Exchange of the Day

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was asked by Chris Wallace on Fox News about the photo of him and his wife holding a sheet of dollar bills that went viral:

WALLACE: “Some folks — and I’m looking at the picture here, which you can’t see — say that you two look like two villains from a James Bond movie. I’m sure you’ve heard that. I guess my question is: What were you thinking?”

MNUCHIN: “I didn’t realize that the pictures were public and going on the internet and viral.  I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie.”

Bipartisan Panel Recommends Hacking Safeguards

“A bipartisan Harvard University project aimed at protecting elections from hacking and propaganda will release its first set of recommendations today on how U.S. elections can be defended from hacking attacks,” Reuters reports.

“The 27-page guidebook shown to Reuters ahead of publication calls for campaign leaders to emphasize security from the start and insist on practices such as two-factor authentication for access to email and documents and fully encrypted messaging via services including Signal and Wickr.”

Mueller to Interview Senior White House Aides

“Investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller are scheduled to interview additional senior White House officials in the coming weeks, adding to their list of high-profile interviews and pushing the investigation closer to President Trump and his family,” CNN reports.

“On the slate are White House communications director Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn and Josh Raffel, a communications aide to White House senior adviser Jared Kushner. Other staff are also expected to be interviewed.”

Republicans Are Blowing Their Chance at Tax Reform

David Frum: “As I write on November 19, it may see like the GOP tax plans are carrying all before them. A big tax cut has passed the House. A somewhat different plan passed late Thursday night through the Senate Finance Committee. The president is bellowing on Twitter his readiness to sign almost any work product that arrives at his desk.”

“But what is heading toward him is not the kind of reform that can command broad political support, and thus stand the test of possible electoral defeat in 2018 and 2020. It’s a scandalous expression of upper-class and Sunbelt chauvinism that will melt away within weeks of the next Democratic electoral success. Even if it becomes law, as still seems improbable in the face of the plan’s terrible poll numbers, what firm would venture a long-term investment based on tax changes so likely unsustainable?”

De Blasio Seeks to Define National Role

Politico: “De Blasio, whose unfulfilled national ambitions have never been far from the surface, will be in Des Moines in early December preaching the progressive message as the best means for Democrats to win control of statehouses nationwide and, the biggest prize, the U.S. House of Representatives. He will also be trying to define a new role for himself in the party.”

“More to the point, he’s diverging from the Clinton brand of Democratic politics from whence he came and fully embracing the Sen. Bernie Sanders wing of the party — a seemingly more natural fit for a man who won his first mayoral term on the message of income inequality.”

Trump Says Flake Won’t Vote for Tax Bill

President Trump and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are sparring again, Roll Call reports, with Trump tweeting:

Sen. Jeff Flake(y), who is unelectable in the Great State of Arizona (quit race, anemic polls) was caught (purposely) on “mike” saying bad things about your favorite President. He’ll be a NO on tax cuts because his political career anyway is “toast.”

“The tweet raised eyebrows in Washington, with congressional observers and reporters firing off their own tweets noting Flake had not previously announced how he intends to vote on a tax overhaul bill that cleared the Finance Committee late Thursday evening.”

Pastors Stick by Roy Moore

Boston Globe: “None of the nearly 10 pastors reached by phone said the allegations of sexual misconduct changed their views about Moore. Several said the allegations made them more proud to vote for the former judge.”

Said pastor Earl Wise: “I don’t know how much these women are getting paid, but I can only believe they’re getting a healthy sum.”

“Wise said he would support Moore even if the allegations were true and the candidate was proved to have sexually molested teenage girls and women.”

Democrats See Backlash Over Tax Bill as Key to Midterms

Washington Post: “Coming off Election Day wins from Seattle to Long Island, Democrats are starting to see the shape of a new majority, built on a potential suburban backlash to changes in the tax code.”

“Republicans have accused the minority party of demagoguery and bad math. In New Hampshire, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has praised the tax plan for doubling the standard deduction and adding a property-tax exemption. Democrats have falsely claimed that the bill would raise taxes on ‘most working-class families’ — only 6.5 percent of lower-income households will take a direct hit, though many taxpayers making less than $100,000 would get little.”

“Yet Democratic wins, and polling about the tax bill, has led the party to think that it can cleave millions of voters from the GOP.”

Bush Alums Rise In Trump White House

Associated Press: “The Bush influence has only grown stronger recently, as Trump nominated Alex Azar to lead the Health and Human Services Department, where he served under the Bush administration, and tapped Jerome ‘Jay’ Powell to be chairman of the Federal Reserve. Powell served in the Treasury Department under President George H.W. Bush.”

“The Bush alums in the administration include Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who served as Bush’s labor secretary, and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser who oversaw White House personnel and later served in Bush’s State Department under Condoleezza Rice. Even the president’s schedule and day-to-day operations are overseen by a former member of Bush’s inner circle: Joe Hagin, who served as deputy White House chief of staff.”

Tax Reform Without the Reform

Jonathan Chait: “The tax break for private planes is the sort of provision that is usually held up as a case for what tax reform is needed to eliminate. In this case, it is being created by tax reform. That is one clue that the ‘tax reform’ plan being drawn up in Congress is nothing of the sort.”

“The goal of a tax-reform plan, as the term has been historically understood, has been to minimize political interference in the tax code. The tax code might charge a rich person a higher rate than a poor person, but it doesn’t want to charge a butcher who earns $50,000 more than a baker who earns $50,000 just because the baker did a better job lobbying Congress.”

Mueller Seeks Documents from Justice Department

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating whether President Trump sought to obstruct a federal inquiry into connections between his presidential campaign and Russian operatives has now directed the Justice Department to turn over a broad array of documents, ABC News reports.

“In particular, Mueller’s investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter, according to a source who has not seen the specific request but was told about it.“

Next Wave of Sexual Harassment Charges Anticipated

Jonathan Swan: “Members of Congress with histories of mistreating women should be extremely nervous. Major outlets, including CNN, are dedicating substantial newsroom resources to investigating sexual harassment allegations against numerous lawmakers. A Republican source told me he’s gotten calls from well-known D.C. reporters who are gathering stories about sleazy members.”

White House Aides Divided Over Risks of Russia Probe

“Six months into a special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, White House aides and others in President Trump’s close orbit are increasingly divided in their assessments of the expanding probe and how worried administration officials and campaign aides should be about their potential legal peril, according to numerous people familiar with the debate,” the Washington Post reports.

“Some in the West Wing avoid the mere mention of Russia or the investigation whenever possible. Others take solace in the reassurances of White House lawyer Ty Cobb that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III will be wrapping up the probe soon and the president and those close to him will be exonerated. And a few engage in grim gallows humor, privately joking about wiretaps.”

Trump’s Biggest Impact Will Be the Courts

Jonathan Swan: “If Mitch McConnell’s schedule goes to plan, the week after Thanksgiving the Senate Majority Leader will confirm his ninth federal judge. That would beat President Reagan’s eight in his first year — the most in recent history. And it triples the three federal judges President Obama appointed in his first year in office.”

“The federal courts affect almost every area of policy: gun rights, presidential executive orders like Trump’s travel ban, social policy issues like abortion and freedom of religion, and tensions between regulation, litigation and private enterprise. McConnell’s judges — who passed through a well-funded and organized conservative pipeline — will shape the U.S. over many decades in ways we can’t yet imagine.”

“Smart Democrats are deeply concerned about this trend, and understand that these lifetime judicial appointments will have a much greater impact on the future direction of this country than any short-term spending deal or policy.”