with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
The businessman who likes to put his name on buildings and declared “I alone can fix it” during his acceptance speech at the 2016 Republican convention spoke less in the first-person Tuesday than in any major address since he came down the escalator at Trump Tower three years ago to launch his campaign.
He used the word “we” 130 times, “our” 103 times and “us” 15 times. He mentioned “the people” nine times. He used the word “I” just 35 times and “my” 14 times. He went with the second person “you” 25 times, though that includes “thank you.”
Trump is a consummate showman, and his stagecraft was top notch. He played the pomp and circumstance to his advantage. The first reality television president seemed to be channeling Mike Deaver, Ronald Reagan’s image guru, by pointing to a bevy of ordinary people who have done extraordinary things.
Reagan began this tradition by highlighting the heroism of Lenny Skutnik in his 1982 State of the Union. The federal employee had jumped into the icy Potomac to save a woman from drowning after a plane crash.
The official White House transcript shows that Trump was interrupted by applause 117 times in 80 minutes. The bulk of those came when the president was praising others: the cop from New Mexico and his wife who adopted the baby of a heroin addict, the victim of torture in North Korea who escaped to freedom and defiantly held up crutches he no longer needs, the Army staff sergeant who performed CPR for 20 minutes and artificial respiration for two-and-a-half hours to save a comrade after an explosion in Iraq. He offered a touching tribute to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who recovered after being shot at congressional baseball practice.
He didn’t whine about “witch hunts,” or even elliptically refer to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, and he made just one passing mention of Russia (it was critical).
-- The speech offered a window into what might have been, if he had stuck to script and shown more self-discipline during his first year. Trump’s approval rating could easily be 10 points higher right now if he just behaved the way he did last night, even while pursuing an identical agenda. The speech worried politically savvy Democrats because it suggested that he has upside potential.
-- But, but, but: No serious person in either party believes that last night represents a real pivot to becoming more “presidential.”
The White House went to great lengths to say that the State of the Union would be “unifying.” Sure enough, Trump nodded to bipartisanship. He even wore a blue tie. “I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for … the people we were elected to serve,” he declared.
But we’ve seen this movie before. “The time for trivial fights is behind us,” Trump declared in his address to Congress last year.
Reacting to that speech, specifically his praise for a Navy SEAL who died in a raid that went wrong, liberal pundit Van Jones declared on CNN: “He became president of the United States in that moment, period.”
Just a few days later, Trump falsely accused Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower on Twitter. Jones has been mocked mercilessly since then. After watching the president spend the past year starting trivial fights, the commentator ripped into Trump last night on CNN for leaving the impression that many “dreamers” are gang members in his speech.
No one wants to be Lucy with the football in “Charlie Brown,” and the chattering class seems to have finally concluded that there will always be a Teleprompter Trump and a Twitter Trump. He will oscillate unpredictably and erratically between the two personas.
-- The president will perennially struggle to be a unifying figure because he is so personally divisive. It’s a feature, not a bug. Frankly, it’s part of his enduring appeal to the GOP base.
One of the people Trump gave a shout-out to last night was a 12-year-old from California who organized a campaign to put 40,000 flags on the graves of veterans. The little boy was adorable and proud. But Trump couldn’t help using his inspiring example to take a dig at black NFL players who have protested police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem. “Preston's reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us … why we proudly stand for the national anthem,” Trump said.
Likewise, on immigration, Trump talked as if he was proposing a true compromise even as he outlined a hardline position that would require curbs in the number of legal immigrants and restrictions on what he calls “chain migration” in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for the “dreamers.”
“Americans are dreamers, too,” Trump said.
Conservatives loved it, and liberals groaned. It highlighted the extent to which Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects the “dreamers,” has split the country.
Consider this response from the former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan:
Thank you President Trump. Americans are "Dreamers" too.— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) January 31, 2018
-- In a speech covered with the nationalistic fingerprints of domestic policy adviser Stephen Miller, Trump went on to talk about, “All of us, together, as one team, one people and one American family.”
The Washington Post’s Editorial Board poses this rhetorical question in response, “Have a president’s words ever rung more hollow?”
“It was a campaign event — literally,” adds columnist Dana Milbank. “His campaign offered to display supporters’ names on the Official Donald J. Trump for President livestream of the address — if they contributed $35 or more. … Trump was still in the first minute of his speech — 72 words from the start — when he belted out his campaign slogan, ‘Make America Great Again.’ … It was the first of several cultural wedges Trump would drive through the chamber over the next hour — pitting immigrants against ‘Americans,’ trumpeting his support for the Second Amendment but no other, and reviving racially charged disputes he ignited over the past year.”
-- Trump has so poisoned the well that Democrats, except for red state senators who are in cycle, don’t even really want to work with him on the areas where he did extend olive branches, such as spending $1.5 trillion on infrastructure, creating paid family leave, cutting prescription drug prices and easing prisoner reentry into society.
As a Boston Globe reporter put it:
Looking out at Cryin’ Chuck and Lyin’ Ted, Crazy Bernie and Pocahontas, Dicky Durbin and Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, Jeff Flakey and Liddle Bob Corker, President Trump calls for unity.— Matt Viser (@mviser) January 31, 2018
Bill Clinton’s secretary of labor piled on:
Let's be very clear: A president who cares about unity doesn't threaten to jail his political opponents, undermine the rule of law, use immigrant children as bargaining chips or attack black athletes who demand justice and equality.— Robert Reich (@RBReich) January 31, 2018
-- A central theme of the speech was Trump’s ongoing bid to eviscerate the Obama legacy.
The president announced that, just before taking the stage, he had signed an order to rescind a directive from Obama to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He said he will keep the facility open indefinitely and may send new terrorism suspects there for the first time in a decade.
He also said he repealed the centerpiece of “disastrous Obamacare” and declared that “the era of economic surrender” is over.
On his way out of the chamber, Trump said “100 percent” when asked if the classified “memo” written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) should be released. “Oh yeah, don't worry,” the president told Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.).
Many professionals in the national security firmament worry that this partisan document, drafted by GOP staffers to challenge the integrity of the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election, could compromise sources and methods and further politicize the nation’s intelligence-gathering apparatus.
Every president since Reagan has worked to reduce the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and dreamed of a world free from nuclear weapons. Not Trump. “Perhaps someday in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are not there yet.” He proposed more spending to “modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal.”
THE DEMOCRATIC RESPONSES:
-- “Led by Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), at least eight current and former Democratic legislators took on one of the stiffest challenges in politics: responding to a State of the Union address in a time of strong economic growth,” Dave Weigel reports. “Kennedy spoke from a technical school in his coastal Massachusetts district, facing a small crowd, framed by an antique car. His colleagues, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), spread out across TV studios and press clubs to deliver a message that, perhaps, some of the president’s critics would hear.
“For Kennedy, that message was that President Trump and Republicans had offered ‘one false choice after another’ to Americans, ‘turning American life into a zero-sum game’ in which the wealthiest score the most wins. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), speaking on behalf of the moderate New Democrats, was largely in sync with Kennedy … Sanders, who also delivered a rebuttal to Trump last year, went further by saying that the president was papering over the real problems in the economy.
“The debate about ‘identity politics’ that briefly distracted Democrats after 2016 was long forgotten, as Democrats in the Capitol brought immigrants as their special guests, and Virginia state Del. Elizabeth Guzman [in the Spanish-language response] warned that Trump threatened ‘to drag our nation back to a shameful past.’
“The litany grew at the ‘State of Our Union,’ an event at the National Press Club that was a gathering of progressive organizations including Planned Parenthood, Moms Rising and the Women’s March. Three House Democrats, who boycotted the presidential address, shared a stage with activists as they promised to keep standing up to Trump. … On Facebook, former Maryland congresswoman Donna F. Edwards delivered a speech on behalf of the left-wing Working Families Party.”
HOW THE SPEECH IS PLAYING:
-- The Post’s Fact Checker team looks at 18 dubious claims that Trump made during the speech. Many have been fact-checked repeatedly, yet the president persists in using them. Three relate to immigration.
-- Karen Tumulty and Philip Rucker: “Trump calls for unity, pushes GOP agenda in State of the Union speech.”
-- Robert Costa: “Trump’s plans for immigration, infrastructure meet swift resistance in Congress.”
-- Dan Balz: “A call for unity against a backdrop of controversy and division.”
-- Marc Fisher: “Best behavior: How Trump alters his tone to suit the occasion.”
-- Aaron Blake says “the winners” last night were strength metaphors, Trump’s illusion of unity, Steve Scalise and tax cuts. “The losers” were the truth, brevity, the deep state, bipartisanship and immigration reform.
-- Read a transcript of the speech, annotated by Callum Borchers.
-- Anna Fifield: “The incredible story of the North Korean escapee at the State of the Union.”
-- Robin Givhan: “At the State of the Union, fashion puts women on mute.”
-- Krissah Thompson: “After a month out of view, Melania Trump reemerges for State of the Union.”
-- Vanessa Williams: “NAACP event delivers different view of State of the Union.”
-- E.J. Dionne Jr.: “Instead of seeking ‘common ground,’ Trump gives a flabby, divisive speech.”
-- Jennifer Rubin: “Trump’s State of the Union: A diatribe against immigrants.”
-- Ed Rogers: “Trump’s State of the Union address was an 8.5.”
ACROSS THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA:
-- New York Times: “Trump Issues Appeal for Unity...”
-- Wall Street Journal: “Trump Vows Optimism as More Fights Loom.”
-- NPR: “Trump Makes Bipartisan Pitch ... But Also Plays To Base.”
-- ABC News: “Trump ... avoids controversies but divides chamber on immigration reform.”
-- Politico: “Trump offers same policies in new bipartisan packaging.”
-- CNN: “Trump pledges to 'make America great again for all Americans.’”
-- CNBC: “Trump's State of the Union speech is the third longest in modern history.”
-- NBC News: “Democrats scoff, boo, groan, glower at Trump’s State of the Union.”
-- Boston Globe: “Kennedy says Americans feel ‘fault lines of a fractured country.’”
ON THE RIGHT:
-- Fox News: “Trump extends ‘open hand’ to Dems on immigration, touts tax cuts, warns N. Korea.”
-- Daily Caller: “Trump Channels Reagan In Call To Make America Great Again.”
-- Breitbart.com: “Dems Shocking Disrespect: Sit, Check Phones as President Praises Vets.”
-- Drudge Report: “Trump Shows Heart.”
-- National Review: “The (Tea) Party Is Over.”
-- Weekly Standard: “Trump Mixes Calls for Unity With Divisive Comments on Immigration.”
ON THE LEFT:
-- HuffPost: “The Hidden Extremism Of Trump’s State Of The Union.”
-- Slate: “President Trump used people of color as cover for his anti-immigrant policies.”
-- Vox: “Trump has no solutions for America’s big problems.”
-- Mic: “Trump’s first State of the Union is unlikely to change the state of play.”
-- The Nation: “Trump’s Long, Low-Energy SOTU Changed Nothing.”
-- Mother Jones: “Fact Check: Trump Has Done Virtually Nothing to Combat the Opioid Epidemic.”
-- Daily Kos: “One of Trump's biggest SOTU applause lines will be the GOP's biggest stumbling block come November.”
IN THE BORDER STATES:
-- Arizona Republic: “Trump puts border wall at the center of State of the Union, but without a length or a cost.”
-- Dallas Morning News: “As Dreamers gather for Trump's State of the Union, GOP hardliner demands arrest of 'illegal aliens.’”
-- San Diego Union-Tribune: “San Diego 'dreamers' feel insulted by State of the Union speech.”
-- Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Las Vegas immigration advocates gather to watch State of the Union.”
FROM STATES WITH MARQUEE SENATE RACES:
-- Columbus Dispatch: “Trump’s address seeks bipartisan cooperation on infrastructure, immigration, security, but continues jabs.”
-- Philadelphia Inquirer: “State of the Union 2018: Recap, reaction and fact checks from Donald Trump's speech.”
-- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Trump gives backing to Ron Johnson's 'right-to-try' legislation for terminally ill patients.”
-- Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Trump talks economy, immigration in first State of the Union.”
-- Indianapolis Star: “Indiana workers will receive dueling messages during Trump's State of the Union speech.”
-- Kansas City Star: “Sunayana Dumala of Olathe becomes symbol of hope for immigrants at State of the Union.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Adult film star Stormy Daniels issued a statement denying any past affair with Trump. “The fact of the matter is that each party to this alleged affair denied its existence in 2006, 2011, 2016, 2017 and now again in 2018,” Daniels’s signed statement reads. “I am not denying this affair because I was paid ‘hush money’ as has been reported in overseas owned tabloids. I am denying it because it never happened.” The statement ends, “I will have no further comment on this matter. … Please feel free to check me out on Instagram at @thestormydaniels.” (Frances Stead Sellers)
-- But a few hours later, during an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Daniels seemed to cast doubt on the statement, despite confirmation from her representative of its authenticity. Emily Heil reports: “[Kimmel] read the statement aloud and asked her if she had, in fact, signed it. Daniels was cagey from the get-go. ‘I don’t know, did I?’ she parried, ‘It doesn’t look like my signature, does it?’ she added, suggesting she didn’t know where it came from and that it was just another scrap from the Internet, which was rampant with crazy rumors about her. … Daniels managed to give a non-answer answer to Kimmel’s next line of questioning, when he asked her if she had a non-disclosure agreement. … Kimmel then deduced that if she didn’t have a NDA, she could probably say so. ‘You’re so smart, Jimmy,’ Daniels said. So that was a yes, right?”
GET SMART FAST:
- Hawaii’s false missile alert was sent by a worker with a troubled history who said he misunderstood that an exercise was a drill and believed a ballistic-missile attack was “imminent,” according to state and federal investigators. The state said the staffer had been a “source of concern” to his co-workers for over 10 years and had confused real-life events and drills “on at least two other occasions.” (Mark Berman and Brian Fung)
- Police identified a second person of interest in the Las Vegas massacre within “days” of the mass shooting, according to newly unsealed court documents. Earlier this month, authorities reiterated that Stephen Paddock was the lone shooter in the attack but said the FBI maintains an open investigation into an “unnamed person of interest.” The Clark County sheriff also said that he does not anticipate Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, will face any criminal charges. (New York Times)
- The Pentagon submitted a report to Congress outlining the problems climate change could pose for the U.S. military. The survey, conducted during the Obama administration, documents how flooding, drought and extreme temperatures have affected military facilities. (Missy Ryan)
- Apple confirmed it has received questions from “some government agencies” about a software update that slowed down older iPhone batteries. The tech giant’s statement comes amid reports that the Justice Department and SEC are looking into the update from last January. (Hayley Tsukayama)
- A small West Virginia town with 2,900 people has been deluged with 20.8 million opioid painkillers from out-of-state drug firms. (Charleston Gazette-Mail)
- Saudi Arabia has now released most of the detainees who were being held in a luxury hotel as part of what authorities dubiously described as an anti-corruption crackdown. But the move has increasingly seemed more like a shakedown: The detainees were let go after reaching financial settlements totaling nearly $107 billion. Of the 381 people arrested, 56 still remain in custody. (Kareem Fahim and William Branigin)
- An “emotional support peacock” was denied boarding at Newark Airport. United Airlines said the animal was not allowed onto the plane because it “did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size.” (Lindsey Bever and Eli Rosenberg)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- The White House’s original pick for U.S. ambassador to South Korea is no longer expected to be nominated after he privately expressed disagreement with Trump’s North Korea policy. David Nakamura and Anne Gearan report: “Victor D. Cha, an academic who served in the George W. Bush administration, raised his concerns with [NSC officials] over their consideration of a limited strike on the North aimed at sending a message without sparking a wider war — a risky concept known as a ‘bloody nose’ strategy. Cha also objected to the administration’s threats to tear up a bilateral trade deal with Seoul that Trump has called unfair to American companies[.] U.S. officials [formally notified Seoul in December of Trump’s intended nominee], and South Korean officials quickly signed off on Cha … But the nomination never came. A senior administration official confirmed this week that the White House had moved on to other potential candidates.”
-- Timing is everything: Cha pens a Post op-ed today outlining his opposition to a “bloody nose” strike: “I empathize with the hope, espoused by some Trump officials, that a military strike would shock Pyongyang into appreciating U.S. strength, after years of inaction, and force the regime to the denuclearization negotiating table. … Yet, there is a point at which hope must give in to logic. If we believe that Kim is undeterrable without such a strike, how can we also believe that a strike will deter him from responding in kind? … An alternative coercive strategy involves enhanced and sustained U.S., regional and global pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize. This strategy is likely to deliver the same potential benefits as a limited strike, along with other advantages, without the self-destructive costs.”
-- Meanwhile, a senior American general said he is confident the U.S. military could destroy “most” of North Korea’s nuclear missile infrastructure “if necessary in a favorable scenario.” Paul Sonne reports: “Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military could ‘get at most of [Pyongyang’s nuclear missile] infrastructure’ … but he declined to specify the percentage of North Korean missiles U.S. forces could dismantle in the event of any military action . . . 'Remember, missile infrastructure is not just the missiles,' Selva told reporters. 'If you’re the poor sergeant that has to go out and launch the missile, and I blow up your barracks, you’re not available to go do your job.'”
-- The leaders of South Korea and Japan will meet next week and will likely discuss North Korea. Anna Fifield reports: “Progressive South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet with his conservative Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, for talks at the Winter Olympics site on Feb. 9, the day of the opening ceremony. Until last week, it wasn’t even clear that Abe would attend. But the Trump administration intervened to ask him to go — not least because Vice President Pence will be traveling from Tokyo to PyeongChang for the opening ceremony. The White House ‘strongly urged’ Abe to attend the ceremony[.]”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Top Justice Department officials made a last-ditch appeal to the White House on Monday night to halt the release of a GOP memo alleging abuses by the FBI. Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett report: “Shortly before the House Intelligence Committee voted to make the document public, [Rod Rosenstein] warned [White House Chief of Staff John] Kelly that the four-page memo prepared by House Republicans could jeopardize classified information and implored the president to reconsider his support for making it public[.] Rosenstein was joined in the meeting at the White House by FBI Director Christopher A. Wray. Rosenstein, who is supervising [Robert Mueller’s investigation], said the Department of Justice was not convinced the memo accurately describes its investigative practices. He said making the document public could set a dangerous precedent … While Wray also expressed opposition to the memo’s release, Rosenstein did much of the talking[.] [Jeff Sessions] was not present at the meeting.”
“In response, Kelly told Rosenstein and Wray that the president was still inclined to release the memo but the White House would go through a review led by the National Security Council and the White House Counsel’s Office … Rosenstein’s urgent push to head off the disclosure of the classified memo came after Kelly privately relayed to Sessions last week that Trump wants to see the document come out[.]”
-- As he was leaving the Capitol last night, Trump told a Republican congressman he will “100 percent” allow the memo's release. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) approached Trump as he exited the House chamber following the State the Union address, and asked him to ‘release the memo.’ ‘Don’t worry, 100 percent,’ Trump responded, with a wave of his hand. The exchange was caught by television cameras filming the president after he delivered the address.”
-- DOJ's inspector general has been focused for “months” on deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s role in the final stretch of the 2016 election, and why he appeared not to act for several weeks on a request to examine a batch of Clinton-related emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian report: “The inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, has been asking witnesses why FBI leadership seemed unwilling to move forward on the examination of emails [until] late October — about three weeks after first being alerted to the issue … A key question of the internal investigation is whether McCabe or anyone else at the FBI wanted to avoid taking action on the laptop findings until after the Nov. 8 election, these people said. It is unclear whether the inspector general has reached any conclusions on that point.
In late September, FBI agents in New York were investigating Weiner’s laptop when they discovered the emails, and McCabe was aware of the matter “by late September or early October at the latest,” our colleagues report. “The agents on the Weiner case wanted to talk to the Clinton email investigators and see whether the messages were potentially important. … McCabe’s defenders in law enforcement say that there was nothing nefarious going on — officials were pursuing a careful process of determining whether the emails might be relevant, and that took time. Other law enforcement officials, however, have said they are concerned that the issue seemed to die for a period of time at McCabe’s desk, without explanation.”
-- Trump may not have considered that McCabe could be a bigger headache for him outside the FBI than he was inside of it (see James Comey). The Fix’s Callum Borchers writes: “When Trump cut Comey loose in May, Comey promptly orchestrated the leak of his personal notes from a February meeting with the president. According to the notes … Trump expressed to Comey his desire for the FBI to drop an investigation into [Michael Flynn]. Comey later testified … that he ‘thought [the leak] might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.’ Now, of course, there is a special counsel[.] We don't know whether McCabe possesses anything as explosive as the Comey notes — or whether he would provide any information to the press — but his departure from the FBI is not without risk to Trump."
-- Memo fallout: Paul Ryan defended House Intel Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose staffers penned the memo and whose committee voted to release it on party lines. But the speaker warned GOP lawmakers against using it to discredit Robert Mueller’s investigation. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Ryan [said Nunes] was following a well-established process when the committee voted Monday to release a GOP-drafted memo … Ryan suggested to reporters Tuesday that ‘there may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals,’ citing that as one of several reasons Republicans want ‘all of this information’ contained in the memo ‘to come out.’”
-- The Fix’s Philip Bump created a timeline of the events leading up to Monday's partisan vote to #Releasethememo — showing how congressional Republicans seem to have coopted the arguments of Trump and his allies.
-- Nunes refused to say whether he coordinated with the White House as Republicans on his staff wrote the memo. Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman report: “During Monday’s contentious closed-door committee meeting, Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat, asked Nunes point-blank if his staffers had been talking with the White House as they compiled [the memo] … According to sources familiar with the exchange, Nunes made a few comments that didn’t answer the question before finally responding, ‘I’m not answering.’ Quigley’s question harked back to Nunes’ history of surreptitiously working with the White House to deflect from the myriad inquiries into possible coordination between Trump’s associates and the Kremlin.”
-- The Trump administration admitted it cribbed from Forbes Magazine to create its report on Russian oligarchs who could be subject to U.S. sanctions for their alleged proximity to the Kremlin. BuzzFeed News’s John Hudson reports: “The revelation is likely to invite criticisms of the thoroughness of the Treasury Department’s report and reinforce the notion that the list is primarily a who’s who of the Russian elite rather than an official accounting of Kremlin-linked political corruption … Almost all of the 96 oligarchs listed in the government-issued report, who each have a net worth of $1 billion or more, appear in the Forbes ranking. When asked if there is ‘any truth to the criticisms that the Treasury list was inspired or derived in some way from the Forbes list,’ a Treasury spokesperson said ‘yes.’” Former Treasury officials said that while the list includes friends of [Vladimir] Putin, it also includes foes — such as brothers Aleksey and Dimitriy Ananyev, who’ve had their businesses seized in recent years.
-- The Justice Department has reportedly given Mueller internal documents that cover Jeff Sessions’s proposed resignation and Michael Flynn’s firing. (ABC News’s Mike Levine)
-- Mueller wants to talk to Mark Corallo, the former spokesman for Trump’s legal team. The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus reports: “Mr. Corallo’s resignation [in July] followed the revelation that Donald Trump Jr. … had arranged a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin and top campaign aides[.] … Mr. Corallo had privately expressed frustration over the administration’s handling of reports about that meeting[.]”
THE #METOO MOVEMENT:
-- Hillary Clinton expressed regret about retaining a 2008 campaign adviser who was accused of repeated sexual harassment. John Wagner reports: “In a lengthy Facebook post, the Democrat sought to explain her decision to deliver a less severe punishment to Burns Strider, who was her faith adviser, despite a recommendation from her campaign manager that Strider be fired. ‘I very much understand the question I’m being asked as to why I let an employee on my 2008 campaign keep his job despite his inappropriate workplace behavior,’ Clinton wrote. ‘The short answer is this: If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t.’ … Clinton said on Facebook that the woman’s complaint was taken seriously and that she decided on a more lenient punishment, which included demoting Strider, docking his pay and separating him from the woman[.]”
Clinton also took a shot at the New York Times, who broke the story on Strider: “‘At the time, I believed the punishment I imposed was severe and fit the offense,’ she said [in her Facebook post]. ‘Indeed, while we are revisiting whether my decision from a decade ago was harsh enough, many employers would be well served to take actions at least as severe when confronted with problems now — including the very media outlet that broke this story.’ She was referring to the case of Glenn Thrush, a former White House reporter at the New York Times who served a suspension after an investigation into allegations that he had behaved inappropriately toward female colleagues. … ‘A decade from now, that decision may not look as tough as it feels today,’ Clinton wrote.”
-- Chicago businessman Todd Ricketts is expected to become Republican National Committee finance chair after casino mogul Steve Wynn was forced to resign amid accusations of sexual misconduct. Robert Costa and Josh Dawsey report: “A formal vote was expected to happen Tuesday. Ricketts is working closely with the White House and RNC leaders on the appointment[.] … Ricketts, who last year was Trump’s pick to be deputy secretary of the Commerce Department, withdrew over a dispute with the Office of Government Ethics, citing his financial portfolio as too difficult to disentangle.”
During the early stages of 2016, Ricketts was a key financial backer of Scott Walker's presidential bid. That February, Trump blasted some of his family members who were funding super PACs aimed at stopping him from securing the GOP nomination. “I hear the Rickets family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $'s against me,” he tweeted. “They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”
-- The Nevada Gaming Control Board has opened an investigation into Wynn. (CNBC)
-- Wynn has already lost hundreds of millions of dollars due to falling stock prices since the accusations arose. CNN’s Chris Isidore and Nathaniel Meyersohn report: “According to the most recent filings, Wynn owns 12.1 million shares of the company's stock through a family trust he controls. That's 11.8% of the shares outstanding. So when the stock fell 10% on Friday on this report, his estimated net worth dropped by $246 million, or roughly a quarter-billion dollars. Monday's drop in share price added $204 million to his paper losses, bringing the total decline in his net worth to $450 million. He's made back $23.5 million as the stock inched up 1.2% Tuesday.”
-- Former Michigan governor John Engler (R) is this morning expected to be named interim president of Michigan State University. The school’s former president was forced to step aside amid fallout from the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse scandal. (Susan Svrluga)
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- Trump’s top health official, Brenda Fitzgerald, bought shares in a tobacco company one month after being appointed as director of the CDC, the agency tasked with preventing tobacco use and antismoking efforts. Politico’s Sarah Karlin-Smith and Brianna Ehley report: “The stock was one of about a dozen new investments that [Fitzgerald] made after she took over the agency’s top job … Fitzgerald has since come under Congressional scrutiny for slow walking divestment from older holdings that government officials said posed potential conflicts of interest. Buying shares of tobacco companies raises even more flags than Fitzgerald’s trading in drug and food companies because it stands in such stark contrast to CDC’s mission . . . Critics say her trading behavior broke with ethical norms for public health officials and was, at best, sloppy. At worst, they say, it was legally problematic if she didn't recuse herself from government activities that could have affected her investments.”
-- In a 2016 radio interview, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said having Trump in the White House “would be more abusive to the constitution than Barack Obama — and that’s saying a lot.” Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report: “The radio interview [took place when] Pruitt — then Oklahoma’s attorney general — was serving as a policy adviser to [Jeb Bush]. Asked whether he supported Trump as a presidential candidate, Pruitt replied, ‘No.’ Pruitt added that he feared Trump, if elected would ‘use executive power to confront Congress in a way that is truly unconstitutional.’ He also agreed with [the host’s] description of Trump as ‘dangerous’ and ‘a bully.’” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) pressed Pruitt on the comments Tuesday. Asked if he recalled the statements, Pruitt said, “I don’t, senator. And I don’t echo that today at all.” “I bet not,” Whitehouse responded.
Minutes later, Pruitt sent out a statement lavishing praise on his boss: “After meeting him, and now having the honor of working for him, it is abundantly clear that President Trump is the most consequential leader of our time,” Pruitt said in the statement. “No one has done more to advance the rule of law than President Trump. The President has liberated our country from the political class and given America back to the people.”
-- Noncitizens will not be hired as workers for the 2020 Census. Tara Bahrampour reports: “In recent decennial counts, door-to-door census takers could be legal permanent residents or non-citizens with a work visa and a bilingual skill that no available citizen possessed. Such employees made up a tiny percentage of hires in the last count, but have been seen as crucial to reaching hard-to-count immigrant communities whose members might not understand or trust the process, and where response rates are typically lower than the general population. … However, in a meeting Tuesday, Census staff were told that non-citizens would not be hired[.] … Among bureau staff the announcement was seen as a political move, the source said, adding, ‘The feeling was this is going to happen, and yes, it’s because of the administration.’”
THE REST OF THE AGENDA:
-- House Republicans voiced skepticism and opposition to Trump’s immigration proposal — a warning sign of the tough path ahead for any deal. Erica Werner and Ed O'Keefe report: “The concerns came from a range of lawmakers, not just immigration hard-liners, just hours before Trump’s State of the Union address … In a sign the issue is roiling both parties, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus — comprised entirely of Democrats — complained directly to [Sen. Chuck Schumer] (D-N.Y.) Tuesday about his one-on-one talks with Trump over the price of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. … Democrats were outraged about the White House proposal because it would severely limit legal immigration by family members of citizens and others — but opposition from the right threatens to leave the plan with scant support from any quarter.”
-- No immigration on the menu, however: Congressional Republicans are slated to focus on the tough midterm environment at their retreat in West Virginia this weekend. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Heather Caygle report: “The headlining events will be a two-hour dinner with [Vice President] Pence on Wednesday and two-hour lunch with Trump on Thursday. GOP lawmakers will also hear about Republicans' ‘Big Vision’ for 2018 from [Mitch McConnell] and [Ryan] on Wednesday afternoon, as well as receive a briefing from pollster David Winston and [Kevin McCarthy] on how to sell the new tax law during the mid-term campaigns. On Thursday, Republicans will hold a working breakfast with [Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis], then pivot to a joint session on infrastructure with committee leaders … Other sessions will focus on workforce development and government reform before a reception and dinner with [Nikki Haley]. And while the topic of immigration is sure to come up, there is no specific item on the schedule devoted to the approaching deadline on the expiring [DACA] program.”
-- Jeff Sessions vowed a “surge” of DEA agents look into opioid over-prescribers. Sari Horwitz and Scott Higham report: “To intensify the fight against what is called ‘prescription drug diversion,’ the DEA will examine data from approximately 80 million reports it collects every year from prescription drug manufacturers and distributors, Sessions said.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump's State of the Union, fittingly, set a Twitter record:
Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz thought Trump hit a home run:
Trump's former chief of staff and press secretary offered extensive praise:
Absolutely incredible in every way. That speech will be remembered and thought of as historically great.— Reince Priebus (@Reince) January 31, 2018
POTUS crushed it tonight!
So did his former press secretary:
The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus highlighted one of Trump's invited guests:
Two Democratic senators reacted to Trump's remarks with drastically different tones:
I went to the #SOTU. I wanted it burned into my eyes. If there’s ever a moment when I’m too tired to keep fighting, I just have to close my eyes & see @realDonaldTrump , @mike_pence & @pryan applauding themselves for punching working families in the gut, & I'm back in this fight.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 31, 2018
Al Gore criticized Trump's energy comments:
A liberal commentator took this jab at the president:
Trump: "We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day's work."— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) January 31, 2018
America: "You first."
From an MSNBC anchor:
Church ... family ... police ... military ... the national anthem ... Trump trying to call on all the tropes of 1950s-era nationalism. The goal of this speech appears to be to force the normalization of Trump on the terms of the bygone era his supporters are nostalgic for. #SOTU— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) January 31, 2018
Former congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.) said the speech was loooong:
Congratulations. Everyone who watched this entire speech is now the same age as me. Best of luck.— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) January 31, 2018
Many noted that the first lady wore white, the color of the anti-Trump “resistance” movement. From a former Justice Department spokesman:
Welcome to the resistance, Melania.— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) January 31, 2018
From Obama's former deputy chief of staff:
do u guys think it’s gonna be Melania who yells “you lie!” tonight— alyssa mastromonaco (@AlyssaMastro44) January 31, 2018
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus held a quiet protest of Trump's “shithole” comments:
This still of the CBC also made the rounds:
Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) continues to boost his populist street cred ahead of a potential run for governor:
The fact-checking website Politifact had a busy night:
Welp ... our website just crashed.— PolitiFact (@PolitiFact) January 31, 2018
Thanks for reading ?!!? We'll keep things up here on Twitter while we see what happened.
Some other reaction from around the Twitterverse:
Mike Pence rivals Hillary Clinton for cheesy automaton pantomimes of politician-doing-human-like-things-on-stage, like smiling, waving, looking surprised. Simulacrums of joy on command.— michaelscherer (@michaelscherer) January 31, 2018
From a New York Times reporter:
From a Hot Air editor:
Note to self: Never play poker with Neil Gorsuch.— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) January 31, 2018
A Guardian reporter saw this from Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Tex.):
Favorite part of the speech so far is Beto O'Rourke taking out a Kit Kat bar and sharing it with another member— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) January 31, 2018
A refugee activist expressed dismay at Trump's applause:
The response by Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) was blasted by the RNC. From the communications director of Organizing for Action:
But Breitbart zeroed in on another detail:
And Samantha Bee summed up all five of Democrats' State of the Union responses:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Politico, “The demise of one of the best gigs in Congress,” by John Bresnahan: “Relinquishing the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee once would have been an unthinkable surrender of congressional power. Rodney Frelinghuysen, with his decision this week to do exactly that, showed just how much cachet the role of committee chair has lost. Hemmed in by term limits, a domineering party leadership, bitter partisan feuds and a GOP base that automatically loathes anyone in power, seven Republican committee chairs have decided to leave office at the end of this Congress, a remarkable level of turnover by any measure. Another committee chair, Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee, is running for governor and will give up her gavel at the Budget Committee (the panel has had three chairs this Congress alone.) And Rep. Jason Chaffetz … quit Congress last year to become a regular on Fox News. While term limits are behind most of the departures …. it’s also true that being a committee chair has lost a lot of its allure.” “Times aren’t like they used to be,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said. “Yeah, leadership needs to give direction, but the committee chairmen aren’t what they used to be.”
-- The Atlantic, “How the Swamp Drained Trump,” by McKay Coppins: “Indeed, while Trump’s ‘populism’ has manifested itself primarily in performative spasms of culture war, the most substantive policy victories of his first year in office have gone to the donor-class conservatism of Paul Ryan and his fellow swamp creatures in the congressional leadership. As it turns out, all they had to do was ask nicely. It is perhaps the central irony of the Donald Trump story: The Queens-born billionaire who could never win the respect of the taunting insiders on the other side of the river led a bitter revenge march to the White House, ranting and raving and railing against the ‘haters’ — and then giving them what they wanted the moment they said please.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Greg Gianforte, politician who assaulted reporter, to lead communications workshop,” from the Guardian: “The National Republican Congressional Committee has picked as the speaker for its next monthly communications workshop Greg Gianforte, the US congressman who violently attacked Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs and then tried to mislead the public and the police about it. Gianforte’s hour-long communications session in February is titled ‘Hire for culture, train for skill’ and invitations show a picture of the grinning politician above a brief biography that waxes lyrical about his entrepreneurial wealth but makes no reference to his conviction for assault.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“A teacher called members of the military ‘the lowest of our low.’ The video made people furious,” from Eli Rosenberg and J. Freedom du Lac: “A high school teacher in a small city on the outskirts of Los Angeles became the subject of harsh criticism — and, he said, violent threats — after a video of him slamming the U.S. military went viral. Gregory Salcido, who works at a high school in Pico Rivera and also serves on the city council, said in the video that members of the military fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan were ‘the lowest of the low.’ The video was reportedly taken in the middle of a history class Salcido was teaching … as he launched into a rant about how long the wars overseas have dragged on. ‘Because we have a bunch of dumbs‑‑‑s over there,’ Salcido said in the video[.]"
Trump has a meeting with Pence, Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis followed by a “tax reform meeting with American workers.” He will also meet with Steve Mnuchin in the afternoon.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) offered this backhanded compliment on Trump’s State of the Union: “Even though I disagreed with almost everything he said, for Trump, the speech was clear and well-delivered. Whoever translated it for him from Russian did a good job.” (HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- District residents will see some sun and slightly warmer temperatures today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “High pressure keeps us dry and partly sunny today. Temperatures rise into and through the 20s this morning with light winds. Afternoon highs should manage the upper 30s to low 40s[.]”
-- Kirk Cousins appears to be leaving Washington. Mark Maske reports: “The Redskins’ stunning trade with the Kansas City Chiefs for quarterback Alex Smith, the NFL’s top-rated passer this season, brought an unofficial end Tuesday to Cousins’s tenure in Washington. He presumably will be permitted to leave the Redskins via unrestricted free agency in March, unencumbered by a franchise- or transition-player tag, and shop his services to a group of quarterback-needy teams[.]”
-- The Wizards beat the Thunder 102-96. (Candace Buckner)
-- Trump signed a bill recognizing six Native American tribes in Virginia, making them eligible for federal funding. (Jenna Portnoy)
-- Paul Schwartzman profiles venture capitalist Mark Ein, who recently bought Washington City Paper: “A pillar of Washington’s gilded set, Ein resides in a palatial estate in suburban McLean, Va., twice contributed to the campaigns of President George W. Bush, and has been known to praise President Trump and his family — at least before they took over the White House. Asked if he supports marijuana legalization, an issue dear to many City Paper readers, Ein, 53, volunteers nothing more than that he has never smoked pot. He also acknowledges that he is not steeped in City Paper lore, and he struggles to recall an article that left a lasting impression.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert both taped their shows live to respond to Trump's State of the Union:
Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) released an ad for the 2020 Democratic primaries:
Tokyo held its first ever North Korean missile drill:
And an Air Force sergeant was suspended for posting a rant about black women in her unit: