Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz continue to assail each other on immigration

Welcome to Trail Guide, your host through the wilds of the 2016 presidential campaign. It's Sunday, Dec. 20, and here's what we're talking about:

Chris Christie visits New Hampshire, where he has momentum

'Saturday Night Live' mocks final GOP debate of the year

When GOP presidential hopefuls gathered in Las Vegas last week for the final debate of the year, plenty of fireworks ensued.

And in grand "Saturday Night Live" fashion, a spoof of the debate, which included imitations of Donald Trump and much of the GOP field, opened the show.

What Donald Trump said about Vladimir Putin


Russian President Vladmir Putin recently praised Donald Trump as he seeks the GOP presidential nomination. On Sunday, speaking on NBC'S "Meet the Press," Trump had some kind words for Russia's leader.

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Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz continue to hammer each other over immigration

 (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

The back and forth over immigration between Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas has intensified since Tuesday's debate with daily attacks and a flurry of television ads.

Sunday was no different.

Rubio, who has been repeatedly questioned over his 2013 support of a major immigration reform bill that would have provided a path to citizenship to people in the country illegally, has looked to highlight an amendment to the legislation that Cruz proposed. It would have scrapped the bill’s pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are undocumented but left open a route to legal status in the form of green cards.

“Ted was open, and was in fact a supporter of legalizing people that were in this country illegally,” Rubio said Sunday in an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “He made it clear on multiple occasions that he was against citizenship, but he was open to legalization.”

Speaking to reporters last week in Las Vegas, Cruz insisted the amendment was meant as a sort of poison pill to the bill and that he has never supported legalization.

“I oppose amnesty. I oppose citizenship. I oppose legalization,” he said.

In an effort to push back against criticism, Cruz has highlighted the support of several conservatives, such as Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who have called Rubio’s attacks misleading.

Surveys of Republican primary voters have shown they strongly oppose granting citizenship to those in the country illegally. Cruz has sought to capitalize on that view.

He’s often assailed Rubio, who was one of eight senators to craft the 2013 proposal, as a supporter of amnesty. A new television ad released in Iowa on Friday hammers Rubio for his support of the bipartisan proposal.

“He still supports amnesty and citizenship to this day,” Cruz said while in Las Vegas, noting Rubio’s concession that he supports allowing some immigrants to apply for work permits and then, after 10 years, allowing them to apply for citizenship.

How Donald Trump got schooled in a Los Angeles land deal

 (Damon Winter / Los Angeles Times)

(Damon Winter / Los Angeles Times)

On one side was the alpha male of New York developers who burst into town with pockets full of money, a legion of lobbyists and lawyers and an audacious plan to build the nation's tallest building.

Opposing was a tag team Donald Trump would have little reason to fear: Jackie Goldberg and Jeff Horton, two rumpled progressives on the Los Angeles Board of Education.

Long before his run for president and his reality TV career as the ruthless boss, Trump fought an ugly decade-long battle over a Los Angeles landmark.

It's not an exploit he's bragging about on the campaign trail.

The prize was the Ambassador Hotel. A legendary Hollywood celebrity hangout and the site of the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, it had endured a long downward spiral before closing in 1989.

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Jeb Bush, Donald Trump spat offers little holiday cheer

 (Robyn BeckRobyn/AP)

(Robyn BeckRobyn/AP)

Jeb Bush and Donald Trump continued a rhetorical battle Sunday that has become one of the more toxic – and at times personal – rivalries in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Bush, who is looking for any sort of momentum as his poll numbers remain stagnant in the single digits, has centered on a strategy of directly confronting Trump, the billionaire businessman and front-runner in the crowded GOP field.

Speaking on Saturday at a campaign rally in New Hampshire, Bush called Trump a “jerk” and in last week’s debate labeled him a “chaos candidate.”

“I'm trying to point out that he's not a serious candidate,” Bush said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “That's not a serious man.”

He argued that Trump’s lack of understanding of the nuclear triad, the three ways the U.S. is capable of launching nuclear weapons, and his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the country show why Trump is unfit to become commander-in-chief. A super PAC supporting Bush also released a television ad last week in a handful of early nominating states attacking Trump.

Trump, in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, responded in what’s become a standard attack line he’s used against the former Florida governor for much of the fall, calling him “low-energy.”

“Jeb is a weak and ineffective person. He's also a low-energy person, which I've said before,” Trump said, noting Bush’s poll numbers in comparison to his, which leads the GOP field in national polls. “He's an embarrassment to the Bush family. … Jeb is an embarrassment to himself and to his family and the Republican Party; they're not even listening to Jeb.”

Sanders backs payroll tax increase

 (Michael Dwyer / AP)

(Michael Dwyer / AP)

Sen. Bernie Sanders called for an increase in payroll taxes Sunday for a new national paid family leave plan, but said it was the only middle-class tax hike he would back.

"I believe the United States should join the rest of the world through paid family and medical leave. It will cost us $1.61 a week and an increase in payroll tax, I think that's a great investment," Sanders said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Asked if the payroll tax hike would be the only increase in taxes for middle-class families that he would propose, Sanders said it was.

"Yes, that's right. Look, we have seen a huge transfer of wealth from the middle-class to the top one-tenth of 1%," he said.

During Saturday night's debate in New Hampshire, Sanders had criticized Hillary Clinton for not supporting a family leave proposal backed by several Democrats in Congress that features a payroll tax increase, but he did not expressly say that he would back the new tax.

In the interview, Sanders insisted that his other proposal for new spending could be paid for by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

No proof that ISIS using Trump in recruiting videos

 (Jim Cole / AP)

(Jim Cole / AP)

Eager to keep the focus on Republicans -- specifically one Republican, Donald Trump -- Hillary Clinton made an eye-catching charge during Saturday's Democratic debate.

Islamic State militants are "going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists," she claimed.

"He is becoming ISIS's best recruiter," the former secretary of State said. "I want to explain why this is not in America's interest to react with this kind of fear and respond to this sort of bigotry."

But while Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has a sophisticated video operation and is known to keep track of news developments in the U.S. and Europe, the Clinton campaign offered no proof of actual Trump videos.

Asked for evidence, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook pointed reporters after the debate to an NBC report "that demonstrated how ISIS was using the Trump footage to recruit and radicalize people."

But as PolitiFact noted in rating the claim as false, the NBC report does not mention any videos. It quotes two experts who said Islamic State pays attention to what Trump says and could use his statements for recruiting, but offered no evidence that they are doing so.

"They follow everything Donald Trump says," said one expert, Rita Katz of the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors the social media activities of terrorist groups.

"When he says, 'No Muslims should be allowed in America,' they tell people, 'We told you America hates Muslims, and here is proof,'" Katz told NBC.

As Politifact put it, "for now, it seems that Clinton has turned speculative left-of-center rhetoric into fact."

Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Trump called Clinton a liar.

"She lies like crazy about everything," Trump said. "She just made this up in thin air."

When asked if he would change his rhetoric if evidence ever did surface his word were being used in recruitment videos, Trump said he would not.

"I think that my words represent toughness and strength," he said.

This post was updated with comments from Donald Trump.

A cantankerous Democratic debate took place Saturday night

 (Jim Cole / Associated Press)

(Jim Cole / Associated Press)

Can I offer a different generation's perspective on this? I would suggest to you that we need to leave the Cold War behind us.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, in a jab at his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination as he talked foreign policy in Saturday's debate

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