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Why the Lack of Confidence in American Institutions is So Troubling

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.

Pay-to-play questions arise about Donald Trump's inauguration 2:54

A lack of confidence in American institutions

One of the most troubling developments in American politics, government, and media has been the loss of confidence in key institutions. And you could make a good case that this trend contributed to November's presidential result. Fewer than three-in-10 Americans say they have either a "great deal" or "quite a bit" of confidence in the federal government and religious leaders, according to our newest NBC/WSJ poll. Fewer than two-in-10 have a lot of confidence in the financial industry, the national news media, Congress, and large corporations. What's more, just 33% of Americans have a lot of confidence in the CIA, and only 32% have a large amount of confidence in the FBI, which is down six points from 2014. (Hello, Comey Effect?) Indeed, just three institutions on our list get more than half of the country holding a lot of confidence in them -- the military, police/law enforcement, and small business. That's it. Here's the percentage of adults who have a combined "great deal" or "quite a bit" of confidence in these 20 American institutions

Unfriended: How the 2016 election made us battle, avoid and block each other

And on that cheery note, the NBC/WSJ poll also includes these sobering/sad figures: 48% of Americans said a family member shared with them a false story that they believed to be true; 32% said they avoided talking politics with family because they supported a different candidate; 31% said they got into a heated argument with family or friends for supporting a different candidate; 22% reported being harassed for their political beliefs; and 17% said they blocked or unfriended someone on Facebook or another social-media platform because of the presidential election.

Conflict of interest watch: Team Trump says sons weren't involved "in any capacity" in non-profit whose certificate of formation includes their names

After the Center for Public Integrity reported that a non-profit organized by Donald Trump's adult sons was offering access to their father during the inauguration festivities in exchange for donations to "conservation" charities up to $1 million, Team Trump issued a statement saying the sons "are not involved in any capacity" with the group. "The Opening Day event and details that have been reported are merely initial concepts that have not been approved or pursued by the Trump family," the statement said. "Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid outdoorsmen and supporters of conservation efforts, which align with the goals of this event, however they are not involved in any capacity." The one problem with the statement? Both Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are NAMED in the formation of the non-profit. A transition official told NBC's Hallie Jackson that Trump's sons "weren't aware they were being listed as directors for this newly formed entity." And a new brochure of the event no longer shows hunting trips or photo-ops with the Trumps. But remember, this isn't the first time something like this has happened after Trump's victory -- earlier this week, Jackson noted, a charity auction to win "Coffee with Ivanka" was reportedly canceled.

Trump adviser Flynn met with leader of party founded by ex-Nazis 12:37

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
  • Energy: Rick Perry OFFERED
  • Veterans Affairs: Scott Brown, Jeff Miller, Adm. Michelle Howard
  • OMB Director: Mick Mulvaney OFFERED
  • 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: Fran Townsend, Carly Fiorina
  • Small Business Administration: Linda McMahon OFFERED
  • RNC Chair: Ronna Romney McDaniel OFFERED

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

This will be our final First Read morning note of 2016. We'll be back in the New Year.