THAT’S IT? President DONALD TRUMP made all this noise about the Covid relief and government funding bill only to sign it and get nothing in return?
TRUMP got taken to the cleaners.
WHAT A BIZARRE, embarrassing episode for the president. He opposed a bill his administration negotiated. He had no discernible strategy and no hand to play — and it showed. He folded, and got nothing besides a few days of attention and chaos. People waiting for aid got a few days of frightening uncertainty.
ZIP. ZERO. ZILCH. If he was going to give up this easy, he should’ve just kept quiet and signed the bill. It would’ve been less embarrassing.
IN A STATEMENT, TRUMP said Congress will review Section 230, the statute governing social media companies? Pretty sure they’ve been reviewing it for a while. A “redlined” bill? Huh? He’ll never get the spending rescissions he’s asking for — like, zero chance, so don’t focus on this. They will review voter fraud? Sure thing, boss. And the Senate will begin the process of voting on $2,000 checks? Great. He will split the Republican Party on the way out the door. (Will it get 60 votes? Will senators even show up for this?) In his Sunday evening statement, Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL didn’t even mention anything that TRUMP got in return for signing this bill.
THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST FITTING coda to TRUMP’S presidency, and a neat encapsulation of his relationship with Congress. He never cared to understand the place and was disengaged from its work.
THEY’LL BE LAUGHING — er, scratching their heads — at your genius about this one for a while, Mr. President. More from Burgess Everett, Sarah Ferris, Marianne LeVine and Melanie Zanona
N.Y. POST COVER: “The POST SAYS: MR. President … STOP THE INSANITY: You lost the election — here’s how to save your legacy”
TODAY: THE HOUSE will vote on increasing the direct checks to $2,000, and will vote on overriding the president’s veto on the NDAA. The Senate isn’t in until Tuesday. The president is in Palm Beach, and VP MIKE PENCE is in Vail, Colo.
23 DAYS until Inauguration Day.
Good Monday morning.
FROM 30,000 FEET — WAPO’S DAN BALZ: “After a year of pandemic and protest, and a big election, America is as divided as ever”: “The year 2020 brought extraordinary and unexpected challenges that tested the strength of basic institutions, demanded courage and sacrifice in the face of a raging pandemic, underscored racial and economic inequities, and produced the biggest turnout of voters in the history of U.S. elections.
“In the end, America was as divided as ever. The election itself resulted in significant change — or no change. President Trump is on his way out of office after a single, tumultuous term, to be replaced on Jan. 20 by President-elect Joe Biden. Turnover in the most important of all elected offices — an office that was the major focus of the election — will bring a new tone, new faces and new initiatives to Washington and the country.”
THE LATEST IN NASHVILLE … “After naming bombing suspect, focus turns to motive,” by AP’s Kimberlee Kruesi in Nashville, Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker: “With federal officials having identified the man believed to be behind Nashville’s Christmas Day bombing, authorities now turn to the monumental task of piecing together the motive behind the explosion that severely damaged dozens of downtown buildings and injured three people.
“While officials on Sunday named Anthony Quinn Warner, 63, as the man behind the mysterious explosion in which he was killed, the motive has remained elusive. ‘These answers won’t come quickly and will still require a lot of our team’s efforts,’ FBI Special Agent Doug Korneski said at a Sunday news conference. ‘Though we may be able to answer some these questions as our investigation continues, none of those answers will be enough by those affected by this event.’”
THE CORONAVIRUS CONTINUES TO RAGE … 19.1 MILLION Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus. … 333,129 Americans have died.
— “Highly Touted Monoclonal Antibody Therapies Sit Unused in Hospitals,” by WSJ’s Sarah Toy, Joseph Walker and Melanie Evans: “Doses of monoclonal antibodies—Covid-19 therapies authorized for emergency use last month—are sitting unused in hospital pharmacies, even as cases surge across the country.
“Hospitals say the rollout of the therapies has been stunted by a lukewarm response from infectious-disease specialists, who say they want more clinical trial data before using them on a regular basis. Medical centers are also grappling with a lack of awareness and interest from both the primary-care doctors who would normally prescribe the drug and patients who are offered it. And some places are dealing with a shortage of space and staff to administer the therapies.
“When monoclonal antibody therapies from Eli Lilly & Co. and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. were approved for emergency use in November, health agencies were worried there wouldn’t be enough supply to meet demand. Now, health-care providers are administering just 20% of the doses they receive each week, according to officials with Operation Warp Speed, the federal initiative to support development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for Covid-19.”
A NEW ‘FORCE’ IN THE HOUSE — “Meet the GOP freshmen taking on the squad,” by Melanie Zanona, Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris: “On the first day of Congress’ freshman orientation, four incoming GOP members realized they shared a special connection: All had first- or second-hand experience living in communist or socialist countries. The crew quipped that their family histories with brutal dictatorships and their aversion to Big Government basically made them the opposite of the liberal ‘Squad’ that has surged to political stardom in the House.
“Taking a page from their social media-savvy rivals, they took to Twitter to share the name of their own counterrevolution. And the Republican ‘Force’ was born. ‘It was a natural alliance that formed. … We understand what it’s like in other countries. We understand how truly special this nation is,’ Rep.-elect Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), whose mother was born in Cuba, recalled in an interview. ‘And we look forward to working together to push back on anyone who tries to bring a socialist agenda to America.’
“The quartet — which includes Malliotakis and Reps.-elect Carlos Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida, and Victoria Spartz of Indiana — is positioning itself as a conservative counterweight to the Squad. And they are recruiting others in their class to join them.
“Stuck in the House minority, the Force is unlikely to have much influence on next year’s legislative agenda. But their message is already proving politically potent. Democrats are still reeling from House losses in November, when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the anti-socialist attacks helped take down a dozen incumbents, including in South Florida.” POLITICO
IN GEORGIA …
— WSJ’S JOSHUA JAMERSON in Fort Valley, Ga., and CHAD DAY: “Georgia Runoffs Test Democrats in Turning Out Black Voters”
— NYT’S REID EPSTEIN and SERGE KOVALESKI: “Jon Ossoff Got Some Breaks in Politics. And He Made a Few of His Own”: “Jon Ossoff was 16 years old when he wrote a letter to John Lewis, the Georgia congressman and civil rights pioneer, that led to a spot as a volunteer in Mr. Lewis’s office.
“When Mr. Ossoff was 19 and a rising sophomore at Georgetown, he went to work for Hank Johnson as the primary speechwriter and press aide for Mr. Johnson’s 2006 congressional campaign.
“And Mr. Ossoff was 26 when, without any journalism experience other than an internship, he was made chief executive of a small documentary film company based in England. Mr. Ossoff has always been adept at making his own breaks. He has consistently outperformed his professional résumé, impressing lawmakers many years his senior with his intellect and drive. And he has capitalized on his own well-off upbringing and a series of well-timed introductions and personal endorsements to rise through Democratic politics in Georgia.”
— ZACH MONTELLARO: “Georgia election admins battle Covid and conspiracies ahead of Senate runoffs”
TRUMP’S MONDAY — The president has no events on his public schedule.
PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN and VP-elect KAMALA HARRIS will separately receive the President’s Daily Brief and meet with transition advisers. They will be briefed by members of their national security and foreign policy agency review teams. Biden will also deliver brief remarks in Wilmington, Del.
WAPO’S JOE HEIM and MARISSA LANG: “For D.C. protests, Proud Boys settle in at city’s oldest hotel and its bar”: “Located just five blocks from the White House, the Hotel Harrington is the city’s oldest continuously operating hotel and has a long-standing reputation as one of the most affordable in the heart of the District. But over the past few months, the Harrington has been gaining a new reputation: Proud Boys hangout.
“The militant right-wing organization that vigorously supports President Trump, which has clashed in violent street battles with members of antifascist groups and others who oppose Trump, has made the Harrington its unofficial headquarters when members come to the District. Several hundred Proud Boys recently stayed at the hotel while in town for the Dec. 12 protest of Joe Biden’s election as president. More protests by pro-Trump groups are planned in downtown D.C. on Jan. 6. …
“In the past three months, Harry’s has been cited three times for violating social distancing and mask regulations. The violations occurred on weekends when large numbers of Proud Boys and other pro-Trump supporters, in town for demonstrations, were in the bar.
“For the hotel and the bar, there seems to be uncertainty about what steps they can or should take. Ann Terry, the general manager of the hotel, declined to comment. During a brief phone call, John Boyle, the owner of Harry’s, declined to comment other than to say that the bar closed early on Dec. 11 and 12 because of concerns over not being able to maintain coronavirus social distancing guidelines. The bar’s website announced it will be closed on Jan. 5 and 6.”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Pandemic budget crunches sink Democrats’ hopes for expanding health insurance,” by Dan Goldberg and Susannah Luthi: “Democratic state officials have big plans for expanding health insurance coverage. The problem is, their states are broke.
“The pandemic brought on massive budget gaps that will likely force Democratic state officials to scale back their most ambitious coverage plans when many legislatures convene for new sessions in the coming weeks. Plans to create a state-led public option or join Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion become tougher sells when states are also confronting budget crunches that have their officials contemplating deep cuts to public services.
“Democratic state officials say there’s still urgency to expand coverage, given that millions have lost health insurance because of the pandemic and many more are struggling to afford medical bills. Though President-elect Joe Biden has vowed to expand on Obamacare, he will face resistance from Republicans in a divided Congress — meaning that states’ efforts could become even more important for supporters of broader government coverage.” POLITICO
WHAT ELON MUSK IS READING — “‘Startup City’: Accelerated Growth Strains Austin,” by WSJ’s Elizabeth Findell and Konrad Putzier: “Austin has tried hard to hang on to its particular culture over years of booming growth and popularity, which have attracted money and energy to the city but also brought rising rents and traffic congestion.
“But the pace of change is accelerating as companies and remote workers relocate to what they see as the next tech metropolis, in some cases fleeing California. ‘Austin is a startup city,’ said J.D. Ross, a general partner at venture-capital firm Atomic, who moved to Austin just a month ago from the San Francisco Bay Area. ‘Everything is growing quickly. The airport is adding new gates every year.’
“Austin is now one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., with a population of about a million, versus 675,000 in 2000. Oracle Corp. is the latest company to announce a headquarters move to Austin, after a flurry of software and venture-capital firms in recent months. An Apple Inc. campus and Tesla Inc. factory are under construction on the city’s north and south sides. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk recently confirmed he too has moved to Texas.”
MEDIAWATCH — NYT’S BEN SMITH’S Media Equation column: “Heather Cox Richardson Offers a Break From the Media Maelstrom. It’s Working.”
— “Why these Fox News loyalists have changed the channel to Newsmax,” by WaPo’s Jeremy Barr
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].
TRANSITIONS — Rep.-elect Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) is adding Danielle Varallo Stewart as deputy chief of staff and comms director and Faith Mabry as press secretary. Stewart previously was comms director for Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) and the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. Mabry currently is press secretary for Rep. Paul Mitchell (I-Mich.).
ENGAGED — Kylie Atwood, CNN national security correspondent, and Steve Harrington, entrepreneur and co-founder of CanWell, got engaged Dec. 19. He surprised her with a proposal in Rhode Island, on the beach where she grew up, and they celebrated with a few family members. The couple met in Rhode Island two and a half years ago. Pic … Another pic
— Jared Small, advance lead for the White House, surprised Megan Powers, director of operations for the Trump campaign, with a proposal in the Kennedy Garden at the White House on Dec. 20. They met in September 2017 at a Trump rally in Huntsville, Ala., hit it off while axe throwing a few months later in Washington, Mich., and started dating on her last day and his first day at the White House — he took over her old desk. Pic … Another pic
— Kyle VonEnde, comms director for Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), and Lauren Beeslee, who’s getting her MBA from George Washington University, got engaged. They became friends their first year at American University and had their first date at the D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival their senior year. Pic … Another pic
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Jacqui Bassermann, director of government relations at the American Red Cross. What she’s watching for in the Biden presidency: “Hope springs eternal for me in terms of bipartisanship. Working disaster relief in GR at the Red Cross, I have a front-row seat to our leaders and staff coming together when the hour is darkest for their constituents and country. And so, I am watching, hoping and praying that our better angels will prevail as we face this myriad of crises together. … And the return of the post-Covid-19 ice cream socials!” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger … Rep.-elect August Pfluger (R-Texas) is 42 … Susanna Quinn … Sahil Kapur, national political reporter for NBC News … Seth Meyers is 47 … Seth Wimer, president of Brandywine Public Affairs … Shari Yost Gold … Debbie Willhite (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Steve Castor, general counsel for the House Judiciary GOP, is 48 … The Independent’s John Bennett … POLITICO’s Zach Montellaro and Han Ah-Sue … Kevin Boyd, DLCC national political director … Melissa Block, NPR special correspondent … AP economics writer Josh Boak … Maria Olson … D.J. Jordan, VP at Pinkston … former Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), now on the Export-Import Bank board of directors, is 73 … Ed McFadden … Christina Sevilla, deputy assistant USTR (h/t Tim Burger) …
… Katy Montgomery … Clara Brillembourg of Foley Hoag … Lynn Hatcher … Michele Altemus … David Eisner (h/ts Jon Haber) … Kyle Anderson … Virginia state Sen. Jennifer McClellan, who’s running for governor … Chris Cooper … Erica Martinson … Christa Robinson, SVP of comms for CBS News … Michael Trujillo … Raquel Wojnar … former Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is 76 … former Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) is 74 … Gabrielle Wanneh … former Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe is 74 … Mark Katz is 57 … Adrienne Fox Luscombe … former Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) is 84 … David Dunn … Ramon Looby … Andy Estrada, comms officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation … Will Candrick … Boeing’s Alexa Marrero … Christina Glenn … Douglas Wiley … Molly Varoga