• Sessions Denies Racism Charges
• Is McConnell Pulling a Fast One?
• Clinton's Cabinet Shortlist Leaks
• Trump Wants the ACA to Be Replaced Quickly
• Trump Meets With RFK, Jr.
• Obama Bids Farewell, but Is Not Leaving on Jan. 20
• Majority of Voters Don't Like Trump's Transition
• Bad News Just Keeps Coming for Crowley
On Tuesday, news leaked that (some copies of) last week's intelligence report on the election hacking included a two-page addendum listing possible compromising information that the Russians might have on Donald Trump. This dirt reportedly includes video of him cavorting with prostitutes, possible bribes he may have accepted, and evidence that members of Trump's campaign were coordinating with the Russians during the election. The information came from a retired British spy who has extensive experience and contacts with the Russians, so it's certainly plausible that it is true. On the other hand, American intelligence has not been able to confirm any of it, so there is still room for doubt. Buzzfeed has now published the document.
It is very unusual for intelligence to share unconfirmed information like this, particularly when it is potentially so explosive. Their reasoning was twofold: (1) They wanted Trump to hear it from them before he heard it from some other source, and (2) They wanted to prove that the Russians were specifically targeting Hillary Clinton, since they used only their anti-Clinton information while keeping their anti-Trump information under wraps. There is also something of a tactical element to this; circulating the information among government officials makes it more likely that they will insist on a full investigation. The addendum was actually limited to only Trump, President Obama, a few other high-ranking members of the executive branch, and the "Gang of Eight" leaders of the two parties in Congress; everyone else's copy of the report did not include those pages. Obviously, since we're talking about those extra pages, this attempt at discretion did not work (though maybe it was never actually intended to work).
If the information is true, it certainly increases the potential for shenanigans vis-a-vis the Russian government. For example, Vladimir Putin could tell Trump that he had better look the other way on the Baltic states or else the President's going to become the latest star of an X-rated celebrity video. If the tape actually did leak, it probably wouldn't be too good for The Donald's marriage, but he might survive politically. After all, would anyone really be all that surprised to learn that a twice-divorced, irreligious, p***y-grabbing adulterer has utilized the services of sex workers? On the other hand, if it was proven that Trump's people actually coordinated with the Russians, his presidency would be over, as he would quickly be impeached and convicted. Vladimir Putin knows this, so this is the information that—if he actually has it—he would be most likely to use for blackmail purposes.
Of course, even if Putin decides to keep any information that he has under his hat, that's not necessarily the end of the story. Governments sometimes have a hard time keeping their secrets (see Snowden, Edward; Ellsberg, Daniel), and there would surely be millions to be made selling the right kind of dirt, whether it's to political operatives or to the National Enquirer. So, if any of it is true, Donald Trump should be tossing and turning tonight. (Z)
Yesterday, Attorney General-designate Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-AL) faced a Senate panel that will recommend that he be confirmed or rejected, and vigorously denied that he is a racist. He said part of the problem is his Southern name and the fact that he is from Alabama. He pointed out that as a former prosecutor, his office prosecuted a Ku Klux Klan member who murdered a black teenager. However, people who worked in his office said that he had little to do with the prosecution; he simply signed the formal documents.
Sessions' session was mostly cordial. One of the few exceptions was when Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) accused Sessions of lying about how many civil rights case he brought when he was a U.S. attorney. Sessions admitted that it was many fewer than the 20 or 30 he earlier claimed. A slightly difficult moment also occurred when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked whether grabbing a woman by the genitals without her consent would be sexual assault. Sessions said it would be, reversing course on an earlier statement in which he said it wasn't.
In short, Sessions knows how the game is played: Tell the senators what they want to hear. Once you are confirmed, you can do anything you damn well please. (V)
Given that confirmation hearings have begun nearly two weeks before Donald Trump is inaugurated, and given that many of the cabinet designates may not do well if subjected to too much scrutiny, some have wondered if Senate Majority Leader is being shady by rushing things. That is to say, is it customary to do things this way? Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley looked into it, and it turns out that the answer is basically: Yes.
The problem, of course, is that there are a lot of high-level appointees that need to be confirmed, and they largely need to be able to start work on January 20. Since Congress is in session two weeks prior to Inauguration Day, it is an efficiency to get started on the process ASAP. The rate at which Trump's nominees are being examined is equal to the rate at which Barack Obama's nominees were considered, and is just a shade ahead of the rate for George W. Bush's nominees. The main difference, which is a big one, is that Trump's nominees have not completed their ethics clearances and background checks, whereas Bush's and Obama's had done so by this point. Any criticism, then, would be most appropriately directed at that fact, and not at the timing of the hearings, per se. (Z)
A list of the people that Hillary Clinton was considering for Cabinet positions was published by reporter Mike Allen who, while known for being a bit unethical, is also well-connected. The list jives well with what we already knew (or suspected), so it's very probable that it's real. Here are the major positions:
- Secretary of State: Campaign chair John Podesta, former ambassador Bill Burns, Vice President Joe Biden
- Secretary of the Treasury: Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, economist Lael Brainard
- Secretary of Defense: Former Defense Department official Michèle Flournoy
- Attorney General: Current AG Loretta Lynch, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, former Justice Dept. official Jamie Gorelick, Current HHS Secretary Tom Perez
- Secretary of Commerce: Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Sandberg, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe
- Secretary of Labor: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
- Secretary of Health and Human Services: Center for American Progress executive director Neera Tanden
- Secretary of Energy: Former EPA official Carol Browner
- Secretary of Education: Granholm, former NYU president John Sexton
- EPA Director: Likely an African American
- Budget Director: Economist and former presidential adviser Gene Sperling
- U.N. Ambassador: Former state department officials Tom Nides or Wendy Sherman, Burns
- Director of National Intelligence: Former National Security Adviser Tom Donlon, former CIA official Mike Morell
- SEC Chair: Former Goldman Sachs employee and treasury official Gary Gensler
- Big Jobs: Current Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
The thing that stands out most is that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and other progressives would have had fits. This is an overwhelmingly center-leaning list and—even more concerning—does little to assuage the concern that Clinton is too tight with Wall Street. She might have had nearly as many billionaires (two—Sandberg and Schultz) as Donald Trump (four). And Schultz has no more business running the labor department than does Andrew Puzder.
The other thing that is hard to overlook is the relative lack of diversity: the only black names on the list are maybes: Lynch, Meeks, and Booker. Beyond that are Tanden (Asian) and Perez (Latino), and that's about it. The rest of the group is as white as a "Duck Dynasty" viewing party.
Of course, it's all academic, given how the election turned out. But maybe those Democrats who are underwhelmed at the list will feel better about waiting for the party's next shot at picking a cabinet. (Z)
Donald Trump has thrown cold water on the plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act immediately and then spend a few years thinking about a replacement. He wants the replacement to happen quickly, to avoid spooking the insurance markets. This is easier said than done, though, for two reasons. First, Republicans don't have a plan yet and don't agree what should be in such a plan. Second, Democrats might filibuster the replacement if they don't like it, leaving the healthcare system in limbo. (V)
Donald Trump met with Kennedy family scion Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. on Tuesday. The latter came away with the impression that he would be heading a presidential commission on vaccines and autism, though Team Trump insists nothing has been decided, yet. Given that RFK, Jr. is unlikely to have made the story up out of whole cloth, there's a good chance that an announcement is coming.
If that proves to be the case, the bad news is that both Trump and Kennedy are vaccine skeptics. Trump, for example, once tweeted:
Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!
RFK has regularly made this argument as well, despite the fact that a mountain of scientific evidence says there is no link between vaccines and autism. The good news, at least for those individuals who don't like sick kids, is that vaccine policy tends to be set at the state or municipal levels. So, even if RFK and Trump reach some sort of conclusion, and try to implement some form of new vaccination policy, they are likely to be met with lawsuits and, ultimately, failure. (Z)
Speaking in his hometown of Chicago, President Obama delivered his farewell address on Tuesday night. It was part a recounting of his accomplishments, part a lament on hyper-partisanship and his failure to improve on that problem, and part a kumbaya call for everyone to get along. "Democracy does not require uniformity," he declared. "Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity—the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one." The full text of the address is here.
On Jan. 20, Obama will move to a new house in D.C., but at 55 years of age with high approval ratings, and with the Democratic Party in tatters, he is not leaving politics to go paint somewhere, as George W. Bush did. In fact, Obama will be the first president since Woodrow Wilson to stay in D.C. after leaving the White House. Wilson suffered a major stroke while in the White House and was not at all politically active after his presidency, so Obama will be unique as the first ex-president to remain in D.C. and be politically active after his presidency. He hopes to rebuild his party, mentor young Democrats, and plan strategy with Democratic lawmakers. He might also campaign and raise money. Historically, ex-presidents don't criticize their successors, but historically, new presidents don't make explicit promises to erase everything their predecessor did. (V & Z)
A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that not much has happened to President-elect Donald Trump's popularity since the election. 51% of the voters don't approve of what he has done so far and 31% do. The usual gender gap is still with us: 43% of men approve and 43% disapprove, but among women, just 31% approve and 59% disapprove. In contrast, President Obama is at 55%/39%, so he is far more popular than Trump.
On a number of personal characteristics, Trump scores poorly; 53% say he is not honest, 52% say he doesn't care about the average American, and 62% say he is not level-headed. On the other hand, 71% say he is a strong person and 68% call him intelligent. In addition, 72% want his finances reviewed to make sure he doesn't have conflicts of interest. In fact, 66% want him to put all of his business holdings into a blind trust. (V)
Late last week, news broke that National Security Adviser-designate Monica Crowley had plagiarized substantial portions of her bestselling book What the (Bleep) Just Happened? Now, publisher HarperCollins has yanked the book, saying they will no longer sell it until it is revised. Assuming that ever happens, they may want to check the new manuscript very carefully.
This wasn't Crowley's first time plagiarizing; she was caught plagiarizing in an article she wrote for The Wall Street Journal in 1999. And it turns out that wasn't her first time, either. On Tuesday, it was revealed that substantial parts of her Ph.D. dissertation were also plagiarized. This could, in theory, cause her alma mater Columbia to rescind her degree—they, and other institutions, have done so before under similar circumstances.
So, what does this all mean? Well, it certainly doesn't reflect well on Crowley's integrity or work ethic. However, she does not need Congressional approval for her new job, and so the only opinion that really matters is that of Donald Trump. And it is very hard to imagine that he cares one whit about a pointy-headed crime like plagiarism. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan10 Jared Kushner to Be Named Senior Adviser to the President
Jan10 Kushner: Trump Didn't Really Believe Conspiracy Theories
Jan10 What Can Trump Do on His First Day in Office?
Jan10 McConnell: Trump's Hopes on Russia "Will Be Dashed Pretty Quickly"
Jan10 Anti-Trump Movement Will Operate in California and New York
Jan10 Trump Fires Back at Streep
Jan09 Cabinet Confirmation Hearings Will Start This Week
Jan09 Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Jan09 Unpaid Trump Advisors May Also Have Conflicts of Interest
Jan09 McConnell: Repeal of the ACA Will Begin This Week
Jan09 Toll Roads Are Coming
Jan09 Golden Globes Turns into the Anti-Trump Show
Jan09 Trump to Inaugural Announcer: You're Fired
Jan08 Trump Insiders Dive into the Swamp
Jan08 Trump: Only Stupid People Oppose a Good Relationship with Russia
Jan08 Sessions Not a Civil Rights Activist, After All
Jan08 Cabinet Nominees May Be Confirmed Before Ethics Reviews Are Finished
Jan08 Kushner Has His Own Conflicts of Interest
Jan08 Monica Crowley Plagiarized Large Parts of Her Book
Jan08 A New Era of Muckraking is Upon Us
Jan08 Get Ready for More Bathroom Bills, Other Anti-LGBT Legislation
Jan07 Putin Ordered Russian Hacking to Help Trump
Jan07 Donald Trump is Elected President
Jan07 Fourth GOP Senator Won't Vote for Repealing the ACA without a Replacement
Jan07 Obamacare Repeal Could Cost 3 Million Jobs
Jan07 Trump Slams Toyota
Jan07 Trump Slams Schwarzenegger
Jan07 "Mad Dog" Mattis is Mad
Jan07 Trump Favorite Is Elected Ohio State GOP Chairwoman
Jan06 Voter Fraud May Have Occurred--in the Electoral College
Jan06 U.S. Intelligence Has Conclusive Evidence that the Russians Hacked the DNC
Jan06 Dan Coats to Be Director of National Intelligence
Jan06 Another Campaign Promise Looks Ready to Bite the Dust
Jan06 Everyone Owns a Piece of Trump
Jan06 Can Trump Tweet Congress into Submission?
Jan06 Cotton Also Wants Obamacare Replacement in Place
Jan06 Republicans Want to Rein in Liberal Cities
Jan06 Former Congressional Staffers Create Guide for Resisting Trump
Jan05 Rand Paul Won't Vote for ACA Repeal and Delay
Jan05 Obama Strategizes with Democrats
Jan05 Barack Obama: Another John Quincy Adams?
Jan05 Trump's Tax Policies Would Be a Windfall for Him
Jan05 What Will Trump's Biggest Test Be in 2017?
Jan05 Trump Turns to Assange to Bolster His Case
Jan05 Wall Street Lawyer to Oversee Wall Street
Jan05 Tillerson's Retirement Package: $180,000,000
Jan04 Oops! House Reverses Ethics Decision
Jan04 Trump Blasts Intelligence Agencies
Jan04 Obama to Transfer Gitmo Detainees