I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, January 6, 2020. 28 days until the Iowa caucuses. 302 days until Election Day. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Where things stand: Iran, presidential race, impeachment
Welcome to 2020! Here's a look at where things stand on the three main topics facing the political world heading into the new year:
A U.S. military strike killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraq, on Friday, a move that "stunned" Pentagon officials and lawmakers alike but President Donald Trump said was necessary to prevent "imminent" attacks on American personnel. The strike sparked an immediate threat of "forceful revenge" from Iran's supreme leader and the deployment of 3,000 U.S. troops to the Middle East.
The crisis has escalated rapidly in recent days. On Sunday alone:
- Iran announced that it would no longer abide by the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers, abandoning the restrictions on uranium enrichment set by the accord.
- The U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria suspended operations in order to focus on protecting against Iranian attacks.
- Iraq's parliament approved a resolution calling for the expulsion of U.S. troops from the country, leading President Trump to threaten sanctions.Trump also declared on Saturday that the U.S. was prepared to target 52 Iranian sites, "some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture," if Iran "strikes any Americans or American assets." In comments to reporters on Sunday, he reiterated his threat to strike cultural sites, which could be considered a war crime under international law.
"They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people," the president said. "And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural site? It doesn’t work that way."
In addition, Trump claimed on Sunday that his Twitter posts would serve as sufficient notice to Congress should the U.S. launch a military strike on Iran, a pronouncement that was widely ridiculed by congressional Democrats who pointed to his reporting requirements under the War Powers Act of 1973.
On Sunday evening, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that the House would vote this week on a resolution "to limit the president's military actions regarding Iran." A companion resolution has also been introduced in the Senate, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers push for a debate over Trump's war powers upon Congress' return to Washington this week.
Race for the White House
The Democratic presidential field is hurtling toward the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses less than a month away. Fundraising totals for the last three months of 2019 recently released by the candidates showed a clear upper tier in the crowded race: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ($34.5 million), former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg ($24.7 million), former Vice President Joe Biden ($22.7 million), Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($21.2 million), entrepreneur Andrew Yang ($16.5 million), and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar ($11.4 million).
A pair of CBS News polls released on Sunday found Sanders, Biden, and Buttigieg locked in a three-way tie in Iowa (23%-23%-23%), and Sanders and Biden in a statistical tie for New Hampshire (27%-25%), underlining the unsettled nature of the race.
However, Biden has remained the undisputed national polling leader for months, a status he attempted to punctuate this weekend with the announcement of a trio of endorsements from swing-district Democratic representatives.
The next debate is scheduled for January 14; the five candidates who have qualified so far are all white, as former HUD Secretary Julián Castro ended his campaign and a lack of qualifying polls have prevented Yang and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker from joining.
Senators and representatives return to Washington this week with an unprecedented constitutional dilemma hanging over them: the House has impeached the president, but stopped short of transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate, precluding a trial from taking place in the upper chamber.
Speaker Pelosi has been holding out on transmitting the articles until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) bows to Democratic demands for firsthand witnesses at the trial. However, according to Politico Playbook, she is "widely expected to send the impeachment articles to the Senate this week," with Sen. McConnell showing no sign of caving.
Democrats have trumpeted recent reporting from the New York Times and Just Security on the holdup of U.S. military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to build support for a witness list that would include acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, among others. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Sunday that he is "hopeful" that enough Republican senators will join him calling for witnesses, although none have done so yet.
Two key Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, did express concerns over the winter recess with McConnell's vow of "total coordination" with the White House during the Senate trial.
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Today at the White House
--- At 11:45 a.m., President Trump participates in a credentialing ceremony for newly appointed ambassadors to the United States. At 12:15 p.m., he receives his intelligence briefing. At 1 p.m., he has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence.
--- At 2:30 p.m., Vice President Pence participates in the ceremonial swearing-in of Aurelia Skipwith as Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
At 5 p.m., he participates in the swearing-in of Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), who was appointed to succeed Johnny Isakson on an interim basis. Isakson resigned due to health reasons; Loeffler was tapped by Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) over the objections of President Trump and his allies, who favored Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) for the seat.
Today in Congress
--- At 3 p.m., the Senate convenes. At 5:30 p.m., the chamber holds a procedural vote advancing the nomination of Jovita Carranza to be Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Carranza, who has been the Treasurer of the United States since 2017, previously served as the SBA's Deputy Administrator under President George W. Bush.
--- The House is not in session.
Today at the Supreme Court
--- The Supreme Court has no oral arguments or conferences scheduled.
Today on the trail
--- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) participates in a timber sale tour with the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association in Hillsborough, New Hampshire.
--- Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) makes a local stop in Davenport, Iowa, and attends a fundraiser in New York, New York.
--- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) participates in a town hall at The Wing in New York, New York, and attends a fundraiser in Newark, New Jersey.
--- Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN) attends fundraisers in New York, New York, and Houston, Texas.
--- Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) continues his "Send A Message Tour" through Iowa with stops in Arnolds Park and Mason City.
--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) holds a town hall in Enfield, New Hampshire.
--- Former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) visits South Carolina, participating in a discussion with small business owners in Round O and meeting with local Democrats in Orangeburg.
--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang (D) continues his "Freedom Requires Fairness Tour" through Iowa, holding a pancake event in Muscatine, a meet and greet in Davenport, a bowling event in Clinton, a coffee event in Tipton, and a town hall in Monticello.
*All times Eastern