Confusion surrounds memo indicating potential withdrawal of US troops from Iraq
The future of the US presence in Iraq is in question after a military memo seemed to indicate a potential withdrawal of American troops from the country.
The memo stated troops would begin “onward movement” from Iraq. However, secretary of defense Mark Esper said the memo was inaccurate “There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq.”
The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Mark Milley, said the letter had been sent in error.
The back-and-forth began as the Trump administration scrambled to respond to Iraqi demands for the troops to leave after last week’s assassination in Baghdad of Iran’s top general, Qassem Suleimani.
Allies to the US are responding in kind, with British officials are now pointing to Esper’s clarification, describing the original letter from the US-led coalition circulating in Iraq as “very unclear” and “not what it seems” without giving further details.
For more information, read our latest report.
Mitt Romney said he would “like to hear” from John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, but stopped short of saying he would subpoena him.
Bolton previously said he would testify in a Senate impeachment trial if he were subpoenaed, but a majority of the Republican-controlled Senate would have to approve a subpoena.
The Trump administration made a move Monday to block Iran’s top diplomat from addressing the UN security council, Foreign Policy reports.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has been blocked from obtaining a visa to attend a Jan. 9 Security Council meeting on the importance of upholding the UN Charter, sources told Foreign Policy.
The block violates the terms of a 1947 headquarters agreement requiring Washington to permit foreign officials into the country to conduct UN business and marks another escalation in the continued tension between the US and Iran.
Hello, Kari Paul on the West Coast here, taking over the blog for the next few hours. Stay tuned for updates.
That’s it from me today. I’m handing the blog off to my west coast colleague, Kari Paul, for the next few hours.
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- A memo from the US military seemed to indicate a potential withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, but secretary of defense Mark Esper then said the memo was inaccurate. “There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Esper said.
- John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, said he would testify in a Senate impeachment trial if he were subpoenaed, but a majority of the Republican-controlled Senate would have to approve a subpoena.
- Democratic congressional leaders, including Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, called on Republicans to support a Bolton subpoena, arguing any other course of action would constitute a “cover-up.”
- Bolton’s statement could delay the transmission of the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which previously seemed likely to occur this week.
Kari will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Secretary of defense Mark Esper said the letter indicating a potential US troop withdrawal from Iraq is “inconsistent” with the Pentagon’s current position.
Esper says Iraq withdrawal memo is not accurate
Secretary of defense Mark Esper has now said the memo on US troops’ “onward movement” from Iraq is not accurate. “There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Esper said.
It appears US troops in Iraq are being moved out of a base in the Green Zone and relocated to other bases across the country after the Iraqi parliament voted to expel the American troops.
Letter from US military indicates withdrawal of troops from Iraq
The US military has sent a letter to the Iraqi military announcing the “onward movement” of American forces after the Iraqi parliament voted to expel the troops, indicating a withdrawal.
It’s unclear whether the letter indicates a full or partial withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, but the military has confirmed its authenticity, dispelling previous claims that it was fake.
Republican senator Josh Hawley has introduced his resolution to update Senate rules to allow for the dismissal of the impeachment charges against Trump.
The measure would allow senators to dismiss the charges if the House does not transmit the articles of impeachment within 25 calendar days.
That date would fall next week, but again, it’s unclear whether Hawley’s proposal will gain any momentum in the Senate.
Trump called in to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh’s show to criticize House Democrats’ handling of impeachment and defend the US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Suleimani.
The president also seemed to brush off concerns about John Bolton testifying to the Senate after his former national security adviser said he would do so if he receives a subpoena.
At least one Republican senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, has said he would not support issuing a subpoena to John Bolton, arguing the Senate impeachment trial should be based on the existing evidence gathered by the House.
Another Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, indicated he would not necessarily be opposed to calling Bolton to testify, but he predicted the former national security adviser would actually help Trump’s case during the trial.
The Democratic-controlled House sought Bolton’s testimony, but the committee chairs leading the impeachment inquiry chose not to subpoena him after the former official made clear he would join a lawsuit seeking a judge’s ruling on whether to comply with a congressional subpoena or White House guidance not to cooperate with the investigation.
Americans narrowly approve of Suleimani strike, poll finds
Americans narrowly approve of the US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Suleimani last week, according to a new poll.
The HuffPost/YouGov survey found that 43% of Americans agree with Trump’s decision to order the strike, compared to 38% who disapprove.
But Americans narrowly disapprove of Trump’s handling of the strike. According to the poll, 43% of Americans say the president did not plan well enough before the strike, compared to 35% who say he did.
Respondents also said, 44% to 34%, that Trump should have received congressional approval before ordering the strike.
And perhaps most worryingly for the president, 47% of Americans think Trump does not have a clear strategy for dealing with Iran, compared to 32% who say he does.
Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat facing a difficult reelection race in Alabama this year, said in a tweet that he supported calling John Bolton to testify in the impeachment trial.
In order to issue a subpoena to Trump’s former national security adviser, minority leader Chuck Schumer would need every Senate Democrat and four Senate Republicans to sign on to the request, so he will need to win over some moderate Democratic senators who have previously seemed hesitant on impeachment.
Transmission of articles of impeachment likely to be delayed
With the news of John Bolton’s willingness to testify, it appears probable that Nancy Pelosi will further delay transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, although one of her aides said the House speaker had not decided on a timeline.
Before Bolton released his statement, most Capitol Hill reporters were predicting Pelosi would transmit the articles at some point this week, but that no longer seems likely.
John Bolton’s willigness to testfiy in the impeachment trial if subpoenaed could give Democrats more leverage over the parameters of the Senate proceedings, after it seemed House speaker Nancy Pelosi would have to trasmit the articles without any agreement on witnesses.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi has issued a statement about John Bolton’s willingness to testify in a Senate impeachment trial, echoing Chuck Schumer’s argument that Republicans would be enabling a “cover-up” if they did not call Trump’s former national security adviser to testify.
Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee, similarly said the Senate should call Bolton and other White House officials, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, to testify.
House Democrats previously tried to get Bolton to testify during their impeachment hearings, but they backed off from a potential subpoena after the former official signaled he would join a lawsuit seeking a judge’s ruling on whether to comply with a congressional subpoena or the White House guidance not to cooperate with the investigation.