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First Read’s Morning Clips: All Eyes on Montana

TRUMP AGENDA: Russian’s 2016 influence campaign

From the New York Times yesterday: “American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence. The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.”

And there’s this, from POLITICO: “Months after the FBI began examining Paul Manafort as part of a probe into ties between President Donald Trump’s team and Russia, Manafort called Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus to push back against the mounting controversy, according to four people familiar with the call… Manafort had been forced to resign as Trump’s campaign chairman five months earlier amid scrutiny of his work for Kremlin-aligned politicians and businessmen in Eastern Europe. But he had continued talking to various members of Trump’s team, and had even had at least two conversations with Trump, according to people close to Manafort or Trump. While the people say the conversations were mostly of a political or, in some cases, personal nature, the conversation with Priebus, described by four people familiar with it, was related to the scandal now subsuming Manafort and the Trump presidency.”

And from the Washington Post yesterday: “A secret document that officials say played a key role in then-FBI Director James B. Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation has long been viewed within the FBI as unreliable and possibly a fake, according to people familiar with its contents.”

NBC’s Saphora Smith notes that Trump is visiting a city he once called a “hellhole.”

Worth noting, from The Guardian: “British police have stopped sharing evidence from the investigation into the terror network behind the Manchester bombing with the United States after a series of leaks left investigators and the government furious. The ban is limited to the Manchester investigation only. British police believe the leaks are unprecedented in their scope, frequency and potential damage.”

NBC’s Benjy Sarlin sums up the CBO report. “The GOP health care bill would insure 23 million fewer people than current law after a decade, while potentially impacting many with pre-existing conditions, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The bill would spend $1.1 trillion less on health care and use the savings primarily to finance large tax cuts for high-income earners and medical companies. While some Americans would see lower premiums, CBO concluded that many people with pre-existing conditions would no longer be able to afford insurance and that many who received coverage would pay thousands of dollars more in out-of-pocket expenses.”

The Washington Post, with real talk about the CBO report: “Senate Republicans have all the evidence they need to reject the House-passed health-care overhaul”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson called poverty “a state of mind.”

OFF TO THE RACES: “Body slammed”

MT-AL: Driving the day: NBC: “A Montana sheriff has issued a citation for misdemeanor assault against Republican U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte after a newspaper reporter said the politician "body slammed" him, an account that was backed up by witnesses. Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said Gianforte was issued a citation Wednesday night. The incident occurred on the eve of Thursday's special election in which Gianforte faces a Democratic opponent for the state's open House seat. Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs was covering an event in Bozeman and tweeted the encounter at about 7 p.m. ET.”

The Billings Gazette withdrew its endorsement: “While there are still questions left unanswered about GOP House hopeful Greg Gianforte's altercation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, eyewitness accounts, law enforcement investigations and records are all shocking, disturbing and without precedent. That's why The Billings Gazette editorial board is also doing something without precedent: We're rescinding our editorial endorsement of Greg Gianforte. Although we're greatly troubled by this action against a member of the media who was just doing his job, to make this an issue of media intrusion or even a passionate defense of the role of a free press during an election would be to miss the point.”

So did The Missoulian: “He showed Wednesday night that he lacks the experience, brains and abilities to effectively represent Montana in any elected office.”

And so did the Independent Record: “While we have always had serious concerns about Gianforte, which were noted in our endorsement of him, we are formally withdrawing that endorsement in light of Wednesday's developments. We take our endorsements seriously and retracting an endorsement even more seriously, but we cannot in good faith continue to support this candidate.”

The LA Times noted before the incident last night: “[T]he election will turn less on national trends than circumstances close to home: on the personalities and histories of the main contestants, their different campaign styles and, perhaps most of all, on who is regarded as the more authentic Montanan.”

GA-6: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “An ad unleashed Thursday by the Congressional Leadership Fund takes aim at Democrat Jon Ossoff’s military credentials just ahead of the holiday break.”

VA-GOV: In a new ad, Ed Gillespie is touting his experience and his ties to… George W. Bush(!)