A Sprint to the Finish Line

Wednesday, December 20, 2017Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 8.37.00 AM

Good Wednesday morning, 
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • The sweeping overhaul of the American tax code, a G.O.P. objective for decades, passed both houses of Congress. Changes to three budgetary provisions were made at the Senate level, but the House is expected to approve them on Wednesday and send the legislation to President Trump’s desk.
  • The rushed bill resulted from the failure of health care legislation over the summer — and a collective decision by Republicans in Congress to block out bad news.
  • Companies in the tech industry, which relies heavily on workers from overseasare looking to relocate to Canada in response to the administration’s efforts to limit visas.
  • Parents went to Capitol Hill to plead with Congress to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program before their sons and daughters lose coverage.
  • Despite earlier warnings about the dangers, the E.P.A. will indefinitely postpone bans on three chemicals used in paint strippers, and in dry-cleaning and degreasing agents.
— The First Draft Team

What (if Anything) Does Carter Page Know?


Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times

They were closing in on Carter Page. It was the last day of November, and the onetime adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign was dodging the tourists who clotted the sidewalks around Rockefeller Center and its famous Christmas tree. As Page wove his way through the holiday crowd, he talked about his troubles, raising his voice to be heard above a Salvation Army bell-ringer. “Anybody who knows me knows how ridiculous the whole thing is,” he lamented to me and everyone else within earshot along Fifth Avenue. “But you’re still part of the controversy.”
Page was speaking of the investigation into the Trump campaign’s suspected dealings with Russia during the 2016 election, which had been gathering steam of late. About a month earlier, Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was indicted by the Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert Mueller, on charges of tax fraud and money laundering. In the next 24 hours, Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, would plead guilty to lying to the F.B.I. Page, too, had become ensnared in the scandal, albeit more ambiguously. A foreign-policy adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, Page had had an affinity for Russia ever since studying in Moscow as a young Navy midshipman in 1991 and had worked there for three years in the 2000s. He was suspected of meeting with Russian officials during a visit to Moscow in July 2016, and shortly thereafter the F.B.I. obtained a rare warrant to monitor his electronic communications. In recent months, he has been summoned to Washington for more than 20 hours of testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Intelligence Committee and Mueller’s grand jury.
But the fact that Page was speaking to me at all was evidence of how he differs from his castmates in the Trump-Russia soap opera. While others have lawyered up and disappeared behind a scrim of crisis-communications consultants and attorneys, Page has chosen to wage his battle almost entirely on his own, in the public spotlight. Manafort tugging on his car’s sun visor to shield his face from reporters or Flynn walking stone-faced and tight-lipped into a federal courthouse might be the iconic images of the Trump-Russia scandal. But the most ubiquitous one is of Page’s shorn head — his eyes bugged out and an almost blissful smile plastered across his face — bobbling above a TV news chyron on one of the numerous network and cable shows he has frequented. “I genuinely hope, Carter, that you are innocent of everything, because you are doing a lot of talking,” an incredulous Chris Hayes told Page when he appeared on Hayes’s MSNBC show in October. “It’s either admirably bold or reckless.” As Page conceded to me: “Admittedly, I go beyond the level of transparency and cooperativeness any sane lawyer would advise.”
This approach has made Page a cult figure of sorts to those who are closely tracking the ins and outs of the various Russia investigations. His TV appearances typically produce surreal sound bites, like the time he told Anderson Cooper that they once frequented the same gym. (“I remember walking by you even though we didn’t know each other, and I said, ‘Hi, Anderson.’ ”) He pens verbose letters to various investigators, including one to the Justice Department claiming “hate crimes” against him during the 2016 campaign. (“The actions by the Clinton regime and their associates may be among the most extreme examples of human rights violations observed during any election in U.S. history since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was similarly targeted for his antiwar views in the 1960s.”)
Read more »

How Each House Member Voted on the Tax Bill


The House voted 227-203 to pass the bill.

How Every Senator Voted on the Tax Bill


The Senate passed the bill 51-48, with every Republican present voting yes.

Kay Coles James in 2009. In conservative circles, she was always seen as more of a behind-the-scenes player than as someone who sought the spotlight.

Heritage Foundation Names New President After Turmoil Under DeMint


The selection of Kay Coles James suggested that Heritage was trying to regroup after struggling to find footing in President Trump’s Washington.

Representatives Lee Zeldin, left, Dan Donovan and Peter T. King, all Republicans of New York, voted against the tax bill on Tuesday.

As G.O.P. Celebrates House Vote, New York and New Jersey Lawmakers Say No


In almost every case, the reason for that opposition came down to the assertion that the two states were basically being used to pay for tax cuts in the other 48.

The author Ta-Nehisi Coates deleted his widely read Twitter account after posting, “Peace, y’all. I’m out.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates Deletes Twitter Account Amid Feud With Cornel West


Mr. West, a fierce critic of President Obama from the left, called Mr. Coates “the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle.” Twitter wasn’t happy.

Senate investigators are interested in examining the apparent closeness between Jill Stein, a Harvard-educated doctor and perennial Green Party candidate, and Russia.

Senate Panel Scrutinizes Another Presidential Candidate: Jill Stein


The Senate Intelligence Committee is examining links between the Green Party candidate and Russia’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

Scott Garrett, a former Republican representative from New Jersey, had been an outspoken critic of the Export-Import Bank, making him a curious choice to lead it.

Senate Panel Rejects Trump’s Nominee to Lead Export-Import Bank


With two Republican defections, the Senate Banking Committee voted down the nomination of Scott Garrett, a former Republican congressman from New Jersey.

Representative Gregg Harper, the chairman of the House Administration Committee, last month in Washington.

House Secretly Paid $115,000 to Settle Harassment Claims Over Four Years


The new cases bring to $199,000 the amount paid in sexual harassment claims since 2008. There is no public information about the claims, and names were not released.

President Trump introducing the White House’s national security report in Washington on Monday. The report included details of China’s rising technological prowess.

Decoding Trump’s Plan to Rein In China


Beijing poses a threat on the business and technology fronts as well as militarily, the White House argues in a new national security blueprint.

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. President Trump touted increases in the Dow Jones Industrial average on Twitter and said the market still has room to grow.

Trump Takes Mantle of First Bull as the Stock Market Rises


President Trump has been an unabashed cheerleader of the rising stock market, saying that his policies have emboldened Wall Street and individual investors.

“We go into every Republican administration understanding that we’ll have to fight for at least one ticket item,” said Samantha Hernandez, the legislative director for the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students. “This year has been different.”

Graduate Students Escaped Tax Increases but Still Feel a Target on Their Backs


House Republicans took aim at graduate students with provisions to tax their benefits. Those were dropped from the tax deal, but they could return in a separate bill.

Shelly Simonds, the Democratic candidate, won 11,608 to 11,607 in a recount conducted by Virginia election officials.

In Virginia, a Lesson in the Power of a Single Vote


Virginia Republicans appear to have lost control of the House of Delegates in an election decided by a single vote in a nail-biting recount.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies.
From the Right
James S. Robbins in USA Today:
“It is dangerous to subject the office of the president to a gravely biased investigation undertaken with a reckless spirit.”
Mr. Robbins, who previously served as a special assistant in the office of the secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration, calls for the entire Mueller investigation to be suspended. He worries that should more evidence of political bias against the president become public, “Americans may conclude that the justice system itself is illegitimate.” Read more »
From the Left
Greg Sargent in The Washington Post:
“Today’s vastly different media landscape creates incentives — or at least, the appearance of incentives — for Trump to opt for a course of full-blown autocracy and lawlessness.”
Mr. Sargent looks at the “double track approach” to the administration’s posture toward the special counsel’s investigation. One where President Trump says he won’t fire Mr. Mueller, but his allies in the news media are engaged in “sustained confrontation” with the investigation. The net effect? “If Mueller ends up demonstrating conduct that is potentially impeachable, it will be easier for Republicans to wave it away and do nothing by claiming the probe itself was illegitimate.” Read more »
More selections »