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First Read’s Morning Clips: North Korea’s Latest Launch

TRUMP AGENDA: The big news out of North Korea

“After 2 ½ months of relative quiet, North Korea launched its most powerful weapon yet early Wednesday, claiming a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers believe could reach Washington and the entire eastern U.S. seaboard. In a special state media broadcast hours later, North Korea said it successfully fired a “significantly more” powerful, nuclear-capable ICBM it called the Hwasong-15. Outside governments and analysts concurred the North had made a jump in missile capability,” writes the AP.

What happens next? The New York Times: “Experts said this latest launch — which landed west of the northern end of Honshu, Japan’s largest island — exhibited characteristics that underscored the increasing sophistication of North Korea’s program. The missile flew higher and for a longer duration than two previous intercontinental ballistic missile launches, which flew for 37 minutes on July 4 and for 47 minutes on July 28… For all the evidence of technical advancements, a senior White House official said the significance of the launch should not be overstated, given the number of missile tests North Korea has carried out this year. The White House had expected some form of retaliation after it put the North back on its list of state sponsors of terrorism last week. Mr. Trump, officials said, will stick to his policy of rallying nations to apply economic pressure on North Korea, backed up by the threat of military action.”

And NBC’s Alexander Smith notes: “However, to build a weapon capable of hitting the U.S. a long-range rocket is just one piece of the puzzle. North Korea would also need to develop a reentry vehicle robust enough to protect the warhead from the intense heat produced by traveling through the Earth's atmosphere at speed. It also needs to miniaturize a nuclear weapon small and light enough to fit on the missile without reducing its range. Boasts aside, it hasn't publicly demonstrated either of these.”

Ali Vitali sums up what’s happening with the tax bill: “Republicans cleared a hurdle in their drive to overhaul the tax system Tuesday, voting the Senate GOP tax bill out of committee and paving the way for a full chamber vote later this week. The bill cleared the budget committee in a 12-11 vote along party lines, with two notable "yes" votes from previously skeptical Republicans. Despite having threatened to oppose the bill, GOP senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin both voted it out of committee.”

More, from the New York Times: “Three key Republican holdouts, Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, sounded positive about the bill on Tuesday after gaining assurances from Mr. Trump and the Republican leadership that their worries would be addressed. Several hurdles remain, however, including resolving differences with the House version of the tax bill, which differs in significant ways from that of the Senate. Both bills cut taxes on businesses and individuals, but differ in the scope and timing of those cuts.”

And here’s Vitali on the spat between Trump and Democratic leaders.

POLITICO looks behind the scenes at Trump’s tweet about “Chuck and Nancy” yesterday.

And a reminder from the Wall Street Journal: “Congress is headed for a showdown on whether to insert several pressing health measures in year-end bills, reviving partisan fights that threaten to derail Republicans’ goal to close out the year with a raft of legislative successes. The looming health-care issues include funding for a children’s health program, the possible delay of certain taxes by the Affordable Care Act and the fate of a bipartisan plan to bolster fragile insurance markets.”

Pete Williams has the latest on the CFPB fight. “A federal judge declined Tuesday to force out Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump's choice to serve as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The ruling was a loss for Leandra English, the bureau's deputy director who believes she became the acting director when Richard Cordray, who had run the agency since 2012, stepped down last Friday.”

And then there’s this, from the New York Times — on Trump’s denials about the Access Hollywood tape: “Despite his public acknowledgment of the recording’s authenticity in the final days of the presidential campaign — and his hasty videotaped apology under pressure from his advisers — Mr. Trump as president-elect began raising the prospect with allies that it may not have been him on the tape after all. Most of Mr. Trump’s aides ignored his changing story. But in January, shortly before his inauguration, Mr. Trump told a Republican senator that he wanted to investigate the recording that had him boasting about grabbing women’s genitals. “We don’t think that was my voice,” Mr. Trump told the senator, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Since then, Mr. Trump has continued to suggest that the tape that nearly upended his campaign was not actually him, according to three people close to the president.”

Also, in the Washington Post: “Trump has sought to paint the rosiest possible picture of his presidency and his character — and has tried to will others to see it his way, like the big-promises salesman he once was.”

From NBC’s Kasie Hunt, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Geoff Bennett: “Democratic pressure on Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to resign from Congress mounted Tuesday as the number of sexual harassment allegations against him continued to grow and party leaders huddled in conversations about whether he should remain in the House, multiple sources tell NBC News… In an additional sign that Democrats were dropping their support of Conyers, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to the House Ethics Committee, which has opened an investigation into the allegations against Conyers, urging it to act "expeditiously" in their investigation. The Congressional Black Caucus, which was co-founded by Conyers, will hold its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, but in an unusual move, staff will not be allowed in the room and Conyers was not sent an invitation to attend, one source told NBC News.”

And the New York Times notes that younger Democrats are hoping that the Conyers scandal gives them some room to gain seniority.

The Washington Post: “The week after President Trump’s inauguration, national security adviser Michael Flynn forwarded a memo written by a former business associate and told his staff to fashion it into a policy for President Trump’s approval, according to two people familiar with the exchange. The proposal — to develop a “Marshall Plan” of investment in the Middle East — was being pushed by a company that Flynn said he had advised during the 2016 campaign and transition. The firm was seeking to build nuclear power plants in the region.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Moore touts support from a dubious Indiana group

A strong majority of millennials want a third party, an NBC News/GenForward poll finds.

AL-SEN: Roy Moore is touting an endorsement from a dubious Indiana group, NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard and Mike Memoli write.

And then there’s this, from the Washington Post: “Shortly after announcing online that she was joining the “conservative media movement,” Jaime Phillips checked into an Airbnb apartment for a two-week stay in the basement of the Capitol Hill home of Brad Woodhouse, the former communications director for the Democratic National Committee, Woodhouse said Tuesday. Woodhouse said he recognized Phillips’s name and image in a Washington Post story Monday that described how she falsely told reporters that Roy Moore, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, impregnated her as a teenager. Phillips appears to work with Project Veritas, an organization that uses deceptive tactics and secretly records conversations in an effort to embarrass members of the mainstream media and left-leaning groups.”

POLITICO: “President Donald Trump isn’t planning to go to Alabama, but he still might use the weight of his office to help elect scandal-tarred Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The White House is considering flooding the state with robo-calls, emails, and text messages in an offensive designed to activate the president’s supporters on Moore’s behalf, three people familiar with the discussions said. An administration-sanctioned super PAC, America First Action, is conducting polling in the state as it weighs a possible 11th-hour barrage.”

AL.com writes that there’s been a slight uptick in registered voters leading into the December election.

And Steve Bannon will campaign for Moore.

KS-GOV: Donald Trump Jr. campaigned for Kris Kobach.

OH-GOV: POLITICO checks in with former CFPB head Richard Cordray as he returns home in anticipation of a gubernatorial run.