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July 9, 2014

Kentucky State Sen. Brandon Smith (R) took some heat for claiming last week that climate change was a myth because the Earth and Mars are the same temperature. Smith has, understandably, now walked back that argument:

In a July 2 hearing, Smith said he would not debate climate change, adding, "I'll simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here." Jon Terbush

11:07 a.m. ET
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Alabama Senate candidates Roy Moore and Doug Jones are locked in a dead heat ahead of Tuesday's "all but impossible" to predict election. Although a Fox News poll published Monday shows Jones, the Democratic candidate, up 10 points, a competing poll by Emerson shows Republican contender Moore up 9 points. RealClearPolitics' average between Nov. 27-Dec. 10 shows Moore up just 2.5 points.

"Turnout is always tough to predict in a special election, especially one two weeks before Christmas," NBC News writes. "Even establishing a baseline of expectations for the race is slippery, since few have bothered polling a state where elections are generally predetermined for candidates with an 'R' next to their name on the ballot."

Moore is accused of pursuing girls as young as 14 while he was in his 30s. Even Alabama's Sen. Richard Shelby (R) admitted, "I couldn't vote for Roy Moore."

The betting markets do have a favorite candidate, giving "Moore about an 80 percent chance of victory," FiveThirtyEight writes — or "roughly the same chance they gave Hillary Clinton just before the 2016 presidential election." Jeva Lange

11:05 a.m. ET
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President Trump has publicly toyed with idea of firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, though he has of late refrained from talking about it on Twitter, reportedly on the advice of his attorney. That silence has not reassured the president's critics that Mueller's investigation into alleged Trump campaign involvement in Russian election meddling efforts will proceed undisturbed, so congressional Democrats have called for additional protections of Mueller's job.

But a new FiveThirtyEight analysis published Monday argues "Mueller's investigation is more secure than it might seem — and that more protections don't necessarily produce more effective prosecutions." The case is based on a review of the history of special prosecutors since the first one was appointed in 1875. Presidents have typically refrained from interference with these probes, and on the rare occasions of White House intervention, public uproar has served to preserve the investigations over the presidents' objections.

This history suggests Trump firing Mueller would mainly be an act of self-sabotage. "As long as [Mueller] doesn't do something to jeopardize" his reputation for competence, "Trump would have no justification for dismissing him," John Q. Barrett, a law professor who investigated the Iran-Contra scandal, told FiveThirtyEight. "And if he did, he'd have to appoint an equally credible replacement, or there would be really catastrophic political consequences." Bonnie Kristian

10:52 a.m. ET
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CNN reported Monday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did in fact receive guidance from the FBI instructing him not to disclose contacts with foreign officials if they occurred as part of his activities as a senator. A spokesperson for Sessions had made that claim in May after the attorney general faced fierce criticism for not listing conversations he had with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but Monday's report is the first indication by the FBI that it gave such instruction.

The email, sent in March and obtained by CNN, shows an unnamed FBI agent telling an aide to Sessions that he could leave foreign contacts made as a senator off of his security clearance application. Sessions' spokesperson said earlier this year that he had been "instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities."

During his confirmation hearings in January, Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was not aware of any contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, stating unambiguously, "I did not have communications with the Russians." That claim was called into dispute in March when The Washington Post reported that Sessions had met with Kislyak in September 2016. A spokesperson for Sessions said that "there was absolutely nothing misleading about [Sessions'] answer" because he had met with Kislyak as part of his duties as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the hearing question had specifically concerned acts undertaken as a surrogate for the Trump campaign.

While the newly released email does give Sessions cover regarding his foreign contacts disclosures, it does not clarify why Sessions does not remember talking to Kislyak at all, nor his presence at a meeting where a Trump campaign aide suggested setting up a meeting with Russian government officials, as he has claimed. Kelly O'Meara Morales

10:38 a.m. ET
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In public, President Trump has offered praise for women who speak up to expose sexual misconduct by powerful men. "I think it's very, very good for women," he said late last month, "and I'm very happy a lot of these things are coming out."

In private, however, he is reportedly singing a different tune. Trump has complained "that the avalanche of charges taking down prominent men is spinning out of control," Politico reported Monday, citing multiple unnamed sources with knowledge of the president's conversations on the subject.

Particularly in the case of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct toward girls as young as 14, Trump reportedly believes the allegations are a ploy to undermine their target's success. When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Trump to ask for his help in pushing Moore out of the race, the Politico story says, Trump's response shocked him. "Who were these women," Trump reportedly asked, "and why had they kept quiet for 40 years only to level charges weeks before an election?"

This perspective, paired with a combative instinct to react against the desires of establishment figures like McConnell, is how Trump "came around to an accused child molester," the Politico piece argues. Read the rest here. Bonnie Kristian

10:31 a.m. ET
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Former President Barack Obama is making an eleventh-hour bid for Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race against Republican Roy Moore, CNN reports. "This one's serious," the former president says in a robocall to voters ahead of Tuesday's election. "You can't sit it out."

Obama's decision to get involved pits him directly against President Trump, who has also added his voice to the high-profile race in recent weeks. The Alabama election has divided the country as even many Republicans have rejected Moore as a candidate, due to a number of women who accused him of pursuing them while they were teenagers.

"Doug Jones is a fighter for equality, for progress," Obama adds in the call. "Doug will be our champion for justice. So get out and vote, Alabama." Obama has also campaigned in recent elections in Virginia and New Jersey, with both his candidates winning their respective gubernatorial races last month, CNN adds.

Polls show the Alabama race as a dead heat — in RealClearPolitics' average of the polls, Moore is up just 2.5 points between Nov. 27 and Dec. 10. Jeva Lange

10:17 a.m. ET
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Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in 2011 gave an interview to a radio show called Aroostock Watchmen during which he agreed with the host's suggestion that it "would eliminate many problems" to void all the constitutional amendments passed after the first 10, aka the Bill of Rights. A clip of the conversation was uncovered and reported by CNN on Sunday.

"You know people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended," Moore said after his initial assent, specifically citing his objection to the 17th Amendment, which instituted the direct election of senators, who were originally chosen by state legislatures.

"People also don't understand, and being from the South I bet you get it, the 14th Amendment was only approved at the point of the gun," the radio host said next. "Yeah, it had very serious problems with its approval by the states," Moore again agreed, going on to explain that the "danger in the 14th Amendment" is that it was used to restrict "the states from doing something that the federal government was restricted from doing and allowing the federal government to do something which the first 10 amendments prevented them from doing."

The 14th Amendment prohibits slavery and eliminates the Three-Fifths Compromise; it is also the basis for the doctrine of incorporation, which applies the restrictions of the Bill of Rights to state governments and which is central to Moore's argument here.

Moore does not specify in the audio provided by CNN whether he would exclude any post-Bill of Rights amendments, which include suffrage guarantees to women and minorities, from his condemnation. Listen to Moore's remarks in context here. Bonnie Kristian

10:09 a.m. ET

CNN's New Day team expressed open alarm Monday morning over a New York Times report that alleges President Trump watches four to eight hours of television a day. "First of all that's more than even doctors recommend," said host Alisyn Camerota. "And second of all, shouldn't the president be busier?"

"If you go through the commercials, you can watch eight hours of television in 19 minutes," Chris Cuomo chimed in. He then got serious, adding that Trump's "latest strategy of doubling down on attacking the media is a little bit different than just how many Big Macs he eats." As he's previously explained, Cuomo also said Monday that Trump's blanket denials should frighten the public.

"There's a danger to this," he said.

In fact, Cuomo's comments were uncannily relevant, as just moments later Trump logged onto Twitter:

Watch the New Day staff discuss Trump's TV obsession below. Jeva Lange

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