JAMES MURDOCH. Murdoch son blasts News Corp and FOX News Channel over climate change denial: “Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known. They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”
MADE-FOR-TV DRAMA. What Trump wants from his impeachment trial: “The biggest gamble now is the White House’s decision to put Pat Cipollone, the top attorney, out in front as the face of the president’s defense. While Cipollone is known as a well-respected litigator within conservative circles and a close ally of the president, his chops on TV remain unproven at best.”
$7.2 BILLION. Trump diverting funds from Pentagon to pay for border wall. “The administration will take $3.5 billion from counterdrug programs and $3.7 billion from military construction funding, according to internal planning figures obtained by the Post, compared to $2.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively, last year.”
PRANK OF THE DAY. British reporter tricked into wearing a full body armor suit to handle a “drop bear” (aka koala). “So drop bears are a close cousin of the koala, but they’re actually really vicious. So it’s sort of like a dingo and a normal domestic dog. They’re bigger, they’ve got longer claws, they’ve actually got really small fangs, and the interesting thing about the fangs is they have a really mild venom.”
HOLLYWOOD ISSUE OF THE YEAR. Vanity Fair’s annual magstravaganza.
JOKER INTERVIEW OF THE DAY. Anderson Cooper talks to Joaquin Phoenix about his late brother River’s influence.
MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY. Hayley Kiyoko “She”.
BROADWAY PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY. “River Deep/Mountain High” from TINA: The Tina Turner Musical.
Finally — finally — there’s a good chance that foreign policy will feature heavily in a Democratic presidential debate. If it happens, the six 2020 Democratic candidates in tonight’s debate will have their best chance yet at demonstrating they could serve ably as the country’s next commander-in-chief.
President Donald Trump’s decision to kill Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani on January 2 — which some people worried could lead to war with Iran — and his impending phase-one trade deal with China will likely place world affairs at center stage in Iowa tonight.
And the candidates are looking forward to it. Multiple campaigns told me they see foreign policy as a huge weakness for Trump, and they relish the chance to hit him on it.
“This is what happens when a president disregards allies the US has had for decades,” Benjamin Gardes, the senior spokesperson for Tom Steyer’s campaign, told me. “Trump’s policies have placed regions around the world in a cauldron of conflict.”
Yet the real challenge for the candidates onstage tonight won’t be making the case to Democratic voters that they are a better choice to lead the country than Donald Trump — most registered Democrats probably already agree with that point — it’ll be to differentiate themselves from one another.
And in this regard, they may have a harder time. “I expect a fair amount of unity and clarity laying out how the current administration’s policies and recent actions make the US less safe, prosperous, and respected,” says Heather Hurlburt, a US foreign policy expert at the New America Foundation in Washington.
But there could still be fireworks.
Vice President Joe Biden, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, is facing criticism from candidates on his left like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) about his previous support for the Iraq War.
A clear split has also formed among contenders over the benefits of Trump’s competition with China, with some like former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg saying it’s worth pushing back hard on Beijing. And Democrats may even go after each other on their differing answers on Trump’s Soleimani decision.
So, with just a few hours to go until the Iowa debate, here’s a quick guide on what to expect when it comes to foreign policy.
2020 Democrats will bash Trump’s Iran policy and may talk about “assassination”
Allsixcandidatesonthestage tonight have criticized Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani because they worried about the chance of a broader escalation with Tehran, though most acknowledged that Soleimani was a bad guy.
That’s why Bishop Garrison, a top foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, told me he expects the world affairs portion of the debate will “focus on Iran first and foremost, and the administration’s incoherent story and response.”
“A rational leader and administration likely wouldn’t have engaged the regime in the haphazard way Trump has,” Garrison said.
Ben Rhodes, who was President Obama’s deputy national security adviser and a key figure in promoting the Iran deal, wants Democrats to use the Iran opportunity to dismantle Trump’s foreign policy narrative.
“It’s important that the candidates connect the recent dangers with Iran to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal,” Rhodes told me, “and broaden the conversation beyond one exchange with Iran to the broader failures: Iran’s resuming its nuclear program, the counter-ISIS mission being suspended, and the enduring risk to our personnel in Iraq and the region.”
“I’ll also be looking to see if Democrats are at all defensive in how they go after his Iran record — they shouldn’t be,” he added.
But any attempt to “go after” Trump could be sidelined by a debate over how to frame the Soleimani killing itself.
Sanders has already taken some heat from moderate Democrats and conservatives for calling the Soleimani killing an “assassination” while failing to say anything negative about the Iranian general in his first campaign statement on January 2. That’s a charged term, as Max Fisher and Amanda Taub explained in the New York Times last week:
Assassination is colloquially defined as a killing, or sometimes murder, for political purposes, particularly but not necessarily of a senior political leader …
But there is also a second definition.
The United States banned assassination in 1976 but did not define it. Ever since, decades of legal interpretation and precedent-setting have evolved into a legal understanding of assassination that is intricate, disputed and narrower with each administration.
Sanders reiterated that sentiment four days later when he compared the killing with Russian President Vladimir Putin murdering dissidents.
You can’t make it up.
Bernie just compared @realDonaldTrump taking out a terrorist responsible for killing hundreds of thousands (including hundreds of Americans) to Putin assassinating his political dissidents. pic.twitter.com/F7awEJrwZm
Those statements may lead candidates with more traditional foreign policy views like Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) — both of whom lambasted Soleimani in their statements — to attack Sanders for his stated anti-war stance and accuse him of being too weak on national security.
Buttigieg and Warren have also used “assassination,” but they are not as likely to get the kind of blowback Sanders might. After all, recent polls show Sanders in second place among the candidates, and analysts increasingly think he has a strong chance of winning in Iowa next month. That most likely puts the target on his back more than on the other two, which means he may have to answer for his “assassination” comments.
2020 Democrats may have to reckon with Trump’s China strategy
The day after the debate, Trump and a top Chinese official will sign “phase one” of the president’s long-sought trade deal with Beijing. According to the Wall Street Journal, the deal includes greater access for US companies to Chinese banks and more Chinese purchases of American products. Some tariffs, which Trump placed on Beijing’s US-bound exports to force them to negotiate an agreement, will also be lifted.
That development could put 2020 Democrats at the debate in a tight spot.
Most candidates have trashed Trump’s heavy-handed approach toward China, though some believe it’s important for the US to confront Beijing. “Chinese techno-authoritarianism,” Buttigieg said in a foreign policy speech last year, “present[s] a major challenge to us.”
Yet the candidates are unanimous in wanting trade deals that help American workers. A Trump deal that secures more access for US firms to sell in China could help those same workers — thus putting a dent in Democrats’ criticism of Trump’s approach.
It could lead to especially awkward answers from Sanders and Warren, who have led the left-wing campaign charge in advocating for less free trade and more protections for American workers. They’ll have to balance what could be a decent deal for their base while at the same time smashing Trump for the way he went about making the deal, which involved consistently increasing tariffs until China had no choice but to put pen to paper on something.
They may get an out, though, as Democratic Party leadership has already come out against the deal. “The terms of the agreement will result in very little progress in reforming China’s rapacious trade behaviors and seems like it could send a signal to Chinese negotiators that the US can be steamrolled,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the party’s leader in the upper chamber, wrote to Trump on Monday.
It’s possible, some experts say, that a China question could prompt a broader discussion on how the world’s two most important countries should interact in the future. “Power competition should be discussed generally,” Garrison, who is now at the Human Rights First advocacy group, predicts.
But other than that, experts say it’s more than likely that a China section will get a few moments but then the debate will quickly move on.
2020 Democrats will tussle on their war records
One of the most important developments in the race right now is Sanders attacking Biden on his war record. There’s good reason to do that: Biden voted for the Iraq War and continued to support it even after it started to look like a failure.
Sanders has used Trump’s recent actions in Iran to label himself the anti-war candidate while branding Biden as having poor judgment on global issues.
Sanders co-introduced a bill earlier this month to block funding for any military action in Iran and put out a video saying he’s “not sorry” for his long history of opposing US wars. Sanders and fellow progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (who wasn’t in office for the vote on Iraq) both lead an anti-war strategy call with liberal MoveOn activists and signed on to a bipartisan Senate resolution saying Congress has not yet approved any war with Iran.
Biden, meanwhile, played up his faith in the military establishment and his place in the Obama White House, which negotiated the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. As Trump seemingly blamed Obama in his Iran “victory” speech last week, Biden went on the offensive, defending his former boss on Twitter.
“He’s been President for three years,” he said of Trump. “It’s time he stops blaming President Obama for his failures.” This line dovetails with Biden’s message that he will be ready to be commander in chief on his first day in office.
It’s likely, then, that this brewing feud will continue onstage.
But punching Biden on foreign policy may not be as effective as Sanders hopes. A CNN poll from last November showed the former vice president is far and away the most trusted on foreign policy among the 2020 Democratic candidates, with Biden beating Sanders 48 percent to 14 percent. Which means attacking Biden on his foreign policy acumen could backfire on the Vermont senator.
Indeed, Sanders likes to brag that he never voted for a defense authorization bill in Congress with Trump in office, but he did so four times with George W. Bush as president. He therefore can’t say that he wasn’t fully opposed to the Iraq War effort, though he couched one of his votes as helping troops who would be in harm’s way regardless of what he did.
“No member in this body disagrees that so long as our troops remain in Iraq, they should have the resources they need in order to protect their lives,” the senator said in 2004 on that year’s defense bill. “We have not done well in this area up to this point, and we must do better.”
But Sanders isn’t the only one looking to tussle with Obama’s former No. 2. Tom Steyer, the Maryland billionaire, has repeatedly gone on TV to say that years in politics doesn’t necessarily make a better commander in chief.
“What counts is judgment, not experience,” he told MSNBC on Tuesday, hours before the debate. “If you look at what that experience has brought us over the last 20 years, it’s two failed wars, the waste of American lives, and Americans dollars and prestige doing something that didn’t make sense.”
Steyer hasn’t said Biden’s name directly, but it’s clear that’s who he’s mostly referring to. That indicates the former vice president may face attacks on his foreign policy record from all sides during the debate.
Put together, it’s likely that tonight’s debate will offer viewers a clearer picture of how these candidates would handle the world from the Oval Office.
The Senate adopted just such a resolution for President Bill Clinton’s 1999 trial, allowing House impeachment managers access to “equipment as may be required to permit the display of video, or audio evidence, including video monitors and microphones.”
McConnell has repeatedly said he’ll structure Trump’s trial in a similar fashion as Clinton’s — when Republicans relied on video evidence 16 times during opening arguments — but his office declined to say whether that includes the provision of video equipment.
Some Republicans are already indicating the Senate may not look favorably on that aspect of the Clinton-era rules.
“I’m not really into video evidence in this case. Video of what?” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who was one of 13 House GOP impeachment managers in the Clinton trial. Told of Democrats’ intention to broadcast Trump’s own comments, Graham replied, “They can read them to us.”
If McConnell chooses not to follow the Clinton model on this question, it will fuel a new, critical fight over the impeachment process. Democrats already fear being hamstrung as they lay out their case that Trump should be removed from office for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals.
“While we’re talking about the Clinton precedent, one of the biggest precedents is that impeachment managers were able to show video during the trial,” said a senior Democratic aide. “Senators should see and hear the critical witness testimony, documents, and additional evidence that the House collected before they make their decision.”
Democrats are particularly interested in playing the clip of Trump on the White House lawn urging Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s combative press conference in which he said Trump withheld military aid to bend Ukraine to his will, before later walking it back.
“It’s certainly better for the Senate jurors and the American people to hear the president directly soliciting foreign interference in an election and Mick Mulvaney saying, ‘that’s just the way things work’ than to hear members of the House recounting it,” said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Democrats are also considering using their time to play the most impactful clips from the dozens of hours of witness testimony they collected during the House’s public hearings in November and December, some of which featured explosive allegations of misconduct by Trump. And with no guarantee that the GOP-controlled Senate will agree to Democratic demands to call new witnesses, House Democrats see the option to replay footage from previous witnesses as crucial.
“In the face of the president’s refusal to allow anyone to testify or to produce any documents, it is pretty important to actually see what people have said publicly, the chief of staff probably being at the top of that ladder,” said Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi will announce her picks for impeachment managers on Wednesday, and she’s expected to draw from the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, which led the Ukraine inquiry.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had pushed McConnell to agree at the outset of the trial to calling witnesses like Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and others who refused to testify in the House. McConnell rebuffed them by saying the Senate should follow the Clinton model, when arguments were heard from both sides and then the question of witnesses was considered.
Democrats have already previewed how they might use video clips in the trial.
During the House Judiciary Committee’s hearings last month, they excerpted powerful moments from witness testimony, as well as the clips of Trump and Mulvaney, to punctuate their argument that the president’s conduct toward Ukraine was impeachable and warranted removal from office.
They also used video monitors to display text message and email exchanges between significant witnesses that supported their case.
In 1999, Republican impeachment managers frequently used video clips to heighten the drama of the case they presented.
“Every trial must have a beginning and this trial begins on a cold day in January 1993,” said then-Rep. Ed Bryant, before he played footage of Clinton taking the oath of office, the first of a dozen clips played on the first day of the House’s arguments.
The US House of Representatives will vote on Wednesday on sending articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate, Democrats say.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats she would also name the House managers who will prosecute the case against Mr Trump in the Senate trial.
Mrs Pelosi has been withholding the articles of impeachment in a row with Republicans over allowing witnesses.
Mr Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last month.
He is accused of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
He denies trying to pressure Ukraine to open an investigation into his would-be Democratic White House challenger Joe Biden.
Mr Trump has been touting unsubstantiated corruption claims about Mr Biden and his son, Hunter, who accepted a lucrative board position with a Ukrainian energy firm while his father handled American-Ukraine relations as US vice-president.
The impeachment trial by the Senate will be only the third ever of a US president.
Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans control the chamber 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit him.
What’s the next step?
“The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial,” said Mrs Pelosi, a California congresswoman, in a statement about Wednesday’s vote.
Once the resolution is approved, the House managers will walk to the Senate and formally present the articles of impeachment in the well of the chamber, escorted by the sergeant-at-arms.
Senate leader Mitch McConnell is meeting behind closed doors with Republican senators on Tuesday to map out the ground rules.
The trial is set to begin in earnest next week and is expected to last up to five weeks, with the Senate taking only Sundays off.
The first few days will be taken up by housekeeping duties, possibly later this week. The articles of impeachment will be read out.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will be sworn in to preside, and he will administer an oath to all 100 senators to deliver “impartial justice” as jurors.
Lawmakers will hear opening arguments as soon as next week.
The House managers will lay out their case against Mr Trump, and the president’s legal team will respond.
What does President Trump say?
Mr Trump suggested over the weekend that he might prefer simply dismissing the charges rather than giving legitimacy to the “hoax” case against him.
But Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who is part of the Senate leadership, said on Monday that the chamber does not have the votes to simply dismiss the charges.
Moderate Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah have made clear they would oppose any such motion.
White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said on Tuesday that the president is “not afraid of a fight” in his trial, and was eager for witnesses to testify that “this man did nothing wrong”.
Will there be witnesses?
One of the biggest sticking points between House Democrats and Senate Republicans has been whether testimony will be allowed during the trial.
But the Senate leader has signalled he will postpone any vote on calling additional witnesses until after opening statements.
It takes just 51 votes to approve rules or call witnesses, meaning four Republican senators would have to side with Democrats to insist on testimony.
The White House is understood to have identified several possible defectors in the Republican ranks, including Ms Collins and Mr Romney.
The others are Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is retiring this year.
Ms Collins said: “My position is that there should be a vote on whether or not witnesses should be called.”
Mr Romney said he wants to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser at the White House. Mr Bolton has said he would only testify if served a legal summons.
“I expect that barring some kind of surprise,” said Mr Romney, “I’ll be voting in favour of hearing from witnesses after those opening arguments.”
Republicans say that if witnesses are allowed, they may try to subpoena Mr Biden and his son, and the unidentified government whistleblower whose complaint about Mr Trump sparked the whole impeachment inquiry.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested this week that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in order to harm Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.
The top House Republican said Pelosi’s decision to withhold the impeachment articles against President Trump for weeks while demanding that Democrats are assured a “fair trial” was aimed at ensuring that Sanders would be tied up with the Senate trial in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses.
“This is the dirty little secret that nobody is talking about, why the speaker held these papers,” McCarthy told Fox News on Sunday.
“Remember what happened in the last nomination process, where the [Democratic National Committee] chairman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz had to resign the night before the nomination convention started because they had found out they had cheated Senator Bernie Sanders from the opportunity to become the nominee. They are doing the exact same thing right now,” McCarthy said, referring to internal DNC emails leaked by Wikileaks in 2016 that showed Wasserman-Schultz and other DNC officials had exercised bias against Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton.
“This benefits Joe Biden. This harms Senator Sanders, who is in first place and could become their nominee, because he will be stuck in a chair because Nancy Pelosi held the papers, different than what she said to the American public why she had to move so urgently,” the California Republican continued. “It’s the exact same thing they did to him four years ago.”
Sanders and fellow Democratic 2020 candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren will be forced to sit through the impeachment trial during primary season after Pelosi submits the articles to the Senate on Wednesday.
Senator John Cornyn floated the same speculation Monday on the Senate floor.
“If you’re Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, or any other candidate who isn’t a member of the Senate, you’ve got to be glad the Speaker sat on these articles for nearly four weeks,” the Texas Republican said. “Having your competitors stuck in Washington, literally in their seat, while you’re hitting the campaign trail? Well, that seems like a pretty good advantage to me.”
A spokesman for Pelosi responded on Tuesday, accusing the House Republican leader of having “no idea” what he was talking about.
“Impeachment has nothing to do with politics or the presidential race,” Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill wrote on Twitter. “As usual, the Minority Leader has no idea what he’s talking about.”
Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty ImagesSenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer walks to his office from the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 3, 2020. (Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images)
The Senate impeachment trial is expected to begin on Tuesday, Jan. 21, if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sends over the articles of impeachment this week, according to two GOP senators.
CBS News reported the two anonymous senators told the outlet that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also expects the trial to last three to five weeks.
The trial will also reportedly be held six days a week, with senators only having Sundays off. A source said McConnell wants to make the trial “uncomfortable.”
“And so we’d actually be glued to our chair, starting Tuesday,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas told reporters Monday.
“That’s what it feels like right now and I realize things could change.”
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial, and each side will have 24 hours to make its case.
After that time is over, Republicans hope to call a vote on whether witness testimony should be provided.
The news of the reported Senate impeachment trial date comes days after President Donald Trump criticized the Senate over the weekend for planning to have a trial rather than “an outright dismissal” of the articles of impeachment.
“Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, ‘no pressure’ Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!” Trump tweeted
Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the no evidence, no crime, read the transcripts, “no pressure” Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!
But GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri told reporters on Monday that the Senate does not have enough votes for an “outright dismissal,” The Hill reported.
Do you think there should be witness testimony in the Senate trial?
0% (0 Votes)
100% (1 Votes)
“I think our members generally are not interested in a motion to dismiss,” he said. “Certainly there aren’t 51 votes for a motion to dismiss.”
Senate Republicans would need 51 votes to dismiss the articles of impeachment, but Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio are among those who have already indicated they would oppose such a motion.
Although McConnell told Republican senators last week they “have the votes” to pass a resolution for an impeachment trial without witness testimony, senior White House officials told CBS News it is likely four Republican senators will vote to call witnesses.
Along with Republican Collins and fellow moderate GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Cory Gardner of Colorado are two likely senators to vote with the Democrats.
A White House official also called Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky a “wild card” and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee an “institutionalist,” meaning both senators might vote to call witnesses.
The timing and schedule of the trial will depend on the decision whether to call witnesses who defied House subpoenas, including former National Security Advisor John Bolton and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Business Insider reported.
Despite the diplomatic frills and savoir-faire, the United States has committed itself to a policy of extortion for decades: threats and mounting sanctions designed to bring Iranian civil society to its knees.
The U.S. government’s targeted assasination of Iranian General Qassim Suleimani, characterized by the Trump administration as a preemptive “defensive strike” after the death of a military contractor, was the latest U.S. military provocation against Iran. A gleeful John Bolton, former assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, congratulated “all involved in eliminating Qassem Soleimani,” calling the assassination a “decisive blow” that he hopes will lead to “regime change in Tehran.”
While war hawks like Karl Rove and Ari Fleischer salivated at the prospect of another war, Democrats were quick to feign outrage over the killing of Suleimani, leaning into what they characterize as Trump’s strategic failures: Elizabeth Warren described the incident as “reckless.” Biden’s said “Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.” And Cory Booker criticized “a president who has had, really, a failure in his Iranian policy and who’s had no larger strategic plan.” Former Obama aides, meanwhile, have been swift in blaming this latest provocation on President Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly referred to in the United States as the Iran nuclear deal.
Signed in 2015 after almost two years of negotiations, the JCPOA eased the U.S.-led sanctions regime imposed on the Islamic Republic by successive administrations since 1979 in exchange for severe restrictions on Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program. Democrats in Congress and running for president have told the U.S. public that by ripping up Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement just to tar his predecessor’s legacy, Trump undid a deal that was working. But how was the deal so easy to undermine? How have the most hawkish elements of the Republican party reasserted themselves at the highest level of a supposedly isolationist administration?
The answer is that Obama’s legacy was to momentarily sideline the neoconservative project in the Middle East without questioning its key premises. The Democrats damned the Iran deal—they damned it with faint praise, veiled racism, and colonial arrogance. In fact, the Democrats have been undermining the cause of peace with Iran since before the JCPOA was a glimmer in John Kerry’s eye.
In 2010, Obama was asked by a reporter for BBC Persian if he saw any contradiction between his conciliatory Persian New Year address (a gesture of goodwill on the hallowed spring equinox that his administration had already been established as an annual tradition) and the draconian sanctions he’d just imposed against Iran, sanctions his administration would tout as “crippling.” He replied that “what the Iranian government has said is, it’s more important for us to defy the international community, engage in a covert nuclear weapons program, than it is to make sure that our people are prospering.” Here’s the thing: Iran wasn’t engaging in a covert nuclear weapons program, and every single U.S. intelligence agency would have told him so.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went further the following year, telling BBC Persian that “eventually the Iranian people will be free, they will not be oppressed by the kind of totalitarian regime that currently rules Iran.” In other words, without declaring it the stated policy of the U.S. government that the Islamic Republic is illegitimate and should be overthrown, Clinton nevertheless suggests that it would be a nice idea. The de facto endorsement of regime change by Clinton’s State Department is echoed in the public position of her counterpart in the Trump administration, Mike Pompeo, who has said that “the objectives are to change the behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Then as now, the administration’s rationale presents Iranians with a particularly cruel catch-22: No matter what the facts are, we know your government is up to no good, and if ordinary Iranians don’t like it, you can just overthrow your supposedly totalitarian government. The logical conclusion of this paradox is, of course, regime change.
Obama and Clinton could have just said that Iran wasn’t developing nuclear weapons. Instead, they repeatedly reminded Iran, the government and its people, that “all options are on the table,” a genocidal threat of preemptive military invasion justified by the image of a scary Islamic Republic whose fanatical leadership is a death cult, secretly pursuing nuclear weapons to “wipe Israel off the map.” They affirmed the fiction that a nuclear-armed Iran poses an “existential threat” to Israel, a claim that is predicated on the Islamophobic assumption that the government of Iran is suicidal and simply cannot be trusted with a nuclear deterrent against belligerent aggressors constantly threatening to bomb it. Only a view of the Middle East steeped in racism can explain the automatic according of victim status to America’s junior partner in the Middle East, an outpost of white supremacy apparently entitled to undeclared nuclear monopoly as carries out its settler-colonial expansion.
The nuclear deal was conceived in sin, an imperialist shakedown to guarantee U.S. and Israeli regional hegemony without becoming embroiled in another protracted military engagement. During her failed 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton reminded Iranians that the United States “would be able to totally obliterate them.” This menacing disclosure was an effort on Clinton’s part “to get back to what worked during the Cold War,” as she put it in remarks during her campaign. Despite the diplomatic frills and savoir-faire, the United States has committed itself to a policy of extortion for decades: threats and mounting sanctions designed to bring Iranian civil society to its knees.
As Kerry, newly sworn in as Secretary of State, began talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in 2013, Democrats who opposed negotiations with Iran found the image of Iran as an irrational actor quite useful. Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the latter currently running for president, were vocal critics of Obama’s Iran policy from the right. When Booker (who just dropped out of the presidential race) ultimately declined to buck Obama, it was begrudgingly and with half a heart. He wrote by way of explanation that while negotiations with Iran “have only delayed—not blocked—Iran’s potential nuclear breakout…we have now passed a point of no return that we should have never reached, leaving our nation to choose between two imperfect, dangerous and uncertain options.” He urged that “we must be more vigilant than ever in fighting Iranian aggression.”
And before Gabbard finally came around, she earned considerable attention from conservative media for her record of voting with Republicans on anti-Iran legislation aimed at scuttling diplomacy and for her hawkish rhetoric parroting GOP talking points about “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.” She was lauded on the right for her “concerns” about the deal, which she voiced on Fox News and as a speaker at the 2015 conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). And—implicitly but undeniably—she supported efforts to undermine the deal by attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress on the invitation of Republican leaders that same year, a speech openly aimed at rebuking Obama’s Iran policy and boycotted by 56 of her colleagues, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), both of whom are running for president. Gabbard’s recent attempts to reposition herself as an anti-war politician notwithstanding, the only extended discussion of Iran policy during last year’s Democratic primary debates revealed how much ground the party shares on the need to actively restrict Iran’s sovereignty.
Booker was the only then-candidate who said at the June 26 debate that he would decline to rejoin the JCPOA to allow for the “opportunity to leverage a better deal.” Gabbard ceded that changes to the deal would be necessary after rejoining: “It was an imperfect deal, there are issues like their missile development that need to be addressed. We can do both simultaneously to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.”
In a September 2019 interview with CNN, Gabbard claimed with great confidence and urgency that “Iran is moving forward towards developing a nuclear weapon.” However much Rep. Gabbard, who is not running for reelection in Hawaii, may differentiate herself from the mainstream of the foreign policy establishment, she remains in lockstep with her party’s overwhelming instinct to play up the threat of a nuclear Iran without a deal in place in hopes of frightening conservatives back towards the JCPOA.
It was unavoidable that this racist caricature of suicidal mullahs, hellbent on Israel’s destruction knowing full well that assured US retaliation means it would entail their own, informed the Democratic response to US withdrawal from the deal. Nowhere was the folly of this gambit more grotesquely typified for the Trump era than in the decision by Daily Show alumnus John Oliver and his producers at HBO’s Last Week Tonight to buy ad time for a “pro-Iran deal” PSA in April of 2018 during Sean Hannity’s time slot on Fox News, when the president is presumed to be watching. Oliver is the current golden child of a satirical news subgenre whose previous poster boy, Jon Stewart, was beloved by Democrats and even called to testify before Congress on issues close to their hearts. Like Stewart and Stephen Colbert, he is influential among liberals and symptomatic of their ideological blind spots.
“0 is less than 10,” an actor dressed as a cowboy repeats in the ad: 10 is the number of years the deal would have constrained Iran’s insatiable hunger for nukes due to its so-called sunset clauses (this is not true), and 0 how many years it would take Iran to develop one without it (this, too, is not true). “The Iran deal may not be perfect,” the cowboy concedes, “but it restricts Iran’s ability to start making a bomb.” The spot concludes with a black-and-white image of a mushroom clad. Even in supposed defense of the bill, the liberal framing validates the most fevered neoconservative fantasy of all, that a sovereign Iran is an existential threat to the United States, Israel and ‘global security,’ whatever that is.
In an interview with CNN, after he was barred from entering the United States where he had planned to to address the United Nations Security Council, Zarif delivered a pointed summation of Iranian attitudes in light of offenses committed by past and present administrations: “The United States has to wake up to the reality that the people of this region are enraged, that the people of this region want the United States out, and that the United States cannot stay in this region.” The retaliatory strike against US bases in Iraq marks a dynamic shift in U.S.-Iran relations, one which may potentially transform the region.
Trump has already promised further sanctions against Iran. As Democrats decry the president’s strategy as misguided, it is worth remembering that the first major violation of the nuclear deal occurred with their full support back in 2017, when every Senator save for Sanders and Kentucky Republican Rand Paul voted in favor of a sanctions package targeting Iran along with Russia and North Korea.
Now, at the current point in the administration’s “Maximum Pressure” campaign, which has targeted food and medicine and sought to bring the Islamic Republic’s oil exports “to zero,” it is unclear what there is left to sanction. What should be clear to anyone seeking to meaningfully counter the momentum of military conflict is that diplomacy cannot be war by other means. An agreement between those who live in fear of annihilation and their prospective annihilators is no less coerced than any promise you’d make with a gun to your head. As long as the United States attempts to dictate the future the Middle East in any capacity, half-measures in the name of progress will be undermined by the very relationship of domination that persists.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) confirmed that the House will vote to send two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate on Wednesday, Jan. 15.
In a statement, the speaker wrote that Americans “deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial,” saying that the House will vote to transmit the articles—abuse of power and obstruction of Congress—as well as name House impeachment managers ahead of the Senate trial.
After a Dec. 18 vote along party lines, Pelosi indicated she would hold off on sending the two articles to the Senate and naming managers until her caucus can see how a potential trial will unfold, including whether the Republican-controlled chamber would call witnesses and subpoena documents.
“I am proud of the moral courage of Members to honor the vision of our Founders for a Republic, the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform to defend it and the aspirations of our children to live freely within it,” Pelosi said in the statement.
Pelosi has yet to announce who her caucus will send as impeachment managers, but it seems likely that key figures in the impeachment inquiry such as House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) would be tapped to make their case.
Schiff is considered the architect of the inquiry and led the depositions of witnesses to build a case against Trump. Later, Nadler led the committee that drafted the two articles of impeachment that were passed in the full House vote last year.
After nearly a month of delay, Pelosi is now facing mounting pressure from both Republicans and Democrats to send over the articles. She had sought to force concessions from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) but failed to do so, and McConnell moved to back a resolution in the Senate that would allow the upper chamber to dismiss the articles of impeachment if the House fails to send them within 25 days.
On Tuesday, McConnell disputed the notion that witnesses should be called during the Senate trial. Previously, he’s said that he wants to follow the precedent set during the 1999 impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton, which did not feature an initial vote to call witnesses. Later, three witnesses were subpoenaed in closed-door testimonies.
“If the existing case is strong, there’s no need for the judge and the jury to reopen the investigation. If the existing case is weak, House Democrats should not have impeached in the first place,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
The majority leader argued that calls for more witnesses, including Trump’s former advisor John Bolton, show Democrats “do not show confidence” in their case. Bolton said in a statement last week that he would be willing to testify if he was called.
“The Constitution gives the sole power of impeachment to the House. If a House majority want to impeach a president, the ball is in their court, but they have to do the work,” McConnell added.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) again mounted a defense of his party’s request for witnesses on the floor and said any trial without them would be a farce.
“All we’re asking is for the president’s own men, his appointees, to come forward and tell their side of the story,” Schumer said. “The American people want a fair trial in the Senate. … The American people will be able to tell the difference between a fair hearing of the facts and a cover up.”
By LISA MASCARO, ALAN FRAM, MARY CLARE JALONICK and LAURIE KELLMAN
WASHINGTON (AP) — After weeks of delay and strategizing, the U.S. House is planning to vote Wednesday to send the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate to start the trial on removing him from office.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi met privately Tuesday at the Capitol with House Democrats about next steps, ending her blockade a month after they voted to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Pelosi said the House will vote to transmit the charges and name the House managers for the case. She warned the Republican-led Senate off any idea of simply dismissing the case against Trump.
“The President and the Senators will be held accountable,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial.”
The action will launch the Senate proceeding, only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history, a dramatic endeavor coming amid the backdrop of a politically divided nation and an election year.
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House last month on charges of abuse of power over pushing Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and obstruction of Congress in the following probe.
The trial would then begin in a matter of days.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened the Senate on Tuesday scoffing at what he called the “bizarro world” of Pelosi’s impeachment strategy that delayed transmitting the charges for weeks.
“Do these sound like leaders who really believe we are in a constitutional crisis, one that requires the ultimate remedy?” McConnell asked. He rejected Pelosi’s recent suggestions that whatever the Senate verdict, Trump will be “impeached forever.”
“It will fall to the Senate to end it with seriousness and sobriety,” he said.
McConnell was meeting behind closed doors later Tuesday with GOP senators as they negotiate the terms of the trial.
Senate Republicans are signaling they would reject the idea of simply voting to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Trump as he has suggested. They are considering whether to allow a vote on such a motion to dismiss and another to subpoena testimony from new witnesses.
“I think our members, generally are not interested in the motion to dismiss. They think both sides need to be heard,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who is part of the GOP leadership, said Monday.
Trump suggested over the weekend he might prefer simply dismissing the charges rather than giving legitimacy to charges from the House, which he considers a “hoax.”
It was an extraordinary suggestion, but one being proposed by Trump allies with support from some GOP senators, including McConnell.
But it is clear McConnell does not have the votes needed from his GOP majority to do that.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is leading an effort among some Republicans, including Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to ensure the ground rules include the possibility of calling new witnesses.
“My position is that there should be a vote on whether or not witnesses should be called,” Collins said.
Romney said he wants to hear from John Bolton, the former national security adviser at the White House, who others have said raised alarms about the alternative foreign policy toward Ukraine being run by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
“I expect that barring some kind of surprise, I’ll be voting in favor of hearing from witnesses after those opening arguments,” Romney told reporters Monday.
Democrats have been pushing Republicans, who have a slim Senate majority, to consider new testimony, arguing that fresh information has emerged during Pelosi’s monthlong delay in transmitting the charges.
“We want the truth,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday as the chamber opened. He said that in other presidential impeachment trials the Senate called witnesses.
“Do Senate Republicans want to break the lengthy historical precedent?” Schumer asked.
McConnell is drafting an organizing resolution that will outline the steps ahead. Approving it will be among the first votes senators take after they are sworn as jurors by Chief Justice John Roberts for the Court of Impeachment.
Republicans control the chamber, 53-47, and are all but certain to acquit Trump. McConnell is hesitant to call new witnesses who would prolong the trial. He prefers to model Trump’s trial partly on the process used for then-President Bill Clinton’s trial in 1999. It did contain motions for dismissal or calling new witnesses.
Senators say if witnesses are allowed, some Republicans may also try to subpoena Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a gas company in Ukraine while his father was vice president.
It takes just 51 votes during the impeachment trial to approve rules or call witnesses. Just four GOP senators could form a majority with Democrats to insist on new testimony. It also would take only 51 senators to vote to dismiss the charges against Trump.
Most Republicans appear willing to go along with McConnell’s plan to start the trial first then consider witnesses later, rather than upfront, as Democrats want.
Collins is pushing to have at least the promise of witness votes included in the organizing resolution. She and the others appear to be gathering support.
“I’ve been working to make sure that we will have a process that we can take a vote on whether or not we need additional information, and yes, that would include witnesses,” Murkowski told reporters.
Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Andrew Taylor and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.
When it comes to fighting climate change, the Democratic candidates agree: It’s critical that the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement. That position is a policy floor in the Democratic presidential primary.
Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s secretary of state, announced in November 2019 the country’s withdrawal process from the agreement. Since then, Democrats say they want to rejoin nearly 200 countries trying to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
All six candidates headed to the debate stage on Jan. 14 also want to implement some form of a Green New Deal, which was conceived as a congressional resolution in February 2019 to address climate change and economic disparities. (The bill is nonbinding, which means it can’t become law if it’s passed by Congress.)
All of the senators who qualified for the January debate — Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — co-sponsored the resolution
Despite the many strategies where Democrats agree, the candidates’ proposals reveal differences in how they plan to approach climate change and what types of solutions they prefer. Here’s a rundown of the major candidates’ plans.
Former Vice President Joe Biden wants climate change to be a central focus of his foreign policy strategy.
“Global action requires American leadership,” Biden said in a campaign video introducing his plan to fight climate change.
Biden’s strategy includes urging China to stop subsidizing coal exports and including emissions reduction goals in future U.S.-China agreements. Biden also wants countries to make enforceable commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in global shipping and aviation.
He plans to build on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enacted under Obama’s administration by pushing for legislation that creates an “enforcement mechanism” for reduction targets.
While Biden wants to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, he also wants to ease the transition on coal miners and their families by establishing a Task Force on Coal and Power Plant Communities to help create high-paying union jobs for these communities.
In addition, Biden hopes to expand on Obama-era fuel efficiency standards and incentivize people to buy more electric vehicles. By the end of 2030, he wants to deploy over 500,000 new public charging outlets.
In total, Biden wants to make a $1.7 trillion federal investment over 10 years to address climate change and environmental justice issues. His website says reversing Trump-era corporation tax cuts will help pay for the plan.
In August 2019, Sanders rolled out a $16.3 trillion plan to execute the Green New Deal by integrating social justice issues into the fight against climate change.
He plans to pay for this through methods that include taxing the fossil fuel industry, cutting military spending and collecting income tax revenue from 20 million new jobs created to combat climate change.
“This is not a problem for tomorrow,” Sanders said at an MSNBC climate forum in September 2019. “If we do not get our act together in an unprecedented way, the situation will become much worse.”
Among his plan’s ambitious targets, Sanders wants the nation to power its electricity and transportation sectors by 100% renewable energy by 2030 and decarbonize the economy by 2050.
Under Sanders’ plan to implement the Green New Deal, new renewable energy would be publicly owned and managed by federal authorities and agencies. Sanders also wants to continue efforts under the Obama administration to make energy storage cheaper by investing $30 billion to commercialize long-lasting renewable energy technologies.
When it comes to foreign policy, Sanders wants trade deals to be renegotiated with a commitment to combating climate change. His plan also includes working to end investments in fossil fuels.
Warren said political dissonance should not get in the way of addressing climate change.
“You know what I think is the fundamental question right now? Is how we’ve gotten ourselves into this mess,” she said during a CNN climate change town hall in September 2019. “It’s because of Washington.”
Warren, who plans to federally invest $3 trillion to transition to renewable energy, wants the country’s energy sector to be carbon neutral by 2030.
Five years after that, she wants it to be powered completely by renewable sources.
Warren’s “green manufacturing” plan says the corporations tax she hopes to implement can help pay for her climate change proposals, which include investing $2 trillion over 10 years in “green” research, manufacturing and exporting.
She wants the United States to invest $1.5 trillion over a decade to make federally-owned “clean energy products” to use at local, state and federal levels in addition to exports.
Warren promises to make renewable energy more accessible to tribal communities.
In addition, the Massachusetts senator is proposing a zero-emissions requirement for new light- and medium-duty vehicles by 2030.
Warren wants to commit $100 billion over a decade to lower the price for countries to buy American “clean energy” technology.
Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Ind., is taking an approach to mitigate climate change that includes offering market incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In particular, Buttigieg’s climate plan says he would try to pass economy-wide carbon tax legislation that would increase annually. The revenue from the tax would be given back to Americans in the form of rebates.
He said at the Democratic presidential debate in December that he believes addressing climate change should be a nationwide effort.
“I want to make sure that our vision for climate includes people from the autoworker down the block from me in South Bend to a farmer a few minutes away so that they understand that we are asking, recruiting them to be part of the solution,” he said.
Buttigieg is aiming to double the “clean energy” generated in the United States by 2025 and make the electricity sector and new passenger vehicles emissions free by 2035.
In addition to reducing emissions output, Buttigieg is proposing a carbon capture program, which will include storing carbon dioxide underground and using it for manufacturing products.
On the international front, Buttigieg is proposing to create a Tipping Points Coalition for high-emitting countries to commit to reducing emissions.
Market incentives are also central to Klobuchar’s plan to make the United States less dependent on fossil fuels.
Klobuchar wants to implement a carbon pricing system that isn’t regressive, meaning it won’t disproportionately impact Americans with lower incomes. Her plan says the system would help pay for investments made to address climate change, including a $1 trillion infrastructure package.
During the CNN climate town hall in September, Klobuchar said she would work with Congress to develop what the pricing system would look like, such as a carbon tax or cap-and-trade program. Klobuchar said during an interview in January with Iowa PBS that she’d support a dividend as well.
Her plan says she will try to implement a tax on carbon-intensive imports.
Klobuchar’s proposal to expand renewable energy also includes simplifying the permit process for renewable energy projects on federal lands.
In her Iowa PBS interview, Klobuchar said the country can look to the Midwest to expand renewable energy projects.
“Let’s acknowledge there’s a lot of gain for us in the middle of the country,” she said.
Klobuchar’s plan also says she would strengthen EPA rules to reduce methane leaks from oil and gas, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
Billionaire activist Tom Steyer has made clear one thing he wants to do during his first day in office: declare climate change a national emergency.
Despite the challenges it will take to combat the issue, Steyer remains hopeful.
At the December presidential debate, he said that addressing environmental issues can lead to the creation of millions of jobs.
“Our biggest crisis is our biggest opportunity,” Steyer said.
His climate plan says he will encourage Congress to fund a Civilian Climate Corps to create 1 million jobs for Americans.
Steyer wants to reduce emissions in the energy sector by requiring all new electricity sources to be carbon-free by 2030 and utilizing entirely “clean electricity” by 2040. He plans for the country to invest $250 billion in modernizing the electrical grid.
He’s proposing to require new passenger cars, trucks, medium-duty vehicles, and heavy-duty and freight vehicles to meet a “100% clean standard” by 2035.
Steyer is promising to invest $2 trillion to make infrastructure more resilient and energy efficient.
Steyer’s plan says he’ll work to end coal financing by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. He also wants to recruit other countries to reduce emissions in the aviation sector.