The Note: As Mueller’s probe continues, increased scrutiny of his efforts

The Note: As Mueller’s probe continues, increased scrutiny of his efforts

The TAKE with Rick Klein

This is what political warfare looks like.

President Donald Trump is getting loads of help from his party apparatus on at least one front.

White House allies are building a case against Robert Mueller’s investigation as quickly as Mueller himself does his work – or so it would appear from the limited visibility offered by the special counsel’s office.

The president’s lawyers are sounding alarms about Mueller’s work, claiming his team unlawfully accessed transition emails. The Department of Justice – which nominally, at least, oversees Mueller’s work – is helping undermine faith in his team by being unusually forthcoming with information about some of his hires.

GOP-friendly media voices and leading members of Congress are laying the groundwork to question virtually any action that comes out of Mueller’s operation in the coming weeks and months.

“These conflicts of interest jeopardize the integrity of his investigation,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Insiders think Trump is very unlikely to fire Mueller – that such a move would cause an unraveling of his presidency, and that he knows it. Asked late Sunday if he was considering firing him, the president responded, “No, I’m not – no.”

Neutering Mueller in the court of public opinion may be the last best option available to the president’s defenders.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

All signs suggest that America will have a new tax code signed into law by the end of the week. The votes may be tight, and, as is often the case with big pieces of legislation, the final tally will probably come to the wire. Still, Republicans seem confident they will pass their plan before Christmas as promised and suggest they even have least once vote to spare.

Sunday night, Sen. John McCain‘s office confirmed that the Arizona senator, who is battling brain cancer, was headed home even though it mean he would miss the roll call.

The GOP will likely get momentary political boost for (finally) sending a major bill to the president’s desk, but in the end voters will judge the plan on how it affect them and whether or not they see any benefit to their families, job prospects or wallets.

Republicans promised simplification, but the final bill is over 1000 pages. Many of the deductions that were scrapped initially managed to squeeze their way back in as the bill got shopped around Washington and debated in the public eye.

And yes, the wealthiest few and biggest corporations still stand to gain the most.

The TIP with Meridith McGraw

Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., wants to know why a last minute provision that provides a tax break to people with significant commercial real estate holdings was added to the Republican tax bill.

“Because this issue has raised concerns, I would ask that that you provide an explanation of the evolution of this provision and how it made it into the final conference report,” wrote Corker in a letter to Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch.

The International Business Times reported the provision could benefit Corker, who has sizable commercial real estate holdings, and is a crucial “yes” vote for the Republican tax bill. Corker denies requesting any special tax provisions in order to win his vote.

The tax break has raised the eyebrows of Senate Democrats like Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

“I don’t know how it got in,” Van Hollen told George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.” “What we do know is they’re behind closed doors. There are a whole army of lobbyists who were surround them, and the longer they’re in there, the more you see these special interest provisions, George.”


  • President Donald Trump will formally announce his administration’s National Security Strategy in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington D.C. at 2 p.m. ET.
  • President Donald Trump meets with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the Oval Office at 3:15 p.m. ET.
  • The UN Security Council is due to vote on a draft resolution calling for the withdrawal of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a move likely to face a Washington veto.

    “So millions of American taxpayers handing over money to foreign stock holders. It doesn’t sound like America first to me. It doesn’t sound like middle class first.” – Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md, on the tax form bill that will allow foreign stock holders a $31 billion tax break in 2019.


  • ‘No, I’m not’ considering firing Mueller. President Trump says he is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller. (Emily Knapp)
  • Firing special counsel Mueller ‘would be a mistake’: Leading GOP senator. The number two Senate Republican said it would be a “mistake” for the Trump administration to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. (Ellie Smith)
  • Putin called President Trump to thank CIA for tip on bomb threat. The White House confirmed Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with President Donald Trump in what Russian state media has described as a thank-you call following a CIA tip about a bomb threat in St. Petersburg. (Alexander Mallin and Patrick Reevell)
  • ‘What is the White House afraid of?’ with Mueller probe, Democratic senator asks. The Democrat who heads the party’s senatorial campaign committee said Republicans need to end what he called a “concerted effort” to undermine the credibility of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. (Nicki Zink)
  • Trump transition lawyer claims special counsel illegally obtained emails. A lawyer for Donald Trump’s presidential transition team has sent a letter to House and Senate lawmakers alleging that emails among transition officials have been illegally obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. (Alexander Mallin and Benjamin Siegel)
  • HHS disputes report it has banned CDC from using words like ‘diversity’ and ‘fetus.’ Trump administration officials in the Department of Health and Human Services said a report that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is being barred from using certain words, including “diversity,” “transgender” and “fetus,” is a “complete mischaracterization.” (Morgan Winsor and Dan Childs)
  • Trump brushes off concerns on tax plan, calls it ‘great gift’ to middle class. President Trump is brushing off concerns that the GOP’s final tax bill will unfairly benefit wealthy Americans over the middle class. (Alexander Mallin)
  • Omarosa Manigault Newman’s White House role fraught with tension, sources say. Multiple sources within the White House and outside of the administration with firsthand knowledge of her relationships with the black community tell ABC News they feel Manigault Newman, during her tumultuous 11-month tenure, turned off many of the constituencies with whom she’d promised to build bridges. (Tara Palmeri)
  • Amid sexual harassment claims, Rep. Kihuen says he won’t seek re-election in 2018. Facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment, Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen has announced his decision not to seek reelection in 2018. (Lucien Bruggeman)
  • Police beef up Sen. Cory Booker’s security following death threat. Police in Newark, New Jersey are stepping up their protection of Sen. Cory Booker after he and his family received a death threat, Newark mayor Ras Baraka said in a statement Saturday. (Rex Sakamoto)
  • The Washington Post and ’60 Minutes’ reports that DEA agents hit a brick wall after building the biggest case the agency ever built against the country’s largest drug distributor: ‘We feel like our system was hijacked’.
  • A Washington Post column looks at Trump labor adviser’s plan for cutting federal compensation, potentially even paid holidays.
  • The New York Times reports on the Pentagon’s mysterious UFO program.
  • The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.


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