The big picture behind Donald Trump's first controversial tweets of 2017
Trump vs. House Republicans
If you're reeling from the House GOP's surprise vote to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics on Monday night, you're not alone: Donald Trump isn't exactly pleased, either.
But don't make space for this strangest of bedfellows just yet — Trump's objections have less to do with the ramifications of sending a reliable congressional watchdog to live on a farm upstate and more to do with the House making this a priority when there's so much of Obama's legacy to destroy. And drawing attention to ethics in the House is questionable when Trump is under scrutiny for his potential conflicts of interest.
The president-elect tweeted Tuesday morning, "With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it........may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, health care and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS"
The GOP reversed course around noon on Tuesday, facing criticism from all corners over the elimination of the ethics office. (New York Times) Trump's tweets brought embarrassing focus to the GOP as the party opened the new Congress with majorities in both the House and Senate. The ethics office would have reported to the House ethics committee, which will have the power to kill any inquiries into House members. The office was created in 2008 after three members of Congress went to jail for corruption.
Welcome to Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America — and how it affects you. For those of you still drunk from New Year's Eve, we guarantee today's newsletter will provide a sobering experience.
2017 is finally here — and it's gonna be yuge
Tuesday marks the first session of the new Congress — and the Era of Trump will officially begin to take shape. There's much to watch on Trumpian foreign policy, the impact of congressional GOP domination and how Trump will manage Washington. Since our last update on Dec. 23, several narratives cemented themselves around the president-elect. Trump in 2017 will bring more of the same: fast, bombastic moves that quickly spin up media and political attention before pivoting to another narrative. Meanwhile, Republicans are set to dramatically alter America.
Come Jan. 20, the world can expect Trump's Twitter feed to shape American foreign policy. Twitter continues to be Trump's chosen platform to change the world — and how could he do that without first letting everyone know what he really thinks of our geopolitical neighbors? To date, he's opposed a United Nations resolution (which Barack Obama allowed to pass) that condemned Israeli settlement on land claimed by Palestinians, praised Russian President Vladimir Putin's intelligence on Twitter after Obama imposed sanctions against Russians for hacking (leading Putin to say he will wait to deal with a Trump White House) and continues to attack China, most recently for its support of North Korea.
America's first CEO in chief? Nearly two months after the election, Trump has not specified how he will separate his business interests from his role in the White House. He's said his shady charity would be dissolved — then lied about the foundation's supposed accomplishments. Several Cabinet positions went to top Trump donors alongside some of America's wealthiest citizens.
Meet the only expert on cybersecurity who doesn't own a computer: On New Year's Eve, the president-elect had a very Trumpian response to a question about Russian hacking: "I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don't know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation." Trump added he would share this promised revelation on "Tuesday or Wednesday." (New York Times) By Monday, Trump's incoming press secretary was blasting the media for taking Trump out of context and defending the president-elect's comments that the U.S. cannot be sure Russians were behind hacking of Democrats during the election.
Republicans have the power they long desired. Now they must deliver. For the first time in 10 years, Republicans will control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives. The Washington Post called what's coming "the most ambitious conservative policy agenda since the 1920s." The Senate may begin work to dismantle the Affordable Care Act as early as Tuesday. (Wall Street Journal) Business taxes could quickly be cut, and Planned Parenthood could see its federal budget slashed. Republicans plan to move aggressively and, unlike Democrats in early 2008, do not plan to be bipartisan. But as Trump's Tuesday morning tweet about the ethics vote demonstrates, the Republican president will not necessarily support every vote Republicans in Congress take.
As for common ground, Democrats may be inclined to work with the GOP on funding for new infrastructure projects. (New York Times) Sen. Chuck Schumer, the new leader of Senate Democrats, has a long history with Trump. The president-elect even reportedly told Schumer he likes him more than his Republican counterparts. (New York Post)
How Trump may be feeling as his era in Washington begins to take shape:
Trump doubles down on tariffs
Trump will name Robert Lighthizer as the U.S. trade representative, NBC News reported Tuesday. Lighthizer has spent decades advocating for tariffs against companies that move jobs overseas. Given the focus Trump has placed on free trade deals, policies he says have cost the U.S. thousands of jobs, the Wall Street Journal writes Lighthizer could have a leading role in Trump's administration. Lighthizer was a deputy trade representative in the Ronald Reagan administration and will join other Trump nominees in spearheading an effort to change American trade policy.
Tapping Lighthizer coincides with the latest anti-trade Trump tweet. "General Motors is sending Mexican-made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers tax-free across border. Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!" the president-elect tweeted Tuesday morning. (A caveat: General Motors does not produce any Chevy Cruzes in Mexico that are sold in the U.S. According to USA Today, the Cruze sold in the U.S. is manufactured in Ohio.) Especially in states that have seen a decline in manufacturing jobs, Trump campaigned on the need to aggressively tax companies that move jobs abroad then sell products created overseas in the U.S. But Trump's appointments and tariff proposals move the U.S. closer to a global trade war. This could increase the cost of many products sold in the U.S. and lead to job losses. (Mic)
Whatever the consequences of Trump's anti-trade agenda, his threats may be having the intended effect. Possibly because of pressure from Trump, Ford announced it will invest $1.6 billion in a Michigan auto plant and canceled plans to build a new plant in Mexico. (USA Today)
All eyes on Russia
John McCain is not amused. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee has repeatedly expressed concerns about Russian involvement in the American election. On Thursday, he will again refocus national attention on hacking. McCain's committee will hold a hearing on the topic in Congress' first week back in Washington, Politico reported.
The Arizona Republican sparred with Trump throughout the campaign and has kept the heat on the president-elect following Trump's questioning of whether Russians committed the hacking. Thursday could bring fireworks as Trump may be unable to resist weighing in during another high-profile event related to hacking concerns. The committee hearing will be one of the first examples of Trump-related controversy moving from television and Twitter to the halls of Congress.
News and insight you cannot miss:
— North Korea says it is close to having a nuclear missile capable of striking the U.S. But not if Trump has anything to tweet about it: "It won't happen!" says the president-elect. (New York Times)
— Agriculture and Veterans Affairs — the two Cabinet positions Trump still has to appoint. The secretary of agriculture will be responsible for major subsidies the federal government pays to farmers and the multibillion-dollar-per-month food stamp program. The veterans affairs secretary will oversee Trump's promised overhaul of the health care system that cares for American veterans. (Politico)
— After the Washington Post reported Friday that Russian hackers targeted the electrical grid in Vermont, the Post now reports there is no evidence Russians were behind hacking that did not ultimately target the utility. (Washington Post)
— Three things Obama can accomplish in his last three weeks in office: clemency, Russia and helping the Democratic Party. (Mic)
— Julian Assange has reportedly told Fox News he did not have any Russian sources for the Democratic emails he released through WikiLeaks. (Fox News)