The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump says he 'never directed' Cohen to break the law | GOP reels from Trump shutdown threat | Alleged spy Butina pleads guilty to conspiracy charge

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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.

  

The Hill's 12:30 Report: Alleged spy Butina pleads guilty to being part of conspiracy | Trump says he 'never directed' Cohen to 'break the law' | GOP struggles on message after Trump shutdown threat | Schumer says Dems won't budge in wall fight | Why Trump allies are worried |  House pushes funding vote until next week | The Hill's Top Lobbyists for 2018 | DC reporter wins on Jeopardy | KFC unveils chicken-scented fire logs

 

TALK OF THE MORNING

Not. My. Fault.:

This morning, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE reacted to the sentencing of his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, saying he "never directed Michael Cohen to break the law." http://bit.ly/2UHvcFS

He also tweeted: "He was a lawyer and he is supposed to know the law. It is called 'advice of counsel,' and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made. That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly stated that I did nothing wrong with respect to campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance. Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not." 

THROWBACK -- WOW, HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED: Here's a clip of President Trump telling reporters he knew nothing about the $130,000 payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels. Compare this clip to today. Watch: http://bit.ly/2SIAwaf

Wow, check out this cover of the New York Post: Here's how the Post is covering Michael's Cohen's sentence: http://bit.ly/2SICuHv

 

It's Thursday. Today is the 15th anniversary of the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to cmartel@thehill.com -- and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.

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ON CAPITOL HILL

When you're planning on blaming the enemy, but then someone on your team takes the fall: 

Via The Hill's Alexander Bolton, "Republican lawmakers are struggling to coordinate their message with President Trump heading into a divided Congress after he pulled the rug out from them once again by declaring he would be 'proud' to shut down the government." 

How so: "Trump shocked Republicans, who were preparing to blame Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerProtecting our judiciary must be a priority in the 116th Congress Baldwin's Trump plays 'Deal or No Deal' with shutdown on 'Saturday Night Live' Sunday shows preview: Shutdown negotiations continue after White House immigration proposal MORE (D-N.Y.) for a potential partial shutdown, when he said he would take sole responsibility for shuttering federal agencies if Congress doesn't meet his demand for $5 billion in wall funding." http://bit.ly/2Ew3YwU

NEW DEVELOPMENT -- THE HOUSE IS CUTTING THE DEADLINE VERY CLOSE: House Republicans are not voting on a spending bill today and are leaving town until Wednesday. The government would shut down next Friday if Congress doesn't come to an agreement. I.e.: When the House returns, the chamber will have two days to sort it out. http://bit.ly/2zYqZF8

THIS A.M. FROM SCHUMER: Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D.N.Y.) said Democrats won't budge on President Trump's border wall demand. In Schumer's words: "I want to be crystal clear. There will be no additional appropriations to pay for the border wall. It's done." http://bit.ly/2RWVPoz

TIDBIT -- THE EVOLUTION OF THE BORDER WALL FUNDING FIGHT:

Via Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur, 

"OLD: Mexico will pay for the wall 

NEW: Mexico will reimburse later 

NEWER: The wall will pay for itself 

NEWEST: Nafta 2.0 savings on trade with Mexico will pay for the wall" http://bit.ly/2RWKzZl

 

It's temporarily a yes from us:

--> http://bit.ly/2EvrSc9 ;)

Via The Hill's Mike Lillis and Melanie Zanona, Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 Our legislators must commit to making children a priority Dreamer: Dems 'should absolutely not' take Trump's immigration deal MORE(D-Calif.) has made an agreement with some of her most vocal critics that will set a term limit in place for her potential speakership. I.e.: They will vote for Pelosi for speaker of the House, but that term will end after a maximum of four years. http://bit.ly/2PzYv9x

 

This morning in the Senate -- he's beauty and he's grace, he's Mr. Arizona:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Senate GOP eyes 'nuclear option' for Trump nominees next week Taiwan’s President Tsai should be invited to address Congress MORE (R-Ky.) gave a farewell to outgoing Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSchumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat The Hill's Morning Report — Trump eyes wall money options as shutdown hits 21 days Poll: Sanders most popular senator, Flake least MORE (R-Ariz.) on the Senate floor, where he mentioned that Flake once made The Hill's 50 Most Beautiful list. http://bit.ly/2Lf6mc9

McConnell's praise: "Talk about an achievement that few of us could even aspire to." 

  

IN THE WHITE HOUSE

This has been A WEEK in an already eventful year:

Via The Hill's Niall Stanage, "Republicans, including some allies of President Trump, are worried that the White House is ill-prepared for the sea of troubles it is facing." http://bit.ly/2SOtAbH

How so -- two major developments this week: "The president's stormy meeting with Democratic congressional leaders at which he said he would be 'proud' to shut down the government, and his former lawyer Michael Cohen being sentenced to three years in prison." 

And another expected development in January: "Come January, Democrats will be able to set large parts of the legislative agenda, frustrate Trump's objectives and subpoena his allies, likely including family members, to testify before House committees." 

How this could play out: http://bit.ly/2SOtAbH

  

THE TALK OF SOCIAL MEDIA

A Washington journalist won on 'Jeopardy!'

Elana Schor, national political reporter for The Associated Press, appeared on Jeopardy last night -- and won!

The winning prompt: In the Sci-Fi TV category, the prompt was, "One of the twin planets this alien race called home was Remus."

Watch all three players answers and bets: Schor's wink is my favorite part. Video: http://bit.ly/2UGxjtt

I love this!: Here's video of Schor watching the episode with friends last night. Her reaction is great: http://bit.ly/2Qs8YZY

 

RELEASED THIS MORNING

Top dogs in the lobbying world:

The Hill released its list of the top lobbyists of 2018. The list by category: http://bit.ly/2QV613K

  

IN OTHER NEWS

Just now -- An alleged Russian spy changes her plea

OK fine, maybe I did:

30-year-old Russian woman Maria Butina, who had pleaded not guilty for acting as an unregistered agent in the U.S. of the Russian government, pleaded guilty this morning in federal court. Keep in mind: "Butina was accused earlier this year of working to set up back-channel lines of communication between right-leaning U.S. political groups and the Russian government." http://bit.ly/2QrprO9

 

Remember the viral photo of Nancy Pelosi leaving the White House after her public argument with President Trump?:

Well, via Glamour, the designer of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) viral coat is bringing back the 2013 design. Photo of the coat and details on its release: http://bit.ly/2zY6sjY

 

Another development in the war on Christmas -- don't save the date:

Via Fox News's Howard KurtzPresident Trump has canceled the annual White House Christmas party held for the media. https://fxn.ws/2PDFhA5

Is this surprising: Not really. It's no secret that President Trump doesn't like the media, often referring to unfavorable press coverage as "fake news." Last year: "The president and first lady threw such a gathering last December but did not pose for pictures. Trump made a brief appearance with his wife and offered a few welcoming remarks."

The most notable part of the party: The president and first lady pose for photos with attendees. Interesting throwback: "Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president Agency function is tied to how people feel about their job — that's bad news for USDA research 5 myths about William Barr MORE even posed for pictures with journalists days after he was impeached."

Interesting line -- some media figures may still get White House invites: "While dropping the media party, the White House is in the midst of a full panoply of other parties this holiday season. Selected media people generally favorable to Trump, including a few Fox News hosts, have made those guest lists."  

 

If you're in New York City today:

Facebook opened a pop-up shop in Bryant Park focused on the platform's privacy. Photos: http://bit.ly/2CaNsQw

This is an amazing comparison if you've seen 'The Good Place': Once you've seen the photos of Facebook's pop-up, compare it to this photo of NBC's "The Good Place." (Via The Hill's Elliot SmilowitzPhoto: http://bit.ly/2SOP1tf

  

NOTABLE TWEETS

We're all invested in this: 

 

ON TAP:

The House and Senate are in. President Trump and Vice President Pence are in Washington, D.C.

11:45 a.m. EST: President Trump meets with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo: US 'absolutely not' getting out of the Middle East Pompeo taking meeting about running for Kansas Senate seat: report Ex-US envoy in ISIS fight: 'There's no plan for what's coming' after US troop withdrawal in Syria MORE.

1:45 p.m. EST: The Senate votes on amendments related to Yemen. The Senate's full schedule today: http://bit.ly/2EmGMjM

2 p.m. EST: President Trump meets with newly elected governors. Vice President Pence also attends.

5:15 p.m. EST and 8:30 p.m. EST: President Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpOvernight Defense: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown on track to become longest ever | Military begins withdrawing equipment from Syria | Bolton taps new deputy Bolton names replacement for deputy who clashed with first lady The Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days MORE attend Christmas receptions.  

Dec. 19: Retiring House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump once asked Paul Ryan why he couldn’t be ‘loyal': book AEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism MORE (R-Wis.) delivers a farewell address in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. http://bit.ly/2EngXR1

Dec. 21: Congress's deadline to fund the government before a partial government shutdown. 

March 6: When President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has to surrender for his prison sentence.

 

WHAT TO WATCH

Noon: First lady Melania Trump visited Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. Livestream: https://cs.pn/2Go8wYi

  

NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF...

Today is National Popcorn String Day.

 

Ah, the festive smell of … grease:

KFC has started selling fried-chicken scented fire logs. Specifically: KFC claims it smells like the company's blend of 11 herbs and spices. Photo to prove I'm not lying: https://fxn.ws/2rzi8Vy 

^Is anyone else waiting for PETA to release a tofurky-scented competing fire log? Here's the back story if you don't understand the reference: http://bit.ly/2zYCvQV

 

And to brighten your Thursday afternoon, here's a dog who LOVES dressing like a panda: http://bit.ly/2QRX1fx