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Matt Rourke / AP

Since President Trump skipped last night's black-tie, off-camera Alfalfa Dinner, Vice President Pence did the honors before the biggest annual gathering of tycoons, national leaders and elder statesmen.

  • Pence joked, per our spies, that Team Trump is all getting to know each other: "It wasn't too long ago, I thought a Reince Priebus was a midsize hybrid." This elicited a smile from the White House chief of staff, who was at the head table.
  • The V.P. said Trump is "going to build a big, beautiful, impenetrable wall. It's gonna be nine feet tall, and it's gonna run right between the West Wing and the press corps. And The New York Times is going to pay for it."
  • Pence's best line: "Of the eight richest people in the world, five are in this room. I feel like I'm at a Cabinet meeting."

Mike Bloomberg, the incoming club president, received applause when he said it was classy of Hillary to attend the inauguration. Bloomberg claimed that Trump couldn't attend the dinner because he was stuck on a phone call with Putin:

I feel for him. We've all had bosses who call us on the weekend.

Erskine Bowles — former Bill Clinton White House chief of staff, and the club's outgoing president: "What a year: Angela Merkel has required people in her country to stop wearing full face veils. And here at home, Hillary has begun wearing one."

"This administration is very military heavy. You have 'Mad Dog' Mattis, a Marine general. John Kelly, a Marine general. Mike Flynn, an Army general. And Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, a Confederate general."
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Go deeper

11 mins ago - World

NYT: Biden won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.

Trump threatens to veto Defense spending bill over social media shield

Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted Tuesday a threat to veto a must-pass end-of-year $740 billion bill defense-spending authorization bill unless Congress repeals a federal law that protects social media sites from legal liability.

Why it matters: Trump's attempt to get Congress to end the tech industry protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the latest escalation in his war on tech giants over what he and some other Republicans perceive as bias against conservatives.

The walls close in on Trump

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

With Bill Barr's "Et tu, Brute!" interview with AP, President Trump is watching the walls close in on his claims of fraud, hoaxes and conspiracies.

Why it matters: Trump and his legal team continue to claim election fraud. But the Republican governors of Arizona and Georgia have certified their elections, a loyalist like Barr has weighed in, and lower-ranking officials have taken potshots.