With Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Funding for the Department of Homeland Security will run out on Dec. 21, which as the winter solstice happens to be the darkest day of the year, but President Trump and Democrats are moving further apart as the deadline approaches to avoid a partial government shutdown. A new poll published this morning helps explain why both sides are digging in their heels.

The survey by Marist for NPR and PBS shows that 57 percent of Americans think Trump should compromise to prevent gridlock, and 69 percent say building a border wall should not be a priority. But 65 percent of Republicans do not think Trump should compromise, even if it means a shutdown, and 63 percent say building a wall should be a top priority. Among strong Republicans, just 19 percent believe Trump should compromise on wall funding to avoid a shutdown. More than 90 percent of all Republicans approve of Trump’s handling of immigration.

“The wall is polarized in terms of partisanship,” said Marist Poll director Barbara Carvalho. “It’s an important issue for the president’s base.”

The president’s core constituencies are especially galvanized around the issue. A slight majority, 51 percent, of people who live in rural areas, regardless of party, believe Trump shouldn’t compromise on the wall even if means a shutdown, according to Marist. They’re joined by 40 percent of all men, and 50 percent of white men who did not graduate college. Again, that’s not just Republicans.

-- During their 11:30 a.m. sit-down in the Oval Office, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer plan to offer Trump $1.3 billion in funding for a border fence — far short of the $5 billion that Trump has demanded.

Pelosi, focused on whipping Democratic votes for speaker, is more nervous than usual to do anything that will alienate liberals or Latinos. She declared last week that building the wall would be “immoral” — a standard that makes it harder to justify backing off. Schumer actually offered $1.6 billion in border funding recently, but he’s now revised that downward to $1.3 billion because he’s sensitive to hostility from his left flank.

“This holiday season, the president knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate, and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement last night. “Republicans still control the House, the Senate and the White House, and they have the power to keep government open. Our country cannot afford a Trump Shutdown, especially at this time of economic uncertainty.”

-- Conservative hard-liners, especially in the House, are in no mood for a stopgap solution because they know they’ll have far less leverage next month when they’re in the minority. “This is our last chance to address illegal immigration before Democrats take over the House,” the House Freedom Caucus said in a joint statement last night. “Republicans in Congress must fulfill our promise to the American people by building President Trump's wall, ending catch and release and securing our borders.”

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who will be the No. 2 Republican in the minority, said on Fox News yesterday that his members will hold firm in the lame duck to get what the president is demanding. “The number is $5 billion,” Scalise said. “If there is a better way to get there than what the president has laid out, then they need to come with an alternative. They can’t come and say they want to shut the government down for no reason because they don’t want border security.”

-- Ironically, because the midterms knocked out so many relative moderates from the suburbs, the House Republican Conference next year will be meaningfully more hawkish on immigration.

-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Gang of Eight who negotiated the 2013 bipartisan deal that passed the Senate, encapsulates the GOP’s lurch on the issue during the Trump era. On “Fox News Sunday,” he urged Trump to hold the line. “If I were the president, I would dig in and not give in on additional wall funding,” Graham said. “I want the whole $5 billion because the caravan is a game-changer. After the caravan, if you don't see the need for additional border security, you're just not paying much attention.” Graham added that he thinks Trump should offer to give legal status for DACA recipients, the “dreamers,” in exchange for two years of wall funding.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), another member of the Gang of Eight whose 2016 presidential campaign was torpedoed because of his perceived softness on immigration, has also jumped on the bandwagon of demanding that Trump’s wall be fully funded — or else. “Having a partial wall is not enough,” he said recently on “Fox & Friends,” which Rubio knows the president watches. “So if the wall is not built — all 800 miles — if you don't have the entire system in place, none of it works. It's not one of those things where you can have half of it. Half of it is as good as none of it.” 

-- Some of this is posturing to gain an upper hand in negotiations, but it is primarily a reaction to the mood of the Republican base. Nativism has been central to Trump’s appeal since he launched his campaign in June 2015. Trump has discounted the loss of 40 House seats and instead focused on the GOP’s three pickups in the Senate, which he believes were possible because he zeroed in on the caravan during the final weeks of the campaign.

-- Under the broader immigration umbrella, “border security” is Trump’s strongest issue. If he’s talking about family separations, he’s losing. If he’s talking about “the wall,” he’s firing up his base and annoying people who already dislike him but not really moving independents. But if he’s talking about “border security,” the president is on more firm footing. In the Marist poll, for example, 53 percent of Americans approve of how Trump is handling the protection of U.S. borders, including 92 percent of Republicans and even 26 percent of Democrats.

-- U.S. officials announced yesterday that the Pentagon will begin withdrawing many of the active duty troops deployed to the border by Trump right before the midterms. “About 2,200 of the active duty troops will be pulled out before the holidays,” the AP reports. “That will leave about 3,000 active duty troops in Texas, Arizona and California, mainly comprised of military police and helicopter transport crews who are assisting border patrol agents. … A report to Congress last month estimated the cost of the military deployment to the border at $210 million, including $72 million for the active-duty troops and $138 million so far for the National Guard forces.”

-- Ahead of his closed-press meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump declared on Twitter this morning that the border has been secured for now with makeshift measures but reiterated his calls for building “A Great Wall.”

-- To be sure, anything can happen when Donald the Dealmaker, a registered Democrat until September 2009 and a developer who earnestly believes he’s the greatest negotiator of his generation, is alone in a room with “Chuck and Nancy,” as he calls them. Trump has given nine campaign contributions directly to Schumer, including most recently in 2010. Pelosi once trekked to Trump Tower to cultivate Trump when he was a Democratic donor. During a May 2016 appearance on “Morning Joe,” Trump complained about “gridlock in Washington” and said he’d bridge the divides between the two parties. “I think that I'm going to be able to get along with Pelosi,” he said. “I've always had a good relationship with Nancy Pelosi.”

-- Also happening today: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony from Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan during what could become a contentious oversight hearing. “Several of the committee’s Democrats, including Sens. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) have been among the most aggressive critics of the administration’s enforcement initiatives, from the separation of parents and children at the border to efforts to tighten asylum policies,” Nick Miroff reports. “Last month CBP arrested or prevented from entering more than 62,000 migrants at the Mexico border, the highest one-month total since Trump took office.”

-- Behind the scenes: Federal government scientists raised red flags last year about Trump’s proposed wall, suggesting that it could harm the habitats of imperiled species living in the ecologically diverse region. “Constructing a physical barrier in southern Texas, some said, should be avoided if possible. But a number of those concerns did not make it to border officials considering the wall’s construction,” Dino Grandoni and Juliet Eilperin report. “Interior Department officials stripped from a key letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection a number of warnings by career biologists and wildlife managers about the potential impacts of the border wall on the area’s rare cats and other animals, according to new documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. …

“Wildlife officials also suggested in the draft letter that CBP cap large holes dug for fencing posts, so wildlife would not get trapped in them. They also warned that an expanded border wall would make it difficult to fight wildfires on the tracts of U.S. territory that end up south of the wall. In general, the Service recommends considering technology, additional border patrol agents and other mechanisms, when possible, instead of installation of levee or bollard walls,’ the agency concluded in the draft letter. That line and other sentences specifically outlining the risk from floods, fires and the severing of habitat did not make it into the final letter that Amy Lueders, director of Fish and Wildlife’s Southwest Region, ultimately sent CBP on Oct. 13.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Time named “The Guardians” — a group of journalists targeted for their work, including Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi — as the magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year. Time’s Karl Vick reports: “The stout man with the gray goatee and the gentle demeanor dared to disagree with his country’s government. He told the world the truth about its brutality toward those who would speak out. And he was murdered for it. Every detail of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing made it a sensation … But the crime would not have remained atop the world news for two months if not for the epic themes that Khashoggi himself was ever alert to, and spent his life placing before the public. His death laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and — in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links — the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?”

The other recipients were the Capital Gazette employees killed in a June shooting; Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, the Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar; and Maria Ressa, a former CNN bureau chief whose news site “Rappler” has been targeted by the Philippine government for its negative coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte.

-- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker wants to expedite a vote to formally condemn the Saudi crown prince for ties to Khashoggi’s killing. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Corker (R-Tenn.) said he would to seek on Tuesday to have the Senate vote on a measure holding the crown prince responsible for the killing of Khashoggi, and calling on him to cease other aggressive Saudi policies in the Persian Gulf, including its military campaign in Yemen, blockade of Qatar and incarceration of human rights activists. While the measure is nonbinding, it nonetheless would serve as a rebuke of [Trump] … ”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The Supreme Court declined to review lower-court rulings blocking state efforts to end Planned Parenthood funding. Some court observers said the decision indicated the justices’ preference to avoid controversial issues like abortion — at least for now. (Robert Barnes)

  2. Lawyers for the alleged sex abuse victims of multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein have asked a federal judge to take action on their request to vacate his controversial plea agreement. The deal gave Epstein immunity from federal prosecution, and the victims’ lawyers have been asking the judge for over a year to throw out the agreement — a request that many legal experts consider a long shot. (Miami Herald)

  3. Five Marines involved in last week’s plane crash off the coast of Japan were declared dead. The U.S. military’s announcement that they were ending search operations for the missing airmen brings the accident’s death toll to six. (Simon Denyer)

  4. The historic snowstorm that hit North Carolina resulted in at least two confirmed deaths. Many cities saw double-digit snowfall totals, causing hundreds of crashes and thousands of power outages. (Kristine Phillips)

  5. Newly published studies concluded that 15 extreme weather events last year were made more likely by human-caused climate change. Scientists added that one event — a marine heat wave off the coast of Australia — would have been “virtually impossible” without human influence. (Sarah Kaplan and Angela Fritz)

  6. YouTube continues to harbor hateful, conspiratorial videos two years after the Pizzagate shooting showed the danger of such content. YouTube’s CEO promised last year to curb “problematic” videos, but the platform remains popular among users of the social media sites Gab.ai and 4chan, which are known to attract hate groups. (Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Tony Romm and Andrew Ba Tran)

  7. Federal prosecutors revealed that a woman they portrayed as a would-be mass killer sent letters and Nazi propaganda to one of her heroes: Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof. Elizabeth Lecron of Ohio was charged with transportation of explosives and explosive material for the purposes of harming others and property. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Mark Berman)

  8. A former Baylor University fraternity president who was accused of rape will serve no jail time thanks to a plea deal with Texas prosecutors. Instead, Jacob Anderson will receive three years of probation, pay a $400 fine and go to counseling — a sentence  met with outrage by his accuser, her family and victim advocates. (Eli Rosenberg)

  9. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram uncovered at least 412 allegations of sexual misconduct in independent fundamental Baptist churches. The newspaper’s investigation found that 186 church leaders were accused or convicted of committing sexual crimes against children. Many of those leaders were later allowed to continue in ministry despite the accusations against them. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- ABC News obtained a copy of Marina Butina’s plea deal, which a federal judge will consider during a hearing Wednesday. The 30-year-old Russian, accused of developing a covert influence operation inside the United States, agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and fully cooperate with federal, state and local authorities. From Peter Madden, Katherine Faulders and Matthew Mosk: “She admits … that she and an unnamed ‘U.S. Person 1,’ which sources have identified as longtime Republican operative Paul Erickson, with whom she had a multiyear romantic relationship, ‘agreed and conspired, with a Russian government official (‘Russian Official’) and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.’ Based on the description, the ‘Russian Official’ appears to be Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The agreement, which Butina signed on Saturday, Dec. 8, also notes that the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison, but the deal could see Butina receive a lesser sentence, depending on the level of her cooperation, before likely being deported back to Russia. It is unclear what Butina’s cooperation might entail, but federal prosecutors have reportedly notified Erickson that he is a target of an ongoing investigation. … The government has alleged that U.S. Person 1 ‘worked with Butina to arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics,’ including high-ranking members of the National Rifle Association and organizers of the National Prayer Breakfast, that would ultimately give her a surprising level of access to conservative politicians, including — in one memorable interaction captured on video — to then-candidate Trump.

It would appear that, even as Erickson was helping Butina forge those connections, he may have been aware of the political implications. ‘Unrelated to specific presidential campaigns,’ Erickson wrote in an October 2016 email to an acquaintance that was later obtained by the FBI, ‘I’ve been involved in securing a VERY private line of communication between the Kremlin and key [unnamed political party] leaders through, of all conduits, the [unnamed gun-rights organization].' ...

Most notably, Butina’s Russian gun rights group ‘Right to Bear Arms’ hosted a delegation of former NRA presidents, board members and major donors in Moscow in 2015, where she appears to have succeeded in arranging a meeting between NRA insiders and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov … After that now infamous meeting, the agreement said, Butina sent the Russian Official a message, which was translated as saying ‘We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later.’”

-- The propaganda campaign pursued by the Kremlin after the nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter points to the danger of Russian disinformation tactics. Joby Warrick and Anton Troianovski report: “Dozens of false narratives and conspiracy theories began popping up almost immediately, the first of 46 bogus story lines put out by Russian-controlled media and Twitter accounts and even by senior Russian officials, according to a tabulation by The Washington Post — all of them sowing doubt about Russia’s involvement in the March 4 assassination attempt. … Intelligence agencies have tracked at least a half-dozen such distortion campaigns since 2014, each aimed, officials say, at undermining Western and international investigative bodies and making it harder for ordinary citizens to separate fact from falsehood.”

-- Paul Manafort plans this week to file a response to Mueller’s memo claiming the former Trump campaign chairman lied to the special counsel’s team. NBC News’s Julia Ainsley reports: “One key question is whether Manafort will name the Trump administration official he allegedly had contact with in 2018. It is unclear whether Manafort told his legal team about those conversations.”

-- A bipartisan group of 44 former U.S. senators penned an op-ed for Tuesday's Post imploring current senators to defend democracy. The senators write: “We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld. During our service in the Senate, at times we were allies and at other times opponents, but never enemies. We all took an oath swearing allegiance to the Constitution. … At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time. ... Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.”

-- Among the Republican signatories are Al Simpson (R-Wyo.), who delivered a memorable eulogy at George H.W. Bush’s funeral last week. Also William Cohen (R-Maine), Al D’Amato (R-N.Y.), John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) and John W. Warner (R-Va.).

-- Hypocrisy alert: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) dismissed concerns that Trump was directly involved in committing campaign-finance violations with his former lawyer, Michael Cohen. From Felicia Sonmez: “Hatch, who is retiring at the end of his current term, told CNN’s Manu Raju that the years before Trump became president are ‘another world.’ ‘Since he’s become president this economy has charged ahead,’ Hatch said, adding, ‘And I think we ought to judge him on that basis other than trying to drum up things from the past that may or may not be true.’ The Republican also told Raju that ‘you can make anything a crime under the current laws’ and that he believes Trump is doing a good job. Earlier in his congressional career, during Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999, Hatch voted to convict the president, saying in a statement at the time that ‘committing crimes of moral turpitude such as perjury and obstruction of justice go to the heart of qualification for public office.’”

-- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged his Democratic colleagues not to focus exclusively on investigating Trump. From Sonmez: “In an interview with Fox News Channel, McCarthy also dismissed the news that Russians interacted with at least 14 Trump associates during the 2016 campaign and the presidential transition, casting such encounters as common in an ‘international city’ such as Washington. … He added that there are ‘other problems out there that we really should be focused upon’ and that ‘both sides have come up with nothing’ in investigating Trump.”

-- Trump has become concerned Democrats will impeach him once they take over the House. CNN’s Jim Acosta reports: “[One] source said Trump sees impeachment as a ‘real possibility.’ But Trump isn't certain it will happen, the source added. A separate source close to the White House [said] that aides inside the West Wing believe ‘the only issue that may stick’ in the impeachment process is the campaign finance violations tied to [Cohen's] payouts to Trump's alleged mistresses.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- British Prime Minister Theresa May decided to delay a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal rather than face the consequences of its likely defeat. William Booth, Michael Birnbaum and Karla Adam report from London: “‘If we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow, the deal would be rejected by a significant margin,’ May conceded to a packed chamber in the House of Commons. Nearly 100 members of her own Conservative Party signaled they would vote against her half-in, half-out version of Brexit. Such a defeat would be hard for any prime minister to survive, but more so for May, who failed to win a majority for the Tories after a disastrous election campaign in 2017. … She insisted she had negotiated the best possible Brexit deal, but she agreed to return to Brussels this week and ‘do all that I can to secure the reassurances this House requires to get this deal over the line and deliver for the British people.’ By delaying the vote, May also prolonged the uncertainty over Brexit — whether, come March, there is her deal, no deal or no Brexit at all.”

-- A European Union high court’s ruling that Britain could reverse its Brexit decision gave hope to pro-Europe Brits. Michael Birnbaum reports: “The decision … made clear Britain has the ability to reverse itself any time before the March 29 deadline to leave the European Union. A legal question had arisen about whether a reversal would require the consent of the other 27 E.U. members, but the binding decision made clear that little stands in London’s way — should it want to return to the E.U. fold. ‘The United Kingdom is free to revoke unilaterally the notification of its intention to withdraw from the E.U.,’ the European Court of Justice said in its announcement.”

-- French President Emmanuel Macron announced a minimum-wage increase and tax cuts in an attempt to appease the “yellow vest” protesters. James McAuley reports: “The announcement, delivered in a brief televised address, came as Macron faced the most significant crisis of his young presidency: the so-called yellow vest movement, a popular uprising that began as a reaction to a carbon tax that the president had put in place but that quickly became a revolt against Macron himself, who is widely perceived as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people. Although he roundly condemned the recent violence, Macron acknowledged people have a right to be angry. ‘I don’t forget that there is an anger, an indignation, which many of the French can share,’ he said, adding that he wants to declare a ‘state of economic and social emergency’ to address their needs.”

-- Trump’s top energy adviser was interrupted by protesters at the U.N. climate conference, underscoring how the United States is no longer seen as a leader against climate change on the world stage. Griff Witte and Brady Dennis report: “‘We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability,’ said Wells Griffith, Trump’s adviser. Mocking laughter echoed through the conference room. A woman yelled, ‘These false solutions are a joke!’ And dozens of people erupted into chants of protest. The protest was a piece of theater, and so too was the United States’ public embrace of coal and other dirty fuels at an event otherwise dedicated to saving the world from the catastrophic effects of climate change. The standoff punctuated the awkward position the American delegation finds itself in as career bureaucrats seek to advance the Trump administration’s agenda in an international arena aimed at cutting back on fossil fuels.”

-- Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou asked a Canadian court to grant her bail before a hearing to determine whether she should be extradited to the United States. Emily Rauhala reports: “Before a packed courtroom in Vancouver, B.C., lawyers for [Meng] argued their client should be released ahead of her extradition hearing because she is in poor health and unlikely to flee because of her close ties to the Canadian city. The hearing closed without a decision Monday and will continue Tuesday.”

-- Influencers with close connections to Trump, including Rudy Giuliani, are being paid extravagantly to help controversial regimes and other foreign entities seek exemptions from sanctions and tariffs. The New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports: “In June, after a personal intervention by Mr. Trump, the Commerce Department rescinded sanctions that could have crippled the Chinese technology giant ZTE, which had fought the sanctions through an intense three-month lobbying push that cost $1.4 million. A $108,500-a-month lobbying campaign has helped delay the imposition of sanctions against an industrial conglomerate owned by the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Among the leaders of the lobbying efforts for both ZTE and Mr. Deripaska’s companies was Bryan Lanza, a former Trump campaign aide who maintains close ties to administration officials. His firm, Mercury Public Affairs, has signed other clients facing punitive measures from the United States government, including the United States subsidiary of Hikvision, a company owned by the Chinese government.” Also featured prominently in the piece are Alan Dershowitz and Brian Ballard, who is trying to help a Turkish-owned bank avoid punishment for a scheme to evade sanctions on Iran.

WEST WING INTRIGUE:

-- After being turned down by his first choice, Trump is scrambling to find a qualified candidate willing to become his chief of staff. Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa report: “Three members of Trump’s Cabinet who have been discussed inside the West Wing as possible chiefs of staff — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer — each signaled Monday that they were not interested in the position. Considerable buzz has centered on two other contenders. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) noted his interest in the job by issuing a statement saying that ‘serving as Chief of Staff would be an incredible honor.’ … And acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, who traveled with Trump to Kansas City, Mo., last week, is seen by the president and his allies as a loyalist. But Trump’s advisers and aides cautioned that there was not yet a front-runner.

Although aides said the president is committed to finding a replacement for Kelly before the Christmas holiday, they said he has been vacillating — casting about in all corners for potential picks and frustrated by news coverage depicting his White House as a place where talented people do not want to work. In a flurry of private conversations with family members, friends and staffers, Trump has been crowdsourcing various names to solicit feedback, according to people who have spoken with him. In turn, some of those names have wound up in media reports as candidates for the job.” (Meadows told Fox News last night that he is “favorably inclined to have a discussion with the president” about the job.)

“Among the people seen as contenders, in addition to Meadows and Whitaker, are David N. Bossie, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager and an outside adviser; White House counselor Kellyanne Conway; Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and former Trump transition chairman; Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a former Texas governor; Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania; and Wayne Berman, an executive at the investment firm Blackstone and a veteran Republican operative.”

-- Another rumored candidate, New York Yankees president Randy Levine, said he has not been contacted about the job. “I have spoken to nobody about the chief of staff job,” Levine told Fox News. “I have great respect for the president, but am very happy being president of the Yankees.” (Fox News)

-- Some administration officials expressed frustration that months of lobbying Nick Ayers to take the chief of staff job resulted in another staffing crisis. The New York Times’s Katie Rogers, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni report: “[Ivanka] Trump and [Jared] Kushner’s efforts on behalf of Mr. Ayers were widely seen as a coup attempt, started on behalf of a president who was unhappy with [John] Kelly but could not bring himself to fire him. Mr. Ayers’s rejection of the offer stunned the couple, who had long resisted Mr. Kelly’s attempt to bend them to a traditional White House hierarchy. But for Trump family members, the debacle amounts to a survivable setback. And the couple are now back to assessing a last-ditch list of possible candidates.”

-- Trump had already asked Ayers to evaluate the operation of the West Wing to prepare for the likely political battles ahead once Democrats retake the House. CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reports: “Trump often complained that [Kelly] was not politically shrewd enough for the task. … Trump has privately told confidants he wants his new chief of staff to shift the goals of the West Wing away from legislation and toward politics, sources said. He did not outline specific things he wanted Ayers to change in the West Wing, but was generally relying on the politically savvy young aide to make changes on his own that could bolster the White House ahead of what is expected to be a tumultuous year.”

-- Echoing his father-in-law, Jared Kushner said the White House is running smoothly despite “noise” from the media. “The president will make the right choice for chief of staff when he is ready,” Kushner told Fox News’s Sean Hannity. “And, hopefully he’ll choose someone he’s got great chemistry with, a great relationship with, who will help him navigate the next couple of years, with all the good opportunities that will emerge, to keep pushing forward.” (Fox News)

-- A former Trump campaign staffer who accused the campaign of discrimination was ordered to pay $25,000 for violating her nondisclosure agreement. BuzzFeed News’s Zoe Tillman reports: “[Jessica] Denson sued the campaign in New York County Supreme Court in November 2017, claiming that officials discriminated against her, cyberbullied her, and were otherwise hostile toward her; it did not include any allegations against Donald Trump personally. She sought $25 million in damages. But the Trump campaign claimed Denson’s lawsuit violated the terms of her nondisclosure agreement, which prohibited her from disclosing confidential information, disparaging the campaign, competing with the campaign, or violating its intellectual property.” The legal battle between Denson and the campaign is ongoing.

THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:

-- The National Sheriffs Association expressed dissatisfaction with the latest draft of the Senate’s bipartisan criminal justice bill, which could trigger more Republican defections. Seung Min Kim reports: “Senators, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), have worked on revisions aimed at winning over skittish GOP senators who would like to support the Trump-backed legislation but have been concerned that the bill would undercut the party’s tough-on-crime reputation. Many law enforcement groups support the criminal justice bill and say the new revisions make it stronger from a public safety perspective. But several GOP senators have said including changes that would satisfy the influential sheriffs group would help get their support.”

-- Lawmakers unveiled a compromise farm bill that could be put on the House floor for a vote as soon as tomorrow. Politico’s Catherine Boudreau and Helena Bottemiller Evich report: “Leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees rejected sweeping changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that House Republicans and [Trump] had sought, clearing a path for bipartisan support in both chambers. … Quick passage in the House would allow the Senate to vote on the bill later this week. Congressional leaders want to get the compromise legislation to Trump’s desk before the end of the week to avoid any chance of it becoming tied up in negotiations to pass a government spending package by Dec. 21.”

-- The Trump administration is expected to roll back Clean Water Act protections on millions of acres of U.S. waterways. The Los Angeles Times’s Evan Halper reports: “The administration’s plan for a vastly scaled-down Clean Water Rule is expected to be released as soon as Tuesday. Officials said nearly two years ago that they had begun the process of reversing the rule President Obama put in place, and internal talking points laying out its case were disclosed late last week by the environmental media outlet E&E News. The talking points signal that the Environmental Protection Agency intends to strip federal protections from many of the nation’s wetlands and streams that do not flow year-round. The administration has not challenged the accuracy of the talking points.”

-- The administration concealed a reporting showing that Wells Fargo charged high fees to college students. Politico’s Michael Stratford reports: “[The report] was produced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau office previously led by Seth Frotman, who quit as the bureau’s top student loan official in protest of Trump administration policies. Frotman said in his resignation letter that CFPB leaders had ‘suppressed the publication’ of the report. … [Wells Fargo’s] average annual fee per account was nearly $50, the highest of any provider. The report raises questions about whether campus accounts with high fees comply with Education Department rules requiring colleges to make sure the products they help promote are ‘not inconsistent with the best financial interests’ of their students.”

-- Google CEO Sundar Pichai will testify before Congress Tuesday for the first time. From Tony Romm: “The appearance is shaping up to be a major test of Pichai’s skills in managing the company’s reputation at a time when several of Silicon Valley’s biggest names are in crisis — and when many of Google’s employees are in revolt. … Pichai’s scheduled appearance comes at the request of House Republicans, who may launch a rhetorical fusillade at Google over allegations of anti-conservative bias. All year, party leaders have alleged the company limits the reach of conservatives’ content, especially on YouTube.”

-- The Democratic Party appears ready to use its advantage among state attorneys general to push back against Trump’s agenda. The Wall Street Journal’s Ken Thomas reports: “Democrats defeated Republicans in four GOP-held seats last month, giving the party a 27-23 edge among states’ top law-enforcement officials, a shift that will beef up its legal fights against the president. Democrats plan to build upon dozens of existing lawsuits fighting Mr. Trump’s attempt to undercut the Affordable Care Act, roll back environmental regulations and install hard-line immigration policies. … The legal onslaught has Republicans accusing their Democratic counterparts of using the courts to carry out an anti-Trump political agenda.”

MIDTERMS FALLOUT:

-- Nancy Pelosi is in advanced talks with some of her critics to allow term limits for committee chairmen to secure enough votes to be elected House speaker. Mike DeBonis reports: “The negotiations surround the prospect of term limits for both committee chairmen — something Pelosi and other Democrats have debated — as well as term limits for party leaders themselves, the Democrats said. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), a leader of the critics’ group, has been shuttling proposals between Pelosi and the larger group. … Those familiar with the talks said a deal would be unlikely to win support of all the approximately two dozen Democrats who have stated opposition to Pelosi. But the expectation, they said, is that enough could be persuaded to allow Pelosi to be elected speaker in a Jan. 3 floor vote while allowing more than a dozen freshmen who spoke out against Pelosi during their campaigns to vote against her.”

-- As Paul Ryan prepares to leave Congress, Vox’s Ezra Klein argues that his legacy will be defined by his failure to reduce the national debt. Klein writes: “Ryan says that debt reduction is one of those things ‘I wish we could have gotten done.’ Ryan, the man with the single most power over the federal budget in recent years, sounds like a bystander, as if he watched laws happen rather than made them happen. … [I]t is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump.

-- Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is demanding House Republicans conduct an autopsy to determine why they lost 40 seats in the midterms. The Hill’s Scott Wong reports: “In a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter obtained by The Hill, Stefanik and other allies wrote Monday that the ‘disappointing results’ of the November election ‘require an honest, transparent assessment of the structural operations and decision-making process that led to our party losing an historic number of seats.’ The GOP, the lawmakers wrote, lost a number of seats in suburban and other areas that traditionally have backed Republican candidates. The number of female House Republicans will drop from 23 to just 13 next year. ‘We fell short across multiple demographics, including women, who represent a growing segment of America’s voting population,’ Stefanik and others wrote. ‘Minimizing or ignoring the root causes behind these historic losses will lead us to repeat them.’”

-- Florida election officials reported that thousands of midterm ballots were not counted because they were not received by Nov. 6. The AP’s Gary Fineout reports: “The Department of State late last week informed a federal judge that 6,670 ballots were mailed ahead of the Nov. 6 election but were not counted because they were not received by Election Day. The tally prepared by state officials includes totals from 65 of Florida’s 67 counties. … Under Florida law, ballots mailed inside the United States must reach election offices by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Overseas ballots are counted if they are received up to 10 days after the election.” A lawsuit over the law is still pending.

-- Data suggests voter turnout in 2018 was higher than any other midterm in the last 100 years. CNN’s Harry Enten reports: “Professor Michael McDonald of the University of Florida, who is a guru of sorts on turnout, estimates that approximately 118 million people turned out to vote. He further calculates that to be 50.1% turnout of the voting eligible population. … The average turnout in midterms from 1974 to 2014 was just 39.4%. This year's turnout looks to be 11 points higher. More than that, the turnout in midterms had previously been fairly consistent. It never dropped below 36.7% or rose above 42%. This year's turnout was 8 points higher than the previous ceiling.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Potential 2020 candidate Michel Bloomberg said Democrats are looking for a “middle-of-the-road” strategy to defeat Trump. From John Wagner: “During an appearance on ABC’s ‘The View,’ Bloomberg offered nothing definite about whether he plans to run, saying he will think more seriously about it early in the new year. But his comments appeared to be an effort to distinguish himself from some of the more-liberal members of his party eyeing a presidential bid. ‘I think most Democrats want a middle-of-the-road strategy,’ Bloomberg said, after being asked whether he could navigate the Democratic nominating contests, which tend to draw the party’s more-liberal members. ‘They want to make progress, but they’re not willing to go and to push something that has no chance of ever getting done and wasting all their energy on that.’”

-- A potential liability: Bloomberg L.P. is being investigated by the Manhattan district attorney’s office for alleged fraud. The New York Times’s Charles V. Bagli reports: “On Tuesday, the district attorney and the State Police are expected to arrest more than a dozen executives, including senior executives in New York of Bloomberg’s global construction and facilities department, on fraud, theft and bribery charges … Subcontractors and vendors are accused of paying bribes and kickbacks in various forms over nearly four years to executives at Bloomberg and to two executives at Turner Construction, a general contractor that oversaw work at Bloomberg. The executives at Bloomberg and Turner and the vendors would then pad the bills for the work, raising the cost by millions of dollars for Bloomberg. There is no evidence Mr. Bloomberg was aware of the alleged fraud happening in his company … ”

-- Among more than 60 Bloomberg News employees who were asked about the company founder’s possible presidential run, only one person expressed support. From the Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani: “Among the dozens of employees who responded, two rival trains of thought emerged: one was a hesitancy to speak — even anonymously — about his candidacy; the other was outright opposition to the prospect. And, perhaps more telling, of the dozens of respondents to [our] query, only one non-editorial staffer said they were enthusiastic about a potential bid.”

-- Beto O’Rourke is speaking to prominent black Democrats about his potential 2020 bid. NBC News’s Garrett Haake and Mike Memoli report: “In the last two weeks, the soon-to-be-former Texas congressmen met with former President Barack Obama at his Washington office … and spoke by phone with the Rev. Al Sharpton and fellow 2018 progressive darling Andrew Gillum. … [One source said O’Rourke and Gillum] discussed their mutual preference that someone ‘young and unapologetically progressive’ lead the Democratic Party going forward. The two men had never spoken before, according to the source, and it was Gillum who reached out to O’Rourke to arrange the call.”

-- Another 2020 contender, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, was interrupted by protesters while speaking at the University of Southern California. The Los Angeles Times’s Dakota Smith reports: “Garcetti was less than a minute into his address in front of an audience of about 350 people at USC’s Bovard Auditorium when he was interrupted by a series of protesters. The mayor had planned to deliver the keynote speech at an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first man to speak accused Garcetti of trying to suppress the formation of a skid row neighborhood council, which the mayor denied. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself,’ the protester shouted. … As he spoke, protesters quietly started singing ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,’ but with the verses, ‘You better watch out, you better not cry, Eric Garcetti is telling us lies, human rights violations happening now.’”

-- LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and several Obama administration alums are working on an independent database to store the information of progressive voters. Politico’s Alex Thompson reports: “The project's backers intend to spend $35 million in the first year alone, with Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn, as the primary investor. … Hoffman’s venture complicates plans for a separate data trust project being pushed by the Democratic National Committee … With tens of millions of dollars at their disposal, the people behind Hoffman-backed project could eventually create their own voter file, making the Democratic Party’s file less valuable. That process, however, would likely take several years and would be nearly impossible to complete by the 2020 election.”

-- Democratic leaders and strategists predicted Republicans’ lame-duck maneuvers in swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin will come back to haunt them in 2020. The New York Times’s Astead W. Herndon and Jonathan Martin report: “The Republican efforts could hurt the party’s image with moderate voters in a region that [Trump] considers crucial for his 2020 re-election effort, and where his standing has fallen in suburbs that he would need to carry again to win. Yet G.O.P. leaders are determined to push ahead, fearing that their decade-long dominance in the Midwest is coming to an end as newly elected Democrats and the prospect of more competitive districts threaten to shift the balance of power.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

A Politico reporter shared this photo as Republicans prepare to become the House minority:

An MSNBC anchor questioned one House Republican's justification for possible campaign-finance violations:

A former Obama speechwriter pushed back on another McCarthy argument:

From a former House GOP staffer who ran as an independent presidential candidate in 2016:

An Atlantic writer highlighted the relationship between Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity as Hannity's show focused on Hillary Clinton:

A former Pentagon special counsel reminded his Twitter followers of this in response to Maria Butina's guilty plea:

A former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration outlined the perils of disinformation:

Leading conservative lawyer George Conway, who is married to senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, appeared to suggest that Trump might not be able to serve out his full term:

A Cook Political Report editor said a political realignment could hurt the GOP's fundraising numbers:

A RealClearPolitics elections analyst made a prediction about the 2020 Democratic primary:

Mitch McConnell signed a bill using a hemp pen:

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) reflected on her family's connections to Judaism:

A presidential historian remembered when JFK comforted a young girl about Santa Claus:

A dictionary mocked Trump after he misspelled "smoking:"

And author J.K. Rowling added this:

GOOD READS:

-- “Epilogue: Life lessons from the people we call to lay someone to rest,” by Amanda Long, Annys Shin and Harrison Smith: “We recently interviewed and photographed people in the Washington area who are intimately involved in the aftermath of death. Their occupations are diverse, but their insights about death, grief and life are universal.”

-- New York Times, “Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret,” by Jennifer Valentino-Devries, Natasha Singer, Michael H. Keller and Aaron Krolik: “At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information, The Times found. Several of those businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States — about half those in use last year. The database reviewed by The Times — a sample of information gathered in 2017 and held by one company — reveals people’s travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day. These companies sell, use or analyze the data to cater to advertisers, retail outlets and even hedge funds seeking insights into consumer behavior. It’s a hot market, with sales of location-targeted advertising reaching an estimated $21 billion this year.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Dan Bongino Out at NRATV,” from the Daily Beast: “The National Rifle Association’s media arm has dropped pro-Trump firebrand Dan Bongino from its lineup of conservative commentators, two sources [said]. Bongino’s stand-alone show, ‘We Stand,’ had started only last year. … Bongino’s NRATV show was one of a stable of political commentary programs launched by the gun rights group following Trump’s election last year. But the channel, a digital-only streaming network, has recently downsized. Late last month, NRATV laid off a number of employees, including the producer of the show ‘Cam and Company.’ That show’s host, Cam Edwards, said it would be ‘returning soon.’”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Job openings back over 7 million and near a record high,” from CNBC: “There were 1 million more jobs than unemployed workers in the most recent government count of job openings, according to a Labor Department release Monday. Total available jobs stood at 7.08 million for October, the second-highest level surpassed only by the 7.3 million in August, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed. By comparison, there were just 6.08 million Americans classified as unemployed for the month. … The amount of openings was more than 1 million higher than the same period a year ago, a 16.8 percent increase.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will meet with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi before signing the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

One Republican close to the White House joked that Trump doesn’t need a chief of staff: “It’s a well-oiled machine. … I don’t even know why they need a chief of staff. I guess they need somebody to pour the oil in once in a while, but that’s a part-time job, right?” (Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa)

 

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

-- It will be another sunny, but cold day in the District. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Cold high pressure keeps temperatures running below normal despite the abundant sunshine situation. Sunny skies prevail as highs reach the lower to middle 40s. Winds run really light from the west and northwest, keeping the wind chill subdued.”

-- Colin Kaepernick is reportedly “ready and willing” to play for the Redskins as the team continues to search for a reliable quarterback. From Des Bieler: “Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports [cited] ‘two sources close to the former NFL quarterback’ in reporting that Kaepernick ‘would be willing to play for the Redskins as early as next week.’ ‘He’s a professional Super Bowl-caliber quarterback and in the best shape of his life, and he would play, if given the opportunity, on any NFL team,’ a source told Robinson. His report was published shortly after the Redskins were drubbed by the Giants, 40-16, with starting quarterback Mark Sanchez playing poorly before being replaced by Josh Johnson.”

-- In case you missed it: Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) plans to run for governor in 2021. Laura Vozzella reports: “Herring, a Democrat who surprised many by taking a pass on the 2017 governor’s race, has been spreading the word to allies and donors in recent weeks. He confirmed his plans to The Washington Post on Friday. … A former state senator from Leesburg, Herring, 57, is getting a jump on what could be a fierce competition for the Democratic nomination. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is considered a likely contender. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and former congressman Tom Perriello are often mentioned as possibilities.”

-- Multiple instances of miscommunication appear to have caused the incorrect “active shooter” alerts at Walter Reed last month. Dan Morse reports: “But two weeks after the Nov. 27 incident, a detailed accounting still is not available, according to Jeremy Brooks, a spokesman for Naval Support Activity Bethesda, the entity that helps run the installation … The investigation so far suggests that the panic built after a person at one facility at the installation inadvertently sent an alert about an active shooter, realized the error, and ‘immediately attempted but failed to recall the information,’ Brooks said.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Jimmy Fallon mocked Trump's chief of staff search:

The Fact Checker introduced a new Pinocchio rating for some of Trump’s most repeated falsehoods:

Barack Obama issued a straightforward endorsement for getting health insurance:

Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) explained why he wears his eye patch for more formal or public occasions:

And a UPS driver made a new friend while making a delivery: