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First Read’s Morning Clips: Flynn DID Discuss Sanctions With the Russians

TRUMP AGENDA: Flynn DID discuss sanctions with the Russians

Breaking overnight from the Washington Post: "National security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country's ambassador to the United States during the month before President Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials, current and former U.S. officials said. Flynn's communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were interpreted by some senior U.S. officials as an inappropriate and potentially illegal signal to the Kremlin that it could expect a reprieve from sanctions that were being imposed by the Obama administration in late December to punish Russia for its alleged interference in the 2016 election. Flynn on Wednesday denied that he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak. Asked in an interview whether he had ever done so, he twice said, "No." On Thursday, Flynn, through his spokesman, backed away from the denial. The spokesman said Flynn "indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn't be certain that the topic never came up."

NBC's Benjy Sarlin, on the Nordstrom kerfuffle: "Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway got a strong bipartisan rebuke on Thursday for promoting Ivanka Trump's clothing brand in a TV interview. But ethics experts say the broader conflict between the White House and Nordstrom is more worrisome, raising questions about whether the United States is entering a new environment in which presidents use government to steer money to their inner circles. Around the globe, and especially in developing countries with weak government institutions, leaders frequently become enmeshed in scandals for allegedly mixing personal business with their public duties. Many cases involve friends or relatives who use official ties to land sweetheart deals."

Trump apparently wasn't a fan of Sean Spicer's statement that Kellyanne Conway has been "counseled."

The New York Times, on what happens next in the EO court case: "The Supreme Court remains short-handed and could deadlock. A 4-to-4 tie there would leave the appeals court's ruling in place. The administration has moved fast in the case so far, and it is likely to file an emergency application to the Supreme Court in a day or two. The court typically asks for a prompt response from the other side, and it could rule soon after it received one. A decision next week, either to reinstate the ban or to continue to block it, is possible."

POLITICO looks at the key legal mistakes that led to the ban's court defeat.

The Wall Street Journal: "A federal appellate court ruling blocking President Donald Trump's immigration ban sent a powerful message about the balance of power enshrined in the Constitution establishing three equal branches of government, a system that will serve as a check on his presidency just as it does on any other."

Leigh Ann Caldwell: "Neil Gorsuch's break with President Donald Trump over the president's disparaging remarks about the judiciary is something that could hurt his relationship with the man who nominated him to the highest court in the land. It could also help Gorsuch reach the bench."

NBC's Phil Helsel: "President Donald Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping in a phone call Thursday that he intends to honor the so-called "One China" policy, after earlier suggesting it was open for negotiation in comments that rankled Beijing, the White House said"

The Wall Street Journal, on Trump's upcoming meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: "Donald Trump has jarred Japan by blasting its trade practices and hinting he might yank the American security umbrella protecting the country since World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to parry those threats not with confrontation, but through a day bonding over golf and socializing with the two leaders' wives."

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) is no fan of the border-adjustment tax. "This 20 percent tax on all imports is regressive, hammers consumers, shuts down economic growth, and is proven to grow the federal government. Increased consumer prices would hammer consumer confidence and lower overall demand, thus putting downward pressure on jobs. This is exactly the wrong approach to take right now. A University of Maryland study estimates that some industries could face employment declines of up to 20 percent," he writes.

From the Washington Post: "The White House is probing ongoing leaks of President Trump's private conversations with foreign leaders, including a report Thursday that he criticized a 2011 U.S.-Russia nuclear arms treaty during last month's call with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin."

Jason Chaffetz faced a tough crowd last night at a Utah town hall.

Late last night: Tom Price was confirmed as HHS Secretary by a 52-47 vote.