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Buzz Cut:
• Hillary sends signals for February launch
• Power Play: Sessions says House should start stronger on amnesty
• Texas, 16 other states sue to block Obama
• Lew cites taxpayer privacy in blocking probe on privacy violations
• Wait, what’s a clutch?

HILLARY SENDS SIGNALS FOR FEBRUARY LAUNCH
In politics, most things can be handled on the staff level, but some things are so sensitive, secret or significant that they can only be handled principle-to-principle. So we can assume that the hour President Obama and 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton spent together on Wednesday was a pretty big deal. Leave aside the fact that the White House waited until long after the president was gone from the glare of cameras and questions to suddenly recall that the nation’s top two Democrats and longtime rivals had taken a moment “to catch up and enjoy an informal discussion on a wide range of issues.” Quite so. Bleating about the shoddy, slippery treatment of the press by this White House is pretty much pointless now, anyway. And it doesn’t take a forensic investigation to guess the topic: When she will make her candidacy official.

[Can you imagine any remedy, Madam Secretary? - Georgetown University: “Of the hundreds of peace treaties signed since the early 1990s, between or within nations, she said fewer than 10 percent had any female negotiators and fewer than 3 percent had women as signatories. ‘Is it any wonder that many of these agreements fail between a few years?’ Clinton asked.”]

Staffing up - On Wednesday, Democrats got their cue for the start of the next phase of the Clinton campaign rollout. Hillary’s main man in the White House, John Podesta, told reporters that he expected to leave his post as an adviser to the president after Obama’s State of the Union Address next month. The previous word from the Clinton campaign was that the departure of Podesta, presumed to be Hillary’s top strategist, from the White House would be the signal for the next escalation. So now they know. And who will be driving the bus? Politico tells us that Hillary also met Wednesday with the leading contender to run her official campaign, outgoing Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee executive director Guy Cecil.

[Watch Fox: Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen looks at the compounding complexities of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.]

By the book - Despite all the talk about an unconventional campaign for Hillary, things seem to be shaping up in a very conventional way. A late-winter campaign launch and a claque of Washington insiders running the campaign is pretty much the textbook way to run for president as a frontrunner. Hillary’s visit with Obama is part of what will be the most challenging part of her candidacy: How to run away from a president of one’s own party without causing an absolute rupture. With Democrats lining up to take pot shots at Obama these days, he is no doubt eager to have her hold fire as long as possible. As she gets ready to lift off, Hillary needs to avoid surprises from her old foe and coordinate her actions. That may be an increasingly difficult task as the president looks for ways to assert his relevance and secure his legacy.

[The Hill: “Hillary Clinton allies are focusing on four potential Republican challengers for the White House: Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Scott Walker.”]

Sounds Romneysian - The Hill: “A pro-Hillary Clinton group is hitting back against a focus on the former secretary of State’s paid speeches and lifestyle, arguing that she is a champion of the middle class. A memo, from Correct the Record Executive Director Isaac Wright, indicates that some Clinton supporters feel the need to respond to the talk of Clinton’s speaking fees and travel requirements. ‘It is important, now more than ever, not to cede one of Clinton’s greatest strengths, her passion for advancing the middle class and renewing American upward mobility, to the right-wing talking points factory and its efforts to sow seeds of mistrust on the left,’ the memo states.

Webb warns on white, working-class voters - WSJ: “Jim Webb, the former Virginia senator and Navy secretary, is starting his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination with a warning for his party: It’s traditional coalition—and its hold on white voters—has withered because it has failed to focus on helping the poor and middle class.

O’Malley hires de Blasio aide - NYT: “Gov. Martin O’Malley [D-Md.] has found a manager for his shadow presidential campaign. Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, has hired Bill Hyers, who most recently managed Bill de Blasio’s successful mayoral campaign in New York, as a senior adviser to his O’Say Can You See Pac.”

PAUL OFFERS DECLARATION OF WAR AGAINST ISIS
On Wednesday Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., formally introduced a declaration of war between ISIS and the United States. “I believe the President must come to Congress to begin a war and that Congress has a duty to act. Right now, this war is illegal until Congress acts pursuant to the Constitution and authorizes it,” he said. This follows his op-ed last month in “The Daily Beast” where Paul wrote decrying President Obama’s unconstitutional actions, “Taking military action against ISIS is justified. The president acting without Congress is not.”

Might make a fellow start thinking he was good at politics… - The Tennessean: “Gov. Bill Haslam earned a 70 percent approval rating in the latest poll from Vanderbilt University, his highest rating recorded by the school and far higher than other well-known politicians in Tennessee. … John G. Geer, who helped coordinate the poll as the co-director of the Vanderbilt Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, said … he anticipated Haslam having good approval numbers, but a 70 percent mark was surprising. Other Republican governors – Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana – all failed to get 50 percent approval ratings in recent polls, Geer said.”

Cruz urges House to 'stand up' to Obama - The Hill: “Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the architect of the 2013 government shutdown, stood outside the Capitol with House conservatives on Wednesday and urged the GOP to not provide funding for President Obama's executive orders on immigration. Cruz told reporters at a press conference that he would support a short-term spending bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), that includes a rider that defunds Obama's immigration action. While the House Appropriations Committee contends that would be impossible, Cruz says riders have been attached to funding bills ‘hundreds,’ even ‘thousands of times.’ Congress should ‘stand up’ and say ‘we will not allocate taxpayer dollars to lawless and illegal amnesty,’ Cruz said at the press conference…Cruz said incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) should announce that the GOP will not confirm any presidential nominees, executive or judicial, if the immigration orders take effect. Only nominees responsible for national security matters should be considered, he added.”

[National Journal looks at the close connection between Cruz and seven-term Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, a stalwart foe of illegal immigration, and how their relationship could pay big dividends for Cruz’s contemplated presidential run.]

POWER PLAY: SESSIONS SAYS HOUSE SHOULD START STRONGER ON AMNESTY
Sen. Jeff Session, R-Ala., told Fox News First that he thinks Congress needs to use its budgetary powers to ring the bell loudly in opposition to President Obama’s executive action providing amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants. Though willing to consider a two-tiered budget proposal that would limit funding of the Department of Homeland Security for three months, Sessions told Chris Stirewalt that House Republicans need to first send a strong message by passing a budget bill that cuts funding for the department that would implement the president’s amnesty edict. “There’s no need to shut the government down now. But the fundamental thing is we need to be on record clearly as rejecting it,” Sessions said of the president’s executive action. “It’s a violation of the constitution.”  Watch the full Power Play interview here.

Texas, 16 others states sue to block Obama - NYT: “Texas and 16 other states filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday challenging President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, arguing that he violated his constitutional duty to enforce the laws and illegally placed new burdens on state budgets. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Brownsville, Tex., was the first major legal challenge to initiatives Mr. Obama announced Nov. 20 that will provide protection from deportation and work permits to up to five million immigrants in the country illegally. Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas, which led the coalition bringing the challenge, said Mr. Obama was “abdicating his responsibility to faithfully enforce the laws that were duly enacted by Congress and attempting to rewrite immigration laws, which he has no authority to do.”…The suit said the federal authorities “have contributed to the surge of illegal immigration by refusing to enforce the laws on the books.”

[Ripped - The WaPo editorial board writes “Republicans’ failure to address immigration also does not justify Mr. Obama’s massive unilateral act.”]

Feds hiring 1,000 to process Obama amnesty applications - Wash Times: “Homeland Security officials wasted little time in ramping up for President Obama’s amnesty, posting 1,000 job openings the day after his announcement and announcing it already has space for hundreds of employees at a new space in Arlington, Virginia - an indication that it had laid its plans well before Mr. Obama said.  And even though Mr. Obama said his policy is temporary, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is hiring the employees for permanent positions, at salaries of up to $157,000 a year, according to the job postings listed on the official federal jobs website.”

“And this president does not mind telling whatever he needs to say at the moment to further his political agenda. That’s what this is, it’s a straight up political agenda.” – Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, on “The Kelly File.” Watch here.

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
With her typical crackle, Mollie Hemingway argues that the exhaustive national coverage of an obscure Hill staffer’s social media drivel “is insanity” when compared to the coverage of issues of consequence. But if it is insane, it is no new mania. The New Criterion reviews two important new books on Abraham Lincoln “Founders’ Son” by Richard Brookhiser and “Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion” by Harold Holzer. Holzer’s look at the politicized media of the mid-19th century might sound familiar to Hemmingway. “[Holzer’s book] is a particularly valuable study for the light it shines on the openly partisan character of the American press in the mid-nineteenth century. As Holzer writes, “The press and politics often functioned in tandem as a single, tightly organized entity in furious competition to win power.” Ah, progress…

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve – 41.7 percent//Disapprove – 53.4 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 26.8 percent//Wrong Track – 66.7 percent

OBAMA, HOLDER PUSH FED RESPONSE TO CHOKEHOLD DEATH
AP: “The Justice Department will conduct a federal investigation into the chokehold death of an unarmed black man after a grand jury in New York City declined to indict the white police officer who applied the move, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday. The investigation will look for potential civil rights investigations in the July 17 death of Eric Garner, 43, who was confronted by the officer on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A video shot by an onlooker showed Garner telling officers to leave him alone as they tried to arrest him and one then responded by wrapping his arm around Garner's neck in what appeared to be a chokehold. …Chokeholds are banned under New York Police Department policy. But police union officials and [Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s] lawyer argued that the officer used a legal takedown move taught by the police department because Garner was resisting arrest.” Citing a divide in the country’s confidence in being treated fairly, President Obama reacted to news of the New York grand jury decision, saying, “This is an American problem, and not just a black problem.”

[WaPo looks how the Garner decision, in which there was a video of the incident, changes the discussion of President Obama’s proposal to put cameras on every police officer.]

The Judge’s Ruling: Local is better - On “Fox & Friends” today, Judge Andrew Napolitano said New York grand jurors erred in not indicting Pantaleo. “It would have been better for everybody,” observed the Fox News Channel senior judicial analyst, “for the concept of justice, for the city, even for the police officer for him to be tried in the state court, than in a federal court.” The Judge said he believes the federal probe will likely ensnare the officer for a violation of Garner’s federal civil rights for “using deadly force in a case that did not call for deadly force.” Read more from the Judge on the Garner case at Fox News Opinion.

LEW CITES TAXPAYER PRIVACY IN BLOCKING PROBE ON PRIVACY VIOLATIONS
Daily Caller: “The Obama administration said that it is withholding all of the thousands of pages of documents related to the White House’s coordination with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) during the IRS conservative targeting scandal. Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew, Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff, took the documents that were set to be released and now refuses to ever turn them over. His rationale? Lew cannot release information about improper disclosures of confidential taxpayer information because that would be an improper disclosure of confidential taxpayer information. The Daily Caller reported that the Treasury Department’s inspector general found nearly 2,500 pages of documents that chronicle investigations into the confidential taxpayer information that the White House exchanged with the IRS…The lawyer for the inspector general, Gregory M. Miller, told Cause of Action this week in a letter that Lew seized the documents. ‘All of the 2,043 pages of documents we have determined to be responsive were collected by the Secretary of the Treasury with respect to the determination of possible liability under Title 26 of the United States Code,’ Miller wrote.”

AYOTTE AHEAD IN FIRST N.H. SENATE POLL
Incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H holds a small lead in the first poll of a potential 2016 Senate match-up between Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. The poll conducted by the New England College Polling Institute for the New Hampshire Journal shows Ayotte as the choice of 48 percent of respondents and Hassan pulling in 43 percent, with 4 percent choosing another candidate and 5 percent unsure.

POTENTIAL PORTMAN CHALLENGER EMERGES
Roll Call: "Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan said he is considering a challenge to Republican Sen. Rob Portman in 2016. “We’re certainly looking very closely at it,” the Democrat told CQ Roll Call in a Wednesday phone interview.  Earlier this week, Portman announced he would seek re-election, foregoing a bid for president. His declaration marked good news for Senate Republicans, who view him as the top contender to keep his seat in the GOP’s hands in 2016. Portman boasts a formidable fundraising network and, as of the end of September, had $5.5 million in his campaign coffers.”

GONNA BE UGLY: POLL SHOWS LANDRIEU DOWN BY 24 POINTS
David Drucker
reports: “Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy is poised for a landslide victory over Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in a Saturday runoff election in Louisiana, according to a GOP poll shared with the Washington Examiner. Cassidy led Landrieu 57 percent to 33 percent in the survey conducted Nov. 24-25 by WPA Opinion Research for Independent Women’s Voice. His victory would bring the number of Republican Senate seats captured in this year’s midterm elections to nine, topping off the new GOP majority at 54 seats. The poll of 500 likely voters had an error margin of 4.4 percentage points.”

WAIT, WHAT’S A CLUTCH?
Two teenage would be carjackers were foiled when they realized the victim they targeted drove a stick shift. KPRC reports that a first-year resident at Baylor School of Medicine was attacked at gunpoint by a 17-year-old and his 15-year-old accomplice. But when the victim got out of his car, the attackers realized they didn’t know how to make their getaway. “The suspects were unfamiliar with the operation of a standard transmission and they tried to get the victim to show them how to drive the standard while he was being held at gunpoint,” Inspector Stefan Happ said. The victim called police after he was forced out of the car after attempting to explain how to drive his vehicle. “A vehicle pursuit was initiated,” Happ said. “The officers were chasing the vehicle and apparently they had issues operating the vehicle. They then jumped out of the vehicle and ran on foot.” The suspects were later apprehended and the vehicle was returned to the victim.

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It looks like they at least might have indicted [New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo]on something like involuntary manslaughter at the very least. [Suspect Eric Garner] was unarmed, and the crime was petty as they come. He was selling loose cigarettes, which in and of itself is almost absurd that somebody has to die over that.”– Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” Watch here.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News.  Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up
here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.