With Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: Research experiments conducted by social scientists help illustrate why it’s so insidious for President Trump and his congressional defenders to keep parroting the debunked conspiracy theory, which originated with Russian intelligence agencies, that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.
People who are repeatedly exposed to the same false information, even if they’re initially told that it is false, feel fewer qualms sharing it on social media after each additional time they see it. In five experiments involving more than 2,500 Americans, Daniel Effron, who teaches organizational behavior at the London Business School, and Medha Raj, a PhD student at the University of Southern California, documented how seeing a fake headline just once leads individuals to temper their disapproval of the misinformation when they see it a second, third or fourth time. They outline their findings in the new edition of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The researchers asked online survey participants to rate how unethical or acceptable they thought it would be to publish a fake headline, and how likely they would be to like, share, block or unfollow the person who posted it. Participants were much more prone to “like” or share headlines they’d seen previously and less likely to block or unfollow the person who posted them, even if they were warned the information was false. The results shows a tendency of humans to misremember false headlines as true because they’ve seen them before. The researchers argue that repeating misinformation in the echo chamber of something like social media lends it a “ring of truthfulness” that can increase people’s tendency to give it a moral pass, regardless of whether they believe it.
“Misinformation can stoke political polarization and undermine democracy, so it is important for people to understand when and why it spreads,” said Effron.
— Thus far, the truth is that the president’s broader efforts to muddy the waters surrounding the Ukraine affair have been remarkably effective. About four dozen national and state polls have now been conducted since the impeachment inquiry was announced. Public attitudes have stayed remarkably consistent, and they didn’t shift in a statistically significant way after the televised congressional hearings. Our in-house pollsters Scott Clement and Emily Guskin review the data:
“Democrats and Republicans are mirror opposites on the issue, with an average of 86 percent of Democrats supporting impeachment, compared with 9 percent of Republicans. Democrats have grown more united in their support for impeachment since before the inquiry began, when polls showed roughly two-thirds supported impeachment. Among Republicans, an average of 87 percent are opposed, while 8 percent of Democrats say the same. …
“The stability of Trump’s approval ratings affirms just how locked-in Americans are in their views toward Trump, even as some independents and Democrats changed their opinion on whether Congress should impeach and remove him from office. The lack of movement in this essential measure of Trump’s political standing also indicates that while most Americans think Trump did something wrong in his dealings with Ukraine, news and congressional testimony about this issue have not shifted how people feel about the president.”
— Anecdotal evidence also bears this out. An Associated Press reporter interviewed voters around Wisconsin last week and found that many either aren’t paying attention or don’t know how to decipher the back-and-forth over the president’s conduct. To wit: “Everything they say, it’s so repetitive. To me, it’s like they’re beating their heads against the wall,” said Harry Rose, a 78-year-old retired factory worker and Trump supporter in Racine County. Nicole Morrison, a 36-year-old nurse who can’t see herself voting for Trump in 2020, had a similar review. “There’s so much information that sometimes it’s hard to decide which is the truth and which is just rumors,” she said. “So I just don’t pay attention to it.”
— Special offer: The Daily 202 can run long. But this newsletter curates only short excerpts from a fraction of the great stories by my colleagues that I wish I could include every day. There is so much essential journalism being produced Post reporters, on politics and outside of it. This week, we’re offering as good as a deal as you’ll ever find for full digital access: one year of The Post for just $30.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, departs a secure area of the Capitol on Tuesday night after a party-line vote to approve his report on Ukraine. (Patrick Semansky/AP)
— In a preface to the House Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday afternoon, Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) noted that the core facts aren’t in dispute and warned about the “corrosive” dangers of tribalism. “If there was one ill the Founding Founders feared as much as that of an unfit president, it may have been that of excessive factionalism,” Schiff wrote. “Although the Framers viewed parties as necessary, they also endeavored to structure the new government in such a way as to minimize the ‘violence of faction.’ As George Washington warned in his farewell address, ‘the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.’”
The Constitution is mentioned more than 100 times in the 300-page report, which alleges that Trump “compromised national security to advance his personal political interests” and engaged in an “unprecedented campaign” to obstruct congressional efforts to uncover his abuses of power. “Today, we may be witnessing a collision between the power of a remedy meant to curb presidential misconduct and the power of faction determined to defend against the use of that remedy on a president of the same party,” Schiff concluded. “But perhaps even more corrosive to our democratic system of governance, the President and his allies are making a comprehensive attack on the very idea of fact and truth. How can a democracy survive without acceptance of a common set of experiences?”
— A procession of events over the past 24 hours underscored the pervasiveness of factionalism. The Intelligence Committee approved Schiff’s report on a party-line, 13-to-9 vote. Republicans on the committee released their own 123-page prebuttal the day before that said Trump’s approach to Ukraine was founded on “genuine and reasonable” suspicions about the country.
— Attending the NATO summit in London, meanwhile, Trump accused Democrats of being “unpatriotic” by moving ahead with impeachment while he’s traveling overseas. Trump then suggested that Schiff might be “in a jail” if he wasn’t in Congress for what he’s said about the president. “I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being,” Trump said. “I think he’s a very sick man.” Trump boasted that Democrats trying to impeach him is getting rank-and-file Republicans to rally around him. “I don’t think we’ve ever had the spirit right now that we have in the Republican Party, and the impeachment hoax is what’s done it,” he said, adding that the GOP is will stick together “like glue” because of the investigations.
Democrats punched back, such as New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the chairman of the House Democratic caucus. But this only underscored the partisan divisions:
You are not a King.
You are not the Chosen One.
You are not the Supreme Leader.
You are an EXISTENTIAL THREAT to our democracy who will be held accountable for your brazen #AbuseOfPower.
Count. On. It.
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) December 3, 2019
A video that went viral overnight shows three foreign leaders apparently laughing about Trump’s antics behind his back during a reception at Buckingham Palace. Unaware that they were on camera, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson seemed to ask Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron if they were late for their audience with Queen Elizabeth II because of Trump’s impromptu press conference. “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” Trudeau answers.
This morning, Trump called Trudeau “two-faced” for his comments on the hot mic. Sitting beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he added that the Canadian was just lashing out because he called him out for not spending enough money on defense.
.@JustinTrudeau, @EmmanuelMacron, @BorisJohnson and other VIPs shared a few words at a Buckingham Palace reception Tuesday. No one mentions @realDonaldTrump by name, but they seem to be discussing his lengthy impromptu press conferences from earlier in the day. (Video: Host Pool) pic.twitter.com/dVgj48rpOP
— Power & Politics (@PnPCBC) December 3, 2019
— Perhaps the most revealing illustration of the tribalism, though, came last night when 71 House Republicans voted against a bipartisan resolution saying that Russia should not be allowed to attend future Group of Seven summits until it respects the territorial integrity of its neighbors, gives Crimea back to Ukraine and adheres to the standards of democratic societies. The measure passed with 339 votes, including unanimous Democratic support and 116 Republicans.
Republican lawmakers loudly and overwhelmingly cheered Mitt Romney when, as the party’s nominee for president in 2012, he declared that Russia was the biggest geostrategic threat facing the United States. Now, with a very different standard-bearer in Trump, many of those same lawmakers try to look the other way as a revanchist Russia viciously asserts itself against free societies and deepens strategic ties with communist China. In this case, 71 did. (The list of Republicans who voted with Russia is here.)
Trump wants to welcome an emboldened Vladimir Putin back into the fold. At the G-7 summit in France this summer, Trump strongly advocated on Russia’s behalf over multiple days. He even announced plans to invite Putin to the G-7 summit in the United States. Rank-and-file Republicans take cues from right-wing elites, including Trump and Tucker Carlson, who has used his prime-time platform on Fox News to make some startling, eyebrow-raising comments about Russia in recent days. “I think we should probably take the side of Russia, if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine,” Carlson said last week.
— A Post contributing columnist who formerly served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia and has held a senior post on the National Security Council under Barack Obama, chastised Carlson:
I speak Russian. I know Russia. I’ve lived there for 8 years of my life. You are wrong Mr. Carlson. Putin does hate America. You (I assume unwittingly) help his anti-American objectives with these ill-informed rants. Be a patriot. Stop attacking Americans & defending Putin. https://t.co/izg1TwNJwH
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) December 3, 2019
— “The inchoate and unproved nature of the Republican case against Ukraine has not prevented several GOP leaders from taking up the cause,” Bob Costa and Karoun Demirjian report. “There is also a growing view inside the GOP that the party’s core voters will not revolt if the party takes a softer position on Russia — a calculation backed by polling during Trump’s presidency. Gallup’s surveys, for instance, show that an expanding group of Republicans — 40 percent in July 2018 — now says Russia is a U.S. ally or is friendly, up from 22 percent in 2014, while 25 percent of Democrats say the same, little changed from 2014.”
“Historically, Republicans have been opposed to Russia, and they’re trying to do a narrative to help their guy,” said Thomas H. Kean, a Republican former governor of New Jersey who served as co-chair of the 9/11 Commission. “It’s a very strange time where there isn’t a center to govern around.”
— As other Republicans have capitulated to Trump on Russia, Romney is holding firm. “I saw no evidence from our intelligence community, nor from the representatives today for the Department of State, that there is any evidence of any kind that suggests that Ukraine interfered in our elections,” the senator from Utah told reporters on Tuesday. “Leaders of the countries are pulling for one candidate or another, that’s to be expected, but there’s a big difference between pulling for someone, hoping someone wins in the American election and interfering in the way Russia did.”
— Many Democratic lawmakers are forcefully rejecting the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered, but this also has the unintended consequence of drawing more attention to the underlying false claim. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with Democrats and sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he’s sat through more than 25 hearings and briefings about what happened in 2016. “In none of those meetings was there ever a hint, a breath, a suggestion, a word that somehow Ukraine was involved in the 2016 election in the interference or the influence campaign. It was Russia. And it was Russia in a systematic, widespread way,” King said on CNN.
Ukrainians, including government officials, spoke out against Trump publicly in 2016 after he said that maybe Crimea should remain part of Russia. “That would be like us being angry that somebody else took Florida,” King noted. “I mean, it was understandable, but that’s been blown up into somehow that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 interference campaign. It wasn’t.”
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), asked David Hale, the third-ranking official at the State Department, a hearing yesterday if there was any reason to doubt Fiona Hill’s testimony last month that the conspiracy theory about Ukraine’s interference in 2016 “is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian Security Services themselves.” Hale said he did. “Is our national security made stronger or weaker when members of the administration or members of Congress insist on repeating debunked Russian lies?” Menendez asked. “That does not serve our interest,” Hale replied.
Sue Gordon, then the deputy director of national intelligence, attends a Senate hearing last year with CIA Chief Operating Officer Brian Bulatao. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
— This whole donnybrook is just the latest illustration of the president refusing to believe his own intelligence briefings. Speaking publicly for the first time since being pushed out of government after 30 years of service, former deputy director of national intelligence Sue Gordon told the Women’s Foreign Policy Group on Tuesday that one of Trump’s most common responses to intelligence briefings is to doubt what he’s being told. She said “I don’t think that’s true” was the president’s most frequent reply. Trump broke with protocol by blocking Gordon from becoming acting director of national intelligence when Dan Coats stepped down this summer.
“Gordon seemed to suggest that it was more difficult trying to figure out where the President had gotten the information that was shaping his beliefs and opinions than dealing with his tendency to doubt what he was being told,” CNN reports. “Gordon’s ouster came about because Trump, who has had a contentious relationship with his own intelligence services, wanted a political loyalist in the role who would ‘rein in’ the intelligence agencies. … Gordon suggested that the President’s intelligence briefers not only faced a challenge because of Trump’s lack of familiarity with the world of intelligence, but also because he consumes information and hears opinions that aren’t as carefully vetted as an intelligence product.”
— Believe it or not, the rank partisanship will grow even starker as the impeachment process shifts today from the Intelligence Committee to the House Judiciary Committee. Trump’s defenders are intent on making the process look as partisan and circus-like as possible, and they now have a good venue to do so. Some of Capitol Hill’s most aggressive and colorful characters are members, from Matt Gaetz and Louie Gohmert on the Republican side to Steve Cohen and Sheila Jackson Lee on the Democratic side.
Nancy Pelosi gets to handpick the members of the Intelligence Committee. Schiff keeps his members on a much tighter leash. In contrast, Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) is much more free-wheeling. That’s partly how that Corey Lewandowski hearing got so out of hand in September. Nadler says he’s ready for the spotlight this time. (Elise Viebeck, Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade explore the power dynamics within the committee more deeply.) “It’s a bunch of brawlers sometimes on the Judiciary Committee, so it should get pretty hot under the collar as we go along,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), a member of the panel, during an interview on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
THE LATEST ON THE INVESTIGATIONS:
— Phone-call records disclosed in the Intelligence Committee’s new report show extensive contact between Rudy Giuliani and the White House during key moments of the Ukraine saga. Paul Sonne, Rosalind S. Helderman and Greg Miller report: “The call records provide powerful circumstantial evidence that Giuliani was coordinating with the White House on his Ukraine gambit, something Giuliani has previously acknowledged. The records also show contact between a Giuliani associate, Lev Parnas, and one of Trump’s key defenders in Congress, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.). … [Schiff] said ‘the phone records show that there was considerable coordination among the parties, including the White House.’ …
“Giuliani’s phone records include calls with a number designated only as ‘-1,’ sometimes close in time to calls between Giuliani and the White House switchboard. The suggestion is that ‘-1’ might be a phone belonging to Trump, though the report does not state that clearly. Schiff, speaking to the Los Angeles Times, said he suspects the number could be Trump’s and that the committee is trying to find out whether calls logged as ‘-1’ indeed came from the president. …
“The records show several calls and text messages in early August between Giuliani and numbers associated with the White House and the Office of Management and Budget. At that time, U.S. diplomats were trying to set up an Oval Office meeting between Trump and [Volodymyr Zelensky] that the Ukrainians were eager to schedule. Giuliani’s calls and texts include a nearly 13-minute call with an OMB official and ‘-1’ on Aug. 8. … The call records also show a number of phone calls between Nunes and Giuliani and between Nunes and Parnas earlier this year. Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, has accused Nunes and his staff of participating in Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Biden.”
— The report details 58 calls Giuliani made over the course of six days. (Philip Bump breaks them down here.)
— Nunes, speaking last night to Sean Hannity on Fox News, said it’s “possible” that he spoke with Parnas, although he doesn’t recall doing so. “I remember that name now, because he’s been indicted,” said the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee. “But it seems very unlikely I’d be taking calls from random people. … We have Americans and foreigners contact us every single day with information.” He also dismissed questions about his contacts with Giuliani. “We were actually laughing about how [Bob] Mueller bombed out,” Nunes said of his conversations with Giuliani. (Felicia Sonmez)
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “They weren’t talking about where to find sushi in Kyiv,” Parnas’s lawyer said of the phone conversations between his client and Nunes. He’s trying to get immunity in exchange for the testimony of his client, who has been indicted on a host of charges. (Wall Street Journal)
THE LEGAL BATTLES:
— Trump’s personal attorneys remain on the sidelines as the president battles the inquiry. Carol D. Leonnig reports: “The president is relying almost exclusively on White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his in-house team of attorneys … The White House lawyers are not sharing with his personal attorneys some internal government records central to the inquiry about the pressure the administration put on Ukraine, citing the need to protect executive privilege. The unusual decision to have the White House counsel captain the president’s defense — at least for now — departs from how previous presidents have contended with impeachment proceedings and has worried some Trump allies, who believe a multipronged defense would be stronger. … Cipollone has taken the lead, operating separately from Jay Sekulow, a conservative Christian legal advocate who is the leader of the president’s personal legal team, joined by seasoned white-collar defense lawyers Jane and Marty Raskin.”
— A federal judge is weighing whether to order the State Department to release internal communications between Pompeo and two of the three men designated by Trump to steer Ukraine policy. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “U.S. District Judge Christopher R. ‘Casey’ Cooper of Washington on Tuesday heard arguments in a public-records lawsuit seeking communications by Kurt Volker, former State Department envoy to Ukraine, and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, with other State Department officials including Pompeo. … The Trump administration has declined to release records to the House, as part of the White House’s blanket refusal to cooperate in the impeachment probe. However, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) empowers judges to order the release of documents requested by members of the public, and federal lawsuits to enforce such requests can move much more quickly through the courts than battles over congressional subpoenas.”
— A federal appeals court ruled that House Democrats can access Trump’s private financial records from two banks, citing a “public interest” by refusing to block congressional subpoenas. Ann E. Marimow and Renae Merle report: “The New York-based appeals court upheld Congress’s broad investigative authority and ordered Deutsche Bank and Capital One to comply with the House subpoenas for the president’s financial information. The court gave the president seven days to seek review by the Supreme Court in the case … Sekulow said in a statement Tuesday that Trump’s legal team believes the subpoenas are ‘invalid as issued’ and is reviewing the ruling to determine next steps, ‘including seeking review at the Supreme Court.’”
— A key witness in Mueller’s investigation has been indicted with seven others on charges of conspiring to funnel more than $3 million in illegal campaign contributions. Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky report: “George Nader, an adviser to the United Arab Emirates who acted as an intermediary for members of [Trump’s] presidential campaign seeking to forge contacts in the Middle East, was charged with conspiring to make conduit campaign contributions and related offenses in a 53-count indictment unsealed Tuesday in Washington, prosecutors said. U.S. prosecutors also charged Ahmad ‘Andy’ Khawaja, a Lebanese American businessman, with 35 counts related to allegations that he conspired with Nader to conceal the source of more than $3.5 million in campaign contributions directed to U.S. political committees associated with presidential candidates.”
Chelsea Janes reports: The California senator, “proud of being one of the only presidential candidates to spend Thanksgiving in Iowa and not at home, invited reporters into her temporary residence in Des Moines on the holiday to show off her turkey preparation skills. What she didn’t say at the time was that she was also having intensive conversations with her husband, her sister Maya Harris and Maya’s family as the tightknit group grappled with whether there was any path forward for her campaign. The talks extended into late Monday night, as Kamala Harris stayed up until 2 a.m. futilely trying to find a way to push on. But Tuesday around 12:45, she called her staffers to tell them it was all over. … [The end] marked a long, painful fall from her January kickoff, when Harris ran onstage to electrify a crowd of more than 22,000, the embodiment of Democratic hopes that she represented one of their best chances to beat Trump — a rising female star with a mixed-race background who could rebuild the coalition that propelled Barack Obama. …
“In a note to supporters Tuesday, Harris stressed her campaign’s financial struggles as the driving force behind her departure. ‘I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life,’ she wrote. … Some Democratic activists saw Harris’s departure as a troubling sign that minority candidates are not faring well despite the party’s ostensible sensitivity to diversity. … The news came as a particular shock to backers who that very morning had announced a super PAC to support Harris’s candidacy. Some donors spent the day frantically trying to retrieve hundreds of thousands of dollars they had wired into the super PAC’s account. …
“Harris remains a potentially appealing running mate for the eventual Democratic nominee. Unlike the senators staying in the race, she will be free to spend January focused on Trump’s expected Senate impeachment trial … An aide said an assessment of the campaign’s finances conducted over the weekend found that after raising about $12 million in each of the year’s first three quarters, the operation was failing to keep up that pace, raising just ‘a fraction’ of that amount this quarter. That left Harris without money to spend on ads in Iowa and elsewhere, essentially forcing her hand.”
— Harris’s exit indicates that a once historically diverse Democratic field may winnow down to only whites. Philip Bump reports: “The six candidates who’ve earned a slot [in the next Democratic debate] are white. … Again, this was by design. The party didn’t want to have two dozen candidates crowding the debate stage with only two months to go until voting began. [The DNC’s] strict criteria, though, have had the unexpected effect of making it easier for an extremely rich white man with no experience in elected office (Tom Steyer) to gin up the contributions and poll numbers needed to get a spot onstage, while experienced officials with more limited resources — like Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) or former HUD secretary Julián Castro — appear to come up short. The three are all doing about as well in the polls as each other, but Steyer’s incessant ads asking for contributions or boosting him just enough in just the right places give him the needed edge.”
— Castro said Harris’s campaign suffered because the media holds candidates of color to different standards. From BuzzFeed News: “‘I don’t know if it impacted her decision to withdraw from the race or not, but I’m sure it didn’t help,’ Castro, the only Latino candidate running for president, [said] on Tuesday night. ‘This was a narrative from very early on. … From the earliest critique that she has no black support, the [Congressional Black Caucus] is going other directions. It’s just holding people to different standards,’ he said.”
— As he fights to establish himself as the most liberal candidate, Bernie Sanders has split from Elizabeth Warren with his embrace of far-left foreign leaders. From Politico: “Sanders’ foreign policy views are a clear mark of distinction from Warren in a race in which their domestic agendas are viewed as very similar. Left-wing leaders around the world see an ally in Sanders — Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva recently thanked him for his ‘solidarity’ and Bolivia’s ousted Evo Morales called him ‘hermano Bernie Sanders’ — but have not publicly embraced Warren in the same way. … Sanders has made clear during his campaign that he shares many of the left wing’s long-held critiques of American imperialism — from opposition to clandestine interference across the world, but particularly in Latin America and the Middle East, to disapproval of the American military’s global footprint. … Warren, by contrast, has been more cautious on foreign affairs, straddling the line between the left and the Democratic foreign policy establishment. She has not been as definitive about the situation in Bolivia, where Morales was forced to resign under pressure by the military after allegations of election fraud in what Sanders deemed a ‘coup.’ Nor has she gone out of her way to praise and cultivate relationships with leftist figures around the world.”
— North Carolina has a new congressional map for 2020. Ted Mellnik and Tim Meko report: “According to the Associated Press, state judges said the new map, drawn last month by Republican legislators, was good enough for immediate use and that there was not time for further study. The map is likely to add two seats for Democrats in 2020, but it probably won’t end controversy over partisan gerrymandering in the state. … Based on 2016 election results, the new map appears to tilt five districts to Democrats and eight to Republicans. The two new congressional seats expected to favor Democrats are in the 6th and 2nd districts. The 6th will pool Democrats previously divided among three Republican districts around Greensboro. The new 2nd has been carved out of a Democratic stronghold in Raleigh. There is little change in the 12th District, where Charlotte Democrats and minorities remain packed. The Democratic seats under the new map are not locks for the party. The 1st, 2nd and 4th districts all lean Democratic by less than five points, meaning they could have competitive races in 2020.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
— Trump unsettled the world stage on the first day of the NATO 70th anniversary summit in London. Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Michael Birnbaum report: “Trump openly jousted with French President Emmanuel Macron — a leader who until recently had been one of Trump’s earliest and most prominent partners in bromance. He thrust Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau uncomfortably into the spotlight, dubbing Trudeau’s country ‘slightly delinquent’ and asking for Canada’s ‘number’ on meeting its financial commitment to NATO’s shared defense. And he previewed a likely confrontation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, also over Germany’s financial contributions to NATO. … To watch Trump perform alongside other world leaders was to witness his use of disequilibrium as political strategy, deployed throughout his presidency to keep everyone slightly off-kilter. Over the course of three one-on-one meetings with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Macron and Trudeau, Trump turned what were expected to be brief photo opportunities into his own personal daytime cable show. As the other leaders largely bore witness, the U.S. president — frequently affable, occasionally bored — held forth for a collective two hours, fielding questions on topics ranging from the impeachment investigation he left at home to the British election campaign he flew into here. …
“At his afternoon appearance with Macron, Trump and the French president articulated their disagreements — at times quite forcefully — but with a veneer of conciliation. … Macron reiterated that he was not backing down from his comments to the Economist. … ‘When we speak about NATO, it’s not just about money. We have to be respectful with our soldiers. The first burden we share, the first cost we pay, is our soldiers’ lives,’ [Macron said]. Trump then turned to Macron and suggested that Europe — and the French president in particular — should shoulder more responsibility for taking back captured Islamic State fighters. ‘Would you like some nice ISIS fighters?’ Trump asked with a smirk. ‘I can give them to you.’ … By nightfall in London, Trump and Macron appeared to have put the day’s acrimony aside. … Several leaders will enter the formal NATO meeting on Wednesday with strategies inside their thick briefing books about what to do if Trump threatens to quit NATO on the spot.”
— Today is the second day of the NATO summit, and participants are bracing for more contentious meetings. Michael Birnbaum raises the curtain: “Trump was scheduled for a day of highs and lows: after the three-hour discussion with all 28 other NATO leaders, he planned to have lunch with representatives from countries that are meeting spending alliance spending guidelines. It could be a moment to showcase his efforts to boost European defense contributions. But he will also have a one-on-one meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel … At the meeting, leaders are expected to approve a slew of new defense plans in a choreographed move intended to paper over the contentious relations of recent years. They will agree that outer space is a military domain that NATO needs to defend. They will also discuss how the alliance should handle the rise of China as a potential strategic threat. And they will agree on plans for Europe and Canada to spend more money on NATO’s central budget, to save the United States some money — a drop in the bucket in the context of overall defense spending, but still a symbolic gesture to Trump’s demands that other countries pick up some of the slack. Leaders are also expected to clash about a Turkish demand that the alliance give concessions about the Kurdish fighting groups in northeast Syria that have been a key U.S. partner in the fight against the Islamic State. Erdogan says the Kurds are dangerous terrorists — and he has blocked unrelated approvals for updated military plans to defend the Baltics from Russia until he gets his way.”
— The French government threatened massive European Union retaliation if Trump follows through on his threats to slap tariffs on dozens of popular French products. James McAuley reports: “Later in the day, [Trump] suggested that some kind of compromise might be achievable, and [Macron] indicated his willingness to work toward one. This came hours after Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, vowed what he called a ‘strong European riposte’ to Trump’s proposed tariffs.”
— Trump announced that next year’s G-7 summit will be held at Camp David after giving up plans to hold it at his private resort in Doral, Fla. Colby Itkowitz reports: ‘We’re going to do it at Camp David and we’ll be doing some special things at Camp David,’ Trump said. ‘It’s nearby, it’s close. We’re going to give really great access to the press, you’ll have great access. And we’ll have a little bit of a Washington deliverance. But it will be at Camp David, which is a place people like.’ The White House had previously panned suggestions that he host at Camp David in Maryland, as [Obama] had in 2012. ‘I understand the folks who participated in it hated it and thought it was a miserable place to have the G-7,’ acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had said in an Oct. 17 news conference. ‘It was way too small. It was way too remote.’”
— Trump is waging a war of attrition against America’s diplomats. From GQ: “Previously unpublished data from the AFSA shows that the foreign service is losing people at an alarming clip. In the first two years of Trump’s presidency, nearly half of the State Department’s Career Ministers retired or were pushed out. Another 20 percent of its Minister Counselors, one rank level down, also left.”
— Trump nearly avoided wading into British politics while at NATO. William Booth and Karla Adam report: The president “was relatively diplomatic Tuesday, promising to ‘stay out’ of British politics, just 10 days before a general election. But he couldn’t quite help himself. In the same breath, Trump declared that his ally Prime Minister Boris Johnson is ‘very capable and I think he’ll do a good job” if elected Dec. 12. As for Johnson’s opponent, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the president on Tuesday said, ‘I can work with anybody.’”
— Murky allegations of supposed Russian interference in the British election are flying, with less than two weeks to go before voters head to the polls. Adam Taylor reports: “The latest victim is Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing leader of the Labour Party and a challenger to the Conservative government of Boris Johnson, who had last month proudly displayed a series of leaked government documents that portrayed ongoing bilateral trade negotiations in an unflattering role. On Tuesday, the country’s leading center-right newspaper splashed its front page with a headline that argued the dossier ‘points to Russians.’ Citing an investigation by the consulting firm Graphika, the Daily Telegraph wrote that senior members of the Conservative Party were now calling for Corbyn to ‘come clean.’ But wait — hasn’t the Conservative government been asked to come clean, too? Yes, Johnson’s right-wing government has its own, unresolved issues with Russia. At the start of November, it was accused of sitting on a report that investigates possible Russian interference in British politics, delaying the release of the report’s supposedly damning findings until after the Dec. 12 vote.”
— Global greenhouse gas emissions will hit another record high this year, experts project. Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis report: “Total carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry totaled 36.8 billion tons, according to an estimate from the Global Carbon Project, an academic consortium that produces the figures annually. That represents a 0.6 percent increase from 2018, which until now stood as the record. … Global emissions have risen for three consecutive years, at a time when they should be starting to drop sharply if the world is to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement. The news of still-growing greenhouse gas emissions is the latest in a drumbeat of negative findings that come as world leaders gather in Madrid for an annual climate change conference, where they face mounting pressure to alter the current trajectory.”
— North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is — quite literally — back on his white horse, inspecting “revolutionary battle sites” on a sacred mountain as Pyongyang foreshadowed a major policy decision later this month. Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim report: “The images of Kim on horseback, returning to Mount Paektu after a similar visit in October, were high on symbolism. But it was a second, more dryly worded announcement on Wednesday that was at least as significant. The Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea decided to convene the fifth plenary meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in the latter part of December, the Korean Central News Agency said, ‘to discuss and decide on crucial issues in line with the needs of the development of the Korean revolution and the changed situation at home and abroad.’ Put simply, after giving the United States until the end of the year to change its approach to denuclearization talks and warning that North Korea would follow a ‘new path,’ Kim appears to have made his decision on what that path should be, experts said.”
— A freed Iraqi Yazidi woman, who was held as a sex slave by the Islamic State, collapsed to the ground on Iraqi television while confronting her rapist. (ABC.net.au)
— The U.S. will exempt Venezuela’s baseball league from economic sanctions. (WSJ)
— China criticized the U.S. House for passing a bill backing sanctions on Beijing over the mass detention of Muslims. Gerry Shih reports: “The Uighur Act cleared the House by 407 to 1 a week after [Trump] signed legislation that would sanction Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in human rights abuses in the protest-ridden financial hub. China has angrily denounced both measures and said Wednesday it would respond to the House’s passage of the Uighur Act, which must be reconciled with a Senate version passed in September before it reaches Trump’s desk. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged the United States to ‘immediately correct its mistake, stop the above bill on Xinjiang from becoming law, and stop using Xinjiang as a way to interfere in China’s domestic affairs.’”
A man facing deportation to El Salvador returns to his cell at an ICE holding facility. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS THAT SHOULD NOT BE OVERLOOKED:
— McKinsey, the consulting giant, has been helping to support the implementation of the Trump administration’s immigration agenda. But some of their draconian suggestions for cost-cutting have been deemed as overly harsh, and even inhumane, by career ICE employees. From ProPublica and the New York Times: “ICE quickly redirected McKinsey toward helping the agency figure out how to execute the White House’s clampdown on illegal immigration. But the money-saving recommendations the consultants came up with made some career ICE workers uncomfortable. They proposed cuts in spending on food for migrants, as well as on medical care and supervision of detainees, according to interviews with people who worked on the project for both ICE and McKinsey and 1,500 pages of documents obtained from the agency after ProPublica filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. McKinsey’s team also looked for ways to accelerate the deportation process, provoking worries among some ICE staff members that the recommendations risked short-circuiting due-process protections for migrants fighting removal from the United States. The consultants, three people who worked on the project said, seemed focused solely on cutting costs and speeding up deportations — actions whose success could be measured in numbers — with little acknowledgment that these policies affected thousands of human beings.”
— The Trump administration plans on cutting off food stamps benefits for about 750,000 Americans. From Bloomberg News: A new regulation will make it “harder for states to gain waivers from a requirement that beneficiaries work or participate in a vocational training program … The work requirement only applies to ‘able-bodied’ recipients who aren’t caring for a child under 6 years old. The measure would be the first of three Trump administration initiatives curtailing food stamp benefits to take effect. The Urban Institute estimated in an analysis last month that the measures together would cut 3.7 million beneficiaries from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, often known by its previous name, food stamps.”
– The White House is torpedoing the bipartisan tradition of confirming nominees from both parties for positions at independent agencies. From the National Journal: “For decades, presidents have tapped Republican and Democratic nominees in tandem to fill open slots on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, and many other independent bodies. But this week, senators are preparing to confirm Republican Robert Duncan to another term as chairman at one of those agencies, the United States Postal Service Board of Governors, without a Democratic companion.”
— Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone resigned following accusations that he mishandled sex abuse cases. Chico Harlan reports: “Under Malone’s watch, Buffalo had become perhaps the U.S. Church’s most scandal-tainted diocese. It faces an FBI probe and more than 200 lawsuits. Malone pledged to institute reforms, but he was instead battered by accusations of coverup and by embarrassing leaks. One whistleblower said she found a 300-page dossier on accused priests hidden away in a supply closet near a vacuum cleaner. In a short statement, the Vatican said that Malone would be replaced on a temporary basis by Albany’s bishop, Edward Scharfenberger. Malone, 73, is departing two years before the mandatory age at which bishops must offer their retirements to Pope Francis — though many prelates stay on the job beyond the 75-year mark.”
— Senate Republicans are poised to confirm either today or tomorrow a Trump judicial nominee who claimed that fertility treatments and surrogacy have “grave effects on society, including diminished respect for motherhood and the unique mother-child bond; exploitation of women; commodification of gestation and of children themselves; and weakening of appropriate social mores against eugenic abortion.” HuffPost reports: “Sarah Pitlyk, [Trump’s] nominee to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, argued those points in a 2017 amicus brief opposing a California statute that protects the right to assisted reproductive technology like in vitro fertilization, or IVF, and gestational surrogacy. Pitlyk … went on to say in a 2017 interview with the National Catholic Register that ‘surrogacy is harmful to mothers and children, so it’s a practice society should not be enforcing.’ Nearly 1 in 6 U.S. couples face infertility, according to a 2014 National Institutes of Health study.
“Pitlyk, 42, fits the mold of many of Trump’s judicial nominees: She’s young, white and a member of the Federalist Society. … She defended anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, who broke federal and state laws by secretly recording and deceptively editing videos that falsely claimed to expose Planned Parenthood’s illegal sale of fetal tissue. She defended Iowa’s six-week abortion ban that was later struck down as unconstitutional. In another case, Pitlyk argued that it is ‘scientific fact’ that ‘human life begins at the moment when a human sperm fertilizes a human egg.’ (It is not scientific fact.)
“So far, Maine Sen. Susan Collins is the only Republican who plans to oppose Pitlyk’s confirmation, meaning Pitlyk has the votes to be confirmed. In a statement, Collins cited Pitlyk’s ‘troubling assertions’ about fertility treatments. … Collins also raised concerns with Pitlyk earning a rare and embarrassing “not qualified” rating by the American Bar Association based on her lack of experience. The rating was unanimously decided. … Pitlyk previously clerked for Brett Kavanaugh. … When Kavanaugh was credibly accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Pitlyk came to his defense. … Pitlyk also publicly dismissed Ford’s story, saying in a CNN interview that it was ‘hard to take it seriously…’”
— Describing it as an “untamed beast” in “distress,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to spin off the Federal Student Aid office into a new agency. Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports: “The proposal follows a series of missteps involving the office that intensified scrutiny of DeVos’s leadership, including the release of $11 million in loans to unaccredited for-profit colleges and the violation of a court order to halt collections on former Corinthian Colleges students. … Policy experts have questioned whether the office has the economic expertise to meet the challenge and have recommended changes, but they have stopped short of calling for anything on the scale of what DeVos is proposing. … The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators has long urged Congress to review whether the Federal Student Aid office is subject to enough supervision by the education secretary. DeVos referred to the trade group’s past critiques of the office in her speech Tuesday, but the group’s president, Justin Draeger, noted that spinning off the unit was never among its recommendations.”
— The Supreme Court seems skeptical that Superfund landowners can seek a more extensive cleanup than what the Environmental Protection Agency has approved. Robert Barnes reports: “The court was considering a massive cleanup of arsenic from a 300-square-mile section of Montana where a copper smelter operated for nearly 100 years. The Anaconda valley has been a Superfund cleanup site since 1983, and owner Atlantic Richfield already has spent more than $470 million to remove toxic chemicals from the land. But nearly 100 homeowners in the area want more work done, and they went to state court in hopes of convincing a jury that the company should pay an additional $50 million to reduce the arsenic level in the ground. The Montana Supreme Court said the suit could proceed. But the question for the U.S. Supreme Court was whether such a supplemental lawsuit undermines the EPA’s authority to implement a cleanup plan it deems appropriate for all parties.”
— New York City is shipping its homeless to squalid housing out of the state, officials in Newark allege in a new lawsuit. Michael Brice-Saddler reports: “The complaint, which names the city of New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks as defendants, accuses the city’s Special One-Time Assistance program, or SOTA, of violating commerce laws by pushing recipients into Newark apartments that are not suitable for living and sometimes illegal. The suit comes amid a national battle to mitigate a national homeless crisis that has left many of the country’s urban areas desperate for answers.”
— Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kan.) is facing perjury and voter fraud allegations for listing a UPS store as his home residence. From the Topeka Capital-Journal: “Shawnee County records show the first-term Republican listed his official residence as 6021 S.W. 29th St. in Topeka, which corresponds to a UPS Store, when he signed a form to change his residency for voter registration purposes in August, signed an application for a mail-in ballot in October and signed a document to complete advance voting for the November election. It isn’t clear where the congressman physically resided in Kansas after August nor what Topeka precinct he was legally qualified to be part of when voting in November. By asserting his place of residence to be the UPS Store, Watkins left the Topeka City Council’s 5th District for the city council’s 8th District. He then cast a November ballot in an 8th District contest decided by 13 votes.”
— The D.C. Council voted unanimously to recommend Jack Evans for expulsion over multiple ethics violations. Fenit Nirappil reports: “The action comes after a series of investigations that found Evans, the city’s longest-serving lawmaker, used his public office to benefit private clients and employers who paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars. … A person who spoke to Evans on Tuesday afternoon said the lawmaker recognized his council tenure was over and was concerned about being the first member to be expelled but was not yet prepared to resign. … Evans has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime. In a letter sent last week, Evans’s lawyers argued that expulsion would override the will of voters.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Kamala Harris punched back when Trump joked about her dropping out:
Don’t worry, Mr. President. I’ll see you at your trial. https://t.co/iiS17NY4Ry
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) December 3, 2019
The senator’s husband, a successful lawyer, shared a heartwarming message after she broke the news to staff:
I’ve got you. As always.❤️ pic.twitter.com/5OJDT3cDfw
— Douglas Emhoff (@douglasemhoff) December 3, 2019
When a Post reporter wondered which candidates Harris supporters would drift toward, one of the senator’s most prominent endorsers in South Carolina had the answer:
To the bar… https://t.co/ufRrddT0qi
— Bakari Sellers (@Bakari_Sellers) December 3, 2019
All of Harris’s rivals suddenly began praising her effusively:
My dear friend @KamalaHarris is a trailblazer. I’ve loved serving with her in the Senate and every moment we’ve run into one another on the trail. Her campaign broke barriers and did it with joy. Love you, sister. pic.twitter.com/HzLXw88NrM
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) December 3, 2019
The head of the 538 blog said that perhaps the first two states to vote in the Democratic contest shouldn’t be overwhelmingly white. And the Latino candidate in the race, who has been saying the same thing, reacted this way:
A member of House GOP leadership, and Dick Cheney’s daughter, made this joke about Elizabeth Warren:
You forgot about Pocahontas. https://t.co/V3TlbSnBNp
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) December 3, 2019
The editor in chief of the Hill announced a formal review of the work of a columnist who has become a main character in the Ukraine affair:
The Hill is conducting a meticulous review of opinion columns written by John Solomon on the subject of Ukraine that will be handled by a team of editors and reporters. All results of the review will be transparent and public.
— Bob Cusack (@BobCusack) December 3, 2019
The president contradicted himself, once again:
Trump, Monday: “U.S. Markets are up as much as 21% since the announcement of Tariffs.”
Trump, Tuesday: “I don’t watch the stock market.”
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) December 3, 2019
And he did it again on Iran, as well:
That executive order–implemented in an amended form, after it was challenged repeatedly in court as a “Muslim ban”–has successfully kept 1000s of Iranians out of the US over the past 3 yrs. They include the spouses & children of Americans; famed scientists; sick & disabled ppl
— Abigail Hauslohner (@ahauslohner) December 3, 2019
The White House’s social media director lashed out against Schiff:
We’re beginning another day in London at #NATO70 while the Do Nothing Dems literally continue to accomplish NOTHING in THE SWAMP. Sadly, they will do anything to see the POTUS and America fail, but that’s not happening! We’re winning, the American people see through their SHAM!!
— Dan Scavino Jr.🇺🇸 (@Scavino45) December 4, 2019
Many people, including this former Senate lawyer, pointed to clues that Trump is the individual behing the number marked “-1” in Giulaini’s phone records:
Who is the mystery caller who pops up as “-1” on Giuliani’s phone? Without saying so, the report seems to suggest that “-1” is TRUMP ON HIS CELL PHONE — check out these excerpts (in chronological order) on pp 156, 54, 58, and 117. https://t.co/AfmgCcE6Fl pic.twitter.com/rvYYASYYvr
— Eric Columbus (@EricColumbus) December 3, 2019
“-1” brought to mind another nickname that’s become indelibly associated with Trump:
I’m willing to bet that -1 is individual 1
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) December 3, 2019
A Yahoo investigative reporter had this to say about the latest on Nunes:
In lawsuit against CNN, @DevinNunes says network should have known Parnas was “a renowned liar, a fraudster, a hustler, an opportunist with delusions of grandeur…” Not good timing given phone records in intel report. https://t.co/GCBYc71KeP pic.twitter.com/Bp2g1DXjBe
— Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) December 3, 2019
Parnas’s lawyer attacked Nunes:
— Joseph A. Bondy (@josephabondy) December 3, 2019
The Republican senator who has been going on national television to share debunked theories about Ukraine and the 2016 election ran into a colleague, who may have wisely told him to stop commenting:
Moments after Romney says he’s seen no evidence that Ukraine meddled in 2016, Kennedy walks into the elevator with him.
“Mitt says I don’t have to answer!” Kennedy says after I ask if they’ll chat about Ukraine pic.twitter.com/UGuhDGEfhv
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) December 3, 2019
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Mitch McConnell has been reading up on impeachment:
— Andrew Kragie (@AndrewKragie) December 3, 2019
I interviewed two co-authors of what I agree is an excellent book at an event last November that was sponsored by New York University. Tim Naftali, who used to run the Nixon presidential library, wrote the chapter on Nixon and Peter Baker, the Timesman and former Postie, wrote the chapter on Clinton’s impeachment. You can watch our conversation here:
Georgia’s senior senator said goodbye in an uplifting farewell address:
Trevor Noah untangled Trump’s “fight” with Macron at the NATO summit:
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