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First Read’s Morning Clips: Investigating the Leakers

TRUMP AGENDA: Investigating the leakers

NBC’s Phil Helsel and Alex Moe: “The Republican chairmen of two powerful committees in the House asked the Justice Department on Wednesday to investigate a series of leaks to the media relating to Michael Flynn and communications with Russia's ambassador to the United States.”

From NBC’s Jon Schuppe: “The leap from Flynn's actions to some broader conspiracy remains huge. But the lingering concerns could develop into a legal minefield for the White House, as congressional inquiries unfold and calls mount for an independent criminal probe, lawyers and scholars say.”

“President Trump plans to assign a New York billionaire to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies, according to administration officials, an effort that members of the intelligence community fear could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview,” writes the New York Times. “The possible role for Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has met fierce resistance among intelligence officials already on edge because of the criticism the intelligence community has received from Mr. Trump during the campaign and since he became president. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump blamed leaks from the intelligence community for the departure of Michael T. Flynn, his national security adviser, whose resignation he requested.”

Breaking last night, from the Wall Street Journal: “U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter… In some of these cases of withheld information, officials have decided not to show Mr. Trump the sources and methods that the intelligence agencies use to collect information, the current and former officials said. Those sources and methods could include, for instance, the means that an agency uses to spy on a foreign government.” (The White House and the DNI both dispute the account.)

Benjy Sarlin and Alex Seitz-Wald report that Team Clinton is finding vindication in Trump’s troubles.

POLITICO: “Reince Priebus, facing growing criticism and calls for his ouster, is racing to bring order to a White House that looks to be spiraling out of control. After weeks of West Wing turmoil and critiques from the president himself, the chief of staff is scrambling to impose a more traditional approach on a White House that is anything but, according to more than a dozen administration aides and others close to Priebus.”

ICYMI: Labor Secretary Andy Puzder has withdrawn his nomination to be Labor Secretary.

The Washington Post, on the Puzder news: “The collapse of Puzder’s nomination threw the White House into further turmoil just two days after the resignation of Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, amid revelations that ­Flynn had spoken repeatedly, and possibly illegally, with the Russian ambassador last year about lifting U.S. sanctions. Puzder’s fate amplified the deteriorating relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill, where bipartisan support grew Wednesday for expanded investigations into ties between Trump, his presidential campaign and Russian officials.”

Leigh Ann Caldwell reports that Trump’s pick for budget director has picked up a key supporter – Sen. Susan Collins.

A new report finds that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the United States nearly tripled in 2016.

From USA Today: “Weeks after the biggest national protest in U.S. history, a coalition of progressive grassroots organizers is planning a sequel — with the aim of pressuring President Trump to release his tax returns.”

And our colleagues at WRC report on today’s “Day Without Immigrants” strike.

CONGRESS: “Gliding toward nowhere”

The New York Times: “Congressional Republicans, who craved unified control of the government to secure their aggressive conservative agenda, have instead found themselves on a legislative elliptical trainer, gliding toward nowhere.”

And from POLITICO: “Republicans have reached a gut check moment: After spending more than six years vowing to fix the flagging patient that is Obamacare, it’s the GOP’s own repeal effort that’s on life support. Undoing the health care law despised by conservatives seemed to be a straightforward proposition for the party after it won the White House and retained control of both chambers of Congress. Instead, Republicans are sniping over how much of the law to scrap, what to replace it with and when. At this moment, it's far from a sure thing any plan could get through Congress.”

The Washington Post: “Michael Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser is shifting the balance of power between President Trump and Congress, with Republican senators vowing to more aggressively exercise oversight of the new administration and Democrats seizing an opportunity to ask pointed questions about Trump’s ties to Russia.”