02-19-2017  8:02 pm      •     
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks in Washington, June 9. Hillary Clinton’s search for a running mate is moving into a more intense phase, according to several Democrats, as aides contact a pared down pool of candidates to ask for reams of personal information and set up interviews with the presumptive Democratic nominee’s vetting team. Those on the shortlist include Warren, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — In December, thirteen of the 14 Democratic women serving in the U.S. Senate hosted a fundraiser for their favorite primary candidate: Hillary Clinton. The one who didn't show? Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Six months later, there's little distance between two of the most powerful women in the Democratic Party. The candidate and the progressive senator will speak at a campaign event in Cincinnati.

With the primary season over and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders fading from the spotlight, Warren is stepping up to reclaim her role as leader of the party's progressives. She's mobilizing behind Clinton, lending her presidential bid a powerful boost of liberal credibility.

In recent weeks, the two women have formed a tight electoral alliance — one that could grow even closer should Clinton pick Warren as her running mate. On Monday, Warren will join Clinton for their first joint event at a rally in Cincinnati.

For Clinton, the visit offers an important opportunity to win back some of the liberal and younger voters she lost to Sanders in the primary. Though Sanders said on Friday that he'd vote for Clinton, he's shied away from offering a full-throated endorsement or urging his supporters to back her.

"It sends a clear signal to progressive voters that it's time for them to put the past in the past and elect Clinton," said Geoff Garin, a pollster at Priorities USA, a super PAC backing Clinton's bid. "Sen. Warren carries an enormous amount of credibility with exactly the same kind of people who were avidly supportive of Sanders in the primary."

For Warren, the appearance may be more like an audition, closely watched for any sign of chemistry between the two politicians. She's currently being vetted by lawyers involved in Clinton's vice presidential search, and they've asked Warren for documents and to complete a questionnaire. The next step: a private interview with Clinton.

The two women have never been close, according to aides, who note they didn't overlap in the Senate and worked in different corners of the Obama administration. Clinton served as secretary of state, while Warren helped establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

At times, their relationship has seemed almost frosty. Warren wrote in a 2004 book that as a senator from New York, Clinton "could not afford such a principled position" on legislation that would make it harder for consumers to relieve their debt through bankruptcy laws. She also implied that Clinton was short-tempered and impatient with her staff.

More recently, Warren has become one of the sharpest opponents of Donald Trump, deriding him as a "bully" and "a small, insecure, money grubber." She's taken his hits in return: He blasted her as "Pocahontas," a reference to past discussions about her having Native American ancestry.

Warren's tough assault is valued by Clinton, who aides say particularly appreciates surrogates that don't mince words in their attacks.

Warren has been trying to endear herself to Clinton in other ways, too. A few days after a private meeting at Clinton's home, Warren stopped by her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn to deliver a pep talk to staffers. The visit, said Clinton staffers, was at Warren's request.

"Warren, with everything she's done these past few weeks, has made it really hard for her not to be looked at," said Mary Ann Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist. "She has demographic pull. She's got the economic portfolio and no one's taken on Trump better."

 

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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