Politics Briefly

Lawyers for President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn asked a judge Tuesday to spare him prison time when he is sentenced next week, saying he had devoted his career to his country and taken responsibility for an "uncharacteristic error in judgment." The arguments to the judge echoed those of special counsel Robert Mueller's office, which last week said that Flynn's cooperation — including 19 meetings with investigators — was so extensive that he was entitled to avoid prison. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador to the United States. He will become the first White House official punished in the special counsel's investigation.

Joe Biden is wrapping up a busy stretch of events this week before stepping out of the public eye to hold family deliberations over the holidays on whether to launch another campaign for president, according to multiple people familiar with his thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. With the former vice president's name recognition and strong connections to Democratic power brokers across the country, Biden would likely enter a presidential contest a top-tier candidate, if not the front-runner. That prospect is creating intense focus around his every move as he approaches a decision.

Environmental groups are suing the Trump administration for granting permits to seismic-mapping companies that allow them to harass and harm marine animals while blasting deafening sounds under the Atlantic Ocean in search of oil and gas deposits. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in a federal court in Charleston, S.C., claims that the National Marine Fisheries Services violated several federal laws that protect animals when it issued "incidental take" permits to five companies that submitted applications to carry out the seismic surveys.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a prospective 2020 presidential contender, will keep a high-profile seat on the Judiciary Committee that she risked losing amid GOP gains in the chamber, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. Harris, a former prosecutor and California state attorney general, risked having to forfeit the seat as committees were reconfigured to reflect the Republicans' expanded majority starting next month. Harris is the most junior member of the panel. But Senate leaders cut a deal with Republicans to expand the panel's size, a move that will allow Harris to remain and another GOP member to join.

A federal judge has ordered pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels to pay President Trump about $293,000 in legal fees and sanctions after her defamation suit against him was dismissed. Trump's lawyers had requested about $389,000 in legal fees, but the judge, S. James Otero of U.S. District Court in California, said the number of billable hours was "excessive" and cut the amount by 25 percent to about $292,000.

Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader, reversed course and said that the Senate would vote on a criminal justice bill before the end of the year, stiff-arming some of his hard-line conservatives and teeing up a bipartisan policy achievement that has eluded lawmakers for years. Capitol Hill and White House advocates of the proposed prison and sentencing law changes have spent weeks lobbying McConnell, who controls the Senate calendar. Trump endorsed the bill last month.

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