THE BIG IDEA:
— If you watched the Redskins lose to the Packers, you saw several commercials for “13 Hours,” Hollywood’s dramatization of what happened at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. The Michael Bay action film, which comes out Friday, could peel the Band-Aid off a wound that Hillary Clinton largely covered during her day-long testimony before the congressional committee investigating the 2012 incident.
Conservatives hope it humanizes the deaths of four Americans and exposes the story to a wide swath of voters who don’t regularly watch Fox News. Clinton does not appear in the movie, but critics say the whole episode raises questions about her effectiveness as secretary of state.
Allies of the Democratic front-runner acknowledge the release may gin up the conservative base but express confidence that it won’t meaningfully impact Democratic primary voters ahead of the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.
— At a minimum, the pricey marketing campaign may lead to a fresh round of questions for Clinton about the issue on the campaign trail. Fox News’ Megyn Kelly devoted a big chunk of her show last week to interviewing CIA contractors who survived the Sept. 11-12, 2012, attacks. (The movie is based on a book they co-authored.) The men continue to insist that they received an order to stand down, despite multiple congressional investigations concluding that they did not.
— The alleged stand-down order, which appears in one of the trailers, is the most controversial, and politically charged, part of “13 Hours.” A Rolling Stone reporter who saw a screening thinks that “Hillary haters will probably be disappointed. . . . But the film does allege several institutional failures, from a lack of sufficient security resources on the ground to the military’s failure to send assets (fighter jets, gunships) to help – despite official findings that none were available.” Asked if he believes there was a cover-up, the director told the magazine: “Some of the talking points are fishy, but I don’t want to get into that. . . .We are the strongest country in the world, and we could have acted better that night.” He added that he included the stand-down scene because he trusts the contractors. “In my heart, I believe this happened,” Bay said. “I want to believe everything the government tells us. But not everything adds up.”
— Conservatives are looking to capitalize on the release. The Republican National Committee has press releases ready to send and plans other tactics to message about the movie, sources say. An extended trailer ran during the last GOP debate. Talking heads like Hugh Hewitt received early screening copies, which has helped generate buzz on conservative radio. “It’s very riveting, and it’s very damning, though she is never mentioned, nor is the president,” Hewitt said last week. “It is utterly damning of the Obama administration.”
Though the mainstream media has largely moved on, the issue comes up in several of the GOP candidates’ stump speeches. Last week in Iowa, for instance, Marco Rubio said Clinton “disqualified” herself because “she recklessly and irresponsibly lied about Benghazi.”
“We’ve always viewed Benghazi as a window into Secretary Clinton’s poor judgment and bad decision-making while leading the State Department,” said America Rising PAC executive director Colin Reed. “And because it’s coming in the form of a production from a major film studio in Hollywood, Clinton and her allies will be unable to deploy their usual defense mechanism, which is simply dismissing any perceived questioning of her leadership as right-wing propaganda. That argument just won’t hold water.”
— Liberal groups say it is old news. Media Matters President Bradley Beychok said his group will continue to push back strongly on “the phony scandal” that’s been used for partisan purposes. “Fox will cover this film as breaking news, and we have all hands on deck to combat their falsehoods,” he emailed. “With a staff of nearly 70, Media Matters is committed to push back against Fox’s shoddy reporting and conspiracy-mongering surrounding the Benghazi attacks.” A Clinton spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
— The movie has received positive early reviews from non-political viewers. Tiger Woods tweeted last week that he saw a screening. “Very powerful and important film,” he posted. “Really well done.”
— The Wall Street Journal explains that the surprise box office success of “American Sniper” helped make “13 Hours” happen. Production started last spring. It was filmed in Malta, where Bay constructed a replica of the Benghazi compound.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— Clinton, sitting down with the Boston Globe’s editorial board last night, said her husband’s past infidelity won’t distract voters from the important issues. “I think most Americans have made up their minds one way or another about all this and I think it will be up to voters to sort it out,” she said during an hour-long session, per Annie Linskey. “This is something that the Republicans have been trying to turn into political gold for a long time. And it hasn’t worked. So if that’s what they want to spend their time talking about, that’s their choice. It is certainly, in my view, not a campaign that is going to really deal with the issues that most Americans are concerned about.” Managing Iowa expectations, she also said: “A caucus is quite unpredictable.” On “Meet the Press” yesterday morning, Trump said he will continue to attack Hillary over Bill’s past behavior. “I don’t want to say it’s a threat,” he told Chuck Todd, “but it’s a threat.”
— David Bowie died of cancer. He was 69. (Tara Bahrampour)
— “The Revenant” and “The Martian” were among the big winners at the Golden Globes, winning Best Drama and Best Comedy, respectively. USA’s “Mr. Robot” won Best TV Drama, and “Mozart in the Jungle” won Best TV Comedy. Leonardo DiCaprio won Best Actor in a drama for “The Revenant,” Matt Damon won best actor in a comedy for “The Martian” and Brie Larson won Best Actress in a drama for her performance in “Room.” Other winners included Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress in a comedy for “Joy” and Jon Hamm for Best Actor in the final season of “Mad Men.” “Spotlight” got snubbed/robbed. (Hank Stuever’s review; a listicle with the 13 best moments of the night; a complete list of winners.)
The Post’s fashion critic, Robin Givhan, thinks Bryce Dallas Howard had the best dress of night. The actress was a presenter, not a nominee. Her size six outfit was cut from metallic navy lace and had a simple jewel neckline:
— With the playoffs underway, Trump went after the NFL. “Football has become soft like our country has become soft.” Watch:
GET SMART FAST:
- Uber lowered its prices in more than 100 North American cities, including 10 percent in D.C. (WUSA9)
- ABC dropped the Union Leader as a co-sponsor of its GOP debate in February. The New Hampshire newspaper’s publisher, who has clashed with Trump, called the network’s decision “spineless.” (Union Leader)
- A former U.S. attorney will conduct an independent review of the part of Chicago’s law department that defends police. The move comes after a judge last week accused a city attorney of hiding evidence in a lawsuit over a fatal police shooting. (Sara Burnett)
- The U.S. responded to North Korea’s nuclear test by flying a B-52 bomber and F-16 jets over South Korea. (AP)
- At least five people were killed and 10 injured when a Doctors Without Borders location in Yemen was bombed. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. (CNN)
- A North Carolina law requiring doctors who perform an abortion after the 16th week of pregnancy to supply an ultrasound to the state has become a flash point in this year’s governor’s race and could help galvanize Democratic turnout in the presidential swing state. (New York Times)
- The Supreme Court today will hear arguments from a group of California teachers who say it violates their First Amendment rights to be forced to pay dues to the state’s teachers union. (Robert Barnes)
- The Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers won wild-card playoff games to advance to next week’s divisional round. (Post staff)
POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:
- “Girls” star Lena Dunham, stumping in Iowa City, said Clinton faces unfair attacks because she is a woman. (David Weigel and Abby Phillip)
- Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and gun control advocate Gabby Giffords endorsed Clinton. (Waterloo Courier and CBS News)
- Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) endorsed Marco Rubio.
- Ben Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist, spoke at a Baptist church in Iowa Sunday about how his faith influenced his career as a doctor. (Des Moines Register)
- A sentencing hearing for Fred W. Pagan, a longtime aide to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, was rescheduled for Jan. 15. The Mississippi senator is expected to speak in court and ask for leniency for Pagan, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. (Spencer S. Hsu)
- The tagline of a new ad from a Ted Cruz super PAC, going up today in Iowa, is: “You can take your country back.” (Watch.)
SUNDAY SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:
- Chris Christie claimed on CBS that he did not support Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. Several media outlets quickly posted clips highlighting that he, in fact, had expressed confidence in her and explicitly urged the Senate to confirm her. (BuzzFeed; today’s Star Ledger has an editorial ripping the New Jersey governor for “lying” about his past positions on gun control.)
- Hillary, on CBS, said Bernie’s 2005 vote backing legal protections for gun manufacturers is a “difference Democratic voters in our primary can take note of.” She pointed out she and Obama, then both senators, voted the other way. It was the second television interview in three days in which Clinton hammered Sanders directly and by name about gun control. (Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
- Sanders, on “This Week,” retorted the gun bill was more complicated but said he would now vote differently. (Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
- Rubio, on ABC, stood by a 2004 bill he co-sponsored in the Florida legislature that provided in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. (Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
- Cruz defended his citizenship on CNN, saying it is “clear and straightforward” that he is a U.S. citizen. He also said he will not authorize the kind of “deportation force” that Trump has promised. (Jenna Johnson and Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
- Trump, on “Fox News Sunday,” said Democrats would bring a lawsuit against Cruz if he wins the Republican nod. (Jenna Johnson and Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
- Mitch McConnell made clear that an AUMF is unlikely to pass this Congress. “I can’t imagine that I would be voting for an authorization for the use of military force that Barack Obama would sign because the one he submitted for us to take a look at restricted his activities,” the Senate Majority Leader said on ABC. “I don’t want to tie the hands of the next president.”
An NBC-Wall Street Journal/Marist poll shows Cruz edging Trump in Iowa and Trump as strong as ever in New Hampshire. The highlights:
- Cruz leads Trump by four points, 28 to 24 percent, among likely GOP Iowa caucus-goers. Rubio finishes third with 13 percent compared to Carson’s 11 percent. Rand scores 5 percent to Jeb’s 4 percent and Christie’s 3 percent.
- In New Hampshire, Trump dominates the GOP primary field, leading by 16 points compared to Rubio at 14 percent. Christie places third at 12 percent and Jeb comes in fourth at 9 percent.
— “In a tightening race, Clinton and Sanders go after each other’s strengths,” by Anne Gearan, John Wagner and Karen Tumulty: “The former secretary of state is emphasizing the issue of gun control as a testament to her liberalism…. Meanwhile, the senator from Vermont, a self-described ‘democratic socialist,’ is making the argument that he is the more electable candidate…. Fresh evidence of how close things stand in Iowa and New Hampshire came Sunday with the release of a poll by the Wall Street Journal, NBC News and Marist College. It showed Clinton and Sanders running statistically even among likely voters in the two states. Yet the dynamics appear to be shifting in opposite directions. In Iowa, Clinton’s once-healthy lead seems to be eroding, while in New Hampshire, it is Sanders who is seeing his advantage slip away.”
- Since May, 40,000 people in Iowa have attended Sanders campaign events, according to a tally kept by aides. By the caucuses, the Sanders camp believes he will have spoken in person to more than 50,000 people. “That’s a huge percentage of people who are actually going to participate in the caucuses,” said Jeff Weaver, Sanders’s campaign manager.
- The Sanders campaign touted the NBC-WSJ numbers indicating he would do better than Clinton in both Iowa and New Hampshire against Trump, Cruz and Rubio. The reason, said Marist polling director Lee Miringoff, is that Sanders polls better than Clinton among independent voters. (Study the numbers for yourself here.)
- The Clinton campaign released an ad touting her electability, to air in both Iowa and New Hampshire. It includes clips of Trump and Cruz talking. “Think about it: one of these Republicans could actually be president,” a narrator says. “So ask yourself, who is the one candidate who can stop them? Hillary Clinton. Tested and tough. To stop them, stand with her.” (Watch here.)
- Last night in Ankeny, Iowa, Sanders contrasted himself with Clinton: “At the outset of a rally here that drew about 800 people, the Vermont senator ticked off several issues on which he and Clinton are not completely in sync — family leave, Social Security and a proposed crude oil pipeline in Iowa — and challenged her to adopt his positions.” (Wagner’s story from the event.)
— “Cuban-Mexican tension is a problem for Cruz, Rubio,” by Mary Jordan: “Rubio, whose parents are from Cuba, and Ted Cruz, whose father was born in Cuba, are competing to be the first Hispanic in the White House. But in several key swing states — Nevada, Colorado, Florida and Virginia — most Latinos are not Cuban. Most lean Democratic — and identify more with their country of origin than with the broader terms, Hispanic or Latino…. Most also oppose both Rubio’s and Cruz’s positions on immigration. All of that, in addition to long-standing tensions between Cuban and Mexican immigrants, could dash the GOP’s hopes that Cruz or Rubio could do what few Republicans have been able to do in a presidential election: attract significant Hispanic support…. In interviews in wedding chapels and casinos…. Mexicans who make up so much of the workforce said it would be far more meaningful to elect the first Mexican American president than the first Latino. Many said they would vote for a non-Latino over a Cuban American. In two days of interviews, not a single Mexican said he or she supported Rubio or Cruz, and even some Cubans said they don’t plan to support either Cuban American candidate.”
— “Can Mexican authorities hold ‘El Chapo’ now that they have him again?” by Joshua Partlow: “The Mexican government has pledged to ship Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United States to answer for his drug-trafficking rap sheet, but that extradition is still at least months away. In the meantime, Guzmán finds himself in the same maximum-security prison he made a mockery of six months ago when he escaped through a tunnel. The question now is, can … Altiplano prison, hold him this time? … On Sunday morning, Mexico’s national security commissioner, Renato Sales Heredia, toured Altiplano with other prison officials and said that it fully complied with international standards. His office said it had established a ‘rigorous scheme of supervision’ that would limit Guzmán’s access to visitors. But the prison’s accreditation from the American Correctional Association lapsed last year, and it has not been renewed. Mexican officials agreed to do a thorough review of staffing, procedures, and the prison’s ability to monitor high-value detainees, but it is unclear where that review stands.” (In case you missed it, Sean Penn met with El Chapo at a secret location for an interview, which purportedly helped lead authorities to the kingpin. Read the actor’s account in Rolling Stone.)
— “The new Taliban leader whose shadow hangs over Afghan peace talks,” by Michael E. Miller: “When representatives of four nations meet Monday to plan peace talks aimed at ending nearly four decades of fighting in Afghanistan, the most important figure is almost sure to be absent. Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the leader of the Taliban, is likely to remain in hiding when U.S., Afghan, Pakistani and Chinese officials meet in Islamabad to lay the groundwork for future talks. Nonetheless, his shadow will hang over the proceedings. In the six months since word leaked that the Taliban’s founder, Mohammad Omar, had died in 2013, Mansour has proved to be nearly as enigmatic as his reclusive, one-eyed predecessor. Many current and former Taliban members say Mansour is a moderate who represents Afghanistan’s best chance in more than a decade to strike a deal with the Islamists. He is a pragmatist, they say, who, as the Taliban’s aviation minister, recruited communists to keep the nation’s airplanes operating…. Under Mansour’s command, however, the Taliban has not just continued to fight, it has excelled at it.”
THE STATE OF THE UNION IS TOMORROW:
- President Obama invited a Syrian refugee to sit with Michelle Obama during the State of the Union address. Also there will be one of the first three women to finish the Army Ranger School. And one seat will be left vacant to symbolize the Americans killed and injured by guns each year.
- Democrats say they want to hear more about Obama’s executive actions on guns, while Republicans just want the speech to be over with. (Mike DeBonis, Karoun Demirjian and Kelsey Snell round up what Obama’s rivals and allies want to hear.)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Rubio getting tons of buzz in New Hampshire. A strong finish in New Hampshire could help Rubio emerge from the pack as an establishment alternative to Trump and Cruz. And there are signs that, in terms of intensity at least, the strategy may be paying off. Since Jan. 1, Rubio has had just 6 percent of the overall GOP media mentions, compared to 13 percent for Cruz and 66 percent for Trump, according to our analytics partners at Zignal Labs.
But a look at geocoded Tweets shows intense interest for Rubio in the Granite State. The map below shows a state-by-state Twitter comparison of Cruz and Rubio since Jan. 1. Cruz has received nearly three times as many mentions as Rubio, and more mentions than the Florida senator in nearly every state”
… Except New Hampshire. There Rubio has a 12 percent Twitter advantage over his Texas rival, and he is over-performing, based on his national Twitter numbers against Cruz, by 28 percentage points in the state. Will those tweets translate into votes? We’ll know in a month for sure, but these analytics show that Rubio’s concerted effort in New Hampshire seems to be getting some net-roots traction.
–Pictures of the day:
Trump continued to troll Clinton on social media: “In the just out Fox News Poll, I easily beat Hillary Clinton – and I haven’t even focused on her yet,” he posted.
Donald J. Trump Jr. went hunting with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. “He has made so many amazing friends and loves going back to Iowa to finish off deer season with them all,” his dad posted.
Elizabeth from South Carolina looks a bit terrified to be sitting with Jeb. They talked soccer:
Sanders embraces a woman with sparkly shoes and tights at the “Putting Families First” forum in Iowa:
WUSA9 reporter Garrett Haake noted the “strong Trump trolling” from Compass Coffee:
–Tweets of the day:
CBS embed Sopan Deb got a pretty offensive question from someone attending a Trump rally:
John McCain joined in the Powerball frenzy (the jackpot will likely go up to around $1.3 billion after no one had the winning ticket on Saturday):
A Huffington Post congressional reporter caught an Illinois Republican with some adult beverages:
Here’s how Davis replied:
— Instagrams of the day:
“She is all snobby now that she’s been on the cover of @midweekhawaii thanks to @lindaschatz,” posted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii):
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) enjoyed his weekend skiing at Big Sky resort in Montana:
And DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a.k.a. the “cleancookingcongresswoman,” cobbled together some latkes from leftovers:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— The Hill, “Vegas billionaire donor keeps GOP candidates guessing,” by Jonathan Swan: “Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has joked privately that he belongs to a divided household: He likes Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and his wife Miriam likes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. But the truth, more than half a dozen sources close to Adelson say, is more complicated. The casino owner, who together with his wife spent nearly $100 million in the 2012 campaign cycle, is still weighing his options. … So despite speculation that Adelson’s formal endorsement of Rubio could come as soon as last October, the billionaire is biding his time. He still meets with and talks regularly to Cruz and has told sources he likes what both Cruz and Rubio are saying. He is particularly taken by Rubio’s hawkish foreign policy positions. He has also met several times with Jeb Bush’s campaign and has been reassured, after an early stumble, that the former Florida governor will staunchly defend Israel…. All three campaigns claim to be optimistic about winning Adelson’s support, but sources close to the billionaire say he is thinking about the race in a more pragmatic way than in 2012 when he had a deep loyalty to Gingrich. Above all, Adelson has told his confidants that he is determined to win this time and has hinted that it might be unwise to throw his lot in too early on a candidate who can’t beat Trump.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
An Iowa high school won’t allow Bernie Sanders to speak at its school because officials said it’s too tough logistically, even though Donald Trump did so in September. From the Des Moines Register: “Dena Soenke, spokeswoman for the Urbandale Community School District, said the district ‘respectfully declined’ the campaign’s request to hold an event during school hours. … Students said the decision to welcome a Republican to the school while turning down a Democrat looked suspicious.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
Police are using technology to determine whether a suspect is dangerous. From Justin Jouvenal: “While officers raced to a recent 911 call about a man threatening his ex-girlfriend, a police operator in headquarters consulted software that scored the suspect’s potential for violence the way a bank might run a credit report. The program scoured billions of data points, including arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and the man’s social- media postings. … Police officials say such tools can provide critical information that can help uncover terrorists or thwart mass shootings, ensure the safety of officers and the public, find suspects, and crack open cases.”
— What’s happening today on the campaign trail:
- Trump holds a town hall in Windham, N.H., at 11 a.m. Eastern.
- Clinton, Sanders and Martin O’Malley will attend the Brown and Black Forum in Des Moines at 7 p.m. Central. Earlier in the day, Clinton makes a stop in Waterloo, Sanders in Perry, and O’Malley in Newton.
- Cruz holds a rally in Baton Rouge, La.
- Carson holds a town hall in Fort Dodge at 8:30 a.m. Central, followed by stops in Jefferson, Denison, Sioux City and Le Mars.
- Carly Fiorina holds a town hall in Rock Rapids at noon CT, followed by appearances in Rock Valley and Sioux City.
- Mike Huckabee continues his blitz across Iowa, making stops in Keokuk, Burlington, Mt. Pleasant, Fairfield and Ottumwa.
- Rick Santorum will travel to Orange County, followed by another private house party in Story County.
— On the Hill: The House reconvenes at 2 p.m. with votes at 6:30 p.m. The Senate comes back into session tomorrow.
— At the White House: President Obama has no public events today so he can prepare for the State of the Union. Vice President Biden will meet with Australia’s ambassador and the prime minister of Macedonia.
— Alabama and Clemson face off tonight at 8:30 E.T. on ESPN for the college football national championship. (Chuck Culpepper previews the game.)
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Sisters are going to represent,” said Jamia Wilson, who works for a nonprofit women’s organization and promises high turnout among African American women again in 2016. (Vanessa Williams)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— “It’s a downright chilly day,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Yes, the sun frequently shines, but winds at 10-15 mph, gusting over 20 mph at times, make it feel colder. Highs range from 35-40, but wind chills are only in the 20s.”
— Alex Ovechkin became the sixth-fastest player (and first Russian) to score 500 career goals. His two-goal effort helped the Capitals pound the Ottawa Senators 7-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
— Montgomery County may hire a new superintendent as soon as March, though there are several candidates still in the running. (Donna St. George and Bill Turque)
— Maryland state troopers fatally shot a woman at her home in Rising Sun after she allegedly pointed a gun in their direction and accused them of being fake police officers. (Ashley Halsey III)
— There’s a new intra-Democratic feud on the D.C. Council. Mayor Muriel Bowser is angry that Kenyan R. McDuffie, the chairman of the council’s Judiciary committee, is not moving as fast as she wants on her proposed legislation to curb D.C.’s homicide rate. (Aaron C. Davis)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Watch this tribute to The Donald from one of his supporters (in black-and-white, with stirring music and a picture of him with Ronald Reagan):
Watch the “super cut” of the past seven State of the Unions:
Watch Sarah Palin discuss “Sweet Freedom,” her new book:
Watch Maine Gov. Paul Le Page (R) respond to the controversy over his saying that heroin traffickers visit his state and “impregnate a young, white girl” before leaving: