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October 19, 2018

Ready to go through the 2016 election all over again?

Philippe Reines, who worked for Hillary Clinton going back to 2002 and was her senior adviser at the State Department, made the argument to Politico Friday that the former Democratic nominee might actually be the party's best hope for defeating Trump in 2020. He said no other Democrat has "anywhere near a base of 32 million people," especially not Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). The party, he feels, shouldn't dismiss her as a failed candidate because she's "smarter" and "tougher" than most, and she "could raise money easier than most."

But it doesn't sound like this is just wishful thinking on his part. He really thinks it could happen, saying the chances of Clinton running in 2020 are "not zero.”

Publicly, Clinton has said she will not run again, but Reines doesn't sound so sure she'll keep her word on that. Politico explored Clinton's careful re-entry into the political arena, noting that she's going on tour with former President Bill Clinton this fall and has reportedly even called up journalists who cover the White House to put out "the occasional feeler."

Despite her non-zero interest in public office, her favorability is even lower than it was in 2016. A recent Gallup poll found that Clinton is now polling at 36 percent — five points lower than President Trump. Read more about her political future at Politico. Brendan Morrow

10:19a.m.

The election recount in one key Florida county is going to stretch on even longer than expected, and it's all thanks to outdated voting machines.

Palm Beach County's election supervisor, Susan Bucher, said Tuesday night that nearly 175,000 early ballots would need to be recounted yet again because some of their machines overheated and produced incorrect tallies, The Miami Herald reports. This means they lost a day and a half of work, says The Washington Post. As a result of these technical difficulties, the recount is going to be further delayed, Bucher explained. She had already said the county would likely not be able to make the statewide deadline of Thursday at 3 p.m.

Recounts were ordered in Florida over the weekend after key races, including the closely-watched gubernatorial and Senate elections, came down to a margin of less than 0.5 percentage points. This legally requires a machine recount, which normally would need to be completed by Thursday, Nov. 15. A judge recently extended the deadline in Palm Beach to Nov. 20, although Secretary of State Ken Detzner is taking that decision to federal court, reports the Palm Beach Post. If the county misses the new recount deadline, it must submit its original count as the official result.

Officials in the county are working 24/7 to recount the ballots, Bucher says, but they only have eight machines there, per The Miami Herald. The outdated equipment being used was made by a defunct company and only allows for one race to be recounted at a time, The Palm Beach Post reports. $11 million has been set aside for new equipment, but it has yet to be purchased. Brendan Morrow

10:05a.m.

Facebook's employees are feeling the sting of the company's rough year.

After stocks fell and questions arose about data security, Facebook internally surveyed its employees to see how they were gauging the chaos. The results showed a massive drop in morale and worries that Facebook's moral compass had turned south, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Of Facebook's nearly 29,000 employees, only 52 percent said "they were optimistic about Facebook's future," the Journal reports via the survey. That's a 32 percent drop from this time last year. A similar portion of 53 percent "said Facebook was making the world better," dropping 19 percent from last year. Employees were also concerned the company was putting growth over innovation, and indicated they were thinking of leaving the company sooner than in years past.

Optimism may have been high a year ago, but it's not as if Facebook's situation was particularly rosy back then. Concerns over the site's spread of misinformation emerged right after the 2016 presidential election, but enthusiasm didn't drop significantly, the Journal notes. Instead, the Cambridge Analytica scandal that broke in early 2018, coupled with criticism of the company's leadership, seemed to trigger a morale landslide that first appeared in Facebook's April internal survey.

A spokeswoman acknowledged the "difficult period" Facebook has endured, but told the Journal people are still "pulling together to ... build a stronger company." Employees say they're noticing the darker mood, though it seemed to get brighter after last week's catastrophe-free midterm elections. Read more about Facebook's woes at The Wall Street Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:45a.m.

President Trump has been roundly criticized for skipping a veterans event in France over the weekend, and on Tuesday, a retired Army officer offered a particularly scathing assessment of the affair.

Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general who served as former President Bill Clinton's Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told MSNBC's Brian Williams Tuesday that Trump skipping the event in France was "insulting." The president did so simply because he wanted to "stay out of the rain, eat cheeseburgers, watch TV, and tweet angry denunciations of his many enemies," said McCaffrey, per Mediaite.

Trump was in France with other world leaders to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I, and he was scheduled to visit a cemetery where American soldiers are buried but canceled at the last minute. The White House at the time cited the rainy weather, saying it would not be safe to travel by helicopter, reports The New York Times. Trump days later threw the Secret Service under the bus, saying he wanted to travel to the event by car but they wouldn't let him.

But McCaffrey, an outspoken critic of Trump who has previously called him a "serious threat to U.S. national security," doesn't buy that explanation, and thinks Trump stayed home out of pure laziness. Watch McCaffrey's comments below. Brendan Morrow

9:06a.m.

Fracturing three ribs in a fall only ended up keeping Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg away from work for a few days.

The 85-year-old judge on Tuesday afternoon returned to work at her Supreme Court office, The Associated Press reports. She wasn't on the bench when the court met earlier that morning but had returned to her office by the afternoon. Ginsburg had previously been working from home and didn't miss any oral arguments, as the court only met for some routine business Tuesday. This means Ginsburg has still never missed a day of oral arguments in her 25 years on the bench, per NPR.

Ginsburg fell in her office last week and fractured three ribs; she went home afterward but then was hospitalized the next morning. A spokesperson said Tuesday that her condition was continuing to improve and that she had recuperated at home over Veterans Day weekend. Now, it appears she's ready to get right back into her routine, and her trainer even says she'll be back in the gym next week, reports Vox. This is Ginsburg's second time bouncing back from fracturing her ribs in a fall; she has also survived cancer twice and had heart surgery at the age of 81. Brendan Morrow

8:35a.m.

The United States hasn't had an ambassador to Saudi Arabia for 22 months, but President Trump has finally nominated a new one.

Trump on Tuesday announced his intention to nominate retired Army Gen. John Abizaid to the position, NPR reports. Abizaid served in the Army for 34 years and was the head of the United States Central Command from 2003 to 2007, per CNN.

The United States has not actually had an ambassador to Saudi Arabia since January 2017. That posed a bit of a problem when the U.S. faced a diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia in recent months after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkey believes Saudi officials murdered Khashoggi on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, although Saudi Arabia maintains that the killing was carried out without the crown prince's knowledge.

In October, while insisting that the Trump administration was taking the crisis seriously, a State Department spokesperson tiptoed around the issue of the empty ambassadorship; when a reporter asked for the name of the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the spokesperson responded: "I see what you're getting at." Brendan Morrow

7:07a.m.

On Wednesday, the National Defense Strategy Commission released a report warning that the U.S. military has lost its edge to a potentially dangerous degree after years of insufficient resources, innovation, and leadership. The 12-person commission, created by Congress and filled with former top Republican and Democratic officials, evaluated President Trump's 2018 National Defense Strategy. The commissioners did not disagree with the strategy's aim of revamping the military to better compete against China and Russia, but they said the effort was too slow and insufficiently funded, The Washington Post reports.

"The U.S. military could suffer unacceptably high casualties and loss of major capital assets in its next conflict. It might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia," the report found. "The United States is particularly at risk of being overwhelmed should its military be forced to fight on two or more fronts simultaneously."

The U.S. military budget jumped to $716 billion this year, more than four times China's military budget and more than 10 times Russia's, the Post notes. But the commission still said "available resources are clearly insufficient to fulfill the strategy's ambitious goals," suggesting Congress lift budget caps on the military while also examining other ways to tame the soaring federal deficit.

"There is a strong fear of complacency, that people have become so used to the United States achieving what it wants in the world, to include militarily, that it isn't heeding the warning signs," said commissioner Kathleen H. Hicks, a former top Pentagon official during the Obama administration. "It's the flashing red that we are trying to relay." You can read more about the commission's recommendations at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

6:08a.m.

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence diplomatically rebuked Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on her country's "violence and persecution" of its Rohingya Muslim minority and its jailing a year ago of two Reuters reporters covering the massacre of 10 Muslim Rohingya men.

"The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse," Pence told Suu Kyi before a bilateral meeting she had requested on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Singapore. "I am anxious to hear the progress that you are making holding those accountable who are responsible for the violence that displaced so many hundreds of thousands, created such suffering." Pence also mentioned the "premium" America places "on a free and independent press," adding, "The arrest and jailing of two journalists last fall was deeply troubling to millions of Americans."

Suu Kyi quietly rebuffed Pence, saying it is always good to exchange views, but "we understand our country better than any other country does. ... So we are in a better position to explain to you what is happening, how we see things panning out."

A longtime political prisoner herself, Suu Kyi's powers are limited under a constitution written by the former military junta, but she has faced criticism for not condemning what the United Nations calls Myanmar's Rohingya "genocide." This week, Amnesty International became the latest organization to revoke an award it gave Suu Kyi, citing her "shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for." ASEAN elder statesman Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's prime minister, also chastised Suu Kyi on Tuesday, telling a reporter she's "trying to defend what is indefensible." He dialed back his criticism a bit on Wednesday.

Pence is attending the ASEAN summit and subsequent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Papua New Guinea on behalf of President Trump.

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