By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)
- BREAKING — OBAMA TO ANNOUNCE CHIEF OF STAFF: From the White House: “This afternoon, the President will introduce Denis McDonough as the new White House Chief of Staff. The President will make this personnel announcement at the White House at 12:10 PM in the East Room. Denis has been one of the President’s closest and most trusted advisors for nearly a decade, dating back to when he helped set up then Senator’s Barack Obama’s Senate office. He has relied on his intellect and good judgment ever since— most recently as a member of the President’s national security team. In that capacity, Denis has played a key role in all of the major national security decisions — from ending the war in Iraq to winding down the war in Afghanistan; from our response to natural disasters in Haiti and Japan; to the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”
- FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY, NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIALS ENDORSE HAGEL. Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s controversial secretary of Defense nominee, received a boost on Thursday, ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports: Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates — who served under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama — has signed on to a letter with a bi-partisan group of 12 other former top national security officials expressing his “strong endorsement” of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. The list also includes several top national security officials for Republican presidents: Brent Scrowcroft (Bush 41), Mel Laird (Nixon), George Schultz (Reagan), Colin Powell (Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43), Robert McFarlane (Reagan). It’s a pretty formidable list. http://abcn.ws/WS4iWP
- HAPPENING TODAY: Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Jim Cole, and other Obama administration officials will hold a roundtable discussion on reducing gun violence at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., will also attend. According to the White House, the session will include experts who have worked on gun safety issues in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting.
- THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: After Hillary Clinton faced off with Congress on Benghazi, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., of the Foreign Relations Committee speak to ABC News Chief Global Affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, Sunday on “This Week.” And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with ABC News’ George Will; Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz.; Democratic strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile; NPR “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep; and New Republic owner and publisher Chris Hughes, who interviewed President Obama for an Oval Office exclusive on newsstands next week. Plus, “Zero Dark Thirty” screenwriter Mark Boal and “Blackhawk Down” author Mark Bowden discuss the controversy over the Oscar-nominated film. Tune in Sunday: http://abcnews.go.com/thisweek
ABC’s MICHAEL FALCONE: Although Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is already the subject of speculation as a potential GOP presidential contender four years from now, if you ask him, it’s way too soon for speculating. “Any Republican that’s thinking about running for president in 2016 needs to get his head examined,” Jindal told reporters after delivering a dinner speech at the Republican National Committee winter meeting last night. He added, “We’ve got a lot of work between now and the next midterm elections. … We’ve got to get the Republican Party back on track.” In his remarks to the gathering, he also offered some tough medicine for the GOP, including this piece of advice: “We must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican party that talks like adults. It’s time for us to articulate our plans and visions for America in real terms. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. We’ve had enough of that.” Whether or not Jindal ultimately emerges as a top presidential contender, look for him to be a major presence, not just in Louisiana, but around the country as well as a key figure in helping the party chart its course forward.
ABC’s Z. BYRON WOLF: There’s a bit of irony — if that’s the right word — in the fact that it took fewer than 12 hours for senators to hatch, agree, and vote on a deal to tweak filibuster rules. The filibuster technically allows the minority to engage in unlimited debate. But changing the filibuster got barely any debate at all. Then again, the filibuster didn’t really change. The deal passed overwhelmingly last night creates new rules to grease the arcane and usually slow-moving cogs of the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.” But 40 votes can still block anything. Would-be reformers say these rule changes are weak sauce. But it may represent a recognition in the Senate that things aren’t really working the way they’re supposed to.
ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Can we get a round of applause for being quiet? Mitt Romney is in Washington today, of course a few days later than he wanted to have been in town, and on a far more temporary basis. What’s remarkable, though, is how silent he’s been in the 10-plus weeks since he didn’t win the presidency. Save for a phone call with supporters that he didn’t expect to come out — the one about the “gifts” that supposedly helped President Obama win a second term – we haven’t heard Romney’s voice at all since the election. He was not invited to the inauguration, and without a federal office he’s holding, there would have been no reason for him to attend. There will be a time when Romney has something meaningful to contribute to the public dialog on, or something to reflect on or unburden himself with. In the meantime, until he feels like he has something to add, silence is worth savoring.
with ABC’s Chris Good (@c_good)
JOE BIDEN’S ‘FIRESIDE HANGOUT’: GUNS, EARTHQUAKES. ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports: Sitting in front of a fireplace, Vice President Joe Biden participated in his first ever Google+ “Fireside Hangout” Thursday in his most recent attempt to push the administration’s gun policy agenda, one that he said is focused on “gun safety” not “gun control.” “I don’t view it as gun control. I view it as gun safety,” Biden said in a Google+ “Fireside Hangout” on gun violence. … “My view is that it is totally a guarantee, not negotiable, that I’m able to own a weapon for sporting purposes as well as for my own protection, but there should be rational limits on the type of weapon” needed for protection or sports, he said. … the vice president doled out a bit of advice for how to protect oneself after a deadly earthquake, telling one questioner a shotgun is more effective than an assault weapon. “If you want to keep people away during an earthquake, buy some shotgun shells,” Biden said. http://abcn.ws/WpFAfn
PANETTA MAKES IT OFFICIAL: WOMEN WILL BE ABLE TO SERVE IN COMBAT. From ABC’s Chris Good, Luis Martinez, and Mary Bruce: Women will soon be able to serve in combat, as things officially changed with the stroke of a pen today at the Pentagon. At a joint news conference, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Charman Gen. Martin Dempsey signed a memorandum rolling back a 1994 directive prohibiting women from doing so. “They serve, they’re wounded, and they die right next to each other,” Panetta said of women and men in the military. “The time has come to recognize that reality. “If they’re willing to put their lives on the line, then we need to recognize that they deserve a chance,” Panetta said … The change won’t be immediate, however. While Panetta announced that thousands of new positions will now be open to women, he has asked the military branches to submit plans by May on how to integrate women into combat operations. He set a January 2016 deadline for branches to implement the changes, giving military services time to seek waivers for certain jobs. http://abcn.ws/WRuVuZ
OBAMA APPLAUDS THE MOVE. Obama hailed the move in a written statement. “Today, by moving to open more military positions — including ground combat units — to women, our armed forces have taken another historic step toward harnessing the talents and skills of all our citizens,” he said. “This milestone reflects the courageous and patriotic service of women through more than two centuries of American history and the indispensable role of women in today’s military,” Obama said. “As commander in chief, I am absolutely confident that–as with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’–the professionalism of our armed forces will ensure a smooth transition and keep our military the very best in the world,” the president said. “Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger with our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters playing a greater role in protecting this country we love.” http://abcn.ws/WRuVuZ (h/t ABC’s Mary Bruce)
REPUBLICAN PARTY SET TO RE-ELECT CHAIR: Members of the Republican National Committee who have gathered for their winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C. today are poised to re-elect current Chairman Reince Priebus for another two-year term this afternoon. Priebus, the 40-year-old Wisconsin native who was elected to head the party in 2011, did not preside over a period that saw a winning Republican presidential candidate, but he did lead his party out of a deep hole of debt — more than $20 million left by former RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Chairman Priebus plans to deliver a speech to the meeting today and one of his big themes will be about how Republicans need to stay on a campaign footing at all times.”Simple outreach’ a few months before an election will not suffice,” Priebus plans to tell the gathering, according to excerpts of his remarks. “In fact, let’s stop talking about ‘reaching out’ – and start working on welcoming in. Political support is cultivated over time — not collected on Election Day.” Chairman Priebus will also issue this call: “To those who have left the party, we want to earn your trust again. To those who have yet to join us, we welcome you—with open doors and open arms.”
POST-ELECTION DATA WAR: TECHIES VS. POLS. The Verge’s Ben Popper reported this week that Democratic operatives and Obama’s tech team are fighting over what to do with the code that helped elect Obama: “[I]n the aftermath of the election, a stark divide has emerged between political operatives and the techies who worked side-by-side. At issue is the code created during the Obama for America (OFA) 2012 campaign: the digital architecture behind the campaign’s website, its system for collecting donations, its email operation, and its mobile app. When the campaign ended, these programmers wanted to put their work back into the coding community for other developers to study and improve upon. Politicians in the Democratic party felt otherwise, arguing that sharing the tech would give away a key advantage to the Republicans. Three months after the election, the data and software is still tightly controlled by the president and his campaign staff, with the fate of the code still largely undecided. It’s a choice the OFA developers warn could not only squander the digital advantage the Democrats now hold, but also severely impact their ability to recruit top tech talent in the future.” http://bit.ly/UPNLDg
WHITE HOUSE, CONGRESSIONAL HISPANIC CAUCUS TO MEET ON IMMIGRATION. The Huffington Post’s Elise Foley reports: “The White House will meet on Friday with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss immigration reform. The meeting, one of many between President Barack Obama’s administration and Hispanic members of Congress, adds steam to Obama’s inaugural pledge to push for immigration reform. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have provided guidance for the president in the past. The president’s schedule for Friday says he will be at the White House in meetings, but does not specify whether he will speak with Hispanic Caucus members. The meeting was confirmed to The Huffington Post by Democratic sources not authorized to speak on the record about the meeting.” http://huff.to/10W3mHx
WHY IS HILLARY CLINTON WEARING GLASSES? If you noticed the glasses Hillary Clinton wore during her appearances on the Hill to talk about Benghazi, ABC’s Dana Hughes reports: “She’ll be wearing these glasses instead of her contacts for a period of time because of lingering issues stemming from her concussion. With them on she sees just fine. In fact, she got a kick out of the above when she saw them crystal clear,” Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines has confirmed.
PHOTOS: JOHN KERRY TESTIFYING, 1971 AND TODAY. Thanks, BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski: http://bit.ly/14dQx9B
TOM TANCREDO SAYS HE’LL SMOKE POT. Former congressman Tom Tancredo says he’ll honor a bet to smoke marijuana. In a video to promote Colorado’s Amendment 64, which legalized the personal use of marijuana in the state, Tancredo reportedly pledged to smoke pot if the measure passed. Tancredo, a self-professed non-marijuana-smoker, supported the measure. “Look, I made a bet with the producer of the film that if Amendment 64 passed (I did not think it would) that I would smoke pot,” Fox News quotes Tancredo as saying. “I will therefore smoke pot under circumstances we both agree are legal under Colorado law. Hey, it’s better than having to do a stupid dance as [Denver] Mayor [Michael] Hancock must perform as a result of losing a bet on the Broncos beating the Ravens.” http://abcn.ws/14aH2su
MEMO TO FLIES: DON’T BUG OBAMA! Something was bugging President Obama yesterday as he nominated Mary Jo White to head the Securities and Exchange Commission and re-nominated Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ABC’s Mary Bruce notes. “This guy is bothering me here,” the president said, as he repeatedly swatted at a large black fly buzzing near his face. Given Obama’s reputation, it was a bold move for the insect to spar with the “swatter in chief.”During a June 2009 CNBC interview, Obama famously killed a fly with a single smack. “Get out of here,” the president ordered of the fly before the interview began. When the directive was ignored, Obama waited for the fly to land on his hand and then, “slap,” swiftly ended its life with a single blow. “That was pretty impressive, wasn’t it?” Obama proudly declared. “I got the sucker.” (PETA later condemned the move). The fly in the State Dining Room today was lucky enough to avoid a similar fate. http://abcn.ws/11UGiYQ
@Goldfarb: EXCLUSIVE: Geithner’s private farewell to Obama, Treasuryhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/01/25/exclusive-geithners-private-farewell-to-obama-and-treasury-staff/ …
@jonward11: Energy Drinks Hire Lobbyists To Fend Off Regulation by@christinawilkie http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/2013/01/24/energy-drinks-lobbyists-regulation_n_2546622.html?1359082273 …