THE BIG IDEA: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is widely expected to announce his resignation Thursday after more than half of his Democratic colleagues, led by a group of women, called on him to step down. A Democratic official who has spoken to the senator and key aides told Minnesota Public Radio that he will resign, though his office says no final decision has been made.
The willingness of female lawmakers to directly confront their friend, when many men still seemed content to let a Senate Ethics Committee investigation run its natural course, will offer a helpful data point for female candidates to make the case in 2018 that there needs to be more women on Capitol Hill.
— Franken’s apparent downfall, which comes as President Trump and the Republican National Committee rally behind Roy Moore in Alabama, reflects the degree to which women have more clout in the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. Of the 21 women serving in the Senate, 16 are Democrats and just five are Republicans. Women still account for less than 1 in 5 of the representatives in the House, and there are three times as many Democratic women (62) as Republican women (21).
That differential might help explain why Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) has accepted no culpability for an $84,000 taxpayer-funded settlement with a former staffer who alleged that he made inappropriate sexual remarks. He said he will reimburse the Treasury with his own money, but GOP leaders aren’t trying to push him out.
The first House Democrat to call for Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to resign criticized her Republican colleagues for this:
Has a single House Republican called on Rep. Blake Farenthold to resign? Anyone? https://t.co/iq5901kzsT
— Kathleen Rice (@RepKathleenRice) December 6, 2017
— The floodgates in the Senate opened yesterday after a seventh woman accused Franken of sexual harassment. The first allegation came three weeks ago, when Los Angeles broadcaster Leeann Tweeden said that he forcibly kissed her during a USO tour in 2006. Inspired by the #MeToo movement, she shared this picture that Franken took while she slept on the flight home:
— Leeann Tweeden (@LeeannTweeden) November 16, 2017
Others have since accused Franken of groping them while posing for pictures, including at the Minnesota State Fair. On Wednesday, Politico quoted a former Democratic congressional aide anonymously accusing Franken of trying to kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006. She said she was in her mid-20s at the time, and he pursued her after her boss had left the studio. “It’s my right as an entertainer,” she alleged that he told her. Franken categorically denied the allegation: “The idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous.”
A few hours later, in a first-person piece for the Atlantic, liberal writer Tina Dupuy accused Franken of groping her in 2009 during a Media Matters party after Barack Obama’s first inauguration.
— By then, several of Franken’s Democratic colleagues had publicly called on him to resign.
The first was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who had dodged when asked a day earlier. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay, none of it is acceptable,” she said. “We as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard, and we should fundamentally be valuing women.”
Others who soon followed included Sens. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), as well as Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington State. They were joined by male colleagues, including Sens. Joe Donnelly, Robert Casey and Sherrod Brown – who are up for reelection in states Trump carried next year. DNC Chairman Tom Perez urged Franken to resign later in the day.
The female Democratic senators have been discussing among themselves whether to call for Franken’s resignation for weeks – on the Senate floor and “even in the ladies’ room,”Elise Viebeck, Ed O’Keefe and Karen Tumulty report. “Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who has served in the Senate longer than most of her female colleagues, said it was ‘significant that the women on his side of the aisle led the way’ …
“Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had stood by his friend in the wake of the allegations, called Franken after the Politico story broke early Wednesday and told him directly he had to resign, according to a person familiar with the call … Schumer also met with Franken and his wife at the leader’s apartment early afternoon to discuss resigning. The session ended without a firm commitment from Franken to do so…”
— We’re witnessing a major cultural shift in real time. Last week, it was increasingly glaring that male politicians were being held less accountable for alleged misconduct than their male counterparts in media and entertainment.
Embarrassed by this, the reckoning among Democrats has come quickly. The calls for Franken to go came one day after Conyers, the dean of the House, resigned in disgrace and a few hours after Time Magazine announced it named the women who have come forward to talk about sexual harassment as the people of the year.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi got a lot of heat for her initially soft treatment of Conyers, who she called “an icon” after the first allegations surfaced. She’s tried to compensate for that by taking a hardline since then. Asked about Franken yesterday, she told reporters: “I’m very proud of the fact that people are taking this matter head on and are trusting women who come forward [and] what they have to say.”
Elizabeth Warren, who called on Franken to resign yesterday, ducked when Stephen Colbert asked about it two weeks ago. “I was just enormously disappointed about this,” the Massachusetts senator said then. “I knew Senator Franken long before he was Senator Franken, and his wife, Franny. These allegations are serious, and women have a right to be heard and listened to on this. Al is going to be subjected to a hearing in the Unites States Senate […] and he’s going to go in and answer.”
Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said last week on CNN that Franken deserved “due process”: “Al Franken has acknowledged what he did was wrong, and it was wrong. He has also submitted his whole case to the Senate Ethics Committee. I think that was the right thing to do. Let’s have a hearing, an investigation. Let’s let this really reach whatever conclusion it is going to reach, but through a due process.”
Yesterday, the Illinoisan changed his tune: “Senator Franken’s conduct was wrong. He has admitted to it. And he should resign from the Senate.”
Al Franken speaks to journalists outside his office last month. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
— To be sure, political considerations were a factor: Democrats want a clear contrast with Republicans, many of whom have now rallied behind both Trump and Moore after initially calling credible accusations of sexual misconduct against them unacceptable.
Mike Huckabee, the father of the White House press secretary, said Tuesday on Fox News, “If Al Franken is in the Senate, if John Conyers and others are staying, then why not have Roy Moore?” I heard several variations of the same line when I interviewed 20 women at a Moore rally in Alabama on Tuesday night.
Assuming Franken goes, this talking point will no longer be operative. That will make it easier for Democrats to tie Moore and Trump like anchors to every Republican incumbent running for reelection. As the longtime conservative radio host Charlie Sykes put it:
Actually surprised at the number of Dems who don’t seem to realize the significance of Franken/Conyers resignations. Right now GOP/Moore/Trump hiding behind whataboutism. This strips them of that excuse. They go into 2018 exposed.
— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) December 6, 2017
“All things being equal, the Republican Party has set itself up for a wave election in 2018,” GOP strategist Rick Tyler, who had top roles on Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign in 2016 and Newt Gingrich’s in 2012, told the Hill. “The seduction is now complete. The GOP made a deal with the devil back in 2016 — the problem with making a deal with the devil is that the devil is always going to change the terms. The deal now has been changed to where the Republican Party is endorsing accused child molesters for public office. And I think that may be irreparable.”
What Franken stands accused of, while abhorrent, is arguably less serious than what both Conyers and Moore allegedly did. Conyers is accused of propositioning staffers who worked for him. Multiple women have come forward to say Moore, as a prosecutor in his 30s, aggressively pursued relationships with them when they were minors. Both Conyers and Moore categorically deny wrongdoing.
— Another consideration: Democratic voters are less permissive of sexual misconduct than the Republican rank and file. A national Quinnipiac University poll published yesterday asked whether a lawmaker facing multiple sexual harassment accusations should resign: Only 51 percent of Republicans said yes, but 77 percent of Democrats did.
— The calls for Franken to resign create a significant precedent. If the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and a darling of the progressive movement cannot survive, how does Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.)? The freshman, accused of making inappropriate advances toward his campaign fundraiser, is trying to resist pressure from party leaders to step down.
— The women of the Senate hope Franken’s resignation will pave the way for an actual culture change — rather than a return to business as usual. Paul Kane writes: “More than 125 women now serve in Congress. Thousands more work here as staffers. Most want fundamental change. They want misbehavior and inappropriate advances to be recognized immediately as outside the bounds. They want to be able to raise concerns immediately without fear of repercussion. They want the suppression of stories of misconduct to become a relic of the past. Most of all, they want this latest period of reckoning to not give way to the same old behavior in years to come.”
— A House panel today will scrutinize the secrecy surrounding sexual harassment complaints in Congress. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Elise Viebeck report: “Issues with the 20-year-old Congressional Accountability Act, which sets up Congress’s process for handling complaints, will come into focus Thursday at [the hearing]. Several members have proposed bills that would rewrite parts of the law, responding to a public outcry over sexual harassment and use of taxpayer funds in resolving complaints. … Democratic lawmakers are debating provisions in a wide-ranging bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), that aims to increase transparency, including by making public the names of member offices that reach settlements and requiring lawmakers to pay settlements out of their own pockets.”
John Conyers III poses in 2011 with his father, ex-Rep. John Conyers, in Detroit. (Ricardo Thomas/Detroit News via AP)
— One of the women who accused Conyers of sexual misconduct says that after she rejected his advances,the Michigan Democrat brought up slain federal intern Chandra Levy. “He said he had insider information on the case. I don’t know if he meant it to be threatening, but I took it that way,” said Courtney Morse, who was then a 20-year-old intern in his office. “I got out of the car and ran.” She says she quit the very next day. (Kimberly Kindy)
— John Conyers III, the lawmaker’s son who is running to succeed him, was arrested in Los Angeles earlier this year on suspicion of domestic violence, but prosecutors declined to charge him.From NBC News: “The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office cited a ‘lack of independent witnesses’ and concluded that it ‘could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim’s injury was not accidentally sustained’ while Conyers was disarming her, according to case paperwork. In addition, prosecutors said the victim had no visible injuries beyond a small stab wound to a lower biceps and no other independent witnesses to what she described as earlier pushing and shoving by Conyers III. Conyers was arrested on Feb. 15 … after the woman called police.”
The 27-year-old Conyers told the New York Times the woman pulled a knife on him during an argument and that “she cut herself” as they struggled. “I apologize, and I am regretful for any part I played in escalating the altercation,” he said.
— Matt Lauer’s father-in-law says his daughter, the former model Annette Roque, plans to divorce the disgraced television host. “She is not going to stay with him and work it out. They are not together trying to work it out,” Henri Roque, 76, told Page Six. They have been married since 1998 and have three children together.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— Ferocious wildfires continued to ravage Southern California — tearing across cliffs, roaring down mountainsides and forcing tens of thousands to flee with only moments of notice. In total, some 100,000 acres have burned.Scott Wilson, Mark Berman and Eli Rosenberg report: “In Ventura, the Thomas Fire burned across 90,000 acres on Wednesday, spreading through an area larger than the city of Detroit. Officials there said they had evacuated more than 50,000 people from 15,000 homes. . . . Los Angeles County faced comparatively smaller blazes in the Rye and Creek fires, both of which erupted Tuesday north of downtown Los Angeles. [Meanwhile], a new blaze, known as the Skirball Fire, began on Wednesday in Bel Air, temporarily shutting down Interstate 405 — one of the country’s busiest freeways — and forcing the evacuation of 1,200 homes across the posh hillside neighborhoods near the [UCLA] campus. . . .
“The scenes of areas around the fires in Los Angeles brought to mind the horror of a disaster film. Day appeared as night along the coast, the smoke-masked sun casting a deep red light into the sky. Massive flames rolled down chaparral-covered cliffs toward Highway 101 from Santa Barbara north to Ventura. On the 405 highway near the J. Paul Getty Museum, videos taken from cars passing through showed a hellscape of fire and darkness: black hillsides covered in smoke and burning embers. Palm trees, a symbol of the region’s laid-back lifestyle, went up in flames.”
— Perspective: The Thomas Fire, the largest of the blazes, burned through Ventura County at a rate of nearly an acre per second. The fire is also four times the size of Manhattan — and, at its current speed, would be capable of burning through Central Park in 15 minutes. (CNN)
— One resident shared this startling footage of his morning commute near the Skirball Fire. He said the scariest part was the heat: “It felt like driving into the sun.”
— Rick Patrick (@70sspacepunk) December 6, 2017
— From an L.A. Times photographer:
— Wally Skalij (@WallySkalij) December 6, 2017
GET SMART FAST:
- A North Korean spokesman said a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula is a matter of when, not if. “We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it,” the spokesman said. “And should the U.S. miscalculate our patience and light the fuse for a nuclear war, we will surely make the U.S. dearly pay the consequences with our mighty nuclear force which we have consistently strengthened.” (AP)
- U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said she considers it an “open question” whether American athletes will be able to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Haley described the situation with North Korea as “changing by the day.” (CNN)
- A gay man who was denied a marriage license in Kentucky by county clerk Kim Davis is now running for her seat. Two years ago, she told David Ermold and his partner that “God’s authority” prohibited her from complying with the Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. (Chicago Tribune)
- Justin Jouvenal traveled to Kentucky to probe why Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was attacked by his neighbor. Despite numerous conspiracy theories on the case, Jouvenal’s interviews and research revealed “only the type of small-time neighborly conflict that has vexed many a suburban relationship.”
- Clarence Thomas’s wife presented an award to conservative activist James O’Keefe at Trump’s D.C. hotel. O’Keefe’s organization, Project Veritas, made headlines last month for a failed sting meant to trick Post reporters into publishing a fake story about Roy Moore. (The Hill)
- Scientists studying climate change models found the most accurate simulations were also the ones that predicted the most dire levels of human-driven global warming. Their newly published research adds to a growing body of bad news on how human activity is changing Earth’s climate. (Chris Mooney)
- The share of wealth owned by America’s top 1 percent of households has reached 40 percent, according to a new paper. The richest Americans now own more wealth than at any other point in the past 50 years. (Christopher Ingraham)
- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell signed a new five-year contract extension. The extension runs through 2024 and grants him a massive salary that could reach upward of nearly $40 million per year. (Mark Maske)
- An elite private hospital in New Delhi is facing scrutiny after a baby it delivered was declared dead — and then woke up on the way to his own funeral. The infant lived for an additional five days before dying again, putting the family though intense grief and prompting questions over whether his death was preventable. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- The mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi” was revealed to be a little-known Saudi prince. Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud purchased the painting for a record $450.3 million last month. (The New York Times)
Donald Trump Jr. attends the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. (Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
— Donald Trump Jr. met behind closed doors with members of the House Intelligence Committee for nearly seven hours to face questions about his Russian contacts— including the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer and his direct interactions with WikiLeaks several months later.Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “Trump Jr. told the committee that he had not informed his father about his meeting with the Russian lawyer … [or] that he exchanged private messages with the WikiLeaks Twitter account . . . Trump Jr. told the committee that he did not speak to the president directly in July 2017 as the New York Times prepared to report his meeting with the Russian lawyer for the first time. Instead, he told the committee he had communicated only with [White House communications director Hope Hicks] to discuss how to respond to the Times’s inquiries.”
Trump Jr. told lawmakers that he didn’t discuss the sit-down with his father until “several days” after the news broke publicly, according to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). The first son refused to provide any details of that conversation. He said they had a lawyer present so that it would be protected by “attorney-client privilege.”
— The transcript of Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s congressional testimony revealed that the Trump supporter spoke to a close Putin associate about trade and terrorism during a meeting in the Seychelles earlier this year. Karoun Demirjian and Adam Entous report: “Prince told investigators last week that Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, told him during the Jan. 11 meeting that ‘he wished trade would resume with the United States in a normal way.’ Prince responded by telling Dmitriev that ‘if Franklin Roosevelt could work with Josef Stalin to defeat Nazi fascism, certainly the United States could work with Vladimir Putin to defeat Islamic fascism.’ The meeting in the Seychelles has drawn scrutiny as one of several interactions Trump associates had with Russian officials during the presidential campaign and transition.”
Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner confer at the White House earlier this year. (Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency)
— As Trump was formally inaugurated on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in January, Michael Flynn sent a text message to a former business partner to assure him that a plan to build two dozen nuclear reactors across the Middle East was “good to go,” according to a witness who spoke with congressional investigators. Tom Hamburger reports:
- “Flynn had assured his former associate that U.S. sanctions against Russia would immediately be ‘ripped up’ by the Trump administration, a move that would help facilitate the deal, the associate told the witness. The witness provided the account to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who detailed the allegations in a letter Wednesday to the panel’s chairman[.]”
- “[The] witness said he met Alex Copson, Flynn’s former business associate, at an inaugural event. Copson is the managing director of ACU Strategic Partners, a Washington-based company that Flynn said he advised [through] June 2016 … The witness [said] Copson shared a text message he had just received from Flynn … ‘Mike has been putting everything in place for us,’ Copson said, according to the witness[.]”
- “The whistleblower said Copson gushed that Trump’s inauguration was ‘the best day of my life’because it meant his company’s effort to create a U.S.-Russia energy partnership in the Middle East … was moving forward,”Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports.
— Republican lawmakers and pundits are upping their attacks on Robert Mueller’s probe. Devlin Barrett and Sean Sullivan report: “Several law enforcement officials said they are concerned that the constant drumbeat of conservative criticism seems designed to erode Mueller’s credibility, making it more politically palatable to remove, restrict or simply ignore his recommendations as his investigation progresses. Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity, one of the president’s informal advisers as well as one of his most vociferous defenders, on Tuesday night called Mueller ‘a disgrace to the American justice system’’ and said his team is “corrupt, abusively biased and political.’ Several conservative lawmakers held a news conference Wednesday demanding more details of how the FBI proceeded last year in its probes of Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email and Russian election interference. This week, the conservative group Judicial Watch released an internal Justice Department email that, the group said, showed political bias against Trump by one of Mueller’s senior prosecutors.”
— Air cover: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – the man ultimately responsible for the appointment of the special counsel — told reporters he is satisfied with Mueller’s work. “When we conduct criminal investigations . . . we don’t talk about the investigation while it’s ongoing,” he said . . . “So what the American people will see is only if and when a case is charged. And there are several cases that have been charged to date.” (NBC)
— Meanwhile in Moscow, Vladimir Putin announced that he will seek a fourth term as Russia’s president, effectively guaranteeing the Russian strongman another six years in power. “I’m sure it will work out well for us,” a thinly smiling Putin assured the crowd. This will make him the second-longest serving leader in the post-imperial Kremlin, following only Joseph Stalin. (David Filipov and Andrew Roth)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
— Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — keeping a campaign promise, reversing decades of U.S. policy anddefying warnings from Middle East leaders — even as he continued to emphasize his commitment to brokering a peace agreement.David Nakamura reports: “In a midday speech at the White House, Trump … argued that an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians has remained elusive for more than two decades even as his predecessors declined to recognize the contested Holy City as Israel’s capital. Trump added that ‘it’s folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula will produce a different or better result.’”
- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Trump’s announcement a “declaration of withdraw” by the United States from the peace process.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a historic day” and said his nation is “profoundly grateful” for Trump’s “courageous and just decision.”
— Inside Trump’s head: For months, the president was determined to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem — and spent the past several weeks hearing entreaties both for and against the move. Josh Dawsey, Missy Ryan and Karen DeYoung report: “The decision to shake off warnings from senior officials such as [Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis] and align himself instead with prominent proponents of the move … underscored the president’s determination to break with past policy and keep a key campaign pledge . . . [Jared Kushner] had supported the move from early in Trump’s candidacy, and [Mike] Pence, who is to visit Israel this month, told Trump that his base would love the decision, something the president liked to hear. An important outside voice advising Trump to make the leap was [Sheldon] Adelson’s[.] … At a White House dinner earlier this year, Adelson made the issue a main topic, one person said … [and] periodically asked others close to Trump what was causing the delay and expressed frustration[.]”
— Trump’s announcement earned both praise and alarm from American Jews — who are debating whether it will help or hurt Israel. The New York Times’s Laurie Goodstein reports: “[Trump’s announcement] went down with those on the political right, who have urged the step for years. But other Jewish leaders said they were more worried than glad, fearing that the precipitous step would inflame tensions in the region, provoke more terrorism, [hurt peace efforts], and worsen the diplomatic isolation of both Israel and the United States. They say they wish he had held off, as previous presidents have done[.]”
BREAKING: Hamas leader calls for new uprising against Israel in wake of US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
— The Associated Press (@AP) December 7, 2017
— The State Department has issued a “worldwide caution” for Americans traveling abroad.
— As Trump readied to make his move, the State Department set up an emergency task force to deal with the fallout — which has already prompted protests at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.Josh Rogin reports: “The State Department’s executive secretariat and bureau of Near East affairs stood up the task force [Wednesday afternoon] ‘to track worldwide developments … The task force will include participation from State’s bureaus dealing with diplomatic security, consular affairs, public and legislative affairs and others. [State Department officials] … told me such a move is typically made to address a security concern or when American lives can be in danger. Examples of past task forces include the Japanese and Haiti earthquakes, the Kenyan elections and the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.”
— Ahead of his meeting today with congressional leadership, Trump once again raised fears of a shutdown. “It could happen,” Trump said. “The Democrats are really looking at something that is very dangerous for our country. … They want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime, tremendous amounts of crime. … We don’t want to have that. We want to have a great, beautiful, crime-free country.” (Mike DeBonis)
— But House Freedom Caucus members appear to have backed down from opposition to a stopgap spending bill, easing the actual possibility of a shutdown. Mike reports: “By the end of [Wednesday], both House leaders and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the Freedom Caucus chairman, predicted Republicans would be able to pass the stopgap Thursday before lawmakers leave town for the weekend. ‘No one wants a shutdown, including Freedom Caucus members,’ Meadows said. The Senate, meanwhile, is expected to take the House bill and pass it quickly Thursday or Friday.”
— Meanwhile, some House Republicans want to raise the debt ceiling in the next long-term spending bill. The Wall Street Journal’s Kristina Peterson and Kate Davidson report: “GOP leaders are likely to seek to raise the debt limit enough to last at least through next November’s midterm elections, lawmakers and aides said. They will have to act, likely by March, to avoid a default. … It could be a particularly difficult vote to cast for House Republicans facing conservative challengers in their primary elections next year. … House GOP aides said the idea of attaching a debt-limit increase to the next long-term spending bill hasn’t yet been debated among the most senior House GOP leaders[.] … But some lawmakers said they would prefer to deal with the debt limit before any procrastinating starts to rattle debt markets worried about a possible default.”
CONGRESS MOVES TO WEAKEN GUN LAWS AFTER MASS SHOOTINGS:
— A bill allowing gun owners to carry concealed firearms across state lines passed the House, but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Katie Zezima reports: “The bill, which the National Rifle Association has called its ‘highest legislative priority,’ passed 231 to 198. … It was linked this week with legislation to improve the national background-check system for gun purchases, a measure that has rare bipartisan consensus. … In the Senate, Democrats have said the combination bill is a non-starter, and senior Republicans have said that pairing the bills could torpedo them both.”
— Meanwhile, three survivors of the Las Vegas shooting testified before the Senate on the need to ban “bump stocks.” The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Gary Martin reports: “‘Those devices are not for hunting. They are not for target practice. They are for hurting people. And they have no place in our general society,’ said [Heather Gooze, a bartender at the Route 91 Harvest concert] who traveled to Washington with two other survivors, Christine Caria of Las Vegas and Heather Sallan of Reno.”
— ATF launched a review of bump stocks this week that could potentially result in a ban on the gun accessory. USA Today’s Nicole Gaudiano reports: “ATF aims to clarify whether certain bump stock devices fall within the definition of ‘machine guns,’ which are largely banned. … But the ATF issued a series of opinions on bump-fire devices — determining in most cases they were legal — over the past decade.”
— How it’s playing:
- Politico: “House passes concealed carry gun bill in win for GOP and NRA.”
- Washington Times: “Gun rights activists celebrate House approval of concealed carry reciprocity bill.”
- Connecticut Post: “Newtown advocates visit Capitol Hill amid renewed crossfire on guns.”
- San Francisco Chronicle: “House OKs GOP bill letting out-of-staters pack concealed guns in California.”
- ABC Boston: “BPD Commissioner Evans: ‘Loosening up the gun laws right now is the most ridiculous thing we can do.’”
- The Trace: “Concealed-Carry Reciprocity Could Face Major Constitutional Challenges.”
- Chicago Tribune’s Dahleen Glanton: “Federal legislation on concealed carry likely to show shock of Las Vegas shooting is short-lived.”
- New York Times’s Gail Collins: “We’ll Be Cheerful if It Kills Us.”
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
— Republican leadership is looking at scaling back some corporate tax cuts to free up revenue for other tax breaks. Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report: “[Both the House and Senate] bills would lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. But GOP negotiators are now openly discussing the possibility of moving that rate up to 22 percent in order to free up more revenue[.] … The White House has been resistant to making this change, but President Trump said casually on Saturday morning that the 22 percent corporate rate might be necessary. … One of the changes they are looking at making would repeal, or at least severely scale back, an alternative-minimum tax for corporations that tries to limit the deductions and credits companies can take. Another major change that is getting growing attention would allow Americans to deduct up to $10,000 of state income tax or local property tax from their federal income.”
— Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) vowed to tackle entitlement reform next year to bring down the government spending. Jeff Stein reports: “‘We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,’ Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. … Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing [Trump] in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program that primarily insures the elderly. As a candidate, Trump vowed not to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.”
— The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to overturn a precedent requiring public employees to pay some fees to their unions. Robert Barnes reports: “It was another dramatic reversal in a high-profile case before the high court, and at least the third time since [Trump’s] inauguration that the Justice Department has renounced its past positions, some held for decades. It puts the administration squarely on the side of conservative legal activists, who have complained for years that the requirement violates the free-speech rights of those who don’t want to join the union or pay fees to it. The Supreme Court precedent the administration wants to overturn says that unions may charge all employees for the cost of collective bargaining, but not for the union’s political activities.”
— The Affordable Care Act’s abbreviated enrollment period will almost certainly result in fewer sign-ups than last year, according to the most recent data. Amy Goldstein reports: “The number of Americans getting [ACA] plans for the coming year accelerated last week in states relying on the federal insurance exchange, bringing the total to 3.6 million sign-ups with less than two weeks left . . . The latest federal snapshot … is slightly ahead of the first five weeks’ pace last fall. But compared with data from two-thirds of the way through the longer enrollment seasons of past years, the number of consumers who have chosen health plans is lagging far behind.”
— The U.S. military will begin accepting transgender recruits in January, throwing into doubt Trump’s proposed ban. Dan Lamothe reports: “Officials are ‘taking steps to be prepared’ to bring in the first transgender recruits on Jan. 1, as required by a federal court order issued recently, said Army Maj. David Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman. … The Pentagon’s acknowledgment comes a week after U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington clarified an October injunction in which she blocked Trump’s proposed ban on all transgender personnel serving in the military. The administration immediately sought to delay the Jan. 1 deadline by which it must comply with the order, but Kollar-Kotelly denied that motion on Nov. 28. In the days since, the administration has appealed its case to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.”
— Democrats and Republicans banded together to stop Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) from bringing an impeachment vote to the House floor. Mike DeBonis reports: “[Green] came to the House floor at 12:13 p.m. Wednesday to offer articles of impeachment under special House rules requiring a floor vote; he returned to the floor at 1:34 to force that vote. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) offered a motion to table the resolution, which was adopted on a 364 to 58 vote . . . The top two House Democrats both voted to table the resolution after coming out against Green’s effort shortly before the House voted.”
— The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the latest version of Trump’s travel ban. Matt Zapotosky reports: “Neal Katyal, an attorney for the challengers, argued that among the legal problems of the ‘unprecedented and sweeping’ directive was that the president had not made findings — as the law required — that people entering from the banned countries would be detrimental to the United States. Justice Department attorney Hashim Mooppan argued that ban was crafted after an extensive, worldwide review of information that foreign governments provide the United States about their travelers, and it was necessary both to nudge countries to give the United States more data and to keep out those who might want to do the country harm.”
— Veterans Affairs effectively pulled the plug on a program effective at combating homelessness among veterans. Politico’s Arthur Allen and Lorraine Woellert report: “Four days after Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin held a big Washington event to tout the Trump administration’s promise to house all homeless vets, the agency did an about-face, telling advocates it was pulling resources from a major housing program. The VA said it was essentially ending a special $460 million program that has dramatically reduced homelessness among chronically sick and vulnerable veterans.”
— EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt promised lawmakers his agency would not block its scientists from publicly discussing their work. Brady Dennis reports: “In a letter to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and other members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Pruitt did not explain why the EPA had instructed two of its scientists and one contractor not to speak as planned at an Oct. 23 scientific meeting in Providence, R.I. The agency had previously said only that it was ‘not an EPA conference.’ But Pruitt did write that such action would not happen again.”
Former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen (D) plans to enter the race for the empty Senate seat in his state. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
THE ROAD TO 2018:
— Good news for Democrats: Former Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen (D) announced he would enter the race to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R) next year, increasing their chances of picking up the seat and, with it, the Senate majority. Nashville Post’s Cari Wade Gervin reports: “Bredesen began calling major donors (yesterday) afternoon to confirm that he is in the race. He has been mum about a campaign since [Corker] announced he would step down next year, only acknowledging that he was contemplating a run. A formal announcement of his intent to run has not yet been made.”
— Trump wants Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) to challenge Sen. Angus King (I) next year. Josh Dawsey scoops: “Trump has told advisers that he plans to call LePage, who endorsed him in February 2016, and ask him to jump in against [King] and offer his endorsement. … White House officials have been in touch with LePage’s political team in recent weeks[.] … LePage’s name came up again Tuesday at a White House meeting on Senate candidates, the officials said, as Trump and his team went through a list of states and races — including Arizona, Missouri and Maine — looking at individual candidates and poll numbers. Trump was cautioned from making too many major decisions because the field is so fluid[.]”
— Sen. Cory Booker is expected to campaign for Doug Jones in Alabama this weekend, joining an 11th-hour effort to mobilize black voters ahead of Tuesday’s special election. Sean Sullivan reports: “Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.) has been leading the effort to organize a slate of Sunday campaign events including a rally in Birmingham that is expected include her, Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) … Sewell is also trying to cement plans for [former] Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) and Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.) … [The plan comes as Jones] has been trying to piece together a delicate coalition built on support from core Democrats and some crossover votes from Republicans[:] Crucial to that plan is strong turnout by African Americans, who make up about a quarter of Alabama’s electorate.”
— Roy Moore is relying on a slew of legal threats as he tries to shift the focus away from the sexual misconduct allegations against him. Michael Scherer and David Weigel report: “The Republican’s campaign has sent out letters demanding that ads by his opponent . . . and a Democratic super PAC, Highway 31, be pulled from the airwaves, alleging that they are false and misleading. Moore’s campaign has also accused Democrats of ‘voter intimidation’ after Highway 31 released digital ads informing voters that it would be a matter of public record if they cast ballots Tuesday. … Finally, Moore’s campaign has demanded an investigation by the Alabama secretary of state into a report that sample ballots in Bullock County, a Democratic stronghold, had been marked with a vote for Jones.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Israel’s prime minister celebrated the Jerusalem announcement:
This is a historic day. Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for nearly 70 years. Jerusalem has been the focus of our hopes, our dreams, our prayers for three millennia. Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years. Thank you, @realDonaldTrump! 🇮🇱🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/mWCUpUMpiC
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) December 6, 2017
From the New York Times’s Beirut bureau chief:
Hearing anger, sadness, disbelief from Arab contacts across the region tonight. Common refrain: Trump’s Jerusalem move kills any pretense that the US could be an honest broker in negotiations with Israel.
— Anne Barnard (@ABarnardNYT) December 6, 2017
A former spokesman for Obama’s Justice Department analyzed Don Jr.’s invocation of attorney-client privilege:
Don Jr. couldn’t have given Mueller a clearer signal that the answer is incriminating. Hello, grand jury subpoena. https://t.co/7LPcFfXGW8
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) December 7, 2017
From Nixon’s former White House counsel:
Donald Trump Jr. claimed attny-client privilege in today before the House Intel Committee re discussions with his father based on the apparent fact an attny was present. Problem: (1) Jr. has no such privilege; (2) Congress does not recognize the privilege even when it exists.
— John Dean (@JohnWDean) December 7, 2017
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) had harsh words for the RNC after it contributed to Roy Moore’s Senate campaign:
This is a bad decision and very sad day. I believe the women–and RNC previously did too. What’s changed? Or is the party just indifferent? https://t.co/sNCiQbOgIg
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) December 6, 2017
If the political committee that I’m a part of (the NRSC) decides to contribute here, I will no longer be a donor to or fund-raiser for it. https://t.co/uN8nsPfCBU
— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) December 6, 2017
The president’s son, after wrapping up his testimony on the Hill, mocked Democratic calls for Franken to resign:
Nothing like trying to claim the moral high ground weeks after you should have and when it’s clear that it’s over. No one is buying it. https://t.co/JUk6VqtSyp
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 7, 2017
Conservative pundit Ana Navarro replied:
For weeks, Trump-apologist types been defending Roy Moore by asking, “What about Conyers and Franken?” (hell of an equivalency given neither accused of molesting minors). Conyers retiring. If Franken resigns, WHAT ABOUT MOORE? WHAT ABOUT FARENHOLDT? WHAT ABOUT TRUMP?🤷🏻♀️
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) December 7, 2017
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) responded to Steve Bannon’s attacks on Mitt Romney:
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) December 6, 2017
From Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah):
.@MittRomney and his family are my friends. They love their country, they are participating members of a religion many of our Utah families share. To question their devotion to either is unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/xG7qLhQZzy
— Mia Love (@MiaBLove) December 6, 2017
Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) discussed the budget:
A post shared by Bernie Sanders (@berniesanders) on Dec 6, 2017 at 9:15am PST
Gabby Giffords slammed the House’s passage of a bill allowing concealed firearms to be carried across state lines:
There’s only one remedy for a Congress that can’t keep us safe: a Congress that can. Elections are less than a year away, but they can’t come soon enough. Americans will have the choice to demand courage from our elected officials. https://t.co/voHaxIQKsW
— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) December 6, 2017
A writer for Time commented on its “Person of the Year”:
This was conceived, reported and written by women. It was fact-checked by women. The video was shot and edited by women. The layout and photo spread were designed by women. It’s one of the reasons I’m proud to work at @timehttps://t.co/ekMMIBV0Vc
— Charlotte Alter (@CharlotteAlter) December 6, 2017
From a Post reporter:
Not only is Trump not Person of the Year, he is mentioned in the piece as both a harasser and a motivation to speak out. https://t.co/Fs9fNfecD6
— Philip Bump (@pbump) December 6, 2017
But a producer at MSNBC slammed Time for including Trump as the first runner-up for the honor:
— Mary Emily O’Hara (@MaryEmilyOHara) December 6, 2017
Joe Biden plans to attend the mayor of Boston’s inauguration:
Honored that on January 1, I will be sworn in to begin my second term as Mayor of Boston. I’m humbled @JoeBiden will be there to preside over my inauguration ceremony, and be a part of this special day.
— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) December 6, 2017
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— Politico Magazine, “The Environmental Scandal in Scott Pruitt’s Backyard,” by Malcolm Burnley: “Tar Creek, Oklahoma, is breathtaking in a terrible way: At one time the world’s deepest source of lead and zinc, the three-town region is now a cratered landscape so poisonous that no one, aside from 10 holdouts, can live there. Mountains of ashlike ‘chat,’ a toxic residue from lead-zinc milling, rise majestically among the remains of homes torn from their foundations. … Tar Creek is also part of the environmental legacy of one of the state’s — and nation’s — leading politicians, Senator Jim Inhofe, and his longtime ally, Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who is now head of [Trump’s EPA.]”
— Quartz, “The three ultra-rich families battling for control of the Republican party,” by Heather Timmons: “Three extremely wealthy families, the Mercers, the Kochs, and the Adelsons, all prominent donors to the Republican party, now seem locked in a struggle over the future of the GOP. As campaigning for the midterm elections in November 2018 gets under way, the three families are facing off against each other in battleground states. They’re lighting a fire under Republican politicians who are now determined to get something, anything, passed in Washington — even if it’s a last-minute tax bill that most voters don’t agree with and legislators barely had time to read.”
— Bloomberg, “Millions Are Hounded for Debt They Don’t Owe. One Victim Fought Back, With a Vengeance,” by Zeke Faux: “[Andrew] Therrien had been caught up in a fraud known as phantom debt, where millions of Americans are hassled to pay back money they don’t owe. … It begins when someone scoops up troves of personal information that are available cheaply online—old loan applications, long-expired obligations, data from hacked accounts—and reformats it to look like a list of debts. Then they make deals with unscrupulous collectors who will demand repayment of the fictitious bills. Their targets are often poor and likely to already be getting confusing calls about other loans. The harassment usually doesn’t work, but some marks are convinced that because the collectors know so much, the debt must be real.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“‘I don’t like men’: Lawmaker brings meeting to a halt after male colleague touches his arm,” from Marwa Eltagouri: “While debating a land-use bill at a committee meeting on Tuesday night, Pennsylvania state Rep. Matt Bradford laid his hand — for just a moment — on the left forearm of the colleague sitting next to him. That colleague was conservative Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who interrupted Bradford mid-sentence with a personal bit of information. ‘Look, I’m a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife, I don’t like men — as you might. But stop touching me all the time,’ Metcalfe told Bradford … [who appeared stunned by the comments]. ‘Keep your hands to yourself,” said Metcalfe … ‘If you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle who might like it.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“NRA Blasts Misleading Claims Made About Gun Background Check Bill Ahead of House Vote,” from the Washington Free Beacon: “The [NRA] criticized misinformation being spread about a gun background check system improvement act it supports. ‘We are in the thick of the legislative process and a so-called ‘pro-gun group,’ which is nothing more than a fundraising entity, is spreading lies about the FIX NICS legislation that was attached to the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,’ [an NRA spokesman said]. … Some pro-gun groups have opposed the bill claiming it expands the background check system. The text of the bill shows, however, that it does not expand the classifications of who is considered prohibited from owning or possessing firearms, nor does it expand the kinds of criminal or mental health records required to be submitted to the system.”
Trump has morning meetings with Republican senators and the RNC chairwoman before signing a proclamation for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. He has his meeting with congressional leadership on spending bills in the afternoon followed by a sit-down with former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. Trump and the first lady will also host a Hanukkah reception tonight.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Trump said of his optimistic GDP projections about the economy: “Without the hurricanes, this last quarter, we would have had 4 percent [growth.]”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— It will be less cloudy and windier than yesterday in D.C. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds are an on-and-off affair today as moisture surging up the East Coast battles with dry air continuing to come down from Canada. Highs are mainly in the mid-40s but, with breezes picking up from the west, should feel even colder.”
— The Capitals won against the Blackhawks 6-2. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
— Virginia officials have begun setting dates for four recounts in House of Delegates races, the results of which will determine which party controls the chamber. Fenit Nirappil reports: “Currently Republicans hold 51 seats while Democrats hold 49, but several of those races were squeakers. In preliminary hearings this week, judges set dates for three of the four races heading to recount[.] … The first recount will be Dec. 13 and 14 in Fairfax and Prince William counties for the 40th District, where incumbent Del. Tim Hugo (R) narrowly won reelection by a 106-vote margin over Democrat Donte Tanner. The closest race heading to recount is the 94th District in Newport News, where Del. David E. Yancey (R) beat Shelly Simonds by 10 votes. That recount will be held Dec. 19.”
— Maryland’s attorney general endorsed Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker’s gubernatorial bid. Ovetta Wiggins reports: Brian E. Frosh’s “endorsement follows that of U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who announced his support of Baker (D) last month. The endorsements are expected to boost Baker’s name recognition across the state before the crowded June 26 primary [.]”
— Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) sold his waterfront property in Edgewater for $1.35 million. (Emily Heil)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
“The Daily Show” picked Trump’s “best words” of the year:
Trump’s Best Words of 2017 pic.twitter.com/jHeHQ7RNmd
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) December 6, 2017
Samantha Bee went after the Republican tax plan:
Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson visited Capitol Hill to promote a bill aimed at combating sexual harassment in the workplace:
CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed a spokeswoman for Roy Moore:
What Roy Moore’s spox couldn’t answer on @ac360
– whether Moore thinks Obama was born in US
– whether he thinks Muslims should be in Congress
– whether Moore thinks homosexuality should be outlawed
– whether 9/11 happened bc US distanced itself from God https://t.co/prz7kQ5wid
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) December 7, 2017
Paul Ryan lit up the Capitol Christmas tree:
And Lin-Manuel Miranda performed “Hamilton” in under three minutes on Ellen DeGeneres’s show: