North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory high fives supporters as he arrives to vote in Charlotte last month. (Chris Keane/Reuters)

THE BIG IDEA: The American people punished politicians in both parties this year when they perceived them as being too focused on advancing a divisive social agenda at the expense of the bread-and-butter, kitchen-table issues that they care most about.

Twenty-seven days after the election, after a recount failed to shift the outcome, North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory finally conceded yesterday to his Democratic challenger. He is the first governor to ever lose reelection in the Tar Heel State.

McCrory lost by about 10,000 votes out of 4.8 million ballots cast. Donald Trump, meanwhile, won the state by four points and GOP Sen. Richard Burr got reelected by six points.

In a race so close, one can always claim that small factors were determinative at the margins. Some were mad about the elimination of a tax credit that encouraged movie production in the Wilmington area, for example, and a segment of commuters was upset about a toll project on Interstate 77. But a close review of the election returns, combined with voter interviews, makes clear that McCrory’s reluctant embrace this spring of House Bill 2 – known as “the bathroom bill” – cost him his job more than anything else.

-- Exit polls show that two-thirds of voters opposed the law. Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper won 64 percent of that group. McCrory won three-quarters of the 30 percent who favored the legislation.

A gender neutral sign is posted outside a bathrooms at Oval Park Grill in Durham, North Carolina, this spring. (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

-- The measure, which was passed to invalidate a Charlotte ordinance that extended anti-discrimination protections to the LGBT community, forced people to use only the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. It was more unpopular in the Charlotte media market than anywhere else, especially among moderate suburbanites who saw it as overreach and worried that it was making the North Carolina business climate less hospitable. (Many businesses canceled expansion plans, and groups pulled conferences in retaliation.)

McCrory was mayor of Charlotte for 14 years before getting elected. Perceived as a pro-business centrist, he won Mecklenburg County, the most populous in the state and home to the city, by 3,000 votes in 2012 (about 1 percent). This year he lost the county by 137,000 votes, or 29 points, the same percentage that Trump lost it by. (As a point of comparison, McCrory outperformed Mitt Romney by 23 percent last time.)

-- Meanwhile, many rural, low-propensity voters who came out for Trump didn’t bother voting in the gubernatorial contest. McCrory received 63,770 fewer total votes than the Republican at the top of the ticket, while the Democratic challenger out-performed Hillary Clinton by about 120,000 votes.

Trump invites McCrory to speak during a rally at the Wilmington airport on the Friday before the election. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

-- Trump initially came out against North Carolina’s bathroom bill in April, calling it a solution in search of a problem, a position that Ted Cruz strongly and unsuccessfully attacked him for. “There’s a lot of problems,” Trump said. “You leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble, and the problem with what happened in North Carolina is the strife, and the economic punishment that they’re taking.” While he backtracked later in a bid to shore up evangelicals, most voters in the state believed Trump’s first position and presumed he was still against the law.

In that context, recall the explanation that the chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party gave two weeks ago when I asked why Clinton got blown out in Ohio and the Rust Belt: “Look, I’m as progressive as anybody, okay? But people in the heartland thought the Democratic Party cared more about where someone else went to the restroom than whether they had a good-paying job,” said David Betras. “‘Stronger together’ doesn’t get anyone a job.”

-- The McCrory experience could serve as a cautionary tale for other GOP incumbents weighing similar bills, including those focused on religious liberty, in the coming years.

-- For business, it was all about the benjamins: McCrory wound up being outspent by something like $21 million to $14 million. It is unusual for a GOP incumbent to get out-raised by a challenger. Top Republicans familiar with the race argued very strongly in phone calls last night that the bathroom bill’s biggest impact was that it dried up fundraising. Many corporate types who had planned to cut checks got jittery and fearful of being targeted by the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT rights groups if they came out for McCrory. No one wants to get called a bigot, but the tipping point was when these would-be donors worried that it could hurt their bottom line. Subsequent polling that showed McCrory trailing only hardened this mentality, Republican operatives said.

-- For voters, Democrats astutely framed H.B. 2 as an economic issue. The Democratic Governors Association spent $1 million soon after the law passed in the Charlotte market to air a commercial that featured news anchors talking about a business backlash. The group spent months using the bill as a data point to make the broader argument that McCrory had taken his eye off the ball:

-- There is incredible irony that McCrory’s legacy will forever be defined by H.B. 2. Last year, he vetoed a religious-exemption bill that allowed court magistrates to opt out of administering gay marriages, but then the overwhelmingly Republican legislature overrode him. The bill that the legislature passed this year went way further than McCrory was comfortable with, but he was afraid that his veto would get overridden again and that this would dampen turnout among social conservatives. So he signed it anyway, not appreciating the degree of blowback that would come. He tried to issue an executive order to clean up the political mess, but by the time he did it was too late.

The 60-year-old also closed pretty strong in October, benefiting politically from his response to both the Charlotte riots and Hurricane Matthew. And he almost rode Trump’s coattails to a second term. But they were (just barely) not long enough. So while McCrory packs up his belongings at the governor's mansion in Raleigh, the president-elect will fly to Fayetteville tonight for the second stop on his "thank you tour."

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).

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THE MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX:

-- The Pentagon buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations, amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget. Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward scoop: “Pentagon leaders had requested the study to help make their enormous back-office bureaucracy more efficient. … But after the project documented far more wasteful spending than expected, senior defense officials moved swiftly to kill it by discrediting and suppressing the results...

"The report, issued in January 2015, identified ‘a clear path’ for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel. Instead, it would have streamlined the bureaucracy through attrition and early retirements, curtailed high-priced contractors and made better use of information technology. [The report also revealed] for the first time that the Pentagon was spending almost a quarter of its $580 billion budget on overhead and core business operations such as accounting, human resources, logistics and property management."

-- “As Trump vows to stop the flow of jobs overseas, U.S. plans to make fighter jets in India,” by Annie Gowen: “As a new American president bent on retaining American jobs prepares to take office, the Obama administration and the U.S. defense industry are working on a deal with the Indian government to build iconic U.S. combat aircraft in India. In recent months, Lockheed Martin and Boeing have made proposals to the Indian government to manufacture fighter jets … in India as the country seeks to modernize its rapidly aging fleet of largely Russian-built airplanes. In both cases, the aviation companies would be building production facilities in India; Lockheed Martin proposes to move its entire F-16 assembly line from Texas to India. ... The proposals have the strong backing of the Obama administration, which has sought a closer connection with the Indian military in recent years."

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks on the phone with Donald Trump at her office in Taipei last Friday. (Taiwan Presidential Office/Handout via Reuters)

-- Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said her phone call with Trump should not be interpreted as a shift in U.S. policy, stressing that both sides “see the value of maintaining regional stability.” Lavanya Ramanathan and Simon Denyer report: "Of course I have to stress that one phone call does not mean a policy shift,” she said, speaking to a small group of American reporters in Taipei. "The phone call was a way for us to express our respect for the U.S. election as well as congratulate President-elect Trump on his win."

-- Bob Dole arranged the call. Per the Wall Street Journal: Dole acknowledged his law firm, which works with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S, played a role in arranging the details: “It’s fair to say that we may have had some influence,” he said. The conversation “went beyond pleasantries” to include a discussion about China specifically and stability in the Asia-Pacific broadly.

-- The Chinese signaled displeasure: “In a packed press briefing Monday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang suggested that Beijing had made its unhappiness directly known to members of Mr. Trump’s team,” the Journal relays. “The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s leading newspaper, said in a front-page commentary in Monday’s overseas editions that ‘Trump and his transition team ought to recognize that creating trouble for China-U.S. relations is just creating trouble for the U.S. itself.’”

-- White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at yesterday's briefing that senior National Security Council officials spoke twice with Chinese officials over the weekend to reassure them of Washington's commitment to the "One China" policy and to "reiterate and clarify the continued commitment of the United States to our longstanding China policy." "If the president-elect's team has a different aim, I'll leave it to them to describe," he said. "The Chinese government in Beijing placed an enormous priority on this situation, and it’s a sensitive matter. Some of the progress that we have made in our relationship with China could be undermined by this issue flaring up.

Kellyanne Conway speaks with street performers at Trump Tower. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

-- Kellyanne Conway said she is considering whether to take the helm of a new pro-Trump outside group, aimed at bolstering the new administration’s political and policy goals. Matea Gold and Ed O'Keefe report: Conway told The Post that she is still deciding whether to join Trump at the White House or run the organization, stressing that it is important for the group to be run by someone “close to the president” who understands Trump’s priorities. “He’s going to be a very active president who wants to accomplish things quickly,” she said, adding: “We want to honor that by being ready.”

“One immediate goal: to have an organization in place to defend his Cabinet nominees if they face confirmation battles. In the longer term, his advisers believe the group could be a potent force in the 2018 midterm elections. ... More than half of the 48 members of the Senate Democratic caucus face reelection in two years, including 10 senators from states that Trump won. The new pro-Trump group could have major patrons in hedge fund manager Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, who have emerged as influential figures in Trump’s orbit. … Brad Parscale, who served as Trump’s digital director, is expected to work with the new organization. Other possible recruits include Marc Short, a top adviser to Pence.”

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is kissed by his mother, Luisangela Valls, as he attends a news conference today to announce his resignation. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

-- French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stepped down after announcing his candidacy in the presidential election. He will be replaced by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who oversaw security forces during several recent terror attacks in the country. The AP reports: “Valls hopes to unite Socialists and give the left a chance to stay at the Elysee Palace despite current opinion polls suggesting the second round of the election could pit Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, against conservative Francois Fillon. A leading yet divisive figure of the Socialist party, Valls is known for his outspoken, authoritarian style and his tough views on immigration and security. He will face other contenders in the Socialist primary next month before France's two-part presidential election in April and May.”

A deadly sinkhole that emerged in San Antonio this weekend. (San Antonio Fire Department via AP)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Two cars were swallowed by a 12-foot sinkhole in San Antonio, killing one driver and prompting an emergency rescue effort to save the life of another. The sinkhole – which spanned the length of a two-lane street – emerged atop a system of aging sewer pipes. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  2. Oakland officials said murder or involuntary manslaughter charges are possible in the deadly warehouse fire that killed at least 36 people this weekend, saying the site must be examined more thoroughly before officials can determine potential criminal liability. (Tim Bontemps, Jasper Scherer, Kristine Guerra and Sarah Larimer)
  3. Russia and China vetoed a U.N. proposal to temporarily stop fighting in Aleppo, snubbing the international peace effort as Assad’s forces continue to close in on rebel-held areas of the city. (Louisa Loveluck)
  4. A judge declared a mistrial in the case of Michael Slager, the white South Carolina police officer who was charged with fatally shooting unarmed black motorist Walter Scott in the back last year. Jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict after more than 20 hours of deliberation. (Mark Berman)
  5. A federal appeals court upheld the 2013 conviction of Mohamed Osman Mohamud for attempting to detonate a bomb at Portland’s holiday tree-lighting ceremony, rejecting his argument that federal authorities had entrapped him and otherwise acted unconstitutionally. (Oregonian)
  6. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two redistricting cases, considering whether laws in North Carolina and Virginia unconstitutionally packed minority voters together to limit influence. At issue in each case is whether the states drew district lines based on partisanship or race; with only the latter considered to be constitutionally suspect. (Robert Barnes)
  7. Amazon announced it will open a physical grocery store in Seattle next year, outlining ambitious plans for a brick-and-mortar location which tracks purchases via smartphone – and does not require customers to go through any sort of “checkout” process. (Sarah Halzack)
  8. The number of smokers in the U.S. has dropped below 40 million, according to a CDC report – a 50-year-low with the most significant reductions being reported among young people. (New York Times)
  9. A Justice Department lawyer argued that Aetna’s planned acquisition of Humana would break antitrust law by reducing competition, kicking off legal arguments as the agency seeks to stop the $34 billion deal. (Diane Bartz)
  10. Oprah Winfrey landed the last interview that Michelle Obama will give in the White House. CBS will air the interview as an hour-long special on Dec. 19. (Politico)
  11. Bob Dylan, who refuses to go to Stockholm to accept his Nobel Prize, has provided the text of a speech to be read on his behalf at the ceremony. Musician Patti Smith will also perform one of his songs as a tribute. (New York Times)
  12. Luke Bryan provided little apology after slugging a man -- mid-performance -- who gave him the finger during a veterans’ benefit concert in Tennessee. A Bryan spokesman said the man’s crude hand gesture was “insulting and distracting” to attendees. (Travis M. Andrews)
  13. Archaeologists and chemists think they have identified a pair of ancient leg fragments as belonging to the Egyptian Queen Nefertari, more than 100 years after the mummified remains were salvaged from a ransacked royal tomb. Experts say they were tipped off by the pair of thin, “high status” knees. (Ben Guarino)
  14. A breed of electronics-destroying “crazy ants” are on the move across Texas, named not only for their erratic moving patterns but also for the damage they inflict on the human psyche. The breed gathers in colonies up to 100 times as dense as other ants, experts say, and have inspired at least one man to grab his gun and attempt to shoot down the swarming insects. (Ben Guarino)
President Obama wears a ceremonial blanket and hat given to him during the White House Tribal Nations Conference in September. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

OBAMA'S LEGACY -- A FRIEND OF THE TRIBES:

-- The president's longtime ties to Native Americans played a pivotal role in the Dakota Access Pipeline decision, White House bureau chief Juliet Eilperin explains: "Obama first connected with several tribes [in 2008] … because it was a voting bloc that was not automatically allied with his then-Democratic primary rival, Hillary Clinton. Obama made a series of pledges during that first campaign, including that he would hold an annual White House conference with tribal nations, establish a White House liaison and require greater consultation between agencies and sovereign nations. He kept them all, and has settled more than 100 lawsuits with tribes since taking office....

Former assistant secretary for Indian affairs Kevin K. Washburn said in an interview that Obama changed the federal culture around tribal affairs during his eight years in office: "There’s definitely a sense within the administration if you’re on the wrong side of tribes, you better be able to explain yourself because the federal government’s been on the wrong side of tribes for 200 years, and it hasn’t been successful."

Joe Biden speaks at Georgetown University yesterday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

-- Joe Biden (half-jokingly) dangled the possibility of a 2020 presidential bid. Mike DeBonis sets the scene: "Yeah, I am. I am going to run in 2020," Biden told a small group of reporters off the Senate floor. “For what?” Associated Press reporter Alan Fram asked. “For president,” Biden said, deadpan. “What the hell, man.” When asked to clarify whether he was kidding or not, the vice president paused and laid his hand on a Post reporter’s shoulder: "I'm not committing not to run. I'm not committed to anything. I learned a long time ago, fate has a strange way of intervening," Biden said. “Anyway, nice to see you guys.” (Note: Biden will be 78 in 2020. Trump will be 74.)

Al Gore leaves Trump Tower. (Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images)

TRUMP TAKES OVER:

-- A George Washington University Battleground poll being released this morning finds that Trump’s image has markedly improved since he won the presidency last month, with 45 percent holding a favorable view of the president-elect and 49 holding an unfavorable view. In mid-October, 61 percent rated him negatively, while just 36 percent held a favorable view.

  • Voters are evenly split on their outlook for a Trump presidency, with 49 percent of voters saying they feel either “concerned or scared” while 47 percent say they are “excited or hopeful.”
  • Respondents were similarly divided when asked if they believe Trump will follow through with his signature campaign promises: 55 percent said they are doubtful Trump will “build a wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border, while 79 percent said they think he will repeal and replace Obamacare, and 71 percent believe he will reform the tax code.

-- Al Gore met with Donald and Ivanka to talk climate science on Monday, spending nearly 90 minutes at Trump Tower after being invited by the daughter of the president-elect: “I had a lengthy and very productive session with the president-elect. It was a sincere search for areas of common ground,” Gore told reporters after the meeting. “I had a meeting beforehand with Ivanka Trump. The bulk of the time was with the president-elect. I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I'm just going to leave it at that.” (Juliet Eilperin and Jenna Johnson)

The meeting further muddles the role of Ivanka, who set up the talks in the first place: “The value to Gore is clear: If the influential daughter of the incoming president wants to discuss your pet issue, you take the meeting,” Philip Bump writes. "The meaning of the meeting for Trump is less clear. Will she try to steer the transition effort (of which she is a part) based on what she learns? Will she try to steer the administration (from which she's supposed to be separated) once the inauguration rolls around? But the Trumps can't have it both ways. Ivanka can't be an influential insider and an independent outsider. Trump can't have anti-climate staffers and get credit for his climate-friendly daughter.

-- But, but, but: “Trump brings Koch network’s green-energy foes from the fringe to the center of power,” by the Los Angeles Times’s Evan Halper: “When an obscure nonprofit group attacked one of California’s signature green-energy projects this summer — warning a congressional panel that the embrace of solar energy would lead to crippling hikes in electricity bills — officials in the state shrugged off the testimony as noise from the fringe. With [Trump’s] election, however, that group … has moved suddenly from the fringe to the center of power. … [Trump] has sent the group’s president, a former Koch Industries lobbyist named Thomas Pyle, to the Energy Department to take charge of its transition. For years, Pyle has led a coordinated national assault on renewable power. The Koch network gave Pyle’s groups $3 million in 2015. Now, in his role with the Trump transition, Pyle’s vision will shape the new direction of a federal agency that has been a crucial partner to California and like-minded states in their embrace of solar, wind and geothermal power.”

Ivanka Trump walks through the lobby of Trump Tower last week. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

-- Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner are reportedly house-hunting in Washington. “Ivanka Trump is no stranger to Washington: She studied at Georgetown for two years and has spent plenty of time here since, heading up her father's redevelopment of the Old Post Office building,” Emily Heil writes. “She says she loves visiting Dumbarton Oaks, and she's been spotted at the Palm with D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, with whom she's become friendly. The couple has three children, the oldest of whom is five — meaning the couple's relocation plans might include some school visits.”

-- Jared Kushner directs a family foundation that has made charitable donations to West Bank settlements. Trump has said he may make his son-in-law a Middle East peace envoy in his upcoming administration. Carol Morello reports: The gifts totaled $58,500 between 2011 and 2013, a small portion of the almost $8.5 million the Seryl and Charles Kushner Family Foundation gave away in that period, and were mostly made to schools, including religious yeshivas, located outside the Green Line that is internationally recognized as the border of Israel proper.

“Kushner is not known to have publicly expressed a position on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which every U.S. administration since 1967 has considered illegitimate and counterproductive to peace … But several Trump advisers made statements during the campaign suggesting that they reject the characterization and believe a policy change may be in order. Middle East analysts are split on whether the incoming administration is poised to change U.S. policy and stop describing Jewish settlements as an impediment. “The Republican platform would signal change, if one took platforms seriously,” said former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer, adding, “But I think it’s way too early to tell.”

Flags fly above the entrance to the new Trump International Hotel. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

INSIDE TRUMP'S WASHINGTON:

-- D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will meet with Trump in New York today, a meeting Bowser said she requested to discuss how the two could “work together to continue Washington D.C.’s growth.” “Bowser and her aides have stressed that she sees room for collaboration with Trump, especially if he can push an infrastructure spending package through the Republican-controlled Congress, city hall reporter Aaron C. Davis notes. She has also been careful not to criticize Trump directly in the weeks following his election, saying it is Washington residents’ long-standing role to be “gracious hosts” to an incoming administration. Still, the meeting will likely underscore the deep political divisions between D.C.’s heavily Democratic residents and the incoming raft of Republican leaders."

-- Trump’s D.C. hotel continues to emerge as a symbol of potential financial conflict for the president-elect: The Azerbaijani embassy will be co-hosting its Hanukkah party there this month, marking the second report of a foreign nation hosting an event in the newly-renovated hotel. Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation also reserved the hotel’s ballroom tonight for an event honoring top donors – and has tapped vice president-elect Mike Pence as its keynote speaker. (Politico's Shane Goldmacher)

-- Trump's tax-cut plan would disproportionately benefit the bluest states on the coasts. John Harwood: “An analysis of Census Bureau income data prepared for CNBC by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities makes it clear[:] Tax experts across the political spectrum agree that the plan Trump has proposed would benefit the richest Americans the most. Among the 30 states Trump carried against Clinton last month, 25 contain below-average numbers of the high-income households whose after-tax incomes are projected to rise most as a result of his plan. By contrast, among the 20 states plus the District of Columbia that Clinton carried, 15 have an above-average share of those most affluent households. … That leaves Trump with the political challenge of sustaining support from red states while redistributing the benefits of federal tax policy toward blue states."

Ben Carson and Trump laugh during a break in the Republican primary debate in Las Vegas. (EPA/Ruth Fremson)

-- Ben Carson’s nomination as HUD secretary sets up a potential collision between the nominee’s philosophical aversion to social safety-net programs, and a government agency tasked with administering some of the most expansive programs for minorities and low-income people. Lisa Rein and Elise Viebeck explain: “If Carson remains true to his political commentary about the nation’s housing programs, he could pursue a conservative agenda sharply at odds with efforts by the Obama administration to promote racial integration in housing and with other anti-segregation policies. ... Carson might also abandon or place new restrictions on government subsidies and other programs that conservatives criticize as fostering a culture of overreliance on government handouts."

“The biggest shifts under Carson could come in the area of fair housing, experts said. The Obama administration is just starting to implement a new rule requiring local communities to study and report on patterns of racial and income disparity in housing, with HUD overseeing the strategy. Conservative critics have called the policy government overreach, and Carson wrote last year that requiring cities and towns to publicly report racial disparities in housing would 'fundamentally change' communities by requiring affordable housing to be built in wealthier neighborhoods. In a Washington Times op-ed, he issued a strong warning against the policy, comparing it to ‘mandated social-engineering schemes’ typical of socialism."

Trump after his meeting with James Mattis. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

-- GOP leaders in Congress are looking to include a measure in the upcoming year-end spending bill that would make it easier to confirm retired Gen. James Mattis as Trump’s defense secretary. From Kelsey Snell, Karoun Demirjian and Ed O'Keefe: “Mattis needs an act of Congress to make him eligible to lead the Pentagon because under the law the defense secretary has to be a civilian for at least seven years before taking office. The measure currently under consideration would allow Republicans to potentially avoid a showdown with Democrats when Mattis’s nomination comes up for a vote next year … by essentially dispensing with the waiver issue this month. No final decisions have been made, but on Monday, lawmakers floated adding the measure to the spending bill ... The waiver being considered would only apply to Mattis and would not change the overall law.”

-- Walter Pincus highlights several big differences on foreign policy between Trump and Mattis: “Ironically, Mattis, since retiring, has been a strong advocate of Congress increasing its participation in military and foreign policy affairs. In a talk this past April before the Center for Strategic and International Security (CSIS), Mattis criticized Congress for failing to pass a new authorization for the President to use force against ISIS. … In that same speech, Mattis took issue with one of Trump’s longest held views – that allies should reimburse Washington for providing for their defense. … Mattis voiced surprise at President Barack Obama’s statement in an interview where the president called some allies ‘free riders,’ with the retired Marine thinking at first he was reading something Trump had said. In either case, Mattis added, ‘I would just say that for a sitting U.S. president to see our allies as freeloaders is nuts.’ … The committees also need to have Mattis discuss his apparent difference with Trump on the way ahead in Syria.” (Read Walter’s column on The Cipher Brief.)

Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly is escorted by Madeleine Westerhout as he arrives at Trump Tower last week. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

-- Retired Marine General John Kelly is Trump’s leading candidate to helm DHS, per Politico: “Kelly, 66, whose military career spanned more than four decades, retired earlier this year as the chief of U.S. Southern Command. In that post, where he oversaw military operations in most of Central and South America, he publicly clashed with the Obama administration on its plans …  to close Guantanamo Bay and dismissed as ‘foolishness’ concerns that the military’s treatment of detainees at the facility had cost the U.S. the moral high ground in the War on Terror.” His appointment would make him the third general to be tapped for Trump’s administration.

-- John Bolton has re-emerged as a contender for secretary of state, according to CBS News’ Major Garrett: The former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. – initially boxed out of consideration for the post – has moved back into contention due to his foreign policy experience, his pro-Trump advocacy during the campaign and his “sharp-elbows approach to diplomacy,” Major reports. “Bolton has always had supporters on the transition team and up-and-downs that have befallen Giuliani, Romney and Petraeus have given him new life and a possible opening.”

-- Seeking to ingratiate himself with Trump, Foggy Bottom contender Jon Huntsman Jr. praised Trump for his phone call with the leader of Taiwan in an interview with NBC: "You've got a businessman who has become president of the United States who understands real leverage and how to find real leverage (with China)," Obama's first ambassador to Beijing said. Asked if Trump should pick him, the failed 2012 presidential candidate laughed. "I'm around to serve my country," he said. "I've always believed in that. And any way I can help I will always stand up, salute and do what I can."

Paul Ryan shares a laugh with Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise during a news conference on Capitol Hill. (Susan Walsh/AP)

WHAT WILL GET DONE IN CONGRESS?

-- House Republican leaders signaled that they would not support Trump’s threat to place heavy tariffs on companies that ship jobs overseas, placing conservative principle above blind loyalty to the man who leads their party. “I don’t want to get into some kind of trade war,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters at a pen-and-pad, responding to Trump’s threats over the weekend to seek a 35 percent import tariff on goods sold by American companies that move jobs overseas. Paul Ryan also pushed back: “I think we can get at the goal here … to keep American businesses American … with comprehensive tax reform.” (NYT’s Jennifer Steinhauer)

-- The incoming Trump administration wants to use subsidies and other business incentives to keep jobs in the United States, seizing on a popular strategy that state governments have adopted to lure businesses to their towns and cities. But there is little evidence the tactic can succeed in the international competition for manufacturing, economists tell Max Ehrenfreund and Chico Harlan. “While the subsidies might encourage a firm to locate in one state instead of another … Inducements would have to skyrocket were states to routinely try to keep jobs from, say, Mexico,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First.” “For example, the $7 million Carrier would receive from Indiana is ‘small potatoes’ compared with the $65 million that state officials have said Carrier told them the company would save every year by shifting production to the new plant outside Monterrey.”

-- “Freedom Caucus opposes GOP's Obamacare replacement plan,” by Politico’s Rachel Bade: “The Republican congressman who made his name as the instigator of John Boehner’s ouster last year was set to take the reins of the House Freedom Caucus on Monday night. And first up on Rep. Mark Meadows’ to-do list: Torpedoing GOP leadership’s tentative plans to take as long as three years to replace Obamacare. The proposal ‘will meet with major resistance from Freedom Caucus members,’ the North Carolina Republican vowed in an interview, calling it ‘the first big fight I see coming for the Freedom Caucus.’” His remarks come as GOP leaders in both houses of Congress are coalescing around a two- or three-year repeal strategy, allowing Republicans ample time to come up with a replacement and give insurance companies time to adjust. “It should be repealed and replaced, and all of that should be done in the 115th Congress” — the two-year period starting in January through 2018 — and “not left to a future Congress to deal with,” Meadows added.

Anti-Trump protesters clash with Trump supporters outside a rally in San Diego this spring. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

THE TRUMP EFFECT, CONT.:

-- Hate crimes continue to soar: On Monday, a New York City Transit worker was shoved down a staircase at Grand Central Terminal by a man who screamed that she was a terrorist, and in Brooklyn this weekend, an off-duty police officer in hijab was threatened by a man with a pit bull. The New York Times reports that 43 incidents are being investigated as possible hate crimes in the city -- more than double the number reported for the same period last year.

-- A D.C. construction company is investigating two nooses that were found last week at one of its sites. One subcontractor who was found to be involved in the incident was immediately terminated, and meetings are “ongoing” to determine who else was involved. (Victoria St. Martin)

-- An off-duty Muslim officer in the NYPD was targeted by a man who called her “ISIS” and threatened to slit her throat. (Sarah Larimer)

-- An interracial couple in Cincinnati returned from a short trip to discover their home had been ransacked by intruders, who spray-painted swastikas and racial slurs onto the walls, and filled their stove and bathtubs with cement. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

-- “Jolted into action by the wave of hate crimes that followed the election ... American Muslims and Jews are banding together in a surprising new alliance," the Times's Laurie Goodstein reports. "They are putting aside for now their divisions over Israel to join forces to resist whatever may come next. Nearly 500 Muslim and Jewish women, many wearing head scarves and skullcaps, gathered on Sunday at Drew University in Madison, N.J. … Over lunch and in the hallways, they traded stories about the latest ugly outbreaks back home: a brick thrown through the window of a Muslim-owned restaurant in Kansas, apartments of Muslim families in Virginia hit with eggs and graffiti, swastikas scrawled on synagogues and in a playground in New York. 'When did you know it was time to leave?' Muslim attendee Vaseem Firdaus asked one woman who had just recounted how her relatives had fled the Nazis."

-- Nearly 300 leading Muslims penned an open letter to Trump, urging him to take concrete steps to assure their community will be protected during his administration. “As our President-Elect, one of your duties is to ensure our collective safety and security,” the letter reads, noting the 67 percent uptick in anti-Muslim hate crimes reported by the FBI in 2015. “We call on you to make mutual respect and acceptance a hallmark of your presidency.” (Time)

-- Another Texas member of the Electoral College said he will not cast his vote for Trump on Dec. 19., outlining his decision in a Times op-ed: "Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience,” said Christopher Suprun, a paramedic who served as a first responder after the 9/11 terror attacks. "Fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again." If he follows through on his promise, Suprun will be the first faithless voter in the Electoral College since 2004.

THE FAKE NEWS EPIDEMIC HAS REAL-LIFE CONSEQUENCES:

-- Edgar Maddison Welch, arrested after firing shots at a D.C. pizzeria this weekend, confirmed that he was “self-investigating” false reports of a child trafficking ring, and he was ordered jailed until his second hearing on Thursday. He faces multiple gun-related charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon.

-- Family and friends remain baffled by his actions, with some believing he may have deluded himself into a “hero mission." From Peter Hermann, Susan Svrluga and Michael E. Miller: “Welch, described by some friends as a devoted father to two young girls, toyed around with filmmaking and writing, and he had attended a community college. He is an avid hiker. He and his wife are separated, and he has custody of the children. ‘He most likely really believes the conspiracy theory,’ said Kathy Sue Holtorf, who produced one of his films. … ‘He’s a good guy with the best of intentions. He probably saw himself as more on a hero mission to save children than anything else.’ ‘Maddison is a sweet young man with a big heart,’ said Tajuana Tadlock, his aunt. ‘We are all in shock right now. We are still trying to get our minds around what happened. This is totally out of character for him.’”

-- CNN Money reports that at least four other businesses in the area have been targeted by conspiracy believers, including another pizza shop located just a few doors doors down, which says it has been “inundated” with threatening phone calls: “Ibrahima Diallo, the manager of Besta, estimates that his business has received about 10 such phone calls a day for the last month. Some callers have laced into Diallo and his staff with profanity-laced invective; others have threatened their lives."

-- A Huffington Post/YouGov survey underscores the crisis of confidence in the mainstream media: “56 percent of Trump voters say that if a national media outlet reported that Trump said something untrue, they would be more inclined to believe him than the news outlet. Just 2 percent say they’d believe the media, with another 38 percent saying it depends on what the story is.”

-- At the White House, Josh Earnest decried the effects of fake news as “deeply troubling”: "I think there's no denying the corrosive effect that some of these false reports have had on our political debate and that's concerning in a political context. It's deeply troubling that some of those false reports could lead to violence."

And then there's this:

SIX TAKES ON WHY PIZZAGATE MATTERS:

-- Dana Milbank: “Comet’s owners asked the FBI for help but heard nothing in reply from James Comey’s agents. … Trump is not directly responsible for every violent word or action of his followers. But he foments violence. … Trump, during the campaign, fantasized about Clinton and her judicial nominees being assassinated. He boasted that ‘I bring rage out’ in people, and his violent rallies proved it. Since the election, Trump has falsely accused the media of inciting violence. At his speech in Ohio last week he denounced the ‘dishonest’ media no fewer than six times. He has also been encouraging (Alex) Jones, leading publicist of the Comet-Clinton-pedophilia absurdity. Trump has praised Jones’s ‘amazing’ reputation, called Jones after winning the presidency to thank him for his support, and has regularly parroted Jones’s conspiracy ideas.”

-- Eugene Robinson: “Trump is the Old Faithful of fake news. He started his late-blooming career in politics by claiming, falsely, that President Obama was not born in the United States. He said that ‘thousands and thousands’ of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks, which was not true. He charged, absurdly, that Obama and Clinton were ‘co-founders’ of the Islamic State. He touted a ridiculous National Enquirer story alleging that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with the JFK assassination. He repeatedly said, falsely and without evidence, that there was something seriously wrong with Clinton’s health. Apparently stung at having lost the popular vote to Clinton, he claimed that he would have won it if not for widespread ‘voter fraud’ — which simply did not take place.”

-- Petula Dvorak: “What happened at Comet Ping Pong isn’t the first time we’ve seen real consequences of the doctored-news phenomenon. A year ago, a ‘gotcha’ video — created by folks who lied, schemed and plotted to get a doctor to talk about the graphic details of her work while secretly being recorded — was pinging in the head of Robert Lewis Dear Jr. when he stormed a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. Dear used the phrase ‘no more baby parts’ after he allegedly killed three people — a police officer, an Iraq War veteran and a mother of two — and injured nine others in that shooting rampage. Grandstanding congressmen fed him the ‘baby parts’ line after they watched that heavily edited video.”

-- The Atlantic’s David Graham: “The allegations against Welch are interesting because they follow the archetypal narrative of Islamist terrorism self-radicalization. A young man begins reading on the Internet; over time, he comes to believe mainstream sources that are questionable, misleading, or downright false; eventually, he decides to arm himself and take matters into his own hands on behalf of a political cause. Just as authorities continue to struggle with how to stop self-radicalized Islamist terrorists, it seems inevitable that there will be more incidents like the one on Sunday.”

-- The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson: “Many things are likely to go wrong for Trump and to disappoint his supporters. The fear is that he and they will try to explain his failings by pushing conspiracy theories of all kinds. The spirit of Pizzagate could become as commonplace, in this country, as the smell of pizza. And how does one even measure power and influence in the context of social media, or, for that matter, in a country with few effective gun-control laws and a President-elect who got crowds cheering with talk of armed citizens taking down terrorists in crowded cafés? How much power belongs to a man in his twenties walking into a pizza place with an assault rifle, looking for secret chambers and hidden messages?”

-- Former Fox News host Greata Van Susteren (in the L.A. Times): “For Americans to pay attention to real news, newsrooms have to supply it. Too often today, newsrooms are like courtrooms. Reporters, editors and anchors cast themselves as prosecutors or defense attorneys, building a case for or against a story line and molding the evidence to fit their argument. … Part of the reason fake news is so easy to believe is that fringe stories no longer read or sound all that different from too many of the real stories. Too often, both have little or no sourcing; they lack context and they get disseminated with almost no fact-checking. Sometimes the fake stories look, sound or read better than real ones. And both are chasing the same thing: ratings or online clicks.”

Some additional thoughts on Comet Ping Pong:

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Here's Trump's explanation about why he tweets:

Scenes from Trump Tower:

How many roles will Ivanka Trump be fulfilling over the next four years?

Susan Collins sought to clarify she does not immediately oppose Carson's nomination:

Flashback -- Trump tweeted this 13 months ago today:

Via CNN, a good window into how most of David Vitter's Senate colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, really don't like him and are happy to see him go:

Cory Gardner's son is in town:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz discovered a new favorite cocktail:

An anniversary not to be missed:

Perspective from the right:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Sore loser alert, via The Record of New Jersey: “The bitterness that was a hallmark of the contest between Republican Rep. Scott Garrett and Democrat Josh Gottheimer apparently did not end when the polls closed and Gottheimer won by about 10,000 more votes. In an interview about his orientation as a new member of Congress, Gottheimer (said) that Garrett has not returned his calls or responded to a certified letter asking about a transition, especially to ensure constituent requests do not fall through the cracks. ‘I called him,’ Gottheimer said Thursday. ‘I sent him a letter before Thanksgiving both thanking him for his service as well as asking him to meet to discuss the transition. My chief also reached out to his chief of staff. We just haven’t heard back.’ Garrett did not vote in the House on Thursday or Friday. He was not seen entering or leaving a party conference Friday morning."

HOT ON THE LEFT

The state of Texas advised women to call 911 if they feel any pressure to have an abortion, from the Houston Chronicle: “Women who are feeling pressured by their parents or partner to have an abortion are being advised by the state to pick up the phone and dial 911, according to a new pamphlet the state released Monday. The Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas is not pleased, saying such calls could impede the response to emergencies like shootings and home invasions. ‘Texas police are short-staffed all over the state in big urban departments and in small rural places and everything in between, so unless someone's holding you down trying to force you to have an abortion, then you're going to be placed on a priority two or three,’ said [combined law enforcement director] Charley Wilkison … The state's advice comes amid a host of changes in ‘A Woman's Right to Know,’ a brochure health clinics and abortion providers are required by state law to give women considering an abortion.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Report buried Trump-related ‘hate crimes’ against white kids,” from the New York Post: “At least 2,000 educators around the country reported racist slurs and other derogatory language leveled against white students in the first days after [Trump] was elected president. But the group that surveyed the teachers didn’t publish the results in its report on Trump-related ‘hate crimes.’” The Southern Poverty Law Center’s report said that 40 percent of educators who responded “have heard derogatory language” directed at students of color, Muslims, immigrants and LBGTQ students. But the SPLC self-censored results from a key question it asked educators — whether they have heard derogatory language or slurs about white students. Asked last week to provide the data, SPLC initially said it was “having a hard time getting the information from the researchers.” Pressed, a spokesman finally revealed that “about 20 percent answered affirmatively” to the question.

 

DAYBOOK:

In Trump's world: Trump is scheduled to meet with Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, and Laura Ingraham before traveling to Fayetteville, N.C. for a 7 p.m. rally.

At the White House: Obama speaks to service members and separately, delivers remarks on the administration's approach to counterterrorism. Biden addresses the House Democratic Caucus. Later, in New York City, Biden tapes an interview for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and receives the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award at an evening gala.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 10 a.m. to resume work on the House message to accompany the 21st Century Cures Act. The House meets at 10 a.m.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“Oh God no." -- Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones on whether he’ll pursue a rematch against Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) in 2018 after narrowly losing this year

 

The Metro (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

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

-- Underground cell service is slowly but surely making its way to the Metro: Riders will now be able to use their cellphones on a 1.1.-mile stretch between Potomac Avenue and Stadium-Armory stations – the first in a years-long rollout process to service the entirety of the nearly 50-mile track. (Martine Powers)

-- “It’s a dreary December day with plenty of rain and a bit of sleet, but the sun comes back tomorrow,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: Precipitation spreads across the area from the later part of the morning commute to around 11 a.m. Sleet could mix in with the rain, especially west and north of the city, and rain could become heavy at times. Precipitation continues into the evening rush hour. Highs only reach the upper 30s to low 40s.

-- Rolling Stone lawyers have asked a federal judge to overturn a jury’s decision that it defamed former U-Va. dean Nicole Eramo in a retracted account of fraternity gang rape, asking for reversal of a $3 million verdict awarded to Eramo last month. (T. Rees Shapiro)

-- The Wizards beat the Nets 118-113.

-- The Capitals beat the Sabres 3-2.

-- USA Today cited a “high-ranking Nationals executive” as saying Bryce Harper is seeking a deal that would exceed $400 million and that the Nationals have balked. The possibility is high that he's only here two more years. (Barry Svrluga)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Seth Meyers walked through Trump's foreign policy moves:

And some more imaginary Trump-Obama phone calls from Conan O'Brien:

A judge declared a mistrial for the S.C. officer accused of killing Walter Scott:

Lawyers for Scott's family said the officer won't "escape" justice:

Al Gore came to Trump Tower for meetings:

Drive safely! Watch this slow-speed pileup on Montreal's icy roads: