The Hill's 12:30 Report

The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump defends Flynn, lashes out at FBI | Trump lawyer says president can't obstruct justice | Trump backs Moore in Alabama race | Lawmakers scramble with four days to avoid shutdown | How sexual harassment scandals are changing this year's holiday office parties | National Cookie Day!



I think Trump had an extra shot of espresso in his coffee: This morning, President Trump defended former national security adviser Michael Flynn, saying it's "very unfair" he was charged with a crime and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonLet's 'reimagine' political corruption The Armageddon elections to come Poll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second MORE was not. What Trump told reporters this morning: "Well, I feel badly for Gen. Flynn. I feel very badly. He'd led a very strong life. ... I will say this, Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI and nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they destroyed his life. I think it's a shame." What Trump is alleging about Clinton: Trump claimed that Clinton, his Democratic opponent in last year's presidential election, lied to the FBI with impunity about her private email server. Then-FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress in July 2016 that the agency had "no basis to conclude she lied to the FBI."

THIS WASN'T TRUMP'S FIRST REACTION TO FLYNN'S PLEA DEAL: Over the weekend, President Trump tweeted, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!" That tweet sparked controversy: Legal experts suggested that if Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI and then asked Comey to drop the investigation, it could amount to obstruction of justice.

ON SUNDAY: President Trump's personal lawyer said he was responsible for the tweet, calling it "my mistake." "I'm out of the tweeting business. I did not mean to break news," attorney John Dowd told Axios.

THEN THIS MORNING: Dowd said in a new interview that a president can't obstruct justice. The "president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case," he told Axios.

HELPFUL TIMELINE: Via NBC's Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann, here's a timeline explaining the controversy with Michael Flynn

It's Monday. I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to and on Facebook.



Sooo, 14 is the new 18 apparently...?: President Trump is back supporting Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy MooreHe tweeted: "Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama.  We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!"

Why this is somewhat surprising: Multiple women have recently accused Moore of sexual misconduct. One woman said Moore initiated sexual contact with when she was 14 and he was 32. Another women accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16. Keep in mind: Moore has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying they are politically motivated. But he did admit that he may have dated teenage women during that period in his life.

Tidbit on Trump 'not campaigning in Alabama': President Trump may not be campaigning for Roy Moore in Alabama after the allegations, but he is holding a rally in Pensacola, Fla., 20 miles from the Alabama border, four days before the Alabama special election. "At the Dec. 8 rally, advisers said, the president is likely to attack national Democrats and may attack [Democratic candidate Doug] Jones. It is unclear whether Trump will specifically praise Moore." I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess 'yes.'

What Alabama businesses are worried about: Via The Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook, Alabama businesses are concerned that Roy Moore's candidacy and potential win could hurt the state's economy. "The business community has concerns about the image of Alabama because we have attracted a lot of domestic and foreign investment," said Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money — No SALT, and maybe no deal Fiscal spending deadline nears while lawmakers face pressure to strike deal These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE (R-Ala.).


Lawmakers seek an end to taxpayer-backed harassment settlements: Via The Hill's Cristina Marcos, momentum is building fast in Congress to ban the use of taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment cases -- particularly after news that a total of well over $100,000 has been paid in recent cases against lawmakers. Prohibiting such settlements is proving to be a popular idea among fiscal conservatives and liberal Democrats alike as Congress grapples with how to reform its complicated workplace policies.

INTERESTING READ: In an op-ed, Washington, D.C., attorney Les Alderman argues why the "fix" to Congress's sexual harassment policies could inadvertently backfire. Reason one: "The proposal would retroactively eliminate the confidential nature of settlements that have been made in years past." I.e.: Past victims could be exposed.  Reason two: It would "effectively require victims to chase lawmakers to their home district to attempt to have local federal or state courts recognize the lawmakers' liability and then go through byzantine debt collection proceeding. ... In many cases the proposed law would leave the victim with an empty and unenforceable judgment or settlement because the Congressperson simply does not--and never will--have the financial means to pay."



This week in Congress -- strut calmly and confidently through the halls, scramble behind-the-scenes: Via The Hill's Cristina Marcos and Jordain Carney, four days remain until government funding expires, and it still isn't entirely clear how Congress will avoid a shutdown. The current plan from GOP leaders: Pass a two-week spending bill to give them more time for a budget deal. Then what?: Lawmakers would then approve another temporary spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, right before Christmas so that appropriators will have time to write a trillion-dollar "omnibus" package that could be approved in January.


Tax reform: The House is convening Monday -- a day earlier than originally scheduled -- to vote on a motion to go to conference with the Senate's tax reform bill. GOP lawmakers are hoping to send legislation to President Trump's desk by the end of this month so that they can finally claim a major legislative accomplishment.

Gun laws: The House is set to vote on a package combining concealed carry reciprocity with beefing up the background check system.

Sexual harassment: House Democrats have called for Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersA presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day Michigan redistricting spat exposes competing interests in Democratic coalition Detroit voters back committee to study reparations MORE Jr. (D-Mich.) to resign following allegations that he sexually harassed female staffers. Conyers has denied wrongdoing, but his lawyer said he'll make a decision in the coming days over whether he'll resign.

Homeland security: The Senate is set to confirm Trump's pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, this week. 

OP-ED: In an op-ed for The Hill, Edward Kleinbard, former chief of staff for the U.S. Congress Joint Committee on Taxation, argues why senators picked Americans' pockets via degraded tax policy process.



Want to have a say in Time's 'Person of the Year': Here's a poll from Time to weigh in on the 2017 Person of the Year. Date to know: The winner will be unveiled this Wednesday. ­­­



[To keep it] a holly, jolly, [PR-friendly] Christmas:

Via The Associated Press's Marley Jay, companies are keeping a closer watch on their holiday parties this year amid workplace sexual harassment scandals. What will be different: "There will be less booze at many. An independent business organization has renewed its annual warning not to hang mistletoe. And some will have party monitors, keeping an eye out for inappropriate behavior."

FOR EXAMPLE: Via The Huffington Post's Ashley Feinberg and Maxwell Strachan, Vox Media won't have an open bar at its holiday party this year. Instead, attendees will each get two drink tickets. They plan to focus more on food and less on the alcohol.



This tweet got a lot of traction:


Some food for thought on a Monday:



The Senate will meet at 3 p.m. The House will meet at 6 p.m.

8 a.m. EST: President Trump left the White House for Salt Lake City.

12:50 p.m. EST: President Trump arrives in Salt Lake City.

1:20 p.m. EST: President Trump meets with Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leaders and tours the church's Welfare Square.

1:30 p.m. EST: Vice President Pence meets with Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq.

3:30 p.m. EST: Vice President Pence swears in Ed McMullen as the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland.

5:30 p.m. EST: The Senate has a procedural vote on Trump's nominee to head Homeland Security.

6:30 p.m. EST: The House has a vote to go to conference on the tax bill. More votes are possible at 8 p.m.

7:15 p.m. EST: President Trump arrives back in Washington, D.C.



2:40 p.m. EST: President Trump speaks at the Utah state Capitol. Livestream:

8 p.m. EST: "The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee" airs on HBO. Details:



Today is National Cookie Day! Here are cookie deals today to celebrate:

Whoooops: The Pontiac Silverdome was scheduled to be torn down over the weekend, but the implosion didn't exactly go as planned. The scary part: According to the demolition company, the dome could still collapse, but it's unclear when. Lovely.  Watch:

And because you read this far, here's a dog who wants a treat more than we could ever understand:


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