TRUMP AGENDA: Another Russia-related bombshell report
In the New York Times last night: “President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.”
More, from the AP: “The episode is known to special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors and is likely of interest to them as they look into whether Trump’s actions as president, including the May firing of FBI Director James Comey, amount to improper efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation.”
“Steve Bannon has unified the Republican Party — against Steve Bannon,” writes NBC’s Jonathan Allen. “And President Donald Trump stands to benefit most from his former chief strategist's comeuppance. Without Bannon barking in his ear — and nipping at the heels of Republican senators — it will be easier for Trump to deliver on the remainder of a legislative agenda that threatens to strain his base over issues such as federal spending, government wiretaps and immigration.”
The consequences for Bannon, via the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Bannon’s longtime benefactors, billionaires Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, are actively distancing from him even before the expected release this week of a book that has roiled Messrs. Trump and Bannon’s relationship, according to two people close to the Mercers… They and other Breitbart News Network LLC board members on Thursday were debating whether to oust Mr. Bannon as chairman, with many supportive of the move, according to a person familiar with the exchanges. Among the considerations are Breitbart’s contractual relationships with other entities, including Sirius XM radio, that involve Mr. Bannon.”
Trump’s lawyers tried to stop the publication of Michael Wolff’s book. It didn’t work.
Wolff told “Today” that Trump is “a man who has less credibility than, perhaps, anyone who has ever walked on earth.”
The Washington Post, with more on how the effort to stop the book’s publication is problematic: “[L]egal experts and historians said the decision by a sitting president to threaten “imminent” legal action against a publishing house, a journalist and a former aide represented a remarkable break with recent precedent and could have a chilling effect on free-speech rights.”
Trump’s administration is seeking $18 billion for the border wall, the Wall Street Journal reports.
NBC’s Pete Williams: “Justice Department officials were reluctant on Thursday to predict that a change in federal policy toward marijuana would result in aggressive new enforcement measures against an industry that has grown rapidly in the past few years. They conceded that the shift injected uncertainty into the system sanctioned by individual states for growing and selling cannabis plants. But that very doubt appears to be what they believe is one of the benefits of the policy change.”
“The Trump administration proposed new rules on Thursday to make it easier for small businesses and individuals to buy a type of health plan long favored by conservatives that could bypass some of the insurance protections built into the Affordable Care Act,” the Washington Post notes. “The proposal, issued by the Labor Department, would carry out the most significant part of an executive order that President Trump signed in October, directing the government to foster alternative types of insurance. Proponents say the association health plans would be less expensive and enhance consumer choice, while critics — including the insurance industry — fear they would promote substandard coverage and weaken the ACA’s already fragile insurance marketplaces.”
And there’s this: “The Trump administration said Thursday it would allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in nearly all United States coastal waters, giving energy companies access to leases off California for the first time in decades and opening more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the Eastern Seaboard. The proposal lifts a ban on such drilling imposed by President Barack Obama near the end of his term and would deal a serious blow to his environmental legacy. It would also signal that the Trump administration is not done unraveling environmental restrictions in an effort to promote energy production.”
“In the days before a late-2016 vote on a United Nations resolution that criticized Israel, then-President-elect Donald Trump and top aides made a last-ditch push to target a majority of the U.N. Security Council to scuttle the text, people familiar with the situation said,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “The lobbying effort, which ultimately failed, was wider and more intense than has been reported, according to interviews with dozens of diplomats and U.S. officials. It was also conducted against the wishes of the sitting U.S. government. The Obama administration’s decision to abstain from the vote criticizing Israel’s settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank was what enabled the Security Council to pass a resolution condemning the country’s settlements for the first time in 36 years.”
The latest on the North Korea/South Korea talks: “North and South Korea will hold official talks on Jan. 9, South Korea's unification ministry said on Friday, after Pyongyang sent a statement accepting Seoul's offer for talks next week. The agenda will include the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics as well as other issues of mutual interest, ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun told reporters.”
OFF TO THE RACES: Trump heads to Camp David to discuss midterm landscape
Congressional leaders will brief Trump on the 2018 landscape at Camp David today.
AL-SEN: “In a lawsuit that echoes a civil case against President Trump, an Alabama woman on Thursday sued failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and his campaign for defamation, citing harsh personal attacks she faced after coming forward with allegations that he touched her sexually when she was 14 years old,” the Washington Post reports. “Leigh Corfman is not seeking financial compensation beyond legal costs, said her attorney, Neil Roman. She is asking for a declaratory judgment of defamation, a public apology from Moore, and a court-enforced ban on him or his campaign publicly attacking her again. Corfman said in a statement that the suit seeks ‘to do what I could not do as a 14-year-old — hold Mr. Moore and those who enable him accountable.’”
FL-GOV: Ron DeSantis is officially in the governor’s race.
MS-3: Gregg Harper won’t run for reelection.
NY-GOV: Another potential Republican candidate to challenge Andrew Cuomo says he’ll take a pass.
UT-SEN: POLITICO reports that Trump and Romney spoke on the phone Thursday night.