NEW: THE PRESIDENT’S WEEK AHEAD: MONDAY: President Donald Trump is having lunch with Vice President Mike Pence. TUESDAY: Trump is having lunch with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. WEDNESDAY: The president will participate in an “Opportunity Zones” event. THURSDAY: Trump will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and have a discussion with governors-elect.
SUNDAY BEST … MUELLER FALLOUT EDITION: JAKE TAPPER spoke with REP. JERRY NADLER (D-N.Y.) on CNN’S “STATE OF THE UNION”: TAPPER: “If it is proven that the president directed or coordinated with [Michael] Cohen to commit these felonies, if it’s proven — and I understand it has not yet been — it’s been alleged by the prosecutors, but has not been proven. If it’s proven, is — are those impeachable offenses?”
NADLER: “Well, they would be impeachable offenses. Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question. But, certainly, they would be impeachable offenses, because, even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office. That would be the — that would be an impeachable offense.”
— TAPPER also spoke with SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FLA.): TAPPER: “If it is proven that the president directed an aide to commit felonies to influence the election, what should the repercussions be?” RUBIO: “Well, again, we’re speculating, right, because we don’t know what additional information the Justice Department have. … If someone has violated the law, the — the application of the law should be applied to them, like it would to any other citizen in this country. And, obviously, if you’re in a position of great authority, like the presidency, that would be the case.”
— RUBIO on “FACE THE NATION” with MARGARET BRENNAN: “There’s no reason to not stand by anybody in this moment. There are pleadings there are cases there are evidence, we’re gonna wait for all of it to be out there. And I would caution everyone to wait for all of it to be out there until you make judgment.”
— “Rubio: ‘Terrible mistake’ for Trump to pardon Manafort,” by Quint Forgey.
— CHUCK TODD talked with SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY.) on NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS”: TODD: “Why do you think that the story keeps changing in and around the president. If all of these things are as innocent as you’ve said, why does he keep changing his story?” PAUL: “I think we’re trying to make and find a crime. This has been my overall complaint about the process — about having these special prosecutors: is that really, they find a person and they look for a crime. Traditional justice in our country is, someone steals something from the grocery store and you have a crime, you try to find out who did it.
“With a special prosecutor you decide, we’re going after someone, the president, and we’re going to squeeze as many people as we can until we can try to get a person. And that’s why I’m against these special prosecutors. I think they’re a huge mistake. I think they’re a huge abuse of government power.”
— MARTHA RADDATZ spoke with CHRIS CHRISTIE on ABC NEWS’ “THIS WEEK”: RADDATZ: “And Gov. Christie, if you were still a U.S. attorney, would you indict the president?” CHRISTIE: “Well, first off, there’s Justice Department policy which says that you can’t indict a president. So my guess is that I wouldn’t and that I’d follow Justice Department policy. …
“I thought the Michael Cohen situation was much more perilous for the White House then was Bob Mueller. There’s no Russian collusion, there’s been no proof of Russian collusion. And I don’t think there’s going to be. It doesn’t appear to me there will be. This is the stuff that’s much more — should be much more concerning to the White House legal team. And that language is very, very strong and very definitive, so the prosecutors better have corroboration, because if they don’t and they just go by Michael Cohen that’s a problem, but if they do have corroboration that could be a problem for the White House.”
Good Sunday morning. WHAT’S ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 8:38 a.m.: “On 245 occasions, former FBI Director James Comey told House investigators he didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked. Opened investigations on 4 Americans (not 2) — didn’t know who signed off and didn’t know Christopher Steele. All lies!”
… at 8:53 a.m.: “Leakin’ James Comey must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day. His Friday testimony was so untruthful! This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President. They are now exposed!”
— QUINT FORGEY: “Comey: I’m ‘not friends’ with Mueller” … LawFare blog: “Document: Transcript of James Comey’s Dec. 7 Interview With House Committees”
SPOTTED at the Army-Navy game on Saturday in Philly (Army won 17-10): President Donald Trump (who visited the group for an hour), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, HR and Katie McMaster, Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), David Solomon, Dave Urban and Kellie Mooney, David McCormick and Dina Powell, Ambassador Jeanne Phillips, Josh Raffel, Virginia Boney, Dan Scavino, Jordan Karem, Tony Sayegh, Vinnie Viola, Ralph Reed, Tommy Hicks, Manus Cooney and Luis Alberto Moreno.
FROM 30,000 FEET — WAPO’S BOB COSTA and PHIL RUCKER: “‘Siege warfare’: Republican anxiety spikes as Trump faces growing legal and political perils”: “A growing number of Republicans fear that a battery of new revelations in the far-reaching Russia investigation has dramatically heightened the legal and political danger to Donald Trump’s presidency — and threatens to consume the rest of the party, as well.
“President Trump added to the tumult Saturday by announcing the abrupt exit of his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, whom he sees as lacking the political judgment and finesse to steer the White House through the treacherous months to come.
“Trump remains headstrong in his belief that he can outsmart adversaries and weather any threats, according to advisers. In the Russia probe, he continues to roar denials, dubiously proclaiming that the latest allegations of wrongdoing by his former associates ‘totally clear’ him. But anxiety is spiking among Republican allies, who complain that Trump and the White House have no real plan for dealing with the Russia crisis while confronting a host of other troubles at home and abroad.” WaPo
— NYT’S PETER BAKER and NICK FANDOS: “Prosecutors’ Narrative Is Clear: Trump Defrauded Voters. But What Does It Mean?”: “The latest revelations by prosecutors investigating President Trump and his team draw a portrait of a candidate who personally directed an illegal scheme to manipulate the 2016 election and whose advisers had more contact with Russia than Mr. Trump has ever acknowledged. In the narrative that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and New York prosecutors are building, Mr. Trump continued to secretly seek to do business in Russia deep into his presidential campaign even as Russian agents made more efforts to influence him.
“At the same time, in this account he ordered hush payments to two women to suppress stories of impropriety in violation of campaign finance law. The prosecutors made clear in a sentencing memo filed on Friday that they viewed efforts by Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to squelch the stories as nothing less than a perversion of a democratic election — and by extension they effectively accused the president of defrauding voters, questioning the legitimacy of his victory.” NYT
MORE SUNDAY BEST — FOX NEWS SUNDAY: “Kudlow: U.S.-China trade talks ‘on track’,” by Martin Matishak: “White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Sunday insisted that U.S.-China trade talks are moving in a ‘positive’ direction, despite mixed signals from top Trump administration officials and the arrest of the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei.
“‘We are on track,’ Kudlow said on ‘Fox News Sunday’ when asked about the stock market’s 1,100 point drop over the course of last week, pointing to ‘promising’ statements from Beijing’s commerce department and government agencies. … ‘I don’t think there’s much daylight between Peter and I,’ according to Kudlow. ‘I really think that’s an exaggerated point.’
“He also said that President Donald Trump ‘did not know’ of the plan to arrest Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada when hammering out trade details with his Chinese counterpart at the G-20 summit last week. ‘He learned way later,’ Kudlow said. ‘And he had no reaction afterward.’” POLITICO
— “China Summons U.S. Envoy Over Huawei CFO,” by Bloomberg’s Ros Krasny
2020 WATCH — ELIANA JOHNSON, “Kelly exit helps position Trump for 2020”: “Brian Jack, the deputy White House political director, is expected to replace [Bill] Stepien as White House political director. White House aides predicted that [Nick] Ayers, if tapped despite internal opposition to his selection, would focus the West Wing almost entirely on the president’s reelection effort. ‘You’re going to have a White House that’s all politics all the time,’ said a former White House official, who predicted a transformation of the West Wing into a ‘quasi-campaign operation.’ …
“Among other things, Kelly knocked Kushner for trying to play a sort of ‘boy secretary of state,’ according to a former White House official, and looked down on the first daughter for what he perceived were efforts to burnish her image at the expense of the White House, according to a former White House official.” POLITICO
— NYT’S ANNIE KARNI and MAGGIE HABERMAN: “Mr. Trump has settled on Nick Ayers, a youthful but experienced political operative who serves as chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, as his top choice to replace Mr. Kelly … But Mr. Ayers, 36, who has young children and wants to return home to Georgia with his family, has so far agreed to serve only on an interim basis through the spring. Mr. Trump, who does not want more turnover, is pressing Mr. Ayers to agree to a more permanent stay …
“If the president ultimately turns to another candidate, potential choices include the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin; his budget director, Mick Mulvaney; and the United States trade representative, Robert Lighthizer. … In the residence on Friday night, the president and Mr. Kelly agreed that the departing chief would break his own news on Monday, announcing his exit to senior White House staff members. But Mr. Trump ultimately broke the news himself on Saturday afternoon.” NYT
WSJ: “Details Emerge in U.S.’s Trade Truce With China,” by Lingling Wei in Beijing and Bob Davis: “A week after President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping struck a trade truce in Buenos Aires, details of the ceasefire are becoming clear—big Chinese purchases, tough negotiations and shifting deadlines to finish a deal.
“Interviews with officials in both countries, briefed on the Trump-Xi talks, give a fuller picture of the agreement the two men reached. The two sides agreed on a negotiating period of about 90 days, during which the U.S. won’t raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25%, as it had planned to do on Jan. 1.
“Beijing and Washington also agreed that China will purchase large amounts of goods and services, with China pledging to announce soybean and natural-gas purchases in the coming weeks, said officials in both nations. Beijing is also considering reducing tariffs on U.S. automobiles.” WSJ
SCOOP — “Trump first wanted his attorney general pick William Barr for another job: Defense lawyer,” by Yahoo’s Mike Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman: “In late spring 2017, President Trump was having a hard time finding a topflight lawyer to spearhead his defense in the sprawling Russian investigation conducted by the new special counsel Robert Mueller. Some of the most prominent litigators in Washington had turned aside overtures to represent the president in the case, expressing concerns that he would not listen to their advice anyway. Around that time, sources tell Yahoo News, White House officials reached out to a man they thought would be an ideal candidate: William P. Barr, the attorney general under President George H.W. Bush.
“An outspoken conservative, Barr had gotten on Trump’s radar screen that spring after he had written a newspaper op-ed vigorously defending the president’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey. At one point, Barr was ushered into a brief White House meeting with Trump, who asked him if he was interested in the job, according to a source who was present for the meeting. Barr demurred. He had other obligations, he said. He would have to think about it.” Yahoo
2020 WATCH – “Beto O’Rourke Emerges as the Wild Card of the 2020 Campaign-in-Waiting,” by NYT’s Matt Flegenheimer and Jonathan Martin: “Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas has emerged as the wild card of the presidential campaign-in-waiting for a Democratic Party that lacks a clear 2020 front-runner.
“After a star-making turn in his close race against Senator Ted Cruz, Mr. O’Rourke is increasingly serious about a 2020 run — a development that is rousing activists in early-voting states, leading veterans of former President Barack Obama’s political operation (and Mr. Obama himself) to offer their counsel and hampering would-be rivals who are scrambling to lock down influential supporters and strategists as future campaign staff.” NYT
SNL LAST NIGHT – “Trump Brothers Bedtime Cold Open”: “Donald Trump Jr. (Mikey Day) puts Eric Trump (Alex Moffat) to bed when an unexpected visitor, Robert Mueller (Robert De Niro), stops by to chat.” 5-min. video
DOWN IN NORTH CAROLINA … — “North Carolina’s ‘Guru of Elections’: Can-Do Operator Who May Have Done Too Much,” by NYT’s Richard Fausset, Alan Blinder, Sydney Ember and Timothy Williams in Bladenboro, N.C. and Serge F. Kovaleski in N.Y.: “In this rural region near the state’s southern border, where candidates are often intimately known as neighbors, friends or enemies, [L. McRae] Dowless ran a do-it-all vote facilitating business that was part of the community fabric. … Dozens of interviews and an examination of thousands of pages of documents portray Dowless, a former car salesman, as a local political opportunist who was quick to seek ballots, collect them or offer rides to the polls.
“He employed a network of part-time helpers, some of them his own relatives, who, lured by promises of swift cash payments, would fan out across southeastern North Carolina in get-out-the-vote efforts for whichever candidate happened to be footing that year’s bill.” NYT
— POLITICO MAGAZINE — “Distrustful, Desperate and Forgotten: a Recipe for Voter Fraud,” by Michael Graff in Elizabethtown, N.C.
DAVID SIDERS in Manhattan Beach, Calif.: “Progressives rail against bandwagon Democrats”: “Progressive Democrats are beginning to confront an unintended consequence of their own success: Dilution of the brand.
“So many Democratic presidential prospects are now claiming the progressive mantle in advance of the 2020 primaries that liberal leaders are trying to institute a measure of ideological quality control, designed to ensure the party ends up with a nominee who meets their exacting standards.
“Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are discussing policy platforms that could serve as a litmus test for presidential contenders. Progressive donors, meanwhile, are plotting steps — ranging from closer engagement with campaigns to ultimatums tied to fundraising — to ensure that Medicare for All, debt-free college and a non-militaristic foreign policy, among other causes, remain at the center of the upcoming campaign. In an effort to winnow the burgeoning field, progressive advocacy groups are beginning to poll supporters in the hopes of elevating candidates who gain the imprimatur of the left.” POLITICO
WESLEY MORGAN: “Trump’s new favorite general”
GREAT READ — “The Wooing of Jared Kushner: How the Saudis Got a Friend in the White House,” by NYT’s David D. Kirkpatrick, Ben Hubbard, Mark Landler and Mark Mazzetti: “Senior American officials were worried. Since the early months of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, had been having private, informal conversations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s king. Given Mr. Kushner’s political inexperience, the private exchanges could make him susceptible to Saudi manipulation, said three former senior American officials.
“In an effort to tighten practices at the White House, a new chief of staff tried to reimpose long-standing procedures stipulating that National Security Council staff members should participate in all calls with foreign leaders. But even with the restrictions in place, Mr. Kushner, 37, and Prince Mohammed, 33, kept chatting, according to three former White House officials and two others briefed by the Saudi royal court.
“In fact, they said, the two men were on a first-name basis, calling each other Jared and Mohammed in text messages and phone calls. The exchanges continued even after the Oct. 2 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was ambushed and dismembered by Saudi agents, according to two former senior American officials and the two people briefed by the Saudis.” NYT
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Millions Of Comments About The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules Were Fake. Now The Feds Are Investigating,” by BuzzFeed’s Kevin Collier and Jeremy Singer-Vine: “The Justice Department is investigating whether crimes were committed when potentially millions of people’s identities were posted to the FCC’s website without their permission, falsely attributing to them opinions about net neutrality rules, BuzzFeed News has learned. Two organizations told BuzzFeed News, each on condition that they not be named, that the FBI delivered subpoenas to them related to the comments.” BuzzFeed
BONUS GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman:
— “‘Everyone’s for Sale’: A Generation of Digital-Media Darlings Prepares for a Frigid Winter,” by Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo: “Vice, Vox, and BuzzFeed, among other companies that once heralded the dawn of a new media age, are now grappling with decidedly old-media problems.” VF
— “Documents Point to Illegal Campaign Coordination Between Trump and NRA,” by Mike Spies in The Trace and Mother Jones: “Trump and the gun group used the same consultants to spearhead their TV ad blitzes at the height of the 2016 election, likely in violation of federal law.” The Trace
— “On to Mars,” by Charles Krauthammer in the Weekly Standard in Jan. 2000: “It took 100,000 years for humans to get inches off the ground. Then, astonishingly, it took only 66 to get from Kitty Hawk to the moon. And then, still more astonishingly, we lost interest, spending the remaining 30 years of the 20th century going around in circles in low earth orbit, i.e., going nowhere.” TWS
— “Why We Sleep, and Why We Often Can’t,” by Zoë Heller in the New Yorker: “Does our contemporary obsession with sleep obscure what makes it special in the first place?” New Yorker
— “How a Real-Estate Scuffle Turned into a True Tale of Miami Vice,” by Mark Seal in Vanity Fair’s Holiday issue: “They’re known as the Jills. They’re two of America’s top realtors, selling the glitziest mansions in Miami. Then a place went missing—and everyday greed blossomed into full-blown extortion.” VF
— “Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche,” by Laurie Penny in Breaker Mag: “There are people of all genders and political persuasions looking to walk the plank of the good ship Reality before they’re pushed, but I’ve never met so many so transparently trying to con as many fellow travelers on their way down.” Breaker Mag (h/t Longform.org)
— “The Empress of Facebook: My Befuddling Dinner with Sheryl Sandberg,” by Virginia Heffernan in Wired: “In person Sandberg is dazzling. She looks like the actor Carla Gugino—old-fashioned, with rosy lineless skin and 91 percent cacao-content hair. … I don’t think I’ve ever met a better host. At a table of decidedly anti-corporate women, Sandberg engaged, and seemed to win over, everyone.” Wired
— “The Friendship That Made Google Huge,” by James Somers in the New Yorker: “Coding together at the same computer, Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat changed the course of the company—and the Internet.” New Yorker
— “Syria’s Last Bastion of Freedom,” by Anand Gopal in the New Yorker: “Amid the brutal civil war, a town fought off the regime and the fundamentalists—and dared to hold an election. Can its experiment in democracy survive?” New Yorker
— “Why We Miss the WASPs,” by NYT’s Ross Douthat: “Their more meritocratic, diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well.” NYT … “The Death of the WASP,” by Ben Schreckinger in POLITICO Magazine in April 2014
— “Special Report: How Iran spreads disinformation around the world,” by Reuters’ Jack Stubbs and Christopher Bing: “A Tehran-based agency has quietly fed propaganda through at least 70 websites to countries from Afghanistan to Russia. And American firms have helped.” Reuters
SPOTTED: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) hanging out in the cafe car of the 3 p.m. Acela from NY Penn Station to DC.
SPOTTED at a holiday party last night held by David Frum and Danielle Crittenden: Susan Rice and Ian Cameron, Al Franken, Marty Baron, Elizabeth Drew, Susan Eisenhower, Charles Lane, Andrew Sullivan, Kevin Chaffee, Jeff Goldberg, Francesca Chambers, Mona Charan, Juleanna Glover and Christopher Reiter, Katherine Bradley, David Corn, Jamie Kirchick, Ken Weinstein, Amy Nathan and British Ambassador Kim and Lady Darroch.
WEEKEND WEDDINGS — Ryan Jackson, chief of staff at the EPA and a Jim Inhofe and EPW alum, married Ashley Winfree, who works in banking, in a ceremony at the White-Meyer House with a reception at the Meridian House. EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler attended and made remarks. Pic
– “Hannah Levinson, Jonathan Cross” – N.Y. Times: “Mrs. Cross, 30, is a health care law associate in the Washington office of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, a law firm. … Mr. Cross, 31, is a managing director of the Quincy Group, a government relations and strategic advisory firm in Washington that focuses on the Middle East.” With a pic. NYT
— “Nora Kelly, Douglas Lee” – N.Y. Times: “Ms. Kelly, 29, is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic in Washington. … Mr. Lee, also 29, works in Washington as the legislative director for Representative Mike Quigley, Democrat of Illinois.” With a pic. NYT
BIRTHDAYS: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is 52 … Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is 64 … Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is 64 … Samantha Tubman, manager of special projects at the Obama Foundation (hat tip: Meredith Carden) … Neal Wolin, CEO of Brunswick Group, is 57 (h/ts Tim Griffin and George Little) … former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) is 71 … Nathan Daschle, president and COO of the Daschle Group … Terry Moran, chief foreign correspondent for ABC News … Jonathan Wald, SVP at MSNBC (h/t Kurt Bardella) … James Pindell, Boston Globe political reporter … Jeff Smith is 45 … Cris Turner, head of gov’t affairs for the Americas at Dell … Aniela Butler (h/t Meghan Mitchum) … Treasury alum John E. Smith (h/t Peter Baker) … Scott Schloegel … Emily Kopp … Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) is 56 … former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) is 72 … Andrew Ricci, principal at Riccon Strategic Communications … Laena Fallon … Brian McGuire, policy director at Brownstein Hyatt …
… Alexandra DeSanctis, National Review staff writer … Kathryn Cameron Porter … Kyle Roberts, president of Smart Media Group … Kelsey Gorma of Miller Strategies … Fernando Lujan (h/t Susanna Quinn) … Ryan King … Richard Allen Smith … Graham Wilson … Veronique Rodman … Josh Katcher … Hammad Ul Hassan … Ryan Whalen of the Rockefeller Foundation … Alli Blakely Sydnor (h/t Ed Cash) … Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy (h/t Blair Latoff Holmes) … Megan Devlin (h/t Ben Chang) … Shoshana Weissmann … Eric Garcia … Dottie Suggs … Tricia Enright, comms director for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) (h/ts Jon Haber) … Derrick Johnson … Anne Dudro … Richard Wachtel is 36 … Rhett Dawson … Rick Horten is 5-0 … Dawn Wilson … Diane Kopp … Robert Kraig (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)