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As House Judiciary Takes Control of Impeachment Hearings, All Eyes Are on Jerry Nadler

As the House Judiciary Committee kicks off its first impeachment proceeding on Wednesday, Rep. Jerry Nadler once again finds himself in the spotlight. Last time, he was at the center of Congressional probes relating to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Now he faces an arguably bigger challenge: convincing the public to unify around impeachment as he leads one of the most partisan committees in Congress.

House Democrats released a 300-page report on Tuesday arguing that evidence amassed in the impeachment inquiry so far shows that President Trump undermined U.S. national security interests to benefit his reelection campaign by leveraging foreign aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will gather to publicly assess whether that evidence amounts to an impeachable offense. Four constitutional scholars—Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan, UNC Law Professor Michael Gerhardt, and George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley—will take the stand to opine on that question. (Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt are representing the majority, and Turley the minority.)

The hearing could seem esoteric to people who are unmoved by constitutional law, particularly in comparison to some of the headline-grabbing witness testimony given to the House Intelligence Committee last month. “The new phase is going to look different,” said a staffer working on the inquiry. “We’re going to examine the constitutional framework that is put in place to address presidential misconduct. We’re going to apply the constitutional law to the facts.”

But within the caucus, the new set of hearings represent a chance for Nadler to reclaim a starring role in the drama that is the Trump impeachment saga.

When former presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon were facing impeachment, the process in the House of Representatives was largely helmed by the Judiciary Committee. And for the first half of the year, when it was still unclear if Democrats would move ahead on impeachment, it was Nadler who became the public face of Democrats’ oversight probes into the Trump administration. Then his committee was effectively sidelined, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially announced the inquiry on September 24th. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, along with the committees on oversight and government reform and foreign affairs, spearheaded the inquiry, and Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chair of the Intelligence Committee and a Pelosi protege, became the public face of the probe.

On the face of it, delegating control to Schiff appeared to be a matter of jurisdiction; it was his committee who had been notified about the complaint from the whistleblower detailing allegations of Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The three committees that led the inquiry had already opened a joint probe into whether Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani pressured Ukraine.

But there was a palpable sense of relief among some Democratic members in the caucus that the historically polarized Judiciary Committee, who some thought muddled early impeachment messaging and made it inherently partisan, was temporarily out of the limelight.

House Judiciary Committee Democrats, led by Nadler, had kicked off the year by launching an expansive investigation into whether President Trump abused the power of his office. After Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, Nadler’s profile intensified as his committee staff battled the Department of Justice for the redacted grand jury materials and negotiated the terms for Mueller’s appearance on Capitol Hill in July. It was the Judiciary Committee that issued subpoenas to top Trump associates Attorney General William Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn, and which held Barr in contempt when he refused to provide the full, un-redacted version of the Mueller report and filed a lawsuit to enforce the subpoena against McGahn.

The committee has succeeded with their court cases to enforce McGahn’s subpoena and obtain the grand jury materials, with judges ruling in their favor in both instances. But those rulings were only handed down in the last several months, and the administration has challenged both of them. As the bulk of the committee’s requests went ignored by the White House this spring, several Democratic members on the committee—many of whom hail from blue districts—began to push for an impeachment inquiry, putting them at odds with House leadership and more moderate members who feared an inquiry could cost them the majority.

Nadler tried publicly to tow the party line of putting fact-finding before moving ahead on impeachment, but privately relayed his committee members’ beliefs to Pelosi that an inquiry could be beneficial to stopping the White House obstruction of their probes. By July, part of the committee’s justification in its legal quest to receive Mueller’s grand jury material was that they were investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment, even as Pelosi continued to resist that line. “We have the power to vote articles of impeachment and we are investigating now to get the evidence to decide whether to do so,” Nadler said on CNN this past August. “We are not waiting on anything from the House Speaker,” he added, insisting Pelosi had been cooperative in the process.

Although aides said Pelosi had signed off on that language, it wasn’t until September that she threw her support behind an official impeachment inquiry. And her public reasoning for it was based on the allegations raised by the whistleblower that Trump had leveraged the power of the presidency to push Zelensky to investigate Biden. “…The President has admitted to asking the President of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically,” she said on September 24th. “The actions of the Trump Presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the President’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”

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Nadler: Trump showed ‘pattern’ that poses ‘danger’ to elections

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that President Donald Trump has shown “a pattern” of seeking foreign interference in U.S. elections but stopped short of saying that obstruction charges would be included in articles of impeachment.

“The central allegation is that the president put himself above his country several times, that he sought foreign interference in our elections several times, both for 2016 and 2020,” Nadler said on “State of the Union“ on CNN. “All this presents a pattern that poses a real and present danger to the integrity of the next election.”

Pressed by host Dana Bash on whether charges related to 2016 would be included in articles of impeachment, Nadler demurred.

“I wouldn’t draw any conclusions,” he said. “It is part of the pattern, which is why I bring it up.“

Nadler said his party has a case for impeachment against Trump that “if presented to a jury would be a guilty verdict in about three minutes flat.”

 

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Read House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler’s opening statement

The House Judiciary Committee is holding what could be the last public impeachment hearing before the panel drafts articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

Democrats will present the House Intelligence Committee’s 300-page report alleging Trump sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate his rivals, while Republicans will attempt to defend the president with their own report.

Chairman Jerry Nadler’s opening statement

“No matter his party or his politics, if the President places his own interests above those of the country, he betrays his oath of office.

“The President of the United States, the Speaker of the House, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House Committee on the Judiciary all have one important thing in common: we have each taken an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.

“If the President puts himself before the country, he violates a President’s most basic responsibility. He breaks his oath to the American people.

“If he puts himself before the country in a manner that threatens our democracy, then our oath—our promise to the American people—requires us to come to the defense of the nation.

“That oath stands even when it is politically inconvenient, even when it might bring us under criticism, even when it might cost us our jobs as members of Congress.

“And even if the President is unwilling to honor his oath, I am compelled to honor mine.

“As we heard in our last hearing, the Framers of the Constitution were careful students of history and clear in their vision for our new nation.

“They knew that threats to democracy can take many forms and that we must protect against them.

“They warned us against the dangers of would-be monarchs, fake populists, and charismatic demagogues. They knew that the most dangerous threat to our country might come from within, in the form of a corrupt executive who put his private interests above the interests of the nation.

“They also knew that they could not anticipate every threat a President might someday pose, so they adopted the phrase “treason, bribery, and other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” to capture the full spectrum of possible Presidential misconduct.

“George Mason, who proposed this standard, said that it was meant to capture all manner of great and dangerous offenses against the Constitution.

“The debates around the Framing make clear that the most serious such offenses include abuse of power, betrayal of the nation through foreign entanglements, and corruption of public office.

“Any one of these violations of the public trust would compel the members of this Committee to take action.

“When combined in a single course of conduct, they state the strongest possible case for impeachment and removal from office.

“President Trump put himself before country.

“Despite the political partisanship that seems to punctuate our hearings these days, I believe that there is common ground around some of these ideas—common ground in this hearing room, and common ground across the country at large.

“We agree, for example, that impeachment is a solemn, serious undertaking.

“We agree that it is meant to address serious threats to democratic institutions like our free and fair elections.

“We agree that when the elections themselves are threatened by enemies foreign or domestic, we cannot wait until the next election to address the threat.

“We surely agree that no public official—including and especially the President of the United States—should use his public office for private gain.

“And we agree that no President may put himself before the country. The Constitution and his oath of office—his promise to America’s citizens—require the President to put the country first.

“If we could drop our blinders for just one moment, I think we would agree on a common set of facts as well.

“On July 25, President Trump called President Zelensky of Ukraine and asked him for a favor.

“That call was part of a concerted effort by President Trump to compel the government of Ukraine to announce an investigation—not an investigation of corruption writ large, but an investigation of President Trump’s political rivals, and only his political rivals.

“President Trump put himself before country.

“The record shows that President Trump withheld military aid, allocated by the United States Congress, from Ukraine. It also shows that he withheld a White House meeting from President Zelensky.

“Multiple witnesses—including respected diplomats, national security professionals, and decorated war veterans—all testified to the same basic fact: President Trump withheld the aid and the meeting in order to pressure a foreign government to do him that favor.

“President Trump put himself before country.

“And when the President got caught—when Congress discovered that the aid had been withheld from Ukraine—the President took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to conceal evidence from Congress and from the American people.

“These facts are not in dispute. In fact, most of the arguments about these facts appear to be beside the point.

“As we review the evidence today, I expect we will hear much about the whistleblower who brought his concerns about the July 25 call to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.

“Let me be clear: every fact alleged by the whistleblower has been substantiated by multiple witnesses, again and again, each of whom has been questioned extensively by Democrats and Republicans alike. The allegations also match up with the President’s own words, as released by the White House—words that he still says were perfect.

“I also expect to hear complaints about the term quid pro quo—as if a person needs to verbally acknowledge the name of a crime while he is committing it for it to be a crime at all.

“The record on this point is also clear: multiple officials testified that the President’s demand for an investigation into his rivals was a part of his personal, political agenda, and not related to the foreign policy objectives of the United States.

“Multiple officials testified that the President intended to withhold the aid until Ukraine announced the investigations.

“And, yes, multiple officials testified that they understood this arrangement to be a quid pro quo for the President’s personal, political benefit.

“President Trump put himself before country.

“The President’s supporters are going to argue that this whole process is unfair.

“The record before us is clear on this point as well: we invited the President to participate in this hearing, to question witnesses, and to present evidence that might explain the charges against him. President Trump chose not to show.

“He may not have much to say in his own defense, but he cannot claim that he did not have an opportunity to be heard.

“Finally, as we proceed today, we will hear a great deal about the speed with which the House is addressing the President’s actions.

“To the members of this Committee, to the members of the House, and to my fellow citizens, I want to be absolutely clear: the integrity of our next election is at stake. Nothing could be more urgent.

“The President welcomed foreign interference in our elections in 2016. He demanded it for 2020. Then he got caught.

“If you do not believe that he will do it again, let me remind you that the President’s personal lawyer spent last week back in Ukraine, meeting with government officials in an apparent attempt to gin up the same so-called “favors” that brought us here today and forced Congress to consider the impeachment of a sitting President.

“This pattern of conduct represents a continuing risk to the country.

“The evidence shows that Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States, has put himself before his country.

“He has violated his most basic responsibilities to the people. He has broken his oath. I will honor mine. If you would honor yours, then I urge you to your duty.

“Let us review the record here, in full view of the American people, and then let us move swiftly to defend our country. We promised that we would.”

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Judicial Watch Sues CIA, DOJ for Communications of Alleged Whistleblower

Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog, has filed two lawsuits against the CIA and Department Of Justice (DOJ) after the agency and department failed to respond to Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests that sought communications of the alleged whistleblower at the center of the presidential impeachment inquiry.

Eric Ciaramella, a CIA analyst and the National Intelligence Council’s deputy national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia, was reported to have worked on Ukraine issues during both the Obama and Trump administrations.

The watchdog said it sued the DOJ after it “failed to respond to November 2019 FOIA requests seeking communications between Ciaramella and former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI Attorney Lisa Page, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and/or the Special Counsel’s Office.”

Additionally, the watchdog sued the CIA after “it failed to respond to November 2019 FOIA requests seeking all of Ciaramella’s emails from June 1, 2016, to November 12, 2019.”

Ciaramella, 33, is a registered Democrat and holdover from the Obama administration who previously worked with former Vice President Joe Biden and former CIA Director John Brennan, according to RealClearInvestigations. Brennan, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, is believed to have played a key role in establishing the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.

Lawyers representing the alleged whistleblower issued a statement on Sep. 30 saying that “the Intel Community Whistleblower is entitled to anonymity.”

Lawyers for the whistleblower have neither confirmed nor denied whether Ciaramella is their client, reported the Washington Examiner, nor whether Ciaramella is the whistleblower.

The Epoch Times reached out to Ciaramella’s lawyer for comment but has not received a response.

On Oct. 30, Ciaramella was named by RealClearInvestigations as the whistleblower who triggered impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said there is a significant public interest in obtaining the information on Ciaramella.

“CIA operative Ciaramella is documented to be involved in the Russia collusion investigation, and was a key CIA operative on Ukraine in the both the Obama and Trump White Houses. Our lawsuits are designed to break through the unprecedented cover-up of his activities,” Fitton said.

“Ciaramella’s name appears in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the 2016 presidential election, in reference to two emails Ciaramella sent to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly and other officials, describing a meeting between President Trump, Russian foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak.”

The whistleblower’s complaint alleged that the president misused his office and engaged in quid pro quo activities with Ukraine when he asked the Ukrainian president to look into the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma when Biden was in office. Trump has repeatedly denied the quid pro quo allegation made by the whistleblower and House Democrats.

Trump, in the call, referenced Joe Biden’s boasting in 2018 that while vice president he had pressured the former Ukrainian president into firing a top anti-corruption prosecutor who was investigating Burisma at the time.

Fitton added that Ciaramella’s name was “raised privately in impeachment depositions, according to officials with direct knowledge of the proceedings, as well as in at least one open hearing held by a House committee not involved in the impeachment inquiry.”

On Dec. 26, Trump retweeted an article that contained the name of the alleged whistleblower, Eric Ciaramella. Trump’s retweet of the @TrumpWarRoom tweet marks the first time the president has referenced Ciaramella’s name, reported the Examiner.

Judicial Watch has also sued Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and the House Intelligence Committee for subpoenas issued for phone records, including those of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer. The lawsuit was filed after the watchdog received no response to a Dec. 6 records request.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

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Nadler on Trump: ‘A continuing threat to the integrity of our elections’

He says the impeachment process is vital even if Republicans are strongly opposed.

“This is a continuing threat to the integrity of our elections,“ House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Sunday on ABC’s “Ths Week” in explaining why he is pushing for President Donald Trump’s impeachment despite almost-universal Republican resistance.

“This is not a one-off. Impeachment is not a punishment for past behavior. This president conspired — sought foreign interference in the 2016 election. He is openly seeking foreign interference in the 2020 election,“ Nadler said in a joint appearance with House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

“We cannot permit that to continue,” he said, later referring to what he called “a subversion of the constitutional order.“

The House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved two articles of impeachment against Trump. “Today is a solemn and sad day,” Nadler said at the time. The vote was 23-17 along party lines.

“This is a crime in progress against the Constitution and against the American democracy,” Nadler said Sunday to host George Stephanopoulos.

The full House is expected to approve the articles this week before going on holiday break. Though the Senate is widely expected to acquit Trump in a trial next year, Nadler said the impeachment process must be pursued.

“We will have done our duty in the House,” Nadler said.

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Jerry Nadler unfazed by Jeff Van Drew’s defection

“What he’s reacting to is public polling that shows he can’t get renominated.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) isn’t concerned about the upcoming party switch of New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew.

“What he’s reacting to is public polling that shows he can’t get renominated,” the House Judiciary Committee chairman said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “His electorate in his district is 24 percent to renominate him and 60 percent to nominate somebody else.“

Van Drew, who is expected to switch to the Republican Party this week, was elected in 2018 to a seat from South Jersey that had been held by retiring Republican Frank LoBiondo since 1995; LoBiondo had regularly won the district by large margins.

Despite defeating Republican Seth Grossman with 52.9 percent of the vote, Van Drew had drawn criticism for his conservative stances on some issues, and he was facing primary opposition in 2020.

Van Drew was one of two Democrats, along with Minnesota’s Collin Peterson, to vote against the impeachment inquiry. Both represent districts that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.

Host George Stephanopoulos drew a connection between votes on impeachment — the full House is expected to vote on articles of impeachment this week — and Van Drew’s switch. Nadler said the impeachment process is more important than mere politics.

“This is not political,” he said. “We should not be looking at those things. This is the defense of our democracy. Do we stay a democratic republic or do we turn into a tyranny?“

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Family emergency sidelines Jerry Nadler day before expected impeachment vote

Nadler is expected to return to Washington late Tuesday or early Wednesday.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler is tending to an undisclosed family emergency in New York City and will miss the last procedural step before articles of impeachment come to the floor, a committee aide confirmed Tuesday.

Nadler is expected to return to Washington late Tuesday or early Wednesday before the impeachment vote. In the meantime, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), another member of the Judiciary Committee, is expected to fill in and handle the presentation of articles of impeachment to the Rules Committee, which will tee them up for Wednesday’s vote.

The Rules Committee is the last stop in the process before articles of impeachment reach the House floor. The panel will set the terms of floor debate before what is expected to be a party-line vote to impeach President Donald Trump, just the third time in history the House will have recommended a president’s removal from office.

The two articles of impeachment charge Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over the president’s attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

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Trump takes gamble with decision to kill Iran military commander

President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump asks New York judge to dismiss rape allegation case NYT to fight White House’s withholdment of emails about Ukraine aid freeze Gabbard blasts Iran strike: ‘Trump’s actions are an act of war’ MORE took perhaps the most significant gamble of his presidency in authorizing a U.S. drone strike against a top Iranian commander in Iraq. 

The strike killing Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, dramatically escalated the Trump administration’s confrontation with Tehran.

It also marked an unexpected move for Trump, who has campaigned on withdrawing American troops from conflicts abroad and displayed a wariness of overseas military engagements. 

The strike, which U.S. officials described as a defensive action to protect American lives, could have far-reaching implications for the Middle East and for U.S. foreign policy in general. Reports emerged Friday that the U.S. would send 3,000 Army soldiers to the Middle East. 

Magnifying the gamble for Trump was the timing of the strikes, on the second day of an election year, and as the White House prepares for a looming impeachment trial. With weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, Democrats hoping to succeed Trump condemned his actions.

Critics described the decision as a reckless gamble, and Democrats demanded that the administration present its plan for handling Iran and the Middle East.

“Responsible policy-making has to consider the consequences, and I fear that this act has consequences that were under-considered or not considered at all,” said Benjamin Friedman, policy director at Defense Priorities, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Others defending the president said Trump made the right choice.

Luke Coffey, a foreign policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, argued that Trump had displayed restraint with respect to Iran, noting that Tehran had taken a number of aggressive steps in recent months culminating in rocket attacks and a break-in at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. 

“Just think about what it has taken to push Trump to this point,” Coffey said. “I think Iran was really pushing its luck and Trump reached a point where he felt like he needed to act.” 

A former State Department official doubted that the operation would have the desired effect of deterring Iran. The official predicted Soleimani will be hailed as a “national hero,” that his death is unlikely to chasten the Quds force and that the strike may spark a wave of anti-Americanism in Iran and neighboring areas.

But the official suggested Trump was out of other options, having drawn a red line if Americans were killed. The strike targeting Soleimani came days after the U.S. blamed an Iranian-backed militia force for an attack that killed a U.S. contractor and injured American servicemembers.

“My guess is the people around him… probably told him, ‘listen, you’ve been called out and you’ve got to find a way to send a clear message here, otherwise there’s no stopping this,” the official said.

Trump has spent the better part of the last three years purging his administration of military and intelligence officials who clashed with him. The result is an unusual national security process and a lack of moderating voices, raising questions about how Trump might proceed in the weeks and months to come.

While he has staked his foreign policy on confronting Iran and reversing the diplomatic overtures of the Obama administration — including withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal — Trump campaigned on winding down U.S. involvement in foreign wars. Tweets resurfaced Thursday night in which Trump predicted in 2011 and 2012 that Obama would seek war with Iran as a reelection tactic.

He has previously relied mostly on imposing increasingly harsh sanctions targeting Iranian industries and leaders in a push to cripple the country’s economy, with bombastic rhetoric mixed in at times as part of a “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran.

“We have moved from kind of a shadow war and an economic war to direct acts of war by the Trump administration,” said Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of the Brookings Institution’s foreign policy program. 

Trump has weighed military action against Iran in the past but never taken such a step. In June of last year, the president abruptly called off a strike on Iran over the downing of U.S. surveillance drone at the last minute, a decision that surprised his advisers. 

The decision to take out Soleimani earned Trump praise as well as criticism from expected corners.

Republicans commended him for bold action against a figure responsible for hundreds of American deaths, while Democrats warned of the risk of dangerous consequences and accused him for not seeking proper approval from Congress. 

The biggest criticism of Trump’s decision to emerge Friday was that it would provoke a response from Iran that would make matters work.

Military and foreign policy experts said Friday that an Iranian response is inevitable, but there was no consensus on what it might look like.  Experts said it was likely Iran would use unconventional or asymmetric capabilities in order to retaliate and noted U.S. allies may be a target for reprisal. 

The issue seemed certain to become a major point of debate on the Democratic campaign debate trail, even though the campaigns have been more focused generally on domestic issues.

“Since the 2004 election, issues of national security have been on the back burner for voters until momentous events like this thrust them into the forefront,” said GOP strategist Colin Reed, who argued that Democrats would risk looking “either weak or too political” if they go to far in criticizing Trump for killing a “murderer.” 

Officials in France and Germany issued muted statements that expressed concern that the U.S. action had raised tensions in the region. The lack of enthusiastic support among global allies reflected the extent to which Trump has decided to go it alone on foreign policy, particularly toward Iran.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS officials, lawmakers warn of potential Iranian cyberattacks Trump says Iranian commander was killed to ‘stop a war’ Ocasio-Cortez accuses Trump of ‘an act of war’ MORE, asked about a French official saying the world is less safe due to the rise in tensions, was dismissive.

“Well, the French are just wrong about that,” he said on CNN. “The world is a much safer place today.”

At the same time, the U.S. embassy in Iraq urged Americans in the country to leave as quickly as possible, and Pompeo emphasized in media appearances that the United States does not seek war with Iran. 

Pompeo’s remarks to media outlets were part of an incongruous messaging from the administration.

While the Department of Defense issued a statement confirming Trump directed the strike, it was Pompeo who was on television early Friday explaining the move.The White House offered no formal statement or briefing, and Trump, who is still at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, had not made public remarks as of Friday afternoon aside from a few tweets. He delivered brief public remarks on the strike Friday afternoon before departing or a campaign event, saying that he took action to “stop a war,” not start one, and that the top Iranian commander should have been targeted and killed “long ago.” 

“Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” Trump told reporters. 

Trump spent Thursday night with senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerFBI searched home and office of lobbyist Trump denied knowing: report Bloomberg campaign moves offices into Times Square as staff tops 300 Trump’s executive order raises important questions about Jewish identity and free speech MORE, White House social media director Dan Scavino and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySoleimani killing deepens distrust between Trump, Democrats Schumer: Trump failed to alert top House, Senate leaders on Iran attack Juan Williams: GOP are hypocrites on impeachment MORE (R-Calif.), according to photos the congressman posted on Instagram.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGeraldo Rivera apologizes to Brian Kilmeade after on-air clash over Iran Soleimani killing deepens distrust between Trump, Democrats Congress reacts to US assassination of Iranian general MORE (R-S.C.), a staunch Trump ally and Iran hawk, said on “Fox & Friends” that he was briefed on the potential operation that killed Soleimani earlier this week while meeting with the president in Florida, a sign the strike was not a snap decision.

But members of the Gang of Eight — the top congressional leaders in each party — were not notified ahead of the strike, a move that irked Democrats in particular.

“At a time like this you need clarity,” said Dave Lapan, a former spokesman for the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security. “Instead of clear messaging and leadership from the top, we haven’t seen that. And this is a very dangerous period of time to have that kind of uncertainty and confusion still around.”

Some have expressed fears that the decision could provoke broader armed conflict between Washington and Tehran, underscoring how big a gamble Trump made with the strikes.

But Maloney said there is not an appetite domestically in Iran for a war with the U.S., and Coffey also doubted that the decision would provoke a significant armed conflict. He said it could actually work to stabilize the situation in the Middle East in the long term because Soleimani will be dead. 

“I don’t think it’s going to result in World War III,” he said. 

 

 

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10 things you need to know about the US airstrike in Baghdad

Obtained by CNN

Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani was killed Friday following a US airstrike.

Here’s a recap of what we know:

  • US drone strike kills top commander: President Trump ordered an air strike on Baghdad airport that killed Qasem Soleimani, who as head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force became the architect of Tehran’s proxy conflicts in the Middle East. During a news conference from Mar-a-Lago Friday, Trump claimed Soleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans.
  • Attack was not about a “regime change”: Trump said the US is not seeking regime change in Iran following an attack that killed a top Iranian general. “We do not seek regime change,” he said. Trump added: “The Iranian regime’s aggression in the region — including its use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbors — must end and it must end now.”
  • No Congressional sign off sought: Prior to the strike, White House administration lawyers in consultation with national security officials put together a “strong rationale” specifically for the strike against the Iranian general that Trump, as commander in chief, had the authority to not ask for congressional authorization over a matter of self defense, the administration official said. That legal rationale formed the basis for not going to Congress for authorization beforehand. “We did not feel the need to ask for authorization over basic rights of self defense,” the official said.
  • A huge escalation: Trump’s move dramatically ramps up regional tensions that have pitted Tehran against Washington and its allies in the Middle East. The Pentagon blamed Soleimani for hundreds of deaths of Americans and their allies in several attacks in recent months.
  • Iran vows “harsh revenge”: Three days of national mourning were declared in Iran, where Soleimani was revered as a national hero, and thousands of demonstrators were seen marching in Tehran. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for “harsh revenge,” according to a statement published to his official website.
  • What Trump said: The US President tweeted combative remarks on Friday morning, writing: “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!”
  • US tells citizens to get out of Iraq: The State Department urged US citizens Friday to leave Iraq immediately. It also warned that citizens “should not approach” its embassy in Baghdad and that all consular operations are suspended.
  • Democrats warn of consequences: The strike has divided US lawmakers, with several Democratic presidential candidates raising concerns about what comes next. Joe Biden said Trump “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” and Bernie Sanders said the move “puts us on the path” to war with Iran.
  • World governments react: Russia has cautioned that the attack could have “grave consequences,” while China has urged the US to show “restraint.” In Europe, the UK called for “all parties to de-escalate.” The French government told its citizens in Iran to stay away from public gatherings.
  • Oil prices soar: Oil prices moved higher after the strike amid speculation that reprisals could target oil installations. Futures for Brent crude, a global benchmark, jumped 4.3% to $69.08 per barrel on Friday. US oil futures gained 4.1%, reaching $63.69 per barrel. Both are on track for their biggest daily gains in about a month.
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Trump Says Qasem Soleimani Was Plotting ‘Imminent’ Attacks Without Evidence

(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To The Last Post Of The Week From The Blog’s Favourite Living Canadian)

So, on Friday afternoon, El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago emerged from the pro shop to talk about killing the second-most powerful man in a government with which we are not at war on the sovereign soil of a nation of which we are ostensibly an ally. His wrestling match with the teleprompter aside, the president* dealt the bullshit with a bigger than usual shovel. Bear in mind—there is absolutely no good reason to believe anything these people say about anything, let alone about something as serious as making war in the most volatile region of the world. Anyway…

What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved. We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war. Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him.

No reason to believe him. At all.

Things were even worse elsewhere in the administration*. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked darkly of “imminent attacks,” but he also set this beauty free on the electric Twitter machine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and I discussed the decisive defensive action @realDonaldTrump employed in Baghdad to protect American lives. I emphasized that de-escalation is the United States’ principal goal.

So Congress was not consulted, but the Russian government—and Lindsey Graham—were. Lovely.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence decided it was time to tie this whole thing back to…wait for it…9/11, also on the electric Twitter machine. Soleimani, said Pence, “assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.”

First of all, there were 19 hijackers, not 12. Most of them were Saudis. So was the mastermind of the attacks. Not even the wildest conspiracy theorists back in the day tried to hang the 9/11 attacks on Iran. (Saddam Hussein was the Hitler du jour in those days.) What Pence is talking about is anybody’s guess. If you want to talk about people cutting deals with Soleimani’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards, you might start with the people who tried to cut a deal with them to build a hotel.

Nobody knows anything.


Enough with the money for a moment.

ROBYN BECKGetty Images

Can we please take a break from judging a candidate’s relative viability based on every quarterly financial report? Over the last few days, we have heard endless theorizing about how Bernie Sanders racked up $36 million—which is a tidy sum, no doubt—and what it all means. Meanwhile, Amy Klobuchar, comfortably ensconced in single digits in most polls, raised $11 million and change, and this was attributed to a sudden boomlet that has gone unnoticed by any other metric. Pete Buttigieg, whose polls have pretty much stalled, found this mitigated by the $24 million he raised.

Coincidentally, on Friday, Elizabeth Warren announced that she’d raised a little over $21 million, and this somehow was considered troublesome. From the Washington Post:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren raised $21.2 million in the last quarter of 2019, her campaign said Friday, a haul that places the Democrat from Massachusetts again among top fundraisers — but below three of her party rivals and even behind the money she raised in the previous quarter…Still, Warren’s fourth-quarter total represented a decrease for her. In the third quarter — a notoriously difficult period for fundraising because of the summer lull — Warren had raised nearly a whopping $25 million, propelling her ahead of the pack with a low-dollar online fundraising program that appeared to match that of Democratic-nomination rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

This is indicative of nothing. Raising $21 million is raising a helluva lot of money. It’s raising enough money to compete strongly everywhere. It’s raising enough money to maintain staff. To spin this as though Klobuchar’s $11 million somehow is a more favorable indicator overall than Warren’s $21 million is to lose yourself completely in the Church of the Savvy. How are they spending the money? What’s their burn rate? Is that increased money buying you a corresponding increase in your polling numbers, and if not, why not? And that’s not even to mention that measuring a presidential candidate by a standard based purely on money should make everyone feel icky.


Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: “Partygirls of Yesteryear” (Royal Fingerbowl; No link available but, trust me, its’ great.): Yeah, I pretty much still love New Orleans.

Weekly Visit To The Pathe Archive: Here are FDR, Churchill, and Stalin at the Tehran Conference in 1943, where they committed Iran to joining World War II on the Allied side. Danger! Camel Crossing! Churchill looks like he’d rather be anywhere else. Stalin demonstrates his kung-fu grip. And FDR has little more than a cameo, albeit one set to rather jolly music. History is so cool.

Is it a good day for dinosaur news, Independent? It’s always a good day for dinosaur news!

A primitive lizard that lived 309 million years ago has been unearthed in Canada with its tail wrapped round its young. It is the earliest example uncovered of parental care in the animal kingdom, shedding light on the evolution of love. The fossilised remains include a juvenile positioned belly-up behind the mother’s hind limb and snugly encircled by her tail. The pair died suddenly in a swamp-like forest in Nova Scotia, where the adult had built a den to raise its family, experts say. Their final embrace was captured in time. The new species, which resembled today’s monitor lizard, has been named Dendromaia unamakiensis – after the Greek words for “tree” and “caring mother.”

This is just adorable.

“The animals were discovered in a fossilised stump showing proposed parental care behaviour,” she said. “It would have been a warmer climate than today. Other small reptiles were around, as well as some larger amphibian-like creatures. It probably fed on abundant insects and other small vertebrates.”

When Mom wraps you in her tail to be safe…they lived then to make us happy now.

The Committee is back on the job after the holidays, and Top Commenter Patrick Fiegenbaum is the first Top Commenter of The Week in 2020. He responded to our post about the Australian wildfires by bringing the ol’ Arkansas Traveler into the discussion.

That Arkansas Traveler sure gets around. “We can’t be talking about climate change when the whole ding-busted continent is in flames!” Once the fires are out: “Climate change? What? Everything’s fine right now.”

Take your 81.11 Beckhams and go clogging somewhere, good sir.

I’ll be back on Monday, unless something, ah, untoward happens in the world. Be well and play nice, ya bastids. Stay above the snakeline, and try to come out from under the bed occasionally.

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