Who does Trump trust?
A Wall Street Journal report Wednesday shed light on the game plan behind Donald Trump's pro-Russia, anti-American intelligence tweets. The president-elect believes the "Office of the Director of National Intelligence has become bloated and politicized," the Journal wrote. Trump is considering how to restructure and shrink the office, along with cutting down on staffing at the CIA headquarters in Virginia.
Notably, Trump's focus is not on the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the law enforcement agency focused on domestic crimes that played a major role at the end of the campaign. And the report comes after Trump tweeted Wednesday questioning the motivation and accuracy of U.S. intelligence agencies — citing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in saying Russia did not provide any documents related to hacking during the American election.
Pump the brakes on what we know about Russian hacking: The FBI has not examined the Democratic National Committee servers purportedly hacked by the Russians, BuzzFeed reported. Instead, the agency has held meetings with Democratic party officials and relied on findings from a private security company. An anonymous U.S. intelligence official told BuzzFeed that the private security company was "pretty good," and they believed the attacks were carried out by Russians. This finding comes after President Barack Obama, heeding the consensus of America's intelligence agencies, said Russians were behind election-related hacking at the DNC.
Russian hacking will remain center stage on Thursday: Sen. John McCain's Armed Services Committee held a morning hearing about "Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States." The focus puts McCain and other GOP senators directly at odds with Trump as the president-elect questions the conclusions of the intelligence community. (CNN) The hearing also comes the day after Trump said he would reveal "things that other people don't know" about hacking, a self-imposed deadline Trump did not meet. (Mic)
At the hearing, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence criticized Trump's "disparagement" of American intelligence agencies. While James Clapper, who called himself apolitical, said skepticism from policy makers is healthy but Trump's attacks have hurt the U.S. intelligence community. He also said hacking, misinformation and fake news were part of the Russian effort to influence the election.
Torture in Trump's America
Four black teenagers are in custody after holding a young white man for 24 to 48 hours and torturing him in Chicago. (Washington Post) The white teen, held at knifepoint, was bound and gagged while his attackers said, "Fuck Donald Trump, fuck white people." The incident was broadcast on Facebook Live for about half an hour, and the attackers repeatedly showed their faces. (BuzzFeed News) Reports of the attack set Twitter aflame with #BLMkidnapping trending, and conservatives called Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization. Note that there is no reason to believe the incident is tied to the activist group network. Police have said they are investigating it as a hate crime. (Mic)
The latest on Obamacare
On Thursday morning, the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for president said changes to health care will result in "new plans in 2019 or later." In the interim, Republican Rep. Chris Collins said health care plans will not change. Meanwhile, Trump essentially admitted on Twitter that the GOP does not have a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. "It is ... time for Republicans & Democrats to get together and come up with a healthcare plan that really works - much less expensive & FAR BETTER!" Trump tweeted.
After a day of posturing on Capitol Hill by Obama and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, reality is setting in for the GOP: Healthcare is a political hot potato, and any misguided repeal of Obama's healthcare law could anger millions of Americans who will suddenly lose their insurance. For now, what people like about Obamacare will be preserved. Politico reported Thursday that internally, the GOP plans to detail its replacement plan in 2017. But how long it would take that plan to move through Congress and be implemented is far from certain. And there is substantial division among Republicans about what elements of the current law should be preserved, what should be changed and how popular provisions should be paid for. (Politico)
One truth seems widely accepted: The Affordable Care Act will be repealed. Whether that happens very soon or is effectively delayed for several years, Obama's signature achievement will cease to exist in its current form. And the health insurance market will again be thrown into disarray trying to adapt to new federal regulation.
News and insight you cannot miss:
— Commentary published in China's leading state-run media outlet slams Trump for trying to conduct diplomacy via Twitter. (CNN)
— In December, Trump's transition team asked the for details about which assets are available to build a border wall and barriers. They also inquired with the Department of Homeland Security about the ability to increase aerial surveillance and immigrant detention. (Reuters)
— Donald Trump appointed a Wall Street lawyer who helped Goldman Sachs secure federal bailout funds in 2008 to oversee the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates Wall Street.
— Ohio Governor and Trump rival John Kasich will attend the inauguration. (Cleveland.com) Former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will also be in attendance, as will Hillary Clinton. (NPR)
— Trump will continue to use Twitter unpredictably and without consulting his staff, incoming press secretary Sean Spicer said. (Wall Street Journal)
— How Julian Assange evolved from pariah to paragon for some conservatives. (Washington Post)
— "I have a lot in common with President-elect Trump in terms of the domestic agenda. When it comes to foreign policy, I agree with him on Iran, I agree with him on China. Russia: I have no idea where he's coming from," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said of Trump ahead of Thursday's hearing about cyber threats to the U.S. (Politico)