Democrats draw sharper battle lines in tug of war over party leadership
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.
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.
Border Patrol chief is abruptly out after being brought in as a reformer
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.
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.
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.
Putin says Russia won’t oust U.S. diplomats in response to hacking-flap sanctions
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.
Most popular White House petitions included requests to label a hate group and deport Justin Bieber
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:
- “Legally recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group,” posted Dec. 14, 2012; 367,180 signatures.
- “Establish justice and prevent a great catastrophe,” posted April 4, 2016; 331,914 signatures.
- “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.
- “Ask President Obama to appear on HBO’s ‘Real Time with Bill Maher,’ ” posted Jan. 15, 2016; 314,226 signatures.
- “Deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card,” posted Jan. 23, 2014; 273,698 signatures.
Obama slaps Russia with sanctions for meddling in the U.S. election
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.”
How Trump and an Obamacare rollback could affect the growing gig economy
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.
Trump touts plans by Sprint and OneWeb to create 8,000 U.S. jobs
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.
Kerry offers fierce defense of Obama’s support for Israel, urges resumption of Mideast peace talks
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.
Former California lieutenant governor will meet with Trump to discuss running Agriculture department
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.
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.
John Kerry, tireless in his diplomatic efforts, often came up empty-handed
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.
At Pearl Harbor, Obama says ‘we must resist the urge to demonize those who are different’
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.
Obama and Japan’s Abe to visit Pearl Harbor amid renewed talk of nuclear concerns
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.
Will the Fed’s Janet Yellen ‘take away the punch bowl’ after Trump takes office?
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.
Obama says he could have beaten Trump
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.
2:07 p.m.: This article was updated with Trump’s response.
This article was originally published at 12:28 p.m.
Trump team seeks to ease fears on women’s programs at State Department
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.
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.
Trump taps seasoned Republican operative Sean Spicer as White House press secretary
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.
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.
Obama eliminates post-9/11 registry for foreigners, making it harder for Trump to restart it
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.”
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.
Trump names UC Irvine professor and fierce China critic to new White House Trade Council
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.
The issue of race has hung over Sen. Jeff Sessions like a shadow. Here’s why
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.”
Kellyanne Conway will join Trump in the White House
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.
Trump Hotel employees in Las Vegas get a union contract
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.
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.
Fierce China critic and UC Irvine professor to head Trump’s new trade council
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.”
Trump stops the ‘drain the swamp’ talk as new alligators emerge
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.
Death penalty in steep decline, but not in Los Angeles County
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.