MERRY CHRISTMAS! … THE POPE’S MESSAGE, via the Telegraph: “Pope Francis has used his traditional Christmas Day address urging people to overcome their religious and cultural differences to end conflict in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East.
“Delivering his sixth ‘Urbi et Orbi’ address to 50,000 people gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Tuesday, the pope said Jesus Christ had given the world ‘fraternity’ and differences should not be seen as a ‘detriment or a danger’ but ‘a source of richness’.
“‘My wish for a happy Christmas is a wish for fraternity,’ the pope said. ‘All of us are brothers and sisters in humanity.’ Just days after Donald Trump, the U.S. president, announced he would withdraw American troops from Syria and urged Saudi Arabia to help rebuild the country, the pope called for an urgent political solution that would allow millions of Syrian refugees to return home.
“‘May the international community work decisively for a political solution that can put aside divisions and partisan interests, so that the Syrian people, especially all those who were forced to leave their own lands and seek refuge elsewhere, can return to live in peace in their own country,’ the pope said.” The Telegraph
@realDonaldTrump at 7:59 a.m.: “Merry Christmas!”
DRUDGE banner, “ALL ALONE”
AP: “Trump tells boy that believing in Santa Claus at 7 is ‘marginal’”: “President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump on Christmas Eve took calls from children anxious to find out where Santa was on his gift-giving journey.
“In one conversation, Trump asked a 7-year-old named Coleman, ‘Are you still a believer in Santa?’ He listened for a moment before adding, ‘Because at 7, it’s marginal, right?’ Trump listened again and chuckled before saying, ‘Well, you just enjoy yourself.’
“Mrs. Trump told a caller that Santa was in the Sahara. Several minutes later, she reported that Santa was far away in Morocco but would be at the caller’s home on Christmas morning. Mrs. Trump later tweeted that helping children track Santa ‘is becoming one of my favorite traditions!’ …
“The Trumps later traveled to Washington National Cathedral to attend the Solemn Holy Eucharist of Christmas Eve. The cathedral’s website said the program included readings from Holy Scripture, favorite congregational hymns and seasonal choral and instrumental music as well as Holy Communion. Passes were required.” AP … 2-min. video of Trump’s Santa conversations
— PALM BEACH POST: “Volunteers and George H.W. Bush’s grandchildren make care packages for deployed soldiers,” by Catie Wegman in Lake Worth: “The care packages included food, toiletries and letters of encouragement written by students across the nation, said Lynelle Chauncey Zelnar, executive director of Forgotten Soldiers Outreach. Zelnar said that only 20 care packages were being put together Monday morning but about 1,000 have already been sent out this holiday season.
“The Christmas Eve packages were sponsored by the Duffy’s Foundation and the Bush family, Zelnar said. Sharon Bush, the former daughter-in-law of George H.W. Bush and a seasonal Palm Beach resident, and her three children, Pierce, Ashley and Lauren were there Monday morning to help pack the boxes and prepare them for shipment.” Palm Beach Post
ENJOY YOUR CHRISTMAS. CLICKER – “The Best Beltway Photos of 2018: As an eventful year draws to a close, we look back at all that went down in the nation’s capital in 2018.” 22 keepers
THE SHUTDOWN …
— PELOSI AND SCHUMER STATEMENT: “It’s Christmas Eve and President Trump is plunging the country into chaos. The stock market is tanking and the president is waging a personal war on the Federal Reserve – after he just fired the Secretary of Defense.”
THE GOVERNMENT is still in a shutdown — this is day four. The two sides won’t begin talking again until tomorrow — at best!
BURGESS EVERETT, “‘Hunker down like a jackass’: Shutdown could drag on for weeks”: “A large swath of the federal government is shut down — and so are negotiations to reopen it. President Donald Trump’s standoff with Democratic leaders over the border wall dragged into a third day on Monday, with no hopes on either side of a Christmas deal to break the stalemate. …
“The president spent the day airing his grievances about the impasse on Twitter, saying he’s ‘waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security.’ And the Capitol was empty on Monday save for a quick House session and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who told everyone to prepare for a long standoff.” POLITICO
WAPO’S IAN SHAPIRA, RACHEL WEINER and SEUNG MIN KIM: “Side hustles and family loans help federal workers weather the shutdown”
THE TRUMP SLUMP … FT: “Global stocks slide as Trump adds to unease from Mnuchin comments,” by Joe Rennison in New York, Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington, Leo Lewis in Tokyo and Kate Allen in London: “The U.S. stock market index suffered sharp losses on the day before Christmas as investors reacted negatively to U.S. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin’s highly unusual effort to reassure investors about Wall Street banks’ liquidity.
“The S&P 500 finished the holiday-shortened day down 2.7 per cent at 2,351, more than 20 per cent below its previous intraday peak in September and 19.8 per cent below the closing high. It marks the worst Christmas Eve trading day on record.
“Tokyo equities staged an eye-catching Christmas Day collapse on Tuesday, with stocks heavily sold on the newsflow from the U.S., which triggered a rally in the yen as the Japanese currency resumed its haven status in uncertain times.” FT
— AP: “The Nikkei 225 fell by an unusually wide margin of 5 percent to 19,155.14. The Shanghai Composite Index ended off 0.9 percent at 2,504.82 after being down as much as 2.3 percent at midday. Benchmarks in Thailand and Taiwan also declined.” AP
TEXAS TRIBUNE: “ICE dumps hundreds of migrants with nowhere to go at a bus station on eve of Christmas without warning shelters: Lawmakers and immigrant rights groups scramble after ICE releases hundreds of migrants without alerting local shelters,” by Julian Aguilar in El Paso: “Hundreds of asylum-seekers spent part of Christmas Eve in a downtown parking lot here without knowing where they’ll end up next.
“Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents began dropping off the migrants late Sunday at a local bus station without warning local shelters that usually take in large groups after they seek asylum and are released by federal agents. About 200 arrived Sunday, about 200 more arrived Monday and the total number could exceed 800 by Wednesday, according to U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.
“Normally, ICE would alert the Annunciation House, a local shelter that has taken in tens of thousands of migrants and has several locations across this border city. But that didn’t happen Sunday night, O’Rourke said.
“‘Our challenge is that, so far, ICE has been unable to give us enough of a heads up to have those beds ready so you don’t have migrants sitting on the sidewalk or in a parking lot or in a bus station or on a Sun Metro bus,’ O’Rourke told reporters in the parking lot of a local park about a block west of the bus station.” Texas Tribune
TALKER … CNN’S MANU RAJU: “McCaskill warns Dems about ‘cheap’ rhetoric; says GOP senators privately believe Trump is ‘nuts’”: “Sen. Claire McCaskill has some advice for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the incoming freshman who has rapidly risen from obscurity to one of the most well-known figures in the Democratic Party: Talk is cheap. …
“Democrats, she suggested, should be cautious about the rise of politicians like the 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez, who vanquished a Democratic leader, Joe Crowley, in her primary, and have vowed sweeping changes in policy.
“‘I don’t know her,’ McCaskill said when asked if she’d consider Ocasio-Cortez a ‘crazy Democrat’ like the ones she decried on the campaign trail. ‘I’m a little confused why she’s the thing. But it’s a good example of what I’m talking about, a bright shiny new object, came out of nowhere and surprised people when she beat a very experienced congressman.’” CNN
JAMES ARKIN: “Crowd of Democrats jockey over Arizona Senate special”: “It’s possible the Democratic field would clear if Democrats land a candidate they have coveted for years: Mark Kelly, the former astronaut and Navy veteran married to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is laying the foundation for a potential campaign.
“But if not, a big primary could put the Democratic nominee in the same position as McSally was in 2018: trading intraparty attacks until the end of August 2020, just weeks before mail voting starts in the general election, in one of the most important states in the fight for the Senate majority. Two potential candidates are already criticizing each other’s credentials before even entering the race. …
“Grant Woods, a Republican-turned-Democrat who was once Arizona’s attorney general, has been publicly weighing a bid for months and told POLITICO he has taken every step toward running, calling his potential campaign ‘full speed ahead.’ Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) said in an interview he was leaning toward running and would likely announce a decision in early January. Rep.-elect Greg Stanton, the former mayor of Phoenix who won election to Sinema’s House seat in November, is also considering a campaign.” POLITICO
WHAT AMERICA IS READING – LA Times: “Land of unanswered questions — Paradise rebuilds but finds it hard to see its future” … Boston Globe: “Bill would help protect jobs of legal pot users: Employers could only fire workers who are impaired” … Austin American-Statesman: “Census: Texas leads in growth: But the state’s growth rate has slowed, despite leading the nation in population increases every year since 2006”
FOR YOUR RADAR — “U.S. court orders North Korea to pay $501 million in U.S. student’s death,” by Reuters’ Lesley Wroughton: “A U.S. court on Monday ordered Pyongyang to pay $501 million in damages for the torture and death of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier, who died in 2017 shortly after being released from a North Korea prison. Warmbier’s parents sued North Korea in April over their son’s death. The 22-year-old student died days after he was returned to the United States in a coma, and an Ohio coroner said the cause of death was lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.
“‘North Korea is liable for the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier, and the injuries to his mother and father, Fred and Cindy Warmbier,’ Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said in her ruling. Pyongyang has blamed botulism and ingestion of a sleeping pill for Warmbier’s death and dismissed torture claims.” Reuters
ENGAGED – TRUMP ALUMNI: Catherine Hicks, a Trump WH press office alum and now an account executive at FleishmanHillard, got engaged to Rick Cosgrove, a principal at a private equity firm in New York. The couple met at a bar in New York over two years ago. “He proposed at home — I woke up Saturday morning to see an apartment flooded with roses and him on one knee. And we celebrated with our families at that fateful bar later that day!” Instapic
BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle … (was Friday): Louise Linton
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Lisa Dallos, CEO of High 10 Media. How she got her start in her career: “My first job out of college was as the secretary in the PR department at CNN. I am a news junkie and you could not find a happier employee. I had the good fortune to be promoted and moved from N.Y. to D.C. where I spent seven years managing the D.C. PR office. My PR skills were honed for a lifetime.” Playbook Plus Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Jesus (manger tip: Luke) … Irene Sherman … Karl Rove is 68 … Meredith Brokaw … Tim Miller, founder of Light Fuse Communications, is 37 … Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is 47 … Hilary Krieger, Washington editor for FiveThirtyEight … Christina Romer, former CEA chair now at Berkeley, is 6-0 … Bill Bailey, VP of gov’t relations at Walt Disney Co., is 51 (stocking stuffer: Stewart Verdery) … Michelle Altman … Bob Mitchell … Gracey Jide … Stephanie Mathews O’Keefe, CEO of International Women’s Forum … Sophia Lalani (antler tips: Jon Haber) … Visa’s Grace Maumbe … Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, is 52 … N.Y. Assemblyman Michael A. Blake … Andrew Mulvey is 28 … Kristen Glover (reindeer games: sister Juleanna) …
… Rachael Slobodien, comms director for the Club for Growth … Amanda Munger, comms director for Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) … writer Chris Beam is 34 … Shengxiao Yu … Miranda Margowsky, deputy comms director for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) … Hans Morris, managing partner at VC and advisory firm Nyca Partners, is 6-0 … Steven Luckett … Jan Correa … Peter Kauffmann … Cat Cohen … Molly Reed … Lynda Youngman … Jonathan Block … Zachary Hastings Hooper is 45 … Mauritius prime minister Pravind Jugnauth is 57 … Anne Wall, VP of the Duberstein Group … Sarah Levin … Scott Cottington … Robert Jameson … NYT’s Michael Roston is 41 … Rebecca Pilar Buckwalter-Poza … Christopher Connell … Daniel LeDuc is 58 … Kristen Shatynski … Murphie Barrett Koonce … James Fitzella … Christina Cornell … Dominic Gabello … Garrett Bess … Elisabeth Hire … Madhu Chugh (tinsel tips: Teresa Vilmain)