with Breanne Deppisch

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: It took grit and gumption for Donald Trump to call out House Republicans yesterday.

Maybe he did not fully comprehend the risks of criticizing the very lawmakers whom he needs most to advance his agenda, but two tweets from the president-elect were pivotal to saving the Office of Congressional Ethics from being declawed and neutered. The bottom line is that there will be more rigorous oversight of lawmakers than there would have been otherwise because he chose to speak up when he could have stayed silent.

Yet so many on the left are so determined to deny Trump any victory, or even legitimacy, that they won’t give him any credit for challenging his own party — even when they agree with his aim and wanted the outcome.

In that way, yesterday offered a window into how difficult it will be for Trump to govern in the year ahead: to get eight Democrats for major initiatives in the Senate, especially, but also to pick off House Democrats for an infrastructure package that may repel deficit hawks on the right.

As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told CNN in an interview that aired last night, “The only way we're going to work with him is if he moves completely in our direction and abandons his Republican colleagues.

Think about how Schumer would have responded if Mitch McConnell made that statement about a President-elect Hillary Clinton…

-- Yes, Trump technically criticized the timing of the House GOP’s move — not the substance of it. Yes, his wording was mealy-mouthed. Yes, many ethical questions swirl around him, too. Yes, thousands of people were already calling House offices to complain to their lawmakers before Trump tweeted. All these points are relevant, but they don’t mean that the intervention was irrelevant.

A few Republicans claimed that Trump had nothing to do with the decision to scuttle the change. Liberal writers cited them as evidence. But of course they would say this. Who wants to publicly acknowledge that they just kowtowed to Trump?

-- There really is something to the idea of “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” He operates so far outside the norms of how business has always been done in Washington, and his manner seems so gauche, that he provokes a visceral, occasionally irrational, reaction in serious, normally sober-minded people. Recall Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s attacks on Trump last summer, for which the justice subsequently apologized. Or that Hunter College professor who got escorted off a JetBlue flight last month after screaming “Your father is ruining the country” at Ivanka as she traveled with her three kids for the holidays.

-- Normally smart analysts are so personally uncomfortable with Trump that they are unable to see how savvy and astute some of his moves have been from a political perspective. Even two months after the election, neutral stories about the president-elect can still provoke hundreds of liberal activists to email that we are “normalizing” Trump.

-- Most Americans, who have day jobs and are not watching their Twitter timelines all day, have a very impressionistic view of politics. That’s why the Carrier deal, while problematic for a myriad of reasons, was such a political coup for Trump. Same with the attacks on Boeing and all the jobs announcements. Regardless of whether he deserves credit  in many cases he does not  he looks like a man of action.

-- Calling out his own party on ethics is very on-brand for Trump. Millions of people gravitated to him because they wanted an outsider. They bought into an early riff in his stump speech that because he used to buy off politicians with campaign contributions, he knows how to go after the corrupt ones. Many believe that he will close the loopholes he has taken advantage of over the years. Helping to preserve the OCE is a talking point Trump can use through November 2020.

-- Jesse Ferguson, one of the lead spokesmen for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, warns his party against obstructing Trump for obstruction’s sake. “Simply opposing Trump because Republicans opposed Obama isn’t a winning political strategy for Democrats,” he explains in a USA Today op-ed. “If one thing is crystal clear from the last 36 years — since Reagan’s election in 1980 — it’s that the more voters hate government, the more Republicans benefit. That’s their strategy. We can’t play into it. To quote Admiral Ackbar, ‘It’s a trap.’ If our only plan is to make government nonfunctional like Republicans did to us, then we will end up invalidating the basic progressive thesis: that government action can improve people’s lives. We can’t win the public debate in elections about a progressive agenda if we end up proving the central hypothesis of the conservative agenda — that government can't get things done — to be true instead.”

More team coverage of the Day One donnybrook:

-- Ten Post reporters fed a TICKTOCK about the chaos in the Capitol: As Trump tweeted, Republican House leaders were meeting in Paul Ryan’s office contemplating just how the day had gotten away from them — and what they might do to salvage it. “Ryan would soon be sworn in for another term as speaker, and his wife and children, dressed up for the occasion, lingered outside. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told the leaders that the rules legislation with the ethics amendment would have trouble getting the 218 votes needed to pass — and they decided it must be scrapped. The leaders called an emergency meeting of Republican House members in the Capitol basement. McCarthy pointedly asked the members whether they had campaigned last fall on decimating the ethics office — or on repealing President Obama’s health-care law and changing the tax code. The windowless room fell silent, according to several lawmakers in attendance. McCarthy gave them an ultimatum: Reverse course now, among fellow Republicans, or take a public floor vote. He asked for unanimous consent to remove the rules change — and shortly after noon, he got it.”

-- Noting that nearly two-thirds of House Republicans have never served with a GOP president, Dana Milbank compares leading the conference to having 239 children. “And if this fractious bunch can’t agree without a brouhaha on the routine matter of a rules package, wait until they get to tough stuff, such as replacing Obamacare and funding the government,” Dana opines.

-- “The Trump effect has landed forcefully on Capitol Hill,” Paul Kane writes in a smart analysis. “By aiming his social-media fire hose on fellow Republicans — even as he assembles a Cabinet filled with billionaires and insiders — Trump made clear that he intends to continue giving voice to the anti-establishment outsiders who propelled him.… That may give Trump leverage over those members of the Republican conference who have claimed the ‘outsider’ mantle for the past six years, a period when the most conservative Republicans have gained stature back home by flouting leadership.… They operated on the assumption that the only likely political penalty was a primary challenge from the right. Now, their party’s leader wields a Twitter account with 18.5 million followers. As he prepares to enter the Oval Office in little more than two weeks, Trump is far more popular in their districts than they are. He employs as his chief strategist the former leader of Breitbart News, a conservative media outlet that has included among its top targets the skewering of Republicans not deemed suitably conservative….

“As a result, the first day of the 115th Congress served as a sort of beta test of how some Republicans will react when Trump sics his media power on them. If the most conservative flank tries to buck Trump on a pricey infrastructure deal, how will they handle the heat from Trump’s Twitter feed? If moderate Republicans try to block his moves on health care, will they withstand the heat if Trump goes to Breitbart to attack them by name? On Tuesday the answer came fast: Run for cover.

-- David Weigel relays that many Democrats are frustrated that they did not get more credit for organizing and mobilizing opposition to the rule changes. Among them: Rep. Keith Ellison, a candidate for DNC chairman.

-- Jena McGregor, an expert on leadership, says Republicans like Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Va.) blundered by ignoring the power of first impressions: “If you want to send a message, the first one is the most crucial. … To put weakening that capability at the top of any agenda sends a strong signal about what's important. This is why new CEOs give so much attention to what their first moves will be at the top. Why new leaders talk about spending their first few weeks in power listening to their employees or their constituents. … It sets a tone for the tenure or the term that gives people a sense of what's on the horizon. It draws the battle lines for the coming months and years, puts a stake in the ground for what the priorities are, and provides a point of reference that people will repeatedly turn back to for measuring progress and achievements. It tells people what leaders think is most important.”

-- Robert L. Walker, a former chief counsel and staff director of the Senate and House ethics committees, writes in an op-ed that the OCE needs changes but not the ones Republicans proposed.

Two other smart takes—

-- “What we’ve learned from GOP’s ethics fiasco,” by Politico's Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan: “A new day in Washington? Not even close. Five political dynamics have become abundantly evident: The GOP is still willing to defy its leadership … but leadership is willing to strike back.… Republicans aren’t immune to overreach.… Trump isn’t interested in Hill shenanigans — and could make members of Congress pay.… Shortsightedness could be an issue.”

-- The New York Times reviews previous efforts by lawmakers to avoid being held accountable by an independent watchdog. From Eric Lipton and Matt Flegenheimer on A1: “In 2011, Representative Melvin Watt, a North Carolina Democrat who later left Congress to join the Obama administration, tried to cut the agency’s budget by 40 percent, a proposal that failed on a 302-102 vote. The House Ethics Committee, the only body that has the power to actually punish lawmakers, also frequently clashed with the office, which serves more as a grand jury that investigates allegations and issues findings to the Ethics Committee of probable cause of misdeeds. For example, the committee tried in 2015 to force the Office of Congressional Ethics to shut down its investigation into allegations that nine House lawmakers’ trips to Azerbaijan in 2013 had been improperly paid for, in part, by a foreign government entity. Some of the lawmakers also accepted improper gifts during the trips, including rugs and crystal.”

A big loophole: “House rules require the Ethics Committee to act on recommendations by the Office of Congressional Ethics within 90 days, with the expectation that it will either formally clear the targeted lawmakers or create investigative committees to determine if rules or laws have been violated. But in recent years, the committee has increasingly relied on a loophole that allows it to informally continue to review allegations without closing a case, a step it has taken in 21 of the 68 cases referred since 2009. Most frequently, that means an end to the matter, at least as far as the public is aware, even though the Ethics Committee never formally announces that it has closed the investigation. As of this week, cases in such a limbo include allegations against Representatives Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina; Roger Williams, Republican of Texas; Markwayne Mullin, Republican of Oklahoma; Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington; Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois; and Luis V. Gutiérrez, Democrat of Illinois.

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-- Trump tweeted last night that a planned intelligence briefing for him on “so-called ‘Russian-hacking’” had been delayed until Friday, a development he called ‘very strange!” — but one that a U.S. official said wasn't a delay at all.

-- “A U.S. official disputed that there had been any delay in delivering the briefing that Trump requested on Russia, saying that high-level U.S. intelligence officials are scheduled to meet with the president-elect in New York on Friday," Greg Miller and John Wagner report. "The official said the fuller briefing on Russia's alleged election hacking was never scheduled to occur Tuesday, and that plans for a fuller Friday briefing have been in place for several days. The officials expected to take part in that session include Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr., CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James B. Comey and the head of the National Security Agency, Adm. Mike Rogers.”

Where things stand: “U.S. intelligence agencies in recent days completed a draft of the comprehensive review of Russian hacking that Obama had ordered after the election. U.S. officials said the document would first need to be briefed to Obama before it is shared with Trump. The full report could be delivered to Obama as early as Thursday, allowing for the document and its principal findings to be shared with Trump shortly thereafter. U.S. spy agencies are also preparing a declassified version, stripped of the most sensitive intelligence information, that could be shared with the public. That version could be ready as early as next week, but the U.S. official cautioned that the timetable on all of these events is subject to change because of the complexity of coordinating the meetings of multiple spy agencies and their top officials with the White House and Trump's transition team.”

-- The new ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee responded swiftly to Trump's latest criticism of the intelligence community:

So did Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.):

In light of 2016 election losses, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) encouraged Senate Democrats to "look forward" at the outset of the 115th Congress (Reuters)

-- Chuck Schumer dropped a truth bomb during a hit on Rachel Maddow’s show last night: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at you. So even for a practical supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he's being really dumb to do this.”

-- Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, worked in the Reagan administration and then served as chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle under George H.W. Bush:

-- Then this morning, Trump posted video of Sean Hannity's interview in London with Julian Assange and treated what the WikiLeaks leader said like gospel:

-- Syrian rebels suspended talks over Russian-and-Turkey-brokered peace negotiations slated for later this month, accusing pro-Assad forces of violating a cease-fire agreement ahead of the meeting. Louisa Loveluck reports: “But while fighting has largely ebbed in Syria’s north, where Turkey holds influence over most rebel groups, [Assad-allied troops] have continued to press an offensive in the Damascus suburbs.” In a statement, 10 rebel factions said they were suspending talks until the cease-fire “is fully implemented,” citing “major and frequent” violations in rebel-held areas of Wadi Barada and Eastern Ghouta outside the Syrian capital. “Wadi Barada is a strategically important valley that is home to springs upon which millions of people around Damascus rely for their drinking water. Despite the cease-fire, Syria’s air force has launched near-daily bombing raids on the area for the past two weeks."


  1. Turkish authorities have identified the Istanbul nightclub gunman who massacred dozens in a New Years’ Eve attack that was claimed by the Islamic State. Authorities declined to release details about the suspect, who remains at large, but they say they are stepping up raids in suspected militant hideouts. (Erin Cunningham)
  2. Adolph Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” has soared to the top of bestseller lists in GERMANY this year, with thousands of copies flying off the shelves after the book was publicly released for the first time since the war. The frenetic sales have alarmed bookstore owners, who have begun hiding their copies or stopped ordering them altogether – but the undeterred customers have simply turned to ordering it online. (Rick Noack)
  3. Texas filed a lawsuit against the FDA, seeking a final answer as to whether the department will hand over a batch of lethal injection drugs confiscated two years ago. This complaint comes as states, hampered by a spate of drug company crackdowns, scramble for adequate supplies of the drug. (Mark Berman)
  4. The University of Minnesota fired head football coach Tracy Claeys after just one season, citing the need for an “aggressive” culture change after a wide-ranging sexual assault scandal resulted in the suspension of 10 football players. Claeys expressed support for the athletes, even as they were under investigation, tweeting that he has “never been more proud” of them. (Des Bieler)
  5. An Indian government official is blaming women for a mass molestation in Bangalore, saying they provoked the groping attacks by acting and dressing “like Westerners.” (New York Times)
  6. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is pushing ahead with a sweeping plan to offer debt-free college to low and middle income students across the state. The plan is expected to be rolled out in three separate phases, eventually providing free tuition to any student whose family earns below $125,000 a year. (Danielle Douglas-Gabriel)
  7. Elizabeth Warren is pushing to make it easier for marijuana businesses to gain access to banks and credit unions, arguing that the current cash-centric model is an “invitation” for criminals and fraud. The senator's home state of Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November, though it’ll be more than a year before it can be purchased in stores. (Boston Herald)
  8. A 19-year-old African migrant was thwarted by airport police – and then immediately rushed to a nearby hospital -- after attempting to cross over the Spanish border while tucked inside a passenger’s small rolling suitcase. The move comes as African residents attempt a series of increasingly bizarre – and dangerous – attempts to breach the Spanish-Moroccan border. (Max Bearak)
  9. Tragedy struck in Amarillo, Texas, after a family member attempting to apply a professional-grade pesticide treatment sprayed over it with water – forming a deadly, odorless gas that left four young siblings dead. (Amy B Wang)
  10. A massive evergreen tree fell and crushed an SUV in Washington State on New Year’s Day, killing a five-year-old boy and leaving four other passengers injured. The boy’s siblings and his grandparents are believed to be among those injured. (Sarah Larimer)
  11. An American man, incensed by receiving the middle seat on a 13-hour international flight, became absolutely uncontrollable after learning that the people on either side of him were related. Passengers said their cross talk sent him into a “fit of rage,” swiping unsuccessfully at the beverage cart, daring a “fat” flight attendant to “turn the plane around,” and jumping to his feet to deliver an impassioned plane-wide speech on the merits of proper seating assignments. His discomfort was drastically shortened somewhere in New Zealand, where he was escorted off the aircraft during an emergency stop. (Avi Selk)


-- Democrats will huddle with Obama at the Capitol today, strategizing on how to preserve his signature health-care law. Elsewhere in the building, and at the same time, Republicans will gather with a very different agenda in mind — hosting Mike Pence as they mull over just how quickly they can dismantle Obama's 2010 legislation. Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein report: White House press secretary Josh Earnest says Obama is “deeply concerned about the impact” of dismantling the healthcare act, adding that the his message today “will  be to encourage them in that fight, and to offer his own insight about the most effective way to engage in that fight.” 

-- The first bill introduced by Republicans in the new Senate on Tuesday was budget legislation, containing instructions for Congressional committees to begin repealing the Affordable Care Act: “The bare-bones spending outline gives members of four committees — Ways and Means; Energy and Commerce in the House and Finance; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in the Senate — until Jan. 27 to produce bills that each would save $1 billion over a decade by slashing elements of the heath-care law. Senate rules allow budget resolutions to pass by a simple majority — a maneuver that guarantees that the chamber’s Democratic minority will not have enough votes for a filibuster to block the eventual repeal bill.  Other parts of the law, such as the structure of the insurance marketplaces, would likely require a veto-proof margin of 60 votes in the Senate."


-- Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner purchased a house in the Kalorama neighborhood of D.C., just a few doors down from where the Obamas are moving. (Washingtonian)

-- Vice President Biden announced that he will set up shop at the University of Pennsylvania, with an office on the Philadelphia campus and a focus on foreign policy. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

-- The Obamas are hosting a goodbye party this Friday, gathering close friends and major donors for one final White House bash. The star-studded guest list for the event is rumored to include Oprah Winfrey, Bradley Cooper, Beyoncé, Jay Z, Stevie Wonder, J.J. Abrams and George Lucas. (Helena Andrews-Dyer)


-- Former “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault will work in Trump's White House. The season-one contender reemerged after becoming one of Trump’s most outspoken African American supporters during the campaign. She’s expected to focus on public engagement. (CNBC)

In September, she told "Frontline"“Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe!

-- Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin’s bank was accused of “WIDESPREAD MISCONDUCT" during his years leading the company, according to a leaked memo. The Intercept’s David Dayen reports: "OneWest bank, which Mnuchin ran from 2009 to 2015, repeatedly broke California’s foreclosure laws during that period, according to [a 2013 memo from top prosecutors]. The memo … alleges that OneWest rushed delinquent homeowners out of their homes by violating notice and waiting period statutes, illegally backdated key documents, and effectively gamed foreclosure auctions. In the memo, the leaders of the state attorney general’s Consumer Law Section said they had ‘uncovered evidence suggestive of widespread misconduct’ in a yearlong investigation. In a detailed 22-page request, they identified over a thousand legal violations in the small subsection of OneWest loans they were able to examine, and they recommended that Attorney General Kamala Harris file a civil enforcement action against the Pasadena-based bank. They even wrote up a sample legal complaint, seeking injunctive relief and millions of dollars in penalties.”

-- Video footage shows Trump ringing in 2017 alongside mob-affiliated felon Joseph Cinque. The New York Daily News reports: The president-elect is seen at his New Year’s Eve bash in Mar-a-Lago standing next to Cinque  who has ties to notorious Gambino crime family boss John Gotti  as he rattles through a list of campaign promises before the hundreds of guests in attendance. "The taxes are coming down, regulations are coming off, we're going to get rid of Obamacare," Trump can be heard saying. As he speaks, an “exuberant” Cinque stands next to him, pumping his fists into the air.


-- He has rescheduled his long-delayed press conference to conflict with what could be a very contentious confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, during which the Alabama senator will need to answer for his checkered record on race before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

-- The national president of the NAACP and five others were arrested overnight after staging a sit-in at the senator’s Mobile, Ala., office. From the AP: “The organization held the demonstration to protest Sessions’ nomination … (and to highlight his) record and views on civil rights, immigration, criminal justice reform, and voting rights enforcement. … In testimony at the 1986 confirmation hearing, Sessions was accused by some hearing witnesses of saying the NAACP was ‘un-American’ and saying he thought Ku Klux Klan members were ‘OK until I found out they smoke pot.’”

-- “Jeff Sessions says he handled these civil rights cases. He barely touched them,” by J. Gerald Hebert, Joseph D. Rich and William Yeomans: “Sessions is trying to mislead his Senate colleagues, and the country, into believing he is a champion for civil rights. We are former Justice Department civil rights lawyers who worked on the civil rights cases that Sessions cites as evidence for this claim, so we know: The record isn’t Sessions’s to burnish. We won’t let the nominee misstate his civil rights history to get the job of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. … In the questionnaire he filed recently with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions (R-Ala.) listed four civil rights cases among the 10 most significant that he litigated ‘personally’ as the U.S. attorney for Alabama during the 1980s. Three involved voting rights, while the fourth was a school desegregation case. ... We worked in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which brought those lawsuits; we handled three of the four ourselves. We can state categorically that Sessions had no substantive involvement in any of them. He did what any U.S. attorney would have had to do: He signed his name on the complaint, and we added his name on any motions or briefs. That’s it.”

The kicker: “Sessions has not worked to protect civil rights. He worked against civil rights at every turn. Sessions knows that his real record on race and civil rights is harmful to his chances for confirmation. So he has made up a fake one.” (Read the whole piece here.)

-- Deval Patrick, who faced off with Sessions in one of the civil rights-related cases that he actually did work on, came out hard against his nomination yesterday. The former Massachusetts governor was a young NAACP lawyer, and the front page of today’s Boston Globe has a deep look at a formative episode for him: “The Alabama case seemed hopeless,” Annie Linskey writes. “It was 1985, and a white federal prosecutor named Jefferson Beauregard Sessions had brought voter fraud charges against three black civil rights leaders in the Deep South. Defending the trio was a team of NAACP lawyers who didn’t fit in with the local culture — including a 28- year-old, black, Harvard-educated attorney who listed sailing and squash as hobbies. His name was Deval Patrick. Against all odds, Patrick and the NAACP won that case…

Patrick had made some damning accusations, including that FBI agents trailed him and the other NAACP lawyers across the state on hot summer nights as they labored to convince reluctant witnesses to cooperate. He also said Sessions, the prosecutor in the case, would have dinner with the judge in the case during the trial. Patrick, who would later run the civil rights division at DOJ, testified before the Judiciary Committee when Sessions was blocked in 1986: “He recounted that Sessions allowed his underlings to make insinuations to the jury during the case, writing ‘WITNESS LYING’ on a legal pad the jurors could see (and) moved the trial about 100 miles away to secure more whites in the jury pool…”

-- A group of more than 1,100 law school professors from across the country signed a letter urging the Senate to reject Sessions. From Sari Horwitz: The letter, signed by professors from 170 law schools in 48 states, is also scheduled to run as a full-page newspaper ad aimed at members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be holding confirmation hearings for Sessions on Jan. 10-11. ‘We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States,’ states the letter, signed by prominent legal scholars including Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School and Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California at Irvine School of Law.”

-- If you missed it last week, conservative columnist George Will ripped Sessions for his outspoken support of civil forfeiture and his false claims about due process.

-- Speaking of the justice system, Trump is going to become president with lawsuits pending. His attorney told a D.C. judge that her client and celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian remain at an “impasse” in a multimillion-dollar breach of contract lawsuit filed by the president-elect, saying the two expect to go to trial. The two sides are slated to appear for their first pretrial conference hearing on May 17, four months into Trump's term. (Keith L. Alexander)


-- Paul Ryan was easily reelected to his first full term as House Speaker, with only one member of his conference, Tom Massie of Kentucky, casting a ballot against him. Nancy Pelosi saw four deflections among fellow Democrats: Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Kathleen Rice of New York voted for Tim Ryan (the Ohio congressman who unsuccessfully challenged Pelosi), while Ron Kind of Wisconsin voted for Cooper and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona voted for John Lewis.

-- Several Democratic lawmakers snapped photos on the House floor yesterday, protesting a new $2,500 fine that the GOP put in place for such behavior. The no-photography rule has been in place for ages, but the push for fines was sparked after Democrats led their protest against gun violence on the House floor in June. Some lawmakers who snapped photos tried to provoke Republicans by sharing the images on social media and tagging the House GOP account, Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson reports.

-- Trump’s toughest hurdle is the Senate, Paul Kane explains. “Now, it’s his turn to acquaint himself with a place of strange rules and rituals, amazing ego and ambition, where friends become enemies in a matter of hours — and where many previous administrations have perished. … The new president’s early months in office are likely to rise or fall in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate, where a narrow Republican majority guarantees the confirmation of most nominees and an ability to set the agenda — but little else. The minority Democrats are afforded enough rights to turn confirmation hearings for Trump’s Cabinet picks into a referendum on the president-elect’s policy views and qualifications to lead. The Senate’s 60-vote threshold for clearing a filibuster on most legislation means that Trump will have to reckon with Democrats often. [And they’re just] one piece of Trump’s Senate problem. If past is prologue — and it almost always is in the Senate — Republicans will betray him at key moments and cause big headaches early in his presidency."

-- House Republicans just changed the way Congress calculates the cost of transferring federal lands to states and other entities; making it easier for the newly-minted Congress to cede federal control of public lands. The move comes after a push from GOP lawmakers to hand over large areas of federal land on the grounds that they will be more “responsive” to local concerns. Environmentalists are panicked. (Juliet Eilperin)


-- Bill and Hillary Clinton will attend after all, deciding to join former presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter out of a sense of duty and respect for the American process. Bush, who declined to vote for both Trump and Clinton in the 2016 election, announced his decision just hours earlier on Tuesday, saying in a statement that he is “pleased to be able to witness the peaceful transfer of power" to the new president. Bush 41 is not physically able to travel up for the ceremony. (New York Magazine)

-- Several weeks ago, retired Hawaiian attorney Teresa Shook didn’t know how to create a Facebook event page without help. Now, she’s stumbled into organizing hundreds of thousands of people, poised to gather for what could be the biggest inauguration demonstration in history. Perry Stein and Sandhya Somashekhar report on the unexpected beginnings of this year's “Women’s March on Washington”: “She asked her online friends how to create an event page, and then started one for the march she was hoping would happen. By the time she went to bed, 40 women responded that they were in. When she woke up, that number had exploded to 10,000. Now, more than 100,000 people have registered their plans to attend the Women’s March on Washington in what is expected to be the largest demonstration linked to [Trump’s] inauguration. …. The march has become a catch-all for a host of liberal causes … [but] for her part, Shook said her aim was not to co-opt any other movement. It was just an idea that took hold after the victory of a president-elect caught on tape boasting of grabbing women’s private parts and the defeat of a woman who seemed to her much more qualified for the job.”

-- British pop star Rebecca Ferguson was invited to perform at Trump’s inauguration, telling fans that she has agreed to sing – on the one condition that she be permitted to perform “Strange Fruit.” The controversial 1930s song was once banned for its lyrics, which lamented the racism and lynching of blacks that were still occurring at the time. It’s unclear whether Trump’s offer still stands. (CNN)

-- A historically black college is taking heat after its marching band agreed to take part in the inauguration parade. Band members said they have come under fire their school’s alumni, fellow students, and a barrage of Trump opponents across the country who have begun targeting them online. (Joe Heim)

-- Trump took aim at the U.S. auto industry yesterday, continuing an intervention into corporate America that “aims to bolster job growth,” but is prone to exaggerations and oversimplification. Ylan Q. Mui and Steven Overly report: “On Twitter on Tuesday morning, Trump singled out General Motors for assembling some of its Chevrolet Cruze models in Mexico and selling them in the U.S.; reiterating his threat to impose punitive tariffs on imports. Shortly afterward, Trump celebrated an announcement by Ford that it was canceling a $1.6 billion factory in Mexico and using some of the money to expand production in Michigan. ‘Instead of driving jobs and wealth away, AMERICA will become the world's great magnet for INNOVATION & JOB CREATION,’ Trump tweeted.

Some finance experts suggest Trump is purposely attempting to wield influence over auto manufacturers; bolstering a “pro-growth” strategy that could create a domino effect and boost confidence among other companies. “But the business decisions that Trump has criticized and the deals he has trumpeted are not so straightforward,” Mui and Overly contend. In his GM tweet, for example, Trump blasted the automaker for selling Mexico-assembled Chevrolet Cruzes in the U.S. -- but almost all of the 190,000 sold in the U.S. last year were made in Ohio. (The ones produced in Mexico are hatchback models designed for an international market, officials said)  Meanwhile, Ford’s decision to abandon a new factory in Mexico was “not a unilateral victory” for the president-elect. While the move will create 700 jobs, officials said, the company has no plans to completely roll back its Mexican production operation. In fact, the company permanently its Ford Focus productions to Mexico for good.


-- The California Legislature has hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to serve as “outside counsel” to advise the state on legal strategy during the Trump administration. The LA Times’ Melanie Mason reports: The unusual arrangement signals the extent to which state lawmakers are bracing for an adversarial relationship with the incoming president, giving Holder and a team of assisting attorneys a “broad portfolio” to cover potential clashes that could arise between the state and federal government.

-- Lawmakers in several deep-blue states are considering legislation that requires presidential candidates to release tax returns in order to be appear on state ballots, Fenit Nirappil reports. If approved, the measures could pose a unique hurdle to Trump’s ballot eligibility in the event he decides to seek a second term.

-- The DNC is building out a war room to battle Trump, bringing on former Clinton staffers who have been out of work. Philip Rucker reports: The team is hoping to hold him accountable for any potential conflict-of-interest concerns stemming from his businesses, or shine a spotlight on Russia's alleged presidential election interference. Heading up the team as communications director will be John Neffinger, aided by two Clinton staffers who specialized in Trump opposition research during the campaign. Former rapid-response director Zac Petkanas will serve as a DNC senior adviser and Trump war room director, while former spokeswoman Adrienne Watson will fill in as national press secretary. Current DNC staffer director Tessa Simonds will head up the group’s digital organization. It’s unclear whether the operation will stay afloat after a new party chair is elected in February, but interim chair Donna Brazile decided the party could not afford to wait as Trump wraps up his Cabinet nominations and prepares for his first days in the Oval Office.


-- Megyn Kelly announced she is leaving Fox News for NBC. She will serve a tripartite role at NBC News, hosting a daytime news and discussion program, anchoring a Sunday-night news show, and holding a role in NBC’s political programming and special event coverage. “I am delighted to be joining the NBC News family and taking on a new challenge,” Kelly said in a Facebook statement. “I remain deeply grateful to Fox News, to Rupert, Lachlan and James Murdoch." It’s unclear when she will start – or if Fox has begun hunting for a television host to fill her prime-time slot, Paul Farhi reports.

-- Kelly’s departure is “absolutely huge" but Fox will "carry on just fine," argues media blogger Erik Wemple.


-- “The frightening issue that could destroy Colombia’s peace deal,” by Nick Miroff: “After a half-century of war, peace has come to this long-troubled region of Colombia, and the change has been terrifying. On Christmas Day, gunmen assassinated a rural activist from the leftist Marcha Patriótica party as he rode home on his motorbike. A member of the group was ambushed along the highway here in early November. The mutilated body of another activist turned up two weeks later in the same area. The killings appear to fit a pattern of attacks on left-wing activists, indigenous leaders, human rights advocates and members of Marcha Patriótica, with the pace picking up in recent months as the government finalized a controversial peace accord with Marxist FARC rebels to end Latin America’s longest-running conflict. By stalking grass-roots activists who are promoting the accord and pushing for its full implementation, the killers have sent a chill across the Colombian countryside and sown new doubts about the pact’s chances for success."

-- “Now that Trump is weeks from assuming the presidency, cities that host his many branded properties have an additional concern to consider: the potential terrorism threat brought by his name,” Katie Zavadski writes. As a fellow from the Foundation for Democratic Defense said, “If [an ISIS leader] were killed, or [al-Qaeda leader] Ayman al-Zawahiri, you can try to strike the president or strike in the U.S. Or you can strike a Trump hotel. “Trump’s position and rhetoric have made him a star of Islamic militant propaganda: Groups know him as brand and firebrand. In the past, members of these groups were deterred from carrying out terrorist attacks in the United States because of our geographic distance from their centers of power. It is hard for foreign Islamic militants to reach the United States, especially by land. Europe is much closer to Islamic State strongholds. Trump, though, “creates another whole range of potential targets,” said [professor Victor Asal]. Attacking a U.S. embassy or military base is challenging, “but we can attack a Trump hotel.”

-- One often-overlooked part of Trump’s personality is his major love of sports. The president-elect grew up playing sports and is still an avid golfer, Rick Maese reports, with his name displayed on 17 properties across the globe. “[But now], the intersection of the presidency and the sports world … could be as unpredictable as every other facet of the impending Trump administration. How exactly that relationship manifests itself will be ceremonial (think: first pitches on Opening Day), political (will some athletes boycott White House visits?) and practical (could Trump play a role in bringing international events to American soil — or other sporting events to properties that bear his name)? There already have been calls for professional golf tournaments to abandon Trump courses, and a handful of athletes have shunned Trump hotels. But Trump has also made an early effort to help lure the Olympics to the U.S. …. ‘I think we have a fan who will be in the White House after January 21st,’ said U.S. Olympic Committee chair Larry Probst.”


The biggest viral moment from Capitol Hill was when Paul Ryan stopped a kid from trying to dab during a photo opp (click to watch):

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan asks a family member of Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) to stop “dabbing” during a swearing-in ceremonial on Jan. 3. (Reuters)

Ryan tweeted about the encounter later:

Check out these other scenes and reflections from Congress's first day back:

Democrats posted defiant photos from the House floor as Republicans proposed -- and passed -- rules designed to end the practice:

Twitter was buzzing with commentary on the failed effort to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics:

The outgoing ExxonMobil CEO and nominee for secretary of state was spotted grocery shopping:

Finally, in case you missed it, here's the SCOTUS in/out list for 2017:


-- They’re greasy, gooey, and exceedingly cheap -- with a texture not unlike a “wet envelope filled with cat food.” Yes, Jack in the Box tacos may be America’s most perplexing obsession – but it’s the junk food we just can’t quit. Today's Wall Street Journal A-hed explores why Americans consume so many of the deep-fried, papery snacks (at a rate of 1,000 per minute).


“Rockette Management Tells Dancers to ‘Tolerate Intolerance,’ from Marie Claire: “[It’s] already the most grueling time of year for the Rockettes … But now there's an even bigger strain: the tension over their upcoming performance at the inauguration of [Trump]. The person behind that decision is Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan, who called an impromptu meeting with the Rockettes on December 27 [to discuss it] … Dolan's statements reveal a management philosophy that fails to factor in the dancers' own concerns, despite the fact that they are the face and body of the brand.” One dancer finally spoke up in the meeting, telling Dolan that “’it just sounds like you're asking us to be tolerant of intolerance.’ Her comment was followed by uncomfortable laughter around the room and a pause. ‘Yeah, in a way, I guess we are doing that,’ Dolan said. ‘What other choices do we have? What else would you suggest?’” So far, no women of color on the team have agreed to participate in the performance.



“Girl pinned down at McKinney pool party sues ex-cop, city for $5 million,” from the Dallas Morning News: “The teenage girl who was slammed to the ground by a McKinney police officer during a rowdy pool party in 2015 has filed a federal suit against the former cop, the city and the police department. In a complaint filed last month, Dajerria Becton and her [legal guardian] allege that [the officer] violated the girl's constitutional rights by using excessive force and holding her without probable cause.” Dajerria, who is seeking $5 million in damages, was 15 when she was filmed crying face down on the grass while the officer pinned her with his hands and knees. “The video of the June 2015 incident spread widely and brought national attention to … the upscale neighborhood where it happened.” The officer reportedly grabbed the back of her head as she was leaving, forcing her face down and “remaining on top of her” for several minutes before placing her in handcuffs. "The entire time D.B. she could do nothing [but] cry out in pain and repeatedly beg for her 'Momma' as she endured the pain inflicted upon her by Defendant Casebolt's physical assault," the lawsuit reads.



At the White House: Obama and Biden meet with Combatant Commanders and Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Cabinet Room, then travel to Joint Base Myers-Henderson Hall to participate in the Armed Forces Full Honor Review Farewell Ceremony.

On Capitol Hill: House and Senate Democrats meet with Obama. The Senate gavels in at noon; the House meets at 10 a.m., with several suspension votes scheduled before 5:30 p.m.

Paul Ryan is sitting down with CNN’s Jake Tapper for a town-hall style interview next Thursday, outlining how he plans to implement his “Better Way” agenda under a President Trump.


"Thank God you're here. I'm so glad you ran again!" -- Joe Biden to John McCain, his 2008 opponent in the presidential election



-- No more rain today! (Not too much sun either – but we’ll take what we can get, right?) Today’s Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Partly cloudy skies are a welcome change from the constant overcast of the past couple days. The brighter skies help morning temperatures rise through the 40s, and then into the mid-50s for afternoon highs. Winds turn rather breezy during the afternoon, though, around 15-20 mph from the west with gusts near 30 mph. And that adds to the chill as temperatures drop back through the 40s mid-to-late afternoon.”

-- The Wizards lost to the Mavs 113-105.

-- The Capitals beat the Maple Leafs 6-5.


Nannycam video captured a two-year-old pushing a large dresser off his twin brother, who had become trapped when the furniture fell on top of him:

Nannycam video captured 2-year-old Bowdy Shoff pushing a large dresser off his twin brother, who had become trapped when the furniture fell on him. (Kayli Shoff)

The White House provided a rare glimpse into the first family's living quarters:

Finally, here are some key moments from Biden's swearing-in ceremonies:

Speaking to reporters after performing ceremonial swearing-ins for senators, Vice President Joe Biden reflects on his time in the Senate. (Reuters)
Vice President Biden tells Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Jan. 3 during a swearing-in ceremonial of senators that he was “so glad” McCain won reelection. (Reuters)
Vice President Biden makes jokes about taking selfies and not wearing high heels during a swearing-in ceremonial of senators on Jan. 3. (Reuters)
Vice President Biden takes a selfie with the daughters of Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) on Jan. 3 during a swearing-in ceremonial of senators. (Reuters)