TRANSITION WATCH: Celebrate good times, come on
Via NBC's William Arkin, Ken Dilanian and Hallie Jackson: "A senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge confirmed to NBC News that the report on Russian hacking delivered to President Obama Thursday says that U.S. intelligence picked up senior Russian officials celebrating Donald Trump's win. The source described the intelligence about the celebration, first reported by the Washington Post, as a minor part of the overall intelligence report, which makes the case that Russia intervened in the election."
More, from the Washington Post's original story: "The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country's cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Moscow's efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House. Other key pieces of information gathered by U.S. spy agencies include the identification of "actors" involved in delivering stolen Democratic emails to the WikiLeaks website, and disparities in the levels of effort Russian intelligence entities devoted to penetrating and exploiting sensitive information stored on Democratic and Republican campaign networks."
Here's former CIA director Leon Panetta in an interview on TODAY: "In an exclusive interview with TODAY's Matt Lauer, former CIA director Leon Panetta said Donald Trump's criticism of the intelligence community should be done privately "in the confines of the Oval Office" instead of questioning its veracity on social media. 'The fact that the president-elect is tweeting on this issue and taking it to the public, and in many ways undermining the credibility of the very intelligence agencies that have to provide information to him in order for him to be president of the United States, this is just unheard of and unprecedented' he told Matt. 'I think we all have to be concerned about this. This is not the kind of bickering that ought to be going on in public.'"
The Wall Street Journal reports James Comey will be among the group briefing Trump today.
The New York Times: "A united front of top intelligence officials and senators from both parties on Thursday forcefully reaffirmed the conclusion that the Russian government used hacking and leaks to try to influence the presidential election, directly rebuffing President-elect Donald J. Trump's repeated questioning of Russia's role. They suggested that the doubts Mr. Trump has expressed on Twitter about the agencies' competence and impartiality were undermining their morale."
From Hallie Jackson: "Former CIA director James Woolsey has left the Donald Trump presidential transition team, a spokesman for the former defense official and ambassador said… A person close to Woolsey said the former CIA chief "didn't want to have his name out there as a 'senior adviser' when he wasn't giving advice," citing the strong influence on Trump of incoming National Security Adviser retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn."
The Washington Post: "Ambassadors in some of the most desirable foreign capitals such as London and Paris have been told they must end their service on Jan. 20 with "no exceptions," State Department officials confirmed Thursday. The unusually stern and specific directive to "political" ambassadors — often presidential donors and friends — came at the behest of the incoming Trump administration, two officials said. It appears to forbid any extensions for family circumstances such as allowing children to finish the school year, a customary allowance in past administrations."
TRUMP AGENDA: Going after Planned Parenthood
Leigh Ann Caldwell reports on House Republicans' efforts to strip funding for Planned Parenthood as they work on ACA repeal.
The Washington Post: "Some of the most conservative members of Congress say they are ready to vote for a budget that would — at least on paper — balloon the deficit to more than $1 trillion by the end of the decade, all for the sake of eventually repealing the Affordable Care Act. In a dramatic reversal, many members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus said Thursday they are prepared later this month to support a budget measure that would explode the deficit and increase the public debt to more than $29.1 trillion by 2026, figures contained in the budget resolution itself."
POLITICO writes on how Trump has embraced once-sidelined Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer.
"[A]fter President-elect Donald J. Trump's campaign vows to reinstate the sort of torture used in the Bush-era war on terrorism — and to fill the Guantánamo Bay prison with "some bad dudes" — human rights experts fear that authoritarian regimes around the world will see it as another green light to carry out their own abuses," notes the New York Times.
DEM WATCH: The Manchin playbook
NBC's Alex Jaffe notes that West Virginia's Joe Manchin is writing the playbook for red-state Democrats.
Alex Seitz-Wald writes on the latest developments in the race for DNC chair. "Pete Buttigeig, the budding mayor of South Bend, Indiana, announced his candidacy Thursday, while Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown entered the race just before the holidays. Neither is well known compared to their main competition, Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison. But they both argue the party needs a fresh perspective from someone outside of Washington who doesn't carry baggage from the party's divisive presidential primary."
Daniella Silva writes on Michelle Obama's legacy as first lady.
Does Hillary Clinton want to run for mayor of New York City? The New York Times: "While the answer would almost certainly be no, supporters of Mrs. Clinton and former members of her staff appear to have been happy to let the speculation spread from closed-door gatherings of donors and allies, where it has been discussed among the many hypothetical future jobs Ms. Clinton might pursue, to more public forums."