NEW IN THE MIDDLE EAST — AP at 3:41 a.m.: “RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Saudi Arabia announces that movie theaters will open in the kingdom next year, for the first time in more than 35 years.” … at 4:57 a.m.:“MOSCOW (AP) – Tass says Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived at a Russian air base in Syria.” … at 5:11 a.m.: “DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – Syrian TV: President Bashar Assad met with Vladimir Putin at Hmeimeem base in Syria this morning.”
Happy Monday. The action this week will be primarily behind the scenes. The House and Senate need to make serious progress on a bunch of fronts: they need to continue working out the differences in their tax bills, they need to figure out a deal to boost spending caps and they need to figure out how they’ll fund the government past Dec. 22. President Trump is slated to give a tax speech at the Treasury Department Wednesday, per Morning Money. HAPPENING TOMORROW — Election Day in Alabama.
Story Continued Below
— CASE IN POINT: “The Taxman Cometh: Senate Bill’s Marginal Rates Could Top 100% for Some,” by WSJ’s Rich Rubin: “Some high-income business owners could face marginal tax rates exceeding 100% under the Senate’s tax bill, far beyond the listed rates in the Republican plan. That means a business owner’s next $100 in earnings, under certain circumstances, would require paying more than $100 in additional federal and state taxes. As lawmakers rush to write the final tax bill over the next week, they already are looking at changes to prevent this from happening.” http://on.wsj.com/2AJH6p1
AND THIS… “Precision sacrificed for speed as GOP rushes ahead on taxes,” by WaPo’s Erica Werner: “Republicans are moving their tax plan toward final passage at stunning speed, blowing past Democrats before they’ve had time to fully mobilize against it but leaving the measure vulnerable to the types of expensive problems popping up in their massive and complex plan.
“Questionable special-interest provisions have been stuffed in along the way, out of public view and in some cases literally in the dead of night. Drafting errors by exhausted staff are cropping up and need fixes, which must be tackled by congressional negotiators working to reconcile competing versions of the legislation passed separately by the House and the Senate.” http://wapo.st/2yeGN2V
ONE OF THE DEFINING QUESTIONS FOR 2018 — BLOOMBERG’S SAHIL KAPUR: “GOP’s Taxing Question: Will Middle-Class Folks Notice Their Cut?”: “A funny thing happened when Congress approved a tax cut for the middle class eight years ago: Most Americans didn’t notice.
“The 2009 economic-stimulus bill contained a one-year tax break worth $800 for married couples in 95 percent of working households — a little over $15 a week. A February 2010 poll found that just 12 percent said their taxes had been reduced. More than half, 53 percent, said they saw no change. A remarkable 24 percent thought their taxes had increased.
“‘Virtually nobody believed they got a tax cut,’ said Jared Bernstein, an economist who worked in former President Barack Obama’s White House. He called it a source of frustration at the time. That 2009 tax cut contains warning signs for President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. Their tax plans would deliver about the same level of initial relief to households with incomes between $40,000 and $100,000 — roughly $800 on average — according to data from Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. If those numbers hold, and if history’s any guide, Trump’s working-class voters may not feel the tax cut he has repeatedly promised them.” https://bloom.bg/2js7ijU
SPOTTED: Jared and Ivanka ice skating with their children at Canal Park in Navy Yard on Sunday.
JUST POSTED — NBC’S CAROL LEE and JULIA AINSLEY: “18 crucial days: What did the president know and when did he know it?”: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what transpired inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The questions about what happened between Jan. 26 and Flynn’s firing on Feb. 13 appear to relate to possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump, say two people familiar with Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.
“Multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller’s investigators have asked witnesses, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and others who have worked in the West Wing, to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn.” http://nbcnews.to/2A9ANtL
ALARM BELLS — Republicans are growing increasingly worried about the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th district. Former Republican Rep. Tim Murphy resigned after it became public that he suggested his mistress have an abortion. D.C. Republicans nominated Rick Saccone — a state lawmaker — to run, and Democrats have tapped Conor Lamb — a 34-year-old former federal prosecutor who was in the Marines. The district is solidly Republican, but Republicans watching the race take shape are worried they’ll have to spend money to boost Saccone. The election is in March, and it will certainly be seen as a harbinger for the midterms.
ALSO COMING UP — Vice President Mike Pence is going to the Middle East later this month. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he won’t meet with Pence. Alyssa Farah, Pence’s press secretary, said the decision is “unfortunate.” The full statement http://bit.ly/2nPskKv
— “Palestinian stabs Israeli in Jerusalem; anti-Trump protest flares in Beirut,” by Reuters’ Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem: “A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli security guard at Jerusalem’s main bus station on Sunday, police said, and violence flared near the U.S. Embassy in Beirut over U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Four days of street protests in the Palestinian territories over Trump’s announcement on Wednesday have largely died down, but his overturning of long-standing U.S. policy on Jerusalem — a city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians — drew more Arab warnings of potential damage to prospects for Middle East peace.” http://reut.rs/2kPR708
DARREN SAMUELSOHN — “As Russia probes progress, one name is missing: Bannon’s”: “As special Russia counsel Robert Mueller wraps up interviews with senior current and former White House staff, one name has been conspicuously absent from public chatter surrounding the probe: Steve Bannon. President Donald Trump’s former White House chief strategist and campaign chief executive played critical roles in episodes that have become central to Mueller’s probe as well as to multiple Hill investigations. …
“Yet Bannon hasn’t faced anywhere near the degree of public scrutiny in connection to the probe as others in Trump’s inner circle, including son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner – who was recently interviewed by Mueller’s team – or Donald Trump Jr., who was interviewed on Capitol Hill last week about his own Russian connections. People close to Bannon, who left the White House in August and returned to his former perch as head of Breitbart News, say he’s told them he doesn’t have a lawyer and isn’t worried about potential exposure. But others say it’s inevitable he’ll be called in as a witness in the ongoing investigations. He has not been publicly accused of any wrongdoing or named as a target of the investigations.” http://politi.co/2BTDAYz
— “Manafort Pal Still Profiting From Mostly Silent Pro-Trump Group,” by Bloomberg’s John McCormick and Bill Allison: “One of the biggest super political action committees backing Donald Trump’s campaign has done little since the election other than pay a sizable salary to its top official, a longtime friend and business associate of the president’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Laurance Gay, the godfather to one of Manafort’s daughters, has been paid about $830,000 since the creation of Rebuilding American Now in June 2016. That’s far more than the bosses of other pro-Trump groups, including those that have actively promoted the president’s agenda.” https://bloom.bg/2nQHtey
****** A message from the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates: UAE airlines bought $42 billion in US-made commercial aircraft at the 2017 Dubai Airshow. That’s economic growth and jobs for Americans. The UAE-US commercial aviation relationship is a win-win deal. http://politi.co/2AtLDMj ******
— NOT JUST GETTING COFFEE: “For Trump adviser at center of Russia probe, a rapid rise and dramatic fall in his ancestral land,” by WaPo’s Griff Witte in Athens: “This October, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his extensive efforts to connect Trump’s presidential campaign with senior Russian officials. Trump has since dismissed Papadopoulos as a ‘low level volunteer.’ But in his ancestral homeland, the man whom Trump had named in March 2016 as one of five top foreign policy advisers and an ‘excellent guy’ was regarded as a critical interlocutor, first to the Trump campaign and later to the incoming Trump White House.
“He may have carried on like ‘a second-rate actor in a political thriller,’ as one acquaintance described his manner. But when he bragged that he had helped Trump win the presidency, many here believed it. Before his spectacular fall, he was lavishly wined and dined by local business kingpins, celebrated in official tweets and rewarded with the perks — judge in an island beauty contest — of a favorite Greek son.
“He also received access to officials at the highest levels of the Greek government, many of whom shared links to Russia and sympathies that would be unusual in other Western capitals. Kammenos, in particular, stood out both for his pro-Russian views and his determination to forge a bond with the young Trump adviser.” http://wapo.st/2BTAtA3
THE LATEST FROM ALABAMA — “Did Roy Moore spend the final weekend of the campaign in Philly?” by Alex Isenstadt and Gabe Debenedetti in Mobile, Alabama: “In the last weekend of Alabama’s wild special Senate election, Doug Jones barnstormed the state with A-list Democrats in a bid to turn out black voters he desperately needs to win in the deep-red state. Republican Roy Moore disappeared. Confronting accusations that he harassed or molested teenage girls, Moore hasn’t held a public event since Tuesday, a decision that has perplexed some Republicans given the closeness of the race.
“Two Republicans briefed on Moore’s schedule before this weekend said he intended to spend Saturday in Philadelphia at the Army-Navy football game — a long-planned trip that the West Point grad had insisted he would still take this year despite the election. One of those Republicans, who expressed concern about Moore’s absence, said that the planned trip was discussed with Moore’s campaign within the last few weeks and the candidate determined to go — case closed.
“Moore’s campaign declined repeated requests to discuss his whereabouts and refused to say whether he had in fact gone to Philadelphia. His absence has baffled local and out of town reporters, some of whom staked out Moore’s church on Sunday morning only to be informed that he wouldn’t be attending.” http://politi.co/2AUsKEk
— @mollycathwalsh, whose Twitter bio reads: “The University of Alabama // The Tuscaloosa News & Tide Sports Intern”: “I met Roy Moore a few months ago for an interview, he grabbed my hand & pulled me in & said ‘aren’t you a pretty little thing’ – I was 20.”
— AL.COM (large newspaper chain) editorial: “Our view: Conservatives should consider Senator Shelby’s example”: “In the past few weeks, we’ve heard story after story of conservative Alabamians frustrated and confused about their choice, worried about how to do the right thing. That worry isn’t misplaced – it is a choice that matters. We urge you not to be fooled into believing this is a matter of ‘liberal’ vs. ‘conservative.’ If you care about the future of this state, this election is for you. If you are (or love) a woman, this election is for you. If you are looking for a job, if you run a business, if you worry about the future of your children, this election is for you. …
“Moore might dismiss Shelby as part of the ‘Washington establishment’ …. But 64 percent of Alabama voters reelected Shelby a year ago. He has been Alabama’s senator since 1986. He has served the state with dignity and he has never embarrassed us. His judgment of Moore is convincing. For a state’s senior senator to not support his party’s nominee for the other seat is almost unheard of. Historians could find just one example: from 1990, when Louisiana’s Republican nominee was David Duke, a former KKK leader. Alabamians should think hard about how effective Moore can be as junior senator, with such a fissure between him and Shelby, let alone other Republicans.” http://bit.ly/2AJ3Qpl
THE BANNON/MOORE NEXUS — JOSH GREEN in Bloomberg, “How Steve Bannon Rescued Roy Moore’s Campaign Against All Odds”: “‘He’s the counter to the ‘fake news’ — he’s been a stalwart,’ says Roy Moore. ‘It’s helped us a lot. He’s the master strategist.’ … Bannon was most alarmed by [Sean] Hannity’s ultimatum to Moore and moved to intervene, according to three people familiar with his actions. Along with Breitbart’s Washington editor, Matthew Boyle, he besieged the Fox News host with phone calls and texts. Bannon … asked the Fox host not to call on Moore to withdraw and instead to let Alabama voters decide, said people familiar with Bannon’s activities. One of the people said Hannity was skeptical, but willing to listen. The person said Hannity texted Boyle, ‘You pull this off it’s a f—ing miracle.’” https://bloom.bg/2A9hLno
SUCCESS — @KFILE: “I was curious about the WaPo anecdote about @GOPChairwoman dropping her middle name at Trump’s request. Check out her Twitter name in December vs. May. ‘Romney’ was dropped.” With screenshots http://bit.ly/2B1EHYU
TRUMP’S MONDAY — The president is having lunch with VP Mike Pence and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. He will participate in the presentation of the Friends of Zion award. He will also meet with House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster before signing a space policy directive. Trump will also participate in the swearing in ceremony for Jamie McCourt to be the next Ambassador to France and Monaco.
FIRST LOOK — The University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics is announcing six fellows for the winter quarter: McKay Coppins, author and staff writer at The Atlantic … Shomik Dutta and Betsy Hoover, the co-founders of Higher Ground Labs … Kirsten Lodal, CEO and co-founder of anti-poverty group LIFT … Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core … Jay Roach, director and producer of the films “All The Way,” “Game Change,” and “Recount.” http://politi.co/2ydV3bT
SUSAN GLASSER: “Ex-Spy Chief: Russia’s Election Hacking Was An ‘Intelligence Failure’”: “The politics of spying in America has never been more intense. President Trump has taken to publicly bashing his intelligence agencies and continues, a full year later, to question their conclusion that Russia intervened in the 2016 U.S. election on his behalf. For their part, an array of career spooks have come out of the shadows where they spent their careers to challenge the commander-in-chief in once unthinkably public terms.
“Michael Morell is one of the career types who’s broken with decades of practice to confront Trump. A veteran of nearly three decades in the CIA, Morell rose from within the ranks to become the agency’s longtime deputy director, twice serving as its acting leader before retiring during President Barack Obama’s second term. In the summer of 2016, he broke with tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton over Trump, and he has continued to sound the alarm ever since.
“But in a revealingly self-critical and at times surprising interview for this week’s Global POLITICO, Morell acknowledges that he and other spy-world critics of the president failed to fully ‘think through’ the negative backlash generated by their going political. ‘There was a significant downside,’ Morell said in the interview.” http://politi.co/2C2eurr … Listen to the full podcast http://apple.co/2kAoZfH
WHAT TRUMP DOESN’T MUCH CARE ABOUT — NYT: “Mohammad Javad Zarif: Europe Must Work With Iran” http://nyti.ms/2yZZ5IB
NEW IN FOGGY BOTTOM — “White House Names Trump Loyalist to Iran Policy Job at State Department: The Trump administration’s pick for the Iran post will likely back a more aggressive stance,” by Foreign Policy’s Robbie Gramer and Dan de Luce: “Andrew L. Peek, a former captain in the U.S. Army Reserve and member of the president’s State Department transition team, will become the new deputy assistant secretary of state covering Iran and Iraq, according to three State Department officials familiar with the matter.
“Peek, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, has no prior diplomatic experience and has not earned a reputation as an established expert on Iran or Iraq but has years of experience in military intelligence and in the Senate, where he served Republican senators on foreign-policy issues.” http://atfp.co/2yeHf0J
NEXT UP — “How Trump will target the federal safety net,” by Andrew Restuccia, Sarah Ferris and Helena Bottemiller Evich: “The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are hoping to make the most sweeping changes to federal safety net programs in a generation, using legislation and executive actions to target recipients of food stamps, Medicaid and housing benefits. The White House is quietly preparing a sweeping executive order that would mandate a top-to-bottom review of the federal programs on which millions of poor Americans rely. And GOP lawmakers are in the early stages of crafting legislation that could make it more difficult to qualify for those programs. … The White House’s leading advocate for a welfare overhaul, Domestic Policy Council Deputy Director Paul Winfree, is slated to leave the administration on Friday, according to a person familiar with the move.” http://politi.co/2B1jE8W
— “U.S. Sets January Push for $1 Trillion Infrastructure Revamp,” by WSJ’s Ted Mann: “The White House is preparing to roll out a long-delayed infrastructure rebuilding plan in January, as President Donald Trump’s advisers bet that voters want a $1 trillion road-and-bridge-building plan—even though it is opposed by some lawmakers. Mr. Trump’s advisers are putting finishing touches on a plan to direct federal spending of $200 billion or more — funds it would propose to offset with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget — to leverage hundreds of billions more from local governments and private investors to pay for road, rail, water and utility upgrades.” http://on.wsj.com/2A8p0vN
****** A message from the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates: Boeing is the preferred supplier for UAE commercial aviation requirements. Over the past 10 years, UAE customers have ordered $150 billion in Boeing planes, supporting 781,000 jobs in the US and injecting billions of dollars into the US economy. In 2016, the US had a $19 billion trade surplus with the UAE, America’s third largest trade surplus globally. http://politi.co/2AtLDMj ******
YEAR ONE — “Trump Takes Credit for Killing Hundreds of Regulations That Were Already Dead,” by Bloomberg’s Alan Levin and Jesse Hamilton: “As the Trump administration nears its one-year mark, White House officials are touting cuts to regulations as one of their top achievements. ‘In the history of our country, no president, during their entire term, has cut more regulations than we’ve cut,’ President Donald Trump said last month. … But government records—and in some cases the agencies carrying out Trump’s policies—tell a very different story. For one thing, only a handful of regulations have actually been taken off the books. …
“The White House says it has killed or stalled 860 pending regulations. It’s done this by withdrawing 469, listing another 109 as inactive and relegating 282 to ‘long term.’ A Bloomberg News review has found even those claims are exaggerated. Hundreds of the pending regulations had been effectively shelved before Trump took office. Others listed as withdrawn are actually still being developed by federal agencies. Still more were moot because the actions sought in a pending rule were already in effect.” https://bloom.bg/2yet0ZR
YIKES — “Microbes by the ton: Officials see weapons threat as North Korea gains biotech expertise,” by WaPo’s Joby Warrick: “North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons program, from factories that can produce microbes by the ton, to laboratories specializing in genetic modification, according to U.S. and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts. Meanwhile, leader Kim Jong Un’s government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world. The gains have alarmed U.S. analysts, who say North Korea … could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so.” http://wapo.st/2ydZ6oQ
PLAYBOOK HOLIDAY PARTY GUIDE: Monday: AEI has its annual holiday reception at its HQ on Massachusetts Avenue. … Tuesday: MediaDC has its holiday party at Teddy and the Bully bar. … Google has its “Big Moments of 2017” party on the rooftop of the W Hotel … Musicians On Call, the Recording Industry Association of America and Spotify are hosting their holiday charity benefit featuring Fifth Harmony at the 9:30 Club. … UnitedHealth Group is hosting a holiday reception at its new “D.C. Innovation Center.” …
… Wednesday: America Rising and Definers have their holiday party at AJAX. … Locust Street Group have their holiday party at the Showroom. … The Entertainment Software Association holds their holiday party at the Rock and Roll Hotel. … Thursday: The Senate Press Secretaries Association and National Confectioners Association have a “cocktails and candy canes” party at Acqua Al 2. … The National Association of Manufacturers have a party at their HQ.
HOLIDAY PARTY CIRCUIT — SPOTTED at Gloria Dittus’ annual holiday party last night at her house: David Leiter (wearing reindeer antlers), Laura Lovelace, Mary Kathryn and Michael Steel, Bill Miller, James Sonne, Christopher Gindlesperger, Carol Danko, Kenny Day, Madeleine O’Connor, Rebecca and Matt Haller, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Leslie Sarasin, Lisa Nelson, Heather Podesta, Jay Timmons, Stewart Verdery, Ken Cole, Jay Vroom, Joe Crowley, Amy Walter and Margaret Carlson.
— Home Depot’s Kent Knutson and GE’s Karen Knutson hosted their annual Christmas party at their home Saturday night “complete with two Scottish bartenders in kilts pouring single malt scotch and the whole Knutson clan wearing matching red plaid.” SPOTTED: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and husband Verne Martell, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Heather Podesta and Steve Kessler, Catherine and Wayne Reynolds, Ziad Ojakli, Gloria Dittus, Paul Tetreault, Lois Romano, Josh Eastright, Jodi Bond, Mark Neuman, former Maryland AG Doug Gansler, Sara Fagen, Shannon Finley, Juleanna Glover, John Rogers, Jay Timmons, Earl Comstock, Nancy Dorn, Will Ris, HP Goldfield, Katy Cannon.
— SPOTTED at Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf’s annual holiday party this weekend: Tom Nides, Eric Fanning and Ben Masri-Cohen, Joe Solmonese, Adrienne Elrod, Betsy Barrett, Eric Schultz, Jeremy Peters, Jeff Marootian, Michael LaRosa, Stuart Spencer, Erin McPike, Doug Thornell, Joe Wall, Michael Sozan.
TRANSITIONS — Kris Perry will become president of the Save the Children Action Network. Mark Shriver will become CEO.
BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Alex Koppelman, senior editor for media at CNN
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: John Feehery, partner at EFB Advocacy, is 54. How he got his start in politics: “I started as an intern with House Minority Leader Bob Michel. Working for Bob and his team (Ray LaHood, Bill Pitts, Bill Gavin etc.) was the most formative political experience of my life. My internship shortly became a full-time job and I would eventually write speeches for Bob and for a group of members dubbed the Theme Team. He was a great leader and a wonderful human being and he quickly became a role model for me.” Read his Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2C23dr3
BIRTHDAYS: former Secretary of State John Kerry is 74 … Max Baucus, former U.S. ambassador to China and senator from Montana, is 76 … Kara Swisher … Claudia Slacik … Politico’s Marianne LeVine … Joe Greeley, director of production at Advoc8 … Perry Rosen … Josh Brown, president at DP Strategies Group and partner at Dark Horse Strategy (hat tip: Jeremy Iloulian) … Washington Examiner’s Kelly Cohen … Benton Strong is 31 … Elizabeth Spiers … Gideon Resnick of The Daily Beast … Bruce Thomas … Rebecca Brocato … Jessica Seale, digital director for Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (h/t Becca Glover) … Emily Buchanan, executive director at SBA List … Seymour Topping is 96 … WaPo’s Elizabeth Dwoskin …
… Annabelle Timsit, editorial fellow at the Atlantic … Tyler Daniel, Rep. Steve Scalise’s political director … Allison Fleming … Edelman’s Kirstie Fleger … Gabe Amo … Phillip Escoriaza … Gordon Peterson … Tim McClellan … Erika Dimmler … Peter True, press secretary for Senate Energy Dems … Rita Moreno … J. Michael Allen … Julie Mason, host of SiriusXM’s “Press Pool” … Miyamoto Musashi … Josh Morton of Jericho Pix … Steve Gillon … Chris Stenrud … Max Schindler … Brian Reich is 4-0 … Devon Lucie … Mark Ashworth is 58 … Fran Boyd … Robert Wascher … Benjamin Tribbett is 38 … Bob Corn … Ashley Spillane … Pam Womack … Seth Johnson (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)
****** A message from the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates: UAE airlines have received or have on order more than 800 Boeing aircraft. Emirates is the world’s largest operator of Boeing 777s and has 40 Boeing 787-10s currently on order. Flydubai operates an all-Boeing fleet of planes and has a total of 361 Boeing 737s on order. Etihad operates 24 Boeing 777s with 25 more on order, and has an additional $8.7 billion order for Boeing 787-10s. UAE airlines now serve 11 US gateway cities from Dubai and Abu Dhabi with more than 250 weekly nonstop flights. http://politi.co/2AtLDMj ******
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