Breaking: The United States military’s Africa Command says that it has carried out six airstrikes in Somalia, which killed a total of 62 extremists from al-Shabab. In a statement issued Monday, the U.S. military said the six strikes carried out over the weekend were done in close coordination with the Somali government.
At the White House
TWO-MAN WRECKING MACHINE: With nearly every organization that Donald Trump has led in the past decade under investigation, the president and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani took to the Sunday shows and to Twitter yesterday to mount a raft of sometimes misleading defenses, lashing out at witnesses cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller and New York prosecutors. Many of their statements seemed designed to deflect blame and obfuscate the point of the investigation into a Russian influence campaign in 2016 and probes into potential campaign finance violations.
President Trump tweeted ten times on Sunday: The “REAL scandal” that should be investigated was the “one sided coverage” from media outlets and “Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live,” along with “missing Text messages between fired FBI agents Peter S and the lovely Lisa Page, his lover.” He also called his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen a “Rat" for cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller and state prosecutors, and tweeted praise of former independent counsel Ken Starr's misleading claims from an appearance on Fox News that “there is no evidence or proof of collusion” and “no evidence that there was a campaign financing violation involving the President.” He capped off the day by saying that his former attorney general Jeff Sessions “should be ashamed of himself for allowing” Mueller's investigation to “get started in the first place,” before accusing the special counsel for “Entrapping people for misstatements, lies or unrelated things that took place many years ago.”
Giuliani, meanwhile, made some creative claims while making the rounds on Sunday shows — most of which amounted to a sweeping argument of: that's “not a crime.”
- Giuliani said that Trump knew Cohen was working on the Trump Tower Moscow deal until “November of 2016" but said that it was “not a crime”: “I know that collusion is not a crime. It was over with by the time of the election,” Giuliani told ABC News's George Stephanopoulos.
- Also, “not a crime”: " . . . again, if Roger Stone gave anybody heads up about WikiLeaks leaks, that's not a crime,” he told Stephanopoulos.
- On whether Trump will sit down for an interview with Mueller: “Yeah, good luck . . . Over my dead body,” Giuliani said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But you know, I could be dead.”
- Regarding Cohen: “Which is the truth? I think I know what the truth is. Unless you're god, you'll never know what the truth is,” Giuliani continued.
- “I’m telling you, George, they’re going to go try to look for unpaid parking tickets and see if they can nail him for unpaid parking tickets,” Giuliani claimed of the Southern District of New York's investigation.
- John Edwards case: “I'm disgusted with the Southern District . . . You see what we're talking about — it's not a crime. It's not a crime, George. Paying $130,000 to [adult-film star] Stormy [Daniels] whatever and paying 130,000 to the other one is not a crime. The [John] Edwards case determines that. She was paid a $1.1 million to be a no show at his campaign,” Giuliani also told Stephanopoulos. “If it's not a campaign expense, it can't be a campaign contribution.”
- 20 witnesses: “I can produce an enormous number of witnesses that say the president was very concerned about how this was going to affect his children, his marriage, not just this one but similar — all those women came forward at that point in time, that — that tape with Billy Bush and all of that. It's all part of the same thing. And I know what he was concerned about and I can produce 20 witnesses to tell you what he was concerned about,” Giuliani said.
While Giuliani attempted to paint Cohen as a “complete pathological liar,” a new poll shows that 61 percent of Americans believe Trump has been untruthful in the Russia investigation.
An NBC News/ Wall Street Journal Poll released Sunday showed that “Six in 10 Americans say that President Donald Trump has been untruthful about the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, while half of the country says the investigation has given them doubts about Trump's presidency.”
“What’s more, a plurality of respondents — 46 percent — say the convictions and guilty pleas of members of Trump’s 2016 campaign suggest potential wrongdoing by the president, compared with 23 percent who believe the wrongdoing is limited only to those individuals; 28 percent don’t know enough to say,” per NBC News's Mark Murray.
Furthermore, 48 percent of respondents want Democrats in charge of policymaking, according to the poll, compared to 21 percent who believe the GOP should be the leader — and 19 percent who think Trump should be the driver.
“The dam has not burst on Donald Trump,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart, whose firm conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff, told the WSJ. “But this survey suggests all the structural cracks [that exist] in the dam.”
A reminder: As of Oct. 30, Trump has made 6,420 false or misleading statements — and 4,400 alone this year — since he took office, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker database.
When a Republican president floats breaking into the DNC w no apparent irony https://t.co/0PQgDlOLHj— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) December 16, 2018
UNDER THE HOOD OF RUSSIA'S DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN: The Post exclusively obtained a new report that provides the most detailed look yet at Russia's covert disinformation operation campaign designed to sway the 2016 presidential election. The analysis, which was prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee, lays bare Russian agents' use of every major social media platform "to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump" and to support him in office, reported The Post's Craig Timberg and Tony Romm.
Researchers at Oxford University and the network analysis firm Graphika examined how Russian agents divided Americans into key interest groups and used targeted messages to persuade them.
- From the report: “What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump. . . . Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”
- Who was targeted: “The Russians aimed particular energy at activating conservatives on issues such as gun rights and immigration, while sapping the political clout of left-leaning African American voters by undermining their faith in elections and spreading misleading information about how to vote,” Timberg and Romm wrote. “Many other groups — Latinos, Muslims, Christians, gay men and women, liberals, Southerners, veterans — got at least some attention from Russians operating thousands of social media accounts.”
- Scary: “Social media have gone from being the natural infrastructure for sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement to being a computational tool for social control, manipulated by canny political consultants and available to politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike,” the report warns.
On The Hill
BRACING FOR A SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN: The prospect of a partial government shutdown is looming as the White House and Democrats have dug in, both sides refusing to budge from their positions on funding Trump's long sought-after border wall. On Sunday, both sides ratcheted up the rhetoric, suggesting a fast-dwindling likelihood that lawmakers find even a short-term solution to avoid the shutdown.
- From the left: "[Republican leaders] just have to have the guts to tell President Trump he’s off on the deep end here,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on NBC's “Meet the Press.” “All he is going to get with his temper tantrum is a shutdown. He will not get a wall.”
- From the right: “We’re going to do whatever is necessary to build the border wall,” said White House senior adviser Stephen Miller on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” Miller, pressed on the prospect of a shutdown, added, “If it comes to it, absolutely. This is a very fundamental issue.”
- The impact: “Several budget experts believe a partial shutdown, which would impact agencies that manage law enforcement, homeland security, housing and other programs, could drag on for days, if not weeks,” reported The Post's Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and Lisa Rein. “Multiple agencies and senior administration officials are preparing for the possibility that about a quarter of the government — and more than one-third of federal workers — could be left without funding during the holiday season.”
- The political calculus: “Trump and some of his conservative allies on Capitol Hill view this as their last, best chance to deliver on the long-promised wall before they lose their grip on power, and they are reluctant to let the moment pass. But Democrats feel no pressure to give in to Trump’s demands weeks before they will assume control of the House,” Werner, Paletta and Rein wrote.
- But even if a deal is reached, will Republicans show up to vote? Not only must GOP lawmakers work on brokering a deal that both Democrats and Trump will accept, they'll also face a more boring and mundane challenge: getting their lawmakers to show up for work and vote on the bill, reported Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Emily Cochrane at the New York Times. Republican lawmakers, swept from power and relegated from offices to lame duck cubicles, have started skipping votes, and they may never return, The Times wrote.
In the Agencies
CABINET FEVER: Mick is in, Zinke is out, and the Trump administration's turnover rate continues at a steady clip after yet another high-profile reshuffling. The 48 hours that saw Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, ascend to acting chief of staff and Zinke, the Interior chief, resign their posts were a microcosm of the administration's staffing controversies. Mulvaney got the job after at least one leading candidate spurned the administration, and after a search that highlighted the once-prestigious position's fall from grace. Zinke resigned under immense pressure, and under multiple investigations.
- Leaving with a bang: Zinke was allowed to stay on through his department's Christmas party — an event that, much like his time in office, was full of lobbyists. The mounted animals on his office walls were decorated with ornaments and Zinke posed for photos in front of a large stuffed polar bear wearing a Santa cap, reported The Post's Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Darryl Fears.
- Hot and cold: Mulvaney has reportedly been angling for the chief job for months, telling Trump at a dinner earlier this year that he wanted the gig and vowing his loyalty to the Trump family. A source put it to Politico a little differently: “He would have given up a very valuable appendage to get that job.” That's a long way from Mulvaney's 2016 comment about Trump being a “terrible human being.”
- That's not all: “Zinke’s resignation, which comes after Trump replaced his attorney general and White House chief of staff, could be followed soon by other Cabinet departures,” Eilperin, Dawsey and Fears wrote. “The positions of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross remain precarious, according to White House officials.”
- The Post's Dan Balz, on an increasingly isolated president: “At a time when he will need all the strength, wisdom, firepower and support directly around him, Trump presides over a White House that is thinning out rather than beefing up.”
In the Media
- What Bob Mueller's friends are reading: Robert Mueller is the most unknowable man in Washington by The Post's Roxanne Roberts.
- What we can't wait to watch over holiday break: If Beale Street Could Talk's Barry Jenkins on the Future of Filmmaking by Jason Parham via Wired.
- What the East Wing is reading: Melania Trump's spokeswoman speaks out by FLOTUS spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham via CNN.
- What public records nerds are reading: Massachusetts prosecutors spend $68,000 to fight public records lawsuit by Todd Wallack via The Boston Globe.
- On a bat's wing and a prayer: Scientists’ plan to track deadly Marburg virus is literally held together with glue by Lena H. Sun via The Post.
- What democracy watchers are reading: How McKinsey Has Helped Raise the Stature of Authoritarian Governments by Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe via The New York Times.
Chris Hayes knows what's up when it comes to sourcing the Internet for RECIPES, which you all are not sending us enough of! Send away, people.
Alright, Twitter: it’s holiday roast time. Post your best recipes/ideas in the replies. It’s gotta feed about 20 people. Go!— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) December 16, 2018