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Zelenskyy visit, Trump taxes and Jan. 6 report fill busy day in politics

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine on May 1, 2022.Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... It’s a jam-packed day in American politics. ... Ukraine’s Zelenskyy makes surprise visit to Washington. ... Zelenskyy holds a joint press conference with President Biden in the afternoon and addresses Congress later in the evening. ... House Ways & Means Committee votes to make Donald Trump’s tax returns public. ... The Jan. 6 committee is set to release full report on its findings. ... And the Senate hopes to pass $1.7 trillion spending package, per NBC’s Sahil Kapur.  

But first: It’s far from your average day in American politics. 

On Zelenskyy’s trip to DC: It coincides “with Biden’s announcing a new package of nearly $2 billion of security assistance for Ukraine that will include a Patriot missile battery, [an] administration official said, adding that U.S. forces would be training Ukrainian forces on how to operate the Patriot missile battery in a third country,” NBC’s Zoë Richards and Stacey Klein write

More: “The administration official said the visit would allow Zelenskyy to address Americans and ‘thank the American people for the incredible support that they’ve received, and thank both parties,’ for the bipartisan support that Ukraine has received.”

On those Trump taxes: The law subjects the president’s and vice president’s taxes to mandatory IRS audits, but the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee found that there was “only one mandatory audit started and none completed” during Donald Trump’s four years in office. 

The Joint Committee on Taxation also released summaries of six years of Trump’s tax returns from 2015 to 2020, finding that the former president paid just $750 in income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, and that Trump reported negative income in four of those years (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2020). 

And on the full Jan. 6 committee report: NBC’s Ali Vitali and Haley Talbot tell us that we could very well get answers to some of the questions raised by the 154-page summary that was released earlier this week: 

Who was paying for a witness’ attorney before she changed attorneys? 

What’s the evidence behind the committee’s assertion that there were “multiple efforts by President Trump to contact Select Committee witnesses”? 

Why did the committee believe — exactly — that Kayleigh McEnany, Ivanka Trump and Tony Ornato weren’t as frank and forthcoming as other witnesses?

Buckle up. It’s going to be busy day.

And note: This is our final morning newsletter of the year; we’ll be back in early 2023.

See you then. 

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 2

That’s how many days are left until government funding expires on Friday. The Senate voted to begin consideration of a sweeping $1.7 trillion spending package on Tuesday, and NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports that Senate leaders are hoping to pass the package on Wednesday and send it to the House. 

The funding package includes $44.9 billion in aid to Ukraine, bans TikTok from government devices, and includes provisions aimed at preventing another attempt to overturn a presidential election. Kapur and NBC News’ Ryan J. Reilly also report that the package includes a funding boost for U.S. attorneys as they continue to investigate and prosecute those involved in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. 

The massive spending bill has also drawn criticism for what was left out of the final package. NBC News’ Dan DeLuce and Julie Tsirkin report that advocates and veterans criticized lawmakers for not including a bill addressing the legal status for Afghan refugees, calling the omission “unconscionable.”  

Other numbers to know:

$3.7 billion: The settlement Well Fargo agreed to with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over “customer abuses,” per CNBC.

50.6 million: How many fentanyl-laced, fake prescription pills the Drug Enforcement Administration seized in 2022, per the agency’s year-end report, NBC News’ Michael Kosner reports. 

2: How many Americans detained in Afghanistan that the Taliban released Tuesday as part of a “goodwill gesture,” NBC News’ Mirna Alsharif and Abigail Williams report. 

At least 60,000: The number of homes and businesses without power in California’s Humboldt County as of late Tuesday afternoon, following a 6.4-magnitude earthquake.  

11: How many years a white former Texas police officer was sentenced to prison for fatally shooting a woman in her own home. 

97 years-old: The age of a woman who worked as a secretary at a Nazi concentration camp who a German court convicted Tuesday as an accessor to mass murder. 

100 million: Approximately how many packages a day are shipped the week leading up to Christmas. 

36 percent: The proportion of people over 65 who have received the latest Covid booster, compared to the 94 percent of people in the same age group who received their first series of Covid vaccines, the New York Times reports.

Eyes on 2024: What happens next in Virginia-04?

Virginia Democrats will start counting votes today in Tuesday’s “firehouse primary” for the 4th District’s special election today, meaning results could be released within hours. 

The winner will have a significant leg up in February’s special election in a district that the late Democratic Rep. Donald McEachin won by 30 percentage points this November, just weeks before he passed away. 

In other campaign news:

Democratic drama: The New Hampshire Democratic Party informed the national party that they “do not have any option but to be in non-compliance” with the proposal to change the state’s primary date, Politico reports. 

The youth wants change: A majority of attendees — 58% — at a Turning Point USA conference who said they supported Harmeet Dhillon for RNC chair over current chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, per Politico.

Bluegrass bow-out: The election may be in 2023, not 2024, but we’re keeping an eye on Kentucky’s gubernatorial race, where GOP state Rep. Savannah Maddox ended her bid Tuesday

Dismissed: A state ethics board dismissed a complaint against South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem related to her use of a government plane to travel to political events. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Ahead of Christmas, a bitter blast of Arctic air could bring life-threatening cold to parts of the U.S. this week. 

An Arizona judge is allowing parts of a lawsuit filed by Kari Lake, a Republican candidate who lost the governor’s race, to go through as she seeks to challenge the results of her election.

Co-founder and ex-CEO of FTX Sam Bankman-Fried agreed to be extradited from the Bahamas to the U.S. in a case where he’s being charged with money laundering, fraud and campaign finance expenses.

Elon Musk on Tuesday said he would resign as the CEO of Twitter after he finds a replacement.