With Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Marco Rubio has been trying to think more from the perspective of a blue-collar worker than a white-collar consumer since he lost the GOP nomination to President Trump two years ago. The Florida senator says that’s reshaped his views on economic growth, free trade and China. Lately, he’s been seeking advice from policy experts at the major think tanks on the right as he seeks to fashion what he calls a “pro-work” agenda that can excite Trump’s base supporters while staying true to the conservative principles he’s espoused throughout his political career.

Trump has accelerated a national political realignment, and Rubio is grappling with how best to respond. “Clearly there are people that have voted for Republicans in the past that no longer support Republicans, and clearly there are people who have voted for Democrats in the past that are now supporting Republicans,” he said in an interview. “There’s been a shift, almost a trade-off. It comes down to what kind of district do you live in: Do you live in a district that has more of the latter or the former?”

Reflecting on the lessons of this month’s elections, Rubio lamented that House races became hyper-nationalized. He said his friends Carlos Curbelo in Miami and Barbara Comstock in Northern Virginia ran almost flawless campaigns and carefully distanced themselves from Trump, but both lost reelection anyway because of the national head winds. Rubio believes Republicans must find a way to appeal to those who supported Mitt Romney in 2012 but then voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, as well as voters who backed Barack Obama before breaking for Trump.

The senator fared best against Trump during the 2016 primaries in the same suburban areas where Republicans suffered their heaviest losses this month. I noted that many of those Romney-Clinton voters might have been Romney-Rubio voters if he had won the nomination instead of Trump. “Yeah, well, the key to the future — if you want to have a governing majority — is you have to somehow bring back the people you lost without losing the people you brought,” he replied. “I'm not saying that's easy to do, and that's certainly not the central goal of what we're trying to achieve here, but I think in trying to achieve that, you end up with the potential to have a governing majority or at least a governing consensus that allows you to pass public policy.”

-- Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, said Rubio is operating from the premise that, rather than dividing people by playing on their cultural grievances, he can unite a center-right coalition with a platform of specific policies that will improve everyone’s quality of life. “I’m predisposed to agree with that,” said Levin, a former domestic policy staffer in George W. Bush’s White House who has talked regularly with Rubio since he joined the Senate in 2011. “If you look at the political situation for Republicans, especially after this election, the challenge they have is their coalition consists of suburban families and working-class voters. … Trump focuses on hating what they hate, but that doesn’t work with suburban families. … Republicans have to offer an agenda that speaks to middle-class and working-class families. That’s the role Sen. Rubio played during tax reform.”

During that debate, Rubio pushed to expand the child tax credit. An amendment he introduced with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to raise the corporate tax rate from 20 percent to 21 percent to pay for a larger child tax credit was opposed by Trump, as well as GOP leadership, and went down on a 29-to-71 vote. Rubio threatened to torpedo the entire legislation, which overwhelmingly benefitted billionaires and big businesses while ballooning the national debt by more than $1 trillion, unless he could get something extra to assist average families. To secure his vote, negotiators agreed to allow families who owe no federal income taxes to still claim up to $1,400 of the $2,000 child tax credit, up from $1,100 in the original Senate bill.

-- I interviewed Rubio after he delivered a meaty policy speech at the Heritage Foundation last Thursday during an anti-poverty forum. The 47-year-old began by recounting his well-known origin story. His father worked as a bartender and his mother was a hotel maid after they immigrated from Cuba. Without attending college, they could buy a house and provide a middle-class lifestyle for their children. Rubio argued persuasively that parents today cannot provide the same quality of life with such service jobs. Because they live in “bubbles of prosperity,” he said “elites” don’t understand how many Americans are struggling to get by.

Rubio spoke about “the dignity of work” and giving people “a path out of poverty” by creating more good jobs. “For starters, we need to get the millions of what scholars have called ‘the missing men’ back into the labor force,” he told the crowd at Heritage. “By some counts, there are upwards of 6 million prime-age able-bodied men who simply do not work and are not even looking. It's a national crisis. It deserves an emergency solution.”

His marquee proposal for how to do so is to expand the earned-income tax credit to reward low-income people who work, essentially subsidizing their wages. He also wants to overhaul the federal disability insurance program and food stamps “to not just mandate work, but to promote it.” Rubio rejected raising the minimum wage because he says that would just discourage employers from hiring. He also rejected any guaranteed minimum income because it would create disincentives to work.

One idea that puts him at odds with the business community is restricting the use of noncompete agreements that limit a worker’s ability to move from one employer to another. “While noncompete agreements make sense in certain circumstances, many entry level workers are surprised to find themselves unable to take their next job because of broad non-compete agreements,” he said. “It is a concerning trend that hampers economic growth and holds individuals back from reaching their full potential. The issue merits scrutiny from those of us in favor of robust and open labor markets.”

-- Rubio has been attacked as a flip-flopper on issues like immigration, but he argues that it’s foolish to assume policy should remain static and not evolve. After all, politics isn’t static. The economy isn’t static. Culture isn’t static. “There was a time when the structure of our economy meant that, as long as there was economic growth, everybody benefited from it,” Rubio said when I asked how his new agenda breaks with GOP orthodoxy. “I don't think that's as true today as it once was … because the architecture of the economy has changed. … Growth alone, absent other factors, is not enough and doesn't tell us enough.”

-- Rubio’s biggest evolution has been on trade. “In an ideal world, if life was a laboratory, you'd have free trade,” he said. “There would be no tariffs, and the market would find the best place to produce. But the world is not a laboratory.

“Let's suppose that free trade is a 90 percent winner. That means it's a 10 percent loser, and the 10 percent that’s being hurt are real people,” he continued. “And if they're concentrated in certain communities of certain demographics, it has real implications for their lives, for their families and for communities. And I think while we spent a lot of time celebrating the 90 percent or the 80 percent or the 70 percent — or whatever that the right number is for the winners — we have been insensitive and forgotten the people who were left behind.”

-- In trying to understand the discontent that fueled Trump’s takeover of the GOP, there’s been an increasing focus since 2016 on blue-collar workers who have been left behind by the economic gains of the past several decades. Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, told me that too many conservatives still either argue that these people don’t realize how good they have it or believe the problem is mainly with marketing and messaging. “Sen. Rubio is one of the few people who is actually focused on fixing what’s wrong,” said Cass. “He’s actually providing an explanation for what’s wrong.”

Cass, who wrote a new book called “The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America,” praises Rubio for “switching lenses” in how he looks at problems in a way few other Republican lawmakers have. “All the research on free trade being good is from the consumer’s perspective,” he said. “If you care about workers, you care about whether growth is broad-based.”

-- Rubio singled out China in his speech at Heritage. “Pro-work conservatives should reckon with the fact that the mismanaged opening of our economy to China has done much to create dependency on antipoverty programs, as these low skilled jobs were offshored there,” he said.

When we sat down in a conference room afterward, Rubio laid a copy of his speech on the table. It was heavily marked up, and he’d rewritten chunks by hand, including the chunk on China. Rubio, who sits on the Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, explained why he’s changed his attitude toward Beijing.

“There was a widespread consensus in foreign policy circles that if we opened up to China and allowed them to continue cheating, it was okay because eventually they would become rich and prosperous and then they would become more like us,” he said in the interview. “That was an enormous miscalculation and, frankly, it was probably an assumption that early in my career I somewhat shared. And it is now clear that it's not going to work out that way.”

-- Since Trump claimed the label of “nationalist” last month, after resisting it for years, Rubio has vigorously defended him. He wrote an op-ed last week for the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Trump is Right About Nationalism.” But then he offered a definition that would seem to differ from the president’s. Essentially what he’s describing as nationalism is what Rubio used to call American Exceptionalism. “Americans are the children of pilgrims, immigrants and slaves,” he wrote. “A true American nationalism isn’t about a national identity based on race, religion or ethnicity. Instead, it is based on our identity as a nation committed to the idea that all people are created equal, with a God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

-- Rubio and Trump have mended fences since 2016. “You know what they say about men with small hands,” the senator famously said. “I guarantee you there’s no problem,” Trump replied at a debate. “I guarantee you!”

But the senator has also lightly distanced himself from Trump when it comes to America’s role in the world. On Monday, he defended retired admiral Bill McRaven, who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, after Trump trashed him on Fox. On Tuesday, he reacted this way to Trump’s refusal to act against Saudi Arabia for the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi:

-- How he learned to stop worrying and love the Senate: Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s defeat of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson means that Rubio is now the state’s senior senator. As a presidential candidate, Rubio talked constantly about how much he hated his current job. Attacked by Jeb Bush for missing votes, he replied: “We’re not going to fix America with senators and congressmen. I have missed votes this year. You know why? Because while as a senator I can help shape the agenda, only a president can set the agenda.”

He didn’t plan to seek a second term after he dropped out of the presidential race, but he changed his mind. And now he’s changed his mind about Congress, too. “Yeah, because it's a different Senate,” he explained. “We got more done in two years than we did in six years. Part of that is a function of being in the majority and having the White House, and part of it is a function of having more experience. … For the first two or three years of my career, I'd fly up here every week to basically give speeches and write letters because that's all we could do. … Now we've gotten results, so there's been dignity attached to the work.”

-- Rubio is eager to demonstrate that he’s an ideas guy willing to work across the aisle. He introduced the third most bills and resolutions of any senator last year (57) and signed on as a co-sponsor to an additional 245, more than any other Senate Republican. He co-sponsored a bill last year with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), for instance, that would create an alternative system of accreditation and make it easier to get federal student financial aid for non-college career training programs.

-- But he is not optimistic about working productively with the Democratic-controlled House. “I think in some ways they are captive to some of the same things that some on the right might be, and that is archaic, traditional thinking,” he said. “Unfortunately, the left has a tendency to say if you don't agree with their idea on paid family leave, their ideas on poverty and their ideas on work, you are indifferent to the suffering of people in those circumstances. I think the right has a tendency to sometimes say the market and only the market takes care of everything. Neither one of those absolutes are true.”

-- One of the conservative scholars who Rubio has been hashing out his new ideas with is Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Olsen argued last year in his book, “The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism,” that Reagan has been misappropriated by certain communities on the right. He argues that the 40th president was much less anti-government than popularly remembered. Olsen says, by the time he became the GOP standard bearer, Reagan actually accepted most of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. He also notes that Reagan imposed punitive tariffs on Japanese imports, even while preaching the virtues of free trade.

“What happened after President Reagan left the scene was some of the old tensions within the GOP reasserted themselves, and everyone tried to claim support for their side from Reagan,” Olsen said. “What Sen. Rubio is doing is trying to reorient the Republican Party toward the genuine center of Reaganism. … The whole idea of Reagan as Mr. Open Borders … is just not what Reagan was.”

-- Rubio is not up for reelection until 2022 in the nation’s largest swing state. If Trump loses in 2020, he’d be well positioned to run in 2024. Even six years from now, he’ll still only be 53.

He went out of his way during our interview to stress that any effort to lift the poor will not come at the expense of the middle class or the well to-do. “Our goal is not to take anything away from the people who are succeeding in the new economy,” he said. “Our goal is to allow them to continue to succeed while finding ways to allow more Americans who are not benefiting from the new economy to succeed as well. And that can be a difficult endeavor. But that's certainly what I'm going to be focused on for years to come.”

-- Programming note: The Daily 202 will be dark on Thursday and Friday so we can celebrate Thanksgiving. We are thankful for you, the readers.

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  1. The CDC warned Americans against eating romaine lettuce in any form amid a new outbreak of E. coli infections tied to the vegetable. The unusually broad warning came as 32 people in 11 states were reported ill from eating contaminated lettuce. (Joel Achenbach and Lena H. Sun)

  2. The Dow Jones dropped 551 points and saw its 2018 gains erased, a decline led by poor performances among tech giants. The “FAANGs” — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google — have lost more than $1 trillion in value over the past two months. (Thomas Heath)

  3. South Korean Kim Jong Yang was elected the new president of Interpol. Kim beat out Aleksander Prokopchuk, a former Russian Interior Ministry official whose candidacy set off alarms bells among U.S. and European officials. Russia has previously been accused of manipulating Interpol’s “red notice” system to harass political opponents and dissidents. (Simon Denyer)

  4. An explosion in the Afghan capital of Kabul left at least 50 dead. A suicide bomber targeted a religious gathering marking the birth anniversary of the prophet Muhammad, killing dozens of Muslim clerics and scholars. (Sayed Salahuddin)

  5. The U.S. Coast Guard told an energy company to stop an oil spill that has been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico for more than 14 years or face a $40,000 daily fine. A day after The Post reported the spill was far greater than the Interior Department estimated, Taylor Energy Co. was instructed to “institute a … system to capture, contain, or remove oil” from the site. (Darryl Fears)

  6. Michigan State’s former president was charged with lying to police about the investigation into sexual abuse allegations against former sports physician Larry Nassar. Lou Anna K. Simon faces two felony and two misdemeanor counts of lying to an officer about her knowledge of a complaint against Nassar. (Susan Svrluga)

  7. Northern California is expected to get three days of rain, which could stifle the Camp Fire but may also cause flash flooding. The rain could hinder the ongoing search for human remains and trigger mudflows, cutting off roads critical to the region’s recovery. (Frances Stead-Sellers)

  8. Mareli Miniutti, Michael Avenatti’s ex-girlfriend, was granted a temporary restraining order against him after she claimed he violently dragged her out of his apartment while cursing at her. The 24-year-old actress said in court documents that she is “afraid that [Avenatti] may cause harm to me and harass me.” (Daily Beast)

  9. The Kansas county official who made a “master race” comment to a black city planner has resigned. “I don’t want you to think I’m picking on you because we’re part of the master race. You know you got a gap in your teeth. You’re the masters. Don’t ever forget that,” county commissioner Louis Klemp said last week to city planner Triveece Penelton. (Kristine Phillips)

  10. Megyn Kelly is expected to formally depart NBC News with more than $30 million, the full remaining value of her contract. Kelly’s exit deal could be revealed as early as next week. (Wall Street Journal)

  11. Lawmakers are much less likely to physically cross the aisle in Congress to huddle with colleagues from the opposite party, according to a new working paper from a University of Iowa professor. The paper’s conclusions were drawn from more than 1,400 hours of C-SPAN footage from 1997 to 2012. (Christopher Ingraham)


-- Trump said in the spring that he wanted the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and former FBI director Jim Comey. The New York Times’s Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman report: “[Trump’s] lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment. The encounter was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. 

“It is unclear whether Mr. Trump read Mr. McGahn’s memo or whether he pursued the prosecutions further. But the president has continued to privately discuss the matter, including the possible appointment of a second special counsel to investigate both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Comey, according to two people who have spoken to Mr. Trump about the issue. He has also repeatedly expressed disappointment in the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, for failing to more aggressively investigate Mrs. Clinton, calling him weak, one of the people said.”

-- “Trump on multiple occasions raised with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Matt Whitaker, who was then-chief of staff to Jeff Sessions, whether the Justice Department was progressing in investigating Hillary Clinton,” CNN adds. “Anticipating the question about Clinton would be raised, Whitaker came prepared to answer with what Justice was doing on Clinton-related matters, including the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One investigations, the source said. The source added that Whitaker was trying to appease the President, but did not seem to cross any line.”

-- Trump’s legal team has submitted answers to a set of questions from special counsel Bob Mueller. Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa report: “The inquiries include only a portion of the questions that Mueller has sought to pose to Trump for nearly a year, when he first requested an interview with the president. The topics cover activities during the campaign and do not delve into questions about whether Trump has sought to obstruct the probe into Russian interference. One of Trump’s attorneys said that his answers will not provide any great surprises. ‘What I can tell you is they’re complete and detailed,’ Rudolph W. Giuliani said in an interview. ‘But there’s nothing there I haven’t read in a newspaper.’ ... Mueller now must decide whether to continue to press for an in-person sit-down with Trump about his actions as president — a move his legal team continues to resist.”

-- Acting attorney general Matt Whitaker received more than $1.2 million over three years from a conservative nonprofit that reported having no other employees and does not disclose its donors. Robert O'Harrow Jr., Shawn Boburg and Aaron C. Davis report: “The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust described itself as a new watchdog nonprofit dedicated to exposing unethical conduct by public officials. For Whitaker, it became a lucrative steppingstone in a swift rise from a modest law practice in Iowa to the nation’s top law enforcement job. As FACT’s president, he regularly appeared on radio and television, often to skewer liberals. But FACT’s origins and the source of funding used to pay [Whitaker] remain obscured. An examination of state and federal records, and interviews with those involved, show that the group is part of a national network of nonprofits that often work in concert to amplify conservative messages.

Contrary to its claims in news releases and a tax filing, the group was created under a different name two years before Whitaker’s arrival, according to incorporation and IRS records. At least two of the organizers were involved in another conservative charity using the same address. In its application to the IRS for status as a tax-exempt organization, the organizers reported that the group would study the impact of environmental regulations on businesses, records show. In that incarnation, the group took no action and ‘only existed on paper,’ one man named in IRS filings as a board member told The Washington Post. Another named in a state filing as a board member said he never agreed to be on the board.”

-- Whitaker’s financial disclosure form showed he collected more than $1,800 in “legal fees” from an invention-marketing company that was shut down amid accusations of fraud. Matt Zapotosky reports: “The form, which Whitaker first filled out after taking over as [Sessions’s] chief of staff, shows Whitaker drew a salary from [FACT] of $904,000 and collected $1,875 in legal fees from World Patent Marketing. That company is notable because it shut down in May and agreed to pay a settlement of more than $25 million to resolve a [FTC] inquiry into its practices.”

-- “Mr. Whitaker also faced new questions on Tuesday about donations to his unsuccessful 2014 campaign for a [Senate] seat in Iowa. Mr. Whitaker’s campaign committee received four donations totaling $8,800 this year, a few months after he joined the Justice Department,” Ken Vogel and Haberman report in the Times. “Executive branch officials are generally prohibited by a federal law, the Hatch Act, from knowingly soliciting or accepting campaign donations. The four donations to the ‘Whitaker for U.S. Senate’ committee — three of $2,600 and one of $1,000 — came within days of each other at the end of January and the second day of February … They were the first to be made to the account in just over two years. In addition to the Hatch Act’s prohibition on political activity by most executive branch employees, a separate Justice Department memo restricts political activity by its personnel even further, in the hopes of keeping the agency as far from partisan politics as possible.”

-- While serving as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa, Whitaker gained a reputation for seeking severe sentences for people accused of drug crimes. Michael Kranish reports: “[Raeanna Woody] had two nonviolent drug convictions, for possessing marijuana and delivering 12 grams of methamphetamine. But when she was arrested in a third drug case, she said, [Whitaker’s office] decided to make an example of her. … Woody was given a choice: spend the rest of her life in jail, or accept a plea-bargain sentence of 21 to 27 years, according to court records. She took the deal. … [Whitaker’s] office was more likely than all but one other district in the United States to use its authority to impose the harshest sentences on drug offenders, according to a finding by [an] Iowa federal judge, Mark W. Bennett, who it called a ‘deeply troubling disparity.’” Woody’s sentence was later shortened by Barack Obama.

-- Chuck Schumer has asked Justice’s inspector general to probe Whitaker’s communications with the White House. Karoun Demirjian reports: “In a letter to inspector general Michael E. Horowitz, [the Senate minority leader] on Tuesday requested a formal probe into whether there were any ‘unlawful or improper communications’ between Whitaker and the White House during Whitaker’s service as chief of staff to Trump’s former attorney general … Schumer said he was concerned that as acting attorney general, Whitaker could improperly disclose ‘confidential grand jury or investigative information from the Special Counsel investigation or any criminal investigation.’”


-- Nancy Pelosi’s speakership bid appeared to gain strength with words of praise from Barack Obama and an endorsement from a potential challenger. Mike DeBonis reports: “One [development] was Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), who left Washington last week planning to take the Thanksgiving holiday to ponder a run against Pelosi for speaker. But her dalliance ended Tuesday. Fudge said she would support Pelosi after the minority leader agreed to make Fudge chairman of a resurrected subcommittee on elections and pledged that ‘the most loyal voting bloc in the Democratic Party, black women, will have a seat at the decision-making table.’ … Pelosi’s opponents continue to insist they have the votes to block her from the speakership when the full House meets Jan. 3. But Fudge’s withdrawal showed that their numbers are dwindling, not growing — at least for now. 

“Speaking Tuesday in Chicago, Obama hailed Pelosi as ‘one of the most effective legislative leaders that this country’s ever seen.’ ‘Nancy is not always the best on a cable show or with a quick sound bite or what have you,’ Obama said. ‘But her skill, tenacity, toughness, vision, is remarkable. Her stamina, her ability to see around corners, her ability to stand her ground and do hard things and to suffer unpopularity to get the right thing done I think stands up against any person that I’ve observed or worked directly with in Washington during my lifetime.’”

-- Fudge’s endorsement came the same day that reports emerged about her support for a former state lawmaker now accused of killing his ex-wife. Politico’s John Bresnahan reports: “Fudge asked for leniency in sentencing for Lance Mason in a 2015 letter after Mason admitted to brutally beating his then-wife, Aisha Fraser. On Saturday, Mason was arrested in connection with Fraser's death. … In a statement released on Tuesday, Fudge mourned Fraser’s death and said Mason’s actions are not those of the man she once knew.”

-- Some incoming House Democrats fear opposition to Pelosi could cost them seats on their preferred committees. CNN’s Manu Raju and Annie Grayer report: “Rep.-elect Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey is one of the five fresh Democratic faces to sign the letter vowing to support new leadership on the floor. Asked if he were concerned that his position could hurt his chances to win spots on key committees, Van Drew said: ‘I guess to be totally objective, I'd have to say yes.’ But he added that any concerns about backlash from Pelosi or her allies wouldn't impact his ultimate vote.”

-- Pelosi and her two top deputies — Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Jim Clyburn (S.C.) — have banded together against the opposition. From Paul Kane: “They have overseen great political victories and then clashed in bitter moments of personal enmity, with each angling to take another out of power at one time or another. Those old rivalries have been set aside, not necessarily forgotten, as they try to tamp down a rebellion of junior Democrats clamoring for new leadership.”


-- Trump declared his support for Saudi Arabia amid international condemnation over the killing of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, prompting rebukes from members of his own party. Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris and Karen DeYoung report: “In an exclamation-mark-packed statement that aides said he dictated himself, Trump said that U.S. intelligence would continue to ‘assess’ information but that the United States ‘may never know all the facts surrounding the murder.’ Speaking of whether the crown prince knew about or ordered the killing by Saudi agents last month in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Trump said ‘maybe he did or maybe he didn’t!’ But the president indicated that U.S. interests in Saudi oil production, weapons purchases and support for administration policies in the Middle East were more important than holding an ally to account, and he stressed the importance of staying in the kingdom’s good graces. 

“[Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)], the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, must decide whether to use the handful of days left in the legislative term to consider a bipartisan bill, introduced last week, to stop virtually all U.S. weapons sales and military assistance to the Saudis in response to both the war in Yemen and Khashoggi’s killing. … Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump confidant, co-sponsored the Senate bill and said in a statement that he believed there would be ‘strong bipartisan support for serious sanctions against Saudi Arabia, including appropriate members of the royal family, for this barbaric act which defied all civilized norms ... I fully realize we have to deal with bad actors and imperfect situations on the international stage. However, when we lose our moral voice, we lose our strongest asset.’”

-- Graham suggested it may be hard for Congress to pass a government funding bill to avert a shutdown without somehow including sanctions for Saudi Arabia. Karoun Demirjian and Tom Hamburger report: “Congressional leaders have not weighed in on the likelihood that the sanctions bill will be added to the federal funding extension, due by Dec. 7. It is unlikely that lawmakers will be able to find enough time on the floor to put such a bill to a separate vote, with only weeks left until lawmakers depart Washington. In the House, Democratic leaders have already promised to take up the issue of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the fate of Yemen, as part of their agenda when they assume the majority in the chamber next year.”

-- Trump’s emphasis on Saudi arms sales has thrown an unwelcome spotlight on U.S. weapons manufacturers. Aaron Gregg and Christian Davenport report: “Trump named specific U.S. defense contractors as beneficiaries of a $110 billion arms deal that followed his highly public visit to the kingdom last year. … It was not the first time the president has brought up arms sales in the context of Khashoggi’s killing. … Those presidential mentions have been met with consternation across the defense industry, with representatives from prominent manufacturers and trade associations preferring to stay silent. In a little over a month, Saudi business has been transformed from a badge of honor to an untouchable conversation-stopper for U.S. defense contractors.”

-- Trump’s statement again demonstrated his transactional approach to foreign policy. From Anne Gearan: “Nearly two years into his presidency, Trump is unswerving in his instinct to make everything — from trade to terrorism, from climate change to human rights — about what he sees as the bottom line. … The nothing-to-see-here tone, the fractured syntax and falsehoods, and the abundance of exclamation points were pure Trump — and as far from the massaged, nuanced products of past White Houses as one could imagine.”

-- The reality in Saudi Arabia: Jailed women’s rights activists have been subjected to psychological or physical abuse while in custody. Kareem Fahim reports: “Some of the abuse occurred during interrogations in which several of the women were administered electric shocks or flogged, two [sources] said, citing a witness account. Other women displayed what witnesses said were apparent signs of abuse, including uncontrollable shaking or difficulty standing, the people said.”

-- The Post’s Editorial Board writes that Trump’s statement “betrayed American values in service to what already was a bad bet on the 33-year-old prince”: “As with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s interference in the 2016 election, Mr. Trump is justifying his affinity for a brutal and reckless leader by disregarding the findings of the U.S. intelligence community. … Worst of all, Mr. Trump libels Mr. Khashoggi, saying that ‘representatives of Saudi Arabia’ had called him an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The crown prince did make those allegations in a phone call to the White House — but the regime itself was so embarrassed when The Post reported on the call that it denied making them.”


-- Congressional Democrats and Republicans said they would investigate Ivanka Trump’s use of a personal email account to conduct government business. Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz report: “House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) announced their intention to investigate, in letters to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and acting White House counsel Emmet Flood. They demanded a full account of exactly how many emails Trump sent and received, on what subjects, and whether she had preserved them in accordance with the Presidential Records Act. They also asked whether Trump had received training related to the use of private emails — a sign that GOP leaders do not accept her explanation that she was unfamiliar with the rules prohibiting the use of a personal account. … Their new letters to the administration were released amid a furor from congressional Democrats, who vowed to take up the investigation next year — but stir less partisan rancor than the GOP did in its probe of Clinton.”

-- After spending significant time focusing on Clinton’s email controversy in 2016, “Fox & Friends” covered the similar allegations against Ivanka Trump in a segment lasting 25 seconds. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

-- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke gave no indication he might leave his job as the ethics investigations involving him continue to attract headlines. Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin report: “As federal investigators examine his real estate dealings [in his hometown of Whitefish, Mont.] — and other aspects of his conduct — Zinke is dismissing rumors of his departure and plunging into the public debate over forest management. [Trump] has said several times that he intends to ‘review’ multiple ethics investigations against the secretary … in deciding whether to keep him on as he shakes up his Cabinet. But in recent days, Zinke has derided the scrutiny as ‘fake news’ and vowed to stay in his job to advance the president’s pro-industry agenda, saying the president backs him ‘100 percent.’” [That's what Scott Pruitt said too — right up until the day he was pushed out.]

-- Some top Justice officials loyal to ex-AG Sessions are considering leaving their posts. Politico’s Gabby Orr reports: “According to more than a half-dozen former and current administration officials, at least four top officials — mostly Sessions loyalists — have either quit or are eyeing the exit … Among those leaving are Danielle Cutrona, a senior counsel to Sessions who had been with him since his Senate days. She departed DOJ last Friday. Rachael Tucker, a senior counselor to the attorney general, could also exit ‘in the next couple of months,’ citing her fidelity to Sessions, or possibly take another job within the agency, said two sources … Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeff Wood, another former Sessions Senate staffer, may also soon make an exit.”

-- Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon signed on to a $100 million effort to investigate alleged abuses of power by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Wall Street Journal’s Cezary Podkul and Brian Spegele report: “Mr. Bannon unveiled the effort in a lengthy press conference Tuesday alongside exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui, who said he would provide the funding for the so-called ‘Rule of Law Fund’ to investigate deaths and disappearances of Chinese executives, politicians and other public figures. … Both men said the Trump administration wasn’t involved in the effort.”


-- Trump lashed out against the federal judge who blocked his attempt to deny asylum to migrants apprehended at the southern border. Maria Sacchetti and Sarah Kinosian report: “‘This was an Obama judge and I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore,’ Trump said. ‘We will win that case in the Supreme Court of the United States.’ … The administration expressed confidence the asylum policy will ultimately prevail in court, in part because it relies on the same presidential authority Trump asserted in a modified travel ban — barring specific travelers mainly from majority-Muslim nations — that the Supreme Court narrowly upheld in June.”

-- Lawmakers from both parties are digging in on their demands for the government funding bill. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “Trump is pressuring Republicans to obtain at least $5 billion for his border wall, far more than what Senate Democrats are prepared to give. Democrats in turn are considering pushes for legislation to protect [Mueller] and the elimination of a citizenship question from the next census, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Meanwhile House Democrats are embroiled in a divisive leadership fight, limiting the energy that Nancy Pelosi can devote to the year-end spending negotiations. And House Republicans, set to enter the minority in just a month and a half, recognize this is their last chance to get a down payment for Trump’s wall before entering legislative obscurity.”

-- The Education Department abandoned a policy allowing it to dismiss hundreds of civil rights complaints en masse. Laura Meckler reports: “In March, the department’s Office for Civil Rights updated its Case Processing Manual and said it would dismiss a complaint if it was part of a pattern of allegations, or if the complaint placed an ‘unreasonable burden’ on the office. That prompted a lawsuit from three civil rights groups alleging the policy had wrongfully cut off a critical avenue for students who believe their right to an education was being blocked. The suit is pending. On Tuesday, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, Kenneth L. Marcus, released a revision to the Case Processing Manual, with that provision deleted.”

-- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defended her move to overhaul Obama-era guidelines on how universities handle sexual misconduct allegations. She writes in a Post op-ed: “America’s students deserve to attend school focused on learning, with nothing limiting them from reaching their unique potential and preparing to lead successful lives. No student should have their education unfairly derailed. That’s why there must be no tolerance for sexual harassment or assault in America’s schools — or anywhere else in the country, for that matter. And there should also be no tolerance for adjudicating these matters in a way that denies to any person access to the core principles that underpin our justice system, such as due process.”

-- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is leaning on Mitch McConnell to get a vote on the chamber’s bipartisan criminal justice bill. The New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos reports: “[O]n Monday morning, [Grassley] joined a private phone call with [McConnell] to discuss [the bill]. I have been there for you, Mr. Grassley told Mr. McConnell, the man standing in the way of a quick vote on the measure. And I would hope this is something that you would help me make happen, he said, according to three people familiar with the call … The direct lobbying by Mr. Grassley was just part of a pressure campaign aimed squarely at Mr. McConnell this week as an unusual coalition of senators, conservative advocacy groups and White House officials press to change the nation’s sentencing and prison laws.”

-- The Trump administration reinstated Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements after they were blocked by a federal court. Amy Goldstein reports: “Federal health officials announced Tuesday night that they had, for a second time, approved Kentucky’s plan to impose ‘community engagement’ requirements as part of Medicaid, saying they could start in April, nine months after they originally were to have taken effect.”

-- The VA’s inspector general found the agency mishandled hundreds of health claims from veterans with ALS. Lisa Rein reports: “VA Inspector General Michael Missal ... found that dozens of veterans suffering from ALS were deprived of financial support because staff mishandled their benefits claims. Officials with the inspector general’s office are concerned that the Veterans Benefits Administration, under pressure from Congress and veterans service organizations to reduce an enormous backlog of compensation claims and appeals, may be cutting corners. Of 960 claims that were examined by Missal’s office, 430 contained errors. Of those, 230 claimants were awarded the wrong benefits, the inspector general’s report says. Most received no money or were underpaid.”

-- Senior lawmakers are considering a taxpayer-funded bailout for certain failing pension plans. Erica Werner and Damian Paletta report: “A draft of the plan, obtained by The Washington Post, would direct the Treasury Department to spend up to $3 billion annually to subsidize payments for retirees from certain underfunded pensions. It would also require benefit cuts, higher premiums and new fees levied against companies and union members in an attempt to make the pensions as financially solvent as possible. … The plan using taxpayer money is one of multiple proposals being considered by a special congressional committee tasked with addressing the pension crisis.”


-- GOP Rep. Mia Love has officially lost her Utah congressional race against Democrat Ben McAdams. Elise Viebeck and Felicia Sonmez report: “[Love] was defeated by [McAdams] by 694 votes in the toss-up race. McAdams currently serves as the mayor of Salt Lake County and was previously a member of the Utah Senate. … Love, who first won election in 2014, had initially trailed McAdams by 6,700 votes in the days after the election. She significantly narrowed the gap as more ballots continued to be counted … Love is the only black female Republican in Congress, and her loss underscored the increasing homogeneity of the party’s lawmakers, particularly in the House.”

-- At least three companies, including Walmart, have asked for the return of their donations to Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) after her “public hanging” comment. Rachel Siegel reports: “Walmart on Tuesday joined Boston Scientific, the medical devices manufacturer, and the railroad franchise Union Pacific in asking for the return of campaign donations they made to [Hyde-Smith] of Mississippi. … Each of the companies says the donations were made before they became aware of Hyde-Smith’s comment, which was spoken in a state with one the nation’s most shameful records of lynching. … In a statement Tuesday, [Democrat Mike Espy’s] campaign said it was confident that ‘voters will follow Walmart’s lead.’”

-- In a debate last night, Hyde-Smith attempted to blame Espy for the controversy over her comment, which he said has given Mississippi “another black eye.” Matt Viser reports: “‘You know, for anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize. There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statements,’ the GOP senator said. … But targeting Espy, she added that ‘this comment was twisted, was turned into a weapon to be used against me, a political weapon used for nothing but personal and political gain by my opponent. That’s the type of politics that Mississippians are sick and tired of.’ Espy responded by tossing the charge back at Hyde-Smith and noting that some prominent supporters had distanced themselves from her. ‘Well, no one twisted your comments because your comments were live — you know, they came out of your mouth,’ Espy said. ‘I don’t know what’s in your heart, but we all know what came out of your mouth.’”

-- The enthusiasm spurred by Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s Senate bid appears to have helped trigger a mini-blue wave in Texas’s most populous county. The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Frosch reports: “Nearly every Republican in Harris County, home to Houston, was unseated on Nov. 6, including 59 judges and the top executive, Ed Emmett, a moderate who won in 2014 with 83% of the vote. Mr. Emmett, whose official title is county judge and who was widely lauded for steering the county through the devastation of Hurricane Harvey last year, lost to political novice Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat who said she has never previously attended a meeting of the Harris County Commissioners Court, which she will soon oversee.” Many Republicans blamed Emmett’s loss on “straight-ticket” voting, allowing O’Rourke’s supporters to vote for all listed Democrats with a single click.

-- During the midterms, the Democratic group Priorities USA experimented with new ways to capitalize on digital advertising. Michael Scherer reports: “In addition to spending about $50 million on digital ads this cycle, the group ran experiments behind the scenes to create a new playbook for liberal groups as they rush to catch up with GOP advantages online. … Without public notice, Priorities ran tests on Facebook’s secret algorithms to try to decode how long an ad could run before its frequency was diminished in news feeds. It created a dashboard so other liberal groups could legally coordinate their ad purchases with minimal overlap. And it ran extensive testing on the types of advertising that worked best, often discovering that what staff believed would work did not.”


This 2014 photo of Cindy Hyde-Smith made the rounds online:

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman condemned Trump's statement defending Saudi Arabia:

A former speechwriter for George W. Bush suggested Corker make the most of his limited time left in the Senate:

Another GOP committee member suggested one of Trump's advisers may have written the statement:

A Democratic senator said it would be up to House Democrats to investigate Trump's Saudi allegiance once they assume the majority:

A House Republican added his own rebuke:

From Obama's former U.N. ambassador:

From an incoming Democratic congresswoman:

From a former FBI special agent who now teaches at Yale:

From actress Mia Farrow:

A Post reporter analyzed Trump's statement:

A Wall Street Journal reporter compared Trump's conflicting comments about Saudi Arabia:

From a New York Times reporter:

Hillary Clinton marked Transgender Day of Remembrance:

A former Baltimore Sun reporter shared an update from her city:

Trump suggested he may go to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner:

Sarah Palin was mocked after she criticized Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.):

And an ABC News reporter highlighted this about a turkey's time in the White House briefing room:


-- “An Atomwaffen Member Sketched a Map to Take the Neo-Nazis Down. What Path Officials Took Is a Mystery,” by ProPublica's A.C. Thompson: “There were some obvious clues that this was no ordinary double homicide. … [One suspect], Devon Arthurs, 18, said the victims were his roommates, and members of a neo-Nazi group called the Atomwaffen Division. Arthurs said that he’d decided to leave the group, and that he’d killed the men to keep them from carrying out what he said were their plans for violence. … To this day, it is unclear if the FBI talked with Arthurs or what steps it took to shut down Atomwaffen. … But this much is clear: Within months of Arthurs’ warnings, Atomwaffen members or associates had killed three more people. … Some experts and former officials see the case as part of a larger pattern, evidence that federal agencies are understaffed and out of position in confronting the threat of white supremacist terrorism even as the FBI’s latest report shows a spike in hate crimes for the third straight year.”

-- “On the California Wildfire Missing List, Name After Name After Name,” by the New York Times's Simon Romero, Jose A. Del Real and Thomas Fuller: “There’s a desperate plea on the message board for Sheila Santos, who went missing after wildfires ripped through her home: ‘Call your kids.’ There are hundreds of other names posted outside the shelter for fire evacuees at a church in Chico, the nearest city to the front lines of the still-roaring fire. There’s Rosemary Poushard, William Goulridge and Vernice Regan, all of whom remain on the official missing list. ‘I’ve seen grown men walk up to that board and just start to cry,’ said Tena Quackenbush, 51, a Red Cross volunteer from Black River Falls, Wis. ‘There’s something about seeing all the names and the way these people might have been consumed by fire that just brings the tragedy home.’”

-- “Haitian immigrants revived America’s turkey town. This Thanksgiving together might be their last,” by Damian Paletta: “Jean Felix Petit-Frere, a 63-year-old grandfather, has paid for the house’s every cinder block, walls that keep his wife of 37 years, two daughters, son-in-law, mother-in-law and granddaughter safe from the chaos and slums that surround them. But Petit-Frere has never set foot in the house. He lives in North Carolina, working at the world’s largest turkey-processing plant, Butterball’s facility in the small town of Mount Olive. Petit-Frere is one of nearly 59,000 Haitians working under a temporary protected status program created for them after a 2010 earthquake triggered a humanitarian crisis. … Trump has moved to end the protections for Haitian immigrants … [But Haitians] have transformed small towns like Mount Olive, which was breathed back to life after 1,500 Haitian immigrants moved to the area in the summer of 2010, lured by the prospect of work at Butterball.”


“‘THIS IS OUR LANE’: The NRA told doctors to mind their business. Then a man shot up a hospital,” from Lindsey Bever: “Physicians and nurses from Atlanta and Chicago to New York and Washington and even abroad expressed anger and anguish after another instance of gun violence — one that an emergency physician said ‘hits too close to home.’ They called out the National Rifle Association for having told them to ‘stay in their lane.’ They called on colleagues to speak out about gun violence. ‘No one should have to fear for their life in a hospital (or anywhere) because of guns,’ one physician tweeted. Another asked: ‘Are you really still asking if @ThisIsOurLane?’”



“Election fraud scheme on L.A.'s skid row got homeless to sign fake names for cigarettes and cash, D.A. says,” from LA Times: “A forged signature swapped for $1 — or sometimes a cigarette. The crude exchange played out hundreds of times on L.A.’s skid row during the 2016 election cycle and again this year, prosecutors said Tuesday as they announced criminal charges against nine people accused in a fraud scheme. Using cash and cigarettes as lures, the defendants approached homeless people on skid row and asked them to forge signatures on state ballot measure petitions and voter registration forms, the district attorney’s office said.”



Trump has no events on his public schedule today.


“They weren’t classified like Hillary Clinton. They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton, who deleted 33,000. She wasn’t doing anything to hide her emails. I looked at it just very briefly today and the presidential records — they’re all in presidential records. There was no hiding.” — The president defending Ivanka Trump’s use of a personal email account to conduct government business after he spent the entire 2016 campaign slamming Clinton for her email practices. (Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz)



-- It will be a pleasant day in Washington — partly sunny and not too cold. But Thanksgiving Day will be freezing. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’ll start out in the 30s this morning, and with partly sunny skies, we should reach the upper 40s to near 50 this afternoon. Winds become a bit breezy during the afternoon, about 10 to 15 mph from the west. Great travel weather by the way, with the vast majority of the East Coast, and actually most of the nation, expected to see little to no precipitation. … Morning temperatures [tomorrow] stuck in the mid-20s to near 30 feel more like the teens as winds continue from the north around 10 to 15 mph. ... It could end up as Washington’s coldest Thanksgiving in nearly 20 years!

-- The Wizards beat the Clippers 125-118. (Candace Buckner)

-- The D.C. Council gave preliminary approval to campaign-finance regulations meant to combat “pay-to-play” politics. Peter Jamison reports: “The bill would ban campaign contributions from firms and their top executives if they hold or are seeking government contracts worth at least $250,000. It would also give new authority and independence to the city’s Office of Campaign Finance — long viewed as a weak enforcer — and require increased disclosures from independent expenditure committees. … The council must vote on the bill again in December, which means it could still be subject to last-minute changes. If approved, the legislation would go to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who could veto it.”

-- A Maryland woman accused of murdering her estranged husband, a retired FBI special agent, was acquitted. Lynh Bui reports: “Prosecutors had alleged that Anne Allen, 63, enlisted a man she was in a romantic relationship with at the time to help kill her husband, Scott Alan Horn, a retired FBI special agent, as the couple were going through a divorce. They contended Allen fatally shot her husband for a potential life insurance payout and to cash in on his rental properties. But Allen’s attorneys said that there was no evidence to show Allen fired the gun that killed Horn, 62.”


The Post compared California's deadly Camp and Woolsey Fires:

A PAC backing Democratic Senate candidates released a new ad against Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith:

Trump pardoned this year's White House turkeys, Peas and Carrots:

And Snoop Dogg got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: