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Foreign policy focus after Trump’s Iran strike could benefit Joe Biden

Foreign policy could move to the forefront of the presidential election over Iran, a shift that strategists and New Hampshire voters say could benefit former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic primary — but could push independents to President Trump in the general.

Biden and his team are known to tout his foreign policy bona fides — drawing on his decades in the U.S. Senate, his time as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his experience under President Obama to make the case he can best lead America on the world stage. And he’s polled higher than the rest of the field in surveys asking Democratic-leaning voters who could best handle foreign policy.

With Iran vowing “harsh retaliation” over the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the country’s elite Quds Force blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, independent voter Alain Ades of New Castle, N.H., said he would turn to Biden.

“I would want somebody who can call up every leader in every country and know them by their first name. There’s only one guy, and that’s Biden,” Ades said. “If he got control of things, the whole world would feel a little bit more at ease.”

Democratic strategist Scott Ferson said a “robust response by Iran” would bring foreign policy to the forefront of the presidential primary — and could push Democratic-leaning voters toward the candidate with the most foreign policy experience.

“On the Democratic side, that’s Joe Biden, easily,” Ferson said. “Biden’s got the best counter to Donald Trump on approach and temperament on foreign policy.”

But a focus on foreign policy could also put the spotlight on Biden’s record. Biden has already faced criticism from Democratic rivals Sanders and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a veteran, over his 2002 vote to invade Iraq, which Sanders opposed.

Still, Democratic strategist Neil Oxman said the situation could “help somebody more mature and more seasoned in foreign policy, like Biden,” or former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Some New Hampshire voters surveyed by the Herald remained split down party lines. Londonderry, N.H., Democrat Sangita Patel said, “Trump starting a war just motivates us more to vote for a Democrat who can stop him.”

Trump supporter Nancy Kindler of Epping, N.H., said, “We need somebody that is willing to stand up to the tyrants and the terrorists and the killers of the world, and finally we have a president that does it.”

Hampstead, N.H., independent Karl Hubner called eliminating Soleimani “a good thing.”

A right-leaning moderate, Hubner wondered if the prospect of war would make voters “less apt to have a change in power in the fall.”

“I think that right-leaning moderates don’t like Trump,” he said. “But under the right circumstances they might feel content to let him go another four years, especially if he seems strong on national defense.”

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The Decade That Put Capitalism On Trial

This has been one of the astonishing motifs of this decade: wave after wave of new people engaging in social movements for the first time.

I can’t say I’m convinced this decade has really just ended, especially since it didn’t start Jan. 1, 2010. As far as I can tell, it actually began in 2007, with Wall Street’s historic financial crisis.

That calamity has defined the last 13 odd years—call them the long teens—and transformed American politics by showing the center, indeed, could not hold. In the immediate aftermath of the mortgage debacle, the Tea Party rose to prominence, foreshadowing the racist, rightwing populism that continues to gain ground at home with Trump and around the world. But over time, the U.S. Left learned its own lessons: that capitalism can fail and that the government can spend huge sums of money to intervene in the economy. These revelations, in turn, have shaped the emerging generation’s sense of what is possible, spurring a democratic socialist revival and opening space for teenage environmentalist Greta Thunberg to credibly insist in 2019, “If we can save the banks we can save the world.” United behind the proposal for an economically and ecologically transformative Green New Deal, young people understand it isn’t some pie-in-the-sky fantasy but a pragmatic and urgent necessity.

Greta’s comments echo the now famous refrain, which I first heard on Sep. 17, 2011 when a few hundred of us gathered at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan for Occupy Wall Street: “The banks got bailed out; We got sold out.” As a result of the financial crash, around 7.8 million U.S. homes were foreclosed. Black households lost half their collective wealth. Back then I didn’t have a home or savings to lose, yet my personal finances were in meltdown nonetheless. Around the same time Lehman Brothers collapsed, I got a call telling me my student loans were in default. I remember trying to grasp the logic: “I don’t have money, so you are increasingly my principal by 19%?” My balance ballooned, as did my monthly payments, which meant I was even more broke than before.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as I became more deeply involved in Occupy, I found myself gravitating to work focused on the problem of debt. It made sense, since most people drawn to the encampments were in the red as a result of being forced to debt-finance basic goods such as housing, healthcare and education, often with disastrous results.

Soon enough, I was collaborating with people I met through the movement and devising new creative ways to organize to transform indebtedness into a source of power and leverage. We co-founded the Debt Collective, a union for debtors, and in 2015 we launched the country’s first student debt strike, eventually winning over $1 billion in loan relief and crucial changes to federal law. Early on our position was mocked by mainstream media, but through organizing and public education we have shifted public opinion, helping lay the groundwork for the decommodification of higher education. We never would have predicted that in 2020 two leading presidential candidates would make our twin demands of mass student debt cancellation and free public college central planks of their campaigns.

Occupy marked a decisive break with the aughts, a difficult decade for social movements. In the wake of 9/11, New York City protests were often massively overpoliced, making demonstrating a grim and dispiriting affair, with the protesters who did show up to an action typically quarantined in “free speech pens” or arrested after being trapped by the awful orange netting cops would use to catch demonstrators like fish. Fortunately, most of the young people who had answered the call to “Occupy Wall Street” were new to activism—their sense of possibility hadn’t been constrained by the previous decade’s crackdown on dissent. Emboldened by recent uprisings including the Arab Spring, the Spanish and Greek indignados, and the occupation of Wisconsin’s state capitol, the people gathered in Zuccotti Park were determined to hold their ground for the night, and they succeeded.

This has been one of the astonishing motifs of this decade: wave after wave of new people engaging in social movements for the first time, be it Occupy, Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter, #NoDAPL, the Women’s Marches, #MeToo, Indivisible, Democratic Socialists of America, Sunrise Movement, the Schools Strikes for Climate, and more. Since 2016, there has also been a remarkable insurgency of bold, unabashedly leftwing candidates for public office, many inspired by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ progressivism. If you had told me in 2010 that socialists would be winning office from Houston, Texas, to Fulton, Georgia, and serving as judges, city councilors and Congresswomen, I never would have believed you.

If this decade has been anything, it has been a decade of crisis: the financial crisis, the post-Trump political crisis and the climate crisis. I spent much of this period writing a book and making a film about democracy and one thing I learned is that the word for crisis, like the word democracy, comes from the ancient Greek, krisis. It means the turning point in an illness—death or recovery, two stark alternatives. It’s fitting, then, that two divergent possibilities lay ahead: on one side, the path to a more egalitarian society, underpinned by a wholesale transformation of our economic and energy systems; on the other, a nostalgic, ethno-nationalist rightwing backlash combining plutocracy with other forms of minority rule. No one knows what the next decade will bring, but given the high stakes we have no choice but to pick a side and try to be part of the cure.


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It only takes a minute to answer this short, three-question survey, but your input will help shape our coverage in the months to come. That’s why we want to make sure you have a chance to share your thoughts.

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Appeals court wrestles with Mueller evidence, Trump aide’s testimony

A federal appeals court in Washington on Friday grappled with a pair of cases involving fights between House Democrats and the White House over the release of evidence that Democrats say could be relevant to President TrumpDonald John TrumpIran foreign minister warns killing of general is ‘extremely dangerous and foolish escalation’ Congress reacts to U.S. assassination of Iranian general Trump tweets American flag amid reports of strike against Iranian general MORE’s impeachment.

The potentially groundbreaking separation of powers cases pit the House Judiciary Committee against the Justice Department over the enforcement of a subpoena against former White House counsel Don McGahn and the disclosure of secret grand jury materials stemming from former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a ‘failure’ Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s investigation.

Some of the sharpest exchanges came amid questioning by judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals over whether the courts should wade into such a politically charged debate, or if Congress and the White House should be left to resolve the disputes on their own.  

“The question is whether the Constitution allows you to pull the courts in,” Judge Thomas Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee, told an attorney for the House Judiciary Committee in the McGahn case, noting instances where the feuding branches “duked it out” through the political process.

Griffith and Judge Judith Rogers, a Clinton appointee, were assigned to hear both cases. Karen Henderson, a George H.W. Bush appointee, rounded out the three-judge panel in the McGahn case, and Judge Neomi Rao, a Trump appointee, joined the panel in the Mueller case.

The dispute over Mueller grand jury materials reached the D.C. Circuit Court after a lower court ruled against the Justice Department, prompting the agency’s appeal. 

In her October opinion, D.C. District Judge Beryl Howell, an Obama appointee, ruled that House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, then in its early stages, helped to justify the release of grand jury materials stemming from Mueller’s Russia probe.

But that justification no longer applies, a Justice Department lawyer told the D.C. District Court today. Neither of the two House-passed impeachment articles — abuse of power related to Trump’s Ukraine dealings and obstruction of Congress — touch on the Mueller probe, he said.

The lower court decision was based on “a need that no longer exists,” said Mark Freeman, a department attorney.

Lawyers for the House Judiciary Committee in both cases argued that the concealed evidence could either spawn new impeachment articles, or help demonstrate a pattern of misconduct by Trump that would bolster the case for the House-passed articles in a Senate trial.

House Democrats would look at the disclosed materials to “inform whether to recommend more articles,” Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the committee, told the court after being prompted by Griffith.

“That option is on the table,” Letter said. “No doubt.”

Letter added that he had discussed the legal arguments with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP senator plans to seek dismissal of impeachment articles Meadows says Matt Gaetz should be part of Trump’s impeachment defense team ‘Queer Eye’ star Jonathan Van Ness to campaign with Warren in Iowa MORE (D-Calif.), and that they represented the position of the House.

Mueller’s nearly two-year probe focused on Moscow’s 2016 election interference and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, as well as the president’s alleged obstruction of justice.  

House Democrats say the underlying grand jury materials are needed to assess whether the subjects of the probe, including Trump, misled investigators. They say McGahn’s account is critical to gaining a fuller understanding of Trump’s alleged obstruction of Mueller’s investigation.

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US sending 3,000 more troops to Mideast as reinforcements – Boston Herald

By ZEKE MILLER, ROBERT BURNS and LOLITA C. BALDOR

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has placed an Army brigade on alert to fly into Lebanon to protect the American Embassy there.

A Pentagon official said the brigade, which is based in Italy, has been placed on alert as part of a number of military moves to protect U.S. interests in the Middle East in the volatile aftermath of the U.S. attack that killed a top Iranian general.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the U.S. could send 130 to more than 700 troops to Beirut. The official was not authorized to be identified.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below

The United States is sending nearly 3,000 more Army troops to the Mideast as reinforcements in the volatile aftermath of the killing of an Iranian general in a strike ordered by President Donald Trump, defense officials said Friday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a decision not yet announced by the Pentagon, said the troops are from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They are in addition to about 700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne who deployed to Kuwait earlier this week after the storming of the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad by Iran-backed militiamen and their supporters.

The dispatching of extra troops reflects concern about potential Iranian retaliatory action for the killing Thursday of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force. But it also runs counter to Trump’s repeated push to extract the United States from Mideast conflicts. Prior to this week’s troop deployments, the administration had sent 14,000 additional troops to the Mideast since May, when it first publicly claimed Iran was planning attacks on U.S. interests.

The reinforcements took shape as Trump gave his first comments on the strike, declaring that he ordered the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani because he had killed and wounded many Americans over the years and was plotting to kill many more. “He should have been taken out many years ago,” he added.

The strike marked a major escalation in the conflict between Washington and Iran, as Iran vowed “harsh retaliation” for the killing of the senior military leader. The two nations have faced repeated crises since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions.

The United States urged its citizens to leave Iraq “immediately” as fears mounted that the strike and any retaliation by Iran could ignite a conflict that engulfs the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the strike as “wholly lawful,” saying that Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat against the U.S. and its interests in the region.

“There was an imminent attack,” Pompeo told Fox News. “The orchestrator, the primary motivator for the attack, was Qassem Soleimani.”

The W hite House did not inform lawmakers before the strike. It was expected to give classified briefings to members of Congress and staff in the afternoon. Defense Secretary Mark Esper notified House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the strike shortly before the Pentagon confirmed it publicly.

Pompeo called world leaders Friday to explain and defend Trump’s decision to order the airstrike that has sparked fears of an explosion of anti-American protests as well as more violence in the already unstable Middle East.

The State Department said Pompeo had spoken Friday with top officials in Afghanistan, Britain, China, France, Germany and Pakistan.

In his calls with the British and German foreign ministers as well as China’s state councilor, Pompeo stressed that Trump acted to counter an imminent threat to U.S. lives in the region but also that the U.S. is committed to “de-escalation” of tensions, according to the department’s summaries of the conversations.

De-escalation was not mentioned in the department’s summary of his call with the French foreign minister, nor in his calls with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani or the Pakistani military chief of staff. In those calls Pompeo “underscored the Iranian regime’s destabilizing actions through the region and the Trump Administration’s resolve in protecting American interests, personnel, facilities and partners,” the department said.

Trump opted not to play a round of golf on Friday, and he was not expected to be seen publicly until he travels to Miami for an afternoon event for his reelection campaign.

___

Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro and Matthew Lee contributed.

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How a one-term, lame-duck Biden could soar to great heights – The Mercury News

You may have heard an old crank in a big house ranting about appliances and unflushable toilets the other day. “Remember the dishwasher, you’d press it, boom — there’d be like an explosion,” he said, apropos of nothing. “Now you press it 12 times.”

The bathroom is another battleground. In the shower, “you turn on the faucet, you don’t get any water.” It gets worse. “People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once.”

Of course, that was our own President Donald Trump, who will be 74 on Election Day, and would like to be known for “my great and unmatched wisdom,” even if he seems flummoxed by the great obstacle facing a toilet-training 2-year-old.

But had it been Joe Biden who muttered such gibberish, it would have prompted another round of age-shaming. Imagine if Biden had made up a country that doesn’t exist (“Nambia”), or gave a new name to his secretary of defense (“Mark Esperanto”) and the chief executive of Apple (“Tim Apple”)? Dare I mention “covfefe”? As Trump wrote, what comes out of his mouth is “unpresidented.”

Biden will be 77 on Election Day and would be the oldest person ever elected president. He mixes up places, people, dates and decades. He still shows signs of his struggle to overcome a childhood stutter, which is not to be confused with age.

Yet, compared with the tongue-tangled, fact-mangling, grammar-assaulting, nonsense-spewing, hate-and-grievance-filled current occupant of the White House, Biden is Churchill.

Which brings us to the question of how Uncle Joe should handle his age. Answer: He’s already done it, which is to signal that he would be open to serving only one term. For the record, Biden has denied what was initially leaked by his own camp and reported by Politico.

Most political pros think it’d be crazy for Biden to give himself lame-duck status from Day 1. What they miss is that such a pledge, telegraphed subtly, could be just the thing that gets him in the position to have a Day 1.

A one-term president can be unhinged or liberated or both, but is certainly not powerless. Free from overreacting to the swings of daily tracking polls, the lame duck can fly to great heights.

Nothing in a one-term president’s powers keep the executive from nominating Supreme Court justices, signing life-changing legislation, vetoing terrible bills or renewing the United States’ role as a global citizen in the existential fight against climate change.

By executive order, a one-term president can keep poisons out of rivers, forbid family separation at the border and restore the honor of the military code of justice. He can order his Justice Department to back efforts in court to ensure that people with pre-existing medical conditions are not dumped by their insurance companies. He can welcome science, civility and culture back into the White House. He can protect children from lunatics who now have easy access to military-style weapons.

And all the while, people can look to a younger and farsighted vice president as the logical next step. Perhaps the quickest way to get a President Stacey Abrams or President Pete Buttigieg is to first elect a President Biden.

Voters are exhausted by the vulgarian in chief. They want a day, a week even, when their president doesn’t lie to them, shout at them or call members of his own party or federal law enforcement “human scum.” They want their children to come out from hiding when the president appears.

Trump is retro in the worst ways, far beyond his hatred of energy-efficient light bulbs, windmills and new appliances. He’s also a remarkably lazy old man. His mornings are consumed by tweeting and bathing in the Dear Leader affirmation of Fox News. He spent 1 in 5 days last year at a golf course, and he has made 236 visits overall to golf clubs since he took office, costing taxpayers $115 million.

Biden’s support has not wavered, especially among people of color and disaffected whites — a coalition no other candidate can match. Once the nominating process gets past the white and unrepresentative states of Iowa and New Hampshire, the new America will show its power: States representing one-third of the U.S. population will vote on Super Tuesday, March 3. Biden is well positioned.

Biden’s closest rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, will be 79 on Election Day. He still has a lot of steam left in the engine. But the engine smells too much like 19th-century socialism, a failed economic system repackaged under Sanders’ slogan of a “political revolution.”

At times, Biden can sound like he’s stuck in a time warp, an era of record players and malarkey and push-up challenges. He likes to hug. But his politics are not static; he was ahead of President Barack Obama on marriage equality and the futility of the Afghan war. If an emboldened Congress were to send him a piece of substantive progressive legislation, he’d sign it.

Trump promotes, and lives in, an actual time warp — the America of white dominance and energy gluttony and butt-groping by men in power. At the dawn of a year when we all need a long convalescence from the craziness, a one-term Joe may be just the restorative.

Timothy Egan is a New York Times columnist.

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U.S. Democratic White House contenders condemn Trump’s strike against Iranian commander, warn of war

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential contenders on Friday condemned the air strike that killed prominent Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, saying President Donald Trump’s decision was reckless and could lead the United States to another war in the Middle East.

A man holds a banner depicting late Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike Near Baghdad, at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon January 3, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

The candidates, vying for the right to challenge Trump in the November 2020 election, questioned whether the president had a broader strategy in dealing with Iran, and used the action to highlight their approach to dealing with foreign adversaries.

“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement.

At a campaign event in Dubuque, Iowa, he added that no American would mourn Soleimani’s death but “the prospect of direct conflict with Iran is greater than it has ever been.”

Liberal U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who has consistently opposed U.S. military intervention overseas, said the move “brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.”

The overnight attack against the general, regarded as the second most powerful figure in Iran, was a dramatic escalation of hostilities in the Middle East between Iran and the United States and its allies, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strike aimed to disrupt an “imminent attack” that would have endangered Americans in the Middle East. But it was a risky gamble for Trump, who has criticized longstanding U.S. entanglements in the region and promised to end “endless wars.”

Republicans said the move was a sign Trump – who was impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives last month and faces a Senate trial on charges he abused his office and obstructed Congress – was restoring American strength and leadership.

“At a time when the president is under impeachment by the Democrats, there’s nothing wrong with him showing strength and resolve in the face of a foreign threat,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean, who is close to the White House.

Democrats said it was another troubling indication of Trump’s erratic approach to foreign policy.

“We’re on the brink of yet another war in the Middle East,” said liberal U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. “We’re not here by accident. We’re here because a reckless president, his allies and his administration have spent years pushing us here.”

Many of the Democratic White House candidates, who will face voters for the first time in a month when Iowa kicks off the state-by-state nominating battle on Feb. 3, pounced on the strike to emphasize their own foreign policy philosophies and credentials.

Biden, a former chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee who emphasizes his foreign policy experience, released a 30-second online ad on Friday calling Trump “an erratic, unstable president” and portraying himself as “someone tested and trusted around the world.”

Sanders mentioned in his statement his 2002 vote against authorizing war in Iraq, which he frequently uses as a contrast to Biden, who backed the war.

Biden, Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and other Democrats made clear in their statements that they viewed Soleimani as a threat, but Warren, Sanders and entrepreneur Andrew Yang did not mention the Iranian commander.

Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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Trump fiercely defends Soleimani killing as he plunges U.S. deeper into foreign conflict

The unexpected killing of the leader of Iran’s elite Quds force represents one of the president’s boldest military maneuvers while in office, and marks perhaps the most serious escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran since Trump withdrew from the multinational nuclear pact with Iran in 2018.

The general’s death in the opening days of a presidential election year is also likely to elevate the issue of American foreign policy in the Middle East as Trump wages a competitive campaign for a second term in the White House.

“While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country,” Trump tweeted. “They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the hosts of “Fox & Friends” that even though Trump does not “seek war” with Iran, the administration will “respond appropriately” if Tehran does not move to de-escalate tensions with the United States.

“The president’s been pretty clear. We don’t seek war with Iran,” Pompeo said.

“But we, at the same time, are not going to stand by and watch the Iranians escalate and continue to put American lives at risk without responding in a way that disrupts, defends, deters and creates an opportunity to deescalate the situation,” he said.

Although officials in Tehran have vowed revenge against the U.S. for Soleimani’s death, Pompeo said Friday that he hopes Iran’s “decision will be to deescalate” rather than pursue a course of retaliation.

“In the event that they do not, in the event they go the other direction, I know that President Trump and the entire United States government is prepared to respond appropriately,” he said.

Pompeo on Friday morning also participated in several phone calls with senior foreign diplomats, including those from China, Germany and the United Kingdom, regarding Trump’s decision to eliminate Soleimani “in response to imminent threats to American lives,” according to State Department readouts of the conversations.

The secretary largely declined to detail the nature of those “imminent threats” in a separate interview with CNN, but insisted the president’s call “to remove Qassem Soleimani from the battlefield saved American lives. There’s no doubt about that.”

Soleimani “was actively plotting in the region to take actions — big action, as he described it — that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk,” Pompeo said, adding that “last night was the time that we needed to strike to make sure that this imminent attack, that he was working actively, was disrupted.”

Pompeo did acknowledge that the threats removed by Soleimani’s death were “located in the region” as opposed to the U.S. homeland, and said the intelligence community had assessed that “the risk of doing nothing was enormous.”

Pompeo similarly declined to elaborate on a State Department advisory issued early Friday urging American citizens to “depart Iraq immediately.”

Iraqi and other media have reported that Soleimani died in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport, and Trump earlier this week blamed Iran for a breach of the U.S. embassy compound in the Iraqi capital.

“Make no mistake about it, the Trump administration is focused on protecting Americans to the maximum extent feasible,” Pompeo said. “We made the conclusion that a statement that we issued was appropriate, that the timing was right for that.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi condemned the U.S. strike in a statement Friday, charging that “carrying out operations to assassinate Iraqi figures and figures from another country on Iraqi soil is a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a dangerous escalation.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, expressed support for Trump’s directive. “Just as Israel has the right of self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right,” he told reporters Friday.

Trump drew Iraq further into the rapidly intensifying conflict between the U.S. and Iran in a pair of tweets later Friday morning, seizing upon anti-Iranian sentiment among Iraqi protesters in recent months.

“The United States has paid Iraq Billions of Dollars a year, for many years. That is on top of all else we have done for them,” the president wrote. “The people of Iraq don’t want to be dominated & controlled by Iran, but ultimately, that is their choice. Over the last 15 years, Iran has gained more and more control over Iraq, and the people of Iraq are not happy with that. It will never end well!”

The president also wrote online earlier in the morning that “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!” — an adage previously employed by his hawkish former national security adviser, John Bolton, who praised the administration in a tweet Friday.

“Congratulations to all involved in eliminating Qassem Soleimani,” Bolton wrote. “Long in the making, this was a decisive blow against Iran’s malign Quds Force activities worldwide. Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s top congressional advisers on matters of foreign policy, echoed the White House’s characterization of Soleimani’s killing Friday, calling it a “preemptive, defensive strike planned to take out the organizer of of attacks yet to come.”

Graham also revealed that he was “briefed about the potential operation” while visiting Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where the president has spent his holiday vacation.

“I appreciate being brought into the orbit,” he said. “I really appreciate President Trump letting the world know you cannot kill an American without impunity.” 

But unlike Graham, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not informed of the strike ahead of time, saying in a statement late Thursday that the deadly action “was taken without the consultation of Congress.”

Pelosi spoke with Defense Secretary Mark Esper after the assault, around 9:40 p.m., according to a Democratic source with knowledge of the call. The two leaders talked for 13 minutes and afterwards Pelosi issued a statement calling for a full congressional briefing on the airstrike.

“The full Congress must be immediately briefed on this serious situation and on the next steps under consideration by the Administration, including the significant escalation of the deployment of additional troops to the region,” Pelosi said in her statement.

So far, that briefing has yet to be scheduled, according to Democratic aides.

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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Judges struggle over Trump bid to block testimony sought by House

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. appeals court judges on Friday appeared skeptical about broad legal arguments by President Donald Trump’s administration seeking to block a former White House lawyer from testifying to Congress as part of the impeachment effort against Trump, but also seemed wary about stepping into the heated political fight.

Judge Thomas Griffith asked tough questions of the Justice Department lawyer who argued on behalf of the administration and the lawyer for the Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee that subpoenaed former White House Counsel Don McGahn, and could be the pivotal vote in deciding the case.

The case was being heard by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Griffith questioned whether the court should decide the case at all, in part because McGahn’s testimony is not key to the two articles of impeachment against Trump approved by the House on Dec. 18.

Griffith, a Republican appointee, and Judge Judith Rogers, a Democratic appointee, questioned the administration’s arguments that the House panel has no legal standing to enforce its subpoena and that there is broad presidential immunity that applies to efforts to seek testimony from close advisers.

The other judge, Republican appointee Karen Henderson, said little.

The arguments came in the administration’s appeal of a Nov. 25 ruling by U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson that McGahn must comply with the committee’s April subpoena.

The committee filed suit seeking to enforce its subpoena for McGahn to testify about Trump’s efforts to impede former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that documented Russian interference in the 2016 election and numerous contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

Griffith asked whether there has ever been such “broad scale defiance” of congressional requests in U.S. history as has been exhibited by the Trump administration. The administration has directed current and former officials not to comply with congressional subpoenas for testimony and documents. McGahn, who left his post in October 2018, defied the subpoena but has said he would comply if ordered to by a court.

Griffith also noted that the Supreme Court has previously said that legislatures can have legal standing in such cases.

The committee’s lawsuit was filed in August, a month before the House launched its impeachment inquiry against the Republican president centering on his request that Ukraine investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his son.

Griffith noted that McGahn was “long gone” from the White House by the time the Ukraine controversy unfolded. Griffith also appeared skeptical over some claims made by House lawyer Megan Barbero.

“I wonder if we should be involved with this dispute at all,” Griffith said.

‘THE TOUGH QUESTION’

Congress has other means to leverage cooperation from the executive branch such as refusing to fund the government, Griffith said.

“The question is whether the Constitution allows you to pull the courts … into this dispute, which historically has been fought out – duked out – between the political branches. To me that’s the tough question,” Griffith added.

Rogers said that if the House cannot enforce subpoenas, its “critical power in terms of checking abuse of presidential power” would be stymied.

Rogers appeared to reject the administration’s suggestion that the courts have no role in enforcing such subpoenas, saying that the Supreme Court has said that in some cases there is a role.

“That’s what I think we are struggling with here,” Rogers added.

The House has passed two articles of impeachment – formal charges – accusing Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

In a court filing, House lawyers said McGahn’s testimony was still vital to the impeachment proceedings and could affect the House’s strategy for the expected trial in the Republican-led Senate to determine whether Trump will be removed from office. The House has also not ruled out McGahn’s testimony giving rise to an additional article of impeachment.

FILE PHOTO: Don McGahn, the White House counsel, leaves a meeting with U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S., August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski/File Photo

According to Mueller’s investigative report, McGahn told the special counsel’s team that Trump repeatedly instructed him to have Mueller ousted and then asked him to deny having been so instructed when word of the action emerged in news reports. McGahn did not carry out either instruction.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and accused Democrats of trying to nullify the results of the 2016 election that brought him to power.

The appeals court also heard arguments in a separate lawsuit by the House Judiciary Committee seeking access to grand jury evidence from the Mueller investigation. A judge ruled in October that the information should be produced to Congress, rejecting the Justice Department’s arguments that by law it must be kept confidential.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham

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Democrats Warn Of Fallout From Airstrike On Qassem Soleimani : NPR

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., pictured on April 2, says that the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani could have dangerous repercussions.

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Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., pictured on April 2, says that the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani could have dangerous repercussions.

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As congressional Republicans praise President Trump in the wake of a U.S. strike assassinating Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Democrats are raising alarms that Americans could face dangerous repercussions for years to come and renewing complaints about congressional authority.

Democrats are also warning that the airstrike early Friday near the Baghdad International Airport marks a dramatic escalation of tensions between Washington and Iran.

“The worry here, of course, is that this is actually going to get more Americans, not less Americans, killed,” Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Friday. “Is Qassem Soleimani more dangerous as a martyr than he was alive as the functional leader of the Quds Force? There will be reprisals.”

One key concern driving the split between Republicans and Democrats outlook: It appears the White House only alerted certain Republicans on Capitol Hill of the attack ahead of time. Otherwise, senior Democratic members of Congress say they were largely left in the dark ahead of the strike.

Meanwhile, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox & Friends on Friday that he was told about the planned attack during a recent golf outing with the president. Graham was spotted at the president’s course in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday.


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“When it comes to the death of General Soleimani, there is no one to blame but himself,” Graham tweeted Friday morning. “He effectively signed his own death warrant by planning massive attacks against U.S. personnel in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.”

A wave of Republicans also issued support in statements overnight lauding the attacks, saying that Soleimani was a ruthless leader who directed the deaths of many Americans and others.

“Qassem Soleimani masterminded Iran’s reign of terror for decades, including the deaths of hundreds of Americans,” Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said shortly following news of the attack. “Tonight, he got what he richly deserved, and all those American soldiers who died by his hand also got what they deserved: justice. America is safer now after Soleimani’s demise.”

Meanwhile, Democrats have blasted the president for not briefing Congress ahead of time.

The concern touches on a years-long debate that the president’s war powers are woefully outdated, with Democrats most recently leading calls for a new legislation addressing the president’s Authorization for Use of Military Force or AUMF.

Congress last issued these war power directives in 2001 and 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, and there has been a push to address Iran in a potential AUMF.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was not told about the attack and didn’t gather details until afterward, a congressional aide told NPR. Pelosi spoke to Defense Secretary Mark Esper around 9:40 p.m. for 13 minutes, the aide said.

“American leaders’ highest priority is to protect American lives and interests. But we cannot put the lives of American servicemembers, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions,” Pelosi said in a statement Thursday night. “Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America – and the world – cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.”

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Christianity Today editor says many evangelicals ignorant of ‘the gravity of Trump’s moral failings’

Christianity Today editor-in-chief Mark Galli says in a new interview that he was shocked by the reaction to the magazine’s recent editorial calling for President TrumpDonald John TrumpIran foreign minister warns killing of general is ‘extremely dangerous and foolish escalation’ Congress reacts to U.S. assassination of Iranian general Trump tweets American flag amid reports of strike against Iranian general MORE’s removal from office, saying anger at the piece demonstrates “widespread ignorance” of “Trump’s moral failings.”

The prominent evangelical magazine published an editorial last month sharply criticizing Trump and accusing him of “profoundly immoral” actions that violate the Constitution. Galli revealed in a Thursday interview with The New York Times that the now-viral piece crashed the magazine’s website and phones in its office rang all day with both criticism and support from evangelicals. 

“I’ve been surprised by the ethical naïveté of the response I’m receiving to the editorial. There does seem to be widespread ignorance — that is the best word I can come up with — of the gravity of Trump’s moral failings. Some evangelicals will acknowledge he had a problem with adultery, but now they consider that a thing of the past. They bring up King David, but the difference is King David repented! Donald Trump has not done that,” Galli said.

“Some evangelicals say he is prideful, abrasive and arrogant — which are all the qualities that Christians decry — but they don’t seem to grasp how serious it is for a head of state to talk like that and it does make me wonder what’s going on there,” he continued. 

Trump, who is rallying evangelical supporters on Friday evening in the aftermath of the piece, lashed out after it was published, calling Christianity Today a “far left magazine” and saying that “no President has done more for the Evangelical community, and it’s not even close.”

Galli said some critics used the president’s language after the editorial was published, “taking their cues” from Trump and saying “That’s Christianity Yesterday” or “You’re a dying magazine.”

Franklin Graham, the son of magazine founder Billy Graham, also criticized the editorial, saying, “My father knew Donald Trump, he believed in Donald Trump, and he voted for Donald Trump. He believed that Donald J. Trump was the man for this hour in history for our nation.”

But Galli also said he received a positive response from some evangelicals who agreed.

“People wrote to me and said they had felt all alone and were waiting for someone in the evangelical leadership to say what the editorial said. I wish I could tell you that I had noticed that and wanted to respond to it, but I didn’t see that. There were a lot of people who were feeling alone and they’re not feeling that way now,” he told the Times.

Galli said he voted for neither Trump nor Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIs Joe Biden simply running his campaign like Hillary Clinton? Clinton becomes first female chancellor of Queen’s University in Belfast Pelosi faces decision on articles of impeachment MORE in the 2016 presidential election. He said his work since Trump was elected has been to “get evangelicals on the left, center and right to have a reasonable conversation” but that “something in me clicked” recently regarding Trump’s actions in Ukraine, which led to House Democrats voting to impeach him. 

“Given what we now know about what the president has done, we need to speak out more directly about this,” Galli said.