1/ Democrats secured the 41 votes needed to filibuster Gorsuch, setting the stage for Senate Republicans to enact the “nuclear option” – a unilateral rule change to eliminate the filibuster. Trump and the Republicans have vowed that Gorsuch will be confirmed despite any filibuster. (Washington Post)
- Democrats are close to the 41 votes needed to block the nomination of Gorsuch. Mitch McConnell reiterated that he’s prepared to kill the filibuster to get the high court nominee confirmed. (Politico)
- Senators fear fallout of nuclear option. Both parties are speculating that a blowup over Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court could lead not only to the end of the filibuster for such nominations, but for controversial legislation as well. (The Hill)
2/ Trump says the US can “solve” North Korea’s nuclear weapons testing program without the help of China. The assertion comes four days ahead of Trump’s first meeting with the Chinese President. (NBC News)
- North Korean defector says the “world should be ready.” The country’s “desperate” dictator is prepared to use nuclear weapons to strike the US and its allies. (NBC News)
3/ Trump can take profits from his businesses at any time. Previously unreported changes to Trump’s trust stipulate that it “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request” – without ever telling us. (ProPublica)
4/ A former national security adviser requested the identity of dozens of people in raw intelligence reports. White House lawyers say Susan Rice requested intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. Rice’s unmasking requests were likely within the law. (Bloomberg)
5/ Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to Putin established a back channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Trump. The meeting was brokered by the United Arab Emirates nine days before Trump’s inauguration to explore whether Russia could be persuaded to curtail its relationship with Iran, which would likely require major sanction concessions. Prince had no formal role with the Trump campaign or transition team, but he was seen in the Trump transition offices in New York in December. His sister Betsy DeVos serves as education secretary in the Trump administration. (Washington Post)
6/ Trump’s proposed budget would disproportionately harm the rural areas and small towns that were key to his win. Excitement about Trump’s presidency has been dulled by confusion over an agenda that seems aimed at hurting communities more than helping them. (Washington Post)
7/ Trump shifts course on Egypt and praised its authoritarian leader, saying President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has “done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.” Trump’s predecessors considered authoritarians like Sisi to be distasteful and at times barred them from the White House. Instead, Trump signaled that a partner in the battle against international terrorism is more important to the US than concerns over its brutal suppression of domestic dissent. (New York Times)
8/ Jared Kushner flew to Iraq to get a first-hand assessment of counter-ISIS operations. Kushner was invited by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to examine ways of accelerating a US-led coalition campaign in uprooting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. (Reuters)
9/ Trump won’t throw out the first pitch on opening day. But it isn’t because he can’t. White House officials cite a scheduling conflict. CNN writes nearly 1,000 words that Trump can, indeed, get the ball over the plate. (CNN)
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