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Trump set to violate the Constitution
The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution prohibits all government officials—including the President—from taking gifts or money from a foreign government. In December, ethics lawyers from both the Bush and Obama Admininistrations, together with a constitutional law professor at Harvard, authored an academic brief on the issue. According to them, Trump appears to be on a “direct collision course” with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. They say that, under the Emoluments Clause, it is “totally irrelevant” whether someone else is running the Trump Organization day-to-day. So Trump’s announcement last week that he will hand over management of the business to his sons fails to address the conflict. They say that the only “true solution” is for Trump (and his children) to fully divest from the business and place their assets in a blind trust.

Protests May Shake Washington

“Washington braces for massive protests” reports Reuters: “…officials braced for hundreds of thousands of people planning to celebrate or protest Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the United States … About 30 groups have obtained permits for protests they estimate will attract about 270,000 people on Friday and Saturday …”

“New Yorkers Rediscover Activism” says NYT: “…the desire to fight back … is producing what will probably turn out to be one of the most fertile periods of activism on the left in decades … progressive activists believe that the complacency and will to compromise that has characterized a dominant faction of the left has now been shaken to a point where few can easily regard the course as a tenable one.”

Democracy for America makes early 2018 endorsements. The Hill: “DFA announced it is backing Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) … Senate Democrats have a rough map in 2018 as they embark on an uphill battle for regaining the majority in the upper chamber. They need to defend 23 seats … Brown has already drawn a challenger: Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel.”

The Nation publishes a special “The People Vs. The President” inauguration issue featuring Zephyr Teachout’s “Donald Trump Will Violate the Constitution on Day One”: “On the day that Donald Trump takes office, his family will be ‘in foreign pay.’ The Trump Organization will be getting a substantial paycheck from the Chinese government by way of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the largest tenant of Trump Tower. Trump will also be paying interest to China: He’s invested in a partnership that borrowed $950 million from lenders including the state-owned Bank of China. Each of these roles—as landlord and debtor—puts Trump and the country in a position of vulnerability to China. The Chinese government has the capacity to make him richer or poorer, and can use that capacity to influence trade policy and military decisions.”

Mnuchin On Hot Seat

Dems grill Mnuchin. The Hill: “While Democrats highlighted individuals who lost their homes to OneWest, Mnuchin emphasized the efforts his bank took to help struggling homeowners adjust their mortgages. ‘There were mistakes. We regret those mistakes,’ … [But] said Mnuchin. ‘I’m proud of these results.’ … Sen. Ron Wyden … lamented the ‘Mnuchin web of bank accounts and shell companies’ reported in Mnuchin’s lengthy financial disclosures. Mnuchin admitted that he did not have any employees or customers in those areas but insisted that they were set up there at the behest of clients, not for his own personal benefit … The only GOP senator to express some reticence was Dean Heller (Nev.).”

Mnuchin expresses openness to Glass-Steagall, Volcker Rule. Business Insider: “‘I don’t support going back to Glass-Steagall as is,’ Mnuchin told the Senate Finance Committee. ‘When we talked about policy with the president-elect, our view is we need a 21st century version.’ … ‘I support the Volcker rule, but there needs to be proper definitions around the Volcker rule so that banks can understand exactly what they can do and what they can’t do, and that they can provide the necessary function of liquidity in customer markets,’ Mnuchin said.”

The Nation’s David Dayen underwhelmed: “[Democrats] got bogged down into an arcane discussion of hedge-fund rules and tax law, when there were literally thousands of human stories, of people who lost everything they had at the hands of Steve Mnuchin’s bank, waiting to be discussed.”

Only two cabinet nominees will clear Senate today. Politico: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that his caucus will allow quick votes on retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to lead the Pentagon and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly to become secretary of the Department of Homeland Security … a confirmation vote for [CIA nominee Mike] Pompeo might not come until Monday … ‘It’s possible that some other noncontroversial nominees could be considered relatively quickly,’ Schumer told reporters on Thursday. ‘But from there, we intend to have a full and rigorous debate on the president-elect’s remaining nominees.'”

Breakfast Sides

Democrats yet to agree on comeback strategy. Politico: “What’s clear from interviews with several dozen top Democratic politicians and operatives at all levels, however, is that there is no comeback strategy—just a collection of half-formed ideas, all of them challenged by reality. And for whatever scheme they come up with, Democrats don’t even have a flag-carrier … Most doubt Democrats have the stamina or the stomach for the kind of cohesive resistance that Republicans perfected over the years … everyone from Obama on down is talking about going local, focusing on the kinds of small races and party-building activities Republicans have been dominating for cycle after cycle. But all that took decades, and Democrats have no time.”

Some Republican governors resist rush to scrap Medicaid expansions under Obamacare. Bloomberg: “The leaders of states such as Ohio, Nevada, Idaho and even Alabama are urging a heavy dose of caution, according to statements and letters solicited by U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy … ‘We must be careful not to increase the rate of uninsured, particularly for our most vulnerable citizens,’ Utah Governor Gary Herbert wrote … Other GOP-led states said little to defend the law. Arkansas, for instance, expanded Medicaid eligibility, helping almost halve the uninsured rate, while premiums in its ACA marketplace increased just 2 percent this year, a fraction of the national average. The state still wants out.”

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