Political Cornflakes: First lady Melania Trump defends those blood-red Christmas trees, which have spawned horror memes on social media

Topiary trees line the East colonnade during the 2018 Christmas Press Preview at the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Christmas has arrived at the White House. First lady Melania Trump unveiled the 2018 White House holiday decor on Monday. She designed the decor, which features a theme of "American Treasures." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

At a town hall meeting on Wednesday, first lady Melania Trump discussed the opioid epidemic, media coverage, and the long hallway of bare red Christmas trees she put up earlier this week, which have become a social media sensation. “We are in the 21st century and everyone has different tastes, but I think they look fantastic. . . . In real life, they look even more beautiful,” she said. Online, they were widely regarded as creepy and have spawned a series of horror memes. [WaPost]

Happy Thursday.

Topping the news: Sen. Mike Lee was the only lawmaker who objected to legislation proposed Wednesday to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He said he objected because protecting an independent counsel may upset the balance of power in the United States. [Trib] [DNews] [CNN]

-> Keeping a campaign promise, Utah Rep.-elect Ben McAdams voted against re-electing Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker, though she still won by a wide margin. [Trib] [DNews] [NYTimes] [BBC] [CNN]

-> In the Utah House of Representatives, the average age hovers around 60. At 33, Casey Snider is Utah’s youngest lawmaker — but he said he sticks by conservative ideas that are far older than he is. [Trib]

Tweets of the Day: From @ConanOBrien: “It evens out, because most climate scientists can’t believe Trump is president.”

-> From @jonallendc: “God bless Mo Udall, who famously said the difference between a caucus and a cactus is that with a cactus the pricks are on the outside.”

-> From @MEPFuller: “The real fight in Congress is not between Republicans and Democrats; it’s between cameramen and print reporters.”

Happy Birthday: To Josh Smith.

Trib Talk: On this week’s episode, Tribune reporter Benjamin Wood, journalist Luke Ramseth and physician and health advocate Jennifer Plumb talk about the relationship between manufacturers of opioids and Utah doctors, as well as how those connections might be impacting overdoses. [Trib]

In other news: Lee, Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, will visit Mexico this weekend in search of a solution to the U.S.-Mexico border problems and will also attend the inauguration of the country’s incoming president. [DNews]

-> The Utah Patients Coalition, a group dedicated to the passage of Utah’s medical marijuana ballot initiative, is changing form so it can continue to push legislators to make medical cannabis accessible to patients. [Trib] [Fox13]

-> The Pew Research Center estimates the number of undocumented immigrants in Utah has hit its lowest point in a decade. [Trib]

-> In a much-awaited decision, the Utah Supreme Court upheld a vote by Holladay residents to block a high-density development at the site of the old Cottonwood Mall. [Trib] [DNews]

-> Salt Lake City police released video footage of officers shooting and killing Cody Belgard. His family has questioned why he was shot, describing Belgard as nonviolent, and the video now leaves them with even more questions. [Trib]

-> State and federal officials want a judge to toss a civil rights lawsuit filed by former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who is suing everyone involved in investigating and charging him with public corruption, though the charges were ultimately dropped. [Trib]

-> A death row case involving a white supremacist who murdered a black man at the Central Utah Correctional Facility at Gunnison in 1994 is coming before a federal appeals court. [Fox13]

-> One of Salt Lake City’s dockless e-scooter companies has dropped about 50 dockless electric bikes, which they hope will serve residents as the weather gets colder. [Trib]

-> Columnist Robert Gehrke looks at how a letter sent and delivered to former North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan earlier this month, represents an act of selfless service. [Trib]

-> Pat Bagley illustrates what he views as Lee’s cluelessness. [Trib]

Nationally: After the Senate advanced a resolution Wednesday limiting presidential war powers in Yemen over the killing of a Saudi Arabian journalist, the Trump administration vehemently defended the Saudis. He urged the lawmakers to consider the possibility that pulling military support from Yemen could embolden Iran and endanger the U.S. [NYTimes] [Fox] [WSJ]

-> Ivanka Trump said Wednesday that her use of a private email for government business, which has energized Democrats still angry over the 2016 presidential election, was very different from Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. [NYTimes] [BBC] [CNN]

-> U.S. officials are discussing whether to keep deployed military troops at the U.S.-Mexico border into early 2019, beyond the previously set conclusion date for the border mission of Dec. 15. [NYTimes]

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-- Taylor Stevens and Cara MacDonald

https://twitter.com/tstevensmedia and Twitter.com/carammacdonald

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