Trump signs sweeping tax bill into law

(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump on Friday signed the most significant overhaul of the U.S. tax code in 30 years, delivering on a pledge to finish work on the long-standing Republican priority by Christmas.

Trump signed the $1.5 trillion measure in the Oval Office shortly before he was scheduled to head to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the holidays.

“It’s going to a tremendous thing for the American people,” Trump said from his desk as reporters looked on. “It’s going to be fantastic for the economy.”

He walked through various provisions of the bill, which he touted as “a bill for the middle class and a bill for jobs,” adding that “corporations are literally going wild.”

The measure is the most significant legislative accomplishment for Trump in his first tumultuous year in office. Passed with only Republican votes, it will affect nearly every household and business in the country.

Corporations will see a massive tax cut, while most Americans will see temporary savings of various sizes. And in a move that may prove politically perilous in the coming 2018 midterms, Republicans delivered the biggest gains to the wealthy.

Polls have showed the bill is unpopular, but Republicans argue Americans will view it more favorably once they start to see savings in their paychecks.

Trump said he was going to wait until January to sign the bill in a larger, more ceremonial setting until he saw television news coverage Friday morning speculating about whether he’d sign it before Christmas.

“I called downstairs and said, ‘We have to get it ready now,’” Trump said.

Trump also pointed to a number of companies that have said they are using part of their savings to give bonuses to their employees.

Trump also praised the work of Republican lawmakers who worked on the bill, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R- Wis.), none of whom were present.

“Mitch McConnell has been fantastic, he worked so hard,” Trump said. “And the exact same thing could be said of Paul Ryan.”

The president then took a swipe at Democrats who didn’t support the bill.

“Democrats don’t like tax cuts,” Trump said. “They want to raise your taxes and spend money foolishly … in many cases.”

Trump said his next priorities will include an infrastructure bill aimed at spurring investment in the nation’s ailing roads, bridges, airports and waterways.

“I really believe infrastructure can be bipartisan,” Trump said, saying “Infrastructure is the easiest of all. … People want it, Republicans and Democrats.”


Trump says ‘at some point’ he might work with Democrats

(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Still celebrating passage of a tax bill with only Republican votes, President Trump on Friday took to Twitter to predict that “at some point” he would start working with Democrats “for the good of the country.”

Trump said that infrastructure would be “a perfect place to start,” referring to an initiative the White House is preparing to unveil as early as mid-January that is designed to spur $1 trillion in new spending over the coming decade on the nation’s ailing roads, bridges, airports and waterways.

At some point, and for the good of the country, I predict we will start working with the Democrats in a Bipartisan fashion. Infrastructure would be a perfect place to start. After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is time to start rebuilding our country!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2017

The White House plan would reward states and localities that raise taxes or come up with other sources of new revenue to pay for such projects. Washington would kick in about $200 billion, with local jurisdictions and the private sector picking up the rest of the tab.

Such a plan would need at least some Democratic support to pass the Senate. Traditionally, Democrats have advocated spending on transportation projects and other infrastructure, but it’s unclear whether they will embrace Trump’s approach or be eager to work with a president who has frequently attacked them.

Just Thursday morning, Trump wrote on Twitter that Democrats wanted to shut down the government “for the holidays in order to distract from the very popular, just passed, Tax Cuts.” Polls show that the tax bill is not popular.

Later Thursday, Congress passed a stopgap spending bill, averting a partial government shutdown.

Trump’s other major accomplishment on Capitol Hill this year — the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch — came primarily with Republican votes.

And his failed attempts to overhaul the Affordable Care Act were driven by Republican plans that no Democrats in Congress were willing to support.


With tax bill headed to his desk, Trump and his Cabinet celebrate a ‘middle-class miracle’

President Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

In grand spirits with the Republican tax plan headed toward his desk, President Trump declared at the outset of a Cabinet meeting Wednesday that it would be “one of celebration.”

It certainly lived up to the billing.

Over the course of the first 20 minutes or so, which the media was allowed to witness, Trump crowed about “a historic victory for the American people.” His housing secretary, Ben Carson, offered a prayer in which he praised the president’s courage. And Vice President Pence turned up the dial even further, saying his boss deserved a hearty “congratulations and thank you.”

“I want to thank you, Mr. President,” Pence said. “I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America.”

The meeting, held around a conference table in the Cabinet room of the White House, took place shortly before the House voted to send the tax bill to the president.

It came a couple of hours before Trump was scheduled to appear with Republican lawmakers on the South Lawn of the White House for what a Trump aide called a “bill passage event.” (The actual signing will come at a later date.)

Trump noted that no Democrats would be joining him at the afternoon event because none of them had supported the measure.

“Unfortunately, the Democrats don’t like to see tax cutting, they like to see tax increases,” the president asserted.

He took credit for branding the legislation a “tax cut,” suggesting that multiple other efforts over the years had failed because it was described using the opaque language of  “tax reform.”

And, while Republicans have repeatedly said that the tax bill is aimed at helping the middle class, Trump said the cut in the corporate tax rate — from 35 percent to 21 percent — is “probably the biggest factor in our plan.”

During his remarks, Trump also touched on several topics, including his disdain for several current immigration practices, including a “visa lottery.”

“They’re not putting their best people in the lottery,” he said of some unspecified countries. “It’s common sense . . . They put their worst people into the lottery.”

As he wrapped up, Trump relayed that his Cabinet would next be hearing a prayer by Carson, and he said that members of the media would be allowed to stay.

“You need the prayer more than I do, I think,” Trump said, adding: “A good solid prayer, and maybe they’ll be honest.”

As Trump and his Cabinet bowed their heads, Carson thanked God for “a president and Cabinet members who are courageous” and willing to “face the winds of controversy … to guide a better future for those who come behind us.”

“We’re thankful for the unity in Congress that has presented an opportunity for our economy to expand so that we can fight the corrosive debt that has been destroying our future,” Carson continued. “And we hope that that unity will spread even beyond party lines so that people recognize that we have a nation that is worth saving, and recognize that nations divided against themselves cannot stand.”

In remarks that followed, Pence also thanked the “outstanding team” from the Trump administration that helped usher the tax bill to completion, including Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.

“I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here,” Pence said. “Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of the leadership in the Congress of the United States, you’re delivering on that middle-class miracle.”


White House glosses over disagreement with ally Britain over Jerusalem

British Prime Minister Theresa May aired her differences with President Trump over the U.S. policy on Jerusalem during a phone call Tuesday, but you wouldn’t know it from the White House account of the conversation.

“The President and Prime Minister discussed next steps in forging peace in the Middle East,” the White House said in a written statement.

Hours earlier, No. 10 Downing Street had issued a polite but unmistakably more pointed version of events.

“They discussed the different positions we took on the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and agreed on the importance of the US bringing forward new proposals for peace and the international community supporting these efforts,” a spokesman for May said in a written statement.

Britain has spoken against the U.S. decision earlier this month to recognize the divided holy city as the capital of Israel and to announce a renewed intention to move the U.S. Embassy there. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967, as the capital of a future state.

Britain was also among the 14 other nations that voted at the United Nations Security Council to order President Trump to rescind his decision. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley vetoed the measure, sponsored by U.S. ally Egypt, and angrily denounced what she called an “insult” to U.S. sovereignty.

The U.N. measure would have affirmed that “any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the holy city of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.”

It is unusual for Britain to break with the United States, and No. 10 usually goes to lengths to paper over any policy disagreements. The U.S.-U.K. Jerusalem disagreement, however, followed others over Trump’s decisions to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and to back away from the international nuclear deal with Iran.

May also rebuked Trump last month over his sharing of anti-Muslim propaganda videos from a far-right British political faction.

“I am very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do,” May said then.

Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch, tweeted that he had raised the video tweets directly with the White House.

“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which seek to divide communities & erode decency, tolerance & respect,” Darroch wrote.

British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which seek to divide communities & erode decency, tolerance & respect. British Muslims are peaceful and law abiding citizens. And I raised these concerns with the White House yesterday.

— Kim Darroch (@KimDarroch) November 30, 2017

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson went a bit further in condemning the group Trump had amplified on Twitter, although he did not call out Trump directly.

Britain First is a divisive, hateful group whose views are not in line with our values. UK has a proud history as an open, tolerant society & hate speech has no place here

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 29, 2017

Trump has accepted May’s invitation to visit Britain, most likely early next year. The trip has been in limbo in part because of the threat of large public protests in Britain.

“That invitation has been extended and accepted,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday. “We’re working with them to finalize the details, which we expect to announce soon, and we’ll keep you guys posted on that once that’s finalized.”






Pence’s Middle East trip will now focus heavily on smoothing things over with Egypt

During his trip to the Middle East, much of Vice President Pence’s messaging will be focused on the United States’ relationship with Egypt and their partnership to fight terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

When Vice President Pence travels to the Middle East next week, there is one message that the Trump administration wants to convey loud and clear: Egypt continues to be an “incredibly important” partner in the region.

In a Friday morning phone call with reporters who will travel with Pence next week, senior administration officials kept adding superlatives as they described the United States’ partnership with Egypt, which has been strained following President Trump’s decision earlier this month to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there. At the time of the announcement, the Egyptian government said that President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi spoke with Trump and “reiterated Egypt’s unwavering position with regard to maintaining the legal status of Jerusalem within the framework of international references and relevant U.N. resolutions.”

Many U.S. allies disagreed with Trump’s decision, as no other country has its embassy in Jerusalem, under a long-standing international consensus that the city’s status should be decided in a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Several countries have warned that the move could inflame Muslims and disrupt progress toward a peace deal. On Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he would not meet with Pence, and the pope of the Egyptian Coptic church, who leads the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East, also canceled his planned meeting in Cairo with the vice president.

Pence had originally planned to visit Israel first, but he has rearranged his schedule and will now travel first to Cairo, where he is expected to have a bilateral meeting with Sissi on Wednesday. The change was made, an administration official said on Thursday, because in the wake of the Jerusalem decision, the vice president felt it was important to address the entire Muslim and Arab world — and Egypt was a natural venue. Pence will then continue on to Israel for meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and give formal remarks at the Knesset. On his way home, Pence will visit troops at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

A senior administration official said Friday that they hope the vice president’s trip will end the chapter of emotional backlash to the president’s decision and start a new chapter, refocusing on priorities like fighting terrorism.

In Egypt, aides said that Pence plans to address a range of issues in addition to the peace process: reaffirm a strong U.S.-Egyptian security relationship and continue their joint fight against terrorism, recognize Sissi as an “important partner” in the region, encourage Egypt to release American citizens detained in Egypt and discuss North Korea, Russia and foreign aid.

Trump’s Middle East peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt will travel to the region ahead of the vice president early next week and plans to meet with Fernando Gentilini, the European Union special representative for the Middle East peace process. A senior administration official said Friday that the Trump administration understands that “the Palestinians may need a cooling-off period” and does not plan to put any pressure on them during Pence’s trip.

When Pence first announced this trip, he had planned to focus heavily on the persecution of Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East. While the vice president will still bring that up in his public remarks and private conversations, aides said Friday that much of his messaging will be focused on the United States’ relationship with Egypt and their partnership to fight terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere. The vice president does not plan to meet with any Christian groups during the trip or to visit the West Bank city of Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity.

The vice president was originally supposed to leave this weekend, but he delayed the trip by three days to remain in Washington in case he is needed to cast a tiebreaking vote on Republican tax legislation. Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Senate and are desperate to push through their tax plan — which, if successful, would mark Trump’s only major legislative achievement this year — before the holiday break. The vice president can cast a deciding vote in the case of a tie in the Senate, and Pence has already done so several times this year.

 Ashley Parker and Loveday Morris contributed to this report.  


Omarosa Manigault dismisses reports of dramatic firing

The White House announced Omarosa Manigault Newman’s resignation on Dec. 13. (Monica Akhtar,Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

Omarosa Manigault said Thursday that she was not fired and escorted off the White House grounds, blaming “one individual who has a personal vendetta against me” for the dramatic narrative of her departure as one of Trump’s top aides.

In her first comments since the White House confirmed that she was leaving, Manigault said during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that her decision to leave came after she sat down for a candid conversation with Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and shared her concerns about the job and the administration. Her resignation from her job as director of communications for the office of the public liaison is effective Jan. 20.

Manigault told host Michael Strahan that as “the only African American woman in this White House senior staff, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me and affected me deeply and emotionally and affected my people and my community.” She said that when she is able to share her thoughts and experiences of working in the Trump administration, it will be “a profound story that everyone will want to hear.”

Manigault, who earned the top-level staff annual salary of $179,700, was, along with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, one of two black officials among Trump’s more than three dozen Cabinet members and senior staffers.

Omarosa Manigault, was, along with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, one of two black officials among President Trump’s more than three dozen Cabinet members and senior staffers.  (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

She has had a close friendship with Trump for more than a decade, dating back to when she became the breakout star in the first season of “The Apprentice.” She was a tough competitor with sharp elbows, but in the end was “fired” in the first season. But she became a favorite of Trump, who invited her to participate in subsequent iterations of the show. When Trump launched his presidential campaign, she was one of few African Americans to campaign for him. She fiercely defended him against charges of racism and sexism, saying she owed her careers in entertainment and business to him.

“Thank you Omarosa for your service! I wish you continued success,” Trump tweeted late Wednesday.

A White House official told The Washington Post that Kelly had grown frustrated with Manigault’s abrasive and attention-seeking style, which included a personal wedding photo shoot in the West Wing in the spring. Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, has sought to impose more discipline among White House staffers and limit their communications with the president.

Manigault said in Thursday’s interview that she had “more access than most people” to the president, which rankled some of her colleagues. “People had problems with our 14-year relationship,” she said.

She pushed back against reports that she and Kelly had a blow up at a holiday event, saying they were “100 percent false.” Furthermore, she said, if there had been such a fight “where are the pictures or videos?” She did not offer, nor was she asked, the name of the person who she said was spreading the story about her being physically removed from the White House.

“The assertion that I would do that in front of 600 guests at a Christmas party . . . I have to tell you are completely false,” she said. Instead she said, she and Kelly sat down in the situation room  and had “a very straightforward discussion about concerns that I’ve had and issues that I’ve raised and as a result I resigned.”

Manigault’s supporters suggested she had grown increasingly frustrated with the administration’s handling of issues concerning race. Trump has sparked outrage with his responses to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and NFL players’ national anthem protests.  Acting in an ill-defined capacity, Manigault struggled to make a connection with African American constituencies to support Trump’s agenda and chafed at criticism that she had sold out her integrity for a White House job.

Armstrong Williams, a businessman and a longtime friend, said Manigault had told him that she was troubled by Trump’s endorsement of Roy Moore, the Republican candidate in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama, who had a history of racially insensitive remarks and because of allegations against him of sexual improprieties with teenage girls.

When asked about her concerns, she demurred, saying that she was because she doesn’t leave her job until Jan. 20 she had to be “careful” about what she can say publicly.

David Nakamura contributed to this report.


Alabama Democrats revel in victory after Doug Jones captures Senate seat

Supporters of Democrat Doug Jones on Dec. 12 celebrated his victory in Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election over Republican Roy Moore. (Alice Li/The Washington Post)

GADSDEN, Ala. — Five seconds before the polls closed, the crowd at Back Forty Brewing gathered around the TV and counted down.

“Five, four, three, two, one,” they shouted. When the “key race alert” flashed — “too early to call” — some of the five-dozen Democrats in the brewery let themselves cheer. Roy Moore, who had become Gadsden’s most famous former citizen, was locked in a close contest with their preferred candidate.

“I’m just so excited,” said Ann Green, the chairman of Etowah County’s Democratic Party. “But I’ve always been an optimistic person, and Roy Moore’s always been a bad candidate for Alabama.”

Alabama Democrats, pushed into irrelevance during Barack Obama’s presidency, spent 11 dizzying weeks in the national spotlight. Gadsden, one of the cities jokingly referred to as a “blue dot in a red sea,” had been bathed in a particularly harsh light — it was here, in the early 1980s, that Moore allegedly made unwanted advances on young girls.

On Tuesday night, as Democratic nominee Doug Jones marched toward a historic upset over Moore, Etowah County’s beleaguered Democrats watched in disbelief. They gritted their teeth as election results rolled in. For much of the night, as the raw vote showed Moore, the Republican nominee, leading Jones, they discussed the Senate race as a galvanizing learning experience.

“I really think it’s given us an opportunity to build the Democratic Party,” said Kyle Pearce, a candidate for state representative from Gadsden. “Doug Jones was able to build a field operation throughout Alabama.

There are people who have never knocked on doors before who have been through a campaign now. That was a gift that I frankly did not expect at the start of the year.”

Alabama, one of the country’s most socially conservative states, had never struck national Democrats as the place for an upset. Democrats in Etowah had watched the party’s major figures avoid Alabama; Obama appeared in the race with an Election Day robo-call, saying nothing about Jones’s fight against Moore until then.

“I think Barack Obama hurt the Democratic Party all over the South,” said Maitland Adams, 75, the former chair of the party in Etowah. He’d had the unwelcome task of electing Democrats during the height of the Obama backlash, and until Jones climbed into the lead Tuesday night, he was full of worry.

“The abortion issue hurt us,” Adams said. “People simply don’t understand the position of the Democratic Party on abortion.”

Supporters of Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones celebrate in Birmingham, Ala., as Jones is declared the winner during his election night gathering Tuesday. (Getty Images)

Other Democrats began talking about why they’d come off the sidelines to become activists. Carl Peterson, 36, said he had never canvassed for any candidate until Jones secured the Democratic nomination, and Moore became the Republican nominee.

“I wanted this to be a huge step forward for my state,” Peterson said. “We’re living in a time when every vote feels like it matters, more than it did before.”

Peterson was nervous. Two hours after the polls had closed, things started looking up. Bill Browning, 70, stared intently at one of the brewery’s TVs, as Moore’s lead kept falling.

“One point! One point!” he shouted late into the evening, as a surge of ballots from Dallas County — a buckle of Alabama’s “black belt” — tightened the vote count.

Browning had marched in the 1965 Selma to Montgomery campaign for voting rights. After that, he decamped for New York. He’d returned in August, and begun exploring a campaign for the area’s deep red Republican seat in Congress.

“I told Chuck Schumer, months ago, in a letter, to take this race seriously,” Browning said. “People thought this couldn’t happen, and it’s happening.”

A few hours into the night, as Jones moved closer to victory, Etowah County’s Democrats began to get rowdy. The brewery had two TV screens — one on a tape delay, one live. A rumor rumbled around the bar — something about the Associated Press calling the race — and the crowd gathered around the real-time TV. The cheers began as soon as the CNN broadcast began playing its dramatic election-projection music.

“I’m going to cry!” said Kim Hood, 62, wiping her eyes with one hand and cradling a cocktail with the other. “This is Alabama! We never win anything — anything!”

Democrat Doug Jones on Dec. 12 defeated Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election. Here were the reactions. (Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

The call, which made Jones the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Alabama since 1992, turned the party into an emotional rave. Several women who said they had been personal friends of Moore’s accusers wept and hugged their fellow voters. Anthony Wilson, 62, found his son — brewery co-owner Jason Wilson — and gave him a high-five.

“I could not be more proud of my state,” Anthony Wilson said. “We showed the world what Alabama really is.”

Jason Wilson composed himself, and talked about an Alabama that could show its face to the rest of the country — something he had been worried about had Moore won.

“There’s just a wonderful group of progressive thinkers in Alabama who don’t get their due,” he said. “My joke for years has been, I want to make a T-shirt: Hey, America, Give Us 10 Years. You know — we’re gonna figure it out. Just give us time. We get such a bad rap, and tonight we draw a line and told people what we really stand for.”

The brewery was supposed to close hours earlier, but revelers kept it open long into the night. Jerry Vaughn, 35, settled his tab while admitting that Alabama had dodged a blow to its national reputation.

“You know, I’ve got a 7-year-old son,” said Vaughn. “I get to tell him: We’re staying here. We’re proud of being from Alabama.”


Trump accuser asks: ‘Where is our investigation?’

Three of the women accusing President Trump of sexual assault and misconduct spoke out on Dec. 11, calling on Congress to investigate the allegations. (Joyce Koh/The Washington Post)

Another woman who has accused President Trump of sexual misconduct spoke out Tuesday morning, asking why Congress has not launched an investigation into the allegations against him.

“It’s important that we hold this man to the highest standards,” Melinda McGillivray, who last year accused Trump of groping her at Mar-a-Lago in 2003, said in an interview on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today.” “If 16 women have come forward, then why hasn’t anything been done? Where is our investigation? I want justice.”

McGillivray’s comments came as the accusations against Trump — by more than a dozen women in the final weeks of the presidential campaign last year — have gained newfound attention amid the #MeToo movement sweeping across the country. She spoke a day after three other women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct appeared together on the show and at a news conference, renewing their allegations against the president and calling on Congress to investigate their claims.

“Let’s try round two,” Samantha Holvey said Monday on NBC. The former Miss USA contestant said in October 2016 that Trump inappropriately inspected pageant participants. “The environment’s different; let’s try again.”

Trump has denied the women’s allegation, writing Tuesday morning on Twitter that “the false accusations and fabricated stories of women who I don’t know and/or have never met” are more of what he describes as “fake news.”

It was unclear if Trump was referring only to the women who went on television Monday or all of the women who have accused him — a list that includes a former contestant on his “Apprentice” TV show, a former business partner and a People magazine reporter who interviewed him.

The president says he’s “very happy” sexual misconduct by powerful men is being “exposed.” He denies all of the allegations against him. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

On Tuesday afternoon, McGillivray and three of Trump’s accusers issued a statement attacking his denials and again called for an outside investigation.

“If President Trump is so confident about his claims, he should also support a move to investigate and air the facts,” they said. “The post-Weinstein era of accountability, and the rise of the #MeToo movement, give us hope that our society is changing for the better. President Trump has thus far avoided accountability for his long-running sexual misconduct. That changes now.”

The White House’s position is that Trump’s accusers are all lying. In a statement Monday, the White House called the accusations “false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts,” and said they were addressed when Trump won the presidential election.

“The American people knew this and voted for the president and we feel like we’re ready to move forward,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Monday of the accusations.

When asked for a list of the eyewitness accounts disputing the allegations from Trump’s accusers, the White House pointed to rebuttals that have been made public since the presidential campaign and said it would not be providing new witnesses for comment.

In a statement on Tuesday, the White House dismissed McGillivray’s comments on NBC as well as Brave New Films, a nonprofit group that promotes activism around liberal causes through short documentaries and organized the news conference a day earlier with some of Trump’s other accusers.

“This is a false and absurd claim by another disappointed Hillary Clinton supporter who has absolutely no credibility and has continued to peddle meritless allegations,” the White House said. “This is nothing more than a publicity stunt by a film studio backed by liberal interest groups intent on lobbing politically motivated attacks against American voters.”

McGillivray, speaking to The Washington Post earlier this year, said she voted for Clinton in last year’s presidential race, though she described her viewpoints as a combination of Democratic and Republican beliefs.

Jessica Leeds was one of 16 women who came forward during the 2016 campaign to accuse Donald Trump of sexual harassment. Their claims, however, did not stop him from getting elected to the most powerful office in the world. (Alice Li/The Washington Post)


McGillivray, 38, first shared her story publicly last year, telling the Palm Beach Post that she was motivated to speak out when Trump — who had been heard on a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape released a few days earlier bragging about grabbing women by the genitals — denied at a presidential debate that he had ever done anything like that.

Ken Davidoff, the photographer who was with McGillivray at Mar-a-Lago, told the newspaper that he remembered McGillivray telling him about the incident right after it happened.

Speaking on NBC, McGillivray said she was “scared, intimidated, hurt” by what happened, saying that Trump and others must be held accountable. “We’ve got to have higher standards in this country, and we need to hold these people very accountable,” McGillivray said. “And he has to face the music. He can’t get away with this.”

In an interview with The Washington Post earlier this year, McGillivray said she’s angry that Trump ascended to the Oval Office not long after she and other women accused him of sexual misconduct. “What pisses me off is that the guy is president,” McGillivray, who lives not far from Mar-a-Lago, said at the time. “It’s that simple.”

McGillivray and other Trump accusers have questioned why allegations of sexual misconduct felled Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and other men but did nothing to stop Trump from winning the presidency.

For her part, McGillivray wondered if it mattered that some of the women who spoke out against Weinstein — and helped launch the #MeToo movement that has affected industry after industry — were celebrities.

“We certainly didn’t have the notoriety that celebrities have,” McGillivray said of Trump’s accusers. “Were they listening as loud and clear as they were with celebrities? Probably not. But I think it’s important to hear the voices of victims who have had a similar case.”

This story has been updated since it was first published.

Further reading:

Trump seeks to dismiss sexual harassment allegations as ‘fake news’


Trump attacks Gillibrand in tweet critics say is sexually suggestive and demeaning

President Trump smiles as he speaks before hosting a lunch with Senate Republicans in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Dec. 5. (Evan Vucci/AP)

President Trump attacked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a sexually suggestive tweet Tuesday morning that implied Gillibrand would do just about anything for money, prompting a swift and immediate backlash.

“Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump,” the president wrote. “Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 12, 2017

The tweet came as Trump is already facing negative publicity from renewed allegations from three women who had previously accused him of sexual harassment, which are coming amid the #MeToo movement that is roiling the nation and forcing powerful men accused of sexual misbehavior from their posts.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders disputed the characterization of Trump’s tweet as sexually suggestive, telling reporters that “there’s no way this is sexist at all” and later adding: “I think only if your mind is in the gutter would you have read it that way.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there was no sexual connotation to President Trump’s tweet on Dec. 12, criticizing Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) (Reuters)

“He’s used that same terminology many times in reference to men,” Sanders added, arguing that Trump was motivated by his long-standing concern about the corrupting influence of money in politics.

The president ignored a reporter’s question about the tweet after he signed a defense authorization bill shortly after noon.

The backlash and criticism was near instantaneous, with Gillibrand replying directly to Trump on Twitter. “You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office,” she wrote.

At a news conference later on an unrelated issue, Gillibrand called Trump’s tweet “a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) fired back at President Trump on Dec. 12 after he attacked her on Twitter for suggesting an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct against him. (Reuters)

“I will not be silent on this issue, neither will women who stood up to the president yesterday and neither will the millions of women who have been marching since the Women’s March to stand up against policies they do not agree with,” she added.

Gillibrand once again called on GOP congressional leaders to launch investigations into the allegations made by women against Trump, saying, “It’s the right thing to do, and these allegations should be investigated. They should be investigated thoroughly. That is the right thing to do, and I’m urging them to do that — as should their constituents.”

Asked about her interactions with the president, Gillibrand told reporters that Trump was “just a supporter — a supporter of my first campaign.”

Several Democratic senators also rallied around Gillibrand, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who pointedly asked Trump on Twitter whether he was trying to “bully, intimidate and slut-shame” Gillibrand.

“Do you know who you’re picking a fight with?” Warren said. “Good luck with that, @realDonaldTrump.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) also weighed in on Twitter, writing that there is “nobody tougher than @SenGillibrand & she won’t be intimidated. Women will continue to speak up.”

Gillibrand was attending a bipartisan Bible study Tuesday morning when Trump’s tweet landed, and her phone was immediately filled with supportive and befuddled messages, wondering just what the president was thinking, a Gillibrand aide said.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who was in the Bible study group with Gillibrand, later issued a statement, saying: “Respectful dialogue and disagreement sets a better example for our children and the world. Our leaders should focus on the issues, not personal attacks.”

Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News personality whose lawsuit against Roger Ailes for sexual harassment led to the resignation of the late network chairman, also weighed in with a duo of tweets defending Gillibrand.

“What do u mean @SenGillibrand would ‘do anything’ for campaign contributions? By the way she isn’t a lightweight,” she wrote. In a second tweet, Carlson continued: “Sexual harassment is apolitical. Women will not be silenced no matter what party they are in. Period.”

Katty Kay, an anchor for BBC World News America, also took to social media to respond to the president’s missive against Gillibrand, casting it in tweets as “clearly sexual” and “demeaning to women.”

“What is so maddening about the Gillibrand tweet is that women can be smart, work hard, become Senator and STILL get sexual c**p thrown at us,” she wrote. “Enough.”

President Trump attacked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Twitter Dec. 12. This isn’t the first time he’s targeted politicians on the social media platform. (Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

Trump offered no evidence to support his wink-and-nod claim that Gillibrand had gone to him “begging” for campaign donations “and would do anything for them.” In fact, according to Open Secrets, a nonprofit website that tracks campaign contributions, since 1996, Trump has donated $8,900 to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and $5,850 to Gillibrand.

Gillibrand met with Trump once in 2010, the Gillibrand aide said, and Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka, who has tried to cast herself as a champion of women, attended the meeting,

On Monday, Gillibrand, a leading voice in Congress for combating sexual assault in the military, became the fifth Democratic senator to call on Trump to step down because of the allegations of sexual misconduct against him — accusations the president has denied and the White House dismissed again on Monday.

“President Trump has committed assault, according to these women, and those are very credible allegations of misconduct and criminal activity, and he should be fully investigated and he should resign,” Gillibrand said on CNN. “These allegations are credible; they are numerous. I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.”

She joined Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in calling for Trump’s resignation.

Trump has not commented on the male senators’ demand that he resign.

On Tuesday, a sixth senator — Democrat Mazie Hirono of Hawaii — called on Trump to resign, citing his morning tweet targeting Gillibrand.

“@realDonaldTrump is a misogynist, compulsive liar, and admitted sexual predator,” she said. “Attacks on Kirsten are the latest example that no one is safe from this bully. He must resign.”

Trump’s attack on Twitter also coincided with a previously scheduled event led by at least 59 female House Democrats, who formally called on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to launch an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by the president. The oversight panel has the broadest subpoena power and investigatory mandate of any congressional committee. The female lawmakers had requested the investigation in a letter to the committee on Monday.

What Trump tweeted Tuesday “is grotesque, it took my breath away and it represents the conduct of a person who is ill-equipped to be the president of the United States,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said at the news conference.

Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) said Democrats are seeking “a fair process” to review the allegations and allow the president to respond.

By Tuesday afternoon, more than 100 House Democrats had joined in on the calls to formally investigate Trump after the letter was opened up to male colleagues.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to say whether Congress should investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump, saying, “We’re focused on the Senate,” and that his chamber’s ethics committee can only investigate allegations against senators.

“What we’re in charge of here is the Senate,” McConnell told reporters.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) defended his Empire State colleague, calling Trump’s attack “nasty” and “unbecoming” of the presidency.

But he declined to join other Democrats calling for a formal investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct of Trump, saying he would let the comments of other Democrats speak for themselves.

Gillibrand, New York’s junior senator and a rising political star, is widely considered a likely 2020 presidential candidate against Trump, and the president’s Twitter assault Tuesday offered an early glimpse of just how vicious the next race for the White House could become.

Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, called Trump’s tweet “disgusting” but also noted, “It will make the Gillibrand folks ecstatic,” implying that the sparring with Trump would raise her profile.

Gillibrand, however, does have her critics. After she said in November that Bill Clinton should have resigned as president after his inappropriate affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, longtime Hillary Clinton adviser and confidant Philippe Reines excoriated her on Twitter for being ungrateful and two-faced.

“Senate voted to keep POTUS WJC. But not enough for you @SenGillibrand? Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons’ endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck,” Reines wrote.

Joshua Dawsey contributed to this report.


Trump’s lawyer calls for a special counsel investigation of alleged corruption at FBI and Justice Department

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, introduces Republican presidential candidate and former Florida governor Jeb Bush during a presidential candidate forum at Regent University in Virginia Beach, on Oct. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

One of President Trump’s personal lawyers called Tuesday for a special counsel to investigate alleged corruption at the FBI and Justice Department.

Jay Sekulow, a member of the legal team counseling Trump on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s wide-ranging Russia probe, said Tuesday that a second special counsel should be appointed to focus on FBI and Justice Department investigators.

Sekulow’s call for a second special counsel was first reported Tuesday morning by Axios.

Sekulow did not allege wrongdoing on the part of Mueller or his team, telling The Washington Post that his call for a second special counsel has “nothing to do with Bob Mueller.”

But Sekulow argued that alleged conflicts of interest among FBI and Justice Department officials demand a full investigation by a special counsel. He singled out a Fox News report last week that Bruce G. Ohr, a senior Justice Department official, was demoted amid an investigation of his contacts with Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned a salacious dossier documenting Trump’s ties to Russia.

“This is the kind of situation that, in my view, warrants a special counsel,” Sekulow said.

Asked whether he was speaking on Trump’s behalf or whether the president agrees with having a second special counsel, Sekulow would not answer. He said he does not speak publicly about his conversations with the president.

“We’re just the president’s private lawyers,” Sekulow said.

Sekulow works alongside John M. Dowd, another private attorney for the president, and in close collaboration with Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer who handles the Russia portfolio.