The Note's Must-Reads for Monday, January 20, 2014

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Will Cantine and Janine Elliot

PRESIDENT OBAMA ABC News' Gillian Mohney: "Obama Says Pot No More Dangerous Than Alcohol" In a new interview President Obama has made statements that could put him in the middle of the controversy over legalizing marijuana. As more states have legalized the drug, President Obama in a lengthy interview in the New Yorker magazine said he believed marijuana was not more dangerous than alcohol. "As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol," Obama told the New Yorker. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Mark Barabak: " Despite an improving economy, Obama's approval rating stays low" The stock market has hit sky-scraping highs, the unemployment rate has dipped to a five-year low and any number of economic statistics - new car sales, home prices, consumer spending - point to a perked-up economy that is steadily growing. But one thing that has changed little is President Obama's job approval rating, which tumbled over the last year to the anemic 40% range and remains stuck near the low point of his administration. LINK

USA Today's William M. Melch: " Obama: Pot No More Dangerous Than Alcohol" President Obama says marijuana use is no more dangerous than alcohol, though he regards it as a bad habit he hopes his children will avoid. "As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life," he said in a magazine interview. "I don't think it is more dangerous than alcohol." LINK

IRAN NY Times' Somini Sengupta and Michael R. Gordon: " U.N. Invites Iran to Syria Talks, Raising Objections From the U.S." The announcement by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, that he had invited Iran to a peace conference to end the war in Syria drew strong objections on Sunday from American officials, who suggested that Iran had not met all the conditions for attending and that the invitation might need to be withdrawn. At the heart of the dispute is whether Iran has accepted the terms of the talks, which begin Wednesday in Montreux, Switzerland: to establish "by mutual consent" a transitional body to govern Syria. Mr. Ban said he had been privately assured that Iranian officials "welcome" those rules and that they had pledged to play "a positive and constructive role." LINK

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE The New York Daily News' Erin Durkin: " New Jersey mayor's diary: Chris Christie held Hurricane Sandy aid 'hostage'" The mayor of Hoboken, N.J., doubled down Sunday on her allegations against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, saying she got a "direct message from the governor" that he would hold up millions in Sandy aid unless she approved a development project. Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that when Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno warned her in May that Hurricane Sandy relief for her city was tied to the approval of the Rockefeller Group's proposal, she made it clear the message came straight from Christie. LINK

The Washington Times' Valerie Richardson: " Christie target of 'partisan witch hunt,' Giuliani says" Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani accused Democrats Sunday of conducting a "partisan witch hunt" against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Mr. Giuliani, one of the New Jersey governor's biggest defenders in the wake of the "Bridgegate" scandal, said New Jersey state Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the Democrat looking into allegations that Christie staffers used lane closures to punish a political enemy, should step down. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Heather Haddon: " Hoboken Mayor Questioned By Prosecutors" The mayor of Hoboken, N.J. said she was questioned by prosecutors at the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey looking into a scandal concerning the George Washington Bridge, a possible sign that various probes into the controversy are expanding to include other matters. Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that she was questioned for "several hours" Sunday by prosecutors working in the U.S. Attorney's Newark office. LINK

NY Times' Michael Barbaro and Bill Carter: " For Christie and MSNBC, a Messy Divorce Plays Out in Public View" It was a match made in moderately minded Northeast Corridor heaven. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey needed a TV network that would burnish his bipartisan bona fides and showcase his gleefully contrarian style. MSNBC craved a Republican who cut against the party grain and lit up the screen with his everyman-ish, Springsteen-loving spontaneity. An on-air romance blossomed, forged over chummy strolls along the Jersey Shore and heart-to-hearts in the studio about everything from overeating to education, embodying the aisle-crossing aspirations of this partisan era. LINK

Washington Post's David Fahrenthold: " Chris Christie's 1994 ad was too tough (and inaccurate) for Jersey" In Chris Christie's first successful campaign for public office, he sat down next to his wife and baby, looked into a camera and told voters something that wasn't true. It was 1994, and Christie was a 31-year-old lawyer running for the county board in suburban Morris County, N.J. He was making a television ad, saying to the camera that his opponents were "being investigated by the Morris County prosecutor." Actually, they weren't. But Christie's inaccurate ad ran more than 400 times on cable TV before the June GOP primary. He won. LINK

Politico's Elizabeth Titus, Maggie Haberman and Kenneth P. Vogel " Chris Christie: 'I don't know' when scandal ends" New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was warmly received at a private event in Florida Sunday on his first major political outing since a traffic scandal hit his administration, attendees told POLITICO - but he said he didn't know when the so-called "Bridgegate" controversy would end. The Republican and prospective 2016 presidential candidate faced only one question about the scandal - and when it might subside - during the private event, said host and Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone. LINK

FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH ADMINISTRATION The Hill's Cameron Joseph: " Bush vets eye office as former president's image rebounds" Top former Bush advisor Ed Gillespie included photos with his old boss and talked of his work in the White House in the video announcing his Virginia Senate bid on Thursday. Gillespie isn't the only Bush alumni looking to be on the ballot this fall. The former Republican National Committee chairman joins a long list already looking to launch their own electoral careers: Alaska Senate candidate Dan Sullivan (R); Elise Stefanik, the current GOP front-runner for retiring Rep. Bill Owens's (D-N.Y.) seat in upstate New York; North Carolina congressional candidate Taylor Griffin (R) and West Virginia House candidate Charlotte Lane (R). LINK

HILLARY CLINTON Washington Post's Philip Rucker: " As Clinton finishes new memoir, the battle to define her State Department legacy heats up" Hillary Rodham Clinton is rushing to finish a memoir of her time as secretary of state, something friends see as an urgent mission to frame a key part of her legacy as she readies for a possible presidential campaign. But her Republican critics are racing to define Clinton's record first - preparing a massive opposition-research effort designed to challenge her recounting of events and undermine the book's credibility. LINK

OLYMPICS Bloomberg's Jason Corcoran: " Putin Says Sochi Has 40,000 police officers for Olympic Games" Russian President Vladimir Putin said 40,000 police and special services officers have been deployed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to ensure security ahead of the Winter Olympics' opening ceremony on Feb. 7. "We will protect our air and sea space, as well as the mountain cluster," Putin said in an interview with foreign and domestic media recorded in Sochi Jan. 17 and televised yesterday. "I hope that it will be arranged so that it will not be evident and, as I have already said, will not depress the participants in the Olympic Games." LINK

BOOKMARKS The Note: LINK ABC News Politics: LINK George Stephanopoulos' Blog: LINK ABC News on Twitter: @ThisWeekABC | @ABCPolitics ABC News Mobile: LINK ABC News Apps: LINK ABC News YouTube: LINK

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