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On the roster: Trump’s campaign against Justice, FBI is working – I’ll Tell You What: And that’s no bologna – Franken to resign – ‘Chuck and Nancy’ go to the White House, take two – Reeking her revenge
TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN AGAINST JUSTICE, FBI IS WORKING
It would seem that President Trump’s effort to discredit the FBI and the Justice Department amid the investigation into his 2016 campaign is working.
Just 46 percent of respondents in a new CBS News poll thought that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into “dealings between Trump associates and Russia” is justified, while 48 percent believed the probe to be “politically motivated.”
Why is that? It would seem that many Republicans and Republican-leaning independents simply don’t care if the allegations are true.
Consider that 67 percent in the same survey, including 43 percent of Republican respondents, believe “senior Trump advisors had improper dealings with Russia,” and yet, only half as many GOPers thought the probe was justified.
You could see why in watching Republicans questioning of FBI Director Christopher Wray today. It would have been easy to forget that Wray was only recently selected by Trump himself and confirmed in August with unanimous support of Senate Republicans.
Starting with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Wray found himself peppered with questions about corruption and political bias in the agency, forcing him to repeatedly defend the integrity of the agents who serve under him.
This reflects the success of a two-pronged strategy by the White House. While the president’s criminal defense team and official spokespeople take a position of trust and cooperation with Mueller, Trump and his outside public defenders have been waging an all-out campaign against federal law enforcement agencies in a tit-for-tat battle with Mueller.
Most effectively, Trump has zeroed in on not the way his own case has been handled, but rather what he says is corruption in the other direction and highlighting what Trump says is the cover-up of his 2016 opponent’s criminal conduct.
This is key because it doesn’t require Trump to depend on him and his team to be eventually cleared in the probe. Rather, it suggests that the entire system is so shot through with corruption that it would be unfair to penalize one party but not the other.
A posting to Trump’s Twitter account summed it up neatly: “Rigged system, or just a double standard?” Either way, Trump’s telling his supporters that they can disregard Mueller’s findings.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has been a one-man wrecking crew on this front, bringing attention to instances that suggest political bias inside the FBI and Department of Justice.
He’s been pushing hard on the story of the agent who got yanked off the Trump probe over anti-Trump texts sent to a girlfriend last year and today we learned the story of Nunes’ pressure on the Justice Department over a lawyer who had previously undisclosed meetings with the head of a research firm hired by Democrats to dig dirt on Trump.
Both stories have helped Trump’s supporters shift the focus away from last week’s revelation that the president’s former national security adviser was cooperating with the Mueller probe. As it has been since we first learned of the Russian meddling a year ago, attacks on institutional corruption within federal law enforcement remain the best counteroffensive for the GOP.
Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy is among those who have cautioned about the dangers of conflating political bias with corruption. The argument is that if we accept the idea that individuals with their own political views cannot investigate individual on the other side there are plenty of cases that have to be thrown out.
But the imperative now for Republicans is to kick up enough dust around federal law enforcement agencies to offer some much-needed political cover. Not only do polls show that it’s working, history also agrees. Democrats successfully tarred the probe into corruption in the Clinton White House as a partisan witch hunt.
To be sure, it’s part of a larger trend. In 2015, the WSJ/NBC News poll found that 49 percent of American adults held positive views of the FBI. By this time last year, just 37 percent felt the same way, with 28 percent going as far as to express negative views about the federal police.
So we could say that the drop in esteem for federal law enforcement is just part of a larger trend of Americans losing confidence in institutions, but there is something else going on here. Republicans, after all, have typically been the ones most willing to trust police at every level.
Look for this trend to intensify in the New Year as Muller’s probe enters its terminal phase.
THE RULEBOOK: AND HOW!
“If we mean to be a commercial people, or even to be secure on our Atlantic side, we must endeavor, as soon as possible, to have a navy.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 24
TIME OUT: ‘NO COMPLAINTS’
Time: “As the United States marks National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day [today] … annual observances will once again ensure that Dec. 7, 1941, remains a date that lives in infamy. … As of the 75th anniversary commemorations last year, one estimate found that there were fewer than one million living American World War II vets total … survivors who were specifically present at Pearl Harbor on that day, that number is likely in the range of several thousand… That’s just one reason why Lt. Jim Downing … feels strongly about attending for as many years as he can. Downing was 28 at the time of the attack — which makes him one of the oldest living Pearl Harbor veterans. At the time, Downing was a member of the Navy … serving on the USS West Virginia at Pearl Harbor… ‘I’m 104 and I have no complaints,’ he told TIME, laughing…”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -20.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 2.8 points
[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: AND THAT’S NO BOLOGNA
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the Trump Administration recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the Alabama Special Election and bologna…? Plus, Chris faces government shutdown themed trivia and find out why Dana is ‘one of those people’ when it comes to giving gifts. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
FRANKEN TO RESIGN
Fox News: “Calling it ‘the worst day of his political life,’ Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken said Thursday he will resign from the U.S. Senate following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against him that ranged from groping to forcibly trying to kiss women. Franken, who said that some of the complaints against him were ‘simply not true’ and that he remembers others ‘differently,’ also took a parting shot at President Trump. ‘There is some irony in the fact that I am leaving office while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office,’ he said… About 18 Democratic senators, staff and family members were on hand for the announcement. Some sat stone-faced while others cried. His staff were lined up in the back of the chamber. Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan was the only Republican senator present. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar were also in attendance.”
Minnesota lieutenant governor likely replacement pick – Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is likely to be Gov. Mark Dayton’s choice to replace Sen. Al Franken if he resigns as expected, which would set in motion a cascade of job openings and reshape Minnesota politics. A high-ranking Democratic source told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that Smith, a close ally to Dayton and longtime DFL insider, is his likeliest choice to replace Franken. Under that scenario, Smith would serve as a temporary replacement who would not run for the seat in a November 2018 special election.”
‘CHUCK AND NANCY’ GO TO THE WHITE HOUSE, TAKE TWO
Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump is meeting with congressional leaders from both parties Thursday to negotiate on a long-term budget deal as Congress prepares to pass a stopgap spending measure to avoid a U.S. government shutdown Saturday. The House is expected to vote on a two-week spending bill to keep the government open through Dec. 22, with Senate action coming by Friday. That measure is intended to buy time for Congress and the president to agree on overall levels for defense and non-defense spending for the next two years. Trump said Wednesday that a shutdown could happen Saturday because of Democratic demands. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said that Democrats aren’t interested in forcing the government to close. But she said Thursday that House Republicans will have to pass the stopgap funding without Democratic votes, calling the bill a ‘waste of time’ that doesn’t include funding for combating the opioid crisis among other things.”
Ryan says Republicans will get to spending cuts next year – WaPo: “House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America’s deficit. ‘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. ’… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.’ Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing President Trump in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program that primarily insures the elderly.”
Poll: Independents mostly dislike GOP tax proposals – CBS News: “The Republican tax plan faces opposition from a majority of Americans. Over half disapprove of it – including four in 10 who disapprove strongly, and only one in five Americans expect their own taxes to go down. Though the plan finds support from Republicans who believe it will help the economy overall, only one-third of Republicans expect their own taxes to go down. Large majorities of all political stripes believe the plan will help corporations and the wealthy, but only one in three believe it will help the middle class.”
TRUMP JR. MUM ON CALL WITH DAD ABOUT RUSSIA MEETING
WSJ: “President Donald Trump’s eldest son on Wednesday refused to discuss with congressional investigators a father-son conversation earlier this year about how to handle fallout from revelations that he met with a Russian attorney during the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the matter. During the more than seven-hour session with the House Intelligence Committee, Donald Trump Jr. invoked attorney-client privilege when asked for details about a telephone conversation he had with his father after news broke about his meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, the people familiar with the matter said. The younger Mr. Trump has publicly said he met with the attorney to obtain negative information on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Attorneys for both the president and his son were on the call, which took place sometime after a July 8, 2017 New York Times story about the meeting, according to the people familiar with the matter.”
Christie claims he was sacked over Flynn – Politico: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday he was ousted as head of President Donald Trump’s transition due in part to his opposition to the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser. ‘I thought it was a significant reason,’ Christie said at an unrelated press conference at his office in Trenton. … Christie said it was clear those who took over botched the transition, pointing to Flynn’s guilty plea last week to charges of lying to the FBI. Christie has long said he had concerns about the retired three-star Army general, though he had never said exactly why. ‘Suffice to say, I had serious misgivings, which I think have been confirmed by the fact that he pled guilty to a felony in federal court,’ Christie said.”
The Judge’s Ruling: An unobstructed view – Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains how the president could be in hot water: “Obstruction of justice is the interference with a law enforcement or judicial proceeding for a corrupt purpose. Thus, if the president knew of Flynn’s lies to the FBI when he asked [James Comey] to back off Flynn, the existence of a presidential crime and impeachable offense depends on the president’s state of mind. If the ‘back off Flynn’ request was given because the president felt sorry for the general or because he had concluded that the FBI’s limited resources would be better utilized finding terrorists or arresting bank robbers, there was no corrupt motive. But if the motive for the request to Comey was fear of what beans Flynn might spill … that would be a corrupt motive, and the request would be a crime, as well as an impeachable offense.” More here.
‘BE CAUTIOUS’ OF ALABAMA SENATE RACE POLLS
FiveThirtyEight: “Before Election Day last year, we advised caution… polls aren’t perfect at even the best of times… So what’s our advice heading into the Alabama election? Well, it’s the same — be cautious — but for slightly different reasons. A look at all U.S. Senate election polls since 1998 shows that their average error… is more than a percentage point higher than the average error in presidential polling. Also, Alabama polls have been volatile, this is an off-cycle special election with difficult-to-predict turnout…So even though [Roy Moore] is a favorite, Democrat Doug Jones is just a normal polling error away from winning. (Or, by the same token, Moore could win comfortably.) … But even if Alabama’s special election were just a normal Senate campaign with normal candidates, a lead in the low single digits would be far from secure. Simply put, Senate polling has not been especially predictive over the past 10 cycles.”
Polls haven’t swayed Ryan – The Hill: “Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday reiterated his call for Alabama GOP Senate hopeful Roy Moore to drop out of the race over allegations of sexual misconduct, including assault. ‘I think he should have dropped out,’ Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference. ‘Just because the polling has changed doesn’t change my opinion on that, so I stand by what I said before.’”
Moore camp fights back on attack ad, says ‘patently false’ – AL.com: “Roy Moore’s campaign calls an ad run by a political action committee opposing him ‘patently false’ and issued cease and desist letters demanding that TV stations stop running it. The PAC, called Highway 31, was formed to support the candidacy of Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones. The ad says, ‘Moore was actually banned from the Gadsden Mall … for soliciting sex from young girls.’ … The Moore campaign says the statement in the Highway 31 ad about ‘soliciting sex’ is a new false allegation. … As for the claim that Moore was banned from the mall because he ‘solicited sex from young girls,’ the Highway 31 PAC cited an article in New American Journal. The article did not name a source for that claim.”
Trump pushing Gov. Paul LePage (R) to run against King in Maine Senate race – WaPo
Trump admin asks SupCo to overrule a labor precedent that helps unions – WaPo
House passes concealed carry gun bill – Politico
Don’t forget the soup! An inside look of a Sunday for Chris Wallace – Washingtonian
“I think those are conversations we’re going to have to have. But what have we always said? We don’t ever fear anything. We live our lives.” – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on whether the U.S. will send athletes to South Korea for the Winter Olympics in February.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“The only lesson I see being learned from all the sexual harassment allegations in Washington is that people don’t care about it. Republicans did all they could to force President Clinton out and accomplished nothing. Then they acted on their pride and lost a couple Speakers of their own. Now they’ve learned. People don’t care about sexual harassment if it’s their guy. I honestly think Democrats are making a political mistake (not a moral one) by kicking out politicians that would be just fine if they stood up to it. Please don’t get me wrong. As a lifelong Republican this sickens me. But this column is about politics. And all I see is Republicans winning this battle.” – Allen Randal, Las Vegas
[Ed. note: That’s certainly an argument Democrats have been making, including some brazen few who have said so publicly. The argument here goes that Democrats are needlessly sacrificing their own while Republicans will just hold the line. They may be right in that voters just don’t care about sleaze anymore. Or it could be argues, I think more persuasively, that Democrats were simply doing it wrong before. They never, ever should have nominated Hillary Clinton. Aside from the obvious scandals of her own making, her active participation in destroying the reputations of the women who accused her husband of grievous misdeeds made her uniquely bad at prosecuting the case against Trump. I think Democrats are only just now seeing how great the price was for their decision to protect and defend Bill Clinton.]
“In November, 2016, I held my nose and voted for Trump. On December 12, I am faced with another bad selection, Roy Moore or Doug Jones (I am writing in Luther Strange). I fear when my grandchildren are of age to vote, they will seldom be able to vote for an honest person. Is this what politics in this country will look like for generations to come? Will we be faced again with electing the best of the worst?” – James Douglas, Wetumpka, Ala.
[Ed. note: I hear you, Mr. Douglas. But I would also suggest that perhaps the real problem here isn’t the rottenness of current politicians, but rather the importance they play in our lives. Part of this is the larger role government plays, but another consideration is the politicization of EVERYTHING in American life. Our culture has historically taken rather a dim view of politics and politicians. It suits a republic that holds in suspicion anyone who seeks power over their fellows. But as our culture has faltered, we have placed increasing stock in the role of political leaders. The issue may not be that the politicians have gotten that much worse but rather that we have forgotten to eye them warily enough as a species.]
“Will John Conyers qualify for a hefty congressional pension? Does not resigning under a cloud disqualify him?” – James Ronan, Lake Wylie, S.C.
[Ed. note: Great question, Mr. Ronan! It wouldn’t have mattered weather Conyers had said he was resigning or retiring or if he had declared himself the shah of Iran. About the only way for a member of Congress to lose his or her pension is to be convicted of certain felonies, generally relating to public corruption. Conyers, 88, is in line for a $125,000 annual pension (80 percent of the current pay for a sitting congressman.) In an interesting wrinkle, Conyers wife, Monica, who actually was convicted of corruption charges and imprisoned for more than two years for taking bribes as a Detroit councilwoman, will be eligible to continue receiving after his death. She’s just 52, so that could be decades of payouts indexed to current congressional pay. They will also continue to be eligible to participate in the federal health insurance program.]
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REEKING HER REVENGE
KATU: “A package thief got a stinky surprise after messing with the wrong mom in Hillsboro [Ore.]. The mom, Angie Boliek, told KATU she was fed up after someone stole a package carrying her son’s Christmas baby pajamas. The child made his own contributions to her plan for retribution. … When she realized the package was stolen she got frustrated. … She taped up a box filled with 10 to 15 of her son’s dirty diapers along with a note reading, ‘Enjoy this you thief!’ and left it on the porch Sunday. By Monday evening she said the box was gone. How dirty were the diapers? ‘Well, he’s been sick the last week, so we’ll just leave it at that,’ Boliek said. … An officer told a KATU reporter — while laughing — that they don’t have any leads at this point in either the theft of the pajamas or the No. 2 package.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.