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Donald Trump continues choosing his key staff and advisors, naming Sean Spicer press secretary and Kellyanne Conway White House counsel. The president-elect generates more controversy by suggesting in a tweet the U.S. should expand its nuclear capability. President Obama takes new action to ban Arctic drilling and pardons a record number of federal inmates. Obamacare enrollment surges even as Republicans vow to repeal it. The North Carolina legislature fails to repeal a controversial “bathroom bill.” And four more officials are charged with felonies in the Flint Water crisis…Diane and a panel of guests discuss the top domestic stories of the week.
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief, USA Today
- Abby Phillip National political reporter, The Washington Post
- Manu Raju Senior political reporter, CNN
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Donald Trump tweets that the U.S. should greatly expand its nuclear capability. President Obama announces a permanent on offshore drilling in parts of the Arctic. And North Carolina fails to repeal a controversial bathroom bill. Here for this very last Friday News Roundup, Susan Page of USA Today, Manu Raju of CNN and Abby Phillip of The Washington Post.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd throughout the hour, we will be taking your calls, 800-433-8850. Send your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And welcome to you three.
MR. MANU RAJUGreat to be here, Diane.
MS. SUSAN PAGEIt's a privilege to be here on this last day.
REHMThank you so much. Manu, the Electoral College cast their votes on Monday. Was it the landslide that Trump claimed it was.
RAJUNot quite. It was the 46th largest victory, Electoral College victory, out of 58 that this country has had. So not quite a landslide. In fact, the final number was 304 electoral votes for Donald Trump and 227 for Hillary Clinton. And what was interesting about this particular time was that there were this so-called faithless electors, people who did not vote the way that their state voted and for Donald Trump, there were two people who -- from Texas, electors from Texas, who did not vote for him. They voted for John Kasich and for Ron Paul instead.
RAJUAnd for Hillary Clinton, there five, several from Washington State voted for Colin Powell. There was a vote for Bernie Sanders and a vote for faith spotted eagle, getting an electoral vote. This was the largest -- the most amount of so-called faithless electors in American history, larger than the 1808 race where James Madison lost six electoral votes.
RAJUSo this is something that is really uncommon, obviously, and it's something that raises a lot of questions about the future of the Electoral College if we start to see a bunch of rogue electors voting however they want. It raises a lot of questions about what to do going forward.
MS. ABBY PHILLIPWell, you know, this whole thing, from the very beginning was kind of a fool's errands, as many people pointed out. It's very difficult for people to defect, in part because many states have laws on the books binding them to act according to the vote in the actual election. And to break that would've caused a cascade of potential legal problems for many of them, including fines. So the challenge was there, but we learned later that the Clinton campaign had stayed in touch with some of the folks going forward with this effort, in part, because this is the balancing act that they've been, you know, waging for the last couple of weeks.
MS. ABBY PHILLIPThey want their supporters to understand that they acknowledge their concern about the election, about the Russian interference in the election, how that might have affected the outcome, but they didn't want to be seen as publically pushing Electoral College defectors. So they tried to keep these people on the line in the background, but it ended up kind of backfiring because as Manu pointed out, more electors defected from her than defected from Trump. And later, we saw Trump use that as part of the rationale for saying, you know, this was all a scam and every time that the Clinton folks want to revisit the results of the election, they end up losing more than they did at the very beginning.
PAGEYou know, it's interesting, even though Donald Trump won the Electoral College, nobody disputes that, he lost the popular vote by an historic margin. There's an historic disparity between the results of the Electoral College and the results of the popular vote. Hillary Clinton got about 2.9 million more votes than Donald Trump did, more than 2 percent higher than he did. And this, clearly, still annoys him because even though there's no question he is the person who's going to be inaugurated on January 20th, he continues to tweet that he could have won the popular vote.
PAGEHe would have campaigned differently if we didn't have an Electoral College system. I'm sure that's true. Also just to note that polls now show that Americans are not so wild about the Electoral College. You know, only about half of Americans think that system makes any sense, but there's a big partisan divide because in modern times, at least, it's advantaged the Republicans. Two elections in 2000 and the one that we just had have been to the advantage of Republicans to have this Electoral College system.
REHMSo with a Republican-controlled Congress, not likely anything would happen.
PAGEYou know, you'd have to change the Constitution.
PAGEAnd that would require not just the Congress, but the states. And for smaller states, for rural states, it's to their advantage.
REHMRight. Let's talk about some of Donald Trump's latest picks. He talked about Sean Spicer to be White House press secretary. Tell us about Sean.
PAGESean Spicer is a familiar figures to many reporters in Washington. He's been the spokesman for the Republican National Committee. He's very close to Reince Priebus so I think this is a kind of victory for Reince Priebus. It's also reassuring, I think, to some of the reporters who cover the White House because Sean is somebody who is kind of -- a familiar figure who I think has a good relationship with a lot of reporters. Not seamless, not without any bumps in the road, but unlike some of the other names that were floated for press secretary, he's someone who's seen as a spokesman who tries to work with reporters.
REHMAnd we'll he try to rein in some of Trump's tweets?
RAJUWell, he'll try to clean up some of Trump's tweets. You actually saw him this morning doing just that after Donald Trump tweeted yesterday suggesting that the United States should increase its nuclear capability, something that would reverse decades of American policy, U.S. policy. He was on the shows today saying, well, he only said that if other countries decide to ramp up their nuclear capabilities. And he was only talking about modernizing the weapons not necessarily a unilateral ramp-up of U.S. nuclear capability.
RAJUThat's going to be the challenge, though, for this new communications department because Donald Trump fires off 140 character tweets that are not insignificant. Those are his views and you can't explain his views if he's not answering questions himself and he's not having press conferences himself. So that lands on the laps of people like Sean Spicer who are going to have to explain what the President of the United States is actually saying.
REHMSo Abby, what do you expect the president's relationship to the press will be?
PHILLIPI think it'll be pretty similar to what we've seen thus far, especially in the latter six months of the general election when he did many fewer of these sort of impromptu interviews, calling in at random times to different news programs, but did spend a lot of time talking about the press at his rallies and using them as a kind of punching bag to rile up his supporters, to gin up public opinion in his favor and against the media who repeatedly fact-checks him, asks questions that they don't necessarily want to answer at any particular moment.
PHILLIPBut I do see Trump also doing less of these sort of impromptu interviews but still talking to the media a decent amount. I mean, just this morning, he apparently had a conversation with the hosts of "Morning Joe" on MSNBC conveying...
REHMOne of his favorites.
PHILLIPOne of his favorite programs, conveying news to them on the phone just the hours before they went on air and that's the sort of thing that I think we can expect more of.
REHMBut what more -- what difference can we expect from the press itself, Susan?
PAGEYou know, before I talk about that, I think this is going to be quite different from previous White Houses. It already is. The president elect has not had a news conference since July. That has not happened in modern times, to go so long to finish a campaign to be the president elect and not to submit yourself to questions at a regular news conference, although he has done interviews with "60 Minutes" and with the New York Time.
PAGEIt's not that he's done no interviews, but he doesn't done that traditional form. That's a sign to me maybe he doesn't feel that's the form he needs to do. I've heard suggestions, both from Sean Spicer and also from Newt Gingrich, who's advising the president-elect that maybe he, instead of taking questions just from the reporters, you take questions from the public. Maybe that's something that keep connected with about. But you see the president-elect communicating with his supporters through Twitter, going around the traditional news media.
PAGESo this is going to be a different kind of enterprise for the reporters who cover him every day and for the White House press operation that's just getting set up.
REHMSo how are you all going to change your own stance and change your own approach in order to do the news?
PAGEYou know, I think in some ways reporters will do what we've always done, which is to try to cover what's happening, to try to hold officials accountable, to try to compare what somebody's doing with what they said they were going to do. But I also think that after this campaign that a lot of news organizations feel an increased obligation to keep connected with voters, with Americans to try to hear what they're saying and there's -- I think there's a feeling and this is a feeling I have that we didn't do a good enough job doing that over the past year.
PAGEYeah, or -- not -- as you might say, Diane, not listening hard enough.
REHMYeah, exactly, Manu.
RAJUAnd also, you know, Donald Trump says a lot of things that not necessarily are factually accurate and it's our job to insure that what he's saying there's actually some truth to it or that it's consistent with what he promised the American public when he was campaigning for office. So, you know, one of the things that, you know, we will do, of course, is we will get both sides of every issue and report on that, but if Donald Trump chooses not to weigh in by not having daily press briefings or by not having -- answering questions, he's not going to get his side of the story in and that's a shortcoming.
RAJUThat's why I hope that they continue those daily press briefings.
REHMAll right. And you're going to have to worry about the issue of moral equivalency as you try to report both sides. Short break. We'll talk about the appointment of billionaire investor, Carl Icahn when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. Here in the studio for the final Friday News Roundup on "The Diane Rehm Show," Manu Raju, senior political reporter for CNN, Abby Phillip, she's national political reporter for The Washington Post, and Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today. Susan Page, tell me what Carl Icahn, age 80 -- which I totally ascribe to -- is going to be doing as special adviser to the president on federal regulations.
PAGEWell, President-elect Trump has talked throughout his campaign about there's too many federal regulations. It's costing jobs. It's costing business efficiency. It's inappropriate. He promised there would be -- he would get rid of two regulations for every new regulation his administration puts on the books. And Carl Icahn has been an adviser to him for some time, through the campaign. Obviously someone he trusts and respects, brings that business instinct. Like many of his appointees, has no history in the government, has always been in the private sector. And in this job, he's going to try to be, I think, clearing away regulations that the administration thinks don't work.
PAGEThis does, however, raise the prospect for a lot of conflicts of interest. Carl Icahn is a billionaire investor. He's involved in a lot of industries. He's involved in some of the industries on which he will be recommending regulations be eliminated. And this will be, I think, one of any number of Trump administration appointees that will face some conflict of interest questions as this administration moves forward.
RAJUYeah. And he's saying right now that he's not required to give up his business dealings. He's -- because he's not getting paid for this job.
RAJUBut there are -- yeah.
REHMHe's not going to get paid?
RAJUHe's not going to take -- he's not taking a salary.
REHMHe's not taking any money. Doesn't he have to take a dollar?
RAJUI don't know if that's necessarily required.
RAJUBecause I think this may be not because...
REHMBut does that exempt him? Do we know that that necessarily exempts him from any charges as conflicts?
RAJUI'm not sure, because this is a new position. So it's -- correct me, if anybody knows differently -- but I don't think we actually know exactly how his job will be structured.
REHMI wonder how he's going to do it, having had no experience in the federal bureaucracy at all and facing this extraordinary number of federal regulations.
PHILLIPWell, the mandate here is going to be to eliminate them. So it's -- for Trump just to go...
REHMSlash and burn.
PHILLIPJust slash and burn. I mean, that's exactly what -- that's exactly the reason that Icahn has been put into this position. His lack of experience is, for Trump, proof of his ability to do what he wants him to do. And Icahn has been pretty vocal about the impact of existing regulations on his current businesses. So it wouldn't be surprising that he would take some of those issues up. And these conflicts of interest problems are very real. But the fact that he has been appointed as a special adviser -- which is not Senate confirmable, he's not taking a salary -- there is very little oversight for a position like that. And that's one of the reasons why Trump would put him there.
RAJUAnd if I could add, I mean, but he does have clear conflicts and he is the largest -- his largest investment right now is with AIG, the giant insurance company. And AIG, of course, is under tremendous scrutiny from the Federal Reserve. And how did the Trump administration approach the Federal Reserve? Did they ask them to step off on some of that regulatory oversight? And also, Mr. Icahn was influential in ensuring that Donald Trump picked Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Now, he also conveyed to Mr. Pruitt his concerns with an EPA biofuels blending rule. And Mr. Icahn has an oil refinery, a major investment in an oil refinery. So you can see those conflicts emerge as this administration takes shape.
REHMAnd you've also got China raising questions about Peter Navarro, Susan.
PAGESo Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump has indicated he's going to be appointed as -- to oversee trade and industrial policy. And this is significant because Peter Navarro, like Carl Icahn, no experience in government. He's been an academic. He's been a filmmaker. And he has been a fierce critic of China. He did a film in 2012 called "Death By China," which had an animation that actually had China stabbing the United States and the United States bleeding. So he has a really strong view about what he sees as the real detriments of the kind of free trade that we've had, to some degree at least, with China. And China's reacted, I think, with some concern.
PAGEAs with our relationship with Russia, our relationship with China is going to be different under the Trump administration in ways that only are now beginning to take shape.
RAJUIt's going to be so interesting to see what views Donald Trump actually listens to, especially on issues like trade. Because he's been appointing a lot of people who have conflicting views on this issue -- people like Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state nominee, is more open to freer trade. People like Gary Cohn, who's going to be -- who is the former Goldman Sachs president, or the current one -- he's going to lead the National Economic Council, also open to the more expanded trade. But Wilbur Ross, who's the deputy -- who's the commerce secretary nominee is a restrictionist on this issue, as is Mr. Navarro. So where does Donald Trump come down and whose views does he listen to? That's going to be a real question going forward.
REHMIt'll be interesting to see how he puts those views together and comes up with a conclusion. Talk about Kellyanne Conway, who apparently did not want the press secretary's job and has now been named counsel to the president.
PHILLIPWell, Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's former campaign manager, and in fact the only female campaign manager in a winning presidential election, is in fact coming into the White House after many, many weeks of negotiation and back and forth with Donald Trump himself, who really wanted her in the White House and preferentially wanted her in a public-facing role, a job where she could be essentially the face of his administration. Trump did want her to serve as press secretary.
PHILLIPBut Kellyanne is someone who is viewed and views herself as providing broader, more strategic advice to the president-elect. And in this new role, she'll be a special adviser and will have potentially whatever portfolio she wants or whatever portfolio Trump wants her to have. And for a lot of people coming into the White House from the Trump campaign, and even to folks looking at the Trump White House from the outside, many of them breathing a sigh of relief, because of this perception that Kellyanne brings a certain professionalism and calm to the institution. And she is both a good communicator, which is one of the reasons Trump likes her, but also someone who is loyal and a defender of the president and has his ear.
REHMAnd good for her to balance family and professionalism.
PAGEYeah. She has, I think, four kids?
PHILLIPVery young kids.
PAGEWhich is a big task. I think her mom has been helping her out the past year...
PAGE...while she's been running this campaign. She had given some thought to working instead with an outside group that's going to be formed to promote Trump's agenda. There was some appeal to that. But going in the White House, that's a...
REHMBig job. Whoa.
PAGE...bit job. And, you know, I suspect we will continue to see her be, to some degree, the public face of the administration. Not so much doing briefings...
PAGE...but she has been the queen of cable TV...
PAGE...during the campaign, in defending and explaining and pushing back against negative stories.
RAJUAnd softening Donald Trump's rough edges at times, even after that "Access Hollywood" tape leaked in October, where Donald Trump, of course, bragged about groping women in very vulgar terms. She was out there defending him. She said that -- well, she said it was not right for him to say those things, but also was not afraid to go out and also toe the line for Donald Trump. Also interesting though, how she went out and criticized Mitt Romney, right as Romney was being considered as secretary of state. That actually angered some folks in the Trump transition team.
REHMWell, she simply said, I do not think this man should be secretary of state.
RAJUAnd which is almost unheard of for an aide to do that and almost undercutting the selection process. Reince Priebus, for one, was pushing Mitt Romney. I'm not sure of Mr. Priebus was so happy about that.
REHMBut do you think she would have said that if she hadn't heard directly from Donald Trump?
RAJUShe said that she got permission from Donald Trump to say that. She said they asked him and he said it was okay. And he put out a statement later confirming that. So clearly he seemed fine by having this...
RAJU...spat happen publicly.
PAGEBut maybe that signals a kind of rolling debate we're going to see in a more transparent way with this White House. Because we have seen -- we do have competing power centers being set up in this White House in a way that President Obama would never have allowed. It's really more reminiscent of the Reagan White House, which had -- started out with three competing power systems with somewhat different views about how President Reagan should behave.
PHILLIPAnd I would...
REHMAll right. Go ahead.
PHILLIPAnd I would argue that Kellyanne is one of the few people in Trump's circle who has the ability to do that sort of thing and survive. Many of the other folks in his circle are very deferential to him in public and in private. And Kellyanne expressed her disapproval of the Romney pick publicly, with or without Trump's permission. And that signaled that -- and her coming into the White House after that signals that she has a certain degree of independence that many other people do not.
REHMAll right. There are lots of other things to talk about. Let's go to Sloan in Reston, Va. You're on the air.
SLOANHi, Diane. Thank you. What an honor to be on. I just wanted to, first of all, say that, you know, the North Carolina bathroom bill that was mentioned, the discriminatory bill, reminds us that we still need to pass a federal law protecting Americans from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. That sort of discrimination, including in public accommodations, is still legal in most of the country. And so we do need that law.
SLOANAnd I just also, as a gay man, on my own behalf and the behalf of my husband and my late parents, I really wanted to thank you for your numerous shows through the years that have brought us closer to the day when equal rights and religious liberty for all Americans really, truly will become a reality. You've done so much through the years on that. So I just wanted to thank you.
REHMThank you, Sloan. Abby.
PHILLIPThe North Carolina situation is one that is really at the forefront of what I think will be many years of debate over this issue. North Carolina has -- that the law, HB2, that essentially lays out the people who are protected by antidiscrimination laws and leaves out LGBT individuals, is still on the books and may remain on the books for quite some time. And it is notable, I think, that this debate has gone from simply sort of letting the status quo be, to excluding LGBT individuals from legal protections. And I think that's a trend that we're going to see in a lot of other places, including potentially in Texas very soon.
REHMAnd talk about what's happened to the governor himself, a democratically elected governor who really fought a hard, rough...
PAGEWhat a power grab we've seen by Republicans...
PAGE...in North Carolina. North Carolina's going to be the center of a lot of political disputes, I think, over the next couple years. Very tough fought gubernatorial race. The Republican incumbent did not concede for some time, thought about requesting a recount, finally conceded the race. But then the Republican-controlled legislature passed several bills that constrained the -- reduced the power of the incoming governor, who, of course, is a Democrat. And the outgoing Republican governor signed it. This is really extraordinary. It's an extraordinary behavior by the legislature and the outgoing governor in the face of a decision by the voters.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Manu, I know you wanted to jump in.
RAJUYeah. I mean, it was hardball politics.
RAJUAnd what we're seeing in North Carolina is a state that is going to be a huge battleground state, was in the presidential election. The Clinton campaign thought they were going to win that. Donald Trump did end up winning. But it's a state that's been shifting. I mean, 2008, Barack Obama winning that state. 2012, Mitt Romney winning the state. And then becoming a conservative legislature, a Republican governor and pushing forward on very conservative policies that angered a lot of folks who are more moderate voters, people in the RTP area, people in Charlotte. It's a state that we'll see a lot of these big social fights going out.
REHMWell, and I mean you've already had these economic boycotts with conferences, businesses saying they're pulling out.
PHILLIPThis is a very potentially perilous road for Republicans to go down. North Carolina's neighboring state, South Carolina, knows very well what it's like to have major sporting institutions pull out of their state for long periods of time. The NBA and the NCAA have already said that they are pulling out of North Carolina. And I think that this idea that the state can continue to prioritize legislating along these lines at the detriment of the state's economic health is one that they are going to have to reevaluate very soon.
PHILLIPYou know, these are Republicans, mind you. I mean, these are folks who are business-minded people, who's voters are business minded. It's very challenging to continue doing things like this for long periods of time when you imperil the economic health of your...
RAJUWhich is why that they wanted to repeal HB2 at the end of the session. Even Roy -- Pat McCrory, the outgoing Republican governor, was open to doing that. But they just couldn't reach an agreement. There was a stalemate. And now they're going to have to worry about it in the next legislative session.
REHMManu, tell us about President Obama's announcement on offshore drilling.
RAJUIt was very significant and a provocative move. What he did was he essentially said that denying oil leases and oil drilling offshore in areas of the Arctic, areas along the Atlantic Seaboard, basically from Virginia to Maine, and also around -- in Alaska. This was not just your regular executive action. This was him invoking an obscure provision in a 1953 law to essentially deny drilling from taking place in order, in his view, to preserve the endangered species in those areas. But why it's significant that he invoked that law was that it's going to be very, very hard for Donald Trump to just simply step in on day one or whenever and just use -- and erase it. You can't just wipe it away. Because that law...
REHMHe's sure going to try.
RAJUHe's going to try, but that law does not have any sort of language saying that you can go in and just do that. It actually does not speak to that. So that means this is going to be tied up in courts for a while.
PAGEThat's right. This is just going to go to the courts. And I don't -- and even while the Obama lawyers insist that they have -- that there's no provision to allow the new president to reverse it, that's not going to be the last word on it. And it's one of a series of things we've seen the Obama administration do in an increasingly aggressive way in these last few weeks to try to make either -- ensure Obama's legacy or just constrain President-elect Trump's hand when he takes over. Including repealing a provision of immigration law that hadn't been used, that was passed in the wake of 9/11, hadn't been used for about five years, could be revived possibly as a kind of Muslim registry of non-immigrant visitors.
PAGESo you see on several fronts, the administration trying to do what it can to either protect what President Obama's done or constrain what President Trump will be able to do.
PHILLIPAnother part of this is also about forcing Trump, if he is going to do some of these things, including the Muslim registry or providing permits for Arctic drilling, is to force him to affirmatively do these things. Even if what Obama is doing, in the case of NSEERs, that immigration law, Trump could -- there is a way for Trump to put that back in place. But he would have to do that, forcing a public conversation about the subject.
REHMAbby Phillip of The Washington Post. Short break now. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. I want to work in a caller here from Grand Rapids, Mich. Hi there, Sue. You're on the air.
SUEHello, Mrs. Rehm. I just want to say thank you very much. And two quick comments.
SUEOne about the Flint crisis that's still going on. We have family members in Flint that are still suffering. They're going in monthly for testing for lead and mercury. And that has kind of lost its oomph with the national coverage. And secondly, Betsy Devos being appointed to Donald Trump's administration is kind of a slap in the face for all public schooling and the teachers. We know from experience here that the teachers here had to fight against her to be able to hold onto their pay and their benefits.
REHMAll right. Sue, I'm glad you called. Let's talk about Flint, Mich. Two former state appointed emergency managers.
PAGECharged -- accused of felonies, big prison sentences possible if they were convicted. This indictment announced by the state's attorney general. And interesting because it's working up the line. You know, there had been some low level, I guess originally 9, now 11 low-level people who had been indicted for misconduct in connection with this terrible scandal that continues to have such big repercussions for the people who live in Flint.
PAGEThis works up the line to emergency managers who had been appointed by the governor and not just in Flint. You know, emergency managers have been appointed in about 20 states and in a series of Michigan cities to take over. And this fuels, I think, the debate over whether that's a good way for democracies to proceed. They didn't keep the interests of people in Flint in mind, I can tell you.
REHMWhat about the governor himself? Could it go that high up?
PAGEYou know, the -- I haven't seen any serious speculation that it could go as high as the governor, except the people in Flint, I think, might like it to go as high as the governor. But this investigation -- Attorney General Bill Schuette said is not over. It could continue to go higher.
RAJUYeah, this is, I mean, this is a huge, huge scandal. I mean, what essentially this was was what we saw in the developments this week, the reports from two different Michigan agencies in July 2015 that actually said that -- raising concerns about high levels of lead in Flint's children, raising concerns about the lead in the water. And what happened to those reports? They were changed. They were altered. They were buried. They were suppressed. And that is criminal. And so that's what the state attorney general announced this week and that's what could lead to more criminal charges going forward.
REHMAnd, Abby, Betsy Devos at Education, her attention to or movement away from public education?
PHILLIPRight. She's a big proponent of, you know, charter schools as an alternative. And beyond that is someone who also wants to eliminate the Common Core. And for Republicans, I mean, I think this is pretty in line with what they're looking for. She's a very wealthy individual who has been involved in some public interested endeavors throughout her career. One of the interesting things I heard this week, that I think might come up in the future, is the degree to which in her confirmation hearing we may not learn much more about her wealth, her financial ties, because she's not required to release any financial information to be appointed as secretary of education.
REHMIs she, too, going to refuse income?
RAJUWell, you're not -- the Senate Health, Education and Labor and Pensions Committee which is overseeing her nomination does not require her to submit her tax returns. So I don't expect to see her tax returns.
PAGENow, some committees have required in the past nominees to submit tax returns. But some haven't. So now this is an issue. She happens to have drawn a lucky straw here by going before a committee that hasn't required that in the past. One thing that's kind of a theme of some President-elect Trump's appointments is she's -- he's appointing people to head agencies with whom they disagree with the fundamental mission of that agency. You know, you find that at the EPA, to some degree at the Education Department, even at HUD, where the new secretary designate Ben Carson has questioned the value of subs and the consequences of subsidized housing. This is -- this signals some real activism on the part of this new administration.
RAJUAnd one of the richest cabinets that you'll ever -- could imagine. I mean, Betsy Devos, billionaires like Wilbur Ross, the Commerce secretary, Todd Ricketts, the deputy commerce secretary nominee.
REHMSecretary of state.
RAJUAnd secretary of the state, Rex Tillerson. We don't know his full wealth yet. And Vincent Viola, who is another billionaire, picked to be secretary of the Army. So this is -- you -- I don't think we'll -- this has to be a record.
REHMIt's a cabinet of the 1 percent.
PHILLIPAbsolutely. I mean, in many cases, some of these folks may be much more wealthy than Donald Trump himself.
REHMOh, I doubt that.
PAGEDon't tell him that.
REHMI doubt that.
PHILLIPBut I do want to make one quick point about the caller from Flint. I mean, one of the major findings that these folks who were charged, was that they were acting based on an imperative to save money and not act in the public interest. That's a really important thing, both for the concept of emergency managers and also for a governance philosophy that is oriented around cost-savings as opposed to the public interest.
PHILLIPThe degree to which we will hear more about this is, I think, gonna be largely related to the fact that we have a Republican Congress right now. They've already quietly closed the Flint investigation on the Hill. I think they want to protect Rick Schneider as much as possible. But I -- but that is a very important thing and it's something that we should continue to think about.
REHMAll right. To James in Washington, D.C. You're on the air.
JAMESGood morning, Ms. Rehm. Good morning, everybody else.
JAMESI have a comment to make. Everybody -- I have been around people that's actually hysterical because of Trump, you know, winning the election. And I'm, you know, personally, I'm hoping it's not gonna be as bad as some people think it's gonna be. But I want to ask, you know, the guests to answer the question. Will it be as bad as people think it's gonna be? And for you, Ms. Rehm, I'm gonna miss you…
JAMES…very, very much.
REHMThank you so much. Let's, you know, I mean, we're all sort of speculating, aren't we? We are all basing those speculations on the campaign, on what he has said even since the campaign was over, through his tweets. Are we -- what are we thinking? What are you thinking, Manu?
RAJUWell, we don't know. I mean, his is a…
RAJUThis is a businessman who's never held public office before. He does not have a voting record. He's not particularly ideological. He does -- he used to be a liberal on a lot of issues. Now, he's very conservative. He's named cabinet nominees, different picks that -- whose views may contradict what other picks on various issues. So we don't know exactly what he, you know, he goes by the gut a lot of times.
RAJUHe makes decisions on a whim. Sometimes they may be on what people like, sometimes it may be what people don't like. So we don't know what promises he's gonna follow up on. I think this is gonna be a new -- these are unchartered waters. It's hard to say exactly how this will play out.
PAGEYou know, presidents sometimes surprise you after they take…
REHMSure, of course.
PAGE…office. You're not always -- there are, in fact, there are almost always surprises in how they proceed. And also, their presidencies are outside their control, to some degree. You know, we've seen Barack Obama's presidency defined, at least in the early years, by the financial crisis he inherited. Or George W. Bush by the 9/11 attacks. And so I think you -- you think we ought to be humble about being very confident that we know what's gonna happen.
REHMThat's true. At the same time I think we have to rely on the way the government works.
REHMHe's got a huge bureaucracy (unintelligible).
RAJUAnd not only that, it's very hard to legislate. It's very hard to get bills through Congress.
RAJUEven when you have one party control, we've seen that happen time and again the same party get into fights, get things bogged down. So it's not gonna be -- he can't just wave a magic wand and do whatever he wants. It's gonna be difficult.
REHMLet's talk about what's happening with Obamacare. Suddenly, it is soaring. You had a record 6.4 million customer signups so far this season in the open enrollment.
PHILLIPIt is what seems to be a mad rush of people to get in the system before there are real potentially dramatic changes to both the Affordable Care Act and by virtue of that the entire healthcare system in the United States. What's most fascinating is that the states where you saw the biggest increases in signups were all states that Donald Trump won, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
PHILLIPThese are states that are relying it seems, increasingly heavily, on the ACA and where people are flocking into the system so that perhaps, once the law is changed, they -- Congress, in an effort to replace the law, has to deal with them. They cannot be left out in the cold. So, you know, in some ways it does undermine this argument that the law itself is failing and that rising premiums are a barrier to entry for people who want to be covered.
REHMAnd doesn't also sort of stand in the way of Republicans saying they're going to repeal the law right away?
PAGEBig debate in the Republican Party about what to do. But do I think that there is momentum for repeal and delay. Repeal, but delay the implementation of that repeal for two years or three years or four years, until they figure out exactly what they would replace it with. But some Republicans are very concerned about not acting quickly to repeal Obamacare because they remember what happened with President Obama.
PAGEWhich is that he lost control -- unified control of Congress after two years in office. So there's some sense that if there's some big things that Trump wants to do legislatively, he needs to do them in his first two years in office. And that means -- that could mean repealing Obamacare, even if they don't really know what they're gonna replace it with.
RAJUAnd they can repeal it almost right away because of the budget process on Capitol Hill that allows them to actually avoid a filibuster in the Senate. But they can repeal a lot of law, not all of it, but there's -- it's not clear how far they can go. They can actually even try to kill the Medicaid expansion that a lot of even Republican states are relying on. Do they go that far?
RAJUAnd then if they do have this two or three-year transition period to create a new law, that may not be the silver bullet here because a lot of insurance could start to pull out of the marketplace because they're concerned about -- that this law is gonna collapse in and of itself. So then you need to have some sort of legislative fix. And Republicans don't know what that is yet.
REHMBut wait a minute. I thought that Mr. Trump said he would keep staying on the policy 'til you're 26. I thought he did approve existing conditions.
PAGEHe's spoken favorably about those things. But of course the problem is if you want to keep the ban on using preexisting conditions to deny someone health insurance, that's a complicated deal. That's one reason we have the requirement, the mandate that you have to health insurance, because otherwise, you could just wait 'til you get sick and know that an insurance company has to sell you insurance, even after you've been diagnosed with a serious disease.
PAGEThat's what has been the whole problem all along. You know, the rush to sign up for the Affordable Care Act coverage kind of underscores how perilous this process may be. We had a poll this week of Americans. What was Obama's biggest achievement? The number one thing people named, the Affordable Care Act. What was Obama's biggest failure? The number one thing people named was the Affordable Care Act.
PHILLIPThis is why it's so instructive to remember that Donald Trump did not win the popular vote. He lost it by about almost three million, which is a lot of people. And it, in some ways, accounts for what we see here in the disconnect between people's feelings about some of the core tenets of his campaign, including repealing the Affordable Care Act and also they're feelings about President Obama and his legacy and the fact that he is now the President-elect.
PHILLIPThere's just -- there's a gap there. And, you know, for Republicans going forward with this, they don't need -- they can avoid a filibuster. But they still are towing a very narrow line. They cannot afford to lose the support of more than two or three senators in order to repeal this law. And that's entirely possible if they also have to do a lot of other things like prop up insurance companies.
REHMAbby Phillip of The Washington Post. Manu Raju of CNN. And Susan Page of USA Today. Thank you all. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So now comes the time to say goodbye. Having been in daily touch with you pretty much for the last 37 years, and having it come to an end is difficult for me. Physically, I know I'm ready. Emotionally, I only thing I'm ready because I know it's going to be a hard adjustment.
REHMChanging habits, shifting thoughts from a daily deadline, missing being with wonderful colleagues, but there comes an end to all things. Having this position here at the microphone has been the most gratifying and fulfilling activity I could ever have dreamed of. I must say, though, I've been saddened by the collapse in kind and courteous discourse we've all witnessed during these last few years, and especially during this last election.
REHMBut you have remained a fabulous audience, always adding to our conversations with your calls and emails, and more recently with your tweets and Facebook postings. You are kind, you are thoughtful, you are courteous. You exemplify civil conversation and I've been proud to be your host. I owe so much to the many people who've made these years so rich for me. But most especially to my producers who are here with me now and who will go on to do new things.
REHMDenise Couture and Danielle Knight, both of whom will go on to work on the new program "1A," with Joshua Johnson. Alex Botti, who moves to WMYC in New York to work for "The Takeaway." Lisa Dunn, who begins work on a special project here at WAMU on gun violence. Erica Hendry, who moves to WETA to work on the "PBS News Hour." And Alison Brody, who's currently considering her options.
REHMAnd finally, Sandra Baker, who has been with me for 24 years, and Becca Kaufman, both of whom will stay on to work with me on my new weekly podcast we're calling, "On My Mind." The podcast will be on a range of subjects and I hope you'll find your way to them. Before I go, I do have to tell you some sad news. My beloved little dog Maxie died just a week ago. He had been suffering from congestive heart disease. And last Saturday he was in particularly deep distress, so I wrapped him in his little gray blanket, put him on my lap and drove him to our vets.
REHMJust as we got to the parking lot, before we even got out of the car, his little head went down and I knew he was gone. He died in my arms. He was 13 and a half years old. And my apartment feels so empty without him. But now onto new things. Really, it's not goodbye, it's just farewell. I'll continue here at WAMU. I'll be listening to the radio right along with you. For now, I send all of you my love and my prayerful hope for a merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
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