News & Politics

Washingtonian Today: How Trump Staffers Protect Themselves From “Washington Illuminati”

Photograph by Evy Mages

About Washingtonian Today

Washingtonian Today is not just another political news roundup. Instead, this daily morning brief provides local context on national news, catches you up on what’s happening at Washingtonian, points you toward super duper awesome things to do around town, and lets you in on some special events going on in-house. Sign up here to receive Washingtonian Today in your inbox every morning.

Underground wailroad: Former and current Trump staffers have formed their own secret society and they have their own pins! Yes, really. Politico reports on “The 45 Club,” which seems to be a crew of mostly young men who wish an alternative to the DC social scene they feel they have been shut out of. The club is frequented by folks like Brad Parscale and Anthony Scaramucci and convenes unpredictably at venues around town including Rewind in Dupont Circle. Where else do you think they met? Mad Hatter? Brixton? Dan’s Cafe? My bet’s on Sign of the Whale. Send me your guesses via e-mail or better yet, tweet me and Washingtonian. One member referred to the world outside their group as the “Washington Illuminati”: “When you’ve kept the Washington Illuminati at a distance, I think you’re more likely to form groups of your own.” 

Movie fright: Slate reports the White House will host a screening of the anti-abortion movie Gosnell for pro-life activists Friday. The last movie I recall the White House showing was anti-bullying film Wonder, which local schoolchildren attended. This is a long walk from Finding Dory, the first film President Trump showed while in office.

Speaking of films… Warner Bros. took legal action against a 2020 reelection video shared by Trump featuring score from The Dark Knight Rises, according to the Hollywood Reporter. And, sure enough, the video no longer is up.

Myth leading: Turning Point USA’s Candace Owens testified before Congress yesterday and said a few choice things, for instance claiming Richard Nixon‘s race-baiting “Southern strategy” was a “myth” (weirdly, the GOP apologized for it in 2005). A clip of Representative Ted Lieu playing audio of Owens saying “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay, fine” is not one to skip. Now is as good of a time as any to remind you that a former TPUSA field director sent a text to another TPUSA saying:  “I hate black people. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.”

I last saw Owens at TPUSA’s CPAC party, which is exactly the kind of event where the press would receive “learn to code” ID badges. (Spoiler alert: we did.) Owens also came toe to toe with Kanye West when she suggested that he created the logo for merchandise supporting “Blexit,” which stands for “black exit” from the Democratic party. (Spoiler alert: data from the 2018 midterm elections suggests the campaign hasn’t quite caught on.) Perhaps the real Blexit is Owens’ split with reality.

Happy Wednesday. I’m your author, Brittany Shepherd. Email me at and follow me on Twitter. If you subscribe to this newsletter, I will never shut out of my private Illuminati club that meets at Slipstream.

In more positive news, DC’s very own Wale has weighed in on the #DontMuteDC controversy:

Now for something completely different: The US Park Police want you to know they have horses in the front, too. (Yes, this is another reference to “Old Town Road,” and now you can’t get it out of your head. You’re welcome!)

What we have cooking at Washingtonian:

• Believe it or not, Washingtonians are getting outside the Beltway by vacationing in places like Bali. Any room in your carry-on for me?

• Sometimes I pretend to know a lot about whiskey by saying “Ah, the smokiness of this Basil Hayden is simply divine.” Don’t be like me. Learn about the origins of your cocktails at one of these 5 bars.

• Voodoo Brewery’s Shaw pop-up bar says it’s willing to support a neighboring MetroPCS store that has found itself at the center of a fight about urban living, gentrification, and go-go.

• Frosé is OUT. Mimosas are CANCELED. Here are the en vogue drinks of DC summer, according to the bartenders who will serve them.

• New Yorker legend Mary Norris thinks John Delaney‘s tweets need some work. So she copyedited them.

Our pick for things to do around town:

BOOKS Chelsea Clinton has recently written a new children’s book, Don’t Let Them Disappear: 12 Endangered Species Across the Globe, and is celebrating with two events at the National Zoo in conjunction with Smithsonian Associates. In the morning, Clinton will lead a family program where she will read from her work and lead hands-on activities inspired by the book’s animals. In the evening, she will chat about her inspiration for writing about endangered animals with Washington Post video host Anna Rothschild (of “Anna’s Science Magic Show Hooray!“). Morning family program (at Conservation Pavilion): $25 per adult (one child free; additional children $2 each), 10 AM. Evening program (at National Zoo Theatre, inside the Visitor Center): $30, 6:45 PM.

Good reads: 

Donald Trump thinks George Washington should have put his name on Mount Vernon. Because…branding? Read this incredibly bizarre story about the President’s trip to a founding father’s home–sans casino. (Politico)

Big events from Washingtonian:

Do you have questions about our Best Bars list? Wondering where to start cracking now that it’s crab season? Or maybe you just need a dinner recommendation. Leave a question for Ann Limpert now, and she’ll get to as many as possible during her weekly chat this Friday.

Staff Writer

Brittany Shepherd covers the societal and cultural scene in political Washington. Before joining Washingtonian as a staff writer in 2018, Brittany was a White House Correspondent for Independent Journal Review. While she has lived in DC for a number of years now, she still yearns for the fresh Long Island bagels of home. Find her on Twitter, often prattling on about Frasier.