• Zinke Tapped for Interior
• McCain Could Be a Real Problem for Trump
• Why Tillerson?
• Tillerson Undermined U.S. Foreign Policy in 2011
• Manchin Will Stay in the Senate
• Roger Stone: Trump Interviewed Romney Just to Torture Him
• Trump Humiliates Ryan
• Fed May Block Trump's Promised Economic Boom
• Clinton's Popular Vote Lead Approaches 3 Million
At a presidential debate in 2011, then-Texas-governor Rick Perry said he wanted to abolish three government departments but could come up with only two names (Commerce and Education). Later he said that the third one was Energy. Now, Donald Trump has selected Perry to run the Energy Department. As the longest-serving governor of Texas ever, Perry is well acquainted with the oil industry, and is likely to adopt policies that help the industry, possibly scaling back efforts to have the nation use more sustainable energy sources. One of the levers of power Perry will have is cutting back on government-sponsored research into energy sources other than fossil fuels. Another is weakening mandates on appliances to be energy efficient. He could also sell off the government's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which it has had for decades to give the country some breathing space in the event of another oil embargo like the one OPEC proclaimed in 1973. (V)
Until yesterday, word on the street had Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) as the choice to run the Department of the Interior. Apparently she turned the job down, because Donald Trump's team announced on Tuesday that their nominee is Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), an early supporter of the Donald who was just elected to his second term in Congress.
Zinke continues the trend of cabinet appointees who seem to be fundamentally opposed to their departments' agendas, since he has regularly raised the ire of conservation and environmental groups. The good news, from the Democrats' perspective, is that he was the most dangerous potential challenger for Sen. Jon Tester's (D-MT) senate seat in 2018. With Kine presumably out of the running, the blue team's odds of holding the seat just improved significantly. (Z)
During the campaign, president-elect Donald Trump went out of his way to insult Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), saying among other things, "I like people who weren't captured." McCain (80), who just won a new (and probably final) six-year Senate term, may yet have the last laugh. As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain has a huge amount of power over military affairs and he has little reason to kowtow to Trump. McCain is already on board with a plan for the Senate to investigate Russian hacking and its effect on the election. He is also less than enthusiastic about the choice of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. McCain is also a very loud voice against torture, something Trump loves, provided it is other people who are being tortured. Last month, McCain said: "I don't give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do. We will not waterboard." McCain also maintains a hard line against Russia. In short, with nothing to lose and a lot of power, McCain could become a real thorn in Trump's side. (V)
Among the choices that Donald Trump has made for his cabinet. Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson is one of the most curious. Yes, he's a Republican, a white man, and a millionaire, and those are clearly all important qualifications as far as the President-elect is concerned. And he did have the recommendation of such notables as Condoleezza Rice and James Baker. But these recommenders are not people that Trump is close to, and he never even met Tillerson until after the election. Given how much The Donald values loyalty, it's unusual that he should give one of the most important spots to someone like that. On top of that, Tillerson has no relevant experience, and has never shown an interest in public service or diplomacy.
TPM's Josh Marshall has turned it over in his head, and tried to figure out what Tillerson has that the other candidates (Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, Bob Corker, etc.) do not. And the only thing he can see is Tillerson's willingness to work with the Russians. Marshall's presumption is that a long-serving general and/or Republican politician will have developed an instinctive tendency to keep the Russians at arm's length (something that Romney, at least, confirmed in his meeting with Trump). By contrast, Tillerson has been working with the Russians for decades, and will undoubtedly be happy to continue doing so. If Marshall is connecting the dots correctly—if attitude towards Russia was Trump's de facto litmus test for the State Department—then it certainly confirms suspicions about The Donald's foreign policy priorities, not only towards Putin, but also towards Syria, NATO, Ukraine, etc. Of course, depending on what the CIA says in its January report, things could get very interesting very quickly.
Another possible (but far out) theory is what might be called the "lightning rod theory": Trump doesn't actually want Tillerson as secretary of state. What he wants is to distract everyone from attacking his other controversial nominees, including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as attorney general, Ben Carson at HUD, and Betsy DeVos at education. With everyone focused on Tillerson, the others might be confirmed easily. Tillerson will be shot down, then Trump can name his real first choice to run the state department (John Bolton, anyone?). (Z & V)
According to a story in the New York Times today, in 2011, it was the official policy of the United States to keep Iraq together as a single country and not have it fracture into three countries, respectively dominated by Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. The glue to make the pieces stick together was oil. The idea was to share all of the oil revenue equally among the three groups, even though the oil itself was not equally distributed.
Then along came Rex Tillerson, who made a deal directly with the Kurds in the north of Iraq, where most of the oil is located. This clearly undermined the U.S. government's view that the oil belonged to all of Iraq, not just to the Kurds. Clearly, Tillerson didn't give a hoot what was in America's best interest; he cared only what was in Exxon's best interest. No doubt some senator will bring this up during his confirmation hearing and no doubt Tillerson will say: "When I worked for Exxon, my priority was doing what was best for Exxon. If I get to work for the United States, I will do what is best for the United States." Whether the senators believe that he can just slough off 41 years of loyalty to Exxon at the drop of hat remains to be seen. Even if he sells all his Exxon stock, he may still hold Exxon stock options that can't be sold. Even if Exxon's board of directors gives him permission to cash his options now, he might also have a secret deal with the board to rehire him as an extremely well compensated "consultant" after he retires from government service.
This wasn't the first time Exxon's foreign policy conflicted with America's. In the past, Tillerson has made lucrative deals with repressive governments in Africa and has fought with China over oil in territory that China claims. Exxon also had major operations in Venezuela until he got into a fight with Hugo Chávez, which led to a messy legal battle that ran on for years.
Probably the biggest current area where Exxon's foreign policy and America's diverge is on the sanctions the U.S. placed on Russia after Putin invaded and captured the Crimea. Exxon has billion-dollar deals that have been halted by the sanctions and would very much like the sanctions to be lifted so the deals can go forward. As secretary of state, Tillerson would have a lot of say in the matter of lifting the sanctions. If they were lifted, he would immediately get into a fight with America's European allies, who would say that Putin is being rewarded for invading another country. As secretary of state, Tillerson would be confronted with the fact that there is more to diplomacy than oil. (V)
In an otherwise bleak season, Democrats got a bit of good news yesterday when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) announced that he will stay in the Senate and not serve in Donald Trump's cabinet. If Manchin had given up his Senate seat for a job in the new administration, incoming Gov. Jim Justice (D-WV) would have appointed his temporary successor; because the Democrats' West Virginia bench is thin, whoever Justice picked would probably lose in the 2018 election. Assuming Manchin runs in 2018, he has a decent chance of winning, because he is very well known in the state and his conservative views match up well with that of the West Virginia voters.
More problematical for the Democrats is Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND). If Trump offers her the job of secretary of agriculture, she would probably take it and the Democrats would certainly lose that seat for a generation. Trump hasn't offered her the job yet, but the triple play of having a woman and a Democrat in his cabinet along with picking up a Senate seat is going to be hard to resist. With that said, a lot of prominent farmers are pushing back against Heitkamp, insisting that the job should go to a Republican and a Trump loyalist. So, it's not a done deal yet. (V)
According to Roger Stone, a longtime advisor to Donald Trump, the president-elect never had an interest in offering Mitt Romney the position of secretary of state. He just pretended to do so in order to humiliate Romney to get revenge. During the campaign, Romney called Trump a "phony" and a "con man." After Trump made it be known that Romney would have to grovel if he wanted to be considered for any position in his administration, Romney groveled. Having achieved what he wanted to achieve with Romney, Trump named Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of state. However, there is a serious chance that the Senate will reject Tillerson, in which case it may be Romney who comes out looking better. (V)
Mitt Romney is not the only member of the Republicans' 2012 ticket to get a taste of Donald Trump's score-settling this week. The President-elect conducted a victory rally in Wisconsin on Tuesday, during which he made his first public appearance with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) since the election. The pro-Trump crowd has not forgotten that Ryan refused to support The Donald, and greeted him with a rousing chorus of boos. As Ryan stood with a wan smile on his face, Trump turned on the passive-aggression full throttle, telling the crowd:
Speaker Paul Ryan, I've really come to appreciate him...He's terrific. Honestly, he's like a fine wine. Every day goes by, I get to appreciate his genius more and more. Now, if he ever goes against me I'm not going to say that, ok?
Ryan had no choice but to keep grinning and bearing it as the crowd had a good laugh at his expense. Of course, the difference between Mitt Romney and the Speaker is that one of them still has a lot of power in Washington, and one does not. And the odds are good that Paul Ryan won't be forgetting this anytime soon. (Z)
The former federal reserve chairman William McChesney Martin, Jr. said in 1955: "The Fed's job is to remove the punch bowl just as the party gets going." If Donald Trump actually manages to cut taxes, reduce regulations, and increase spending on infrastructure and defense, the economy will take off—and the Fed will almost certainly try to stop it. Its main tool will be raising interest rates. In expectation of Trump's plans, the Fed is expected to raise rates at its meeting today. Once Trump takes office, his goal of 4% annual growth in the economy will be the Fed's nightmare of 4% growth in the economy. The Fed thinks that a growth rate of 1.8% is the maximum sustainable without rekindling inflation. Thus, Trump and the Fed are going to be at loggerheads as long as Janet Yellen remains head of the central bank, which will be until Feb. 3, 2018.
If Trump stimulates the economy and Yellen responds by raising interest rates to cool it off, this creates a personal problem for Trump. Low interest rates are good for the real estate business and high interest rates are bad for it. If Trump comes to realize that cutting taxes and increasing spending is going to force Yellen to raise interest rates, thus hurting his businesses, will he do it? Of course, he could just wait until 2018, and replace Yellen with someone who will take orders from him, but not having anything to show for his first year in office has political consequences that he might not like. (V)
The last ballots are being counted, and Hillary Clinton's tally is now 65,756,948 votes (48 percent) to Trump's 62,913,088 votes (46 percent). That puts her up by about 2.8 million votes (2,843,860, to be precise). That's pretty close to the final tally, because there aren't too many ballots outstanding. It's enough, however, that even right-leaning sites are asking whether the electors might just step in and overturn Donald Trump's victory.
The odds remain long, especially since there's less than a week until the Electoral College convenes (in 51 different places). However, Harvard University law professor Larry Lessig says he has been giving free legal advice to electors who may be wavering, and that he's spoken to 20 Republican electors who are considering voting against Trump. That's about half the total that would be necessary to send the election to the house. It could also be something of a tipping point—it's tough to be the first or second defector, but once the number reaches double digits, it could give other electors "permission" to change their votes. Donald Trump is still extremely likely to be confirmed as president next week, but this information makes clear that it's not a 100% slam dunk. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec13 Electors' Lawsuit Fails
Dec13 Trump's Conflicts of Interest May Already Be Showing in Turkey
Dec13 Trump Postpones News Conference
Dec13 Senate Committee to Investigate Russian Influence on the Election
Dec13 A Battle Is Brewing in the Senate over Tillerson
Dec13 Democrats Not Ready for Trump's First 100 Days
Dec13 Trump to Hang Nixon Letter in Oval Office
Dec13 Plotting, Planning, and Scheming Against Trump
Dec13 Democrats Rediscover Federalism
Dec13 New York Times Gets Out the Big Guns
Dec12 Comey Likely Decided the Election
Dec12 Trump Says He Doesn't Believe CIA Report of Putin Helping Him
Dec12 What Would the Democratic Version of Trump's Team Look Like?
Dec12 Five Things We Know about President Trump and Five We Don't Know
Dec12 Bernstein Slams Trump
Dec12 Christie Turned Down Trump's Job Offers
Dec11 NBC: Rex Tillerson Will be Secretary of State
Dec11 Kennedy Wins Louisiana Senate Seat
Dec11 Intelligence Officials Don't Know How to Deal with Trump
Dec11 A Tale of Two Revelations
Dec11 Heitkamp Is Leading Candidate for Secretary of Agriculture
Dec11 Americans Skeptical over Trump's Agenda and Transition
Dec11 Kander Offers Postmortem for Democrats
Dec11 Gingrich Slams Trump
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