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Trump takes a risk by wading into debate over sexual misconduct

President Trump criticizes Sen. Al Franken over admission of sexual misconduct after being silent on Roy Moore but he's wading into risky territory for himself.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump gestures as he talks about his 12-day Asian in Manila, Philippines, on Nov. 14.Bullit Marquez / AP

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.

WASHINGTON — First it was Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Then Alabama Republican Roy Moore. Then comedian Louis C.K. Then discussions of Bill Clinton’s past. And yesterday it was Democratic senator Al Franken.

The one person who’s largely been absent from the current debate over the accusations and admissions of sexual misconduct, however, is the president of the United States. But Trump eagerly weighed in on Franken, which only underscored his continued silence on Moore — as well as last year’s allegations against him.

“The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?” Trump tweeted last night, then following up with another:

“And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?”

Speaking of tapes… Here’s NBC’s Ali Vitali: “The president has also had his own troubles with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. More than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual assault or misconduct in the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign. He has also been caught on tape in a leaked Access Hollywood hot mic moment, saying: ‘I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,’ he said in the 2005 conversation. ‘Grab 'em by the pussy.’”

Asked yesterday why the White House said that the allegations against Roy Moore were troubling but that the president himself has faced allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “I think the president has certainly a lot more insight into what he personally did or didn’t do, and he spoke out about that directly during the campaign.”

The backlash against powerful men accused of sexual misconduct is all coming one year since Trump’s presidential victory. And one could argue that we wouldn’t be having this conversation without last year’s allegations against Trump — and his victory despite them.

And now after weighing in on Franken, Trump — the most powerful man in the country — has invited a re-examination of his own behavior.

Gillibrand: Bill Clinton should have resigned after the Lewinsky scandal

“Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who holds Hillary Clinton’s former seat, said on Thursday that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago. Asked directly if she believed Mr. Clinton should have stepped down at the time, Ms. Gillibrand took a long pause and said, ‘Yes, I think that is the appropriate response,’” the New York Times reports.

“But she also appeared to signal that what is currently considered a fireable offense may have been more often overlooked during the Clinton era. ‘Things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction,’ Ms. Gillibrand said. ‘And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump, and a very different conversation about allegations against him.’”

Clinton World didn’t take too kindly to Gillibrand’s remarks. Longtime Hillary aide Philippe Reines tweeted, “Ken Starr spent $70 million on a consensual blowjob. Senate voted to keep POTUS WJC. But not enough for you @SenGillibrand? Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons’ endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite. Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.”

Indeed, our colleague Beth Fouhy reminds us that Gillibrand owes much of her political career to the Clintons, who helped her during her 2006 successful bid for Congress.

Fox poll has Roy Moore trailing by 8 points

As for Roy Moore, a Fox News poll released last night shows Democrat Doug Jones leading the embattled Republican by 8 points among likely voters, 50 percent to 42 percent.

Earlier this week we told you that Jones could very well be the frontrunner in this contest. And there’s now data — from a reputable poll — backing that up. The election is on December 12.

House Republicans pass tax bill

NBC’s Benjy Sarlin and Leigh Ann Caldwell: “The House passed a nearly $1.5 trillion tax bill on Thursday that would slash tax rates on corporations and private businesses, overhaul the individual tax code and eliminate taxes on wealthy heirs. The 227-205 vote on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a victory for Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and for President Donald Trump, who spoke to Republican members ahead of the vote.”

More: “‘This country has not rewritten its tax code since 1986,’ Ryan said at a press conference after the vote. ‘The powers of the status quo in this town are so strong. Yet 227 men and women of this Congress broke through that today.’ But the legislation faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where Republican leaders are still trying to build consensus among members for their own tax bill, which contains significant differences. On Thursday, the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) delivered the bill a blow with an analysis that predicted it would raise the average tax rate for Americans making under $75,000 by 2027.”

Trump and his family could save more than $1 billion under the House bill

President Donald Trump has insisted, for months, that the Republican tax plan he supports won’t benefit him. “It’s not good for me. Believe me,” he said at a Sept. 27 event in Indiana to sell the plan. “My plan is for the working people, and my plan is for jobs. I don’t benefit,” he also said that day. “I think there’s very little benefit for people of wealth.” And earlier this month, according to NBC News, Trump told a group of Democratic senators in a phone call, "My accountant called me and said 'you're going to get killed in this bill.’”

In fact, Trump and his heirs potentially could save more than $1 billion overall under the GOP tax proposal that the House of Representatives passed Thursday, with most of that amount coming from a repeal of the estate tax, according to an analysis NBC News commissioned of Trump’s one known 2005 tax return and his estimated net worth.

Trump would save more than $20 million himself, according to the analysis of how the legislation affects his 2005 tax return, and his heirs could potentially save $1.1 billion based on his reported wealth.