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NBC: Rex Tillerson Will be Secretary of State

NBC News is reporting that president-elect Donald Trump plans to nominate Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. Tillerson has no government or diplomatic experience but he does have ties to Vladimir Putin. According to the report, his deputy would be former U.N. ambassador John Bolton.

Among other problems with Tillerson is that in 2011, he negotiated an energy deal with Putin that might be worth $500 billion. Some Republicans, starting with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), are already wondering if such a person can be trusted to defend U.S. interests rather than Russian interests. When Russia invaded and took over the Crimea, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia for its wanton disrespect and for its aggression against a sovereign country. Tillerson strongly opposed the sanctions, because Exxon had agreements from Russia to allow it to explore for oil near the Crimea. It is not hard to imagine Tillerson's making a deal allowing Russia to annex other countries in return for letting Exxon explore for oil there. This is what Graham is worried about. If Tillerson, who Sarah Palin likes to call T. Rex, is nominated, the Senate confirmation hearings could get quite testy.

Graham isn't the only Republican senator who has problems with Tillerson. Several members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are not exactly fans of Vladimir Putin. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has called Putin "a gangster and a thug." Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) has complained about Putin's "belligerence." Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) has said the U.S. "should have really physically gone in" to defend Ukraine from Russian aggression. It is very likely that all the Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee will vote against confirming Tillerson if he is nominated. If Rubio, Barrasso, and Isaksoon also vote against him, his nomination will probably be rejected without a floor vote. A defeat on such a high-profile nomination (caused by his own party) right at the start of his term would be a huge embarrassment for Trump. It is possible that the senators who oppose Tillerson are making their opposition public now as a warning to Trump not to nominate Tillerson. (V)

Kennedy Wins Louisiana Senate Seat

The good people of Louisiana, who tend to do everything just a little bit differently, hold a jungle primary on the day that everyone else in the country is making their final selections for the U.S. Senate. Consequently, their senate seat was still up for grabs, even after the other 99 were already spoken for. It's not up for grabs any more, though. Louisiana state treasurer John Kennedy (no relation to the other John Kennedy) has won the right to succeed Sen. David Vitter (R), trouncing Democratic opponent Foster Campbell, 61% to 39%.

Kennedy's victory gives the GOP a 52-48 edge in the Senate, which could soon grow to a 53-47 edge (see below). He was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump throughout the election; Trump returned the favor by campaigning on Kennedy's behalf this week. Like The Donald, the Senator-elect is a relative newcomer to the Republican Party, having switched registration in 2008. In the midst of his fifth term as treasurer, Kennedy is reliably conservative on fiscal issues and on Republican "litmus test" issues (like gun rights), but he leans moderate on things like education, the environment, and minimum wage. Of course, given the way the Senate works, we probably won't be hearing from him again for 10-15 years. (Z)

Intelligence Officials Don't Know How to Deal with Trump

Every day at 7:45 a.m., the intelligence community makes its daily briefing available to the president and vice president. The president-elect and vice president-elect also get it. Trump almost never reads it. Intelligence officials are worried that a president who refuses to be informed about national and world affairs is going to make huge blunders. Yesterday, Trump dismissed the CIA's view that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election. To CIA officials, nothing is more sacred than their professionalism and nonpartisanship, and they fear that Trump's dislike of the intelligence community is going to be a huge morale problem for them going forward.

Intelligence officials are starting to rethink how they present information to a president with a notoriously short attention span and a dislike of reading anything. President Obama likes reading the 5-10 page summary every day from a special, secure iPad. George W. Bush liked in-person briefings from senior officials. Maybe for Trump, the CIA will make a video every day, with an attractive woman in a bikini reading the briefing.

Another problem the intelligence community is wrestling with is the fact that the president is given a large amount of classified information, which he is not supposed to give to anyone without a security clearance. Some officials are afraid that he may start tweeting classified information, not even being aware of what is classified and what is not.

Trump wouldn't be the first president with a strong dislike of the intelligence community. Richard Nixon didn't trust them at all, believing that they had somehow sabotaged his 1960 presidential run. (V)

A Tale of Two Revelations

As we peel back the layers of the onion that is Russia's involvement with U.S. presidential politics, we seem to learn new (and disturbing) things every day. The latest news is that President Obama, Congressional Democrats, and Congressional Republicans held discussions in September aimed at issuing a joint statement condemning the Russians' activities. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) quashed the plan, saying that such an announcement would be prejudicial to the election, and that he would regard such an maneuver as a blatant act of partisan politics.

The obvious parallel here, pointed out by Paul Waldman, writing for CNN, is to FBI Director James Comey's last-minute bombshell about Hillary Clinton's e-mails (which turned out to be much ado about nothing). Why, Waldman asks, was information that may have hurt Trump kept secret, while information that may have hurt Clinton allowed to circulate? Comey himself was present at the September meeting, and so heard McConnell's protestations; why did he decide they did not apply 10 days before the election? Did he really believe the situations were fundamentally different? Or is it merely that they involved members of different political parties, one of whom was not a member of the same party as the FBI Director?

If that is not enough, it is also worth noting that McConnell's wife was just given a plum spot in the Trump cabinet. Was this a coincidence, or was it a reward, reminiscent of John Quincy Adams' "Corrupt Bargain" nearly 200 years ago? These are good and important questions. We may never learn the answers, though, since the people responsible for investigating these matters are not going to be very interested in doing so. (Z)

Heitkamp Is Leading Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture

Sources in Donald Trump's transition team say that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is now the favorite for secretary of agriculture. If she is chosen and accepts, it would be a triple win for Trump, which is what makes her so attractive. First, she is a Democrat, so Trump can claim his cabinet is bipartisan. Second, she is a woman, so he adds another woman to the cabinet. Third, once she resigns her Senate seat, the clock would start for a special election, which almost certainly will be won by a Republican. She has so many advantages, that it would be hard for Trump to find a better candidate from a political perspective.

Heitkamp is one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate and has often voted with the Republicans. For example, in 2015, the Senate considered a bill that would make the labeling of genetically modified food optional. Most Democrats wanted it to be mandatory, but Heitkamp sided with the big agriculture companies and opposed mandatory labeling. She is also out of step with the Democrats on the Clean Water Act, and numerous other issues. (V)

Americans Skeptical over Trump's Agenda and Transition

A new Pew Research poll shows that what president-elect Donald Trump wants and what Americans want are not the same thing at all. For example, Trump has nominated an opponent of environmental regulations, Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, but 59% of Americans want to keep environmental regulations, even at some cost to the economy. Trump has promised to repeat the Affordable Care Act, but 54% want to either keep it as is or expand it.

As to Trump's cabinet, only 40% approve of the people he has chosen so far, compared to 71% who approved Barack Obama's choices in Dec. 2008. Many people expected him to "drain the swamp," yet his choices are all wealthy or powerful insiders and GOP donors. On the whole, 35% say he will be a good or great president and 38% say he will be a poor or terrible president. (V)

Kander Offers Postmortem for Democrats

Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) was among the victims of the Republican wave that swept the country on election night, losing his bid to unseat Senator Roy Blunt (R). Kander was asked to assess what happened, and he was happy to comply. His thinking is that the Democrats became too much of a "boutique" party, tailoring their message to various constituencies without offering voters a core vision for the country. The result, Kander feels, is that, "Democrats around the country wound up sort of dividing the country and provided a lane for Donald Trump to run into."

Kander also has an opinion on how Democrats should approach Trump, particularly in the elections of 2018 and 2020. He says that most people know what kind of person The Donald is, and that focusing on that does not advance the blue team's goals. Instead, he thinks the priority should be on explaining the specific effects of Trump's policies, and how they are hurting the people he promised to help. To put that another way, Kander is calling for an issues-focused campaign, rather than one focused on personality. That's probably good advice. (Z)

Gingrich Slams Trump

Former speaker Newt Gingrich spent 95% of his time between the Republican National Convention and the election toting water for Donald Trump. However, he wasn't doing so on Friday. Asked specifically about Trump's plans to remain involved with "The Apprentice," he said, "I think it's weird. It's weird. He is going to be the executive producer of the American government and a huge TV show called 'Leading the World.'" Gingrich declared that Trump needs to hand off his duties to one of his children, pronto.

Gingrich's critique reminds us of something interesting. The three "establishment" politicians who most rapidly and loudly embraced Donald Trump were the former speaker, Rudy Giuliani, and Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). The presumption was that juicy patronage rewards would be theirs, should Trump happen to win. Now, Giuliani is officially out of the cabinet, Christie appears to have gone into the Witness Protection Program, and Gingrich is on Fox taking pot shots at Trump. What happened? Was Trump just using them all along? Or did he really intend to build his administration around the trio, only to become disenchanted with them (as many others have previously)? Was their goal really the cabinet (which would represent a big pay cut for Gingrich and Giuliani) or was it a slot on the not-going-to-happen-anytime-soon Trump TV? Here's hoping that someone eventually writes a tell-all that lets us know what really went down. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec10 Russians Were Trying to Help Trump; Obama Orders Investigation
Dec10 Trump Picks Cathy McMorris-Rodgers for Interior
Dec10 McDaniel Likely to lead RNC
Dec10 McConnell Meets with North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer
Dec10 Giuliani Withdraws from Consideration for any Cabinet Post
Dec10 Trump Voters Have Their Own Reality
Dec10 Trump Spent $66 Million on His Campaign, but Earned Almost $15 Million from It
Dec10 Trump Opposes Early Voting
Dec10 Trump Tries to Rein Crowd In
Dec10 Democrats Back Down on Government Shutdown
Dec10 Electors File Lawsuit in Colorado
Dec09 Trump Expected to Name Fast-Food Executive to run the Labor Department
Dec09 Why the Republican Health Care Plan is Likely to Fail
Dec09 Democratic Megadonors May Run for Governor
Dec09 Battle Looming over RNC Chairmanship
Dec09 Democrats Are Urging Perez to Run for DNC Chair
Dec09 Donald Trump, Bully-in-Chief
Dec09 Trump to Keep One of His Day Jobs
Dec09 Former Clinton Staffer Launches Anti-Trump Site
Dec09 Who Gets Write-in Votes?
Dec08 Trump Names New Top Appointees
Dec08 Michigan Recount Stopped
Dec08 Ohio Abortion Bill Awaits Kasich's Signature
Dec08 Republicans Still Bitterly Divided about Repealing and Replacing the ACA
Dec08 The Debt Limit Fight Is Back
Dec08 Mayors Push Trump to Keep DACA
Dec08 Majority of Adults Confident Trump Will Put U.S. Interests above Personal Ones
Dec08 Trump Named Person of the Year
Dec07 Trump's Carrier Deal Is Wildly Popular
Dec07 Trump Takes Credit for $50 Billion Investment
Dec07 Trump May Have Sold All His Stocks in June
Dec07 CEOs Delighted With Trump
Dec07 McConnell Says Repealing ACA Will Be First Item on Senate's Agenda in 2017
Dec07 Americans Divided over ACA Repeal
Dec07 Pence Promises Donors that the Administration Will Grant Their Wishes
Dec07 Conway May Run Outside Group to Help Trump Get His Way
Dec07 Trump Is Trying to Mold the Republican Party in His Image
Dec07 Flynn Leaves Trump Team Red-faced
Dec06 Trump Picks Dr. Ben Carson to Be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Dec06 53 Organizations Urge Trump to Dump Flynn
Dec06 Trump's 35% Tariff on Products Made by American Companies Abroad is Dead on Arrival
Dec06 Electors Are Pushing for John Kasich
Dec06 Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Are Moving to D.C.
Dec06 Trump Meets with Gore
Dec06 Michigan Recount Commences
Dec06 Democrats Try to Cajole Heitkamp and Manchin to Stay in the Senate
Dec06 Susan Collins Has Reservations about Repealing the ACA and Medicare
Dec06 Biden Hints at 2020 Run
Dec06 McCrory Concedes in North Carolina Gubernatorial Race
Dec05 Why Did Trump Win, Part VI