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A lot happened late last night and into the morning:
- Brexit: Lawmakers from Britain's Conservative Party moved to hold a vote of “no confidence” late Wednesday evening on British Prime Minister Theresa May over her flailing plan for Britain to leave the European Union. “I will contest that vote with everything I’ve got,” said May, speaking outside of Downing Street. “I stand ready to finish the job.” The Post's William Booth and Karla Adam have more from on the ground in London.
- Flynn: Lawyers for ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn said in a court filing that the cooperating witness in Robert Mueller's probe deserves no jail time (Mueller agrees). Flynn's lawyers asked the judge to sentence the retired Army lieutenant general to probation and community service.
- Trump gave an interview to Reuters's Steve Holland and Jeff Mason. The highlights:
- On impeachment: “It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,” Trump told Reuters in the Oval Office. “I’m not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.
- On Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “He’s the leader of Saudi Arabia. They’ve been a very good ally” . . . Asked if standing by the kingdom meant standing by MBS, Trump said, “Well, at this moment, it certainly does.”
- On replacing John Kelly as chief of staff: “I have at least 10, 12 — 12 people that want it badly. I’m making a decision. Great people,” he said. “I could do it immediately. I’m in no rush. A lot of people want it.”
At the White House
THE GREAT SKUNK TINKLING OF 2019: For Democrats questioning whether House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is the right leader to take on President Trump, her performance yesterday at the White House should have quashed any doubts. After the gesticular president, unaccustomed to being publicly challenged, said that Pelosi was “in a situation where it's not easy for her to talk right now” because of the speakership race, Pelosi coolly delivered a made-for-feminist T-shirt slogan to cap off the Year of the Woman:
- “Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory,” Pelosi told Trump as they sparred over funding the border wall and who should own a possible partial government shutdown live on camera.
Cherry on top: Then came the behind-closed-doors leaks of Pelosi's jabs at Trump's manhood — the stuff that's made of impending Trump Twitter diatribes:
- “The press is all there! Chuck is really shouting out. I was trying to be the mom. I can’t explain it to you. It was so wild. It goes to show you: 'you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you,'" Pelosi told House Democrats after the meeting, The Post's Josh Dawsey reported.
- “It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him. This wall thing,” the California congresswoman added.
“Unfortunately, this has spiraled downward”: Pelosi emerged from the White House emboldened as the foil against Trump that Democrats have been yearning for: unafraid to confront a president who has operated “without a clear check on his power” over the past two years, per The Post's Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa.
The viral moment in the Oval — and Pelosi's comments after it — are already helping the California Democrat clinch the speakership as a clutch of Democrats demand changes to House rules and fresh leadership. Pelosi has been cutting deals to ensure the opposition is diminished before a January floor vote. And yesterday is already making that easier.
Power Up talked with some of the California Democrat's closest allies who explained why:
- No mansplain zone: “Trump talked over her today and she kept saying, 'No, you don’t have the votes' . . . But you don’t need Trump or anyone else to mansplain her — she knows what she’s talking about and she demonstrated that very clearly today,” Brendan Daly, Pelosi's former spokesperson, told Power Up.
“A spine of steel”: Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) said Pelosi delivered a “masterclass in strength and leadership . . . She stood her ground with grace and moral clarity, ensuring taxpayers do not spend billions on a nonsensical border wall.” A longtime ally, DeLauro touted Pelosi's “intellectual capacity, unparalleled strategic acumen, strong core values, and a spine of steel.”
“I don't think he knows what to do with a strong woman," Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) told us. “His actions just showed that he’s a chauvinist when it comes to dealing with women in power.”
“One of the things that stood out to me, was him calling her 'Nancy, Nancy, Nancy.' That’s Speaker Pelosi to you, punk,” Gomez added.
“What you saw is exactly what you're going to need,” Pelosi's longtime former chief of staff John Lawrence told us. “You're going to have somebody who is resolute, skilled and fearless. And somebody who understands that her job is to stand up for her caucus and the House and not to concede power to the president.”
Shortly after going toe-to-toe with Trump, Pelosi also came closer to securing the speakership:
Term limits: “The California Democrat and some of her fiercest party critics have tentatively agreed to limit her speakership to four years at most, these sources said. In return, several lawmakers who had vowed publicly to vote against Pelosi on the House floor in a critical Jan. 3 roll call will instead back her ascent to the position she held eight years ago,” Politico's Heather Caygle, Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan reported.
The Post's Mike DeBonis reports that at least five of Pelosi's opponents are ready to throw their weight behind her.
“One person familiar with the talks said the incumbents — running in safe Democratic districts — want to 'give cover' to allow freshmen in more marginal districts to adhere to pledges they made during their campaigns and vote against Pelosi without actually blocking her from the gavel," per DeBonis.
As for the partial government shutdown: The Post's Erica Werner and John Wagner write that Tuesday's meeting “ended with Trump declaring he’d be proud to shut down the government to get the money he wants for his long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall. If the president follows through on the threat, about 25 percent of the federal government would begin to run out of money on Dec. 21, putting hundreds of thousands of federal workers at risk of getting furloughed without pay just before Christmas.”
- Where we stand: “The two sides remain billions apart on border security — the president is demanding $5 billion for a wall, and Democrats will offer no more than $1.3 billion for fencing — and Tuesday’s talks brought them no closer to a resolution,” per Werner and Wagner.
Me leaving your Holiday Party after starting major drama pic.twitter.com/BRf98b9R2g— phil (@PrettyGoodPhil) December 11, 2018
On The Hill
ARE WE AT A GOOGLE HEARING OR THE APPLE GENIUS BAR?: With all the focus on Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) youth and inexperience, some current members of Congress could stand a refresher course, or a beginner one anyway, on the basics of technology and social media the freshman uses so well.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee had the opportunity to finally question Google CEO Sundar Pichai. But according to Wired's Issie Lapowsky, they blew it. “The hearing was more than a missed opportunity for both lawmakers and members of the public,” Lapowsky writes. “It was a foreboding reminder of Congress's continued technological ignorance, and a sign that while lawmakers almost unilaterally agree that something must be done about tech giants' tremendous power, they remain unwilling to set aside partisan squabbles to actually do anything about it.”
Here's a smattering of some of some of their, errr interesting, questions below:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) asked about a photo and accompanying comments that appeared on his granddaughter's iPhone while she played a game. Google CEO Sundar Pichai replied: “Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company.” King then said that “it might have been an Android. It's just, it was a hand-me-down of some kind.”
Rep. Steve King: "How does that show up on a 7-year old's iPhone who's playing a kid's game?"— CSPAN (@cspan) December 11, 2018
Google CEO Sundar Pichai: ""Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company…"
Watch full hearing here: https://t.co/w6Qhg7xb5b pic.twitter.com/4lT8Daj5yn
Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.) repeatedly asked Pichai whether Google tracks his movement through his iPhone. Pichai replied that he'd need more information — about the congressman's settings and apps — to provide an answer. Poe, ignoring him, said “It's not a trick question,” Poe said. “You know, you make $100 million a year. You ought to be able to answer that question.”
Poe wants to be dramatic with this exchange asking about Google tracking. Pichai is an engineer who's saying, essentially, it depends on his settings. That nuance isn't really gonna work with this sort of political theater.— Tony Romm (@TonyRomm) December 11, 2018
- And, just in time for the tough questions ...
Rep. Cicilline (D-RI) actually prepped for this hearing. Two solid, pointed questions about Google's anticompetitive behavior and Project Dragonfly. Pichai ducks when asked whether he'll commit not to launch a "tool for surveillance and censorship in China."— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) December 11, 2018
MCCONNELL FOLDS: After a maximum pressure campaign from all corners of Washington, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) finally reversed his position and promised a vote this month on the hotly debated criminal justice reform bill.
- The Post's Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey report: McConnell's decision “to advance the bill came 'at the request of the president and following improvements to the legislation' secured by several senators, McConnell said.”
Deals cut: “McConnell also couldn’t ignore the growing number of senators lining up behind the legislation. In private, Republican senators had hashed out a number of changes approved by law enforcement groups that were meant to tighten some potential loopholes pointed out by the bill’s critics. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), onetime skeptics of the effort, endorsed the legislation in recent days after securing changes. And Cornyn himself formally announced his support after cutting a deal with Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.)," according to The Post.
- Whip Count: “The White House officials said McConnell’s whip count finally showed the bill was not as much of a political threat to him as he thought. The administration believes there are about 80 votes in favor of the First Step Act in the Senate, although Grassley estimated the count at 75,” Dawsey and Kim report.
- A GOP Hill staffer who has worked to get the bill passed shared some thoughts with us on McConnell's reversal: “Literally every objection or reason to oppose they gave, we addressed. So at a certain point, failure to bring it up just didn't pass the smell test. McConnell . . . unnecessarily hurt feelings in his caucus and was forced to stand down even though he lost the moment Trump endorsed. The wiser option would have been to work from within and not try to oppose through selective leaks of inaccurate whip counts and ginning up [Rep. Tom] Cotton (R-Ark,) to oppose it.”
- But Mark Holden, general counsel at Koch Industries and one of the leading advocates for reform, said that McConnell “kept his word.”
- “I don’t know if he supports the bill or not,” Holden responded when asked about McConnell's pivot. “When I’ve talked to him it’s been about getting [the bill] on the floor and having a whip after midterms and he’s kept his word based on that. I don’t know if there’s a whole lot more other than that. He’s got a whole lot going on and I think he was saying to all of us so passionate about this, that if you want to get this done, let’s get moving and show me it’s worth taking up floor time.”
- Lingering question: Does McConnell, who has not yet stated a personal position, support the bill?
White House adviser Jared Kushner received praise from both sides of the aisle for being a driving force behind the bill:
- Getting to yes: “The significant movement on the legislation is also a major victory for Kushner, who has been on the phone daily with key lawmakers, one administration official said. Kushner has regularly pressured Trump to be more forceful in public about the legislation and showed the president the broad array of support from law enforcement groups and faith leaders,” according to Dawsey and Kim.
- “We would not be where we are if Jared Kushner wasn’t involved in it,” Grassley added.
- Even Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) praised Kushner: “Jared Kushner has really been a leader of this effort. I don't know if it would have happened without him,” Booker told reporters.
(!) Cornyn announces he will co-sponsor the new criminal justice reform bill (!)— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) December 11, 2018
In the Agencies
'THE TALE OF TWO GOVERNMENTS': It was the best of agencies, it was the worst of agencies. The results are in from the Partnership for Public Service's annual survey of the best places to work in the federal government. This year showcases the age of leadership vacuum, and the age of, well, NASA topping the list again.
“This year’s rankings tell the tale of two governments,” said Max Stier, Partnership for Public Service's CEO, in a statement. “One part of our government has agencies with committed leaders who are fostering high and improving levels of employee engagement. The other part of our government is handicapped by a lack of leadership that has led to static or declining employee engagement.”
The highs and lows, in brief:
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is, once again, flying high as the best large agency to work for in the federal government — for the seventh year in a row.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a mid-sized agency that isn't pictured in the above chart, saw one of the sharpest drop-offs in rating. Until recently, Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney also ran the CFPB, an agency Mulvaney once called a “sick, sad” joke. So, a corresponding dip in employee morale may not be exactly surprising.
- Read more about the report and its methodology, and see the full rankings.
Outside the Beltway
MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: Pharmaceutical company Kaléo plans to announce today it will offer a more affordable generic of EVZIO, its naloxone auto-injector product used to reverse opioid overdoses, at a price of $178 per carton. Omar Khalil, the general manager for addiction and neurology at Kaléo, told Power Up that the company is also working toward lowering the price of the branded version. “We recognize that naloxone is critical when so many people are suffering from accidental overdoses . . . we thought this was the right step to take at this time,” he told us.
Khalil said company officials have had a number of meetings with the Trump administration and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who have been “very vocal about the importance of naloxone and ensuring that more patients have access to it.”
“They're fully aware of our plans here and very supportive of it as well,” Khalil added.
Currently, EVZIO is available for $0 out-of-pocket to eligible patients with private insurance. But a cheaper generic version will give patients without insurance more options and will be available by mid-2019.
Also eligible for the cheaper drug: government agencies, first responders and health departments.
Profiteering off the crisis?: Kaléo, along with other drugmakers, have come under fire for price gouging after the prices of their naloxone products skyrocketed in the midst of the opioid crisis. Democratic lawmakers have pressured the Trump administration to use existing authority to get drugmakers to lower their prices for the opioid overdose antidote.
“Though the drug has been around in generic form for more than 30 years — which ought to make it cheap — the price for one injectable form more than tripled since 2012. Another, according to a study set to be published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, rose 244% since 2006,” according to a USA Today op-ed.
“The President’s own Opioid Commission recommended that the Trump Administration negotiate directly with drug companies to lower these prices, but President Trump has ignored this recommendation for the better part of a year while communities like Baltimore are forced to ration their supplies,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in statement.
“We’re willing to work with everybody to be a part of the solution,” Khalil said. “When you think about that moment where a wife has found her husband on the floor for an accidental overdose, and the chaos of that moment, we have a device that she can use without any training at all.. and we believe that’s really really important for our patients from all walks of life.”
In the Media
- An AP investigation: Ivanka, Kushner could profit from tax break they pushed by Stephen Braun, Jeff Horwitz and Bernard Condon
- What Kim Kardashian is reading: Shawn Holley Will Free You Now by Mattie Kahn via Glamour Magazine
- What to read if you're worried about the climate apocalypse: The Artic is in even worse shape than you realize by Chris Mooney via The Washington Post
- What to read if you're a governor and you want to do something about it: Opinion | States can lead the way on climate change. Let’s get to work by Larry Hogan and Ralph Northam via The Post
- What we're listening to (other than Caity Weaver's holiday playlist): The 30 Best Southern Albums of 2018 by The Bitter Southerner
- What GOP women are reading (and likely scoffing at): Emmer, NRCC Start to Rebuild for 2020 by Ally Mutnick and Kyle Trygstad via National Journal