Welcome back, Power People and Happy Hanukkah! Tips, recipes, comments? Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us.
Ceasefire, for now: President Trump took a victory lap after his return from Argentina, tweeting late Sunday night: “China has agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the U.S. Currently the tariff is 40%.” Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a trade ceasefire during dinner on Saturday night as “Trump agreed to cancel a planned Jan. 1 tariff increase in return for increased Chinese purchases of American farm and industrial goods,” The Post reported. The U.S. set a 90-day deadline to commence trade talks with China to address more comprehensive “structural changes.” Read more here.
On The Hill
THE LAME LAME DUCK: Outgoing Republicans have rendered the lame duck session even lamer. The receding tide of dissenting voices in what is now Donald Trump's party is mounting one last fight before leaving Congress — what The Post’s Sean Sullivan called “a last gasp” from the arm of the GOP that has failed to “steer the party away from Trump during the first two years of his presidency and will see its ranks diminished in the next Congress.”
To be fair, Trump has given Republicans quite a bit of ammunition: Between a tirade against losing incumbent Republicans who didn’t campaign with him, to his handling of the killing of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, to continued demands for $5 billion for his border wall, the table was not set for a productive lame duck session.
Nevertheless, the number of GOPers expressing existential concern seems small compared to their House losses:
- Outgoing Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) told Sean: “I continue to believe that the Trump phenomenon is a temporary phenomenon,” Sanford said an interview. “I wouldn’t have guessed it would last as long as it has.”
- “It’s my belief that where he’s taking our party is in a dangerous direction, both in electoral consequence, which we saw with the midterms, and, more significantly, with regard to the conservative movement,” Sanford added.
- Rep. Elise Stefanik (R- N.Y.) to the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin: “There has been close to no introspection in the G.O.P. conference and really no coming to grips with the shifting demographics that get to why we lost those seats. I’m very frustrated and I know other members are frustrated.”
- Retiring Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.): “It’s clear to me why we lost 40 seats; it was a referendum on the president, but that’s an extremely difficult proclamation for people to make because if they were to say that they’d get the wrath of the president.”
- Defeated Rep. Mia Love’s (R-Utah) response to Trump's post-midterm quip “Mia Love gave me no love and she lost,” via her concession speech: “This election experience and these comments shines a spotlight on the problems Washington politicians have with minorities and black Americans — it's transactional, it's not personal," she said.
- Autopsy? What autopsy?: Per NYT's Martin, “House officials indicate that they will pursue an “after-action report” … but there's no point in that if they don't listen to their own advice.
It’s not just elections, the intraparty turmoil has complicated most things that could get done in the lame duck:
- Shutdown?: George H.W. Bush's death may have helped stave off a partial government shutdown set for Friday as lawmakers were retreating to their corners over the border wall. Trump said on Saturday evening on his way home from Argentina that he would “probably" agree to a short-term funding extension in light of Bush's passing. Politico's John Bresnahan reports that Trump is set to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday morning, “no Rs present, per source familiar. No set topic, but obviously appropriations will discussed." Democrats have so far rejected Trump's demand for $5 billion.
- Trump's Jeff Flake problem: The retiring Arizona senator has said he won't vote for any federal judges until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) holds a floor vote on legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. (McConnell maintains the bill “is a solution in search of a problem.")
- Yemen: Trump's blasé attitude toward allegations Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was directly involved in Khashoggi's killing has sparked open opposition to the U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen. Senators voted last week advance a joint resolution opposing the Trump administration's support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
- "Without a deal on how to move forward, senators are predicting a marathon floor session akin to the infamous 'vote-a-ramas; where any senator can force a vote on any amendment on any issue. That would allow any senator to bring up political lightning rods and force tough votes," reports The Hill.
- Next steps are unclear but Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told The Hill: “Absent a consent agreement, there is a potential for unlimited vote-a-rama where we could be voting on anything from immigration reform to criminal justice reform."
- Criminal justice reform: Meanwhile, Republicans can’t even get criminal justice reform to the floor. Despite Trump’s stamp of approval and “hard yeses from as many as 21 Republicans", McConnell has refused to hold a vote.
The week ahead:
- Monday: Trump will lunch with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), per The Post's Seung Min Kim. Manchin's spokesperson said the senator, one of the red-state Democrats who did win in November, plans to raise “is the fate of expiring pension benefits for miners. Lawmakers faced a Nov. 30 deadline to put together a proposed solution for the expiring benefits that affect not only miners but also retired truck drivers and supermarket clerks."
- Vice President Pence will delivers remarks at the Capitol rotunda where Bush will be lying in state from Monday night until Wednesday morning.
- Wednesday: Trump is slated to attend Bush's funeral.
RUCKER REPORTS:, Power Up touched base with The Post's White House bureau chief Philip Rucker, who traveled with the president to Buenos Aires for the G-20 summit. Here's Phil on Trump's somewhat quiet — and thus newsworthy — diplomatic trip:
- No new feuds: “Covering Trump’s travels overseas, we’ve grown accustomed to writing about his feuds with foreign leaders — a Twitter tantrum about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or insults hurled at British Prime Minister Theresa May or a protest that upends a NATO summit. But the big headline from Trump’s visit to Argentina this past weekend was that he didn’t do any of those things. The disruptive president managed to behave at the Group of 20 summit — almost to the point of making himself a non-factor.”
- Policy wins: “Trump will rightly count the cease fire in his trade war with China as a triumph, though many hurdles remain to be cleared. And he will claim victory for renegotiating the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico — and convincing a reluctant Trudeau to attend the signing ceremony.”
- Call it diplomacy: “Trump’s discipline was most apparent when he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The typical Trump might have ribbed Merkel — whose aircraft broke down en route to Buenos Aires — over German engineering and military readiness. Instead, the president made nice with the European leader he most loves to trash. 'Highly respected by everybody,' Trump said, 'including me.'”
More evidence against MBS surfaces: Newly revealed CIA intelligence shows that just hours before and after the killing of Khashoggi, MBS exchanged multiple messages with his senior aide who allegedly oversaw the assassination. The story was first reported by the Wall Street Journal's Warren Strobel, who broke the news that MBS “sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser . . . in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October, according to a highly classified CIA assessment.” The Post's Shane Harris and Souad Mekhennet confirmed the communications between the two men, “another piece of evidence tying the crown prince to the killing of Khashoggi.” More:
- A blacklist: “Mohammed exchanged the messages on Oct. 2 with Saud al-Qahtani, one of his closest aides and a fierce public supporter who has kept a blacklist of those he deems disloyal to the kingdom. The content of the messages, and what form the messages took, was not known.”
- P.S.: Strobel also reported that MBS told associates in 2017 that "if his efforts to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia weren’t successful, 'we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements,' according to the assessment, a communication that it states 'seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi.'”
- 'No way this happened without him':"The CIA has rated its assessment that Mohammed was involved in the killing at 'medium-to-high confidence,' and privately, officials have said it is inconceivable that the prince, who exercises total authority over the government, could not have known about such an audacious operation," Shane and Souad report. 'The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,' said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.”
Remember Qahtani?: He has “emerged as a key player in the killing and a compelling link to the prince. He shows up in another portion of the CIA’s assessment: An alleged member of the Saudi hit team . . . called Qahtani from inside the consulate to inform him Khashoggi was dead,” they add.
'Maybe he did or maybe he didn't': “Trump, who also has been briefed on the CIA’s findings, has been equivocal in assigning blame to the crown prince, who works closely with the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on Middle East issues. 'Maybe he did or maybe he didn’t!' Trump said in a statement last month.” Trump administration officials have stressed the U.S. does not have irrefutable evidence linking Mohammed to the killing.
Meanwhile, at the G-20: “Mohammed came to the summit a pariah to some leaders — he was positioned at the far edge of the back row in the annual 'family photo.'”
Outside the Beltway
IN ANOTHER LAME DUCK: Republicans in Wisconsin's State House are using their legislature's lame duck session to limit the authority of the newly elected governor and attorney general, both Democrats. Molly Beck and Patrick Marley, reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have chronicled the effort, which could culminate in a vote on the measures on Tuesday.
- What's at stake: “The sweeping plan . . . would remove Gov.-elect Tony Evers' power to approve major actions by Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul and give that authority to Republican lawmakers,” Beck and Marley wrote. “That could mean the campaign promise made by Evers and Kaul to immediately withdraw Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act would likely be blocked.”
- Also: GOP lawmakers are aiming to "limit the governor's powers, weaken the attorney general and restrict early voting to two weeks before an election. ... The early voting plan would be all but certain to draw a legal challenge given that a federal judge in 2016 struck down a similar law limiting early voting that he found 'intentionally discriminates on the basis of race.'"
- Can we get a do-over?: Republicans insist they're waging an effort to restore the balance of power, which they concede they caused when Gov. Scott Walker (R) was in office. "Maybe we made some mistakes giving too much power to Gov. Walker and I'd be open to looking at that to see if there are areas we should change that," Robin Vos, the Republican state assembly speaker said a day after the general election.
- Evers responds: “I view this as a repudiation of the last election. I will take any steps possible to assure the people of Wisconsin that I will not invalidate those votes . . . And frankly, I'm encouraging citizens across the state of Wisconsin to help me in that effort,” he told the Journal Sentinel, adding that he hasn't ruled out a legal challenge.
In the Media
LIFE AND LEGACY: Newspapers across the country filled their front pages with memorials to George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, who died Friday. Here's how three handled the historic headline:
- Houston Chronicle: He was born in New England, but Texas became Bush's adopted home soon after he graduated college, moved west and establishing himself as a successful oilman-turned-congressman. His de facto hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle devoted its entire front page to Bush's smiling face and the headline "A life of service."
- The Chronicle's Mike Tolson describes Bush's first foray into politics: "Steeped in the importance of public service, Bush always felt the lure of political life. It snared him in 1962 when he was chosen to head Houston's fledgling Republican Party. He spent the next three decades in the political limelight, a career largely free of scandal or great controversy, with one exception — his role as vice president in the Iran-Contra scandal."
- The Boston Globe: Bush was born in Massachusetts and moved back there to attend prep school. He would return to New England, the Globe wrote in its front page story, nearly every summer of his life to stay at his family's compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. The story dubs Bush "A president, a neighbor." The waterside property was his and his wife Barbara's "most special place," reported the Globe's Laura Crimaldi. "He always called this place his anchor to windward," said Tom Bradbury, a Kennebunkport resident.
(KTRK-TV in Houston reports: "Later this week, Sully will return back to America's VetDogs in Smithtown, New York for a temporary stay throughout the holiday season before joining the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center's Facility Dog Program. Sully will be working alongside fellow VetDogs facility dogs SGT Dillon and SGT Truman who are there to assist with physical and occupational therapy to wounded soldiers and active duty personnel during their journey to recovery at Walter Reed Bethesda.")