Trump's coming anti-government government
The latest pick for a top job in Trump's administration may have gone unnoticed by many Americans: Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina was announced on Friday as the president-elect's choice to run the White House Office of Management and Budget. Like his cabinet-level colleagues, Mulvaney is an indication of the wholesale change Trump plans to bring to the White House.
Mulvaney is one of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives. As a staunch opponent of raising the government's debt ceiling, he once held prayer sessions about whether to send the nation into default. Now, as overseer of the federal budget, a Republican opposed to large portions of government spending will help decide where America allocates its resources.
While Trump's picks may not #DrainTheSwamp of corruption and cronyism, they're poised to drain their government departments' morale — and purpose. Trump's education secretary is loathed by public educators. His pick for the treasury is loathed by financial regulators. His labor secretary is eyed fearfully by unions. And now he has a budget leader largely opposed to spending.
The takeaway: Trump wants his officials to dramatically shrink the role of government.
This is Mic's daily read on Donald Trump's America — and how it affects you. Welcome to America's only political newsletter written from a warm beach in the Caribbean. (We wish.)
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Dec. 19: The day the electoral college makes Trump president (sort of)
Barring an unforeseen development, presidential electors will gather in each state on Monday and vote to make Donald Trump the next president of the U.S. Protests and emotional appeals were never likely to sway the resolve of a significant number of Trump's 306 presidential electors. Electors who demanded an intelligence briefing about the role of Russian hacking in the election won't get one. Even some Democrats have argued that, for the country to heal, electors must support who voters in their state picked.
Though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million, Trump will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20, in a rebuke of Barack Obama's presidency, albeit without much of a popular mandate. Eight years after Obama swept to a clear victory with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, Trump will take office after only a quarter of eligible voters cast a ballot for the Republican. (Nearly half of eligible voters did not vote.)
Republicans spawned a racist "birther" movement to question Obama's legitimacy in 2008; Democrats griped about the 2000 election results. In the wake of the 2016 election, the movement to make electors "vote their conscience" stems from visceral feelings of worry and anger over Trump's ability to govern. And it may be only the beginning of deeper partisan divides looming over the next four years.
Note: Electoral College votes will not be publicly tallied until Jan. 6, when they are announced during a joint session of Congress.
Continued calls for action on Russia
Over the weekend, Sen. John McCain said Russian hacking "may destroy democracy." The Republican joined other senators in calling for a special Senate committee to investigate the hacking. These comments followed Obama's Friday remarks that he told Russian President Vladimir Putin in September to "cut it out." (On Sunday, interim Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazile said the attacks on the DNC "did not stop" after Obama's newly reported conversation with Putin.)
Over the past couple days, Trump has been relatively quiet on Russia. His staff has signaled a shift toward acknowledging Russia's role in the election. On Sunday, Trump's incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus said the president-elect would accept assertions of Russian involvement if all American intelligence agencies issued one report with that finding. (Wall Street Journal) That is a major pivot from a week ago, when Trump told Fox News, "They have no idea if it's Russia or China or somebody sitting in a bed some place."
The fact that McCain and Sen. Lindsay Graham, another Republican, are pushing aggressively for an inquiry into Russian hacking could spell trouble for Rex Tillerson, the Exxon Mobil CEO and Trump's pick for secretary of state — who has deep ties to Russia and Putin. If three Republican senators defect to a position opposing Tillerson, his Senate confirmation will fail.
Meanwhile, a comment Putin made about the Electoral College in 2014 has resurfaced on Twitter: "There is no true democracy there," the Russian president said of the American system. And government-run media in Russia doubled down on the notion, saying over the weekend that attempts to turn the Electoral College away from Trump amounted to a "coup d'etat."
News and insight you cannot miss:
— Obama on the election: "There are clearly, though, failures on our part to give people in rural areas or in exurban areas a sense, day to day, that we're fighting for them or connected to them." (NPR via the Hill)
— In interviews with Mic, 12 top legal scholars said Trump could be violating the Constitution on his first day in office — assuming he fails to divest all financial interest in his businesses and foreign revenue streams. (Mic) Some Trump opponents have used this argument to encourage members of the Electoral College to justify voting against Trump on Monday. (Guardian)
— More conflicts of interest: A weekend report said Tillerson has been the director of a Russia-U.S. oil company owned by Exxon. The company is based in the Bahamas, which allows it to avoid paying taxes in the U.S. (Guardian)
— Another BuzzFeed must-read on fake news. This time, how a network of 43 websites have drawn advertising dollars from more than 750 fake news stories — largely about celebrities moving to new cities. (BuzzFeed)
— Only 34% of voters believe electors should vote their conscience, potentially against Trump. (Politico)
— Sticky notes posted in the New York Subway system offered catharsis for those coping with the result of the 2016 election. Five weeks after the election, the messages have been taken down, but many will be preserved by the New York Historical Society. (Washington Post)
— Trump's Electoral College victory will be one of the smallest in history. (CNN)
— Saturday Night Live: Shirtless Putin pays Trump a visit. (Slate)
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This newsletter is produced by Will Drabold at Mic.