The Note: The Final Presser for POTUS

January 18, 2017, 9:31 AM


--OBAMA LEAVES ON A HIGH NOTE - YET WITH TEPID CAREER RATINGS: Boosted by an improving economy, Barack Obama leaves office with his highest levels of job approval and personal popularity since the early days of his presidency. Yet his career-average ratings are in the lower tier. Sixty percent of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll approve of Obama’s job performance, the most since June 2009, five months after he took office. Sixty-one percent approve of his handling of the economy, a career high. And as many express a favorable opinion of him personally, the most since November 2009. Yet Obama’s ratings in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, reflect a turnaround for him, not his norm. His average job approval rating across his presidency, 50 percent, is in the lower tier, alongside George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Harry Truman and Carter. ABC’s GARY LANGER has more:

--HAPPENING TODAY -- OBAMA HOLDS HIS LAST PRESIDENTIAL PRESS CONFERENCE: The press conference comes as Obama prepares to hand the reins of power to President-elect Donald Trump on Friday and a day after Obama granted a commutation to Chelsea Manning, a transgender soldier who was convicted of Espionage Act violations and other charges for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. ABC’s JORDYN PHELPS has more.

--ANALYSIS - ABC’s RICK KLEIN: He’ll be gone, but not really. And he won’t be forgotten any time soon. President Obama appears at his final news conference in office on Wednesday riding a 60 percent approval rating – numbers he didn’t see since the months where they were still picking up litter from the National Mall after his first inauguration set a record. When he’s back from his post-election family vacation in Palm Springs, Obama will be staying close – and maybe vocal. Ditto Vice President Joe Biden, who referenced 2020 in an interview with Jonathan Alter, semi-joking, “I’ll run … if I can walk.” It all sets up an administration in exile, with an array of powerful voices – will Michelle Obama Tweet from time to time? – primed to make influential noise. Forty-four and 45 have said relatively nice things about each other so far; what starts to get said Jan. 21?

--ON GMA - KELLYANNE CONWAY: TRUMP HOPES HOUSE DEMS WILL 'RECONSIDER' INAUGURATION SNUB: Donald Trump hopes that the dozens of congressional Democrats who are planning to boycott Friday’s inauguration will change their minds, his senior adviser Kellyanne Conway said today, ABC’s MORGAN WINSOR reports. "He recognizes that to move forward we need to come together," Conway said of the president-elect. "We hope that the Democrats who said they're not coming to the inauguration can reconsider," she added. "They certainly are invited, because that’s the way that you show America that we’re coming together to solve some really significant problems."

--OBAMA COMMUTES BULK OF CHELSEA MANNING'S 35-YEAR SENTENCE: President Obama granted a commutation to Chelsea Manning, a transgender soldier who was convicted of Espionage Act violations and other charges for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 and she will now be released in May, according to her lawyer. The documents that were leaked, about the U.S. military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, sparked a firestorm, ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY and LUIS MARTINEZ write. Manning was one of 209 individuals granted commutations and 64 individuals who were given pardons by Obama Tuesday.


SENATE DEMS TO GRILL TRUMP’S EPA PICK OVER ENERGY DONATIONS. Trump’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to face tough questions during the first hours of his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday about allegations he has, essentially, been bought and paid for by the nation’s oil, gas and coal companies. They are allegations Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has denied. Records reviewed by ABC News show Pruitt has repeatedly accepted donations from companies within days of taking official actions that support those companies. ABC’s BRIAN ROSS, MATTHEW MOSK and CHO PARK have more:

NIKKI HALEY SET FOR CONFIRMATION HEARING AS UN AMBASSADOR. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will face the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday for her confirmation hearing to be considered as President-elect Donald Trump's choice for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. There, she's set to outline a sharp pivot in the United States' approach to working with international governing body. “Like most government agencies, the United Nations could benefit from a fresh set of eyes," Haley will tell the committee, according to her prepared remarks provided to ABC News by the presidential transition team. "I will take an outsider’s look at the institution.” ABC’s JUSTIN FISHEL has more:

'KING OF BANKRUPTCY' WILBUR ROSS SET FOR CONFIRMATION HEARING. Wilbur Ross, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Commerce Secretary, is set to testify at his confirmation hearing today before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON reports. On Nov. 30, Trump announced his intent to nominate Ross, a billionaire Wall Street investor who amassed a fortune restructuring failed companies primarily in the manufacturing and steel industries, earning him the moniker, the “King of Bankruptcy.”

TRUMP ON INTEL BRIEFINGS: 'I'LL SOLVE THE PROBLEMS.' President-elect Donald Trump admitted that receiving intel briefings has shown him that the U.S. faces some formidable "enemies" but said he will "solve the problems." "I've had a lot of briefings that are very...I don't want to say 'scary' because I'll solve the problems," Trump told Axios in an interview published Wednesday. He continued: "You also realize that you've got to get it right because a mistake would be very, very costly in so many different ways." Of his intel briefings, Trump said he likes them short, ABC’s TARA FOWLER notes.

DONALD TRUMP: 'I DON'T LIKE TWEETING.' Despite appearances to the contrary, President-elect Donald Trump says he isn't a fan of tweeting, ABC’s TARA FOWLER writes. In an interview with Fox News, Trump said he uses Twitter to defend himself against the "dishonest media." "Look, I don't like tweeting," Trump told "Fox & Friends" co-host Ainsley Earhardt. "I have other things I could be doing. But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. It's my only way that I can counteract."

TRUMP’S EDUCATION SECRETARY PICK GRILLED ON PUBLIC EDUCATION. President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, was grilled by Democratic senators in a Tuesday evening hearing on her views on public education and her background as a wealthy Republican donor, reports ABC’s JORDYN PHELPS. Ranking Democrat Sen. Patty Murray asked DeVos if she would commit to not allowing funding that's designated for public schools to flow to private options -- one of the leading concerns of DeVos' critics -- and DeVos did not offer a direct assurance.

18 MILLION COULD LOSE INSURANCE UNDER ACA REPEAL, CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE SAYS. Repealing "Obamacare" without a replacement could leave 18 million Americans without health insurance within a year and 32 million by 2026, according to a new estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The estimate, prepared at the request of Senate Democrats, is based on the partial repeal bill Republicans sent to President Obama's desk in 2015. Obama vetoed the measure, and Congress was not able to override it, notes ABC’s BENJAMIN SIEGEL.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY SUGGESTS PUTIN TAKING CUES FROM TRUMP TEAM. Josh Earnest suggested that Vladimir Putin, who said the Obama Administration is seeking to "delegitimize" the president-elect, may be taking its cues from the Trump team. Putin suggested the outgoing Obama administration was trying to undermine Trump by spreading “fake” rumors despite Trump’s “convincing” victory. "First of all it seems like he got his copy of the talking points," Earnest told ABC’s JONATHAN KARL. "From who?" Karl asked. "Well I don't know," Earnest said. "It certainly sounds a lot like what the incoming administration's team is saying." ABC’s ALEXANDER MALLIN has more:

10 OF MICHELLE OBAMA'S MEMORABLE MOMENTS AS FIRST LADY. On Friday, America will say goodbye to Michelle Obama as first lady. Since her husband’s first term in office, Michelle Obama has led numerous major initiatives and broke barriers by becoming the nation's first African-American first lady, writes ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI.

OPINION: SHORT-SIGHTED MUDSLINGING LEAVES OUR DEMOCRACY ON LIFE SUPPORT. On the eve of Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, I am hopeful and pray leaders of all stripes, but especially Mr. Trump, conduct themselves in a manner that helps repair the serious divides, damage and brokenness in our body politic, ABC’s MATTHEW DOWD writes. I also hope they look at the long-term interests of our democracy, and not the short-term advantages of political wins.


ANTI-MNUCHIN AD FROM PCCC, ALLIED PROGRESS AND DEMAND PROGRESS: The new TV ad that launched today features Lisa Fraser, a widow whose house was foreclosed on by OneWest, a bank formerly chaired by Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Allied Progress Action, and Demand Progress Action. The ad will run in Nevada, Arizona, Iowa and Washington DC, targeting the five Republican senators in those states. LINK:


@CarrieNBCNews: Almost 7 in 10 Americans agree on this: Donald Trump's Twitter usage is ill-advised.

@chrisdonovan: Trump on Fox today: "I don't like tweeting" Trump at Atlanta rally 2/21/2016: "I love this tweeting"

@ktumulty: How Donald Trump came up with ‘Make America Great Again’ (He also tells me what slogan he plans to use in 2020.)

@ChrisSnyderFox: Trump on over 50+ Dems not attending inauguration, "that's okay because we need seats so badly - I hope they give me their tickets" @FoxNews

@JujuChangABC: How Donald Trump Uses Twitter as Bully Pulpit @antoniodelotero @walshfreedom @nightline @candacesmith_ @shushwalshe

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