Thursday Morning Briefing: U.S. spooks say they have the goods on Russian hacking

U.S. intelligence agencies have what they call conclusive evidence Russia provided hacked material from the Democratic National Committee to WikiLeaks through a third party, three sources said.

Pedestrians cross the street behind a billboard showing a pictures of president-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Danilovgrad, Montenegro, November 16. 2016. REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic

U.S. officials had concluded months earlier that Russian intelligence agencies had directed the hacking. But until now, they had been less certain that they could prove Russia also had controlled the release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The timing of the additional intelligence is important because President Barack Obama has faced criticism from his own party over why it took his administration months to respond to the cyber attack.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre are all expected to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee today to testify on Russia's role in the cyber attacks.

President-elect Donald Trump has vacillated between pooh-poohing the allegations and accusing the Democrats of being sore losers.

A U.S. intelligence report on the hacking was scheduled to be presented to Obama today and to Trump on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Trump is planning to pare back the nation's top intelligence agencies, because he thinks they have become politicized.

<strong>Walking in a winter wonderland</strong>

A woman walks a dog on a snow-covered path beside the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Jan. 4, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

A woman walks a dog on a snow-covered path beside the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Jan. 4, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

<strong>Around the country</strong>

The House of Representatives passed legislation giving Congress the power to kill dozens of "midnight rules" – regulations imposed by presidents on their way out the door. Under a the Congressional Review Act, any federal regulation approved since May could be voided by the Republican-led Congress once President-elect Donald Trump moves into the White House and can sign off on their disapproval. The Senate is expected to take up similar legislation soon.The Democrats warned that the entire U.S. healthcare system could be thrown into chaos if Obamacare is gutted without a plan to replace it. Republicans said they will help more people gain coverage by repealing the law while working to minimize disruptions to those who depend on it. 

<strong>Quote of the day:</strong>

"We have a plan to replace it. We have plenty of ideas to replace it. And you'll see as the weeks and months unfold what we're talking about replacing it with, how we can get better choices with lower prices by not have the costly of government takeover of health care, which is causing all these problems in the first place." – House Speaker Paul Ryan

Detectives questioned two men and two women in connection with the beating in Chicago of a man with mental health issues who, on a Facebook Live video shot by his assailants, was shown cowering in a corner with his mouth taped shut, officials said. At least one of the attackers on the video mentioned President-elect Donald Trump as he taunted the man but police stopped short of calling the beating politically motivated and said they are still investigating.

<strong>Around Wall Street</strong>

As China's foreign exchange reserves threaten to tumble below the critical $3 trillion mark, the biggest fear for investors is not whether Beijing can continue to defend the yuan but whether it will set off a vicious cycle of more outflows and currency depreciation.

<strong>Digits of the day: $66 million</strong> and the Forever 21 teen retail chain are weighing bids for bankrupt American Apparel. Next Level Apparel and Authentic Brands, are also kicking the tires ahead of Friday's deadline. Any successful offer would have to top a $66 million stalking horse bid by Canadian apparel maker Gildan Activewear Inc, which American Apparel agreed to when it filed for bankruptcy in November.

It looks like Amazon ate Macy's and Kohl's lunch this holiday season, as the department store chains slashed their 2016 profit forecasts, sending shares down for the entire retail sector.

<strong>Around the world</strong>

Iraqi forces have retaken around 70 percent of eastern Mosul from Islamic State militants and expect to reach the river bisecting the city in the coming days.The man who killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year's Day is probably an ethnic Uighur, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said.  Turkish security services think they know where he might be hiding, he added. Kaynak described the man as a "specially trained" member of a cell who carried out the attack alone.

<strong>Today’s reason to live</strong>