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First Read’s Morning Clips

OBAMA AGENDA: “This is an American problem”

A Staten Island grand jury did not indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner, prompting protests by New Yorkers who compared the case to the police shooting in Ferguson.

President Barack Obama responded to the decision Wednesday night, saying "This is an American problem when anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law. That's a problem and it's my job as president to help solve it."

Pantaleo told the grand jury that he meant no harm to Garner, per the New York Times.

Seventeen states, led by Texas Governor-elect and current Attorney General Greg Abbott, are suing the Obama administration over his executive action on immigration.

Obama met Wednesday for a private "catch up" session with Hillary Clinton at the White House.

Writes the New York Times: "U.S. and Iran Both Attack ISIS, but Try Not to Look Like Allies"

“President Obama and his closest aides have determined that their best chance of success in the next two years will depend on improved relationships on Capitol Hill, but their behind-the-scenes efforts are more focused on Obama’s own party rather than the Republicans who are about to take full charge of Congress in January,” writes the Washington Post.

Also from the Post: “President Obama signaled Wednesday that, at least on international trade, he is willing to defy his fellow Democrats and his own liberal base to pursue a partnership with Republicans. Trade represents one of Obama’s best chances for a legacy-building achievement in the final two years of his presidency, but he acknowledged that it is an idea he still has to sell to many of his traditional allies.”

CONGRESS: Deal or no deal?

House Republicans are on the cusp of a deal to avoid a government shutdown, writes the New York Times.

From USA Today: "The number of troops reporting unwanted sexual contact dropped 27% to 19,000 in 2014 compared with 2012, according to Pentagon figures obtained by USA TODAY."

“The House rushed through a last-minute measure Wednesday to extend a massive package of expired tax breaks for banks, investment firms, commuters and NASCAR track owners,” writes the AP. “The bill would enable millions of businesses and individuals to claim the tax breaks on their 2014 returns. It would add nearly $42 billion to the budget deficit over the next decade.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Hillary starts her meetings

Via POLITICO: "With weeks to go until she makes an announcement about her future, Hillary Clinton has started meeting with a broad range of political figures — including potential campaign managers, POLITICO has learned. Clinton, who several people close to her describe as still not firmly decided on a campaign, met Wednesday with outgoing Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee executive director Guy Cecil, one of the two people most often described as a potential campaign manager for her 2016 campaign, people familiar with the get-together said."

Dr. Ben Carson isn't backing down from his comments comparing Nazi Germany to the United States.

Elizabeth Warren will be the keynote the AFL-CIO's first National Summit on Wages, addressing an issue that Democrats want to highlight going into 2016.

“Likely Democratic 2016 hopeful Martin O’Malley has added New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign manager” -- Bill Hyers -- “to his team as a senior adviser as he prepares for a White House run,” Politico writes. More: “In his calls to donors, according to two sources familiar with them, O’Malley has acknowledged that his Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s loss in Maryland’s gubernatorial race was a blow as he himself pushes ahead nationally.”

ALASKA: Will Mark Begich run for mayor of Anchorage again? Other potential candidates are keeping their powder dry until they find out, reports the Alaska Dispatch News.

IOWA: Per the Des Moines Register, Cher and Chris Christie are clashing over the issue of pig gestation crates.

FLORIDA: A federal court has rejected Gov. Rick Scott's attempts to drug test welfare applicants.

LOUISIANA: "Groups backing Sen. Mary Landrieu have aired just 100 television advertisements on behalf of the Democratic incumbent since the Nov. 4 primary. Conservative organizations, meanwhile, have run about 6,000 commercials for her rival, Rep. Bill Cassidy, according to The Center for Public Integrity. "

From The Advocate: "With the last act of the 2014 U.S. Senate campaign in Louisiana just days away, both Democrats and Republicans are tightening their focus on getting their voters to the polls Saturday for the runoff election."

NEW JERSEY: From NJ.com: "An interim report by a joint legislative committee looking into the September 2013 George Washington Bridge access lane closures has been completed, and will be made public following a hearing in Trenton on Monday, the panel's co-chairman said."

NORTH CAROLINA: Here's Kay Hagan in her first post-election interview, lamenting Democrats' lack of messaging about positive economic developments. "The president hasn’t used the bully pulpit to get that message out in a way that resonates with people."

OHIO: Roll Call reports that Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan may challenge Rob Portman in 2016.

TEXAS: Writes NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell: "A U.S. Appeals Court's decision to issue a stay of a mentally ill man on Texas' death row just hours before he was scheduled to be executed means that Texas Governor Rick Perry no longer needs to make what could have been a controversial decision on whether the execution should proceed."

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins, Jelani Cobb Director of African American Studies at U Conn and Attorney John Burris on the Garner Grand Jury decision.

*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews New York City Chief Legal Officer Zachary Carter, NAACP Legal Defense Fund Litigation Director Christina Swarms, Sen. Tim Kaine, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, AP’s Julie Pace, Ret. ATF Special Agent Jim Cavanaugh, MSNBC’s Trymaine Lee and Peggy Young, whose pregnancy lawsuit against UPS is before the Supreme Court.