News you missed while the Electoral College surprised no one
Protests and petitions to pressure presidential electors to vote against Donald Trump failed spectacularly Monday, with more members of the Electoral College defecting from Hillary Clinton than the president-elect. Donald J. Trump won 304 electoral votes on Monday to become the next president of the United States — a margin greater than George W. Bush in 2000, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and John F. Kennedy in 1960. But Monday featured a great deal more than last the whimper of the anti-Trump movement.
Here's what you may have missed:
Trump tapped a Wall Street banker worth $1.8 billion to be Army secretary, touting his service history and successes in business. Vincent Viola also owns the Florida Panthers, a Miami-based professional hockey team. The pick continues the corporatization of Trump's cabinet, a group of Americans worth many billions of dollars. (Politico)
Senators are pushing for a special inquiry into Russian hacking, but Republican leaders may not acquiesce. A mix of Democrats and some Republicans aim to push a bill that would establish a highly-visible investigation into hacking. (Politico) Yet Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and key Republican senators have pushed back, saying the Senate intelligence committee should investigate more privately. Why the debate? The first option would bring more widespread attention to a subject the president-elect may wish would go away. (CNN)
Trump's sons are reportedly allowing access to their father at his inauguration in exchange for million-dollar contributions to "conservation" causes. (Center for Public Integrity) And ThinkProgress reported Monday that Trump's company pressured the Kuwaiti government to move a major event to the Trump International Hotel in Washington. In yet another Trumpian break with precedent, the president-elect will maintain a private security force even after he is inaugurated.
Feel like you're a step behind on Trump news? There's even more — about Trump's sons, Trump's hotel, Trump's bodyguards, also foreign policy, immigration and lobbying by Exxon Mobil — below.
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Looming foreign policy tests
Alleged terrorist attackers in Germany and Turkey Monday killed and wounded dozens of people. In Turkey, a shooter reportedly screaming "don't forget about Aleppo" assassinated the Russian ambassador in Ankara, the Turkish capitol. (Mic) Later Monday, another gunman tried to shoot his way into the U.S. embassy there. (Mic) Top Russian, Turkish and Iranian diplomats are meeting Tuesday to discuss Syria and, now, the shooting. (CNN)
In Berlin, at least 12 people died and dozens were injured after two people drove a truck drove through a Christmas market. (Mic) Three people were wounded during a shooting at an Islamic center in Switzerland. (Mic) In the background, the crisis in Syria continues to be a black mark on the world's conscience. (Mic)
These events indicate how rapidly a president must grapple with multiple terror incidents developing to deadly effect. Bluster and blistering attacks worked for Trump on the campaign trail. But the president-elect's tactic for victory in 2016 may not bring him success on the world stage.
Trump's foreign policy highlights to date: Signaling major shifts in U.S. policy toward Russia (friendlier) and China (more aggressive). Questioning reports from the White House and intelligence agencies that Russia was behind hacking during the election. Saying the Chinese can keep an American underwater drone it stole near the Philippines. Meeting with Carlos Slim, a Mexican business magnate, to discuss improved relations between the two countries and signal a detente between Mexico and Trump. (Washington Post) Trump's pick for national security adviser also reportedly met with the leader of a far-right Austrian party — right before the Nazi-founded group signed an agreement with Putin's Russian ruling party. (New York Times)
If his Twitter feed is any indication, the president-elect is aware of the role international affairs will play in his presidency. (Mic) His first tweet after the electoral college officially made him the next president:
Currying Trump's favor
Amid the swirl of international news, a consistent narrative simmers closer to home: Trump will use the presidency for his personal gain. Reports around Trump and the inauguration — the shepherding of parties into his branded hotels — suggest the president-elect's inner circle wants to maximize the potential financial gain of a Trump presidency. And continuing the use of private body guards demonstrates acute paranoia over Trump's demand for loyalty among those closest to him. And the public has yet to receive concrete proof Trump is cutting ties to his domestic or international businesses.
This drip, drip of potential conflicts serves to raise troubling questions about Trump before he has even taken office.
News and insight you cannot miss:
— After another 78 pardons and 153 commutations on Monday, Obama has used his powers of clemency more than any president since Harry Truman. (USA Today)
— The Fraternal Order of Police predicts Trump's America will not be kind to immigrants — and will be a boon for policing. The nation's largest law enforcement union endorsed Trump in September. (Mic)
— North Carolina may repeal the controversial "bathroom bill" that attracted national attention to a debate about transgender rights. Outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who championed the legislation, has long said that law would not be necessary following the repeal of an anti-discrimination ordinance in the state's largest city. (Mic)
— False claims from white supremacists that the mother of an alt-right leader was being threatened by "Jews" prompted a call among online bigots to "take action" against Jewish residents of Whitefish, Montana. The backlash against this rallying cry was swift. (Mic)
— Must-read insight from Time: How the Russian ambassador's death could impact Syria. (Time)
The loyal opposition: What electoral college defections say about our elections
Despite the failure of a push to keep Trump from the presidency, the few defections on both sides of the aisle may affect the future of the republic. Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, and will now lead a country that includes states where less than a third of voters supported him.
None of this should have been a surprise. Our system has always given a larger voice to the minority opinion. Whether it's in the Senate or the Electoral College vote, or in how we amend the Constitution and carry out other democratic processes, these systems are designed to put a check on majoritarian rule — even a majority of nearly 3 million people. These systems are supposed to keep hotheaded populism under control.
In the wake of Trump's official Electoral College victory, it may be time to ask if the protections our founders built to protect the minority have now flipped to empower it over the majority. Many feel Trump voters have taken the rest of the country hostage, a collection of Americans that largely do not support or like the next president. Now, liberals fed up with the election result are calling for an end to the Electoral College, with the New York Times writing the obscure body should be abolished "so that a presidential election reflects the will of Americans."
With four Washington state presidential electors changing their votes, including one ballot cast for Dakota Access Pipeline protester Faith Spotted Eagle, the lack of seriousness taken by some electors gives rise to whether the Electoral College makes sense. But, for at least four years, any revisions to the process would have to go through the man who benefitted from the most from this system — unless more states get on board with the workaround known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
— Tom Arnold says he has a tape of Trump saying "n*gger" and "retard." (Mic)
— News organizations defend off-the-record event with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago. (Washington Post)
— Newt Gingrich says Trump can pardon anyone he wants to work for him. Technically, he's probably right. (Twitter)
— The Obama administration intends to transfer 17 or 18 inmates from Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, leaving just over 40 prisoners there when Trump takes office. (New York Times)
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This newsletter is produced by Will Drabold at Mic.