UPDATED Feb. 1, 2017 1:26 PM PT

Obama retaliates against Russia over election meddling

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This is our look at President-elect Donald Trump’s transition and the outgoing Obama administration:


Democrats draw sharper battle lines in tug of war over party leadership

(Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)

Even as Democrats try to move past last year’s defeats, their internal fault lines show signs of deepening in the campaign for the party’s leadership.

The latest evidence came Wednesday when former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Thomas E. Perez, who served as President Obama’s Labor secretary, to chair the Democratic National Committee.

“We have a lot of good people vying for this important job,” Biden said in a statement. “But I do think for this moment and in this time, Tom Perez is our best bet to help bring the party back.”

The endorsement was seen as more evidence that key members of the recently departed Obama administration were backing Perez.

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

It was followed by a statement from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont reiterating his support for Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), another leading candidate in the race.

Although Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary, he has continued to try to pull Democrats to the left, and he has emphasized the need to “create a grass-roots party.”

Obama left office with strong poll numbers, but under his watch, Democrats lost power not only in Washington but in states around the country, something Sanders and his allies have stressed in the fight over the party chairmanship.

“The question is simple: Do we stay with a failed status-quo approach or do we go forward with a fundamental restructuring of the Democratic Party?” Sanders said.

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Border Patrol chief is abruptly out after being brought in as a reformer

(Donna Burton / Customs and Border Protection)

The chief of the Border Patrol will leave his post at the end of the month, likely the result of a change in direction by the Trump administration and a reflection of the new power of the agency’s union.

Mark Morgan, the agency’s head, was hired from the FBI in June to reform the force after a series of corruption allegations and problems with excessive force. He will leave the Border Patrol abruptly after seven months on the job, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Morgan’s departure was first reported by the Associated Press.

Morgan spent 20 years at the FBI and was first brought to Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, in 2014 to overhaul its internal affairs division. After a subsequent stint running the FBI’s training academy, he started the top job at the Border Patrol in June.

The Border Patrol’s union had opposed Morgan’s appointment, preferring a candidate who had risen through the ranks of the agency.

The union endorsed President Trump in the election, breaking with its practice of remaining neutral in elections.

News of Morgan’s departure comes a day after Trump announced he would build a border wall and hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents, bringing the total force to 26,000. Trump said the Border Patrol union would have a lot of clout in department decisions.

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Lights go out on confirmation hearing for expected CIA chief

The lights went out as the confirmation hearing began for Donald Trump’s pick to run the CIA, raising questions of whether it was a routine technical malfunction or someone was trying to disrupt the proceedings.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is vetting Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) to run the fabled spy service.

The president-elect has openly mocked the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community for months, most recently for its assessment that groups backed by Russian spy services hacked Democratic Party computers in an effort to help Trump win the White House.

The hearing was stopped about 10 minutes after it started to allow building staff to figure out how to turn the lights on again.

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Trump was silent on new U.S. sanctions against Russia, but he praises Putin’s response

After President Obama on Thursday announced retaliatory measures against the Russian government for what the U.S. has concluded were efforts to interfere in the election, President-elect Donald Trump’s response was terse and dismissive, saying it was time to “move on to bigger and better things.”

But after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he would not respond in kind to the U.S. actions — preferring to wait until the new administration takes office — Trump weighed in with high praise.

Trump’s tweet did not appear to be off the cuff. As if to underscore his sentiment, Trump affixed the tweet to the top of his Twitter feed. And he posted an Instagram photo shortly after, quoting himself.

Trump’s effusive words were particularly striking given the bipartisan view of Putin as more adversary than ally.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said they supported the Obama administration’s move to expel Russian diplomats and block access to two properties owned by its government.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) is expected to call a hearing on Russia’s cyber activities when the new Congress convenes next week.

A Trump transition spokesman was asked earlier Friday whether Trump had spoken or planned to speak with Putin before his inauguration.

“The priority right now is for the president[-elect] to get an update next week from the intelligence community,” Sean Spicer said.

Trump’s praise did get tacit approval from some quarters. The Russian embassy in Washington retweeted it.

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Putin says Russia won’t oust U.S. diplomats in response to hacking-flap sanctions

(Alexei Nikolsky / European Pressphoto Agency))

President Vladimir Putin on Friday condemned a new round of U.S. sanctions against Russia but said Moscow will not retaliate by expelling American diplomats.

President Obama on Thursday imposed sanctions on Russian officials and intelligence services in retaliation for what U.S. officials say is Russia’s interference in the presidential election by hacking American political sites and email accounts. Thirty-five Russian diplomats were ordered to leave the U.S. in 72 hours, and two Russian diplomatic facilities were closed.

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Most popular White House petitions included requests to label a hate group and deport Justin Bieber

(EPA / Michael Reynolds)

Over the past five years, Americans have produced and signed nearly 5,000 petitions through the White House’s “We the People” site. How could we ever forget the effort to get the Obama administration on board with building a Death Star? Some, like that one and a petition to deport Justin Bieber, resulted only in conversation. But others made an impact.

The Pew Research Center analyzed the petitions in a recent report. They ranged from serious, like an effort to ban gay conversion therapy at a state level that led the president in 2015 to support states’ bans, to playful. A request for Obama to appear on a previously unvisited talk show, for example, prompted him to appear on “Real Time with Bill Maher” in January 2016.

In 2015, 106-year-old Virginia McLaurin requested a meeting with the first black president, something she never thought she’d live to see. Her petition garnered only 19 signatures. But it nonetheless resulted in one of first couple’s most memorable meetings, this dance party:

The petitioning system, launched in 2011, was part of Obama’s open-government initiative. The most common topics for petitioning included healthcare, veterans issues and requests to honor individuals, such as Yogi Berra, and create or officially recognize holidays, like Talk Like a Pirate Day.

While not every petition made a change or elicited a response from the White House, many captured a momentary pulse of the nation.

Here are the five most popular:

  1. “Legally recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group,” posted Dec. 14, 2012; 367,180 signatures.
  2. “Establish justice and prevent a great catastrophe,” posted April 4, 2016; 331,914 signatures.
  3. “File charges against the 47 U.S. senators in violation of the Logan Act in attempting to undermine a nuclear agreement,” posted March 9, 2015; gained 322,117 signatures.
  4. “Ask President Obama to appear on HBO’s ‘Real Time with Bill Maher,’ ” posted Jan. 15, 2016; 314,226 signatures.
  5. “Deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card,” posted Jan. 23, 2014; 273,698 signatures.
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Obama slaps Russia with sanctions for meddling in the U.S. election

(Associated Press))

In the most sweeping retaliation against Russia in decades, President Obama slapped the country with new penalties Thursday for meddling in the U.S. presidential election, kicking out dozens of suspected spies and imposing banking restrictions on five people and four organizations the administration says were involved.

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” Obama said in a statement. “Such activities have consequences.”

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How Trump and an Obamacare rollback could affect the growing gig economy

(Kristan Lieb / Chicago Tribune)

A growing share of the U.S. workforce is reyling on alternative work arrangements, which include on-demand gigs through online platforms like Lyft or Uber as well as work through temporary help agencies, freelance assignments and independent contracts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics plans to conduct a comprehensive survey of these so-called contingent workers next year, its first since 2005, helping policymakers understand the size and makeup of a workforce not covered by many labor protections or privy to the benefits that come with a traditional employer relationship.

Whether policy will catch up to the labor shifts is a question experts will watch in 2017. A major conversation point has been how to develop portable benefits that give gig economy workers access to retirement plans, unemployment insurance and paid sick leave even as they move from job to job.

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Trump touts plans by Sprint and OneWeb to create 8,000 U.S. jobs

(Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday touted plans by telecom company Sprint and technology start-up OneWeb to hire a total of 8,000 workers in the U.S. in what he said was “very good news” for the economy.

He appeared to be highlighting previously made jobs announcements.

OneWeb, which is building a network of satellites to deliver high-speed Internet access, said on Dec. 19 that it expected to create nearly 3,000 jobs in the U.S. over the next four years after securing $1.2 billion in funding, mostly from Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp.

And the head of SoftBank, which owns Sprint, said on Dec. 6 that the company had agreed to invest $50 billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 jobs here.

The announcement by SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son came after he met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York City. Trump touted it that day.

Speaking at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday, Trump said Sprint was “going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States.”

“They have taken them from other countries. They are bringing them back to the United States,” Trump said.

Sprint, though, said in a statement that the jobs would be a mixture of new positions and others that were reinstated. It wasn’t clear whether those jobs were part of the 50,000 that were mentioned earlier in the month at Trump Tower.

“We are excited to work with President-Elect Trump and his administration to do our part to drive economic growth and create jobs in the U.S.,” said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. “We believe it is critical for business and government to partner together to create more job opportunities in the U.S. and ensure prosperity for all Americans.”

Trump also said the OneWeb hiring “is very exciting.” OneWeb did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

3:25 p.m.: This story was updated with comment from Sprint.

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Kerry offers fierce defense of Obama’s support for Israel, urges resumption of Mideast peace talks

(Zach Gibson / Getty Images)

With President-elect Donald Trump tweeting from the sidelines, Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Wednesday outlined broad principles for reviving the moribund Israel-Palestinian peace process -- calls that quickly ignited a new burst of Israeli anger against the Obama administration.

Kerry’s lengthy and impassioned address, delivered at the State Department, marked the latest chapter in an unusually bitter public clash between the United States and Israel -- and the even more extraordinary spectacle of a president-elect again inserting himself into a sensitive diplomatic matter before taking office.

In a speech lasting more than an hour, Kerry appealed for a hiatus in Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, called on Palestinian leaders to explicitly denounce terrorist attacks against Israelis, and warned repeatedly that the prospects for a “two-state solution,” with Israel and a Palestinian state existing side-by-side, were in jeopardy.

“We cannot in good conscience do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away,” he said.

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Former California lieutenant governor will meet with Trump to discuss running Agriculture department

(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

President-elect Donald Trump is considering former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado to lead the Agriculture department, a move that would bring greater diversity to the Republican’s Cabinet.

Maldonado will meet with Trump on Wednesday at his Palm Beach, Fla., estate. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer noted that Maldonado, owner of Runway Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley, comes from three generations of farmers and has “strong roots in the agriculture industry of California.”

Trump will also meet with Dr. Elsa Murano, the former president of Texas A&M University and a former Agriculture undersecretary for food safety, in connection to the post, one of the few Cabinet positions yet unfilled.

Maldonado, 49, was once considered to be the kind of Republican who could break through the party’s struggle to attract widespread Latino support. A Santa Barbara County farmer whose parents were Mexican farmworker immigrants, he served as mayor of Santa Maria before being elected to the state Assembly in 1998.

Perhaps Maldonado’s most notable political moment came when he worked with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to force Democrats to embrace the top-two primary system for California during negotiations on the state budget crisis in 2009. Schwarzenegger rewarded Maldonado with the appointment to the then-vacant post of lieutenant governor in 2010.

But Maldonado’s role in helping push the nonpartisan primary system made him a pariah among many conservative Republicans, and he failed in subsequent races for Congress in 2012 and a brief flirtation with a run for governor in 2014.

If nominated and confirmed, Maldonado would be the sole Latino in Trump’s Cabinet.

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Trump attacks Obama over Israel just ahead of Kerry’s speech on the Mideast

The detente between President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump, as both aimed to portray a smooth transition of power, appears in jeopardy.

Trump condemned the Obama administration’s foreign policy on Wednesday, tweeting he was doing his best to overlook “inflammatory” Obama moves, while engaging in 1990s-style sarcasm.

Last week, Obama decided to have the U.S. abstain from a United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity, which allowed the measure to pass.

The vote angered Israeli leaders, who accused senior U.S. officials of complicity in drafting the resolution, a claim disputed by the U.S.

Trump’s postings came just before Secretary of State John F. Kerry delivered a major address on U.S. foreign policy that included a rebuttal to Israeli government criticisms of the Obama administration.

Trump’s statement of support for Israel was welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long had a tense relationship with Obama.

Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that the president-elect’s tweets “speak for themselves, very clearly.”

He also stressed that White House officials have been “helpful and generous with their time,” at least in terms of the “mechanics of the transition.”

In a brief statement to reporters Wednesday night, Trump said he had a “general conversation” with Obama during the day.

“Very, very nice,” was how the president-elect described the chat, which he said Obama initiated. A White House spokesman confirmed the call and characterized it as positive.

When asked whether he thinks the U.S. should exit the U.N., Trump repeated his earlier comments that the global body is “not living up to its potential.”

“When do you see the United Nations solving problems?” he asked. “They don’t, they cause problems, so if it lives up to its potential it’s a great thing, if it doesn’t it’s a waste of time.”

The U.N. seemed to respond to Trump on Monday, in a message pinned to the top of its Twitter feed:

Times staff writer Christi Parsons in Honolulu contributed to this report.

5:10 p.m.: This story was updated with White House comment.

2:45 p.m.: This story was updated with Trump’s comments.

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John Kerry, tireless in his diplomatic efforts, often came up empty-handed

( (European Pressphoto Agency))

John F. Kerry is nothing if not indefatigable, traveling to all corners of the world as America’s top diplomat over the last four years. But as he prepares to leave office, he confronts a mixed legacy: a handful of successes coupled with searing defeats, especially in the Middle East.

His inability to halt the carnage in Syria, or to block Russia’s growing influence, ranks as the most serious blot on his record. But he also got nowhere trying to end the Israeli-Palestinian standoff, or to stop Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, from bombing civilians in Yemen.

Kerry’s greatest success was the historic accord to curtail Iran’s nuclear development program and a landmark climate change treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming.

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At Pearl Harbor, Obama says ‘we must resist the urge to demonize those who are different’

(Marco Garcia / Associated Press)

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scattered petals together on the waters of Pearl Harbor on Tuesday in a symbolic act aimed at laying to rest the enmity of the Japanese attack 75 years ago that drew the U.S. into World War II.

In a moment consumed with history, both leaders were fixed on the future. They expressed concern that the lessons of the war might be forgotten amid a shifting world order and the anti-internationalist sentiment that has swept over politics around the globe, most notably with the ascendance of President-elect Donald Trump.

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Obama and Japan’s Abe to visit Pearl Harbor amid renewed talk of nuclear concerns

(AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are scheduled to honor the war dead at Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, marking the 75th anniversary of the attack that thrust the U.S. into World War II.

The visit was planned as a coda to Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in May, where Abe hosted him as the first sitting president to visit the site where the U.S. dropped one of two nuclear bombs in 1945 to end the war, the only instances of nuclear attacks in history.

But the visit has taken on a new meaning. President-elect Donald Trump reawakened old fears of a nuclear arms race last week by declaring his commitment to “strengthen and expand” U.S. nuclear capability.

In his remarks at Pearl Harbor, Obama will have an opportunity to address those renewed anxieties and to lay out the dangers of an arms race. Obama has fought to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to secure existing caches.

The visit is meant to highlight the strength of the relationship between the U.S. and Japan, an administration official said. Several Japanese prime ministers before Abe have visited the Pearl Harbor site. But Abe is the first to go to the memorial at the resting place of the battleship Arizona, where 1,177 American military personnel died in the Japanese aerial attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

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Will the Fed’s Janet Yellen ‘take away the punch bowl’ after Trump takes office?

After three years of almost single-handedly juicing up the slow-growing economy, Janet L. Yellen and the Federal Reserve should be looking at easier days ahead.

Yellen, in what will probably be her last full year as Fed chair, may finally get help from somewhere else in Washington.

Tax cuts and infrastructure spending planned by President-elect Donald Trump, if backed by the Republican-controlled Congress, would lighten the load for a Fed whose easy-money policies have been the primary economic support for the nation.

She is already breathing easier on the Fed’s employment mandate; the jobless rate has fallen to a nine-year low of 4.6%. Inflation, too, is under control and, by all accounts, creeping toward the central bank’s optimal level of 2%.

And yet, Yellen may come under as much economic and political pressure as ever, on both the Fed’s policy and the independence of the institution.

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Obama says he could have beaten Trump

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

President Obama says he could have defeated Donald Trump in last month’s election by recapturing the same “vision of hope” that twice carried him to the presidency.

Obama also was mildly critical of the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, saying her campaign didn’t do enough to get her message out.

The remarks were notable because Obama has been careful since the election to avoid criticizing Trump, or to deliver a post-mortem on Clinton’s failed bid.

Obama spoke in a wide-ranging interview with former senior advisor and now CNN commentator David Axelrod for the Democratic political operative’s Axe Files podcast. The interview was released by CNN on Monday.

“You know, I am confident in this vision because I’m confident that if I -- if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it,” Obama said.

His comments were part of a wider discussion of what he called “ugly” sentiments of racism and xenophobia that surfaced during the 2016 campaign.

Obama repeated his assertion that Clinton faced a double standard as a woman, which put her at a disadvantage.

But he also said a kind of complacency set in that made the Clinton campaign too cautious and thus unable to get its message out sufficiently.

“If you think you’re winning, then you have a tendency, just like in sports, maybe to play it safer,” Obama said.

During the interview, Obama also spoke of his family, the strength he’d gotten from wife Michelle and the improbability of his own political career.

And the president said the spirit that his candidacy originally inspired, especially among young people, was “never snuffed out” despite the last eight years of turmoil.

“The idealism and the dedication stayed with the staff and got us through some really hard times,” he said.

Trump later responded to the remarks on Twitter.

UPDATE

2:07 p.m.: This article was updated with Trump’s response.

This article was originally published at 12:28 p.m.

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Obama personally authorized U.S. abstention from U.N. vote on Israeli settlements

(Justin Lane / European Pressphoto Agency)

President Obama personally directed Friday that the U.S. abstain from a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity, seeing the escalation of settlement building as an increasing threat to the viability of a two-state solution to the region’s problems.

Ahead of the expected vote, Obama, who is vacationing with his family in Hawaii, convened a discussion Thursday with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and other top national security officials.

The vote was postponed, but U.S. officials continued to monitor discussions over the Egyptian-authored resolution until Friday. Obama spoke with national security advisor Susan Rice on Friday to issue his final decision.

President-elect Donald Trump’s intervention in the discussions, which included a conversation with Egypt’s president Thursday that preceded the delay in the planned vote, did not affect Obama’s calculations, deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters..

“There’s one president at a time,” he said.

The decision to allow the resolution to pass, rather than cast a veto to block it “is consistent with long-standing, bipartisan U.S. policy” opposing Israeli settlement activity, Rhodes said.

One of the administration’s great concerns was that such activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem “has accelerated significantly” since 2011, when the U.S. last vetoed a comparable resolution.

U.S. officials also have been concerned about continued incitements of violence by Palestinians, and Rhodes said the resolution voted on Friday included greater balance to reflect that than past resolutions.

“We’ve been very concerned that these accelerating trends are putting the very viability of the two-state solution at risk,” Rhodes said. “In that context, we therefore thought that we could not in good conscience veto a resolution that expressed concerns about the very trends that are eroding the foundation for a two-state solution.”

He also underscored what he called Obama’s iron-clad commitment to Israel and its security, noting that the administration recently concluded a major military assistance package.

The U.S. did not vote for the resolution because of continued concerns about the United Nations as a venue for Middle East peace discussions, Rhodes said.

He also responded to what he called “strident” comments of Israeli officials criticizing the U.S. move. “It seems like the Israeli government wants the conversation to be about anything other than the settlement activity,” he said.

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Trump team seeks to ease fears on women’s programs at State Department

( Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Donald Trump’s transition team said Friday its requests to the State Department for details on positions and funding for global women’s programs were part of an effort to “ensure and protect” gender equality.

The statement appeared to be an attempt to allay concerns that Trump might seek to cancel or roll back gender-focused programs at the State Department following a request by the transition team on Wednesday for information about them.

Most were created or championed by Trump’s campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, when she served as secretary of State during President Obama’s first term.

The transition team statement Friday did not outline Trump’s plans for the programs, which seek to promote equality, education and vocational training for women around the world as well as combat gender-based violence.

“President-elect Trump will ensure the rights of women across the world are valued and protected,” the statement said.

“To help fulfill this promise, the transition team inquired about existing programs at the State Department that helps [sic] foster gender equality, ends gender-based violence, and promotes economic and political participation — finding ways to improve them.”

The statement said the inquiry was one of hundreds of requests it sent to federal departments as part of the transition effort.

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Trump team asks State Department for details on programs aimed at helping women

Donald Trump’s transition team has asked the State Department for details on programs aimed at benefiting women around the world, including identifying staff members who worked to reduce gender-based violence and promote women in the workplace.

In an email sent to numerous State Department offices Wednesday, the president-elect’s transition team asked for urgent response to its inquiries about “gender-related staffing, programming and funding.”

Many of the programs were begun or were championed by Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of State during President Obama’s first term and who lost to Trump in November.

The unusual request to the State Department follows a similar email to the Department of Energy. There the transition team asked for names of staff members who had worked on efforts to combat climate change, which Trump has dismissed as a hoax.

Several Obama administration officials called that query chilling. The Trump team withdrew the request after it was widely criticized.

The latest email suggests the incoming Trump administration will attempt to roll back some of the State Department’s most innovative programs and may seek to penalize people who worked on them.

“People are freaked out,” said a senior State Department official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The email asked the State Department to deliver “issue papers from bureaus and offices (one paper max per bureau/office) outlining existing programs and activities to promote gender equality, such as ending gender-based violence, promoting women’s participation in economic and political spheres, entrepreneurship, etc.”

It said the issue papers should note jobs “whose primary functions are to promote such issues,” as well as money allocated for those activities and programs in fiscal year 2017.

While at State, Clinton made women’s issues a top priority.

An office was created to deal exclusively with “global women’s issues,” and money was allocated for programs that promote education of girls, train women in marketable skills and offer microloans.

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Trump taps seasoned Republican operative Sean Spicer as White House press secretary

(Associated Press)

President-elect Donald Trump named Sean Spicer as his new press secretary, tapping a seasoned Republican operative as the public face of the new White House.

Spicer, a top Republican National Committee strategist who brought a measure of establishment Washington to Trump’s operation, is known for his combative but engaging approach to communications.

He will likely take over the press podium as the top spokesman at the incoming White House.

Two other veterans of the Trump campaign’s press operation also will get White House jobs: Jason Miller, who had been Trump’s communications chief after moving from the campaign of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, will stay in that role as communications director at the White House.

Hope Hicks, who was Trump’s spokesperson on the campaign trail and one of his earliest campaign aides, will be assistant to the president and director of strategic communications, and Dan Scavino will serve as director of social media.

“Sean, Hope, Jason and Dan have been key members of my team during the campaign and transition. I am excited they will be leading the team that will communicate my agenda that will Make America Great Again,” Trump said in a statement.

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Trump insists he still wants to drain the swamp, Gingrich comments notwithstanding

On Wednesday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that Donald Trump and his aides no longer wanted to use the phrase “drain the swamp.”

Apparently, Gingrich, a Trump ally, got off script. The president-elect quickly fired off a tweet.

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Obama eliminates post-9/11 registry for foreigners, making it harder for Trump to restart it

(Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images)

The Obama administration is taking apart a controversial, dormant national registry program that tracked visitors from countries with active terrorist groups for several years following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

A final rule eliminating the program will be published in the federal register on Friday.

The move would make it more difficult for President-elect Donald Trump to revive the registry, which hasn’t been used since 2011. The Department of Homeland Security determined it was ineffective and didn’t improve security. Civil rights advocates have long said the program was discriminatory.

On the campaign trail, Trump promised to track Muslims coming to the U.S. and require them to register. He later changed his stance to say he would bar people from countries with a record of Islamist extremism.

Trump’s policy advisors have been looking closely at ways to jump start the registry, called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, after he takes office at the end of January.

With the program being officially dismantled on Friday, Trump’s team would have to issue new federal rules to restart it, a process that could take several months and would require a period for soliciting comments from the public, which likely would be contentious.

The Trump transition team is preparing several executive actions for the incoming president, Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters Thursday morning when asked about Obama dismantling the registry.

Stopping “radical Islamic terrorists” from entering the U.S. is of “paramount importance,” Miller said. He didn’t say directly if Trump would rebuild the visitor registry.

“The American people strongly support tough measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country, and President-elect Trump has made clear that we will suspend admissions of those from countries with high terrorism rates and apply a strict vetting procedure for those seeking entry in order to protect American lives,” he said.

When asked on Wednesday if he would set up a registry for Muslims or impose a ban on Muslim immigrants in the wake of the truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, Trump said simply: “You know my plans.”

Democratic lawmakers and civil liberties advocates have demanded in recent weeks that Obama dismantle the registry. They’ve cited a 2012 inspector general report that said Homeland Security databases collecting traveler fingerprints, flight manifests and intelligence information on foreigners are more effective at preventing terrorist attacks.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) praised the Homeland Security Department’s decision to strip away “dead-letter regulations” no longer in use.

“These regulations symbolized an ineffective program based on religious and ethnic profiling, rather than individualized suspicion — a program based on fear, rather than reason,” Leahy said in a statement. “That has no place in this great country, under any administration.”

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Trump is unwinding some foreign deals but many potential conflicts remain

The Trump hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan, would be “among the finest in the world,” Donald Trump promised two years ago, another example of “our involvement in only the best global development projects.”

But the dream of a world-class Trump Baku died this month, with Trump saying he was backing out of the deal because of delays and blown deadlines caused by the developer, a 34-year-old with close family connections to the country’s government.

The demise of Trump Baku is not an isolated decision. With his inauguration less than a month away, President-elect Trump’s company has pulled out of a few international business deals that might have created especially sticky conflicts and controversies for his administration.

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Trump names UC Irvine professor and fierce China critic to new White House Trade Council

(Andy Kropa / Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump, signaling that he intends to follow through on his tough talk on trade, is establishing a new White House-based trade council to be headed by a vehement critic of China’s economic policies.

Trump on Wednesday named Peter Navarro, a Harvard-trained business professor at UC Irvine, as director of trade and industrial policy and head of the newly created White House National Trade Council.

The move sends a strong message: The Trump administration will take a much more aggressive posture to shrink the nation’s large trade deficit and combat what the president-elect and Navarro believe are forces behind America’s manufacturing woes — unfair and mercantilist practices on the part of China and other trading partners.

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The issue of race has hung over Sen. Jeff Sessions like a shadow. Here’s why

(Scott Olson / AFP/Getty Images)

Jeff Sessions’ uneasy history with race can be traced back to the long, winding country roads that cut through the pine forests and farm land in this deep corner of the Deep South.

As a boy, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III began each day before dawn, boarding a segregated bus to his all-white school. En route he and his classmates passed the bus ferrying black students in the opposite direction.

The day ended when he sat down to dinner each night with his father, an avowed segregationist until the end of his life.

Reflecting on those years, Sessions acknowledged recently that he knew back then that segregation was morally wrong and regretted standing by passively as civil rights leaders in the 1960s struggled and died in the fight for equality.

“I should have stepped forward more and been a leader and more positive force,” Sessions said in February while participating in a ceremony honoring the Selma “foot soldiers.”

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Kellyanne Conway will join Trump in the White House

(Gerald Herber / Associated Press)

Donald Trump has named his media-savvy campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, to advise him in the White House in the role of counselor, his transition team announced early Thursday morning.

The move comes after Conway sought to put to rest speculation that she would continue to serve as the public face of the Trump team. But the new job is sure to keep her profile high.

Conway will “will work with senior leadership to effectively message and execute the administration’s legislative priorities and actions,” according to a statement from the Trump transition team.

“Kellyanne Conway has been a trusted advisor and strategist who played a crucial role in my victory,” Trump said in the statement. “She is a tireless and tenacious advocate of my agenda and has amazing insights on how to effectively communicate our message.”

The appointment would boost diversity in a Trump inner circle made up mostly of older white men. It also sets up another potentially competing power center on a White House staff that already will have several, including Reince Priebus, the chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist; and Stephen Miller, the policy chief.

Conway had previously turned down other proposals for White House jobs, telling reporters late last month that she did not want to spend long hours away from her children.

At that point, Conway said she thought she could best help Trump by forming an outside organization to support his policies. But that role appears to have gone to Brad Parscale, who ran Trump’s online operations during the campaign.

Conway joined Trump’s campaign during the summer when it was beset with infighting and disarray. She is widely credited with helping bring message discipline and professionalism to an operation in desperate need of it.

In the run-up to the election and the weeks that followed, Conway was a ubiquitous presence on cable news networks, capably moving through her talking points in tough interview settings – often on the firing line and held to account for the exaggerations and incendiary remarks Trump was prone to make on the campaign trail and Twitter.

“I am humbled and honored to play a role in helping transform the movement he has led into a real agenda of action and results,” Conway said in the statement. She is the founder and owner of the Polling Company, inc./WomanTrend, a GOP firm that has been advising candidates for two decades.

Trump has not yet chosen a press secretary. But he is believed to be considering several candidates. Sean Spicer, former communications chief of the Republican Party who has served in a spokesman role for Trump through the transition, has been a prominent possibility, although Trump reportedly has considered several women, including conservative talk radio star Laura Ingraham and Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle.

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Trump Hotel employees in Las Vegas get a union contract

(Mike Nelson / Getty Images)

It’s owned by President-elect Donald Trump and is among a handful of hotels on the Las Vegas Strip to not be unionized.

But that will change soon.

For more than a year, Trump and his staff at the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas have fought efforts by employees and the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 to negotiate a contract. But a four-year contract announced by the union on Wednesday will offer Trump employees annual wage increases, a pension and family healthcare, among other benefits.

In Nevada, the culinary union is the state’s largest and most powerful, representing nearly 55,000 workers who serve cocktails and prepare food at hotels throughout the state. A majority of the union’s members are Latino.

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Wait! Don’t cancel that Air Force One order just yet

After Donald Trump scolded Boeing earlier this month for the escalating cost of building a new Air Force One, the company’s CEO projected confidence that Trump wouldn’t be following through with his threat to “cancel order!”

The two men met together at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Wednesday. Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said they spoke about a range of issues. The Air Force One project, which Trump complained would cost taxpayers more than $4 billion, invariably arose.

“We’re going to get it done for less than that, and we’re committed to working together to make sure that happens,” Muilenberg said. The company had previously noted that the project did not yet have a firm price tag.

“I was able to give the president-elect my personal commitment on behalf of the Boeing Company. This is a business that’s important to us. We work on Air Force One because it’s important to our country, and we’re going to make sure that he gets the best capability and that it’s done affordably,” Muilenberg added.

He called the conversation “terrific” and Trump “a good man” who is “doing the right thing.”

The presidential aircraft remains a long way from takeoff — a new plane won’t be ready for use in the next four years. Even if Trump is reelected, he might not get to use the plane, as the earliest projected date for completion is 2024.

Boeing is currently doing early development work on the plane — a modified 747 — that will likely be outfitted with such gadgetry as top-secret communications equipment, countermeasures to foil missile attacks, and aerial refueling capability that would enable it to remain airborne for days at a time if necessary.

The timing of delivery was among the topics that came up at Trump’s meeting with the Boeing CEO.

“That’s what we’re going to work on together,” Muilenberg said. “We have an active 747 production line, and we’re eager to get started on the program. We haven’t actually started the build of the airplane yet, but once we finalize the requirements and make sure that it’s affordable, we’ll launch on building the aircraft. We’ve got a hot production line and we’re ready to go.”

The government actually has two planes outfitted to serve as Air Force One, which is the designation given to whichever plane is carrying the president. The current planes, which were put into service during the Reagan administration, are nearing the end of their design life.

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Fierce China critic and UC Irvine professor to head Trump’s new trade council

(Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times)

President-elect Donald Trump is establishing a new White House-based trade office that will be headed by a UC Irvine professor known for his fierce criticisms of Chinese trade and economic practices.

In appointing Peter Navarro as director of trade and industrial policy and the head of the new National Trade Council inside the White House, Trump is signaling that he wants to follow through on his tough campaign rhetoric in which he blamed the Chinese for the large U.S. trade deficit and manufacturing woes.

During the campaign,Trump threatened to slap a 45% tariff on Chinese imports.

Navarro, a Harvard-trained economist who advised Trump during the campaign, is the author of the book “Death by China: Confronting the Dragon — a Global Call to Action.” Trump endorsed the 2011 book as well as Navarro’s film version of the polemical work.

“I read one of Peter’s books on America’s trade problems years ago and was impressed by the clarity of his arguments and thoroughness of his research,” Trump said Wednesday in a statement announcing the appointment. “He will fulfill an essential role in my administration as a trade advisor.”

Trump said the new trade office would develop policies to shrink the nation’s trade deficit and curb the off-shoring of jobs, as well as to lead initiatives such as the Buy America, Hire America program.

Navarro, in a statement, said he would be honored to serve Trump and the nation and “to advise on policies to re-balance our trade, rebuild our industrial base, and restore America’s comprehensive national power by making America great again.”

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Trump stops the ‘drain the swamp’ talk as new alligators emerge

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

It made for a great slogan during the campaign, but now that he’s won, Donald Trump is finding that maybe he doesn’t actually want to “drain the swamp.”

In fact, the alligators seem to be doing quite well.

Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski on Wednesday boasted about his access and proximity to Trump in announcing a new consulting firm he plans to open with former Trump campaign advisor Barry Bennett. The firm’s offices will be one block from the White House.

Clients who pony up what are sure to be hefty fees for the firm’s services are being assured by Lewandowski in his marketing materials that he turned down “multiple opportunities within the administration” so he can serve them.

The pitch implies Lewandowski will remain a de facto surrogate for Trump — with all the access that implies — as he bills those seeking to influence the Trump administration for his services.

So perhaps the time is ripe for Trump to stop using the “drain the swamp” phrase. And that is what Trump has decided to do, according to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who describes himself as an outside advisor to the president-elect.

“I’m told he now just disclaims that,” Gingrich said in an interview on National Public Radio, referring to the slogan Trump used in the final phase of his campaign to crystallize his promise to cleanse Washington of insiders and self-dealers.

“He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore,” Gingrich said, adding that perhaps all this swamp draining talk isn’t presidential.

“He’s in a different role now and maybe he feels that as president, as the next president of the United States, that he should be marginally more dignified than talking about alligators in swamps,” Gingrich said.

“I personally have, as a sense of humor, like the alligator and swamp language,” he added. “I think it vividly illustrates the problem, because all the people in this city who are the alligators are going to hate the swamp being drained. And there’s going to be constant fighting over it. But, you know, he is my leader, and if he decides to drop the swamp and the alligator, I will drop the swamp and the alligator.”

Lewandowski, for his part, made no mention of swamps or alligators in announcing his new consulting firm would be open for business.

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Death penalty in steep decline, but not in Los Angeles County

Lonnie Franklin Jr. was tried and convicted of 10 counts of murder.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County and the state of California again recorded the most new death sentences this year, amid a sharp decline across the nation in both executions and new death sentences.

Judges and juries in Los Angeles County imposed a death sentence on four murderers during 2016, including Lonnie Franklin Jr., the so-called “Grim Sleeper,” who was convicted of killing 10 women. No other county had more than one death sentence, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Since 2010, Los Angeles County has recorded 36 new death sentences, more than any county in the nation.

This year marked the first time in more than 40 years where no state recorded 10 or more new death sentences, the group said in its year-end report. California had the most with nine, followed by Ohio (five), Texas (four), Alabama (three) and Florida (two).

California has by far the nation’s largest death row, with 750 condemned inmates, but it has not carried out an execution in the past decade.

Overall, the report documented the steep decline for capital punishment over the past two decades. The number of new death sentences had fallen by 90%, from 315 in 1996 to only 30 this year.

And the number of executions has fallen from a high of 98 in 1999 to 20 this year. Georgia (nine) and Texas (seven) accounted for most of the executions. The only other states to put inmates to death were Alabama (two), Missouri (one) and Florida (one).

Robert Dunham, the group’s executive director, says the nation is clearly turning away from capital punishment. “Whether it’s concerns about innocence, costs and discrimination, availability of life without parole as a safe alternative, or the questionable way in which states are attempting to carry out executions, the public grows increasingly uncomfortable with the death penalty each year,” he said.

But his report noted that California’s voters, by a 53%-47% margin, rejected a ballot measure to abolish the death penalty, and narrowly approved a measure, by a 51%-49% margin, to limit appeals and expedite executions.

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New survey finds less optimistic Democrats seeking many paths to their future success

(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Since Hillary Clinton’s November defeat, Democrats have squabbled over how to return to prominence.

Should they continue to court ascendant voter groups in the country, such as women, minorities and young people? Or should they turn to those who have long been in their camp but abandoned the party nominee this year, such as rural and non-college-educated voters.

The answer, according to a Pew Research poll published Tuesday: Democrats want to walk both paths, simultaneously.

The poll asked Democrats and Republicans whether their parties had spent too much, too little or just the right amount of time meeting the interests and concerns of specific groups of voters.

Among Democrats, 64% said the party had spent too little time talking to rural voters, and 58% said the same about non-college voters.

Almost two-thirds of Democrats said low-income voters had not gotten enough of the party’s attention, and 58% said middle-class voters had been ignored to some extent.

But Democratic voters did not want to let up on the party’s outreach to its stronger supporters this year.

About half said that the concerns of women and African American voters had gotten too little attention, while 43% said the same about Latinos.

In the case of women, African Americans, Latinos, low-income voters, rural residents and younger voters, Democrats were substantially more likely than Republicans to say their party had not put enough emphasis on the groups’ concerns.

The poll suggested far more confidence by Republicans than Democrats in their party’s current positioning.

Much of that may simply be the flood of confidence that accompanies a presidential victory.

When the pollsters asked before the election about their view of their party, 61% of Republicans said they were optimistic, as did 77% of Democrats about their own party.

After the election those figures reversed, with 79% of Republicans optimistic compared with 61% of Democrats.

A key to Trump’s success also was evident in the poll: a chameleon-like ability to make the different ideological groups in the party think he was one of them.

Almost 3 in 5 conservatives said that Trump’s views were conservative. And among moderates, 52% said that Trump’s ideology was a mix of conservative and liberal, echoing their own posture.

But queries about the new president’s impact on his party drew sharply partisan responses. More than two-thirds of all voters said that Trump had forced major changes on his party.

Yet 72% of Democrats cast those changes as bad ones, while 83% of Republicans cast the changes as good ones.

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The artist and the senator: One built a desert masterpiece, the other a Nevada legacy

Part of Michael Heizer’s “City” in Nevada.
( (Triple Aught Foundation))

When Sen. Harry Reid heard about a reclusive artist building a massive land sculpture across desolate acres in the Nevada desert, he knew they should meet.

It’s not just that Reid enjoys eccentrics and fighters, which he does. Michael Heizer had found an unusual way to express the majesty — and artistry — of the same lonely Nevada landscape that formed Reid’s childhood, when he would escape the dismal, rugged conditions of tiny Searchlight to play in the desert’s hidden springs and abandoned fortresses.

Both men discovered in Nevada what many outsiders miss. Far from seeing a nuclear wasteland, a dumping site or even a playground for gamblers, they drew inspiration from Nevada’s quiet beauty.

Heizer created an American masterpiece — a milelong complex of dirt, rock and cement rising from the desert floor like modern-day pyramids or the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.

For Reid, his appreciation for Nevada’s unique landscape became a cornerstone of one of the most lasting yet less-familiar pieces of his political legacy.

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(Lisa Mascaro / Los Angeles Times)

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With 304 votes, electoral college seals Donald Trump’s election as president — despite more desertions than ever

They convened amid unusual scrutiny, widespread protests and rafts of speculation about efforts to alter the outcome, but, in the end, the nation’s 538 presidential electors mostly stuck to the script Monday, formally sealing Donald Trump’s victory with 304 votes in the electoral college, well above what he needed to capture the White House.

After all the efforts to lobby Republican electors to desert Trump, only two did — a pair from Texas, one of whom voted for former Texas Rep. Ron Paul and the other for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Indeed, instead of an uprising against Trump, the day’s voting was punctuated more by small, but persistent, gestures of Democratic discontent with Hillary Clinton. A handful of electors deserted her and a few more tried to, but were deterred by state “faithless elector” laws.

Some of the Democratic dissenters were supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who lost the primaries to Clinton but galvanized the party’s left wing. Others were backers of an abortive effort that had tried to recruit Democrats and Republicans to unite behind a third candidate other than Clinton or Trump.

In the end, seven electors voted for a person other than the candidate who won their states — the largest number of electoral college desertions in a presidential contest in U.S. history, eclipsing a record set in 1808.

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As electoral college meetings end in Hawaii, Bernie Sanders gets a vote that will stick

The last of the 50 states gave Bernie Sanders his first electoral college vote that counted.

Hillary Clinton received three of the state’s four electoral votes after winning 60% of the popular vote here last month. But one elector, David Mulinix, said he cast his vote for the Vermont senator because he was the “most qualified” candidate.

“They can call me faithless, but the point is if we don’t think someone’s qualified — and Hillary Clinton I do not feel is qualified,” he said.

Hawaii’s electors are chosen by the major parties at their state conventions. Mulinix said he joined the party only this election cycle to support Sanders, who he said would have been elected president had he been the Democratic nominee. He had previously told the Associated Press he would cast his vote for Clinton, but said he changed his mind at the last minute.

“She did not lose the vote to Russian hackers; she lost the vote right there at the convention,” he said, referring to the Democratic National Convention, where he said Sanders’ backers were treated unfairly.

“They robbed us, and the millennials know it.”

Mulinix, who, like his fellow electors, wore a lei made of green jade flowers, arrived for the vote with a list of candidates who had received votes in other electoral college meetings across the country. He was aware that an elector in Maine had tried to vote for Sanders but that his vote had been invalidated. An election official said the vote for Sanders here would count.

The brief proceedings here in a nondescript conference room on the state Capitol’s third floor began with another elector, John Bickel, asking whether there was any penalty for electors who cast their ballots for someone other than the winner of the statewide vote.

He said later that he had asked because he suspected someone might stray.

“The electoral college is outdated. If any election has proved the electoral college is outdated, it’s this one,” Bickel said.

Dolly Strazar, another elector and the vice chair of the state Democratic Party, said she had long supported the electoral college because it ensured some degree of competition between large states and small ones like Hawaii.

“It really seems in our times, it’s thoroughly outdated,” she said.

Janice Bond, the fourth elector, said she would have voted for Sanders but did not believe she was able to. She also expressed regret that President Obama, who was born in Hawaii and is vacationing here with his family, did not attend the meeting.

“To have him be on our island and not show face was disappointing,” she said.

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‘No fireworks’ as Nevada electors cast votes for Clinton

Nevada’s six electors cast their votes for Hillary Clinton on Monday afternoon in Carson City, reflecting her victory in the swing state despite losing the overall electoral college vote to President-elect Donald Trump.

Clinton won Nevada by almost 3 points over Trump, and the swing state was one of her few bright spots on election day.

The six electors – five from northern Nevada and one from Las Vegas – cast their ballots before about 75 people who had packed into the Old Assembly Chambers of the state Capitol. A few brought signs in support of Clinton, and there was some applause when the votes were cast. It all took place in less than a half-hour.

“No fireworks,” said Wayne Thorley, deputy secretary of state for elections.

He said about 40 people showed up in front of the state Capitol in the morning in sub-freezing temperatures to also show support for Clinton. Thorley said he hadn’t anticipated a lot of controversy as the electors were required to sign a pledge before voting that said they wouldn’t deviate from Nevada’s Nov. 8 election results.

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In solemn ceremony, California electors cast votes for Hillary Clinton

In a proceeding long on formalities and short on speeches, California’s 55 electors cast their vote for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Monday, a ceremony that coincided almost exactly with Republican Donald Trump clinching the national electoral college win.

Contrasting with the spirited protests outside the state Capitol, the mood in the state Assembly chambers was muted, even a bit glum, as electors, tapped by the state’s Democratic establishment, convened to cast their votes for Clinton. California, which overwhelmingly backed Clinton in the presidential contest, requires all 55 electors to back the state’s winner.

“Today’s solemnity and formality reminds us that in our nation, American greatness and American independence, rests on a foundation of law,” said Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Cordova), who presided over the event.

As written ballots were distributed, the room was completely silent, save for the clicking of camera shutters. Just moments before voting began, Trump, Clinton’s rival, had secured the electoral college win, with Texas, California’s perennial rival, putting him over the top. His victory went unacknowledged in the ceremony.

Among the electors were current elected officials, such as Assemblywomen Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton and Shirley Weber of San Diego. Others included Christine Pelosi, daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Laphonza Butler, leader of the powerful labor union SEIU in California. Electors did not make individual speeches during the main ceremony, and Trump’s name was hardly mentioned.

But there were subtle references to the rancorous political season: Rev. Bob Oshita, the Assembly chaplain and former reverend of the Sacramento Buddhist Church, urged leaders to engage in “calming self-reflection” in an opening prayer.

The tone grew considerably sharper at the end of the gathering, when Pelosi offered a motion calling for an investigation into Russian efforts to influence the election outcome.

“I move that as an Electoral College, we do not normalize this election. We do not accept Russian interference in our election,” Pelosi said. Her motion was adopted by electors, with applause.

This post was updated at 3:32 p.m. with comments from Christine Pelosi. It was originally published at 3:12 p.m.

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All of Florida’s electoral votes go to Trump

(Steve Cannon / Associated Press)

Donald Trump officially won all 29 of Florida’s electoral college votes on Monday during a ceremony held at the Capitol in Tallahassee, despite pleas from protesters to electors to change their vote at the last minute.

About 100 protesters gathered outside the Florida Senate chambers before the vote, chanting “love trumps hate” and “flip the vote” and holding signs that read “Vote Your Conscience, Don’t Make Russia Great Again!”

The electors, made up of Republican Party of Florida members and high-ranking elected officials like state Atty. Gen. Pam Bondi, Senate President Joe Negron and state party chairman Blaise Ingoglia, did their best to ignore the protesters.

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Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim was a Trump nemesis. Now the president-elect says he’s ‘wonderful’

(Paolo Aguilar / European Pressphoto Agency)

Donald Trump has decided that Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, one of his favorite villains during the presidential election, might not be so bad after all. He’s even “wonderful,” Trump now says.

The two dined together Saturday at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, after which Trump had only nice things to say about Slim, according to a report in the Washington Post. Trump described the interaction with his erstwhile nemesis as “a lovely dinner with a wonderful man.”

This is not how Trump talked about Slim, one of the world’s richest men, during the election. The Mexican billionaire was a regular target of the then-GOP nominee because of his large ownership stake in the New York Times. Add to that Slim’s generous contributions to the Clinton Foundation and his citizenship in the country Trump reveled in attacking, and he made for good fodder at Trump rallies.

When Trump objected to the New York Times coverage of his campaign — and its reporting on the allegations by multiple women of past inappropriate sexual advances by Trump — he alleged it was all part of a conspiracy cooked up by Slim. Trump called the outlet’s reporters “corporate lobbyists for Carlos Slim and for Hillary Clinton.”

The New York Times called Trump’s charges a fabrication, saying Slim had never inserted himself in editorial decision making there. And Trump offered no evidence to the contrary. A spokesman for Slim said at the time the two had never met, and the Mexican businessman had no interest in involving himself in the U.S. election.

Now they’ve met. The takeaway from the meeting, though, is murky. Maybe it indicates Trump is softening his posture toward Mexico — or maybe it just indicates billionaires enjoy the company of other billionaires.

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Meet the California electors

Among the electors are Janine Bera, the wife of Rep. Ami Bera of Elk Grove; Christine Pelosi, the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and chairwoman of the state party’s women’s caucus; Eileen Feinstein Mariano, granddaughter of Sen. Dianne Feinstein; and Olivia Reyes-Becerra, daughter of Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles.

State Assemblywomen Susan Eggman of Stockton and Shirley Weber of San Diego, former state Sen. Christine Kehoe of San Diego, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez and Laphonza Butler, president of the Service Employees International Union chapter that represents home care employees, also are on the list.

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All of California’s electoral votes go to Clinton

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Three Washington state Democratic electors vote for Gen. Colin Powell, one for Faith Spotted Eagle

(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Despite a statute binding the 12 members of the electoral college to vote for the winner of the state’s 2016 presidential election popular vote, four Washington electors made history and risked a $1,000 fine by voting for someone else Monday. But it wasn’t Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton, supported by 57% of the state’s voters, wound up with eight of the 12 electoral votes at a session held in the State Capitol building here.

Gen. Colin Powell received three votes. And Faith Spotted Eagle, an elder of the Yankton Sioux, received one.

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Colorado elector says he was ‘oppressed’ by state law into voting for Clinton

In Denver, all nine electors voted for Hillary Clinton, after one was replaced for casting his ballot for Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich instead.

A boisterous crowd packed the state Capitol and booed when elector Michael Baca was dismissed and another sworn in to take his place.

“Vote your conscience!” someone cried.

The new elector voted for Clinton.

Hecklers screamed “Resign! Resign!” at Secretary of State Wayne Williams after he shooed Baca’s lawyer off the podium.

Suspense had been building for weeks over how the electors would vote. Two courts blocked their attempts to vote for someone other than Clinton. State law here says electors must support the candidate who won the popular vote.

On Sunday night they went to court again, this time asking a judge to reject a new oath drawn up by the secretary of state requiring electors to pledge to support the winner of the popular vote. Their motion was denied.

As they waited, the crowd sang “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful.”

But once the electors filed in, it was over quickly.

Elector Robert Nemanich said he was “oppressed” by state law into voting for Clinton and would go to the U.S. Supreme Court. He did not elaborate.

Lance Armstrong, 68, stood outside with an American flag.

“I’m glad some of the electors made a point today,” he said. “Any point is better than none.”

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Trump officially gets 270th electoral vote, sealing his election as president

(Associated Press)

Donald Trump has obtained the required 270 electoral votes to become president.

Although electors in dozens of states still have to vote, the electoral balloting in Texas put Trump over the majority threshold, according to a state-by-state tally by the Associated Press. Thirty-six of the state’s electors voted for Trump, one for John Kasich and one for Ron Paul.

The next, and last, official step in the electoral process is for Congress to count the votes. Under the procedure set out by the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, that formal process is scheduled for Jan. 6.

Some anti-Trump activists had hoped against hope that they could persuade electors in states that voted for Trump to defect, but their efforts were unsuccessful.

Electors are nearly all party loyalists. Additionally, they faced more than two centuries of tradition and, in some states, legal obligations that called for them to cast their ballots according to which candidate won the popular vote in their states. No defectors have ever changed the result of a presidential election.

Four electors today successfully defected in Washington state. Instead of voting for Hillary Clinton, who won the state’s popular vote, three electors voted for former secretary of State Colin Powell and one voted for Faith Spotted Eagle, an environmental activist. Electors in two other states who tried to vote against the state’s winner were replaced with alternates. There may be additional defections in the remaining states, but since Trump now has a majority of the electoral votes, those would not be enough to change the result.

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Emotions high in Maryland as electors unanimously vote for Clinton

(Erin Cox/Baltimore Sun)

As Maryland’s 10 electors unanimously cast votes for Democrat Hillary Clinton for president Monday, several said they were privileged to vote for the county’s first female presidential nominee.

Outside, hundreds of anti-Trump protesters cheered as the solemn ceremony unfolded on live-stream television. A state delegate, who had the ceremonial task of handing the electors’ votes to another official, wept while executing her duty.

“This is an emotional moment for many, many women in this country and in this state,” said Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat. She added later: “I guess I didn’t cry enough on Nov. 8.”

Maryland’s electors were bound by state law to vote for the winner of Maryland’s popular vote, which Clinton secured with more than 60% of the ballots cast.

About 100 protesters who had been chanting and singing around the historic State House grounds for at least four hours before the vote said they came in solidarity with protesters in Republican state capitols, pleading with electors not to endorse President-elect Donald Trump.

“This is appalling and unacceptable, and I’m hoping the Republicans, in particular, rise above and do the right thing,” said Cheryl Kreiser, a retired teacher from the Washington, D.C., suburb of Silver Spring. For an hour every day for the last 21 days, Kreiser has protested Trump’s win on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. “It was the only way I could cope with the disappointment,” she said.

Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who wrote in his father’s name rather than vote for Trump on election day, opened Maryland’s 58th electoral college meeting but left the room before electors were sworn in. Each elector had been appointed by the Maryland Democratic Party state chair, Bruce Poole, who reminded the crowd the United States is not a direct democracy ruled by the popular vote.

“A lot of people lose sight of the fact that we’re a republic. We’re not a democracy,” Poole said. “The whole idea was that the president would not be chosen just by the whims of the moment, but instead there would be an opportunity for people who were thoughtful, who had judgment, who had integrity to take a step back from the moment of emotion and consider what would be in the best interest of the country.”

Before he introduced Maryland’s electors, Poole lamented the state of political discourse in the country.

“We live in the age of information. It is not necessarily the age of wisdom or age of judgment,” he said. “People on both sides, on all sides, make decisions at the snap of a finger.”

Maryland was both the model for creating the electoral college and the first state in the country to vote to bypass it. Framers modeled today’s system after the way the Maryland House of Delegates selected Maryland senators, a process the state later abandoned after it was considered undemocratic, according to a history of the electoral college written by staff at the Maryland Board of Elections. Hogan noted the state is one of six to have participated every year since 1789.

In 2007, Maryland was the first state to vote to sign the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a promise designed to award the electoral college to the winner of the national popular vote. It required enough states to comprise 270 votes to sign on for it to take effect. So far, only 10 states — including California — with a combined 165 votes have signed the compact.

The president of Maryland’s electors, Courtney Watson, also co-chaired Clinton’s campaign in Maryland. She said she thought changes to the electoral college should be considered and described Monday as a poignant moment for Maryland residents.

“It’s a very emotional time,” she said. “Many of us have worked long and hard, and for the first woman candidate. The point, though, is that people are still moved and even more engaged. And that’s what I find promising for our future and the future of women.”

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Christine Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi and California elector, demands to know the truth about Russian influence

California elector Christine Pelosi on Monday told crowds gathered outside the Capitol that she has been part of a chorus of people demanding to know the truth about Russian interference in the November presidential election.

Pelosi, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, is leading 10 other electors in a call for an intelligence briefing on Russian influence.

Shouting into a microphone Monday, she said Russian hackers aim to turn the American people against each other and had marginalized her and others for speaking out.

“They trespass on servers,” she said. “They receive stolen emails. They pump out stories that day after day focus on scandal rather than policy, rather than talking about climate and immigration and human rights.”

California’s meeting of electors is about to get underway in the state Capitol.

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After prayer for national unity, Georgia electors vote for Trump

(Erik S. Lesser / European Pressphoto Agency)

Outside the Georgia Capitol today, some may have held a flicker of hope that a GOP elector would refuse to cast a ballot for Donald Trump as 45th president of the United States.

Yet among the inner circle of Republicans who gathered inside the cozy, wood-paneled Senate chamber, there was little doubt about what would unfold.

One by one, all 16 electors -– dressed in formal business suits and red dresses, bow ties and blazers -- cast their ballots for the contentious Republican candidate.

It was a short ceremony, with little opportunity for disruption. Security guards prevented the public from entering the chamber, cordoning off the hallway outside the room with a red rope and locking the main door before proceedings began.

The electors chosen by Georgia’s Republican Party included well-connected attorneys and real estate agents, a high school teacher and a farmer. As they waited for the gathering to begin, many snapped selfies and waved at loved ones above in the upper gallery.

After a call to order by the Georgia Republican Party chair, the electors bowed their heads, and Rachel Little, an elector and grass-roots Republican organizer, delivered an invocation.

“Lord, we know we are a divided country right now,” she said. “We pray that you will unite us. … We pray that [those who oppose Trump] will see our conservatism lived out in a gracious way.”

In a short speech, Gov. Nathan Deal hit out at activists who had bombarded electors with emails, letters and phone calls in an effort to sway their votes.

“You have been the subject of harassment by those who perhaps are not as dedicated to the proposition of what this body is supposed to do as they are agitated by the fact that the people didn’t do what they wanted them to do.”

“I have every confidence you will not succumb to that,” Deal told the electors. “My words to you: Do your job.”

Shortly before the electors cast their ballots, Rep. Barry Loudermilk, a Republican who represents Georgia’s 11th District, took to the podium to present a short history of the electoral college.

“Our founders actually despised the idea of democracy because mob rule often results in a decision made out of pure emotion,” Loudermilk told the electors, after referencing the “noise” of protesters outside. “It does not result in good government. In fact, our founders often cited the historic trial of Jesus as how mob rule does not work.”

The electoral college was devised to protect the integrity of government, Loudermilk said.

“To protect those who live in the rural areas of America, those who work, those who are part of the farming communities and part of the industrial communities, those who live and work every day, that their interests are protected as well of those who make their living on Wall Street.”

For a moment earlier this year, there was an inkling of a Republican revolt against Trump in Georgia. In August, Baoky Vu, a GOP elector based in Decatur, Ga., admitted he might not cast his ballot for Trump if he won. Within hours, however, he was forced to resign.

Trump went on to win 51% of Georgia’s popular vote. On Monday, Vu did not show up at the Capitol, and he was formally replaced by a solid Trump backer, John Padgett, the chairman of the Georgia Republican party.

There seems little chance that Georgia legislators might vote to overhaul the electoral college. Earlier this year, Republican legislators authored two bipartisan pieces of legislation in Georgia’s House and Senate that would have made Georgia’s electoral votes based solely on the outcome of the national popular vote. Yet both bills stalled, and Republicans say there is little momentum to revive the debate.

“The system prevents the tyranny of the majority,” said Kirk Shook, an elector who is a high school teacher in rural Oconee County. He scoffed at those who, since the election, had sought to overhaul the electoral college system.

“There’s all this weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth,” Shook said of those who opposed Trump’s win. “And rightly so. There’s going to be a Republican president, a Republican Congress and a Republican Supreme Court. With the stroke of a pen, 90 percent of what Obama considered his legacy will be gone.”

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Four Washington state electors defect from Clinton; one chooses Faith Spotted Eagle instead

(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Four members of the electoral college in Washington state cast their votes for a candidate other than Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won the state’s popular vote.

It’s the first time in four decades the state’s electors have broken from the popular vote for president. Washington’s 12 electors met Monday afternoon in the state Capitol to complete the constitutional formality. Clinton got eight votes while other candidates got the remaining four.

Elector Bret Chiafalo, who earlier in the day said he planned to vote for Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said that he ultimately changed his vote to former Secretary of State Colin Powell after conversations with other Washington electors. The exact breakdown of the other four votes wasn’t immediately known, although at least one vote was cast for “Faith Spotted Eagle.”

In last month’s election, Republican Donald Trump won 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, though Clinton’s tally will now be lower.

A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win.</