Mattis confirms decision made on path forward in Afghanistan – Washington Post

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President Trump on Monday night will announce a “path forward” on military strategy in Afghanistan, the White House said, offering his imprint on the longest-running war in U.S. history.

Trump is scheduled to address the military and American people from Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a brief statement Sunday afternoon.

Earlier Sunday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis confirmed that a decision has been made on a military strategy in Afghanistan, where more than 8,000 troops already are based.

Speaking to reporters on a military plane en route to meetings in Jordan, Mattis said it is up to President Trump to announce the details of a review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and South Asia. The results have been delayed amid concerns that, more than 15 years after the United States invaded, an international coalition working together with Afghan forces are not winning the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

“I am very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous and did not go in with a preset position,” Mattis told reporters. “The president has made a decision. As he said, he wants to be the one to announce it to the American people.”

On Friday, Trump met at Camp David to discuss Afghanistan strategy with more than a dozen aides, including Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Vice President Pence. After the briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump was “studying and considering his options.” Then Trump tweeted Saturday that at Camp David, “many decisions [were] made, including on Afghanistan.”

A variety of options have been under consideration, including sending about 3,800 more troops to augment the 8,400 already there to train and assist local forces. Another option Mattis has mentioned is to replace U.S. troops with private contractors.

But any proposal to reinforce the U.S. presence there is certain to meet resistance.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he will oppose sending more troops.

“I don’t believe putting more American soldiers in Afghanistan is the answer,” he said, arguing that a stable government in the country should be the goal.

Trump has given Mattis authority to set troop levels in the country, but Mattis has been waiting for Trump to decide a strategic focus before he sends any more troops.

Trump has expressed frustration over the lack of a clear way forward as the war drags into its 16th year. After the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center in 2001, the United States sent in troops to oust the Taliban government because it sheltered the operation’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden. At a Senate hearing in June, Mattis acknowledged, “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now.”

The policy review was expected to be completed weeks ago, and the delay underscores how difficult the decision has been. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said Sunday that many lawmakers have withheld any judgment on troop levels until they hear the administration’s strategy.

“The troop strength question is sort of the cart before the horse,” Kaine told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “The real question is what is our strategy? And then when you lay out the strategy, the troop strength question can kind of answer itself.”

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Bannon to GOP leaders: Do not expect ‘sweetness and light’ from conservatives – The Hill

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon said GOP leadership shouldn’t expect “sweetness and light” from the rest of the party if they don’t get behind President Trump’s agenda.

In an interview with the Washington Post on Saturday, Bannon said that Republican leaders in Congress and the White House will be “one big happy family” if the GOP falls in line behind the president – but that he doesn’t expect that to happen.

“If the Republican Party on Capitol Hill gets behind the president on his plans and not theirs, it will all be sweetness and light, be one big happy family,” Bannon told the Post. Bannon added that he doesn’t expect any “sweetness” anytime soon.

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Bannon left the White House on Friday and will return to leading the conservative online media company Breitbart. He pledge that there he would “go to war” for Trump’s conservative agenda.

Trump praised his former chief strategist on Twitter hours after his ouster, adding that at Breitbart, Bannon would be “competition” for the mainstream “fake news” media.

“Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at [Breitbart News]… maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!” Trump said Friday.

But in the interview, the former top Trump aide described Trump’s administration as dangerously divided on policy matters.

“No administration in history has been so divided among itself about the direction where it should go,” he told the Post.

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Please, God, Save Gary Cohn from Himself – Vanity Fair

Gary Cohn, the former second in command at Goldman Sachs, should follow Stephen Bannon out the door and resign as Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser in the White House. Unlike Bannon, he should resign on principle. He should resign—not because of anything he has done wrong, in fact, quite the contrary—but because it is the right thing for him to do in the wake of Trump’s disgraceful reaction to the horrific events that played out last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. He should resign despite the fact the stock markets will probably react negatively to the departure of one of the only halfway-sane economic voices in this administration. He should resign for his own dignity and so that the reputation he worked so hard to build on Wall Street during the last 30 years doesn’t get further destroyed by the monster that is Donald Trump.

Will he? That’s a question that plenty of people on Wall Street and in Washington have been debating this week. There has been some reporting since Trump’s pathetic question-and-answer session on Tuesday from the lobby of Trump Tower that Cohn is “deeply upset,” according to Maggie Haberman, at The New York Times, and “disgusted,” according to her colleague Glenn Thrush, about Trump’s defense of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and their Tiki torch-carrying brethren. I am told Cohn “is dying” inside the Trump lunatic asylum, and that “this is a real inflection point for him.” It should be. During previous interviews with me, he has made it clear that it is increasingly difficult for him to stay in an administration that, among other things, has advocated keeping Muslims out of the country, rejected the Paris climate accord, and doesn’t seem to be able to accomplish the things he cares about. He has told me that he’s in it mainly for the chance to reform the tax code, which hasn’t been overhauled in 30 years.

But is he really sticking around Washington so that he can help people who are already rich pay less in taxes? Is he really sticking around for the increasingly slim chance that comprehensive tax reform might happen? Larry Summers, the Harvard economist and former Treasury secretary (who also once had Cohn’s job) said on Bloomberg TV yesterday that the chances of meaningful tax reform are likely dead. So what gives, Gary? Why put up with this shit anymore? Following Trump’s Tuesday afternoon diatribe, I texted Cohn, wondering how he and Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary—both very wealthy, Jewish, former Goldman partners—could stand by Trump’s side during the impromptu press conference where he doubled-down on his failure to condemn the white nationalists that marched Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in the killing of Heather Heyer. He did not reply. I still have not heard from him.

There is no reason for him to stick around anymore. There is no economic agenda that has much of a near-term chance of getting done. He has already successfully converted his $250 million fortune in Goldman stock into Treasury securities on a tax-deferred basis. No one can take away from his résumé the fact that he was the nation’s top political economic adviser, just as were his former Goldman colleagues Robert Rubin and Stephen Friedman. Summers has also strongly implied that he should resign, on principle. (He said if he were in Cohn’s shoes he would resign but added that he learned “long ago” not to “stand in other people’s shoes.”) So what’s holding Cohn back from doing what is so obviously the right thing for him to do? Why is he continuing to serve such an incompetent leader?

I think the answer is ego. Cohn wants Trump to name him chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, replacing Janet Yellen, whose term expires next February. It would be the perfect way for him to fulfill his boundless ambitions and also give him a graceful exit out of the White House. If he got the job—which he isn’t particularly well qualified for; he’s not an economist, not that that is a prerequisite (Summers is far better qualified but not under consideration)—he would become the first Goldman Sachs alumnus to become Fed chairman. (Goldman Sachs alumni head up the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.) That would put him in truly rarefied air—above Rubin, Mnuchin and Hank Paulson, all of whom have served as Treasury secretary. It would also remove him from the political fray and put him in a job from which it would be very difficult for Trump to fire him.

Cohn wants the job so badly he can taste it. Trump named Cohn to be head of the Yellen replacement search committee. But Cohn is trying to pull a Dick Cheney and get Trump to name him to the job, instead. In July, Trump said that Cohn was a good choice to be Fed chief. (He also said he might just re-appoint Yellen.) My sources tell me the job is Cohn’s for the taking, assuming he sticks around the White House and remains a good Trump soldier. When I asked Cohn about wanting the Fed job, he of course demurred, which is the only politically correct thing to do. His surrogates are working hard for him, though. William Dudley, a former Goldman partner who has been president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since 2009, said in a recent interview with the Associated Press that Cohn would be “a reasonable candidate” for the job as Fed chief but declined to recommend any other people along with Cohn. “He knows a lot about financial markets,” Dudley said. “He knows lots about the financial system.” He added that Cohn’s lack of a doctorate in economics was not a drawback for a Fed chief.

The right thing for Cohn to do is resign. He has no business any longer in a Trump administration. By staying, he is allowing Trump “to borrow his credibility,” in the words of Thomas Ricks, the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, and ruin it. Can he put aside his personal ambition to be Fed chair in order to save his dignity and do what is clearly the right thing? No doubt this is what Cohn and his family are discussing during his respite in the Hamptons. “Do you want to have a boss like Donald Trump?” Summers said on Bloomberg, after being asked whether Cohn should resign. “How do you face your children?” It’s the right question, Gary.

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Protesters Flood Streets, and Trump Offers a Measure of Praise – New York Times

BOSTON — Tens of thousands of demonstrators, emboldened and unnerved by the eruption of fatal violence in Virginia last weekend, surged into the nation’s streets and parks on Saturday to denounce racism, white supremacy and Nazism.

Demonstrations were boisterous but broadly peaceful, even as tensions and worries coursed through protests from Boston Common, the nation’s oldest public park, to Hot Springs, Ark., and to the bridges that cross the Willamette River in Portland, Ore. Other rallies played out in Houston, Memphis and New Orleans, among other cities.

The demonstrations — which drew 40,000 people in Boston alone, according to police estimates — came one week after a 32-year-old woman died amid clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., and they unfolded as the nation was again confronting questions about race, violence and the standing of Confederate symbols.

President Trump, who has faced unyielding, and bipartisan, criticism after saying that there was “blame on both sides” in Charlottesville, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he wanted “to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!”

He also wrote: “Our great country has been divided for decades. Sometimes you need protest in order to heal, & we will heal, & be stronger than ever before!”

It was an abrupt shift in tone. The president posted earlier Saturday that it appeared there were “many anti-police agitators in Boston.”

Law enforcement officials were on alert throughout Saturday, wary of being seen as irresolute and ineffective after the protests in Virginia turned into running street battles and turned fatal when someone drove a car through a crowd. Officers in riot gear sometimes faced off with demonstrators to maintain order. There were scattered scuffles and arrests; in Boston, the largest of the weekend’s protests, Police Commissioner William B. Evans said there had been 33 arrests, mostly involving charges of disorderly conduct.

Boston, where officials had pledged to enforce a policy of zero tolerance for violence, faced dueling demonstrations, but a rally to promote “free speech” was brief and unamplified beyond the small bandstand where it was held. The event, whose participants appeared to number only in the dozens, was undercut by police planning and starved by an enormous buffer zone between the handful of protesters and the overwhelming numbers of their opponents.

Organizers of the speech rally had said they were appealing to “libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists, classical liberals, Trump supporters or anyone else who enjoys their right to free speech.”

“All of us here, in many ways, are true patriots because, in spite of that noise out there, we’re here to stand up for something very fundamental, which is called free speech,” Shiva Ayyadurai, an entrepreneur who is running a long-shot Republican campaign for Senate, told the rallygoers, according to a video posted on YouTube.

But thousands of others, fearing that the free speech event would be a platform for neo-Nazis and white nationalists, joined a robust counterprotest.

“This city has a history of fighting back against oppression, whether it’s dumping tea in the harbor or a bunch of dudes standing around with bandannas screaming at neo-Nazis,” said a 21-year-old protester who would identify himself only as “Frosty” and wore an American flag to obscure much of his face.

Some counterprotesters shouted down their opponents — “No Nazis! No K.K.K.! No fascist U.S.A.!” — as Massachusetts state troopers used their bikes to keep rival demonstrators apart.

“We didn’t want for what happened in Virginia to happen here,” Mr. Evans, the police commissioner, said at a news conference after Saturday’s protests. “We didn’t want them at each other’s throats.”

The free speech rally, which had been scheduled to run from noon until 2 p.m., concluded by about 12:50 p.m. Mr. Evans, who said the event ended early by mutual agreement between the authorities and the event’s organizers, said the police had helped the demonstrators get into police wagons as part of a prearranged “exit strategy.” It was then, he said, that “we had some kids block the street, it got a little confrontational, but they were given every opportunity to move.” Videos posted to social media showed police officers wearing helmets and holding batons moving in formation to clear the street.

“We had to do a little pushing and shoving there,” said Mr. Evans, whose department reported that some people pelted officers with rocks and that some demonstrators threw bottles of urine at officers.

Rondre Brooks, 36, who said he had traveled from Detroit for the counterdemonstration, said he was pleased to see the early end of the free speech rally amid the large number of counterprotesters. “It’s a very good look for America as a whole,” he said.

But another man, who said he supported the speech rally and gave his name, after some hesitation, as Matt Staley, interjected to ask if those demonstrating in support of free speech were not Americans, too.

“I think it’s awful that people can’t speak out to express opinions,” Mr. Staley said.

The counterprotesters descended on the Common hours before the rally and found fliers showing white supremacist and neo-Nazi symbols. The leaflet, which other counterprotesters appeared to have prepared, urged people to “learn to identify these symbols and let anyone displaying them know that they are not welcome in our city!”

“Charlottesville is what forced me out here,” said Rose Fowler, 68, a retired teacher who is black and was among the people who had gathered to march from Roxbury toward the Common, about two miles away. “Somebody killed for fighting for me. What is wrong with me if I can’t fight for myself and others?”

Although the protests in Boston were expected to be among the weekend’s largest, people gathered on Friday evening in Portland for an “Eclipse Hate” rally. The Oregon protest swelled to more than 1,000 people, and demonstrators swarmed two of Portland’s bridges, halting traffic in both directions and chanting: “Whose bridge? Our bridge!”

In Arkansas, a small demonstration supporting Confederate symbols drew about 50 people in Hot Springs. Opponents walked by occasionally, denouncing Mr. Trump and racial hatred. At least three people were arrested.

And along a side street in Charlottesville, the mood was somber about 1:30 p.m., as people marked the time a week earlier when a man drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather D. Heyer.

Ms. Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, stood before a memorial of flowers and candles, weeping as she leaned into her husband, Kim Bro. Hundreds of people gathered around as someone wrote with purple chalk — Ms. Heyer’s favorite color — on the pavement, “I miss you baby girl, love mom.”

Ms. Bro eventually encouraged people to come closer to her. Some people laid hands on her, and they sang “This Little Light of Mine.”

Ms. Bro said she hoped that some good could come out of her daughter’s death. And for those who might take joy in seeing her grieve, she said, “Karma’s a you know what.”

Law enforcement officials made extensive plans for the demonstrations in the wake of the Virginia bloodshed.

In Dallas, where a gunman killed five police officers who were protecting a protest in July 2016, the authorities planned a barricade around Saturday’s demonstration site with buses and heavy equipment to “lock down” the area and keep any cars from drawing too close.

But they also contended with several men and women who, armed with high-powered rifles and dressed in military fatigues, assembled near the rally site here. A representative of the group, called the Texas Elite III%, said they planned to provide security at the rally and were not affiliated with either side.

“With Charlottesville and how things went down there, and what we’ve heard so far intel-wise, we are expecting possible problems,” said the representative, who declined to give her real name and identified herself as Momma Doc.

The Boston authorities seemed to face nothing of that sort, but they cleared the Common of vendors and their carts and shut down the Swan Boats, a nearby tourist attraction.

Marchers were banned from bringing weapons, bats, sticks, flagpoles or anything that might be used as a weapon or a projectile, and backpacks were subject to search.

Tensions here had been rising all week. On Monday night, a teenager threw a rock at the New England Holocaust Memorial, shattering the glass; passers-by quickly tackled the youth before the police arrived.

But elsewhere in the country, officials were moving to defuse anger that surrounded the revived debate about Confederate monuments.

Duke University announced early Saturday that it had removed a recently vandalized statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee from the entrance to its campus chapel in Durham, N.C.

“I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university,” Vincent E. Price, the university’s president, said in an email to students, employees and alumni.

Dr. Price said the statue would be “preserved so that students can study Duke’s complex past and take part in a more inclusive future.”

Katharine Q. Seelye and Jess Bidgood reported from Boston, and Alan Blinder from Atlanta. Reporting was contributed by John Eligon from Charlottesville, Va.; Manny Fernandez from Dallas; Rob Moritz from Hot Springs, Ark.; and Courtney Sherwood from Portland, Ore.

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Bannon’s departure is unlikely to calm the turmoil in Trump’s White House – Washington Post

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President Trump’s most unconventional senior adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, may have left the White House but the political turbulence that has characterized the first seven months of Trump’s presidency doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

The tenure and departure of Bannon, the president’s chief strategist and champion of his nationalist impulses, exposed deep fissures in the Trump-era Republican Party, within the White House and beyond.

Those differences are still harming Trump’s effectiveness as he tries to kick-start a sputtering legislative agenda at a time when relationships with Republican congressional leaders are seriously frayed — largely because of the president’s behavior, including his response to hate-fueled deadly violence in Charlottesville last weekend.

While Bannon’s ouster was the latest move by new Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to bring a greater sense of normalcy to the White House, even some of Trump’s allies question how likely that is to take hold, particularly under a president who relishes changing the national conversation with a provocative tweet — a practice Kelly has not been able to curb.

Trump — nearing the end of a working vacation at his Bedminster, N.J., golf resort — has made a habit of continuing to solicit advice from former staffers, often through late-night calls when he is no longer under the watchful eye of Kelly. Bannon also has made clear since he left Friday that he is going to use Breitbart News, the pugilistic conservative website, to try to advance his agenda from outside the White House.

In an interview in Washington on Saturday, Bannon warned Republican leaders to enthusiastically support Trump’s priorities on taxes, trade and funding a massive border wall — or risk the wrath of the president’s base, including Breitbart, where Bannon returned Friday as executive chairman.

“If the Republican Party on Capitol Hill gets behind the president on his plans and not theirs, it will all be sweetness and light, be one big happy family,” Bannon said.

[After Charlottesville, Republicans remain stymied over what to do about Trump]

But Bannon added with a smile that he does not expect “sweetness” anytime soon — and described the turbulent political moment in the GOP and the country as a necessary battle over Trump’s priorities.

“No administration in history has been so divided among itself about the direction about where it should go,” Bannon said, adding that Trump’s base is frustrated by a congressional agenda that has dovetailed more with traditional Republican priorities than the agenda Trump championed.

In a pair of tweets on Saturday, the president wished Bannon well and thanked him for his service.

“He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton — it was great!” Trump said in the first, referring to Bannon’s role during the general election.

Several hours later, Trump predicted Bannon would be “a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews . . . maybe even better than ever before,” adding: “Fake News needs the competition!”

Trump and Bannon had not yet spoken by phone as of early Saturday, according to people close to both men. It was not clear who had been reaching out to whom, the people said. Bannon spent the day in Washington meeting with friends and allies and talking with Breitbart writers and executives, according to people close to him.

Several friends and former co-workers said that they expect Bannon to use the platform to attack his political opponents, including those he has derided as “globalists” and Democrats inside the White House.

“I think Steve is going to be more effective on the outside,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a longtime friend of Bannon. “On the outside, if you are well-funded and you are feared and you have a platform, you are going to be a power player. Steve has all of that in spades.”

Trump and Bannon associates also expect Bannon to continue to have Trump’s ear, as has been the case with some other fired staffers such as Corey Lewandowksi, Trump’s first campaign manager, who periodically shows up at the White House.

“With Donald Trump, once he likes you, you’re either in his inner orbit, or you’re in his outer orbit,” said Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla. “You never leave altogether.”

In a White House that has had competing power centers, some Trump confidants argued that Bannon’s removal was necessary to bring a more regimented system to the White House, as Kelly has sought. They argued that with Bannon, who had a reputation of trying to undermine colleagues with more establishment views, this made particular sense.

[Trump, first lady to skip Kennedy Center Honors over concerns of ‘political distraction’]

“I think it raises the morale of staffers and brings more of a sense of normalcy to the White House on a day-to-day basis,” said one Republican strategist close to the White House, who requested anonymity to speak more candidly. “You don’t have such an un­or­tho­dox staffer breathing down people’s necks and creating tension every day.”

“What it does not do is remove the person who’s creating the most drama in the White House, and that’s Donald Trump,” the strategist added. “He’s going to continue to do what he’s going to do.”

The coming weeks should bring no shortage of drama.

Fallout is continuing from Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville, in which he blamed “both sides” for the violence and said some “fine people” marched alongside the neo-Nazis and white supremacists protesting the removal of a Confederate statue. The probes into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia also continue.

And next month, Congress returns to a full set of challenges, including legislation to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. If Trump and lawmakers become paralyzed by the task, they could spark an international crisis.

Trump also wants Congress to try to resurrect health-care legislation and take up tax reform, another shared priority but one also rife with intraparty division. He is also seeking funding for his marquee campaign promise of a wall on the U.S.-Mexcio border.

On most of these issues, there is no evident strategy among Republicans on either side of Pennsylvania Avenue for bridging divisions and bringing Trump and congressional Republicans together.

“The reality of it is that even if there were no issues inside the White House, you still have an underlying divide in the Republican Party about how we’ll approach some of these issues,” said former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. “To me, that’s the most disheartening part of this.”

While Bannon’s influence has been evident on some Trump policies — including trade, immigration and a decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord — he was much less a presence on health care, the issue that has most come to symbolize GOP dysfunction at a time when the party controls the presidency and both chambers of Congress.

In recent weeks, Trump has grown increasingly unhappy with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and rarely mentions House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) in private conversations, blaming both for his legislative troubles, according to two people who have spoken with Trump.

On Friday, a flurry of bravado-filled interviews with Bannon appeared on various websites, including one in which he said he felt like “I’ve got my hands back on my weapons” and was prepared to “crush the opposition.”

Advisers to senior congressional Republicans were taken aback that none of the combative language was countered by the White House.

“They just sat out there,” said one Republican aide. “That told me everything about whether the White House actually cares about making clear it’s on our side.”

Other GOP aides pointed out that there were other consequential openings on the staff beyond Bannon. While Bannon has been close to the conservative House Freedom Caucus, it was former chief of staff Reince Priebus and outgoing press secretary Sean Spicer who had deep friendships in the party going back to their days at the Republican National Committee.

Ever since Priebus left, many Republican officials have found it harder to engage the White House and to feel assured that the administration “understands the language of Republicans,” as one veteran Republican operative described the dynamic.

[The Fix: Where Republican senators stand on Trump’s views]

Bannon said he sees the roiling feuds inside the West Wing and in the GOP leadership ranks as somewhat but not entirely distinct from broader national divisions.

“The tensions in the White House are slightly different than the tensions in the country. It’s still a divided country. Fifty percent of the people did not support President Trump. Most of those people do not support his policies in any way, shape, or form,” Bannon said.

Bannon said both Republicans and Democrats will need to pay close attention to the anxiety among many working people in the country over economic opportunity and national identity, even as they work to settle their turf fights in Washington.

The showdown in a special Senate race in Alabama offers a harbinger of the discord facing the GOP in 2018.

In a Sept. 26 primary runoff, Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), an ally of Senate GOP leaders, has been endorsed by Trump but is disliked by many right-wing leaders, including Breitbart and talk-radio hosts such as Laura Ingraham.

Strange faces Roy Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice and longtime favorite of conservatives for his hard-line stands on same-sex marriage and allowing the Ten Commandants to be displayed in public.

Rather than rally behind Strange, several conservative leaders said privately Saturday that they expect their supporters to get behind Moore as a way of sending a signal to Trump that while they are with him philosophically, they will not follow his decisions blindly ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who finished third in last week’s Senate vote and did not make the runoff, acknowledged that many conservatives are urging him to get behind Moore to stop Strange and rattle GOP leaders.

“Have I made a decision? No, I have not,” Brooks said coyly in an interview. “But it looks like the establishment and Washington swamp have taken control of the White House with Bannon’s departure and with Luther Strange.”

Wagner reported from Bedminster, N.J. Paige Winfield Cunningham contributed to this report.

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President Trump Cedes Moral Leadership To Big Business – HuffPost

A deadly attack by an avowed white supremacist shocked the nation. The president’s response came swiftly, and triggered raw emotion. Despite a sometimes strained relationship with the White House, corporate board rooms stayed silent, spared the need to weigh in.

That was 2015.

This week, chief executives at some of the country’s biggest companies tossed out usual protocols and disavowed the sitting commander-in-chief after President Donald Trump refused to single out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend.

Two days of protests ― featuring torch-wielding, swastika-toting, Nazi-saluting protesters opposed to removing a Confederate monument ― turned deadly when a marcher drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Despite calling racism “evil” at a press conference two days later, Trump said the march drew some “very fine people,” a message white supremacists interpreted as nearly-explicit approval.

Big companies are by their nature risk averse when it comes to wading into political controversy. To prevent alienating customers and partners, they traditionally maintain political neutrality on issues that don’t directly intersect with their business interests, and cultivate friendly relationships with sitting administrations. But the reputational peril posed by staying silent on an issue as morally one-sided in mainstream politics as defending white supremacists proved too great this week.

“It’s not worth the risk to business,” said Jonathan Bernstein, founder of the consultancy Bernstein Crisis Management. “They’re realizing very quickly that they don’t want to be associated in any way with the Trump administration and the Trump White House.”

The exodus of corporate chieftains from Trump’s side began Monday, when Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier ― the only African-American on the president’s American Manufacturing Council ― quit “as a matter of personal conscience” and “to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.” Hours later, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich followed suit, even after Trump called out the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis in a damage-control speech.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ken Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck, speaks while U.S. President Donald Trump, left, listens during an announcement on a new pharmaceutical glass packaging initiative in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in July.

Trump denounced the executives as “grandstanders” and vowed to replace them, but that did nothing to stop more executives from fleeing. Public pressure began to mount as nearly half the council stepped down in protest. That left consumer-facing brands particularly at risk. No members of the president’s other business advisory panel, the Strategic and Policy Forum, had yet dropped out, but Walmart CEO Doug McMillon excoriated Trump’s response to the Charlottesville tragedy in a rare public rebuke.

On Wednesday, in the face of possible boycotts, furious calls and social media messages, the remaining corporate executives agreed to disband both councils, though Trump took credit for dissolving the groups on Twitter. 

By the end of the week, more than half of the Commerce Department’s Digital Economy Board of Advisors had also resigned, according to a report in Politico. That group included Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of Mozilla.

The week’s events illustrate the evolving nature of corporate power in U.S. politics. The Supreme Court’s 2010 decision known as Citizens United gave wealthy donors, including big corporations, nearly unlimited spending power in elections, in many cases reducing the influence ordinary constituents have over their elected officials. Coupled with partisan gerrymandering, which has allowed leaders to carve out districts that make political opposition almost impossible, lawmakers in Congress are increasingly unaccountable to the voters they ostensibly represent.

The backlash to Trump’s Charlottesville response put that on full display. By Tuesday, Republican lawmakers began offering pointed, if mealy-mouthed, condemnations of the president’s stance. But where senators and representatives offered words, corporations ― facing similar public pressure ― took action.

Of course, distance from the leader of the ruling political party won’t cost executives their jobs like it might lawmakers facing reelection in an era of hyper partisanship. At a particularly circus-like time in politics, this gives companies the ability to “become the adults in the room,” said Davia Temin, a management coach and reputation consultant who worked with some of the companies whose leaders resigned from Trump’s councils this week.  

“Business has a planning and strategic horizon that is further out than four years or eight years or 12 years,” she told HuffPost. “They can actually have a counterpoint and be the counterbalance to the short governance by tweet.”

Trump has posed a challenge to businesses since he kicked off his presidential campaign by disparaging Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers and vowing to ban Muslims from the country. Last year, corporate giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Coca-Cola withheld funding from the 2016 Republican National Convention once it became clear Trump would clinch the nomination. Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman, a major GOP donor, reportedly compared Trump to Hitler and Mussolini during a private political summit. And BuzzFeed turned down ad money from the Republican ticket.

The pressure has hardly eased up since Trump took office. Before it’s dissolution this week, the Strategic and Policy Forum saw three of its members step down earlier this year to protest separate Trump decisions they deemed indefensible.

Business … can actually have a counter point and be the counterbalance to the short governance by tweet.Davia Temin, a management coach and reputation consultant

In February, Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down in hopes of distancing his ride-hailing service from Trump’s executive order barring travelers from several Muslim-majority nations. In May, Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk resigned after Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord left him “no choice.” Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger also resigned over the president’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the historic climate agreement, which was signed by every country except Syria and Nicaragua. Notably, even oilmajors that funded campaigns to undermine climate science urged Trump to stay in the pact.

Numerous tech companies denied services to the white supremacist web site The Daily Stormer last week, effectively taking it offline. “I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet,” Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince wrote in an email to staffers. Free speech advocates argue that private companies should not decide what content deserves to be on the internet.

When Texas lawmakers tried to pass a transgender “bathroom” bill this year, businesses fearing statewide boycotts lined up against it, playing a key role in its (at least temporary) defeat. A host of major corporations opposed similar legislation in North Carolina, which was signed into law in 2016.

Corporations have become much more sensitive to long-term reputational damage, Temin said. As an example, she pointed to BP in 2010. The oil giant’s chief executive ignited a firestorm when he said, “I’d like to have my life back,” as millions of gallons of crude gushed into the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon disaster. The comment, she said, cost the British executive his job.

“If you become a pariah like BP did through so much insensitivity in the middle of a crisis ― their CEO was out,” Temin said. “He probably did a lot of the right things, but didn’t say the right things.”

To be sure, business leaders standing up to Trump’s coddling of white supremacists hardly means they are cutting off communication with the White House. Despite protests during the campaign, business leaders sidled up to Trump after his surprise victory in November, particularly once he made deregulation and tax reform the bedrock of his policy agenda. The same companies who distanced themselves from Trump this week are likely to keep lobbying the White House in the months and years ahead.

“Businesses will continue to engage on the issues important to the American economy, just through different venues,” Michael Steel, managing director at Hamilton Place Strategies, a public affairs firm that represents a number of financial services clients, told Politico. “Many people in the business community are frustrated by the president’s words and tweets on Charlottesville, but that does not change the importance of policies that make life better for the economy and the American people.”

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‘Free speech’ rally ends early as thousands of counterprotesters descend on Boston Common – Washington Post

Police pushed back counter-protesters as a rally featuring far right-wing political figures came to an end in Boston on Aug. 19. (Reuters)

BOSTON – Thousands of counterprotesters crammed Boston Common and marched through city streets Saturday morning in efforts to drown out the planned “free speech” rally that many feared would be attended by white-supremacist groups.

By 1 p.m., the handful of rally attendees had left the Boston Common pavillion, concluding their event without planned speeches. A victorious cheer went up among the counterprotesters, as many began to leave. Hundreds of others danced in circles and sang, “Hey hey, ho ho. White supremacy has got to go.”

Tensions flared as police escorted some rally attendees out of the Common, prompting several physical altercations between police and counterprotesters. It was not immediately clear if anyone was arrested. The situation quickly calmed.

President Trump praised law enforcement and Mayor Marty Walsh via tweet Saturday afternoon for their handling of the crowds, saying that there appeared to be “many anti-police agitators in Boston.” More than an hour later, he tweeted support for protesters.

Our great country has been divided for decades. Sometimes you need protest in order to heal, & we will heal, & be stronger than ever before!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017

The showdown between right-wing ralliers and the far larger group of counterprotesters in the heart of downtown Boston comes just one week after a chaotic gathering of far-right political groups — including neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members — left dozens injured and one woman dead in Charlottesville after a reported neo-Nazi allegedly plowed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.

In anticipation of potential violence, city officials corralled more than 500 police officers onto the Common, installed security cameras and constructed elaborate barriers to separate the free-speech rally from the massive demonstration in opposition to it. The handful of rally attendees gathered beneath a pavilion near the center of the Common, surrounded by metal barriers and dozens of police. Several hundred feet away, thousands of counterprotesters surrounding them carrying signs declaring “Black Lives Matter” and “Hate Has No Home In Boston,” while mockingly chanting “we can’t hear you” when it appeared the ralliers had begun to speak.

One moment of tension came when rally attendees ventured outside of the barriers and were promptly confronted by counterprotesters. One man, draped in a Donald Trump flag, was immediately surrounded by media, while demonstrators chanted at him to “go home.”

One rally attendee, Luke St. Onge, a young man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat and GOP T-shirt, said he came even though he knew it might be attended by white-supremacist groups, whose views he said he does not agree with.

“I definitely wouldn’t associate myself with the KKK or any white supremacist. I don’t stand with them at all,” said St. Onge, who is from Las Vegas. “I do support their right to an opinion,” he added. “Free speech is definitely something I stand for.”

Plans for the Boston rally, which organizers said was not about white supremacy or Confederate monuments, were nearly scrapped following the violence in Charlottesville. Several speakers pulled out of or were uninvited from the event, but John Medlar, a Boston-area college student and the rally’s lead organizer, said that the rally would go on.

Among those who were scheduled to speak were Joe Biggs, formerly a writer for the conspiracy-theory website Infowars, and Kyle Chapman, a far-right activist charged with beating counterdemonstrators with a wooden pole during a clash at the University of California in Berkeley earlier this year, though it is unclear if either man attended. Members of the KKK told the Boston Herald that they expected several of the group’s members to attend, but there was little, if any, visible KKK presence at the rally.

“There have been questions about why we granted a permit for the rally,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said on Friday. “The courts have made it abundantly clear. They have the right to gather, no matter how repugnant their views are. But they don’t have the right to create unsafe conditions. They have the right to free speech. In return, they have to respect our city.”

“We will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry,” organizers said in a Facebook post earlier this week. “We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence.”

Last week’s gathering in Virginia was ostensibly in protest of the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. In the days since, cities across the nation have announced the removal of dozens of Confederate monuments, sparking anew the long-heated debate over what, if anything, should be done with the hundreds of statutes, streets, and schoolhouses named after or in honor of those who fought to maintain slavery.

Thousands of protesters are expected to attend rallies calling for the removal of Confederate monuments at cities across the country this weekend, including Dallas and New Orleans. Meanwhile, supporters of the Confederate monuments are also organizing, with a rally planned in Hot Springs, Ark.

Organizers in Boston said today’s gathering is not in solidarity with white nationalists, but few of those who attended the massive counterprotest believed them. Across town, thousands began gathering before 10 a.m. on Malcolm X Boulevard for a march to the Common.

“We’re not standing for it. We’re not standing (for) white supremacy. We’re not going to have it in our city, not in Boston,” said Boston activist Monica Cannon, who was among those who organized the counterprotest. “We want to send a clear message that you don’t get to come to the city of Boston with your hatred.”

Thousands of people demonstrated against a rally featuring right-wing political figures in downtown Boston on Aug. 19. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

Rebecca Koskinen stood in front of her brick rowhouse on Tremont Street, awaiting the marchers, with her daughters Elle, 5, and Liv, 1. The older daughter’s sign read “I’m only five and even I know Black Lives Matter.”

Koskinen said she and her husband, who are white, had taken the girls to the several other marches earlier this year and felt that it was important to show support for an event that was particularly important to people of color – especially because Elle will soon start kindergarten at a private school that is less diverse than the South End neighborhood where they live.

“Because she’s not going to public school, it felt really important to me to talk about this with her and how different groups are treated,” Koskinen said.

Joel Moran and his partner, Jon Gothing, and friend Gary Gonsalves, who all live in the South End, were standing on corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Tremont Street waiting to join the marchers. Moran said he was moved to “speak out, have my voice heard against white supremacists, against people who think that, for some reason, they have more rights than other people have.”

Moran said they were “absolutely” influenced to participate today after the tragedy in Charlottesville.

“It wasn’t even on my radar until last weekend,” he said. “After seeing that and having a very emotional and disturbing response to that, I feel like it’s basically my responsibility.”

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Counterprotesters Surge Into Boston, Overshadowing Rally – New York Times

BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators, emboldened and unnerved by the fatal eruption of violence in Virginia last weekend, surged into the nation’s streets and parks on Saturday to denounce white supremacy and Nazism.

The demonstrations were loud but broadly peaceful, even as tensions and worries coursed through protests that unfolded from Boston Common, the nation’s oldest public park, to Hot Springs, Ark., and the bridges that cross the Willamette River in Portland, Ore. Other protests were expected on Saturday in Chicago, Dallas and Houston.

Boston faced dueling demonstrations, but a rally to promote “free speech” was brief and unamplified. It was undercut by police planning and starved by an enormous buffer zone between protesters and their opponents, many of whom had feared that the rally would become a haven for neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

“This city has a history of fighting back against oppression, whether it’s dumping tea in the harbor or a bunch of dudes standing around with bandannas screaming at neo-Nazis,” said a 21-year-old protester in Boston who would identify himself only as “Frosty” and wore an American flag to obscure much of his face.

Saturday’s demonstrations, one week after a 32-year-old woman died amid clashes between white nationalists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., occurred as the nation was again confronting questions about race, violence and the standing of Confederate symbols.

President Trump, who has faced unyielding, and bipartisan, criticism after he said there was “blame on both sides” in Charlottesville, wrote on Twitter on Saturday that it appeared there were “many anti-police agitators in Boston.”

“Police are looking tough and smart!” he continued. “Thank you.”

Law enforcement officials were on alert, wary of being seen as irresolute and ineffective after the protests in Virginia turned fatal when someone drove a car through a crowd of protesters. Officers patrolled on bicycles, on foot and from helicopters. In some instances, officers in riot gear faced off with demonstrators and tried to maintain order. There were some scuffles and arrests.

The epicenter of the weekend’s demonstrations appeared to be here in Boston, where the Common had been the expected setting for a pair of protests, including one that the Boston Free Speech Coalition organized before the Charlottesville violence. Organizers said they were appealing to “libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists, classical liberals, Trump supporters or anyone else who enjoys their right to free speech.”

But supporters of the free speech rally, scheduled for noon, faced thousands of counterprotesters, many of whom marched toward the Common from the Roxbury neighborhood.

As the minutes ticked by on a day that began with fog but became hot and sticky, counterdemonstrators shouted, “Scum! Scum!”

Earlier, the counterprotesters had shouted down their opponents — “No Nazis! No K.K.K.! No fascist U.S.A.!” — as Massachusetts state troopers used their bikes to keep rival demonstrators apart. City officials had said they would enforce a policy of zero tolerance for violence.

“If anything gets out of hand,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said on Friday, “we will shut it down.”

The rally, which could have lasted until 2 p.m., concluded by about 12:50 p.m. The bandstand emptied, officials removed flags tied to the free speech rally and the crowd of counterprotesters sang, “Hey, hey, hey, goodbye.”

A spokesman for the Boston police, Lt. Detective Mike McCarthy, said the free speech demonstrators had “decided they were done, and they left the Common.” The police escorted them as chants of “Shame!” rained down from the crowd.

Rondre Brooks, 36, who said he had traveled from Detroit for the counterdemonstration, said he was pleased to see the apparent early end of the free speech rally. “It’s a very good look for America as a whole,” he said.

But another man, who said he supported the speech rally and gave his name, after some hesitation, as Matt Staley, interjected to ask if those demonstrating in support of free speech were not Americans, too.

“I think it’s awful that people can’t speak out to express opinions,” Mr. Staley said.

The counterprotesters descended on the Common for hours before the planned rally, and they found fliers showing symbols of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. The leaflet, which protesters appeared to have prepared, urged people to “learn to identify these symbols and let anyone displaying them know that they are not welcome in our city!”

“Boston is an anti-fascist zone!” it added.

“Charlottesville is what forced me out here,” said Rose Fowler, a retired teacher who is black and was among the people who had gathered to march from Roxbury toward the Common, about two miles away. “Somebody killed for fighting for me. What is wrong with me if I can’t fight for myself and others?”

Although the protests in Boston were expected to be among the weekend’s largest, several hundred people gathered on Friday evening in Portland for an “Eclipse Hate” rally. The protest soon swelled to more than 1,000 people, many of whom used chants that demonstrators used in Boston on Saturday.

The demonstrators swarmed two of Portland’s bridges, halting traffic in both directions and chanting, “Whose bridge? Our bridge!”

In Arkansas on Saturday morning, a small demonstration supporting Confederate symbols drew about 50 people in Hot Springs. A small group of opponents walked by occasionally, denouncing Mr. Trump and racial hatred.

Along a side street in Charlottesville, the mood was somber at about 1:30 p.m. as people marked the time when, a week earlier, a man drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather D. Heyer.

Ms. Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, stood before a memorial of flowers and candles, weeping as she leaned into her husband, Kim Bro. Hundreds of people gathered around and watched silently as someone wrote with purple chalk — Ms. Heyer’s favorite color — on the pavement, “I miss you baby girl, love mom.”

After a few minutes, Ms. Bro turned to address the crowd.

“Thank you guys for coming,” she said. “I know she’s gone on, but this is the spot where I lost my baby.”

She encouraged people to come closer to her, and the crowd came in, some people laid hands on her, and they sang “This Little Light of Mine.”

Ms. Bro said she hoped that some good could come out of her daughter’s death. And for those who might take joy in seeing her grieve, she said, “Karma’s a you know what.”

Law enforcement officials made extensive plans for the demonstrations in the wake of the Virginia bloodshed.

In Dallas, where a gunman killed five police officers who were protecting a protest in July 2016, the authorities planned to form a barricade around Saturday’s demonstration site with buses and heavy equipment to “lock down” the area and keep any cars from drawing too close to the crowd.

The Boston authorities cleared the Common of vendors and their carts, and they shut down the Swan Boats, a major tourist attraction in the nearby Public Garden.

Marchers were banned from bringing weapons, bats, sticks, flagpoles or anything that might be used as a weapon or a projectile, and backpacks were subject to search.

Boston’s approach to the day’s protests represented something of a balancing act. Mr. Walsh, the mayor, said the city had consulted the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group based in Montgomery, Ala., that monitors extremist behavior, on how to handle hate groups.

He said the center warned that “interacting with them gives them a platform to spread their message of hate” and that it recommended that people “not confront” them.

“So we’re urging everyone to stay away from the Common,” Mr. Walsh said. “At the same time, we can’t look away.”

The mayor had begun the week by telling hate groups that they were not welcome in Boston. By Friday, he acknowledged their right to assemble and express their views.

“The courts have made it abundantly clear they have the right to gather, no matter how repugnant their views are, but they don’t have the right to create unsafe conditions,” Mr. Walsh said. “So we’re going to respect their right of free speech, and in return they must respect our city.”

Still, tensions here had been rising all week. On Monday night, a teenager threw a rock at the New England Holocaust Memorial, shattering the glass; passers-by quickly tackled the youth before the police arrived.

And with the national spotlight on the debate over Confederate monuments in the South, John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, said he was “haunted” by the racist legacy of his predecessor, Tom Yawkey, who resisted integrating the ball club long after every other club in Major League Baseball had hired black players.

Mr. Henry said he wanted to lead an effort to rename Yawkey Way, a public street outside Fenway Park, “in light of the country’s current leadership stance with regard to intolerance.”

Duke University announced early Saturday that it had removed a recently vandalized statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee from the entrance to its campus chapel in Durham, N.C.

“I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university,” Vincent E. Price, the university’s president, said in an email to students, employees and alumni.

Dr. Price said the statue would be “preserved so that students can study Duke’s complex past and take part in a more inclusive future.”

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Trump to Bannon on Breitbart gig: ‘Fake News needs the competition’ – CNN

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