Trail Guide CAMPAIGN 2016
News Nation/World 2016 Presidential Election Trail Guide

This is our look at President-elect Donald Trump's transition and the outgoing Obama administration:

Democrats draw sharper battle lines in tug of war over party leadership

Former Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez speaks at an event with former President Obama. (Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)
Former Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez speaks at an event with former President Obama. (Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)

Even as Democrats try to move past last year's defeats, their internal fault lines show signs of deepening in the campaign for the party's leadership.

The latest evidence came Wednesday when former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Thomas E. Perez, who served as President Obama's Labor secretary, to chair the Democratic National Committee. 

"We have a lot of good people vying for this important job," Biden said in a statement. "But I do think for this moment and in this time, Tom Perez is our best bet to help bring the party back."

The endorsement was seen as more evidence that key members of the recently departed Obama administration were backing Perez.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) with Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) with Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

It was followed by a statement from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont reiterating his support for Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), another leading candidate in the race. 

Although Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the presidential primary, he has continued to try to pull Democrats to the left, and he has emphasized the need to "create a grass-roots party."

Obama left office with strong poll numbers, but under his watch, Democrats lost power not only in Washington but in states around the country, something Sanders and his allies have stressed in the fight over the party chairmanship. 

"The question is simple: Do we stay with a failed status-quo approach or do we go forward with a fundamental restructuring of the Democratic Party?" Sanders said. 

Border Patrol chief is abruptly out after being brought in as a reformer

 (Donna Burton / Customs and Border Protection)
(Donna Burton / Customs and Border Protection)

The chief of the Border Patrol will leave his post at the end of the month, likely the result of a change in direction by the Trump administration and a reflection of the new power of the agency's union.

Mark Morgan, the agency's head, was hired from the FBI in June to reform the force after a series of corruption allegations and problems with excessive force. He will leave the Border Patrol abruptly after seven months on the job, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Morgan's departure was first reported by the Associated Press. 

Morgan spent 20 years at the FBI and was first brought to Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, in 2014 to overhaul its internal affairs division. After a subsequent stint running the FBI’s training academy, he started the top job at the Border Patrol in June.

The Border Patrol's union had opposed Morgan's appointment, preferring a candidate who had risen through the ranks of the agency.

The union endorsed President Trump in the election, breaking with its practice of remaining neutral in elections.

News of Morgan's departure comes a day after Trump announced he would build a border wall and hire 5,000 more Border Patrol agents, bringing the total force to 26,000. Trump said the Border Patrol union would have a lot of clout in department decisions.

 

Lights go out on confirmation hearing for expected CIA chief

The lights went out as the confirmation hearing began for Donald Trump's pick to run the CIA, raising questions of whether it was a routine technical malfunction or someone was trying to disrupt the proceedings.  

The Senate Intelligence Committee is vetting Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) to run the fabled spy service.

The president-elect has openly mocked the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community for months, most recently for its assessment that groups backed by Russian spy services hacked Democratic Party computers in an effort to help Trump win the White House.

The hearing was stopped about 10 minutes after it started to allow building staff to figure out how to turn the lights on again. 

Transition

Trump was silent on new U.S. sanctions against Russia, but he praises Putin's response

After President Obama on Thursday announced retaliatory measures against the Russian government for what the U.S. has concluded were efforts to interfere in the election, President-elect Donald Trump's response was terse and dismissive, saying it was time to "move on to bigger and better things."

But after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he would not respond in kind to the U.S. actions — preferring to wait until the new administration takes office — Trump weighed in with high praise.

Trump's tweet did not appear to be off the cuff. As if to underscore his sentiment, Trump affixed the tweet to the top of his Twitter feed. And he posted an Instagram photo shortly after, quoting himself.

Trump's effusive words were particularly striking given the bipartisan view of Putin as more adversary than ally.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said they supported the Obama administration's move to expel Russian diplomats and block access to two properties owned by its government.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) is expected to call a hearing on Russia's cyber activities when the new Congress convenes next week.

A Trump transition spokesman was asked earlier Friday whether Trump had spoken or planned to speak with Putin before his inauguration.

"The priority right now is for the president[-elect] to get an update next week from the intelligence community," Sean Spicer said. 

Trump's praise did get tacit approval from some quarters. The Russian embassy in Washington retweeted it.

White House

Putin says Russia won't oust U.S. diplomats in response to hacking-flap sanctions

 (Alexei Nikolsky / European Pressphoto Agency)
(Alexei Nikolsky / European Pressphoto Agency)

President Vladimir Putin on Friday condemned a new round of U.S. sanctions against Russia but said Moscow will not retaliate by expelling American diplomats. 

President Obama on Thursday imposed sanctions on Russian officials and intelligence services in retaliation for what U.S. officials say is Russia's interference in the presidential election by hacking American political sites and email accounts. Thirty-five Russian diplomats were ordered to leave the U.S. in 72 hours, and two Russian diplomatic facilities were closed. 

White House

Most popular White House petitions included requests to label a hate group and deport Justin Bieber

 (EPA / Michael Reynolds)
(EPA / Michael Reynolds)

Over the past five years, Americans have produced and signed nearly 5,000 petitions through the White House’s “We the People” site. How could we ever forget the effort to get the Obama administration on board with building a Death Star? Some, like that one and a petition to deport Justin Bieber, resulted only in conversation. But others made an impact.

The Pew Research Center analyzed the petitions in a recent report. They ranged from serious, like an effort to ban gay conversion therapy at a state level that led the president in 2015 to support states' bans, to playful. A request for Obama to appear on a previously unvisited talk show, for example, prompted him to appear on “Real Time with Bill Maher” in January 2016.

In 2015, 106-year-old Virginia McLaurin requested a meeting with the first black president, something she never thought she’d live to see. Her petition garnered only 19 signatures. But it nonetheless resulted in one of first couple's most memorable meetings, this dance party:

The petitioning system, launched in 2011, was part of Obama’s open-government initiative. The most common topics for petitioning included healthcare, veterans issues and requests to honor individuals, such as Yogi Berra, and create or officially recognize holidays, like Talk Like a Pirate Day.

While not every petition made a change or elicited a response from the White House, many captured a momentary pulse of the nation.

Here are the five most popular:

  1. “Legally recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group,” posted Dec. 14, 2012; 367,180 signatures.  
  2. “Establish justice and prevent a great catastrophe,” posted April 4, 2016; 331,914 signatures.
  3. “File charges against the 47 U.S. senators in violation of the Logan Act in attempting to undermine a nuclear agreement,” posted March 9, 2015; gained 322,117 signatures.
  4. “Ask President Obama to appear on HBO’s ‘Real Time with Bill Maher,’ ” posted Jan. 15, 2016; 314,226 signatures.
  5. “Deport Justin Bieber and revoke his green card,” posted Jan. 23, 2014; 273,698 signatures.
White House

Obama slaps Russia with sanctions for meddling in the U.S. election

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

In the most sweeping retaliation against Russia in decades, President Obama slapped the country with new penalties Thursday for meddling in the U.S. presidential election, kicking out dozens of suspected spies and imposing banking restrictions on five people and four organizations the administration says were involved.

“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” Obama said in a statement. “Such activities have consequences.”

How Trump and an Obamacare rollback could affect the growing gig economy

Gabby Golub of Chicago does chalkboard art for bars and restaurants in addition to driving for Lyft and working part time at her old high school. (Kristan Lieb / Chicago Tribune)
Gabby Golub of Chicago does chalkboard art for bars and restaurants in addition to driving for Lyft and working part time at her old high school. (Kristan Lieb / Chicago Tribune)

A growing share of the U.S. workforce is reyling on alternative work arrangements, which include on-demand gigs through online platforms like Lyft or Uber as well as work through temporary help agencies, freelance assignments and independent contracts.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics plans to conduct a comprehensive survey of these so-called contingent workers next year, its first since 2005, helping policymakers understand the size and makeup of a workforce not covered by many labor protections or privy to the benefits that come with a traditional employer relationship.

Whether policy will catch up to the labor shifts is a question experts will watch in 2017. A major conversation point has been how to develop portable benefits that give gig economy workers access to retirement plans, unemployment insurance and paid sick leave even as they move from job to job.

Transition

Trump touts plans by Sprint and OneWeb to create 8,000 U.S. jobs

 (Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images)
(Don Emmert / AFP/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday touted plans by telecom company Sprint and technology start-up OneWeb to hire a total of 8,000 workers in the U.S. in what he said was "very good news" for the economy.

He appeared to be highlighting previously made jobs announcements.

OneWeb, which is building a network of satellites to deliver high-speed Internet access, said on Dec. 19 that it expected to create nearly 3,000 jobs in the U.S. over the next four years after securing $1.2 billion in funding, mostly from Japan's SoftBank Group Corp.

And the head of SoftBank, which owns Sprint, said on Dec. 6 that the company had agreed to invest $50 billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 jobs here. 

The announcement by SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son came after he met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York City. Trump touted it that day.

Speaking at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday, Trump said Sprint was "going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States."

"They have taken them from other countries. They are bringing them back to the United States," Trump said.

Sprint, though, said in a statement that the jobs would be a mixture of new positions and others that were reinstated. It wasn't clear whether those jobs were part of the 50,000 that were mentioned earlier in the month at Trump Tower.

“We are excited to work with President-Elect Trump and his administration to do our part to drive economic growth and create jobs in the U.S.,” said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. “We believe it is critical for business and government to partner together to create more job opportunities in the U.S. and ensure prosperity for all Americans.”

Trump also said the OneWeb hiring "is very exciting." OneWeb did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

3:25 p.m.: This story was updated with comment from Sprint.

 

Watch live: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to speech by Secretary of State John F. Kerry

Kerry offers fierce defense of Obama's support for Israel, urges resumption of Mideast peace talks

Secretary of State John Kerry outlines his proposals for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Zach Gibson / Getty Images)
Secretary of State John Kerry outlines his proposals for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Zach Gibson / Getty Images)

With President-elect Donald Trump tweeting from the sidelines, Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Wednesday outlined broad principles for reviving the moribund Israel-Palestinian peace process -- calls that quickly ignited a new burst of Israeli anger against the Obama administration.

Kerry’s lengthy and impassioned address, delivered at the State Department, marked the latest chapter in an unusually bitter public clash between the United States and Israel -- and the even more extraordinary spectacle of a president-elect again inserting himself into a sensitive diplomatic matter before taking office.

In a speech lasting more than an hour, Kerry appealed for a hiatus in Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, called on Palestinian leaders to explicitly denounce terrorist attacks against Israelis, and warned repeatedly that the prospects for a “two-state solution,” with Israel and a Palestinian state existing side-by-side, were in jeopardy.

 “We cannot in good conscience do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away,” he said.

Transition

Former California lieutenant governor will meet with Trump to discuss running Agriculture department

Abel Maldonado. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)
Abel Maldonado. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

President-elect Donald Trump is considering former California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado to lead the Agriculture department, a move that would bring greater diversity to the Republican’s Cabinet.

Maldonado will meet with Trump on Wednesday at his Palm Beach, Fla., estate. Trump spokesman Sean Spicer noted that Maldonado, owner of Runway Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley, comes from three generations of farmers and has “strong roots in the agriculture industry of California.”

Trump will also meet with Dr. Elsa Murano, the former president of Texas A&M University and a former Agriculture undersecretary for food safety, in connection to the post, one of the few Cabinet positions yet unfilled.

Maldonado, 49, was once considered to be the kind of Republican who could break through the party’s struggle to attract widespread Latino support. A Santa Barbara County farmer whose parents were Mexican farmworker immigrants, he served as mayor of Santa Maria before being elected to the state Assembly in 1998.

Perhaps Maldonado’s most notable political moment came when he worked with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to force Democrats to embrace the top-two primary system for California during negotiations on the state budget crisis in 2009. Schwarzenegger rewarded Maldonado with the appointment to the then-vacant post of lieutenant governor in 2010.

But Maldonado’s role in helping push the nonpartisan primary system made him a pariah among many conservative Republicans, and he failed in subsequent races for Congress in 2012 and a brief flirtation with a run for governor in 2014.

If nominated and confirmed, Maldonado would be the sole Latino in Trump’s Cabinet.

Transition

Trump attacks Obama over Israel just ahead of Kerry's speech on the Mideast

The detente between President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump, as both aimed to portray a smooth transition of power, appears in jeopardy.

Trump condemned the Obama administration's foreign policy on Wednesday, tweeting he was doing his best to overlook "inflammatory" Obama moves, while engaging in 1990s-style sarcasm.

Last week, Obama decided to have the U.S. abstain from a United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity, which allowed the measure to pass.

The vote angered Israeli leaders, who accused senior U.S. officials of complicity in drafting the resolution, a claim disputed by the U.S.

Trump's postings came just before Secretary of State John F. Kerry delivered a major address on U.S. foreign policy that included a rebuttal to Israeli government criticisms of the Obama administration.

Trump's statement of support for Israel was welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long had a tense relationship with Obama.

Trump transition spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that the president-elect's tweets "speak for themselves, very clearly."

He also stressed that White House officials have been "helpful and generous with their time," at least in terms of the "mechanics of the transition."

In a brief statement to reporters Wednesday night, Trump said he had a “general conversation” with Obama during the day.

“Very, very nice,” was how the president-elect described the chat, which he said Obama initiated. A White House spokesman confirmed the call and characterized it as positive.

When asked whether he thinks the U.S. should exit the U.N., Trump repeated his earlier comments that the global body is “not living up to its potential.”

"When do you see the United Nations solving problems?” he asked. “They don’t, they cause problems, so if it lives up to its potential it’s a great thing, if it doesn't it’s a waste of time."

The U.N. seemed to respond to Trump on Monday, in a message pinned to the top of its Twitter feed: 

Times staff writer Christi Parsons in Honolulu contributed to this report.

5:10 p.m.: This story was updated with White House comment.

2:45 p.m.: This story was updated with Trump's comments.

John Kerry, tireless in his diplomatic efforts, often came up empty-handed

 (European Pressphoto Agency)
(European Pressphoto Agency)

John F. Kerry is nothing if not indefatigable, traveling to all corners of the world as America’s top diplomat over the last four years. But as he prepares to leave office, he confronts a mixed legacy: a handful of successes coupled with searing defeats, especially in the Middle East.

His inability to halt the carnage in Syria, or to block Russia’s growing influence, ranks as the most serious blot on his record. But he also got nowhere trying to end the Israeli-Palestinian standoff, or to stop Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, from bombing civilians in Yemen.

Kerry’s greatest success was the historic accord to curtail Iran’s nuclear development program and a landmark climate change treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming.

White House

At Pearl Harbor, Obama says 'we must resist the urge to demonize those who are different'

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Obama. (Marco Garcia / Associated Press)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Obama. (Marco Garcia / Associated Press)

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scattered petals together on the waters of Pearl Harbor on Tuesday in a symbolic act aimed at laying to rest the enmity of the Japanese attack 75 years ago that drew the U.S. into World War II.

In a moment consumed with history, both leaders were fixed on the future. They expressed concern that the lessons of the war might be forgotten amid a shifting world order and the anti-internationalist sentiment that has swept over politics around the globe, most notably with the ascendance of President-elect Donald Trump.

White House

Obama and Japan's Abe to visit Pearl Harbor amid renewed talk of nuclear concerns

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu on Monday. (AFP/Getty Images)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu on Monday. (AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are scheduled to honor the war dead at Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, marking the 75th anniversary of the attack that thrust the U.S. into World War II.

The visit was planned as a coda to Obama’s visit to Hiroshima in May, where Abe hosted him as the first sitting president to visit the site where the U.S. dropped one of two nuclear bombs in 1945 to end the war, the only instances of nuclear attacks in history.

But the visit has taken on a new meaning. President-elect Donald Trump reawakened old fears of a nuclear arms race last week by declaring his commitment to “strengthen and expand” U.S. nuclear capability. 

In his remarks at Pearl Harbor, Obama will have an opportunity to address those renewed anxieties and to lay out the dangers of an arms race. Obama has fought to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to secure existing caches.

The visit is meant to highlight the strength of the relationship between the U.S. and Japan, an administration official said. Several Japanese prime ministers before Abe have visited the Pearl Harbor site. But Abe is the first to go to the memorial at the resting place of the battleship Arizona, where 1,177 American military personnel died in the Japanese aerial attack on Dec. 7, 1941. 

Will the Fed's Janet Yellen 'take away the punch bowl' after Trump takes office?

After three years of almost single-handedly juicing up the slow-growing economy, Janet L. Yellen and the Federal Reserve should be looking at easier days ahead.

Yellen, in what will probably be her last full year as Fed chair, may finally get help from somewhere else in Washington.

Tax cuts and infrastructure spending planned by President-elect Donald Trump, if backed by the Republican-controlled Congress, would lighten the load for a Fed whose easy-money policies have been the primary economic support for the nation.

She is already breathing easier on the Fed’s employment mandate; the jobless rate has fallen to a nine-year low of 4.6%. Inflation, too, is under control and, by all accounts, creeping toward the central bank’s optimal level of 2%.

And yet, Yellen may come under as much economic and political pressure as ever, on both the Fed’s policy and the independence of the institution.

White House

Obama says he could have beaten Trump

 (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

President Obama says he could have defeated Donald Trump in last month's election by recapturing the same "vision of hope" that twice carried him to the presidency.

Obama also was mildly critical of the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, saying her campaign didn't do enough to get her message out.

The remarks were notable because Obama has been careful since the election to avoid criticizing Trump, or to deliver a post-mortem on Clinton's failed bid.

Obama spoke in a wide-ranging interview with former senior advisor and now CNN commentator David Axelrod for the Democratic political operative's Axe Files podcast. The interview was released by CNN on Monday.  

"You know, I am confident in this vision because I'm confident that if I -- if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could've mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it," Obama said.

His comments were part of a wider discussion of what he called "ugly" sentiments of racism and xenophobia that surfaced during the 2016 campaign.

Obama repeated his assertion that Clinton faced a double standard as a woman, which put her at a disadvantage.

But he also said a kind of complacency set in that made the Clinton campaign too cautious and thus unable to get its message out sufficiently.

"If you think you're winning, then you have a tendency, just like in sports, maybe to play it safer," Obama said.

During the interview, Obama also spoke of his family, the strength he'd gotten from wife Michelle and the improbability of his own political career.

And the president said the spirit that his candidacy originally inspired, especially among young people, was "never snuffed out" despite the last eight years of turmoil.

"The idealism and the dedication stayed with the staff and got us through some really hard times," he said.

Trump later responded to the remarks on Twitter.

UPDATE

2:07 p.m.: This article was updated with Trump's response.

This article was originally published  at 12:28 p.m.

White House

Obama personally authorized U.S. abstention from U.N. vote on Israeli settlements

 (Justin Lane / European Pressphoto Agency)
(Justin Lane / European Pressphoto Agency)

President Obama personally directed Friday that the U.S. abstain from a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity, seeing the escalation of settlement building as an increasing threat to the viability of a two-state solution to the region's problems.

Ahead of the expected vote, Obama, who is vacationing with his family in Hawaii, convened a discussion Thursday with Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John F. Kerry and other top national security officials.

The vote was postponed, but U.S. officials continued to monitor discussions over the Egyptian-authored resolution until Friday. Obama spoke with national security advisor Susan Rice on Friday to issue his final decision.

President-elect Donald Trump’s intervention in the discussions, which included a conversation with Egypt’s president Thursday that preceded the delay in the planned vote, did not affect Obama’s calculations, deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters..

“There’s one president at a time,” he said.

The decision to allow the resolution to pass, rather than cast a veto to block it “is consistent with long-standing, bipartisan U.S. policy” opposing Israeli settlement activity, Rhodes said.

One of the administration’s great concerns was that such activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem “has accelerated significantly” since 2011, when the U.S. last vetoed a comparable resolution.

U.S. officials also have been concerned about continued incitements of violence by Palestinians, and Rhodes said the resolution voted on Friday included greater balance to reflect that than past resolutions.

“We’ve been very concerned that these accelerating trends are putting the very viability of the two-state solution at risk,” Rhodes said. “In that context, we therefore thought that we could not in good conscience veto a resolution that expressed concerns about the very trends that are eroding the foundation for a two-state solution.”

He also underscored what he called Obama’s iron-clad commitment to Israel and its security, noting that the administration recently concluded a major military assistance package.

The U.S. did not vote for the resolution because of continued concerns about the United Nations as a venue for Middle East peace discussions, Rhodes said.

He also responded to what he called “strident” comments of Israeli officials criticizing the U.S. move. “It seems like the Israeli government wants the conversation to be about anything other than the settlement activity,” he said.

Trump team seeks to ease fears on women's programs at State Department

 (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Donald Trump's transition team said Friday its requests to the State Department for details on positions and funding for global women's programs were part of an effort to "ensure and protect" gender equality.

The statement appeared to be an attempt to allay concerns that Trump might seek to cancel or roll back gender-focused programs at the State Department following a request by the transition team on Wednesday for information about them.

Most were created or championed by Trump's campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, when she served as secretary of State during President Obama's first term.

The transition team statement Friday did not outline Trump's plans for the programs, which seek to promote equality, education and vocational training for women around the world as well as combat gender-based violence.

"President-elect Trump will ensure the rights of women across the world are valued and protected," the statement said.

"To help fulfill this promise, the transition team inquired about existing programs at the State Department that helps [sic] foster gender equality, ends gender-based violence, and promotes economic and political participation — finding ways to improve them."

The statement said the inquiry was one of hundreds of requests it sent to federal departments as part of the transition effort.

 

 

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