White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump captured the Republican Party and then the presidency in 2016 as an insurgent intent on disrupting the status quo. As he mounts his bid for reelection, Trump is offering himself as the outsider once again — but it’s a much more awkward pitch to make from inside the Oval Office.

Trump is set to formally announce his 2020 bid on Tuesday at a rally in Orlando, Florida, where advisers said he aims to connect the dots between the promise of his disruptive first-time candidacy and his goals for another term in the White House. His promises to rock the ship of state are now more than an abstract pledge, though, complicated by his tumultuous 29 months at its helm.

Any president is inherently an insider. Trump has worked in the Oval Office for two years, travels the skies in Air Force One and changes the course of history with the stroke of a pen or the post of a tweet.

“We’re taking on the failed political establishment and restoring government of, by and for the people,” Trump said in a video released by his campaign Monday to mark his relaunch. “It’s the people, you’re the people, you won the election.”

That populist clarion was a central theme of his maiden political adventure, as the businessman-turned-candidate successfully appealed to disaffected voters who felt left behind by economic dislocation and demographic shifts. And he has no intention of abandoning it, even if he is the face of the institutions he looks to disrupt.

Those involved in the president’s reelection effort believe that his brash version of populism, combined with his mantra to “Drain the Swamp,” still resonates, despite his administration’s cozy ties with lobbyists and corporations and the Trump family’s apparent efforts to profit off the presidency.

“He’s still not viewed as a politician,” said Jason Miller, Trump’s 2016 senior communications adviser. “Voters don’t define him by the party label, they define him by his policies and his message of shaking up the status quo in Washington. That’s the biggest reason he was able to win blue states in 2016.”

Democrats, though, predict Trump won’t be able to get away with the outsider branding.

“How can you say: Forget about the last two years, he is an outsider, he is bashing down doors,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, a former senior Obama campaign official now at MoveOn.org. “People’s lives are harder because of what he has done as president. Voters are paying their attention and are not going to buy it.”

Republicans working with the Trump campaign but not authorized to speak publicly about internal conversations said campaign advisers believe that Trump is still perceived as a businessman and point to his clashes with the Washington establishment — including Congress, the so-called Deep State and members of his own party — as proof that he is still an outsider rather than a creature of the Beltway. Helping further that image, Trump advisers believe, is that his main Democratic foils are all career politicians: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, former Vice President Joe Biden and, yes, Hillary Clinton.

“He promised that he’d go to Washington and shake things up, and he certainly has,” said Trump campaign manager Tim Murtaugh.

Still, it’s not as though Trump is running from Washington. If anything, he’s wrapping himself in the trappings and authorities of his office. Last week, Trump granted behind-the-scenes access to his limousine, Marine One helicopter and Air Force One for an hourlong ABC News special meant to highlight the singular advantage he has over his rivals — that he already has the job they want.

And Trump is eager to use the power of the office to further his case for reelection. Last month in Louisiana, he promised voters a new bridge if he wins, and in the pivotal Florida Panhandle, he pledged new disaster relief money would flow in a second Trump term.

Trump advisers also point to his popularity among white working-class voters, who consider themselves “forgotten Americans” left behind and mocked by elite insiders. For those voters, many of whom in 2016 cast their first ballots in decades, Trump remains the embodiment of their outsider grievances, their anger stoked by his clashes with political foes and the rest of government (even when his party controls it).

Advisers believe that, in an age of extreme polarization, many Trump backers view their support for the president as part of their identity, one not easily shaken. They point to his seemingly unmovable support with his base supporters as evidence that, despite more than two years in office, he is still viewed the same way he was as a candidate: the bomb-throwing political rebel.

Americans acknowledge Trump is a change agent, but they are divided in their views of that change. Early this year, a CNN poll found about three-quarters of Americans saying Trump has created significant changes in the country, and they split about evenly between calling it change for the better and change for the worse. More recently, a March poll from CNN showed 42% of Americans think Trump can bring the kind of change the country needs.

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Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.

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Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Miller at http://twitter.com/@zekejmiller

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is threatening to remove millions of people living in the country illegally on the eve of formally announcing his re-election bid.

In a pair of tweets Monday night, Trump said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would next week “begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States.”

“They will be removed as fast as they come in,” he wrote.

An administration official said the effort would focus on the more than 1 million people who have been issued final deportation orders by federal judges but remain at large in the country. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to explain the president’s tweets.

It is unusual for law enforcement agencies to announce raids before they take place. Some in Trump’s administration believe that decisive shows of force — like mass arrests — can serve as effective deterrents, sending a message to those considering making the journey to the U.S. that it’s not worth coming.

Trump has threatened a series of increasingly drastic actions as he has tried to stem the flow of Central American migrants crossing the southern border, which has risen dramatically on his watch. He recently dropped a threat to slap tariffs on Mexico after the country agreed to dispatch its national guard and step-up coordination and enforcement efforts.

A senior Mexican official said Monday that, three weeks ago, about 4,200 migrants were arriving at the U.S. border daily. Now that number has dropped to about 2,600.

Immigration was a central theme of Trump’s 2016 campaign and he is expected to hammer it as he tries to fire up his base heading into the 2020 campaign.

Trump will formally launch his re-election bid Tuesday night at a rally in Orlando, Florida — a state that is crucial to his path back to the White House.

Establishing free and fair trade agreements between the United States and other nations has been a challenging task for President Trump. But in recent weeks, the Trump administration took a critical step forward when it brokered agreements with Mexico and Canada to lift steel tariffs and avoid costly quotas. The deal is a major step forward in the move to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that the President and his team negotiated.

With a narrow window of opportunity, the tariffs, or quotas, on steel were a serious roadblock to finalizing this important trade deal. The tariffs were strongly opposed by many free-trade supporters in Congress and created a standoff with our trading partners. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer referenced this impasse and told lawmakers, “If the USMCA doesn’t pass, it would be a catastrophe across the country.”

One year ago, the Trump administration decided to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum on a number of trading partners, including the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. The international response was unanimous; many in the trade community regarded the tariffs as an unprecedented strike against good faith efforts to reduce trade deficits among historically strong allies. The White House should be commended for trying to recover lost manufacturing jobs and protect national security interests, but extensive tariffs and quotas have proven to be a bridge too far and have resulted in a bitter standoff. They have resulted in retaliatory actions by our trading partners and have raised prices for numerous U.S. industries which use imported steel.

The protectionist route of tariffs and the application of strategic trade, not free trade, matches Trump’s populist “America First” message. There is certainly justification for addressing various concerns about our trading allies and modernizing certain trade deals (such as NAFTA) to look out for America’s interest. However, there is growing recognition that widespread tariffs, especially on steel and aluminum, is causing harm and undermining President Trump’s thriving economy.

American economic interests have been damaged by the past year’s tariff war. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that U.S. businesses and consumers saw an increase in the price of goods to the tune of at least $6.9 billion. A recent study from Trade Partnership Worldwide shows that while steel workers have experienced increased levels of employment, a far greater number of workers in steel-consuming sectors have lost jobs. An estimated 126,900 workers gained jobs because of the tariffs, but an astounding 1,061,400 people lost employment.

It’s also impossible to ignore the effect of tariffs on a variety of industries. The oil and gas industry uses specialty pipeline-grade steel in nearly every aspect of the energy production process. Drilling rigs, pipelines, production facilities, refineries, and petrochemical plants all need highly specialized imported steel. Tariffs ultimately mean higher production expenses which ultimately translates into higher energy costs for consumers. Construction, automobile, machinery, and many other steel-consuming industries also rely on competitively priced sources of steel.

While tariffs increase the cost of production, replacing them with a hard quota, as some in the administration had floated as a compromise, would have made it impossible to obtain at any price some of the specialty steels required for U.S. energy projects. As Kyle Isakower of the American Petroleum Institute pointed out, “to replace tariffs with quotas is to exchange the frying pan for the fire.”

Beyond the economic damage was the political damage of the tariffs. A failure to resolve the steel tariff issue was putting the USMCA deal in serious danger. Opting to save the USMCA, the Trump administration eliminated these barriers, giving the regional partners hope of ratifying what would be the largest trade deal in U.S. history. The White House deserves credit for working to recover lost manufacturing jobs and protect national security interests.

The USMCA is a modern, rebalanced trade agreement with our strongest regional partners, and removing these trade barriers will ultimately advance the interests of American workers and businesses. It’s a good deal for all countries, and for Trump it would represent one of his most significant economic achievements to date.

Gerard Scimeca is vice president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market consumer advocacy organization.

A federal agency recommended counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act, but didn’t offer similar guidance for Obama-era officials cited for Hatch Act rule-breaking.

The Office of the Special Counsel, headed by Henry Kerner, said last week Conway had repeatedly violated the federal law during official media appearances through her endorsements of President Trump’s reelection and attacks on Democrats and recommended she be removed as counselor.

But that investigative body didn’t make similar recommendations when two Obama Cabinet officials — Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro — violated the same law, and then-President Barack Obama never fired nor disciplined the top officials for the one-time judgments.

The inconsistently enforced 1939 law precludes most executive branch federal employees aside from the president and vice president from engaging in electioneering and political activity.

When asked about her Hatch Act violations last month, Conway quipped, “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.” Kerner’s report criticized Conway’s “defiant attitude” while labeling her “a repeat offender” and calling upon Trump to “remove Ms. Conway from her federal position immediately.”

When faced with Sebelius and Castro violating the Hatch Act, Obama fired neither official, and his administration defended them.

The OSC said Sebelius violated the Hatch Act “when she made extemporaneous partisan remarks in a speech delivered in her official capacity” in 2012. Sebelius was the keynote speaker at the Human Rights Campaign gala in North Carolina, during which she told the crowd to vote against a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Sebelius also told the crowd that “it’s hugely important to make sure that we reelect the president and elect a Democratic governor.”

“These statements were made in Secretary Sebelius’ official capacity and therefore violated the Hatch Act’s prohibition against using official authority or influence to affect the results of an election,” the OSC said.

But the OSC did not recommend that Obama fire Sebelius or recommend any punishment, simply submitting the report along with a response from Sebelius to the president.

Sebelius pushed back against the ruling, telling the agency that “I believe that you should have concluded that any violation was corrected when the event was reclassified as political.” Sebelius said she was happy that “the OSC has not recommended to the President that any particular action be taken” and told the OSC that “I don’t believe that any action would be appropriate.”

Eric Schultz, an Obama White House spokesman, defended Sebelius as well as the Obama administration’s lack of disciplinary action at the time, saying, “This error was immediately acknowledged by the secretary, promptly corrected, and no taxpayer dollars were misused.”

The OSC also said Castro, now a 2020 presidential contender, violated the Hatch Act’s “prohibition against using one’s official authority or influence to interfere with or affect the result of an election” when he “advocated for and against presidential candidates while appearing in his official capacity” during the 2016 election.

Castro praised Hillary Clinton in a 2016 video interview, saying that “the American people understand that she has a positive vision for the country that includes opportunity for everybody and she can actually get it done” and that “it is very clear that Hillary Clinton is the most experienced, thoughtful, and prepared candidate for president that we have this year.”

Castro, at the time a potential Clinton running mate, told Katie Couric, “I don’t believe that is going to happen, but I am supportive of Secretary Clinton and I believe she is going to make a great president.”

The OSC concluded he “impermissibly mixed his personal political views with official government agency business” but did not recommend he be fired or that any disciplinary action be taken, instead just referring their report and Castro’s response to the president.

Castro acknowledged that, even if it wasn’t his intent to violate the law, he’d made an error.

Joshua Earnest, the Obama White House press secretary, at the time defended Castro along with the Obama administration’s decision not to punish him. “To his credit, Secretary Castro acknowledged the mistake that he made. He owned up to it, and he’s taken the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again.”

Castro said last week he thinks Conway should be fired.

“The difference between me and Kellyanne Conway is … instead of saying, ‘Look, I’m going to take these efforts to make sure that doesn’t happen again,’ she said, ‘to hell with that, I’m going to do it,’” he said at a Fox News town hall.

“She did the wrong thing,” said Castro. “And I support the Office of Special Counsel’s determination that because she repeatedly violated it, even though she was clearly told that it was a violation, that she should be removed from office.”

Pat Cipollone, counsel to the president, said on Thursday that “the report is based on numerous grave legal, factual, and procedural errors.”

Trump defended Conway on Friday, saying “it looks like they’re trying to take away her free speech” and “I’m not going to fire her.”

President Trump said Monday on Twitter that Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin deporting “millions” of illegal migrants next week.

“Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in. Mexico, using their strong immigration laws, is doing a very good job of stopping people…” the president tweeted.

“…long before they get to our Southern Border. Guatemala is getting ready to sign a Safe-Third Agreement. The only ones who won’t do anything are the Democrats in Congress. They must vote to get rid of the loopholes, and fix asylum! If so, Border Crisis will end quickly!” he added.

The president did not offer specifics on what his claim entails.

The news comes the same day as the State Department announced it would be cutting foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras for failing to take proper steps to curb illegal migrants coming to the United States.

Why haven’t efforts to impeach President Trump gained Watergate-style momentum? The lack of energy has created a sense of bafflement and disappointment among some of the president’s most determined adversaries. But there are some simple reasons for it. Here are three:

1.) The facts are different. In Watergate, the underlying crime was a break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters, perpetrated by burglars paid by President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign. The scandal proceeded from there. In Trump-Russia, the underlying crime was the hacking of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s emails — a crime committed by Russians in Russia. Special counsel Robert Mueller, who indicted a number of Russians and Russian entities for their actions, spent two years trying to find conspiracy or coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign. He failed.

That single fact has shaped every other aspect of the Trump-Russia affair. In Watergate, the cover-up flowed from Nixon’s desire to conceal his campaign’s involvement in the break-in and other political dark acts. It formed the bulk of the obstruction of justice case against Nixon, which in turn served as the basis for articles of impeachment. In Trump-Russia, Mueller did not charge, although he clearly suggested, that Trump obstructed the investigation of an event — conspiracy/coordination — that did not happen. That meant the simplest, most plausible motive for obstruction — Trump, knowing he was guilty, tried to cover up his campaign’s conspiracy with Russia — was off the table. Given that, Mueller’s obstruction case veered all over the map. He conceded that Trump had many motives to act as he did — anger at being wrongly accused, concern over his ability to govern, a desire to defend the legitimacy of his election — and that none of them involved covering up conspiracy or coordination with Russia.

That’s a very different set of facts from Watergate. Consider the single most explosive episode of Watergate — the Saturday Night Massacre, in which Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Trump’s opponents say his desire to fire Mueller was Nixonesque. But try to imagine the Saturday Night Massacre with a Trumpian set of facts: What if Nixon told his White House counsel to tell the attorney general to fire Cox, but the counsel ignored the order? Nixon called again, and the counsel ignored him again. Nixon then let the matter drop, and Cox completed his investigation. No Saturday Night Massacre. That alone shows there is simply no comparison between Watergate and Trump-Russia.

2). The press is different. Just as the facts of Trump-Russia are quite unlike Watergate, so the media environment of 2019 is quite unlike what existed in 1974. Back then, there were three 30-minute broadcast network newscasts, CBS, NBC, and ABC. There were two big newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post, and TV network executives sat down each day, within a few blocks of each other in Manhattan, to produce newscasts that basically illustrated the papers’ latest stories. There was no Internet, no cable news, no podcasts, no social media, and no talk radio. Nixon, even if he had had strong defenses, faced a solid wall of media opposition.

Today, the situation is much, much different — and infinitely better. There is far more diversity of opinion in the media writ large, and, importantly, popular access to primary sources. That troubles some media figures who miss the old days of news monopoly. “During the Watergate era … there were three networks,” Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote recently. “Now, cable news, talk radio, thousands of websites and social media create a polluted firehose-blast of information mixed with disinformation.”

“Back then, what was said on those three networks … was largely believed,” Sullivan added. “Much more than now, there was a shared set of facts.”

But it was a limited set of facts — just the ones selected by those network producers in Manhattan. Today’s media diversity, in terms of the Trump-Russia affair, means more facts see the light. And people inclined to support the president, or just be skeptical of the government’s investigative targeting of the Trump campaign, have a way to make their case beyond what anyone had 40-plus years ago.

3.) Congress is different. Differences in the facts of the cases and differences in the media’s ability to report those facts have had a profound effect on lawmakers. They’re better informed, if they want to be, and can make a better defense of the president of their party. And having a significant number of constituents supporting the president makes representatives more likely to support him, too. (Also unlike today, in 1974, opposition party Democrats controlled all of Congress, with 243 seats in the House and 56 in the Senate.)

So, this is a new world. It is perhaps not surprising to hear Democrats wish they could somehow turn today’s Trump-Russia affair into yesterday’s Watergate. If they could just hold televised hearings, they say, that could capture the nation’s attention and give Trump-Russia a Watergate-like urgency. Americans would turn against the president by the millions.

Others believe they just need time. It took Watergate years to grow big enough to oust Nixon, they say. But look at the numbers. The break-in was in June, 1972, and Nixon resigned in August 1974 — a period of two years and two months. In Trump-Russia, the FBI began its investigation nearly three years ago, in July 2016. The Senate began investigating in January 2017. And Mueller took office in May 2017. It’s been a long time.

Trump-Russia could go longer still, and it would not change the basic facts of the case. It is simply a different case in a different world. Try as they might, the president’s opponents can’t make it 1974 again.

U.S. military releases new images from oil tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman
A U.S. military image released by the Pentagon in Washington on June 17 shows what the Pentagon says is a view of internal hull penetration and blast damage sustained from a limpet mine attack on the starboard side of the Japanese owned motor tanker Kokuka Courageous in the Guld of Oman in the waters between Iran and Guld States on June 13, 2019. U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

June 17, 2019

By Parisa Hafezi and Steve Holland

DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan announced on Monday the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were “defensive purposes,” citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan said in a statement.

Reuters first reported plans to send U.S. additional troops to the Middle East earlier on Monday.

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the United States have mounted since last Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked, more than a year after President Donald Trump announced Washington was withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal, which a White House National Security Council spokesman said amounted to “nuclear blackmail.”

The 2015 accord, which Iran and the other signatories have maintained following Trump’s decision, caps Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium at 300 kg enriched to 3.67 percent.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom and Parisa Hafezi in Dubai, Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and William Schomberg in London, Francois Murphy in Vienna, Robin Emmott in Brussels, and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Alistair Bell, Grant McCool; Editing by William Maclean, Cynthia Osterman and Sonya Hepinstall)

Source: OANN

Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump, is emerging as the top candidate to replace outgoing White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, according to sources familiar with the selection process.

Grisham, a former Trump campaign aide who has served in the White House since Trump took office, is known as a shrewd tactician loyal to the first family. But significantly, she meets President Trump’s top criteria: that Sanders’s replacement be a woman.

“When he says he wants a woman, he wants a woman,” a source familiar with the selection process told the Washington Examiner.

A second source, a former Trump aide, said “the president really wants to have a woman fill this role,” adding Trump has mentioned both Grisham and former State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as possible successors to Sanders.

Grisham, 42, is a beloved East Wing figure and has many supporters close to Trump. In November, she issued an unusual statement calling for the ouster of Mira Ricardel, a National Security Council official with whom the first lady clashed on a trip to Africa. Ricardel quickly lost her job.

A single mother of two sons, she followed Trump to Washington from Arizona, where she worked for state Republicans including then-Attorney General Tom Horne. In 2012, she was part of GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign.

While working as a traveling press secretary on the 2016 Trump campaign, she was so dedicated she did not see her son, Jake — who was then eight — for five and a half months. He older son has now graduated from high school.

A shortlist of four contenders in the aftermath of Sanders’s surprise departure announcement Thursday featured Grisham, Nauert, outgoing Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh, and Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley.

But Nauert was forced in February to withdraw from a nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reportedly due to employing a foreign nanny. A source said the issue that derailed Nauert is serious enough to keep her out of the running, however.

“The reasons she had to pull out from the U.N. would be the same reasons she couldn’t do it,” said a source close to senior State Department officials.

The first source said of Grisham: “She handles herself well on TV, but the press secretary job has turned more into a comms than a press role. And there are some people who are good on camera but not so good at communications strategy. She’s a killer on both fronts.”

“[Grisham] would be fine in front of the podium, and she would be fine on strategic issues. I don’t think Sarah was as sharp as her. Grisham won’t hesitate to slide that knife into someone’s back, which is what you need. This is the White House.”

Sanders said she plans to leave at the end of June, establishing a short window to pick her replacement.

Grisham, the first source said, may take a sharper approach to “reporters being unfair” and “people in the administration doing things they shouldn’t.” They imagine Grisham “basically being the president’s press and political secret service — if you need to shiv someone, you do it.”

The second source said Sayegh “is awesome and would be the best choice,” but is not a woman, and that “I don’t hear Hogan being discussed as a real option.” They noted that although Trump seems likely to pick a woman, it was possible Trump could end up “thinking way outside the box” and “further redefine the role.”

Sanders has gone nearly 100 days without an official White House briefing, opting instead for informal driveway gaggles. Trump tweeted this year that he asked Sanders to cease briefings because “the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately.” In another break from tradition, Trump has not filled the vacant White House communications director role since the exit of former Fox News executive Bill Shine in March.

A third source, a former White House official, said they heard Grisham has a “good shot” but that there’s “nothing final.” A fourth source, who worked on the Trump campaign, said “I’ve heard is that Stephanie is open to the position.” Several sources say they have not heard Gidley mentioned as a serious contender.

Though Grisham is said to be the front-runner, it’s possible Trump will be tempted to pick a different woman, particularly if the first lady resists losing her top aide. Morgan Ortagus, a spokeswoman at the State Department, and several Fox News personalities have been floated as theoretical candidates.

Trump may also be tempted by the prospect of naming the first Hispanic American to the job. But CNN commentator Steve Cortes, who reportedly is under consideration, lacks widespread backing and the preferred gender.

“When the president decides he wants a woman in a role, it is difficult to impossible to convince him of anyone other than a woman,” a source said.

Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman for first lady Melania Trump, is emerging as the top candidate to replace outgoing White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, according to sources familiar with the selection process.

Grisham, a former Trump campaign aide who has served in the White House since Trump took office, is known as a shrewd tactician loyal to the first family. But significantly, she meets President Trump’s top criteria: that Sanders’s replacement be a woman.

“When he says he wants a woman, he wants a woman,” a source familiar with the selection process told the Washington Examiner.

A second source, a former Trump aide, said “the president really wants to have a woman fill this role,” adding Trump has mentioned both Grisham and former State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as possible successors to Sanders.

Grisham, 42, is a beloved East Wing figure and has many supporters close to Trump. In November, she issued an unusual statement calling for the ouster of Mira Ricardel, a National Security Council official with whom the first lady clashed on a trip to Africa. Ricardel quickly lost her job.

A single mother of two sons, she followed Trump to Washington from Arizona, where she worked for state Republicans including then-Attorney General Tom Horne. In 2012, she was part of GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign.

While working as a traveling press secretary on the 2016 Trump campaign, she was so dedicated she did not see her son, Jake — who was then eight — for five and a half months. He older son has now graduated from high school.

A shortlist of four contenders in the aftermath of Sanders’s surprise departure announcement Thursday featured Grisham, Nauert, outgoing Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh, and Deputy White House Press Secretary Hogan Gidley.

But Nauert was forced in February to withdraw from a nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reportedly due to employing a foreign nanny. A source said the issue that derailed Nauert is serious enough to keep her out of the running, however.

“The reasons she had to pull out from the U.N. would be the same reasons she couldn’t do it,” said a source close to senior State Department officials.

The first source said of Grisham: “She handles herself well on TV, but the press secretary job has turned more into a comms than a press role. And there are some people who are good on camera but not so good at communications strategy. She’s a killer on both fronts.”

“[Grisham] would be fine in front of the podium, and she would be fine on strategic issues. I don’t think Sarah was as sharp as her. Grisham won’t hesitate to slide that knife into someone’s back, which is what you need. This is the White House.”

Sanders said she plans to leave at the end of June, establishing a short window to pick her replacement.

Grisham, the first source said, may take a sharper approach to “reporters being unfair” and “people in the administration doing things they shouldn’t.” They imagine Grisham “basically being the president’s press and political secret service — if you need to shiv someone, you do it.”

The second source said Sayegh “is awesome and would be the best choice,” but is not a woman, and that “I don’t hear Hogan being discussed as a real option.” They noted that although Trump seems likely to pick a woman, it was possible Trump could end up “thinking way outside the box” and “further redefine the role.”

Sanders has gone nearly 100 days without an official White House briefing, opting instead for informal driveway gaggles. Trump tweeted this year that he asked Sanders to cease briefings because “the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately.” In another break from tradition, Trump has not filled the vacant White House communications director role since the exit of former Fox News executive Bill Shine in March.

A third source, a former White House official, said they heard Grisham has a “good shot” but that there’s “nothing final.” A fourth source, who worked on the Trump campaign, said “I’ve heard is that Stephanie is open to the position.” Several sources say they have not heard Gidley mentioned as a serious contender.

Though Grisham is said to be the front-runner, it’s possible Trump will be tempted to pick a different woman, particularly if the first lady resists losing her top aide. Morgan Ortagus, a spokeswoman at the State Department, and several Fox News personalities have been floated as theoretical candidates.

Trump may also be tempted by the prospect of naming the first Hispanic American to the job. But CNN commentator Steve Cortes, who reportedly is under consideration, lacks widespread backing and the preferred gender.

“When the president decides he wants a woman in a role, it is difficult to impossible to convince him of anyone other than a woman,” a source said.


Why have national Democrats and not national Republicans fallen under the tyranny of the 70-somethings? It seems so contrary to common expectation. Democrats are, as they often remind us, the party of progress and the future. The question seems to rival those enduring, unanswerable mysteries such as “What happens when you die?” and “Why did Mick Taylor quit the Rolling Stones?”

People in their mid-to-late 70s are thick on the ground nowadays, while in an earlier era, of course, you’d have been more likely to find them under it. This is especially true in the urban centers of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, according to a recent survey of census data by the Associated Press–NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In particular, the Washington, D.C., area is a leader in “senior labor force participation,” by which the researchers mean the region is loaded with people who have passed the age of retirement yet somehow neglected to retire.

Look no further than the Democratic caucus on Capitol Hill. For whatever reason—perhaps they’re more easily bored by government work, or perhaps they’re more eager to cash in on government work—Republicans have less of a 70-something problem. House Republicans are relatively youthful, in chronology if not in disposition: They are led by a trio ages 54, 53, and 52. Indeed, the only 70-something among the GOP leadership on the Hill is the 77-year-old Mitch McConnell (I’m omitting the constitutional office of president pro tempore of the Senate, now occupied by the Republican Chuck Grassley, who is 85 but doesn’t look a day over 86.)

Going down the ranks, the public-affairs software firm Quorum reckoned that the average age of the Democratic House leadership is 72, fully 24 years more than the average of the Republican House leadership. Infamously, the three leading Democrats in the House are 79, 78, and 79, for a staggering combined age of 236, making the Democratic leadership team older, in aggregate, than the Constitution itself.

The party’s congressional gerontocracy has now inevitably bled into the field of presidential candidates. The front-runner, Joe Biden, is 76. Second place, according to most polls, belongs to Bernie Sanders, who’s a year older than Biden. They hope to replace the oldest man ever to be elected president. He’s younger than both of them. If either Biden or Sanders gets to the White House and then wins a second term, we will be governed by a man in his early 80s, nearly two decades older than Franklin D. Roosevelt was when, having won his fourth term, he pegged out from overwork. Needless to say, Sanders and Biden are each much spryer than FDR. Imagine Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins Returns clicking his heels in the Oval Office.

To be sure, anyone who criticizes our gerontocracy must insert a “to be sure” paragraph right about now, praising the gumption and resilience of our oldsters, marveling at their energy and their bottomless reservoirs of wisdom. Stipulated! Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Biden, and Sanders—and especially the McDonald’s-loving 72-year-old incumbent—are walking testaments to the advances made by geriatric medicine since the 1950s, when they were teenagers. The idea that with length of days comes wisdom is a commonplace of our patrimony, from Aristotle and Job to Shakespeare and Austen. And all the flattering things we are required to say about old age and the people caught up in it do serve as a much-needed counterbalance to our culture’s childish obsession with youth.

But this traditional picture of old age as the repository of wisdom comes with certain complications. Gerontocracy is rule by people who insist on turning the peak of their career into a plateau. Aristotle and the others acknowledged that it carries hidden and insidious effects, and reveals unflattering qualities in the gerontocrats themselves. We can see this most obviously in the effect it has had on the Democratic Party generationally. There is a huge gap between where the energy and creativity of the party lie, with a group of dynamic activists and House members in their 30s and even their 20s (thank you, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), and the ruling class of 70-somethings layered far above like a crumbling porte cochere.

In the farm system that trains and seasons the leaders of tomorrow—assuming tomorrow ever comes—that gap signifies a lost generation. One day, presumably, power within the party will pass, and when it does, if present trends continue, it will leapfrog from seniors born around the time of V-J Day to people who can barely remember 9/11. More likely than not, members of Generation X will never get their turn—an entire cohort condemned to the fate of Prince Charles. After the indignities that Boomers inflicted on Generation X, from disco to postmodern literary theory, this scarcely seems fair.

The situation pushes some Gen Xers to take extreme measures. The far-fetched presidential campaigns of backbenchers such as Tim Ryan and Seth Moulton are best understood as cries for help, as ambitious young politicians try to free themselves from the professional bottleneck created by unbudgeable leadership.

Some 70-somethings are easier to forgive than others. Pelosi and her team are simply aging in place, clinging to a version of the jobs they’ve held for a decade or more; inertia could be as much to blame for their refusal to move along as an unslakable thirst for power and attention. There’s less to forgive in the actions of Biden and Sanders. Three years ago, both were given the chance to leave the field gracefully. But they. Will. Not. Go. Away.

Sanders, holding political positions virtually identical to those of his rivals, offered a less plausible case for his candidacy than Biden did. Biden’s case, which you could strain to make if you were willing to risk a herniated disk, was ideological: He filled a slot that no one else would fill. He was carrying the pragmatic liberalism of an earlier time into a scrum of leftish contenders who believe that pragmatism is for chumps.

That case was dashed last week with Biden’s head-snapping reversal of his 40-year support of the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds to pay for abortion. Far from serving as an alternative to the radicalism of one segment of his party, Biden showed that he is willing to be its slave—if that’s what it takes to win approval for his dream of apotheosis. Such groveling is unlovely enough in people in the robust prime of life; it is doubly so in old people, who, by virtue of their age and experience, are supposed to know their own mind.

The only cure for the desire to be president, a wise politician once said, is embalming fluid. Let’s stipulate to that, too. We all need purpose and meaning in life. The trick for old folks is to adjust their search for purpose and meaning as they follow nature’s course and give way to their juniors. The avenues to self-fulfillment that were open to them as younger men and women are now the rightful territory of a newer generation, and dignity requires them to find other paths of service and satisfaction.

I can easily imagine a host of dignified futures for our 70-something presidential candidates, far from New Hampshire and Iowa. Sanders could work as a tour guide in Nicaragua or a docent on fundraising cruises for The New York Review of Books. Biden, for his part, could take on the once-popular, now-neglected role of “elder statesman,” happy to serve when called to a blue-ribbon panel or as a special envoy to trouble spots here and there, to offer advice when his advice is sought, and otherwise to lead a life of recreation, reading, and contemplation. No one will think less of either of them.

Instead, they have chosen the way of vanity and self-indulgence, to the detriment of the political cause they say they want to advance. Sanders and Biden have made themselves the equivalent of the old dude cruising the pool at Club Med in his sagging Speedo, capped teeth gleaming, knobby shoulders and fallen pecs bronzed and shiny with tanning oil, gold chains twinkling through the chest hair. I’m not saying one of them won’t succeed in his quest—though I have my doubts about both—but in a saner world, it would be obvious that the quest itself is unseemly. They do no credit to their peers with their refusal to acknowledge their natural and inevitable station in life. And they do no favors to the younger people—from Pete Buttigieg, age 37; to Kamala Harris, age 54; and even to Elizabeth Warren, age 69—who are eager, as they are entitled to be, to take their shot.

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