Opinion writer

* Caitlin MacNeal reports on a potentially significant footnote to the Cohen sentencing:

After Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York announced that prosecutors had previously reached an agreement not to prosecute the National Enquirer’s parent company over its payment to kill Karen McDougal’s story about her alleged affair with President Trump.

As part of the agreement, American Media, Inc., admitted that it paid McDougal $150,000 in an attempt to influence the 2016 election, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.

“The Office also announced today that it has previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI, in connection with AMI’s role in making the above-described $150,000 payment before the 2016 presidential election,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement on Cohen’s sentencing. 

“As a part of the agreement, AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election. AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”

What we don’t know is exactly what AMI gave prosecutors in exchange for not facing criminal charges. You can bet they know an awful lot.

* Lisa Rein reports that Trump seems to be having an effect on the federal workforce:

Job satisfaction tumbled this year at a majority of federal agencies, a survey set to be released Wednesday shows — a sign of failing morale and performance at a time when the Trump administration has made pointed critiques about the bureaucracy and many of its missions.

After three years of steady improvement as the economy rebounded from the recession, the number of employees who would recommend their agency as a good place to work dropped at 60 percent of federal offices, the annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings found.

Less than 40 percent of agencies improved their ratings on the scorecard of job satisfaction at federal workplaces, compared with more than 70 percent in the Obama administration’s final years and Trump’s first.

The biggest drops happened at places like the Department of Education, the EPA, and the Consumer Financial Protection Board, where Trump has installed leadership committed to undermining the agencies' missions.

* Eric Boehlert explains why Fox News won’t be able to defend Trump effectively from Robert Mueller: Because they aren’t good at countering with, you know, facts.

* A good catch by Chris Mooney: The U.S. can’t formally exit the Paris climate accord until right after the 2020 election, which means that if a Democrat beats Trump, she could reverse Trump’s pullout.

* Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly comprehensively debunk all of Trump’s lies and distortions in his meeting with Pelosi and Schumer yesterday.

* Timothy O’Brien explains how today’s Cohen sentencing news shows that that more Trump associates — and family members — could be in legal jeopardy.

* Nick Wing notes that according to the latest figures, 2017 was the worst year for gun-related deaths in two decades.

* Paul Kiel and Jesse Eisinger report that poor people are much more likely than rich people to get audited by the IRS.

* Allan Smith reports that New York Attorney General-elect Letitia James says she plans to give Donald Trump's business dealings a thorough examination.

* Adele Stan says we shouldn't be lulled into thinking that right-wing authoritarianism can't happen here.

* Jamil Smith debunks a terrible idea making the rounds: A Joe Biden-Mitt Romney “unity” ticket.

* Julián Castro announces that he’s pretty much running for president.

* Monica Hesse explains how Nancy Pelosi is using the “feisty grandma” thing to her advantage.

* Natalie Allison reports that Republican Congressman-elect Mark Green of Tennessee is a vaccine truther, despite the fact that he’s an actual doctor. Maybe he got his degree from Infowars Medical College.