Using tech to fight injustice
Darren Walker is calling on young techies to resist the allure of big companies
Robert Lighthizer, center, arrives for a news conference at the start of NAFTA renegotiations in Washington. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin / AP
You won't see him on cable news, but President Trump's hardline trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer is wielding extraordinary — and growing — influence inside the White House.
Why this matters: Lighthizer makes the pro-trade community nervous. He agrees with Trump that the mounting trade deficits with China are unacceptable. And he's staking out such hardline negotiating positions with South Korea (on the KORUS trade deal) and Canada and Mexico (on NAFTA) that top Republicans on the Hill and in Washington's business community fear he will torpedo both deals.
Behind-the-scenes: Shortly before Trump left for Asia, Lighthizer met with the entire economic team in the White House to discuss the U.S.-China relationship. If the Trump administration takes the hardline actions we expect them to eventually take on China, historians will look back on this meeting as a seminal moment.
The scene — these details were described to people outside of the White House and weren't disputed by Lighthizer's spokeswoman or the White House:
Lighthizer — in front of the whole economic team including Cohn, Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue — described the U.S.-China economic relationship as "bullshit." Lighthizer laid out the history of the last 25 years of U.S.-China relations. He went through what each "dialogue" was called under presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. His point: every administration comes up with a new catchword and strategic framework to describe the U.S.-China relationship, but the trade deficit with China just keeps ballooning by the billions.
I'm told many in the group — which includes officials like Cohn who often disagree with Lighthizer philosophically — found Lighthizer's presentation compelling.
Why he's gaining influence: There aren't many senior officials in this administration who share Trump's hardline / protectionist views on trade. Steve Bannon did — but he's gone and not missed by his colleagues. Then there's Peter Navarro — but his colleagues have little respect for him, frequently marginalize him and accuse him of leaking stories to the press. That leaves Lighthizer, whose views cannot be dismissed because he's been a major figure in U.S. trade policy since the Reagan administration. He wins internal arguments with his colleagues by swamping them with his historical knowledge.
Worth noting: Avowed free-traders in the administration didn't even push back against this narrative when I reached out to them.
What's next: The Trump administration has been very secretive about its next moves on trade policy. You won't see anything aggressive before tax reform is done. But people on the Hill and in the business community — who worry about this administration taking harsh economic actions against China — shouldn't be lulled by Trump's public praise of President Xi. Behind the scenes, Lighthizer's arguments are winning the day.
Mary Schwalm / AP
Steve Bannon is setting up a new 501(c)(4) — aka a "tax-exempt social welfare organization" — to promote his agenda, and, he argues, the president's.
Bannon first publicly mentioned his new plans on billionaire John Catsimatidis' Sunday morning radio show, "Cat's Roundtable."
I asked a source close to Bannon to tell me more about the group. Here's what they told me:
Why it matters: For all the speculation about Bannon's relationships with donors he's had no fundraising apparatus to date.
What we don't know: Which donors will fund the group. And we may never know because, under the law, Bannon won't have to tell us.
Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Photo: Senior Airman Ian Dudley/U.S. Air Force via AP
I spent two days last week traveling with Defense Secretary James Mattis. The most memorable moment: inside Cheyenne Mountain, a Cold War-era fortress dug into the Rocky Mountains, and built to withstand nuclear attacks.
But the most illuminating session happened inside the Peterson Air Force Base, the hub for monitoring threats to the homeland. Colonel Todd Moore, who commands the 21st Space Wing, and his colleagues, told us about the escalating military space battle with China.
As one officer put it to us: America's superiority in space is why the 170 pound U.S. solider in Afghanistan is so much more lethal than the 170 pound enemy soldier he faces. The American soldier can look down at a screen and see the enemy on the other side of the mountain. The U.S. military has so much more information than its adversaries — provided by satellites, GPS, and other sophisticated systems.
Why this matters: A senior military officer summed it up in his briefing: "Our adversaries see space as a potential war fighting domain" and while Russia has always understood the importance of space, "it's really China that's growing incredibly [fast]."
What's next: America's adversaries are rapidly developing their military space capabilities. China is determined to dominate space, and is investing gobsmacking amounts of money to get the edge on the U.S. In 2007, China tested its first anti-satellite weapon, and its military space capabilities have grown substantially since then. These concerns will grow ever-louder as the Pentagon fights for a larger budget.
Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP
Members of Congress with histories of mistreating women should be extremely nervous. Major outlets, including CNN, are dedicating substantial newsroom resources to investigating sexual harassment allegations against numerous lawmakers. A Republican source told me he's gotten calls from well-known D.C. reporters who are gathering stories about sleazy members.
Bottom line: Democratic Sen. Al Franken is the very tip of the congressional iceberg. Many more stories are coming and we wouldn't be surprised if they end several careers.
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Tax reform and the end of year spending deal will consume all of Washington's oxygen until the end of the year. But quietly, a potentially far more important, though far less sexy story is unfolding.
If Mitch McConnell's schedule goes to plan, the week after Thanksgiving the Senate Majority Leader will confirm his ninth federal judge. That would beat President Reagan's eight in his first year — the most in recent history. And it triples the three federal judges President Obama appointed in his first year in office.
Why this matters: The federal courts affect almost every area of policy: gun rights, presidential executive orders like Trump's travel ban, social policy issues like abortion and freedom of religion, and tensions between regulation, litigation and private enterprise. McConnell's judges — who passed through a well-funded and organized conservative pipeline — will shape the U.S. over many decades in ways we can't yet imagine.
Inside McConnell's head: Leonard Leo, a top outside adviser on judicial appointments for President Trump and Republican leaders, told me McConnell places "an enormously high priority on the confirmation of judges" and has throughout his career. "His thinking behind that is that the federal judiciary has an enormous impact on the future direction of our country in ways that many pieces of legislation and public policy initiatives don't."
Two turkeys arrived in D.C. today ahead of the 70th annual turkey pardon. According to the White House, the two turkeys were raised in Western Minnesota, and after the pardon will join turkeys pardoned by Obama at Virginia Tech's "Gobblers Rest" exhibit. They will be staying in style at the Willard Hotel, as is tradition.
President Barack Obama with his nephews Aaron Robinson and Austin Robinson, and National Turkey Federation Chairman John Reicks.Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
President Bush lets children from Campfire USA pet May,the National Thanksgiving Turkey, as he pardons the bird.Photo: Gerald Herbert / AP
President Clinton admires a 45-pound turkey in the Rose Garden of the White House.Photo: Doug Mills / AP
Yemenis present documents in order to receive food rations provided by a local charity. Photo: Hani Mohammed / AP
On Thursday, the World Health Organization issued a statement requesting that Saudi Arabia discontinue its blockades in Yemen to allow food and medical supplies in to the country. "Together, we issue another urgent appeal for the coalition to permit entry of lifesaving supplies to Yemen in response to what is now the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The supplies...are essential to staving off disease and starvation. Without them, untold thousands of innocent victims, among them many children, will die."
Why it matters: While the Saudis said Monday they would begin opening ports to allow supplies in, NPR reports aid workers are still having difficulty getting food and medical supplies to millions of people in need. But it's not just famine and cholera that are a concern in Yemen; civilian casualties at the hands of the Saudi-led coalition have long been a concern.
Rob Goldstone. Photo: Irina Bujor/Kommersant Photo via AP
Rob Goldstone, the music publicist who helped arrange the June, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer and lobbyist has broken his silence in an interview with Philip Sherwell in the Sunday Times of London.
Key takeaways: Goldstone, who says he was in the meeting at Trump Jr.'s request, says after beginning under the premise of dirt on Hillary Clinton, the meeting shifted focus to the Magnitsky Act. He describes Jared Kushner as "furious," and says Paul Manafort seemed to be paying little attention to what was being said.
The interview took place in Southeast Asia, where Sherwell is based and where Goldstone has been traveling and trying to avoid the spotlight. Quick refresher:
"I can't comment about the contents of the Steele dossier, but I can tell you that there were only a few hours during a very busy schedule when Trump was back in his room at the Ritz-Carlton," Goldstone, who was with Trump for most of the trip, says.
Photo: Jacquelyn Martin / AP
Screenshot of Mick Mulvaney on "Meet the Press" with Andrea Mitchell.
Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, both attempted on Sunday to explain President Trump's silence on the accusations of child sexual abuse and other sexual misconduct against GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore:
Zimbabweans sing and pray at a Christian peace and prayer rally Sunday in Harare. Photo: Ben Curtis / AP
Robert Mugabe, the 93-year-old dictator who led Zimbabwe for 37 years, was expected to resign in an address to the nation Sunday afternoon. He didn't.
He was removed as the leader of his party and was reportedly negotiating his resignation with military leaders earlier in the day, but said in his speech that he planned to preside over next month's party congress. Party leaders have said he'll be impeached if he doesn't resign by early next week. Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is known as a ruthless strongman and was Zimbabwe's vice president until Mugabe precipitated the coup by placing his wife next in line for the presidency, appeared poised to take control. After Mugabe's speech, it's unclear what will happen next.