No, my dude, we do not. But this issue seems to be where the men are being separated from the boys within Team Anti-Trump. If you’re a Democrat or a hard-hard-hardcore Never Trumper then the opportunity to splash some of the blood from the crash onto Trump’s hands is irresistible. It’s not just the Iranian missile that killed those innocents, it was our provocation.
Whereas if you’re a Trump fan or a critic whose disdain for the president doesn’t quite color every inch of your politics, the response is: What are you talking about, man? How was the jet caught in “the middle” when only one side was shooting into the air?
Pete Buttigieg isn’t just a Democrat, he’s a would-be Democratic nominee for president, so he’s splashing around in the blood.
Innocent civilians are now dead because they were caught in the middle of an unnecessary and unwanted military tit for tat.
Lots of other examples of rhetoric like that are floating around today. Twitter pal “neontaster” has compiled a few in this thread, noting the prevalence of the term “crossfire” to describe what happened. It’s the first time I’ve heard of crossfire when the fire that night came entirely from one direction.
176 completely innocent lives, killed in the crossfire of reckless escalation. Just an unbelievable tragedy. https://t.co/LTI0kfHPrx
The idea behind “crossfire” (or the jet being “caught in the middle,” per Buttigieg) is that the U.S. supposedly initiated the chain of events that led to the jet being shot down by taking out Qassem Soleimani. But Soleimani’s targeting was a response to rocket attacks on American bases by Iranian proxies and the assault on the American embassy in Baghdad last last month. What should we have done to answer those provocations in order to avoid sharing the blame for innocents killed by Iran in their counter-response? Would any answer have been too much?
Would this count as crossfire too, asks neontaster?
So if Iran sends a suicide bomber to a US embassy and the explosion kills a bunch of kids, is that also partly our fault because the bombing was a “retaliation”? Give me a break.
The irony of the Iranian missile attack on Tuesday night is that not only wasn’t the U.S. shooting at the time, it declined to shoot back afterward. By targeting Soleimani and his retinue directly rather than ordering broader operations against Iranian proxies or Iranian forces, Trump limited the risk of wider conflict that would have involved actual crossfire. Blaming him for Iranian negligence in operating their own missile defense system is pure point-scoring.
Even Tom Nichols, normally a pretty hardcore anti-Trumper, can’t stomach it this time:
This isn’t what happened. The Iranians knew they were about to proceed with a complicated military operation. The airport shouldn’t even have been open. This is not “caught in the middle” of anything, it’s a screw up by the Iranians. https://t.co/nqKD5hGY9n
Right. Why was Tehran’s airport open on a night when they knew they were planning to fire missiles at American forces? The answer, seemingly, is that they didn’t want to forfeit the element of surprise by grounding flights ahead of an attack, never mind that there wasn’t much element of surprise regardless. But then, having assumed that risk, they somehow neglected to account for the presence of passenger flights overhead in operating their missile defense system. This wasn’t just a one-sided “crossfire,” it was an example of Iran not knowing how to use its own “gun.” Says Rich Lowry, “Is the new standard really that a president of the United States can’t defend against attacks on U.S. personnel by a terror regime because the regime might accidentally shoot down an airliner taking off from one of its own airports?”
Keep an eye on this resolution introduced by Ted Cruz, which would in part “commend” Trump for taking out Soleimani. Cruz knows how eager Democrats are to frame this past week as a reckless failure of leadership instead of what it appears to be for the moment, a great success. He’s going to dare the “crossfire” contingent in the Democratic caucus to cast a disapproving vote.
JUST INTRODUCED w 42 fellow GOP senators resolution to honor members of military & intel community who carried out mission to take out Soleimani, a terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people across the Middle East, including 603 US service members. pic.twitter.com/1XNgXHFO3z
Update: Democrats are really working hard to one-up each other on how far they’ll go to blame Trump for this.
.@RepSpeier tells @wolfblitzer if Iran did shoot down the Ukrainian Airlines plane, “This is yet another example of collateral damage from the actions that have been taken in a provocative way by the President of the United States.” Wow.
Again: What sort of U.S. response to the rocket attacks and embassy assault would have been sufficiently “un-provocative” to Speier that the U.S. wouldn’t be on the hook morally for Iran’s clusterfark with the jet? Is there anything?
We’re just a few weeks out from the Iowa caucuses, and a week after that, the New Hampshire primary. There’s still time for things to change, but right now, there’s a good chance that one or two of the Big Four candidates — Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg will be in really rough shape after the first two contests, even though the margins of victory are likely to be small.
The first thing that stands out is how those four are all clustered pretty close together in most of the recent polls of Iowa and New Hampshire. Biden, Sanders, and Buttigieg are all in the mid to low 20s, and Warren is still close, in the mid to high teens. Remember, candidates need to win 15 percent to get any delegates. Fairly or not, finishing with 14 percent or less will be perceived as a major defeat.
It is easy to envision a scenario where some candidate wins Iowa with say, 25 percent of the vote, and the third-place finisher gets about 20, and that third-place finish is seen as some sort of massive disappointment.
Also note that the expectations will be different for different candidates, fairly or not. To keep going, Buttigieg really needs finish either first or a close second in Iowa and/or New Hampshire. He’s really counting on his finishes in those places boosting his numbers in the subsequent contests; right now, he looks like a non-factor in Nevada and South Carolina. Similarly, right now Warren is ranking fourth in both of those states — and two fourth-place finishes would probably lead to her getting written off as a serious contender.
Meanwhile, if Joe Biden finishes a close enough third place in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will probably remain in okay shape. And unless Sanders has two terrible finishes, he’s probably in this for the long haul.
The candidates who come in third and fourth in Iowa and New Hampshire will probably complain that the “expectations game” is unfair, that only a small percentage and number of votes separate them from the winners, and that they’re being written off too early. Similarly, candidates who fall short of that 15 percent threshold — hello, Amy Klobuchar — are also likely to complain that standard is unfair. Welcome to politics, everyone. Make sure you read the rules before you get started.
If Warren or Buttigieg don’t have good finishes in the first two states, a lot of people are likely to believe that the race has come down to two septuagenarians: Biden and Sanders.
Except that the week after South Carolina is Super Tuesday, and Bloomberg is spending a fortune in both advertising and organizing in those states. So maybe by early March, the Democratic presidential primary will be a battle of three septuagenarians.
Democratic lawmakers are racing to backtrack on their earlier comments suggesting the time had come for Nancy Pelosi to submit the articles of impeachment to the Senate.
Congressman Adam Smith already walked by his comments about the House speaker, and now senator Dianne Feinstein has abandoned her criticism of Pelosi.
The California senator had previoulsy said, “If we’re going to do it, she should send them over. I don’t see what good delay does.”
Feinstein already started to backtrack on those comments earlier today, but this statement underscores her change of heart. In it, the senator says she believes Pelosi is acting out of a “sincere desire to ensure a fair process that allows the Senate to consider available evidence — a goal that all of us should share.”
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has signed on as a co-sponsor of a resolution from Republican senator Josh Hawley, which would make it possible to dismiss impeachment charges even if the House does not transmit the articles.
Hawley’s resolution would change Senate rules to allow senators to render a verdict on impeachment charges starting 25 calendar days after the House has impeached, even if the speaker has not yet submitted the paperwork or named impeachment managers.
But it would require two-thirds of the Senate to break a filibuster on the proposal, which seems unlikely given Republicans’ narrow majority
Congressman Adam Smith, the Democratic chairman of the House armed services committee, said he was not “threatened” to walk back his earlier comments about it being time for Nancy Pelosi to transmit the articles of impeachment.
Smith said on CNN this morning, “I think it was perfectly advisable for the speaker to leverage that, get a better deal. At this point, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, and yes, I think it is time to send the impeachment to the Senate.”
But Smith quickly walked that back in a pair of tweets, saying, “I misspoke this morning, I do believe we should do everything we can to force the Senate to have a fair trial.”
The Washington Democrat claimed he did not communicate with the speaker’s office before walking back the comments, but he added that his staff may have spoken to Pelosi’s team.
As reports emerged that she would transmit the articles of impeachment as soon as tomorrow, Nancy Pelosi dodged reporters’ questions about the timing of her next steps, saying she stood by her earlier statement.
The House speaker told reporters earlier today that she did not intend to hold the articles indefinitely. “I’ll send them over when I’m ready,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference. “And that’ll probably be soon.”
While senators and aides cautioned that McConnell does not have inside intelligence, the remarks serve as key scheduling advice for senators. Most Republicans are now gearing up for the relentless pace of the impeachment trial to start on Monday or Tuesday.
‘At lunch, we all heard that. And he says: ‘That’s my best guess,’’ said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). ‘Which means that we’d get started next week.’
Most senators immediately left the chamber after voting on Thursday afternoon, a signal that the trial will not start until after the weekend.
Joe Biden’s campaign manager lashed out against Facebook after the social media company announced it would continue to allow political candidates to advertise on its platform without policing content for accuracy.
The Biden team has previously criticzed Facebook for allowing Trump’s reelection campaign to air an ad that includes falsehoods about Biden’s record on Ukraine.
“Donald Trump’s campaign can (and will) still lie in political ads,” Biden’s deputy communications director said in a statement. “Facebook can (and will) still profit off it. Today’s announcement is more window dressing around their decision to allow paid misinformation.”
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign celebrated the news as a victory for democracy. “Our ads are always accurate so it’s good that Facebook won’t limit political messages because it encourages more Americans to be involved in the process,” said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh.
Congressman Max Rose, a freshman Democrat from New York, has said he will oppose the War Powers Resolution aimed at limiting Trump’s military actions in Iran.
“Unfortunately, today’s War Powers Resolution is a non-binding resolution that simply restates existing law and sends the message that war is imminent,” Rose said in a statement explaining his vote. “I refuse to play politics with questions of war and peace.”
Trump has already encouraged Republicans to oppose the resolution, which faces an uncertain future in the Senate.
Former thorn in Donald Trump’s side and very much ex-omnipresence on our television screens and at the side of former client and alleged past-Trumpian paramour Stormy Daniels – attorney Michael Avenatti– had a bad day in court today.
A New York judge rejected Avenatti’s bid to dismiss a criminal charge that he defrauded a client whom he said knew about improper payments that sportswear giant Nike allegedly made to families of college basketball recruits.
US district judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan ruled three days after refusing to dismiss two extortion charges accusing Avenatti of threatening a news conference about the payments unless Nike paid him up to $25 million.
Nike has denied wrongdoing.
“When the actual evidence is heard at trial rather than the baseless allegations in the indictment, I will be fully cleared because I did nothing wrong,” Avenatti, 48, said in a text message. “I am innocent,” Reuters reports.
The fraud count and one extortion count carry maximum 20-year prison terms, with the trial scheduled for January 21.
Avenatti also faces an April 21 trial in Manhattan for allegedly cheating StormyDaniels out of proceeds from a book contract, and a May 19 trial in Santa Ana, California for allegedly defrauding clients out of millions of dollars and lying to the Internal Revenue Service. Avenatti denies all the charges.
New Hampshire poll shows close race among 2020 Democrats
A newly released poll found former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, former vice president Joe Biden and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders leading the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire.
According to the Monmouth University poll, Buttigieg is attracting the support of 20% of New Hampshire Democrats, putting him 1 point ahead of Biden and 2 points ahead of Sanders. Considering the margin of error of 4.9 points, the three candidates are in a statistical tie for the lead, while Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren trails slightly at 15%.
New Hampshire will hold its primary on February 11, eight days after Iowa holds the first caucuses of the race.
Although the two states are viewed as critically important for helping presidential candidates to build momentum, they are both much whiter than the broader Democratic Party, raising questions about whether the results there will indicate the eventual nominee.
The poll also does not help any additional candidates qualify for the next debate, which will be held Tuesday in Des Moines. Currently, only five candidates — Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg and Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar — have qualified.
Nancy Pelosi: The mouse that roared? (Image: YouTube screen grab)
The Democrats’ impeachment charade is now leading to defections from “master legislator” and “astute leader” Nancy Pelosi’s caucus. The general consensus seems to be that it’s time for Pelosi to stop sitting on the bogus articles of impeachment and send them over to the Senate, or drop the whole thing altogether.
The Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim reports Pelosi “doesn’t have a lot of leverage here and I think the fact that she’s losing members of her own party in the Senate … these Senators come from the most liberal flank of the caucus to the most moderate who are all saying, ‘Let’s get this thing going. We have a job to do. Let’s get this trial moving and get it over with.’”
NBC News reports, “A growing number of Democratic senators are saying it’s time for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to submit the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) points out the Democrats’ conundrum: “The longer it goes on the less urgent it becomes. So if it’s serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meanwhile reminds interested parties that Pelosi’s leverage over Senate trial is “nonexistent,” adding:
There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure. We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment. The House Democrats’ turn is over. The Senate has made its decision. The 1999 precedent does not guarantee witnesses or foreclose witnesses. Let me say that again: It neither guarantees witnesses nor forecloses witnesses. It leaves those determinations until later in the trial, where they belong.
Far from the rosy predictions of liberal pundits that Pelosi will go down in history as one of the shrewdest power brokers in D.C., the more likely scenario is that she will be ridiculed for overseeing the first strictly partisan impeachment, causing her party to fracture.
I understand the desire to be first with information.
But that desire probably shouldn’t include, at least if you’re in Western media, the parroting of Iranian state-run media. This is especially true if the story in question involves Iran’s attacks targeting U.S. forces.
That’s exactly what MSNBC got called out for by many — including Donald Trump Jr. — in the wake of Iran’s reprisals.
As it turns out, the missile attacks against bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq turned out to claim no lives, American or otherwise. However, Iranian state media immediately jumped into the void to make wild claims about how the attacks had killed between 30 and 80 of our soldiers.
That Iran would know and announce before our own sources how many of our troops were killed when they lobbed 22 missiles Iraq’s way seems odd — if almost laughable — on its face.
Repeating it might be necessary if just to say that this is what Iranian state media was saying. It should also be repeated with the caveat that Iranian state media is in the business of lying on behalf of the Iranian regime.
For instance, in full disclosure, I cited the 80 U.S. deaths figure in an article while noting that the U.S. had not reported any casualties and that “[g]iven the relative trustworthiness of the two sources, I’d say the latter is much, much closer to the truth.”
So, when this got reported on MSNBC, it’s easy to see why there was some level of incredulity:
MSNBC helped Iran push the false claim that 30 U.S. soldiers were killed tonight in their attack. Zero were killed.
This isn’t just fake news, this is so damn disrespectful to the family members of those deployed.
Do you think MSNBC was rooting for a war with Iran?
0% (0 Votes)
0% (0 Votes)
That’s NBC News’ Tehran bureau chief, Ali Arouzi, talking about the Iranian state media claim.
Yes, he said “this bit I’m not sure about.”
As a preface goes, that’s fairly weak stuff. When citing Iranian state media, you should say something like, “well, they’re usually full of garbage” or “this is coming from the official mouthpiece of the regime,” not “this bit I’m not sure about.”
Furthermore, it ends with: “But we have just stepped over the precipice, Chris. We have entered a very unpredictable time. We have to see what the response will be from the United States.”
A longer clip of Arouzi reveals even more problems with his appearance:
“This is drawing people from all sides into this what is potentially the beginning of a war,” Arouzi said.
“I don’t know how this is going to go in the coming hours, but it’s not looking good from the rhetoric that came out from President Trump earlier today saying that he will retaliate against any retaliation from Iran. I think we can expect an attack on Iran imminently.”
There has been no imminent attack on Iran. A number of good calls from this Arouzi chap, I’d say.
This wasn’t the only incidence of media reporting disinformation from Iran’s state-run media as if it were legitimate (more on that later) but it was the most conspicuous — conspicuous enough to get the attention of the president’s son.
They sound like they were actually hoping for that outcome. I guess they too were really upset about their loss this weekend too. https://t.co/AcdJjwQUvk
That said, there does sound to be an element of anticipation here — if not anticipation of dead Americans, at least the anticipation of a juicy story.
I’m reminded of more funereal atmospheres in the MSNBC newsroom in response to far juicier stories that didn’t involve the potential of any death. One on the night of Nov. 8, 2016, springs immediately to mind.
By the way, this actually wasn’t the worst of the stories that relied on Iran’s state media. Consider this headline from Raw Story: “Iran state media claims 30 killed in missile strike — but no casualties reported by US or Iraq.”
The story contains two full paragraphs and a tweet (from Arouzi, predictably), and can be read either way in terms of who they trust here — although, given the sequencing of the facts and that most of them come from state media (or a report from CNN which claimed there were casualties, but they were Iraqi), you can probably guess what side Raw Story is on.
The fact that Raw Story is to the left of MSNBC should give you an additional clue.
Also of interest, check out the banner that met me at the top of the Raw Story website:
Help them report the truth about Trump’s Iran fiasco … by donating to them so they can amplify messages from Iranian state media.
Iranian state media isn’t parrot-worthy.
We’re not talking the BBC here, and MSNBC knows this full well. This was a galling miscalculation on Arouzi’s part — and at some level, on the network’s part, too.
There wasn’t any pushback and there apparently weren’t any directives against using Iran’s media without confirming the story with another source.
Absent those, the network had a horrible night Tuesday — and it was wholly deserved.
This was saber-rattling, plain and simple. They wanted a better story than the one that existed.
You see that dread place up there? It’s a wine cave. Elizabeth Warren and some others made wine caves infamous after a winery-owning couple hosted a meet-and-greet for Pete Buttigieg in one. In a wine cave.
“Oogity-boogity,” as I say in my Impromptus today. I picked up this phrase from Kevin Williamson. “Wine cave” is a new scare-word, or scare-phrase, in the populist lexicon. George C. Wallace would have loved it.
Up there in New York City, the mouthy Alabamian said, they walk around with briefcases, as if they had somethin’ impo’tant in them. You wanna know what’s in those briefcases? Why, nothin’ but a peanut-butter sandwich!
If a briefcase was a juicy target, can you imagine what he would have done with a wine cave?
Another target, once upon a time, was Bill Buckley’s limo. Oh, how that charged them up! WFB wrote brilliantly about it. Wish he were here to write about the wine-cave heebie-jeebies.
In my column, I say that Elizabeth Warren loosed “wine cave” on the country in the “time-dishonored populist style.” That was an homage to Martin Bernheimer, the late, great critic, and a friend of mine. (I wrote about him here.)
He would say things like “time-dishonored custom.” When an opera production was static and boring, he would say, “The inaction takes places in . . .” He would sometimes write, “When all was said and undone . . .”
Here on the Corner, I would like to publish a little mail. In an Impromptus earlier this week, I spoke of the Fab Five — a University of Michigan basketball team — in a discussion of experience (and inexperience).
Before the 1992 NCAA basketball tournament, Bill Walton was on television, doing some handicapping. He picked Michigan to win it all. Someone else — Brent Musburger? — said, “But Bill, they start five freshmen!” Walton answered, “I’ll take talent over experience any day.”
(Michigan made it to the final that year, losing to Duke.)
A reader writes,
I’ll go you one better than Bill Walton: Al McGuire. He was asked whether the Fab Five had any weaknesses. Yes, he said: They were arrogant. As a result, they started playing sloppy when they got a comfortable lead. “So, do you think they can go all the way?” McGuire was asked. “Yes,” he said, “as long as they don’t get a lead.”
Our reader adds, “That was so long ago that I sometimes wonder whether I imagined it. But I doubt it. It’s too good to dream up.”
One more letter. Recently, I noted two brief reviews — very brief. Reviewing Isn’t It Romantic?, Leonard Maltin wrote: “No.” Reviewing I Am a Camera, Walter Kerr wrote, “Me no Leica.”
Okay. A friend of mine recalls the story about Victor Hugo. The great auteur was on vacation when Les Misérables was published. He was very curious to know what the reception was. He wrote his publisher a one-word letter — or rather, a one-character letter: “?” The publisher wrote back, “!”
HERE’S WHAT’S CLEAR if you talk to House and Senate Democratic insiders: Speaker NANCY PELOSI is on the brink of ending her hold of the impeachment articles. The House is going to send them to the Senate in the near future, which will trigger the trial, most likely in the next few weeks. PELOSI has not given any hints of exactly when she might start this process, but we were told late Wednesday night this is coming soon.
THE LEFT WAS CLAMORING for PELOSI to hold the articles, in an attempt to get Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL to agree to witnesses. He didn’t — and most people realized he never would.
PELOSI ALLIES, though, say they forced a weekslong public discussion on impeachment trial witnesses, and whether MCCONNELL should be forced to guarantee them.
HERE’S WHAT A SENIOR DEM AIDE TOLD US: “The hold was clearly successful. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but a huge part of what we wanted was a national spotlight on the fairness of the trial. There’s no question we achieved that.”
DEMOCRATSWERE COMPLETELY UNIFIED UNTIL WEDNESDAY, when Senate Democrats crumbled in a stunning story by BURGESS EVERETT and HEATHER CAYGLE … Read the story. (BTW … Consider that Pelosi’s 232 Democrats stuck together for a few weeks, and Senate Democratic support crumbled within days.)
BUT THE REALITY IS THIS: Leverageworks only if both sides want something from each other. DEMOCRATS wanted MCCONNELL to accede to their demands, but MCCONNELL had the votes to do what he wanted, and never really needed anything from Democrats.
WHERE PELOSI CAN MAKE NEWS:THE SPEAKER has her weekly 10:45 a.m. news conference this morning. The House is in today and Friday. PELOSI will be on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
MITCH, TRUMP HUDDLE ABOUT IMPEACHMENT AT THE W.H. … CNN, via Manu Raju, Phil Mattingly and Pamela Brown: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump met Wednesday at the White House and discussed the upcoming Senate impeachment trial, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
“McConnell, one of the sources said, walked Trump through the trial format and discussed how Senate Republicans were reacting to the developments around the trial. … The senator from Kentucky has not shared with the White House the text of the resolution that would set up the trial, according to one of the sources, who insists there’s no negotiation with the GOP leader’s office on how the language should be drafted. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demanded to see the resolution before sending the two articles of impeachment to the Senate.”
Good Thursday morning.
WHAT MEGHAN AND HARRY’S DECISION MEANS FOR … Just kidding.
TRADE DEAL STAGECRAFT … WSJ: “China to Send Chief Trade Negotiator to U.S. to Sign Phase-One Deal,” by Lingling Wei in Beijing: “Chinese President Xi Jinping’s chief trade negotiator will travel to Washington early next week to sign a phase-one trade deal with the U.S., China’s Commerce Ministry said Thursday, the first official confirmation by Beijing on the signing of an agreement that could help ease bilateral tensions.
“The Chinese delegation, to be led by Vice Premier Liu He, will visit Washington from Monday to Wednesday, Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a weekly briefing. …
“Mr. Liu will lead a 10-member delegation to Washington, the people familiar with the matter said. The delegation includes: Zhong Shan, China’s commerce minister; Yi Gang, governor of China’s central bank; Ning Jizhe, a top official at the country’s economic-planning agency; Liao Min, vice finance minister and trusted aide to Mr. Liu; Zheng Zeguang, vice foreign minister; Wang Zhijun, vice minister of industry and information technology; Han Jun, vice agriculture minister; and Wang Shouwen, vice commerce minister.
“Beijing’s ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai, will also attend the signing ceremony, currently scheduled to take place next Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. EST at the White House, according to the people. Some 200 people, including representatives from major American trade groups, are expected to be in attendance.” WSJ
“A blizzard of potential threats had already come throughout the day — of attacks with missiles and rockets, of terrorist strikes against Americans elsewhere in the Middle East, even one warning that hundreds of Iran-backed militia fighters might try to assault Al Asad Air Base, a sprawling compound in Iraq’s western desert.
“But the specificity of the afternoon’s latest warning sent Vice President Mike Pence and Robert C. O’Brien, the White House national security adviser, to the basement of the West Wing, where aides were assembling in the Situation Room. President Trump joined shortly after wrapping up a meeting with the Greek prime minister. …
“The early warning provided by intelligence helps explain in part why the missiles exacted a negligible toll, destroying only evacuated aircraft hangars as they slammed into the desert sand in barren stretches of the base. No Americans or Iraqis were killed or wounded, and Mr. Trump, who indicated to advisers he would prefer to avoid further engagement, was relieved.”
DAVID SANGER with a news analysis on NYT A1:“Trump’s Iran Strategy: A Cease-Fire Wrapped in a Strategic Muddle”: “President Trump opened a small window for diplomacy with Iran on Wednesday, but combined his words with bald threats that made it hard to see how the two countries could break out of their cycle of confrontation and revenge.
“The speech was, in many ways, the sound of muddled policy. It showed that after three years in office, Mr. Trump has yet to resolve the two conflicting instincts on national security that emerge from his speeches and his Twitter feed: bellicosity and disengagement.
“And he included all the other requisite elements of a Trump policy speech on Iran: burning resentment of President Barack Obama, critiques of his predecessor’s nuclear deal, dubious factual claims and campaign-year self-congratulation.” NYT
AP’S JONATHAN LEMIRE: “Analysis: Trump seeks election-year out after Iran strikes”: “Trump, by declining to take military action in retaliation for Iranian missile strikes against Iraqi bases that house U.S. troops, edged the nation back from the brink of a war that could have destabilized the Middle East. That fits with his broader foreign policy pattern: talk tough but stay away from armed conflict.
“And that approach, mixed with a bit of luck and Iran’s own desire to avoid open conflict, could allow Trump to pull off dual election-year goals of projecting strength while placating those who backed him because of his promise to withdraw the United States from ‘endless’ wars in the Middle East.” AP
HAPPENING TODAY … THE HOUSE will vote on a War Powers Resolution aimed at forcing the president to stop hostilities in Iran without congressional approval.
WAPO’S CAROL LEONNIG and DAVID FAHRENTHOLD: “Mnuchin seeks delay of proposed disclosure of Secret Service spending on presidential travel until after election”: “The Trump administration is seeking to delay a Democratic effort to require the Secret Service to disclose how much it spends protecting President Trump and his family when they travel — until after the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the discussions.
“The issue has emerged as a sticking point in recent weeks as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and key senators have been negotiating draft legislation to move the Secret Service back to his department, its historic home.
“Mnuchin has balked at Democratic demands that the bill require the Secret Service to disclose the costs related to the travel of the president and his adult children within 120 days after it is passed, according to people with knowledge of the talks. Mnuchin has agreed to Democrats’ push for a requirement that the Secret Service report its travel expenses but wants such disclosures to begin after the election.” WaPo
BORDER WALL UPDATE — “Appeals court lifts block on $3.6 billion for Trump border wall plan,” by Josh Gerstein: “A divided federal appeals court has lifted a lower court’s order blocking $3.6 billion in military construction funds that President Donald Trump planned to use to finance an expanded and improved border wall.
“The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a brief order on Wednesday granting the Trump administration’s request to stay the injunction that U.S. District Court Judge David Briones, based in El Paso, Texas, issued last month. The three-judge appeals court panel split along ideological lines, with two Republican appointees voting to temporarily set aside the injunction and the sole Democratic appointee dissenting.
“The 5th Circuit panel’s majority did not provide a detailed explanation for its action, but noted that last July the Supreme Court stayed a similar injunction issued by a federal judge in Oakland, Calif.” POLITICO
2020 WATCH …
— NEW … FOX NEWS’ town hall with PETE BUTTIGIEG will be held at the River Center in Des Moines at 7 p.m. on Jan. 26 — one week before the Iowa caucuses. CHRIS WALLACE will moderate.
— NATASHA KORECKI in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: “‘The gloves-off strategy didn’t work’: Biden eyes Bernie as growing threat”: “When Bernie Sanders attacked Joe Biden recently, the former vice president dismissed his former Senate colleague with a contemptuous brush-off. ‘You guys expect me to take Bernie’s comments seriously? Come on,’ Biden told reporters as he left an Iowa campaign event last week. ‘I don’t respond to Bernie’s ridiculous comments.’ But that’s Biden’s public posture.
“Both in tactics and rhetoric, there are growing signs he takes his rival very seriously — and that he increasingly views Sanders as his most formidable opponent in Iowa and beyond. The Biden campaign has specifically courted the endorsement of community leaders in Iowa who backed Sanders in 2016.
“They’ve sought to combat Sanders’ recent habit of rolling out star surrogates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with their own A-list surrogates. And last week, Biden’s five-day Iowa bus tour heavily concentrated on the eastern part of the state — the biggest regional battleground between the two candidates because of its concentration of working-class voters.” POLITICO
— “Poll: Biden, Bloomberg hold largest leads against Trump in Michigan,” by Detroit News’ Beth LeBlanc and Craig Mauger: “Former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg hold the best chances among the leading Democratic presidential hopefuls of defeating President Donald Trump in Michigan, according to a new statewide poll.
“Among the five Democratic candidates near the top of the primary field, Biden has the widest lead against Trump at 7 percentage points, 50% to 43%, according to a Jan. 3-7 survey of 600 likely Michigan voters by the Glengariff Group and provided to The Detroit News.” Detroit News
— “Facebook sticking with policies on politicians’ lies and voter targeting,” by Alexandra Levine and Zach Montellaro: “Facebook is standing by its policies that allow politicians to lie to voters, while targeting their ads at narrow subsets of the public — decisions with vast implications for the more than $1 billion in online campaign messaging expected in this year’s elections.
“The online giant announced Thursday morning that it is not changing the most controversial elements of its approach to campaign ads, after months of a debate that has divided Silicon Valley and brought Facebook a barrage of criticism from Democrats. The critics have been most incensed by Facebook’s refusal to fact-check politicians’ claims, accusing the company of knowingly profiting from deception.
“Facebook has defended the policy on free-speech grounds, saying voters should be the ones scrutinizing politicians’ messages. …
“Facebook also said it is taking steps to give users more control over and insight into the ads they see, as well as improving its publicly available database of its political advertisements — allowing for more precise searches and filtering of ads and offering size estimates for their target audience. And the company announced it will soon allow users to control the volume of political and social issue ads they see.” POLITICO
“‘It’s been a problem,’ said Peter Leo, the chairman of Iowa’s Carroll County Democrats, who has endorsed Ms. Warren. ‘She’s getting hit from the left and the right.’ Ms. Warren’s conundrum is tied to the all-important notion of ‘electability,’ the vague and sometimes discriminatory concept that has become paramount to Democratic voters who are motivated by defeating Mr. Trump.”
TRUMP’S THURSDAY — The president will announce proposed environmental regulations at 11 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room. Trump will receive his intel briefing at 2 p.m. in the Oval Office. He will leave the White House at 4:15 p.m. en route to Toledo, Ohio. He will arrive at the Huntington Center at 6:35 p.m. and deliver remarks at a political rally at 7 p.m. Afterward, he will return to Washington.
JOHN HARRIS’ ALTITUDE COLUMN: “‘He is our O.J.’:POLITICO readers explain why they’re standing with Trump during impeachment”: “Explain yourself, I asked readers who are indignant about President Donald Trump’s impeachment shortly before the holiday break. I wasn’t asking merely for a defense of Trump, but for an honest illumination of what defenders would think if the essential facts in the Ukraine matter were the same except for one — Hillary Clinton were president.
“Several hundred people sent emails, the majority of them thoughtfully composed and accepting the invitation in good faith. This was a vivid window into the Age of Trump. With sincerity, candor, and even a measure of wistful idealism, people shared their views of a political and media culture they believe is cynical at its core. If almost nothing is on the level, almost anything goes.
“For Keith Swartz, who is 66 years old and runs a recruiting firm based in Tacoma, almost anything includes a president he regards as ‘manic, uneducated, illogical,’ and also ‘essentially a horrible person….vulgar, amoral, narcissistic.’
“Wait, this a defense of Trump? Yes, hang on. He’s done a fine job on the economy, in particular, in the face of a Democratic opposition that has bent rules and abused process for three years in an implacable bid to thwart him. ‘To those of us who support what he has accomplished,’ Swartz concluded, ‘it feels like he is our O.J.’
“That’s right: O.J. Simpson, not previously a conservative hero. In his 2016 promises to ‘Make America Great Again,’ Trump did not invoke the racially riven Los Angeles of the 1990s as his model. But Swartz’s admirably forthright comparison — with biased media and unscrupulous Democrats serving as proxies for racist cops — captured the spirit of many replies.”
PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “Jan. 23 deadline set for bids on Trump D.C. hotel,” by WaPo’s Jonathan O’Connell: “Companies interested in buying the lease rights to President Trump’s luxury Washington hotel have until Jan. 23 to submit initial bids, according to marketing materials sent to potential bidders Wednesday and obtained by The Washington Post.
“The company hired to market the hotel, JLL, emailed potential bidders with a ‘call for offers’ asking that they submit a proposed purchase price, the name of the hotel chain that would operate the hotel, names of investors and how long it would take to close a deal, according to the materials. Interested buyers are also encouraged to schedule tours of the building before the deadline, according to the materials.” WaPo
— WSJ’S CRAIG KARMIN: “The company was hoping initially to get more than $500 million for the lease rights, people familiar with the matter said. That would represent about $2 million per room key, which hotel brokers and investors say would be a record for Washington by that metric. Potential buyers have balked at that figure, and brokers have indicated the Trumps are willing to negotiate on price and other terms, said people familiar with the matter.” WSJ
LETTER FROM BERLIN … POLITICO EUROPE’S MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG: “When it comes to finding adjectives to describe U.S. President Donald Trump’s assassination of Iranian military guru Qassem Soleimani, which prompted the Iranians to respond by launching missile attacks on bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops overnight, European officials have displayed rare unity. At least in private.
“Behind the sober public pronouncements from Brussels and national capitals about the need for ‘de-escalation,’ officials are seething.” POLITICO Europe
DOCUMENT DUMP … HARDCORE IMPEACHMENT JUNKIES ONLY: “State Department releases additional Ukraine documents to American Oversight”: “The production includes several heavily redacted emails from senior State Department officials. Among the documents are a letter sent to former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch instructing her not to testify or to produce documents to Congress in the impeachment inquiry, and a response from Yovanovitch’s lawyer. …
“Wednesday’s release is also notable for what is missing — specifically, any written record of communications between top State Department officials and Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.”
MEDIAWATCH — “Fox News Hosts Were Against A Ground War With Iran. Trump Listened,” by BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray and Miriam Elder: “Fox News personalities by and large supported President Donald Trump’s confrontation with Iran over the past week. But between the lines, even the most ardent Trump supporters on Fox’s opinion side like Sean Hannity stopped short of encouraging all-out war … And one of Fox’s biggest opinion hosts has consistently criticized the confrontation with Iran. … [A]ccording to a source with knowledge of the conversations, Trump told people that he had watched [Tucker] Carlson’s show and it had affected his view on the Iran situation.” BuzzFeed
— NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker will co-host the “Weekend Today Show” along with Peter Alexander.
— David Muir of ABC Newswill be awarded the Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award at the Radio Television Digital News Foundation 30th annual First Amendment Awards on March 5.
SPOTTED: Justice Elena Kagan dining at Thamee on Wednesday night.
SPOTTED at a birthday party for Heather Podesta at Centrolina on Wednesday night:Democratic Sens. Doug Jones (Ala.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Mark Warner (Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Tina Smith (Minn.), Democratic Reps. Brad Schneider (Ill.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.), Don Beyer (Va.), Debbie Dingell (Mich.), Eric Swalwell (Calif.), Greg Stanton (Ariz.), Gil Cisneros (Calif.), Linda Sánchez (Calif.), Jim Himes (Conn.), Joe Kennedy (Mass.), Katherine Clark (Mass.), Lauren Underwood (Ill.), Lucy McBath (Ga.), Mikie Sherrill (N.J.), Rodney Davis (Ill.), Salud Carbajal (Calif.), Sean Casten (Ill.), Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Veronica Escobar (Texas) and Ruben Gallego (Ariz.) …
… Adrienne Elrod, Amy Weiss, Betsy Fischer Martin, Carol Melton, Ceci Connolly, Danielle Burr, Gloria Dittus, Heather Kennedy, Jeanne Cummings, Joanna Coles, Melissa Moss, Juleanna Glover, Kent Knutson, Kris Coratti, Manuel Roig-Franzia, Margaret Carlson, Nancy Zirkin, Neera Tanden, Priya Bayananda, Stephanie Cutter, Steve Clemons, Tammy Haddad, Dan Turrentine, Beth Ellikidis, Nick Giordano, Shannon McGahn, Chris Brose, Robert Hoffman and Stephen Ciccone.
TRANSITIONS — Jessica Mackler and Jerusalem Demsas are joining the Democratic Governors Association as independent expenditure director and national press secretary. Demsas previously was South Carolina communications director for Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign. Mackler previously was president of the American Bridge 21st Century.
NEW … The Harvard Institute of Politics announced its slate of spring resident fellows: Tiffany Cross, the Beat DC co-founder and managing editor; former British Ambassador Kim Darroch; Mark Harvey, special assistant to the president and senior director for resilience policy at the NSC; Rohini Kosoglu, former chief of staff for Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign; Tara Setmayer, a CNN and ABC political commentator and former communications director for former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.); and former Alaska Gov. Bill Walker.
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Kenya Young, executive producer of NPR’s “Morning Edition.” A fun fact about her: “During one of my unemployed stints in between career changes I freelanced as a foley artist. You can hear my screams, footsteps, water gulping and door slams in several late ’90s movies.” Playbook Q&A
BIRTHDAYS: Ben Taub, staff writer for The New Yorker … Brooke Brower, managing editor of CNN Politics, is 42 … Pamela Walsh … Linda Greenhouse is 73 … U.N. Development Programme’s Sarah Jackson-Han … Elizabeth Caputo, head of U.S. government engagement at the World Economic Forum (h/t Tim Burger) … former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is 53 … Mark Stencel … former Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) is 68 … Fred Wertheimer … Erica Flint … Tim Punke, partner at Monument Advocacy, is 49 (h/t Stewart Verdery) … Elaine Stern … Al Felzenberg … POLITICO’s Desmond Hester … Don Kent, partner at the Nickles Group … WSJ’s Charles Passy is 56 … Peter Edelman, law professor at Georgetown University, is 82 … Steven Kotler … Linda Greenhouse …
… Lauren Fritts, head of public affairs for U.S. and Canada and Israel at WeWork … Isabelle Solomon … Kim Larson … Luke Holland,COS for Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), is 33 … Josiah Ryan, CNN senior producer … Tasha Hendershot … Richard Neffson … Deana Bass Williams … Dan Black … Cristina Diaz-Torres … Washingtonian’s Jessica Sidman … BuzzFeed’s Emily Ashton … Laura Wiley … Carrie Seim … Seth Thomas Pietras … Catherine Easley … Diana Doukas … Jessica Medeiros Garrison … Colin Campbell, managing editor at Yahoo News … PBS’ Kristin Lehner … Zubin Sharma … Ron Castleman … Susan Fertig-Dykes … Catherine Fenton … Jodi Sakol, VP of campaign outreach at AARP … Bob Burke … Jon Macks (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Samir Arora
REPORT: Dr. Drew Pinsky May Run For Congress Against Adam Schiff
by Aleister January 9, 2020
This is very exciting news.
Dr. Drew Pinsky is apparently considering a run for Congress against Adam Schiff.
Pinsky has been sounding the alarm about the possibility of an epidemic in California due to homelessness and rats for months. Adam Schiff on the other hand, has done nothing but waste the people’s time chasing Russia and impeachment.
Dr. Drew may challenge Adam Schiff for his congressional seat
Adam Schiff had better have a “shifty” campaign strategy to take on this challenger.
Celebrity shrink Dr. Drew is considering a run for the California Democrat’s House seat, he told The Hill, because he had become too tied up in the impeachment hearings and lost focus on issues facing the district.
“I wake up every day and drive through this town and I am morally moved where I feel like I have to do something,” said the famed doctor, whose full name is Drew Pinsky.
“I was watching all the impeachment proceedings and I was going, ‘Oh my God, our Congress is tied up and we’re dying out here in California. What are these people doing?’” he lamented, adding, “I thought, ‘Oh my God, I have to run for that office at least just to get him to start participating in the governance of this region.’”
The addiction specialist told the outlet that he genuinely doesn’t want to run, but that he hasn’t seen another option to help the broken government of Los Angeles County and the state.
Dr. Drew would probably run as a Democrat, but that’s OK. In California, this would increase his chances of beating Schiff.
The conservative blogger Ace of Spades made a great point about this:
Pinsky says he is “very moderate” and frequently shifts his political affiliation. He said he’d probably challenge Schiff as a Democrat, if at all.
But he also doesn’t sound like he is very animated to run.
As far as him being “very moderate” — I dunno. I only know him from the Adam Carolla show and always felt he was the more conservative of the pair, and Adam Carolla was already fairly conservative (for a Hollywood guy).
That is sound analysis.
No matter what, Pinsky would be better than Adam Schiff.
As we learned about the attack aimed at American forces in Iraq coming from Iran Tuesday evening, already early Wednesday morning in Iraq, a lot of us did as we always do – we scanned Twitter for reactions. It may surprise you to learn that the worst reactions didn’t come from Democrats running to be the party’s presidential nominee. The worst came from Speaker Pelosi and her cohorts in the media.
Fortunately for the troops and personnel in harm’s way from the ballistic missiles sent from Iran, the 2020 candidates set the right tone. Concern for the safety of the troops and others in the path of the missiles was expressed in social media. Speaker Pelosi, however, turned her concern into a slam against President Trump. By using the words “needless provocations from the Administration” she sounded like the Iranian leadership.
Closely monitoring the situation following bombings targeting U.S. troops in Iraq. We must ensure the safety of our servicemembers, including ending needless provocations from the Administration and demanding that Iran cease its violence. America & world cannot afford war.
That is not a good look for the third most powerful person in the American government. Her reaction was unnecessarily hackish and just plain wrong. President Trump has not “needlessly provoked” Iran. Iran has been attacking Americans and our interests since the revolution in 1979. If anything, it can easily be argued that Trump has shown great restraint. The drone attack in Baghdad that took out Soleimani was in response to the intelligence of an imminent attack. Plus, just days earlier, Iran-backed militia attacked the U.S. embassy.
It is reported that Pelosi did not speak with Vice-President Pence when he called but returned his call later and he briefed her. Maybe next time she should just take his call.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was handed a note during a House Democratic leadership meeting informing her of the attacks on two military bases in Al-Assad and Erbil, respectively, that house U.S. forces in Iraq. Pelosi returned a phone call to Vice President Pence at approximately 6:34 p.m. when he briefed her on the attack.
Joe Biden tweeted in a restrained manner. Obviously he was going for a calm and reasoned response.
I’m going to hold off on commenting on the news tonight until we know more, but there is one thing I will say: Jill and I are keeping our troops and Americans overseas in our prayers. We hope you’ll keep them in yours.
This was a better response than Quid Pro Joe delivered earlier in the day in a speech in New York. He criticized Trump for his handling of Iran.
Biden criticized Mr. Trump in his speech for bringing the U.S. “dangerously close” to starting anew in the Middle East, despite campaigning on bringing an end to so-called endless wars.
“I have no illusions about Iran. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. They’ve ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters, and they should be held accountable for their actions,” the former vice president said. “But there is a smart way to counter them — and a self-defeating way. Trump’s approach is demonstrably the latter.”
Joe Biden has been historically wrong on foreign policy for 40 years. Former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates said those words in his memoir after retiring from working in the Obama administration with Biden. Interestingly, Biden acknowledged in his speech that he’s made mistakes but it was more along the lines of “Hey, everyone makes mistakes”, and not acknowledging his wrong-headedness in foreign policy. Remember, he also advised Obama not to take the opportunity to take out Bin Laden.
During a town hall in New Hampshire, Tulsi Gabbard said that the drone attack on Soleimani “undermined our national security”. After the response from Iran, she tweeted about her own flashbacks from her time in the service.
Warren has been busy calling Trump’s approval of the drone strike as a wag the dog scenario. At least Meghan McCain got her to acknowledge that Soleimani was a terrorist. Small steps.
I don’t find a tweet on Bernie Sanders’ Twitter account of this nature. There is a video clip of his interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN where he denounces Trump’s actions and says he’ll do what he can to stop war authorization and funding if it comes up for a vote. He also is on record comparing the strike on Soleimani with Putin’s assassinations of dissidents, so there’s that.
So, how did our betters in liberal media react to the incoming missiles launch from Iran into Iraq? Just exactly as you probably expected. There was plenty of misinformation and finger-pointing at Trump, not Iran.
Then a correction – there were no Americans killed:
Later in the segment, MSNBC host Chris Hayes acknowledged & emphasized that MSNBC’s Iran correspondent was sharing completely unverified Iran state media claims about dozens of U.S. soldiers being killed pic.twitter.com/JqOvgnNVwd
Former Bushie Steve Schmidt weighed in with his usual Orange Man bad hot take. He is nothing if not consistent in his anti-Trump criticisms. He returned to his MSNBC gig after serving as a campaign adviser for Howard Schultz’s failed presidential nomination bid.
Steve Schmidt: “You can’t imagine, I think, a worse president, a worse possible leader, to stand at the head of America’s Armed Forces at this very dangerous moment” https://t.co/6FDY4U6XCu
O’Donnell mocked Trump’s decision to not make a statement until Wednesday. Instead of acknowledging the wisdom of waiting until assessments could be made and decisions made in response to those assessments, O’Donnell called Trump “speechless”.
These threats of war crimes & mass murder by Iran make this the most dangerous night in history of American military in the Middle East and the President of the United States has no idea what to say. White House says Trump won’t make a statement. He’s literally speechless. https://t.co/cVxLtR59rP
History will not be kind to those so afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome that they can’t even pause and unite with other Americans in supporting a president during the aftermath of an enemy attack. Whether it is the top leadership of lawmakers or those in the media, we must believe them when they tell us who they are. They are so psychologically crippled that they broadcast support for America’s enemies instead of America. It’s sickening.
I’ll end with this from Hollywood’s Michael Moore. He is thrilled that so many in the media are openly questioning the Trump administration in the midst of an enemy attack. Instead of just reporting on the events of the evening, he was celebrating the divisive nature of their comments.
Bless you, Chris Hayes. And thank u MSNBC for broadcasting some powerful truths tonite. I don’t think this has happened before where, on the 1st night of a strike against us, our free press has questioned EVERYTHING — and in doing so, may — may— have prevented further bloodshed. https://t.co/IodzGwkB1h
But history, rather than repeating itself, has become inverted with the blunt and deadly application of American military might. It’s like bizarro world, because the elements are largely the same, just reversed.
I spent Wednesday looking more closely at the Clinton example and how Trump has riffed on it. Clinton said he was building up an international coalition. Trump has taken pride in breaking coalitions down. Clinton used the military to attack Iraq’s weapons program. Trump took out an Iranian general visiting Iraq in part as an act of retribution. Clinton’s enemy was Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Trump’s enemy is Iran.
But the constant is that the problems created by despotic leaders in the Middle East — and US responses to them — carry on from President to President to President.
‘There will be no haggling’
It’s been three weeks since the House voted to impeach Trump on two articles over his attempts to pressure Ukraine’s President into helping to damage former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 election. There has been no movement toward the next step laid out in the Constitution, a Senate trial. (Also, it is now less than four weeks before the first vote of 2020 — the February 3 Iowa caucuses.)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried Wednesday to end his stalemate with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the impeachment trial by exerting Senate dominance. He said on the Senate floor that the California Democrat has no leverage to influence the Senate impeachment trial. “There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure,” McConnell said. “We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment. The House Democrats’ turn is over. The Senate has made its decision.”
He was referring to his declaration that he has the votes to carry on with a trial and punt on whether to call witnesses like John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, after the House presents its impeachment case.
McConnell’s comments came after Pelosi wrote to House Democrats on Tuesday night that the Kentucky Republican must release the text of the resolution on the impeachment trial rules before she would send the articles to the Senate.
McConnell vs. Pelosi was the topic of Wednesday’s Impeachment Watch podcast, featuring David Chalian, Marshall Cohen and CNN analyst Michael Zeldin.
Also on Wednesday, McConnell and Trump met at the White House and discussed the upcoming trial, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. One of the sources said McConnell walked Trump through the format and discussed how Senate Republicans were reacting to developments around the trial.
The senator has not shared the text of the resolution with the White House, according to one of the sources, who says there’s no negotiation with McConnell’s office on how the language should be drafted. But the meeting is likely to fuel Democratic accusations that McConnell is improperly coordinating with the President before the trial.
Time for the trial
There are growing signs that even Democrats are done waiting.
CNN’s Manu Raju reports the delay is upsetting efforts for senators to plan — both their work and personal schedules as well as their legislative efforts — amid the uncertainty over the standoff, according to multiple senators.
While most Democrats said that when to send the articles was the speaker’s decision to make, they made clear that the trial should start soon, hoping for as early as next week.
Here’s what they said:
Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, said that “it’s probably time” to begin the trial, but added he would leave the decision on sending the articles to Pelosi. “I think Mitch McConnell made clear what he’s moving forward in terms of rules,” he said.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said: “My hope is that we’ll be able to get the trial started next week.” Murphy added: “I think if we’re trying to create leverage on the Republicans, that leverage really exists when we put them on the record on motions to call witnesses.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the senior Connecticut Democrat, added: “I’m ready to begin the trial tomorrow. As a former prosecutor, I’m ready to go to court.”
War powers vote is set
While the timing of the impeachment trial remains unclear, Pelosi did make clear Wednesday there will be a vote this week to curb Trump’s war powers, even as the President backs down from the brink on Iran.
War powers vote in the House — CNN’s Capitol Hill team reports that House Democrats will take up legislation on Thursday to restrain Trump’s military actions amid hostilities with Iran, Pelosi announced.
The resolution, sponsored by freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former CIA analyst, will be considered by the Rules Committee to set the parameters for the debate on Wednesday night, she said.
The decision to move forward with the bill follows Pelosi’s initial announcement over the weekend that the House will take up a measure similar to one introduced in the Senate by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.
What would the resolution do? — It would force the removal of US forces from hostilities within 30 days short of a declaration of war or authorization for the use of military force by Congress. Read more.
GOP senator unloads re: Iran
The war powers issue, unlike impeachment, is drawing sharp criticism of Trump from Republicans, specifically from anti-interventionist conservatives like Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky. Which means the vote, when it comes to the Senate, will be a very interesting moment for Trump, whose party has been essentially unified behind him on the Ukraine scandal. (War powers matters are privileged under Senate rules and so this resolution will get a vote).
Lee unloaded on the administration after what was supposed to be an intelligence briefing for lawmakers. Lee was not impressed with what he heard. He pointed out that Congress is a coordinate branch of government in charge of funding and authorizing military activity.
“They had to leave after 75 minutes while they’re in the process of telling us that we need to be good little boys and girls and run along and not debate this in public. I find this absolutely insane.”
What are we doing here?
The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election. Democrats impeached him for it. A Senate trial is next. It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.