Context is everything. Five days after his quotes in Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury infuriated President Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon’s trying to fix things. The president’s fired chief strategist said his labeling Trump campaign staffers’ 2016 meeting with Russian operatives “treasonous” applied to then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, not meeting participant Donald Trump Jr. Now cut off from political and financial supporters, the alt-right media firebrand called the Trump scion a “patriot” and said he regretted that his delay in responding to “inaccurate reporting” had diverted attention from the president’s first-year accomplishments.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Is there a fry missing? Responding to author Michael Wolff’s accounts of aides doubting his mental fitness, President Trump tweeted Saturday that he was a “very smart” and a “stable genius” and accused the media of using “the Ronald Reagan playbook.” That would imply that 1980s queries about the 40th president’s memory were groundless, despite his Alzheimer’s diagnosis five years after leaving office. Trump’s stream of unorthodox statements, some involving nuclear threats, have reportedly prompted lawmakers — empowered by the 25th Amendment to remove unfit presidents — to seek experts’ assessments.
Call it Bannon’s burn book. Fairly reported or not, there’s little doubt that Michael Wolff’s White House tell-all, Fire and Fury, has had an indelible impact. President Trump’s broken with his populist, “alt-right” ally, Breitbart boss Stephen Bannon, over the fired presidential chief strategist’s quotes, such as the one calling Donald Jr.’s infamous meeting with Russian operatives “treasonous.” The president failed to block the release of the book — which also claims Trump never wanted to be president and that close confidantes find him incompetent — and Washingtonians are lining up to buy copies.
They were heard. Thousands of Iranians across the country took to the streets since Dec. 28 to protest, chanting “Death to the dictator!” — referring to unelected supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rallies, initially organized over employment and price hike frustrations, sometimes spawned violent clashes that left 21 demonstrators dead and 450 arrested. As unrest has quieted, officials have organized counterprotests and blamed the unrest on Israel and the U.S., which called a U.N. Security Council meeting to put pressure on Tehran. Russia’s called that inappropriate, saying Iran should “deal with its own problems.”
Who gets to decide? When voters in Ohio miss a few elections, the state mails them a verification form, and if they don’t return it, their registration is canceled. Republicans say this process guards against voter fraud, but Democrats say aggressive purges of electoral rolls suppress the voting rights of people who tend to vote Democrat — when they do make it to the polls. This Wednesday, Supreme Court justices will hear arguments in a suit challenging Ohio’s law, which voting rights advocates argue could affect outcomes in a critical swing state.
They’ve gotten right to work. The new year had barely begun before Beatrix von Storch flamed Cologne’s police department, which tweeted holiday greetings in several languages, including Arabic. Such gestures won’t “appease the barbaric, Muslim, group-raping gangs of men,” the far-right Alternative for Germany parliamentarian tweeted back. In short order, Twitter removed her message, as a German law effective Jan. 1 requires, and temporarily blocked her account. Facebook similarly complied, but the law’s also seen as a gift to such figures, who’ll portray themselves martyrs to a P.C. police state.
The Week Ahead: The Hollywood Foreign Press Association hosts the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards tonight. The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday on a case challenging warrantless police searches of rental vehicles. And on Friday, a doctor at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center will give President Trump a physical examination amid mounting concerns about his mental fitness for office.
Know This: Astronaut John Young, who visited the Moon twice and commanded the first space shuttle mission, has died at age 87. President Trump is demanding $18 billion for his border wall project in this year’s federal budget in exchange for allowing undocumented immigrants who arrived as children to remain in the U.S. And Senate Republicans have made their first criminal referral to the Justice Department linked to Russian election meddling, accusing British ex-intelligence operative Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier alleging the Kremlin’s cultivation of Donald Trump, of lying to federal authorities about press leaks.
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Can running like a girl be the winning ticket? At least 79 women, including 30 Republicans, are either vying for governor or seriously considering it, Rutgers University researchers report. That’s more than double the 2014 tally, and could test stereotypes that accept female candidates for collaborative legislative posts but that weigh against anything except men — now occupying 44 governors’ mansions — for executive office. The Trump era and the #MeToo movement have awakened a burst of political activity from women across the board, powering a force statehouses’ glass ceilings might not withstand.
Don’t answer the phone. Even with a degree, getting a job in India is so hard that even call center gigs are scarce. But some phone banks readily accept applicants with “40 percent” English skills. Their impoverished employees pretend to be feds collecting “unpaid taxes” or security technicians charging to “fix” planted computer viruses, making roughly 1.5 percent of whatever they squeeze from often teary-eyed elderly U.S. victims. Both sides are desperate — leading some guilt-ridden and resentful callers to drop a dime on their employers.
Can they mind the gap? A colossal engineering feat, the New York City subway helped turn ordinary intersections into Wall Street and Times Square during its 113 years of service. Now its daily ridership rivals Chicago’s entire population, but it’s falling apart, with trains regularly stuck in tunnels, derailed or avoiding track fires. And it’s slower than in 1950, militating for a major makeover. But that’s expected to exceed $100 billion — what some cities spend on new systems — and would require reluctant state taxpayers to pay the fare.
Beware of geeks bearing invitations. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs may have spent puberty as isolated nerds, but now some are living out hetero male fantasies at drug-fueled orgies. And rather than disavow these dayslong, high-level “cuddle puddles,” the tech world’s elite participants explain that they’re disrupting societal mores, according to Emily Chang’s new book, Brotopia. While the men push those limits, the women who attend often face a double standard, stigmatized for their participation or professionally dependent on the whims of the privileged men who pull the strings.
It’s no ordinary tailgate party. People in the sprawling southern metropolis are so crazy about college football — a tradition dating back to the 1800s — that it’s a “cultural expectation.” Much of that can be chalked up to the past: It was in Atlanta that the sport was practically born, and it’s the center of both the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences. On Monday night, Alabama’s Crimson Tide comes to town for the college football championship, facing the University of Georgia Bulldogs, who promise to feast on the city’s gridiron heritage if they prevail.