President Trump “has a new nickname for Al Franken, hours after the Minnesota senator was accused of sexual misconduct: Al Frankenstein.
“Trump weighed in on the latest congressional scandal Thursday night, tweeting about a photo that appeared to show Franken groping Los Angeles-based radio host Leeann Tweeden. ‘The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps? …..’ Trump tweeted. … ‘And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?’
“Trump appeared to be referring to resurfaced rape jokes Franken made in the past about journalist Lesley Stahl. The comments were reported in a 1995 New York Magazine article.”
“Trump’s acknowledgement of the accusations against Franken comes at the same time that he has distanced himself from Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of pursuing and harassing teenage girls when he was in his 30s.” (Politico)
MOORE ON THAT. Trump’s absence from the Alabama Senate race “has compounded GOP worries the party is about to lose a seat it has no business relinquishing to Democrats. Republicans say a denunciation of Moore from Trump, a beloved figure in Alabama despite his problems elsewhere, offers the only hope of keeping the seat in the party’s hands.
“But Trump sees nothing but negatives in getting involved, according to three White House aides, who say they consider the options laid out” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “and his team far-fetched. Many Alabama Republicans are also beginning to view the race as a referendum on McConnell and the Republican establishment more broadly, and Trump’s advisers say they fear any White House intervention is likely to backfire.” (Politico)
Meanwhile, “the Alabama Republican Party on Thursday offered unqualified support” of Moore, “ignoring the condemnation of national Republican leaders and brushing aside worries that he could lose a Senate race in a solidly conservative state—or be expelled from Congress if he wins.
“Invoking the need for guidance from God, a statement from the party’s chairwoman, Terry Lathan, referred only indirectly to the allegations of sexual misconduct and unwanted overtures against women that have upended the Senate race here. Ms. Lathan said the party trusted voters to make the right decision and backed Mr. Moore, a former chief justice of the State Supreme Court, as a conservative supporter of President Trump running against the Democrat, Doug Jones.” (New York Times)
However, “the Greater Birmingham Young Republicans voted Thursday to pull its endorsement … and censure” Moore, and called on the state party to do the same. (AL.com)
TAXES. “House Republicans cleared a tax overhaul Thursday after a pep talk” from Trump, “but the course is littered with speed bumps in the Senate.
“Republican angst in the House—over the prospect of raising deficits by $1.5 trillion and delivering more benefits to corporations than people—is mirrored in the Senate, where the margin for success is razor thin and prospects for passage remain shaky. Several House members said they voted reluctantly for their chamber’s bill Thursday.
“Like the House bill, the Senate version makes corporate tax cuts in the measure permanent, but phases out individual tax cuts by 2026, creating a political predicament for many lawmakers.” (McClatchy)
HOMELAND SECURITY. The “Rev. Jamie Johnson resigned Thursday as the head of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security after a … report revealed inflammatory past comments he made about the black community and Islam.
“In past radio appearances, Johnson had said the black community was responsible for turning major US cities into ‘slums’ and argued that Islam’s only contribution to society was ‘oil and dead bodies.’” (CNN)
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"President Trump issued a series of executive orders Friday that could gut federal employee unions’ ability to negotiate with agency leaders and represent workers, as well as reduce the time it takes for an agency to fire people for poor performance or misconduct. Billed as the first step toward broad civil service reform, senior administration officials announced in a call with reporters on Friday afternoon three executive orders aimed at making it easier to fire poor performers and ordering harsher treatment of union representatives."
Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting. In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg."
"In the months after Donald Trump rode to victory while calling for mass deportations, Russian operatives bought dozens of Facebook ads targeted at the Hispanic community seeking to further inflame tensions already roiled by the campaign's racially charged rhetoric, according to USA TODAY analysis. Thousands of ads released by House Democrats this month showed Russian operatives focused on race during the presidential election in what experts say was a clear effort to amplify existing divisions."