted with the president several times a day for the past year and saw no indications of cognitive problems. The president is ‘very sharp’ and ‘very articulate’ in their conversations and does not repeat himself, he said. … Overall, Jackson described a president in excellent health for a 71-year-old man, except for his elevated cholesterol level and his weight, 239 pounds, which qualifies him as borderline obese for a man of his height, 6-foot-3.”

“Asked how Trump could have scored so well despite a high-fat diet, affinity for fast food and lack of exercise, Jackson credited the president’s genes. ‘It’s called genetics,’ Jackson said, shrugging. ‘The answer to your question is that he has incredibly good genes, and it’s just the way God made him.’”

-- Any adult with normal cognitive function should receive a perfect score on the test -- known as the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, or MoCA. “That [Trump] passed the test is just like you successfully singing the alphabet song. … You’re supposed to get 30 out of 30 — and when you don’t, that’s when the doctors learn something," Philip Bump notes. (A link to the test can be found here.)

President Trump told members of Congress that they should consider reinstating earmarks. Here’s what you need to know about the practice. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)


-- The Senate narrowly advanced the proposed extension of FISA’s Section 702 last night, which allows the NSA to collect data on foreign targets on U.S. soil. Karoun Demirjian reports: “[L]eading Democrats joined senators opposing the legislation for not providing better protections for Americans. The 60-to-38 vote barely cleared a procedural threshold for moving the bill toward a vote on final passage later this week[.] … The bill is expected to pass the full Senate late Wednesday or early Thursday and will be then sent to the president’s desk.”

-- HHS plans to enact new protections for health-care workers who don’t want to provide certain services on moral grounds, including abortions and treatment of transgender patients. Politico’s Dan Diamond and Jennifer Haberkorn report: “The pending rule, which could be released as soon as this week, has been described to POLITICO as establishing a new ‘division’ of the HHS civil rights office that would conduct compliance reviews, audits and other enforcement actions to ensure that health care providers are allowing workers to opt out of procedures when they have religious or moral objections.”

-- The VA announced it would not conduct research into how medical marijuana might aid veterans suffering from chronic pain and PTSD. “VA is committed to researching and developing effective ways to help Veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain conditions,” Secretary David Shulkin wrote in response to a request from 10 Democrats on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “However, federal law restricts VA’s ability to conduct research involving medical marijuana, or to refer veterans to such projects.” (Katie Zezima)

-- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is calling for a 25-cent increase in the gas tax to fund an infrastructure program. In private meetings, Trump has reportedly suggested as much as a 50-cent increase, but many Republicans oppose the idea. (John Wagner)

-- Trump’s public comments seeming to back reviving earmarks is sparking a review of the old-school practice on Capitol Hill. Mike DeBonis and Elise Viebeck report: “The House Rules Committee is scheduled to hold hearings on the subject this week, titled ‘Effective Oversight and the Power of the Purse’ — a nod to the belief among many Republicans that the earmark ban imposed by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2011 gave up some of Congress’s constitutional power to direct how taxpayer money is spent. The sudden momentum puts fiscal and ethics hawks who support the moratorium on the defensive, accusing their colleagues of having short memories. … But in the days after Trump’s pro-earmark comments, lawmakers in both parties rattled off projects they thought had been neglected by executive-branch agencies left to judge projects by their own criteria, which can be hard for nonprofit groups and local governments to decipher.”


-- Rex Tillerson said the United States rejects a “freeze for freeze” approach on North Korea, vowing to ramp up sanctions on Pyongyang until it is forced to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Carol Morello reports: “’We must increase the costs of the regime’s behavior to the point that North Korea comes to the table for credible negotiations,’ Tillerson said at the opening of a summit of 20 nations [in Vancouver], discussing ways to tighten economic sanctions against North Korea. ‘The object of negotiations, if and when we get there, is the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.’”

-- And while South Korea’s foreign minister welcomed Pyongyang’s participation in the upcoming Olympic Games, her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, cautioned leaders in Seoul against being misled: “We should not be naive about their intent,” Kono said. “Nor should we be blinded by North Korea’s charm offensive. In short, it is not the time to ease pressure or to reward North Korea.”

-- Meanwhile, North Korea’s official news agency scoffed at Trump’s “nuclear button” tweet, describing it as the “spasm of a lunatic.” “The spasm of Trump in the new year reflects the desperate mental state of a loser who failed to check the vigorous advance of the army and people of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea],” read the report, which was published by state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun. “He is making (a) bluff only to be diagnosed as a psychopath.” (Rick Noack)

-- A draft of the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review lays out the possibility of using nuclear weapons to respond to cyberattacks. The New York Times’s David E. Sanger and William J. Broad report: “For decades, American presidents have threatened ‘first use’ of nuclear weapons against enemies in only very narrow and limited circumstances, such as in response to the use of biological weapons against the United States. But the new document is the first to expand that to include attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons.”


-- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wrote an op-ed for The Post calling on Trump to stop attacking the press: “[Trump] has threatened to continue his attempt to discredit the free press by bestowing ‘fake news awards’ upon reporters and news outlets whose coverage he disagrees with. Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy. … The phrase ‘fake news’ — granted legitimacy by an American president — is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens."

-- Trump announced he would present his “fake news awards” tonight, but, when asked about it yesterday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she had no details on the “potential event.” The White House schedule for Trump today also makes no mention of it. (Reuters)

-- Media trust in the United States has eroded to an all-time low, according to a fresh Knight-Gallup survey. Forty-three percent of respondents had a “very or somewhat unfavorable” view of the press, including 68 percent of Republicans. And while 73 percent of respondents agreed misinformation online is a major problem, just half of U.S. adults said they feel confident that the public can cut through bias and “sort out the facts.”  

-- The same survey found that 42 percent of Republicans, along with 17 percent of Democrats, consider “accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be ‘fake news,’” Erik Wemple writes.


FWIW, Mueller will keep working in the event of a shutdown on Friday:

The communications director for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) shared this photo:

A New York Times TV beat reporter mocked Sarah Huckabee Sanders's claim that NBC would not have given Trump a show if he was a racist:

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) continues to dig in his heels, even as more evidence undercuts his claims about the immigration meeting with Trump, imperiling his reputation on Capitol Hill:

From a Guardian reporter:

A BuzzFeed correspondent noted the empty seats on Rex Tillerson's plane:

From the MSNBC host:

CNN's White House correspondent encountered this unique line of defense:

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) defended the freedom of the press:

Former congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.) mocked Trump after his physical:

But former Obama officials praised the doctor on Twitter:

From the president's son:

From MSNBC's Chris Hayes:

New Jersey's new governor was sworn in:

Congressional Republicans celebrated “Religious Freedom Day”:

And this image of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) removing phantom glasses went viral:


-- Bloomberg News, “How Author Wolff Got Into Trump’s White House for Tell-All Book,” by Jennifer Jacobs: “Author Michael Wolff’s pitch to the White House to win cooperation for his book included a working title that signaled a sympathetic view, a counter-narrative to a slew of negative news stories early in Donald Trump’s presidency. He called it ‘The Great Transition: The First 100 Days of the Trump Administration.’ And in part due to that title, Wolff was able to exploit an inexperienced White House staff who mistakenly believed they could shape the book to the president’s liking.”

-- BuzzFeed News, “She’s 17 And Wants To Be A Politician. Her Dad Says He Won’t Vote For Her,” by Jessica Testa: “Young, progressive women like Lily have spent the last year adjusting to a world in which a man they believe to be a misogynist holds the highest office, and their male parent helped put him there. Dads like Mike have had to adjust to a world in which their daughters, who broke down crying on election night, seem to suddenly and inexplicably identify with socialism, social justice, and snowflakes. It hasn’t been an easy year for anyone.”

-- Politico, “Trump’s revenge on California: The Census,” by David Siders: “Top Democrats [in California] are increasingly worried the administration’s restrictive policies — and the potential inclusion of a question about citizenship on the next U.S. census — could scare whole swaths of California’s large immigrant population away from participating in the decennial count, resulting in an undercount that could cost the state billions of dollars in federal funding over the next decade and, perhaps, the loss of one of its 53 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

-- New York Times, “Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble,” by Steven Johnson: “If you see the rise of the centralized web as an inevitable turn of the Cycle, and the open-protocol idealism of the early web as a kind of adolescent false consciousness, then there’s less reason to fret about all the ways we’ve abandoned the vision of InternetOne. Either we’re living in a fallen state today and there’s no way to get back to Eden, or Eden itself was a kind of fantasy that was always going to be corrupted by concentrated power. In either case, there’s no point in trying to restore the architecture of InternetOne; our only hope is to use the power of the state to rein in these corporate giants, through regulation and antitrust action. It’s a variation of the old Audre Lorde maxim: ‘The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.’ … But the thing about the master’s house, in this analogy, is that it’s a duplex. The upper floor has indeed been built with tools that cannot be used to dismantle it. But the open protocols beneath them still have the potential to build something better.”


“Sessions, in remarks criticized as ‘beyond ironic,’ praises Martin Luther King Jr.,” from Sari Horwitz: “[Attorney General Jeff] Sessions praised King, who he said ‘helped transform our legal system by inspiring some of the transformative laws that we in this building enforce today,’ referencing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. … But civil rights leaders criticized Sessions’s remarks, made at a time, they said, when the Justice Department is rolling back efforts to promote civil and voting rights. … ‘Make no mistake,’ [said Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Obama]. ‘If Dr. King were alive today, he would be protesting outside of Jeff Sessions’s office.’”



“New California Declares Independence From Rest Of State,” from CBS Sacramento: “With the reading of their own version of a Declaration of Independence, founders of the state of New California took the first steps to what they hope will eventually lead to statehood. To be clear, they don’t want to leave the United States, just California. ‘Well, it’s been ungovernable for a long time. High taxes, education, you name it, and we’re rated around 48th or 50th from a business climate and standpoint in California,’ said founder Robert Paul Preston. The state of New California would incorporate most of the state’s rural counties, leaving the urban coastal counties to the current state of California. … And despite obstacles, doubters, and obvious long odds the group stands united in their statehood dream.”



Trump will attend a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring Bob Dole today on Capitol Hill.

President Trump responds to questions about his previously reported comments on "shithole countries," saying he wants "them to come in from everywhere." (Video: The Washington Post)


“I want them to come in from everywhere,” Trump said yesterday when asked about his preferences for those immigrating to America. 



-- Chelsea Manning’s decision to challenge Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in the Democratic Senate primary could bring national attention to an otherwise staid race. Jenna Portnoy reports: “But analysts say Manning’s maverick approach may not play well in Maryland, a progressive but establishment state that is home to the National Security Agency and went for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders by a large margin in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.”

-- Maryland Democrats unveiled a set of bills meant to reverse the impact the GOP tax plan will have on the state’s residents. Ovetta Wiggins and Josh Hicks report: “Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has pledged to return to taxpayers any revenue they owe the state as a result of new U.S. tax law, said he was ‘thrilled’ at similar efforts by the Democratic leaders[.] … Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said they want to allow taxpayers to receive a state tax credit for donations made to a new state-run charity that would benefit public schools; lower the threshold on taxing the inheritance left by wealthy residents; and restore personal exemptions on state tax returns.”

-- Ed Gillespie will be a resident fellow this spring at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. (Gregory S. Schneider)

-- The Justice Department filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of the Archdiocese of Washington’s efforts to display Christmas ads on Metro buses. (Ann E. Marimow)


Trevor Noah expressed disbelief about Trump's physical results:

Seth Meyers checked in on Puerto Rico's recovery effort:

The Post's Glenn Kessler awarded Trump four Pinocchio's for his claim that an alleged terror suspect brought two dozen relatives to the United States:

Three times, the president has told a story that falls upon close inspection. (Video: Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

Some of the 140 women who have accused sports doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse testified in court:

Several victims delivered emotional testimonies during the sentencing hearings of Michigan sports doctor Larry Nassar. Here's some of what they said. (Video: Amber Ferguson, Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

And a cat rescued from the California mudslides was returned to its owners:

Koshka was reunited with her owners on Jan. 15 after their home was destroyed in the Southern California mudslide. Muddy footprints helped rescuers to find her. (Video: Santa Barbara County Animal Services)