Manfort’s multiplying woes


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On the roster: Manfort’s multiplying woes - It's Election Day (again) in Mississippi - GOP tries to get Trump off of lame duck shutdown - Bloomberg heading to Iowa - The reception was so crisp 

MANFORT’S MULTIPLYING WOES

AP: “A British newspaper alleges that Paul Manafort secretly met WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London within days or weeks of being brought aboard Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. If confirmed, the report Tuesday suggests a direct connection between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which released tens of thousands of emails stolen by Russian spies during the 2016 election. The campaign seized on the emails to undermine Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton. … Assange’s Ecuadorian lawyer, Carlos Poveda, said the Guardian report was false. … The Guardian cited two unidentified sources as saying Manafort first met Assange at the embassy in 2013, a year after Assange took refuge there to avoid being extradited to Sweden over sex crime allegations. The Guardian said Manafort returned there in 2015 and 2016 and said its sources had ‘tentatively dated’ the final visit to March.”

Manafort threatens legal action against Guardian after report he met Assange - Fox News: “Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort suggested on Tuesday in a statement obtained by Fox News that he might bring legal action against The Guardian, after the newspaper published what he called a ‘totally false and deliberately libelous’ report claiming that he met with Wikileaks head Julian Assange the same month he joined the Trump team. … ‘This story is totally false and deliberately libelous,’ Manafort said in the statement. ‘I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to Wikileaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or Wikileaks on any matter. We are considering all legal options against the Guardian who proceeded with this story even after being notified by my representatives that it was false.’”

Trump ratchets up attacks as Mueller bears down - USA Today: “President Donald Trump denounced Russia special counsel Robert Mueller as a ‘rogue’ prosecutor on Tuesday, a day after Mueller's office said that ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has lied repeatedly to the FBI and violated a plea agreement. ‘The Phony Witch Hunt continues, but Mueller and his gang of Angry Dems are only looking at one side, not the other,’ Trump tweeted. ‘Wait until it comes out how horribly & viciously they are treating people, ruining lives for them refusing to lie.’ He added that ‘Mueller is a conflicted prosecutor gone rogue...’ Prosecutors have also looked at whether Trump knew about Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election by hacking Democratic emails and pushing fake news about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and whether the president has tried to obstruct the investigation.”

McCarthy: Manafort’s pardon play - National Review: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has informed a federal court that Paul Manafort violated his plea agreement by repeatedly lying to investigators. … On the surface, it doesn’t seem that Manafort’s dispute can get him very far. But when we look closer, we realize that this is about more than a plea; it is about a pardon. … Pardons, then, are virtually certain not to be issued until Mueller has completed his investigation. That is one reason why, unlike many Mueller watchers, I am not convinced that the special counsel is in a big hurry to close the case and file his much anticipated final report.”

THE RULEBOOK: DIY
“As theory and practice conspire to prove that the power of procuring revenue is unavailing when exercised over the States in their collective capacities, the federal government must of necessity be invested with an unqualified power of taxation in the ordinary modes.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 31

TIME OUT: STEPHEN HILLENBURG, RIP
USA Today: “Stephen Hillenburg, the visionary creator of ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ died Monday, Nickelodeon and Jessica Berger, a rep for his family, confirm to USA TODAY. The cause of death was ALS. … Hillenberg's cheery SpongeBob, awash in puns and happily flipping Krabby Patties at the Krusty Krab eatery, became a pop culture sensation. … ‘The fact that it's undersea and isolated from our world helps the characters maintain their own culture,’ Hillenburg told The Associated Press in 2001. ‘The essence of the show is that SpongeBob is an innocent in a world of jaded characters. The rest is absurd packaging.’ … Hillenburg first parlayed his fascination with ocean life into a career as a biology teacher at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California. In 1987 he began his career in animation, and from 1993 to 1996 got his start at Nickelodeon on ‘Rocko’s Modern Life.’  From there, Hillenburg began work full time, writing producing and directing an animated series that would eventually become ‘SpongeBob SquarePants.’” 

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 

Average approval: 40.6 percent
Average disapproval: 55 percent
Net Score: -14.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 2.4 points 
[Average includes: Gallup: 38% approve - 60% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CBS News: 39% approve - 55% disapprove; Monmouth University: 44% approve - 49% disapprove; CNN: 41% approve - 57% disapprove.]

IT'S ELECTION DAY (AGAIN) IN MISSISSIPPI
AP: “Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between a white Republican Senate appointee backed by President Donald Trump and a black Democrat who was agriculture secretary when Bill Clinton was in the White House. History will be made either way: Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, 59, would be the first woman ever elected to Congress from Mississippi, and Democrat Mike Espy, 64, would be the state’s first African-American U.S. senator since Reconstruction. Mississippi’s past of racist violence became a dominant theme after a video showed Hyde-Smith praising a supporter in early November by saying, ‘If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.’ … With the Mississippi election undecided, Republicans hold 52 of the 100 Senate seats. Mississippi last elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 1982, but Espy was trying for the same kind of longshot win that fellow Democrat Doug Jones had nearly a year ago in neighboring Alabama, another conservative Deep South state where Republicans hold most statewide offices.”

Report: MLB donated to Hyde-Smith's campaign as favor to McConnell - Fox News: “Major League Baseball has wrapped itself into a political controversy after requesting Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign to return thousands in donations stemming from her ‘public hanging’ comments. The donation to Hyde-Smith’s campaign came after a lobbyist who works for MLB couldn’t attend a mid-November fundraiser for Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Yahoo Sports reported Monday, citing sources. The league was reportedly asked to donate to Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., instead. MLB donated to her campaign on Nov. 12 or 13, sources told Yahoo Sports, which would pinpoint the donation to a day or more after she made the hanging remarks. Her campaign reported the $5,000 contribution Nov. 24, according to campaign filings. A request for comment from Sens. Hyde-Smith and McConnell by Fox News weren’t immediately returned.”

Dem takes lead over Republican incumbent Valadao - LAT: “Democrat TJ Cox slipped past Republican incumbent David Valadao on Monday to take the lead in the country’s sole remaining undecided congressional race, positioning Democrats to pick up their seventh House seat in California and 40th nationwide. Cox, who trailed by nearly 4,400 votes on election night, has steadily gained as ballot counting continues nearly three weeks after the Nov. 6 election, a pattern consistent with the state’s recent voting history. On Monday, he pulled ahead by 436 votes after Kern and Tulare counties updated their results. ‘Every update has kept us on track to win,’ said Phillip Vander Klay, a Cox spokesman, ‘and we're still on that track.’ Valadao's campaign did not respond to requests for comment.”

Maine Republican requests recount - Portland Press Herald: “Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin requested a recount Monday of results in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District race, citing concerns about the transparency of the ‘computer-engineered’ ranked-choice voting results. To overturn the election results, Poliquin will have to erase a more than 3,500-vote lead Democrat Jared Golden holds following the nation’s first use of ranked-choice voting to decide a congressional election. In a statement, Poliquin’s campaign talked about ‘frightened’ voters as well as the use of ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘black box’ voting systems to decide the outcome of Maine’s historic election. ‘We have heard from countless Maine voters who were confused and even frightened their votes did not count due to computer-engineered rank voting,’ said Brendan Conley, a spokesman for the Poliquin campaign.”

GOP TRIES TO GET TRUMP OFF OF LAME DUCK SHUTDOWN  
Politico: “House Republican leaders are heading to the White House on Tuesday afternoon as GOP leaders try to placate President Donald Trump and avoid a partial government shutdown on Dec. 7. Senate GOP leaders have discussed with the president the possibility of providing Trump with $5 billion in guaranteed money for the wall but spread over two years, according to two Republicans familiar with internal discussions. Trump has not ruled out the idea, according to a Republican senator, but it's unclear whether Democrats will go along with that minor concession. Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise and new GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney — in her first Oval Office meeting since being elected to the Republican leadership — will huddle with Trump to strategize about how to get through the lame-duck session.”

House Republicans surprise Senate with tax bill - Politico: “House Republicans on Monday evening unexpectedly released a 297-page tax bill they hope to move during the lame-duck session of Congress. The legislation would revive a number of expired tax provisions known as ‘extenders,’ address glitches in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and make a range of changes to savings- and retirement-related tax provisions. Other parts of the bill would revamp the IRS, provide new tax breaks for start-up businesses and offer assistance to disaster victims. The measure amounts to House Republicans’ opening bid in negotiations with the Senate. They’ll need Democratic support there to move any changes, and it’s unclear lawmakers will agree to any of the provisions before adjourning for the year. The bill’s unveiling came only hours after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, complained the House GOP had provided little inkling of what exactly they want to do on taxes in the lame duck.”

BLOOMBERG HEADING TO IOWA
Des Moines Register: “Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will visit Iowa next week as he mulls a possible run for president in 2020. Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie confirmed that Bloomberg will host a panel discussion and screening of his new film about climate change, ‘Paris to Pittsburgh.’ The event is Dec. 4 in Des Moines. Bloomberg, who was elected mayor as both a Republican and an independent, announced in October that he had re-registered as a Democrat. The 76-year-old billionaire also funneled more than $100 million into U.S. House races to help boost Democrats during the 2018 midterms. He told the Associated Press earlier this month that he expects to make a decision about whether he will run for president by early 2019.”

O'Rourke changes tune on potential presidential run - Texas Tribune: “Beto O'Rourke, coming off a closer-than-expected race against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is no longer ruling out a 2020 presidential run. During his Senate campaign, the El Paso congressman declared he would ‘not be a candidate for president in 2020’ regardless of the outcome. But on Monday, O'Rourke kept the door open to a White House bid during a town hall in El Paso and admitted his resistance to higher office was no longer as unequivocal. During the town hall, an audience member asked O'Rourke if he was running in 2020. In response, O'Rourke said he is currently focused on spending time with his family and finishing his term in the House, which ends Jan. 3. ‘And then,’ O'Rourke added, ‘Amy and I will think about what we can do next to contribute to the best of our ability to this community.’ Speaking with reporters after the event, O'Rourke acknowledged his answer on 2020 had changed from what it was during the Senate race.”

Cuomo rules out 2020 run - WashEx: “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he isn't running for president in 2020. ‘I am ruling it out. I ran for governor, I have a full plate, I have many projects. I'm going to be here doing the job of governor,’ Cuomo told WNYC's Brian Lehrer in a radio interview Tuesday. ‘I am governor of New York and I have a lot to do.’ Cuomo, whose name has been mentioned frequently as a potential Democratic challenger to President Trump, was re-elected earlier this month to his third term as governor. Cuomo said in August that he planned on serving his full four-year term if re-elected in November, unless ‘God strikes me dead.’ He said Tuesday that has not changed.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Poll: Most Americans believe the country is divided and will become more divided - Monmouth University 

Days before summit Trump says US to move ahead with boost on China tariffs - WSJ

Trump pushes Senate on criminal justice deal - Roll Call

DOJ: California can’t prove 2020 census would harm state, should drop challenge - Fox News

AUDIBLE: PAGING JOHN HINCKLEY 
“…if my name weren’t Trump, if it were John Smith, they would say I’m the greatest president in history and I blow Ronald Reagan away.” – President Trump in an interview for the new book from Trump’s former deputy campaign manager David Bossie.

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THE RECEPTION WAS SO CRISP 
Time: “A Connecticut man who was pulled over for talking on his cell phone while driving continues to maintain that he was actually just eating a McDonald’s hash brown. After Jason Stiber was issued a $300 distracted driving ticket in April when police allegedly mistook his crispy potato snack for a cell phone, he decided to fight the charge in court. ‘I was eating a hash brown and he thought he saw a cell phone near my mouth,’ Stiber said of the incident… But despite the fact that Stiber says phone records show he didn’t make any calls around the time he was ticketed, he lost at trial in August. Stiber also said that he has Bluetooth and therefore has no need to hold his phone up to his face. He’s now scheduled for a retrial on December 7 at state Superior Court. ‘I’m going to trial for justice,’ Stiber said.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I mean, life and consciousness are the two great mysteries. Actually, their substrates are the inanimate. And how do you get from neurons shooting around in the brain to the thought that pops up in your head and mine? There's something deeply mysterious about that. And if you're not struck by the mystery, I think you haven't thought about it.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) in an interview with Frontline on Jan. 29, 2009.   

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.