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Fresh off the presses from The Post: But her emails: Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey report that Ivanka Trump used a personal email account to send hundreds of emails about government business last year. “The discovery alarmed some advisers to President Trump, who feared that his daughter’s prac­tices bore similarities to the personal email use of Hillary Clinton, an issue he made a focus of his 2016 campaign.”

  • The key quote: “Some aides were startled by the volume of Ivanka Trump’s personal emails — and taken aback by her response when questioned about the practice. She said she was not familiar with some details of the rules, according to people with knowledge of her reaction.”
  • The other key quote: “Both Trump and Clinton relied on their personal attorneys to review their private emails and determine which messages should be retained as government records.”

Global Power

The consequences of 'America First': A confluence of world events over the past few weeks highlights the uniquely transactional approach to foreign policy by the Trump White House, resulting in the prioritization of President Trump's brand of nationalism and economics over the promotion of American values and morality in a number of high-profile global situations.

The most prominent example of this dynamic is Saudi Arabia, where President Trump has refused to apply public pressure to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing of Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump is (yet again) skeptical of an assessment made by his own intelligence agencies that MBS was directly in involved in ordering Khashoggi's killing.

  • Key idea: “Trump has struggled to balance his interest in maintaining strong relations with the Saudi government with growing pressure in Congress and around the world to punish the Saudi regime. Trump has told aides that he wants Mohammed to stay in power and that he sees the Saudis as the best strategic check on Iran and as a vital source of oil,” The Post reported over the weekend

  • Not going there: “If the president had his way, he would stay entirely out of the Middle East and all of the problems. This is a problem that he wants to go away,” an adviser who talks to Trump told The Post

  • Understanding Trump: “Human rights isn’t an issue he spends time on,” a former Trump campaign official explained of the president's leadership — or lack thereof — on human rights. “He doesn’t want to be on the hook — that’s why he’s refused to engage. It’s all about cost,” the source told Power Up. 

Members of Trump's own party don't necessarily agree with the president's approach: “I’m open to having Congress sit down with the president if this all turns out to be true, and it looks like it is, … and saying, ‘How can we express our condemnation without blowing up the Middle East?” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) told reporters in October regarding Khashoggi. “Our foreign policy has to be anchored in values.”

Historically, the emphasis on human rights as core to American values has been a bipartisan issue for nearly 70 years, according to Amy Lehr, the director of the Human Rights Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the U.N. General Assembly was an initiative chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt.

The tension between national security interests and human rights is something grappled with by every administration. Last night, for example, The Post reported the administration was set to list Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism in what was billed as a “dramatic escalation” against its socialist government led by Nicolás Maduro. And a federal judge ruled last night the Trump administration cannot block asylum claims by Central Americans who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

A few other examples of this push-pull dynamic:

  • Myanmar: The Post's Shibani Mahtani and John Hudson reported last week that key players inside the State Department signed off on a memo concluding that Myanmar's military and its allies had committed “crimes against humanity,” which would normally be “a green light for a tough U.S. response to systematic slayings and mass expulsions against Myanmar’s minority Rohingya Muslim population.” But the report ultimately did not become policy and Congress is now seeking to obtain it to understand why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “did not follow the memo’s recommendation for a crimes-against-humanity designation.”

  • Yemen:  One of Trump's first decisions was to resume arm sales to Saudi Arabia, a “sign of reinvigorated U.S. support for the kingdom’s involvement in its neighbor’s ongoing civil war” and a break from the Obama administration's attempt to “limit civilian deaths in a conflict that has pushed Yemen to the brink of widespread famine.” Following Khashoggi's death, the administration did halt the practice of refueling Saudi-coalition aircraft used in Yemen. 

  • North Korea: Gone are the days of name-calling — as of late, Trump has praised North Korea. He said that he and Kim Jong Un “fell in love” over “beautiful letters.” This past summer, Trump expressed what one historian called “dictator envy” during an interview with Fox News, “He’s the head of a country, and I mean he’s the strong head. Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same,” Trump said. (He later claimed it was a joke.) 

Human rights observers aren't laughing. “When the President expresses positive emotions about authoritarian leaders, it emboldens them and could lead to really problematic impacts on people in those countries in the long run. Our allies … they are really confused by this change in U.S. policy,” Lehr told us. “There isn’t an understanding that human rights applies universally,” said Sarah Margon, the D.C. director for Human Rights Watch.

A former Human Rights Campaign-er readies for Congress: Power Up talked with Rep.-elect Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) about Trump's “America First” doctrine. Malinowski is the rare diplomat who jumped into politics: the former assistant secretary of state for democracy at Obama's State Department and ex-chief advocate at the Human Rights Watch, unseated Republican incumbent Leonard Lance in the 2018s.

Malinowski joins a crew of freshmen House Democrats with national security and diplomacy experience. Malinowsky says the administration has taken some actions in places like Burma, where it has imposed sanctions and it did end up using the Magnitsky Act against Russia, despite Trump's embrace of the Kremlin.

  • However: “The big problem is whether the State Department acts or doesn't act in a particular situation almost doesn't matter because the fight for human rights around the world is first and foremost a battle of ideas and the president — the way he talks about the press and independent judiciary and torture and other values that the U.S. has stood up for around the world is indistinguishable from how dictators talk about those things.”

  • Bottom line: “We can’t stand up for values around the world if the president actively and loudly rejects them in his domestic policies,” Malinkowski told us. Trumps language “can be a death sentence for dissidents around the world who depend on human rights norms for protection.”


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Outside the Beltway

SOYBEANS EXPORTS PLUMMET AMID TRADE DUST-UP WITH CHINA: The Trump administration's trade offensive is most acutely affecting one export: soybeans, according to recent data. Yahoo Finance, citing Deutsche Bank's chief international economist, reports U.S. soybean exports to China are down a whopping 98 percent in 2018. That's a steep decline from January 2018, when American farmers exported $1.2 billion-worth of soybeans to China, making it the top agriculture export to that country, which is by far the world's largest importer of the legume.  

  • What happened?: Chinese tariffs on American soybeans came in response to the Trump administration's own tariffs on Chinese goods. China is looking elsewhere, especially to Brazil, for its soybean supply.
  • The strategy: The New York Times reported wrote earlier this month that  Trump “sees tariffs as a tool to force changes in America’s economic relationships with China and other major trading partners. His tough approach, he says, will revive American industries like steel and auto manufacturing that have lost ground to foreign rivals. But that is coming at a steep cost for some industries, like farming, that have thrived in the era of globalization by exporting goods to foreign markets.”
  • 'Damage being done right now': Tim Gannon, an Iowa farmer who recently lost his bid for secretary of agriculture there, told Power Up that harm has already been done. “There’s damage being done right now,” Gannon said. “Even if we get some kind of quick resolution to this, it may not mean we get the market share back right away.”
  • Political fallout: Gannon, a former official at the Agriculture Department, said the Trump administration's planned $12 billion bailout for farmers caught up in the trade war is a recognition that the policy may prove prickly come election season in the key presidential state. “The aid package that USDA announced this summer was an obvious realization that what they were doing was harming some folks who had been important to electoral success,” Gannon, a Democrat, told us.

On The Hill

16 ANGRY DEMS:  A group of dissident Democrats announced they plan to oppose Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in her bid for House speaker, writing in a letter released Monday they believe it's time their party gets new leadership in Congress. Fourteen lawmakers and two candidates whose races haven't yet been called signed on to the statement, which read in part, “Democrats ran and won on a message of change. Our majority came on the backs of candidates who said that they would support new leadership because voters in hard-won districts, and across the country, want to see real change in Washington. We promised to change the status quo and we intend to deliver on that promise.”

  • Who is on the list: By The Hill's tally, the signees include 11 incumbents, three newly elected representatives and two candidates whose races are still too-close-to-call. Of the 16 signees, just two are women, possibly lending credence to the criticism from Pelosi backers that her opponents are just "#fivewhiteguys.”
  • Who's not on the list: The Post's Mike DeBonis reported: Not signing the letter is Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), who has publicly opposed Pelosi and is mulling a run against her. . . . Another five Democrats — Rep. Conor Lamb (Pa.) and Reps.-elect Jason Crow (Colo.), Jared Golden (Maine), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.) and Abigail Spanberger (Va.) — have made firm statements saying they would not vote for Pelosi, but did not sign the letter.”
  • Playoff implications: Pelosi has long conveyed complete confidence she has the support to recapture the speakership and any effort to unseat her now "depends on whether a small group of incumbents and freshmen can muster the votes to keep Pelosi from seizing the House speaker’s gavel in January,” DeBonis wrote.
  • Numbers don't lie: One senior Democratic aide told The Post the odds are still in Pelosi's favor, as 94 percent of  House Democrats didn't sign the letter. “If your strategy relies upon Nancy Pelosi giving up, you will lose every single time,” the aide said.
  • FYI, the list in full:  Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), Tim Ryan (Ohio), Seth Moulton (Mass.), Linda Sánchez (Calif.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Filemon Vela (Texas), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Bill Foster(Ill.), Brian Higgins (N.Y.) and Stephen Lynch (Mass.); along with Rep.-elects Jeff Van Drew (N.J.), Joe Cunningham (S.C.), Max Rose (N.Y.) and candidates Ben McAdams (Utah) and Anthony Brindisi (N.Y.).


In the Media


Comedian Michelle Wolf's response to the White House Correspondents' Association's decision to break tradition after her controversial performance last year and feature a historian instead of a comedian at their annual dinner scheduled for April: