Former top Trump lieutenant defects to Mueller

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On the roster: Former top Trump lieutenant defects to Mueller - ‘We have the votes’ - Trump says T-Rex not extinct - Texas Republican used public cash for harassment claim - Never too late to do the right thing 

FORMER TOP TRUMP LIEUTENANT DEFECTS TO MUELLER
 
Penny-ante Perry Masons of the political press have all day been telling you what today’s guilty plea by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is all about. 

Depending on how you butter your partisan bread, you can choose to believe that Flynn’s plea deal means President Trump himself is soon bound for removal from office or, if you prefer, that the special prosecutor is desperate and has been reduced to trumping up criminal charges for ordinary bumbling. 

Do yourself a favor and watch a “Night Court” re-run instead. You’ll glean more knowledge.

Then, read these lines: 

“These facts do not constitute all of the facts known to the parties concerning the charged offenses,” says Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his notice to the court of Flynn’s deal. “They are being submitted to demonstrate that sufficient facts exist that the defendant committed the offense to which he is pleading guilty.”

The point of the evidence submitted today was only to make sure that the judge would allow the deal. 

This is an amazingly good deal for Flynn. It would seem to get him off the hook for a number of highly questionable actions, most notably his previously undisclosed work for shady foreign figures, perhaps even after he had been named as the top national security figure in the Trump administration. 

A plea deal with a maximum of one year of jail time for lying to agents about things everybody already knew he lied about is an absolute creampuff wrapped in meringue.

For U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras to accept the plea, he had to know that it was basically fair and completely transparent to both sides. Mueller’s team satisfied the judge that they were getting “substantial assistance” for the prosecution of another person and saw such great leniency for Flynn as a good deal. 

Contreras, though, also couldn’t accept a guilty plea for nothing. 

The purpose of the document that everyone has been scrutinizing all day isn’t some coded message from Mueller about who’s next. The first letters of the paragraphs do not spell out J-A-R-E-D. The point was to convince a judge that Flynn committed the crimes in question and the crimes were germane to Mueller’s larger probe so that the deal could be sealed. And sealed, it was.

As with the three other individuals charged so far by Mueller – former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Manafort’s lieutenant, Richard Gates, and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos – we can guess at what it says about the overall direction of the probe, but that’s all it is: guesswork.

What makes Flynn different, though, is both the prominence of his position within the campaign, transition and administration and also the vehemence of his reversal.

The feds flipped Papadopoulos months ago and he may have even been acting as an undercover informant for the FBI for some period of time. But whatever he passed himself off to be, Papadopoulos’ involvement in 2016 was pretty much window dressing for a campaign scrambling to look serious about international affairs.

Flynn, on the other hand, was in on the ground floor with Trump, well before other retired generals were willing to stake their credibility on a longshot candidacy. Flynn was also an obvious true Trump apostle. While most in his party were trying to get Trump to button up at the Republican National Convention, Flynn was ready to rally.

“Lock [Hillary Clinton] up. That’s right! Damn right!” Flynn said from the stage in Cleveland.

Today, though, we read that Flynn has spoken to friends of the betrayal he felt from Trump. And in his public statement, the retired lieutenant general vowed that he would disprove the claims that he had committed treason and that he is “working to set things right.”

Certainly, the filing today shows Mueller indulging his newly cooperative witness on that count. The narrative in support of the plea shows Flynn making even relatively innocuous contact with Russian figures at the direction of the incoming administration, not on his own hook.

And if Flynn previously felt abandoned by the man he helped make president, the statement from Trump’s lawyer today would have certainly sealed it. Flynn was cast aside as “a former Obama administration official” who had spent just 25 days in the Trump White House. A nobody.

You’re free to speculate on what that portends for the president’s already embattled son in law or others, but don’t overlook the larger significance: A longtime, intimate adviser to the president – a man for whom president previously sought leniency from the FBI – is in the camp of Trump’s mortal enemy.

THE RULEBOOK: NO H8     
“[These papers] solicit the attention of those only, who add to a sincere zeal for the happiness of their country, a temper favorable to a just estimate of the means of promoting it.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 37

TIME OUT: SET INTENTIONS  
Montgomery Advertiser: “When Rosa Parks refused on the afternoon of Dec. 1, 1955, to give up her bus seat so that a white man could sit, it is unlikely that she fully realized the forces she had set into motion and the controversy that would soon swirl around her. Other black women had similarly refused to give up their seats on public buses and had even been arrested, including two young women earlier that same year in Montgomery. But this time the outcome was different. Today is the anniversary of the fateful decision that changed Montgomery, the state of Alabama, the United States and the world.  Unlike those earlier incidents, Rosa Parks ‘courageous refusal to bow to an unfair law sparked a crucial chapter in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, the Montgomery Bus Boycott.’ ‘I didn’t get on the bus with the intention of being arrested,’ she often said later. ‘I got on the bus with the intention of going home.’”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -18.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 0.8 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

‘WE HAVE THE VOTES’
WaPo: “Senate Republicans said Friday that they had secured enough votes to pass a landmark $1.5 trillion tax package after making a few final deals to get wavering senators on board. ‘We have the votes’ Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters after meeting with his caucus. Almost simultaneously, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a key holdout, announced his support for the legislation… Earlier Friday Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) had told reporters that GOP leaders had enough votes to pass the tax package, expressing optimism after a night of high-stakes negotiations. We ‘have at least 50, and we’re still working,’ Cornyn said. The tax package still must clear several hurdles before it can become law. Once the Senate passes the bill, GOP leaders must reconcile differences between the Senate bill and a version that passed the House several weeks ago. They are optimistic they can do this, but a number of issues must be resolved…”

How GE gamed the system -
 WSJ: “When the House of Representatives passed its long-awaited tax overhaul this month, General Electric Co. had a potentially big problem: One part of the bill could cost the conglomerate more than $1 billion in new taxes if it becomes law. The measure would restrict the ability of GE and other firms to deduct the losses of some overseas units under a new one-time tax on profits earned overseas. A GE spokeswoman said that ‘would have resulted in taxing more than 100% of GE’s historic foreign earnings.’”

AARP announces opposition - The Hill: “The AARP said on Thursday that it opposes the Senate GOP tax bill, warning senators it could lead to billions of dollars in Medicare cuts. In a letter to senators, the influential seniors group urged lawmakers to work on a bipartisan version that won’t result in entitlement cuts. ‘AARP is prepared to support tax legislation that makes the tax code more equitable and efficient, promotes growth, and produces sufficient revenue to pay for critical national programs, including Medicare and Medicaid,’ it wrote.”

Tax debate hits TV screens across U.S. -
 Bloomberg: “As the tax debate hits its latest crescendo in Washington, TV ads trying to influence the biggest rewrite of the code in three decades have increasingly targeted states with wavering Republicans, including Wisconsin and Maine. Nowhere has the on-air battle been more intense than in upstate New York. Syracuse has been the top market for such ads, which are sponsored by special interests and billionaires, an analysis of ad data since Aug. 1 shows. The area’s fluid partisan politics and its worries about an endangered state and local tax deduction explain why.”

House Conservatives not on board with Rubio-Lee amendment - Roll Call: “Conservative House members dealt a blow Thursday to a proposed amendment to the Senate tax plan by Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Utah’s Mike Lee that would trim the corporate tax cut to help lower-income working families. … While it is unlikely Rubio and Lee would gain the necessary votes from Republicans to advance it, Democrats eager to do anything they can to stop the legislation could join with a few GOP members to pass it despite opposing the underlying bill. The amendment, if included in the Senate-passed version, would complicate negotiations between the chambers as they seek to find a version that can pass both bodies.”

Trump says a government shutdown could be good… for him - WaPo: “President Trump has told confidants that a government shutdown could be good for him politically and is focusing on his hard-line immigration stance as a way to win back supporters unhappy with his outreach to Democrats this fall, according to people who have spoken with him recently. … Trump’s mixed messages on a partial government shutdown could hamper the ability of congressional Republicans to negotiate with Democrats, whose support they need to pass spending legislation in coming weeks.”

TRUMP SAYS T-REX NOT EXTINCT 
Fox News: “Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not leaving the Trump administration despite recent speculation, President Donald Trump said on Friday afternoon. ‘The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon - FAKE NEWS,’ Trump tweeted. ‘He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!’ A photo of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attending the swearing-in ceremony of Tillerson accompanied the tweet. The response from the president follows reports earlier this week that Tillerson was expected to resign from his post in January and would potentially be succeeded by current CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The succession plan would the involve nominating Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton to take Pompeo's role with the CIA. Another possible, but less-likely scenario that was floated on Thursday would've moved U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley to the State Department.”

Another Sen. Sanders? - WashEx: “Arkansas political observers were surprised to read Thursday that Republican Sen. Tom Cotton may become CIA director in a Trump administration shakeup, but names already are circulating for potential appointees to replace him in the Senate. Among those under discussion is White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. ‘I would support Sarah in a New York minute!’ former U.S. Rep. Tommy Robinson, an Arkansas Democrat turned Republican, told the Washington Examiner. … GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson would fill Cotton's vacant seat ahead of a 2018 special election.”

TEXAS REPUBLICAN USED PUBLIC CASH FOR HARASSMENT CLAIM
Daily Beast: “Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) used taxpayer money to pay his former communications director a sexual-harassment settlement, Politico reported Friday. Lauren Greene sued Farenthold in December 2014, accusing him of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and creating a hostile work environment. She claimed in the suit that Farenthold ‘regularly drank to excess’ and told her that he was ‘estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.’ Another male aide allegedly told Greene that the congressman said he had ‘sexual fantasies’ and ‘wet dreams’ about her. She said she was fired after making complaints. Farenthold is the only lawmaker in the past five years to have used a House Office of Compliance account to settle a sexual harassment complaint. The Office of Congressional Ethics said there was no ‘substantial reason to believe’ the sexual harassment or discrimination claims against Farenthold after the office investigated the case. The settlement reportedly used $84,000 from the funds.

Congress settled harassment claims against former congressman Eric Massa -ABC News: “The Congressional Office of Compliance secretly paid close to $100,000 in taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims from at least two young male staffers who worked for disgraced former Congressman Eric Massa, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter told ABC News. The claims were settled after Massa, a Democrat from upstate New York, resigned in 2010 amid a pending ethics investigation into allegations he groped and sexually harassed members of his staff. ‘This is exactly why there should be transparency,’ said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., who blasted the payouts in an interview with ABC News. Rice, who is co-sponsoring legislation that would remove secrecy from the payouts, added, ‘There is no reason why these settlements, these accusations should be done in secret once they're adjudicated.’”

PLAY-BY-PLAY 
Sources: Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday Axios

Trump donates third-quarter salary to HHS opioid efforts - Politico

Kamala Harris continues to rise above other 2020 Democratic options - U.S. News and World

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

This weekend National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Sen. John Barrasso R-Wyo. will sit down with Chris Wallace. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

AUDIBLE: SUBTLE, BRO 
“‘But justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’ Amos 5:24” – James Comey tweeted this afternoon.

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HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

NEVER TOO LATE TO DO THE RIGHT THING
AP: “A person who apparently sped off after hitting a parked car in a Minneapolis suburb more than 30 years ago anonymously sent $1,000 to local police this month and asked them to pass it on to the car's owner, if possible. The sender also sent a letter to the South St. Paul police department asking for forgiveness, The Pioneer Press reported. ‘I was quite shocked,’ police Chief Bill Messerich said. ‘It's not something you see every day.’ The note says the anonymous driver hit a parked car one evening in 1985 or 1986. The sender expressed remorse and requested police try to track down the vehicle's owner. The note says the money could be donated to a police charity if the victim isn't located. ‘I am sorry for any inconvenience that I have caused and I ask for your forgiveness,’ the letter says.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.