**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Impeachment probe draws in Trump’s answers to Mueller - Butti-boom, Butti-bing - Trump craps out on gubernatorial gambles - Deep yogurt
IMPEACHMENT PROBE DRAWS IN TRUMP’S ANSWERS TO MUELLER
NYT: “Impeachment investigators are exploring whether President Trump lied in his written answers to Robert S. Mueller III during the Russia investigation, a lawyer for the House told a federal appeals court on Monday, raising the prospect of bringing an additional basis for a Senate trial over whether to remove Mr. Trump. … During the Mueller investigation, Mr. Trump refused to testify orally about what he knew and did during the 2016 campaign in relation to Russia’s election interference operation, or his later efforts to impede the special counsel’s inquiry. But he did provide lawyerly written answers to some questions, which were appended to the Mueller report. On Monday, Douglas Letter, the general counsel for the House, told a federal appeals court panel that impeachment investigators have an ‘immense’ need to see the grand jury evidence — redacted portions of the Mueller report, as well as the underlying testimony transcripts they came from — because Mr. Trump may have lied.”
Ukrainian president reportedly felt the pressure long before Trump’s squeeze - AP: “Despite his denials, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was feeling pressure from the Trump administration to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden before his July phone call with President Donald Trump that has led to impeachment hearings. In early May, staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, including then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, were briefed on a meeting Zelenskiy held in which he sought advice on how to navigate the difficult position he was in, according to two people with knowledge of the briefings. He was concerned that Trump and associates were pressing him to take action that could affect the 2020 U.S. presidential race, the people said. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic and political sensitivity of the issue.”
Trump defenders’ new stance: The quid pro quo failed - NYT: “House Republicans, bracing for another week of impeachment hearings, asserted on Sunday that President Trump had done nothing wrong because his plans for Ukraine to investigate his political rivals never came to fruition… [L]awmakers are about to hear from crucial witnesses who had direct contact with the president, including Gordon D. Sondland, a donor to and an ally of Mr. Trump who served as his liaison to Ukrainian officials while the president withheld — but later released — $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. … On Sunday, Chris Wallace, the host of ‘Fox News Sunday,’ pressed Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, on that point, asking him whether Mr. Sondland might ‘blow a hole’ in Republicans’ defense. ‘The president’s defense is that those things didn’t happen,’ Mr. Scalise said, adding: ‘The real bottom line is he got the money. Ukraine got the money.’”
In a murky sea of disinformation and bias, voters tune out - NYT: “The Democrats in Congress took their case against President Trump to the public last week. But after hours of testimony, thousands of news reports and days of streaming headlines, one thing was clear: A lot of Americans weren’t listening. … In this volatile political moment, information, it would seem, has never been more crucial. The country is in the midst of impeachment proceedings against a president for the third time in modern history. A high-stakes election is less than a year away. But just when information is needed most, to many Americans it feels most elusive. The rise of social media; the proliferation of information online, including news designed to deceive; and a flood of partisan news are leading to a general exhaustion with news itself. Add to that a president with a documented record of regularly making false statements and the result is a strange new normal: Many people are numb and disoriented, struggling to discern what is real in a sea of slant, fake and fact.”
Trump reportedly vexed by Pompeo’s failure to rein in diplomats - NBC News: “The impeachment inquiry has created the first rift between President Donald Trump and the Cabinet member who has been his closest ally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to four current and former senior administration officials. Trump has fumed for weeks that Pompeo is responsible for hiring State Department officials whose congressional testimony threatens to bring down his presidency, the officials said. The president confronted Pompeo about the officials – and what he believed was a lackluster effort by the secretary of state to block their testimony – during lunch at the White House on Oct. 29, those familiar with the matter said. Inside the White House, the view was that Trump ‘just felt like, ‘rein your people in,’’ a senior administration official said. Trump particularly blames Pompeo for tapping Ambassador Bill Taylor in June to be the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, the current and former senior administration officials said.”
THE RULEBOOK: ACT WISELY
“The faith, the reputation, the peace of the whole Union, are thus continually at the mercy of the prejudices, the passions, and the interests of every member of which it is composed.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22
TIME OUT: FITTED FOR A QUEEN
Atlantic: “Clothes, in [the Netflix series] The Crown, have always been part of the aesthetic pleasure the show provides viewers—a crucial element of the absurd spectacle that is royalist Britain… And yet, watching Season 3 [released Nov. 17], [The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert noticed] more than ever how the series uses clothing to explore and subvert ideas about power, and what it looks like when a woman wields it. … [Queen Elizabeth’s] gender, and her femininity, are intrinsic to the way she governs.… In reality, as in the show, the Queen’s deployment of pastel colors and pearls isn’t just a matter of personal taste. Since her coronation in 1953, when the Queen requested that her gown for the event be embroidered with symbols from countries in the British Commonwealth … every outfit she’s worn has been worn with intention. Clothing, for the Queen, is much more about diplomacy and visibility than style.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
DEMOCRATIC 2020 POWER RANKING
Biden: 27.6 points (no change from last wk.)
Warren: 22.6 points (no change from last wk.)
Sanders: 17.6 points no change from last wk.)
Buttigieg: 7.6 points (no change from last wk.)
Harris: 3.2 points (no change from last wk.)
[Averages include: Monmouth University, NBC News/WSJ, ABC News/WaPo, Fox News and IBD.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 42 percent
Average disapproval: 55.4 percent
Net Score: -13.4 percent
Change from one week ago: no change
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 45% approve - 53% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 39% approve - 59% disapprove; Fox News: 42% approve - 57% disapprove; IBD: 39% approve - 56% disapprove.]
WANT MORE HALFTIME REPORT?
You can join Chris and Brianna every day on Fox Nation. Go behind-the-scenes of your favorite political note as they go through the must-read headlines of the day right from their office – with plenty of personality. Click here to sign up and watch!
Des Moines Register: “Pete Buttigieg has rocketed to the top of the latest Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll in the latest reshuffling of the top tier of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Since September, Buttigieg has risen 16 percentage points among Iowa’s likely Democratic caucusgoers, with 25% now saying he is their first choice for president. For the first time in the Register’s Iowa Poll, he bests rivals Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are now clustered in competition for second place and about 10 percentage points behind the South Bend, Indiana, mayor. Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, led the September Iowa Poll, when 22% said she was their first choice. In this poll, her support slips to 16%. Former Vice President Biden, who led the Register’s first three Iowa Polls of the 2020 caucus cycle, has continued to slide, falling 5 percentage points to 15%. Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, also garners 15% — a 4 percentage point rise.”
Biden strikes cautious tone on pot - WaPo: “On the question of marijuana, former vice president Joe Biden might seem out of step with the crowd. … But the 76-year-old Democrat is in tune with at least one demographic: his peers in the silent generation, who, at 35 percent, have what may be one of the lowest percentages of support for marijuana legalization, according to the Pew data released Nov. 14. This disparity on the topic came into full view at a town hall in Las Vegas over the weekend, when Biden drew some groans from the crowd by saying he wants to see more research on marijuana and suggesting that it may be a ‘gateway drug’ that can lead users to harsher substances.”
Harry Reid credits Biden’s Nevada success to minority appeal - AP: “Iowa and New Hampshire get to weigh in first on the Democratic presidential contest next year, but the states are not ethnically diverse enough to offer any insight into how a candidate will fare across the country, former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday. … Reid said he thinks that former Vice President Joe Biden has appeared strong in Nevada because he ‘is one that appeals to diversity,’ but he added that most of the other Democrats running can also appeal to diverse groups.”
As Harris craters, blame game ramps up - Politico: “Kamala Harris’ campaign is careening toward a crackup. As the California senator crisscrosses the country trying to revive her sputtering presidential bid, aides at her fast-shrinking headquarters are deep into the finger-pointing stages. And much of the blame is being placed on campaign manager Juan Rodriguez. … The internal strife is the latest discouraging development for Harris’ once-encouraging candidacy. She has slid into low single digits and is now banking on a top-tier performance in Iowa to pull her back into contention. Inside the campaign, which had already experienced staff shakeups before the layoffs, rank and file aides are fed up with the weak leadership and uncertainty around internal communication, planning and executing on a clear vision. They say the constant shifting has eroded trust in the upper ranks.”
Pressure rises at home for speedy exit - Politico: “Harris’ loyal activist base, who call themselves the K-Hive, have lost none of the passion and intensity from those early days. … But in the halls and meeting rooms of the Long Beach Convention Center, many of the battle-scarred Democratic insiders — strategists, elected officials, campaign operatives — had a far more caustic view of her chances, suggesting that Harris’ team has already let slip away her shot at the White House. With California polls strongly suggesting she might not win, place — or even show — in her home state, many privately expressed the view that Harris should begin seriously considering leaving the race to avoid total embarrassment in the state’s early March primary. Her continued weakness in the presidential contest could even have a more damaging effect, several said — encouraging a primary challenger in 2022, when Harris is up for reelection.”
Warren’s Medicare hedge does little to quell doubts - WaPo: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has been mostly sure-footed in her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. One exception is health care. On Friday, she issued another proposal to go along with her support for Medicare-for-all, a step that appeared designed to put her into a safer place politically. Warren’s progression on health care through the course of the campaign has taken her from a position of flexibility to one of seeming inflexibility — at least until Friday. Over a period of months, she walked herself into a place that many Democrats feared could make her chances of winning a general election more, not less, difficult. Whether Friday’s turn alleviates those worries remains to be seen.”
Younger voters still dig Bernie - WBUR: “Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders remains the top choice for young likely voters, coming in at 28% in the [Harvard Institute of Politics poll of voters under age 30]. That's down 3 percentage points since the spring. The 78-year-old Sanders has long had strong support among the under-30 set. [Twenty-two percent of likely 18- to 29-year-old voters would choose Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic presidential primary. That’s up 18 points from her showing in March.] Another septuagenarian, former Vice President Joe Biden, comes in third in the Harvard survey, with the backing of 16% of likely voters. The youngest Democratic candidate, 37-year-old Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is fifth, at just 4%.”
Bloomberg continues apology tour - Fox News: “Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has yet to formally announce whether he will run for president in 2020, but during remarks where he looked to the future before a majority-black church in Brooklyn, he apologized for his controversial ‘stop and frisk’ policy that sowed distrust of police in black and Latino communities during his administration. That policy, which was later repealed, allowed police to stop individuals on the street and briefly question and frisk them if they had reasonable suspicion that the person may be committing, had committed or is about to commit a crime. During his Sunday speech, Bloomberg recognized that this led to ‘far too many innocent people’ being stopped, many of them black or Latino. ‘I got something important wrong. I got something important really wrong.’”
Lefties see conspiracy behind Patrick, Bloomberg runs - Politico: “Democratic donors say they want Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick to run for president because they’re petrified that a left-wing candidate can’t defeat President Donald Trump. But progressives see a more sinister effort afoot. Aides and allies to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, among other liberals, perceive the eleventh-hour campaign launched last week by Patrick — and the prospect of an impending Bloomberg 2020 bid — as an attempt to crush an ascendant left wing that would expand government more than any other Democratic president in decades. In their view, Patrick and Bloomberg are stalking horses for moderate Democrats, high-dollar contributors and bundlers desperate to halt the momentum of the economic populists at the top of the polls — and regain control of the party levers.”
Can anyone break the Coolidge curse? - NYT: “Voters have never elected a sitting mayor to the presidency. Americans have seldom embraced anyone who’s even touched the job. Calvin Coolidge was the last president, one of just three in 230 years, to have been a mayor at any point. He led Northampton, Mass. – a modest town, really – for two years. But as the Democratic Party becomes ever more aligned with urban areas, its presidential field is now studded with politicians whose boasts include running a city. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has now jumped to the lead in Iowa polling. Also in the race are two recent mayors, Julián Castro and Cory Booker, and another candidate who got his start as a mayor, Bernie Sanders. The current New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, and a former Denver mayor, John Hickenlooper, have already come and gone, while Michael Bloomberg, another New York mayor, is still calculating on the sidelines.”
TRUMP CRAPS OUT ON GUBERNATORIAL GAMBLES
Politico: “President Donald Trump campaigned hard in three conservative Southern states this fall, aiming for a string of gubernatorial wins that would demonstrate his political strength heading into impeachment and his own reelection effort. The plan backfired in dramatic fashion. The latest black eye came on Saturday, when Trump's favored candidate in Louisiana, multimillionaire businessman Eddie Rispone, went down to defeat. The president went all-in, visiting the state three times, most recently on Thursday. Earlier this month, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin lost reelection after a similar presidential effort on his behalf. Of the candidates Trump backed, only Tate Reeves in Mississippi won. The losses raise questions about Trump’s standing as he heads into what will be a grueling 2020 campaign. By throwing himself into the three contests — each in states that Trump won by double-digits in 2016 — the president had hoped to gain a modicum of political momentum at a perilous moment of his presidency.”
Trump summons Fed boss Powell, a favorite punching bag, to White House - AP
Farm bankruptcies sky high - Market Watch
Trump dumps vape ban under political pressure - WaPo
Dem attorneys general set abortion litmus test for candidates - NYT
Former Nunes aide, now at White House, sues Politico over negative coverage - Fox News
Emails reveal money grubbing behind an ambassadorial appointment and withdrawal - CBS News
Pergram: How impeachment hearings can be best understood using Shakespeare - Fox News
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returns to bench after sick day last week - NBC News
Sen. Thom Tillis gets his Trump on ahead of tough 2020 race - Politico
AUDIBLE: ‘SON OF A GUN, WE’LL HAVE BIG FUN ON THE BAYOU’
“It is an easier state to govern when the Saints and LSU are winning. People are just in a better mood.” – Newly re-elected Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana in an interview on Saturday.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
USA Today: “[Patricia] Larkin, of Lacey, New Jersey, said in the Facebook group ‘Lacey Township Chatter’ that she was grocery shopping with her infant when a woman told a cashier that her baby was fake and an attempt to ‘smuggle yogurts out of the store.’ Larkin, despite being fatigued from staying up nights with her 2-month-old daughter, responded to the accusation with humor. She posted a picture of herself smiling while holding her sleeping baby in front of the store's sign. ‘Thank you for the laugh,’ she wrote in the Facebook group. ‘1) My baby is 100% real. 2) Yogurts are like $.25 at Aldi. 3) I'm lactose intolerant and don't consume any dairy at all.’ Larkin said a similarly amused cashier told her about the woman's accusation, by which time, her infant daughter was crying and fussing like only a real baby could.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It was said of Sen. Hiram W. Johnson that ‘he found it difficult to serve God and William Randolph Hearst at one and the same time.’ The Democrats’ dilemma is that they find it difficult to serve truth and William Jefferson Clinton at one and the same time.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Feb. 2, 1999.
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.