First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
How Donald Trump Pushed the ‘Treasure Trove’ of Hacked Emails
So now we know: Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the Russian effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. “Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said,” per the scoop from NBC’s William Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Cynthia McFadden. U.S. intelligence believe this Putin involvement with a “high level of confidence” — a term that means the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible. And now that we know this, it’s striking to look back to see how aggressively President-elect Donald Trump used the hacked information on the campaign trail. Here’s Trump on the last week of the 2016 race:
- Oct. 31 from Warren, MI: “Did you see where, on WikiLeaks, it was announced that they were paying protestors to be violent, $1,500?… Did you see another one, another one came in today? This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
- Nov. 2 from Orlando, FL: “Out today, WikiLeaks just came out with a new one, just a little a while ago, it’s just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, possibly illegal, between the Department of Justice, the Clinton campaign and the State Department.”
- Nov. 2 from Pensacola, FL: “They said about Hillary, she’s got bad instincts right. You know who said that, Podesta. I would fire Podesta so fast. I mean the way he talks about her, whether true, not true, who cares. He speaks so badly about her. Of course he didn’t know there was a thing called WikiLeaks right.”
- Nov. 4 from Wilmington, OH: “Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.”
- Nov. 6 from Sioux City, IA: “Just today, we learned Hillary Clinton was sending highly classified information through her maid. Did you see? Just came out a little while ago, who therefore had total access to this information, completely jeopardizing the national security of the United States. This just came out. WikiLeaks.”
- Nov. 7 from Manchester, NH: “Hillary has shown contempt for the working people of this country. Her campaign in WikiLeaks has spoken horribly about Catholics and evangelicals and so many others. They got it all down folks, WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks. And what Podesta said about her, bad instincts. He said she’s got bad instincts.”
Remember Marco Rubio’s caution on Oct. 19
“These leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process and I will not indulge it”: Now it’s impossible to say if this Russia intelligence campaign swung the election to Trump. (It’s more likely that the Comey announcement had a greater impact, and Trump seized on that story, too.) There’s also not 100% agreement that this effort was intended to elect Trump. And the only evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks that we have is a declaration from Trump ally Roger Stone that he had back-channel communication with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. But one thing is crystal clear: The Trump campaign was pushing the WikiLeaks revelations. Hard. And now we know who was personally involved in the hack campaign to begin with — Putin. Remember what Sen. Marco Rubio said about the WikiLeaks revelations back on Oct. 19 (before those Trump comments above): “I will not discuss any issue that has become public solely on the basis of Wikileaks,” he said. “As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process and I will not indulge it.”
When partisanship goes too far
The New York Times: “Republicans in the North Carolina legislature on Wednesday took the highly unusual step of moving to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor after a bitter election that extended years of fierce ideological battles in the state. After calling a surprise special session, Republican lawmakers who control the General Assembly introduced measures to end the governor’s control over election boards, to require State Senate approval of the new governor’s cabinet members and to strip his power to appoint University of North Carolina trustees.” It is one thing to lose a close race. It’s another thing to be bitter about it. But it’s ENTIRELY different to try to jam through changes to strip away your opponent’s powers. This is partisanship gone too far, and it’s corrosive to our democracy.
Tom Perez to enter DNC chair race today
Per NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald, Labor Secretary Tom Perez will formally declare his candidacy for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday, according to a source familiar with his plans. “Tom Perez’s entry to the race for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship has put one of the party’s most important constituencies in a bind: organized labor loves him from his work as Labor Secretary, but some of the most influential union players have already committed to his main rival, Keith Ellison,” Politico adds. By the way, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) doesn’t like either Perez or Keith Ellison, according to Manchin’s interview on “MTP Daily” yesterday.
MANCHIN: Well, let’s get a chairman from rural America coal country.
TODD: Do you think that’s a problem?
MANCHIN: That would be…
TODD: You would like a third choice.
MANCHIN: I would like another choice, absolutely. And I think basically, and speaking from a rural Democrat from a rural state…
Conflict of interest watch
So just days after Donald Trump said that his sons would be taking over his business operations, guess who was in the room when Trump met with tech-industry executives — sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump. NBC’s Peter Alexander on “Today” this morning: “With Donald Trump welcoming titans of technology — from Amazon to Apple – Wednesday, it’s the other Trumps at the table now raising eyebrows. The president-elect’s adult children – Don Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, along with her husband Jared Kushner – all actively involved in their father’s transition. But their attendance is raising new questions about potential conflicts of interest. Just days after the president-elect said his sons will take over the family business before he moves into the Oval Office, Trump aides insist lines will be drawn between Trump’s public actions and his family’s private interests.”
One of us(!) attended a focus group of Trump voters in Ohio on Tuesday night. Here’s what we learned from the discussion led by Peter Hart on behalf of theAnnenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. “A focus group of 12 Trump voters in Cleveland made clear on Tuesday night that they will demand that Trump deliver on two major domestic campaign promises: to overhaul the Obama-backed health care system and to create a flood of new jobs. But they also remain almost entirely unbothered about Trump’s potential family business conflicts, his refusal to disclose personal financial information, his lack of government experience and his reliance on wealthy business executives to fill out his team. “He already has his wealth, he doesn’t need to profit off anybody or anything,” said Melinda, a 51-year-old homemaker… These Ohio voters – half of whom supported Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012 – were deeply skeptical of the CIA’s allegation that Russia acted to influence the election in Trump’s favor. “I just think that it’s nonsense. I don’t think there’s anything substantial to it. I think the media just is trying to blow it up, everything, after this election, they want to make any excuse in the world,” said Derek, an engineer.” But one area where the group of Trump supporters warned the president-elect was his Twitter use. “Bring yourself above it,” said one woman. “If you’re supposed to be the president you don’t need to respond to every little nasty thing that comes your way.”
- Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson OFFERED
- Attorney General: Jeff Sessions OFFERED
- Treasury: Steve Mnuchin OFFERED
- Defense: JamesMattis OFFERED
- Homeland: John Kelly OFFERED
- Interior: Ryan Zinke OFFERED
- HHS: Tom Price OFFERED
- HUD: Ben Carson OFFERED
- Education: Betsy DeVos OFFERED
- Commerce: Wilbur Ross OFFERED
- Transportation: Elaine Chao OFFERED
- Labor: Andy Puzder OFFERED
- Agriculture: Sid Miller, Heidi Heitkamp
- Energy: Rick Perry OFFERED
- CIA Director: Mike PompeoOFFERED
- UN Ambassador: Nikki Haley OFFERED
- Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt OFFERED
- National Security Adviser: Michael Flynn OFFERED
- Small Business Administration: Linda McMahon OFFERED
- RNC Chair: Ronna Romney McDaniel OFFERED