Almost eight years ago, the United States swore in its first black president. Barack Obama came to office by offering the people a change in Washington. Now, in less than month, the country will definitely get just that: a yuge change in how Washington works — not to mention the occupants of the White House.
In January, Donald Trump will become president of the United States. Emotions are sure to run high and preparations are already under way.
So far, only one organization has been able to secure a protest permit from the National Park Service: Bikers for Trump. (Mic) While the Women's March on Washington has a permit for the day after the inauguration from the city's police department, the National Park Service did not sanction the march gathering on the National Mall. (Washington Post)
The contrast of two Americas will be on ultimate display during Trump's inauguration. Only 4% of D.C. voters cast their ballot for Trump in November, compared to 46% nationally. (CNN) Those roughly 11,500 D.C. residents who voted for Trump will be dwarfed by the hundreds of thousands of people who routinely descend on the Capitol every four years on Inauguration Day. Anti-Trump protests will surely swell those numbers — meaning a tense city, with the possibility of the sorts of clashes between Trump supporters and protesters we saw throughout the campaign.
Flashback — This was 554 days ago:
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Increased scrutiny on gifts around the inauguration
Speaking of the inauguration, Trump's sons faced harsh criticism Tuesday for reportedly backing a nonprofit that said donors who give $500,000 to $1 million would be granted an audience with the new president. This led organizers to roll back the claim, saying donors would not necessarily have access to Trump or his sons. And a Trump spokesman said neither the president-elect nor his sons were involved. (Washington Post)
By no means will this be the last time Trump faces accusations he is selling access to the Oval Office. Just last week, the Eric Trump Foundation rolled back an auction on having coffee with Ivanka, Trump's oldest daughter. And Eric's foundation will hold a fundraiser at the end of February that is also likely to attract wealthy guests angling for influence with President Trump.
Something to note: Despite months of vicious, heated attacks on the press by Trump's camp, these flaps involving Trump's kids have shown a willingness by the first family to publicly reverse course after widespread attention on the perception of a conflict of interest. The Ivanka auction and contribution-for-access proposal were both rolled back after journalists wrote critical stories. And shortly after the election, there were indications that a clarion call in the media for Trump to address conflicts of interest made some headway, drawing tweets from the president-elect saying he would cut ties to his businesses. The question is follow through. So while Trump and his advisers publicly say things will change, the real question is what happens behind the scenes.
News and insight you cannot miss:
— Hillary Clinton allies attacked the FBI for its "flimsy" rationale behind reopening the inquiry into Clinton's private email server. (Politico)
— A writer for Newsweek says a Trump supporter sent him a strobe on Twitter with the goal of triggering an epileptic seizure. It worked. The writer, who pressed Trump's international conflicts of interest into the limelight during the campaign, is pressing charges. (Newsweek)
— Democrats are angling to press Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson on his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and demand that he fully divest all his assets. While Senate Democrats do not think they'll stop his confirmation, they want to make it difficult. (Washington Post)
— So it begins: the road map to lobbying Trump. D.C. insiders weigh in on which tactics are likely to be most effective in swaying the opinions of the president-elect. (Politico)
— "How Ed Schultz transformed from MSNBC lefty to the face of Moscow media." (Washington Post)
A view from Trump country: How pain pills helped elect our next president
A newspaper article over the weekend told an old story: poorer citizens being neglected, even dying, while corporate America makes money. An excellent Charleston Gazette-Mail investigation in West Virginia found drug companies shipped 433 pain pills per person in the state over six years, contributing to the deaths of more than 1,700 people who overdosed on oxycodone or hydrocodone. A quote from a former state legislator in the story: "Distributors have fed their greed on human frailties and to criminal effect. There is no excuse and should be no forgiveness."
Yes, these pills were prescribed. And they were taken willfully. But the story examines whether drug companies saw an opportunity to pump these highly addictive pills into the state, thereby encouraging doctors to pass the drugs on to unknowing patients. "Follow the pills and you'll find the overdose deaths," the story begins.
There is a larger, political connection here. Deaths from drug overdoses and broader struggles related to addiction have devastated areas of West Virginia that were already economically depressed by the decades-long decline of coal and manufacturing.
Enter Trump, a successful businessman with billions of dollars who promises a return to better, safer, more prosperous days. A sometimes Democratic and pro-union state, West Virginia delivered the Republican presidential candidate one of his largest margins of victory nationally, taking nearly 70% of the vote. In southwestern Mingo and Wyoming counties, featured by the Gazette-Mail for their high overdose rates, Trump won more than 80% of the vote.
It is easy for liberals to criticize Trump supporters as ill-informed, saying or thinking things like, "He'll take away your health insurance, he'll cut your wages — how could you vote for him?" But it's important to remember the living hell some Trump voters endure: Deaths of family members occurring while corporations see an opportunity to make money. Understanding this reality can make it easier for Americans opposed to Trump to empathize with those who support him. And this is but one example of living conditions that drove Trump voters across the country to go so far outside the box of normal Washington leadership that they landed on Trump. After all, his message was simple and what many needed to hear: "We're going to make America great again."
The loyal opposition: Obama moves to solidify his legacy
There are going to be further regulations on drilling in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. And some increased scrutiny on contamination of water by coal power plants. Did you see these record pardons and commutations for people with criminal convictions? Or hear that more prisoners will finally be transferred out of America's Guantanamo Bay detention facility?
Obama wants you to know he's still the president, at least for another 30 days. The president has moved to impose rules and make irreversible decisions that guarantee at least some lasting impact from his days at the White House. Major changes codified in Congress, like the Affordable Care Act's provision that children can stay on their parents' health insurance until 26, are expected to remain, even if Republicans repeal the broader law. But other acts carried out by the executive branch could be more easily rolled back by President Trump.
To counter this, Obama is quickly creating rules, largely around fighting climate change and limiting fossil fuels, that could take months or years to repeal because of Washington's pace of change. Banning drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic — one part includes 40,300 square miles of ocean off of western Alaska — will quickly put regulatory web in place that can't be easily reversed. And moves like pardoning incarcerated people imprisoned for nonviolent drug offenses won't be quickly undone by Trump either.
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