Politico

MCCONNELL: Gov’t won’t shut down — TRUMP unleashes on Twitter: POTUS says people who lost money in stock market should SUE ABC — INSIDE the GRIDIRON DINNER — PETER BAKER A1: TRUMP’s whiplash presidency

Written by Lisa

KEEP YOUR HOLIDAY PLANS … MAYBE!: MCCONNELL PREDICTS NO SHUTDOWN: GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS speaks to SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL on ABC’S “THIS WEEK”: STEPHANOPOULOS: “Republicans have a majority in the House and the Senate. Can … you keep the government open on your own?” MCCONNELL: “Look there’s not going to be a government shutdown. It’s just not going to happen.”

THE BIG PICTURE: REMOVE THE BLUE BAG — PETER BAKER on A1 of the SUNDAY TIMES — “Wrenched From Scandal to Success, Trump Looks Ahead, and Over His Shoulder”: “The highs and lows of a presidency rarely come in such quick succession. But within hours, President Trump watched as one of his closest former aides pleaded guilty and promised to help prosecutors seek out more targets, then stayed up late to cheer on the Senate as it broke through months of gridlock to pass the largest tax cuts in years.

“Scandal and success in short order left the White House whipsawed and searching for a path forward that would generate more of the latter while knowing that the former is not going away anytime soon. Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to a felony on Friday, was the fourth person near Mr. Trump to be charged and few in Washington expect him to be the last.

“No president in modern times has faced such a major investigation so early in his term even as he was still seeking to establish his political footing, much less one with as little popular support in polls as Mr. Trump has. The challenge for Mr. Trump in the weeks to come will be how to press forward on his agenda without letting the ominous drumbeat of indictments and court hearings consume his presidency.” http://nyti.ms/2nq5Pvy

Good Sunday morning. WHAT’S ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 8:36 a.m.: “Report: ‘ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE’ Now it all starts to make sense!” … at 8:15 a.m.: “People who lost money when the Stock Market went down 350 points based on the False and Dishonest reporting of Brian Ross of @ABC News (he has been suspended), should consider hiring a lawyer and suing ABC for the damages this bad reporting has caused – many millions of dollars!”

… at 8 a.m.: “After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.” … at 7:42 a.m.: “Tainted (no, very dishonest?) FBI ‘agent’s role in Clinton probe under review.’ Led Clinton Email probe. @foxandfriends Clinton money going to wife of another FBI agent in charge.”

THE TRUMP TWEET EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT: @realDonaldTrump at 6:15 a.m.: “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”

— AP’S CALVIN WOODWARD and KEN THOMAS: “Trump shifted his story Saturday on why he fired Flynn, lumping in the retired Army lieutenant general’s lies to the FBI along with his untruthfulness with Vice President Mike Pence. The president’s initial explanation was that Flynn had to go because he hadn’t been straight with Pence about contacts with Russian officials. Lying to the FBI is a crime, and one that Flynn acknowledged Friday in pleading guilty and agreeing to cooperate with the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

“Trump tweeted Saturday: ‘I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!’ Amid questions raised by the tweet, Trump associates tried to put distance Saturday evening between the president himself and the tweet. One person familiar with the situation said the tweet was actually crafted by John Dowd, one of the president’s personal attorneys. Dowd declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press on Saturday night.” http://bit.ly/2zJrtN2

— JAKE TAPPER talks with SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA.) on CNN’S “STATE OF THE UNION”: TAPPER: “President Trump says he never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. As you know better than I, Comey testified under oath before your committee in June that President Trump did ask him to drop the investigation. Whom do you believe?” WARNER: “I believe FBI Director Comey. I think he was very credible in his testimony and his private meetings with us. And it’s not just Comey. You had — clearly, you had an attorney general who has had to recuse himself because of untold contacts with Russians. You had the president of the United States trying to intervene, as has been reported, with other national intelligence leaders, who he appointed, saying, could you back off?”

— TAPPER with SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-S.C.): TAPPER: “Your fellow senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, told CNN that he would urge President Trump to pledge to not pardon Michael Flynn. Do you agree with that?” SCOTT: “I do. At the end of the day, here’s what we know. We have to have a way to restore confidence of the American people in their elected officials and the leaders of this country. One way that you do that is by holding those folks who are, A, lying to the FBI, you hold those folks accountable, and, B, you have a process that is clear and transparent. When the Intel … Committee is finished, we will have the facts.”

NYT’S MIKE SCHMIDT, SHARON LAFRANIERE and SCOTT SHANE: “Emails Dispute White House Claims That Flynn Acted Independently on Russia”: “When President Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in February, White House officials portrayed him as a renegade who had acted independently in his discussions with a Russian official during the presidential transition and then lied to his colleagues about the interactions. But emails among top transition officials, provided or described to The New York Times, suggest that Mr. Flynn was far from a rogue actor.

“In fact, the emails, coupled with interviews and court documents filed on Friday, showed that Mr. Flynn was in close touch with other senior members of the Trump transition team both before and after he spoke with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, about American sanctions against Russia. While Mr. Trump has disparaged as a Democratic ‘hoax’ any claims that he or his aides had unusual interactions with Russian officials, the records suggest that the Trump transition team was intensely focused on improving relations with Moscow and was willing to intervene to pursue that goal despite a request from the Obama administration that it not sow confusion about official American policy before Mr. Trump took office.

On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr. Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump’s victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, ‘which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,’ she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times. It is not clear whether Ms. McFarland was saying she believed that the election had in fact been thrown. A White House lawyer said on Friday that she meant only that the Democrats were portraying it that way.” http://nyti.ms/2zIdyad

MORE RUSSIA TIES — “Operative Offered Trump Campaign ‘Kremlin Connection’ Using N.R.A. Ties,” by NYT’s Nick Fandos: “A conservative operative trumpeting his close ties to the National Rifle Association and Russia told a Trump campaign adviser last year that he could arrange a back-channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to an email sent to the Trump campaign.

“A May 2016 email to the campaign adviser, Rick Dearborn, bore the subject line ‘Kremlin Connection.’ In it, the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, 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, Ky., to make “first contact.” …

“‘Putin is deadly serious about building a good relationship with Mr. Trump,’ the N.R.A. member and conservative activist, Paul Erickson, wrote. ‘He wants to extend an invitation to Mr. Trump to visit him in the Kremlin before the election. Let’s talk through what has transpired and Senator Sessions’s advice on how to proceed.’” http://nyti.ms/2jaUxHa

WHAT AMERICA IS WAKING UP TO — BIRMINGHAM NEWS — “Will black voters turn out Dec. 12?” http://bit.ly/2iI8NtIDES MOINES REGISTER: “Despite warnings, few Iowa farmers face tax” http://bit.ly/2BCYFr3

KELLY FILES — “Trump Finds Loopholes in Chief of Staff’s New Regime,” by WSJ’s Mike Bender: “Chief of Staff John Kelly over the past five months has imposed discipline and rigorous protocols on a freewheeling White House. But President Donald Trump has found the loopholes. The president on occasion has called White House aides to the private residence in the evening, where he makes assignments and asks them not tell Mr. Kelly about the plans, according to several people familiar with the matter. At least once, aides have declined to carry out the requested task so as not to run afoul of Mr. Kelly, one of these people said.

“The president, who values counsel from an informal group of confidants outside the White House, also sometimes bypasses the normal scheduling for phone calls that give other White House staff, including Mr. Kelly, some control and influence over who the president talks to and when. Instead, some of his friends have taken to calling Melania Trump and asking her to pass messages to her husband, according to two people familiar with the matter. They say that since she arrived in the White House from New York in the summer, the first lady has taken on a more central role as a political adviser to the president. ‘If I don’t want to wait 24 hours for a call from the president, getting to Melania is much easier,’ one person said.” http://on.wsj.com/2Aocdsk

JOKES! — HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE CHAIRMAN CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS spoke at the Gridiron Dinner last night. What she said: “I know, it’s been a long evening already, but don’t try to leave early. Matt Lauer helped us with all the locks. … My dear friend Vice President Pence had a lot of fun at the spring dinner. I asked him once ‘Mike, if you could pick any color to be — what would you choose?’ And he said: ‘Definitely never nude!’ … Seriously, I am so proud of our work this Congress. Without the brave and steady hand of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, those 3 pieces of legislation would never have become law.”

— SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-ILL.) also at the Gridiron: “Look at us all here. My goodness. We’re all dressed like we’re getting a huge tax cut. … I actually just heard there’s another event like this at the White House tonight, but it’s not black tie. It’s orange jumpsuit. … Is Donald Trump’s next book going to be ‘The Art of the Plea Deal?’ … It used to be getting invited to speak at the Gridiron was the ultimate sign that you have made it in D.C. No offense, but now that ultimate sign is being mentioned in a Donald Trump tweet. As journalists, you have not arrived until you win Donald Trump’s ‘fake news’ trophy.

“Senators, for us, we have to wait until Donald Trump gives us an insulting nickname — Crooked Hillary, Little Marco, Lyin Ted. Seriously, Pocahontas? But what about me? What’s a girl gotta do to get some of Donald Trump’s attention? On second thought — don’t answer that. I’m Asian. I was born in a foreign country. I’m disabled. I’m a woman. And we know he doesn’t like people who were shot down. So I deserve an insensitive nickname, too. I may have some suggestions for our president.

“How about Not So Fly Girl? Peking Duckworth. Lame Duckworth. Tammy Duckworthless. Or maybe because of my bionic powers, Tammy Duckworth the $6 million woman — which might not sound like an insult, but remember, $6 million ain’t gonna get you in the Trump Cabinet. It’s barely enough to get you one of Paul Manafort’s suits. You can’t even take Mrs. Mnuchin on a date night with that.”

PAGE TURNER — COREY AND BOSSIE’S NEW BOOK — “Trump’s campaign: Big Macs, screaming fits and constant rivalries,” by WaPo’s Michael Kranish: “Elton John blares so loudly on Donald Trump’s campaign plane that staffers can’t hear themselves think. Press secretary Hope Hicks uses a steamer to press Trump’s pants — while he is still wearing them. Trump screams at his top aides, who are subjected to expletive-filled tirades in which they get their ‘face ripped off.’ And Trump’s appetite seems to know no bounds when it comes to McDonald’s, with a dinner order consisting of ‘two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted.’

“The scenes are among the most surreal passages in a forthcoming book chronicling Trump’s path to the presidency co-written by Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as Trump’s campaign manager, and David Bossie, another top aide. The book [is] ‘Let Trump Be Trump’ … ‘Sooner or later, everybody who works for Donald Trump will see a side of him that makes you wonder why you took a job with him in the first place,’ the authors wrote. ‘His wrath is never intended as any personal offense, but sometimes it can be hard not to take it that way. The mode that he switches into when things aren’t going his way can feel like an all-out assault; it’d break most hardened men and women into little pieces.’” http://wapo.st/2BtHBmw$17.70 on Amazon http://amzn.to/2jFW1Zq

IF YOU READ ONE THING – “Inside the secretive nerve center of the Mueller investigation,” by WaPo’s Bob Costa, Carol Leonnig and Josh Dawsey: “In the past two months, Mueller and his deputies have received private debriefs from two dozen current and former Trump advisers, each of whom has made the trek to the special counsel’s secure office suite. Once inside, most witnesses are seated in a windowless conference room where two- and three-person teams of FBI agents and prosecutors rotate in and out, pressing them for answers.

“Among the topics that have been of keen interest to investigators: how foreign government officials and their emissaries contacted Trump officials, as well as the actions and interplay of Flynn and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. Often listening in is the special counsel himself, a sphinx-like presence who sits quietly along the wall for portions of key interviews. … Meanwhile, some witnesses who have been interviewed came away with the impression that the probe is unfolding and far from over. …

“The volume of questions about Kushner in their interviews surprised some witnesses. ‘I remember specifically being asked about Jared a number of times,’ said one witness. … Some witnesses were introduced to so many federal agents and lawyers that they later lamented that they had largely forgotten many of their names by the time one team left the room and a new team entered. … People familiar with the Mueller team said they convey a sense of calm that is unsettling. ‘These guys are confident, impressive, pretty friendly — joking a little, even,’ one lawyer said. When prosecutors strike that kind of tone, he said, defense lawyers tend to think: ‘Uh oh, my guy is in a heap of trouble.’” http://wapo.st/2At793U

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CALIF.) talking with CHUCK TODD on NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS” about the Mueller investigation: “And, I think, what we’re beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice. I think we see this in the indictments, the four indictments and pleas that have just taken place, and some of the comments that are being made. I see it in the hyper-frenetic attitude of the White House: the comments every day, the continual tweets. And I see it, most importantly, in what happened with the firing of Director Comey and it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That’s obstruction of justice.”

ON THE WORLD STAGE — “Trump Boycotts U.N. Migration Talks: The White House’s ‘America First’ policy makers see little gain in setting the global rules for migration,” by Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch: “President Donald Trump has decided to boycott a global conference on migration scheduled to begin Monday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, sending a blunt signal that the United States is no longer interested in forging a concerted response to the world’s burgeoning migration crises.

“The U.S. president’s decision to pull out of the negotiations highlighted the enduring influence of Stephen Miller, the 32-year-old senior White House policy advisor who has championed the Trump administration’s effort to sharply restrict immigration to the United States. In recent weeks, Miller led efforts to pull out of the migration talks.

“White House chief of staff John Kelly, who previously led the Department of Homeland Security’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly backed a pullout, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the deliberations. The State Department initially opposed the withdrawal, but its policy planning chief, Brian Hook, who represented Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the principals’ meeting, reversed course and recommended ditching the negotiations. The meeting ended in deadlock, with Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, expressing the lone dissent. Haley had argued that the United States would have a better shot at influencing the outcome of the negotiations if it participated in the process.” http://atfp.co/2nkQFrs

THE LATEST IN ALABAMA — “Is Roy Moore winning? Don’t ask the pollsters,” by Steven Shepard: “Roy Moore appears to have inched back in front of Democrat Doug Jones in the latest Alabama Senate election polls, according to the oft-cited RealClearPolitics average — a change in fortune from mid-November, when sexual misconduct allegations against Moore first surfaced. The reality? No one really has a clue about where things stand with Alabama voters in the December 12 special election.

“For all the national attention and the millions of dollars spent to win the seat, there’s relatively little public polling in the contest. Only three public surveys in the average have been conducted since the Thanksgiving holiday, and odds are you’ve never heard of two of the three pollsters. And that’s precisely the problem. The most important and closely watched election in the nation is taking place in the equivalent of a polling black box.” http://politi.co/2ArzO9q

— “Jones rallies black voters to turn out against Moore: The Alabama Democrat visits Selma as he tries to charge up the African-American vote for the Senate race,” by Daniel Strauss in Selma: “Doug Jones’ hunt for votes took him over the Edmund Pettus Bridge and into Selma’s annual Christmas parade Saturday, seeking to energize his most important bloc of supporters in Alabama’s special Senate election: African-Americans. Jones’ visit to a civil rights movement landmark epitomized his strategy in the final days of the Alabama race. Jones simply cannot win without African-American voters flooding to the polls on December 12, when he faces scandal-plagued Republican Roy Moore and hopes to become the first Democrat in years to win a statewide race in Alabama. …

“[Y]ears of Democratic losses have weakened voter interest and atrophied the state party, which is also riven by conflict between the different factions that remain. That has forced Jones to build a coalition almost from scratch in the last few months, leading some to criticize Jones for starting black outreach too late.” http://politi.co/2zK7jCM

THE BATTLEFIELD — “Battle for the House: GOP targets Democrats in Trump districts,” by Elena Schneider: “When Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright woke up on Election Day 2016, he represented a safe blue Pennsylvania district. But by the time he went to sleep that night, Donald Trump had painted Cartwright’s turf red beneath his feet. Cartwright still won a third term, but Republicans hope to follow up on Trump’s top-of-the-ticket success by targeting Cartwright and 11 other House Democrats in Trump districts in 2018.

“A well-funded Republican jumped in to oppose Cartwright for the first time, while Cheri Bustos — the only Midwesterner in House Democratic leadership — has also drawn a stronger challenger than last year. Other Trump-district Democrats in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin are also top Republican targets, as are open seats in the Las Vegas suburbs and southern New Hampshire.

“Republicans are mostly on defense in the House of Representatives ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, with Democrats looking to erase the GOP’s 24-seat advantage and take back the majority. But Republicans are also confident they can pad their margin by picking off some Democrats in heavily white, blue-collar districts next fall, despite the political winds blowing against them elsewhere in the U.S. — and Democrats are relying on those members to learn the lessons of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss to avoid 2018 surprises.” http://politi.co/2zY33DQ

FASCINATING MCCONNELL QUOTE — “‘This is class warfare’: Tax vote sparks political brawl over populism that will carry into 2018 elections,” by WaPo’s Dave Weigel, Bob Costa and Paul Kane: “‘They tend not to be popular,’ Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), referring to bills passed with only one party’s support, told The Washington Post in an interview Saturday. ‘Generally speaking, in the beginning, people decide they don’t like it.’ The test for Republicans is whether they can convince voters that this legislation will put more money in their wallets — and the GOP leader is not sure whether they can do that in time for the 2018 elections. ‘We don’t know,’ McConnell said. But he said he thinks that in the long run, the economic boost will come and voters will eventually reward Republicans. ‘Whether it’s immediately popular or not becomes irrelevant if it does what you hope,’ he added.” http://wapo.st/2zKsi8w

SUNDAY BEST — CHRIS WALLACE talks to H.R. MCMASTER on “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: WALLACE: “Let me ask you about another personnel issue which bubbled up this week. White House officials are talking openly about a plan to replace Secretary of State Tillerson by January of the first anniversary of President Trump being sworn into office. The president and Secretary Tillerson pushed back on that hard. But, can you flatly deny that there is any plan in place to replace Secretary Tillerson over the next couple of months?” MCMASTER: “Yeah, I’m not aware of any plan at all. What I’m aware of is that the secretary of state is traveling today to advance and protect our interests, as is our secretary of defense.”

— JOHN DICKERSON talks with OMB DIRECTOR MICK MULVANEY on CBS’S “FACE THE NATION”: DICKERSON: “[L]et me ask you about the shutdown which might be coming. Government’s [going to] run out of money. Democrats wouldn’t meet with the president. What’s the status of things?” MULVANEY: “You know, it’s funny to see now that the Republicans are in charge I think there’s a group of right-wingers in the House who say they want to shut the government down. There’s a group of Democrats who want to shut the government down over DACA. And there’s a group of lawmakers from some of the hurricane states who want to shut the government down until they get what they want. This just sheds light on the fact that the spending system is broken when any little group can sort of hold the government hostage. We need to get beyond that. I think that we will. I don’t think you’ll see a government shutdown.”

DICKERSON: “People used to say that about you. You were in one of those little groups when you wanted to shut the government down for reasons. You’ve changed your stripes.” MULVANEY: “Well, all the more reason the system should be fixed. We don’t spend money properly in Washington, D.C. We jump these massive bills to massive bills. The government shut down I think, John, 17 times in 20 years between ’80 and ’94 or something like that.”

TV TONIGHT — On MSNBC’s “Kasie DC”: former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Jake Sherman, Shawna Thomas, Nick Confessore, Natasha Bertrand, Jeremy Bash, Ken Dilanian, Marin Cogan, Ben Schreckinger

YOU’RE INVITED — Our first live podcast taping next Thursday night (Dec. 7) at 7 p.m. at Sixth and I. Our inaugural guests: MICHAEL BARBARO, host of the New York Times’ hit podcast “The Daily,” DCCC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR DAN SENA and NRCC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR JOHN ROGERS. And a panel of POLITICO stars: RACHAEL BADE, SEUNG MIN KIM and ANNIE KARNI. Get your tickets now! http://bit.ly/2hWK7tF

SNL COLD OPEN – “White House Christmas Cold Open: President Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) is visited by the spirits of Michael Flynn (Mikey Day), Billy Bush (Alex Moffatt), Vladimir Putin (Beck Bennett) and Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon)” – FLYNN (in chains): “Donald J. Trump. Donald J. Trump.” … TRUMP: “You’ve come to get me, I knew it. It’s the Muslim stuff, right?” FLYNN: “No.” TRUMP: “It’s for calling Mexicans rapists?” FLYNN: “No.” TRUMP: “The Roy Moore stuff?” FLYNN: “No.” TRUMP: “Draft-dodging?” FLYNN: “No.” TRUMP: “The birther stuff?” FLYNN: “No.” TRUMP: “Pocahontas?” FLYNN: “No.” TRUMP: “The Central Park Five? No wait. Making fun of the handicapped reporter like this?” FLYNN: “No, sir. Sir. I’m not here for any of that.”

TRUMP: “Who are you? Jacob Marley? You’ve got a lot of chains on.” FLYNN: “No, I am Michael Flynn, the ghost of witness flipped. Mr. President, I came to warn you. It’s time to come clean for the good of the country.” TRUMP: “What the good of the?” FLYNN: “The good of the country.” TRUMP: “The goobadacomcom?” 6-min. video http://bit.ly/2AQvwLO

FOR YOUR RADAR — “Pentagon evaluating U.S. West Coast missile defense sites – officials,” by Reuters’ Mike Stone in Simi Valley, California: “The U.S. agency tasked with protecting the country from missile attacks is scouting the West Coast for places to deploy new anti-missile defenses, two Congressmen said on Saturday, as North Korea’s missile tests raise concerns about how the United States would defend itself from an attack. West Coast defenses would likely include Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missiles, similar to those deployed in South Korea to protect against a potential North Korean attack.” http://reut.rs/2AQRJti

MICHAEL GRUNWALD — “Trump Wants to Dismantle Elizabeth Warren’s Agency. Good Luck With That”: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now the star of a bizarre legal and bureaucratic drama, a Rome-versus-Avignon power struggle unfolding a block from the White House. The resignation of the bureau’s director, Richard Cordray, has created a soap-opera succession battle tailor-made for the frenzied Washington news cycle, with two dueling officials claiming his job and furious partisans arguing both sides.” http://politi.co/2ArktFR

HEALTH CARE FALLOUT — “GOP Medicaid work rules imperil care for opioid abusers,” by Rachana Pradhan and Brianna Ehley: “Red states ravaged by the opioid crisis are pushing for Medicaid work requirements that could push people out of treatment as they try to get off drugs. Kentucky, New Hampshire, Maine and Indiana are among at least eight GOP-led states seeking federal approval to require Medicaid enrollees to work as a precondition of their health coverage. All four states have been hard hit by drug addiction, which claims 140 lives a day nationally.

“Governors say they would exempt people with chronic drug problems or severe mental illness from the Medicaid work requirements, but who would qualify and under what circumstances hasn’t been spelled out. Critics fear that many addicts could lose benefits, particularly if they go in and out of treatment, or have relapsed — a not uncommon occurrence. Employers’ resistance to hiring people who have failed drug tests or have criminal records could also put health benefits at risk.” http://politi.co/2npdwCk

MEDIAWATCH — “ABC News suspends Brian Ross for 4 weeks over erroneous Flynn story,” by CNN’s Oliver Darcy: “ABC News announced Saturday that it has suspended investigative reporter Brian Ross for four weeks without pay after Ross was forced to correct a bombshell on-air report about Michael Flynn. ‘We deeply regret and apologize for the serious error we made [Friday]. The reporting conveyed by Brian Ross during the special report had not been fully vetted through our editorial standards process,’ ABC said in a statement. ‘As a result of our continued reporting over the next several hours ultimately we determined the information was wrong and we corrected the mistake on air and online.’ ‘It is vital we get the story right and retain the trust we have built with our audience — these are our core principles,’ the statement added. ‘We fell far short of that [Friday].’” http://cnnmon.ie/2ADn4iu

–@BrianRoss: “My job is to hold people accountable and that’s why I agree with being held accountable myself.”

BONUS GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman:

— “The Lost Genocide,” by Doug Bock Clark in Longreads: “One [Rohingya] survivor described watching an attack on the town’s elderly religious leader as he was being carried from the flaming village on his son’s back. Soldiers knocked the son down, and then four of them grabbed the imam by his limb. They rocked back and forth to start the old man swinging and then hurled him into the inferno.” http://bit.ly/2jE2Ri5

— “The Recruiters: Searching For The Next Generation Of Warfighters In A Divided America,” by Adam Linehan in Task and Purpose – per TheBrowser.com’s description: “To join the US Army you need good physical and mental health, no tattoos on face or hands, a high-school diploma and a clean police record. Only 29% of Americans in the 17-24 age group meet those criteria. It’s easiest to recruit in the south and west around military bases where the army is familiar, hardest in the north and east. Since the draft ended in 1973, recruiting has become ‘one of the most important jobs in the military’. Here’s how the Army goes about it.” http://bit.ly/2AzKGo8

— “A Mother’s Ninth-Century Manual on How to Be a Man,” by Edward White in the Paris Review: “Dhuoda’s book outlines the subjects that should most concern a man of high birth, such as how to pray and read the Bible; how to distinguish vice from virtue; how best to honor his parents; how to serve God and the Crown; how to handle illness, affliction, and hardship. The Liber Manualis beguiles with its intimacy and exquisite intricacy, a glittering portal to a culture that can seem entirely alien from our own.” http://bit.ly/2zHCdLT

— “The Refugee Scandal on the Island of Lesbos,” by Giorgos Christides and Katrin Kuntz in Der Spiegel: “Those wishing to visit ground zero of European ignominy must simply drive up an olive tree-covered hill on the island of Lesbos until the high cement walls of Camp Moria come into view. The dreadful stench of urine and garbage greets visitors and the ground is covered with hundreds of plastic bags. Inside, you see containers meant for six people packed with 14, overflowing toilets and garbage bins that nobody empties with mothers changing their babies’ diapers right next to them.” http://bit.ly/2A7o51O

— “The Conflict in Yemen: A Primer,” by Clare Duncan in Lawfare: “The war is at a stalemate. There are functionally two governments: the Houthis in Sanaa, and Hadi in Aden. Yemenis are facing famine, primarily the consequence of a blockade by the Saudi-led coalition. For decades, Yemen has relied on imports for around 90 percent of its food needs, and the Saudi blockade—meant to prevent arms shipments to the Houthis—has cut off Yemenis’ access to food, along with medicine, fuel, and other humanitarian aid.” http://bit.ly/2AOvLH1

— “Understand and Survive in a Chinese Office,” by Qianwei Zhang on Medium: “Despite the fact that Chinese people are more and more open to outside influence, and economic opportunities have encouraged them to pursue individuality and freedom, deep down, they are still the sons and daughters of Confucius who were taught to respect collective interest and bow to the man above your rank.” http://bit.ly/2iDzekz

— “The Christian Legal Army Behind ‘Masterpiece Cakeshop’: A special investigation into the rise of Alliance Defending Freedom,” by Sarah Posner in the Nation: “The organization, which once aspired to be merely a Christian antidote to the secular ACLU, has fast become a training ground for future legislators, judges, prosecutors, attorneys general, and other government lawyers—including, notably, in the Trump administration.” http://bit.ly/2hXmwZO

— “What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?” by Claire Dederer in the Paris Review: “The real question is this: can I love the art but hate the artist? Can you? When I say we, I mean I. I mean you.” http://bit.ly/2zY33Aq

— “‘A tale of decay’: the Houses of Parliament are falling down,” by Charlotte Higgins in the Guardian: “As politicians dither over repairs, the risk of fire, flood or a deluge of sewage only increases. But fixing the Palace of Westminster might change British politics for good – which is the last thing many of its residents want.” http://bit.ly/2j71vg5

— “Terry McAuliffe’s Dead-Serious Advice For Democrats: Have Fun!” by BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer: “Terry McAuliffe spent 35 years chasing checks from donors, raising millions for Democrats, amassing success and scandal, befriending the Clintons, and earning legendary political status as the high-energy, fun-loving fundraiser known as ‘the Macker.’ Now he’s a governor with a serious record, in a state where Democrats just won big. So what’s changed about him? As it turns out, not much.” http://bzfd.it/2AlUz8w

— “Trump Tower’s Murky History and Murkier Future: Slumping Sales, Pentagon Leases, and Shadowy L.L.C.S,” by Suzanna Andrews in Vanity Fair: “Once home to celebrities like Bruce Willis and Michael Jackson, apartments in Trump Tower are now frequently owned by shadowy L.L.C.s—and even a few criminals. With security up and sales slumping, what does the future hold for the Trump Organization’s flagship property?” http://bit.ly/2zKEdTu

— “Walter Isaacson: Why I Left DC” – Washingtonian: “After years among the capital’s elite, an establishment fixture decides to return home.” http://bit.ly/2izrNuB

— “The case for normalizing impeachment,” by Vox’s Ezra Klein: “Impeaching an unfit president has consequences. But leaving one in office could be worse.” http://bit.ly/2i2W2Gd

— “Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?” by Edward Jay Epstein in the Feb. 1982 issue of the Atlantic: “An unruly market may undo the work of a giant cartel and of an inspired, decades-long ad campaign.” http://theatln.tc/2pkf2ml (h/t Longform.org)

— “22 Crushes,” by Davy Rothbart in California Sunday magazine: “Seeing the names [in a journal] again after so long transfixed me. There was Heidi, who rode the same bus as I did every day in junior high. Tara, whom I met at the neighborhood pool. Abby, a cellist. Colleen from gym class. And Allison, who shared my love for the Detroit Tigers.” http://bit.ly/2BkB0uy

SPOTTED: Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) in downtown Middleburg yesterday on Main Street before the “Christmas in Middleburg” parade … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on a 9 a.m. DCA flight on Saturday to Louisville, sitting in first class.

REMEMBERING LES WHITTEN – WaPo’s Harrison Smith: “Les Whitten, an investigative reporter whose skill at cultivating government sources and securing secret documents — sometimes through threats or the use of a paid private investigator — made him a top legman of muckraker Jack Anderson and an enemy of President Richard M. Nixon, died Dec. 2 at an assisted-living community in Adelphi, Md. He was 89. … A self-described ‘swashbuckler,’ Mr. Whitten was an aspiring novelist who covered wars in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam before joining the staff of the country’s most popular daily news column, the Washington Merry-Go-Round, in 1969.” http://wapo.st/2Alr1ro

WEEKEND WEDDINGS — Romney Ramblers wedding – Pool report: “CNN’s Rachel Streitfeld and DHS’s Tim Runfola exchanged hand-written vows Saturday night at the Texas Discovery Gardens in Dallas, beneath the 212-foot Texas Star Ferris wheel. The couple danced the night away to a 10-piece band while guests enjoyed a roving poet, artisanal cotton candy and other Texas treats. Rachel’s mom, former Dallas KXAS-TV anchor Carolyn Raiser, distributed cowboy hats to guests on the dance floor.” Instapics http://bit.ly/2BBfv9zhttp://bit.ly/2BvgNSO

SPOTTED: former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker — great uncle of the bride, Kasie Hunt (bridesmaid in pomegranate) and Matt Rivera, Reid Epstein, Ashley Parker and Mike Bender, Sara Murray and Garrett Haake, Phil Rucker, Chris Laible (in from Beijing), Holly Bailey, Eric Thayer, Jo Ling Kent and Scott Conroy, Nicole Busch, Michael Falcone, Zain Asher and Steve Peoples, Shawna Shepherd and Craig Minassian, and Rachel’s CNN crew: Matt Hoye and Melissa Junior, Rob Yoon, Bonney Kapp, Abigail Crutchfield, Kevin Bohn, Laura Bernardini and Marlena (Baldacci) Militana.

— ADAM WOLF, deputy chief of staff to Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), married ANNIE MINKLER of the Rules Committee.

SPOTTED at Christopher Bedford’s annual Christmas party last night: Amanda Lee House, Heather Swift, Nika Nour, Vince Coglianese, Melissa Brown, Ryan Coyne, Saagar Enjeti and Katie Watson, Sarah Westwood, Gabby Morrongiello, Francesca Chambers and Michael Moroney, Ben Jenkins, Peter Doocy, Alex Pfeiffer, Al Weaver, Asawin Suebsaeng, Lachlan Markay and Anna Massoglia, Steve Guest, Matt Gorman, Tommy Schultz and Ashley Harvey, Matt Wolking, Nihal Krishan, Tina Nguyen, Robbie Myers, Alex Pappas.

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Deb Haaland, running for Congress in New Mexico

BIRTHDAYS: Robby Mook … Jesse Lee … Politico Florida’s Bruce Ritchie … Eleanor Schiff … Mike Inacay, Sen. Brian Schatz’s comms director … Katelyn Rieley Johnson … Ali Zelenko, SVP of NBC News PR (hat tip: Erika Masonhall) … WaPo’s Scott Higham … Jacqueline Quasney … Elizabeth Edelman, VP of strategy and biz development at Global Citizen and a Romney alum … Bill Sternberg, editorial page editor of USA Today, is 61 … Jamie Carroll … Jamie Sherman … Margaret Mulkerrin, a press assistant for Whip Hoyer … NYT biz reporter Diane Cardwell … Angelica Brantley … Kevin Baron, executive editor of Defense One … Aron Goldman is 47 … Robert Pondiscio … Cody Sanders, former Luther Strange staffer who joined the White House in November as a presidential writer. “What he knows for sure is that Alabama fans care about Alabama football, Auburn fans care about Auburn. War Eagle!” (h/t Nicole Schiegg) … Lance Trover, a Bruce Rauner and NRSC alum …

… Bill Tighe, VP of federal government affairs at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, is 4-0 … Laura Howard of Sentinel Strategic Advisors (h/ts Matt Gorman and Remy) … Katherine Klein, vice dean of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative and professor of management (h/t Jon Haber) … Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) is 59 … Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.) is 82 … Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is 67 … former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandler (D-SD) is 47 … Danielle Filson of Uber … Matthew Flaherty … Mandi Critchfield, comms. director for Senate Banking Committee … Neal Ungerleider … CQ-Roll Call VP David Meyers … Lance Trover … Let Freedom Ring USA president Colin Hanna … Chris Kelaher … Rich McFadden … Miles Doran, producer for “CBS This Morning” … Tom Oppel … John Toohey … Greg Everts … Francie Phelps (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

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