With Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump’s insults of war heroes and military families who criticize him are a feature, not a bug, of his presidency.
Bill McRaven, a retired Navy SEAL and Special Operations commander who oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden and the capture of Saddam Hussein, is just the latest veteran to face Trump’s ire. “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace asked the president about McRaven’s comment that Trump referring to the free press as “the enemy of the people” is the greatest threat to democracy. Rather than respond to the substance of this critique, Trump dismissed McRaven as a “Hillary Clinton fan” and an “Obama backer.” Then he said the four-star admiral should have caught bin Laden earlier.
“Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?” the president said. “Everybody in Pakistan knew he was there.”
The president’s counterpunching betrayed a lack of basic knowledge about how these kinds of operations work. A former deputy CIA director, Michael Morell, noted that it was never McRaven’s job to find bin Laden:
Correction needed to POTUS’s comment today that McRaven should have found bin Laden sooner. CIA did the “finding.” McRaven’s special operators did the “getting.” They moved within days of President Obama giving the order. https://t.co/7e79sDpENH— Michael Morell (@MichaelJMorell) November 18, 2018
A former director of the CIA and NSA, retired four-star Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, also wondered why Trump hasn’t taken out other terrorist leaders in hiding:
How you doing on Zawahiri, Mr President? Abu Bakr al Baghdadi? BillMcRaven is a naval officer and an American hero. Like the ones that gave all at Belleau Woods. You remember them, right? https://t.co/FrE7wjPEg3— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) November 18, 2018
McRaven recently stepped down as chancellor of the University of Texas system to battle leukemia.
“I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else,” he said in a statement to CNN. “I am a fan of President Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom I worked for. I admire all presidents, regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times. I stand by my comment that the President's attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime. When you undermine the people's right to a free press and freedom of speech and expression, then you threaten the Constitution and all for which it stands.”
(McRaven also criticized Trump this summer for revoking former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance in an op-ed for The Washington Post.)
-- Trump, who gave himself an “A ” for his overall performance as president in the Fox interview, routinely claims that he’s a champion for those who have served in uniform. “Nobody has been better at the military,” Trump said last month. “I have done more for the military than any president in many, many years.”
“I think the vets, maybe more than anybody else, appreciate what we are doing for them,” he added during an event at the White House last week.
-- But Trump often hasn’t lived up to his rhetoric. Among other things, he never apologized to John McCain before he died. The president said the late Arizona senator was not a war hero because he got captured. When retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen endorsed Clinton in 2016, Trump blasted the former commander of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan as “a failed general.”
-- Thanks to Trump, more than 5,000 American G.I.s who would have spent Thanksgiving with their families will instead be separated from them — deployed at the southern border, waiting around for the arrival of a caravan of migrant families from Central America.
“He likes to pound his chest and talk tough, but he has not served our nation in uniform,” said Rep.-elect Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. “They’re going to be spending yet another holiday away from their families in tents without running water.”
Crow is one of at least nine Democrats who won House seats this month who served in the armed forces, intelligence services or in national security roles at State or DOD. When they get seated in January, they plan to launch an investigation into whether Trump’s politically motivated deployment wasted taxpayer resources, according to Karoun Demirjian and Dave Weigel.
-- Last Monday, on Veterans Day, Trump suggested that ballots cast by active duty members of the military who are deployed overseas should not be counted in Florida. He said that the state “must go with election night” numbers and not count new ballots that arrived afterward. He said this four days before the deadline, under Florida law, for military ballots to arrive that had been postmarked by Nov. 6.
-- The same day, he broke with tradition and — for the second year in a row — did not visit Arlington National Cemetery on the holiday. That was even after he took heavy criticism for skipping a Saturday ceremony in France to honor the end of World War I. The White House blamed rain, but the leaders of France, Germany and Canada still showed up.
-- Two years into the job, Trump still has not visited U.S. troops in a combat zone — and he canceled a planned trip last week to see some of the troops he deployed to the border. In the Fox interview, Trump made a rare acknowledgment that he erred by blowing off Arlington on Veterans Day. “I should have done that,” he said. “I was extremely busy on calls for the country, we did a lot of calling as you know.” He also hinted that a plan to visit a war zone is in the works and said he hasn’t been able to go so far because he’s been so busy.
Trump, who avoided serving in Vietnam by claiming he had bone spurs in his feet, has gone golfing on more than 100 days of his presidency. He said in 1997 that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while promiscuously gallivanting around New York City in the 1970s was “my personal Vietnam.”
-- “Trump recently has signaled discontent with the top retired generals serving in his administration, raising questions about whether he is souring on the military brass in his orbit,” Paul Sonne and Phil Rucker report. “Earlier this year, he derided Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as ‘sort of a Democrat.’ In Sunday’s interview, he said that there are things [John] Kelly does that he doesn’t like and that at some point he will move on from the chief of staff position.”
-- “Rhetorically, Mr. Trump has embraced the United States’ 1.3 million active-duty troops as ‘my military’ and ‘my generals’ … But top Defense Department officials say that Mr. Trump has not fully grasped the role of the troops he commands, nor the responsibility that he has to lead them and protect them from politics,” the New York Times reported Saturday.
He doesn’t believe in the mission: “One reason he has not visited troops in war zones, according to his aides, is that he does not really want American troops there in the first place. To visit, they said, would validate missions he does not truly believe in.”
Another telling detail that shows how disinterested he is in details: “Shortly after becoming commander in chief, President Trump asked so few questions in a briefing at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., that top military commanders cut the number of prepared PowerPoint slides to three — they had initially planned 18 … The commanders had slotted two hours for the meeting, but it lasted less than one,” per Helene Cooper, Peter Baker, Eric Schmitt and Mitchell Ferman.
“There was the belief that over time, he would better understand, but I don’t know that that’s the case,” said Col. David Lapan, a retired Marine who served in the Trump administration in 2017 as a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, in an interview with the Times. “I don’t think that he understands the proper use and role of the military and what we can, and can’t, do.”
-- Many veterans and mental-health advocates also bristled two weeks ago when Trump appeared to blame the massacre at a Thousand Oaks, Calif., nightclub on the post-traumatic stress disorder of a Marine veteran who had served in Afghanistan. Trump began speculating about PTSD when asked about 28-year-old Marine veteran Ian David Long, who killed 12 people at the country-music bar in California before killing himself. “He was a Marine. He was in the war. He served time. He saw some pretty bad things, and a lot of people say he had PTSD, and that’s a tough deal,” Trump said after describing the shooter as a “very sick puppy.” “People come back — that’s why it’s a horrible thing — they come back, they’re never the same.”
“Trump’s broad-brush remarks outside the White House on Friday prompted concern that the president was amplifying stereotypes suggesting PTSD turns veterans into violent killers and that all service members come home somehow damaged from combat,” Sonne reported. “It is not clear whether Long had been formally diagnosed with PTSD before his death.”
Subsequent reporting has revealed that Long had a pattern of being violent and unable to control his temper for years before he joined the military.
-- Moreover, Trump has had several awkward and testy interactions with Gold Star families.
Weeks into his presidency, Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to meet the family of Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who had died during a mission in Yemen. According to Bob Woodward’s book “Fear,” the experience was so uncomfortable for the president that “he let it be known the would make no more trips to Dover.” “No one said anything harsh, but there was a definite coldness that the president remembered,” Woodward reported.
Trump had personally authorized the operation in which Owens died, but the president blamed the generals for the outcome. He said on Fox News at the time that the commanders “came to see me and they explained what they wanted to do … And they lost Ryan.”
Last fall, Trump called the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson after he was killed in action in Niger. She said he stumbled recalling her husband’s name and told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”
“Very upset and hurt; it made me cry even worse,” Myeshia Johnson said of her conversation with the president, saying Trump’s tone made her angry. “If my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country, why can’t you remember his name?”
Trump disputed Johnson’s account and said he was “very respectful” in tweets about the incident. A congresswoman who was in the room when it happened validated the widow’s account.
In a phone call to another grieving Gold Star father, Chris Baldridge, after his son was killed in Afghanistan in June 2017, Trump said he’d send a personal check for $25,000 and would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened — until after The Post pressed the White House on the issue four months later.
-- The most famous clash with a Gold Star family came before Trump took office. In July 2016, Trump criticized the parents of the late Capt. Humayun Khan after they spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Khizr Khan, a Pakistani-born Muslim, said his son wouldn’t have been able to be in the United States, let alone serve in the armed forces, if Trump’s proposed Muslim ban was in effect. Directing his remarks at Trump and waving a pocket Constitution, Khan said: “You have sacrificed nothing, and no one.”
Trump responded by saying, “I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard.” He then said Hillary Clinton’s writers gave him the speech to deliver, which Khan denied, and suggested that Ghazala Khan, Capt. Khan’s mother, did not speak at the DNC because the Islamic religion does not allow her to speak in public.
“I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention,” Trump tweeted later. “Am I not allowed to respond?”
-- Today is the sixth anniversary of this Trump tweet:
It makes me feel so good to hit "sleazebags" back -- much better than seeing a psychiatrist (which I never have!)— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2012
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The White House informed CNN reporter Jim Acosta it would again revoke his press pass once a judge’s temporary order expires. Meagan Flynn reports: “The 14-day order was issued Friday and unless the judge extends it, it would expire at the end of the month. In a ruling seen as a victory for press freedom, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, appointed by [Trump], ordered the White House to temporarily restore Acosta’s press pass on Friday while he considers the merits of the case and the possibility of a permanent order. … But on Sunday night, CNN’s Brian Stelter of ‘Reliable Sources’ said in his newsletter that ‘White House officials sent Acosta a letter stating that his pass is set to be suspended again once the restraining order expires.’”
GET SMART FAST:
Michael Bloomberg is donating $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University to support financial aid. The former New York mayor, who is seriously considering a 2020 run for president, hopes the record donation will make his alma mater’s admissions process “forever need-blind.” (Nick Anderson)
Nissan ousted chairman Carlos Ghosn amid accusations that he underreported his income, causing the company to file false reports with Japanese authorities. Japan’s public broadcaster reported that Ghosn had been arrested for his alleged misconduct. (Wall Street Journal)
The next tell-all book from a Trump White House veteran is expected in January. “Team of Vipers” is written by former communications aide Cliff Sims, who first joined Trump during his campaign and kept hundreds of pages of notes during his time in the White House. (New York Times)
A group of Mexican demonstrators descended on an emergency shelter where some members of the migrant caravan are staying — referring to the migrants as “drunks and meth-heads, stoners and drug addicts.” The demonstrators clashed with anti-riot police, who they accused of being unpatriotic for attempting to protect the migrants. (Daily Beast)
The Kansas governor joined a growing chorus calling for the resignation of a Leavenworth County commissioner who made a reference to “the master race” during a hearing. Louis Klemp is seen on video telling a black planning consultant named Triveece Penelton, “I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you because we’re part of the master race. You know you got a gap in your teeth. You’re the masters. Don’t ever forget that.” (Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Kristine Phillips)
A former Ohio judge who went to prison for assaulting his wife in 2014 has been taken into custody after he was released and she was found dead. Lance Mason was also fired from his job as Cleveland’s minority business administrator after the body of his estranged wife, schoolteacher Aisha Fraser, was discovered. (NBC News)
A new drug is showing the potential to ameliorate potentially deadly reactions in children with severe peanut allergies. Two-thirds of a group of children who received the treatment were able to ingest the equivalent of about two peanuts without having a reaction. (New York Times)
Asheville is experiencing North Carolina’s worst outbreak of chickenpox in more than 20 years. Thirty-six cases of the disease have been reported at the Asheville Waldorf School, where many families claim religious exemption from the chickenpox vaccine and other such immunizations. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
Michelle Obama’s book tour is offering T-shirts, onesies and candles with the former first lady’s likeness to her many fans. The former first lady completed her third book-tour stop with a Washington visit this weekend. Barack Obama made a surprise appearance at the first. (Helena Andrews-Dyer)
Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said she is “not ready to coach” after a report emerged the Cleveland Browns are considering her for their head coach position. “I love my Browns — and I know they will hire an experienced coach to take us to the next level,” Condi said in a statement from Stanford, where she teaches. “On a more serious note, I do hope that the NFL will start to bring women into the coaching profession as position coaches and eventually coordinators and head coaches.” (CNN)
CALIFORNIA ON FIRE:
-- The death toll in California’s Camp Fire rose to 76 as more than 1,000 people remain missing. Tim Craig, Annie Gowen and Frances Stead Sellers report: “As firefighters battle to contain the deadly Camp Fire, authorities intensified efforts to identify the lost and the dead. Teams of volunteers in white protective gear searched blackened ground and family members came to makeshift DNA centers where their mouths were swabbed to help identify victim remains. On Saturday, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said that the list of people unaccounted for was up to 1,276 and that 63 victims have been tentatively identified. On Friday authorities released more than 600 names in an effort to identify those who had been found by friends and relatives. The astonishing tally raised fears that the death toll would rise exponentially.”
-- The garage of one family who fled the fire became a safe haven for an ambulance crew and their patients. Allison Klein reports: “A few hours [after leaving their home], [Desiree] Borden got a Facebook message from someone she didn’t know: ‘I know this is random,’ it read. ‘Is your house at ... Chloe Court in paradise?’ Borden replied: ‘Yes. Is it gone. Are you ok?’ Then the response came: ‘We got trapped there. It saved our life.’ … It turned out that in an act of desperation, a paramedic had broken into Borden’s home that day, Nov. 8, through a doggie door. The ambulance crew then loaded three patients into the garage. They were joined by others, and ultimately 13 people took refuge from the fire.”
-- Trump incorrectly suggested California could prevent wildfires by following Finland’s example and raking forests. Avi Selk reports: “‘We go through this every year; we can’t go through this,’ Trump said Saturday as he toured the state’s massive wildfire zones. ‘We’re going to have safe forests.’ … ‘You’ve got to take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forests, it’s very important,’ Trump told reporters ... Trump went on to explain that the president of Finland, whom he met on an overseas trip a week earlier, told him about raking the forest floors. ‘He called it a forest nation,’ Trump said, ‘and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.’ Finnish President Sauli Niinisto later disputed this. He told a local newspaper that he had briefed Trump on Finland’s efforts to surveil and care for its forests ... but said he can’t recall anything being mentioned on raking.”
-- Finland instead focuses on removing dead trees from forest floors and providing early warning of fires. The New York Times’s Patrick Kingsley explains: “The secret to the Finns’ forest management system lies instead in its early warning system, aerial surveillance system and network of forest roads, said Professor Henrik Lindberg, a forest fires researcher at the Häme University of Applied Sciences, a college in southern Finland. At times of high incendiary risk, the Finnish authorities are highly effective at delivering warnings across most forms of media.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump said he will not listen to the “suffering tape” of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Felicia Sonmez and Karen DeYoung report: “Based in part on the tape and other intercepted communications, the CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered last month’s killing of Khashoggi … But Trump maintained in an interview on ‘Fox News Sunday’ that the crown prince had told him ‘maybe five different times’ and ‘as recently as a few days ago’ that he had nothing to do with the killing. Aides have said Trump has been looking for ways to avoid pinning the blame on Mohammed, a close ally who plays a central role in Trump’s Middle East policy.
“‘We have the tape. I don’t want to hear the tape. No reason for me to hear the tape,’ Trump said in the Fox interview ... He described it as ‘a suffering tape’ and told Fox host Chris Wallace, ‘I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it . . . . It was very violent, very vicious and terrible.’ Still, Trump demurred when Wallace asked about Mohammed’s role in the killing and whether the crown prince may have been lying to Trump about his lack of involvement. ‘Well, will anybody really know?’ Trump said. ‘You saw we put on very heavy sanctions, massive sanctions on a large group of people from Saudi Arabia. But, at the same time, we do have an ally, and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good.’”
-- Trump’s comments underscored how hesitant he is to break with MBS after building his Middle East strategy around the crown prince. From the New York Times’s Mark Landler: “[The 33-year-old heir] has become the fulcrum of the administration’s strategy in the Middle East — from Iran to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process — as well as a prolific shopper for American military weapons, even if most of those contracts have not paid off yet. [The president’s comments] also showed how stubbornly Mr. Trump has decided to stick with his ally. He does not even want to listen to evidence that could shake his confidence, even if it creates rifts with intelligence officials.”
-- Mike Pence and Chinese President Xi Jinping escalated their trade attacks during this weekend’s Pacific Rim trade summit. The New York Times’s Damien Cave reports: “[Xi and Pence] both made their cases to the global leaders assembled in Papua New Guinea — then they dug in and refused to compromise. That left the group of 21 nations in disarray, unable to agree on even a routine joint statement like those that had closed every other Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit since 1989. Countries caught in the trade-war crossfire between China and the United States are becoming increasingly exasperated. … Experts said the stalemate at [APEC] would set up a high-stakes showdown at the Group of 20 conference in Argentina this month, which Mr. Xi and [Trump] are expected to attend.”
-- China’s continued success has defied U.S. predictions that its economic model would not last. The New York Times’s Philip P. Pan reports: “The pattern is familiar to historians, a rising power challenging an established one, with a familiar complication: For decades, the United States encouraged and aided China’s rise, working with its leaders and its people to build the most important economic partnership in the world, one that has lifted both nations. During this time, eight American presidents assumed, or hoped, that China would eventually bend to what were considered the established rules of modernization: Prosperity would fuel popular demands for political freedom and bring China into the fold of democratic nations. Or the Chinese economy would falter under the weight of authoritarian rule and bureaucratic rot. But neither happened. Instead, China’s Communist leaders have defied expectations again and again.”
-- John Bolton has centralized national security decision-making in Trump’s administration, a move that has been criticized by some of his colleagues. The Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum reports: “Mr. Bolton, who turns 70 years old Tuesday, has pared back the number of people accustomed to playing a bigger role in important national security debates and has convened fewer meetings than his predecessor of the White House ‘Principals Committee’ … Although Mr. Bolton has scored key policy victories during his short White House tenure, his consolidation of authority has irked other administration officials, who say he and his National Security Council aren’t serving as honest brokers in coordinating the administration’s national security policies.”
-- New U.S. sanctions on Iran are having a severe impact on medical imports. Erin Cunningham reports: “The trade of humanitarian goods is allowed under U.S. sanctions, according to Treasury Department guidelines, permitting Iran to import food, medicine and medical devices without punishment. But the far-reaching sanctions on Iranian financial firms reimposed two weeks ago could endanger the flow of humanitarian goods as foreign banks and outside suppliers abandon business ties with their partners in Iran, analysts and experts warn. In recent months, some European banks have refused to process payments even from Iranian firms that are exempt from sanctions out of fear of U.S. penalties, according to people familiar with the transactions. … Some say they fear transactions with outside banks could cease altogether, prompting shortages of vital goods, including medicine.”
-- The Trump administration’s opposition to U.N. aid for Palestinian refugees has sparked a debate over who gets to define refugees. Loveday Morris and Suzan Haidamous report: “Despite the fact that many were born and raised in Lebanon, Palestinian residents remain reliant on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), an entity that provides aid to millions of Palestinians around the region, particularly for basic services like health care and education. Now, however, the Trump administration is trying to dismantle that lifeline, leaving many Palestinians fearing for their futures. … These efforts have sparked debate over what it means to be a Palestinian refugee and highlighted questions on resettlement, and whether residency or citizenship in another country would diminish their claim to a future Palestinian state.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Trump said he would not intervene if acting attorney general Matt Whitaker moved to curtail special counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation. Felicia Sonmez reports: “‘Look, it’s going to be up to him. . . . I would not get involved,’ Trump said in an interview on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ The president also publicly mocked a House Democrat who criticized Whitaker, deriding Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) as ‘little Adam Schitt’ in a tweet. … Trump said in Sunday’s interview that he ‘did not know [Whitaker] took views on the Mueller investigation as such’ before he appointed him. Trump essentially shut the door to sitting down with Mueller, telling host Chris Wallace that his written answers mean ‘probably this is the end’ of his involvement in the inquiry. ‘I think we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably: We’re finished,’ Trump said. He said that he had given ‘very complete answers to a lot of questions’ and that ‘that should solve the problem.’”
-- Ben Terris profiles Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who is in line to become chairman of the House Oversight Committee: “With a healthy heart, and in control, Cummings has limitless possible targets: hush money paid to a porn star on Trump’s behalf, citizenship questions on the census, security clearances revoked from the president’s critics, and dozens of other oh-yeah-remember-thats that slipped out of the churning news cycle unanswered. The difficulty won’t be finding things to look into. It will be figuring out what’s worth looking into. Cummings knows by now the risks that come with opening wounds voluntarily. After he recovered from heart surgery, he checked back into the hospital for another procedure — this time on his knee. But something went wrong. The knee got infected, and Cummings spent another three months at Hopkins. He emerged more aware than ever that there’s only a finite amount of time in this world.”
-- Criticism of how Facebook has reacted to manipulation of its platform during the 2016 election has caused tension between CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. The Wall Street Journal’s Deepa Seetharaman reports: “The 34-year-old CEO believes Facebook didn’t move quickly enough at key moments this year and increasingly is pressing senior executives to ‘make progress faster’ on resolving problems such as slowing user growth and securing the platform ... It also has led to confrontations with some of his top reports, including Ms. Sandberg, who has long had considerable autonomy over the Facebook teams that control communications and policy. This spring, Mr. Zuckerberg told Ms. Sandberg, 49, that he blamed her and her teams for the public fallout over Cambridge Analytica, the research firm that inappropriately accessed private data on Facebook users and used it for political research, according to people familiar with the exchange.”
-- Eli Saslow traces the roots of a satirical website started by liberal bloggers that has become popular among Trump supporters: “In the last two years on his page, America’s Last Line of Defense, [Christopher] Blair had made up stories about California instituting sharia, former president Bill Clinton becoming a serial killer, undocumented immigrants defacing Mount Rushmore, and former president Barack Obama dodging the Vietnam draft when he was 9. ‘Share if you’re outraged!’ his posts often read, and thousands of people on Facebook had clicked ‘like’ and then ‘share,’ most of whom did not recognize his posts as satire. Instead, Blair’s page had become one of the most popular on Facebook among Trump-supporting conservatives over 55.”
-- Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson conceded to Republican Gov. Rick Scott in Florida’s fraught Senate race. Amy B Wang, Felicia Sonmez and Paul Sonne report: “Although results of the race are not due to be certified until Tuesday, Nelson said in remarks posted on Twitter that things had worked out ‘a little differently’ from the way he and his wife had hoped. He went on to issue a call for bipartisanship in an era of brutally divisive politics. … Scott’s victory boosts the Republican Senate majority to 52, with a final seat in Mississippi due to be decided in a Nov. 27 runoff. In a statement, Scott thanked Nelson for his service. … Going into the recount, Nelson trailed Scott by more than 12,000 votes, and his campaign had hoped a reexamination of ballots — particularly in heavily Democratic Broward County — would help him close the gap. But when the recount ended at midday Sunday, Scott still led Nelson by 10,033 votes out of more than 8 million cast, according to the Florida Division of Elections. Scott’s razor-thin victory leaves Florida, the nation’s third-most-populous state, with two Republican senators for the first time since the Reconstruction era immediately after the Civil War.”
-- Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes submitted her resignation. The South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Anthony Man reports: “Broward’s vote counting was an outlier among the state’s 67 counties, taking a long time to complete. For days, Snipes wouldn’t say how many ballots were outstanding and uncounted and her office wasn’t reporting updated results as frequently as the law required. And there were repeated hiccups during the recount period, including Snipes’ acknowledgment on Saturday that her office couldn’t find 2,040 ballots that had been included in the first vote count but not in the machine recount of state elections. … She’s been subject to waves of criticism for long lines and slow vote counts in multiple elections.”
-- The Florida recount fight is a dress rehearsal for 2020. Beth Reinhard and Amy Gardner report: “Amid the raucous street protests and updates from sleep-deprived election workers, influential figures in both parties inserted themselves into the drama — testing legal strategies to influence the makeup of the electorate and political arguments to win public opinion. … For Democrats, who typically perform better in high-turnout elections, that meant pushing to count as many votes as possible and accusing Republicans of trying to suppress the vote. For Republicans, the goal was to limit the number of eligible votes and claim Democrats were trying to steal the election.”
-- Sen. Marco Rubio’s aggressive response to the recount demonstrates how the Florida Republican has belatedly come to embrace Trumpism. Sean Sullivan reports: “Since the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Rubio has stood on the front lines of the partisan war here in Florida over his state’s recount, storming social media with criticism of Democrats and seizing on incomplete information to raise doubts about the intentions of elections officials. He also penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed declaring that ‘Trump Is Right About Nationalism,’ embracing a term fraught with racial and historical baggage, though he argued it is not about ethnicity. … His latest transformation has revived criticism among some Republicans that Rubio is a politician without a core — a shape-shifter who has bounced from tea party insurgent to sunny moderate to Trump acolyte with little compunction.”
-- Democrat Stacey Abrams, who conceded in Georgia’s gubernatorial race to Republican Brian Kemp, refused to call Kemp the “the legitimate governor-elect.” Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports: “CNN’s Jake Tapper was asking [Abrams] whether she felt the victor was ‘the legitimate governor-elect.’ Abrams, who had hoped to force a runoff with Kemp but conceded the race on Friday, pivoted to her concerns about irregularities, voter suppression and a last-minute investigation during her campaign for her state’s highest office. … ‘The law as it stands says that he received an adequate number of votes to become the governor of Georgia,’ Abrams said. ‘But we know sometimes the law does not do what it should, and something being legal does not make it right.’”
-- Trump announced he would hold rallies in Mississippi next week as the state’s Nov. 27 runoff Senate race has become unexpectedly competitive. Matt Viser reports: “Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith stumbled recently when, in praise of a supporter, she spoke of her willingness to sit in the front row of a public hanging if he invited her — words that, in the South, evoked images of lynchings. She has struggled to grapple with the fallout, baffling members of her party and causing even faithful Republicans to consider voting for her opponent, former congressman Mike Espy. That Espy is attempting to become the state’s first black senator since shortly after the Civil War made her remarks all the more glaring. It has positioned him to take advantage not only of a substantial black turnout but of a potential swell of crossover support from those put off by Hyde-Smith’s campaign. Espy remains the underdog in the conservative state, but Republicans with access to private polling say Hyde-Smith’s lead has narrowed significantly in recent days.”
-- Despite immense polarization, hundreds of thousands of voters still split their ballots this year between Republican and Democratic candidates. Jenna Johnson found some of them: “Of the more than 2.3 million Arizonans who voted in the midterm election, roughly 188,000 appear to have voted for [Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten] Sinema and Republican [Gov. Doug] Ducey. Maricopa County, Arizona’s most populous county and home to Phoenix and its suburbs, also split its votes overall. Although Ducey was easily reelected, Sinema won by just under 54,000 votes out of more than 2.3 million cast, so those split-ticket voters played a major role in the outcome. Democratic and Republican strategists say that although they started in different camps, Sinema and Ducey both found victory by being aggressively moderate and presenting themselves as problem solvers, not partisans.”
-- But Trump’s consistent presence on the campaign trail appears to have deepened partisan divides during the midterms. Michael Scherer and Robert Costa report: “The Trump effect now sets the stage for an intensely tribal 2020 showdown over his reelection, with a smaller and heavily rural Republican Party facing off against a growing Democratic coalition of suburban and urban residents in higher-income states. … Strategists from both parties say the president, in effect, erected a wall that broke the blue wave, allowing Republicans to hold onto key House seats and defeat Democratic Senate incumbents in conservative Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota. The same strategy, however, empowered Democrats to win decisive victories in formerly Republican suburbs in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, California and the otherwise reliably red state of Texas.”
-- Trump has abandoned the dire warnings he espoused in the immediate run-up to Election Day in an apparent effort to stave off Republican losses. From Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey: “Gone from the president’s talking points are dire threats about the caravan of Central American migrants that he had described as imminent and life-threatening, or the executive order he promised to sign ending the constitutional right to citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants, or the phantom 10 percent middle-class tax cut that he said would pass so easily. Now that Democrats have seized the House majority, the president has added to his repertoire happy talk about cutting deals with Pelosi … Trump’s shift in rhetoric and policy priorities is striking enough that this period of his presidency could be divided in two parts: Before and after Nov. 6.”
-- Beto O’Rourke’s solid performance in the Texas Senate race has scrambled Democrats’ 2020 calculus. Politico’s David Siders reports: “Even prior to O’Rourke’s meteoric rise, many Democratic fundraisers had approached the large number of 2020 contenders with apprehension, fearful of committing early to one candidate. But the prospect of a presidential bid by O’Rourke, whose charismatic Senate candidacy captured the party’s imagination, has suddenly rewired the race. … O’Rourke’s appeal rests on his perceived ability to bridge a gulf within the party — between Democratic contenders who are older but come with pre-existing donor networks, and Democrats who are younger but have not yet developed a substantial fundraising base.”
-- On the Sunday shows, incoming Democratic House members expressed differing opinions on Nancy Pelosi’s speakership bid. Tory Newmyer reports: “‘I would look at what the job is, and it’s a little bit of herding cats, and it’s a little bit about keeping a Democratic Party that’s full of lots of different points of view. And I think that Nancy has demonstrated that time and time again,’ [Rep.-elect Donna Shalala (D-Fla.)] said in an interview alongside four other newly elected female House Democrats on ABC News’s ‘This Week.’ ‘She has a backbone. She’ll stand up to a president.’ … [But Rep.-elect Abigail Spanberger (Va.)] said she will honor the commitment [she made during her campaign]. ‘If we are going to turn a page and bring civility back to the political discussions, we need to change the people who are directing that conversation,’ Spanberger said ...on ABC.”
-- But the lack of a declared challenger to Pelosi is impeding efforts to deny her the gavel. The New York Times’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports: “As much as some House Democrats, including several among the wave of newcomers elected this month, say they want to shake up a calcified party leadership, would-be challengers are keenly aware of the immense power Ms. Pelosi wields, and fearful of institutional retribution and reputational damage if they step forward to test the status quo.”
-- Democrats completed a sweep of congressional races in Orange County, previously a GOP stronghold. The LA Times’s Mark Z. Barabak, Joe Mozingo and Michael Finnegan report: “Gil Cisneros defeated Republican Young Kim on Saturday in the last of Orange County’s undecided House races … With Cisneros’ victory, Democrats will constitute the entirety of Orange County’s seven-member congressional delegation, the first time since the 1930s that the birthplace of Richard Nixon, home of John Wayne and spiritual center of the Republican Party will have no GOP representative in the House. … Cisneros’ victory, after more than a week of counting mail-in and other outstanding ballots, will give Democrats 45 of the state’s 53 House seats and mark a new low for the flailing Republican Party.”
-- Even with former Senate majority leader Harry Reid in retirement, the Democratic machine he created helped lead to a wipeout of Republicans in Nevada. The AP’s Michelle L. Price and Nicholas Riccardi report: “Democrats romped up and down the state in the Nov. 6 midterm elections, ousting Republican Sen. Dean Heller, winning races for governor and lieutenant governor, and expanding their state legislative majorities. The shellacking was 15 years in the making, the culmination of a long-term plan to shift a battleground into the Democratic column. … Despite being treated for pancreatic cancer, Reid has remained active in Nevada politics.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee responded to Trump's insult (the president appeared to intentionally misspell his name):
Wow, Mr. President, that’s a good one.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) November 18, 2018
Was that like your answers to Mr. Mueller’s questions, or did you write this one yourself? https://t.co/Yd27sayt7C
Rick Scott celebrated his victory:
The president congratulated Scott:
From day one Rick Scott never wavered. He was a great Governor and will be even a greater Senator in representing the People of Florida. Congratulations to Rick on having waged such a courageous and successful campaign!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 18, 2018
Sen. Bill Nelson expressed gratitude for his time serving the people of Florida:
Well, things turned out a little differently than we had hoped, but I by no means feel defeated. That’s because I’ve had the privilege of serving the people of Florida for most of my life. It’s been a rewarding journey and a very humbling experience. No one could be more blessed. pic.twitter.com/aGIf5nFcyZ— Nelson for U.S. Senate (@NelsonForSenate) November 18, 2018
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he would miss his colleague:
No two Senators had a better working relationship than Senator Nelson & I. We often voted differently,but not once did it interfere with our ability to work together. He served with a decency & dignity that is increasingly rare in politics.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 18, 2018
I will miss working with him#Sayfie https://t.co/0bvdlKCjmj
A former NSC spokesman for Obama replied:
You literally just accused him of trying to steal the election. https://t.co/wT1bRazpek— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) November 18, 2018
A Democratic lawyer who worked for Nelson looked ahead to 2020:
Sitting at Starbucks after a long election cycle reflecting on our victories. We retook the House, made big gains in Governors and State legislatures, and did better in the Senate than we could've hoped at the beginning of the cycle. Bode and I need some rest. And then onto 2020! pic.twitter.com/Khr9z8gySW— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) November 18, 2018
A Bloomberg News reporter noted this:
Rick Scott won 45% of Latinos in Florida. He lost this bloc by just 9 points (by contrast, House Republicans nationally lost them by 40 points).— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) November 18, 2018
As of mid-June, per @MarcACaputo, Scott had a Spanish-language website and ads up in Spanish; Nelson had neither. pic.twitter.com/MFqCU9xCGJ
An LA Times reporter reflected on Orange County going blue:
Looking for perspective if Orange County congressional delegation goes all Dem. Like Yankee fans filling Fenway to cheer Red Sox? Like San Franciscans voting LA “America’s Best Place To Live?” Like Coke serving Pepsi in company cafeteria? Can guess what Joe Biden would say...— Mark Z. Barabak (@markzbarabak) November 16, 2018
George Conway, who is married to senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, rejected a comparison between the GOP's midterm losses in 1982 and 2018:
A nutso comparison. There was a long recession from 7/81 to 11/82—a very deep one caused by contractionary Fed policies that squeezed out high inflation. Unemployment in late ‘82 remains the highest since the Great Depression. Today we’ve had 9 straight years of growth. https://t.co/ko7T24T1sy— George Conway (@gtconway3d) November 18, 2018
A political researcher compared Democratic victories in 2006 and 2018:
Genuinely wild to compare the demographics of Democrats who flipped seats in the 2006 wave vs. the 2018 wave.— Will Jordan (@williamjordann) November 16, 2018
- 3% POC
- 13% Women
- 23% Under 45
- 83% White men
- 21% POC
- 68% Women
- 53% Under 45
- 24% White Men pic.twitter.com/HlfkBS21EK
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) urged Mitch McConnell to bring the Senate's bipartisan criminal justice bill up for a vote:
Sen. Graham 2day on Meet the Press, “I’m urging Mitch McConnell, put this bill on the floor. If you put it on the floor, we’ll get 80 votes. We’ll get most Republicans and almost all Democrats. Let’s do it before the end of the year, and the president is behind it.” 2/3— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) November 18, 2018
I join my colleagues Sen. Graham & Paul calling on Ldr McConnell to bring criminal justice reform to the floor for a vote this yr It’s the right thing to do 4our country Bipartisan support & we have the votes to pass it Tough on crime but FAIR #PassFirstStep 3/3— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) November 18, 2018
Trump's former communications director reacted to the president's criticism of retired Adm. William McRaven:
Alumni of past administrations expressed disgust at the president’s comments about McRaven. “There is no bottom - we just keep falling,” said Bush White House communications director Nicolle Wallace. A senior official on Obama’s National Security Council added:
To summarize, Trump has attacked the President who ordered the bin Laden operation, taken away the security clearance of the WH official (Brennan) who helped orchestrate it, and now disparaged the commander and troops who got the job done.— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) November 18, 2018
Trump was mocked for his suggestion that raking would prevent California's wildfires:
From a Cornell law professor:
YOU GOTTA TAKE CARE OF THE FLOORS. YOU KNOW THE FLOORS OF THE FOREST, VERY IMPORTANT. I WAS WITH THE PRESIDENT OF FINLAND, HE CALLED IT A FOREST NATION, AND THEY SPEND A LOT OF TIME ON RAKING AND CLEANING AND DOING THINGS AND THEY DON'T HAVE ANY PROBLEM. pic.twitter.com/6gyd8kvkB7— Josh Chafetz (@joshchafetz) November 17, 2018
From a Finnish actor and writer:
Every Finnish home has got a print of this cautionary painting called ”Raking And Cleaning Fail”. pic.twitter.com/J16xkVU4t2— Antti Holma (@anttiholma) November 17, 2018
A House Democrat questioned Trump's explanation for why he had not visited American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan:
Asked by Chris Wallace why he has has not visited American troops stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan since he took office, Trump cites his “unbelievably busy schedule.”— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) November 18, 2018
So far he has spent 1 of every 4 days golfing, and 2-3 months at Mar-a-Lago. https://t.co/BZGU3rKygA
From Obama's former U.N. ambassador:
Trump “loves” the US military. He just:— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) November 19, 2018
- never visits US troops at war.
- keeps > 5,000 soldiers away from home at Thanksgiving in a fabricated border mission.
- fails to honor our vets on Veterans Day.
-trashes two of our greats, John McCain & Bill McCraven.
If this is love...
The Post's Fact Checker columnist challenged Trump's comment that he successfully ran casinos:
Trump casinos that filed for bankruptcy protection: Trump Taj Mahal (1991), Trump’s Castle and Trump Plaza Casinos (1992), Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts (1994), Trump Entertainment Resorts (2009). https://t.co/fnJYOnRTgn— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) November 18, 2018
A congresswoman-elect posed this question:
How is Columbus Day a holiday but Election Day not?— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) November 18, 2018
A Daily Mail editor responded:
AOC hasn't even started the job yet and she's already angling for more vacation days. https://t.co/0BPFe8YeSy— David Martosko (@dmartosko) November 18, 2018
Ocasio-Cortez made a counteroffer:
While I would disagree with your complaint that Americans get too much vacation time (we work some of the longest hours of any dev country & have no Fed required paid leave),— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) November 18, 2018
I am willing to compromise by eliminating Columbus Day to give Election Day off.
See? I can be pliant. https://t.co/NITFcBSmxw
One of Ocasio-Cortez's future colleagues honored her son, who was killed by gun violence:
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who is waging a quixotic bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, summarized the debate over gun policy:
America’s gun debate in one thread.— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) November 16, 2018
1) I propose a buy-back of assault weapons
2) Gun owner says he’ll go to war with USA if that happens
3) I sarcastically point out USA isn’t losing to his assault weapon (it’s not the 18th Century)
4) I’m called a tyrant
5) 0 progress
A presidential historian marked an important anniversary:
Donald Trump Jr. reshared a post from a Fox News contributor:
the comedy understander has logged on pic.twitter.com/mqaezedvwS— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) November 18, 2018
Ivanka Trump liked a post from a fan:
And a publicist tried to contact economist Adam Smith, who died in 1790. From The Post's book critic:
Adam Smith is an example of someone who has done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more https://t.co/REA1zshcKS— Carlos Lozada (@CarlosLozadaWP) November 17, 2018
-- “‘The man behind the curtain’: Interior’s No. 2 helps drive Trump’s agenda,” by Juliet Eilperin: “[Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt’s] relentless work ethic helps explain how he’s managed to advance Trump’s pro-industry agenda over the nation’s public lands. Having worked for years as a lobbyist representing many of the very businesses he now regulates, he walked into the No. 2 job at Interior with so many potential conflicts of interest he has to carry a small card listing them all. … In recent weeks his boss, Ryan Zinke, has come under increased scrutiny for a Montana land deal. If Trump reshuffles his Cabinet and Zinke steps down, it will likely be Bernhardt who steps up.”
-- New York Times, “Tests Showed Children Were Exposed to Lead. The Official Response: Challenge the Tests,” by J. David Goodman, Al Baker and James Glanz: “For at least two decades, almost every time a child in its apartments tested positive for high lead levels, [the New York City Housing Authority] launched a counteroffensive, city records show. From 2010 through July of this year, the agency challenged 95 percent of the orders it received from the Health Department to remove lead detected in Nycha apartments. Private landlords almost never contest a finding of lead; they did so in only 4 percent of the 5,000 orders they received over the same period, records show. Nycha’s strategy often worked. The Health Department backed down in 158 of 211 cases in public housing after the authority challenged its finding, the data shows.”
-- Daily Beast, “Inside the Flat Earth Conference, Where the World’s Oldest Conspiracy Theory Is Hot Again,” by Kelly Weill: “‘In five years, everyone will know the Earth is flat,’ Scott Simons tells me as we wait in line for the second annual Flat Earth Conference. … Thousands of years after ancient Greeks began referencing Earth as a sphere in mathematical proofs, people who believe in a flat Earth have become a movement. They’ve found their voice in the disinformation age, fueled by YouTube videos. For true believers, it’s more than just a conspiracy theory. It’s whole world view, a level plane onto which hucksters, trolls, and Christian fundamentalists can insert their own ideologies.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“How Trump administration pressure to dump 4-H's LGBT policy led to Iowa leader's firing,” from the Des Moines Register: “The Trump administration pushed the national 4-H youth organization to withdraw a controversial policy welcoming LGBT members — a move that helped lead to the ouster of Iowa's top 4-H leader earlier this year, a Des Moines Register investigation has found. The international youth organization, with more than 6 million members, introduced the new policy to ensure LGBT members felt protected by their local 4-H program — part of a larger effort to modernize the federally authorized youth group and broaden membership. Several states posted the policy on their websites, including Iowa, where it prompted fierce opposition from conservatives and some evangelical groups.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Sonia Sotomayor: Brett Kavanaugh is part of Supreme Court ‘family,’” from Fox News: “Justice Sonia Sotomayor said newly appointed Justice Brett Kavanaugh is part of the Supreme Court ‘family’ whom she will judge based on his work and not by what occurred during his controversial confirmation process. In an interview with CNN’s ‘Axe Files,’ Sotomayor said Kavanaugh is part of the Supreme Court ‘work family.’ ‘When you're charged with working together for most of the remainder of your life, you have to create a relationship,’ Sotomayor told host David Axelrod. ‘The nine of us are now a family and we're a family with each of us our own burdens and our own obligations to others, but this is our work family, and it's just as important as our personal family.’”
Trump will participate in the delivery of the White House Christmas tree with the first lady and later have lunch with Mike Pence.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I have people that won't vote unless I'm on the ballot, okay? ... My name wasn't on the ballot.” — Trump on the GOP’s midterm losses. (NPR)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. will see little sunshine today but enjoy warmer temperatures in the 50s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “It’s cloudier than not with the best chance of some sunny breaks during the first half of the day. Temperatures should at least hit the low- to mid-50s and perhaps the upper 50s in our milder areas.”
-- The Redskins lost to the Texans 23-21. Quarterback Alex Smith is also out for the rest of the season after breaking his leg in a gruesome manner during the third quarter. (Les Carpenter)
-- The Wizards lost to the Trail Blazers 119-109. (Candace Buckner)
-- Virginia’s colleges and universities stand to substantially benefit from the new Amazon office in Crystal City. Susan Svrluga reports: “[T]he Amazon sweepstakes came at a perfect time. Suddenly, state leaders were willing to pour money into tech higher education — more than $1 billion over 20 years. That commitment, not a formal part of the final agreement with Amazon, was announced at the same time it was revealed Northern Virginia had been chosen as one of two winning sites, along with New York. State leaders said the commitment to higher education played a key role, assuring the company of a continued supply of workers with tech expertise.”
-- Lawsuits over the 2016 apartment explosion in Silver Spring that killed seven people are being held up over a federal investigation into the blast. Steve Thompson reports: “The judge presiding over the cases, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Ronald B. Rubin, spent a recent hearing venting frustration over the pace of the inquiry by the National Transportation Safety Board. He said he planned to sign an order — which he acknowledged may be ineffective — demanding answers from the agency.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
SNL host Steve Carrell impersonated Amazon founder and Post owner Jeff Bezos to joke about speculation that Amazon's headquarters selections were meant to troll Trump:
John Oliver threw a spotlight on rising global authoritarianism in the season finale of “Last Week Tonight”:
The Fact Checker awarded Trump four Pinocchios for his increasingly exaggerated claims about crowd size:
NASA's new ad about expanding space exploration went viral:
We're returning to the Moon, preparing to go beyond to Mars. We are going. We are NASA. pic.twitter.com/y24AaicGRy— NASA (@NASA) November 17, 2018
And some police officers in California gave their co-worker a remarkable gift: