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HUFFPOST HILL - Congress Bewildered By Trump Transition

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President Obama issued a ban on Arctic drilling, diminishing the region’s output of fossil fuels while increasing its output of inscrutable Sarah Palin op-eds in WorldNetDaily. Mitch McConnell took a break from thinking about all the cool on-ramps he and Elaine Chao can name after Paul Singer to say there won’t be a select cybersecurity committee. And Newt Gingrich isn’t worried about Trump’s conflicts of interest ― this from a man who is so deep in campaign debt, his great-grandchildren will be hosting “thank you” fundraisers at Bistro Bis. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, December 20th, 2016:

Here’s a thing stressing out Capitol Hill right now: Staffers are increasingly bewildered over how the Trump transition is handling Cabinet nominees’ visits to Capitol Hill. Traditionally, the transition handles scheduling ― with nominees first meeting the chair and ranking member of the committee with jurisdiction over the nominee’s would-be agency/department ― but staffers tell us that a much less orderly system is emerging: nominees placing calls directly to members, nominees’ own staffs handling scheduling, and irregular involvement from the transition. Another recurring subject ― and we’re not joking about this ― is a pervasive curiosity about whether HUD secretary nominee Ben Carson will have to locate the relevant Banking Committee members on his own.

CLINTON FBI WARRANT BOGUS, EXPERTS SAY - File this alongside your Bush v. Gore outrage that you turn to from time to time when you want a good rage. Matt Ferner, Nick Bauman and Ryan Grim: “The warrant connected to the FBI search that Hillary Clinton says cost her the election shouldn’t have been granted, legal experts who reviewed the document released on Tuesday told The Huffington Post…. When Comey made the [Clinton email] announcement [11 days before the election], the bureau did not have a warrant to search a laptop that agents believed might contain evidence of criminal activity. The FBI set out to rectify that two days later, on Oct. 30, when agents applied for a warrant to search the laptop, which was already in the FBI’s possession…. The legal experts’ argument against the validity of the subpoena boils down to this: The FBI had already publicly announced that it could not prove Clinton intended to disclose classified information. Without that intent, and without evidence of gross negligence, there was no case. The warrant offers no suggestion that proving those elements of the crime would be made easier by searching new emails.” [HuffPost]

PRESIDENT PLOPS BUREAUCRACY IN INFLATABLE GREENPEACE DINGHY, RUSHES OIL PLATFORM - Chris D’Angelo: “President Barack Obama is expected to use his executive authority to permanently block offshore drilling in large swaths of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, according to multiple media reports. The move to protect the planet in the face of climate change ― just weeks before President-elect Donald Trump, who appears set on sidelining America’s climate fight, takes office ― would be among Obama’s most noteworthy to date... The permanent protections ― which are separate from the temporary bans announced as part of the Obama administration’s five-year oil and gas lease program ― rely on a provision of the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The provision gives presidents the power to ‘from time to time, withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer continental shelf.’” [HuffPost]

A BIG FAT ‘NYET’ FROM MCCONNELL - Thanks to SNL, we can’t *not* read about Vladimir Putin without hearing John Goodman yell “PUUUUUTY!!!!!!” Jessica Schulberg: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rejected growing bipartisan pressure to create a select committee to investigate suspected Russian cyberattacks and the role they played in the American election. ‘There’s no question that the Russians were messing around in our election,’ he told Kentucky Educational Television on Monday night. ‘It is a matter of genuine concern and it needs to be investigated.’ McConnell added that he believed Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the incoming ranking member of the panel, were ‘fully capable’ of handling the matter. Burr outlined steps last week that his committee would take to review the intelligence that led U.S. intelligence officials to accuse Russia in October of hacking the Democratic National Committee. The panel would interview government officials from the outgoing Obama administration and incoming Trump administration, using subpoenas to force testimony if needed, he said.” [HuffPost]

Chuck Schumer officially announced Senate Democrats’ committee assignments today, informing K Street that they can officially continue to scare their clients about Ron Wyden and Sherrod Brown atop Finance and Banking, respectively.

HERE’S A NICE FARM-TO-TABLE BATCH OF NOTHING MATTERS - You can really taste the nihilism. Michael Stratford: “Billionaire Betsy DeVos has been unabashed about using her wealth to advance her own agenda. ‘We expect a return on our investment,’ she once wrote about her family’s massive political contributions. After giving millions of dollars to politicians over the past two decades, she now heads into her Senate confirmation hearing for education secretary with a clear advantage: DeVos and her husband, Dick, have donated to the campaigns of 17 senators who will consider her nomination — four of whom sit on the Senate education committee that oversees the process.” [Politico]

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SAY, ‘NAZI HOT SEAT’ FIVE TIMES FAST - Or just read this article about Michael Flynn paling around with fascist sympathizers. Nick Baumann: “[Flynn] met several weeks ago with Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of Austria’s anti-immigrant Freedom Party, which was founded after World War II by former Nazis. Strache described the meeting, which was first reported by The New York Times, on his Facebook page, where he also announced signing a ‘cooperation pact’ with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although the Times story focused on the Russia pact, the Flynn-Strache meeting is at least as significant. Austrians’ support for far-right parties has increased significantly over the past 15 years. Strache’s Freedom Party received 35 percent of the vote in this year’s parliamentary elections and narrowly lost the race for Austria’s ceremonial presidency earlier this month. ‘This is not just any opposition party: It is one with Nazi sympathies,’ said Daniel Serwer, a former state department official who’s now a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.” [HuffPost]

Celebrities, they’re just like us: “In an interview with KET’s Bill Goodman on Monday evening, McConnell said he never thought Donald Trump would win the presidency and he expected Republicans to lose the upper chamber. ‘I honestly thought we wouldn’t hold the U.S. Senate, I thought we’d come up short,’ McConnell said. ‘And I didn’t think President Trump had a chance of winning.’ McConnell even expressed surprise that the wealthy real estate businessman was able to connect with voters and knock out 16 other Republicans running for the nomination before he defeated Hillary Clinton.” [HuffPost’s Laura Barron-Lopez]

DONALD TRUMP BRAVELY DOESN’T RESCUE DRONE  - Donald Trump is the Andrew Jackson of geopolitical skirmishes in the South China Sea: He fights his battle after the war is over. S.V. Date: “Donald Trump launched his Twitter campaign against China’s seizure of a U.S. Navy research submersible last week to great fanfare ― and, as it turns out, hours after the crisis had already been defused. It’s unclear whether the president-elect or his aides knew that fact ― it would have been included in the intelligence briefing available to him each morning ― before he sent out his misspelled missive of outrage at 7:30 a.m. Saturday…. But even his first version came four hours after U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus was informed that the Chinese navy had agreed to return the ‘underwater unmanned vehicle.’” [HuffPost]

SCOTT WALKER PROTECTING EAU CLAIRE FROM TIRED, POOR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BE FREE - Don’t worry, all those terrorists in Aleppo won’t be disrupting the Oshkosh Saturday Farmers Market. Elise Foley: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is restarting his fight against accepting refugees next year ― this time with an ally in the White House. On Tuesday, the governor sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump that has several requests from the state of Wisconsin, including having ‘a broader role in determining how many refugees and from which countries until we are comfortable with the vetting process that is being utilized to screen these individuals,’ referring to people ‘from countries with terrorist ties.’ The letter does not single out Syrians, although Walker has said many times before that he does not want them in his state. He sent the letter at the height of a months-long siege and bombing campaign that left thousands of civilians dead or displaced in the rebel-held city of Aleppo.” [HuffPost]

MEXICO IS RUBBER AND YOU ARE GLUE, WHATEVER YOU DEPORT... Roque Planas: “Trump’s loudly expressed hostility toward Mexico has led prominent political figures there to contemplate some kind of retaliation. Last month, Jorge Castañeda, a former Mexican secretary of foreign affairs, floated the idea of refusing to accept the return of Mexican nationals who can’t first prove their citizenship. Since many Mexicans who cross the border illegally do so without taking a passport or other identification ― and since about three-quarters of undocumented immigrants removed from the U.S. last year were Mexican nationals ― such a requirement could jam up the entire U.S. immigrant detention system. And that system is already operating over capacity.” [HuffPost]

NEWT GINGRICH YOLOs OUR DEMOCRATIC COLLAPSE - Hayley Miller: “Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich sees no reason for ethics laws to keep President-elect Donald Trump from appointing certain people to his administration. Gingrich suggested on Monday during an interview with NPR’s ‘The Diane Rehm Show’ that Trump could sidestep anti-nepotism laws that would bar him from giving advisory roles to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. ‘In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to,’ Gingrich said. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the nepotism statute into law in 1967, seven years after President John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Bobby Kennedy as attorney general. The law prevents public officials from employing or promoting relatives to a civilian position of an office within their jurisdiction. “ [HuffPost]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a sheep with no respect for authority.

NATURE DESTROYED IN NAME OF TRUMP - Somebody keep an eye on the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. It’s perilously close to Trump tower. Samantha Schmidt: “On the day leading up to the final rally of Donald Trump’s ‘thank you’ tour, city officials in Mobile, Alabama. raved about its plans for a festive, Christmas welcome for the president-elect. The mayor’s chief of staff tweeted that the city ‘’did the impossible,’’ erecting and decorating a 50-foot Christmas tree as a backdrop for Trump’s speech. But some Mobile residents soon speculated that the majestic cedar tree was one they had seen before, AL.com reported. Just over a mile away from the stadium where Trump would speak, in a public park, a massive cedar tree was gone. As skeptical residents raised questions with the mayor, city officials confirmed that indeed, the tree had been removed from Public Safety Memorial Park and taken to Ladd-Peebles Stadium. In emails and across social media, residents erupted in outrage.” [Boston Globe]

COMFORT FOOD

- Pro tip: Don’t golf on ice.

TWITTERAMA

@LoganDobson: Many children given toy building sets at Christmas refuse to follow the included instructions.

They are faithless erectors.

@elisefoley: WE ARE ALL BEING DUPED.

That’s all (67/67)

@clairecmc: I am with the force, the force is with me.

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