Trump National Security Adviser Called Russian Envoy Day Before Sanctions Were Imposed
■ The national security adviser appointed by President-elect Donald J. Trump called a Russian envoy the day before sanctions were imposed on Russia for meddling in the election.
■ The "conscience of the House" — the civil rights hero John Lewis — does not believe Mr. Trump will be a legitimate president. Not a good start.
■ The great potty coverup on The Mall: does the president-elect not want "Don's Johns" visible on Inauguration Day?
■ And readers get a chance to say what they would ask Mr. Trump's E.P.A. pick, Scott Pruitt.
Call to a Russian envoy before sanctions were imposed
Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who will be Mr. Trump's national security adviser, spoke with Sergei I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, the day before President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for election hacking, to arrange a phone call between President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Mr. Trump once he becomes president, a Trump spokesman said Friday.
Mr. Flynn's secret call did not violate the law, Mr. Trump's spokesman said.
But under the circumstances, it is bound to raise eyebrows.
"The call centered around the logistics of setting up a call with the president of Russia and the president-elect after he was sworn in, and they exchanged logistical information," Sean Spicer, Mr. Trump's spokesman, told reporters on a conference call on Friday. "That was it, plain and simple."
Several news organizations reported on Thursday on the calls between the two men. David Ignatius of The Washington Post suggested it could have violated the Logan Act, a 218-year-old law that bars American citizens from negotiating without authorization with foreign governments that have a dispute with the United States.
Mr. Spicer said General Flynn had initially reached out to Mr. Kislyak via text message on Christmas Day to wish him a happy holiday and to say that he looked forward to working with him in the coming administration. The ambassador sent a text back returning the sentiment, he added. The Russian envoy followed up on Dec. 28 with another text that asked if he could call General Flynn, and the two spoke, Mr. Spicer said.
The call, which came the day before Mr. Obama announced penalties for Russia, including the expulsion from the United States of 35 Russian diplomats, never touched on the sanctions, Mr. Spicer said.
The delegitimizing of a president
It was bad enough that a new Gallup poll on Friday morning found that only 44 percent of Americans approve of the way Mr. Trump has handled his transition — compared with 83 percent who approved of President Obama's transition and 61 percent who approved of George W. Bush's. That followed a Quinnipiac University poll this week that put Mr. Trump's approval rating at 37 percent.
But now, Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and a hero of the civil rights movement, is flat out saying he doesn't see Mr. Trump "as a legitimate president."
Elected Democrats are not only boasting of skipping the inauguration but are pledging to join the massive protest march that will follow on Jan. 21.
Needless to say, this is not a good way to start a presidency.
Potty-gate on The Mall
They are calling it the potty cover-up of the 2017 inauguration.
The Associated Press reported on Friday that workers preparing the Capitol grounds and National Mall for the inauguration of Mr. Trump have altered the portable toilets being set up to accommodate attendees, apparently to spare the ego of the president-elect.
The toilets are provided by the equipment rental company Don's Johns. But on Friday, a Capitol employee was photographed covering the company's logo with blue masking tape, and later, dozens of the porta-johns appeared to have been altered that way.
The company's chief executive said he had no idea why his logo had been covered, telling the AP "we're proud to have our name on the units."
It appears, however, that a certain somebody else is not.
Are we tired of winning yet?
On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump promised that with his deal-making skills, we'd be winning so much, we'd get tired of winning. Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, which makes the F-35 fighter jet, delivered the latest victory: the cost will come down, as Mr. Trump has demanded.
After meeting with the president-elect, she told reporters at Trump Tower, "I'm glad I had the opportunity to tell him that we are close to a deal that will bring the cost down significantly from the previous lot of aircraft to the next lot of aircraft, and moreover it's going to bring a lot of jobs to the United States." She added:
In fact we are going to increase our jobs in Fort Worth by 1,800 jobs, and when you think about the supply chain across 45 states in the U.S., it's going to be thousands and thousands of jobs. And I also had the opportunity to give him some ideas on things we think we can do to continue to drive the cost down on the F-35 program, so it was a great meeting.
This is a bit of corporate spin for the incoming commander in chief's benefit. Shortly before the election in November, the Pentagon had imposed a price cut on the last group of F-35s because Lockheed wouldn't budge.
Then the Defense Department began negotiating the price for the next lot, and Lockheed understood that if it tried to fight another price cut, the Pentagon would have imposed it again.
Questions for E.P.A. pick Scott Pruitt
Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma, who spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency to thwart its regulations, especially those that combat climate change, will appear before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday for a hearing to confirm him as head of the agency.
The hearing promises to be among the most contentious of all the confirmation grillings, so The New York Times is reaching out to readers: What should senators ask Mr. Pruitt?
Trump attacks Hillary Clinton over emails — again
The election was more than two months ago, the Electoral College ballots have been certified and the inauguration is a week away, but the president-elect has not gone beyond campaign mode when it comes to Hillary Clinton.
The leap to "guilty as hell" was a big one. The investigation will center on why Mr. Comey sent a public letter to Congress in the last days of the campaign announcing that the F.B.I. was reopening the Clinton emails investigation after discovering other messages on the laptop of Anthony D. Weiner, the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide. Days later, Mr. Comey announced that the computer held no incriminating evidence.
A dossier has gotten under Trump's skin
On Twitter on Friday morning, Mr. Trump again brought up the unsubstantiated, explosive dossier that a retired British intelligence agent compiled from information that he said Russia possesses.
Mr. Trump likes to dismiss the "failing New York Times," but he clearly reads it closely. The Times published a lengthy history of the dossier in question that traces it to Republican and Democratic operatives who helped bankroll it to stop Mr. Trump's election. Left unsaid are the respectable credentials of the British spy, Christopher Steele, or the fact that he is now in hiding, fearing retribution.
The pre-inaugural concert is set
By now, Mr. Trump's pre-inaugural concert has become a kind of reality show unto itself, marked by rumors of stars, leaks to the press, and occasional promises of an unforgettable show on the eve of the president-elect's swearing in.
The final details are in and the affair looks to be — well, you decide.
The concert is actually two. The first portion of the evening, "Voices of the People," will feature performances by small groups from across the country. Think more D.C. Fire Department Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and Webelos Troop 177 than Beyoncé.
The A-listers have been reserved for the second part, which will be televised across the country and feature remarks by Mr. Trump himself. This part of the evening, "Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration," looks to be heavy on country music — Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood, and a group calling itself the Frontmen of Country — with some 1980s Broadway (Jennifer Holliday), rock (3 Doors Down) and a D.J. (RaviDrums) mixed in.
Jon Voight, the 78-year-old actor who narrated a video for Mr. Trump during the campaign, will serve as M.C. And a fireworks show by Grucci will close out the evening.
And in case you were wondering, a news release announcing the details boasted that the show "is produced and directed by Emmy Award winners and nominees." That would include Mark Burnett, the acclaimed reality television producer who worked with Mr. Trump on "The Apprentice" and has helped plan the inaugural festivities.
An A-lister strikes back
One of Mr. Trump's most provocative and persistent antagonists, Cher, is leading a new boycott of the president-elect that aims to hit him where he will most certainly feel it: his Nielsen ratings.
Under the Twitter hashtag "TURNHIMOFF," Cher began Thursday night circulating her plea for people who oppose Mr. Trump to turn off their televisions when his inaugural festivities begin next Friday.
JOIN MARCH IN D.C.,2PROTEST TRUMP REGIME‼️2 PROTEST IN YOUR OWN HOME…TURN ON TV,AND AS TRUMPS INAUGURAL STARTS…TURN TV OFF#TURNHIMOFF
"Ratings are what he understands," the singer and actress said in a phone interview.
Cher's Twitter feed became one of the most animated and popular sources of anti-Trump sentiment during the election. And the ferocity that she — a 70-year-old megacelebrity with nearly 3.2 million Twitter followers — used to go after Mr. Trump seemed to perfectly capture what a surreal turn American politics took in 2016.
In White House war games, maybe a lesson for Trump's promised arms race
Senior national security officials for President Obama are hosting their counterparts on President-elect Trump's team on Friday for a war-gaming exercise at the White House intended to practice the response to a major domestic or international emergency.
The session, similar to one that George W. Bush's staff held in the restricted Situation Room for Mr. Obama's team just days before he was inaugurated in 2009, aims to familiarize the incoming president's team with the protocols and practices the federal government uses in a crisis.
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said it would simulate what happens during "major domestic incidents," including natural disasters.
In the exercise in 2009, top Bush administration officials walked Mr. Obama's aides through what would happen in the event of an attack involving a series of explosions detonating in a number of American cities simultaneously.
Maybe the new White House will conclude what "WarGames," that 1980s movie, said about fighting a nuclear war: "The only winning move is not to play."
Video by Techno947
If you don't have something nice to say
Mr. Trump's foray onto social media Friday morning wasn't all anger and spittle. He praised his cabinet picks' performances before the Senate — which have gone well, on the whole — and the progress Congress is making toward gutting the Affordable Care Act.
The House is likely to give final approval on Friday to parliamentary language that would allow Congress to eviscerate President Obama's signature domestic achievement with a simple Senate majority this spring, and without fear of a Democratic filibuster.
What comes next is uncertain, and of grave concern to the 20 million Americans now covered by the health law and the millions more protected by its prohibitions on discrimination for pre-existing medical conditions and lifetime coverage caps.
Paul Ryan says no to deportation force
From the department of mixed messages: The House speaker said on Thursday that the United States would not send out a large force to remove thousands of unauthorized immigrants any time soon.
"It's not happening," Mr. Ryan said during a CNN town hall-style meeting in Washington, where a woman whose parents brought her to the United States at age 11 — a category of people often referred to as "dreamers" — asked him, "Do you think that I should be deported?"
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Mr. Ryan said that Mr. Trump's promise of a deportation force would not come to fruition. "I can see that you love your daughter and you're a nice person who has a great future ahead of you," he said, "and I hope your future's here."
When the moderator, Jake Tapper, reminded Mr. Ryan of the president-elect's campaign promise to create a "deportation force," Mr. Ryan said, "I know, I know." He continued, "But I'm here to tell you, in Congress, it's not happening."
Mr. Ryan has long supported an immigration plan that would mix new border security measures with protections for some unauthorized immigrants, but he has had little luck getting other Republican members of the House to join him.