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U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo postpones Ukraine trip to focus on Iraq

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks about airstrikes by the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria, at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 29, 2019. With him are U.S. Army General Mark Milley and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. REUTERS/Tom Brenner/

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday postponed a trip to Ukraine so he could focus on the situation in Iraq after demonstrators attacked the U.S. embassy.

Supporters of Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups stormed the U.S. embassy’s perimeter and hurled rocks in two days of protests. They withdrew on Wednesday after Washington dispatched extra troops and threatened reprisals against Tehran.

Pompeo postponed his trip to Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Cyprus “due to the need for the Secretary to be in Washington, D.C., to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

On Tuesday evening Pompeo had told Fox News the Ukraine trip was still on.

Pompeo was set to reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine on the highest-level U.S. visit since President Donald Trump’s impeachment over his handling of relations with Ukraine.

Reporting by Chris Sanders; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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Trump Bet He Could Isolate Iran and Charm North Korea. It’s Not That Easy.

President Trump entered the new year facing flare-ups of long-burning crises with two old adversaries — Iran and North Korea — which are directly challenging his claim to have reasserted American power around the world.

While the Iranian-backed attack on the United States Embassy in Baghdad seemed to be under control, it played to Mr. Trump’s longtime worry that American diplomats and troops in the Middle East are easy targets and his longtime stance that the United States must pull back from the region.

In North Korea, Kim Jong-un’s declaration on Wednesday that the world would “witness a new strategic weapon” seemed to be the end of an 18-month experiment in which Mr. Trump believed his force of personality — and vague promises of economic development — would wipe away a problem that plagued the last 12 of his predecessors.

The timing of these new challenges is critical: Both the Iranians and the North Koreans seem to sense the vulnerability of a president under impeachment and facing re-election, even if they are often clumsy as they try to play those events to their advantage.

The protests in Iraq calmed on Wednesday, at least for now, and Mr. Kim has not yet lit off his latest “strategic weapon.” But the events of recent days have underscored how much bluster was behind Mr. Trump’s boast a year ago that Iran was “a very different nation” since he had broken its economy. They also belied his famous tweet: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”

Today the most generous thing one could say about those statements is that they were wildly premature. Many foreign policy experts say he fundamentally misjudged the reactions of two major American adversaries. And neither seems to fear him, precisely the critique he leveled at Barack Obama back in the days when Mr. Trump declared America’s toughest national security challenges could be solved as soon as a president the world respected was in office.

The core problem may have been Mr. Trump’s conviction that economic incentives alone — choking off oil revenues in Tehran and the prospect of investment and glorious beach-front hotels in North Korea — would overcome all other national interests.

He dismissed the depth of Iran’s determination to re-establish itself as the most powerful force in the region, and Mr. Kim’s conviction that his nuclear arsenal is his only insurance policy to buoy one of the last family-controlled Stalinist regimes.

“After three years of no international crises,” Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on Tuesday, Mr. Trump is “facing one with Iran because he has rejected diplomacy and another with North Korea because he has asked too much of diplomacy.”

Europe has flailed in its efforts to counteract American sanctions against Iran, but has insisted that the deal remains in place, even though both Washington and Tehran are violating key aspects of it.

Russia and China have taken the next step: Last week they opened joint naval exercises with Iran in the Gulf of Oman. The exercises were not militarily significant, and the three nations have plenty of differences. But to the Iranians, they symbolized having two nuclear-armed superpowers on their side.

Vice Admiral Gholamreza Tahani, a deputy commander for the Iranian Navy, was quoted in the Financial Times declaring that “the most important achievement of these drills” was the message “that the Islamic Republic of Iran cannot be isolated.”

It is possible that the Trump administration’s strategy will still bear fruit: Mr. Pompeo was doing everything he could in recent weeks to express support for Iranians who were mounting protests inside their own country. But the history of past protests — most notably in 2009 — offers little hope that they can threaten the government. Hundreds of protesters appear to have been killed by internal security forces this time.

Meanwhile, the Iranians have a fine sense that “maximum pressure” campaigns work in both directions. They are vulnerable to cutoffs in oil flows.

But the United States is vulnerable to highly public attacks on troops and tankers. And the attack on the outer walls of the American Embassy in Baghdad, even if short-lived, was clearly intended to send a shiver down the spine of Mr. Trump’s political aides, who remember well that a hostage crisis led to President Jimmy Carter’s re-election defeat 40 years ago.

Mounting a strike and pulling back is a familiar technique from Iran in recent months, including its attacks on oil tankers, an American drone and Saudi oil facilities.

The Iranians have made clear what Mr. Trump needs to do to reopen negotiations: Essentially, return to the deal struck with Mr. Obama, largely by lifting sanctions Mr. Trump imposed starting in May 2018. There are signs Mr. Trump is eager to resume talks, including his effort to lure President Hassan Rouhani to the phone when the Iranian leader was in New York in September for United Nations meetings.

That diplomatic initiative will doubtless continue in secret. But the Iranians have found new leverage: the ability to turn anti-Iran protests in Iraq into protests against American troops there, complete with Iran’s signature “death to America” street chants.

Mr. Trump returned to a well-known stance on Tuesday, emphasizing that he did not want a war but also warning Iran that if it started one, any conflict “wouldn’t last very long.”

North Korea is a harder problem because there Mr. Trump had a diplomatic process underway, one that was both bold and imaginative. By breaking the mold and agreeing to meet the North Korean leader face to face, the first for an American president since the end of the Korean War, he had the makings of a breakthrough.

But he made key mistakes. He failed to get a nuclear freeze agreement from the North in return for the meeting, meaning that the country’s nuclear and missile production churned along while the two old adversaries returned to their old stances.

And Mr. Trump’s team, internally divided, could not back itself out of the corner the president initially put it in with his vow for no serious sanctions relief until the arsenal was disbanded. Mr. Trump did cancel joint military exercises with South Korea — over Pentagon objections — but that was not enough for Mr. Kim.

But perhaps Mr. Trump’s biggest miscalculation was over-relying on the personal rapport he built with Mr. Kim, and overinterpreting the commitments he received from the young, wily North Korean leader.

That continues. On his way to a New Year’s party at his Mar-a-Lago club on Tuesday night, the president focused on their relationship, as if Mr. Kim’s declaration that he was no longer bound by any commitment to cease missile and nuclear testing did not exist. “He likes me, I like him, we get along,” Mr. Trump said. “He’s representing his country, I’m representing my country. We have to do what we have to do.”

Then he misrepresented the agreement in Singapore, describing it as if it were a real estate deal. “But he did sign a contract,” Mr. Trump said of the vague declaration of principles reached in Singapore in June 2018.

In fact, it was not a contract, it had no binding force and it referred to the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” That phrase means something very different in Pyongyang than it does in Washington: It means the North expects the United States to pull back its own nuclear-backed forces, including submarines and ships that can deliver such weapons to the peninsula.

So now Mr. Trump finds himself in roughly the same place his predecessors did: awaiting a new missile test.

It may be a solid-fuel, intercontinental missile, according to some experts like Vipin Narang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to show that the North has finally mastered a weapon that can be rolled out and launched with little warning. And it may carry some kind of payload to demonstrate that the country now knows how to make a warhead that can withstand re-entry into the atmosphere, a difficult technology.

But buried in Mr. Kim’s New Year’s statement was a suggestion of what he really had in mind: talks with the United States about the “scope and depth” of the North’s nuclear force. That means he really is not interested in denuclearization at all. He is interested in arms-control talks, like the United States conducted for decades with the Soviet Union, and then Russia.

And arms control, of course, would achieve what Mr. Kim, his father and his grandfather all sought: that insurance policy for the family.

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2020 forecast: A House switch, a slimmer Senate for GOP — and a bigger win for Trump

This will be a big year for the nation, with an election in November and the start of a new decade. Here are a couple of my thoughts on what 2020 has in store:

The impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate will not have witnesses — but after evidence is presented, the Senate immediately will vote to acquit President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani says he would be willing to testify in impeachment trial Trump expected to announce limited vaping ban this week Linda Ronstadt: Trump is ‘like Hitler, and the Mexicans are the new Jews’ MORE.

For reasons no one can really figure out, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSenate Republican predicts impeachment trial ends by State of the Union Trump threatens Iran over embassy incident, which he calls the ‘Anti-Benghazi’ Trump urges Iraqi PM to protect US personnel after protesters storm embassy MORE (D-Calif.) has decided to stick it to the Senate by delaying the second phase of the impeachment process that she previously deemed so vitally necessary to “protect our Democracy.” 

Regardless of how much congressional Democrats and media figures want to grasp at straws, to prevent the Senate trial from being a complete embarrassment to their impeachment crusade, Republican leadership is going to follow Constitutional guidance, which gives the Senate the “sole Power to try all Impeachments.” And with this sole power, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGiuliani says he would be willing to testify in impeachment trial Senate Republican predicts impeachment trial ends by State of the Union Poll: 61 percent of independents think U.S. is on wrong track MORE (R-Ky.) is likely to focus on one thing: decorum. 

If House Democrats thought their evidence was sufficient for an “indictment” in the House, there’s no reason for them to demand more testimony in the Senate. The trial will be swift and fair, and will not be allowed to devolve into a partisan circus like the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughLeft presses 2020 Democrats to retake the courts from Trump GOP predicts bipartisan acquittal at Trump impeachment trial Trump expresses support for Susan Collins in competitive Senate race MORE.  

With possibly even a bipartisan acquittal of the president, the only hope left for the Democrats to remove the president will be at the ballot box. And heading into the 2020 election …

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders vows to create tougher nationwide drinking water standards as president Sanders: Speed of Medicare for All plan is a ‘major difference’ with Warren Warren vows to ‘attack corruption in Washington’ in New Year’s Eve address MORE (I-Vt.) will be the Democratic nominee, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSheila Jackson Lee tops colleagues in House floor speaking days over past decade There is no free lunch — even in health care Hoyer challenger: Criminal justice system works against minorities MORE (D-N.Y.) will become the de-facto leader of the Democratic Party.

Thanks to the House’s “impeachment,” you no longer can say the word “Ukraine” without mentioning “Joe BidenJoe BidenGiuliani says he would be willing to testify in impeachment trial Sanders: Speed of Medicare for All plan is a ‘major difference’ with Warren Saager Enjeti rips Biden, says coal miner remarks harken back to Clinton mistakes of 2016 MORE.” The so-called “moderate” who was supposed to save the Democratic Party from itself will slowly but surely fail to meet that mandate. And with the base moving ever further to the left and realizing that Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenYang raises .5 million in final week of December Sanders: Speed of Medicare for All plan is a ‘major difference’ with Warren Warren vows to ‘attack corruption in Washington’ in New Year’s Eve address MORE (D-Mass.) can’t be trusted as a true progressive, given her past, the “Revolution” is back. 

With Sanders at the top of the ticket, the Democratic National Committee will realize that the soul of the party now belongs to democratic socialists. And who better to lead this new Democratic Party than the top Sanders affiliate in the House, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez? With such an inspiring coalition …

Democrats will lose control of the House of Representatives and Pelosi will become the first speaker to become former speaker twice, ending her political career.

Speaker Pelosi spent the months leading up to the 2018 election telling her caucus to tamp down the impeachment rhetoric and convince the American people that the Democratic Party was one of policy, not politics. 

After a complete failure to work with the Trump administration to advance legislation in health care, drug pricing and other Democratic mainstays, this message will not work again. Over and over again, Democrats proved themselves to be the party of “Resist,” choosing to launch fruitless investigations to harass a president they don’t like, instead of taking the lead to address real issues facing the country’s citizens. 

The American people are smart but, more importantly, they want Washington to work for them — and, for that reason … 

Republicans will hold the Senate, despite losing at least one incumbent. 

After the media predicted doom for Senate Republicans in 2016 and 2018, I think you’re able to guess the narrative for 2020. However, this time they are right in one small aspect: It is going to be a tough, possibly losing, battle for some incumbents. 

Colorado, Arizona, Maine — these are going to be very competitive races for the GOP candidates fighting to keep their seats. But some Democrat incumbents, such as Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersDebbie Dingell responds to Trump: ‘You brought me down in a way you can never imagine’ Senate Democrats press GOP chairmen over Ukraine allegations New federal funds for election security garner mixed reactions on Capitol Hill MORE of Michigan and Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenLewandowski decides against Senate bid Biden would consider Republican for VP ‘but I can’t think of one right now’ Russia gas pipeline hit with sanctions after Trump signs defense bill MORE of New Hampshire, will face big challenges of their own. 

And with Sen. Doug Jones facing extremely unlikely prospects for reelection in deep-red Alabama, Democrats and the media are going to have to get accustomed to saying “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell” for another two years. Which still probably won’t prepare them for the fact that … 

Donald J. Trump will win by an even larger electoral margin in 2020 than he won by in 2016. 

In 2016, candidate Trump ran on promises. In 2020, President Trump is running on results. Thanks to the actions of the Trump administration, the U.S. is again the world leader in energy production, other countries are paying their fair share in international agreements, and American farmers, workers, ranchers and manufacturers no longer are taken advantage of by other countries using a rigged system of international trade.  

Just as candidate Trump’s promise to fight for the American worker put in play some Midwestern states that Republicans hadn’t won in decades, President Trump’s four years of successes will push certain states, such as Minnesota and New Hampshire, back within Republican reach. And just to push on-the-fence voters ever more into the Republican-red column … 

The economy will continue to boom and President Trump will get a trade deal done with China.

With more than 7 million new jobs added since Election Day, historic low unemployment levels for women, black Americans and Hispanic Americans, and real wage growth outpacing inflation for the first time in decades, America’s economy is the strongest it has been in more than 50 years.  

With pro-growth policies slashing unnecessary regulations and unleashing American businesses’ potential, 2020 will continue to see record highs in the market and record lows in unemployment. 

But possibly even more important for America and for the world, President Trump will kick off 2020 by signing a comprehensive Phase One Trade Deal with China in mid-January. This is no small accomplishment: Since China joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, no nation has had the will to step up and confront the country over its unfair trade practices — until now. And with the president heading to Beijing to start negotiations on a Phase Two Deal, you can bet on him to shock the critics, as he always does, and win for the American people.

Corey R. Lewandowski is President Trump’s former campaign manager and senior adviser to both the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign and Great America Committee, Vice President Mike Pence’s political action committee. He is co-author with David Bossie of the books “Trump’s Enemies” and “Let Trump Be Trump: The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency.” Follow him on Twitter @CLewandowski.

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Secretary of State Pompeo postpones Ukraine trip to focus on Iraq

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks on human rights in Iran at the State Department in Washington, U.S., December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday postponed a trip to Ukraine so he could focus on the situation in Iraq after demonstrators attacked the U.S. embassy.

Supporters of Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups stormed the U.S. embassy’s perimeter and hurled rocks in two days of protests. They withdrew on Wednesday after Washington dispatched extra troops and threatened reprisals against Tehran.

Pompeo postponed his trip to Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Cyprus “due to the need for the Secretary to be in Washington, D.C., to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

On Tuesday evening Pompeo had told Fox News the Ukraine trip was still on.

Pompeo was set to reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine on the highest-level U.S. visit since President Donald Trump’s impeachment over his handling of relations with Ukraine.

Reporting by Chris Sanders; Editing by Andrea Ricci

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo postpones Ukraine trip to focus on Iraq

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday postponed a trip to Ukraine so he could focus on the situation in Iraq after demonstrators attacked the U.S. embassy.

Supporters of Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups stormed the U.S. embassy’s perimeter and hurled rocks in two days of protests. They withdrew on Wednesday after Washington dispatched extra troops and threatened reprisals against Tehran.

Pompeo postponed his trip to Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Cyprus “due to the need for the Secretary to be in Washington, D.C., to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

On Tuesday evening Pompeo had told Fox News the Ukraine trip was still on.

Pompeo was set to reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine on the highest-level U.S. visit since President Donald Trump’s impeachment over his handling of relations with Ukraine. (Reporting by Chris Sanders; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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Emerging from the shadows: the U.S. chief justice who will preside over Trump’s trial

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts will be a central figure in the ongoing drama of the Donald Trump presidency in coming months. He is due to preside over a Senate impeachment trial, while the Supreme Court he leads will rule on a titanic clash over the president’s attempts to keep his financial records secret.

FILE PHOTO: Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts is seen during a group portrait session for the new full court at the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

The expected impeachment trial will focus on accusations that Trump abused his power by asking Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, who aspires to defeat Trump in a November election. The Democratic-led House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment on Dec. 18, paving the way for the trial in the Senate, led by Trump’s fellow Republicans.

The normally reserved and mild-mannered Roberts, 64, will have the largely symbolic role of presiding officer, with senators casting the crucial votes.

In his end-of-year message on Tuesday, Roberts hinted at a past disagreement with Trump, saying an independent judiciary was a “key source of national unity and stability,” and called on his judicial colleagues to promote public confidence and trust by reflecting on their duty to judge without fear or favor.

Trump has repeatedly criticized federal courts and judges who have blocked his policies, while some Democratic lawmakers have suggested that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is motivated mainly by politics instead of interpreting the law.

In his message Roberts also cautioned against disinformation amplified by the internet and social media – an accusation that Trump has faced when he uses his Twitter account to retweet unfounded rumor.

It is in the marble-lined corridors of the Supreme Court across the street from the Capitol Building, hidden from the TV cameras, where Roberts wields real power. Known for his cautious approach to major cases, he holds one of just nine votes that will decide by the end of June whether Trump’s financial records can be disclosed to Democratic-led congressional committees and a New York prosecutor.

The court’s rulings in those cases – on the power of Congress and local prosecutors to investigate a sitting president – will set precedents that may affect not just Trump but also future presidents.

The impeachment trial will be an unusual and potentially uncomfortable period for the low-key Roberts, who prefers to fly under the radar even while he has navigated the conservative-majority court in a rightward direction over the last decade and a half.

“My sense is that the chief doesn’t want to make himself the story,” said Sarah Binder, a scholar at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution.

Roberts declined to comment. During a rare public appearance in New York in September, Roberts appeared concerned about the hyperpartisan politics of Washington under Trump.

“When you live in a polarized political environment, people tend to see everything in those terms. That’s not how we at the court function,” he said.

Those who know Roberts, including former law clerks, say that he would take his role seriously. As a history buff, he is likely reading up on the previous impeachment trials of Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, they said.

WASHINGTON INSIDER

Roberts, a conservative appointed by Republican President George W. Bush, has a reputation in Washington as a traditional conservative and a strong defender of the Supreme Court as an independent branch of government.

In a frictionless rise to prominence, he served in the administration of Republican President Ronald Reagan. Bush appointed him to the federal appeals court in Washington in 2003 before tapping him for the chief justice post two years later.

Roberts is often viewed as an incrementalist in his judicial philosophy, conscious of the fact that the Supreme Court risks its legitimacy if its 5-4 conservative majority is characterized as being too aggressive in moving the law to the right.

He has nonetheless voted consistently with his conservative colleagues on such issues as gay rights, abortion, religious liberty and gun rights. But in 2012, he broke ranks and cast the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

Earlier this year, he again sided with the court’s liberals as the court ruled 5-4 against the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Roberts clashed with Trump more directly in November 2018 when he took the unusual step of issuing a statement defending the federal judiciary after Trump repeatedly criticized judges who had ruled against his administration.

The cases concerning Trump’s financial records, with rulings due by the end of June, puts Roberts and Trump on another collision course.

Legal experts have said Trump, who unlike previous presidents has refused to release his tax returns, is making broad assertions of presidential power that could place new limits on the ability of Congress to enforce subpoenas seeking information about the president.

If it is a close call, Roberts could cast the deciding vote.

In the Senate trial set to take place in January, Roberts’ role as presiding officer is limited mainly to keeping the process on track. Roberts could, however, be asked to rule on whether certain witnesses should be called.

If a majority of senators disagree with a ruling he makes, they can vote to overturn his decision.

In the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999, Chief Justice William Rehnquist had “relatively little to do,” said Neil Richards, who was present as one of Rehnquist’s law clerks and is now a professor at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

“I think Chief Justice Roberts is likely to approach his role… the way he has approached his judicial career to date: Doing his best to be impartial, doing his best to preserve the dignity of his judicial office,” Richards added.

Reporting by Lawrence Hurley. Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe and Andrew Chung, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Howard Goller

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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Beth Moore Outed as NeverTrumper

Can American evangelism die because evangelicals voted for Donald Trump? This seems to be the thinking that Beth Moore, Christian evangelist and bestselling author, is following nowadays.

In a tweet responding to a Christian Post editorial, Moore, the 62-year-old founder of Living Proof Ministries, identified 2016 as the year the movement “passed away.”

The Christian Post editorial was responding to Christianity Today’s support for President Donald Trump’s impeachment and removal from office; The Christian Post piece blasted “Christian elitism” and the spirit of the Christianity Today editorial.

“CT’s op-ed does not represent evangelical Christianity today, yesterday or in the future,” the piece read. “After all, a majority of Trump’s evangelical support has been triggered by his opponents’ advocating policies that make him appear to be, at the very least, the lesser of two evils in a binary contest.

“CT’s disdainful, dismissive, elitist posture toward their fellow Christians may well do far more long-term damage to American Christianity and its witness than any current prudential support for President Trump will ever cause.”

TRENDING: Turns Out ‘Regretful Trump Voter’ in Swing State Ad Never Even Voted in 2016

Tyler Huckabee, the senior editor of Christian magazine Relevant, had compared this to an editorial that The Christian Post had published back in February 2016 titled “Donald Trump Is a Scam. Evangelical Voters Should Back Away.”

This was, of course, long before Trump had even sewn up the Republican nomination, much less been one of two serious choices in the presidential election.

Moore responded with her strange epitaph for evangelical Christianity.

“Evangelicalism as we knew it, as imperfect as it was because we are imperfect, passed away in 2016,” she tweeted Thursday.

“History will plant its grave marker there. A disclaimer is always necessary these days so I’ll add this: This, of course, is not to say conservative Christianity passed away.”

Moore had previously tweeted her support for the Christianity Today editorial, as well.

RELATED: NBC News Op-Ed Mocks White Christians, Accuses Them of Being Scared of Losing ‘Dominance’

The idea that evangelical Christian voters choosing Trump over Hillary Clinton somehow killed evangelicalism is patently absurd, as if they would have been better off voting for a person and a party that had absolute contempt for them and their values.

Do you think Beth Moore is a NeverTrumper?

The past three years have shown that, even if you believe that decision was imperfect, it was the correct one.

Trump’s work on appointing judges who will follow the Constitution as written, a key issue for Christians given its outsized importance in issues of religious freedom, would be reason enough alone to embrace his election.

His defense of the unborn has been unwavering. Even Marc A. Thiessen at The Washington Post acknowledged in 2018 that “Trump is proving to be the most fearlessly pro-life president in history,” noting his move to stop Title X funding from being disbursed to clinics that perform abortions, among other accomplishments.

Trump has supported religious freedom abroad, as well, in a way that a Democratic administration never would have.

“Our Founders understood that no right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous and virtuous society than the right to follow one’s religious convictions. Regrettably, religious freedom enjoyed by American citizens is rare in the world,” Trump said in a speech at the United Nations in September.

“As we speak, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, many other people of faith are being jailed, sanctioned, tortured and even murdered even at the hands of their own government simply for expressing their deeply held religious beliefs.”

Is this a speech you would have seen Hillary Clinton giving?

It’s one thing for a Christian to be against Donald Trump. There are plenty of people who are, after all, and far be it from me to cast aspersions on someone’s faith because of their political opinions.

However, to say that evangelical Christianity and all that entails died because the people of America elected Donald Trump in 2016 essentially states that because other Christians don’t share your political opinions, they literally killed an entire branch of Christianity.

This is fatuousness disguised as serious thought, essentially saying that support for a president who’s defended religious liberty and the unborn at home and abroad is morally abhorrent.

The implication, of course, is that his opponent — a vociferous supporter of unfettered abortion rights who couldn’t have given a lick about religious liberty — would have been the Christian person to support.

This is NeverTrumpism of the most wearying sort.

The subtext here is that if you support Donald Trump, you’re not only a bad Christian, you’re literally responsible for the death of evangelical Christianity.

The accusatory language in Christianity Today’s self-important editorial/lecture was obnoxious enough.

Moore has somehow managed to top that.

The Western Journal reached out to Moore for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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North Korea Leaves Door Open To U.S. Nuclear Talks : NPR

Visitors celebrating the New Year use binoculars to watch North Korean territory Wednesday, near the border between North and South Korea.

Ahn Young-joon/AP


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Ahn Young-joon/AP

Visitors celebrating the New Year use binoculars to watch North Korean territory Wednesday, near the border between North and South Korea.

Ahn Young-joon/AP

After keeping the world waiting and watching, first for a “Christmas Present” to the U.S., and then for a New Year’s shift charting a new course, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivered neither.

Instead, he asserted that he is no longer constrained by a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, although he appeared to leave the door open for concessions and further talks.

In remarks carried by state media, Kim on Tuesday told a plenum of the ruling Workers Party Central Committee that Pyongyang had unilaterally halted nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests in order to build confidence with the U.S. But the U.S., he charged, “remained unchanged in its ambition to stifle” North Korea.

He pointed to ongoing U.S.-South Korean joint military drills, which Kim argued President Trump had promised to stop, and U.S. sales of advanced weapons to South Korea. The U.S. has, in fact, scaled back military exercises to facilitate diplomacy, but has also sold F-35 fighter jets to South Korea.

Under such circumstances, Kim told the plenum, there is no reason “for us to get unilaterally bound to the commitment any longer,” adding that the U.S. stance was “chilling our efforts for worldwide nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”

Rather than marking the complete collapse of negotiations or diplomacy, Kim acknowledged the current stalemate with the U.S., but insisted he would not passively wait for things to improve.

“We should never dream that the U.S. and the hostile forces would leave us alone to live in peace, but we should make [a] frontal breakthrough with the might of self-reliance,” he told the plenum as it wrapped up four days of meetings.

Even before Kim’s remarks, analysts predicted that if he ended his nuclear moratorium and walked out on talks with the U.S., it would leave the door open for further negotiations.

“I don’t think it will take any action to damage its relationship with the U.S. irreparably,” says Park Hyeong-jung, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government think tank in Seoul.

Pyongyang had warned it could take a more hardline “new way” if the U.S. failed to meet its demands for concessions by year’s end. But the deadline passed, and Kim made no mention of any policy shift in his speech.

“Kim Jong Un will have to stage some anger at the U.S. and chastise them” for ignoring his deadline, Park predicts, but could be willing to return to the negotiating table by summer if the U.S. shows signs of accommodating Pyongyang.

Nuclear stance may be tied to Trump political prospects

Analysts believe Donald Trump’s prospects for surviving an impeachment process and winning a second term in the White House are key to Pyongyang’s calculations, and are likely the main reason Kim left the door open to negotiations.

“Donald Trump happens to be the first sitting U.S. president to view North Korea as a source of political victory, for domestic purposes,” says Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow and expert on North Korea at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a Seoul-based think tank.

And while Pyongyang has said they have no intention of handing Trump any victories, they see his eagerness to tout his achievements to a domestic audience as a source of leverage over him.

On the other hand, “if they calculate that President Trump won’t be re-elected next year, then their approach is going to fundamentally change,” Go says, and Pyongyang could unleash provocations that leave little room for compromise.

But analysts also see a prolonged stalemate over North Korea’s nukes as all but inevitable.

“Nuclear weapons are very good for self-defense, and for preserving the existing status quo,” argues Texas A&M University political scientist Matt Fuhrmann. But he says they’re not especially useful for forcing changes to the status quo, as in “using nuclear threats to blackmail your adversaries.”

Fuhrmann says that Kim Jong Un has been “relatively successful” in acquiring nuclear weapons in order to ensure the survival of his regime, and it is unlikely that he could be compelled to give them up.

But using nuclear threats to extract concessions from the U.S., such as security guarantees or the sanctions relief Pyongyang seeks, would be far more difficult. This is because actually using the nukes would all but ensure the regime’s extinction, Fuhrmann says, even if they continue to build their arsenal.

North Korea’s only remaining tool is nuclear brinksmanship — essentially bluffing opponents into thinking Pyongyang might actually use atomic weapons, even though it is plainly evident that the cost of doing so is prohibitive for both sides.

Fuhrmann’s theory has implications for policy: a nuclear-armed North Korea is not the apocalyptic event some fear, “even if we might prefer a situation where they were not to have nuclear weapons.”

Fuhrmann advises that a complete and verifiable nuclear disarmament is “somewhat unrealistic.” Better, he says, for the U.S. to “look for a deal that allows us to place meaningful limits on North Korean capabilities.”

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Australia Fires, Kelly Marie Tran, Pete Buttigieg, Earthshot Prize, Alex Jones, Teri Garr, Aaron Taylor-Johnson: HOT LINKS

AUSTRALIA. Thousands trapped on beach as wildfires rage. “Fueled by searing temperatures and high winds, more than 200 fires are now burning across the southeastern states of New South Wales and Victoria, threatening several towns and snapping their power, mobile and internet links.”

HEALTHY. Bernie Sanders cleared by doctor: “You are in good health currently and you have been engaging vigorously in the rigors of your campaign, travel and other scheduled activities without any limitation.”

KELLY MARIE TRAN. It’s Carrie Fisher’s fault that the Star Wars actress was cut out of Rise of Skywalker.

UNITY TICKET? Biden says he’d consider GOP running mate: “I would but I can’t think of one now. There’s some really decent Republicans that are out there still, but here’s the problem right now. They’ve gotta step up.”

PETE BUTTIGIEG. On Ukraine, the Bidens, and impeachment. “There’s been no allegation, let alone finding, of wrongdoing [involving Joe Biden],” Buttigieg said. “I think it’s the wrong conversation to be having right now, though, given the spectacular misconduct that we have already seen in facts that are not in dispute, where the only argument to be had is over whether it rises to the level of removal.”

REUBEN SHARPE. Transgender man gives birth in UK: “The sperm donor was a trans woman… and even the DOCTOR was transgender.”

MOST ADMIRED IN 2019. Obama and … Trump.

EARTHSHOT PRIZE. Prince William launches “Nobel Peace Prize of environmentalism.”

IRAQ. U.S. embassy stormed by protesters. “Violent anti-American protesters are attacking the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. They are angry over deadly U.S. airstrikes this week that killed 25 fighters from an Iran-backed Shiite militia in Iraq.”

TERI GARR. Tootsie actress released from hospital after bout of dehydration.

MAKE-UP ARTIST MATCHUP? Manny MUA is not f-ing James Charles, in case you were wondering. “We are friends. We have not hooked-up. We are just not each other’s type.”

AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON.Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s johnson is … impressive (wk-unfriendly).

INFOWARS. Alex Jones ordered to pay $100,000 to Sandy Hook father: “In a 20 December ruling, judge Scott Jenkins of Travis County District Court said that Mr Jones and his lawyer intentionally disregarded an October court order to produce witnesses and other materials to the plaintiff in the lawsuit, Neil Heslin.”

TATTOO TOUR OF THE DAY. Justin Bieber.

FUTURE DRINKER OF THE DAY. This Irish girl who wants to go to the pub.

SANDWICH LESSON OF THE DAY. Pro chefs make their favorite sandwiches for Bon Appetit.

FOOTWEAR 2019 ROUND-UP. Seth Fowler on his favorite sneakers of the year.

TECH PREVIEW OF THE DAY. Marques Brownlee looks forward to 2020.

TOO LIT FOR TUESDAY. James Trevino, artist of books.

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Buttigieg bundler pushed “Cash for Fatties” federal proposal

Just when the commotion caused by a top bundler for Pete Buttigieg was fading from political conversations, another problematic bundler has been exposed. This time it is Wendy Wanderman, an entertainment executive who specializes in film marketing and production. A taxpayer-funded initiative she proposed in 2009 has surfaced and is causing some heartburn for Buttigieg’s campaign. Her proposal, “Cash for Fatties” would pay people to lose weight.

Remember Cash for Clunkers, the Obama administration’s cash incentive program for drivers who traded in older automobiles to purchase newer fuel-efficient vehicles? This plan was along the same lines. She proposed that there be a program for the government to pay people to lose weight. She outlined her idea in a 279-word blog post published by HuffPost where she was a contributor at the time. The internet is forever and her old blog post is in the news.

To add to the problematic blog post, Wanderman took a shot at Republicans as she tsk-tsked overweight people in red states. Because, of course, she did. The five states with the highest percentage of overweight people were red states. She turned the obesity problem in America into a political argument. Her argument was that blue state Americans were paying for the health care of red-state Americans. She worked the preference of a single-payer health care system into her rationale. This is the report she references.

According to a recent report from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Top 5 states that have the highest percentage of overweight people are all Republican red states. In fact in the Top 10 ranking of most overweight states, only Michigan (ranked 8) and Ohio (tied for 10th) are the only blue states among a field of red.

Basically, people in the thinner and mostly bluer states are paying for the healthcare costs of all of the uninsured and Medicare covered individuals in these red states. It’s no secret that the more overweight a person is, the greater likelihood that his/her medical costs increase. Thus, the blue states in which we want a public option, are paying the costs of the red states where they oppose it.

Her proposal looks to be short-sighted, though. She doesn’t say who will determine if someone is “heavily overweight” but no doubt it would be some government bureaucrat in a cubicle in Washington, D.C. Wanderman suggests that weight loss programs are paid for by other taxpayers but that opens up a discussion about the effectiveness and legitimacy of weight loss programs. So, that would be another government-controlled decision. And, finally, she recommends that payment is made after the weight loss and again after six months or a year. What happens after that? Does the person get a government hand-out for the rest of his or her life if the weight loss is maintained?

Therefore, here’s what I propose. The government should institute a program in which people are paid to lose weight. You can only register for this program if it is determined that you are heavily overweight. If you enroll in a weight loss program like Weight Watchers, (the gov’t will pay for it whether you have health insurance or not) and lose a significant amount of weight, the gov’t will pay you a fee. If you keep the weight off after 6 months or a year, the gov’t will give you an additional payment.

Keep in mind, this woman isn’t a medical doctor or even a nutritionist. She’s an entertainment industry executive. Mayor Pete is using her to raise some big bucks for his campaign. She served on President Obama’s National Finance Committee. She has raised at least $25,000 for Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. In Buttigieg’s push to be more transparent, his campaign released a list of top bundlers. She is one of the 146 people listed.

This goes to Pete Buttigieg’s judgment. If you ask me, Wanderman is even more problematic than H.K. Park is to the campaign. Park offered up a traditional pay to play opportunity for donors – donate money and get access to the candidate. The campaign distanced itself from Park, of course, and acts as though he is some rogue fundraiser. It exposed Buttigieg as just another politician, not some young reformer out to change business as usual in Washington.

There is also the problem with political divisiveness in a story like this. Wanderman’s eagerness to pit red-state conservatives against blue state liberals over health care policy sounds like we what we came to expect from the Obama years. The notion that President Trump brought in something new in the political division between conservatives and liberals is laughable. That has been growing for several administrations in my lifetime alone. Clinton’s impeachment, the Bush-Gore election, the Afghanistan and Iraq wars during the Bush administration, and then Obama’s lurch to usher in socialism all divided conservatives and liberals. The divisions are stark during Trump’s administration because of the refusal of the left to accept his election. That began before he was even inaugurated. Our liberal betters simply don’t like conservatives. They look down on conservatives and the only Republicans they like are the ones willing to go along to get along.

Mayor Pete is from a red state. He loses the chance to appeal to moderate Republican voters with any message of unity if he continues to associate with the far left who want nanny state solutions to problems. Health complications from obesity add to medical costs but blaming it on red states is ridiculous. Also, a policy initiative like this would also target and shame poor people who do not have access to a better diet or money to afford a healthier way of eating.

I’ll end with one more little nugget on Buttigieg’s bundlers. Buttigieg’s “Medicare for All Who Want It” health care proposal pledges to ban a predatory practice known as “balance billing”. That is when patients are presented with high bills for receiving out of network care without knowing it. A top Buttigieg fundraiser, billionaire Hamilton James, is the executive vice-chairman of Blackstone which has been linked to deceptive billing practice schemes. And, when the Buttigieg campaign released its initial list of top fundraisers, over 20 high-level fundraisers were left off the list. Oops. It looks like the campaign needs a little better vetting of fundraisers and a better eye to details going forward.