By MICHAEL FALCONE
--WHAT THE DONALD TOLD ABC’s JON KARL: Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump pushed back at suggestions by the fact-checking site Politifact that his collective campaign misstatements deserved their “Lie of the Year” award, he said during an interview last night with ABC’s JON KARL. “Politifact is a group that if I said something right down the middle they are always going to be negative,” he told Karl after taking the stage at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, ABC’s ALI WEINBERG reports. “They are leaning in a certain direction, and no matter what you do with them, I mean they are a very dishonest group in my opinion.” In the bestowing of their ignominious award, Politifact included Trump’s allegations that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. They also said that of the 77 statements they fact-checked, 76 rated "mostly false," "false" or "pants on fire." http://abcn.ws/1OibTqI
--HALF OF VOTERS WOULD BE 'EMBARRASSED' BY TRUMP: Fifty percent of American voters say they would be “embarrassed” if Donald Trump were president, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning, ABC’s RYAN STRUYK notes. The current Republican frontrunner, whose 28 percent support in this poll tops his competition for the GOP nomination, would make 23 percent of voters “proud,” the poll found. Other recent national polls have found Trump’s lead for the GOP nomination at more than 20 percentage points. http://abcn.ws/1PhWkTi
--ANALYSIS -- ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Campaign historians shall record this Christmas week as the one where Donald Trump met a fact-check he liked. “She lied and she should apologize,” Trump told ABC’s Jonathan Karl, about Hillary Clinton’s debate claim that ISIS is using video of Trump speeches as part of recruiting. “Hell no,” replied the Clinton campaign, channeling Trump himself for two words of defiance. It gives Trump some rare truthful high ground; the Clinton campaign is pointing to the spirit of her remarks but hasn’t yet found a specific instance of Trump video being used in the way she said it was. But if anyone should realize the power of overstatement, it should be Trump. Clinton won’t apologize, even though she stated something as fact that she can’t prove. But she’s also now jousting publicly and aggressively with Trump – on her own terms, rather than responding to an insult. There are about a dozen Republican presidential candidates who wish they could be saying the same as the holiday approaches.
TODAY ON THE TRAIL with ABC’s RYAN STRUYK: Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton is back on the campaign trail today, taking to the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa for two town hall meetings this afternoon and a volunteer thank you event tonight. Clinton's main Democratic rival Bernie Sanders will also be in the Hawkeye State for four different events today, including the opening of a new field office. On the Republican side, the dueling Floridians -- Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush -- will both be in New Hampshire today, each hosting a couple of town halls. Ted Cruz, currently posing the greatest threat to Trump's longtime lead, will be in Tennessee during the day, venturing into Clinton territory -- Little Rock, Arkansas -- later tonight. Chris Christie, hitting his highest support since June in a new Quinnipiac poll this morning, is back in his do-or-die state of New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Ben Carson will be Christmas caroling in South Carolina, while Carly Fiorina also campaigns in that state.
HAPPENING TODAY -- CLINTON TO VISIT IOWA SCHOOL TODAY AFTER STUDENTS LAUNCHED CAMPAIGN. Abby Schulte's high school sociology class in Keota, Iowa, began the school year with this assignment: invite presidential candidates to the school to address the community. The school only has 80 students, but that didn't stop Schulte and her classmates from dreaming big. On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton will become the third presidential candidate to visit the school and students are hard at work preparing to host the Democratic front-runner. Rick Santorum and Martin O'Malley held campaign events at Keota High School earlier this year. ABC’s JOSH HASKELL has more. http://abcn.ws/1YwUEI1
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX
CLINTON PROPOSES MAJOR INVESTMENT IN ALZHEIMER’S RESEARCH. From the Clinton campaign: “With five million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s today, and nearly 15 million expected to be affected by 2050, Hillary Clinton is launching a new, groundbreaking $2 billion annual commitment to prevent, effectively treat and make a cure possible for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. … ‘We owe it to the millions of families who stay up at night worrying about their loved ones afflicted by this terrible disease and facing the hard reality of the long goodbye to make research investments that will prevent, effectively treat and make a cure possible by 2025,’ Clinton said. ‘The best scientific minds tell us we have a real chance to make groundbreaking progress on curing this disease and relieving the pain so many families feel every day. My plan will set us on that course.’”
with ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI
TRUMP MAKES SEXUALLY DEROGATORY REMARK ABOUT CLINTON, CALLS BATHROOM BREAK 'DISGUSTING'. In one of his most vicious attacks yet against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump used a sexually derogatory remark in reference to her and said that her bathroom break during the last debate was "disgusting." During a campaign event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Trump referred to Clinton's performance in the 2008 election, ABC’s JOHN SANTUCCI reports. "Even a race to Obama, she was gonna beat Obama. I don't know who would be worse, I don't know, how could it be worse?" he told the crowd. "She was favored to win and she got [expletive], she lost, I mean she lost," he told the crowd. The GOP frontrunner also attacked Clinton for taking a bathroom break during the most recent Democratic debate. "I know where she went, it's disgusting, I don't want to talk about it. No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it, it's disgusting, let's not talk, we want to be very, very straight up. But I thought that, wasn't that a weird deal,” Trump said. http://abcn.ws/1Oi3vYc
BERNIE SANDERS DOESN’T MENTION DATA BREACH ON THE ROAD. Bernie Sanders did not mention the DNC data breach controversy during his first public stop on the campaign trail since the news broke last week that some of his staff inappropriately viewed some of Hillary Clinton's campaign data. The incident resulted in one member of his campaign staff being fired and two others suspended, ABC’s MARYALICE PARKS reports. Sanders' campaign sued after it was cut off from the crucial database, though the campaign tells ABC News no new hearings have been scheduled. Access was reinstated Saturday after the Sanders camp agreed to provide information about the breach. http://abcn.ws/1J2DMXE
LINDSEY GRAHAM BIDS 2016 RACE FAREWELL. GOP presidential candidate Lindsey Graham suspended his campaign for the White House yesterday. The South Carolina senator is the fourth GOP contender to drop out of the race, following Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, ABC’s RYAN STRUYK and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI report. The move leaves 13 candidates remaining in the race for the Republican nod. "I must suspend my campaign," he said on CNN Monday. "I'm not going to suspend my desire to help the country. I'll probably go back to Iraq and Afghanistan and get another update. Thirty-six trips has informed me.” Later, in a phone interview with ABC News, Graham said, "I'm just going to chill out today," adding he hasn't decided whom to endorse yet. http://abcn.ws/1PjyaJV
THE QUOTABLE GRAHAM. Graham emerged as one of the most quotable candidates among the seventeen GOP competitors. ABC’s EVAN MCMURRAY looks at some of the South Carolina senator’s best lines. http://abcn.ws/1Ys8rF0
JEB BUSH TRYING TO GET HIS GROOVE BACK BY ATTACKING TRUMP. Jeb Bush has nothing to lose. His waning candidacy has seen a slump in national polls for months now. That all has now changed. This weekend, Bush went about accomplishing his own ambitious feat in the state; hosting four town halls in one day. At his first town hall, an enthusiastic crowd of close to 100 greeted him, but here, the specter of another candidate loomed large. Minutes into his remarks, Bush decided to unload. "Donald Trump is a chaos candidate," he said, reprising a line from the most recent debate. He went on to slam Trump for being the beneficiary of Russian President Vladimir Putin's praise, saying that Putin "will respect strength not a clown show" and derided Trump for not knowing what the nuclear triad was. But he wasn't done. “Just one more thing, I gotta get off my chest. Donald Trump is a jerk," he said emphatically. ABC’s CANDACE SMITH has more. http://abcn.ws/1OhXP0s
MARCO RUBIO PRAISES LINDSEY GRAHAM, ATTACKS RAND PAUL ON NATIONAL SECURITY. At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Marco Rubio passed judgment on two fellow senators for their records on national security, simultaneously praising Lindsey Graham and attacking Rand Paul. “I thought [Graham] was one of the most forceful voices on any of the debate stages about rebuilding our military. So, we will miss that on the campaign,” Rubio told reporters shortly after Graham announced he would be suspending his presidential campaign. Unprompted, Rubio then zeroed in on Paul, according to ABC’s INES DE LA CUETARA. “You have people who want to be commander-in-chief who openly supported what was called a ‘containment budget.' That’s what the Rand Paul budget was called,” he said. "It is -- to me -- something that the next commander-in-chief cannot be for.” http://abcn.ws/1OjEWAw
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
CHELSEA CLINTON HAS ANOTHER BABY ON THE WAY. “Next summer, Charlotte is going to be a big sister! Feeling very blessed & grateful this holiday season,” Chelsea Clinton tweeted yesterday, referring to her first child, who was born last September. ABC’s MATTHEW CLAIBORNE and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI note, In a Facebook post, the former First Daughter added: “Being Charlotte’s parents has been the most joyous, meaningful and loving experience of our lives and we are very excited about growing our family in the new year.” http://abcn.ws/1OhRylg
@ByronYork: New Quinnipiac national: Trump 28 Cruz 24 Rubio 12 Carson 10 Christie 6 Bush 4 Fiorina Paul 2 Huckabee Kasich Santorum 1.
@ScottFConroy: We've been hard on him, but it's comforting to know Trump has no current plans to murder us. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/12/21/donald-trump-calls-hillary-clinton-disgusting-for-using-the-restroom-during-a-debate/?postshare=1511450752087649&tid=ss_tw …
@FordOConnell: .@TheHill: (w/me, @MattMackowiak): Republican candidates vie for game-changing endorsements - http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/263953-big-gop-endorsements-still-up-for-grabs … (@JonEasley)
@PhilipRucker: Christie getting aggressive with Rubio. On Morning Joe, he hit Rubio for missed spending vote and mocked him for not being in NH enough.