Putin's bet, Obama's move
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union early in the morning of June 22, 1941, the attack came swiftly and as a surprise to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Amid a slaughter of their troops, the Soviets quickly retreated, forced to cede thousands of square miles of territory. The Nazi invasion, we eventually learned, was ill advised. The Eastern Front became a drain on Hitler's forces.
In 2016, between the United States and Russia, the analogy is somewhat reversed. Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly bet the benefits of an extensive hacking operation to sow chaos in the American election — and perhaps, promote Donald Trump — was worth the risk of American retaliation. He may be right, or may have dramatically miscalculated.
Now, Obama and Trump share the position of the Russian leader in 1941. Cornered, humiliated and deeply threatened by a foreign power, Obama announced Thursday "we need to take action," and "we will retaliate" against the Russians for what the White House said yesterday was interference in the 2016 election personally directed by Putin. Such promises on foreign policy are uncharacteristic for a president largely known for restraint, loathe to return the nation to far-away conflicts that kill young men and rarely garner much public support.
Trump's movements so far suggest he will have a far friendlier relationship with Putin than Obama. (Mic) But at what cost to the U.S.? And at what cost to Putin? For relations between the longtime foes to thaw, Trump must see a bonus in relaxing sanctions and becoming more open with Russia. (Some believe the financial interests of Trump and his advisers will incentivize a Russo-American partnership.) But pre-inaugural calculations about Trump's relationship with Russia forget one thing: We have no knowledge of how Trump will handle foreign policy, and most of us long miscalculated his motives and chances for success.
For now, we have only Trump tweets to parse for clues. In the latest such dispatch, Trump suggested the ends justified the means: "Are we talking about the same cyberattack where it was revealed that head of the DNC illegally gave Hillary the questions to the debate?"
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— Obama will hold his end-of-year press conference at 2:15 p.m. Eastern on Friday.
— Russian hacking attempts on the Republican National Committee were foiled by the GOP's cybersecurity team. But those attacks were reportedly "less aggressive and much less persistent" than the ones on Democrats. (Wall Street Journal)
— Six in 10 Americans believe Russian hacking did not help Trump in the election, according to a Fox News poll. (Washington Post)
— "The GOP is warming to Russian President Vladimir Putin — even as evidence of his regime's interference in the election intensifies." (Politico)
— Despite being briefed in detail on Russian hacking, Trump continues to question whether the Russians were the hackers — falsely accusing the White House of not bringing up Russian involvement before the election. (Mic)
— At Thursday night's "Thank You" rally, Trump criticized White House press secretary Josh Earnest for saying Trump "obviously" knew the Russian hacks were benefiting the Republican presidential nominee.
— A must-read from Politico: How Putin is winning the Cold War 2.0.
Conflict of interest questions continue
How many times have you read that headline? Thursday was supposed to be the day Trump held a "major news conference" to explain how he would handle major concerns over conflicts of interest between his businesses and the presidency. But instead of a press conference, Americans received yet another tweet. (Mic)
Trump has still failed to detail how he will be able to make decisions for the country independent of the bottom line for his company. And he drew ire for having his children attend a meeting with America's tech leaders. That major policy meeting that included Don Jr. and Eric Trump — Donald's sons who he says will run the family business. (Washington Post) Trump will reportedly not sell his properties before he takes office, guaranteeing his name will remain on buildings around the globe as he leads the free world. (Business Insider) Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump is taking heat for letting people bids tens of thousands of dollars to grab coffee with her — something multiple international business leaders are trying to take advantage of. (New York Times)
To fight back, Senate Democrats (led by Elizabeth Warren) are pushing a bill that would make Trump divest of any conflicts of interest, something not currently required of the president. (The Hill)
Something to note: Trump's cabinet has more wealth than a third of American households — combined. (The Hill)
News and insight you cannot miss:
— Dylann Roof was found guilty of hate crimes 18 months after he shot and killed nine parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Mic)
— A year after declaring a state of emergency, water in Flint, Michigan, is still undrinkable. (Mic)
— Ryan Zinke, Trump's pick for interior secretary, has questionably close ties to white supremacists. (Fusion)
— Here's a totally legal way to end the electoral college. (Mic)
— Joe Arpaio, the now-ousted longtime sheriff from Arizona, announced a years long investigation shows Obama's birth certificate is fake, reviving the birther conspiracy theory, at least for the moment. (BuzzFeed)
— A new top Trump administration official once said Obama was "not black African, he was Arab-African." (Mother Jones)
— Facebook announced it will fight fake news with the help of third-party fact-checkers. (Mic)
The loyal opposition: Tom Perez announces his DNC bid on Mic
In an op-ed published exclusively on Mic, Labor Secretary Tom Perez officially announced he will contest Keith Ellison's bid for chair of the Democratic National Committee. Perez is an Obama administration insider, working from 2009 to 2013 as the assistant attorney general for civil rights until his appointment to the Department of Labor. In his pitch to lead the Democratic Party, Perez wrote of his party on Election Day: "We fell short. But I learned as a civil rights lawyer that when you fall down, you have to get back up even stronger. That's exactly what we need to do as Democrats, because there are too many people counting on us to do anything less."
Perez and Ellison, a Minnesota congressman considered the frontrunner for DNC chair, have similar platforms. Both want to rebuild state and local parties to create a grassroots base to propel Democrats to national victory. They also want to focus on economic issues and offering a stark alternative to Trump. Both men are minorities.
But support for Ellison is centered on endorsements from progressives sometimes out of step with the party establishment, like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, while Perez's bid stems from the Obama White House's backing.
Have a good weekend!
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This newsletter is produced by Will Drabold at Mic.