TRANSITION WATCH: Low energy?
Axios interviewed Donald Trump, writing that "[W]e found the incoming president unusually subdued: lowering expectations, acknowledging some of the messy realities of governing, and walking back some of the more provocative statements he had made only days before. A top adviser told us the sober tone reflects a bumpy few days inside Trump Tower — and the realization that he's days away from truly running the nation."
From the New York Times: "The Obama administration has written 275 briefing papers for the incoming Trump administration: nearly 1,000 pages of classified material on North Korea's nuclear program, the military campaign against the Islamic State, tensions in the South China Sea, and every other kind of threat the new team could face in its first weeks in office. Nobody in the current administration knows whether anyone in the next has read any of it."
Via POLITICO: "When Bill Clinton was sworn into office 24 years ago, every single member of his Cabinet but one was confirmed by the Senate within two days. When Donald Trump is sworn in on Friday, he'll be lucky to have half that many installed. With Republicans in control of the White House and the Senate, it wasn't supposed to be this difficult for Trump to get his team in place posthaste, especially since Democrats did away with the 60-vote requirement for Cabinet nominees. But all signs are pointing to a slog for Trump and the Senate GOP, even if Republicans believe eventually all of Trump's picks will be approved."
"President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary told lawmakers at her confirmation hearing that guns might have a place in schools due to the threat from grizzly bears," NBCNews.com writes. "Billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos faced tough questions during Tuesday's session, refused to rule out removing funding public schools if appointed and admitted her family may have made donations to the Republican Party totalling $200 million."
More, from the Washington Post: "DeVos's inexperience in the realm of public education appeared at times to be a liability. During rapid-fire questioning by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), she seemed to demonstrate a lack of understanding of one of education's major federal civil rights laws, which requires states that take federal funding to provide children with disabilities the services they need to benefit from a public education."
Leigh Ann Caldwell previews Tom Price's first Senate committee hearing today. "The hearings promise to be contentious because Senate Democrats are targeting Price, a longtime leading opponent of Obamacare, over what they see as troubling financial activity during his time in Congress overseeing health care-related legislation. There is also concern over his positions on Medicare and Medicaid and health care for women."
Liberal groups are airing a new TV ad hitting Trump Treasury pick Steve Mnuchin. "Steve Mnuchin ran the bank that committed fraud and took my home," a woman says in the ad.
ICYMI: George H.W. Bush has been hospitalized for "shortness of breath."
TRUMP AGENDA: Never Tweet
Almost seven in 10 Americans can agree on one thing: Trump's Twitter usage is a bad idea.
From NBC's Maggie Fox: "About 18 million people would lose or drop their health insurance in the first year after Obamacare is repealed, the Congressional Budget Office reported Tuesday. The nonpartisan federal agency also found that health insurance premiums would spike another 20 to 25 percent, according to the new report. Within 10 years, 32 million more people would be without health insurance, the CBO projects."
More, from the Washington Post: "The political and public-relations battle over the ACA is now at full speed, with Democrats holding rallies across the country and inviting Americans to Capitol Hill to describe how their lives were improved or even saved by the law. Republicans, meanwhile, accused Democrats of distorting the truth about the much-debated program — but also revealed signs of disunity about how to meet their promise of repeal without political fallout among voters or economic calamity in the insurance market."
Writes the AP: "When Trump stands on the west front of the Capitol on Friday and delivers his inaugural address, all sides will be waiting to see whether he comes bearing a unifying message for a divided nation or decides to play up his persona as a disrupter of the established order. How Trump tends to that balancing act, in both style and content, will be a telling launch for his presidency."
DEM WATCH: Uncertain times
Don't miss Alex Seitz-Wald's big look at the uncertain future of the Democratic Party. "Scorned by the same voters who once embraced the New Deal, built the Great Society, and put their hope in the nation's first black president, Democrats are now locked out of power in Washington and out of two-thirds of state legislative chambers across the country. Simply put, Democrats' once vaunted coalition of the ascendant — younger, multiethnic, educated, and urban — failed them in 2016, and in 2014 and 2010 before that. That coalition proved to have major handicaps, part demographic and part geographic, that have been hollowing out the party for years."
Breaking yesterday, from the New York Times: "President Obama on Tuesday commuted all but four months of the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence analyst convicted of a 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted Mr. Obama's administration and brought global prominence to WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures. The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men's military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction."
Jonathan Alter interviews Joe Biden: "Biden was afflicted with regret. He was sorry that, on the campaign trail, he had spoken so often about Donald Trump's unfitness for office and not enough about what Hillary Clinton would do for the middle class. He was sorry he didn't push harder inside the White House for a middle-class tax cut. And he was still torn over his decision not to run for president, a race that he said would have been "brutal" but that he also believed he could have won."