The Slatest
Your News Companion

Jan. 20 2017 11:28 PM

If You Tried to Get Into an Inaugural Ball You Got Disappointed by the Trump Era Early

The inaugural balls cannot help but disappoint. What initially sounds so grand—three fancy-dress balls to honor the new head of state!—soon feels gauche and shabby once you learn that the main galas will be held not at some fancy mansion, but at D.C.’s Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which just last week played host to the Washington Wedding Experience; that the musical headliners are Tony Orlando sans Dawn, a few of the Rockettes, and Sam from Sam and Dave (Dave is dead); that the balls start at 7 p.m., presumably to accommodate all of the early-risers who paid $50 per ticket to attend; and that the honorees are a friendless, germophobic race-baiter who blustered his way into the presidency and his cigarette-resembling, Garfield-loving deputy. Versailles this ain’t.

Nevertheless, despite the presumed lack of fun to be had within, people go to the balls because going to a ball is what you do when you’re old and a Republican donor and own a tuxedo or ball gown. I had tickets to none of this year’s three official balls. But I went down there anyway to see what I could see and to see if I could bluff my way inside.

Jan. 20 2017 8:37 PM

Donald Trump’s Pick to Enforce Civil Rights Is a Civil Rights Disaster

Just before he became president, a report came out indicating how Donald Trump’s Justice Department would be treating civil rights. The Hill on Thursday offered a sneak peek of the blueprint for Trump’s DOJ, one major upshot being a reduction in funding for its civil rights division.

If it was already clear before the inauguration that Trump and Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions are likely to short shrift the issue, on Friday it became more so.

It was reported on Friday that John M. Gore, an attorney at the Jones Day firm, would be leading the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division as the deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights.

This is indicative for a number of reasons of the disregard with which Trump’s administration will treat civil rights enforcement.

Jan. 20 2017 7:48 PM

This Is a Video of White Nationalist Richard Spencer Getting Punched in the Face

Richard Bertrand Spencer, the white nationalist head of National Policy Institute, is one of the leading figures of the alt-right movement. His defunct publication Alternative Right, once published an essay titled “Is Black Genocide Right?” He himself has called for the “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of the United States for the creation of a white-ethno state. He has said that the central principle of this state and his movement should be that “all men are created unequal”.

Today in Washington, Richard Spencer was punched in the face.

Here is a GIF.

Moments after Richard Spencer was punched in the video above, he was reportedly punched in the face again. Video of that confrontation has not yet emerged, but it presumably looked something like this:

Jan. 20 2017 7:47 PM

No One Came to Donald Trump’s Little Parade

NBC’s Katy Tur noted around 1:40 p.m. Eastern that Pennsylvania Avenue was sparsely occupied ahead of the president's traditional parade from the Capitol to the White House.

Things weren’t quite that empty when the parade got started at about 4 p.m. ... but they were still pretty dang empty. Some stands were full, but others—including those near the White House—were very much not.

These are not the kinds of visuals one probably hopes for on the day that's typically the peak of an administration’s popularity.

Those who did show up were not necessarily Trump supporters:


Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images


Attendance at Trump’s swearing-in was also light. In probably related news, he takes office as the least popular incoming president since the dawn of polling.

Jan. 20 2017 7:28 PM

Protesters Came to D.C. to Disrupt Trump’s Inauguration—and Disrupt They Did

On Friday morning, throngs of ticketholders to the inauguration of Donald Trump encountered a surprising interruption: blockades of protesters with the ad-hoc activist group DisruptJ20, standing in the way of the entrances to the good seats. When my colleague Aymann Ismail and I arrived at the “Red Gate” entrance near D.C.’s Judiciary Square around 9:30 a.m., protesters were reciting chants that covered a wide breadth of interests and concerns: Black Lives Matter, the North Dakota Access Pipeline, immigration, and of course Trump. Meanwhile, the line for the Red Gate was rerouted to the Blue Gate, about a block away. Within the vicinity, others could be heard advocating for their own causes—pro-life, pro-God, pro-Rapture.

What happens when a Trump reveler encounters the rowdy opposition? The facial expressions of the inauguration attendees waiting in line while passing the DisruptJ20 protesters ranged from blank to bemused to disdainful—and finally, filled with heated anger. At least one person, wearing an abundance of Trump gear, ran past the activists chanting “Make America great again.” While the scene was peaceful for the most part, spikes in tension would occasionally arise as ticketholders tried to make their way past the blockade. Some of them seemed genuinely confused and unaware at first of what was going on; when protesters calmly directed them away from the blockade, they went on their way. But during the approximately 90 minutes I spent at the site, a handful of ticketholders deliberately tried to push through the crowd in order to antagonize the protesters, and some face-to-face shouting matches ensued. Roman, one such blockade bumper, told us he was annoyed to have to walk around to a different gate and felt they were “infringing” upon his rights: “They're disturbing my right to attend the inauguration, which they have no right to do.” One tall man, who appeared to be in his 50s or 60s, became so enraged that he stormed off and smacked a journalist’s camera to the ground. In a cheeky move, the protesters mocked the antagonists by chanting, “YOU wanted a wall!”


Jan. 20 2017 7:12 PM

Donald Trump's First Two Cabinet Nominees Are Confirmed

A whole two confirmed appointees will now be able to join Donald Trump on his wacky presidential adventure. The Senate on Friday afternoon confirmed two of the many military men Donald Trump has nominated to serve in his Cabinet. Easily. The third nominee that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hoped to confirm, would-be CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a congressman from Kansas, will have to wait until next week, despite McConnell’s warning that the terrorists were going to spend all weekend doing terrorism if Pompeo wasn’t around to give them nasty looks.

Retired General James Mattis is your new secretary of defense, confirmed by a margin of 98 to 1. Mattis was not eligible to serve as secretary of defense until a couple of hours ago, when our new president signed off on his waiver. With that nettlesome question about civilian control of the military out of the way, Mattis was in the clear. The only vote against him was Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has nothing against the dude but is still not a fan of granting waivers for recently retired four-star generals to serve as secretary of defense. Also, if he screws up, she can say she was right.

Retired Gen. John Kelly is your new secretary of homeland security, confirmed by a somewhat narrower margin of 88 to 11. He will be keeping an eye on the terrorists while Pompeo cools his heels for the weekend.

McConnell had wanted Pompeo confirmed Friday, but Democrats objected on grounds that they wanted more time for a public debate over his nomination. McConnell was making it sound as if he’d keep them all in the chamber eternally until he got his vote. The problem with that plan was that senators had lots of fun parties to go to tonight. So after a lengthy wait on the floor, McConnell announced a deal: The Senate would tee up a Pompeo vote for early next week with six hours of debate. But if there’s any terrorism this weekend, it’s Democrats’ fault, etc.

These were two of Donald Trump’s easiest confirmations. The fun resumes next week.

Jan. 20 2017 6:42 PM

Trump, Pelosi, and Ryan Yammering About Pens Is Why America Is Doomed

In normal times, the practice of the president using multiple pens to sign bills so that the pens can then be given away as gifts is viewed as one of the “frivolous little quirks” of American politics. On a day like Friday, it leads to excruciating experiences like this agonizingly long display of forced chumminess, inexplicably aired in its entirety by CNN.

Let me set the scene for you. Trump is signing proclamations making his Cabinet nominations official. Each nominee’s proclamation has a corresponding pen, and he’s giving those pens away as souvenirs to the people in the room. Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Paul Ryan are there, among others. Trump, of course, is now right where he wants to be, at the center of attention dispensing goodies to people who hate him but think they have to be nice to him anyway.

Trump: We'll take that pen. This one I’m signing quite a few times, folks. [Signing] This is for Rex. Assume he was approved today.
Chuck Schumer: Not yet
Paul Ryan: It's coming though, right, Chuck?

Schumer: We'll see.  [LAUGHS]

Ryan: [To Trump] Looks like you added some letters into your name.

Trump: [Something inaudible like ahhhhvahhhvahhh.] These beautiful children keep pushing me, but that’s OK. [Signing]
Someone off camera: We’ve got another stack coming. [Signing]
Trump: Thank you. I’d like to give some pens out.
Ryan: Each Cabinet secretary gets their own pen.
Trump: How about we do Nancy first? Is that OK? [Hands pen to Nancy Pelosi … Signing … hands a different pen to Schumer.] All right Chuck!
Schumer: Depends on the name.
Trump: Very nice.
Ryan: Ben Carson.
Pelosi: I got Tom Price.
Trump: He's going to be terrific. He's going to get approved. But I'll give you a different one. Do you want Elaine? I’ll give you Elaine.
Pelosi: All right.
Trump: Tom is not insulting.
Pelosi: Mr. President, the leader wants Elaine.
Trump: The leader should have Elaine!
Schumer: [To Pelosi] You get Price back.
Ryan: I'll take him!
Trump: You did very well yesterday. Rick Perry. Look, Chuck.
Schumer: Better than Carson.
Trump: OK. Who would like Rick Perry?
Kevin McCarthy: I want him.
Trump: Tough group of people here. They're learning the hard way. OK, Betsy. Education, right? [McCarthy gestures at Ryan.] Oh, I thought Chuck wanted it.
Schumer: Not that one. No, thank you, Mr. President.
Trump: This is a rough group.
Ryan: It is. I’m happy to take it.
Trump: Next … I think we're going to need some more pens by the way. Labor. Puzder He's going to do a good job.
Schumer: Oh no.
Trump: This is a person who has gotten great reviews. Not well known. This is the Veterans’ Administration. I think Chuck might like that.
Schumer: I’d like that one. I'll make a trade.
Trump: OK, I’ll let you make a trade.
Pelosi: Who did you trade?
Schumer: I traded Carson for the veterans. [To Trump] Thank you. Good pen! This is a good one!
Trump: This is one a lot of people are going to want: John Kelly.
Schumer: Oh yeah, he’s a good one.
Trump: He's a good man.
Ryan: Chuck, put the cap on it or you’ll get your shirt stained.
Trump: Reince, you should get something. Here. Are you getting more pens back there? This is fun!
Ryan: It's an equal number for the cabinets.
Someone: I think the vice president should get Coats.
Trump: [To Mike Pence] I think Dan is your man, right? If we run out of pens, we will use the same one.
McCarthy: We may have to recycle a couple pens.
Trump: OK. A great trade negotiator. I’ll tell you, Chucky’s a great trade negotiator. Smart.
Schumer: I have a pen already.
Trump: Mike Pompeo. They tell me he's going to be approved momentarily.
Schumer: Depends how you define momentarily.
Trump: Here's one that I think Nancy would like. She would like a double. Scott Pruitt.
Pelosi: No!
Trump: He's going to do a great job.
Pelosi: The speaker would like that.
Trump: Just won the World Series with his team and the family. He’s going to be helping Wilbur.
Roy Blunt: Secretary of commerce.
Trump: You like Wilbur, right? [Signing.] Vincent Viola. Everybody likes Vincent.
Schumer: I like Vinny. I can't get too many pens.
Trump: No, no, you're only getting one.
Trump: Jay Clayton. Going to be fantastic. Head of the SEC. Linda McMahon, terrific woman. Small business. Seema, you know Seema? Mike, that's your person. Very talented. Indiana. Nikki Haley. I think Nikki is going to do a great job.
Someone off camera: You can give a few more out. Just keep one.
Trump: OK, We're running out of people to give them to. We have two Nikki Haleys. Is she applying for two positions? Okay, Terry Branstad. The governor. Longest serving governor. China loves him and he loves China. He’s a good man.
Pelosi: I was hoping he would get natural resources, because he's for the renewable standard.
Trump: I’ll tell you he’s a terrific guy. Longest serving governor in history. 24 years. Longest in history.  Here's one that's not at all controversial: David Friedman. He's from New York. [To Schumer.] You should know him.
Schumer: I never met him.
Trump: You sort of said that about me too! David is going to do a great job. Back there. Somebody. OK. Thank you.
Unidentified: One more: proclamation.
Trump: Proclamation. Proclamation of what?

Day of national patriotism.
Trump: OK, day of national patriotism:
Someone: What is it?
Someone else: Day of national patriotism.

Someone else:
I think we're done. [Applause]

Enjoy the next four years everyone!

Jan. 20 2017 6:28 PM

How Fox News Described Trump’s Speech: “Muscular,” “Masterful,” “Completely Nonpartisan"

There has been much hand-wringing among the so-called mainstream media over how to cover the Trump presidency—the need to better understand and empathize with his supporters, the pitfalls of “normalizing” him. But it’s Fox News, and not CNN or the New York Times, whose coverage will have the greatest influence over a plurality of American voters. And it’s Fox News who doesn’t have to stress about any of that.

Perhaps this is why the mood on America’s most-watched cable news network Friday was neither triumphant, as I expected it to be, nor tortured like its competitors. It was sober, grave, and warily respectful—a mood befitting the inauguration of a new president, if perhaps not this particular new president. Four years ago, Fox News griped and groaned its way through Obama’s second inauguration. Today, it could just be.

As Trump’s swearing-in approached, hosts Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, and Dana Perino talked about the apparent cordiality between the Obamas and the Trumps; the presence of Bill and Hillary Clinton; the warm regards and regrets sent to Trump by George H. W. Bush; and the importance of the country’s traditions surrounding the peaceful transfer of power. Clearly the hosts were keenly aware that many Americans view Trump’s presidency as illegitimate, even as they avoided acknowledging it. Eisenhower and Truman, someone pointed out, had far chillier relations than Obama and Trump. A shot of the 44th and 45th presidents walking side-by-side was hailed as “the image the world needs to see.”

The new president’s fiery, intensely nationalist inauguration speech was largely lauded by Fox News’ commentators. Perino called it “muscular” and “unifying.” Martha MacCallum found it “very forceful,” while another commentator dubbed it “just masterful.” Charles Krauthammer noted that it was “completely nonpartisan,” by which he meant that it was populist rather than classically conservative. Wallace’s takeaway: “There’s a new sheriff in town.” (Trump’s own senior adviser, Kellyanne Conway, had used the same line hours earlier on ABC’s Good Morning America.)

Popular history-book writer Jay Winik, on hand to lend a veneer of historical perspective, called the address “a remarkable moment” that would be remembered as “a speech for the forgotten man.” Winik compared Trump to Andrew Jackson, who he said “went on to become a great president.” (That is debatable.) A rare dash of criticism came from Krauthammer, who highlighted Trump’s use of the slogan “America first” and its connection to the nativist 1940s political movement of the same name. An awkward moment ensued before MacCallum resolved it by reminding viewers to take Trump “seriously, not literally.”

Partisan gloating was kept to a decorous minimum, though Tucker Carlson did allow himself a snide jab at the backside of the Obamas’ military helicopter as it departed the Capitol. “If you’re talking about the legacy of this man in the helicopter,” he said, “it can be summed up in two words: Donald Trump.” But that was the exception rather than the norm during Friday’s newscast, and Matthews was quick to point out that Obama was leaving office with “historically high” approval ratings. Obamacare, he added, would not be easy to “repeal and replace,” as Trump and GOP leaders have pledged to do.

Gloating, presumably, will not be in short supply Friday evening, when Carlson and Sean Hannity take back-to-back slots, nor in the days and weeks to come. Still, it will be interesting to see how Fox News, no longer led by impresario Roger Ailes nor driven by opposition to Obama, adjusts to once again being the network of the party in power. When the president is “muscular,” “unifying,” and “just masterful,” and his party controls both houses of Congress, what’s not to love?

Jan. 20 2017 5:57 PM

Congressman Assures Fans He Was Thinking About Clinton’s Emails While Shaking Her Dirty, Corrupt Hand

On Friday, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz promised his Instagram followers that, despite the existence of video footage in which he is seen shaking Hillary Clinton's hand, he is staying focused on the former presidential candidate's emails. “So pleased she is not the President,” the head of the House Oversight Committee wrote, below a post screengrabbing his moment of physical contact with Clinton's palm and fingers. “I thanked her for her service and wished her luck. The investigation continues.”

Jan. 20 2017 5:51 PM

What Was the Purpose of Friday’s Inauguration Clashes?

The most serious protests against the start of the presidency of Donald J. Trump are slated to occur in the form of the Women’s March on Washington and related sister marches across the country on Saturday. Organizers of that effort have said they expect a possible quarter of a million men and women to peacefully protest a president who has been accused of multiple sexual assaults, promised to appoint Supreme Court judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and is reportedly planning to gut Justice Department funding to combat violence against women, apparently just for kicks. So the message of protesters in Saturday’s fully permitted rally seems to be pretty clear: Donald Trump has proved time and again to be bad for women and bad for America.

What was less clear was the overarching goal of some of the much smaller protest actions that took place around Washington on Inauguration Day itself. One of the main protest groups, DisruptJ20, said that its protests were designed to be “a series of massive direct actions that will shut down the Inauguration ceremonies and any related celebrations—the Inaugural parade, the Inaugural balls, you name it. We’re also planning to paralyze the city itself, using blockades and marches to stop traffic and even public transit.”

The organization included a map of protest sites titled “Inauguration Clusterfuck 2017.”

You can debate the merits of direct action aimed at disrupting the celebrations for both the peaceful transfer of power and also for a man who has treated Democratic norms as nuisances that can easily be swatted away in his quest for power. But what seems clear is that a small number of these actions—taken away from the main parade route—got out of hand.

To wit, here are some things that happened on Friday:

  • A few blocks away from the inaugural parade route, a limo was set on fire in downtown Washington.
  • There were repeated clashes between police and protesters at that same spot in Franklin Square, with the Washington Post reporting that some demonstrators were “throwing rocks, bricks and chunks of concrete and taking newspaper boxes and barriers and putting them on the streets.”
  • “During the afternoon clash, the protesters started a fire in the middle of the street using garbage bins and newspaper boxes, and some climbed trees and light poles,” the Post additionally reported.
  • “When one police SUV tried to drive through the crowd, several protesters dressed in all black tried to block it; when the SUV sped up, pushing the protesters aside, one picked up a rock, threw it, and smashed the vehicle’s rear window,” the Post reported as well.
  • Black-clad self-described “anti-capitalist and antifascist” protesters around that same K Street corridor area broke things, set fires, attacked businesses, and injured three officers, one of whom was struck by a thrown object.
  • More than 90 people were arrested as police claimed violence had caused “significant damage to a number of blocks in our city.”
  • A number of protesters went to checkpoints for entering the inauguration, some attempting to prevent attendees from reaching the event.
  • One bystander, the Post reports, was hit in the head by a flashbang or percussion grenades that were either thrown by protesters or police. He was cut and bleeding.
  • A Trump supporter who was bleeding from a welt on this cheek said a man hit him with a rock after he had attempted to tackle a different anti-Trump protester.

Again, much of the reported violence occurred around the Franklin Square site in downtown Washington just north of the White House and southeast of Dupont Circle.

To be clear, none of the Disrupt events on the official “Inauguration Clusterfuck 2017” appeared to have been planned around Franklin Square. The group held a variety of protests on a series of different social justice topics all around the city, including a larger permitted event at McPherson Square attended by Michael Moore. My colleagues in Washington have been attending a number of those peaceful demonstrations throughout the day and will be reporting more on them later. And the D.C. chief of police emphasized that the violence was caused by a relatively small number of protesters. “It's a very, very small percentage of the number of folks that came here to peacefully assemble in our city,” said interim chief of police Peter Newsham.

But it was enough for Mayor Muriel E. Bowser to send out a series of tweets condemning the violence.

What was accomplished by civil disobedience that turned into violence from a small number of protesters? Those demonstrators did not seem to be offering explicit goals along with the acts of violence.

And as my colleague, Leon Neyfakh, noted on Friday, within minutes of his inauguration, Trump’s White House websites had issued a warning to protesters of all stripes, saying, “Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.”

Hopefully, law enforcement in the era of Trump doesn’t take violent clashes from a small number of people as an excuse to clamp down on peaceful practitioners of the right to freely assemble, as hundreds of thousands are expected to do across the nation on Saturday.