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The Daily 202: Alabama’s desire not to be embarrassed may be the best thing going for Doug Jones

Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) and politicians from both parties on Dec. 10 weighed in on Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alabama. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: There is a stark class divide in the Alabama Senate race. It’s larger than the gender gap, and it crosses party lines.

White-collar folks who graduated from college are significantly more likely to defect from GOP candidate Roy Moore than blue-collar, non-college-educated people. The country club set cares far more about their state’s reputation and the effect it has on the business climate.

The Washington Post-Schar School poll published the weekend before last, which showed the race within the margin of error, found that Moore led Democratic candidate Doug Jones by 42 points among non-college-educated whites, 69 percent to 27 percent. Among college-educated whites, however, Moore led by just 4 points, 50 percent to 46 percent.

Among white non-college women, Moore led by 36 points. Among white women who graduated from college, Jones led by 15 points.

-- No one highlights the elite concern about Moore better than Richard Shelby. Alabama’s senior senator cast an absentee ballot for an unnamed Republican write-in candidate, and he’s now made multiple television appearances to say that he cannot vote for his party’s nominee. Despite Moore’s denials, Shelby believes the five women who told The Washington Post that he pursued them when they were teenagers and he was an assistant district attorney in his 30s, including a woman who says he touched her sexually when she was 14.

“I think Alabama deserves better,” Shelby said Sunday on CNN. “I didn't vote for Roy Moore. I wouldn't vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better.”

The senator’s criticisms, which are already being featured prominently in Jones’s television ads, have created a permission structure for Republicans to defect, especially as the White House goes all-in for Moore. (President Trump recorded a robo-call that’s being delivered to GOP homes today, in which he says that his agenda will be “stopped cold” if Jones wins and that a Senator Moore will help him fix the problems caused by the “Obama disaster.”)

Shelby fears that Moore’s candidacy could hurt the state he has spent four decades in Congress trying to transform into a destination for manufacturing, biotechnology and aerospace. “I think the image of anything matters,” he told our Michael Scherer in an interview. “It’s not 1860. It’s not 1900. It’s not 1940. It’s not 1964 or 1965. It’s 2017.  And Alabama in a lot of ways is on the cutting edge, on the cusp of a lot of good things.”

The senator freely admits that he is anxious about how a Moore victory would affect the corporate world’s impressions of Alabama. “Is this a good place to live, or is it so controversial that we wouldn’t go there?” Shelby said. “You know, these companies are looking to invest. They are looking for a good place to live, a good place to do business, a good education system, opportunities, transportation. And we have come a long way; we’ve got to keep going. … We can’t live in the past.”

Shelby easily squashed a primary challenge from his right last year by emphasizing his seniority and effectiveness at bringing home the bacon for Alabama from his perch on the Appropriations Committee. In a state where half a dozen public buildings are named for Shelby, that decidedly retro pitch resonated.

The 83-year-old, who probably won’t seek another term in 2022, is thinking about his legacy when he says that the dark history of the South should not bind its future. “We are the Deep South. We are part of the Confederacy. My great-grandfather was a captain in the Confederate army, but so was everybody else,” Shelby told Scherer. “It’s a part of who we are. Yet there is a future out there. … What caused the changes? People want a better life.”

-- That “Alabama can do better” has been the central theme of every Democratic closing argument. A pro-Jones Super PAC called Highway 31 has spent $3.6 million on the race. “Don’t let Alabama’s good name be tarnished,” a narrator says in the group’s final radio ad. “Don’t wash it all away. Don’t let Roy Moore become Alabama.”

In Birmingham on Sunday, trying to gin up African American enthusiasm, Jones campaigned with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) at a packed campaign office. “Don’t let anyone tell you this is an election of choices to what Alabama wants to be. It is not that. We know who we are, Alabama,” Jones said. “This is an election to tell the world who we are.”

“Please, I’m from Jersey,” Booker chimed in. “We definitely don’t want some people just singling out a few folks on the ‘Jersey Shore’ TV show and thinking that’s my entire state. No, there is goodness and decency and mercy and love here.” (Jenna Johnson and Sean Sullivan have more.)

Campaigning at a historically black college in Montgomery on Saturday, the likely 2020 presidential candidate explained why he came: “I’m here to try to help to get some folk woke.”

While Booker says Trump should think about resigning, Jones carefully avoids talking about the president. Whenever he’s asked about him, the Alabama Democrat pivots immediately to talk about the state’s business climate. “Right now, Alabama is in competition for a $1.6 billion Toyota Mazda manufacturing plant, which would bring 4,000 jobs to this state,” he said during a speech last week. “When Toyota is trying to decide whether to expand its operation here, they’re going to want to know what our state is doing. … A serious question that you have to ask yourself is this: Does the idea of Senator Roy Moore make it more or less likely that Toyota or anyone else would see Alabama’s image in such a negative way that they would cross Alabama off of their list and move on to another state?”

-- The business community has emerged as the in-state constituency perhaps most supportive of Jones.

The editor in chief of the Birmingham Business Journal, Ty West, warned his readers in a recent column that this scandal will hurt Alabama’s economy in the long term: “Alabama has been a national punching bag. … For a state and a business community constantly trying to distance itself from misguided stereotypes, that’s extremely unfortunate. It’s one thing for an executive to hear a stereotype from a prospective company or employee and have a chance to correct it. It’s a completely separate matter to get emailed links of actual comments and situations from those same prospects asking ‘what is going on in your state?’ … We simply won’t shed our longtime image if these situations continue.”

-- The opinion pages of the state’s newspapers have been filled with dire warnings about what message a Moore victory might send to the outside. “Over my years, I have seen the effects of Alabama’s Demagogue Hall of Fame, namely, backwardness, shamefulness and embarrassment,” Cliff Andrews from Piedmont wrote in a letter to the editor that appeared in Sunday’s Anniston Star. “I love Alabama and I’ve long since been ready for a change. I see an opportunity for that change, one that would be heard around the world.”

-- This is a consistent theme that comes up in voter interviews, as well. Consider these three people Robert Costa met in northern Alabama last week:

  • “I can’t stand us getting pinned now as rednecks or uneducated,” said Ella Jernigan, a 19-year-old Republican student who’s studying marketing at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. “Every time you think we’re going forward, something like Roy Moore sets us back.”
  • “You travel across the country and you say ‘Alabama,’ and something goes right across people’s eyes every time,” said retired actor Jonathan Fuller, a 61-year-old Democrat, as he shopped at the Piggly Wiggly supermarket in the suburbs south of Birmingham. “I don’t want to apologize anymore for where I’m from because there is this pocket of stubbornness in my state.”
  • “I’ve been in Alabama for 42 years, and I’m so tired of the publicity being so bad. It’s not who we are, and it’s embarrassing,” said JoAnn Turner, a 71-year-old nurse who lives in Vestavia Hills, a mostly white Birmingham suburb. “I’ll have to do a write-in, because at the end of the day, this is about my conscience.”

-- For many Republicans, supporting Jones is a bridge too far. So Democratic groups have been encouraging people like Turner to write in someone else. American Bridge is running digital ads right now that encourage people to write in Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

-- To be sure, Alabama has long had a defiant streak. That is one key to understanding why so many people are still strongly supporting Moore despite all the allegations. “The state’s official motto is ‘We dare defend our rights,’ but those of us who’ve lived here our whole lives know the real motto: ‘We shall not be told,’” Kyle Whitmire, the political columnist for the Alabama Media Group, wrote in our Sunday Outlook section. “Each ‘Saturday Night Live’ sketch featuring Sessions and his possum, each Jimmy Kimmel prank, each op-ed browbeating — it might as well be a dare. If The Washington Post ran a banner headline tomorrow saying ‘Antifreeze is poison, don’t drink it,’ a sizable number of Alabamians would be dead tomorrow. … For unscrupulous politicians, that insecurity is a well that never runs dry. Moore has his bucket in hand, and he’s dropping it down that well again.

-- Former Alabama governor George Wallace’s name has been coming up a lot in the final days of this campaign. “He was by turns an avid boxer, a circuit judge with lofty ambitions, a state leader who blatantly flouted federal authority, a symbol of defiance to the direction of the national culture, a hero to many rural and small-town whites and a politician who ran national campaigns on a promise to ‘send them a message’ — all descriptions that perfectly fit Mr. Moore,” Campbell Robertson and Jonathan Martin noted in the Sunday New York Times. “Mr. Wallace was a Democrat, and his use of race was far more overt and central. Yet when political veterans are pushed to come up with analogous races, they often turn to Wallace’s successful 1970 run for governor.”

Most of all, Moore and Wallace have both the same fans and enemies in common. “Upper-class, typically Republican neighborhoods ‘where the rich folks live in the suburbs up across the mountain from Birmingham,’ as Wallace described the enclave of Mountain Brook during that epic 1970 race, are now crowded with white ‘Doug Jones for Senate’ signs,” Campbell and Jonathan note. “To talk to many residents of these neighborhoods is to inevitably find two attitudes: assurances that they will be voting for Mr. Jones and a fatalistic certitude that, of course, Mr. Moore will win. … Thomas T. Gallion III, a Montgomery lawyer whose father was the state’s attorney general, voiced the often unstated perspective of Alabama’s elite as to why Mr. Moore was viable. ‘The rest of the state is in a time warp,’ he said. ‘They never progressed out of the ’50s. They don’t think. It’s sad.’”

Framing the election as a choice between the past or the future, Jones himself has compared this election to the 1970 governor’s race, when Wallace defeated an incumbent to win back his old job after an unsuccessful presidential bid in 1968. “Unfortunately, we chose the wrong path [in 1970], and candidly, we paid the price for it for a long, long time,” Jones said recently. “We have such chaos in Washington, D.C. The last thing we need is to put more chaos into chaos.”

-- Prominent people in Alabama are nervous about the kinds of zany stuff Moore might say if he comes to Washington, where he’d have a larger national platform than ever and anything he said would get cable coverage.

CNN unearthed a 2011 radio interview yesterday, for example, in which the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court said that getting rid of all the constitutional amendments after the 10th Amendment would “eliminate many problems” in the way the federal government is structured. Among other important rights, that would get rid of the amendments that gave African Americans citizenship and women the right to vote.

An African American man asked Moore when the United States was last great during an event in September. “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another,” he replied, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

-- These sorts of incendiary comments are one of the reasons that Moore’s campaign has kept the candidate off the trail and below the radar in the final weeks of the campaign. He hasn’t had any events since he appeared with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon last Tuesday. There were reports — which his campaign wouldn’t confirm — that he flew to Philadelphia on Saturday to watch the Army-Navy game. Moore is scheduled to have a closing rally tonight, with Bannon flying back to help.

After a week of giving no interviews, Moore told a friendly local TV host — in a sit-down at the Alabama GOP headquarters — that the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct are engaged in “ritual defamation” against him. “I do not know them. I had no encounter with them. I have never molested anyone,” Moore said. (David Weigel notes that his story has changed since The Post first broke the story.)

The candidate also asserted that a victory on Tuesday would put to rest any questions about his past behavior. “I’ve stood up for moral values, so they’re attacking me in that way,” Moore said. “When this race is over, on the 12th of December, it will be over.”

During a rally in Pensacola, Fla., President Trump tells Alabamians to “get out and vote for Roy Moore,” the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Alabama. (Video: The Washington Post)

-- It’s not just Alabama’s image. The GOP brand is also taking a hit.

A former longtime Republican spokesman on Capitol Hill, Kurt Bardella, has decided to quit the party over its embrace of Moore. “President Trump and the Republican National Committee are endorsing, supporting and funding Moore because they would rather elect a sexual predator who preys on teenagers at the local mall than a crime-fighting prosecutor who happens to be a Democrat,” Bardella writes in an op-ed for USA Today. “This is not a party I want to be associated with any longer. This is not a party that is trustworthy enough to protect innocent children from sexual predators. The embrace of Moore by the Republican Party’s top ‘leadership’ is all the proof you need to know that this is a party that no longer stands for anything.”

-- Spotted Sunday at the new Museum of the Bible in Washington: Trent Franks. The Arizona GOP congressman resigned on Friday after reports that he allegedly offered a female staff member $5 million if she would bear his child.

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  1. Monster wildfires continued to ravage Southern California for a seventh day, collectively scorching nearly 200,000 acres as authorities braced for another day of strong winds and unpredictable conditions. The fires have been blamed for one death and have destroyed more than 800 buildings. (Rob Kuznia, Mark Berman, Max Ufberg and Soo Youn)
  2. The executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons warned that nuclear war may be “one tiny tantrum away.” Beatrice Fihn made the comment while accepting the group’s Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. (BBC)
  3. A pro-Trump super PAC has been largely inactive since the election — except for continuing to pay a high salary to its top official, who is a longtime associate of Paul Manafort. Rebuilding America Now has paid Laurance Gay about $830,000 — a far higher salary than those offered to leaders of other pro-Trump groups — since its creation a year and a half ago. (Bloomberg)
  4. Legendary journalist and chronicler of the civil rights movement Simeon Booker died at 99. Booker was the first full-time black reporter for The Post and went on to become the Washington bureau chief for Jet and Ebony magazines. He famously covered the Emmett Till murder and subsequent trial for Jet, which made the unique decision of publishing photos of Till’s disfigured face. (Emily Langer)
  5. Serial killer Todd Kohlhepp told a local paper he had killed more people than authorities thought. “Yes there is more than seven,” Kohlhepp wrote to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal last week, a year after a woman was discovered on his property chained in a storage container. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  6. Three people were hospitalized and several others lost their homes after a Cincinnati woman accidentally started a fire while trying to kill bed bugs with alcohol. Oddly, fire officials said it was the second blaze in two weeks caused by a botched bed bug removal attempt. (Kristine Phillips)
  7. A video of a young boy named Keaton describing how bullying affected him went viral. The video, in which Keaton offers reassurance to other bullied children even as he cries about what he has experienced, was shared hundreds of thousands of times. Celebrities even sent encouraging messages to the boy with the hashtag #StandWithKeaton. (Amy B Wang)
  8. Two men have come forward claiming to be the rescuer of a bunny from the California wildfires in a video that went viral. Oscar Gonzales told a local NBC affiliate he was the driver in a red hoodie who pulled over to save a rabbit, a moment captured on film by another driver, but Caleb Wadnan then claimed the same — with a photo of the singed rabbit as evidence. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Karin Brulliard)


-- Before pleading guilty in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos was a “critical interlocutor” to Trump’s team in his ancestral homeland of Athens — and found an especially close ally in the pro-Russian Greek defense minister, Panos Kammenos. Griff Witte reports: “Before his spectacular fall … [Papadopoulos received] access to officials at the highest levels of the Greek government, many of whom shared links to Russia and sympathies that would be unusual in other Western capitals. Kammenos, in particular, stood out both for his pro-Russian views and his determination to forge a bond with the young Trump adviser. ‘Papadopoulos was totally unknown. But then Kammenos took him by the hand and promoted him everywhere,’ [said Adonis Georgiadis, vice president of Greece’s center-right New Democracy party]. In short order, Papadopoulos had soon had meetings not only with the defense minister, but also with Greece’s foreign minister, its president and a former prime minister . . . All are considered relatively pro-Russian.” At the time, Papadopoulos was working “aggressively” to broker a meeting between Putin and Trump.

“Although Papadopoulos’s plea deal focused on his contacts with an obscure and mysterious Maltese professor … Greek politicians and analysts say his best and most obvious path to Moscow would have run through Athens. ‘If I were in his shoes, I would have thought, 'Can my Greek friends help me make the Moscow connection?” said Thanos Dokos, director general of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy. ‘It would make sense.’”

-- Mueller is reportedly zeroing in on the 18 days that passed between White House officials learning of Michael Flynn’s susceptibility to blackmail by Russians and his firing. NBC News’s Carol E. Lee and Julia Ainsley report: “Multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses … to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn. Some of those interviewed by Mueller's team believe the goal is in part to determine if there was a deliberate effort by President Trump or top officials in the West Wing to cover up the information about Flynn that Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, conveyed to [White House counsel Don] McGahn on Jan. 26. In addition to Flynn, McGahn is also expected to be critical to federal investigators trying to piece together a timeline of those 18 days.”

-- The Atlantic just published Julia Ioffe’s months-long deep dive into how the Kremlin managed to insert chaos into America’s democratic institutions, “The Myth of Vladimir Putin, the Puppet Master.” The bottom line: Russians don’t attribute the power to Putin that American officials claim: “[M]ost Russians don’t recognize the Russia portrayed in this [2016 election hack] story: powerful, organized, and led by an omniscient, omnipotent leader who is able to both formulate and execute a complex and highly detailed plot … Gleb Pavlovsky, a political consultant who helped Putin win his first presidential campaign, in 2000, and served as a Kremlin adviser until 2011, simply laughed when I asked him about Putin’s role in Donald Trump’s election. ‘We did an amazing job in the first decade of Putin’s rule of creating the illusion that Putin controls everything in Russia,’ he said. ‘Now it’s just funny’ how much Americans attribute to him … The subversion of the election was as much a product of improvisation and entropy as it was of long-range vision. What makes Putin effective, what makes him dangerous, is not strategic brilliance but a tactical flexibility and adaptability — a willingness to experiment, to disrupt, and to take big risks.”

Some interesting nuggets from the story:

  • Insiders say that Putin’s circle believes former CIA and State Department employees were responsible for the publication of the Panama Papers, implicating Putin. They ordered the 2016 election hack in retaliation.
  • The hack’s original aim was to “embarrass” Hillary Clinton and paint the United States as just as “corrupt” as Russia. “No one believed in Trump, not even a little bit,” said Andrei Soldatov, a Russian journalist with deep sources in the security services.
  • Two hacking groups — Fancy Bear, from military intelligence; and Cozy Bear, from foreign intelligence or the FSB — might not have known what the other was doing.

-- Vladimir Putin called for a drawdown of Russian forces in Syria. Making a surprise appearance at Russia’s Khmeimim air base in Syria, Putin told his defense minister to begin the “withdrawal of Russian troop contingents” to their permanent bases. But the Russian president stipulated there would be more strikes “if terrorists raise their head again.” (Andrew Roth)

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Dec. 10 said that the women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct “should be heard.” (Video: Reuters)


-- U.N. Secretary Nikki Haley said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday that the women who accused Trump of touching or groping them without consent “should be heard,” breaking with the White House position amid a wave of sexual harassment allegations in Washington. Rosalind S. Helderman and David Weigel report: “[Sarah Huckabee Sanders] has said that the White House’s position is that the women are lying and that the American people settled the issue by electing Trump despite the accusations. Asked by CBS’s John Dickerson whether she considered the allegations a ‘settled issue,’ given last year’s election results, Haley responded, ‘You know, that’s for the people to decide. I know that he was elected. But, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them.’”

-- Bernie Sanders called on Trump to follow Al Franken's lead and think about resigning. “[Al Franken] felt it proper for him to resign,” the Vermont senator said on NBC's “Meet the Press.” “Here you have a president who has been accused by many women of assault, who says on a tape that he assaulted women. He might want to think about doing the same.” David Weigel reports:

  • On Saturday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also spoke about Franken’s resignation — calling it the “honorable” thing to do: “My question is, why isn’t [Trump] doing the same thing — who has more serious allegations against him, with more women who have come forward? The fact pattern on him is far more damning than the fact pattern on Al Franken.”
  • “[Trump] should resign because he certainly has a track record with more than 17 women of horrific conduct,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said last week on MSNBC.

-- Three of the women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct are appearing on “Megyn Kelly Today.” Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Rachel Crooks will share their experience on the NBC show, while 16 of Trump’s accusers will also appear at a news conference in New York City this morning. (New York Daily News)

Now that the Senate and the House have passed two tax bills, there are some crucial differences they need to resolve in conference. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post, Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)


-- The rapid speed at which Republicans are attempting to pass their tax plan has created issues with the legislation and opened it up to criticism that it’s being jammed through Congress. Erica Werner reports: “Questionable special-interest provisions have been stuffed in along the way, out of public view and in some cases literally in the dead of night. Drafting errors by exhausted staff are cropping up and need fixes[.] … And the melding process underway has opened the door to another frenzy of 11th-hour lobbying as special interests, including President Trump’s rich friends, make one last dash for cash before the final bill speeds through both chambers of Congress and onto Trump’s desk. … Democrats accuse Republicans of whisking the legislation along to avoid extended public scrutiny and prevent them from mounting an offensive at public hearings or over lengthy congressional breaks. The GOP bills have endured neither.”

-- And in ICYMI, Damian Paletta has the backstory on how the GOP tax plan went from being about relief for the middle class, in Trump's words, to a boon for corporate America.

-- Unintended consequences: The Senate plan could result in marginal tax rates over 100 percent for some business owners. The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin reports: “That means a business owner’s next $100 in earnings, under certain circumstances, would require paying more than $100 in additional federal and state taxes. As lawmakers rush to write the final tax bill over the next week, they already are looking at changes to prevent this from happening. … The possible marginal tax rate of more than 100% results from the combination of tax policies designed to provide benefits to businesses and families but then deny them to the richest people.”

-- Millions of Americans could face a significant tax hike if the House proposal to gut a medical deduction makes it into the final bill. Heather Long writes: “[Anne] Hammer is 71. Like many seniors, her medical bills are piling up. … Her out-of-pocket medical expenses vary, but she estimates they are about $20,000 a year. Under current law, she can take a big medical deduction on her taxes. Last year, she was able to reduce her total taxable income by $16,000 because of the medical deduction alone, saving her over $3,000 on her tax bill. The House tax bill would eliminate the deduction, while the Senate bill would keep it (and even make it a bit more generous). It’s a key difference that must be reconciled before the final legislation goes to President Trump.”

-- New polling confirms the public is not yet sold on the plan, with just one-third of respondents supporting the GOP bills. USA Today’s Susan Page reports: “A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds just 32% support the GOP tax plan; 48% oppose it. That's the lowest level of public support for any major piece of legislation enacted in the past three decades, including the Affordable Care Act in 2009. Americans are skeptical of the fundamental arguments Republicans have made in selling the bill: A 53% majority of those surveyed predict their own families won't pay lower taxes as a result of the measure, and an equal 53% say it won't help the economy in a major way.”

-- Statistics show Trump’s EPA has taken a less aggressive approach to polluters than either of the past two administrations. The New York Times’s Eric Lipton and Danielle Ivory report: “The Times built a database of civil cases filed at the E.P.A. during the Trump, Obama and Bush administrations. During the first nine months under Mr. Pruitt’s leadership, the E.P.A. started about 1,900 cases, about one-third fewer than the number under President Barack Obama’s first E.P.A. director and about one-quarter fewer than under President George W. Bush’s over the same time period. In addition, the agency sought civil penalties of about $50.4 million from polluters for cases initiated under Mr. Trump. Adjusted for inflation, that is about 39 percent of what the Obama administration sought and about 70 percent of what the Bush administration sought over the same time period.”

-- Senate Republicans have begun attacking the American Bar Association after the nonpartisan legal organization deemed at least four of Trump’s judicial nominees “unqualified.” Politico’s Seung Min Kim and John Bresnahan report: “Democrats warn of dire consequences of ignoring the group’s evaluations. But Republicans are intent on a dramatic reshaping of the federal judiciary that could last for decades and so far, haven’t been persuaded by the ABA’s ratings. As the Senate prepares this week to confirm one appellate nominee that the ABA said was not qualified for the bench, Republicans are instead ratcheting up their attacks to try to discredit the century-old group. … Democrats are worried that Trump officials are abandoning the practice so Republicans can push through younger, conservative attorneys who may not have as much experience to a lifetime position on the bench.

-- Next up on the Republican to-do list: welfare reform that could affect those who rely on food stamps, Medicaid and housing benefits. Politico’s Andrew Restuccia, Sarah Ferris and Helena Bottemiller Evich report: “The White House is quietly preparing a sweeping executive order that would mandate a top-to-bottom review of the federal programs on which millions of poor Americans rely. And GOP lawmakers are in the early stages of crafting legislation that could make it more difficult to qualify for those programs. … The president is expected to sign the welfare executive order as soon as January, according to multiple administration officials, with an eye toward making changes to health care, food stamps, housing and veterans programs, not just traditional welfare payments.”

The Washington Post's Joby Warrick explains why intelligence officials say North Korea may be moving toward an advanced bioweapons program. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)


-- Amid the growing threat of a nuclear North Korea, U.S. intelligence officials are expressing alarm about Pyongyang’s recent biotech gains, which they say could be used for the development of advanced biological weapons. Joby Warrick reports: “North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons program, from factories that can produce microbes by the ton, to laboratories specializing in genetic modification[.] … Meanwhile, [Kim Jong Un’s] regime is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world. The gains have alarmed U.S. analysts, who say North Korea … could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so.”

-- The Yonhap News Agency reported Victor Cha will be nominated as the U.S. ambassador to South Korea: “[Sources] said they expect Seoul to swiftly approve the nomination as the post has been vacant since the Trump administration came into office early this year. … Cha served as director for Asian affairs on the White House National Security Council in the George W. Bush administration. He is currently the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.”

Lebanese security forces fired tear gas and water canon at anti-Trump protesters near the U.S. embassy in Beirut. (Video: Reuters)

-- Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel baffled many foreign policy experts and underscored the withdrawal of the U.S. from the world stage under his leadership. Karen DeYoung reports: “Senior administration officials insisted that the decision was meaningless in the context of hoped-for Middle East peace negotiations and emphasized that most issues disputed between Israel and the Palestinians remained on the table. None suggested a concrete U.S. national security objective that was furthered by the move, or indicated that it was part of a strategy for achieving the peace deal that Trump has said is a primary foreign policy goal.”

-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told European officials he expects the E.U. to follow Trump’s lead on the issue. The AP reports: “Netanyahu, on a first official visit to the EU by an Israeli premier in 22 years, told reporters in Brussels that recognizing Jerusalem was merely stating the reality on the ground . . . But European officials say they have heard no details about the U.S. plan to relaunch moribund Mideast peace efforts. ‘We should give peace a chance. I think we should see what is presented and see if we can advance this peace,’ Netanyahu said[.]”

-- “Of course, no one seems to believe in Trump's commitment to the peace process, either,” writes Ishaan Tharoor. “Trump's recognition of Jerusalem underscored what many in the region have long believed — that the United States was never seriously an impartial mediator in the conflict, and has instead presided over decades of Israeli settlement expansion that undercut Palestinian claims for sovereignty. … But if Trump's Jerusalem move was an insult or a blow to Palestinian leadership, it may give Palestinians a new clarity about the political battle ahead.”

-- Meanwhile, protests over the decision continued near the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Louisa Loveluck and Suzan Haidamous report: “The Lebanese army fired water cannons and tear gas as youths hurled stones and burned effigies of Trump. Hundreds attended the Sunday morning protest on the edge of Beirut, many wrapped in Palestinian scarves and flags . . . The Health Ministry later said eight people had been hospitalized and 43 people treated at the scene.”


Trump once again targeted “fake news” and referred to the media as “a stain on America”:

From The Post's fact-checker:

A Slate correspondent responded to Roy Moore's 2011 comment that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the 10th amendment would “eliminate many problems”:

Actress Connie Britton endorsed Doug Jones:

After musician Jason Isbell hosted a get-out-the-vote concert for Jones, he responded to backlash:

An NBC News reporter in Alabama noted the candidates' varying levels of accessibility:

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee laid out what he sees as collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) sung the praises of Trump International Golf Club after spending the day on the course with the president:

From the Weekly Standard editor:

Trump's reported tendency to “hate-watch” Don Lemon on CNN drew attention:

From a Post reporter:

Nikki Haley caught flak for wishing Jake Tapper, who is Jewish, a “Merry Christmas.” Tapper responded to the criticism:

Haley quickly followed up with additional holiday wishes:


-- “The legacy of Newtown: Lockdowns, active-shooter training and school security,” from Katie Zezima and Susan Svrluga: “Five years after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary where 20 children and six teachers were killed, little about the nation’s federal gun laws has changed. But it forever altered the way schools across America approach safety: Doors are now fortified, police officers are a regular presence, and active-shooter drills are as common as those for fires and tornadoes.”

-- New York Magazine, “This Moment Isn’t (Just) About Sex. It’s Really About Work,” by Rebecca Traister: “But in the midst of our great national calculus, in which we are determining what punishments fit which sexual crimes, it’s possible that we’re missing the bigger picture altogether: that this is not, at its heart, about sex at all — or at least not wholly. What it’s really about is work, and women’s equality in the workplace, and more broadly, about the rot at the core of our power structures that makes it harder for women to do work because the whole thing is tipped toward men.”

-- The New York Times, “After Fall of ISIS, Iraq’s Second-Largest City Picks Up the Pieces,” by Margaret Coker: “In the heat of the late summer sun, weeks after the end of one of the largest urban battles since World War II, a high school principal trekked from his home in east Mosul to the west bank of the Tigris River to confront the ruins of his life’s work. Bordering Mosul’s Old City, his stately Ottoman-era school, where generations of Iraqi political and military leaders studied, lay in ruin. The scale of devastation at the place he hoped to mold Iraq’s next generation of leaders drew a flutter of despair … But then he harnessed the traits that residents of Mosul are famous for: ingenuity and industriousness. This month, [he said], he is planning to restart classes for 450 students. ‘We solve problems,’ he said. ‘We find resources. We find a way. It’s the spirit of Mosul.’”


“Despite recent wins, Democrats remain divided about what they stand for,” from Ed O'Keefe and David Weigel: “From immigration to banking reform to taxes to sexual harassment, many in the party say it does not have a unified message to spread around the country. Those concerns flared up at a party meeting over the weekend in Washington.[And pulling recent] advantages into a coherent message remains elusive in Trump’s tweet-driven Washington. In addition, the bitterness cultivated during the party’s 2016 presidential nominating contest has not fully faded. The [DNC’s] Unity Reform Commission, launched to settle disputes that surfaced last year between the Hillary Clinton and [Bernie] Sanders camps, on Friday and Saturday suggested new rules for 2020 intended to open up the nominating process to more voices … [but] commission members from both camps warned that the party has not solved the problems with branding and organization that led to its 2016 losses.”



“Penn State prof: Eating meat is a form of 'hegemonic masculinity,’” from the Washington Examiner: “If you want to fight the patriarchy, go vegetarian. At least, that’s what Penn State sociology professor Anne DeLessio-Parson says will do the trick. Her article in ‘Gender, Place, and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography’ says that eating meat is a form of ‘hegemonic masculinity.’ To investigate the connection between meat and masculinity, DeLessio-Parson conducted 23 interviews of men and women in Argentina. The country’s notoriously meat-heavy food culture made it a uniquely fitting place to study. DeLessio-Parson sees vegetarianism as a form of social rebellion. She writes, ‘Women, for example, assert authority over their diets; men embody rejection of the meat-masculinity nexus by adopting a worldview that also rejects sexism and racism. I contend that in such a context, we cannot separate the ways people ‘do vegetarianism’ from how they ‘do gender.’”



Trump will have lunch with Pence and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and then participate in Friends of Zion award ceremony. He later has a meeting with Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), a signing ceremony for a space policy directive and Jamie McCourt’s swearing-in ceremony as the next U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco.

Pence will join Trump’s signing ceremony and McCourt’s swearing-in before also participating in the swearing-in ceremonies for the U.S. ambassadors to the Netherlands and Spain.


California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said of Trump on “60 Minutes,” “I don't think — President Trump has a fear of the Lord, the fear of the wrath of God, which leads one to more humility.” 



-- It will be mostly sunny in D.C. today with temperature highs in the 40s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We start the week on a quiet and chilly note despite plenty of sunshine. Early-morning temperatures in the 20s should crest to 40 in most spots during the afternoon.”

-- The Redskins lost to the Chargers 30-13, sealing Washington’s absence from the playoffs. (Liz Clarke)

-- Virginia Del. Nick Freitas (R) entered the Republican primary for next year’s Senate race against Sen. Tim Kaine (D). Jenna Portnoy reports: “Freitas will compete for the nomination against Corey Stewart, the bombastic chair of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors who has fashioned himself after President Trump. The move is likely to reassure some state and national Republican leaders who have been nervous about Stewart becoming the face of the party in a purple state where Trump is deeply unpopular.”

-- Virginia Republicans held their annual retreat and grappled with their bruising losses in last month’s elections. Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella report: “[Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed] Gillespie’s contest became a symbol of a party struggling to bridge the gap between President Trump’s populism and the need to appeal to minorities and independent voters in a purple state. The same forces will be in play in the coming year, when the GOP will try to unseat [Kaine] and has to defend seven congressional seats in the state.”


SNL's cold open confronted the sexual misconduct allegations against Franken, Moore and Trump:

In the wake of Franken's resignation, Michael Che of “Weekend Update” said Democrats are “the party of morality the same way Don Jr. is the handsome Trump brother”:

Republican pollster Frank Luntz talked to Alabama voters who are standing by Moore:

Trump attended the opening of a civil rights museum in Mississippi:

President Trump spoke to veterans of the civil rights movement at the Civil Rights Museum opening in Jackson, Miss., on Dec. 9. (Video: The Washington Post)

He also lambasted sanctuary cities, citing the acquittal in Kate Steinle's murder trial, during a weekly address:

President Trump on Dec. 9 criticized the verdict of a high-profile murder case involving an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. (Video: Reuters)

And the National Zoo's panda played in the snow that hit D.C. this weekend:

Mei Xiang a panda at the National Zoo in Washington had some fun in the snow on Dec. 9. (Video: Smithsonian's National Zoo)