With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Outside groups on the right are furiously mobilizing against an agreement that Republican leaders made with Bob Corker yesterday to get the tax bill through the Senate Budget Committee.

The Tennessee Republican negotiated a budget deal in September that the tax cuts cannot increase the national debt by more than $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Now he’s concerned about various gimmicks and overly rosy assumptions in the bill that would almost certainly mean the true impact on the debt is far greater than that. So the retiring senator has been pushing in recent days to include a “trigger” that would automatically increase taxes down the road if the bill fails to generate the level of economic growth that Republicans leaders keep publicly predicting.

It’s not clear what exactly GOP leaders promised Corker, who declined to share specifics with reporters. He said the amendment will be included in an updated version of the bill that is likely to be released publicly on Thursday.

But the constellation of groups funded by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers – including Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners – came out strongly against any trigger last night. They were joined by Grover Norquist from Americans for Tax Reform, the Wall Street Journal editorial board and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

They argue that a trigger, if it occurred, would likely increase taxes during an economic downturn, which they fear would cause stagnation. They also complain that it would inject even more uncertainty into the tax system, which would make it harder for businesses to plan their long-term investments.

Corker asked President Trump about a trigger during a private lunch yesterday for Senate Republicans. The president replied that he does not like the idea but will accept it if that’s the only way a bill can pass, sources said. “There’s agreement in principle, very strong agreement, with (Mitch) McConnell, with the Finance Committee — and of course the White House has been in the midst of all this, too — but the agreement was made with McConnell and the Finance Committee leadership,” Corker said later in the day.

In addition to Corker, the compromise is being crafted to win over other on-the-fence Republicans like James Lankford (Okla.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.). With no Democrats planning to vote for the measure, Republicans can only afford two defections when they bring the bill up later this week for a vote on the floor. 

-- This new flash point in the delicate negotiations draws fresh attention to the deeper identity crisis for the GOP in the Age of Trump. True fiscal conservatives worry that the party they once dominated has been hijacked by hypocritical spendthrifts.

Trump, who has declared bankruptcy several times, has made clear that he’s not a fiscal conservative. “I’m the king of debt,” he said on the campaign trail last year. “I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me. I’ve made a fortune by using debt, and if things don’t work out I renegotiate the debt. I mean, that’s a smart thing, not a stupid thing. … You go back and you say, ‘Hey, guess what? The economy crashed. I’m going to give you back half.’” (This quote really should alarm anyone buying bonds issued by the Treasury Department …)

When they last had unified control of the federal government under George W. Bush, congressional Republicans spent like drunken sailors. As vice president, Dick Cheney reportedly declared that Ronald “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”

The tea party movement that emerged after Republicans lost power and the 2008 financial crisis put a heavy emphasis on tackling the debt. Conservatives running for office chastised the establishment GOP for its lack of fiscal restraint, and many current members of Congress got elected promising they wouldn’t repeat those same mistakes.

But once they got power over the purse strings again, and then Trump took over their party, the tone of most elected Republicans changed again. Meanwhile, our national debt crossed over $20 trillion for the first time ever this fall.

-- Despite the rift, the sense in the Capitol is that there is real momentum toward getting this done. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) appeared ready to fall in line after a private meeting with Trump yesterday. In exchange for repealing the individual mandate as part of the tax bill, she’s looking for more federal subsidies to help lower-income Americans afford health coverage and allowing Americans to continue deducting up to $10,000 in property taxes from their taxable income, a provision that was in the bill that passed the House.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) said Tuesday that he expected a formal conference committee to be appointed to hash out the differences, even as more Republicans speculated that the House would simply pass the Senate bill,” Mike DeBonis, Erica Werner and Damian Paletta report. “No official analysis has been released by the Treasury Department or the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation to support the GOP claims that growth would make up for revenue losses.” 

-- The challenge for Senate GOP leaders, who have such a small margin for error, is that two of their holdouts want to make the tax giveaway more generous, but another half dozen or so Republicans are uneasy with how much it already adds to the debt. These contradictory demands complicate negotiations and will force McConnell to decide who he needs to placate most.

It’s not clear for example that he’ll be able to win over Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who wants to give “pass-through” businesses the same benefits as large corporations. This would increase the cost of the bill by more than $100 billion. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) also wants this change, but he may agree to vote for the bill with a compromise that costs less. 

-- Inside the room where it happens: It’s hard to overstate how much relationships matter on the Hill. The amazing Erica Werner, who we just hired from the Associated Press, has a good story this morning about how Johnson is still angry that McConnell-allied groups gave up on his reelection campaign last fall when it looked like he couldn’t win his race against Russ Feingold. As a result, Johnson feels liberated to be his own man and not just do as he’s told by the party bosses.

The lingering tension exploded Tuesday when Johnson clashed with Trump during a closed-door Capitol meeting of Senate Republicans,” Erica writes. “Johnson stood up to complain that he understood business and figures better than others in the Senate, but that no one listened to him, according to several GOP officials in the room or briefed on the exchange. Johnson angrily asserted that ‘this body’ doesn’t understand numbers … Trump returned fire with fire, telling Johnson, ‘You don’t get to vote ‘no’ for a stupid reason like that.’ Then Johnson complained that no one would talk to him about the negotiations, to which Trump said he has called him and talked to him. ‘You’re the only one,’ Johnson said in a thinly veiled shot at McConnell.” 

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Breaking: “Today” show host Matt Lauer was fired after NBC said it received a complaint about “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” From our developing story: In a statement read on the air by Savannah Guthrie from NBC News Chairman Andy Lack, the network said it received a complaint about “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.” The memo says it was the first complaint lodged against Lauer during his career at NBC, but that “we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated” incident.

Trump quickly reacted to the news:

-- North Korea said it successfully tested a new kind of ICBM in its latest missile launch, which it claims is capable of carrying a “super-large heavy warhead” and striking anywhere in the United States. “While Pyongyang is prone to exaggeration, its boast [is in line] with experts’ calculations that the missile launched Wednesday, which flew 10 times higher than the International Space Station, could theoretically reach Washington, D.C.,” Anna Fifield reports. “The missile logged a longer flight time than any of its predecessors and went farther into the atmosphere than ever before … It reached a height of about 2,800 miles before landing 54 minutes later some 620 miles from the launch site, in waters inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.”

    -- Here's how Washington responded:

    • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the missile “went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken," and the rogue nation now has the ability to “threaten everywhere in the world.” The Pentagon said that the projectile “did indeed” appear to be an ICBM.
    • “We will take care of it,” Trump said immediately after the test. Later, he tweeted that Democrats should vote for a Republican budget to avoid a shutdown: “After North Korea missile launch, it’s more important than ever to fund our gov’t & military!”
    • Before the launch, Rex Tillerson stressed that diplomatic options with Pyongyang “remain viable and open” for now. “The United States remains committed to finding a peaceful path to denuclearization and to ending belligerent actions by North Korea,” he said.

    -- Republican Sen. John Kennedy (La.) spoke out against one of Trump’s judicial nominees, saying he will vote “in a heartbeat” against Brett Talley for a district court judgeship in Alabama. Talley received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, has never tried a case in court and failed to disclose in official documents that he is married to White House counsel Don McGahn’s chief of staff. Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports: “[Kennedy] cited a litany of concerns about Talley … [who has drawn] fire for political blog posts that Democratic senators say puts into question whether he can be impartial. 'I had no idea his connection,’ Kennedy said [of] Talley’s marriage[.] . . . ‘And he’s never tried a lawsuit in his natural life. And he’s gonna be on the federal bench? Give me a break. A break. It is embarrassing. And I think the president of the United States is getting some very, very bad advice.’”

    Kennedy, a rock-ribbed conservative, also voted to block deputy White House counsel Gregory Katsas from serving on D.C.’s powerful appellate court, citing conflicts of interest that “a first-year law student could see." “He is counsel to the president to the United States. He’s going to walk across the street and sit on the court that is going to hear cases involving the president and we’re all as Americans supposed to believe that he alone will judge when he has a conflict or not.” 

    The senator said he’s raised concerns about Trump’s nominees to the White House, but the administration has been nonresponsive: “It’s like talking to the wind,” he said.

    GET SMART FAST:​​

    1. Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, declared during his confirmation hearing that regulations on Wall Street banks are already “tough enough.” He is widely expected to be confirmed by the Senate. (Heather Long)
    2. Accused Benghazi ringleader Ahmed Abu Khattala was convicted on terrorism charges. But the jury found him not guilty on the most serious offenses, including murder. (Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow)
    3. Vice President Pence said Trump is still “actively considering” relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, revisiting a divisive question pitting Trump against some of his close allies and aides. (Anne Gearan)
    4. An Uber driver in Virginia was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a passenger. The 22-year-old woman told police that the driver pinned her down after she hailed a car to take her home early Saturday morning. (Faiz Siddiqui)
    5. The Air Force acknowledged it neglected to report dozens of service members’ assault convictions to a gun background-check database. The error allowed the Sutherland Springs shooter Devin Kelley to obtain his weapons. (Alex Horton)
    6. Nevada Democrats are challenging three state-level recall elections in court, claiming that Republicans are exploiting a provision meant to help voters in an attempt to seize control of Nevada’s government before the 2020 redistricting begins. (Scott Wilson)
    7. Venezuela’s severe recession is causing a massive shortage in contraceptives. Doctors are reporting spikes in unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. (Mariana Zuñiga and Anthony Faiola)
    8. CNN decided it would not attend the White House’s annual Christmas party. “In light of the President’s continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN, we do not feel it is appropriate to celebrate with him as his invited guests,” a CNN spokesman said. (Paul Farhi)
    9. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was nominated for a Grammy. The former presidential candidate was nominated alongside actor Mark Ruffalo in the spoken word category for the audiobook of Sanders’s “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In.” (The Hill)
    10. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) talked to People magazine about being able to see his daughter Meghan get married as he battles cancer. “The thing in life you want more than anything else is for your kids to be happy,” McCain said. “And I’m confident that she will be. It was really a wonderful day.” (People)
    11. Anthony Scaramucci resigned from a Tufts University board after the former White House communications director threatened to sue the student newspaper for defamation. (Susan Svrluga)

    A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN NEXT WEEK IS NOW A POSSIBILITY:

    -- After Trump tweeted that he didn’t “see a deal” with Democratic leadership, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi pulled out of a White House meeting on year-end spending negotiations, raising the possibility of a government shutdown at the end of next week. Ed O'Keefe and Sean Sullivan report: “Democratic aides on Capitol Hill spotted the president’s tweet and, within hours, Schumer and Pelosi agreed to skip the meeting, saying that they would rather negotiate only with [Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan], as they did in the spring to pass a similar spending plan.”

    The White House tried to make hay of the Democratic leaders' absence with a photo op: “We have a lot differences,” Trump said in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, flanked by two empty chairs meant for Pelosi and Schumer, calling Democrats weak on crime, immigration and the military. Asked about the possibility of a government shutdown this month, the president said: “If that happens, I would absolutely blame the Democrats.” (The Fix’s Amber Phillips compiled a minute-by-minute breakdown of how the negotiations fell apart.)

    -- The showdown seemed to represent the end of Trump’s at-times chummy relationship with “Chuck and Nancy.” Paul Kane writes: “It also served as the latest lesson in what it is like to negotiate with a president whose dealmaking experience came in the real estate world, where he was known to back away from nearly cinched agreements as a ploy to leverage better deals. … It’s a long way from where things stood in mid-September, after Trump acquiesced to the two Democratic leaders on a plan for short-term funding of the federal government[.] … Most Democrats encouraged their leaders to continue the talks, but they also expressed great concern about being set up for a double-cross. … ‘The staffs were making great progress until the president stepped in. We were very close on a number of issues,’ Schumer told reporters. He said that Trump got in the way of what were ‘serious, mature negotiations’ on a major piece of legislation.”

    -- Some Trump observers thought he would be able to form a rapport with Schumer as a fellow New Yorker, but yesterday’s events suggested otherwise. Marc Fisher writes: “Trump and Schumer were never pals, but they got along fine, two power players who had never quite been accepted in the inner circle of their chosen fields, two sharp-elbowed guys who led with their mouths and won power in part by mastering the art of being in the news. Now, as Trump enters a pivotal passage in his new presidency, champing for a big win ahead of the 2018 congressional campaign, people in both parties thought the relationship between Trump and Schumer, the Senate minority leader, might provide a path out of Washington’s political paralysis.”

    -- GOP leaders still need Democratic votes to pass the spending bill, giving Schumer and Pelosi leverage. Ed and Sean add: “Schumer stopped short of laying out ironclad demands that must be met in the year-end deal, but hinted that a DACA replacement, bringing defense spending increases to parity with domestic spending, funding the children’s health insurance program and providing more money for storm-ravaged states are his top priorities. … Schumer said he was ‘very hopeful’ a government shutdown can be averted. He said that Republicans know ‘with them in charge, a shutdown falls on their back. They’re running the show.’

    “Even before Tuesday’s standoff, Republican and Democratic aides predicted that leaders were unlikely to agree on setting new spending levels this week, meaning that Congress is likely to pass a short-term spending bill by Dec. 8, when current funding expires, that would push off negotiations until just before Christmas.”

    CONYERS IS HANGING BY A THREAD:

    -- Democratic leadership is pressing Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to resign after another sexual harassment allegation surfaced against him. Elise Viebeck, Mike DeBonis and Ed O'Keefe report: “[Nancy Pelosi] and members of the Congressional Black Caucus encouraged the veteran lawmaker to step down as soon as this week after a fourth accuser came forward Tuesday morning[.] … The 88-year-old lawmaker traveled back to Detroit from Washington on Tuesday night. He was not spotted at evening votes, where members of the CBC held a rare huddle on the House floor. Several members of the group declined to say publicly whether Conyers should step down.”

    -- Younger House Democrats hope that, if Conyers does resign, it will mean other senior leaders stepping aside for fresh voices. The New York Times’s Yamiche Alcindor and Sheryl Gay Stolberg report: “[T]he sexual harassment scandal surrounding Mr. Conyers, the longest serving member of the House, has highlighted schisms that are as much about generations as they are about gender. Especially among Democrats, Mr. Conyers’s troubles have generated friction between the party’s aging leadership and rank-and-file, and underscored the difficulty that newer members of the House have in rising up in a system where leadership positions, including committee chairmanships, are determined almost solely by seniority.”

    -- A former GOP House member who chaired the committee overseeing the Office of Compliance recalled rejecting sexual harassment settlements, including possibly one from Conyers. BuzzFeed News’s Lissandra Villa and Paul McLeod report: “As chair of House Administration, [former Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.)] was in charge of signing off on settlements negotiated through the OOC. Miller said that although the name of the member involved in complaints she reviewed was kept hidden, she remembered rejecting a $27,000 payment around the time Conyers’ office made the settlement. The name of the complainant was also kept secret. ‘I just wanted to make clear that somehow I did not approve this thing,’ Miller (said). . . . Miller was Administration Committee chair for four years and said she remembers three or four settlements for sexual harassment coming to her for approval. She said she ‘believe[s]’ she rejected all of them. ‘I was not going to be approving spending taxpayer dollars to protect members of Congress who were behaving like dogs. Let them pay for it out of their own darn pocket,’ she said.

    -- The StarTribune’s editorial board writes that the apology by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) for sexual misconduct “falls lamentably short in several respects.” “He said he does not recall groping and said he ‘would never intentionally’ squeeze or grope a woman but often hugs people. Is he suggesting these women could not distinguish between a friendly embrace and groping? Or that at his age he somehow groped unintentionally? Can one credibly apologize for acts without acknowledging they occurred? … Without saying he didn't do it, he nevertheless has countered every allegation except the one that carries indisputable proof — the infamous photo of him appearing to grab at Tweeden while she slept. Under such circumstances, Franken's apology is less a statement of accountability and more akin to ‘I'm sorry for what you think I did.’

    -- Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), searching for an issue to help her survive in a blue district in 2018, is embracing her role as a leader in the fight against sexual harassment. Jenna Portnoy reports: “The two-term congresswoman from Northern Virginia sits on the House committee charged with reforming a system that made it possible for members to settle complaints anonymously and with taxpayer dollars. But she drew national attention two weeks ago during a committee hearing when she recounted a story she had heard about a young Hill staffer who abruptly quit after a congressman exposed himself. ‘I do think this is a watershed moment,’ she said in an interview Tuesday in her Capitol office. ‘What happened in Hollywood, what happened in media, in other industries sort of broke it all open that it didn’t matter where you came down politically, that a predator is a predator.’”

    THE LATEST MOORE FALLOUT:

    -- Leigh Corfman, who has accused Roy Moore of inappropriately touching her when she was 14, issued a letter responding to the former judge’s latest denials of the allegations. “I am not getting paid for speaking up. I am not getting rewarded from your political opponents. What I am getting is stronger by refusing to blame myself and speaking the truth out loud,” Corfman wrote. “The initial barrage of attacks against me voiced by your campaign spokespersons and others seemed petty so I did not respond. But when you personally denounced me last night and called me slanderous names, I decided that I am done being silent. What you did to me when I was 14-years old should be revolting to every person of good morals. But now you are attacking my honesty and integrity. Where does your immorality end?

    -- Even though Trump does not plan to campaign for Moore, he might still mobilize resources on Moore’s behalf. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “The White House is considering flooding the state with robo-calls, emails, and text messages in an offensive designed to activate the president’s supporters on Moore’s behalf, three people familiar with the discussions said. An administration-sanctioned super PAC, America First Action, is conducting polling in the state as it weighs a possible 11th-hour barrage. … Trump aides caution that no decision has been made on whether to do more in Alabama. … Nor is there clarity on what the president’s message would be or how far he would go to back the Republican candidate.”

    -- Steve Bannon plans to campaign with Moore next week. CNN’s Rebecca Berg reports: “Bannon will join Moore at a rally in Fairhope, Alabama, on December 5 — one week before [the election.] ‘I look forward to standing with Judge Moore and all of the Alabama deplorables in the fight to elect him to the United States Senate,’ Bannon told CNN, ‘and send shockwaves to the political and media elites.’ The rally will kick off the final week of campaigning before the crucial vote.”

    -- Democrats are now arguing that other Republican candidates should return contributions from a prominent GOP donor who has supported Moore. Bloomberg’s John McCormick reports: “Richard Uihlein, one of the nation’s top donors to conservative candidates and causes, gave $100,000 to the Proven Conservative PAC, which supports Moore, disclosures filed Monday show. That money made Uihlein the group’s top donor and triggered calls from Democrats that other Republicans who have taken Uihlein’s money should return the funds[.] … The GOP’s Washington leadership has worried about just this sort of tainting of 2018 GOP candidates[.] … So far, Democrats have tried to use Uihlein and Moore to target Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, one of the most vulnerable Republican governors facing re-election in 2018, as well as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.”

    -- Meanwhile, Jaime Phillips, the undercover conservative activist who tried to peddle a fake story about Moore impregnating her as a teenager to The Post, reportedly stayed in the D.C. Airbnb of a former DNC official. Beth Reinhard reports: “Phillips checked into an Airbnb apartment for a two-week stay in the basement of the Capitol Hill home of Brad Woodhouse, the former communications director for the [DNC.] … Woodhouse said he recognized Phillips’s name and image in a Washington Post story Monday[.] … James O’Keefe, the Project Veritas founder, declined to answer questions about whether he dispatched Phillips to rent from Woodhouse.”

    THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

    -- In his first official week as Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn forwarded a memo written by a former business associate and told his staff to “fashion it into a policy” for Trump’s approval. Greg Jaffe, Carol D. Leonnig, Michael Kranish and Tom Hamburger report: “The proposal — to develop a ‘Marshall Plan’ of investment in the Middle East — was being pushed by a company that Flynn said he had advised during the 2016 campaign and transition. The firm was seeking to build nuclear power plants in the region. His advocacy for the project in the White House surprised some administration officials and raised concerns that Flynn had a conflict of interest. From August to December 2016, he said he served as an adviser to the company, IP3, reporting later on his disclosure forms that he ended his association with the firm just weeks before joining the administration.

    “The memo, which …. was described to The Post by someone who had read it, included a focus on nuclear nonproliferation, one of the IP3’s selling points for its plan. Some of those who worked with Flynn on the [NSC] were aware of Flynn’s connection to IP3 … John Eisenberg, a legal adviser to the council, worried that Flynn had a conflict and urged him to recuse himself from the project discussions[.]” A White House official said the National Security Council staff handled Flynn’s apparent conflict of interest appropriately. “They did their best to tamp it down,” the official said.

    -- Meanwhile, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was hired by a Florida lawmaker’s former company in the early 2000s to pitch Russian-developed technology to the U.S. Energy Department. Politico’s Matt Dixon reports: “The story of the now-defunct, Virginia-based EuroTech Ltd. doesn’t just involve Russia — it’s also ingrained with other obscure plot elements worthy of the silver screen, including officials with known ties to the mafia and an untraceable cash flow from Cayman Island investors[.] … [But] the documents underscore the reach of Manafort’s business and lobbying network — even into the orbit of a low-profile Florida state lawmaker, who was then in private industry.”

    -- Trump’s top White House lawyer Don McGahn is slated to be interviewed by Robert Mueller’s team in the coming weeks. CNN’s Katelyn Polantz reports: “The 49-year-old former Federal Election commissioner acted as a conduit of information to Trump before the President decided to fire [Michael Flynn and James Comey]. McGahn also served as the Trump presidential campaign's chief counsel while he was still a partner in private practice at the law firm Jones Day. McGahn's work on both the Trump campaign and at the center of the West Wing makes him one of the few Trump team insiders who may have knowledge about several threads of the Mueller probe.” Also expected to be called in soon for questioning: Hope Hicks and Josh Raffel, who handles Jared Kushner’s press inquiries.

    WEST WING INTRIGUE:

    -- As Trump prepares to wrap the first year of his presidency — which was marked largely by chaos, tumult, and an absence of major legislative achievements — friends say he has reverted to his old playbook as a “big-promises salesman,” seeking to paint the rosiest possible picture of his presidency and pushing others to do the same. Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker report: “Trump has dismissed his historically low approval ratings as ‘fake’ and boasted about what he calls the unprecedented achievements of his presidency even while chatting behind the scenes, saying no president since Harry Truman nearly a century ago has accomplished as much at this point. Trump also has occasionally questioned whether the ‘Access Hollywood’ video of him crowing about assaulting women was doctored or inauthentic, asking confidants whether they think the sexual braggart on tape sounds like him[.] … His critics accuse him of creating an alternative reality, though [others argue] he is simply a savvy marketer protecting his brand as any businessman or politician would.”

    -- Trump has also sought to craft a rosy narrative around Mueller’s Russia probe, expressing “certainty” it will be wrapped by year’s end. “Hanging out at [Mar-a-Lago], Trump told friends, ‘This investigation’s going to be over with pretty soon,’ adding that his lawyers, whom he praised as ‘brilliant,’ had assured him of it[.] … Some Trump aides and confidants worry about the president’s optimistic assessment of the situation, which he has repeated in conversations in recent week[.] One outside adviser to Trump warned that the president would ‘blow a gasket’ if there is no statement of exoneration by year’s end.’”

    -- Trump’s falsehoods are part of his lifelong habit of both creating and peddling his own “version of reality,” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin write. “Advisers say he continues to privately harbor a handful of conspiracy theories that have no grounding in fact. In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of [Obama’s] birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the [popular vote] because of widespread voter fraud . . . Mr. Trump’s journeys into the realm of manufactured facts have been frequent enough that his own staff has sought to nudge friendly lawmakers to ask questions of Mr. Trump in meetings that will steer him toward safer terrain. One senator who listened as the president revived his doubts about Mr. Obama’s birth certificate chuckled on Tuesday as he recalled the conversation. The president, he said, has had a hard time letting go of his [birther claim.]”

    TRUMP’S AGENDA:

    -- A federal judge, who was appointed by Trump, refused to grant Leandra English’s restraining order to block Mick Mulvaney from taking over as acting CFPB director. Spencer S. Hsu and Thomas Heath report: “In denying English’s request for a temporary restraining order, U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly acknowledged that the case raised constitutional issues. Former CFPB litigation counsel Deepak Gupta, who represented English, said she would weigh her next step. [Likely she'll appeal to the circuit court.] … The Trump administration applauded the decision and said it supports its contention that Mulvaney is the rightful acting director.”

    -- Mulvaney is already leaving his imprint on the agency. Renae Merle and Thomas Heath report: “On his first day in the office, he announced a 30-day freeze on the issuance of new rules and hiring. On Tuesday, he started a new Twitter account — @CFPBdirector — and posted a picture of himself at a desk with an American flag in the background. ‘Busy day at the @CFPB. Digging into the details,’ the tweet said. On the agency’s website, Mulvaney is now listed as director with a note that says ‘Bio coming soon.’ … That is probably just the beginning of the changes the CFPB could see under the Trump administration. Republicans and the banking industry have complained that the agency … lacks accountability and that its rulemaking has made it harder for consumers to get loans.”

    -- Trump is moving toward picking a permanent replacement to lead the CFPB. Politico’s Lorraine Woellert reports: “The president’s short list of candidates includes House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki, and former acting Comptroller of the Currency Keith Noreika. All are fierce critics of the bureau, which they have accused of overstepping its authority and running roughshod over industry. … A nominee could be chosen in the next couple of weeks and begin the vetting process, the official said. An announcement could come by early January. … Any administration pick is likely to enrage consumer advocates and civil rights groups, who have vowed to protect the watchdog agency from Trump and his Wall Street allies.

    -- Trump will travel to Utah next Monday to announce his plans to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante — two national monuments that were established by his modern predecessors. Juliet Eilperin reports: “[Ryan Zinke] recommended scaling back both monuments, along with several others, as part of a report he delivered to the White House in August. Since that time, White House officials have been working with staff at Interior and the Justice department to draft proclamations that they think have the best chance of withstanding an inevitable court challenge from conservation and tribal groups … While administration officials have not announced how much Trump plans to reduce either monument, they have privately indicated he intends to shave hundreds of thousands of acres off both.

    Interior officials have informed multiple people that Trump will reduce Bears Ears by more than 1 million acres: “Earlier this month, an aide to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) told Utah lawmakers that the Grand Staircase will probably be 'somewhere between 700,000 acres and 1.2 million’ under the revised designation.'”

    -- A two-day hearing to review Trump’s proposal to scrap the Clean Power Plan kicked off in West Virginia. Brady Dennis reports: “Industry representatives, elected officials and workers who rely on the coal industry here excoriated it as a textbook example of government overreach that would cost jobs and harm families. To Pruitt’s proposal to ditch it, they had a simple message: Good riddance. Yet environmental activists, public health groups and a collection of ordinary citizens defended the rule as an essential element in the fight to combat climate change, as well as a key measure to improve air quality and help the nation embrace cleaner forms of energy and the economic potential associated with that shift.”

    -- FCC Chairman Ajit Pai fiercely defended his plan to repeal net neutrality rules and accused Twitter of discriminating against conservatives. Eli Rosenberg reports: “Speaking during an event hosted by the R Street Institute, a conservative think tank, Pai accused Twitter of hypocrisy for its criticism of the FCC's plan to repeal the Obama-era regulation. ‘When it comes to a free and open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem,’ Pai said. ‘The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.’ … He cited the company’s recent regulation of ‘conservative users' accounts,’ apparently referring to Twitter's recent decision to suspend and de-verify some prominent white nationalists and far-right users on its service.”

    SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

    A Bloomberg White House reporter pointed this out after Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer decided against attending a meeting with Trump:

    From the RNC:

    Pelosi hit back after the photos were released:

    From Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)

    Trump also went after Hillary Clinton yet again for her emails:

    CNN's decision to boycott the White House Christmas party prompted this response from Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

    Trump also chimed in on CNN's decision:

    A reporter covering the Middle East came across this:

    CNN host Jake Tapper replied:

    The president of the Council on Foreign Relations slammed Rex Tillerson's plans to reduce staff at the State Department:

    The New York Times's Tokyo bureau chief made this point:

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized Trump for calling Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" during an event honoring Navajo code talkers:

    Donald Trump Jr. belittled Warren's description of the “Pocahontas” reference as a “racial slur”:

    Roy Moore's Senate campaign is suffering from severe disorganization, per a Fox News political reporter:

    Alex's tweet came the day after one of Moore's staffers shoved a Fox News cameraman at a campaign event:

    A CNN reporter saw this flier outside the office of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.):

    And 83-year-old Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) played this Twitter game:

    GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

    -- Politico Magazine, “The Unbelievable Story of How the CIA Helped Foil a Russian Spy Ring in London,” by Calder Walton: “A quiet residential street, like any other, in northwest London. Neighbors say the occupants, [antiquarian booksellers in London], are friendly and host good parties. But their home is not ordinary …. Under a cover of bland suburbia, they are using it to run a sophisticated deep-cover Russian spy ring, which has penetrated to the heart of a highly sensitive British government research establishment, which shares military secrets with the United States. Their spy network is even linked to deep-cover Kremlin agents in the United States stealing atomic secrets. This story is revealed in remarkable tranche of records declassified on Tuesday by the [MI5], about a major Russian spy network that operated in Britain in the post-war years … [and whose discovery] set off alarm bells in capitals across the Western world.”

    -- The Atlantic, “How James O'Keefe Made Himself Irrelevant,” by Rosie Gray and McKay Coppins: “It’s been eight years since O’Keefe’s debut on the national scene. The videos in which he and Hannah Giles posed as a pimp and prostitute to record ACORN employees appearing to advise them on how to break the law made the kind of impact mainstream news organizations dream of. They lead to ACORN shutting down, and made O’Keefe a key figure in the conservative media of the time. … But it’s been a long eight years. Despite a few big hits along the way, like a recording of an NPR executive making partisan remarks in 2011, O’Keefe’s modus operandi has increasingly shown its flaws. The Washington Post incident is just his most recent own-goal.”

    ­-- The New York Times, “Olympic Doping Diaries: Chemist’s Notes Bolster Case Against Russia,” by Rebecca R. Ruiz: “The chemist has kept a diary most of his life. His daily habit is to record where he went, whom he talked to and what he ate. At the top of each entry, he scrawls his blood pressure. Two of his hardback journals, each embossed with the calendar year and filled with handwritten notes from a Waterman pen, are now among the critical pieces of evidence that could result in Russia being absent from the next Olympic Games.”

    -- ProPublica, “A Hospital Charged $1,877 to Pierce a 5-Year-Old’s Ears. This Is Why Health Care Costs So Much,” by Marshall Allen: “During a pre-operative visit, the surgeon offered to throw in a surprising perk. Should we pierce her ears while she’s under? [Margaret] O’Neill’s first thought was that her daughter seemed a bit young to have her ears pierced. Her second: Why was a surgeon offering to do this? Wasn’t that something done free at the mall with the purchase of a starter set of earrings? … O’Neill agreed, assuming it would be free. … Only months later did O’Neill discover her cost for this extracurricular work: $1,877.86 for ‘operating room services’ related to the ear piercing — a fee her insurer was unwilling to pay.”

    HOT ON THE LEFT:

    “Lucian Wintrich, White House Correspondent For Gateway Pundit, Arrested After Altercation At UConn Talk,” from the Hartford Courant: “Lucian Wintrich, White House correspondent for the far-right website Gateway Pundit, was arrested by UConn police Tuesday evening after the event he was speaking at gave way to an altercation. At one point, Wintrich left his place at the podium in Andre Schenker Lecture Hall, rushed up the steps of the auditorium and grabbed a woman. The crowd reacted quickly, swelling with pushes and shoves down the steps until police led Wintrich out into the hallway and then into a restroom. Video of the incident appears to show the victim grabbing a piece of paper from the podium and walking back up the steps before Wintrich wraps his arms around her. The events unfolded an hour into Wintrich’s planned speech, which was continually interrupted by members of the packed auditorium …”

     

    HOT ON THE RIGHT:

    “Descendant Of Pocahontas Not Offended By Trump,” from the Daily Caller: “It turns out that an actual descendant of Pocahontas does not take any offense to [Trump] jokingly referring to Elizabeth Warren as ‘Pocahontas.’ In a September interview … Debbie ‘White Dove’ Porreco said that Trump once asked her if it offended her that he used the name ‘Pocahontas’ to refer to the Democratic senator[:] 'I know that he uses “Pocahontas” sometimes with Elizabeth Warren,' Porreco explained. 'He said, “well does that offend you when I use that?” And I told him no, it doesn’t offend me.' 'If Pocahontas were alive today, she would be very proud of President Trump,’ Porreco said. ‘Just like Pocahontas was a heroine, Donald Trump is going to be our hero.’” 

     

    DAYBOOK:

    Trump will travel to St. Louis today to give a speech on the GOP tax plan. 

    Pence has a morning meeting with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R). 

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

    Professional golfer Brad Faxon recounted his Thanksgiving golf outing with Trump. “The bombing in Egypt happened while we were on the 9th hole,” Faxon said. “And somebody, I don’t know if it was a press secretary, came out there and told us about it and he brought us all together and said you know there's a terrible act of terrorism, and he had to release a statement. … It was really impressive how they handled it all so quickly, too.”

     

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

    -- D.C. will be mostly sunny again today, with temperatures stretching into the 60s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Skies remain mostly sunny today despite a weak cold front moving through. The cooler air behind the front doesn’t arrive until tomorrow. So that means another mild day, with morning temperatures rising through the 40s, and afternoon highs reaching the low to mid-60s.”

    -- The Wizards defeated the Timberwolves 92-89. (Candace Buckner)

    -- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) offered a less generous paid sick leave proposal than that passed by Democratic state legislators in the hope of avoiding a veto override. Josh Hicks reports: The bill passed by the state legislature “would require businesses with at least 15 employees to provide five paid sick days a year and was vocally opposed by parts of the business community. Democratic leaders say lawmakers will override the veto when the legislature reconvenes in January . . . Hogan’s alternative proposal would require businesses with at least 25 employees to offer paid sick leave, phasing in the rule over three years by applying it to companies of different sizes during that span.”

    -- The Archdiocese of Washington is suing Metro for rejecting its ad featuring a biblical Christmas scene. Martine Powers reports: “In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, attorneys for the archdiocese argue that Metro’s ban on subway and bus ads that ‘promote . . . any religion, religious practice or belief’ has infringed on the organization’s First Amendment rights. … The banner ads, designed to be placed on Metrobus exteriors, are relatively minimalist in their design. The display highlights the phrases ‘Find the Perfect Gift’ and ‘#PerfectGift,’ and includes a link to the campaign’s website, which encourages people to attend Mass or donate to a Catholic charitable groups. The words of the ad are overlaid on a tableau of a starry sky; in the corner are three figures bearing shepherd’s rods, along with two sheep.”

    -- The family of a man shot and killed by U.S. Park Police claimed that he was unarmed when he was struck. (Tom Jackman)

    VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

    Seth Meyers posed some questions to Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

    Trevor Noah criticized Trump's “Pocahontas” reference, but also questioned past claims of Native American ancestry by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.):

    Rex Tillerson denied rumors of staff cuts at the State Department:

    Ivanka Trump addressed women's equality during her trip to India:

    Hawaii's higher elevations have been hit by a snowstorm:

    And The Post's Hannah Jewell explained Prince Harry's engagement to Meghan Markle: