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By Philip Ewing

President Trump's legal position welcoming information from foreigners threatens to open Pandora's box in coming elections and nullify one of the key lessons from 2016, critics warned. "This is setting precedent that is unheard of in our country," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. "It's dangerous, dangerous, dangerous." She and other members of Congress said they were aghast after Trump attorney Patrick Philbin responded to a question in the president's impeachment trial late Wednesday by saying it would be proper for Trump or another politician to take a tip from a foreigner about a political opponent. "If there is credible information of wrongdoing by someone who is running for a public office, it's not campaign interference for credible information about wrongdoing to be brought to light," Philbin said. Congress has limited the ways foreigners can take part in elections — by forbidding them from voting and restricting their contributions — but the idea that simply because "information" originates overseas is a "non sequitur," Philbin said. Intel vice chair: It's outrageous. Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he was "flabbergasted" by Philbin's explanation and worried it might mean open season for election interference by foreign governments already known to be working to influence this year's race. "The president's counsel ... gave a green light for that kind of behavior to continue," Warner said. "I hope and pray that cooler heads will prevail, but I think there was a dramatic step backwards in terms of protecting the integrity of our election.

This isn't a coincidence. You can trace the reasons right back to the president's policies
By Tim Mullaney

Donald Trump won’t have to run his re-election campaign amid a 2020 recession — but numbers now emerging are bad enough, and their shape is bad enough, to show he won’t be running a Morning in America campaign either. New government data Thursday showed the economy’s gross domestic product grew at a 2.1 per cent annual rate in the fourth quarter — the second straight quarter at that tepid number, closing out the weakest year of Trump’s presidency. Worse, the slowdown is aimed straight at Trump’s base, including a decent-sized manufacturing recession. It’s based directly on the failure of Trump’s policies. And the details belie the idea, popular in Washington, that consumer confidence is high and that such confidence begets confidence in the president. Let’s walk through this fairly complicated argument one step at a time. First, the economy really didn’t do well in the last nine months of 2019, even if the stock market thinks it did.

By Paul Harvey

The claims: Andrew Johnson then, like Donald Trump now, was unjustly impeached by a group of radicals in the House of Representatives. Fortunately – so the claim continues – enough honest and brave men withstood forces in their own party and voted against convicting Johnson in the Senate. Among those was Sen. Edmund Ross of Kansas, the prototype for the “profile in courage” still recounted on the official website of the U.S. Senate. These are falsehoods, and they have become a staple of Republican arguments opposing the impeachment of Trump. Regurgitating myths about Johnson and impeachment, Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Robert Ray have resurrected for the nation distortions long since buried by the last two generations of historians.

How the Trump administration is unraveling the good-government reforms of the post-Watergate era.
By Mark Schmitt

The last time a Republican president abused power and faced impeachment, the system survived. That president, Richard Nixon, was forced to leave office. In the wake of his scandalous conduct came a wave of reforms passed by an invigorated Congress, seeking to restore balance to a government characterized by executive overreach, one in which Nixon could say, “When the president does it, it’s not illegal.” Those post-Watergate reforms of the mid-1970s were a landmark in American politics. They partly righted the ship of state after Watergate and Vietnam. They rebalanced power between the president and Congress for most of the four decades that followed. In recent months, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have seemed particularly determined to challenge, ignore, or undo all those laws enacted in a short burst in the 1970s and meant specifically to prevent anything like Nixon’s overreach, criminal behavior, and secret wars from recurring. One by one, Trump has taken on the post-Watergate reforms, from checks on what a president could do with congressionally appropriated funds to laws on when a president can get us into war. The reforms had frayed long before Trump came along. But they are now in danger of being stamped out, if Trump and McConnell get their way.

A second audio recording released by Lev Parnas’s attorney purportedly shows the former Giuliani fixer socializing at a 2018 Republican fundraising event.
By Betsy Swan, Adam Rawnsley

New audio obtained by The Daily Beast appears to show former Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman attending an April 2018 fundraising dinner with President Donald Trump along with former Republican Rep. Pete Sessions. The recording marks the second substantial release of audio showing Parnas interacting with the president at a fundraising event. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Parnas in October 2019, alongside his business partners Igor Fruman, David Correia, and Andrey Kukushkin, with conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions on behalf of a foreign donor. Parnas and his associates have all pleaded not guilty. Trump has downplayed his association with Parnas and told reporters, “I don’t know who this man is.” Parnas hired President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in 2018 seeking help with a business venture, Fraud Guarantee. Giuliani allegedly later used Parnas as a fixer in Ukraine as the former New York City mayor attempted to dig up compromising information on former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

A new block grant program, rejected by Congress just three years ago, will face swift resistance from Democrats and expected legal challenges.

The Trump administration took a big step forward Thursday to let states convert a portion of Medicaid funding into block grants, a long-sought conservative overhaul of the safety net health care program that Democrats will wield as a political weapon during the election. The plan is the administration’s boldest step yet to curb Medicaid spending and shrink the program covering about 1 in 5 low-income Americans. But the move is inciting fierce opposition from Democrats who say it’s the latest evidence President Donald Trump is trying to sabotage health coverage. CMS Administrator Seema Verma, who’s crafted the politically sensitive and closely guarded plan for over a year, on Thursday encouraged state Medicaid directors to request budgeted federal payments to cover poor adults who enrolled through Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in recent years. States who voluntarily cover adult populations outside of the Obamacare expansion could also receive capped funding. Some conservative states have expressed interest in block grants in recent years, but it's not clear how many will take up the Trump administration's new offer. Capped Medicaid payments would represent a radical departure in how the 55-year-old program is financed. The federal government has long provided open-ended matching funds to states.

Why else did the framers create the power to impeach?
By Noah Feldman

As Republicans scramble to argue that they don’t need to call witnesses in President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, one argument seems to be gaining traction: that witnesses are irrelevant, because even if Trump did everything he’s accused of doing, abuse of power is not an impeachable offense. This argument isn’t merely wrong. It is the single most dangerous argument that any of Trump’s defenders have made during the entire impeachment process. If abuse of power isn’t impeachable, what is? The strongest version of this argument has been made by Alan Dershowitz, who has insisted that the Constitution’s “high crimes and misdemeanors” include only crimes found in the statute books, not abuse of power. That’s obviously wrong. In 1725, in a case the framers knew, Thomas, Earl of Macclesfield, was impeached by the British House of Commons specifically for “Abuse of his Power” and “great Abuse of his Authority.” The House of Lords convicted him for it. At the constitutional convention, on July 20, 1787, Edmund Randolph, the governor of Virginia who had introduced the Virginia plan, stated specifically that “the propriety of impeachments was a favorite principle with him” because “the Executive will have great opportunitys of abusing his power.” In Federalist 65, Alexander Hamilton defined “high crimes and misdemeanors” as “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.” Dershowitz’s view is so absurd that I don’t know of even one legal scholar who studies the Constitution who agrees with him. That includes Dershowitz himself, who in 1998 said (correctly) that impeachment doesn’t have to be for a crime.

Trump was shaking down Zelensky while trying to keep the rest of the government in the dark. That’s not a 'policy,' that’s a conspiracy.
By Tom Nichols Opinion columnist

President Donald Trump’s lawyers in his Senate trial, along with the usual enablers among elected Republicans, are hiding behind the argument that the president cannot be impeached for policy disagreements. Even Utah's Sen. Mike Lee, who prides himself on his fidelity to the Constitution, is pitching softballs at Trump’s legal counsel about the president’s right to set policy. If Trump were in the Senate dock for a policy dispute, Lee and others would be right — and I would be the first among the president’s critics to argue that he must be acquitted. But this is not a policy dispute, and if the president’s defenders win the day on this argument, then there will be no limit on what any president, ever, can do with the power of the office. The “policy dispute” defense rests on the obvious truth that under Article II of the Constitution, the president of the United States has the right to set foreign policy. Subject to the restrictions of federal law, the Constitution and the power of the purse that is reserved for Congress in Article I, the president can choose to bring us closer to some countries, give the cold shoulder to others, and negotiate treaties and other international agreements as he or she chooses.

By Clark Mindock

Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas has shown up unexpectedly on Capitol Hill, where he is demanding to meet with senators to tell his side of the impeachment scandal story. Mr Parnas was spotted by reporters as he arrived, and asked what he would tell senators if he were able to get an audience with them. "Call the witnesses," Mr Parnas responded. "The president knew everything." He continued, claiming that there were "many quid pro quos" beyond the one apparently highlighted in the 25 July phone call between Donald Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in which the American asked for an investigation by the Ukrainian government into a domestic political rival. That phone call sparked a whistle blower complaint, and later the impeachment investigation that has led now to Mr Trump's trial in the Senate. A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that Mr Parnas, who has been indicted last year on charges of alleged campaign finance violations, could attend the Senate impeachment investigation, but that he would not be allowed to take off his GPS ankle monitor to do so. Because of that, it appears as though he would not be permitted to enter the Senate floor due to the chamber's rules.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) Impeachment was meant to punish Donald Trump's unrestrained use of his authority, but the grounds on which Republican senators plan to acquit him may instead give him a green light to use his power however he wants to win reelection. Trump's GOP defenders looking to end his Senate trial in the next few days are increasingly arguing that it's time to shut things down because even if Trump is guilty of coercing Ukraine for political favors, such conduct would not be impeachable. They are seizing on stunning arguments envisioning almost unchallenged presidential power and highly limited criteria for defining the abuse of power and impeachment laid out by a maverick member of Trump's legal team, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. Republican leaders are meanwhile increasingly confident they will have the votes to block Democratic demands for the testimony of new trial witnesses, including John Bolton, who reportedly has information implicating Trump in pressuring Ukraine for political favors. The quickening bid to squelch any further fact-finding in the trial is also taking place as the White House seeks to delay publication of the former national security adviser's forthcoming book, which The New York Times has reported to be deeply critical of Trump's behavior towards the Kiev government and elsewhere. The Senate impeachment trial resumed on Wednesday for the first of two days of questioning from senators to the Democratic House impeachment managers and the President's lawyers.

First submarine to go on patrol armed with the W76-2 warhead makes a nuclear launch more likely, arm control advocates warn
By Julian Borger in Washington

The US has deployed its first low-yield Trident nuclear warhead on a submarine that is currently patrolling the Atlantic Ocean, it has been reported, in what arms control advocates warn is a dangerous step towards making a nuclear launch more likely. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the USS Tennessee – which left port in Georgia at the end of last year – is the first submarine to go on patrol armed with the W76-2 warhead, commissioned by Donald Trump two years ago. It has an explosive yield of five kilotons, a third of the power of the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima and considerably lower than the 90- and 455-kiloton warheads on other US submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The Trump administration’s nuclear posture review (NPR) in February 2018, portrays this warhead as a counter to a perceived Russian threat to use its own “tactical” nuclear weapons to win a quick victory on the battlefield. Advocates of W76-2 argued that the US had no effective deterrent against Russian tactical weapons because Moscow assumed Washington would not risk using the overwhelming power of its intercontinental ballistic missiles in response, for fear of escalating from a regional conflict to a civilian-destroying war.

By Jake Tapper, Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent

Washington (CNN) The White House has issued a formal threat to former national security adviser John Bolton to keep him from publishing his book, "The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir," sources familiar with the matter tell CNN. The White House had no comment. Neither Bolton nor a spokesman for the publisher, Simon & Schuster, responded to a request for comment. The letter comes in the midst of President Donald Trump attacking Bolton on Twitter, and Bolton's lawyer accusing the White House of corrupting the vetting process for Bolton's book by sharing the contents of the book with those outside the National Security Council's Records Management Division. Trump's tweets attacking Bolton Wednesday morning suggested he knew the contents of the manuscript.

Revealed: emails show Trump and appointees tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires
By Emily Holden and Jimmy Tobias

Political appointees at the interior department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal. The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute. The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees.

The records offer a look behind the scenes at how Trump and his appointees have tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires, including in California, even as science shows fires are becoming more intense largely because of climate change. James Reilly, a former petroleum geologist and astronaut who is the director of the US Geological Survey, in a series of emails in 2018 asked scientists to “gin up” emissions figures for him. He also said the numbers would make a “decent sound bite”, and acknowledged that wildfire emissions estimates could vary based on what kind of trees were burning but picked the ones that he said would make “a good story”.

By Allie Malloy, CNN

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump on Wednesday tore into his former national security adviser John Bolton, whose explosive allegation in the Ukraine scandal has opened the door for GOP support of potential witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial. Bolton, according to a draft manuscript first reported by The New York Times earlier this week, alleges that Trump told him over the summer that he wanted to continue holding military aid to Ukraine until the country helped with investigations into his potential political opponents. The allegation contradicts Trump claims that his actions in Ukraine were intended to root out corruption, not produce dirt on rivals, and has forced Senate Republicans to reconsider whether to hear from witnesses, including Bolton, in the trial. Trump attacked Bolton's reputation as a military hawk and claimed his forthcoming book is "nasty and untrue" and outed "classified" national security information in a pair of tweets Wednesday morning.

By Chris Franklin | For NJ.com and Amanda Hoover | NJ Advance Media For NJ.com

Chanting, “Love, not hate, makes America great,” opponents of President Donald Trump were gathering Tuesday in Wildwood in the hours leading up to the “Keep America Great” rally at the Wildwoods Convention Center on Tuesday. At least 150 Trump protesters had arrived by 3 p.m., and about a dozen miniature versions of the “Baby Trump” balloon were aloft. Some were chanting “Lock him up,” a play on what Trump supporters have sometimes said about Hillary Clinton, and other opponents of the president.

   Lock him up chants have now started at the protest #Wildwood pic.twitter.com/YOxeSNBMRl
   — Chris Franklin (@cfranklinnews) January 28, 2020

Martha Friend, of Lawrence, was in the group of protesters. “You have to show up and shine the light on the hate that has been dominating this presidency,” Friend told NJ Advance

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent

Washington (CNN) Fifty US military personnel have now been diagnosed with concussions and traumatic brain injuries following the Iranian missile attack on US forces in Iraq earlier this month, according to a statement Tuesday from the Pentagon. That's an increase of 16 from late last week when the Pentagon said 34 cases had been diagnosed. "As of today, 50 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with TBI," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said in the statement. "Of these 50, 31 total service members were treated in Iraq and returned to duty, including 15 of the additional service members who have been diagnosed since the previous report. 18 service members have been transported to Germany for further evaluation and treatment. This is an increase of one service member from the previous report. As previously reported, one service member had been transported to Kuwait and has since returned to duty," the statement added. Several Pentagon officials told CNN that the number of diagnosed cases is likely to continue to change. Approximately 200 people who were in the blast zone at the time of the attack have been screened for symptoms.

They’re not measuring any drapes. But Democrats fear Trump and his aides won’t meet, share documents or otherwise cooperate in a handover of power.

Democrats are bracing for the possibility that if President Donald Trump loses the 2020 election, he and his aides will bungle a smooth handover of power – and maybe even try to outright sabotage the transition. At least one outside group that works with the 2020 Democratic campaigns has quietly launched a transition-related effort designed to offer an early look at the landscape that awaits them if they oust Trump. Separately, a prominent good government organization, the Partnership for Public Service, is openly appealing to Trump and his Democratic opponents to start thinking early about transition planning, even if it comes across as “presumptuous.” And one leading Democratic presidential candidate, Elizabeth Warren, just days ago unveiled a plan that, among other things, describes how she would move quickly to staff the government if she wins the White House. In the plan, Warren voices the fears of many Democrats. “This will be no ordinary transition between administrations,” she states. “Unlike previous transitions, we will not be able to assume good faith cooperation on the part of the outgoing administration.”

By Haley Byrd, CNN

Washington (CNN)When President Donald Trump signs his revised North American Free Trade Agreement agreement at the White House on Wednesday, congressional Democrats who played a central role in approving the pact won't be there. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not been invited to the signing ceremony for the trade deal, a spokesperson for her office told CNN Tuesday morning. And Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat who shepherded the rebranded US-Mexico-Canada agreement to passage despite heightened tensions between the administration and congressional Democrats amid the contentious impeachment inquiry last year, is also not on the guest list. Nor are the other members of the House Democratic USMCA working group, who negotiated with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer for months to obtain changes to the deal. It is typical for members of both parties to be present when major bipartisan pieces of legislation are signed at public ceremonies.

The former national security adviser shared his unease with the attorney general, who cited his own worries about the president’s conversations with the leaders of Turkey and China.
By Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman

WASHINGTON — John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, privately told Attorney General William P. Barr last year that he had concerns that President Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript by Mr. Bolton.

Mr. Barr responded by pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations of companies in those countries and said he was worried that Mr. Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries, according to the manuscript. Backing up his point, Mr. Barr mentioned conversations Mr. Trump had with the leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Xi Jinping of China.

Mr. Bolton’s account underscores the fact that the unease about Mr. Trump’s seeming embrace of authoritarian leaders, long expressed by experts and his opponents, also existed among some of the senior cabinet officers entrusted by the president to carry out his foreign policy and national security agendas.

The proposal destroys the prospects for any real deal and brings Israel meaningfully closer to “apartheid.”
By Zack Beauchamp

Donald Trump’s “peace plan” isn’t a plan for advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. It’s a plan for scuttling them. The president released the long-awaited political framework of his “Peace to Prosperity” plan on Tuesday afternoon after a White House ceremony featuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The proposal is missing a signature feature of every prior peace plan: a path to a viable Palestinian state. It divides up the Palestinian territories and surrounds them by Israel, and gives Israel total control over Palestinian security — allowing a future Palestinian government to exercise full control over its own land only when Israel deems it acceptable. It’s a kind of state-minus: a Palestine without much of its land and subservient to Israel for basic functions.

“Trump can try to make this a Palestinian state by calling it a state. But it ain’t ever gonna whistle,” writes Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy. Needless to say, the Palestinians cannot and will not agree to such humiliation, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has already ruled it out. “No, no, and no,” he has said. “Jerusalem is not for sale. All of our rights are not for sale or bartering.” In fact, the Trump administration didn’t even have a role in writing the plan: It was put together primarily by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, in consultation with the Israeli government. The notion that this is a good-faith effort to make peace is laughable. So if the “peace plan” isn’t a peace plan, then what is it?

By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appears to be escalating his criticism of NPR — this time not just with words but with actions. On Monday NPR reporter Michele Kelemen was notified that she was being removed from the press pool covering Pompeo's upcoming trip to the United Kingdom, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. The sudden change came just a few days after the top US diplomat responded angrily to an interviewer from the public radio outlet. That interviewer, Mary Louise Kelly asked Pompeo a series of pertinent questions about Ukraine. Pompeo responded by saying he expected the interview to be about Iran. Kelly said she always intended to ask about both subjects, and that Pompeo's staff knew so ahead of time. - Mike Pompeo like Trump is a petty and vindictive.

Analysis by Marshall Cohen

Washington (CNN) New revelations about the Ukraine scandal from former national security adviser John Bolton dealt a significant blow to President Donald Trump's defense strategy, contradicting key elements of the case his attorneys presented to senators in his impeachment trial. According to a bombshell report from The New York Times, Bolton wrote in a draft for his upcoming book that Trump explicitly said he was withholding nearly $400 million in US military assistance until Ukraine helped with investigations into his Democratic rivals. A source with direct knowledge told CNN that the Times' article accurately described the draft manuscript. Bolton was already considered a key witness to important events in the Ukraine scandal, and Democrats have pleaded with their Republican colleagues to buck the White House and support a subpoena for Bolton. Earlier this month, Bolton even said he'd be willing to testify if he received a subpoena. The details from Bolton's book create an immediate problem for Trump: They contradict what he and his legal team has been saying, including in arguments on the Senate floor just two days ago when one White House lawyer said there was "no evidence anywhere" of Trump endorsing the quid pro quo.

Here are three ways Bolton's bombshells undermine Trump's case against impeachment.
Quid pro quo confirmed, again

According to The New York Times, Trump told Bolton directly that he didn't want any US aid flowing to Ukraine until Zelensky helped out with the investigations. Trump also used this rationale to rebuff nearly a dozen attempts by Bolton and others to unfreeze the aid package. That account flies in the face of repeated denials from Trump and his lawyers. Trump has tweeted the phrase "no quid pro quo" more than a dozen times since the inquiry began.

No policy reason for aid freeze
Bolton's account makes it clear that the reason for freezing US assistance to Ukraine was rooted in Trump's desire for Ukraine to announce the investigations into his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden, a top Democrat vying for his party's nomination this year.

Firsthand accounts of Trump
The details of Bolton's manuscript cemented the reality that there are still witnesses who didn't testify to the House but have firsthand knowledge of what happened inside the White House. The House inquiry was a speedy process, perhaps propelled by Democratic fears that public support for impeachment would slip if they slowed things down and took a more methodical approach. House Democrats invited Bolton to voluntary testify, but they didn't do anything after his lawyer announced he wouldn't appear without a subpoena, and a lengthy court fight loomed.

CNN Tonight

Republican strategist Rick Wilson and CNN contributor Wajahat Ali join Don Lemon to discuss Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's statement in response to NPR host Mary Louise Kelly's claim that he cursed at her and demanded she find Ukraine on a map after a taping of "All Things Considered." Source: CNN

Analysis by John Harwood, CNN

Washington (CNN) Once again, President Donald Trump's Fifth Avenue test for fellow Republicans has grown a little harder. The term refers to Trump's 2016 boast that he could "shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue" without losing support from his political base. For the last five months, revelations about his conduct of Ukraine policy have presented a rolling real-world trial of that proposition. By the end of last week, Trump stood on the verge of securing his votes of absolution by Senate Republicans who didn't even want to hear new witness testimony. Now, a New York Times report that Trump specified his "quid pro quo" directly to then-national security adviser John Bolton has added a jolt of uncertainty into prospects for a summary acquittal.

Three years of GOP deference to the President suggest Trump will pass eventually whether or not the Senate seeks Bolton's testimony and other new evidence. Nine-in-10 Republican voters approve of his job performance and oppose his removal from office, even as most other Americans do not, according to a recent CNN poll. And this hardly represents a unique test of GOP acquiescence. Throughout the Ukraine furor, Republican lawmakers have deployed the political equivalent of a bend-but-don't-break defense in football. Republicans wobbled initially when an intelligence community whistleblower complained Trump had warped US foreign policy at the expense of a vulnerable ally for personal political gain. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina allowed that evidence of an aid-for-investigations "quid pro quo" would be "very disturbing."

Opinion by Dean Obeidallah

(CNN) "But her emails" became a shorthand way after the 2016 election to explain -- often in jest and as memes -- why Hillary Clinton, who was favored to win, lost to Donald Trump. However, all jokes aside, post-election studies confirmed that Clinton's emails were the most-covered topic during the campaign between May 2015 and November 2016. That was in part because of the "drip, drip" drip" nature of the scandal over her use of a private email server while secretary of state. New developments -- from investigations being opened and closed to the release of previously unreported emails -- resulted in ever more media coverage. Well, it's looking like Trump may be facing a similar "drip, drip, drip" type scandal that could result in "but her emails" being replaced after the 2020 election with "but his tapes."

The tapes in question are audio recordings secretly made of Trump by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was indicted last year for alleged campaign finance violations to which he has pleaded not guilty. And from what we've seen in past few days, the unexpected release of these tapes has the power to grab headlines, disrupting the media narrative Trump wants to be pushing in this election year and even forcing him or his GOP congressional allies to answer questions about the tape's contents.

Analysis by Jonathan Marcus

The US military has confirmed one of its planes crashed in eastern Afghanistan on Monday. Col Sonny Leggett said: "While the cause of crash is under investigation, there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire." The aircraft crashed in Deh Yak district, Ghazni province, an area with a strong Taliban presence. It is unclear how many people were on board. Col Leggett denied Taliban claims that additional aircraft had crashed. Taliban social media accounts have posted unverified footage showing a burnt-out plane with US Air Force markings. The video shows a Bombardier E-11A - the type of jet used by the US Air Force for electronic surveillance over Afghanistan. Afghan authorities had initially said the crash plane belonged to state-owned airline Ariana, but the company quickly said all its planes were accounted for.

By Tucker Higgins

The Supreme Court said on Monday that it will allow the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule to take effect after the immigration policy had been blocked by lower courts. The 5-4 vote was divided along partisan lines, with the court’s four Democratic-appointees indicating that they would not have allowed the policy to be enforced. The rule will make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain permanent residency or citizenship if they have used public benefits, like food stamps. Civil rights groups criticized the rule, arguing that it penalized poor immigrants.

District courts around the country had halted the 2019 rule from going into action, though the Trump administration was successful before two federal appeals courts, which would have allowed the policy to be enforced. One nationwide injunction, issued by a district judge in New York and temporarily upheld by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month, still remained in effect. The top court on Monday froze that injunction, pending a final decision from the 2nd Circuit. The case could eventually make its way back to the Supreme Court.

By Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump's former national security adviser has upended the Senate impeachment trial, and new revelations from John Bolton's draft book manuscript could turn the tide on whether senators call for witnesses. The President's legal team resumes its second day of arguments at 1 p.m. ET Monday, but all of the attention will be focused on the Republican senators sitting in the chamber and how they react Sunday night's New York Times bombshell that Bolton's draft manuscript says Trump told him US security assistance to Ukraine was conditioned on investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah predicted it was "increasingly likely" that others would join him in calling for Bolton to testify, and GOP sources say the revelations add new uncertainty to this week's expected witness vote after Republicans were confident it would be defeated when the Senate gaveled out on Saturday. "I can't begin to tell you how John Bolton's testimony would ultimately play on a final decision but it's relevant," Romney told reporters Monday. "And therefore, I'd like to hear it." Since the Bolton news broke, the White House has heard from Republican senators frustrated that they were kept in the dark when at least someone in the White House had the Bolton manuscript since the end of December, according to a source familiar with the conversations.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) The news, first reported by The New York Times Sunday night, that President Donald Trump had told national security adviser John Bolton directly to continue to withhold approved military aid to Ukraine until that country agreed to announce investigations into Democrats, and specifically former Vice President Joe Biden, is an absolute bombshell with the very real possibility of fundamentally altering the calculus for Republican senators in the ongoing impeachment trial. The accusation is made in a draft manuscript of Bolton's time in the Trump White House and, for the first time, would provide -- if confirmed -- direct evidence that Trump not only personally ordered the hold but did so to target the leading Democratic candidate against him in 2020. Bolton's claim -- again, if confirmed -- would be a smoking gun for Trump's use of his office for personal and political gain. Period.

Which brings us to the debate within the Senate over whether any witnesses will be allowed to testify in the trial of Trump and, if so, who. Prior to the Bolton news on Sunday, GOP sentiment seemed to be leaning away from allowing witnesses, with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a key swing vote, offering criticism of the manner and style used by the House Democratic impeachment managers to make their case. While official Washington is still processing the Bolton news, it's hard to see both the accusation and the initial reaction to it not altering that voting calculus for Republicans. Here's why: There now exists a credible claim made by a longtime figure in Republican politics and the conservative movement that, if proven out, directly implicates the President of the United States in a quid pro quo. This isn't Lev Parnas, a somewhat shady Ukrainian businessman under criminal indictment, saying a bunch of things about Trump. Parnas, Republican senators might be OK with dismissing. It's a hell of a lot harder to dismiss someone with the resume of Bolton.

The reported account in an unpublished manuscript by the former national security adviser counters the White House's defense of the president.
By Lauren Egan

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told former national security adviser John Bolton that nearly $400 million in frozen security aid to Ukraine would not be released until that nation offered assistance with probes into Democratic targets, including the Bidens, Bolton alleges in an unpublished book whose contents were reported Sunday night.

NBC has not verified the report, published The New York Times, which cited multiple sources familiar with Bolton’s account, or seen a copy of that manuscript, but the report immediately produced calls by Democrats for Bolton's testimony in the Senate impeachment trial.

The contents of that manuscript were described as a rough account of how the former Trump official would testify, should he be called as a witness in the trial, which is currently underway. The prospect of any new witnesses has been viewed as unlikely, given Republican reluctance to accept additional testimony.

The president's allies have said that the aid delay was unconnected to Trump’s requests that Ukrainian officials announce probes that stood to undercut his domestic political opponents, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump seemed to subtly threaten impeachment manager Adam Schiff by tweet Sunday. It’s not the first time he’s done so.
By Catherine Kim

In a Sunday morning tweet, President Donald Trump said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff would have to pay a “price” for his leading role in the impeachment trial.

“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,” the president wrote. “He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”

   Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!
   — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 26, 2020

The president did not immediately clarify whether he meant the tweet to be a threat, as it appears to be, but Schiff certainly took it as one.

The lawmaker was quick to respond — through his own Twitter account, and on NBC’s Meet the Press, where he called Trump a “wrathful and vindictive” president. Schiff also told NBC’s Chuck Todd he thought the tweet was “intended to be” a threat against him.

Drafts of the book outline the potential testimony of the former national security adviser if he were called as a witness in the president’s impeachment trial.
By Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt

WASHINGTON — President Trump told his national security adviser in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens, according to an unpublished manuscript by the former adviser, John R. Bolton.

The president’s statement as described by Mr. Bolton could undercut a key element of his impeachment defense: that the holdup in aid was separate from Mr. Trump’s requests that Ukraine announce investigations into his perceived enemies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

Mr. Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books.

By Derek Hawkins and Angela Fritz

A Florida pastor and longtime spiritual adviser to President Trump says she was speaking in metaphor when she recently prayed in a sermon for all “satanic pregnancies” to end in miscarriage. In video of the Jan. 5 sermon, posted by the liberal advocacy group Right Wing Watch, televangelist pastor Paula White breathlessly calls on Jesus Christ to “command all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now.”

“We declare that anything that’s been conceived in satanic wombs, that it will miscarry, it will not be able to carry forth any plan of destruction, any plan of harm,” White said before an auditorium of congregants. As of Sunday morning, the clip, which was just under two minutes long, had been viewed more than 2.5 million times. White’s words are largely being interpreted literally — that she wishes for evil women to have miscarriages — but she shared a rare response to the criticism in which she explained that she was speaking in metaphor, praying for evil plans to be foiled in her congregants’ lives.

Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) Opening arguments from the Democrats are over. They closed their case against President Donald Trump declaring he must be removed from office for upsetting the balance of power envisioned by the Constitution and for upsetting world order. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, the former federal prosecutor who presided all fall over the House inquiry into Trump's Ukraine pressure campaign, closed the arguments for Democrats by trying to head off some of what Trump's defenders will say in their rebuttal. The California Democrat chiefly focused on making the point that Republicans, regardless of their personal feelings about the President, should realize he'll put himself over the country again and again. "It doesn't matter whether you like him. It doesn't matter if you dislike him," Schiff said. "What matters is whether he is a danger to the country because he will do it again. And none of us have can have confidence, based on his record, that he will not do it again. Because he is telling us every day that he will.

Obstructing Congress

Most of today's arguments focused on the second article of impeachment, which argues Trump has obstructed Congress. The Democrats are arguing that, in the American system, no one should be above the law. But Trump's Department of Justice says he can't be indicted, which is at least part of the reason the Mueller report did not recommend charging him as part of the Russia investigation that consumed the first half of Trump's presidency before concluding last year.

The fauxtrage over Adam Schiff's "head on a pike" reference is meant to obscure the simple fact they're terrified to cross the president.
By Charles P. Pierce

WASHINGTON—Not long after Congressman Adam Schiff had wrapped up the prosecution’s case, and pretty much wrapped the administration* in heavy chains and barbed wire, Senator James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, stepped up to a bank of microphones in the basement of the Capitol to announce that he was not afraid of the president*. Oh, no. Not him. Not Senator James Lankford.

One of the most remarkable moments of the night was when Adam Schiff said that Republicans were told that their head would be on a pike by the president if they vote against him. That is completely, totally false. All of us were shaking our heads saying, “Where in the world did that story come from?”

By Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Delivering an ominous threat to members of his own party, Donald J. Trump warned congressional Republicans on Monday that if they vote for impeachment he would come to their states and campaign for their reëlection. In a series of intimidating, early-morning tweets, Trump made it clear that if Republicans wobble on impeachment, “I will hold rallies in your state and support you with everything I’ve got.”

By Alexander Burns, Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman

The Republican Party was at the brink of civil war on Sunday as Donald J. Trump signaled he would retaliate against lawmakers who withdraw their support from his campaign, and senior party leaders privately acknowledged that they now feared losing control of both houses of Congress.

Even before Mr. Trump’s second debate against Hillary Clinton, the party faced an internal rift unseen in modern times. A wave of defections from Mr. Trump’s candidacy, prompted by the revelation of a recording that showed him bragging about sexual assault, was met with boastful defiance by the Republican presidential nominee.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump attacked the Republicans fleeing his campaign as “self-righteous hypocrites” and predicted their defeat at the ballot box. In a set of talking points sent to his supporters Sunday morning, Mr. Trump’s campaign urged them to attack turncoat Republicans as “more concerned with their political future than they are about the country.”

By Morgan Gstalter

Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano on Thursday penned an op-ed arguing that the articles of impeachment and the House managers' case against President Trump provide “ample and uncontradicted” evidence to support the Senate removing him from office. “What is required for removal of the president? A demonstration of presidential commission of high crimes and misdemeanors, of which in Trump's case the evidence is ample and uncontradicted,” he wrote. The piece from Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey and frequent critic of the president, came as the Senate began day two of opening arguments in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.

Napolitano wrote that the Constitution describes justification for impeachment as treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors. “However, this use of the word ‘crimes’ does not refer to violations of federal criminal statutes. It refers to behavior that is so destructive of the constitutional order that it is the moral equivalent of statutory crimes,” the judge wrote. Napolitano declared that there are “valid, lawful, constitutional arguments for Trump’s impeachment that he ought to take seriously.”

Fidget spinners and spinning Republicans make the best of a bad case for Donald John Trump.
By Maureen Dowd

Republicans know very well who they are. That’s why it was such a juicy moment when Hakeem Jeffries, the congressman from Brooklyn and Democratic impeachment manager, quoted a lyric by fellow B-town native son Biggie Smalls to rebut Jay Sekulow when the president’s lawyer disingenuously wondered, “Why are we here?” Referring to the Democrats’ crystal-clear case that Donald Trump abused his power and corrupted the highest office in the land, Jeffries proclaimed, “And if you don’t know, now you know.”

I went to the press gallery one afternoon to check out the tableau vivant. The visitors’ gallery was only half full, and there was none of the passion and titillation that infused the Clinton impeachment, which also, oddly enough, revolved around a power disparity between two people. One Democratic Senate staffer mourned the apathy. “Our phones aren’t ringing,” he told me. “Nobody cares. It’s the saddest thing ever.” One side of the room seemed to be smirking.

ABC News broke news of the recording Friday.
By Andrew Prokop

When Rudy Giuliani’s fixer Lev Parnas publicly claimed last week that President Donald Trump knew everything he was doing with regards to Ukraine, he was greeted with some skepticism. And Trump has repeatedly denied even knowing who Parnas is. But ABC News has reviewed a recording that seems to back up one of Parnas’s claims — that, at a 2018 donor dinner, Parnas urged Trump to fire Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and Trump agreed. ABC News has not published the recording, only reviewed it. But per its reporters Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, Allison Pecorin, and Olivia Rubin, Parnas can be heard disparaging Yovanovitch on it.

Then a voice that “appears to be President Trump’s” can be heard on the recording saying: “Get rid of her! ... Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.” This is just what Parnas claimed happened in his interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week. “He fired her actually at the dinner, which was the most surprising thing ever.” Parnas continued: I do remember me telling the president the ambassador was badmouthing him and saying he was going to get impeached, something to that effect. And at that time, he turned around to John DeStefano, who was his aide at the time, and said, “Fire her.” And we all — there was a silence in the room. As Parnas went on to explain, Trump’s order was not actually carried out then. It took another year for the firing to stick.

By Ryan Browne, Barbara Starr and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Washington (CNN) Thirty-four US service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries following the Iranian missile attack on US forces in Iraq earlier this month, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Friday. Seventeen service members who were injured have since returned to duty in Iraq, sixteen of whom were treated locally in the country. Nine service members are still being treated in Germany. An additional eight service members who had been flown to Germany have since been sent to the United States for additional treatment. The eight service members, who arrived in the US Friday morning, will be treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or at hospitals in their home bases. Although traumatic brain injuries are not always apparent immediately after they've been suffered, the disclosure of injured US service members indicates that the impact of the attack was more serious than initial assessments indicated. The Pentagon and President Donald Trump had initially said no service members were injured or killed in the January 8 Iranian missile attack, which was retaliation for the January 2 US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.

Hoffman said Friday that the Defense Department will review its processes for tracking and reporting injuries suffered by service members. "The goal is to be as transparent, accurate and to provide the American people and our service members with the best information about the tremendous sacrifices our war fighters make," Hoffman told reporters Friday. Earlier this week President Donald Trump said he does not consider potential brain injuries to be as serious as physical combat wounds, downplaying the severity of the injuries suffered in Iraq.

By Maegan Vazquez, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump signaled this week that he's open to cutting federal entitlements to reduce the federal deficit, despite previously campaigning on protecting Medicare and Social Security. Asked by CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, whether entitlements would ever be on his plate, Trump responded, "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," he added. Asked by CNBC whether he was willing "to do some of the things that you said you wouldn't do in the past, though, in terms of Medicare," Trump said: "We're going look." "I mean we've never had growth like this. We never had a consumer that was taking in, through -- different means, over $10,000 a family," he said. During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he wouldn't have to touch Social Security because his plan to boost economic growth to at least 4% would take care of the entitlement's long-term problems.

By Elliot Hannon

If you needed a reminder of what’s at stake in President Trump’s impeachment trial currently underway in the Senate, the danger Trump’s pattern of behavior poses for all of us for as long as he is president, Rep. Adam Schiff cut through the moral clutter Thursday during his closing statement. It’s been a long three years, and even if you know Trump committed a crime or simply violated the oath of his office, it’s easy to be lulled into the GOP-induced nihilism that maybe this isn’t such a big deal, maybe it’s normal, and finally maybe it’s too much, too far to remove a president, even Donald Trump, from office for it. To this ethical fog, created by Republican relativism, Schiff provides a succinct and often stirring rebuttal, reminding reasonable, likeminded Americans, first, to trust themselves. Schiff then makes the case for why Trump is dangerous to America’s national interest and thereby dangerous to Americans themselves.

By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) More than two months after announcing a review of his work, The Hill newspaper has yet to complete its promised evaluation of columns written by John Solomon, a former executive at the outlet who during his time at the publication pushed conspiracy theories about Ukraine into the public conversation. It's unusual for a newsroom to take so long to review stories that have been so fiercely disputed by individuals with first-hand knowledge of relevant events. But in a statement issued on Thursday, The Hill Editor-In-Chief Bob Cusack told CNN Business, "I appreciate you checking in regularly and I understand your need to follow up on this. Our review continues with a collective intensity and thoroughness which is needed and expected on a subject of importance."
"We cannot put an exact timetable to something this significant," Cusack added. "But we are confident it will be completed in the near future. Rest assured we'll be sharing it with you when it has been properly completed." Cusack first announced the review of work done by Solomon, who is currently a Fox News contributor, on November 18, 2019.

By John Haltiwanger

President Donald Trump appeared to order associates to "get rid of" then-US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in a newly unearthed recording reviewed by ABC News, which was first reported on Friday. "Get rid of her!" a voice that sounded like Trump said in the recording, according to ABC. "Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it." Trump was reportedly speaking with a group that included Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Both Parnas and Fruman have been indicted in New York and entangled in the impeachment inquiry. The president has repeatedly claimed he does not know Parnas, including after Parnas offered damning details of the smear campaign he was involved in against Yovanovitch in recent interviews. Trump and Parnas have been photographed together.

Trump apparently heard discussing firing Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
By Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, Allison Pecorin and Olivia Rubin

Trump has said repeatedly he does not know Parnas, a Soviet-born American who has emerged as a wild card in Trump’s impeachment trial, especially in the days since Trump was impeached. "Get rid of her!" is what the voice that appears to be President Trump’s is heard saying. "Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it." During the conversation, several of the participants can be heard laughing with the president. At another point, the recording appears to capture Trump praising his new choice of secretary of state, saying emphatically: “[Mike] Pompeo is the best.” But the most striking moment comes when Parnas and the president discuss the dismissal of his ambassador to Ukraine. Parnas appears to say: "The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we gotta get rid of the ambassador. She's still left over from the Clinton administration," Parnas can be heard telling Trump. "She's basically walking around telling everybody 'Wait, he's gonna get impeached, just wait." (Yovanovitch actually had served in the State Department since the Reagan administration.)

By Colin Dwyer

Just hours before President Trump was to address thousands of anti-abortion rights activists at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., his administration has given its attendees reason to cheer. The Office of Civil Rights, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced Friday that it is taking action against California for requiring private insurers to cover abortions. The office says the requirement, implemented in 2014, violates federal conscience protections for health care providers that refuse to perform certain services on religious or moral grounds. "Regardless of what one thinks about the legality of abortion, the American people have spoken with one voice to say that people should not be forced to participate, pay for or cover other people's abortions," office Director Roger Severino told reporters on a conference call ahead of the formal announcement.

"The Weldon amendment is very clear," Severino added, referring to a federal measure that was passed by Congress more than a decade ago and repeatedly renewed as part of the department's appropriations. "If states receive federal funds from HHS and other agencies, they cannot discriminate against health plans that decline to cover or pay for abortions — period, full stop." The notice issued to California on Friday demands that the state "signal its intent to come into compliance with the law or face appropriate action." However, Severino declined to detail the exact timeline or nature of that penalty — suggesting only that the appropriated funds California receives from HHS may be in jeopardy.

By Corbin Davenport

Huawei's battle with the United States over trade bans is still very much alive, nearly a year after the White House initially called Huawei a security risk. Several American companies have continued to sell components to Huawei under special licenses, and now the Commerce Department and the Defense Department are sparring over more limits on Huawei trade. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday that new rules were in development that would further limit U.S. companies from supplying Huawei. "They are works in progress that will come out near-term," he said during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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