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January 8, 2016
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Turns out, there was another option on the table for former House Speaker John Boehner's replacement: Ben Carson. The retired neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate told The Hill that in 2014, House conservatives approached him about the possibility of running, since there's no rule that the House speaker must be a member of the House.

"They were looking for an alternative, they were looking for someone strong and courageous who might really be able to add some spine and some backbone," Carson said, noting that he met with some House Republicans about the role. "I was very flattered that there were several members that thought I'd fit the bill very well, but I think it played out correctly the way that it did."

Instead, Carson decided to pursue his presidential dreams, which, he says, being speaker would have shattered. "It would have pretty much ruined my presidential bid," he told The Hill. "It would have been very difficult to do my job as the speaker of the House while running for president. You've seen how difficult a time Sen. Rubio is having fulfilling his senatorial obligations. The speaker of the House has even more obligations."

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) confirmed Carson's story to The Hill and said he and two others approached Carson in one of House conservatives' many attempts to oust Boehner, who eventually retired in October and was replaced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) following a tumultuous search. Carson says the "jury is still out" on how well Ryan is doing on the job, but he says he's "very optimistic still." Becca Stanek

8:49 a.m. ET

Saturday Night Live's President Trump (Alec Baldwin) is excited to trim the White House tree now that he has declared an end to hostilities in the "War on Christmas," and this year, the first family is decorating on a theme. Joined by the first lady, some of his children, and various administration staff, Trump adorns his "tree of shame" with ornaments featuring the faces of "all the haters and losers [he] destroyed this year."

The haters and losers are mostly former members of the Trump White House, but fired FBI Director James Comey and former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore are on the tree, too. Elf on the Shelf Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Kate McKinnon) shows up on the mantel to help with the tree trimming and wish everyone a merry Christmas, because "everybody is gonna get away with everything!"

Watch the full sketch below. Bonnie Kristian

8:22 a.m. ET
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At least eight people were killed and dozens more wounded, nine critically, on Sunday in a suicide attack on a Methodist church in Quetta, Pakistan, close to the Afghan border. Four attackers targeted the church, but only one detonated his suicide vest. Another was killed in a gunfight with police, and two more were intercepted at the church door, preventing further casualties.

More than 400 people were at Bethel Memorial Methodist Church when the attack occurred, reported Sarfaraz Bugti, the regional home minister. They were attending a Christmas service. The attack has yet to be publicly linked to a specific terrorist organization. Bonnie Kristian

7:58 a.m. ET
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Attorneys representing President Trump's transition team on Saturday accused Special Counsel Robert Mueller of unlawfully obtaining tens of thousands of private emails as part of his probe into Russian election meddling and alleged Trump campaign involvement.

The lawyers sent a letter to the oversight committees of both houses of Congress claiming Mueller has run afoul of both attorney-client privilege and the Fourth Amendment's restrictions on search and seizure. The emails in question were obtained from the General Services Administration (GSA), which the letter says "did not own or control the records" but handed them over to Mueller anyway.

Mueller's office denied wrongdoing, stating it has always "secured either the account owner's consent or appropriate criminal process" in accessing emails for the investigation. The GSA said the transition team was informed there was no expectation of privacy for these records, and that the transition team was never promised that it would be informed or consulted before the records were distributed. Bonnie Kristian

December 16, 2017
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The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to rescind Obama-era net neutrality rules. Supporters of the change argue it will foster innovation and give customers more options, while opponents raise the specter of the "end of the internet as we know it" — and they have the sympathy of 83 percent of voters (including 75 percent of Republicans).

That broad support for retaining the previous regulatory scheme may fuel efforts to revive net neutrality in Congress. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Friday he intends to force a net neutrality vote under the terms of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). "It's in our power to do that," Schumer said. "Sometimes we don't like [administrative rule changes] but now we can use the CRA to our benefit, and we intend to." Were a net neutrality law passed by Congress, it would be more impervious to repeal than the agency-level policy the FCC rescinded.

Meanwhile, public interest groups and attorneys general in states including New York, Oregon, and Washington are gearing up to sue the federal government over this week's decision. "I don't think the courts are going to approve of the wholesale deregulation of telecom," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told The Hill. Bonnie Kristian

December 16, 2017
ABC News/Screenshot

A civil rights lawyer named Lisa Bloom solicited donations to pay women who have made or were considering making sexual harassment allegations against President Trump, The Hill reported Friday. Documents reviewed by The Hill date these efforts to the final months of the 2016 election and suggest that people associated with political action committees supporting Hillary Clinton were among those Bloom contacted.

"Bloom's efforts included offering to sell alleged victims' stories to TV outlets in return for a commission for herself," The Hill story says, as well as "arranging a donor to pay off one Trump accuser's mortgage and attempting to secure a six-figure payment for another woman who ultimately declined to come forward after being offered as much as $750,000."

Bloom told The Hill donors came to her with the money, not vice versa, and "said her goal in securing money was not to pressure the women to come forward, but rather to help them relocate or arrange security" if they felt they were in danger after speaking out.

In an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America on Saturday, Bloom again denied soliciting money, saying "donors reached out" to her "and said, 'Oh my God, what can we do to help these women?'" "If you're a single mom unemployed on the verge of bankruptcy and thinking about speaking out against Donald Trump," she added, "an offer of relocation and round-the-clock security is very meaningful to you." Bonnie Kristian

December 16, 2017

GOP voters approve of their own party's congressional contingent for the first time since June, CNN reported Saturday, citing a new Quinnipiac University poll. The shift in Republicans' views correlates with the release of the completed GOP tax plan on Friday after conference between House and Senate leadership. Before the legislation was finalized, 60 percent of GOP voters disapproved of congressional Republicans; now a plurality of 47 percent approve.


(CNN)

"Political analysts say it's all about the 2018 midterm elections," The Washington Post reports, because "most Americans are getting a tax cut under this plan, and if growth gets even hotter and unemployment gets even lower by Election Day, voters could reward the GOP." However, critics argue the reform plan's supporters are unrealistically optimistic in their projections of the bill's effects on economic growth. Bonnie Kristian

December 16, 2017

Southern California is expecting very strong winds and low humidity for a 24-hour period beginning Saturday and ending Sunday. The weather conditions will pose a new challenge to the thousands of firefighters battling wildfires in the region, especially those dealing with the Thomas Fire, which is now the fourth-largest wildfire in California's recorded history.

The Thomas Fire has burned 259,000 acres in its 12 days of existence. It is 40 percent contained and has claimed the life of one firefighter. Bonnie Kristian

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