THE BIG IDEA:
— America Rising, the outside group focused on using opposition research and trackers to drive up Hillary Clinton’s negatives while other Republicans go at it in the primaries, plans to beef up its nonprofit policy arm.
John McCain’s longtime communications director, Brian Rogers, has come onboard to lead the effort. Rogers, who was research director on the Arizona senator’s 2008 presidential campaign, will be executive director of America Rising Squared, which is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization.
Unlike the group’s super PAC, which can more explicitly and directly target Clinton, this entity does not need to disclose its donors’ names or the amount they have given. To qualify, a majority of the money raised must technically be spent on issues-related education.
Officials previewed their upcoming messaging for the 202. This week, for example, AR Squared will release an interactive map and reports to highlight the closure in 12 states of health care co-ops created under Obamacare. It has salvos planned against the Clinton Foundation and the Obama administration’s foreign policy (especially Hillary’s role in it).
Rogers also relishes the chance to take on labor unions and environmental groups, including at the state level. “Winning the policy debate today is vitally important to securing America’s future,” he said, adding that the nonprofit arm “will help drive the conversation by weaponizing the facts.”
Other officials with the group declined to share the budget but noted that more than $1 million has been spent by the (c)(4) since a soft launch in July, with more to come. No television commercials are planned; it’s more likely to be some digital advertising and plays for free media. The social welfare requirement can often be fulfilled easily, for instance, by telling a target audience to reach out to Clinton and tell her that she should rethink her position on this issue or that.
America Rising was launched in 2013 by three veteran GOP operatives who were frustrated by the left’s success with using opposition research and campaign trackers to keep their candidates on the defensive. They scored impressive successes during the 2014 midterms, but the primary focus has always been on bloodying the ex-secretary of state.
Rogers replaces Joe Pounder, who left last month to be a senior adviser for Marco Rubio. Tim Miller, one the organization’s other three co-founders, is Jeb Bush’s communications director. Natalie Gillam, a former researcher for the NRSC and RNC, will be research director and deputy communications director of America Rising Squared.
With the Republican field unsettled and Clinton again resurgent in the Democratic contest, leaders at America Rising believe their role is as important as ever.
THE WAR ON ISIS:
— Obama seeks to reassure Americans, pledging to defeat ISIS and pleading for tolerance of Muslims. “The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it,” the president said during his first Oval Office address. “We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.” In his 14-minute speech, he pressed Congress to authorize the use of military force and called for measures to stop suspected terrorists from being able to buy firearms, along with farther reaching gun laws. He lamented the rise of lone-wolf attacks and “self-radicalized” attackers who are difficult to identify ahead of time. “The terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase,” Obama said. “As we’ve become better at preventing complex multifaceted attacks like 9/11, terrorists turn to less complicated acts of violence like the mass shootings that are all too common in our society.” (Read David Nakamura’s story on the speech; see the transcript; Karen DeYoung looks at the administration’s insistence that it has and is pursuing a strategy.)
— Too many soft targets to count: To the president’s claim that the fight has entered a new phase, a local ISIS affiliate is claiming responsibility for a huge explosion that killed the governor of Yemen’s southern Aden province and six of his bodyguards overnight. Earlier in the weekend, three people were stabbed in an east London train station by a man who was reportedly yelling, “This is for Syria.”
— The decision to have POTUS address the country in prime-time from the Oval Office for the first time since 2010 reflects anxiety in the West Wing that Americans have tuned him out. “President Obama turned to a venue he doesn’t like to discuss a subject he would rather avoid,” Greg Jaffe writes in an analysis. “The absence of big new policy proposals from the president reflects the lack of any low-cost or tidy solutions to ease the concerns of the American people after a string of deadly attacks over the past month.”
— The partisan reaction was predictable:
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) got into it.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) criticized a lack of specifics:
Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to President Obama, cautioned the Beltway crowd:
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— A blow for socialism in Latin America, as voters reject the Chavez/Maduro agenda in Venezuela: The government lost control of its National Assembly in a major electoral defeat that reveals the deep discontent with President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist administration and the country’s unraveling economy, Joshua Partlow reports from Caracas. “The victory by the opposition coalition set the stage for further confrontation and could energize a movement aiming to Maduro from power before the end of his term in 2019. The result also marked a turning point for the ‘revolution’ launched 16 years ago by the late Hugo Chavez. About a half hour after midnight, the head of the country’s electoral body announced that the opposition coalition had won at least 99 of the 167 legislative seats. Another 22 seats have yet to be called, giving the opposition a possibility of winning an even larger majority.”
Conceding, Maduro blamed his enemies in the business community for sabotaging the economy to undermine him: “I can say today that the economic war has triumphed,” the president said in a televised address. He added that he accepted the results.
— Benefiting from the Paris attacks, France’s far-right parties made big gains in regional elections. The National Front party led the polls in six of the country’s 13 regions after the first round of regional elections, ahead of Nicolas Sarzoky’s Republicans and the Socialists, who currently hold power under President Francois Hollande. A second-round is planned for next Sunday. “The French people have had enough of being treated like a herd of sheep,” National Front leader Marine Le Pen, the top candidate in Calais, said in a TV interview. (Nov. 19’s Daily 202 forecast these results.)
— Songwriter Carole King, filmmaker George Lucas, actress-singer Rita Moreno, conductor Seiji Ozawa and actress Cicely Tyson were honored at the Kennedy Center last night. It was a fresher production — and later evening — given a new production team. Stephen Colbert reprised his role as host, and Obama was tardy because of his Oval Office speech.
You can watch the whole thing on CBS on Dec. 29. Spotted walking the red carpet were Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, actress Rosie Perez, singer Miranda Lambert (who performed) and director Steven Spielberg. Kerry Washington and Viola Davis also attended. Check out photos from the scene here.
— The U.S. is denying Syria’s claim that coalition airstrikes killed government troops. “A Qatar-based American military official says the U.S.-led coalition has no indication that the alliance aircraft killed Syrian troops in Syria,” the AP reports from Beirut. “The Syrian government says aircraft belonging to the coalition launched nine missiles on a Syrian army camp in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour Sunday night, killing three soldiers and wounding 13 on Sunday night. Lt. Col. Kristi Beckman, director of public affairs at the Combined Air Operations Center at al-Udeid air base in Qatar, says there was no indication that the coalition had killed Syrian troops. She said the U.S. operations center is ‘aware of the incident’ but that at this time it does not ‘have any indication our strikes killed Syrian soldiers.’”
GET SMART FAST:
- Jimmy Carter, 91, announced that he is cancer-free. (Brady Dennis and David Weigel)
- The Justice Department will investigate the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the Laquan McDonald shooting. (Ellen Nakashima, Wesley Lowery and Sari Horwitz)
- The number of annual HIV diagnoses declined by 19 percent between 2005 and 2014, per the CDC. (Lenny Bernstein)
- Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. encouraged all students to purchase guns and get concealed-carry permits. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey)
- A rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station successfully launched from Cape Canaveral after being delayed three times last week. (USA Today)
- The salaries of private college presidents rose 5.6 percent last year to a median of $436,000. (New York Times)
- No. 1 Clemson faces No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 2 Alabama meets No. 3 Michigan State in the College Football Playoff national semifinals on New Year’s Eve. The winners will play in the national championship on Jan. 11. (Chuck Culpepper)
POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:
- Hillary has an op-ed in today’s New York Times outlining her plan to “rein in Wall Street.”
- Clinton, during a speech yesterday, said she would invite Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington on her first day in office and promised to take the U.S.-Israeli relationship “to the next level.” (Anne Gearan)
- Bibi is upset at John Kerry for saying that the occupation of the West Bank will result in a “binational state.” (AP)
- Ben Carson is planning another trip to Israel sometime before the Iowa caucuses. (Bloomberg)
- Jeb bundler Eric Cantor and finance chairman Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets, sought to reassure anxious Bush supporters at a finance retreat in Coral Gables on Saturday. (Ed O’Keefe)
SUNDAY SHOW HIGHLIGHTS — Terrorism has crowded out every other issue in the 2016 race:
- Most Republican candidates, terrified about running afoul of the NRA, defended the politically-perilous position that suspected terrorists who are on the do-not-fly list should be allowed to purchase guns. The exceptions were Donald Trump and John Kasich.
- Hillary declared on ABC’s “This Week” that the U.S. is “not winning” the war against ISIS and defended her refusal to use the term “radical Islam.” (Vanessa Williams)
- Chris Christie countered on CBS that using “radical Islam” is smart because it differentiates terrorists from the overwhelming majority of Muslims, who live peacefully and come from good families. (Vanessa Williams)
- Trump doubled-down on his plan to target terrorists’ families, telling “Face the Nation” that he would “go after the wives” of terrorists and that what he would do to them can be left up to the imagination. (CBS News)
- Lindsey Graham promised to delay proposed budget cuts to the FBI, CIA and other counterterrorism organizations to beef up the fight against ISIS. (NBC News)
- Jeb Bush disagreed with Ted Cruz’s strategy of “carpet bombing” ISIS and that a more effective strategy is having the U.S. train the Iraqi army to fight. (ABC News)
- Carson tried to brush off being mocked for repeatedly mispronouncing “Hamas.” (Fox News)
WHAT WE’VE LEARNED ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA KILLERS:
— Investigators on Sunday again searched the home of Enrique Marquez, a former neighbor of shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Marquez is suspected of acquiring the military-grade rifles used in last week’s assault on a government services center for the disabled.
— A Walmart employee, Marquez checked himself into a mental health facility on Friday. The Farook and Marquez families lived next to each other for several years in Riverside, and the two men attended the same high school.
— Farook’s father, also named Syed, told an Italian publication that his son was more religious than he was, and that he had quarreled with a Jewish co-worker.
— The House Homeland Security Committee is investigating where the couple got the funds to purchase its weapons cache. The panel wants to know what Malik was doing in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
— Malik, a Pakistani citizen who grew up with her family in Saudi Arabia, was an unremarkable — if extremely religious — person. From a wealthy Pakistani family, she studied pharmacology in Multa. Friends noted a change in 2009, when she became more religious (she didn’t want her university picture taken without a veil, for instance, and spent her evenings at a madrassa). Multa was a hotbed of sectarian violence, which had Pakistani officials probing campus ties to radical groups.
— While at the university, Malik attended al-Huda, a fundamentalist institute aimed at bringing women “back to their religious roots.”
— Pakistani intelligence officials are restricting the access of reporters to the university that she attended, apparently threatening some professors with arrest if they talk to the media.
— “Sanders’s focus on inequality drowned out as guns and terror grab headlines,” by John Wagner: “Terrorism and gun violence have dominated the headlines in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks and mass shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino. But Bernie Sanders is sticking largely to a script that has nothing to do with either — emphasizing income and wealth inequality instead, the same issues that generated an unexpected groundswell of support for him over the summer. … At a rally Saturday afternoon in Keene, Sanders was nearly 50 minutes into his hour-long stump speech before he turned his attention to international affairs and sought to make the case that the United States doesn’t need a ‘tough foreign policy’ but needs a ‘smart foreign policy.’ … He made no mention at all during the speech in Keene of proposals to reduce gun violence in the United States.”
— “Pressure mounts for a year-end spending deal,” by Kelsey Snell: “A bipartisan group of negotiators worked through the weekend in hopes of striking a year-end spending deal by Monday so Congress has enough time to pass the legislation before Dec. 11 and avert a government shutdown. The weekend sessions came after Democrats rejected an initial proposal from Republicans last week that included dozens of policy riders that GOP lawmakers wanted to attach to the must-pass legislation. Leadership aides are now trying to settle disagreements over the riders and strike a deal on a separate package of tax break extensions that could be added to the omnibus appropriations bill … House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters on Thursday that his goal is to have a deal completed by Monday so that the legislation could pass by the Friday deadline. If a deal is not completed by early Monday, leaders will have to begin seriously weighing a short-term continuing resolution to avert a shutdown while negotiations continue.”
— Today is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor –> “After 74 years, bones from tomb ship may be identified,” by Michael E. Ruane: “Legs, arms, ribs, vertebrae. Some have blue tags tied with string, identifying the type of bone. Some have beige tags, indicating that experts also want samples for DNA testing. They are the unidentified remains of hundreds of sailors and Marines who perished 74 years ago Monday, when Japan launched a surprise air attack on Hawaii and plunged the United States into World War II. Now, seven decades later, the government is trying to put names to the old salts and teenage sailors who died when their ship was sunk by enemy torpedoes Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941.… After the remains were exhumed recently, they were cleaned and photographed, and most of them were flown to the DPAA lab in Nebraska for further analysis.… Thus far, the DPAA has made seven identifications, a spokeswoman said last week. But officials are still reaching out to family members, and no identifications have been publicly announced.”
— “In Qatar’s Education City, U.S. colleges are building an academic oasis,” by Nick Anderson in Doha: “U.S. colleges and universities run dozens of branch campuses around the world, reflecting rapid globalization in academia. Education City is perhaps the most prominent example of this trend, offering an optimistic vision of social advancement in the Middle East at a time of global concern about war in Syria and the Islamic State’s role in terrorism. But the Doha experiment, financed with riches from natural gas and oil exports, also is a huge gamble. Qatar, a nation of 2.2 million on the Arabian peninsula, faces the uncertainty of what Western teachings could unleash in a culturally conservative, predominantly Muslim society that takes Islamic law seriously. While U.S. universities prize independent thought and free speech, Qatar’s monarchy wields virtually absolute power in a nation with few forums for political dissent. The universities face the risk that their sterling brands could be weakened if their Qatar operations fall short of U.S. standards. They also must defend a venture that ties them to a regime with numerous critics.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ, curated with Elise Viebeck:
— ZIGNAL VISUAL: President Obama’s Oval Office address dominated the online conversation about 2016 Sunday. Of the more than 460,000 tweets mentioning Democratic and Republican presidential contenders yesterday, more than 67,000 mentioned the president and his address, according to our analytics partners at Zignal Labs. Leading the charge, as usual, was Donald Trump, who live tweeted reaction to the president’s speech, receiving tens of thousands of retweets and favorites along the way. Here is one example:
This word cloud tracks all mentions of Trump on Sunday:
— Pictures of the day:
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wished followers the best for the first night of Hanukkah:
Roll Call’s Eli Yokley noticed a difference in the party statements recognizing the holiday. The DNC uses a C; the RNC does not:
Michelle Obama posted this photo of the White House Christmas decorations:
Hillary Clinton made a pit stop in Iowa to shop for her granddaughter:
— Instagrams of the day:
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) shared a photo of himself and five other senators from the Paris Climate Conference:
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) gave a Capitol tour to the University of Northern Iowa men’s basketball team:
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) enjoyed a game of hoops in the snow with his son, Abel (click below for video):
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— Boston Globe, “Elizabeth Warren to focus on retaking Senate,” by Annie Linskey: “Massachusetts’ senior senator has been on the campaign trail for months, using her brand name among liberals and her fund-raising clout to support Democratic Senate candidates across the country, in a bid for her party to reclaim control of the chamber. And she’s doing it early. Very early. So far this year, she has headlined a fund-raiser in New York City for Ohio Senate candidate Ted Strickland. And she has endorsed in four of what’s shaping up to be the nine closest Senate races. … ‘I’m going to work my heart out to make sure we take back the Senate,’ Warren said last week in a rare interview on politics. ‘I crisscrossed the country multiple times in 2014. I expect 2016 will be the same. I’m committed to doing whatever I can to help Democrats retake the Senate.'” And her chief of staff is going to run the independent expenditure arm of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
— Wall Street Journal, “House Conservatives work to shape spending bill,” by Kristina Peterson: “Congress has until Friday to pass a $1.15 trillion spending bill to keep the government running once its current funding expires Friday…. But Republicans and Democrats have found plenty to disagree over since then as they hashed out funding for individual government programs and sparred over which other policy measures should get attached to the bill. That is where conservatives, who blame John Boehner’s deal for what they see as the bill’s too-high spending level, are making their demands…. The Freedom Caucus has spelled out its top priorities to GOP leaders. Like many other Republicans, they want the spending bill to respond to security concerns fanned by the Islamic State attacks in Paris and last week’s shootings in California, which are being investigated as a possible terror attack.”
— New York Times, “Marco Rubio, switching focus, aims to halt Ted Cruz’s momentum,” by Jonathan Martin and Jeremy W. Peters: “Rubio has abruptly changed course, zeroing in on Ted Cruz in an urgent effort to halt his momentum with conservative voters in (Iowa) and beyond. With help from an allied group that is airing television ads in Iowa, Rubio is seeking to raise doubts on the right about Cruz’s toughness on national security — a potentially fatal vulnerability, should Rubio succeed, amid heightened concerns about terrorism. More quietly, he is trying to muddy the perception that Cruz is a hard-liner on immigration, asserting that Cruz supports ‘legalizing people that are in this country illegally.’ … Rubio has taken to tying Cruz to liberal lightning rods like Chuck Schumer and the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming that Mr. Cruz worked with them ‘to harm our intelligence programs.’ Or that Rubio is portraying Cruz as a hypocrite on immigration who backs ‘a massive expansion’ of green cards and of the work visas for foreigners with college degrees and specialized skills.”
— The Intercept, “Defense contractors cite benefits of escalating conflicts in the Middle East,” by Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani: “Major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors at a Credit Suisse conference in West Palm Beach (last) week that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner told the conference his company will see ‘indirect benefits’ from the war in Syria, citing the Turkish military’s recent decision to shoot down a Russian warplane. The incident, Tanner said, heightens the risk for U.S. military operations in the region, providing ‘an intangible lift because of the dynamics of that environment and our products in theater.’ He also stressed that the Russian intervention would highlight the need for Lockheed Martin-made F-22s and the new F-35 jets.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
Jeb Bush’s top donor says he’d vote for Clinton over Trump. From the Miami Herald: Mike Fernandez purchased a full page advertisement in the Sunday edition of the newspaper, calling Trump a “narcissistic BULLYionaire with a hunger to be adored.” He told the paper in an interview, “If I have a choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton, I’m choosing Hillary.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
Senate report: Mexico, Canada borders are “significant” terrorist pathways. From the Washington Examiner: “The U.S.-Canada border is the likely path for terrorists to invade the country, according to top national security experts and Congress’ most comprehensive review … ‘The nexus between known or suspected terrorists in eastern Canada and the northern parts of the U.S. represent [sic] a significant national security threat,’ said a new report from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.”
— What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Donald Trump rallies supporters in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. In Greenville, Ted Cruz speaks as part of the Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) town hall series. Marco Rubio attends private fundraisers in Texas and California. In Iowa, Martin O’Malley stops in Windsor Heights, Vinton and Cedar Rapids; Carly Fiorina leads a town hall in Cedar Rapids; and Rick Santorum is in Denison, Audubon, Winterset and Osceola.
Tomorrow: As the Freddie Gray trial resumes, Bernie Sanders is going to Baltimore to tour his old neighborhood and participate in a roundtable discussion with local African-American leaders. He’ll then hold a press conference.
— On the Hill: The Senate meets at 2 p.m. and begins an executive session at 5 p.m. to consider a judicial nomination. The House meets at 2 p.m. for legislative business, but no votes are expected.
— At the White House: President Obama attends the Congressional Ball tonight. Joe Biden is in Ukraine.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I want to say I’m sorry. Deeply saddened. It’s a sad day for all of us.” — Saira Khan, the sister of the male shooter in San Bernardino (Video)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— “Early fog burns off by mid-morning,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Overall it’s a partly sunny forecast, but in reality we’ll probably see longer breaks in the clouds in the afternoon. There’s just a slight, 10-20 percent chance of showers, particularly for our western and southern suburbs. Any showers we do get should be light and brief, and confined to the late afternoon and evening. Highs are pleasant in the mid-50s. Winds are from the northwest at 5 to 10 mph.”
— The Dallas Mavericks beat the Wizards, 116-104. (Jorge Castillo)
— Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon filed a grievance against the team for suspending him after he choked Bryce Harper in the dugout, adding another level of friction to a fraught relationship. (James Wagner)
NEW TV ADS:
Right to Rise, the Jeb Super PAC, posted a 14-minute mini-documentary — which it says will run on TV — promoting the Florida governor. Watch here. A 30-second version, called “Proven Leader,” that presents him as someone equipped to lead in the aftermath of terrorism will run on TV this week. Watch here.
Marco Rubio is going up in Iowa today with a 60-second clip from one of his speeches. “This election is a generational choice about what kind of country we will be,” the Florida senator says. “And before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America. But we can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past. We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.” Watch here.
Clinton went up in Iowa with a spot promising to fight price gouging of prescription drugs and to fast track the approval of generics.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Saturday Night Live imagined who Trump would put on Santa’s naughty and nice lists:
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) shared the making of his song, “8 Days of Hanukkah”:
Ben Sasse, the freshman Republican senator from Nebraska, went to San Bernardino over the weekend. He just posted a four-minute YouTube video responding to the shooting, with a vigil in the background. Watch here.