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Tense buildup for Trump’s face-to-face with intel chiefs

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee about cyberthreats to the United States on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. Credit: TNS / Olivier Douliery

Love those spies

“I am a big fan!” That was Donald Trump tweeting Thursday about U.S. intelligence agencies, a change of tone one day before he is due to hear their conclusions — which he has doubted in advance — on how and why the Russians tried to influence the election through cyberhacking.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers are expected to brief Trump.

Trump, who repeated uncritically WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s denial that Russia provided the hacked emails to the secrets-baring website, protested on Twitter that “the dishonest media” wrongly says he agrees with him. See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

The president-elect’s repeated barbs at the intelligence community drew a retort from Clapper during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on cyberhacking.

“I think there is an important distinction here between healthy skepticism ... and disparagement,” Clapper said.

Trump chooses intel chief

The intel chiefs told the hearing they were highly confident about their conclusions on Russian hacking.

On the eve of Trump’s meeting with them, his transition team put out word that he has selected former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats to succeed Clapper as director of national intelligence.

The choice of a familiar face may give some reassurance to Republicans and others alarmed by the current friction. Coats served as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee before retiring from Congress last year. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Germany.

High fives in Moscow

Senior officials in the Russian government celebrated Trump’s election as a geopolitical win and congratulated themselves on the outcome, The Washington Post reports, citing senior U.S. officials.

The take-away: Big shoes

Donald Trump tweeted a blast Thursday at Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer as “head clown” of the Democratic Party — payback after the New York Democrat ripped the Republicans’ promised repeal of Obamacare as a formula to “make America sick again.”

Whatever the insult’s merits, Schumer might wish to send Trump a thank-you note for shoring up his position among Democratic liberals, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

“In Washington, you’re known by your enemies, not your friends,” said one political analyst.

Speaking of enemies

Trump has a sit-down scheduled Friday, Politico reports, with Graydon Carter, author of a scathing 1988 Spy Magazine profile that described him a “short-fingered vulgarian” — a label that has endured among detractors and remains embedded under Trump’s skin.

Carter is now editor of Vanity Fair, which drew the president-elect’s Twitter wrath last month for a review that rated a Trump Tower eatery as “the worst restaurant in America.”

The off-the-record meeting at Condé Nast’s World Trade Center offices will also include Anna Wintour, Vogue editor-in-chief.

Trump targets Toyota

The Japanese automaker Toyota is the latest target of Trump’s threats to slap a tax on cars built in Mexico for the U.S. market.

Toyota has plans to build Corollas in a new plant in Mexico, but production isn’t being shifted from the U.S., but from Canada. Corollas are also made in Mississippi.

Toyota Motor Corp. didn’t directly respond to Trump’s tax threat, but said Thursday in a statement that production and employment in the U.S. will not decrease when it opens the Mexican plant.

What else is happening

  • In a 2010 interview found by CNN, Trump condemned Wiki Leaks and said, “in China, if this would’ve happened, the people would get a bullet through their head within 24 hours.”
  • House Republicans and Trump’s team are coalescing around a multibillion-dollar plan to start building a wall between the United States and Mexico, Republican lawmakers and aides told Politico.
  • Trump is expected to give a White House job to Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general who saw the Trump foundation make an illegal contribution to a political group allied with her after she decided not to join a lawsuit against Trump University.
  • Trump took a transition timeout to give a sworn video deposition for his suit against a chef who backed out of plans to open a restaurant at Trump’s Washington hotel to protest the then-candidate’s harsh comments on Mexican immigrants.
  • Two small contractors who worked on the hotel have filed liens alleging they have not been paid, The Washington Post reported.
  • Trump’s debt, exceeding $300 million, is held by more than 150 institutions, giving them potential leverage over the 45th president, The Wall Street Journal (pay site) reported.
  • Comey, in his first post-election comment, defended in a message to FBI staff his handling of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation. Clinton has said Comey’s disclosures on a revived and then closed investigation were a big reason she lost.
  • Vice President Joe Biden said in a PBS interview that he has a message for Trump: “Grow up, Donald. Grow up. Time to be an adult.”

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