--NEW FROM TRUMP'S TWITTER THIS MORNING:
--MEXICO WILL PAY (US BACK FOR) THE WALL? President-elect Donald Trump tweeted today that he would ask Mexico to reimburse the United States for the cost of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Incoming Trump press secretary Sean Spicer told ABC’s GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS this morning that Mexico would still pay for the wall and nothing was changing, citing a Trump rally in October when he said Mexico would be "reimbursing" the United States. “The idea that we're going through the appropriations process and figuring out how to pay for it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody," he said. Later this morning on CNN, Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway pointed to Congress for the idea that Mexico would being paying the United States back for the wall, ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL, JORDYN PHELPS and RYAN STRUYK reports. "Congress, because that's where things are paid for, Congress, I guess, is investigating the possibility of paying for it to make it more speedy and then having Mexico pay for it after the fact. But that's what Congress is doing. Mr. Trump has always been very clear. And nothing has changed. He's building the wall. Mexico will pay for it." http://abcn.ws/2i0dIU1
--EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COUNTING THE ELECTORAL VOTES TODAY: Voters went to the polls almost two months ago, but the final step of the 2016 presidential election is still outstanding. A joint session of Congress is slated to certify the electoral votes Friday afternoon, officially ending the 2016 presidential race and electing Donald Trump the next president of the United States. Even Democrats agree there's no chance that Trump could be denied the White House. But that doesn't mean things won't get interesting -- some may take a long-shot tactic that would allow challenges to electoral ballots. ABC's RYAN STRUYK has your guide to the process. http://abcn.ws/2ij54NO
THIS WEEK ON 'THIS WEEK': As his presidential term comes to a close, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos sits down with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office for a final interview to reflect on his eight years in office. The wide-ranging interview will address the policies, decisions and promises the 44th president made and the mark they leave on the country’s history, as well Obama’s views on the transition with President-elect Donald Trump and the intelligence community’s latest assessment on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election.
SPEED READ WITH ABC'S ADAM KELSEY
FORMER CIA DIRECTOR JAMES WOOLSEY LEAVES TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM. Former CIA Director James Woolsey has left the Trump transition team, a spokesman confirmed in a statement Thursday evening. “Effective immediately, Ambassador Woolsey is no longer a Senior Advisor to President-Elect Trump or the Transition. He wishes the President-Elect and his Administration great success in their time in office," spokesman Jonathan Franks said in an email, reports ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL. Woolsey, who served as CIA director under President Bill Clinton, joined President-elect Donald Trump's campaign as a senior adviser in September. Aides to Trump did not immediately return a request for comment. http://abcn.ws/2iH8flE
DEMOCRATS CALL FOR ETHICS INVESTIGATION INTO TRUMP NOMINEE STOCK TRADING. Top Senate Democrats are calling on the House Office of Congressional Ethics and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Georgia Rep. Tom Price's trading activity on health-related stocks while serving in Congress and working on health care issues. According to a Wall Street Journal report in December, Price, the chairman of the House Budget Committee and President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, bought and sold stock in about 40 health care and biomedical companies in the last four years. He also sponsored a number of health-related bills during that time, reports ABC's BENJAMIN SIEGEL. http://abcn.ws/2hWomMS
SPOKESMAN DENIES DONALD TRUMP IS MULLING PLANS TO OVERHAUL TOP US INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES. Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer Thursday flatly denied that President-elect Donald Trump was considering reported plans to reform the nation's top intelligence agencies. The denial comes after a senior Trump transition official, speaking to ABC News earlier today, confirmed a Wednesday night Wall Street Journal report on the plans, saying such reforms were under consideration by Trump and his team. But Spicer called that report "100 percent false" in a telephone call with reporters about the presidential transition. ABC’s JONATHAN KARL and MORGAN WINSOR have more: http://abcn.ws/2hVAqt8
HOW DONALD TRUMP AND INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES DIFFER ON 2016 HACKING. Since reports emerged last summer that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked, Donald Trump has questioned U.S. intelligence agencies’ assertions that Russia is behind the election meddling. ABC’s VERONICA STRACQUALURSI explains what Trump has recently said (and tweeted), versus what the U.S. intelligence community -- including the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence -- has said on the matter: http://abcn.ws/2jeXsA8
HOW U.S. SENATE CONFIRMATION HEARINGS WORK. Senators are set to begin holding hearings next week to confirm several of President-elect Donald Trump’s top cabinet picks. And those men and women he has chosen to lead the country’s agencies can expect a grilling. Democrats have expressed frustration that several of the candidates have yet to disclose their financial documents, which they say are necessary for a full vetting. But can Democrats stop any of the picks from being confirmed? ABC's MARYALICE PARKS and ALI ROGIN have a closer-look at how the process works. http://abcn.ws/2grV4p6
PAUL RYAN PROMISES REPUBLICANS WILL COMPLETE OBAMACARE REPLACEMENT BILL THIS YEAR. House Speaker Paul Ryan pledged Thursday that Republicans would complete legislation to both repeal and replace Obamacare this year. A replacement plan will be written to allow new programs to be phased-in later, Ryan said, but promised that Congress would complete a bill this year, ABC’s MARYALICE PARKS reports. His leadership team has yet to introduce any legislation, let alone a bill that has the support of a majority of his conference. Still, the Speaker said he was confident a bill could be composed and approved swiftly. http://abcn.ws/2iV6O0o
NO, PRESIDENT OBAMA HAS NOT SAID HE IS REFUSING TO LEAVE OFFICE. A recent article making waves on Facebook claims that President Obama has refused to step down from the presidency, given the results of the 2016 presidential election. The article -- "Breaking: Barack Obama Refusing To Leave Office: 'I Cannot, in Good Conscience, Cede the Presidency to Donald Trump' -- was posted on the U.S. Postman website on Dec. 15, as well as on more than two-dozen other websites, including FN4Y and Universe Politics. ABC News dug into the claims in the article and found that virtually everything in the story -- including the headline -- is false. ABC’s RYAN STRUYK has more: http://abcn.ws/2iGqxUa
@joshrogin: Exclusive: Mattis clashing with Trump transition team over Pentagon staffing @washingtonpost
@seanspicer: Great transition at DoD. Reports to contrary completely false and come from sources who do not have any knowledge of our transition efforts
@brycecovert: Obama inherited an economy that had just lost 524,00 jobs the month before. Trump is inheriting one that just added 156,000.
@shanegoldmacher: How am I just realizing the Trump hotel is literally next door to the IRS?
@robbymook: This report should be released asap with few redactions as possible. Public needs to know extent of Russia's role
@teddyschleifer: NEWS: Trump's Inaugural Committtee has raised ~$90 million so f