Trump vs. intelligence
"There's a difference between skepticism and disparagement," the director of national intelligence told Senators on Thursday. The comment from James Clapper sums up the mood at the U.S. Capitol, where leaders of the American intelligence community criticized Donald Trump and reaffirmed their belief that Russia is behind hacking that attempted to influence the 2016 election.
The hearing in front of GOP Sen. John McCain's Armed Services Committee laid bare the partisan divisions that may come to define the next four years. And it demonstrated Trump's Twitter account may be more influential among America's elected leaders than trained spies and soldiers, with most Republicans avoiding criticism of Trump.
The division is simple: President Barack Obama and his intelligence leaders believe Vladimir Putin and his minions hacked the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman. Trump questions this conclusion. On Friday, the president-elect will meet with Clapper and other intelligence chiefs to hear details about how and why they believe Russia hacked during the election. All eyes will be on Trump's Twitter to see if he weighs in after the briefing.
Meanwhile, the story about Democratic Party hacking grows weirder. BuzzFeed followed up a Wednesday story that said the FBI never inspected allegedly hacked DNC servers to report the FBI says the DNC did not allow the FBI to examine its computers. (BuzzFeed) This "inhibited the FBI" and required the agency to rely on third-party tools, the FBI said. This quickly prompted a Trump response: "What is going on?"
By attacking the agencies that will soon advise him, Trump has forced Republicans (mostly) to his side, while Democrats back Obama's intelligence chiefs. Continuing discord could lead to two points of view on national security: One from the White House and Republicans, the other from Democrats and leaks within intelligence agencies. Either way, Americans may not have a source they find trustworthy.
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Stacking the deck
Republicans scheduled six cabinet hearings in the Senate next Wednesday, which also coincides with Trump's planned news conference. This promises to pack Jan. 11 full of news — likely too much for any individual hearing to make a splash. This diminishes the ability of Democrats to draw attention to any problems with potential Cabinet secretaries, including Trump's controversial picks for secretaries of state and education and the attorney general. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has protested the move, but it is unlikely to convince the GOP to shift the advantage away from Trump's nominees. (Politico)
Defunding Planned Parenthood
Planned Parenthood seems poised to lose about half its funding after House Speaker Paul Ryan said Republicans will add defunding the women's health care organization to a bill the GOP will use to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Mic) Planned Parenthood reportedly receives more than $500 million from the federal government, and abortion makes up an estimated 3% of the organization's work. Democrats expressed anger that cutting funds would leave many women without effective health care options. In 2015, Planned Parenthood operated 661 health centers that saw 2.5 million patients.
Defunding Planned Parenthood may be a hard sell in the Senate. Moderate GOP Senators like Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are pro-choice and may torpedo the larger repeal of Obamacare if it includes the Planned Parenthood provision. (CNN) Republicans have a two-seat majority in the Senate and could fall shy of the 50 votes needed to pass the budget bill if those senators defect.
'The Great Wall'
Trump's transition team is asking Congress to pay for his proposed wall along the American-Mexican border. (Mic) This runs contrary to his campaign promise that Mexico would pick up the tab for the barrier, a mix of fences and concrete that could cost billions. Facing criticism for breaking a core campaign pledge, Trump tweeted Friday that Mexico would pay the U.S. back and he was only asking Congress to pay "for sake of speed."
News and insight you cannot miss:
— Chicago police charged four black people with hate crimes after a live Facebook video feed showed a white teenager being bound and beaten. Exclamations like "fuck Donald Trump, fuck white people" could be heard throughout the feed. (Mic) Mic's Zak Cheney Rice wrote about how some people used the attack to justify calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization and suggesting black people are inherently criminal. (Mic)
— A plumbing firm that worked on Trump's Washington D.C. hotel says it was stiffed $2.98 million and has filed a lien on the hotel. (Washington Post)
— The New York Times reports "the opioid epidemic killed more than 33,000 people in 2015," which is an issue Trump has said he will aggressively address. The Times recounts the stories of those who died. (New York Times)
— Trump team to Obama-appointed ambassadors: Be gone by Inauguration Day. Politically appointed diplomats are often given a grace period to continue working until the Senate confirms new foreign envoys. But Trump's team reportedly wants Obama appointees out, "without exceptions." (New York Times)
— Even the must vulnerable Democrats in the Senate will not repeal Obamacare without a viable replacement, judging the political fallout of voting to not kill the law better than repealing something without a measure to preserve health care for millions, Mic's Emily Singer reports. (Mic)
— Ann Coulter said you're "retarded" if you confused her Obama countdown for neo-Nazi code — even though the alt-right gave reason to believe it may have been the latter. (Mic)
And here's what you needed to start your weekend: