TRUMP AGENDA: "I don't blame China"
From Ali Vitali in Beijing: "President Donald Trump said Thursday that he does not blame China for its economic success at the expense of the United States, what he called a "one sided" trade relationship. "I don't blame China," he said at a business event joined by Chinese President Xi Jinping. "After all, who can blame a country for being able to take advantage of another country for the benefit of its citizens? I give China great credit.'"
The AP's take on the trip: "U.S. President Donald Trump was a cooperative partner for Beijing's sweeping efforts to control the message of his heavily choreographed visit to China. Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, took no questions at an event Thursday billed as a news briefing, a reduction of already minimal press interaction during previous visits by American leaders."
A meeting between Trump and Putin is apparently "still under consideration."
"Senate Republicans, under pressure to pass a sweeping tax rewrite before year's end, are expected to unveil legislation on Thursday that would eliminate the ability of people to deduct state and local taxes but would stop short of fully repealing the estate tax, according to lobbyists and other people familiar with the bill," according to the New York Times. "The Senate plan is taking shape as Republicans digest the drubbing they suffered on Tuesday night in affluent suburbs across the country, many of them represented by Republicans in the House. Those areas are stocked with well-off voters who would be disproportionately hit by the elimination of state and local tax deductions."
And/but: "House Republican leaders scrambled Wednesday to patch a $74 billion hole they had created in their own tax plan, leaving them with a painful choice between scaling back the bill's benefits for individuals or reducing their proposed tax cuts for businesses. The decision leaves lawmakers caught between nonpartisan estimates showing the bulk of the bill's tax cuts would go to businesses and the very wealthy, and demands from powerful industries and their lobbying arms looking to protect or expand the breaks they've carved out in the House bill," writes the Washington Post.
Don't miss our colleague John Harwood's interview with Gary Cohn, who says: "I don't believe that we've set out to create a tax cut for the wealthy. If someone's getting a tax cut, I'm not upset that they're getting a tax cut."
The Wall Street Journal: "The Justice Department is seeking to reach a plea deal in its criminal investigation of the former son-in-law of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's one-time campaign chairman, according to people familiar with the matter. The investigation into Jeffrey Yohai—who hasn't been charged with any crime—by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles is separate from the Washington-based probe of his former father-in-law and others by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining Russian influence on last year's presidential election, some of the people familiar with the situation said."
From NBC's Suzy Khimm: "On Sunday, thanks to a consortium of investigative journalists, the public learned that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross never fully divested himself of ownership in a big global shipping company — one with ties to Russia's rulers — when he joined President Donald Trump's Cabinet. But new reporting by NBC News shows that Ross' potential conflicts of interest go even further. The shipping company's own documents suggest that Ross' company may benefit from an important initiative that he has led as commerce secretary: securing a trade agreement with China to increase U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG)."
OFF TO THE RACES: Revolt in the suburbs
Jonathan Allen tuned into Steve Bannon's speech to Republicans in Michigan last night: "Former White House strategist Steve Bannon defended President Donald Trump's agenda in the wake of Tuesday's electoral debacle for Republicans. Virginia voters didn't reject Trump by electing Democrat Ralph Northam governor, they just didn't like Republican Ed Gillespie's pale imitation of Trump's platform, Bannon said Wednesday night. Speaking to local Republicans in Macomb County, Mich. — a virtual political North Star that has picked the winner in each of the last four presidential contests and was home to many of the "Reagan Democrats" of the 1980s — Bannon described Gillespie as an establishment candidate who tried a Trump-light approach to campaigning in a Democratic-blue state."
The Washington Post: "A wave of Democratic victories ignited a ferocious debate across the Republican Party on Wednesday over whether President Trump's unorthodox behavior and polarizing agenda are jeopardizing the GOP's firm grip on power in Congress, governors' mansions and state legislatures. The recriminations sparked by Tuesday's results — a decisive rebuke of Trump and his policies in Virginia and elsewhere — threatened the fragile GOP push to pass sweeping tax cuts by the end of the year and raised deeper questions about Republican identity and fealty to a historically unpopular president."
And the New York Times: "The American suburbs appear to be in revolt against President Trump after a muscular coalition of college-educated voters and racial and ethnic minorities dealt the Republican Party a thumping rejection on Tuesday and propelled a diverse class of Democrats into office. From the tax-obsessed suburbs of New York City to high-tech neighborhoods outside Seattle to the sprawling, polyglot developments of Fairfax and Prince William County, Va., voters shunned Republicans up and down the ballot in off-year elections. Leaders in both parties said the elections were an unmistakable alarm bell for Republicans ahead of the 2018 campaign, when the party's grip on the House of Representatives may hinge on the socially moderate, multiethnic communities near major cities."
AL-SEN: Another poll shows Moore up by 11 points over Doug Jones.
Gov. Kay Ivey says she'll vote for Moore but she isn't endorsing him.
Moore's campaign has declined a debate invitation.
CO-GOV: The slate of GOP gubernatorial candidates keeps growing, notes the Denver Post.
ME-GOV: What's going on with Maine's Medicaid expansion? The Bangor Daily News explains what's next.
TN-SEN: ICYMI: The New York Times reported that Chuck Schumer is personally urging Phil Bredesen to jump in.
VA-GOV: The Washington Post asks: Is Virginia finally blue?
WI-GOV: Will Scott Walker's reelection bid be the next big test for conservatives in the state?