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US Monthly Headline News January 2020 Page 1

By Nicole Gaouette and Jennifer Hansler, CNN

Washington (CNN) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday defended the basis for killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani because of the threat of an imminent strike but declined to present any evidence, saying President Donald Trump's decision was "entirely legal." "There's been much made about this question of intelligence and imminence," Pompeo said at the State Department. "Any time a president makes a decision of this magnitude, there are multitude pieces of information that come before him." "It's the right decision, we got it right, the Department of Defense did excellent work," he said, adding that it was an "entirely legal decision."

Pompeo made his remarks as questions continue to mount about the justification for the strike as well as the administration's overall level of strategic planning for the fallout from killing the second most powerful man in Iran. Pompeo spoke a day after the Pentagon issued contradictory and confusing signals about whether US troops would be pulled from Iraq and Trump doubled down on his threats to strike Iranian cultural sites -- an international war crime that Pompeo had earlier tried to deny the President had said at all. His appearance Tuesday failed to clear up lingering uncertainty or quell calls for more information.

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent

Washington (CNN) US forces and air-defense missile batteries across the Middle East were placed on high alert overnight Monday to possibly shoot down Iranian drones as intelligence mounted about a threat of an imminent attack against US targets, two US officials tell CNN. The alert reflects the heightened tensions between the US and Iran in the wake of last week's US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani. US officials have claimed the strike against the general was carried out to prevent an "imminent" attack in the region that would have put American lives at risk, but have so far declined to provide details about the intelligence.

US intelligence also has observed Iran moving military equipment, including drones and ballistic missiles, over the last several days. US officials said the movement may be an Iranian effort to secure its weapons from a potential US strike, or put them in positions to launch their own attacks. "There were indications that we needed to monitor the threats" even more closely than is already being done, one of the US officials said, referring to Monday night's state of heightened alert. The second official described it as "all Patriot batteries and forces in the area on high alert" against an "imminent attack threat." Iran has put missiles on its drones that have been used in other attacks, including a significant attack on Saudi oil installations last year. While forces have already been on high alert for several days, they were even more vigilant Monday night, both officials said.

By Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN) Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday contradicted President Donald Trump by asserting the US would not target Iranian cultural sites amid rising tensions after a US strike killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani. "We will follow the laws of armed conflict," Esper told CNN Monday. When pressed if that meant not targeting Iranian cultural sites, Esper replied, "That's the laws of armed conflict." The comments come one day after Trump reiterated his threat to target Iranian cultural sites in a conversation with reporters aboard Air Force One.

"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, and we're not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn't work that way," Trump said, according to a pool report. The threats have been met with criticism because it is against international law to target cultural rather than military sites, and the US military's policy has long been to avoid striking areas of cultural importance. Two senior US officials told CNN Sunday there was widespread opposition within the administration to targeting cultural sites in Iran should the United States launch retaliatory strikes against Tehran.

"Nothing rallies people like the deliberate destruction of beloved cultural sites. Whether ISIS's destruction of religious monuments or the burning of the Leuven Library in WWI, history shows targeting locations giving civilization meaning is not only immoral but self-defeating," one of the officials told CNN. "The Persian people hold a deeply influential and beautiful history of poetry, logic, art and science. Iran's leaders do not live up to that history. But America would be better served by leaders who embrace Persian culture, not threaten to destroy it," they added. "Consistent with laws and norms of armed conflict, we would respect Iranian culture," the second senior US official said.

By Morgan Chalfan

President Trump on Monday demanded that his impeachment trial end quickly in the Senate, accusing House Democrats of a “con game” to help their chances during the 2020 election contest. Trump lashed out against impeachment in a series of tweets, deriding it as a “scam,” “hoax” and “witch hunt” and saying it was “sad” that Democrats were focused on impeaching him at a time when he is “so busy.”

“The Impeachment Hoax, just a continuation of the Witch Hunt which started even before I won the Election, must end quickly,” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “Read the Transcripts, see the Ukrainian President’s strong statement, NO PRESSURE — get this done,” Trump continued, referring to the record of his calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, one of which is at the center of his impeachment.

“It is a con game by the Dems to help with the Election!” Trump alleged. “This was not what the Founders had in mind!” Trump later wrote, noting that the Democratic-controlled House voted to impeach him last month without any Republican support.

By Kylie Atwood and Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) Former White House national security adviser John Bolton said Monday he is willing to testify — if he is subpoenaed — in the Senate's impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Bolton issued a statement Monday after the courts did not rule whether he would be compelled to testify during the House's impeachment proceedings, saying he was trying to meet his "obligations both as a citizen and as former national security adviser."

"Accordingly, since my testimony is once again at issue, I have had to resolve the serious competing issues as best I could, based on careful consideration and study," Bolton said. "I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify." Bolton is potentially a crucial witness, as he had firsthand knowledge of many of the events that formed the House's impeachment of the President over his dealings with Ukraine. The House sought his testimony but ultimately never subpoenaed Bolton, and Democrats withdrew their subpoena for his former deputy after it was challenged in court, as Democrats wanted to move forward with their impeachment probe and not wait for the court's decision.

Bolton's statement is likely to put new pressures from Democrats on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow witnesses in the Senate trial, which Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic House leaders have pushed for. So far, McConnell has resisted Schumer's calls to have witnesses in the Senate trial, instead calling for an agreement on the rules of the Senate trial that would put off the question of witnesses until later on.

By Hansi Lo Wang - Square

More than a year after his death, a cache of computer files saved on the hard drives of Thomas Hofeller, a prominent Republican redistricting strategist, is becoming public. Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina fought in court to keep copies of these maps, spreadsheets and other documents from entering the public record. But some files have already come to light in recent months through court filings and news reports.

They have been cited as evidence of gerrymandering that got political maps thrown out in North Carolina, and they have raised questions about Hofeller's role in the Trump administration's failed push for a census citizenship question. Now more of the files are available online through a website called The Hofeller Files, where Hofeller's daughter, Stephanie Hofeller, published a link to her copy of the files on Sunday after first announcing her plans in a tweet last month.

"These are matters that concern the people and their franchise and their access to resources. This is, therefore, the property of the people," Hofeller told NPR. "I won't be satisfied that we the people have found everything until we the people have had a look at it in its entirety."

"A hunch that maybe something was wrong"
Her decision to put the files online herself is just the latest twist in a series of one astonishing event after another.

A treasure trove that led to bombshells
Since then, the Hofeller files have led to bombshell developments in two major legal battles in the political world.

By David Voreacos and Neil Weinberg

Shell companies have come under attack for obscuring illicit money flowing into real estate. But it turns out they’re also a problem for the Pentagon. Some Defense Department suppliers have used such front companies to fraudulently win manufacturing bids, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office study of Defense Department contractors.

In some cases, the shell companies helped contractors obscure that they were making U.S. military equipment abroad, the GAO said, posing a risk to national security and quality control. More often, they were used to win contracts meant for companies owned by disabled veterans or minorities, it said.

The government watchdog reviewed 32 cases that made their way to criminal prosecutions or lawsuits between 2012 and 2018. Taken together, they illustrate how the Pentagon’s $350 billion in annual contracting can be gamed using companies that exist largely on paper.

By Zachary Cohen, Vicky Ward and Pamela Brown, CNN

Washington (CNN) The Trump administration has warned members of Congress that Iran is expected to retaliate against the US "within weeks" for the strike that killed Qasem Soleimani even as they failed to convince some that the operation was merited due to an imminent threat against American lives. There are also intense discussions taking place inside US military and intelligence agencies to assess whether Iran might be preparing some type of retaliatory strikes in the next few days or wait for some time, according to a US official with direct knowledge of the situation. "There are conflicting views" on whether Iran will quickly retaliate or wait, but US military defenses are ready, the official said. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley publicly addressed the issue of potential retaliation from Iran Friday. When asked whether there is now a risk to US safety in the region, Milley bluntly said, "Damn right there is risk."

By Frida Ghitis

(CNN) The praise or condemnation President Donald Trump is drawing for the latest US actions in the Middle East in no way diminishes the power of the legal bombshell that just exploded in the United States with new evidence of his behavior regarding Ukraine. Newly revealed documents paint an incriminating picture, showing administration officials anxiously struggling to follow orders from Trump himself despite concerns that the order could go against the national security interests of the United States and warnings from the Pentagon that it could be illegal. The emails are the portrait of a corrupt policy and an effort to conceal it -- a tug of war between two sets of government officials, one side trying to protect American security and follow the law, another working to enforce direct orders of the President of the United States.

The documents, obtained through the work of the Center for Public Integrity and later, in their unredacted versions, revealed by the online legal forum Just Security, show that administration officials knew Trump was ordering them to do something possibly illegal. Just hours after Trump's infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky -- the one Trump absurdly calls "perfect" during which he requested a "favor" from Ukraine -- Michael Duffey, at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), emailed the Pentagon to put a hold on aid to Ukraine and said to keep the decision secret "given the sensitive nature of the request."

The administration has slashed the resources and outreach needed to make sure that everyone is counted.
By Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy Action

Last summer, the Trump administration made a highly controversial attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a move rightly criticized as likely to depress the count of immigrants and their families. What didn’t make the headlines were a number of other under-the-radar decisions made by the administration despite having equal potential to keep noncitizens in our communities from being included — as well as many others from disadvantaged groups that have been historically undercounted.

This coming year, as at the start of every new decade, the government will undertake a simple but fundamental task enshrined in the Constitution: an accurate count of the national population. The census lays the foundation for much of what constitutes our democracy — determining the proper distribution of political representation, ensuring voting rights and providing a fair and adequate distribution of federal funding for our communities.

By Gregory Wallace, CNN

(CNN) A federal judge has directed the Commerce Department to review and make public a large cache of previously unreleased documents related to the 2020 census and the Trump administration's effort to include a citizenship question in the survey. The documents, including emails and attachments sent to and from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others, amount to around 20,000 pages, the Justice Department told the New York trial court in December. That equates to about 40% of the pages the government had previously produced in the litigation.

The Justice Department had argued the documents should not be released in their entirety because the case has already been decided. After a Supreme Court ruling in the case last year, President Donald Trump and Ross announced they would no longer seek to add the controversial question about citizenship status, which critics believe would depress the response rate to the survey. Judge Jesse Furman, who heard the original trial in his New York courtroom in 2018, wrote Thursday that his directive was "more aggressive" than the government wanted and that he realizes it "will impose burdens on the Department of Justice." "But Defendants have no one but themselves to blame since the documents at issue should have been produced a year and a half ago," he wrote.

By Tom Porter

Tweets from back in 2011 and 2012 in which Donald Trump predicted that President Barack Obama would start a war with Iran to secure his reelection have gone viral after the US assassinated a top Iranian general, dramatically escalating its confrontation with Iran. Trump personally ordered the killing by airstrike of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who is believed to have died in the early hours of Friday near an airport in Baghdad.

The Pentagon said Soleimani, who led the Quds Force and was one of the most powerful men in the Middle East, "was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region." Trump's only statement was to tweet a picture of the US flag. Despite Trump's evident pride at the attack, many on social media seized on his previous posts where, with Obama in the White House, Trump had condemned the idea of military action against Iran as foolish electioneering.

The attorney general has gradually revealed his terrifying agenda: Who knew, and why was this concealed so long?
By Heather Digby Parton

It has long been an article of faith (no pun intended) among some on the left that the culture war was simply a cynical tool of the conservative movement to fool the rubes into voting against their economic interests. In this reading, right-wing leaders had no intention of ever following through on culture-war issues. They would string the voters along forever, promising to deliver on abortion or gay rights or guns but never really getting the job done, the assumption being that they could keep the conservative base's intensity at full throttle if those voters believed they were on the cusp of getting their agenda passed. Meanwhile, as the marks were distracted by endless culture-war skirmishes, the big money conservatives would pass laws that benefited themselves and harmed their own voters.

As it happens, it did indeed go down that way. The conservative movement benefactors made out like bandits while Republican voters got screwed economically. But the notion that the rich men in charge would never have to deliver on their culture-war promises was always wrong. Eventually, they would have to pay the piper.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled that they were ready when he withheld the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland during Barack Obama’s last year and then confirmed the Federalist Society’s darling, true blue social conservative Neil Gorsuch, as soon as Donald Trump took office. Evangelical leaders rushed to Brett Kavanaugh’s defense when he was under fire for his decadent youthful behavior and was accused of sexual assault during the confirmation hearings because they had been assured he would hew to the party line. Kavanaugh's threats to take revenge on all who opposed him probably reassured the religious right that he would vote the right way on the cases they care about.

(CNN) - CNN and BuzzFeed News on Thursday received more than 350 pages of FBI memos from key witness interviews in former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The batch includes memos about what President Donald Trump's top advisers -- including Stephen Miller, Rob Porter, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort -- told Mueller regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election and the President's attempts to obstruct the investigation. Read the documents here:

The former campaign chairman “understood his conversations with Hannity to be a message from Trump” after he came under scrutiny by the feds, according to newly released memos.
By Maxwell Tani

Paul Manafort said he used Fox News host Sean Hannity to receive backchannel messages from President Donald Trump while prosecutors investigated him for financial crimes, according to newly released memos from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Among the several hundred pages of memos published by BuzzFeed News on Thursday, which contain summaries of FBI interviews with key Trump administration and campaign officials, the Fox News anchor’s alleged role as an unofficial messenger between the president and his former campaign chairman comes into sharp focus.

According to the release, Manafort did not speak to Trump or anyone closely associated with the president or his legal team besides Hannity around the time that The New York Times and other outlets reported on a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner and a lawyer linked to the Kremlin. Manafort described Hannity as a close friend and “certainly a backchannel” to Trump, saying that he understood Hannity was in communication with the president.

Democrats in the key 2020 state are fighting the effort to slash the registration rolls in court.
By Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — A conservative law firm on Thursday asked a judge to find the Wisconsin Elections Commission in contempt and impose $12,000 a day in fines until it immediately purges more than 200,000 voters from the rolls, a move Democrats are fighting in the key battleground state.

A judge last month ordered the purge of voters who may have moved and didn't respond within 30 days to notification sent by the elections commission in October. The bipartisan commission has deadlocked twice on attempts by Republicans to do the purge immediately while an appeal to the court order is pending.

Rick Esenberg, leader of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty that brought the lawsuit, said the commission must purge the voters now. The judge in December ruled that the commission was breaking state law by not removing voters who did not respond to the October mailing asking that they confirm their address.

By Aaron Blake

One of the GOP’s chief talking points in its impeachment defense of President Trump has been this: The U.S. military aid to Ukraine was withheld, yes, but it was released without any quid pro quo being satisfied. Ipso facto, nothing to see here. That already strained talking point suffered a significant blow Thursday.

Just Security’s Kate Brannen was able to view unredacted emails in which the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department discussed the withholding of military aid. The big new takeaway is that there was significant concern within the Pentagon about the legality and sustainability of the hold. Despite that, according to one email from top OMB official Michael Duffey on Aug. 30, there was “clear direction from POTUS to continue to hold.”

The even bigger takeaway, though, may be how much this fact was obscured. The emails were previously released in redacted form, but many of the redaction choices are puzzling and even suspicious. The redactions include repeated references to legal problems with withholding the aid, basic questions about that subject, and warnings that waiting until too late in the fiscal year (which ended Sept. 30) might mean that some of the funds would never get to Ukraine.

By Zachary Cohen, Sara Murray and Ryan Browne, CNN

Washington (CNN) In the face of warnings from the Pentagon that the hold on military aid to Ukraine could be illegal, an official from the Office of Management and Budget made it clear that the order to keep the freeze in place came directly from President Donald Trump, according to unredacted documents reviewed by Just Security. The documents, including emails from officials at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget that were released under court order last month but were either partially or completely blacked out, offer new details about tensions between the two agencies tasked with carrying out Trump's unexplained hold on aid to Ukraine.

They also raise serious questions about why the newly revealed contents were redacted by the Trump administration in the first place amid congressional oversight efforts and court orders in Freedom of Information Act litigation.

'Clear direction from POTUS'

Among the documents viewed by Just Security, a website focusing on reporting and analysis of national security law and policy, was an August 30 email from Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at OMB to Elaine McCusker, the acting Pentagon comptroller, stating the freeze on aid to Ukraine would continue at the explicit direction of the President despite growing legal concerns within the Pentagon and mounting external questions prompted by news of the hold becoming public just days prior.

Heard on All Things Considered
By Dan Charles

In 2019, the federal government delivered an extraordinary financial aid package to America's farmers. Farm subsidies jumped to their highest level in 14 years, most of them paid out without any action by Congress. The money flowed to farmers like Robert Henry. When I visited in early July, many of his fields near New Madrid, Mo., had been flooded for months, preventing him from working in them. The soybeans that he did manage to grow had fallen in value; China wasn't buying them, in retaliation for the Trump administration's tariffs.

That's when the government stepped in. Some of the aid came from long-familiar programs. Government-subsidized crop insurance covered some of the losses from flooding. Other payments were unprecedented. The U.S. Department of Agriculture simply sent him a check to compensate him for the low prices resulting from the trade war. " 'Trump money' is what we call it," Henry said. "It helped a lot. And it's my understanding, they're going to do it again."

Indeed, a few weeks later, the USDA announced another $16 billion in trade-related aid to farmers. It came on top of the previous year's $12 billion package, for a grand total of $28 billion in two years. About $19 billion of that money had been paid out by the end of 2019, and the rest will be paid in 2020.

The case has been brought by the father of a child killed in the Sandy Hook mass school shooting in 2012.

Mr Jones has long claimed on his show and Infowars site that the attack was "completely fake" and a "giant hoax". Twenty children - all under the age of 10 - and six adults were killed. In a 20 December ruling, Judge Scott Jenkins of Travis County District Court in Texas said Mr Jones and his lawyer had intentionally disregarded an October court order to produce witnesses and other materials to the plaintiff in the lawsuit, Neil Heslin, US media report.

Mr Heslin's son, six-year-old Jesse Lewis, was killed in the shooting. The judge said their failure to co-operate "should be treated as contempt of court". In two separate orders issued the same day, the judge told Mr Jones to pay $65,825 and $34,323 in lawyer fees incurred by Mr Heslin. Added to an earlier October order against Infowars, Mr Jones and Infowars have been ordered to pay $126,023.80 over the case, even before it reaches trial, reports say.

By Christina Zhao

Conservative attorney George Conway, who's also the husband of Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, on Monday agreed with a prediction that Donald Trump will have an "unhinged, delusional, narcissistic" meltdown during his upcoming State of the Union (SOTU) address over the ongoing impeachment proceedings against him.

Two days after the Democrat-led House approved two articles of impeachment against Trump—obstruction of Congress and abuse of power—Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited the president to deliver his annual SOTU remarks in early February. White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley confirmed that Trump accepted Pelosi's offer.

Following Trump's impeachment, Pelosi also indicated that she will hold off from transmitting articles of impeachment to the Senate until Republicans agree to a fair trial.

"This week, the House solemnly honored our oath of office by passing the articles of impeachment," Pelosi wrote in a letter to her Democratic colleagues. "It now remains for the Senate to present the rules under which we will proceed."

By Jeffery Martin

As President Donald Trump continued to claim there is no case for impeachment against him, attorney George Conway took to Twitter Tuesday to ask the president why none of his "people" were allowed to testify during the hearings.

Not only did Trump himself refuse to participate in the impeachment hearings against him, he also forbade members of his administration to testify. After the articles of impeachment were passed by the House of Representatives in December, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi then announced that she would not send the articles to Congress until some witnesses who refused to involve themselves with the impeachment hearing would testify at the actual trial.

Conway, who is the husband of Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, has publicly disagreed with Trump on more than one occasion. "Read the Transcripts!" Trump tweeted Tuesday. echoing a theme he has often returned to. "I did," replied Conway. "They damn you. They make clear that you're a criminal. Is that why you don't want testimony at your upcoming trial?"

By Hansi Lo Wang

The citizenship question the Trump administration wanted to add to the 2020 census would have likely been especially sensitive in areas with higher shares of Latinx residents and noncitizens. That's among the Census Bureau's final conclusions from its recent experiment testing public reaction to the question.

If courts had not blocked the question from appearing on census forms, it would have also likely lowered self-response rates in parts of the U.S. where Asian residents make up between 5% and 20% of the population, according to the Census Bureau's final report on the national experiment conducted earlier this year.

The findings released on Monday flesh out preliminary analysis the bureau put out in October when officials announced the question likely would not have had a significant effect on overall self-response rates.

Digging deeper into specific groups, however, the bureau did find statistically significant differences between certain households asked to fill out a test census form with a citizenship question and those presented with forms without one.

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter

Washington (CNN)As the country faces unprecedented rancor between the branches of government in the midst of impeachment proceedings, Chief Justice John Roberts urged his fellow federal judges Tuesday to promote confidence in the judiciary and maintain the public's trust. Americans, Roberts said, have in the modern era come to "take democracy for granted," and the chief justice lamented the fact that civic education has "fallen by the wayside." "In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," Roberts wrote in his annual report on the state of the judiciary, issued each New Year's Eve.

By Caroline Kelly and Ryan Browne, CNN

(CNN) The United States will send approximately 750 soldiers to the Middle East immediately, Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed in a written statement Tuesday, after attacks broke out in Baghdad among hundreds of protesters in response to airstrikes in Iraq and Syria conducted by US forces on Sunday. "At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division (in Fort Bragg, North Carolina) to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq," Esper said, adding that additional forces "are prepared to deploy over the next several days."

"This deployment is an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against U.S. personnel and facilities, such as we witnessed in Baghdad today. The United States will protect our people and interests anywhere they are found around the world," Esper added. In a statement earlier Tuesday, Esper said the US would deploy "additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy" and that officials had "taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats" serving in Iraq. "As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, and we call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so," Esper said.

At Trump’s luxury South Florida resort, the president is just another guy in the buffet line.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — At the White House, people who want to meet with Donald Trump have to deal with schedulers, scores of aides hovering around the president and a strict security protocol. At Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s luxury South Florida resort where he typically spends Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the president is just another guy in the buffet line.

That’s where Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer who now volubly defends Trump on TV, ran into the president on Christmas Eve. The two were waiting to get food, and Dershowitz said he offered the president an empty plate — Trump declined and instead picked up his own — as the two discussed holiday plans. “He was in a very good mood,” Dershowitz said. “People were talking to him, people were high-fiving him. These are his people.”

By Kevin Breuninger

A new report paints the most detailed picture yet of the internal strife surrounding the White House’s freeze on hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, which is at the center of President Donald Trump’s impeachment in Congress. The report from The New York Times, constructed from interviews with dozens of officials and previously unreleased documents, sheds new light on the key figures in the Trump administration’s dealings with Kyiv.

It also probes Trump’s own insistence that the congressionally mandated military aid package be withheld as he sought investigations into Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who worked on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father served under President Barack Obama. On Tuesday morning, Trump repeated his accusations against the Bidens and his criticism of the impeachment process.

The president’s latest tweet is sure to add some more fuel to the impeachment war: a clash between Republicans and Democrats over whether the rules of Trump’s eventual trial in the Senate should allow witnesses to be heard or questioned.

By Amanda Macias

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Wednesday he will continue developing his country’s nuclear deterrent and introduce a new strategic weapon in the near future, according to the North’s state-run media KCNA. Kim’s remarks came after the United States missed a year-end deadline for a restart of denuclearization talks. The White House and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped North Korea would “choose peace.” “So, seeing that reporting publicly, it remains the case that we hope that Chairman Kim will take a different course,” Pompeo told Fox News in an interview. “We’re hopeful that ... Chairman Kim will make the right decision - he’ll choose peace and prosperity over conflict and war.” Kim convened a rare four-day meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s policy-making committee since Saturday as the United States had not responded to his repeated calls for concessions to reopen negotiations, dismissing the deadline as artificial.

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