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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he was struck by Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke’s gesticulations during the former Texas congressman’s first day on the campaign trail.
“Well, I think he’s got a lot of hand movement. I’ve never seen so much hand movement. I said, ‘Is he crazy or is that just the way he acts?'” Trump said at the White House. “I’ve never seen hand movement [like that.] I watched him a little while this morning, during I assume it was some kind of a news conference, and I’ve actually never seen anything quite like it.”
He excited many Democratic activists across the country with a campaign that turned ruby-red Texas into a competitive battleground in 2018, with Cruz defeating him by just 2.5 percentage points. But he entered a crowded field for his party’s presidential nomination and the right to take on Trump in 2020.
Trump dodged a question about whether he thought O’Rourke or former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet announced his intentions, would make for a tougher opponent.
“I just say whoever it is, I’ll take him on,” Trump said, repeating himself but adding “or her” to reflect the possibility that the Democratic nominee could be one of several women who are running.
While Trump likes to give his rivals derisive nicknames — he calls Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., “Pocahontas” to remind voters that she has claimed Native American heritage — the White House is instead referring to O’Rourke as “Robert Francis,” which is his given name. “Beto” is a nickname he has used since childhood.
Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, made the announcement in an interview on Vermont Public Radio (VPR). He promised a “very different campaign” in an effort to oust Republican President Donald Trump.
“The current occupant of the White House is an embarrassment to our country,” Sanders told VPR. “He is a pathological liar… he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants.”
Going forward, House Democrats will try to keep Trump the center of attention. But Trump won’t like how they’re planning on doing it. In the run-up to the House handover, reporting focused less on the Democrats’ legislative agenda—which is practically a dead letter given Republican control of the Senate and White House—and more on their likely oversight strategy. On Wednesday, The Daily podcast of The New York Times re-upped Jason Zengerle’s interviewsfrom December with Reps. Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff, and Elijah Cummings, three key committee chairs who intend to use their newfound subpoena powers to obtain and publish information on Trump and the investigations swirling around him.
When Republicans controlled the House, these committees—judiciary, intelligence, and oversight—played “no role whatsoever, they just haven’t done oversight,” Zengerle said. Key GOP figures used them to shield Trump from scrutiny and even to paint him as the victim of a deep-state conspiracy: last February, Devin Nunes, as intelligence committee chair, published a dubious memo painting the investigation into Russian election meddling as politically biased. Yesterday, the timer on that obfuscation ran out. “The world changed today for President Trump,” CNN’s Anderson Cooper said last night. “For the first time since taking office, President Trump is facing the prospect of real, extensive scrutiny from the opposition party led by a highly disciplined adversary.”
The Democrats’ new oversight powers are an opening for the press, of course, in that they should provide an important new stream of information about the Mueller probe and other investigations into Trump and his associates. That’s welcome news. But reporters should remember that the Democrats have their own agenda when it comes to what they might release and when they might release it. As Zengerle noted on The Daily, Pelosi and her committee colleagues have already ordered their oversight priorities by what they think will have the biggest political impact.
Below, more on the new Democratic House:Pelosi’s media flip: Before being sworn in as speaker, Pelosi told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie that she wouldn’t rule out indictment or impeachment for Trump, objecting to the Justice Department’s conclusion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Pelosi is now aggressively setting the media agenda: she’ll appear tonight on an MSNBC town-hall-style broadcast hosted by Joy Reid. Last month, I explored how Pelosi turned months of negative coverage on its head. Schiff-ting dynamics: Vanity Fair’s Claire Landsbaum has more on the new power-brokers in Washington, including Nadler, Schiff, Cummings, and Pelosi. Last month, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin profiled Schiff, who told him that his priorities include finding out who Donald Trump, Jr., phoned after the notorious Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Speculation abounds that the blocked number in his call log belongs to his father. Beyond Mueller: The Democrats won’t only train their oversight powers on the Trump investigations: they’ll go deep on policy and ethics breaches across the federal government. Last week, Nathalie Baptiste of Mother Jonesfocused on a top target: Ben Carson, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary. Other notable stories:After Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes asked Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, tough questions about his human rights record, the Egyptian Embassy in the US contacted CBS and told them to pull the show. CBS refused. The interview will air Sunday at 7pm ET. For CJR, Anna Altman recaps the recent scandal at Der Spiegel, the German news weekly where a star reporter, Claas Relotius, repeatedly invented facts and sources for his stories. Critics say the magazine missed the deceptions because of its overemphasis on literary prose. “Relotius wrote in typical Spiegel style,” Altman writes, “descriptive, colorful, even purple prose that emphasizes the emotional over the factual, often going so far as to imagine a protagonist’s interior world.” Under a controversial new proposal, the Interior Department could move to cap the number of Freedom of Information Act requests it processes each month, KUER’s Nate Hegyi reports. The proposal would also make it harder to file quick FOIAs for breaking news stories. Digiday’s Max Willens has an intriguing look at artificial-intelligence efforts at Forbes, where “Bertie,” a content management system rolled out last year, recommends topics, links, headlines, and images to contributors based on their past articles. Forbes is currently testing a new tool which would draft copy for writers. After announcing her presidential intentions this week, Warren sat down for an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Politico’s Jason Schwartz and David Siders report that Maddow’s “direct line” to the Democratic Party base makes her a sought-after interlocutor as the 2020 primary race starts to heat up: “With ratings surging at MSNBC, political strategists and communications experts say getting air time on the left-leaning network, and the Rachel Maddow Show in particular, could be crucial for candidates looking to separate themselves from what is expected to be a crowded Democratic field.” More early fodder from the Democratic campaign trail: Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who ran for the party’s nomination in 2016, used an op-ed in Iowa’s Des Moines Register to rule out a repeat bid and throw his weight behind Beto O’Rourke instead. The Times opinion section is adding Jamelle Bouie, Slate’s chief political correspondent, to its columnist roster. He’ll start later this month. And with Glamour going out of print and rival titles already online-only, the Post’s Lavanya Ramanathan asks whether we’ll miss women’s magazines when they’re gone. “In their heyday, these publications offered a pipeline for the nation’s best female journalists,” Ramanathan writes. Nonetheless, they’ve long been criticized for “pummeling readers with messages that their bodies were less than desirable and that their boyfriend’s eyes probably wandered and that only products could fill the void.”
Questions or comments about what you’d like to read with your coffee? Reach today’s newsletter editor, Jon Allsop, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Nancy Pelosi made her way through the chamber to reclaim the speaker’s gavel, stopping after almost every step to receive a hug, it was a very emotional scene and the first time since Donald Trump’s election that I felt lightness and happiness radiating from the Capitol.
And color. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, wearing a traditional Pueblo dress, was on the verge of tears as she embraced Sharice Davids of Kansas, a member of Ho-Chunk Nation. They are the first Native American women to serve in the House. Openly gay, Davids is also one of the record number of LGBTQ members of the chamber. Nearby, Ilhan Omar, a Somali immigrant from Minnesota, was resplendent in her white and gold hijab. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, chose a copy of the Qu’ran to swear herself in as the first Palestinian American woman to serve in Congress. (The Qu’ran once belonged to Thomas Jefferson).
When Pelosi joined the House in 1987, there were only 23 female members. As of Thursday, there are 102, nearly 90% of whom are Democrats. It was striking when Pelosi passed a row that included Democratic representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Barbara Lee, Jahana Hayes, Lauren Underwood and Sheila Jackson Lee, all women of color.
That rainbow was only visible on the left side of the dias – the Democratic side. On the right, where the Republicans sat, there was still the usual sea of suits worn by mainly older white men.
They will be a formidable force, trying to stymie Pelosi at every turn and frustrate the new, younger activists who are such an important part of her governing coalition. But change was everywhere on Thursday, from the line outside the women’s bathroom off the House floor (only gained in 2011) to the fans who practically overwhelmed Ocasio-Cortez outside Pelosi’s office.
There were, naturally, some sour notes. This was Washington, after all. Liz Cheney’s attempt to get a “Build That Wall” chant going, some stony Republican grimaces, and, lowest of all, a tape from Ocasio-Cortez’ college days of her dancing on a rooftop that was put up on Twitter by a rightwing troll. There was also the false suggestion that she wasn’t really from the Bronx.
“Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is,” read the post, with the user, who has since deleted their account, claiming it was a “high school video of ‘Sandy’ Ocasio-Cortez”.
It will be scintillating to watch Pelosi’s moves and how the White House reacts
It’s frustrating in a post #MeToo world that women in power are still caricatured as inauthentic. Trump’s sneers at Elizabeth Warren, calling her Pocahontas, are meant to portray her as a phony, faking her ethnic roots. Pelosi, and, of course, Hillary Clinton, are often portrayed as stiff and inauthentic. It frightens the rightwing to see urban liberals like Ocasio-Cortez amass real followings and assert their growing power. So the rightwing tries to take them down with hackneyed caricatures and doctored tapes.
Of course, the dancing tape went viral and clearly increased her popularity on social media and enhanced her status as a young sensation on Capitol Hill.
And she hit back in the best way, with humor. “You hate me cuz you ain’t me, fellas,” Ocasio-Cortez said. Then she quickly made a new video of herself dancing outside her new congressional office. In the lighthearted, 11-second clip, she dances along to a line from Edwin Starr’s classic Motown hit War: “What is it good for? Absolutely nothing,” she sings (or lip-syncs), pointing half playfully, half defiantly at the camera before bursting into laughter and flinging herself through the door of her office as if she had occupied her seat on Capitol Hill for years, not 24 hours.
Pelosi is a great strategist and she’s already outmaneuvered the president on the wall. She has talked of working with rational Republicans and extending a hand of friendship. She knows exactly what she needs to put together a winning vote. It will be scintillating to watch her moves and how the White House reacts.
It’s a new day and it’s not Trump’s Washington any more.