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What Now?! – January 7, 2020

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton issued a statement that he is willing to testify in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump if he is subpoenaed.

Bolton is one of four Trump administration officials that Democrats listed as potential witnesses for the trial.

New York Times: “Former White House officials and people close to Mr. Bolton have indicated that his testimony would likely be damning to Mr. Trump and put additional pressure on moderate Republicans to consider convicting him.”

“That could fundamentally change the dynamics around the impeachment trial in the Senate, where a two-thirds vote — 67 senators — is needed to remove Mr. Trump. Democrats, the minority party, control 45 seats.”

Playbook: “The House never subpoenaed Bolton, and if he is willing to testify in front of the Senate, what would be the reason he would not comply with a new House subpoena? Does this affect the House’s timing of sending of impeachment articles to the Senate?”

“So let’s break down how this could play out: Getting a witness to testify in the Senate would require 51 votes on the floor, meaning four Republicans would have to join with every Democrat to compel Bolton to testify. We can hypothesize about who those four might be, but there are far too many variables at this point.”

“But, consider this: If it’s clear that there are four Republicans, Senate leadership can work to cut a deal for Bolton’s testimony that would circumscribe when and where he might testify, how the material is released and in what form it is released. And the White House could also weigh in to try to enjoin his testimony, leading to a protracted legal battle.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement about John Bolton’s offer to testify in a Senate impeachment trial: “The President and Sen. McConnell have run out of excuses. They must allow key witnesses to testify, and produce the documents Trump has blocked, so Americans can see the facts for themselves. The Senate cannot be complicit in the President’s cover-up.”

Rachel Bade: “Quite amazing. A seismic shift in leverage. Before just two hours ago, most Republicans and even Democrats privately thought Schumer and Pelosi would send the articles with no witness agreement since McConnell had the upper-hand. Bolton just changed all that.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) told CNN that “of course” he would like to hear from former National Security Adviser John Bolton during the upcoming impeachment trial. Said Romney: “I’d like to hear what he has to say.” However, when asked if he would vote to subpoena Bolton, Romney stopped short and said he first would want to know what the process is.

“The Trump administration tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade top Iraqi officials to kill a parliamentary effort to force the U.S. military out of Iraq,” Axios reports.

The Pentagon sent a letter to Iraq announcing the “onward movement” of American forces after the Iraqi parliament voted to expel the troops, possibly indicating a withdrawal has begun, the Washington Post reports.

BUT….

Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told CNN that a letter suggesting the U.S. would withdraw troops from Iraq was released by mistake and poorly worded, adding “that’s not what’s happening.”

Said Milley: “It’s an honest mistake… it should not have been sent.”

President Trump on Sunday evening doubled down on his claim that he would target Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliated for the targeted killing of one of its top generals, breaking with his secretary of state over the issue,” the New York Times reports.

“Such a move could be considered a war crime under international laws, but Mr. Trump said Sunday that he was undeterred.”

CNN: “Two senior US officials on Sunday described widespread opposition within the administration to targeting cultural sites in Iran should the United States launch retaliatory strikes against Tehran, despite President Trump saying a day before that such sites are among dozens the US has identified as potential targets.”

“A leadership aide tells Axios no decision has been made and that it may be a couple of weeks before Democrats can understand the significance of new revelations about Ukraine-related information being withheld by the White House — and whether at least four Republican senators are concerned enough to join forces with Democrats and demand more disclosures as part of President Trump’s trial.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told ABC News that Speaker Pelosi “will maximize” the timing of sending the articles in order “to get the fairest trial possible.”

“When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he justified his unilateral action by saying the accord 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,” the New York Times reports.

“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.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in a letter that Sunday that the House “will introduce and vote on a War Powers Resolution to limit” President Trump’s “military actions regarding Iran,” Axios reports.

60 Minutes: “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 Minutesthe 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.”

Said Baden: “There were fractures of the left, the right thyroid cartilage and the left hyoid bone. 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.”

“For three years, President Trump’s critics have expressed concern over how he would handle a genuine international crisis, warning that a commander in chief known for impulsive action might overreach with dangerous consequences,” the New York Times reports.

“In the angry and frenzied aftermath of the American drone strike that killed Iran’s top general, with vows of revenge hanging in the air, Mr. Trump confronts a decisive moment that will test whether those critics were right or whether they misjudged him.”

Jonathan Chait: “President Trump’s risky escalation of the conflict with Iran has confused many people who took him, if not for a dove exactly, then for a skeptic of wars, especially in the Middle East. The unfolding Iran adventure seems to open once again the question of what principle, if any, defines this president’s foreign policy. Isolationism? Nationalism? Whatever Fox News is demanding at any given moment?”

“His real North Star is in fact an idea he has explicated many times, but — perhaps because it is so horrifying — even his critics seem hesitant to accept as a true motivation. Trump’s plan is to collapse the moral space between America and its enemies.”

“The Trump administration is barring Iran’s top diplomat from entering the United States this week to address the United Nations Security Council about the U.S. assassination of Iran’s top military official in Baghdad, violating the terms of a 1947 headquarters agreement requiring Washington to permit foreign officials into the country to conduct U.N. business,” Foreign Policy reports.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said that she supports delaying a decision on which, if any, witnesses should testify until after the start of President Trump’s impeachment trial, The Hill reports.

Said Murkowski: “I think we need to do what they did the last time they did this … and that was to go through a first phase, and then they reassessed after that.”

An investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle found that Rudy Giuliani, unlike other top members of the president’s inner circle, has not filed any financial disclosures with the White House since joining Trump’s team as a cybersecurity adviser shortly after the 2017 inauguration.

His lack of an official role or title has reportedly allowed him to sidestep the ethics protocols required of other top aides.

“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,” the New York Post reports.

“Individual taxpayers are half as likely to get audited as they were in 2010, after tax enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service fell to the lowest level in at least four decades,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The IRS audited 0.45% of personal income-tax returns in fiscal 2019, down from 0.59% in 2018 and marking the eighth straight year of decline.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is no fan of President Trump, but the Washington Monthly suggests he has more in common with the president than his reputation suggests.

“Both are real-estate executives who have refused to relinquish their private businesses while in office. Just as Trump maintained his ownership of the Trump Organization when he became president, Hogan maintained ownership of HOGAN, a multipurpose real-estate brokerage firm, when he became governor. Both have left close family members in charge of their businesses—Trump with his children; Hogan with his brother, Timothy—and created arrangements that allow them to be apprised of the company’s dealings. In other words, they have set up situations in which they can use their powerful government positions to increase their private profits.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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