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First Read's Morning Clips: The 12 Days That Changed the '16 Election

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Hillary Clinton looks on during a campaign rally in Tempe, Arizona, on Nov. 2, 2016.Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images file

TRUMP AGENDA: Here are the 12 days that changed the ’16 election

The big read this morning! One of us(!) takes a big, deep dive into how Hillary Clinton lost. “In the nine months since the election, political observers have pointed to various reasons why Hillary Clinton lost and Donald Trump won: FBI Director James Comey’s intervention; Russia and WikiLeaks; Clinton’s failure to campaign in Wisconsin; African-Americans who didn’t turn out as strongly as they did for Obama; and Trump’s strong performance among working-class white voters in the Rust Belt. But the real tale of 2016 is how the final 12 days of the election turned a race that seemed out of reach on Oct. 27 into an upset decided by a total of 80,000 votes in three states. To tell that story, NBC News interviewed nearly a dozen top Clinton and Trump operatives for their insight and perspective. Both sides agreed that the underlying volatility of the race, combined with the way the final days unfolded, produced a most unexpected result.”

From NBC’s Ali Vitali: “President Donald Trump strongly hinted Tuesday night that he might pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, saying Arpaio will be "just fine" despite being found guilty of criminal contempt for violating a court order. "Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?" Trump asked the thousands of supporters gathered here for a campaign-style rally. The crowd erupted into chants of "pardon Joe!" "Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?" the president asked. Arpaio is a former Maricopa County, Arizona, law enforcement officer, who ignored a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.”

The Washington Post: “Over the next 72 minutes, the president launched into one angry rant after another, repeatedly attacking the media and providing a lengthy defense of his response to the violent clashes in Charlottesville, between white supremacists and neo-Nazis and the counterprotesters who challenged them. He threatened to shut down the government if he doesn't receive funding for a wall along the southern border, announced that he will “probably” get rid of the North American Free Trade Agreement, attacked the state's two Republican senators, repeatedly referred to protesters as “thugs” and coyly hinted that he will pardon Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County who was convicted in July of criminal contempt in Arizona for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.”

And from the New York Times: “In an angry, unbridled and unscripted performance that rivaled the most sulfurous rallies of his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump sought to deflect the anger toward him against the news media, suggesting that they, not he, were responsible for deepening divisions in the country.”

And don’t miss what Trump said about a possible government shutdown if he is denied funding for a border wall.

The aftermath: How it played in the Arizona Republic: “What had been a peaceful rally near the Phoenix Convention Center to protest President Donald Trump's speech Tuesday night turned combustible afterward, with police deploying pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse the large crowd. Police said some anti-Trump protesters threw rocks and bottles, and officers responded with pepper balls, pepper spray and gas. It was a chaotic ending to hours of protests that had generated tension but little violence.”

And here’s an op-ed in the Arizona Republic as well: “Donald Trump’s trip to Phoenix displayed the deep political divisions in our country provided a painful demonstration of why he is not the person to heal that divide. His speech represented a missed opportunity for the president to rise above his pet peeves with the media and Barack Obama and speak to all Americans. It was just another Trump campaign rally in Arizona. He did seven last year. But this is no longer the campaign. This rally offered a chance to show something different from Trump, who has struggled to grow into the job of being president of all the people.”

James Clapper goes there. “James R. Clapper Jr., former national intelligence director, questioned President Trump’s fitness for office following his freewheeling speech in Phoenix Tuesday night, which Clapper labeled “downright scary and disturbing.” … “I really question his ability to be — his fitness to be — in this office,” Clapper told CNN’s Don Lemon early Wednesday morning. “I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it — maybe he is looking for a way out.”

“Despite Russia's attempt to hack the 2016 U.S. election and the voter registration systems of 21 states, an NBC News investigation reveals that election officials in the most heavily populated counties of three crucial swing states still haven't received formal training on how to detect and fight attacks. Election officials in three of Pennsylvania's four biggest counties — Philadelphia, Allegheny and Bucks, which together account for nearly a third of the state's voters — told NBC News they never received cybersecurity training, which experts say is crucial for officials to identify risks.”

The Washington Post checks in with how military leaders are consolidating power in the Trump administration.

POLITICO: “Jared Kushner has spent eight months as his father-in-law’s point person in the Middle East, relying primarily on one envoy, former Trump Organization lawyer Jason Greenblatt, to do the diplomatic heavy lifting in the region. But just over a month ago, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster held a meeting in his West Wing office with Greenblatt to discuss some changes to how the administration would conduct its Israel strategy going forward – including more input from the National Security Council.”

“Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, was relieved of his post Wednesday following two recent deadly collisions involving warships, the U.S. Navy announced.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Another poll has Northam leading in Virginia

AL-SEN: Roy Moore doesn’t think Barack Obama is a natural-born citizen, CNN finds.

Mo Brooks has a challenger in his reelection bid.

KS-GOV: “Senate President Susan Wagle will not run for either governor or Congress, she said Tuesday after she had openly considered both races.”

MN-GOV: “State Sen. Dave Osmek, whom Gov. Mark Dayton once dismissed as an “obscure legislator,” is stepping into the statewide spotlight as he bids to replace Dayton in the governor’s office. The two-term Republican from suburban Mound will formally announce Tuesday that he is running for governor.”

NV-SEN: Dean Heller talked to USA Today about his health care votes and his relationship with Donald Trump.

OH-SEN: A new ad from GOP candidate Mike Gibbons talks “fake news.”

VA-GOV: A Roanoke College poll shows Ralph Northam with a 7-point lead.