Trump may lift Russia sanctions 'if we get along'
President-elect Donald Trump may lift U.S. sanctions against Russia if relations between the two countries improve during his time in office, he indicated in an interview published by The Wall Street Journal Friday. "If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?" Trump asked, though he noted he will not make any major changes "at least for a period of time." He also suggested possible diplomatic shakeup with China, announcing that "everything is under negotiation including 'One China,'" the long-time U.S. policy of formally accepting Beijing's claim that Taiwan is not a separate nation. Still, the president-elect made a point to highlight the holiday greeting he received from Chinese President Xi Jinping, saying, "I have a beautiful card from the chairman." [The Wall Street Journal, Politico]
House votes to begin dismantling ObamaCare
The House approved a budget measure Friday afternoon that paves the way for repealing ObamaCare. The measure was passed 227-198, just a day after the Senate voted 51-48 in favor of the same resolution. Nine House Republicans voted no; on the Senate side, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the sole Republican to vote against the budget because of its addition of $9 trillion to the national debt. Republicans can now repeal ObamaCare using a procedural tool known as "budget reconciliation," which allows repeal to pass with a simple 51-vote majority. Friday's resolution gave Republicans a Jan. 27 deadline for drafting repeal legislation, though House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has said Republicans do not yet have a hard deadline in place. [CNN, The Washington Examiner]
DOJ: Chicago police's 'excessive force' violates the Constitution
The Chicago Police Department has habitually used excessive force that violates the Constitution, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Friday. The findings followed what Lynch described as an "exhaustive" 13-month Department of Justice investigation launched amid uproar over the fatal shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white police officer. The resulting 161-page report attributed the "unreasonable" use of sometimes "deadly force" to "systemic deficiencies" within the city and police department. Lynch said there is "considerable work to be done," and Chicago authorities have signed an agreement pledging their commitment to reform. [Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post]
Trump applauds Cabinet nominees who 'express their own thoughts, not mine'
President-elect Donald Trump reiterated his support for his Cabinet nominees Friday after several of his picks contradicted him on key policy issues during confirmation hearings this week. Trump tweeted that his nominees "are looking good and doing a great job," and insisted he wants them "to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!" Secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson and defense secretary nominee James Mattis were more critical of Russia and its intentions than Trump has been. Mike Pompeo, Trump's pick for CIA director, expressed his opposition to waterboarding, a form of torture Trump has suggested bringing back, and Homeland Security secretary nominee John Kelly expressed doubts that Trump's proposed border wall would "do the job." [NPR, Donald Trump]
Palestinian president says Trump's plan to relocate U.S. embassy will hinder peace
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that President-elect Donald Trump's promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a mistake which could hinder the Mideast peace process. "We are waiting to see if it happens," Abbas said while visiting Vatican City to inaugurate the Palestinian embassy to the Holy See. "If it does it will not help peace and we hope it does not happen," he continued. Palestinians oppose the move on grounds that it could undermine historic claims to the disputed city by Muslim and Christian residents, consolidating the power of the Israeli state and upsetting any movement toward a two-state solution. [Reuters, The Associated Press]
Democratic congressman says Trump isn't 'a legitimate president'
In an interview with Meet the Press published Friday, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said Russian efforts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election undermined President-elect Donald Trump's position as "a legitimate president." "I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected," Lewis said, adding that while he believes "in forgiveness" and in "trying to work with people," he is certain "there was a conspiracy on the part of the Russians and others" to put Trump in office. "That's not right. That's not fair," Lewis said. "That's not the open democratic process." [NBC News, The Week]
Steve Harvey to join Ben Carson on inner city initiative
Actor and comedian Steve Harvey announced Friday he will team up with Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to work on an inner city initiative. Harvey hosts Family Feud and The Steve Harvey Morning Show. He also hosted the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, in which he famously announced the wrong winner. "It's not my jump into politics, I ain't going to pass a background check," Harvey told the press after meeting with Trump in Manhattan on Friday. "It's just me following orders from my friend, President Obama, who said, 'Steve,' as he told everyone, 'get out from behind your computers, stop tweeting and texting. Get out there and sit down and talk.' I stepped from behind my microphone and I came and talked to the guy who is going to be the 45th president." [Reuters, CBS News]
Moody's pays $864 million to settle allegations of its contribution to the 2008 financial crisis
Credit rating agency Moody's agreed to pay about $864 million to settle allegations that its assessments of residential mortgages contributed to the 2008 financial crisis, the Department of Justice announced Friday. The deal also involves 21 states plus the District of Columbia; the federal government will take about half of the money and the rest will be split among the states. "Moody's failed to adhere to its own credit-rating standards and fell short on its pledge of transparency in the run-up to the Great Recession," said Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer. "Today's settlement contains not only a significant penalty and factual admissions of its conduct, but also a commitment by Moody's to new and continued compliance measures designed to ensure the integrity of credit ratings going forward." [The Independent, Reuters]
NFL prepares to kick off divisional playoff round
During the NFL's wild-card weekend, all four home teams — the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Green Bay Packers — emerged victorious. This weekend, they all go on the road against teams that had a bye last weekend. First up on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET, the Seahawks play the Atlanta Falcons, followed by the Texans visiting the top-seeded New England Patriots at 8:15 p.m. ET. On Sunday at 8:20 p.m. ET, the Steelers face the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Packers visit Dallas for a much-anticipated game against the Cowboys at 4:40 p.m. ET. The Patriots are a popular favorite to win yet another Super Bowl; FiveThirtyEight predicts New England has a 35 percent chance of winning it all. [Bleacher Report, The Washington Post]
Widespread ice storm coats Midwest this weekend
A major ice storm plus freezing rain will make for dangerous conditions across the Midwest this weekend, stretching as far as Texas and Washington, D.C. One motorist has already been killed by the storm, which is expected to lay down a glaze of ice up to an inch thick that will make travel difficult and topple power lines. Missouri and Oklahoma have declared states of emergency, and the National Guard is preparing to offer emergency assistance in several states. [CNN, Reuters]