With Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: The most striking part of Bob Mueller’s sentencing memo recommending Michael Flynn serve no prison time, because of his “substantial” assistance to “several ongoing investigations,” is how much got blacked out. It’s a reminder of how many shoes might still drop.

The special counsel revealed in a 13-page court filing late Tuesday night that President Trump’s former national security adviser has given 19 interviews to his office or other Justice Department attorneys, in addition to providing “documents and communications.”

Tantalizingly, Mueller teases that “the defendant has provided substantial assistance in a criminal investigation.” Then there are 22 fully redacted lines of text. That is in addition to the special counsel’s probe of “any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump.”

Mueller has asked for several postponements in making a sentencing recommendation since Flynn pleaded guilty to a single felony count of making false statements to the FBI last December, a full year ago. Just how much he’s gotten out of the career intelligence officer has been a closely held secret. Now we know it’s a lot, but what exactly Mueller got remains a mystery.

“While this [document] seeks to provide a comprehensive description of the benefit the government has thus far obtained from the defendant’s substantial assistance, some of that benefit may not be fully realized at this time because the investigations in which he has provided assistance are ongoing,” Mueller said.

The special counsel tells the judge that Flynn flipping when he did prompted others to cooperate and was “particularly valuable because he was one of the few people with long-term and firsthand insight regarding events and issues under investigation.”

Flynn is one of five Trump aides who have pleaded guilty as a result of the special counsel’s investigation. Mueller, who fought in Vietnam as a Marine, noted that Flynn spent 33 years in the Army, including five years of combat duty, before retiring as a three-star lieutenant general.

“The defendant’s record of military and public service distinguish him from every other person who has been charged,” the special counsel wrote. “However, senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards. The defendant’s extensive government service should have made him particularly aware of the harm caused by providing false information to the government, as well as the rules governing work performed on behalf of a foreign government.”

-- Flynn's son celebrated the news that his dad probably won't go to prison:

-- Mueller will file two more documents on Friday: He is scheduled to outline details of Michael Cohen’s cooperation in a letter to the judge overseeing the former Trump consigliere’s sentencing. He’s also due to submit a filing explaining the ways that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort breached his plea agreement by being dishonest with prosecutors.

-- Mueller biographer Garrett Graff outlines 14 questions this morning that the special counsel knows the answers to and that we don’t: “Decoding Mueller’s 17-month investigation has been a publicly frustrating exercise, as individual puzzle pieces, like Flynn's sentencing memo, often don’t hint at the final assembled picture—nor even tell us if we’re looking at a single interlocking puzzle, in which all the pieces are related, or multiple, separate, unrelated ones,” Graff writes in a new piece for Wired magazine. “Mueller’s careful, methodical strategy often only reveals itself in hindsight, as the significance of previous steps becomes clear with subsequent ones.”

  1. Is Matt Whitaker overseeing the Russia probe—and is his appointment as attorney general even legal?
  2. Is Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross involved in any of this?
  3. How closely related is the investigation of the 2016 election to the Trump Organization’s financial scandals?
  4. How did Trump himself, and the Trump family, react to Cohen’s updates on various schemes?
  5. What has Felix Sater told Mueller?
  6. What has George Nader told Mueller?
  7. What happens to Cozy Bear?
  8. Who is the (unindicted) Atlanta traveler?
  9. Why was Trump’s team so concerned about the transition documents?
  10. How much more of the Steele Dossier is true?
  11. Is it a coincidence that the Internet Research Agency scheduled a “Down with Hillary” rally in New York, weeks in advance, for the day after WikiLeaks dumped the DNC emails?
  12. Why isn’t Mueller prosecuting Maria Butina and Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova?
  13. Why is Mueller charging Michael Cohen?
  14. Was the Guardian correct in reporting that Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange?

-- Rudy Giuliani said he’s not concerned with whether Flynn has given Mueller anything that would implicate Trump: “If he had information to share with Mueller that hurt the president, you would know it by now,” the president’s attorney told NBC. “There's a Yiddish word that fits. They don't have bupkis.”

-- New Yorker writer Jeff Toobin thinks Trump ought to be nervous about Mueller’s assertion that “senior government leaders should be held to the highest standards.” “I would be a little nervous if I were the people involved in the obstruction of justice investigation, starting, of course, with the president of the United States,” he said  on CNN.

ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENTS:

-- More than 400 former DOJ employees signed a statement opposing Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general. NBC News’s Pete Williams reports: “Because Whitaker hasn't been confirmed by the Senate, his qualifications have not been publicly reviewed and there's been no vetting for potential conflicts of interest, they say. … The former DOJ employees call on Trump to nominate someone to succeed Jeff Sessions, whom the president fired last month, and, in the meantime, to put a Senate-confirmed person in the acting attorney general position. Protect Democracy, which organized the effort, said that the signatories ‘have served under administrations of both parties’ and that the vast majority were non-partisan career civil servants.”

-- Whitaker has provided no clarity on how he is handling potential conflicts of interest. CNN’s Laura Jarrett reports: “For now, officials in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's office continue to handle management of [Mueller’s investigation], but Whitaker's ability to pull rank as the acting attorney general and overrule Rosenstein's judgment may prove crucial in coming weeks as the investigation winds down — leading to mounting questions about what steps Whitaker has taken, or not taken, to heed any ethics advice after now serving 28 days as the nation's top law enforcement officer. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee renewed their concerns Tuesday, writing in a letter to Justice officials that … ‘the Department has not produced prior versions of Mr. Whitaker's financial disclosures, any ethics agreements he entered into with the Department, or any other ethics-related counseling he has received.’ ”

-- Trump ally Roger Stone invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid sharing documents and testimony with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports: “ ‘Mr. Stone's invocation of his Fifth Amendment privilege must be understood by all to be the assertion of a Constitutional right by an innocent citizen who denounces secrecy,’ Stone's attorney, Grant Smith, said. … In [his letter], Stone's attorney said his client simply wants his information aired in public, and not subject to selective leaks that marked his closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee last year.”

-- Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump’s tweets praising Stone for not testifying against him and berating Michael Cohen add to “a growing body of evidence that the President is attempting to obstruct justice.” “We must ensure that the Mueller investigation proceeds without political interference, and that any and all acts of obstruction are exposed, either by Mueller in his report or by the Congress,” Schiff said in a statement. (Colby Itkowitz)

-- Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg will meet next month with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Robert Costa reports: “Nunberg confirmed his pending meeting in an interview Tuesday with The Post, saying, ‘I’m happy to cooperate and appear’ for what is likely to be a closed session with committee staffers. … Nunberg’s visit is the latest sign that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation is going to carry into the new year.”

-- New White House counsel Pat Cipollone will start in the role on Monday after a nearly two-month delay. From Politico’s Eliana Johnson: “Even before assuming his official duties, Cipollone has reached out to several lawyers to staff an office responsible for everything from judicial nominations to federal litigation to presidential pardons. … The new hires will begin a badly needed rebuilding of the counsel’s office. … A longer-than-expected security clearance process, however, prevented Cipollone from assuming the job, even as the Mueller probe advances and a House Democratic majority draws ever nearer to assuming power. That has left Cipollone playing catchup as he tries to fill vacant posts in an office whose staff numbers in the dozens.”

-- Another high-ranking FBI official who played key roles in the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email server and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia is leaving the bureau. The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau reports: “Bill Priestap, who currently serves as assistant director of the [FBI’s] counterintelligence division, will leave his post by the end of the year. … Mr. Priestap’s retirement is unrelated to the controversies over the handling of the 2016 investigations, according to a person familiar with the matter. … After Mr. Priestap’s departure, none of the high-ranking bureau officials involved in the two investigations will remain with the bureau.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Republican Brad Raffensperger won the runoff race to become Georgia’s secretary of state, defeating former Democratic congressman John Barrow. Matt Viser reports: “Raffensperger’s election continues a losing streak for Georgia Democrats, who have not won a statewide election since 2010, and ensures that stricter election laws pushed by state Republicans remain in place barring successful legal challenges. … The two candidates were separated by less than 20,000 votes in the first election, with Raffensperger running slightly ahead. Democrats were unable to harness the energy that they had during the November election, however, and Raffensperger led by more than four points Tuesday with 98 percent of precincts reporting. Turnout appeared to be only about a third of the November number.

-- In another runoff, Little Rock elected an African American mayor, Frank Scott Jr., a 35-year-old banker who was formerly state highway commissioner. The Arkansas capital has had two previous black mayors, but they were appointed by fellow members of the city council. (KARK)

-- The fate of the Weekly Standard — which has continued to critique Trump from the right long after most other conservative publications — is uncertain. CNN’s Oliver Darcy reports: “The magazine's precarious position comes after its leadership spent months searching for a buyer … However, [publisher] MediaDC recently informed The Weekly Standard's leadership that the company was no longer interested in a sale … Instead, Ryan McKibben, the chairman of MediaDC, asked to meet with [Editor in Chief Stephen Hayes] in a meeting tentatively scheduled for late next week … [He] also requested the entire staff of The Weekly Standard be made available following the meeting. That request, coupled with MediaDC's Monday announcement that its other conservative news organization, The Washington Examiner, would be expanding its magazine into a weekly publication, has left The Weekly Standard's leadership worrying.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The attorneys general of Maryland and D.C. have issued subpoenas to as many as 13 of Trump’s private entities in their emoluments lawsuit involving Trump International Hotel. The subpoenas seek information on which foreign governments have paid the Trump Organization, data the attorneys general hope will bolster their argument that the president is violating the Constitution by improperly benefiting from his office. (Jonathan O'Connell, Ann E. Marimow and David A. Fahrenthold)

  2. France’s nationwide protests are the latest backlash against taxes meant to fight climate change. French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to temporarily suspend a set of carbon taxes is another example of how politically unpopular such environmental policies can be. (Steven Mufson and James McAuley)

  3. Many climate scientists and policy experts have become pessimistic about countries adopting proposals robust enough to slow the advancement of climate change. At the U.N. climate conference in Poland, several major countries are expected to announce they have failed to meet the targets they set in Paris three years ago. (Steven Mufson)

  4. The Justice Department charged four people with tax evasion in connection with the 2016 Panama Papers. The indictment, centered on accusations that the people spent decades hiding tens of millions of dollars from the IRS, marks the first time U.S. officials have issued charges related to the Panama Papers. (Devlin Barrett)

  5. A new report alleges Leslie Moonves misled investigators and destroyed evidence during a probe into the sexual misconduct allegations against the former CBS CEO. Lawyers who conducted the inquiry said CBS had justification to deny Moonves his $120 million severance after he “engaged in multiple acts of serious nonconsensual sexual misconduct in and outside of the workplace, both before and after he came to CBS in 1995.” (New York Times)

  6. Nikki Haley plans to stay in New York and work on a second book after stepping down as U.N. ambassador. The former South Carolina governor said she would return to the state, where she recently sold her home, after her son finishes high school. (Charleston Post and Courier)

  7. A West Palm Beach, Fla., trial that was expected to include testimony from women who have accused billionaire Jeffrey Epstein of sexual abuse was settled moments before it was supposed to begin. Epstein apologized for making “false and hurtful allegations” against Bradley Edwards, the attorney for some of Epstein’s accusers. Epstein had claimed Edwards ginned up the sexual molestation accusations as part of a fundraising scheme. (Lori Rozsa)

  8. Interest in becoming a police officer is on the decline across the United States. In Seattle, where the starting salary is $79,000, applications have dropped by nearly 50 percent. And departments are struggling to retain new officers, some of whom leave after less than a year. (Tom Jackman)

BUSH 41 REMEMBERED:

-- Mourners gathered at the Capitol to honor George H.W Bush before his funeral today at Washington National Cathedral. Marc Fisher, Marissa J. Lang and Elise Viebeck report: “They came to attention as World War II veterans, including former senator Bob Dole, who rose from his wheelchair, jaw quivering, to deliver a quick, crisp salute. Mostly, they offered a final farewell to George Herbert Walker Bush as fellow Americans, eager to honor decency, moderation and a commitment to making things work, all of which he embodied. The Capitol Rotunda was open to all Tuesday, and they came in a manner befitting the 41st president — not in huge numbers, but steadily; with grace and seriousness of purpose; with nothing disparaging to say, but with a recaptured sense that, even now, we’re all in this together.”

-- Bush’s funeral has created an informal reunion for former members of his administration who have gathered to celebrate his life. The New York Times’s Peter Baker reports: “More than a quarter-century after the original Bush administration left Washington and nearly a decade after the departure of the second, the men and women who once ran the nation and, by extension, the world were back. On the eve of the state funeral for President George Bush, they caught up, shared stories and honored those no longer around. ‘Everybody’s a mixture of sad and joyful because we’re celebrating a great life,’ said Jonathan Bush, the younger brother of the 41st president and uncle of the 43rd.”

-- The United States will recognize a national day of mourning today for Bush. From Kimberly Winston: “Flags will be at half-staff; federal offices and the stock market will be closed. Millions of people, here and abroad, are expected to watch a live broadcast of Bush’s state funeral from Washington National Cathedral.”

-- Bush’s death has sparked debates about his legacy on race issues. From Sean Sullivan: “During his first campaign for the Senate in Texas, [Bush] opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark law banning many forms of racial discrimination. But four years later, as a member of the House, he voted for watershed legislation making it illegal to refuse to sell or rent housing on the basis of race. When he ran for president two decades after that, Bush and his allies made an African American man convicted of murder and rape a central focus of his campaign’s effort to portray his opponent as weak on crime — stoking a controversy that reemerged in the racially charged atmosphere of this year’s midterm elections.”

-- Trump’s use of a motorcade to visit George W. Bush at Blair House, which is 250 yards from the White House, triggered some light criticism. David Nakamura reports: “The Trumps spent 23 minutes visiting with Bush and his wife, Laura, by all accounts a cordial meeting in which the former president exchanged kisses on the cheek with the current first lady at the curb. … The need for the motorcade, however, prompted questions, and a healthy dose of speculation, about why the Trumps were unable — or unwilling — to simply walk across the street. ‘Presidents, including the last one, have made the walk before,’ observed Edward Price, who served as National Security Council spokesman in the Obama administration. … [But in] her autobiography ‘Becoming,’ former first lady Michelle Obama wrote that the Secret Service sometimes requested she or her husband ‘take the motorcade instead of walking in the fresh air’ to Blair House for security reasons.”

KHASHOGGI FALLOUT:

-- Contradicting assertions from Trump and members of his Cabinet, Republican senators said a briefing from CIA Director Gina Haspel on the killing of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi has convinced them of the Saudi crown prince’s involvement. Shane Harris and Karoun Demirjian report: “ ‘There’s not a smoking gun — there’s a smoking saw,’ said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), referring to the bone saw that investigators believe was used to dismember Khashoggi … Armed with classified details provided by [Haspel], senators shredded the arguments put forward by senior administration officials who had earlier insisted that the evidence of [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's] alleged role was inconclusive. The gulf that has emerged between Republican lawmakers and the president over how to respond to the journalist’s killing appeared to widen after Tuesday’s briefing, with Graham, one of Trump’s closest Senate allies, announcing that he was no longer willing to work with the crown prince, whom the White House regards as one of its most important allies in the Middle East.

“In recent days, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have said that no single piece of evidence irrefutably links Mohammed to the killing. But the senators, in effect, said that did not matter, because the evidence they heard convinced them beyond the shadow of a doubt. ‘If the crown prince went in front of a jury, he would be convicted in 30 minutes,’ said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. … Graham leveled sharp criticism at Pompeo and Mattis, saying he thought they were ‘following the lead of the president.’ He called them ‘good soldiers.’ "

-- The GOP senators essentially accused Trump of helping Saudi Arabia try to cover up the killing. From Aaron Blake: “Graham said Tuesday that you’d have to be ‘willfully blind’ to not know Mohammed was 'intricately involved' — a clear rebuke of Trump’s argument that this whole thing resides in some kind of gray area. … ‘If they were in a Democratic administration,’ Graham said of Pompeo and Mattis, ‘I would be all over them for being in the pocket of Saudi Arabia.’ … Corker also suggested that the briefing last week, which featured Pompeo and Mattis but not Haspel, was entirely misleading. When asked whether there was a difference in the message about Mohammed’s culpability, Corker compared it to the ‘difference between darkness and sunshine.’ ”

-- Not all Republicans: A GOP congressman justified Trump’s response to Khashoggi’s killing by saying, “Journalists disappear all over the country.” Felicia Sonmez reports: “[Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah)] echoed Trump, telling CNN’s Brianna Keilar that ‘no one can say’ for certain what happened and maintaining that it is in U.S. interests not to allow the relationship with Saudi Arabia to rupture. ‘We have to have a relationship with some players that we don’t agree with,’ Stewart said. ‘Journalists disappear all over the country. Twenty journalists have been killed in Mexico. You don’t think it’s happened in Turkey and China? Of course it does. And yet, we have to have a relationship with these individuals, or with these countries.’ ”

THE TRADE WAR:

-- U.S. stock markets fell 3 percent as skepticism grew of Trump’s claims the United States and China reached a trade breakthrough during the G-20 summit. “The reversals more than erased the tepid gains Monday in reaction to Trump’s initial account of what he said were promises made by the Chinese government,” Damian Paletta, David J. Lynch and Josh Dawsey report. “Three days after Trump emerged from his dinner with [Chinese President Xi Jinping] touting an ‘incredible’ deal, U.S. and Chinese officials were offering different accounts of whether there was a 90-day deadline for progress in new trade talks, the schedule for China to increase its purchases of American farm and industrial products, and Beijing’s plans to reduce or eliminate specific tariffs. While Trump tweeted a day after the meeting that China would ‘reduce and remove’ tariffs on U.S. automobiles, his aides acknowledged privately Tuesday that China had made no such commitment. ‘Nobody knows what the deal is,’ said one top White House adviser … Late Tuesday in Washington, after doubts about the deal blew into the open and the market plunged, the Trump administration was able to take some solace from a Chinese Ministry of Commerce statement that acknowledged hopes of meeting a 90-day timetable. …

“In a series of Twitter posts Tuesday, the president threatened to slap additional import penalties on Chinese products if China did not make major changes in its economic relationship with the United States. ‘President Xi and I want this deal to happen, and it probably will,’ Trump wrote. ‘But if not remember, I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. It will always be the best way to max out our economic power.’ Tuesday night, the president bore down on the theme, tweeting: ‘We are either going to have a REAL DEAL with China, or no deal at all — at which point we will be charging major Tariffs against Chinese product being shipped into the United States.’ "

-- “Once again this week, world leaders, U.S. lawmakers and jittery investors have been reminded that Trump’s words cannot always be trusted,” Damian Paletta and Philip Rucker write. “Global markets demand consistency and reliability, but Trump delivers neither. Instead, he makes knee-jerk announcements that surprise investors, lawmakers and even some of his own aides and advisers, who sometimes find themselves reversing course depending on the president’s whims.”

-- China is secretly funding the creation of a new Boeing satellite that incorporates technology used by the U.S. military. The Wall Street Journal’s Brian Spegele and Kate O’Keeffe report: “About $200 million flowed to the satellite project from a state-owned Chinese financial firm in a complex deal that used offshore companies to channel China’s money to Boeing. … Such technology would help fill in a missing piece of the puzzle for China as it seeks to secure its status as a superpower alongside the U.S. It would bolster China’s burgeoning space program, as well as initiatives to dominate cutting-edge industries and expand its influence in the developing world. A web of U.S. laws effectively prohibits exporting satellite technology to China, and its satellites lag far behind those made in America.”

MORE MIDTERMS FALLOUT:

-- The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP's campaign arm, was the victim of a cyberattack during the 2018 election cycle. Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris report: “It wasn’t known whether a foreign government was behind the intrusion into the computer networks of the [NRCC], a person familiar with the case said. But the intruder was ‘sophisticated, based on their tactics and methods,’ and the intrusion ‘was clearly designed to hide the tracks of who it was,’ this person said … The committee discovered the breach in April, said a person familiar with the case. Officials conducted an internal investigation, contacted the bureau within days and ‘gave the FBI everything they asked for,’ the person said. … The NRCC intrusion bears similarities to the DNC breach in 2016.

-- Wisconsin Republicans are moving forward with attempts to limit the power of incoming Democrats, despite public criticism and protests. Dan Simmons and Felicia Sonmez report: “By Tuesday evening, the Wisconsin Senate had passed the least controversial of the three lame-duck bills, a measure on taxes and transportation that was approved by the GOP-controlled chamber on a party-line vote. ... Among the more hotly debated parts of the plan are provisions that would limit early voting, which has helped Democrats, and restrict the ability of Gov.-elect Tony Evers (D) to make appointments. … Opponents of the plan, meanwhile, continued to demonstrate at the State Capitol, including at a Christmas-tree lighting presided over by Gov. Scott Walker (R).” Just after midnight, Republicans approved a plan to lock in place a Medicaid work requirement, which Evers said he intended to roll back.

-- Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested Democrats may refuse to seat a North Carolina Republican whose election is being investigated for possible fraud. Mike DeBonis reports: “[Hoyer] made the comments to reporters Tuesday as North Carolina election officials investigate whether an operative working on behalf of Republican candidate Mark Harris illegally collected incomplete ballots from voters. Hoyer’s comments, and the increasing criticism from other national Democrats, represent a new threat to Harris’s candidacy — suggesting that even if his apparent narrow victory is ultimately certified by the state, Harris could be subject to a months-long process in the House to determine whether he is ultimately sworn in.”

-- A Trump-appointed federal prosecutor who has repeatedly prosecuted noncitizens for voting now has jurisdiction over the North Carolina case. HuffPost’s Sam Levine and Ryan J. Reilly report: “[U.S. Attorney Robert] Higdon’s office also issued a broad subpoena request earlier this year for millions of voter registration applications and absentee ballots, which the North Carolina Board of Elections voted to quash. Under scrutiny, Higdon’s office delayed the subpoenas until after November’s election. Election officials are now investigating apparent irregularities with absentee ballots in the midterm race.”

-- Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is launching a new political action committee to recruit Republican women to run for Congress. John Wagner reports: “Stefanik, who served for two years as the first female head of recruitment at the National Republican Congressional Committee, announced the formation of her PAC, which she said will field female candidates in GOP primaries. That is at odds with the practices of the NRCC, which does not get involved in contests among Republicans. Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.), the newly elected NRCC chairman, made that point in a story in Roll Call, telling the publication ‘if that’s what Elise wants to do, then that’s her call, her right.’ ‘But,’ he added, ‘I think that’s a mistake.’ Stefanik fired back Tuesday on Twitter, sharing the Roll Call story and highlighting Emmer’s quote. ‘NEWSFLASH,’ she wrote. ‘I wasn’t asking for permission.’ ” (Read more from Power Up's Jackie Alemany this morning.)

2020 WATCH:

-- Scoop: Obama met with Beto O’Rourke as the former Democratic Senate candidate weighs a presidential bid. Matt Viser reports: “The meeting, which was held Nov. 16 at the former president’s offices in Foggy Bottom, came as former Obama aides have encouraged the Democratic House member to run, seeing him as capable of the same kind of inspirational campaign that caught fire in the 2008 presidential election. The meeting was the first sign of Obama getting personally involved in conversations with O’Rourke … TMZ, the Hollywood-based entertainment website, is now trailing O’Rourke; he is being swamped by calls from Democratic operatives eager to work for him, and other campaigns-in-the-making are eyeing his moves closely for any signs of his intentions. ...

O’Rourke was not among the slate of candidates that Obama endorsed during the midterm elections, but that came in part at O’Rourke’s request. Obama offered several times to help O’Rourke’s campaign, including to come to Texas for a rally or to record robo-calls offering his endorsement. … Obama even recorded a video that O’Rourke’s campaign never utilized; it remained a subject of internal debate. O’Rourke … hasn’t forgotten his 2012 congressional campaign, when Obama — as well as another former president, Bill Clinton — endorsed his opponent, eight-term Democratic congressman Silvestre Reyes.”

Some of his closest friends … expect (Beto) to run, with one of them putting 60-40 odds on his getting into the race. O’Rourke has enlisted his longtime aide, David Wysong, to handle the barrage of incoming calls. But he has not made any commitments and has largely ignored requests coming from groups in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire eager to have him visit.”

-- Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is expected to announce he will not pursue a 2020 run. Politico’s Natasha Korecki, Kyle Cheney and Stephanie Murray report: “Patrick informed staff and advisers of his decision (yesterday), the sources say, with an announcement to come as soon as this week. A close ally of [Obama], the Democrat rejoined the private sector at Bain Capital after serving two terms as Massachusetts's governor. But he ramped up his political activity this fall in advance of a possible presidential bid, traveling to a handful of races across the country.”

-- Stormy Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti took himself out of the running for 2020. John Wagner reports: “ ‘I do not make this decision lightly — I make it out of respect for my family. But for their concerns, I would run,’ Avenatti said in a statement in which he did not detail the concerns. Avenatti said he would continue to represent Daniels ‘and others against Donald Trump and his cronies and will not rest until Trump is removed from office, and our republic and its values are restored.’ "

-- The DNC is finalizing a 2020 primary debate schedule that will allow lesser-known candidates to share a stage with front-runners. Michael Scherer reports: “Chairman Tom Perez and his team have been meeting for months with 2016 campaign advisers and other stakeholders to find a way to improve the debate process, while accommodating the unusually large class of credible potential candidates, which could number more than 20 by spring. Perez has made clear to his staff that he would like the field to be presented in a way that initially mixes top-tier candidates with lesser-known ones.”

-- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, another potential 2020 candidate who just finished his term as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, is trying to block Joe Manchin from becoming the top Democrat on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee over the West Virginia senator’s views on climate change. The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs reports: “In an email sent out to supporters, Inslee insists: ‘Senate Democrats must not allow Joe Manchin to become the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. I need your help to stop this.’ While the Washington Democrat offers some praise for Manchin … he adds: ‘But on climate, he’s simply wrong.’ …The effort shows Inslee making an effort to appeal to [progressives] as a potential ‘climate candidate’ if he chooses to run in 2020.”

THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:

-- Mick Mulvaney has overseen a drastic curtailment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s mission and oversight. Robert O'Harrow Jr., Shawn Boburg and Renae Merle have an in-depth look at Mulvaney’s tenure: “One year after Mulvaney’s arrival, he and his political aides have constrained the agency from within, achieving what conservatives on Capitol Hill had for years been unable to do, according to agency data and interviews with career officials. Publicly announced enforcement actions by the bureau have dropped about 75 percent from average in recent years, while consumer complaints have risen to new highs, according to a Washington Post analysis of bureau data. Over the past year, the agency’s workforce has dropped by at least 129 employees amid the largest exodus since its creation in 2010, agency data shows.

“Created by Congress to protect Americans from financial abuses, the bureau under Mulvaney has adopted the role of promoting ‘free markets’ and guarding the rights of banks and financial firms as well as those of consumers, according to statements by Mulvaney and bureau documents. … The Senate this week is expected to confirm a new agency director, Kathy Kraninger, an associate director at the Office of Management and Budget, where Mulvaney splits his time as director. But Democrats have pledged to examine Mulvaney’s tenure at the consumer protection bureau after they take control of the House in January.”

-- The future of a multimillion-dollar contract to research new HIV treatments has been thrown into question over the Trump administration’s opposition to the lab’s use of fetal tissue. Amy Goldstein reports: “The turmoil over the National Institutes of Health contract with the University of California at San Francisco is part of a building battle between conservatives opposed to research using fetal tissue and scientists who say the material is vital to developing new therapies for diseases from AIDS to Parkinson’s. … Last week, an NIH contracting official told the principal investigator at UCSF that the government was ending the seven-year contract midstream and that the decision was coming from the ‘highest levels,’ according to a virologist familiar with the events. Five days later, the university received a letter from the AIDS division of NIH’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases saying the government would continue the contract for 90 days rather than the expected year-long renewal, with no forecast of its prospects after that.”

-- A government task force recommended ways to make the Postal Service more profitable, including reconsidering how e-commerce packages are priced. Rachel Siegel reports: “But it did not go so far as to say the financially strapped Postal Service is losing money to Amazon, a company which contracts services from the Postal Service and that has consistently drawn Trump’s ire. Even though the 70-page report does not specifically cite its contract with Amazon, it does recommend a reevaluation of the pricing for e-commerce packages and other non-essential mail shipped by companies such as Amazon.” (Amazon.com chief executive Jeff Bezos also owns The Post.)

-- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) voiced confidence the chamber’s criminal justice bill would pass “overwhelmingly” if Mitch McConnell allowed a vote on it. John Wagner reports: “Grassley said that he has met a target for support set by McConnell and that senators should take up the legislation by the end of the year, arguing that Republicans could even delay the confirmation of some judicial nominees to create more time. … Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) ... said support among the 49-member Democratic caucus is ‘solid,’ though he stopped short of guaranteeing that every Democrat would vote for the bill. Grassley argued that waiting until next year would hurt the chances of passing the bill.”

-- A native-born U.S. citizen was held for weeks for potential deportation to Jamaica. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “[Peter Sean Brown] had been accused of a probation violation after testing positive for marijuana. But instead of returning home with a court date, or passing a few days in custody, Brown would spend weeks behind bars, battling his way through a labyrinthine immigration nightmare made all the more baffling by his citizenship.”

-- Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s congressional testimony has been rescheduled for Dec. 11 because of George H.W. Bush’s funeral. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to question Pichai on Republican allegations the search engine is unfairly biased against conservatives. (Tony Romm)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump touted his gentleman's agreement with Xi on Twitter this morning after the markets tanked yesterday:

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee continued to criticize Trump for his tweets about Michael Cohen and Roger Stone:

Trump offered a message of "I told you so" to a European ally:

Meanwhile, BuzzFeed News’s deputy director of breaking news mocked Trump's description of himself as a “Tariff Man”:

The president and the first lady met a pair of their predecessors at the Blair House:

One of Bush 41's sons thanked Bob Dole after he stood from his wheelchair to salute the casket of his former political rival:

From a New York Times reporter:

From an NBC News host:

Republican officials and lawmakers are at odds over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, per a CNN reporter:

Rudy Giuliani falsely blamed Twitter after a digital marketing director in Atlanta purchased an Internet domain to incorporate an anti-Trump message into Giuliani’s tweet about the G-20 summit:

The Pentagon had a rather misleading typo in a statement on the troop deployment at the border, per a BuzzFeed News reporter:

(Defense officials quickly issued a correction.)

Wisconsin's Democratic senator spoke out against recent moves by the state legislature to limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor:

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) continues to gain support for her “Green New Deal”:

A House Democrat attacked Republican accusations of voter fraud as the investigation into North Carolina's disputed congressional race continues:

But a writer for The Fix noted this important distinction about the North Carolina race:

And this tweet from Barack Obama was the second-most-liked tweet of 2018, according to Twitter's newly released data:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- New York Times, “ ‘Transactional’ Sex and a Secret Resignation Letter: Takeaways From a Report on Les Moonves,” by Rachel Abrams and David Enrich: “The outside lawyers were told by multiple people that CBS had an employee ‘who was “on call” to perform oral sex’ on Mr. Moonves. According to the draft report: ‘A number of employees were aware of this and believed that the woman was protected from discipline or termination as a result of it.’ … The report found that, in addition to consensual relationships and affairs, ‘Moonves received oral sex from at least 4 CBS employees under circumstances that sound transactional and improper to the extent that there was no hint of any relationship, romance, or reciprocity.’ ”

-- The Atlantic, “It's Almost Impossible to Be a Mom in Television News,” by Julianna Goldman: “According to a report by the Women’s Media Center, television viewers are less likely to see women reporting the news today than just a few years ago. At the Big Three networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—combined, men were responsible for reporting 75 percent of the evening news broadcasts over three months in 2016, while women were responsible for reporting only 25 percent—a drop from 32 percent two years earlier. What could be contributing to this? Much has been written about anti-mom bias and the so-called motherhood penalty in industries from law to finance to tech. … TV news is that and then some for working moms.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“ ‘Damn Right, I’m a White Nationalist’ Declares Texas GOP Platform Committee Member,” from the Texas Observer: “At the Texas Republican Party’s 2018 convention, Ray Myers was a part of a select group of activists charged with crafting the platform for the biggest and most influential state party in the country. Myers is also a white nationalist, a fact that he declared last week. ‘Damn Right, I’m a WHITE NATIONALIST and very Proud of it,’ Myers wrote in a Facebook post last Tuesday. Myers is a 74-year-old activist who has been involved in GOP politics for decades. But ‘the pivotal political moment came when Obama came on the scene. I knew immediately that America was in trouble,’ he said in an Empower Texans profile.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Sanders campaign drops $300k on private jet travel,” from VT Digger: “Sen. Bernie Sanders 2018 re-election campaign spent almost $300,000 on private jet service for a recent cross country tour to stump for Democrats and test the presidential waters. According to federal campaign finance reports, Friends of Bernie Sanders, the senator’s official 2018 Senate campaign committee, spent $297,685.50 with Apollo Jets, a private charter jet service headquartered in New York. The report does not break down the number of trips or where they were taken. … Sanders came under criticism in 2017 after his senate campaign spent a smaller amount with Apollo Jets — $37,568. He was ridiculed for using a luxury service while criticizing the wealthy.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump and the first lady will attend the funeral of Bush 41 at the Washington National Cathedral today.

The president will also attend the Army-Navy Game on Saturday in Philadelphia, Jake Russell reports.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart.” — Michelle Obama offering advice to young women on how to avoid self-doubt (Newsweek)

 

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

-- Washington could see flurries or even snow showers today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A bit of energy passing through the atmosphere could produce a few flurries or snow showers during the day. Can’t totally rule out a quick dusting if a heavier snow shower comes through. Otherwise we’re mostly cloudy and cold, with morning temperatures near 30 to the mid-30s, and afternoon highs stalling in the mid-30s to near 40.”

-- The Capitals lost to the Golden Knights 5-3. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- The Nationals have agreed to a deal with left-handed pitcher Patrick Corbin. From Chelsea Janes: “The terms of the deal are not yet known, though Yahoo and others have reported it is worth $140 million and does include that ever-present Nationals' specialty — deferred money. The deal fills Washington’s most glaring hole, providing a proven arm behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.”

-- The Office of Congressional Ethics found that outgoing Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.) and his wife had congressional staffers perform their personal errands. Jenna Portnoy reports: “The report found insufficient evidence for the claim that Garrett paid an employee out of his campaign coffers to do personal errands. … On at least two occasions, Garrett or his wife asked a staff member to change the oil in the congressman’s car. A staffer went to Ikea and Costco with his wife, Flanna Garrett, during the workday. Staffers also frequently fed and walked the congressman’s dog, which was often present in the congressional office, and cared for the dog on their personal time.”

-- The D.C. Council gave final approval to a bill decriminalizing Metro fare evasion. Faiz Siddiqui reports: “The measure passed amid staunch opposition from Metro and its board, which argued the transit agency loses more than $25 million a year to fare evasion and that lessening the penalties for such an offense would only exacerbate the problem and lead to more crime. Council members and activists rejected that line of argument and said decriminalizing the act was an important step toward addressing disproportionate policing of African Americans on the transit system.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

This clip of Flynn chanting “Lock her up!” at the Republican National Convention really didn’t age well:

Late-night hosts mocked Trump's self-description as "Tariff Man":

Bush's service dog, Sully, visited his casket at the Capitol:

The Post talked to the owner of Bush's favorite Houston restaurant to find out how he remembered the former president, a loyal customer for more than 35 years:

The Fact Checker outlined how Trump has spun government data to present the best possible picture:

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Polish President Andrzej Duda shook hands “Predator-style” on the sidelines of the U.N. climate conference: