DAYBREAK DAILY: Gov. McDonnell staves off planned felony charges

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‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Carbon monoxide incident in Northwest; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

WOES FOR MCDONNELL: Federal charges on hold, per the Washington Post, “Federal prosecutors told Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell last week that he and his wife would be charged in connection with a gift scandal, but senior Justice Department officials delayed the decision after the McDonnells’ attorneys made a face-to-face appeal in Washington, according to people familiar with the case. Dana J. Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, told the McDonnells’ legal teams that he planned to ask a grand jury to return an indictment no later than this past Monday, people familiar with the conversations said.

“McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, would have been charged with working together to illegally promote a struggling dietary-supplement company in exchange for gifts and loans from its chief executive, the people said. The plan to seek the felony charges this week changed, however, after attorneys for the state’s first couple met with Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole on Dec. 12.”

THE WRITING: On the wall, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “On the final day of the statewide recount in the race for Virginia’s attorney general, Republican Mark D. Obenshain conceded to Democrat Mark R. Herring, the certified winner of the Nov. 5 election, ending what Obenshain called “a vigorous and hard-fought campaign.” Herring’s victory gives Democrats all five statewide offices — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and the two U.S. Senate seats — for the first time since 1969.

“The recount is almost over, and in this contest it’s become apparent that our campaign is going to come up a few votes short,” Obenshain said Wednesday afternoon at a news conference at the state Capitol, his wife, Suzanne, and daughter Tucker by his side. By Wednesday night, Herring lead Obenshain by 907 votes after election officials and the recount court in Richmond had concluded canvassing and reviewing ballots, said Herring attorney Marc Elias.”

MARYLAND BUDGET GAP: Looks big but. . ., per the Baltimore Sun, “State lawmakers will have to address a combined budget gap of $580 million over the next 18 months when they reconvene in January. The state's chief analyst on Wednesday described the problem as relatively small given the nearly $2 billion shortfall the state grappled with in recent years.

"We are starting in a small hole, certainly compared to what we have seen in the past," Warren Deschenaux, director of the office of policy analysis in the Department of Legislative Services, said to the Spending Affordability Committee. That panel advises the governor on spending matters. The budget gap is caused in part by a sluggish economy that delivered less in personal and corporate income tax than state officials anticipated. The state also asked a new set of experts to estimate how much the state would earn from its casinos. The new experts concluded Maryland would take in about $90 million less than anticipated this year.”

DONE DEAL: Hooray, or not, per the Associated Press, “There were no champagne corks popping at the White House after Congress passed a two-year budget deal, no declarations of a new era of cooperation in President Barack Obama's second term. Instead, the modest agreement that passed Wednesday served as a stark year-end reminder of how low expectations for Washington sank in 2013, particularly for a president who hoped his resounding re-election would clear the way for progress on immigration, the long-term debt and tax reform.

“The president's advisers say they're still searching for the larger meaning in the bipartisan budget deal, if there is one at all. At best, it could provide an opening for making progress next year on Obama's stalled legislative agenda. It also could be a political play by Republicans to keep the focus on the disastrous rollout of Obama's health care law and avoid another partial government shutdown like the one in October that tanked the party's approval ratings.”

SNOOP DOG: Or something like that, per the New York Times, “A panel of outside advisers urged President Obama on Wednesday to impose major oversight and some restrictions on the National Security Agency, arguing that in the past dozen years its powers had been enhanced at the expense of personal privacy. The panel recommended changes in the way the agency collects the telephone data of Americans, spies on foreign leaders and prepares for cyberattacks abroad.

“But the most significant recommendation of the panel of five intelligence and legal experts was that Mr. Obama restructure a program in which the N.S.A. systematically collects logs of all American phone calls — so-called metadata — and a small group of agency officials have the power to authorize the search of an individual’s telephone contacts. Instead, the panel said, the data should remain in the hands of telecommunications companies or a private consortium, and a court order should be necessary each time analysts want to access the information of any individual “for queries and data mining.”

BARNSTORMING: For Obamacare, per The Hill, “The White House will conclude its sixteen day media blitz designed to promote ObamaCare on Thursday with the release of a series of reports touting state-specific benefits of the president’s signature law, according to an official familiar with the plan. “These state reports mark the culmination of a multi-week effort by the White House and supporters of reform to bring a renewed refocus on each of these benefits and what the cost of repealing them would mean,” the White House official said.

“According to the official, the reports will show what the cost of repealing the controversial law would mean to average families across the country. The administration has touted the broader publicity push as an effort to rebrand the law after completing emergency repairs on the ObamaCare website, which proved badly broken throughout the first two months of open enrollment.”

POLITICO PLAY: “Sen. Patty Murray is distancing herself from a cut in military pensions in the budget deal she brokered with Rep. Paul Ryan. Her unease about a key element of her own deal, which passed the Senate on Wednesday and is now headed to President Barack Obama, comes amid a backlash from veterans groups and Senate defense hawks that has put her and her colleagues in a tough spot going into an election year.”

PROTOCOL SCHMOTOCAL: Of who’s on first, per Gazette.Net, “Prince George’s County police are reviewing an investigation policy after a man who allegedly stole a car and initiated a police chase that led to two traffic fatalities was arrested four days later. Ronald Jerome Hayes Jr., 18, of Washington, D.C., was arrested Dec. 11 by Prince George’s County police in alleged connection to the Dec. 7 crash in Capitol Heights that killed Brittney Everett, 23, of Washington, D.C., and Brittney Queen, 21, of Capitol Heights, said county police spokesman Lt. William Alexander.

“Hayes allegedly was driving a stolen vehicle and initiated a police chase moments before slamming into Everett and Queen’s van, according to Alexander. Hayes was transported to a District hospital where he was treated for injuries and released, Alexander said. County police could have asked District police to arrest and hold Hayes, but decided not to do so because fatal crash investigation protocol dictated police wait, Alexander said.”

METRO VS. NATURE: Or something like that, per Greater Greater Washington, “Alexandria hopes to build a new Metro station at Potomac Yard, but wetlands near the route and negotiations with the owner of adjacent rail tracks have stalled the planning process. Can this project get back on track?

“The city has selected Potomac Yard as the location for the new infill station, to be located on the Blue and Yellow lines between National Airport and Braddock Road, and is evaluating four specific alternative sites. In May, the project hit its first delay when the environmental impact statement (EIS) team revealed that one of the alternative sites under consideration would impact land owned by the National Park Service. But the alternative has its own complications.”

BAGGING THE FEE: Or not, per ARLnow, “The Arlington County Board is asking the Virginia General Assembly for the ability to charge paper and plastic bag fees at retailers as part of its 2014 legislative package. The board also is asking the General Assembly to fund a WMATA inspector position — which would enforce fares on the future Crystal City Transitway bus and streetcar line to make sure riders purchase tickets before boarding — and to repeal the hybrid vehicle tax.

“Arlington needs state approval to enact a bag fee, which the Sun Gazette says ”seems unlikely to get much traction.” (It has thrice failed to win support in Richmond.) The Board doesn’t specify how much a bag fee would be — in Washington, D.C., and Maryland it’s 5 cents — but says it would be exempt if the bags were used for ice cream, meat, fish, poultry, leftover restaurant food, newspapers, dry cleaning, alcoholic beverages, and prescription drugs. The funds from the fees would go into the Water Quality Improvement Fund.”

TRAGIC: Just the facts, per the Charlottesville Daily Progress, “An orthopedic surgeon was killed Wednesday morning when the plane he was piloting crashed in a yard less than a half-dozen miles from Charlottesville Albemarle Airport.

“Dr. Gregory Arnold Voit, 52, of Northfield, N.J., was flying a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza from Woodbine (N.J.) Airport near his home to pick up his son, a University of Virginia student, when the aircraft went down in the 3100 block of Preddy Creek Road about 11:15?a.m., authorities said. He was the only one on board, authorities said.”

D.C. QUOTES: Snark alert, per City Paper, “2013: what a year for words. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander worried about something "untoward" in the ambulance fires, and Ron Machen insisted that there's "there there" in his investigation into political corruption. Vince Gray told Muriel Bowser to "bring it on," and Marion Barry nominated the National Park Service for "Mofo of the Month."

“On Dec. 30, LL will start running blog posts on the most memorable quotes of the year. Until then, leave your nominations in the comments.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Wizards beat Brooklyn 113-107.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson has been kicked off the show indefinitely after disparaging gays as sinners akin to adulterers and swindlers. A&E announced what it called a "hiatus" for Robertson after he disparaged gays in the January edition of GQ magazine. He hasn't responded to the criticism.”

NEWSTALK: Among today’s guests (10 a.m., NewsChannel 8) is Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

--Skip Wood