REUTERS/GAZA: “Israeli strikes kill two Gaza gunmen, but anti-Trump protests subside”: “Israeli air strikes in Gaza killed two Palestinian gunmen on Saturday after rockets were fired from the enclave, in violence that erupted over President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

— EGYPT’S Coptic pope and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas say they will not meet with Vice President Mike Pence on his upcoming trip to the region. AFP story from this morning

Story Continued Below

Good Saturday morning. The winter’s first snow is beginning to fall in northwest Washington.

BANNER HEADLINE — PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL: “YOU WILL NEVER BE IGNORED AGAIN … Trump: Vote for Roy Moore in Alabama special election”

OBAMA SPEAKS!, via CNN’s Miranda Green: “‘You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we’ve seen societies where that happens,’ Obama said at the Economic Club of Chicago on Tuesday, according to video of the event. ‘Now, presume there was a ballroom here in Vienna in the late 1920s or ‘30s that looked and seemed as if it, filled with the music and art and literature that was emerging, would continue into perpetuity. And then 60 million people died. An entire world was plunged into chaos,’ Obama said. ‘So you got to pay attention — and vote.’”

**SUBSCRIBE to Playbook:

BUZZFEED’S JOHN HUDSON: “How Secret Talks With Russia to Prevent Election Meddling Collapsed”: “The Trump administration has rejected a sweeping Russian proposal seeking a mutual ban on foreign political interference, three senior U.S. administration officials tell BuzzFeed News. … Putin dispatched Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Washington for a July 17 meeting with Under Secretary Tom Shannon, the No. 3 official at the State Department. … [T]hree U.S. administration officials, including one inside the meeting, said Ryabkov handed over a document containing a bold proposal: A sweeping noninterference agreement between Moscow and Washington that would prohibit both governments from meddling in the other’s domestic politics.

“After examining the proposal, which has not previously been reported, U.S. officials told Moscow there would be no deal. ‘We said “thank you very much but now is not the time for this,”’ said a senior State Department official. … The decision to walk away from the offer could prove fateful. Signs of Russian meddling in foreign elections continue to flourish … The US official described the Russian proposal in historic terms, likening it to the 1933 accord between President Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov that ended 16 years of American nonrecognition of the Soviet Union in exchange for a pledge not to interfere in US politics.”

BOMBSHELLS — AP’s JULIET LINDERMAN: “Ex-aide: Rep. Franks offered $5 million to carry his child”: “The former staffer said the Arizona congressman asked at least four times if she’d be willing to act as a surrogate in exchange for money. Franks, in his statement announcing his resignation, said he and his wife, who have struggled with infertility, have twins who were carried through surrogacy.

“The former aide said the conversations took place in private, sometimes in the congressman’s car, and that she repeatedly told him she wasn’t interested. She said she never filed a formal complaint because until recently she didn’t know where to go, but that his behavior had made her feel uncomfortable.

“The Associated Press verified the identity of the staffer and confirmed that she worked in Franks’ office. She asked that her name be withheld out of concern for her privacy. ‘During my time there, I was asked a few times to look over a ‘contract’ to carry his child, and if I would conceive his child, I would be given $5 million,’ she said, adding that she refused to look over the contract and has never seen a copy.”

— FRANKS IS WORTH between $11.1 million and $55.25 million with most of his money in Trinity Petroleum stock, according to his most recent financial disclosure.

— RACHAEL BADE and JAKE SHERMAN: “Female aides fretted Franks wanted to have sex to impregnate them”: “Arizona Rep. Trent Franks allegedly made unwanted advances toward female staffers in his office and retaliated against one who rebuffed him, according to House GOP sources with knowledge of a complaint against him. …

“A former staffer also alleged that Franks tried to persuade a female aide that they were in love by having her read an article that described how a person knows they’re in love with someone, the sources said. One woman believed she was the subject of retribution after rebuffing Franks. While she enjoyed access to the congressman before the incident, that access was revoked afterward, she told Republican leaders.”

MORE FRANKS INTRIGUE — SETTING UP A SUPER PAC? — “Fox 9 confronts Rep. Franks before his immediate resignation,” by Tom Lyden of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Fox affiliate: “While in Washington D.C. covering the resignation of Senator Al Franken, our Fox 9 crew encountered a different lawmaker facing a controversy of his own. Outside their hotel room [at the Hotel Palomar], Fox 9 reporter Tom Lyden noticed Republican Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona speaking on his cell phone. … But listening in on his call, Fox 9 heard him talking to someone about getting $2 million to start a political action committee on the filibuster issue. Fox 9 then asked Franks about the exchange on camera.

“Tom Lyden: ‘You are still in office and I heard you on the phone talking about setting up a $2 million PAC to go after the issue of the filibuster, is that proper for you to be doing while your still in office?’ Congressman Franks: ‘Well, that’s something I’m not going to discuss.’ Lyden: ‘But I heard you on the phone talking about soliciting $2 million for a PAC while you’re still in office, that seems to be an ethics violation?’ Franks: ‘No, I don’t think so.’”4-min. video

— ACTUALLY, yes, it wouldn’t only be an ethics violation, it would be illegal if he explicitly asked someone for $2 million while still serving in office. Sitting lawmakers can only solicit up to $5,000 for super PACs.

WHAT’S ON PRESIDENT TRUMP’S MIND — @realDonaldTrump at 8:21 a.m.: “CNN’S slogan is CNN, THE MOST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS. Everyone knows this is not true, that this could, in fact, be a fraud on the American Public. There are many outlets that are far more trusted than Fake News CNN. Their slogan should be CNN, THE LEAST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS!” … at 8:02 a.m.: “Fake News CNN made a vicious and purposeful mistake yesterday. They were caught red handed, just like lonely Brian Ross at ABC News (who should be immediately fired for his ‘mistake’). Watch to see if @CNN fires those responsible, or was it just gross incompetence?”

at 7:52 a.m.: “A big contingent of very enthusiastic Roy Moore fans at the rally last night. We can’t have a Pelosi/Schumer Liberal Democrat, Jones, in that important Alabama Senate seat. Need your vote to Make America Great Again! Jones will always vote against what we must do for our Country.”

****** A message from PhRMA: A medicine’s path from the biopharmaceutical company to the patient involves many entities across the supply chain. A new report examines how money flows through this system – which includes wholesalers, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacies and insurers – and how that impacts what patients pay at the pharmacy. Read more. ******

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY — TRUMP GOES TO PENSACOLA AND GOES ALL IN FOR MOORE — “Trump says country ‘can’t afford’ to let Roy Moore lose,” by Alex Isenstadt in Pensacola, Florida and Henry C. Jackson: “It took him a while, but President Donald Trump eventually used a Friday-night rally to forcefully endorse Roy Moore, the embattled Alabama Republican running for the Senate. Trump framed the election of Moore — who has been accused of numerous episodes of inappropriate sexual behavior, including child molestation — as vital to the country’s interest, imploring Alabamians to ‘get out and vote for Roy Moore.’ ‘Do it,’ he added. ‘Do it.’ …

“As the race draws to a close, the White House is considering taking other steps to boost Moore, including flooding the state with robocalls, text messages and emails. While the president’s popularity has ebbed elsewhere, he remains overwhelmingly popular in conservative Alabama. The administration has reviewed polling that shows Moore with a narrow but steady lead — and is confident that he will win.”

THE HOUSE GUYS who traveled with Trump: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.): “We’ve got an economy that’s growing and illegal immigration that’s slowing … We are draining the swamp and rebuilding our military.” … Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.): “This is a president that is facing unprecedented opposition from the Democrats, from the media, but I repeat myself… from the other swamp dwellers. … We need to enact term limits for members of Congress.”

— FOR THE RECORD: Gaetz’s father is Don Gaetz, the former president of the Florida Senate. DeSantis — a Yale grad who picked up a law degree from Harvard — is eyeing a race for governor after three terms in D.C.

TRUMP’S SATURDAY — Trump is headed to Jackson, Mississippi, to visit the Civil Rights Museum which he will get a tour of and also give remarks. He will then fly to West Palm Beach, Florida.

— FROM POOLER TODD GILLMAN: “The president’s motorcade pulled out of Mar-a-Lago at 8:57 a.m. in a light rain. It arrived at Air Force One at 9:09 in a Florida deluge whipped by wind. The tarmac covered in water. Pool is soaked. … The president is scheduled to be wheels up at 11:55, while the outdoor phase of the ceremony [at the Civil Rights Museum] is underway.”

IN CALIFORNIA — “Firefighters had to step aside as winds powered infernos,” by AP’s Julie Watson and Krysta Fauria in Fallbrook, California: “Firefighters in Southern California were on high alert for dangerous fire potential even before the first blazes broke out. But once flames met ferocious winds, fire crews were mostly powerless to stop infernos that destroyed more than 500 buildings, killed dozens of horses and forced hundreds of thousands of people to run from six out-of-control fires that have burned over 260 square miles since Monday. …

“Firefighters gained ground Friday, and some of the earliest evacuees who fled from flames Monday were being allowed to return home. Yet new fires were popping up, and danger persisted. Vegetation is bone dry, there’s been hardly any rainfall and winds were expected to gusts up to 40 mph Saturday and up to 50 mph Sunday in the Los Angeles and Ventura areas, the National Weather Service said.”

GREAT LEDE — “Trump calls Romney ‘a great man,’ but works to undermine him and block Senate run,” by WaPo’s Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey: “Before Ronna Romney McDaniel took over as Republican National Committee chairwoman earlier this year, President Trump had a request: Would she be willing to stop using her middle name publicly? Trump followed up by saying in a lighthearted way that McDaniel, the niece of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, could do what she wanted, according to two people familiar with the comments. But the change was soon plain for all to see. Though she had used her maiden name for years in Michigan, where her grandfather George W. Romney had been governor, McDaniel dropped ‘Romney’ from most official party communications and has rarely used it since.”

NYT SCOOP — “F.B.I. Warned Hope Hicks About Emails From Russian Operatives,” by Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo: “F.B.I. officials warned one of President Trump’s top advisers, Hope Hicks, earlier this year about repeated attempts by Russian operatives to make contact with her during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the events. The Russian outreach efforts show that, even after American intelligence agencies publicly accused Moscow of trying to influence the outcome of last year’s presidential election, Russian operatives were undaunted in their efforts to establish contacts with Mr. Trump’s advisers. There is no evidence that Ms. Hicks did anything improper. According to former officials, American intelligence and law enforcement agencies became alarmed by introductory emails that Ms. Hicks received from Russian government addresses in the weeks after Mr. Trump’s election.

“After he took office, senior F.B.I. counterintelligence agents met with Ms. Hicks in the White House Situation Room at least twice, gave her the names of the Russians who had contacted her, and said that they were not who they claimed to be. The F.B.I. was concerned that the emails to Ms. Hicks may have been part of a Russian intelligence operation, and they urged Ms. Hicks to be cautious.”

— “Trump’s Allies Urge Harder Line as Mueller Probe Heats Up,” by WSJ’s
Peter Nicholas, Aruna Viswanatha and Erica Orden: “Republicans … point to Andrew Weissmann — a Mueller deputy who had applauded the Justice Department’s decision not to defend the initial White House travel ban on people from majority Muslim nations—as evidence of bias on the special counsel team. ‘I am so proud,’ Mr. Weissmann wrote in the subject line of an email, which was released by the conservative group Judicial Watch. Mr. Weissmann also attended Hillary Clinton’s election-night party at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York, according to people familiar with his attendance. At the time, Mr. Weissmann was running the Justice Department’s fraud section, which is a senior career post within the agency.”

“HITTING THE PAUSE BUTTON” — “Democratic senators delay K.T. McFarland ambassador nomination,” by Cristiano Lima: “Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Friday placed a hold on K.T. McFarland’s nomination to become U.S. ambassador to Singapore, urging congressional leaders to re-examine her ‘knowledge and involvement’ in contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

“In a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the two members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced their intent to delay the nomination process until McFarland ‘publicly clarifies’ potential discrepancies in her statements regarding communications between Michael Flynn, her former superior at the National Security Council, and a Russian diplomat.”

THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT FILES — “Taxpayers Paid $220K to Settle Case Involving Rep. Alcee Hastings,” by Roll Call’s Stephanie Akin: “The Treasury Department paid $220,000 in a previously undisclosed agreement to settle a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment that involved Florida Democrat Alcee L. Hastings, according to documents obtained by Roll Call. Winsome Packer, a former staff member of a congressional commission that promotes international human rights, said in documents that the congressman touched her, made unwanted sexual advances, and threatened her job. At the time, Hastings was the chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, where Packer worked. Hastings has called Packer’s charges ‘ludicrous’ and in documents said he never sexually harassed her.”

FLASHBACK — “House ethics panel scolds several lawmakers,” by Anna Palmer and John Bresnahan on Dec. 11, 2014: “Both the Ethics Committee and OCE looked into Packer’s allegations. OCE recommended a full-scale investigation by Ethics even though it was not able to determine if there was ‘substantial reason to believe’ Packer’s claim, but Ethics decided not to take that step. In its report on the Hastings’ matter, Ethics said that ‘while the most serious allegations were not supported by the evidence, Representative Hastings has admitted to certain conduct that is less than professional.’ …

“The Ethics Committee stated: ‘Despite the fact that the conduct in this case does not rise to the level of actionable violations of the rules, the Committee does not want to leave the impression that Representative Hastings’ behavior was at all times appropriate. He admitted to some conduct that, while not wrongful per se, certainly could be misunderstood… Nevertheless, hugging is not the most professional way to greet coworkers, and different individuals have different comfort levels for touching others.’”

BEYOND CONGRESS — “For Female Lobbyists, Harassment Often Accompanies Access,” by NYT’s Trip Gabriel and Julie Bosman: “Vanessa Alarid was a lobbyist in New Mexico when she asked a lawmaker over drinks one night if she could count on his support for a bill that appeared to be coming down to a single vote. ‘You can have my vote if you have sex with me,’ Ms. Alarid recalled the lawmaker saying, although he used cruder language for sexual intercourse. He told Ms. Alarid she had the same first name as his wife, so he would not get confused if he called out in bed.

“Then he kissed Ms. Alarid on the lips, she said. Shocked, Ms. Alarid, who was 32 at the time, pushed him away. Only after he was gone did she let the tears flow. When her bill came up on the floor of the New Mexico House of Representatives the next day, March 20, 2009, it failed by a single vote, including a ‘No’ by the lawmaker, Representative Thomas A. Garcia. As Ms. Alarid watched from the House gallery, she said, Mr. Garcia blew her a kiss and shrugged his shoulders with arms spread.”

— “Prominent appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski accused of sexual misconduct,” by WaPo’s Matt Zapotosky: “A former clerk for Judge Alex Kozinski said the powerful and well-known jurist, who for many years served as chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, called her into his office several times and pulled up pornography on his computer, asking if she thought it was photoshopped or if it aroused her sexually. Heidi Bond, who clerked for Kozinski from 2006 to 2007, said the porn was not related to any case.

“One set of images she remembered was of college-age students at a party where ‘some people were inexplicably naked while everyone else was clothed.’ Another was a sort of digital flip book that allowed users to mix and match heads, torsos and legs to create an image of a naked woman. Bond is one of six women — all former clerks or more junior staffers known as externs in the 9th Circuit — who alleged to The Washington Post in recent weeks that Kozinski, now 67 and still serving as a judge on the court, subjected them to a range of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments. She is one of two former clerks who said Kozinski asked them to view porn in his chambers.”

— “Ex-Fox News anchor claims Trump tried to kiss her,” by Page Six’s Emily Smith: “Former Fox News anchor Juliet Huddy said President Donald Trump tried to kiss her in an elevator around the time he married First Lady Melania. Huddy, who allegedly received a settlement after she made a complaint against disgraced anchor Bill O’Reilly, described how the mogul leaned in to kiss her after he took her to lunch at Trump Tower in 2005. The TV newswoman, who now hosts a radio show on WABC Radio, revealed on ‘Mornin!!! with Bill Schulz’ on, that she had rebuffed the now-president in the Trump Tower elevator. And Trump later appeared on her Fox News chat show, and joked to the audience, ‘I hit on her but she blew me off.’”

AROUND THE TAX HORN — “Trump’s casual tax comments scald his Hill allies, again,” by Nancy Cook: “Oops, President Donald Trump did it again. His casual mention of a 22 percent corporate rate on his way to New York last Saturday kicked off a week of unexpected haggling on a topline tax issue many considered already settled, just as congressional negotiators are rushing to get a final bill to the president in time for Christmas — a date he himself has insisted on.

“It’s the latest example of the president getting in the way of his party’s major legislative goal, even if unintentionally, and once again shows the perils for policymakers and legislators in the Trump era, when an unexpected, off-the-cuff comment or tweet can undo weeks of work. On Friday, more than 20 conservative groups — including Americans for Tax Reform, Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the National Taxpayers Union — sent a letter to congressional conferees reminding them that the groups’ original support for any tax overhaul was tied to that magic 20 percent figure.”

HEY, KEVIN MCCARTHY! — WSJ’S NOUR MALAS and KRISTINA PETERSON, with an Irvine, California, dateline: “California House Republican Hears It at Home Over Tax Bill: Rep. Mimi Walters’s constituents worry about mortgage-interest cap, end to local deductions”: “In her district’s biggest city and across its conservative bastions, Republican U.S. Rep. Mimi Walters is facing criticism over the GOP tax overhaul bill that she voted for last month. The bill might increase taxes for many of her constituents, rather than lower them.

“Under pressure from frustrated supporters, she is now working to modify the bill to ease the blow as lawmakers try to hash out a compromise with a measure passed by the Senate. Three of California’s 14 House Republicans voted against the bill last month, citing measures that would curb or even eliminate some key deductions used widely by Californians. Mrs. Walters’s support for the bill, by contrast, has drawn scrutiny from some at a tense moment for the state’s Republicans, ahead of competitive midterm elections next year.

“‘I’m not going to vote for a Democrat, but am I going to vote for a Republican that is going to raise my taxes? That is the question,’ said Jeffrey Lalloway, a divorce lawyer and Republican member of Irvine’s City Council.”

LISTEN IN to the latest bonus Playbook Audio Briefing episode from our live recording Thursday night at Sixth and I Synagogue. Today we’re posting Jake and Anna’s discussion with NYT’s MICHAEL BARBARO Make sure you subscribe on your favorite podcasting app (Apple Podcasts so you don’t miss our conversation tomorrow with DCCC’s Dan Sena and NRCC’s John Rogers. ICYMI here’s a link to our talk with POLITICO all-star panel of Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade and Annie Karni

FUN STORY — NYT’S SCOTT CACCIOLA: “Golden State Warriors’ Go-to Guy Doesn’t Play a Minute”

WEST WING DEPARTURE LOUNGE – “Powell to leave White House in early 2018,” by Annie Karni with Daniel Lippman: “Former Goldman Sachs partner Dina Powell, who joined Donald Trump’s administration last January as an adviser on women’s issues to Ivanka Trump and rose quickly to become deputy national security adviser with a heavy hand in Middle East issues, will be departing the administration early next year. … A firm end date has not been decided on, a White House official said, but Powell is likely to leave in January or early February. Dr. Nadia Schadlow, a deputy assistant to the president who works on the National Security Council, is seen as Powell’s likely successor … Schadlow has been deeply involved with Trump’s forthcoming national security strategy plan. …

“Trump … did not want Powell to leave and asked her to stay on the team. It is not clear what role she will continue to play from the outside. ‘Dina has been an invaluable member of President Trump’s team,’ McMaster said in a statement. ‘Her sage advice helped provide options to the president and her strong relationships across the U.S. government and internationally helped drive execution of the president’s decisions. She is one of the most talented and effective leaders with whom I have ever served.’”

— JIM MATTIS statement: “With the pending departure of Dina Powell, we are losing an invaluable member of the President’s national security team. I personally appreciate Dina’s partnership and contributions to the mission of the Department of Defense.”

— @Martin_Indyk: “Very sorry to hear that Dina Powell is leaving the NSC. She was a sane and sensible voice in a crazy environment. She deserves deep appreciation for her service.”

WASHINGTON POST’S ROXANNE ROBERTS: “After months of rumors, the marriage of billionaire philanthropists David Rubenstein and Alice Rogoff has officially ended. The couple, who married in 1983, was granted a divorce in Montgomery County on Friday morning. All financial and other terms were settled privately and will remain confidential, according to Rubenstein’s lawyer, Sandy Ain, and Rogoff’s lawyer, Linda Ravdin.”

UPDATE — “Official Toll in Puerto Rico: 62. Actual Deaths May Be 1,052,” by Frances Robles, Kenan Davis, Sheri Fink and Sarah Almukhtar in the NYT: “A review by The New York Times of daily mortality data from Puerto Rico’s vital statistics bureau indicates a significantly higher death toll after the hurricane than the government there has acknowledged. The Times’s analysis found that in the 42 days after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm, 1,052 more people than usual died across the island. The analysis compared the number of deaths for each day in 2017 with the average of the number of deaths for the same days in 2015 and 2016. Officially, just 62 people died as a result of the storm that ravaged the island with nearly 150-mile-an-hour winds, cutting off power to 3.4 million Puerto Ricans. The last four fatalities were added to the death toll on Dec. 2.”

JOSH GERSTEIN: “Supreme Court lifts orders to disclose DACA cancellation records”: “A sharply divided Supreme Court on Friday lifted orders the Trump administration was facing to turn over more records detailing the decision to terminate the Obama-era program that offers quasi-legal status and work permits to so-called Dreamers. The justices voted, 5-4, to grant a temporary stay of orders that a San Francisco federal judge issued requiring federal officials to provide internal legal analyses, studies and other materials the administration gathered in advance of the decision announced in September to wind down the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.”

****** A message from PhRMA: A medicine’s path from the biopharmaceutical company to the patient involves many entities across the supply chain. A new report examines how money flows through this system – which includes wholesalers, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacies and insurers – and how that impacts what patients pay at the pharmacy. Read more. ******

CLICKER – “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker – 16 keepers

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman:

— “What Happens When the Government Uses Facebook as a Weapon?” by Lauren Etter on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek: “It’s social media in the age of ‘patriotic trolling’ in the Philippines, where the government is waging a campaign to destroy a critic—with a little help from Facebook itself.” cover

— “In Chatlogs, Celebrated Hacker and Activist Confesses Countless Sexual Assaults,” by Sarah Jeong in the Verge: “‘I have drunkenly sexually assaulted or raped women — the exact number of which I am currently determining.’”

— “The Upside of Office Flirtation? I’m living it,” by Allison Benedikt in Slate: “When I was 23 years old, my boss would look down the gap at the waistband of my jeans when he walked past my desk. … [H]e kissed me on the steps of the West 4th subway station without first getting my consent. We’ve now been happily married for 14 years and have three children.”

— “Women Journalists Share Their Stories of Sexual Harassment,” by Lucy Westcott in Newsweek in Aug. 2016: “The majority of women who spoke with Newsweek said their sexual harassment happened early on in their journalism careers, when journalists are hungry for their first job and less likely to report an incident for fear of what might happen. Janille Miller, 39, was in her mid-20s when she interviewed for a broadcast journalism job. After an interview with the news director, Miller went with him to meet the head of news. She says she was asked to stand up and turn around.”

— “Nicolás Maduro’s Accelerating Revolution,” by the New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson: “Venezuela’s President has outmaneuvered his opponents. Can he survive an economy in free fall?”

— “Is There a Limit to Scientific Understanding?” by Martin Rees in The Atlantic: “Science will hit the buffers at some point. There are two reasons why this might happen. The optimistic one is that we clean up and codify certain areas to the point that there’s no more to say. A second possibility is that we’ll reach the limits of what our brains can grasp. There might be concepts, crucial to a full understanding of physical reality, that we aren’t aware of, any more than a monkey comprehends Darwinism or meteorology. Some insights might have to await a post-human intelligence.” (h/t

— “Behind the Scenes With the World’s Top Feather Detective,” by Chris Sweeney in Audubon Magazine – per’s description: “How do you tell the difference between a poached Lampornis clemenciae hummingbird and a Amazilia violiceps? Ask the feather detective, Pepper Trail. He works at the world’s only wildlife forensics lab. Colleagues fear what will happen when he retires.”

— “Millions Are Hounded for Debt They Don’t Owe. One Victim Fought Back, With a Vengeance,” by Zeke Faux in Bloomberg Businessweek: “Andrew Therrien wanted payback. He got it—and uncovered a conspiracy.”

— “Border Wars,” by Zandria F. Robinson in Oxford American: “People from places like Texas and Florida and Delaware and especially Washington, D.C., like to act like they aren’t in or from the South.”

— “Deep Throat: An Institutional Analysis,” by James Mann in the May 1992 issue of the Atlantic:

— “Compromise,” by Ted Genoways in TNR: “A group of small-town environmentalist wanted to stop a potentially toxic Costco chicken plant. How did they end up fighting alongside anti-Muslim xenophobes.”

— “On Self-Respect: Joan Didion’s 1961 Essay from the Pages of Vogue” – per’s description: “An essay on understanding our character, worth, and limits.”

— “I Made My Shed the Top Rated Restaurant On TripAdvisor,” by Oobah Butler in Vice: “And then served customers Iceland ready meals on its opening night.”

HOLIDAY PARTY CIRCUIT — SPOTTED at the Polish Embassy holiday party last night, in which the band Suspicious Package (Tom Toles, Tim Burger, Josh Meyer, Bryan Greene and Christina Sevilla), performed at the Ambassador’s residence: Ambassador Piotr Wilczek, Artur Orkisz, John McCarthy, Michael Crowley, Ryan Williams, Breanne Deppisch, Lily Mihalik, Sarah Gilmore, Meridith McGraw, Michael Falcone, Jamie Weinstein and Michelle Fields, Ali Dukakis, Hadas Gold, Josh and Ali Rogin, Kate Hanson, Arlette Saenz, Alice Lloyd, Emma Kenyon. Pics by Ben Chang

SPOTTED at a White House Christmas open house yesterday: Ralph Reed, Peggy Nance, Matt Schlapp, Ginni Thomas, Connie Hair, Greg Mueller, Ken Blackwell, Marjorie Dannenfelser, former Rep. Jack Kingston.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD – Erin Miller Weibel, who works in communications at Facebook for their News Partnerships team and is an NBC News alum, and Chris Weibel, who works in equity trading at Wells Fargo Securities, on Friday welcomed Wade Harvey Weibel, who was born at 7:42 a.m. at 7lbs 15oz and 20.5 inches long. Pic

— Laena Fallon, senior adviser at the American Bankers Association and alum of the Financial Services Forum, and Brendon Pomeroy, a yacht captain, recently welcomed Teagan Mary Pomeroy. Pic

BIRTHDAYS: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is 51 – read her Politico Magazine profile: … Okla. Gov. Mary Fallin is 63 … Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is 63 … Samantha Tubman, manager of special projects at the Obama Foundation (hat tip: Meredith Carden) … Neal Wolin, a senior counselor for Brunswick Group and Obama Treasury alum, is 56 … former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) is 7-0 … Nathan Daschle, president and COO of the Daschle Group … Terry Moran, chief foreign correspondent for ABC News … Jonathan Wald, SVP at MSNBC (h/t Kurt Bardella) … James Pindell, Boston Globe political reporter whose location on his Twitter is “Electoral College, USA” … Jeff Smith is 44 … Cris Turner, head of gov’t affairs for the Americas at Dell … Treasury’s John E. Smith (h/t Peter Baker) … Scott Schloegel, the acting first VP and vice chairman of the Export-Import Bank … Politico alum Emily Kopp … Rep. Pete Olson (R-Tex.) is 55 … former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex.) is 71 … Levick VP Andrew Ricci … Laena Fallon, senior adviser at the American Bankers Association … Kathryn Cameron Porter …

… Kyle Roberts, president of Smart Media Group … Fernando Lujan … Ryan King, deputy communications director for Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) (h/t Mitchell Rivard) … Richard Allen Smith … Graham Wilson … Veronique Rodman … Josh Katcher … Hammad Ul Hassan … Ryan Whalen of the Rockefeller Foundation … Alli Blakely Sydnor (h/t Ed Cash) … Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy (h/t Blair Latoff Holmes) … Megan Devlin, who oversees Meridian International Center’s Global Forums, former editorial assistant to Steve Clemons at the Atlantic, and a craft beer “aficionado” (h/t Ben Chang) … Shoshana Weissmann of R Street Institute … Roll Call’s Eric Garcia, “celebrating with milk steak and rum ham” (h/t Tara Jeffries) … Dottie Suggs … Tricia Enright, comms director for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) (h/ts Jon Haber) … Derrick Johnson … Anne Dudro … Richard Wachtel is 35 … Rhett Dawson … Rick Horten is 49 … Dawn Wilson … Diane Kopp … Robert Kraig (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

THE SHOWS by @MattMackowiak, filing from Austin:

–NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) … Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.). Panel: Cornell Belcher, David Brooks, Hallie Jackson and Peggy Noonan

–CNN’s “State of the Union”: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley … Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) … Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Panel: Amanda Carpenter, Bakari Sellers and Nina Turner and Marc Lotter

–“Fox News Sunday”: U.S. Amb. to the U.N. Nikki Haley … Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.). Panel: Newt Gingrich, Rachael Bade, Michael Needham and Charles Lane … “Power Player of the Week” with Ben Shapiro

–CBS’s “Face the Nation”: U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley … Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) … Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) … Michael O’Hanlon and Kori Schake. Panel: Molly Ball, Margaret Brennan, Lanhee Chen and Ed O’Keefe

–ABC’s “This Week”: Guests to be announced. Panel: Dan Balz, Jennifer Jacobs, Joshua Johnson and Susan Glasser

–Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures”: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) … Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) … Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) … Michael Mukasey. Panel: Ed Rollins and Mary Kissel

–Fox News’ “MediaBuzz”: David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski … Mollie Hemingway … Jessica Tarlov … Mara Liasson … Brent Lang

–CNN’s “Inside Politics” with John King: Panel: Eliana Johnson, Manu Raju, Sara Murray and Matt Viser (substitute anchor: CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson)

–CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS”: Foreign policy panel: Palestinian National Council member Hanan Ashrawi, former Israeli Foreign Minister and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs president Dore Gold and author and Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass … United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

–CNN’s “Reliable Sources”: Panel: Carl Bernstein, Elaina Plott and David Frum … WVNN (Huntsville, Ala.) radio host Dale Jackson and Alabama Media Group columnist Kyle Whitmire … Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) … David Axelrod

–Univision’s “Al Punto”: Panel: Former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin and political analysts Fabian Nuñez and Adolfo Franco … Human Rights Watch’s José Miguel Vivanco … parents of mass shooting victims Fred and Maria Wright … Univision News correspondent Claudia Mendoza … CNI member María de Jesús “Marichuy” Patricio Martínez … filmmaker Guillermo del Toro

–C-SPAN: “The Communicators”: Former FCC senior adviser and Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy fellow Gigi Sohn … former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell (R) … “Newsmakers”: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), questioned by The Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Hughes and Agri-Pulse’s Philip Brasher … “Q&A”: WilmerHale senior associate Tiffany Wright

–Washington Times’ “Mack on Politics” weekly politics podcast with Matt Mackowiak (download on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher or listen at Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).

****** A message from PhRMA: In the competitive marketplace for medicines, negotiations between pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and biopharmaceutical companies result in substantial rebates and fees. According to a new report, in many cases, this system often creates incentives for PBMs to prefer medicines with higher list prices and higher rebates. Read more about how money flows through the supply chain here: ******

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