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A huge 2018 story: More than 500 women are running for major office

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

A huge 2018 story: More than 500 women are running for major office

WASHINGTON — No matter which party ultimately triumphs in the November midterm elections, here is one thing we know for sure about 2018: It will be the Year of the Woman — supercharged.

“As of last week, 325 women were non-incumbent candidates for the United States House, along with 72 female members seeking reelection, according to data compiled by [the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University]. Thirty-eight women not currently serving in the United States Senate are aiming for the upper chamber, along with 12 incumbents running again. And 75 women have set their sights on the nation’s governorships — plus four female incumbents fighting to keep their seats,” one of us wrote over the weekend.

By comparison: “In 2016, a high water mark for female candidates overall, there were 167 female major party nominees for the United States House and 16 for the Senate — well fewer than half the number of candidates vying for one of those spots now.” The 1992 “Year of the Woman” ushered in two dozen new women to the U.S. House and four to the U.S. Senate a year after the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings.

The high-profile women running for office this year include the three (Kyrsten Sinema, Martha McSally, Kelli Ward) in arguably the top Senate contest of 2018 (Arizona); one of the biggest names for governor (Democrat Gwen Graham) in one of the most important states in the country (Florida); two who are competing in maybe the most contentious Democratic gubernatorial primary (Stacey Abrams vs. Stacey Evans in Georgia); and big names in other key Senate contests (Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Republican Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee and Jacky Rosen in Nevada).

And this new surge of women running for office — many of them first-timers — comes in the midst of the #metoo movement. Like in 1992, says Jennifer Lawless of the Women and Politics Institute at American University, “there is this general call that women would be able to legislate in a way that was more honest and trustworthy because they are political outsiders, that there are these entrenched men who have generated a whole bunch of scandals and are behaving very badly.”

Koch Brothers-backed group plans to spend hundreds of millions for the midterms

Sticking with the 2018 election season, NBC’s Mike Memoli reports that the Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity reiterated its pledge over the weekend “to spend upwards of $400 million to help boost likeminded candidates and incumbents in the midterm elections.”

More from Memoli: “The significant financial commitment — well beyond what the network spent in the 2016 presidential election and others before it — includes $20 million solely oriented toward promoting the new tax law’s benefits to a public that remains skeptical of the overhaul. It’s the kind of full-throated defense that Democrats and their allies never mustered for the Affordable Care Act in 2010 when they lost their House majority and control of statehouses across the country. And it could be essential in the face of an energized opposition to Trump and his party that has Democrats optimistic they can turn the tables in 2018.”

Trump prepares for State of the Union address amid new controversies 2:57

A GOP divided on protecting Mueller and his probe

After last week’s news that President Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller – but then backed off – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy downplayed the need for legislation protecting Mueller. “I don't think there’s a need for legislation right now to protect Mueller,” McCarthy said on “Meet the Press” yesterday. “Right now there is not an issue,” he added. “So why create one when there isn’t a place for it?”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was more concerned. “I will do whatever it takes to make sure that Mr. Mueller can do his job. We're a rule of law nation before President Trump, we're going to be a rule of law nation after President Trump,” he said on ABC this weekend. “We know that he didn't fire Mr. Mueller. We know that if he tried to, it would be the end of his presidency.”

And on CNN yesterday, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said: “[I]t certainly wouldn't hurt to put that extra safeguard in place given the latest stories.”

WaPo: Trump doesn’t understand why he can’t give orders to “my guys” at the “Trump Justice Department”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post ran this story over the weekend: “Trump … has complained to confidants and aides in recent weeks that he does not understand why he cannot simply give orders to ‘my guys’ at what he sometimes calls the ‘Trump Justice Department,’ two people familiar with the president’s comments said.”

Also: “Trump recently revived his complaints that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein was not properly supervising Mueller’s probe, and suggested that he should fire Rosenstein — a highly controversial action against the person officially overseeing the special counsel’s investigation, an adviser who speaks frequently with Trump said. The president also made clear in recent days that he hopes that new questions facing the investigation allow him or his associates to make changes at the Justice Department, two people familiar with Trump’s comments said.”

Steve Wynn resigns as RNC finance chair after misconduct allegations

NBC News: “Steve Wynn, the billionaire casino magnate, resigned as finance chair of the Republican National Committee on Saturday following a report of widespread misconduct allegations... ‘Effective today I am resigning as Finance Chairman of the RNC. The unbelievable success we have achieved must continue. The work we are doing to make America a better place is too important to be impaired by this distraction. I thank the President for the opportunity to serve and wish him continued success,’ Wynn said in a statement to NBC News Saturday.”

“Wynn, who President Donald Trump has called ‘a great friend,’ has denied the allegations made in the Wall Street Journal article.”

Adviser to ’08 Clinton campaign who was accused of sexual harassment was “kept on the campaign at Mrs. Clinton’s request”

Also late last week, the New York Times reported that a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign “who was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a young subordinate was kept on the campaign at Mrs. Clinton’s request, according to four people familiar with what took place. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager at the time recommended that she fire the adviser, Burns Strider. But Mrs. Clinton did not. Instead, Mr. Strider was docked several weeks of pay and ordered to undergo counseling, and the young woman was moved to a new job.”

Clinton tweeted on Friday, "A story appeared today about something that happened in 2008. I was dismayed when it occurred, but was heartened the young woman came forward, was heard, and had her concerns taken seriously and addressed," she said. I called her today to tell her how proud I am of her and to make sure she knows what all women should: we deserve to be heard.”

But Clinton’s tweets didn’t address why she kept Strider on the campaign.