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First Read’s Morning Clips: Republicans put Mueller in their crosshairs

TRUMP AGENDA: Republicans put Mueller in their crosshairs

From the Washington Post: “Republican activists and lawmakers are engaged in a multi-front attack on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of possible connections between associates of President Trump and Russian agents, trying to stop or curtail the investigation as it moves further into Trump’s inner circle. For months, the president and his allies have been seizing on any whiff of possible impropriety by Mueller’s team or the FBI to argue that the Russia probe is stacked against Trump — potentially building the political support needed to dismiss the special counsel. Several law enforcement officials said they are concerned that the constant drumbeat of conservative criticism seems designed to erode Mueller’s credibility, making it more politically palatable to remove, restrict or simply ignore his recommendations as his investigation progresses.”

By NBC’s Mike Memoli: “Donald Trump was just 11 minutes into his presidency when his choice for national security adviser, Michael Flynn, texted a former business partner to say an ambitious U.S. collaboration with Russia to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East was "good to go," according to a new whistleblower account. As Trump delivered his inaugural address, says the unnamed whistleblower, Flynn directed Alex Copson, managing director of ACU Strategic Partners, to inform their business partners "to put things in place." The whistleblower also says that Flynn assured Copson that U.S. sanctions on Russia that could block the nuclear project would be "ripped up" once Trump was inside the White House.”

The latest in the Middle East after Trump’s Jerusalem move, via the New York Times : “Palestinians burned photos of President Trump in Gaza, and the walls of the Old City were illuminated with the American and Israeli flags on Wednesday, as Mr. Trump made good on his campaign pledge to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

And more: “For Mr. Trump, the status of Jerusalem was always more a political imperative than a diplomatic dilemma. Faced with disappointing evangelical and pro-Israel backers like Mr. Adelson, or alarming allies and Arab leaders while jeopardizing his own peace initiative, the president sided with his key supporters.”

POLITICO: “Lobbyists have launched an all-out effort to save tax breaks and protect powerful industries as the Republicans’ tax overhaul lurches toward President Donald Trump’s desk. Builders and real estate interests are pushing to save the mortgage interest deduction. Businesses are fighting to strip out a last-minute provision inserted into the Senate bill that would preserve the corporate alternative minimum tax. And a coalition of trade groups and local government leaders is urging Republicans not to cut the state and local tax deduction.”

“Family-owned businesses including grocery stores, craft shops, small manufacturers and others are worried tax legislation in Congress could leave them at a disadvantage to big corporations and other competitors,” writes the Wall Street Journal. “At issue for these businesses is their structure as trusts, established to preserve an enterprise for succeeding generations, protect against estate taxes or a divorcing spouse or other claimants who might try to seize a stake. Some family-owned firms say the Senate version of the tax bill holds risks for them because it excludes trusts from a new tax deduction.”

And in the Washington Post: “Even as President Trump and Republicans in Congress seek to cut federal taxes, the White House has quietly come up with a very different plan for infrastructure: It wants to reward states and localities willing to raise taxes or other revenue to pay for new projects.”

The New York Times notes that some Dreamers are getting a boost from big business and big names.

From NBC’s Jonathan Allen and Leigh Ann Caldwell: “Democrats turn on Franken to get to Moore”

“The House approved a Republican bill on Wednesday making it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines,” notes the AP.

OFF TO THE RACES: Report: Bredesen jumps into Senate race

AL-SEN: Roy Moore is taking issue with a third-party group’s ad that repeats claims that he was banned from an Alabama mall.

The Washington Post reports that Doug Jones is bringing in big names Cory Booker and Deval Patrick to fire up black voters.

IL-GOV: In POLITICO: “An inevitable candidate. Accusations of a rigged primary. Early commitments from organized labor. The Illinois Democratic primary for governor sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential primary campaign — which didn’t end up well for the party. Opponents of billionaire J.B. Pritzker, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in Illinois, are now using the Clinton example in an effort to level the field, warning that the party risks blowing a prime opportunity to knock off a vulnerable Republican governor by repeating the same mistakes it made in 2016.”

KS-GOV: An interesting Kansas storyline to watch: “Independent Greg Orman took steps to enter the governor’s race this week – a move that worried Democrats and encouraged Republicans. Orman, who embraces the social views of Democrats but speaks about fiscal conservatism like a Republican, is taking his second shot at a statewide office, after an unsuccessful bid against U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in 2014.”

KY-SEN: The Washington Post notes that there are still a lot of unanswered questions about that attack on Rand Paul.

MI-13: “John Conyers III, a Detroit hedge fund manager named as a possible successor to his scandal-rocked father, Rep. John Conyers Jr., was arrested in Los Angeles this year on suspicion of domestic violence, but prosecutors declined to charge him, according to documents first obtained by NBC News.”

MN-SEN: Who would replace Franken if he goes? The good money’s on lieutenant governor Tina Smith.

NH-GOV: NH-1: State Sen. Dan Feltes, of Concord, is the latest Democrat to seriously consider a bid for governor to unseat Republican Chris Sununu.

TN-SEN: And the big Senate news from yesterday, via the Nashville Post: “Former Gov. Phil Bredesen is entering the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. According to multiple sources, Bredesen began calling major donors this afternoon to confirm that he is in the race. He has been mum about a campaign since U.S. Sen. Bob Corker announced he would step down next year, only acknowledging that he was contemplating a run.”