Luz Lazo of the Washington Post: "Thousands of people are expected to be in the region Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington, an event that could draw larger crowds than Inauguration Day itself, and present travel challenges for participants and residents." The story contains info on what to expect in terms of transportation, etc. -- CW
Ylan Mui of the Washington Post: "Treasury secretary nominee Steven T. Mnuchin defended his ties to offshore business entities and his management of a controversial California bank during a testy confirmation hearing on Thursday.... The hearing began with a sharply combative tone before Mnuchin even started speaking — an unusual departure for what is typically a staid and wonkish committee.... At several points during his hearing, Mnuchin appeared stung by the sharp questioning from lawmakers." CW: He was expecting questions more along the lines of, "Am I pronouncing your name right, Mr. Munchkin?" and "Which are cuter? Kittens or puppies?"
Paul Waldman: "Donald Trump’s cabinet brings with it a combination of ethical problems, inexperience, hostility to the missions of the departments its members are being called to lead, and plain old ignorance that is simply unprecedented. This is shaping up to be nothing less than the worst cabinet in American history.... One can only imagine the damage they’re going to do." -- CW
The Last Honest Man in Washington Will Turn out the Lights. Gardiner Harris of the New York Times: "The Bidens will vacate the vice-presidential residence at the Naval Observatory to head to Wilmington on Friday, but the couple intend to find a small house in Washington near their friends Barack and Michelle Obama so that Dr. Biden can continue teaching English at a community college in Northern Virginia." -- CW
Trump Outsources Draconian Budget Plans to Heritage Foundation. Alexander Bolton of the Hill: "Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned. The changes they propose are dramatic.... Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years. The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition." -- CW
Justin Gillis & John Schwartz of the New York Times: "Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the reached its highest temperature on record in 2016 — trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row. The findings come two days before the inauguration of an American president who has called global warming a Chinese plot and vowed to roll back his predecessor’s efforts to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases. The data show that politicians cannot wish the problem away. The Earth is heating up, a point long beyond serious scientific dispute, but one becoming more evident as the records keep falling. Temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose a profound threat to both the natural world and to human civilization." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)
CW: Today is President Obama's last full day in office. We owe our thanks to him, to Vice President Biden, and to all the women & men in the Obama administration who worked so tirelessly to bend the arc of history toward justice. And thanks, too, to the spouses, families and loved ones of those who served, for they also made sacrifices so that all of us might find our burdens just a little lighter.
David Nakamura & Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "President Obama held his final news conference at the White House on Wednesday, defending the importance of the free press and some of the final decisions he has made before leaving office. But even as touted some of the advances that had been made under his watch — such as Americans’ growing acceptance of members of the LGBT community — he warned of turmoil in the Middle East and unintended consequences of policy shifts ... Donald Trump might trigger once he takes office. Obama suggested the 'moment may be passing' for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying his administration took the unusual step last month of not vetoing a U.N. resolution criticizing the expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory in order to issue 'a wake-up call' to people in the region." CW: Uh, if you listen to this news conference, you might think Donald Trump was dazed & confused. Or a traitor. (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...
... Eric Levitz of New York: "In his opening remarks, Obama made his desire to defend the press’s prerogatives against his successor’s whims explicit. 'You’re not supposed to be sycophants — you’re supposed to be skeptics,' Obama said. 'And having you in this building has helped this place work better.'” -- CW
John Kerry, in a New York Times op-ed: "As the departing secretary of state, I cannot claim objectivity. But I will leave office convinced that most global trends remain in our favor and that America’s leadership and engagement are as essential and effective today as ever. A major reason is that has restored assertive diplomacy as our foreign policy tool of first resort and deployed it time and again to advance our security and prosperity." -- CW
It's Okay if you pay Vladimir, Boris & Natasha to throw the presidential election your way. (And don't worry, Jim Comey will keep mum about it):
** ... Peter Stone & Greg Gordon of McClatchy News: "The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided ... Donald Trump, two people familiar with the matter said. The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence, the sources said.... The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources.... FBI Director [James] Comey refused at a recent Senate hearing to comment on whether the bureau was investigating Russia’s hacking campaign for possible criminal prosecutions." -- CW ...
... digby: "So, it's been confirmed that even while FBI Director James Comey was blathering on about Hillary Clinton's 'recklessness' five years earlier by having a private email server which was never hacked and contained no information that did anything but show how boring government work actually is, he knew this was going on as he spoke.... If Russia hacked the presidential campaign, that's a big deal but it's also not entirely surprising. What would be a shocker is if it turns out that Trump's campaign was involved somehow. It appears there is some evidence out there that it was. This is uncharted territory." -- CW ...
... CW: Probably worth pointing out that Congressional leaders & members who were on intelligence committees knew it, too. The only member, as far as I can recall, who even hinted that the FBI was investigating Trump was Harry Reid. MEANWHILE, Congressional Republicans could not leak fast enough any so-called developments in the Benghaaazi!-email hoohah.
It's Okay to Be a Boor:
Trump Makes Dinner to Honor pence All About Trump. Maggie Haberman of the New York Times: "... jabbed at his new Republican allies and his critics alike, questioned the ethics of ' ' and talked about creating a 'merit-based' immigration system.... Mr. Trump said that his aides told him that he was not required to be at the dinner, but that he thought he had to be there to honor a man whose role on the ticket he described as one of his best decisions. Mr. Trump ... poked at [pence] for declining to endorse his candidacy in the primary in Indiana..., instead backing Senator of Texas. 'The fact that every donor he had was in favor of' Mr. Cruz played no role in the decision, Mr. Trump said sarcastically, according to a recording provided by a guest. In ... [Trump’s] telling, Mr. Pence essentially endorsed him, and mentioned Mr. Cruz only as an afterthought. Mr. Trump also took aim at Mr. Cruz (a 'smart guy, he was a little late to the plate, but that’s O.K.'); Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin..., ('he can be nasty, that Scott Walker'); members of the 'Never Trump' movement ('they’re really right now on a respirator; they’re pretty much gone'); and the casino magnate ...." -- CW, in a free-flowing speech Wednesday night at a dinner honoring his running mate, Mike Pence,
It's Okay if you're a vain, insecure bully & schemer:
Michael Kruse in Politico Magazine: Trump's biographers Gwenda Blair, Michael D’Antonio & Tim O’Brien "see the same person they’ve always seen — the consummate classroom troublemaker; a vain, insecure bully; and an anti-institutional schemer, as adept at 'gaming the system' as he is unashamed. As they look ahead..., they feel confident predicting that he will run the country much as he has run his company. For himself." Thanks to Unwashed for the link. -- CW
It's okay if your Cabinet is as diverse as a KKK parade:
Jim Acosta & Jeremy Diamond of CNN: "... Donald Trump picked the final member of his Cabinet on Wednesday, landing on former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to serve as agriculture secretary and in the process locking in an inaugural Cabinet devoid of any Latino representation.... Latinos have served in Cabinet positions in every presidential administration since 1988. But Trump's break with that precedent is even more notable given his divisive and inflammatory rhetoric about Latinos during his presidential campaign." CW: On the plus side, Sonny is fond of taco bowls.
It's Okay if you break federal law:
Team of Scofflaws. Karen Tumulty, et al., of the Washington Post: "Three of Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks came under growing fire Wednesday on ethical issues.... The most serious concerns surround personal investments by Trump’s health and human services nominee, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), in health-care firms that benefited from legislation that he was pushing at the time. Additionally, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Trump’s choice to head the Office of Management and Budget, has acknowledged during his confirmation process that he failed to pay more than $15,000 in state and federal employment taxes for a household employee. And Commerce Department nominee Wilbur Ross revealed that one of the 'dozen or so' housekeepers he has hired since 2009 was undocumented, which he said he discovered only recently. The employee was fired as a result, he added. All of those are the kinds of problems that have torpedoed nominees in the past. But it is far from certain — or even likely — that any of Trump’s nominees will buckle under the political pressure. That is in part because ... [Trump] himself has broken so many norms — notably, by flouting the convention of major-party presidential candidates making their tax returns public and by refusing to sever himself from his financial interests while he is in the White House." -- CW ...
... Elizabeth Warren, in a Washington Post op-ed: "... before we can debate and vote on whether these nominees’ policy positions make them suitable to run important parts of our government, it is critical that each nominee follows basic ethics rules to ensure that they will act for the benefit of all the American people and not simply to boost their bank accounts. The Republican-led Congress wants to brush off these ethics requirements as a mere inconvenience. Failing that, they are willing to intimidate the public servants charged with implementing the rules.... Donald Trump has thrown out decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns or disentangle himself from his business connections. Now his Republican allies in Congress seem content to permit Cabinet nominees to do the same." -- CW
It's Okay if you're flagrantly corrupt:
... Dana Milbank: "Dr. Tom Price, the orthopedic surgeon tapped by ... Donald Trump to oversee the Department of Health and Human Services, has found a miracle cure for ailing investment portfolios. Price ... bought stock in a maker of joint replacements a week before he introduced legislation that would help the company — which then made a campaign contribution to Price. Nothing to see here, says the Trump team.... Also last year, Price himself bought shares in an Australian immunotherapy company after hearing about it from fellow congressman Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who is on the company’s board and is a member of Trump’s transition team. Price was included in a private placement of stock not available to the public, and Price’s price was right: His investment is reportedly up 400 percent. Nothing to see here, either, Price told a Senate panel Wednesday...." Read on; Congressional Republicans & Trump officials are knocking themselves out to make sure there are no checks on their corrupt dealings. -- CW ...
... Juliet Eilperin & Amy Goldstein of the Washington Post: "In a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, [Rep. Tom] Price], Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of Health & Human Services,] laid out the central elements of his years-long attempt to replace the ACA along conservative lines. His statement about access to coverage was in sync with widespread GOP thought about promising consumers a chance to get insurance, but he stopped short of Trump’s comments last weekend that he was seeking 'insurance for everybody' in a nearly finished plan.... And while Trump has vowed this past weekend to curb drug prices in Medicare and Medicaid by negotiating directly with pharmaceutical firms, Price shied away from a similar pledge.... The courtesy hearing before the Senate panel marked the first time Price has appeared before lawmakers since being nominated; his formal confirmation hearing, before the Senate Finance Committee, is set for Jan. 24." -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.) ...
... Robert Pear & Thomas Kaplan of the New York Times: "... at a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Mr. Price provided only vague reassurance to members of both parties who pressed him for specific policies. Republicans concluded he was well qualified; Democrats were not satisfied. 'Just days ago, President-elect Trump promised, quote, "insurance for everybody,’” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the senior Democrat on the committee. 'But Congressman Price, your own proposals would cause millions of people to lose coverage, force many people to pay more for their care, and leave people with pre-existing conditions vulnerable to insurance companies’ rejecting them or charging them more.'... Mr. Price, 62, also denied impropriety in his trading of stocks in health care and pharmaceutical companies, saying he had left many details to his broker. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that he had traded more than $300,000 worth of shares while promoting legislation that could have affected the companies he owned stock in.” -- CW ...
... Ethics Offices Fires Back at Tom Price. Tal Kopan of CNN: "The Office of Government Ethics Wednesday sent a series of four tweets outlining its procedures examining incoming Trump administration officials -- right in the middle of a contentious Senate hearing about Rep. Tom Price's stock transactions. The OGE tweets did not specifically cite Price.... The tweets came less than an hour after Price ... defended himself against questions about his stock transactions ... and invoked the ethics office's approval.... Price ... pointed to disclosures he made to OGE that were signed off on in the nomination process.... 'OGE's focus is prevention; IGs investigate potential misconduct & @TheJusticeDept prosecutes criminal violations,' OGE tweeted shortly thereafter. 'OGE oversees the executive branch #ethics program, while Congress & the Courts have their own ethics programs,' they continued. 'OGE does not handle complaints of misconduct. Please learn where & how to report #fed employee misconduct,' the agency wrote, including links to its missions and procedures.... An expert on ethics and former Federal Election Commission general counsel said Price's submission to OGE would not have been scrutinized for past actions." -- CW
Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times: "... Donald J. Trump’s choice for White House budget director failed to pay more than $15,000 in payroll taxes for a household employee, he admitted in a statement to the Senate Budget Committee, the sort of tax compliance issue that has derailed cabinet nominees in the past. In a questionnaire provided to the committee, Representative Mick Mulvaney, a conservative from South Carolina and vocal proponent of fiscal restraint noted, 'I have come to learn during the confirmation review process that I failed to pay FICA and federal and state unemployment taxes on a household employee for the years 2000-2004.'... The employee was a babysitter hired when Mr. Mulvaney and his wife had triplets in 2000.... Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in a prepared statement: “Senator Tom Daschle did the same thing and Republicans insisted that that disqualified him from becoming H.H.S. secretary.... If Tom Daschle couldn’t become a cabinet member for not paying taxes for a household employee, the same standard ought to apply to Mick Mulvaney.”” -- CW (Also linked yesterday afternoon.)
It's Okay if you tell a $100MM-lie on your confirmation "disclosure" form:
Oops, I Forgot. Ylan Mui & Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Treasury Department [Steven T. Mnuchin] initially failed to disclose his interests in a Cayman Islands corporation as well as more than $100 million in personal assets, according to a memo by Democratic staffers on the Senate Finance Committee that was obtained by The Washington Post.... According to the memo, Mnuchin characterized the missing information as inadvertent mistakes, and he updated his answers to the committee’s questionnaire on Saturday, less than a week before his hearing." -- CW ...
... It's Okay if you prey on ordinary people for your own self-enrichment:
Kevin McCoy of USA Today: "Owners who lost their homes to mortgage foreclosures by [OneWest,] a bank previously run by Steven Mnuchin, urged the Senate on Wednesday to reject his nomination as ... Trump's Treasury secretary. Speaking at a Capitol Hill forum convened by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. — a frequent Trump critic — the homeowners said OneWest Bank or an affiliate intensified the financial hardships they faced amid the 2008 financial crisis by foreclosing on their homes.... Warren convened the session after reporting that Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, rejected a request to hear the homeowners stories as part of Mnuchin's scheduled confirmation hearing on Thursday.... 'We have labeled OneWest a "foreclosure machine" not only because it foreclosed on more than 60,000 American families and because of its aggressive foreclosure practices, but because it seemed to do little else.' [said Paulina Gonzalez, director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, an advocacy group.]" -- CW ...
(This principle of course applies to the boss, too.) Josh Gerstein of Politico: "Days before ... Donald Trump is set to take the oath to uphold the Constitution, he has ... [paid] $25 million to settle litigation over his defunct Trump University real estate seminar program. Trump University — now known as the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative — transferred the funds Tuesday night, according to two sources involved." -- CW)
It's Okay if you're hilariously ignorant & unfit for the job:
Al Franken questions Betsy DeVos. See related stories linked yesterday.
... Shoot the Grizzlies, Kids! Charlies Pierce: "Simply put, Betsy DeVos has been nominated to be Secretary of Education because she married into the Amway money and spread it around to enough Republican politicians to get them elected so that they would carry out DeVos family enterprise of turning public education over to private profiteers and turning the political commons into a theocratic yard sale open to the highest bidder. She and her family contributed substantial sums to 10 of the 12 Republicans who were sitting on the committee that was vetting her Tuesday night. It was low, insulting burlesque and a revolting dumbshow of the arrogance of monied ignorance. I think we're all going to have to get used to that kind of thing." -- CW
It's Okay if you take the "Justice" out of "Department of Justice":
Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times: "... but its entire approach. While liberal Democrats have criticized Mr. Sessions’s views on specific issues like gay marriage and voting, the larger difference is how differently the Trump administration will view the government’s role in those areas. Mr. Sessions, a former federal prosecutor, has spoken harshly about lawyers and judges who try to push the law in certain directions — 'a postmodern philosophy that elevates outcomes over law,' he has called it. Congress makes laws, he has said, and he was outraged when Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general, refused to defend a law banning gay marriage and told his state counterparts that they could ethically do the same regarding state bans." -- CW’s nominee to be attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, opposes not only the Justice Department’s specific policies on civil rights
It's Okay if you control "the most fearsome weapons on the planet" & you don't know WTF you're doing:
Coral Davenport & David Sanger of the New York Times: "When ... believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state. In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.... Mr. Perry, who once called for the elimination of the Energy Department, will begin the confirmation process Thursday with a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee. If approved by the Senate, he will take over from a secretary, Ernest J. Moniz, who was chairman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics department and directed the linear accelerator at M.I.T.’s Laboratory for Nuclear Science. Before Mr. Moniz, the job belonged to Steven Chu, a physicist who won a ." -- CW ...offered the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted,
... Update. Annals of "Journalism," Ctd. Oops! Times Runs Fake News Lede. Jesse Singal of New York: "Since Perry told Politico that he looked forward to 'safeguarding our nuclear arsenal' the same day his nomination was announced, it’s very hard to square this with the Times’ claim that '[i]n the days after' being named, Perry 'discovered that he would … become the steward of a vast national security complex.'” -- CW
It's Okay if you're the most powerful person on earth -- & you don't know WTF you're doing:
Last night I saw upon the stair,
An undersecretary who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away. ...
... The Administration That Isn't There. Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg: "There's no Trump appointee for any of the top State Department jobs below secretary nominee Rex Tillerson. No Trump appointee for any of the top Department of Defense jobs below retired general James Mattis. Treasury? Same story. Justice? It is one of two departments (along with, bizarrely, Commerce) where Trump has selected a deputy secretary. But no solicitor general, no one at civil rights, no one in the civil division, no one for the national security division. And the same is true in department after department. Not to mention agencies without anyone at all nominated by [Trump].... Overall, out of 690 positions requiring Senate confirmation tracked by the Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, Trump has come up with only 28 people so far.... I'd say that [this] failure ... isn't a deliberate choice by Trump; he just has no idea what he's doing, and hasn't surrounded himself with people well-equipped to translate his impulses and his campaign commitments into a full-fledged government." -- CW ...
... Charles Pierce: "Remember, this is the administration that, in a break with tradition, is demanding that career diplomats leave their posts promptly when the Lincoln Bible bursts into flame beneath Trump's hand on Friday. There are going to be an awful lot of phones ringing unanswered by Friday afternoon. Unless, of course, they've all been outsourced to Lubyanka Square." -- CW
It's Okay if you're a hypocrite:
Aaron Davis & Jenna Portnoy of the Washington Post: "Congressional Republicans are making an aggressive push to gut the District’s progressive policies, introducing bills in recent days to repeal the heavily Democratic city’s gun-control measures, undo its new law allowing physician-assisted suicide and ban the District from using local tax dollars to provide abortions for poor women.... On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), reintroduced a bill to repeal the District’s gun-control laws, which are among the most restrictive in the nation.... The District’s status as a federal district makes it uniquely vulnerable to the whims of Congress. Unlike in the 50 states, Congress has supreme authority, including veto power over local laws and voter-approved measures. It can even reach in and dictate how local tax money is spent if the president agrees.... The federal district has no voting member of Congress.... D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who represents neighborhoods on Capitol Hill, said ... 'These guys love to argue for local control and rail against big government, but they seem to love big government when it comes to imposing what they believe.'...” -- CW
AND It's Okay if you blame your wife for your failures & disappointments.
Louis Black previews the inauguration:
... Maura Judkis of the Washington Post: "... it seems increasingly clear that the after-hours revelry will be markedly muted. Not only is Trump hosting only three official balls — far fewer than his predecessors at their first inaugurals — but the spillover festivities appear smaller and fewer. Several of the city’s great halls are going unrented. Far fewer big-name celebrities are headed to town. And while many events are reportedly sold out, others are still looking to fill their rooms." -- CW
The Washington Post is providing free digital access until the end of day January 21, in celebration, I guess, of a man who hates the paper.
Way Beyond the Beltway
There's This. Matthew Weaver of the Guardian: Julian "Assange welcomed [President] Obama’s decision to free [Chelsea] Manning.... He did not mention a pledge made last week that he would agree to US extradition if Obama granted clemency to Manning.... But Melinda Taylor, who serves on Assange’s legal team, said he would not be going back on his word. “Everything that he has said he’s standing by,” she told the Associated Press. The WikiLeaks Twitter accounted also suggested its founder was ready to go to the US". -- CW ...
Oh, Wait. Then There's This. Joe Uchill of the Hill: "The attorney for Julian Assange said President Obama's commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence does not meet the conditions of the WikiLeaks head's offer to be extradited to the United States if Manning were pardoned. 'Mr. Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms. Manning's sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought,' said Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S.-based attorney, via email. 'Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately.' Assange has not been publicly charged with a crime in the United States, but his legal team believes he may be charged 'under seal,' where charges are kept secret to prevent a suspect from preparing an escape." -- CW