December 12, 2017

Good Tuesday morning. Situational awareness: NFL Network suspends three analysts— retired players Marshall Faulk and Heath Evans, plus Ike Taylor — following allegations of sexual harassment by former wardrobe stylist Jami Cantor.

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), who is resisting resignation despite sexual harassment claims, "regularly drank to excess, and ... staffers who accompanied him to Capitol Hill functions would joke that they had to be on 'redhead patrol' to keep him out of trouble," according to a former aide's complaint, reported on A1 by the N.Y. Times Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

1 big thing ... Siren: Trump lawyers want second special counsel

President Trump's legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Bob Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt.

The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigator:

  • Trump officials outlined their new line of thinking to me last night.
  • The new demand was prompted by a Fox News article last evening by James Rosen and Jake Gibson: "A senior Justice Department official [Bruce Ohr] demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump 'dossier' had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed: ... The official's wife [Nellie Ohr] worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election."
  • Jay Sekulow, a member of the President's legal team, tells me: "The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate."
  • Unlike some other vocal Republicans, Trump lawyers say they respect Mueller and trust him, and want to get to the finish line with him.
  • In November, the WashPost reported: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns — including alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation and the controversial sale of a uranium company to Russia."

Trump lawyers' strategy: Cooperate with Mueller, insist publicly they have nothing to hide, and predict the president to be fully cleared early in the new year.

  • Behind the curtain: Trump's non-legal aides seem way more nervous, and some assume the end will be neither near nor pleasant.

Be smart: Among Republicans, the argument that the investigation is tainted is picking up steam, including a tweet by Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) on Friday: "I will be challenging Rs and Ds on Senate Judiciary Committee to support a Special Counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016 — not just Trump and Russia."

  • MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last night cited a "fire-Mueller freakout on the right": "Everyone's throwing red flags on the possibility of firing Robert Mueller, on both sides of the aisle."

2. "A defining choice for years to come"

Alabama polls open at 8 a.m. ET. The CNN countdown clock promises first exit polls as soon as the polls close, at 8 p.m. ET.

Voters are choosing between Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, embroiled in sexual assault allegations involving teenaged women, and Democrat Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor, in the race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate seat.

Why it matters, from Axios' Shannon Vavra: If Moore wins, it means Republican voters were willing to ignore weeks of coverage of the allegations against Moore — or simply didn't believe them. If Jones wins, it means Moore blew a winnable race for a safe Republican seat.

For sexual assault survivors and allies, a Jones win would be another major win in a season of burgeoning progress.

The stakes, from AP's Zeke Miller:

  • Was Moore worth it? The Republican Party's decision to maintain support for Roy Moore stands to be a defining choice for years to come.
  • For the president, it's a matter of practicality — a loss would narrow the GOP's thin majority in the Senate.
  • But other Republicans worry it's a short-term ploy that has sacrificed their moral authority.
  • Democrats have pulled out the stops for Jones, including recorded calls from former President Obama.
  • Democrats are winless in five contests for vacant Republican congressional seats this year.
  • Dem wins in November in governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey, and a Maine ballot measure for Medicaid expansion, provided optimism for next year's midterms.

3. Kimmel's emotional health-care monologue

"Jimmy Kimmel was absent from his ABC late-night show last week while his 8-month-old son, Billy, recovered from his second heart surgery," the WashPost's Emily Yahr reports.

"Last night, Kimmel returned to the stage with his son in his arms. ... Kimmel segued into an emotional monologue about CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, which expired in October":

  • "CHIP has become a bargaining chip. It's on the back burner while they work out their new tax plans, which means parents of children with cancer, diabetes and heart problems are about to get letters saying their coverage could be cut off next month. Merry Christmas, right?"
  • "So this happened because Congress, about 72 days ago, failed to approve funding for CHIP since the first time it was created two decades ago."
  • "And imagine getting that letter, literally not knowing how you will afford to save your child's life. This is not a hypothetical. About 2 million CHIP kids have serious chronic conditions."
  • "If these were potato chips they were taking away from us, we would be marching on Washington with pitchforks and spears right now."

Bonus: Pic du jour

A Santa Barbara County fire hand-crew member, Nikolas Abele, keeps an eye on a hillside for any stray embers during a firing operation in Santa Monica Canyon in Carpinteria, Calif., yesterday.

  • Ash fell like snow and heavy smoke had residents gasping for air yesterday as a wildfire exploded in size, becoming the fifth largest in state history.

Go deeper ... L.A. Times, "How a blaze became a monster: The Thomas fire explodes in a region whose picturesque wilderness can be a nightmare for crews."

4. N.Y. bomber influenced by Islamic State

N.Y. Times Quotation of the Day ... From Jim Dwyer's "About New York" column on A1, "Doubling Down on Daily Life In the Face of Modern Danger":

  • Louis Bernier, on board an A train with his young son in the hours after a would-be suicide bomber caused an explosion in a walkway between subway lines: "We cannot stop living. There was the event on the bike path last month. I tell you, I'm more concerned by the derailment on this line last summer."

Daily News cover: "ISIS fanatic detonates suicide bomb in Times Square subway station, but plot ... BLEW UP IN HIS FACE!"

5. Word of the year

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year for 2017 is feminism, according to the 189-year old dictionary company (now "provider of language information"), which calls it "a top lookup throughout the year":

  • "Feminism spiked following news coverage of the Women's March on Washington, DC in January (and other related marches held around the country and internationally), and follow-up discussions regarding whether the march was feminist, and what kind of feminism was represented by organizers and attendees."
  • "The word spiked again when Kellyanne Conway said during an interview that she didn't consider herself a feminist. In this case, the definition of feminism was itself the subject of the news story — an invitation for many people to look up the word."
  • "Interest in the dictionary definition of feminism was also driven by entertainment this year: we saw increased lookups after the release of both Hulu's series The Handmaid's Tale and the film Wonder Woman."
  • "More recently, lookups of feminism have been increasing in conjunction with the many accounts of sexual assault and harassment."
  • "Today's definitions of feminism read: "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes" and "organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests."

6. Data du jour: The real America

This is a world that, in our cocoons, we're rarely aware of. Check out the six-digit tragedies above ... Opioid foster care: The number of children removed from parents who use drugs.

7. Quote of the year: "Alternative facts"

"Alternative facts," by Kellyanne Conway, tops a Yale Law School librarian's list of the most notable quotes of 2017:

  • Fred Shapiro, an associate director at the library, told AP: "I actually had to limit the amount of Trump-related quotations on the list so as not to have the list overwhelmed by him."
  • The yearly list is an update to "The Yale Book of Quotations," first published in 2006. Shapiro chooses quotes that are famous or revealing of the spirit of the times — not necessarily eloquent or admirable.

The list:

  1. "Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts." — Kellyanne Conway on "Meet the Press," Jan. 22.
  2. "Alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods." — Chuck Todd to Kellyanne Conway, same show.
  3. "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." — Trump, as reported by the N.Y. Times, explaining the firing of FBI Director James to visiting Russian officials, May 10.
  4. "With respect to any women who have made allegations on the record, Mr. Weinstein believes that all of these relationships were consensual." — Sallie Hofmeister, spokeswoman for Harvey Weinstein, Oct. 10.
  5. "Make our planet great again." — Emmanuel Macron, statement on the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, June 1.
  6. "We can't have the inmates running the prison." — Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, on NFL players protesting the national anthem, in ESPN The Magazine, Oct. 27.
  7. "Yes." — Elizabeth Warren, responding to Jake Tapper's question on whether the 2016 Democratic primaries were rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton, on CNN's "The Lead," Nov. 2.
  8. "And the Academy Award ... for Best Picture ... La La Land." — Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, mistakenly reading the wrong winner for Best Picture in an envelope mix-up, Academy Awards, Feb. 27.
  9. "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center." — Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), in a tweet, Oct. 8.
  10. "There is too much money in the world." — Lawrence Luhring, art dealer, reacting to the sale of a painting possibly by Leonardo da Vinci for over $450 million, as quoted in the N.Y. Times, Nov. 16.

8. Media trends

🧀 Axios' Sara Fischer, author of our weekly Media Trends newsletter, scoops:

  • Jim Roberts, former Mashable executive editor and veteran New York Times and Reuters digital editor, is joining streaming TV startup Cheddar as editor-in-chief to lead Cheddar's newsroom and editorial coverage.
  • The company is also launching "Cheddar Scoops," an exclusive-news reporting unit. Business Insider's Alex Heath is the first Cheddar Scoops hire.
  • Why it matters: Cheddar continues to expand amid a tumultuous landscape for VC-backed digital media. These hires are part of a push to strengthen the company's editorial product to keep up with its aggressive business deals.

What we're watching ... Tonight at 7:30 on HBO, "VICE News Tonight, The Alabama Special " — how Alabama became the biggest political story in the country:

  • "Led by 'VICE News Tonight on HBO' correspondents Alexandra Jaffe, Evan Mcmorris-Santoro and Antonia Hylton as well as a team of nine producers and eight photographers, the episode will canvass the views of voters across 13 cities over the course of 120 hours to provide viewers with a distinctive and immersive look at one of the most extraordinary moments in recent U.S political history."
  • "From Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville, Prattville, Gadsden, Midland City, Florence and more."

9. An epic year: 10 of 30

Remembering 2017 in 30 images ... Steve Bannon would later call President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey on May 9 one of the biggest mistakes in "modern political history."

  • Peter Baker wrote presciently on the front page of the next day's New York Times: "President Lands a Punch, and Many Hear Echoes of Watergate." (Illustrated online with a 1972 Nixon pic.)

Other headlines:

  • Washington Post: "Trump fires FBI director: Justice Dept. Cites Comey's Handling of Clinton Email Probe in Call for Dismissal."
  • Wall Street Journal: "Trump Fires FBI Director Comey: Before the Dismissal, A Growing Frustration."

10. 1 fun thing

Ways hotels will change in 2018, by Nikki Ekstein, travel editor at Bloomberg Pursuits:

  • "Marriott's experimental 'Internet of Things room' ... includes showers that remember a guest's preferred temperature, digital wall art that can be swapped for family photos, and mirrors with embedded displays — for on-demand yoga videos. The rooms will soft-launch in 2018; W hotels will likely be first to offer them."
  • "Hotels in major U.S. markets will become more expensive next year as the practice of adding resort fees, once reserved for getaways in exotic locales, becomes more and more common at urban properties — often with a nightly price tag of $25."
  • Turndown service is being reduced, for reasons of cost and privacy.
  • "Living room-like check-in areas are ... popping up at some of the world's finest properties."
  • Look for more "experiences": local walking tours, comped theater tickets, exhibits in the hotels, manager receptions for frequent guests.