January 5, 2016
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Just weeks ahead of the first primary vote, GOP operatives are reportedly still considering a plan to take down Donald Trump. The latest scheme, Politico reports, would employ Alex Castellanos, former adviser to Mitt Romney and George W. Bush, who has reportedly been meeting with top GOP operatives to "gauge interest in launching an anti-Trump vehicle that would pummel the Manhattan businessman on the television airwaves":

Those who’ve met with Castellanos say he’s offered detailed presentations on how such an offensive would play out. Castellanos has said that an anti-Trump ad campaign, which would be designed to cast him as a flawed strongman, would cost well into the millions. It was unclear, the sources said, whether Castellanos, who did not respond to a request for comment, would ultimately go through with the effort. [Politico]

While this plan centers on Trump, Politico reports that the fear extends beyond just his nomination. The establishment is also reportedly worried about the effects of Ted Cruz winning the nomination. Some contend that if either Trump or Cruz's name tops the ticket, everyone below — be it a GOP candidate for governor, senator, or Congress — is in peril. "At some point, we have to deal with the fact that there are at least two candidates who could utterly destroy the Republican bench for a generation if they became nominee," a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "We'd be hard-pressed to elect a Republican dogcatcher north of the Mason-Dixon or west of the Mississippi."

Read the full story over at Politico. Becca Stanek

3:40 p.m. ET

If you live anywhere between Atlanta to Los Angeles, you might not need to bother getting out your winter coat. Federal weather forecasters announced Thursday that it's looking like it will be a pretty mild winter in that southwest stretch of the country, thanks to the beginning of La Niña. The La Niña weather pattern, which Time reported is "characterized by below-average temperatures cross the equatorial Pacific," means the American Southwest will largely see "warm and dry weather" this winter; unfortunately, that won't do much to assuage the region's persistent drought, which forecasters now say could spread to the southern plains.

Folks in the northern area of the Midwest and in the Northeast mid-Atlantic won't be quite so lucky with the balmy temperatures: Forecasters said Midwesterners in the northern part of the region should anticipate a "colder and wetter" winter because of La Niña. In the Northeast mid-Atlantic, winter should be business as usual.

With this year's unusually warm weather, Mike Halpert of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center said Americans should expect the unexpected. "[R]egardless of the outlook," Halpert said, "there is always some chance for extreme winter weather." Becca Stanek

2:47 p.m. ET
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Hours after a 10th woman leveled allegations of sexual misconduct against Donald Trump, the candidate's campaign released a statement calling "these circus-like antics" the work of Hillary Clinton's team. Trump's deputy communications director Jessica Ditto said in a statement that Gloria Allred, the lawyer representing Trump's alleged victim Karena Virginia, was nothing more than a "discredited political operative" participating in a "coordinated, publicity-seeking attack with the Clinton campaign." "Give me a break," the statement said. "Voters are tired of these circus-like antics and reject these fictional stories and the clear efforts to benefit Hillary Clinton."

At a press conference Thursday, Virginia accused Trump of sexually harassing her and grabbing her breast at the 1998 U.S. Open. Virginia said Trump asked her, "Don't you know who I am?" Trump has repeatedly said he does not know the women who have come forward accusing him of unwanted sexual conduct, but Virginia said that regardless of whether Trump remembers her, she certainly remembers him. Becca Stanek

2:20 p.m. ET

Thanks to Donald Trump, Janet Jackson's 1986 hit "Nasty" is enjoying a resurgence. Spotify reported Thursday that since Trump called Hillary Clinton "such a nasty woman" at the third presidential debate Wednesday night, streams of Jackson's song have increased 250 percent.

In the lyrics, Jackson talks about how "nasty boys" who think "nasty thoughts" and aren't respectful "don't mean a thing" and "don't ever change." "Better be a gentleman, or you turn me off," sings Jackson, who was nominated this week for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

In celebration of the last presidential debate of the 2016 election, give the song a listen, below. Becca Stanek

2:17 p.m. ET

Independent cybersecurity firm SecureWorks has confirmed that Russian hackers broke into Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's Gmail account after he fell for a phishing scam, a report by Motherboard published Thursday revealed. Politico reported Podesta "unwittingly gave hackers access to his account by clicking a Bitly link that redirected him to a fake Google login page, where he entered his credentials."

SecureWorks determined Podesta was likely hacked by the same group, known as Fancy Bear, that is thought to be behind the recent breaches of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Fancy Bear is believed to be connected to Russia's military intelligence agency, and the Bitly account is just the latest piece of evidence linking the hacks to the Kremlin.

The hacks of Podesta's email, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's email, and other groups "were done using the same tool: malicious short URLS hidden in fake Gmail messages. And those URLs ... were created with a Bitly account linked to a domain under the control of Fancy Bear," Motherboard explained. Read their full report here. Becca Stanek

1:17 p.m. ET

We're experiencing a four-year low in the world's level of wine production, and the timing probably couldn't be worse for Americans. As the U.S. grapples with the election of a lifetime, the International Organisation of Vine and Wine revealed Thursday that worldwide wine production in 2016 is on track to fall 5 percent from last year's production levels. This means 2016 could mark one of the three worst years for wine production in almost two decades.

Thankfully, experts are confident the amount of wine made "should meet consumer demand" — though drinkers of malbec and carménère might have some cause for concern, The Guardian reported. The dip in wine production is being attributed to "climactic events," the effects of which are exceptionally pronounced in South America, where those two varieties are largely produced.

But while countries in South America — particularly Argentina, Brazil, and Chile — as well as European countries, including Italy and France, are seeing declines in wine output, the U.S. is pulling ahead. Production in the U.S. is forecast to grow 2 percent in 2016.

Which is all to say: When Nov. 8 finally rolls around, there should be plenty of wine to pour yourself a glass. Becca Stanek

1:08 p.m. ET

In case there was ever any question about who Hillary Clinton's number one fan is:

Awwww. Jeva Lange

1:01 p.m. ET

Donald Trump will "totally accept" the results of the presidential election — assuming he wins, that is.

To date, Trump has flatly refused to confirm he will concede the election if Hillary Clinton wins and has continued to stoke debunked concerns of widespread voter fraud. At the final presidential debate Wednesday, when asked point-blank if he would accept a peaceful transition of power, Trump said he'd keep Americans "in suspense, okay?" The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and many other major newspapers ran the quote as a banner headline, with The Associated Press declaring Trump is "threatening a fundamental pillar of American democracy."

Trump feigned Thursday morning as if he would clarify the whole scandal: "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to make a major announcement today," he began at a rally in Ohio. "I would like to promise and pledge to all my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election ... if I win."

Trump is clearly pleased with his clever line — and maybe he'd have a right to be, if what he was saying wasn't so terrifying. Jeva Lange

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