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On the roster: Trump lays it on the Flori-Bama line for Moore – Report: Franks offered aide $5 million to have his baby – House Conservatives: No ObamaCare in spending bill – Email shows effort to push hacked documents to Trump – Neither light nor sweet
TRUMP LAYS IT ON THE FLORI-BAMA LINE FOR MOORE
In the biggest political bet of his presidency so far, President Trump tonight will try to save the Senate candidacy of embattled Alabama GOP nominee Roy Moore.
Trump will be in Pensacola, Florida tonight, just over the border from Mobile, Ala. The trip was planned while the White House was still looking for a way to endorse Moore without officially naming him.
It would have been a nice bit of legerdemain. Trump would have been visiting the correct metropolitan area, but the White House could still have accurately said that he never went to Alabama to campaign. Trump’s daughter-in-law even recorded phone calls for Alabama voters to come on down to the Pensacola Bay.
It turned out to be an unnecessary sleight of hand since Trump would subsequently reverse course and specifically endorse Moore, even calling to offer his encouragement to the candidate.
Friends and foes of the president both are casting the Alabama race as a repeat of the 2016 content in miniature.
Moore, like Trump last year, has faced allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple women, teenage girls at the time of the alleged offenses. The claims against Trump were less objectionable than the ones against Moore who is said to have taken advantage of his position as a prosecutor to seek out girls as young as 14. But the timing and source of the accusations – just weeks before the election from the establishment press – are similar.
Trump’s former top political adviser, Steve Bannon and Moore himself explicitly made this comparison. The argument is essentially that the accusations aren’t as important as the fact that liberal media outlets are levying them.
Certainly, tonight we can expect to hear Trump riff on the fact that one of Moore’s many accusers admitted that she had added “notes” noting the place and time that Moore signed her high school year book. Given the degree to which Moore’s defenders have cited this as exculpatory, we might even get to hear a “fake news” or two.
But what we don’t know is how the vote on Tuesday is going to turn out.
We have discussed before how hard this race is to forecast given the fact that it has been so long since Alabama has had a competitive Senate race, let alone one that is being held in a special election.
Will African American voters turn out? Will suburbanites in Birmingham and Mobile stay home? We can guess, but what makes this race so fascinating is that it is substantially without precedent in the state.
On the upside for Trump, we can assume that his preferred candidate is favored to win. We can discuss at a later date what the consequences for the rest of the Republicans in the Senate will be if Moore is elected and brings his penchant for outrages to Washington.
Democrats have been making ready for Moore’s arrival, giving Al Franken the boot and sharpening their spades to dig new trenches for the “war on women.” But a win is still a win.
If Moore loses, which he might, Trump will be spared the aggravation and potential political consequences of the Alabamians elevation. But it would not be a very good sign for the president’s overall popularity.
A Pew Research poll out today shows the shift in Trump’s popularity with key groups since taking office. Some of Trump’s steepest declines have been with white Evangelical Protestants (down 17 points since February), white voters without college degrees (down 10 points) and voters over the age of 65 (also down 10 points).
As it happens, those are some pretty important demographic groups in an Alabama election. Alabama voters already handed Trump the first special-election loss of his presidency in September, when they chose Moore over Trump’s preferred candidate, incumbent Luther Strange.
Trump presumably became more willing to back Moore not just because the similarities to their election narratives but also because it looked like he would be backing the likely winner. He had better hope so.
Back-to-back defeats for his candidates in one of the most Republican states in the union would badly damage his clout with senators weighing crucial legislation at year’s end.
THE RULEBOOK: OYEZ, OYEZ
“Laws are a dead letter without courts to expound and define their true meaning and operation. The treaties of the United States, to have any force at all, must be considered as part of the law of the land.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22
TIME OUT: FAKE OR FRIGHTENING?
Atlantic: “On Wednesday, a team of scientists unveiled a newly discovered dinosaur that had the body and sickle-clawed feet of Velociraptor, the head and snout of a swan, and weird arms that were somewhere between grasping limbs and flattened flippers. This bizarre murder-swan, which the team christened Halszkaraptor, was so odd that when they first saw it, they suspected that it was a fake… But after using a particle accelerator to scan the animal, and the rock in which it is still encased, [Phillip Currie] and his colleagues are convinced that it’s the real deal. Not everyone is so sure, though. When Steve Brusattefrom the University of Edinburgh first saw a picture of Halszkaraptor, his spidey sense also started tingling. … ‘This new discovery has thrown a lot of us for a loop,’ he says. ‘It’s either really a new dinosaur, which would be awesome, or it’s been tampered with and I really hope that’s not the case.’”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -23.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 5 points
[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]
REPORT: FRANKS OFFERED AIDE $5 MILLION TO HAVE HIS BABY
Fox News: “Arizona Rep. Trent Franks said he is resigning effective immediately after his wife was admitted to the hospital. The announcement on Friday comes after the Republican initially released plans to step down in January. The abrupt announcement follows new reports that Frank allegedly repeatedly pressed a former aide to carry his child, offering her $5 million to act as a surrogate. ‘Last night, my wife was admitted to the hospital in Washington, D.C. due to an ongoing ailment,’ Franks said in a statement. ‘After discussing options with my family, we came to the conclusion that the best thing for our family now would be for me to tender my previous resignation effective today, December 8th, 2017.’ Franks first announced his resignation Thursday evening after learning of an investigation into his behavior by the House Ethics Committee.”
Nevada Dem Kihuen tries to outlast outrage – Politico: “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi won’t call for a primary challenger to take on Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen, despite saying the freshman Democrat should resign due to sexual harassment allegations. ‘This is not about politics. That’s the last thing this is about,’ Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday in response to questions about Kihuen, who has rejected demands from party leaders to step down. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not respond to requests for comment on whether it would fund a primary challenger against Kihuen. The campaign arm has, however, removed Kihuen from its ‘frontline’ program, which prioritizes funding for vulnerable members. But beyond those steps, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have not maneuvered to force out Kihuen as they did with Rep.John Conyers (D-Mich.), who resigned Tuesday after a concerted behind-the-scenes effort. That could change, Democratic aides say, if more allegations crop up. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is also divided on how to handle the issue.”
Pressure mounts on Texas GOP’s Farenthold – AP: “The House Ethics Committee said Thursday it is expanding its investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas. The committee said it will investigate whether Farenthold sexually harassed a former member of his staff and retaliated against her for complaining. The committee also said the panel would review allegations that Farenthold made inappropriate statements to other members of his official staff. Lauren Greene is a former communications director in the congressman’s office. She alleged in a 2014 federal lawsuit that she was sexually harassed and fired soon after complaining of a hostile work environment. Farenthold said when the case was settled in 2015 that he didn’t engage in any wrongdoing. The committee had already been conducting a discretionary review of the matter and has examined more than 200,000 pages of materials and interviewed multiple witnesses.”
HOUSE CONSERVATIVES: NO OBAMACARE IN SPENDING BILL
The Hill: “House leaders have promised conservatives that the next spending bill will not contain funding for ObamaCare cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said Thursday. ‘The three things that we’ve been told are not gonna happen as part of our agreement: no CSRs, no DACA, no debt limit,’ Walker said, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Walker, chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), said the promise was made during a meeting RSC members had with House leaders on Tuesday afternoon. The cost-sharing subsidies have been a flashpoint during negotiations over both the GOP tax bill and the bill to continue funding the government beyond Dec. 22. … The House and Senate are in the process of working out the differences between the tax bills passed by their respective chambers. A final version could pass as soon as next week. … Additionally, Walker said the RSC is pushing for the next spending bill to have ‘mandatory reforms’ like work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid beneficiaries.
Collins tax vote imperiled over insurance funding impasse – Bloomberg: “… SenatorSusan Collins’s deal could unravel fast, putting the Maine lawmaker and her party in a tight spot as GOP leaders seek a major policy win in 2017. Collins joined 50 of her GOP Senate colleagues Saturday in voting for tax legislation — but only after securing what she’s called a promise that Congress would pass two other bills before year’s end. Both measures are aimed at shoring up insurance marketplaces that experts say would be ravaged by one part of the Senate tax bill: a repeal of the ‘individual mandate’ imposed by the 2010 Obamacare law. … It’s by no means clear that either of the health care bills Collins bargained for will get anywhere in the House, where conservatives regard at least one of the measures with disdain.”
Senate GOP looks to protect DREAMers without path to citizenship – Roll Call: “Senate Democrats and even some Republicans are panning a GOP bill designed to protect undocumented young people and toughen immigration laws because it would not offer the so-called Dreamers a path to citizenship. The bill, introduced this week by Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley and Majority Whip John Cornyn, would offer Dreamers enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, three years of protected status in return for enhanced border security, a crackdown on ‘sanctuary’ cities and other GOP immigration priorities. But members of both parties say there’s no deal without offering Dreamers a chance to become citizens. ‘I don’t support a final resolution without a path to citizenship,’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation preferred by most Democrats.”
EMAIL SHOWS EFFORT TO PUSH HACKED DOCUMENTS TO TRUMP
WaPo: “A 2016 email sent to President Trump and top aides pointed the campaign to hacked documents from the Democratic National Committee that had already been made public by the group WikiLeaks a day earlier. The email — sent the afternoon of Sept. 14, 2016 — noted that ‘Wikileaks has uploaded another (huge 678 mb) archive of files from the DNC’ and included a link and a ‘decryption key,’ according to a copy obtained by The Washington Post. The writer, who said his name was Michael J. Erickson and described himself as the president of an aviation management company, sent the message to the then-Republican nominee as well as his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and other top advisers. The day before, WikiLeaks had tweeted links to what the group said was 678.4 megabytes of DNC documents. The full email … indicates that the writer may have simply been flagging information that was already widely available.”
Russian social media exec. made offers to assist Trump campaign – WaPo: “An executive at a leading Russian social media company made several overtures to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 — including days before the November election — urging the candidate to create a page on the website to appeal to Russian Americans and Russians. The executive at Vkontakte, or VK, Russia’s equivalent to Facebook, emailed Donald Trump Jr. and social media director Dan Scavino in January and again in November of last year, offering to help promote Trump’s campaign to its nearly 100 million users, according to people familiar with the messages. ‘It will be the top news in Russia,’ Konstantin Sidorkov, who serves as VK’s director of partnership marketing, wrote on Nov. 5, 2016. While Scavino expressed interest in learning more at one point, it is unclear whether the campaign pursued the idea.”
Jobs jump but wages stay stagnant – Bloomberg
Zinke used taxpayer funds for helicopters for D.C.-area events – Politico
Feds probe major Dem donor Planned Parenthood for selling fetal tissue – Fox News
Cuomo phones it in, gets roasted by reporters – Politico
Study: How activist groups choose our candidates – Brookings Institution
Dina Powell to leave White House early next year – Axios
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This weekend, Chris Wallace welcomes United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, and Reps. Barbara Comstock R-Va. and Debbie Dingell D- Mich. to the show. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
AUDIBLE: STRANGE BEDFELLOWS, INDEED
“Franken didn’t have to resign, there was clearly no due process. But when you have everybody coming after you… that’s what he chose to do. But that’s really up to Franken and up to Moore, not up to the parties.” – Sen. Bill Cassidy R-La., to the WaPo.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“You say in Thursday’s newsletter that ‘In 2015, the WSJ/NBC News poll found that 49 percent of American adults held positive views of the FBI. By this time last year, just 37 percent felt the same way, with 28 percent going as far as to express negative views about the federal police.’ That’s not all because of Trump. I wonder if that negative view may have been rooted in the strange Comey TV performance in which he first seemed to be making a case against Hillary Clinton, and then whiffed by saying no prosecutor would have pursued charges. Might that not have had a little something to do with the public’s perception of the agency and its management? Most of us don’t know or speak to any field agents, so wouldn’t the public face of any agency tend to set the public perception?” – Rebecca Baisch, Idaho Falls, Idaho
[Ed. note: I am hardly stunned by the trend, Ms. Baisch. Even a cursory glance over history shows many instances where federal law enforcement officials failed in the execution of their duties. We mentioned the other day with the FBI did to Martin Luther King, what the Harding administration’s Justice Department did to cover up corruption and what the Nixon era IRS did to the president’s enemies. But we can also add names like Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge, Idaho. We still must hold to considerations in mind, however. First, it is appropriate to wonder whether federal police are biased. But second, it is reasonable to consider whether the critics of those beliefs have biases of their own. When talking about these subjects, restraint is essential and good-sized doses of salt don’t hurt either.]
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NEITHER LIGHT NOR SWEET
Boston Globe: “Former state senator Brian A. Joyce was charged in a federal indictment Friday with using his Senate office as a front to collect about $1 million in bribes and kickbacks that were laundered through his law firm, along with getting hundreds of pounds of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for free. The 102-page indictment charges Joyce with ‘honest services mail fraud’ for violating his oath of office, corruption, extortion, racketeering, and IRS charges including money laundering and embezzlement. … Joyce is also accused of collecting hundreds of pounds of coffee — along with $125,089 in ‘purported legal fees’ — from a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee. On one occasion in 2015, he collected 504 pounds of coffee, worth an estimated $4,278, for free, authorities allege.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.