-- INAUGURATION COUNTDOWN: 17 days
--HOUSE REPUBLICANS EFFECTIVELY GUT ETHICS WATCHDOG: Late last night, House Republicans voted to put the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under control of the chamber's Ethics Committee -- a move that Democrats slammed just hours before the new Congress is sworn in. The language limits the reviews that can be conducted as well as the time frame in which alleged violations can be considered, reports ABC's TOM LIDDY. It also prohibits the board of the new office from employing a press spokesperson. And it stipulates that if criminal violations are uncovered that they'll be sent to the Ethics Committee first. The new U.S. House will vote on the new rules this afternoon. http://abcn.ws/2j2uZ0b
--HOW BOTH SIDES ARE RESPONDING: "Republicans claim they want to ‘drain the swamp,’ but the night before the new Congress gets sworn in, the House GOP has eliminated the only independent ethics oversight of their actions," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress." Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., who offered the amendment, said in a tweet that it "strengthens" the OCE, "improves upon due process rights" and "does nothing to impede OCE's work." And on "Good Morning America" this morning, senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said she hadn't spoken with Trump directly about the issue, but "there's been an over-zealousness in some of the processes over the years" but insisted that “gutting it doesn’t mean there won’t be a mechanism” to investigate ethics allegations. U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on MSNBC this morning that he didn't think it was the "right time" for a controversial change to the chamber's independent ethics watchdog, but said he still plans to vote in favor of the rules package this afternoon. "I didn't think it was the right time to do it. I personally believe most of these reforms are bipartisan-supported reforms," he told the hosts of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" this morning.
--ANALYSIS -- ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Swamp status? Murky, icky, and growing deeper. The first official actions of the Republican Congress in the Trump era came late at night and behind closed doors on a federal holiday. Even before getting to work on taking apart Obamacare, Republican lawmakers in the House moved to dismantle the ethics-reform regime put in by Democrats a decade ago – enacted after they took control from the scandal-plagued Abramoff-era GOP. What happened late Monday not something leadership is going to want to talk about: The independent Office of Congressional Ethics will now be put under the control of a congressional committee, and will be prohibited from taking anonymous tips and publishing its findings. (The office will be explicitly barred from employing “any person for a position involving communications with the public.”) There are, no doubt, high-minded arguments to be had about members’ due process in the ethics process. But would any member of Congress like to argue in public that ethics enforcement has been too aggressive in recent years? Would Donald Trump like to make that argument? This becomes an early test for Trump: He’s found time to Tweet about the cover photo used in a campaign book, not to mention false reports that he actually won the popular vote. Will he take an early stand on his promise to “drain the swamp,” even if that means clashing with rank-and-file Republicans on Capitol Hill?
--FROM TRUMP'S TWITTER THIS MORNING: 7:51 AM: The Democrat Governor.of Minnesota said "The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is no longer affordable!" - And, it is lousy healthcare. 7:46 AM: "People must remember that ObamaCare just doesn't work, and it is not affordable - 116% increases (Arizona). Bill Clinton called it "CRAZY"" 7:30 AM: "General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A.or pay big border tax!"
--DAY ONE FOR THE 115TH CONGRESS: Today, 52 freshmen in the U.S. House and seven new members of the U.S. Senate will take the oath of office for the first time as the 115th session of Congress is seated, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON reports. The 114th Congress will meet briefly at 11 a.m. to wrap up that session of Congress and adjourn sine die. The new Congress will get underway at noon. After a roll call establishes a quorum of members present in the House chamber, lawmakers will pray and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Then Paul Ryan is expected to be reelected by a majority of Members to his first full term as Speaker of the House. The 115th Congress will then vote on its new rules package, including controversial changes to their ethics rules.
--ON THE CALENDAR FOR TOMORROW: Senior sources confirm to ABC News that Vice President-elect Pence will be on Capitol Hill Wednesday to meet with House Republicans. Pence's meetings will focus on the incoming White House agenda, including repealing and replacing Obamacare.
SPEED READ with ABC’s ADAM KELSEY
TRUMP TO NOMINATE ROBERT LIGHTHIZER AS U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE. President-elect Donald Trump officially says he intends to nominate Robert Lighthizer as United States Trade Representative, reports ABC's KATHERINE FAULDERS. The Cabinet-level post will likely play a crucial role in the upcoming Trump administration, as the President-elect campaigned on renegotiating trade deals with China and Mexico and opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. "Ambassador Lighthizer served under President Ronald Reagan as Deputy United States Trade Representative, playing a major role in developing trade policy for the Reagan Administration and negotiating roughly two dozen bilateral international agreements on a variety of topics from steel to grain. These agreements were uniformly tough and frequently resulted in significant reductions in the shipment of unfairly traded imports into the United States," said a transition team statement. http://abcn.ws/2j03P6e
KELLYANNE CONWAY SAYS TRUMP 'NOT MAKING POLICY AT THE MOMENT' ON NORTH KOREA TWEET. Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said this morning that while the president-elect is putting North Korea "on notice," he’s also "not making policy at the moment" regarding his tweet that North Korea will not be able to develop a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States. Trump's tweet referred to the annual New Year's address given by North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, in which he said that his country is in the "final stages" of preparing an intercontinental ballistic missile, reports ABC's MICHAEL HAYDEN. North Korea has previously conducted several medium and long-range missile tests, and has been rebuked in the past by U.S. leaders for its nuclear ambitions. Conway categorized Trump's remarks as a warning to North Korea against pursuing such ambitions, which she said "could be deployed to reach Seattle almost immediately," according to unnamed experts. "The president of the United States will stand between them and missile capabilities," Conway said of North Korea. http://abcn.ws/2j3ZIdo
TRUMP ON WHETHER HE THOUGHT HE WOULD LOSE OR WIN ELECTION. Donald Trump is pushing back against "media outlets" and "pundits" that he said he was going to lose the election, but one person may disagree with that assertion -- Donald Trump. "Various media outlets and pundits say that I thought I was going to lose the election. Wrong, it all came together in the last week and.....I thought and felt I would win big, easily over the fabled 270 (306). When they cancelled fireworks, they knew, and so did I," Trump tweeted last night, reports ABC's TOM LIDDY. But in Wisconsin last month, during a leg of his "Thank You" tour, he appeared to give the opposite impression, recounting a lengthy discussion he had with his wife on election night. "But anyway - so I got the bad news from my daughter," he told the crowd in West Allis. "And I said, that's too bad. So I go and see my wife. I said baby, I tell you what. We're not going to win tonight because the polls have come out...It's just looking bad, but you know what, I'm okay with it because of the fact that I couldn't have worked any harder." http://abcn.ws/2j2EE7d
DONALD TRUMP IS NO 'EMAIL PERSON' BUT 'KNOWS THINGS ABOUT HACKING.' Although Donald Trump said this weekend that he knows “things that other people don’t know” about email hacking, he has also repeatedly admitted that he is “not an email person” and “almost never” sends it. Asked Saturday about the Russian hacking allegations, President-elect Trump continued to cast doubt on the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies. “If you look at the weapons of mass destruction, that was a disaster, and they were wrong. And so I want them to be sure,” Trump told reporters, apparently referring to U.S. intelligence. ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY has more: http://abcn.ws/2iwfQkS
@rickklein: Conway says there's been an "overzealousness" of congressional investigations under old regime. So, no Trump Tweet on topic? @GMA
@kfaulders: Welp. Trump's name did appear in the credits of the season premier of Celebrity Apprentice tonight...
@RepGoodlatte: Rules amdt approved by House GOP strengthens Office of Cong Ethics & improves upon due process rights. Does nothing to impede OCE’s work.
@matthewjdowd: Yes, washington dc fundamentally needs to change. Starting with better ethics, solid integrity, rebuilding trust, and more humility.