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First Read's Morning Clips: How will Mueller interview Trump?

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: Robert Mueller
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI on June 19, 2013 in Washington.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call file

TRUMP AGENDA: How will Mueller interview Trump?

Breaking this morning from NBC’s Kristen Welker, Carol Lee, Julia Ainsley and Hallie Jackson: “Anticipating that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will ask to interview President Donald Trump, the president’s legal team is discussing a range of potential options for the format, including written responses to questions in lieu of a formal sit-down, according to three people familiar with the matter. Lawyers for Trump have been discussing with FBI investigators a possible interview by the special counsel with the president as part of the inquiry into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. The discussions were described by one person with direct knowledge as preliminary and ongoing. Trump’s legal team is seeking clarification on whether the president would be interviewed directly by Mueller, as well as the legal standard for when a president can be interviewed, the location of a possible interview, the topics and the duration. But the president’s team is also seeking potential compromises that could avoid an interview altogether, two of those interviewed told NBC News.”

In the New York Times: “Last May, Jared Kushner accompanied President Trump, his father-in-law, on the pair’s first diplomatic trip to Israel, part of Mr. Kushner’s White House assignment to achieve peace in the Middle East. Shortly before, his family real estate company received a roughly $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim, an insurer that is one of Israel’s largest financial institutions, according to a Menora executive…. The business dealings don’t appear to violate federal ethics laws, which require Mr. Kushner to recuse himself only from narrow government decisions that would have a “direct and predictable effect” on his financial interests. And no evidence has emerged that Mr. Kushner was personally involved in brokering the deal. But the deal last spring illustrates how the Kushner Companies’ extensive financial ties to Israel continue to deepen, even with his prominent diplomatic role in the Middle East. The arrangement could undermine the ability of the United States to be seen as an independent broker in the region.”

Steve Bannon is backtracking on his criticism of Donald Trump Jr., NBC’s Jonathan Allen reports. Here’s what he said: "Donald Trump Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years ... and to making films about Reagan's war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton's involvement in selling uranium to them."

Is it actually possible that the 25th amendment could be invoked? POLITICO takes a look.

From NBC’s Suzy Khimm: “The number of federal workplace safety inspectors has fallen under the Trump administration, according to new data obtained by NBC News, raising questions about the government's efforts to protect workers and the long-term impact of the White House's move to slow hiring. In the months after President Donald Trump took office, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration lost 40 inspectors through attrition and made no new hires to fill the vacancies as of Oct. 2, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.”

HHS nominee Alex Azar will be in the spotlight this week at his confirmation hearing, and his former company’s efforts to manipulate the patent system will be a top topic, POLITICO writes.

The Washington Post: “With a potential government shutdown less than two weeks away, congressional leaders and the White House will meet this week to discuss ways to end an impasse over the legal status of young immigrants, which has become a primary obstacle to a spending deal. … A bipartisan meeting on immigration policy at the White House on Tuesday is designed to bring the sides together. If Trump and lawmakers can strike an immigration deal, negotiators on both sides think that other issues, including how to fund a children’s health insurance program and a roughly $80 billion package to pay for disaster relief, could be resolved.”

“[N]early a year after he entered the White House, the rest of the world is trying to figure out whether Mr. Trump is more mouth than fist, more paper tiger than the real thing,” the New York Times writes.

Trump’s team is sending mixed signals on infrastructure, the Washington Post notes.

And the New York Times: “President Trump will head to Tennessee on Monday to appeal to farmers, a key demographic that helped elect him, as he promotes his tax law and previews a new White House strategy to help rural America. But back in Washington, some of the economic policies his administration is pursuing are at odds with what many in the farm industry say is needed, from a potentially drastic shift in trade policies that have long supported agriculture to some little-noticed tax increases in the $1.5 trillion tax law.”

In POLITICO: “As a new year’s wave of street protests rocks Iran, the demonstrations put President Trump in an awkward bind—right as he faces a new deadline to decide whether to continue on with the Iran nuclear deal he loathes. By the end of this week, in fact, the president who called that agreement the “worst deal ever”—and refused, despite the evidence, to certify Iranian compliance with it—is expected to once again keep the deal alive by waiving U.S. sanctions on the Iranian government that were suspended when the agreement was made.”

OFF TO THE RACES: After Mandel’s exit, could Renacci set sights on Ohio Senate seat?

CA-SEN: McClatchy tackles the thorny question of Dianne Feinstein’s age.

FL-GOV: The Tampa Bay Times looks at Ron DeSantis’ prospects.

OH-SEN: The fallout from Josh Mandel’s decision to drop out of the race continues. From the Columbus Dispatch: “Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor plans to stay the course with her run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination and will not seek to replace Josh Mandel in the GOP quest to unseat Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown this year. U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, meanwhile, is taking a hard look at departing the GOP governor’s race to run for the Senate, Republican sources said. And Mike Gibbons, a longshot but wealthy candidate already in the GOP competition, almost immediately pledged $5 million of his own money in a presumed attempt to ward off additional competitors joining the race before the Feb. 7 filing deadline.”

TX-GOV: Democrat Lupe Valdez officially kicked off her gubernatorial bid over the weekend.

UT-SEN: The Salt Lake Tribune looks at why Mitt Romney might run — and why he might not.