With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve. 

THE BIG IDEA: The backlash in the suburbs against President Trump is one of the most significant political stories of 2017. If Democrats win the House next year, it will be the main reason.

In Alabama, Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D) flipped or came close on Tuesday in suburban counties that Trump had won around Birmingham and Montgomery.

His victory offers the latest data points for a trendline that stretches back to April, when a special election in Kansas to replace Mike Pompeo — who gave up his House seat to become CIA director — was unexpectedly close because of Democratic strength and high turnout in the Wichita suburbs, specifically Sedgwick County.

In Virginia last month, Chesterfield County — which includes the suburbs around Richmond — backed a Democratic gubernatorial candidate for the first time since 1961. Several GOP state legislators unexpectedly went down in suburban districts that were not thought to be in play. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D) won the district held by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) in the D.C. suburbs by 13 points. Four years before, Terry McAuliffe got 60 percent in Fairfax County. Northam pulled 68 percent.

The same night, Democrats flipped two county executive races in the New York suburbs of Westchester and Nassau. They also picked up GOP-held state legislative in the suburbs of Seattle, Tulsa and Atlanta.

These shifts alarm Republicans because many of their most vulnerable House incumbents represent suburban districts around places like Minneapolis and Philadelphia. Many college-educated white women who voted for Trump are swinging away, and traditional Democrats are highly motivated while Republicans are fractured.

“Throughout 2017, there has been a storm brewing in these suburbs, but on Tuesday night it got upgraded to a Category 5,” said Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson, who cut his teeth in Virginia politics and worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaign last year.

There have been more than 70 special elections for state and federal legislative seats in 2017 so far. … Democrats have outperformed the partisan lean in 74 percent of these races,” Harry Enten tabulates on FiveThirtyEight.

Look to Lee County in Alabama, which is named for Robert E. Lee. “No Democratic presidential candidate has earned more than 45 percent of the vote there since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Trump carried the county by 24 points. And yet on Tuesday, Lee County voted for Jones by 17 points — a whopping 41 point swing toward Democrats,” Matthew Chapman writes on Shareblue. “There are some key facts that Democrats should take away from this. First, Lee County borders the Alabama ‘Black Belt’ …. Second, the county is one of six that are responsible for almost all of Alabama’s population growth since 2010. That implies that the once-rural county is suburbanizing.”

“Jones’s victory reinforces the conclusion, based on the results of numerous special and off-year elections and other leading indicators, that 2018 is shaping up to be a Democratic wave election,” writes Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz. “One of those leading indicators is the generic ballot — a question on numerous polls asking voters if they would prefer a Democrat or a Republican for Congress. Based on an average of recent national polls, a generic Democrat now holds a 10-point lead over a generic Republican. That is the largest Democratic advantage on the generic ballot question since 2008 and, if it continues into next fall, it would predict substantial Democratic gains in the midterm elections …

When Alabama voters were asked which party they would prefer to control the Senate, 50 percent chose Republicans while 45 percent chose Democrats,” he adds. “That is a stunning result — perhaps even more stunning than Jones’s victory. Moreover, only 43 percent had a favorable opinion of the Republican Party while 47 percent had a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party.” In Alabama!

-- Unquestionably a big factor in this is Trump, who has driven many people to stop identifying as Republicans. The president’s approval rating among voters in Alabama was 48 percent, according to the exits, with 48 percent disapproving. He got 62 percent there in 2016.

A Des Moines Register poll that posted overnight puts Trump’s approval rating at 35 percent in Iowa, a state where he got 52 percent of the vote last year. In the Register’s July poll, his approval was 43 percent. Six in 10 respondents say the country is on the wrong track, the same number as disapprove of Trump. “Trump is unpopular across a wide range of demographic groups in the state,” Jason Noble notes. “Sixty-nine percent of women, 68 percent of Iowans making less than $50,000 a year, 67 percent of city-dwellers and 62 percent of independents disapprove of his performance.” Without Iowa, Trump would struggle to get reelected in 2020.

The scariest number for the GOP in the Iowa poll, though, might be the generic ballot: Iowans favor electing Democrats to Congress over Republicans by 40 percent to 34 percent. “The finding is notable because Republicans hold three of Iowa’s four congressional seats, including two seen as among the most competitive in the country in 2018,” Jason notes. “The results are starkest in Iowa’s 1st congressional district, which encompasses 20 northeast Iowa counties and is currently held by two-term Republican U.S. Rep. Rod Blum. Despite the GOP incumbent, 47 percent of poll respondents in the district say they would vote for a Democrat, while just 29 percent say they’ll vote Republican.”

-- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters yesterday that the suburban revolt will be even more potent after the “anti-suburban tax bill” passes. He said homeowners will balk when they cannot fully deduct state and local taxes. Many analysts think the bill could imperil House incumbents in states like California and New York, which have high local taxes. “The suburbs are swinging back to us,” Schumer said.

ADDITIONAL ALABAMA FALLOUT:

-- Trump's inability to drag Roy Moore across the finish line has accelerated an ongoing discussion about restructuring the White House political operation. Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report: “The White House is especially aware that the president faces a more daunting political task, in part because the outside groups designed to support him have been noticeably ineffective. The goal is to create a political brain trust that is ‘more sustained, more organized, more nuanced,’ a senior administration official said. One option being considered is bringing on an additional senior adviser who could serve as the White House’s top political strategist. [Political director Bill] Stepien is unlikely to be fired, but Rick Dearborn, a deputy chief of staff whose portfolio also touches on the political operation, is expected to be reassigned to the Commerce Department . . . Recently, Dearborn has met with top Commerce officials about his likely new job.”

-- The president is lashing out against news coverage that depicts him as a loser. He whined to an administration official: “I won Alabama, and I would have won Alabama again.” Trump also tweeted that Moore's loss vindicated him and his endorsement of Luther Strange in the GOP primary. “Trump, it turns out, is rarely, if ever, wrong — at least as he tells it,” John Wagner quips in a smart analysis. “Since his emergence as a presidential candidate, he has repeatedly refused to accept blame for setbacks or admit he’s made a mistake. Instead, the president is quick to try to shift responsibility, deny he ever did something in the first place or otherwise dissemble.”

-- Insiders at the Capitol “breathed a bipartisan sigh of relief” after Jones’s victory, Ben Terris and Dan Zak report: “There were chills, prayers, elation, relief and that dusty feeling of yesteryear: hope, warmed over again. Hope, yes, for Democrats, thrown from the White House and outnumbered in Congress, but hope also for the city’s establishment Republicans, who were hardly thrilled that someone like Roy Moore — an accused child predator with an Old Testament mouth — might be bound for their prim company. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) hopped around like he’d just kicked a winning field goal as he disembarked the Senate tram Wednesday morning with Sen. Richard C. Shelby, who’d made a rare appearance on the Sunday talk shows to tell his fellow Alabama Republicans they need not vote for their party’s nominee. ‘Way to go, Shel!’ Corker bellowed to Shelby. ‘Whoo!’ . . . 'I know we’re supposed to cheer for our side of the aisle, if you will,' Corker told reporters. 'But I’m really, really happy with what happened for all of us in our nation, for people serving in the Senate, to not have to deal with what we were likely going to have to deal with should the outcome have been the other way.'”

-- Republicans arguing over the lessons of Alabama on Wednesday were forced to pick a side: Are they with Mitch McConnell or Steve Bannon? Sean Sullivan, Elise Viebeck, David Weigel and Michael Scherer report: “Bannon, speaking on Breitbart News radio, credited Democrats for their ‘ground game.’ ‘If you get outworked, you’re going to lose, and I’ve got to tell you, their ability to get out votes — that’s what it comes down to,’ he said.

  • “McConnell should have stayed out of this race,” Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) told MSNBC. “If he would have, we would have a Republican senator coming out instead of a Democratic one.”
  • Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), speaking for the party’s establishment wing, wrote in a tweet that Republicans must “DUMP” Bannon. “If we are to Make America Great Again for all Americans, Bannon must go!” King said. The New York lawmaker added on CNN“He looks like some disheveled drunk who wandered on to the political stage. . . . [T]his is not the type of person we need in politics.”
  • Karl Rove said Bannon showed up in Alabama looking like “a scruffy out-of-work homeless guy . . . ranting and raving about the so-called establishment in Washington.” “Not a winning message,” added the architect of George W. Bush's 2004 victory.
  • Asked what message Jones’s win sends, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) replied: “Alabamians didn't want somebody who dated 14-year-old girls.”

-- The outcome pointed to the diminished influence of Bannon’s website. “The Alabama results suggest that a reckoning is due for both Bannon and Breitbart, whose influence and audience grew exponentially during Trump’s presidential campaign,” Paul Farhi writes. “Since then, as support for Trump has declined, so has Breitbart’s traffic, settling back to the 15 million people a month it drew before a spike around the election last year.”

-- DNC Chairman Tom Perez said Alabama has helped him settle on a road map for next year’s midterms, when he hopes to make gains in battlegrounds with large nonwhite populations, including Nevada, Arizona and even Texas. David Weigel and Eugene Scott report: “Perez highlighted the DNC’s quiet strategy in Alabama, a $1 million investment in millennial and black voter turnout that was not advertised until the election was won. That was just one of the efforts that paid off for Democrats in Alabama, where new third-party groups including Woke Vote and BlackPAC engaged in weeks of voter persuasion and targeted messages.”

-- “All across Alabama, Democrats celebrated a victory that they say was greater than just seeing their candidate elected,” Jenna Johnson reports. “To them it was a triumph over conservatives who cast them as sinners simply for their political affiliation; over a Republican candidate who had been accused of pursuing sexual relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s; over a deeply unpopular president; and over the notion that this could never happen here.  . . . 'This is surreal,' said [Alan] Marlow, 34, who [manages] a call center. ‘I am very hopeful. This makes me hopeful for the future of this country. After last year, after just wondering whether I knew the place where I lived, I believe that people are seeing what’s going on, and they’re truly saying: No more.’”

-- Congressional Democrats called on their Republican colleagues to delay a vote on their tax cut package until Jones is seated. Republicans said they're still going to get the bill through by Christmas. (Mike DeBonis, Ed O'Keefe and Robert Costa)

-- In a wide-ranging, 42-minute news conference yesterday, Sen.-elect Jones stayed vague about his strategy for when he arrives in Washington. Sean Sullivan and David Weigel report. “He will need to retain the support of the state’s many liberal-leaning and African Americans who appear increasingly repulsed by the GOP agenda, and the national activists who assisted him. Yet Jones could become a pivotal swing vote who would stand to gain politically by sometimes siding with Republicans.”

-- On the “Today” show this morning, Jones called on Moore to concede:

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- John McCain was admitted to Walter Reed due to side effects from his cancer treatment. Paul Kane reports: “McCain, who missed a third straight day of Senate votes Wednesday, has been undergoing rounds of chemotherapy and radiation[.] … Two friends close to McCain … said there were no plans for the senator to resign. In a statement issued from his office, McCain hopes to return ‘to work as soon as possible.’ … In recent weeks the senator, 81, has been increasingly debilitated from the side effects of what friends have said are increasingly difficult rounds of treatment. He suffered an Achilles’ tendon tear in early November that put him in a walking boot, and in recent weeks he has used a wheelchair to get to and from his office and the Senate floor for votes.”

-- The White House will withdraw the nominations of Brett Talley and Jeff Mateer to federal judgeships, bowing to pressure from Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). From Karoun Demirjian: “Talley — who writes horror books and has participated in ghost-hunting activities — has practiced law for only three years and has never tried a case. … Reports have identified him as the author of an online comment in 2011 defending ‘the first KKK.’ … Talley also did not disclose to the Judiciary committee that he is married to Ann Donaldson, the chief of staff for White House counsel Don McGahn.” (Talley continues to work in a high-level job at DOJ.) In 2015, Mateer reportedly said he believed transgender children were “Satan’s plan” and defended a judge’s right to support certain kinds of discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation.

The fact that Talley's nomination quickly advanced through the Judiciary Committee on an 11 to 9 party-line vote, despite significant baggage, demonstrates the perils of the Trump push to jam through judges without fully vetting them. Remember: These are lifetime appointments that bring with them immense power.

But Grassley stopped short of condemning the White House’s hasty vetting process. “I don’t know how you can vet, be absolutely 100 percent sure, of everybody — particularly in the social networking world that we have,” he told Karoun last night. “I don’t know how you get everything off the social network. I don’t know how you get it.”

-- Kentucky lawmaker Dan Johnson died in an apparent suicide, days after he was accused of molesting a 17-year-old member of his church. Marwa Eltagouri reports: “Bullitt County Coroner Dave Billings said the Republican state representative — and self-proclaimed ‘Pope’ of his Louisville church — most likely killed himself. His body was found near a bridge on Greenwell Ford Road in Mount Washington, in a spot called the River Bottoms. He had a single gunshot wound to his head. Officials discovered Johnson’s body after they were made aware of a concerning Facebook statement and tracked Johnson’s phone to his location, Billings said. … Wednesday afternoon, Johnson, 57, again denied the allegations against him in the now-deleted Facebook post, adding that ‘I cannot handle it any longer . . .  BUT HEAVEN IS MY HOME.’”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate from 1.25 to 1.5 percent — a widely expected move that comes as the U.S. economy continues to improve. This is the fifth rate increase since the 2008 financial crisis, when the Fed cut rates to nearly zero. (Heather Long)
  2. Disney reached a deal to buy most of Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox. After announcing the $52.4-billion deal, Disney CEO Robert Iger said he would postpone his retirement until 2021 to oversee the integration. (The New York Times)

  3. Two Reuters journalists were arrested in Myanmar for attempting to document the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, who have been driven by the hundreds of thousands into neighboring Bangladesh in a brutal military campaign called a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. The journalists were charged with illegally acquiring information “with the intention to share it with foreign media.” They could face up to 14 years in prison. (Reuters)
  4. Christians in the Middle East widely oppose Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “Our oppressors have decided to deprive us from the joy of Christmas,” one regional Christian leader said during a Christmas tree lighting. “Mr. Trump told us clearly Jerusalem is not yours.” (Loveday Morris)
  5. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) revealed he has prostate cancer. Brooks, who lost the GOP Senate primary to Roy Moore, said of the diagnosis, “Had I won, I would not have had time for my physical and PSA test. I would not have had a prostate biopsy. I would not now know about my high-risk prostate cancer that requires immediate surgery. In retrospect, and paradoxically, losing the Senate race may have saved my life. Yes, God does work in mysterious ways.” (The Hill)

  6. California officials reported solid progress against the wildfires ravaging their state but warned of a continued threat. The state still faces the risk of “extreme fire behavior” through tomorrow. (Mark Berman)
  7. The judge in the first trial of Inauguration Day protesters dismissed one of the most serious charges of inciting a riot. Judge Lynn Leibovitz determined the prosecution had not presented enough evidence to prove the six defendants urged others to riot and destroy property. (Keith L. Alexander)
  8. The new U.S. embassy in London, which cost $1 billion, will soon open. It is the most expensive embassy ever constructed, and its crystalline cube design aims to project openness. (William Booth)
  9. Roger Goodell intends to retire as NFL commissioner at the end of his newly finalized contract extension in 2024. (Mark Maske)
  10. Scientists found global warming tripled the likelihood that Hurricane Harvey would be accompanied by record-setting rainfall — resulting in the devastating floods that destroyed thousands of homes and buildings in the nation's fourth-largest city. (Houston Chronicle)
  11. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reportedly lost his security detail in the Hamptons last week. The guards asked those at the Golden Pear cafe if anyone had seen Ross and handed out cards reading “Commerce Department security.” Ross was apparently just a few minutes late meeting them. (Page Six)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- An exclusive story in The Washington Post’s series “Hacking America” just went online: “Doubting the intelligence, Trump pursues Putin and leaves a Russia threat unchecked.” Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker report that top aides, including Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus, tried to persuade the president in the days before he was inaugurated to admit that Russians had interfered in his 2016 election victory. But Trump resisted, railing “that the intelligence couldn’t be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message and charisma … Told that members of his incoming Cabinet had already publicly backed the intelligence report on Russia, Trump shot back, ‘So what?’ Admitting that the Kremlin had hacked Democratic Party emails, he said, was a ‘trap.’”

Greg, Greg and Phil talked to over 50 current and former administration officials, writing that Trump’s refusal to accept the conclusion of the intelligence community led to an unparalleled “situation in which the personal insecurities of the president … have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat … Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat and he has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account.”

A few key nuggets from the story:

  • “Trump has never convened a Cabinet-level meeting on Russian interference or what to do about it, administration officials said.”
  • “The president obviously feels . . . that the idea that he’s been put into office by Vladimir Putin is pretty insulting,” a senior administration official said.
  • Moscow is thrilled: “U.S. officials said that a stream of intelligence from sources inside the Russian government indicates that Putin and his lieutenants regard the 2016 ‘active measures’ campaign … as a resounding, if incomplete, success.”
  • By some estimates, the Russian influence operation cost less than half a million dollars to execute.
  • The Presidential Daily Brief, on highly sensitive global issues, is often structured to soft pedal Russia news so as not to upset the president. “If you talk about Russia, meddling, interference — that takes the PDB off the rails,”  a former senior U.S. intelligence official said.
  • Intelligence officials were prepared to be “thrown out” of a pre-inauguration meeting with Trump to discuss Russian interference. Instead, the tete-a-tete was “oddly serene.”
  • Then-FBI Director made a last-minute decision to brief Trump alone on the infamous dossier, which some fear poisoned his relationship with the incoming president.
  • “Why are you such an apologist for Russia?” national security adviser H.R. McMaster shot at former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon in a clash over NATO. “I love living rent-free in his head,” Bannon gushed about the confrontation.

-- Meanwhile, Putin said in his annual news conference about allegations of meddling: “It's all invented by those in opposition to Trump to make his work seem illegitimate.” (BBC)

-- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, telling lawmakers that, although some members of the special counsel team held political views, those views did not necessarily taint their work. Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report: “’We recognize we have employees with political opinions. It’s our responsibility to make sure those opinions do not influence their actions,’ Rosenstein said. ‘I believe that Director Mueller understands that and he is running his office appropriately.’ Rosenstein also said he and Mueller talked about what his office was allowed to investigate and what it was not, though he declined to answer directly whether he had granted Mueller permission to expand his mandate. ‘It’s a clarification in most cases,’ Rosenstein said. Asked later if [Trump] … had ever talked with him about removing Mueller, Rosenstein responded, ‘I am not going to be discussing my communications with the president, but I can tell you that nobody has communicated to me a desire to remove Robert Mueller.’” Rosenstein’s appearance comes one day after it was revealed that two top FBI officials disparaged Trump in several text messages.  

THE TRUMP AGENDA:

-- GOP leadership neared a compromise between the House and Senate tax bills, seeking to get the overhaul over the finish line before leaving for the year. Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report: “Republican leaders have reached an agreement in principle that would lower the corporate tax rate to 21 percent beginning in 2018[.] … The agreement would also lower the top tax rate for families and individuals from 39.6 percent to at least 37 percent, a change that would deliver a major tax cut for upper-income households. … Many of the tax cuts would go into effect in January, and Trump said Americans would start seeing an impact on their paychecks by February.”

-- A controversial measure included in the House plan calling for graduate student tuition waivers to qualify as taxable income reportedly won’t be in the final bill. (Bloomberg)

-- Some Republican lawmakers and lobbyists have begun speculating that Paul Ryan will retire if the tax plan is enacted. HuffPost’s Matt Fuller reports: “The speculation over Ryan’s next move has particularly intensified as Republicans negotiate spending deals with Democrats. Ryan has repeatedly pushed off the possibility that a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program will be attached to a government spending agreement, but conservatives are worried Republicans could finish their tax bill, have the speaker announce his retirement and then watch Ryan do the same kind of ‘barn cleaning’ that [former Speaker John] Boehner did at the end of his speakership. … Ryan’s leaving could pave the way for Republicans to swallow a January spending deal with mostly Democratic votes, perhaps raise the debt ceiling again ― another thing Boehner did as he headed for the exit ― and potentially find a DACA fix.”

-- Democratic Senate staffers issued a report claiming the administration plans to pay for a border wall by instructing DHS to cut costs on surveillance technology and freeze federal officers’ pay. Nick Miroff reports: “The report, which the staffers said was based on information provided to them by ‘a whistleblower’ in late November, said the [OMB] told DHS to boost its projected spending on border wall construction for the 2019 fiscal year to $1.6 billion, an amount that would be ‘$700 million more than the Department’s original budget request.’ The $1.6 billion would be used to build additional physical barriers in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, the border’s busiest sector for illegal immigration. To offset some of the costs, OMB instructed DHS to decrease its funding request for border security technology and equipment by nearly $175 million, the report said.”

-- ACA enrollment is almost certain to fall behind last year’s numbers given the compressed sign up period. Amy Goldstein and Hamza Shaban report: “The overall sign-ups of nearly 4.7 million Americans through last Saturday was about 650,000 higher than through the parallel week a year ago. … A surge is expected in these last days before Friday’s deadline in most states. The government will then automatically enroll perhaps 1 million to 2 million people — based on last year’s experience — who have current ACA coverage but did not sign up again. Yet even the law’s most ardent proponents are not expecting the ultimate tally to match the 9.2 million who got coverage last year in states using HealthCare.gov during an enrollment season that went twice as long.”

WEST WING INTRIGUE:

-- Omarosa Manigault was forced to resign from the White House following a confrontation with Chief of Staff John Kelly, which ended in Manigault being escorted from the premises. Vanessa Williams and David Nakamura report: “Kelly pushed her out as director of communications for the Office of the Public Liaison late Tuesday after growing frustrated with her abrasive and attention-seeking style, which included a personal wedding photo shoot in the West Wing in the spring, according to one official. … She did not ‘go quietly,’ said the official[.] … Although her resignation is effective Jan. 20, the Secret Service said it had deactivated her security badge granting access to the White House grounds. The agency said it was not involved in escorting her off the property.”

-- Manigault reportedly attempted to appeal to Ivanka Trump in her efforts to save her job and even went so far as to approach the White House residence to a seek a reprieve. (CBS)

From the White House reporter for American Urban Radio Networks:

-- Vanessa and David add that Manigault’s departure underscores “the stark lack of diversity in Trump’s administration and the GOP’s diminishing appeal to minority communities.”

-- Helena Andrews-Dyer compiled a timeline of Manigault’s best and worse moments during her involvement with the Trump campaign and administration. Many of them reflect her beginnings with Trump: as a contestant on his reality show, “The Apprentice.”

MEET MINNESOTA’S NEW SENATOR:

-- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) announced his intention to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to replace outgoing Sen. Al Franken. The Star Tribune’s Erin Golden and Jessie Van Berkel report: “Smith’s prowess at navigating Minnesota's overlapping political, business and labor interests at the highest level prompted [former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak] to dub her ‘the velvet hammer’ for her mix of personal warmth and toughness. … Defying expectations that she’d serve only as a caretaker for the next year, Smith said she’d run next November in the special election to fill Franken’s last two years in office — and use the time until then to convince Minnesotans why she’s best for the job.”

-- “Next year's race to fill the final two years of Franken's term is certain to be one of the nation's most closely watched and expensive,” AP’s Kyle Potter adds. “Dayton was under pressure from fellow Democrats in Washington to ensure his pick would use the appointment as a springboard for that election. Meanwhile, Republicans immediately floated former two-term Gov. Tim Pawlenty as a possible candidate, but many others were said to be weighing a race.”

MEN BEHAVING BADLY:

-- A former senior aide to Rep. Blake Farenthold approached the House Ethics Committee to share new details about the Texas Republican’s allegedly vulgar and abusive behavior — which included crude comments about his bride-to-be, made within earshot of the entire office. CNN’s MJ Lee reports: “Michael Rekola, who was Farenthold's communications director in 2015, described . . . new details of the congressman's abusive behavior. It ranged from making sexually graphic jokes to berating aides — bullying that Rekola says led him to seek medical treatment and psychological counseling, and at one point, caused him to vomit daily. [The crude remarks before his wedding marked just one] of many instances which Farenthold made sexually charged comments to or in the presence of aides, Rekola said. During the nine months that he worked for the congressman, Rekola said, he was also subject to a stream of angry behavior not sexual in nature — screaming fits of rage, slamming fists on desks and castigating aides, including regularly calling them ‘f**ktards.’” Rekola says his health began deteriorating, and even landed him in the hospital during a work trip. “He looked sick,” one of his friends recalled. “His skin was sallow. He lost weight. He had trouble eating.”

-- A second woman has accused Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) of making unwanted sexual advances toward her. The Nevada Independent’s Megan Messerly reports: “The woman … says that Kihuen touched her thighs or buttocks on three separate occasions without her consent. She also showed the Independent hundreds of suggestive text messages she received from Kihuen — including invitations to come sit on his lap in the middle of a committee hearing and repeated requests to spend the night at her place — over the course of the 2015 legislative session. Once, he texted her to ask, ‘What color are your panties?’ When she wouldn’t tell him, he said it ‘Makes me sad’ and that ‘My day can’t go on without knowing.’”

-- A Democratic congresswoman reportedly said some women members and staffers invited sexual harassment through their clothing choices. Politico’s Heather Caygle reports: “Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) made the comments during a private Democratic Caucus meeting Wednesday to discuss sexual harassment issues, according to two Democratic sources in the room. ‘I saw a member yesterday with her cleavage so deep it was down to the floor,’ Kaptur said, according to the sources present. ‘And what I’ve seen … it's really an invitation.’ The comments left many others in the room stunned, the sources said. Kaptur said women on Capitol Hill should have to abide by a stricter dress code, like those adopted by the military or corporations.”

-- Paul Ryan said House lawmakers are working on a bill to prohibit the use of taxpayer money in settling sexual harassment lawsuits. (Reuters)

-- A fresh USA Today-Suffolk University poll finds that 3 in 4 voters — in both parties and from both genders — said that sexual misconduct is a “major” issue that needs immediate and real solutions. And by a wide margin, voters said they were less likely to vote for a candidate if he faced a credible allegation of sexual misconduct, even if they aligned with that candidate politically. And 6 in 10 voters said they were inclined to believe the victims rather than public figures who have been accused.

-- In a powerful New York Times op-ed, Salma Hayek writes about her painful experience working with the “monster” Harvey Weinstein. “In my naïveté, I thought my dream had come true,” she wrote. “He had taken a chance on me — a nobody. He had said yes. Little did I know it would become my turn to say no. … No to opening the door to him at all hours of the night, hotel after hotel, location after location, where he would show up unexpectedly … No to me taking a shower with him. No to letting him watch me take a shower. No, no, no, no, no … And with every refusal came Harvey’s Machiavellian rage. … The range of his persuasion tactics went from sweet-talking me to that one time when, in an attack of fury, he said the terrifying words, ‘I will kill you, don’t think I can’t.’ … Harvey Weinstein was a passionate cinephile, a risk taker, a patron of talent in film, a loving father and a monster. For years, he was my monster.”

-- The New York Times published its investigation of entertainment mogul Russell Simmons, who has been accused of rape by three women. The Times’s Joe Coscarelli and Melena Ryzik report: “In 1995, Drew Dixon was working her dream job as an executive at Def Jam Recordings, helping to oversee a chart-topping album and a ubiquitous single by Method Man and Mary J. Blige. But as her star rose, Ms. Dixon, then 24, was spiraling into depression, she said, because of prolonged and aggressive sexual harassment by her direct supervisor, Russell Simmons, the rap mogul and co-founder of the label. On work calls, he would talk graphically about how she aroused him. At a staff meeting, he asked her to sit on his lap. He regularly exposed his erect penis to her. Late that year, Mr. Simmons raped her in his downtown Manhattan apartment, Ms. Dixon said. She quit Def Jam soon after. …

“Black women, especially, felt powerless against Mr. Simmons and his cohort in the small world of urban music, with several saying that misconduct against them could go unchecked because their place in the industry was so tenuous. They feared being ostracized, or worse. Three of the women now accusing Mr. Simmons were pursuing careers in the music industry that they said were disrupted or derailed in part by their experiences with him.”

-- PBS suspended its late-night talk show host Tavis Smiley over “misconduct.” Samantha Schmidt reports: “While a statement from a PBS spokeswoman did not say what sort of misconduct was alleged, PBS News Hour, on its website, said the allegations involved ‘sexual misconduct.’ In a Facebook video posted early Thursday morning, Smiley said he was ‘shocked’ to hear PBS’s sudden announcement and intends to ‘fight back’ against the network’s ‘so-called investigation.’ … The news was first reported by Variety on Wednesday afternoon. The probe revealed allegations that Smiley had engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates, Variety reported, citing unnamed sources.”

-- University of California regent and radio mogul Norman Pattiz is under pressure to resign by California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom after several people said Pattiz made them “uncomfortable” in the workplace. HuffPost’s Matt Ferner reports: “One of the women, comedian Heather McDonald, released a tape in November 2016 of Pattiz [making a lewd request]. Pattiz has confirmed that it’s his voice on the tape and apologized. Another employee accused Pattiz, a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department reserve officer, of brandishing his firearm in a threatening manner. Pattiz denies those allegations. The issue is complicated by the fact that it’s not possible for anyone ― including the board itself, any California legislative body or the governor, who appoints most regents ― to remove Pattiz. Instead, Pattiz would need to voluntarily resign."

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The Republican Study Committee attracted criticism for the homogenous makeup of its members:

Twitter was abuzz with commentary about Rod Rosentein's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. From an alum of Barack Obama's Justice Department:

But a CNN correspondent said this:

From the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

From a New York Times reporter:

From George W. Bush's former speechwriter:

McCain criticized Trump's attacks on “fake news”:

Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski, who has also been subjected to Trump's Twitter taunts, called on him to delete his tweet about Kirsten Gillibrand:

A writer for the Atlantic reflected on Omarosa's departure:

The New York Times's White House reporter added this:

From the national veterans chair for the Women's March:

From the MSNBC host:

The Navy celebrated this return:

And Janet Yellen held her final news conference as Fed chair:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The New York Times, “Newtown Is ‘Still So Raw,’ Five Years After Massacre,” by Rick Rojas and Kristin Hussey: “There is also the uncomfortable silence that creeps into everyday conversations — at soccer games and in pediatricians’ offices, where doctors wonder if their patients’ symptoms stem from trauma. The town struggles to figure out how to talk about what happened. But the community quickly developed a shorthand to refer to it: ‘the tragedy,’ or ‘12/14,’ the date of the anniversary, which is occurring yet again. … But to see Newtown in 2017 is to see how grief endures and evolves, and how a community can, however fitfully, negotiate a way forward. It is an uncomfortable process, involving a delicate dance between not wanting to dwell on the loss and not wanting to stray from a vow to never forget.”

-- Vanity Fair, “‘Nikki Haley Stuck a Knife in His Back’: Roger Stone is Already Writing the Story of Trump’s Downfall,” by Gabriel Sherman: “One Trump ally is making plans to commercialize Trump’s downfall. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone told me he is working on a book titled The Unmaking of the President as part of a multi-book deal with Skyhorse Publishing. … ‘I’ve been writing it as we go along,’ he told me. Stone said he got the idea to write a book chronicling Trump’s removal from office after watching how the White House responded to the Robert Mueller investigation. ‘It’s painfully obvious Mueller will bring charges,’ Stone said. ‘The theory is Mueller will indict him on some process-related matter’ such as obstruction of justice. ‘The only people who don’t seem to know it are Ty Cobb, [John] Dowd, and the president.’”

-- HuffPost, “This Is The Daily Stormer’s Playbook,” by Ashley Feinberg: “Back in September, Vox Day, a Gamergate holdover who has assumed the position of racist alt-right figurehead, published a handful of brief excerpts from what he described as the ‘Andrew Anglin’ style guide. For the blissfully unaware, Anglin is a neo-Nazi troll and propagandist who runs The Daily Stormer, one of the more prominent sites of the white supremacist web. The passages selected by Vox Day in his blog post suggested that Anglin is persnickety about detail and presentation ― except on the subject of the Jews, who are to be blamed ‘for everything.’”

-- CNN, “26-year-olds face challenges as they fall off parents' health insurance,” by Carmen Heredia Rodriguez: “A new crop of young people like Moniot are falling off their parents' insurance plans when they turn 26 — the age when the Affordable Care Act stipulates that children must leave family policies. They were then expected to be able to shop relatively easily for their own insurance on Obamacare marketplaces. But with Trump administration revisions to the law and congressional bills injecting uncertainty into state insurance markets, that task of buying insurance for the first time this year is anything but simple.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Anderson Cooper’s boring Twitter account suddenly perks up. CNN claims hacking,” from Erik Wemple: “In response to this tweet from President Trump: [‘The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!’] Cooper’s account replied: [Oh Really? You endorsed him you tool! Pathetic loser.’] In the hour it spent online before its deletion, it chalked up in excess of 16,000 likes and 2,700 retweets. … Yet officialdom at CNN, which claims neutrality by news anchors, was eager to disavow it: [‘This morning someone gained access to the handle @andersoncooper and replied to POTUS. We're working with Twitter to secure the account.’]”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“‘It’s our little Trump safe space.’ In troubled times, the president’s D.C. hotel is a refuge for his fans,” from Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold: “Since last year’s election, Trump’s luxury hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue has operated as a kind of political clubhouse for his aides and fans — a refuge filled with like-minded people, where the euphoria of Trump’s world-changing 2016 win still persists. On Tuesday, the only windows to the outside world were the two muted TVs on over the bar, set to CNN and Fox News. By about 10 p.m., the bad news started to filter in. … The [Alabama] race was called at about 10:25 p.m. The bar started to empty. [Suzanne] Monk stayed on. Better here than anyplace else in Washington. ‘It’s our little Trump safe space,’ Monk said.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump has a lunch with Pence, Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis followed by an event on deregulation. He will later will meet with RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel.

Pence will join the president for the lunch and the deregulation event.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Former British prime minister David Cameron, a conservative, condemned Trump’s attacks on the media, making a rare entrance back into the political fray. “Let me put it like this. President Trump, ‘Fake news’ is not broadcasters criticizing you, it’s Russian bots and trolls targeting your democracy … pumping out untrue stories day after day, night after night.” (Politico)

 

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

-- It should be cold and clear in D.C. today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The best chance to spy a flake is early in the morning, with skies likely to clear by late morning in all but the far north areas. Winds pick up from the west, making it feel plenty cold despite the sun. Highs only reach the upper 30s to low 40s.”

-- The Wizards beat the Grizzlies 93-87. (Candace Buckner)

-- The recount for Virginia’s 40th District began, with incumbent state Del. Timothy D. Hugo (R) maintaining his narrow lead. Antonio Olivo reports: “Democrat Donte Tanner had shaved into Hugo’s 106-vote lead in the 40th District by gaining a net of four votes on the Republican incumbent, leaving the difference at 102, by the time poll workers at Fairfax County’s Circuit Court wrapped up for the day.”

-- The Metro board will likely approve the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority’s application to study ways to increase capacity on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines in Northern Virginia. The research could provide a path to the elusive “Rosslyn II” station that Metro has floated in past long-term proposals. (Martine Powers)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Samantha Bee credited Doug Jones’s victory to Roy Moore’s accusers:

Dennis Rodman discussed his conversations with Kim Jong Un on Stephen Colbert’s show:

Joe Biden consoled Meghan McCain, whose father has been diagnosed with the same cancer that claimed the life of Biden's son Beau:

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) criticized Republicans for their attacks on the Mueller probe:

CNN commentator Angela Rye took a moment to "be petty" about the departure of Omarosa:

Video showed Michigan police officers handcuffing an 11-year-old girl at gunpoint:

And footage was released of the man who was arrested after stripping off his clothes and jumping on a vehicle near Dulles Airport: