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Power Up: Elise Stefanik isn't asking permission to try and change the GOP

with Reis Thebault

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Happening today: Former President George H.W. Bush's funeral begins today at 10 a.m. with a motorcade from the Capitol to the Washington National Cathedral, where the service starts at 11 a.m. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump will attend, though Trump isn't going to speak. Delivering eulogies are 41's son and former president George W. Bush; former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney; ex-Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and Bush biographer Jon Meacham.

On The Hill

THE HOUSE GOP'S ONE WOMAN CHANGE AGENT: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is tackling the GOP's woman problem head on — and isn't asking for permission to do so.

It's a refrain she tweeted on Tuesday after the new chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), told Roll Call he thought it was “a mistake” for Stefanik to “play big in primaries” through her leadership PAC by elevating and supporting women and “nontraditional” candidates.

The leader of recruitment during the 2018 cycle at the NRCC, Stefanik responded during an interview with Power Up on Tuesday afternoon: “When I ran for Congress, I didn't ask for permission,” Stefanik told us. “The NRCC tried to recruit people against me when I ran in that primary . . . I think I’ve earned the support and encouragement from a lot of my colleagues. But I’m not going to start asking for permission now.”

Stefanik thinks Republicans haven't spent enough time thinking about why they lost nearly 40 House seats in 2018 -- and only elected one female freshman compared to 35 new Democratic women. She wants the NRCC to conduct a formal autopsy of the midterms and to fix what she calls the party's “suburban women problem.”

  • “We need to do better”: “It's quite stark and quite obvious as you look around the GOP conference that it’s not reflective of the American public,” Stefanik told us of the party's problem with women. “It was particularly stark when they lined up all of the newly elected members.” The numbers mirror the image — only 13 GOP women will be serving in the next Congress, down from 23. “We need to do better,” Stefanik said. 
  • An autopsy report is necessary: Stefanik called for a “formal autopsy” to be conducted at the NRCC to better prepare for 2020. “One way we can do that is to learn lessons from people that did not get across the finish line,” Stefanik, who helped with the 2012 autopsy report crafted by the Republican National Committee, told us. 
  • Primary problem: The NRCC didn't pick sides in primaries, unlike the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Stefanik thinks that's a mistake and is forming her leadership PAC to take “a step back to really engage and help elevate women early on in the. process,” she said.
  • “I want to help them, not just with fundraising but with running effective campaigns that will win in the primary and general election to try to change the overall makeup of the GOP conference and move us in the direction that’s more reflective of the general public,” she said. 
  • It's not about Trump: Stefanik scoffed at the media's laser focus on the president and said congressional candidates need to focus on local issues. "I have a district that supported Trump and women voters supported him ... if we want to be a governing majority in the House, we have to do better with suburban women and I think the House Republican leadership needs to be an important voice in putting forth policies and rethinking how we communicate our policies so that we can win back those voters," she said. 
  • Advice to Emmers: “We need a lot of lessons learned at the NRCC and I hope that’s where the focus is: to make sure that the NRCC has the staffing, strategy, data investment, fundraising capacity to win in 2020 . . . I hope the NRCC chair is respectful and welcoming of all of the other members who are working hard for their leadership PACS.”

Stefanik believes elevating female voices shines a light on policy issues disproportionately impacting women. Stefanik encouraged the House GOP to study the approach of female lawmakers like Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), “an incredible voice on issues like maternal health,” or Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), “an incredible voice on children with special needs.”

Rep. Ann Wagner (R- Missouri), who Stefanik supported for a bid for NRCC chair before she dropped out, represents a very suburban district and “has been a leader on human trafficking,” she told us. “These voices need to be elevated between now and 2020. And they need to be looked to as role models as how to win in tough districts in this environment.”


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At the White House

COOPERATE AND YOU SHALL BE FREE: That's the message that special counsel Robert Mueller sent on Tuesday night in the release of a new court filing recommending that Trump's former national security adviser serve no time in prison due to his "substantial assistance" with "several ongoing investigations," our Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Devlin Barrett report. 

  • Flynn participated in 19 interviews with prosecutors, according to the special counsel, but “Tuesday’s sentencing memo was heavily redacted, continuing to shroud in secrecy the details of what Flynn has told Mueller’s team and other prosecutors,” the Post reports. 
  • 'Extensive assistance': “The filing indicated that Flynn has provided extensive assistance to Mueller . . . It also indicated that he has cooperated with a separate unidentified criminal investigation, the details of which were completely redacted.”
  • The key quote: “Mueller wrote that Flynn had provided 'firsthand information about the content and context of interactions between the transition team and Russian government officials'" and that "Flynn’s guilty plea 'likely affected the decisions of related firsthand witnesses to be forthcoming with the SCO and cooperate.'”
  • There's more coming: “On Friday, prosecutors with the special counsel’s office are scheduled to file a letter to the judge who will sentence Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney. The letter will outline additional details of Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller’s office.... Also Friday, Mueller’s team will submit a filing to a judge in Washington describing ways that Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, lied to prosecutors after pleading guilty in September and promising to cooperate. Prosecutors have said that Manafort breached his agreement by continuing to be dishonest in meetings with prosecutors.”

Separately, Trump confidant Roger Stone invoked his fifth amendment rights on Tuesday, refusing requests from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify and provide documents related to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

  • CNN's Sara Murray and Jeremy Herb report that Stone's lawyer Grant Smith “rebuffed a request from the top Democrat on [Judiciary] ... and sent a similar letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee in September invoking the Fifth after the committee -- which is still conducting its investigation into Russian meddling -- requested documents and an interview."
  • “Mueller is also investigating whether Stone was communicating with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks during the 2016 election either directly or through intermediaries. Mueller has spoken to a number of Stone's intermediaries, but he has still not reached out to Stone himself,” Smith told CNN. 

Rudy Giuliani called Mueller a "special whatever" in a text to Politico:

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) on Dec. 4 said he would work to impose sanctions on Saudi officials involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Video: The Washington Post)

'THERE'S A SMOKING SAW': After a closed-door briefing with the CIA director, senators from both parties issued their strongest statements to date denouncing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over his alleged involvement in the killing of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “There’s not a smoking gun — there’s a smoking saw,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), adding later that “It is zero chance, zero, that this happened in such an organized fashion without the crown prince.” 

  • Challenging the White House: Trump administration officials have said the evidence isn't conclusive, but key senators disagreed after the briefing, saying they were convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt. “If the crown prince went in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  • The Post's Shane Harris and Karoun Demirjian reported: “Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said that 'it would defy logic to think' that someone other than Mohammed was responsible, noting that members of the prince’s own royal guard are believed to have been part of the team that killed Khashoggi.”

  • Key passage from Shane and Karoun: “The gulf that has emerged between Republican lawmakers and the president over how to respond to the journalist’s killing appeared to widen after Tuesday’s briefing, with Graham, one of Trump’s closest Senate allies, announcing that he was no longer willing to work with the crown prince, whom the White House regards as one of its most important allies in the Middle East.”

  • Future action: "Graham and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the co-authors of a bill to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia and curtail almost all weapons transfers to the kingdom, may propose their package of punitive measures as an amendment to the Yemen resolution, as it appears that talks to attach it to a must-pass spending bill have not gained enough momentum."

Outside the Beltway

THE LAST TIME THE AUTO INDUSTRY RETOOLED IN A BIG WAY: When General Motors announced it was shutting down five factories, lawmakers and workers across the country pleaded with the company: don’t close; retool, start making electric and autonomous cars instead. So far, those entreaties have been unsuccessful as GM has insisted that would be unrealistic. This afternoon, Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (Ohio) will meet with GM CEO Mary Barra on the Hill in an effort to prevent the company's Lordstown plant from closing. 

Thing is, a big overhaul has happened before — in a big, big way. For this week’s dose of historical context, Power Up talked to Peter Norton, an engineering and society historian at the University of Virginia, about the largest industrial retooling in the history of the world. It began in 1940, when then-President Franklin Roosevelt called up GM’s CEO, Bill Knudsen, to talk about converting the auto industry into one big war factory.

  • At first, the industry was hesitant — especially pre-Pearl Harbor — Norton said. But the group of auto executives eventually got together, agreed not to compete and took charge of the conversion, a moment that had two huge consequences: “The war industry was quite profitable for them and American military hardware was second to none in the world,” Norton told us.
  • And it happened fast: “The most amazing thing was the speed,” noted Ford’s corporate historian in Motor Trend magazine. It took Ford just over a year to build Willow Run in southeast Michigan, then the largest aircraft factory in the world.
  • ‘Like a socialist country’: The rapid shift from cars to tanks and bombers involved “a degree of central coordination between companies and the government that’s hard to imagine today,” Norton said. “It kind of made America look like a socialist country. The degree of government control was amazing.”
  • Today, a large-scale retooling that would allow shuttered factories to produce the cars of the future would require a similar degree of public and private sector cooperation, Norton said.
  • For example: The federal government could agree to buy only affordable electric vehicles, thereby creating demand that would allow automakers to produce those cars economically. It’s a long shot strategy, Norton admitted, but it’s one that could have a huge impact on the future of American manufacturing.
  • A change of this scale also requires buy-in from the public, which, during World War II, was a comparatively easy task. “It wasn’t hard to tell people after Pearl Harbor that there was a national emergency and people had to sacrifice,” Norton said. In the ‘40s, sacrifice meant no new cars and a 35-mph speed limit. Today, it would mean buying fuel-efficient automobiles.
  • “At least as strong a claim could be made that climate change is a national survival threat,” Norton said. “But it wasn’t hard to prove Pearl Harbor was real. It’s a little harder to prove climate change is real.”

The People

A TOAST TO H.W.: Enjoy a martini at 6 p.m. tonight to honor former president George H.W. Bush. A “vodka martini, made to perfection with a splash of dry vermouth, two olives and a cocktail onion,” according to his pal the New York Times's columnist Maureen Dowd. 

And read former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former secretary of state James Baker III's op-ed on the “standard of excellence astonishing in its scope” set by Jeb's father and Baker's boss and friend.  They write for The Post:

  • “As a public servant, he first answered the call of duty in World War II, flying 58 combat missions and being shot down over the Pacific. After military service, he accepted positions of increasing responsibility on behalf of his country, as U.N. ambassador, ambassador to China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and vice president. He daily followed the mantra prescribed by John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
  • “As a friend, George H.W. Bush was without peer, always there in good times and bad. When Jim Baker’s first wife died of cancer at 38, George and Barbara Bush helped pull their friend out of despair. He routinely quoted the verse of William Butler Yeats: “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.” Those words were more than poetry to him. They were a way of life.”
  • “And as a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he savored the responsibilities and joys of family. After being elected vice president, he said his greatest accomplishment was the fact that his kids still enjoyed coming home. They cherished those moments together because Dad or Gampy, as he was called, dispensed love rather than orders.”
  • " . . . he also saw the good in people, even his adversaries, and hope in the face of adversity. 'No problem of human making,” he once said, “is too great to be overcome by human ingenuity, human energy, and the untiring hope of the human spirit.' We need similar optimism today, at a time when cooperative problem solving too often gives way to a rancorous blame game.”