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First Read’s Morning Clips: Putin Responds to Sanctions

TRUMP AGENDA: Putin responds to sanctions with deep diplomatic staff cuts

The New York Times, on Russia’s personnel move: “President Vladimir V. Putin announced Sunday that the American diplomatic mission in Russia must reduce its staff by 755 employees, an aggressive response to new American sanctions that seemed ripped right from the Cold War playbook and sure to increase tensions between the two capitals. In making the announcement, Mr. Putin said Russia had run out of patience waiting for relations with the United States to improve.”

And the latest in North Korea, via the Washington Post: “The United States pointedly showed off its military prowess over the Pacific and the Korean Peninsula on Sunday in response to North Korea’s launch Friday of a missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, a test Pyongyang said was a “stern warning” for Washington to back off from threats and more sanctions. In a sign that tensions are spiraling upward rapidly, the United States flew two supersonic B-1 bombers over the Korean Peninsula as part of a joint exercise with Japan and South Korea. And U.S. forces conducted a successful missile defense test over the Pacific Ocean, sending aloft from Alaska a medium-range ballistic missile that it detected, tracked and intercepted using the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System.”

The Wall Street Journal: “President Donald Trump’s tumultuous past week has widened rifts in his party, between those who vocally support the president’s combative style and others who bridle at it, according to interviews with GOP officials and supporters across the country. Mr. Trump has long been a polarizing force among members of his party, but for the first several months of his tenure, the GOP was largely united by a shared desire to make the most of his election and the party’s total control of the government for the first time in a decade.”

POLITICO on Ivanka and Jared managing expectations down: “[I]f Ivanka Trump and Kushner, socially liberal former Democratic donors, remain influential voices with Trump on personnel decisions, they have so far had little effect on his policies. Last week they were blindsided by the president’s tweet saying he planned to ban transgender people from serving in the military, according to several White House aides, a major coup for conservatives who had been quietly lobbying the administration on the issue for months…. [S]he desperately wants to lower expectations of what she can achieve in an administration where she views herself as one person on a large team — even though other White House officials said she still has access to the president whenever she desires it.”

The AP, on retired Gen. John Kelly’s challenge: “Retired Gen. John Kelly, previously the Homeland Security secretary, takes over Monday from the ousted Reince Priebus. Trump hopes Kelly can bring some military order to an administration weighed down by a stalled legislative agenda, a cabal of infighting West Wing aides and a stack of investigations. Still, Kelly’s success in a chaotic White House will depend on how much authority he is granted and whether Trump’s dueling aides will put aside their rivalries to work together. Also unclear is whether a new chief of staff will have any influence over the president’s social media histrionics.”

POLITICO, on the impact of Reince Preibus’ absence: “By firing him, Trump has severed a critical connection to his own party—not simply to major donors and GOP congressional leaders, but to the unruly, broader constellation of conservative-affiliated organizations and individuals that Priebus had spent five years corralling.”

The New York Times: “President Trump and Republicans in Washington have shaken the confidence of their supporters after a punishing and self-inflicted series of setbacks that have angered activists, left allies slack-jawed and reopened old fissures on the right. A seemingly endless sequence of disappointments and blunders has rattled Mr. Trump’s volatile governing coalition, like Mr. Trump’s attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions; a vulgar tirade by his new communications chief, Anthony Scaramucci; and the collapse of conservative-backed health care legislation.”

What’s James Baker’s advice for Kelly? “You can focus on the ‘chief,’ or you can focus on the ‘of staff.’ Those who have focused on the ‘of staff’ have done pretty well.”

OFF TO THE RACES: McConnell set to spend millions to boost Strange

POLITICO asks: What is John Delaney thinking?

The Washington Post writes that Joe Biden still wants to be president: “Conventional political wisdom says that Joe, now 74, is too old to run for president again. But American voters, it seems, don't really care about conventional wisdom anymore. So the real question is: What next?”

AL-SEN: Mitch McConnell is spending big bucks to boost Luther Strange, POLITICO reports. “McConnell is responding in kind. His super PAC is set to spend much as $8 million to boost his favored candidate, recently appointed Republican Sen. Luther Strange. McConnell has activated his sprawling donor network and pressed the White House for more resources. And the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP campaign arm McConnell controls, has warned consultants they'll be cut off from future work if they assist Strange’s opponents.”

CA-GOV: The LA Times profiles gubernatorial candidate John Chiang.

NJ-GOV: NJ.com profiles Kim Guadagno’s running mate, Woodcliff Lake Mayor Carlos Rendo.

VA-GOV: The grassroots battle is coming to Virginians’ doorsteps.