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Morning Reads: Jeff Sessions Kicks Off Fast-Track Cabinet Hearings; The Son-in-Law Also Rises

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Morning Reads: Sessions Kicks Off Fast-Track Cabinet Hearings

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions arrives at Trump Tower on November 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

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Trump Cabinet confirmation speed dating begins –> Despite widespread criticism that candidates have not yet been properly vetted, the GOP is rushing confirmation hearings for President-elect Trump’s cabinet choices. From The Washington Post, here’s this week’s Senate committee schedule:



  • Sessions hearing continues
  • Foreign Relations Committee, Rex Tillerson, for secretary of state
  • Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Elaine Chao, for  transportation secretary


  • Tillerson hearing expected to continue
  • Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), for CIA director
  • Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Wilbur Ross, commerce secretary
  • Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Ben Carson, housing and urban development secretary

Tentatively on Thursday, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Andrew Puzder, labor secretary. Hearings by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on the choice of Betsy DeVos for education secretary (her finances described in a New York Times editorial as “a tangle that could take weeks to investigate”) have been postponed until next week.

With the confirmation hearing for Sen. Sessions as attorney general kicking off the festivities, protests have been loud and strong from hundreds of social justice groups. “A group of more than 250 interfaith leaders rallied in Washington, DC on Monday morning,” Jack Jenkins at ThinkProgress wrote, “… claiming that Trump’s controversial pick is morally unfit to run the Department of Justice.

“The leaders gathered in downtown DC before marching to Senate offices, hoping to persuade lawmakers to reject Sessions — whose controversial ideological positions have been described by many as ‘extreme.’ Participants included Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders, such as North Carolina NAACP president and Moral Mondays organizer Rev. William Barber II.”

Also on Monday, environmental groups launched a nationwide campaign to “highlight the climate denialism rampant among President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks and demand lawmakers reject their nominations,” Nadia Prupis at Common Dreams reported.

#DayAgainstDenial, spearheaded by the climate group 350.org but supported by a coalition of organizations and activists, calls on the US Senate to vote against Trump’s nominees to lead his administration, including former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, tapped for secretary of state; former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, nominated for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief; former Texas Gov. Rick Perry for secretary of energy; and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) for secretary of the interior.”

Once confirmed, a long leash? –> “President-elect Donald Trump plans to give his Cabinet secretaries and top aides significant latitude to run their federal agencies,” Politico’s Josh Dawsey and Andrew Restuccia report, “marking a sharp departure from Barack Obama’s tightly controlled management style, according to people involved in and close to the transition…

“Trump, they say, doesn’t usually like getting into day-to-day minutiae or taking lengthy briefings on issues. He doesn’t have particularly strong feelings on the intricacies of some government issues and agencies, these people say, and would rather focus on high-profile issues, publicity and his brand. And he’s expected to grant his Cabinet lots of autonomy — at least until he sees something as a problem or an issue involves significant publicity or money.”

But who’s in charge here? –> At Gizmodo, Ashley Feinberg writes, “According to an official within the Department of Energy, this past Friday, the President-elect’s team instructed the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration and his deputy to clean out their desks when Trump takes office on Jan. 20. The NNSA is the $12 billion-a-year agency that ‘maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the US nuclear weapons stockpile.’ It’s unclear when the two officials will be replaced…

“So did Trump simply not realize that a considerable portion of the Department of Energy is dedicated to building and protecting our nuclear arsenal? That would certainly explain his appointment of Rick Perry as secretary, and why he just left the agency responsible for safeguarding our nuclear infrastructure without any leadership for the foreseeable future.”

All in the family –> “Donald Trump announced Monday that Jared Kushner would serve as a senior adviser to the president in his administration, joining Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon in the President-elect’s inner circle,” Matt Shuman at Talking Points Memo reports. “In a statement that made no mention of the fact that Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law, the President-elect said Kushner would forego a salary in that position.”

Jon Schwarz at The Intercept: “Donald Trump’s intention to name his son-in-law Jared Kushner to a senior White House post violates ethical standards — and the smell test… And legalities aside, a world leader turning his son-in-law into one of his foremost advisers has an extremely creepy vibe, because it’s straight out of the third world dictator playbook.

“Also, as a major real estate investor himself, Kushner will also bring with him glaring conflicts of interest almost as labyrinthine as Trump’s.”

Hope that Obamacare repeal may be DOA –> Jonathan Chait at New York magazine: “The Republican plan, affirmed again [Monday] by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is facing dire peril from Republican defections. Republicans need a House majority, 50 Senate votes, and soon-to-be President Trump to pass repeal and delay. If Republicans lose three Senate votes, that drops them to 49, and repeal-and-delay cannot pass. At least three Republican senators (in addition to all the Democrats) now oppose repeal and delay.”

Goodbye –> President Obama makes his official farewell address tonight at Chicago’s McCormick Place, 9 p.m. ET. Free tickets for the nationally telecast speech were handed out Saturday morning and quickly snapped up by a large crowd. Now, the Chicago Tribune reports, “By Sunday, advertisements to auction dozens of the elusive tickets had sprouted up on secondary market websites like eBay and Craigslist asking for as much as $5,000 apiece.

“Left unclear, however, was whether those tickets were legitimate or could be legally sold.” Caveat emptor.

Morning Reads was compiled by Michael Winship and edited by Karin Kamp. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.