First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
What Trump's Russia reaction says about his judgment
In a taped interview for "Meet the Press" before President-elect Donald Trump received his intelligence briefing Friday on Russia's intervention in the 2016 election, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made this plea to Trump. "I hope you will embrace the intelligence, you will join the Republicans and Democrats to push back against Russia to make sure this stops and doesn't happen again. If after the briefing he is still unsure, that will shake me to my core about his judgment." Yet in his frequent Twitter statements after the briefing, Trump didn't sound so sure. Consider:
- He put the blame on the DNC for being hacked. "Gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee allowed hacking to take place.The Republican National Committee had strong defense!"
- He maintained that there was no evidence the hacking affected the election results, even though the unclassified report said it never made an assessment about the impact on the outcome ("The U.S. Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion"). Trump tweeted: "Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched!"
- He stressed the need to have a good relationship with Russia. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only 'stupid' people, or fools, would think that it is bad! We.....
- And he was concerned that that the news media received information about the report's content before he did. "Before I, or anyone, saw the classified and/or highly confidential hacking intelligence report, it was leaked out to @NBCNews. So serious!"
But nowhere in his tweets did he express concern about Russia's actions, or warn that Russia would face consequences for its intervention. And so we repeat the message Lindsey Graham had for Trump: "I hope you will embrace the intelligence, you will join the Republicans and Democrats to push back against Russia to make sure this stops and doesn't happen again. If after the briefing he is still unsure, that will shake me to my core about his judgment."
In multiple interviews and comments, Team Trump never once condemned Russia's interference
Now immediately after Friday's intelligence briefing, Team Trump released a statement from the president-elect that was a bit more measured, but the statement didn't reject -- or accept -- the notion that Russia interfered in the '16 election. "While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines," the statement read. On CBS, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus acknowledged Russia's hacking, but also put the onus on the DNC. "[O]ne of the issues that isn't really being covered is that we have one of the two biggest political parties in the world, the D.N.C., that sat there like a sitting duck." And on "Meet the Press" adviser Kellyanne Conway stressed the Russian effort failed. "They did not succeed in throwing the election to Donald Trump." But none of those statements contained an ounce of outrage at Russia's actions. And once again, we repeat Graham's message to Trump: "I hope you will embrace the intelligence, you will join the Republicans and Democrats to push back against Russia to make sure this stops and doesn't happen again. If after the briefing he is still unsure, that will shake me to my core about his judgment." Catch the rest of the "Meet the Press" highlights here.
Ahead of hearings, some Trump cabinet picks have yet to complete their background checks
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported over the weekend that many of Trump's cabinet picks have yet to complete their background checks and ethics forms -- which is unprecedented. "In a letter to Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the leader of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., said on Friday that 'the announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me.' He said the packed schedule had put 'undue pressure' on the office to rush its reviews of the nominees and he knew of no other occasion in the office's four decades when the Senate had held a confirmation hearing before the review was completed." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell responded on CBS, "Well, we're—we're still in the process of getting the papers in. I think at least five of the nominees have all of their papers in. You know, what this is about, John, the Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election... So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate."
This week's confirmation hearings: Here is the upcoming schedule for Senate confirmation hearings
- Attorney General: Jeff Sessions -- Jan. 10-11
- Homeland Security: John Kelly -- Jan. 10-11
- State: Rex Tillerson -- Jan 11 (may go into Jan 12)
- CIA: Mike Pompeo -- Jan. 11
- Education: Betsy DeVos -- Jan. 11
- Transportation : Elaine Chao -- Jan. 11
- Labor: Andrew Puzder -- Jan. 12
- Defense: James Mattis -- Jan. 12
Trump Cabinet Watch
- Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson OFFERED
- Attorney General: Jeff Sessions OFFERED
- Treasury: Steve Mnuchin OFFERED
- Defense: JamesMattis OFFERED
- Homeland: John Kelly OFFERED
- Interior: Ryan Zinke OFFERED
- HHS: Tom Price OFFERED
- HUD: Ben Carson OFFERED
- Education: Betsy DeVos OFFERED
- Commerce: Wilbur Ross OFFERED
- Transportation: Elaine Chao OFFERED
- Labor: Andy Puzder OFFERED
- Agriculture: Sid Miller, Heidi Heitkamp, Elsa Murano, Abel Maldonado, Sonny Perdue
- Energy: Rick Perry OFFERED
- Veterans Affairs: Scott Brown, Jeff Miller, Adm. Michelle Howard
- OMB Director: Mick Mulvaney OFFERED
- U.S Trade Representative: Robert Lighthizer
- CIA Director: Mike PompeoOFFERED
- UN Ambassador: Nikki Haley OFFERED
- Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt OFFERED
- National Security Adviser: Michael Flynn OFFERED
- Director of National Intelligence: Dan Coats OFFERED
- Small Business Administration: Linda McMahon OFFERED
- RNC Chair: Ronna Romney McDaniel OFFERED
NBC's Lester Holt to interview President Obama
Finally, don't miss this: NBC News' Lester Holt will interview President Barack Obama on Tuesday -- ahead of the president's farewell address to the nation in Chicago.