1/ Trump’s prepping for a years-long war under the cloud of a special investigation. The White House is “getting street fighters ready to go” with legal, surrogate, communications, and rapid-response teams as part of a “new normal.” With Trump on tour in the Middle East and Europe, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus are at home, putting in place the means to keep his agenda moving ahead and avoid “paralysis.” (Axios / Politico)

2/ Trump chastises “obsolete” NATO about how it’s “not fair” some members don’t pay their share. He lectured 23 of the 28 member for what he called their “chronic underpayments” to the military alliance. The mutual defense pledge requires nations to contribute at least 2% of their GDP. (ABC News / New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ A federal appeals court will not reinstate Trump’s revised travel ban, saying it “drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.” The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction, saying the executive order violated the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion – In this case singling out Muslims. (New York Times / Politico)

4/ Macron out-Trumps Trump in “fierce” handshake duel. Editor’s note: The descriptions are too good to summarize, so I’m quoting in full:

From the Washington Post: “…the two men shook hands for six long seconds. Their knuckles turned white, their jaws clenched and their faces tightened. Trump reached in first, but then he tried to release, twice, but Macron kept his grip until letting go.” (Washington Post)

From Bloomberg: “Trump’s trick is to go in strong and then hold on just slightly too long, often pulling the other man toward him. Meeting Macron for the first time before a NATO summit in Brussels, Trump went in firm as usual. But this time, it was Trump – not Macron – who tried to back out first. Macron simply wouldn’t let go as Trump tried to pull back once, and then flexed his fingers straight to get out. On the second try, he was able to pull away.” (Bloomberg)

5/ A group of 22 Republican senators are urging Trump to exit the Paris climate deal. They say the provisions in the Clean Air Act and the Paris agreement would create “significant litigation risk,” which puts fully rescinding the Clean Power Plan in danger. (Axios)

6/ Paul Manafort remained in contact and continued to advise the Trump team even after the FBI launched its Russia probe. Manafort called Priebus a week before the inauguration to tell him the dossier by a former British spy that alleged Russia had compromising information on Trump and his associates was “garbage.” Manafort was forced to resign as Trump’s campaign chairman due to his ties to Kremlin-aligned politicians in Europe. (Politico)

  • Russians had discussed how to influence Trump advisors last summer. Specifically, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who both had close ties to Russia. It’s unclear if Russian officials attempted to influence either. (New York Times)

7/ Sessions was advised not to disclose his meetings with Russian officials when he applied for security clearance. Democratic lawmakers are demanding for Sessions’s resignation. “He’s lied under oath,” Senator Kamala Harris said. “He’s misled on security clearance forms. It’s simple — he should not be the Attorney General.” (New York Times)

8/ Reince Priebus is sweating Comey’s secret memos. Three White House officials said Priebus has expressed worry about a memo involving one of their chats, and how it might play in the press and to investigators. (The Daily Beast)

9/ A Montana GOP House candidate was charged with assault after “body-slamming” a journalist. Greg Gianforte grabbed the reporter by the neck with both hands, slammed him into the ground, and then began punching the reporter. Misdemeanor charges were filed against Gianforte, who was “sick and tired of this!” – “this” being a question. (The Guardian / Fox News)

10/ A Mar-a-Lago employee is doing work for Trump’s foreign trip. The guest reception manager at Trump’s “Winter White House” is in Italy helping Trump’s logistics team. (BuzzFeed News)

11/ Lieberman withdraws from consideration for FBI Director job. Once considered the front-runner to replace James Comey, he’s formally withdrawn citing the appearance of a conflict of interest now that Trump’s tapped his boss, attorney Marc Kasowitz, as outside counsel in the Russia investigation. (Wall Street Journal / Politico / ABC News)

12/ Trump condemned “leaks of sensitive information” after complaints From Britain. Manchester police said they would no longer share details of the investigation with the US after crime-scene photos and suspected bomber’s name were leaked to American media. (New York Times / Washington Post)

poll/ 40% approve of Trump job performance, with 53% disapproving. Pence, meanwhile, clocks in at a 42% approval to 43% disapproval rating. (The Hill)