I think we’re seeing signs that the ground is being laid to fire Bob Mueller and end all investigations into President Trump and Russia. I’m not saying it will happen or that the effort will be successful. But the effort is clearly afoot. Here are the indications (sub req.) as I see them.

When you’re this openly demanding that senior FBI officials be fired, you know the move to the purge is well underway. This is very dangerous stuff. All about giving President Trump impunity from the rule of law.

President Donald Trump speaks before a hosting a lunch with Senate Republicans in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The extraordinary comments this morning from President Trump – even though they have become par for the course from him – remain extraordinary. He castigated the FBI and dismissed the Russia collusion investigation that the FBI is conducting as a “scam.” He made the remarks to reporters he was leaving the White House to … address the FBI at Quantico.

The key sections (transcript via White House):


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I mentioned a number of the times the close-knit, half-law-&-order, half one step ahead of the law New York City/GOP world without which it’s basically impossible to understand Donald Trump. It’s the Trump world, the Rudy world, the Ailes world and a slew of other mini-tycoons and sometimes politicians who’ve built a certain sort of clannish, often incestuous and uniquely authoritarian-leaning GOP that could only exist in what is one of the richest and also most liberal cities in the world. Allegra Kirkland captures it here in just one paragraph of her look at “Judge Jeanine” Pirro.
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President Trump spoke today with President Putin. From the White House readout …

Readout of President Donald J. Trump’s Call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia

President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin of Russia today. President Trump thanked President Putin for acknowledging America’s strong economic performance in his annual press conference.

The two presidents also discussed working together to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea.

This was an apparent reference to Putin telling an end of the year press conference that the success of the stock market and ongoing economic growth was a sign of the power of President Trump’s stewardship of the economy. This was apparently the main thing they talked about on the phone.

In recognition of a truly landmark year of stunning scandals and betrayals of the public trust, it’s time to unveil TPM’s nominees for the 11th Annual Golden Dukes!

These awards are named in honor of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, whose enormous bribery schemes made him the poster boy for modern scandal (well, for now). Every year, we select the most outrageous moments of corruption and general dipshittery in this fine nation’s political arena to see who has raised the bar for utter shamelessness.

Last year, we said 2016 would make Duke proud. This year, he may have actually found his heroes.
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions accompanied by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, left, speaks at a news conference to announce an international cybercrime enforcement action at the Department of Justice, Thursday, July 20, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The general reaction to Rod Rosenstein’s testimony yesterday was that he did a decent, even patient job explaining to feral Republican lawmakers why there was no reason to consider removing Bob Mueller from his post. Indeed, he said, it was difficult to think of anyone more qualified to serve in the position. But I want to direct your attention to a deeply disturbing aspect of yesterday’s hearing.
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UNITED STATES - APRIL 26: Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., conducts a news conference after a meeting of the House Republican Conference in the Capitol on April 26, 2017. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., also appear. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

There was a fascinating moment in Paul Ryan’s press conference a few moments ago. It was quick and tucked into a conversation about “entitlement reform.” But it was bracingly specific. Ryan noted that to avoid steep cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare, American women will need to start having more babies. Here’s the video.
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With friends and family standing behind him, Kentucky State Rep., Republican Dan Johnson addresses the public from his church on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, regarding allegations that he sexually abused a teenager after a New Year's party in 2013, in Louisville, Ky. Johnson says a woman’s claim that he sexually assaulted her in 2013 has no merit and he will not resign. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

This is the most surreal and dark story. An outfit called the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting earlier this week published an incredibly lengthy and detailed expose of a Kentucky state representative named Danny Ray Johnson. Last night, moments before I started writing this post on a train home from Washington, Johnson was found on a bridge with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. This was a day after defiantly protesting his innocence and refusing to resign his office.
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My talent on night’s like this isn’t understanding the details returns numbers. It’s closely watching the people who do. But looking at the map right now, it’s hard for me to see how Roy Moore wins this. At this moment it’s 85% reporting and an exact tie. But looking at the counties, virtually all the remaining votes are in big Democratic cities. They have substantial numbers of votes left to count and most of those big cities have big lopsided Doug Jones margins. In a couple they’re closer but still with Jones ahead.
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Still a complicated picture. But you’d rather be Jones right now than Moore. The current results have Moore up by a bit more than 1 point with 81% of the precincts reporting. The good news for Jones is that it’s mostly blue territory left to report – mainly the big urban conglomerations. What’s keeping Jones in this race and with a seeming advantage is big turnout in heavily African-American areas.
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We have a complicated picture so far but one that seems more favorable to Doug Jones than to Roy Moore. There is some evidence that traditionally blue parts of the state are over-performing in turnout terms while red areas are underperforming. Just how much that’s the case and whether more returns will muddy that apparent pattern we don’t yet know.
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As I mentioned below, the NYT has a very sophisticated realtime prediction widget that shifts its prediction as results come in. It had been bouncing around dead even with a mild advantage either way. Then it swung hard in Jones’ favor. I saw a number of people speculate that there had been some sort of reporting error. Here’s a tweet just now from a member of the team that runs it.

I would treat this as a tentative read, subject to change. What it points to is dramatic enough that it could be a reporting error or just a quirk in the prediction model. I am, however, seeing some indications of something we saw in Virginia: both candidates getting solid percentages from their strong regions but with Moore getting slightly weaker turnout. As always we need more data. But for the moment things look better for Jones than for Moore.

9:29 PM: This is starting to come into focus: differential turnout. Moore’s winning the red areas, and often with the percentages you’d expect. And vice versa. But turnout is a bit weaker in the red areas and a bit stronger in the blue areas. Frankly, you can’t say that’s a totally unpredictable outcome with motivated Democratic base and a Republican candidate who has been credibly accused of preying on teenager girls.

8:46 PM: We only have a tiny number of votes reported so far. But even these allow us to compare results in a few places to historical baselines. And they seem encouraging for Doug Jones. I would say that based on these very limited results there are enough good indications to make a Jones’ win plausible. Not saying probable necessarily. But we are not seeing the kind of totals that tell you, “Okay, he’s just not going to be able to do this.”

8:49 PM: It looks like this could be a long night.

8:55 PM: Latest numbers are a bit friendlier to Moore. But still extremely close. Anything could happen, etc.

8:59 PM: One major takeaway so far – and we still have less than 10% of the vote in – is that there aren’t a ton of write-ins, at least not relative to an extremely Republican state in which by many customary standards the GOP nominee would be an unacceptable alternative.

9:03 PM: A standard pattern we’re now seeing play out: earlier reporting is from white rural counties. The more Democratic and African-American cities come in later. But they’re now starting to come in a bit more.

9:05 PM: Takeaway from the early returns is that they’ve swung back and forth. But ‘swung’ only in the sense of indications of an extremely close race which have swung from a sliver of an advantage for one candidate to the other. I have basically no idea what’s going to happen.

So here we are. Only a trickle of results in so far. But we’ve seen enough early data to sense we’ve at least got a genuine race on our hands. TPM’s Cam Joseph is in Montgomery. The TPM team is at its workstations. I’m actually on a train. But as long as this train wifi holds out we’re doing this thing.

8:37 PM: So a few things I’m watching. The New York Times has a little widget that updates its predictions as data comes in. I watch it pretty closely. Right now it’s pointing to a minuscule Jones advantage. I also have a twitter list of people who are serious election night data/number crunchers. Certainly others who aren’t on my list. But these are all people I trust to help me understand the rush of numbers. Here’s the link.

8:40 PM: Only thing I think I’m comfortable saying so far is that Jones is making a very strong run in the state for a Democrat. Of course, the bar is low and the Republican is so bad Republicans considering trying to call off the election only few weeks ago. Still, this is a very, very Republican state.

Tellingly, it’s in a statement to Mike Allen at Axios. Trump’s television lawyer, Jay Sekulow, says the Trump team now demands a new Special Counsel to investigate the Mueller probe and the DOJ for anti-Trump bias. This is a parallel path to the attacks on the press. What is true for Trump characterologically is true of his movement ideologically: accept no independent centers of power.
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Roy Moore’s wife Kayla appeared quite sure that she’d decisively put to rest the charges of anti-Semitism once and for all. Watch.

Back on Friday, CNN’s Manu Raju made a major error in a report on emails tied to Wikileaks and Donald Trump Jr. As we discussed Friday afternoon, the nature of the error turned on the date of the email in question – September 4th versus September 14th. CNN had multiple sources read or describe the email to its reporter. But later in the afternoon, The Washington Post obtained the actual email, which was clearly dated the 14th. As noted, the difference was much more than the date. CNN corrected the story and had some pretty significant egg on its face.
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Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, greets supporter Patricia Jones, right, before his election party, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Montgomery, Ala.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The most illuminating poll discussion I’ve seen about Alabama is a SurveyMonkey report showing that small differences in how they weighted their sample and modeled the electorate generated outcomes ranging from an 8 point win for Jones to a 9 point win for Moore. This is more the norm than you might imagine once you look under the hood of a lot of polling. But this is magnified greatly for this race because of several very hard to predict factors.
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Our friend Josh Green has a report out this morning about the resurrection of Roy Moore’s candidacy. Remember that only a few weeks ago Republicans were so determined to end Moore’s campaign that they were seriously debating canceling the election and trying other ploys to prevent Moore from entering the Senate no matter what. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow night. But Josh is right that the tide has turned dramatically. The President is full-force endorsing. The RNC is back in formal support. Fox News is maniacally on board.
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I had missed this. But it’s a significant development. Sen. Lindsey Graham has oscillated between being a fierce Trump critic to being increasingly supportive of the President. But he now seems to have moved firmly into the Trump loyalist camp.
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