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TRUMP TRANSITION WATCH: Uncertain and pessimistic

From one of us(!): “As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to be sworn in as the country's commander-in-chief next month, a majority of Americans say they are either uncertain or pessimistic about his presidency, even as the country is sounding a more optimistic tone about the future of the economy and Trump's ability to bring positive change to Washington D.C. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds 54 percent of adults saying that they are either uncertain (25 percent) or pessimistic and worried (29 percent) about how Trump will perform during his presidency, compared with 45 percent with either an optimistic and confident view (22 percent) or a satisfied and hopeful view (23 percent). That's a significantly worse outlook than Americans expressed after the elections of both Barack Obama and George W. Bush.”

Also from our latest poll: There’s a crisis of confidence in U.S. institutions.

No surprise, but the Electoral College has formalized Trump’s election win.

The New York Times editorial page is not into the Electoral College anymore.

POLITICO notes that the Electoral College defections were unprecedented – just not enough to influence the outcome.

“The meeting of the Electoral College after presidential elections has long been little more than a tradition-bound formality, with political insiders gathering to ratify the preferences of their state’s voters and distribute 538 electoral votes. Yet as with so much else in this turbulent election year, even that civic ritual was punctuated by anger and dissent,” writes the New York Times.

NBC notes: “Vincent Viola is a Brooklyn native, West Point graduate and billionaire businessman who paid $250 million for an NHL hockey team. And if the Senate agrees, he'll become the next Army secretary.”

TRUMP AGENDA: Meeting with Carlos Slim

Trump is making overtures to Mexican business leaders, including a meeting with Carlos Slim. The Washington Post: “The peacemaking gesture — the culmination of weeks of back-channel negotiations that included a secret visit to Mexico City by a Trump envoy — signals a possible thawing between Trump and Mexico’s business and political elite, which he had used relentlessly as a foil throughout his campaign. The communications raised hopes in Mexico’s business community that Trump might reconsider his vow to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement and be persuaded to adopt less hard-line immigration and economic policies, which were cornerstones of his campaign.”

NBC’s investigative unit reports that Obama used the “Red Phone” system to warn Putin not to interfere in the U.S. election.

The Washington Post notes that Trump’s election is giving foes of legal immigration a boost.

Don’t miss this, in North Carolina: “North Carolina lawmakers appear poised to repeal a controversial law widely derided as the "bathroom bill" because it requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding with the sex on their birth certificate in many public buildings.”

And from the AP: “China on Tuesday handed back to the United States an underwater drone whose seizure raised tensions in a relationship that has been tested by President-elect Donald Trump's signals of a tougher policy toward Beijing.”

DEM WATCH: Clemency

Michelle Obama on Donald Trump: “If he succeeds, we all succeed.”

“President Barack Obama granted clemency to 231 federal inmates, including 78 pardons, more than half of the total pardons he has ordered while in office, the White House announced Monday,” the Wall Street Journal notes.

From POLITICO: “The Obama Foundation on Monday named David Simas its CEO. Simas, a longtime aide to President Barack Obama, will work with Obama Foundation Chairman Marty Nesbitt and Executive Director Robbin Cohen on leading the creation of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.”