This Week on Planet Trump: Defeat in Alabama and Russia Investigation Provokes Crisis

Monday: Mueller is Investigating Trump

Special counsel Robert Mueller is trying to piece together what happened inside the White House over a critical 18-day period that began when senior officials were told that National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was susceptible to blackmail by Russia, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

Multiple sources say that during interviews, Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses, including White House Counsel Don McGahn and others who have worked in the West Wing, to go through each day that Flynn remained as national security adviser and describe in detail what they knew was happening inside the White House as it related to Flynn.

If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until Feb. 13, and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his investigation into Flynn. Trump fired Comey on May 9.

Carol E. Lee and Julia Ainsley, NBC News

Tuesday: #MeToo Returns the Spotlight to President’s Abuses

President Trump attacked Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in a sexually suggestive tweet Tuesday morning that implied Gillibrand would do just about anything for money, prompting a swift and immediate backlash.

“Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump,” the president wrote. “Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

The tweet came as Trump is already facing negative publicity from renewed allegations from three women who had previously accused him of sexual harassment, which are coming amid the #MeToo movement that is roiling the nation and forcing powerful men accused of sexual misbehavior from their posts.

“President Trump has committed assault, according to these women, and those are very credible allegations of misconduct and criminal activity, and he should be fully investigated and he should resign,” Gillibrand said on CNN. “These allegations are credible; they are numerous. I've heard these women's testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.”

Ashley Parker, John Wagner and Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

Wednesday: Trump Humiliated as Doug Jones Triumphs in Alabama

President Donald Trump woke to a self-inflicted political disaster Wednesday morning that even he could not chalk up to fake news, after Republican Roy Moore crashed to defeat in the Alabama Senate race.

Moore's loss also put the fate of the President's agenda on the line, with the GOP majority in the Senate now shaved to just a single vote and the chamber one step closer, though still a long shot, to being up for grabs in midterm elections next year.

There was jubilation for Democrats, who embraced an unlikely hero in a state they never thought they could win. There is a sense, building on Democratic victories in Alabama and last month in Virginia, that the mood in the country is beginning to turn the party's way.

Thirteen months after one of their darkest hours turned into a yearlong funk after Hillary Clinton's defeat, party activists now have reason to believe again and will enter the new year with real hopes of making noise in 2018.

Stephen Collinson, CNN

Thursday: Alabama Result is a Good Omen for the Democrats

At this time last year, the Democratic path to Senate control seemed impossible: Hold all of the Democratic seats, flip Arizona and Nevada, then hope for a miracle.

The Democrats got the political version of a miracle on Tuesday. Doug Jones’s victory in Alabama means Democrats have accomplished the most difficult item on their checklist in pursuit of the Senate. A Democratic path is now obvious and the race for control is basically a tossup, perhaps with a Republican advantage.

It is hard to state how surprising this would have seemed a year ago. Democrats needed three states to flip control of the Senate, but they entered the cycle defending 25 seats (two of them independents) to the G.O.P.’s eight. Of those Democratic seats, a staggering ten of them were in states that chose Donald J. Trump for president, including five that he carried by at least 18 percentage points.

My sense is that Democrats would be favorites in Nevada and Arizona if 2018 turned out to be a so-called wave election like the 2006 or 2010 midterms. This year’s special elections and national political indicators suggest that development is more likely than not.

Nate Cohn, The New York Times

Friday: Republicans Persist with Unpopular Agenda

At this point, nobody seems to deny that Republicans are facing a big political problem in 2018.

And this unpopularity, it should be noted, is no kind of surprise. Back in September, Pew found that by a 52-24 margin, voters favored higher corporate taxes, not lower. And by a 43-24 margin, voters favored higher taxes on the rich, not lower.

In the long-term, they are raising taxes on the middle class and then waving that away by saying it's such a toxically unpopular idea that obviously future Congresses won't let it come into effect.

Yet somehow it goes on! The FCC's reversal on net neutrality is somewhere between mildly unpopular and hideously unpopular. Fifty-five percent of voters told CNN we shouldn't reduce legal immigration, but Trump is gearing up for a big push to reduce legal immigration.

Extending legal status to DACA recipients is hugely popular, but Republicans are lining up against it. Seventy-two percent of the public thinks Trump has done something illegal or unethical with Russia, but congressional Republicans are tying themselves tighter than ever to him on this issue with increasingly unhinged attacks on Robert Mueller.

Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Saturday: China Experts Warn of Regional Conflict

It's not just the United States that could soon see itself engaged in a deadly conflict with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. China is also at risk of an imminent war with North Korea, warned some of China's most prestigious national security experts at a conference in Beijing this week.

“Conditions on the peninsula now make for the biggest risk of a war in decades,” said Shi Yinhong, director of the Center on American Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing and an adviser to the State Council of China on diplomacy issues since February 2011, during the conference. “North Korea is a time bomb. We can only delay the explosion, hoping that by delaying it, a time will come to remove the detonator,” he added, reported the South China Morning Post Saturday.

Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Region, an important military region, warned that a war could begin as soon as March, when South Korea and the United States are slated to hold annual military drills. “It is a highly dangerous period,” Wang said during the conference. “Northeast China should mobilize defenses for war.”

Christina Silva, Newsweek

Sunday: Struggling President Mulls Firing Mueller

Any decision to fire special counsel Robert Mueller is "obviously" up to President Donald Trump, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says.

"I don't have any reason to think that the president is going to do that, but that's obviously up to him," Mnuchin said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election has come under increased scrutiny from Capitol Hill conservatives after it was revealed that one of the members of his team was dismissed for sending anti-Trump text messages.

The calls to fire the former FBI director could grow louder this week after a lawyer for the Trump transition team accused Mueller of unlawfully obtaining tens of thousands of private emails during its investigation. Mueller's spokesman, though, says all the acquisitions were legal.

Martin Matishak, Politico

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