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First Read's Morning Clips: Meeting Xi

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: Chinese President Xi delivers a speech during a high-level event in the Assembly Hall at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during a high-level event in the Assembly Hall at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva on Jan. 18.Denis Balibouse / Reuters


NBC’s Ali Vitali previews Trump’s meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. “As Donald Trump gets set to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a tête-à-tête at the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Thursday, experts say it's time for the U.S. leader to let his past hostile comments about the Asian powerhouse fade with the Florida sunset. Trump must start building a solid personal relationship with his counterpart and open a starter dialogue on a number of sensitive issues between the two nations, analysts add.”

The big palace intrigue story, from Peter Alexander and Kristen Welker: “President Donald Trump has removed Steve Bannon, his chief strategist, from the National Security Council, according to a filing in the federal registry. As part of the shakeup announced Wednesday, two officials were added back to the NSC's Principals Committee: the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford. Also added to the Principals Committee: Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.”

The Washington Post notes that Bannon’s removal comes as national security adviser H.R. McMaster is asserting more control.

POLITICO: “Five people, including a senior administration official and several sources close to the president, tell POLITICO that Bannon, one of Trump’s closest advisers, has clashed with the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who’s taken on an increasingly prominent portfolio in the West Wing. Bannon has complained that Kushner and his allies are trying to undermine his populist approach, the sources said. Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, a longtime Bannon confidante who became a prominent Trump supporter during the campaign, urged Bannon not to resign. “Rebekah Mercer prevailed upon him to stay,” said one person familiar with the situation.”

Andrew Rafferty sums up Trump’s statement Wednesday that his policy towards Syria has changed after an attack that he called “an affront to humanity.”

The New York Times, on Trump’s changing Syria policy: “Mr. Trump’s stern words and lack of specifics attested to a leader, 75 days into his presidency, who is determined to show a more muscular style than Mr. Obama but is grappling with many of the same complexities that dogged his predecessor. And they raised anew a question that Mr. Trump until now has avoided: his criteria for using force, both in a humanitarian cause and in facing a direct, if distant, threat to the United States.”

“Despite the tough talk, the Syrian chemical weapons attack poses a particular problem for Trump’s foreign policy philosophy,” writes the Washington Post. “The attack by Assad’s forces offends America’s values and it violates long-standing international norms of behavior, but it does not present an immediate threat to America’s security or its economic interests. In an “America First” world, it is an atrocity, but hardly a call to action for the United States and its allies.”

POLITICO reports that Ivanka Trump quietly reached out to Planned Parenthood after the inauguration, but the relationship has since soured.

From NBC’s investigative team: “Despite President Donald Trump's calls for American companies to manufacture their products in the U.S., shipments of his daughter's branded, Chinese-made dresses have continued to land on U.S. shores since he took office, documents reviewed by NBC News show.”

A Secret Service agent on Vice President Mike Pence’s detail has been charged with soliciting a prostitute.

“Eleven weeks into the Trump presidency, the Secret Service is grappling with how to constrain the rising costs and unexpected strain that have come with protecting a new first family as large, mobile and high-profile as any in modern American history,” writes the New York Times. “To keep up, dozens of agents from New York and field offices across the country are being temporarily pulled off criminal investigations to serve two-week stints protecting members of the Trump family, including the first lady and the youngest son in Manhattan’s Trump Tower.”

The Trump team is already strategizing for the next Supreme Court vacancy, writes POLITICO.

CONGRESS: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Nuclear Option

Leigh Ann Caldwell on today’s nuclear option drama: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will almost certainly trigger the so-called nuclear option on Thursday, launching the legislative body into historic, uncharted waters in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court Nominee. Senators spent Wednesday debating the matter, but the outcome — a permanent change in rules that will affect both the Senate and the nation's highest court — has been as good as settled since at least week, and brewing for more than a decade.”

And Caldwell notes that the House is poised to leave town Thursday without a health care deal.

Some Senate Republicans are very worried over Trump’s handling of the Syria issue, writes the Washington Post.

OFF TO THE RACES: Ossoff’s big fundraising haul

GA-06: Jon Ossoff raised an eye-popping $8.3 million during the first quarter of the year, with all but about five percent coming from outside the state.

Yet more polling shows a significant lead for Ossoff.

MT-AL: Democrat Rob Quist says helping American Indians will be a top issue for him.

The Guardian and Huffington Post both offer their looks at the Montana House race.

VA-GOV: Bernie Sanders will campaign with Tom Perriello today.

Republican candidate Ed Gillespie says he’d like to see abortion “banned.”