Napalm in the Morning

How Trump mishandled his speech to the CIA; how fake news could fool robots; and more.


  • President Trump still thinks he won the popular vote, claiming in a meeting with top congressional leaders late yesterday that votes from three to five million undocumented immigrants cost him his victory. Notably, The New York Times headlined this as him repeating a “lie”; The Washington Post headline just said he was “without evidence.”

  • So far, plans by Trump’s political team to launch an outside group aimed at rallying his base “have stalled amid fighting between [Jared] Kushner loyalists, such as the campaign’s data and digital strategist Brad Parscale, and conservative donor Rebekah Mercer, according to people familiar with the tensions,” report Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Matea Gold for The Washington Post. “Major disputes include who would control the data the outside group would use, with Mercer advocating for Cambridge Analytica, a firm in which her father is invested, and who would control the lucrative contracts with vendors, these people said.

  • Brietbart.com immigration reporter Julia Hahn has reportedly been hired to work at the White House as a special assistant to the president working under chief strategist Stephen Bannon. As Ed Kilgore reports for New York magazine, Hahn used her perch at Breitbart to press politicians to express opposition to Muslim immigrants, even penning an article attacking House Speaker Paul Ryan for an omnibus spending bill that would allow “large flows of Sharia-sympathetic Muslim migrants” into America and warning that this would put “half a million U.S. girls at risk of suffering Female Genital Mutilation. Her hiring is being seen by House Republicans as a “provocative act” and a sign that “Bannon is willing to napalm the bridges with congressional Republicans,” reports Robert Costa for the Washington Post.

  • Hahn joins Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy advisor, and Bannon, in making up the “populist-nationalist” wing of the White House, Costa notes. (Why can’t he add the word racist?) Trump’s fiery inaugural speech was written by Miller and Bannon, Michael Bender reports for The Wall Street Journal.

  • Good news: Gerrit Lansing, the incoming White House chief digital officer, tweets “FYI: @USDS [the United States Digital Service] is here to stay in the new administration. Period.” He was responding to a question tweeted by Jason Miller of Federal News Radio.

  • The former executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Julie Kirchner, has been named chief of staff of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. FAIR favors a complete moratorium on all immigration into the United States and has close ties to white nationalists and eugenists, as the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Stephen Piggott reports.

  • The White House’s public comment phone line has been deactivated, with an automated message telling callers to use Facebook Messenger instead. But as Janko Roettgers of Variety points out, “Neither the White House nor President Donald Trump seem to currently maintain an active Facebook Messenger account.”

  • Longtime CIA staffers are pretty steamed by Trump’s performance at their headquarters Saturday, which was marked by his lack of understanding of military protocol or respect for the memorial he stood in front of, as S.V Date reports for The Huffington Post. While the little Twitler bragged about the standing ovations he got, Yael Eisenstat, a veteran of the intelligence community, pointed out that the audience stayed standing because “the CIA will not sit down until the president tells them to.” She added, “People are outraged,” Eisenstat said. “I have yet to hear anyone not disgusted.”

  • Today’s must-read: Andrew Romano of Yahoo News on how the remote Montana ski town of Whitefish mobilized to counter a threatened anti-Semitic march by neo-Nazis. Will Randall, the chairman of Love Lives Here, a local civic group, sums the story up well. “What this has shown me is that if we want to make a change as a community, our best way to do that is at the grassroots, local level. That’s where can confront these issues of racism and anti-Semitism and bigotry first. It’s not just someone on social media making a comment — thumbs up, thumbs down. It’s neighbors meeting face-to-face and coordinating plans to put their values out there. It’s pretty powerful stuff. Here in Montana, we might not have much say nationally. But we can make Whitefish a better town. And if we do that all around the country, I think the national narrative can change.”

  • Ok, one more inspiring quote from Romano’s story. This from a Vietnam Vet named Rick Nagel: “Over the last 10 or 15 years, I’ve been lazy. I lost my sense of patriotism. But I think this election has changed that. It’s always easy for everybody to get riled up for two or three weeks after Election Day. And then they have to go buy Christmas presents, and in January, they forget about it. But this time they didn’t do that. I think that the enthusiasm and commitment you’re seeing in Whitefish is for real — and it’s not limited to Whitefish. I think that people are realizing that democracy is their responsibility.”

  • BuzzFeed’s Ryan Broderick reports on how Trump fans are using private chat rooms to manipulate French voters into “making Europe great again” by elected far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to the presidency.

  • Cathy O’Neil (aka Mathbabe) is now a Bloomberg View columnist and in her first piece she argues that “if fake news fools you, it can fool robots too.”

  • This is civic tech: Linda Poon of CityLab reports on how our colleagues at Civic Hall Labs are revamping New York City’s annual Big Apps contest to make it more useful, effective and impactful, a shift that is already getting notice.

  • Bloomberg Associates is looking to hire a media and digital strategies associate to assist work helping cities operate more effectively and become hubs for civic innovation.

  • Your moment of zen: El Presidente comes to power.