With James Hohmann

THE BIG IDEA: Joe Biden won’t apologize for the deportations. 

Barack Obama’s administration deported more than 3 million undocumented immigrants during his two terms, including 1.18 million in his first three years. In that equivalent amount of time, President Trump has deported fewer than 800,000.

In an interview that aired Thursday night on Telemundo, the Spanish-language station owned by NBC, anchor José Díaz-Balart tried repeatedly to get the former vice president to say he was sorry – to no avail. 

Sitting on his “No Malarkey” bus, which he’s been using to barnstorm Iowa this week, Biden said he has “nothing” to apologize for. “Nothing,” he said with emphasis, adding that he and Obama did the best they could to help “the undocumenteds,” as the 77-year-old referred to them at one point during the back-and-forth.

“No, I think what we should be doing is acknowledging that comparing what President Obama did and what Trump did is night and day,” Biden said.

“No, but the numbers are there,” said Díaz-Balart.

“No, no, no, no,” said Biden.

“More than 3 million people were deported,” said the anchor.

“I understand that,” Biden said, blaming Republicans. “That was what the law was at the time.”

Biden said Obama deserves credit for minimizing deportations in the second term once it became clear Congress wouldn’t act. The Supreme Court is now considering the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. “If the Supreme Court rules against it, we're going to get it passed,” Biden said, referring to the fate of the “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children.

-- Unlike most of his opponents in the Democratic field, Biden still hasn’t released a comprehensive immigration plan. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker have unveiled proposals. So did Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and California Sen. Kamala Harris before they dropped out. Among the other contenders in the top tier, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg also hasn’t released a detailed plan on immigration.

-- The Biden campaign is working to finalize a plan. In an interview with the Daily 202, Cristóbal Alex, former president of the Latino Victory Fund and the Biden campaign’s most senior adviser for issues involving Hispanic voters, previewed the plan he said will be “forthcoming.” It will outline an end to Trump’s family separation policy, protections for “dreamers” and address the root causes of the immigration crisis. This will include a proposal for foreign aid to stabilize the Northern Triangle countries in Central America, similar to what Sanders and Warren had in their plans.

Alex said Biden has repeatedly emphasized to him personally that he’s committed to spending considerable political capital to achieve a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration laws if he’s elected president. Alex said that will include legislation to provide citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.

In the Telemundo interview last night, Biden said he supports allowing undocumented immigrants to benefit from his proposed expansion of the Affordable Care Act, specifically the public option. He quipped that as he builds out Obamacare, it will eventually become “Bidencare.” 

“And they'd be able to buy in just like anyone else could,” Biden said of undocumented immigrants.

-- Biden’s plan will be more moderate than his rivals. So far, the biggest flashpoint in the Democratic immigration debate this year has been over whether to repeal a portion of the law that makes it a criminal offense to illegally enter the United States. The proposal was first made by former housing secretary Julián Castro, the first candidate to publish a detailed immigration plan, and it targets Section 1325 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which the Trump administration used to defend its family separation policies. Sanders and Warren endorsed Castro’s idea.

Biden still opposes repealing Section 1325, and that won’t change. He said during one of the debates that changing the law could incentivize more illegal immigration. “Repealing that section could undermine our immigration system. It could undermine efforts to combat human smuggling," Alex said in an interview. “It would shift an additional burden into the immigration court system. Additionally, if the logic behind ending 1325 is to end family separation, there are likely at least eight other laws on the books that someone nefarious and anti-immigrant like Trump could use to separate families. So the problem isn't 1325. The problem is Donald Trump.”

-- Biden’s lack of contrition for the Obama administration’s deportation record threatens to become a bigger hurdle as the field winnows and the contrasts sharpen. Overshadowed by the impeachment inquiry, plus the ideological clashes over Medicare-for-all, the immigration issue has drifted to the backburner of the Democratic conversation since the spring and summer.But Latinos are poised to play a potentially pivotal role in the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22, the third early state, and then when Super Tuesday arrives on March 3, when California, Texas and Colorado go to the polls.

“I think the big question for Biden is whether he will learn from what the Obama administration failed at when it came to immigration,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, in an interview. “He must recognize that we are in a different place and what the Trump administration has exposed is what happens when immigration agencies, whether it be Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Border Patrol, are allowed to continue to grow and to do so without any accountability or liability. What we’re experiencing right now is part of the mechanism and machinery that the Obama administration put into place.”

Biden disputes this criticism. “They would have been able to do that before that structure,” he said on Telemundo. “They could have done that if we didn't do anything.”

-- The sit-down with Telemundo is part of a strategy to convey to Latinos that he’s not taking them for granted after his national coalitions director Vanessa Cárdenas, his most senior Latina staffer, quit last month. She told at least two allies that she was frustrated her advice on immigration wasn’t being heeded, according to Politico. “The campaign is just hyper-focused on whites in Iowa and African-Americans and it placed less value on Latino outreach,” an unnamed immigration activist and friend who spoke with her told Marc Caputo. “Vanessa kept banging her head against the wall trying to get them to take the community more seriously. And Biden just really won’t change when it comes to the way he talks about immigration. It became too much.”

-- Biden acknowledged Cárdenas’s frustrations during a conference call with reporters last week when he was asked about her departure. The candidate complimented the “very, very good” work she did for him and insisted that Latino outreach is one of his priorities. He said he has no choice but to spend as much time as possible in Iowa and New Hampshire because he didn’t join the race until April. “I can understand her frustration, in terms of the number of days” spent in certain states, Biden said, according to the Associated Press. “I understand her frustration. I’m getting the same thing, and I’m sure every candidate is, no matter what state you’re in, why you’re not spending more time in other states. I wish her well. I’m sorry she was frustrated.”

Cárdenas did not respond to a request for comment. 

-- Just days after she stepped down, on Nov. 22, Biden clashed with immigration activist Carlos Rojas when he asked the former vice president if he would pledge to halt deportations. Biden said no, explaining that he will prioritize deportations only for “people who have committed a felony of serious crime.” When Rojas, who noted that he was a volunteer for the 2008 Obama-Biden campaign, countered by saying that he became disenchanted with the Obama administration after it deported so many people, Biden suggested that maybe Rojas “should vote for Trump.” 

-- There have been other, smaller missteps. In October, the Biden campaign unveiled “a national network of Latino supporters” called “Todos Con Biden.” But they didn’t reserve the URL for the web site or the Twitter handle. The Trump campaign snapped up both and used them to troll Biden with unflattering content. “Oops, Joe forgot about Latinos,” the landing page on todosconbiden.com says in English and Spanish, with a link to Trump’s Latino outreach page.

-- Notably, none of the Democratic presidential candidates are calling to abolish ICE. For a while last year, that looked like it might become a new litmus test from the left. Warren said she believes the agency needs to be “reorganized significantly.” Sanders spokeswoman Belén Sisa said the Vermont senator believes in breaking up ICE to curtail an agency that he believes has been “completely unaccountable to some of the monstrosities” that have occurred in the last three years. 

Castro supports maintaining some of the ICE and DHS operations he considers critical to U.S. safety. His spokesman Sawyer Hackett pointed out that there are investigators within these agencies that conduct a lot of work around sex and drug trafficking. “We can maintain those components while also moving the [Enforcement and Removal] section of ICE to the Department of Justice where we have more oversight and more accountability of those agencies,” Hackett explained.

-- For now, Biden is polling well among Latinos, something he touted during last night’s interview. Telemundo poll published last month showed Biden holding on to the support of 26 percent of Latino voters who identify as Democrats, with Sanders in second place at 18 percent. Warren trailed with 10 percent and Castro, the only Latino candidate in the race, polled at 2 percent.But even his boosters acknowledge that the race remains as fluid among this constituency as the electorate at large.Just like with African Americans, there is something of a generational divide between older Latinos and younger members of the community who tend to be more liberal and want bolder proposals.

MORE ON BIDEN:

-- The former vice president got into a testy back-and-forth yesterday afternoon with an Iowa farmer who called him too old to be president and challenged him on his son’s activities in Ukraine, prompting the former vice president to call the man “a damn liar” and challenge him to take an IQ test. “You’re damn near as old as I am,” the farmer said at a town hall meeting in New Hampton, Iowa. “You’re too old for the job. I’m 83, and I know damn well I don’t have the mental faculties I did 30 years ago. … We all know Trump has been messing around in the Ukraine over there, holding their foreign aid … saying they’re going to investigate you. But you, on the other hand, sent your son over there to get a job and work for a gas company that he had no experience with gas or nothing, to get access to the president. You’re selling access to the president just like he was.”

“You’re a damn liar, man,” Biden replied. “That’s not true. And no one has ever said that.”

“The hell it ain’t,” the man replied. “I see it on the TV.”

Biden said he played no role in getting his son the job on the board of Burisma. Although Hunter Biden got that job when his father was vice president, with little to no relevant experience, there is no evidence that Joe Biden was “selling access to the president.”

“And by the way, I’m not sedentary,” Biden continued. “Look, the reason I’m running is I’ve been around a long time, and I know more than most people know. And I can get things done, that’s why I’m running. And you want to check my shape, man, let’s do push-ups together here, man. Let’s run. Let’s do whatever you want to do. Let’s take an IQ test, okay?” 

(Trump has also challenged people to take an IQ test, including former secretary of state Rex Tillerson in 2017.)

-- Rudy Giuliani met Thursday in Ukraine with one of the key figures working to build a corruption case against Hunter Biden, the Ukraine lawmaker said, after posting Facebook photographs of himself with Trump’s personal lawyer. “Andriy Derkach said he pressed Giuliani on the need to set up a joint U.S.-Ukraine investigation into corruption in Ukraine at the meeting in Kyiv,” David Stern and Robyn Dixon report. “Giuliani alleged ‘compelling’ evidence of criminal misdeeds by Biden [in a tweet after the meeting], but gave no specifics. … Derkach, an independent lawmaker who was formerly a member of a pro-Russian party in parliament, went to the Dzerzhinsky Higher School of the KGB in Moscow. He is the son of a KGB officer who later served as head of Ukrainian intelligence.”

-- Former secretary of state John Kerry endorsed Biden and plans to campaign with him in Iowa on Friday and New Hampshire on Sunday. “I’m not endorsing Joe because I’ve known him a long time. I’m endorsing him because I know him so well,” Kerry told Dan Balz, who broke the story. “The world has to be put back together, the world that Donald Trump has smashed apart.”

Kerry, who served alongside Biden for decades in the Senate and won the Democratic nomination in 2004, said he feels strongly that his friend can beat Trump next November. “The president knows it,” he told Balz. “And that’s why he was so busy dispatching Rudy Giuliani and engaging in unconstitutional behavior.”

-- Today is the last day of that special subscription deal we flagged on Wednesday: Through midnight, you can get one year of full digital access to The Post for just $30. That’s as good a value as you’ll find for anything. If you have a subscription already, you know that. If you don’t, you’re missing out. This could also make a great holiday gift.

MORE ON THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- Video obtained by ProPublica shows how the Border Patrol held a sick teen in a concrete cell without proper medical attention and did not discover his body until his cellmate alerted guards about his death: “Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant, was seriously ill when immigration agents put him in a small South Texas holding cell with another sick boy on the afternoon of May 19. A few hours earlier, a nurse practitioner at the Border Patrol’s dangerously overcrowded processing center in McAllen had diagnosed him with the flu and measured his fever at 103 degrees. She said that he should be checked again in two hours and taken to the emergency room if his condition worsened. None of that happened. Worried that Carlos might infect other migrants in the teeming McAllen facility, officials moved him to a cell for quarantine at a Border Patrol station in nearby Weslaco. By the next morning, he was dead. … The agency said that an agent had found Carlos ‘unresponsive’ after checking in on him. Sanders said the Border Patrol was ‘committed to the health, safety and humane treatment of those in our custody.’ But the record shows that the Border Patrol fell far short of that standard with Carlos. ProPublica has obtained video that documents the 16-year-old’s last hours, and it shows that Border Patrol agents and health care workers at the Weslaco holding facility missed increasingly obvious signs that his condition was perilous.”

-- The number of pregnant immigration detainees has spiked 52 percent during the Trump administration. Maria Sacchetti reports: “The spike in pregnant detainees came after federal officials terminated an Obama administration order to release most expectant mothers because of health concerns. Advocates for immigrants had pushed the Obama administration to sharply curtail the practice of detaining pregnant women ahead of the 2016 elections, citing insufficient health care and nutrition in federal detention centers and contract jails and the increased risk of miscarriage. But shortly after the policy went into effect, Trump declared that nobody in the United States illegally is immune to detention and deportation.” 

-- Under pressure, Trump's Department of Homeland Security backed away from its proposal to require mandatory facial scans for all U.S. citizens crossing the border. Lori Aratani reports: “Reports this week that Customs and Border Protection wanted to expand airport facial screening to U.S. citizens drew an immediate outcry from privacy advocates and lawmakers, who accused administration officials of reneging on promises that the scans would remain optional for citizens. … On Thursday, however, CBP said it was withdrawing the proposal. ‘There are no current plans to require U.S. citizens to provide photographs upon entry and exit from the United States,’ the agency said in a statement. ‘CBP intends to have the planned regulatory action regarding U.S. citizens removed from the unified agenda next time it is published.’”

-- The Trump administration’s plan to charge huge fees to obtain immigration records may have the unintended consequence of undermining the booming genealogy testing market. Sydney Trent reports: “The fees would nearly triple, and in many cases, they would rise nearly 500 percent, from $130 to $625 to obtain a single paper file. The little-known Genealogy Program administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services allows genealogists, family historians and other researchers to obtain citizenship and alien registration files, visa applications and other records documenting the lives of deceased immigrants who arrived in the United States between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries. … The increases come at a time when millions of Americans are discovering a passion for family genealogy, spurring the growth of websites and services that cater to them. Ancestry.com, one of the most popular, now has more than 3 million paying subscribers perusing its databases of documents and DNA connections.”

-- A new lawsuit challenges the Trump administration’s policy of requiring foreigners to list all of their social media accounts on visa applications. Tony Romm and Drew Harwell report: “The requirement — implemented as part of the president’s controversial crackdown on immigration — amounts to an illegal surveillance dragnet that threatens to chill political expression online, according to a group of documentary filmmakers, who filed their case with the backing of two advocacy groups, the Brennan Center for Justice and the Knight First Amendment Institute.” 

-- A House committee chair called for an independent investigation into the $400 million border wall contract awarded this week to a North Dakota company owned by a frequent Fox News guest and major GOP donor. Trump personally pushed military officials to hire the firm. Nick Miroff reports: “In a letter to the Defense Department Office of Inspector General, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said there are reasons to be suspicious of the decision to bestow such a large contract on the company. Thompson cited Trump’s repeated promotion of [Tommy] Fisher to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a recent visit by the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to a span of privately financed barrier the firm built outside El Paso.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- A shooter who opened fire Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing at least two people and injuring multiple people, has died, authorities said. Brittany Shammas and Alex Horton report“It was unclear if the two victims killed were service members or civilians, said Lt. Cmdr. Megan Isaac, a Navy spokeswoman. … An active shooting at the Naval station was reported at about 6:45 a.m., and the base was placed on lockdown, the Navy said.”

-- The United States added 266,000 jobs in November as the jobless rate decreased to 3.5 percent, reflecting a surge of strength in the labor market that has muscled through recession fears that flared over the summer. Rachel Siegel reports: “The data, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, beat expectations. Analysts had forecast roughly 180,000 new jobs for the month. The 3.5 percent unemployment rate is back at a 50-year low. The jobs data offer the latest snapshot into an economy that appears to have lost some steam from 2018 but continues to grow.”

-- Elizabeth Warren released a letter from her physician this morning that describes her as “very healthy” and issued five pages of supporting medical records, making her the first of the four septuagenarians in the Democratic contest to provide details about their health. Annie Linskey reports: “Warren takes medication for hypothyroidism, a common condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive, according to the letter. Her blood pressure is 115/57, and she has had a flu shot this year. Warren is 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighs 129 pounds. … Warren also provided a hematology report including information on everything from her platelet count to the size of her red blood cells. … 

“Sanders, at 78, is the oldest candidate in the race. He suffered a heart attack while campaigning in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, which sidelined him until a Democratic debate two weeks later. Sanders had two stents inserted, but his campaign has declined to specify how much damage his heart sustained and declined interview requests with his physician. The Vermont senator’s campaign has said it would provide his health records by the end of the year. … After a debate in September in which his answers sometimes meandered and one challenger appeared to allude to his age, Biden committed to releasing his health records ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.

THE LATEST ON THE INVESTIGATIONS:

-- Democrats are considering articles of impeachment against Trump that include obstruction and bribery, but they are unlikely to pursue a charge of treason. Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis report: “Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee, which this week released a report of their findings from a two-month-long impeachment investigation, have said that they believe Trump’s actions vis-a-vis Ukraine meet the definition of bribery, one of the crimes the Constitution identifies specifically as an impeachable offense. … Democratic leaders say they have overwhelming support in their ranks for articles dealing with the core of Trump’s conduct regarding Ukraine … Aides cautioned that the situation remains fluid and that discussions about the articles are ongoing. Several members of the Judiciary panel are also eager to make reference in the articles to the president’s alleged efforts to obstruct justice in former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, arguing that Trump has repeatedly solicited or welcomed foreign interference in his election bids. … 

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted that Russia was an integral factor in the president’s alleged misconduct regarding Ukraine, because when Trump decided to withhold military aid to Kyiv, it was the Kremlin that benefited. ‘Russia. It’s about Russia,’ Pelosi said. ‘All roads lead to Putin. Understand that.’ But Democrats have yet to commit to including articles of impeachment that directly address Trump’s alleged ties to Russia that were detailed in the Mueller report, or settle on how they will organize and draft their various grievances against the president.”

-- Pelosi shut down a reporter who asked her whether she "hates" Trump. Felicia Sonmez reports: “Pelosi … was about to exit the room when a reporter shouted out a question. ‘Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?’ James Rosen, a reporter for Sinclair Broadcast Group, called out from a seat in the front row. Most times, Pelosi ignores questions shouted at her in the hallways and briefing rooms of the Capitol. But Rosen’s query appeared to strike a nerve with Pelosi, who stopped in her tracks, turned to face the reporter and delivered an extraordinary rebuttal. ‘I don’t hate anybody,’ Pelosi said sternly, pointing her finger at Rosen, a reporter she has dismissed as ‘Mr. Republican Talking Points.’ Pelosi then referenced her Catholic upbringing and told Rosen, ‘Don’t accuse me.’ … ‘As a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me,’ she said. ‘I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love, and [I] always pray for the president, and I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time. So, don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.’” Trump responded on Twitter that he does not believe Pelosi prays for him.

-- “These days Pelosi, a history major in college, spends much of her time quoting the founders of the nation in her bid to justify her move to embrace impeachment. Occasionally she favors the Bible,” Rachael Bade and DeBonis report in a ticktock on how the speaker transformed from a skeptic to the face of impeachment. “On Thursday morning, before lashing out at the news conference, she read verses from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah to her whip team in the Capitol basement — a warning about corrupt kings. ‘Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows,’ she read. ‘Doom to the leader who builds palaces but bullies people, who makes a fine house but destroys lives.’”

-- The phone logs disclosed in the House Intelligence Committee's impeachment report have raised fresh concerns about Trump’s use of unsecured communications, against the advice of aides and breaking with longstanding practice. Paul Sonne, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller report: “Trump has routinely communicated with [Giuliani] and other individuals speaking on cellphones vulnerable to monitoring by Russian and other foreign intelligence services, current and former U.S. officials said. Phone records released this week by the House Intelligence Committee revealed extensive communications between Giuliani, unidentified people at the White House and others involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine, with no indication that those calls were encrypted or otherwise shielded from foreign surveillance. The revelations raise the possibility that Moscow was able to learn about aspects of Trump’s attempt to get Ukraine to investigate a political rival months before that effort was exposed by a whistleblower report and the impeachment inquiry, officials said. ... The disclosures provide fresh evidence suggesting that the president continues to defy the security guidance urged by his aides and followed by previous incumbents. ...

"Trump and Giuliani have effectively 'given the Russians ammunition they can use in an overt fashion, a covert fashion or in the twisting of information,' said John Sipher, former deputy chief of Russia operations at the CIA. Sipher and others said that it is so likely that Russia tracked the calls of Giuliani and others that the Kremlin probably knows more now about those conversations than impeachment investigators. 'Congress and investigators have call records that suggest certain things but have no means whatsoever of getting the actual text' of what was said, Sipher said. 'I guarantee the Russians have the actual information.' 

"U.S. officials said that Giuliani would have been considered a target of Russian intelligence efforts from early in Trump’s presidency and that it is assumed that the Kremlin intensified its surveillance of the president’s lawyer when he turned his focus to Ukraine — a former Soviet republic and target of Kremlin aggression where Russian intelligence has made deep inroads — late last year. 'That would definitely put him on the radar,' said a U.S. official ... U.S. officials said that Russia would likely have him under physical surveillance when he is in Ukraine."

-- The White House claims that no one from the Office of Management and Budget spoke with Giuliani. From the Journal: “The previously undisclosed phone number cited by the House Intelligence Committee in its impeachment inquiry report, which The Wall Street Journal has identified, isn’t directly linked to the Office of Management and Budget. It could instead reflect phone calls from other parts of the White House, according to people familiar with the matter … It isn’t known whom Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, spoke with in the administration in the calls reflected in the logs, but OMB officials say it wasn’t anyone on their staff. A White House official had previously said the call logs don’t align with the cellphone records of acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who is also the budget office director. A senior House Intelligence Committee official said the panels overseeing the impeachment probe are continuing to investigate the call records, including whether the number described as linked to OMB could also reference calls from elsewhere in the White House.”

-- Trump asked the Supreme Court to review court decisions granting Congress access to his financial records. Robert Barnes reports: “Warning of ‘uncharted territory,’ Trump asked the court for the second time to review rulings from lower courts that have said Congress and state prosecutors have a right to review his personal and business records. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision in favor of the House Oversight and Reform Committee presents the Supreme Court with a ‘case of firsts,’ wrote Trump’s personal lawyer William S. Consovoy. … The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a related case at its private conference Dec. 13. It involves a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit that granted Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. similar access to Trump’s financial records, which are held by his longtime accounting firm Mazars USA. The company has said it will comply with final court orders. If the court decides to order full briefing and argument in both cases, it could lead to landmark decisions this term on the ability of prosecutors and Congress to investigate the president. Both subpoenas are independent of the House’s impeachment inquiry.”

-- A federal judge appointed by Trump rejected the Trump administration's efforts to conceal several financial disclosure forms submitted by former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, a cable talking head whom the president tapped to serve as the nation's chief law enforcement officer after firing Jeff Sessions. From Politico: “Acting on a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by BuzzFeed, District Judge Trevor McFadden ruled Wednesday that the draft financial disclosures are ineligible for protection under an exemption protecting the confidentiality of policy-making debates. ‘The Court is unpersuaded by DOJ’s 'deliberative process' arguments,’ wrote McFadden ... ‘Whitaker’s draft forms do not bear the mark of the deliberative process.’”

-- Karen McDougal, the former Playboy bunny who says Trump carried on an affair with her while he's been married to Melania Trump, filed a lawsuit against Fox News for alleged defamation. From CNN: “In the lawsuit, which was filed in a New York state court, McDougal accused host Tucker Carlson of acting with a ‘reckless disregard for the truth’ when he suggested on a December 2018 episode of his show that she extorted Trump. In a statement provided by a Fox News spokesperson, the network said it would ‘vigorously defend Tucker Carlson against these meritless claims.’”

-- Notable commentary:

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Attorney General Bill Barr’s meeting in Mexico could be a prelude to greater U.S. involvement in the fight against drug cartels. Kevin Sieff reports: When Barr “met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Thursday, it marked the highest-level discussion of a matter of bitter disagreement between the two countries: Should drug cartels be designated as terrorist organizations? … For decades, the United States has worked with Mexico to combat drug cartels, helping to develop the very architecture of Mexico’s security apparatus. But with Trump and López Obrador, the dynamic is more complicated than ever before. López Obrador, known by his initials as AMLO, has long rejected a security strategy involving increased militarization, instead endorsing an array of social programs aimed at dissuading would-be cartel members from joining organized crime. Trump, on the other hand, has been talking about a U.S. role in fighting cartels since taking office. … 

After Thursday’s meeting, both sides played down the dispute over the terrorist designation, which could potentially have implications for both U.S. security involvement in Mexico and Mexico’s financial sector, if more comprehensive anti-money laundering policies are applied. … In a news release about the meeting, the Justice Department did not mention the terrorism designation. ... Still, many in Mexico worry about a further emboldening of security forces in the fight against drug traffickers. Over the past decade, that approach has frequently led to the splintering of armed groups and an uptick in violence.”

-- “Pelosi is pushing to strip out sweeping legal protections for online content in the new trade pact with Mexico and Canada, in what would be a blow for big technology companies,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Internet firms lobbied hard to include the immunity language in the trade agreement, seeing it as a way to extend to Mexico and Canada the broad umbrella of legal protection they enjoy in the U.S.”

-- China will waive tariffs on some U.S. soybeans and pork in a goodwill gesture as the two sides try to reach a broader agreement to defuse their trade war. From Reuters: “The tariff waivers were based on applications by individual firms for U.S. soybeans and pork imports, the finance ministry said in a statement, citing a decision by the country’s cabinet. It did not specify the quantities involved. China had imposed the levies in response to tariffs launched by Washington over allegations that China steals and forces the transfer of American intellectual property to Chinese firms, known as Section 301. That includes tariffs of 25% on both U.S. soybeans and pork in July 2018 and a further 10% on pork and 5% on soybeans in September this year. The waiver comes amid negotiations between the United States and China to conclude a ‘phase one’ or interim deal to de-escalate a 17-month trade war that has roiled financial markets, disrupted supply chains and weighed on global economic growth.” 

-- The U.S. said Iranian forces may have killed more than 1,000 protesters during weeks of unrest. Carol Morello and Missy Ryan report: “Brian Hook, the special representative for Iran, said the Trump administration will ask Congress to impose harsh sanctions on officials responsible for the alleged atrocities and mistreatment of thousands of protesters who have been imprisoned since anti-government demonstrations have convulsed Iran.”

-- Trump’s bromance with Kim Jong Un appears to be turning sour after the North Korean leader responded to Trump’s “rocket man” diss by invoking the “senile dotard” taunt. Simon Denyer reports: “On Tuesday, Trump jokingly dusted off an old nickname for Kim, calling him ‘Rocket Man’ for his keenness to test his weapons systems. If it was a joke, Pyongyang didn’t get it. North Korea responded angrily on Thursday by threatening to call Trump a senile dotard. The U.S. president ‘has lost politeness to the highest dignity of our republic and dared to use metaphors,’ said Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s vice foreign minister, according to the Korean Central News Agency. … ‘If he uses statements and expressions that intentionally amplify the atmosphere of confrontation at this time of crisis, we will have to diagnose that the dotard started to be senile again,’ she said.”

-- New satellite imagery shows activity at a previously dismantled North Korean test site. From CNN: “The commercial satellite imagery, which was captured on Thursday by Planet Labs, shows new activity at Sohae Satellite Launching Station and the presence of a large shipping container at the facility's engine test stand, according Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, which works in partnership with the imaging company. The shipping container was not seen at the site before Thursday and its presence suggests the North Koreans are moving to resume tests engine tests at Sohae...”

-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended an off-the-books sit-down meeting with a conservative group that included a number of wealthy Republican donors while he was in London for the NATO summit. From CNN: “The gathering, hosted by the Hamilton Society, conveniently took place in the hotel where Pompeo was staying, situated in a small events space on the second floor. Pompeo slipped into the meeting, without the State Department alerting the press traveling with him about where he was headed or who he was going to meet. … The Hamilton Society is a group of right-leaning American and British business professionals who often invite guest speakers to meet them. The news that he made time to meet with the donors after a busy day visiting with world leaders only serves to heighten speculation that Pompeo may be eyeing a run for the Senate in Kansas next year and as he has become further embroiled in the Ukraine impeachment inquiry.”

-- Two Russian nationals were charged in global hacking schemes that deployed some of the largest pieces of malware ever seen to swipe tens of millions of dollars from unsuspecting victims’ bank accounts. Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report: “Officials identified those charged as Maksim Yakubets of Moscow and Igor Turashev of Yoshkar-Ola, Russia. They said that a $5 million reward is being offered for information that leads to Yakubets’s capture and that it’s the largest such money offering yet for a cyber criminal. Brian Benczkowski, who heads the Justice Department’s criminal division, said Yakubets was the ‘leader of a criminal cyber gang’ and had been involved in cyber crime for the past decade on an ‘unimaginable scale.’”

-- German chancellor Angela Merkel made a symbolic visit to the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz for the first time in her 14 years as chancellor. (Loveday Morris)

-- Australia’s drought could be responsible for New Zealand’s glaciers turning red and pink. (Australian Broadcasting Company)

-- Indian police shot dead four men suspected of raping and killing a young veterinarian when she was on her way home from work last week. (BBC

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS THAT SHOULD NOT BE OVERLOOKED:

-- Uber has disclosed that 3,000 sexual assaults were reported on its U.S. rides last year, the first time it has revealed the scale of the safety problem that exists at ride-hailing companies. Faiz Siddiqui reports: “The reported assaults were part of Uber’s long-awaited safety study, published Thursday amid widespread and ongoing criticism of its safety practices and pressure to increase its transparency about the issue. In the lengthy report, which divides sexual misconduct into 21 categories but focuses on the five most serious, Uber said it recorded 235 rapes last year and thousands more reports of assault that could involve unwanted touching, kissing or attempted rape. The reports involved drivers and passengers. The company tallied roughly 6,000 reports of those types of assault in 2017 and 2018. … Uber said its data showed that drivers reported instances of sexual assault at the same rate as riders across the five most serious categories it recorded. …

Uber said there were 107 motor-vehicle fatalities in 2017 and 2018, with a total of 97 fatal crashes involving users on the app. The company also said there were 19 fatal physical assaults over the same time period, during which it said an average of more than 3.1 million trips took place each day. … Lyft has pledged to release a transparency report of its own. … Lyft has faced lawsuits from at least 34 women in San Francisco who allege they were raped or sexually assaulted on rides booked through the app.”

-- In an amicus brief, hundreds of lawyers shared their own abortion stories as the Supreme Court prepares to hear a challenge to Louisiana's assault on reproductive rights. Deanna Paul reports: “Having exercised what they say is their right to a safe and legal abortion, for varied personal and medical reasons, the women said they were compelled to tell the nation’s highest court the role it played in their life trajectories. ‘Becoming a first-generation professional would have been impossible without access to safe and legal abortion services,’ one signer wrote. ‘The ability to make my own choice, to even have a choice, gave me control over my life when I felt like I was utterly powerless.’ … Another described her 31-year-old mother’s death in 1959, after she attempted to perform her own abortion. … Many of the brief’s signers are women with whom the Supreme Court justices went to law school, clerked alongside and employed as clerks. Some are the female attorneys who stand up and argue before them.”

-- A uranium-contaminated site collapsed into the Detroit River last month. From the Detroit Free Press: “Located next to Historic Fort Wayne and leased by Detroit Bulk Storage, the site known as the Detroit Dock allegedly collapsed under the weight of large aggregate piles that were stored at the site during Thanksgiving weekend. The property has been listed by the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency as a contaminated site due to its use of uranium and other dangerous chemicals during manufacturing dating to the 1940s..."

-- Armed robbers in Florida hijacked a UPS truck and led police on a chase that ended in a fatal shootout. Marisa Iati reports: “The two robbers, a UPS driver and a person in a nearby car were killed in the shooting in Miramar, George Piro, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, told reporters. Police said no officers were killed. A female employee of Regent Jewelers in nearby Coral Gables was injured, that city’s police force said. Her status was not immediately clear, Chief Ed Hudak told reporters. The incident began when Coral Gables police received a silent holdup alarm from the jewelry store in the city’s Miracle Mile section around 4:15 p.m., Hudak said. … The robbers fled north in a truck and, about 20 minutes later, abducted a UPS truck and its driver at gunpoint while the driver was making a delivery in Coral Gables, Hudak said.” 

-- Three soldiers were killed after a National Guard helicopter crashed in Minnesota. (Reis Thebault)

-- California regulators imposed a one-year moratorium banning insurers from dropping policies for homeowners in wildfire-ravaged areas of the state. From the Los Angeles Times: “The move comes amid an exodus of some insurers in communities hard hit by fires, forcing some homeowners to take plans that provide less coverage, sometimes at higher premiums. Some have had to go without insurance altogether. ‘I have heard the same story again and again. People getting dropped by their insurance after decades,’ California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said. ‘To add insult to injury, many struggle to find coverage.’ Though existing law prohibits insurers from dropping policies for homeowners who have suffered a total loss in a wildfire, the moratorium relies on a law that went into effect this year that extends that rule to homeowners who live adjacent to a declared wildfire emergency and did not lose their home.”

-- General Motors and LG Chem will invest up to $2.3 billion by 2023 to form a joint venture for production of battery cells for electric vehicles in Ohio. The facility is expected to create 1,100 new jobs for the area. (CNBC

-- Republican Rep. Tom Graves, who represents a solidly red district in Georgia, announced he will not seek reelection. (CNN)

-- An investigation into the defacing of a church in Indiana soon after Trump’s election led to an unlikely suspect – and the discovery of a hate crime hoax. Peter Jamison reports: “The knock on Nathan Stang’s door came just after 1 p.m. … ‘Hi, Nathan,’ said Brian Shrader, a deputy with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department. ‘Remember me?’ … It was Shrader who had interviewed him after an appalling act of vandalism at St. David’s Episcopal Church, where Stang played the organ and directed the choir. On the Sunday morning after the 2016 election, Stang had discovered the church’s walls defaced with black spray paint: a swastika, along with the words ‘Heil Trump’ and ‘Fag Church.’ … The graffiti in rural Indiana became a national sensation, part of a string of high-profile hate crime reports in the wake of Trump’s victory. … Stang played music as the spray paint was finally scrubbed off at a ceremony of healing attended by more than 200 people. … As a gay man, Stang had dreaded the unexpected triumph of Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, an ardent opponent of same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights. … 

“When Shrader appeared on his doorstep five months later, in April 2017, Stang was struggling with major depression. Over the winter, he had contemplated suicide. His face — fine-featured and quick to come alive when he sat at the keyboard or stood before a classroom of undergraduates — was covered in dark stubble. … Stang, expressionless, watched the 30-year-old detective’s face. There had been no arrests for the vandalism, and no outward signs that investigators were making progress. But the case had reached a critical juncture, and though Stang didn’t know it, Shrader was surreptitiously recording their conversation. A copy of the video was later provided to The Washington Post. ‘I’ve spent six months on this case, okay? A long time,’ Shrader said slowly. He took a breath and placed his right hand, palm down, on the armrest console that separated them. ‘Based on what I’ve found in this investigation,’ he told the organist, ‘you’re responsible for this.’”

-- West Virginia’s governor is calling for the firing of several corrections employees who are already suspended for performing a Nazi salute in a class photo. Kim Bellware reports: “Gov. Jim Justice (R) said such conduct would not be tolerated. … ‘I have directed Secretary Jeff Sandy of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety to continue actively investigating this incident, and I have ordered the termination of all those that are found to be involved in this conduct,’ [he told The Post]. Justice was briefed on the matter by Sandy, who announced in a Wednesday letter to DCR employees that several employees had been suspended. … In his letter, Sandy did not discuss how or when the photo came to his attention. The photo, provided to The Post with faces of the participants already blurred out, is labeled as DCR ‘Basic Training Class #18’ that took place from Oct. 21 to Nov. 27.” 

-- A former video editor for Infowars host Alex Jones describes in a New York Times essay the tense – and sometimes downright abusive – conditions the conspiracy theorist’s staff worked under as they produced stories based on misinformation and debunked myths. “Working for Jones was a balancing act. You had to determine where he was emotionally and match his tone quickly. If he was angry, then you had better get angry. If he was joking around, then you could relax, sort of, always looking out of the corner of your eye for his mood to turn at any moment. …  Ideas for stories mostly came from what other news outlets reported. Jones wanted us to ‘hijack’ the mainstream media’s coverage and use it to our advantage. If it fit into the Infowars narrative, it played,” writes Josh Owens. 

In the essay, Owens admits to making up stories about a Muslim community in New York. “We were sent to visit Muslim-majority communities throughout the United States to investigate what Jones instructed us to call ‘the American Caliphate.’  … We landed in Newark at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 1, 2015. The first stop was Islamberg, a Muslim community three hours north of Manhattan. It was founded in the 1980s by mostly African-American followers of a Pakistani cleric named Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani … Gilani was suspected of association with the organization Jamaat ul-Fuqra, which was briefly designated as a terrorist group by the State Department in the 1990s; Gilani has denied any connection to the group. … But unfounded rumors circulated around far-right corners of the internet that this community was a potential terrorist-training center. Jones, who thought the media consistently ingratiated themselves with Islamic extremists, believed them. … We pulled in, unannounced … Because of the conspiracy theories about the place, Islamberg was a constant target of right-wing extremists … So the phone call we received later that night from a law-enforcement agent shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The officer who contacted us said he simply wanted to verify who we were after receiving a concerned call from someone in Islamberg. … Jones told us to file a story that accused the police of harassment, lending credence to the theory that this community contained dangerous, potential terrorists. I knew this wasn’t the case according to the information we had. We all did.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Nancy Pelosi's team compared Trump to Richard Nixon:

Trump went after Pelosi after she made her impeachment announcement: 

A quote from Fiona Hill, who worked on Trump's National Security Council until this summer and testified against him last month, seemed apropos:

Trump’s campaign manager tried to use polling from a district held by a freshman Democrat to criticize the impeachment proceedings. The attack backfired:

Rep. Devin Nunes claimed he doesn’t remember what he talked about with indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, so Parnas’s lawyer tried to refresh his memory:

Elizabeth Warren’s campaign is clashing with Pete Buttigieg’s campaign after the Massachusetts senator said the South Bend, Ind., mayor should release the names of his bundlers, something he did after the first quarter but then discontinued: 

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) is refusing to resign, but he's been told he should not vote now that he's pleaded guilty to a felony:

Someone was editing the Wikipedia page for the Washington Examiner, a conservative publication, from within the White House: 

The president appears to use a lot of salt and pepper: 

Former House speaker Paul Ryan is up to more jolly activities now that he’s retired: 

And here’s something to warm your heart: A kindergartener in Michigan invited his entire class to his adoption day ceremony: 

It’s adoption day at the courthouse — the BEST day of the year! Congratulations to Michael and his family...so cool that his entire class came to support him! ❤️

Posted by CASA of Kent County on  Thursday, December 5, 2019

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“I can barely imagine how nerve-racking and stressful it is,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), referring to the plight facing his Senate colleagues running for president as an impeachment trial threatens to keep them out of Iowa. “The organizers of events are all going to say, ‘If you fail to be at this event, you’ve lost.’ They’re all jealous lovers.” (Sean Sullivan)
 

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) announced this morning that he plans to hold 50 New Hampshire town halls in the 10 weeks leading up to the first-in-the-nation primary:

Trump and the first lady continued the 97-year-old tradition of lighting the National Christmas Tree:

Here’s a clip from a National Christmas Tree lighting of yore: 

A protester stole the microphone during an event for African American supporters of Pete Buttigieg:

Green New Deal protesters crashed a birthday party for Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.), demanding he endorse a tax on billionaires:

“Armed with signs, birthday hats, party horns and a sheet cake with #MakeBillionairesPay written in curly red icing, members of several advocacy groups assembled outside the Essex Hotel in Manhattan to pressure the Democratic governor to embrace more stringent policies to combat climate change, and to implement a tax on billionaires to help pay for public services.” (Kayla Epstein)

And Stephen Colbert joked that while his show’s parent companies – CBS and Viacom – are coming together, Washington is falling apart: