Trump prepares for a Victory Tour

President-elect is set to return to the heart of a state that helped deliver him his victory earlier this month. On Thursday evening, Trump will kick off a “thank you” tour in Ohio, with a massive rally at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, according to a source familiar with the planning.

Trump has said he wants to get back to the trail and revisit the states he won, on a victory tour where he can re-energize the base of white, working class voters who put him in the White House. It’s also where Trump still feels most comfortable.

Privately, insiders said, Trump is still in postmortem mode, rehashing with friends his unexpected victory, even as his day to day is consumed with looking forward. He’s not alone: His top advisers still flash iPhone videos from their biggest rallies, with “everyone was wrong but us” pride.

But the victory tour comes as Trump has yet to settle on some main Cabinet positions, most glaringly, secretary of state, which has become a proxy war for the rival factions of his incoming administration.

And it offers Trump, a master of reading a crowd, who has revealed a more moderated version of himself in meetings with the New York Times and with President Barack Obama, the dangerous possibility of returning to some of his most divisive and fiery rhetoric on the trail, with his base.

The Trump transition team has yet to provide details on the full scope of Trump’s post-election tour, but George Gigicos, the director the campaign’s advance team, told reporters on Nov. 17 that the president-elect would be traveling “obviously to the states that we won and the swing states we flipped over.”

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Donald Trump Proposes Jail For Flag Burners

President-elect Donald Trump  stated this morning that people who burn the American flag should be stripped of their citizenship or spend a year in the slammer:

The Supreme Court decades ago determined flag burning in protest is a Constitutionally protected right. Trump’s communications director Jason Miller, however, disagreed with the court this morning when CNN, among news outlets, bit:

Flag burning is completely ridiculous…I think you know that, and I think the vast majority of Americans would agree,” Miller smiled at Chris Cuomo, pivoting to the “big news” of that day, which he insisted was the “two additionally administration picks appointments that will have a big impact on repealing Obamacare.”

He was referencing the Trump administration’s pick of Rep Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Seema Verma as Administrator of Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“I want to talk about those,” Cuomo promised, but insisted, “when the president-elect says something, we gotta listen…When he says that something should be illegal that is a protected Constitutional right…you gotta respect people’s ability to say what you don’t like to hear.”

Miller’s turn:

“Absolutely should be illegal,” he scofffed. “We know why we’re here this morning; we’re going to talk about transition team; we’re going to talk about what this government is going to do for the American people. I think most Americans would agree with me that flag burning should be illegal. It’s completely despicable.”

Back to you, Chris.

“What do you want this country to be? Only what you like, what President-elect Trump likes? That’s what now okay behavior in America?”

“Flag burning should be illegal. End of story. Let’s talk about how we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare and these fantastic picks the president-elect announced,” Miller stoutly persisted.

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It is official, Donald Trump won Michigan

Donald Trump has officially won Michigan, the final state to be awarded and the capstone of Trump’s unlikely run of narrow victories in the Midwestern states that will deliver the first-time political candidate to the White House.

Michigan’s Board of Canvassers certified the results on Monday afternoon in Lansing. Trump won 2,279,543 votes (47.6 percent), according to the certified results,  10,704 more than Hillary Clinton’s 2,268,839 (47.4 percent).

Trump becomes the first Republican presidential candidate to carry Michigan since George H.W. Bush won it in 1988, breaking a six-cycle Democratic winning streak.

That adds Michigan’s 16 electoral votes to Trump’s already impressive tally of triumphs in the Midwest. Trump carried Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — states that had last voted Republican in 1988 and 1984, respectively, by margins only slightly larger than his advantage in Michigan.

Trump also easily flipped Iowa and Ohio, perennial battleground states that President Barack Obama had carried twice.

But like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, there are indications that Green Party nominee Jill Stein is planning to contest the results in Michigan. Stein, who won 51,463 votes (1.1 percent) in Michigan, according to the official canvass, has hired former state Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer and has until Wednesday to request a formal recount, which is estimated to cost nearly $800,000.

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Trump’s Big Test in the Middle East

The president-elect will encounter a region convulsed by change.

After decades of global stability, anxiety and unpredictability are now ubiquitous. A vacuum of American leadership is eroding long-standing alliances and emboldening challengers to the international order. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the Middle East. The region’s conflagrations, its array of power-brokers, old alliances, and new coalitions, will test Donald Trump, and demand that his administration clearly define America’s priorities and interests there. Europe and Asia will be watching.

Trump has criticized the Iraq War, and forswore repeating such costly interventions—hinting that he will continue the Obama administration’s pivot away from the region—but his posture toward the Islamic State and Iran could put the United States on the same path that led to that conflict. Trump promises closer collaboration with traditional Arab allies, who want the United States to help end the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Yet that conflicts with the priorities of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has thrown his support behind the Assad regime, but with whom Trump would like to make common cause. Nor can the United States defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria—Trump’s top priority—while also confronting Russia and Iran, which backs some of the most powerful militias fighting the Islamic State. It cannot, in other words, choose both its Arab allies and Russia in Syria, nor both fight ISIS in Iraq while picking a fight with Iran.

While defeating ISIS in its strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa is a key step, it is only a first step. For Trump, preventing the rise of a successor to ISIS will require a diplomatic effort aimed at reaching political settlements in both Iraq and Syria. That means taking stock of the region’s changing needs.

Since Republicans last held the White House, the long-standing regional order that Washington relied on for decades has disappeared. In its place: a contagion of conflict fueled by popular protest against sclerotic authoritarian regimes, and sectarian and tribal fighting over scraps of broken states. All this, as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey jockey for influence to protect their interests where they must, and further them where they can.

Obama largely sidestepped dealing with any of this, focusing instead on defeating ISIS. What would happen after ISIS was his successor’s concern. Trump cannot afford such insouciance. The Middle East overshadowed Obama’s pivot to Asia, and it could do the same to the president-elect’s foreign and domestic priorities. The task for Trump is to arrive at a new regional order, one that would repair the frayed map of the Middle East and shore up its governments.

For decades, the United States relied on dictatorships to ensure regional stability. That bedrock is no more. The so-called Arab Spring popular uprisings buffeted state institutions, first provoking social strife, and in the worst instances, civil war. Sects and tribes—filial identities long hidden behind the edifice of dictatorship—saw threat and opportunity in the ensuing chaos, igniting paroxysms of violence that led to more disorder.

The most intense competition is between Sunnis and Shiites. This is a political rivalry that has been enshrined in the division of power in states across the region, from Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq in the north, to Bahrain and Yemen in the south. More broadly, it also afflicts Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Every turn in the regional collapse has ineluctably stoked the Iranian-Saudi rivalry.

As a consequence, the Arab world has been pulverized. Iraq and Syria are, for all intent and purposes, no longer nation-states in control of their territories. Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates have been spared the worst of the upheaval. But after long relying on America for their security, they now lack the capacity to manage the region on their own. Saudi Arabia’s strength has also been sapped by low energy prices, uncertain leadership, and its taxing war in Yemen.

Power in the Middle East has moved from its Arab heartland to Turkey and Iran. Turkey weathered a failed coup, but does not seem to have lost a beat in aggressively pursuing its regional agenda. In a replay of the erstwhile Ottoman-Safavid division of the Middle East, Turkey and Iran are now poised to step into the regional vacuum. The two frequently coordinate their positions on the Kurds, and have signaled a willingness to shoulder some of the burden that Washington either cannot take or does not want.

Turkey’s efforts to cultivate regional influence have had mixed success. Its hopes of swaying power in Egypt, Libya, and Syria, were dashed early on, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Ottoman ambitions remain strong. Whereas America’s Arab allies have largely shunned direct military involvement in Iraq and Syria, Turkey has sought a greater role in operations to push ISIS out of its strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa. Its primary focus is to contain Kurdish nationalism, but it also sees itself as protector of Sunni interests in Iraq and Syria.

Iran is an even more important factor in the region’s future. It has long sown regional instability, while also doing much of the fighting against ISIS, emerging as the sole regional power wielding influence in Baghdad, Damascus, and Sanaa. It is in Washington’s best interests that Iran use that influence constructively.

Throughout the campaign, Trump depicted America’s military adventures in the Middle East as wasteful fool’s errands. Yet he also vowed to defeat ISIS, which implies that unless he reverses course and embraces costly interventions, he’ll have to work with Arab allies, Turkey, and Iran. Similarly, any tenuous peace to be achieved in the region will require regional actors’ support for, and enforcement of, political settlements in Iraq and Syria, given the role of their respective clients in the conflict.

Russia is already following this strategy, engaging both Iran and Turkey in planning for the endgame in Syria. If the United States cooperated closely with Putin over Syria, it would have to join his framework. It would be better if the United States, rather than Russia, were the architect of such a framework. The United States could extend it to include Iraq as well, but also gain the support of the Arab world. In so doing, it could limit Russia’s ability to maneuver in the region, and leverage those gains in Europe. Yet from the perspective of America’s own objectives, it would be better if the United States, rather than Russia, outlined and worked toward its own vision of a settlement—one that included Iraq as well, and could garner broader support in the Arab world. Doing so could limit Russia’s ability to maneuver in the region.

Turkey is a NATO ally Washington can work with. But relations between Ankara and Washington have been frayed. Trump would have to repair the damage. Turkey’s domestic politics will be a point of contention, but greater investment in diplomacy and trust-building could facilitate an agreement over the future status of Syria’s Kurdish region, paving the way for closer collaboration in launching operations against ISIS. That would be the basis for a broader agreement over the final status of Syria.

Iran is unlikely to emerge as a working partner for the United States any time soon. Still, the two nations have reduced tensions through the nuclear deal, which has served as the basis for tacit cooperation in rolling back ISIS in Iraq. Scrapping the deal will not help build on those gains in the pursuit of regional stability. Rather, it would further destabilize the Middle East. U.S. gains in Iraq could unravel, the Syria war would continue to fester, and the specter of greater instability would spread everywhere that Iran has influence, from Afghanistan, to Yemen, to Lebanon. Washington would be faced with fighting Iranian influence, while contending with Sunni extremism without Iran’s help.

Better, then, for the Trump administration to accept the nuclear deal and further its implementation. Isolating Iran may satisfy the critics of the nuclear deal, but it will not serve America’s broader interests in the Middle East.

Those interests lie in pursuing order in the Middle East, not in expanding the scope of its conflicts. Washington’s leverage with Turkey and its Arab allies, the nuclear deal with Iran, and gains it has made against ISIS in Iraq, could be a basis for achieving broader political settlements in both Iraq and Syria, and ultimately the region. That may not be easy, but living with the alternative—calamitous wars, more refugees, and terrorism— will be infinitely harder.

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OECD Says Trump Tax and Spending Plans Will Boost Global Economy

Global growth will pick up faster than previously expected in the coming months as the Trump administration’s planned tax cuts and public spending fire up the U.S. economy, the OECD said on Monday, revising up its forecasts.

In its twice-yearly Economic Outlook, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated global growth would accelerate from 2.9% this year to 3.3% in 2017 and reach 3.6% in 2018.

The Paris-based organization was slightly more optimistic about the U.S. outlook, with a forecast for growth next year of 2.3%, up from 2.1% in its last set of estimates dating from September.

 U.S. growth would pick up further in 2018 to reach 3.0%, the highest rate since 2005, as the incoming Trump administration cut taxes on business and households and embarked on an infrastructure investment program.
 That would in turn drive the unemployment rate in the world’s biggest economy down from 4.9% this year to 4.5% in 2018, the OECD estimated.

As the U.S. labor market becomes increasing tight and wages rise, the OECD forecast inflation would increase from 1.2% in 2016 to 2.2% in 2018, prompting the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates gradually to 2.0% by end-2018.

A resurgent U.S. economy would help offset softness elsewhere in the world.

The OECD was slightly less pessimistic about Britain’s outlook than it was in September, as the central bank has helped ease the economic impact of the country’s decision to leave the European Union.

Britain’s economy was seen growing 2.0% this year, revised up from 1.8% previously, although the rate would be halved by 2018.

China, which is not a member of the 35-country OECD, was seen slowing from growth this year of 6.7% to 6.4% in 2017, both slightly better than previously expected.

Stronger U.S. import demand was seen offsetting weak Asian trade for Japan, where growth was revised up to 0.8% for this year from 0.6% previously and lifted to 1.0% in 2017 from a 0.7% estimate in September.

The euro area’s outlook was also slightly brighter despite uncertainties about Britain’s future relationship with the continent.

Boosted by loose monetary policy, euro area growth was seen at 1.7% this year and 1.6% in 2017 with both years revised slightly higher from the OECD’s September estimates.

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Photo:The Washington Post

The future’s looking bright for the NRA under Trump

Of all the issues that Donald Trump ran on, the one he was arguably the most consistent and clear about was his support for Second Amendment rights. In return, the National Rifle Association committed to Trump wholeheartedly.

The NRA stood by Trump from the get-go. They backed him early on with a major spending campaign,” notes Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles and the author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America. “They are tight with Trump Administration. They have their people in place and they know exactly what they’re going for.”

And now, with the prospect of a Clinton administration gone, gun advocates are celebrating. “I think the future looks pretty bright for us right now,” says Todd Rathner, a prominent gun rights lobbyist. Gun owners, he says, are eager to go on the offensive. So what happens next?

Most immediately, President Barack Obama’s executive orders on guns will be gone. (Obama has signed orders requiring more gun sellers to conduct background checks, requiring dealers to report lost or stolen guns, establishing an investigation center to track online gun trafficking, and launching research into gun safety technology.) “They’re going to overturn almost everything that Obama did,” Winkler says.

Next up is the Supreme Court. When the NRA magazine America’s 1st Freedom asked Trump whether the Second Amendment will be a consideration of his in nominating the next Supreme Court justice, he replied, “100 percent. I will appoint judges who will preserve our Second Amendment rights.” Gun owners are salivating at the implications of Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment, though not necessarily for obvious reasons. The death of Justice Scalia, the court’s most avid supporter of the Second Amendment and the author of the Heller decision, was a blow to the gun lobby. Yet even with Scalia in the court, there was not sufficient support to review the constitutionality of unsettled issues like assault weapons bans, high capacity magazine bans, and restrictions on concealed carry. “These are all issues that arose when Justice Scalia was still on the court, and the court did not have the four votes necessary to take any of those cases,” Winkler says. “The fact that his replacement will be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment doesn’t really change the dynamic of the Supreme Court. But what it does do is extend that support for the Second Amendment for the next 30 years. That’s a big win for the NRA.”

Rathner agrees. “The bottom line is that this whole election for gun owners in general was all about one thing: The Supreme Court,” he says. “All of these other things, these legislative issues, they come and go in terms of what administration and what legislative makeup you have at the time. But the effect that the Supreme Court can have on the Second Amendment is generational.”

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Donald Trump claims he won popular vote because millions voted illegally

Donald Trump has continued his criticism of Hillary Clinton’s support for election recounts in three states, claiming he won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally”.

The president-elect, who offered no evidence for his claims, earlier called the recount effort a “scam”, while senior adviser Kellyanne Conway called Green party candidate Jill Stein and Clinton “a bunch of crybabies and sore losers”.

Marc Elias, general counsel for the Clinton campaign, wrote on Saturday that the campaign would support Stein’s effort in Wisconsin, where a recount will take place. Stein is also pushing for recounts in Pennsylvania and Michigan and has raised more than $6m online to fund such efforts.

The decision put the Clinton camp at odds with the Obama White House, which has expressed confidence in election results.

On Saturday, Trump attacked Stein, using Twitter to say: “The Green Party scam to fill up their coffers by asking for impossible recounts is now being joined by the badly defeated [and] demoralized Dems.”

On Sunday morning, the president-elect fired off a volley of tweets, starting: “Hillary Clinton conceded the election when she called me just prior to the victory speech and after the results were in. Nothing will change.”

The president-elect then drew attention to a debate remark by Clinton after Trump refused to commit to accepting the election result, quoting her as saying: “That is horrifying. That is not the way our democracy works.

“Been around for 240 years. We’ve had free and fair elections. We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them, and that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a during a general election.

“I, for one, am appalled that somebody that is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that kind of position.”

Trump was due back in New York on Sunday after spending Thanksgiving at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where one report said he had been asking visitors who should be his secretary of state.

In the afternoon, around the time of his scheduled departure for Manhattan, he used Twitter to say: “In addition to winning the electoral college in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

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