— -- The TAKE with Rick Klein
Cut through the noise, the Twitter storms, and the outright chaos of Washington and the media world right now and realize: this isn't normal.
President Donald Trump is talking and tweeting about debunked conspiracy theories, relishing in media sex scandals, talking about Pocahontas, and tweeting videos that draw praise from David Duke and condemnation from 10 Downing Street.
There may yet be enough Republican unity to get tax reform through – something lasting and tangible that the party can run into the midterm year with.
But that doesn't make any of this behavior normal.
Weeks like these recall the warnings of people like senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, and long-ago rivals like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, when it comes to assessing the president's ability to lead.
The presidential outbursts don't have to be part of a grand strategy.
The president has created his own new realities before. And he appears more than willing to do it again and again.
The RUNDOWN with John Verhovek
It's crunch time for the Republican tax reform bill and President Trump and congressional Republicans and Democrats know it.
Republicans got a procedural victory Wednesday when the Senate voted to proceed to debate on the bill. But they are still hammering out the differences amongst themselves, it seems, on what they're hoping is their key legislative achievement ahead of the 2018 midterms.
At the heart of the president and the GOP's pitch is the idea that this is a tax bill for the working class, not the wealthy, with Trump going so far as to say at a speech in Missouri yesterday, "It's going to cost me a fortune."
Without the president's tax returns, it's impossible to know exactly how the bill would affect him personally, but according to the Congressional Budget Office the bill would increase the nation's deficit by more than $1.4 trillion over the next decade and disproportionately hit lower-income taxpayers.
The prospects of the bill passing now comes down to how quickly the GOP can coalesce around legislation that the president may be pitching as "the next great chapter for working families", but is one that the facts show could hurt those very same families.
As always, keep an eye on moderate GOP senators like Ron Johnson, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. They are key players to watch as Senate debate begins.
The TIP with Ali Dukakis
The Radio-TV Congressional Association has withdrawn RT Network's press credentials, effective immediately, according to a letter sent to RTCA members Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier this month, their parent production company, T&R Productions, LLC, was ordered by the Department of Justice to register as a foreign agent.
The Congressional Radio-Television Gallery rules forbid applicants employed by foreign governments from receiving news credentials.
The entity ultimately responsible for all international RT broadcasts is ANO TV-Novosti, a television organization affiliated with the Russian government.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY:President Donald Trump and the first family will take part in the National Park Service's lighting ceremony for the National Christmas Tree. Trump meets with the Crown Prince of Bahrain at the White House this morning. FEMA Director Brock Long will testify before the House Appropriations committee in a funding-focused hearing. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hold their weekly press conferences, respectively, on Capitol Hill. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke will testify before House Homeland Security Committee on international terror threats.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"Whether it's a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about," -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, regarding the president's retweeted videos purporting to show acts of violence by Muslims.
NEED TO READKushner met with special counsel earlier this month, conversation focused on Flynn. Jared Kushner met earlier this month with members of special counsel Robert Mueller's staff, sources with direct knowledge of the matter confirm to ABC News. The conversation with Kushner was heavily focused on former National Security Adviser Lt. General Michael Flynn, in addition to other questions about Kushner's activities during the campaign. (John Santucci and Katherine Faulders) http://abcn.ws/2AkqaoS How much longer will the Russia investigations take? Timetable divides lawmakers along party lines. The ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election led by both the special counsel and congressional investigators seem certain to stretch into 2018, but members of Congress are becoming increasingly divided over how much more time to spend on the probes. (Brian Ross, Matthew Mosk, Katherine Faulders) http://abcn.ws/2AkjreR Trump rallies support for 'once in a lifetime' tax overhaul opportunity. With a Senate vote looming on Republicans' long-sought tax overhaul aspirations, President Donald Trump gave the party's plan one final pep rally in Missouri on Wednesday as he urged Congress to deliver on a "once in a lifetime opportunity." (Adam Kelsey) http://abcn.ws/2AjWU1I White House director for legislative affairs: Shutdown isn't likely. Speaking with ABC News' Powerhouse Politics podcast, President Donald Trump's director of legislative affairs, Marc Short, batted down the prospect of a government shutdown in the wake of a no-show by Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer at a planned meeting with the president and Republican leaders on Tuesday. (Kevin Pliszak) http://abcn.ws/2i4SCTj Political humorist identified as Roger Stone's link to WikiLeaks: Sources. Former Trump adviser and longtime political troublemaker Roger Stone has been asked repeatedly how he knew, seemingly in advance, that WikiLeaks was going to publish damaging information about Hillary Clinton's campaign. And he has repeatedly refused to answer, saying he had a "go-between" who did not wish to be named. (Matthew Mosk, Brian Ross, and Ali Dukakis) http://abcn.ws/2zPg6r8 Congress grapples with sexual harassment as it votes to require workplace training. The House passed an amendment to its own rules to require workplace harassment training for members and staff in each session of Congress, a move congressional leaders described as a first step. (Benjamin Siegel) http://abcn.ws/2AI1TMu After North Korean missile launch, Trump looks to strengthen 'peaceful pressure' campaign. One day after North Korea launched its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date, the Trump administration is doubling down on its support for its "peaceful pressure" campaign and is looking at new ways to strengthen that posture. (Conor Finnegan) http://abcn.ws/2kec2K9 The Washington Post reports on the effort by Jaime Phillips, an operative with Project Veritas, to infiltrate The Post and other media outlets. http://wapo.st/2j1SoNQ FiveThirtyEight reports that Roy Moore appears to have jumped back into the lead for the Alabama Senate Special Election, after falling behind due to allegations of sexual misconduct against minors. http://53eig.ht/2kb1ATq After a two-month investigation, Variety revealed that former NBC News co-host Matt Lauer, who was fired Wednesday, was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. http://bit.ly/2AHqmBz
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.