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On the roster: Cohen told Mueller about Russian outreach – ‘Stop calling John’: Kelly’s ouster said to be imminent – Shutdown clock reset, Trump to meet with top Dems – Candidate in fraud-tainted contest open to do-over – He only has (rib) eyes for you

AP: “Prosecutors say President Donald Trump’s former lawyer gave investigators information about attempts by Russians to reach Trump’s campaign. The information was disclosed in a sentencing memo filed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller in Michael Cohen’s case. Court papers say Cohen described speaking to a Russian national who claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation and proposed a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The person offered Trump’s campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level.’ The person wasn’t identified by name in the court documents. Cohen has pleaded guilty to federal charges, including lying to Congress about negotiations he had on Trump’s behalf for a real estate deal in Moscow. Mueller’s prosecutors say Cohen went to ‘significant lengths’ to assist their investigation.”

Feds seek hard time despite cooperation – NYT: “Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, should receive a ‘substantial’ prison term of roughly four years, despite his cooperation, federal prosecutors in New York said on Friday. Mr. Cohen, 52, is to be sentenced in Manhattan next week for two separate guilty pleas: one for campaign finance violations and financial crimes charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, and the other for lying to Congress in the Russia inquiry, filed by the Office of the Special Counsel in Washington. Prosecutors said the crimes Mr. Cohen had committed ‘marked a pattern of deception that permeated his professional life,’ and though he was seeking a reduced sentence for providing assistance to the government, he did not deserve much leniency. ‘He was motivated to do so by personal greed, and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends,’ the prosecutors said in a lengthy memo to the judge, William H. Pauley III.”

Trump in a froth – Fox News: “President Trump launched a broadside Friday at Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators ahead of major filings in the Russia probe and congressional testimony by James Comey, alleging a slew of internal ‘conflicts of interest’ and suggesting all those controversies should be included in the final report. … ‘Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest. And bye the way, wasn’t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of ‘legal’ at the corrupt Clinton Foundation?’ Trump tweeted, again calling the probe a ‘total Witch Hunt.’ He later vowed to produce a ‘major Counter Report to the Mueller Report,’ saying: ‘This should never again be allowed to happen to a future President of the United States!’”

It’s time again for our annual year-end edition saluting the year’s best journalism, and we need your input. What stories stood out? Which journalists helped you understand the world in a better way? Who did it with integrity and an unflinching commitment to the truth? What about the ones who made you think or laugh? You can read last year’s winners here to get an idea of what we’re looking for. Share your suggestions with us by email at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM 

“In reading many of the publications against the Constitution, a man is apt to imagine that he is perusing some ill-written tale or romance, which instead of natural and agreeable images, exhibits to the mind nothing but frightful and distorted shapes ‘Gorgons, hydras, and chimeras dire’; discoloring and disfiguring whatever it represents, and transforming everything it touches into a monster.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 29

Orlando Sentinel: “Pearl Harbor Day may live in infamy, but it’s fading from our modern conscience. You have to look harder each Dec. 7 to find stories about it on websites or in the morning papers. Millions of Americans will probably go the entire day without even realizing what day it is. We pay far more attention to days like Black Friday and Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that was basically concocted to sell Corona beer. That’s especially sad on this anniversary. For the first time in 77 years, nobody from the USS Arizona will be at Pearl Harbor. If you don’t know why that’s noteworthy, please brush up on your history. At approximately 8:06 a.m., a Japanese bomb hit the battleship’s ammunition storage area. The battleship was blown in half, and 1,177 men lost their lives. Only 326 survived. Now there are five.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 41.4 percent
Average disapproval: 52.2 percent
Net Score: -10.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 3.6 points 
[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 43% approve – 49% disapprove; IBD: 39% approve – 55% disapprove; Grinnell/Selzer: 44% approve – 47% disapprove; Gallup: 40% approve – 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve – 54% disapprove.]

WSJ: “Chief of Staff John Kelly is expected to leave his post soon, people close to the White House said, as President Trump begins putting into motion a broad shake-up of his administration ahead of his re-election campaign and heightened scrutiny from Congress. Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s top aide and a longtime Republican political operative, is the likely replacement for Mr. Kelly, these people say. The president told one of his associates on Thursday night: ‘Stop calling John [Kelly] for anything. Call Nick. He’s my guy,’ a person familiar with the conversation said. Mr. Kelly was named to the job last year with a mission to impose order in the White House. But he repeatedly clashed with the president as Mr. Kelly’s authority steadily eroded.”

Barr set to return as attorney general after 26-year hiatus – NYT: “President Trump on Friday said he intended to nominate William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to return as head of the Justice Department. ‘He was my first choice since Day 1,’ Mr. Trump told reporters as he walked from the White House to a helicopter for a trip to Kansas City, Mo. ‘He’ll be nominated.’ Mr. Trump’s focus on Mr. Barr, who supports a strong vision of executive powers, had emerged over the past week following the ouster last month of Jeff Sessions as attorney general and the turbulent reception that greeted his installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as the acting attorney general.”

Nauert comes with downgrade for UN post – AP: ‘A White House official says the Trump administration is downgrading the U.S. diplomatic post at the United Nations to a non-Cabinet position. President Donald Trump on Friday announced that he had chosen State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. If confirmed, the former Fox News Channel reporter who has little foreign policy experience would replace Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor who said she was stepping down at the end of the year. While Nauert will be a leading administration voice on Trump’s foreign policy, a White House official told The Associated Press that her post would be a non-Cabinet position. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the change.”

Milley to succeed Dunford as chairman of Joint Chiefs – Fox News: “President Trump will name Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to succeed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Fox News has learned. The announcement will be made Saturday at the Army-Navy game, the sources said. Speaking to reporters earlier Friday, Trump hinted an announcement related to the Joint Chiefs of Staff was forthcoming as he unveiled other picks. … ‘I have another one for tomorrow that I’m going to be announcing at the Army-Navy game,’ Trump said. ‘I can give you a little hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession.’ Typically, the successor to the chairman would not be selected until next year, given that Dunford is due to serve until Oct. 1, 2019. Dunford was nominated to the post in 2015 by former President Barack Obama. Trump nominated him for a second two-year term last year.”

CNBC: “President Donald Trump signed a bill to extend government funding for two weeks, putting off a potential government shutdown, the White House said Friday. The legislation to keep the government open through Dec. 21 will delay a politically pitched fight over the president’s proposed border wall. Funding for parts of the government was set to expire Friday. Both chambers of Congress passed the measure Thursday by voice vote. Congress still needs to fund seven agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, which has become the biggest hurdle to a spending agreement. Trump seeks $5 billion for his proposed physical barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats, on the other hand, appear willing to give only up to $1.6 billion for border security measures such as fencing. The president will meet with the Democratic congressional leaders, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, on Tuesday to discuss funding.”

Charlotte Observer:Mark Harris, the congressional candidate at the center of the unfolding election fraud scandal in North Carolina’s 9th District, said Friday that he would ‘wholeheartedly support’ a new vote if fraud could have changed the outcome of his contest last month. ‘If this investigation finds proof of illegal activity on either side to such a level that it could have changed the outcome of the election then I would wholeheartedly support a new election,’ said Harris, in a video statement released by his campaign. He also said he was unaware of any wrongdoing and is cooperating with the ongoing investigation, which he hopes will lead to his victory being certified before congress starts its new session in January. Harris has not taken questions from the media since the story first erupted last week, when the N.C. Board of Elections refused to certify the results of his race against Democrat Dan McCready.”

Records show GOP candidate’s campaign owes $34,310 to consulting group – NYT: “The congressional campaign of Mark Harris disclosed late Thursday night that it owed more than $34,000 in connection with an absentee ballot and voter turnout operation that has prompted fears of election fraud and called the North Carolina Republican’s narrow victory into question. In a filing with the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Harris’s campaign listed an obligation of $34,310 for ‘reimbursement payment for Bladen absentee, early voting poll workers; reimbursement door to door.’”

With final count in California, Dem’s pick up 40th House seat – Politico 

California Republican chairman: Golden State ‘canary in the coal mine’ for GOP – Politico

Unemployment stays low, but hiring slows – Business Insider 
McConnell says sorry not sorry on criminal justice bill – WaPo 

Antonina Ferrier, McConnell’s communications maestra, calls quits – Roll Call

Pergram: ‘Government shutdown threat looms over Capitol Hill’s Christmas season’ – Fox News 

Andrew Sullivan: ‘America’s New Religions’ – NY Mag

The world according to Nikki Haley – The Atlantic 

Missouri Secretary of State to launch investigation into Hawley’s time as AG – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“They stood me up, and it was almost automatic. My left hand came up to my forehead without even being planned.” – Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, on “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” on his final salute to former President George H.W. Bush

This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with White House National Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

KFOR: “A state senator from northwestern Oklahoma wants to name the rib eye as the official ‘State Steak of Oklahoma.’ However, many Oklahomans think it’s a waste of time and taxpayer money. ‘We’ve got more important things to focus on. I understand it might be cute, but it’s just a waste of time. We have other things to do,’ said Kareem, an Oklahoma City resident. Senate Bill 21, which is authored by Sen. Casey Murdock, would name the rib eye the ‘State Steak of Oklahoma.’ ‘I don’t want to say it’s a cheerleading bill, but it’s promoting an Oklahoma product,’ Murdock said. Murdock is a rancher himself. He points out that, with 5.2 million head of cattle in Oklahoma, we have more bovines than people. ‘We get beat up on different issues; we’re last in education, we’re last in this and that, and we need to promote what is good in that state also,’ he said. Murdock said that immortalizing the rib eye would be good for tourism and the restaurant industry.”

“For euphemism, dissimulation and outright hypocrisy, there is nothing quite as entertaining as the periodic Senate dust-ups over Supreme Court appointments and the filibuster.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on April 6, 2017. 

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.