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Nancy Pelosi swats backs challenger to be reelected House minority leader

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.
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.

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Supreme Court weighs rules for jailed immigrants in Trump era

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.

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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.
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.

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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)

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.

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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)

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.

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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)

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)

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 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))

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.

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

(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 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.

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

Steven Mnuchin at Trump Tower in New York this month.
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.

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

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)

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.
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 (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)

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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Q&A: What you need to know about the Wisconsin recount

(Michael P. King / Wisconsin State Journal )

“This is certainly not Bush vs. Gore,” a Wisconsin elections official said Monday.

Well, what is it?

The state is initiating the first significant candidate-driven recount in a presidential election since the 2000 ordeal in Florida between then-Vice President Al Gore and eventual President George W. Bush.

This time, though, Donald Trump is certain to remain president-elect after Wisconsin’s nearly 3 million ballots are re-tabulated. But the fight here and potentially in other states has given third-party candidates new rationale for seeking public attention for their causes, and it has given Trump fresh ammunition to trash his opponents — as well as, bafflingly, the political process in which he just secured the presidency.

Here is a look at the issues involved in the Badger State and elsewhere as the seemingly unending 2016 presidential election seeps into overtime.

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By tweet and petition, Donald Trump and the left cast doubt on credibility of election

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Rather than celebrating his victory, Donald Trump is amplifying far-right conspiracies to undermine the credibility of an election he won. At the same time, he is finding some common cause in the quixotic effort by the fringe left to prevent him from reaching the White House.

The chances of changing the election result with selective ballot recounts, as some on the left hope, or finding widespread voter fraud as alleged by Trump are next to nil. Yet a combination of self-interest and a desire for misdirection have propelled factions of both parties to debate the results of an election already decisively settled.

Trump’s motives are often hard to pinpoint. But by pushing the myth that millions of ballots were cast illegally for his opponent, as he has done on Twitter in recent days, he may be building the case to claim a larger mandate for his victory despite the fact that Hillary Clinton is leading the popular vote by more than 2 million votes.

The issue also distracts attention from mounting questions about the financial conflicts of interest he is likely to have in the White House, given that he plans to allow his children to run his international real estate and branding business while he serves as president. Finally, Trump’s rhetoric may also sow the seeds of future efforts to propose more restrictive voting rules championed by some of his top advisors.

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Democrats look to make some deals with Trump — and divide the GOP in the bargain

(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
(“We have responsibility to find common ground,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said of working with President-elect Donald Trump.)

Republicans became known as the “party of no” during the Obama years because of their frequent efforts to block the president’s initiatives.

As congressional Democrats prepare to deal with a Republican White House, they appear ready to take the opposite approach, effectively challenging President-elect Donald Trump by finding opportunities to say yes.

The goal is to strategically engage with the White House on common objectives and at the same time try to drive a political wedge between Trump and those Republicans anxious about his costlier ideas, such as rebuilding infrastructure, aiding blue-collar workers and expanding paid family leave, a pet project of daughter Ivanka Trump.

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Trump says flag-burners should face jail or loss of citizenship

Trump turns to an old standby — media bashing

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

In a series of tweets on Monday, Donald Trump attacked a CNN reporter for failing to uncover evidence of a nonexistent problem.

Trump has falsely claimed without evidence that “millions” of ballots were cast illegally, including some in California. Election officials here and in other states have rejected those allegations as baseless.

Although Trump won the election, he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, a result he’s tried to minimize. At one point Trump said he would have won the popular vote in addition to the electoral college had he campaigned differently. Given that an election based on the popular vote would have required a different campaign, that is also an unprovable claim.

The CNN reporter, veteran journalist Jeff Zeleny, responded by asking Trump for evidence of his assertions.

The Twitter tirade is more evidence that Trump isn’t changing his tactics even though the campaign is over.

Wisconsin is gearing up to perform a recount requested by Green Party nominee Jill Stein. There’s little to no chance that the process will affect the results of the election in that state, where Trump won by about 22,000 votes.

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Trump to name a harsh critic of Obamacare as his pick for Health secretary

(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump plans to select House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) to be his Health and Human Services secretary, according to a person familiar with the decision.

In picking Price, Trump is tapping an arch-conservative lawmaker and leading critic of the Affordable Care Act to lead his push to roll back President Obama’s signature health law.

Price, a six-term congressman from suburban Atlanta, has never held an executive position comparable to leading the federal Department of Health and Human Services, a behemoth that includes the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the agency overseeing Medicare and Medicaid.

Three of the four previous Health and Human Services secretaries were former governors. Price, an orthopedic surgeon, would be the first physician to serve as the department’s secretary since Dr. Louis Sullivan, who held the post from 1989 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush.

He would also be among the most politically conservative Health and Human Services secretaries in history. And as a member of House leadership, he would bring to the Trump administration a revolutionary governing agenda closely aligned with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

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Trump says he won the electoral college in a landslide, but he ranked near the all-time bottom

President-elect Donald Trump’s tweet that he would have won the popular vote this month but for “millions” of illegal voters was not based on fact. There is no proof backing up his statement, and voting researchers uniformly dismissed it as false.

Also problematic was his second claim in the same tweet, that his victory was one of the rare landslides in American political history.

A study of electoral vote results by John J. Pitney, an author and professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, shows that Trump resides on the lower end of the electoral vote scale.

He won 56.97% of the electoral votes up for grabs by virtue of his state wins. That places him 46th out of the 58 elections since George Washington’s era, Pitney found.

In 38 elections, the winner exceeded 60% of the vote, a lopsided verdict by voters.

Clear landslides were won most recently by Ronald Reagan in both of his elections: In 1984, he won 97.58% of electoral votes, and in 1980 he won 90.89%.

President Obama won nearly 68% of the vote in 2008 and just under 62% in 2012.

Faring worse than Trump among modern presidents was George W. Bush, who eked past Al Gore in 2000 with 50.37% of the vote, after a protracted squabble over the Florida results that ended in a U.S. Supreme Court verdict favoring Bush.

Michigan certifies Trump as winner

Trump says Cuba has to act or he’ll end the diplomatic thaw, but it’s not that simple

In his latest comment on Cuba since the death of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, President-elect Donald Trump said Monday he would end Washington’s diplomatic thaw with the island unless Cuba makes “a better deal.”

“If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal,” Trump tweeted.

President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro renewed diplomatic ties in 2014 after a half-century of Cold War hostility. Since then, through a series of executive orders, Obama has eased restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba and U.S. firms doing business there.

Castro, at the same time, has made it easier for Cubans to travel and to engage in limited private enterprise.

However, Castro has not enacted significant political reforms, and the death Friday of his brother, former president and leader of the revolution Fidel, at age 90, is not likely to usher in quick change.

It was not clear what Trump meant by a “better deal.” An email seeking clarification from his transition team was not answered.

Previously, however, Trump has spoken of the release of political prisoners and more open space for free expression of opinions and dissent. These are the same elements the Obama administration has been demanding, while choosing not to delay economic progress while awaiting political change.

From a legal standpoint, Trump could easily reverse Obama’s executive orders with little more than a signature. Politically, however, renewed estrangement would be more complicated and would isolate the U.S. as the only country in the world that does not recognize the Communist-led government in Havana.

Trump and his top aides have sent conflicting signals over his likely Cuba policy.

On Saturday, his staff put out a statement saying a Trump administration would “do all it can” to help Cubans achieve prosperity and liberty. But it did not mention reversing Obama’s actions expanding ties.

“While Cuba remains a totalitarian island,” Trump said, “it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”

Kellyanne Conway, a top advisor, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that “nothing is definite” when it comes to Cuba. But Trump’s soon-to-be White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said that Trump would be looking for “some movement in the right direction” to keep the Cuba opening on course.

Conservative Republicans, like Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, oppose detente with Cuba as long as any Castro continues to rule. But a growing number of Cuban Americans, as well as most Democrats and a substantial segment of the business community, want better ties and opportunities for economic exchange.

The era of super-low interest rates might be ending. What’s in it for you?

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Since President-elect Donald Trump’s surprising election victory this month, financial markets have sent a forceful message that the era of super-low interest rates is coming to a close.

Mortgage rates have shot up. Bond yields have jumped to their highest levels in a year. And the dollar has surged against other major currencies to values unseen in more than a decade.

Those developments have been fueled by expectations of stronger economic growth and higher inflation from Trump’s promises to cut business taxes, reduce regulations and increase defense and infrastructure spending.

His plans triggered a post-election stock market rally and, combined with recent solid economic data, increased expectations that the Federal Reserve would nudge up its benchmark short-term rate again next month — with more hikes to follow next year.

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Trump seems ready to fight the world on climate change but he’s likely to meet resistance

Coal trucks leave a power plant operated by PacifiCorp outside Huntington, Utah.
( (George Frey / Getty Images))

Donald Trump is branded with all manner of unflattering labels, but one that hasn’t seemed to much bother him is “climate pariah.”

The president-elect is unabashed in his disdain for America’s global warming policy. He has placed a staunch climate-change doubter and antagonist of mainstream science in charge of reshaping — or as Trump has suggested, dismantling — the Environmental Protection Agency. He has talked frequently about reneging on the historic Paris global climate treaty the U.S. took a lead in drafting. And he has said he wants every federal green-energy program eliminated.

Environmentalists take little comfort in Trump’s recent comments that he accepts “there is some connectivity” between human activity and climate change and that he has an open mind about it, as what he’s said elsewhere and done so far suggests otherwise.

And even those comments gave scientists cause for alarm. “You can make a lot of cases for different views,” Trump told the New York Times, casting doubt on the finding by more than 90% of climate scientists that emissions are accelerating global warming. “I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know.”

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Jared Kushner, the Trump son-in-law who’s the next president’s ‘eyes and ears’

Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President-elect Donald Trump, at Trump Tower in New York.
Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President-elect Donald Trump, at Trump Tower in New York.
(Getty Images)

The election results were rolling in, and so were the phone calls for Donald Trump. But no matter who was on the other end of the line, the person handing the phone to the next president of the United States was the same.

“Jared was screening the calls,” said Armstrong Williams, a political ally who described the scene in Trump’s Manhattan skyscraper on election night.

That would be Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and his election-night role provides a glimpse of the enormous influence he wields as Trump prepares to take office in January. As the husband of Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s elder daughter, Kushner holds an unassailable position inside Trump’s unruly ecosystem of advisors.

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Analysis: So far, President-elect Trump acting a lot like Trump the candidate

The president-elect's motorcade arrives at Palm Beach International Airport. Donald Trump and his family spent Thanksgiving in Florida.
The president-elect’s motorcade arrives at Palm Beach International Airport. Donald Trump and his family spent Thanksgiving in Florida.
(Associated Press)

Nearly three weeks into his presidential transition, Donald Trump has hewn closely to the habits that won him the presidency.

He continues to brush aside fine points of policy and freely contradict earlier positions, with some of the shifts seemingly based simply on the latest advice he’s received or the most recent audience he’s spoken to.

He has been drawn to those with whom he shares a personal affinity, preparing a Cabinet that from early indications leans in the direction of tough-talkers and billionaire political outsiders like himself.

And he has turned a deaf ear to concerns about his ethics and temperament: mixing business ambitions with his pending government power in unprecedented fashion and unleashing decidedly nonpresidential commentary via his favorite social media platform, Twitter.

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California officials call Trump fraud accusations ‘absurd’

Donald Trump at the California Republican Convention in April.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla minced no words in a swift response to President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter accusations that “millions” had voted illegally in the Golden State and elsewhere.

“It appears that Mr. Trump is troubled by the fact that a growing majority of Americans did not vote for him,” Padilla said in a statement Sunday night. “His unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in California and elsewhere are absurd. His reckless tweets are inappropriate and unbecoming of a President-elect.”

Others on Sunday night cast more doubt on Trump’s allegations, which are not in line with any reporting or investigations into intentional acts in California designed to influence the outcome of the vote.

Still, the concern for voting integrity was echoed by one top state Republican who suggested California’s lenient laws are not in line with fair elections.

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Trump falsely claims that millions voted illegally, costing him the popular vote

Donald and Melania Trump cast their ballots on Nov. 8.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Donald Trump falsely claimed Sunday that he won the popular vote, alleging in a tweet — without evidence — that “millions” of people had illegally voted for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump wrote, hours after he tweeted his opposition to a recount in Midwestern states initiated by the Green Party.

Election experts, who say election fraud is rare, immediately denounced Trump’s claim.

“There’s been no evidence produced of millions – or thousands – or even hundreds – of noncitizens voting for president in 2016,” tweeted Rick Hasen, a professor of law and politics who writes for the Election Law Blog.

The source of Trump’s claim appears to be a widely shared Nov. 14 article on the conspiracy site Infowars, which is famous for claiming the Sandy Hook mass shooting was a hoax.

Politifact investigated the illegal votes claim and rated it “false.”

Trump is warned that supporters will feel betrayed if he picks Mitt Romney as secretary of State

A senior advisor to President-elect Donald Trump stepped up an extraordinary public effort Sunday to discredit Mitt Romney and thwart the chances that he would be picked as secretary of State.

Kellyanne Conway warned on Sunday TV talk shows that Trump’s supporters would feel “betrayed” if he picked the former governor of Massachusetts, a sharp critic of Trump during the campaign, for a senior Cabinet position.

Conway, who was Trump’s campaign manager and now is a top advisor to the incoming president, said she felt compelled to speak out on the matter because of “the backlash from the grass roots.”

“People feel betrayed to think that Gov. Romney, who went out of his way to question the character and the intellect and the integrity of Donald Trump, now our president-elect, would be given the most significant Cabinet post of all,” Conway said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“They feel a bit betrayed that you can get a Romney back in there after everything he did,” she added. “We don’t even know if he voted for Donald Trump.”

Conway dodged questions about whether Trump supported the concerns she has been raising publicly about Romney, which began with a tweet she posted on Thanksgiving morning: “Receiving deluge of social media & private comms re: Romney. Some Trump loyalists warn against Romney as sec of state.”

Conway made clear that she did not approve of Romney, who was the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, and didn’t see him as especially qualified to act as America’s top diplomat.

“In the last four years, has he even been around the globe doing something on behalf of the United States of which we’re unaware?” she asked on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“Did he go and intervene in Syria where they are having a massive humanitarian crisis? Meaning when I say intervene, like offered help. Has he been helpful to Mr. [Benjamin] Netanyahu?” she said of the Israeli prime minister.

“I’m all for party unity, but I’m not sure that we have to pay for that with the secretary of State position,” Conway said, although she quickly added that she would respect what Trump decides.

During the campaign, Romney called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud” and said his policies would lead to economic ruin. In response, Trump mocked Romney as a “failed” candidate who had “choked” in the 2012 race.

But a little more than a week ago, Trump met with Romney for about 90 minutes at a golf course in New Jersey to discuss the State Department post.

Afterward, Trump said the meeting “went great” and Romney described the discussion as “very thorough and in-depth.”

Trump is also considering Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was a fierce Trump loyalist during the campaign, for the job.

The former mayor of New York has touted his experience traveling, consulting and speaking overseas since leaving office in 2001. But his extensive business deals abroad have raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest if he gets the post instead of Romney.

In criticizing Romney, Conway exposed what appears to be deep divisions in the Trump camp as it tries to assemble a team. It is highly unusual for a senior representative of an incoming president to be lobbying publicly against a candidate under consideration.

Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman and Trump’s choice to be chief of staff, on Sunday sought to downplay reports of internecine struggles in the transition. However, he acknowledged that picking Romney would represent “a team of rivals concept.”

Trump wants to “put the best possible people together for all Americans,” Priebus told “Fox News Sunday.”

“The fact that he’s actually even flirting with the idea of choosing a rival should tell the American people where he’s at – which is the best place for everyone in this country,” he said.

Conway also said Trump, who spent the Thanksgiving holiday weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., talked with President Obama by phone on Saturday for “about 40 or 45 minutes.” She wouldn’t say what they talked about.

“I can tell you from President-elect Trump’s side that he very much enjoys speaking with President Obama, talking about the serious issues that face this country and the world,” Conway said on NBC.

“They get along nicely. They disagree on many things. That’s not going to change.”

Hillary Clinton campaign will participate in ballot recount in Wisconsin

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign will participate in a ballot recount led by Green Party candidate Jill Stein in Wisconsin and perhaps two other battleground states that were crucial to Donald Trump’s victory, a Clinton campaign lawyer said Saturday.

In response, Trump called the recount request “ridiculous” and a “scam” designed to raise money for Stein’s political party.

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Donald Trump names KT McFarland, Don McGahn to White House posts

Don McGahn is named by President-elect Donald Trump as his White House counsel.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump added to his West Wing roster Friday, naming KT McFarland as deputy national security adviser and Donald McGahn as his White House counsel.

McFarland served in three separate Republican administrations, most notably as a spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger under Ronald Reagan. In 2006, she sought to challenge Hillary Clinton for her U.S. Senate seat from New York but lost in the Republican primary. Most recently, she has been a regular contributor to Fox News on national security issues.

She joins retired Gen. Michael Flynn, previously named as Trump’s national security adviser.

McGahn, who was general counsel for Trump’s campaign and a former chair of the Federal Election Commission, is a partner at the powerhouse Washington law firm Jones Day. President Obama revealed at a recent news conference that he had advised Trump to hire a strong White House counsel to guide him and his team, who could “provide clear guideposts and rules” to help avoid ethical and conflict of interest concerns.

Trump campaign officials said Friday that the president-elect, who is spending the holiday weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, would make no additional high-level announcements until next week when he returns to New York.

On Monday, he will meet with several more potential Cabinet and sub-Cabinet choices, including Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta and Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt.

Obama pardons his final Thanksgiving turkey

Ben Carson hints he may join Trump Cabinet as Housing secretary

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks in Lakewood, Colo. on Oct. 29.
Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks in Lakewood, Colo. on Oct. 29.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Ben Carson said Wednesday that an announcement is imminent about his role in improving the nation’s inner cities – a broad hint that President-elect Donald Trump will name him secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“After serious discussions with the Trump transition team, I feel that I can make a significant contribution, particularly to making our inner cities great for everyone,” Carson said on Facebook. “An announcement is forthcoming about my role in helping to make America great again.”

Carson, himself once a candidate for president, would be the first African American named to Trump’s Cabinet. He was a mild critic of Trump during the campaign, but after dropping out of the race, he backed Trump and now serves on the president-elect’s transition team.

Though Carson’s professional background is as a neurosurgeon, he has spoken often of his experiences growing up in inner-city Detroit, with a mother who sometimes relied on food stamps and other assistance. Carson has said they moved into a “tenement” at one point but has never said whether he lived in public housing.

Days ago, a senior advisor said Carson thought he lacked the background needed to manage a federal agency, and that he didn’t think it was the best way for him to serve. Carson didn’t want to take a position that could “cripple the presidency,” advisor Armstrong Williams told the Hill newspaper.

HUD is responsible for administering low-income housing assistance, fair housing laws, housing development and aid to neighborhoods in distress.

Carson indicated a change of heart Wednesday.

“We have much work to do in strengthening every aspect of our nation and ensuring that both our physical infrastructure and our spiritual infrastructure is solid,” he wrote.

In an interview with the New York Times on Tuesday, Trump suggested he isn’t applying the usual standard of qualifications to his Cabinet picks.

“We’re trying very hard to get the best people — not necessarily people that will be the most politically correct people, because that hasn’t been working,” Trump said. “So we have, really, experts in the field. Some are known and some are not known, but they’re known within their field as being the best. That’s very important to me.”

Trump picks Michigan school-choice advocate to be his Education secretary

President-elect Donald Trump chose a Michigan charter school advocate and prominent Republican donor to serve as his secretary of Education, he said Wednesday, a decision that may hearten supporters of school choice but worry teacher unions — and even some of Trump’s core supporters.

Trump’s pick, Betsy DeVos, is a champion of charter schools and school vouchers that give families tax funds they can spend on private school if they’re not happy with their local public schools.

DeVos, 58, served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, a credential that ties her to the party establishment reviled by many Trump supporters.

She and her family are among the country’s largest donors to Republican and conservative Christian causes, including opposition to same-sex marriage.

She has also backed the Common Core initiative to standardize educational requirements across the nation. Trump repeatedly called for its demise.

In a tweet after her selection was announced, DeVos disavowed past support for Common Core, acknowledging that the topic was an issue among conservative activists.

In his statement announcing her as his choice, Trump called DeVos a “brilliant and passionate” education advocate.

“Under her leadership, we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families,” Trump said in the statement.

1:46 a.m.: This post was updated with DeVos’ statement about the Common Core.

Trump may have one more Cabinet-level pick coming before Thanksgiving

(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

President-elect Donald Trump may decide another Cabinet-level position Wednesday, aides said, after he announced South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as his ambassador to the United Nations.

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