updated 1/26/2009 12:47:20 PM ET 2009-01-26T17:47:20

Happy Friday, everybody!

Welcome to the Shuster “Daily Briefing” for January 23, 2009. As uplifting, inspiring, and incredible as this week in D.C. has been, there were some very sober reminders today of the economic troubles our nation is facing. Another string of reports have underscored that this is the most severe economic crisis in 75 years.  And by most accounts, it is getting worse not better.

So, the pressure continues to grow on the Obama administration and Congress to do something quickly that will begin to turn things around. This morning, the President held his first official White House meeting with the Democratic and Republican congressional leaders.

After the meeting ended, Republicans came out to the stakeout microphones on the White House driveway and sounded very upbeat and optimistic about what President Barack Obama is trying to do. I'm curious to hear what Obama said in the meeting and whether Democrats feel he is offering the opposition party too much. So, we will start the 6 p.m. show tonight with House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C.  He was in the White House meeting and will take us through the details.

Later, the outrage continues to grow over former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain. Just before his troubled investment bank was bailed out by Bank of America last fall, Thain pushed forward some unbelievable Merrill Lynch executive bonuses and spent millions on office decorations.

It turns out that Merrill Lynch was in even worse shape than anyone knew including the folks at Bank of America. Just last week, for example, Bank of America asked the federal government for another 20 billion dollars because of the surprising toxicity of the Merrill acquisition and the way it was dragging down the company.  Anyway, we will talk about the latest corporate shenanigans with Ed Schultz and Michael Smerconish.

By the way, the impact of the recent Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme is having a huge impact on a variety of charities whose benefactors lost nearly everything because of Madoff.  The ACLU just had to lay off 10% of its employees.

In Illinois today, impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich continued his media tour, just days before his impeachment trial is due to start. According to Blagojevich, he is being targeted because of all the wonderful things he has tried to do for the state of Illinois.

Blago has asked the media to get answers from the Illinois legislature about their "real motives" in removing him from office.  This, as Blago refuses to answer any questions about his alleged efforts to sell Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder.  Yes, Blago is the subject of our "Hypocrisy Watch" tonight at approximately 6:20 p.m. EST.

Later, we will talk with New York Times correspondent David Sanger about some of the immediate foreign policy challenges starting to confront the Obama administration. Sanger had a great piece the other day on Obama's inaugural address.

Also, we will look at what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today to employees of USAID.  By the way, check out Hillary's page on the state department web site!

Finally, is there less than meets the eye on President Obama's executive orders to close Gitmo and prohibit torture?  Our "Muckraker of the Day" says so and here is the terrific reporting by politico's Josh Gerstein.  http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0109/17841.html

will enjoy seeing Josh on the program tonight.  I've admired his work ever since we were both starting out at CNN some 18-19 years ago.  Plus, Josh is a good guy.

Oh, before I forget, we have some really amusing stuff in today's briefing.  Japanese school kids are apparently using Obama's speech to learn Japanese.  Well, some of us have learned a few Japanese words by watching things on their TV broadcasts, including a show about "pranks."  

Quote of the Day is from Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to U.S. and Japanese reporters while en route to visit Graceland a few years ago:

"Don't be cruel - keep that in mind."

Thanks in advance for watching "1600."  Our show airs at 6 p.m. in Washington, D.C.; 5 p.m. in Dallas; 4 p.m. in Roswell, NM; and 3 p.m. in Carmel, California.



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