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Wake Up To Politics - November 13, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, November 13, 2017. 358 days until Election Day 2018. 1,087 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Moore Remains Defiant as Polls Show Tightening Race

Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore is refusing to withdraw from next month's special election in Alabama, despite calls from President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and other leaders of his party to step down if allegations that he initiated sexual encounters with teenagers are true.

Moore has repeatedly called the Washington Post story detailing the allegations "fake news"; in a Sunday night rally, Moore threatened to file a lawsuit against the newspaper. Promising that "revelations about the motivation and the content" of the report would emerge in the coming days, the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice called the article "yet another attack on my character and reputation in a desperate attempt to stop my political campaign for the United States Senate" in an event on Saturday.

"I've been investigated more than any other person in this country," Moore said, questioning the timing of the report. "That these grown women would wait 40 years to come forward right before an election to bring charges is absolutely unbelievable."

On Friday afternoon, Moore appeared on Sean Hannity's radio show to label the allegations "completely false and misleading," flatly denying having contact with Leigh Corfman, who accuses Moore of touching her when she was 14 years old. He said he does recognize two women who say they dated Moore at ages 18 and 19, but denied giving them alcohol. Asked if he remembers dating teenage women while in his 30's, Moore said, "Not generally no," later clarifying that he does not remember "dating any girl without the permission of her mother."

Moore finds himself increasingly isolated inside his own party, where he has always occupied the fringes as a conservative firebrand. The National Republican Senatorial Committee severed ties with Moore on Friday, leaving a joint fundraising agreement with Moore's campaign. The move came as GOP senators, including Bill Cassidy (LA), Mike Lee (UT), and Steve Daines (MT) began to withdraw their endorsements of Moore.

White House officials did not defend Moore on the Sunday shows, with senior counselor Kellyanne Conway saying on ABC's "This Week" that the "conduct as described should disqualify anyone from serving in public office" and legislator director Marc Short adding on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "no Senate seat is more important than the issue of child pedophilia." Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the allegations "a significant issue" in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union."

Recent polls are showing a tightening race, with Moore's double-digit advantage slipping. Since the Post report, polls have shown Moore with a slighter lead over or tied with Democratic ex-prosecutor Doug Jones. A JMC Analytics poll released Sunday showed Jones leading the race, 46% to 42% among likely voters.

According to the New York Times, Republicans are still mulling their path forward in the race, with options including "fielding a write-in candidate, pushing Alabama's governor to delay the Dec. 12 special election or even not seating Mr. Moore at all should he be elected." According to the Times, GOP figures have approached Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who is filling Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate seat on an interim basis until the special election, and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) about write-in campaigns.

A spokesman Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL) has denied that she has any plans to change the date of the special election; the Times said that national Republicans had approached her about doing so, adding that "state law gives the governor broad authority to set the date of special elections."

Sen. Pat Toomey backed a write-in candidacy in an interview on "Meet the Press" on Sunday; Republican Sens. Ben Sasse (NE), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Richard Shelby (AL) have also expressed openness to the idea. Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) told CNN on Friday that he thinks the Senate should remove Moore if he triumphs over Doug Jones next month.

Weekend Review: Trump in Asia

President Donald Trump is nearing the end of his 12-day, five-nation Asia tour, after participating in meetings at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit last night and earlier today. He will remain in the Philippines to attend the East Asia Summit, returning stateside on Wednesday. Trump's trip was not without controversy; here are some important developments from over the weekend:

Russia election meddling: Trump caused a firestorm on Saturday in comments on Russian interference in the 2016 elections after meeting with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin. "He said he didn't meddle. He said he didn't meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. "Every time he sees me, he says, 'I didn't do that.' And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it."

The President clarified at a joint press conference the next day that he was not suggesting that he believed Putin's claims over the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community, but merely that he believes Putin's claims were sincere. "I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election," Trump said. "As to whether I believe it or not, I am with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with the leadership."

After the President's remarks, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) released a statement reaffirming Trump-appointed director Mike Pompeo's belief in the intelligence community's January report detailing Russian activities related to the U.S. elections. On Saturday, Trump labeled the Obama-appointed leaders behind the report as "political hacks." Trump also received criticism from Sen. John McCain, who said in a statement: "There's nothing ‘America First’ about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community."

"When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing," Trump said in a Saturday tweet. "There [sic] always playing politics - bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!

Duterte: President Trump met with Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte early this morning, amid rampant speculation over whether Trump would confront Duterte on the topic of human rights. Duterte has been criticized across the globe for his extrajudicial "drug war," which has killed over 6,000 people. Instead, Trump praised Duterte in his public comments while in Manila, although the White House claims the killings were "briefly" discussed during their bilateral meeting. A Duterte spokesman says "human rights did not arise" during the meeting.

North Korea: The North Korean government again called President Trump "a dotard," or "old lunatic," on Saturday, and Trump fired back at dictator Kim Jong Un in kind. The President tweeted on Saturday: "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!"

Today in Congress

Both chambers of Congress are in session today. While today's votes center around different topics, the House and Senate are both preparing for action on tax reform this week. The lower chamber is expected to vote on their tax reform plan in the coming days, after a party-line vote by the House Ways and Means Committee advancing the proposal. The Senate Finance Committee, meanwhile, begins its consideration of the Senate GOP legislation to overhaul the tax code today.