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CNN

CNN's Chris Cuomo says that House impeachment managers successfully debunked conspiracy theories that have been broadcast on Fox News programs.

CBS This Morning

The U.S. government has denied an extradition request for a diplomat’s wife charged in a fatal hit-and-run in the U.K. Anne Sacoolas fled the country after allegedly hitting 19-year-old Harry Dunn with her car. The State Department says she had diplomatic immunity and that sending her back would set a troubling precedent. Imtiaz Tyab is outside the embassy in London with the Dunn family's response.

Lev Parnas was once so close to Rudy Giuliani, he named Giuliani his son's godfather. Now Parnas is cooperating with the Trump impeachment inquiry.
By Kevin McCoy, USA TODAY

The state funeral for former President George H.W. Bush in 2018 featured a who's who of U.S. political heavyweights. The nation's four living former presidents and their wives were in the first row of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Alongside were President Donald Trump and his wife. Bush's eldest son, former president George W. Bush, sat nearby with his wife and extended family. Among the mourners was the man once known to millions as America's Mayor and now Trump's personal lawyer: Rudy Giuliani. He was accompanied by — who?

The chubby man in the dark suit was Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born businessman known to few at the time. Now, the 47-year-old Florida resident is famed as Giuliani's associate in pressing for an investigation that could discredit former Vice President Joe Biden, a Trump rival in the 2020 presidential race, by digging up dirt in Parnas' native Ukraine.



Red flag laws allow law enforcement agencies to act on court orders and remove guns from people considered a harm to themselves or others.
By David Mikkelson

Trump: We’re going to take the firearms first and then go to court, because that’s another system. Because a lot of times by the time you go to court … it takes so long to go to court to get the due process procedures. I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida; he had a lot of fires [and] they saw everything. To go to court would have taken a long time, so you could do exactly what you’re saying but take the guns first, go through due process second.

By Elliot Smith

Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as President Donald Trump’s White House communications chief, accused his former boss of “bullying,” “gaslighting” and “nonsensical inanity” and predicted he’ll lose the election. With U.S. income inequality at a 50-year high and the gap widening, the managing partner of the Skybridge hedge fund told CNBC on Thursday that Trump “hasn’t done enough.”

In his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, Trump promoted his “America First” economic agenda and boasted about the health of the U.S. economy, which he claimed was down to a “whole new approach centered entirely on the well-being of the American worker.” Stock markets have repeatedly hit record highs over the past year, and the president has been keen to credit the sweeping corporate tax cuts his administration introduced in 2017.

By Michael HiltzikBusiness Columnist

With his penchant for saying the quiet parts out loud and assuming no one is paying attention, President Trump on Wednesday opened the door to cutting Social Security and Medicare later this year. The word came at the very end of an interview conducted by Joe Kernan of CNBC, in connection with Trump’s appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Here’s how it unfolded, according to the tape and transcript from CNBC: “KERNAN: Entitlements ever be on your plate? “PRESIDENT TRUMP: At some point they will be. We have tremendous growth. We’re going to have tremendous growth. This next year I— it’ll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it’s such a—"

Hillary Clinton is going to destroy your Social Security and Medicare. ... I am going to protect and save your Social Security and your Medicare. - Donald Trump, 2016

Trump then wandered off into a string of false and incoherent claims about the economy. “We’ve never had growth like this,” he said, even though economic growth during Trump’s term is nowhere near a record pace.

By ANNIE SNIDER

The Trump administration on Thursday signed its long-promised regulation to remove millions of miles of streams and roughly half the country’s wetlands from federal protection, the largest rollback of the Clean Water Act since the modern law was passed in 1972. The move delivers a major win for the agriculture, homebuilding, mining, and oil and gas industries, which have for decades sought to shrink the scope of the water law that requires them to obtain permits to discharge pollution into waterways or fill in wetlands, and imposes fines for oil spills into protected waterways.

Those industries had fiercely fought an Obama-era regulation that cemented broad protections for headwater streams, which are at the beginning of the river network, as well as certain wetlands. President Donald Trump, whose golf courses and other businesses had fought with regulators over Clean Water Act permits, has lambasted that rule as "disastrous" and his administration repealed it last year.

Here are six things to know about the new regulation, known as the Navigable Waters Protection Rule:

1) It goes beyond overturning Obama to erase protections that have been in place for decades
The Trump administration has made a point of rolling back environmental rules put in place by its predecessor, accusing the Obama administration of federal overreach. But the new regulation goes much beyond repealing the Obama-era rule, unwinding the previous rules that have been in place to protect headwater streams and wetlands since the 1970s and ‘80s.

2) It drew complaints from EPA's own advisers
The Trump administration issued the rule despite concerns raised by EPA’s outside scientific advisers, who issued a draft report in late December that said the proposed version of the rule was “in conflict with established science … and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.” The criticism was particularly notable given that the majority of the board members were handpicked by the Trump administration.

3) Half the country's wetlands could lose protection
Wetlands, the in-between zone separating water and land, serve a crucial role in soaking up flood waters, filtering pollution and providing habitat to fish and wildlife. Despite a goal by President Ronald Reagan to have "no net loss" of wetlands, the U.S. has drained or filled in the lion's share of its marshes and bogs, and is continuing on a downward trend.

The doubling of rates may have increased taxpayer costs for housing Secret Service and other staff who traveled there ahead of the president's trip.
By S.V. Date, HuffPost US

DORAL, Fla. ― The president’s Miami golf resort that puts money into his pocket more than doubled its room rates just before the White House announced his Thursday visit ― possibly increasing taxpayer costs for staff who must travel there in advance. Donald Trump’s plan to address the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting at Trump National Doral next to the Miami airport has been in the works since mid-January, about the same time that the resort raised the nightly rate for its least expensive rooms from $254 to $539. That higher figure is just under the maximum per-night rate federal government rules permit for a hotel in South Florida, and is triple the normal “per diem” rate employees are supposed to follow.

The White House would not reveal how much Trump’s Secret Service agents or other members of his “advance” team are paying for the days prior to his visit. Trump is only scheduled to be at the property for a few hours, but at least two dozen staff typically need to get there a few days ahead of time to prepare for his arrival. Doral officials refused to discuss how much they are charging for U.S. government employees staying there for Trump’s visit. The Trump Organization, the president’s family business that owns and operates the resort, also did not respond to queries from HuffPost.

By Michael D. Shear

WASHINGTON — The House Democratic impeachment managers began formal arguments in the Senate trial on Wednesday, presenting a meticulous and scathing case for convicting President Trump and removing him from office on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the lead House prosecutor, took the lectern in the chamber as senators sat silently preparing to weigh Mr. Trump’s fate. Speaking in an even, measured manner, he accused the president of a corrupt scheme to pressure Ukraine for help “to cheat” in the 2020 presidential election.

Invoking the nation’s founders and their fears that a self-interested leader might subvert democracy for his own personal gain, Mr. Schiff argued that the president’s conduct was precisely what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they devised the remedy of impeachment, one he said was “as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat.”  “If not remedied by his conviction in the Senate, and removal from office, President Trump’s abuse of his office and obstruction of Congress will permanently alter the balance of power among the branches of government,” Mr. Schiff said in his opening remarks. “The president has shown that he believes that he’s above the law and scornful of constraint.”

By Greg Sargent Opinion writer

As Rep. Adam Schiff continued building his case against President Trump late into Wednesday evening, Trump fired off one angry Twitter missive after another, until he finally crossed the 140 mark, perhaps his most prolific day of tweeting and retweeting ever. All those tweets, many of which amplified the preposterous claim that Trump did nothing whatsoever wrong, sent GOP senators and their staffers an unmistakable message: Trump is watching the proceedings very carefully. If you vote to allow new witnesses and evidence, there will be absolute hell to pay.

At one point, Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading the team of House impeachment managers, asked GOP senators a question. “The truth is going to come out,” Schiff said. “The only question is: Do you want to hear it now? Do you want to know the full truth now?” This argument has been ubiquitous, including on this blog: GOP senators who vote against subpoenaing new witnesses and documents run the risk that more damning revelations will come out after any such vote, and after their inevitable acquittal. This could allow those revelations to be hung around their necks, as examples of what they sought to help Trump cover up.  That’s because a vote for acquittal (which, again, is inevitable) before more damning revelations are unearthed is politically less costly than a vote for acquittal after any such revelations.

Yes, future revelations will stand as evidence of what GOP senators covered up. But that’s still politically less risky, from their perspective, than taking the chance that new evidence could be still more damning than what’s already known, and that they’d have to then acquit at that point.

By Oliver Milman

Rollback of clean water protections for streams and wetlands. Obama-era rules have long been targeted by Trump. The Trump administration has completed its rollback of environmental protections for streams, wetland and other bodies of water, a process that has stripped pollution safeguards from drinking water sources used by around a third of all Americans. Clean water protections strengthened under the Obama administration have long been targeted by Donald Trump, who has called it a “very destructive and horrible rule”. Trump has been backed by ranchers, farming groups and golf course operators, who claim the so-called “Water of the United States” (Wotus) rule impinged upon landowners’ rights.

The Obama-era water rule was repealed last year and on Thursday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a weakened replacement that removes millions of miles of streams and around half of America’s wetlands from federal oversight, potentially allowing pesticides and other pollutants to be dumped into them without penalty. The move has dismayed former EPA staff who worked on the expansion of protections to ephemeral streams that supply drinking water to an estimated 117 million people in the US.

By Charles Riley, CNN Business

London (CNN Business) Having negotiated agreements of sorts on trade with China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea and Japan, President Donald Trump is now turning to his next target: the European Union. Trump made clear at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week that his administration will move aggressively to negotiate a trade deal with Brussels. And if progress isn't made quickly, he said he'll impose tariffs of up to 25% on cars made in the European Union. "I wanted to do China first. I wanted to do Mexico and Canada first. But now that we're all done ... we are going to do Europe," he said during an interview with CNBC on Wednesday. There may be a deal to be done.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, met with Trump in Davos, where both leaders pledged to work quickly toward a deal. Von der Leyen told German news agency DPA that an agreement could be reached within weeks. The transatlantic relationship produced $1.3 trillion in total trade in 2018, according to US government statistics. Counted together, the 28 countries of the EU were the biggest export market for US goods that year. Yet experts say that aiming for a quick deal means there won't be time to address thorny issues that have for decades prevented the United States and the European Union from completing a comprehensive agreement to boost trade. The latest effort, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, was declared obsolete before it could be finalized.

You can't return it if it was never gone.
By Bethania Palma

U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 16, 2020, stated at a gathering in the Oval Office that “we’re proudly announcing historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools.” The move resulted in queries from Snopes readers asking whether Trump had “returned” or “reinstated” prayer in public schools. Joined by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, televangelist and adviser Paula White, and students who said they faced religious discrimination in school, Trump stated his guideline would counter “a growing totalitarian impulse on the far-left that seeks to punish, restrict, and even prohibit religious expression.”

But that is not the case. Students and student groups are free to pray at school, as well as participate in any number of religious activities, so long as those activities don’t disrupt school functions or impede the liberties of others. Trump’s guideline, in fact, largely restated one created by President George W. Bush in 2003.  Because students were never barred from praying on their own in school, however, neither president “returned” prayer to public school.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

Washington (CNN) Can't get a new witness? Call Donald J. Trump. Republicans might be blocking new testimony in the Senate trial but Democratic impeachment managers keep returning to the person who makes their case better than anyone: the President himself. Trump, of course, is not literally in the Senate chamber -- though he said Wednesday he'd "love" to be in the front row to stare at his "corrupt" accusers. But for Democrats, there's no better evidence with which to paint a picture of what they say is a self-dealing, obstructive leader with a kingly view of his own powers than the highlight reel already compiled by the most television-obsessed president in history.

"I have, in Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as President," Trump says in one clip aired on Tuesday by lead impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California. The Trump tapes not only break up hours of dense legal arguments. They also put the President at the center of the action, portraying him as the ringleader of the scheme to pressure Ukraine for political favors, and not an outsider player. They also confront the Republican senators, serving as jurors, with the direct evidence of what Democrats say is outlandish, impeachable behavior in a way that may not change their minds but is deeply uncomfortable.

(CNN) CNN Opinion is curating commentators' smartest takes on the second day of President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial. The views expressed below are their own.

Raul Reyes: He did not come to play

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff did not come to play. On Wednesday, he laid out a strong case for why senators should vote to impeach and remove Donald Trump from the presidency. On a strategic level, Schiff's presentation was masterful: it was eloquent, thoughtful and -- most importantly -- restrained. While he invoked everyone from Alexander Hamilton to John F. Kennedy, he never slipped into histrionics or hyperbole, which any trial lawyer knows can backfire. Instead, he methodically went through a timeline of the President's alleged improper conduct. Given the sheer amount of ground that Schiff covered in two-plus hours, no senator can honestly claim to not know or not have heard about most aspects of the impeachment inquiry. Schiff laid it all out for the Senate and for the public (of which 51% favors impeachment, per a recent CNN poll).

Very smartly, Schiff appealed to senators' and viewers' best instincts, saying: "The American people want a fair trial. They want to believe the system of government is still capable of rising to the occasion. They want to believe we can rise about party and do what's best for the country." This statement, by the way, is supported by national polling that finds most Americans want witnesses and new testimony allowed into the impeachment inquiry. Notice that Schiff did not have to resort to demonizing those who perhaps did not agree with him (indeed, he comported himself with the dignity required in such a grave and consequential matter).

In fact, his presentation was especially strong when he played video clips of other people, including Trump, whose statements bolstered the House Democrats' case for impeachment. So just in case anyone had forgotten, we again got to see acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney basically admitting to a quid pro quo (regarding the withholding of Ukraine aid in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens) and telling reporters to "Get over it."

By Coral Davenport

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday will finalize a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens. From Day 1 of his administration, President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners. His new rule, which will be implemented in the coming weeks, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections.

The new water rule will remove federal protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, and hundreds of thousands of small waterways. That would for the first time in decades allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into many of those waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects. “This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” said Blan Holman, a lawyer specializing in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.” Mr. Holman also said that the new rule exemplifies how the Trump administration has dismissed or marginalized scientific evidence. Last month, a government advisory board of scientists, many of whom were handpicked by the Trump administration, wrote that the proposed water rule “neglects established science.”

By Anna M. PhillipsStaff Writer

Defying environmentalists and public health advocates, the Trump administration on Thursday will announce the replacement of Obama-era water protections with a significantly weaker set of regulations that lifts limits on how much pollution can be dumped into small streams and wetlands. The changes to the Clean Water Act’s protections are expected to hit California and other Western states especially hard. Federal data suggest 81% of streams in the Southwest would lose long-held protections, including tributaries to major waterways that millions of people rely on for drinking water. Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to announce the new rules in Las Vegas at a conference of the National Association of Home Builders — one of the industry groups that pushed for loosening clean water rules.

The Trump administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but the president has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship.
By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is coming out with new visa restrictions aimed at restricting “birth tourism," in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can have a coveted U.S. passport. The State Department planned to publicize the rules Thursday, according to two officials with knowledge of the plans who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The rules would make it more difficult for pregnant women to travel on tourist visas. In one draft of the regulations, they would have to clear an additional hurdle before obtaining the visas — convincing a consular officer that they have another legitimate reason to come to the U.S.

The Trump administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but the president has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship — anyone born in the U.S. is considered a citizen, under the Constitution. He has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, but scholars and members of his administration have said it's not so easy to do.

QUIET PART LOUD
By Emma Tucker

President Trump appeared to admit Wednesday that he is comfortable with how his impeachment trial is playing out in the Senate—because the White House is withholding evidence about his dealings with Ukraine. “Honestly, we have all the material. They don’t have the material,” the president told reporters in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum, regarding the documents the White House has refused to turn over. “When we released that conversation, all hell broke out with the Democrats because they say, wait a minute, this is much different than shifty Schiff told us, so we’re doing very well. I got to watch enough, I thought our team did a very good job,” Trump said, referencing House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), who has spearheaded the House impeachment inquiry against the president.

By Sara Murray, Marshall Cohen and Katelyn Polantz, CNN

(CNN) Officials at the White House's Office of Management and Budget were laying the groundwork to freeze military aid to Ukraine the night before President Donald Trump's controversial phone call with the Ukrainian President, newly released, heavily redacted emails show. On the evening of July 24, the night before the call, OMB officials shared a "Ukraine Prep Memo" with Michael Duffey -- the office's associate director of national security programs, a political appointee and the budget official who would play a direct role in carrying out Trump's funding freeze. "We will be standing by to answer any questions that you have and are happy to schedule time to discuss if you like," OMB official Paul Denaro wrote to Duffey that evening. The contents of the Ukraine memo are redacted, as are many other parts of most of the emails released publicly early Wednesday morning.

The disclosure of the flurry of emails came just before midnight Tuesday, when the Office of Management and Budget gave the transparency group American Oversight nearly 200 pages of records related to the Trump administration's handling of aid to Ukraine. The documents depict the back-and-forth at OMB and with the Department of Defense and others as the holdup on more than $200 million of congressionally appropriated military assistance to Ukraine dragged on from late summer, until around the time a whistleblower came forward in September about the President's political pressure on Ukraine. Most of the emails in the batch of records publicly released early Wednesday morning are sent to or from Duffey. Tuesday's disclosure, part of a public records access lawsuit from American Oversight, comes as Democrats hammered the Trump administration throughout the day and night for stonewalling their subpoenas for documents related to the President's impeachment and handling of Ukraine.

The president’s impeachment narrative is divorced from reality and impervious to correction.
By Aaron Rupar

Hours after his lawyers began his impeachment trial with a blizzard of lies, President Trump held a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which he repeated many of those falsehoods and struggled to reconcile inconsistent statements he’s made about whether his aides should testify. In so doing, the president offered yet another illustration of how he and his team intend to not only to bluster their way through the impeachment trial, but even go as far as taunting Democrats who have so far been stymied in their efforts to compel testimony and document production.

Continuing a strategy his lawyers used on Tuesday, Trump largely declined to defend his dealings with Ukraine on the merits during his news conference, but instead twisted facts to portray Democrats as obsessed with taking him down. The most notable egregious example of this came in the context of Trump’s comments about House Intelligence Committee chair and impeachment manager Adam Schiff. To hear Trump tell it, Schiff intentionally falsified comments Trump made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during their July phone call, only to be subsequently corrected when the president took the bold step of releasing a call summary.

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