First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Will Pelosi keep her job? Or will Democrats completely clean house?
After their shocking defeat a week ago, Democrats will have a new roster of leaders in the coming months, especially with President Obama gone from office. A new DNC chair. A new Senate leader (Chuck Schumer). The one remaining question, however, is whether Nancy Pelosi will continue to hold her job as House leader. As NBC’s Kasie Hunt reported, House Democrats have circulated a letter asking to postpone Thursday’s leadership elections -- to better reflect on the election’s results. “It is vital that our Caucus take the time to listen to the American people and learn the lessons of this difficult election in order to put our Caucus in the best position to fight the potentially dangerous agenda of President-elect Donald Trump and to have a realistic chance of taking back the House in 2018,” the letter said. “Only by taking the time to find the hard truths can we formulate a comprehensive path forward, which could include the composition of our caucus leadership and the roles and responsibilities of each leadership position.”
“The first real stirring of discontent” in Pelosi’s ranks since 2010
Politico adds about Pelosi, “House Democrats returned to Washington Monday searching for answers after their Election Day drubbing — and their longtime leader, Nancy Pelosi, confronted the first real stirring of discontent within the ranks since the last Democratic wipeout six years ago. While Pelosi has years or even decades of accumulated loyalty to fall back on, anger within the Democratic Caucus over what happened last week is palpable. The California Democrat faces a possible long-shot challenge from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who hails from the kind of working-class Rust Belt district in which Democrats got trounced.”
Obama throws some shade at Clinton
Democrats “have to compete everywhere”: In his White House news conference yesterday, President Obama took a not-so-subtle shot at Hillary Clinton’s decision to bypass campaigning in rural areas. “I believe that we have better ideas. But I also believe that good ideas don’t matter if people don’t hear them. And one of the issues that Democrats have to be clear on is that, given population distribution across the country, we have to compete everywhere. We have to show up everywhere,” he said. “I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa, it was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and VFW hall. And there were some counties where I might have lost, but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points.” Indeed, throughout the general election, Clinton campaigned a lot more in the Philadelphias, Pittsburghs, and Clevelands -- but not the Scrantons, Wilkes-Barres, or Youngstowns.
What else Obama said at yesterday’s news conference
Also in his news conference, Obama made these other newsworthy comments:
- He relayed that Trump is committed to NATO: “In my conversation with the President-elect, he expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships. And so one of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to NATO and the Transatlantic Alliance.”
- He went out of his way not to criticize Trump, his temperament, or his qualifications: “Look, the people have spoken. Donald Trump will be the next President, the 45th President of the United States. And it will be up to him to set up a team that he thinks will serve him well and reflect his policies. And those who didn’t vote for him have to recognize that that's how democracy works... Hopefully it's a reminder that elections matter and voting counts.”
- And he stressed that Trump is more pragmatic than ideological: “I don't think he is ideological. I think ultimately he’s pragmatic in that way. And that can serve him well, as long as he’s got good people around him and he has a clear sense of direction.”
Democrats united against Bannon
In what clearly looks like a coordinated campaign, Democrats up and down the party’s totem pole criticized Trump selecting former Breitbart head Steve Bannon to be the new White House chief strategist.
- Nancy Pelosi: “Bringing Steve Bannon into the White House is an alarming signal that President-elect Trump remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign.”
- Chuck Schumer: The Bannon pick "signals that many of his dangerous and bigoted ideas will have a seat at the table in the White House," he said yesterday in closed-door remarks, per NBC’s Frank Thorp.
- Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA): “I am deeply troubled that President-elect Trump has appointed Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor.
On “Today” this morning, Kellyanne Conway defended Bannon. “This man believes in the president-elect’s vision, and he’s there to support his vision.”
Security clearance for Trump’s children?
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell and others have reported that Trump’s transition INQUIRED about whether it’s possible to get security clearance for Trump’s children -- which would potentially present a conflict of interest, given that these children have been tapped to run Trump’s business. In her “Today” appearance, Kellyanne Conway said that they were just “regular inquiries.” And a Trump transition official told the press pool that President-elect Trump didn’t REQUEST the security clearances for his children.
RIP, Gwen Ifill
Yesterday, we lost one of the best journalists in America, PBS’s Gwen Ifill, whom we’ve always admired for her fairness, her toughness, and her infectious smile. She was 61 years old.