President-Elect Donald Trump baselessly claimed that “millions” of Americans voted illegally in the 2016 election Sunday night, apparently spurred on by his loss in the popular vote and Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s efforts to seek a recount in several close states Trump won.
The source of Trump’s claim that “millions” of votes were cast illegally appears to be a report from the conspiracy theory website InfoWars, itself based on a tweet from an anti-vote fraud activist who provided no evidence for his claim. As noted by the Brennan Center, study after study has found scant evidence of widespread voter fraud, let alone “millions” of illegal votes, with one Columbia University study concluding that most voter fraud allegations turned out to be attributable to “false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.”
In this case, it is the winner of a close race who is putting forth a conspiracy theory to explain the outcome of the election, rather than the loser.
Donald Trump has offered Betsy DeVos the job of education secretary.
In a statement Wednesday, Trump called DeVos “a brilliant and passionate education advocate.” He added: “Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families."
Devos, a major GOP donor and former chair of the Michigan Republican Party, met with the president-elect over the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where—according to a statement released by the Trump transition team—they and Vice-President elect Mike Pence discussed “the Common Core mission, and setting higher national standards and promoting the growth of school choice across the nation.”
My colleague Emily DeRuy has more on DeVos’ background and viewpoint here.
Trump Picks Governor Nikki Haley to Be U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
Updated at 8:53 a.m.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants who rose to national prominence following her actions after last year’s shooting at a black church in Charleston, is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Haley, a Republican who would be Trump’s first female pick for his Cabinet, accepted.
“Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” Trump said in a statement. “She is also a proven dealmaker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”
In the same statement, Haley said she is “honored that the President-elect has asked me to join his team and serve the country we love as the next Ambassador to the United Nations.”
Haley, 44, was not among Trump’s early backers, throwing her support instead for Florida Senator Marco Rubio during the Republican primary season. Indeed, she was a sharp critic of Trump’s, describing as “un-American” his plan to ban Muslims from the U.S. because of what he views as the security risk they pose. “I know what that rhetoric can do,” she said. “I saw it happen.” She was apparently referring to the mass shooting in June 2015 in which a white gunman, Dylann Roof, opened fired inside a historically black church, killing nine people. Roof espoused racist ideologies and had been photographed with the Confederate battle flag, which many people in the South view as a symbol of heritage, while others see as racist. Amid the mourning, Haley ordered the flag to be removed from the grounds of the state capitol so South Carolina “can move forward as a state in harmony.” The action, and her words, cast her into the national spotlight.
Haley was among officials and potential Cabinet picks who met with Trump late last week. She said they had been friends since before his presidential run. Explaining her criticism of him during the primaries, she said: “When I see something I am uncomfortable with, I say it. When we met, it was friends who had known each other before.”
Haley, who has been governor of the Palmetto State since 2011, has no foreign-policy or federal experience. She would enter the U.N. job at a crucial juncture in U.S. foreign policy. As one of five, permanent veto-wielding members of the Security Council, the U.S. has more power at the body than most other countries. It also faces more challenges than most others. A resurgent Russia, which is also on the Security Council as a permanent veto-wielding member; a continuing civil war in Syria and unrest more broadly in the Arab world; and the worst refugee crisis since World War II are some of the tests she’ll face.
Haley will also have to possibly explain to her U.N. colleagues why a Trump administration is likely to scale back U.S. involvement with the world body on issues as diverse as climate change and the nuclear deal with Iran, and why the new administration favors closer cooperation with Moscow on fighting Islamist terrorism while Russia’s neighbors fear its renewed involvement in global affairs.
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly asserted the value of torturing terrorism suspects, and dismissed legal and moral concerns as mere political correctness.
“The enemy is cutting off the heads of Christians and drowning them in cages, and yet we are too politically correct to respond in kind,” Trump wrote in USA Today in April. “We’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable almost,” he told NH1 News in June.
But after a meeting with retired Marine Corps General James Mattis, who is under consideration to be Trump’s secretary of defense, Trump appears to have changed his mind. In an interview with The New York Times Tuesday, Trump told the paper that Mattis had convinced him torture wasn’t effective.
“He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,’” Mr. Trump said, describing the general’s view of torturing terrorism suspects. He added that Mr. Mattis found more value in building trust and rewarding cooperation with terror suspects: “‘Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I’ll do better.’” He added: “I was very impressed by that answer.’’
Torture, Mr. Trump said, is “not going to make the kind of a difference that a lot of people are thinking.”
A lot of people are thinking that, of course, because Donald Trump said repeatedly on the campaign trail that torture was necessary.
At The New York Times, Trump's Tone Described as 'Measured, Quiet'
Donald Trump’s on-again, off-again meeting with reporters and editors at The New York Times went ahead Tuesday, as the president-elect complained, in what a reporter for the newspaper called “measured, quiet tones,” about its coverage of him. The Times, which live-blogged the event, pressed Trump on a range of issues, including his stated desire during the presidential campaign to “lock her up,” a reference to Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival; his various business interests that pose a potential conflict of interest for his presidency; his assertion that climate change is a hoax manufactured by the Chinese; and his having been embraced by racist groups that espouse white nationalism.
On each of those issues, Trump provided detailed answers, but it’s unclear whether the president-elect intended to convey substantive shifts in policy, given his habit of extemporizing positions. The quotes in this story are a selection of the Times’ live-blog of the event.
Earlier Tuesday, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s spokeswoman, said the president-elect did not wish to investigate either Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state, or the Clinton Foundation. Trump told the Times while he didn’t want to take anything off the table, but “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t. She [Hillary Clinton] went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.” When pressed by the paper as to whether that would disappoint his supporters—Brietbart, the conservative news outlet, dubbed it a betrayal—Trump replied no. “I think I will explain it that we in many ways will save our country,” he said, referring to a possibly protracted legal battle that would be played out on TV screens worldwide.
On his potential conflicts of interest
Trump was also emphatic that his various business interests worldwide would not pose a conflict of interest because, he said, citing the law, “the president can't have a conflict of interest.” He appears to be referring to the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which past presidents have used to determine whether there is a conflict of interest in their actions. But Trump appears to be relying on a different interpretation of that clause. “In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly,” Trump said. “There's never been a case like this.” He added: "I'd assumed that you'd have to set up some type of trust or whatever and you don't.” But “I would like to do something.”
On racist groups that support him
When asked about the National Policy Institute, the white-nationalist, or alt-right group, that sees Trump’s victory as its own, the president-elect said: “I disavow and condemn them.” But he defended Steve Bannon, his chief strategist who previously headed Breitbart and described the site as a “platform for the alt-right,” saying criticism that Bannon was a part of the movement “is very hard on him. I think he's having a hard time with it. Because it's not him.” And, he added: “If I thought he was a racist or alt-right or any of the things, the terms we could use, I wouldn't even think about hiring him.”
On the Times
Trump has not hidden his disdain for the Times. During the presidential campaign, he repeatedly called the newspaper, a publicly traded company, “failing,” and alleged that Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who is the Times’s biggest shareholder, dictated what Trump sees as the paper’s negative coverage of him. On Tuesday morning, the president-elect repeated many of those criticisms on Twitter when he accused the Times of changing the terms of the meeting at the last minute. (It had not.) By this afternoon, he was much more conciliatory. “I have great respect for The New York Times,” he said. “I have tremendous respect. I think I've been treated very rough.”
“I do read it. Unfortunately,” he said. “I’d live about 20 years longer if I didn’t.”
The announcement comes days after Carson suggested that he did not have the experience to serve in the administration. The former Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon, however, has indicated that he doesn’t have a particular interest in being in Trump’s Cabinet. “The way I’m leaning is to work from the outside and not from the inside,” Carson toldThe Washington Post earlier this month. “I want to have the freedom to work on many issues and not be pigeonholed into one particular area.”
Armstrong Williams, a close friend of Carson’s, toldThe Hill "Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience, he's never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency." Still, Carson also told the Post that “if it came to a point where he absolutely needs me, I’d reconsider.”
Former Trump Campaign Manager Says He Will Not 'Lock Her Up'
Donald Trump will not pursue investigations intoHillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state, nor will he pursue one into the Clinton Foundation, according to Trump’s former campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.
“Look, I think he's thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the president of the United States, and things that sound like the campaign are not among them,” she said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
During the election, Trump threatened to initiate another investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server if elected, even after the FBI concluded there had been no legal wrongdoing. “Lock her up” chants echoed at Trump rallies and at the Republican National Convention when he became the nominee. Just last month, during the second presidential debate, Trump said, “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there has never been so many lies, so much deception.” The remark prompted a legal debate over the scope of presidential authority, as the Department of Justice is supposed to be independent, and not simply follow the president’s orders as to who to prosecute.
As my colleague Yoni Appelbaum noted, the threat crossed “a dangerous line”:
This is not how the presidency works. When Richard Nixon tried to interfere in an ongoing investigation, Attorney General Elliott Richardson resigned. And even if Trump could find a more malleable attorney general, and discard precedent, he’d still lack the power to jail Clinton unilaterally. Presidents are not in charge of the law, but of its faithful execution.
Conway’s statement wasn’t the first time the Trump team indicated he may abandon his pledge. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal earlier this month, Trump signaled that pursuing charges against Clinton was not a priority.
UPDATE: Trump's Meeting With The New York Times Is Now Back On
Updated at 9:22 a.m. ET
President-elect Donald Trump described as “not nice” what he said was a last-minute change by The New York Times of the terms and conditions of their scheduled meeting Tuesday. The meeting, he said, was cancelled. But a little more than two hours later, the meeting was reportedly back on.
Hope Hicks, a Trump spokeswoman texted the pool reporter that “The meeting is taking place as planned.”
When Trump announced the cancellation this morning, he left open the possibility of a future meeting.
Perhaps a new meeting will be set up with the @nytimes. In the meantime they continue to cover me inaccurately and with a nasty tone!
The Times initially said it only learned of the cancellation after seeing Trump’s tweets. There were reportedly two sections to the planned meeting with the Times: the first would be off the record, and in the second, reporters and columnists would ask the president-elect questions on the record.
Trump’s meeting with the newspaper’s editors and reporters was scheduled a day after he met with TV news executives and on-air figures in an off-the-record meeting. The meeting was described later as an attempt to clear the air after a rancorous election campaign that saw Trump repeatedly accuse the media of portraying him unfairly. The media rejected the charge.
Trump has never had a good relationship with the Times, but relations became bitter during the election campaign. Trump repeatedly called the Times, a publicly traded company, “failing,” and accused its biggest shareholder, Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire, of dictating what Trump views as the newspaper’s unfair portrayal of him. The Times has rejected that idea.
The Times, in its own report on the meeting’s cancellation, said its editors and reporters were “set to go” for the scheduled meeting until they learned on Twitter that it had been canceled.
Eileen M. Murphy, the Times’s senior vice president for communications, said: “We did not change the ground rules at all and made no attempt to. They tried to yesterday—asking for only a private meeting and no on-the-record segment, which we refused to agree to. In the end, we concluded with them that we would go back to the original plan of a small off-the-record session and a larger on-the-record session with reporters and columnists.”
After the meeting was said to be back on, Sydney Ember, the Times’s media reporter, tweeted:
In a statement, the NYT said: "Mr. Trump’s staff has told us that the president-elect’s meeting with The Times is on again."
President-elect Donald Trump has been uncharacteristically quiet over the last week of his transition, having made no public appearances other than via brief photos ops with the people he’s been interviewing for top administration jobs. But on Monday evening, he released a short video laying out a few of the first executive actions he plans to take upon assuming the presidency in January.
At the top of his list is fulfilling a campaign promise to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the broad trade agreement negotiated by the Obama administration that Trump criticized relentlessly. The withdrawal would be something of a formality, since Congress has declined to ratify the agreement.
Trump said he would also immediately move to cancel “job-killing” energy regulations on the production of shale and coal, and he would issue a rule stating that for every new regulation promulgated by his administration, two old regulations would need to go. That move comes as Republicans in Congress plan to take their own steps to repeal new regulations issued by the Obama administration in the last several months.
Additional Trump executive actions include directing the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a plan to protect vital infrastructure from cyber attacks and to demand that the Labor Department launch an investigation of abuses of immigrant visas. Finally, Trump said that as part of his plan to “drain the swamp,” he would move quickly to impose a five-year ban on executive officials becoming lobbyists after they leave the government and a lifetime ban on former executive officials lobbying on behalf of foreign governments.
“My agenda will be based on a simple core principle: putting America first,” Trump said in the video, which was scripted and lasted just over two-and-a-half minutes. “Whether it’s producing steel, building cars, or curing disease, I want the next generation of production and innovation to happen right here, in our great homeland: America—creating wealth and jobs for American workers.”
Trump made no mention of immediate action on his more controversial immigration policies, including construction of a wall along the southern border, restricting immigration from Muslim countries, or overturning Obama’s policies shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Nor did he announce plans to take administrative action to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, another top GOP priority. “I will provide more updates in the coming days,” Trump said.
Trump to Pay $25 Million in Trump University Settlement
President-elect Donald Trump will pay $25 million as part of a settlement stemming from New York state’s fraud investigation of Trump University, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Friday.
The settlement resolves one of three major lawsuits involving Trump’s defunct real-estate education program. In a statement that seems tantamount to a victory lap, Schneiderman described the settlement as a “stunning reversal” after years of scorched-earth legal battles against the next president.
In 2013, my office sued Donald Trump for swindling thousands of innocent Americans out of millions of dollars through a scheme known [as] Trump University. Donald Trump fought us every step of the way, filing baseless charges and fruitless appeals and refusing to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phony university. Today, all that changes. Today’s $25 million settlement agreement is a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university.
I am pleased that under the terms of this settlement, every victim will receive restitution and that Donald Trump will pay up to $1 million in penalties to the State of New York for violating state education laws. The victims of Trump University have waited years for today’s result and I am pleased that their patience—and persistence—will be rewarded by this $25 million settlement.
In court filings, former Trump University employees alleged the for-profit seminars were a predatory scheme that leveraged Trump’s reputation for business acumen to bilk financially insecure customers out of money—up to tens of thousands of dollars—with little hope for returns. Trump strongly denied any wrongdoing and frequently cited thousands of positive reviews as evidence of the program’s success. He has not yet commented publicly on the settlement.
Trump also vowed for years he would not settle any of the lawsuits. “I could have settled this case numerous times,” he told supporters at a campaign rally on May 27. “But I don’t want to settle cases when we are right.” For years on Twitter, Trump played up every procedural success as a stunning victory, claimed without evidence that Schneiderman had launched the investigation for political reasons, and forecast a triumph that never came.
Trump University has a 98% approval rating. I could have settled but won't out of principle!
Friday’s settlement does not end the legal battles surrounding Trump University: Two separate class-action lawsuits by former customers are also under way in federal court in California, with one scheduled to begin a jury trial next week. Those cases rose to national prominence this summer after Trump accused Judge Gonzalo Curiel of handing down biased rulings against him because Curiel is “a Mexican.” (Curiel is from Indiana.) Recent reports suggest a similar settlement could be imminent in those cases as well.
Trump Offers CIA Director Position to Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo, a Lead Benghazi Critic
Trump has offered the position of CIA director to Kansas Republican Representative Mike Pompeo, several news organizations have reported. Pompeo was elected to Congress in 2010 on a wave of tea party support, and had never previously served in elected office. Pompeo initially supported Florida Senator Marco Rubio for president, but later backed Trump once it became clear he’d become the frontrunner.
Pompeo graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Harvard Law School. He is a conservative who has pushed for limited government, is a leading critic on the nuclear deal with Iran, and is a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He was also a leading figure on the House Select Benghazi Committee, a panel created in 2014 to investigate the attacks on the American consulate in Libya. After the committee released its official report, Pompeo and Ohio Representative Jim Jordan released their own separate report that strongly criticized then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in the attack, veering nearly into conspiracy. The independent report claimed Clinton knew terrorists were committing the attack “almost in real time,” but purposefully misled the American people to protect President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection bid.
Pompeo has also made controversial statements about Muslims following the 2013 Boston marathon bombing. In a speech on the House floor, he said all American Muslim leaders were “potentially complicit” in the attacks, and those that may follow, because they had not done enough to condemned radicalization.
The presidential transition so far has been unusual, in part because Vice President-elect Mike Pence's late takeover of the team delayed its rollout. Here are some details about what comes next as the transition team looks to make up ground:
The "landing teams": As Russell previously mentioned, these units meet with officials at federal agencies to begin the transition process at the department level. Only, team members haven't been formally announced yet, let alone deployed to begin their discussions. CNN reports that President Obama sent his landing teams out "within days" of his election in 2008.
According to Trump transition officials on a call with reporters Thursday, there are three categories of teams: national security, economic, and domestic. The national security group—which will meet with the National Security Council and the State, Defense, and Justice departments—is scheduled to "launch" today, though the names of its members won't be made public until Friday morning. It's also not clear when exactly they'll meet with the agencies themselves. The makeup of the economic and domestic teams is expected to be made public early next week.
President-elect Trump's schedule: He has meetings today with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, South Carolina governor and potential secretary of state Nikki Haley, and Florida Governor Rick Scott, among others.
Trump also has upcoming meetings with his transition team, starting Friday. But Jason Miller, one of the officials on the call, declined to confirm whether these discussions signal that cabinet announcements are imminent. Right now, the Trump team doesn't appear to be behind schedule on naming his choices. "There's not an arbitrary timetable" for revealing Trump's picks, Miller said. "It's about getting it right."
Trump's discussions with foreign leaders: Trump will meet tonight with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who'll become the 32nd world leader the president-elect has spoken with since he won the election and the first Trump is meeting with personally. The odd part: The Trump team hasn't described how his calls with leaders are being conducted, and on Thursday, officials said only that "appropriate precautions" were being taken in terms of keeping them secure. Also, the Trump transition team doesn't appear to have contacted the State Department yet, so Trump isn't receiving briefings from the agency to prepare him for interactions with world leaders. So who is briefing him? An official on the press call said he has a team of "policy" and "protocol" people doing so.
Bernie Sanders: ‘The DNC Was Not a Neutral Force in the Campaign’
Bernie Sanders vowed to hold Donald Trump accountable in a speech Wednesday evening, but that doesn't mean he’ll stop fighting to shape the agenda of the Democratic Party.
“The question that will be resolved pretty quickly,” the Vermont senator said at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., targeting the president-elect, “is whether or not everything that he was saying to the working families of this country was hypocrisy, was dishonest or whether he was sincere. We will find that out soon enough.”
Even as Sanders looks to the future—and what President Trump’s legislative agenda may look like—he has evidently not forgotten the recent past.
“To say the very least, the DNC was not a neutral force in the campaign,” Sanders lamented, referring to emails released by WikiLeaks in the run-up to the election. Debbie Wasserman Schultz stepped down from her post as DNC chair after emails showed her disparaging the Sanders campaign.
As Democrats pick up the pieces of an unsuccessful campaign, unity will not come quickly or easily. “The debate that we’re going to have within the Democratic Party right now … is: which side are you on?,” Sanders said. “Can you go out and raise substantial sums of money from the wealthy and Wall Street and other powerful special interests and then convince the American people that you are on the side of workers and the middle class? Or do you finally have to say that we are going to take on the oligarchs?”
Trump Will Have Information About 'Dreamers' At Hand
How the Trump administration will fulfill the president-elect’s promises to to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States remains uncertain, but his victory has already stoked fears within immigrant communities. Trump recently said in a 60 Minutes interview that his first priority is deporting up to 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records. But it appears he’ll also have information at hand that could put those granted temporary protection from deportation at risk as well.
A former high-ranking federal immigration official told BuzzFeed News that despite promises by the Obama administration to not use the information — including fingerprints, addresses, and employment records — for deportation purposes, there is nothing stopping Trump from doing so.
“As a matter of law, there are no restrictions on the Trump administration from using that information however they please,” said John Sandweg, former acting director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and previous acting general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The transition team has provided little information about how the incoming administration will approach the issue of immigration. Reports that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been added to the team, though, may signal that Trump intends to maintain a hard-line position.
Chinese Minister Reportedly Pushes Back Against Trump’s Climate Change Claims
In 2012, Trump tweeted that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
A Chinese foreign minister is reportedly pushing back on Trump’s claim, which runs counter to the scientific consensus that global warming is real and primarily driven by human activity.
“If you look at the history of climate change negotiations, actually it was initiated by the IPCC [the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] with the support of the Republicans during the Reagan and senior Bush administration during the late 1980s,” China’s vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters in Morocco on Wednesday, according to a Bloomberg report.
President Obama has made efforts to fight climate change a central pillar of his second-term in office, an agenda that the president has pushed both at home and abroad.
But a Trump presidency threatens to roll back the progress Obama has made in working to rein in greenhouse gas pollution. Trump has vowed to “pull the United States out of the U.N. global climate accord, approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada and rescind measures by President Barack Obama to cut U.S. emissions and protect waterways from industrial pollution,” Reuters reported in May.
From Iowa, a Message to Liberal College Students: ‘Suck It Up, Buttercup’
In the week since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, students at colleges and universities across the country have offered vigils and protests while the institutions themselves have organized “self-care” events responding to the results.
But one Iowa Republican had a very different message for students: “Suck it up, buttercup.”
“I’ve seen four or five schools in other states that are establishing ‘cry zones’ where they’re staffed by state grief counselors and kids can come cry out their sensitivity to the election results,” State Representative Bobby Kaufmann told the Des Moines Register. “I find this whole hysteria to be incredibly annoying. People have the right to be hysterical … on their own time.”
Kaufmann’s agenda goes beyond verbal criticism. He plans to introduce legislation that would punish state universities for using taxpayer dollars to provide election-related programming and counseling, the Register reported. The bill, which Kaufmann said he’ll introduce when the state legislature resumes in January, will subject those universities to budget cuts worth double the amount they spent on those activities.
At UNI, students and faculty participated in “sharing sessions” to discuss the election, and students held anti-Trump rallies at both Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. However, spokespeople for all three public schools say they haven’t used any additional state resources for those activities.
Pushback against university responses isn’t just happening in Iowa. Conservative students at the University of Michigan have signed an online petition criticizing University President Mark Schlissel’s remarks at a post-election vigil, where he said the 90 percent of students who voted for Clinton voted to reject “hate and fractiousness.” Conservative students claim his actions have marginalized Trump supporters on campus.
While Kaufmann’s bill won’t necessarily find success, it comes as a response to what some conservatives would see as a symptom of the “coddling” of America’s university students. And as anti-Trump protests and campus-reflection activities continue throughout the country in the wake of the election, Americans can expect more criticism from Republicans who want universities and their liberal students to just get over it.
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Join the Democratic Leadership
Welcome to the political establishment, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The two popular liberals will be part of the Senate Democratic leadership in the 115th Congress that begins in January. Warren will be a vice chairwoman of the conference while Sanders will serve as chairman of outreach. The moves were announced after Democrats unanimously elected Senator Charles Schumer of New York to be their next leader, replacing retiring Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. Schumer’s election had been expected for months, and he will be followed in the pecking order by Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Patty Murray of Washington, who have each served in the leadership with Schumer for years. Warren had also also been given a lower-ranking leadership post in the last Congress, although Sanders had not.
Republicans unanimously reelected Senator Mitch McConnell as their leader, and he will continue as majority leader in the new Congress.
In an effort to maintain Democratic unity, Schumer cast a wide net in forming an ever-growing leadership team. In addition to Sanders and Warren, more centrist Senators Mark Warner of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia will also have senior roles. Sanders will serve as the top Democrat on the Budget Committee as well. And in a key change that could impact the confirmation of Trump’s nominees for the Supreme Court, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California will replace Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee. Leahy is leaving to take the top slot on the even more influential Appropriations Committee.
Schumer has already denounced President-elect Donald Trump for picking Steve Bannon, an executive of the far-right Breitbart.com, for a top White House job. But he said Democrats would not mimic the Republican strategy of opposing the new president at every turn. He is expected to deal with Trump on issues like infrastructure and corporate tax reform, for example.
As for his analysis of why Democrats lost in 2016, Schumer had a quick reply: “We needed a much stronger, sharper, bolder economic message,” he told reporters.
Few Americans Believe Trump 'Has a Mandate' to Fulfill His Campaign Promises, Poll Finds
During the election, Donald Trump introduced a number of controversial proposals, ranging from a “deportation task force” to a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. His hardline stances appealed to his base of ardent supporters, but only three in 10 Americans say he “has a mandate to carry out the agenda he presented during the campaign,” according to a Washington Post / Schar School national poll released Wednesday, a week after his election. Notably, the percentage of Americans who hold this view falls short of the 50 percent who shared a similar belief after Obama’s first election in 2008 and the 41 percent who said the same for former President George W. Bush following the 2000 election.
Trump will take over a Republican-led government in the coming weeks, but more than half of Americans believe “he should compromise with Democrats when they strongly disagree with the specifics of his policy proposals,” the poll found.
Days after the election, the United States continues to confront the ramifications of a contentious year. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, among other cities, to protest Trump’s victory. The dueling sentiments among Clinton and Trump supporters was also revealed in the Post poll: Seventy-three percent of Clinton voters said they were devastated, while 58 percent of Trump supporters said they were happy.
President-elect Donald Trump did more than simply replace the leader of his transition team when he switched out Chris Christie for Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Friday. Trump’s move actually interrupted the transition itself, delaying by several days the moment when his aides could begin receiving briefings from members of the outgoing Obama administration.
By law, the person designated as the chairman of the presidential transition committee must sign a memorandum of understanding before the newly-elected president can send “landing teams” to the various federal agencies to begin receiving on-the-job training. That applies even when the chairman is the vice president-elect. Christie had signed that document. But as of midday Tuesday, Pence had not.
“Following the change in leadership of President-elect Trump’s transition team, we are now in the process of working with the new transition team chair, Vice President-elect Mike Pence, to sign the memorandum of understanding, which governs the process by which transition officials work with current Administration staff,” White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said in a statement. “We look forward to completing that work so that we can provide the necessary access to personnel and resources to get the president-elect’s team up to speed and deliver on President Obama’s directive for a smooth transition.”
The delay is the latest sign that Trump’s transition is behind the pace envisioned by laws passed by Congress in recent years that were aimed at formalizing and improving what had been a largely ad hoc process for transferring the reins of government from one administration to the next. Trump did have a rather large team working under Christie, the New Jersey governor, and his top aides in government-provided space in Washington before the election. That team worked almost entirely independently of the Trump campaign. But in the days after the election, Trump’s loyalists in New York have taken over more of the transition, including pushing aside Christie, who had been tarnished by guilty verdicts against two of his former aides in the Bridgegate scandal.
There was no immediate word from Trump officials on Tuesday as to when Pence would sign the memorandum allowing the transition briefings to proceed.
“Welcome to the dawn of a new unified Republican government.”
That was House Speaker Paul Ryan’s introduction to reporters after Congress returned on Tuesday morning following an election that delivered Republicans complete control of the White House and Capitol Hill. The once-embattled speaker was ebullient at the prospect of legislative victories and undoubtedly relieved that his position, for the moment, is no longer in jeopardy.
The first order of business for Republicans was projecting a unified front with the incoming Trump administration. Just weeks after many House GOP candidates sought to distance themselves from a candidate they believed was doomed to defeat, the 247 members of the Republican conference arrived to find “Make America Great Again” hats sitting on their chairs for their first party meeting after the election. Many of them left the room wearing them proudly on their head. “What a difference one week makes,” joked Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
While Ryan emphasized that congressional leaders were working “hand in glove” with the Trump transition team, he offered few details on which agenda items would come first in January. He deflected questions about how Congress would fund the government for the next several months or whether House Republicans would go along with Trump’s push for a major, expensive infrastructure package. The speaker also dodged questions about Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon, a man who ran Breitbart.com, which pushed for Ryan’s ouster as speaker. “The president is going to be judged on his results,” Ryan said before vouching for Trump as “a multibillionaire successful businessman” who had a history of surrounding himself with qualified people. “I’m not looking backwards, I’m looking forwards,” Ryan said.
Republicans are expected to reelect Ryan and his lieutenants to their leadership posts later Tuesday. Democrats, meanwhile, are still reeling from the disappointment of last week’s defeat, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi agreed to demands from rank-and-file members to delay their leadership elections until after Thanksgiving.
Obama Recognizes American Anxieties in Last Foreign Trip as President
President Obama is seeking to reassure world leaders about the election of Donald Trump in his last foreign trip as commander in chief, while seemingly trying to make sense of those results himself.
In his first stop in Greece, Obama acknowledged that Donald Trump tapped into anxieties among the American people. “People are less certain of their national identities, or their place in the world. It starts looking different and disorienting, and there is no doubt that that has produced populist movements both from the left and the right in many countries in Europe.” He added: “Did I recognize there was anger or frustration in the American population? Of course I did.”
Obama went on to reflect on his own track record in regard to the U.S. economy, and his approval rating, which currently stands at 57 percent. “I think raising wages, investing in infrastructure, making sure that people have access to good education that equip them for jobs in the future. Those are all agenda items that would help alleviate some of those economic pressures and dislocations that people are experiencing. The problem was, I couldn’t convince the Republican Congress to pass a lot of them,” Obama said. “Having said that, people seem to think I did a pretty good job, so there is this mismatch between this frustration and anger, perhaps the views of the American people was that we just need to shake things up.”
That was the tone for much of the press conference—a desire to “shake things up” in the United States and an attempt to understand the reasons behind it. As he did on Monday, Obama withheld criticisms of Trump, though he conceded during the press conference that he was “surprised” by the election result. “Time will now tell whether the prescription being offered—whether Brexit or with respect to the U.S. election—ends up actually satisfying those people who have been fearful or angry or concerned,” Obama said.
Tsipras, for his part, said he knows “very little of Donald Trump.” He added: “What we should be doing is build bridges, not walls, on the basis of common values. We have more to gain from partnership, from promoting our partnership.”
President Obama made a prediction Monday afternoon: that for all of Donald Trump’s unorthodox campaigning during the election, the next commander in chief will find himself changed by the presidency.
“He's going to be the next president, and regardless of what experience or assumptions he brought to the office, this office has a way of waking you up,” Obama told reporters Monday afternoon, after he was asked—and declined to answer outright—whether he still believes the president-elect is unqualified for his new position. “And those aspects of his positions or predispositions that don't match up with reality, he will find shaken up pretty quick because reality has a way of asserting itself.”
Obama’s press conference was the first opportunity reporters had to ask about his first-ever meeting with Trump late last week. In brief remarks after their conversation Thursday, Trump and Obama mostly kept mum about the details of what they’d discussed. But on Monday, Obama offered a peek into their meeting.
He said the “most important point” he made to Trump was the importance of a president’s senior staff and establishing a system for decision-making. Obama said he emphasized how Trump’s tone will matter as he takes office, and how he should reach out to women, minorities, and other groups “concerned about the tenor of the campaign.”
Obama’s press conference came just before he departs for his last foreign excursion as commander in chief. He told reporters that he’ll bring with him a message of “resolve” from Trump for the U.S. “commitment to maintaining a strong and robust NATO relationship.” That message is a new one: The president-elect suggested during his campaign that he’d retool the NATO partnership.
Obama told reporters he still has worries about Trump and what his plans are for the country. “But you know,” the president said, “the federal government and our democracy is not a speedboat—it’s an ocean liner, as I discovered when I came into office. It took a lot of really hard work for us to make significant policy changes.”
Obama identified one area where he hopes no changes will be made: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which protects from deportation individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Trump pledged during the campaign to end the program, worrying its members, as the Los Angeles Timesrecently reported. “I will urge the president-elect and the incoming administration to think long and hard before they are endangering the status of what, for all practical purposes, are American kids,” Obama said. The president also warned against any alterations to the Affordable Care Act that would cause people to lose insurance, even as he claimed he’d welcome a plan that improved access.
“I think on a lot of issues, what you're going to see is now comes the hard part,” Obama said. “Now is [the] governance.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter Pledges a Warm and Orderly Pentagon Transition
Updated 1:09 p.m. ET
Donald Trump has called the U.S. military a “disaster,” suggested he’d rethink the 67-year-old NATO alliance, and said he knows “more about ISIS than the generals do.”
Despite those criticisms—that cut at the very foundations of U.S. security—Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has pledged a warm welcome to Trump’s team at the Pentagon and an “orderly transition” between the current administration and the next.
“That is something all my predecessors my entire life and for generations before that have done,” Carter told Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg in an AtlanticLIVE interview Monday. Carter noted that top Pentagon officials haven’t had much to say about the presidential election, something he suggested is a point of pride as the transition gets under way: “All of our senior leadership have adhered to our tradition to stand apart from the political process, and so you haven’t heard us talking.”
Trump has not decided whom he’ll choose to replace Carter as defense secretary, though his short list seems to be taking shape. It includes just-defeated New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte; former Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, one of Trump’s more high-profile defenders on the campaign; and immigration hardliner Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator.
Trump’s choice of Ayotte—who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee—would represent an “olive branch to the GOP foreign policy establishment,” The Washington Postnoted last week.
That establishment has been spooked by Trump’s comments on the military and foreign relations, including his suggestion that the Mosul offensive in Iraq against the Islamic State should’ve been conducted in secret. On Monday, Carter pushed back on that idea: “There are secret tactics involved there, but the fact that we’re going to Mosul and Raqqa [in Syria]—it’s clear because they’re the two biggest cities,” Carter said. “It's actually important that the enemy know and that ISIL everywhere else know[s] that we intend [to] and will destroy them”—to curb the “inspiration factor around the world” and let would-be fighters “know that this isn’t a happening thing” and will be “stamped out.”
Trump similarly shocked foreign-policy observers with his controversial criticism of NATO, which Carter declined to comment on on Monday. He did offer, however, at Goldberg’s suggestion, a message to NATO allies—and one that suggests he fundamentally, and obviously, disagrees with the future president about the alliance’s value. “Engage with the new administration,” he said. “Work with them. Stay committed to the values and the principles that we have stood for. Remember that we have a lot of people who’re trying to attack all of us collectively, and we’re much better at protecting ourselves if we can find a way to work together.”
Perhaps he’ll tailor a version of that comment to Trump’s team when they arrive for the transition.
Trump Picks Priebus for Chief of Staff, Bannon for Chief Strategist
President-elect Donald Trump has announced the first key positions in his administration: Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, will be chief of staff, and Steve Bannon, who runs the website Breitbart News, will be senior strategist and senior counsel.
Trump’s transition team said in a statement Sunday that the two men will work “as equal partners to transform the federal government.”
Priebus is a close friend of House Speaker Paul Ryan, and his appointment as seen as an attempt to bridge the wide gap between Ryan and the president-elect. Trump relied heavily on Priebus during this campaign “When Donald Trump mucks things up, the first person to let him know is usually Republican Party boss Reince Priebus,” TIME magazine explained last week. “Almost every day, Trump picks up his cell phone to find Priebus on the line, urging him to quash some feud or clarify an incendiary remark.”
But, The New York Timespoints out, “while Mr. Trump apparently feels comfortable with Mr. Priebus, the people with knowledge of the decision said that Mr. Bannon “was better able to talk forcefully to the president-elect during difficult moments.”
Bannon’s website has become the voice for the nationalist, alt-right movement this year. Here’s the Times on what Breitbart has printed:
Breitbart News has accused President Obama of “importing more hating Muslims”; compared Planned Parenthood’s work to the Holocaust; called Bill Kristol, the conservative commentator, a “renegade Jew”; and advised female victims of online harassment to “just log off” and stop “screwing up the internet for men,” illustrating that point with a picture of a crying child.
Speculation over Trump’s cabinet has been swirling for days. The transition team has not publicly commented on potential picks, but those who stuck by Trump’s side on the trail, like Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Rudy Giuliani, are expected to be awarded with administration posts.
Trump Says He Will Deport Up to 3 Million Undocumented Immigrants
In his first television interview since he was elected president, Donald Trump said he plans to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants.
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers—we have a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million. We are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” Trump said in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, which will air later Sunday. “But we’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally.”
Trump said he would make a “determination” about the remaining “terrific people” living in the United States illegally. On the campaign trail, Trump frequently vowed to round up and deport the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
Asked whether he would really build a wall along the country's border with Mexico, Trump said, "Yes."
"There could be some fencing. But [in] certain areas, a wall is more appropriate," he said. "I'm very good at this, it's called construction."
But House Speaker Paul Ryan, with whom Trump has a contentious relationship, disagrees with the president-elect's priorities. Mass deportations is “not what our focus is,” Ryan said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union. “I think we should put people’s minds at ease” about deportations, he said, and focus on border security.
“We are not planning on erecting a deportation force,” Ryan said.
The politics of personal destruction has its limits. The Access Hollywood tape became public in early October in The Washington Post. Up until that point, there had been one presidential and one vice-presidential debate, and Trump's character was an issue in both. But the tape and its lewdness dominated the second and third showdowns between Trump and Clinton.
Hillary Clinton let Trump face the barrage of questions and for the most part, through the debates, allowed him to falter on his own. She pushed and prodded, but only at times. Outside of the debates, her campaign though ran ad after ad using Trump's own words against him to paint him as a caricature of what a president should be. Her ad featuring children watching Trump delivering a series of some of his more egregious statements—condoning violence or mocking a person with a disability—aimed to show that she was a better role model for children. Both Clinton and President Obama stressed Trump’s unfitness for office.
But what may have been lost on many in Washington and in Clinton’s world is that many voters were prepared to look past Trump as buffoon, or villain. Instead, they saw Trump as an economic savior, a change agent who could make government more responsive to their needs.
A few key exit polls results show the disconnect between the strategic choice to paint Trump, with his own words, as unfit to be president, and the actual priorities of voters.
When asked if Trump had the temperament to be president, 63 percent of voters said no. That sounds like it would be good for Clinton. However, of those, 20 percent voted for Trump. So one-fifth of people who agreed with the Democrats that Trump did not have the temperament to be president, voted for Trump to be president.
When asked if Trump's treatment of women bothered voters, 70 percent said yes. But of those, 29 percent still voted for Trump.
Similarly, 63 percent of voters said Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server bothered them, and of those, 24 percent still voted for Clinton.
So in a close election, Trump won more voters who were bothered by his treatment of women then Clinton won who were bothered by her email.
The timing of voters’ decisions only underscores the point. Among the 60 percent who decided before September, most chose Clinton over Trump, 52 to 45.
But those who decided in September, October, and November, the other 39 percent of voters, went for Trump. In October, the month in which the Access Hollywood tape came out and the stories of women accusing Trump of groping them broke, voters who made up their minds chose Trump over Clinton, 51-37.
So looking back, the strategy of painting Trump as unfit for the presidency didn't work. In the end, the most important character issue to voters was who could bring about change. A plurality of voters, 39 percent, said that mattered most and of those, 83 percent voted for Trump.
Donald Trump saw something in the electorate that the Clinton campaign didn’t. And voters saw something in Trump that mattered to them more than his temperament or treatment of women.
Mike Pence Takes the Helm of Trump's Transition Team
Vice President-elect Mike Pence will take the reigns of Donald Trump’s transition team, the future president announced Friday.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie led the effort prior to Trump’s victory. The New York Times has more on why Pence is taking over now:
The president-elect told advisers he wanted to tap Mr. Pence’s Washington experience and contacts to help move the process along, according to people familiar with the discussions. An executive committee, which will include members of Congress, will advise Mr. Pence as the process moves forward.
Christie, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and retired Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn will serve as vice chairs, the Times report adds. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose connection to Trump has been controversial, will also be on the team, along with Trump’s campaign chief Steve Bannon, venture capitalist Peter Thiel, and others. In a statement Friday, Trump said: “Together this outstanding group of advisors, led by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, will build on the initial work done under the leadership of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to help prepare a transformative government ready to lead from day one.”
Pence, a former congressman, will bring to the job his close connection to conservatives on the Hill. But there could be another reason why Christie’s role was changed: his two former aides who were recently found guilty in connection with the 2013 Bridgegate scandal.
Pence will have a lot on his hands: As my colleague Russell Berman noted, “preparing to take over the federal government is a Herculean task comprising some 4,000 political appointments and countless other decisions about legislative priorities, regulatory changes, and executive actions.” More information on the future Trump administration is likely to come soon, Trump suggested on Twitter Friday.
President-elect Donald Trump had been making a concerted effort to appear “presidential” in the first days after his shocking win on Tuesday night. He praised his defeated rival, Hillary Clinton, and pledged to help “bind the wounds of division” in a magnanimous victory speech. Then he went to the White House yesterday and said kind things about President Obama, a man whose legitimacy he questioned for years.
But the old, score-settling Trump briefly reemerged on Twitter Thursday night, as the president-elect could not contain his contempt for the protests that have swept across major liberal cities in the wake of his victory—nor for his old enemy, the press.
Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!
The great “convergence” of the mid-20th century may have been an anomaly.
It may be time to stop talking about “red” and “blue” America. That’s the provocative conclusion of Michael Podhorzer, a longtime political strategist for labor unions and the chair of the Analyst Institute, a collaborative of progressive groups that studies elections. In a private newsletter that he writes for a small group of activists, Podhorzer recently laid out a detailed case for thinking of the two blocs as fundamentally different nations uneasily sharing the same geographic space.
“When we think about the United States, we make the essential error of imagining it as a single nation, a marbled mix of Red and Blue people,” Podhorzer writes. “But in truth, we have never been one nation. We are more like a federated republic of two nations: Blue Nation and Red Nation. This is not a metaphor; it is a geographic and historical reality.”
Stores are stocked with copycat designs. It’s a nightmare.
As best as I can tell, the puff-sleeve onslaught began in 2018. The clothing designer Batsheva Hay’s eponymous brand was barely two years old, but her high-necked, ruffle-trimmed, elbow-covering dresses in dense florals and upholstery prints—bizarro-world reimaginings of the conservative frocks favored by Hasidic Jewish women and the Amish—had developed a cult following among weird New York fashion-and-art girls. Almost all of her early designs featured some kind of huge, puffy sleeve; according to a lengthy profile in TheNew Yorker published that September, the custom-made dress that inspired Hay’s line had enough space in the shoulders to store a few tennis balls.
Batsheva dresses aren’t for everyone. They can cost more than $400, first of all, and more important, they’re weird: When paired with Jordans and decontextualized on a 20-something Instagram babe, the clothes of religious fundamentalism become purposefully unsettling. But as described in that cerulean-sweater scene from The Devil Wears Prada, what happens at the tip-top of the fashion hierarchy rains down on the rest of us. So it went with the puff sleeve. Batsheva and a handful of other influential indie designers adopted the puff around the same time, and the J.Crews and ASOSes and Old Navys of the world took notice. Puff sleeves filtered down the price tiers, in one form or another, just like a zillion trends have before—streamlined for industrial-grade reproduction and attached to a litany of dresses and shirts that don’t require a model’s body or an heiress’s bank account. And then, unlike most trends, it stuck around.
Everything seems to be falling apart. The Russians are occupying a neighboring state. A foreign crisis is causing spikes in the price of oil. Inflation is the worst it’s been in some 40 years. A Democratic president is facing the lowest approval ratings of his term and has openly admitted that he knows the public is in a foul mood. A virus is on the loose and making a lot of people sick.
Even the music charts are a mess, a horrid stew of disco and wimp-rock hits.
I’m sorry, did you think I was talking about 2022? I was actually reminiscing about 1979, the year I turned 19, when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan, the Iranian revolution led to another round of oil shocks, inflation reached its worst levels since World War II, President Jimmy Carter was at 30 percent approval, and, yes, an influenza epidemic broke out.
The Supreme Court majority’s undead constitutionalism is transforming right-wing media tropes into law.
The Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, allowing state governments to force women to give birth, is the result of decades of right-wing political advocacy, organizing, and electoral victory. It is also just the beginning of the Court’s mission to reshape all of American society according to conservative demands, without fear of public opposition.
Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson contains a classic Alito disclaimer—an explicit denial of the logical implications of his stated position. In this case, Alito declares that “nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion,” even as he argues that when it comes to rights “not mentioned in the Constitution,” only those “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” are protected. If you’re asking yourself who decides which rights can be so described, you’re on the right track.
Now is the time for gratitude and profound humility about what comes after Roe.
The entire legal and cultural ethos of the pro-life movement can be summed up in two sentences: A just society protects all life. A moral society values all life.
Justice is thus necessary but not sufficient for a culture of life. The pro-life movement should greet the reversal of Roe v. Wade with a spirit of gratitude. The people of this country have, for the first time in almost 50 years, an opportunity to enact laws that truly protect the lives of unborn children. But the movement should also show a profound humility and absence of malice toward their political opponents.
After all, the simple truth is that if the pro-life movement wants to end abortion, it has to do much more work than merely banning abortion. Indeed, if it reacts with too heavy a hand in the aftermath of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the movement can ultimately defeat its very purpose.
I thought I was writing fiction in The Handmaid’s Tale.
In the early years of the 1980s, I was fooling around with a novel that explored a future in which the United States had become disunited. Part of it had turned into a theocratic dictatorship based on 17th-century New England Puritan religious tenets and jurisprudence. I set this novel in and around Harvard University—an institution that in the 1980s was renowned for its liberalism, but that had begun three centuries earlier chiefly as a training college for Puritan clergy.
In the fictional theocracy of Gilead, women had very few rights, as in 17th-century New England. The Bible was cherry-picked, with the cherries being interpreted literally. Based on the reproductive arrangements in Genesis—specifically, those of the family of Jacob—the wives of high-ranking patriarchs could have female slaves, or “handmaids,” and those wives could tell their husbands to have children by the handmaids and then claim the children as theirs.
Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, never had the abortion she was seeking. She gave her baby girl up for adoption, and now that baby is an adult. After decades of keeping her identity a secret, Jane Roe’s child has chosen to talk about her life.
Nearly half a century ago, Roe v. Wade secured a woman’s legal right to obtain an abortion. The ruling has been contested with ever-increasing intensity, dividing and reshaping American politics. And yet for all its prominence, the person most profoundly connected to it has remained unknown: the child whose conception occasioned the lawsuit.
Roe’s pseudonymous plaintiff, Jane Roe, was a Dallas waitress named Norma McCorvey. Wishing to terminate her pregnancy, she filed suit in March 1970 against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, challenging the Texas laws that prohibited abortion. Norma won her case. But she never had the abortion. On January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court finally handed down its decision, she had long since given birth—and relinquished her child for adoption.
The past two and a half years have been a global crash course in infection prevention. They've also been a crash course in basic math: Since the arrival of this coronavirus, people have been asked to count the meters and feet that separate one nose from the next; they’ve tabulated the days that distance them from their most recent vaccine dose, calculated the minutes they can spend unmasked, and added up the hours that have passed since their last negative test.
What unites many of these numbers is the tendency, especially in the United States, to pick thresholds and view them as binaries: above this, mask; below this, don’t; after this, exposed, before this, safe. But some of the COVID numbers that have stuck most stubbornly in our brains these past 20-odd months are now disastrously out of date. The virus has changed; we, its hosts, have as well. So, too, then, must the playbook that governs our pandemic strategies. With black-and-white, yes-or-no thinking, “we do ourselves a disservice,” Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist at George Mason University, told me. Binary communication “has been one of the biggest failures of how we’ve managed the pandemic,” Mónica Feliú-Mójer, of the nonprofit Ciencia Puerto Rico, told me.
What would it have been like to live in Babel in the days after its destruction? In the Book of Genesis, we are told that the descendants of Noah built a great city in the land of Shinar. They built a tower “with its top in the heavens” to “make a name” for themselves. God was offended by the hubris of humanity and said:
Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.
The text does not say that God destroyed the tower, but in many popular renderings of the story he does, so let’s hold that dramatic image in our minds: people wandering amid the ruins, unable to communicate, condemned to mutual incomprehension.
The sky was moonless and overcast, leaving no stars to steer by. Alone at the helm in the middle of the Arabian Sea, somewhere between Oman and India, I could see nothing in the ink-black night save for our ship’s dimly lit compass rolling on its gimbal mount as we heaved and swayed through three-meter seas. But half an hour into my shift, the sails above me began to glow, as if the moon had risen. But there was no moon, nor any stars or other ships. The light, it seemed, was coming from below and growing in intensity. Soon the entire ocean was glow-stick green, but muted, as if the light were shining through a sea of milk.
It was August 2010, and I’d been sailing for more than two months by then, volunteering with the NGO the Biosphere Foundation to deliver the Mir, a ketch built in 1910 it had recently acquired in Malta, to the ship’s home port in Southeast Asia. During the voyage, I’d grown accustomed to the usual “sea sparkle” caused by dinoflagellates that ignite when the water is agitated, causing ribbons of light to twist off the Mir’s bow. But this was not that. This was the whole of the ocean, as far as I could see, glowing a uniform, opaque green. Despite the compass still wheeling in its mount, the light in the water created an optical illusion, making the sea appear perfectly calm, as if we were gliding through phosphorescent skies rather than roiling seas.