The following article by James Hohmann and Breanne Deppisch was posted on the Washington Post website January 25, 2017:
THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump is quadrupling down on his lie that millions of ballots were illegally cast in the November election. This morning he ensured that the mainstream media will spend another day focused on this issue by calling for an investigation:
That the president of the United States is challenging, with no credible evidence, the integrity of an election he won is extraordinarily reckless.
As Dan Balz explains this morning, “There is no benign explanation … It is either a deliberate attempt to undermine faith in the democratic process, an exhortation to those who favor new restrictions on access to the ballot box or the worrisome trait of someone with immense power willing to make wild statements without any credible evidence. By repeating as president what he had said as a candidate, for whatever purpose, Trump is now striking at the foundation of a democratic society. This is yet another example of Trump being willing to cast doubt on information, individuals or institutions that he believes threaten his legitimacy, challenge his authority or question his actions … This is not a debate about the size of the crowd at last week’s presidential inauguration. That is a piddling controversy compared to his claim that the election system overseen by the states is somehow riddled with fraud. Trump prefers his own reality, even if that damages the very system of government atop which he now sits.”
— While Trump’s claims of voter fraud are certainly newsworthy, they are also a distraction from an aggressive effort by this new White House to quickly transform the government and dramatically change the direction of public policy in ways will directly impact tens of millions of Americans.
As John Mitchell famously said when he became Richard Nixon’s attorney general, “Watch what we do, not what we say.”
That maxim is truer now more than ever.
We’ve all been drinking from a firehouse since noon last Friday. To help you not lose track, here are 11 moves by Team Trump that would lead the news in any ordinary time but have gotten relatively little public attention:
“The Trump administration is preparing a sweeping executive order that would clear the way for the Central Intelligence Agency to reopen overseas ‘black site’ prisons, like those where it detained and tortured terrorism suspects before former President Obama shut them down,” the New York Times’s Charlie Savage reports. “President Trump’s three-page draft order, titled ‘Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants’ … would also undo many of the other restrictions on handling detainees that Mr. Obama put in place in response to policies of the Bush administration. If Mr. Trump signs the draft order, he would also revoke Mr. Obama’s directive to give the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all wartime detainees in American custody – another step toward reopening secret prisons outside of the normal wartime rules established by the Geneva Conventions…
“The draft order does not direct any immediate reopening of C.I.A. prisons or revival of torture tactics, which are now barred by statute,” Charlie notes. “But it sets up high-level policy reviews to make further recommendations in both areas to Mr. Trump, who vowed during the campaign to bring back waterboarding and a ‘hell of a lot worse’ – not only because ‘torture works,’ but because even ‘if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway.’”
2. MUZZLING AGENCIES:
“Trump administration officials instructed employees at multiple agencies in recent days to cease communicating with the public through news releases, official social media accounts and correspondence, raising concerns that federal employees will be able to convey only information that supports the new president’s agenda,” Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report. “The Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Agriculture and Interior departments now have formal policies restricting what they should convey to the public about their work. … Many new administrations — including former president Barack Obama’s — have moved quickly to take control of the U.S. government’s public relations machinery and centralize decision-making upon taking office. But the sweeping nature of some of the new controls is unusual.”
- At the EPA, communications staff received a memo instructing them that “no social media will be going out” and “a digital strategist will be coming on board” to oversee it. It added, “Incoming media requests will carefully screened.”
- The Interior Department reactivated its official Twitter accounts after an abrupt shutdown that followed the National Park Service account retweeting two items viewed as unsympathetic to the new president. One referred to the size of the inauguration crowd on the Mall, while another addressed policies that were excised from the White House website after Trump’s swearing in.
- The National Institutes of Health issued an email to its Institute and Center directors informing them they should not communicate on public forums and with public officials on new or pending regulation, policy or guidance that is under review.
- At the Agriculture Department, a slew of officials received a memo instructing them to clear any media communications with the secretary’s office. Employees of the agency’s scientific arm, the Agriculture Research Service, were ordered in a separate memo to cease publication of “outward facing” documents and news releases. (Jose A. DelReal)
It’s not surprising that Trump followed through on promises to issue executive orders to revive the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines, but the administration is making a much harder play below the radar to eviscerate Obama’s environmental legacy.3. AN ASSAULT ON CLIMATE SCIENCE:
They’ve instructed EPA officials to freeze all grants and contracts, a move that could affect everything from state-led climate research to localized efforts to improve air and water quality to environmental justice projects aimed at helping poor communities. “Each year the EPA awards more than $4 billion in funding for grants and other assistance agreements. For now, it appears, that funding is on hold, casting a cloud of uncertainty over one of the agency’s core functions, as well as over the scientists, state and local officials, universities and Native American tribes that often benefit from the grants,” Brady and Juliet report.
Last Friday, the Trump team deleted any reference to global warming on the White House web site. Now they’re going much farther. “The White House has ordered the EPA to remove the climate change page from its own website, which contains links to scientific global warming research and detailed data on emissions,” Reuters reports. The page could go dark as early as today. “If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,” one EPA staffer said, adding that some employees were scrambling overnight to download the information on personal devices so it cannot be deleted.
With little warning and no explanation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention canceled a major climate change conference that had been scheduled for next month in Atlanta. “The Climate and Health Summit, which had been in the works for months, was intended as a chance for public health officials around the country to learn more about the mounting evidence of the risks to human health posed by the changing climate,” Brady notes.
The new president even hinted yesterday that he’ll soon try to roll back fuel economy standards. He told CEOs of the largest automakers during a meeting yesterday that environmental regulations are “out of control” and said he will curtail the “unnecessary” ones to encourage more manufacturing in the U.S. (Steven Overly has more.)
Several scientists are now trying to organize another march on Washington, akin to last weekend’s women’s march, to raise awareness about what they see as Trump’s hostility to science. (Sarah Kaplan is tracking it.)
4. BLOCKING REGULATIONS, INCLUDING ONE TO PREVENT PLANE CRASHES:
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus issued an order on Friday night to freeze all regulations that haven’t yet been formally published in the Federal Register. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports that at least 62 new regs have already been withdrawn, and the number could go far higher: “Some of the matters are weighty, like planned cancellation of sanctions against Burma (now on hold) or rules to give military spouses preferences in federal hiring. Some have already drawn public attention, like a delay in new rules about mistreatment of horses. Other actions suspended by the White House move seem less than earth-shattering, like the planned campground fee for public land in Richland County, North Dakota. However, at least a few of the halts seem troubling, like the withdrawal of a rule about inspecting aircraft fuselages for cracks.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development also pulled new rules to streamline income tests for federally-subsidized housing.
5. KEEPING THE DOOR OPEN TO ENTITLEMENT CUTS:
Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), defended his support of cuts to popular entitlement programs that Trump vowed to keep intact during the campaign. From Ylan Q. Mui: “In appearances before the Senate budget and homeland security committees … Mulvaney presented himself as a ‘straight shooter’ and said he would continue to warn about the growing costs of Social Security and Medicare. .. ‘My job … is to be completely and brutally honest with him,’ he said. … Mulvaney said he remains in favor of raising the retirement age for Social Security to 70 but emphasized that he would not reduce benefits for current recipients. He also reiterated his support for means-testing to qualify for Medicare.”
Trump’s choice for health secretary repeatedly refused during his own testy confirmation hearing to promise that no Americans will be worse off under Trump’s executive order to ease provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats targeted most of their questioning on the direction that Tom Price, if confirmed, would try to take the health-care system. Price demurred repeatedly. For instance, he sidestepped a series of questions about the effects of the sweeping order Trump issued just hours after his swearing-in that directed agencies to lift or soften federal rules implementing aspects of the ACA. Price declined to commit that no one would be harmed, that no one would lose insurance coverage or that the regulations would be rewritten only after a plan exists to replace the 2010 health-care law. (Read the full write-up by Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin.)
6. DECLINING TO COMMIT THAT CONSUMERS WILL BE BETTER OFF UNDER OBAMACARE REPLACEMENT:
Price said one way to cover people with pre-existing conditions under an Obamacare replacement would be to push them into high-risk pools, in which people with high medical costs are pooled together to avoid having their expenses drive up premiums for healthier consumers. “That hasn’t worked well in the past, providing costly coverage to limited numbers of people,” the Associated Press notes.
The Georgia congressman also kept the door wide open to turning Medicaid into a block grant, something he’s supported as chairman of the House Budget Committee. “In one particularly heated exchange with Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, Price was asked whether turning Medicaid into a block grant program would mean fewer people would be eligible in the future,” CNN notes. “The decades-old entitlement program extends health coverage to low-income Americans, and Menendez noted that as an entitlement program, anyone who meets the criteria currently has the right to be covered. ‘When you move to a block grant, do you still have the right?’ Menendez asked. ‘No, I think it would be determined by how that was set up,’ Price said. Price’s apparent acknowledgement that some low-income Americans may not be covered if Republicans move Medicaid over to a block grant system would mark a radical shift in the purpose that the program is supposed to serve.”
7. RETAINING COMEY:
Hillary Clinton believes very strongly that FBI director James Comey cost her the election with his two announcements during the run-up to Nov. 8, and she’s angry that he did not publicly discuss evidence of Russian interference on behalf of Trump. Comey’s decisions to discuss the Clinton probe publicly are currently being investigated by the Justice Department inspector general. At a White House reception on Sunday, Trump literally embraced Comey. “He’s become more famous than me,” the president said.
Then the news broke yesterday that Trump has asked Comey to stay on. Normally, this would not be surprising because he’s only four years into a 10-year term. But the president had said previously that he would not decide whether he should stay on until they had a private meeting.
And this is all playing out against a very awkward backdrop: Comey briefed Trump last month on the dossier that alleged that Moscow had gathered compromising financial, political and personal material about him. “The ensuing conversation came with seemingly unavoidable conflicts,” Matt Zapotosky, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Millernote. “It is not clear whether Comey told Trump that the FBI had or was still pursuing allegations made in the dossier, but doing so would have involved telling an incoming president with significant power over the FBI that his associates were potential investigative targets.”
His greatest looming challenge will be presiding over ongoing investigations whose dimensions and direction are unclear. “Those alleged entanglements continue to expand,” Matt, Ellen and Greg write. “U.S. officials said this week that the FBI has scrutinized communications between Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. … U.S. officials, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said they have seen no evidence of wrongdoing. … The FBI for several months has been investigating allegations that Trump associates or acquaintances, including his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, might have had improper contact with Russian officials or intermediaries, U.S. officials said. The bureau is also still examining allegations in the dossier that Comey discussed with Trump in New York last month, according to a U.S. official.”
8. SESSIONS REFUSING TO RECUSE HIMSELF:
“Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions won’t commit to recusing himself from potential Justice Department investigations into controversies involving Trump — from Russia to business conflicts of interest — despite his vigorous campaigning on behalf of Trump during the 2016 election season,” Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports. “In written responses to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions said repeatedly that he is ‘not aware of a basis to recuse myself’ from issues surrounding Trump such as potential violations of the Emoluments Clause, a constitutional ban on officials accepting payments from foreign governments. That differs from Sessions’ vow to recuse himself from any ongoing issues involving the federal probe into Clinton’s use of a private email server. Sessions said during his confirmation hearing that he would step aside from any such investigations because his political rhetoric against Clinton during the campaign ‘could place my objectivity in question.”
The Post’s Editorial Board says the Senate should not confirm Sessions until he agrees to such a recusal: “Mr. Trump has tapped Rod J. Rosenstein, a respected career prosecutor, to be deputy attorney general. Mr. Sessions should have no qualms about entrusting him with these politically vexing issues. It would raise confidence in his Justice Department and save him plenty of headaches.”
Another reason this matters: Sessions could wind up being the point man on the investigation into voter fraud that Trump promised on Twitter this morning. As Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz note, “Sessions has in the past asserted that voter fraud exists, though he has declined to endorse Trump’s assertion that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election. ‘I don’t know what the president-elect meant or was thinking when he made that comment or what facts he may have had to justify his statement,’ Sessions said at his confirmation hearing earlier this month, asked point blank by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) whether he agreed with Trump. ‘I would just say that every election needs to be managed closely and we need to ensure that there is integrity in it. And I do believe we regularly have fraudulent activities occur during election cycles.’ …
“President-day civil liberties advocates fear Session’s and Trump’s views on voter fraud could serve as a basis for them to support voter ID laws that disenfranchise poor or minority voters, such as the one in North Carolina that was overturned by the Supreme Court last summer. Studies have shown in-person voter fraud, which the laws are designed to prevent, is exceptionally rare. They are also concerned that Sessions hailed as ‘good news, I think, for the South’ a Supreme Court decision that gutted a critical section of the Voting Rights Act. … One of Sessions’s early tests will be how — if he is confirmed — his Justice Department handles a voter ID law in Texas considered one of the strictest in the country.”
9. CURTAILING ABORTION:
Flanked by a group in the Oval Office that consisted entirely of men, Trump reinstated the so-called Mexico City policy. The Reagan-era policy bans American assistance to organizations that offer abortion services, including counseling and referrals.
Poor women in sub-Saharan Africa stand to be the biggest losers from Trump’s order, our Kevin Sieff reports from Nairobi: “In practice, experts say, that policy will freeze millions of dollars in funding that has gone to critical health treatment, including HIV testing and neonatal care. The United States does not fund any abortion services overseas, but many health groups receive American assistance to provide other women’s services, while using different funding sources to provide abortion counseling and procedures. Now, those organizations will have to stop providing abortion services if they want to continue to receive U.S. aid for their other programs. The policy is known as the ‘global gag rule’ because it even restricts references to abortion in counseling sessions…
“In Kenya, public health experts raised immediate concerns about the new policy.Women here often resort to dangerous methods to end their pregnancies, including drinking battery acid and using wire coat hangers. In parts of rural Kenya, young women have hired local healers to stomp on their stomachs until the pregnancy is deemed over. ‘Trump’s policy means even fewer services will be offered,’ said Chimaraoke Izugbara, a researcher at the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) in Nairobi. ‘Some women will not be reached, and providers may not be available to offer services. I think we are headed to a major disaster.’ Nearly 8,000 women in Kenya die every year from complications caused by pregnancy and childbirth. At least a fifth of those deaths are caused by self-induced abortions, according to Izugbara.”
Then, yesterday, House Republicans passed a bill that would prevent the District of Columbia from using local tax dollars to subsidize abortion services for low-income women. Jenna Portnoy and Aaron C. Davis report: “Although the Senate has never passed the bill, the vote was an ominous sign that the District could become an afterthought as Congress considers targeting laws regulating guns, assisted suicide and marijuana in the nation’s capital. The stakes are particularly high for the District this year, as it can no longer rely on a Democratic presidential veto.”
10. RENEGING ON PROMISES OF TRANSPARENCY
During the presidential campaign, Trump said repeatedly that he could not release his returns because he is undergoing an audit and that he would do so once that process is complete. The audit has always been a flimsy excuse. Nothing is stopping him from releasing the returns any way, and he could release previous years not under audit.
Regardless, now that he’s in the Oval Office and will soon get to appoint one of his own people to run the IRS, Trump’s team is changing course.
“The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns,” Kellyanne Conway said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” She said the issue was settled in the election. “People didn’t care,” she said. “They voted for him.”
The next day she claimed that this is consistent with what was said during the campaign, but it is not. A majority of Americans in every poll also still want the president to release his returns, just as they did before the election.
11. TAKING THE OIL
Speaking crassly in front of the honor wall at CIA headquarters in Langley, Trump said Saturday that the U.S. should have kept the oil after the liberation of Iraq. “To the victor belong the spoils,” he said. “So we should have kept the oil. But, OK, maybe you’ll have another chance.”
No one knows how seriously to take Trump’s threat to seize Iraq’s oil: “The recycled campaign comment is raising concerns about Trump’s understanding of the delicate Middle East politics involved in the U.S.-led effort against extremist groups,” the AP reports in a story that just moved over the wire. “The statement ignores the precedent of hundreds of years of American history … Taking the oil would also require a permanent U.S. occupation, or at least until Iraq’s 140 billion barrels of crude run out, and a large presence of American soldiers to guard sometimes isolated oil fields and infrastructure. Such a mission would be highly unpopular with Iraqis, whose hearts and minds the U.S. is still try to win to defeat groups such as IS and al-Qaida.”
Serious Republicans like Bob Gates and John McCain chortle at the idea:
Rather than try to walk it back, however, Sean Spicer defended Trump’s “take the oil” line during his briefing on Monday. “He wants to be sure America is getting something out of it for the commitment and sacrifice it is making,” the press secretary said.
— Trump is planning to sign executive orders enabling the construction of the Mexican border wall and targeting sanctuary cities. Jerry Markon, Robert Costa and Abigail Hauslohner report: “The actions, part of a multi-day focus on immigration, are among an array of sweeping and immediate changes to the nation’s immigration system under consideration by the new president. The moves represent Trump’s first effort to deliver on perhaps the signature issue that drove his presidential campaign: his belief that illegal immigration is out of control and threatening the country’s safety and security. Trump’s immigration blitz this week is widely seen inside the White House as a victory for the self-described populist wing of his inner circle — which includes chief strategist [Steve] Bannon, attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions and top policy adviser Stephen Miller.”DRIVING THE DAY:
Discussions are ongoing about just how far to go on some policies, in particular the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has temporarily shielded hundreds of thousands of people who arrived in the U.S. as children from deportation. Trump has previously vowed to reverse it.
Officials are still considering – but have not decided yet – whether to indefinitely shutter the program that allows Syrian refugees into the U.S. Trump may also put the entire refugee program for all countries on hold for four months: “One official said Trump will also potentially bar for 30 days the issuance of U.S. visas to people from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — all Muslim-majority countries — until new visa procedures are developed. Residents from many of these places are already rarely granted U.S. visas. Trump may ask DHS and the director of National Intelligence to evaluate whether immigrants are being adequately screened for potential terrorist ties.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
TRUMP WILL ANNOUNCE HIS SUPREME COURT NOMINEE NEXT THURSDAY:
— Robert Barnes reports on the short list: Sources involved in the process say a handful of federal appeals court judges have emerged as top contenders, including William Pryor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, Neil Gorsuch of the 10th Circuit in Denver, Thomas Hardiman of the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia and Raymond Kethledge of the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. Here’s the scoop on some of his top picks:
- Pryor, 54, followed Jeff Sessions as Alabama’s attorney general, and thrilled supporters at his hearing by not backing away from a previous statement that the Roe v. Wade decision was a constitutional “abomination.” He has long been considered the front-runner for the job but lately has drawn fire from staunch conservatives for upholding the right of a transgender woman to sue over being fired.
- Gorsuch, 49, is seen as a “reliable conservative,” with a reputation for clear, lucid writing – though he does not boast the “outsider” credentials of some others on Trump’s list. His law clerks regularly move on to the Supreme Court for both conservative and liberal justices. He is an originalist, like Scalia, and protective of religious rights.
- Hardiman, 51, was the first in his family to attend college and drove a taxi to finance his education – a backstory Trump may find appealing. He serves on the 3rd Circuit with Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry, and is praised for his record on gun rights.
- Kethledge, 50, is less well-known, but said to have support among senators. He is a University of Michigan graduate who went on to clerk for Justice Anthony Kennedy.
What Mitch McConnell said after a bipartisan meeting with Trump about SCOTUS yesterday afternoon:
Forty-three crosses sit in a vacant lot in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. Each cross represents a victim of murder in Chicago in 2017. The city recorded 742 murders last year. At least six people were killed and 47 wounded in shootings across the city this past weekend. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
— Trump took to Twitter last night to re-up the idea of dispatching federal law enforcement to Chicago if local officials cannot curb the city’s homicide rate on their own: “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on,” Trump wrote, “I will send in the Feds!” He then cited homicide figures that appear to be from a newly-published Chicago Tribune article. It is unclear what exactly Trump’s suggestion would entail, or what kind of unilateral government intervention he could order to remedy the problem – but following the tweet, a spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he “welcomed the prospect” of working with Trump, adding that the two men had previously spoken about the issue. (John Wagner and Mark Berman)
GET SMART FAST:
- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The news comes just hours after he fainted during his State of the State address, setting off alarm bells and prompting questions about his health, though he recovered shortly after. In a news conference, Dayton said he had planned to disclose the cancer next week after further tests and visits with his doctor. “I don’t expect it to impede my performance or responsibilities,” he said, “but I’ll know more next week.” (Lindsey Bever and Samantha Schmidt)
- U.S. prosecutors have offered a plea deal to the “Pizzagate” gunman accused of opening fire at a D.C. pizzeria. Details of the deal remained unclear, but charging documents alleged the North Carolina man had anticipated a “violent confrontation” at the restaurant. (Spencer S. Hsu)
- Russia, Turkey and Iran have agreed to the outlines of a plan to reinforce a cease-fire agreement in Syria. The deal sets “broad but vague parameters” for a cease-fire enforcement mechanism and commits the three countries to jointly fight the Islamic State. (Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous)
- Six of the top oil-pumping states in the U.S. fell into recession last year, after being flogged by depressed gas prices. (USA Today)
- South Dakota Republicans have voted to get rid of the state’s first independent ethics commission. It’s a politically risky move that mirrors what congressional Republicans tried to do earlier this month, before it spectacularly backfired and even prompted an online scolding from Trump. (Amber Phillips)
- An immigration rights activist whose own undocumented status was exposed by a drunken-driving arrest has lost her six-month legal battle to remain in the country. Wendy Uruchi Contreras, a Virginia organizer for the immigrant rights group CASA, is scheduled to be deported to Spain this week after last-ditch appeals were denied by ICE. (Michael E. Miller)
- Kuwait hanged seven prisoners in a mass execution, the first death sentences carried out in several years in the oil-rich emirate. One was a member of the royal family who was convicted of premediated murder. Another was convicted of setting fire to a wedding tent after her husband took a second wife. The ensuing blaze killed more than 40 women and children inside. (AP)
- White women are going to prison at a higher rate than ever before. In 1985, only 10 per 100,000 white women were incarcerated. Now it’s spiked to 52. (Wonkblog)
- The Newseum laid off another 26 employees, or about 10 percent of its staff, the latest indication that the finances of the journalism museum remain shaky. (Peggy McGlone)
- The Manhattan jail now housing notorious drug kingpin and two-time prison escapee Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is known for its notoriously stringent security measures, and has been described as tougher than Guantánamo Bay. Still, the facility has seen its share of successful escapes – including a convict who was nearly plucked from the roof in a hijacked sightseeing helicopter. (New York Times)
- A sheriff’s deputy in Florida who befriended a chronically ill 79–year-old woman – even praying with her and taking care of her terrier – has been arrested after he allegedly stole the dog and attempted to kill her. Investigators say it was part of a scheme to steal thousands, and when his plan to shove sleeping pills down the woman’s throat was unsuccessful, he left her unconscious near her running Toyota Camry instead. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- Television personality Erin Andrews was diagnosed with cervical cancer in September. She just spoke publicly about it for the first time, revealing that she underwent a number of surgical procedures throughout the NFL season but never missed a game. Happily, she’s now cancer-free. (Matt Bonesteel)
- A Shreveport, La., woman miraculously survived a massive tornado after being lifted out of her home in a bathtub — and then carried by 130-mph winds to a nearby forest. She was still in the bathtub when she hit the ground, officials say, and escaped from the cyclone unscathed. (Jason Samenow)
- “Hatchimals” are furry, interactive toys that, well, hatch. They flew off the shelves this holiday season for more than $300. But many of the pricy playthings still haven’t budged from their plastic eggs – and unhappy parents have targeted the company in a class-action lawsuit. (Samantha Schmidt)
— “An early test of Trump’s ethics pledge is a glittering new tower in Canada,” by Drew Harwell, Alan Freeman and Jenny Peng: “As President Trump settles into his first week in the White House, the first paying guests will begin checking in tonight into the lavish suites of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Vancouver, a glass skyscraper developed by the son of one of Malaysia’s wealthiest business executives. The tower, the first foreign business launch of the Trump brand during the new presidency, is an early test of Trump’s controversial decision to retain ownership of his businesses while promising to combat ethical conflicts by removing himself from the management. It also shows how Trump properties around the world are likely to become focal points for protest or other forms of expressions aimed at the U.S. president and his policies…
“Trump and his family do not own the Vancouver project, but the president has a stake in its continued success. Developers say that the hotel … has seen an ‘overwhelming amount of reservations …’ [And] independent ethics experts say the lingering mysteries over Trump’s corporate involvement, even as he begins making decisions as president, are a worrying sign for transparency over the next four years. ‘It’s extraordinary. There are still so many questions,’ said [former presidential campaign counsel] Trevor Potter … ‘All those piles of paper they had, we haven’t seen them. Who knows? Maybe they were all blank.’”
— Noteworthy: Trump held stock in the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline – raising concerns that his investments could affect his decision making related to the $3.8 billion project. CBS News reports: “Trump’s 2016 federal disclosure forms show he owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners … [and] owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66, which has a one-quarter share of Dakota Access. While Trump’s stake in the pipeline company is modest compared with his other assets, ethics experts say it’s among dozens of potential conflicts that could be resolved by placing his investments in a blind trust.”
— Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt thinks Trump is “on constitutional thin ice” and could face impeachment if Democrats retake the House of Representatives in 2018. “President Trump has to be aware of the constitutional thin ice on which he skates,” he told Katie Couric in a Yahoo News interview, referring to ethics concerns over the handling of Trump’s vast business network. “I think it would occur after midterms and only if the House flips to the Democrats. So the potential is there, yes. … If you abuse power, if you do anything — you don’t have a lot of goodwill in the reservoir.”
Trump waves as his wife Melania holds the Bible, and Tiffany looks on. (Jim Bourg/Pool Photo via AP)
SO MUCH FOR BUYING AMERICAN:
— British designer Aruna Seth flew $800 suede boots from London to Washington the day before the inauguration so that Tiffany Trump could wear them. It is unclear whether Trump’s youngest daughter paid for the boots, or the international flight it took to receive them, but she was also spotted in another pair of Seth’s nude pumps to the Sunday prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral,” Emily Heil reports. “Tiffany has always been a fan of the brand since it became familiar to her,” Ella Weinberg, who acted as the courier, said in an email. The 23-year-old “had specific requirements from us for the Inauguration considering the weather.”
— A Secret Service agent may face disciplinary action after posting comments to Facebook suggesting that she would not “take a bullet” for President Trump. Abby Phillip reports: “…This world has changed and I have changed,” the agent wrote in the newly-surfaced posting from October. “And I would take jail time over a bullet or an endorsement for what I believe to be a disaster to this country and the strong and amazing women and minorities who reside here.”
— A Nebraska state senator already under fire could now face expulsion after he retweeted a joke implying that Women’s March protesters are too unattractive to be sexually assaulted. (AP)
— Sadly, this is part of a broader trend. The AP reports that a wave of public officials – mostly male – have been reprimanded, called out, or disciplined over social media postings this week about the women’s march protests. One Indiana state rep posted a photo showing a women being sprayed in the face with pepper spray and a caption reading, “PARTICIPATION TROPHIES. NOW IN LIQUID FORM.” Another suggested Trump has already gotten “more fat women out walking than Michelle Obama did in 8 years.” And an Illinois teacher was suspended after suggesting the protesters all had to go home “to make dinner.”
— Money has a funny way of bringing people together: The rival campaign managers for Clinton and Trump are joining forces on the lucrative paid speaking circuit. Robby Mook and Corey Lewandowski will make joint appearances for tens of thousands of dollars per speech before trade associations and the like. Their speaking agency promises they will be an “entertaining pair sure to keep any audience engaged.” It’s very This Town… (BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer)
President Trump signs an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
— South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday, after a nearly-unanimous Senate voted 96-4 in her favor. Meanwhile, three Cabinet nominees – Ben Carson for HUD, Elaine Chao for Transportation, and Wilbur Ross for Commerce – advanced out of committee. (Anne Gearan)
— John McCain slammed OMB director-designee Mick Mulvaney over defense spending and his vote to withdraw troops from Europe and Afghanistan. Politico’s Ben Weyl and Brent Griffiths report: “’Don’t you know where 9/11 came from?’ McCain asked at one point at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee. The defense hawk said he was ‘deeply concerned’ about Mulvaney’s nomination and ripped Mulvaney for saying he couldn’t recall some of his voting record. ‘I think I would remember if I was withdrawing troops from Europe,’ McCain said. McCain also slammed Mulvaney for trying to shrink the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which is intended to pay for wars abroad but has been used as a way to get around strict spending caps. After the hearing, McCain said he had not decided whether he would vote for Mulvaney. Asked whether he was satisfied with Mulvaney’s answers, an angry McCain deadpanned, ‘You could tell, just totally.’”
— ANOTHER Breitbart staffer is joining the Trump White House: Business Insider reports that the site’s national security editor, Sebastian Gorka, is expected to join administration. The position will likely be on the National Security Council.
— Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn is leaving his post at Goldman Sachs with a payout of more than $100 million, according to a late filing from the investment bank. “Goldman says it paid Cohn $65 million in cash for long-term bonuses he was owed,” CNN Money reports. It also sped up stock awards worth $35 million and lifted restrictions on $23 million in locked-up Goldman shares so Cohn could sell them.”
— 52 IS THE NEW 47: Labor secretary nominee Andrew Puzder said in a 2011 speech that the electoral balance in the U.S. was tilted against Republicans because a large segment of the population would always “vote benefits to themselves.” The quote, unearthed by CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie: “Last year, 52% of the people in the country got more from government than they gave to government,” Puzder said. “We do have a segment of the population that’s going to continue to vote benefits to themselves. You have to make a decision for yourself which party actually supports that and would therefore want to continue to have those people vote for them by taking from the rich and giving to the poor, as they like to say, which tilts the electoral balance in favor of those who get the benefits. If they are more than 50% of the population, we’ve got a problem.” He continued, “In California, I think the last election showed that. I think we have higher than 52% of the people … I think 49% of the people in California don’t even pay taxes.”
— The federal hiring freeze Trump put into place on Monday could turn out to be a more symbolic, less forceful measure than it appears to be, Lisa Rein reports – and in fact, the memo regarding the 2.1 million civilians in the federal workforce leaves “plenty of room for exceptions”: “Federal offices in many corners of government could continue to hire, as long as the job has — or can be construed to have — a national security or public safety mission. Individual Cabinet secretaries and agency heads have broad leeway to decide on exemptions. And the hiring ban is scheduled to last 90 days, after which the [OMB] is slated to come up with a long-term plan to shrink the federal workforce through attrition. A more permanent approach would still constitute a freeze of sorts but would resemble more of a selective slowdown, experts said. Yet the language of the memorandum instituting the freeze is so vague that a day after Trump signed it, agency officials were scrambling to determine whether and how the move will affect them.”
MORE ON THE POST-FACT PRESIDENCY:
— From behind his podium, Sean Spicer defended Trump’s outrageous lie that up to five million ballots were illegally cast: “The president does believe that. He has stated that before,” the press secretary said during a Tuesday briefing. “I think he stated his concerns, voter fraud and people voting illegally, during the campaign. And he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him.” When asked repeatedly to provide evidence, Spicer pointed to a Pew study that does not support Trump’s claim. (Jenna Johnson)
— State election officials released a statement Tuesday saying they do not know “of any evidence” backing up Trump’s voter fraud claims, but said they were willing to hear from the new administration if they had any concerns. (Mark Berman)
— Karen Tumulty explains why Trump is being short-sighted: “Trump allies — and adversaries — had hoped that with his inauguration, he would leave behind the hyperbolic reality-show culture that made him a celebrity. In the late stages of his presidential campaign, Trump had disavowed his years-long promotion of the racially tainted falsehood that Barack Obama … was born outside the United States and therefore an illegitimate president. But the first days of his presidency show that, for Trump, old reflexes are hard to break. Veterans of previous White Houses say they can recall no precedent for what Trump and his top aides are doing [and] worry about the implications of this untethering from the truth … ‘I don’t think he realizes how much he is hurting himself,’ [said former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd]. Then again, Trump may well believe that this is the style which brought him to the White House, in defiance of every expectation. Americans knew what they were getting when they elected him.”
— The top three Senate Republicans refused yesterday to disavow Trump’s false claim that millions cast ballots illegally. From the Associated Press’s Erica Werner and Lisa Lerer: “The comments from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his top lieutenants suggested that some leading Republicans would rather follow Trump into the realm of ‘alternative facts’ than confront the new chief executive. ‘It does occur,’ McConnell told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday on the issue of election fraud. ‘There are always arguments on both sides about how much, how frequent and all the rest. … The notion that election fraud is a fiction is not true.’ The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, also passed up a chance to dispute Trump’s claim Tuesday, saying ‘I’m not going to re-litigate that. It’s time to move on.’ And the No. 3 Senate Republican, John Thune, said he didn’t know whether 3 million to 5 million votes were cast fraudulently, which would be larger than the population of all but the biggest U.S. cities [and especially his tiny home state of South Dakota!], and did not happen. ‘There’s always a certain amount of irregularity that goes on in elections, some places perhaps more so than others. How you quantify that I’m not sure, but he must have his methodology,’ Thune said.”
— Lindsey Graham is one of the very few Republican senators with the courage to speak forthrightly on this in public: “I would urge the president to knock this off; this is the greatest democracy on earth, we’re the leader of the free world, and people are going to start doubting you as a person if you keep making accusations against our electoral system without justification,” Lindsey told CNN.
— Even Mike Huckabee, whose daughter is Spicer’s principal deputy, gently chastised Trump. But he can do so because he’s not running for anything. “I have no evidence whatsoever, and I don’t know that anyone does, that there were that many illegal people who voted, and frankly it doesn’t matter,” Huckabee said in an interview on Fox Business Network. “He’s the president and whether 20 million people voted, it doesn’t matter anymore. He’s the president, and I’m not sure why he brought it up.”
— Jerry Brown seized on Conway’s “alternative facts” formulation during his State of the State address in California yesterday: “The recent election and inauguration of a new president have shown deep divisions across America. We have seen the bald assertion of ‘alternative facts.’ We have heard the blatant attacks on science. Familiar signposts of our democracy — truth, civility, working together — have been obscured or swept aside,” the Democratic governor said. “Let me be clear: We will defend everybody — every man, woman and child — who has come here and contributed to the well-being of our state. California is not turning back. Not now. Not ever.” (Katie Zezima)
— Spicer also took the first question at his briefing from a reporter who works for LifeZette, a tiny website founded by Trump supporter Laura Ingraham that published some untrue stories during last year’s campaign. Spicer’s move also breaks with the longtime tradition of calling upon a famous mainstream organization, such as the AP or a major television network, first. (AP)
MORE ON THE TRUMP AGENDA:
— POTUS is beginning his term at the helm of a “stable but sluggish” economy – but an increasingly ominous explosion in debt and deficit is looming in the very near future. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office says the spending growth rate is set to outpace the rate of revenue growth after 2019, causing the deficit to explode to $1.4 trillion by the end of the decade. And, if current policies go unchanged, the CBO estimates public debt will soar to the highest rates since the period following World War II.
— President Trump invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit later this year, White House officials said on Tuesday. The invite came during a phone call between the two leaders, in which Trump told Modi that the U.S. considers India “a true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world,” and discussed cooperation in economy and defense. (AP)
— The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold hearings on the first pieces of GOP health-care replacement plans next week, signaling lawmakers are set to move swiftly on plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. (Mike DeBonis)
— Trump officials have compiled a list of some 50 infrastructure projects across the country to place on an “infrastructure priority” list, as the White House tries to determine investment priorities for their nascent administration. The projects reportedly total at least $137.5 billion, and could include items such as a new terminal for the Kansas City airport, upgrades to Interstate 95 in North Carolina and the construction of a high-speed railway from Dallas to Houston. (McClatchy)
Vladimir Putin and Rex Tillerson celebrate an oil deal in the Black Sea port of Tuapse in 2012. (Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
— Vladimir Putin has made it his mission to reestablish his country as a dominant, indispensable player in the Middle East, one that can rival the influence of the United States. Moscow correspondent Andrew Roth reports. “By some measures, he is succeeding … Not only has Russia’s 15-month-old airstrike campaign likely saved the regime of Bashar al-Assad, but it also spawned this week’s negotiations sponsored by Russia, Iran and Turkey to agree on a mechanism to support a delicate cease-fire in the Syrian conflict. It was a Russian-led diplomatic effort testing Moscow’s improbable role as peacemaker, with a twist that must draw smiles in the Kremlin: no formal role for the United States. But for a world leader who has so often embraced the role of spoiler and antagonist to the liberal West, converting military force into diplomatic sway will prove complex. “Russia is seeking to show it has national interests … everywhere, throughout the Middle East,” said Middle East experet Alexei Malashenko. “It is a very important symbol.”
— The ex-North Korean diplomat who defected to Seoul with his family last year spoke to The Post for his first-ever foreign media interview. Our Anna Fifield writes up their fascinating discussion: “Over the past month, [Thae Yong-ho] has predicted to South Korean media the demise of North Korea with the same fervor with which he once extolled its glories. His hard line statements happen to fit nicely with the hawkish stance taken by the South Korean government over the past eight years, but Thae said he was not being expedient and was speaking his real mind — and was intent on using his influence for good. ‘I’ve known that there was no future for North Korea for a long time,’ Thae [said] … [And] his arrival in South Korea was the most high profile of what is said to be a string of elite defections … ‘There is no sense of solidarity or loyalty between Kim Jong Un and senior officials,’ Thae said. ‘Senior officials know that this system can’t continue.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Spotted in New York City:
A question about Trump’s Chicago tweet:
And two fact-checks for Spicer. First, from the author of a study he cited to falsely claim widespread voter fraud:
A flashback to just last month:
Badlands National Park tweeted out facts about climate change — then they were deleted (see below). Democratic lawmakers applauded the rogue ex-employee who posted them:
A non-update from Pence:
The Democratic establishment tore into spoiler Jill Stein after Trump revived the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects:
Here’s what Stein tweeted Tuesday:
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) made quite a remark on the House floor:
Here’s how Bill Kristol reacted:
Claire McCaskill’s office is rolling out the gifs in opposition to Mulvaney’s nomination:
Thom Tillis found a new friend:
Speaking of Tillis:
Chuck Grassley posted this photo of himself coming out of the White House:
Ivanka Trump shared this photo of her family at the Blair House:
We’ll leave you with this exchange between Ted Cruz and Deadspin:
Spotted in China:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— GQ, “The Untold Story of the Bastille Day Attacker,” by Scott Sayare: “Last July, France witnessed the creation of a new kind of mass murder when a man steered a giant cargo truck into a crowd and killed 86 people in the beach resort of Nice. The French government quickly announced that the killer was a jihadist inspired by the Islamic State. But as Scott Sayare discovered, the truth is a lot stranger…”
|HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Texas Radio Station Bans Madonna In The Name Of ‘Patriotism’ After Women’s March,” from HuffPost: “A Texarkana, Texas, radio station is venting its frustration over Madonna’s passionate Women’s March speech through its playlist. The station, HITS 105, stated that it will no longer play the pop icon’s tracks as of Tuesday, three days after demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and around the world attracted millions of supporters. A statement posted to Facebook cited the ‘F-bombs’ in her speech’ along with the singer’s comments on ‘how upset the election results had made her.’ ‘Banning all Madonna songs at HITS 105 is not a matter of politics, it’s a matter of patriotism,’ the station’s manager said in a statement. ‘It just feels wrong to [be] … paying her royalties when the artist has shown un-American sentiments. If all stations playing Madonna took their lead from us, that would send a powerful economic message to Madonna.’”
|HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Gold Star family members say they were assaulted during inaugural ball festivities,” from Fox News: “A massive group of violent demonstrators spat on, assaulted and screamed obscenities at a Gold Star widow and sister Friday outside an inaugural ball honoring the military, one of the women told ‘Fox & Friends’ on Tuesday. Amy Looney, who lost her husband Navy SEAL Lt. Brendan Looney in 2010, and Ryan Manion, whose brother Marine First Lt. Travis Manion died in 2007, said they were attacked as they tried to enter the American Legion’s tribute to Medal of Honor recipients at the Veterans Inaugural Ball. ‘We were pushed by a man in a mask hiding his face,’ Manion [said] … ‘Our clothes were drawn on with permanent marker by other ‘protesters.’ And we were called the most vile names I have ever heard as we entered and exited the venue.’ The alleged events Friday night followed rioting and destruction earlier in the day by so-called protesters upset by Trump’s election.”
At the White House: Trump meets with chief of staff Reince Priebus, takes his official portrait, visits the Department of Homeland Security and speaks via telephone with Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryan
On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.
|QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Democratic attacks on Tom Price over his ethics prompted Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who officially introduced Price to his Finance Committee colleagues, to say, “I feel like I’ve been asked to be a character witness in a felony trial in the sentencing phase of a conviction.” For his part, Price said: “Everything that I did was ethical, aboveboard, legal and transparent.” – Tom Price at his confirmation hearing
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Metro passengers on a Yellow Line train were alarmed, but thankfully unhurt, after a Huntington-bound train abruptly opened its doors while en route (and on an elevated structure). Riders said the train continued on its route and the operator never acknowledged the dangerous mishap. (Faiz Siddiqui)
— Meanwhile, Metro has now terminated 16 people as part of an investigation into the July 29 Silver Line train derailment. The fired workers allegedly falsified inspection reports, or retaliated against other employees. (Martine Powers)
— The Wizards beat the Celtics 123-108.
— The Capitals lost to the Ottawa Senators 3-0.
— “The District’s Virginia suburbs are different from other parts of the state, a fact that got its latest confirmation Tuesday when the state Senate debated knives.” Gregory S. Schneider reports: “Sen. Richard H. Stuart sponsored a bill to make it legal to give dangerous knives to children. Specifically, a switchblade, Bowie knife or a dirk. Several members said they had to look up that last one — it’s a straight-bladed dagger wielded by Scottish Highlanders. Virginia law already allows adults to give handguns to someone under age 18, as long as the child is a family member or it’s for ‘the purpose of engaging in a sporting event or activity.’ It prohibits those types of knives, however, and Stuart was proposing to change the language to mirror guns. Sen. Barbara A. Favola (D-Arlington) was aghast. ‘This is just bad public policy,’ she said, pointing out that the change would make it legal to give knives to toddlers. ‘Why would you want to put our children at risk?’ ‘I understand they may not do that in Arlington County,’ Stuart said. “But there’s a whooooooole other part of rural Virginia where they do do things like that.’”
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