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13 Russians Indicted for U.S. Election Interference

“The Justice Department announced the indictment of a notorious Russian troll farm — naming more than a dozen individual suspects who allegedly worked there — as part of the special counsel’s investigation into criminal interference with the 2016 election,” the Washington Post reports.

New York Times: “The indictment charges that the foreigners falsely posed as American citizens, stole identities and otherwise engaged in fraud and deceit in an effort to influence the U.S. political process, including the 2016 presidential race.”

“Though the Russians are unlikely to be immediately arrested, they are now wanted by the United States government, which will make it hard for them to travel or do business internationally.”

Trump Budget Gives Up on Deficit Reduction

“President Trump on Monday will offer a budget plan that falls far short of eliminating the government’s deficit over 10 years, conceding that huge tax cuts and new spending increases make this goal unattainable,” the Washington Post reports.

“Eliminating the budget deficit over 10 years has been a North Star for the Republican Party for several decades, and GOP lawmakers took the government to the brink of default in 2011 when they demanded a vote on a amendment to the Constitution that would prohibit the federal government from spending more than it takes in through revenues.”

Meehan Admits He Saw Younger Aide as a ‘Soul Mate’

In his first comments since a story revealed that he had used thousands of taxpayer dollars to quietly settle a sexual harassment claim, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he developed “affection” for a younger aide “in a way in which I was struggling to make sure that I would never put that into our professional relationship.”

He admitted that he saw her as a “soul mate” and reacted “selfishly” when she developed a serious relationship with another man but insisted he was loyal to his wife, did not want a romantic relationship and did not harass her.

Schumer Slams Cotton In Meeting with Trump

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “told President Trump this week that there will be no deal on Dreamers if hard-line conservative Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is involved,” Politico reports.

“Schumer also told the president that he was not being well served by White House staffers during negotiations over the fate of 700,000 young immigrants who face potential deportation if no deal is reached to protect them.”

“Trump grew defensive during the private exchange.”

North Carolina Gerrymandering Ruling Is Blocked

The Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina does not have to immediately redraw congressional maps that a lower court ruled unconstitutional, the Washington Post reports.

Rick Hasen: “What this means is that it is very unlikely that even if the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court that this is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, there will be time to consider the issue in time for the 2018 elections. This is especially true because the Court did not expedite things in this order, and it will take a few months before the Court decides whether to hear the case, and that means either a remand after the other partisan gerrymandering cases are decided this term or setting the case for argument (almost certainly next term).”

Virginia Race Is Now a Tie

“The election in the 94th House of Delegates District is now a tie, after a three-judge panel ruled that a ballot that was rejected in Tuesday’s recount should be counted as a vote for Del. David Yancey,” the Newport News Daily Press reports.

“The judges deliberated for several hours behind closed doors over whether they should look at the ballot, whether anyone could be sure which ballot it was and finally what the markings on it.”

Pence Lavishes Praise on Trump at Cabinet Meeting

Washington Post: “Over nearly three minutes, Pence offered plaudit after plaudit after plaudit, praising Trump’s vision, his words, his strategy and his results in light of the passage of tax cuts. By the end, Pence offered 14 separate commendations for Trump in less than three minutes — math that works out to one every 12.5 seconds. And each bit of praise was addressed directly to Trump, who was seated directly across the table.”

McCain Will Miss Tax Vote

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is returning to Arizona after spending several days in a Maryland hospital recovering from side effects from chemotherapy treatment for brain cancer, CBS News reports.

”McCain left Washington Sunday and is heading back to his home state to spend the holidays with his family. He will not be on hand for the final vote on the GOP tax passage expected for early this week. It is unclear when McCain might return to Washington.“

Last Minute Tax Provision Benefits Trump

“Republican congressional leaders and real estate moguls could be personally enriched by a real-estate-related provision GOP lawmakers slipped into the final tax bill released Friday evening,” according to the International Business Times.

”The legislative language was not part of previous versions of the bill and was added despite ongoing conflict-of-interest questions about the intertwining real estate interests and governmental responsibilities of President Donald Trump — the bill’s chief proponent.”

Democratic Senators Call on Franken to Resign

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called on Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to resign in a Facebook post:

We should demand the highest standards, not the lowest, from our leaders, and we should fundamentally value and respect women. Every workplace in America, including Congress, needs to have a strong process and accountability for sexual harassment claims, and I am working with others to address the broken and opaque system in Congress.

While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.

Almost immediately after, Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Masie Hirono (D-HI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) also called on Franken to resign.

Congress Secretly Paid $100K to Settle Massa Claims

Congress paid close to $100,000 in taxpayer funds to settle sexual harassment claims from at least two young male staffers who worked for disgraced former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY), ABC News reports.

“The claims were settled after Massa, a Democrat from upstate New York, resigned in 2010 amid a pending ethics investigation into allegations he groped and sexually harassed members of his staff.”

Manafort Had Deeper Russia Ties Than Known

Paul Manafort “took at least 18 trips to Moscow and was in frequent contact with Vladimir Putin’s allies for nearly a decade as a consultant in Russia and Ukraine for oligarchs and pro-Kremlin parties,” McClatchy reports.

“Even after the February 2014 fall of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, who won office with the help of a Manafort-engineered image makeover, the American consultant flew to Kiev another 19 times over the next 20 months while working for the smaller, pro-Russian Opposition Bloc party. Manafort went so far as to suggest the party take an anti-NATO stance, an Oppo Bloc architect has said. A key ally of that party leader, oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk, was identified by an earlier Ukrainian president as a former Russian intelligence agent, ‘100 percent.’”

“It was this background that Manafort brought to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which he joined in early 2016 and soon led. His web of connections to Russia-loyal potentates is now a focus of federal investigators.”

Quote of the Day

“This must stop. It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with legislative indifference. It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”

— Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), on Twitter, in response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas.