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Bernie Is Now Leading Iowa According to the Best Poll in the Game

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders has the slight edge in a tight race in Iowa, according to the state’s most accurate pollster.

Sanders leads the way with 20% support of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers in a new poll conducted by the well-respected Ann Selzer for the Des Moines Register and CNN. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is right behind him at 17%, with South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is at 16% and former Vice President Joe Biden is at 15% in the survey.

The poll comes just weeks ahead of Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses, the official start of the 2020 campaign and a key moment for candidates as they try to lock down the nomination. And it shows a close four-way contest where all four candidates have a real shot at winning the influential contest.

These are good numbers for Sanders — he’s the only one who’s shown any growth in support since Selzer’s last poll in November. Buttigieg led in that survey with 25%, followed by Warren at 16% and Biden and Sanders at 15% apiece. These latest numbers also aren’t good for Buttigieg, who’s slipped nine points since November in Selzer’s poll.

READ: The Sunrise Movement may bet big on Bernie in 2020. This is why.

“There’s no denying that this is a good poll for Bernie Sanders. He leads, but it’s not an uncontested lead,” Selzer told the Des Moines Register. “He’s got a firmer grip on his supporters than the rest of his compatriots.”

But Sanders’ lead is within the poll’s 3.7-point margin of error — he’s statistically tied with the others. With weeks to go, any of the four top-polling candidates could still easily pull out a win.

The Iowa caucuses often dictate which candidates can keep running, knocking out a bevy of lower-polling candidates.

Buttigieg likely has the most riding on the state. The upstart mayor’s support in poll after poll comes from white and college-educated voters, who are overrepresented in Iowa compared to the party as a whole. If he can’t win in Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s hard to see how he’ll capture the nomination.

Iowa’s results could also firm up the pecking order among more progressive candidates. Warren and Sanders have been battling for more liberal voters, and though Warren has appealed to more ideologically mixed group, they both likely need a strong finish in the state as they head into New Hampshire, a state near both their homes that could be make-or-break for either candidate.

READ: Bernie is destroying the Democratic field in fundraising. But not Trump.

Biden can probably afford to lose Iowa and possibly New Hampshire as well — his path to the nomination runs through more diverse states where he’s polling better, including early-voting Nevada and South Carolina. But he has to avoid an embarrassing setback in the state.

New Hampshire’s primary looks just as close. The two reputable polls of the state’s primary released this week — from CBS and Monmouth University — both found margin-of-error races.

Selzer is widely regarded as far and away the most accurate pollster of Iowa, with her numbers taking near-mythic status amongst political gurus. And campaign staff and other Iowa Democrats gurus have been waiting on pins and needles for these numbers. In conversations over the last few days, multiple Iowa Democrats caveated their thoughts on the race with a variation of “unless Selzer shows I’m wrong.”

She’s not perfect. Her last poll of the 2016 caucuses had President Trump leading by five, when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) went on to win by three. She also got the 2004 election wrong, but her three-decade track record is impressive, including in a number of races where her numbers conflicted with other public polling and were spot on.

That happened in 2008, when she nailed then-candidate Barack Obama’s larger-than-expected margin of victory, and in 2014, when she was the only pollster who came close to Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-Iowa) comfortable win when others were showing a neck-and-neck race.

Cover image: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at town hall at the National Motorcycle Museum on January 3, 2020 in Anamosa, Iowa. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

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Wall Street Journal Reports Trump Cited Republican Senators for Qasem Soleimani Strike

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

Tout les Toobz were abuzz all day Friday over the Wall Street Journal report about the effect of the president*’s upcoming impeachment trial on his decision to ice Qasem Soleimani. From MSNBC:

It’s against this backdrop that the Wall Street Journal had this tidbit in its report on the White House national security team and its response to the Iranian threat: Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said.

This morsel was buried by the Journal, which indicates that the paper either didn’t think it important, or wasn’t sure of its sourcing. As for me, I feel a little bit of both. I don’t think there is any Republican in the Senate who would have voted to remove the president* from office just because he didn’t kill a guy halfway around the world. Certainly the likes of Tom Cotton and Lindsey Graham wouldn’t have done it. On the other hand, telling people that this was the case definitely would be on-brand for this president*, who loves to hand off responsibility for his own actions to anybody who’s handy.

So I don’t think there’s much credibility in the actual assertion, but I have no doubt that the president* believes it and is inclined to blab about it. Neither of these points gives me much comfort.

Over the next two years, the Republic of Ireland will commemorate the War of Independence and the subsequent Irish Civil War that broke out after the passage of the Anglo-Irish treaty through Dail Eireann and by referendum. Tensions continue to run fairly high. At issue at the moment is a proposed commemoration of the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary who were killed during the War of Independence.

The folks proposing the commemoration argued that honoring the members of the RIC, who were Irishmen themselves, would go a long way towards the island’s continuing attempts at reconciliation. (Also, memories were invoked of those RIC members who had mutinied against British authority—like Jeremiah Mee, the RIC constable in Listowel, who stood up to the Black and Tans and refused to adopt a shoot-on-sight policy.) The event eventually was cancelled after other Irish politicians raised hell about memorializing what was described as “the strong arm of British policy” in Ireland.

Sir Hamar Greenwood of the Royal Irish Constabulary inspects a group of Black and Tans in 1921.

Topical Press AgencyGetty Images

Almost immediately, a version of the old rebel song, “Come Out Ye Black And Tans” by the Wolfe Tones shot to the top of the charts on the back of the controversy. This also has roiled up the politics of the moment. Fintan O’Toole—whose Joe Biden profile in The New York Review of Books you should all read—absolutely scalded the Wolfe Tones in his newspaper column. And the brawl has reached to the top of the government. From The Independent:

Leo Varadkar was reluctant to comment further on the furore surrounding the now-postponed plans for a State commemoration for the RIC and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, and news that The Wolfe Tones classic ‘Come Out Ye Black And Tans’ has risen to number-one in the music charts off the back of the controversy.

Earlier this week, the Government deferred the event, due to take place next Friday, after a fierce backlash over plans to remember police forces that were reinforced by the notorious Black and Tans during the War of Independence.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said earlier this week that he still wants to hold the event this year. But asked if he wanted it to happen before the Dáil election which will take place before the summer, Mr Varadkar said: “No, look it, I’ve no more to say on that than I’ve already said.” He said he had “no further comment to make on commemorations” when asked about The Wolfe Tones’ plans to donate the proceeds from their number-one song to charity the Peter McVerry Trust, who work for the homeless.

I don’t even want to think about the hooleys that are going to break out in a couple of years on the centenary of the Irish Civil War. Fraught isn’t the word for this.

Hey, remember a couple of days ago when Senator Mike Lee, the konztitooshunal skolar from Utah, went righteously apeshit over the briefing he’d received from the administration* regarding the Soleimani business? That was cool, right? Lee said it was the “worst briefing I’ve had.” Well, it took a day, but Mike Lee went into the tank, as any thinking person knew he would. From Talking Points Memo:

“I mentioned yesterday that it was probably the worst briefing I have ever seen on a military issue,” Lee said. “The reason I qualify it that way is that the worst briefing I ever got in that room was on a slightly different issue back in 2012 right after the Benghazi attack, where we were told repeatedly by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the attack on the Benghazi consulate was based on a reaction to a video, so, fortunately, this was not that.”

See what he did there? He split hairs on “a military issue” and then he said “Benghazi” and “Hillary Clinton,” the high conjuring words. There is no reporting on whether he turned around three times and spit, or cursed, but Mike Lee certainly made his conscience disappear.

Weekly WWOZ Pick To Click: “Big Chief Got A Golden Crown” (The Wild Tchoupitoulas): Yeah, I pretty much still love New Orleans.

Weekly Visit To The Pathe Archives: Here is the village of Ballbriggan after the Black and Tans came out. “Sacked” in quotes on the title cards is nice. Not mentioned in the film is the fact that the “sacking” was so odious that it even became an issue in the British parliament. The Tans even beat the village barber to death. History is so cool, and it’s no wonder the songs still echo.

As for the Big Unpaid Labor Bowl on Monday next, I am all in on LSU because a) I like the way they play, and b) if I have to pick between Southern college football coaches, cher, I’ll take the unreconstructed Cajun, Ed Orgeron, over the insufferable god-botherer Dabo Swinney of Clemson. Plus, all that speed on LSU, and the fact that the grandson of Darryl Stingley, the Patriots wide receiver who was paralyzed by a hit from Oakland’s Jack Tatum, plays for those Tigers. Anyway, I’m going to need to find some étouffée come Monday night.

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

Here’s where we get into the distinction between what we’d be able to smell and how dinosaurs would perceive each other. In terms of modern reptiles, species kept as pets are often said to have no smell – unless you forget to clean their cage properly or frequently enough. Their scaly skins seem relatively stink free compared to the fur of a companionable canid. And yet we know that smell is important for reptiles. Alligators and crocodiles, for example, have glands along their jaws that sometimes secrete an oily substance thought to be important in some form of communication. Garter snakes, too, can actually spray a compound into the air and tell competing mates to back off. And contrary to a long-held belief about birds, scent is important to communication among living dinosaurs, too.

We don’t know if any non-avian dinosaur advertised with scent in the same way. Our image of dinosaurs and their lives is principally molded by what they left behind, with our expectations of what can be found guiding what we look for. Personally, I think there’s an entire world of dinosaurian fragrances that we have yet to even catch the barest sniff of.

I look forward to hearing more from Riley Black and his quest for what dinosaurs smelled like. I hope he enjoys himself, because they lived then to make us happy now.

Top Commenter Kent Anderson blew away the competition by knowing the way to the committee’s dilithium-chambered heart. Of the president*’s rough neighborhood in the sky, Nelson replied:

More proof that Edith Keeler lived.

Luckily, during my recent hospitalization, they laid off the cordrazine. Anyway, take your 91.11 Beckhams, sir, and live long and prosper.

I’ll be back on Monday with whatever happens over the weekend to stir me out of convalescence. Be well and play nice, ya bastids. Stay above the snake-line, and remember, if something smells bad in the yard, it might be a dinosaur.

Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.

Charles P. Pierce
Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976.

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Trump Suggests He Will Use Executive Privilege to Block Bolton Impeachment Testimony

President Donald Trump said he will use executive privilege to prevent former White House aide John Bolton from testifying in the forthcoming Senate impeachment trial.

When he was asked by Fox News host Laura Ingraham if he would invoke executive privilege to block Bolton from testifying, Trump said that “I think you have to for the sake of the office,” referring to the presidency.

“No problem other than one thing,” Trump said. “You can’t be in the White House as president, future, I’m talking about future … any future presidents, and have a security advisor, anybody having to do with security, and legal and other things.”

Trump said on Thursday he didn’t back a plan to stop Bolton from testifying, telling reporters, “I don’t stop it.”

Bolton said on Monday he would be willing to testify if he is subpoenaed during the Senate trial, which some Democrats have seized as a sign that witnesses need to be called during the proceedings. Democrats have delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate and some have argued that Bolton, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and others should testify.

In a statement on Monday, Bolton wrote: “Since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study. I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify.” Bolton left the Trump administration last year.

Then-White House National Security Advisor John Bolton talks to reporters outside of the White House in Washington on April 30, 2019. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House will prepare to send articles of impeachment next week after her caucus and Senate Democrats failed to get any concessions from Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in the upper chamber.

McConnell publicly expressed that he wants to use the model established during the 1999 impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton, opting to vote on potentially calling up witnesses at a future date. The majority leader also backed a bill introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) that would allow the Senate to change its rules on impeachment unless the House transmits the articles within 25 days of voting to impeach Trump.

Pelosi announced Friday that she would send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

“I have asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the Floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate,” Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats.

On Thursday, several GOP senators said McConnell is aiming to start the trial next week.

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Oprah weighs in on Megxit

Because, of course, she did. The story of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s desire to shed their royal obligations and flee England for a life in North America (Megxit) has officially jumped the shark. Oprah Winfrey’s friendship with the royal couple has delivered a whole new layer to the story.

As Ed wrote about earlier this week, the two are not thrilled with their life in England. It’s not easy being royal, you know. What with royal duties and obligations, and unrelenting press coverage, how are the new parents supposed to cope? It really all boils down to that – they would now like to go their own way and no longer be under the thumb of Harry’s grandmother, the Queen of England.

As an Anglophile, I don’t even have a problem with the “stepping away” from the royal family story. To quote America’s queen bee, Hillary Clinton, “What difference, at this point, what difference does it make?” Let’s be honest, Harry is sixth in line to the throne and he only receives attention when he is messing up. Other than stories on his time in the Army and two tours of service in Afghanistan – all admirable – Harry really captured attention when he decided to settle down and marry an American actress. Also, the fact that Meghan Markle is biracial and how she fits into the royal family was British tabloid gold. Before Meghan, he was known as a party boy who drank a lot, dated a lot, and sometimes dressed in questionable fashion – like the time he donned an imitation uniform complete with a Nazi insignia.

Meghan Markle is used to the life of an American actress. She is a far-left feminist and liked to voice political opinions, especially during the 2016 election cycle. She was anti-Trump and pro-Hillary Clinton. Now that she is a member of the royal family, she is not at liberty to make political statements, as the royal family is supposed to be non-political. She even made a point of not taking part in a royal reception for the Trumps last summer. You may remember that President Trump described her as a “nasty woman”.

Most of her comments occurred during an appearance on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. It was 2016 and Meghan Markle was supporting Hillary Clinton for president ahead of the election.

She said: “Of course Trump is divisive—think about female voters alone. I think it was in 2012, the Republican Party lost the female vote by 12 points. That’s a huge number and as misogynistic as Trump is—and so vocal about it—that’s a huge chunk of it.”

She went on: “You’re not just voting for a woman if it’s Hillary (Clinton). Yes, you’re voting because she’s a woman, but certainly, because Trump has made it easy to see that you don’t really want that kind of world that he’s painting.”

She also encouraged her Instagram followers to read Noam Chomsky’s book, “Who Rules the World”. The book includes an afterword urging a probe into the 2016 election results.

The timing of the announcement by Harry and Meghan was tone-deaf. This week has brought headlines of continuing Australian bushfires and the deaths of Canadians in the aircraft crash in Iran. It certainly looks like the two are more concerned about their own life than those whom they are supposed to serve.

Oprah is denying a report that she advised them to develop their own brand, but the couple “have trademarked “Sussex Royal” as a brand on more than 100 properties in the UK, including clothing, stationery, photographs and educational and charitable endeavors — with predicted revenue of over $500 million.” This plays into their claim that they wish to be financially independent of the royal family. If anyone knows about building a personal brand and reaping the benefits of that brand, it’s Oprah. When asked about the story, she denied it. What else was she to do? Take credit for encouraging a move that blindsided the Queen of England?

“Meghan and Harry do not need my help figuring out what’s best for them,” Winfrey, who famously attended the couple’s wedding in May 2018, tells PEOPLE.

“I care about them both and support whatever decisions they make for their family.”

Harry and Meghan have lots of celebrity and high-profile friends.

They’ve gathered a coterie of powerful US players, including the Obamas, George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, James Corden and Meghan’s designer pal Misha Nonoo, whose new husband, oil heir Michael Hess, has offered them a place to stay in one of the family’s three homes in the gated Malibu Colony — dubbed “Billionaire’s Beach” — we are told.

A source said, “Oprah was the first person to talk to Harry and Meghan about breaking free and doing their own thing, building on their own brand. She made them realize it was really possible.” A rep for Oprah declined to comment.

Harry is also close to Barack Obama, and insiders say the prince could follow a similar after-presidency career path, involving philanthropy, speeches, book deals and documentaries.

Page Six can also reveal that Oprah’s BFF Gayle King is set to score the first interview with the Sussexes post-Megxit. King attended Meg’s NYC baby shower and visited them after the birth of baby Archie. A TV source said: “It’s hush-hush, but there’s no one else they would turn to.”

The point is this – they can go off and live a life of their own making without the drama of a formal split with the royals. No one will care. This story is all about them. The marketing of their royal brand is tacky, to say the least. Vendors work hard to acquire the official stamp of approval of the royal family in England. Meghan Markle knew the life she was getting into and frankly, I don’t blame Harry for trying to protect her from the British press. But, that’s a part of the job. Running away will not end attention from the press, at least not for a while. For now, they just look like whiny brats. This drama will continue for a while. Already Meghan has gone back to Canada to be with baby Archie and left Harry to deal with his family. All this publicity will be great for sales of branded products when they go to market, though, right? Unless it all backfires.

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A step-by-step guide for moving to Canada and becoming a citizen there

Chris Wattie/Reuters

If tensions between the US and Iran have you feeling worried about the country’s future, you may find yourself imagining a move to Canada.

Or perhaps you’re a loyal fan of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and read about her rumored return to the country. 

Despite the specific reason why, it is theoretically possible — but certainly not easy — to move to Canada. Becoming a Canadian citizen is tough. You need to first be a permanent resident and have lived in Canada for three out of the last five years, among other requirements.

For those who actually want to head up north, here’s how you become a permanent resident and citizen of Canada.

Preface: Make sure you’re not already a Canadian citizen.

Shaun Best/Reuters

Before you go through the hassle of applying for citizenship or permanent residency, take a short quiz to see if you may already be Canadian.

The government outlines several caveats for being a citizen even if you weren’t born there, many of which depend on your parents’ citizenship. Maybe you secretly inherited their status at some point along the way.


Be at least 18 years old.

John Moore/Getty

If you’re not a legal adult, you’ve got an uphill climb ahead of you. To become a citizen, minors need their parent or legal guardian to fill out the application for them; they need to already be permanent residents in Canada; and the parent must either be a citizen or applying to become one at the same time. 

Become a permanent resident.

Malcolm Hasman

The Canadian government created a handy tool to help you figure out if you’re eligible to be a permanent resident, which is required to become a Canadian citizen. 

There are several avenues available to becoming a permanent resident. For example, you can apply through a specific province, go down a special entrepreneur route, get help from a family member or spouse who lives in Canada, or go through Quebec, which has special immigration requirements.

Permanent residents are entitled to healthcare coverage and can work, study, and travel anywhere in Canada. You just can’t vote, run for office, or hold some jobs with high security clearance.

If you’re a skilled worker, consider Canada’s Express Entry system.

Thomson Reuters

Canada has a fast-track system for immigration called Express Entry. It’s how skilled workers transition into a new role in the country.

All applicants into Express Entry are given specific scores based on their talents and job prospects and then ranked with other applicants. Those at the top of the rankings are invited to become permanent residents.

Declare your intent to reside.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

If you’re invited to become a permanent resident, you must confirm your plans to stay Canadian. If you don’t spend that much time within the borders, you could lose your permanent residence status and your chance to become a citizen.

If you don’t live in Canada, you must work outside Canada as a public official known as a Crown Servant or live abroad with certain family members who are Crown Servants.

Spend enough time physically present in Canada.

Jesse33 /

Permanent residents don’t always become citizens. The bar for citizenship is higher.

If you’re living in Canada, you must have been a permanent resident and physically present in Canada for at least 1,095 days during the five years right before the date you sign your application. 

In other words, your time in Canada needs to stay relatively consistent.

Provide your income tax filing.

Canadian Finance Blog

Like the residence requirement, you must be able to provide three years’ worth of tax returns in the five-year period leading up to the date of your application.

Basically, they want to see if your job is legit.

Speak English or French.


Along with dozens of other countries, Canada has two official languages: English and French.

To become a citizen, you need to know just one. You don’t need to be fluent, just conversational enough to make small talk, give directions, use basic grammar, and know your vocab well enough to describe yourself.

You’ll send along written documents with your application, but a citizenship officer will make the final call whether your English or French is up to snuff.

Know a thing or two about Canada.

Wikimedia Commons

You should probably brush up on your Canadian history anyway, but the government issues a formal quiz to applicants on the history, values, institutions, and symbols of Canada.

You take the test if you’re between 16 and 64 years old. Typically, it’s a written test, but the citizenship officer may also ask questions orally.

There are no real surprises. Everything you’d need to know can be found here: Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.

Know why your application might get denied.

Reuters/Carlo Allegri

There are a number of reasons your past may prohibit you from becoming a Canadian citizen.

For instance, the government looks down upon granting citizenship to people who have committed a crime within four years of submitting their application or are on trial for a crime.

Invest in durable clothes for your local climate.

Getty/Jan Hetfleisch

Canada is the second-largest country on earth, behind Russia. As such, there is no singular “Canadian climate,” even if people may think it’s just cold most of the time.

Depending on how close you live to the British Columbian coast, for example, spring can begin as early as February and summer temperatures can rise into the 90s.

So if you’re looking for places to take up permanent residence, research what the weather’s like. You won’t waste money or space buying unnecessary items.

Take advantage of the customs of your new life.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Now that you’ve left your home country behind, embrace what makes Canada unique.

Many Canadians express deep fondness for Tim Hortons, quirky slang, celebrity ambassadors, and hockey.

No one will expect you to dive headfirst into this new world, but if you want to become a genuine citizen, formal requirements are only the start.

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POLITICO Playbook PM: Pelosi is sending impeachment to the Senate. Here’s what’s next.

BREAKING … SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI announced in a letter to Democrats that she is setting up a vote to send the articles of impeachment to the SENATE next week: “I have asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the Floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate. I will be consulting with you at our Tuesday House Democratic Caucus meeting on how we proceed further.

“In an impeachment trial, every Senator takes an oath to ‘do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.’ Every Senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the President or the Constitution.” The full letterMore from Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan

TO REVIEW: DEMOCRATS say holding the articles fostered a conversation about whether witnesses should be involved in the impeachment trial. But, they concede, they were not able to win on other fronts. Many of their demands went completely ignored or dismissed by Senate Republicans. They didn’t get a say in the trial rules or even get to see the rules. But time was running out, and Democrats were beginning to get frustrated.

SO, LET’S PROJECT OUT A BIT: PELOSI is saying she’ll talk about this at caucus Tuesday. So, we can probably assume a Tuesday or Wednesday vote.

THE SENATE’S IMPEACHMENT GUIDELINES say this: “Upon such articles being presented to the Senate, the Senate shall, at 1 o’clock after noon of the day (Sunday excepted) following such presentation, or sooner if ordered by the Senate, proceed to the consideration of such articles and shall continue in session from day to day (Sundays excepted) after the trial shall commence (unless otherwise ordered by the Senate) until final judgment shall be rendered, and so much longer as may, in its judgment, be needful.”

REMEMBER: Next weekend is the three-day MLK weekend. The logistical elements of the trial will take a few days at the front end. The real trial won’t begin until post-MLK weekend in all likelihood. Senate GOP leadership has sent signals they intend to keep the trial going most weekends.

NEW SANCTIONS ON IRAN … From the White House briefing room this morning, Secretary of State MIKE POMPEO and Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN announced sanctions on eight top Iranian officials, Iranian steel and iron manufacturers and “three Seychelles-based entities.” Treasury’s press release

— POMPEO: “As long as Iran’s outlaw ways continue, we will continue to impose sanctions.”

— ON THE INTEL PROMPTING THE U.S. STRIKE … POMPEO: “We had specific information on an imminent threat. And those threats included attacks on U.S. embassies. Period, full stop. … We don’t know exactly which day it would have been executed, but it was very clear. … We would have been culpably negligent had we not recommended to the president that he take this action [on] Qassem Soleimani.”

— DEMOCRATIC SENATORS who received the classified briefing this week are already disputing Pompeo’s comments, accusing him of using an elastic definition of the word “imminent.”

— ON IRAN’S RETALIATORY STRIKES … POMPEO: “They had the full intention of killing U.S. forces, whether that was our military folks or diplomatic folks who were in the region.”

THE BEGINNING OF THE END? … AP/BAGHDAD: “Iraq’s caretaker prime minister asked Washington to start working out a road map for an American troop withdrawal … The request from Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi pointed to his determination to push ahead with demands for U.S. troops to leave Iraq … In a phone call Thursday night, he told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that recent U.S. strikes in Iraq were an unacceptable breach of Iraqi sovereignty and a violation of their security agreements, his office said. …

“Abdul-Mahdi signaled he was standing by the push for the American forces to go despite recent signs of de-escalation between Tehran and Washington … Iraqis have felt furious and helpless at being caught in the middle of fighting between Baghdad’s two closest allies.” AP

— NOT SO FAST? … THE STATE DEPARTMENT put out a statement this morning saying, in part, “At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how to best recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal, but our right, appropriate force posture in the Middle East.” More from Bryan Bender

— POMPEO THIS MORNING: “Our mission set there is very clear. We’ve been there to perform a training mission to help the Iraqi security forces and to continue the campaign against ISIS — continue the counter-Daesh campaign. We’re going to continue that mission. But as times change and we get to a place where we can deliver upon what I believe and the president believes is our right structure, with fewer resources dedicated to that mission, we will do so.”

THEN THERE’S THIS … WAPO’S JOHN HUDSON, MISSY RYAN and JOSH DAWSEY: “On the day U.S. forces killed Soleimani, they launched another secret operation targeting a senior Iranian official in Yemen”: “The strike targeting Abdul Reza Shahlai, a financier and key commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force who has been active in Yemen, did not result in his death, according to four U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

“The unsuccessful operation may indicate that the Trump administration’s killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani last week was part of a broader operation than previously explained, raising questions about whether the mission was designed to cripple the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or solely to prevent an imminent attack on Americans as originally stated.” WaPo

THE LATEST FROM TEHRAN — “Iran’s U.N. ambassador says missile strikes weren’t intended to kill Americans,” by CNN’s Caroline Kelly: “‘We said before we took our military action that we would choose the timing and the place, and we chose the place where the attack against (Iranian general Qasem) Soleimani was initiated,’ Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi told CNN’s John Berman on ‘New Day’ Friday when asked about [VP Mike] Pence’s comments.

“‘And we do not consider a high number of casualties as an instrumental element in our calculations.’ … ‘[W]e are not interested, we are not looking after killing Americans within this operation.’” CNN

… AND ON THE CRASH — VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY (@ZekenskyyUa): “Had a phone call with @SecPompeo. Grateful for the condolences of the American people & valuable support of the U.S. in investigating the causes of the plane crash. Information obtained from the U.S. will assist in the investigation.”

Happy Friday afternoon.

JOBS REPORT — “U.S. adds 145,000 jobs; unemployment holds at 3.5%,” by AP’s Josh Boak: “[T]he job market remains strong at the start of 2020 even if hiring and wage gains have slowed somewhat more than a decade into an economic expansion. … Annual wage growth fell in December to 2.9%, down from an annualized average of 3.3% a year earlier, a possible sign that some slack remains in the labor market and that unemployment could fall even further from its current half-century low. …

“The prospect of a stable job market, a pick-up in global growth, supportive central banks, an easing of trade tensions and U.S. economic growth of around 2% should be a positive for this year. … Retail sales during the crucial holiday shopping improved 3.4% compared to the prior year, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. … Still, the report suggests a lingering weakness in manufacturing.” AP

BIG MILESTONE — CNBC: “Dow breaches 29,000 for the first time”

HMM … BLOOMBERG’S CHRIS STROHM: “U.S. Probes If Russia Targeting Biden in 2020 Election Meddling”: “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are assessing whether Russia is trying to undermine Joe Biden in its ongoing disinformation efforts with the former vice president still the front-runner in the race to challenge President Donald Trump, according to two officials familiar with the matter. …

“Part of the inquiry is to determine whether Russia is trying to weaken Biden by promoting controversy over his past involvement in U.S. policy toward Ukraine while his son worked for an energy company there.” Bloomberg

— “‘Chaos Is the Point’: Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020,” by NYT’s Matthew Rosenberg, Nicole Perlroth and David Sanger: “The National Security Agency and its British counterpart issued an unusual warning in October: The Russians were back and growing stealthier. Groups linked to Russia’s intelligence agencies, they noted, had recently been uncovered boring into the network of an elite Iranian hacking unit and attacking governments and private companies in the Middle East and Britain — hoping Tehran would be blamed for the havoc.

“For federal and state officials charged with readying defenses for the 2020 election, it was a clear message that the next cyberwar was not going to be like the last. … Yet interviews with dozens of officials and experts make clear that many of the vulnerabilities exploited by Moscow in 2016 remain. Most political campaigns are unwilling to spend what it takes to set up effective cyberdefenses. Millions of Americans are still primed to swallow fake news. And those charged with protecting American elections face the same central challenge they did four years ago: to spot and head off any attack before it can disrupt voting or sow doubts about the outcome.” NYT

TRUMPOLOGY — POLITICO MAGAZINE’S MICHAEL KRUSE: “Trump’s Art of the Steal”: “For as long as he has been in politics — in fact, for longer — he has been a ruthlessly effective practitioner of the art of parroting others’ most provocative, salacious ideas. ‘There are a lot of people that think …’ ‘That’s what I heard …’ ‘Some people even say …’ His gossipy M.O. was a staple of his campaign, propelling his historic victory, but it also has driven the scandal that has consumed his presidency — ‘I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike,’ he said on the now well-known call last July with President Volodymyr Zelensky. …

“In some sense, the entire impeachment process is a collision between Trump’s magnification of random, unverified rumors and an official regime of fact and process. The outcome will determine more than whether Trump is removed from office. It may well establish a new standard for what our government defines as true.” POLITICO Magazine

ELAINA PLOTT’S NYT debut, from Avalon, N.J.: “He Was Cruising in a G.O.P. Primary. Then Trump Endorsed an Ex-Democrat: David Richter had been the front-runner in his House primary in New Jersey. That changed when the Democratic incumbent announced he was becoming a Republican, with the president’s support.”

2020 WATCH — MARIANNE WILLIAMSON announced the suspension of her presidential campaign in a letter to supporters today. The announcement More from Caitlin Oprysko

— “Democratic Lawmakers Try to Boost Asian-American Vote in Battleground States in 2020,” by WSJ’s Eliza Collins: “The lawmakers, who are involved with ASPIRE PAC, a political group that supports Asian-American and Pacific Islander candidates, each intend to ‘adopt’ a state, where they will hold events to try to counteract what the head of the group believes has been an organized effort by the Republican Party to appeal to these voters. …

“The program, details of which were shared with The Wall Street Journal, is relatively modest. It involves a half-dozen Asian-American and Pacific Islander members of Congress and will likely cost up to $100,000, [ASPIRE PAC Chair and Rep. Grace] Meng said. She believes that could make a difference in a state like Pennsylvania, which Ms. Meng has adopted.” WSJ

THE POLICY PRIMARY — “Is there a ‘Warren Doctrine’? These are the foreign policy veterans who are quietly advising her campaign,” by CNN’s MJ Lee: “[T]hese interviews paint a picture of a second-term senator who is deeply weary of U.S. military interventions, resists drawing distinctions between domestic and foreign policies, and has attracted to her presidential campaign a number of career diplomats who say Washington, as one adviser described it, is in urgent need of a ‘substantial rethink’ of how it conducts foreign policy.

“Those who spoke with CNN described emails, group text chains and conference calls where they brainstorm responses to urgent international events, help draft campaign statements and policy papers, and flag developments that they believe should be top of mind for Warren and her senior aides. They coordinate closely with Warren’s top foreign policy aide, Sasha Baker.” CNN

— ALSO SPOTTED in the story: Ilan Goldenberg, Jarrett Blanc, Alexandra Bell, Brittany Brown, Hady Amr, Mike Fuchs, Laurel Miller, Loren DeJonge Schulman, Robert Ford and Dave Rank.

— “How Pete Buttigieg would address infrastructure,” by Kelsey Tamborrino and Sam Mintz: “Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled a plan to pour more than $1 trillion into creating millions of jobs and updating U.S. infrastructure with an eye toward fending off the effects of climate change. The 17-page plan calls for working with states, cities and local governments to build sustainable infrastructure that also builds ‘opportunity, equity, and empowerment.’

“The proposal promises to create 6 million jobs with ‘strong labor protections;’ ensure access to clean drinking water while lowering water bills across the U.S. and protecting against lead in paint and water; repair roads and bridges in poor condition by 2030; and invest in sustainable infrastructure that enables 50 percent of the country to grow over the next 10 years.” POLITICO The plan

— AMY KLOBUCHAR is out with a plan for ensuring equal rights and opportunities for disabled people. She calls for fully funding the IDEA, passing health care legislation “to expand access to home and community-based services,” expanding hiring tax credits and training programs, and more. Medium post

— “Steyer wants climate change refugees to enter U.S. legally,” by AP’s Will Weissert: “Like a lot of his White House rivals, Steyer is promising to use executive action to reinstate Obama administration protections for people brought to the country illegally as children. He’d do the same to nullify President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and end the separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.” AP

SPEAKING OF CLIMATE REFUGEES … AFTERNOON READ from THE NEW YORKER’S CAROLYN KORMANN: “The Cost of Fleeing Climate Change: How an adoption racket in Arkansas offered a way off the Marshall Islands.”

AP’S TODD RICHMOND in Woodridge, Ill.: “Army Reserve leaders accused of mishandling assault claims”: “Amy Braley Franck, a civilian victim advocate with the 416th Theater Engineer Command, provided the AP with documents that show the command launched internal investigations into at least two complaints rather than refer them to the Army’s criminal investigation division as required by military policy and federal law. In a third case, they placed an alleged victim on a firing range with someone she had accused of sexual harassment, causing her to fear for her safety.

“Commanders also have failed to hold monthly sexual assault management meetings, as required by DOD policy since 2006. And they ran the company without a sexual assault response coordinator for nearly a year and suspended Braley Franck after she alerted the Army to the internal investigations, she said.” AP

TV TONIGHT — Bob Costa sits down with Jake, NYT’s Carl Hulse, WaPo’s Ashley Parker and WSJ’s Nancy Youssef at 8 p.m. on PBS’ “Washington Week.”

TRANSITIONS — Neil Grace is now head of North America media relations at McKinsey. He previously was senior comms adviser at the FCC.

BONUS BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Freddy Gray, deputy editor of The Spectator and editor of Spectator USA, is 4-0. How he got his start in journalism: “I worked at Mizz Magazine, which believe it or not is a teenage girly magazine. I discovered, in their archives, that they had given Kate Moss her first photoshoot, which they liked and so kept me on. I then went to work as a reporter at The Catholic Herald, a weekly newspaper, which is when I realised I wanted do journalism for life.” Playbook Q&A

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Pelosi says she could send articles of impeachment against Trump to Senate as soon as next week

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a letter to Democratic lawmakers on Friday that she will consult with them Tuesday as she announced steps to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

The letter suggested that the House could name its managers, who will act as the prosecutors of President Donald Trump for the Senate trial, and transmit the two articles of impeachment against the president as soon as next week. But Pelosi gave no specific indication of exactly when she intends to send the articles to the Senate, a step that is necessary for the trial to begin.

“I have asked Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler to be prepared to bring to the floor next week a resolution to appoint managers and transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate,” she wrote. “I will be consulting with you at our Tuesday House Democratic Caucus meeting on how we proceed further,” she said.

“In an impeachment trial, every senator takes an oath to ‘do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws.’ Every senator now faces a choice: to be loyal to the president or the Constitution,” she continued.

Asked if she would submit the articles to the Senate next week, Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol, “We’ll see.”

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In the letter, Pelosi sharply criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for actions that she said show his partiality toward the president. McConnell has said he has enough Republican votes in the Senate to move forward with his plan for the impeachment trial without the support of Democrats, who have been demanding witness testimony. He has also said that he is working in coordination with the White House counsel in preparation for the trial.

“For weeks now, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has been engaged in tactics of delay in presenting transparency, disregard for the American people’s interest for a fair trial and dismissal of the facts,” Pelosi said.

“Leader McConnell’s tactics are a clear indication of the fear that he and President Trump have regarding the facts of the president’s violations for which he was impeached,” she added.

When asked at the Capitol about Pelosi saying she could send the articles, McConnell simply responded, “About time.”

Pelosi’s announcement comes after several Democrats in the House and Senate publicly said this week that she should relent and send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, although some of those Democrats later walked back those statements.

For weeks, Democrats have been calling for the testimony of several top administration officials who they say had direct knowledge of Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, while withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to the country and a White House meeting for its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The speaker told reporters Thursday that she would send the articles “when I’m ready” and explicitly said she wouldn’t hold them “indefinitely,” but pressure has been building on her from within her own party as well as from Republicans to transmit them.

McConnell added to that pressure when he said Thursday that he supports a resolution offered by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., that would allow for the dismissal of the articles if Pelosi decided not to send them over.

McConnell has said the first phase of the trial would include “arguments from the prosecution, arguments from the defense” and a “period of written questions” submitted by senators of both parties. The majority leader, however, did not say whether Republicans would agree to hearing witness testimony, although he has said he would want the trial to adhere to the precedent set during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999, in which the Senate decided later in the proceedings on whether to call witnesses.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the Senate president pro tempore and Finance Committee chairman, criticized Pelosi in a statement Friday for what he called her “pointless delay,” saying the speaker threw Congress into “unnecessary chaos.”

“From the beginning, it’s been unclear what the goal of this hurry-up-and-wait tactic was or what the country stood to gain,” he said. “We now know the answer was nothing. We’ve had three needless weeks of uncertainty and confusion, causing even more division.”

The trial will likely put the five Senate Democrats running for the Democratic presidential nomination at a disadvantage in the race, as they will need to be present for the trial to act effectively as jurors. The trial could begin ahead of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, both slated for early next month.

Alex Moe and Julie Tsirkin contributed.

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Elizabeth Warren slams Trump for protecting his ‘own political skin’ over Iran, interrupted by protester in New Hampshire

DOVER, N.H. — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren slammed President Trump for being more concerned about his “own political skin” than the nation’s security when it comes to his handling Iran — her latest condemnation coming after a protester interrupted one of her campaign speeches Friday to accuse her of “siding with Iran.”

Warren attempted to link Trump’s order to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani to the president’s looming impeachment trial in the Senate.

“Now it comes out just today that Donald Trump told his associates at the time that he was ordering the killing of Soleimani that he was under pressure from Republican senators whose votes and support he would need during the impeachment trial,” Warren said.

She went on to say the president’s “first concern on national security issues is not the security of the United States, it’s Donald Trump’s own political skin. This man is an embarrassment. This man is now clearly a danger to the United States of America and to the entire world. We need to get him out of the White House.”

Warren delivered her latest denunciation of Trump calmly, just moments after she was brusquely interrupted by a screaming protester at the start of her Dover, N.H., town hall.

“You’re siding with racists. You’re siding with Iran. Why are you siding with terrorists?” the man yelled at Warren, before calling her “a fraud” and telling her to resign.

Warren let the man shout, speaking softly into her microphone, “This is a man who’s deeply upset. It’s all right. It’s time for you to leave.”

The man was escorted out by a police officer and Warren’s staff.

Warren’s latest take on the escalating tensions with Iran comes as Democratic presidential hopefuls seek to make their case as the best commander in chief to avert a new crisis in the Middle East following the Trump administration’s killing of Soleimani.

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Trump on Why He Didn’t Tell Congress About Soleimani Attack: They Would’ve Leaked It


During Donald Trump’s first major rally of the election year, the president criticized House Democrats and defended his decision to launch the airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

“They’re saying, ‘You should get permission from Congress, you should come in and tell us what you want to do — you should come in and tell us, so that we can call up the fake news that’s back there and we can leak it,” Trump told a crowd of supporters Thursday night in Toledo, Ohio.

“We had to make a decision. We didn’t have time to call up Nancy who is not operating with a full deck. Can you imagine calling crooked Adam Schiff?” he said.

Trump then went on to describe various scenarios where he would call congressional Democrats and ask for a meeting, but by the time they would have that meeting, the chance to take out Soleimani would be gone.

TRENDING: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Blasted as a ‘Deadbeat’ by Fellow Democrats for Refusing To Pay Party Dues

He also described a situation where if he were to call Schiff or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they would leak it to the media and, in the process, warn Soleimani.

“They want us to tell them so that they can leak it to their friends in the corrupt media,” Trump said.

“The radical left Democrats have expressed outrage over the termination of this horrible terrorist,” Trump added.

“Instead, they should be outraged by Soleimani’s savage crimes and the fact that his countless victims were denied justice for so long.”

Ever since the airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport that killed Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, Pelosi and the Democrats have complained that Trump failed to consult them before launching the attack.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a war powers resolution which Pelosi said was meant “to limit the president’s military actions. The administration must de-escalate and must prevent further violence. America and the world cannot afford war.”

The resolution passed by a vote of 224 to 194, CBS News reported.

Pelosi said the purpose of the resolution is “to protect American lives and values.”

This is not the first time Trump has kept top Democrats in the dark about military action for fear of potential leaks.

RELATED: Sarah Sanders: ‘I Can’t Think of Anything Dumber’ Than Dems’ War Powers Resolution

In October, Trump did not inform Pelosi or Schiff about the raid that resulted in Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death.

“We were going to notify them last night, but we decided not to do that because Washington leaks like I’ve never seen before. There’s no country in the world that leaks like we do, and Washington is a leaking machine,” Trump said in a media conference.

“And I told my people we will not notify them until our great people are out — not just in but out. I don’t want them greeted with firepower like you wouldn’t believe.”

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What Is John Roberts’ Role in Impeachment? SCOTUS Chief to Preside Over Trump’s Upcoming Senate Trial

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will play a major role in President Donald Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial, but his actual power in the proceedings is likely to be limited.

According to the Constitution, the Supreme Court’s chief “shall preside” over a Senate impeachment trial. Normally, that power would be given to the vice president (who regularly oversees the chamber), but because of potential conflicts of interest, the framers of the 1787 text handed the gavel to the chief justice.

But the nation’s founding document doesn’t make it clear exactly how the Supreme Court chief should conduct himself or herself during the process. And while the presiding officer’s role is slightly more defined under the Senate impeachment guidelines, it is still the lawmakers who have the final say.

A simple majority vote can overrule any decisions made by Roberts during the trial. Plus, the rules give the chief justice the option to punt on any decision-making and defer questions to a Senate vote.

But one of the biggest areas Roberts where could make a difference is witness testimony, which has become a major issue in Trump’s case. According to the Senate rulebook, the chief justice “may rule on all questions of evidence.”

For weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has withheld sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to a resolution that deals with the introduction of new witnesses and documents during the trial. Congressional Democrats want the upper chamber to call four witnesses: former national security adviser John Bolton, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey and assistant to the president Robert Blair.

But McConnell announced earlier this week that he had the votes necessary to move forward on setting the trial’s rules without any Democratic support. The rules would likely mirror those in President Bill Clinton’s case in 1999, during which senators voted mid-trial on whether to introduce new witnesses or documents.

“I hope the chief justice would understand the need for the facts,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told CNN last month. But the New York Democrat acknowledged that Roberts is likely to defer all major decisions to lawmakers, which would be consistent with past impeachment trials.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts waits for the arrival of President George H.W. Bush at the Capitol Rotunda on December 03, 2018. Roberts will preside over President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.
Jabin Botsford/Pool/Getty Images

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who presided over the Clinton trial, left the questions related to witnesses to the senators, instead of ruling on them first. “I did nothing in particular, and I did it very well,” he said after the trial.

Roberts, who was appointed to the high court by President George W. Bush, is a conservative justice, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will come to the president’s aid. In fact, his relationship with the president has been strained. During his 2016 campaign, Trump called the justice a “nightmare” and a “disgrace.”

The two traded words in 2018 after Trump slammed a jurist who ruled against his administration’s attempt to stop some migrants from seeking asylum at the border as an “Obama judge.” Roberts fired back by asserting that the United States doesn’t have “Obama” or “Trump” judges but rather “dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”

At the end of 2019, Roberts appeared to allude to his upcoming role in the Senate impeachment process in his annual New Year’s report.

“We should reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor, deciding each matter with humility, integrity and dispatch,” he said. “As the new year begins and we turn to the tasks before us, we should each resolve to do our best to maintain the public’s trust that we are faithfully discharging our solemn obligation to equal justice under law.”