Betsy DeVos, President-elect Trump's pick to be secretary of education, greets Lamar Alexander last night before her confirmation hearing. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: No senator has done more to shield a Donald Trump cabinet pick from scrutiny and tough questions than Lamar Alexander has for Betsy DeVos.

After postponing the secretary of education nominee’s hearing for a week, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (known as HELP) rescheduled it for last night at the very unusual time of 5 p.m. (It then started 15 minutes late.)

The obvious goal was to minimize how many people would watch. The late start meant that cable news could not cover the proceedings live unless TV executives preempted lucrative primetime programming (which they didn’t do), and it made it harder for print reporters to make early newspaper deadlines – which forced some outlets to run shorter stories than they might have otherwise.

Despite howls of protest from every Democrat on the committee, Alexander allowed each member to ask five minutes of questions. He permitted just one round of questioning, compared to the three rounds that Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions faced last week. Most committees also give members 10 minutes per round, not five.

Alexander offered a tortured explanation for the abbreviated questioning, suggesting it was a "precedent" because the last few Education secretaries only underwent one round of questions. But he admitted that he let Elizabeth Warren ask a second round of the current Education secretary during his confirmation hearing less than a year ago.

Furthermore, Alexander scheduled DeVos’s grilling before the U.S. Office of Government Ethics has even completed a review of her potential conflicts of interest. Eight years ago, Republicans insisted that every Barack Obama nominee be cleared by the OGE before a hearing was held.

The billionaire dilettante became wealthy by marrying into the Amway fortune, and her vast financial holdings are extraordinarily complex. She’s poured millions into the charter school movement for decades, but she has no professional experience in public schools, never attended public schools nor sent her own children to public schools. She has also never taken out a federal student loan for herself or her children. And, like the president she will serve, she’s never held public office.

-- DeVos’s subsequently spotty performance showed why Republicans were so eager to make the hearing so late in the day and to keep it so short. Take this back-and-forth with Tim Kaine:

  • Kaine: “If confirmed, will you insist upon equal accountability in any K-12 school or educational program that receives taxpayer funding whether public, public charter or private?”
  • DeVos: “I support accountability.”
  • Kaine: “Equal accountability?”
  • DeVos: “I support accountability.”
  • Kaine: “Is that a yes or a no?”
  • DeVos: “I support accountability.”
  • Kaine: “Do you not want to answer my question?”
  • DeVos: “I support accountability.”
  • Kaine: “Let me ask you this. I think all schools that receive taxpayer funding should be equally accountable. Do you agree?”
  • DeVos: “Well they don’t, they are not today.”
  • Kaine: “Well, I think they should. Do you agree with me?"
  • DeVos: “Well, no.”

After she ducked other questions, the Virginia senator told her that if they were in a courtroom he’d tell the judge to make her answer. “But you’re not here under subpoena,” the 2016 Democratic vice-presidential nominee lamented.

-- DeVos was unpersuasive when she insisted that Trump might have chosen her for this post even if she was not a mega-donor to GOP causes. Bernie Sanders drilled down:

  • Sanders: “Would you be so kind as to tell us how much your family has contributed to the Republican Party over the years?”
  • DeVos: “I wish I could give you that number. I don’t know.”
  • Sanders: “I have heard the number was $200 million! Does that sound in the ballpark?”
  • DeVos: “Collectively? Between my entire family?”
  • Sanders: “Yeah, over the years.”
  • DeVos: “That’s possible.”

During just the 2014 and 2016 election cycles, Emma Brown calculated that DeVos and her relatives gave at least $818,000 in hard dollars to 20 current Republican senators, including more than $250,000 to five members of the committee who questioned her last night.

-- DeVos was evasive every time she was pressed for specifics, and she was out of her depth on several big issues that will soon fall under her jurisdiction. Here are some of the newsiest exchanges, via WaPo education beat reporters Emma Brown, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Moriah Balingit:

  • “She seemed to demonstrate a lack of understanding of one of education’s major federal civil rights laws, which requires states that take federal funding to provide children with disabilities the services they need to benefit from a public education. DeVos said states should decide whether schools should be required to meet those special-education requirements. ‘So some states might be good to kids with disabilities, and other states might not be so good, and then what, people can just move around the country if they don’t like how their kids are being treated?’ Kaine said. When Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) — who has a son with a disability — challenged DeVos to explain whether she understood that the law was a federal civil rights law, DeVos said she ‘may have confused it.
  • “She also declined to say whether such schools should be required to report suspensions and expulsions, and incidents of bullying and harassment, to the federal government…
  • “She declined, under questioning from Patty Murray, to say whether she plans to rein in the Office for Civil Rights, which investigates allegations of discrimination in schools…
  • When Bob Casey asked if she’ll enforce recently-enacted guidelines to tackle sexual assault on college campuses, she refused to say. “I guess you’re not going to give me a yes or no on committing to upholding that guidance,” Casey said. After a long pause, DeVos replied carefully: “I think it would be premature for me to do that today.”
  • “Elizabeth Warren asked questions about DeVos’s qualifications to run the trillion-dollar federal student loan program, with DeVos acknowledging that she has no experience running or managing anything near the size and complexity of the program.
  • “DeVos said that she would not coerce states to expand vouchers or charters. But in an exchange with Murray, she also refused to say that she would not work to privatize schools.”

-- “DeVos even appeared to have no idea what Al Franken was talking about when he referred to the accountability debate about whether to use test scores to measure student proficiency or student growth,” Valerie Strauss writes in a separate story. “Franken noted that the subject had been debated in the education community for years, and said, when she didn’t weigh in and just looked at him without much of an expression on her face, ‘It surprises me that you don’t know this issue.’”

-- The most memorable moment, though, came when DeVos said local officials should decide whether to allow guns in schools. Mentioning rural Wyoming, she said: “I would imagine there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.” An incredulous Chris Murphy, the Connecticut senator who represents parents that lost children at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, asked whether she will support Trump if he follow through on his promise to ban gun-free school zones. “I will support what the president-elect does,” she replied.

-- The left is having a field day with the grizzlies gaffe:

-- The hearing itself, though, was largely characterized by a messy and, at times, absurd argument over process and precedent. Before any Democrat had even spoken, Alexander devoted his opening statement to admonishing the other side to show courtesy and to preemptively refute what he predicted would be their three biggest lines of attack. “I believe she’s in the mainstream of public opinion, and her critics are not,” the onetime presidential candidate said.

Alexander’s desire to ram through DeVos as quickly as possible is driven by his personal experience. When he was nominated for Education secretary by George H.W. Bush, the late Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) put a hold on his nomination because of unanswered questions about Alexander’s personal finances. Alexander is still peeved about this and happy that the rules no longer allow for such a maneuver.

Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, complained about the lack of paperwork and DeVos’s refusal to share her tax returns. “It is not a law she provide her tax returns,” Alexander replied.

Throughout the hearing, various Democrats kept reminding Alexander of examples when he broke with what he now claims is a sacrosanct “precedent” to allow for more than one round of questions, including with Republican nominees like Rod Paige and Democrats like Tom Daschle. When Warren noted that she had been allowed to ask a second round of questions of the current education secretary during his hearing last year, Alexander said that’s because the Massachusetts liberal is “a very exceptional law professor,” and he didn’t want to argue with her. She wondered what changed and did not get a direct answer.

Chris Murphy asked DeVos if she had any other plans or arrangements later in the evening that would prevent her from staying for more questions. She paused and looked uncomfortable, like a deer in the headlights. “I defer to the chairman,” she said finally.

Alexander told the senators that they already had a chance to meet with DeVos privately in their offices before the hearing. “Our constituents weren’t there for half an hour,” said Pennsylvania’s Casey.

He then told the Democrats that they can submit written questions until Thursday at 5 p.m. Franken asked if he’d commit to not having a vote until DeVos had provided answers to whatever questions they send in writing. Alexander refused to agree. “The number of questions need to be reasonable,” he said. “I won’t say there’s a certain number that’s reasonable.” “So the answer is no,” Franken said. “We won’t be assured she’ll answer our questions!”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) jumped in to call the Democrats whiners. “Mr. Chairman, I cannot help but think that if my friends on the other side of the aisle had used their time to ask questions rather than complaining about the lack of a second round, they each would have been able to get in a second question,” she told Alexander.

Lamar! confers with an aide as DeVos testifies. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

-- Alexander noted that some of DeVos’s predecessors as secretary have sailed through on voice voices. “What you are asking me to do is to treat Mrs. DeVos differently than we treated President Obama's two education secretaries, and I'm not gonna do that,” he said, noting that Arne Duncan’s hearing was two hours and two minutes while current secretary John King’s was two hours and 10 minutes. (The DeVos hearing wound up being close to three-and-a-half hours.)

Democrats replied that this was because they were known commodities and uncontroversial to the educational establishment. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) pointed out how past Education secretaries had extensive experience in the field. “When you were the nominee, you had been a governor and the president of a university,” he told Alexander. “King had been a school principal, commissioner of education in New York and worked in the department. … Duncan had been superintendent of Chicago public schools.” DeVos has no real record to speak of, he added. “There’s no way we can get at her background with the time we have.”

Bennet then noted that the rules of the Senate technically allow Democrats to call minority witnesses. “That request has been made earlier, and I’ve denied it,” Alexander said. “I appreciate your request, but I’m not going to agree to it. The committee is adjourned.”

With that, he banged his gavel. And the microphones were turned off.

-- What’s so crazy about last night’s donnybrook is that it was wholly unnecessary. DeVos will get confirmed either way. All she had to do was not give any Republican member a reason to vote against her. Now, however, it appears that the Republicans think she’s in over her head and that they’re scared of what she might say if she was allowed to keep talking.

Because the committee is stocked with liberal celebrities like Sanders, Warren and Franken, the GOP stonewalling will go viral on YouTube. This will make it harder for DeVos to build bipartisan support for any of her initiatives after she’s sworn in.

In the long term, though, Alexander might have hurt his own reputation more than he helped DeVos’s confirmation prospects. He has always prided himself on being one of the adults in the room. He put the kibosh on an effort by his GOP colleagues a few years back to invoke the nuclear option, for example. Democratic members of the committee said last night after the hearing that they’ve begun to lose respect for Alexander. That could come back to haunt the chairman during future negotiations, markups, etc.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Former President George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized in Houston, but the 92-year-old is reportedly doing “fine” and expected to return home in a few days. From the AP: “He’s there. He’s fine and he’s doing really well,” chief of staff Jean Becker said early Wednesday. His office announced earlier this month that Bush and his wife, Barbara, would not attend Trump’s inauguration due to his age and health."

From a spokesman for "41":

Protesters rallied outside the Trump Hotel last night "to prevent the Trump/Pence regime from coming to power." (Joe Raedle/Getty)

-- A man was hospitalized with third-degree burns after setting himself on fire outside Trump’s hotel in Washington. Rescue personnel said they believe the 45-year-old man had been using a lighter and an accelerant. A construction worker in the area saw a man surrounded by flames, uttering the name of Trump in what appeared to be an angry manner. (Martin Weil and and Clarence Williams)

Chelsea Manning in 2010. (U.S. Army/Handout) 

-- President Obama commuted the 35-year prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, an Army private and transgender woman convicted of releasing classified intelligence information to WikiLeaks, after deciding that she had served enough time. He also granted a full and complete pardon to James Cartwright, a retired Marine Corps general and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the release of sensitive intelligence information to reporters. Ellen Nakashima and Sari Horwitz report: “The president’s dramatic, last-minute clemency actions for Cartwright and Manning were surprising for an administration that has brought more leak prosecutions than all previous ones combined. Also on Tuesday, Obama granted clemency to more than 200 low-level drug offenders." Since 2014, Obama has commuted 1,385 sentences -- more than the past 12 presidents combined – and is expected to grant more commutations before leaving office. (Edward Snowden has not filed a request for clemency – though more than a million petitions for pardon have been sent to Obama on his behalf.)

Markeith Loyd is transported from the Orlando Police headquarters after being captured last night. He eluded a massive manhunt for more than a week. (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Police say a man wanted in the fatal shootings of his pregnant ex-girlfriend and an Orlando police officer was wearing body armor and had two handguns when he was arrested at an abandoned house. Orlando Police Chief John Mina said during a news conference that 41-year-old Markeith Loyd was arrested Tuesday night after the home was surrounded by SWAT officers. (AP)
  2. The Secret Service agreed to pay $24 million in a 20-year-old race bias case brought by black agents, who alleged that the agency “fostered a racist culture” and routinely promoted white agents over more qualified African Americans. The deal awards original plaintiffs with lump sums as high as $300,000 to remedy the “sting of discrimination,” while allowing the agency to admit no wrongdoing or institutional bias. (Carol D. Leonnig)
  3. The Nigerian air force, on the hunt for Boko Haram militants, mistakenly bombed a refugee camp, killing at least 52 people and wounding more than 100 others. Doctors Without Borders called the horrific error a “shocking and unacceptable” tragedy. (New York Times)
  4. NBC is paying Megyn Kelly between $15 million and $17 million a year, less than the $25 million a year she was offered to stay at Fox News. (Vanity Fair)
  5. The dollar tumbled to its lowest level in a month after Trump suggested to the Wall Street Journal that he favors a weaker dollar, breaking with decades of tradition.
  6. A new scaly-headed moth is being named after Trump. Researchers said the orange-and-brown wings – as well as the unmistakable bright yellow scales on its head – bear resemblance to the president-elect. (Sarah Larimer)
  7. The State Department announced a half-billion-dollar contribution to the United Nations climate fund, moving to fulfill part of a $3 billion payment pledged by Obama. So far, they’ve sent $1 billion. (Chris Mooney)
  8. A floating Antarctic research station is being closed for the winter after dangerous giant ice cracks began spreading within miles of the station. It’s a precautionary measure aimed at keeping employees safe during the winter months, when 24-hour darkness and extremely low temperatures make rescue missions nearly impossible. (Chelsea Harvey)
  9. University of California President Janet Napolitano has been diagnosed with cancer and was hospitalized this week for side effects related to her treatment. Her spokesman did not disclose the type of cancer that the former DHS secretary has but said her treatment is “nearly complete,” and that she is expected to return to her normal duties very soon. (Nick Anderson)
  10. The rate of abortions in the U.S. has fallen to its lowest-ever level since the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. WadeEarly estimates show 14.6 abortions occurred annually per every 1,000 women – suggesting the procedure is about half as common as it was in the early 1980s. (Christopher Ingraham)
  11. A Pakistani mother is behind bars after urging her newly-married daughter to return home for a “wedding reception” – only to trap her and then burn her alive. It’s the latest in a distressing pattern of “honor killings” in the country, where roughly 1,000 women are slain annually by relatives who believe they have brought disgrace on their families. (Derek Hawkins)
  12. Oregon has suspended its strength training coach for one month after a grueling series of workouts that left three players hospitalized. One athlete was reportedly diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a syndrome in which damaged skeletal muscle degenerates and leaks into the bloodstream. It can lead to kidney failure if left untreated. (Des Bieler)
  13. Police in Maryland charged a 14-year-old girl with disruption after she tweeted a picture of a white supremacist petition that circulated among students and threatened an attack on the school. “We’re planning to attack tomorrow,” she said online. Police said a large number of students did not attend school after learning of the threat. (Donna St. George)
  14. Keep a close eye on your children: A California woman has been arrested after she attempted to yank a 3-year-old girl away from her family at a park. The toddler was saved by an observant grandfather who grabbed the young girl back and entered into a tug-of-war with the would-be kidnapper. Bystanders joined in to detain the perp until police arrived. (Lindsey Bever)
  15. Amateur scientists think they may have found evidence that would narrow down D.B. Cooper’s identity to that of an aerospace engineer or a manager. Using an electron microscope to analyze a clip-on necktie that Cooper left on his seat before jumping out of the plane he hijacked in 1971, they discovered traces of pure titanium – which was very rare at the time, except for in military aircraft. The specific components suggest that he might have worked at Boeing, which was then developing a Super Sonic Transport plane. (Amy B Wang)
  16. Tokyo is obsessed with the city of Portland. More than a dozen local restaurants, bars, and shops have been designed based on the famously-hipster Oregon city – and residents have begun to emulate its culture down to the tiniest quirks. (Meaning they drink out of mason jars and wear wool-lined Danner mountain boots.) (Willamette Week)

ANOTHER TRUMP INTERVIEW WITH WAPO:

-- Trump spoke to Karen Tumulty about how he came up with one of the most resonant political slogans in modern history, “Make America Great Again,” and how he intends to make it a reality. “To save itself, the Republican establishment was convinced, the GOP would have to sand off its edges, become kinder and more inclusive. ‘Make America Great Again’ was divisive and backward-looking. It sounded like a death wish. But Trump had seen something different in the country: ‘It actually inspired me, because to me, it meant jobs. It meant industry, and meant military strength. It meant taking care of our veterans. It meant so much.’”

  • On what being a great president means: “Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country,” Trump said. “And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military. “That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City … I mean, we’re going to be showing our military.”
  • He also unveiled his 2020 reelection campaign slogan: “Are you ready?” he said. “Keep America Great,’ exclamation point.” “I never thought I’d be giving [you] my expression for four years [from now],” he said. “But I am so confident that we are going to be, it is going to be so amazing. It’s the only reason I give it to you. If I was, like, ambiguous about it, if I wasn’t sure about what is going to happen — the country is going to be great.”

-- Trump also spoke to Axios’ Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei:

  • On health care: “He back-tracked a bit from his promise of insurance for everybody, saying he wanted to find a mechanism — Medicaid block grants, perhaps — to help the poorest get insurance. ‘You know there are many people talking about many forms of health care where people with no money aren't covered. We can't have that,’ he said.”
  • On intelligence briefings: "I've had a lot of briefings that are very … I don't want to say 'scary,' because I'll solve the problems," he said. "But … we have some big enemies out there in this country and we have some very big enemies — very big and, in some cases, strong enemies.” He added: “You also realize you’ve got to get it right …”
  • Trump said “all world leaders are on par,” with a “fresh chance to prove themselves”: "So, I give everybody an even start; that right now, as far as I'm concerned, everybody's got an even start," he said.
Summer Zervos, right, listens alongside her attorney Gloria Allred during a news conference in Los Angeles. (AP/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

INCOMING PRESIDENT FACES MORE LITIGATION:

-- Former “Apprentice” contestant and California restaurant owner Summer Zervos has filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump over his response to her allegations that he groped her during a 2007 job interview. She was one of eleven women who accused Trump of groping her during the presidential campaign last year. Rosalind S. Helderman reports: “In her suit, Zervos alleges that Trump defamed her when he denied her account of their interactions … accusing her and other women who made similar accusations of lying and fabricating their accounts. Zervos said she would drop her lawsuit … without seeking monetary damages if Trump would retract his claim that she lied and acknowledge his actions. Zervos appeared at a Los Angeles news conference alongside her lawyer, Gloria Allred, who said Zervos took and passed a lie-detector test before filing her suit. Allred said that as the lawsuit proceeds, she would seek to depose Trump under oath and could also seek to subpoena recordings Trump made during tapings of ‘The Apprentice.’” Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded in a statement: “More of the same from Gloria Allred. There is no truth to this absurd story.”

-- Speaking of alleged sexual assault: A man arrested and charged with groping three women last week in the Logan Circle area has previously been convicted at least 20 times for similar offenses. In each case, authorities said a man approached a woman and grabbed her in a sexually inappropriate place. (Peter Hermann)

The transition from Obama to Trump is being viewed warily by many in the District. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

TWO DAYS UNTIL INAUGURATION:

-- Trump’s ex-wife Marla Maples attempted to get free Inauguration Day hair-styling services for both her and her daughter Tiffany Trump. Emily Heil scoops: Stylist Tricia Kelly was told they had a $300 budget for both of them for hair and makeup services but eventually agreed to be paid a little less after some back and forth. “That’s when Maples’s assistant came up with another proposal: Would Kelly and the makeup artist be willing to provide their services for free? In exchange, they would get ‘exposure,’ and Maples would mention them on her social-media feeds, the assistant told her. Kelly declined. ‘I was stunned,’ she said. 'I told them … I work for a fee, not for free.’ And after The Post contacted a PR rep for Maples, Kelly said she began receiving ominous messages from her client who first put her in touch with Maples’s camp. 'You are messing with the president of the United States,' the Maples contact wrote her, saying she was 'worried about her financial situation' with Tiffany out of college and child-support payments from Trump ending. 'She is used to a certain lifestyle and you don’t understand that.'"

-- As the number of House Democrats pledging to join Rep. John Lewis in boycotting Trump’s inauguration swells to nearly 60, not a single one of their colleagues in the Senate has agreed to do the same. “Lewis’s declaration became a galvanizing call on the left, for whom the civil rights icon has always been a hero,” Paul Kane writes in his column. “[But] Senate Democrats represent far broader numbers of people and have to be respectable and responsive to, in most cases, millions of their constituents who voted for Trump. And 25 of them are up for reelection in 2018. ‘So there are 25 senators who probably think it’s risky,’ said Rep. John Yarmuth."

The issue is even trickier for Senate Democrats with clearer national ambitions: “I respect everybody’s choice in this,” said Sen. Cory Booker, who joined Lewis in testifying against Sen. Jeff Sessions last week. My personal feeling is this is the peaceful transition of power.” And Elizabeth Warren reiterated her plan to attend, ducking the issue of whether Trump was a “legitimate president”: “What I agree with is that John Lewis is a man who has earned the right to have his view of Donald Trump’s presidency and legitimacy,” she said.

-- Trump said he doesn't mind if Democratic members of Congress boycott his inauguration, saying in a Fox & Friends interview that aired this morning: “I hope they give me their tickets.” "I think he just grandstanded, John Lewis, and then he got caught in a very bad lie, so let’s see what happens," Trump told Ainsley Earhardt. "As far as other people not going, that’s OK, because we need seats so badly, I hope they give me their tickets."

-- Two senior Trump transition officials told CNN that Trump has written his inauguration address draft himself. From Jeremy Diamond and Sara Murray: “Last month, Trump told guests at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, as well as presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, that he planned to write the speech himself, but we've now been told that Trump has actually followed through. The decision is a departure from how Trump tackled speeches during the campaign, when he either delivered off-the-cuff remarks or relied on text prepared by his senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller. It's unclear exactly to what extent Miller has been involved in fine-tuning Trump's draft.”

What Maggie Haberman is hearing:

-- As a new face gets ready to assume the White House, street vendors and local boutiques are stocking their stands accordingly – and seeking to broaden their appeal to both friends and foes of the president-elect. Abha Bhattarai reports: “At Chocolate Mooose, a novelty gift shop a half-mile from the White House, shelves are lined with Donald Trump whoopee cushions and chocolate replicas of the U.S. Capitol. The Donald Trump mask, a Halloween favorite, is back in stock. The best-selling item so far? Toilet paper emblazoned with Trump’s face.” White House gifts owner Jim Warlick said he spent months prepping for inaugural weekend – but predicted the wrong winner. He was left with $100,000 of Hillary merch on November 9. “It’s been a very tough inaugural to buy for,” said Warlick, who has been selling inauguration-related items for four decades. “Usually we only do pro-presidential items, but this time we also have ‘resistance products’ because people are so divided.”

-- At Washington’s elite inaugural parties, there’s an unspoken rule: don’t gloat, don’t pout, and be civil. Roxanne Roberts reports: “In a year when nothing seems normal, Washington’s establishment is determined to carry on as if everything is perfectly normal. Part ritual, part tradition, the operating principle every four years is to put on a good face and welcome the new administration with respect and excruciating good manners. If they go low, we still go high … tea. Part of it stems from the belief that Washington changes presidents more than presidents change Washington. Part of it is the genuine hope for everyone to come together for the greater good of the city and its institutions. And part of it is the desire to stay in the social mix, regardless of who’s in the White House. This raises the larger question of how much the new president and his advisers will engage with the city’s establishment — and to what degree it will embrace him."

Washington prepares for Trump's inauguration. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

THE AGENDA:

-- A new nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report estimates that at least 18 million people would lose health insurance in the first year if Republican lawmakers push forward with plans to gut major portions of Obamacare without a replacement plan. Kelsey Snell reports: “The number of people without insurance would grow to about 32 million within the first decade if congressional Republicans follow a 2015 plan to repeal the health-care law without an alternative, the new report says. It also estimates that health insurance premiums for people buying individual non-group coverage would double within a decade, further complicating GOP promises that people will not lose coverage under their plan.” The report increases the pressure for Republican lawmakers to come up with a replacement plan to fill in the gaps for ACA-covered Americans while also adhering to GOP principles. It also comes just days after Trump said in an interview that he was nearing completion of a plan to provide “insurance for everybody,” though he declined to provide specifics.

--  ISIS is on the defensive in three countries and has been all but wiped out in another – leading Pentagon officials to say a military victory, at least within major strongholds, is within sight, Missy Ryan reports: “But tens of thousands of fighters remain, and the militants are showing signs of reinventing themselves as a dispersed terrorist movement — a threat that [Trump] said has been given too much time to grow. While Trump has promised a more effective military campaign than that of his predecessor, many of the actions he might take to accelerate progress in Iraq and Syria come with toxic side effects. Those include the potential worsening of already frayed ties with NATO ally Turkey, an increase in U.S. or civilian casualties or reinvigorated militant recruitment.” “I think they’ll find there’s not a lot of low-hanging fruit, by which I mean obvious and low-cost things to do that will noticeably advance progress without negative or unintended consequences,” said Obama’s former coordinator for Middle East issues. Trump has notably promised to “bomb the sh---" out of ISIS as president, and will probably intensify the American air effort. But military officials have said they have already been hitting all the available militant sites: “There’s not much left to strike in many cases,” said a defense official.

-- Planned Parenthood -- the nation's largest women's health care and abortion provider -- is once again on the chopping block, but this time the "bullets are real," as Patty Murray tells Kelsey Snell. "Democrats acknowledge that with no check from the president, congressional Republicans may succeed in using special budget procedures to slash funding for the group by as much as 50 percent. 'This has been an easy vote for a lot of Republicans to say they’re going to take a political vote. But this time it’s real bullets,; said Murray (D-Wash.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat...Abortion rights supporters worry attacks on Planned Parenthood could be the first volley in a broader strategy. Unlike the ACA, which Ryan and other leaders have said will remain while a replacement plan is phased in, a measure targeting Planned Parenthood is expected to take effect as soon as the repeal bill passes."

-- Mike Pence promised a conference of mayors that the administration will work with both Republican and Democratic leaders to pass a “big” infrastructure bill. John Wagner reports: Appearing at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, Pence relayed that he had told Trump that he would be dropping by and that Trump offered this instruction: “Tell 'em we’re going to do an infrastructure bill, and it’s going to be big.” Pence provided no details of the plan, but pledged the new administration will be a “friend to America’s mayors.”

MORE ON THE CONFIRMATION HEARINGS:

-- Interior secretary nominee Ryan Zinke said completing billions of dollars in backlogged projects on a National Park Service repair list should be a “major part” of Trump's infrastructure plan. Ed O'Keefe and Darryl Fears report: “The Montana congressman told the Senate Natural Resources Committee that Trump’s ambitious infrastructure spending plans should ‘prioritize the estimated $12.5 billion in backlog of maintenance and repair’ at hundreds of national parks across the country. Zinke also said publicly for the first time that unlike Trump, he doesn’t believe climate change is a hoax. Answering pointed questions on the issue from Bernie Sanders, Zinke said humans are almost certainly the drivers of climate change, but he said there’s a debate among scientists over how much.” Zinke’s climate change remarks provided his clearest perspective on the issue after seeming to flip-flop on his approach in previous years.

-- U.N. ambassador nominee Nikki Haley is preparing in her confirmation hearing to harshly criticize the Obama administration for allowing the U.N. Security Council to condemn Israel and pledge “never to let it happen again." Anne Gearan and Sean Sullivan raise the curtain: “Haley will call the world body ‘often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers,’ according to remarks prepared for delivery [today] … ‘I will not go to New York and abstain when the U.N. seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel,’ Haley plans to say … She also will question the priorities of the United Nations in other areas and whether the United States is getting its money’s worth for its contribution and investment. Although Haley plans to say she looks forward to representing the United States in the international forum, her skepticism about the United Nations’ value echoes [Trump] and aides who have said the New York-based body is biased, bloated and ineffectual."

-- At Davos, Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci told world leaders that they are overreacting to Trump’s rhetoric, saying people don’t need to “run around like crazy” because of comments the president-elect has made about NATO, trade, and the E.U. "He is saying things that are ... setting off alarm bells and people are setting their hair on fire and running around, and they really don't need to do that," Scaramucci said at the World Economic Forum. "When he uses the word obsolete about NATO, everybody runs around and says 'oh he is gonna bust up NATO.' That's not what he is saying ... NATO is working but there are things about it that need to change and there are parts of it that are ... in the words of Trump, obsolete." Scaramucci also denied that Trump wants to start a “trade war” with China, despite his continuing threats to impose tariffs on the world’s second biggest economy. "The Chinese and the Americans have a common cause and we have to have a very strong bilateral relationship," he said. "I believe that the United States and the new administration doesn't want to have a trade war." (CNN’s Ivana Kottasova)

Tom Price walks to a meeting with Bernie Sanders in Dirksen yesterday. (Michael Reynolds/EPA)

-- Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price invested as much as $90,000 in six pharmaceutical companies last year shortly before leading a legislative and PR effort to benefit those specific companies, Time’s Sam Frizell reports: “Within weeks of making investments worth between $1,000 and $15,000 in Eli Lilly, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Amgen, McKesson, Biogen and Pfizer … Rep. Tom Price co-sponsored legislation and took part in a public effort that ultimately killed proposed regulatory changes that would have likely hurt those companies’ bottom lines. The six pharmaceutical companies where Price made investments all lobbied Congress to stop the regulatory changes … which would have changed the way Medicare reimburses doctors for expensive drugs. According to a [review] of Congressional financial disclosures, Price held between at least $60,000 and $250,000 in stocks in health care-related companies as of the end of 2016.”

-- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Price may have broken the law with his Zimmer stock transaction: "If he knew about it, it could very well be a violation of the law," Schumer told CNN. "Now they say there's a broker, it's kind of strange that this broker would pick this stock totally independently of him introducing legislation that's so narrow and specific to this company."

-- Johnny Isakson, the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee Chairman, responded forcefully on the floor: “Senator Schumer is talking about the purchase of Zimmer medics stocks worth $2,476. The two disparate facts he put together to make a wrong were this: a purchase was made without Tom's knowledge. Smith Barney manages his account. They make the decisions what to buy. Tom doesn't. Tom found out about it April 4 even though the purchase was made in March. He didn't know the purchase had been made on his behalf until it was disclosed, which he did as he is required to do by the STOCK Act. Every single fact brought up by the distinguished Minority Leader is a fact that's a required disclosure of the Rules of the United States Senate to the Ethics Committee and under the STOCK Act. … Tom obeyed the law…”

Reince Priebus leads other Trump advisers into a meeting with Paul Ryan at the Capitol. (Cliff Owen/AP)

MEET THE MEN WHO WILL RUN THE GOVERNMENT:

-- “Republicans Look to Reince Priebus, Trump’s Chief of Staff, to Bring Stability,” by the New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: “When [Paul Ryan] needed to stop rebellious fellow Republicans from defanging a popular congressional ethics watchdog office this month, he called [Reince Priebus] … for some stealthy help. At the urging of Mr. Priebus, Mr. Trump quickly posted a pair of scolding posts on Twitter: Did Congress really have to make the gutting of the popular Office of Congressional Ethics ‘their number one act and priority?’ he asked … This is the way that many mainstream Beltway Republicans, and more than a few tremulous Democrats, pray the Trump White House will work. In a city bracing for convulsive change, Mr. Priebus has emerged as an unlikely symbol of stability, someone who they hope will domesticate the new president and transform his storm-the-gates campaign into a normal, functional White House. … Still, while Mr. Priebus assembled the political machinery that helped secure a Trump win, he has not fully cracked the circle of trust, and [Trump] is not always so glowing about the man he sometimes calls ‘Reincey.’” (Apparently he routinely points out that Priebus wanted him to drop out early on and that he thought Trump being the nominee could cost the GOP the House and Senate.)

How a liberal Santa Monica high school produced a top Trump advisor and speechwriter,” by LA Times’ Lisa Mascaro: “How the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, as the city is sometimes jokingly called, gave rise to the skinny-suited man now at [Trump’s] side is as much a story about one teen’s intellectual tenacity as it is about the backlash to liberalism at the turn of the millennium. As he was finding his voice at Santa Monica High, [Stephen] Miller bemoaned the school’s Spanish-language announcements, the colorful festivals of minority cultures, and the decline, as he saw it, of a more traditional version of American education.  Latino students recall Miller telling them dismissively that they would do better to work on their English language skills rather than spend their time forming clubs based on ethnicity. Some called him racist. Others remember Miller giving a speech questioning why students should be required to pick up their trash when janitors were employed for such tasks … Now Miller’s brand of brash conservatism, fostered during those years at Santa Monica High, is helping to shape the next presidency.”

-- Is Trump ready for a national security crisis? From Politico’s Michael Crowley: “Sources close to the transition describe Trump’s national security staffing as a ‘black box,’ leaving everyone from Obama administration officials to Trump job seekers and foreign diplomats guessing at who will land crucial positions shaping policy and managing crises. Much of the speculation focuses on the NSC, which plays the vital role of coordinating foreign policy and national security within the White House. The NSC staffing process is being controlled closely by Trump’s national security adviser-designate, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who, unlike his past several predecessors, has no NSC experience.  ‘Unlike State, which can rely on its bureaucracy, the NSC has to be ready on Day One as most of its old team leaves,” said Philip Gordon … “In a normal world, even before a single presidential phone call or meeting or decision the NSC team would prepare background, points, facts, etc. They will not have a team ready to do that.’”

-- Does it matter that Trump’s cabinet is not stocked with technocrats? Of the 14 department heads that Trump has nominated so far, six have not logged significant federal government experience. Annie Linskey argues on the front page of the Boston Globe that policy expertise didn’t necessarily guarantee positive outcomes. “What we learned in the Obama era is having really smart people in positions of power is not nearly enough,” said Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a self-described liberal. “We really need to question this technocratic practice that liberals use.” Hamid pointed to Obama’s policy in Syria. “How come the Middle East is more violent and more of a disaster writ large eight years after Obama came to power, despite having very smart people?” he asked. Instead of subject area specialty, he said, he’s looking for evidence that Trump’s cabinet picks have shown good judgment, are curious about the departments they’ll run, are seeking outside counsel, and are willing to listen and change course if their instincts prove to be wrong. “We are having a fundamental crisis in trust of government,” he said. “People are losing faith in this idea of handing over policy to experts who ‘know best.’”

-- Just one Cabinet agency lacks a nominee to lead it: the Department of Agriculture. From The Atlantic’s Molly Ball: “The pick has become mired in politics and drama, unsettling the agriculture industry and potentially imperiling Trump’s standing with some of his most ardent supporters—the residents of rural America. In the process, it has become a case study in the difficulty Trump will face as he begins to govern, as his sweeping promises and catchy slogans run up against competing interests. More than two weeks ago, multiple news outlets reported that Trump was set to pick Sonny Perdue to lead the Agriculture Department, or USDA. But [he] has not been announced for the post. … After Perdue’s appointment was floated, reports indicated that the Trump team wanted to pick a woman or Hispanic for the position instead ... But the idea that the administration might use the USDA post to ‘balance’ the overwhelmingly white and male Cabinet has sparked controversy in agricultural circles.”

-- In newly-surfaced audio from a 2015 radio interview, Trump said he had met Putin “one time … a long time ago” and that he “got along with him great.” The statement gives lie to his insistence several times since then that he has never met, or even spoken to, the Russian president. Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff reports: “On the newly uncovered audiotape, released by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, Trump discusses Putin with conservative radio host Michael Savage, telling him ‘it’s wonderful’ that the Russians were ‘really hitting ISIS hard’ in Syria. ‘Have you ever met Vladimir Putin?’ Savage asks. ‘Yes,’ Trump answers, emphatically. ‘You have?’ Savage follows up. ‘Yes, a long time ago. We got along great, by the way.’” In July, Trump told ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos they had never so much as talked on the phone.

-- I keep writing that Trump is The New Nixon, but columnist Richard Cohen thinks he might actually be a latter-day LBJ: “Whether he knows it or not, the specter of Lyndon Baines Johnson haunts Donald John Trump. There are some jarring similarities — two big, fleshy men given to vulgarities and gauche behavior, boastful, thin-skinned, politically amoral, vengeful, unforgiving and, most important, considered illegitimate presidents. For Johnson, that took some time to sink in; Trump is already there. Johnson ascended to the presidency upon the death of John F. Kennedy … An air of illegitimacy clung to him like an odor…

“Lyndon Johnson would no doubt warn Trump that he is already on thin ice and he will plunge through it the moment Congress takes the measure of his unpopularity. Johnson was a man of huge political abilities and experience, and his achievements in civil rights entitled him to greatness. Yet, when Vietnam went sour, so did the public, and it seemed, after a while, that his personal characteristics … oozed out of him so that they obscured both him and his accomplishments. He was deemed capable of anything — of lying and perversion of all kinds…

“Trump will have his moment, that’s for sure, but when things go wrong he will be chased from office — just like Johnson once was. The ancient Greeks knew why: A man’s character is his fate. In that case, Trump’s presidency is doomed.”

Vice President Joe Biden chats as he stops for an ice cream cone at an Ohio Dairy Queen. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

BIDEN'S LEGACY:

-- If you read one thing about the outgoing veep --> “Joe Biden: ‘I Wish to Hell I’d Just Kept Saying the Exact Same Thing,’” by Jonathan Alter in the New York Times Magazine: “Joe Biden’s personal compartment on the modified Boeing 757 that serves as Air Force Two had the feel of a motel manager’s office equipped with state-of-the-art communications gear. We were en route back to Wilmington, Del., from Cartagena, Colombia, in early December, and Biden was sitting in a black leather seat with a binder in his lap. It contained the speech he had given at the Democratic National Convention … He told me he had been rereading it. He began reciting aloud: ‘If you live in neighborhoods like the one Jill and I grew up in, if you worry about your job and getting decent pay. ...’  He looked up at me and sighed. ‘I wish to hell I’d just kept saying the exact same thing.’ 

“[Today], Biden remains in the shrinking camp that believes Trump may yet step up, at least a bit, to the demands of high office. His hope is that Trump’s ‘sense of grandeur is so immense that he’d rather succeed than unleash these forces.’ Given how many Trump voters would lose their insurance under full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, he may well back off of repealing it, Biden said. As for the rest of his own administration’s legacy, he said, ‘I’m not prepared to bet my granddaughter’s college tuition, but it’s less likely to be undone than frayed on the edges.’” But he conceded: “It’s like a Rubik’s cube trying to figure this guy out … We have no freakin’ idea what he’s gonna do.”

-- Biden this morning delivered his final speech as V.P. in Davos. He encouraged "big-heartedness" and "foresightedness" in the face of isolationism and fear, and promised to keep using his "voice and power" to enhance international unity.

MORE POLLS SHOW UNPOPULAR TRUMP IS AS HE TAKES OFFICE:

-- A new WSJ/NBC News poll finds that just 38 percent of Americans say they view Trump in a favorable light, while 48 percent view him in a negative one. But there is a strong constituency for action on policies in the otherwise-polarized political environment: 78 percent of people say Trump’s top White House priority should be keeping U.S. jobs from going overseas, while 64 percent said it should be funding infrastructure projects. And 57 percent said it should imposing tariffs on countries that attempt to take advantage of trade.

-- A CNN/ORC poll found Trump with a similarly dismal 40 percent approval rating – trailing his three most recent predecessors by more than 20 points. And a 53 percent majority said Trump’s words and actions since winning the election have made them less confident in his ability to handle the White House, while the public is split evenly on whether Trump will be a good or poor president. (49 percent on each side.)

-- Meanwhile, Obama’s approval rate continues to climb. Fresh numbers from our Post-ABC poll found six in 10 Americans approving of his job performance, topping off a steady rise that puts him above the average final mark for modern presidents. It’s his highest mark since June of his first year in office, and finds 61 percent approving of how he handled the economy, while a 53 percent majority approve how he has handled the threat of terrorism, and 52 percent rate him positively for handling health care.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry discuss Syria in October. (Jean-Christophe Bott/EPA)

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

-- Amid widespread intelligence consensus that Russia hacked the U.S. presidential election, Moscow has its own complaints about spies – American spies. Andrew Roth reports: “U.S. spies under diplomatic cover sneaking along Russia's borders with Europe. Ten thousand dollars and a recruitment letter shoved into a Russian diplomat's car. Those are just some of the sensational allegations that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov leveled against the United States on Tuesday as he laid out Moscow's case against Washington in the hidden intelligence war. For months, Russian officials have seethed at accusations that they hacked the U.S. presidential election … In a nationally televised news conference, Lavrov fired back, complaining that U.S. Embassy employees in Moscow were disguising themselves to join in Russian opposition protests and that Russian diplomats in the U.S. were increasingly being targeted for recruitment. [His statements comes as] U.S. officials have … complained about harassment and surveillance by Russian intelligence... In Moscow, one military attache's dog was killed, according to multiple former officials citing intelligence reports, and embassy employees have complained about slashed tires and their children being followed to school.”

-- WE’RE HIRING! PowerPost is expanding. We’re going to launch three additional daily newsletters: on financial services/economic policy, healthcare policy, and energy/environmental policy. We’re also looking for an additional researcher to help prepare The Daily 202 and assist with these new offerings. If you or someone you know is interested, please email me at James.Hohmann@washpost.com. More details here.

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The Washington establishment continues to be pretty alarmed about Russia-friendly Michael Flynn becoming national security adviser, and his son's Tweets only fuel that concern. The latest, via ABC News's chief foreign correspondent:

This recent tweet from WikiLeaks is getting a lot of attention after Obama commuted the bulk of Manning's sentence:

Edward Snowden responded to the news:

Judith Miller's tweet raised eyebrows, given her own flawed reporting in the run-up to the Iraq war:

To ponder, via a Wall Street Journal investigative reporter:

Meanwhile, inauguration tickets have arrived on Capitol Hill:

Spotted outside the Zinke hearing:

Variety went with Trump critics for the cover of its special inauguration issue:

Nearly 60 House Democrats will not attend the event, including these members:

Elsewhere in Washington, the Obamas started moving into their new house:

FLOTUS received lots of birthday wishes on Instagram:

And this one, from the president, on Twitter:

Not from Scott Walker, though -- he wished happy birthday to Betty White:

The next vice president danced with the next second lady:

Chuck Grassley snapped this photo of his great-grandson and Ben Sasse:

White House spokesman Eric Schultz is getting a new Twitter handle:

What does Trump think of the phrase "all men are created equal"? Here's a look at some past comments:

White House photographer Pete Souza has been posting some of his favorite pictures from the past eight years on his Instagram account:

Some historical perspective:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Buzzfeed, “The CIA’s Secret History Is Now Online,” by Jason Leopold: “Decades ago, the CIA declassified a 26-page secret document cryptically titled ‘clarifying statement to Fidel Castro concerning assassination.’ It was a step toward greater transparency for one of the most secretive of all federal agencies. [To] find out what the document actually said, you had to trek to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland … But today the CIA posted the Castro record on its website along with more than 12 million pages of the agency’s other declassified documents … covering everything from Nazi war crimes to mind-control experiments to the role the CIA played in overthrowing governments in Chile and Iran. There are also secret documents about a telepathy and precognition program known as Star Gate, files the CIA kept on certain media publications … photographs, more than 100,000 pages of internal intelligence bulletins, policy papers, and memos written by former CIA directors.” (See it here.)

-- Politico Magazine, “The Alt-Right Comes to Washington,” by Ben Schreckinger: “[The] ‘new right’ is now enjoying something of a moment. It’s not clear whether the movement helped fuel Trump’s rise or just rode its coattails. But energized by his success, this loose confederacy of meme-generating internet trolls, provocateurs and self-appointed custodians of Trumpism has begun making plans to move into Washington’s corridors of power, or at least shoulder their way into the general vicinity. When they look at Washington—a besuited city that moves to the rhythm of lobbying and legislative calendars and carefully worded statements—they see an opportunity for total disruption, the kind of overthrow the movement already takes credit for visiting on American politics. So what, exactly, is the capital in for? In the weeks after the election, I tracked down the movement’s standard-bearers in Washington, New York, California and Michigan to find out what they had in mind for changing the culture of D.C., and from there the rest of the Western world.”

-- Vanity Fair, “Watching HGTV as the World Burns,” by Richard Lawson: “In an uncertain political landscape, home-remodeling shows may be just the balm we need.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“LePage says civil rights icon John Lewis should thank Abraham Lincoln, calls for NAACP apology,” from Portland Press-Herald: “Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that the NAACP should apologize to white America, making the comment just hours after he weighed in on the president-elect’s Twitter beef with a black civil rights icon. ‘I will just say this: John Lewis ought to look at history,” the Republican said [on Bangor-based radio station WVOM]. ‘It was Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves, it was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant who fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple thank you would suffice.’ LePage’s criticism was aimed at Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights leader … who announced Friday he wouldn’t be attending Donald Trump’s inauguration …’The blacks, the NAACP (paint) all white people with one brush,’ LePage said. ‘The NAACP should apologize to the white people, to the people from the North for fighting their battle.’”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“The damaging fact that Trump got right about John Lewis,” from Chris Cillizza: “For the past 96 hours, Rep. John Lewis's decision to not attend [Trump's] inauguration Friday has been cast as the beating heart of a large-scale protest movement against the businessman-turned-politician. Lewis's status as a civil rights icon and Trump's [criticism] … have only fueled the idea of Lewis as the last principled man in Washington. Turns out that story line might have been a wee bit overstated. Why? Because Lewis also boycotted — again, on principle — the inauguration of George W. Bush back in 2001 … Now. None of that takes away from Lewis's well-earned reputation as a man of principle. And nothing Lewis could say or do would erase his heroic efforts … in the civil rights movement. But what the revelation does do is make it more difficult to paint his opposition to Trump in anything but a partisan way.”

 

DAYBOOK:

At the White House: Obama holds his final press conference.

On Capitol Hill: Wilbur Ross, nominated for commerce secretary, goes before the Senate Commerce Committee at 10 a.m. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, nominated for ambassador to the United Nations, goes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 10 a.m. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), nominated for health and human services secretary, goes before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions at 10 a.m. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, nominated for EPA administrator, goes before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works at 10 a.m.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Chelsea Handler blamed the Kardashians for the rise of Trump in an interview with Variety“We’ve turned into a reality show. I blame the Kardashians, personally; the beginning of the end was the Kardashians. The way these people have blown up and don’t go away — it’s surreal. Everyone is for sale.”

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- Another day of exceedingly mild January temps ahead. Today’s Capital Weather Gang forecast: “A rather mild start this morning for the middle of January, with early-morning readings in the upper 40s to near 50. Can’t rule out a passing shower or two today as some upper-level energy comes through. Otherwise we’re partly cloudy and breezy, with afternoon highs reaching the mid-50s to near 60 …”

-- The University of Virginia said it will admit more Virginians and offer a slight price break to middle-class families in the state. It’s part of a newly-approved resolution aiming to enroll more Virginians in the school and create affordable options for students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year. (Nick Anderson)

-- Gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) may be anchored to the state capitol while his rival is out raising money – but when a page collapsed outside the chamber on Tuesday, the pediatric neurologist got a rare chance to stand out. He rushed into action to provide medical assistance to the young study, who was reportedly suffering from dehydration and exhaustion, before returning to the chamber. (Gregory S. Schneider)

-- Gray shadow boxes Bowser ahead of likely 2018 rematch, by Aaron C. Davis: “If one wanted to locate D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser in recent days, or to know what might be occupying her thoughts, a good place to start was with the city’s former mayor, Vincent C. Gray. Back from political exile, Gray spent last week as a new D.C. Council member and counterweight to his nemesis, Bowser. He did it by jabbing her in ways that no city politician had dared since Bowser defeated the incumbent Gray in 2014 in the Democratic primary and won the mayor’s office. Their awkward pas de deux could serve as a hint of what’s to come, as the two jockey for position and Bowser weighs whether she’ll run for reelection in 2018 while Gray considers whether to challenge her in a mayoral rematch … City activist Dorothy Brizill, who has been equally critical of Bowser and Gray over the years, shook her head Friday, discussing the back-and-forth. ‘What did Bette Davis say? Fasten your seat belt? Well, it’s going to be a bumpy ride,’ Brizill said.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

First, our colleague David Fahrenthold (who doggedly pursued Trump's self-dealing at his charity and broke the 2005 "Access Hollywood" video) sat down with Trevor Noah on "The Daily Show."

This happened last night (click to watch):

Watch Obama crash Josh Earnest's final, two-hour briefing as press secretary:

At a rally in Spokane, Wash., GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers faced a hostile crowd chanting "save our health care":

Last year, EPA administrator-designee Scott Pruitt called for the repeal of the 17th amendment (which allows for the direct election of senators):

From Capitol Hill, here's a timelapse of inauguration preparations at the Capitol (click to watch):

First ladies tend to make a statement with their inaugural dress choice. But this year, several designers have spoken out against and promised to never work with Melania Trump:

Seth Meyers took a closer look at Trump, Lewis and Russian hacking:

Jake Tapper spoke with Meyers about Trump's criticism of CNN:

Stephen Colbert also walked through the latest Trump news and the closing of the Ringling Bros. circus:

Finally, one of the National Zoo's giant pandas is on a special diet while recovering from surgery:

And in other animal news, a polar bear cub at a Berlin zoo got his first check-up:

Not a video, finally, but check out the adorable ocelot that the Buffalo Zoo just got: