POLITICS

HUFFPOST HILL - Just 28 Shopping Days Left Until Armageddon

Despite being the law-and-order candidate, Donald Trump seems unphased that a man who lives in the remote wilderness ― and who has a list of every child on earth ― will be sneaking into people’s homes early in the morning on December 25th. Trump and his transition team made a number of contradictory statements about nuclear weapons, which will result in some very interesting papers by international relations experts written on the back of canned bean wrappers in their fallout shelters. And Politico hit upon what might be the best way to save journalism: Goad Donald Trump into tweeting about your news organization with bait stories about his height. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, December 23rd, 2016:

PRESIDENT-ELECT HAS PEN PAL - Sam Stein: “Facing scrutiny over his apparent embrace of nuclear proliferation, Donald Trump’s transition team on Friday released a week-old note from Russian President Vladimir Putin wishing the president-elect happy holidays and laying the groundwork for collaboration once he takes the oath of office. ‘Serious global and regional challenges, which our countries have to face in recent years, show that the relations between Russia and the U.S. remain an important factor in ensuring stability and security of the modern world,’ Putin’s letter reads. ‘I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States of America we will be able ― by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner ― to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level.’ Russia’s U.S. embassy later confirmed the letter’s authenticity. Trump included a statement of his own with the release of Putin’s letter, saying he agrees with the underlying premise of greater collaboration. ‘A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct,’ Trump said. ‘I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path.’” [HuffPost]

Earlier: “[O]n Thursday, Trump issued a tweet that many interpreted as a call for expanding America’s nuclear arsenal, shortly after an article surfaced saying Putin wanted to do the same in his country. ‘Let it be an arms race,’ Trump reportedly told MSNBC the next morning. ‘We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.’” [Ibid.]

And here’s a rundown of how Trump’s communications team tried to walk back his contradictory statements.

U.S. DOESN’T VETO SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION ON ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS - President-elect Trump’s even-handed approach to Israel will no doubt keep this from getting out of hand. Jessica Schulberg: “The U.S. on Friday abstained from voting on a United Nations Security Council motion condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories ― a break with the administration’s tradition of shielding Israel from critical resolutions…. The U.S. decision to abstain from voting rather than veto the measure indicates the Obama administration’s deep frustration with Israeli settlement construction, which has expanded under the watch of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It also represents President Barack Obama’s final stand against Israeli construction in the West Bank before he is replaced by President-elect Donald Trump, an enthusiastic supporter of the settlements.” [HuffPost]

@realDonaldTrump: As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.

ROCKETTES FREE TO DECLINE GOOSE-STEPPING AT THE INAUGURATION - LOL, no one wants to play Trump’s party. Katie Rogers: “Within hours of confirming plans to appear at the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, the Radio City Rockettes were plunged into a maelstrom of outrage and conflicting messages on social media. Would some dancers be forced to perform? Should they? The din grew on Friday after reports surfaced that the performers, who are part of a union, were contractually obligated to dance at the Jan. 20 ceremony in Washington or else lose their jobs. In fact, the dancers’ appearances are voluntary, at least according to a statement relayed through Mikyl Cordova, a spokeswoman for the Madison Square Garden Company, which manages the troupe.” [NYT]

CUE THE WORLD’S TINIEST VIOLIN - Must be heartbreaking to realize you won’t get to play kleptocrat with the big kids. Alex Isenstadt: “A top aide to President-elect Donald Trump on Friday tried to tamp down junior campaign staffers’ expectations of getting plum West Wing jobs. Rick Dearborn, who is helping lead the transition, said on a conference call with lower-ranking campaign aides that the senior-most White House jobs were few and far between…. The 20-minute call came as many of Trump’s most loyal and longest-serving campaign workers worry about whether they will land administration jobs. Some of them have become frustrated in recent weeks as people who were less supportive of Trump before the election have landed major positions.” [Politico]

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SENATE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW AWFUL THINGS REALLY ARE - Well, some of the Senate, at least. Elana Schor: “Elaine Chao has already revealed that she’ll get paid for her past service on three corporate boards as she moves back into the government as Donald Trump’s chosen transportation secretary. Rex Tillerson, on the other hand, hasn’t even had to publicly name his four children ahead of his confirmation hearing to become secretary of state. Chalk up the discrepancy to the Senate’s arbitrary, committee-by-committee policies on what information about Cabinet picks they opt to disclose. The appointees are required by law to file financial disclosures that eventually become public. But it’s up to the specific Senate committee vetting each individual whether and when to share separate questionnaires they’re required to fill out. That form details their work experience, business holdings, and personal lives.” [Politico]

SWAMP RESEARCH BOGGING DOWN - Jennifer Steinhauer: “Some of President-elect Donald J. Trump’s most prominent cabinet nominees — with their millions in assets and complex business arrangements — are moving unusually slowly through the government’s arduous financial disclosure examinations, threatening the quick start promised for the new administration and raising Democratic concerns that their confirmations could short-circuit customary ethical safeguards. On Thursday, the ranking Democrats on all 16 Senate committees released a joint statement saying they would block confirmation votes until each nominee of Mr. Trump had cleared an F.B.I. background check, completed a financial disclosure statement and ethics agreement approved by the federal Office of Government Ethics, and ‘satisfied reasonable requests for additional information.’” [NYT]

MARK KIRK HAS A SAD - The Republican senator from Illinois has some thoughts after losing his reelection bid. Rick Pearson: “In a wide-ranging interview as he prepared to depart the elected political scene and look for his next career, Kirk outlined some hopes for Illinois politics: He wants to see U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon remain on the job, and he wants to work to keep Illinois from becoming a one-party Democratic state. But Kirk also said that nationally, his party has moved away from him. ‘I think now the party is one and the same with Donald Trump — that the moderate establishment that I represented very much has a distance from the president-elect,’ said Kirk, who unendorsed the incoming president over controversial remarks on immigration. He argued that politics is now dominated by the far left and the far right, fueled by cable news networks that cater to the extremes.” [Chicago Tribune]

TRUMP’S MEETINGS WITH DEMOCRATS SEEM LIKE A SWELL USE OF TIME - Maggie Severns: “While Trump has dismayed many Democrats with his vows to dismantle Barack Obama’s initiatives and the ideological slant of some of his Cabinet picks, he has struck a more amicable tone in recent meetings at Trump Tower with members of the opposition. In those encounters, he has been collegial, inquiring about visitors’ expertise and expressing interest in collaborating with them, especially when that might mean an early victory for the White House, according to several Democrats who have either met with Trump or been briefed on the discussions. Trump’s early interactions with Democratic moderates are unlikely to signal the dynamic of his relationship with the opposition party.” [Politico]

DEMS TRYING TO PROTECT WHISTLE-BLOWERS AHEAD OF TRUMP ADMIN -  Ron Nixon: “Senator Claire McCaskill, responding to what she has called troubling weaknesses in protections for whistle-blowers, has asked federal agencies to provide information on senior managers who may have retaliated against employees who reported wrongdoing. Her request was prompted by a statement in June from the Transportation Security Administration that said that despite a number of documented cases of such reprisals, neither the courts nor government agencies had confirmed whistle-blower retaliation by any senior manager at the agency. Ms. McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, asked the agency about any disciplinary actions against managers after The New York Times reported that T.S.A. employees had been reassigned, demoted, investigated or fired for reporting lapses or misconduct by senior leaders. She said that data from the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that protects federal employees from reprisal, showed that claims of retaliation by at least seven employees were substantiated.” [NYT]

CARL PALADINO: WHADDA GUY - We can’t wait for him to land on Trump’s CEA in the second year of his administration. Sam Levine:  “In an interview with ArtVoice published Friday, Carl Paladino said that in 2017 the thing he would most like to see go away was Michelle Obama.’I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla,’ he said. Asked what he would like to see happen in 2017, Paladino wished death on President Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s senior advisers. ‘Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford [sic]. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret [sic], who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady [sic] cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her,’ Paladino said. The Huffington Post contacted Paladino to verify the comments, but he declined to respond.” [HuffPost]

Here is a very weird interview with Buddy the Elf, a.k.a. the mayor of Philadelphia. 

TRUMP ALSO BEWILDERING EVERYONE ABOUT HIS MUSLIM BAN - There seems to be a pattern emerging! Abby Phillip and Abigail Hauslohner: “Trump this week once again declined an opportunity to clarify his position on the Muslim ban, which he first proposed a year ago, suggesting that his position has been consistent. This left his aides a day later insisting once again that the year-old proposal for a ‘total and complete shutdown’ of Muslim immigration had evolved into something more nuanced. The public back-and-forth reflects the degree to which Trump’s aides have struggled to reshape his initial pronouncement into something more palatable to the public than an all-out ban on a religion. And it highlights Trump’s propensity to double down on his original statements even as his advisers seek to shift the focus to other issues.” [WaPo]

VETERANS GROUPS STARTING TO WONDER ABOUT THIS TRUMP GUY - At least veterans are used to broken promises from politicians by now. Evan Halper: “Donald Trump’s flair for connecting with veterans won him an overwhelming share of their votes, but the durability of the alliance is already being tested as Trump’s search for a Veterans Affairs secretary veers in a direction that has alarmed some of America’s most influential retired soldiers. Under pressure from conservative activists, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and organizations funded by the Koch Brothers, Trump is contemplating choosing an agency chief who would upend the entire veterans healthcare system. That would come over the protest of the country’s major veterans groups…. The larger veterans groups warn that approach could cripple the current system through which veterans receive care and leave many with complex medical problems inadequate options for treatment.” [LA Times]

JOE BIDEN HAS SOME TRITE ADVICE FOR DEMOCRATS - Somebody must be watching a lot of “Morning Joe”” Michael A. Memoli: “Now, as the Democratic Party struggles to understand what went wrong in an election that left them with the least power in state and federal offices in decades, that same instinct leads Biden to offer a diagnosis and a prescription for what he sees as a more successful approach, one which pushes back, if ever-so-gently, against a powerful current in Democratic politics…. ‘I believe that we were not letting an awful lot of people — high school-educated, mostly Caucasian, but also people of color — know that we understood their problems.’” [LA Times]

BUT HIS EMAILS! Rahm might as well change his last name to “Clinton” and make the transformation complete. Rick Pearson, David Heinzmann and Jeff Coen: “Amid the thousands of emails released by Emanuel’s attorneys this week to settle a lawsuit with the Better Government Association are myriad requests sent to the mayor’s personal accounts from corporate heavyweights, campaign supporters and the politically connected aimed not only at helping their businesses but also their lifestyles. There’s a request seeking Emanuel’s help to get a business a state tax break. There’s a plea for the city to hold off on a major announcement for fear of alienating a business’s investors. There’s an ask for assistance to block a zoning change in a tiny downtown neighborhood. And there’s a lifelong friend who wanted to keep a local business from being evicted, noting the mayor’s wife had been a patron.” [Chicago Tribune]

PICK-UP-ARTISTS MEET ON THE LINKS - This would have been a good day for female clubhouse employees to call in sick. Philip Rucker: “On the campaign trail, Donald Trump mocked President Obama’s penchant for golf, suggesting that he was neglecting his presidential duties to indulge in his favorite pastime. But Trump’s critique must be a campaign bygone, because on Friday the president-elect interrupted his busy schedule of transition meetings and foreign policy declarations to tee up with legendary golfer Tiger Woods. The two met on a sunny and breezy morning at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, not far from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort where he and his family have been secluded for the past week.” [WaPo]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a panda taking on a snowman.

POLITICO TROLLS TRUMP BIGLY - Darren Samuelsohn: “Donald Trump and his doctor claim he’s 6-foot-3, but his New York driver’s license says he’s actually an inch shorter. A copy of Trump’s license, obtained by POLITICO through an open-records request, lists the president-elect at 6-foot-2. It may just be an inch, but size apparently matters to Trump…. The Trump transition did not respond to a request for comment about the height listed on his driver’s license.” [Politico] 

COMFORT FOOD

- We don’t think these animals from “Planet Earth 2” actually scream like this.

- Avoid the Kazan airport 

- Determining the lethality of the “Home Alone” traps.

TWITTERAMA

@jonlovett: Trying to tweet about how to appeal to white working class but wifi at Dior is super finicky 

@helytimes: Twitter: a cool fun site for jokes, observations, and announcements about American nuclear policy.

@atrios: if putin’s our ally why do we need an arms race with him. this new cold war is stupider than the last one 

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