Politics with J. Patrick Coolican

Franken says yes to Gen. Mattis for Defense

Hello from the National Press Club building, the Strib’s DC headquarters, and Happy Inauguration Day.

I’ll start with a small postcard from Washington as a non-tourist. It’s a federal holiday in the District. Daycares are closed. Gyms are closed. Our trash won’t get collected today and my next door neighbor is having a party with kegs starting at 10 a.m. Neighborhoods are ghost-like because many denizens use the three-day weekend as an opportunity to get out of Dodge. Yesterday on Capitol Hill, thousands of people waited in hours-long lines to retrieve Inauguration tickets from congressional offices, which require people to go through security. Maybe in four years they should give tickets away at a public location to make it easier? I doubt anyone will remember.

I took a train downtown at 6:45 a.m. and it wasn’t too bad. Our office is about a block from the White House, so to get down to Pennsylvania Avenue, the parade route later, you have to go through an outdoor, makeshift white tent and get screened.  There’s a weird blend of anti-Trump shouters outside -- “NOT MY PRESIDENT!” -- and armed National Guardsmen and women in camo milling about. A lot of enterprising guys selling buttons and Trump T-shirts.

I received this outgoing note from an O administration staffer on Thursday:

“It's been a blast, but this is your last call while I'm still an official spox. Clock is ticking.  Tomorrow at noon I become a free agent and a ‘former administration official.’ I look forward to being a resource in that capacity. If you want to know where the bodies are buried, email:

Lots of talk about what PEOTUS Trump is going to say today for his inauguration speech.  Will he take the high, unifier road, like he did on Election Night when he said he wanted to be the president for all the people? Will he gloat? Maybe a blend of both? Politico reported last month that Trump hired Stephen Miller to write it, who was responsible for much of his fiery campaign rhetoric. But Trump mostly ad-libs anyway and his unvarnished delivery is seemingly what people like about him. I sat down with Rep. Emmer yesterday at his gracious office open house, where there were cold cuts, cupcakes and a massive chocolate Capitol.

“I hope he talks about the forgotten man and the forgotten woman again,” Emmer said. “That we will restore your ability to self-determine. Then I hope he talks about unification. The great part of this American experience is that when the election is over we have a peaceful transfer of power.”

For all the hyperbole about how divided America is right now, I thought I’d look up what a few other victorious politicians said at historically divided times. I picked Sen. Al Franken and George W. Bush. Refresher: Franken won his seat by 312 votes in a seven-month recount, which means he didn’t get sworn in until the summer after November’s 2008 election. George W. Bush didn’t know he won the presidential election in 2000 until the Supremes ruled on Dec. 12, so he had to throw together a speech in about a month.

Franken: “I’m going to fight hard to put people to work, improve education, make Minnesota the epicenter of a new renewable energy economy and make quality health care accessible and affordable for all Minnesotans. No matter whether you voted for me or for Sen. Coleman or for Sen. Barkley or whether you voted at all, I want the people of Minnesota to know that I’m ready to work for all of you.”

Bush: “Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty because in a time of peace the stakes of our debates appear small. But the stakes for America are never small.”

Washington Post: Trump didn’t create the divided America, but can he heal it?

Sen. Klobuchar will attend the inauguration and sit with other senators and, because she is in Democratic Senate leadership, will attend the joint congressional lunch at the Capitol with Trump afterwards. She will bring her husband to that. The menu looks delicious. On the House side, members meet at the Capitol and then go down to the west steps together. Rep. Keith Ellison is boycotting the day. His staff hasn’t answered questions about what he’s doing instead -- maybe seeing “Rogue One?” Would be a great day to go to a movie here, actually.

The NYT’s indefatigable lobbying reporter Eric Lipton on Trump’s existing conflicts of interest and the fact he will be in breach of contract with the federal government the minute he gets sworn in. Because the Trump family has not divested from their companies, the new president stands to make himself and his kids richer by his public office. A great line from the story: “One suite during inauguration week was offered for $500,000, with various perks. On Thursday, the president-elect attended a lunch with Republican leaders of Congress, cabinet members and hundreds of others in the hotel’s enormous Presidential Ballroom, which features nine glass chandeliers and gold and white walls. “This is a gorgeous room,” Mr. Trump told the gathering. “A total genius must have built this place.”

Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters yesterday: “It’s an absolutely stunning hotel. I encourage you all to go there if you haven’t been by.”

Not exactly promoting separation between business and government there.

Speaking of design, a long-form read about Trump’s original interior designer, who has since passed. Doesn’t sound like Trump followed his advice much. Awaiting what the new WH will look like. I was reminded of a Tom Wolfe novel when reading about New York in the 1980s.

This is a story that won’t go away for awhile. Eager to see Klobuchar’s role investigating Russia’s connections to the elections.

Sen. Al Franken’s staffers told me last night that he plans to vote for Gen. Mattis as secretary of defense. This may be the only cabinet pick Franken favors, but we’ll see. Apparently it’s because “he has deep experience and knowledge on national security and Al is hopeful that he will be a voice of reason on national security in the new administration.”

Mattis was famously humane on waterboarding and torture, saying that a six-pack of beer and a carton of cigarettes work better.

Funny exchange yesterday between Franken and Gov. Rick Perry, nominee for energy secretary.

Also, who says the president-elect isn’t funny? From last night’s pool report: “He also spoke about the likelihood of rain at Friday’s inauguration: “If it really pours tomorrow, that’s OK, because people will realize it’s my real hair.”

I took a few trips like this before I had a kid. This story was fun to read.

Paging Sen. Klobuchar. I thought you wanted this job! will have live, in-depth coverage of the inauguration, with livestreaming, live blogging, photo galleries and more. Tune in everyone! And stay warm.

I’ll be back on Monday, filling in for Coolican with a heartier helping of Minnesota news. Complaints, comments or @allisonsherry

-- Allison Sherry



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