THE BIG IDEA: President Trump won in 2016 by breaking through “the blue wall,” flipping a trio of Rust Belt states that had backed Democrats in every presidential election since 1992. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plowed through what’s known as “the red wall” on Thursday, securing a sweeping mandate to “get Brexit done,” by flipping seats in Parliament across fading industrial towns in England's north and midlands that the Labour Party has held since the Great Depression.
The fallout from the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union, which narrowly passed, has created cleavages that are fundamentally altering the political landscape of the United Kingdom and prompting some to change partisan allegiances.
With only one seat still too close to call, the Conservatives have won 364 spots in the 650-seat Parliament. This gives Johnson a 78-seat majority and dashes dreams of a second Brexit referendum. It gives the Tories their biggest majority since Maggie Thatcher led the ticket for a third time in 1987. Labour will have its fewest seats since 1935.
-- Just like in the United States, there has been a growing urban-rural divide in the U.K. Like Trump, Johnson capitalized. Conservatives just flipped seats in traditional Labour strongholds like Darlington, North Wales, Bassetlaw and Bolsover by appealing to folks who work with their hands in manufacturing, construction and transportation. Many have been lifelong Labour voters, but they strongly support Brexit and detest cosmopolitan elites in places like London and Brussels.
Labour has represented the aptly named town of Workington in Parliament since 1918, but voters supported Brexit and wanted to give Johnson the support he said he needed to get it across the finish line. Conservatives won in Great Grimsby for the first time since 1935, thanks to a 15-point swing from Labour toward Conservatives since the 2017 election.
Trump carried Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by appealing to significant numbers of blue-collar whites who voted twice for Barack Obama but felt left behind by globalization and uncomfortable with the leftward lurch on cultural issues like transgender bathroom access and gun rights.
It’s called the “red wall” in the U.K. because that’s the color of the Labour Party. Fun fact: When American TV networks began using color-coded maps during the 1970s, the Democrats were initially red and the Republicans blue.
-- Johnson largely united those who want to leave the European Union while his opponents, and those who wish to remain, splintered. Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party got just 2 percent of the overall vote nationally and did not win a single seat. In some of those “red wall” constituencies, candidates from Farage's slate pulled double digits and thereby tipped the race to the Conservative candidate.
In his victory speech at Westminster early Friday, the prime minister spoke directly to the many working-class folks who voted Conservative for the first time in their lives. “You may only have lent us your vote, you may not think of yourself as a natural Tory, and you may intend to return to Labour next time around,” he said. “If that is the case, I'm humbled that you put your trust in me, that you put your trust in us, and I, and we, will never take your support for granted. But I will make it my mission to work night and day, flat out, to prove you right in voting for me this time and earn your support in the future.”
Notably, just as Democrats have made gains among center-right suburban voters (especially women) in the Trump era, Labour improved its numbers in several affluent suburban districts around London that have long been Conservative strongholds. They picked up a seat in Putney.
-- The U.K. itself remains at risk of coming apart, as nationalist parties saw another election with big gains in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The leader of the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, even lost her seat to a candidate from the Scottish National Party.The SNP, which is pro-Europe and wants Edinburgh to declare independence, increased its representation in Parliament from 35 to 48 seats.
On this side of the pond, the United States continues to experience the growing pains that always come with realignments. The major realignments of the 20th century came after Franklin Roosevelt’s 1932 win and Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory. We’re all so close to it now that sometimes it’s hard to see, especially for the professional pundits in the chattering class. But the GOP picking up four Senate seats in the 2018 midterms (Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana and Florida) on the same day that a national “blue wave” gave Democrats their majority in the House put into stark relief how the tectonic plates in this country are moving.
-- Johnson’s gamble to call a national election, which could have made him one of the shortest-serving prime ministers in British history, paid off handsomely. His message discipline was impressive, as he hammered the slogan “Get Brexit done” in a way that was reminiscent of Trump promising to “Make America great again” in 2016.He also promised to focus on reinvigorating Britain’s “left-behind” towns, just as Trump once pledged to remember “the forgotten men and women of our country.”
-- Trump celebrated Johnson’s win:
Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his great WIN! Britain and the United States will now be free to strike a massive new Trade Deal after BREXIT. This deal has the potential to be far bigger and more lucrative than any deal that could be made with the E.U. Celebrate Boris!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2019
-- Just like Trump is no Reagan, Johnson is no Thatcher. Theprime minister ran on jacking up spending for the National Health Service and infrastructure. And he’s a nativist, frequently blaming migrants from Europe for the kingdom’s problems.
-- Fleet Street is blown away by some of the places that the Tories picked up. The BBC declared that Conservatives won in places where it “might almost have seemed a sin” to vote for them before Brexit. “The same prime minister,” says political editor Laura Kuenssberg. “But a new map."
“Nearly 35 years after the end of the miners’ strike and the ensuing closure of the country’s pits, angry, frustrated voters in seats such as Blyth Valley, in Northumberland, have been prepared to elect a Conservative MP to end the Brexit wrangling,” the Guardian notes. “Blyth Valley has only elected Labour MPs since it was created in 1950, apart from a brief period when an independent Labour member represented the seat. Labour lost 15 points, and the seat – target number 116 for the Conservatives – fell to the Tories on a swing of 10.2% [compared to the 2017 election], one of the largest seen on the night.”
-- The Economist describes the Conservatives as an “all new” party in the wake of this election but cautions that the gains could prove fragile: “Over several decades, economic attitudes have been replaced by cultural ones as the main predictor of party affiliation. Even at the last election, in 2017, working-class voters were almost as likely as professional ones to back the Tories. Mr Johnson rode a wave that was already washing over Britain. Donald Trump has shown how conservative positions on cultural matters can hold together a coalition of rich and poor voters. And Mr Johnson has an extra advantage in that his is unlikely to face strong opposition soon. Labour looks certain to be in the doldrums for a long time. …
“Yet the Tories’ mighty new coalition is sure to come under strain. With its mix of blue collars and red trousers, the new party is ideologically incoherent. The northern votes are merely on loan. To keep them Mr Johnson will have to give people what they want—which means infrastructure, spending on health and welfare, and a tight immigration policy. By contrast, the Tories’ old supporters in the south believe that leaving the EU will unshackle Britain and usher in an era of freewheeling globalism. Mr Johnson will doubtless try to paper over the differences. However, whereas Mr Trump’s new coalition in America has been helped along by a roaring economy, post-Brexit Britain is likely to stall.”
-- It can be risky to draw too many comparisons between the American and British systems, and there are certainly differences, but it’s hard to ignore the parallels – and serious warning signs here for Democrats in 2020. Bottom line, the Tory triumph shows how much it matters who Democrats nominate next year.
The Brexit referendum in 2016 foreshadowed Trump’s victory later in the year, and the fresh returns from the U.K. signal that Trump is more formidable than many on the left want to acknowledge. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of socialism, and his personal unpopularity, hobbled Labour. Corbyn advocated free university tuition, paid for partly with a wealth tax. It’s impossible to say definitively who is the most “electable” candidate in the crowded 2020 field, but it’s indisputable that electability matters.
Corbyn announced last night that, though he’ll stay in Parliament, he won’t lead Labour in future campaigns. But he said he’ll stick around for some transition period. “This is obviously a very disappointing night for the Labour Party," he said.
-- “With the Conservatives primed to extend their reign — from 2010 until 2024, if Johnson serves a full five-year term — Labour is looking at years in the opposition,” per William Booth, Karla Adam and James McAuley. “Party members immediately launched into a debate over who or what was to blame for a possible Tory landslide. Some on the left said it was Brexit, not Corbyn himself or the party’s transformative socialist agenda, that buried them. … Corbyn took a less decisive stance, proposing a softer Brexit — plus the guarantee of a second referendum within six months, another national vote on whether to stay or go, with the option to call the whole thing off. …
“In Brussels, E.U. leaders who had gathered for a previously planned summit stayed up for a late night of election results-watching. Several said they just wanted to get Brexit over with. … Privately, some diplomats who work on Brexit said that a sweeping majority for pro-Brexit Johnson, paradoxically, might result in Britain staying more closely aligned with the E.U. than if he had weak control over Parliament. A big majority, the diplomats reasoned, gives Johnson more flexibility to make compromises during what is likely to be a year of lightning-fast negotiations on a trade deal. If Johnson had only a few votes to spare, he would be more vulnerable to be taken hostage by Brexit hard-liners who insist on the sharpest possible split from Europe.”
-- John Bercow, the former Conservative speaker of the House of Commons, predicted that Britain will still be debating Brexit for the next five, 10 and possibly 15 years. Even after leaving the continental bloc, for example, Britain still must iron out deals on trade, intelligence-sharing, the movement of capital and the nettlesome question of what to do about the border with Ireland. “It was a Brexit-focused, Brexit-oriented, Brexit-dominated campaign,” Bercow told Sky News. “But that’s the withdrawal agreement. That is about the divorce bill … I don’t think, if I may say so, that means getting Brexit done in the sense that it’s gift-wrapped or oven-ready for Christmas.”
-- Finally, here’s a little Friday fun: An Election Day tradition in Britain is to bring your dog to vote. Johnson brought his canine, Dilyn, when he cast his ballot. But the tradition has expanded: Reindeer, horses and even a tortoise named Yoda were spotted at polling places around the U.K. Social media was full of pictures like these:
#dogsatpollingstations is usually a highlight of working on a picture desk on election day but #reindeeratpollingstations has taken it up a notch. https://t.co/gbvMpn1ExM— Johnny Goldsmith (@MirrorJohnny) December 12, 2019
📸: @SWNS pic.twitter.com/4C9wHrbvJI
THE IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY:
-- The House Judiciary Committee on Friday morning quickly approved two articles of impeachment against Trump accusing him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. At 11:15 p.m. Thursday, Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) delayed the planned vote until the morning. Rachael Bade, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Toluse Olorunnipa report: Thursday's "all-day debate ended as it began, with angry exchanges, personal insults and recycled arguments about process and propriety as the committee moved toward voting to impeach Trump for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ ‘It has been a long two days of consideration of these articles, and it is now very late at night,” [Nadler said]. ‘I want the members on both sides of the aisle to think about what has happened over these last two days and to search their consciences before we cast our final votes.’ He then banged his gavel ... Republicans on the committee, who appeared blindsided by the decision to delay the vote, erupted in frustration. ‘This is the kangaroo court we’re talking about,’ Rep. Douglas A. Collins (Ga.), the committee’s ranking Republican, said after Nadler made his announcement. ‘Stalinesque,’ added Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.). …
“After the surprise recess Thursday night, Republicans accused Democrats of breaching faith on an agreement they had made during the late-night break in the marathon proceedings. Collins said Republicans promised to limit their amendments to wrap up debate earlier in the evening and vote. But as soon as lawmakers agreed to cut off amendment debate, Nadler suddenly moved to delay the vote until the morning. A furious Collins said his members were supposed to be on flights and trains in the morning and accused Democrats of trying to move the vote time to the morning so they could get better television coverage. ‘This is the most ludicrous thing I have seen in my entire life!’ he said. ‘To not even consult the ranking member, to not even give us a heads up! … This is why people don’t like us, this crap!’ A Democratic aide rebutted the notion that there was any agreement to have a vote this evening. But behind the scenes, aides noted that both sides originally agreed to finish by 5 p.m. Thursday — and the GOP changed its mind at the last minute and dragged the hearing out, prompting Democrats to chart a new course. Democrats cast the move as a way to hold the historic vote in the light of day, rather than face charges that they sought to oust Trump in the dark of night.”
-- The 14 hours of rancorous debate on Thursday was dominated by name-calling, insults and other scandals. Elise Viebeck, Rachael Bade and Colby Itkowitz report: “Frustration had built for both parties over a month of tightly controlled hearings, where committee procedures restrained the partisan conflict just enough to keep the impeachment process moving. But Thursday’s markup session in the House Judiciary Committee unfolded without those controls, in an open format that allowed ... spontaneous and at times nasty confrontation. Lawmakers from both parties took advantage. ‘Today I’m reminded of Judas,’ said Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.). ‘Because Judas for 30 pieces of silver betrayed Jesus. For 30 positive tweets for easy reelection, the other side is willing to betray the American people.’ …
“Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), who served during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, said the difference with Trump’s was that ‘President Clinton committed a crime: perjury.’ ‘This president isn’t even accused of committing a crime,’ Chabot said. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who also served during Clinton’s impeachment, argued that Trump had committed a far greater offense — and brought up one of Trump’s alleged sexual partners to make her point. ‘I would just like to note that [the Republican] argument that somehow lying about a sexual affair is an abuse of presidential power, but the misuse of presidential power to get a benefit somehow doesn’t matter,’ she said. ‘If it’s lying about sex, we could put Stormy Daniels’s case ahead of us. We don’t believe that’s a high crime and misdemeanor.’”
-- The committee defeated five amendments proposed by Republicans, including one by Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) that would have dropped the obstruction of Congress charge. While Collins and Gohmert might have been upset that Nadler cut their committee debate “short,” at least one Republican member asked his weary colleagues to finish the hearing. “Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) complained that ‘I have not heard a new point or an original thought from either side in the last three hours,’ calling the hearing an ‘institutional embarrassment.’ ‘The same talking points have been repeated over and over again, ad nauseum, by both sides,’ he said. ‘Repeating a fact over and over doesn’t make it true, and denying a fact over and over doesn’t make it false. Everybody knows this. Everybody watching knows this.’” (Bade)
-- Top congressional negotiators announced they reached a deal to approve $1.3 trillion in federal spending for 2020, probably averting a government shutdown next week. Mike DeBonis reports: “The announcement, from House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), came after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited Capitol Hill midday to review a final list of sticking points. … The tentative agreement sets the stage for a remarkable sequence of events next week in the House, with a presidential impeachment vote sandwiched between bipartisan deals on federal spending and North American trade. The House could vote on the spending bill as soon as Tuesday, with the Senate acting before the end of the week. … Trump has not yet sent a clear signal of support, though congressional leaders said they have been encouraged by Mnuchin’s eager participation. Trump, however, initially rejected a tentative 2019 spending deal negotiated on Capitol Hill a year ago, plunging the federal government into a record 35-day partial shutdown."
-- Our Fact Checker team awarded the 13 biggest Pinocchios of 2019. Trump got seven. “Trump’s claims about CrowdStrike and the Democratic National Committee server are listed first,” Glenn Kessler explains. “That’s because Trump’s obsession with a debunked conspiracy theory led him to raise it in a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — and that in turn launched the impeachment inquiry in the House. The second item concerns Trump’s many false claims in arguing against the impeachment inquiry.” The only other person who made the list with more than one statement is Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the failed presidential candidate.
-- The Trump campaign insists that impeachment will help him win reelection. Toluse Olorunnipa reports: “‘This lit up our base, lit up the people that are supporters of the president. They’re frustrated, they’re upset, and that motivates voters,’ campaign manager Brad Parscale told reporters during a briefing Thursday. ‘They have ignited a flame underneath them.’ Parscale — who prefaced his remarks by saying he did not believe Trump deserved to be impeached — said that ‘every metric’ he tracks, from fundraising to voter sentiment to volunteer recruitment, shows a political benefit for the president. ‘That has put money in our bank. It has added volunteers to our field program,’ he said. ‘It’s filled up the rallies easier.’ … Parscale made his impeachment comments during a briefing by several senior campaign officials about the state of Trump’s reelection bid. The officials … sought to project an air of confidence in Trump’s reelection chances, using an elaborate slide show to explain why the president was strongly positioned to be elected to a second term."
-- Maybe impeachment will become a political plus for the president’s campaign. It's debatable and, frankly, too early to say. But make no mistake: Trump sees it as "a personal humiliation." From the Times: “Mr. Trump toggles between self-pity and combativeness. He looks forward to a Senate trial that he seems sure to win and thinks that it will help him on the campaign trail when he travels the country boasting that he had been ‘exonerated’ after the latest partisan ‘witch hunt.’ But he nurses resentment over the red mark about to be tattooed on his page in the history books as only the third president in American history to be impeached. No matter what some of his critics say, advisers said he genuinely does not want to be impeached, viewing it as a personal humiliation. Even in private, he accepts no blame and expresses no regret, but he rails against the enemies he sees all around him."
In related news: “Trump is discussing with his advisers the possibility of sitting out the general election debates in 2020," per the Times. "Mr. Trump has told advisers that he does not trust the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonprofit entity that sponsors the debates ... Less of a concern for Mr. Trump than who will emerge as the Democratic nominee is which media personality will be chosen as the debate moderator, according to people in contact with him. At [yesterday's] campaign briefing in Arlington, Va., the president’s advisers declined to comment on what their plan was for the debates. One senior adviser to the president seemed to wince at the question, and said it was not something advisers were prepared to discuss until next year.”
|QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We know how it's going to end. There's no chance the president's going to be removed from office," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Fox's Sean Hannity. (NBC News) |
-- McConnell and Trump’s top lawyer sketched out a plan to closely coordinate throughout the impeachment trial, but they haven’t yet reached a final agreement on the best strategy to protect the president. From CNN: “The closed-door meeting Thursday between the Kentucky Republican and White House counsel Pat Cipollone occurred as Senate Republicans and the White House have diverged on what they would like to see take place in the looming trial in the chamber. Trump has made clear he wants witnesses to testify, in person, while senators -- including McConnell in private -- have warned that going down that path could lead to a politically precarious slippery slope in the GOP effort to acquit the President. … McConnell and Cipollone agreed that when a trial begins, the House Democratic impeachment managers would have an opportunity to present, followed by the Trump's lawyers presenting the President's defense ...
"At the conclusion of the presentations, the White House may provide its own briefing to Senate Republicans about the next steps it would want to see in the trial, including possible witnesses it would like to be called … But rank-and-file Republicans have largely shifted away from Trump's proposal of witnesses -- ranging from Hunter Biden and the whistleblower to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff -- toward the idea of a swift end to the trial after the initial presentations, concerned about the fallout of witnesses, the recourse Democrats may deploy with their own witnesses and the amount of time the whole proceeding would take.”
-- Millions in military aid at the center of the impeachment inquiry still haven't reached Ukraine. From the Los Angeles Times: "$20.2 million of the Pentagon’s $250-million portion of the aid has yet to reach Ukraine and remains in U.S. accounts ... When the Trump administration ultimately dropped its hold on the aid on Sept. 11, Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike had to scramble to save the money. Just days shy of the deadline, they passed — and Trump signed into law — a yearlong extension to allow the Pentagon to disburse the aid. ... Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Carla M. Gleason [said] the remaining Ukraine aid that has yet to be transferred to the U.S. military services and contracted out ‘will be implemented as quickly as possible in accordance with contracting procedures and applicable law,’ echoing earlier statements from October and November.”
-- The Trump administration released heavily blacked out documents showing communications between government agencies discussing Trump's freeze on Ukraine military assistance. From ABC News: The documents, received via a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Center for Public Integrity, include “conversations over email between Elaine McCusker, the deputy comptroller at the Department of Defense, and Michael Duffey from OMB regarding the Ukraine aid, but the conversations are mostly redacted. The aides did send each other press reports from August when the Ukraine aid being held up was first discovered. Duffey was subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee for testimony during its impeachment inquiries, but he followed most White House officials and did not comply with that request. The documents also include spreadsheets of financial figures that appear to be related to Ukraine based on notes."
-- While coastal news outlets are calling for Trump's removal, editorial boards in regions with more conservative electorates and in swing states have yet to embrace impeachment. From Politico: "That’s a sign that the House impeachment hearings have yet to generate much of a groundswell for Trump’s removal from office. But nor has there been any indication that editorial boards are embracing his claim that the hearings are a hoax or a coup. The Arizona Republic’s editorial board, for one, has called Trump 'dangerously reckless' in pressuring Ukraine to open politically motivated investigations, yet stopped short of arguing for impeachment. ... The Phoenix-based outlet was one of numerous papers that traditionally backed Republican presidential candidates but instead endorsed Clinton, along with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Columbus Dispatch, Dallas Morning News, and Houston Chronicle. None have yet made the case for impeaching Trump for his role in the Ukraine scandal. Impeachment also isn’t dominating the news side of those five publications, where local issues remain paramount to the constitutional debate consuming Washington."
-- The Justice Department quietly posted internal legal opinions that are being used to justify Trump stonewalling congressional requests. From CNN: “Eight of the opinions appear to bolster the White House's stonewalling of Congress on witness testimony and document subpoenas. The opinions date back to the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon faced impeachment, and the early 1980s. One from 1982 was written by the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the request of Rudy Giuliani, who at the time worked within the Justice Department. Some of the opinions appear to have been made public before, and some have only been cited by the Justice Department in other legal arguments. Those released Thursday hadn't all been collected before on the Justice Department's central website regarding its internal legal opinions.”
-- Federal prosecutors investigating associates of Rudy Giuliani, who remains the president's personal lawyer, are focusing on a Ukrainian state-owned natural gas company, a move that suggests authorities are considering possible bribery charges. From CNN: “The fresh line of inquiry has accelerated in recent weeks. New York federal prosecutors have interviewed two senior executives at Naftogaz, the Ukrainian state-run energy company, and requested interviews with at least two others who are believed to have some knowledge of the alleged scheme by Giuliani's associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to replace Naftogaz's chief executive in hopes of bettering their business prospects. The questions connected to Naftogaz suggest prosecutors -- who have been investigating Parnas, Fruman and Giuliani as part of a broad inquiry that includes potential foreign lobbying violations -- are also looking at whether yet another law was violated, legal experts say. The law, called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, prohibits a US company or individual from giving any payment, offer of payment or anything of value to a foreign official in order to obtain or retain business.”
-- Giuliani’s partnership with Fraud Guarantee, a company founded by Parnas, was revealed thanks to a 2018 investor letter handed over to the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. (WSJ)
-- Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee defended his suggestion last night that Trump should get a third term in office. “Host Sean Hannity pressed Huckabee about the comment, which he tweeted out that afternoon to a chorus of consternation from some on the left and chuckles from others on the right. … Hannity asked Huckabee to clarify that the tweet was in jest, but, laughing, Huckabee said, ‘No, it’s not a joke.’ ‘I think it’s hilarious,’ Huckabee added. ‘I had a lot of fun watching people on the left’s heads explode … I’ve had a fun day.’” (Reis Thebault)
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS THAT SHOULD NOT BE OVERLOOKED:
-- A whistleblower at ICE says immigrants under U.S. government care were given preventable surgeries and the wrong drugs. At least four died. BuzzFeed News obtained the whistleblower's memo: “Immigrants held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails around the US received medical care so bad it resulted in two preventable surgeries, including an 8-year-old boy who had to have part of his forehead removed, and contributed to four deaths, according to an internal complaint from an agency whistleblower. … [The memo includes] reports of detainees being given incorrect medication, suffering from delays in treating withdrawal symptoms, and one who was allowed to become so mentally unstable he lacerated his own penis and required reparative surgery. The whistleblower reported that three people had died in ICE lockup after receiving inadequate medical treatment or oversight, and said official reports on a fourth person’s death were ‘very misleading.’ One man died from meningitis following ‘grossly negligent’ care. Another killed himself after saying he would do exactly that months earlier. … The memo describes what happened to 17 different immigrants who were held at nine facilities across six states, from Georgia to Washington.” The allegations include that the ICE Health Service Corps was unresponsive or dishonest when confronted and failed to take “appropriate action” when told of policy violations in 10 cases.
-- The Pentagon’s inspector general will review a $400 million border wall contract given to a firm run by a GOP donor whom Trump repeatedly urged military officials to hire. Nick Miroff reports: “Glenn A. Fine, the top official at the Pentagon office, authorized a review of the contract in response to a Dec. 4 letter from Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, asking inspectors to take a closer look. Fine informed Thompson of the audit in a letter Thursday. … On Dec. 2, the Pentagon announced a contract worth up to $400 million to Fisher Sand and Gravel for the construction of 31 miles of new border barriers along the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona. After its previous bids on projects for the border barrier were passed by the Army Corps, Tommy Fisher, the company’s chief executive, launched an aggressive public and private campaign to win a contract.”
-- Trump is casting criticism of Israel as dangerous while he courts Jewish voters. Anne Gearan reports: “The setting was the gilded East Room at the White House as President Trump signed an executive order targeting anti-Semitic harassment on U.S. college campuses. But despite mention of the Holocaust and modern-day hate crimes, the atmosphere was more MAGA campaign rally than solemn observance. At the first of two Hanukkah-themed events Wednesday, Trump riffed about how much he has done for Israel while he invited members of the assembled crowd to share their thoughts and testify to his accomplishments. But despite the ad-libbed nature of both events, the message the White House wanted to send heading into the 2020 election as it seeks to build support among Jewish conservatives and maintain the strong backing of evangelicals was clear: Trump is using support for Israel as the defining characteristic of fighting anti-Semitism. … Trump hopes to expand his support among conservative Jews in his 2020 reelection effort, although national polls do not suggest that Republicans are gaining much ground with Jewish voters. He points to his support for Israel and focuses on steps he has taken to reverse policies enacted by his predecessor, Barack Obama.”
-- Trump on Thursday found time to insult 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg after she was named Time’s Person of the Year. David Nakamura and John Wagner report: “Trump’s mocking of Thunberg, who has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, as having an ‘Anger Management problem’ drew widespread umbrage from Democrats who accused the president of bullying a teenager. … The message was one of more than 100 tweets or retweets the president sent on Thursday to more than 67 million followers, the second time he has surpassed that number of posts this week. … During his presidency, Trump has shown little restraint mocking those with disabilities — or suggesting, without evidence, that his targets are mentally ill. …
“His tweet came just a week after Republicans cried foul when a university professor made a joke referencing Barron Trump, the president’s 13-year-old son, during impeachment testimony. … Yet on Thursday, Melania Trump and others who had scolded [Stanford law professor Pam] Karlan, including White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham and several GOP lawmakers, were silent about the president’s attack on Thunberg. White House officials, including Grisham, did not respond to a request for comment … A Trump campaign spokeswoman also did not respond to an email. … A few hours after Trump’s tweet Thursday, his campaign sent out an altered image of Time’s cover with Trump’s head superimposed in place of Thunberg’s.”
-- Ignoring warnings from the Transportation Department, the Federal Communications Commission endorsed a plan to use a chunk of airwaves long dedicated to traffic safety to improve WiFi connections instead. Ian Duncan reports: “The five-member commission moved the idea forward unanimously. The commissioners said that the promise of the car-safety spectrum, which was set aside in 1999, has gone unfulfilled. In the meantime, the use of wireless Internet boomed and networking companies have been hungrily eyeing the block of apparently fallow spectrum. The idea has divided two top Trump administration appointees, setting FCC Chairman Ajit Pai against Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and each of them is backed by broad coalitions of lawmakers and interest groups. The battle pits the potential for emerging technology that enhances drivers’ own abilities to avert crashes, and that could ultimately make self-driving cars safer, against Internet users’ seemingly unceasing appetite for faster wireless downloads.”
-- Boeing signaled that it no longer expects its 737 Max jet to be certified by the end of the year. Lori Aratani reports: “The acknowledgment came after chief executive Dennis Muilenburg met with top officials at the FAA. ‘We will work with the FAA to support their requirements and their timeline as we work to safely return the Max to service in 2020,’ the company said in a statement. In an email sent just before the meeting, the FAA said it would not be pressured into rushing the recertification process. … The email’s language appears targeted at Boeing’s public statements over the past few months that it expected the jets to be recertified by the end of this year. The planes have been grounded worldwide since March.”
-- The Senate confirmed oncologist Stephen Hahn as the next Food and Drug Administration commissioner. Laurie McGinley reports: “Hahn, 59, takes over as the FDA juggles vexing political and health issues, including the Trump administration’s still-unresolved response to a surge in underage vaping over the past two years. Other challenging issues awaiting him include Trump administration efforts to allow the importation of some cheaper drugs from Canada, the regulation of food and other products containing CBD, and the continued sales of unapproved treatments by commercial stem cell clinics. He becomes the fourth chief of the agency this year. Forty-nine Republicans and 23 Democrats voted for Hahn’s confirmation. Seventeen Democrats, including Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted no, along with independent Sen. Angus King of Maine.”
-- South Carolina received approval from Trump to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. Amy Goldstein reports: “South Carolina becomes the 11th state with similar requirements approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services since its administrator, Seema Verma, announced nearly two years ago that she would welcome proposals from states that wanted to compel Medicaid recipients to work as part of what she described as an effort to give them ‘the right incentives to live healthier, independent lives.’ Critics contend that most Medicaid recipients who are able to work already do so and that health insurance is a prerequisite to building a better life.” (Kentucky's work requirements played a role in Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's defeat last month.)
-- A federal judge in Utah ruled that American Samoans are U.S. citizens and must be given passports reflecting that. From CNN: “‘This court is not imposing 'citizenship by judicial fiat.' The action is required by the mandate of the Fourteenth Amendment as construed and applied by Supreme Court precedent,’ wrote Judge Clark Waddoups in the US District Court for the District of Utah. ‘Further, Plaintiffs are American Samoans. They brought this action seeking to realize their rights to citizenship under the Fourteenth Amendment,’ he added. It's unclear whether Waddoups' order applies to American Samoans beyond Utah. ‘It's an overwhelming victory but it's the first step in what will likely be several more steps,’ said Neil Weare, attorney for the plaintiffs and the president and founder of the non-profit Equally American.”
-- Twelve years ago, a group of voters in Laurens, Iowa, showed up at a campaign event for Joe Biden’s second failed run for the presidency. They loved him. This time around though, they’re not so sure he’s the one. Holly Bailey reports: “‘I’d never met anyone quite like him,’ recalled Lois Jirgens, then the chair of the Pocahontas County Democrats, who, along with her husband, Karl, hosted Biden at their home that day. ‘He was so unassuming, so real. . . . He won a lot of people over.’ It wasn’t enough. A little more than two months later, Biden ended his presidential bid after drawing less than 1 percent support in the Iowa caucuses. His best showing in the entire state was in Pocahontas County, where he drew 10 percent of the vote. Ahead of the Feb. 3 caucuses, Pocahontas County would seem to be Biden’s to lose. The population is older and mostly white, the kind of working-class, conservative-leaning Democrats that Biden and his team argue is his base. And many Democrats still remember him fondly from 2008. But some of the people who supported Biden back then are no longer sure he’s the one. And the concerns they raise reflect the larger problems that have plagued Biden’s campaign here in Iowa and the rest of the country: questions about his age and his stamina; his ability to defeat [Trump]; and the curiosity, as one local Democrat put it, about ‘whether he really wants to be doing this at all.’”
-- Elizabeth Warren is refocusing her message while taking more shots at her rivals in an effort to stabilize her faltering campaign. Annie Linskey reports: “Warren attempted Thursday to move beyond a rocky stretch in her campaign by refocusing on the economic message that helped her rise in the first place, taking the opportunity to aim a series of attacks at her more centrist rivals. In the tightly crafted speech reiterating the rationale for her candidacy, Warren (D-Mass.) criticized [Biden] and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, calling them ‘naive,” mocking their ‘vague calls for unity’ and suggesting Buttigieg is ‘beholden’ to wealthy donors. ‘The rich and powerful have written the rules for our economy so that they suck up all the gains for themselves,’ Warren told students at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire. ‘It’s corruption, plain and simple, and it’s holding back growth and opportunity.’ The message came as Warren tried to regain the momentum she had built over the summer in town hall meetings where she promised a new era of government aimed at providing more power to workers, unions and small businesses. ‘Other candidates do not grapple with these fundamental issues of economics and power,’ she said Thursday. … Warren pledged to tackle three sweeping problems with the economy: the incentive for companies to focus on short-term profits, a lack of competition in some markets, and the twin challenges of stagnant income and rising costs.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- The Chinese government confirmed a trade deal with the U.S. David J. Lynch reports: “At a White House meeting with his top trade advisers, the president signed off on a swap of U.S. tariff reductions in return for China spending $50 billion on U.S. farm goods, tightening its intellectual property protections and opening its financial services markets, according to Michael Pillsbury, a China expert at the Hudson Institute, who says the president briefed him on the deal Thursday. ‘It’s a breakthrough,’ Pillsbury said. ‘He says it’s historic. I certainly agree with that.’ … Diplomats from the world’s two largest economies have been working against a Sunday deadline, when new U.S. tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese goods were scheduled to take effect. That increase now will not go forward and existing tariffs on $360 billion in Chinese imports will be reduced, according to Pillsbury and others familiar with the arrangement. The deal includes provisions that will penalize the Chinese government if it fails to place the required agricultural orders."
-- China’s foreign minister also called the U.S. the “troublemaker of the world” and threatened to “sever the black hands” supporting protests in Hong Kong, Anna Fifield reports.
-- The U.S. military’s Afghanistan food supplier is still in the picture despite a $45 million fraud settlement. Aaron Gregg reports: “Dubai-based logistics company Anham is at least the third supplier for the Defense Logistics Agency’s primary Afghan troop supply contract to be involved in massive fraud allegations. Anham’s former Virginia-based subsidiary, Unitrans International, agreed to pay the settlement last week to resolve federal criminal and civil complaints of obstruction and making false claims. The settlement highlights how the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, which has stretched for nearly two decades and cost taxpayers at least $1 trillion, has consistently created opportunities for fraud.”
-- The ongoing U.N. climate conference has highlighted the widening divide between countries that pollute and those that suffer from it. Brady Dennis and Chico Harlan report: “The United Nations’ climate negotiations, an annual gathering of leaders from more than 190 countries that is a quarter-century old, has gained a reputation as slow-moving, insufficient and devoid of the necessary urgency. But as the effects of climate change deepen, negotiators from the most vulnerable corners of the world are making their frustration clear, arguing that their very existence depends on the kind of meaningful action that big countries have so far avoided. The divide between developed and developing countries, a simmering reality for decades, came into acute focus this week. Officials from some smaller countries had to deal with climate crises — flooding and evacuations in the Marshall Islands; a devastating hurricane in the Bahamas — just before traveling to the negotiations.”
-- In the remote wilderness of Alaska’s North Slope, the cold Arctic landscape once seemed eternal. Now, even as the area faces the catastrophic effects of climate change, its residents still can’t quit Big Oil. Juliet Eilperin reports: “Oil drilling has brought great prosperity to Nuiqsut, but the town’s very foundations are imperiled by oil’s fundamental role in the global economy. In a nation coming to recognize the effects of climate change — and to question the dependence on fossil fuels that drive global warming — the village is caught between a comfortable present and a frightening future. With a coastline running 650 miles along the Arctic Ocean, the North Slope Borough is bigger than Kansas. But it remains one of America’s most sparsely populated places, with just 10,000 people living in eight villages across 95,000 square miles. Nuiqsut is one of them. … It is, along with a sliver of Siberia and the Norwegian island of Svalbard, the fastest-warming spot of land on Earth. With global greenhouse gas emissions continuing to climb, and a new oil boom in Alaska on the horizon, there is no cure in sight. Already, by nearly every measure, the changes here and across the state have been profound. … ConocoPhillips, whose nearby operations underpin Nuiqsut’s economy, ranks as Alaska’s largest crude oil producer and its largest exploration lease owner. It produces 189,000 barrels of oil and gas a day on 1.7 million acres throughout the North Slope.”
-- Over objections from Trump and Turkey, the Senate passed a resolution officially recognizing the Armenian genocide, joining the House in condemning Turkey’s mass slaughter of 1.5 million people last century. Karon Demirjian reports: “The move follows a Wednesday vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee to impose sanctions on Turkey over its recent purchase of a Russian missile system and its offensive against the Kurdish minority in Syria. … Three previous attempts to raise the issue in the Senate, following the 405-11 House vote in October to recognize the Armenian genocide, were blocked by Republican senators who raised a similar objection: that while the issue needed to be addressed, the timing was poor. The Senate’s resolution cannot force the Trump administration’s hand, nor does it require the president’s signature; it merely expresses ‘the sense of the Senate' that it is U.S. policy to recognize the Armenian genocide and commemorate it as such.”
-- A former Turkish prime minister formed a new party to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. From the Times: “Ahmet Davutoglu, once Mr. Erdogan’s closest ally, served under him as foreign minister and then prime minister until 2016. His break with the Turkish president represents a direct challenge as Mr. Davutoglu pledges a return to the original principles and ideals of their old party. To the cheers and whistles of a large crowd of supporters in a hotel ballroom in Ankara, the capital, Mr. Davutoglu unveiled his Future Party, announcing ‘the future is our nation’s, the future is Turkey.’ … A second close ally and former minister, Ali Babacan, has also resigned from Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., and is preparing to announce his own new party within weeks, his supporters say. The two defections will not immediately threaten Mr. Erdogan, since he has amassed enormous personal power with the country’s transition last year to a presidential system. His current term runs to 2023."
-- Hodeida is the most dangerous place for Yemeni civilians despite a cease-fire deal, an aid groups claim. Sudarsan Raghavan reports: “A year ago, a cease-fire agreement signed in Stockholm provided a blueprint for what many hoped would lead Yemen out of its devastating war and humanitarian crisis. It centered on disarming the warring sides in the strategic port city of Hodeida. A year later, Hodeida remains the most dangerous place for civilians in Yemen, 15 aid organizations said in a statement Thursday. This year — the conflict’s fifth — 799 civilians have been killed in the city and its surroundings despite the cease-fire agreement, the aid groups said. That represents a quarter of all civilians killed or wounded across the Middle East’s poorest country, and the highest toll of any single area there. Hodeida is also one of the two deadliest places for children in Yemen, according to Save the Children. Between January and October this year, 33 children were killed or injured every month in Hodeida and in the southwestern city of Taiz."
-- New Zealand specialists recovered six bodies from White Island, four days after the volcano's deadly eruption. Rick Noack reports: “Two other bodies believed to be on the island were still missing. Another eight people had already been confirmed dead prior to the risky recovery mission that was launched despite safety concerns. Ahead of the operation’s launch, authorities said conditions on the island remain dangerous and unpredictable. The continuing risk that the volcano poses had delayed attempts to reach the island this week.”
-- American researchers dumped lab chimps on Liberia’s Monkey Island when they had outlived their usefulness, leaving them to starve to death. But one man saved them. Danielle Paquette reports: “Chimps aren’t supposed to be stuck on their own island — especially one with no food — or mingle with much-weaker humans. But nothing about Liberia’s Monkey Island is normal. … This colony of 66 chimpanzees, which never learned to survive in the wild, eats roughly 500 pounds of produce each day, plus a weekly batch of hard-boiled eggs for protein. They rely on money from a charity abroad and the devotion of men who’ve known them since they lived in steel cages. ‘That’s Mabel,’ said [Joseph] Thomas, the captain of that small crew, pointing to a 100-pound female. ‘Look! She likes to wash her food in the water.’ … Thomas, 60, met the chimp, 36, when she was a baby who pressed the soft black pads of her fingers into his open palm. The New York researchers who once injected her with viruses quit the country during the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, abandoning Mabel and other animals who can live half a century. Thomas hadn’t planned to devote his life to protecting chimps through epidemic and civil war. Risk hangs over interactions with the brawny animals, who might still carry disease. The caretaker trusts they won’t hurt him because they know him.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, used a Sharpie to make an easy-to-follow illustration of Trump's July 25 call:
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was reminded of one of his past missteps:
Gaetz was going nuts on Hunter's substance abuse issue ...— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) December 12, 2019
UNTIL, Hank Johnson hits back at Gaetz for DUI arrests. Wow. This was a moment...
"Pot calling the kettle black" https://t.co/sZKLhaFsGN
After several trolls and high-profile figures – including the president – bullied 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg online, Michelle Obama stepped in:
.@GretaThunberg, don’t let anyone dim your light. Like the girls I’ve met in Vietnam and all over the world, you have so much to offer us all. Ignore the doubters and know that millions of people are cheering you on.— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) December 13, 2019
The Trump campaign mocked Thunberg’s Time magazine cover with one that had Trump’s head photoshopped in. Our fact checker reviewed it:
Beside the fake Time cover, a fact check --> Economic growth slowing, not record job creation, not historic tax cuts, minor reworking of NAFTA, ISIS not destroyed, and not building the wall https://t.co/0FTZeqE9Ma— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) December 12, 2019
Mike Bloomberg met with a prominent California Democrat:
Great to catch up with Willie Brown in San Francisco last night. pic.twitter.com/Pm2woUWDaS— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) December 12, 2019
A Connecticut senator criticized Mitch McConnell’s Fox News appearance:
The Majority Leader proudly announcing he is planning to rig the impeachment trial for Trump. https://t.co/D4qmDCx6GJ— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 13, 2019
Rep. Collins (R-Ga.) was shocked when Rep. Nadler (D-N.Y.) ended last night’s impeachment hearing. A former director of the Office for Government Ethics said it might have been because the move changed his plans:
Thoughts and prayers for the members of Collins staff who now have to stay up all night rewriting the statements about the impeachment vote having been held in the dead of night.— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) December 13, 2019
A Vox reporter wondered if the congressman might have had other Friday morning plans:
Doug Collins is SO MAD that he has to get up for a hearing tomorrow morning. Did he have bottomless brunch plans or something? pic.twitter.com/ULh1N6ZZyX— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 13, 2019
From a former Republican member of Congress:
Nothing angers a Member of Congress as much as learning they have to work a full work week.— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) December 13, 2019
Next week will be a hectic one, but that’s normal now:
A Democratic leadership aide tells NBC that next week's House floor vote schedule is shaping up to look like this:— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) December 12, 2019
Tuesday, 12/17: Government funding vote
Wednesday, 12/18: Impeachment vote
Thursday, 12/19: USCMA vote
*Schedule subject to change.
A Hawaii Democratic senator had some advice:
(We should probably nominate someone who is well liked)— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) December 13, 2019
And Pete Buttigieg met Time’s “Entertainer of the Year”:
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Seth Meyers said Trump’s impeachment has, for the past three years, felt inevitable and impossible at the same time:
Stephen Colbert thinks Trump is allergic to the Constitution:
Jimmy Kimmel criticized Trump for bullying Greta Thunberg:
And the nominee to be "Architect of the Capitol" isn't a licensed or practicing architect. (He's an engineer.) This was his defense: