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140-Character Trump is Back in Force

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.
Image: Donald Trump on Oct. 28, 2016
Donald Trump appears at a campaign roundtable event in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Oct. 28, 2016.CARLO ALLEGRI / Reuters, file

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.

140-character Trump is back in force

If anyone thought that Trump’s November victory would slow the pace of his use of Twitter, the last few days have hammered home that the title of “president-elect” hasn’t changed his penchant for social media barrages. Trump has tweeted almost two dozen times in the last two days, including multi-tweet criticisms of CNN early this morning, a tweetstorm yesterday about the popular vote and possible fraud, and his latest proposal: to jail or revoke the citizenship of people who burn the American flag. And with the exception of a handful of tweets about his (very public) weighing of cabinet contenders, Trump’s most recent tweets have been almost exclusively aimed at critics – the press, Democrats, protestors – rather than outlining the big picture about the administration he’s building. Trump has been using Twitter to give more weight to particular stories; he clearly wants to emphasize the voter fraud storyline and to pick a fight with the press. One thing he hasn’t wanted to weigh in on? His business and potential conflicts of interest.

It was one thing for Trump to tout conspiracy theories as a candidate; it’s another to do so as president

NBC’s Benjy Sarlin: “As a candidate, Trump's often unsubstantiated attacks on political opponents, foreign governments, election officials, law enforcement, a federal judge, news outlets and Muslims shattered political norms and sowed division. As president, his decisions will carry the full weight of White House policy, raising concerns about where he gets his information and whether he might act on false or flawed reports.”

Trump picks Price to lead HHS

“President-elect Donald Trump will choose Georgia Rep. Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a high-level source familiar with the decision told NBC News Monday evening,” per NBC’s Hallie Jackson and Alex Jaffe. “The pick would insert one of Obamacare's most outspoken critics into the key position to help dismantle it and help Republicans implement their own blueprint for health care reform.” Price’s Obamacare replacement legislation, according to the New York Times, “would repeal the Affordable Care Act and offer age-adjusted tax credits for the purchase of individual and family health insurance policies. The bill would create incentives for people to contribute to health savings accounts; offer grants to states to subsidize insurance for ‘high-risk populations’; allow insurers licensed in one state to sell policies to residents of others; and authorize business and professional groups to provide coverage to members through ‘association health plans.’” Vox’s Sarah Kliff writes that the pick means that Trump is “absolutely serious about dismantling Obamacare.” Kliff’s take on Price’s replacement legislation: “It would replace the law with a plan that does more to benefit the young, healthy, and rich — and disadvantages the sick, old, and poor. Price’s plan provides significantly less help to those with pre-existing conditions than other Republican proposals, particularly the replacement plan offered by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).” One other thing worth noting: Price and Trump hardly see eye to eye on other issues, particularly Medicare. Does that signal that Price is more a Pence pick than a Trump one? On domestic policy, it sure looks like conventional House conservatives in the Pence mold are getting the upper hand.

The emerging bipartisan agreement to look at Russia’s role in ’16 race

At a time when Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on much -- especially after the tough 2016 election -- there is one issue where there’s emerging bipartisan consensus: Russia’s apparent role in the ’16 race. “If a foreign government has been involved in injecting chaos into our democratic process, the American people deserve to know that,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday. When Rubio was pressed if the issue is worthy of congressional scrutiny, he replied, “Absolutely.” Rubio’s comments came after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had already called for a congressional investigation into Russia’s role via hacking and WikiLeaks. And they also came after the head of the National Security Agency, who recently met with Donald Trump and his transition team, said this about the WikiLeaks revelations: “This was a conscious effort by a nation-state to attempt to achieve a specific effect.” Of course, there’s one wrinkle to this emerging bipartisan consensus on the need to investigate Russia’s role: President-elect Donald Trump, who dismissed the allegations during the campaign. “Maybe it was [Russia behind the hack of the DNC’s emails]. Could also be China,” he said during the first debate. “Could also be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.” The ball on what to do next on Russia is in the court of Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker. But as long as his name’s still floating around in the mix for Secretary of State, he’s all but certain to stay quiet on the issue.

Cabinet Watch

Here is our running list of possible candidates we’ve been hearing about so far. We’ll continue to update it as the president-elect’s team makes its choices final.

  • Secretary of State: Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, Bob Corker, Mitt Romney, David Petraeus
  • Attorney General: Jeff Sessions OFFERED
  • Treasury: Steve Mnuchin, Jeb Hensarling
  • Defense: Jim Talent, Tom Cotton, James Mattis
  • Homeland: Michael McCaul, David Clarke
  • Interior: Sarah Palin, Mary Fallin
  • HHS: Tom Price OFFERED
  • HUD: Ben Carson OFFERED (but hasn’t accepted)
  • Education: Betsy DeVos OFFERED
  • Commerce: Lew Eisenberg, Linda McMahon, Wilbur Ross
  • Transportation: John Mica, Deb Fischer, Lou Barletta, Elaine Chao
  • Agriculture: Rick Perry, Sid Miller
  • CIA Director: Mike PompeoOFFERED
  • UN Ambassador: Nikki Haley OFFERED
  • National Security Adviser: Michael Flynn OFFERED
  • RNC Chair: Ronna Romney McDaniel, David Urban

Kellyanne Conway: Trump liquidating his company would hurt his children

In addition to her comments about Mitt Romney on “Meet the Press” last Sunday, Kellyanne Conway made some other news: She said that Trump liquidating his business empire to eliminate conflicts of interest would hurt his children. “A couple things that President-Elect Trump said in that [New York Times] interview is that selling real estate is not just-- selling off real estate is not just like selling stocks. And that, his, you know, why deny his adult children the ability to do what they do, they do so brilliantly already, which is be executives at the highest levels of the Trump Corporation.”

Popular vote watch

Clinton lead up to 2.3 million: Lastly, according to the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead is up now to 2.3 million (or 1.7 percentage points). And Trump’s popular-vote percentage is now at 46.4%.