January 2020 News

 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative January 2020 news and views

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this.


Jan. 18

Impeachment Headlines

 

Impeachment News 

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Donald Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani, Vice President Michael Pence and operatives Igor Fruman (second from the left) and Lev Parnas (between Fruman and Trump) pose in better times for them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Once this is over, we’ll be kings’: How Lev Parnas worked his way into Trump’s world — and now is rattling it, Rosalind S. Helderman and Paul Sonne​, Jan. 18, 2020. ​A cascade of revelations by the former associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani overshadowed the opening of the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.

It was the week when the pomp and circumstance of the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history was supposed to take center stage in Washington. The House of Representatives formally voted to send the Senate charges that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to help his reelection bid. John G. Roberts Jr., the chief justice of the United States, arrived in the Senate chambers to preside over the president’s trial and the swearing in of 100 senators.

But overshadowing that weighty moment was a cascade of revelations by a fast-talking, Ukraine-born businessman sporting an ankle bracelet who — speaking for the first time since his October arrest on campaign finance charges — directly implicated the president in the Ukraine scheme.

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” Parnas said in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday that earned the cable news show the highest ratings of its 11-year history.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate must ‘eliminate the threat that the president poses to America’s national security,’ House managers argue in brief, Colby Itkowitz and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 18, 2020. In response, President Trump’s legal team dismissed the case as a “dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their president.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Nunes aide, Parnas communicated about Ukraine campaign, messages show, Paul Sonne, Rosalind S. Helderman and Greg Miller, Jan. 18, 2020. Lev Parnas, who functioned as Rudolph W. Giuliani's emissary to Ukrainian officials, had extensive contact with Derek devin nunes grimacingHarvey, an aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, right, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

House Democrats released new documents Friday evening showing extensive contact between an associate of President Trump’s personal attorney and an aide to the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee regarding the effort to obtain material from Ukrainian prosecutors that would be damaging to former vice president Joe Biden.

The text messages between Lev Parnas, who functioned as Rudolph W. Giuliani’s emissary to Ukrainian officials, and Derek Harvey, an aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, indicate Nunes’s office was aware of the operation at the heart of impeachment proceedings against the president — and sought to use the information Parnas was gathering.

The newly released texts show that Parnas was working last spring to set up calls for Harvey with the Ukrainian prosecutors who were feeding Giuliani information about Biden.

  • Washington Post, ‘Shove it,’ Rep. Ted Lieu tells Nunes in response to lawsuit threat, Jan. 18, 2020.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: New text messages put Devin Nunes on the hot seat, Aaron Blake,  Jan. 18, 2020. A month ago, when phone records showed contact between Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Lev Parnas, Nunes said he didn’t recall Parnas’s name and couldn’t confirm the call. On Wednesday, with Parnas about to appear on TV for the first time, Nunes (shown above in a file photo) suddenly offered a (very conveniently timed) confirmation, but he downplayed the call as being about “random things.”

republican elephant logoNow, Nunes’s claims about his ties to Parnas are even more questionable.

Newly released documents Friday night showed Parnas in repeated contact with a Nunes aide, Derek Harvey. He appeared to be looping Harvey into the Ukraine effort led by Rudolph W. Giuliani, and the messages show the three of them met at the Trump hotel in Washington. Parnas also set up calls for Harvey with the same Ukrainian prosecutors who were working with Giuliani.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The Senate must not ignore the new evidence on Ukraine, Editorial Board, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). New evidence in djt impeached wapo 12 19 19 front page Customthe Ukraine affair has revealed several important new facts. One is that President Trump’s firing of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch last spring was part of an explicit trade-off with a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor who promised dirt on Joe Biden. Another is that Mr. Trump’s demand that Ukraine’s president announce an investigation of Mr. Biden, along with the threat of retaliation if he did not, was communicated to the Ukrainians months earlier than previously known.

The new evidence significantly bolsters the case that Mr. Trump abused his office. It also underlines how much more there is still to learn about the dealings he and his attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, undertook in Kyiv, even as the president’s trial on impeachment charges is set to begin in the Senate on Tuesday.

lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020Much of the new evidence comes from Lev Parnas, left, a former collaborator with Mr. Giuliani and donor to Mr. Trump who turned against them after his indictment on federal campaign finance charges. The White House dismisses Mr. Parnas as a man with a motive to lie, and it’s true that some of his allegations need verification. But the Soviet emigre businessman also gave House investigators texts, emails, calendars and other documents that appear to substantiate key charges.

Texts between Mr. Parnas and Yuri Lutsenko, a former Ukrainian prosecutor, make clear that Mr. Lutsenko made allegations about Mr. Biden in the expectation that he would be rewarded with the firing of Ms. Yovanovitch, who had accused him of blocking corruption investigations. “If you don’t make a decision about Madam

— you are bringing into question all my allegations. Including about B,” one Lutsenko text to Mr. Parnas read. He got his wish: “He fired her again,” read a text from Mr. Giuliani to Mr. Parnas in April, shortly before Ms. Yovanovitch was recalled on Mr. Trump’s orders.

msnbc logo CustomMr. Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he also played a key role in conveying Mr. Trump’s demand for an investigation of Mr. Biden to Volodymyr Zelensky, who became Ukraine’s president last May. Mr. Giuliani had sent Mr. Zelensky a letter asking for a meeting but called off the trip after it was publicized. Mr. Parnas said he was then dispatched by Mr. Giuliani in early May to deliver a tough message to an aide to Mr. Zelensky: Unless he announced a Biden investigation, relations would sour, starting with the cancellation of Vice President Pence’s attendance at Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration.

ny times logoNew York Times, Starr Returns to the Impeachment Fray, This Time for the Defense, Peter Baker, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Ken Starr, whose investigation led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, is one of the best known and most polarizing lawyers in the U.S.

The last time a president was on trial, few were more responsible for putting him in the dock than Ken Starr. Now the former independent counsel whose investigation led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment two decades ago will come to the defense of another president charged with high crimes and misdemeanors.

ken starr baylorIn adding Mr. Starr, right,to his legal team, President Trump enlisted one of the best known and most polarizing lawyers in the country, someone who in recent months has become a regular defender of the president on Fox News. Mr. Starr will argue that while Mr. Clinton’s impeachment was legitimate, Mr. Trump’s was out of bounds.

But Mr. Starr’s return to the public stage 21 years after Mr. Clinton’s trial was just the latest head-spinning turn in a saga that at times has echoed the dramatic battle of the late 1990s in oddly distorted ways. Many players from that impeachment are leading figures in this one, though on the other side. Democrats now make arguments often heard last time from Republicans and vice versa.

ny times logomaureen dowd thumbLargeNew York Times, Opinion: Starr Chamber -- The Sequel, Maureen Dowd, right, Jan. 18, 2020. President Trump reaches deep into the perv barrel for his defense team. Trump is once more doing his part to energize women voters. On Friday, we learned that the president will get help from Starr and Dershowitz for the impeachment trial in the Senate.

The Starr chamber was a shameful period of American history, with the prissy Puritan independent counsel hounding and virtually jailing Monica Lewinsky and producing hundreds of pages of panting, bodice-ripping prose that read more like bad erotica than a federal report, rife with lurid passages about breasts, stains and genitalia.

Even Trump was appalled. “Starr’s a freak,” the bloviating builder told me back in 1999. “I bet he’s got something in his closet.” In other interviews, he called Starr “a lunatic,” “a disaster” and “off his rocker,” and expressed sympathy for Hillary having to stand by her man when he was “being lambasted by this crazy Ken Starr, who is a total wacko.”

Starr, who once clutched his pearls over Bill Clinton’s sexual high jinks, is now going to bat for President “Access Hollywood.” After playing an avenging Javert about foreplay in the Oval, Starr will now do his utmost to prove that a real abuse of power undermining Congress and American foreign policy is piffle.

In 2007, he defended Jeffrey Epstein. By 2016, Starr was being ousted as president of Baptist Baylor University for failing to protect women and looking the other way when football players were accused and sometimes convicted of sexual assaults. In other words, he’s a complete partisan hack who doesn’t give a damn about sexual assault.

And then there’s Dershowitz, whose past clients have included such sterling fellows as Epstein, Claus von Bülow, O.J. Simpson and Harvey Weinstein. How did he miss Ted Bundy? Still, Dershowitz has put himself on the side of an impressive pantheon of villainy in the realm of violence against girls and women.

Virginia Giuffre, Prince Andrew’s accuser, has also claimed that she was offered as a teenager to Dershowitz for sex — a contention that Dershowitz has denied in a countersuit.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Hyde associate Anthony De Caluwe fires back in Trump-Yovanovitch surveillance scandal, Bill Palmer, Jan. 18, 2020. Earlier this week, text messages provided by Lev Parnas appeared to show that a Trump associate named Robert F. Hyde (shown above with Trump) was surveilling U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Ukraine, and offering to hire local goons to target her for unknown purposes.

bill palmer report logo headerHyde has since acknowledged on Twitter that he did send the messages, but that he was just joking around. Yesterday Hyde asserted that he had simply relayed the messages from another guy named Anthony De Caluwe, whom he accused of being an Adam Schiff plant.

The media has since tracked down Anthony De Caluwe’s social media presence, and various Facebook photos confirm that De Caluwe has associated with Robert Hyde and with Donald Trump. Now De Caluwe is firing back in the media, making clear that he has no association with Schiff. De Caluwe is telling Kenneth Vogel of the New York Times that he did in fact send the messages to Hyde, but that it was mere “ridiculous banter” that wasn’t meant in a serious way.

Media / Propaganda

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washington post logoWashington Post, National Archives exhibit blurs signs in Women’s March image critical of Trump, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The large color photograph that greets visitors to a National Archives exhibit celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage shows a massive crowd filling Pennsylvania Avenue NW for the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

The 49-by-69-inch photograph is a powerful display. Viewed from one perspective, it shows the 2017 march. Viewed from another angle, it shifts national archivesto show a 1913 black-and-white image of a women’s suffrage march also on Pennsylvania Avenue. The display links momentous demonstrations for women’s rights more than a century apart on the same stretch of pavement.

But a closer look reveals a different story.

The Archives, right, acknowledged in a statement this week that it made multiple alterations to the photo of the 2017 Women’s March showcased at the museum, blurring signs held by marchers that were critical of Trump. Words on signs that referenced women’s anatomy were also blurred.

Inside DC

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Attorney General William Barr, center, flanked by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, right, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Edward O'Callaghan of the National Security Division are all Republicans and stand united for their version of justice. (Justice Department news conference on April 18, 2019 on release of the Mueller Report.)

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Rod Rosenstein was sabotaging Robert Mueller all along, Bill Palmer, Jan. 18, 2020. Up to now, the best that anyone understood the story of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was that he spent a long time trying to do the right thing when it came to Donald Trump, but eventually caved to Trump’s bullying in the end. Now, however, new court filings reveal that Rosenstein was without question a villain all along – and that he was going out of his way to sabotage his own appointee Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the FBI all along.

bill palmer report logo headerWe all saw Rod Rosenstein very publicly and cartoonishly transform into a Donald Trump cheerleader near the end of his DOJ tenure, in what was perceived as an attempt at convincing Trump not to take his pension away. This made sense, as Trump had already retaliated against other DOJ figures like former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe by taking his pension away. But now it turns out Rosenstein was playing games on Trump’s behalf, behind the scenes, dating back to 2017.

peter strozk lisa pageThe new court filings reveal that it was Rod Rosenstein who leaked text messages from FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page (right) to the media in late 2017. Donald Trump seized on this opportunity by making up conspiracy theories about Strzok and Page, and by extension conspiracy theories about their boss at the time, Robert Mueller. Trump was eventually able to force Strzok and Page out of the FBI (though they’re both pursuing legal action over it). Trump was also able, via Bill Barr, to force a premature and stunted end to Mueller’s probe.

Rod Rosenstein’s decision to leak the Page-Strzok text messages can be seen as having played at least some role in the ultimate demise of the Mueller probe, which had initially been shot out of the gate like a cannon, but ultimately ended with a whimper. If Rosenstein was pulling stunts to sabotage Mueller dating back to 2017, it means that Rosenstein was trying to sabotage Mueller’s probe all along. At this point you have to wonder if Rosenstein will face obstruction of justice charges once Trump is gone.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at HHS secretary after briefing shows Democrats leading on health care, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The president complained Democrats would “kill us” on health care if the administration did not do more to lower drug prices and enact other reforms.

alex azar hhs oPresident Trump lashed out at Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, right, for not doing enough on health care and drug pricing during a campaign meeting this week after he was briefed on polling that showed the public trusted Democrats more than Republicans on the issue, according to four people present at or briefed about the meeting.

Campaign advisers were updating Trump at the White House on Thursday on polling from battleground states, including Florida, that showed which party voters trusted more on various issues. One of those issues was health care, which often polls as the top voter concern, and the data showed the public trusted Democrats more than Republicans.

Trump reacted furiously and said the Democrats would “kill us” on health care, according to the four people, who requested anonymity to candidly describe the private meeting. The president then picked up the phone, called Azar and put him on speakerphone in the middle of the meeting, the people said.

“You’re not getting it done,” Trump told Azar, referring to lowering drug prices, according to one of the people in the meeting and another briefed on the discussion. He told Azar he needed to “hurry up” on lowering drug prices and more quickly allow for the importation of drugs from Canada. “Why aren’t we getting these drugs from Canada?”

Azar reminded Trump he had rolled out a final rule allowing states, distributors and wholesalers to import select drugs from Canada during a December event in Florida with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has pushed for the policy for months. Azar emphasized to the president that he also wanted the rule done as fast as possible and noted the rule was in the middle of a 75-day comment period and that other states had expressed interest in it.

Environment / Native Americans

washington post logoWashington Post, A radioactive legacy haunts a Navajo village, which fears a fractured future, Will Ford, Jan. 18, 2020.  The Red Water Pond Road community in New Mexico sits amid a Superfund site. Residents, who fear losing their way of life if they are uprooted during the cleanup, are pressuring federal officials to reexamine an idea to construct a new off-grid, solar-powered community.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump detailed Soleimani airstrike to donors at private Mar-a-Lago dinner, Colby Itkowitz and David A. Fahrenthold, Jan. 18, 2020. The president said nothing at the fundraiser about an “imminent attack” on U.S. interests or threats to four U.S. embassies as he previously has to justify the unilateral military strike.

• Washington Post, Dutch Trump fan says texts about U.S. ambassador’s movements were sent in jest

washington post logoWashington Post, Maduro says he’s firmly in control of Venezuela, ready for talks with U.S., Anthony Faiola​, Jan. 18, 2020.  In an interview with nicolas maduro customThe Post, President Nicolás Maduro cast himself as the wily survivor of a year-long effort by opponents at home and in Washington to force him out. U.S. officials have resisted talks unless or until Maduro, right, is willing to discuss his exit.

In an exclusive, extensive interview with The Washington Post — his first with a major U.S. media outlet since the day last February he abruptly pulled the plug on a Univision taping and ejected its journalists from the country — an exuberant Maduro said he had outfoxed his opponents in Caracas and Washington, is comfortably in charge and ready to talk.

He suggested a bonanza could be waiting for U.S. oil companies in this OPEC-member state should President Trump lift sanctions and press the reset button on U.S.-Venezuelan relations.

washington post logounited kingdom flagWashington Post, Britain’s Harry and Meghan to give up ‘royal highness’ titles, repay some housing expenses, William Booth and Karla Adam​, Jan. 18, 2020.  ​A cascade of revelations by the former associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani overshadowed the opening of the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history. A statement from the palace says the couple will "no longer formally represent The Queen."

U.S. Law, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Guantanamo chief convicted of covering up fight over alleged affair days before man’s death, Marisa Iati, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). A former commander of the Navy’s outpost in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was convicted Friday of covering up that he fought with a civilian over an alleged extramarital affair two days before the man was found dead.

john nettleton navy photoA federal jury in Jacksonville, Fla., found John Nettleton, 54, left, guilty of obstructing justice, concealing information, falsifying records and making false statements in connection with the death of Christopher Tur, who worked at Guantanamo’s Navy-operated general store.

“Capt. Nettleton dishonored his oath and impeded the investigation into a civilian’s tragic death, preventing much needed closure for the family and friends of the deceased,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a statement.

The Navy removed Nettleton from his post a few days after Tur’s death in 2015 “due to loss of confidence in Nettleton’s ability to command.” Nettleton, who had served as the base’s commanding officer since 2012, was reassigned to Jacksonville.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sex, Power and Fury: The Mystery of a Death at Guantánamo Bay, Patrick and Declan Walsh, Jan. 18, 2020. The federal trial of a former commander of the naval base put a spotlight on life at the outpost best known for its terrorist court and prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, A professor used $185K in research grants on strip clubs, iTunes and more, officials say, Lateshia Beachum, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). A former Drexel University professor allegedly spent research money on adult entertainment venues instead of approved studies, according to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office.

chikaodinaka nwankpaanChikaodinaka D. Nwankpa, 57, right, was arrested Monday and charged with theft by unlawful taking and theft by deception for stealing $185,000 in research grants, according to state prosecutors. It was unclear which subjects the grants were supposed to cover.

The former chair of the Drexel University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering spent more than $96,000 on area strip clubs and sports bars, in addition to $89,000 on food and iTunes purchases, the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

A university audit showed the longtime professor, who spent nearly three decades at the school, made numerous, unapproved purchases between 2010 and 2017 that he tried to be reimbursed for through research grants, according to state prosecutors.

More U.S. Politics

washington post logodjt maga hatWashington Post, Oklahoma state senators want MAGA license plates — which might violate federal campaign finance rules, Katie Mettler​, Jan. 18, 2020. The Trump-themed license plates, if approved by the state legislature, would be added to a list of 98 other specialty designs that Oklahoma drivers can buy for $35.

OpEdNews, Opinion: Warren, with CNN help, plays wronged-woman card against Sanders: Is This the End of Identity Politics? Laurie Dobson, Jan. 18, 2020. With the blow-up this week between Warren and Sanders, ignited by a cheap-shot hit-job of a story on CNN published and aired a day before the CNN-produced Democratic candidates debate in Iowa, it has become clear that there is really only one true progressive in the Democratic cnn logoprimary race: Sanders.

The CNN article, which was based upon unsubstantiated claims leaked to the network by several unidentified Warren campaign staffers, asserted that in a one-on-one private meeting with Warren (no other witnesses present) held in her home over a year bernie sandersearlier, Sanders, right, had claimed that "a woman cannot win the Presidency."

Sanders, contacted by the CNN reporter on that story, firmly denied that it happened, noting that while he and Warren had met, it was "inconceivable" he would have said such a thing. His explanation: Hillary had just clearly "won" the 2016 election by garnering three million more popular votes than Donald Trump. Also since he noted that he had, in 2015, encouraged Warren to accept the call of a draft-Warren movement and run against Clinton, only entering the race himself after she had declined to take her on.

elizabeth warren o purpleThe issue has now come to a head: Warren can't have it both ways anymore, posing both as a progressive candidate and as a woman wronged and victimized in a campaign fight that she brought on.

Warren, left, is being naive, and dangerously deluded, by allowing herself to be used due to her self-perception as a female champion of vulnerable women. She, viewing things through her lens of single-issue identity politics, sees herself as being accosted as a woman. She may have been told by Sanders that her politics couldn't win. That would be a fair accusation, and one she may have taken personally, not looking at it from a larger, more objective perspective.

Privacy, Civil Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It, Kashmir Hill, Jan. 18, 2020. A little-known start-up helps law enforcement match photos of unknown people to their online images. Its facial recognition tool “might lead to a dystopian future or something,” a backer says.

Hoan Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.

His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.

Federal and state law enforcement officers said that while they had only limited knowledge of how Clearview works and who is behind it, they had used its app to help solve shoplifting, identity theft, credit card fraud, murder and child sexual exploitation cases.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Electing a Female President Is Secondary for Some Women, Lisa Lerer, Jan. 18, 2020 (print ed.). In the Trump era, some women say the power of a symbolic first is overshadowed by anxiety about defeating the president.

In the final weeks before the Iowa caucuses, the two leading female candidates remaining in the Democratic primary are embracing their gender as an asset, decisively pushing back against concerns that a woman can’t be elected president. Those sensitive conversations burst into public view this past week at the Democratic debate, in a nationally televised discussion about sexism and experience between Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Yet, the sisterhood may stop before the White House. In interviews with nearly two dozen female voters in Iowa this week, the symbolism of breaking what Hillary Clinton called “that highest, hardest glass ceiling” in politics seemed to be less resonant than ever before, particularly for older voters, who were subsumed by anxiety about defeating Mr. Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Can Qualify for the Next Debate by Winning a Single Delegate in Iowa, Maggie Astor, Jan. 18, 2020. Candidates like Andrew Yang and Michael R. Bloomberg, who were excluded from the last debate, can take a new path to the stage for the next one, to be held Feb. 7 in New Hampshire.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Trump Is Spreading a Conspiracy Theory About Pelosi, Biden and Sanders, Annie Karni and Jeremy W. Peters, Jan. 18, 2020. President Trump claims Nancy Pelosi has intentionally undermined Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign by delaying the impeachment trial. Mr. Sanders denounced that theory on Friday.

Supreme Court

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court to Consider Limits on Contraception Coverage, Adam Liptak, Jan. 18, 2020. The justices will weigh Trump administration regulations allowing employers to refuse to provide access to birth control on religious or moral grounds.

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether the Trump administration may allow employers to limit women’s access to free birth control under the Affordable Care Act.

The case returns the court to a key battleground in the culture wars, but one in which successive administrations have switched sides.

In the Obama years, the court heard two cases on whether religious groups could refuse to comply with regulations requiring contraceptive coverage. The new case presents the opposite question: Can the Trump administration allow all sorts of employers with religious or moral objections to contraception to opt out of the coverage requirement?

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, As Libya Descends Into Chaos, Foreign Powers Look for a Way Out, David D. Kirkpatrick and Declan Walsh, Jan. 18, 2020. A meeting in Berlin on Sunday will seek an exit to one of the Middle East’s most intractable proxy wars.

Russia has sent hundreds of mercenaries to back militias laying siege to Libya’s capital. The United Arab Emirates has sent jets and drones, while Egypt has provided logistical support.

To stop them, Turkey has sent dozens of military advisers and is now shipping in hundreds of Syrian militiamen.

Walid Khashib, a 35-year-old Libyan bank clerk, just wishes they would all leave.

“We Libyans don’t want Turkish or Syrian or Russian or any other foreign troops,” said Mr. Khashib, who had taken advantage of a temporary cease-fire to visit the rubble of his bombed-out home in eastern Tripoli. “We just want the issue to be resolved.”

The conflict in oil-rich Libya has become one of the Middle East’s most intractable proxy wars. Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt are backing the former Libyan army general Khalifa Hifter, who is laying siege to the capital, Tripoli. Turkey is defending the United Nations-backed government there.

Most of the international powers with an interest in Libya will gather in Berlin on Sunday in the latest effort to find a way out of what has become a multinational free-for-all.

  • New York Times, Analysis: Europe is finally paying attention to the conflict in Libya

Jan. 17

Impeachment News 

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Kenneth Starr, Alan Dershowitz to join Trump’s legal team, John Wagner and Josh Dawsey​, Jan. 17, 2020. The ken starr baylorexpansion of President Trump’s team will also include Robert Ray, according to someone familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak. Ray and Starr, right, investigated President Bill Clinton.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump rolls out his “dream team” of garbage, Bill Palmer, Jan. 17, 2020. Donald Trump rolled out his “dream team” of impeachment trial defense attorneys today, and it’s a hit parade of the most awful people he could find.

There’s Alan Dershowitz, who represented child rapist Jeffrey Epstein, and who has been accused of underage rape himself. There’s Ken Starr, the punchline who led the charge in Bill Clinton’s sham impeachment, who recently lost his job after trying to cover up a college rape scandal.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump has also added former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a key figure in the Trump University criminal scandal, who is currently a registered foreign agent of Qatar. That’s right, after Trump previously hired illegal foreign agents like Paul Manafort (mug shot below right), Rick Gates and Michael Flynn to run his campaign and White House, he’s now hiring an official foreign agent to run his impeachment defense.

paul manafort mugThere are two ways to look at this. One is that Donald Trump probably couldn’t find anyone better than this collection of disgraced pieces of excrement. After all, who would want to destroy their reputation by defending an illegitimate president who got caught criminally conspiring against the United States? The other is that Trump generally likes hiring corrupt people, because he knows they’re more willing to do corrupt things on his behalf. Either way, this collection of trash heap losers isn’t going to help Trump’s cause any.

  • Washington Post, Leahy says Starr’s addition to Trump’s legal team is a ‘weird choice
  • Washington Post, Congress shows the ability to legislate through impeachment
  • Washington Post, Analysis: How one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats approaches impeachment
  • Washington Post, Perspective: Trump can’t stop John Bolton from testifying
  • Washington Post, Parnas ties Pence’s snub of Ukraine to pressure campaign

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC "Must Watch," Staff reports, Jan. 17, 2020.

  • MSNBC The Beat with Ari: 'He got caught': Pelosi played McConnell on Trump impeachment, (1:52 min. video).
  • MSNBC Day That Was: After sworn oath, historic impeachment trial begins (4:36 min.).
  • MSNBC: Trump responds to Lev Parnas interviews: ‘Don’t know who this man is’ (1:51).
  • MSNBC: Chief Justice John Roberts swears in senators for the impeachment trial of President Trump (0:40).
  • MSNBC: White House violated law by withholding Ukraine aid, government watchdog says (1:49).
  • MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show: Lev Parnas effectively put Bolton, Pompeo, and others on witness list (4:39).
  • MSNBC The Last Word: ‘The question of not listening to witnesses is off the table’ (1:56).
  • MSNBC Morning Joe: What Trump knows and doesn't know: A primer (2:07).
  • MSNBC Morning Joe: Trump may attend Davos as impeachment gets underway (4:13).
  • MSNBC Morning Joe: Ukraine to investigate Burisma hacking (10:20).
  • MSNBC Morning Joe: Why Parnas interview was a 'political earthquake' (8:40).
  • MSNBC Morning Joe: 'Rudy Giuliani is responsible for the impeachment' of Trump (7:36).
  • MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show: Parnas describes how Trump struggled to fire Amb. Yovanovitch (5:46).
  • MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show: Parnas: Perry fell short in his part in Trump's Ukraine scheme (2:17).
  • MSNBC Rachel Maddow Show: Parnas: 'I don't think Vice President Biden did anything wrong' (1:16).

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Roll Call, GAO: Trump’s Ukraine aid pause violated budget law, Paul M. Krawzak, Jan 17, 2020 (print ed.). 1974 budget law limits presidential authority to prohibit congressionally approved spending. Ukraine aid legal ruling could shake up impeachment trial..

gao seal CustomPresident Donald Trump’s hold on military assistance for Ukraine last summer ran afoul of a 1974 budget law that limits presidential authority to prohibit congressionally approved spending, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday.

The finding by the GAO (whose headquarters is shown above) comes as the Senate prepares to begin its impeachment trial next week. House Democrats on Wednesday transmitted to the Senate articles of impeachment leveled at Trump for alleged abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, after charging Trump with using the Ukraine aid as a bargaining chip for personal political gain.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The GOP said Trump committed no crime. The GAO says he broke the law, Aaron Blake, Jan. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The ruling from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office severely undermined a core Trump impeachment defense.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas has set off a chain reaction that Donald Trump can’t stop, Shirley Kennedy, Jan. 17, 2020. Parnas sat down with Rachel Maddow to discuss the Ukraine debacle. According to Parnas, “president” Trump “knew exactly what was going on” in Ukraine. Parnas, left, who lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020was joined by his counsel, said that he was their “on the ground person” in manufacturing dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden.

In addition to exposing Trump’s involvement in this criminal scheme, Parnas said that AG Bill Barr “was basically on the team” and that John Bolton was also aware. According to the Guardian, which reported on Parnas’ appearance, there are additional documents that have not yet been released that House prosecutors plan to present during the impeachment trial.

Parnas got very specific in his interview. He said that he was instructed by Giuliani to inform Ukraine officials that unless an investigation into the Bidens was announced, Mike Pence would not attend Zelensky’s inauguration. Parnas further alleges that the next day, Trump called Ukraine himself to advise that Pence would be canceling his trip. This means Pence was in on the extortion scheme, though we already expected that to be the case. Parnas claims that Trump’s decision to withhold military aid and cut off all relations came up after Ukrainian officials declined to investigate the Bidens.

bill palmer report logo headerSpeaking of withholding military aid, the Guardian also reported that the Government Accountability Office investigated and concluded that Trump violated the law by freezing those funds. The GOA report specifically stated: “Faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.”

Not surprisingly, the Office of Budget Management “disagrees” with the report. Rachel Semmel, OMB spokesperson, claims that “OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law.” The problem is that with this “president,” those two things rarely, if ever, coincide.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: All the President’s Thugs, Michelle Goldberg, right, Jan. 17, 2020. Of course Lev Parnas is unreliable. He worked for Trump. One good thing about surrounding yourself with tawdry gangsters and grifters is that if they flip on you, you can claim they have no credibility because they’re criminals.

Now that Lev Parnas, a key conspirator in Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s plot to shake down Ukraine, is singing, Trump’s defenders are pointing out that he is a disreputable person who can’t be trusted. “This is a man who is under indictment and who’s actually out on bail. This is a man who owns a company called Fraud Inc.,” the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said on Fox News, the only network on which she regularly appears. (Parnas’s company was actually called Fraud Guarantee, though that’s not any better.)

Grisham is obviously correct that he’s a shady character. He’s certainly not someone you’d want, say, threatening foreign officials on behalf of the president of the United States, as Parnas claimed he did during an extraordinary interview with Rachel Maddow that aired on Wednesday and Thursday on MSNBC.

None of that, however, means that his dramatic interview on the eve of Trump’s impeachment trial shouldn’t be taken seriously. That’s because much of what he says has been corroborated, and because the very fact that a person like Parnas was carrying out high-level international missions for the president shows how mob-like this administration is.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Poll finds black Americans determined to limit Trump to one term, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Vanessa Williams, Dan Balz and Scott Clement, Jan. 17, 2020. The Washington Post-Ipsos poll of African Americans reveals fears about whether their children will have a fair shot and a belief that whites don’t fully appreciate the discrimination they face.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Excerpt: ‘You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals, Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Jan. 17, 2020. The new book A Very Stable Genius documents how President Trump lashed out at attempts by military leaders and diplomats to teach him about U.S. alliances and obligations around the globe.

There is no more sacred room for military officers than 2E924 of the Pentagon, a windowless and secure vault where the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet regularly to wrestle with classified matters. Its more common name is “the Tank.” The Tank resembles a small corporate boardroom, with a gleaming golden oak table, leather swivel armchairs and other mid-century stylings. Inside its walls, flag officers observe a reverence and decorum for the wrenching decisions that have been made there.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had grown alarmed by gaping holes in Trump’s knowledge of history, especially the key alliances forged following World War II. Trump had dismissed allies as worthless, cozied up to authoritarian regimes in Russia and elsewhere, and advocated withdrawing troops from strategic outposts and active theaters alike.

So on July 20, 2017, Mattis invited Trump to the Tank for what he, Tillerson, and Cohn had carefully organized as a tailored tutorial. What happened inside the Tank that day crystallized the commander in chief’s berating, derisive and dismissive manner, foreshadowing decisions such as the one earlier this month that brought the United States to the brink of war with Iran.

The Tank meeting was a turning point in Trump’s presidency. Rather than getting him to appreciate America’s traditional role and alliances, Trump began to tune out and eventually push away the experts who believed their duty was to protect the country by restraining his more dangerous impulses.

washington post logoWashington Post, These Mormon twins worked together on an IRS whistleblower complaint over the church’s billions — and it tore them apart, Michelle Boorstein and Jon Swaine, Jan. 17, 2020 (print ed.). After a lifetime of shared aims, the decision by one Nielsen twin to go public with their confidential complaint has opened a rift so deep that they stopped speaking.

• Washington Post, Evangelical groups try new IRS strategy that keeps salaries hidden

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump starts cursing and goes completely off the rails about impeachment during ceremony with college sports team, Bill Palmer, Jan. 17, 2020. Yesterday Donald Trump finally figured out he’s been impeached, when he had an all caps meltdown on Twitter that started with “I JUST GOT IMPEACHED.” Nevermind that he got impeached a month ago, of course. But now that he’s awoken from his stupor, he’s quickly become obsessed with his impeachment. In fact, when he held a ceremony with a college football national championship team today, he completely lost it.

bill palmer report logo headerWhile Donald Trump was standing in front of the LSU football team, he said “It’s been a long time, a lot of presidents, some good, some not so good. But you got a good one now, even though they’re trying to impeach the son of a bitch. Can you believe that?” He then began dishonestly bragging about his phony accomplishments in office. Watch the video here:

So let’s see here. Trump is more obsessed with his impeachment than ever, though he’s now apparently back to not understanding that he’s already been impeached. They’re not trying to impeach him right now; they’re trying to decide whether to remove him because he’s been impeached. Trump is also bizarrely calling himself a “son of a bitch” while standing in front of a bunch of teenagers. And he couldn’t make it through the celebration of these kids without trying to make the moment all about himself. What a loser.

Media News 

mitch mcconnell capitol Photo saul Loeb AFP Custom 2

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol (Photo by Saul Loeb / AFP)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Advocacy: RSF USA calls on the Senate to reverse unprecedented restrictions on the press, Jan. 17, 2020. RSF strongly condemns the restrictions the Senate sergeant at arms and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration are imposing on Capitol Hill reporters during the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump. RSF calls on the Senate Majority Leader to reverse these rules immediately.

Members of the press covering the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, which began January 16, are facing new “security measures” in the form of restrictions that are not typically imposed on Capitol Hill reporters. The full extent of these measures is unclear as the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration have not provided a formal document outlining them. However, one rule prohibits reporters from walking through the halls of Congress to ask senators questions. Others prevent reporters from bringing electronic devices into the Senate Chamber, require journalists to pass through a second security screening inside the Senate, and force them into pens and roped-off lines so they cannot access senators as they normally would.

“Until he reverses these arbitrary new rules, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is violating Americans’ First Amendment rights during a monumental moment in US history: the trial for the impeachment of the President of the United States,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Executive Director of RSF USA. “By preventing the press from asking questions on behalf of the American people during this trial, the Senate is escaping public scrutiny and effectively undermining the very foundation of our democracy.”

The Standing Committee of Correspondents, an organization that represents and accredits daily reporters on Capitol Hill, sent a letter to Senate leaders on January 14 protesting the rules. And on January 16, RSF joined 57 other media outlets and journalism organizations in sending a letter to Senate leadership opposing the restrictions.

The United States is ranked 48th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

TeleSUR, Abby Martin Banned From Speaking at US University For Refusing to Sign Pro-Israel Pledge, Jan. 17, 2020. Since 2014, 28 states, among those Georgia, have adopted anti-boycott laws, including five executive orders issued by governors.

Former teleSUR presenter and creator of The Empire Files Abby Martin was blocked from delivering a keynote speech at Georgia Southern University for refusing to "sign a contractual pledge to not boycott Israel" to comply with the anti-Boycott, Divest and Sanctions state law.

"After I was scheduled to give a keynote speech at an upcoming Georgia Southern conference, organizers said I must comply with Georgia's anti-BDS law," Martin tweeted on Friday.

Since 2014, 28 states, among those Georgia, have adopted anti-boycott laws, including five executive orders issued by governors.

"I refused and my talk was canceled. The event fell apart after colleagues supported me." Martin is an outspoken critic of Israel’s apartheid government and anti-Palestinian policies.

As the nationwide crackdown on BDS continues, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Dec. 11 that will effectively allow the government to interpret Judaism as both a race or nationality and religion under federal law so that the Education Department can take direct action against what he views as “anti-Semitism on college campuses.”

Trump stated clearly that the decision targets the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) calling it an “anti-Semitic campaign against Israel.”

The order will trigger Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that requires educational institutions receiving federal funding to not discriminate based on national origin; meaning the government can now withhold federal funding from any college or educational program that is deemed to allow or endorse “anti-Semitism.”

BDS has gained notoriety in college campuses across the U.S. with more people understanding and backing the Palestinian struggle.

The non-violent BDS movement, however, was founded in 2005 by 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks, and women organizations, among others, has gained such renown that it was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Inspired by South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, BDS calls for non-violent pressure on Israel through boycotting any organization linked to the state of Israel, withdrawing investment from Israeli companies, and sanctioning the county until Israel recognizes the right of Palestinian refugees to return, ends the illegal military occupation of Palestine, and ends the apartheid regime by recognizing Palestinian's equal rights and stops human rights abuses.

U.S. Law, Courts

Palmer Report, Opinion: Wait, what’s going on with Michael Flynn? Bill Palmer, Jan. 17, 2020. The saga of Michael Flynn [[Trump's first National Security Advisor]] just keeps getting stranger – michael flynn prison palmer graphicand worse for him. He had a cooperating plea deal that was going to give him no prison time. Then he went off the deep end and screwed that up, and found himself looking at six months in prison.

Now he’s seeking to withdraw his guilty plea entirely, which would likely result in him doing years in prison. Now the judge has thrown a new curveball into the mix.

Yesterday, Michael Flynn [shown in a Palmer Report graphic] formally asked Judge Emmet Sullivan for approval to withdraw his guilty plea. In response, the judge delayed sentencing until late February, giving Flynn’s attorneys time to make their case. So what’s really going on here?

bill palmer report logo headerThe judge [shown below at right] has known this request from Flynn was coming for some time. We suspect that if the judge were going to grant Flynn’s request, he’d have done so today. We further suspect that the judge is only giving Flynn this window of time so that he can look reasonable when he eventually denies Flynn’s request. That said, we could be entirely wrong, and Flynn could end up successfully withdrawing his plea and ending up on trial.

If that happens, Michael Flynn’s worst nightmare is going to come true. During his trial, prosecutors will bring out all the evidence against Flynn emmet sullivan 2012that didn’t see the light of day due to his plea deal. They’ll also likely bring a superseding indictment against Flynn, adding the criminal charges that he avoided when he cut the deal. Keep in mind that he only had to plead guilty to his least serious crime, which is why he was only going to get zero to six months.

Michael Flynn could now end up going to prison for a very long time. If he’s doing this because he thinks he’s magically going to get pardoned by Donald Trump, he should consider that Trump has pardoned precisely zero of his co-conspirators, and has let them all rot behind bars. That’s probably because Trump isn’t willing to run the risk of triggering a court battle and screwing up his ability to pardon himself on his way out the door. Flynn is trying to throw his life away based on a false promise. Flynn will be very lucky if the judge rejects his request and sentences him to just the six months in prison.

Buffalo News, 'I cannot face my constituents': Anguished Chris Collins faces 26 months in prison, Jerry Zremski, Jan. 17, 2020. Chris Collins cried so hard that many of his words got lost in his anguish.

But that act of contrition only meant so much to U.S. District Court Judge Vernon S. Broderick, who on Friday sentenced Collins to 26 months in prison for launching an insider trading scheme with a call to his son from a White House picnic in June 2017.

chris collins cropped oWhen Collins, 69, walked out of the courtroom, it signaled the stunning end of a public life that saw him become a wealthy entrepreneur, the Erie County executive and a member of Congress who was an early and close ally of Donald Trump.

On Friday, his power stripped and his career ended, Collins awaited his fate. And as emotionless as Collins was passionate, Broderick explained his sentence with boilerplate language like that used by judges in every court, for every offense.

"I do believe there is a need to both show respect for the law and to inflict just punishment," the judge said. "And I do agree there is a need for general deterrence."

With those thoughts in mind, Broderick also fined Collins $200,000. And once he leaves prison, the former four-term Republican lawmaker from Clarence will have to go through one year of supervised release.

That sentence came at the end of an unusually long three-hour sentencing hearing. Focused mostly on legal minutiae, the hearing's tone changed abruptly just before Broderick issued his sentence, when he asked Collins if he had anything to say.

Never known as an especially sensitive politician, Collins – looking tanned but visibly older than he did before his August 2018 arrest – stood and started sobbing.

"I violated my core values," Collins said, his voice cracking. "I am standing here, probably the last time I will do anything in public. I left Buffalo. I cannot face my constituents. People feel sorry for me. They shouldn't. I did what I did."

republican elephant logoCollins then went on an extended description of what and whom he betrayed when he called his son Cameron with that stock tip.

An Eagle Scout and longtime scout leader, the elder Collins noted that he violated the first three words of the Boy Scout oath: "On my honor."

And as a result, "I will never be involved in scouting again, which is my life," he said. "That has rocked me to the core."

That's just the start. Not only did Collins share secret bad news with his son about Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech where the elder Collins sat on the board, he and his son also agreed that Cameron Collins should dump his Innate stock based on that information.

On top of that, Cameron Collins shared that inside information with his girlfriend, Lauren Zarsky, and her parents, Stephen Zarsky and Dorothy Zarsky.

And as a result, Cameron Collins and Stephen Zarsky also got arrested and, like the then-congressman, pleaded guilty in October. Lauren Zarsky and Dorothy Zarsky faced a civil action from the Securities and Exchange Commission and had to forgo their ill-gotten gains and pay penalties.

The elder Collins blamed himself for all of that and more.

"I've destroyed the reputation of my son," he said. "He's 27. He can't be involved in scouting. He'll probably never have a job."

Because of the scandal, Collins' wife, Mary, had her credit card canceled, and his daughter Caitlin's brokerage account got canceled, too, he said.

As for Collins, he had to resign from Congress when he pleaded guilty.

Noting that several of his former colleagues had texted him Friday morning, Collins said: "I let them down – and the president of the United States."

Collins was the first House member to endorse Trump for president, and one of the new Republican president's most televised defenders in 2017 and early 2018. Some in the White House thought he might be a Cabinet secretary someday, or even White House chief of staff.

But after Collins' August 2018 arrest, he fell into what he called "a dark place." He pulled out of it, he said, because of his daughter Caitlin.

"When I was in that dark hole, she said to me, 'Don't leave us, I want you in our kids' life,' " Collins said. "I climbed out of it because of her."

More On Epstein Death

jeffrey epstein mehmet oz david shankbone flickr palm beach sheriff dept Custom

Jeffrey Epstein (left). Dr Mehmet Oz. (Right). Photo credit: David Shankbone / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) and Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department / Wikimedia

WhoWhatWhy, More Reasons to Question the Jeffrey Epstein ‘Suicide,’ Staff report, Jan. 17, 2020. Forensic pathologist Michael Baden has expanded on the evidence he provided to 60 Minutes. What he finds is more consistent with murder than with suicide.

On the heels of his analysis in a 60 Minutes interview pointing to reasons to believe Jeffrey Epstein may have been murdered, forensic pathologist Michael Baden is now back with more claims.

Baden, who was hired by Epstein’s family, presented his evidence on a Dr. Oz special, aired on January 16. In case you missed it, here are the main highlights with respect to the medical evidence. (He presented other evidence as well, on both shows.)

Previously, we posted our own observations that suggested Epstein may not have died from hanging: They concerned the strangeness of the marks across his throat — not only their location (too low, as pointed out by 60 Minutes), but the nature of the marks themselves.

Jan. 16

Blockbuster Impeachment News 

rudy giuliani lev parnas trump international Custom

 Donald Trump Counsel Rudolph Giuliani, left, with businessman Lev Parnas last fall at the Trump International Hotel shortly before the arrest of Parnas and his colleagueg Ignor Fruman while boarding a flight to Vienna from Dulles International Airport.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC / Rachel Maddow Show, Lev Parnas: 'President Trump knew exactly what was going on,' Rachel Maddow, Jan. 15, 2020 (3:06 min.). Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, talks with Rachel Maddow in an exclusive interview about the extent of Donald Trump's knowledge of the work he was doing to manipulate the president of Ukraine to help Trump smear political rival Joe Biden.

  • lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020MSNBC, Lev Parnas (right): 'Attorney General Barr was basically on the team,' 2:19 min.

  • MSNBC, Lev Parnas remarks on role of Devin Nunes in Trump Ukraine Scheme, 2:27 min.

  • MSNBC, Shocking new evidence rocks Trump impeachment before Senate trial, 5:11 min.

  • MSNBC, Ukraine prosecutor offered dirt on Biden in exchange for firing of U.S. Ambassador, Jan. 15, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani have demolished Trump’s claims of innocence, Neal Katyal, right, and Joshua A. Geltzer neal katyal o(professors at Georgetown Law Center), Jan. 16, 2020 (print ed.). New documents show why the president has been trying to hide evidence from Congress. Americans who have been wondering why President Trump has taken the extraordinary step of trying to block every document from being released to Congress in his impeachment inquiry need wonder no longer.

The new documents released Tuesday evening by the House Intelligence Committee were devastating to Trump’s continuing — if shifting — defense of his Ukraine extortion scandal, just days before his impeachment trial is likely to begin in the Senate. These new documents demolish at least three key defenses to which Trump and his allies have been clinging: that he was really fighting corruption U.S. House logowhen he pressured Ukraine on matters related to the Biden family; that Hunter Biden should be called as a witness at the Senate impeachment trial; and that there’s no need for a real, honest-to-goodness trial in the Senate.

The most basic principles of constitutional law require relevant information, including documents and executive branch witnesses, to be turned over to Congress in an impeachment proceeding. Particularly because sitting presidents cannot be indicted, impeachment is the only immediate remedy we the people have against a lawless president. For that remedy to have any teeth, relevant information has to be provided. That’s why President James Polk said that, during impeachment, Congress could “penetrate into the most secret recesses of the Executive Departments … command the attendance of any and every agent of the Government, and compel them to produce all papers, public or private, official or unofficial.” No president, not even Richard Nixon, thought he could just say “no” to impeachment. That’s why the House added Article II to Trump’s impeachment: “Obstruction of Congress.” It was a response to an unprecedented attempt by a president to hide the truth.

nancy pelosi impeachment ny post cover sept 25 2019 CustomThe documents released Tuesday show what Trump has been so afraid of. For starters, they prove that his already-eyebrow-raising claim to have been fighting corruption in Ukraine was bogus. Notes taken by Lev Parnas — who is an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and is now facing federal criminal charges — show what his and Giuliani’s mission was when they got in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: “get Zalensky to Announce that the Biden case will Be Investigated.” Look hard at the real goal here: not to prompt an investigation of Hunter Biden, but to score an announcement of a Biden investigation. Pursuing an announcement, rather than an investigation, makes sense only if Trump’s objective was to dirty the reputation of Joe Biden, a leading political rival.

Both of us served in high-ranking Justice Department positions; we’ve never heard of an investigation that is kept from the Justice Department, given to a private lawyer and then publicly announced — investigations work best when done in secret. If Trump, as he has long claimed, was truly interested in pursuing anti-corruption efforts in the bizarrely specific form of a single investigation of a single American citizen, then he would have wanted an actual investigation. Instead, he was fixated on the public announcement of one — which, if anything, would have harmed the investigation by tipping off its subject. The public announcement would have helped only one thing: Trump’s personal political prospects.

Palmer Report, Opinion: How Lev Parnas took a blowtorch to Donald Trump and saved his own neck in the process, Bill Palmer, Jan. 16, 2020.  When Lev Parnas appeared on the Rachel Maddow show last night, he didn’t just take a blowtorch to everyone involved in Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. He transformed himself from a shadowy criminal punchline into a relatable human figure. Yes, he’s still one of the bad guys. But now he’s a real live person on your television. He’s a guy you’re glad came forward. He’s a guy whose story you believe, or mostly believe.

bill palmer report logo headerEven before the interview, it was easy to put together why Lev Parnas was bypassing Department of Justice in favor of cooperating with the House and the media: he doesn’t trust the DOJ as long as Trump and Bill Barr are running it, and he thinks his chances of getting eventual leniency from the post-Trump DOJ are better if he helps to take Trump down. It wasn’t until the end of the interview that the other part of the equation became clear, but we should have seen it sooner.

When Maddow was doing an extended handoff with Lawrence O’Donnell, he asked why Lev Parnas, left, was willing to give such a self-incriminating interview. Maddow said that Lev thinks going public represents his best shot at survival.

lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020That’s when it became clear just how precarious of a position Parnas is in. His own text messages reveal that he participated in a conversation (which he now says wasn’t serious) about hiring local goons in Ukraine to target U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. If you’re part of a criminal conspiracy involving discussions of physically harming a U.S. Ambassador, you know that the conspiracy in question is out of control – and maybe you’re the one who ends up getting physically harmed.

There are still a lot of questions about whether Donald Trump and Bill Barr were involved in the “suicide” of Trump’s pal Jeffrey Epstein (shown on a gurney being transported dead from his federally supervised cell).

jeffrey epstein gurney cropped emergency roomThere is no question that Vladimir Putin has murdered several people who have gotten in his way, and let’s not forget that Lev Parnas pissed off a Kremlin oligarch during this crime spree. Would Putin really risk bumping off a U.S. citizen like Parnas just to help out Trump? It’s enough that the question has to be asked at all.

But if Lev Parnas was in physical danger from one side or another, that probably goes out the window now. He was just on live national television. He’s everybody’s favorite reformed former Trump henchman now. It would cause way too much of a stink if someone “disappeared” Parnas now. It’s not just that Lev may have saved his own neck in terms of doing less prison time; he may have just saved his own neck literally.

  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just buried Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Barr and more, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just pretty much forced John Bolton’s testimony to happen, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Adam Schiff reveals the House has more up its sleeve against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Confirmed: Lev Parnas is throwing EVERYONE under the bus tonight, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s what you can expect from Rachel Maddow’s interview tonight with Lev Parnas, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Pelosi to Trump: "Do you paint houses too?" The answer is he hires people to do that, Wayne Madsen, left, Jan. 16, 2020. In comments made on January 15 prior to her signing two Articles of Impeachment on Donald John Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quoted from the recent movie, The Irishman, implying that Trump has links to organized crime.

nancy pelosi impeachmentPelosi, shown right in a file photo, speaking on the House floor, rhetorically asked Trump, "Do you paint houses too? What is this? Do me a favor?” Pelosi was paraphrasing an excerpt from the summary of Trump's July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In the film, Al Pacino, who plays Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, says to Robert De Niro, who plays Frank Sheeran, a Philadelphia mobster and member of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Bufalino crime family, “I heard you paint houses." The phrase is mafia code language for conducting hits on mob targets. Sheeran's story was told in the non-fiction book by Charles Brandt, I Heard You Paint HousesThe Irishman is based on the book.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Impeachment descends into darkness, Dana Milbank
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Lev Parnas just accused Giuliani of a criminal conspiracy with Trump, Greg Sargent

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: New revelations as Senate trial is set to begin, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, Jan. 16, 2020. John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States, is headed to the Senate on Thursday, where he is expected to be sworn in to preside over the john roberts ohistoric impeachment trial of President Trump, focused on the president’s conduct toward Ukraine.

Roberts’s arrival is part of a day of ritual and formalities, which will also include the swearing in of senators as jurors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the trial will get underway “in earnest” next week. Fallout also continued Thursday from new allegations by Lev Parnas, a former associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, that Trump knew of his efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine that could benefit Trump politically.

Daily Beast, Lev Parnas: ‘I Felt Like My Family Left Me,’ Betsy Swan, Jan. 16, 2020. The Soviet-born businessman at the center of daily beast logoRudy Giuliani’s dirt-digging crusade in Ukraine tells The Daily Beast he’s determined to speak out despite backlash.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, Lev Parnas – an ex-associate of Rudy Giuliani’s who’s at the heart of the impeachment scandal–said he’s determined to keep speaking out about his work in Trump World regarding Ukraine despite backlash.

Parnas sat with Rachel Maddow for an MSNBC interview that aired Wednesday, and then with CNN’s Anderson Cooper for another interview set to run Thursday night. In his conversation with Maddow, he said President Donald Trump knew all about his efforts to pressure Kyiv to give him political favors. And he said that Giuliani told Ukrainian leaders that Parnas specifically spoke on the president’s behalf. The comments drew attention from Capitol Hill, and Democratic Congressional investigators have pointed to them as good reason for the Senate to call witnesses in its impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

john solomon joseph digenova victoria toensing

Parnas told The Daily Beast that his former friends’ reaction to his arrest has strengthened his resolve about speaking out. Parnas said that after he and his associate Igor Fruman were arrested at Dulles Airport on Oct. 9 and charged with campaign finance violations, he was disappointed with silence from Rudy Giuliani. He said that Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing – a Trump-friendly husband-wife legal team (shown above with journalist / Trump advocate John Soloman at left) with deep and longstanding ties in Washington’s conservative legal world – also kept mum about their relationship with him. The silence, he said, left him feeling betrayed.

“I felt like my family left me,” he said.

He noted that the trio rarely shy away from defending controversial clients and allies on TV. But in his case, Parnas said, they were silent.

“Knowing everything about me, knowing that this was probably a hit job, they all just clammed up,” he said.

He noted that the president also disavowed knowing him, despite numerous pictures of them together at multiple events. And he said that he’d hoped to cooperate with Congressional investigators as soon as they asked for his help.

Toensing, diGenova, and Giuliani did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump said on Thursday afternoon that he does not know Parnas. Earlier this week, Giuliani–who was shown to be in close contact with Parnas in text messages released by House Democrats this week–dismissed Parnas as a “proven liar,” claiming his decision to provide documents to congressional Democrats was a bid for “attention.

World News

washington post logoukraine flagWashington Post, Ukraine opens probe into possible surveillance of U.S. ambassador, David L. Stern and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Jan. 16, 2020. The move follows the disclosure of new documents showing former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas discussing possible efforts to monitor the movements of Marie Yovanovitch.

washington post logounited kingdom flagWashington Post, How Megxit put Queen Elizabeth II in the role of crisis manager once again, William Booth, Jan. 16, 2020. At 93, an age when many matriarchs would be among the dearly or nearly departed, or elbowed aside to allow an ambitious younger generation to run the show, the queen remains firmly in charge — of both a sprawling, often problematic family and the monarchy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin’s plans post-presidency could see him wielding influence for life, Robyn Dixon and Isabelle Khurshudyan​, Jan. 16, 2020. By trying to curb presidential powers before he steps down, Vladimir Putin is laying the groundwork to keep his grip on Russia’s autocracy.

In 1999, Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin appointed a competent, little-known security official named Vladimir Putin as acting prime minister, before steering him into the presidency. Here, Yeltsin thought, was a loyalist who would protect him and his family from prosecution but also safeguard Yeltsin’s legacy — a Russia that could never return to communism.

On Wednesday, Putin nominated a competent, little-known tax official named Mikhail Mishustin as prime minister. But unlike Yeltsin, Putin will not relinquish control when his term expires in 2024 or risk what he sees as his legacy — a strong authoritarian state carving out a growing role on the global stage.

Mishustin, rubber-stamped as prime minister by Russian lawmakers on Thursday, is seen by analysts as an obedient technocrat who will do what Putin tells him — and, if not, he will be blamed and probably replaced.

washington post logoWashington Post, Transportation secretary’s expert panel defends FAA system that approved deadly 737 Max jets, Ian Duncan and Michael Laris, Jan. 16, 2020. The group warned against “radical” changes to the system the FAA uses to review new aircraft.

A panel of aviation safety experts assembled by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao after two deadly crashes involving Boeing 737 Max planes concluded that the FAA followed its own rules in approving the aircraft as safe to fly, dismissing criticisms that the agency gives manufacturers too boeing logomuch authority to oversee their own work.

Instead, the panel warned against overhauling the system the FAA uses to review new aircraft.

The group, led by Lee Moak, the former head of a major pilots union, found that the current system of allowing Boeing and other manufacturers to oversee much of their own work both “promotes safety” and allows “industry and innovation to thrive.”

“Any radical changes to this system could undermine the collaboration and expertise that undergird the current certification system, jeopardizing the remarkable level of safety that has been attained in recent decades,” the group wrote.

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to overturn Trump rule that makes loan forgiveness harder; Senate fight looms, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel​, Jan. betsy devos o16, 2020. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right, spent two years trying to delay and then scuttle an Obama-era update of a 1995 law that gave the Education Department authority to cancel the federal debt of students whose colleges misled them about graduation or job placement rates.

The House voted Thursday to overturn a Trump administration policy that makes it more difficult for students who say they were defrauded by colleges to have their federal education loans canceled, setting the stage for a fight in the Senate.

The 231-to-180 vote fell largely along party lines, with six Republicans endorsing a resolution to scrap the administration’s overhaul of a 1995 law known as “borrower defense to repayment.” The law gives the Education Department authority to cancel the federal debt of students whose colleges misled them about graduation or job placement rates to get them to enroll.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spent two years trying to delay and then scuttle an Obama-era update of the law that lowered hurdles for students and shifted more of the cost of forgiveness onto schools.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Why Does America Hate Its Children? Paul Krugman, right, Jan. 16, 2020. Reasons child care should be a key election issue. The other day a correspondent asked me a good question: What important issue aren’t we talking about? My answer, after some reflection, is the state of America’s children.

A few numbers may be in order here.

Every advanced country mandates some form of paid leave for new mothers, typically three or four months — every country, that is, except America, which offers no maternity leave at all.

Most advanced countries devote substantial sums to benefits for families with children; in Europe these benefits average between 2 and 3 percent of G.D.P. The corresponding number for the United States is 0.6 percent of G.D.P.

Media News

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion: Impeachment descends into darkness, Dana Milbank, right, Jan. 16, 2020 (print ed.).  Under the glare of 61 floodlights, the House voted Wednesday to appoint managers to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate. Projectors beamed each lawmaker’s name and vote onto a wall for all to see.

And now comes the darkness.

As the long-delayed transfer of the impeachment articles finally got underway, President Trump’s allies in the Senate announced extraordinary new restrictions on press coverage of the upcoming trial, shielding senators in unprecedented ways from the prying eyes of the American public.

When House managers arrived with the impeachment articles in a ceremonial procession Tuesday evening, Senate Republican leadership had already decreed that their arrival would be filmed only by a single, shared TV camera (partially obstructed, it turned out) at the doors of the chamber in which the mostly empty desks of Republican senators also could not be seen.

mitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his team — the Senate sergeant-at-arms and Rules Committee make the decisions, but McConnell (R-Ky.), shown in a file photo when he was entering a senators-only elevator, is the driving force behind the restrictions, people involved tell me — further decreed that journalists would be confined during the entire trial to roped-off pens, forbidden from approaching senators in Capitol corridors.

The GOP leadership likewise rejected a request from the Standing Committee of Correspondents to allow journalists to bring laptops or silenced phones into the chamber so they could write (the House allows this) or to allow cameras in to capture the history of the moment (the House allowed this during the impeachment process).

It’s obvious what the restrictions are about, because they mirror McConnell’s general approach to the trial. He had signed on to a proposal to dismiss the House impeachment articles without a trial. He has resisted allowing documentary or testimonial evidence to surface during the trial. And now he’s doing everything in his power to shield senators from reporters — and from the public.

Because still and TV cameras aren’t allowed in the chamber, the only images will be C-SPAN-style footage from fixed TV cameras operated by government employees. The public won’t be able to see which senators are sleeping, talking or missing entirely.

McConnell’s team also decided to claw back seats typically reserved for the general public, to “augment” seating for their own friends and family; they’ll have at least 134 such seats. They offered no such augmentation for the media, which has 107 seats, only about 20 of which provide a full view of the Senate floor.

Nor can the senators be observed outside the chamber. At a private luncheon of Republican senators this week, Blunt showed where the media would be penned in and reportedly “joked” that the senators could now avoid reporters.

It’s a curious attempt at fortress-building after House Republicans noisily objected to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) taking depositions in his “basement bunker.” They can’t quash the trial itself, but McConnell’s restrictions will go a long way toward restricting what the American public sees of this historic moment.

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Passes Revised NAFTA, Sending Pact to Trump’s Desk, Emily Cochrane, Jan. 16, 2020. The Senate gave bipartisan approval to the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement as House lawmakers prepared to read aloud charges of high crimes and misdemeanors. Congress on Thursday gave final approval to President Trump’s revised North American Free Trade Agreement handing the president his second trade victory of the week as House lawmakers prepared to read aloud charges of high crimes and misdemeanors on the Senate floor.

The 89 to 10 vote in the Senate on implementing legislation for the revised United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will send the measure to Mr. Trump, who is expected to sign it next week.

The bipartisan vote in support of the trade deal offered a striking contrast to the other big congressional initiative underway: Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.

Within an hour of senators approving the measure, the seven impeachment managers were set to begin the ceremonial process of presenting the impeachment articles on the Senate floor.

The unusual show of bipartisan agreement came just one day after Mr. Trump signed a long-awaited trade deal with China, giving the president two trade wins in a single week. Yet the lasting legacy of his presidency may be the competing narrative of a president who has achieved big economic wins while facing accusations of misdeeds while in office. Voters will now have to choose between a president who has lived up to his populist campaign promises to rip up and replace old trade deals with one who is accused of pressuring Ukraine by withholding financial aid to boost his re-election campaign.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Will Be Left Standing in the Supreme Court? Linda Greenhouse, Jan. 16, 2020. The Trump administration is doing its best linda greenhouse thumb Customto kick plaintiffs out of lawsuits it opposes. According to the Trump administration, doctors who perform abortion are not entitled to sue on behalf of their patients, even though the Supreme Court has upheld doctors’ “third-party standing” in abortion cases since 1976 on the theory that it is impractical for a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy to have to bring a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state-created obstacle.

This is a column about standing to sue. It may seem an oddly dry choice of topic with a presidential impeachment about to get underway and the world flying apart at an even faster pace than usual. But as I hope these current examples show, standing is a crucially important component of the power of the federal courts. Judges must dismiss a lawsuit that lacks a plaintiff with standing. In the cases I’ve listed, contested questions of standing are playing out in the shadows. I want to hold them up to the light. The picture is not a pretty one. It could go far to defining the current Supreme Court term.

It’s easy to lull people into assuming that the question of standing embodies some kind of neutral principle, divorced from ideology. Courts have developed a three-part inquiry for deciding whether a plaintiff has standing, designed to ensure that a lawsuit presents the “case or controversy” that Article III of the Constitution requires for the exercise of federal court jurisdiction. Did the plaintiff suffer a real injury? Was the injury caused by the defendant? And can a victory in court actually bring relief? These questions appear to invite simple yes-or-no answers. But a few minutes’ reflection shows that they are far from value-free, and finding the answers requires the exercise of judgment.

More on Impeachment

washington post logoWashington Post, Eyeing swift impeachment trial, Trump’s legal team aims to block witnesses and cast doubt on charges, Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 16, 2020 (print ed.). White House lawyers are trying to engineer the fastest impeachment trial in American history, aiming to have President Trump acquitted by the Senate without witnesses and after just a few days of proceedings, according to senior administration officials.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)Trump’s desire for a short trial has solidified over the past few weeks, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) delayed transmitting two articles of impeachment to the Senate because of concerns about how the trial would be structured. The White House, which previously supported a more expansive trial in the GOP-led Senate, has now accepted the idea that senators should make quick work of acquitting Trump.

“I think it’s extraordinarily unlikely that we’d be going beyond two weeks,” said a senior administration official, who briefed reporters Wednesday on the condition of anonymity. “We think that this case is overwhelming for the president, and the Senate’s not going to be having any need to be taking that amount of time on this.”

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘He knows who I am’: Lev Parnas says Devin Nunes was ‘involved in getting all this stuff on Biden,’ Timothy Bella, Jan. 16, devin nunes grimacing2020. Lev Parnas’s first TV interview on Ukraine, annotated. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif., shown in a file photo at right) acknowledged Wednesday night that he had in fact spoken with Lev Parnas over the phone as part of a conversation he previously said he could not recall. Parnas, a former associate of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, has been indicted on charges of violating campaign finance laws.

Nunes talked about the call shortly before Parnas claimed that the California congressman was “involved” in obtaining damaging information on former vice president Joe Biden, a political rival of Trump, and his son Hunter Biden as part of a shadow Ukraine campaign headed by Giuliani. Parnas told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he was stunned to see Nunes, whom he claims to have met “several times,” participating in the recent impeachment hearings.

lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020“I was in shock when I was watching the hearings and when I saw Devin Nunes sitting up there,” said Parnas, left, who has pleaded not guilty to the campaign finance charges. He added that he was curious as to why Derek Harvey, a Nunes aide he said he worked with on the shadow campaign, was present for the hearings. “I texted my attorney. I said, ‘I can’t believe this is happening,’ ” he said.

When Maddow asked why that was, Parnas replied: “ … Because they were involved in getting all this stuff on Biden.”

“It’s hard to see them lie like that when you know it’s, like, that scary because you know, he was sitting there and making all statements and all that when he knew very well that he knew what was going on,” Parnas said. “He knew what’s happening. He knows who I am.”

Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, was one of Trump’s most vociferous defenders during the House’s impeachment hearings, as he sought to discredit the inquiry of the president.

Parnas’s claim came hours after House Democrats released hundreds of pages of photos, messages and calendar entries to help construct a picture of the high level of access Parnas received in his efforts to make the Ukrainian president announce investigations related to the Bidens.

Parnas used access to Trump’s world to help push shadow Ukraine effort, new documents show

A couple of hours before the Parnas interview aired on MSNBC, Nunes was asked by Fox News host Martha MacCallum about the phone records that show that he spoke with the former Giuliani associate. Last month, Nunes told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that although it was “possible” that he spoke with Parnas, he did not “recall” his name. “I will go back and check my records, but it seems very unlikely I will be taking calls from random people,” he said at the time.

On Wednesday, however, Nunes said that after having time to go through his records, he was reminded that he did talk to Parnas — a chat he described as “random.”

“I just didn’t know the name — this name ‘Par-nas,’” Nunes said. “You know now that he had called my cellphone and I didn’t know his name, I didn’t remember the name, but I did remember going back where I was at the time — you can do that now, you actually know where you physically are — checked it with my records.

The National Press Club Journalism Institute, Advocacy: National Press Club, Journalism Institute denounce press limits on Senate trial, Staff report, national  press club logoJan. 16, 2020. The National Press Club and its Journalism Institute strongly object to restrictions on press coverage during the Senate trial of President Donald Trump. The proposed limitations are onerous, unnecessary and serve only to limit the news media’s ability to properly report on this historic event to the American public.

We fully support the position taken by the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which tried to negotiate rules of coverage only to see its suggestions ignored.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted that the Senate follow the same rules the Senate set for itself during the trial of President Bill Clinton 20 years ago. But when it comes to press coverage, the restrictions on news coverage planned by the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police far exceed the access limits imposed during the Clinton trial. Indeed, the constraints are more restrictive than they are for State of the Union messages or Inauguration ceremonies.

“These constraints and security obstacles only impede the press from doing its job,” said National Press Club President Michael Freedman. “When the conduct of our elected officials is under the highest scrutiny, the government should not be restricting the ability of journalists to be eyes and ears for the American public.”

As spelled out by the Standing Committee of Correspondents, the proposed restrictions on the press for the upcoming trial include:

  • Security sweeps with magnetometer inside the Senate press gallery
  • Penning in reporters outside the Senate chamber to prohibit them from freely getting access to Senators as they enter or leave the chamber.
  • A single pool camera to record the transmission of Articles of Impeachment from the House to the Senate.
  • Restrictions on reporters’ ability to walk and interview Senators from the Senate subway to the Capitol elevators.

“These restrictions set a horrible precedent and reinforce the lie that the news media is dangerous and the ‘enemy of the people,’” said Angela Greiling Keane, the president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute. “Congress should be the most accessible institution in government. As the branch closest to the people, it is ironic that these limits only isolate those who are elected to serve.”

While penning reporters has become commonplace over the years to improve traffic flow outside the Senate chamber, reporters have had free access to approach senators to question them about issues of the day. Sweeping reporters with a magnetometer as they enter the Senate gallery is simply unnecessary overkill as they would have already gone through security entering the Capitol.

We especially fear that these restrictions will become the new standard for congressional coverage, a slippery slope that will reduce accountability and further erode an essential tenet of our democracy — the need for an informed electorate.

The National Press Club, the world’s leading professional organization for journalists, represents more than 3,000 reporters, editors and professional communicators worldwide. The Club’s nonprofit affiliate, the National Press Club Journalism Institute, promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press, and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement. JIP Editor's Note: JIP's editor is a member of the club's Press Freedom Committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: GOP senator’s vicious outburst shows the corruption of Trump’s defenders, Greg Sargent, Jan. 16, 2020. If you were martha mcsally oa United States senator who just snapped angrily at a reporter for politely asking whether compelling new information about a matter of great import to the nation was weighing on your understanding of that consequential matter, you probably wouldn’t see this as something to advertise.

But then again, you’re not Martha McSally of Arizona. McSally, right, just did exactly this — yet she is now treating it as a badge of honor; as something to boast about.

cnn logoIn a perverse way, it’s fitting that this episode is going viral at exactly the moment when President Trump’s impeachment trial is getting underway — that is, when Trump’s defenders in the Senate are set to put on a great show of pretending to give serious consideration to the case against Trump, before voting to acquit him.

McSally’s vile little performance puts the lie to that notion as effectively as anything possibly could.

DavidSwanson.org, Opinion: #CNNisTrash, David Swanson, Jan. 16, 2020. Why has the hash tag #CNNisTrash been popular since this week’s presidential primary debate? There was nothing new about the corporate, militarist, anti-progressive slant of the debate “moderation.”

What was new was the level of blatant bias so extreme that even viewers who knew nothing about the issues couldn’t miss it, plus the amount of time CNN focused on expressing its hostility toward a single candidate, Bernie Sanders.

cnn logoRemarkably, CNN began Tuesday’s debate with a focus on endless U.S. wars in the Middle East, and with questions aimed at criticizing those who had supported the launching of some of those wars many years ago — support that various politicians and even media outlets like the New York Times (but not CNN) have long since been compelled to apologize for.

Yet the CNN moderator began by noting how close the United States had just come to war with Iran and then asking Bernie Sanders why he would be the best commander in chief, not why he would be the best president for making peace.

Next, CNN falsely claimed that Sanders had only recently admitted that his vote for war on Afghanistan was wrong, and equated that vote with Joe Biden’s vote for and promotion of war on Iraq, as well as Biden’s blatant lying about his record.

With each new topic, the bias grew in Tuesday’s debate. What can be read in the debate transcript was compounded by the titles CNN displayed on the lower part of the television screen during each segment. For example: “Sanders’ proposals would double federal spending over a decade; how will he avoid bankrupting the country?”

CNN, which added right-wing journalists to its panels of questioners at all four of its Republican primary debates in 2016, has adamantly refused to add progressive journalists to its panels at Democratic debates.

Then CNN turned to a story that it had reported on just prior to the debate, alleging that Sanders had told Senator Elizabeth Warren that he did not believe a woman could be elected U.S. president. The CNN moderator ignored Sanders’ assertions that he had a public record going back decades of stating that a woman could be elected president, that he had stayed out of the race in 2015 until Warren decided not to run, and that in fact he had told Warren no such thing. Then came this exchange:

CNN: So Senator Sanders — Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?

SANDERS: That is correct.

CNN: Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?

Many viewers recognized the slant. Many even began to notice the strange double standard in never mentioning the cost of any of the wars, but pounding away on the misleading assertions that healthcare and other human needs cost too much.

U.S. Law, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Investigating Years-Old Leaks and Appears Focused on Comey, Adam Goldman, Jan. 16, 2020. Prosecutors seem to be scrutinizing whether the former F.B.I. director James Comey illegally shared classified secrets, part of a highly unusual inquiry. Federal prosecutors in Washington are investigating a years-old leak of classified information about a Russian intelligence document, and they appear to be focusing on whether the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey illegally provided details to reporters, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

The case is the second time the Justice Department has investigated leaks potentially involving Mr. Comey, a frequent target of President Trump, who has repeatedly called him a “leaker.” Mr. Trump recently suggested without evidence that Mr. Comey should be prosecuted for “unlawful conduct” and spend years in prison.

The timing of the investigation could raise questions about whether it was motivated at least in part by politics. Prosecutors and F.B.I. agents typically investigate leaks of classified information around the time they appear in the news media, not years later. And the inquiry is the latest politically sensitive matter undertaken by the United States attorney’s office in Washington, which is also conducting an investigation of Mr. Comey’s former deputy, Andrew G. McCabe, that has been plagued by problems.

Law enforcement officials are scrutinizing at least two news articles about the F.B.I. and Mr. Comey, published in The New York Times and The Washington Post in 2017, that mentioned the Russian government document, according to the people familiar with the investigation. Hackers working for Dutch intelligence officials obtained the document and provided it to the F.B.I., and both its existence and the collection of it were highly classified secrets, the people said.

The document played a key role in Mr. Comey’s decision to sideline the Justice Department and announce in July 2016 that the F.B.I. would not recommend that Hillary Clinton face charges in her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state.

The investigation into the leaks began in recent months, the people said, but it is not clear whether prosecutors have impaneled a grand jury or how many witnesses they have interviewed. What prompted the inquiry is also unclear, but the Russian document was mentioned in a book published last fall, Deep State: Trump, the F.B.I., and the Rule of Law by James B. Stewart, a Times reporter.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr goes off the rails after Lev Parnas incriminates him, Bill Palmer, Jan. 16, 2020. Last night, Lev Parnas went on the Rachel Maddow show and directly incriminated Attorney General Bill Barr in a criminal plot to get Kremlin oligarch Dmitry william barr at dojFirtash to smear Robert Mueller. It’s not clear the extent to which Lev can substantiate this, but it is clear from Barr’s reaction that he’s afraid of where this is heading.

Bill Barr’s Department of Justice just leaked to the New York Times this afternoon that it’s running some kind of investigation into supposed leaks on the part of former FBI Director James Comey. We could write a book about all the objectionable things that Comey has done. But the Trump regime has been “investigating” his supposed anti-Trump leaks for years and has found nothing, which means Comey didn’t leak anything.

Given the timing, this can’t possibly be a coincidence. Lev Parnas has incriminated Bill Barr in the kind of crime that – if substantiated – guarantees Barr will be indicted and arrested the minute Trump is gone, meaning Barr desperately needs Trump to pardon him bill palmer report logo headeron his way out the door. Now half a day later, Barr is leaking something to the NY Times that makes it look like he’s going to magically take down Trump’s nemesis James Comey. It’s pretty clear that Barr is openly pandering for that pardon.

Of course by announcing another phony criminal investigation into an innocent person, Bill Barr is committing yet another felony. But at this point Barr’s life is over unless he gets that magic pardon from Trump, so perhaps Barr feels that he has nothing left to lose by escalating his crime spree. To be clear, nothing is going to happen to Comey. We’ve seen Barr leak these kinds of fake criminal probes into Trump’s enemies before, and they never go anywhere.

john dowd fox cropped

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas accuses Donald Trump’s lawyers of conspiring to harm him, Bill Palmer, Jan. 16, 2020. This evening Rachel Maddow aired the second part of her pre-recorded interview with Ukraine scandal figure Lev Parnas. This time around Lev went into detail about how Donald Trump’s own attorneys agreed to represent him, but then turned against him while he was in jail.

bill palmer report logo headerJohn Dowd (shown above in a file photo) and Kevin Downing are longtime Trump lawyers who also represented Lev Parnas. Parnas is alleging that Dowd and Downing made no effort to try to get him out on bail, and that when they came to visit him in jail, they began barking orders at him about how he needed to protect Trump. At this point Lev fired them on the spot and told them to get out of the room, prompting them to call the guards.

Let’s be clear here. Lev Parnas is accusing his own former attorneys of having conspired to prevent him from getting out on bail. Considering that Lev would have rotted in jail for perhaps a year until his trial was complete, he’s accusing these two attorneys of having conspired to severely harm him. This raises the question of why. At best, they’d be trying to keep Lev behind bars so he couldn’t talk to the media, as he’s doing now. At worst, were they trying to keep Lev behind bars so that physical harm could come to him?

These are serious accusations of criminal impropriety. Remarkably, Lev Parnas has produced a document in which Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow confirmed that Donald Trump gave permission for Trump lawyer John Dowd to represent Parnas. This comes even as Sekulow is set to serve as one of Trump’s defense attorneys in his Senate impeachment trial, whose proceedings formally got underway today. This is all exploding in real time.

robert hyde djt Custom

The Hill, FBI visits congressional candidate Robert Hyde's home, business, Justine Coleman, Jan. 16, 2020. The FBI visited the home and business of Connecticut congressional candidate Robert Hyde (shown above) early Thursday just days after he became the latest figure embroiled in the Ukraine scandal, news reports said.

A senior law enforcement official confirmed to NBC News and CNN that investigators visited Hyde’s home in Weatogue and his landscaping business in Avon, which also serves as headquarters for his House campaign, in the wake of the released texts that suggested Hyde was monitoring former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Authorities reportedly did not answer CNN’s questions about the candidate’s location and reasons they wanted to talk to him. Hyde’s messages were revealed in a chunk of evidence provided by Rudy Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas to the House for the impeachment investigation. The congressional candidate aiming to unseat Rep. Jahana Hayes (D) had written “they will let me know when she is on the move” and detailed the ambassador’s locations and security levels.

The congressional candidate has told NBC News that he was drunk when he sent the message. Parnas, who was indicted on campaign law violations in October, described Hyde in his Wednesday interview with Rachel Maddow as a “weird” character and said he doubted that he was actually tracking the ambassador.

"Well, I don't believe it's true," Parnas said. "I think he was either drunk or he was trying to make himself bigger than he was, so I didn't take it seriously."

washington post logoFBI logoWashington Post, FBI arrests 3 alleged members of white-supremacist group ‘the Base’ ahead of Virginia gun rally, Shane Harris and Devlin Barrett​, Jan. 16, 2020. Federal law enforcement officials moved on the trio partly out of concern they might engage in violence at Monday’s gun rights rally in Richmond, according to people familiar with the matter.

More On 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, It’s not just older voters who are giving Joe Biden his lead with black Americans, Eugene Scott​, Jan. 16, 2020.  Far more younger black voters back Joe Biden than the popular narrative suggests. the latest data from a Washington Post-Ipsos poll shows that it is not just older black voters backing Biden over his competitors, but a sizable percentage of younger voters, too.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is leading the field with the youngest group of black voters. More than 4 in 10, 42 percent, of black 18-to-34-year-olds are backing the lawmaker. But Biden earns about the same level of support among older millennials and voters from Generation X — ages 35 to 49 — at about 41 percent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Liz Cheney says she won’t seek open Senate seat, will seek reelection in House, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 16, 2020. Cheney, a daughter of former vice president Richard B. Cheney, has risen swiftly through the party ranks since winning election in 2016 and is now the third-ranking Republican in the House.

Jan. 15

Impeachment News

Democratic Debate Headlines

New Trump Scandal Headlines

Other Major Stories

 

Impeachment Excerpts

 msnbc logo CustomMSNBC / Rachel Maddow Show, Lev Parnas: 'President Trump knew exactly what was going on,' Rachel Maddow, Jan. 15, 2020 (3:06 min.). Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, talks with Rachel Maddow in an exclusive interview about the extent of Donald Trump's knowledge of the work he was doing to manipulate the president of Ukraine to help Trump smear political rival Joe Biden.

  • MSNBC, Lev Parnas untangles Dmytro Firtash role in Trump Ukraine scheme, Rachel Maddow, Jan. 15, 2020 (3:37 mins.). Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, talks with Rachel Maddow in an exclusive interview about the offer being made by indicted Kremlin-connected oligarch Dmytro Firtash to help Donald Trump in exchange for DOJ help with his criminal case in the U.S.
  • lev parnas rachel maddow interview jan 15 2020MSNBC, Lev Parnas (right): 'Attorney General Barr was basically on the team,' 2:19 min.

  • MSNBC, Lev Parnas remarks on role of Devin Nunes in Trump Ukraine Scheme, 2:27 min.

  • MSNBC, Shocking new evidence rocks Trump impeachment before Senate trial, 5:11 min.

  • MSNBC, Ukraine prosecutor offered dirt on Biden in exchange for firing of U.S. Ambassador, Jan. 15, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Lev Parnas and Rudy Giuliani have demolished Trump’s claims of innocence, Neal Katyal, right, and Joshua A. Geltzer neal katyal o(professors at Georgetown Law Center), Jan. 15, 2020. New documents show why the president has been trying to hide evidence from Congress. Americans who have been wondering why President Trump has taken the extraordinary step of trying to block every document from being released to Congress in his impeachment inquiry need wonder no longer.

The new documents released Tuesday evening by the House Intelligence Committee were devastating to Trump’s continuing — if shifting — defense of his Ukraine extortion scandal, just days before his impeachment trial is likely to begin in the Senate. These new documents demolish at least three key defenses to which Trump and his allies have been clinging: that he was really fighting corruption U.S. House logowhen he pressured Ukraine on matters related to the Biden family; that Hunter Biden should be called as a witness at the Senate impeachment trial; and that there’s no need for a real, honest-to-goodness trial in the Senate.

The most basic principles of constitutional law require relevant information, including documents and executive branch witnesses, to be turned over to Congress in an impeachment proceeding. Particularly because sitting presidents cannot be indicted, impeachment is the only immediate remedy we the people have against a lawless president. For that remedy to have any teeth, relevant information has to be provided. That’s why President James Polk said that, during impeachment, Congress could “penetrate into the most secret recesses of the Executive Departments … command the attendance of any and every agent of the Government, and compel them to produce all papers, public or private, official or unofficial.” No president, not even Richard Nixon, thought he could just say “no” to impeachment. That’s why the House added Article II to Trump’s impeachment: “Obstruction of Congress.” It was a response to an unprecedented attempt by a president to hide the truth.

nancy pelosi impeachment ny post cover sept 25 2019 CustomThe documents released Tuesday show what Trump has been so afraid of. For starters, they prove that his already-eyebrow-raising claim to have been fighting corruption in Ukraine was bogus. Notes taken by Lev Parnas — who is an associate of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and is now facing federal criminal charges — show what his and Giuliani’s mission was when they got in touch with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: “get Zalensky to Announce that the Biden case will Be Investigated.” Look hard at the real goal here: not to prompt an investigation of Hunter Biden, but to score an announcement of a Biden investigation. Pursuing an announcement, rather than an investigation, makes sense only if Trump’s objective was to dirty the reputation of Joe Biden, a leading political rival.

Both of us served in high-ranking Justice Department positions; we’ve never heard of an investigation that is kept from the Justice Department, given to a private lawyer and then publicly announced — investigations work best when done in secret. If Trump, as he has long claimed, was truly interested in pursuing anti-corruption efforts in the bizarrely specific form of a single investigation of a single American citizen, then he would have wanted an actual investigation. Instead, he was fixated on the public announcement of one — which, if anything, would have harmed the investigation by tipping off its subject. The public announcement would have helped only one thing: Trump’s personal political prospects.

  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just buried Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Barr and more, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just pretty much forced John Bolton’s testimony to happen, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Adam Schiff reveals the House has more up its sleeve against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Confirmed: Lev Parnas is throwing EVERYONE under the bus tonight, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s what you can expect from Rachel Maddow’s interview tonight with Lev Parnas, Bill Palmer, Jan. 15, 2020.

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC / The Beat with Ari, Lev Parnas tells Maddow ‘Trump knew exactly what was going on,’ Ari Melber, Jan. 15, 2020. Lev Parnas is breaking his silence in an exclusive interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. He says, “President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President. I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials.”

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Trump personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, in shirtsleeves, meets with, from left, Igor Fruman, business executive Dmitry Torner and Lev Parnas at a Paris cigar bar in May (Photo courtesy of Parnas attorney Joseph Bondy)

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani’s outreach to Ukrainian wanted in U.S. shows lengths he took in hunt for material to bolster Trump, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Paul Sonne and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 15, 2020. The president’s personal lawyer and his associates met in a number of European capitals with associates of gas tycoon Dmytro Firtash, according to people familiar with the encounters.

The four men are gathered around a table cluttered with glasses inside an exclusive Parisian cigar bar, beaming as they each offer an ebullient thumbs-up for the camera.

rudy giulianiRudolph W. Giuliani, right, President Trump’s personal attorney, is flanked by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born emigres who were helping him hunt for damaging information about Democrats in Ukraine and who now face federal campaign finance charges. At the center of the photo is a new character in the Trump-Ukraine drama: an executive at a company owned by Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian gas tycoon who has been allied with pro-Russia interests and is currently fighting extradition to the United States to face bribery charges.

Photos of the May cigar bar huddle provided to The Washington Post capture a new moment in Giuliani’s operation to procure information from Ukrainian sources to bolster his presidential client. That effort, which played out in various European cities last spring and summer, led Giuliani to seek information from Firtash’s network and other controversial figures with much to gain from helping Trump’s private lawyer.

• Washington Post, Analysis: How Ukraine’s top prosecutor went after Marie Yovanovitch, step by step

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ny times logoNew York Times, House Votes to Send Impeachment Charges to Senate, Approving Managers, Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Jan. 15, 2020.  The House’s long-anticipated vote fell largely along party lines, setting the stage for what promises to be a fiercely partisan impeachment trial of President Trump.

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to send the Senate two articles of impeachment against President Trump, appointing seven Democrats to prosecute the case and initiating only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

The 228-to-193 vote came almost a month after the House impeached Mr. Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, formally accusing him of seeking foreign election assistance from Ukraine and then trying to conceal his actions from a House inquiry. Like that earlier vote, Wednesday’s fell largely along party lines.

Only one Democrat, Representative Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota, joined every Republican in voting “no.”

It set the stage for what promises to be a partisan impeachment trial, which has already opened divisions in the normally staid Senate, and has the potential to shape Mr. Trump’s legacy, to stoke the country’s political polarization and to inject new uncertainty into the 2020 elections.

adam schiff squareThe process could damage the president, exposing conduct that some voters find unacceptable, but Mr. Trump is almost certain to use his likely acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate as a complete exoneration and turn the considerable apparatus of his campaign to stoking public outrage over the process. Democrats believe the proceeding will put pressure on Republicans — particularly those facing tough re-election challenges — to condemn Mr. Trump or risk being cast as an apologist for his misdeeds.

Ms. Pelosi announced a House prosecution team that will be led by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, above left, the chairman of the jerrold nadler o SmallIntelligence Committee who led the Ukraine inquiry.

He will be joined by Representatives Jerrold Nadler of New York, right, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Zoe Lofgren of California, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Val B. Demings of Florida, Jason Crow of Colorado and Sylvia R. Garcia of Texas. Mr. Crow and Ms. Garcia are both first-term members.

Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Documents Provide New Details of Trump’s Pressure Campaign on Ukraine, Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 15, 2020. The dozens of pages of notes, text messages and other records lay out work conducted by Rudolph W. Giuliani and an associate on behalf of the president.

  • nancy pelosi twitterWashington Post, Analysis: Why Pelosi picked each impeachment manager, Amber Phillips, Jan. 15, 2020. Here’s what each of the seven House members brings to the table.
  • Washington Post, Analysis: How a Senate impeachment trial works, Amber Phillips, Jan. 15, 2020. Here’s how we believe each day will work based on a reading of the Senate rules.

Miami Herald, Pelosi impeachment manager is calling for McConnell’s recusal from Trump Senate trial, Emma Dumain and Alex Daugherty, Jan. 15, 2020. A Florida congresswoman who on Wednesday became an impeachment manager in President Donald Trump’s upcoming Senate trial wants to remove the lead juror: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left.

mitch mcconnell2Rep. Val Demings’ position, shared publicly by a just a few other Democrats, could undercut House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to frame impeachment as an exercise of constitutional duty. Republicans have argued for months that Democrats are on a partisan mission to remove Trump from office.

Yet in selecting Demings on Wednesday as one of the seven impeachment managers, Pelosi is giving a national spotlight to a Democrat who has often gone against House leaders on impeachment issues — she first called for Trump’s removal from office a year before party leadership and is now agitating for McConnell’s recusal.

Her opposition to McConnell’s participation in the Senate trial that is set to start next week stems from the Kentucky Republican boasting that he won’t be impartial in deciding whether Trump should be acquitted or convicted.

Other Major Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan war plagued by ‘mendacity’ and lies, inspector general tells Congress, Craig Whitlock​, Jan. 15, 2020. John F. Sopko said U.S. officials have routinely lied to the public by exaggerating progress reports and inflating statistics to create a false appearance of success.

john sopko sigarThe special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction told Congress Wednesday that U.S. officials have routinely lied to the public during the 18-year war by exaggerating progress reports and inflating statistics to create a false appearance of success.

“There’s an odor of mendacity throughout the Afghanistan issue . . . mendacity and hubris,” John F. Sopko, right, said in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The problem is there is a disincentive, really, to tell the truth. We have created an incentive to almost require people to lie.”

As an example, Sopko said U.S. officials have lied in the past about the number of Afghan children enrolled in schools — a key marker of progress touted by the Obama administration — even though they “knew the data was bad.” He also said U.S. officials falsely claimed major gains in Afghan life expectancy that were statistically impossible to achieve.

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washington post logoWashington Post, New book portrays Trump as erratic, ‘at times dangerously uninformed,’ Ashley Parker, Jan. 15, 2020. A Very Stable Genius, by two Washington Post reporters, shows “how decision-making in President Trump’s administration has been driven by one man’s self-centered and unthinking logic — but a logic nonetheless.”

President Trump reveals himself as woefully uninformed about the basics of geography, incorrectly telling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “It’s not like you’ve got China on your border.” He toys with awarding himself the Medal of Freedom.

And, according to a new book by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig, Trump does not seem to grasp the fundamental history surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“Hey, John, what’s this all about? What’s this a tour of?” Trump asks his then-Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, as the men prepare to take a private tour of the USS Arizona Memorial, which commemorates the December 1941 Japanese surprise attack in the Pacific that pulled the United States into World War II.

“Trump had heard the phrase ‘Pearl Harbor’ and appeared to understand that he was visiting the scene of a historic battle, but he did not seem to know much else,” write the authors, later quoting a former senior White House adviser who concludes: “He was at times dangerously uninformed.”

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Democratic Debate Excerpts

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ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Debate War and a Woman’s Chance at the White House, Shane Goldmacher and Jonathan Martin, Jan. 15, 2020. The leading Democratic presidential candidates clashed over America’s role in the Middle East and their credentials to be commander in chief. And the rift between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over the electability of a woman surfaced and de-escalated quickly.

The Democratic presidential candidates clashed in starkly personal terms Tuesday over who had the best chance to defeat President Trump, as Senator Elizabeth Warren sought to jump-start her campaign in the last debate before the Iowa caucuses by highlighting her electoral success and that of other female candidates in the Trump era.

Prompted by the moderators, Ms. Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders continued a debate over the fraught subject of whether a woman could be elected president, an issue that in recent days had caused the first serious breach in their relationship. One day after she confirmed a report that Mr. Sanders had told her in a private meeting that he did not think a woman could defeat Mr. Trump, Ms. Warren trumpeted her Senate victory over an incumbent Republican and then gestured down the debate stage toward the four male candidates.

“Collectively they have lost 10 elections,” she said, before acknowledging the only other female candidate present, Senator Amy Klobuchar. “The only people on this stage who have won every single election they have been in are the women: Amy and me. And the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican in the past 30 years is me.”

Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren’s top rival for progressive support, flatly denied that he had made the comment when the two lawmakers met without aides in 2018. He said it was “incomprehensible that I would think that a woman couldn’t be president of the United States,” noting Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote in the 2016 general election.

Meeting less than three weeks before Iowans vote, the Democrats disagreed over international affairs and keeping troops in the Middle East, whether to support Mr. Trump’s trade deal for North America, how aggressively to tackle climate change, and, yet again, sparred on health care. But the issue animating much of the evening was the same question that has shaped the primary race for the past year: which of them would be the most formidable contender against Mr. Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Winners and Losers of the Democratic Debate, Staff report, Jan. 15, 2020. In this special feature, Times Opinion writers rank the candidates on a scale of 1 to 10: 1 means the candidate probably didn’t belong on the stage and should probably drop out; 10 means it’s on, President Trump. Here’s what our columnists and contributors thought about the debate.

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden shine at the Democratic debate. The rest, not so much, Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 15, 2020. Former vice president Joe Biden, below left, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, billionaire Tom Steyer and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) appeared Tuesday in Des Moines for the seventh presidential debate — the final debate before the Iowa caucuses and before those three senators will need to devote the lion’s share of their time to the impeachment trial of President Trump.

joe biden oIn all likelihood, this debate did not significantly shift the contest, leaving many caucus-goers still undecided.

Right off the bat, Biden was challenged on his Iraq War vote. He did what he needed to do: admit error in believing President George W. Bush, but then quickly pivot to his tenure with President Barack Obama and his work on withdrawing troops.

He also got a chance to tout his work on the Iran nuclear deal; show expertise (e.g., special forces need to remain in the Middle East); talk about coalition-building; sound sensible on North Korea (meeting Kim Jong Un without preconditions is silly); and explain that we need to make trade deals with the rest of the world.

 

Los Angeles Times, ‘You called me a liar on national TV,’ Melissa Gomez, Jan. 15, 2020. Elizabeth Warren confronts Bernie Sanders after debate. Elizabeth Warren confronts Bernie Sanders after the debate Tuesday. “I think you called me a liar on national TV,” she said in audio released by CNN. Sanders shot back, “You called me a liar.”

Elizabeth Warren accused Bernie Sanders of calling her a liar, audio of the senators’ confrontation after the Democratic debate revealed. On Wednesday, CNN released audio of the post-debate moment in Des Moines. The news organization reported the conversation wasn’t captured on the primary audio feed and was found the day after the Democratic gathering.

During the primary debate Tuesday night, Sanders denied allegations that he told Warren during a 2018 meeting he didn’t believe a woman could win the presidency. Warren stood by the account, a sign of the fraying relationship between the senators from neighboring states, Sanders of Vermont and Warren of Massachusetts.

“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren told Sanders as she strode toward him and turned down Sanders’ offer of a handshake, the CNN audio reveals.

“What?” he asked.

“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” she repeated.

“Let’s not do it right now,” Sanders said, putting a hand up. “You want to have that discussion, we’ll have that discussion.”

“Any time,” Warren interjected.

“You called me a liar, you told me —” Sanders began, before stopping himself. “All right, let’s not do it now.”

“I don’t want to get in the middle of — I just want to say hi, Bernie,” Steyer said quickly, shaking Sanders’ hand.

“Yeah, good, OK,” Sanders replied.

Soon after the audio became public, Steyer decided to chime in.

“Just want to say hi, America,” he tweeted.

New Trump Scandal Excerpts

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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump pedophile foreign policy adviser was transporting child bestiality porn to Mar-a-Lago, Wayne Madsen, Jan. 15, 2020  Amid all of the developments involving the impeachment and forthcoming U.S. Senate trial of the aspiring dictator-president Donald Trump was the guilty plea entered by George Nader, a former Trump foreign policy adviser, in the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia.

Nader was a close confidante of Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Blackwater founder and Abu Dhabi-based Reflex Responses (R2) mercenary firm owner Erik Prince, former Republican Party National Finance Committee co-chair Elliott Broidy, Trump former campaign manager Steve Bannon, Trump aide Stephen Miller, and disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine prosecutor offered information related to Biden in exchange for ambassador’s ouster, newly released materials show, Paul Sonne, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Jan. 15, 2020 (print ed.). New materials released by House Democrats appear to show Ukraine’s rudy giulianitop prosecutor offering an associate of President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, damaging information related to former vice president Joe Biden if the Trump administration recalled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

The text messages and documents provided to Congress by former Giuliani associate Lev Parnas also show that before the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was removed from her post, a Parnas associate now running for Congress sent menacing text messages suggesting that he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. A lawyer for Yovanovitch said Tuesday that the episode should be investigated.

The cache of materials released by House investigators late Tuesday exposed a number of previously unknown details about efforts by Giuliani and his associates to obtain material in Ukraine that would undermine Trump’s Democratic opponents.

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Robert Hyde, left, a GOP congressional candidate in Connecticut who owed more than $2,000 in child support while he was spending tens of thousands to support Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee, was exposed Monday as allegedly working to threaten the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine using thugs in that country to advance Trump goals.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Meet the Trump Donor Who Allegedly Stalked America’s Ambassador in Ukraine, Will Sommer and Betsy Swan, Jan. 14, 2020. He was a longshot candidate with a penchant for the obscene. Now he’s at the center of the impeachment drama.

Before Tuesday, he was best known as a little-known, scandal-scarred Republican congressional candidate who tweeted an obscene joke at Kamala Harris. But new documents from the House Intelligence Committee have put a completely different kind of spotlight on Robert F. Hyde (shown above), the Trump donor who appears to have tracked U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s movements in Ukraine. She is shown at left.

marie yovanovitch“They know she’s a political puppet,” Hyde wrote to Parnas. “They will let me know when she’s on the move… They are willing to help if you/we would like a price.”

“Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money… what I was told,” Hyde wrote in another message. Parnas responded: “LOL.” Details below.

Asked about his previously undisclosed involvement in Ukraine, Hyde texted The Daily Beast an insult about House Intel chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), writing “Bull Schiff is a giant b*tch.”

“Did Pelosi get drunk and lose the impeachment articles?” he added. “Looks like Schiff wants to whistle blow me.”

Related stories:

Hartford Courant, Conn. candidate who deleted sexist tweet about Kamala Harris owes child support but gives big to Trump and GOP, Daniela Altimari, Dec. 19, 2019. Robert F. Hyde (above left), the Republican candidate for Congress whose sexually suggestive tweet about Kamala Harris drew widespread condemnation from leaders of both political parties, owes the mother of his 13-year-old son more than $2,000 in child support, according to court records, even as he has continued to make donations to President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Jennyfer Morin of Torrington said she was compelled to come forward because Hyde is seeking public support for his campaign to represent Connecticut’s 5th District. “I’m shocked that people are planning to vote for this man,” she said in an interview.

rnc logoCourt filings shared by Morin and reviewed by the Hartford Courant state that Hyde has donated more than $56,000 to political campaigns since October 2016. Most of those contributions went to the Republican National Committee, according to electronic filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Hyde also donated at least $2,000 to President Donald Trump’s reelection fund and at least $750 to the Connecticut Republican Party, according to the FEC. On Wednesday, the state party announced it was returning Hyde’s contributions, citing his “vile comments on Twitter.”

On Dec. 3, Hyde posted a crude and sexist tweet about Harris’ decision to drop out of the 2020 Democratic presidential race. The tweet [saying in part that a candidate was "going down" before unprintable language] was removed earlier this week after several prominent Republicans and Democrats criticized Hyde and urged him to drop his bid.

Hartford Courant, Editorial: Robert F. Hyde, get out of the race. The Republican party deserves better, Editorial Board, Dec. 18, 2019. Robert F. Hyde, a Simsbury resident and currently a Republican candidate for the 5th U.S. House District, is confused. He apparently thinks it is OK, perfectly fine, to tweet gross and misogynistic insults. Here’s a clarifying thought: He needs to step out of the race.

But he is not, and the Trumpian approach of being as crass as possible doesn’t work here in Connecticut.

Who is the Robert Hyde (shown above left) who surfaced in House Intelligence Committee documents?

In early December, Mr. Hyde tweeted a few hardly subtle phrases about Kamala Harris’ departure from the race for the Democratic nomination for president. They are too crude to be published here. Mr. Hyde should be embarrassed — but, to judge from his subsequent tweets, he is not.

“I wasn’t thinking on my earlier statement,'' Hyde tweeted on Tuesday, in a post that has been removed. “I felt Kampala Harris is a tremendous and one of the stronger candidates and I felt she shouldn’t have dropped out of the race so soon. The Democrats haven’t even started talking about issues.”

Kampala?

On Wednesday, a defiant tweet remained: “Kamala literally destroyed a great man (Kavanaugh) on National TV and I’m the bad guy over a tweet that was poor in taste that I posted a month ago? It’s ok for dems right? Quick question, do you think I’ll ever quit?”

Maybe he thought he was running for president.

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ny times logoNew York Times, New Evidence Emerges as House Prepares to Send Impeachment Charges, Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 15, 2020. House Democrats shared new records of President Trump’s efforts in Ukraine, adding pressure on Republicans to include witnesses in the Senate trial.

New details emerged on Tuesday of President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, intensifying demands on Senate Republicans on the eve of a historic impeachment trial to include witness testimony and additional documents in the proceeding.

The dozens of pages of notes, text messages and other records lay out work conducted by Rudolph W. Giuliani (at far right above), Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and his associate Lev Parnas (at center) on behalf of the president. They include handwritten notes scrawled on a sheet of hotel paper at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that mention getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.

FBI logoHouse Democrats released the records even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a Wednesday vote to name House prosecutors and send the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate to begin the trial. The material undergirds the accusations against Mr. Trump, and highlights how much is still to be learned about the scope of a scheme that the impeachment charges call a blatant effort to solicit foreign help in the 2020 election.

The documents, provided by Mr. Parnas, contain a series of exchanges between him and a Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who was helping Mr. Giuliani unearth damaging information about the Bidens.

In March 2019, Mr. Lutsenko messaged Mr. Parnas on the WhatsApp messaging service to complain that the Trump administration had not yet ousted the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch. Mr. Lutsenko, who had clashed with Ms. Yovanovitch and wanted her gone, appeared to link her removal to his assistance in attacking the Bidens. Related story:

washington post logoWashington Post, Impeachment spotlight turns to key question: whether to call witnesses, Seung Min Kim, Elise Viebeck and Robert Costa​, Jan. 15, 2020 (print ed.). A group of influential swing GOP senators is pushing to hold a vote on whether to call witnesses later in the proceedings. At the same time, the Senate’s right flank is increasingly making the case for a more aggressive posture in defense of President Trump.

The impeachment trial of President Trump, expected to open in the Senate on Thursday, is shining an intense spotlight on a handful of Senate Republicans who hold the power to decide a key question: whether to call witnesses.

djt nancy pelosiOn one end, a group of influential swing GOP senators — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee — are pushing to hold a vote on whether to call witnesses later in the proceedings. Democrats have vowed to exert pressure on the group to break with their party on witnesses and other issues, such as obtaining documents.

At the same time, the Senate’s right flank is increasingly making the case to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other GOP leaders for a more aggressive posture in defense of Trump. In a private meeting with McConnell on Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) argued that if Democrats press the case for potentially damaging witnesses — such as former national security adviser John Bolton — the GOP should insist on incendiary witnesses of their own, such as Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, according to two GOP officials familiar with the discussion.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatened tariffs if Europeans didn’t warn Iran on nuclear deal violations, John Hudson and Souad Mekhennet, Jan. 15, 2020. Europeans called the threat of a 25 percent tariff on autos “extortion.” A week before Germany, France and Britain formally accused Iran of breaching Iran Flagthe 2015 nuclear deal, the Trump administration issued a private threat to the Europeans that shocked officials in all three countries.

If they refused to call out Tehran and initiate an arcane dispute mechanism in the deal, the United States would impose a 25 percent tariff on European automobiles, the Trump officials warned, according to European officials familiar with the conversations.

Within days, the three countries would formally accuse Iran of violating the deal, triggering a recourse provision that could reimpose United Nations sanctions on Iran and unravel the last remaining vestiges of the Obama-era agreement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Signs China Trade Deal, Putting Economic Conflict on Pause, Ana Swanson and Alan Rappeport, Jan. 15, 2020. An initial pact, cooling tensions in an election year, follows months of escalating tariffs and a trade war that seemed as if it would never end.

china flag SmallPresident Trump signed an initial trade deal with China on Wednesday, bringing the first chapter of a protracted and economically damaging fight with one of the world’s largest economies to a close.

The pact is intended to open Chinese markets to more American companies, increase farm and energy exports and provide greater protection for American technology and trade secrets. China has committed to purchasing an additional $200 billion worth of American goods and services by 2021 and is expected to ease some of the tariffs it has placed on American products.

But the agreement preserves the bulk of tariffs that Mr. Trump has placed on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods, and it maintains the threat of additional punishment if Beijing does not live up to the terms of the deal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Premier Abruptly Quits Amid Swirl of Speculation on Putin, Andrew Higgins, Jan. 15, 2020. Russia’s political order, unchanged at its core since the early 1990s, was thrown into feverish uncertainty on Wednesday after President Vladimir V. Putin proposed sweeping constitutional changes that could extend his hold on power indefinitely while his loyal protégé abruptly resigned as prime minister along with the rest of the government.

VladimirPutinMr. Putin described his proposals, announced in his annual state of the nation address, as an effort to enhance democracy. But his political rivals and many independent analysts interpreted them more as a strategy for keeping power after the end of what is supposed to be his final term in 2024.

Mikhail M. Kasyanov, a former prime minister under Mr. Putin who is now a fierce critic, said the president had given a “clear answer” to questions about his future: “I will remain president forever.”

But few others found that degree of clarity, especially after the surprise announcement by the prime minister, Dmitri A. Medvedev, that he was resigning. Mr. Medvedev then took a new job as deputy head of the Security Council, an important body but one that will leave him little space, since it is headed by Mr. Putin, 67.

Posing a question asked by many shocked observers, Dmitri Smirnov, a Kremlin reporter for the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, said on Twitter: “Why has this all happened in a single day?” His answer: “It just means that those in Kremlin know history well: revolution has to be made swiftly, even if it’s a revolution from above.”

Global Research, Opinion: Iran to Sue the US and Trump for Killing General Soleimani, Stephen Lendman, Jan. 15, 2020. According to Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman Gholamhossein Esmayeeli, the country’s ruling authorities will sue the US in international courts for Soleimani’s assassination.

“This brutal act was a violation of human rights and all international rules,” Esmayeeli stressed, adding: “Martyr Soleimani was the official guest of the Iraqi government officials as a high-ranking (Iranian) official, and a foreign state has committed this crime in Iraq.”

“The criminal US government’s measure to martyr General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and their entourage is a terrorist act from the legal view of point and a clear instance of state terrorism.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC), not the ICJ, is the proper tribunal for prosecuting individuals for crimes of war, against humanity, genocide, and aggression.

Since established by the Rome Statute in 2002, the ICC has never held the US, other Western nations, or Israel accountable for indisputable high crimes — just their victims. Time and again, the court breached its mandate to “end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern.”

Iran will likely seek redress against the US in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), mandated to settle international legal disputes, along with issuing advisory opinions on international legal issues referred to the court by the UN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dangling disaster relief funds, White House to require Puerto Rico to implement reforms, Arelis R. Hernández and Jeff Stein, Jan. 15, 2020. The Trump administration will tell Puerto Rico to stop paying contractors on disaster projects $15 an hour, even after it was hit by recurring earthquakes this month, officials said.

The Trump administration plans to impose several new requirements on billions of dollars in aid for Puerto Rico, including a new restriction on the wages paid by the island’s government to contractors working on disaster relief, according to two officials with knowledge of the plan.

The White House has for months worked to enact new restrictions on about $8 billion in disaster mitigation aid Congress approved for the island, which was hit this month with recurring earthquakes just two years after Hurricane Maria devastated much of the U.S. territory.

Under the parameters the Trump administration is proposing, Puerto Rico’s government will have to agree to give new oversight authority to the island’s federally mandated Fiscal Control Board — an appointed, independent government body — to receive funding for certain federal projects, officials said. Puerto Rico also will have to agree to pay federal contractors working on disaster relief less than $15 an hour, despite a recent executive order mandating the rate.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has been working with White House officials, is expected to tell the Puerto Rico government about the proposed restrictions this week, the officials said.

Miami Herald, Virgin Islands allege Jeffrey Epstein trafficked girls as young as 11 as recently as 2018, Daniel Chang and Kevin G. Hall, Jan. 15, 2020. A miami herald logolawsuit filed Wednesday by the top law enforcement officer in the U.S. Virgin Islands alleges that multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually trafficked hundreds of young women and girls on his private island as recently as 2018 by using a web of shell companies to carry out and conceal his crimes.

The Miami Herald is partnering with the Miami Foundation to launch the Investigative Journalism Fund. With your donations, we can do more projects like Perversion of Justice, our series on Jeffrey Epstein. By Emily Michot

perversion of justice miami herald logoThe allegations, if validated, broaden the scope of Epstein’s sexual trafficking, and shed new light on the tactics Epstein used to hide jeffrey epstein at harvard universityhis illicit activities.

Epstein, right, who was found dead in a Manhattan jail cell last year, allegedly brought girls as young as 11 to his private island, known as Little St. James, and maintained a database to track their availability and movements, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit, first reported by The New York Times, was filed by Denise George, attorney general of the Virgin Islands. George alleged in the lawsuit that Epstein used a network of shell companies to hold properties, including Little St. James and Great St. James, at which the former financier engaged in human trafficking, forced labor, sexual servitude and other criminal behavior.cision.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 100 billion pain pills were shipped nationwide over nine years, Steven Rich, Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz, Jan. 15, 2020. Newly disclosed data reveals 24 billion additional pills were distributed during the epidemic.
Newly disclosed federal drug data shows that more than 100 billion doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone were shipped nationwide from 2006 through 2014 — 24 billion more doses of the highly addictive pain pills than previously known to the public.

The data, which traces the path of every pain pill shipped in the United States, shows the extent to which opioids flooded the country as deaths from the epidemic continued to climb over nine years.

The Washington Post and the company that owns the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia first obtained the data, collected by the Drug Enforcement Administration, from 2006 through 2012 after waging a year-long legal fight. In July, The Post reported that the data revealed that the nation’s drug companies had manufactured and distributed more than 76 billion pain pills.

michael flynn djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Michael Flynn Moves to Withdraw Guilty Plea in Russia Inquiry, Adam Goldman, Jan. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Once cited by the special counsel team as an exemplary cooperating witness, President Trump’s former national security adviser (above left) had grown combative.

President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn moved late on Tuesday to withdraw his guilty plea on charges of lying to investigators in the Russia inquiry, accusing prosecutors of “bad faith” and vindictiveness after they asked a judge to sentence him to prison for backing out of a deal to cooperate with them.

The last-ditch request means that more than two years after first pleading guilty and after spending dozens of hours answering the questions of investigators for the special counsel, Mr. Flynn would take his chances at trial if a judge agrees to grant his motion. That would set up a collision course with prosecutors who could decide to bring additional charges against him.

Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency whose case marked a striking downfall, has already pleaded guilty twice to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the presidential transition in late 2016. As part of his agreement with the government, Mr. Flynn also admitted that he violated foreign lobbying laws when he failed to disclose work he had done for Turkey.

After he cooperated extensively with prosecutors in the Russia investigation, they recommended leniency in late 2018. Mr. Flynn even agreed to delay his sentencing at the time to offer further cooperation by testifying against a former business associate in a case in Northern Virginia. But Mr. Flynn grew increasingly antagonistic in recent months and hired combative new lawyers in mid-2019.

Those lawyers had tried to convince a federal judge that the F.B.I. had ambushed him as part of a plot by biased investigators, hoping that the case would be thrown out. But the judge rejected those accusations this month as baseless, and prosecutors reversed their stance, saying Mr. Flynn should be imprisoned.

emmet sullivan 2012Because Mr. Flynn has already pleaded guilty twice, he cannot unilaterally withdraw from the plea deal. The federal judge in the case, Emmet G. Sullivan, right, of Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, has to sign off on Mr. Flynn’s request and will most likely give prosecutors a chance to respond and schedule a hearing on the matter.

Mr. Flynn’s gamble raises questions about whether he and his lawyers were making a play for a presidential pardon. Days into his presidency, Mr. Trump dismissed Mr. Flynn after learning he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and other senior administration officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, but he has also said Mr. Flynn was treated badly by investigators.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge temporarily halts administration policy allowing local governments to block refugees, Ann E. Marimow and Maria Sacchetti, Jan. 15, 2020. The ruling found the Trump administration’s new policy on refugee resettlement is likely “unlawful.”

State and local officials cannot block refugees from being resettled in their jurisdictions, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, finding the Trump peter messeti american universityadministration’s new refu­gee policy is likely to be “unlawful” and “does not appear to serve the overall public interest.”

U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte of Maryland temporarily halted President Trump’s executive order requiring governors and local officials nationwide to agree in writing to welcome refugees before resettlements take place in their jurisdictions.

“Giving states and local governments the power to consent to the resettlement of refugees — which is to say veto power to determine whether refugees will be received in their midst — flies in the face of clear Congressional intent,” Messitte wrote in a 31-page de

Jan. 14

Trump Impeachment Headlines

 

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

Trump's Threatening Supporter

ny times logoNew York Times, New Evidence Emerges as House Prepares to Send Impeachment Charges, Nicholas Fandos, Jan. 15, 2020. House Democrats shared new records of President Trump’s efforts in Ukraine, adding pressure on Republicans to include witnesses in the Senate trial.

New details emerged on Tuesday of President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, intensifying demands on Senate Republicans on the eve of a historic impeachment trial to include witness testimony and additional documents in the proceeding.

The dozens of pages of notes, text messages and other records lay out work conducted by Rudolph W. Giuliani (at far right above), Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and his associate Lev Parnas (at center) on behalf of the president. They include handwritten notes scrawled on a sheet of hotel paper at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that mention getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.

House Democrats released the records even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a Wednesday vote to name House prosecutors and send the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate to begin the trial. The material undergirds the accusations against Mr. Trump, and highlights how much is still to be learned about the scope of a scheme that the impeachment charges call a blatant effort to solicit foreign help in the 2020 election.

The documents, provided by Mr. Parnas, contain a series of exchanges between him and a Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who was helping Mr. Giuliani unearth damaging information about the Bidens.

In March 2019, Mr. Lutsenko messaged Mr. Parnas on the WhatsApp messaging service to complain that the Trump administration had not yet ousted the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch. Mr. Lutsenko, who had clashed with Ms. Yovanovitch and wanted her gone, appeared to link her removal to his assistance in attacking the Bidens.

Democratic Debate

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Debate War and a Woman’s Chance at the White House, Shane Goldmacher and Jonathan Martin, Jan. 15, 2020. The leading Democratic presidential candidates clashed over America’s role in the Middle East and their credentials to be commander in chief. And the rift between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over the electability of a woman surfaced and de-escalated quickly.

The Democratic presidential candidates clashed in starkly personal terms Tuesday over who had the best chance to defeat President Trump, as Senator Elizabeth Warren sought to jump-start her campaign in the last debate before the Iowa caucuses by highlighting her electoral success and that of other female candidates in the Trump era.

democratic debate jan 14 2020 CustomPrompted by the moderators, Ms. Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders continued a debate over the fraught subject of whether a woman could be elected president, an issue that in recent days had caused the first serious breach in their relationship. One day after she confirmed a report that Mr. Sanders had told her in a private meeting that he did not think a woman could defeat Mr. Trump, Ms. Warren trumpeted her Senate victory over an incumbent Republican and then gestured down the debate stage toward the four male candidates.

“Collectively they have lost 10 elections,” she said, before acknowledging the only other female candidate present, Senator Amy Klobuchar. “The only people on this stage who have won every single election they have been in are the women: Amy and me. And the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican in the past 30 years is me.”

Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren’s top rival for progressive support, flatly denied that he had made the comment when the two lawmakers met without aides in 2018. He said it was “incomprehensible that I would think that a woman couldn’t be president of the United States,” noting Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote in the 2016 general election.

Meeting less than three weeks before Iowans vote, the Democrats disagreed over international affairs and keeping troops in the Middle East, whether to support Mr. Trump’s trade deal for North America, how aggressively to tackle climate change, and, yet again, sparred on health care. But the issue animating much of the evening was the same question that has shaped the primary race for the past year: which of them would be the most formidable contender against Mr. Trump.

Trump Impeachment Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Senate Republicans reject Trump’s renewed call for immediate dismissal of charges, Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis and Elise Viebeck, Jan. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Senior Republicans said such a dismissal could not win approval in the chamber, where the GOP holds a 53-seat majority. And even some staunch Trump allies argued the president’s legacy would benefit from a robust trial.

roy blunt official Small“I don’t think there’s any interest on our side of dismissing,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the fourth-ranking GOP senator. “Certainly, there aren’t 51 votes for a motion to dismiss.”

us senate logoSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that he wants the trial — only the third impeachment of a president in U.S. history — to follow the format used 21 years ago in the trial of President Bill Clinton. In that case, the Senate approved a resolution that would have allowed the Senate to vote to dismiss the charges.

But senior Republicans signaled Monday that they are not inclined to include such a provision in the resolution that will kick off Trump’s trial, perhaps as soon as Thursday.

washington post logoWashington Post, House to vote Wednesday to send impeachment articles against Trump to the Senate, John Wagner, Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 14, 2020. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has announced that the House will vote on a resolution appointing impeachment managers and nancy pelosi impeachmenttransmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, allowing the trial of President Trump to begin this week.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), right, has announced that the House will vote Wednesday on a resolution appointing House impeachment managers and transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, allowing the trial of President Trump to begin this week.

In anticipation of the historic event, senators in the chamber controlled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been maneuvering behind the scenes about whether the trial should include witnesses and who might be summoned to testify.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russians Hacked Ukrainian Gas Company at Center of Impeachment, Nicole Perlroth and Matthew Rosenberg, Jan. 14, 2020 (print ed.). With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, and his son Hunter Biden, Russian joe biden omilitary hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts.

The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States.

It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment.

The Russian tactics are strikingly similar to what American intelligence agencies say was Russia’s hacking of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, once they had the emails, the Russians used trolls to spread and spin the material, and built an echo chamber to widen its effect.

Then, as now, the Russian hackers from a military intelligence unit known formerly as the G.R.U., and to private researchers by the alias “Fancy Bear,” used so-called phishing emails that appear designed to steal usernames and passwords, according to Area 1, the Silicon Valley security firm that detected the hacking. In this instance, the hackers set up fake websites that mimicked sign-in pages of Burisma subsidiaries, and have been blasting Burisma employees with emails meant to look like they are coming from inside the burisma logocompany.

The hackers fooled some of them into handing over their login credentials, and managed to get inside one of Burisma’s servers, Area 1 said.

“The attacks were successful,” said Oren Falkowitz, a co-founder of Area 1, who previously served at the National Security Agency. Mr. Falkowitz’s firm maintains a network of sensors on web servers around the globe — many known to be used by state-sponsored hackers — which gives the firm a front-row seat to phishing attacks, and allows them to block attacks on their customers.

“The timing of the Russian campaign mirrors the G.R.U. hacks we saw in 2016 against the D.N.C. and John Podesta,” the Clinton campaign chairman, Mr. Falkowitz said. “Once again, they are stealing email credentials, in what we can only assume is a repeat of Russian interference in the last election.”

The Justice Department indicted seven officers from the same military intelligence unit in 2018.

The Russian attacks on Burisma appear to be running parallel to an effort by Russian spies in Ukraine to dig up information in the analog world that could embarrass the Bidens, according to an American security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. The spies, the official said, are trying to penetrate Burisma and working sources in the Ukrainian government in search of emails, financial records and legal documents.

washington post logodjt impeached wapo 12 19 19 front page CustomWashington Post, Trump amplifies incendiary tweets about Nancy Pelosi after her comments on Iran protests, Brittany Shammas, Jan. 14, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump on Monday retweeted a volley of incendiary posts accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of downplaying protests in Iran and supporting the regime.

donald trump twitterOne of them, a fake photo of Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) wearing photoshopped Islamic head coverings and standing in front of the Iranian flag, drew swift condemnation. “DEMOCRATS 2020” read the text below the image, which was originally tweeted by an anonymous user with the caption, “The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.”

Among those denouncing the tweet was Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League.

“It’s outrageous that @realDonaldTrump elevated such repulsive anti-Muslim bigotry,” he tweeted. “#Islamophobia is offensive & unbecoming of any leader, let alone @POTUS. When #hate & division are on the rise, this is the opposite of what we need from the President. An apology is in order ASAP.”

Asked about the criticism during a Fox News appearance, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham backed Trump’s decision to amplify the tweet. She said he did so to make a point.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Suddenly Trump has lost enthusiasm for his trial, Dana Milbank
  • Washington Post, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi may yet have the last laugh, Jennifer Rubin

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Has Votes to Pass Limits on Trump’s Iran War Power, Catie Edmondson, Jan. 14, 2020. At least four Republicans would break ranks to pass the bill, a key Democrat said. It would be unlikely to overcome a veto from President Trump.

  • New York Times, Take Impeachment Seriously, Senators, Editorial Board, Jan. 14, 2020. Can they handle the truth?

World Newsdjt rally file Custom

Strategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: They Like to Get the Landmarks, Wayne Madsen, Jan. 14, 2020. In the 2016 science fiction sequel, Independence strategic culture logoDay: Resurgence, actor Jeff Goldblum, describing the targeting priorities of aliens invading the Earth, says, “They like to get the landmarks.” In both Independence Day and its sequel, movie viewers were treated to scenes of macabre-looking extraterrestrials destroying the Empire State Building, the White House, Los Angeles’s Tower Records building, and London’s Tower Bridge and “the Eye” wheel.

Destroying famous landmarks is not merely in the purview of motion picture aliens but also the president of the United States. In a series of tweets sent after Trump (shown at a rally) ordered the assassination at Baghdad International Airport of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Al Quds commander, Major General Qaseem Soleimani, he vowed to destroy Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated for the U.S. assassination of Iran’s most revered military leader.

Trump tweeted: “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have… targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”

iran wants war graphic Custom 3Destroying cultural and religious sites during armed conflict is a war crime and a violation of international law. Not since 1944, when the German commander of Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz, defied Adolf Hitler’s order to destroy the major cultural sites in Nazi-occupied Paris – the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Sacré-Cœur basilica, and others – had a military official so publicly defied a political leader.

Trump did not state what 52 Iranian cultural sites and antiquities were on his “hit list,” but informed observers believe they included the ruins of the capital of the Achaemenid Empire at Persepolis; the Kingdom of Elam’s holy city, Tchogha Zanbil; and Imam Square in Isfahan, all protected World Heritage sites protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), from which Trump withdrew the United States in 2019.

The world has in recent years witnessed a number of barbarian acts of destruction of world heritage cultural sites. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) destroyed several historical sites and objects of antiquity in Mosul, Iraq and Palmyra, Syria. In 2001, the Taliban blew up the UNESCO-protected Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, rendering them into a pile of rubble.

It is a sad commentary on the present state of the world that an American president would desire to put himself in the same barbarian category as Adolf Hitler, ISIL, and the Taliban. However, Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran appears to have very few boundaries.

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, Trump’s trade deal with China won’t give many U.S. companies relief, as most tariffs will remain, David J. Lynch, Jan. 14, 2020. Nearly two-thirds of everything Americans buy from China will face tariffs, compared with less than 1 percent before the president began his anti-China campaign, according to an analysis.

washington post logoWashington Post, France, Britain, Germany launch dispute process in Iran nuclear deal, a step toward sanctions, Loveday Morris, Jan. 14, 2020. By activating the 2015 deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, the European nations indicated they reject Iran’s withdrawal from the restrictions.

Tehran had been gradually reducing its commitments under the deal since the United States withdrew and reimposed sanctions in 2018.

With Washington threatening secondary sanctions against European businesses dealing with Iran, Tehran argued it could no longer reap the financial benefits laid out in the pact in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion:The Pentagon’s and CIA’s Power to Assassinate Americans, Jacob G. Hornberger (right, foundation president, book publisher, law school graduate and author), Jan. 14, 2020. Pentagon officials Jacob Hornbergerare assuring Americans that the Pentagon’s recent assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani (below at left) will make Americans safer. There is at least one big problem with that formulation, one that, unfortunately, many Americans still don’t recognize. That problem is this: the power of assassination wielded by the Pentagon and the CIA extends to American citizens.

Why is that a problem?

Because there is no way to reconcile a government’s power to assassinate its own citizens with the principles of a free society. A free society necessarily is one in which the government lacks the power to assassinate its own citizens.

Our American ancestors clearly understood this aspect of a free society. That’s why they demanded the enactment of the Fifth Amendment as a condition for accepting the new limited-government republic that was being proposed by the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment reads in part: “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” That phrase — due process of law, which stretches back to Magna qasem soleimani with zolfaghar orderCarta — has come to mean notice and trial, including trial by jury.

Americans had been operating under the Articles of Confederation for some 13 years when the delegates at the Constitutional Convention proposed a limited-government republic type of governmental system. Under the Articles, the federal government hadn’t even been given the power to tax, much less the power to assassinate American citizens. Americans were leery about the proposal for a limited-government republic because they feared that it might evolve into a government with totalitarian-like powers, such as the power to assassinate its own citizens.

Americans finally were persuaded to accept the deal but they demanded the enactment of the Bill of Rights to make sure that federal officials got the point. The Bill of Rights essentially says: “You don’t have the power to destroy our fundamental, God-given rights, and you also lack the power to kill us without following the principles of due process of law.”

george washington gilbert stuart portraitThe Framers did not bring into existence a government in which federal officials would be entrusted with the power of assassination. Instead, they made certain that the federal government was denied the power of assassination. They understood that freedom isn’t a government in which officials are exercising a power of assassination prudently, rarely, and wisely. They understood that freedom is a government in which officials don’t have the power to assassinate at all.

It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of the change that took place after World War II, when the federal government was converted from a limited-government republic to a national-security state form of governmental structure. A national-security state is a totalitarian form of governmental structure, one that wields totalitarian-like powers. North Korea is a national security state. So are China, Russia, Cuba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. And post-World War II United States.

The conversion of the federal government to a national-security state automatically brought into existence the power of the federal government to assassinate American citizens. At the moment of the conversion, the freedom of the American people was destroyed because, again, it is impossible to reconcile the totalitarian power of assassination with the principles of a free society.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. citizen dies in Egyptian prison, despite warnings over poor medical condition and an appeal to Trump, Sudarsan Raghavan​, Jan. 14, 2020. The death of Mustafa Kassem raises questions about U.S. influence and the fate of other Americans jailed in Egypt.

Media / Spy Agencies

washington post logoWashington Post, News networks use retired military brass as war analysts without disclosing their defense-industry ties, Paul Farhi, Jan. 14, 2020 (print ed.). During eight appearances on Fox News and Fox Business Network in early January, Jack Keane was introduced several ways: as “a retired four-star general,” as the former “vice chief of staff for the U.S. Army,” and as Fox News’s “senior strategic analyst.”

jack keaneAll of those are accurate descriptions. Keane (shown when he was on active duty) is a distinguished veteran, having commanded American troops in such places as Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. Fox employs him to provide analysis of national security and military operations, such as the unfolding hostilities between the United States and Iran.

fox news logo SmallBut another part of Keane’s résumé wasn’t mentioned: the former general is also executive chairman of AM General, a leading defense contractor, best known as the manufacturer of the Humvee and other tactical military vehicles. He is also a partner at a venture-capital firm that specializes in the defense industry. In other words, viewers never learned that Keane has a direct financial interest in the war policies he was assessing on the air.

cnn logoFox News’s nondisclosure of Keane’s role in the military-industrial complex is standard operating procedure for network news shows. Many of the retired military leaders employed by the networks as paid contributors have secondary affiliations that are rarely, if ever, mentioned, leaving viewers in the dark about whose interests they’re promoting.

Like Fox News, none of the leading networks — ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and MSNBC — makes a regular practice of announcing its military analysts’ financial ties to the Pentagon, connections that could color their on-air comments.

washington post logoWashington Post, NSA found a dangerous Windows 10 flaw and alerted Microsoft — rather than weaponize it, Ellen Nakashima​, Jan. 14, 2020. The disclosure represents a major shift in the agency’s approach, choosing to put computer security ahead of building up its arsenal of hacking tools.

nsa logo 2The National Security Agency recently discovered a major flaw in Microsoft’s Windows operating system — one that could potentially expose computer users to significant breaches or surveillance — and alerted the firm of the problem rather than turn it into a hacking weapon, according to people familiar with the matter.

microsoft logo CustomThe disclosure represents a major shift in the NSA’s approach, choosing to put computer security ahead of building up its arsenal of hacking tools that allow the agency to spy on adversaries’ networks, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Microsoft plans to issue a patch for the flaw on Tuesday, the individuals said. “Big kudos to NSA for voluntarily disclosing to Microsoft,” said computer security expert Dmitri Alperovitch in a tweet Tuesday morning. “This is the type of [vulnerability] I am sure the [NSA hackers] would have loved to use for years to come.”

 U.S. 2020 Election Excerpts

ny times logoNew York Times, Here Are the Key Matchups in Tonight’s Debate, Shane Goldmacher and Adriana Ramic, Jan. 14, 2020. Six Democrats will debate in Des Moines tonight — the smallest stage yet — as the 2020 presidential race remains fluid, with Iowa, in particular, up for grabs less than three weeks before the caucuses. Here are the dynamics to watch in the final debate before voting begins (CNN at 9 p.m. (ET) and DesMoinesRegister.com.)

  • New York Times, ‘Mom and Dad Are Fighting’: Left-Wing Democrats Lament Sanders-Warren Rift. The sudden breach between the two leading Democratic candidates has disheartened those who fear it could benefit the party’s moderate candidates.

bernie sandersPolitico, Tonight’s debate could be a doozy, David Siders, Jan. 14, 2020. The reluctance to attack is now a vestige of the past. In its place is a spray of bullets in every direction. It’s Bernie Sanders, right, versus Joe Biden. Or Biden versus Elizabeth Warren. Or Sanders versus Warren, when she isn’t busy brutalizing Pete Buttigieg.

Nearing the end of a presidential primary marked by its lack of acrimony, the four-candidate pileup in Iowa is forcing campaigns to alter their terms of engagement in pursuit of even incremental advantages.

The reluctance to brawl is now a vestige of the past. In its place is a spray of bullets in every direction.

In a traditional campaign, said Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004, “You get to be the frontrunner, then everybody else makes sure you get taken down.”

The difference this year, he said, is that “everybody’s the frontrunner.”

The rancor has resulted in a new round of hand-wringing by Democrats fearful of weakening the party ahead of the general election — and by progressives fearful of weakening their standing against more moderate Democrats in the primary.

Citing their alarm over the recent sniping between the Sanders and Warren presidential campaigns, the liberal grassroots group Democracy for America implored the two to work together and stop attacking each other — unlikely, as a new rift opened over a CNN report that Sanders had told Warren privately in 2018 that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency in 2020.

abiy ahmed nobel Custom

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump slams Nobel Peace Prize for African leader, Wayne Madsen (former Navy intelliegence officer and author of 17 books, including Cafe Vaterland, a novel portraying the Trump family's fascist tendencies), Jan. 14, 2020. Aspirant dictator and white nationalist Donald wayne madsen cafe vaterlandTrump, whose opinion of Africa was summed up in his reference to African nations as "shithole countries," is convinced that "he saved Ethiopia" but was passed over for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

Trump, in speaking to a recent white nationalist rally in Toledo, referenced the awarding of the 2019 Nobel prize to Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, ahown above, that nation's first Muslim head of government.

Ahmed was awarded the peace prize for his efforts in concluding a 2018 peace treaty with neighboring Eritrea, which with it remained technically at war since a 1998-2000 armed conflict over their border. In awarding Ahmed, the Norwegian Nobel Committee cited Ahmed for his "decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea."

In Toledo, Trump said, "I made a deal, I saved a country, and I just heard that the head of that country is now getting the Nobel Peace Prize for saving the country. I said: 'What, did I have something to do with it?' Yeah, but you know, that's the way it is."

In fact, Trump had nothing to do with the 2018 Ethiopian-Eritrean peace accord.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren greet each other at the Democratic presidential debate on July 3, 2019 (screengrab).n

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren greet each other at the Democratic presidential debate on July 3, 2019 (screengrab).

ny times logoNew York Times, Warren Says Sanders Told Her a Woman Could Not Win the Presidency, Astead W. Herndon and Jonathan Martin, Jan. 14, 2020 (print ed.). Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said on Monday night that Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont told her in 2018 he did not think a woman could win the presidency. Ms. Warren’s description of the comment, from a private one-on-one meeting, represents a remarkable salvo at her leading liberal rival in the 2020 race just three weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

Mr. Sanders vehemently denied making the remark earlier on Monday and accused the Warren campaign staff of “lying” about it, in a statement intended to refute a news report by CNN that relied on anonymous sources. The New York Times and other outlets confirmed the CNN report on Monday afternoon, while the Warren campaign initially declined to comment.

democratic donkey logoWith the two Democrats set to face off Tuesday night in their next televised debate, they now find themselves in the most tense standoff of the Democratic nomination fight: Mr. Sanders insisting he did not make the explosive remark, which risks alienating many Democrats, and Ms. Warren saying on the record that he did make the comment.

Ms. Warren, in a statement on Monday night, said that Mr. Sanders made the remark at a two-hour meeting in December 2018 where they discussed the 2020 election and “our past work together and our shared goals,” in particular defeating President Trump.

“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed,” she said. “I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry.” She added that she and Mr. Sanders were “friends and allies” and said she believed they would continue to work together to beat Mr. Trump.

Internally, the Sanders campaign was roiled by Ms. Warren’s statement, which seemed to catch several staff members off guard.

Former Trump Advisor Pleads

george nader c span

ny times logoNew York Times, A Mueller Report Witness Pleads Guilty to Child Pornography Possession Charges, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Jan. 14, 2020. George Nader, shown above, a Lebanese-American businessman, also pleaded guilty to a child sex trafficking charge on Monday in federal court.

robert mueller full face fileA businessman who was a witness named in the Mueller report pleaded guilty on Monday to child pornography possession and sex trafficking charges, according to court documents. The businessman, George Nader, who has also acted as an informal adviser to the United Arab Emirates' crown prince, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of child pornography and one count of sex trafficking a minor in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

On the possession of child pornography charge, Mr. Nader faces a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and at least five years of supervised release, court documents said. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the sex trafficking charge. Mr. Nader must register as a sex offender, the documents said.

His sentencing hearing is set for April 10, according to Jonathan Jeffress, one of Mr. Nader's four lawyers. He declined to comment further.

A prosecutor for the United States attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia declined to comment on Tuesday.

The case against Mr. Nader outlined his constant communication, since 2010, with someone about a mutual interest in child pornography, which was referred to as "wine," according to court documents. The records also detailed numerous times that Mr. Nader received or tried to acquire child pornography.

The documents also show that Mr. Nader admitted to transporting a minor boy from the Czech Republic to Washington, D.C., in 2000 to engage in sexual activity with him.

In June, Mr. Nader, who is Lebanese-American, was arrested at Kennedy International Airport in New York. He had been found the previous year with iPhones containing sexually explicit images of young boys, according to court documents. The phones were discovered after he was stopped by federal agents and questioned about his work to arrange meetings between liaisons of foreign governments and Trump transition officials after the November 2016 presidential election.

More U.S. Politics

AlterNet via Raw Story, GOP lawmaker accuses Rep. Matt Gaetz of creating ‘a game’ where politicians get ‘points’ for sleeping with interns and married colleagues, Alex Henderson, Jan. 14, 2020. In Florida politics, Rep. Matt Gaetz is not only known for getting into bitter arguments with Democrats — he is also known for his feuds with fellow Republicans. And this week, things turned ugly after Gaetz attacked Republican State Rep. Chris Latvala for tweeting a photo of him meeting with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

matt gaetz o CustomMonday on Twitter, Latvala wrote, “It was an honor to meet @TheRevAl today.” And when Gaetz (who serves in the U.S. House of Representatives via Florida’s 1st Congressional District) saw the tweet and the photo of Latvala with Sharpton — who hosts “Politics Nation” on MSNBC — the 37-year-old far-right Republican responded, “Sharpton has called Cops ‘pigs;’ Whites ‘interlopers;’ Greeks ‘homos’ and Jews ‘diamond merchants. So that is pretty disgusting.”

Latvala (the 38-year-old son of former Florida State Sen. Jack Latvala, now 68) responded by accusing Gaetz, right, of inventing a sleazy game for Florida legislators that included a sexual scoring system. In 2013, Politico’s Marc Caputo reported that according to the rules of the alleged game, legislators received one point for sleeping with a lobbyist, two points for sleeping with legislative staff, three points for sleeping with another legislator and six points for sleeping with a married legislator.

Gaetz responded by telling the Tampa Bay Times that he “had no idea what Chris was talking about” and attacking Jack Latvala. Gaetz told the Tampa Bay Times, “I know Jack Latvala (had) to resign in disgrace over demanding sexual favors from lobbyists in exchange for appropriations. So, it was likely Chris projecting. I don’t start conversations with people on Twitter about their sex lives, especially Latvalas.”

Jack Latvala resigned from the Florida State Senate in December 2017.

On Twitter, Gaetz told Chris Latvala, “Just because I own you on Twitter, don’t confuse me for your daddy when it comes to abusing power for sex. Also, I missed the defense of Sharpton in your reply.”

Chris Latvala then brought up Gaetz’ arrest in 2008 in Okaloosa County, Florida for allegedly driving under the influence; that case was later dropped. The Florida representative tweeted, “Have you been drinking tonight? I hope you don’t get behind the wheel. I know you have had a rough few days up there.”

Before entering the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2017, Gaetz served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2010-2016.

Jan. 13

U.S. 2020 Election Headlines

Impeachment Headlines

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

 

U.S. 2020 Election Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, Sanders’s campaign goes on the offensive as he seeks a victory in Iowa caucuses, Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan​, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Over the weekend, surrogates and aides for the senator from Vermont went after Sen. Elizabeth Warren and intensified their attacks on former vice president Joe Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sanders Is Said to Have Told Warren That a Woman Could Not Win the Presidency, Staff report, Jan. 13, 2020. Bernie Sanders denied making any such remark in a private 2018 meeting with Elizabeth Warren, accusing her campaign staff of “lying about what happened.”

elizabeth warren o purpleIn a private meeting in 2018 between Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, left, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mr. Sanders said that he did not think a woman could win the presidency, according to two people familiar with the discussion. Ms. Warren subsequently told associates about Mr. Sanders’s comment, according to people with knowledge of her remarks.

Mr. Sanders on Monday vehemently denied making the remark, which was first reported by CNN.

“It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement, adding that it was “ludicrous” to think he would have made such a comment. “Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by three million votes in 2016.”

Mr. Sanders added that he had told Ms. Warren “that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could.”

The Warren campaign declined to comment on Monday. The people familiar with the 2018 meeting, who were briefed on it shortly after it took place but were not authorized to speak publicly, said Mr. Sanders offered the comment while giving his assessment on the coming race. In relaying to Ms. Warren the challenges he thought her campaign would face, he said not only that President Trump would weaponize sexism, but also that such attacks would preclude a woman from being elected, according to the private accounts.

Asked last March whether Mr. Sanders had urged her not to run, Ms. Warren said, “Bernie and I had a private dinner, and my view is that dinner stays private.”

  • New York Times, A new Iowa poll shows a tight race, with Joe Biden regaining strength and moving ahead

ny times logoNew York Times, Elizabeth Warren Says Bernie Sanders Sent Volunteers ‘Out to Trash Me,’ Shane Goldmacher and Sydney Ember, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Ms. Warren said she was “disappointed” the Sanders campaign had used a script for volunteers that suggested she appealed mainly to highly educated voters.

A nearly yearlong run of good will between two of the leading progressives in the 2020 presidential race, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders, appears to be evaporating in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses.

Elizabeth Warren HS o 200Ms. Warren, left, said on Sunday she was “disappointed” that Mr. Sanders’s campaign had been using a script for volunteers that suggested she was appealing mainly to highly educated voters and would not be able to expand the Democratic Party coalition.

“I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” Ms. Warren, of Massachusetts, said. “I hope Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction.”

democratic donkey logoAfter months of studiously avoiding any negative words about Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren went on to cite the divisiveness of the 2016 primary race between Mr. Sanders and Hillary Clinton, implying it had helped President Trump. “We all saw the impact of the factionalism in 2016, and we can’t have a repeat of that,” she warned. “Democrats need to unite our party and that means pulling in all parts of the Democratic coalition.”

In a rare question-and-answer session with reporters after his final event of a weekend Iowa swing, Mr. Sanders — in response to a question on whether he approved of his campaign’s criticism of Ms. Warren — denied responsibility for the script, saying he himself had never attacked Ms. Warren. And he blamed the news media for overstating the tension between the two campaigns. “I got to tell you, I think this is a little bit of a media blowup, that kind of wants conflict,” he said.

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Iran Strategy May Cost Him in 2020 Election, Jeremy W. Peters, Jan. 13, 2020. President Trump’s criticism of American interventionism was part of his appeal to voters. But as tensions with Iran remain high, Mr. Trump risks becoming the wartime president he said he never wanted to be.

Almost exactly four years ago, Donald J. Trump touched down at an airport hangar here (in Dubuque, Iowa), delivered a donation to a group that provides service dogs to veterans and, before inviting a few kids to run around on his Boeing 757, criticized the wars in the Middle East that many local families had sent their sons and daughters to fight in.

“I’m the guy that didn’t want to go to war,” he told a crowd of several hundred. “It’s just unjust, it’s a mess,” Mr. Trump went on, promising that if he ever did deploy the military anywhere, it would be “so strong, so powerful that nobody is going to mess with us anymore.”

That November, Dubuque County voted Republican in the presidential election for the first time since 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower was on the ballot.

Mr. Trump’s success in places like Dubuque — heavily white, working class, union-friendly and Catholic — remade the Republican electorate. And his path to a second term depends heavily on whether those voters turn their backs on the Democratic Party again.

republican elephant logoBut the specter of a new conflict in the Middle East — this time with Iran — threatens the political coalition that Mr. Trump built in 2016 by running against a national Republican Party that many voters came to see as indifferent and unresponsive, particularly when it came to the human cost of war.

As tensions with Iran remain high, Mr. Trump risks becoming the wartime president he claimed he never wanted to be. And he has struggled to reconcile the inconsistencies in his foreign policy, leaving some voters wondering what he really is as a commander in chief: the president who crushed the Islamic State and will stop “endless wars,” as he claims, or a volatile decision maker who in the span of three months orders troops to pull out of Syria and then deploys thousands more to prepare for a possible conflict with Iran after taking out one of its top generals in a drone strike.

washington post logomichael bloombergWashington Post, Bloomberg’s goal is to be president. His fallback plan: Trump’s defeat, Michael Scherer, Jan. 13, 2020. The billionaire is building out a general election machine that aims to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.

The thing that makes Bloomberg different is he can knock on all doors at once. Bloomberg is running aggressively to win the Democratic nomination but he is simultaneously building out a general election machine to defeat President Trump, with a new structure — data, field organizing, advertising and policy — that aims to elect Democrats up and down the ballot even if the party’s voters reject the former New York mayor this spring.

Roll Call, New Jersey’s Cory Booker ends his presidential campaign, Simone Pathé, Jan. 13, 2020. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker ended his presidential campaign on Monday, saying he was out of money. “Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington,” Booker said in a statement.

cory booker official profileThe former Newark mayor, left, who made a name for himself over the years as a social-media savvy politician, campaigned on love and unity but failed to qualify for recent debates and languished at the bottom of polls.

Booker was one of two African-American senators who ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. California Sen. Kamala Harris ended her bid in December. With Booker’s departure, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is the only black candidate left in the race.

democratic donkey logoBooker made his political experience in Newark, his adopted hometown, a central theme throughout his campaign.

He announced his candidacy in there in February 2019 and featured it in his paid advertising. Despite mixed reviews of his tenure as the city’s mayor, Booker had quickly earned the backing of every Democrat from New Jersey in the House last year, including his previous opponents.

On the debate stage, Booker frequently talked about being the only candidate who chose to live in a low-income inner-city community. His policy proposals — criminal justice reform, as well as a national gun licensing and a “baby bonds” program — reflected his experience in that community.

Impeachment Excerpts

washington post logous senate logoWashington Post, Preparations accelerate for historic Senate trial of Trump, John Wagner​, Jan. 13, 2020. The House is expected to appoint impeachment managers and transmit the articles of impeachment in coming days.

  •  Washington Post, Live Updates: In floor speech, Harris says no president can disregard congressional oversight

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Frightening Vision of the Presidency Is on Trial, Too, Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes (authors of the forthcoming “Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump’s War on the World’s Most Powerful Office”), Jan. 13, 2020. The president believes that what is good for him and what is good for the country are indistinguishable.

When the trial of President Trump begins, perhaps as soon as this week, the Senate will formally confront only the two questions posed by the articles of impeachment passed in the House of Representatives. Did Mr. Trump abuse the powers of his office in his interactions with Ukraine? And did he obstruct Congress’s investigation of that matter?

But the real question before the Senate is far broader than the specific scandal recounted in the articles. What is on trial, at the most basic level, is Mr. Trump’s vision of the American presidency.

William Barr is sworn in as U.S. Attorney General. His wife, Donald Trump and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts look on

William Barr is sworn in as U.S. Attorney General. His wife, Donald Trump and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts look on (White House photo).

The New Yorker, William Barr, Trump’s Sword and Shield:  The Attorney General’s mission to maximize executive power and protect the Presidency, David Rohde (an executive editor of newyorker.com and the author of In Deep: The F.B.I., the C.I.A., and the Truth about America’s ‘Deep State’, forthcoming in April, 2020), Jan. 13, 2020 (January 20, 2020 Issue). For decades, Barr has argued that Congress is a menace to the Presidency.  As Attorney General, he’s poised to fight back.

Last October, Attorney General William Barr appeared at Notre Dame Law School to make a case for ideological warfare. Before an assembly of students and faculty, Barr claimed that the “organized destruction” of religion was under way in the United States. “Secularists, and their allies among the ‘progressives,’ have marshalled all the force of mass communications, popular culture, the entertainment industry, and academia in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values,” he said. Barr, a conservative Catholic, blamed the spread of “secularism and moral relativism” for a rise in “virtually every measure of social pathology”—from the “wreckage of the family” to “record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence, and a deadly drug epidemic.”

The speech was less a staid legal lecture than a catalogue of grievances accumulated since the Reagan era, when Barr first enlisted in the culture wars. It included a series of contentious claims. He argued, for example, that the Founders of the United States saw religion as essential to democracy. “In the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people—a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order,” he said. Barr ended his address by urging his listeners to resist the “constant seductions of our contemporary society” and launch a “moral renaissance.”

Donald Trump does not share Barr’s long-standing concern about the role of religion in civic life.

(Though he often says that the Bible is his favorite book, when he was asked which Testament he preferred, he answered, “The whole Bible is incredible.”)

What the two men have in common is a sense of being surrounded by a hostile insurgency.

washington post logoWashington Post, A deal with the president on impeachment? McConnell’s supporters at home demand it, Griff Witte​, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is up for reelection this year and needs to keep conservatives on his side in what could be a tight campaign.

mitch mcconnell2The Senate majority leader’s insistence that he will coordinate Trump’s impeachment trial with the White House — and that he has no intention of being impartial — has provoked howls of protest from Democrats. On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused McConnell, left, of orchestrating a “coverup” of Trump’s actions.

It has also prompted speculation that he could jeopardize his slender majority by exposing Republicans in swing or Democratic-leaning states to accusations that they went along with a rigged process running counter to the Constitution.

But here in Kentucky, it just looks like savvy politics.

The 77-year-old is expected to face a vigorous challenge in November from a decorated Marine fighter pilot with a record of big-dollar fundraising. Yet McConnell has shown an unerring instinct for self-preservation across six Senate terms and a record stint as Republican leader.

• Washington Post, Pelosi says Trump is ‘impeached for life’ despite McConnell’s ‘coverup.

djt lev parnas Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas just took his big swing at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 13, 2020. It’s a storyline that may or may not add up to anything, but it just won’t go away. Lev Parnas, who is currently awaiting criminal trial in relation to his role in Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal, has become hellbent on the idea of playing a major role in Trump’s impeachment. Just as the House appears ready to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate, Parnas, shown above at left, just took his big swing.

bill palmer report logo headerLev Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy tweeted this last night: “We brought the contents of Lev Parnas’ iPhone 11 to HPSCI today, despite every stumbling block placed in our path since DOJ SDNY arrested him on 10/9/19.”

So what’s on this iPhone? We don’t know. But we do know that when it came time for the Feds to share the seized evidence with Lev ahead of trial, Lev and his legal team fought in court for permission to share the contents of this phone with the House Intelligence Committee. Lev appears to be trying to convince the House that he’s a credible witness against Donald Trump, and that he should be called to testify. The evidence on the phone ostensibly backs up Lev’s version of events.

Of course the House has already closed out its impeachment process, having impeached Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment. But if the House finds Lev Parnas’ evidence and testimony credible, it can always announce new hearings and consider additional articles of impeachment – even as the Senate is holding a trial on the two existing articles. We’ll see where this does or doesn’t go, but Parnas seems to believe that whatever is on his phone can help reduce his potential prison sentence.

Media / Privacy / Elections

Julian Assange at Ecuador's Embassy (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine)

Julian Assange, center, at Ecuador's Embassy (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine)

The Hill, Opinion: Will Alleged CIA Misbehavior Set Julian Assange Free? James C. Goodale, Jan. 10, 2020. A few days before Christmas, Julian Assange testified to a Spanish court that a Spanish security company, UC Global S.L., acting in coordination with the CIA, illegally recorded all his actions and conversations, including with his lawyers, and streamed them back in real time to the CIA. He will, at the end of February, make a similar complaint to a British extradition court about the CIA’s alleged misbehavior.

Will such misbehavior, if proven, set Assange free?

The Daniel Ellsberg case may be instructive. You may recall that after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the “Pentagon Papers” case, Ellsberg was indicted under the Espionage Act for leaking Pentagon documents to The New York Times and The Washington Post.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomAfter the trial commenced in San Francisco, it was brought to the judge’s attention that the “White House plumbers” broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist. Based on that information and other complaints of government misbehavior, including the FBI’s interception of Ellsberg’s telephone conversations with a government official, Judge William Matthew Byrne decided that the case should be dismissed with prejudice because the government acted outrageously.

For similar reasons, the case against Assange should be dismissed, if it reaches the U.S. courts.

The “plumbers” were a covert group formed by the Nixon White House to stop leaks of information from the government, such as the Pentagon Papers. They are notorious for their burglary at the Watergate complex, which led to former President Nixon’s downfall. Approximately nine months before the Watergate break-in, the plumbers, led by former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt, burglarized a psychiatrist’s office to find information that could discredit Ellsberg.

The CIA also was involved with the break-in. It prepared a psychiatric profile of Ellsberg as well as an ID kit for the plumbers, including drivers’ licenses, Social Security cards, and disguises consisting of red wigs, glasses and speech alteration devices.

Additionally, the CIA allowed Hunt and his sidekick, G. Gordon Liddy, to use two CIA safe houses in the D.C. area for meetings and storage purposes. Clearly, the CIA knew the plumbers were up to no good. It is unclear whether the CIA knew Ellsberg was the target, but it would not have taken much to figure it out.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais broke the story that UC Global invaded Assange’s privacy at the Ecuadorian embassy and shared its surveillance with the CIA. It demonstrated step-by-step, document-by-document, UC Global’s actions and its contacts with the CIA. UC Global reportedly installed cameras throughout Assange’s space in the embassy — including his bathroom — and captured Assange’s every word and apparently livestreamed it, giving the CIA a free TV show of Assange’s daily life.

After reading El Pais’s series, you would have to be a dunce not to believe the CIA didn’t monitor Assange’s every move at the Ecuadorian embassy, including trips to the bathroom.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum in their embassy for seven years, after he jumped bail in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for allegedly raping two Swedish women. (Those charges are now dismissed.) If you can believe it, Ecuador had hired UC Global to protect the Ecuadorian embassy and Assange. Not surprisingly, the CIA later made UC Global its spy to surveil Assange.

When there was a change of administration in Ecuador, Assange’s asylum was withdrawn, and he was immediately arrested by British police at the request of U.S. officials. The United States subsequently indicted him for violating the Espionage Act, for publishing the very same information published roughly contemporaneously by The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde and Der Spiegel. (Assange already was subject to a sealed indictment in the United States for computer hacking.)

The behavior of UC Global and the CIA seems indistinguishable from the government’s behavior in the Ellsberg case, which a federal judge found to have “offended a sense of justice” and “incurably infected the prosecution” of the case. Accordingly, he concluded that the only remedy to ensure due process and the fair administration of justice was to dismiss Ellsberg’s case “with prejudice,” meaning that Ellsberg could not be retried.

Can anything be more offensive to a “sense of justice” than an unlimited surveillance, particularly of lawyer-client conversations, livestreamed to the opposing party in a criminal case? The alleged streaming unmasked the strategy of Assange’s lawyers, giving the government an advantage that is impossible to remove. Short of dismissing Assange’s indictment with prejudice, the government will always have an advantage that can never be matched by the defense.

The usual remedy for warrantless surveillance is to exclude any illegally obtained information from the trial, but that remedy is inapplicable here. The government’s advantage in surveilling Assange is not the acquisition of tangible evidence but, rather, intangible insights into Assange’s legal strategy. There is no way, therefore, to give Assange a fair trial, since his opponents will know every move he will make.

When Assange begins his extradition hearing, this will be part of his argument — that the CIA’s misbehavior violates his human rights by depriving him of his right to a fair trial.

The CIA will no doubt attempt to trump this argument by defending the surveillance on grounds of national security. This may be easier said than done, however: It is one thing to say the CIA can engage in surveillance abroad for its own intelligence-gathering purposes, and another to say it can listen to the private lawyer-client communications of a person against whom the U.S. government has an open criminal investigation.

More to the point, it does not seem immediately clear why eavesdropping on conversations of legal strategy protects U.S. national security. In my experience in national security cases (I led The New York Times lawyers in the “Pentagon Papers” case), every time the government is backed into a corner in such cases, it will simply serve up a defense of “national security” because it is difficult to defend against such an assertion and the government, consequently, has the ability to trump every competing argument.

James C. Goodale was the vice chairman and general counsel of The New York Times and is the author of “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and other battles.”

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, In saying Iran aimed to attack ‘four embassies,’ Trump puts U.S. in a credibility crisis, Philip Rucker, John Hudson, Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey, Jan. 13, 2020. At a perilous moment for the nation’s security, with the United States at the brink of war with Iran, President Trump is unable to rely on trustworthiness to justify his decision to take out a top Iranian general.

Based on what is known so far, Trump’s statement was at best an unfounded theory and at worst a falsehood. At each turn in the commander in chief’s rapidly-evolving narrative of why he authorized the Jan. 3 drone strike that killed Iranian Major Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the machinery of government scrambled to adapt and respond.

The result is a credibility crisis for an administration that has long struggled to communicate factual information to the public. At a perilous moment for the nation’s security, with the United States at the brink of war with Iran, Trump is unable to rely on trustworthiness to justify his decision to take out Soleimani, both because of his lengthy record of exaggerations and lies and because of his ever-shifting rationales.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. commanders at al-Asad base believe Iranian missile barrage was designed to kill, Louisa Loveluck, Jan. 13, 2020. The attack lasted more than an hour and a half, troops said. The lack of casualties appears to be partly a function of luck at the sprawling base in Iraq.

• Washington Post, Trump says ‘it doesn’t really matter’ if Iranian general posed an imminent threat
• Washington Post, Trump amplifies incendiary tweets about Pelosi after her comments on Iran protests

washington post logoCentcom logoWashington Post, U.S. troops on Iraqi base had minutes’ notice before barrage of Iranian rockets, Louisa Loveluck, Jan. 13, 2020. The attack lasted more than an hour and a half, troops said. The lack of casualties appears to be partly a function of luck.

In the hours that followed, Iran described the attacks as a shot of “harsh revenge” that had killed dozens. Within a day, that rhetoric had shifted and U.S. and Iraqi officials were insisting that nobody had been killed or wounded.

Accounts from inside the Trump administration have suggested that the lack of casualties was a crucial factor in the president’s decision not to escalate further. “All is well!” he posted in a tweet hours after the attack.

• Washington Post, Pompeo has declined to discuss Iran with House Foreign Affairs panel, its chairman says
• Washington Post, Analysis: Trump’s compulsion to take credit deepens his credibility gap amid questions about Iran
• Washington Post, Iranians protest over downed airliner amid reports of gunfire by security forces

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials struggle to explain intelligence behind killing of Soleimani, Karen DeYoung​, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Senior members of the administration including Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper declined to confirm the president’s assertion that four U.S. embassies had been targeted for attack by Iran.​

Department of Defense SealSenior administration officials declined Sunday to confirm President Trump’s assertion that four U.S. embassies had been targeted for attack by Iran, while saying that Trump’s “interpretation” of the threat was consistent with overall intelligence that justified the killing of a senior Iranian general.

“I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said of intelligence reports. “What I’m saying is I share the president’s view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies,” Esper told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Washington Post, Strike against general reflects an aggressive national security team not inclined to curb Trump.

Trump Border Issue Dictates

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump planning to divert additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funds for border wall, Nick Miroff​, Jan. 13, 2020. ​The move would give his administration five times more money than Congress authorized in the 2020 budget for barrier construction — and add hundreds of miles of new barriers — according to figures obtained by The Post.

President Trump is preparing to divert an additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for border wall construction this year, five times what Congress authorized him to spend on the project in the 2020 budget, according to internal planning figures obtained by The Washington Post.

The Pentagon funds would be extracted, for the second year in a row, from military construction projects and counternarcotics funding. According to the plans, the funding would give the government enough money to complete approximately 885 miles of new fencing by Spring 2022, far more than the 509 miles the administration has slated for the U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump took $2.5 billion from military counterdrug programs for border barrier construction in 2019, but this year his administration is planning to take significantly more — $3.5 billion. Trump administration officials also are planning to take $3.7 billion in military construction funding, slightly more than the $3.6 billion diverted in 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. is putting asylum seekers on planes to Guatemala — often without telling them where they’re going, Kevin Sieff, Jan. 13, 2020. For the first time ever, the United States is shipping asylum seekers who arrive at its border to a “safe third country” to seek refuge there. The Trump administration hopes the program will serve as a model for others in the region.

But during its first weeks, asylum seekers and human rights advocates say, migrants have been put on planes without being told where they were headed, and left here without being given basic instruction about what to do next.

When the migrants land in Guatemala City, they receive little information about what it means to apply for asylum in one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries. Those who don’t immediately apply are told to leave the country in 72 hours. The form is labeled “Voluntary Return.”

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, As remote work rises at U.S. companies, Trump is calling federal employees back to the office, Lisa Rein, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The war on telework represents a milestone in how the Trump administration is changing the federal culture as it seeks more accountability from employees.

About a quarter of workers at U.S. companies now dial into meetings, consult with clients and do a multitude of other tasks from their laptops at home, as employers seek to cut real estate costs and keep their staffs content in a red-hot job market.

The federal government, though, is calling its employees back to the office. After a big push toward telework in the Obama administration, President Trump’s government is scaling it back at multiple agencies on the theory that a fanny in the seat prevents the kind of slacking off that can happen when no one’s watching.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Nobody needs another pink hat’: Why the Women’s March is struggling for relevance, Marissa J. Lang, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The organization overhauled its leadership, but on the eve of its fourth march, experts say the group might be a victim of its own success — or failures.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, The Decimation of Local News Has Lawmakers Crossing the Aisle, Cecilia Kang, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Lawmakers from both parties blame companies like Facebook and Google for the struggles of local newspapers.

facebook logoWhen a sport utility vehicle swerved out of its lane several weeks ago, slamming into a pickup truck and killing a teenager, a reporter from The Northeast Georgian raced to the scene. Within hours, the paper had posted the news on Facebook and updated it twice. It was shared by hundreds of people on the social network.

The fatal wreck consumed the town of Cornelia, Ga., nestled near the Chattahoochee National Forest about 90 miles northeast of Atlanta. The Northeast Georgian was the first to report the news, but unless the people who shared its story on Facebook follow a link to its website, either to see an ad or to subscribe to its twice-weekly print edition, the paper won’t get paid.

As with many small papers across the country, that business strategy is not working for The Northeast Georgian. The paper’s five employees do not just report and write. They also edit the articles, take photographs and lay out the newspaper.

But the tough economics facing small newspapers like Mr. NeSmith’s has generated rare bipartisan agreement in Washington.

google logo customAnger toward big technology companies has led to multiple antitrust investigations, calls for a new federal data privacy law and criticism of the companies’ political ad policies. Perhaps no issue about the tech companies, though, has united lawmakers in the Capitol like the decimation of local news.

Lawmakers from both parties blame companies like Facebook and Google, which dominate the online ad industry. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, gave a big boost last week to a bill that may provide some papers a lifeboat. The proposal would give news organizations an exemption from antitrust laws, allowing them to band together to negotiate with Google and Facebook over how their articles and photos are used online, and what payments the newspapers get from the tech companies. (The bill is backed by the News Media Alliance, a trade group that represents news organizations including The New York Times Company.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Setting Up Clash, Barr Asks Apple to Unlock Pensacola Killer’s Phones, Katie Benner, Jan. 13, 2020. William Barr asked the company to provide access to two phones used by the gunman in last month’s shooting at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla. The unusually high-profile request set up a confrontation between law enforcement and technology companies in the latest battle over privacy.

Attorney General William P. Barr declared on Monday that a deadly shooting last month at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., was an act of terrorism, and he asked Apple in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.

Mr. Barr’s appeal was an escalation of an ongoing fight between the Justice Department and Apple pitting personal privacy against public safety.

apple logo rainbow“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple had provided no “substantive assistance.”

Detailing the results of the investigation into the Dec. 6 shooting that killed three sailors and wounded eight others, Mr. Barr said the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani — a Saudi air force cadet training with the American military — had displayed extremist leanings.

The government has also removed from the country some 21 Saudi students who trained with the American military, Mr. Barr said. He stressed that investigators found no connection to the shooting among the cadets but that some had ties to extremist movements or possessed child pornography. Mr. Barr said the cases were too weak to prosecute but that Saudi Arabia kicked the trainees out of the program.

Epstein Scandal

Legal Schnauzer, Opinion: Surveillance video of Jeffrey Epstein's jail cell has been "accidentally" destroyed, and that along with analysis of autopsy evidence, points to homicide, not suicide, Roger Shuler, Jan. 13, 2020. Federal prosecutors revealed late last week that surveillance video from Jeffrey Epstein's first "suicide attempt" at New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) no longer exists -- and that adds to troubling questions about Trump attorney general William Barr's possible involvement in a murder coverup, according to a D.C.-based investigative journalist.

The latest turn in the Epstein story came when attorneys for Epstein's [previous] cellmate -- former cop and quadruple drug-ring murderer Nicholas Tartaglione, below right -- requested the video in an nicholas tartaglione facebook Customapparent effort to clear their client of involvement in Epstein's death. The response from federal prosecutors? Any such video has been lost or destroyed. A new story (subscription required) at Wayne Madsen Report (WMR) says that only adds to the stench surrounding Epstein's death.

Writes Madsen:

Federal prosecutors in New York have revealed that the MCC's video of the Special Housing Unit (SHU) cell where Epstein was placed with former cop Nicholas Tartaglione, charged with a quadruple homicide involving a drug ring, was "accidentally" destroyed. Epstein is said to have tried to commit suicide by hanging himself on July 23, 2019, while Tartaglione was in his cell. Under suspicion for strangling Epstein in the alleged first suicide attempt, Tartaglione's attorney requested a copy of the July 23 videotape to demonstrate that he "acted appropriately" in his sentencing. Federal prosecutors are asking for the death penalty for Tartaglione.

It is not known what Tartaglione meant by stating that he "acted appropriately" while Epstein tried to hang himself. Epstein's attorney claimed that marks on Epstein's neck (shown above) were more indicative of a strangling attempt, not an attempted suicide by hanging. Epstein had apparently passed information to his relatives that his first injuries were sustained as the result of a physical attack, and that it was Tartaglione who assaulted him.

How could an exceptionally dangerous bad actor, such as Tartaglione, be placed anywhere near the alleged sex trafficker Epstein, who because of his ties to Trump, was perhaps the nation's most high-profile inmate at the time? That is one of many head-scratchers in this case. Writes Madsen:

It is clear that Tartaglione is trying to bargain his way out of a death sentence. What is not clear is what the July 23 videotape, had it not been destroyed, would have shown. In a January 9 letter a federal judge, prosecutors stated that the MCC "inadvertently preserved video from the wrong tier," adding that the video from Epstein's and Tartaglione's cell "no longer exists." Earlier, prosecutors told the judge that the tape had been "lost." They then changed their story to state that the video they discovered was trained on the wrong cell.

It defies logic that one of the government's most secure correctional facilities, the one that held Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel chieftain "El Chapo" and Gambino family kingpin John Gotti during their trials, could have destroyed a videotape on its most high-profile inmate.

How ugly could Tartaglione's possible ties to Epstein's death get? The answer is "off-the-charts" ugly, as Madsen explains:

Just prior to Epstein's arrival at the MCC following his arrest at a New Jersey airport, Tartaglione had been found with a contraband cell phone. There is a distinct possibility that Tartaglione received orders over the cell phone to kill Epstein at the first practical opportunity. Tartaglione is now claiming that he "acted appropriately" in the cell with Epstein. In Targtaglione's world of gangland-style murders, "acting appropriately" might mean that he tried to carry out his orders to off Epstein, but, for some reason, Epstein managed to survive the attempted strangulation.

Once Epstein survived the first "suicide" event, did someone in authority takes steps to make sure he was safe? Nope. After Epstein was found semi-conscious in his cell on July 23, he was moved to a special cell where he was placed under a suicide watch.

An MCC psychologist later approved Epstein's removal from the suicide watch and back to the SHU. On August 10 [when Epstein had no assigned cellmate], Epstein was found strangled to death from what was reported to have been a noose crafted from a torn orange bed sheet (shown above at left). There are reports that “shrieking” and “shouting” were heard from Epstein’s cell shortly before his body was discovered by guards.

Editor's note: The column above has been clarified [by insertions such as this] to reflect statements by authorities that Epstein had no cellmate on the night of his death.

U.S. Justice System

washington post logoWashington Post, Jussie Smollett case looms over reelection campaign for Chicago’s chief prosecutor, Mark Guarino, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). In the middle of a video announcing her reelection campaign, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx did something few Chicago politicians do: She admitted fault.

jussie smollett mugshotFoxx had been criticized by President Trump, the Fraternal Order of Police and many Chicagoans for her office’s decision in March to drop all 16 felony disorderly conduct charges against actor Jussie Smollett, right, who police say staged a racist and homophobic attack involving two men with a noose. Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) called Foxx’s decision “a whitewash of justice.” Trump characterized it as “a real big scam.”

“Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that,” Foxx (D) said in her two-minute video.

The criticism has not subsided as Foxx fights to keep her position ahead of the March 17 primary, in which she faces three challengers. She took control of the nation’s second-largest prosecutor’s office in 2016 as the first black woman to hold the title and a key figure in the wave of “progressive prosecutors” who won elections on pledges to fix what they view as a broken criminal justice system that unfairly punishes poor people and racial minorities. Since then, she has been a model of the reform movement, seeking out wrongful convictions, clearing low-level drug offenses and reducing prosecution of shoplifting in favor of targeting gun violence.

But the Smollett controversy threatens to define her term as chief prosecutor. Amid accusations that the dropped charges were a political favor, a judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the decision and explore whether there are new grounds to prosecute the former “Empire” actor. Foxx had also requested the Cook County inspector general review her handling of the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Democrats Run From Their Own Shadows, Mara Gay, Jan. 13, 2020. Don’t buy into a campaign of fear on criminal justice reforms. For years, thousands of people who hadn’t been convicted of a crime languished in New York jails because they could not afford bail. New Yorkers were locked away for months, even years, not because they were dangerous, but because they were poor.

Lives were ruined. Young people, overwhelmingly black and Hispanic teenagers, were thrown away like trash. Families were splintered, and communities torn apart.

Finally last year, the state legislature banned bail for defendants charged with most misdemeanor and nonviolent offenses. New York’s top Democrats preened and crowed, congratulating themselves as progressive champions.

Now, those same Democrats are buckling, crumpling in the face of an ugly campaign to undermine the bail law by forces long opposed to reform.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Texas militia leader went into hiding. Months later, he turned up dead, Derek Hawkins and Marisa Iati, Jan. 13, 2020. More than six months after he went into hiding, the leader of a Texas anti-immigrant militia who was wanted by federal authorities was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, law enforcement officials said.

Police found the body of Kevin Lyndel “KC” Massey, 53, last month in a wooded part of Van Zandt County, Tex., the Dallas Morning News reported Friday, citing a statement from Sheriff Dale Corbett.

Vatican Dispute On Celibacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Benedict defends priestly celibacy as Pope Francis considers changes, Chico Harlan, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The pope emeritus’s remarks were revealed in a book excerpt published by the French newspaper Le Figaro.

pope benedict XVI 2010 10 17 4Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, right, has issued an ardent defense of clerical celibacy, breaking his pledged silence on major church affairs just as Pope Francis is considering an exception that would allow some married men to serve as priests.

Benedict’s remarks, revealed in a new book excerpt published Sunday by the French newspaper Le Figaro, cast light on a once-unthinkable dynamic inside the Roman Catholic Church: A former pope trying to influence his successor in whether the church heeds or breaks with its traditions.

“The ability to renounce marriage in order to place oneself fully at the disposal of the Lord has become a criterion for priestly ministry,” Benedict XVI writes in the book he has co-authored.

In the excerpts, Benedict invokes his own ordination and calls celibacy a sometimes “painful” but necessary step. Though Francis has also defended celibacy — calling it a “gift” to the church and saying it should not be optional — some of the Argentine pontiff’s allies have pushed for exceptions, saying the priesthood needs to modernize and find ways to make up for a severe shortage of vocations.

Poll: Right Choice On Abortion

washington post logoWashington Post, Five years after an abortion, most women say they made the right decision, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Jan. 13, 2020 (print ed.). There’s been quite a lot of research about women’s emotions immediately following an abortion. Some experience sadness, guilt and anger; others feel relief. For many, it’s a mix of all of these and more. But what about in the long term?

Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco delved into this question in an analysis of 667 women recruited from 30 sites across the country as part of the Turnaway Study — a landmark body of research about how abortion affects women physically, socially, emotionally and economically.

World News harry meghan news collage january 2020 slate Custom

Collage of Daily Mail and The Sun, photo illustration by Slate

washington post logoWashington Post, Queen agrees to ‘period of transition’ for Harry and Meghan, Karla Adam and William Booth​​, Jan. 13, 2020. Queen Elizabeth II announced Monday that she and her royal family were “entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life” and that she had agreed to a “period of transition” during which her grandson and his wife would split their time between Canada and Britain.

In a statement, the queen wrote, “Although we would have preferred them to remain full-time working Members of the Royal Family, we respect and understand their wish to live a more independent life as a family while remaining a valued part of my family.”

The queen acknowledged that Harry and Meghan — she omitted their titles, Duke and Duchess of Sussex — “made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives,” but she did not describe their new duties or ventures.

• Read Queen Elizabeth II's statement
• Canada greets possible move of Harry and Meghan with a shrug

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran’s Only Female Olympic Medalist Defects Over ‘Lies’ and ‘Injustice,’ Megan Specia, Jan. 13, 2020. The only female athlete to win an Olympic medal for Iran announced this weekend that she had defected from the nation because of “hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery” and said she had been used as a “tool.”

The Olympian, Kimia Alizadeh, 21, announced her decision in an Instagram post accompanied by a photo from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she won a bronze medal in taekwondo.

Jan. 12

Inside DC

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un poses with his admirer Donald Trump at their meeting on June 12, 2018.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un poses with his admirer Donald Trump at their meeting on June 12, 2018.

Axios Sneak Peek, Exclusive: Trump tells Kim Jong-un he wants to resume talks, Jonathan Swan, Jan. 12, 2020. White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien tells Axios that the Trump administration has "reached out to the North Koreans" to ask them to resume diplomacy that has been all but dead since October.

O'Brien also indicated he was cautiously optimistic about the fact that Kim Jong-un hasn't yet delivered his promised "Christmas gift" — which many analysts expected would be a nuclear weapons test. O'Brien sat down with Margaret Talev, Alayna Treene and me at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Friday to talk about a range of national security challenges at the start of a new year.

North Korean flagOn the tense and dangerous situation with North Korea, O'Brien told us: "We've reached out to the North Koreans and let them know that we would like to continue the negotiations in Stockholm that were last undertaken in early October.

"We've been letting them know, through various channels, that we would like to get those [negotiations] back on track and to implement Chairman Kim's commitment" to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Between the lines: It appears President Trump is again trying to lean on what he has described as his warm personal relationship with the brutal North Korean dictator.

Trump recently sent a birthday message to Kim. But the North Koreans have already said Trump's courtship will not change their policy. So far, Trump's diplomacy has yielded little besides giving Kim more time to expand his nuclear arsenal, according to analysts tracking North Korea's supply of nuclear warheads.

  • Trump may reduce troops in Afghanistan without Taliban deal. O'Brien tells Axios "it is possible" Trump will cut a deal with the Taliban this year but that even if a deal can't be struck, the president is still poised to reduce troops in Afghanistan.

#MeToo Scandals

charlotte remenyik with fencing student ohio state archives CustomOSU fencing coach Charlotte Remenyik gives a coaching tip to a fencing student in 1981 (Ohio State Archives photo).

nbc news logoNBC News, Former Ohio State fencing coach sounded alarm on abusive doctor decades ago, Corky Siemaszko, Jan. 12, 2020. Former Ohio State fencing coach sounded alarm on abusive doctor decades ago. Hungarian refugee Charlotte Remenyik 'was a hero' who dueled with Dr. Richard Strauss, who is accused of molesting hundreds of male athletes.

She watched out for her guys. Former Ohio State University fencing coach Charlotte Remenyik was one of the very few school officials to formally richard strauss osu lantern screenshotsound the alarm about Dr. Richard Strauss during the nearly two decades that he molested hundreds of young male athletes and students, often under the guise of a medical examination. Her warnings can be found in records uncovered by investigators with a law firm hired to conduct an independent investigation into Strauss.

In fact, Remenyik regularly warned her athletes about Strauss, right, and was so persistent that the doctor personally complained about her to the top brass at OSU.

“The reason for the persistence of the rumors in the fencing team became clear: a personal and continuous vendetta against me by Coach Remenyik,” Strauss wrote in a letter dated June 3, 1996, to OSU’s then vice-president for student affairs. “Approximately once a year, Coach Remenyik took various members of the team aside and told them to ‘watch out’ for me, citing ‘rumors’.”

ohio state buckeyes logoStrauss’ redacted letter was included in a damning report released last year by the Perkins Coie law firm, hired by OSU to conduct an independent investigation, which concluded that coaches and administrators knew that Strauss was sexually abusing athletes and students but failed to stop him.

“She was a hero,” said Stephen Snyder-Hill, a Strauss victim and one of the leaders of the drive to hold OSU accountable. “She was the only one who formally stood up.”

Remenyik is also the only former OSU coach named in the report. She appears on page 92 as a person who raised “concerns” about Strauss in 1994 to Senior Associate Athletic Director Paul Krebs.

In a letter dated Nov. 7, 1994, OSU’s then-Director of Sports Medicine John A. Lombardo dismissed Remenyik’s concerns. “I have spoken with her and her concerns are based on rumors which has been generated for 10 years with no foundation,” Lombardo wrote in the letter, which was included in the Perkins Coie report. “However, due to the pervasive nature of these rumors, the male athletes do not feel comfortable with Dr. Strauss as their physicians.”

NBC News was unable to reach Krebs for comment. But Remenyik’s report was not based on rumors, her daughter, Csilla Smith, said. Among the fencers who told Remenyik directly that Strauss had crossed the line was her future son-in-law, Kevin Smith, she said. “He went in to be treated for a torn earlobe and the first thing he said was to drop trou,” Smith said of her husband. “Kevin refused and told my mother what happened.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Short on Legal Options, #MeToo Accusers Turn to Defamation Suits, Julia Jacobs, Jan. 12, 2020. The Weinstein trial is rare because most sexual misconduct claims are too old to litigate. But women, and men, are finding another way to get to court.

ashley judd headshotAshley Judd, right,  was one of the first women to attach her name to accusations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, below at left, but like many of the claims that followed, her account of intimidating sexual advances was too old to bring Mr. Weinstein to court over.

Then a legal window opened to her. After reading about a director’s claim that Mr. Weinstein’s studio, Miramax, had described Ms. Judd as a “nightmare to work harvey weinsteinwith,” she sued the producer for defamation in 2018.

Mr. Weinstein’s rape trial in Manhattan, which began with jury selection last week, is a spectacle not only because he is the avatar of the #MeToo era, but also because it is one of the few sexual assault cases to surface with allegations recent enough to result in criminal charges.

So, unable to pursue justice directly, women and men on both sides of #MeToo are embracing the centuries-old tool of defamation lawsuits, opening an alternative legal battleground for accusations of sexual misconduct.

While the facts of the cases vary, the plaintiffs are generally using defamation law not just for its usual purpose — to dissuade damaging speech about them — but also as a tool to enlist the courts to endorse their version of disputed events.

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials struggle to explain intelligence behind killing of Soleimani, Karen DeYoung​, Jan. 12, 2020. Senior members of the administration including Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper declined to confirm the president’s assertion that four U.S. embassies had been targeted for attack by Iran.​

Department of Defense SealSenior administration officials declined Sunday to confirm President Trump’s assertion that four U.S. embassies had been targeted for attack by Iran, while saying that Trump’s “interpretation” of the threat was consistent with overall intelligence that justified the killing of a senior Iranian general.

“I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies,” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said of intelligence reports. “What I’m saying is I share the president’s view that probably — my expectation was they were going to go after our embassies,” Esper told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Washington Post, Strike against general reflects an aggressive national security team not inclined to curb Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Secretary of Defense Mark Esper just completely blew it, Bill Palmer, Jan. 12, 2020. Now that Donald Trump’s assassination of Iranian leader Soleimani has blown up in his face and caused most Americans to conclude that the move has made us all less safe, Trump is desperate to convince us that he had a good reason for doing it. He and his surrogates keep insisting that there was intel that Soleimani was about to launch an “imminent” attack on one or more U.S. embassies. The trouble: none of them can even get their stories straight.

bill palmer report logo headerThe Trump regime’s premise this week has been that if enough voices repeated the lie enough times about an imminent attack, it won’t matter that no evidence can be provided that any such attack was about to happen. Donald Trump keeps screwing that up by changing his story each time he addresses it. First there was supposedly an imminent attack coming against the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Then there was supposedly an imminent attack coming against four U.S. embassies.

mark esperEven as Trump has been botching this with his ever-worsening hyperbole, his handpicked Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, right, went on television today to try to clean up Trump’s mess. Instead, when Esper appeared on CNN and CBS News this morning, he admitted that no specific intel existed about an imminent attack, and that he and Trump simply “believed that it probably and could’ve been attacks against additional embassies.” Nevermind that those words don’t even really go together; Esper just screwed up and admitted that there was no intel.

In other words, Donald Trump decided on a whim to take out Soleimani, and it didn’t play out well, so he and his White House made up a fake story about an imminent attack, which Trump’s Secretary of Defense is now admitting was a lie. Esper’s job was to fix this mess for Trump. Instead he’s made it even worse for Trump, and ensured that this will become an uglier scandal for Trump in the coming week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Leaders in Tehran face new challenges after Iran admits to downing plane, Erin Cunningham and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Jan. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Protests flared Iran Flagin Tehran, where student-led rallies decried the missile mistake and called on military chiefs to resign.

• Washington Post, What's at stake for Iran
• Washington Post, Iran tensions could fulfill prophecies about the end of the world, some religious teachers say

OpEdNews, Commentary: Trump Tells Iraq Order US Troops Out and I'll Freeze Your Central Bank's Account at the Fed, Dave Lindorff, Jan. 12, 2020. President Trump's actions in the Middle East are becoming increasingly unhinged. A week ago, he nearly triggered a catastrophic war between Iran and the US when, acting seemingly on a whim or in response to the advice of two of his nuttier advisors, fundamentalist Christian "Rapture" believers Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, he ordered the assassination by drone of the commander of Iran's military, Qassem Suleimani.

Fortunately for American troops, sailors and pilots, and for all of us and the people of Iran, saner heads in the administration seem to have gotten to Trump, and also fortunately,Iran's military responded in measured fashion. As a result, the threat of a major war between the two countries seems to have receded a bit, at least for now.

abdul mahdi Custom 2Then today, Trump, in response for a call by Iraq's parliament and its Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, right, for the US to withdraw all of its 5100 troops currently stationed in Iraq, declared he would not remove them. He added that if forced to pull them out of the country by Iraq, would freeze a deposit account of Iraq's Central Bank at the US Federal Reserve, preventing Iraq from accessing what the Wall Street Journal reports amounted to a deposited balance of some $3 billion at the end of 2018.

The Wall Street Journal article reports that some 250 foreign central banks and other state entities have such accounts with the US Federal Reserve containing untold billions of dollars. There was no discussion in the Journal article of what impact the US's arbitrary freezing of Iraq's Central Bank account simply over a dispute about America's troops in Iraq might have on the willingness of all those other foreign countries' banks and agencies willingness to continue letting the Fed hold their money.

It has not been unusual for the US to freeze foreign countries' assets, in both the Federal Reserve Bank, and in the electronic vaults of US commercial banks, but typically this has been done when a country has engaged in illegal activity, or when a revolution has occurred. This was the case after the overthrow of the US-backed Shah of Iran in 1979, and was the reason that the Obama administration, as part of the nuclear deal it and five other nations negotiated with Iran, unfroze some $150 billion in Iranian assets that the US had been blocking Iran from accessing. (That's the nuclear agreement that Trump tore up earlier this year.)

More World News

naval air station pensacola patrick nichols us navy via zuma wire Custom

Naval Air Station Pensacola was on lockdown Friday, December 6, 2019 after a Saudi Arabian military pilot training in the US opened fire leaving three people dead and several others wounded. Photo credit: © Patrick Nichols/US Navy via ZUMA Wire.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. to expel Saudi military students after colleague killed 3 at Pensacola base, Devlin Barrett and John Hudson, Jan. 12, 2020 (print ed.). At least a dozen military trainees could be sent back to their home country after an FBI investigation found connections to extremist rhetoric and possession of child pornography.

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, How Bernie Sanders could upend America’s global role, Sean Sullivan, Jan. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The presidential hopeful’s foreign policy worldview — anchored by a passionate opposition to U.S. military interventions — has been overshadowed by his famously liberal domestic policy agenda.

Bernie Sanders Officialdemocratic donkey logoWith the Iran crisis thrusting foreign affairs to the forefront of the campaign, just as Sanders rises in early state polls, Democrats who previously waved off the senator’s views as fringe ideas now must contemplate the possibility of a democratic socialist becoming commander in chief of the United States.

Trump has already upended the world order with an “America First” approach that tests Western alliances, and Sanders, right, would deliver another jolt — echoing some of Trump’s criticisms of military actions and free trade but realigning the country’s priorities even more thoroughly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden holds wide lead among black voters in Democratic presidential race, poll finds, Scott Clement, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Dan Balz and Emily Guskin, Jan. 12, 2019 (print ed.). Former vice president Joe Biden is far and away the favored candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination among black Americans, boosted by his personal popularity, his service in the Obama administration and perceptions that he is best equipped to defeat President Trump, joe biden oaccording to a national Washington Post-Ipsos poll.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) occupies second place in the Democratic field among African American voters, easily outdistancing the remaining candidates in the race. Sanders is leading among black voters under age 35, replicating his success with younger white voters in other national polls. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) runs democratic donkey logothird.

The survey finds meager support for former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is among the leaders in polls in the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire but stands at 2 percent among Democratic black voters nationally. A lack of familiarity with him and concerns about his experience and sexual orientation appear to be contributing to his current standing.

• Washington Post, Analysis: Two polls frame the Democratic race and the power of African American voters

 Impeachment Update

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion from George Conway and Neal Katyal: How Pelosi should play her impeachment cards, George T. Conway III, right, and Neal K. Katyal, Jan. 12, 2020 (print ed.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has announced that she plans to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, but george conway twitterthat does not mean she has lost in the seeming standoff with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over whether to call witnesses at the Senate trial.

McConnell, below left, has said “there’s no chance the president’s going to be removed from office” and “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position.” In response, Pelosi still has cards in her hand — if she plays them — because the House approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump.

mitch mcconnell2The first article of impeachment effectively charges the president with shaking down Ukraine; the second impeaches him for his unprecedented obstruction of Congress. That gives the speaker room to maneuver. She could choose to tweak her announcement and send only the second article, on obstruction, for trial. Or she could transmit them both — along with a House-approved provision advising the Senate that if it fails to obtain adequate witnesses and documents, the House will reopen the investigation into Article I and subpoena that material itself.

Separating the two articles — our preferred approach — would make perfect sense. When it comes to the second article, all the evidence about Trump’s obstruction is a matter of public record. There’s nothing more to add, so the second article is ripe for trial. But as to the first, although there is plenty of evidence demonstrating Trump’s guilt, his obstruction has prevented all of the evidence from coming to light.

neal katyal oHow can one conduct a “trial” without knowing this evidence? As lawyers, we have never heard of a trial without witnesses. Both past impeachment trials of presidents featured witnesses — including 41 in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. And the lack of witnesses is particularly striking given the shell game Trump and his Republican colleagues have played. In the House, Trump prevented executive branch employees from testifying, but said some of them would be able to testify in the Senate. Now that we are in the Senate, Republicans say these folks should have testified in the House. Lewis Carroll would be pleased.

George T. Conway III is a lawyer in New York and an adviser to the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump super PAC. Neal Katyal, right, a law professor at Georgetown University, is the author of “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump” and previously served as the acting solicitor general of the United States.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani has completely berserk meltdown on live national television, Daniel Cotter, Jan. 12, 2020. Just when you think that Rudy Giuliani cannot find a way rudy giuliani recentto even further demonstrate the insanity of himself and his client, Rudy finds a new way. Giuliani, right, who went on a mission to Ukraine to manufacture fake dirt on the Bidens and promised explosive information, was dismissed by Lindsey Graham as needing to have his information vetted. For Graham to be so dismissive tells us all we need to know.

Now Giuliani is spreading more manure, this time on “Judge” Jeanine’s show. Giuliani claimed on Saturday night that Joe Biden made money in Iraq, in Iran, and in China. He spoke of a RICO crime chart with Biden at the center. No evidence, no information, nothing, but the Cult 45 fools will eat this up.

bill palmer report logo headerRudy also went on to say that the Supreme Court should declare impeachment unconstitutional. One minor problem for the G-Man, who used to be respected for his legal analysis: impeachment is specifically set forth in the Constitution, and assigns the responsibility of each chamber of Congress and the process that is to take place. Impeachment requires no actual criminal conduct, and is instead a political process.

In addition, Rudy stated to Jeanine, “The Chief Justice has the power to dismiss the impeachment case.” Yeah, that is not how this works. The Chief Justice has no power to do any such thing and, in the 1990s, the Supreme Court expressly stated that when it comes to the process, the Court would not get involved, as impeachment is indeed a political matter. We appear to be living in a world of Batman’s Gotham, with Rudy appearing as a delusional Joker. Notice though that “Judge Jeanine” might be the only willing participant at the moment in Rudy’s delusional act – just not the kind of judge who can help him.

Natural Disasters: Puerto Rico

washington post logoWashington Post, Puerto Rico earthquake aftershocks again rattle coastline as residents deal with disaster after disaster, Arelis R. Hernández and Cristina Corujo, Jan. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Puerto Rico has not stopped shaking since a 6.4-magnitude earthquake on Tuesday forced thousands of families to sleep outside, jeopardized the territory's weak power infrastructure and frayed the nerves of residents who have endured more than two years of catastrophe after catastrophe.

Unceasing seismic activity on a fault just off the southern coast has pushed damage estimates to $110 million, and municipal authorities are weighing evacuation orders for residents in pueblos such as Guánica, where another 6-magnitude aftershock Saturday rocked the region and threatened to topple anything that hasn’t already collapsed.

UK Royal Family Shakeup

 harry meghan news collage january 2020 slate Custom

Collage of Daily Mail and The Sun, photo illustration by Slate

washington post logoWashington Post, Queen to convene face-to-face showdown with princes Harry, William and Charles. Meghan could phone in, Jan. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Karla Adam and William Booth​, The meeting on Monday, dubbed the “Sandringham Summit,” is the first time the four royals have met in person since the bombshell news.

Queen Elizabeth II will convene a portentous family meeting on Monday to thrash out the options ahead for Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex — and possibly shape the face of the royal house for years.

united kingdom flagThe meeting, already dubbed the “Sandringham Showdown,” will take place at the queen’s royal-owned country estate of Sandringham in the east of England.

An official at Buckingham Palace, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed reports in the British media that the meeting will go ahead. The official said that the top royals will review “a range of possibilities” and “what the Sussexes said earlier in the week” — they said they wanted to live part-time in North America — will be “taken into account.”

What kind of family holds such a meeting? The House of Windsor does, a dynasty whose monarch serves as the — albeit mostly ceremonial — head of state in Britain, as well as the Commonwealth nations, whose vast inherited wealth and extensive land holdings make them one of the richest families in Britain.

Jan. 11

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

ny times logoWashington Post, Trump administration refuses to heed Iraq’s call for troop withdrawal, Karen DeYoung, Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim,Jan. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, right, said he asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to start a procedure for withdrawing U.S. forces from the country.

abdul mahdi Custom 2The Trump administration refused again Friday to recognize Iraq's call to withdraw all U.S. troops, saying that any discussion with Baghdad would center on whatever force size the United States determines is sufficient to achieve its goals there.

"At this time, any delegation sent to Iraq would be dedicated to discussing how best to recommit to our strategic partnership — not to discuss troop withdrawal," the State Department said.

The statement came after Iraq's caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, said he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a Thursday telephone call to begin talks about a "mechanism" to implement last week's Iraqi parliamentary vote demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops.

"He didn't quite characterize the conversation correctly," Pompeo, speaking at a news ­conference, said of Abdul Mahdi's description of the call.

The public disagreement between the United States and its Iraqi ally, imperiling the mission of more than 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq to fight the Islamic State, reflects tensions that have characterized the relationship for years, as well as the deep schisms in Iraqi politics.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran Says It Unintentionally Shot Down Ukrainian Airliner, Farnaz Fassihi, Jan. 11, 2020 (updated). “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” President Hassan Rouhani said, as Iran reversed its claims that mechanical failure was to blame.

Iran’s military announced early Saturday that it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, blaming human error because of what it called the plane’s sharp, unexpected hassan rouhani fileturn toward a sensitive military base.

After days of tension since the jet crashed near Tehran on Wednesday, the same day that Iranian missiles struck American bases in Iraq, the admission was a stunning reversal. Iran initially maintained that mechanical issues had brought the Boeing airliner down, killing all 176 people aboard.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter soon after the military released its statement. He offered condolences to the victims’ families and said investigations were underway. The military said the person responsible would face legal consequences.

washington post logoWashington Post, On the day U.S. forces killed Soleimani, they launched another operation targeting Iranian official in Yemen, John Hudson, Missy Ryan and Josh Dawsey​, Jan. 11, 2020 (print ed.). On the day the U.S. military killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad, U.S. forces carried out another top secret mission against a senior Iranian military official in Yemen, according to U.S. officials.

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.

qassim soleimaniThe unsuccessful operation may indicate that the Trump administration’s killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, right, 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.

U.S. military operations in Yemen, where a civil war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, are shrouded in secrecy. U.S. officials said the operation against Shahlai remains highly classified, and many declined to offer details other than to say it was not successful.

Health News

ny times logoNew York Times, Will Blocking Gene End Pain of Disease Inherited for Generations? Gina Kolata, Jan. 11, 2020. Helen is the youngest person to get a gene therapy that scientists hope will cure sickle cell disease, which affects millions of people globally.

Helen Obando, a shy slip of a girl, lay curled in a hospital bed in June waiting for a bag of stem cells from her bone marrow, modified by gene therapy, to start dripping into her chest.

hhs seal CustomThe hope was that the treatment would cure her of sickle cell disease, an inherited blood disorder that can cause excruciating pain, organ damage and early death.

For more than a half century, scientists have known the cause of sickle cell disease: A single mutation in a gene turns red blood cells into rigid crescent or sickle shapes instead of soft discs. These misshapen cells get stuck in veins and arteries, blocking the flow of blood that carries life-giving oxygen to the body and causing the disease’s horrifying hallmark: episodes of agony that begin in babyhood.

Millions of people globally, a vast majority of them Africans, suffer from sickle cell disease. Researchers have worked for decades on improving treatment and finding a cure, but experts say the effort has been hindered by chronic underfunding, in part because most of the estimated 100,000 people in the United States who have the disease are African-American, often poor or of modest means.

The disease also affects people with southern European, Middle Eastern or Asian backgrounds, or those who are Hispanic, like Helen.

This is the story of two quests for a sickle cell cure — one by the Obando family, and one by a determined scientist at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Stuart Orkin, 73, who has labored against the disease since he was a medical resident in the 1970s.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, The F.D.A. Is in Trouble. Here’s How to Fix It, Editorial Board, Jan. 11, 2020. Some New Year’s resolutions for the incoming boss. The Food and Drug Administration is in distress. The agency is still the world’s leading regulator of food and medical products, responsible for ensuring the safety of some $2.6 trillion in consumer goods each year. That represents 20 cents of every dollar that Americans spend. But critics both inside and outside the sprawling agency say that the F.D.A.’s standards have been slipping for some time.

fda logoThe effects of that slippage are starting to show. Too many prescription drugs and medical devices are being approved with too little data on how safe or effective they are. And too many other products — like those containing CBD or THC, ingredients found in the marijuana plant — are being sold with no apparent oversight at all.

Part of the problem is that the agency has too few resources and too little power to fulfill its key responsibilities. But it has also become profoundly vulnerable to political interference and other special interests. And a revolving door — F.D.A. staffers frequently go on to lucrative jobs at the very companies they were tasked with policing — has hurt the agency’s credibility.

Impeachment

washington post logonancy pelosi impeachmentWashington Post, Pelosi signals House will send articles of impeachment to Senate as soon as next week, John Wagner, Colby Itkowitz and Mike DeBonis​, Jan. 11, 2020 (print ed.). “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,” the House speaker said in a letter to colleagues Friday.

Trump Scandals

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ny times logoWashington Post, Michael Cohen, feeling cheated, accuses federal prosecutors of ‘character assassination’ and ignoring his help with prison filings, Shayna Jacobs, Jan. 11, 2019.  President Trump’s former fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen is lawyering on his own behalf from an Upstate New York federal prison, filing motions that accuse prosecutors of failing to do right by him in his continued bid to shorten his sentence.

A recent set of arguments filed Friday even accuse federal prosecutors of “character assassination” after they made it clear that Cohen (shown above in a file photo) was of little use to them in his bid to buy himself a reduction in his sentence after the fact.

Prosecutors have said in court filings that he lied in meetings with their office and failed to answer questions that could help them.

Justice Department log circularCohen is serving a three-year total prison sentence — covering two separate cases — on charges of tax evasion, making false statements to a bank, campaign finance violations and making false statements to Congress in relation to a Moscow real estate deal on behalf of Trump in 2016.

Still, he has been seeking the help of the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan to fight for an early release since his December 2018 sentencing.

Cohen admitted to failing to report $4 million in income, cheating the federal government of $1.3 million in taxes he should have paid, and conceded that he lied to a bank to get a $500,000 home equity loan in addition to orchestrating “hush money” payments to two women — adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen MacDougal — who claimed to have had sexual relations with Trump.

Cohen, a lawyer who cut deals for Trump and lobbied on his behalf, insisted that his 170 hours of testimony to Congress as well as state and federal investigators should have earned him the support of the U.S. attorney’s office when he sought to have his sentence reduced.

U.S. Politics

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

Donald Trump, shown in a 2020 campaign hat.

New York Post, Florida man gets 90 days in jail for spitting on Trump supporter in MAGA hat, Adam Schrader, Jan. 11, 2020. A Florida man who was caught on a restaurant security camera spitting on a 67-year-old Trump supporter wearing a MAGA hat was sentenced to 90 days in Indian River County Jail, a report said.

democratic donkey logoDemocrat Matthias Ajple, 43, was convicted of battering Robert Youngblood in an attack at Hurricane Grill & Wings in Vero Beach, documents obtained by The Smoking Gun show. On Oct. 25, Ajple walked around the restaurant’s bar and told Youngblood, “You should go back to Russia, you f–king communist.” The liberal smacked Youngblood’s head and spit on him. He got into his car and drove away.

Police later tracked Ajple down and arrested him, charging him with battery. Ajple, who pled no-contest, will also serve 12 months of probation, pay about $700 in fines and court costs and another $155 in restitution to Youngblood. However, the spitter may need to cough up more cash for his victim. Youngblood has filed a civil suit against Ajple seeking damages in excess of $15,000, The Smoking Gun reported.

Jan. 10

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

Trump's Clinton Probe A Bust?

washington post logojohn huberWashington Post, Justice Dept. winds down Clinton-related probe sought by Trump after finding nothing of consequence, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 10, 2020, print ed.). A Justice Department inquiry launched more than two years ago to mollify conservatives clamoring for more investigations of Hillary Clinton has effectively ended with no tangible results, and current and former law enforcement officials said they never expected the effort to produce much of anything.

John Huber, right, the U.S. attorney in Utah, was tapped in November 2017 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into concerns raised by President Trump and his allies in Congress that the FBI had not fully pursued cases of possible corruption at the Clinton Foundation and during Clinton’s time as secretary of state, when the U.S. government decided not to Hillary Clinton Buttonblock the sale of a company called Uranium One.

As a part of his review, Huber examined documents and conferred with federal law enforcement officials in Little Rock who were handling a meandering probe into the Clinton Foundation, people familiar with the matter said. Current and former officials said that Huber has largely finished and found nothing worth pursuing — though the assignment has not formally ended and no official notice has been sent to the Justice Justice Department log circularDepartment or to lawmakers, these people said.

The effective conclusion of his investigation, with no criminal charges or other known impacts, is likely to roil some in the GOP who had hoped the prosecutor would vindicate their long-held suspicions about a political rival. Trump, though, has largely shifted his focus to a different federal prosecutor tapped to do a separate, special investigation: U.S. attorney in Connecticut John Durham, who Attorney General William P. Barr assigned last year to explore the origins of the FBI’s 2016 probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Media Matters, Opinion: The final, inevitable collapse of the right-wing media’s Uranium One conspiracy theory, Matt Gertz, Jan. 10, 2020. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions appointed U.S. attorney John Huber to review the sale of the company known as Uranium One. Fox News and conservative media had spent years fixated on the case, portraying it as a scandal aimed at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Some mainstream outlets even played along.

Huber reportedly is now closing the two-year review without bringing any charges.

media matters logoThe Uranium One pseudoscandal has its roots in the work of the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit conservative investigative research organization founded by Steve Bannon and helmed by Peter Schweizer, a conservative author with a record of major factual errors and questionable sourcing. During the 2016 election, The New York Times and The Washington Post made “exclusive agreements” with Schweizer “for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton.”
That's how this false, right-wing lie ended up on the front page of The New York Times:

From there, the story became a major part of the 2016 campaign, with it often mentioned by Trump. And rather than fade away after the election, it became a major Fox News talking point after special counsel Robert Mueller began reviewing ties between Trump’s associates and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

john solomonFox hosts like Hannity flogged the story repeatedly in 2017 thanks to a misleading report from John Solomon, right. (Solomon's "report" featured someone he called a whistleblower who was represented by Victoria Toensing; we know now that Toensing is also Solomon's own attorney. When the whistleblower was questioned by House investigators, he had no information.) The story was so prominent in right-wing media at this point that then-Fox host Shep Smith ran a segment reiterating that it was a false conspiracy theory.

Sessions appointed Huber at this point, after Fox host Jeanine Pirro reportedly criticized the Attorney General to Trump in the Oval Office. Now that investigation is ending with nothing having been turned up.

Not that this will break through to the Fox News audience. Shep has left the network, and Hannity furiously said on Friday that he still believes there is wrongdoing. Maybe in 2020, though, outlets like The New York Times will think a bit before teaming up with Steve Bannon.

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, Iraq asks U.S. to set up mechanism for troop withdrawal, Sarah Dadouch, Jan. 10, 2020. In a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, left, asked the United States send a delegation to Iraq to set up a mechanism for U.S. troop withdrawal from the country, a statement from the abdul mahdi Custom 2prime minister's office said Friday.

mike pompeo o sec stateThe request followed a vote by the Iraqi parliament to expel thousands of U.S. troops, a direct consequence of a U.S. drone attackthat killed senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and nine companionsin Baghdad a week ago.

The killing set off a string of events in the region. On Tuesday, Iran retaliated for the death of its revered Quds Force commander by launching more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two military bases that house U.S. troops in Iraq. President Trump said the strike caused no American or Iraqi deaths and that new sanctions on Iran will be imposed.

The Iraqi prime minister has repeatedly insisted that U.S. troop withdrawal was the only path toward de-escalation. In the phone call on Thursday, he asked Pompeo, above right, “to send representatives to Iraq to put in place a mechanism for implementing the parliament’s decision for the safe withdrawal of forces from Iraq.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. hits Iran with fresh sanctions, Carol Morello, Jan. 10, 2020. The action was the first concrete response to Tehran’s missile attack on bases in Iraq. The Trump administration hit Iran with more sanctions Friday in the first concrete response to the attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq this week, which were in retaliation for the U.S. airstrike that killed the most powerful Iranian military commander.

The sanctions targeted Iran’s metal industries, and eight senior military and national security officials who U.S. officials said were involved in the ballistic missile attacks on two bases in Iraq that house U.S. military personnel.

Among those sanctioned were the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, the deputy chief of staff of the armed forces and the commander of the Basij militia that has been responsible for a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

• Washington Post, Analysis: Questions pile up about Trump’s claim that Soleimani was going to ‘blow up’ a U.S. embassy
• Washington Post, Professor who jokingly said Iran should list 52 U.S. cultural sites to bomb has been fired

Impeachment

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s unhinged rally rant underscores case for reining him in, Greg Sargent, Jan. 10, 2020. At a rally in Ohio on Thursday night, President Trump drew deafening cheers by boasting about his order to assassinate Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, deriding Democrats with petty schoolyard taunts and mocking the very idea that Congress should act to constrain his warmaking powers.

In so doing, Trump demonstrated powerfully why Congress absolutely must act to rein in Trump’s unilateral authority to wage war. Not just in a superficial sense — as in, no one this unhinged should be declaring war unilaterally — but in a much deeper sense as well.

At his rally, Trump belittled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “not operating with a full deck.” He derided House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff as “you little pencil neck.” The crowd roared, demonstrating how heavily Trump’s petty abusiveness figures as a factor in his appeal.

But what Trump really displayed here is that his deranged attacks on the opposition aren’t mere insults. Taken along with Trump’s mockery of congressional demands for input into decisions of war, they demonstrate a profound contempt for the very notion that his most consequential decisions should be subject to oversight and accountability at all.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Trumpiest Congressman’ cites principles for bucking president on war powers, Fred Barbash, Jan. 10, 2020. Matt Gaetz, the ‘Trumpiest Congressman,’ cites principles for bucking president on war powers. Kevin McCarthy is ‘very shocked.’

matt gaetz o CustomRep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has been called “the Trumpiest Congressman in Trump’s Washington,” a judgment that he features proudly and prominently on his campaign homepage, along with quotes depicting him as “Trump’s Best Buddy,” “Trump’s Ultimate Defender” and “Rising star of the Trumpian right.”

Gaetz wants so much to impress President Trump that he sometimes wakes up around 5 a.m. so he can be on “Fox & Friends” as early as possible. That’s when “the republican elephant logopresident is watching,” he told The Washington Post’s Dan Zak. He strives to please Trump in every way, every day.

Every day except Thursday, that is.

Gaetz was one of three Republicans who voted in favor of a House resolution to prevent Trump from taking additional military action against Iran unless Congress declares war or in the event of “an imminent armed attack upon the United States.” The president and the Republican leadership vigorously opposed the measure.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the Republicans are hedging their bets against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Jan. 10, 2020. On Wednesday, Republican Senator Mike Lee, right, publicly and loudly lambasted the Donald Trump regime for its handling of the Soleimani fallout, before retracting it the next day. On Thursday, Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz voted to take mike leeaway Trump’s war powers against Iran. If the pattern holds, he’ll soon fall back in line as well. So what’s really going on here?

We’re seeing a lot of discussion of these incidents as if they were about courage, and/or a lack thereof. I don’t buy it. When you’re dealing with anyone who’s willing to be a member of the current Republican Party, concepts like courage and character don’t apply. These folks have sold their souls to try to hang onto their seats in Congress in the Trump era. Now what we’re seeing is a series of bets being hedged.

Donald Trump has dissolved into a guy who gives orders so erratic and incoherent, even his handlers can’t explain it away after the fact. Trump has also dissolved into a guy who can’t get through a speech without sounding like he’s either severely drugged, or needs to be drugged. November is a long way away, and whatever is bill palmer report logo headergoing wrong with this guy, it’s accelerating. There’s a small, but greater than zero, and certainly growing, chance that Trump will be too far gone to even be on the ballot in 2020.

Imagine you’re a Republican in Congress and you’ve staked your own political viability to Donald Trump, and now you’re watching him fall apart so quickly, you’re Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoworried that – in all seriousness – he could end up in some kind of assisted living facility or padded room before election day. If that happens, the Republican Party will need a new horse to back going into 2020, and the public will be asking why no one in the GOP did anything about Trump when it first became clear that he was dissolving into a puddle of Jello.

That’s the point at which a Republican politician will want to be able to point back to something, even if just one isolated moment, in which he or she called out Donald Trump for falling to pieces.

Trump Fan Jailed

djt karyn turk facebook Custom

Karyn Turk, a socialiate sentenced to jail for stealing her mother's checks, is a conservative commentator who is often pictured with Republican figures in Palm Beach, such as this 2018 Facebook photo with President Donald Trump. She is shown below in Facebook photos with the president's son, Donald Jr., at right, and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who also serves as what he and the president describe as a special anti-corruption investigator.

Daily MailOnline US, Former Mrs. Florida is jailed for one month for stealing her elderly mom's Social Security checks 'to fund her dream of appearing on Real Housewives of Palm Beach' instead of paying for nursing home care, Keith Griffith and Associated Press, Jan. 10, 2020.  A federal judge in Florida has ordered Mrs. Florida 2016 to spend a month in jail for stealing her mother's Social Security checks rather than using the money to pay for nursing home care.

karyn turk rudy giuliani facebook february 2019 CustomKaryn Turk, 47, was also sentenced on Thursday to five months of house arrest when she gets out of prison, and must perform 100 hours of community service in a nursing home, the Palm Beach Post reported.

Turk's adoptive mother died in June at the age of 83, after suffering Alzheimer's and dementia. A court-appointed guardian accused Turk of using her mother's Social Security checks to promote her dream of appearing on 'The Real Housewives of Palm Beach' and to garner publicity.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Turk defended herself, writing: 'Look beyond the headlines. There's always more to the story. Nursing home neglect is real. The elderly in America are not well cared for in many nursing homes.'

Last month, Turk (posed with Giuliani at an event last February) filed a lawsuit against the Lake Worth nursing home where her mother lived, alleging improper care that contributed to the mother's death.

karyn turk djt jr 2018 facebook CustomTurk, a conservative social media commentator who lives in Highland Beach, must report to prison on March 2.

She and her lawyers sought to convince the judge that she's suffered enough and didn't deserve prison or house arrest. Attorney David Tarras said that since Turk pleaded guilty in September to a misdemeanor charge of Social Security fraud, she's been harassed on social media.

In addition, Turk, who was named champion of the year by teen mentoring group Best Buddies in 2019, has lost her position on various philanthropic groups.

Turk is a conservative media commentator and her attorney told the judge her career is dead without the ability to hob-nob in the community, travel to interview celebrities for YouTube broadcasts and to host fundraisers. 'Her livelihood is based on networking and being a social media commentator,' Tarras said.

She brought a check for $46,000 to court to reimburse the government, the attorney told the judge, adding that should be enough. But U.S. Magistrate Bruce Reinhart disagreed. He said that even though Turk had apparently led an otherwise law-abiding life, her crime was a serious one, and she republican elephant logocouldn't 'buy her way out of jail' by writing a check.

'Choices in life have consequences, I'm sorry to tell you,' the judge said. 'If you steal from the government, you're not going to have a reputation as an honest person.'

The judge said that as a social media commentator with a large following, Turk is well-placed to send an important message to others.

'The message I'm sending is: You can't steal from the government and not go to jail.'

World News

harry meghan news collage january 2020 slate Custom

Collage of Daily Mail and The Sun, photo illustration by Slate

Slate, The British Press Is Losing Its Mind Over Harry and Meghan, Heather Schwedel, Jan. 10, 2020. Exiled wax figures and asparagus prognostication have stormed the tabloids. For the United Kingdom’s tabloid press, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s decision to “step back” from their duties as royals is an all-hands-on-deck situation.

There have been no shortage of royal events that brought with them wall-to-wall press coverage over the past decade as this generation’s royals have come of age — engagements, weddings, babies — but never has there been a story quite like a princess quitting the entire institution and taking her prince with her. Apparently lost on the press is the irony that part of what prompted the move is its own racist coverage.

Harry and Meghan have had an understandably tense relationship with the tabs — they’re literally suing one of them. While they maintain a veneer of just-in-it-for-the-drama neutrality, it’s also clear that some of the papers’ sympathies lie with Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the Windsors, evidenced especially by the Daily Mirror’s front page: “They Didn’t Even Tell the Queen.”

Elsewhere, journalists criticized the move as “selfish” and “an atrocious lapse of judgment.” The Daily Telegraph went with the headline “Harry and Meghan quit the firm,” invoking some vintage slang for the royal family. In addition to “Megxit,” further punnage was attempted, to middling success: The Sun offered “Meg It Work” and “Meg Your Mind Up,” while the Daily Star is trying to make “pass the duchy” happen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Meghan flies back to Canada; Prince Harry in ‘crisis’ talks with Prince Charles, Karla Adam, Jan. 10, 2020. Her departure renewed speculation that the couple will make Canada their part-time home.

united kingdom flagMeghan, Duchess of Sussex, has flown back to Canada following the bombshell announcement that she and her husband, Prince Harry, are "stepping back" from royal duties, prompting intensified speculation that the couple will make Canada their part-time home.

An official at Buckingham Palace confirmed reports that Meghan had returned to Canada — the latest act in a drama that the British press has dubbed “Megxit.”

Meanwhile, Harry remains in Britain, where he is reportedly in deep discussions with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II; his father, Prince Charles; and his brother, Prince William, about the couple’s future role.

Climate Change / Economy

 australian fires kangaroo nytimes CustomKangaroo rushes past a burning house Tuesday in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, Australia (Photo: Matthew Abbott for The New York Times).

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Megafire’ measuring 1.5 million acres forms in Australia as bushfires merge, Andrew Freedman, Jan. 10, 2020. Hot, dry and windy conditions caused two large blazes to merge into one the size of the state of Delaware — or about eight times larger than New York City. Australia’s bushfire crisis worsened Thursday night into Friday as hot, dry and windy conditions redeveloped across the country’s hard-hit southeast, causing two large blazes to merge into one. The new “megafire” measures about 1.5 million acres, about the size of the state of Delaware or roughly eight times as large as New York City.

“What we’re really seeing with a number of these fires merging is a number of small fires started by lightning strikes, across the landscape,” New South Wales Rural Fire Service spokesman Anthony Clark told the Sydney Morning Herald. “And as they grow, we see fires merging,” Clark said.

Separately, an emergency warning was issued for a blaze in the Southern Highlands region, known as the Morton Fire, that threatened populated areas.

As of midday Friday, firefighters were battling 147 fires in New South Wales, with one at the emergency level, the highest warning category, as a wind shift moved from south to north along the coast.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell, Paul Krugman, right, Jan. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The political reaction is scarier than the fires. In a rational world, the burning paul krugmanof Australia would be a historical turning point. After all, it’s exactly the kind of catastrophe climate scientists long warned us to expect if we didn’t take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Australian flagSo this should be the moment when governments finally began urgent efforts to stave off climate catastrophe.

But the world isn’t rational. In fact, Australia’s anti-environmentalist government seems utterly unmoved as the nightmares of environmentalists become reality. And the anti-environmentalist media, the Murdoch empire in particular, has gone all-out on disinformation, trying to place the blame on arsonists and “greenies” who won’t let fire services get rid of enough trees.

More On U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to limit Trump’s ability to attack Iran, Karoun Demirjian, Jan. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The resolution was put forward by House Democrats amid continued fallout from President Trump's order to kill a senior Iranian general. A similar resolution is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate as soon as next week.

U.S. House logoRoll Call, Meet the lawmakers who bucked their parties on vote to limit Trump’s war powers, Bridget Bowman, Jan. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Eight Democrats opposed the resolution, while three Republicans supported it.

• Washington Post, Analysis: The Trump team’s increasingly jumbled case for striking Soleimani

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Believes Iran Accidentally Shot Down Ukrainian Jet, Officials Say, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt, Anton Troianovski and Natalie Kitroeff, Jan. 10, 2020 (print ed.). American satellites, designed to track missile launches, detected the firing of the Iranian short-range interceptor. The new intelligence suggests that the loss of life from the downing of the plane was a direct result of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

washington post logoWashington Post, Missile strike on U.S. targets ‘did not intend to kill,’ says Iranian commander, Kareem Fahim and Sarah Dadouch, Jan. 10, 2020 (print ed.). “We intended to hit the enemy’s military machinery,” not to cause casualties, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s Aerospace Force said, in the latest sign that Iran was seeking to avoid further escalation.

An Iranian military commander said Thursday that missiles fired at bases used by U.S. troops in Iraq were not intended to inflict casualties, in the latest sign that Iran was seeking to avoid further escalation of hostilities with the United States.

After more than a dozen missiles slammed into the bases early Wednesday local time, both sides for now appear to be stepping back from further conflict.

“We did not intend to kill,” said Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s Aerospace Force, according to Iranian state media. “We intended to hit the enemy’s military machinery.”

However, he repeated the government’s claim that “tens of people were killed or wounded.” U.S. and Iraqi officials said the strikes caused no casualties.

SouthFront, Israeli Air Force Targets “Arms Shipment” On Syrian-Iraqi Broder. Casualties Reported, Staff report, Jan. 10, 2020. In the early hours of January 10, warplanes of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) targeted an arms shipment on the Syrian-Iraqi border, according to al-Mayadeen. A security source told the Lebanese news channel that the airstrike targeted a truck that was shipping weapons. The source didn’t clarify the destination of the targeted shipment, or to what side it belongs.

“The airstrikes near the Iraqi border were carried out by warplanes [flying] away from the border, they targeted a truck loaded with weapons,” al-Mayadeen quoted the source as saying. A few minutes later, the Lebanese channel confirmed that several individuals, likely Iranian-backed fighters, were killed or injured as a result of the airstrikes. Iraqi sources claimed that the targeted arms shipment belonged to Kata’ib al-Imam Ali, a main member of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Long Sordid History of Pentagon Intervention in Iraq, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, Jan. 10, 2020.  There is no reason for the Pentagon to be Jacob Hornbergerdepressed, despondent, or angry over the fact that Iraqi officials are kicking the Pentagon out of Iraq. The Pentagon doesn’t belong in Iraq in the first place.

First, it’s important to keep in mind that ever since the Pentagon and the rest of the U.S. national-security establishment lost their official Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union, with the end of the Cold War in 1989, Iraq never invaded the United States or even threatened to do so. In the 30 years that the Pentagon has been killing people and wreaking destruction in Iraq, it has always been the Pentagon that has been the aggressor and Iraq the defender.

Second, it’s also important to keep in mind that during the 1980s, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a partner and ally of the Pentagon, when the Pentagon was helping him to wage his brutal 8-year war against Iran.

Third, U.S. officials expressed indifference to their partner and ally Saddam when he expressed exasperation with Kuwait, which, he said, was stealing oil from Iraq by slant-drilling into Iraqi land. That expressed indifference to a partner and ally could easily be construed as giving a green light for Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait.

Fourth, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the dispute was no business of the Pentagon, given that the invasion did not constitute an invasion of the United States. Nonetheless, the Pentagon intervened in the conflict, notwithstanding the fact that Congress had not declared war on Iraq, as the Constitution requires. The Pentagon killed countless Iraqis in what was clearly an illegal U.S. war under U.S. law.

Fifth, the Pentagon had no business intentionally destroying Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment plants during the course of its intervention. That was a war crime, especially since the Pentagon’s intent was to spread infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people.

Sixth, the Pentagon had no legitimate authority to establish “no-fly zones” over Iraq after hostilities ended. The Pentagon continue to kill Iraqis during the enforcement of such zones, including a teenage boy who was just tending his sheep.

Seventh, the Pentagon had no business enforcing sanctions on Iraq during the 1990s, especially when it became painfully clear that they were killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, including through infectious illnesses from polluted water. The sanctions were preventing Iraqis from repairing the water-and-sewage treatment plants that the Pentagon had intentionally destroyed during the Persian Gulf War. It was the deaths of those children that turned out to be a major contributing cause to anti-American terrorism, such as the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole, the attacks on the U.S. embassies in East Africa, the 9/11 attacks, the Fort Hood attacks, the Detroit would-be attack, and many more.

Eighth, the Pentagon had no legitimate authority to invade Iraq after the 9/11 attacks because Congress never issued a declaration of war against Iraq, as the Constitution requires. Moreover, even if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in violation of UN resolutions, only the UN had the authority to enforce its own resolutions. Iraq never invaded the United States. That made the Pentagon the aggressor against Iraq once again. The Pentagon killed and injured countless more Iraqis in the process and ended up destroying the entire country under its mantra “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Ninth, once the Pentagon discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction, which was the Pentagon’s excuse for the invasion in the first place, it should have apologized for its “mistake” and come home. Instead, the Pentagon stayed in Iraq for several more years, killing and injuring countless more Iraqis during its occupation and wreaking continued destruction all across the country.

Tenth, the Pentagon’s invasion of Iraq gave rise to ISIS, which the Pentagon used as the excuse for wreaking even more death and destruction, not only in Iraq but also across the Middle East. That’s why the Pentagon is in Iraq today—ostensibly to defeat the entity that the Pentagon brought into existence with its illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Evicting the Pentagon from Iraq is the best thing Iraqi officials could do, both for the people of the Middle East and the United States. The Pentagon has wreaked enough death, suffering, and destruction in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. The sooner the Pentagon comes home, the better off everyone will be.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Chaos Is the Point’: Russian Hackers and Trolls Grow Stealthier in 2020, Matthew Rosenberg, Nicole Perlroth and David E. Sanger, Jan. 10, 2020. While U.S. cyberdefenses have improved since 2016, many of the vulnerabilities remain. And attacks are getting more sophisticated. The Russians were sloppy in 2016 because they could be: They caught Americans off guard. Now hackers and trolls are working far harder to cover their tracks.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoThe 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. The landscape is evolving, and the piggybacking on Iranian networks was an example of what America’s election-security officials and experts face as the United States enters what is shaping up to be an ugly campaign season marred by hacking and disinformation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Steel Hub’s Comeback Preceded Trump, but He Benefits, Patricia Cohen, Jan. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The Lehigh Valley rebuilt its economy after foreign competition wiped out its mills. Good times and bad memories may both help the president.

washington post logomarianne williamson w CustomWashington Post, Marianne Williamson drops out of Democratic presidential race, Amy B Wang, Jan. 10, 2020. Marianne Williamson, right, the self-help author who democratic donkey logohas argued that the United States needs to have “a moral and spiritual awakening,” has ended her long-shot presidential campaign, she said Friday.

Williamson had laid off her entire national staff in late December, but insisted last week she would remain in the race. In an email to supporters Friday, however, she said it would be difficult “to elevate our conversation any more than it is now” with caucuses and primaries about to begin.

The Atlantic, The Electability Argument Elizabeth Warren Isn’t Making, Russell Berman, Jan. 10, 2020. Katrina Cochran can still remember clearly how her close friend Liz Herring would needle her about her liberal politics when the two would sit next to each other at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma, and during the years after. “Besides the Democratic Party,” Herring, whose success on the debate team would win her a college scholarship, would say, “what other subversive organizations are you a member of?”

A half century later, Liz Herring is now Elizabeth Warren, left, and she’s running for the presidential nomination of the party she once derided.

elizabeth warren o purpleAmong longtime liberals, Warren’s political history could present a liability as the race nears its first votes. Unlike some of her top rivals, she cannot claim to have been fighting in the trenches of progressive politics for decades.

Yet that very fact could, at the same time, be appealing to less ideological voters who may know little about Warren’s biography from before she burst onto the democratic donkey logonational political scene. Hers is the story of a convert, not a zealot.

The decision to become a Democrat was anything but a default choice; she came to it only after years of study that challenged her more conservative assumptions about how the economy and the government worked. And as Warren seeks to expand beyond her liberal base, that rarely mined part of her past could serve as a comfort to Democrats who worry about her electability, or as a point of connection with independents and moderate Republicans who may not know that, for a long time, she was actually one of them.

Air Safety

ny times logoNew York Times, Boeing Employees Mocked F.A.A. and ‘Clowns’ Who Designed 737 Max, Natalie Kitroeff, Jan. 10, 2020 (print ed.). “This airplane is designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys,” an employee wrote in 2017. Two jets later crashed, killing 346 people.

boeing logoBoeing employees mocked federal rules, talked about deceiving regulators and joked about potential flaws in the 737 Max as it was being developed, according to over a hundred pages of internal messages delivered Thursday to congressional investigators.

“I still haven’t been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year,” one of the employees said in messages from 2018, apparently in reference to interactions with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The most damaging messages included conversations among Boeing pilots and other employees about software issues and other problems with flight simulators for the Max, a plane later involved in two accidents, in late 2018 and early 2019, that killed 346 people and threw the company into chaos.

The employees appear to discuss instances in which the company concealed such problems from the F.A.A. during the regulator’s certification of the simulators, which were used in the development of the Max, as well as in training for pilots who had not previously flown a 737.

The messages threaten to further complicate Boeing’s tense relationship with the F.A.A. Both the company and agency indicated Thursday that the messages raised no new safety concerns, but they echoed troubling internal communications among Boeing employees that were previously made public.

Fox #MeToo Scandals

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washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I do wish I had done more’: Megyn Kelly tearfully reacts to ‘Bombshell’ and the fallout of the Fox News sexual harassment scandal, Katie Shepherd, Jan. 10, 2020. Hot, dry and windy conditions caused two large blazes to merge into one the size of the state of Delaware — or about eight times larger than New York City. As the young woman excitedly pitched herself for a job to the company’s senior executive, a man dressed in an expensive suit, he appeared to be listening intently, nodding as she listed all of the skills she could bring to the position. Then, he gave her an order: “Do a little spin for me.”

fox news logo SmallThe uncomfortable scene comes from the recently released film “Bombshell” (shown above), but the story could have been told by many women at Fox News who said former chief roger ailes wexecutive Roger Ailes, right, asked them the same question in his office.

“Turn around let me see your ass,” Juliet Huddy, a former Fox News host, recalled Ailes telling her in a video shared Thursday by Megyn Kelly after the women watched the movie together. Two other victims of harassment at Fox, Rudi Bakhtiar and Julie Zann, joined them to share their thoughts on the fictionalized drama about the scandal that upended their careers.

All four of the women said Ailes had asked them to twirl for him. Only Bakhtiar, a former Fox News correspondent, said she refused. Kelly recalled the humiliation she felt after Ailes asked her to spin for him.

Jan. 9

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

Consortium News, Opinion: Full-Scale War Avoided & Trump Goes Right Back to Warmongering, Caitlin Johnstone, Jan. 9, 2020.  It is impossible for the U.S. and Iran to de-escalate as long as the U.S. is deliberately attacking Iran’s economy with the goal of igniting a civil war.

Consortium News, Opinion: Assassination and International Law, Dave Inder Comar, Jan. 9, 2020. In an era of death by drone, grand-scale invasions or tank-to-tank warfare have been replaced by single-shot missions against top leaders.

washington post logojim webb o CustomWashington Post, Opinion: When did it become acceptable to kill a top leader of a country we aren’t even at war with? Jim Webb (Democrat from Virginia, served in the U.S. Senate from 2007 to 2013 and was secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1988), The U.S. desperately needs common-sense leadership in our foreign policy

  • Washington Post, Andrew McCabe Opinion: If you think Iran is done retaliating, think again 
  • Washington Post, Analysis: The ghosts of 1979 still haunt U.S. policy toward Iran

Climate Change / Economy

jane fonda publicity dec 17 Custom

Down With Tyranny! Opinion: Jane Fonda Is Pitching For Our Future. Lend an Ear, Skip Kaltenheuser, Jan. 9, 2020. Even for those already in the climate choir, Jane Fonda’s sermon last month at the National Press Club is well worth the time to read or watch and listen to. I’ve logged loads of press club luncheon speeches over the years. This was one of the finest I’ve heard. Fonda eloquently described how global warming has us up against the wall. Not just the heartfelt delivery one expects from Oscar winners, but the essential substance and slightly wicked wit woven throughout. Send it to those needing motivation to confront the stark realities before us and to act (59 min. video here via C-SPAN and YouTube).

Fonda’s many actions include Fire-drill Fridays, protests for which she temporarily moved to DC in September, at which she’s been arrested a half dozen times. If you’re around Washington, the last drill before her return to acting commitments in L.A. is Jan. 10. Guest speakers include Bill McKibben and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Fonda's speech took no prisoners, calling out a range of climate villains, including Exxon, which over forty years ago knew the truth about the effect of increasing CO2 gases and the short window to address it, and whose executives, when their scientists informed them of the global impacts, replied “This problem is not as significant to mankind as a nuclear holocaust or world famine.”

jane fonda dec.17 npc"And they continued to drill," said Fonda, right. "Exxon, Shell, Mobil, and others knew that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks. So they used the same consultants that the tobacco companies had used to launch a huge communications effort, to develop strategies on how to fool us."

"The difference is that tobacco companies were primarily harming people who smoke. The fossil fuel companies are harming the entire planet and all its inhabitants. The companies not only hid what they knew, a coalition, together with the Koch brothers and other billionaires spent tens of millions of dollars on think tanks, like the Heartland Institute, that promote false science, sowing confusion about global warming, so that people won't try to stop them. Their line was, and continues to be, that the, “Science about climate change is not clear. And even if it were, the fault lies with governments and consumers, not with them.” You see, but the thing is, these oil companies have played a big role in actively stopping governments from enacting clean energy policies, with Exxon leading the way."

That includes Exxon’s undermining the 1998 International Treaty on Climate, the Kyoto Protocol. Fonda points to other bad actors, like the American Petroleum Institute, with its new video, America’s Energy Security: A Generation of Progress at Risk, equating fracking and drilling with patriotism, as Republicans including Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania introduce resolutions to prohibit a President from implementing a unilateral moratorium on fracking, and as the Manhattan Institute, with significant backing from fossil fuels concerns, warns of global recession if the US bans fracking. It won’t shock that Fonda advocates legal consequences for knowing deceptions and environmental damage.

To claims like Toomey’s that American oil and gas production is the only path to energy security, Fonda asks if it’s necessary for energy security, what are we doing shipping it overseas? She quoted Oil Change International that 45% of existing drilling wouldn’t be profitable without taxpayers subsidizing fossil fuels with over $16 billion dollars a year.

She didn’t mention it, but that’s dwarfed by military expenditures underpinning escapades with oil in mind. They arguably include backing Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88, the invasions of Iraq, and shoring up the Saudi regime and the UAE and pumping up their ally Israel. Now we’re doing that trio's bidding with a dance in the dark with Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Moves to Exempt Big Projects From Environmental Review, Lisa Friedman, Jan. 9, 2020. The Trump Administration, hoping to speed infrastructure projects like pipelines, will formally introduce changes to a landmark environmental law.

The White House on Thursday introduced major changes to the nation’s benchmark environmental protection law, moving to ease approval of major energy and infrastructure projects without detailed environmental assessment or consideration of climate change.

epa general logoMany of the changes to the law — the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act, a landmark measure that touches nearly every significant construction project in the country — had been long sought by the oil and gas industry as well as trade unions, which have argued that the review process is lengthy, cumbersome and used by environmental activists to drag out legal disputes and kill infrastructure projects.

Under the law, major federal projects like bridges, highways, pipelines or power plants that will have a significant impact on the environment require an review, or environmental impact statement, outlining potential consequences. The proposed new rules would narrow the range of projects that require such a study and impose strict new deadlines on completing assessments.

World News

australian fires kangaroo nytimes Custom

Kangaroo rushes past a burning house Tuesday in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, Australia (Photo: Matthew Abbott for The New York Times).

washington post logoWashington Post, A billion animals have been caught in Australia’s fires. Some may go extinct, Karin Brulliard and Darryl Fears, Jan. 9, 2020.  Some of the rarest species on Earth are threatened by fires scorching their habitats, scientists warn. Expert says Australian habitats might take centuries to recover — if at all

The mouse-size dunnart is not as iconic as the koalas or platypuses that draw tourists, but it is arguably the most special mammal on Australia’s Kangaroo Island.

Now the Kangaroo Island dunnart’s days may be numbered. Before bush fires struck, it was already endangered, so rare that even researchers who studied them had never seen one. Now they fear they never will. One-third of the 1,700-square-mile island has burned, including the entire area where these dunnarts are known to live.

“One hundred percent — all of our records since 1990 are within the burned fire scar. The entire range of the species has been burned,” said Rosemary Hohnen, an ecologist who spent more than two years surveying the Kangaroo Island dunnart. “They’re in true peril, real peril of extinction.”

 U.S. Politics

washington post logonancy pelosi impeachmentWashington Post, Pelosi resists pressure to send articles to Senate, John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis​, Jan. 9, 2020. The House speaker, right, continued to resist calls Thursday to transmit articles of impeachment to the Senate, reiterating her view that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) must lay out trial rules before she appoints impeachment managers.

U.K. Royal Family Row

washington post logoWashington Post, Harry and Meghan are quitting the castle, but who’s going to pay for the butler? Karla Adam and William Booth​, Jan. 9, 2020.  What does becoming “financially independent” mean?

Harry and Meghan were the royal couple who were going to modernize the monarchy. Young, fresh, popular — she a biracial American, a feminist — they brought their own style and swagger to Buckingham Palace. They were going to rejuvenate the beloved but fusty royal brand.

Now, full stop. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are taking a flier. They’re leaving the castle, calling it quits — and looking for new digs and gigs across the pond.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: The royal family said their situation is complicated. The reality is more dire, Autumn Brewington, Jan. 9, 2020. Dysfunction has plagued the House of Windsor for months. But this week the royals escalated to chaos.

united kingdom flagThe news that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — better known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — would step back as “senior” royals to take on a “progressive new role within this institution,” seek financial independence and split their time between Britain and North America shocked not only onlookers but also, reportedly, other senior royals. The palace tried to project calm, asserting that discussions “are at an early stage” and that “these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

The reality is more dire for the royals as a family and as an institution. Familial and sibling ties were already frayed, but with their announcement Wednesday, Harry and Meghan upended their working and family relationships. They suggest keeping their titles and crown-owned home while largely stepping back from official positions, a balancing act that would test the role of the monarchy in a modern era.

• New York Times, Opinion: Black Britons Know Why Meghan Markle Wants Out. It’s the racism

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion Prince Harry’s Real Declaration of Independence: From Britain’s Tabloids, Ellen Barry, Jan. 9, 2020. The Sussexes have been preparing for years to sever their relationship with the royal press pack, which the prince still blames for his mother’s death.

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, Army general denies request by officer pardoned by Trump to have his Special Forces tab reinstated, Dan Lamothe​​, Jan. 9, 2020. Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn faced a murder trial this year. The decision comes after President Trump intervened in a similar case involving a Navy SEAL last year that created an uproar.

An Army general has denied a request by an officer pardoned in an open murder case by President Trump to have his Special Forces tab reinstated, setting up a potential showdown between senior defense officials and the White House.

The decoration for retired Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn was denied in December by Lt. Gen. Francis M. Beaudette, the commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, two defense officials said on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. The Army followed by asking an administrative board that reviews personnel decision to consider several decisions involving Golsteyn, the officials said.

Golsteyn faced trial this year for the alleged murder of a Taliban bomb maker in Marja, Afghanistan, in February 2010. Golsteyn acknowledged killing the man, but said he had set a lawful ambush for him.

U.S. Worker Safety

ny times logoNew York Times, Overtaken by Frigid Seas, Hours From Help, There Was Little Chance of Survival, Mike Baker, Jan. 9, 2020. Fishing remains the nation’s second most dangerous profession, next to logging. The fishing industry in the ocean off Alaska brings stories of horrendous tragedy and harrowing survival. The sinking of the Scandies Rose provides both.

More Trump Scandal

imaad shah zuberi la financier

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s inauguration scandal takes particularly ugly turn, Bill Palmer, Jan. 9, 2020. For quite some time it’s been clear that Donald Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration was little more than a front for stuffing dirty foreign money into Trump’s pocket. Now we’re getting into the criminal consequences of that fiasco, and at least some of the people involved are definitely going to prison.

bill palmer report logo headerOne of Donald Trump’s donors, Imaad Shah Zuberi (above left), just agreed to plead guilty to additional criminal charges in relation to his illegal donations, after having already pleaded guilty to an initial round of charges. This is a big deal for two reasons. First, it proves that the SDNY investigation into the Trump inaugural scandal is still going on, which suggests that more people are going to end up going down.

Second, this would appear to increase the odds that Zuberi will end cooperating with federal prosecutors. In general, more felonies means a longer prison sentence, which in turn means the higher likelihood that the person will try to find a way to reduce that sentence.

Based on the numerous media reports that have surfaced over the past three years, it appears the dirty foreign trail in the Trump inaugural scandal runs all the way to the Trump Organization. If Trump loses the 2020 election, we’ll see if the SDNY brings criminal charges against him and/or his family in this scandal. This is separate from the New York grand jury that’s targeting Trump on state level criminal charges.

Jan. 7

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

 

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

ny times logoNew York Times, Iran’s Leader Wants Retaliation to Be Carried Out Directly, Farnaz Fassihi and David D. Kirkpatrick, Jan. 7, 2020 (print ed.). In the tense hours following the American killing of a top Iranian military commander, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, below left, ali khameneimade a rare appearance at a meeting of the government’s National Security Council to lay down the parameters for any retaliation. It must be a direct and proportional attack on American interests, he said, openly carried out by Iranian forces themselves, three Iranians familiar with the meeting said Monday.

It was a startling departure for the Iranian leadership. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Tehran had almost always cloaked its attacks behind the actions of proxies it had cultivated around the region. But in the fury generated by the killing of the military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a close ally and personal friend of the supreme leader, the ayatollah was willing to cast aside those traditional cautions.

The nation’s anger over the commander’s death was on vivid display Monday, as millions of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran for a funeral procession and Mr. Khamenei wept openly over the coffin.

After weeks of furious protests across the country against corruption and misrule, both those who had criticized and those who had supported the government marched together, united in outrage. Subway trains and stations were packed with mourners hours before dawn, and families brought children carrying photographs of General Suleimani.

iran demonstrations jan 5 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Soleimani’s funeral procession in Iran sees massive crowds and calls for revenge, Erin Cunningham, Sarah Dadouch and Michael Birnbaum​, Jan. 7, 2020 (print ed.). The turnout for the military commander, shown at center, rivaled that of the ceremony to mark the passing of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989, experts say.

washington post logo

Washington Post, How a ‘quantum change’ in missiles has made Iran a far more dangerous foe, Joby Warrick​, Jan. 7, 2020.  Drones and precision guidance have given Tehran new ways to inflict pain in an all-out war, analysts say.

saudi oil fire yemen drone social media via reuters 9 14 19When a swarm of drones and cruise missiles attacked Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil facility on Sept. 14, an outraged Trump administration quickly blamed Iran for what it called an “unprecedented attack” on global energy supplies. But the real surprise was the strike’s accuracy: Of 19 weapons used, all but two scored direct hits.

When the smoke cleared, Saudi officials counted 14 holes where incoming projectiles had sliced through petroleum storage tanks. Three other critical parts of the oil-processing facility had been hit and disabled, shutting down the facility and temporarily cutting Saudi oil production in half. A photo via social media and Reuters shows the attack.

In subsequent reports, U.S. analysts would describe the attack as a kind of wake-up call: evidence of a vastly improved arsenal of high-precision missiles that Iran has quietly developed and shared with allies over the past decade. In the event of a wider war with the United States, Iran would probably deploy such weapons to inflict substantial damage on any number of targets, from U.S. military bases to oil facilities to sites in Israel, analysts say.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: The Nightmare Stage of Trump’s Rule Is Here, Michelle Goldberg, right, Jan. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Unstable and impeached, the president pushes the U.S. toward war with Iran. We don’t yet know how Iran will retaliate, or whether all-out war will be averted. But already, NATO has suspended its mission training Iraqi forces to fight ISIS.

Iraq’s Parliament has voted to expel American troops — a longtime Iranian objective. (On Monday, U.S. forces sent a letter saying they were withdrawing from Iraq in response, only to then claim that it was a draft released in error.)

On Sunday, Iran said it will no longer be bound by the remaining restrictions on its nuclear program in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal that Trump abandoned in 2018. Trump has been threatening to commit war crimes by destroying Iran’s cultural sites and tried to use Twitter to notify Congress of his intention to respond to any Iranian reprisals with military escalation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iraq, once a policy afterthought, has become a problem for the Trump administration, Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan and Paul Sonne​, Jan. 7, 2020 (print ed.). The Pentagon on Monday rushed to play down reports that U.S. troops in Iraq were being repositioned in preparation for a possible withdrawal, worrying allies about a lack of strategy.

The Pentagon on Monday rushed to play down reports that U.S. troops in Iraq were being repositioned in preparation for a possible withdrawal, one day after Iraqi lawmakers passed a nonbinding resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country.

“This is a mistake,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, told reporters at the Pentagon after a letter indicating a withdrawal was released to Iraqi officials by the U.S. military command in Baghdad. The letter, he said, was an unsigned planning draft discussing new deployments and “should not have been released.”

“There has been no decision made to leave Iraq, period,” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said.

• Washington Post, Trump administration begins drafting possible sanctions against Iraq after president’s economic threat

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran postpones general’s burial after dozens die in stampede during funeral procession, Staff report, Jan. 7, 2020. Severe overcrowding and the deadly stampede forced officials to suspend the burial of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Earlier, a top Iranian security official warned that the country has drawn up 13 scenarios to retaliate for the strike that killed Soleimani.

The burial of slain Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was postponed Tuesday when a stampede erupted killed more than 30 people during massive mourning marches through his hometown of Kerman, Iranian state television reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s president invokes 1988 tragedy many Americans have forgotten, Gillian Brockell, Jan. 7, 2020. On July 3, 1988, the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian commercial jetliner, killing all 290 civilians onboard. The U.S. said it was an accident; many Iranian officials still think it was intentional.

On Saturday, President Trump invoked history when tweeting out a threat to destroy “52 Iranian sites … some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.” He said the potential targets represent the 52 Americans who were held hostage there for 444 days from 1979 to 1981.

On Monday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani invoked history right back in response to Trump’s threat.

Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655 Never threaten the Iranian nation.
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) January 6, 2020

His hashtag “#IR655” refers to Iran Air Flight 655, a commercial jet shot down by the U.S. military by mistake on July 3, 1988, killing all 290 civilians and crew on board, including 66 children.

Although the incident is nearly forgotten in the United States, it is etched deeply in memory in Iran, where the country is mourning the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: News on the Iran crisis the corporate media is largely ignoring, Wayne Madsen, Jan. 7, 2020. The Trump administration, in violation of the 1947 United Nations-United States UN Headquarters Agreement, denied Iranian Foreign Minister Javad javad zarif 2014 wZarif, right, a visa to attend a January 9 meeting of the UN Security Council in New York to condemn the American assassination of Iranian Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3.

Under the agreement, the U.S. is obligated to issue permits to foreign diplomats and officials to enter the United States to carry out official UN business. In denying Zarif and his aides a visa, the U.S. stands in violation of the agreement.

The decision by the Trump administration to refuse Zarif entry to attend UN logothe Security Council meeting is reviving calls for the UN headquarters to be moved from New York to Geneva, Switzerland, where a number of UN specialized agencies already have their headquarters. Zarif will reportedly address the Security Council via a UN teleconference link from Geneva.

U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien indicated that he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed to deny Zarif a visa because he only comes to New York "to spread propaganda."

ny times logoNew York Times, For Some Never Trumpers, Killing of Suleimani Was Finally Something to Like, Michael Crowley, Jan. 7, 2020 (print ed.). Years before President Trump ordered the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. officer and prominent neoconservative commentator, had recommended taking out the notorious Iranian general.

More than eight years later, Mr. Gerecht got his wish when a drone strike ordered by President Trump killed General Suleimani in Baghdad, touching off an international crisis even as it delighted a cadre of Republican Middle East hawks who have been sharply critical of Mr. Trump on many other issues.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)“He surprised me,” said Mr. Gerecht, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish Washington think tank that consults closely with the Trump administration on Iran policy. “I didn’t expect him to have the intestinal fortitude to do that.”

But it was an unusual admission from Mr. Gerecht, who has regularly criticized the president, dating to the 2016 campaign, when he was among the dozens of Republican foreign policy insiders who added their names to a letter denouncing Mr. Trump as unfit to lead the nation and collectively came to be known as Never Trumpers.

It was clear on Monday that Mr. Gerecht spoke for many of his ideological comrades, who generally believe that military force can be a positive tool and not always a dreaded last resort, and that Iran in particular is likely to back down when confronted with strength. Many of them are collectively known as neoconservatives, or neocons, even if not all of them accept the label.

Many of those hawks have long applauded Mr. Trump’s sanctions-based “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, but they had come to doubt the president’s willingness to use military force and were delighted to see him take action against someone responsible for consolidating Iranian influence at the expense of many American lives.

Other frequent Trump critics who cheered the strike against General Suleimani include Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a frequent critic of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy who posted on Twitter shortly after the Iranian commander’s death that Mr. Trump was “was right to order decisive action to kill” him.

Adding to the praise was Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, who issued his own triumphal tweet: “Congratulations to all involved in eliminating Qassem Soleimani,” Mr. Bolton wrote, calling the strike a “decisive blow” to the Quds Force and potentially “the first step to regime change in Tehran. ”

Calls for regime change in Tehran — which Mr. Trump himself says he does not seek — are deeply unsettling to Democrats, as is the track record of Mr. Bolton and other Republicans applauding the strike on General Suleimani.

Such commentary comes just after conventional wisdom in Washington and abroad had hardened around the notion that Mr. Trump was determined to avoid a new Middle East conflict.

Although it remains far from clear that Mr. Trump wants a full-scale conflict with Iran as he kicks off an election year — speaking to reporters on Sunday, he repeated his view that invading Iraq was “the worst decision ever made in the history of our country” — the concern is further stoked by similarities that some analysts see between his justification for the Suleimani strike and that of the Bush administration’s march to war in 2003.

Trump Impeachment Update

washington post logoWashington Post, Bolton’s willingness to testify in Trump’s impeachment trial ramps up pressure on Senate Republicans, Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis, Tom Hamburger and Robert Costa, Jan. 7, 2020 (print ed.). John Bolton’s surprise announcement has divided the GOP and appeared to increase the likelihood of testimony that could embarrass the president.

washington post logomitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedWashington Post, McConnell says Pelosi is being ‘contemptuous of the American people’ by withholding charges, John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz​, Jan. 7, 2020.  Meanwhile, the president highlighted objections to the prospect of testimony from John Bolton, as Bolton’s announcement that he is prepared to appear at a Senate trial continued to roil Capitol Hill.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Early-morning earthquake in Puerto Rico kills at least one, triggers widespread blackout, Arelis R. Hernández​, Jan. 7, 2020. As the sun rises on Puerto Rico, reports of significant damage and injuries are beginning to emerge from areas already affected by a 5.8-magnitude quake on Monday that destroyed homes and a natural rock formation that was a signature coastal tourist attraction.

Gov. Wanda Vásquez Garced told government employees to stay home as more aftershocks are expected throughout the day. Emergency personnel are evaluating the damage and inspecting Puerto Rico’s power generation plants — all of which are located along the southern coast near the origin of the seismic activity.

washington post logoWashington Post, Four men convicted in 2012 Indian gang rape and murder case to be executed on Jan. 22, Joanna Slater, Jan. 7, 2020. The death of a woman who was attacked on a bus in Delhi marked a turning point, sparking huge protests that resulted in significant changes to the law.

Media News

Media Matters, Opinion: The myth of "Donald the Dove" shows the perils of a gullible press, Parker Molloy, Jan. 7, 2020. In the lead up to the 2016 election, opinion writers across several major outlets published articles that argued of the two major party candidates, Donald Trump was less inclined to enter a war. Infamously, Maureen Dowd published an opinion article titled, “Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk.”

media matters logoThis article and others cemented the simplistic idea in voters minds, all the while ignoring the many public statements Donald Trump had made previously that indicated otherwise.

While Trump’s statements on foreign policy were often conflicting, they should not have been too difficult for journalists to parse. On an August 11, 2015, episode of Fox & Friends, Trump declared that he was “the most militaristic person there is.” Further, Trump said that he would “take out” families of terrorists, a move widely considered a war crime, vowed to bring back waterboarding, and called for massive increases in military spending.

The notion that Trump was going to be an anti-militaristic candidate directly contradicted many of his own public comments, and is yet another example of how Trump was not judged on his own merits in the 2016 election. While “Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk,” made for a clever use of alliteration, it didn’t inform people on what to expect under a Trump presidency.

daniel hopsickerMadcow News, Investigation & Commentary: Paint It Mint, Daniel Hopsicker, right, Jan. 7, 2020. On the eve of war, with breaking news advancing like an electrical storm across the horizon, I was outmaneuvered by an internet troll into promising to explain what I know about a bizarre little Minneapolis news site called MintPress News.

This is that story.

Who stands behind Mint Press, a small Minneapolis-based site with a progressive bent that hides its funding even from employees and has mysterious connections to the Middle East?

Their poking around also establishes the nature of the mystery. The background to the case.

In stories filed with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, MinnPost, and the Colombia Journalism Review, journalists on the ground in Minnesota provided most of the following details.

Interviews with former employees and people familiar with the inner workings of Mint Press, they wrote, paint a portrait of a dysfunctional outlet where employees are left in the dark about the site’s sources of funding and are alienated from the Muhawesh family that runs it:

odeh muhawesh CustomMnar Muhawesh, the editor-in-chief, her brother-in-law and managing editor Muhammad Muhawesh, and her father-in-law Odeh Muhawesh, 54, left, a Minneapolis businessman born in Jordan.

They also revealed an agenda that lines up, from its sympathy with the Syrian regime to its hostility to Sunni Saudi Arabia, with that of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Odeh Muhawesh studied under an ayatollah for five years after the Islamic Revolution, and where he visited as recently as last summer.

A fellow researcher recently discovered information indicating Odeh Muhawesh was part of a government operation with the father of Peter Strzok, the recently-famous and controversial FBI Agent.

Before to the invasion of Iraq by the George W. Bush regime, Muhawesh opened an office as president of Middle East Trading Company, Inc. in Jordan to provide agricultural and developmental projects within Iraq with funding from federal agencies like U.S. AID and the United Nations World Food Progress.

Peter Strzok, Sr. was the former director of humanitarian and development programs throughout the Middle East. Strzok organized a program to send used tractors and other farm equipment to Iraq.

Both Muhawesh and Srtzok’s Dad, himself a former FBI Agent, are affiliated with the Minnesota-based American Refugee Committee, part of a USAID program to distribute relief supplies in Iraq.

If their USAID program wasn’t connected to the CIA, it would likely be the only one operating in country.

 daniel hopsicker barry boys coverJustice Integrity Project Editor's Note: The project has not independently verified the allegations in the investigation above made by Hopsicker, author of Barry and the Boys, whose cover is shown at right, and Welcome To Terrorland. Our project has excerpted columns also by MintPress News, most notably a series of cutting-edge reports by Whitney Webb during the summer of 2019 regarding context for the Jeffrey Epstein scandals. We are seeking reaction from MintPress News and Webb to Hopsicker's report.

Justice Integrity Project, MintPress News Denounces Hopsicker's Claims As Error-Filled 'Smear,' Andrew Kreig, Jan. 13, 2020 (updated). MintPress News Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh and correspondent Whitney Webb rebutted claims made Madcow News founder Daniel Hopsicker in the column above, describing it as a poorly researched, inaccurate and highly biased "dangerous smear."

Webb, shown below in one of the photos she uses to illustrate her columns, wrote on Twitter on Jan. 8, "Dangerous smear about Mintpress sadly coming from D Hopsicker, who falsely claims that it has 'direct ties' to Iran and whitney webb twitterspecifically Soleimani at a time when the US is about to go to war w Iran and MSM calling Soleimani a 'terrorist'. Clear attempt to get MPN deplatformed."

She wrote also, using the Twitter name @whitneywebb, "Hopsicker also claiming, after looking up the names of my relatives, that my dad worked for the OSS, an agency that was liquidated years before my dad was even born. Hopsicker began to 'investigate"'me after he implied I was a Nazi for merely being an American living in Chile."

"Hopsicker's problem with me,"  Webb continued, "is because I wrote about the links between Epstein and Israeli intel (I also covered his links to US Intel btw). His smears now being promoted by other alt media ppl who think it's impossible that I wrote my Epstein series w/o special help fr a govt."

In another Tweet, she wrote, "Nearly [sic] smear since my Epstein series has come from old men in alt media who are clearly upset that a woman half their age (I'm 30) made connections in that case in a couple of months that they couldn't make for years."

MintPress editor Muhawesh wrote in a separate Tweet, "No mention of my response to BuzzFeed smear & Odeh's role as a tech & HR advisor when I first started MPN. Why didn't Hopsicker mention my actual editorial & other business advisors like Mickey Huff & Kate Madonna. Is it because they are not brown Muslims?"

The MintPress website describes its background and alliances in part as follows: "MintPress News is proud to partner with leading journalism venues and activist sites that work tirelessly to bring attention to social justice issues at home and abroad. These syndication partners include: Shadow Proof, TruthOut, CommonDreams, Media Roots, War Is A Crime, Occupy.com , and several others. Become a MintPress partner! If you’d like to become a syndication or news partner or are simply interested in collaborating on an investigation with MintPress, contact our editor Mnar Muhawesh."

Hopsicker replied with a Jan. 11 Tweet asserting in call capitals, "THE SECOND THING...WHITNEY WEBB DISSOCIATED HERSELF FROM MINT PRESS NEWS YESTERDAY."

Webb responded the same day as follows: "For those asking, this is not even remotely true. I have several reports coming out for Mintpress this week. An absurd smear campaign inventing its own victory lap. Can't make this stuff up."

More On Epstein Scandal

South Florida Sun Sentinel, Judge denies release of Jeffrey Epstein’s grand jury records, Marc Freeman, Jan. 7, 2020. A judge Tuesday rebuffed criminal investigators looking at sex offender Jeffrey Epstein’s cushy treatment by South Florida authorities over a dozen years ago. It happened when special prosecutors appointed by the governor came to the Palm Beach County Courthouse seeking records from a 2006 grand jury that indicted Epstein, right, on a single felony prostitution count.

jeffrey epstein sex offenderThey said they’d like to know whether the grand jurors ever heard that police had evidence that several minor girls were molested by the financier at his Palm Beach estate.

Not so fast, ruled Chief Circuit Judge Krista Marx, refusing to order the release of the grand jury tapes at this time. Marx pointed to well-established Florida law that the closed-door grand jury proceedings can be unsealed only as a “last resort,” and when it is clear that doing so will lead to a discovery of wrongdoing.

It’s clear, however, that the Epstein saga remains unending even after his death last summer in a New York City jail cell. Officials said he committed suicide by hanging, rather than face prosecution on new sex trafficking charges.

Epstein’s former attorney Jack Goldberger attended Tuesday’s hearing but did not participate.

Judge Marx told investigators they first need to try other ways of getting the grand jury information, such as asking some of Epstein’s victims if they were asked to testify.

And Marx told prosecutors they have to make more than just a “bare-bones” claim that it is in the “furtherance of justice” to release the grand jury records to them.

“It sounds like a fishing expedition to me,” Marx told Assistant State Attorney M. Levering Evans, of Fort Pierce. She added, “I’m not understanding how it will be helpful and to what end.”

Evans explained that investigators want to figure out how the grand jury — convened by then-State Attorney Barry Krischer’s office — settled on the solicitation of prostitution charge. Was information kept from the panel, and if so, why?

“We are charged with looking simply for crimes,” Evans said of the work being done alongside agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

He said the grand jury records could lead to a search for financial documents and the possibility of corruption.

Matt Weissing, an attorney for a Fort Lauderdale-based law firm representing 10 Epstein victims, testified in support of the investigators. He said Epstein’s teenage victims were not paid prostitutes.

Trump Election Schemes

Democracy Now! Meet Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower Releasing Troves of New Files from Data Firm, Amy Goodman, Jan. 7, 2020. Guest: Brittany Kaiser, below at right, a brittany kaiser harper collins juliantseCambridge Analytica whistleblower who is featured in the documentary The Great Hack. Her book is titled Targeted: The Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower’s Inside Story of How Big Data, Trump, and Facebook Broke Democracy and How It Can Happen Again.

New details are emerging about how the shadowy data firm Cambridge Analytica worked to manipulate voters across the globe, from the 2016 election in the United States to the Brexit campaign in Britain and elections in over 60 other countries, including Malaysia, Kenya and Brazil.

AMY GOODMAN: New details are emerging about how the shadowy data firm Cambridge Analytica worked to manipulate voters across the globe, from the 2016 election in the United States to the Brexit campaign in Britain to elections in over 60 countries, including Ukraine, Malaysia, Kenya and Brazil.

Cambridge Analytica was founded by the right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer. Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon of Breitbart News was one of the company’s key strategists and claims to have named the company. The company collapsed in May 2018 after The Observer newspaper revealed the company had harvested some 87 million Facebook profiles without the users’ knowledge or consent. Cambridge Analytica used the data to sway voters during the 2016 campaign.

A new trove of internal Cambridge Analytica documents and emails are being posted on Twitter detailing the company’s operations across the globe, including its work with President Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton. The documents come from Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Brittany Kaiser, who worked at the firm for three-and-a-half years before leaving in 2018. Kaiser is featured prominently in the Netflix documentary The Great Hack, which has been shortlisted for an Oscar. This is the trailer for the film.

DAVID CARROLL: Who has seen an advertisement that has convinced you that your microphone is listening to your conversations? All of your interactions, your credit card swipes, web searches, locations, likes, they’re all collected, in real time, into a trillion-dollar-a-year industry.

CAROLE CADWALLADR: The real game changer was Cambridge Analytica. They worked for the Trump campaign and for the Brexit campaign. They started using information warfare.

DAVID CARROLL: Cambridge Analytica claimed to have 5,000 data points on every American voter.

Jan. 6

Bolton To Testify

NBC News logoNBC News, Bolton willing to testify in Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed, Carol E. Lee, Jan. 6, 2020. "I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify," Bolton writes in a statement posted Monday.

john bolton youtube guardianJohn Bolton, right, the former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, said Monday he was willing to testify in the Senate impeachment trial if subpoenaed. In a statement posted Monday, Bolton wrote, "I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify."

Bolton had a front-row seat to the White House’s pressure campaign against Ukraine to investigate the son of Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, including the decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine. He served as Trump’s national security adviser for more than a year, until his departure in September just a couple of weeks before the Ukraine pressure effort became public.

Bolton has previously said he would not testify before the House Intelligence Committee during its impeachment investigation unless he was subpoenaed and a judge ordered him to defy the White House by appearing before Congress.

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts 

Ruptly via YouTube, Iran: Supreme Leader Khamenei weeps while leading prayers at Soleimani's funeral, Jan. 5, 2020 (2:43 min. video.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats are moving to invoke a mostly untested law in an attempt to block a war with Iran. Here’s an explanation, Charlie Savage, Jan. 6, 2020. Democratic leaders in Congress are moving to swiftly invoke the War Powers Resolution in an attempt to block President Trump from taking the United States into a war with Iran, even as Iran vows revenge for his killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani and Mr. Trump is threatening disproportionate strikes inside Iran if it does retaliate.

But Congress’s control over decisions about going to war has been eroding for generations, and administrations of both parties have established precedents that undercut the resolution as a meaningful check on presidential war-making authority.

Here is an explanation of the legal issues raised by the rapidly evolving crisis.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Rules Out Striking Iranian Cultural Sites, Contradicting Trump, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Jan. 6, 2020. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper sought to douse an international outcry on Monday by ruling out military attacks on cultural sites in Iran if the conflict with Tehran escalates further, despite President Trump’s threat to destroy some of the country’s treasured icons.

Mr. Esper acknowledged that striking cultural sites with no military value would be a war crime, putting him at odds with the president, who insisted such places would be legitimate targets. Mr. Trump’s threats generated condemnation at home and abroad while deeply discomfiting American military leaders who have made a career of upholding the laws of war.

“We will follow the laws of armed conflict,” Mr. Esper said at a news briefing at the Pentagon when asked if cultural sites would be targeted as the president had suggested over the weekend. When a reporter asked if that meant “no” because the laws of war prohibit targeting cultural sites, Mr. Esper agreed. “That’s the laws of armed conflict.”

The furor was a classic controversy of Mr. Trump’s creation, the apparent result of an impulsive threat and his refusal to back down in the face of criticism. When Mr. Trump declared on Saturday that the United States had identified 52 potential targets in Iran if it retaliates for the American drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, none of those targets qualified as cultural sites, according to an administration official who asked not to be identified correcting the president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iranian-Americans Questioned at the Border: ‘This Is Not O.K,’ Mike Baker and Caitlin Dickerson, Jan. 6, 2020. Up to 200 people were held by border agents, with some of them reportedly asked to share their opinions about the situation in Iran and Iraq. Arriving at the United States border in Washington State early Sunday morning after a skiing trip to Canada, Negah Hekmati and her family were pulled out of line for further questioning by Customs and Border Protection agents.

The family found itself in a room filled with fellow Iranian-Americans, many of whom had already been held for hours. The agents wanted to know the identities of Ms. Hekmati’s parents, siblings, uncles and cousins. Her husband, a software engineer at Microsoft, was asked about any military service in his past. The agents left, and then came back with more questions.

During the five overnight hours they were held at the Peace Arch Border Crossing on their way back home to the Seattle area, Ms. Hekmati said, her 5-year-old would not sleep, worried about the prospect of jail. The young girl asked Ms. Hekmati to stop speaking Farsi, hoping that might help avoid further scrutiny.

“My kids shouldn’t experience such things,” Ms. Hekmati said. “They are U.S. citizens. This is not O.K.”

More than 100 people of Iranian descent appear to have faced similar delays at Washington’s border with Canada over the weekend, a process Gov. Jay Inslee described on Monday as the inappropriate “detention” of people — some of them United States citizens — who had done nothing wrong.

“I don’t think there’s any reason that is rational — and certainly constitutional — to target people based on the place of their birth,” Mr. Inslee said in an interview. “It’s pretty clear that that’s what they did here.”

ny times logoNew York Times, News analysis: Iran Challenges Trump, Announcing End of Nuclear Restrictions, David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, Jan. 6, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump thought the nuclear deal was flawed because restrictions on Iran would end after 15 years. Now, responding to a U.S. strike, Iran has declared the limits over after less than five.

When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he justified his unilateral action by saying the President Donald Trump officialaccord was flawed, in part because the major restrictions on Iran ended after 15 years, when Tehran would be free to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wanted.

But now, instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday that those restrictions are over — a decade ahead of schedule. Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired.

Iran’s announcement essentially sounded the death knell of the 2015 nuclear agreement. And it largely re-creates conditions that led Israel and the United States to consider destroying Iran’s facilities a decade ago, again bringing them closer to the potential of open conflict with Tehran that was avoided by the accord.

Iran did stop short of abandoning the entire deal on Sunday, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and its foreign minister held open the possibility that his nation would return to its provisions in the future — if Mr. Trump reversed course and lifted the sanctions he has imposed since withdrawing from the accord.

washington post logoWashington Post, Critic’s Notebook: The president didn’t threaten just Iran’s culture sites. He threatened culture, Philip Kennicott, Jan. 6, 2020. A line has been crossed, and not one determined just by international law or conventions on the preservation of culture. It is about the soul of a culture or a people.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens strikes on Iranian cultural sites, sanctions against Iraq, Seung Min Kim and Philip Rucker, July 6, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump served a bellicose brew of threats, rebukes and contempt on Sunday as he escalated tensions in the Middle East and awaited Iran's possible retaliation for the U.S. killing of one of its top generals (whose funeral procession is shown above, center, with crowds of mourners surrounding).

Trump projected a wartime posture as he wrapped up his holiday vacation here, reiterating that if Iran took military action against the United States he may order attacks on Iranian cultural sites, which could constitute a war crime under international law. He vowed on Twitter to "quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner."

Iran FlagTrump threatened Iraq as well. He countered the Iraqi parliament's move Sunday to try to expel foreign troops, including U.S. forces, by telling reporters that he would respond by imposing "very big sanctions" on the nation and demanding that Iraq reimburse the United States for the billions of dollars it had invested in a major air base there.

Should Iraq force out the Americans, Trump said, "We will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before, ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame."

He added that he would impose "very big sanctions" on Iraq "if there's any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate."

Trump also flouted protocols at home, making a mockery of his necessity to advise Congress of military action by writing on Twitter that his tweets would serve as official notification of strikes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s insistence on proving his toughness conflicts with America’s actual strength, Philip Bump, Jan. 6, 2020.
The president’s threats against Iran are only the most recent example of his strategy since the 2016 campaign: He would ignore precedent and propriety as he saw fit to advance his agenda.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), "Soleimani's Revenge" found in battle-hardened groups around the world, Wayne Madsen, Jan. 6, 2020. Donald Trump became the first U.S. president in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran to have unleashed the dogs of war on that nation.

Trump ordered the aerial assassination, by a missile-armed MQ-9 Reaper drone of the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani. The Quds Force is a special operations unit that acts outside of Iran’s borders. Killed, along with Soleimani, in the U.S. attack on their vehicle within Baghdad International Airport was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of the Iraqi Shi’a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

The net result of the assassinations of Soleimani and the three Iraqi Shi’a militia leaders is that political fractures in relations between Iran and some Iraqi Shi’as, as well as political and economic dissent within Iran, itself, have taken a back seat to unity among all major Shi’a elements in both countries against what they perceive to be the common enemy: the United States.

All Shi’a political and religious elements in Iran and Iraq agree that the assassinations of Soleimani and the Iraqi Shi’a leaders must be avenged.

New York Post, Iran officials hint at possible attacks on Trump properties, Bob Fredericks, Jan. 6, 2020. Senior Iranian officials are using Twitter to hint at threats against President Trump’s properties — including his Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Florida and Trump Tower in Manhattan — over the killing of Iran’s top military commander.

Hesameddin Ashena, a top adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted a link to a Forbes magazine profile that listed the properties, none of which is fortified to withstand a military attack, along with a quote from the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The tweet also included a link to a Business Casual video about his real estate empire.

“I tell the whole world that if the world wants to stand up to our religion, we will stand up against their whole world,” the quote read.

Ashena also retweeted video posted by actor Robert De Niro of black-clad throngs filling Iran’s streets mourning Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed Friday in a drone attack at Baghdad International Airport.

And he retweeted an NBC News interview with former Ambassador John Limbert, who was one of the 52 hostages held captive by the ayatollah starting in 1979. “Mr. President, if you are listening, please don’t bother yourself on my account. Because I want nothing to do with it,” Limbert said.

Trump, who just returned from spending the holidays at Mar-a-Lago, which he calls the “Winter White House,” has said he has a list of 52 potential Iranian targets — the same number as the number of hostages who were held.

Ashena also retweeted a post from the president in which he complained about impeachment at a time “when we have so many important matters pending,” asserting that the attack was meant as a distraction. “The relationship between terror and impeachment became clear,” Ashena wrote.

Ashena wasn’t the only Iranian official targeting Trump on Twitter. Javad Sarif, Iran’s foreign minister, called the president’s advisers “clowns” in one of a series of anti-Trump posts. “Have you EVER seen such a sea of humanity in your life, @realdonaldtrump ?” he wrote along with a series of photos of mourners.

“Do you still want to listen to the clowns advising you on our region? And do you still imagine you can break the will of this great nation & its people? End of malign US presence in West Asia has begun,” Zarif wrote.

“A reminder to those hallucinating about emulating ISIS war crimes by targeting our cultural heritage: Through MILLENNIA of history, barbarians have come and ravaged our cities, razed our monuments and burnt our libraries. Where are they now? We’re still here, & standing tall,” the foreign minister tweeted.

Hundreds of thousands of mourners thronged Tehran’s streets on Monday for Soleimani’s funeral.

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In fire-ravaged Australia, climate denial goes up in smoke, Jennifer Mills (author of the novel “Dyschronia” and a volunteer firefighter in rural South Australia), July 6, 2019 (print ed.). We’ve moved past climate denial in Australia. It’s now about blame.

Much of Australia’s forested East Coast was already on fire by the time images emerged last month of Scott Morrison, our prime minister, holidaying in Hawaii. Sydney was blanketed in smoke. I’d been frantically updating emergency-services maps, checking on friends and relatives in four states, making sure my parents knew which kind of masks to get.

I wondered whether Morrison realized he was on the verge of a Hurricane Katrina moment — whether he would rush back with a swift response, if only out of fear for his own political reputation.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: Australia’s apocalyptic fires are a warning to the world, Editorial Board, Jan. 6, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The surprising news in Ukraine: Zelensky is succeeding despite Trump’s abuse, Jackson Diehl, July 6, 2019 (print ukraine flaged.). Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky got another slap from the Trump administration last week when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo canceled a planned visit to Kyiv. Though Pompeo had a plausible excuse — the crisis with Iran — Zelensky had reason to feel injured.

The ill treatment from Washington that began with his inauguration last May has continued unabated even after the exposure of President Trump’s scheme to extort Ukraine’s intervention in the 2020 ­election.

But here’s the unexpected good news: Despite all the abuse from the White House, and the fact that he took office as an utter political neophyte in one of Europe’s most dysfunctional nations, Zelensky’s government so far has been an extraordinary — and, under the circumstances, almost miraculous — success.

U.S. Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Pompeo decides against run for U.S. Senate seat in Kansas, Josh Dawsey and John Hudson​, Jan. 6, 2020. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of his decision on Monday. Top Republicans had sought to recruit him to the race to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How would the far right react to a Trump loss? Here’s a glimpse, Paul Waldman, Jan. 6, 2020. The possibility of an organized campaign of right-wing terrorism is all too real.

Many Americans are terrified of what would happen if Donald Trump won a second term in office. But perhaps we should be nearly as scared of what will happen if he loses in November.

More specifically, a victory by Democrats at the federal and state level could produce a backlash in which Trump’s fervent supporters, not to mention those on the far-right fringe, conclude that the ordinary avenues to political influence are hopelessly corrupted and therefore other, more radical means must be employed.

We may be getting a small window into how things could devolve in that direction in Virginia, a perfect place to witness how frustration at the loss of power can manifest itself in disturbing and even dangerous ways.

Mexican Drug War Toll

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 60,000 Mexicans have been ‘disappeared’ amid drug war, officials say, Mary Beth Sheridan, Jan. 6, 2019. The victims vanished in more than a decade of extreme violence. The new figure marks a 50 percent jump over the last official estimate.
More than 60,000 people have been forcibly disappeared in Mexico, authorities announced Monday, sharply raising their estimate of those who have vanished in more than a decade of extreme violence by and among organized-crime groups.

The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador released the new figure after an exhaustive analysis of data from state prosecutors. Previously, authorities had estimated the number of victims at 40,000. Most have gone missing since 2006, when Mexico launched an all-out offensive targeting organized-crime groups.

Weinstein Trial, New Charges

washington post logoWashington Post, Harvey Weinstein charged with multiple sex crimes in Los Angeles on the same day his trial begins in New York, Shayna Jacobs,  Harvey Weinstein was charged Monday with a pair of alleged sexual assaults in Los Angeles, hours after the frail-looking former Hollywood tycoon slid his walker into a Manhattan courtroom for the kickoff of his criminal trial there.

Weinstein — visibly aged since his May 2018 arrest in New York — was in court with his five attorneys for a final conference before jury selection formally begins his long-awaited trial for rape, criminal sex act and predatory sexual assault.

It is unclear if the charges on the West Coast will affect plans to proceed with jury pre-screening in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday morning. Hundreds of prospective panel members are expect to file into Justice James Burke’s courtroom for an initial round of dismissals.

Jan. 5

Epstein Probe

cbs news logoCBS, 60 Minutes investigates the death of Jeffrey Epstein, Produced by Oriana Zill de Granados, Jan. 5, 2019. (14:14 mins). Jeffrey Epstein was a convicted sex offender and a wealthy financier with powerful friends. 60 Minutes examines the circumstances surrounding his death in a Manhattan federal jail cell. Warning: This report contains graphic images that some viewers may find disturbing. Details below.

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

 

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

ny times logoNew York Times, Iraqi Lawmakers Vote to Expel U.S. Troops as Iran Mourns a Slain General, Alissa J. Rubin, Steven Erlanger and Farnaz Fassihi, Jan. 5, 2020. The vote to oust American troops is not final until Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi signs the draft bill, but there is little doubt that he will. Hundreds of thousands poured into the streets in Iran to pay their respects to Maj. General Qassim Suleimani, who was killed in iraq afghanistan mapa U.S. strike in Baghdad.

Lawmakers in Iraq voted on Sunday to require the government to end the presence of American troops in the country after the United States ordered the killing of the Iranian leader of the elite Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, on Iraqi soil.

The decision to heed the demands of angry Shiite factions and politicians came as hundreds of thousands of mourners poured into the streets of Iran to pay their respects to General Suleimani, the most powerful figure in the country after the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The vote is not final until Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, left, of Iraq signs the bill. But since he drafted the language and submitted the bill to Parliament, there was little doubt he would sign it.

abdul mahdi Custom 2Although the vote was 170-0 in Parliament, many of its 328 members, primarily Kurds and Sunnis, did not attend the session and did not vote, showing the division in Parliament on the demands to oust American troops. While groups that grew out of Shiite militia organizations have pushed hard for the expulsion, Sunni Muslim factions and the Kurds wanted the United States to stay.

The legislation threads a fine needle: While using strong language demanding that the government “end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil and prevent the use of Iraqi airspace, soil and water for any reason” by foreign forces, it gives no timetable for doing so.

It would end the mission approved in 2014 that gave the United States the explicit task of helping the Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State. That agreement gave the Americans substantial latitude to launch attacks and use Iraqi airspace. But the measure would leave in place the Strategic Framework Agreement, which allows an American troop presence in Iraq in some form.

ny times logoAmerican FlagNew York Times, U.S.-Led Coalition Halts ISIS Fight as It Steels for Iranian Attacks, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt, Jan. 5, 2020. The coalition is ending its yearslong mission attacking the Islamic State and training local forces in Iraq and Syria. American forces in Iraq and Syria will now focus on protecting themselves.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Pompeo dismisses Iraqi leader’s call for all foreign troops to leave, Felicia Sonmez, Paige Winfield Cunningham and Tony mike pompeo portraitRomm, Jan. 5, 2020.  “We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counterterror campaign,” the secretary of state said, two days after a U.S. strike that killed a top Iranian commander.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, on Sunday dismissed calls by Iraq’s caretaker prime minister for a timetable for all foreign troops to exit the country in the wake of a U.S. strike that killed top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani, arguing that the Iraqi people want the United States to remain and continue the fight against terrorism.

Pompeo appeared on all of the Sunday morning news shows to discuss U.S. strategy following the strike, which also killed eight others, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a powerful Iraqi militia leader.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran says it is suspending all commitments to 2015 nuclear deal, Erin Cunningham​, Jan. 5, 2020.  Iran said Sunday that it is suspending all commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal it had struck with world powers and will abandon restrictions on uranium enrichment and other activities unless U.S. sanctions are lifted.

The government announced the move in a statement carried by state news agencies.

"Iran's nuclear program will now be based solely on its technical needs," the statement said. The move includes breaching the accord's caps on everything from enrichment capacity to activating centrifuges to its stockpile of nuclear fuel.

"If the sanctions are lifted … the Islamic Republic is ready to return to its obligations," the statement said. It added that Iran will continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.

Iran, meanwhile, said Sunday that it would limit its response to the drone attack to U.S. military targets.

"The response for sure will be military and against military sites," Hossein Dehghan, the military adviser to Iran's supreme leader, said in an interview with CNN. "The only thing that can end this period of war is for the Americans to receive a blow that is equal to the blow they have inflicted."

Deghan’s remarks came as President Trump threatened Saturday on Twitter to strike “52 Iranian sites … some at a very high level & important to Iran and the Iranian culture” should Tehran retaliate against Americans or U.S. interests in the region. Iran has 24 locations on the U.N. list of cultural world heritage sites.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump faces Iran crisis with fewer experienced advisers and strained ties with U.S. allies, Greg Miller​, Jan. 5, 2020. The Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)president has spent much of his first three years in office attacking critical capabilities he now needs.

  • Washington Post, Pelosi says Trump notified Russians of Baghdadi raid before telling congressional leaders
  • Washington Post, In confrontation with Iran, Trump wrestles with shadow of Obama
  • Washington Post, The key word in U.S. justifications for killing Iranian general: ‘Imminent
  • Washington Post, Could the strike on an Iranian general trigger a draft? The Selective Service, explained

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why lying about an ‘imminent’ attack would matter,' Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 5, 2020. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and State Department subordinates vigorously argued Friday that the justification for killing Iranian general jennifer rubin new headshotand terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani was intelligence that an attack was “imminent.”

It is easy to understand why such a rationale would be advanced. An imminent threat would arguably obviate the need for a declaration of war from or even prior consultation with Congress. Exercising the right of self-defense, an established principle of international law, would satisfy allies and sidestep nasty questions about violation of an executive order in place with only minor changes since 1976 that prohibits assassination.

Aside from the legalities, as a political matter, polls have shown overwhelming opposition to a war with Iran. Casting the killing as defensive and urgent rather than an act of a war of choice would be one way to avert a public backlash. (If this reminds you of the Iraq War, you are in good company.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial, Congress, Stop President Trump’s Rush to War With Iran, Editorial Board, Jan. 5, 2020 (print ed.). Republican senators are the only people with the power to restrain the president. President Trump must doubt his administration’s own claims that it deterred Iranian threats.

“Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Saturday, “we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”

The threat came after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, vowed “forceful revenge” for an American drone strike early Friday that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a top Iranian military commander, after, the White House claims, the general prepared attacks on American interests.

Why was Mr. Trump’s threat on Twitter even necessary? Wasn’t the death of General Suleimani supposed to have stopped the threats the president now claims America still faces? Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, defended the attack on Friday by saying, “It was time to take this action so that we could disrupt this plot, deter further aggression from Qassim Suleimani and the Iranian regime, as well as to attempt to de-escalate the situation.”

Killing General Suleimani seems to have deterred and de-escalated nothing. Otherwise, why would the State Department have needed to advise all Americans to leave Iraq?

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washington post logoWashington Post, At Baghdad funeral procession for Qasem Soleimani, calls for retaliation against U.S., Mustafa Salim, Kareem Fahim and Louisa Loveluck​, Jan. 5, 2020 (print ed.). Thousands joined the ceremonies on Saturday for Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani (shown at center above in a 2018 Iranian government photo) and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia leader. “We will take our revenge,” some chanted.

Iran has vowed to retaliate against the United States for the killing of Soleimani, Tehran’s most powerful military commander, and the Trump administration has said it is sending thousands of new troops to the Middle East. The looming confrontation has left the region bracing for an escalation of violence, and Iraq, caught between its allies in Tehran and Washington, fears the country will be at the center of the storm.

An Iranian commander quoted by the Tasnim News Agency on Saturday suggested that dozens of American facilities and military assets in the Middle East were at risk, along with Israel, a key U.S. ally.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why Soleimani’s killing is different from other targeted attacks by U.S., Siobhán O'Grady, Jan. 5, 2020 (print ed.). After the killing of Soleimani, the United States could face direct Iranian reprisals, including potential cyberattacks, analysts said. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened “severe revenge” but gave no indication of what could come.

Iran FlagBarbara Slavin, the director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said Trump is “trying to do a victory lap here and beat his chest and somehow show this is like killing Baghdadi.” She was referring to the October raid on the hideout of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwestern Syria. “But it’s not. It’s much more serious,” she said.

Like Baghdadi’s, other targeted killings carried out by the United States have typically struck at extremist leaders without affiliations to a powerful state such as Iran.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens reprisals against Iran should U.S. assets or Americans be attacked, Mustafa Salim and Kareem Fahim, Jan. 5, 2020 (print ed.). After an Iranian commander suggested that dozens of U.S. sites in the Mideast were at risk following the American strike that donald trump twitterkilled a top Iranian general, President Trump tweeted that Iran would be “hit very fast and very hard” if it goes after U.S. targets.

“Iran has been nothing but a problem for many years,” Trump tweeted. “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”

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washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s new Quds Force leader brings continuity to post held by his slain predecessor, Erin Cunningham, Jan. 5, 2020 (print ed.). Brig. Gen. Ismail Qaani, shown above in an Irani government photo, is considered more cautious and bureaucratic than Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike.

Just hours after a U.S. drone strike killed Iran's charismatic elite Quds Force commander in Baghdad early Friday, Tehran announced it had named a successor: the force's little-known deputy chief, Brig. Gen. Ismail Qaani.

Qaani, 62, was appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who issued a statement praising the general’s role as a prominent commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. As a key branch of the Revolutionary Guard, the country’s most powerful security organ, the Quds Force carries out the Iranian military’s special operations abroad.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes berserk after his Iran stunt completely blows up in his face, Bill Palmer, Jan. 5, 2020. This morning Palmer Report explained just how badly Donald Trump was losing with his Iran gambit. He thought taking out Qasem Soleimani would make him more popular in the U.S., and that it would cause Iran to lose leverage. But Trump doesn’t understand how politics or leverage works, and so the stunt has created even more problems for him at home, even as Iran gains the upper hand. Now it’s gotten even worse for Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerThe Iraqi Parliament has now voted to expel the U.S. military. This means Iraq is essentially siding with Iran over the United States, which is stunning considering how closely the Iraq regime has been allied with the U.S, and how much Iraq and Iran have traditionally hated each other. This is a major blow to Donald Trump, because it’ll make it that much harder for him to convince voters that he has any idea what he’s doing in the region.

It all serves to hand even more leverage to Iran, which has clearly demonstrated over the past several years that it doesn’t want a war with the United States, and instead merely wants Trump gone from power. Now Iran is in a position where it can needle Trump and further weaken him ahead of 2020 – and as long as Iran doesn’t do anything egregious enough to push a majority of Americans into wanting a war, Trump won’t be able to respond to Iran in any meaningful way.

Trump’s worsening mess prompted him to post this strange tweet this afternoon: “These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!”

To be clear, Donald Trump’s tweet isn’t anything; it’s total gibberish. He knows it too. He’s just hoping that by posting this silly tweet, the government of Iran will somehow decide that maybe Trump really does mean it. The trouble for Trump is that he’s spent his entire life identifying suckers and then defrauding them out of their money and property, and so he thinks world leaders are suckers too. In reality they’re all laughing at him. They have been from the start. He’s the worst negotiator of all time.

Impeachment Crisis

washington post logoWashington Post, Graham suggests changing Senate rules to begin Trump impeachment trial within days, Rachael Bade, Jan. 5, 2020. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham’s bid, while unlikely, highlights the pressure Trump allies feel to begin the trial as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to withhold the charges against the president.

lindsey graham judiciary chairmanSenate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham, right, suggested Sunday that Republicans should try to change Senate rules governing impeachment if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to withhold the charges against President Trump — an unlikely 11th-hour bid to begin a trial within days without the actual documents.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was unequivocal in a Senate floor speech on Friday that “we can’t hold a trial without the articles; the Senate’s own rules don’t provide for that.” But Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump, floated the idea of a unilateral GOP move, saying he would work with McConnell to allow the Senate to proceed without the two charges against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The suggestion, while unlikely due to the high threshold of votes required for changing Senate impeachment rules, underscores the pressure some Trump allies feel as the president stews over the impeachment delay.

After the House impeached Trump on Dec. 18, Pelosi (D-Calif.) decided to withhold the articles of impeachment to try to help Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in his negotiations with McConnell for witnesses the White House blocked from testifying in the House, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Former national security adviser John Bolton balked at cooperating in the House probe.

Gaidó Forced Out

juan guido gregory james jan 5 2019 Custom

Authorities prevent Venezuela's Juan Guaidó, an opposition leader, from climbing over a fence to enter the National Assembly on Sunday (screenshot from Gregory James video).

washington post logoWashington Post, Maduro government stages de facto takeover of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Rachelle Krygier and Anthony Faiola​, Jan. juan guaido cellphone5, 2020. The move marks a sharp escalation in President Nicolás Maduro’s gambit to end opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s quest to unseat him.

The government of President Nicolás Maduro staged a de facto takeover of Venezuela's legislature on Sunday, swearing in its own candidate as head of the National Assembly in a move apparently orchestrated to rob international credibility from Juan Guaidó, who had led the body and has staked a rival claim as head of state.

The dramatic events marked a sharp escalation in Maduro’s gambit to end Guaidó’s quest to unseat him and stoked immediate outrage in Washington — which has strongly backed Guaidó, shown right in a file photo, and condemned Sunday’s action. Opposition officials declared the move an effective “parliamentary coup” meant to consolidate Maduro’s near-dictatorial powers.

The replacement of Guaidó amounted to a bait and switch. On Sunday, he began the day anticipating his reelection as head of the National Assembly, viewed internationally as the last democratic institution left in the authoritarian South American state. Guaidó’s claim as the nation’s true president — recognized by nearly 60 countries, including the United States — has been based on his status as the assembly’s chief.

But security forces loyal to Maduro formed a cordon around the assembly building in central Caracas, blocking opposition lawmakers — who control the chamber — from entering. Lawmakers who back Maduro — including several allegedly involved in a government plot to buy votes — were allowed to pass. At one point, Guaidó sought to scale the spiked wrought-iron fence surrounding the assembly, trying to force his way in.

At the same time, Luis Parra — a former opposition politician who was one of several lawmakers accused last month of accepting government bribes — announced his surprise candidacy against Guaidó on Twitter on Sunday morning. Hours later, his swearing-in was suddenly shown on state television.

Opposition officials said Guaidó would seek to counter Sunday’s move by gathering as many lawmakers as possible in an undisclosed location to hold their own vote on the chamber’s leadership.

Weinstein Trial To Begin

ny times logoNew York Times, Weinstein Heads to Trial in a Case Seen as Larger Than One Man, Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor and Jan Ransom, Jan. 5, 2020. The Hollywood producer (shown at right)  faces sexual assault charges in a case that has already been fraught both for prosecutors and his legal team.

harvey weinsteinSince the Harvey Weinstein story broke more than two years ago, everything about it has been outsized: the scope of the allegations of sexual harassment and assault, stretching back decades; the number of his accusers, who total more than 80; and the global scale of the reckoning their stories have inspired.

Many supporters of the #MeToo movement that Mr. Weinstein’s accusers helped ignite are looking to see whether the legal system can deliver justice for victims. Lawyers for Mr. Weinstein, who lost his company, his reputation and his marriage, are arguing that the case is proof that #MeToo has gone too far. At the courthouse, media from around the world, demonstrators outside and spectators in packed galleries will be watching.

Now, as the Hollywood producer’s criminal trial begins Monday in Manhattan, the outcome already is anticipated as a verdict on much more than one man’s alleged wrongdoing.

Media Trends

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, How Big Tech Is Turning New York Into a Silicon Valley Rival, Matthew Haag, Jan. 5, 2020. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google will soon have 20,000 workers in the city, many in a cluster of offices on the West Side.

Facebook’s push to accommodate its booming operations is part of a rush by the West Coast technology giants to expand in New York City. The rapid growth is turning a broad swath of Manhattan into one of the world’s most vibrant tech corridors.

CBS Epstein Probe

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The New York City Medical Examiner's Office ruled Epstein's death a suicide by hanging, but a forensic pathologist (shown above in a CBS 60 Minutes screenshot) who observed the four-hour autopsy on behalf of Epstein's brother, Mark, tells 60 Minutes the evidence released so far points more to murder than suicide in his view. Dr. Michael Baden's key reason: the unusual fractures he saw in Epstein's neck.

cbs news logoCBS, 60 Minutes investigates the death of Jeffrey Epstein, Produced by Oriana Zill de Granados, correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi, Jan. 5, 2019. (14:14 mins). 60 Minutes examines the circumstances surrounding his death in a Manhattan federal jail cell. Warning: This report contains graphic images that some viewers may find disturbing. Continued from above.

In July 2019, Jeffrey Epstein, already a convicted sex offender, was arrested and charged with sex trafficking by federal prosecutors. On August 10, Epstein was found dead in his federal jail cell at Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC).

The New York City Medical Examiner's Office ruled Epstein's death a suicide by hanging, but a forensic pathologist who observed the four-hour autopsy on behalf of Epstein's brother, Mark, tells 60 Minutes the evidence released so far points more to murder than suicide in his view. Dr. Michael Baden's key reason: the unusual fractures he saw in Epstein's neck.

"There were fractures of the left, the right thyroid cartilage and the left hyoid bone," Baden said. "I have never seen three fractures like this in a suicidal hanging."

"Going over a thousand jail hangings, suicides in the New York City state prisons over the past 40-50 years, no one had three fractures," Baden said.

The medical examiner's office said it stands "firmly" behind its finding of suicide by hanging, arguing that fractures of the hyoid bone and cartilage can be seen in both suicides and homicides.

Still, questions linger.

Epstein was directing money to be deposited in other inmates' commissary accounts in exchange for protection, sources say, because he feared for his life. But the government says Epstein was suicidal and made his first, failed suicide attempt weeks after he arrived at MCC.

According to a federal indictment, on July 23 Epstein was found "on the floor of his cell with a strip of bedsheet around his neck." The government says it was a failed suicide attempt, but Epstein claimed his cellmate, 52-year-old former police officer Nick Tartaglione, attacked him. Tartaglione, who is accused of murdering four men, denied that and his lawyer says: "Absolutely nothing like that happened." His lawyer also says Tartaglione was cleared by jail officials.

jeffrey epstein new mug cropped july 2019Epstein was put on suicide watch after the incident, but one week later, "at the direction of the MCC's psychological staff," he was taken off suicide watch and "required to have an assigned cellmate."

Epstein (Jeffrey Epstein, seen in a March 28, 2017, image provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry) was moved back to his old unit and assigned a new cellmate, but the night before his death, Epstein's cellmate was released. According to court documents, "no new cellmate was assigned" before he died, even though he was required to have one.

That night, federal prosecutors say, "Epstein was escorted into his cell by Tova Noel at approximately 7:49 p.m." Noel and Michael Thomas, the two guards who were working the overnight shift in Epstein's unit, allegedly didn't check on him again until "shortly after 6:30 a.m." the next morning.

The two guards have been charged with falsifying documents and conspiracy to defraud the federal government. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Federal prosecutors say surveillance video "makes clear" that the guards "search[ed] the internet" and "appear to have been asleep" on their overnight overtime shift. One thing the video may not show, according to sources, is Epstein's cell door and the doors of the other inmates on his unit tier. Sources say the camera that should have captured those angles was corrupted the night of Epstein's death. Epstein's cell was about 15 feet away and up a set of stairs from the guards' station, with a single locked gate between them.

60 Minutes reviewed hundreds of graphic photographs from Epstein's autopsy and inside his cell. There are multiple nooses, a bit of orange sheet tied to the grate of a window. On the top bunk, bottles and medicines stand upright. Below it, another piece of fabric is tied through a hole on the bed about four feet from the ground.

Did Epstein, who was nearly 6 feet tall and 185 pounds, somehow lean in and hang himself from the lower bunk? We don't know.

Dr. Baden, the forensic pathologist hired by Epstein's family, says the noose that was sketched and included in the autopsy report doesn't appear to match the wounds on Epstein's neck. And Baden says, the ligature mark was in the middle of Epstein's neck, not beneath the jawbone, as one would expect in a hanging. Also puzzling to Baden is that Epstein would make a noose out of a bedsheet when wires and cords were present in his cell, as photographs show.

There are not any photos of Epstein's body in his cell, Baden says – he was rushed to an emergency room after guard Michael Thomas found him. But Baden believes, based on the autopsy, Epstein had been dead for two hours by then and he says the scene should have been treated as a crime scene, leaving the body alone. Federal Bureau of Prisons protocol mandates a suicide scene should be treated with the "same level of protection as any crime scene in which a death has occurred."

Baden has taken several controversial positions over his decades-long career.

.And Baden said, at this point, he doesn't have all the information needed to make a final conclusion. The Justice Department told the family, they say, that it won't release the video pertaining to the case and additional forensic testing because of the ongoing criminal case against the two guards on duty the night of Epstein's death.

The charges have also silenced the guards themselves. Michael Thomas's attorney Montell Figgins says Thomas still hasn't spoken to investigators or revealed how he, alone, found Epstein's body, a key piece of information in any death investigation.

One member of the Justice Department who has gone on record about the case is Attorney General William Barr. He told reporters in November he personally reviewed surveillance video that showed nobody entered the area where Epstein was held. Sources say he may be talking about surveillance video above the guard area or at the entrance to the Special Housing Unit. But this remains to be seen as the Department of Justice would not comment to 60 Minutes about which cameras were working that night.

Trump Actions

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is maniacally out of control, Bill Palmer, Jan. 5, 2020. The pundits who spent the past week insisting that the Iran thing was somehow going to magically help Donald Trump’s 2020 odds? Here’s hoping they’re a little quieter next week, because they’ve – predictably – turned out to have been entirely wrong. The Iran thing isn’t just blowing up in Trump’s face, it’s escalating against him in real time, to the point that he’s now threatening two countries in the region.

bill palmer report logo headerOn Sunday, the Parliament of Iraq (shown above in a government photo) voted to expel the U.S. military from its country. This means Donald Trump has blown this so badly, Iraq has decided to firmly side with its traditional enemy Iran over the United States. This also means that Iran now has even more leverage over Trump. So on Sunday evening, Trump announced that if Iraq doesn’t relent, he’ll hit the country with massive economic sanctions. That’s right, Trump is now threatening to cripple a key U.S. ally with sanctions.

This is deranged beyond words. Donald Trump is maniacally out of control. He’s gone from committing one of the dumbest mistakes in the modern history of the presidency by taking out Soleimani to begin with, to then threatening to commit war crimes against civilians in Iran, to then losing Iraq as an ally, to now making idiotic threats against Iraq.

This is also further proof that Trump has already lost his Iran gambit. This isn’t something that was ever going to magically gain him a single vote. But it’s quickly dissolved into the kind of debacle that’s so embarrassing, it could end up driving his poll numbers even lower. For that matter, there’s the very real scenario in which he ends up getting impeached again, for refusing to notify the Gang of Eight, and for threatening war crimes.

Manafort Lies To Mueller

CNN, Prosecutors want to make public more details about Manafort lies to Mueller, Katelyn Polantz, Jan. 5, 2020.  Prosecutors told a federal judge on Sunday they are nearly ready to unseal details from court proceedings about how President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied during his cooperation, including about efforts to sway the President's approach to Ukraine.

Unsealing the details could potentially explain major questions about Manafort's connections to the White House and fill in gaps about what Russia and Ukraine hoped from Trump after he took office.

Early last year, Judge Amy Berman Jackson determined Manafort "intentionally" lied to then-special counsel Robert Mueller and a grand jury about multiple topics during his cooperation after he pleaded guilty in late 2018 about: $125,000 he received for the legal bills, about another unnamed Justice Department criminal investigation, and about his interactions with his longtime Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik while he was Trump's campaign chairman and later.

Prosecutors said Manafort lied about 2017 and 2018 discussions with Kilimnik about Ukrainian policy, specifically, a Ukraine "peace plan" that would provide a "backdoor" way for Russia to control part of Ukraine, and their interest in getting Trump's support for it, according to the Mueller report. The FBI believes Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence, according to court filings and the Mueller report.

Heavily redacted documents

Jackson held multiple lengthy court hearings about the topics as Mueller's prosecutors sought to unravel Manafort's cooperation deal and have him sentenced. While the judge released versions of those transcripts before his sentencing in March 2019, they were heavily redacted, leaving out many details regarding what prosecutors had learned and what Manafort told them.

The details have stayed heavily redacted while Mueller wrapped up his investigation and related criminal cases wound down. The Washington Post sued for access to the details last March, around the time Manafort was sentenced to seven years in prison for financial and Ukraine lobbying-related crimes.

"Having conferred with counsel for Manafort and reviewed the records at issue, the government believes that some of the redactions are no longer necessary," prosecutors wrote on Sunday.

That doesn't mean the details will be made public immediately, however. Prosecutors and Manafort's team told the judge in their filing they'd like to review the redacted sections again before they're public, and other parts of the Justice Department may be consulted too.

Jan. 4

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

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U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, With missile strike, Trump opts for escalation and a swing at a ‘hornets’ nest,’ Joby Warrick and William Branigin, Jan. 4, 2020 (print ed.). Trump administration officials described the fiery attack (with charred death car wreckage shown above) as a defensive measure intended to disrupt Iranian plans to kill U.S. diplomats or service members overseas.

But current and former U.S. officials said the United States almost certainly will face retaliatory strikes for the killing of Quds Force commander qasem soleimani with zolfaghar orderQasem Soleimani, right, as well as a heightened risk of a wider regional conflict, which U.S. administrations previously had sought to avoid.

washington post logoWashington Post, At Baghdad funeral procession for Qasem Soleimani, calls for retaliation against U.S., Mustafa Salim, Kareem Fahim and Louisa Loveluck​, Jan. 4, 2020  Thousands joined the ceremonies on Saturday for Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia leader. “We will take our revenge,” some chanted.

Iran has vowed to retaliate against the United States for the killing of Soleimani, right,Tehran’s most powerful military commander, and the Trump administration has said it is sending thousands of new troops to the Middle East. The looming confrontation has left the region bracing for an escalation of violence, and Iraq, caught between its allies in Tehran and Washington, fears the country will be at the center of the storm.

An Iranian commander quoted by the Tasnim News Agency on Saturday suggested that dozens of American facilities and military assets in the Middle East were at risk, along with Israel, a key U.S. ally.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why Soleimani’s killing is different from other targeted attacks by U.S., Siobhán O'Grady, Jan. 4, 2020. After the killing of Soleimani, the United States could face direct Iranian reprisals, including potential cyberattacks, analysts said. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened “severe revenge” but gave no indication of what could come.

Iran FlagBarbara Slavin, the director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, said Trump is “trying to do a victory lap here and beat his chest and somehow show this is like killing Baghdadi.” She was referring to the October raid on the hideout of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwestern Syria. “But it’s not. It’s much more serious,” she said.

Like Baghdadi’s, other targeted killings carried out by the United States have typically struck at extremist leaders without affiliations to a powerful state such as Iran.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tensions Abroad Stir a Whirlwind at Fort Bragg as Soldiers Deploy, Rick Rojas and Myah Ward, Jan. 4, 2020. Some 3,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division are bound for the Middle East, spelling uncertainty for families and a community where the base is its backbone.

  • New York Times, Iranians Close Ranks Behind Leaders After U.S. Kills Popular General, Staff report, For years, Iran has been a divided nation led by aged revolutionaries determined to impose their will on a predominantly young population. With the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, citizens have rallied behind their leaders, vowing revenge on the United States.
  • New York Times, Analysis: In Era of Perpetual Conflict, a Volatile President and Few Limits, Staff report, President Trump’s decision to authorize the attacks is the latest example of the capricious way in which he has chosen to flex his lethal powers.

Digital Journal, Iraqi parliament session could call for expulsion of US troops, Ken Hanly, Jan. 4, 2020. U.S. troops are operating in Iraq under a legal mandate granted by the government. However, the attack on the Baghdad Airport killed members of the approved paramilitary forces. The Iraqi military and others claim this action falls outside the mandate.

The Joint Operations Command claimed the attack was a clear violation of the US mandate and of Iraq's sovereignty:

“The Joint Operations Command mourns the hero martyr ... who was martyred last night in a cowardly and treacherous attack carried out by American aircraft near Baghdad international airport. We affirm that what happened is a flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a clear breach by the American forces of their mandate which is exclusively to fight Islamic State and provide advice and assistance to Iraqi security forces.”

The US mandate was centered almost exclusively on the US helping fight ISIS. Many Iraqi MPs suggest that as ISIS is mostly defeated the moqtada sadrUS should leave. After the Baghdad attack no doubt there will be even more pressure to eject US troops.

Hadi al-Amiri the head of the Badr Brigade and leader of the second largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament called on Iraqis to unite and expel the US and other foreign troops from Iraq. The even larger bloc leader Moqtada al-Sadr, left, has long pressed to the US troops to be expelled. Even though the two leaders often have different views on the issued of expulsion of US troops they are now united.

No doubt there will be motions for US and other foreign troops to be ejected from Iraq. These are likely to be supported. It remains to be seen if the US will pay any attention. There is no sign that the US has any sign of withdrawing.

New attack reported

Although further confirmation and clarification is needed, there is a report of a further attack by the US: "Iraqi state media identified the new attack as another US airstrike, near the Taji stadium north of Baghdad. The attack hit a convoy of medics, destroying two medical vans, and killing at least six people, also identified as medical personnel.

Reports suggest that the attack was intended to target a commander within the PMU, and while they declined to say who they thought the US was trying to kill, Twitter reports after the strike initially claimed Ahl al-Haq leader Qais al-Khazali had been killed. This has since been denied, and it appears no PMU commanders were even present in the convoy."" If the report is accurate it will provide even more fuel for campaigners wanting to eject US troops from Iraq.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Yes, Soleimani was an enemy. That doesn’t mean Trump made the right call, Editorial Board, Jan. 4, 2020 (print ed.). The consequences of the strike are unpredictable, but there is no denying the risk that the United States will be pulled more deeply into the Middle East and its conflicts.

Having made clear that he wants to pull the nation out of those conflicts, and having said as recently as Tuesday that he wanted peace with Iran, Mr. Trump has committed an act of escalation and now is deploying more than 4,000 additional troops to Kuwait as a hedge against Iranian counterstrikes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: ‘The Game Has Changed,’ Editorial Board, Jan. 4, 2020. The assassination of Qassim Suleimani, one of Iran’s top military commanders, rocks the Middle East. Is President Trump ready?

The real question to ask about the American drone attack that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani was not whether it was justified, but whether it was wise. Many pieces of the puzzle are still missing, but the killing is a big leap in an uncertain direction.

  • New York Times, How Trump, in Minutes, Reached Risky Decision Predecessors Had Avoided, In ordering the attack, Mr. Trump challenged predictions it could lead to a wider war in the Middle East.

Australian Firestorm

australian fires kangaroo nytimes CustomKangaroo rushes past a burning house Tuesday in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, Australia (Photo: Matthew Abbott for The New York Times).

washington post logoWashington Post, Australia fires intensify as prime minister calls up army reservists to help contain crisis, A. Odysseus Patrick, Jan. 4, 2020.  Record temperatures and strong winds fueled the inferno, threatening lives and property over a vast swath of the country.

Australia on Saturday began calling up 3,000 army reservists to conduct evacuations and help people in remote areas affected by the country's wildfire emergency, as extreme weather fueled blazes that imperiled homes and lives across a swath of the continent.

Clouds of smoke blotted out the sun and stretched hundreds of miles across the country's southeast, where fires that began months ago have forced thousands of residents and summer vacationers to flee. Some 23 people have been killed, including 12 in the past week.

Horrendous conditions confronted firefighters. Temperatures on Saturday broke records, reaching 120 degrees on the forest-fringed outskirts of Sydney and 111 degrees in the capital, Canberra, while strong winds fanned more than 200 wildfires.

More World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Muslims Organize Huge Protests Across India, Challenging Modi, Hari Kumar and Maria Abi-Habib, Jan. 4, 2020. As nationwide demonstrations entered their fourth week, India’s Muslims — long a fragmented group — organized into a formidable force against a contentious citizenship law.

At least 100,000 people gathered Saturday in Hyderabad, India’s technology hub, to protest Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a new law they say will strip the country of its secular foundations, maintaining steady pressure on the government as demonstrations entered their fourth week.

The protests have drawn massive crowds across India, with more than 200,000 people gathering in Kochi city, in the southern state of Kerala, on New Year’s Day. And in Delhi, hundreds continued to camp out on a vital stretch of highway that links the capital to its suburbs, bristling against one of the city’s coldest winters in decades.

While the protests are the biggest threat yet to Mr. Modi’s tenure in office, they may also be the beginning of a deeper political and social shift in India. From the start the protests have attracted Indians across political stripes and creeds. But with India’s Muslims spearheading the demonstrations this past week, the 200-million strong minority showed it can organize as a formidable force to check Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist government.

  • New York Times, China Replaces Its Top Representative in Hong Kong With an Enforcer, After months of protests and an electoral defeat for pro-Beijing political parties, an official with a record of difficult assignments is on the way.

U.S. Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Plan D, Bill Palmer, Jan. 4, 2020. Donald Trump is about five minutes into his latest half-baked scheme, bill palmer report logo headerand the fatalists out there are already out in force, insisting that Trump is going to magically win reelection because of it.

What the fatalists don’t get is that Trump’s schemes to get reelected have all failed – and at this point he’s resorting to trying the bad ideas he previously rejected.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: A Tumultuous Year Shaping Up, Webster G. Tarpley, Jan. 4, 2020 (85 mins.). We're paying now for a series of terrible mistakes by the United States, especially under Trump. The first lesson we haveto learn from this is that if anyone thought that Trump was a man of peace....you were a dupe. Trump is either a puppet or maybe he doesn't need to be a puppet, he can just do it based on his own rage-filled emotions.

Trump Impeachment

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washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani associate can give investigators phone data, documents, judge says, Shayna Jacobs, Jan. 4, 2020. An attorney for Lev Parnas (above at left) said he intends to provide Congress with materials relevant to its investigation of President Trump and his dealings with Ukraine.

A federal judge in Manhattan ruled Friday that an indicted associate of President Trump's personal attorney can provide Congress with evidence in his criminal case that is of interest to impeachment investigators.

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken granted an application from an attorney for Lev Parnas seeking permission to give lawmakers access to phone data and documents seized by federal prosecutors after his October arrest. The House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the materials as part of its impeachment inquiry, according to Parnas attorney Joseph Bondy.

The materials are expected to include documents taken from Parnas’s Florida home, along with a complete readout of his iPhone. Bondy has said there is relevant information contained in the materials, though he has not disclosed specifically what that might be.

  •  Washington Post, In clash with Trump administration, Democrats seek secret grand jury evidence, testimony from McGahn
  •  New York Times, White House Withholds 20 Emails Between Two Trump Officials on Ukraine Aid

Key Venezuelan Vote Sunday

washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuela’s opposition — and Juan Guaidó — face a critical test Sunday in National Assembly vote, Rachelle Krygier and Anthony Faiola, Jan. 4, 2020. Guaidó’s claim to the interim presidency is riding on whether he can win reelection as assembly leader. juan guaido cellphoneNicolás Maduro’s socialist government has sought to thwart Guaidó by allegedly bribing and intimidating lawmakers to turn against him.

For Guaidó, right, the vote amounts to a do-or-die moment. One year ago, he declared President Nicolás Maduro a usurper for claiming victory in tainted elections and declared himself Venezuela’s rightful leader — an assertion based on Guaidó’s status as head of the assembly. But after a year of failed attempts to oust Maduro, Guaidó is now struggling to maintain opposition unity, confronting flagging domestic support and scrambling to counter an alleged plot against him.

U.S. Courts, Scandal, Prisons

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge awards $13 million to women who say they were tricked into pornography, Brittany Shammas, Jan. 4, 2020 (print ed.). The trial of the owners of GirlsDoPorn revealed the “calculated steps” the company took to persuade women after recruiting them for modeling jobs on Craigslist, including concealing the true nature of the business and deploying bait-and-switch tactics.

A California judge has tentatively ordered a pornography company to pay $13 million to 22 young women, finding that they were tricked into performing in videos that threw their lives off course and led several to attempt suicide.

The ruling Thursday followed a years-long legal battle waged by the women against the owners of GirlsDoPorn, a San Diego-based business that has made millions of dollars producing pornography it distributes through a subscription website and other online adult-video providers. The company is also the subject of a separate criminal case in which its owners and employees face federal sex-trafficking charges.

Key to the GirlsDoPorn business model, San Diego Superior Court Judge Kevin A. Enright noted in the civil case, is the construct that the women in the videos “are not professional porn stars but are amateur college-aged women filming pornography for the first and only time.”

The 99-day trial revealed the “calculated steps” the company’s operators took to persuade those women after recruiting them for “modeling” jobs on Craigslist, including concealing the true nature of the business, deploying bait-and-switch tactics and offering what the judge said was “little choice in completing the shoot.” They repeatedly promised that the videos would be available only on DVDs purchased by private collectors overseas and that the identities of the women — all between the ages of 18 and 22, most of them cash-strapped college students — would not be revealed.

ny times logoNew York Times, He Was Accused of Enabling Abuse. Then Came a Downward Spiral, Anemona Hartocollis, Jan. 4, 2020. A professor said a sexual misconduct suit against Dartmouth College had falsely portrayed his actions, and was overcome by the anguish that followed.

When a group of graduate students wanted to alert Dartmouth College to sexual misconduct by three professors, David Bucci, right, was the one david bucci dartmouth photo Customthey turned to.

He was the chairman of the department where the students and professors worked, and he reported the accusation to the college administration.

So he was blindsided when seven female students later named him in a lawsuit against Dartmouth, accusing him of looking the other way and intimidating those who had spoken out.

He grew deeply distressed, his wife and closest colleagues said, especially after he was advised not to complicate the litigation by defending himself publicly. The ordeal eventually brought back the crippling depression he had been treated for years earlier. Some colleagues shunned him. A woman at his food co-op called him a “disgusting human being,” said his wife, Katie Bucci.

In October, 11 months after the lawsuit was filed in late 2018, he took his own life. He was 50.

To friends and family members, Dr. Bucci was a casualty of a scorched-earth legal strategy to pin blame on the Ivy League college. They said that they did not question the credibility of the women who came forward, but that his death showed how bit players can be swept up with perpetrators, and badly hurt.

 Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts and Ghislaine Maxwell, 2001Ghislaine Maxwell, right, with Prince Andrew and Virginia Roberts, center, in 2001. A source says ex-special forces are shuttling Miss Maxwell from one safe house to another

Daily Mail, Prince Andrew's friend Ghislaine Maxwell, the former lover of pedophile (sic) financier Jeffrey Epstein, is under 24-hour guard by former US Navy Seals amid fears for her life, Ian Gallagher, Jan. 4, 2020.

A source says ex-special forces are shuttling the 58-year-old friend of Prince Andrew from one safe house to another across the American Midwest following ‘credible death threats’.

Epstein is said to have sexually abused dozens of teenage girls and Miss Maxwell, along with others, is alleged to have ‘facilitated’ his behavior. She has denied any wrongdoing.

She is now the principal focus of an FBI investigation and is said to hold the key to the truth about the Duke of York’s relationship with the disgraced financier and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. The Duke has repeatedly denied these allegations and any suggestion of wrongdoing.

While Miss Maxwell has never been accused by the authorities of criminal wrongdoing, Epstein’s alleged victims have portrayed her as his ‘madam’ and ‘fixer.’

A source said: ‘There has been so much rubbish written about Ghislaine. The reality is she receives multiple, credible death threats on a daily basis. The hate mail is sometimes 2 feet high.

‘She is constantly moving. Her life is in danger. She is being guarded by the best of the very best and that includes former US Navy SEALs. She’s not under the protection of any government. She’s on her own.’

washington post logoWashington Post, Five Mississippi inmates have been killed in a week, officials say. Now two are missing, Marisa Iati, Jan. 4, 2020.  Corrections officials said four of the deaths happened during “major disturbances” sparked in part by gang violence. The state has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and the prison system has struggled with a lack of funding and allegations of abuse.

More On Iraq Protests, Threats

Moon of Alabama, Opinion, U.S. Will Come To Regret Its Assassination of Qassim Soleimani, b (pen name for Germany-based analyst), Jan. 4, 2020. The Trump administration is telling fairytales about its murder of Major General Qassem Soleimani. He was not planning any "imminent attacks" on the U.S. or its interests in Iraq.

Iran has to take revenge for the outrageous assassination of Soleimani to prevent future assassinations of a similar kind. The U.S. broke the rules when it killed an active commander of another country outside of a declared war. New rules must now be established to regain a balance.

The U.S. did not murder only Qassem Soleimani. On December 29 it also killed 31 Iraqi government forces. Five days later it killed Soleimani and the Deputy Commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF/PMU/Hashed al-Shabi) and leader of Kata'ib Hizbollah Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. There were also four IRGC and four Kata'ib Hizbollah men who were killed while accompanying their leaders. The PMU are under direct command of the Iraqi Prime Minister. They are official Iraqi defense forces who defeated ISIS after a bloody war. Their murder demands that their government acts against the perpetrators.

Soleimani's main task was to build and support external groups that are able to resist their local enemies as well as able to act on behalf of Iran. He excelled in his job for over 20 years. Iran has now many friends who it can ask to execute whatever it decides should be done.

Iran's revenge act can not be done within U.S. borders. That would be interpreted as a direct attack and could be used as a pretext for war. Iran will also want to have some plausible deniability for whatever happens. It must therefore exclude incidents in the Persian Gulf or near its shore. East Asia would be the preferable venue. Like it did in the Lockerbie case Iran is likely to use cutouts to execute its plans.

There is a historic example of how Iran reacts to such U.S. provocations.

iran air flight 655 newsweek cover

Newsweek covers for 12 September 1983 (left) and 18 July 1988 (right), illustrating the KAL007 and Iran Air incidents respectively. The caption "Murder in the Air" framed the KAL incident as a deliberate act of war, whereas "Why It Happened" framed the Iran Air incident as a tragic mistake (Wikipedia).

The U.S. attack

uss vincennes aegis screensIran Air Flight 655 was a scheduled passenger flight from Tehran to Dubai via Bandar Abbas, that was shot down on 3 July 1988 by an SM-2MR surface-to-air missile fired from USS Vincennes, a guided missile cruiser of the United States Navy (whose communications center is shown at right). The aircraft, an Airbus A300, was destroyed and all 290 people on board, including 66 children, were killed.

The Iranian retribution

Pan Am Flight 103 was a regularly scheduled Pan Am transatlantic flight from Frankfurt to Detroit via London and New York. On 21 December 1988, N739PA, the aircraft operating the transatlantic leg of the route was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew in what became known as the Lockerbie bombing.

The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) claimed to be responsible for the bombing of the plane. It had used a Palestinian cutout in Lebanon to plant the bomb. But for political reasons the official investigation was manipulated and the blame for the Lockerbie bombing was put on Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi who had absolutely nothing to do with it.

The murder of the passengers and crew of Iran Air Flight 655 and the retribution for it were five and a half months apart. This gives us a hint of how long it might take for Iran to prepare the retribution for the U.S. assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani. There is also the political calender that has to be considered. If an Iranian revenge act is of a kind that could help Trump to get reelected it must wait until after the U.S. election. If the revenge act is of a kind that could hurt Trump's poll numbers it must come during the last few months of the campaign.

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai - 14:33 UTC · Jan 4, 2020
#BreakingNews:

#US asked #Iran, according to sources in #Tehran, to limit its response to the assassination of Brigadier General #QassemSoleimani to a "similar response".

This means when confirmed, @realDonaldTrump is offering to Iran the life of a US four-star general.

We will know that it has happened when this flag comes down:

Tomorrow the Iraqi parliament will meet to consult over a law that would evict all U.S. troops. There is currently some disunity within the Shia majority in the parliament. Should it fail to evict the U.S. the Shia PMU groups will act on their own. Not because of Soleimani or Iran, but because their comrades and leaders were killed. They will attack the U.S. military wherever they can. The situation for the U.S. in Iraq would then soon become untenable.

washington post logoWashington Post, Protesters rally at White House against war and Trump’s drone strike decision, Joe Heim, Jan. 4, 2020. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Lafayette Square across from the White House on Saturday afternoon to voice opposition to the deployment of additional U.S. troops to the Middle East, demand the removal of American forces from Iraq and warn against getting into a war with Iran.

The crowd, a diverse mix of young activists and grizzled protest veterans, stood under gray skies, cheering and chanting as speakers railed against the administration and the prospect of a war with Iran. Actress and activist Jane Fonda was among those who addressed the protesters, saying that the “climate movement and the peace movement must be one movement.” Tourists passing by took selfies with demonstrators, and a combination of Secret Service, Metropolitan Police and U.S. Park Police officers watched the peaceful proceedings from a short distance.

ANSWER Coalition, Advocacy: Trump starts war on Iran: ALL OUT Sat. Jan. 4 National Day of Action, Jan. 4, 2020 (updated). Statement from the ANSWER Coalition below:

The Trump administration and Pentagon have moved to start a war with Iran by assassinating Qassem Soleimani, the top military leader of that country. If Iran openly assassinated a top U.S. general and bragged about it, there is no question that the United States would initiate full-scale war. Trump and the Pentagon have acted illegally, in violation of the Constitution, the War Powers Act and international law.

The targeted assassination and murder of a central leader of Iran is designed to initiate a new war. Unless the people of the United States rise up and stop it, this war will engulf the whole region and could quickly turn into a global conflict of unpredictable scope and potentially the gravest consequences.

The Pentagon high command is recklessly bragging about this illegal, targeted assassination in the most crude and false manner. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” stated the lying generals. They know that the objective of the strike is just the opposite. They want a war with Iran – a country of more than 80 million people. Trump wants it too because he thinks it will guarantee his re-election in 2020.

For all who believe in peace, for all who are opposed to yet another catastrophic war, now is the time to take action. On Saturday, January 4 in cities across the country there will be protests against a new war in the Middle East and calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops and bases in the region.

Initiators for this call include the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK, Popular Resistance, World Beyond War and many other anti-war and peace organizations. If you want to add your name as an endorser click here.

Demonstrations will take place on Saturday, January 4 in the following cities:

  • The White House: Washington D.C., 12 noon at the White House
  • Chicago, IL,12 noon at Trump Tower
  • Los Angeles, CA , 1 pm at Pershing Square
  • New York City, NY, 11 am at Time Square

More locales via link here.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: American Foreign Policy Is Broken. Suleimani’s Killing Proves It, Jonathan Stevenson (senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies), Jan. 4, 2020. A properly functioning National Security Council would never have let it happen, for good reason.

In the scheme of things, he had it coming. Yet killing him made little strategic sense for the United States. In some ways, the most significant thing about his death is what it shows about the breakdown of American foreign policymaking.

President Trump ordered the strike directly, prompted by the death of an American contractor on Dec. 27 in a rocket attack by Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-sponsored Iraqi Shia militia. Mr. Trump did not bother to consult congressional leaders. As with his other displays of martial fiat, his immediate impulse was probably to shock the liberal domestic audience, vicariously make himself feel tough, and assert raw executive power by going around the normal channels of decision making.

Patch.com, Gov't Photo ID Now Required To Visit Arlington National Cemetery, Michael O'Connell, Jan. 4, 2020 (updated). Arlington National Cemetery raised its security profile on Friday. Visitors now must provide a government-issued photo ID to enter.

Arlington National Cemetery increased its security posture Friday, Dec. 3 due to current conditions, according to a new post on its official Facebook page. From now on, all visitors 16 and older will need to provide a valid state or government issued photo ID when they enter the cemetery. This includes funeral attendees, tourists and others on official business.

The public is asked to stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Watch Desk: 703-588-2800/2801.

U.S. Safety, Health News

ny times logoNew York Times, What Is the Keto Diet, and Does It Work? Dawn MacKeen, Updated Jan. 4, 2020. The most popular diet in the U.S. works, but we don’t know how effective it is, or for how long.

A recent survey of registered dietitians named the low-carbohydrate keto diet yet again as the most popular diet in the United States. Powering this diet is fat, and loads of it — all the way up to a hefty 90 percent of one’s daily calories.

Its fans (and marketers) feed social media with before and after photos, crediting the diet for life-altering weight loss or other effects. They swirl butter into their coffee, load up on cheese and eat lonely burgers without their bestie: the bun. Staples like whole grains, legumes, fruit and starchy vegetables are being largely pushed off the plate as devotees strive for ketosis — when the body begins to burn fat instead of glucose as its primary energy source.

“America is in a state of carbophobia,” said Whitney Linsenmeyer, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The diet is hailed for dropping pounds, burning more calories, reducing hunger, managing diabetes, treating drug resistant epilepsy, improving blood pressure and lowering cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, the major storage form of fat in the body. People have reported improved concentration, too. “We see pretty dramatic benefits,” said Dr. William Yancy, director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center.

  • New York Times, Father and Daughter, Mistaken for Deer, Are Fatally Shot, Officials Say

Social Justice

WhoWhatWhy, Mean Streets: America’s Poverty Spiral, Milicent Cranor, Jan. 4, 2020. What happens when people living on the edge are finally pushed off?

Imagine this.

You can barely hang on to your low-paying job. You have a terrible toothache — you can’t afford a dentist — but you still try to do the work. One day, you come down with the flu, but you work anyway. Your flu turns into pneumonia and you’re taken to an emergency room. You miss many days of work and, because you are paid by the hour, you lose money. A doctor prescribes an antibiotic but you can’t afford it, unless you want to give up food.

Eventually, you go back to work, but find that you no longer have a job. Now you can’t pay your rent and the landlord has started eviction proceedings. After a loud knock at your door, policemen enter and they throw you out.

You have just been pushed over the edge. As you hurtle through space, you wonder where you will land.

You could end up as one of those bundles on the sidewalk, people who look as though they were wadded up into a ball, and then carelessly discarded. And you could even be evicted from the sidewalk. Then where will you go?

Jan. 3

U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Headlines

 

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U.S.-Iran-Iraq Crisis Excerpts

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran vows revenge after U.S. drone strike kills elite force commander, Louisa Loveluck​​, Jan. 3, 2019. The death of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, right, could plunge the region into a new cycle of violence. His death in the wreckage of a two-car convoy (shown above) in Baghdad left U.S. outposts bracing for retaliation.

The U.S. Embassy in Iraq warned its citizens to leave “immediately.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he discussed the operation afterward with British and Chinese officials, telling them that “the U.S. remains committed to de-escalation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Attack at Baghdad Airport Is Major Escalation in U.S.-Iran Conflict, Michael Crowley, Falih Hassan and Eric Schmitt, Jan. 3, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump ordered the killing of the powerful commander of Iran’s Revolutionary qassim soleimaniGuards Corps, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, right, in a drone strike on the Baghdad International Airport early Friday, American officials said.

“General Suleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “General Suleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the statement added. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.” (More detail below.)

Reuters, Iraqi parliament to hold extraordinary session on Sunday, Ahmed Aboulenein, Jan. 3, 2020. Iraq’s parliament will hold an extraordinary session on Sunday to discuss the U.S. air strike in Baghdad which killed Iran’s Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, it said on Friday.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called on lawmakers to hold an emergency session and address the attack, which he called a violation of sovereignty.

washington post logoIran FlagWashington Post, Why Iraq is at the center of the dispute between Iran and U.S., Adam Taylor​, Jan. 3, 2019. The location of this round of violence shows how Iraq is again stuck in the middle of the dispute between the United States and Iran — a dangerous place for a country still reeling from years of dictatorship, war and extremism.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Analysis: Soleimani coordinated the battle against ISIS in Iraq with U.S. and its allies, Wayne Madsen, below at left, Jan. 3, 2020. It was less than five years ago that U.S. troops in Iraq were coordinating with Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani and members of his elite Al Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attacks on the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq. The Al Quds Force is the foreign expeditionary arm of the IRGC.

A 2015 photograph showed Soleimani [circled] in Tikrit, the hometown of the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, along with U.S., Iraqi government, British, and French forces, as well as members of the Iraqi Shi'a Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). During the battle with ISIL, Soleimani also coordinated operations against the Saudi-backed jihadist forces with Pershmerga paramilitary forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq.

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Consortium News, Opinion: VIPS MEMO: Doubling Down Into Yet Another ‘March of Folly,’ This Time on Iran, Jan. 3, 2020. “We write with a sense of urgency suggesting you avoid doubling down on catastrophe,” Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) tells Donald Trump in its latest memo to the president.

The drone assassination in Iraq of Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani evokes memory of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914, which led to World War I. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quick to warn of “severe revenge.” That Iran will retaliate at a time and place of its choosing is a near certainty. And escalation into World War III is no longer just a remote possibility, particularly given the multitude of vulnerable targets offered by our large military footprint in the region and in nearby waters.

What your advisers may have avoided telling you is that Iran has not been isolated. Quite the contrary. One short week ago, for example, Iran launched its first joint naval exercises with Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman, in an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. in the region.

It is time to call a spade a spade. The country expecting to benefit most from hostilities between Iran and the U.S. is Israel (with Saudi Arabia in second place). As you no doubt are aware, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (shown above) is fighting for his political life.

He continues to await from you the kind of gift that keeps giving. Likewise, it appears that you, your son-in-law, and other myopic pro-Israel advisers are as susceptible to the influence of Israeli prime ministers as was former President George W. Bush. Some commentators are citing your taking personal responsibility for providing Iran with a casus belli as unfathomable. Looking back just a decade or so, we see a readily distinguishable pattern.

Consortium News, Opinion: US Kick Starts Raging ’20s Declaring War on Iran, Pepe Escobar, Jan. 3, 2020. Iraq is the preferred battleground of a proxy war against Iran that may now metastasize into hot war, with devastating consequences.

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Consortium News, Opinion: Qassem Suleimani Air Strike Escalates US Assassination Policy, Luca Trenta, Jan. 3, 2020. The killing of the Iranian general, Qassem Suleimani, shown above in a 2018 Iranian government photo) signals an escalation in the U.S. policy of assassination and targeted killing.

This is the latest and most dramatic development in the ongoing proxy conflict between the U.S. and Iran. Much of that conflict has taken place on the territory of Iraq, including a recent attack on the U.S. embassy compound. The Trump administration explicitly blamed this recent attack on Iran. In turn, Iranian authorities, including Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Sharif, have accused the U.S. of committing an act of “international terrorism” in killing Suleimani in what was described as an “extremely dangerous and foolish escalation.”

While it is too soon to say what the consequences of this latest U.S. operation will be, the killing of the Iranian general certainly signals an escalation in the U.S. policy of assassination and targeted killing. It also establishes a dangerous precedent for international politics.

In a statement, the Department of Defense justified the drone strike by saying Suleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” It emphasised that the Quds Force is designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government. It also stressed that the attack was justified to protect U.S. personnel abroad and to deter future attacks.

Iran FlagBut Suleimani was also, clearly, a foreign official. It is also not evident that he posed an imminent threat to U.S. nationals. No details are given on this concern. These two points – the type of target killed and the nature of the threat – have traditionally been crucial elements in any decision by the U.S. government to undertake a targeted killing or pre-emptive strikes.

Since the mid-1970s, an executive order has prohibited U.S. government agencies from engaging in assassination. However, while upholding the ban on assassination, the Ronald Reagan administration worked to create the legal and political space it needed to kill terrorists when it saw fit. Legal opinions from the CIA and the Pentagon at the time suggested using force in counter-terrorism was a different matter altogether and so fell outside the remit of the ban on assassination.

A key element of the Reagan administration’s justification, as made clear in National Security Decision Directive 138, was that these measures were pre-emptive and were taken in self-defense, against targets that posed an imminent threat to U.S. interests and personnel.

In an important precedent for the Suleimani killing, some members of the Reagan administration also argued that not only terrorists, but also leaders of states supporting terrorism, could be targeted. On this basis, while some disagreement remains, several primary and secondary sources seem to agree that the Reagan administration tried to kill Libyan leader Muhammar Gaddafi in an air strike on his headquarters and home in 1986. Gaddafi survived the bombing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: For Trump, a Risky Gamble to Deter Iran, David E. Sanger, Jan. 3, 2020. American officials have no doubt the Iranians will respond — but they don’t know how quickly, or how furiously. President Trump’s decision to strike and kill the second most powerful official in Iran turns a slow-simmering conflict with Tehran into a boiling one, and is perhaps the riskiest move made by the United States in the Middle East since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

President Donald Trump officialThe calculus was straightforward: Washington had to re-establish deterrence, and show the Iranian leadership that missiles fired at ships in the Persian Gulf and at oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, along with attacks inside Iraq that cost the life of an American contractor, would not go without response.

But while senior American officials have no doubt the Iranians will respond, they don’t know how quickly, or how furiously.

For a president who repeated his determination to withdraw from the caldron of the Middle East, the strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who for two decades has been leader of Iran’s most fearsome and ruthless military unit, the Quds Force, means there will be no escape from the region for the rest of his presidency, whether that is one year or five. Mr. Trump has committed the United States to a conflict whose dimensions are unknowable, as Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seeks vengeance.

Complicating the management of a perilous moment is the president’s impeachment and the revival of Iran’s nuclear program.

It is only a matter of time before there are questions about whether the strike was designed to create a counternarrative, one of a conflict with a longtime adversary, while a Senate trial to determine whether to remove Mr. Trump begins. And already there are charges that the president overstepped his bounds, and that the decision to kill General Suleimani — if it was a decision, and the Iranian leader was not simply in the wrong convoy at the wrong moment — required congressional approval.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fact Check: Pence Links Suleimani to 9/11. The Public Record Doesn’t Back Him, Zach Montague, Jan. 3, 2020.  In a series mike pence oof tweets on Friday defending President Trump’s decision to authorize the drone strike that killed Iran’s top intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Vice President Mike Pence reeled off a list of some of General Suleimani’s most notorious attacks and machinations. Mr. Pence described “an evil man” who had threatened American national security interests for decades.

In one of his tweets, Mr. Pence, right, claimed that General Suleimani helped 10 of the men who would go on to carry out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks cross through Iran and enter Afghanistan. That does not match established historical accounts of General Suleimani or public United States intelligence about the hijackers.

This lacks evidence. How Mr. Pence arrived at this number and this account is unclear. From what is commonly known about General Suleimani and the group of men who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks, their paths did not cross.

More World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Millions of Australians Are Choking on Smoke From Wildfires, Nadja Popovich, Jan. 3, 2020 Those in major cities, while not threatened by flames, are still experiencing this disastrous fire season in their lungs.

The city recorded its worst air quality day on Jan. 2, with readings of dangerous fine particulate pollution spiking to over 200 micrograms per cubic meter on average during the worst hour, according to Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit research group that aggregates data from air-quality monitoring sites. Readings for the day averaged nearly 100 micrograms per cubic meter, a level considered “unhealthy” under air quality standards developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Officials in Australia braced for what could be the worst day yet. See the latest updates here.

2020 U.S. Politics

washington post logoBernie Sanders OfficialWashington Post, Ascendant Bernie Sanders turns his focus to Joe Biden as Iowa nears, Robert Costa, Jan. 3, 2020 (print ed.). Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, right, — who has reignited his presidential campaign in the weeks since a heart attack put his political future in doubt — is now making a direct and sharpened case against former vice president Joe Biden in the final stretch before next month's Iowa caucuses.

Politico, Biden picks up key Iowa endorsement, Natasha Korecki, Jan. 3, 2020. Joe Biden landed a coveted Iowa endorsement on Thursday, winning the backing of Rep. Abby Finkenauer, one of the youngest women ever elected to Congress and the first in the Iowa congressional delegation to endorse in the 2020 race.

abby finkenauerA stamp of approval from the 31-year-old Finkenauer, left, comes at a pivotal time for the 77-year-old former vice president, as he seeks to dispel the notion that he’s too old to win support from younger voters. It also comes from a congresswoman who flipped a competitive district in 2018 that voted twice for Barack Obama and then for Donald Trump in 2016.

democratic donkey logoFinkenauer, who wrested control of the northeastern Iowa seat from Republican Rod Blum in the 2018 midterms, will campaign with Biden during a five-day Iowa tour that begins Thursday.

Finkenauer has had ties to Biden long before the 2020 Democratic primary. She volunteered on Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign, and in the race against Blum, Biden hosted a rally for Finkenauer that drew 2,000 people.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Warns About Disinformation After Misleading Video, Katie Glueck, Jan. 3, 2020 (print ed.). A day after a deceptively edited video of him spread on social media, Joseph R. Biden Jr. cautioned that the Democratic nominee would be vulnerable to false information in the general election.

joe biden oAs the Democratic presidential candidates fanned out across Iowa and New Hampshire on Thursday to address voters still scarred by President Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, argued that any Democratic nominee would be vulnerable to baseless criticism and disinformation in the general election.

Mr. Biden’s remarks in Iowa, at his first political event of the 2020 election year, came a day after a deceptive video of him circulated online, highlighting how campaigns are still struggling to combat false information on the internet.

“You’re going to see a lot more of not only my statements being taken out of context and lied about or altered, you’re going to see whomever the Democratic nominee is, because that’s how this guy operates,” Mr. Biden said, adding that Democratic candidates would face unfair attacks from Mr. Trump “if I were to drop out of the race tomorrow” or “if I were to drop dead tomorrow.” (There was no evidence that the video was connected to the president.)

Mr. Biden’s comment came in response to an event attendee who asked him about his ability to beat Mr. Trump, and also to clarify his remarks in the video, which had been misleadingly edited to wrongly suggest that Mr. Biden was making racist remarks. In fact he was emphasizing the need to change “our culture” around violence toward women.

eric bauman nbc Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, California Democratic Party Settles Sexual Misconduct Lawsuits Against Former Chairman, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Jan. 3, 2020. The California Democratic Party said on Friday that it had settled lawsuits with five people who had accused the party’s former chairman of misconduct (shown above in an NBC photo) including sexual assault, discrimination and harassment.

Eric C. Bauman, the former chairman, led the state party for a year and a half until November 2018, when he resigned after several employees said he had harassed and intimidated them. At least one employee said he had been sexually assaulted.

Rusty Hicks, who is now the chairman of the state party, said the organization had reached “equitable settlements” with five people who had sued. Mr. Hicks said that the party valued “fairness, respect and dignity for all” and that the settlements were meant to acknowledge the accusers’ “service to our Party.”

democratic donkey logoCiting an unnamed source, The Wall Street Journal reported that the state party would be paying more than $1 million to settle the claims.

William Floyd, a former assistant to Mr. Bauman, said in April that Mr. Bauman, 61, had sexually assaulted him three times while he served as chairman of the state party and when he was chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. Throughout that time, Mr. Floyd said, his boss, who was more than twice his age, also groped him and made inappropriate comments to him.

The other lawsuits, filed by three former party employees and a Democratic activist, made a host of similar claims against Mr. Bauman and the party, accusing the former leader of sexually assaulting, groping or harassing them and the party of failing to stop the abuse. At least one former employee also said Mr. Bauman discriminated against her because she was black, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Mr. Bauman was involved in Democratic politics in California for more than three decades and had long been known for his advocacy on behalf of unions and L.G.B.T. groups. He resigned when an article published in The Los Angeles Times in November 2018 added to growing outrage over his behavior. The article said Mr. Bauman had physically intimidated people and touched them without their consent.

Trump Impeachment

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: McConnell, Schumer to address Senate amid impasse over trial, John Wagner​, Jan. 3, 2019. The Republican and Democratic leaders are both scheduled to deliver floor speeches as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continues to hold off on sending articles of impeachment to the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has held off sending articles of impeachment — alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate as Democrats seek guarantees about witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed regarding Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.

Responses To U.S.-ordered Killings

ny times logoNew York Times, Attack at Baghdad Airport Is Major Escalation in U.S.-Iran Conflict (continued from above). The killing of General Suleimani was a major blow for Iran and a major escalation of President Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, which began with economic sanctions but has steadily moved into the military arena.

Department of Defense SealThe strikes followed a warning on Thursday afternoon from Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, who said the United States military would pre-emptively strike Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria if there were signs the paramilitary groups were planning more attacks against American bases and personnel in the region.

“If we get word of attacks, we will take pre-emptive action as well to protect American forces, protect American lives,” Mr. Esper said. “The game has changed.”

Iran FlagIn Iran, state television interrupted its programing to announce General Suleimani’s death. The news anchor recited the Islamic prayer for the dead — “From God we came and to God we return” — beside a picture of General Suleimani.

American officials consider General Suleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers during the Iraq War and hostile Iranian activities throughout the Middle East.

The American drone strike hit two cars carrying Mr. Suleimani and several officials with Iranian-backed militias as they were leaving the airport.

American officials said that multiple missiles hit the convoy in a strike carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command.

The strike killed five people, including the pro-Iranian chief of an umbrella group for Iraqi militias, Iraqi television reported and militia officials confirmed. The militia chief, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was a strongly pro-Iranian figure.

The public relations chief for the umbrella group, the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, Mohammed Ridha Jabri, was killed as well.

Washington and Tehran appear intent on ratcheting up both their messaging and their forces, raising concerns of a larger conflict. In the past several months, Iranian-supported militias have increased rocket attacks on bases housing American troops. The Pentagon has dispatched more than 14,000 troops to the region since May.

Caught in the middle is the Iraqi government, which is too weak to establish any military authority over some of the more established Iranian-supported Shiite militias.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: U.S. Will Come To Regret Its Assassination of Qassim Soleimani, b (Germany-based analyst), Jan. 3, 2019. Today the U.S. declared war on Iran and Iraq. War is what it will get.

Earlier today a U.S. drone or helicopter killed Major General Qassim Soleimani, the famous commander of the Iranian Quds ('Jerusalem') force, while he left the airport of Baghdad where he had just arrived. He had planned to attend the funeral of the 31 Iraqi soldiers the U.S. had killed on December 29 at the Syrian-Iraqi border near Al-Qaim.

qassim soleimaniThe Quds force is the external arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Soleiman, right, was responsible for all relations between Iran and political and militant movements outside of Iran. Hajji Qassim advised the Lebanese Hisbullah during the 2006 war against Israel. His support for Iraqi groups enabled them to kick the U.S. invaders out of Iraq. He was the man responsible for, and successful in, defeating the Islamic State in iraq and Syria. In 2015 Soleimani traveled to Moscow and convinced Russia to intervene in Syria. His support for the Houthi in Yemen enabled them to withstand the Saudi attackers.

Soleimani had arrived in Baghdad on a normal flight from Lebanon. He did not travel in secret. He was picked up at the airport by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, the deputy commander of the al-Hashd al-Shaabi, an official Iraqi security force under the command of the Iraqi Prime Minister. The two cars they traveled in were moqtada sadrdestroyed in the U.S. attack. Both men and their drivers and guards died.

The U.S. created two martyrs who will now become the models and idols for tens of millions of youth in the Middle East. The Houthi in Yemen, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Palestine, the paramilitary forces in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere have all benefited from Soleimani's advice and support. They will all take actions to revenge him.

Moqtada al-Sadr, left, the unruly Shia cleric who commands millions of followers in Iraq, has given orders to reactivate his military branch 'Jaish al-Imam al-Mahdi'. Between 2004 and 2008 the Mahdi forces fought the U.S. occupation of Iraq. They will do so again.

No Iraqi politician will be able to argue for keeping U.S. forces in the country. The Iraqi Prime Minister Abdel Mahdi has called for a parliament emergency meeting to ask for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops. Iran will tie its response to the political calender. U.S. President Donald Trump will go into his reelection campaign with U.S. troops under threat everywhere. We can expect incidents like the Beirut barracks bombing to repeat themselves when he is most vulnerable.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump ordered the fatal strike on Soleimani. Now what? Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 3, 2019. Trump has raised strategic incoherence to new levels. Acting without so much as briefing Congress and despite his own jennifer rubin new headshotparty’s qualms about a new war in the Middle East, Trump risks not only war but also political blowback should Iran retaliate.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted the question on most lawmakers’ minds: “Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question. The question is this — as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”

Politico, Analysis: Trump just made his most consequential decision as president, Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, Jan. 3, 2010. This is a hugely consequential decision by President Donald Trump that could color the remainder of his presidency, shake up the 2020 campaign and reshape the Department of Defense SealMiddle East for decades. It’s a big deal.

What is the larger strategy? Administration officials told us this morning that the strategy is to get Iran back to the negotiating table through defensive actions.

Furthermore, Congress is already wondering why it was left in the dark -- many members were told after the attack, and before the statement came out confirming his death. Does Congress need to consider a new Authorization for Use of Military Force, something it has talked a lot about but has been scared to do for more than a decade?

MEET THE NEW GUY: Iran has already named Soleimani’s replacement. According to the official Tasnim News Agency, it’s Gen. Esmail Qaani, who was tapped by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the new head of the elite Quds Force. Qaani, who was Soleimani’s deputy, has been described as lacking his former boss’ charisma but perhaps making up for it somewhat in hardened battlefield experience.

ADVICE WORTH TAKING: The U.S. Embassy in Iraq issued a revised “security alert” for Americans stuck in Baghdad or considering travel there. The guidance: “U.S. citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land. … Do not travel to Iraq … Avoid the U.S. Embassy … Monitor local and international media for updates.”

QUESTIONS ON THE LEFT: JOE BIDEN: “No American will mourn Qassem Soleimani’s passing. He deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region. He supported terror and sowed chaos. None of that negates the fact that this is a highly escalatory move in an already dangerous region. … President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.” Full statement

PRAISE ON THE RIGHT … @SenTomCotton: “Qassem Soleimani masterminded Iran’s reign of terror for decades, including the deaths of hundreds of Americans. Tonight, he got what he richly deserved, and all those American soldiers who died by his hand also got what they deserved: justice.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just totally blew it with Iran, Bill Palmer, Jan. 3, 2020. There’s a popular narrative that says all a president has to do to get reelected is to start a war at precisely the right time. The thing is, that narrative simply isn’t true. The reality is that a popular president can become more popular by starting a war, because the people trust that president’s intentions. But an unpopular president can only make things even worse for himself by trying to start a war at a time when the people are already sick of his crap.

bill palmer report logo headerThis brings us to whatever it is that Donald Trump just did in Iran. After Iranian-backed forces attacked the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, the United States had no choice but to carry out a proportional response. Trump had to blow up something, as would any other president in Trump’s position, in order to let Iran know that there are consequences for violently attacking U.S. soil. The thing is, Trump overplayed his hand.

All that Trump had to do was blow up an ammo dump or two in Iran, and call it a day. He’d have been widely praised by the media for carrying out the correct proportional response. Instead, he overplayed his hand by taking out Qasem Soleimani. Trump seemed to think he’d get credit for taking out a notorious monster. But while no American is going to miss Soleimani, the reality is that Trump’s response was not a proportional one, but an escalatory one. It’s so over the top, Iran will now have to respond in some way, in order to save face with its own people.

Donald Trump has consistently shown that he’s afraid of war. It’s been clear all along that he fears a war could finish off what’s left of his teetering presidency. But now that he’s forcing Iran to respond in kind, he’ll soon face a no-win situation where he has to either escalate things further in response, or humiliate himself by not responding. If Trump gets us into a war with Iran, his reelection odds will drop to zero. No matter how many times the media makes the braindead claim that war can somehow magically get an unpopular president reelected, it’s a laugh-out-loud false narrative. Even Trump knows it.

ANSWER Coalition, Advocacy: Trump starts war on Iran: ALL OUT Sat. Jan. 4 National Day of Action, Jan. 3, 2020. New statement from the ANSWER Coalition below:

The Trump administration and Pentagon have moved to start a war with Iran by assassinating Qassem Soleimani, the top military leader of that country. If Iran openly assassinated a top U.S. general and bragged about it, there is no question that the United States would initiate full-scale war. Trump and the Pentagon have acted illegally, in violation of the Constitution, the War Powers Act and international law.

The targeted assassination and murder of a central leader of Iran is designed to initiate a new war. Unless the people of the United States rise up and stop it, this war will engulf the whole region and could quickly turn into a global conflict of unpredictable scope and potentially the gravest consequences.

The Pentagon high command is recklessly bragging about this illegal, targeted assassination in the most crude and false manner. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” stated the lying generals. They know that the objective of the strike is just the opposite. They want a war with Iran – a country of more than 80 million people. Trump wants it too because he thinks it will guarantee his re-election in 2020.

For all who believe in peace, for all who are opposed to yet another catastrophic war, now is the time to take action. On Saturday, January 4 in cities across the country there will be protests against a new war in the Middle East and calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops and bases in the region.

Initiators for this call include the ANSWER Coalition, CODEPINK, Popular Resistance, World Beyond War and many other anti-war and peace organizations. If you want to add your name as an endorser click here.

Demonstrations will take place on Saturday, January 4 in the following cities:

  • The White House: Washington D.C., 12 noon at the White House
  • Chicago, IL,12 noon at Trump Tower
  • Los Angeles, CA , 1 pm at Pershing Square
  • New York City, NY, 11 am at Time Square

More locales via link here.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran vows revenge after U.S. drone strike kills elite force commander, Louisa Loveluck​​, Jan. 3, 2019. The death of Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani could plunge the region into a new cycle of violence. His death in the wreckage of a two-car convoy in Baghdad left U.S. outposts bracing for retaliation.

The U.S. Embassy in Iraq warned its citizens to leave “immediately.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he discussed the operation afterward with British and Chinese officials, telling them that “the U.S. remains committed to de-escalation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, European allies rattled by U.S. strike, Loveday Morris and Michael Birnbaum, Jan. 3, 2020. Politicians warned of the potential for a violent blowback, and they worried the U.S. strike could further strain a troubled transatlantic relationship and deal a death blow to the ailing Iran nuclear deal.

LewRockwell.com, Book Review: How Controlled Explanations Are Achieved, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 3, 2020. In 2014 Progressive Press published a book by a French author, Laurent Guyenot, titled JFK-9/11: 50 Years of Deep State. The book contains much interesting reporting that shows that the official explanations we are given about even major events, such as the assassination of a President and 9/11, are transparently false. Yet, these transparently false explanations are hard to challenge despite all available evidence being against the explanations.

Reviewing such a book is a challenge that I avoided by securing permission to reprint two chapters from the book. One chapter, “Ghost planes,” deals with the mystery of the four allegedly hijacked airliners. No trace of the one that allegedly hit the Pentagon has ever been found, and the many videos of the event remain under lock and key. No trace of the one that allegedly crashed in Pennsylvania has ever been found. Neither has any trace of the two that allegedly hit the two World Trade Center towers ever been found, although an unburnt passpost was allegedly found in the ruins of two massive buildings.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosReaders might remember that I raised the question why we did not hear demands for explanations from the families of the victims of the four destroyed airliners like we did from the families whose relatives were in the twin towers. Guyenot reports that of the alleged casualties of AA77 “only five of these have relatives who received the 9-11 Compensation Fund offered by the State. . . . no family of the victims of Flight UA93 requested compensation.”

How can this be?

The other chapter, “The Art of the Patsy,” shows that the key to the ability of the authorities to control the explanation is to have an explanation of the event ready at hand. No one expected President Kennedy’s assassination or he wouldn’t have been riding in a convertible. Yet it was instantly known that Oswald was the assassin. The explanation for 9/11 was also instantaneous. It was CIA-asset Osama bin Laden, who was dying from renal failure and no longer useful to the CIA.

U.S. Supreme  Court / Health Care

Howe on the Court via SCOTUSblog, Analysis: House, blue states ask justices to uphold Affordable Care Act, Amy Howe, Jan. 3, 2020. It has been almost eight years since a divided Supreme Court, with Chief Justice John Roberts providing the deciding vote during the middle of a presidential election, rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate – the requirement that virtually all Americans obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.

Today the House of Representatives and a group of states with Democratic attorneys general asked the Supreme Court to reaffirm that the mandate is constitutional, once again during a presidential campaign, but this time on a fast track and before review in the lower courts is completed.

In 2012, a majority on the Supreme Court rejected the federal government’s argument that Congress had the power to enact the mandate as part of its authority to regulate commerce. But in a surprise twist, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four more liberal justices in upholding the mandate on another ground: The penalty imposed on individuals who did not buy health insurance was a tax, which the Constitution permits Congress to impose.

Five years later, as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Congress amended the ACA to set the penalty for failure to buy health insurance at zero, while leaving the rest of the act in place. That prompted two individuals and a group of states to go to federal court in Texas, where they argued that because the penalty is now zero, it can no longer be considered a tax, and the mandate is therefore unconstitutional. Moreover, they contended, without the individual mandate, the rest of the ACA is also invalid.

The federal government declined to defend the ACA, so a group of states, as well as the District of Columbia, joined the lawsuit to do so. The federal judge assigned to the case, Judge Reed O’Connor, agreed with the challengers that the mandate is now unconstitutional. And because the mandate was the “keystone” of the law, O’Connor concluded, the rest of the ACA should fall as well.

The states and the District of Columbia, joined by the U.S. House of Representatives, appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which heard oral argument in the case in July. In its decision last month, the court of appeals agreed that the mandate is unconstitutional, but it sent the case back to the district court for O’Connor to take another look at what parts, if any, of the ACA might still survive, and what Congress’ intent was when it eliminated the penalty.

Today the states and the House of Representatives filed two petitions asking the Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the mandate immediately, as well as the ACA’s viability if the mandate is struck down, without waiting for the lower courts to act. Both petitions portray Supreme Court review as inevitable. The Supreme Court, the states note, “normally grants certiorari when a lower court has invalidated a federal statutory provision on constitutional grounds.”

But the justices need to intervene now, the states and the House emphasize, because of the “paralyzing uncertainty” about the ACA that the 5th Circuit’s decision has created.

Families will have more trouble making decisions about what jobs to take or whether to start a family based on their access to health insurance, the states and the House explain, while doubt about the future of the ACA could also affect health-insurance companies as they decide whether to offer insurance on the online marketplaces in each state and, if so, at what rates. “States,” the House adds, “must live with, and plan for, the possibility that they will lose billions of dollars in Medicaid subsidies” if the ACA is struck down. “The debilitating effects of this massive uncertainty will likely persist for years if the Court does not grant review now,” the House continues, because the case otherwise likely would not come back to the Supreme Court until 2022 – at which point the justices would consider the same questions that they are being asked to decide now.

In separate motions, the states and the House ask the justices to expedite consideration of their petitions, with the ultimate goal of having the cases – if granted – briefed and argued this term. They propose two possible briefing schedules for the petition, which are best described as short and shorter. Under one schedule, the briefs in opposition would be due on February 3; the case would be distributed to the justices on February 5; the reply brief would be filed on February 12; and the justices would consider the case at their February 21 conference, with oral argument to follow in late April or “at a special sitting in May 2020.” Under the second schedule, the briefs in opposition would be due, and the case would be distributed to the justices, on January 21; the reply brief would be filed on January 23, and the justices would consider the case at their January 24 conference, with oral argument in late April.

The states and the House also asked the justices to fast-track consideration of their motion to expedite, by directing the respondents to file any opposition to the motion by January 7 and considering the motion at their January 10 conference. The court’s response to this request could provide at least an initial hint at how the justices view the petitions by the states and the House.

Methodist Split

washington post logoWashington Post, United Methodist Church is expected to split over gay marriage, fracturing the nation’s third-largest denomination, Julie Zauzmer​, Jan. 3, 2020.  Leaders of the church announced they had agreed to spin off a “traditionalist Methodist" denomination, which would continue to oppose same-sex marriage and to refuse ordination to LGBT clergy. The remaining portion of the United Methodist Church would permit same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy for the first time in its history.

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logomichael espositoWashington Post, FBI raids home, office of lobbyist who claimed ties to Trump, Devlin Barrett, Jonathan O'Connell and Beth Reinhard​, Jan. 3, 2020. Michael Esposito’s business has boomed in the Trump era, but President Trump, White House officials and senior Republicans have said he greatly exaggerated his claims of access to the president and his inner circle.

FBI agents investigating a lobbyist, right, who has claimed close ties to President Trump and his family searched the man’s Northern Virginia home and D.C. office early Thursday morning looking for evidence of possible fraud, according to people familiar with the matter.

Michael Esposito’s business has boomed in the Trump era, but Trump, White House officials and senior Republicans have said he greatly exaggerated his claims of access to the president and his inner circle.

FBI logoFollowing a Washington Post story in November on Esposito’s business, the FBI is investigating to see if Esposito may have defrauded his clients or engaged in any other type of financial fraud, the people said.

Esposito did not respond to phone messages or emails requesting comment, and no one answered the door at his home in Sterling Friday morning. Esposito’s firm, Federal Advocates, has offices at 1666 K St. NW, which were also subject to search, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Federal Advocates collected $4.66 million from lobbying clients in 2018, up from $3.25 million in 2017 and $907,000 in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The explosive growth led Bloomberg Government news service to dub Federal Advocates the top-performing lobbying firm in 2017.

Jan. 2

'Apocalyptic' Fires In Australia

australian fires kangaroo nytimes Custom

Kangaroo rushes past a burning house Tuesday in Lake Conjola, New South Wales, Australia (Photo: Matthew Abbott for The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Apocalyptic Scenes in Australia as Fires Turn Skies Blood Red, Isabella Kwai, Jan. 2, 2020 (update). Thousands of people fled from their homes as wildfires raged on the last day of the warmest decade on record in Australia.

As the fire stalked the east coast of Australia on Tuesday, the daytime sky turned inky black, then blood red. Emergency sirens wailed, followed by the thunder of gas explosions. Thousands of residents fled their homes and huddled near the shore. There was nowhere else to go.

australian flag wavingApocalyptic scenes like these in Mallacoota, a vacation destination between Sydney and Melbourne, came on the last day of the warmest decade on record in Australia.

The country is in the grip of a devastating fire season, with months of summer still to go, as record-breaking temperatures, strong winds and prolonged drought have ignited huge blazes across the country.

The devastation is immense. In the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, more than 900 homes have been destroyed and nine million acres have burned since November. Almost 100 fires were still raging in the state on Tuesday, with about three dozen more across the border in Victoria.

washington post logoWashington Post, Potential clash between U.S. and Iran averted as embassy siege ends, Mustafa Salim and Liz Sly, Jan. 2, 2019. The American FlagKataib Hezbollah militia told its supporters to leave the area around the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad after Iraq’s prime minister said he would support efforts to pass a law calling for a U.S. troop withdrawal, according to a militia official.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump’s Bet on North Korea and Iran Hasn’t Paid Off, David E. Sanger, Jan. 2, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump bet he could isolate Iran and charm North Korea, but it hasn’t worked. The nations seem to sense the vulnerability of a president under impeachment and facing re-election. And neither seems to fear him.

Department of Defense SealWhile the Iranian-backed attack on the United States Embassy in Baghdad seemed to be under control, it played to Mr. Iran FlagTrump’s longtime worry that American diplomats and troops in the Middle East are easy targets and his longtime position that the United States must pull back from the region.

  • Washington Post, Iran and its proxies may be planning fresh attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq, defense secretary says, Mark T. Esper said the U.S. is increasing the number of troops in the region to guard against sustained Iranian aggression.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.N. once predicted Gaza would be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. Two million people still live there, Miriam Berger and Hazem Balousha, Jan. 2, 2019. Jana Tawil was born in 2012, the same year that the United Nations released an alarm-raising report on the UN logostate of the Gaza Strip: If the prevailing economic, environmental and political trends continued, the organization warned, the besieged coastal enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt would become unlivable by 2020.

That is the bleak reality facing Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents as they approach a new year and new decade: still stuck living in a place the world has already deemed uninhabitable in perhaps the most surreal of 2020 predictions.

  • Flag of TurkeyNew York Times, Turkey Questions Pilots About Carlos Ghosn’s Escape From Japan, Turkey detained seven people, Japan raided Mr. Ghosn’s home and Interpol issued a red notice as officials investigated how the former Nissan chairman fled to Lebanon.

SouthFront, Map Update: Libyan National Army's Advance On GNA Positions South Of Tripoli, Staff report, Jan. 2, 2020. Units of the Libyan National Army continued their advance on positions of the pro-Turkish Government of National Accord (GNA) south of Libya’s Tripoli.

SouthFront, HTS Turned Ambulance Donated By Danish Group Into Military Command & Control Vehicle (Videos, Photos), Staff report, Jan. 2, 2019. Al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls Syria’s Greater Idlib, have turned an ambulance donated by a Danish organization into a military command and control vehicle.

The ambulance, which was donated by the Danish Islamic Council, first appeared in a video released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SNAA) on December 31. The video shows weapons and equipment, which were captured by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) during the recent large-scale military operation in southeast Idlib.

These videos and photos prove that HTS turned the ex-ambulance into a command and control vehicle for its troops, keeping its outer appearance in an attempt to protect it from Russian and Syrian warplanes. HTS’ systematic abuse of humanitarian aid in Greater Idlib and its use of civilians there as human shields are often ignored by mainstream media.

Trump Impeachment Trial

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washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The Senate and the public need to hear from Mulvaney and Bolton, Editorial Board, Jan. 2, 2019. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), right, is withholding two articles of impeachment from the Senate, pending assurance that the Republican leader nancy pelosi impeachmentof that body, Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), will agree to a full and fair trial of the House’s charges against President Trump.

Now fresh reporting from the New York Times has emerged to strengthen the Democrats’ minimum condition of a real trial: The Senate must seek witness testimony from key players in Mr. Trump’s attempt to strong-arm Ukraine into announcing an investigation of his political rival, former vice president Joe Biden, using congressionally appropriated military aid and promises of a White House visit as leverage.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe Times reports, based in part on previously undisclosed emails, that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tried to freeze the military aid on Mr. Trump’s behalf as early as June, prompting puzzlement and backlash within the administration — to the extent that Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-national security adviser John Bolton convened a White House meeting with Mr. Trump to urge release of the aid.

More than ever, therefore, the Senate and the public need to hear from Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Bolton, the latter of whom made an unsuccessful individual plea to release the Ukraine aid on Aug. 16, according to the Times.

washington post logochuck schumer podiumWashington Post, Schumer seizes on report bolstering case that Trump was directly involved in withholding Ukraine aid, John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez​,​ Jan. 2, 2019. Senate leaders remained at an impasse over the scope of an impeachment trial as President Trump’s reelection campaign claimed that backlash from the House proceedings helped him raise $46 million in the final quarter of 2019. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is shown at right.

• Analysis: Unredacted emails raise questions in Ukraine scandal
• Analysis: 4 ways the the Pelosi-McConnell standoff could end

WLIS/WMRD-AM (Connecticut), Opinion: Looking Ahead At 2020 and Trump Impeachment, Host Phil Mikan interviewed Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig for the hour-long show, Jan. 2, 2019. 

U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign says $46 million fundraising quarter bolstered by impeachment, John Wagner​, Jan. 2, 2019. The president announced his total donations as a standoff continued between Democrats and Republicans over a Senate trial. President Trump’s reelection campaign said Thursday that backlash to his impeachment, led by House Democrats, helped him raise $46 million in the final three months of 2019.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoThe fundraising announcement came as a standoff continued over the scope and timing of an impeachment trial in the Senate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has held off sending articles of impeachment — for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — to the Senate as Democrats seek guarantees about witnesses and documents that will be subpoenaed regarding Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.

At the heart of the Democrats’ case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Sorry, Trump. Most Americans don’t like you, Jennifer Rubin, right, Jan. 2, 2019. It is easy to overstate the support President Trump has for his policies and conspiracy theories. His approval remains in the low-40s, but the percentage of Americans who buy into his positions and assertions is remarkably small. Trump and Fox News have their true believers, but beyond that minority of the population, the large majority of Americans understand he often spews nonsense or out-and-out lies. And, to boot, they really do not like him.

Trump’s approval (40 percent vs. 52 percent) remains underwater, as does his reelection number against an unnamed Democrat (40 percent vs. 50 percent). His personal ratings are horrendous. (A remarkable 51 percent do not even want him to run for reelection.) Only 31 percent like him as a person (and 18 percent say they like him a lot) or say he is honest and trustworthy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernie Sanders campaign announces a massive cash haul of $34.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Sean Sullivan, Jan. 2, 2019. Sen. Bernie Sanders raised $34.5 million in the final three months of 2019 for his White House bid, his campaign said Thursday — a massive sum fueled by his online fundraising machine that may send a financial jolt throughout the Democratic race.

Bernie Sanders OfficialSanders, left, raised more than $96 million in 2019 alone, and his fourth-quarter total is one of the biggest quarterly hauls reported by a presidential candidate at this point in the campaign.

The fourth-quarter total was one of the clearest signs yet of the momentum Sanders has picked up in recent months.

He has been drawing large and enthusiastic crowds at campaign events, including more than 14,000 at a rally with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in southern California last month, according to the campaign’s estimate. And he sits at or near the top of recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states on the nominating calendar.

washington post logojulián castroWashington Post, Julián Castro drops out of presidential race, Amy B Wang, Jan. 2, 2019. The former HUD secretary and San Antonio mayor, right, who was vying to be the nation’s first Latino president, said he is ending his presidential bid.

In October, he said he would leave the race if he didn’t raise $800,000 by the end of the month, a goal he ultimately met, but he had failed to make the November debate stage.

  • Washington Post, Biden falls behind other candidates in fourth-quarter fundraising, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Matt Viser​, joe biden oJan. 2, 2020. His fundraising total of $22.7 million in the last three months of 2019 came in well behind Bernie Sanders’s tally and narrowly behind Pete Buttigieg’s figure.
  • New York Times, Andrew Yang raised $16.5 million in the last 3 months, his campaign says.

U.S. Politics, Policies

djt golf in shape custom

HuffPost, Trump Cost Taxpayers An Extra $5 Million By Starting Afghanistan Trip In Florida, S.V. Date, Jan. 2, 2020. The secret trip required two more planes than if he’d flown from and back to D.C., raising his golf-related tab to $123.6 million.

President Donald Trump’s insistence on visiting his golf resorts likely cost taxpayers an extra $5.3 million at least for his recent Thanksgiving trip to Afghanistan because he began and ended his travel in Florida rather than Washington, according to a HuffPost analysis.

Trump’s 36-hour round trip to Bagram Air Base to visit the troops required two more planes than normally used for a U.S. president’s international travel. One cargo plane did nothing more than help secret Trump away from Mar-a-Lago, his for-profit Palm Beach club, which lies near two of his golf courses.

Then, the Air Force’s second modified 747, known as Air Force One when the president is aboard, was flown to a U.S. base in Germany, where it picked up Trump for the flight back to Florida while the first modified 747 was refueled and flown back to Washington.

The White House justified the use of the second 747 because it saved time and because the crew on the first plane needed rest, according to a pool report from the trip.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Minimum wage increases fuel faster wage growth for those at the bottom, Andrew Van Dam and Rachel Siegel, Jan. 2, 2020. The United States’ lowest-paid workers are seeing their paychecks rise at the fastest pace in more than a decade as half the states have raised their minimum wage. Some Republicans argue the raises are the result of President Trump’s tax cuts.

  • New York Times, Christian Health Cost-Sharing Ministries Offer No Guarantees, More than a million Americans have joined these nonprofit groups, which aren’t legally bound to cover medical claims. State regulators are taking notice.
  • New York Times, Denying a Professor Tenure, Harvard Sparks a Debate Over Ethnic Studies, Some students of color say that the university devalues their experiences and fails to retain professors who support them.
  • Washington Post, Drones are swarming over Colorado and Nebraska at night. Authorities say they have no idea why, Brittany Shammas, For weeks, they have dominated headlines in local newspapers, fueled intense speculation on social media and unsettled residents, who have flooded law enforcement with calls.

Epstein Scandal

TruNews, Commentary on Ghislaine Maxwell: Which Spy Agency is Hiding Her? The Rev. Rick Wiles with Doc Burkhart and Edward Szall, Jan. 2, 2020. Today on TruNews we demand answers to the simple question of where Jeffrey Epstein's sex trafficking scion has found refuge after the Mossad agent allegedly killed himself in America's most secure jail. We also address who stands to gain in the wake of the storming of the $736 million U.S. embassy fortress in Baghdad, and how a war with Iran may be exactly what embattled and indicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wanted for Christmas in order to stay in power.

Station's Self-description: "TruNews is the world’s leading news source that reports, analyzes, and comments on global events and trends with a conservative, orthodox Christian worldview. Our vision is to build a global news network that provides a credible source for world news, events, and trends while giving respect and honor to Christians of all major denominations — Evangelical, Orthodox, Anglican, Catholic, and Protestant."

Media, Sports, Culture, Media

Page Six, Chuck Todd’s ‘Meet the Press Daily’ may be sidelined to make room for Nicolle Wallace, Emily Smith, Jan. 2, 2020. Chuck Todd’s “Meet chuck todd nbc croppedthe Press Daily” could be sidelined at MSNBC as part of a dramatic anchor reshuffling at the cable network to promote rising star Nicolle Wallace.

While the “MTP” flagship, also under NBC political director Todd, right, remains the No. 1 rated Sunday political show, with over 3 million viewers, his weekday 5 p.m. spinoff show has seen a dip in the all-important 25-to-54 age demographic. It airs between more popular, opinionated shows: Wallace’s “Deadline: White House,” which peaked with 2 million viewers in 2019, and “The Beat With Ari Melber.”

msnbc logo CustomTV insiders say NBC News boss Andy Lack and MSNBC’s Phil Griffin had tried to persuade Todd to move “Daily” to 9 a.m., directly after the network’s politically influential “Morning Joe.” The plan would allow Wallace — a breakout cable star — to broadcast for two hours on weekdays, 4 to 6 p.m.

Plus, the 9 a.m. slot could soon be open, Page Six revealed. That hour’s host, Stephanie Ruhle, has just signed to become NBC’s senior business correspondent, appearing across all shows including “Today” and “NBC Nightly News.”

But a TV insider said, “Chuck doesn’t want to move to 9 a.m. He’d rather leave MSNBC completely and focus on ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday, and continue to provide news and political analysis across all NBC News platforms including digital. He sees his show as news, not opinion.” Another insider mused it was “madness for NBC to upset the face of its political coverage ahead of 2020. They need Chuck on air every day.”

A third MSNBC source conceded that news chiefs had asked Todd to move “Daily” because “the show doesn’t fit in the 5 p.m. slot.” But the insider insisted, “There’s no way MSNBC wants to lose ‘MTP Daily’ and Chuck. He’s NBC’s biggest political star.” The move comes as Todd faces backlash for highlighting a letter to the editor of a small newspaper that stated voters who believe in “fairy tales” and Noah’s Ark were more likely to vote for Donald Trump.

  • nba logoWashington Post, Perspective: David Stern built the NBA into a colossus, but he was an even better man, John Feinstein, Stern, who died Wednesday at 77, had a tough and uncompromising public persona. In private, he was funny, caring and kind.

Jan. 1

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Iraq Protesters Swarm Near U.S. Embassy Again, Dispersing Amid Tear Gas, Falih Hassan and Alissa J. Rubin, Jan. 1, 2020. For a second day, demonstrators swarmed outside the United States Embassy in Iraq on Wednesday and troops fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse them, but after a few hours the militia leaders who had organized the demonstration called on the crowd to leave.

Unlike on Tuesday, protesters did not get inside the compound. By midafternoon all but about 200 had dispersed, taking their tent poles with them.

President Trump said on Tuesday that Iran was responsible for events at the embassy compound in Baghdad, and tweeted, “They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat.”

Centcom logoThe situation in Iraq reached a new level of volatility in the last few days as Iran and the United States attacked each other’s forces, in an escalation of hostilities that was at risk of spiraling out of control. The growing confrontations between the United States and Iran, the two main sponsors of the fragile Iraqi government and the two primary foreign military powers there, makes the already unstable region even more so.

The United States blamed an Iranian-backed militia for a rocket attack on Friday on an Iraqi military base, which killed an American contractor and wounded several other people. American forces responded on Sunday with strikes on five sites controlled by the militia, in Syria and Iraq, that killed at least two dozen people and injured twice as many; Iran has put the death toll at 31.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens Iran after embassy attack but is reluctant to get more involved in the region, Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker President Donald Trump officialand Josh Dawsey, Jan. 1, 2020. It’s unclear what moves President Trump will make next as he feels the tug between taking a tough line with Iran and trying to avoid getting more involved in the Middle East.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel’s Netanyahu seeks immunity from criminal charges, Ruth Eglash, Jan. 1, 2020. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted in November in three cases focused on bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu announced Wednesday that he would ask the Israeli parliament to grant him immunity in three criminal cases, tying up further the already lengthy legal proceedings against him in a political system that has been gripped by deadlock for the past year.

Netanyahu’s immunity request to the Knesset would shield him from prosecution at least while he remains in office. It also pitches the benjamin netanyahu frowncountry’s political establishment against the legal system ahead of an unprecedented third general election in less than a year. That election is set for March 2.

In November, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit concluded that there was enough evidence to prosecute Netanyahu, right, in three cases involving allegations that he and his wife, Sara, accepted more than $260,000 worth of luxury goods in exchange for political favors and that he interceded with regulators and lawmakers on behalf of two media companies in exchange for positive news coverage.

Yuval Shany, vice president of the Israel Democracy Institute, said Netanyahu will have a tough time prevailing on his immunity request. Even if approved by the Knesset — first by a house panel and then by a vote of the entire parliament — the Supreme Court most likely wouldn’t allow it to stand.

  • New York Times, Thousands Flee Fires in Australia as States Warn Crisis Will Worsen, “It’s going to be a blast furnace,” one official said, after predictions that the next few days would be the worst yet in an already catastrophic fire season.

U.S. 2020 Elections

ny times logoNew York Times, Pete Buttigieg’s Campaign Says It Raised $24.7 Million in the Fourth Quarter, Thomas Kaplan, Jan. 1, 2020. Pete Buttigieg raised more than $24.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, his presidential campaign said on Wednesday, another strong showing that leaves him well positioned to finance a large campaign operation as primary voting approaches.

pete buttigieg mayor south bend indemocratic donkey logoIn a display of the breadth of his support, Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign said it had now received more than two million donations from more than 733,000 people since he entered the race.

While his financial strength has been apparent for many months, Mr. Buttigieg, right, has seen his standing in the race improve more recently, with polls in Iowa showing him in a formidable position as the Feb. 3 caucuses approach. But he still faces significant questions about his ability to broaden his base of support beyond white voters.

U.S. Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Impeachment Trial Looming, Chief Justice Reflects on Judicial Independence, Adam Liptak, Jan. 1, 2019 (print ed.). In his year-end report on the judiciary, Chief Justice John Roberts issued pointed remarks that seemed to be addressed to President Trump.

As Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. prepares to preside over the impeachment trial of President Trump, he issued pointed remarks on Tuesday in his year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary that seemed to be addressed, at least in part, to the president himself.

john roberts oThe two men have a history of friction, and Chief Justice Roberts, right, used the normally mild report to denounce false information spread on social media and to warn against mob rule. Some passages could be read as a mission statement for the chief justice’s plans for the impeachment trial itself.

“We should reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor, deciding each matter with humility, integrity and dispatch,” he wrote in the report. “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.”

The nominal focus of the report was the importance of civics education, but even a casual reader could detect a timely subtext, one concerned with the foundational importance of the rule of law.

Media News

Project Censored, Top 25 stories of 2018-2019, Staff report, Jan. 1, 2019. The presentation of the Top 25 stories of 2018-2019 extends the tradition originated by Professor Carl Jensen and his Sonoma State University students in 1976, while reflecting how the expansion of the Project to include affiliate faculty and students from campuses across North America has made the Project even more diverse and robust.

During this year’s cycle, Project Censored reviewed over 300 Validated Independent News stories (VINs) representing the collective efforts of 283 college students and 24 professors from 15 college and university campuses that participated in the Project’s Campus Affiliates Program during the past year.

1. Justice Department’s Secret FISA Rules for Targeting Journalists. A pair of 2015 memos, from former attorney general Eric Holder to the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, show how the government could use court orders.

2. facebook logoThink Tank Partnerships Establish Facebook as Tool of US Foreign Policy.  Under the guise of fighting “fake news” and protecting US democracy from “foreign influence,” in 2018 social media giant Facebook established partnerships with the Atlantic Council, a NATO-sponsored think tank.

3. Indigenous Groups from Amazon Propose Creation of Largest Protected Area on Earth. Sweeping development throughout the Amazon rainforest is an abiding concern for indigenous groups. The Amazon’s extraordinary biodiversity is being destroyed for profits and political gain.

4. U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Set to Unleash 120 Billion Tons of New Carbon Emissions. The US oil and gas industry has the potential to “unleash the largest burst of new carbon emissions in the world” through 2050, according to a January 2019 report.

U.S. Politics djt nancy pelosi

Palmer Report, Opinion: Living rent-free inside Donald Trump’s head, Bill Palmer, Jan. 1, 2020. Here’s the thing about Donald Trump. As corrupt as he is, as evil as he is, as much damage as he manages to do, he’s pretty easy to screw with. No one would ever want to be impeached, of course. But since Trump has been impeached, he’s been unable to focus on anything else. In fact we just got a glimpse into just how far off the deep end this has all driven him.

bill palmer report logo headerWhile the crisis was playing out at the U.S. embassy in Iraq yesterday, Donald Trump was busy tweeting mean things about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. While Trump was supposed to be enjoying himself by hosting a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago last night for his corrupt pals, he was busy ranting and raving to reporters about how “overrated” Nancy Pelosi is.

There’s nothing else in Donald Trump’s head anymore, nothing else on his plate anymore, beyond his obsession with how Pelosi sized him up, cornered him, and managed to impeach him in a way that’s ended up hurting his 2020 prospects. Trump has lost to Pelosi, and he knows it, and he has a good sense that he’s not done losing to Pelosi. After all, she once said that she didn’t want to bother impeaching him because she was more interested in putting him in prison. Now that she has impeached him, she’s surely working on the prison part too.

ny times logoNew York Times, West Virginia Will Fire Corrections Cadets for Doing Nazi Salute, Jacey Fortin, Jan. 1, 2019 (print ed.). The state’s governor released the results of an investigation into a photo and said he had approved the termination of the roughly 30 correctional trainees who appeared in it.

About 30 correctional officer trainees in West Virginia will be terminated after a photograph captured them raising their hands in what appeared to be a Nazi salute, according to Gov. Jim Justice, who said in a statement that he had approved a recommendation to fire the trainees.

The statement on Monday followed an investigation into the episode, which found that the trainees had made the gesture multiple times in the classroom and that an instructor had told students to make the gesture in the photograph.

The students were part of a basic training class for the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The words “Hail Byrd!” appeared at the top of the photograph; a spokesman for the state’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety said the phrase was a reference to one of the trainees’ instructors.