Opinion writer

* Robert Barnes reports that the Supreme Court handed the Trump administration a defeat today:

The Supreme Court on Friday denied the Trump administration’s request that it be allowed to immediately enforce a new policy of denying asylum to those who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border, a change that lower courts declared possibly illegal.

Four justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — would have granted the administration’s request to let the order go into effect.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit earlier this month kept in place a lower-court decision that stopped the policy’s implementation, saying it was simply a way around specific language in federal law that allows all who enter the United States, regardless of where, to apply for asylum.

“Just as we may not, as we are often reminded, ‘legislate from the bench,’ neither may the Executive legislate from the Oval Office,” wrote Circuit Judge Jay S. Bybee, a conservative nominated by President George W. Bush, in the 2-to-1 decision.

The conservatives cited the well known “Laws, shmaws” doctrine in arguing that the administration could do what it wanted.

* Matthew Lee and Susannah George report that Trump's decision to get out of Syria was taken with all the careful deliberation you'd expect:

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria was made hastily, without consulting his national security team or allies, and over strong objections from virtually everyone involved in the fight against the Islamic State group, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.

Trump stunned his Cabinet, lawmakers and much of the world with the move by rejecting the advice of his top aides and agreeing to a withdrawal in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, two U.S. officials and a Turkish official briefed on the matter told The Associated Press.

The Dec. 14 call, described by officials who were not authorized to discuss the decision-making process publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, provides insight into a consequential Trump decision that prompted the resignation of widely respected Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It also set off a frantic, four-day scramble to convince the president either to reverse or delay the decision.

There’s a case to be made for withdrawing from Syria. But as usual, Trump goes about it in the worst possible way.

* Ronald Klain explains why Justice Samuel Alito owes Barack Obama an apology.

* Dahlia Lithwick argues that Brett Kavanaugh is showing us just where accountability is utterly absent.

* Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, and Meg Kelly report that President Trump has now made 7,546 false or misleading claims over his 700 days in office.

* Elizabeth Saunders has a great piece explaining what makes Trump’s conduct leading up to the Mattis resignation so unusual -- Trump did not try to avoid alarming the public.

* Steve Benen makes a good case, based on previous price estimates for Trump’s wall, that he basically pulled the $5 billion figure out of his butt as an arbitrary target for us all to hit.

* Timothy O’Brien explains what Mattis' departure means for the Trump administration, which appears to now have no grownups left. And this good line:

Two things have always been the main drivers of the president’s actions: Self-preservation and self-aggrandizement.

* Karen Tumulty corrects Trump on his repeated lie that Ronald Reagan tried and failed to build a wall on the southern border; in fact Reagan opposed border fencing and offered amnesty to undocumented immigrants.

* Eduardo Porter reports from Harlan County, Kentucky, where government largesse keeps everyone afloat yet people keep voting for anti-government Republicans.

* Robert Schlesinger notes an interesting irony: Republicans don’t seem to actually want a “free market” in ideas, because theirs are deeply unpopular, but they won’t be able to use countermajoritarian tactics to keep majorities from passing judgment on them forever.

* John Stoehr charts how much more dangerous Trump could get as he grows weaker and weaker.

* Itai Vardi reports that fossil fuel lobbyists are literally writing the White House's talking points.

* Andrew Kaczynski reports that in 2015, new White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Donald Trump’s views on immigration and a border wall were “simplistic” and “absurd and almost childish.” Almost!

* And a quick housekeeping note: We regret to inform you that we are ending the weekend Open Threads. They have just grown too unwieldy and chaotic. If you want to chat through the weekends, please use the comments section for the most recent post on the blog (for instance, this one!).

Also, things will be a bit slow during the holidays, but we will have content every day except for weekends, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Have a great holiday!