The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Power Up: Trump-Pence relationship may set lowest bar yet

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with Brent D. Griffiths

It’s Friday. We made it. Wishing our newsletter counterpart James the best of luck with his next chapter at The Post as a columnist for the Opinions section after a brilliant run in your inboxes for the past 4.5 years. Thanks for waking up with us – stay safe this weekend, Washington.

🚨: “The first confirmation hearing for one of President-elect Joe Biden’s crucial cabinet posts has been abruptly rescheduled, the ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee said on Thursday,” NBC News's Julie Tsirkin, Frank Thorp V and Dartunorro Clark report.

  • “Biden announced in November that Avril Haines, who held top national security jobs under former President Barack Obama, would become his director of national intelligence in his administration. The virtual hearing was scheduled for Friday but was postponed. A Republican Senate aide told NBC News that there is no rescheduled date yet for the postponed hearing, but the delay occurred in part because members wanted to be able to attend in person.”

At the White House

BREAKING UP: The relationship between President Trump and Vice President Pence would have hit the history books as one of the tightest bonds between the highest-ranking members of American government.

Until the events of Jan. 6, that is.

What happened: Pence had been known for his fealty to a mercurial boss whose behavior was deemed impossible to defend by many Republicans. But Trump was enraged by his veep's decision to certify the electoral college vote confirming President-elect Joe Biden as winner of a presidential race he baselessly insists was stolen.

An angry mob stormed the U.S. Capitol during the ceremony, calling to “hang Mike Pence.” And Trump tweeted an attack on his loyal foot soldier instead of calling to check on him.

In even starker terms that stand alone against the backdrop of history, the very public rift was precipitated by the president asking his vice president to pull off a constitutional coup, according to historians with whom Power Up spoke.

  • “It's really it's just totally unprecedented situation,” Joel K. Goldstein, a law professor at St. Louis University and a noted scholar of the vice presidency, told Power Up. “Trump's response of both denouncing [Pence] in a way that could easily be seen to create a sense of danger and then failing to take action to remedy the situation is just mind boggling.”

Historians say that the relationship between the president and Veep has typically been fraught. As Nelson A. Rockefeller, Gerald Ford's vice president, phrased it: vice presidents were historically used to being treated as “standby equipment.”

The dramatic breakdown of their relationship is the latest manifestation of the deep schism in the Republican Party between “a political establishment and a wild fringe.

That's not to say there haven't been spates of tension that have dramatically spilled into public view between presidents and vice presidents. In 1837, Andrew Jackson said that a regret of his presidency was he “was unable to hang John C. Calhoun” — his vice president.

  • The Kennedys and Lyndon B. Johnson had a strained relationship, and Johnson went on to “abuse” and marginalize his vice president, Hubert Humphrey.
  • Richard Nixon was the first vice president to have a more significant operational role under Dwight D. Eisenhower. But that relationship was also complex and adversarial. During the 1960 campaign, when a reporter asked Eisenhower to name some of the contributions Nixon had made as vice president, Eisenhower sarcastically replied: “If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don’t remember.
  • In the 1920s, President Calvin Coolidge and Vice President Charles Dawes had a falling out after Dawes missed a tie-breaking Senate vote to confirm a nomination because he went to the Willard Hotel room to take a nap. “Summoned, he hurried over in a taxicab but arrived too late to vote, and Warren's nomination was defeated — the first time the Senate had rejected a Cabinet appointee since 1868,” David Greenberg, a Rutgers University history and of journalism and media studies professor, wrote in his book, “Calvin Coolidge.”
  • More recently, per the New York Times's Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni: “After Vice President Al Gore lost his presidential campaign in 2000, he had a bitter fight with President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office over who was to blame. Eight years later, just days before leaving office, Vice President Richard B. Cheney castigated President George W. Bush for refusing to pardon I. Lewis Libby Jr., the vice president’s former chief of staff, for perjury in the C.I.A. leak case.”

Insult to injury: Pence's fall from Trump's good graces was all the more striking “because during most of the presidency, Pence's devotion to Trump would rank among the most loyal in history,” Greenberg said.

  • “He put Pence's life in danger out of spite I think the two will never speak again,” Greenberg added.
  • “After all the loyalty Pence has shown him and now he looks at Pence as a traitor who he won't forgive? I don't think they'll ever have a good relationship again which is a shame because Pence was so loyal to him and such a nice guy,” a Trump adviser told Power Up.

Leading up to the moment, Trump (unsuccessfully) tried to bully Pence into overturning his defeat, which concluded with Trump calling Pence's resident “to push one last time” before the electoral vote count.

  • “You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Trump told Pence, according to Baker, Haberman and Karni, “or you can go down in history as a [expletive].”

Of course, some presidents have been known for their crude language but Trump's use of the vulgar term with Pence — a deeply pious man who refers to his wife as “mother— seemed to cut even deeper.

  • “He loves calling people [expletives],” a senior Trump campaign source told Power Up. “It's probably the worst thing you can call a guy.”
  • “Trump never called him that day or in the days following to make sure Pence was okay — or to discuss a governmental response to the deadly riots the president incited,” our colleagues Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker report. “Throughout the ordeal, it was Pence, not Trump, who was in close contact with military and Congressional leaders about bringing in the National Guard and securing the Capitol.”
  • “Pence would spend hours in the Oval. Pence would come in, he’d get his daily brief and then he’d get word of when the president would be coming into the Oval and then he’d go over there and they’d spend hours together. For them to not speak anymore is a paradigm I just never would have imagined,” a former senior administration official told Josh and Ashley.

History might reward Pence for his actions, but Trump's base is unlikely to forgive him. As John Nance Garner, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, once said about the office of the vice president: “It was not worth a quart of warm spit.

  • Shot: “Pence withstood enormous public and private pressure at a historic moment. He followed the Constitution, upheld the rule of law and treated people on all sides with civility. Those who know him well are not surprised,” said Tim Phillips, who leads d group affiliated with the Koch network.
  • Chaser: “[Pence] has no future in the Republican Party,” Stuart Stevens, a longtime GOP consultant and Trump critic, told Josh and Ashley. “When the base of the party is not booing you, but chanting hang you, that’s a bad sign.”
  • Food for thought: “A feature of extremism is the relish with which it attacks its own side,” Janan Ganesh writes in the Financial Times. “The doubter and the schismatic incur more wrath than the outright nonbeliever. And so mainstream Republicans are in for a vicious and open-ended struggle with the wilder edges of their own movement.”

The people

MAJORITY OF AMERICANS SUPPORT IMPEACHMENT: “The vast majority of Americans say they oppose the actions of the rioters who stormed and ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, while smaller majorities say Trump bears responsibility for the attack and that he should be removed from office and disqualified from serving again, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll,” Scott Clement, Emily Guskin and Dan Balz report.

The survey was conducted before it was clear a Senate trial would occur: “It finds that 56 percent of Americans favor removing Trump from office and disqualifying him from ever holding office in the future. That contrasts with the 47 percent who supported his impeachment and removal from office in the first impeachment trial a year ago.”

  • Not surprisingly, there's a big split by party: “Democrats and Democratic leaners favor removal and disqualification by 89 percent to 9 percent, while Republicans oppose it by 85 percent to 12 percent. Among those who do not lean toward either party, 56 percent support removal from office and a ban on a future run. A majority of women (62 percent) support removal and disqualification from future office, while men are split, with 49 percent in favor and 48 percent in opposition.”

Trump's legacy: “Overall, 38 percent of Americans say they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency. That is the lowest measurement for him since fall 2019 in Post-ABC polling.”

  • So much for beating the Bushes: “Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say Trump will be judged by history as a below-average president. Going back to 1993, only George W. Bush was judged as harshly when he left office in 2009. But the opposition to Trump is more emphatic than it was for Bush: Nearly half of all Americans (48 percent) say Trump will go down in history as a poor president versus 36 percent who gave Bush the worst possible rating.”

The transition

BIDEN GOES PRIME-TIME WITH COVID RELIEF PITCH: “The president-elect laid out a $1.9 trillion emergency relief plan that will serve as an early test of his ability to steer the nation out of a pandemic disaster and rapidly deteriorating economy — and his promise to unite a divided Congress,” Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report.

He wants to get Republican support for the measure: “His proposal is divided into three major areas: $400 billion for provisions to fight the coronavirus with more vaccines and testing, while reopening schools; more than $1 trillion in direct relief to families, including through stimulus payments and increased unemployment insurance benefits; and $440 billion for aid to communities and businesses, including $350 billion in emergency funding to state, local and tribal governments.”

  • Incoming Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) had encouraged Biden to go big: “I know what I just described will not come cheaply,” the president-elect said. “But failure to do so will cost us dearly.”
President-elect Joe Biden revealed his $1.9 trillion emergency relief plan on Jan. 14, which included aid to American families, businesses and communities. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

THE DETAILS: Here's some key items in the package, per Rachel Siegel.

$440 billion for pandemic response:

  • $20 billion toward a vaccination program in partnership with states, localities, tribes and territories
  • $50 billion to expand testing, cover the purchase of rapid tests, expand lab capacity and help schools and local governments with testing protocols
  • The plan calls for expanding access to emergency paid leave for millions of Americans and paid sick and family and medical leave for parents juggling child care responsibilities.

$1 trillion in direct relief to families:

  • $2,000 stimulus checks — specifically, $1,400 in direct funds on top of the $600 in aid approved by lawmakers last month.
  • Increase unemployment benefits to $400 per week (currently $300) and extend the program through September (currently ends in mid-March.)
  • $25 billion in rental assistance and an extension of eviction and foreclosure moratoriums to the end of September
  • The plan calls to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour
  • A significant expansion of an existing tax credit for children in poor and middle-class households.

$440 billion in support for communities and small businesses: :

  • $15 billion in grants for small businesses.
  • $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local and territorial governments
  • $20 billion toward hard-hit transit agencies
  • $20 billion to support tribal governments’ pandemic response and increase access to personal protective equipment, Internet connectivity, clean water and electricity in Indian Country.

In the agencies

INSIDE THE FAMILY SEPARATIONS REPORT: “The Trump administration and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions barreled forward with their ‘zero tolerance’ border crackdown in 2018 knowing that the policy would separate migrant children from their parents and despite warnings that the government was ill-prepared to deal with the consequences, according to a long-awaited report issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General,” Nick Miroff and Matt Zapotosky report.

That's not what Sessions said at the time: “The report called the Justice Department and the attorney general’s office a ‘driving force’ in making sure the Department of Homeland Security aggressively prosecuted adults arriving with children, findings that cast doubt on statements made by Sessions that the government ‘never really intended’ to separate families.”

  • Key quote: “We need to take children away,” Sessions at one point told U.S. attorneys along the border once the policy was implemented even as the Trump administration publicly claimed it did not have a policy calling for separating families.
  • Rod J. Rosenstein regrets his role: “It was a failed policy that never should have been proposed or implemented. I wish we all had done better,” the former deputy attorney general said in a statement after the report's publication.

On the Hill

MAJOR CLOSURES IN WASHINGTON: “All or most of the Mall is expected to close to the general public for Inauguration Day. The National Park Service has not announced its full swath of closures for Jan.­ 20, saying in a statement that it has ‘yet to make an official decision regarding closures of the National Mall,'” Emily Davies and Justin Jouvenal report.

  • “Blocking public access to the area between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial would effectively shut down the iconic event to hundreds of thousands of Americans who typically gather on grassy lawns to watch the presidential swearing-in ceremony.”

That's not all: “Federal security officials asked Virginia officials to shut down all crossings into downtown D.C. from 6 a.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Jan. 21. The Key and Chain bridges would remain open.”

Outside the Beltway

STATES DEPLOY GUARD UNITS: “Governors in multiple states moved to activate National Guardsmen to bolster security in their own jurisdictions through Inauguration Day, adding new wrinkles to a sprawling nationwide security plan spawned by the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump supporters,” Dan Lamothe, Missy Ryan and Gregory S. Schneider report.

  • Experts are warning of more attacks: “U.S. officials have warned authorities nationwide to be on alert for potential acts of violence at state capitols, as well as a possible second attack on the Capitol or on the White House. Law enforcement authorities have said extremists might use firearms and explosives and are monitoring online calls to rally in cities nationwide beginning Sunday,” Shane Harris, Souad Mekhennet and Razzan Nakhlawi report.

The campaign

BIDEN NAMES DNC SLATE: “The president-elect has chosen former Senate candidate Jaime Harrison of South Carolina as the next chair of the Democratic National Committee and a host of Biden’s top allies as vice chairs, as he moves to remake the national party infrastructure to better compete with Republicans,” Michael Scherer reports.

  • The rest of the team includes, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; Sen. Tammy Duckworth (Ill.); and Rep. Filemon Vela (Tex.).

Meanwhile, Trump’s imprint is firmly on the GOP: “The falsehoods, white nationalism and baseless conspiracy theories he peddled for four years have become ingrained at the grass-roots level of the party, embraced by activists, local leaders and elected officials even as a handful of Republicans in Congress break with the president in the final hour,” the Times’s Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein report.

  • This remains even after last week's violent insurrection: “Interviews with more than 40 Republican state and local leaders conducted after the siege at the Capitol show that a vocal wing of the party maintains an almost-religious devotion to the president, and that these supporters don’t hold him responsible for the mob violence last week. The opposition to him emerging among some Republicans has only bolstered their support of him.”

In the media

Ivanka and Jared refused to-ilet them go: “Many U.S. Secret Service agents have stood guard in Washington’s elite Kalorama neighborhood, home over the years to Cabinet secretaries and former presidents. Those agents have had to worry about death threats, secure perimeters and suspicious strangers. But with the arrival of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, they had a new worry: finding a toilet,” Peter Jamison, Carol D. Leonnig and Paul Schwartzman report.

  • They could only watch the throne: “Instructed not to use any of the half-dozen bathrooms inside the couple’s house, the Secret Service detail assigned to Trump’s daughter and son-in-law spent months searching for a reliable restroom to use on the job, according to neighbors and law enforcement officials.”
  • Taxpayers had to be flushed with cash: “Since September 2017, the federal government has been spending $3,000 a month — more than $100,000 to date — to rent a basement studio, with a bathroom, from a neighbor of the Kushner family.”

Auburn after reading: Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Al.) questioned the timing of the inauguration on January 20, locaL station CBS42 reports. "We probably could have had a swearing-in and inauguration later after we got this virus behind us a little bit. Again, we’re talking about Washington, D.C.,” Tuberville said.

  • Perhaps, he almost turned crimson: “The 20th Amendment to the Constitution requires that the inauguration and swearing-in of a new president take place on January 20th," the station adds. "It wasn’t clear if Tuberville was aware of that during the interview.” This isn't the first time something like this has happened. Tuberville previously misidentified the three branches of government. “You know, the House, the Senate, and the executive,” he said at the time. The correct answer is legislative, judicial and executive.
Kirk Burkhalter, a former NYPD detective, examined the confrontation between Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman and rioters at the U.S. Capitol. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Igor Bobic/ HuffPost via Storyful/The Washington Post)

Honoring a hero: “The Black Capitol Police officer who faced off against a mob of predominantly White rioters Jan. 6 may soon receive more than just praise for his actions. A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers announced that they would introduce a bill to award Officer Eugene Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest awards a civilian can receive in the United States,” Rebecca Tan reports.