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First Read’s Morning Clips: ‘Disheartening and Demoralizing’

TRUMP AGENDA: “Disheartening” and “demoralizing”

From NBC’s Frank Thorp and Phil Helsel: “President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court has called the president's recent criticism of the judiciary "disheartening" and "demoralizing," a spokesman for the nomination confirmation team told NBC News on Wednesday. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said Wednesday that he spoke with U.S. Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch and that Gorsuch "certainly expressed to me that he is disheartened by the demoralizing and abhorrent comments made by President Trump about the judiciary."

More, from the New York Times: “The spectacle of a Supreme Court nominee breaking so starkly with the president who named him underscored the unusual nature of Mr. Trump’s public feud with the judiciary. Speaking to a group of sheriffs and police chiefs on Wednesday, the president said the appellate judges had failed to grasp concepts even ‘a bad high school student would understand.’”

Trump tweeted: “Sen.Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie),now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” (But a spokesman for the team shepherding Gorsuch's nomination in the Senate confirmed Blumenthal's version of the conversation to NBC News and said Gorsuch did use the words "disheartening" and "demoralizing.")

POLITICO: “Trump’s position—that his executive power to make national security decisions should supersede the judiciary—is as much about politics as the law itself. With the White House bracing for a setback from the San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit court, the president cast his policy blocking refugees and visa-holders from seven Muslim-majority nations as a common-sense move thwarted by the establishment.”

Backlash to Betsy DeVos is prompting some parents to think about homeschooling their kids.

The Washington Post: “As President Trump’s new Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis has a long list of tasks ahead, including devising a more aggressive campaign to combat the Islamic State and restoring military readiness after years of budget cuts. But a few weeks into his tenure, the retired general’s most visible role has been of a different sort: soothing Americans and allies unnerved by the president and some of his top advisers.”

The New York Times writes that federal workers are getting guidance on how to talk about Trump.

The mystery of Sean Spicer’s reference to an attack in “Atlanta,” solved?

By the way: Trump is having a tough time finding a communications director, POLITICO reports.

The Washington Post: “Senior defense and intelligence officials have cautioned the White House that a proposal to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization could endanger U.S. troops in Iraq and the overall fight against the Islamic State, and would be an unprecedented use of a law that was not designed to sanction government institutions.”

And from the Wall Street Journal: “Yemen’s simmering war is getting fresh attention from Washington—to the delight of Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, hopeful that President Donald Trump will choose the conflict as his first battleground to roll back Iran.”

ICYMI: The Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions in a 51-47 vote.

More, on Sen Elizabeth Warren’s stand against Sessions: “As Democrats strain to navigate the early days of the Trump presidency, weighing the merits of the blanket opposition that many in their base seem to crave, the latest rancor appeared to raise the likelihood of further confrontation in the Senate chamber. Some left-leaning groups seemed comfortable with that.”

The Wall Street Journal: “Europe has spent the years since the financial crash constructing an edifice of regulation to curb excessive risk-taking by banks and other financial institutions. With the last bricks almost in place, two factors threaten to bring the building down: Donald Trump and Brexit.”