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By Steve Kornacki

The scene inside the Capitol this week was arresting: 95-year-old Bob Dole, confined for years to a wheelchair, rising with assistance to offer one final standing salute to George H.W. Bush.

The history behind it made it even more poignant. Born only 11 months apart, but into dramatically different circumstances, the two men forged one of the preeminent rivalries of modern American politics, fueled by shared ambition and shaped by fateful twists and bitter confrontations, with Bush ultimately capturing the prize that always eluded Dole.

They both came to Washington around the same time, but from very different places.

A son of Dust Bowl Kansas whose family was nearly broken by the Depression, Dole barely escaped death from an exploding artillery shell in World War II, then spent the next three years rehabilitating in an Army hospital. He emerged without the use of his right arm and with shrapnel still in his body, returned to western Kansas and entered politics. In 1960, he won a House seat. Eight years later, he moved up to the Senate. It made him a rising star in Republican politics.

Bush, by contrast, was born into an aristocratic Yankee family and his father, Prescott, was a U.S. senator. Like Dole, Bush defied death in World War II, shot down over the Pacific Ocean but avoiding capture by the Japanese, then set out to make his own name in Texas, first in the oil business and eventually in politics. He lost a Senate race in 1964, but won a House seat two years later. It made him the first Republican ever to represent Houston in Congress — and, just like Dole, a rising Republican star.

Their collision was almost inevitable, and it came in 1972, just weeks after Richard Nixon’s landslide reelection. Dole had been serving as the chairman of the Republican National Committee, an invaluable platform for a would-be national candidate, but his outspokenness had irked the White House.

Nixon wanted to make a change, and he had someone in mind: Bush, who at the White House’s insistence had given up his House seat for another Senate bid in 1970. When he fell short in that race, Bush was named U.N. ambassador by Nixon, and now Nixon wanted him to head the RNC. The switch was announced — and universally portrayed as a blow to Dole and a major boost for Bush.

President George H.W. Bush winks as he ends a session on Oct. 25, 1990, in the White House Rose Garden at Washington, with Republican members of Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas.Charles Tasnadi / AP file

Journalist Martin Schram, detailing the ways the outgoing chairman had alienated himself from the White House, concluded: “There is a lesson for the 48-year-old George Bush in the case of the 49-year-old Bob Dole.”

Nixon’s demise complicated each man’s path. Public disgust over Watergate almost cost Dole his seat when he ran for reelection in 1974 and eked out a one-point victory. Bush, meanwhile, hoped to win an appointment as the new vice president under Gerald Ford, Nixon’ successor, but Ford passed him over in favor of Nelson Rockefeller and Bush settled for the lower-wattage role of ambassador to China.

At the Republican convention in 1976, though, Ford needed a new No. 2. He was running for a full term and Rockefeller was too liberal for the conservative wing of the GOP. Bush was an obvious choice, but there was a problem. At the end of 1975, Ford had nominated him to head the CIA, and the Senate Armed Services Committee had threatened to hold up his confirmation unless Bush was ruled out as a potential V.P. pick. It was, Ford said, an “unfortunate and tragic” situation, but he complied and Bush was confirmed.

For Dole, it was a stroke of fortune as Ford instead turned to him as a running-mate. All at once, Dole regained the stature he’d lost a few years earlier. As the vice presidential nominee, he received a national security briefing just after the convention. It was administered by Bush, the CIA director, who could only wonder if he’d been lapped for good by his rival.

When the Ford-Dole ticket fell inches short in the 1976 election, Dole went to work parlaying his new prominence into a national campaign of his own, for president. Bush, out of a job with Ford’s defeat, decided to run in 1980, too. They were both underdogs against the frontrunner, Ronald Reagan, but it was Bush, not Dole, who found traction and posted a stunning upset win in the Iowa caucuses.

The scene was set for a Reagan-Bush showdown in New Hampshire, but Dole remained in the race. When the two leading candidates scheduled a debate in Nashua, Dole and the other also-rans showed up and walked on stage as it started. Bush didn’t want them there but Reagan did, and he began arguing for their inclusion. The moderator interrupted him and demanded Reagan’s microphone be cut. “I am paying for his microphone, Mr. Green!” Reagan roared.

It brought the crowd to its feet as Bush just sat there, a silent witness to the destruction of his own campaign. According to Richard Ben Cramer’s “What it Takes,” Dole leaned in to Bush as he exited the stage and said, “There’ll be another day, George.” Reagan won New Hampshire, and the nomination, with ease.

Bush caught the big break in ’80. His surprising strength in the primaries convinced Reagan to add him to his ticket, and unlike the Ford-Dole ticket, Reagan-Bush proved a big winner that fall, and again in 1984. Two terms as Reagan’s loyal vice president made Bush a natural candidate for the top job in 1988.

But Dole still wanted it too, and he’d made moves of his own in the Reagan years, ascending to the top Republican leadership post in the Senate. He set out to challenge Bush for the nomination and this time crushed him Iowa, where Bush fared so dismally that he even finished behind televangelist Pat Robertson.

The race moved to New Hampshire and Dole, improbably, had his rival on the ropes. Bush responded with a last-minute barrage of negative ads that accused Dole of being soft on taxes, and gutted out a pivotal victory.

Late that night, after the race had been called, the two men appeared together on NBC. Bush was finishing an interview on set with Tom Brokaw, who then introduced Dole from a remote location. Brokaw asked Bush if he had anything to say to Dole. “No,” he said. “Just wish him well and meet him in the South.” Then Brokaw asked Dole if he had any message for Bush. “Yeah,” he replied, “stop lying about my record.” (Bush smiled on air, but according to Jon Meacham’s biography of him, he referred in his diary to Dole as “a no good son-of-a-bitch.”)

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EU believes second referendum MORE LIKELY likely than no deal says Hague

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THE European Union believes a second Brexit referendum is more likely to happen than the UK crashing out of the bloc without a deal, former Tory leader William Hague has said as he set out exactly what Theresa May should say to European leaders to get a new deal.

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Trump ally Roger Stone says he still has not been contacted by Mueller’s team

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By Anna Schecter and Michael Cappetta

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has never contacted former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone during its 19-month investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Stone and his attorney said in interviews Tuesday.

Stone has told reporters in the past that he’s had no contact with Mueller, and that remains true as 2019 approaches.

“Nothing’s changed,” Stone said during an interview with NBC News on Capitol Hill while he was protesting with InfoWars’ Alex Jones outside a hearing where Google CEO Sundar Pichar answered lawmakers’ questions about alleged political bias.

Stone’s ties to President Donald Trump go back four decades. He worked for the Trump campaign as an adviser for a short time in 2015 and continued as an informal adviser after leaving his role. During the summer of 2016, he made several public statements that seemed to indicate he had spoken to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or could be interpreted to mean he had advance knowledge that WikiLeaks was going to release hacked Democratic emails, which he denies.

More than 10 of his associates have now been called before a grand jury in D.C. to answer questions from Mueller’s prosecutors related to Stone and WikiLeaks.

Stone said several months ago that he expects to be indicted. Even though he says he has not been contacted by Mueller’s team, he wrote in an August email to supporters that “Robert Mueller is coming for me” and that Mueller’s investigators are “examining every aspect of my personal, private, family, social, business and political life.”

Legal analyst Daniel Goldman said based on the number of witnesses interviewed there is no question the special counsel is conducting a serious and intensive investigation into Stone, but that his appears to be a tricky case and it is by no means a certainty he will be charged.

“In order for Stone to be charged with conspiring with others to interfere with the fair and proper administration of the 2016 election, the special counsel must determine that he took specific actions to coordinate with WikiLeaks and assist in the dissemination of the hacked emails… If he merely learned about it and did not take any steps to assist or coordinate, then he did not commit a crime,” said Goldman, an NBC News legal analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Stone testified before the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017 about Russia and Trump and Tuesday he stood by his testimony saying everything he told the committee “is true and accurate.” He noted he supplemented his testimony with four documents at the request of the committee, which “bolsters my testimony.”

In one of the supplemental documents he provided the committee he named Randy Credico as his backchannel to WikiLeaks. When asked Tuesday why he didn’t initially name Credico, Stone said he “feared professional reprisal against [Credico] in the workplace, yet I was persuaded by the committee and my own attorneys to identify him which I did.” Stone and Credico texted about WikiLeaks during the summer and fall of 2016, with Credico texting at one point he was “best friends” with Assange’s lawyer. Credico has repeatedly denied that he got any inside information from WikiLeaks.

In another supplemental document for the committee Stone acknowledged a brief meeting in Florida with a Russian named Henry Greenberg during the campaign.

“The question before House Intelligence Committee was did I meet with any representatives of the Russian State. [Greenberg] does not qualify,” he said Tuesday.

Stone recently declined to speak with the Senate Judiciary Committee in its Russia probe.

During the heat of the campaign in June 2016, Assange announced he had emails damaging to Clinton. Communications reviewed by NBC News show that Stone and others made efforts to try to learn details about what was coming. The Friday before the Democratic National Convention, Assange released the first batch of DNC emails.

On Aug. 8, 2016, Stone told the Southwest Broward Republican Organization, “I actually have communicated with Assange. I believe the next tranche of his documents pertain to the Clinton Foundation but there’s no telling what the October surprise may be.”

On Aug. 21, 2016, he tweeted, “Trust me, it will soon [sic] the Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Two months later Assange began releasing Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails. His attorney notes that this tweet followed a series of tweets about Podesta the week before. Podesta was the subject of Republican opposition research during the campaign and some in Stone’s camp have said that it was not out of the blue that Stone would text about Podesta.

Stone has been saying for months that the statements he made in 2016 were political bluster in the heat of a campaign, and his attorney said that media focus on them takes them out of context. Stone maintains he has never spoken to Assange, and while he may have asked people to find out details about the content and timing of WikiLeaks’ publication of Democrats’ emails that would be damaging to Clinton, he in no way colluded with WikiLeaks and did nothing illegal to try to help the campaign of Donald Trump.

In the wide-ranging interview with NBC News Stone said he never spoke to candidate Trump about WikiLeaks during the campaign.

Stone’s friend Jerome Corsi has been questioned by Mueller’s team and was offered a plea deal for lying to investigators, which he rejected. Corsi has sued Mueller and other government agencies for allegedly trying to blackmail him into lying. Asked what he thinks about Corsi’s approach, he said, “I wouldn’t do it the same way.”

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Michael Cappetta reported from Washington, D.C.

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Theresa May FINALLY wins a vote after Brexit SHAMBLES – but its not what you think

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THERESA May has finally won a vote after her chaotic Brexit shambles and opposition from all sides on her withdrawal agreement. But it’s not what you think.

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