While Kanye West met with Donald Trump Tuesday...
...the president-elect also announced:
— His choice for secretary of state will be an oil executive with deep ties to Russia.
— The energy secretary will be someone with no expertise in management of nuclear weapons or waste —what the Department of Energy is primarily responsible for.
— His secretary of the interior will be a congressman who supports fossil fuel exploration, including coal.
— His proposed wall on the American border with Mexico will be built.
— The controversy over reported Russian election interference continues, with three Senate committees now saying they'll investigate the role of hacks in the 2016 election.
— Trump raised further concern about his ability to manage the country independent of his personal business ties.
Beneath each of these developments are subtexts that require deeper investigation. And these are only the main developments out of Tuesday. But if there was one headline that stole so much more of our attention than it deserves (and it does deserve some), it was likely this one:
This is not to suggest who Trump meets with is not interesting, perhaps even important. But a trend has emerged: As important, potentially damaging news breaks around Trump, he meets with a celebrity or otherwise attracts media attention to a shiny object that distracts from what matters. (Looking at you, ABC.) "It really makes you wonder how America ended up selecting a celebrity president when the media is so focused on the issues," Trevor Noah of The Daily Show said sarcastically Tuesday, in a segment about media coverage of Trump/Kanye.
Here at Mic, we're not fooled. You can stay up-to-date on all the latest Trump news at mic.com/navigatingtrumpsamerica. And in the meantime, here's what you need to know:
This is Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America — and how it affects you. Welcome to America's only political newsletter that won't be talking Kanye West. Except that we just did. And we'll do it a few more times too. But don't let it distract you!
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Today: What you may have missed while Donald Trump met with Kanye West
More: Trump's pick for interior secretary is a one-term congressman who is pro-fossil fuel.
Where's Trump? Trump Tower in New York City
Hillary Clinton's lead over Trump in the popular vote: 2.84 million votes, 2.1 percentage points greater than Trump (Cook Political Report)
The latest on Rex Tillerson
Trump's nominee for secretary of state received praise from Republican foreign policy leaders — including from clients of Exxon Mobil, where Tillerson is chairman and CEO — and kudos for his leadership of one of the world's largest companies. And Politico reported that while three key GOP senators have expressed concerns over Tillerson's ties to Russia, early feedback shows he is expected to be confirmed.
But this confirmation won't be a cakewalk: On Tuesday, John McCain said, "I would never accept an award from Vladimir Putin," in reference to the friendship medal Putin has bestowed on Tillerson. If all Democrats oppose Tillerson, no more than two Republicans can defect in their support of Trump's secretary of state nominee.
Yet a potentially larger conflict of interest than Tillerson's connections to Russia emerged yesterday. The federal government is investigating Exxon for allegedly misleading shareholders to believe the company was more valuable than it really was. (Mic) A class-action lawsuit filed in November alleges something similar. The conflict? Tillerson would be among the most important members of Trump's Cabinet, which could pressure federal financial regulators to overlook any wrongdoing by Exxon.
Something you should know about the Department of Energy: It is primarily responsible for nuclear weapons and nuclear waste. Now that Trump has formally named Rick Perry as his pick to head that department, it raises questions about Perry's relevant experience to the job. Perry was the longtime governor of Texas, an oil-rich state, and sits on the board of the company trying to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Barack Obama's two energy secretaries have been physicists, while George W. Bush's second energy secretary was a chemical engineer.
Energy is also the largest funder of basic research in physics, concerning scientists worried about Perry's leadership given his past comments about wanting to eliminate Energy. (BuzzFeed) Meanwhile, Obama's Energy Department has refused to give Trump's transition team the names of Energy employees who worked to implement the president's climate change agenda. (Mic) And scientists are publicly archiving climate data to make sure it does not disappear under a Trump administration. (Washington Post)
The wall is happening: During his latest "Thank You" tour rally, in Wisconsin Tuesday night, Trump reiterated his promise to build a wall along America's southern border. "You have to," Trump said. "Gotta stop the drugs from coming in. Wall is gonna be a big, big factor."
Russian hacking: Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker has announced his Senate Foreign Relations Committee will also dig into reports of Russian hacking influencing the outcome the 2016 election. (CNN) Corker's inquiry joins planned investigations from two other committees, including one led by Sen. John McCain.
Trump doubles down on fossil fuels
State. Energy. Interior. Environmental Protection Agency. The signal Trump has sent with his picks to head these federal agencies is simple: Fossil fuel industry, America is open for business. After several years of increased regulations on American energy companies, specifically those involved with coal, Trump's appointments are expected to roll back many of the changes made by Obama. Specifically, regulations that target emissions from coal-fired power plants and lessening the environmental impact of coal mining are likely to be hit. (Washington Post) And Trump could cut regulations around hydraulic fracturing and pipelines with the goal of increasing natural gas production, potentially reversing the Obama administration decision to halt development of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
These are proposals Trump campaigned on, especially in parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia that still employ coal miners. But they are likely to draw extreme criticism from environmentalists who will charge Trump with accelerating the effects of climate change. And in the meantime, Obama's EPA left Trump a present: The agency says fracking can contaminate groundwater, reversing an earlier position. (Mic)
What to know about Trump's pick for secretary of interior
The man Trump has reportedly tapped to manage 500 million acres of public lands is a freshman congressman from Montana. Ryan Zinke is known for breaking with his party when it comes to votes on conservation and the public's right to federal lands. Politico reported Zinke has opposed GOP efforts to sell land owned by the federal government and has worked with Democrats on conservation issues.
However, Zinke is not exactly the golden boy of the environmental lobby. He is likely to help Trump implement an agenda that would open up public lands to oil, gas and coal extraction. (Christian-Science Monitor) Zinke's home state of Montana produces the sixth-largest amount of coal in the U.S. As secretary of interior, Zinke would oversee about a fifth of the nation's land — including areas of Alaska the Obama administration recently designated as off-limits to oil and gas drilling.
News and insight you cannot afford to miss:
— The theme throughout all of Trump's Cabinet nominees: Jobs, jobs, jobs, the New York Times says. All of Trump's Cabinet picks to date have been people with a background in business or fighting regulations, a group that the president-elect believes will entirely overhaul how business and government interact — with the end game of job creation. The approach is a deparature from the Obama years, where government was led by many longtime politicians and public servants, and other presidencies.
— More: Trump has the lowest number of officials with government experience in top White House positions out of the past several presidencies. (CNBC)
— This New York Times deep-dive into alleged Russian hacking is extensive, but the anecdotes about how Russian operatives influenced the U.S. election are eye-opening. Among the revelations: A typo (yes, a typo) gave Russian hackers access to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's personal email. (Mic)
— The much-discussed Ohio abortion debate resulted in a win and a loss for anti-abortion advocates. Gov. John Kasich vetoed a bill that would have banned abortion after six weeks, but signed a bill that makes abortion illegal after 20 weeks. (Mic)
— "Why Russia Is Excited" about Rex Tillerson: A must-read on the geopolitical chess emerging around Trump's pick for secretary of state (Time)
— Trump will meet with tech industry executives on Wednesday. Given the adversarial stance leaders of tech companies took to Trump's campaign, stay tuned for sure-to-be-notable snippets of news out of this meeting. (NPR)
— Remember how aggressively Trump and his surrogates attacked Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, which may have resulted in the leaking of classified information? Turns out retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, Trump's pick for national security adviser, reportedly "inappropriately shared" classified information to American allies while serving in Afghanistan. (Mic)
— One possible reason for why Obama is somewhat rosy about America's future: It will be difficult for Trump to reverse eight years of changes. Political and legal challenges will dog Trump's efforts aimed at eliminiating regulations. (Wall Street Journal)
— The government agency that leases Trump the building for his Washington, D.C., hotel has told Democratic lawmakers the president-elect must relinquish any ownership in the hotel before he takes office. (BuzzFeed)
Another deeply reported post-mortem on why Clinton lost the election: too much reliance on data, known as "the model" within the campaign. (Politico)
Trump's newest pick is a defender of puppy mills — "An industry of torture." (Mic)
Trump recruits army of business titans to do battle in Washington. (Washington Post)
Vox's Sarah Kliff speaks with Trump supporters dependent on — and even supportive of — the Affordable Care Act. "There was a persistent belief that Trump would fix these problems and make Obamacare work better. I kept hearing informed voters ... say they did hear the promise of repeal but simply felt Trump couldn't repeal a law that had done so much good for them." (Vox)
The nastiest things Trump called the people he now wants in his Cabinet. (Houston Chronicle)
Donald Trump's new Cabinet members could save millions of dollars from this tax benefit. (Mic)
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This newsletter is produced by Will Drabold at Mic.