FROM Mollie Hemingway
Manafort indicted, adviser pleaded guilty for lying to FBI President Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, appeared in court today on charges including money laundering to evade taxes. The President tweeted it all happened "years ago," before Manafort joined his campaign. But Democrats speculate that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is pressuring Manafort to testify about Russian meddling in last year's campaign. Democrats are worried that the President might fire Robert Mueller. At today's White House briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied that. Also today, one of the President's foreign advisors pled guilty to lying to the FBI about efforts to set up a meeting with Russians and the Trump campaign about "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump and "the people's right to know" The first Amendment protects press freedom. It does not say there has to be a White House Press Corps. Last night, the President-Elect defied protocol by slipping away to a restaurant without telling the small pool assigned to him "just in case something happens." Was that the beginning of something new? Throughout his career, Trump has been hostile to reporters — especially during his presidential campaign. Will daily press briefings be replaced by Breitbart News and tweets from the world’s most powerful public official? We look for some answers.
The Trump campaign and democracy's future Reporters are being heckled at Trump rallies by supporters who say Trump will win in a landslide and openly talk about violence and “revolution” if he doesn’t. Yesterday, Mike Pence insisted the campaign will accept the results if it loses, but high-level Trump surrogates echo his claim that the election is being “rigged.” Polls show that Trump might lose in a landslide, with heavy damage to his own Republican Party—and the confidence of millions in the democratic process.
The Voting Is Over; Let the Campaign Begin Hillary Clinton has all the delegates needed to stake her claim as the first woman nominee of a major political party. But Bernie Sanders will carry on. Despite accusing Donald Trump of "textbook" racism, House Speaker Paul Ryan is reportedly telling colleagues to continue backing their nominee. As for Trump, he did stick to a speech on a once-scorned teleprompter, but he was anything but contrite, and many Republicans are looking for cover. The bottom line? Both presumptive nominees have made clear that months of negative campaigning are just getting started.
Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures by Unhappy Republicans Big money is finally being spent by Republicans desperate to prevent Donald Trump from winning their party's presidential nomination. Mitt Romney's voice is featured in robo-calls on behalf of alternative prospects. And if Rubio, Kasich and Ted Cruz together could stop Trump's nomination, Romney says he would accept the choice of a so-called "brokered convention." We hear more about that scheme and others as time is running out for moderate, conservative and Tea-Party Republicans.
Political Speech and Violent Action Robert Dear is accused of shooting up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs last week, killing a police officer along with two other people and injuring six more. No clear motive has been identified, but Dear reportedly said something about “no more baby parts” when he was arrested. The attack has been denounced -- even by groups opposed to abortion, but Planned Parenthood and other abortion defenders insist it was only a matter of time before inflammatory rhetoric resulted in violence. They complain -- not just about direct threats that mandate security at abortion clinics -- but also the cause-and-effect of public comments by Republican politicians. Does rhetoric really affect reality? Are there limits to free speech in the midst of hard-fought political warfare?
Planned Parenthood Video Sting Reignites the Abortion Debate In the past two weeks the Center for Medical Progress, a group headed by longtime anti-abortion activist David Daleiden, has released two videos of Planned Parenthood officials discussing the price and methods for providing fetal tissue from abortions for medical research. It reportedly has thousands of hours of footage from covert recordings gathered over the past two and a half years. Planned Parenthood calls it a deceptive campaign by abortion foes to misrepresent their work and discredit them. But the undercover sting has already prompted congressional and state investigations into Planned Parenthood's practices and has re-positioned abortion as a key issue Republican presidential hopefuls use to capture the party's conservative base.
Gay Rights, Religion and Republican Politics Late last month, Indiana's Republican-dominated legislature passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It was much like a federal law signed by Bill Clinton 20 years ago—but there was such an outcry from supporters of gay rights that Republican Governor Mike Pence called for it to be changed . When Arkansas Republicans passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson refused to sign it . Disputes over RFRA laws have revealed a great divide in the Republican Party. Traditionalists want to protect religious teachings against homosexuality, but others see a path to discrimination in an increasingly tolerant nation. Next year's presidential contenders are caught in the middle -- with religious conservatives more powerful in early primary states than they are later on. Will appeals to younger Republicans help remove opposition to same-sex marriage from next year's GOP platform?
The Year in News There have been a lot of big news stories this year: The massive Sony hack by North Korea, the restoration of diplomacy with Cuba, the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the rise of ISIS, Ebola, the Republican takeover of Congress, a new immigration policy… the list goes on. President Obama reflected on some of these developments at his annual year-end news conference this morning. We discuss what he said, and what these events have meant for us.
Jeb Bush Explores Running in 2016 Political pundits have been taking another look at the "inevitability" of Hillary Clinton as the next Democratic presidential nominee. She has still not given a signal, despite urging from supporters and contributors. Now Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida and the brother and son of former presidents, has become the first major player to indicate he’ll "actively explore" a run for the White House. We handicap the likely candidates from both parties.
All the News that Fits… What You’re Already Thinking… Increased partisanship in politics is no accident. The far Left and the far Right live in different worlds when it comes to news and information. Intense conservatives trust Fox News -- not MSNBC, the New York Times or NPR. For intense liberals, it’s the other way around. And social media deliver more and more news -- using algorithms based on what consumers have already indicated they “like.” Are political echo chambers creating opinion bubbles that kill public discourse?
Replacing Obamacare: Now you see it… now you don’t As the Senate deliberates replacing Obmacare, health coverage for millions of people is at stake. There've been no public hearings, and a draft measure won't be made public. Is the House version so unpopular that that Senate is hiding a version that looks much the same?
White House budget proposal slashes and burns President Trump's first budget request is considered dead on arrival in Congress — a familiar development in Capitol Hill. We hear what it reveals about the priorities of the new administration. What's likely to die… and what might survive?
What is Trump's plan for Middle East peace? On his first foreign tour, President Trump has promised "peace" between Israel and the Palestinians. Are there any details for re-starting talks that have been stalled for the past three years?
Trump's 'America First' goes missing abroad In the Middle East, President Trump is changing some policies of the Obama Administration—and reversing his own campaign attacks on Islam as a religion that "hates us." We hear about his visit to Saudi Arabia and what's at stake for the rest of his foreign excursion.