Fortress D.C.

A Marine stands guard at the door to the West Wing of the White House indicating the presence of the president in that area. Photo by David Butow/Redux

Late on a drizzly Friday night, just over a week after domestic insurgents stormed the U.S. Capitol, I returned to the scene to see the security blockades being set for Joe Biden’s inauguration. Days before, I’d photographed thousands of National Guard troops bivouacked in the complex and was able to work unimpeded. Clearly, the authorities want to send a message of formidable deterrence.

With stunning efficiency, roadblocks have been established about a half-mile away to all routes leading to the Capitol, Pennsylvania Avenue, the National Mall and the White House. Practically everything that a tourist would come to see in D.C. is now behind cement barricades and high fences, and you have to park your car and walk quite a ways to get to a series of perimeters.

The Secret Service is the lead agency, and it oversees each access point, at which you are also likely to encounter D.C. Metropoitan Police, Capitol Police and the National Guard. I was able to get onto the grounds only by showing my Senate press pass.

The Capitol is surrounded by multiple layers of fencing, some topped with concertina wire, as you’d see at a military installation. The scene continues west along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, the same route used for inaugural parades. This part of Washington is normally pretty quiet at night, but on this midnight, there was almost no one to be seen for blocks, and cars were almost nonexistent.

People have compared Washington right now to the Green Zone in Baghdad, and having been there a few times I can tell you the comparison is apt. But I’m reminded not of how the Green Zone felt months after it had been established, but rather in the first weeks after the invasion. There was an eerie desolation, the shock of transition and violence was still raw, and the future was unknowable.

A desolate view of Independence Ave. near the Capitol. Most parts of downtown Washington were closed to traffic on the Friday night five days before the inauguration of Joe Biden. A riot at the Capitol on January 6 sparked fears of further civil unrest and tens of thousands of National Guard troops have deployed to the city and fencing surrounds the Capitol and other areas of the city. Photo by David Butow/ReduxA crew installs cement barricades on a road near the Capitol building. Photo by David Butow/ReduxNational Guardsman stand watch on the Capitol grounds. Photo by David Butow/ReduxThe National Gallery of Art is now inside a security perimeter. Photo by David Butow/ReduxA National Guardsman stands watch on the north side of the Capitol grounds.  Photo by David Butow/ReduxFlowers were placed on the fence on the west side of the Capitol grounds to commemorate the lives last there on January 6. Photo by David Butow/ReduxA group of National Guardsman stand watch on the northwest side of downtown Washington.  Photo by David Butow/ReduxThe Trump International Hotel is surrounded by fencing. Most parts of downtown Washington were closed to traffic on the Friday night five days before the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo by David Butow/ReduxA National Guardsman stands watch on Independence Ave. last at night on January 15.  Photo by David Butow/Redux

Source: Politico, Fortress D.C.

Kremlin critic Navalny arrested after landing in Moscow

MOSCOW — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport after returning from Germany on Sunday, the prison service said.

The prison service said he was detained for multiple violations of parole and terms of a suspended prison sentence and would be held in custody until a court makes a decision in his case.

Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and determined foe, had spent the previous five months in Germany recovering from a nerve agent attack that he blamed on the Kremlin. Navalny decided to leave Berlin of his own free will and wasn’t under any apparent pressure to leave from Germany.

The prison service made the announcement after the flight carrying Navalny landed in the Russian capital, though at a different airport than had been scheduled. It was a possible attempt to outwit journalists and supporters who wanted to witness Navalny’s return.

Russia’s prison service last week issued a warrant for his arrest, saying he had violated the terms of suspended sentence he received on a 2014 conviction for embezzlement. The prison service has asked a Moscow court to turn Navalny’s 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into a real one.

After boarding the Moscow flight in Berlin on Sunday, Navalny said of the prospect of arrest: “It’s impossible; I’m an innocent man.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied a role in the opposition leader’s poisoning.

Navalny supporters and journalists had come to Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, where the plane was scheduled to land, but it ended up touching down at Sheremetyevo airport, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. There was no immediate explanation for the flight diversion.

The OVD-Info group, which monitors political arrests, said at least 37 people were arrested at Vnukovo Airport, although their affiliations weren’t immediately clear.

Vnukovo banned journalists from working inside the terminal, saying in a statement last week that the move was due to epidemiological concerns. The airport also blocked off access to the international arrivals area.

Police prisoner-detention vehicles stood outside the terminal on Sunday.

The independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and opposition social media reported Sunday that several Navalny supporters in St. Petersburg had been removed from Moscow-bound trains or been prevented from boarding flights late Saturday and early Sunday, including the coordinator of his staff for the region of Russia’s second-largest city.

Navalny fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on Aug. 20. He was transferred from a hospital in Siberia to a Berlin hospital two days later.

Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.

Russian authorities insisted that the doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia before he was airlifted to Germany found no traces of poison and have challenged German officials to provide proof of his poisoning. They refused to open a full-fledged criminal inquiry, citing a lack of evidence that Navalny was poisoned.

Last month, Navalny released the recording of a phone call he said he made to a man he described as an alleged member of a group of officers of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, who purportedly poisoned him in August and then tried to cover it up. The FSB dismissed the recording as fake.

Source: Politico, Kremlin critic Navalny arrested after landing in Moscow

Poll: We have met the enemy and it is us

More than half of all Americans say the greatest danger to America’s way of life comes from their fellow citizens, according to a CBS News poll released Sunday.

A total of 54 percent of those surveyed said that “other people in America, and domestic enemies” posed the “biggest threat” to American society at this point in time ahead of “economic forces” at 20 percent, “the natural world” at 17 percent and “foreign countries” at 8 percent. The category of “natural world” was a catch-all that included hazardous weather and other natural disasters, as well as lethal viruses, a nod to the coronavirus pandemic.

The most pessimistic respondents among those surveyed were those age 65 and older: About two-thirds (66 percent) saw their fellow Americans as the nation’s greatest threat. There was not, however, much difference regardless of age group between Democrats (53 percent) and Republicans (56 percent) on the subject, nor a notable difference between men (53 percent) and women (55 percent).

The polling was conducted one week after the widespread alarm in the country over the rioting Jan. 6 at the Capitol. That insurrection left five people dead and temporarily halted the certification of Joe Biden as the victor of the November election over President Donald Trump.

In the aftermath of that insurrection, 51 percent of those surveyed said they expected political violence in the country to increase, and 71 percent said they believed democracy in the United States was “threatened” now, as opposed to 29 percent who thought it was “secure” or “very secure.”

Despite all the pessimism, there were some signs of hope expressed. A total of 58 percent said they were optimistic about Biden’s presidency, which is to begin Wednesday, and 74 percent said they considered him to be the legitimate winner of November’s election.

A majority (51 percent) also said they expected the coronavirus situation to improve during Biden’s presidency; as of Sunday morning, almost 400,000 Americans have died during the pandemic.

The CBS News survey of 2,166 adults in the U.S. was conducted by YouGov from Jan. 13 to Jan. 15. The margin of error was listed as approximately 2.5 percent; it was 2.8 percent on questions just addressed to registered voters.

Source: Politico, Poll: We have met the enemy and it is us

Mother-son duo facing conspiracy charges for role in Capitol assault

A mother-son duo who wielded flex cuffs at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — and openly talked of a violent revolution — are facing conspiracy charges related to the assault on Congress last week, with the FBI describing a plot that may include others “known and unknown” to federal authorities.

In a Saturday legal filing, the FBI indicated that Eric Munchel — who was seen masked and wielding the plastic cuffs inside the Senate chamber in a now widely circulated image — and his mother Lisa Eisenhart would face charges of conspiracy for their efforts to disrupt lawmakers’ efforts to certify the presidential election.

Munchel and Eisenhart are facing charges of “knowingly and willfully conspiring with persons known and unknown” to impede law enforcement, unlawfully entering a restricted building and violently forcing their way into the halls of Congress.

Munchel had been apprehended earlier in the week, but Eisenhart was arrested Saturday in Tennessee and the charges updated to include conspiracy.

It’s a notable development in the nationwide manhunt for the perpetrators of the Jan. 6 attack, which left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Dozens have been arrested and the FBI is pursuing hundreds of cases, often based on the images and videos that the rioters posted themselves on social media.

Prosecutors have indicated they anticipate lodging grave charges, including potentially “seditious conspiracy,” but have begun by apprehending suspects on lesser offenses to begin building a broader case.

Although Munchel was masked in the Senate image, the FBI relied on open-source information and distinct patches and symbols on his clothing, as well as surveillance footage and other video shot at the hotel where the pair were staying to identify them. They have since searched Munchel’s home and discovered the items seen in the Capitol picture, including “distinctive black in color Black Rifle Coffee Company hat with American flag and rifle logo, black boots, black camouflaged pants and shirt, and black tactical vest with patches to one of a Punisher logo.

“Also found inside of MUNCHEL’s home were five pairs of white flex cuffs,” the FBI noted.

According to the newly disclosed case against the pair, Munchel and Eisenhart appear in video footage near a mob that was “physically attacking two Capitol Police officers guarding entry into the Senate chambers.” Eventually, the officers fled and the mob gave chase. Munchel and Eisenhart followed, both wielding the flex cuffs in their hands “during the pursuit.” Both officers escaped, according to the statement of the case.

The FBI also cited a Jan. 10 news article in the Times of London quoting Munchel and Eisenhart discussing revolution.

“This country was founded on revolution. … I’d rather die a 57-year-old woman than live under oppression,” Eisenhart told the paper. “I’d rather die and would rather fight.”

Source: Politico, Mother-son duo facing conspiracy charges for role in Capitol assault

Guardsmen stationed at U.S. Capitol building to get cots

The National Guardsmen providing security in the U.S. Capitol ahead of the inauguration are soon getting cots, after images went viral last week of troops sleeping on the floor in the halls of Congress, according to four people familiar with the decision.

Guard spokesman Wayne Hall confirmed Saturday that Federal Emergency Management Agency received a formal request through the D.C. Emergency Operations Center for more than 1,200 cots “to provide comfort for members of the National Guard supporting law enforcement and the upcoming presidential inauguration in D.C.”

The Army is coordinating the effort with FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region, said a Guardsman familiar with the planning. Officials will collect cots from National Guard armories in Maryland and Virginia and transport them to the Capitol, the person said.

Many officials believe the cots are unnecessary, but the photos of Guardsmen resting on the floor of the Capitol quickly became a “PR issue,” the person said — particularly after more than a dozen House Democrats called Thursday on the Army Secretary to send cots, bedding, shower facilities and other resources.

“Most everyone’s opinion is that we honestly don’t need them,” the person said, noting that “this is one of the nicest napping spots most of us have ever had in uniform.”

The cots will arrive Saturday and Sunday, the person said, adding that no costs should be incurred aside from the time and transportation.

A Jan. 15 memo obtained by POLITICO cited guidance from Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville that Guardsmen “who are resting inside the U.S. Capitol Building are to lay on a cot, and not on the ground.” The guidance was confirmed separately by a D.C. National Guardsman, who celebrated the news.

“No more cold marble!” the Guardsman said.

A defense official stressed that McConville did not order Guardsmen to rest on cots, rather that he directed the Army to provide the troops “whatever they need to accomplish the mission and to take care of their life support needs.”

In a letter to Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy on Thursday, a group of lawmakers said they were “disappointed” by images posted to social media of soldiers resting in the Capitol Rotunda, the Capitol Visitor Center and elsewhere as thousands of Guardsmen poured into DC to support local law enforcement responding to threats of violence ahead of the Jan. 20 inauguration.

“With the uncertainty for needed rest and recoup time in flux, and to ensure that the Guard members are fully able to execute their protection mission, we urge you to make available cots or other equipment to more easily facilitate their ability to rest while they are on Capitol grounds,” the lawmakers wrote.

More than 21,000 Guardsmen will be deployed to D.C. by Inauguration Day to support law enforcement responding to the protests.

Source: Politico, Guardsmen stationed at U.S. Capitol building to get cots

Hotel pulls plug on Hawley fundraiser

Loews Hotels announced Saturday that it won’t host a planned fundraiser next month for Sen. Josh Hawley at one of its Florida properties.

“We are horrified and opposed to the events at the Capitol and all who supported and incited the actions,” the company said in a statement posted to Twitter. “In light of those events and for the safety of our guests and team members, we have informed the host of the Feb. fundraiser that it will no longer be held at Loews Hotels.”

While the statement doesn’t mention the Missouri Republican by name, a political action committee affiliated with Hawley’s re-election, Fighting for Missouri PAC, was scheduled to hold a Valentine’s Day weekend fundraiser for the senator Feb. 12-15 at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, Fla., near the Universal Orlando theme park.

“Please join Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) for a Fun-Filled-Family-Friendly Orlando Weekend Event,” a flier for the event read.

A spokesperson for Hawley could not be reached for comment on Loews’ decision.

Loews’ announcement is the latest blow for Hawley, who objected to President-elect Joe Biden’s win even after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol to demand the results be overturned.

Simon & Schuster announced last week that it would cancel the publication of a forthcoming book by Hawley over his role in last week’s deadly riots.

Hawley has threatened legal action against the publisher, calling its decision a “direct assault on the First Amendment.“

Source: Politico, Hotel pulls plug on Hawley fundraiser

FBI warned of potential extremist violence at Jan. 17 rally

The Federal Bureau of Investigation warned in late December of potential violence from members of far-right militant groups in Minnesota at an event planned for Jan. 17 to protest the election results, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.

A bulletin issued Jan. 13 by Indiana state officials cited a Dec. 29 FBI report warning of suspicious activity by members of a militant anti-government movement. In particular, the bulletin highlighted the FBI’s finding that “individuals or groups from Minnesota have performed reconnaissance and pre-planning efforts to identify escape points, defensible positions, and law enforcement counter measures at mass gathering locations.”

The report also included a warning that an individual from Michigan suggested using gasoline-based devices with tripwires to cause a “distraction” while other individuals attacked the capital, according to the bulletin.

The information was taken from an FBI situation report titled: “Potential for Violence and Planned Actions for Counteracting Law Enforcement Security Measures at 17 January 2021 First Amendment Protected Events by Several Followers of a Militant Anti-Government Movement.”

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It’s not clear if the FBI’s information is still current, or whether any such rally will materialize. POLITICO previously reported that the Boogaloo Bois, an anti-government militia, has told its members that a planned Jan. 17 rally in D.C. has been canceled. But the group also advised anyone still planning to attend to obey local firearms regulations: “If you can carry legally, you can carry.”

Citing a separate Jan. 11 FBI report, the bulletin also warned that enclosed trailers have been seen at mass gatherings, a tactic that could be used to hold extra weapons and supplies.

The bulletin detailed other observations by federal and state law enforcement across the country indicating a potential for violence from armed far-right groups protesting the results of the 2020 presidential election. It cites news reports about suspicious activity related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, as well as internal communications about future potential attacks between state and federal law enforcement, including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Crisis Coordination Center and the National Counterterrorism Center.

Law enforcement officials have expressed surprise at the level of organization and apparent training shown by the Jan. 6 insurrectionists, while Democratic lawmakers have speculated that the rioters may have had help from within the Capitol.

National security leaders across the country, meanwhile, ordered an unprecedented show of force this week ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. Thousands of men and women from the National Guard and various law enforcement agencies have fanned out in Washington, D.C. and state capitals in anticipation of potential violence.

The FBI said Thursday that it had already made more than 100 arrests in connection to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol and that law enforcement was monitoring “an extensive amount of concerning online chatter” ahead of inauguration.

The bureau also warned in an internal bulletin last week of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington in the days leading up to the inauguration. Investigators believe some of the people belong to extremist groups.

In D.C., the number of Guardsmen will swell to 21,000 by Inauguration Day, Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told Vice President Mike Pence during an inauguration security briefing on Thursday. Guardsmen tasked with security at the Capitol are carrying lethal weapons and have been briefed on specific IED threats.

The Secret Service, the agency leading Inauguration security efforts, announced plans Thursday to establish a “green zone” in downtown Washington this weekend, shutting down traffic and Metro stations. Most of the streets around the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol will be closed from Saturday morning until the day after the Inauguration.

Additionally, Customs and Border Protection announced that it planned to deploy aircraft to the capital to conduct surveillance.

Source: Politico, FBI warned of potential extremist violence at Jan. 17 rally

A Reaganesque Scheme for a GOP Reboot

The Republican Party is in crisis. Although more than 70 million Americans voted for President Donald Trump in November, since the election there has been a sharp drop in the number of Americans who call themselves Republicans—and that was before a pro-Trump mob besieged the U.S. Capitol.

There are three paths for the Republican Party, but only one path forward.

One option is to double down on xenophobia and protectionism, recruiting more Marjorie Taylor Greenes, hoping to increase the base by ramping up the rhetoric. But there seems to be a built-in ceiling to this strategy: It gets you passionate supporters but turns off many others. Even at his most popular, Trump’s approval ratings never cracked 50 percent, and mostly hovered in the low 40s. He’s on track to leave office as one of the most unpopular presidents on record.

The second path is the one the party is on now, and the one it will stay on if it does nothing to distance itself from Trump. This is the path of a split within the GOP, and this option is actually in Trump’s interest—maybe even more than path No. 1. What does Trump want after January 20? He wants attention, he wants revenue, he wants continued influence as a possible way to fend off lawsuits. That was his endgame for the march to the Capitol. He knew it wouldn’t change the election results, but he could go out in glory, stamp out the shame of having lost, stoke the grievance forever.

Things didn’t go as planned, but Trump can come back by firing up the old rallies again and rehashing the events of January 6. (“They just took selfies. Since when is it a crime to walk around the Capitol building? She died for a great cause, I’m asking her parents to join me on stage, wonderful people …”). You can already hear the roar of the crowd. Trump can use the events of the past 10 days to fundraise and barnstorm and direct his followers to vote for the politicians who remain loyal to Trumpism, even if he doesn’t run himself.

And in doing so, he will keep the GOP divided, split into centrist and Trumpist wings that struggle to work together. Breaking the Republican Party is Trump’s new business model.

There is a third path. All Republicans have to do is imitate Ronald Reagan.

To explain how the party can move forward, we have to back up and understand how Republicans got here, how the party of Lincoln has come to rely more on nationalistic and racist sloganeering to unify its members than on the limited government, free-market principles many Republicans have long believed are the party’s core ideals.

The basic problem the Republican Party has faced over the past century is that Americans actually love big government. They say they don’t, but if you ask them what spending they want to cut, they want to cut none of it. Social Security and Medicare, the largest parts of the budget? Off limits. Education, roads, research and development? Of course not. Even aid to the poor is popular as long as it’s not called “welfare.” Republicans have never managed to roll back government to where things stood before the Progressive Era, or before the New Deal, or even to before Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. And they have more or less given up the attempt to do so, because they know they can’t.

So how do you rule, and how do you run, as the party of small government in a nation that loves big government? For much of the 20th century, Republicans completely failed at answering this question, and the Democrats controlled Congress for four decades after Franklin D. Roosevelt. The first successful answer the GOP came up with, under Reagan, was lower taxes. If you could avoid talking about what programs might have to be cut, and if you could give the impression that it was possible to cut taxes without cutting programs, tax cutting was a vote-winner. It worked for Reagan, even though he backtracked when deficits showed up. And it worked for George W. Bush, particularly because by that time Republicans had learned that voters didn’t punish them for producing deficits.

The problem for Republicans now is the repeated politics of cutting taxes has gotten taxes so low that Americans just aren’t so concerned about them anymore. Tax opposition is at its lowest levels since polls started asking about it in the 1950s. Moreover, Republicans have cut taxes so much that it’s hard to put together a big, attention-grabbing tax cut without cutting taxes mostly for the wealthy. These are the dynamics that made the 2017 tax cut unpopular.

Who are Republicans if they don’t have the tax-cut magic that has glued their coalition together? They are who they were before Reagan gave them a way to avoid race-baiting. If the politics of tax cuts has played itself out, then Republicans are back to Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy. That’s how we got to where we are now: with the appeal of tax-cutting on the decline, Republicans haven’t been able to put together a free-market platform that actually brings them votes, making the party vulnerable to a demagogue willing to appeal to the electorate’s baser, racist instincts.

But even putting aside what a strategy based on racism does to the country, it is not likely to be politically successful over the long term, and is unpredictable even in the short term. Republicans’ poor showing in the Georgia runoffs showed this clearly. The truth is that many Republicans are uncomfortable with the substance as well as the tone of nationalist, xenophobic, protectionist politics, while Republican racism and extremism energize and unify the Democrats and bring them to the polls.

Ronald Reagan showed there is another way.

I’ve spent a lot of time studying Reagan, and one aspect of his political trajectory that does not attract a great deal of attention is how much he and his rhetoric had changed by the time he won the presidency in 1980. When he ran for president (and lost) in 1976, he was complaining about welfare queens and welfare fraud, items that many people thought were simply racism in another guise. But the welfare queen rhetoric had disappeared by 1980, replaced by the sunny, upbeat promise of tax cuts, which attracted many people, including core Democratic constituencies like union members and African American voters.

The lesson is that while politics based on racism can always get you some votes, it doesn’t quite get you enough. To form a new, stable political coalition, Republicans need a strategy that speaks to people’s hopes and self-interest more than to their fears. Tax cut politics appealed across the board—including to the racists, but not only to them.

To repeat a Reagan-like transformation of the party, Republicans have to offer an alternative vision that is appealing enough to voters to serve as a replacement for the dwindling politics of tax cuts.

This is easier said than done, but there are many things in the Republican toolbox that could form the nucleus of that alternative politics. For example, one theme could be emphasizing equality of opportunity—a deeply American concern—by making a big push on education, from elementary and secondary education, to vocational education, to retraining and reskilling, to college access and affordability. The Republican Party could become the party of opportunity, of mobility, of strivers, of dreams. They don’t have to give up their opposition to “socialism”—the opposite of socialism is putting people back to work in a free economy. Policies that focus on improving the quality and accessibility of education can do exactly that, as would a push on parental leave that prevents the drift of workers away from the labor force, or health care policies that make workers more mobile and able to take entrepreneurial risks, or climate change jobs that could rebuild the working class. These are policies that could appeal across the board, including to working-class voters who have found themselves drawn to Trump.

Reagan showed it’s possible to completely reorient a political party; just consider that before Reagan, the GOP was seen as the party that was more likely to increase taxes. But we also shouldn’t underestimate how hard it is to establish that new orientation and to communicate it to voters. Reagan and allies like the late Rep. Jack Kemp spent years persuading, haranguing and browbeating, and at first they couldn’t even convince other Republicans.

For this reason, Republicans should not pass up the opportunity of this moment. One way to jump-start this reorientation today would be to make a dramatic move to distance the party from Trump. A poll on Jan. 6, the day pro-Trump insurgents stormed the Capitol, found that 43 percent of Republicans opposed the attack. Just two days later, as more details emerged, another poll found 71 percent of Republicans opposing the storming, and 58 percent strongly opposing it. At least half of Republicans, in other words, know that something is deeply wrong with their party.

This is where Republican leaders come in. If a significant section of the Republican Party comes out strongly against extremism and simply tells the truth about the election, many voters will pay attention. Many who are drifting away from the party might be reassured enough to come back, and ready to hear the Republican Party’s reset around positive proposals for rebuilding the working class and creating an economy that works for everyone.

This is a moment of peril for the GOP, but it’s also an opportunity that may not come again, with Trump banned from Twitter, with donors backing away, with the entire nation outraged, with elections two years away.

When it’s not clear what the politically wisest course is, you might as well do the right thing. If Republicans do so, then forever afterward Republicans can say that when it came down to it, we told the truth, we risked our careers, we saved our party, we saved the country. The alternative is for Republicans, divided and demoralized, to become reacquainted with those 40 years they spent locked out of control of Congress. They may have plenty of time to read those history books soon.

Source: Politico, A Reaganesque Scheme for a GOP Reboot

Trump blows up the Arizona GOP on his way out

The Trump era did more damage to the Republican Party in Arizona than almost anywhere else. Over the past two years, Republicans lost both Senate seats. In November, the state flipped Democratic in a presidential race for the first time since 1996. The GOP state party chair is currently at war with the governor.

President Donald Trump’s fingerprints are on all of it, yet the state party will likely pass a resolution next week to officially “support & thank” the president. It’ll also vote on measures to censor three prominent Republicans who were deemed insufficiently beholden to Trump: Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the wife of the late senator.

The adulation is an expression of GOP grassroots loyalty to Trump, but it’s also a portrait of a party that’s run aground in service to him. His defeat has triggered attempts to adopt an even harder pro-Trump line, raising questions about the party’s ability to compete in an increasingly diverse state that’s edging leftward.

“The craziness from the state Republican Party … it’s pretty embarrassing,” said Kirk Adams, a former Republican state House speaker and former chief of staff to Ducey. “We have been fed a steady diet of conspiracy theories and stolen election rhetoric and, really, QAnon theories from the state Republican Party since before the election, but certainly after.”

He said, “What’s … consequential is the effect the state Republican Party is having on the Republican brand in the state of Arizona.”

The fallout has been swift. Several thousand Arizona Republicans have abandoned the party since the U.S. Capitol riot that Trump helped to incite, with the majority of the defectors re-registering without a designated party, according to state elections officials. Business leaders are publicly recoiling from the GOP after party officials thrust Arizona into the center of Trump’s failed effort to overturn the election results, further dividing an already fractured party.

“Let us be clear: we find the weeks of disinformation and outright lies to reverse a fair and free election from the head of the Arizona Republican Party and some elected officials to be reprehensible,” read a full-page ad in The Arizona Republic this week from Greater Phoenix Leadership, a group of CEOs. “The political party organization and these elected officials, which some of us have supported in the past, have again embarrassed Arizona on a national stage.”

The hard-right pull of the Arizona GOP was evident long before the rise of Kelli Ward, the state party’s current chairwoman and fierce Trump ally. Arizona is the state of Joe Arpaio and Evan Mecham; in 2014, the party censured Sen. John McCain.

Ward is not the first chair to feud with moderate elected officials of her party. But for a party that lost so much ground during Trump’s tenure, the Arizona GOP is now operating as an almost wholly-owned subsidiary of the outgoing president. Rep. Andy Biggs, chair of the House Freedom Caucus, played a leading role in congressional Republicans’ effort to challenge the electoral vote count in Arizona – undermining the vote in his own state. Following the riot perpetrated by Trump supporters at the Capitol, the official Twitter account of the Arizona GOP has been referring to Trump as the #PresidentofPeace.

“Ignore the false claims against President Trump and against supporters of President Trump,” Ward said in a video address this week, at a time when at least some establishment Republicans were beginning to break with Trump. “President Trump has never, never called for violence. All he’s called for is peaceful protest to demand the integrity of the vote.”

In an email on Friday, Zachery Henry, a state party spokesman, decried what he called “a concerted effort being made by the Left and many in the media to brand all Republicans as domestic terrorists because of the destructive actions of a few bad apples — including Antifa enthusiast John Sullivan — which our Republican Party has already totally condemned.”

Bill Gates, a Republican Maricopa County supervisor, said “we’ve always had different members in different places on the spectrum and we’ve always had what you would call a hard right contingent. But here in the last few years we’ve seen that contingent come to the point now where they’re running the party apparatus.”

In that climate, Arizona Republicans who fail to toe the pro-Trump line are finding knives in their backs. Ward told Ducey on Twitter to “#STHU,” or shut up, when he defended the integrity of the vote in the state, and the party is considering censuring him for enacting restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic, which is raging in Arizona.

Flake, according to the proposal to censure him, “has joined with those who condemn President Trump.” Cindy McCain’s sins, in addition to backing Joe Biden, include supporting “leftist causes such as gay marriage, growth of the administrative state, and others that run counter to Republican values, a Republican form of government, and the U.S. Constitution.”

Given the party’s losses, more traditionalist Republicans are appalled the state GOP had nothing better to do.

“So, the state party is picking fights with the standard-bearers of the party for no good reason other than to show an outgoing president that Kelli Ward has his back,” said Barrett Marson, a Republican political strategist in Arizona. “The Republican Party does need to have a bit of a reckoning with itself. Will it be the party that follows a demagogue, or will it be the party that follows conservative principles? And so far, some in the leadership apparatus have chosen demagoguery over conservative principles.”

In many states, Republican and Democratic parties alike are controlled by their more activist wings. Intraparty feuding is not uncommon. And in the past, when Arizona was more reliably conservative, state Republicans might not have paid a price for disunity in their ranks.

But that no longer appears to be true. The Arizona Republican Party has regressed amid the state’s changing demographics. On top of losing the presidential election in November, Republicans saw Democrat Mark Kelly take down Sen. Martha McSally, just two years after Kyrsten Sinema put Arizona’s other Senate seat in the Democratic column.

McCain, in a statement, said she was “not surprised by the continuous insults and personal attacks from Arizona GOP Chairman Kelli Ward. She’s shown how attacking Republicans like me can impact elections — her involvement in both Senate elections to replace Jeff Flake and my husband John McCain, two regular targets of her personal attacks, resulted in Democrat wins.”

As chairwoman of the party, McCain said, Ward “managed to turn Arizona blue in November for the first time since 1996. Maybe she should be reminded that my husband never lost an Arizona election since his first win in 1982; he and Governor Ducey are the last two Republicans to win statewide races in Arizona.”

Censuring her — or any other winning Republican — may not have its intended effect.

T.J. Shope, a Republican state senator, said the politicians targeted by the GOP “tend to have a lot more in common with the average person on the street than the folks doing the censuring.”

He said, “We need to go ahead and get to a point in time we’re going to realize we need to grow the party in a positive way once again.”

The election cycle was not all bad for the Arizona GOP. Registered Republicans in the state still outnumber Democrats by about 3 percentage points. Republicans held their majority in the statehouse despite some projections that Democrats were likely to retake it. And some Republican Party officials believe that the controversy surrounding ballot counting in the state will further energize the base.

More than before, said Shelley Kais, chairwoman of the Republican Party in Arizona’s Pima County, local Republicans are “applying to become precinct committeemen, they’re offering to sit on committees, they’re looking at running for office.”

Of the resolution to censure McCain, Kais said, “It’s always a good thing for people to have their day in court, let’s be sure about that, whether it’s the … die-hard activists of the party or whether it’s Cindy McCain.”

But after the losses inflicted on the party last year, other Republicans say it’d be better if the GOP just left the internal conflicts alone.

“My personal opinion is that we just ought to settle back and take our lumps and start fresh,” said Delos Bond, chairman of the Republican Party in Apache County. “I think we ought to try to heal ourselves … stop worrying about the McCain issues and the Flake issues and try some unity there.”

“We need to just buckle down and work on the issues that our platform stands for,” Bond said. “We’ve wandered away from those issues and worried too much about the issues between fellow Republicans … McCain’s gone. Let’s get over it. And Flake’s gone. Let’s get over it.”

Source: Politico, Trump blows up the Arizona GOP on his way out

Ivanka’s political future comes into sharper focus

When Donald Trump incited a mob riot on Capitol Hill last week, he didn’t just complicate his own political future— he scrambled the political career arcs of his kids as well.

At least three Trump family members are either considering runs for office or being urged to do so, according to well-connected GOP operatives and Trump family allies.

Top party officials say that Lara Trump, wife of the president’s son Eric, is actively contemplating a run for the Senate in North Carolina, where an open seat awaits in 2022. “It’s real and she is legitimately interested in it,” said one Trump family political adviser.

The president’s eldest son, Don Jr., is eyeing a future in politics as well, though allies say it’s unclear when or what office he’d seek after he passed on running for the Senate in Wyoming this last cycle. He and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle have also been scoping out real estate in Florida.

The newest and most-buzzed about possibility, however, surrounds the president’s daughter Ivanka. The senior White House adviser is set to decamp to Florida after her father’s presidency comes to a close. And though talk of her launching a primary challenge to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has given off the faint whiff of political fan-fick, in reality, Trump officials say, there have been machinations behind the scenes.

One person in contact with the president said that Jared Kushner is viewed as “working single-mindedly to protect and promote his wife’s ‘political career.’” And two sources, including one top GOP fundraiser, said that Trump ally and mega donor Tom Barrack had been pressing fellow Republican financiers to put together some type of operation that could lure Ivanka into entering the race.

“He’s calling people and trying to line them up saying Rubio is terrible, worthless, he’s probably going to lose, Ivanka is going to go there and we should all get together and pledge our support to her and get her to run,” the GOP fundraiser said.

Tommy Davis, a Barrack spokesman, said no chatter of challenging Rubio ever took place.

“It’s not true. He’s never made any comments like this about Marco and he’s not making these calls,” said Davis. “Maybe people are getting confused because we did as much work as we could for the Senate Leadership fund for the Georgia race. But that was before Christmas. But, no, nothing about Ivanka and nothing about Marco.”

And one person close to Trump said that Ivanka herself had denied having interest in running for office. But the president’s advisers are openly playing up her political potency.

“Ivanka only got into politics to help her father and help his agenda but what’s now clear is that Ivanka is a political powerhouse in her own right,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump.

Others in Trumpworld say the signs are evident that Ivanka is leaving the door open to elected office. In late October, Ivanka, who had been registered as a Democrat in the past, gave an interview in which she declared herself “unapologetically pro-life.” One top Florida Republican who is close to the Trumps and Rubio noted that she not only upped her appearances on the campaign trail during the 2020 cycle — both for her father and the two Republicans in the Georgia Senate runoff — but passed out food at a food distribution event in Miami before Christmas.

“We’re taking the possibility seriously,” the Republican official said. “And so is Marco. And that’s a good thing. But you never know. She’s a Trump and the Trumps move on their own timetables.”

And, perhaps most tellingly, in the last week, Steve Bannon, as he was renewing his contacts with Trump himself, began talking up Ivanka’s political resume.

“The second most fire breathing populist in the White House was Ivanka Trump,” the president’s one-time adviser said on a recent podcast of his. If, Bannon added, Rubio voted for the certification of Joe Biden’s election — and he did — then, “I strongly believe and would strongly recommend that Ivanka Trump immediately…. if she is not going to remain an assistant to the president, she should immediately file and run for the senate and primary Marco Rubio in Florida.”

American politics has seen its share of family dynasties before. And though Donald Trump’s standing may have taken a hit by his handling of his election loss — which included inciting a riot that led to violence on Capitol Hill, his ouster from major social media platforms, resignations from his Cabinet, public disgust from party leaders and his second impeachment — public polling still shows that his name remains the most dominant in Republican circles. Virtually everyone expects that to transfer to his children.

“Their brand was certainly stained and it’s a stain we’ll never be able to erase,” said one top Republican strategist. “At the same time, the name of the game is winning a primary and someone with the last name of Trump could win.”

But running in theory is different from running in practice. In Florida, Rubio’s standing has been considered largely stable up to this point. The senator was trashed by hardcore Trump supporters for his vote that certified the Electoral College results. But those close to him said he was expecting far worse. They also point to his solid support in Miami-Dade County, Florida’s most-populous, where 74 percent of the GOP voters are Hispanic and overwhelmingly Cuban-American like Rubio.

“We have nothing bad to say about Ivanka,” said a Rubio adviser. “He’s going to run his race. I’m not sure she really wants to run? She just finished working in the White House and she has three small children — and now she’s going to move to Florida and run against Marco Rubio in a Republican primary?”

For that reason, the expectation among Trump allies and even establishment Republicans is that Ivanka will take her time considering a run while Lara jumps in. One Republican operative who worked with both Lara and Ivanka Trump in 2020 noted that Ivanka was less interested in the rallies and retail politics that come with running for office.

Ivanka Trump is expected to take some time off after leaving the White House, according to one former White House official, and she is currently working on closing out her work, including mitigating the fallout of the riots on Capitol Hill. After that, her family is expected to pack up their home in Washington.

A person close to Lara Trump, meanwhile, said that she has not made any decisions on entering the race in North Carolina, although consultants have been “poking around” for her in the state.

“For [Ivanka] to take on Marco or Florida she’s gotta be ready to rock and roll,” the operative said. “Whereas with Lara, I get the vibe she is ready to go.”

Source: Politico, Ivanka’s political future comes into sharper focus

Feds back away from claim that Capitol rioters were looking to capture and assassinate officials

The lead prosecutor overseeing the investigation into the Capitol riot backed away Friday from a suggestion in a court filing that participants in the takeover of Congress last week were seeking to take officials prisoner and potentially even execute them.

Images of intruders with zip-tie handcuffs and video of protesters chanting “Hang Mike Pence” have led many lawmakers and other observers to conclude that some in the crowd were intent on capturing — and possibly killing — prisoners.

However, acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin told reporters Friday that prosecutors don’t have concrete proof of such an effort.

“Right now, we don’t have any direct evidence of kill/capture teams,” Sherwin said.

Sherwin’s contention undercut the flat assertions made by federal prosecutors in Arizona, who described in a court filing Thursday what they called “strong evidence” that Capitol rioters intended “to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States Government.”

The D.C. prosecutor suggested those claims were the product of miscommunication or lack of coordination in what has become a sprawling investigation seeking to question and arrest suspects who have returned to their home states after traveling to Washington for the pro-Trump protest that turned violent on Jan. 6.

“There were other prosecutors. That may be a disconnect that may be adding information that’s not directly related to what we have,” Sherwin said.

Though Sherwin disclaimed specific knowledge of the rioters’ intent, he said investigators are carefully examining potential planning for the event. The prosecutor seemed to dismiss the notion of an overarching plan, but said officials are looking into the possibility that smaller groups may have coordinated in advance of and during the assault.

“There are breadcrumbs of organization in terms of what maybe was taking place outside the Capitol went inside with perhaps some type of communication with core groups of people ingressing into the Capitol and some coordination with individuals within the Capitol,” Sherwin said. “That is a tier one, top priority for both the U.S. Attorney’s office and our law enforcement partners to see, again, whether there was this command and control and whether there were indeed organized teams that were organized to breach the Capitol and perhaps try to accomplish some type of mission inside the Capitol.”

Sherwin did not back away from other explosive elements of the Arizona filing, which described the Capitol siege as an attempt to overthrow the U.S. government, and part of an “insurrection movement” that is still ongoing. The filing was submitted as part of a bid to deny bail to a QAnon conspiracy follower and self-described shaman charged in the riot, Jacob Chansley.

Sherwin said that as of Friday morning, 98 criminal cases have been filed related to the riot, most of them including felony charges. He said he expects that number to grow “exponentially” in the coming days and also to involve more serious charges against some alleged rioters — perhaps including seditious conspiracy charges.

Sherwin said he was particularly disturbed by the presence of current and retired law enforcement officers in the mob that fought with police. One Capitol Police officer died following the melee and dozens of other officers were injured.

So far, two off-duty police officers from Rocky Mount, Va., have been charged, along with a retired firefighter from Pennsylvania.

“Unfortunately, as this case goes on, we’re seeing indications that law enforcement officers, both former and current, maybe had been off duty and participating in this riot activity,” Sherwin said. “We don’t care what your profession is, who you’re who affiliated with. If you are conducting and you are engaged in criminal activity, we will charge you and you will be arrested.”

Source: Politico, Feds back away from claim that Capitol rioters were looking to capture and assassinate officials

Pence congratulates Harris days before inauguration

Vice President Mike Pence called his successor, Kamala Harris, on Thursday to congratulate her ticket’s win and to assist the transition, people familiar with the situation confirmed to POLITICO.

The phone call came only six days before Inauguration Day, following a fraught post-election season in which President Donald Trump and his supporters vehemently denied his loss in the 2020 election. Though Trump acknowledged his time in the White House was coming to a close following a violent insurrection by his supporters at the Capitol, the president has yet to fully admit defeat to Biden.

Pence’s delayed phone call with Harris also comes in contrast to Biden’s own contact with Pence in 2016, when he met with with the then-future vice president shortly after Election Day to offer his full support. Contact between the two tickets has remained limited since Election Day and Trump plans to spend the inauguration away from Washington — a major break from tradition.

Pence indicated that he will be at the ceremony, and Biden said he would welcome Pence to demonstrate a bipartisan commitment to the transfer of power.

“I’d be honored to have him there,” Biden told reporters last Friday.

The New York Times first reported the call between Pence and Harris.

Source: Politico, Pence congratulates Harris days before inauguration

New York attorney general suing NYPD over protest response

NEW YORK — State Attorney General Tish James is suing the NYPD over its response to the police brutality protests that swept the city last year, charging it has shown a pattern of excessive force and false arrests against protesters.

In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday against Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, Chief of Department Terence Monahan and the city, James asks for a court-appointed monitor to be installed to oversee the NYPD.

“What we found was an egregious abuse of police power, rampant excessive use of force and leadership unable and unwilling to stop it,” James said during a press conference Thursday.

The attorney general’s office investigated the NYPD’s handling of the protests and found that NYPD officers engaged in rampant use of batons, pepper spray and a tactic known as kettling to surround and hem in protesters. They also illegally arrested legal observers and medics, she alleges.

Her suit also seeks a court order declaring that the NYPD’s response to the protests was unconstitutional.

The mayor and police commissioner are personally responsible for the abuses that took place because they failed to properly train, supervise and discipline police officers despite a long history of improper NYPD protest response tactics, the attorney general charges.

“They did not train. They did not supervise. They did not stop officers who engaged in this misconduct. And they did not discipline them either,” James said. “They failed the people of the city of New York.”

Her investigation documented 155 separate incidents of officers using excessive or unreasonable force at the protests, which began in late May in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

That includes 50 incidents where police officers struck protesters with batons, 30 times they used pepper spray without justification, and 75 times they punched or shoved protesters, according to the suit. Some protesters were seriously injured in the attacks, suffering concussions, gashes to the head that required staples and stitches, a broken arm and a fractured eye socket.

After vandals looted businesses in Manhattan and the Bronx, de Blasio imposed an 8 p.m. curfew on the city. But James found that legal observers, medics and essential workers, who were exempt from the curfew, were nonetheless swept up in mass arrests.

“The unlawful policing practices Officers engaged in at these Protests are not new. Instead, they are the latest manifestation of the NYPD’s unconstitutional policing practices. For at least the last two decades, the NYPD has engaged in the same unlawful excessive force and false arrest practices while policing large-scale protests,” says the complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan.

A separate probe by the city’s Department of Investigation found that a poorly prepared police force used overly aggressive tactics that heightened tensions around the protests. The NYPD response has also spurred several lawsuits, including a federal civil rights suit in which a group of protesters allege they were brutalized.

De Blasio said he will oppose the imposition of a monitor.

“I met with Attorney General James yesterday and we have a common goal: Continue to drive major police reforms. I couldn’t agree more that there are pressing reforms that must – and will – be made this year,” he said in a statement. “A court process and the added bureaucracy of a federal monitor will not speed up this work. There is no time to waste and we will continue to press forward.”

A court-appointed monitor is already in place to oversee the NYPD’s use of stop and frisk, which a judge found unconstitutional in 2013.

The NYPD released a statement saying the department “welcomes reform” but that adding a federal monitor would not speed up that process.

In one incident detailed in the suit and captured on video, protester Andrew Smith was pepper sprayed directly in the face after a cop yanked off his mask to spray him.

“He attacked me while my hands were high up in the air. I was no threat. I was not being aggressive or hostile, but somehow I was still assaulted by the police,” he said.

Another man, Rayne Valentine, said he was walking to the subway after leaving work at Kings County Hospital when he saw police beating someone on the ground and began recording with his phone. An officer charged him and pushed him to the ground, where several officers beat him, causing a bloody head wound that required seven staples to close. When he said he was just trying to get home, an officer replied, “You picked the wrong time to do that.”

“I was terrified,” Valentine said. “I was viciously attacked and beaten by the very people who are supposed to protect me.”

The complaint charges that the NYPD’s use of kettling continued at Nov. 4 protests related to the presidential election near Washington Square Park and Union Square. Protesters trapped in a police cordon were arrested, including a medic’s aide who was punched by an officer and had a tooth knocked out.

While defending the actions of police officers, the president of the city police union agreed that the mayor and NYPD brass were to blame for the missteps.

“We will say it again: what we witnessed in June was a failure of New York City’s leadership. They sent cops out to police unprecedented protests and violent riots with no plan, no strategy and no support,” said Police Benevolent Association Pat Lynch. “They should be forced to answer for the resulting chaos, instead of pointing fingers at cops on the streets and ignoring the criminals who attacked us with bricks and firebombs.”

Source: Politico, New York attorney general suing NYPD over protest response

Harrison selected as Biden’s DNC chair

President-elect Joe Biden is tapping former South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison to lead the Democratic National Committee, according to three people familiar with the decision, a major victory for state party heads and the powerful House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.

Harrison, a current associate chair and senior counselor at the DNC, will be charged with leading the Democrats through the tumultuous 2022 midterms and keeping the party’s warring factions together if party members formally elect him as expected this month.

Two sources said Biden is also throwing his weight behind Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a major surrogate for him during the general election, as a high-profile vice chair. Aides to Whitmer declined to comment or could not immediately be reached.

For state party officials, many of whom continue to harbor resentment over the DNC’s diminishment during the Barack Obama administration, the selection of Harrison came as a relief.

About 70 state party chairs and vice chairs sent a letter to Biden’s transition team in November that, while not naming him, listed a series of qualities that all “matched Jaime’s resume and experience,” as one of them put it.

Those party chiefs view Harrison as one of their own, a former state committee chair who will lead a decentralized DNC and advocate for plowing money into organizing at the state level — a departure, they hope, from how the party was managed under former President Barack Obama.

Harrison’s pick was something of a foregone conclusion, with DNC members viewing him as the frontrunner for months and no viable challenger emerging. POLITICO reported Wednesday that he was expected to assume the role.

His ascension to the top of the DNC is a sign of the growing clout of the South in the Democratic Party, which is likely to expand further after the Georgia elections of Sens.-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

But it’s also a sign of the influence wielded by Clyburn, a South Carolina congressman and top Biden ally who helped revive the president-elect’s 2020 campaign by endorsing him before his state’s primary.

Clyburn pushed for Harrison both publicly and behind the scenes, including by speaking to Biden about the position. Harrison previously was a staffer for Clyburn.

Biden and his team were exceedingly close with the DNC during his presidential run, with staffers in both operations joining each other’s conference calls and their respective leadership frequently coordinating on field troops and messaging. Harrison’s pick was something of a foregone conclusion, with DNC members viewing him as the frontrunner for months and no viable challenger emerging.

“Jaime will ensure all 57 state parties and territories have the funding we need to not only win elections but to also build up the infrastructure we need to organize year-round,” said Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party. “We cannot afford to be a party that parachutes in resources at the last minute.”

Tina Podlodowski, chair of the Washington Democratic Party, said “all of us are excited” about Harrison and as “a former state party chair, he obviously understands the issues that we need to deal with.”

DNC members will vote for their chair and the other positions between Jan. 18 and Jan. 21 on an electronic ballot due to concerns about Covid-19. When Democrats win the White House, this vote is typically a formality that ratifies the president-elect’s choices.

One of the challenges facing the party in the years ahead will be raising money without President Donald Trump in office to mobilize donors. Harrison, who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last year, has shown a knack for fundraising. During his Senate run, he brought in $131 million, a record for a candidate for the chamber.

But some Democrats have questioned whether his ability to reap big sums while running against a leading boogeyman on the left will translate to fundraising for the DNC. Democrats will also face an uphill battle in the 2022 elections, when the party that controls the White House typically suffers losses.

“Of course we want to help President Biden, but the House and Senate and the governors races in 2022 are going to be the major focus of the DNC,” said Carol Fowler, a longtime Democratic official in South Carolina who is close with Harrison, acknowledging the fundraising challenges for the party in power. “Jamie can do it. He can get it done. Those of us who know him know he’ll be an exceptional leader and his focus will be on those races.”

Source: Politico, Harrison selected as Biden’s DNC chair

Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez to perform at Biden’s inauguration

Lady Gaga will sing the National Anthem at President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, with Jennifer Lopez also slated to perform, Biden’s inaugural committee announced Thursday.

Other participants at the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony will include Father Leo J. O’Donovan, a Biden family friend, who will deliver the invocation; Andrea Hall, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 3920, who will lead the Pledge of Allegiance; Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, who will perform a poetry reading; and Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman, another longtime Biden family confidante, who will offer the benediction.

The latest inauguration lineup comes after POLITICO reported Wednesday that Biden’s inaugural committee is producing a 90-minute, prime-time television special to celebrate his swearing-in — called “Celebrating America” — that will be hosted by Tom Hanks and feature performances from Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Ant Clemons and Jon Bon Jovi.

Biden’s inaugural committee instructed the public last month to not attempt to view the ceremony in-person because of coronavirus-related concerns. Following last week’s deadly siege of the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser also warned Americans to stay away from the nation’s capital amid heightened security threats.

Airbnb, the online home rental company, announced Wednesday that it would cancel all reservations in the Washington area during the week of the inauguration to discourage out-of-town visitors.

President Donald Trump on Monday granted Bowser’s request to declare a state of emergency in Washington ahead of the inauguration, and federal officials on Wednesday authorized an increase in the number of National Guardsmen stationed across the city — potentially bringing the troop presence to beyond 20,000 by Inauguration Day.

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a video statement Wednesday that there would be “no tolerance whatsoever for any attempts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”

Meanwhile, the four-star officers who make up the Joint Chiefs of Staff authored a memo to the entire force on Tuesday, affirming that Biden will become commander in chief next week and telling the troops that “any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values and oath; it is against the law.”

Although the president-elect’s inaugural planning team is reassessing its security planning in the aftermath of last week’s Capitol siege, Biden insisted on Monday that he is “not afraid” to take the oath of office outside on the West front of the Capitol.

Trump has said he does not plan to attend Biden’s inauguration. But Vice President Mike Pence is expected to appear, as are all living former presidents and their spouses — with the exception of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

On Tuesday, a Chicago-area man was arrested after threatening to kill Democrats at Biden’s inauguration.

Source: Politico, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez to perform at Biden’s inauguration

Koch network pledges to shun lawmakers tied to Capitol riots

The powerful Koch political network, funders of the Tea Party, will “weigh heavy” the actions of members of Congress in the days leading up to and after last week’s siege of the Capitol when considering future donations, in a sign that the GOP’s megadonor class is uncomfortable with the party’s recent actions.

In a statement to POLITICO, the Koch network said it will take last week’s events seriously when deciding where to put its millions of dollars in spending next election cycle.

“Lawmakers’ actions leading up to and during last week’s insurrection will weigh heavy in our evaluation of future support. And we will continue to look for ways to support those policymakers who reject the politics of division and work together to move our country forward,” said Emily Seidel, CEO of Americans for Prosperity, the main Koch super PAC.

Seidel’s statement follows months of the network working to operate more independently of the Republican Party, as billionaire Charles Koch has become increasingly dissatisfied with the tactics and policies of President Donald Trump.

The Koch move comes after numerous corporate PACs began suspending their donations to Republicans who challenged President-elect Joe Biden’s victory last week. Many of those businesses were acting in response to pressure from clients and customers. The Koch action, coming amid a resounding silence among Trump allies, suggests that megadonors — a small class of brand-name billionaires who give from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars per election cycle — also feel that their reputations are on the line if they back lawmakers who supported Trump’s claims of election fraud.

Key GOP donors including the Ricketts family of Chicago, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus and financier Ken Griffin declined to comment on their giving plans in the wake of the attack on the Capitol. While some are expected to continue backing candidates that are aligned with Trump — Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts is the Republican National Committee finance chair — their unwillingness to defend the president and his supporters at a crucial moment could be a sign of their discomfort with the direction of the party.

“I would be incredibly concerned about this, if it was my lane,” said a Republican operative with experience fundraising for Senate races. “The problem is, if corporate PACs aren’t going to give money, corporate executives aren’t going to give money.”

The issue was made significantly more complicated after Florida Sen. Rick Scott, the incoming chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a powerhouse fundraiser for his party, voted against certifying election results in Pennsylvania.

Scott — who is widely considered to be a 2024 GOP presidential candidate — rapidly tried to reassure skeptical, and sometimes angry, donors he is still well-positioned to lead the committee in a series of phone calls this week, according to two sources familiar with the calls.

Scott also sent a two-minute video to donors earlier this week marking the start of his NRSC chair role. Wearing a navy vest and baseball cap, the Florida senator avoided addressing either the violence at the Capitol or Trump’s months of insistence that there had been widespread voter fraud during the election. Instead, he emphasized the high stakes of the 2022 congressional elections and need to raise a “bazillian” dollars to retake the Senate.

“If we fail to become the party that is trusted to lead America into the future, Democrats will lead America to the past,” Scott says in the video. “They will erode our economy and our culture, and turn America into just another decaying example of socialism. We won’t let that happen.”

For his part, Trump will leave office with public support from only a few of the big-money allies who surrounded him when he arrived in Washington.

Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who plowed more than $75 million into Trump’s reelection bid, died this week while being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But even he had grown uncomfortable with Trump’s claims of election fraud, allowing his newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, to editorialize against them. Trump 2016 bankroller Robert Mercer pulled back from big-money politics after his tactics during the 2016 race turned him into a household name.

Meanwhile, Blackstone CEO Steve Schwarzman, an unofficial Trump adviser, has since mid-November called for a peaceful transfer of power to the Biden administration and amplified his disapproval after the attack on the Capitol.

“The insurrection that followed the President’s remarks today is appalling and an affront to the democratic values we hold dear as Americans. I am shocked and horrified by this mob’s attempt to undermine our constitution,” Schwarzman said on the day of the riots. “As I said in November, the outcome of the election is very clear and there must be a peaceful transition of power.”

Trump has increasingly relied on small-dollar supporters instead of the mega-rich. Since the election, the president continued to raise money for his personal PAC, legal fights and the RNC, bringing in more than $200 million — the majority of it from donors giving less than $200.

The violence that is marking the end of his presidency could complicate Trump’s ability to raise money from bigger donors going forward.

“Nobody who has a leadership position at a big organization is going to give Trump money again,” said longtime Republican lobbyist and political adviser Charlie Black.

Another Republican fundraiser put it this way: “My gut tells me there would be, at least in the major dollar community, much less enthusiasm for giving to him if he were to run for president again.”

As anger at Trump reached a new all-time high this week, a slew of major corporations — from finance titans like Goldman Sachs to tech heavyweights Google and Facebook — paused all donations to lawmakers, and a smaller list of companies including AT&T said they were suspending giving money to members of Congress who voted against certifying the election results. On Wednesday the Charles Schwab Corporation, whose founder and namesake is a major Trump supporter, announced it would dissolve its corporate PAC entirely and donate any existing funds in its PAC account.

Nonetheless, it is not clear how long the backlash will last. Six months from now, donors and corporations may change their tune if Congress begins legislating again and the siege of the Capitol is firmly in the rear view, Black said.

“Even if people think it was a stupid vote, it’s hard to disqualify 139 Republicans from any future support if they’re on your side with a lot of issues,” said Black, referring to the Republicans who voted to reject electors from states where Trump claimed fraud.

Source: Politico, Koch network pledges to shun lawmakers tied to Capitol riots

Pelosi signs article of impeachment

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening, a ceremonial step that precedes the article being sent to the Senate.

The engrossment ceremony to make the article official occurred shortly after it passed the House, with 10 Republican members of Congress joining the Democrats to impeach the president on a count of willful incitement of insurrection.

The articles of impeachment are seen after an engrossment ceremony with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. President Donald Trump was impeached by the U.S. House on a single charge of incitement of insurrection for his role in a deadly riot by his supporters that left five dead and the Capitol ransacked, putting an indelible stain on his legacy with only a week left in his term. Photographer: Sarah Silbiger

“Today, in a bipartisan way, the House demonstrated that no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States,” Pelosi said before signing the document. “That Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our country and that once again we honor that oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, so help us God.”

Pelosi spoke from the same lectern that a rioter had dragged through the halls of the Capitol during last week‘s insurrection. A staffer wheeled it back to the speaker‘s office on Wednesday for the signing event. The lectern had been moved to the Senate side of the building after photographs of the man parading with the lectern through the building went viral.

Trump’s impeachment by the House marked the first time that a president has been impeached twice in U.S. history.

The article of impeachment will now head to the Senate, although a trial is not expected to begin until after next Wednesday’s inauguration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement earlier Wednesday that “there is simply no chance that a fair or serious trial could conclude before President-elect Biden is sworn in next week.”

“In light of this reality,” he said, “I believe it will best serve our nation if Congress and the executive branch spend the next seven days completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power to the incoming Biden Administration.”

Source: Politico, Pelosi signs article of impeachment

Illinois elects first Black speaker after decades of Madigan rule

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois lawmakers elected their first Black speaker Wednesday, elevating state Rep. Chris Welch to a post that has been held for nearly four decades by Michael Madigan, a quintessential Chicago South Side Irishman who became synonymous with Democratic machine-style politics.

Welch, elected to the state House in 2013, steps into a government quagmire on Day One. Illinois is no stranger to financial crises, but after an economic upswing in 2019, the state is now saddled with a $4 billion budget deficit amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and a redistricting process where Illinois will likely lose one congressional seat.

But he also takes the gavel as state lawmakers pass criminal justice reforms prompted by the social unrest that swept across the country and Illinois last year after the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota — part of a sweeping “Black Agenda” he’s worked on with other members of the Legislative Black Caucus. The same day Welch was elected speaker, the state House passed a sweeping bill to end cash bail and eventually require all police officers to wear body cameras.

“Today will be the last time I talk about us as Democrats and Republicans,” Welch said in a speech to lawmakers after becoming speaker. “I want to talk about us as being united. We are going to work together to be united.”

Illinois State Rep. Emanuel

The speaker’s race had plenty of suspense. What started last year as a simmering legal and political soap opera — touched off by a corruption scandal around a local utility — turned into a rare opportunity to shed old leadership: Welch, who hails from the Chicago suburb of Hillside, practically cleared the field when he officially stepped into the race on Monday shortly after Madigan dropped out.

The outgoing speaker, who has wielded the gavel almost continuously since 1983, was gracious in the transfer of power.

“It is time for new leadership in the House,” Madigan said in a statement Wednesday. “As I look at the large and diverse Democratic majority we have built — full of young leaders ready to continue moving our state forward, strong women and people of color, and members representing all parts of our state — I am confident Illinois remains in good hands.”

Madigan had spent months working over the Democratic caucus, which controls the chamber, to secure the 60 votes needed to keep his job.

And he had plenty of leverage points: In addition to his power to determine what legislation moves and to set staffing for Democratic lawmakers, Madigan leads the state party. In that job, he doles out campaign funding under a machine system in which Democratic candidates try to “get on the program.”

But Madigan never recovered from an open rebellion within his caucus last fall, when 17 members — more than enough to deny him the necessary votes — announced plans to block him from another term.

Madigan’s supporters started pulling away last summer after he was implicated in a federal pay-to-play scheme involving Commonwealth Edison, a subsidiary of Exelon Corp. The public utility agreed to pay a $200 million fine and acknowledged it had tried to curry favor with Madigan by offering jobs and contracts to his allies in exchange for favorable legislation.

The veteran lawmaker has not been charged, but the investigation loomed particularly large after the November election, when Illinois Democrats lost congressional and state House seats and the governor’s signature progressive income tax referendum failed.

Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other Democrats lashed out that the ethical cloud had created distrust among constituents.

“We paid a heavy price for the speaker’s chairmanship of the Democratic Party,” Durbin said on a local television program the day after last year’s election. He called on Madigan to step down from his leadership position of the state Democratic Party.

That didn’t happen, but a few Democrats in Madigan’s caucus tapped into the zeitgeist and went public saying they wouldn’t vote to reelect Madigan as speaker.

Republicans, meanwhile, pushed for an investigation into Madigan’s involvement in the federal probe. Welch ran the hearings and drew GOP criticism for slowing and stalling the process.

When Democratic lawmakers gathered on Sunday, Madigan’s deficit was larger than expected. He’d only mustered 51 votes while the remainder was split among other candidates, including two female legislators — another historic moment since no woman has ever run for House speaker in Illinois.

A master at counting votes for bills, Madigan didn’t have a clear path. He suspended his campaign for speaker on Monday but left the door open to jump back in should Democrats fail to give 60 votes to anyone else.

Within hours, Welch — a member of Madigan’s leadership team — jumped into the speaker race with the endorsement of the Black Caucus, a stronghold of 22 votes.

Then, Welch hit a snag. Tension ensued midway through Tuesday’s balloting when the Chicago Tribune published a story about allegations of Welch mistreating women from 2010 and earlier.

“I don’t take these allegations lightly,” Rep. Anna Moeller said after the Tuesday vote. “But I was satisfied with Chris’ explanation of the events. … We work very hard here to pass legislation that protects women. And Chris has a great track record on women’s issues. And I believe he is sincere on supporting women’s issues.”

The story spread like wildfire, and observers outside of the General Assembly wondered if it would sink Welch’s standing with female lawmakers. It didn’t. By Wednesday morning, in a third ballot, Welch hit 55 votes — more than Madigan before he pulled out.

Behind closed doors, Welch and Rep. Jay Hoffman met to talk about their stalemate and, within the hour, Welch was elected unanimously by the Democrats and the full House vote with Republicans became a mere formality.

Source: Politico, Illinois elects first Black speaker after decades of Madigan rule

Biden picks Samantha Power to lead USAID

President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday announced his intent to nominate former Ambassador Samantha Power as administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, the federal agency charged with distributing billions of dollars in foreign aid.

Power, a former war correspondent who served on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council, was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2013-2017.

Power was an influential voice on matters of foreign policy during Obama’s second term, including the negotiation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Highly regarded within the Democratic Party for her diplomatic chops, it was widely expected that she would land a role in Biden’s administration.

In a statement, Biden praised Power as a “world-renowned voice of conscience and moral clarity,” and nodded to their time together in the Obama administration.

“I know firsthand the unparalleled knowledge and tireless commitment to principled American engagement she brings to the table,” Biden said, “and her expertise and perspective will be essential as our country reasserts its role as a leader on the world stage.”

Biden also announced that he would elevate the USAID administrator to have a seat at his White House’s National Security Council, which will be led by national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Power joins a team of incoming foreign policy officials that includes Antony Blinken as secretary of State, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the U.N. and John Kerry as special presidential envoy for climate.

Biden has relied heavily on former diplomats to fill out his administration, underscoring his commitment to rebuilding historic alliances that have weakened under President Donald Trump.

On Monday, Biden announced that he would nominate William Burns, a former deputy secretary of State and career foreign service officer, as CIA director.

Source: Politico, Biden picks Samantha Power to lead USAID

Inside Joe Biden’s plan to avoid a midterm ‘shellacking’

Democrats under Barack Obama and Joe Biden were so badly pummeled in their first midterm elections that Obama famously called it a “shellacking.”

Ten years later, now President-elect Biden is hellbent on avoiding a repeat.

History isn’t on his side. Allies are concerned about his political strategy. And the party is worried about fundraising in an era where Donald Trump is not on the ballot.

In preparation for the 2022 midterms, the president-elect is fusing his political operation with the Democratic National Committee. He is also considering sending a top communications staffer — among those discussed are top campaign spokespeople Andrew Bates and T.J. Ducklo — to the DNC for the next several months as an embed before that person heads to the White House themselves. The idea is to help ensure the DNC is integral to the Biden operation, a source close to the campaign said in an interview.

Biden is also empowering his former campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, with his political portfolio in and out of the White House. Dillon, herself a former top national party staffer, is steering DNC meetings in the run-up to the election of a new chair and officers later this month.

She’s brought in an ally, Emmy Ruiz, to become Biden’s White House political director. Longtime Biden confidant and incoming senior adviser Steve Ricchetti will also advise Biden on politics.

Biden is also committed to pumping resources into state Democratic parties that atrophied during the Obama years, according to a Biden official, cognizant of the shortcomings of the last Democratic president’s approach. Rather than build out his own infrastructure, like Obama did, his team is in conversations with battleground state directors about the upcoming midterms and preparing to bulk up outreach to rural voters, with early conversations about having Agriculture secretary nominee Tom Vilsack serve as a possible surrogate.

The strategizing comes as the Democratic Party navigates a new, unsettled landscape, with lingering questions about whether Biden intends to run for a second term. The stakes are high for the party, which must figure out how to keep a congressional majority in both houses and also contend with reapportionment in two years.

No modern president has had a successful first midterm absent George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11. After Obama’s “shellacking,” Trump was pummeled during the 2018 elections. But although history is unkind, Democrats say it’s too early to predict doom for Biden already. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said the president-elect cannot “govern through the prism of maintaining majorities,” but at the same time, must advance concrete agenda items if he wants to have success in 2022.

“If you do small things and you do the bare minimum, you’re probably going to pay a price for that. It’s bad for the country and bad politics,” said Plouffe. “There will be polls saying, ‘voters only want Biden to deal with the pandemic.’ You can’t govern based on that. On climate change, on taxes, on voting rights on any number of issues, you’ve got to make progress in these first two years.”

But there is also some cautious optimism in the party. Senior Democrats predict that Biden is less prone to suffer the same political setbacks as his predecessors, including the man he served as vice president.

“He’s a different person than Obama,” said former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Obama was very unique; he had a gift of communication. He could speak as well as anyone who’s ever held the presidency. Joe Biden is someone who is coming to the presidency as well prepared as anyone can be.”

Much of the success of Democrats in the midterms is tied to the legislative agenda they pursue before it — a reality that hasn’t escaped Biden’s allies and advisers.

Biden is preparing to push populist themes, like larger stimulus checks and mass vaccination programs for Covid-19 relief. Democrats believe they are the kinds of policies that could bring more immediate political returns than a sweeping overhaul of the health care system, which became a short-term liability for the party in 2010.

The focus on opening schools, small businesses and stadiums by the fall “is ultimately going to dominate the 2022 cycle in the same way that health care did in 2010,” said Tom Perriello, the former Democratic congressman from Virginia, who lost his seat that cycle.

“You need to deliver results that you can point to. If the original House version of the Affordable Care Act passed in the first 100 days, we would have all been fine in 2010,” Perriello said. “We would have had cheaper negotiated drug rates, for example, and by the fall of 2010, we could point and say, ‘You’re paying less for prescription drugs today.’ … That’s something you can run on it.’”

For Democrats, there are fears that getting a handle on the pandemic — while immensely difficult in its own right — will not be enough politically. Paul Begala, the famed Bill Clinton adviser, said the mantra of the 1992 campaign — “It’s the economy, stupid.” — still applies today.

“Taming Covid is necessary, but not sufficient,” Begala said. “Creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs by fixing bridges, repairing water systems, updating the grid, retrofitting buildings — a Biden jobs agenda can help stave off the midterm slump.”

But a popular agenda — even one that creates jobs — still has to be communicated to voters. And that requires an effective campaign infrastructure to be in place. On that front, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said there’s room for improvement.

A powerful Democrat from South Carolina who is close with Biden, Clyburn said that Democrats should expand their map in two years and invest more heavily in local canvassing and less in TV ads.

“We did door-knocking, that’s how we won Georgia. That’s how we win in the midterms,” Clyburn said. “If you do it in the midterms the way you did last November, we will lose the majority.”

Though he is one of Biden’s most prominent allies, Clyburn was critical of the decision last year by the Biden campaign to halt door-knocking amid the pandemic. The campaign later reversed course, but Clyburn still blamed Jaime Harrison’s November loss to Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham in the South Carolina Senate race on a lack of canvassing work.

“Jen O’Malley’s — all I’m saying is, is that her kind of politics? I don’t know,” he said of Biden’s campaign manager. “I remember her doing an announcement and we raised holy hell during the campaign.”

Those who have worked with O’Malley Dillon say that the criticism that she’s not attentive to organizing is off base. They note her own personal history in the field and that she was trying to balance the demands of a campaign with the realities of Covid.

“She’s just second to none when it comes to building a scaled field effort,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, CEO of Fair Fight Action and Stacey Abrams’ 2018 campaign manager. Groh-Wargo had brought in O’Malley Dillon to coach field staff and train local operatives in that campaign. “You have to make choices, and the Biden team was clear — all Democrats were clear in the general election — our No. 1 goal was to keep people safe, period. So up and down the ballot, Democrats were incredibly cautious on door-knocking.”

The Biden team is already connecting with battleground states operatives, including in Wisconsin, where a U.S. Senate seat and governorship are up for grabs in two years.

Ben Wikler, the Wisconsin Democratic Party chair, said he’d been in direct contact with the president-elect’s staff to talk “about the necessity for ongoing support and engagement for state parties and they are totally on the same page.”

Lauded for the work he’s done to build up the state party, Wikler said the Biden team shared his approach and, in fact, was already building on the existing state-level infrastructure.

“It’s worth underscoring, typically when a presidential campaign rolls in, they sweep the dishes off the table before setting up the new places,” said Wikler. “With the Biden campaign, they deeply integrated with infrastructure that state parties have been building for years.”

In many ways, Democrats say, Biden is the antithesis to Obama. The latter was never a creature of party politics. He shunned the DNC and, instead, launched a separate entity, Organizing for America, that essentially competed with the committee. Biden, by contrast, is a 78-year-old creature of Washington and is poised to work hand-in-hand with the party. O’Malley Dillon is sitting in on DNC discussions about officers and the next chair, a role Harrison is expected to assume, according to two sources close to the discussions.

Many of those comparing Biden and Obama as heads of the party concede that they arrived from very different places and at times in their careers that are hard to juxtapose. Obama ran against the Clintons — and all of their relationships and accrued power — before opting to create his own political apparatus.

The party suffered financially during the Obama years and kept its leadership despite severe losses in 2010. At the end of 2010, the DNC was $16 million in debt and had $9 million on hand.

Today, the DNC emerged from the presidential election with no debt and, as of a December filing, had $24 million on hand; though fundraisers warn they’re confronting donor fatigue and are embarking on an era in which Trump isn’t an omnipresent boogeyman to rile up donors.

“We broke every fundraising record in the history of politics, but that’s not sustainable,” said Rufus Gifford, Biden campaign deputy manager who served as DNC finance director at the start of the Obama administration. He said of efforts moving forward: “Party fundraising is a completely different animal than running against Donald Trump. It’s going to be tough, but it’s nice when you’re not starting in the red.”

As a model for the midterm elections, Democrats and Biden officials point to the Georgia Senate run-offs that gave the party a Senate majority for — in all likelihood — at least the next two years.

Biden’s team steered nearly $20 million to help Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock claim the Senate seats, including hard dollars and dedicating staff support and voter data. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who made a combined three trips to Georgia ahead of the November election, returned to the state in the closing days of the January runoff. President-elect Obama faced a similar decision late in 2008, and while he dispatched field organizers for that Senate runoff in December between GOP then-Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin, Obama refused to spend much of his own political capital on the election, and didn’t travel there late in the campaign, despite Democrats’ hopes of notching a 60-seat filibuster-proof Senate majority.

“We have learned lessons from the past,” a Biden official said. “Things did not work as smoothly and the work was not as closely aligned, and the president-elect wants to ensure there is cohesion and a seamless, productive working relationship that will support not only his agenda, but also lift up state parties and political candidates up and down the ballot.”

Source: Politico, Inside Joe Biden’s plan to avoid a midterm ‘shellacking’

Cato Institute investigating blog post by senior fellow that spread election conspiracy theories

The libertarian Cato Institute is investigating a blog post published by one of its senior fellows, a former economic policy adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, that contains conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and seeks to defend pro-Trump rioters who stormed the Capitol last week.

Andrei Illarionov, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, made baseless accusations in a post on his personal Live Journal blog on Friday that the storming of the capitol was a “trap” set by police following deliberate “provocation” by Black Lives Matter activists and Democrats.

He also amplified unfounded claims about antifa infiltrating the protests, claimed it is “still unknown” who won the 2020 presidential election, accused the leadership of the Democratic Party of “seeking to establish its monopoly dominance in the country,” and wrote that rioters were “definitely not” violating the U.S. Constitution when they broke into the building.

The rhetoric stands in stark contrast to a statement released last week by Cato Institute President and CEO Peter Goettler, who called the Capitol assault “a direct attack on the Constitution of the United States, the rule of law, and our constitutional republic.”

Illarionov’s comments are now “under discussion among senior management” and with Illarionov directly, said Corie Whalen, a Cato spokesperson.

“The senior management team at the Cato Institute categorically rejects the claims made in the blog post by Mr. Illarionov,” Whalen said in a statement to POLITICO. “The matter is under discussion among senior management and with Mr. Illarionov. The violent disruption of constitutional processes is unacceptable and must be rejected unequivocally. Mob rule is no path to liberty. Attempting to forcibly keep a defeated president in power strikes at the core of the Constitution’s provisions for protecting the rights and liberties of the American people.”

Cato is one of several conservative institutions and entities that have tried to distance themselves from President Donald Trump and his allies in the wake of the deadly Capitol attack. But some analysts have raised concerns that Illarionov’s comments are legitimized by virtue of his affiliation with the think tank, and again raise the specter of Russian attempts to sow chaos and doubt in the legitimacy of U.S. elections.

Ilya Zaslavskiy, a researcher now leading a project on post-Soviet kleptocracy, called Illarionov’s posts “downright dangerous,” noting that they are shared widely within Russia and among Russian-American Trump supporters.

“Appearing academic and analytical, he fuels further hatred and insurrection,” Zaslavskiy said.

Illarionov’s Cato Institute biography says he served as Putin’s “chief economic adviser” from 2000 to December 2005, and “has been a long‐time friend of the Cato Institute.” Illarionov did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: Politico, Cato Institute investigating blog post by senior fellow that spread election conspiracy theories

Harvard removes Republican Elise Stefanik from advisory committee

BOSTON — The Harvard Institute of Politics removed Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) from its Senior Advisory Committee in the wake of last week’s deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, pointing to her unfounded claims of voter fraud in the November election.

“Elise has made public assertions about voter fraud in November’s presidential election that have no basis in evidence, and she has made public statements about court actions related to the election that are incorrect,” Harvard Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf wrote in a letter released Tuesday. “Moreover, these assertions and statements do not reflect policy disagreements but bear on the foundations of the electoral process through which this country’s leaders are chosen.”

The school initially asked Stefanik to step aside, according to Elmendorf. When the New York lawmaker declined, the school removed her. Stefanik was among the 147 House Republicans who voted against certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

For her part, Stefanik called her removal “a rite of passage and badge of honor.” Stefanik graduated from the university in 2006.

“The decision by Harvard’s administration to cower and cave to the woke Left will continue to erode diversity of thought,” Stefanik wrote in a statement on Twitter. “The Ivory Tower’s march toward a monoculture of like-minded, intolerant liberal views demonstrates the sneering disdain for everyday Americans and will instill a culture of fear for students.”

The decision to drop Stefanik from the board comes amid backlash after the riot at the Capitol last week. Some major corporations have ceased political donations in response to the incident, and Trump has fielded a flurry of resignations from his administration. The FBI warned on Monday that more violent demonstrations are being planned.

The Harvard Institute of Politics has faced criticism for inviting former members of President Donald Trump’s administration to serve as fellows. The school developed a new vetting process in 2018 after facing national backlash for inviting fellows including former press secretary Sean Spicer, according to the Harvard Crimson.

Source: Politico, Harvard removes Republican Elise Stefanik from advisory committee

WHCA: Reassignment of VOA reporter who questioned Pompeo an 'assault on the First Amendment'

The White House Correspondents’ Association on Tuesday condemned Voice of America’s move to reassign a White House reporter who questioned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday after a speech.

The taxpayer-funded media organization reassigned Patsy Widakuswara after she asked Pompeo if he regretted saying there will be a second Trump administration, WHCA President Zeke Miller, said in a statement. Widakuswara also asked Pompeo what he was doing to improve the United States’ reputation. Pompeo did not respond to Widakuswara’s questions in a video she posted.

Miller said the reassignment gave “comfort” to attempts to inhibit freedom of the press.

“At a moment when the world already has watched an assault on our democratic institutions, the Trump administration has chosen to send another message — with an assault on the First Amendment,” Miller said in the statement. “The move, mere hours before Widakuswara was to fly with the president as a member of the travel pool on Air Force One, harms the interests of all Americans who depend on the free press to learn about the actions of their government and gives comfort to efforts to restrict press freedom around the world.”

A VOA spokesperson declined to respond to the WHCA statement, saying the organization “does not comment on internal personnel matters.”

Pompeo was the subject of significant criticism in the aftermath of last November’s presidential eletcion, when he promised the State Department would facilitate “a smooth transition to a second Trump administration” after the race had been called for President-elect Joe Biden.

Pompeo’s speech Monday at Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington on “Reclaiming America’s Voice for Freedom” included remarks that VOA’s mission was to be “accurate, objective, and comprehensive.”

“Your mission is to promote democracy, freedom, and American values all across the world,” Pompeo said. “It’s a U.S. taxpayer-funded institution aimed squarely at that. Indeed, this is what sets VOA apart from MSNBC and Fox News and the like.”

“It is not fake news for you to broadcast that this is the greatest nation in the history of the world and the greatest nation that civilization has ever known,” Pompeo said.

Source: Politico, WHCA: Reassignment of VOA reporter who questioned Pompeo an ‘assault on the First Amendment’

Azar declines to back Trump when pressed about the 25th Amendment

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday twice declined to directly say whether he believed President Donald Trump was still able to conduct the duties of his office, and also would not comment on whether he had discussed the 25th Amendment with other Cabinet officials.

In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Azar did appear to offer a rare rebuke of the president, seemingly describing his “rhetoric” last week — which culminated in pro-Trump rioters’ deadly assault on the Capitol — as “unacceptable.” But the secretary did not elaborate on potential talks aimed at removing Trump from office.

“I’m not going to get into or discuss the 25th Amendment here,” Azar said. “I’m committed — I’ve wrestled with this — I’m committed to see this through in my role as Health secretary during a pandemic, to ensure that vaccines and therapeutics get out to the American people and to ensure a smooth handoff to President-elect Biden’s team.”

Pressed again on the subject of the 25th Amendment, Azar said: “It would not be appropriate for me to discuss — and I never have — my conversations with colleagues or with the president and vice president.”

Azar’s refusal to back Trump by definitively shutting down speculation about the Cabinet’s 25th Amendment deliberations represents a notable departure for the secretary — who has repeatedly sought to curry the president’s favor amid the coronavirus pandemic and has been reliably loyal to the White House.

But Azar’s remarks on Tuesday underscore the dire threat Trump’s presidency now faces in the aftermath of last week’s violence at the Capitol, which resulted in the deaths of at least five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

Scores of Democratic lawmakers, several former federal officials, some governors and at least one Republican House member have all demanded Trump’s immediate removal from office. A number of administration officials have resigned in recent days, including three members of the Cabinet: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf.

If Vice President Mike Pence does not initiate procedures to remove him, House Democrats have warned, the chamber is poised to impeach Trump on Wednesday for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol. He would be the only president in American history to be impeached twice.

Source: Politico, Azar declines to back Trump when pressed about the 25th Amendment

Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson dies

Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate who became a Republican kingmaker late in his life by repeatedly donating tens of millions of dollars, has died. He was 87.

The Las Vegas Sands Corportation, the resort company Adelson founded, announced his passing in a news release Tuesday — saying the death of its chairman and chief executive officer was the result of “complications related to treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.”

“While his business credentials — having started or been involved in more than 50 dierent enterprises — are unquestioned, his dedication to philanthropy and commitment to his family will truly be his legacy,” the Sands said in its statement. “He will be missed by people from all parts of the world who were touched by his generosity, kindness, intellect and wonderful sense of humor.”

Largely apolitical for decades, Adelson became a donor of colossal sums late in his life. His influence spread far and wide, as he and his wife, Miriam, donated to campaigns and causes through assorted super PACs. In 2012, Adelson became the largest individual donor in American electoral history, injecting more than $90 million into the presidential race in a failed effort to prevent President Barack Obama from winning a second term.

In her own statement Tuesday, Miriam Adelson described her late husband as “the love of my life” and “my partner in romance, philanthropy, political activism and enterprise. He was my soulmate.”

Beyond “bettering the lives of individuals,” Miriam said, Sheldon “crafted the course of nations. Some of the historical changes that he helped effect — in the United States, Israel and elsewhere are publicly known. Others are not.” But “recognition of his own indispensable role was unimportant,” she said, and his “ideal day’s end was in the company of family and friends, not statesmen or celebrities.”

Before the 2016 election, the so-called Adelson primary had Republican candidates flocking to Las Vegas to seek his blessing. “As Adelson whizzed around his Venetian kingdom on a motorized scooter during the retreat,” POLITICO reported during a Republican Jewish gathering in 2014, “he was often trailed by GOP operatives, politicians and fellow donors eager to assess his state of mind, advise him on what he should do or just lavish him with praise and gratitude.”

After that election, he gave $5 million to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, another record-setting sum. In May 2018, he cut a $30 million check to the GOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, and the donations continued through the election season. He spent election night in November 2018 watching returns at the White House, though the two had a falling-out during the 2020 campaign.

He also gave millions over the years to pro-Israel organizations. Yet, Adelson mostly remained out of the public eye.

“Despite his soaring influence as a party kingmaker and his mammoth financial footprint,” Mike Allen wrote in September 2012, “Adelson is rarely seen or heard, and he has remained mysterious even to many top Republicans.”

Sheldon Adelson  talks with Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, before a speech by President Donald Trump at the Israel Museum on May 23, 2017, in Jerusalem.

In that POLITICO interview, Adelson cited a legendary football coach in speaking of his determination to prevail: “I suppose you could say that I live on Vince Lombardi’s belief: ‘Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.’ So, I do whatever it takes, as long as it’s moral, ethical, principled, legal,” he said.

Sheldon Gary Adelson was born in Boston on Aug. 4, 1933, the son of a Lithuanian taxi driver and a seamstress born in Wales. “I didn’t know we were poor, but we were very poor,” he would later say.

At age 12, he started his own business as a hawker of newspapers, buying the exclusive rights to peddle papers outside Filene’s Basement, a Boston department store. Four years later, he launched a vending-machine business. “Adelson clawed his way to a better life,” Mother Jones magazine wrote in 2016, “through thrift, opportunism, and hard work, emerging, by many accounts, as a prickly, combative scrapper.”

In 1979, Adelson was one of the founders of Comdex, a lucrative Las Vegas computer expo. “Sheldon wanted to be richer than Bill Gates,” a former CEO of Comdex told the New York Times in 2008. “He always wanted to be No. 1.”

A college dropout, Adelson relied on his moxie and gut instincts as he moved from business to business. Given how often he rolled the dice in his career, perhaps it’s no surprise he came to be associated with casinos, starting with The Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The Sands had a history both romantic and notorious, associated with Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, Howard Hughes, and mobsters like Meyer Lansky. By 1988, when Adelson bought it, it was running on fumes.

He razed it. The Venetian rose in its place.

Built at a cost of $1.5 billion, the new casino opened May 3, 1999. Glamorous assistance on that day was provided by Italian movie star Sophia Loren, who said she was “absolutely flabbergasted” by the “absolutely miraculous” resort.Casinos in other locales would follow, including Singapore and Macau. As of October 2019, Forbes estimated Adelson’s net worth at $34.4 billion.

Sheldon Adelson watches the opening ceremony of the Sands Cotai Central in Macau on April 12, 2012.

With great wealth came legal issues: Adelson and his company became the subject of a string of various government investigations. In 2017, his casino company paid a $6.96 million fine to resolve a Justice Department investigation and a $9 million fine in a Securities and Exchange Commission bribery case.

The sharp-tempered mogul was also the target of multimillion-dollar lawsuits, as well as battles with contractors and local officials. And there was harrumphing in 2015 when it became clear he was the secret buyer of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s most influential newspaper.

In 1991, Adelson married Miriam Ochshorn, 12 years his junior and a native of his beloved Israel, whom he met on a blind date three years after divorcing his first wife, Sandra. The two would pair up on many enterprises, including the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation. “She is an accomplished medical doctor, as well as her husband’s partner in a range of business and philanthropic activities,” Fortune wrote in 2012.

“Sheldon is everything to me,” Miriam told Fortune for that article. She added: “We are on a magnificent flight together.”

Israel would be a focus of their philanthropy, with the two donating more than $100 million to Birthright Israel, an organization that funds trips to Israel for Jewish Americans.

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson await the start of the presidential debate between  Hillary Clinton and   Donald Trump at Hofstra University in New York on Sept. 26, 2016.

In listing the world’s most influential Jews in 2015, the Jewish newspaper Algemeiner said Adelson “continues to make outsize gifts to a range of Jewish and non-Jewish groups.” (Those efforts would be cited when Trump awarded Miriam Adelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018.)

Sheldon Adelson was a relative latecomer to the political world. A Democrat in his formative years, he would always claim, “I didn’t leave the Democrats, they left me.” He said it was the 1988 Democratic National Convention that inspired him — in that case, to become a Republican backer.

“Adelson said,” Allen wrote, “he had been fairly apolitical until a friend invited him to his first national political convention — the 1988 Democratic convention in Atlanta. ‘It wasn’t really a lot of fun because everywhere I went … everybody was talking about what kind of job they’re going to get when Michael Dukakis became president,’ he recalled. ‘It disgusted me.’ ”

No political figure would draw his contempt more than Obama, whose Middle East policies he deemed dangerous. That concern drew him heavily into the 2012 campaign, in which he initially supported former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “Adelson, who reportedly has donated as much as $20 million to the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future super PAC, cares first and foremost about defending Israel,” POLITICO wrote in 2012.

Once it was clear that Gingrich was not going to win, he went all-in for Mitt Romney, donating at least $70 million for the GOP nominee — and quite likely more, in the form of donations to groups not required to disclose their donors.

Romney lost, but Adelson’s lavish spending created a feeding frenzy around him for the 2016 election.

Early on, he and his wife largely remained on the sidelines, disappointing those who hoped they would bolster Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or another anti-Trump GOP candidate. “Nobody knows exactly why he’s still on the sidelines or when he might come off,” one Republican operative was quoted as saying in February 2016.

In May, Adelson backed Trump. “If Republicans do not come together in support of Trump, Obama will essentially be granted something the Constitution does not allow — a third term in the name of Hillary Clinton,” he wrote. Adelson and Trump subsequently met to talk. Money flowed in.

After Trump was elected, Adelson donated to his inaugural committee. However, there were moments they didn’t see eye-to-eye, particularly when Jewish activists close to Adelson spoke up about Trump’s muted reaction to a rise in anti-Semitic incidents. In November 2017, the Adelsons also made it clear they weren’t on board with Steve Bannon’s insurgent efforts against establishment Republicans. “They are supporting Mitch McConnell 100 percent,” a spokesman said.

Extending his reach beyond presidential elections, the Adelsons backed candidates in secondary races, with mixed success They also opposed the legalization of marijuana and of online gambling.

As a veteran of the gaming industry, Adelson claimed to be unfazed by the ups and downs of electoral politics.

“I happen to be in a unique business where winning and losing is the basis of the entire business,” Adelson said at one point. “So I don’t cry when I lose. There’s always a new hand coming up.”

Source: Politico, Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson dies