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First Read's Morning Clips: Russia Calls Charges a 'Total Hoax'

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting with Russian businessmen
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with with Russian business community representatives at the Kremlin in Moscow on Dec. 19.Alexie Druzhinin / Pool via EPA

TRANSITION WATCH: Russia: It’s a “total hoax”

From NBC’s Alexey Eremenko: “The Russian government denied unverified reports Wednesday that it has compromising information about Donald Trump, dismissing the claims as a "total hoax." Two U.S. officials told NBC News that briefing materials prepared for Trump included damaging allegations, which have not been verified by American intelligence agencies, about his dealings with Russians.” MORE: “Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected all of these allegations out of hand. ‘The Kremlin does not have compromising information about Trump," he said, according to Russian state-run news agency TASS. "It's a total hoax, absolute fabrication and utter nonsense. The Kremlin does not collect compromising information.’”

More on the alleged intelligence, from the Washington Post: “A classified report delivered to President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump last week included a section summarizing allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances, U.S. officials said. The officials said that U.S. intelligence agencies have not corroborated those allegations but believed that the sources involved in the reporting were credible enough to warrant inclusion of their claims in the highly classified report on Russian interference in the presidential campaign.”

And from CNN, which published the story last night: “The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump.”

Trump tweeted this morning: “Russia just said the unverified report paid for by political opponents is "A COMPLETE AND TOTAL FABRICATION, UTTER NONSENSE." Very unfair!”

And there’s this from POLITICO: “Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found…The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia. But they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails.”

Barack Obama reacted to the allegations in an exclusive interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.

Trump will face questions on the Russia issue and on his business ties today in his first press conference in six months.

NBC’s Alex Jaffe previews Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson’s hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Leigh Ann Caldwell notes that the confirmation process for Trump’s picks has been slowed after Democrats complained about the pace and about incomplete disclosure paperwork for several nominees.

The New York Times looks at how Ben Carson’s childhood influenced his conservative views about housing, minorities and government assistance.

Benjy Sarlin notes that vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says he was asked by Trump to “chair a commission on vaccination safety and scientific integrity” – although Trump’s team says the president-elect was "exploring the possibility of forming a committee on autism" with Kennedy but that "no decisions have been made at this time."

NBC’s Andrew Rafferty sums up Day One of Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing.

From POLITICO: “The ex-wife of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, appeared in disguise on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” as a victim of domestic violence, after having accused him multiple times of physically assaulting her in the 1980s, according to two friends of hers and a spokesman for the former couple.”

TRUMP AGENDA: A “quick” Obamacare replacement?

Trump says he wants a “quick” Obamacare replacement, a directive that contradicts Republican lawmakers who have warned that an overhaul will take time.

A bipartisan group of legislators is proposing new sanctions against Russia, the Wall Street Journal notes.

“At least three-dozen municipal governments and law enforcement agencies say presidential campaigns have ignored hundreds of thousands of dollars in outstanding bills stemming from police security for campaign events — from Vallejo, California, to the University of Pittsburgh. That's according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign disclosures and municipal invoices, as well as interviews with more than 60 local government officials.”

DEM WATCH: Takeaways on Obama’s speech

NBC’s Adam Howard sums up the biggest takeaways from Obama’s farewell address.

The New York Times, on the speech: “President Obama, delivering a farewell address in the city that launched his political career, declared on Tuesday his continued confidence in the American experiment. But he warned, in the wake of a toxic presidential election, that economic inequity, racism and closed-mindedness threatened to shred the nation’s democratic fabric.”

The AP: “President Barack Obama has bid farewell to the nation in an emotional speech that sought to comfort a country on edge over rapid economic changes, persistent security threats and the election of Donald Trump. Forceful at times and tearful at others, Obama's valedictory speech in his hometown of Chicago was a public meditation on the many trials the U.S. faces as Obama takes his exit. For the challenges that are new, Obama offered his vision for how to surmount them, and for the persistent problems he was unable to overcome, he offered optimism that others, eventually, will.”