TRANSITION WATCH: Comey under review
From NBC’s Pete Williams and Halimah Abdullah: “The Justice Department Inspector General says he will review how the FBI and Justice Department handled certain aspects of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The probe by Michael E. Horowitz will include a review of FBI Director James Comey's news conference in July and his two letters to lawmakers in late October and early November. "In response to requests from numerous Chairmen and Ranking Members of Congressional oversight committees, various organizations, and members of the public, the Office of the Inspector General will initiate a review of allegations regarding certain actions by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in advance of the 2016 election," the Justice Department said in a statement.”
NBC profiles former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, author of the Trump dossier.
David Ignatius in the Washington Post: “According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.”
The Washington Post: “Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, in their first round of confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, have one after another contradicted the president-elect on key issues, promising to trim back or disregard some of the signature promises on which he campaigned.”
And from the Wall Street Journal: “Donald Trump’s picks for top national security posts diverged from the president-elect’s positions on key issues during confirmation hearings a week before the inauguration, increasing uncertainty about what policies the incoming administration will pursue, even on matters almost entirely under White House control.”
The New York Times, on CIA nominee Mike Pompeo: “The question hanging over Mr. Pompeo, and America’s 17 intelligence agencies, is how to handle a president who embraces President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia while the agency tries to keep Russia in check. So far, nothing in the C.I.A.’s 69-year history has prepared it to deal with a president who is as openly derisive of its work as Mr. Trump.”
“James Mattis is the one Donald Trump Cabinet pick whom Democrats could unilaterally block. Instead, they made clear Thursday their resounding support for the retired Marine Corps general, touting him as their best hope for reining in a president-elect who has unorthodox views on matters of war and peace,” writes POLITICO.
And then there’s this: “The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Thursday issued a stern letter, including a veiled threat of an investigation, to the federal government’s top ethics monitor, who this week had questioned President-elect Donald J. Trump’s commitment to confront his potential conflicts of interest.”
“Donald Trump has said his company will be run by his sons and won’t strike new foreign deals, but some he has already made present a challenge to his attempts to separate his presidency from his international business,” writes the Wall Street Journal.
POLITICO previews how business may be shaping up for Washington businesses for inauguration: “Donald Trump’s inauguration is shaping up to be booming business for Washington. It’s just not the type of business the president-elect may want.”
TRUMP AGENDA: Replacing Obamacare won’t be easy
From the New York Times: “Why Trump’s Obamacare Promise Will Be So Hard to Keep”
And: “The House is expected to give final approval on Friday to a measure that would allow Republicans to speedily gut the Affordable Care Act with no threat of a Senate filibuster, a move that would thrust the question of what health law would come next front and center even before President-elect Donald J. Trump takes office.”
The Washington Post: “Anxious lawmakers to GOP leaders: What’s the plan to replace Obamacare?”
Paul Ryan told an undocumented family at a CNN town hall Thursday night that a deportation force is “not happening.”
DEM WATCH: Ending “wet foot, dry foot”
“The Obama administration is ending a policy, dubbed "wet foot, dry foot," which gave Cuban arrivals to the U.S. residency even if they didn't have visas, the White House announced Thursday,” reports NBC News.
From NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “Donald Trump's inauguration is still a week away, but opposing the president-elect is good politics for any ambitious Democrat with eyes on a White House bid. That could be why some of the most outspoken opposition to Trump's cabinet appointees during this week's confirmation hearings has come from Democrats widely seen as potential presidential contenders four years from now. For the next four years, those politicians will be in competition with each other for the hearts, minds and dollars of angry liberals eager for anti-Trump champions.”
Barack Obama surprised Joe Biden by presenting him yesterday with the Medal of Freedom.