POLITICS
01/10/2017 05:49 pm ET

HUFFPOST HILL - Kompromat? More Like, KomproMAGA!

Mike Segar / Reuters

Ted Cruz spoke for over 80 percent of his time questioning Jeff Sessions during today’s confirmation hearing, probably because people might start asking questions about his dad’s involvement in JFK’s assassination if he stopped doing all the talking. The transition says the inauguration will project a “soft sensuality,” so you may want to contact your cable provider to see if you have access to it. And the Senate Finance Committee is keeping its inactive “fiscal responsibility subcommittee,” fetching it from the Senate’s attic beside the Senate’s Bowflex and the Senate’s Rebecca Black Halloween costume from five years back. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, January 10th, 2016:

TRUMP, OBAMA PRESENTED WITH REPORT RUSSIA HAS COMPROMISING INTEL ON TRUMP - Maybe he has acted recklessly with his business ventures...or maybe he said something really, REALLY bad to Billy Bush. Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, Jake Tapper and Carl Bernstein: Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN. The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump. The classified briefings last week were presented by four of the senior-most US intelligence chiefs ― Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers...The two-page synopsis also included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, according to two national security officials.” [CNN]

@tarapalmeri: Expect Trump’s inauguration to have a “soft sensuality” not a “circus-like celebration” with celebrities, says his inauguration planner

HOUSE GOP RUSHING FORWARD WITH OBAMACARE REPEAL AND NO REPLACEMENT  - Or, “Why Mo Brooks is a huge jackass.” Matt Fuller: “House GOP leaders are forging ahead with a planned Obamacare repeal vote for later this week even as Republicans don’t know the broad strokes of what a replacement might look like ― or whether they even have the votes. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told members during a Tuesday morning conference meeting that they’d like to vote on a budget resolution instructing committees to come up with a repeal of major parts of the Affordable Care Act by Friday, which would be the first chance they’d have to consider the legislation after it’s cleared the Senate…. If you listen to Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Republicans don’t need to do much ― or anything ― after repealing Obamacare because the system before the 2010 overhaul would come back…. ‘So the question is: Do you want to continue to force Americans who work for a living to pay for the health care of those who don’t work for a living or don’t work well enough to pay for their own needs?’” [HuffPost]

But wait, here comes Trump to say...something about Obamacare. Who knows what he means? “Mr. Trump appeared to be unclear both about the timing of already scheduled votes in Congress and about the difficulty of his demand — a repeal vote ‘probably some time next week’ and a replacement ‘very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.’” [NYT’s Maggie Haberman and Robert Pear]

Chuck Schumer is enjoying the hell out of the GOP’s disarray on Obamacare.

SESSIONS DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM MUSLIM BAN - Elise Foley: “Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, said Tuesday that he would not support a ban on Muslims entering the United States, and insisted the president-elect no longer wants one, either. ‘I have no belief and do not support the idea that Muslims as a religious group should be denied admission to the United States,’ Sessions said at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. ‘We have great Muslim citizens, they have contributed in so many different ways and [Americans] are great believers in religious freedom and the right of people to exercise their religious beliefs,’ he added. Sessions could soon helm the Justice Department ― which is charged in part with protecting civil rights and religious freedom ― under a president who issued a statement in December 2015 to propose banning Muslims from the country.” [HuffPost]

Good to know: “A fellow senator asked the next attorney general of the United States on Tuesday whether the actions described by President-elect Donald Trump ― grabbing a woman ‘by the p***y’ ― would constitute sexual assault. ‘Is grabbing a woman by her genitals, is that sexual assault?’ Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) during Sessions’ Senate confirmation hearing. ‘Clearly it would be,’ Sessions said.” [HuffPost’s Ryan Reilly]

GOOD OL’ SNOWFLAKES MAKE THEMSELVES A SAFE PACE - Aren’t conversations like these the reason the Capitol Hill Club exists? Jennifer Bendery: “Attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions lamented Tuesday that some people have accused him of being racist, guessing it’s been a theme in his career in part because of where he’s from and because of his formal name: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. ‘You have a Southern name. You come from south Alabama,’ he said during his Senate confirmation hearing. ‘That sounds worse to some people, south Alabama.’ Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was among the senators on the Judiciary Committee asking Sessions questions, gave the attorney general nominee the chance to respond to his critics on this front. Graham said he felt for him. ‘I’m from South Carolina, so I know what it’s like sometimes to be accused of being a conservative from the South,’ he said. ‘That means something other than you’re a conservative from the South, in your case. People have fairly promptly tried to label you as a racist or a bigot or whatever you want to say.’” [HuffPost]

Does the Senate Finance Committee still need its “fiscal responsibility” subcommittee? Arthur Delaney for HuffPost Hill: “The Finance Committee’s staff director asked top staffers last week if their bosses feel strongly enough about the Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth to keep it around. ‘The subcommittee held no hearing last Congress,’ the staff director said in an email. Apparently, they do want to keep it: Finance Committee spokespeople said that Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) expects the panel to continue. Other staffers pointed out that Finance subcommittees in general don’t do very much, so it’s no big deal. This subcommittee was created by Max Baucus in 2011 with an eye toward following through on something like Simpson-Bowles. Here’s to Grand Bargains continuing to not happen.”

GOP RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO CRAM THROUGH TRUMP’S NOMINEES - Bad news for Trump and Senate leaders: Americans might found out about these folks before they’re confirmed! Ed O’Keefe and Emma Brown: “Republican plans to quickly confirm Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees were upended Tuesday amid Democratic pressure to slow down the schedule as a federal ethics watchdog reviewing the backgrounds of nominees warned it could take months to probe some of the wealthier picks…. That means that a once-jammed calendar of hearings on Wednesday will feature just three: a second day for [Attorney General pick Jeff] Sessions, a Foreign Relations Committee hearing with Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of state, and a Commerce Committee hearing with Elaine L. Chao, the nominee for transportation secretary.” [WaPo]

Haircuts: Travis Waldron and Evan McMorris-Santoro.

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SHIELD THE SWAMP - Mary Papenfuss: “It’s emerged that the House GOP quietly changed a rule last week to allow members to keep their records hidden from ethics or criminal investigations. The tweak allows politicians to conceal any information members produce — even suspicious expenditures and budgets — if the Office of Congressional Ethics or the Department of Justice investigates them for criminal activity, the Center for Responsive Politics reports. The change essentially makes a member of Congress the owner and sole controller of any records he or she creates, regardless of whether those documents touch on a public interest, such as use of taxpayer funds or the commission of a crime.” [HuffPost]

Speaking of ethics, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) wants the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) ― Trump’s choice for secretary of Health and Human Services ― used inside information to profit from the stock market. [HuffPost’s Jeffrey Young]

WHAT TO THINK ABOUT WHILE TRUMP IS YELLING AT HIS PRESSER - Marina Fang: “On Wednesday, President-elect Donald Trump is scheduled to give his first press conference since July. It follows President Barack Obama’s Tuesday farewell address, in which Obama will celebrate the achievements of his administration, many of which will be in danger under Trump. Trump’s infrequent press conferences often turn into spectacles that provide few answers, and he might use Wednesday’s event to take shots at Obama. It also comes amid a flurry of other stories that could be overshadowed.” [HuffPost]

ANTI-VAXXER IS STILL AN ANTI-VAXXER - But, hey, you got a Kennedy to like you so, win. Christina Wilkie and Arthur Delaney: “Donald Trump has asked Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to lead a new commission on ‘vaccine safety and scientific integrity,’ Kennedy said Tuesday following a meeting with the president-elect in New York. The nephew of President John F. Kennedy is a prominent skeptic of mandatory vaccines, even though they have helped to eradicate diseases like smallpox and measles in the U.S. Kennedy said that Trump’s team requested the meeting and that ‘he asked me to chair a commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity...and I said I would.’ The goal of the commission, Kennedy said, would be ‘to make sure we have scientific integrity in the vaccine process for efficacy and safety effects.’ ‘President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies and he has questions about it,’ Kennedy told reporters gathered at Trump Tower after the meeting.” [HuffPost]

SENATORS INTRODUCE RUSSIA SANCTION BILL - Jessica Schulberg: “[Ten] senators from both sides of the aisle introduced legislation Tuesday to step up sanctions against Russia. Lawmakers, angered by Moscow’s alleged interference in the U.S. election process, have been discussing retaliatory action for weeks. But the legislation on sanctions unveiled Tuesday goes beyond responding to Russian cyber-activity. It also mandates new measures related to Russia’s 2014 military incursion into Ukraine and its ongoing support of President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. The bill would codify some of the sanctions put in place by outgoing President Barack Obama as well as impose new punitive measures. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican John McCain, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, led the effort. They are joined by four Democrats (Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Dick Durbin of Illinois) and four Republicans (Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Marco Rubio of Florida, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Rob Portman of Ohio).” [HuffPost]

WELL, JOHN ROBERTS DID TELL US RACISM WAS OVER - Remember a couple weeks ago when an expert declared North Carolina isn’t a democracy anymore? Cristian Farias: “The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted an emergency petition from Republican legislators in North Carolina, putting the brakes on a special election to cure districts that a federal court determined were racially gerrymandered…. In November, a three-judge court directed the state’s GOP-controlled General Assembly to redraw 28 state Senate and House districts that it said were designed to dilute the voting power of minorities. But the court let the November election take place under the old maps — on the condition that once the newly elected representatives redrew the maps, a new election would be conducted.” [HuffPost]

SENATE GETTING ITS SAUCER ON WITH OBAMACARE  - Jonathan Cohn: “Anxiety about repealing Obamacare without a replacement got a lot more visible in the U.S. Senate on Monday evening, as a half-dozen Republican senators called publicly for slowing down the process…. But at least three other GOP senators have now expressed reservations about eliminating the Affordable Care Act without first settling on an alternative. That brings the total to nine ― well more than the three defections it would take to deprive Republicans of the majority they would likely need to get repeal through Congress…. ‘Repeal and replace should take place simultaneously, and this amendment will give the incoming administration more time to outline its priorities,’ Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said. ‘By exercising due diligence we can create a stable transition to an open health care marketplace that provides far greater choice and more affordable plans for the American people.’” [HuffPost]

Meanwhile, Obamacare is stubbornly refusing to cooperate with the GOP and collapse, HuffPost’s Jonathan Cohn reports. And ― fun fact ― the majority of Obamacare enrollees live in Republican districts.

WHAT’S BIDEN GOING TO DO WITH ALL THOSE AMTRAK GUEST REWARDS POINTS? Kim Bellware: “Vice President Joe Biden announced via Twitter Tuesday that he’ll leave Washington, D.C., and return to private life the same way he entered it ― by train.” [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a dog with great pitch.

OF COURSE - Mary Papenfuss: “What a difference a Golden Globes appearance makes. President-elect Donald Trump lashed Meryl Streep as ‘over-rated’ after she sharply criticized his ‘bullying’ as she accepted an award Sunday. But as recently as 2015 he named her as one of his favorite actresses. Asked in a Hollywood Reporter interview in August 2015 if there were any actresses he ‘loved,’ Trump named Julia Roberts and Streep. ‘Meryl Streep is excellent; she’s a fine person, too,’ Trump said.” [HuffPost]

COMFORT FOOD

- A romantic take on “Star Wars.”

- This is not how you de-ice a plane, Turkish Airlines.

- A mashup of history’s most popular classical tunes.

TWITTERAMA

@MEPFuller: Congress could *literally* repeal Obamacare and half the stories would be about members stealing paintings from the Cannon tunnel.

@BrandyLJensen: Soft Sensuality.

It’s gonna be The Red Shoe Diaries of inaugurations

senator: would you oppose THING

sessions: it sounds complicated and i didn’t prepare

senator: it’s literally illegal

sessions: what’s a law

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