Inauguration Day is one week away and there is a flurry of activity among both the incoming and outgoing administrations. The Obama Administration Thursday announced the end of the "wet foot, dry foot" policy for Cuban migrants, but maintained a humanitarian exception. It marks the latest, and likely final, step in Obama's rapprochement with Cuba—and one that has an uncertain legacy under the Trump administration. Also Thursday, in a moment created for GIFs and aviator jokes, Obama surprised Vice President Joe Biden with a Presidential Medal of Freedom in an emotional ceremony in the East Room. Biden was told the event was a toast to staff, and entered to see close family and friends from his long career in Washington. Mid-way through his speech, Obama summoned a military aide to present the medal, surprising even some of the White House staffers organizing the event. Obama had personally orchestrated the surprise with a handful of aides.
President-elect Donald Trump is at work filling out the rest of his West Wing team, with aides saying they hope to have most jobs filled by January 20th. A flurry of personnel announcements are expected in the coming days. Meanwhile, his Cabinet nominees are facing a grilling on Capitol Hill—and in several key instances are creating distance between themselves and some of Trump's most controversial policy positions. Gen. John Kelly, his nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security, came out against a Muslim ban or registry, and Gen. James Mattis, his nominee to head the Pentagon, took a tough tone on Russia, just to name a few.
The GOP threatens to investigate the top government ethics official. Biden says he was briefed on unsubstantiated allegations against Trump. And Dreamers face uncertain future after confirmation hearings.
"There were big stretches, while governing, where even though we were doing the right thing, we weren’t able to mobilize public opinion firmly enough behind us to weaken the resolve of the Republicans to stop opposing us or to cooperate with us. And there were times during my presidency where I lost the PR battle." — President Obama to "60 Minutes.
"Ricchetti, You're fired." — Vice President Joe Biden joking to his chief of staff, who was in on President Obama's plan to surprise him with the Medal of Freedom.