Too Close to Call

Wednesday, March 14, 2018Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 9.34.56 AM

Good Wednesday morning,
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • The Democrat and Republican in a special House election in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Trump country were divided by a few hundred votes in a race that was too close to call early Wednesday. It was an ominous sign for Republicans in a district that Mr. Trump won by nearly 20 points.

  • President Trump ousted his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, the most dramatic in a cascade of personnel moves that suggest Mr. Trump is determined to surround himself with loyalists willing to reflect his America First views. Mr. Trump announced he would replace Mr. Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director.

  • If confirmed as secretary of state, Mr. Pompeo will become the first person to have served as both the nation’s top spy and top diplomat. As C.I.A. director, Mr. Pompeo sometimes displayed the aggressive partisanship he had developed as a Republican combatant in Congress.

  • Gina Haspel, the deputy director of the C.I.A., ran a secret prison in Thailand in 2002 where a Qaeda suspect was waterboarded. Now, as Mr. Trump’s pick to take over the agency, she will be forced to answer unsettling questions about torture and her interactions with detainees.

  • John McEntee, Mr. Trump’s personal assistant, was forced out of his position and escorted from the White House after his security clearance was revoked. Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign announced Tuesday that Mr. McEntee had been named senior adviser for campaign operations.

  • With these changes still fresh, Mr. Trump is considering firing his secretary of veterans affairs and installing Energy Secretary Rick Perry in the post, according to two people close to the White House.

— The First Draft Team
News Analysis

Under Pompeo, a Foreign Policy That Fits the President’s Worldview

President Trump spoke to reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

President Trump spoke to reporters at the White House on Tuesday. Tom Brenner/The New York Times

The sudden firing on Tuesday of Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil chief executive who never managed to capture the role of chief diplomat, makes room for a true believer in President Trump’s “America First” views and a bitter critic of the Iran nuclear deal — but also a deep skeptic about whether negotiations will convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear arsenal.
Mr. Tillerson’s anticipated replacement, Mike Pompeo of the C.I.A., was among the harshest of critics of the 2015 nuclear agreement that world powers brokered with Iran. If confirmed, Mr. Pompeo would take over the State Department just as the president is weighing whether to ditch the deal altogether — even if it outrages European allies.
The move would also put Mr. Pompeo, who has been immersed in the details of Pyongyang’s nuclear program, in a central role in running the negotiations with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean dictator whom Mr. Trump has said he will meet by May.
For all the criticisms of Mr. Tillerson — and there were many, particularly in the State Department as he moved to slash its size — he was considered a restraining influence on Mr. Trump. Mr. Pompeo, in contrast, has been an enthusiastic defender of the president’s policies, to the point that many senior current and former C.I.A. officials worried that he was far too political for the job.
Trump Answers Questions on Tillerson and Pompeo: A Full Transcript


President Trump discussed the shake-up in his administration that ousted Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and seeks to put Mike Pompeo in his place.

Guns outfitted with bump stocks were used in the massacre that killed 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas in October.

Pressured by President, A.T.F. Revisits Bump Stock Rules


In repeatedly promising that bump stocks would be banned, Mr. Trump may have opened his Justice Department to lawsuits.

Students leaving Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after last month’s shooting. The suspect, Nikolas Cruz, is white, and far from evading disciplinary procedures, he had been expelled from the school.

Trump Finds Unlikely Culprit in School Shootings: Obama Discipline Policies


The president, goaded by conservatives, is targeting an effort to address racial disparities in school discipline, arguing that any relaxation of policies could let a killer slip through the cracks.

Maeva Lile and her fifth-grade class at Case Elementary School in Akron, Ohio, will walk out of school on Wednesday carrying posters with the names of students killed in Parkland, Fla.

How Young Is Too Young for Protest? A Gun-Violence Walkout Tests Schools


A coordinated protest on Wednesday at schools across the U.S. has administrators making special plans for students who may not be old enough to handle the subject.

Togo D. West Jr. testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington in 2010 about an investigation into a mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas in 2009.

Former Army Secretary Togo West Jr. Dies at 75


Togo D. West Jr. worked to grant women in the Army more combat roles and shield them from sexual abuse. He later ran the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Mike Pompeo, President Trump’s pick to succeed Rex W. Tillerson as Secretary of State, received considerable funding from oil and gas companies while in Congress.

Elevating Pompeo, a ‘Great Climate Skeptic’


The choice of Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state all but cements hard-line opposition to the idea of climate change at the highest levels of the United States government.

Senator John Cornyn inside the office of the majority whip last week.

Gunman’s Rampage in Texas Leaves Its Mark on a Republican Leader


Since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., Senator John Cornyn has pressed a modest gun background check measure, but the impetus began in Sutherland Springs, Tex.

President Trump addressed troops at a Marine base in San Diego on Tuesday. It was his first visit to California as president.

In California, Trump Attacks Governor and ‘Sanctuary Policies’


In his first visit as president to California, Mr. Trump attacked Jerry Brown, the Democratic governor, and called on Congress to punish jurisdictions that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

“Everybody gets to make up their own mind whether they were trying to hurt Hillary or help Trump,” Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas said. “It’s kind of a glass half full, glass half empty.”

Republican Leading House’s Russia Inquiry Softens a Key Finding


Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas had said the Russians hadn’t favored Mr. Trump’s candidacy. But on Tuesday, he said it was a matter of interpretation.

Some companies took a chance to express their revulsion at the entire concept of President Trump’s border wall. This proposal includes a 2,000-mile pink wall, a shopping mall and a detention center.

Among Prototypes for Border Wall, Some Creative Concepts Foundered


The government asked for “innovative design.” In response, proposals envisioned concepts like a vivid pink wall, one topped by a monorail and a moat with nuclear waste.

A health official in Nigeria, which is battling a deadly outbreak of Lassa fever. President Trump has proposed major cuts to funding for an initiative to stamp out global disease outbreaks.

White House Hails Disease-Fighting Program, and Plans Deep Cuts


The White House said the program to stamp out global epidemics was “paying dividends,” but planned cuts would greatly shrink the number of countries it operates in.

President Trump blocked a hostile bid by Broadcom for Qualcomm Inc., a chipmaker based in San Diego, Calif., over national security concerns.

Killing of Chip Deal Pushes Protectionism as It Invokes Security


The president’s sudden decision to halt Broadcom’s bid to take over Qualcomm reflects a concerted effort to protect American companies from China.