The Note: The Unverified Claims Causing Commotion



--FBI INVESTIGATING UNCONFIRMED CLAIMS THAT TRUMP WAS PERSONALLY COMPROMISED BY THE RUSSIANS: Explosive but unsubstantiated allegations suggesting Donald Trump was compromised by Russian agents and in league with Russian hackers appeared in a dossier given to the FBI in August by democratic political operatives who later gave it news organizations including ABC News. The document has circulated within the intelligence community and was reportedly raised last week during classified intelligence briefings to both President Obama and President-elect Trump, ABC’s BRIAN ROSS and MATTHEW MOSK report. Trump and his aides expressed outrage yesterday that anyone would take the uncorroborated reports seriously.

--ANALYSIS - ABC’s RICK KLEIN: “WITCH HUNT!” President-elect Donald Trump declared on Twitter. The phrase was repeated – though the capitalization doesn’t translate – by a spokesman for the Kremlin. But what if something real emerges from the hocus-pocus? The dossier on supposed Russian dirt on Trump raises questions for Trump, though few should expect he will answer them to any satisfaction. The answers he gives Wednesday will be instructive (does praise for Putin disappear? does he question the motives of intelligence agencies?) though hardly conclusive. That will leave the digging and the answering to Congress, where pressure will grow for a special, bipartisan, joint House-Senate committee. If the allegations were serious enough for Sen. John McCain to hand off to FBI Director James Comey, surely they demand special congressional attention. It’s a defining moment for Trump. Ditto for the legislative branch, as the nation sees either a massive smear or an unparalleled international scandal play off just days before a new president takes office.

--ON GMA - KELLYANNE CONWAY CALLS UNVERIFIED DOCUMENTS ‘NONSENSE FROM THE INTERNET': Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway today called the allegations that the president-elect was compromised by Russian agents and that his aides were in cahoots with Russian hackers "unsubstantiated, uncorroborated." "This is a report from the internet, not from the intelligence community, these 35 pages rife with misspellings, completely unverified," Conway said on "Good Morning America" today.

--HAPPENING TODAY - TRUMP TO HOLD LONG-AWAITED PRESS CONFERENCE ON BUSINESSES: President-elect Donald Trump is expected to hold a long-anticipated press conference Wednesday where he has pledged to outline how he will separate himself from his vast business empire amid questions about potential conflicts of interest, ABC’s ALEXANDER MALLIN notes. The press conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. E.T. in New York City. Today marks 167 days since Trump last held a formal press conference.

--REX TILLERSON SET FOR CONFIRMATION SHOWDOWN WITH DEMOCRATS: Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to be the next secretary of state, is set to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at 9 a.m. ET today for the first of a two-day confirmation hearing. The multimillionaire former CEO of ExxonMobil has emerged as one of Trump's more controversial nominees -- largely because of his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin -- but until today Tillerson has yet to have the opportunity to defend himself in a public forum, ABC’s JUSTIN FISHEL reports.

--'YES WE DID,' OBAMA SAYS IN FAREWELL ADDRESS, BUT WARNS OF THREATS TO DEMOCRACY: "Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we can." With these words, President Obama wrapped up the farewell remarks of the presidency with the same soaring rhetoric of hope that he rode into the White House eight years ago. The president took the opportunity of the speech to a crowd in his adopted hometown of Chicago to thank to the American people for the opportunity to serve as president for two terms. "Every day, I learned from you," the president said. "You made me a better President, and you made me a better man." The president made mention of some of his key accomplishments and thanked those who have stood by his side through the past eight years, especially his family, for which he offered an emotional tribute as well as Vice President Joe Biden and the military. ABC’s JORDYN PHELPS has more. FULL REMARKS of Obama’s farewell speech here:


ANALYSIS: FOR OBAMA, A LEGACY TRUMP WILL HELP DEFINE. Generations from now, a historical oddity will demand explanation. On children’s placemats, and in textbook lists ready for memorization, Barack Obama and Donald Trump will reside as neighbors, ABC’s RICK KLEIN writes. The 44th and 45th presidents of the United States may be “sort of opposites,” as the outgoing president put it in an interview last week. History, though, will link them forever –- a fact that was on Obama’s mind as he delivered his farewell address at Chicago's McCormick Place Tuesday night. “Yes, our progress has been uneven,” the president said. “For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.” Obama offered praise for “the instrument of our democracy.” Yet it is democracy’s result that leaves his legacy in the balance. And challenges to American democracy are occupying the outgoing president’s brain space in his final days in office.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS' CONFIRMATION HEARING: THE KEY (AND CONTROVERSIAL) MOMENTS. Jeff Sessions was on the offense Monday -- to a certain degree. The Republican senator from Alabama, who is Donald Trump's pick to be the next U.S. attorney general, vehemently disputed "amazing" allegations that he harbors racial bias and claimed he understands the struggles of LGBT Americans. But Sessions also told the Senate Judiciary Committee -- which is holding confirmation hearings this week to consider his nomination to lead the Justice Department -- that remained critical of the H-1B visa program and implied that religion could play an indirect role in whether an individual is accepted into the U.S. ABC’s MIKE LEVINE has more. . LIVE BLOG, courtesy of ABC’s MEGHAN KENEALLY:

SEN. FRANKEN ACCUSES SEN. SESSIONS OF MISREPRESENTING HIS RECORD ON CIVIL RIGHTS. During yesterday's Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. attorney general, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, accused Sen. Sessions, R-Alabama, of misrepresenting the number of desegregation cases he filed as United States attorney in Alabama. “Our country needs an attorney general who doesn't misrepresent or inflate their level of involvement on any given issue,” Franken said. In a 2009 interview with the National Review, Sessions said he handled “20 or 30” civil rights cases -- a claim he was not able to prove when pressed by Franken. ABC’s MERIDITH MCGRAW has more.

IN UNPRECEDENTED MOVE, SEN. CORY BOOKER TO TESTIFY AGAINST JEFF SESSIONS. Senator Cory Booker is so opposed to Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general that the New Jersey Democrat is willing to break precedent. Today, Booker plans to give testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee as to why he believes Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions should not be the next attorney general, ABC’s BENJAMIN SIEGEL and VERONICA STRACQUALURSI reports. He will be the first sitting senator to testify against a colleague at a Senate confirmation hearing for a member of the president's cabinet, according to his office.

SESSIONS SAYS TRUMP TAPE COMMENTS WOULD 'CLEARLY' BE SEXUAL ASSAULT. Sen. Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s pick to become the next attorney general, further clarified Tuesday his position on controversial comments the president-elect made about women, telling a Senate panel that grabbing women by the genitals without their consent would "clearly" be sexual assault. Several months ago, Sessions came under fire for saying that it would be a “stretch” to call such behavior sexual assault -- a position he clarified shortly afterwards. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Sessions, R-Alabama, went even further, writes ABC’s MIKE LEVINE.

US INTELLIGENCE AGENCY LEADERS SQUARELY BLAME ELECTION HACKING ON RUSSIA. In his most stark comments on the matter to date, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper squarely blamed the cyber-hacks of the 2016 presidential election on the Russian government, reports ABC’s JUSTIN FISHEL. During a hearing of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, Clapper outlined key findings of a classified intelligence report on Russian election hacking that concluded Russian President Vladimir Putin "ordered" a campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election in an attempt by Russia to "undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process."

A WALL ALONE 'WILL NOT DO THE JOB,' GEN. KELLY SAYS AT DHS CONFIRMATION HEARING. President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, retired four-star Marine Gen. John Kelly, said during his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday regarding a border wall that "a physical barrier in and of itself will not do the job. It has to be really a layered defense," notes ABC’s GENEVA SANDS. "If you were to build a wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico," you would still have to back that wall up with patrolling by human beings, sensors and observation devices, he said.

A LOOK AT TRUMP'S BUSINESS EMPIRE IN THE UNITED STATES. Golf courses in several states. Glittering hotels and condominiums. Even a share in a federally subsidized housing development in Brooklyn. Donald Trump’s business interests in the United States, while concentrated in his home state of New York, run the gamut and appear in at least 10 states and D.C. — ties that critics say could expose him to conflicts of interest when he takes office. ABC’s JAMES HILL has more:

A LOOK INSIDE TRUMP'S GLOBAL BUSINESS INTERESTS. It is a business empire that spans four continents and nearly two dozen countries. But the corporate titan behind these business dealings is none other than the president-elect of the United States, Donald Trump. The real estate mogul’s new role as the leader of the free world while still having his name on properties in foreign lands could complicate trade deals and foreign relations, writes ABC’s JAMES HILL.

THE OBAMA LEGACY: A PROMISE OF HOPE. As Obama turns over the mantle of the presidency to Donald Trump, ABC News examines his legacy. ABC’s GARY WESTPHALEN and SERENA MARSHALL have more:

TRUMP INAUGURATION WILL HAVE ‘SOFT SENSUALITY’ OF DC SAYS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN. The Trump Inauguration Committee Chairman Tom Barrack is promising an atmosphere of "soft sensuality" at the United States Capitol for Donald Trump's inauguration on January 20th. Barrack, addressing the press pool gathered in the lobby of Trump Tower, described the President-elect’s vision for the ceremony in artistic terms, according to ABC’s MERIDITH MCGRAW. "What we've done instead of trying to surround him with what people consider A-listers," he said, "is we are going to surround him with the soft sensuality of the place." Before heading to the Capitol, Trump and his wife Melania will join President and First Lady Obama for "coffee or tea" at the White House before riding together to the event. "That's a great moment, that's a great moment," said Barrack.

MICHELLE OBAMA TWEETS 'SO PROUD OF POTUS...I LOVE YOU BARACK.’ One of the most emotional moments of President Obama's farewell address in Chicago Tuesday night was when he turned his attention to the first lady, professing his love and admiration for his wife of 24 years. Following his address, the first lady took to Twitter to express a similar sentiment, posting a black-and-white photo of the Obamas with daughters Malia and Sasha waiting for the results of his senate bid on election night 2004, notes ABC’s DAVID CAPLAN.

CELEBRITIES, POLITICIANS REACT TO OBAMA'S FAREWELL ADDRESS. President Barack Obama's farewell address in Chicago Tuesday night prompted public figures -- spanning the worlds of politics, entertainment, sports and music -- to take to their social media accounts and gush over the outgoing president and his one-hour send-off, writes ABC’s DAVID CAPLAN.

REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS SPAR OVER CAPITOL PAINTING. House Republicans and Democrats are fighting over a painting that depicts police officers as animals and whether the work should be hanging in a tunnel on Capitol Hill between House offices and the U.S. Capitol Building. Republicans have objected to the painting, by a Missouri high school graduate from the St. Louis area, "Untitled #1," inspired by the Ferguson protests. ABC’s BENJAMIN SIEGEL and MARYALICE PARKS have more.


@realDonaldTrump: Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to "leak" into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?

@WayneSlater: Prediction: Trump will emerge as the “victim.” News media will look worse. Good journalism must follow basic standards of proof, evidence.

@KennethMoton: For those wondering...per the @WhiteHouse: Sasha Obama stayed in DC because she has an exam at school in the morning. #educationmatters

@JCNSeverino: Dems underestimated Sessions. He disarmed their gotchas by insisting he would follow the law and hold POTUS constitutionally accountable.

@sunny: Widow of Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a 9 page letter opposing Session's nomination to be a federal judge.