Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) talks to a union member in Wilkes Barre after a meeting with Sheet Metal Workers Local 44. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: Responding to Donald Trump’s risqué tweet about his colleague Kirsten Gillibrand, Bob Casey this week became one of eight Democratic senators to say that the president “should resign.” Back home in Pennsylvania, this has quickly emerged as a flash point in his 2018 reelection campaign. Republicans see a blunder that they can capitalize on, and even some in the senator’s party think he went too far.
-- Casey’s GOP challenger Lou Barletta, a congressman who represents the Hazleton area, accused him Thursday of not focusing on the issues that directly impact the lives of everyday Pennsylvanians. “The people of Pennsylvania elected President Trump,” Barletta said in a news release. “The election is over. Senator Casey should spend more time fighting for Pennsylvania's workers, securing our borders, giving working-class families a tax break, and fixing our health care system that's hurting our seniors instead of trying to undo the election that Donald Trump won. The American people are tired of people playing politics. They want people who will put them first and fight for them.”
-- Many veteran operatives and elder statesmen in the Democratic firmament worry that engaging in this fight is not the way to win in 2018. They think Hillary Clinton blundered by trying to turn last year’s election into a referendum on Trump’s baggage and boorish behavior. They worry that Democrats won’t fully capitalize on Trump’s unpopularity if they’re perceived as overplaying their hand. They’re nervous that the conversation over whether Trump should step down has sucked up too much political oxygen, possibly at the expense of the tax debate — which a lot of these Democrats believe they can win since so many voters already see the GOP bill as a giveaway to the rich at the expense of the middle class.
Ed Rendell speaks on Capitol Hill. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said it’s very hard to ask Trump to resign when all the accusations of sexual assault against him were out in the open before the 2016 election. “The American people knew this, and they voted for him anyway,” Rendell said in an interview. “If there were any new allegations, that might be something different. But they knew it, and they voted for him.”
“It’s something that makes people think Washington’s gone nuts: Everyone’s asking everyone to resign,” he added. “I think the guy should not be president. I think he’s mentally unstable. I think there are things we know about what he did to impede the [Russia] investigation that might justify his impeachment. … But we’ve got problems in North Korea and all sorts of other problems at home. I don’t think that advances the ball.”
Rendell said the only fair way to address the claims would be for Congress to have a hearing on each of them. “That would tie the presidency up for a couple of months, and I don’t think anyone wants to do that,” he said. “If Trump is guilty, he should not be in public office. But how are we going to adjudicate that? … I think this is more posturing. I don’t think it will have legs by the time we get to next November.”
-- For his part, Casey doesn’t see the position he staked out as particularly risky amid the #MeToo moment. “President Trump’s documented history of sexual harassment and assault should have been disqualifying during last year’s election,” the senator said in a statement. “His offensive verbal assault against Senator Gillibrand demonstrates he still doesn’t get it. And while he should resign, we know he won’t. I support a congressional investigation in order to hold him accountable for his actions.”
-- But Casey is the only senator from a state Trump carried last year to say he should resign. The other seven hold safe seats in blue states: California’s Kamala Harris, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, New Jersey’s Cory Booker and New York’s Gillibrand.
That leaves 40 Democratic senators, including Chuck Schumer, who have avoided taking that position. Several have staked out a middle ground: calling for hearings to explore the claims of the more than a dozen women who have accused Trump of improper conduct or sexual assault. The president says they are all liars. (Check out our complete list of the women and the evidence backing up their claims here.)
“Look, he’s not going to resign. So let’s not play games,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told HuffPost on Tuesday.
Nancy Pelosi has bent over backward to quash talk of impeachment. The minority leader was asked at a news conference this week if Democrats will investigate sexual harassment allegations against Trump if they retake the House. “When we win the House, what we’re going to do is pass a big jobs bill right away,” she replied. “Then build, build, build — build the infrastructure of America.”
The specter of 1998 looms large for “Chuck and Nancy.” Americans felt the GOP overreached with the impeachment of Bill Clinton and punished them in that year’s midterms. Schumer defeated a Republican incumbent, and Pelosi’s home state of California elected a Democratic governor for the first time in 16 years.
Demonstrators protested last night outside of the Fox News headquarters in New York City to demand the ouster of President Trump after accusations of sexual assault re-surfaced. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
-- But these leaders and their members face intense pressure from their base to take a harder line on Trump, even if it risks alienating the middle-of-the-road voters that the party needs to take control of Congress in the midterms. The liberal blog ThinkProgress has been bird-dogging senators this week, for example, in an apparent effort to pressure them into calling for Trump’s resignation. They broke the Casey news and have suggested that Democratic lawmakers are being hypocritical by calling for Al Franken to go but not Trump. Billionaire Tom Steyer has angered Democratic leaders by pouring millions into ads calling for Trump’s impeachment that many smart operatives see as counterproductive.
-- Part of the messaging challenge is that most Americans just don’t want to oust Trump from office, despite an approval rating in the mid-30s. A PRRI poll in October found 4 in 10 Americans want Trump to be impeached and removed from office, but 56 percent said he should not be. Seven in 10 Democrats supported impeachment. These numbers were little changed from when they asked in August.
The Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted last month that focused on the Russia investigation asked whether Trump had likely committed a crime, and 49 percent of Americans said yes. Asked whether they thought there was solid evidence, only 19 percent said there was.
-- Matt Bennett, a co-founder of the center-left group Third Way and a senior official in Clinton’s White House, proposes an 80-20 rule for Democrats. “Our view is that every Democrat has to follow their conscience in how they discuss Trump and determine the proper call to action should be — resignation, investigation, impeachment, etc.,” he said. “But by Election Day 2018, with control of Congress now clearly in the balance,
80 percent of what voters hear from Democrats better be about what they will do to ensure that everyone, everywhere has the opportunity to earn a good life. That means they can talk Trump 20 percent of the time. But the focus should be on opportunity. Doug Jones and Ralph Northam didn’t win by calling for impeachment or resignation. Pretty soon, Democrats on the ballot in November will need to become laser-focused on their voters’ lives.”
President Trump went to Harrisburg in October to promote the GOP tax bill. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
-- Democratic strategist Kenneth Baer argues that it was not so much coal miners who threw the election to Trump in 2016 as middle managers in exurban Columbus, Milwaukee and Philadelphia. “When it comes to Trump, all of his faults were on display and he still won,” said Baer, who founded the progressive journal “Democracy” and served as the associate director of the OMB under Barack Obama. “There were all these other factors involved, but when the New York Yankees play my son’s Little League team and it goes to extra innings, the Yankees aren’t doing something right. We should have blown him out, and part of the reason why we didn’t is that there was real anxiety and pain. And the message that was coming out was one that centered too much on social issues, which these voters feared wasn’t addressing what they cared about.
They felt like things weren’t getting better in their lives,” he added. “We need to demonstrate how this president and his people have not made their lives better, but they’ve actually hurt them and made their lives harder. … I fear that the voters who are going to decide who controls Congress in 2018 and the voters who are going to decide the presidential election in 2020, from what we can see, by and large, aren’t going to be moved by these social issues. The overall message for us is going to have to be: What has this guy done for you? And what are we going to do for you?”
Bob Casey holds a forum in Wilkes Barre, Pa. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
-- Buttressing the concerns of some in the Democratic establishment, Republicans seem eager to brawl with Casey over whether Trump should resign. GOP operatives see this as an opportunity to gin up their fractured base and portray the senator as more liberal than most Pennsylvanians believe he is. The National Republican Senatorial Committee called it more evidence of a “lurch to the far left.”
“Someone should tell Bob Casey that the 2016 election is over and the American people, including nearly 3 million Pennsylvanians, elected President Trump,” said NRSC spokesman Bob Salera. “Pennsylvanians are sick and tired of Bob Casey’s toxic brand of partisanship and deserve a senator who will fight for them instead of playing political games.”
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party responded that Barletta defended Trump when the “Access Hollywood” tape came out last year and has not condemned Roy Moore in Alabama or Blake Farenthold in Texas. “Numerous women have come forward to confirm the predatory behavior described by Donald Trump on the Access Hollywood tape,” said Max Steele, a spokesman for the party. “Senator Casey believes victims of sexual harassment and assault deserve to be heard, believed, and not called liars.”
G. Terry Madonna, the director of the polling program at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., predicts that Casey’s position will help him appeal to white-collar voters in the suburbs of Philadelphia and that it won’t stop him from also talking about issues that appeal to blue-collar voters outside the population centers. “The ‘burbs have become increasingly important to the Democrats, as they have lost the support of the working class voters in the Southwest and Northeastern parts of the state,” Madonna said. “Casey has done well with the working class in past elections. That might not sit well with them. … Casey has many connections with those voters, unlike many urban Democrats. Casey does support Trump on trade … He always stresses bringing back manufacturing jobs. … Many here and elsewhere still support Trump.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the Oval Office. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
"REXIT” IS COMING:
-- Inside the West Wing, several aides said people close to Trump are essentially counting down the days until Rex Tillerson leaves as secretary of state, which they guess will be in February. Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan report that Tillerson seemed intent this week on rebooting his image. He planned foreign trips into 2018 and met with employees for a “town hall” style meeting — but then went off script by again offering diplomatic talks with North Korea, which put him crosswise with Trump and senior White House officials, who are increasingly exasperated with Tillerson and say he cannot remain in his job for the long term.
- “While Trump and Tillerson have clashed on several policy issues — including negotiating with North Korea, the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and planning to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem — much of the distance between them seems personal and probably irreversible, White House officials said . . .
- A senior U.S. official said foreign diplomats and leaders often ask if Tillerson is speaking for the administration and when he will depart.
- Another White House aide said White House officials, diplomats and other Cabinet secretaries largely deem the former ExxonMobil chief executive ‘irrelevant.’
- One senior official said Trump will sometimes commend senior policy aide Stephen Miller for the time he clashed with Tillerson, or will mention disagreements Tillerson has had with other aides — and not take Tillerson’s side.
- Tillerson’s State Department continues to clash with the White House over personnel — picks are often scuttled or delayed, officials say — and Trump would sometimes react with exasperation when the secretary’s name is brought up, other officials said.”
Inside the White House, there are regular conversations about who will replace Tillerson even as he remains in the job: “CIA Director
Mike Pompeo, for example, may no longer be the leading choice because it means he would not brief Trump every day, and the president likes him in that role," per Josh and Anne. It also seems less likely that the administration would put Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in charge of the CIA if it means another special Senate election.
Miss Iraq, Sarah Eedan (on right), and Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman (left), pose together for a selfie before the Miss Universe 2017 beauty pageant in Las Vegas on Nov. 13. (Sarah Idan/Social Media/Reuters)
GET SMART FAST:
The family of Miss Iraq has fled the country after receiving death threats because she took a photograph with Miss Israel before last month's pageant. The two said they shared the photo in hopes of encouraging others to overcome diplomatic barriers. (Jerusalem Post)
Roy Moore still refuses to concede in the Alabama Senate race. The White House has said Moore’s concession speech “should have already taken place.” Meanwhile, pro-Moore websites circulated conspiracy theories of voter fraud, including claims that black voters from other states illegally voted in the election. (David Weigel)
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) wants an answer from the Justice Department on whether it plans to retry him on corruption charges, daring the department to “bring it on” if it does plan to prosecute. Menendez, whose trial last month ended with a deadlocked jury, also wants to reclaim his position as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee if the charges are dropped. (Ed O'Keefe)
Departing Trump adviser Omarosa Manigault dismissed accounts of being fired and blamed her exit on “one individual who has a personal vendetta against me.” Manigault added during her interview on “Good Morning America” that, as “the only African American woman in this White House senior staff, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me and affected me deeply and emotionally and affected my people and my community.” (Vanessa Williams)
A firefighter died responding to the Thomas Fire in California, which has become the fourth-biggest blaze in the state’s history. Officials did not release the firefighter’s name but said he was an engineer with Cal Fire’s San Diego unit. (Mark Berman)
New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. is retiring after 25 years. He will turn the post over to his son, 37-year-old Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, beginning Jan. 1. (New York Times)
The Oxford Dictionaries announced its word of the year to be “youthquake.” The word is defined as “a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people.”
A renowned British surgeon pleaded guilty to burning his initials into patients' organs during their liver transplant operations. Prosecutors said his surgical form of “branding” was such a highly unusual and complex case that it was completely without precedent in criminal law. (Marwa Eltagouri)
More than 3,000 purebred golden retrievers are participating in a cancer study. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study will track the dogs across their entire lives and could reveal the causes of cancers common to goldens, other breeds and even humans. (Karin Brulliard)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) walks through a crowd of journalists to attend the weekly policy luncheon. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
TAX PLAN HICCUPS:
-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says he'll vote against the GOP tax package unless a child tax credit for working families is expanded, potentially delaying a vote on the bill. Jeff Stein, Erica Werner and Damian Paletta report: “GOP leaders had said Wednesday they believed that they had reached a broad agreement that both chambers could pass, and they planned to unveil the package Friday morning with hopes of voting on it early next week. But
opposition from Rubio and perhaps [Sen. Mike] Lee [R-Utah] — who has not yet decided whether to support the bill, a spokesman said Thursday — could delay or derail the tax effort. … Rubio has been negotiating with the GOP leaders tasked with crafting the final bill, and on Wednesday they said they could increase the tax credit in the final bill by about $13 billion[.] … Rubio had pressed for the tax credit to be bolstered by, at a minimum, between $30 billion and $40 billion.”
-- The whip count: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is expected to vote against the final legislation, as he voted against the Senate bill. If Republican leadership loses the votes of Corker and Rubio, Mike Pence could still break the 50-50 tie to allow the plan to pass. But the bill is dead if Lee joins Corker and Rubio in their opposition. You can see why there's such a rush to get this done before Doug Jones gets seated . . .
-- The vice president postponed his Middle East trip by a few days in case he’s needed to break a Senate tie. (Ashley Parker)
-- Congressional negotiators are scurrying to find ways of cutting the bill's costs, including by potentially ending the cuts for individuals and families a year earlier than expected. Erica and Damian report: “That change would free up more revenue for additional changes to their tax overhaul, but it could also heighten complaints that the bill prioritizes cuts for corporations over households. Under a tax overhaul bill passed by the Senate earlier this month, tax cuts for all American households would expire at the end of 2025. But Republicans are now considering having those tax cuts expire in 2024.”
-- Democrats scored a minor win in protecting the Johnson Amendment from repeal. The 1954 provision blocks all nonprofits organized as 501(c)3s, including religious organizations, from endorsing political candidates. Trump had promised to “totally destroy” the Johnson amendment, and the House’s bill included a repeal of it. (Heather Long)
-- Tuition waivers for graduate students, the student loan interest deduction and the medical deduction are also expected to avoid the chopping block in Republicans’ final bill. (Heather and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel)
-- Even the families who appeared at the White House alongside Trump to champion the plan would see mixed effects if it becomes law. Heather writes about three of those families and how the overhaul would affect their cash flow.
THE DECONSTRUCTION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE:
-- The Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality — dismantling a landmark Obama-era regulation prohibiting Internet providers from blocking or slowing particular websites. Brian Fung reports: “The move by the [FCC] to deregulate the telecom and cable industries was a prominent example of the policy shifts taking place in Washington under [Trump] and a major setback for consumer groups, tech companies and Democrats who had lobbied heavily against the decision. … The agency also rejected some of its own authority over the broadband industry in a bid to stymie future FCC officials who might seek to reverse the Republican-led ruling. The result was a redrawing of the FCC's oversight powers, at a time of rapid transformation in the media and technology sectors . . .
Consumers might not feel the effects of this decision right away. But eventually they could begin to see packages and pricing schemes that would steer them toward some content over others, critics of the FCC’s vote argued. For example, under the Obama-era rules, Verizon was not allowed to favor Yahoo and AOL, which it owns, by blocking Google or charging the search giant extra fees to connect to customers. Under the new rules, that type of behavior would be legal, as long as Verizon disclosed it.”
-- On the eve of the vote, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai released a video featuring him dressed as Santa and clutching a lightsaber as he defended his decision to repeal net neutrality rules. His eccentric, sarcasm-laced video portrayed critics of the net neutrality repeal as “doomsday” hysterics, and drew its own share of controversy in the hours leading up to the vote. (Hamza Shaban)
-- Here's what else you need to know about FCC’s decision, per Geoffrey A. Fowler:
“Without the neutrality rules, Internet providers could set up their own fast lanes — meaning certain websites could buy first-class treatment, while others are stuck in cattle class.
Providers could sell Internet service in packages, like cable-TV bundles. Service providers would also have the right to set up their own no-fly lists, blocking certain websites that they don’t like or compete with their own business. For you, certain websites could slow to a crawl. Or perhaps they wouldn’t show up at all.
“The deepest impact will be invisible: small businesses … stuck in the slow lane. Multiply that impact by thousands of sites, we could lose what makes the Internet so useful in the first place. Without net neutrality, many new ideas just won’t ever take flight.”
Washington treats net neutrality as a partisan issue, but it’s not: A fresh University of Maryland survey found a full 83 percent majority of Americans — and 75 percent of Republicans — support keeping the rules after hearing “detailed” arguments from both sides.
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- One month after Trump announced his presidential bid, British music promoter Rob Goldstone reached out to the campaign to dangle a possible meeting with Vladimir Putin — which he suggested could be set up through his Russian pop-star client, Emin Agalarov. Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger report: “Goldstone’s [July 2015] overture came as he unsuccessfully urged Trump to travel to Moscow later that year to attend a birthday celebration for his client’s father. ‘Maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin,’ Goldstone wrote in a July 24, 2015, email to Trump’s longtime personal assistant, Rhona Graff. There is no indication Trump or his assistant followed up on Goldstone’s offer. Scott Balber, an attorney for the pop star, Emin Agalarov, said Agalarov asked Goldstone to invite Trump to his father’s party but was not aware that the publicist dangled the possibility of meeting with Putin. ‘It is certainly not the case that Emin Agalarov can arrange a meeting with [Putin] for anybody,’ Balber said.”
-- Robert Mueller has requested emails from the Trump campaign’s data operation, Cambridge Analytica. The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus reports: “Mr. Mueller asked the firm in the fall to turn over the emails of any Cambridge Analytica employees who worked on the Trump campaign, in a sign that the special counsel is probing the Trump campaign’s data operation. The special counsel's request, which the firm complied with, wasn’t previously known. … The emails had earlier been turned over to the House Intelligence Committee, the people said, adding that both requests were voluntary. On Thursday, Cambridge Analytica Chief Executive Alexander Nix interviewed via videoconference with the House Intelligence Committee[.]”
-- Text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page reveal their criticisms extended beyond Trump to figures like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Chelsea Clinton. The Wall Street Journal’s Del Quentin Wilber reports: “Although many of their texts targeted Mr. Trump, others also drew their ire. Over the course of 16 months of correspondence, starting in August 2015 and ending on Dec. 1, 2016, that was culled from their work phones, Mr. Strzok said he loathed Congress and called [Sanders] an ‘idiot.’ He suggested the death penalty was appropriate for Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor who pilfered reams of sensitive information. He said Ms. Clinton, daughter of Bill and Mrs. Clinton, was ‘self-entitled.’ And he described House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) as ‘a jerky.’”
-- But Democratic lawmakers are wondering why the Justice Department released the texts between Strzok and Page in the first place. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports: “Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerrold Nadler of New York and two other panel Democrats asked for a full review of DOJ’s decision making that led to Tuesday night’s release of about 375 texts[.] … The Democratic lawmakers called Justice’s decision an ‘unusual move’ after the texts were given to Congress and a select group of reporters earlier this week.”
-- Senate Republicans are scrambling to shield Mueller from mounting criticism of his Russia probe from members of their own party, following the release of the Strzok and Page emails. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The stakes are high: If the GOP moves to hold Mueller accountable for his former subordinates’ actions, it could enable Trump to order his ouster and cripple the inquiry[.] … But as House Republicans demand that the special counsel face a reckoning over the newly released details of anti-Trump [text messages], Senate Republicans are fighting to preserve Mueller’s ability to steer the Russia investigation to its conclusion. ‘There’s all kinds of reasons to believe there’s political interference, and we ought to get to the bottom of it,’ Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman [Chuck] Grassley said, adding: ‘I’ve got confidence in Mueller … and I don’t have any reason to believe otherwise.’"
-- The House Intelligence Committee will conduct an out-of-state interview of Trump’s longtime personal assistant next week. Karoun reports: “Committee staff members are expected to interview Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime gatekeeper, on Dec. 22[.] … In addition, they have tentatively scheduled an interview in New York this month with longtime Trump business associate Felix Sater. The rare out-of-state interviews are the latest of several factors prompting Democrats to accuse Republicans of trying to wrap up the probe early in response to pressure from party leaders."
-- Meanwhile, Trump and Vladimir Putin spoke over the phone yesterday, with the president thanking Putin for his praise of the American economy and discussing how they might work together in North Korea. Politico’s Henry C. Jackson reports: Trump “used the call to thank Putin for ‘acknowledging America’s strong economic performance in his annual press conference,’ according to a White House read out of the call. The leaders talked for about 10 minutes, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster didn’t participate in the call, a White House official said. The call offered fresh evidence that Trump will continue to work with Putin, despite potential political liabilities.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan meets with reporters to answer questions on the tax bill and sexual misconduct. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
PAUL RYAN’S FUTURE:
-- Persistent rumors that the House speaker will retire after the midterms are gaining steam. Tim Alberta and Rachael Bade report for Politico Magazine: “Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP.
In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker — fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists — not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018. … [O]ver closely held conversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear:
He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress. This would give Ryan a final legislative year to chase his second white whale, entitlement reform, while using his unrivaled fundraising prowess to help protect the House majority — all with the benefit of averting an ugly internecine power struggle during election season.”
Ryan press secretary AshLee Strong pushed back: “This is pure speculation. As the Speaker himself said today, he’s not going anywhere any time soon.”
-- The Fix's Aaron Blake thinks a Ryan exit would be “completely understandable, and perhaps even predictable”: “Looking back, six of the last seven speakers have served fewer than five years in the job (three voluntarily and three because their party lost the majority). Ryan committing to another two-year Congress would put him over that five-year mark, which is a very long time to be in that job even for a relatively youthful 47-year-old. … Even without that history, Ryan's rumored exit makes plenty of sense. He is a man who took that job, after all, even as he repeatedly insisted he didn't want it. At the time, conservatives effectively forced then-Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) out, and there didn't seem to be anybody else who could win the support of both sides of his party. If the job was thankless for Boehner, Ryan was about to find out just how much more thankless it would become.”
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) arrives for a House Judiciary Committee hearing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
MEN BEHAVING BADLY:
-- Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) announced he won't seek reelection in 2018 amid allegations he sexually harassed the women on his staff and created a “hostile” work environment.
He plans to serve out the rest of his term, to the chagrin of GOP leaders. Elise Viebeck and Mike DeBonis report: “[Farenthold], who settled a complaint with his former communications director but denied wrongdoing in the case … [is the] sixth lawmaker to fall over allegations of misconduct, as Congress grapples with how to address what some aides have described as a culture of inappropriate behavior on Capitol Hill. Farenthold, who represents the 27th Congressional District along the Texas Gulf Coast [apologized Thursday in a Facebook video]. ‘I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional,’ he said … ‘It accommodated destructive gossip, offhand comments, off-color jokes . . . and I allowed the personal stress of the job to manifest itself in angry outbursts.’” Farenthold continued to deny charges from a former staffer who accused him of making sexually inappropriate comments “to gauge whether she was interested in an extramarital relationship,” and he insisted that he has broken no laws.
Ryan said he supported Farenthold’s retirement, calling the allegations “disconcerting.” “I think he’s making the right decision to retire,” the speaker said. National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Steve Stivers (Ohio) echoed Ryan’s remarks: “Congress must work harder to hold ourselves to a higher standard, which is why the House took action to ensure this body is a safe and constructive workplace for all,” Stivers said in a statement.
-- Meanwhile, Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) renewed her calls for Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) to step aside after the Nevada Independent reported additional allegations of inappropriate behavior by the freshman congressman. “He wants to go through the ethics process. That is his right to do,” Pelosi said Thursday. “I’ve asked for him to resign. I’ve asked for him to resign right from the start.”
Kentucky State Rep. Dan Johnson (R) addresses the public from his church regarding sexual assault allegations. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)
-- The wife of Kentucky state lawmaker Dan Johnson, who killed himself after he was accused of molesting an underage member of his church, announced her intention to run for his seat. “I’ve been fighting behind my husband for 30 years and his fight will go on,” Rebecca Johnson said, calling her husband’s death a “high-tech lynching.” (James Higdon and Marwa Eltagouri)
-- The Free Beacon unearthed a 1998 interview with Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) in which he confirmed an allegation that he slapped his wife. The Beacon’s Brent Scher reports: “He fought the accusation that he hit his wife when it first emerged during his 1982 run for Congress, saying it was ‘without basis in fact’ and pledging to sue the New York Post, which first published the accusation in 1982, for libel. Carper won in 1982 largely by attacking his Republican opponent for his ‘vicious’ efforts to ‘smear’ him and his wife, but 16 years later he admitted to Delaware reporter Celia Cohen that the accusation was true all along.
‘Did I slap my wife 20 years ago? Yes,’ Carper said. ‘Do I regret it? Yes. Would I do it again? No.’ … The Post wrote that during the custody battle over his wife Diane's two children, Carper was accused of hitting his wife ‘so hard he gave her a black eye.’ It said that Carper admitted the incident occurred during a 1981 deposition. The Post story also said the children told the News Journal ‘that they were slapped around and bruised by Carper for doing such things as leaving the family dog on the bed.’ Carper's campaign told the Post its story was ‘totally false.’”
-- Carper released a statement pushing back on the story, reading in part: “I have made many mistakes in my life and have always been willing to admit them. One of those mistakes took place 37 years ago when I slapped my then-wife, Diane, during a heated argument. It was wrong. I regretted it then and I still do today. During a child custody battle between Diane and her former husband, I was truthful about this incident. I was truthful again when asked about it during a 1998 interview. Any claim that I lied or attempted to hide my behavior is false. I am a man who has made his share of mistakes, but I am not and never have been one who abuses his wife and children.”
-- Joe Biden says he owes Anita Hill “an apology” for the way she was treated during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, when he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I believed Anita Hill. I voted against Clarence Thomas. And I insisted the next election — I campaigned for two women Senators on the condition that if they won they would come on the Judiciary Committee, so there would never be again all men making a judgment on this,” Biden told Teen Vogue. “And my one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends. I mean, they really went after her. As much as I tried to intervene, I did not have the power to gavel them out of order. I tried to be like a judge and only allow a question that would be relevant to ask. … I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill. I owe her an apology.”
-- The chief judge for the 9th Circuit has initiated a review of sexual misconduct allegations against Judge Alex Kozinski. Matt Zapotosky reports: “Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas wrote in an order that even absent a formal complaint, he could initiate a review ‘when there is information constituting reasonable grounds for inquiry into whether a covered judge has engaged in judicial misconduct.’ … Meanwhile, at least one current clerk for Kozinski resigned[.] … Collectively, the steps represent the first tangible fallout for Kozinski after The Washington Post’s report last week that six women — all former clerks or more-junior staffers known as externs in the 9th Circuit — had alleged that Kozinski subjected them to inappropriate sexual conduct or comments.”
-- A top official at the Office of Congressional Ethics has been accused of sexual harassment and physical assault. Foreign Policy’s Jana Winter reports: “[An] ongoing lawsuit against Omar Ashmawy, staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics, stems from his involvement in a late-night brawl in 2015 in Milford, Pennsylvania, and includes a range of allegations relating to his behavior that evening and in the following two-and-half years. Ashmawy’s office conducts the preliminary investigations into allegations of misconduct in the House of Representatives, deciding which cases to pursue or refer to the Committee on Ethics.
He is named in congressional documents as the official who presented one of the investigations into John Conyers … to the ethics committee for further action. …
“The lawsuit, previously unreported, stems from Feb. 14, 2015 — Valentine’s Day. The evening appeared to start off well for Ashmawy: a nearly $400 dinner with his girlfriend at an upscale restaurant in Milford, followed by late-night drinks at a local bar. It ended, however, with him bruised and bloody in the back of a police car. Two months later, three men were arrested for assaulting Ashmawy. … What exactly led to the physical altercation is in dispute, but in police statements reviewed by FP, three women at the bar that night, including the bartender, accuse Ashmawy of harassing and physically assaulting them.”
New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush works in the White House briefing room. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
-- The New York Times is slated to decide the fate in coming days of reporter Glenn Thrush, who was suspended in November pending an investigation into alleged misbehavior. Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo reports: “Within the Times itself, the Thrush scandal has created something of a schism. On one side … there is a cohort of young, millennial, New York-based employees for whom the event has been particularly upsetting. [These employees] are generationally hyper-attuned to issues related to race, gender, and newsroom diversity, which they often discuss on the Times’s internal Slack app. … Things are different in the Washington bureau. While there are some who feel deeply uncomfortable with his conduct, the prevailing sentiment among Thrush’s colleagues in D.C. is that he should not lose his job[.] … If no further allegations materialize and the Times keeps him, Thrush will be a rare casualty of the so-called #MeToo movement to avoid career annihilation, and in that regard, the Times’s decision could potentially set the tone for future cases that are similar in nature.
Everyone will be watching.”
Blind quote from a female reporter in the NYT’s Washington bureau: “We’re not protecting him because he’s one of our own or because we love him. The Times has reported out a lot of stories like this, and by now,
we know the difference between a Glenn and a Matt Lauer.”
-- ESPN has come under fire for its treatment of women at the network, with one former employee who filed a formal complaint describing a “deeply ingrained culture of sexism and hostile treatment of women.” The Boston Globe’s Jenn Abelson reports: “Some women said that the environment at ESPN can be so hostile … that they hid pregnancies and felt pressured to take short maternity leaves in order to protect their positions. One anchor even did her scheduled broadcast while she was having a miscarriage to prove her commitment to her job, according to former employees. Another woman, one of the few solo female anchors on SportsCenter, said she was told her show was moving in another direction and she’d no longer have a job on it weeks before she went on maternity leave last year. She is one of several who said they were given less desirable positions or laid off before, during, or after maternity leave.”
-- Dustin Hoffman has been accused of exposing himself to a teenage girl and assaulting two women in the 1980s. Variety’s Daniel Holloway reports: “Cori Thomas was in high school when she says Dustin Hoffman exposed himself to her in a hotel room. Melissa Kester was a recent college graduate when Hoffman allegedly sexually assaulted her while recording audio for the film ‘Ishtar.’ A third woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said that Hoffman assaulted her in the back of a station wagon and manipulated her into a subsequent sexual encounter that left her traumatized. Speaking to Variety, the women described predatory incidents involving Hoffman that fit into a pattern of alleged behavior that has emerged in the wake of previous sexual-misconduct claims against the now 80-year-old actor.”
THE REST OF TRUMP'S AGENDA:
-- Trump has vowed to scale back government regulations to 1960's levels. Juliet Eilperin reports: “Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator Neomi Rao told reporters later Thursday that while the deregulatory push has been ‘pretty impressive . . . I think returning to 1960 levels would likely require legislation.’ … Trump touted that in its first 11 months, his administration had ‘canceled or delayed over 1,500 planned regulatory actions — more than any previous president by far.’ … Many of those rules were either in the planning stages or, in the case of 244 of them, had languished for some time and have now been classified as inactive.”
-- House Republicans introduced a year-end government spending bill that can't pass the Senate. Mike DeBonis and Ed O'Keefe report: “The House bill provides funding for the military through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2018, and temporarily extends all other government funding until Jan. 19. The legislation also includes a GOP-written reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and federal funding for community health centers. What it does not include are any of the top priorities for Democrats, including provisions dealing with the immigration status of ‘dreamers,’ funding to subsidize premiums in the insurance markets created under the Affordable Care Act, more money to combat the opioid addiction crisis or any increase in spending levels for nondefense agencies.”
-- Ryan Zinke and Scott Pruitt are trying to more tightly control the information sought through FOIA requests. Dino Grandoni and Juliet Eilperin report: “The Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department are at ground zero in this growing feud. At both departments and elsewhere in the administration, news outlets and nonprofit organizations have uncovered meeting schedules and travel manifests through FOIA requests that illustrate the ties top officials have forged with players in industries they are tasked with regulating. FOIA requests have also shed light on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s taxpayer-funded travel habits. The result is that some high-level officials at both EPA and Interior are keeping closer tabs on these FOIA requests, while
at least at the EPA — according to those who have filed such requests — bureaus drag their feet in responding.”
-- The White House is embarking on a major campaign to turn public opinion against America’s family-based immigration system and toward a merit-based process — assembling data to portray the current system as ill-conceived, dangerous and “damaging” to U.S. workers. The AP’s Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin report: “The proposed move away from family-based immigration would represent the most radical change to the U.S. immigration system in 30 years. The issue is expected to be prominently featured in the president’s Jan. 30 State of the Union address. The White House also plans other statements by the president, appearances by Cabinet officials and a push to stress the issue in conservative media. The administration was beginning its campaign Thursday with a blog post stressing key numbers: [DHS] data that shows nearly 9.3 million of the roughly 13 million total immigrants to the U.S. from 2005 to 2016 were following family members … And just one in 15 immigrants admitted in the last decade by green card entered the country because of their skills.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Conservative commentator Charlie Sykes criticized the lightning speed with which Republicans are attempting to pass their tax overhaul:
Would love an explanation: Even if they support tax reform why don't Jeff Flake, John McCain, Susan Collins, Ben Sasse et al hit the pause button so we can at least figure out what's in the bill? Details? Score? Maybe... hearings?— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) December 14, 2017
The president's son lashed out against criticisms of the net neutrality repeal:
I would pay good money to see all those people complaining about Obama’s FCC chairman voting to repeal #NetNeutality actually explain it in detail. I’d also bet most hadn’t heard of it before this week. #outrage— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 15, 2017
From the MSNBC host:
He's....not Obama's FCC chairman. Your father made him chair. https://t.co/VqV4NnNoXB— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) December 15, 2017
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) accused net neutrality supporters of being “snowflakes”:
Snowflake, believing online propaganda: "OMG w/o net neutrality, the Internet is gone!" Informed observer: "You know, the FCC issued that rule in 2015. The Internet grew up wonderfully free from govt regulation & this restores the status quo ante." Snowflake: "Uh, never mind..."— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 15, 2017
From Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.):
Don’t let @AjitPaiFCC fool you. The ONLY people benefitting from the repeal of #NetNeutrality are massive corporations that are already reaping in enormous profits. They want to end the internet as we know it to create a digital oligarchy that serves the wealthy few.— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) December 14, 2017
From a BuzzFeed News reporter:
if comcast, at&t, and charter promise to not violate net neutrality, why do they need to scrap these rules— Matthew Zeitlin (@MattZeitlin) December 14, 2017
Obama's former press secretary reflected on the five-year anniversary of the Newtown shooting:
5 years ago today was my worst day at the White House. I saw my normally stoic boss break down. I lost my composure at the briefing. As a parent, I could not comprehend the horror of #SandyHook. I think of those innocent children, and their brave teachers, all the time.— Jay Carney (@JayCarney) December 14, 2017
Newtown's congresswoman, Democrat Elizabeth Etsy, tweeted out the names of the victims:
Today is about remembering them.— Elizabeth Esty (@RepEsty) December 14, 2017
Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed at a loss to explain how to prevent mass shootings:
.@PressSec on preventing U.S. attacks: “If you could name a single thing that would have prevented both of these, I would like to hear it because I don't know what that would look like. But we’re looking every single day at how you can protect American lives.” pic.twitter.com/IjfLljX8S6— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 14, 2017
From Connecticut's Democratic senator:
Here's a start: universal background checks (Columbine); ban assault weapons (Newtown etc); fix NICS (Sutherland Springs); ban bump stocks (Las Vegas).
I've got more. https://t.co/1X9VUPUZPP— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 14, 2017
Obama's former senior adviser mocked Roy Moore's refusal to concede:
Moore doesn’t get it. He just got banned from another mall.
This one: pic.twitter.com/wlkLUkz0ms— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) December 15, 2017
From the director of U-Va.’s Center for Politics:
Roy Moore, ridiculously refusing to concede, has used a phrase made famous by Alabama’s George Wallace in his 1968 Independent run for the White House: “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Ds and Rs.” Never has that been less true.— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) December 14, 2017
Mitt Romney slammed the Russian president:
Putin today blames US politics for icy relations. Get real: It was Russia invading sovereign nations, propping up dictators, hacking elections, abusing human rights, and cheating at the Olympics.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 14, 2017
Wisconsin's Republican governor brushed off rumors of Paul Ryan's retirement:
Just checked in with my friend @PRyan. He’s not going anywhere.— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) December 14, 2017
An editor for the Cook Political Report noted this:
If every state had the same rate of retirements as TX, there'd be 97 open House seats in 2018.— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) December 14, 2017
The co-founder of Vox, which published the original report of sexual misconduct claims against the New York Times’s Glenn Thrush, pushed back against criticism of the piece:
Our story is accurate.
Clearly there is some disagreement as to whether the facts in the accurate story warrant dismissal.
If they want to keep Thrush on, that’s their prerogative. But make the decision and own it, don’t turn this around and make it about Laura’s story.— Subscribe to My Newsletter (@mattyglesias) December 14, 2017
A reporter for the Daily Beast commented on this Trump photo-op:
You can’t take the real estate developer out of the man pic.twitter.com/1XUwkIgGJx— Sam Stein (@samstein) December 14, 2017
This White House statement on deregulation was a bit ironic:
Trump's former White House press secretary became the butt of the joke for this error, per a HuffPost reporter:
Sean Spicer thinks that A Christmas Carol is a collection of Christmas carols pic.twitter.com/b8k2NzW2LT— Ashley Feinberg (@ashleyfeinberg) December 14, 2017
His attempt to correct the mistake also missed the mark:
The imminent departure of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) provided this comedic opportunity, per a Politico reporter:
After Huckabee Sanders was accused of sharing a photo of a "fake pie" for Thanksgiving, she decided to prove herself by sharing some pecan pies with the White House press corps:
American Urban Radio Network's April Ryan joked back:
Okay I want to see the pics and videos. I will check it tomorrow but won’t eat it! https://t.co/5dcXVNzcuC— AprilDRyan (@AprilDRyan) December 14, 2017
From a Daily Mail editor:
And a New York Times reporter shared this journalistic wisdom:
Excellent questions from the wall of my daughter’s classroom. pic.twitter.com/ntgKHYG9eU— jodikantor (@jodikantor) December 14, 2017
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Foreign Policy, “The Secret History of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco,” by Zach Dorfman: “[A]fter the Trump administration summarily announced on Aug. 31 that it would shutter the building 48 hours later, the news coverage that followed almost uniformly focused on two things: the dumbfounding heat (this city, cool and grey, is in California but not of it) and the black smoke wheezing from the consulate’s chimney, as employees rushed to burn up, one assumes, anything confidential or inculpatory. People were right to look upward, toward the building’s roof, but their focus was misplaced: It was, in reality, the motley array of antennas and satellites and electronic transmittal devices dotting the rooftop — objects viewed with deep suspicion and consternation by U.S. intelligence community officials for decades — that tells the story of the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, not the ash drifting listlessly over the neighboring mansions.”
-- Politico Magazine, “ >The Radio Reporter Who Lost His Voice But Still Covers Congress
>The Radio Reporter Who Lost His Voice But Still Covers Congress
,” by Ben Strauss: “[Jamie] Dupree has been a radio reporter for more than three decades on Capitol Hill. ‘The most connected man in Washington,’ Sean Hannity likes to call him. But 18 months ago, in the middle of the wildest presidential race of his career, he began to have trouble. During the primaries, his voice got scratchy, by the conventions he was off the air. This April, doctors finally diagnosed him with tongue protrusion dystonia, a neurological disorder that is so rare there are no doctors who specialize in treating it. Earlier this month, [Rep. Ileana] Ros-Lehtinen [R-Fla.] publicized Dupree’s plight with a touching tribute on the House floor, highlighting the cruelest of ironies: Dupree is a radio reporter without a voice.”
-- CNN, “'Child care deserts' are leaving rural parents with few options,” by Lydia DePillis: “A large, well-regarded day care in her town of Hazard, Kentucky had just shut down, yet another victim of the suffering coal industry. When Chitwood had to go back to her job as a kitchen aid at the hospital, there were so few options that she didn't know where to take her newborn. ‘I was stressed every day,’ said Chitwood, 20. ‘I did not know where my son was gonna be, did not know who was gonna watch him, didn't know when I was gonna get off. It was always a 'what-if' situation.’ That's a common feeling for parents across America, where quality child care is expensive and often hard to find. But it's particularly prevalent in rural areas[.]”
HOT ON THE LEFT
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Trump’s Lies vs. Obama’s,” from >the New York Times: “After we published a list of President Trump’s lies this summer, we heard a common response from his supporters. They said, in effect: Yes, but if you made a similar list for previous presidents, it would be just as bad. We’ve set out to make that list. Here, you will find our attempt at a comprehensive catalog of the falsehoods that Barack Obama told while he was president. … We applied the same conservative standard to Obama and Trump, counting only demonstrably and substantially false statements. … In his first 10 months in office, [Trump] has told 103 separate untruths, many of them repeatedly. Obama told 18 over his entire eight-year tenure. That’s an average of about two a year for Obama and about 124 a year for Trump.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Ohio moves closer to banning abortions when fetuses have Down syndrome,” from >Sandhya Somashekhar: “Lawmakers in Ohio took steps this week to bar abortions when they are sought because a fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome, one of more than a dozen abortion restrictions passed in the state in recent years. The state legislature approved the bill Wednesday, sending it to Gov. John Kasich (R), who has not said explicitly whether he plans to sign it. He is a staunch abortion opponent, and earlier this year he called a prohibition on abortion in cases of the genetic disorder ‘appropriate.’ If the bill is enacted, Ohio would become the latest state to try to stop women from aborting fetuses when they discover through prenatal testing that they have a chromosomal defect.”
Trump will participate in the FBI National Academy graduation ceremony followed by a visit to the Marine Helicopter Squadron One at Quantico. He will later travel to Camp David.
Pence has no publicly scheduled events today.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted the odds of the Trump administration doing a preemptive strike against North Korea: “I would say there’s a three in 10 chance we use the military option.” He added that, if the North Koreans conduct another test of a nuclear bomb, “I would say 70 percent.” (
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted the odds of the Trump administration doing a preemptive strike against North Korea: “I would say there’s a three in 10 chance we use the military option.” He added that, if the North Koreans conduct another test of a nuclear bomb, “I would say 70 percent.” (>The Atlantic)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. may see some afternoon snow today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “It seems likely that at least snow showers break out by later morning, and it could end up being a fairly solid shield of mostly light but sometimes moderate snow. … Upwards of one inch or so seems possible in the more consistent areas of snow, with many spots getting less than that and some out west seeing very little at all. With only light southeasterly breezes, high temperatures in the near 30 to mid-30s range, and near or below freezing in snow, should not feel much colder or more painful than previous days!”
-- The Capitals beat the Bruins 5-3. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
-- Virginia state Del. Timothy D. Hugo (R) won his recount by 99 votes. Hugo’s victory leaves Democrats with three other recount opportunities to overcome Republicans’ current 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates. (Antonio Olivo)
-- James Alex Fields Jr., the alleged driver of the car that killed Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville protests, was charged with first-degree murder. (Paul Duggan)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
The Fact Checker released its annual roundup of the year's biggest Pinocchios:
Seth Meyers poked fun at the FCC chairman:
A video tweeted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) of a Trump judicial nominee struggling to answer questions at his confirmation hearing was shared tens of thousands of times:
"The Simpsons" released a video depicting Trump attempting to bribe Robert Mueller:
Steven Spielberg and the stars of “The Post” sat down for a conversation about the film with our colleague, chief film critic Ann Hornaday:
(Other videos from the conversation can be found here.)
Source : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/12/15/daily-202-democrats-risk-overplaying-their-hand-by-pushing-for-trump-s-resignation/5a3343ee30fb0469e883fbd6/