The Note: Investigating the Investigators



--WATCHDOG LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION INTO PRE-ELECTION ACTIONS OF FBI, DOJ: The Department of Justice inspector general's office announced Thursday that it will launch a review of the actions taken by the FBI and DOJ ahead of November's election in connection to the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The inspector general will look at whether FBI Director James Comey's press conference and notifications to Congress prior to the election were appropriate under DOJ guidelines, reports ABC’s GENEVA SANDS and MIKE LEVINE. Specifically, the watchdog will look into allegations that DOJ or FBI "policies or procedures were not followed" and whether certain underlying investigative decisions "were based on improper considerations."

--TRUMP'S CIA PICK: 'PRETTY CLEAR' RUSSIA WAS BEHIND ELECTION HACKS: President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the CIA made clear Thursday that he was convinced Russia had launched a massive cyber campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election. "It's pretty clear about what took place, about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information and have an impact on American democracy," Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, told the Senate Intelligence Committee as it considers his nomination. "It is something that America needs to take seriously." ABC’s MIKE LEVINE has more:

--POWERHOUSE POLITICS - FRANKEN: 'YOU CAN'T RELY ON ANYTHING' TRUMP SAYS ON RUSSIA: Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota says he doesn't trust what President-elect Donald Trump says about the role that Russia played during the 2016 presidential campaign. "The Russians had said that, right after the election, that they had been meeting regularly with people from the campaign," Franken told ABC’s JONATHAN KARL and RICK KLEIN on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. "Now, you can't trust anything the Russians say. But on the other hand, it's really hard to trust anything that Donald Trump says ... you can't rely on anything he says." ABC’s RYAN STRUYK has more. LISTEN to the podcast here:

--THIS WEEK ON ‘THIS WEEK’: With just days until Donald Trump's inauguration, the Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, with Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, author of the new book "A Black Man In the White House," Republican strategist and CNBC contributor Sara Fagen, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, ABC News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and editor and publisher of The Nation Katrina vanden Heuvel.


BIDEN SAYS INTEL OFFICIALS FELT OBLIGATED TO BRIEF PRESIDENT OBAMA ON CLAIMS ABOUT TRUMP. Vice President Joe Biden said intelligence officials felt an "obligation" to inform President Obama and him about the "unsubstantiated" claims about Donald Trump so they would be aware in case the information became public. Biden, who said he read "everything" included in the dossier, told reporters that the FBI felt the need to look into the claims but that the president did not ask them to do so, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ writes.

BEN CARSON AND SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN SPAR ON TRUMP QUESTION AT CONFIRMATION HEARING. Dr. Ben Carson declined to say directly Thursday whether he can assure Americans that the Trump family would not benefit in any way from HUD incentives if he is confirmed as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “It will not be my intention to do anything to benefit any American particularly,” Carson said in response to pointed questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a member of the Senate committee holding his confirmation hearing. “It’s for all Americans, everything that we do.” ABC’s KATHERINE FAULDERS has more:

TRUMP PLAN TO DONATE HOTEL PROFITS DOESN'T ERASE ETHICS CONCERNS: EXPERTS. Some ethics experts take issue with Donald Trump's claim that he will donate any profits his company reaps from foreign government officials staying in his hotels during his presidential term to the U.S. Treasury, ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY notes. During his news conference Wednesday, Trump said he will be taking steps to separate himself from his namesake brand but not shutting down any business operations, meaning that people — including representatives from foreign governments or Americans trying to curry favor with the president — could still stay at his hotels.

MATTIS: 'NO PLAN' TO ROLL BACK WOMEN'S ADVANCEMENTS IN MILITARY. At his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday morning, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said that if confirmed as the next secretary of defense he would not roll back recent advancements in women's roles within the United States Armed Forces, specifically their permission to serve in infantry roles on the frontlines of combat. Mattis was questioned aggressively by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, who has been a major advocate for women's issues in the military, writes ABC’s JUSTIN FISHEL.

CIA PICK MIKE POMPEO VOWS NO RETURN OF US TORTURE PROGRAM. The man picked by Donald Trump to be the next CIA director vowed Thursday that torture would “absolutely not” be renewed under his leadership, even as he warned that terrorism — especially within the U.S. homeland — remains the “most immediate threat” to “life and limb of Americans.” “I think [terrorism] presents the most immediate threat to personal risk to a person living in south-central Kansas,” Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas, said during his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday. ABC’s MIKE LEVINE has more:

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ENDING 'WET FOOT, DRY FOOT' POLICY FOR CUBANS. The Obama administration has ended the Clinton-era policy known as "wet foot, dry foot," which allows Cubans special immigration status just days before he leaves office. The change in the policy would effectively mean Cubans are treated like other immigrants in that those who enter the United States illegally would be subject to return, according to the White House. Other countries in the region have been asking the U.S. to end the special status because of what they say is the burden that Cuban immigrants trying to make it into America has placed on them. ABC’s SERENA MARSHALL has more:

HOW DONALD TRUMP MAY VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION THE SECOND HE'S SWORN IN. President-elect Donald Trump may be handing over the reins of his global real estate empire to his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump and to a longtime business executive. But some experts have warned that he still risks violating the U.S. Constitution, ABC’s JORDYN PHELPS writes.

HOW A SINGLE SENATE REPUBLICAN COULD TANK TILLERSON'S NOMINATION. Sen. Marco Rubio had been skeptical of President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, since just after his nomination was announced. Rubio's concerns, mainly over his connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin, were put on public view as he questioned the ExxonMobil chief over whether Tillerson believes Putin is a war criminal. "I would not use that term," replied Tillerson. Tillerson’s response was not satisfactory to Rubio, who later told reporters that he was troubled by some of his answers. "I think it's important, that if you stand for moral clarity, that you be clear," said Rubio. ABC’s ALI ROGIN and MERIDITH MCGRAW have more:

TRUMP TEAM DISCUSSING IVANKA TRUMP PROPOSAL ON CAPITOL HILL. President-elect Donald Trump's transition team is discussing how to proceed with childcare tax legislation touted by Ivanka Trump on the campaign trail with the House Ways and Means Committee, a House GOP aide confirmed Thursday. ABC’s BENJAMIN SIEGEL reports, policy staff for the tax-writing committee and members of the Trump transition team discussed a proposal in Trump's childcare plan that would allow parents to deduct some childcare expenses from their income taxes.


PRESIDENT OBAMA SURPRISES VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN WITH PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM. President Obama surprised Vice President Joe Biden with the nation’s highest civilian honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – at a tribute event at the White House Thursday afternoon. The event and the award were kept secret from the vice president until he walked into the State Dining Room and found an audience filled with his family and colleagues from throughout his career, notes ABC’s JORDYN PHELPS. The vice president was very emotional throughout the event, wiping away tears as soon as the president began telling those in attendance that Biden is “the finest vice president” in U.S. history.


@matthewjdowd: Gallup Presidential transition approval (net): Trump -7 Obama +71 Bush +36 Clinton +50 Trump dropped 13 pts in month among Independents

@maggieNYT: This AM, AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka to meet with Trump.

@DorisTruong: Hey, everyone, that wasn't me at Tillerson's hearing

@AP_Politics: Trump raises millions to cover inauguration's steep costs, reports @nbenac:

@TheFix: "I do know what a dab is." -- Paul Ryan. Well, we had a good run.