Good Saturday morning. Breaking: President Trump, walking alone to Marine One, said he's not worried about what Michael Flynn could tell Bob Mueller because "what has been shown is no collusion, no collusion."
Situational awareness: Alabama's Senate race is neck-and-neck ahead of the Dec. 12 election, according to a poll by the Washington Post and George Mason's Schar School: Democrat Doug Jones 50%, Republican Roy Moore 47%, as voter concern about moral conduct hurts Moore in the red state.
Michael Flynn's guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with Bob Mueller's investigation was without doubt terrible news for President Trump and his inner circle: Flynn knows more than anyone about their dealings with Russia.
But, but, but ... This doesn't necessarily mean Trump is in personal legal jeopardy, much less on the road to impeachment.
Jeffrey Toobin, writing about Trump's lawyers ("The Russia Portfolio") in the forthcoming issue of The New Yorker, offers a gut check on how hard it will be to go after Trump, even with Flynn's help:
Toobin points to two ways Mueller could move, both difficult:
This is why several White House officials worry most about a possible cover-up. Obstruction of justice is easier to prove. Remember: There's a reason Steve Bannon said the firing of James Comey will go down as the dumbest political decision in America history.
The APNewsAlert came at 1:51 a.m.: "Senate narrowly OKs near-$1.5 trillion tax bill, pushing President Trump and GOP close to year's biggest legislative win."
And yet, this huge accomplishment — even many Republicans long doubted that the Senate would finish its version this year — will be a footnote in news coverage and the national consciousness, blotted out by the massive new legal threat to the White House.
Inside the West Wing ... Conversations by Jonathan Swan and me show there's anxiety and fear among Trump confidants:
N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Michael Flynn statement: "I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong, and, through my faith in God, I am working to set things right."
"Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's guilty plea has given Special Counsel Robert Mueller significant new leverage that may help him pursue more serious charges against others close to Donald Trump, perhaps leading up to the president himself," Bloomberg reports:
"Flynn is now cooperating with Mueller, and as part of his plea deal he provided information related to Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, ... a sign that Mueller's probe is closing in on the president's inner circle."Why it matters: "Legal experts said Mueller may seek to use Flynn's testimony to build a broader case of conspiracy or obstruction of justice.""Flynn told Mueller that he communicated with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition last December about American foreign policy with the knowledge and direction of senior Trump associates, according to a court document.""Flynn said that a 'very senior member' of the presidential transition team asked Flynn on Dec. 22 to contact Russian officials to help delay or defeat the U.N. resolution on Israel. The very senior member was Kushner, according to the people familiar with the events.""Another person familiar with the push against the U.N. resolution said it was a collaborative effort.""Flynn also said he reported back on Dec. 29 to a 'senior official' in the transition team at ... Mar-a-Lago ... on his conversations with" the Russian ambassador."That official, according to the people familiar with the matter, is K.T. McFarland [now ambassador to Singapore], who was brought into the transition team and later the White House by Flynn." Be smart: What does Trump tell his base? I got you this great tax gift, while Democrats can't move beyond fake Russia.
Several Democratic senators tweeted images like this last evening as the vote approached.
The Senate tax bill differs in big ways from the House version. So the conference committee, which House aides unanimously insist is happening, will have real problems to solve — in a hurry.
What has to be worked out, per Axios' Caitlin Owens:
Be smart: Just a few issues!
ABC News last night walked back a bombshell that, according to CNBC's Bob Pisani, caused the stock market's temporary 350-point plunge:
Why it matters: If candidate Trump ordered contact with the Russians, that could point to collusion. Once he was elected, such contact would be more explainable. (Pro tip: Just don't lie about it.)
"Even as investors celebrate a banner year for stocks, the [Bitcoin] party next door is so wild there's no longer any way of ignoring it" ... Barron's cover story by Avi Salzman:
For the first time in the history of the Grammys, no white male artist is nominated in any capacity for the most prestigious award, Album of the Year.
"[I]n Myanmar, where the military has launched ... a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslim minority, Francis opted [initially] for diplomatic expediency. He not only avoided the contested term 'Rohingya' in his public remarks, he ignored Asia's worst refugee crisis in decades entirely and didn't call out his hosts for launching it," AP's Nicole Winfield reports from Dhaka, Bangladesh:
"Matt Lauer will not get his $30 million payout from NBC News, network bosses have ruled, even though his lawyers argue he still has over a year left on his contract," the N.Y. Post's Emily Smith and Carlos Greer report:
Aaron Sorkin, in an interview with Hollywood Reporter's Lacey Rose , imagines what a "West Wing" revival might look like:
There's ... a standing offer from [NBC] to reboot The West Wing, which Sorkin considers on occasion. When asked if he'd introduce a Trump-like figure in his fictional White House, he winces, arguing that the current president holds no appeal for him, fictional or otherwise. ...
Sorkin's preferred scenario, he tells me, would involve "Sterling K. Brown as the president, and there's some kind of jam, an emergency, a very delicate situation involving the threat of war or something, and [President] Bartlet [played by Martin Sheen], long since retired, is consulted in the way that Bill Clinton used to consult with Nixon."
How he brings Allison Janney's C.J. Cregg or Bradley Whitford's Josh Lyman into the new scenario is where Sorkin gets stuck. So, for the time being, fans will have to settle for reruns.