The Daily 202: Trump’s Chaotic White House Once Again Makes A Bad Story Worse

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

The Republican National Committee announced Monday night that it is reopening the spigot for Roy Moore in Alabama and will work to elect a candidate accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls to the U.S. Senate.

The underlying facts have not changed in the three weeks since the RNC cut off Moore. In fact, new women have come forward, additional evidence has emerged and the candidate — who categorically denies any wrongdoing — has struggled to keep his story straight.

What changed is Trump’s mind. The president formally endorsed Moore yesterday after seeing polls that showed he can win. He came to identify with the former judge because of his own experience with the “Access Hollywood” tape last year.

“Go get ’em, Roy,” Moore said Trump told him in a call from Air Force One.

Naturally, the RNC gave the “exclusive” to Breitbart, which is led by Steve Bannon. The former White House chief strategist is campaigning for Moore again in Alabama tonight. America First Action, a pro-Trump group, announced that it will spend $1.1 million to help Moore ahead of next Tuesday’s special election. Trump himself is planning a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, Fla., on Friday night, which is just across the border and part of the Mobile media market.

Meanwhile,

the GOP’s moral compass continues to spin in circles — unable to find true north.

Trump, who was registered as a Democrat as recently as 2009, is remaking the GOP in his image and infusing it with his sensibilities. Many elected Republicans are uneasy with this, but they continue to go along because they’re afraid of drawing his ire or alienating his core supporters. They also desperately want to keep their Senate majority.

This may come back to haunt the party over the long term:

A new Gallup report suggests that Trump is driving people away from the GOP. In November 2016, 42 percent of Americans identified as Republicans. That number has slipped five points, to 37 percent. A year ago, 44 percent of Americans identified as Democrats — the same percentage as now. The number of people identifying as independents has risen four points since Trump won.

President Trump greets Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) at the Utah state capitol on Monday. Trump traveled to Salt Lake City to announce plans to shrink two national monuments. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

--

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which canceled a joint fundraising agreement with Moore, is not following the RNC’s lead — at least for now. The campaign committee is chaired by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who anticipates a tough reelection contest in 2020 and said last month that the Senate should vote to expel Moore if he wins.

But there has already been a remarkable shift in tone among leading Senate Republicans. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), for example, not only defended Trump’s decision but downplayed the seriousness of Moore’s alleged misconduct. “He needs every Republican he can get, so he can put his agenda through,” the president pro tempore and chairman of the Finance Committee told reporters on Monday. “That’s the only Republican you can possibly get down there. …

Many of the things he allegedly did are decades ago. So it’s hard to — that’s a decision that has to be made by the people in that state. If they make that decision, who are we to question them?”

Mitch McConnell has walked back his calls for Moore to drop out. “The people of Alabama are going to decide … It's really up to them,” the Senate majority leader said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” When asked if there would be an effort to expel Moore should he win, the Kentuckian deflected: “We'll swear in whoever's elected and see where we are at that particular point.”

“None of us get to vote on who’s the senator from Alabama. Just Alabama voters do. So I think we have to respect their decision — whatever it is,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), McConnell’s No. 2, told reporters on Monday.

The only sitting Senate Republican who was willing to publicly break with Trump was Jeff Flake, who is retiring rather than seeking reelection because he knew he’d probably lose in the GOP primary. IJR’s Haley Byrd reports that every other rank-and-file Republican senator she tried to talk with ducked her questions:

  • “I’m not going to make judgments on what the president does. That’s up to him,” said Sen.

    Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).

  • Sen.

    James Lankford (R-Okla.) said he didn't have a statement “one way or the other on that.” “Sorry,” he said.

  • “I’ve got enough trouble paddling my own canoe,” said Sen.

    John Kennedy (R-La.). “I’m not going to tell the president how to do his job.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) campaigns for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire in 2012. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

-- This is not your father’s GOP.

Mitt Romney, the party’s standard-bearer just five years ago, made clear his displeasure with Trump’s move. Interestingly, RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel is Mitt’s niece, but she’s been more loyal to the president than her kin.

Roy Moore in the US Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.

— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) December 4, 2017

In case you needed any more data points after the 2016 nominating contest, this is also not the same party that nominated either Bush 41 or Bush 43.

A good reminder from the chief strategist for Romney's 2012 presidential campaign:

When David Duke won Republican nomination for La. governor, President Bush endorsed his opponent & Republican former governor Dave Treen led the state wide effort to defeat Duke.

— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) December 5, 2017

--

“One senior White House official said Trump jumped in for a few reasons: because aides convinced him that his support could push Moore to victory, because he would probably take part of the blame if Moore lost and because he didn’t like the idea of backing Moore less than full-throatedly,per Sean Sullivan, Michael Scherer and David Weigel.

The race has exposed some tensions between [the RNC chairwoman] and the White House, White House officials and advisers said. After Trump returned from Asia, he began expressing frustrations that the RNC backed away — even though he was apprised of the decision at the time.

McDaniel, according to one person close to her, felt boxed in and feels like the episode has been a bit of an embarrassment. She also wanted to quickly show the president that the RNC was loyal

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has been frustrated with the Alabama race and did not want the president to dive back in with a full endorsement, these officials said. His argument was one of practicality — that the White House didn’t need to bother itself with the race and let that ‘become the focus,’ one of the people said.”

-- A Washington Post-Schar School poll published this weekend found that the race is within the margin of error, with 50 percent of likely Alabama voters supporting Democrat Doug Jones and 47 percent backing Moore.

-- The RNC’s announcement came hours after the publication of another story: 

Debbie Wesson Gibson, who says she openly dated Moore when she was 17 and he was 34, has discovered additional evidence of their relationship

— a graduation card inscribed by Moore, who recently has denied ever knowing her. Stephanie McCrummen reports: “'Happy graduation Debbie,’ [the card] read in slanted cursive handwriting. ‘I wanted to give you this card myself. I know that you’ll be a success in anything you do. Roy.’”

When the allegations first surfaced, Moore said he remembered Gibson but didn't remember dating her. 

His story keeps changing: “At a Nov. 27 campaign event … Moore said, ‘The allegations are completely false. They are malicious. Specifically, I do not know any of these women.' At a Nov. 29 rally … Moore said, ‘Let me state once again: I do not know any of these women, did not date any of these women and have not engaged in any sexual misconduct with anyone.’

“Gibson said that after finding the [card], she was not sure whether to make it public given the threats she received after publication of the original story. Then she heard what Moore said last week, she said, and contacted The Post.

‘He called me a liar,’ said Gibson, who says she not only openly dated Moore when she was 17 but later joined him in passing out fliers during his campaign for circuit court judge in 1982 and exchanged Christmas cards with him over the years.

‘Roy Moore made an egregious mistake to attack that one thing — my integrity.’

-- Many conservative thought leaders who do not hold public office expressed disgust with Trump and the RNC’s move.

From the New York Post columnist and editor of Commentary magazine:

For decades now, on thousands of occasions, I've told people I'm not a Republican, I'm a conservative. What happened tonight with the RNC justifies every millimeter of distance I've sought.

— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) December 5, 2017

A senior editor at the conservative National Review magazine called the RNC’s decision “grotesque”:

What this says: The RNC stopped funding because they thought he was doomed, not because they believe accusers or because child molestation is bad. Now that he’s probably going to win/Trump endorses they have no problem backing him. https://t.co/wUlmogmHYH

— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) December 5, 2017

From another senior writer at National Review:

Help the RNC brainstorm. What’s the best slogan for Roy Moore?

— David French (@DavidAFrench) December 5, 2017

From the former communications director for ex-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.):

Put aside the grossness of the RNC backing Roy Moore again. From a campaign management perspective...eh, forget it, it's just gross.

— Rory Cooper (@rorycooper) December 5, 2017

From a longtime former Senate GOP lawyer:

So, elderly voters across the country responding to direct mail from the RNC -- this is where your $ goes. https://t.co/i7nOfDGIi3

— Steven J. Duffield #140orFight (@StevenJDuffield) December 5, 2017

Evan McMullin became a House GOP policy aide after a decade in the CIA. He ran for president as an independent last year because he was distraught that his party embraced Trump:

The clearest example yet of Trump's effect on the GOP. What message does this send to women, victims of sexual assault, and the majority of Americans who instinctively know that promoting a pedophile into the Senate is unconscionable? https://t.co/eDx91BhHBQ

— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) December 5, 2017

-- How the news is playing elsewhere:

From a reporter for Yahoo News:

Just last week an RNC official told me he still had a part of his soul left bc the RNC wasn’t backing Moore. https://t.co/xNslUk63rh

— Jon Ward (@jonward11) December 5, 2017

A New York Times reporter shared this photo of a church sign in Alabama:

From Opelika, Ala. CC: @Smerelman pic.twitter.com/z1PvPFQlT0

— Adam Goldman (@adamgoldmanNYT) December 3, 2017

From CNN's chief national security correspondent:

That’s one remarkable and factual banner headline. #RoyMoore pic.twitter.com/LFdoGofyId

— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) December 4, 2017

From a senior editor for The Atlantic:

Watching the Roy Moore re-endorsements I'm reminded of the many, many times I've seen white people on cable news arguing black culture is excessively tolerant of criminal behavior.

— Adam Serwer 🍝 (@AdamSerwer) December 4, 2017

From a political reporter for the Daily Beast:

Trump’s endorsement of Moore and Moore’s likely win will have consequences well beyond the Senate. An invitation for every man accused of this stuff to deny and go on the attack against his accusers. Of course, Trump never considered this. But that’s the message he sent.

— Sam Stein (@samstein) December 4, 2017

From a senior writer for the liberal Daily Kos:

"Go get 'em" is not really something one serial predator should say out loud to another serial predator. https://t.co/iK0T27Cf8f

— Joan McCarter (@joanmccarter) December 4, 2017

From a writer for Tablet magazine:

The only thing worse than funding a child molester is stopping to fund a child molester and then changing your mind when you figure you can get away with it. That's the RNC right now. https://t.co/Rz01uflTtL

— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) December 5, 2017

From the MSNBC analyst:

Note: Nothing at all has changed--no retractions of allegations of child abuse. In fact, the charges are now even more credible than when the RNC pulled out. This is simply the moral debasement of a once-great political party. https://t.co/1CknncIJnT

— Jonathan Alter (@jonathanalter) December 5, 2017

From a senior writer for Mic:

The RNC sanctimoniously demanded democrats return money from Al Franken. Now the RNC is giving money to an accused child molester.

— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) December 5, 2017

From a political writer in Michigan:

The RNC is back funding Roy Moore. In June 2016, now-RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel tweeted "Stop defending the indefensible" at me when I backed Detroit Free Press columnist Stephen Henderson for his anti-school choice column. pic.twitter.com/YHJWIH1nys

— Susan J. Demas 🏔 (@sjdemas) December 5, 2017

-- The election is one week from today. I’m about to hop on a flight for Alabama. I’ll be on the ground for the next three days.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, has faced several sexual misconduct allegations. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

-- Rep. John Conyers Jr. reportedly plans to announce today he will not run for reelection following sexual harassment allegations against the Michigan Democrat. The New York Times’s Yamiche Alcindor reports: “Mr. Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, will make the announcement by calling into a local radio show on Tuesday morning, Ian Conyers, a Michigan state senator, said in a phone interview early Tuesday. Ian Conyers, 29, the grandson of Mr. Conyers’s brother, said he now planned to run for the seat held by his 88-year-old great-uncle, a Democrat who represents the Detroit area. ‘He is not resigning. He is going to retire,’ the younger Mr. Conyers said. ‘His doctor advised him that the rigor of another campaign would be too much for him just in terms of his health.’”

-- Another one of Conyers’s former staffers has also accused him of inappropriate touching. AP’s Corey Williams reports: “Elisa Grubbs made the allegation in an affidavit released late Monday by her attorney, Lisa Bloom. Grubbs is the cousin of another accuser, Marion Brown[.] … Grubbs’ affidavit says that she worked for Conyers in various capacities from approximately 2001 to about 2013. ‘Rep. Conyers slid his hand up my skirt and rubbed my thighs while I was sitting next to him in the front row of a church,’ Grubbs said. ‘I was startled and sprang to my feet and exclaimed, “He just ran his hand up my thigh!”’”

Bloom released the affidavit on Twitter and called on the House Ethics Committee to hear testimony from Conyers’s accusers:

Congressman Conyers: women who worked for you deserved better.

This is the first of several affidavits I will be releasing describing allegations that you sexually harassed staffers and covered up complaints.

My client Marion Brown asks only for an acknowledgement and apology. pic.twitter.com/Shfh1dMXd2

— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) December 5, 2017

As I have repeatedly told counsel for the House Ethics Committee, my client Marion Brown is ready, willing and able to testify as to her sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Conyers. We have others who will testify similarly, and corroborate. Why can’t we set a date?

— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) December 5, 2017

-- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that the administration can fully enforce the latest version of Trump's travel ban while challenges to it continue. Robert Barnes reports: “The court gave no reason for its decision, but said it expected lower court review of the executive orders to proceed quickly. Oral arguments are scheduled for soon in both federal appeals court cases on whether the ban exceeds the president’s broad powers on immigration. The latest iteration [of Trump’s ban] blocks various people from eight countries — Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. Six of the countries have Muslim majorities. But federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii have blocked its implementation for ‘foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.’ They said such people include grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the United States.”

Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed-door meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee last week on Capitol Hill. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

-- The White House is reportedly weighing the creation of a private spy network to bolster intelligence services. The Intercept’s Matthew Cole and Jeremy Scahill report: “The Trump administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer — with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal — to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies[.] … The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering ‘deep state’ enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Trump’s presidency. …

Oliver North, who appears frequently on Trump’s favorite TV network, Fox News, was enlisted to help sell the effort to the administration.”

-- A brush fire in Southern California spread to cover 26,000 acres in less than seven hours. The fire began about 65 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles and has already reached the northern edge of Ventura, a city with a population of over 100,000. One person has already died in a car crash escaping the fires, and two structures have been destroyed. Authorities have also issued evacuation notices to “well over 30,000” residents so far. (Travis M. Andrews)

An exhausted Rohingya refugee woman touches the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. After using massacre, rape and arson to drive more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, leaders in the Buddhist-majority country are going one step further: denying their existence. Important landmarks are being erased, cultural leaders have been targeted, and military leaders are working to turn Rohingya land into “unrecognizable” terrain. “There is no such thing as Rohingya,” said one officer in the state security ministry. “It is fake news.” (New York Times)

  2. Yemen’s former president was killed after fleeing office following a 2011 bomb attack in which he was nearly killed. The exact circumstances of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s death, which came six years after he left office, could not be confirmed. (T. Rees Shapiro)

  3. Former congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) was sentenced to five years in prison after using a charity for poor students as her own “personal slush fund.” (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

  4. Former CFPB director Richard Cordray is expected to announce his gubernatorial bid in Ohio today. Cordray will make the announcement at a dinner in his hometown, kicking off a “kitchen table” tour of the state. (Columbus Dispatch)

  5. Two NRSC staffers resigned following reports they broke into the NRCC's computer servers. Laura Kleffner and Krista Madaio had previously worked at the NRCC and apparently used their old passwords to access information about more than 200,000 donors. (Politico)

  6. Two years after the Supreme Court granted same-sex couples the right to marry, the

    justices will consider the case of a Colorado baker who refused in 2012 to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The justices will determine whether

     the baker’s actions are protected under the First Amendment or whether they constitute an act of illegal discrimination. (Robert Barnes)

  7. Ben Carson’s business manager wants to purchase the liberal Washington City Paper. In a colorful profile, The Post’s Ben Terris explores the enigma of Armstrong Williams — a black conservative pundit who was schooled on Washington’s inner workings by a segregationist. He spars with reporters on Carson’s behalf but insists he has “no agenda” for the alt-weekly. (Is he 55 or 58? “Either one works.”)  

  8. Former independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson died at 95. The Illinois Republican voted against many of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs but gradually embraced them, even casting a decisive vote in favor of the Fair Housing Act that heightened his national profile before he ran against Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in 1980. (Anne Kenderdine)

  9. LaVar Ball has pulled his son LiAngelo, one of the UCLA basketball players who was jailed then released in China, out of school. Ball hopes to prepare his son for the NBA draft after LiAngelo was indefinitely suspended from playing at UCLA. (Neil Greenberg and Des Bieler)

  10. A medic who was born in the back of an ambulance delivered a baby in the back of his own ambulance on his birthday. Daniel Helsel assisted the pregnant woman exactly 42 years after his mother gave birth on the side of the Beltway. (Lynh Bui)

Paul Manafort arrives for a bond hearing at U.S. District Court in Washington last month. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors asserted that a longtime associate of Paul Manafort has been “assessed to have ties” to Russian intelligence

— the first time the special counsel has alleged a Trump official had such contacts. Rosalind S. Helderman and Spencer S. Hsu report: “The statement came as

prosecutors working for [Mueller] withdrew their support for a joint bail deal filed last week that would have released Manafort from home detention and GPS monitoring while he awaits trial … In the four-page filing Monday, prosecutor Andrew Weissman urged the judge to reject the bail deal, arguing that Manafort and a Russian colleague have been secretly ghostwriting an English-language editorial that appeared to defend Manafort’s work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.” The government says the editorial violated a court order prohibiting the parties from making public statements that could sway jurors.

  • Manafort worked on the draft as recently as Nov. 30 with the longtime Russian colleague who “is currently based in Russia and assessed to have ties to a Russian intelligence service,” according to the court filing. Prosecutors indicated they would file further supporting evidence under seal.
  • While the Russian colleague was not identified, some have pointed to Manafort’s longtime Russian employee, Konstantin Kilimnik, who ran his Kiev office for 10 years and met with Manafort on two separate occasions during the 2016 campaign. Kilimnik also served as Manafort’s liaison to Oleg Deripaska, a Putin-linked oligarch whom Manafort offered to provide “private briefings” on the Trump campaign.

-- Deutsche Bank has reportedly received a subpoena from Mueller regarding its business dealings with Trump. Bloomberg’s Steven Arons reports: “Mueller has issued a subpoena to Germany’s largest lender, forcing the bank to submit documents on its client relationship with Trump and his family, said a person briefed on the matter[.] … Deutsche Bank for months has rebuffed calls by Democratic lawmakers to provide more transparency over the roughly $300 million Trump owed to the bank for his real estate dealings prior to becoming president.”

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and his then-deputy, K.T. McFarland. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

-- An email sent during the transition by Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, K.T. McFarland,

appears to directly contradict her July congressional testimony about contacts between Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The New York Times’s Michael S. Schmidt and Sharon LaFraniere report: “Ms. McFarland had told lawmakers that she did not discuss or know anything about interactions between [Kislyak] and Mr. Flynn … But [newly obtained emails] appear to undermine those statements. In a Dec. 29 message about newly imposed Obama administration sanctions against Russia for its election interference, Ms. McFarland, then serving on Mr. Trump’s transition team, told another transition official that Mr. Flynn would be talking to the Russian ambassador that evening.”

-- In May 2016, an NRA-connected operative with ties to Russia emailed Rick Dearborn, a top Trump campaign adviser and close associate of Jeff Sessions, offering to arrange a back-channel meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin. The email bore the subject line: “Kremlin Connection.” The New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos reports: “In [the email], the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and [Sessions], then a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump and Mr. Dearborn’s longtime boss, about how to proceed in connecting the two leaders.

Russia, he wrote, was ‘quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S. and would attempt to use the N.R.A.’s annual convention in Louisville to make ‘first contact.’ The emailed outreach … [came] around the same time that Russians were trying to make other connections to the Trump campaign.”

-- A 2016 RNC delegate claims a Trump campaign aide told her that Trump himself pushed for watering down the party platform’s stance on Ukraine. NPR’s Carrie Johnson reports: “Diana Denman, a Republican delegate who supported arming U.S. allies in Ukraine, has told people that Trump aide J.D. Gordon said at the Republican Convention in 2016 that Trump directed him to support weakening that position in the official platform. Ultimately, the softer position was adopted. Denman is scheduled to meet this week with the House and Senate Intelligence committees to discuss what she saw, said two sources familiar with the briefings.” Gordon refuted Denman’s account in messages to NPR.

-- Russia listed several international news services as foreign agents in retaliation for the United States’ conflict with the Kremlin-backed network RT. David Filipov reports: “The Justice Ministry published a list of nine outlets, which includes Russian-language subsidiaries of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that cover the Caucasus region of Russia, Crimea, Siberia, and two predominantly Muslim regions in central Russia, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. The ban also includes Current Time TV, which is produced by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Factograph a website produced by Radio Liberty.”

President Trump speaks to reporters before he departs for Utah. (Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency/REX)

INSIDE TRUMP’S HEAD:

-- Trump lawyer John Dowd offered a bold new legal defense for his client, claiming in two interviews that presidents “cannot be found guilty of obstruction of justice.” His assertion comes after Trump tweeted that he “knew” Flynn lied about his contacts with Russia before firing him — an admission experts say increased the president's legal exposure to obstruction of justice charges. Sari Horwitz and Philip Rucker report: “Inside the White House, some senior officials were baffled that Dowd publicly offered this interpretation of the law, which has been advanced since the summer by constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz in defense of Trump but flatly dismissed by many other legal scholars. [White House lawyer Ty Cobb] said Monday that the Dershowitz-Dowd theory was not the president’s official legal strategy. ‘It’s interesting as a technical legal issue, but the president’s lawyers intend to present a fact-based defense, not a mere legal defense,’ Cobb [told The Post]. ‘That should resolve things, but we all shall see.”

-- Trump told reporters he feels “very badly” for Flynn because his lies to the FBI have “ruined his life,”

attempting to draw comparisons to Hillary Clinton, who has never been charged with lying to the FBI. Phil reports: “I feel badly for General Flynn,” Trump said on the South Lawn of the White House, as he boarded Marine One ahead of a trip to Utah. “He's led a very strong life, and I feel very badly.”

“I will say this: Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI[.] … Nothing happened to her,” Trump continued. “Flynn lied, and they destroyed his life. I think it's a shame. Hillary Clinton, on the 4th of July weekend, went to the FBI[.] … It was the most incredible thing anyone's ever seen.

She lied many times. Nothing happened[.] … Flynn lied, and it's like they ruined his life. It's very unfair.”

-- In a Post op-ed, “The Art of the Deal” co-author Tony Schwartz, who spent hundreds of hours observing Trump, predicts his tweets and public remarks will only get wilder as the Russia probe moves closer to the president’s doorstep. “For five decades now, Trump’s pattern has been that the more aggrieved and vulnerable he feels, the more intensely he doubles down on the behaviors that have always worked for him in the past,” he says. “Trump’s first move in the face of criticism has always been to assume the role of victim. ‘Unfair’ has long been one of his favorite words. He always perceives himself as the victim, so he feels justified in lashing back at his perceived accusers. … Sunday’s tweetstorm won’t be the last time the president indulges in self-pity, deceit and deflection. In all likelihood, it will get worse.”

-- “The Cost of Trump's Attacks on the FBI,” by Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith (who ran the Office of Legal Counsel under George W. Bush) in The Atlantic: “Just about everyone I knew when I worked in the Justice Department had an idealistic sense of mission — about the importance of law enforcement to the country’s welfare, about the integrity of the department’s actions, and about commitment to the rule of law. … Trump’s assault on executive branch departments and employees is crippling these cultures of commitment. I know this from talking to several Justice Department friends[.] … And yet as best I can tell, not a single cabinet official or agency head has stood up to the president’s attacks on the integrity of his or her department, or of federal employees more generally.”

-- FBI Director Christopher Wray did send an encouraging note to agency staffers last night, but he refrained from calling out the president by name. Devlin Barrett reports: Wray told “employees to keep focused on their mission and praising them for ‘example after example’ of their professionalism. The note did not mention the president’s criticism or his claim over the weekend that the FBI was ‘in Tatters.’ Instead, Mr. Wray sought to reassure them of his faith in their work.”

THE RECKONING:

-- Former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of sexual misconduct during the campaign, is pursuing a defamation suit against the president. Frances Stead Sellers reports: “The defamation suit filed in January in New York State Supreme Court by Zervos … has reached a critical point, with oral arguments over Trump’s motion to dismiss scheduled for Tuesday, after which the judge is expected to rule on whether the case may move forward. If it proceeds, Zervos’s attorneys could gather and make public incidents from Trump’s past and Trump could be called to testify, with the unwelcome specter of a former president looming over him: It was Bill Clinton’s misleading sworn testimony — not the repeated allegations of sexual harassment against him — that eventually led to his impeachment.”

-- A woman who settled with Bill O’Reilly over harassment allegations has sued both O’Reilly and Fox News for defamation, saying public statements made by the network and the former anchor violated the settlement and portrayed her as a liar and a “politically motivated extortionist.” (New York Times)

-- Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), whose sexual harassment settlement of $84,000 was covered by public funds, announced he would reimburse taxpayers but doesn't plan to resign. “I want to be clear that I didn’t do anything wrong,” Farenthold told a local NBC affiliate. “But I also don’t want the taxpayers to be on the hook for this, and I want to be able to talk about it and fix the system without people saying, ‘Blake, you benefited from this system. You don’t have a right to talk about it or fix it.’” (Elise Viebeck)

-- The Democratic president of the Massachusetts Senate has been forced to step aside, at least temporarily, after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against his husband. The Boston Globe’s Joshua Miller and Michael Levenson report: The state Senate also “set in motion a Senate investigation stemming from allegations that [Stanley C. Rosenberg’s] husband sexually assaulted or harassed four men. At the same time, Attorney General Maura T. Healey and Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley urged alleged victims of Rosenberg’s husband, Bryon Hefner, to come forward so they can launch a separate, criminal investigation into Hefner’s conduct.”

-- A Kentucky House staffer says GOP leaders used funds provided by “prominent campaign donors” to settle a sexual harassment claim against former House speaker Jeff Hoover. In a newly filed lawsuit, the staffer also claims she has been unfairly punished since shedding light on the inappropriate sexual relationship — with lawmakers “shunning” her and otherwise making it impossible to do her job. (Louisville Courier-Journal)

-- Lobbyist Pamela Lopez accused California Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D) of following her into a bathroom at a social gathering and exposing himself to her. Lopez has filed a complaint with the state Assembly, which is being scrutinized after over 140 women signed a letter describing the California legislature’s “pervasive” culture of sexual harassment. (Eli Rosenberg)

-- The leader of the New York City Ballet now faces a sexual harassment investigation. The New York Times’s Robin Pogrebin reports: “As part of the investigation, [Peter] Martins is believed to have discussed romantic relationships he has had with female dancers[.] … [A ballet spokesman] said that since 2010 the company ‘has had a policy precluding a reporting relationship between a supervisor and subordinate where a romantic relationship exists.’ … In recent interviews,

two former City Ballet dancers and three former students at the school described a culture in which Mr. Martins was known for sleeping with dancers, some of whom received better roles because of their personal relationships with him.

-- Christiane Amanpour’s political affairs program will replace “Charlie Rose” on an interim basis. PBS cut ties with the veteran journalist after sexual misconduct allegations against him. (CNN)

THE AGENDA:

-- Trump announced that he is drastically shrinking two national monuments established in Utah by his Democratic predecessors

— ordering the largest reduction of public lands protection in U.S. history. Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin report: “Trump’s move to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments by more than 1.1 million acres and more than 800,000 acres, respectively, immediately sparked an outpouring of praise from conservative lawmakers as well as activists’ protests outside the White House and in Utah. It also plunges the Trump administration into uncharted legal territory since no president has sought to modify monuments established under the 1906 Antiquities Act in more than half a century.”

-- House conservatives briefly withheld their support for opening negotiations on the GOP's tax plan, saying they secured a commitment to continue talking about pushing back the deadline for a government funding resolution to Dec. 30. Leaders are trying to pass a resolution to keep the government funded by Friday, when a shutdown would occur if they don't.

 Ed O'Keefe, Mike DeBonis​ and Erica Werner report: “Conservative leaders described the move as a 'tactical decision' meant to reduce the chances that Republicans would have to accept an immigration deal with Democrats or higher spending caps alongside a vote to cut taxes.”

--

Fake numbers? Before the Senate approved its tax plan last week, Republicans made a concerted effort to discredit the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which released a report showing that even with economic growth taken into account, the tax plan would grow the deficit by $1 trillion.

 The New York Times’s Jim Tankersley reports: “Public statements and messaging documents obtained by The New York Times show a concerted push by Republican lawmakers to discredit a nonpartisan agency they had long praised. Party leaders circulated two pages of ‘response points’ that declared ‘the substance, timing and growth assumptions of J.C.T.’s “dynamic” score are suspect.’ Among their arguments was that the joint committee was using ‘consistently wrong’ growth models to assess the effect the tax cuts would have on hiring, wages and investment.”

-- Is the tax plan “a great, big, beautiful Christmas present” for the American people, as Trump argues? >The Post’s Andrew Van Dam assembled historical reports

on the 10 largest tax cuts of the past 50 years to find out. “After doing our best to find comparable data … we learned a few things: Comparing tax plans across generations is hard. But we can say the Republicans’ $1.4 trillion tax plan isn’t the biggest in history. It’s not even the biggest in the past decade. It’s probably the most regressive tax cut in the past 50 years, but there’s not enough data to speak with absolute confidence. The Bush tax cuts were pretty regressive too. …

That said,

it is hard to find a tax plan that has done less for the middle class.”

-- Trump’s nominee for a top U.N. position has repeatedly praised far-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos and shared disparaging memes about prominent Democrats and progressives on his Facebook page. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie report: “If confirmed, [Patrick] Murray would serve under [Nikki Haley] in representing US interests at the United Nations and would act as a fill-in for Haley … when she is unavailable. On Facebook, Murray praised Yiannopoulos multiple times in 2016, writing comments of approval like ‘Milo rocks,’ ‘preach, Milo!,’ and ‘clone this guy’ … [and] arguing that Britain should leave the [E.U.] to stop Muslim immigration[.] In one of the articles shared by Murray, Yiannopoulos writes about [Trump’s plan to screen immigrants] … saying,

‘The test will apply to all immigrants, yet its obvious target is Muslims, who, as we know, get a bit bomby in the presence of gays [and] a bit rapey in the presence of women …’”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Arab leaders are warning the Trump administration against recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Loveday Morris reports: “In a late-night call Sunday, Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, warned Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that such a decision could ‘trigger anger across the Arab and Muslim world, fuel tension and jeopardize peace efforts,’ according to Jordan’s state news agency. … For more than two decades, successive U.S. presidents have signed a waiver every six months that allows them to delay a move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on national security grounds. … The White House was expected to let Monday’s deadline for the next signing pass unmentioned, a signal that a shift is likely to be in the works. Trump is likely to outline a new policy on Jerusalem and the embassy in a speech Wednesday[.]”

-- U.S. officials pushed back on early claims of victory for Bashar al-Assad’s government from Syria and Russia. Missy Ryan reports: “Senior officials described a severely weakened Syrian state, grappling with challenges including loss of oil revenue; severe infrastructure damage; increasing reliance on outside powers for cash, food and fighters; and a military barely able to keep multiple armed groups at bay. … That picture is sharply different from the one presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who assured Assad during a recent visit to Russia that the long Syrian conflict is ‘nearing completion.’”

-- British Prime Minister Theresa May is nearing a final Brexit deal with E.U. leaders — on their terms. Michael Birnbaum and William Booth report: “The elements of the deal … appeared to signal an acknowledgment by British negotiators that they have scant leverage in the negotiation. On issues such as what Britain will pay before exiting and a special status for Northern Ireland, British leaders were being pushed toward Europe’s demands after long vowing otherwise. … [T]he emerging terms of the agreement raised questions about how [May] would convince her own divided public about the best way forward. On Monday, she was forced to leave a day of Brussels meetings with no deal in hand following sharp objections from political forces back home.”

-- Jim Mattis urged Pakistan to “redouble” its efforts to combat Islamist militants. Pamela Constable reports: “But Mattis seemed to tone down the sharp language he has used in congressional hearings and other settings to accuse Pakistan of harboring Afghan Taliban fighters. Instead, he adopted a milder, more diplomatic approach aimed at finding ‘common ground.’”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Twitter released data on the most retweeted and most liked tweets of the year. On the most retweeted list, Barack Obama appears four times, while Trump does not appear at all. Obama's tweet in the wake of the Charlottesville violence was the second-most retweeted tweet of the year:

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..." pic.twitter.com/InZ58zkoAm

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017

(The most retweeted tweet of the year involved a plea to Wendy's for a year of free chicken nuggets.)

ABC News's executive editorial producer compiled this list after Trump's lawyer's most recent comments about obstruction of justice:

Have voted to IMPEACH or CONVICT a POTUS on "obstruction of justice":

AG Sessions

Intel chair Burr

Jud chair Grassley

MjLeader McConnell

SenMcCain,Graham,Hatch,Shelby,Roberts,Inhofe,Enzi,Crapo,Cochran,

Portman,Blunt,Thune,Wicker,Moran

Dozens of U.S. Reps inc Jud chair Goodlatte pic.twitter.com/zWb5GLb3GC

— Chris Donovan (@chrisdonovan) December 4, 2017

From a writer for The Fix:

To recap, White House says Trump:

-Can't have conflict of interest

-Can't obstruct justice

-Will not have his national security actions questioned

— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) December 4, 2017

From one of The Post's congressional reporters:

It’s been thirteen months since the election and the RNC is releasing anti-Hillary statements pic.twitter.com/1avkohfP1F

— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) December 4, 2017

Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Obama, on Paul Manafort:

Manafort is either the dumbest man on the planet or a Russian sleeper agent or both

— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) December 5, 2017

Fox News's Tucker Carlson attacked the FBI:

The point is clear: the #FBI is out of control and not just in the @realDonaldTrump investigation. An agency charged with enforcing the law clearly considers itself above the law. That's a threat to you, and every American, no matter who you voted for. #Tucker @FoxNews

— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) December 5, 2017

Paul Ryan announced the House members who will serve on the conference committee for the tax plan:

Under the leadership of @RepKevinBrady, the following members will serve on the House-Senate conference committee (https://t.co/z5hQcNDbXc) for the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act: pic.twitter.com/zCByQpvcXo

— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 5, 2017

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) hit back against the comment by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that ending the estate tax awards those who invest their money instead of spending it on “booze or women or movies":

Just so we’re clear, Senator Grassley, here’s what my constituents are spending “every darn penny” on:

🏡 Rent.

🍊 Groceries.

💊 Prescriptions.

📚 College tuition.

You just made their lives harder in order to give billionaires massive tax breaks. https://t.co/76Ph41KoAS

— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) December 4, 2017

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said he was “honored” to be with Trump as he flew to Salt Lake City (the president called Moore during the flight to endorse him):

I’m honored to be accompanying @realDonaldTrump to Utah to support the actions he will be taking to reverse the abuse of the Antiquities Act in our state. #utpol pic.twitter.com/A1kL0Jbwuf

— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) December 4, 2017

From a New York Times reporter:

*VERY* important to note: This isn’t just about one monument. Trump's decision is expected to trigger a legal battle that could alter the course of American land conservation, possibly opening millions of acres to oil and gas extraction, mining and more. https://t.co/AwQWBbzeav

— julieturkewitz (@julieturkewitz) December 4, 2017

The clothing company Patagonia protested the move, per a political reporter for CNBC:

This is Patagonia’s website right now. https://t.co/wJkbfhsn6f pic.twitter.com/PJOaksUSeF

— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) December 5, 2017

From The Post's satirical columnist:

quick someone tell donald trump bears ears is a statue of a confederate general

— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) December 4, 2017

Conservative pundit Ana Navarro derided Trump's comment in Utah that “Christmas is back”:

Eye-roll. What country has Trump been living in? Maybe Cuba where Christmas was outlawed. In the United States, we never stopped saying “Merry Christmas” with pride & joy. Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Buon Natale, Joyeux Noelle, and all the rest to all of you...🎄🎄🎄 https://t.co/B7PXBBIwyC

— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) December 4, 2017

Time announced the finalists for its “Person of the Year” issue:

.@TIME releases its Person of the Year finalists. pic.twitter.com/jNxkKyGwhM

— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) December 4, 2017

C-SPAN shared this throwback in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against James Levine:

20 YEARS AGO (9/29/1997): Pres Clinton gives National Medal of Arts to James Levine ..."His work has renewed the grand tradition of opera and infused it with new life for the next generation of opera lovers." ...23:40 here: https://t.co/vsTvmTbrlG pic.twitter.com/6Apz3CSuu3

— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) December 4, 2017

Mike Pence speaks during a vigil for victims in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church shooting. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The Atlantic published a new profile on the vice president revealing Pence considered a coup to replace Trump atop the ticket after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out. McKay Coppins writes: “It’s been reported that Pence sent Trump a letter saying he needed time to decide whether he could stay with the campaign. But in fact, according to several Republicans familiar with the situation, he wasn’t just thinking about dropping out—he was contemplating a coup. Within hours of The Post’s bombshell, Pence made it clear to the Republican National Committee that he was ready to take Trump’s place as the party’s nominee. Such a move just four weeks before Election Day would have been unprecedented—but the situation seemed dire enough to call for radical action. …

“Already, Reince Priebus’s office was being flooded with panicked calls from GOP officials and donors urging the RNC chairman to get rid of Trump by whatever means necessary. One Republican senator called on the party to engage emergency protocols to nominate a new candidate. RNC lawyers huddled to explore an obscure legal mechanism by which they might force Trump off the ticket. Meanwhile, a small group of billionaires was trying to put together money for a ‘buyout’—even going so far as to ask a Trump associate how much money the candidate would require to walk away from the race. According to someone with knowledge of the talks, they were given an answer of $800 million. (It’s unclear whether Trump was aware of this discussion or whether the offer was actually made.)

Republican donors and party leaders began buzzing about making Pence the nominee and drafting Condoleezza Rice as his running mate.”

-- New York Times, “Women Line Up to Run for Office, Harnessing Their Outrage at Trump,” by Michael Tackett: “For [California pediatrician] Mai-Khanh Tran … it was the day after the presidential election in 2016 and she looked into the eyes of a young patient with a brain tumor whose family had only recently obtained health insurance. For Andrea Ramsey, the president of a nonprofit children’s health clinic … it [when] her local congressman voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act …

None of the women had seriously contemplated running for public office before. They had no money or organization.

But they were dismayed with the direction of the country, they said, starting with the election of [Trump], and finally decided to act. [Now], the number of women challenging incumbents is almost four times the number at the same period in 2015[.]"

-- Politico Magazine, “The Loneliest Democrat in Trump Country,” by Adam Wren: “An incumbent Democrat in a state Donald Trump won by 19 points, Donnelly is constantly dogged by Republicans aiming to unseat him when he runs for reelection next November, including House Republicans Todd Rokita and Luke Messer. An America Rising tracker who only identified himself to me as Randy literally stalks Donnelly’s in-state events, lying in wait for a gaffe. On the other side, Donnelly faces disgruntled Democrats who think he’s far too conservative. A fiscal and military hawk who shares the president’s views on trade, Donnelly is the nation’s second most moderate senator[.] … So if you want to know which way the political winds are blowing—who’s going to triumph in the upcoming midterms, and perhaps beyond—you need to watch Joe Donnelly.”

-- New York Times, “Where Silicon Valley Is Going to Get in Touch With Its Soul,” by Nellie Bowles:  “It has been a hard year for the tech industry. Prominent figures like Sean Parker and Justin Rosenstein, horrified by what technology has become, have begun to publicly denounce companies like Facebook that made them rich. And so Silicon Valley has come to the Esalen Institute, a storied hippie hotel here on the Pacific coast … [that reopened in October] with a new mission:

It will be a home for technologists to reckon with what they have built. Dave Morin, a venture capitalist and early Facebook employee, will lead a program on depression and tech; a former Google ethicist, Tristan Harris, led a weekend on internet addiction … Chargers have been installed for Tesla electric cars, and there is usually a line to use them.

“‘There’s a dawning consciousness emerging in Silicon Valley as people recognize that their conventional success isn’t necessarily making the world a better place,’ said [one former] Google product manager … ‘The C.E.O.s, inside they’re hurting. They can’t sleep at night.’”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“[Two] people fired after ‘deplorable’ comments surface directed at Eagle Grove basketball team, from >KIMT: “Two employees at radio station KIOW have been fired after inappropriate comments surfaced on a video feed on Forest City's school website [during a basketball game]. During the nearly 90-second conversation, the topics include how Eagle Grove has many players with last names they think are Hispanic and ‘Espanol people in Eagle Grove.’ ‘They’re all foreigners,’ the two say. During one back and forth … Orin Harris, a longtime voice of Forest City athletics, is heard saying: ‘As [Trump] would say, go back where they came from,’ the man said. The second person in the conversation was Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt, who is also a teacher within the [school district]. She has been placed on administrative leave.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“ABC News president excoriates staff over Brian Ross' Michael Flynn error,” from >CNN: “ABC News president James Goldston excoriated staff Monday over Brian Ross' major error on a report about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and announced that Ross, the network's chief investigative reporter, will no longer cover stories related to President Trump. Goldston also told staffers that the network was conducting a ‘full review’ of the error and its aftermath. … ‘I don't think ever in my career have I felt more rage and disappointment and frustration that I felt through this weekend and through the last half of Friday,’ Goldston said [on an editorial call]. … Goldston noted that ABC News ‘spent this weekend getting absolutely pilloried as a news division for reporting fake news.’”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump has a lunch with Republican senators and a discussion with American business owners before hosting the Congressional Ball.

Pence is on Capitol Hill meeting with Senate Republicans and will also attend the ball this evening.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

When asked whether Democrats were overstating the impact of the GOP tax plan, Nancy Pelosi responded, “The debate on health care is life [or] death. This is Armageddon.”

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- D.C. will see a lot of clouds today, with showers starting in the afternoon. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Pockets of drizzle or mist under mostly cloudy skies should dry out middle to late morning.  And we should then stay dry into the early half of the afternoon under mostly cloudy skies as highs warm into the lower to middle 60s.  Look for rain showers to expand from west to east in the later afternoon with moderate intensities possible.”

-- The Capitals beat the Sharks 4-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- The Wizards lost to the Jazz 116-69, the team’s worst point margin since 1971. (Candace Buckner)

-- Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) released her bill calling for increased funding and changes to Metro. Robert McCartney reports: “Comstock’s bill aims to pry additional funding for Metro from a skeptical Congress to help cover an estimated $500 million a year to ensure safety and reliability. In return, it would overhaul the much-criticized board and adopt long-term changes designed to improve the agency’s governance, finances and operations.”

-- A Metro train was reportedly damaged after a man threw a LimeBike onto the tracks at the Minnesota Avenue station. (Martine Powers)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert interviewed Billy Bush on the Late Show:

The former communications director to Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) described the effect her sexual harassment claim had on her career:

Lauren Greene, Rep. Blake Farenthold's former communications director, on the impact of accusing the congressman of sexual harassment: “It’s stagnated my career a bit. ... I just haven't been able to get back to where I was." https://t.co/j0GIyj7BY5 https://t.co/Pf2IfULj9K

— CNN (@CNN) December 5, 2017

A woman with Stage 4 cancer claims she was asked to leave the town hall of Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) town hall after asking a health-care question:

John Oliver confronted Dustin Hoffman about sexual misconduct allegations against the actor:

And France's first lady officially named a 4-month-old panda cub at a French zoo:

Source : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/12/05/daily-202-trump-solidifies-control-of-gop-with-rnc-reversal-on-roy-moore/5a259bfb30fb0469e883f9e0/

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