**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Pelosi, Franken try to put the brakes on - Mulvaney freezes out rival as battle heads to court - Trump wants changes to tax plan - Flynn’s lawyers met with special counsel team - Great way to avoid a repeat invitation
PELOSI, FRANKEN TRY TO PUT THE BRAKES ON
Nancy Pelosi has a very clear message for women who accuse powerful men of sexual misconduct: Watch who you’re messing with.
In an interview that played like a car compacter crushing a septic truck, the ranking Democrat in Washington explained that not all perpetrators are created equal and that accusers should be closely scrutinized.
Pelosi said that the women who leveled charges against “icon” Rep. John Conyers, “They have not really come forward.”
But, of course, they did. That’s why we know stories about him having “repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sex acts, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public.”
And then, unlike Conyers, they have remained bound by the secrecy rules that keep such unpleasantries from adhering to any of the iconographies of esteemed members. Conyers is free to dispute the claims – which he settled – but they are bound to stay silent.
Pelosi using that silence against them is the kind of cruelty that some Democrats say they now regret in the matter of former President Bill Clinton’s accusers. They should have been believed and he should have resigned, it is now fashionable to say in some circles on the left.
The passivity here, though, is important.
Others should have believed Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey and the then-president should have resigned for his misdeeds. What they’re not saying, though, is that Senate Democrats should have voted to expel him from office 18 years ago when given the chance.
Pelosi knows that difference between platitudes and the cold steel of action. Say nice things about equality, but be ruthless in defending your party and your own grip on power.
Pelosi’s message wasn’t to 88-year-old Conyers who, having surrendered his plum committee post is presumably hoping to retire at the end of this term, but to all of the other old men in her caucus who now daily wonder when their past misdeeds will be brought to light.
This debacle opens wider the chance for an insurgent like Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., to end her improbably long tenure as Democratic leader. Faced with the choice of allowing the deluge or cynically holding power by protecting the scoundrels, Pelosi sounded squarely on team scoundrel Sunday.
And then there’s Sen. Al Franken, who wants you to know that he is terribly embarrassed about all of the allegations against him, but don’t worry, he’ll soldier on anyway.
Pressed on the fact that he had previously held that “women should be believed,” Franken modified his stance to say that female accusers should be “respected” – i.e. patronized and then respectfully disbelieved.
In Franken’s version, three different women mistook him accidentally making contact with their backsides in “crowded chaotic situations,” for gripping, groping or squeezing their butt cheeks.
This note has no first-hand experience with the performances of feminist choirs at the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus, but one supposes that the chaos that Franken describes would not have been so intense as to prevent a competent adult from distinguishing a graze from a grab.
Nevertheless, he’s persisting.
It is impossible to say what it is that Franken thinks he provides Minnesotans that another Democratic Senator appointed and subsequently elected as his replacement could not. He’s sponsored no successful major legislation and has no bipartisan bona fides – the kind of senator who could be mostly replaced by a drinking bird poised over the appropriate vote button.
But whatever that essential quality Franken believes he brings to the Senate, he believes it is worth more than the damage he’s doing to his party and to the effort to clean up Congress.
This all plays very nicely into the hands of the growing number of defenders of Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, the Casanova of the food court.
As we warned, the argument in favor of Moore has been steadily shifting away from “if true” to “so what.” Like jurors in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the issue for some Republicans isn’t whether he did it or not, but whether they could strike a blow against a system they consider fundamentally corrupt.
While it may seem illogical that Republicans would use Pelosi, whom they revile, as a moral measure, any level of evident imbecility can be excused on the grounds that the future of the republic will be determined by which individual fills a Senate seat from Alabama or Minnesota or a House seat from Detroit.
THE RULEBOOK: TARIFF-IC
“There are persons who imagine that they can never be carried to too great a length; since the higher they are, the more it is alleged they will tend to discourage an extravagant consumption, to produce a favorable balance of trade, and to promote domestic manufactures.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 35
TIME OUT: SAY WHAT?
The way we use language shapes the way we think. So what will become of our thinking as the spoken word – audio and video – supplants the written word in communication? Nautilus: “Modern languages with a long literary tradition show a stark split between their written and spoken styles across many contexts. In current English, writing uses more varied vocabulary than conversational speech, and it uses rarer and longer words much more often. Certain structures (such as passive sentences, prepositional phrases, and relative clauses) appear more often in written than spoken language. Writers generally elaborate their ideas more explicitly through syntax whereas speakers leave more material implicit. And written language stacks clauses inside each other to a greater depth than spoken language. This is one of the most striking differences between speech and text; sentences like the opening line of the Declaration of Independence simply do not occur in conversation.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump net job-approval rating: -16.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 3 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.]
MULVANEY FREEZES OUT RIVAL AS BATTLE HEADS TO COURT
Fox News: “President Trump’s pick to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau seized the reins of the agency Monday morning amid a heated battle over who's in charge, firing off a memo instructing staff to disregard directives from a rival official. That official, Leandra English, was named acting director by the outgoing Obama-appointed head of the bureau. She is currently suing the White House over Trump's decision to instead install his budget office boss, Mick Mulvaney, to the post. As the case headed to court, both Mulvaney and English reported to work at the CFPB. But Mulvaney sought to leave no doubt who's in charge. ‘[I]t has come to my attention that Ms. English has reached out to many of you this morning via email in an attempt to exercise certain duties of the Acting Director. This is unfortunate but, in the atmosphere of the day, probably not unexpected,’ he wrote.
The consumer bureau supports Trump’s argument - Politico: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s top lawyer sided with the Justice Department over President Donald Trump’s appointment of Mick Mulvaney to lead the CFPB as a leadership battle over the controversial watchdog agency escalated. In a memorandum obtained by POLITICO, CFPB general counsel Mary McLeod said Trump had the legal authority to name an acting director to the bureau under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. ‘It is my legal opinion that the president possesses the authority to designate an acting director for the bureau,’ McLeod wrote in the Nov. 25 memo to the CFPB leadership team. ‘I advise all bureau personnel to act consistently with the understanding that Director Mulvaney is the acting director of the CFPB.’”
Noah Feldman: ‘The Constitution Is on Trump’s Side in CFPB Fight’ - Bloomberg: “Suits against President Donald Trump for abuse of executive power are an important tool for preserving the republic. But the newly filed suit … is not helping the cause. It’s based on a highly technical statutory provision, not the Constitution… The suit is a partisan maneuver that will detract from the seriousness of the effort to keep executive power in check where it matters. … Technically, Cordray was making English into the deputy director, which was within his power. And technically, that would put English into a role that would let her serve as acting director. But English had never held the position of deputy director before Cordray’s last day in office. Cordray was exploiting a loophole. He was intentionally trying to create a legal crisis by appointing English, aiming to extend his legacy or to make Trump fire English to get his own person into office.”
TRUMP WANTS CHANGES TO TAX PLAN
The Hill: “President Trump on Monday appeared to call for changes to the Republican tax plan even as he claimed it has ‘great support.’ Trump tweeted that he wants ‘just a few changes’ that would help ‘the middle class and job producers,’ as well as small businesses that are taxed through the code for individuals. ‘The Tax Cut Bill is coming along very well, great support,’ the president wrote. ‘With just a few changes, some mathematical, the middle class and job producers can get even more in actual dollars and savings and the pass through provision becomes simpler and really works well!’ The specific changes Trump wants, however, are unclear. He tweeted just hours before he’s expected to meet at the White House with top Republican tax writers in the Senate. GOP leaders are aiming to advance the tax bill in the upper chamber this week in a race to get a bill on Trump’s desk by year’s end.”
CBO report shows Senate tax bill would add $1.4 trillion to deficits - WashEx: “Congress’ official budget office said Sunday an analysis of how the Senate Republican tax bill would affect the American economy isn’t available yet, even as the GOP hopes to vote on the bill this week. The Congressional Budget Office published an analysis of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act finding it would add roughly $1.4 trillion to federal deficits over a decade, in line with earlier estimates of the bill’s cost produced as it moved through committee earlier this month. A macroeconomic score of the bill would provide a benchmark for a key claim of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans — that the tax overhaul will partly or wholly pay for itself by stoking faster economic growth. Some Senate Republicans, such as Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, have said they will not vote for the bill unless credible analysis suggests it won’t add to the deficit, once the possibility of faster economic growth is taken into account.”
Sen. Rand Paul: ‘Here’s why I plan to vote for the Senate tax bill (and my colleagues should step up)’ - Fox News: “One of the fundamental problems in Washington is the attitude that the money that people make belongs to the government. That’s why you hear arguments about how much a tax cut “costs,” or big government advocates disingenuously and breathlessly complaining about the people who pay taxes getting a tax cut. I believe it is the other way around. Our default position should be that the money you earn belongs to you, and government has to justify why it should take it from you. Currently, there are at least 97 different federal taxes. The tax code that instructs people how they must hand over their hard-earned money to government spans some 74,000-plus pages. This is absurd, and so is the fact that government will collect over $3 trillion from taxpayers next year but still is not satisfied.”
Dem group targets Murkowski, Capito with tax ads - Politico: “Not One Penny, a coalition of Democratic groups fighting the GOP plan for tax reform, is out with new television ads pressuring Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to vote against the plan. The ad aimed at Capito notes the plan ‘cuts access to affordable health care, including coverage for opioid addiction treatment,’ while the ad encouraging voters to call Murkowski says the ‘congressional Republican tax plan delivers tax breaks to billionaires, millionaires and wealthy corporations.’ The ads are part of a seven-figure national ad buy, which also includes spots aimed at Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller. Watch the ads here and here.”
Churches ready to get more political - NYT: “For years, a coalition of well-funded groups on the religious right have waged an uphill battle to repeal a 1954 law that bans churches and other nonprofit groups from engaging in political activity. Now, those groups are edging toward a once-improbable victory as Republican lawmakers, with the enthusiastic backing of President Trump, prepare to rewrite large swaths of the United States tax code as part of the $1.5 trillion tax package moving through Congress. Among the changes in the tax bill that passed the House this month is a provision to roll back the 1954 ban, a move that is championed by the religious right, but opposed by thousands of religious and nonprofit leaders, who warn that it could blur the line between charity and politics.”
Senate’s Defense bill needs a budget deal - Roll Call: “The Senate Appropriations Committee’s decision to release the four remaining fiscal 2018 spending bills last week — including a cap-busting defense measure — underscores the urgency to get a deal on the bigger picture. … The Senate panel’s defense spending measure for fiscal 2018 would allocate $650.7 billion, according to a committee statement. That total would include three major categories: $581.3 billion for core Pentagon and intelligence programs, $64.9 billion for spending labeled as relating to overseas wars, and $4.5 billion in additional funds for missile defense programs. The draft spending blueprint would allocate nearly $56 billion more than the committee had predicted in July, and it is nearly $70 billion above the subcommittee’s share of the total amount for defense-related programs allowed under current law.”
Did we mention Congress has a deadline quickly approaching? - WaPo: “Congress will return to Washington this week to confront a series of highly charged partisan issues as a deadline for extending government funding approaches, raising the specter of a December government shutdown. Leaders of both parties have publicly played down the possibility of a showdown next month. Funding expires on Dec. 8, and both sides have floated the possibility of a short-term stopgap to push negotiations until just before Christmas. ‘There shouldn’t be any discussion about shutting down the government. We can make this thing work. We just need to get people at the table, negotiate it,’ [said] Sen. John Thune…”
FLYNN’S LAWYERS MET WITH SPECIAL COUNSEL TEAM
ABC News: “The lawyer for President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn met Monday morning with members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team… President Trump’s legal team confirmed late last week that Flynn’s attorney Robert Kelner alerted them that he could no longer engage in privileged discussions about defense strategy in the case, a sign Flynn is preparing to negotiate with prosecutors over a deal that could include Flynn’s testimony against the President or senior White House officials. That process would typically include a series of off-the-record discussions in which prosecutors lay out in detail for Flynn and his lawyers the fruits of their investigation into his activities. Prosecutors would also provide Flynn an opportunity to offer what’s called a ‘proffer,’ detailing what information, if any, he has that could implicate others in wrongdoing.”
Russia probe will likely continue into 2018 - AP: “Some Republicans are hoping lawmakers will soon wrap up investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election that have dragged on for most of the year. But with new details in the probe emerging almost daily, that seems unlikely. Three congressional committees are investigating Russian interference and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign was in any way involved. The panels have obtained thousands of pages of documents from Trump’s campaign and other officials, and have done dozens of interviews. The probes are separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mueller can prosecute for criminal activity, while Congress can only lay out findings, publicize any perceived wrongdoing and pass legislation to try to keep problems from happening again. If any committee finds evidence of criminal activity, it must refer the matter to Mueller. All three committees have focused on a June 2016 meeting that Trump campaign officials held in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer and others.”
White House ethics lawyer calls it quits - Politico: “After almost a year in the White House counsel’s office tackling a raft of ethics and financial disclosure issues, James Schultz resigned last week and is returning to private practice at the Philadelphia-based law firm where he previously worked, Cozen O’Connor. Schultz insists his exit is unrelated to any of those myriad controversies, but simply triggered by a desire to get back to private law work and back to Philadelphia, where his family has remained. ‘That was something Don [McGahn, the White House counsel] and I discussed very early on,’ Schultz told POLITICO on Sunday. ‘I was interested in continuing with private practice and saw this as a tremendous opportunity to go serve and get things up and running and the plan was to move on about this time. ... These are typically year-to-about-18-months-type positions.’”
REPORT: TRUMP WON’T CAMPAIGN FOR MOORE
AP: “A White House official says President Donald Trump will not campaign for Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore before the Dec. 12 special election. The official was not authorized to discuss the president’s plans publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on Monday on condition of anonymity. The official says Trump will not travel to Alabama on Moore’s behalf, despite his public statements doubting the women accusing Moore of sexual assault. The president held the door open to campaigning for Moore last week, when he all but endorsed Moore’s candidacy and attacked his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. Trump has declined to follow the path of other mainstream Republican leaders, who have called on Moore to step aside. Republican lawmakers are considering expelling Moore should he win the seat.”
Moore will face some fresh competition - Daily Beast: “When retired Marine Col. Lee Busby read it was too late for a write-in candidate for the Alabama senate race, he said, ‘Hold my beer, we will just see about that.’ … ‘I have no idea if the allegations against him true or not, but I don’t see anything within his experience as a judge that qualifies him for the job.’ Busby said his state needs a choice other than Moore or Democrat Doug Jones. ‘Alabama is not happy with the two choices we have down here. They are not appealing.’ Busby said he spent 31 years in the Marine Corps and on his last tour of duty was vice chief of staff to then-Gen. John Kelly, who is now White House chief of staff. Since retiring, Busby has been the CEO of his own business and worked as a defense consultant and investment banker.”
Bannon aims at both Mississippi GOP senators - NBC News: “In regular phone calls over the past several months, [Steve Bannon] has urged state Sen. Chris McDaniel to challenge Sen. Roger Wicker in a primary next year, and he also wants Gov. Phil Bryant to send himself to Washington if Sen. Thad Cochran, who is 79 and in poor health, retires before his term ends in 2020, according to people familiar with Bannon’s plans. ‘We conservatives in the state, we’re going to go after both of those seats — one way or the other,’ McDaniel told NBC News. The prospect of both Senate seats changing hands — and moving from establishment side of the GOP to the Tea Party column — makes Mississippi a key battlefield in the intensifying Republican civil war. For Bannon, who is recruiting a small army of ‘populist nationalist’ congressional candidates, it’s a chance to strike one or two blows against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell…”
Congress scrambles to secure 2018 contests - Politico: “Lawmakers are scrambling to push something — anything — through Congress that would help secure the nation’s voting systems ahead of the 2018 elections. But it might already be too late for some critical targets. By this point during the 2016 election cycle, Russian hackers had already been in the Democratic National Committee’s networks for at least three months.”
Washington feeling the pressure to keep up with regulatory decisions - Axios
Residents of Rep. Joe Barton’s hometown grossed out by nude photo - Ft. Worth Star-Telegram
Incoming DGA Chairman Inslee may have 2020 ambitions - National Journal
Bernie looks to shore up weak spots ahead of potential presidential run - Politico
AUDIBLE: BLURB THAT
“What’s the f---ing point? Keep the fight up? History will judge that campaign, and it’s always a period of time before they do. You’ve got to move on. This is Hillary’s problem right now: She doesn’t have anything to do.” – Sen. John McCain talking to Esquire about Hillary Clinton’s rushed campaign postmortem book.
Share your color commentary: Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
GREAT WAY TO AVOID A REPEAT INVITATION
UPI: “A college student wore a sandwich board-style FAQ to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner in Georgia so he could avoid answering clichéd questions. Robert Clarke, an Ohio State University student, tweeted a photo of the sandwich board he wore to his family’s Thanksgiving dinner in Marietta. The sign contained some common questions students typically receive about college life, including his major – ‘Athletic Training’ -- and whether he has a girlfriend – ‘No, I am allergic. I am trying to maintain my GPA.’ Clarke said the board allowed him to silently answer the questions of relatives by simply pointing to the answer. ‘I said nothing to whoever would ask a question and simply pointed to the question on the poster which was asked,’ Clarke tweeted.”
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.