Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry

“American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort,” the New York Times reports.

“The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him. As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts.”

Trump Sought Military Equipment for Inaugural Parade

“During the preparation for Friday’s transfer-of-power, a member of Trump’s transition team floated the idea of including tanks and missile launchers in the inaugural parade,” a source involved in inaugural planning told the Huffington Post.

Said the source: “They were legit thinking Red Square/North Korea-style parade.”

“The military, which traditionally works closely with the presidential inaugural committee, shot down the request, the source said. Their reason was twofold. Some were concerned about the optics of having tanks and missile launchers rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue. But they also worried that the tanks, which often weigh over 100,000 pounds, would destroy the roads.”

Trump’s D.C. Hotel Is an Ethical Minefield

New York Times: “Conflicts that for months have been theoretical are now about to become real — most immediately a possible challenge by the federal government. It owns the building that houses Mr. Trump’s hotel and has granted him a 60-year lease. From the moment he is sworn in as president at noon Friday, Mr. Trump may be in violation of that lease, given a provision that appears to prohibit federal elected officials from renting the Old Post Office building, the Pennsylvania Avenue landmark that houses the hotel, from the government.”

“Guests at the hotel include foreign diplomats and politicians who could be looking to curry favor with Mr. Trump — but even the act of paying their bills as they check out after the inauguration may open Mr. Trump to a challenge that he has violated the United States Constitution, which prohibits federal government officials from taking payments or gifts from foreign governments.”

Political Wire Conversations: Is Donald Trump Above the Law?

Democrats Greet Trump with a Wall of Opposition

Washington Post: “Democrats and the broader left, recuperating from an election few of them thought they could lose, are organizing one of the broadest — and earliest — opposition campaigns ever to greet a new president. It began with protests in the hours after Trump’s victory, but it become bolder since, marked most dramatically by nearly 70 Democratic members of Congress boycotting the inauguration itself.”

The Political Cost of Obamacare

Amy Walter: “Since Obamacare was passed in 2010 there have been four national elections. In these four elections, Democrats and their affiliated outside groups and SuperPACs spent $57 million on 100,000 ads supporting Obamacare. Meanwhile, Republican candidates and affiliated outside groups, spent $666 million on 1.3 million anti-Obamacare ads. In other words, for every dollar Democrats spent promoting the new law in a campaign ad, Republicans spent ten dollars trashing it.”

“Ultimately, Democrats believed that over time Americans would come to see the benefits of the health care law. But, without a robust and active defense of Obamacare by the Democrats, Republicans were able to make the law more about politics than policy. If you liked Obama, you liked the law. If you didn’t like him, you hated it. This is why it’s easy to understand how those who have benefited the most from the new law were also willing to support a candidate for president who vowed to dismantle it.”

“The lesson in all of this for the GOP: it’s a lot easier to demagogue than it is to defend. If they want to avoid the fate of Democrats in the upcoming mid-terms, they must be prepared to spend as much money promoting the changes in the new law as they did in undermining the old one.”

Americans Expect Nation’s Deep Divisions to Persist

A new Pew Research survey finds 86% of Americans describe the country as more politically divided today than in the past, while just 12% say the country is no more divided.

“The nature of the country’s political divisions is a rare point of partisan agreement: Comparable majorities of Democrats and Democratic leaners (88%) and Republicans and Republican leaners (84%) say the country is more divided these days than in the past.”

For members: Obama Leaves Behind a More Divided Country

There Have Been Rockier Transitions Than This One

Larry Sabato: “Truly, has there ever been as dramatic a contrast between outgoing and incoming chief executives as Barack Obama and Donald Trump? Actually, yes: the refined John Quincy Adams and the rough-hewn populist Andrew Jackson despised each other. Jackson believed he had been cheated out of the White House by a corrupt bargain during 1824’s House of Representatives “run-off” that installed Adams as president. Jackson spent four years making sure that wrong was righted on Inauguration Day 1829.”

“Other jarring transfers of power surely include the ones between the timid, indecisive James Buchanan, doing nothing while seven states left the Union, and Abraham Lincoln, who saved the Union in a bloody civil war (1861); the scholarly, erudite Woodrow Wilson and the tawdry, careless Warren G. Harding (1921); Herbert Hoover, a great humanitarian but hapless president, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, who gave people hope and sustenance through the depths of the Great Depression (1933); and Jimmy Carter, tortured by a bad economy and the Iranian hostage crisis that persisted to the moment of Ronald Reagan’s oath-taking in 1981.”

Will Democratic Attacks on Ideology Work?

Rick Klein: “A president-elect without any apparent fixed ideology would have himself a Cabinet full of ideologues – at least according to the Democratic strategy to define them. Rather than focus their energy on sinking one or two Trump nominees, to make a statement about their potential power even in the minority, Senate Democrats have used a scattershot approach that involves going deep into briefing books on virtually all of his picks. At Education, Justice, the EPA, Health and Human Services – point by point, the focus has been on how nominees would stray policy from the mainstream. (Energy, with Rick Perry’s hearing Thursday – after reports that he thought he’d be in charge or oil exploration, and is only now learning about the nuclear stockpile – might offer a twist on this script, but not much of one.)”

“Yet with only 48 Senate votes, Democrats are unlikely to block any nominee unless questions of ethics or financial irregularities make confirmation untenable. That makes this a battle for the long haul, going at the ideological underpinnings of the incoming administration. It may pay off. But it may also misunderstand the source of Trump’s power: His base gravitated to him despite his ideology, not because of it.”

Trump Has Already Changed the Presidency

“Donald Trump enters the White House on Friday just as he entered the race for president: defiant, unfiltered, unbound by tradition and utterly confident in his chosen course,” the AP reports.

“In the 10 weeks since his surprise election as the nation’s 45th president, Trump has violated decades of established diplomatic protocol, sent shockwaves through business boardrooms, tested long-standing ethics rules and continued his combative style of replying to any slight with a personal attack — on Twitter and in person.”

“Past presidents have described walking into the Oval Office for the first time as a humbling experience, one that in an instant makes clear the weight of their new role as caretaker of American democracy. Trump spent much of his transition making clear he sees things differently: Rather than change for the office, he argues, the office will change for him.”

Trump Gets the Nuclear Codes Tomorrow

“By the time he is sworn in tomorrow, Donald Trump will have undergone a haunting rite of passage: the classified briefing given to every incoming president that explains how he can order a nuclear attack,” Politico reports.

“While neither U.S. nor Trump officials would confirm the exact time or location of Trump’s briefing, several past presidents have been briefed on the nuclear codes at the historic Blair House, on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, hours before their inauguration.”

Trump Team Eyes Dramatic Spending Cuts

The Hill: “The changes they propose are dramatic. The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

“The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.”

“Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years. The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition.”