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First Read's Morning Clips: The Latest in the Russia Investigation

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: Carter Page
Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump, speaks at a news conference at RIA Novosti news agency in Moscow on Dec. 12.Grigoriy Sisoev / Sputnik via AP

TRUMP AGENDA: The latest in the Russia investigation

The latest in the Russia saga, from the Washington Post: “The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said. The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.

Here’s what Page had to say to NBC’s Kristen Welker about the story.

And breaking this morning, from the AP: “Last August, a handwritten ledger surfaced in Ukraine with dollar amounts and dates next to the name of Paul Manafort, who was then Donald Trump's campaign chairman. Ukrainian investigators called it evidence of off-the-books payments from a pro-Russian political party — and part of a larger pattern of corruption under the country's former president. Manafort, who worked for the party as an international political consultant, has publicly questioned the ledger's authenticity. Now, financial records newly obtained by The Associated Press confirm that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the ledger next to Manafort's name were actually received by his consulting firm in the United States.”

Our team following Tillerson’s trip to Moscow has this dispatch on the harsh language coming out of the meetings there: “A senior Russian official lashed out at the U.S. minutes before a meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday, calling recent American rhetoric "primitive and loutish." Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the U.S's position on Syria "remains a mystery" to Moscow, although he added that Russia expected to discuss the issue of no-fly zones in Syria at the talks.”

The New York Times on Trump’s shifts on Russia: “Even in a presidency marked by unpredictability, the head-spinning shift from coziness to confrontation has left Washington and other capitals with a case of geopolitical whiplash. The prospects of improving Russian-American relations were already slim given the atmosphere of suspicion stemming from Kremlin meddling in last year’s election, but the détente once envisioned by Mr. Trump has instead deteriorated into the latest cold war.”

From the AP: “The federal government hiring freeze implemented by President Donald Trump as one of his first acts in office will be lifted Wednesday. But budget director Mick Mulvaney says many jobs will remain unfilled as the White House embarks on a government-wide effort to overhaul the executive branch and significantly reduce its work force.”

OFF TO THE RACES: How Kansas played

KS-04: How it played:

  • NBC News: “Republican Wins Kansas Election Seen As Trump Test”
  • Washington Post: “Republicans fend off strong challenge to hold on to House seat in Kansas”
  • New York Times: “Ron Estes, a Republican, Survives Tight House Race to Win Kansas Seat”
  • The Wichita Eagle: “Democrats see opportunity in Thompson’s narrow loss”

GA-06: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on what the Kansas race means for Georgia: “Republicans survived quite a scare in Tuesday’s special election in Kansas, the first major vote since Donald Trump’s victory. And the squeaker vote could portend good news for Democrats in the next election – next week’s Georgia contest to succeed Tom Price. Republican John Estes single-digit victory over Democrat James Thompson came in a Kansas district that Trump won by a whopping 27 percent just five months ago. And it took a sweeping GOP rescue effort that featured a robo-call from Trump and visits by Sen. Ted Cruz to help Estes eke out the victory.”

MT-AL: “Rob Quist, a folk singer and Bernie Sanders supporter running for Montana’s open House seat, announced Tuesday that he’d raised $1.3 million so far for his race — the latest example of liberal donors crowdfunding in the hopes of creating an upset,” writes the Washington Post.

Donald Trump Jr. will campaign for Republican Greg Gianforte.