Decision 2016: A Look Back ‘On the Trail’

The NBC News politics team created the "On the Trail" blog to capture campaign moments from our correspondents and embeds. Here's a look back at what we blogged over the past year.


Leigh Ann Caldwell

Trump's Inaugural Committee Yet to on Decide Lobbyist Ban

While President-elect Donald Trump's transition has placed restrictions on some lobbyists from serving in the transition, the inaugural committee has not yet made such determinations

Three members of the inaugural committee, which is stacked with Trump's and Vice Preisdent-elect Mike Pence's top donors and fundraisers, told NBC News that a decision hasn't yet been made on whether restrictions will be placed on the amount a person could give to or if a ban on lobbyists or corporations would be instituted. 

An announcement could come out as early as tomorrow but more likely next week the sources said. 

The inaugural committee is tasked with raising money for the inauguration beyond what the government allows. It also pays for balls, parties and events surrounding the event. 

In 2008, President-elect Barack Obama placed a $50,000 limit on individual donors and banned contributions from lobbyists, corporations and super PACs. The committee also entertained no sponsorship agreements.  

In 2012, President Obama loosened those restrictions and allowed for contributions from corporations but not from lobbyists or super PACs

The law allows unlimited contributions from corporations and U.S. permanent residents. 

Romney and Trump to Meet This Weekend

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will meet with President-elect Donald Trump this weekend, NBC News confirms.  

Romney delivered a blistering takedown of Trump in a speech in March, calling the then-candidate “a phony” and “a fraud.” Trump has called Romney a loser and said he “choked like a dog” during his 2012 bid against President Obama.

A source close to Trump with direct knowledge of the president-elect's thinking confirms the meeting is to discuss the position of Secretary of State. 

Trump endorsed Romney during his campaign four years ago. The former Massachusetts governor began to repair the relationship last week by calling to congratulate Trump on his surprise win.   

Andrew Rafferty

Obama 'Cautiously Optimistic' About Trump Presidency

President Obama on Thursday said he is “cautiously optimistic” about Donald Trump’s presidency once the reality of his immense responsibilities sets in. 

“There's something about the solemn responsibilities of that office, the extraordinary demands that are placed on the United States, not just by its own people, but by people around the world that forces you to focus,” Obama said during a press conference in Germany on Thursday.

“If you're not serious about the job, then you probably won't be there very long because it will expose problems,” Obama added.

The president added that he “wouldn’t advise” those opposed to Trump to be silent or stop protesting, but said the election should be an important reminder about the importance of voting.

Kristen Welker

Trump Considering Mike Flynn to Be National Security Adviser

President-elect Donald Trump is considering retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn to be his national security adviser, a source familiar with the transition process told NBC News on Wednesday.

The source said the decision shouldn't be considered final until and unless Trump, himself, announces it. The appointment wouldn't require confirmation by the Senate.

Flynn — a controversial figure in his own right who has been known to eschew "political correctness" — is a Trump loyalist who stayed by the GOP candidate's side even as other national security experts sharply criticized him during the campaign. NBC News reported in July that Trump's team vetted Flynn as a possible vice presidential running mate.

Flynn, 57, was director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014, but his tenure was reportedly cut short over clashes with top Obama administration officials.

In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" in August, Flynn said that NATO needs to be "modernized" and called the Obama administration's announcement ahead of time of the operation to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS "just insane."

Alex Moe

Effort to Bring Back Congressional Earmarks Blocked

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan blocked an amendment that would have brought back earmarks - the mechanism to add specific funding items to federal spending bills. 
Earmarks came under fire for contributing to corruption in Washington. But proponents of earmarks say that it's better that elected officials decide how money is spent at federal agencies instead of the executive branch, which determines how funds are spent if not directed by Congress. 
But Speaker Ryan said allowing earmarks would be a slap in the face to President-elect Donald Trump's "drain the swamp" win. 
Members of the conservative Freedom Caucus said they wanted reforms added to any effort to bring back earmarks, something that wasn't part of the proposed plan.
Ryan didn't discount a vote on earmarks early next year. 
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid defended earmarks Wednesday. 
I'm one of the kings of earmarks," Reid said. "I think it was a terrible disservice to America to come up with this stupid idea ... to stop congressional-directed spending."

Joe Biden Welcomes Mike Pence to VP Residence

Andrew Rafferty

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Visits Trump Tower

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Trump Tower on Wednesday for what he described as a “candid and substantive dialogue” with President-elect Donald Trump.

“I let him know that so many New Yorkers were fearful, and that more has to be done to show that this country can heal and that people be respected,” de Blasio told reporters following the meeting.

The Democratic mayor, who supported Hillary Clinton, said he and Trump discussed topics like immigration, Wall Street reform, taxes and the Republican’s rhetoric. De Blasio also said he expressed concerns over Trump’s decision to appoint former Breitbart News head Steve Bannon to a top White House post.  

“The balls in his court, people in this city and all over the country are looking to see what he’s going to do,” de Blasio said.  

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Sens. Schumer and McConnell Elected Senate Leaders

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer was easily elected by his caucus to lead Senate Democrats for the next two years and Republicans unanimously re-elected Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to serve as Majority Leader.

Schumer, who is set to replace retiring Sen. Harry Reid, will spearhead the party's messaging and policy priorities in the first two years of a Donald Trump administration.

Read more here. 

Martin O'Malley Withdraws From DNC Race

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley pulled himself out of contention to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee Wednesday, days after he said he was considering a bid.

"While I'm grateful to the supportive friends who have urged me to consider running for DNC Chair, I will not be seeking our Party's Chairmanship. The DNC needs a Chair who can do the job fully and with total impartiality. The national interest must come first," O'Malley said in an email to supporters.

Read more here.

Andrew Rafferty

McCain Warns Against Russian Reset

Republican Sen. John McCain on Tuesday warned against any attempt to reboot U.S.-Russia relations under Donald Trump’s presidency.

“With the U.S. presidential transition underway, Vladimir Putin has said in recent days that he wants to improve relations with the United States. We should place as much faith in such statements as any other made by a former KGB agent who has plunged his country into tyranny, murdered his political opponents, invaded his neighbors, threatened America’s allies, and attempted to undermine America’s elections,” the Arizona senator said in a statement.

Russia on Tuesday launched a major military offensive in Syria where Putin is backing Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Throughout the campaign, Trump spoke highly of Russian President Vladimir Putin and said he would improve relations between the two countries. Putin and Trump spoke after his victory last week.

“The Obama Administration’s last attempt at resetting relations with Russia culminated in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and military intervention in the Middle East,” McCain said. “At the very least, the price of another ‘reset’ would be complicity in Putin and Assad’s butchery of the Syrian people.”

Kelly O'Donnell

Trump, Pence Expected To Receive Daily Briefing Tuesday

President-elect Donald Trump and Mike Pence are expected to receive their first President’s Daily Briefing on Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York, sources tell NBC News.

President Barack Obama has authorized that the same briefing given to him each day be prepared for Trump and Pence. It contains more sensitive information than the briefings provided to the candidates during the presidential campaign.

Trump has designated retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and son-in-law Jared Kushner as his staff level companions for such briefings, however, Kushner does not have any clearance.


Andrew Rafferty

Conway Defends Bannon's White House Appointment

Kellyanne Conway, who successfully navigated the final months of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, dismissed criticism of former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon’s appointment as "chief strategist and senior counselor” to the new administration.

“I work very closely with Steve Bannon, he's been the general of this campaign, and frankly, people should look at the full resume,” Conway told reporters Monday.  “He's got a Harvard business degree, he's a naval officer, he has success in entertainment, I don't know if you're aware of that, and he certainly was a Goldman Sachs managing partner. Brilliant tactician.”

Bannon’s former news site has been closely associated with the “alt-right” movement, which has been criticized for promoting white nationalism.

“I know that people weren't prepared for us to win, and so they're reaching around to find extreme examples,” she added.

Some Republicans leaders have struggled to defend Bannon's past work.  

“I do not know Steve. I do not know what he has said,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Monday. 

Brexit's Farage Meets Trump, Wants Churchill Bust in Oval Office

Nigel Farage, a key figure in the Brexit movement, met with President-elect Donald Trump Saturday —and said he raised the issue of returning a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office.

While protesters chanted outside, the two met inside Trump Tower and spoke for more than an hour.

“It was a great honor to spend time with Donald Trump,” Farage wrote on Twitter. “He was relaxed and full of good ideas. I'm confident he will be a good president.”

He also wrote that Trump’s support for the U.S.-UK relationship was “very strong,” adding — in an echo of former PM Margaret Thatcher’s famous comment about Ronald Reagan — “this is a man with whom we can do business."

Farage also write that he was “especially pleased” at Trump’s “very positive reaction to the idea that Sir Winston Churchill's bust should be put back in the Oval Office.”

President Barack Obama said he removed the bust of Britain's wartime PM because, as the first black president, he thought it necessary to include a bust of Martin Luther King in the Oval Office and feared the potential clutter. He moved the Churchill bust to just outside the office.

The issue of the bust was raised last year British foreign secretary Boris Johnson after Obama appeared to urge British voters to reject Brexit.

Young Voice of France's Far-Right Party Agrees to Help Trump

A prominent member of France's socially conservative nationalist party and niece of its leader tweeted Saturday that she is looking forward to partnering with the Trump administration.

Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, 26, wrote she was accepting the invitation of Stephen Bannon, CEO of President-elect Donald Trump's campaign, "to work together."

Maréchal-Le Pen's far-right party, the National Front, is staunchly anti-immigration. She is the niece of influential conservative French politician Marine Le Pen and the granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who started the National Front before being expelled by his daughter for a series of racially charged statements.

Maréchal-Le Pen is one of the youngest members of the French Parliament and is considered a rising star in the National Front.

Hillary Clinton Receives 1,200 Roses After Election Loss

After Hillary Clinton's loss in the presidential election, a group of supporters sent her a special delivery Friday to cheer her up: over a thousand long-stemmed red roses.

"Someone sent 1000 red roses to @HillaryClinton. She brought them to distribute at our staff party tonight. Of course," tweeted Clinton's digital director, Jenna Lowenstein. The number of roses was later confirmed at 1,200.

The flowers were given on behalf of the women's rights group, Ultra Violet. While they were delivered to Clinton's Chappaqua, New York, home, the Democratic nominee shared them during her appearance at her Brooklyn campaign headquarters Friday night to thank her staff and volunteers. She gave the roses out to every staffer as a token of her appreciation, Lowenstein said. 

But roses are far from the only message that Clinton has received since losing to Donald Trump. Children writing in chalk scrawled "thank yous" to her in front of her Brooklyn office.

Image: Roses
Hillary Clinton brought these roses to a staff party at her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn Friday night, according to a campaign source. Clinton campaign

Martin O'Malley: 'I'm Taking a Hard Look at DNC Chair'

Even though the election for the next Democratic National Committee chairman will not take place until next year, the race is heating up quickly with former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley adding his name to the mix Friday. "Since the election, I have been approached by many Democrats who believe our party needs new leadership. I'm taking a hard look at DNC Chair because I know how badly we need to reform our nominating process, articulate a bold progressive vision, recommit ourselves to higher wages and a stronger middle class, and return to our roots as a nationwide, grassroots party," O'Malley said in a statement.O'Malley ran for the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders this year, but withdrew after a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucuses, where he finished with less than 1 percent of the delegates. O'Malley has experience on TV and in the national spotlight, and he led a party organ as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, where he helped raise millions of dollars. He's seen as a loyal party solider, though that may not be as much of an asset at a time when many are demanding a fresh take. Former DNC Chair and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has also said he's interested in the job, while Rep. Keith Ellison is expected to announce his bid Monday after securing the support for Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and warm words from Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Others are likely to join the fray as well.

Carson on Trump's Transition: 'I Could Be Education Secretary'

Ben Carson said he would be interested in becoming Education Secretary or Health and Human Services Secretary in Donald Trump's new administration.

"I could see [myself] as continuing to help improve the educational environment, the healthcare environment.My preference would be to do that from outside the government as a friend...or an as adviser," Carson said on Fox News."If it can't be done that way, I will do whatever necessary to make sure we succeed."

Carson said all cabinet positions are "things that are under discussion" and will take a few weeks to become clear as "good decisions have to be made."

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Major Donor Leading Trump's Inaugural Committee

Tom Barrack, a major financial backer of Donald Trump and CEO of Colony Capital, a real estate development and investment firm, will lead Donald Trump's Inaugural Committee, a source close to Barrack told NBC News. 

Barrack launched a super PAC, Rebuilding American Now PAC. When he announced the super PAC he said he had $32 million in commitments. He was never able to raise that much but did raise $20 million in three months, including $6 million from Linda McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment and $5 million from Home Depot's Bernard Marcus.

As head of the Inaugural Committee, Barrack will oversee preparations and raise money for Trump's inauguration. President Barack Obama's first inaugural committee raised $53 million. 

Schumer Backs Ellison for DNC Chair

As Democrats plot a path forward after Donald Trump's victory, incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer backed progressive Rep. Keith Ellison for chairman of the Democratic National Committee Friday, an aide confirmed. The two spoke yesterday, according to the aide, who said Schumer believes the DNC should take on the role of coordinating grassroots organizing in sync with legislative battles on Capitol Hill. 

Schumer adds momentum behind Ellison, following support from Sen. Bernie Sanders and several liberals groups. Sen. Elizabeth Warren told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Thursday night that Ellison would be a "terrific" DNC chair. 

Ellison, who backed Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary, has been quiet as allies move quickly around him. He told the liberal group Democracy for America Thursday night he would make an announcement on Monday. 

Former DNC Chair and Vermont Gov. Howard has tossed announced his bid. "I am very interested in the chairmanship of the DNC, not so much because I think I’m the only person that can fix it, but I think we need a full-time chair," he told MSNBC Friday. 

After the tenure of former chairwoman Debbie Wassmerman Schultz, some DNC members want a full-time leader who does not hold elected office, which could complicate Ellison's bid. Some close to Hillary Clinton are pushing former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to run as well.

Jason Cumming

Trump Reveals 'Great Chemistry' With Obama

Donald Trump's verdict on his first meeting with President Barack Obama?

"Really good meeting, great chemistry," he tweeted late Thursday.

There is no love lost between the pair.

Trump kept the birther movement going long after the president released his birth certificate. In August 2012, Trump he tweeted that an "extremely credible source" called his office and said Obama's "birth certificate is a fraud."  And in Sept. 2014, he called on internet hackers to find Obama's college records to "check 'place of birth.'"

During the campaign, Obama told Trump to "stop whining." Last month, he also slammed the Republican's "unbelievable rhetoric." Speaking on Oct. 9, Obama said: "Demeaning women, degrading women, but also minorities, immigrants, people of other faiths, mocking the disabled, insulting our troops, insulting our veterans —that tells you a couple of things. That tells you that he's insecure enough that he pumps himself up by putting other people down, not a character trait that I would advise for someone in the Oval Office."

Trump has threatened to undo much of Obama's policies and programs. At stake is the president's legacy on health care initiatives, immigration, a global climate change pact and a nuclear deal with Iran.