Essential Washington

Here's our look at the Trump administration and the rest of Washington.

In Alabama and across the country, pride swells as black female voters show they matter

 (Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)
(Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

Every election since she was 16, Catrena Norris Carter has gone door to door, urging black Alabama voters to the polls.

In the months leading up to Tuesday's U.S. Senate race, the community activist and a band of mostly black women registered college students to vote, waved signs on street corners and egged on fellow African Americans at churches, sororities and even football stadiums to be sure to cast their ballots.

"Hey, we worked our butts off," said Norris Carter, 49, an organizer with Vote or Die, a get-out-the-vote group that canvassed on Democrat Doug Jones' behalf in Birmingham, Montgomery and black rural communities. "A win's been a long time coming."

The mobilization of African American support is a routine part of just about any winning Democratic campaign. But the overwhelming black turnout here Tuesday, the staggering support for Jones and the sense that African American women in particular carried him to an upset victory made for a moment of shining pride.

Not just here in Alabama, but across the country.

The fact that the loser was Roy Moore, a Republican with a long history of racially provocative actions and statements, and that the triumph was eked out in a state with a long, ugly history of racial oppression made victory all the sweeter.

Politics has veered from one side to the other, but Doug Jones' win in Alabama suggests the need to hew to the center

The Democratic win Tuesday in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race may have seemed the most striking example yet of the bitterly negative tenor of American politics in the last several decades, as it has veered from one political pole to the other like a frenetic metronome.

Doug Jones’ victory over Republican Roy Moore by little more than 1 percentage point followed by only a year Donald Trump’s 28-point victory in the same state. The two men had almost nothing in common other than their shared good luck in running against a widely disliked member of the opposing party.

Trump’s victory in Alabama and similar states was in great part driven by animosity toward Democrat Hillary Clinton. Jones’ success rested on Democratic anger at Trump, reinforced by opposition to the controversial Republican candidate, Moore. The metronome needle that flew far to the right in 2016 swung back to the left in 2017.

Omarosa Manigault Newman is leaving the Trump administration. Did she help woo black support?

She is among President Trump’s most high-profile black supporters, a reality television star turned government official.

Now, Omarosa Manigault Newman is set to leave her role as director of communications in the White House Office of Public Liaison, a position in which she was tasked with working on outreach to various constituency groups.

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Manigault Newman was resigning to pursue other opportunities effective Jan. 20, one year to the date after Trump's inauguration.


Watch live: President Trump delivers remarks on the GOP tax plan

Embattled Trump judicial nominee Brett Talley withdraws

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Brett J. Talley, President Trump’s choice to be a federal judge in Alabama, has withdrawn from consideration, a White House official said Wednesday.

He is the first failed judicial nominee for the new administration, but he is likely to be joined shortly by Jeff Mateer, a Texas assistant attorney general who was nominated to be a district judge in his state.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) has moved quickly to approve Trump’s proposed judges, but he said Monday that he would not hold a hearing for Mateer and would oppose confirming Talley in the full Senate.

Talley is a 36-year old lawyer and blogger who had close ties to the White House. His wife, Ann Donaldson, works for White House counsel Don McGahn. But Talley has little legal experience, has never tried a case and was rated “not qualified” by the American Bar Assn.’s screening committee.


Rod Rosenstein pushes back on Republican criticism of special counsel investigation

 (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)
(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)

Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein, who oversees special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his investigation into Russian meddling into last year’s presidential campaign, said Wednesday the case has been handled “appropriately.”

Rosenstein’s defense of Mueller came during a House Judiciary Committee hearing as Republicans try to portray the special counsel as tainted by partisan bias against President Trump. 

"He was an ideal choice,” Rosenstein said about Mueller, whom he appointed in May. 

Democrats have repeatedly warned that Trump could order Rosenstein to fire Mueller. White House lawyer Ty Cobb said in a Tuesday interview that there was no talk of trying to remove the special counsel. 

"There are no plans, as we’ve said for months on end, to fire Mr. Mueller,” he said.

The guru behind Doug Jones' big win holds forth on Alabama, Trump and the Democrats' future

Paul Maslin is a veteran Democratic pollster who spent Wednesday traveling home from Alabama and luxuriating in Doug Jones’ upset victory in the state’s special U.S. Senate race.

During a layover at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, he took a victory lap and offered a few thoughts between flights.

On President Trump: “If he can’t figure out a way to turn this around, we’re going to win the Senate, we’re going to kill ’em in the House and we’re going to set up the second half of his presidency where he’s going to be neutered.”

On Democrats going forward: “The lesson is we need to keep being aggressive, fighting him everywhere. There’s no reason we can’t win Tennessee, there’s no reason we can’t win Arizona and Nevada. There’s no reason we can’t win congressional seats all over the place.”

That said, Maslin suggested Democrats have to deliver if they win the House in 2018 and look to taking back the White House in 2020.

On the challenge ahead: “We’re going to have the onus on us, which means we can’t simply be naysayers. We’ve lost credibility in the Midwest, in places like Pennsylvania. The Democratic Party is seen as being out of touch, elitist, without any good ideas on economic or pocketbook issues. We’re going to have to give people a sense we’ve turned the page and we’re not the same old, same old.”

On the bottom line:

"Rallying people against this president, this Congress and the people who are in control of the government remains a tremendous advantage and will continue to be for the next year.”

Republican leaders still hammering out differences on tax bill, with final votes expected next week

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) answers questions during a news conference earlier this month in Louisville, Ky. (Timothy D. Easley / Associated Press)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) answers questions during a news conference earlier this month in Louisville, Ky. (Timothy D. Easley / Associated Press)

Ahead of a pivotal meeting Wednesday, House and Senate negotiators swapped new offers on the GOP tax bill as they hurry to resolve differences and regain momentum for passage of President Trump’s top priority.

The focal point of the $1.5-trillion tax plan — the steep reduction in corporate rates from 35% to 20% — is expected to be relaxed slightly in the final deal, perhaps to 21%, as negotiators scramble to generate revenue that can be used to offset tax breaks elsewhere.

Trump indicated he would be open to higher corporate rates than Republicans first agreed to under a GOP framework, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said Tuesday that lawmakers also were willing to shift. But others said the reported 21% corporate rate was not yet set.

“We’re still talking,” said the majority whip in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas, late Tuesday.

White House

Omarosa Manigault Newman leaving White House

Omarosa Manigault Newman, director of communications for the White House Public Liaison Office, is reportedly stepping down. (Drew Angerer)
Omarosa Manigault Newman, director of communications for the White House Public Liaison Office, is reportedly stepping down. (Drew Angerer)

The White House says Omarosa Manigault Newman — one of President Trump's most prominent African American supporters — plans to leave the administration next month. 

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Manigault Newman's resignation is effective Jan. 20, one year since Trump's inauguration. 

Manigault Newman's decision comes at the start of what's expected to be a round of departures heading into the new year. 

The White House said last week that deputy national security advisor Dina Powell will leave the administration early next year. 

Manigault Newman is a former contestant on Trump's reality TV show “The Apprentice.” She joined the administration as director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison, working on outreach to various constituency groups. 

Watch live: Rod Rosenstein testifies before House Judiciary Committee

Ever since Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in March, no Justice Department official has been more important to the case than Rod Rosenstein.

As the deputy attorney general, the No. 2 position at Justice, Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel and he has the sole authority to fire him.

The role has placed Rosenstein under immense political pressure, and on Wednesday he’ll face questions from the House Judiciary Committee at a time when Republicans are raising doubts about Mueller’s investigation.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m.

In stunning 2017 defeats, Republicans see vision of difficulties in 2018

Democrats who opened the year clashing among themselves and lamenting President Trump’s election have closed 2017 with victories that demonstrated their ability to weaponize party enthusiasm and draw a template for success in a sharply competitive battle for Congress in 2018.

For Republicans, Tuesday night’s stunning loss by Roy Moore in Alabama’s Senate race — the first GOP loss in a Senate race there in a generation — underscored a bleak passage of time: A year that began in unified control of Washington has ended with the party bitterly split and redefined in the worst of ways, saddled with an unpopular president and a Senate candidate accused of child molestation.

Certainly, Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama was to some extent a fluke — an outcome made possible by Republicans’ nominating a deeply flawed candidate, Moore, who many of the party’s voters could not stomach. Turnout was tepid in key Republican areas, reflecting conservative voters who chose to sit this one out.

Net neutrality's repeal means fast lanes could be coming to the internet. Is that a good thing?

With federal regulators poised to repeal net neutrality rules this week, your internet service provider would be allowed to speed up delivery of some online content to your home or phone.

Whether those fast lanes are coming, and what they ultimately deliver for Americans, is unclear.

The concept, known as paid prioritization, involves a telecommunications company charging an additional fee to transport a video stream or other content at a higher speed through its network.

Trump, after endorsing two losers in Alabama: 'I was right'

Roy Moore addresses supporters Tuesday night in Montgomery, Ala. (Mike Stewart / Associated Press)
Roy Moore addresses supporters Tuesday night in Montgomery, Ala. (Mike Stewart / Associated Press)

President Trump, who stuck with Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore despite warnings from fellow Republicans that Moore was sullying their party, defended his decision after Democrat Doug Jones’ historic win on Tuesday.

“I was right!” Trump tweeted early Wednesday, alluding to his earlier endorsement of Luther Strange, the incumbent Republican senator whom Moore upset in a party primary. Moore, who faced allegations of preying on young girls decades ago, had “the deck stacked against him!” Trump wrote.

Trump said he nonetheless worked hard for the candidate, but that Moore’s loss justified his initial endorsement of Strange. 

“The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election,” Trump wrote. “I was right!”

The Alabama outcome is likely to hurt Trump politically. Not only did two candidates he endorsed suffer losses — Strange’s support in polls was little changed by Trump’s backing -- but the already slim Republican margin in the U.S. Senate is cut to 51-49. And Republicans who remain will have less confidence that Trump’s political brand will help them with voters.

Democrat Doug Jones wins Alabama Senate seat, but Roy Moore won't concede

Democrat Doug Jones, who started the Alabama race for U.S. Senate as a massive underdog, swept to victory Tuesday night in a repudiation of scandal-stained Roy Moore. The upset also dealt a serious blow to President Trump.

The narrow victory slices the GOP’s already-thin margin in the Senate to a single seat, complicating the party’s legislative push and giving Democrats a major boost heading into the 2018 campaign, when control of Congress will be at stake.

The win — which Moore refused to acknowledge — marked the first time a Democrat has captured a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama in a quarter of a century.

More broadly, it signaled the limits of the nation’s political tribalism.

Alabama GOP chief says Moore lost election

A Roy Moore supporter weeps Tuesday at his election-night party in Montgomery, Ala. (Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)
A Roy Moore supporter weeps Tuesday at his election-night party in Montgomery, Ala. (Brynn Anderson / Associated Press)

The leader of the Alabama Republican Party recognized Democrat Doug Jones as the winner of Tuesday’s U.S. Senate election even as GOP candidate Roy Moore refused to concede defeat.

State GOP chairwoman Terry Lathan said party leaders were “deeply disappointed” in the close result.

“During this campaign, we heard Mr. Jones repeatedly say he would talk about ‘kitchen table issues’ and that he would ‘reach across the aisle’ to work with Republicans,” she said.

“While these issues weren’t discussed and no other Democratic senator has worked with the Republicans, all eyes will be on his votes. Alabamians will watch the issues he will support or try to stop. We will hold him accountable for his votes.”

If Jones aligns himself with liberal Democrats in Washington, she said, Alabama voters will remember his choices when he is up for reelection in 2020.


Roy Moore declines to concede in Alabama Senate race

Roy Moore addresses supporters Tuesday night in Montgomery, Ala. (Mike Stewart / Associated Press)
Roy Moore addresses supporters Tuesday night in Montgomery, Ala. (Mike Stewart / Associated Press)

Roy Moore declined to concede defeat Tuesday night in the Alabama Senate election even after Democrat Doug Jones declared victory.

“It’s not over, and it’s going to take some time,” Moore said, citing the narrow margin between him and Doug Jones in the preliminary count. 

Appearing downcast at his election night party in Montgomery, Moore quoted Scripture and bemoaned attacks during the campaign.

“Part of the problem with this campaign is we’ve been painted in an unfavorable and unfaithful light,” he said. “We’ve been put in a hole, if you will.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican, told CNN that he would certify the final vote count between Dec. 26 and Jan. 3.

With votes from 100% of Alabama’s election precincts counted late Tuesday night, Jones was nearly 21,000 votes ahead of Moore.

“There’s always a chance of a recount because any candidate can ask for a recount, and if they pay for it, they can receive a recount,” Merrill said.

A mandatory recount is triggered if the margin between the candidates is narrower than a half percentage point, he said. But the count Tuesday night had Jones leading by 1.5 percentage points: 49.9% to 48.4%.

Military ballots and provisional ballots will be counted over the next week, Merrill said, and write-in ballots must be reviewed to make sure the candidates were qualified to be tallied.

Moore campaign officials said a review of write-in ballots could narrow the margin enough to trigger a mandatory recount.

Trump bemoans write-ins as he congratulates Democrat Doug Jones

Trump suffers big setback in Alabama, but congratulates Democrat Doug Jones

Doug Jones lauds 'common courtesy and decency' in Alabama vote

At the end of the day, this entire race has been about dignity and respect. This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency. ​​​​​

Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama, in victory speech

Trump's troubles with Congress just got worse: Five takeaways from Democrats' upset in Alabama

The stunning victory of Democrat Doug Jones over Roy Moore in Alabama’s U.S. Senate election on Tuesday marked an enormous setback for Republicans in a state they have dominated for decades.

It’s a setback with a silver lining, to be sure.

Here are five big takeaways from the Democrats’ capture of the Senate seat vacated by Republican Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions:

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World