With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: In 2007, a small quarterly journal published an article by a little-known bankruptcy professor at Harvard Law School named Elizabeth Warren that called for a “Financial Product Safety Commission” to protect Americans from predatory lenders and faulty mortgages the same way that the Consumer Product Safety Commission protects them from toasters that burst into flames.

Warren’s idea seemed prescient a year later when economic calamity struck, and Barack Obama pushed to include it in what became the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. As a special adviser to the Treasury Department, Warren brought the concept to life in what’s now the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The big banks and their allies inside the Obama administration blocked Warren from being appointed to lead the agency permanently. The job went instead to Richard Cordray, but the Harvard professor’s consolation prize wasn’t bad: She got elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012.

Now Cordray has stepped down as director to go home to Ohio so he can run for governor next year. A legal battle has broken out over who is in charge: Cordray’s deputy Leandra English or President Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney. Both are claiming to be acting director.

Yesterday Mulvaney declared a temporary freeze on hiring and rulemaking. During a news conference, he said Trump wants the agency to stop “trampling on capitalism.” In the past, Mulvaney has been one of the CFPB’s most outspoken critics. He’s said it exercises far too much power and called it “a joke … in a sick, sad way.” On Monday, the former congressman said his views have not changed. 

-- Trump campaigned like a populist but governs like a plutocrat. Warren finds herself increasingly well positioned to prosecute that case for Democrats. The effort to dismantle the agency she dreamed up personally pains her, and she pledges to fight tirelessly to protect it, but Mulvaney’s takeover also offers a compelling political rationale to build a 2020 campaign around — if she chooses.

“Mick Mulvaney wants to take the cop off the beat … and whenever there are no cops, we all know what happens. That's how the financial crisis of 2008 grew and then nearly blew up our entire economy,” Warren said in a telephone interview last night. “Here we stand less than 10 years after the Wall Street banks threw this economy over a cliff and their principal tool was cheating American families on home mortgages, and today, Mick Mulvaney says that the agency designed to prevent that from happening again should tilt more in favor of Wall street banks.”

Many of the white working-class folks who turned out for Trump across the industrial Midwest did so because they believed he was so wealthy that he could thumb his nose at fat-cat bankers. They took him at his word that he’d be tougher on the big banks and the billionaire class than Hillary Clinton because he didn’t need to give paid speeches or raise money from them for his foundation. With a White House full of Goldman Sachs alumni, the reality has not matched the rhetoric. The GOP tax plan offers additional data points

“It’s a very stupid moment,” said Warren. “Wall Street banks hated the idea of this agency long before it was born. They spent more than a million dollars a day lobbying against financial reform, and the center of their bull's eye was the consumer agency. Lobbyists were repeatedly quoted saying that they knew there would be some financial reform, but that the consumer agency would never, ever make it into law. And when the agency was signed into law, a lobbyist for one bank said, ‘The game isn't over. It's just halftime.’ They have spent every day since then trying to take the legs out from underneath that agency …

“They have been spectacularly unsuccessful,” she added. “The agency has forced the big banks to return more than $12 billion directly to families they cheated, and it's handled more than a million complaints against the financial institutions. The agency has helped make life a little fairer for working families, and that's why the Wall Street banks hate it.” 

-- Trump seems fixated, even obsessed, with Warren. He mentions her all the time. Yesterday, during a White House ceremony to honor Navajo veterans who served as code talkers during World War II, he went off script to insult her as “Pocahontas.” “I just want to thank you because you’re very, very special people,” the president said. “You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her ‘Pocahontas.’”

Adding insult to injury, Trump took this dig in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson — the president who signed the Indian Removal Act into law, masterminded the “trail of tears” and disregarded a pro-Native American Supreme Court decision.

 “This was supposed to be a ceremony honoring war heroes,” Warren told me last night. “All he had to do was smile and thank them for their incredible service. But he couldn’t make it through the ceremony without throwing in a racial slur. He thinks he’s going to shut me up? It’s not going to work.”

-- Every time the president mentions the senator, he elevates her. Not only does this help Warren raise beaucoup bucks from the progressive netroots, it also boosts her 2018 reelection campaign in Massachusetts. Trump got 33 percent of the Bay State’s votes last year, and his popularity has dropped sharply since then.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the same mistake in February. He called for a vote to formally block Warren from speaking on the Senate floor against the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. The majority leader said she broke the chamber’s rules by reading past statements about Sessions from Coretta Scott King and Ted Kennedy. “She was warned,” McConnell said. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Over just the past few weeks, I’ve seen women wearing shirts that immortalize McConnell’s words on the streets of Washington, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In what’s becoming the Year of the Woman redux, the Kentuckian played right into her hands. 

-- Warren says she would rather talk about substance than nicknames. During the interview, slipping into law professor mode, she offered an extended history lesson to argue that Mulvaney is not the legitimate acting director.

The CFPB’s general counsel, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the White House each argue that Mulvaney can temporarily hold the job under the Vacancies Reform Act of 1998.

Warren says Dodd-Frank was carefully written so that wouldn’t be the case. She said the vacancies act they’re citing only applies to agencies that already existed when it passed. She noted that an early draft of the statute creating the CFPB would’ve applied it to the agency, but this language was stricken.

English, who met with Warren yesterday at the Capitol, filed a lawsuit to stop Mulvaney from taking over, but a federal judge — who was recently appointed by Trump — declined to rule immediately on her request for a temporary restraining order. Assuming that he will side with the president who picked him, English can then appeal to the D.C. Circuit.

Warren noted that when the first banking regulator was established during the Civil War, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, it was carefully designed to be insulated from political pressure. “Congress has always kept banking regulators as far away from politics as possible,” she said. “Funding for all the banking regulators has been outside the political process. It's done with fees and other mechanisms. The reason is pretty obvious. They didn't want powerful banks to lean on the agency to go light on those banks. This is a big structural piece.” 

-- Mulvaney's spokesman tweeted pictures throughout the day of him at work inside the CFPB as “acting director”:

He pointed out that CFPB employees ate the doughnuts Mulvaney brought to the office:

-- The president’s boosters say that he’s not being crazy — but crazy like a fox. People close to the White House argue that there’s a method to the “Pocahontas” madness. Trump would like to face Warren in 2020 because he thinks he could caricature her as an out-of-touch liberal from Taxachusetts. His allies argue that she’d be an ideal foil to get recalcitrant Republicans to support him as the lesser of two evils, just as they did with Clinton after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out last October. A poll from WBUR this month shows Warren’s favorable rating at 55 percent in Massachusetts, with 38 percent viewing her unfavorably.

But Trump might want to be more careful about what he wishes for. Remember, the Clinton campaign elevated Trump during the 2016 GOP primaries because her strategists thought he’d be so easy to beat. Jimmy Carter’s team thought the same of Ronald Reagan in 1980. By offering a bold contrast with Trump, Warren could galvanize the Obama coalition in ways Clinton could not and become the first female president.

-- Life sometimes plays out in unpredictable ways. If Warren had gotten her wish to run the CFPB permanently seven years ago, it’s inconceivable that she’d be a top-tier contender for the presidency. Getting passed over turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

I asked if she’s going to endorse Cordray for governor, assuming he runs. “Too early,” she said. “Call me later!” 

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Immigration advocate and harsh Trump critic Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is expected to announce his retirement today. Ed O'Keefe reports: “The Democrats who described Gutierrez’s plans expected him to serve out the remainder of his term, which expires in early 2019. Gutierrez held an event in Chicago on Monday alongside Mayor Rahm Emanuel and is slated to hold a news conference in Chicago on Tuesday morning. The 63-year-old congressman has served his Chicago district since 1993 and is a senior member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. … [H]e has privately hinted to colleagues in recent years that he wanted to retire, believing he could do so now that the Hispanic Caucus has more than 30 members, including several younger, more ambitious colleagues. Gutierrez’s decision gives potential replacements just one week to collect signatures and get on the ballot.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Hawaii is slated this week to bring back a statewide nuclear attack siren that has not been used since the Cold War. The last time residents heard the siren was during a test in 1980, and, if sounded as an actual warning, residents would have just 15 minutes to prepare for a strike. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  2. Less than a year into Trump’s presidency, White House ethics lawyer James Schultz is resigning. In an interview, he insisted his departure is unrelated to the near-constant stream of ethics and finance disclosure issues plaguing Trump’s administration. He said he simply wants to return to private practice. (Politico
  3. The State Department official charged with overseeing Rex Tillerson’s overhaul has resigned after three months on the job. Maliz Beams was expected to lead the effort to eliminate inefficiencies, which has run into opposition from diplomats and members of Congress. (Bloomberg)
  4. The White House is reportedly weighing a ban on personal cellphone use during the work day. Officials said the idea derived from cybersecurity concerns, and John Kelly — whose personal phone was hacked earlier this year — is a strong supporter of the proposed ban. (Bloomberg)
  5. The Pentagon is facing questions over inconsistencies in the numbers of deployed troops it has cited. Statements from Defense Department officials have differed from statistics available on government-operated websites. (Alex Horton)
  6. The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a Maryland law banning certain semiautomatic guns. The 2012 law, passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, bans guns with specific military-style features, which have been used in many mass shootings. (Robert Barnes)
  7. Jeff Sessions’s shifting recollections of campaign interactions with Russian officials is now being cited in a South Carolina police officer’s defense for fatally shooting an unarmed black man. Michael Slager awaits sentencing for killing Walter Scott in 2015, and Slager’s defense attorneys are arguing that his ever-shifting account of the shooting stemmed from stress – not deception. To underscore the point, they quote Sessions’s testimony to congressional committees. (Derek Hawkins)

  8. The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart sat down for an interview with Hillary Clinton. The former first lady and secretary of state discussed her book and described Trump as a “con artist.”

  9. Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, who was assaulted by then-candidate Greg Gianforte, sent a cease and desist letter to the Montana Republican. The letter from Jacobs’s attorneys demanded that Rep. Gianforte and members of his team stop making “false and defamatory statements” about the incident. (The Hill)

  10. Tens of thousands of migrant workers in Beijing are being tossed from their homes with little or no notice as part of a mass eviction effort to beautify and “gentrify” the Chinese capital. The forced exodus comes during a freezing winter and has touched off a rare outpouring of sympathy inside China — where any attempt to protect the poor against abuse by the state is seen as potentially subversive. (Simon Denyer and Luna Lin)

  11. Prince Harry and his fiancee Meghan Markle sat for a 20-minute BBC interview after announcing their engagement. When the pair was asked about having children, Harry responded, “One step at a time. Hopefully, we will start a family in the near future.” (William Booth and Karla Adam)

IF YOU READ ONE STORY:

-- A woman who falsely told Post reporters that Roy Moore impregnated her as a teenager appears to work with an organization that uses deceptive tactics to secretly record conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets. The effort backfired after reporters found inconsistencies in the woman's story — and on Monday she was seen heading into Project Veritas's New York offices. Shawn Boburg, Aaron C. Davis and Alice Crites report: “In a series of interviews over two weeks, [the woman, Jamie Phillips] shared a dramatic story about an alleged sexual relationship with Moore in 1992 that led to an abortion when she was 15. The Post did not publish an article based on her unsubstantiated account. During the interviews, [Phillips] repeatedly pressed Post reporters to give their opinions on the effects that her claims could have on Moore’s candidacy if she went public. . . . When Post reporters confronted her with inconsistencies in her story and an Internet posting that raised doubts about her motivations, she insisted that she was not working with any organization that targets journalists.”

In one instance, Phillips repeatedly pressed Post reporter Beth Reinhard to “guarantee” Moore would lose the election if she came forward, which the reporter replied that she couldn't do. Then on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, Phillips suggested meeting with Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen, who co-wrote the initial report on Moore’s accuser. (Click the video above to see for yourself how that went.)

“James O’Keefe, the Project Veritas founder who was convicted of a misdemeanor in 2010 for using a fake identity to enter a federal building during a previous sting, declined to answer questions about the woman outside the organization’s offices on Monday morning shortly after the woman walked inside. In a follow-up interview, O’Keefe declined to answer repeated questions about whether the woman was employed at Project Veritas. He also did not respond when asked if he was working with Moore, former White House adviser and Moore supporter Stephen K. Bannon, or Republican strategists. The group’s efforts illustrate the lengths to which activists have gone to try to discredit media outlets for reporting on allegations from multiple women that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s. Moore has denied that he did anything improper.”

-- “[T]he botched sting showcased the journalistic rigor that news outlets such as The Post exercise before publishing accusations like those against Moore,” writes The Fix’s Callum Borchers

-- Later Monday, Project Veritas admitted in an email to carrying out the “undercover operation” — then attempted to fundraise off it. (Washington Examiner)

-- Flashback: Donald Trump's charity gave Project Veritas $10,000 in 2015.

-- Bigger picture: Trump's incessant attacks on the “fake news” media have emboldened those trying to discredit mainstream news organizations and their reporting. Just hours earlier, Trump dedicated his first post-Thanksgiving tweet to bashing the news media — suggesting a “contest” to determine which television network deserves a “fake news trophy.” “We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me),” Trump wrote. “They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!”

MEANWHILE, DOWN IN ALABAMA:

-- Lee Busby, a retired Marine colonel and former top aide to John Kelly, announced he will challenge Moore in the Alabama Senate race as an independent write-in candidate — a last-ditch bid that comes just 15 days ahead of the state's special election. Michael Scherer reports: “[Busby] said he thinks that the allegations of sexual impropriety against [Moore] have created an opportunity for a centrist candidate[.] … ‘I think you can flip this thing. If this were a military operation, the left flank and the right flank are heavily guarded,’ Busby said. ‘I think that gives you an opportunity to run straight up the middle.’ 

Busby, who was lacking any formal campaign structure or even a working website as of Monday morning, said he is counting on social media to spread the word about his campaign. He said he plans to run as an independent on his record as an investment banker, military leader and defense contractor and entrepreneur. He spent the weekend working on a logo and said he is just starting to explore the legal requirements for raising money for a campaign.”

-- Moore made his first public appearance since Nov. 16, vowing to use the last two weeks of the campaign as an opportunity to “take off the gloves.” Michael reports: “Moore cast the [sexual misconduct] allegations in biblical terms, saying they demonstrated the end-of-time deceptions of ancient prophecy. ‘In the last days, perilous times shall come,’ Moore said, quoting from the book of Timothy. ‘For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection . . . trucebreakers, false accusers.’ To calls of ‘amen’ from the crowd, Moore said the allegations were a plot by his political enemies. … Moore returned repeatedly to the record of his opponent, Doug Jones, reading to the crowd a long passage from a recent interview to argue that the Democrat is out of step with the people of Alabama on judges, abortion, immigration, Obamacare and other issues. ‘I oppose transgender rights,’ Moore said. ‘I don’t believe Christians hate anybody. I don’t hate anybody. But I do hate sin.’”

-- Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump has no plans to campaign for Moore, citing what she said were scheduling conflicts. “The president is not planning any trip to Alabama at this time and frankly his schedule doesn’t permit him doing anything between now and Election Day,” Sanders said, continuing: “The president obviously wants people who support his agenda and certainly wants people that are looking to make America better.” (John Wagner)

-- Trump’s support may not be enough to convince Alabama’s undecided voters anyway. The New York Times’s Alan Blinder and Jess Bidgood report: “[M]any voters near the site of Mr. Moore’s rally Monday night made up their minds about him long ago. … Roger Nix, 78, and Juanita Timmons, 79, had already decided to support Mr. Moore well before Mr. Trump stood behind his candidacy. ‘I’m proud that he’s doing it,’ Ms. Timmons said, but [she] added, ‘I had already voted for Moore to begin with, and I was going to do it again.’ Those who remained undecided, like Rachel Heard, were so deeply conflicted over the question of Mr. Moore’s alleged misconduct that they said a presidential endorsement did not yield much clarity.”

-- Meanwhile, Jones is outspending Moore on television advertising roughly 7 to 1. Politico’s Daniel Strauss and Scott Bland report: “Jones has aired more than 10,000 spots on broadcast TV in Alabama since the primaries, while Moore, the embattled GOP candidate, has run just over 1,000, according to figures compiled by Advertising Analytics. … Fueled by millions of online dollars pouring in to defeat Moore, Jones’ campaign has flooded the airwaves with over $5.6 million of TV ads overall during in the general election campaign. Moore has answered with about $800,000 in ad spending.”

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Michael Flynn’s lawyer met Monday with Robert Mueller’s team — the latest indication Trump's ousted national security adviser could be cooperating with prosecutors. ABC News’s Matthew Mosk, Mike Levine, and Brian Ross report: “Trump’s legal team confirmed late last week that Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner alerted the team that he could no longer engage in privileged discussions about defense strategy in the case — a sign Flynn is preparing to negotiate with prosecutors . . . That process would typically include a series of off-the-record discussions in which prosecutors lay out in detail for Flynn and his lawyers the fruits of their investigation into his activities. Prosecutors would also provide Flynn an opportunity to offer what’s called a proffer, detailing what information, if any, he has that could implicate others in wrongdoing. . . . Sources familiar with the discussions [said] that while there was never a formal, signed joint defense agreement between Flynn’s defense counsel and other targets of the Mueller probe, the lawyers had engaged in privileged discussions for months.”

-- James Woolsey — a former Flynn associate who has been cooperating with Mueller — had a “lengthy conversation” with Trump over dinner last weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Business Insider’s Natasha Bertrand reports: “[The  conversation] raised eyebrows given Woolsey's centrality to the [Mueller’s investigation into Michael Flynn]. Woolsey, who served on the board of Flynn's lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, was at a meeting on September 19, 2016, with Flynn and Turkish government ministers in which they discussed removing the controversial Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from US soil, Woolsey has said. [A spokesman for Woolsey] confirmed late last month that Mueller's team had interviewed Woolsey about the meeting. He said Woolsey and his wife had been in touch with the FBI since before Mueller began overseeing the bureau's Russia investigation in May.”

-- The Post reported that, in June 2015, Flynn traveled to Egypt and Israel on behalf of a U.S. company hoping to build some two dozen nuclear plants in the region in partnership with Russian interests. News of Flynn’s involvement in that project — and his failure to disclose ties to the effort — could compound the many legal issues he is already facing. Michael Kranish, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig report: “The nuclear venture is yet another instance in which Flynn appeared to have a personal stake in an international project while he was advising Trump in 2016, giving prosecutors one more potential avenue to pressure him to cooperate. Flynn remained involved in the Middle Eastern nuclear project from spring 2015 to the end of 2016 … a period that partially overlapped with his role as a prominent adviser to Trump’s campaign and transition. … [Now], congressional Democrats say that Flynn may have violated federal law by failing to disclose the Middle Eastern trip in his security clearance renewal application in 2016.”

MEN BEHAVING BADLY, CONTINUED:

-- Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) reemerged in Washington after more than a week of seclusion to answer questions about alleged sexual misconduct, as well as the ethics investigation he has called into his own behavior. “I know there are no magic words I can say to regain your trust and that it’s going to take time,” Franken told reporters in a news conference. 

“[Franken] reiterated points he made in the weekend news interviews — that he is deeply apologetic for his actions and hopes to regain people’s trust,” Ed O’Keefe reports. “In reference to accusations that he inappropriately touched women at public events, he said he needs to be ‘much more careful, much more sensitive’ in the future. Franken said that he is ‘open’ to making the findings of the ethics investigation public if the typically opaque panel allows it. ‘I’ve not worked with the ethics committee before, and I don’t know how that works, but I’m certainly open to it.'" 

-- Another former staffer of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has accused him of making unwanted sexual advances toward her. The Detroit News’s George Hunter reports: “Deanna Maher, Conyers’ former deputy chief of staff who ran his downriver office from 1997 to 2005, [said] that the Detroit Democrat made unwanted advances toward her three times. … The first instance of harassment happened, Maher said, shortly after the congressman hired her in September 1997 during an event with the Congressional Black Caucus. ‘I didn’t have a room, and he had me put in his hotel suite,’ said Maher, 77, adding that she rejected his offer to share his room at the Grand Hyatt in Washington and have sex. … The other incidents with the now 88-year-old Conyers involved unwanted touching in a car in 1998 and another unwanted touching of her legs under her dress in 1999, she said.”

-- A day after receiving widespread criticism for her description of Conyers as “an icon,” Nancy Pelosi met with one of his accusers and issued a statement supporting her. CNN’s Sophie Tatum reports: “‘Ms. Sloan told me that she had publicly discussed distressing experiences while on his staff,’ Pelosi said in a statement issued Monday. ‘I find the behavior Ms. Sloan described unacceptable and disappointing. I believe what Ms. Sloan has told me.’ Last week, Sloan came forward with allegations against Conyers from her time working on Capitol Hill in the 1990s, including one instance where she recalled being called to Conyers' office to find him wearing only his underwear.”

-- And Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) issued an unprompted statement with a former staffer who accused him of sexual assault in 2007. Politico’s Cristiano Lima reports: “Green and Lucinda Daniels said that due to the current political ‘climate’ they wished to ‘jointly quiet any curious minds about our former and present relationship with one another.’ ‘This matter has been resolved without payment of any money or transfer of any consideration of any kind by either of us to the other,’ Green and Daniels said Monday. … In the initial incident, Daniels had said the congressman assaulted her in 2007. Green in 2008 filed a lawsuit against Daniels in which he asked a federal judge to find he had never discriminated against her in the workplace, then withdrew it after Daniels signed a statement dropping her own allegations.”

-- Meanwhile, pressure is growing on Capitol Hill for a more transparent handling of sexual misconduct cases  — and the use of taxpayer money to quietly resolve the disputes. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Kimberly Kindy report: “The payments, typically made under promises of confidentiality that prevent accusers from going public, have become a key point of contention as both houses of Congress face growing complaints about sexual harassment or misconduct involving lawmakers. The congressional Office of Compliance has declined to release details about arrangements it has made to settle harassment cases or to disclose specific amounts paid for such claims. House Administration Committee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) said Monday that his panel will push for more transparency on the settlements and a more comprehensive accounting of payments made by lawmakers outside the formal system. Harper’s committee has to sign off on payments made through the Office of Compliance under a formal process set up 20 years ago.

--[And] legislation originally co-sponsored by Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) and Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine) now has about a dozen co-sponsors,” our colleagues write.It aims to add transparency to the reporting and settlement process and would give accusers more flexibility to settle cases without signing nondisclosure agreements. It is unclear when the legislation will be considered for a vote. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.”

TRUMP’S AGENDA:

-- Trump will meet with congressional leaders from both parties today to discuss the year-end agenda, which includes keeping the government funded. Sean Sullivan and Ed O'Keefe report: “Leaders in both parties spent Monday preparing to make their case to an unpredictable president who abruptly sided with Democrats the last time he sat down with top leaders. Ahead of the meeting[,] … there were unresolved questions about how much more money the federal government may spend in the coming years — plus pressing concerns regarding immigration and health care. … Currently, Congress may spend no more than $549 billion for defense programs and $516 billion for non-defense 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 non-defense spending.”

-- Meanwhile, Senate Republicans may have to significantly alter their tax plan if they want to push it through committee. Damian Paletta, Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner report: “Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) vowed Monday to vote against the package during a Senate Budget Committee meeting Tuesday unless his concerns were addressed. With 12 Republicans and 11 Democrats on the panel, his opposition could derail GOP leaders’ plans to bring the tax bill to the Senate floor on Wednesday. Johnson wants more tax cuts for companies, known as ‘pass-throughs,’ that effectively pay their taxes through the individual tax code. … If the bill fails to advance through the Budget Committee on Tuesday, party leaders will be forced either to enter difficult new negotiations to accommodate Johnson or circumvent the Budget Committee — a move that could alienate senators concerned about the legislative process. … In addition to Johnson, Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) has raised concerns about how ‘pass-throughs’ are treated under the plan.”

-- If GOP leadership gave in to the demands from Johnson and Daines, it would mean more money flowing to the wealthiest Americans. Research by a University of Chicago economist found that 70 percent of pass-through income goes to the top 1 percent of the country’s earners. (The New York Times)

-- But other Republican senators’ concerns with the bill could clash with Johnson’s demands on pass-throughs. Our colleagues report: “Already, Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are pushing for strict assurances that the tax plan won’t add to the national debt after a decade, potentially putting swing-vote lawmakers on a collision course. … There are now about 10 GOP lawmakers seeking changes to the tax plan, although it is unclear how many would oppose the bill if their demands aren’t met. … While Johnson’s demands have rattled the White House for more than a week, the growing headache for GOP leaders is coming from Lankford, Corker and Moran.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Journalists responded to Project Veritas's failed sting against The Post.

From the CNN host:

From one of The Post's national reporters:

From a senior editor at Vice:

From a senior editor at the Atlantic:

From the Boston Globe's deputy Washington bureau chief:

Conservative commentator Ana Navarro lampooned Trump's suggestion of a contest to determine the “most dishonest” news network:

A CNN White House reporter responded to Trump's criticism of the media:

Trump responded to a story about MSNBC's “Morning Joe”:

From The Post's White House editor:

Trump once again touted the GOP tax plan:

From former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin:

From the former GOP congressman and conservative pundit Joe Walsh:

Virginia's newly elected transgender lawmaker Danica Roem criticized the way that Republicans ran in her state:

Barack Obama congratulated Prince Harry on his engagement:

But an editor at Twitchy offered up this analysis of the prince's engagement to American actress Meghan Markle:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The New York Times Magazine, “How Far Will Sean Hannity Go?” by Matthew Shaer: “As recently as last summer, Hannity told a writer for The Times that he ‘never claimed to be a journalist.’ In one of our recent conversations, he offered a reappraisal: ‘I’m a journalist,’ he told me. ‘But I’m an advocacy journalist, or an opinion journalist.’ He went on, ‘I want to give my audiences the best shows possible.’ … Hannity rarely grants interviews to mainstream reporters, whom he calls ‘disgustingly biased, ideological and corrupt.’ But he also suffers from a suspicion that his critics willfully misunderstand his motivations. ‘People don’t know what drives me, what energizes me,’ he told me. And in October, when I asked him to show me around his hometown, Franklin Square, on Long Island, he enthusiastically agreed, suggesting a pizzeria off Hempstead Turnpike.”

-- The New York Times, “Trump Paid Over $1 Million in Labor Settlement, Documents Reveal,” by Charles V. Bagli: “In 1980, under pressure to begin construction on what would become his signature project, Donald J. Trump employed a crew of 200 undocumented Polish workers who worked in 12-hour shifts, without gloves, hard hats or masks, to demolish the Bonwit Teller building on Fifth Avenue, where the 58-story, golden-hued Trump Tower now stands. The workers were paid as little as $4 an hour for their dangerous labor, less than half the union wage, if they got paid at all. Their treatment led to years of litigation over Mr. Trump’s labor practices, and in 1998, despite frequent claims that he never settles lawsuits, Mr. Trump quietly reached an agreement to end a class-action suit over the Bonwit Teller demolition in which he was a defendant.”

-- Vanity Fair, “Inside Melania Trump's Secretive East Wing: Understanding the most enigmatic First Lady — and unusual marriage — in modern political history,” by Sarah Ellison: “There may never have been a First Lady less prepared for or suited to the role [than Melania Trump]. ‘This isn’t something she wanted and it isn’t something he ever thought he’d win,’ one longtime friend of the Trumps’ told me. ‘She didn’t want this come hell or high water. I don’t think she thought it was going to happen.’… [And] despite her proximity to the public, much of Melania Trump’s life has remained in the shadows. She is the keeper of many of her husband’s secrets, and one can imagine that what binds the two of them together is that he may very well be the keeper of some of hers.

-- The New Yorker, “The French Origins of ‘You Will Not Replace Us,’” by Thomas Chatterton Williams: “The United States is not Western Europe. Not only is America full of immigrants; they are seen as part of what makes America American. Unlike France, the United States has only ever been a nation in the legal sense, even if immigration was long restricted to Europeans, and even if the Founding Fathers organized their country along the bloody basis of what we now tend to understand as white supremacy. The fact remains that, unless you are Native American, it is ludicrous for a resident of the United States to talk about ‘blood and soil.’ And yet the country has nonetheless arrived at a moment when once unmentionable ideas have gone mainstream, and the most important political division is no longer between left and right but between globalist and nationalist. … The problem with identitarianism isn’t simply that it is nostalgic; it’s that it fixates on ethnicity to the exclusion of all else.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Breitbart writer caught running secret, virulently racist Facebook group,” from ThinkProgress: “A Breitbart contributor has been revealed to be an administrator of a secret Facebook group where users regularly post virulently racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic content, as well as support for far-right groups. Jack Hadfield, a third-year politics student at the University of Warwick in the U.K., has written more than 150 articles for Breitbart News[.] But in his spare time he runs the Facebook group Young Right Society … Several members of YRS are prominent figures among the U.K.’s far-right political movements. [including a well-known white supremacist and the leader of a far-right youth organization]. [Other] members posted support of National Action, which in 2016 became the first neo-Nazi group to be put on the British Government’s List of proscribed terrorist organizations.

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Claire McCaskill Took Action to Hide Travel on Private Plane From Public,” from the Washington Free Beacon: “Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) took action earlier this year to make her family's private plane untrackable by the public, according to documents obtained from the [FAA]. McCaskill garnered much criticism ahead of her last reelection campaign over her use of a private jet at taxpayer expense … The Washington Free Beacon reported in October that McCaskill had spent nearly $21,000 to use her private plane on the campaign trail in just three months. McCaskill was also spotted using her private plane in August for travel between town halls she held in Missouri, which are events held by her official Senate office. Now, as she gears up for her next election fight, they have taken action to limit scrutiny of the plane's use. An FAA representative [said] it remains uncommon for plane owners or operators to request flight information be blocked ….”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will meet with Republican senators at the Capitol before sitting down with congressional leaders from both parties back at the White House.

Pence and the second lady are in New York today, where the vice president will deliver a speech at an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the U.N. vote calling for the establishment of Israel. He will later give another speech and receive an award at the Hudson Institute before returning to Washington.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) expressed concern about the negative effect the Senate race is having on Alabama’s image: “I know we've gotten some negative feedback about it. I do think it damages our state, it damages our reputation. It damages the brand we are trying to sell across the country and across the world.”

 

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

-- It will be mostly sunny with temperatures in the 60s today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Mostly sunny skies as temperatures work to outpace yesterday’s levels.  Look for highs to peak in the lower to middle 60s by afternoon as light breezes blow from the south.”

-- Next time you have jury duty: federal grand jurors in D.C. are pushing for a raise. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “Two dozen federal grand jurors in Washington petitioned House and Senate judiciary committee leaders Monday asking for a raise in the $50-a-day maximum they are paid for 18 months of jury service, calling the rate ‘abysmal,’ below the minimum wage and a hardship.”

-- A creative writing professor at U-Va. has been accused of sexually harassing women students. Nick Anderson reports: “The professor, John Casey, author of the 1989 novel ‘Spartina,’ is a longtime member of the faculty at the public university in Charlottesville. Emma Eisenberg, who graduated from U-Va. with a master’s degree in creative writing in 2015, told school officials this month that Casey sexually harassed her and other female students from 2012 to 2014, the document from the university’s civil rights office said. She accused Casey of inappropriately touching women at social functions and said he once in class used a graphic anatomical epithet to refer to women and to a character in a story he told.”

-- D.C.’s inspector general found that Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) deputy mayor for greater economic opportunity used city employees to babysit her child during the work day. (Peter Jamison)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Late-night hosts reacted to the news of Prince Harry’s engagement:

The actress seen in the Access Hollywood tape reacted to reports that Trump has questioned the tape's authenticity:

CNN highlighted the bravery of its international correspondents in response to Trump's criticism of the network:

The Capitol Christmas tree arrived from Montana:

And a blind man in Colorado was stopped from crossing train tracks just moments before a train arrived: