“The White House is urging Senate Republicans to preserve the option of moving to swiftly dismiss the charges against President Donald Trump after opening arguments in his impeachment trial,” CNN reports.
“Republicans are debating including in the Senate resolution, which would govern the rules of the trial, a provision to dismiss the charges, something that would require 51 votes and would stop the trial in its tracks.”
The reason for this push?
“The White House is preparing for some Republican senators to join Democrats in voting to call witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial, which could get underway in the coming days,” CBS News reports.
Senior White House officials says “they increasingly believe that at least four Republicans, and likely more, will vote to call witnesses. In addition to Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado, the White House also views Rand Paul of Kentucky as a ‘wild card’ and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee as an ‘institutionalist’ who might vote to call witnesses, as one official put it. “
State Department officials involved in US embassy security were not made aware of imminent threats to four specific US embassies, two State Department officials tell CNN, further undermining President Trump’s claims that the top Iranian general he ordered killed earlier this month posed an imminent threat to the diplomatic outposts.
That’s because the Four Embassies Threat is an outright lie by Trump.
President Trump said it didn’t matter if Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani posed an imminent threat to the United States because of his “horrible past,” The Hill reports.
“Trump’s tweets marked an effort to defend the decision to strike Soleimani — who commanded Iran’s Quds Force, a designated terrorist organization – after days of scrutiny about the intelligence underlying the decision to authorize the strike against him.”
NBC News: “President Trump authorized the killing of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani seven months ago if Iran’s increased aggression resulted in the death of an American, according to five current and former senior administration officials.”
“The presidential directive in June 2019 came with the condition that Trump would have final sign off on any specific operation to kill Soleimani, officials said. That decision explains why assassinating Soleimani was on the menu of options that the military presented to Trump last week for responding to an attack by Iranian proxies in Iraq that killed an American contractor and wounded four U.S. service members.”
“The timing, however, could undermine the Trump administration’s stated justification for ordering the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Officials have said Soleimani, the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, was planning imminent attacks on Americans and had to be stopped.”
A must-read in the New Yorker: “Eleven months after being sworn in, Barr is the most feared, criticized, and effective member of Trump’s Cabinet. Like no Attorney General since the Watergate era, he has acted as the President’s political sword and shield.”
Federal prosecutors recommended that former Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who pleaded guilty to federal charges in an insider trading case, be sentenced to nearly five years in prison, CNN reports.
“George Nader, a key witness in the special counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, admitted Monday to bringing a 14-year-old boy to the United States for sex and to possessing child pornography,” the Washington Post reports.
“As an adviser to the leadership of the United Arab Emirates, Nader met several times with officials and associates of President Trump during the early days of the administration. He helped set up a January 2017 meeting between Trump associate Erik Prince and a Russian official close to Russian President Vladimir Putin that was closely scrutinized by special counsel Robert Mueller.”
“President Trump has misrepresented his position on pre-existing conditions protections in the past, but even by previous standards his tweet on Monday stands out by falsely taking credit for the protections existing in the first place, saying he ‘saved’ them, while actively trying to remove them,” NBC News reports.
Jonathan Chait: “Since he began running for president, Donald Trump has been lying about health care in general, and protections for patients with preexisting conditions in particular. Trump’s long-standing lie is that he has a plan to help people with preexisting conditions afford insurance, or will shortly unveil such a plan. His most recent version of this lie goes even farther. Trump is now saying that he actually created the protection for preexisting conditions, and that Democrats are trying to take it away.”
“This is the literal polar opposite of reality.”
A Wisconsin judge “found the state Elections Commission and three of its members in contempt of court Monday, saying they had flouted his December order to remove thousands of people from Wisconsin’s voter rolls,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
“At issue is the voting status of more than 200,000 people in one of the most politically prized states in the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes, becoming the first Republican to take the state’s electoral votes since 1984.”
“An attorney for Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani, has turned over photos, dozens of text messages and thousands of pages of documents to House impeachment investigators in an effort to win his client an audience with lawmakers,” CNN reports.
Center for Public Integrity: “Senate Republicans want Trump to name a full slate of FEC commissioners to fill three vacancies and replace the remaining three commissioners who have collectively served more than 30 years past the expiration of their six-year terms.”
“But Trump has refused… Bottom line? It’s not inconceivable that Election 2020, with its billions of dollars political actors will spend, will simply be staged without the FEC playing any meaningful law enforcement role.”
“The U.S. is expelling 21 Saudi military students from a training program amid an FBI investigation into a deadly shooting at a Florida Navy base last year, Attorney General William Barr said Monday, for the first time describing the attack as terrorism,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The New York Times reports Barr asked Apple “in an unusually high-profile request to provide access to two phones used by the gunman.”
New York Times: “Some aspects of how Mr. Trump’s team will approach the trial have yet to be determined, including whether it will seek witnesses and how much time it will ask for to argue its case. But the basic configuration of the team defending the television-savvy president in a made-for-TV congressional event has been established.”
“The two constants will be Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, and Jay Sekulow, who has been Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer since 2017. Both are expected to have speaking roles during the trial. … There will be other lawyers involved, primarily Mr. Cipollone’s two top deputies, Patrick Philbin and Michael Purpura.”
Politico: “Schumer will force a series of votes designed to squeeze vulnerable Republicans and harm them on the campaign trail if they side with Trump.”
“Democrats argue the half-dozen at-risk GOP senators will need some daylight between them and Trump to get reelected. And if they vote against Schumer’s motions to hear new evidence and witness testimony, they’ll be seen as Trump sycophants — undermining their bids and boosting Schumer’s odds of becoming majority leader.”
White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien told Axios in an exclusive interview that “it is possible” President 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.