Trail Guide TRANSITION TO TRUMP
NATION POLITICS TRAIL GUIDE

This is our look at President-elect Donald Trump's transition and the outgoing Obama administration. Here's what's happening:

Breitbart News wants supporters to #DumpKelloggs after advertiser pulls out

Breitbart News senior editor-at-large Joel Pollak, left, and Chief Executive Larry Solov  at the Breitbart offices in Los Angeles. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Breitbart News senior editor-at-large Joel Pollak, left, and Chief Executive Larry Solov at the Breitbart offices in Los Angeles. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The Breitbart News Network is seeing some of its advertisers head for the exit doors and is responding in typical Breitbart fashion: by going on the counteroffensive, labeling one of them as “un-American” and calling it a war on conservatism.

Since Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, Los Angeles-based Breitbart has experienced a backlash from some advertisers who say that the online site conflicts with their corporate values.

Breitbart took a pro-Trump stance during the campaign, supporting the Republican candidate’s views on immigration and national security. The company’s executive chairman, Steve Bannon, who is on a leave of absence, was Trump’s campaign manager and has been named chief White House strategist.

Although Bannon was quoted in Mother Jones as saying Breitbart is a platform for the alt-right — the ultraconservative movement associated with white nationalism — the news site has denied accusations that it engages in racist rhetoric. The company has stated that it isn’t affiliated with the alt-right and that the brand of nationalism it espouses is political, not racial.

Breitbart is fighting back at one of the advertisers — breakfast cereal maker Kellogg Co. — by launching a Twitter campaign, #DumpKelloggs, that encourages its readers to sign a petition and boycott the maker of such favorites as Froot Loops and Apple Jacks.

Supreme Court weighs rules for jailed immigrants in Trump era

The Supreme Court building in Washington. (Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty Images)
The Supreme Court building in Washington. (Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty Images)

Facing the likelihood of dramatically stepped-up deportations under a President Donald Trump, the Supreme Court justices sounded closely split Wednesday over whether the government can indefinitely jail immigrants with criminal convictions while they fight legal efforts to remove them from the country.

Trump, who made illegal immigration one of the platforms of his presidential campaign, has promised to deport as many as 3 million immigrants once he takes office, and the Supreme Court case involving a Los Angeles immigrant could give his administration greater leverage.

Trump says he saved American jobs, but he hasn't shown how he can turn the victory into policy

A Carrier Corp. plant in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings / Associated Press)
A Carrier Corp. plant in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

President-elect Donald Trump’s newly announced agreement to save more than 1,000 jobs in Indiana gave him the kind of trophy he covets: a tangible victory that matches his campaign promise to serve as deal maker in chief.

But its long-term value will depend on what Trump gave up to keep those factory jobs from going to Mexico and whether he is able to craft a successful fiscal policy that has a broader impact on the economy.

Lawmakers reach a compromise to help California soldiers ordered to repay enlistment bonuses

Soldiers from the California Army National Guard have been ordered to return enlistment bonuses they received a decade ago when the Pentagon needed troops for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (California Army National Guard)
Soldiers from the California Army National Guard have been ordered to return enlistment bonuses they received a decade ago when the Pentagon needed troops for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (California Army National Guard)

House and Senate negotiators announced a compromise Tuesday that would permit the Pentagon to forgive debts owed by thousands of California National Guard soldiers who received improper bonuses during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The agreement was included in a defense bill due to be voted on by the House on Friday and the Senate next week.

It seeks to strike a balance between the Pentagon’s concerns about fraud in the bonus system and lawmakers’ attempts to resolve a scandal that has hurt thousands of military veterans and sparked a public furor.

The compromise calls on the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses and student loans benefits unless the soldier who received the money “knew or reasonably should have known” that he or she was ineligible for it.

The provision stops short of requiring the Pentagon to forgive debts allegedly owed by all California Guard soldiers as long as they fulfilled the terms of their enlistment contracts and did not commit fraud — a far more sweeping waiver that members of the California delegation had proposed.

Pentagon says human errors led to mistaken bombing of Syrian-backed forces

Smoke rises near the Syrian village of Hisha, about 25 miles from Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqah, after an airstrike by the American-led coalition on Nov. 9, 2016. (Delil Souleiman /AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises near the Syrian village of Hisha, about 25 miles from Islamic State's de facto capital of Raqqah, after an airstrike by the American-led coalition on Nov. 9, 2016. (Delil Souleiman /AFP/Getty Images)

A U.S. military investigation has found that “unintentional human errors” led to a coalition airstrike that mistakenly killed dozens of Syrian-backed troops this fall, but it did not recommend disciplining anyone for the deadly attack.

The Sept. 17 air raid on a garrison in the eastern Syrian town of Dair Alzour is one of the worst coalition errors to emerge since the Obama administration began an air war against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria in mid-2014.

The attack, which was in an area also frequented by Russian forces, led to sharp criticism from Moscow after it emerged that Russian attempts to use a communications hotline to stop the attack were not answered for nearly half an hour.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has said the attack killed 62 Syrian troops, wounded 100 more and opened the way for an Islamic State offensive in the area. It also helped destroy an already fragile U.S.-Russian cease-fire.

A four-page redacted summary of the investigation that was released Tuesday concluded that the botched bombing did not violate international laws of armed conflict.

U.N. slaps new sanctions on North Korea for recent nuclear test

Participants stand behind a military band in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 13 during a celebration rally after the country's successful test of a nuclear warhead. (Kim Won-Jin / AFP/Getty Images)
Participants stand behind a military band in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 13 during a celebration rally after the country's successful test of a nuclear warhead. (Kim Won-Jin / AFP/Getty Images)

The United Nations has slapped additional sanctions on North Korea in an effort to cut its exports of raw materials as punishment for conducting another nuclear test.

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a U.S.-drafted resolution aimed at cutting North Korea's exports of coal, copper, silver and other raw materials, which are its biggest legitimate sources of foreign revenue.

The latest sanctions were issued in response to Pyongyang's fifth and largest nuclear test, which was conducted in September in violation of U.N. resolutions.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power estimated the new sanctions will cost North Korea about $800 million a year in lost export income.

North Korea "is determined to refine its nuclear and ballistic missile technology to pose an even more potent threat ... to international peace and security," Power said.

"But this resolution imposes unprecedented costs on the [Kim Jong Un] regime for defying this council’s demands," she said.

Previous international sanctions have had little apparent effect on decisions in Pyongyang, and it's difficult to know whether the latest round will make a difference.

In March, a set of sanctions described as the most severe in two decades was imposed. But North Korea has gotten around some of the restrictions thanks to complicity from China, its neighbor and longtime benefactor.

Wednesday's measures included a 60% cut on North Korea's export of coal, its biggest income source, and bans on the export of copper, nickel, silver and zinc. 

The sanctions also banned North Korea's export of statues, a business that caters mostly to Africa, and blacklisted 11 people and 10 entities.

Under the resolution, North Korea is also threatened with suspension of some U.N. privileges if it fails to comply. 

CIA director warns Trump it would be the 'height of folly' to scrap the Iran deal

 (Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)
(Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)

In an unusual public warning, the head of the CIA said Wednesday it would be the “height of folly” and “disastrous” for President-elect Donald Trump to scrap the Iran nuclear deal.

CIA Director John Brennan said in a TV interview that ripping up the historic accord could allow Iran to resume its nuclear program and set off an arms race in the Middle East by encouraging other countries to acquire their own nuclear weapons.

“I think it would be disastrous” for the incoming Trump administration to renege on the deal with Iran, Brennan said in an unusually blunt interview with BBC.

“It could lead to a weapons program inside Iran that could lead other states in the region to embark on their own programs, so I think it would be height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement,” Brennan said.

It is extremely rare for the CIA director to issue a public warning to an incoming administration, and it suggests deep concern inside the intelligence community about Trump's intentions. 

During the campaign, Trump variously promised to dismantle or to revise President Obama's signature foreign policy achievement, an international deal that cut off Iran's ability to build or acquire nuclear weapons in exchange for easing of sanctions on its finances and oil industry. 

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Trump’s pick to replace Brennan as CIA director, also has been a vocal critic of the deal.

“I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism,” Pompeo wrote Nov. 17 on Twitter.

After meeting Trump at the White House after the election, Obama said they had discussed the Iran deal and that he hoped it would survive intact, noting that the United States would be acting alone if it sought to impose new sanctions.

The five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany negotiated the deal in 2015, and the U.N. later voted to enforce it. Implementation began in January, and no evidence has emerged to indicate Iran is violating its side of the agreement.

Obama administration officials want to brief Trump and his top advisors on classified details and assessments of the Iran deal, including monitoring systems put in place to verify Iranian compliance.

So far, Trump’s transition team has delayed receiving more than a handful of in-depth intelligence briefings.

“There are a lot of people out there who read the papers and listened to news broadcasts where the facts may be a bit — you know – off,” Brennan told the BBC.

“I want to make sure the new team understands what the reality is. It ultimately will be up to them to decide how to carry out their responsibilities,” Brennan said.

Robert M. Gates, a former CIA chief and secretary of Defense, also called for preserving the nuclear deal.

“It would be a mistake to tear up the agreement at this point," Gates said in an interview on "CBS This Morning." "I think we would be the ones isolated, not the Iranians, because none of our partners who helped to negotiate that would walk away from it. But I think what the new president can do is push back against the Iranians."

Rep. Nancy Pelosi elected by House Democrats for another term as minority leader

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

House Democrats elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi for another term as minority leader after she fended off a rival who said the November election showed the party needs change at the top.

The San Francisco Democrat has beaten back challengers before, but this year's campaign from Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan focused attention on President-elect Donald Trump's success in attracting white, working class voters in Rust Belt states that had traditionally been part of the Democratic base.

Pelosi responded by expanding her leadership team to include more seats at the table for younger members and those from states Trump won.

The only woman to serve as House speaker, Pelosi has faced calls for her ouster ever since Democrats lost the House majority in 2010.

First elected to leadership in 2002, the mother of five -- and grandmother -- has also endured questions about how much longer she will stay at the helm. The 76-year-old typically swats back such inquiries by noting the comparable ages of male colleagues in leadership roles elsewhere in the Capitol. 

Pelosi remains a fundraising powerhouse and despite interest by other Democrats in taking a turn at leadership, few have been able to make the case to their peers that they could match her drive.

But this year, Pelosi appeared to take her challenge seriously. She repeatedly worked to shore up support from liberals and minorities who make up the bulk of the Democratic caucus. She also pointed to the gains Democrats have made under her watch -- they picked up six seats in November -- and warned that losses could have been worse.

Democratic Rep. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, in nominating Pelosi during a closed-door meeting Wednesday, said, "We need the very best to lead us.... No one is a better tactician than Nancy Pelosi."

Trump pledged to protect Medicare. His choice for health secretary has other ideas

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Health and Human Services secretary. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Health and Human Services secretary. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

President-elect Donald Trump reassured voters during his insurgent political campaign that he would protect Medicare, Social Security and other popular federal assistance programs.

But in tapping Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to be his Health and Human Services secretary, he has elevated one of the most aggressive proponents of dramatically overhauling the government safety net for seniors and low-income Americans, a long-held conservative goal.

Trump says he will leave his business 'in total to fully focus on running the country'

 (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he would  "leave" his business operations "in total to fully focus on running the country." 

Trump's vast interests in real estate and other ventures have raised unprecedented concerns about the potential for conflict of interest, both at home and internationally.

In one of a series of tweets, Trump said he would be “leaving my great business in total.”

“Legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!” he said.

However, Trump made no mention that would be giving up ownership of the Trump Organization, which includes hotels, golf resorts and other properties and many licensing deals that span the globe.

Neither did he specify whether his separation from his businesses would be permanent.

To avoid conflicts or the perception that his presidency would benefit his financial empire, government ethics lawyers and watchdog groups have urged him to sell off his businesses and put the assets in a blind trust to be managed by an independent third party.

Trump said last week that he has been turning over operations of his businesses to three of his children, who already have senior positions at the Trump Organization.

But some critics have said turning over control to his children may not be enough to alleviate such concerns, since several of his adult children remain active in planning his transition.

“What he does not seem to realize, or does not want to admit, is that the conflicts arise from his ownership of the Trump Organization,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, in reacting to Trump’s announcement Wednesday.  “He will continue to know what his business interests are and to benefit from them whether or not he is involved in the day-to-day management, so the conflicts remain unchanged.”

Federal conflict-of-interest rules for government employees and members of Congress don’t apply to the president.

Trump said in an interview with the New York Times last week that “the president can’t have a conflict of interest … In theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100%.”  

He said then that it would be very hard to sell off his businesses because they are mostly real estate, but also noted that he would like “to try and formalize something” in terms of an arrangement that would distance his businesses from his work as president.

On Wednesday, he tweeted that “While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”

Trump said he would detail the changes at a New York news conference with his children on Dec. 15.

Trump names billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as Commerce secretary

President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence greet investor Wilbur Ross, left, in New Jersey on Sunday. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence greet investor Wilbur Ross, left, in New Jersey on Sunday. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen billionaire financier Wilbur Ross, known as the king of bankruptcy for his investments in distressed properties, to serve as Commerce secretary, according to a person familiar with the decision.

If confirmed, Ross would become the Trump administration’s chief liaison with the business community and a leading advocate for U.S. trade abroad.

Ross, 80, who was a senior policy advisor to Trump’s campaign, is worth $2.9 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Like Trump, Ross has been critical of U.S. trade deals. He sharply criticized trade negotiators and called for the U.S. to withdraw from the yet-to-be-ratified Trans-Pacific Partnership and to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump has pledged to do both upon taking office.

Trump taps Wall Street executive and Hollywood producer Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary

Steven Mnuchin at Trump Tower in New York this month. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP/Getty Images)
Steven Mnuchin at Trump Tower in New York this month. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AFP/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Steven Mnuchin, a wealthy Wall Street executive and Hollywood movie producer who served as his campaign finance chairman, to be the next Treasury secretary, according to a person familiar with the decision.

Mnuchin’s deep roots on Wall Street fit the mold of past Treasury secretaries but contrast with the populist stance that Trump took during his campaign.

Mnuchin's net worth is unclear, but he could be the second billionaire member of Trump’s Cabinet, after Betsy DeVos, who is Trump’s pick for Education secretary. The third is expected to be financier Wilbur Ross, who has  been selected as  Commerce secretary.

Mnuchin’s selection — which was first reported Tuesday by the New York Times —  drew ire from Democratic and liberal groups, which have accused him of profiting from the financial crisis after buying the failed IndyMac Bank in 2009.

Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz and nearly 400 MIT faculty oppose Trump picks in open letter

President-elect Donald Trump. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
President-elect Donald Trump. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Nearly 400 MIT faculty members, including professor emeritus Noam Chomsky, writer Junot Diaz and four Nobel Prize winners, signed an open letter criticizing President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks.

“The President-elect has appointed individuals to positions of power who have endorsed racism, misogyny and religious bigotry, and denied the widespread scientific consensus on climate change. Regardless of our political views, these endorsements violate principles at the core of MIT’s mission. At this time, it is important to reaffirm the values we hold in common.”

The letter also denounces the controversial rhetoric often associated with Trump’s campaign and impending presidency.

“For any member of our community who may feel fear or oppression, our doors are open and we are ready to help,” it states.  MIT boasts a student body represented by 120 foreign countries, all 50 U.S. states and three U.S. territories.

While campaigning, Trump lauded his late uncle, John, who was a professor at MIT for nearly 50 years. Shortly after Trump announced his candidacy, he spoke about him to CNN.

“I had an uncle who went to MIT who is a top professor. Dr. John Trump. A genius. It’s in my blood. I’m smart. Great marks. Like really smart," Trump said.

A handful of faculty members who signed the statement overlapped in time with John Trump. At least one, physics professor Robert Jaffe, said that he did not know the uncle, but hopes that his nephew’s administration will maintain a dedication to science.

With no Cabinet to build, Hillary Clinton appears with Katy Perry

Pop star Katy Perry was one of Hillary Clinton's biggest celebrity boosters on the campaign trail, and on Tuesday night the former Democratic presidential nominee introduced the singer at a charity gala in New York. 

Perry has served as UNICEF's goodwill ambassador. 

Donald Trump and Mitt Romney continue their high-stakes courtship over frog legs in Manhattan

President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney dine at Jean-Georges restaurant in New York. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney dine at Jean-Georges restaurant in New York. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Before Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney called him a phony and a fraud who made worthless promises.

But since Trump won the election, the two men have been exploring the possibility of Romney joining his Cabinet as secretary of State. On Tuesday night, they dined at Jean-Georges, a high-priced French restaurant in Trump's hotel adjacent to Central Park in Manhattan. 

Reince Priebus, the Republican Party chairman who will join Trump's White House as his chief of staff, was also there. The three men ate garlic soup, frog legs, scallops, prime sirloin and lamb chops, before ending the meal with chocolate cake. 

When Romney exited the restaurant, he spoke much more positively about Trump than he had during the primary, calling it a "wonderful evening."

"These discussions I've had with him have been enlightening and interesting and engaging," he told reporters.

Romney said Trump had made good choices for his administration.

"I've been impressed by what I've seen in the transition effort," he said. "The people he's selected as members of his Cabinet are solid, effective, capable people." 

Trump has chosen Stephen K. Bannon, a campaign advisor praised by white nationalists and criticized by civil rights activists, as his chief White House strategist, and he's continued to spread falsehoods about voter fraud. But Romney said Trump had a "message of inclusion and bringing people together."

Although choosing Romney could placate some establishment Republicans hoping for a more conventional choice for the nation's top diplomat, he's also controversial within Trump's circles.

A top Trump advisor has publicly warned that some supporters may feel betrayed if Romney is chosen. 

Jill Stein pays fee to green-light Wisconsin recount

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. None
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

The recount is officially on.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission said Tuesday that Green Party nominee Jill Stein has paid the nearly $3.5 million estimated cost to set into motion a statewide retabulation of the presidential vote.

Stein had asked for the recount after claiming that evidence of foreign interference existed. She is also seeking recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania; together, the three states carry enough electoral votes to flip the election from President-elect Donald Trump to Democrat Hillary Clinton, but such an outcome is all but impossible

The Wisconsin recount, which starts Thursday, is likely to cost Stein slightly more, the commission said, blaming an earlier error in adding up cost estimates from the 72 county clerks who will oversee the ballot review. Stein will be charged whatever additional costs are incurred after the recount is concluded.

Officials on Monday said that most counties will complete their recount in a week but that more populous counties will face a challenge in meeting the deadline to certify results. The state aims to finish by Dec. 12, as state law gives the recount petitioner five days after the new tally is finished for further legal challenges. 

Presidential electors in 50 states and the District of Columbia will meet Dec. 19 to formally cast the votes that will elect Trump as the next president.

Repeal and replace Obamacare? It won't happen on Trump's first day, GOP leader says

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) cast doubt on whether the Republican-led Congress would be ready to repeal Obamacare by inauguration day, as some in President-elect Donald Trump's transition team have suggested could happen in a special session.

But McCarthy said Republicans would try to start as soon as possible on what he acknowledged would be a complicated two-step process to repeal and replace Obamacare that will consume much of 2017 and beyond.

Their plan involves retroactively passing a fiscal 2017 budget in the early weeks of Trump’s term. Such a maneuver would give Republicans the ability to unwind President Obama's signature domestic program with a simple majority vote, without facing a Democratic filibuster. Replacing the Affordable Care Act would come later, and likely extend into fiscal 2018.

"Once it’s repealed you will have hopefully fewer people playing politics and everybody coming to the table to find the best policy," McCarthy told reporters. "I just want to make sure we get it right."

McCarthy on Tuesday welcomed reports that Trump intends to nominate House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) to lead the Health and Human Services Department as Congress focuses on getting rid of Obamacare.

Democrats, though, suggested that Price, a medical doctor who has championed House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plans to overhaul Medicare, will face so much opposition in the Senate that he may not be confirmed.

“Try it,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the incoming Democratic minority leader. “Privatization of Medicare goes way beyond where most Americans are.”

For years, Republicans have promised to end Obamacare, and with Trump in the White House they will have their best opportunity to do so.

But McCarthy cautioned that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act will be more complicated than simply sending a bill to the White House for the president's signature.

Instead, Congress will need to insert special repeal instructions as part of the wonky budget reconciliation process. And that will take time, he said.

McCarthy said that replacing Obamacare will be even tougher than repealing it. Even though Republicans have promised their own healthcare law, they have never been able to produce an agreed-upon alternative.

To gather ideas, McCarthy said he would solicit advice from governors and state insurance commissioners. He'll be sending a letter to the states later this week. 

Since Congress did not pass a 2017 budget for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, they hope to retroactively approve one in the weeks ahead so they can include the first part of the special instructions needed to repeal the program. But he doubted that would be completed by the time Trump takes office.

"I don’t think you can do it before [Jan.] 20th," he said. "There's only so many legislative days."

The finish the job, lawmakers will use the reconciliation process for the fiscal 2018 budget, which is due by spring. McCarthy predicted Congress would still need to pass additional legislation, which cannot be completed through the reconciliation process, in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Obama will skip Fidel Castro's funeral but is sending an informal delegation

The Cuban flag hangs at half-staff in front of a picture of Fidel Castro on the facade of the Cuban national library in Havana. (Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP/Getty Images)
The Cuban flag hangs at half-staff in front of a picture of Fidel Castro on the facade of the Cuban national library in Havana. (Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama is not going to the memorial service for former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro on Tuesday but instead is sending a pair of key representatives to pay their respects, an informal appearance that reflects the delicate diplomacy between the White House and the leadership in Havana.

Obama is sending Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, along with deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, but the two men are not being dispatched as part of a formal delegation, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

DeLaurentis and Rhodes played key roles in reopening U.S. ties to the communist island nation in late 2014, ending five decades of a Cold War-era freeze in relations.

The policy has been celebrated for opening the possibility of expanded trade with and travel to Cuba, while critics attacked Obama for engaging with President Raul Castro without extracting concessions on human rights. His brother Fidel held power through firing squads, false imprisonment and harsh treatment of dissidents.

President-elect Donald Trump was one of those critics, saying after Fidel Castro’s death that if Cuba isn’t willing to “make a better deal for the Cuban people … and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate the deal.”

After Castro died Friday, the White House released an oblique statement noting that his death filled Cubans “with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”

Donald Trump to pick Elaine Chao, a well-connected establishment figure, as Transportation secretary

President-elect Donald Trump plans to name Elaine Chao – a former Labor secretary married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) – as his Transportation secretary, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield).

Chao’s establishment ties conflict with Trump’s promise to "drain the swamp" in Washington and promote outsiders to lead his government. But Chao’s connections could be an asset in Trump's plan to promote a major infrastructure proposal that could face resistance from within his party.

Trump has decried the state of the nation’s airports, bridges and roads and promised to make their revitalization a major part of his jobs program aimed at helping working-class Americans whose votes helped propel him to victory. Chao, who served as Labor secretary through the entire George W. Bush administration, could play a central role in negotiating an infrastructure spending bill while her husband leads the Senate.

Trump’s spokesman Jason Miller did not confirm the pick on a conference call with reporters but said that Trump had “taken people who’ve been successful in all different walks of life” – including business, government, and military – to fill a Cabinet that Miller called a “true dream team.”

The Taiwan-born Chao also exemplifies the type of immigrant success story that became the subject of debate during Trump’s campaign, which promised to crack down on illegal immigration and labeled many of those entering the country illegally from Mexico as criminals, drug dealers and rapists.

Chao is one of four sisters who attended Harvard Business School. Her family donated $40 million to the institution in 2012.

U.S. economy grew 3.2% in third quarter, the best in two years

The U.S. economy grew faster in the third quarter than initially estimated, expanding at its strongest pace in two years in a rebound from a weak first half of 2016.

Total economic output, also known as gross domestic product, expanded at a 3.2% annual pace from July through September, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

The figure was up from an initial estimate of 2.9% and the best performance since the economy expanded at a 5% annual rate in the third quarter of 2014.

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