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3:00 PM ET, December 18, 2017


 Top Items: 
Trump predicts exoneration in Russia investigation as allies fear a ‘meltdown’  —  STORY HIGHLIGHTS  —  Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump is privately striking a less agitated tone on the Russia investigation, sources say, even insisting he'll soon be cleared in writing.
Mike Memoli / NBC News:
House Republicans prepare to wrap up contentious Russia investigation  —  WASHINGTON — As House Republicans make the case for special counsel Robert Mueller to end his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, they appear ready to bring their own intelligence probe to an end.
Discussion: CNBC, CNN and NBC News
Mike Allen / Axios:
Muddying Mueller: Trump allies say strategy working  —  President Trump said yesterday “No, I'm not” when asked if he's considering firing Special Counsel Bob Mueller.  Truth is, his high-level Republican allies don't think he will need to.  —  Be smart: The Trump lawyers' strategy is to cooperate with Mueller on the inside game.
Mallory Shelbourne / The Hill:
Trump privately calling Rosenstein a threat to his presidency: report
Olivia Beavers / The Hill:
Former House Republican: Trump deserves to be ‘impeached’ if he fires Mueller
Discussion: Politico, Mediaite and IJR
NBC News:
FBI warned Trump in 2016 Russians would try to infiltrate his campaign  —  WASHINGTON — In the weeks after he became the Republican nominee on July 19, 2016, Donald Trump was warned that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would probably try to spy on and infiltrate his campaign …
Edward-Isaac Dovere / Politico:
Franken urged to reverse his resignation  —  At least four senators are urging Al Franken to reconsider resigning, including two who issued statements calling for the resignation two weeks ago and said they now feel remorse over what they feel was a rush to judgment.
Avery Anapol / The Hill:
Four senators urge Franken to reconsider resignation: report
Discussion: RedState, IJR and
Mallory Shelbourne / The Hill:
Manchin: I've ‘moved on’ from Trump sexual misconduct allegations
Discussion: IJR
Jennifer Bendery / HuffPost:
Trump Judicial Nominee Drops Out After Embarrassing Hearing, Per Senate Aide  —  Matthew Petersen is the president's third court pick to crash and burn over not being qualified to be a federal judge.  —  WASHINGTON President Donald Trump's judicial nominee Matthew Petersen has withdrawn …
Discussion: Raw Story, The Week and Washington Post
Tegna / WWL-TV:
Sen. Kennedy on Trump judicial nominee: ‘He has no litigation experience.’  —  Kennedy on Trump judicial nominee: ‘He has no litigation experience.’ … NEW ORLEANS - U.S. Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) responded after video of him grilling one of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees went viral last week.
David Leonhardt / New York Times:
A Tax Plan to Turbocharge Inequality, in 3 Charts  —  The Republican tax bill is an audacious attempt to accelerate the economic trends of the last half-century.  —  If you're a fan of these trends — rapidly rising inequality and stagnant middle-class incomes — you should love the bill.
Sources: Jerry Richardson, Panthers Have Made Multiple Confidential Payouts for Workplace Misconduct, Including Sexual Harassment and Use of a Racial Slur  — SI has learned that at least four former Panthers employees have received ‘significant’ monetary settlements due to inappropriate workplace comments …
New York Times:
Rebelling Republican Suburbs Offer Democrats Path to House Control  —  HOUSTON — As she sat with a glass of sauvignon blanc waiting for a women-focused Democratic fund-raiser to begin, Nancy Sharp let loose in a Texas-seasoned drawl why she and so many other onetime supporters of the Bush family were abandoning the Republicans.
Discussion: TalkLeft
ESPN MediaZone:
News Regarding John Skipper  —  ESPN President John Skipper announced today that he is resigning from his position, citing a substance addiction problem.  Former ESPN President and Executive Chairman George Bodenheimer (who worked at ESPN from 1981-2014) will serve as Acting Chair of the company …
Charles C. W. Cooke / National Review:
Jennifer Rubin Is Everything She Hates about Trump Worshippers  —  The Washington Post columnist stands out among Trump-obsessed zealots who add nothing to our discourse.  —  The era of Trump has been as hard on the mind as it has been good for the muscles in the chest.
Matt Zapotosky / Washington Post:
Federal appeals judge announces immediate retirement amid investigation prompted by accusations of sexual misconduct  —  Alex Kozinski, the powerful judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit who was facing a judicial investigation over allegations that he subjected 15 women …
Financial Times:
Trump year one: better scorecard than predicted … President Donald Trump is within reach of his first big legislative victory as the US Congress prepares to pass a tax bill that would allow him to end his first year with a better scorecard than many had predicted.
Byron York / Washington Examiner:
Amid firestorms, Trump has year of solid policy accomplishments. Can he keep going?
Michelle Nichols / Reuters:
U.S. vetoes U.N. call for withdrawal of Trump Jerusalem decision  —  UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States was further isolated on Monday over President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital when it blocked a United Nations Security Council call for the declaration to be withdrawn.
Dan Diamond / Politico:
HHS holds back critical comments on faith-based rule  —  HHS' selective disclosure could lead to legal challenges, particularly under the Administrative Procedure Act.  —  HHS is refusing to make public more than 10,000 comments on a Trump administration proposal to reduce federal regulations …
Patricia Mazzei / New York Times:
Puerto Rico Orders Review and Recount of Hurricane Deaths  —  Facing mounting evidence that Puerto Rico has vastly undercounted the number of people who died because of Hurricane Maria, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló ordered on Monday that every death on the island since the calamitous storm be reviewed.
Jason Zengerle / New York Times:
What (if Anything) Does Carter Page Know?  —  He has been wiretapped by the F.B.I. and grilled by congressional investigators over his suspected Russia connections.  But the Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser can't seem to stop talking.  —  They were closing in on Carter Page.
Associated Press:
The Latest: Witness helps people get out of derailed train  —  DUPONT, Wash. (AP) — The Latest on an Amtrak train derailment in Washington state (all times local):  —  A man who was driving on a highway alongside a train that derailed in Washington state says he and his friend rushed to help the victims.
Dylan Scott / Vox:
Obamacare will survive  —  It won't be pretty.  But the law might really, finally be in the clear.  —  The Affordable Care Act is going to survive.  —  Republicans are on track to repeal the law's individual mandate in their tax overhaul as early as next week.
Josh Meyer / Politico:
The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook  —  PART I  —  A GLOBAL THREAT EMERGES  —  How Hezbollah turned to trafficking cocaine and laundering money through used cars to finance its expansion.  —  In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran …
Discussion: IJR, TheBlaze and Project Republic
Julia Manchester / The Hill:
Former Fox News contributor who settled sexual harassment lawsuit breaks confidentiality agreement  —  A former Fox News contributor who reached a $2.5 million settlement with the network after alleging sexual assault on Sunday said she broke the terms of her confidentiality agreement in order to return fire on Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch.
Discussion: The Week and The Gateway Pundit
Yasmin Khorram / CNN:
Death threats haunt Miss Iraq in wake of selfie controversy  —  (CNN)Nearly a month ago, Sarah Idan was in a hand-beaded Swarovski crystal gown representing Iraq in the Miss Universe pageant.  It was the first time in 45 years that Iraq had a contestant in the pageant.
Discussion: AOL and IJR
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 More Items: 
Chad Felix Greene / The Federalist:
I Turned My Coworker Into HR When She Gave Me A Christmas Card, And She Changed My Heart
Anchorage Daily News:
Track Palin, son of former Gov. Sarah Palin, arrested for assaulting his father
Discussion: Political Wire and NBC News
Charlie Nash / Breitbart:
MagicResistance: The Rise of Feminist Witchcraft
Discussion: Right Wing Watch and Raw Story
New York Times:
Is Trump a Blessing or Curse for Religious Conservatives?
New York Times:
Warren and Sanders: Who Is Congress Really Serving?
Discussion: Common Dreams
Greg Moran / Los Angeles Times:
Government paying private firm $297 million to help hire 5,000 Border Patrol agents
 Earlier Items: 
Monmouth University:
Monmouth University Polling Institute
Discussion: Political Wire
Alyssa Rosenberg / Washington Post:
It's time to stop grading movies like ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ on a curve
Washington Bureaucrats Are Chipping Away at Trump's Agenda
Discussion: Raw Story
Scott Johnson / Power Line:
What happened in Wisconsin: Sen. Tiffany comments