Today: Trump faces bipartisan Congressional pushback over Russian hacking reports

Today: Trump faces bipartisan Congressional pushback over Russian hacking reports
Source: AP
Source: AP

This is Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America — and how it affects you. 

Welcome to America's only unhackable political newslet[404][unknown connection][system error] Putin is good. Would you like to receive this as a daily email in your inbox? Subscribe here.

Highlights: 

Today: Did Russia help determine who won the White House?

More: What do Trump's cabinet appointments all have in common? A history of playing fast and loose with the facts.

Even More: Scroll for what's ahead this week — including Trump's conflict-of-interest press conference.

Where's Trump? Trump Tower in New York City.

Hillary Clinton's lead over Trump in the popular vote: 2.84 million votes. (Cook Political Report)

Everything you need to know about Russia and the American election

Call it a crossroads, comrade. Despite mounting reports out of the American intelligence community that Moscow influenced the American election, Donald Trump has yet to back down from his statements that Russians were not behind the hacks. This position has put him at odds with GOP Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who joined Democratic leaders in calling for an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Factions are forming after the Washington Post reported Friday that the CIA has concluded agents with ties to the Russian government hacked the Democratic National Committee and the email of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman in an attempt to help Trump win. On Sunday, the New York Times led with a story saying the CIA's judgment on Russia was based on a "swell of evidence."

These conclusions directly contradict Trump's views on the subject. On Saturday, the president-elect mocked the conclusion that Russia intervened on his behalf.

"It's ridiculous," Trump said, adding that he thought Democrats had planted the stories in the Post and Times because of his victory.

On Monday morning, Trump voiced his disbelief about hacking reports on Twitter, claiming they are a political attack on his election victory. John Bolton, a possible deputy secretary of state who still supports the invasion of Iraq, said the hacking may have been a "false flag operation" driven by the Obama administration. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly threw cold water on the idea Russia interfered to help Trump during a briefing in September.

Meanwhile, Trump's reported pick for secretary of state has close ties to Russia. Rex Tillerson, CEO and chairman of Exxon Mobil, has developed a close relationship with Vladimir Putin to advance his company's business interests. Tillerson has even received a friendship medal from Moscow. He's certainly felt the sting of American sanctions on Russia — a relationship he would oversee if chosen to lead State. Tillerson's confirmation would be no sure thing in the Senate, with McCain, Graham, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and potentially others lining up against him.

This is not normal, and the consequences of these differing approaches could be extraordinary. In this latest Trump vs. the establishment scenario, the intelligence community represents an institution flummoxed by how to proceed. The intelligence community gathers evidence and gives the president its view. But what if the president of the free world disagrees — or does not want to listen at all? Come what may with Trump, Obama has ordered an investigation into Russian hacking that will be delivered to him before he leaves office.

Before you freak out about all of this, remember: Unnamed sources from the CIA and FBI have been wrong before. At the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald breaks down why anonymous leaks should not take the place of verified evidence. And there is the possibility, unpacked by Marcy Wheeler, that the CIA and Democrats are driving the urgency of this narrative to discredit Trump long before the inauguration.

Facts and statistics

"There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts," Donald Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes said on The Diane Rehm Show. In response, the media exploded. A post fact-society may be too much for the media to bear. Journalists who strive to define black-and-white realities to form the foundation of any story must now reckon with a president-elect tweeting, without evidence, that millions of people voted illegally. But whereas Trump treats evidence like yet another Chinese conspiracy, his appointments have spent their professional lives either reducing people to cold, clinical statistics — or ignoring all data entirely.

Today, we break down how several Trump cabinet nominees have built their careers by ignoring inconvenient facts that affected their bottom line — or seized upon thin evidence to make as much money as possible.

Jeff Sessions, attorney general

Most of the criticism surrounding Sessions questions whether he will defend civil rights. As attorney general, Sessions would oversee the part of the federal government responsible for equal protection of all Americans. Sessions claimed to be a champion of desegregation, going so far as to say, "I filed 20 or 30 civil rights cases to desegregate schools and political organizations and county commissions when I was a United States attorney."

But an Atlantic investigation found Sessions' claim was questionable — with no evidence showing he filed a single desegregation lawsuit.

Steve Mnuchin, secretary of treasury

As the housing crisis wrecked the lives of millions of Americans, Mnuchin saw a financial opportunity. In 2009, the banker and hedge fund investor bought what was left of one of the riskiest mortgage banks in the country. The new bank, OneWest, became a golden investment for Mnuchin. Tens of thousands of people tied to the bank lost their homes, while the federal government helped the bank cover $1.2 billion in losses. OneWest was sold last year for $3.4 billion, with Mnuchin receiving $10.9 million.

"Mr. Mnuchin ... profited handsomely at the expense of thousands of working people across our state," a consumer advocate told Politico.

Andy Puzder, secretary of labor

Since 2000, Puzder has run CKE Restaurants, the chain that owns fast food eateries Hardee's and Carl's Jr. Puzder has been a vocal opponent of labor regulations, especially any increase in the minimum wage. Puzder says an increase would lead to job losses and restaurant closures. But the question is whether the benefits of a wage increase outweigh the costs. Last year, a study found increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would lead to a 4.3% price increase at fast food restaurants. Yet, employees earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour make 35% less than they would have, adjusted for inflation, when the wage was established in 1968. And nearly a third of Americans would see a raise if the wage was increased.

The question for Puzder: Is an additional 20 cents for a Hardee's 1/3 lb. Thickburger worth doubling employee pay?

Cathy McMorris Rogers, secretary of interior

McMorris Rogers is the highest-ranking GOP woman in Congress, making her reported selection to run Interior an important show of gender diversity for a president-elect with a cabinet full of men. If confirmed, she would oversee three-quarters of the nation's public lands, along with federal agencies tasked with protecting these spaces. Yet McMorris Rogers has aggressively worked to prevent the Interior department from fighting the impacts of climate change on federal lands. It is unclear if she believes humans are changing the Earth's climate — Reuters describes her as a "climate skeptic" — but she is a staunch supporter of the oil and gas industries.

Despite mountains of data and the nearly unanimous view among scientists humans are warming the planet, Trump's pick of McMorris Rogers would place someone who ignores scientific fact in charge of one-fifth of the country.

Betsy DeVos, secretary of education

A vigorous advocate of school choice, DeVos has a long history of impacting education policy in Michigan. The billionaire philanthropist supports using public dollars to send children to private schools and the creation of charter schools. Yet this championing of competition and choice among schools has not led to higher quality in her home state. DeVos is behind the creation of a school system that champions low quality and failing private schools that face little regulation, the Detroit Free-Press documents.

Education is a sector where facts and data abound, yet DeVos has continued to push for school choice despite evidence her methods have not given students better outcomes than public education.

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

There may be no greater opponent of Barack Obama's climate change regulations than Pruitt. At every turn, the Oklahoma attorney general has fought measures by Obama's administration to combat the inarguable impacts of man-made climate change. Pruitt has said his role is to protect jobs in the energy industry, not to regulate fossil fuels to lower carbon emissions. The EPA, of course, is tasked with protecting the environment.

News and insight you cannot miss:

It's official: Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly is Trump's pick for secretary of homeland security. Here's what to know about the three generals Trump has nominated to his cabinet. (Mic)

— On Thursday, Trump will hold a press conference about the future of his business and the conflicts of interest that have dogged him since the election. Here's what to know before Dec. 15. (Mic)

—  "Leaderless and lacking a strategy, top party officials worry they're not ready for Trump's first 100 days." The disarray among Democrats runs deep. (Politico

—  In an effort to continue questioning facts, Trump said in an interview aired Sunday that "nobody really knows" if climate change is real. (CNN)

—  At a Friday rally on his "Thank You" tour, Trump told supporters to stop chanting "Lock her up!" in reference to Clinton. "That plays great before the election. Nah, we don't care." (BuzzFeed's Brandon Wall)

—  The man who wrote the book on Exxon Mobil (literally) writes in the New Yorker about why picking Tillerson for State is so troubling. Basically, Exxon views itself as an independent, corporate member of the world community, a worldview Tillerson could bring to American diplomacy. (New Yorker)

A must-read: 10 crucial decisions that reshaped America. The definitive postmortem on the 2016 campaign, from Politico's Glenn Thrush. (Politico)

—  A deeply reported story from Mic's Jack Smith IV on why organization, tactics and strategy were key to victory for protesters at Standing Rock — and what other groups can learn from resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Mic)

Snippets: 

—  ICMYI: Rudy Giuliani removed himself from the running to be secretary of state. (Mic)

—  The Women's March on Washington, D.C., will not be able to use the Lincoln Memorial for the rally. The National Park Service will block off many memorials as part of the inauguration, a move activists said is designed to keep them from attracting maximum exposure by gathering at historic monuments. (Mic)

—  Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, Satya Nadella and other leads in the tech sector will meet with Trump on Wednesday in New York. (Yahoo News)

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This newsletter is produced by Will Drabold at Mic.

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Will Drabold

Will Drabold is a policy writer at Mic. He writes Navigating Trump's America, Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America. He is based in Washington, D.C., and can be reached at wdrabold@mic.com

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