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1:35 AM ET, December 21, 2018

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 Top Items: 
Helene Cooper / New York Times:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Resigns, Rebuking Trump's Worldview  —  WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whose experience and stability were widely seen as a balance to an unpredictable president, resigned on Thursday in protest of President Trump's decision to withdraw 2,000 American troops from Syria.
RELATED:
New York Times:
U.S. to Withdraw About 7,000 Troops From Afghanistan, Officials Say  —  President Trump made the decision at the same time he decided he was pulling American forces out of Syria, one official said.  —  Turmoil in Congress, National Security and Markets: The State of Play  —  There is too much news to fit in one story.
Discussion: Politico
Washington Post:
‘A tailspin’: Under siege, Trump propels the government and markets into crisis  —  President Trump began Thursday under siege, listening to howls of indignation from conservatives over his border wall and thrusting the government toward a shutdown.  He ended it by announcing the exit …
The Daily Beast:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' Resignation Message to Trump Is Basically ‘F*** This’  —  The Pentagon chief quit after Trump announced plans to withdraw troops from Syria and just before he ordered a drawdown in Afghanistan.  —  By SCOTT BIXBY12.20.18 5:27 PM ET  —  Jim Mattis had enough.
James N. Mattis / Washington Post:
Read the Jim Mattis resignation letter  —  Dear Mr. President:  —  I have been privileged to serve as our country's 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.
Wall Street Journal:
Trump Administration Is Considering Substantial Afghan Troop Drawdown  —  The administration is considering a substantial reduction of troops in Afghanistan and could begin a drawdown in several weeks, officials said.
Susan B. Glasser / New Yorker:
The Year in Trump Freakouts  —  Jim Mattis is out, the President is leaving Syria without consulting anyone, and that's just this week in crises of the President's own making.  —  President Trump is ending the year as he began it: outraging Washington with a Twitter diktat, one that was cheered in Moscow and jeered on Capitol Hill.
John Podhoretz / Commentary:
What the Mattis Resignation Means  —  Reading James Mattis's resignation letter, one gets the sense of our secretary of defense serving as a kind of Hans Brinker these past two years—holding his finger in the dike lest the floodwaters drown the town.  This week, with the abrupt revelation …
David Rothkopf / The Daily Beast:
Mattis' Message to the World: Trump Is Out of Control  —  That was more than a letter of resignation provided today by Defense Secretary James Mattis, it was a bright red line in American history.  —  On Thursday, President Trump suffered the most serious repudiation of his presidency to date …
Paul Szoldra / Task & Purpose:
In 2014, Mattis Said What Would Make Him Resign In Protest.  In 2018, He Actually Did It  —  Looking for a great career?  Or know another veteran, service member, or military spouse who is?  Get started at Hirepurpose.  —  Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has resigned in protest …
Discussion: New York Times
David French / National Review:
Will the Nation Heed the Warning Jim Mattis Delivered Today?  —  Defenders of Trump have long argued that his worst impulses can and will be tempered by the good men and women in his administration.  And when they listed the good men and women, the first name on that list was always James Mattis.
David Frum / The Atlantic:   No More Excuses  —  For almost two full years, James Mattis …
Washington Post:
‘A sad day for America’: Washington fears a Trump unchecked by Mattis
Discussion: Shareblue Media
Ali Vitali / NBC News:
‘This is scary’: Mattis' resignation triggers bipartisan chorus of concern on Capitol Hill
Discussion: Raw Story, Hot Air and CNN
Henry Olsen / Washington Post:   Trump is now forging foreign policy on his own. Where will he take us?
The Atlantic:
James Mattis's Letter of Resignation
Washington Post:
Ethics officials said Whitaker should recuse from the Mueller probe, but his advisers told him not to, officials say  —  A senior Justice Department ethics official concluded acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker should recuse from overseeing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's probe …
RELATED:
NBC News:
Mueller may submit report to attorney general as soon as mid-February, say sources  —  “They clearly are tying up loose ends,” said a lawyer who has been in contact with the Mueller team.  —  WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller is nearing the end of his historic investigation …
Discussion: Law & Crime and The Week
Laura Jarrett / CNN:
Exclusive: Whitaker told he does not need to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller investigation
Marty Lederman / Just Security:
A First Take on Bill Barr's Memo on Presidential Authority and the Mueller Investigation
Discussion: Lawfare and National Review
NBC News:
Founder of viral fundraiser for Trump's border wall has questionable news past  —  Brian Kolfage told NBC News he didn't want to mention his previous projects because he “didn't want it to be a distraction.”  —  An internet fundraiser for Donald Trump's border wall took in more than $7 million …
New York Times:
A Top Aide's Exit Plan Raises Eyebrows in the White House  —  WASHINGTON — After weeks of discussions about his future, Zachary D. Fuentes, the 36-year-old deputy White House chief of staff, had a plan.  —  Mr. Fuentes told colleagues that after his mentor, John F. Kelly …
RELATED:
Washington Post:   Trump agitating for major military withdrawal from Afghanistan, advisers say
Nahal Toosi / Politico:
A ‘Never Trumper’ bets on Trump, and loses  —  James Jeffrey, President Donald Trump's special representative for Syria engagement, probably should have seen it coming.  —  In August 2016, the well-respected veteran diplomat signed an open letter denouncing then-presidential candidate Trump as a danger to America.
RELATED:
Josh Rogin / Washington Post:
Trump is leaving 50,000 Syrian civilians to die
Liz Sly / Washington Post:   This time, the United States is betraying more than just the Kurds, allies say
Victoria Nuland / Washington Post:
In a single tweet, Trump destroys U.S. policy in the Middle East
Paul Kane / Washington Post:
In budget brinkmanship, Republicans once again hold themselves hostage  —  House Republicans are ending their eight-year run in the majority exactly the way it began — grabbing a hostage and seeking ransom.  —  This week's standoff, like so many others this decade, pits an alienated House GOP caucus …
Discussion: Political Wire
RELATED:
BuzzFeed News:
Russian Agents Sought Secret US Treasury Records On Clinton Backers During 2016 Campaign  —  US Treasury Department officials used a Gmail back channel with the Russian government as the Kremlin sought sensitive financial information on its enemies in America and across the globe, according to documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News.
Washington Post:
As stocks drop, Trump fears he's losing his best argument for re-election  —  President Trump has kept an almost obsessive watch on the stock market as it has lurched lower in recent weeks.  —  He has complained to aides how unfair it is that he is blamed for the market's slide …
RELATED:
New York Times:
Planned Parenthood Is Accused of Mistreating Pregnant Employees  —  Employers that champion women face accusations of discriminating against their pregnant workers, showing how widespread the problem is in American workplaces.  —  As a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood …
Aram Roston / BuzzFeed News:
Jerry Falwell: I Lent $1.8 Million To A Venture Involving A Pool Attendant  —  The prominent evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. has for the first time acknowledged putting up $1.8 million for a business venture managed by a young pool attendant whom he and his wife befriended during a stay at a luxury hotel in 2012.
 
 
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 More Items: 
Edward-Isaac Dovere / The Atlantic:
Barack Obama Goes All In Politically To Fight Gerrymandering
Alexander C. Kaufman / HuffPost:
Democrats Just Blocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Push For A Green New Deal Committee
Discussion: E&E News and ThinkProgress
David Brooks / New York Times:
A New Center Being Born  —  The market and the welfare state go together.
Discussion: Hit & Run
Washington Post:
Zinke was a rising star in Washington. Then he joined the Trump administration.
Discussion: Politico and The Guardian
Asma Khalid / NPR:
Democrats Can't Avoid Identity Politics In 2020
Josh Gerstein / Politico:
Stay issued in lawsuit over Trump hotel
Terence P. Jeffrey / CNSNews:
Least-Educated State: California No. 1 in Percentage of Residents 25 and Older Who Never Finished …
Discussion: The Daily Caller
 Earlier Items: 
Ken Dilanian / NBC News:
Democrats want to use obscure law to grab Donald Trump's tax returns
Politico:
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts to consider retirement over holidays
Chicago Tribune:
How bad does the ‘Illinois Exodus’ have to get?
Katherine Rosman / New York Times:
The Itsy-Bitsy, Teenie-Weenie, Very Litigious Bikini
Discussion: The Daily Caller
Associated Press:
Democrats to Start Presidential Primary Debates in June 2019
Discussion: Joe.My.God. and twitchy.com