HUFFPOST HILL - Please Clap: 2016 Nearly Over

“Congrats” Twitter reached new lows today when Donald Trump used the microblogging service to undermine U.S. foreign policy by heaping praise on Vladimir Putin. More details about Trump’s inaugural are emerging and the Marine Corps Band presumably is rushing to learn the Russian Federation’s national anthem. And this is the last HuffPost Hill for 2016, the most awful year in human history. To ease our minds, please make sure that Joni Mitchell, Aretha Franklin, Ringo Starr, Harrison Ford and David Byrne are kept under quarantine and away from sharp objects until January 1. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, December 30th, 2016:

TRUMP LIKES WORLD LEADER - Ben Walsh: “President-elect Donald Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday afternoon, after the Russian leader said he would not expel any U.S. diplomats from his country. Trump tweeted, ‘Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!’ It’s shockingly direct praise from an incoming American president for a Russian leader who’s been accused by U.S. intelligence agencies and President Barack Obama of overseeing hacking efforts aimed at influencing the 2016 election. Trump’s praise comes after Obama announced this week that he would sanction Russian intelligence agencies and expel 35 suspected spies that the U.S. thinks were involved in the hacking effort. Both the FBI and CIA agree that Russia used cyber attacks to try to tip the election toward its preferred winner: Trump.” [HuffPost]

Well, then there’s this: “Donald Trump adviser John Bolton is demanding harsher sanctions on Russia, a position in stark contrast to many of his fellow Republicans ― including the president-elect. Bolton, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said on ‘Fox & Friends’ Friday morning that the sanctions President Barack Obama had imposed over alleged Russian hacking during the U.S. presidential election were ‘utterly useless.’ ‘We really need to get past the politics of this because if even a piece of what is alleged about this Russian activity is true, it is utterly unacceptable,’ Bolton said. ‘It is an attack on our constitutional system.’ Obama announced the sanctions package on Thursday, which includes barring several Russian intelligence agencies and officers from traveling to the U.S. or trading with American companies or individuals. He also ordered 35 Russian diplomats to leave.” [HuffPost’s Haley Miller]

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), meanwhile, will hold a hearing on foreign cyberattacks next week, Politico reports.

SESSIONS OMITTING DECADES OF RECORDS FROM CONFIRMATION HEARINGS - That’s totally fine ― we saw a web ad that called Sessions a civil rights hero so it’s all good. Jennifer Bendery: “…[A]ccording to an exhaustive report issued Friday by progressive advocacy groups. The groups, which include Alliance for Justice and People for the American Way, reviewed the questionnaire that Sessions filled out for the Senate Judiciary Committee ― it requires complete documentation of employment history, published writings, interviews and speeches, among other things ― and found ‘astonishingly deficient’ responses. He left out major details from his years as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, from 1981 to 1993; as attorney general of Alabama, from 1995 to 1997; and as a first-term U.S. senator, from 1997 to 2002. The gaps encompass the time, for example, when Sessions was nominated to be a federal judge in 1986 ― and then rejected after being deemed too racist. He also omitted dozens of recent interviews, some of which included controversial statements he made. An October interview in which Sessions gave Trump a pass for making sexist comments, because ‘everybody knows that Trump likes women’ and ‘uses this kind of talk,’ was not cited in his questionnaire. A December 2015 interview in which Sessions says ‘the predictions aren’t coming true” about climate change having disastrous effects is also not mentioned.’” [HuffPost]

DEMS TRY TO SAVE OBAMACARE - Now might be the time for some more Lena Dunham videos. Laura Barron-Lopez and Jeffrey Young: “President Barack Obama will huddle with House and Senate Democrats next week to strategize on how best to protect the Affordable Care Act. Republican lawmakers plan to take up a repeal of Obamacare as soon as Congress returns in January. ‘Next week, Republicans in Congress will once again turn to repealing a law that’s provided coverage to 20 million uninsured Americans, extended consumer protections to many millions more, improved the quality of care offered by our health professionals, and helped slow the growth of health care costs,’ a White House official said in a statement. ‘In light of this, on Wednesday, January 4, President Obama will visit a meeting of the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses.’ The official added that Obama will thank the members for helping advance the health care system.  ‘He will discuss the work still left to do, including the ideas he has put forth to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And he will share his perspective about the dangers posed by Congressional Republicans’ stated strategy to repeal the ACA before proposing any replacement, creating chaos in the health system in the short run ― and holding hostage Americans’ health care ― while Republicans develop their plan,’ the official said.” [HuffPost]

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OBAMA’S DEPORTATION LEGACY MIXED - Roque Planas: “ President Barack Obama is closing out his time in office with dramatically lower deportation numbers from the interior of the country than when he began. Deportations from the interior of the United States continued to drop in 2016, dwindling to roughly a quarter of their 2009 peak, according to numbers released Friday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The government conducted about 65,300 removals from inside the country in the 2016 fiscal year compared to 237,900 in the 2009 fiscal year. Total ICE deportations for the year, which include people caught in the border area trying to cross illegally into the U.S., stayed flat, 240,255 ― an increase of less than 5,000 over the year before, and well below recent peaks of around 400,000. In the end, Immigration and Customs Enforcement carried out more than 2.7 million deportations from the 2009 to 2016 fiscal years ― those included in Obama’s presidency ― more than half of them coming from the border region…. Those numbers might not last, if President-elect Donald Trump moves forward with a promise to drastically increase the rate of deportation: He insists he can and will quickly find and deport two or three million broadly-defined ‘criminals.’” [HuffPost]

Check out White House photographer Pete Souza’s favorite pics from Obama’s last year in office.

CELEBRATE THE CONCLUSION OF THE WORST YEAR EVER IN THE MOST PERFECT WAY - But will you, too, be able to purchase a page from the Bible President-elect Trump is sworn in with? Daniel Marans: “Tickets were on sale for a lavish New Year’s Eve party that President-elect Donald Trump and his family are hosting at the Mar-a-Lago Club this weekend, which once again raises those thorny ethics question that have dogged Trump’s presidential transition. Mar-a-Lago sold the tickets, according to Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel. Since Trump himself owns the Palm Beach, Florida, resort, those sales profit him personally. Simply buying a ticket could be seen as an effort to curry favor with the president-elect. Those seeking an in-person audience with him also had an incentive to buy since Trump will be there. So it’s probably no surprise that the tickets sold out. Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer gave reporters the news on a Friday press call. He also noted that more than 800 guests are expected, including actor Sylvester Stallone and music producer Quincy Jones.” [HuffPost]

TRUMP INAUGURAL PARADE DETAILS - T. Rees Shapiro: “The inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump will include a parade composed of 8,000 marchers from 40 organizations including the military, veterans groups and law enforcement, as well as the Boy Scouts of America. The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced in a release Friday the list of groups that will march in the parade following the Jan. 20 inauguration of the 45th president. All branches of the military will be represented, as will a number of high school and college marching bands. ‘People from every corner of the country have expressed great interest in President-elect Trump’s inauguration and look forward to continuing a salute to our republic that spans more than two centuries,’ said Sara Armstrong, chief executive of the presidential inauguration committee.” [WaPo]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a baby who takes the missions the other babies are too afraid to accept.

GRETCHEN CARLSON RETURNING TO TV -  Sam Levine: “Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News anchor, will return to television on Jan. 3 after filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against then-Fox head Roger Ailes, which led to the influential TV executive stepping down from his position. New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported Friday that Carlson will return to the air to host the 9 a.m. hour of NBC’s ‘Today’ show. Carlson, a former host on ‘Fox and Friends’ filed a lawsuit against Ailes in July, alleging that he had requested a sexual relationship with her, harassed her and then declined to renew her contract when she rebuffed his advances. The suit prompted many women to go public with claims of harassment against the powerful Ailes, who, after denying the claims, gave up his role as CEO at Fox News just a few weeks later.” [HuffPost]


- Toddler has a NSFW interaction with Amazon’s Alexa.

- The world’s most expensive mango.

- History’s greatest photographer.


@timothypmurphy: weird 2016 moment was when Jason Chaffetz said he couldn’t look his daughter in the eye if he supported Trump, and then endorsed Trump

@elisefoley: The worst thing about the beginning of each year is people who whine about new people joining their gyms. We get it, you are superior to all

@pourmecoffee: The Times Square ball is going to roll off halfway down and mow down nine more celebrities.

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com)