The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says he 'never directed' Cohen to break the law | GOP reels from Trump shutdown threat | Alleged spy Butina pleads guilty to conspiracy charge

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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.


The Hill's 12:30 Report: Alleged spy Butina pleads guilty to being part of conspiracy | Trump says he 'never directed' Cohen to 'break the law' | GOP struggles on message after Trump shutdown threat | Schumer says Dems won't budge in wall fight | Why Trump allies are worried |  House pushes funding vote until next week | The Hill's Top Lobbyists for 2018 | DC reporter wins on Jeopardy | KFC unveils chicken-scented fire logs



Not. My. Fault.:

This morning, President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE reacted to the sentencing of his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, saying he "never directed Michael Cohen to break the law."

He also tweeted: "He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called 'advice of counsel,' and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance. Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not." 

THROWBACK -- WOW, HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED: Here's a clip of President Trump telling reporters he knew nothing about the $130,000 payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels. Compare this clip to today. Watch:

Wow, check out this cover of the New York Post: Here's how the Post is covering Michael's Cohen's sentence:


It's Thursday. Today is the 15th anniversary of the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. 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 follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.

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When you're planning on blaming the enemy, but then someone on your team takes the fall: 

Via The Hill's Alexander Bolton, "Republican lawmakers are struggling to coordinate their message with President Trump heading into a divided Congress after he pulled the rug out from them once again by declaring he would be 'proud' to shut down the government." 

How so: "Trump shocked Republicans, who were preparing to blame Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOn The Money: Trump, Congress reach two-year budget, debt limit deal | What we know | Deal gets pushback from conservatives | Equifax to pay up to 0M in data breach settlement | Warren warns another 'crash' is coming Overnight Defense: Iran's spy claim adds to tensions with US | Trump, lawmakers get two-year budget deal | Trump claims he could win Afghan war in a week Trump, Democrats clinch two-year budget deal MORE (D-N.Y.) for a potential partial shutdown, when he said he would take sole responsibility for shuttering federal agencies if Congress doesn't meet his demand for $5 billion in wall funding."

NEW DEVELOPMENT -- THE HOUSE IS CUTTING THE DEADLINE VERY CLOSE: House Republicans are not voting on a spending bill today and are leaving town until Wednesday. The government would shut down next Friday if Congress doesn't come to an agreement. I.e.: When the House returns, the chamber will have two days to sort it out.

THIS A.M. FROM SCHUMER: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D.N.Y.) said Democrats won't budge on President Trump's border wall demand. In Schumer's words: "I want to be crystal clear. There will be no additional appropriations to pay for the border wall. It's done."


Via Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur, 

"OLD: Mexico will pay for the wall 

NEW: Mexico will reimburse later 

NEWER: The wall will pay for itself 

NEWEST: Nafta 2.0 savings on trade with Mexico will pay for the wall"


It's temporarily a yes from us:

--> ;)

Via The Hill's Mike Lillis and Melanie Zanona, Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiConservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Grassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices Why do Republicans keep trying to outspend Democrats in Congress? MORE(D-Calif.) has made an agreement with some of her most vocal critics that will set a term limit in place for her potential speakership. I.e.: They will vote for Pelosi for speaker of the House, but that term will end after a maximum of four years.


This morning in the Senate -- he's beauty and he's grace, he's Mr. Arizona:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGrassley, Wyden reach deal to lower drug prices The Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana MORE (R-Ky.) gave a farewell to outgoing Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers MORE (R-Ariz.) on the Senate floor, where he mentioned that Flake once made The Hill's 50 Most Beautiful list.

McConnell's praise: "Talk about an achievement that few of us could even aspire to." 



This has been A WEEK in an already eventful year:

Via The Hill's Niall Stanage, "Republicans, including some allies of President Trump, are worried that the White House is ill-prepared for the sea of troubles it is facing."

How so -- two major developments this week: "The president's stormy meeting with Democratic congressional leaders at which he said he would be 'proud' to shut down the government, and his former lawyer Michael Cohen being sentenced to three years in prison." 

And another expected development in January: "Come January, Democrats will be able to set large parts of the legislative agenda, frustrate Trump's objectives and subpoena his allies, likely including family members, to testify before House committees." 

How this could play out:



A Washington journalist won on 'Jeopardy!'

Elana Schor, national political reporter for The Associated Press, appeared on Jeopardy last night -- and won!

The winning prompt: In the Sci-Fi TV category, the prompt was, "One of the twin planets this alien race called home was Remus."

Watch all three players answers and bets: Schor's wink is my favorite part. Video:

I love this!: Here's video of Schor watching the episode with friends last night. Her reaction is great:



Top dogs in the lobbying world:

The Hill released its list of the top lobbyists of 2018. The list by category:



Just now -- An alleged Russian spy changes her plea

OK fine, maybe I did:

30-year-old Russian woman Maria Butina, who had pleaded not guilty for acting as an unregistered agent in the U.S. of the Russian government, pleaded guilty this morning in federal court. Keep in mind: "Butina was accused earlier this year of working to set up back-channel lines of communication between right-leaning U.S. political groups and the Russian government."


Remember the viral photo of Nancy Pelosi leaving the White House after her public argument with President Trump?:

Well, via Glamour, the designer of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) viral coat is bringing back the 2013 design. Photo of the coat and details on its release:


Another development in the war on Christmas -- don't save the date:

Via Fox News's Howard KurtzPresident Trump has canceled the annual White House Christmas party held for the media.

Is this surprising: Not really. It's no secret that President Trump doesn't like the media, often referring to unfavorable press coverage as "fake news." Last year: "The president and first lady threw such a gathering last December but did not pose for pictures. Trump made a brief appearance with his wife and offered a few welcoming remarks."

The most notable part of the party: The president and first lady pose for photos with attendees. Interesting throwback: "Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonDavis: Advice to House Democrats — Mueller is right to stick to the facts; don't ask him to imitate Starr and Comey Biden campaign taps foreign policy vet Nicholas Burns as adviser: report Major health reform requires Democratic congressional dominance MORE even posed for pictures with journalists days after he was impeached."

Interesting line -- some media figures may still get White House invites: "While dropping the media party, the White House is in the midst of a full panoply of other parties this holiday season. Selected media people generally favorable to Trump, including a few Fox News hosts, have made those guest lists."  


If you're in New York City today:

Facebook opened a pop-up shop in Bryant Park focused on the platform's privacy. Photos:

This is an amazing comparison if you've seen 'The Good Place': Once you've seen the photos of Facebook's pop-up, compare it to this photo of NBC's "The Good Place." (Via The Hill's Elliot SmilowitzPhoto:



We're all invested in this: 



The House and Senate are in. President Trump and Vice President Pence are in Washington, D.C.

11:45 a.m. EST: President Trump meets with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoKudlow: 'The president doesn't make things up' Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Trump threatens Guatemala with penalties over migration MORE.

1:45 p.m. EST: The Senate votes on amendments related to Yemen. The Senate's full schedule today:

2 p.m. EST: President Trump meets with newly elected governors. Vice President Pence also attends.

5:15 p.m. EST and 8:30 p.m. EST: President Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Mueller ahead of testimony Trump pays respects to late Justice Stevens at Supreme Court Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail MORE attend Christmas receptions.  

Dec. 19: Retiring House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Trump fans the flames of white grievance Ex-White House spokesman Raj Shah joins Fox Corporation as senior vice president Trump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report MORE (R-Wis.) delivers a farewell address in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress.

Dec. 21: Congress's deadline to fund the government before a partial government shutdown. 

March 6: When President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has to surrender for his prison sentence.



Noon: First lady Melania Trump visited Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. Livestream:



Today is National Popcorn String Day.


Ah, the festive smell of … grease:

KFC has started selling fried-chicken scented fire logs. Specifically: KFC claims it smells like the company's blend of 11 herbs and spices. Photo to prove I'm not lying: 

^Is anyone else waiting for PETA to release a tofurky-scented competing fire log? Here's the back story if you don't understand the reference:


And to brighten your Thursday afternoon, here's a dog who LOVES dressing like a panda: