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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  CIA Director Brennan Rips into Trump
      •  Feinstein Says Russia Altered the Election Outcome
      •  Trump Calls NATO Obsolete
      •  Trump Won't Visit African-American Museum After All
      •  Thousands Rally to Resist Repeal of the ACA
      •  Constituents Ask ACA Questions, Their Congressman Flees
      •  Inauguration Gets Some Performers
      •  Mr. Trump: Please Attack Me Next

CIA Director Brennan Rips into Trump

The outgoing director of the CIA, John Brennan, said yesterday that President-elect Donald Trump does not understand the threat that Russia poses to the United States. It is unheard of for the CIA director to publicly lecture a president or president-elect about his lack of knowledge about national security affairs. Brennan pointed out that spontaneous tweets do not help protect national security. (V)

Feinstein Says Russia Altered the Election Outcome

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a centrist and cautious senator, said yesterday that the Russian interference in the election changed the result. In effect, she said that absent Vladimir Putin's meddling in the election, Hillary Clinton would have won. Feinstein was the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee until two weeks ago, and noted that she has been present at all the major briefings and has a pretty good idea of all the details. She expressed confidence in the Intelligence Committee's upcoming investigation of the matter, led by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). But she also added that if Burr does not do a good job, she will push for an outside panel. She said the probe "should be full and robust with respect to who gave the order to do this, who participated in it, exactly what they did, and how they carried it out and what it portends for the future."

Needless to say, if Burr determines that Trump won as a result of Putin's help, it will greatly delegitimize his presidency. Also needless to say, Burr will be under a huge amount of pressure not to come to that conclusion. However, Burr was just comfortably reelected and does not have to face the voters again until 2022, so threats to primary him then are not likely to make much of an impression. (V)

Trump Calls NATO Obsolete

In an interview with the German newspaper Bild, Donald Trump said that NATO is obsolete. He noted that it was designed many years ago, countries aren't paying what they should, and it doesn't deal with terrorism. The latter is true. It was designed to prevent the Soviet Union from invading other countries in Europe by promising that if one country was invaded, the others would spring to its defense. If the U.S. pulls out of NATO, it will collapse, giving Vladimir Putin an incredible victory. However, many Republican senators are likely to protest such a pullout in the strongest possible terms, leading to a huge fight within the Republican Party.

In the interview, Trump also dissed the European Union and made it clear he would be happy to see it go away. Previous U.S. presidents were very positive about the EU and saw it as a bulwark of democracy. Some other comments Trump made in the interview include:

  • If BMW builds a plant in Mexico, he will slap a 35% tariff on cars it imports into the U.S.
  • The Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq may have been the worst in U.S. history
  • Jared Kushner will bring about an accord with Israel
  • He plans to continue to tweet while in the White House
  • People entering the U.S. will face extreme security checks, possibly including some European nationals

This will be a presidency like no other. (V)

Trump Won't Visit African-American Museum After All

In view of today's MLK, Jr. holiday, Donald Trump announced plans to visit Washington, D.C.'s brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Then, he got involved in a Twitter spat with Rep. John Lewis (R-GA) in which the President-elect implied that black neighborhoods are full of criminals. Eventually, Trump said he wouldn't be visiting the museum after all, due to miscommunications with the museum's staff.

The whole sequence of events is not a good look for Trump. While black voters are hardly his base, little good can come out of two perceived snubs in the same weekend (attacking the iconic Lewis, skipping the museum/holiday). Meanwhile, an inability to pull off something as simple as a museum visit does not exactly say good things about his team's basic competence. (Z)

Thousands Rally to Resist Repeal of the ACA

Rallies were held all over the country yesterday to protest the Republicans' plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. An especially large one was held in Warren, MI, where Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was the featured speaker. Among other things, he said: "This is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. It is time we got our national priorities right." Republicans agree that the ACA must be repealed, but they are divided about whether the replacement should be voted on the same day the ACA is repealed or at some later date. Also, they haven't agreed on a new plan yet. Incoming Secretary of HHS Tom Price has a plan, but so do Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and other key Republicans. Settling on a single plan may take some time, and then the Congressional Budget Office has to analyze to see how much it will cost. Then the Republicans need to figure out how to pay for it.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has also gotten into the plan-replacement business. Yesterday, he unveiled the basics of yet another replacement for the ACA. A key element of his plan is to get rid of the coverage mandates that the ACA had, which he claims made so many plans expensive. In his vision, insurance companies should be allowed to offer insurance-lite, with little coverage and low prices. That is great for healthy people, but if a policy holder suddenly gets sick or has an accident, he or she will then discover the insurance doesn't pay for much. This is very much the Republican philosophy: If you make a poor choice, you have to live with the consequences and it is not the job of the government to force you to make "good" decisions. (V)

Constituents Ask ACA Questions, Their Congressman Flees

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) has been an outspoken advocate of killing Obamacare, even going so far as to write Op-eds on the subject. This weekend, he invited constituents to a meet-and-greet type event, so that they could ask questions about various policy questions. Apparently, he did not foresee what would happen, as hordes of Coloradans descended, demanding answers about what will be done to replace Obamacare. Coffman became overwhelmed, and chose a rather novel solution: He snuck out the back door before the event was over.

This is, of course, very embarrassing for Coffman. More significantly, however, it's a sign that voters care a lot about this issue, and are ready to hold their elected officials accountable if the ACA replacement is a downgrade. For representatives like Coffman, the next election is just 20 short months away. If they fear they're going to get left holding the bag as a response of their leaders' machinations, they can and will grow skittish. It's a good demonstration of democracy in action, and also a reminder to Paul Ryan & Co. that they better get moving quick, or it will likely be too late. (Z)

Inauguration Gets Some Performers

The committee organizing Donald Trump's inaugural has finally lined up some performers for the weekend. On the day before the inauguration, there will be a concert entitled "The Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration," and it will feature country music star Toby Keith, rockers 3 Doors Down, singer and songwriter Lee Greenwood, YouTube musicians The Piano Guys, folk musicians The Frontmen of Country, and actor Jon Voight.

There are some actual big names there (most obviously Toby Keith), but it hardly represents the embrace by the glitterati that Donald Trump so badly wants. Further, Trump will undoubtedly grate his teeth at the fact that the equivalent event for Barack Obama, in 2008, featured appearances by Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige, Garth Brooks, U2, Usher, Stevie Wonder, Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks. For those keeping track of star wattage at home, that's 62.5 million albums sold and one Academy Award for the Trump event, versus 724.5 million albums and six Academy Awards for the Obama event. (Z)

Mr. Trump: Please Attack Me Next

Undoubtedly, when Donald Trump pulls out his mighty Twitter sword, he expects to smite whoever his target du jour is. However, that may not always be the case. For many prominent Americans, being attacked by Trump is a badge of honor and even, perhaps, a marketing opportunity.

For example, Jonathan Chait has written a book about the presidency of Barack Obama. Press materials for the work include repeated mentions of the fact that Trump once blasted Chait as a "no-talent illiterate hack." Similarly, the current issue of Vanity Fair features this recent Trump bon mot:

Has anyone looked at the really poor numbers of @VanityFair Magazine? Way down, big trouble, dead! Graydon Carter, no talent, will be out!

The magazine has added 80,000 subscribers in the two weeks since the tweet, and expects to add more.

It was evident that Trump had no intention of laying off Twitter after being elected, and now he has confirmed that fact (see above). He does not seem to realize (or else, does not care) that his tweeting often has the opposite of the effect he intends. As Chait observes:

It seems to me that he genuinely believes he's punishing or crushing his enemies by spraying out nasty tweets. He hasn't really assimilated the fact that he's polarizing. He's the epitome of the person you don't want as a reader. He's the best advertisement you could ask for.

Needless to say, if others adopt this line of thinking, then high-profile people are going to work very hard to get under Trump's skin. And, by all evidences, he's going to respond. In other words, it will be a Twitter arms race. The next four years are certainly going to be interesting. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan14 Trump's Cabinet Is Not on the Same Page as Trump
Jan14 What Will Trump Do? We Should Know February 6
Jan14 Senate Committee Will Investigate Russian Interference
Jan14 Inauguration Day Will Be Tense in D.C.
Jan14 Mexico Will Respond Immediately to a Border Tax
Jan14 Lee May Propose Tariff Bill
Jan14 For Liberal Media, Trump is Good For Business
Jan13 Senate Committee Approves Waiver for Mattis
Jan13 FBI, DOJ to Be Investigated
Jan13 Russia Could Now Focus on Hacking Members of Congress
Jan13 Trump Gets Pushback on Plan to Move Israel Embassy
Jan13 Obama Ends Automatic Residency for Cuban Refugees
Jan13 Both Parties Have Unstable Coalitions
Jan13 Why Trump Can't Let Go
Jan13 Majority of Americans Want Trump to Quit Twitter
Jan13 Bush Daughters Write Letter to Obama Daughters
Jan12 Trump's Presidency Will Be Like No Other
Jan12 Senate Takes First Step Toward Repealing Obamacare
Jan12 Tillerson Evades Senators' Questions
Jan12 Booker and Lewis Testify Against Sessions
Jan12 Chao Sails Through Easily
Jan12 Mattis Aggravates House Democrats
Jan12 Cubs to Visit Obama on Monday
Jan11 Russia May Have Dirt on Trump
Jan11 Sessions Denies Racism Charges
Jan11 Is McConnell Pulling a Fast One?
Jan11 Clinton's Cabinet Shortlist Leaks
Jan11 Trump Wants the ACA to Be Replaced Quickly
Jan11 Trump Meets With RFK, Jr.
Jan11 Obama Bids Farewell, but Is Not Leaving on Jan. 20
Jan11 Majority of Voters Don't Like Trump's Transition
Jan11 Bad News Just Keeps Coming for Crowley
Jan10 Booker to Testify Against Sessions
Jan10 Jared Kushner to Be Named Senior Adviser to the President
Jan10 Kushner: Trump Didn't Really Believe Conspiracy Theories
Jan10 What Can Trump Do on His First Day in Office?
Jan10 McConnell: Trump's Hopes on Russia "Will Be Dashed Pretty Quickly"
Jan10 Anti-Trump Movement Will Operate in California and New York
Jan10 Trump Fires Back at Streep
Jan09 Cabinet Confirmation Hearings Will Start This Week
Jan09 Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Jan09 Unpaid Trump Advisors May Also Have Conflicts of Interest
Jan09 McConnell: Repeal of the ACA Will Begin This Week
Jan09 Toll Roads Are Coming
Jan09 Golden Globes Turns into the Anti-Trump Show
Jan09 Trump to Inaugural Announcer: You're Fired
Jan08 Trump Insiders Dive into the Swamp
Jan08 Trump: Only Stupid People Oppose a Good Relationship with Russia
Jan08 Sessions Not a Civil Rights Activist, After All
Jan08 Cabinet Nominees May Be Confirmed Before Ethics Reviews Are Finished