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First Read’s Morning Clips: ‘High Level of Confidence’

TRUMP TRANSITION WATCH: "High level of confidence"

Last night's bombshell from NBC News: "U.S. intelligence officials now believe with "a high level of confidence" that Russian President Vladimir Putin became personally involved in the covert Russian campaign to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News. Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said. Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a "vendetta" against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," the official said."

From the New York Times: "Congressional Republicans face a vexing dilemma with the impending presidency of Donald J. Trump: Will they maintain the tough line on Russia that has been central to their foreign policy for decades, or cede that ground to Democrats?"

The Washington Post looks at how global chaos is a win for Putin.

GOP resistance to John Bolton is growing, the New York Times notes.

Critics are not happy about Trump's choice of Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy.

Trump has chosen Ronna Romney McDaniel to lead the Republican National Committee in 2017.

Trump tried to make nice with tech leaders in a meeting at Trump Tower Wednesday.

The AP: "Although pestered to a fare-thee-well to abandon Donald Trump, Republican electors appear to be in no mood for an insurrection in the presidential campaign's last voting ritual. This most untraditional of elections is on course to produce a traditional outcome Monday — an Electoral College ticket to the White House for the president-elect."

This was supposed to be the day that Trump held his first press conference since being elected. NPR counts that it's been 140 days since his last presser, but he's tweeted 1,456 times in the meantime.

TRUMP AGENDA: What we learned in Cleveland

One of us(!) attended a focus group of Trump supporters in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday night. Here's what we learned.

From the Washington Post: "After eight years of being banished and sometimes vilified by the Obama administration, the fossil fuel industry is enjoying a remarkable resurgence as its executives and lobbyists shape President-elect Donald Trump's policy agenda and staff his administration."

From the Wall Street Journal: "Donald Trump's overseas business partners say their companies have already benefited, or expect to gain, from their connection to the president-elect, with some hoping to build new projects under his brand and others seeing the value of their holdings rise."

The New York Times notes that Trump's moves on Taiwan have left its activists excited for change but worried about his motives.

Don't miss this story happening in North Carolina, from the News & Observer: "Expanding beyond the disaster recovery legislation the General Assembly approved Wednesday, Republican lawmakers quickly proposed sweeping changes to state government, including proposals that would diminish the governor's authority to make appointments. Lawmakers want to hobble the incoming Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, before he takes office Jan. 1 by making his Cabinet appointments subject to approval by the state Senate and cutting his ability to appoint members to UNC schools' boards of trustees and the state Board of Education. Another proposal in the mix would equally divide election boards between the two major political parties, ending control by the governor's party."

DEM WATCH: Perez is getting in

NBC's Alex Seitz-Wald reports: Labor Sec. Tom Perez will formally declare his candidacy for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday, according to a source familiar with his plans.

"Tom Perez's entry to the race for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship has put one of the party's most important constituencies in a bind: organized labor loves him from his work as Labor Secretary, but some of the most influential union players have already committed to his main rival, Keith Ellison," writes POLITICO.

The New York Times: "As Democrats steel themselves for the day next month when the White House door will slam on their backs, some of the country's more liberal state attorneys general have vowed to use their power to check and balance Mr. Trump's Washington."

From POLITICO: "Democrats are exploring a new strategy to pressure Donald Trump over his business conflicts of interest, arguing that an insider trading law would make it a crime for him to profit on information he learns as president. The STOCK Act, adopted in 2012, was designed to restrict insider trading by members of Congress and their staff. But ethics lawyers say it also applies to the president and might extend to private holdings like Trump's real estate ventures."