2018 State of the Union Live Blog
President Trump’s first State of the Union is at 9 p.m. Tuesday night. Follow along with us below the live video player for coverage of the pre-speech buildup, live reaction from Slate writers, and postgame analysis. And, of course, the always treacherous official rebuttal, which will be delivered by Democratic Rep. Joe Kennedy III.
ACLU Honors Colin Kaepernick For Bravery in “Risking and Losing His Job” for the Cause of Social Justice
BEVERLY HILLS, California—Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was a surprise honoree at the ACLU of Southern California’s annual "Bill of Rights Dinner" on Sunday, receiving the Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award.
Kaepernick, whose public speaking appearances have been rare in recent months, remained unsigned this year after he spent last season protesting racial inequities in the criminal justice system by taking a knee during the national anthem.
“Our next honoree took a stand. He took a stand knowing he would risk his job. And he has lost his job, one that he loved and was supremely talented and skilled at,” executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, Hector Villagra, told a packed ballroom at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. “He took a stand knowing that some would criticize him and he has been viciously and unfairly criticized.”
The protest movement Kaepernick sparked has gained the support of several other players. Kaepernick and these players have been fiercely criticized by President Donald Trump, who said league owners should fire any “son of a bitch” who protests. Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the league and teams for allegedly colluding to keep him out of the NFL for his protests.
Kaepernick’s appearance was a surprise and he received lengthy ovations both before and after his remarks—the opening ovation actually drowned out much of an introductory video describing Kaepernick’s work. Kaepernick has pledged to donate $1 million of his own money to social justice causes and has nearly reached that total, having already given $900,000
“We must confront systemic oppression as a doctor would a disease. You identify it, you call it out, you treat it, and you defeat it,” Kaepernick said during brief remarks. “We all have an obligation no matter the risk and regardless of reward to stand up for our fellow men and women who are being oppressed with an understanding that human rights cannot be compromised.”
“In the words of Frederick Douglass: ‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress,’” he concluded.
In introductory remarks, Villagra emphasized the risks Kaepernick has taken by speaking out against racial injustice in the way that he has, and said the group had declined to publicize Kaepernick’s appearance in advance because he has received death threats.
“He has been called a traitor because too many people in this country confuse dissent for disloyalty,” Villagra said. “He took a stand knowing some would even threaten him and he has had his life threatened, which is why—though we are profoundly honored to have him here—we didn’t publicize his presence tonight.”
Last year’s winners of the Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award were Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, the Gold Star parents of fallen Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who were also criticized by Trump after they vocally denounced then-candidate Trump's proposed Muslim Ban during the election.
Other award recipients this year include Viola Davis, Jane Fonda, Gina Rodriquez, and Judd Apatow.
CVS Set to Buy Aetna for $69 Billion in Largest Corporate Acquisition of the Year
The board of directors of health insurer Aetna approved its sale to drugstore chain operator CVS on Sunday in a massive deal that will amount to about $207 per share in cash and stock. The deal, which is valued at some $69 billion will the largest corporate acquisition of the year, according to Reuters. Although the purchase hasn’t been officially announced yet, several media outlets are reporting it as a done deal.
One of the keys to the deal is how CVS wants to use its network of low-cost clinics to save more than $1 billion on health care costs for Aetna’s approximately 23 million members. Plus, the combination of retail outlet and insurance provider means the company will likely be in a better position to negotiate lower prices on drugs. CVS could then become more of a “one-stop-shop for health care, a place where patients can get blood drawn, then see a nurse practitioner and pick up prescriptions,” notes AP.
The purchase comes at a time when the entire health sector is worried about how Amazon could shake up the sector’s once reliable business model. That is why the CVS purchase of Aetna could be the start of a trend as other companies may look at the move as a way to protect themselves from expected changes in the industry. “One of the problems with the health-care system is it’s so fragmented and there’s so little coordination,” Steve Kraus, who invests in health firms at Bessemer Venture Partners, tells Bloomberg. “A better vertically integrated less-siloed system is a good thing in my mind.”
Roughly $145 of the $207 a share that CVS will pay will be in cash while the rest will be in newly issued stock. At the end of the day, Aetna shareholders are set to hold around 22 percent of the combined firm, while CVS shareholders will hold the rest. Although the deal could lead to questions from regulators about whether Aetna customers will be forced to use CVS, antitrust experts tell Reuters there seems to be little doubt it would be approved.
Republican Senate Leader Changes Tune on Roy Moore, Says Alabama Must Decide
It was only a few weeks ago that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky appeared to draw a line in the sand when it came to GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is running in the December 12 special election. But now he appears to be making a clear switch with the intent of welcoming the former judge into the Senate even though numerous women have said he made sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers.
“I'm going to let the people of Alabama make the call,” McConnell said on ABC’s This Week.
Asked by @GStephanopoulos if he believes Roy Moore should be in the Senate, @SenateMajLdr says, “I’m going to let the people of Alabama make the call.” https://t.co/grERTlnlwr #ThisWeek pic.twitter.com/s934L8feMB— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 3, 2017
When asked whether the Senate could “take action” against Moore if he’s elected, McConnell washed his hands of the issue, saying it was up to the Senate Ethics Committee. “The Ethics Committee will have to consider the matters that have been litigated in the campaign should that particular candidate win,” McConnell said. “The Ethics Committee will handle this in the regular ordered way that we do this in the Senate. And I'm confident they'll come up with the right conclusion.”
That marks quite the change from a few weeks ago when McConnell said that “Roy Moore should step aside” because “the women who’ve come forward are entirely credible.” Speaking at a press conference on Nov. 14, McConnell went even further, saying that Moore is “obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate, and we’ve looked at all the options to try to prevent that from happening.”
The apparent change of heart shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise. As Slate’s Will Saletan wrote Friday, it has seemed evident that Moore’s Republican colleagues are getting ready to argue “that voters, by electing him, cleared him of sexual misconduct.” How was Saletan so sure about this? Because that’s exactly what they did with Trump.
McConnell’s shift in tone on Moore came as the latest poll by CBS News claims the Republican candidate has a clear lead—49 percent to 43 percent—over his Democratic opponent among likely voters. The poll reveals that turnout will be key though because when all registered voters are taken into account, the results are split pretty evenly. But for now at least, it seems the sexual misconduct allegations haven’t made much of a dent on Moore’s support from Republicans, 71 percent of whom describe them as false.
At the end of the day though, it’s likely pollsters don’t really have much of a clue what will happen in Alabama. Politico explains why:
The most important and closely watched election in the nation is taking place in the equivalent of a polling black box. There are no established, in-state polling institutions or dominant regional media outlets to fill that void. Since it’s not typically a politically competitive state, outside pollsters don’t have much experience in Alabama either. Outside of Fox News and a Washington Post poll released Saturday, national media outlets or major pollsters haven’t yet stepped forward to survey the race.
On top of all that, the Alabama Senate race is a special, off-year election being held just before Christmas — layering on more elements of uncertainty and mystery.
Dianne Feinstein Sees Possible Obstruction of Justice Case Against Trump on the Horizon
Sen. Dianne Feinstein from California revealed Sunday that the Senate investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election could very well translate into an obstruction of justice case against President Donald Trump. “I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice,” Feinstein said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I think we see this in the four indictments and pleas that have just taken place, and some of the comments being made. I see it in the hyper-frenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets.”
The "four indictments and pleas" Feinstein is referring to how Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his partner Rick Gates were indicted in October while former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign advier George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that the obstruction of justice case can be seen “most importantly” in the firing of James Comey as FBI director. “It is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to 'lift the cloud' of the Russia investigation. That's obstruction of justice,” she said.
Although her words are strong, Feinstein never actually says that there is an ongoing case against Trump, just that she’s looking at how things could develop. It is significant, though, that she appears to confirm the Judiciary Committee is looking into possible obstruction charges.
Feinstein also expressed increasing concern about Trump’s ability to do his job. “I’ve been here for 25 years now, um, there is a kind of instability, unpredictability,” she said. “It’s one issue after the other. We’ve got major problems in the world with our allies now, in the Middle East, with North Korea. It goes on and on. And I think that this president is just precipitating more and more angst that’s going to lead to serious discord.” Feinstein said that she hit her “enough is enough moment” about a month ago, although she can’t pinpoint to a particular event that made her switch positions.
Kushner Makes As Little News As Humanly Possible in First Public Appearance Since Flynn Indictment
White House senior advisor to the president Jared Kushner made a public appearance in Washington on Sunday despite being at the center of several overlapping controversies that appear to have widened in recent days. At the Saban Forum, an annual conference on Middle East politics and the U.S.–Israel relationship organized by the Brookings Institution, Kushner studiously avoided saying anything controversial about recent events or anything even slightly newsworthy about his efforts to reach what his father-in-law has called the “ultimate deal.”
The biggest news might have been that Kushner showed up at all. His appearance came one day after former national security adviser Michael Flynn reached a plea agreement that appeared to implicate Kushner in his back-channel contacts with Russia during the transition. It’s been reported that Kushner was the “very senior member” of Trump’s transition team who directed Flynn to contact the ambassador from Russia and other countries about an impending U.N. vote on Israeli settlements last December. Kushner also reportedly played a role in the abortive ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week, which has now apparently been put on hold.
Despite all that, it was clear from the beginning that the onstage interview with the conference’s sponsor, Israeli American media mogul and philanthropist Haim Saban, wasn’t going to be tough sledding for Kushner. Acknowledging that Kushner has “been in the news, the last few days,” Saban thanked his guest for his lobbying on Israel’s behalf during the transition, saying, “as far as I know, there’s nothing illegal there.” This prompted a spattering of light applause from the pro-Israel crowd at the Willard InterContinental Hotel, which included former Sen. Joe Lieberman, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. There was no other mention of the Flynn investigation.
Kushner also declined to comment on reports that President Trump plans to announce next week that he will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the embassy from Tel Aviv, a controversial move that would likely enrage Palestinians and could complicate Kushner’s diplomatic efforts. “He’s still looking at a lot of different facts,” Kushner said. “When he makes his decision, he’ll be the one to tell you, not me.” There was no mention of his widely reported clashes with Tillerson.
Saban, a major Democratic Party donor who supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, was chummy with his guest, telling the story of how they met and pitching softballs about how he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, were adjusting to life in Washington. He did mildly needle Kushner about his team’s qualifications, calling them “real estate lawyers” and “a bunch of orthodox Jews who have no idea about anything,” noting that “there’s not a Middle East macher in this group,” using a Yiddish word for an influential power player.
Kushner conceded that “it’s not a conventional team.” “We’ve gone out of our way to do a lot of listening,” he said. In a room full of peace-process veterans, Kushner made a point to praise past efforts to reach a deal, though he added, “We’ve been very deliberate about not setting time frames, not doing what’s been done before.”
Kushner expressed hope that if the Israeli–Palestinian issue were resolved, Israel could find common ground with other Middle East countries, saying they now see Israel as “a much more natural ally today than 20 years ago” because of common concerns about Iranian influence and ISIS. Acknowledging that the Palestinian issue has been an obstacle to wider regional diplomatic goals may have been the closest thing to a newsworthy statement at the event.
Kushner said that the Israeli–Palestinian issue is “very personal to” his father-in-law. “He’s sees this as very integral to America and to his personal values,” Kushner said. As for the scrutiny he’s received from the media, he said, “I don’t let it bother me. There are people who are good at dealing with the media. My focus is on the objectives.”
The session wrapped up several minutes early without any questions from the crowd or reporters.
Trump Says FBI Credibility Is in “Tatters,” Denies Telling Comey to Stop Flynn Probe
President Donald Trump went on a an anti-FBI tweetstorm Sunday morning seizing on news that a veteran counterintelligence agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team due to anti-Trump text messages. The president said that “after years” of fired FBI director James Comey’s leadership, the FBI’s “reputation is in Tatters – worst in History!” But the commander in chief told supporters not to worry, because “we will bring it back to greatness.”
After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
The president then went on to call the agent who was removed from Mueller’s team a “Tainted (no, very dishonest?)” FBI agent. He was referring to Peter Strzok, who sent text messages to another agent that were critical of Trump. Strzok was immediately removed from Mueller’s team following the revelation, the New York Times and Washington Post first reported on Saturday. Strzok wasn’t just any agent; he “is considered one of the most experienced and trusted F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators” and “helped lead the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton had mishandled classified information on her private email account,” reports the New York Times.
Tainted (no, very dishonest?) FBI “agent’s role in Clinton probe under review.” Led Clinton Email probe. @foxandfriends Clinton money going to wife of another FBI agent in charge.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
As he commented on Strzok, Trump also retweeted two posts by Paul Sperry, a media fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, who called on the current FBI chief Christopher Wray to “clean house” at the bureau. Sperry also seized on the Strzok news to talk about the “politicization” of the FBI.
BREAKING: top FBI investigator for Mueller--PETER STRZOK--busted sending political text messages bashing Trump & praising Hillary during the 2016 campaign. STRZOK actually LED the Hillary email probe & recommended clearing her; then was tapped to SUPERVISE the Trump Russia probe!— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) December 2, 2017
Wray needs to clean house. Now we know the politicization even worse than McCabe's ties to McAuliffe/Clinton. It also infected his top investigator PETER STRZOK, who sent texts bashing Trump & praising Hillary during campaign. Strzok led Hillary probe & supervised Trump probe! https://t.co/0y403oeqvX— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) December 2, 2017
In case his message wasn’t clear, Trump wrote yet another tweet relating to Strzok. “Report: ‘ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE’ Now it all starts to make sense!” Trump wrote.
Report: “ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE” Now it all starts to make sense!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
Trump’s reaction is hardly surprising and was actually expected ever since the news broke. “Among federal law enforcement officials, there is great concern that exposure of the texts they exchanged may be used by the president and his defenders to attack the credibility of the Mueller probe and the FBI more broadly,” the Washington Post wrote Saturday.
His anti–FBI tweets were not his first of the day. It seems Trump had a bit of trouble sleeping Saturday night and had the news on his mind when he took to Twitter early in the morning to deny that he asked former FBI chief James Comey to stop investigating his fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn. “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn,” Trump said in a pre-dawn message on Twitter. “Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”
I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
Trump’s tweet came hours after his first message on the social media platform regarding Flynn, claiming he “had to fire” his national security adviser, because “he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” That raised lots of eyebrows, because it suggested Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he allegedly asked then–FBI chief James Comey to go easy on the former national security adviser.
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
“The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, ‘He is a good guy and has been through a lot,’ ” Comey said in written testimony to Congress in June. “He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, 'I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.’ ”
Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, then came forward to say he was the one who drafted the tweet in a “sloppy” manner.
As Pressure Mounts, Trump Predictably Lashes Out Against Hillary Clinton Yet Again
The pattern is now a cliché. Whenever President Donald Trump starts to feel pressure mount over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, he launches an attack toward an opponent he beat more than a year ago. In a series of tweets, the commander in chief complained about how his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was prosecuted while Hillary Clinton was not. Flynn’s “life is destroyed” but nothing happens to Clinton, Trump wrote. “Rigged system, or just a double standard?”
So General Flynn lies to the FBI and his life is destroyed, while Crooked Hillary Clinton, on that now famous FBI holiday “interrogation” with no swearing in and no recording, lies many times...and nothing happens to her? Rigged system, or just a double standard?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
Although Flynn pleaded guilty and the FBI said there was nothing in the evidence to recommend charges against Clinton, Trump said the cases were similar and criticized what he referred to as the “Justice” Department. “Many people in our Country are asking what the ‘Justice’ Department is going to do about the fact that totally Crooked Hillary, AFTER receiving a subpoena from the United States Congress, deleted and “acid washed” 33,000 Emails? No justice!” Trump wrote.
Many people in our Country are asking what the “Justice” Department is going to do about the fact that totally Crooked Hillary, AFTER receiving a subpoena from the United States Congress, deleted and “acid washed” 33,000 Emails? No justice!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
This was not the first time this week that Trump lashed out against his former opponent. Earlier in the week, the commander in chief dedicated several tweets to a claim by a former inspector general for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Charles McCullough, who says the release of Clinton’s emails would have harmed national security. He also claims there was a “coordinated” effort by the State Department and Clinton’s campaign to play down the importance of the emails. “Why aren’t our deep State authorities looking at this? Rigged & corrupt?” wrote Trump on Twitter.
“Had the information (Crooked Hillary’s emails) been released there would have been harm to National Security...."— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2017
Fmr Intel Comm Inspector General pic.twitter.com/b0tLW5TVhX
Charles McCullough, the respected fmr Intel Comm Inspector General, said public was misled on Crooked Hillary Emails. “Emails endangered National Security.” Why aren’t our deep State authorities looking at this? Rigged & corrupt? @TuckerCarlson @seanhannity— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2017
If there’s one thing that’s clear is Trump really can’t stop talking about Clinton’s emails. And Clinton herself addressed that issue earlier in the week, saying she thinks Trump’s ego is still bruised because she got more votes than he did. “Well, he’s a little obsessed with me, but I think it’s partly his own ego because he knows I got more votes and he knows that there are questions about the election that deserve answers,” Clinton told the Washington Post podcast “Listen Up.” “And he knows I’m still speaking out, I haven’t retreated under a rock somewhere.”
The End Zone Literally Folded Up Like a Carpet During a Crucial Play in the Big Ten Championship Game
With under 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Wisconsin Badgers ran a play for running back Chris James near Ohio State's goal line. As Ohio State's linemen planted their feet in the artificial "field turf" of Lucas Oil Stadium in an effort to keep from giving ground, the ground ... disappeared.
The game was then paused for an eleven minute turf delay as a groundskeeper fixed things up:
Wisconsin scored on the play in question but ultimately lost the game 27-21. The turf has not yet been made available for comment.
Trump’s Love of Fast Food and Four Other Key Revelations From New Book
A new book by fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and top aide David Bossie gives an inside look into the chaotic workings of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, according to the Washington Post, which got an advance copy. Although the authors of Let Trump Be Trump seem to take pains to paint a “largely admiring portrait” of Trump, they still reveal details that illustrate how “a cast of mostly neophyte political aides learn on the fly and ultimately accept Trump’s propensity to go angrily off message.”
Some of the key revelations include:
—Trump loves his fast food: “On Trump Force One there were four major food groups: McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, pizza and Diet Coke,” the authors write. Trump loves his McDonald’s and has a killer of a standing dinner order— “two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted.” And it’s clear the president takes his meals seriously. Campaign staffers spent lots of time making sure hot fast food would arrive on his plane after rallies.
—Trump loves to snack (but hates germs): It isn’t just fast food. It seems Trump loves all kinds of snacks and the campaign plane’s cupboards were filled with “Vienna Fingers, potato chips, pretzels, and many packages of Oreos.” Trump’s well-known germophobia means he won’t eat from a cookie packet that has already been opened.
—Trump likes to have his suit pressed (while wearing it): Press Secretary Hope Hicks had many jobs, and one was to make sure Trump’s suits were pressed. “Get the machine!” Trump would apparently yell to beckon Hicks to grab the steamer. “She’d steam the jacket first and then sit in a chair in front of him and steam his paints.”
—Trump has a horrible temper (and tends to lash out): It seems everyone who works for Trump will experience his wrath at some point. Although it isn’t meant to be personal it’s difficult not to take it that way. “The mode that he switches into when things aren’t going his way can feel like an all-out assault; it’d break most hardened men and women into little pieces,” the authors write.
—Trump was always sure of his victory: After the Access Hollywood tape came out, Reince Priebus, the Republican chairman, warned that “people are dropping like flies.” Priebus allegedly told Trump that there were only two possible outcomes: “lose the biggest electoral landslide in American history” or drop out. “First of all,” Trump allegedly said. “I’m going to win. And second, if the Republican Party is going to run away from me, then I will take you all down with me. But I’m not going to lose.”