- Jeff Zeleny, Jordyn Phelps and Greg Hughes at Power Players5 hrs ago
The Fine Print
What would Frank Underwood do?
As the House of Representatives’ majority whip – a role famously depicted in the Netflix hit series “House of Cards” – it’s a question Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., ponders as Capitol Hill faces a showdown over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security.
“I think he’d storm over to the Senate chamber and just start maybe voting some people’s machines ‘yes’ to get the bill brought up,” Scalise joked of the fictional character played by Kevin Spacey. “He’d take matters into his own hands over in the Senate.”
Scalise, who didn’t start watching “House of Cards” until after he became majority whip in August, said the fictional Washington depicted in the show bears only a limited semblance to reality.
“They depict the Capitol and the hectic schedule. I mean everybody is running around from meeting to meeting and votes,” he said in an interview with “The Fine Print.” “But when it comes to the interaction between members, it’s a lot more collegial than I think is depicted there.”
- Devin Dwyer, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players1 day ago
It’s now legal to get high in the nation’s capital, so long as you do it in private.
A voter-approved initiative legalizing limited recreational use of marijuana took effect Thursday. But with some Republicans on Capitol Hill threatening legal action against the District of Columbia, the future of pot in the federal city remains a bit hazy.
“It's legalization without commercialization,” Adam Eidinger, chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign, told “Power Players.”
While adults can now legally possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana -- about a large sandwich bag’s worth – it’s still against the law to buy or sell it and smoke in public, according to city officials.
“There are no store fronts where people who are 21 and older can just walk in and buy a bag of marijuana, unless you're a medical marijuana patient,” said Eidinger, who’s has spent the last 15 years campaigning for legal pot in his hometown.
For now, the only legal way to get weed is to grow it. Under the law, District residents are allowed up to six plants.
“And they just can't sell it,” Eidinger said. “As soon as you start deriving income, you're violating the initiative.”
- Rick Klein, Jon Ward, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players2 days ago
It was one of the most unforgettable debate moments of 2014.
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist took his place on stage for a televised debate against Gov. Rick Scott. And for the first seven minutes of the live debate, Crist was the only candidate on the stage – accompanied only by a small electric fan whirling cool air behind his podium.
In an interview with “Top Line,” Scott revealed what was going through his mind during the “fangate” incident – and said he was told the debate was being held up by Crist.
“It was pretty frustrating,” the recently reelected Republican governor told “Top Line,” explaining that he was in a trailer away from the main building when his Democratic challenger took the stage at the debate’s start. “We were told he was not going to come out.”
Prior to the debate’s start, the Scott campaign had protested Crist’s use of the fan as a violation of debate rules, which forbade the use of electronic devices at the podium.
“We were waiting, and then he goes out, and so that was pretty frustrating,” he continued. “But we had a good debate and fortunately we won.”
- Martha Raddatz, Richard Coolidge & Jordyn Phelps at Power Players8 days ago
On the Radar
As the first female vice president of Iran and the head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization, Masoumeh Ebtekar may be the most powerful woman in Iran.
But long before her current role, Americans came to know Ebtekar in 1979 as “Mary,” the English-speaking spokeswoman for the Iranian student group that overran the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage.
Thirty-six years after the hostage crisis, Ebtekar said Iranian society is open to dialogue and understanding with the American people, but that there is a persistent distrust of the U.S. government, specifically as it relates to the war against the militant group ISIS.
“Well, I think there's a lot of skepticism about the role of the United States in dealing with ISIS, because the support they initially provided for ISIS in Syria strengthened this group at that time, and then also other reasons to believe this is not a genuine group, it somehow instigated or created by, I don’t know, a certain intelligence agency,” Ebtekar said, presumably alluding to the CIA, during an interview in Tehran.
- Jeff Zeleny, Richard Coolidge, and Kari Rea at Power Players10 days ago
The Fine Print
The GOP may have a crowded field of likely 2016 candidates all vying to become the next commander-in-chief, but Sen. Rand Paul has already secured the unofficial title as “troller-in-chief.”
That’s because the Kentucky Republican, who is openly exploring the possibility of a White House run, has taken to social media in recent months to make jabs and poke fun of other likely candidates -- even posting a “secret tape” of a fake phone call between Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
The man behind the provocative tweets, memes and hashtags is Vincent Harris, 26, the chief digital strategist for Paul. Harris sat down for an interview with “The Fine Print.” Harris previously worked for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is another prospective 2016 presidential candidate.
“Sen. Paul from the beginning has been very digitally savvy,” Harris said during an interview in Washington. “Even in my first interview with him, he mentioned that he wanted to run a cutting-edge digital campaign -- something new, something that was very different than what President Obama had run.”
- Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players16 days ago
The White House Situation Room may be the most famous conference room in the world. It is the place where the commander-in-chief wrestles through the presidency’s toughest decisions on matters of war and peace.
Michael Bohn, who managed the Situation Room during President Ronald Reagan’s second term and has since dedicated much of his life to studying presidential crisis management, sat down with “Politics Confidential” to give an insider’s perspective of what really happens in the government’s most important meeting room.
“It’s really the president's intelligence center that has a conference room,” Bohn explained during an interview across the street from the White House at Off the Record in the Hay Adams Hotel.
“It’s a complex,” he continued. “It's the president's alert center, intelligence center, and it used to have just one conference room. … Now they have three. And when you saw the picture of the president on the [Osama] Bin Laden raid, he was in one of the smaller conference rooms.”
- Susan Saulny, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players21 days ago
Most voters will likely never know her name, let alone cast a vote for her at the ballot box, but that’s not deterring Dr. Jill Stein from running for president in 2016.
Stein was the Green Party’s presidential nominee in 2012 and is expected to announce Friday the she’s exploring another White House bid in 2016.
Prior to making the announcement, Stein sat down exclusively with “Power Players” to explain why she’s stepping forward as an alternative to the current field of likely presidential contenders that she characterizes as “corrupt and sold out.”
“There are rules that make it possible for the very rich to buy politicians -- that's what's going on,” Stein said. “There's a horse race around grabbing the money right now, and I think it speaks volumes about what a really sorry state our political system has come to.”
In her 2012 campaign, Stein received fewer than half a million votes across the country – less than 1 percent of the total popular vote – and was even arrested for trying to get into a televised debate from which she was excluded.
Stein recalled the arrest – and subsequent holding – as “the most bizarre experience you can imagine.”
- Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players25 days ago
After eight years working for Google in Silicon Valley, Mikey Dickerson got comfortable wearing a T-shirt and jeans to work. So, when he took a top White House job last year, he saw no reason to change wardrobes.
“I have exactly one suit,” Dickerson told “Politics Confidential” in the White House Executive Office Building, dressed in a casual button-up shirt and pants for the occasion. “I put it on when I know I'm going to see the president.”
Dickerson leads a newly created agency within the executive branch called the U.S. Digital Service. But he’s more commonly known as “the guy who fixed Healthcare.gov.”
It was Dickerson, along with a team of engineers, who rebooted the government’s healthcare exchange website following a failed rollout in 2013. And soon thereafter, the White House called Dickerson back to take on a mission of replicating the results of the Healthcare.gov rescue team across rest of the federal government’s clunky IT network.
“This is not going to be an easy task,” Dickerson said of his new job. “I don't think there's danger of it being too easy.”
- Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players29 days ago
During his landmark visit to India this week, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swapped hugs, sat side-by-side at India’s Republic Day Parade, and declared an era of “new trust” between the two nations.
But for all the colorful festivities and declarations of good will, what did the visit actually accomplish?
“Power Players” posed the question to the highest ranking U.S. diplomat to India, Ambassador Richard Verma, who explained why he believes the visit had “historic” implications.
“We talk about transformational moments, and transformational visits, I think this was one of them,” Verma said.
Obama’s visit to India -- his second as president -- came just four months after he welcomed Modi to the White House as India’s new prime minister.
“He was the first president to be here for India's Republic Day; he was the first sitting president to visit India twice; and although these are symbolic gestures, they're really indicative of where I think he wants to see the relationship go,” Verma said. “It's very rare for two heads of state to come together, shake hands, [and] outline a very ambitious agenda.”
- Rick Klein, Olivier Knox, Jordyn Phelps and Ali Dukakis at Power Players1 mth ago
Lyndon B. Johnson is remembered in history as a larger-than-life president whose uncanny powers of persuasion allowed him to accomplish monumental legislative feats and bring sweeping changes across the country.
But in a new book "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society," historian and author Julian Zelizer offers a critique to the Johnson mystique -- arguing that "we exaggerate how much power" the 36th president actually had.
"We have this image that he could twist any arm he wanted, get any bill through Congress," Zelizer told "Top Line" in an interview. "But that doesn't really capture the moment of the 1960's when he got a lot of these bills through, and I think it does a disservice both to the current president and others who are compared to him and to Johnson in that period of time."
While Zelizer maintains that Johnson was a "great president," he points out that many of his greatest accomplishments on civil rights were aided by a confluence of interests with the civil rights movement.