With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: December is going to be a wild month on Capitol Hill. As lawmakers return today from Thanksgiving, they’ve got so much on their plates that many are holding off on making Christmas plans.

Republicans are pushing for the biggest overhaul of the tax code in three decades in the same bill that they’re trying to knock down a core pillar underpinning Obamacare, and they expect to do it with no Democratic votes. But they’ll need support from the other side of the aisle to avoid a government shutdown on Dec. 8, and the minority leaders are determined to get concessions — perhaps on immigration.

By the end of 2017, a year that will be remembered for a surprising lack of legislative results despite unified GOP control of government, Congress also needs to find a compromise to reauthorize the law that allows for foreign intelligence surveillance on U.S. soil.

Meanwhile, the dark clouds from cascading sexual harassment scandals hang over the Hill and everyone is wondering who will be the next to get exposed. A special election in Alabama on Dec. 12 could narrow the GOP’s already small margin for error in the Senate.

Here’s a brief rundown of what to watch on the Hill in the weeks ahead:

1. Keeping the lights on: “Both sides have floated the possibility of a short-term stopgap to push negotiations (from Dec. 8) until just before Christmas. But informal talks have been abortive,” Mike DeBonis and Ed O’Keefe report. “The first step toward a resolution will be reaching an agreement on government spending levels for 2018 and perhaps beyond, lifting caps imposed under a bipartisan 2011 budget deal. … Under current law, Congress may appropriate no more than $549 billion for defense programs and $516 billion for nondefense programs next year, a cut from current levels. But the Trump administration and defense hawks want to boost defense spending to more than $600 billion, and Democrats are demanding a dollar-for-dollar increase in nondefense spending.

Talks before the Thanksgiving holiday focused on raising spending levels somewhere between $180 billion and $200 billion over the next two fiscal years combined but went nowhere … Aides from both parties warned that if a spending accord is not reached this week, hopes for the passage of a broad appropriations bill before Christmas would be dim.” 

2. The House and Senate must reconcile their tax plans.

Senate Republicans are seriously considering several last-minute changes to their tax bill to win over reluctant lawmakers ahead of critical votes planned for this week. “The lawmakers attracting the most concern from leadership and the White House are Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who say the current version of the bill favors corporations over other businesses,” Damian Paletta reports. “There are numerous members demanding changes, and their needs don’t all overlap. Together, the requests put Republican leaders in a difficult position, as they attempt to accommodate individual holdouts on a one-off basis without losing other members or creating a situation in which the bill collapses under the weight of disparate demands. At least six GOP members have raised concerns about specific provisions in the GOP tax bill, though none has flatly said they plan to vote against it this week. Johnson came closest, saying he opposed the measure but later suggesting he could support it with changes.”

Another change under consideration: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wants to allow Americans to deduct $10,000 in local property taxes from their taxable income. “This provision was in a bill that passed the House … but it is not in the Senate bill. Though Collins has voiced the most concerns about its absence, other members have quietly said they also want the change to be made,” per Damian. “Making this change could cost more than $100 billion over 10 years and would probably require Republicans to find new money to offset it. … The total size of the tax plan cannot be more than $1.5 trillion over a decade, so adding new benefits could force Republicans to find ways to raise additional revenue. Presently, they only have roughly $80 billion in wiggle room to use, a small sum because many of the changes would be spread out over 10 years.”

3. Several big health-care issues are in the mix.

Democrats would like for the year-end spending bill to stabilize the insurance markets by restoring the cost-sharing reduction payments that President Trump cut off, and there’s a bipartisan measure co-authored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) that would accomplish this. But many on the right see it as a bailout for insurance companies, and Democrats say they won’t back a CSR fix if it’s paired with a repeal of the individual mandate — a provision that continues to be in the Senate GOP’s tax bill.

New estimates from the Congressional Budget Office find that the Senate tax plan hurts the poor even more than originally thought. The main reason the poor get hit so hard under the CBO analysis is because they would receive less government aid for health care. Heather Long explains: “By 2019, [the CBO believes that] Americans earning less than $30,000 a year would be worse off under the Senate bill … By 2021, Americans earning $40,000 or less would be net losers, and by 2027, most people earning less than $75,000 a year would be worse off. On the flip side, millionaires and those earning $100,000 to $500,000 would be big beneficiaries[.] … CBO has calculated that health insurance premiums would rise if this bill becomes law, leading 4 million Americans to lose health insurance by 2019 and 13 million to lose insurance by 2027.

Separately, Congress allowed the Children’s Health Insurance Program to lapse on Sept. 30 and must reauthorize it to prevent another 9 million kids from losing coverage. States have been using stopgap measures to keep programs going, but several say they cannot keep doing so for much longer.

4. Offsets for disaster appropriations? The White House has asked for another $44 billion to finance the federal response to this year’s natural disasters — including three hurricanes and the wildfires in the West — but it wants Congress to offset this new spending with cuts elsewhere. That’s going to be a non-starter.

5. An immigration deal is unlikely, but Democrats will push for protecting the “dreamers.”

A growing number of liberals say they won’t vote for any year-end spending deal that doesn’t provide legal protections to the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Democratic leaders face a lot of pressure from their rank-and-file members and those likely to run for president in 2020, such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), to prioritize “the dreamers” in spending negotiations.

Republicans have said they want to fix the problem created by Trump ending the DACA program before a March deadline that the White House has set. They envision a compromise that would also fund Trump’s border wall. 

6. FISA must be reauthorized: The federal law that allows intelligence agencies to gather foreign electronic communications on U.S. soil will expire Dec. 31, potentially taking away what the National Security Agency has called “the single most important operational statute” at its disposal unless Congress acts to renew it. “Several lawmakers want to constrain the government’s authority to search intelligence gathered under the program for information about Americans,” per Mike and Ed. “While there are bipartisan bills to revise and extend the law, no agreement has been reached to advance them.” 

7. Punting on Iran? “Congress also is under pressure to decide whether it wishes to reimpose sanctions on Iran that were lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear deal, following Trump’s October declaration that Tehran was not in compliance with the pact’s terms,” Mike and Ed note. “The 60-day window for Congress to decide expires in December, but leading Republican senators have already indicated a preference to maintain the deal while passing new legislation to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon once the deal expires. That still sets up a potential January deadline for action on Iran, as Trump must continue to waive certain sanctions at that point to keep the nuclear pact intact.” 

8. Senate Republicans are officially blowing up the blue slip this week for circuit court nominees, ending a century-old tradition. Barack Obama and Democrats, when they were in charge, respected the long-standing prerogative of senators to block nominees they don’t approve of from their home states. That’s one reason there are so many vacancies. But Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) bowed to pressure from the White House and scheduled confirmation hearings for two appellate courts' nominees where a home state senator had not returned the blue slip.

Brookings senior fellow Sarah Binder explains on Monkey Cage how “shredding blue slips empowers the White House”: “Grassley’s move undermines Democrats’ parliamentary ability to block Trump nominees in the Senate — even when the American Bar Association deems Trump’s picks unqualified for the bench, as has happened with four of 58 nominees. As a result, Trump is likely to nominate candidates more quickly than previous presidents. … And it raises the risk for Republicans that, in turn, when Democrats next win control of the chamber, they will eliminate blue slips altogether. In the Senate, what goes around eventually comes around.” 

9. Dealing with the pervasive culture of sexual misconduct:

Congressional leaders are under increasing pressure to respond swiftly to sexual misconduct allegations involving prominent members, following an outcry from female lawmakers who believe their male colleagues are being treated more gently than offenders in the private sector,” Paul Kane and Ben Guarino report. “In recent days, both parties have faced allegations against prominent male members, with ethics inquiries into harassment opened against Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). The political future of Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) was thrown into question when nude photos of the congressman surfaced on social media, and a former girlfriend said he had threatened to report her to the Capitol Police if she exposed his behavior.

“The first sign of intensifying pressure on leadership came Sunday, when Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, stepped aside as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Behind the scenes, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had tried to guide Conyers to give up the leadership post, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the process. Conyers’s resistance to the effort was backed by some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which Conyers co-founded more than 45 years ago. On Sunday, Pelosi appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and struggled to handle questions about Conyers, 88, a onetime civil rights leader. At first, Pelosi, the first female House speaker, stressed that he needed to have ‘due process’ and called Conyers ‘an icon of history.’ Then she hinted that eventually Conyers would ‘do the right thing.’ By lunchtime, Conyers announced he would step down from the committee post.”

The House will vote this week on a measure co-sponsored by Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) that would require mandatory training on harassment and discrimination for all lawmakers, staff and interns who work in Congress.

-- Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) plans to return to work today after breaking an eight-day silence following accusations of “forcibly kissing” a fellow USO entertainer in 2006. “I've let a lot of people down and I'm hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust,” said Franken, who spent Thanksgiving week at his daughter’s home in Washington with his wife and grandchildren. He told the Star Tribune’s Jennifer Brooks that he hopes his experiences — and an ethics investigation into his behavior — will eventually make “a positive contribution to the conversation, so I can be a better public servant and a better man.”

But he pushed back against allegations from multiple women that he groped them as he posed for pictures with them, contending that he poses for “tens of thousands” of such pictures and would “never intentionally” touch anyone inappropriately. “Franken said he has spent the past week ‘thinking about how that could happen and I just recognize that I need to be more careful and a lot more sensitive in these situations,’” per the Star Tribune. “Asked whether he expects any other women to step forward with similar groping allegations, Franken said: ‘If you had asked me two weeks ago, 'Would any woman say I had treated her with disrespect?' I would have said no. So this has just caught me by surprise . . . I certainly hope not.’

-- Tomorrow will be especially important in setting the mood for the rest of the month. Trump is going to the Capitol to talk with Senate Republicans about taxes over lunch. Later in the day, he’ll meet with the Big Four: Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and Pelosi. When the group met in September, the president surprised his own aides and frustrated GOP leaders by cutting a deal with “Chuck and Nancy” to raise the debt ceiling and pass a short-term spending bill to fund the government into December. They felt like he got rolled. Trump is unpredictable, leaving the key players on both sides to wonder what his mood will be when the delegation from the Capitol arrives for the sit-down.

The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza argues that December could be the month that makes or breaks the Trump presidency: “Year one is when Presidents usually make their mark[.] By the second year, a President’s legislative agenda becomes complicated by the hesitancy of members of Congress to take risky votes as midterm elections approach, particularly if a President is unpopular. The math is stark: on average, modern Presidents have historically lost thirty House seats and four Senate seats in their first midterm elections. Trump’s first year has been different. He has a record low approval rating. He is mired in scandal. [And] he looks like a President in his eighth year rather than one in his first. … He is unique among modern Presidents in that he has no significant legislative accomplishments to show for ten months after taking office.”

-- Notably absent from the agenda: Restricting bump stocks or closing the domestic violence loopholes in the gun laws.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Get ready for another day in the drama of who runs the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Leandra English — Richard Cordray's pick to replace him as acting director — has gone to court to try to block Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney from taking her place. Renae Merle reports: “In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of D.C., [English] called herself the ‘rightful acting director’ of the CFPB and asked for a temporary restraining order to prevent Trump from appointing [Mulvaney] to the job. … White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that the White House was aware of the lawsuit, but that the law is clear and that Mulvaney is the CFPB’s acting director. … To bolster the administration’s position, the White House also shared a letter that Mary E. McLeod, CFPB’s general counsel, sent to the senior leadership of the agency on Saturday, arguing that Trump has the authority to name the acting director.”

-- Prince Harry announced his engagement to American actress Meghan Markle. The prince, who is fifth in line to the throne, has been dating Markle since last year, and the pair plan to marry in the spring. They are planning to live at Kensington Palace’s Nottingham Cottage in London. In a statement on Twitter, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip said that they were “delighted for the couple and wish them every happiness.” British Prime Minister Theresa May added, “This is a time of huge celebration and excitement for two people in love and, on behalf of myself, the Government and the country, I wish them great happiness for the future.” (William Booth and Karla Adam)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. With financing from the Koch brothers, Meredith Corp. will purchase Time Inc. The cash transaction, valued at nearly $3 billion, has prompted speculation about how Time will fare under an Iowa-based company whose portfolio includes Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens. (New York Times)
  2. The Pentagon tried to block an independent report on child sex crimes committed by Afghan forces, according to a Senate office — insisting instead on creating its own report, which offered a far less harsh review of human rights violations carried out by U.S. allies. (Alex Horton)
  3. Volcanic eruptions from Bali’s Mount Agung forced the Indonesian island to close its airport and evacuate thousands of residents. (CNN)
  4. Russia suggested that North Korea’s current pause in nuclear tests represents a step toward denuclearization. The two-month pause in provocations from Pyongyang is the longest since last winter. (Bloomberg)

  5. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider a case challenging Nevada’s monopoly on the sports betting industry — pitting New Jersey against the NCAA, the NFL and MLB. The ruling could have much broader implications on other ways the U.S. government tries to impose policy preferences on state officials. (Robert Barnes)
  6. Ivanka Trump’s upcoming trip to southern India is prompting questions about working conditions in the factories that produce clothing for her fashion line. Ivanka continues to own the brand but has avoided questions about which specific factories in India and other Asian nations produce the clothes and the state of working conditions in those factories. (Drew Harwell, Annie Gowen and Swati Gupta)
  7. More than 203,085 people requested “instant” gun background checks on Black Friday, the FBI said — setting a new single-day record for firearm purchases. Since multiple guns can be included in one transaction from a single buyer, the real number of guns purchased may have been much higher. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  8. The New York Times addressed widespread backlash to a profile of white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer Tony Hovater. “We regret the degree to which the piece offended so many readers. We recognize that people can disagree on how best to tell a disagreeable story,” wrote the Times’s national editor Marc Lacey. “What we think is indisputable, though, is the need to shed more light, not less, on the most extreme corners of American life and the people who inhabit them.” 
  9. A survivor of the Las Vegas shooting was killed in a hit-and-run. Roy McClellan died on Nov. 17, seven weeks after the Route 91 Harvest festival massacre. His was not the only death among concert attendees — a California couple also present at the festival died in a car crash last month. (Kristine Phillips)
  10. Anthony Scaramucci threatened to sue a student newspaper. A lawyer representing Scaramucci claimed that the Tufts Daily newspaper had written “false and defamatory allegations of fact” about his client and demanded that the paper issue a retraction. (Boston Globe)

  11. The grizzly bear population of Yellowstone National Park is multiplying and expanding into surrounding areas. Their presence could create a problem for nearby ranchers. (Karin Brulliard)
  12. A bobcat struck by a car and carried in its grille managed to survive the journey. Animal control staff members sedated and freed the “beautiful cat.” (Martin Weil)

ON THE GROUND IN ALABAMA:

-- Trump continues to stand by Roy Moore, even as Republican leaders and members of the president's own family have pushed the former judge to step aside. The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns report: “[Mitch] McConnell and his allies have been particularly infuriated as Mr. Trump has reacted with indifference to a series of ideas they have floated to try to block Mr. Moore. … [Trump also] vented his annoyance when his daughter Ivanka castigated Mr. Moore by saying there was ‘a special place in hell for people who prey on children,’ according to three staff members who heard his comments. ‘Do you believe this?’ Mr. Trump asked several aides in the Oval Office.”

An eye-popping argument from the president: [Trump] sees the calls for Mr. Moore to step aside as a version of the response to the now-famous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape[.] … He suggested to a senator earlier this year that it was not authentic, and repeated that claim to an adviser more recently.

-- Two Republican senators reiterated their criticisms of Moore on the Sunday shows:

  • “It is pretty clear to me that the best thing Roy Moore can do for the country is move on,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said. He added, “I want to be on the side of right when history writes the story.”
  • If Moore wins, “We get the baggage of him winning and every day the story is a question of whether you believe the women,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued. He said that the “moral of the story” was, “Don’t nominate somebody like Roy Moore, who could lose a race any other Republican could win.”

-- With two weeks to go until the special election, both candidates are fighting for the votes of white suburban women. David Weigel reports: “Each side, relying at times on the candidates’ wives to make their case, is presenting female voters with an awkward choice regarding their vote Dec. 12: Stand by a man accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward teenage girls when he was in his 30s, or vote for a Democrat with liberal views on abortion and other issues and whose victory could imperil the Senate’s Republican majority. Both campaigns consider these women potentially critical, particularly for [Democrat Doug] Jones, whose high-wire strategy in this deeply conservative state depends on peeling away a segment of Republican voters from Moore in addition to mobilizing a massive turnout of African Americans and other core Democratic voters.”

-- But Jones may need to increase his outreach to black voters to win. Sean Sullivan reports from Birmingham: “[I]n interviews in recent days, African American elected officials, community leaders and voters expressed concern that the Jones campaign’s turnout plan was at risk of falling short. ‘Right now, many African Americans do not know there is an election on December 12,’ said state Sen. Hank Sanders (D), who is black and supports Jones. The challenge for Jones is clear. According to Democrats working on the race, Jones, who is white, must secure more than 90 percent of the black vote while boosting black turnout to account for between 25 and 30 percent of the electorate — similar to the levels that turned out for Barack Obama, the country’s first black president. As a result, Jones and his allies are waging an aggressive outreach campaign.”

-- Former NBA player and sports commentator Charles Barkley said of the Senate race in his home state that Moore should have been disqualified “way before all this women stuff came up.” “I mean Roy Moore is running with Steve Bannon as his right-hand man, who is a white separatist,” Barkley said at Auburn, where a statue of him was unveiled. “I’m not even get into the women stuff, but … how can you be a white separatist and represent all the constituents in your state? I mean, everybody is going crazy over the sexual allegations. Roy Moore to me, when he brought in Steve Bannon, should have been disqualified.” (Cindy Boren)

    -- Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) now faces a tough reelection next year after a lewd image of the congressman was anonymously leaked on Twitter. Ben Guarino reports: “Barton, 68, who said he had consensual sex with women while he was married to but separated from his second wife, apologized Wednesday. That same day, the recipient of the explicit message shared a 2015 recording of Barton with The Washington Post. In the recording, the congressman threatened to report her to Capitol Police, because he met her ‘twice while married’ and she possessed ‘inappropriate photographs and videos’ that could harm his career. … [A]s of Sunday, the only 6th District candidate listed on the website of the Texas secretary of state was Ruby Faye Woolridge, a Democrat. When Woolridge challenged Barton in 2016, she received 39 percent of the vote to Barton’s 58 percent. … Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist based in Austin, predicted that Barton would retire.”

    IN CASE YOU MISSED THEM:

    -- Here are six of the biggest stories that broke over the Thanksgiving holiday:

    • A lawyer for Michael Flynn told one of Trump’s attorneys they could no longer discuss Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, suggesting the former national security adviser may be cooperating with the special counsel. The change could signal that Flynn is prepared to hand over to Mueller information about Trump’s campaign and administration. (Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman)
    • Mueller is examining Flynn’s work on a documentary favorable to the Turkish government to determine whether the retired general concealed financial ties to Turkey. The film attacked exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who currently lives in Pennsylvania and has been targeted for extradition by Ankara. (Wall Street Journal)
    • As he tries to avoid the spotlight, Jared Kushner's access to the president has been scaled back by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. (Ashley Parker)
    • And as attention has focused on the Russia investigation, Jeff Sessions has been capitalizing on the lack of public scrutiny to enact sweeping, dramatic changes at the Justice Department. He has implemented a harsh charging and sentencing policy, tried to strip funding for sanctuary cities and adjusted the DOJ’s legal stance in cases involving voting rights and LGBT issues. (Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz)
    • Rex Tillerson’s purge of State Department employees has enraged current and former officials. Under Tillerson’s leadership, some diplomats have been dismissed outright, others stripped of their duties completely, and -- according to a new report -- the number of employees in the department’s top two ranks will be halved by Dec. 1. (New York Times)
    • At least 305 people were killed Friday after terrorists stormed a crowded mosque in Egypt — detonating a bomb and opening fire on frantic worshipers as they fled. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in modern Egyptian history. (Amanda Erickson)

    SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

    From Mar-a-Lago, where he spent Thanksgiving, Trump continued to wage a battle against CNN, this time the international branch. The slam came after Vladimir Putin signed a law mandating that foreign media outlets register as foreign agents, seen as a retaliatory move for the order that RT, the state-sponsored Russian network, do the same in the United States:

    CNN's PR team replied:

    From one of The Post's congressional reporters:

    From Obama's White House ethics czar:

    From George W. Bush's former speechwriter:

    From the former FBI director:

    From CNN's famed international correspondent:

    Trump tripled down on his support for Roy Moore:

    Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) offered a reality check:

    From Missouri's former Democratic secretary of state:

    The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol criticized both parties' defenses of politicians accused of sexual misconduct:

    Pelosi's characterization of John Conyers as an “icon” sparked backlash. From a New York Times reporter:

    From Vox's editorial director:

    From the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight:

    From Politico's Capitol bureau chief:

    Trump once again dismissed the “phony” Russia probes:

    From the former U.S. attorney that Trump fired:

    And Trump sneered at Time magazine:

    The magazine responded to Trump's claim:

    Obama's former White House photographer trolled Trump with all of his predecessor's Time covers:

    From author Stephen King:

    From the former band member of NSYNC:

    George W. Bush's former communications director summed up Trump's Twitter activity:

    GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

    -- New York Times, “Being Deported From Home for the Holidays,” by David Gonzales: “They paid their taxes and stayed out of trouble. The twins prospered and did well in school and college. And every year, when the parents went to see the authorities at [ICE] to renew their stay of removal, they went as a family. After this year’s meeting, they came home one short. On Nov. 15, [the father, Juan] was detained [and sent to jail to await] deportation to his native Ecuador in the coming weeks. His wife was allowed to go home, [but with orders to prove she] has purchased a one-way ticket back to Colombia for mid-January. Their lawyer … was stunned by what she saw as a heartless bureaucracy going after low-hanging fruit rather than the ‘bad hombres’ of legend. Adding to the sting, immigration officers refused to let the twins or his wife give him a final hug goodbye, [she said]. ‘They told us they no longer provide that courtesy,’ she said, ‘because they don’t like emotional scenes.’”

    -- Politico, “Bernie makes moves pointing to 2020 run,” by Gabriel Debenedetti: “Bernie Sanders is taking steps to address longstanding political shortcomings that were exposed in 2016, ahead of another possible presidential bid in 2020. From forging closer ties to the labor movement to shoring up his once-flimsy foreign policy credentials, the moves have provided the senator inroads into party power structures that largely shunned him in favor of Hillary Clinton last year.”

    -- BuzzFeed News, “The New York Times Can't Figure Out Where Nazis Come From In 2017. Pepe Has An Answer,” by Charlie Warzel: “[W]hile there's journalistic value in illustrating the banality of hate, the Times' profile falls short in that it largely fails to adequately address a crucial element in the rise of the far right: the internet. Save for a passing mention of 4chan and some description of Hovater's more contentious Facebook posts, the Times piece does little to describe the online ecosystem that has helped white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the alt-right organize, amplify its message, and thrive in recent years. And, simply put, any attempt to answer what exactly led Hovater to ‘gravitate toward the furthest extremes of American political discourse’ is incomplete without it.”

    -- Politico Magazine, “Rex Tillerson Is Fiddling With PowerPoint While the World Burns,” by David McKean: “Imagine holding the job of representing the most important country on the planet, facing an exploding array of crises around the world, and focusing not on diplomacy but on fiddling around with your org chart and mundane tasks like fixing the email system. Yet that’s what Rex Tillerson has done in his bizarre and disappointing 10 months as America’s secretary of state[.]”

    -- BuzzFeed News, “More Than 180 Women Have Reported Sexual Assaults at Massage Envy,” by Katie J.M. Baker: “Massage Envy, the first and by far the largest chain of massage franchises in the country, is a billion-dollar business that promises trustworthy services at an affordable price. But BuzzFeed News found that more than 180 people have filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against Massage Envy spas, their employees, and the national company. Like Susan Ingram, many say their claims were mishandled or ignored by employees and owners of individual Massage Envy spas, and by the national company itself.”

    HOT ON THE LEFT:

    “Trump Tweets Link to Conspiracy Theory Website,” from the Weekly Standard: “[The website, MAGAPILL], traffics in conspiracy theories and has aligned itself to the alt-right and white nationalist movements[.] … In one tweet, MAGAPILL put out an unsourced image rife with outlandish conspiracies about the people and entities who control our institutions[.] Among the other crazy and baseless conspiracy theories MAGAPILL has promoted include[:] a cabal of members of Congress involved in satanic rituals and child sex abuse, and the existence of an anonymous internet poster with ‘Q-level’ security clearance who is working to bring down the world order.” Trump’s Saturday night tweet promoted a MAGAPILL article titled “Donald Trump Accomplishment List.” “Wow, I didn’t even realize we did so much,” the president wrote. “Wish the Fake News media would report!”

     

    HOT ON THE RIGHT:

    “IU Health investigates after controversial tweet traced to nurse,” from the Indianapolis Star: “Indiana University Health is investigating a controversial tweet allegedly sent by a nurse who works for the organization. The tweet, from an account named Night Nurse that has been linked to an employee named Taiyesha Baker, said: ‘Every white woman raises a detriment to society when they raise a son. Someone with the HIGHEST propensity to be a terrorist, rapist, racist, killer, and domestic violence all star. Historically every son you had should be sacrificed to the wolves[.]’ … IU Health spokesman Jason Fechner confirmed that Baker worked for the health system when the tweet was posted. He said human resources is investigating and will take appropriate action based on what it finds.”

     

    DAYBOOK:

    Trump will have lunch with Pence and members of the Senate Finance Committee before hosting an event honoring Native American code talkers. He will also meet with Jim Mattis.

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: Susan Sarandon once again rankled rank-and-file Democrats by saying in a Guardian interview, “I did think [Hillary Clinton] was very, very dangerous. We would still be fracking, we would be at war [if she were president]. It wouldn’t be much smoother. Look what happened under Obama that we didn’t notice.”

     

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

    -- It should be sunny with mild temperatures today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “It certainly starts off cold, with temperatures in the 30s, but they’ll rise steadily into the afternoon. With all the sunshine, most spots reach the mid-50s for highs.”

    -- Control of Virginia’s House of Delegates is still not determined, as two close races have become bogged down by a local registrar’s errors. Laura Vozzella reports: “[W]hy she moved 83 voters from one Virginia House of Delegates district to another, no one seems to know. Former Fredericksburg registrar Juanita Pitchford cannot say. She died in April. But the adjustments she made in the 28th and 88th districts live on[.] … Adding to the drama are a few uncanny twists. Precisely 83 voters were initially said to have been moved out of a district won by a margin of 82 votes[.] … Perhaps adding to the confusion: The 28th and the 88th races each had a candidate with the last name Cole, one a Democrat, the other a Republican. ‘It’s like a Wes Anderson movie about elections,’ said Brian Cannon, executive director of the nonpartisan redistricting group One­Virginia2021. ‘The whole thing is just crazy coincidences.’”

    -- The District’s Department of Housing and Community Development has developed a new $10 million fund to preserve affordable housing in the city. (Mary Hui)

    VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

    CBS's "60 Minutes" reported on chef José Andrés's efforts to feed Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Maria:

    A contestant from South Africa won the Miss Universe pageant:

    And Jay-Z stopped a Cleveland concert to tell a 9-year-old girl that she could become president: