Elizabeth Warren applauds as Barack Obama speaks at the AARP headquarters in 2015. The president once huffed that Warren was "a politician like everybody else," an expression of his frustration with liberals who he feels don't understand how hard it is to lead. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: Several books by elite liberal intellectuals during the denouement of Barack Obama’s second term dwell on his shortcomings and unfulfilled promises, of which there are many. Classics of this genre include Bill Press’s “Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down,” Thomas Frank’s “Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?” and Eddie Glaude Jr.’s “Democracy in Black: How Race Enslaves the American Soul.”

Glaude, the chairman of the African-American Studies department at Princeton, goes so far as to declare that, “Obama sold black America the snake oil of hope and change. The reality, amid the thick fog of unmet expectations, is that very little has changed in this country. In fact, things have gotten worse.”

For a host of reasons worth visiting ahead of the president’s farewell address in Chicago tonight, these tomes are very unlikely to stand the test of time:

-- Compromises, so necessary to govern, often seem like betrayals when they’re made, especially in the eyes of holier-than-thou purists who have never been in the arena.

-- Human memory sifts through a frosted glass. As time passes, the mind gravitates away from remembering specific policies or events toward something more impressionistic.

This happens on both sides. When Ronald Reagan left office, for example, some conservatives talked about how he had sold out the movement that animated the Reagan Revolution. I’ve personally experienced how visibly uncomfortable these folks, who now deify Reagan, become when you read their quotes from the 1980s back to them…

-- But the dynamic might be even more pronounced on the left, where so many overly-idealistic neophytes always seemed to wonder why Obama couldn’t or wouldn’t act like the fictional Jed Bartlett on “The West Wing.” Jonathan Chait, the liberal political columnist for New York magazine, is coming out next week with a book called “Audacity,” which makes the case over 240 pages that Obama will be remembered as a great president. He argues that many of his fellow liberals might never recognize a successful president if they saw one because they have an almost congenital tendency to make the perfect the enemy of the good.

“The attraction of protesting the status quo might lure liberals, but the realities of exercising power would invariably repulse them,” Chait explains in his penultimate chapter. “This is a deep-rooted feature of the liberal style of politics. … Liberals found the experience of Barack Obama’s presidency dissatisfying because they find power itself discomfiting. … The various theories of disconsolate liberals all suffer from a failure to compare Obama with any plausible baseline.”

Obama and his successor in the Oval Office on Nov. 10. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

-- Donald Trump intends to eviscerate as much of what Obama has achieved as possible. Because Republicans controlled the House for six of his eight years in office, the president leaned on executive action – much of which can be rolled back relatively easily. But even Obama’s biggest legislative achievement – the Affordable Care Act – is in critical condition, as Republicans plot its repeal.

Paradoxically, the contrast of Obama’s tenure with what is about to unfold under Trump will probably serve to further bolster his reputation in the eyes of liberals. People who thought he wasn’t bold enough to propose tuition-free college or push the public option will more clearly see the constraints that he faced all along.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, his secretary Marguerite LeHand, and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt arrive at Union Station in 1933. (AP Photo)

-- Indeed, every Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt has left behind a swath of disillusioned lefties when he left office – only to see his image markedly improve among the base after a Republican subsequently took office. It’s a remarkable cycle to behold:

Bill Clinton is now remembered fondly by Democrats for presiding over a pre-9/11 period of peace and prosperity, but so many liberals were despondent during his tenure about everything from throwing Zoe Baird under the bus at the beginning to pardoning Marc Rich at the end – as well as shepherding through NAFTA, jacking up mandatory minimums, embracing welfare reform and elevating Dick Morris in between.

Jimmy Carter is remembered now for his post-presidency embrace of humanitarian causes. But he almost got defeated by Ted Kennedy, running at him from the left, in the 1980 Democratic primaries. He never pushed comprehensive health care reform, but he did cut capital gains taxes and deregulate the airline and trucking industries.

Obama was often compared negatively by liberals during the last few years to Lyndon Johnson, a wheeler-dealer who successfully cajoled a Congress dominated by segregationists to pass civil rights and voting rights acts. Most seem to forget that he dropped out of contention for the Democratic nomination in 1968 after liberal opposition, driven mainly by Vietnam, metastasized. He also hardly got anything done in his final two years because of Republican gains in the 1966 midterms.

Harry Truman, now venerated as a liberal fighter who gave ‘em hell, watched as more than a million progressives defected to Henry Wallace in 1948 because they were mad about his record on labor and his failure to expand the New Deal.

When most liberals think of FDR, they quickly associate him with the New Deal and winning World War II – not interning the Japanese, trying to pack the Supreme Court and seeking an unprecedented fourth term. “But even his triumphs, gleaming monuments to liberal when viewed from historical distance, appear, at closer inspection, riddled with the same tribulations, reversals, compromises, dysfunctions, and failures as any other,” Chait writes in his book.

“Despair is the liberals’ default state,” Chait concludes. “Presidents change policy almost exclusively through compromise. Seen through the prism of ideological purity, the history of American liberalism from emancipation (which left millions of former slaves in slave-like conditions) to Social Security (a piddling pension initially denied to 40 percent of the workforce) to Medicare (designed to placate the doctor and insurance lobbies) is a history of sellouts. Only with the perspective of history, and often a series of incremental improvements, do such things acquire a sheen of idealistic grandeur. That clarity will emerge over time, as Obama’s supporters embrace an appreciation that largely eluded them during his.”

The statue of Winston Churchill outside the British Embassy in Washington. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

-- Winston Churchill famously said that history would be good to him – because he intended to write it. Indeed, the books he wrote in the early post-war period helped create the culture of reverence that still exists today.

Obama, who wrote “Dreams from my Father” at 34, is very likely to score the biggest advance ever for his memoir. Not only will he use that platform to define his time in office on his terms, but at just 55, he’s healthy and young enough that he can spend the next few decades vigorously defending and promoting his legacy.

-- A new foundation and a state-of-the-art presidential library will give him and alumni of his administration platforms to tout his record while sandpapering the rough edges. I’d bet, for example, that there will not be a big display about Aleppo and the “red line” he drew on Syria at the Obama museum...

-- Finally, once he’s out of office, there will also no longer be a unified opposition force determined to challenge or refute everything he says. This dynamic works to the advantage of every former president.

-- QUESTION FOR TRUMP? Tomorrow he has his first press conference since the election. If you could ask him one (serious) question, what would it be? Email James.Hohmann@washpost.com, and we’ll include some of the most compelling reader submissions in tomorrow’s edition.

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).

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Is Betsy DeVos ready for primetime? (Andrew Harnik/AP)

-- The Senate Republican strategy to ram through Trump’s most controversial nominees by running a spread offense is now falling apart. Two marquee hearings scheduled for tomorrow are being postponed at the last minute after Democrats protested and rank-and-file Republican members expressed concern with leadership about not being able to attend multiple hearings being simultaneously:

Education secretary designee Betsy DeVos will now appear next week. Emma Brown reports: “The move comes after Democrats raised concerns about the fact that the Office of Government Ethics, which has said it is overwhelmed by vetting Trump’s nominees, has not yet completed its review of DeVos’s financial holdings and potential conflicts of interest.”

Trump’s pick for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, got bumped from Wednesday to Thursday. Ed O’Keefe reports: “That leaves just three hearings now in Wednesday — for Rex Tillerson to serve as Secretary of State, Elaine Chao to serve as transportation secretary and the second day of hearings to consider Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general.”

Clemson wide receiver Hunter Renfrow catches the winning touchdown in last night's College Football National Championship Game. (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)

-- Clemson upset Alabama to win the national college football championship. Quarterback Deshaun Watson took possession twice in the last seven minutes, facing three-point deficits both times, and moved Clemson 88 and 68 yards against the Crimson Tide’s defense of giants. With six seconds left and still trailing by three, Clemson scored on Watson’s two-yard touchdown pass to prevail 35-31. When he got the ball with 2:07 left, Watson told his teammates: “Let’s be legendary. Let’s go be great.” (Read Chuck Culpepper’s dispatch from Tampa.)

-- Metaphor alert: The lights went out at the Washington Monument last night for the second time in a week. Power also went out on Jan. 3. Unlike the last outage, the Monument’s red aviation warning lights went out as well, so the Federal Aviation Administration had to be notified. (Justin Wm. Moyer)


-- Special Operations forces carried out a successful ground raid that killed an Islamic State leader in eastern Syria, descending for more than an hour into the heart of militant territory before witnesses say they left carrying captured ISIS captives and bodies. Defense Department officials confirmed news of the raid but declined to release additional information. (Liz Sly and Missy Ryan)

-- The U.S. will increase support for Turkish military operations in northern Syria, preparing to provide ground troop support and aerial surveillance as the Turks seek to buttress their flailing offensive against ISIS. POTUS signed off on the escalation after weeks of military and diplomatic talks with Ankara. Russian airstrikes will back the offensive. (Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan)

-- A U.S. Navy destroyer fired several warning shots in the Strait of Hormuz, following “harassing” behavior from four Iranian patrol boats. Pentagon officials said the Sunday incident marks a return to a years-long string of provocative encounters between U.S. and Iranian vessels, which had started to wane in the latter half of 2016. (Dan Lamothe)

-- “U.S. Pilots See Close Calls With Russian Jets Over Syria,” by the Wall Street Journal: “One night this past fall, a U.S. radar plane flying a routine pattern over Syria picked up a signal from an incoming Russian fighter jet. The American crew radioed repeated warnings. ... The Russian pilot didn’t respond. ‘We assessed that guy to be within one-eighth of a mile—a few hundred feet away—and unaware of it,’ said U.S. Air Force Col. Paul Birch. The skies above Syria are an international incident waiting to happen, according to American pilots. It is an unprecedented situation in which for months U.S. and Russian jets have crowded the same airspace fighting parallel wars, with American pilots bombingthe  Islamic State worried about colliding with Russian pilots bombing rebels trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. ... Complicating the aerial traffic jam, the Russian planes don’t emit identifying signals, flouting international protocols."

-- The Obama administration has blacklisted five more Russians, including Moscow’s chief public investigator and a Putin underling, for alleged human rights abuses stemming from the 2009 death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky. The move is not related to recent U.S. intelligence reports on Russia’s meddling in the presidential race, but it has symbolic importance. (Carol Morello)


  1. The FBI is investigating more than a dozen bomb threats that were reported at Jewish centers in the U.S. and Britain on Monday, prompting evacuations in several states as investigators scrambled to sweep the locations. (Avi Selk)
  2. Police in Rockville, Md., have begun an investigation after a note containing Nazi imagery was left on a car belonging to a Jewish couple who had recently displayed a “Black Lives Matter” banner. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
  3. The web site Backpage.com abruptly shuttered its adult advertising section in the U.S. after resisting for years. The decision came shortly after a Senate panel report accused the site of concealing criminal activity by removing words from ads that would have exposed child sex trafficking and prostitution. (Derek Hawkins)
  4. A newly-published Danish study found that one in three women with breast cancer is treated “unnecessarily,” with mammogram tests detecting tumors that are so slow-growing they’re essentially harmless. It’s a stunning finding that has renewed the debate over early-detection efforts. (CNN)
  5. Investing experts are reducing expectations for stock market growth – not only for the coming year, but over the next couple decades. A gloomy prediction has led some investment advisers to predict that millenials will need to save TWICE as much for retirement. (Jonnelle Marte)
  6. The U.S. posted its second-warmest year on record in 2016. Meteorologists say that every single state and city in the Lower 48 was warmer than usual, with the national average temperature nearly 3 degrees above long-term averages. (Jason Samenow)
  7. Federal wildlife officials warn that, without “decisive action” to combat climate change, the world’s polar bear population will disappear nearly completely by 2050. (Darryl Fears)
  8. President Obama penned an article for the next edition of the journal Science, in which he makes an economic argument for a national policy that embraces renewable energy. (Brady Dennis)
  9. Israeli investigators have questioned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the second time in a week on suspicions of receiving gifts. Public discussion now centers on whether his actions were innocent, unethical or criminal – and if the gifts in question were bribes being exchanged for political favors. (Ruth Eglash and William Booth)
  10. John Kerry issued a public statement apologizing for past discrimination against LBGT people at the State Department, an unusual acknowledgment that employees were hounded out from the agency for decades on the basis of their sexual orientation. (Anne Gearan)
  11. Two Orlando policeman, including a Pulse nightclub first responder, were killed on Monday as they closed in on a month-long manhunt for a murder suspect. One officer was shot by the suspect before he fled, while the other deputy was struck by a vehicle as he scrambled to respond to the shooting.  (Avi Selk and Mark Berman)
  12. A Texas police officer has been suspended without pay for 10 days in the wake of a viral video that showed him arresting a black mother who was trying to tell him about her son’s alleged assault. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
  13. A 24-hour strike by tube workers in London forced the closure of most central rail lines and stations, unleashing chaos and gridlock. (Jennifer Hassan)
  14. Torrential storms continued to wreak havoc in Northern California, pummeling the region with hurricane-force winds, snow, and mudslides as part of a meteorological phenomenon known as the “Pineapple Express.” Effects from the storm have been bizarre and severe, with one Lake Tahoe ski resort recording wind speeds of 173-mph – the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.  (Mayumi Elegado, Angela Fritz and T. Rees Shapiro)
  15. Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness has resigned after nearly a decade, potentially triggering a wave of fresh elections and casting the future of the region’s power-sharing government into doubt. (Karla Adam)
  16. Indian police officers are accused of raping and sexually assaulting more than 15 tribal woman in multiple village. It’s the latest atrocity committed by local security forces, and follows a similar 2015 report in which more than 40 women claim they were abused. (Samantha Schmidt)
  17. Mexico’s newly-minted foreign minister Luis Videgaray warned of a “new era in relations” with the U.S. under a President Trump, vowing to pursue dialogue with the incoming administration even as he warned that GOP policies could affect the “destiny of future generations” in Mexico. (Joshua Partlow)
  18. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Washington is “doubling down” on its status as a sanctuary city, pledging to spend tax dollars to defend illegal immigrants against any Trump-led deportation efforts, and instructing city police not to cooperate with federal authorities working to deport residents. (Aaron C. Davis)
  19. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) plans to block a new District law allowing terminally ill patients to end their own lives, moving to invoke rarely-used congressional authority to overturn the D.C. Council’s 11-2 vote of approval. The threat has sparked ire from District leaders. (Fenit Nirappil and Joe Davidson)
  20. A new law in France has made it illegal to spank children. The measure passed as part of a new “equality and citizenship” bill that bans parents from inflicting punishment that is “cruel, degrading, or humiliating” to the child. (Huffington Post)
  21. At Danish zoos, surplus animals are euthanized and dissected -- as a public audience filled with families and children look on. In this week's New Yorker, a reporter examines the role of modern-day zoos, questioning whether Western attempts to keep visitors comfortable at all costs are really doing so at the expense of the animals inside.
  22. Massachusetts berry evangelists are raising their pitchforks over the “hardy kiwi” – a smooth-skinned fruit extolled for its nutrient density, but hated for its invasive growth patterns. Many botanists are seeking to prohibit its growth completely in the state, prompting a fruit-inspired showdown of epic proportions. (Boston Globe)
  23. Scientists are expecting a massive star collision to occur in 2022. The pair of stars – located in the constellation Cygnus – will create an explosion so bright it will be visible to the naked eye. If so, it’ll be the first-ever time scientists predicted a galactic event of that magnitude. (NPR)
Eric Trump departs Trump Tower last week. (Andrew Harnik/AP)


-- Team Trump is facing a complex scramble as lawyers race to mitigate a web of potential business conflicts just days before the president-elect is sworn in. Drew Harwell and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “While promoting a Trump Tower condo development in South America last week, Eric Trump assured an Argentine newspaper that his family’s business was ‘in the first phase’ of a building project in Buenos Aires. Soon after, the Trump company’s top attorney said there were no plans for a project ‘in the immediate future’ and that the president-elect’s son ‘was simply saying that he is fond of the city’ and hopes to have a project there one day. The contrasting statements offer a real-time indication of the struggle that has taken place, largely behind the scenes, as [Trump], his family and advisers figure out how to remake the business he built over decades to avoid potential conflicts with his responsibilities as president. Nevertheless … it has become clear that Trump’s approach is unlikely to eliminate all of the potential pitfalls stemming from the complex web of real estate holdings, partnerships and merchandising agreements that make up the Trump Organization.”

-- Key disclosure reports from FOUR OUT OF NINE Trump nominees awaiting Senate confirmation hearings this week have yet to be made public, underscoring concerns from the Office of Government Ethics that it is being rushed to approve documents that may be incomplete. Michael Kranish and Abby Phillip report: “By late Monday, the Office of Government Ethics had released reports for five top picks subject to hearings this week: Jeff Sessions, defense nominee James Mattis, secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, CIA director nominee Mike Pompeo and transportation nominee Elaine L. Chao. The agency had not posted reports for the four others: education nominee [Betsy] DeVos, homeland security nominee John Kelly, commerce nominee Wilbur Ross, and housing and urban development nominee Ben Carson. Even if all the reports are released just before the hearings, some ethics specialists said the process is too hurried for the public and senators to evaluate the information.”

-- In a Guardian op-ed, Bush and Obama-era White House ethics lawyers are urging Senate leadership to postpone confirmation hearings until financial disclosure reports and ethics agreements are finalized. “Short-changing the ethics review process in Congress jeopardizes nominees’ ability to do their jobs if confirmed,” Norman Eisen and Richard Painter write. “[And] now, in 2017, with more billionaires than ever before being nominated for top jobs in the Trump administration, this argument for thorough review of financial disclosure and ethics agreements is more compelling than ever."

Jeff Sessions is about to be in the hot seat. (Susan Walsh/AP)


-- Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, whose confirmation hearings are slated to begin today, FAILED TO DISCLOSE his ownership of oil interests in Alabama. Tom Hamburger scoops: “Alabama records show that Sessions owns subsurface rights to oil and other minerals on more than 600 acres in his home state, some of which are adjacent to a federal wildlife preserve. The holdings are small, producing revenue in the range of $4,700 annually. … [Still,] Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to rush through [Trump’s] Cabinet picks before ethics checks can be completed, and they are seizing on the apparent lapse by Sessions … to bolster their argument.”

-- Cory Booker is about to make history as the first sitting senator to testify against a colleague tapped for a cabinet position, NBC News reports. The New Jersey Democrat will be joined by other prominent African-American figures who are alarmed about Sessions’s checkered record on race, including civil rights icon John Lewis, who proved his mettle in Selma, Ala., and Cedric Richmond, who leads the Congressional Black Caucus.

-- Gold Star father Khizr Khan, who Trump attacked this summer for speaking against him, is now speaking out against Sessions, urging members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to “think beyond partisan politics” before they hand him such staggering power. “Thirty years ago, a bipartisan group of senators rejected Mr. Sessions' nomination to be a federal judge,” Khan said in a letter. “His record since then does not give us any reason to believe that those senators were in error." (CNN)

-- The mother of Matthew Shepard, who was beaten and left to die in a 1998 attack motivated by anti-gay sentiment, is also blasting Sessions for his outspoken opposition to the 2009 Hate Crimes Prevention Act. CNN reports: "Sessions strongly opposed the hate crimes bill -- characterizing hate crimes as mere 'thought crimes,’” she writes. (A spokeswoman for Sessions says he would enforce hate crime laws as attorney general, despite voting against them.)

-- Two prominent black Republicans are trying to give Sessions some air cover: Condoleezza Rice, who grew up in Alabama, and Tim Scott, the only black Republican senator, both issued statements of support. (CNN/Politico)

 Rex Tillerson addresses the World Gas Conference in Paris. (AFP/Eric Piermont)


-- “How Exxon, under Rex Tillerson, won Iraqi oil fields and nearly lost Iraq,” by Missy Ryan and Steven Mufson: “When Ashti Hawrami, the oil minister from Iraq’s largely autonomous Kurdistan region, unfurled a map of untapped oil fields for a team of ExxonMobil officials in the spring of 2011, they saw possibility and profit. But the deal overseen by Tillerson, whose confirmation hearings to become secretary of state begin Wednesday, defied U.S. foreign policy aims, placing the company’s financial interests above the American goal of creating a stable, cohesive Iraq. U.S. diplomats had asked Exxon and other firms to wait, fearing that such deals would undermine their credibility with Iraqi authorities and worsen ethnic tensions that had led Iraq to the brink of civil war. Exxon’s 2011 exploration deal with the Kurdistan region provides a window into how [Tillerson] has approached doing business in one of the world’s most risky, complicated places, where giant energy deals can have far-reaching political effects … [and] illustrates Exxon’s willingness to blaze its own course in pursuit of corporate interests, even when it threatens to collide with U.S. foreign policy.”

-- “A look at [Tillerson’s] negotiating style, honed over years at the head of one of the world’s largest oil companies, shows an executive determined to hold the course, even when the landscape shifts dramatically,” the Wall Street Journal’s Justin Scheck, James Marson and Bradley Olson report. “Personal relationships were often a deciding factor. So were deliberately theatrical tactics, such as preplanned temper tantrums and silent stare-offs. He negotiated deals worth more than the GDP of some countries with officials who had vast power but lacked expertise. That meant he dealt with concerns other than money, such as a leader’s desire for Exxon to educate local workers or help a state-owned oil company gain technology. [Now], the question for the Senate … is to what extent this kind of expertise prepares him for the job of secretary of state. He has vast experience hammering out multibillion-dollar deals that potentially span decades with government leaders of all stripes. On the other hand, a company is not a country."

-- ExxonMobil, under Tillerson, did business with Iran. USA Today’s Oren Dorell reports: “ExxonMobil did business with Iran, Syria and Sudan through a European subsidiary while [Trump’s] nominee for secretary of State was a top executive of the oil giant and those countries were under U.S. sanctions as state sponsors of terrorism, [SEC] filings show. The filings, from 2006, show that the company had $53.2 million in sales to Iran, $600,000 in sales to Sudan and $1.1 million in sales to Syria during those three years … [And an] SEC letter questioned ExxonMobil’s failure to disclose to shareholders that it had transactions with three state sponsors of terrorism. Decisions to make such disclosures should be based on ‘the potential impact of corporate activities upon a company`s reputation and share value,’ and not simply the monetary value of the transactions, the SEC said.”

-- ExxonMobil promised nearly a decade ago to stop donating to groups spreading climate change misinformation. Yet from 2008 to 2015, its charitable arm gave over $6.5 million to groups which (falsely) deny that burning fossil fuels causes global warming. HuffPost’s Alexander Kaufman reports: “The analysis, which the advocacy nonprofit NextGen Climate put together and The Huffington Post independently verified, includes donations to industry associations, which tend toward skepticism on environmental concerns, and research organizations that openly oppose the scientific consensus on climate change. The [Exxon Mobil Foundation donations] cast fresh doubt on the supposed shift on climate change that ... Tillerson oversaw in his decade leading the compans."

Tom Price in the House last week. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

-- Trump’s HHS nominee sought special treatment for industry donors, Kaiser Health News' Marisa Taylor and Christina Jewett report: "Rep. Tom Price, the physician and Georgia Republican tapped for the nation's leading health care job, has long criticized federal spending as excessive. Yet during his years in Congress, he's worked hard to keep federal dollars flowing to his most generous campaign donors. Price has been a go-to congressman, a review of his records shows, for medical special interests hotly sparring with regulators or facing budget cuts. Over the past decade, he has waded into issues related to specific drugs and medical devices, making 38 inquiries with the FDA [on his constituents' behalf] … about matters as minute as a device for sperm analysis and an ingredient in pain creams. In other cases, he has gone to bat for companies whose executives and employees have generously contributed to his campaigns and political action committees.”

-- Steven Mnuchin, tapped to lead the Treasury Department, is also likely to face heavy scrutiny from Democrats for his questionable business practices. Bloomberg’s Zachary Mider  and Saleha Mohsin report: “When a movie studio couldn’t repay an almost $80 million loan, it put Steven Mnuchin in an awkward position. He ran the lead lender, OneWest Bank. He was also co-chairman of the borrower. The conflicts didn’t end there. Mnuchin ran a hedge fund that owned a stake in the Hollywood studio, Relativity Media LLC. And he owned a three-engine jet with Relativity founder Ryan Kavanaugh that had been zooming in the spring of 2015 to Aspen, Cabo San Lucas and Maui … One day before the loan matured that May, Mnuchin resigned from Relativity’s board. Then his Pasadena, California-based bank seized about $50 million from Relativity accounts, recouping some of its loan and helping tip the company into bankruptcy … As [Trump’s] choice to run the Treasury Department, Mnuchin may face questions about how he managed those conflicting roles when the Senate holds hearings on his confirmation.

-- Defense secretary nominee James Mattis has received millions of dollars of income since leaving the military, accepting lucrative speaking engagements from companies including Goldman Sachs, as well as paid positions with Theranos and General Dynamics. Dan Lamothe reports: “Mattis, who retired [in 2013], said in a memo to the Pentagon dated Jan. 5 that he will not participate ‘personally and substantially’ in any matters in which he knows he has a financial interest without seeking a legal waiver. The general’s financial moves since retirement are not uncommon among his peers, who often make far more after leaving the military than they did while serving. But the newly released documents provide a window into the financial opportunities for a retired senior military leader and present a complication as he is considered by the Senate to be the Pentagon’s senior civilian leader."

-- Trump’s transition team is weighing the prospect of keeping current Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work in his role for several more months, giving the nascent administration time to build a team of senior advisers around Mattis. “The move would serve as a stopgap measure that creates continuity at the Pentagon,” Lamothe writes, and appears to be “all but a done deal,” according to several familiar with the discussions. It also would keep Work in the job while the Pentagon prepares its first Trump administration budget.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump arrive at a Vanity Fair party at the Tribeca Film Festival. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

-- Jared Kusher is joining his father-in-law’s administration as a "senior adviser," while daughter Ivanka Trump will not immediately take on a formal role. John Wagner and Ashley Parker report: “Kushner, who will not take a salary, is expected to have a broad portfolio that includes government operations, trade deals and Middle East policy … In a statement, the transition office said Kushner would work closely with [Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon] to execute Trump’s agenda.” An attorney for Kushner said that he is prepared to resign from his business and divest “substantial” foreign assets. Ivanka, for her part, will also resign from the Trump Organization and her clothing company but will focus on settling the family in Washington in the short term. The move has caused some ethics experts to question whether [Kushner's] appointment will run up against a federal anti-nepotism law which forbid the hiring of family members – explicitly mentioning son-in-laws – to the offices they oversee."

-- The blogger/troll Charles "Chuck" Johnson, once dubbed the “most hated man in Washington," is reportedly helping to recommend candidates to serve in the Trump administration. Forbes’ Ryan Mac and Matt Drange report: “While Johnson does not have a formal position … he is working behind the scenes with members of the transition team’s executive committee, including billionaire Trump donor Peter Thiel, to recommend, vet and give something of a seal of approval to potential nominees from the so-called ‘alt-right.’ The proximity to power is something new for Johnson, a self-described ‘journalist, author and debunker of frauds,’ who has made a name for himself by peddling false information and right-wing conspiracy theories online."

-- Trump still has not tapped someone to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s not for lack of trying, Lisa Rein explains. “Of all the day-to-day operations of government that Trump railed against during his campaign, VA, an agency reeling from scandal, came under special scrutiny. Its management challenges are vast, and the president-elect’s promises to veterans to remake it daunting. Trump has made it clear that he wants big reforms to fix what he has called a ‘broken’ system … At the top of the list: a significant expansion of private health care outside VA for those who want it, an easier path to firing incompetent employees and less waste in agency programs. These ideas are opposed by powerful, old-line veterans of service groups in Washington … [and] underscore another hurdle for the incoming president, say veterans’ advocates: He must walk a fine line between ideology and constituencies, pushing for changes he wants without alienating large groups such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which have members in every small town in the nation."

Monica Crowley, a Fox News analyst about to get one of the most important jobs in the White House, hugs Rep. Peter King (R-NY) in the lobby of Trump Tower. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

-- Drip, drip, drip: Conservative talking head Monica Crowley, who is about to have a top job on the National Security Council, plagiarized “numerous” passages in her Ph.D. dissertation at Columbia. Politico Magazine’s Alex Caton and Grace Watkins report: “An examination of the dissertation and the sources it cites identified around more than a dozen sections of text that have been lifted, with little to no changes, from other scholarly works without proper attribution. In some instances, Crowley footnoted her source but did not identify with quotation marks the text she was copying directly. In other instances, she copied text or heavily paraphrased with no attribution at all. This finding comes on the heels of CNN’s Saturday report that Crowley … plagiarized more than 50 passages in her 2012 book.” The Wall Street Journal also published an editor’s note after she extensively plagiarized a 1999 column in the paper.

This behavior is apparently completely acceptable to Team Trump: A transition spokesman dismissed the new revelations as “attempts to discredit Monica” and said the president-elect continues to support her appointment.

Remember when Senate Republicans demanded that Montana Sen. John Walsh drop out in 2014 because he plagiarized a college paper? And he did. Those same voices are now silent. Part of the issue is that because Crowley is on the NSC, she does not need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Trump sits with Paul Ryan after a meeting in the Speaker's office. (Alex Brandon/AP)


-- Tax reform talks began last night in the Capitol, with top Trump advisers huddling for a private meeting with Paul Ryan and his team. From Robert Costa: Attendees from Team Trump included Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller and Gary Cohn. Ryan planned to walk the group through the House GOP tax proposal that was included in the party’s “A Better Way” agenda. The meeting could also be an early attempt at forging consensus between Trump and House conservatives on several divergent issues: “While Ryan and Trump both support tax cuts and simplifying the federal tax code, they do not share an ideological foundation on economic issues. Trump has fiercely supported trade protectionism and tariffs, and Ryan has been a proponent of free-trade agreements. Reconciling those views and finding consensus on how to organize a tax-reform package could be a challenge. But allies of Trump and Ryan think their mutual desire to position the Republican Party as the party of tax cuts and growth will eventually lead to an agreement — and note that Trump has not been critical of the House’s tax plan.”

From an AP reporter who staked out the meeting:

-- Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal says that Trump’s economic team is already facing internal divisions: “Several selections reinforce the basic split that permeated Mr. Trump’s campaign, with market-oriented advisers from the Washington and Wall Street establishment on one side and free-trade adversaries on the other. Mr. Trump tapped economist Peter Navarro, an acerbic critic of U.S. trade and China policy, to lead a new National Trade Council. At the other end of the spectrum, Mr. Trump selected Gary Cohn, the longtime president of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and a registered Democrat who isn’t viewed as particularly ideological, to lead the National Economic Council. A flat organizational structure could set these and other individuals against each other as they compete for Mr. Trump’s support. Uncertainty about his economic agenda is heightened by how Mr. Trump, who has never held public office, has changed his mind on some policy issues while saying little about others."

Mitch McConnell walks through the Capitol with Mike Pence. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

-- Trump might be joining the growing ranks of GOP lawmakers skeptical of repealing Obamacare without first agreeing on a plan to replace it. Kelsey Snell and David Weigel report: “Trump called Sen. Rand Paul this weekend to discuss Paul’s push to convince the rest of the GOP not to vote later this week on a budget resolution that includes a framework for a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan. Paul said he spoke with Trump for approximately 15 minutes Friday and the two agreed on the need for replacement. ‘He showed willingness and openness and was interested in getting a replacement that could be passed as part of repeal,’ Paul said. ‘Now, we’re trying to get a bill out there this week.’ Trump denied this on Monday, telling reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower that he was 'not even a little bit” concerned.' 'That’s going to all work out,' he added."

-- GOP leaders are scrambling to ease rank-and-file concerns about the lack of an Obamacare replacement as they plunge ahead with repeal. Sean Sullivan and Kelsey Snell report: “One proposal, released Monday, would buy the GOP more time to come up with a plan by giving lawmakers until March 3 to write the final repeal bill, rather than the Jan. 27 deadline currently in the legislation. The amendment was introduced by [senators Bob Corker, Rob Portman, Susan Collins, Bill Cassidy, and Lisa Murkowski]. Several of them have been outspoken about their reluctance to pursue repealing the law, without having put forth plans for a replacement measure. Meanwhile, several lawmakers have floated the idea of breaking up the replacement into a handful of smaller parts." The legislative crossroads we find ourselves at -- a week after the new Congress convened -- highlights disparity among Republicans about what a substitute should look like – or event how quickly one needs to be in place.

-- The Post’s Fact Checker gives three Pinnochios to Republicans who use the oft-debunked talking point that Obamacare has increased employer-based insurance premiums for families by “more than $4,300." “This is an excellent example of a raw number that is offered with no context,” Glenn Kessler explains. “Health-care premiums, like the costs of most goods, go up year after year. What matters is the rate of increase — and right now, health-care inflation is at its lowest rate in decades. On top of that, the number cited by Republicans has to do with employer-provided health-care premiums — and the employer market, thus far, has not been greatly affected by the law. Obamacare’s difficulties are in the individual market, so this is a case of mixing up apples and oranges. This talking point deserves to be thrown on the ash heap of history.”


-- Kellyanne Conway blasted Streep, accusing the actress of “inciting people’s worst instincts” by criticizing Trump. “She sounds like 2014. The election is over. She lost,” Conway said on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” “Everybody in that audience, with very few exceptions, was of a single, myopic mind as to how they wanted the election to go and how they expected the election to go. But this is Hollywood. I think where there is self-pity, a lot more self-awareness would do them some charm." (Politico)

-- The Committee to Protect Journalists – plugged by Streep during her speech – said it received more than $80,000 in donations in the hours after the Golden Globes. (Poynter)

-- Josh Earnest defended Streep and said she was merely exercising her First Amendment rights.

-- Bigger picture, Democrats are struggling with how to adapt – and effectively respond -- to Trump’s unorthodox communication style. David Weigel reports: “On Sunday, Democrats looked to have a handle on a busy week of Congress. They’d scrambled across talk shows, making cases against [Trump’s] nominees. They’d prepped legislation to demand more financial disclosure from the president and his family. They’d planned a series of press conferences to ‘fight Republican efforts to gut Medicare and Medicaid.’ On Monday morning, they turned on their TVs to see coverage of Trump’s social media brawl with Meryl Streep. Days before he takes office, Democrats — and some Republicans — continue to wrestle with the president-elect’s ability to command and reshape news cycles to his liking. His use of Twitter and strategic call-ins to reporters and TV shows, which bear no resemblance to past presidents’ communication strategy, have hardly changed since the election. [But] the traditional Washington ways of messaging have not changed either.” “[Trump’s] been extremely effective at setting a tone, from the campaign through the transition,” said former Obama communications director Anita Dunn. “This idea that somehow you have to sound ‘senatorial’ when you get to Washington should be laid to rest. People should sound like themselves. When they don’t, they’re feeding into how Trump is able to run against Washington.”


This post from Chuck Schumer went viral:

This post of Schumer's, meanwhile, was deleted because of a staff screw-up:

A moment worth pondering from Capitol Hill:

From a plugged-in former WSJ reporter:

Trump posted this old photo with the Reagans:

(In case you missed it, read my big idea from last June: "Reagan White House viewed Trump and his 'large ego' warily.")

An amazing sight in Berlin:

A lot of very troubling press clips are coming out ahead of Sessions's hearing:

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said he does not need a hearing to know that Sessions as the nation's chief law enforcement officer is unacceptable:

Hollywood figures praised Meryl Streep after Trump criticized her on Twitter:

The performer Charlotte Church posted this a few hours ago:

John Cornyn spoke for a lot of conservatives when he said this about Streep's speech:

Which prompted this reply from a congressman in the Lone Star State's delegation:

Meanwhile, reporters debated whether Trump is being strategic or just thin-skinned.

From a staff writer at The New Yorker:

Ashley Parker, who just left The New York Times to help cover Trump for The Post, replied:

Jenna Bush Hager apologized after she mistakenly referred to the film Hidden Figures as "Hidden Fences" on the Golden Globes red carpet (click to watch):

She got a lovely response on Twitter:

Lawmakers celebrated National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day:

Rick Allen posted this photo with two of his grandchildren:

Finally, one of Monday's most popular newspaper headlines:


-- A picture of Obama snorkeling is on the cover of February’s National Geographic. Craig Welch has the story behind the shot: “That morning Obama had arrived on Midway’s Sand Island to show off Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which his administration had just transformed into the world’s largest protected area at the time, a stretch of sea more than twice the size of France. Before his swim, while ghost crabs skittered across the sand, the president strolled alongside flowering naupaka and spoke of the marine world’s hold on him. He attributed his calm—what critics call his aloofness—to being born in Hawaii and “knowing what it’s like to jump into the ocean and understanding what it means when you see a sea turtle in the face of a wave.” Then Obama wanted to jump in the ocean again, right there.”

-- New York Times, “Is Edward Snowden a Spy? A New Book Calls Him One,” by Nicholas Lemann: “[Edward] Snowden is known for having revealed that the N.S.A. was illegally spying on American citizens, but [veteran espionage writer Edward Jay Epstein] says that he actually took almost a million documents that had nothing to do with that, which he didn’t give to journalists. What happened to them? How did a relatively lowly nonemployee at the agency, without much official access, manage to get all that material in the first place? Why did he choose to announce himself to the world from Hong Kong, and why has he remained in Moscow since he left Hong Kong?”


“California Bans Its Employees From Traveling To States With Anti-LGBTQ Laws,” from HuffPost: “The Golden State is once again making a bold show of support and solidarity with queer people across the country.  California has banned state-funded travel for employees to four states that have enshrined anti-LGBTQ legislation in their law books since June 29, 2015. The ban stems from Assembly Bill 1887 and affects state-sanctioned travel to North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kansas. It serves as a response to bills like North Carolina’s anti-LGBTQ HB2, which bans many trans people from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. ‘California has said clearly, our taxpayer dollars will not help fund bigotry and hatred,’ Assemblyman Evan Low, who co-authored the bill, stated in a press release.”



“Married lesbian couple to lead prominent D.C. Baptist church,” from Lauren Markoe: “Calvary Baptist Church, a progressive Baptist landmark in the heart of downtown Washington, has named a gay couple as co-pastors. Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen were presented to the congregation during worship services Jan. 8 … A spokeswoman for the congregation said she didn’t know whether a gay couple leading a church was a first for Baptists. ‘We look for the best people in the world and that’s who they were,” said Carol Blythe. ‘We’re very excited.’ The 155-year-old church severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012: It was at loggerheads with the group on several issues, including the SBC’s stance against homosexuality. Co-pastoring is a growing trend in U.S. houses of worship, with many churches and couples finding that sharing the often-emotionally heavy workload can benefit both the clergy and the congregants.”



At the White House: Obama delivers his farewell address in Chicago. Biden speaks at the Detroit School for Digital Technology, attends a lunch hosted by Mayor Mike Duggan and later attends Obama's speech.

Mike Pence and his family moved to D.C. Monday. The vice president-elect was seen boarding Air Force Two with his wife, daughter, and pet cats as they departed Indianapolis for the final time before next week’s inauguration. (Indianapolis Star)

On Capitol Hill: Sessions appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 9:30 a.m.; Kelly appears before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at 3:30 p.m. The House meets at 12 p.m. to consider the HALOS Act and eight suspension bills, with final votes expected before 6 p.m.


Peter Marx, owner of Saks Jandel, a D.C. area boutique, said there have been fewer people seeking inaugural gowns than ever. “There’s never been less demand for inaugural ballgowns in my 38 years,” Marx told People Magazine. “Never ever has it been less for the inaugural.”



-- Today is our first day above freezing since Friday! The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A warm front arrives today but not after a very cold start to the morning — temperatures kicked off in the teens so it’s not going to feel that different than yesterday. There’s an outside chance we see a few snow showers move through in the morning, which wouldn’t be an issue except that road temperatures are very cold. In the unlikely event that we see a few minutes of decent snow, some spots could become slick. Winds are from the south at 10 to 15 mph … to help propel high temperatures into the middle to upper 30s to about 40 this afternoon.”

-- The Capitals beat Montreal 4-1.


-- The director of the Prince George’s County liquor board was allowed to go home on Monday after being held for nearly a week on bribery charges. The feds say he acted as a middleman between local business owners who paid off state lawmakers to approve legislation that would expand liquor sales in the county. He will be monitored electronically at home. (Lynh Bui)

-- Maryland officials have canceled the swearing-in ceremony for incoming Del. Gary Brown Jr. (D-Baltimore), after he was charged with violating campaign finance laws by making illegal donations. (Fenit Nirappil)

-- Del. Richard Impallaria (R) was convicted of a DWI, for charges stemming from an August traffic stop in Ocean City. He is known for being one of the biggest proponents of stricter drunk-driving laws in Annapolis. He’ll be sentenced in March. (Ovetta Wiggins)


West coast residents captured videos of extreme flooding:

Meryl Streep has a history of getting political at awards shows:

In case you missed it, here's her speech from Sunday night:

Here's then-candidate Trump mocking a disabled reporter, if you haven't seen the clip:

And finally, check out this compilation of late-night bits on Trump and Russia: