with Mariana Alfaro
If the first week of the year is any indication, 2020 will be tumultuous, unpredictable and enormously consequential. With that in mind, here are some key dates for the coming trip around the sun that should be on your radar:
Jan. 11: Taiwan’s elections offer a referendum on relations with China. President Tsai Ing-wen, a hardliner who has supported U.S. efforts to check Beijing’s power, is up for reelection this weekend. She faces a challenge from the mayor of Kaohsiung, the island’s second-largest city, who favors closer ties with the mainland.
Jan. 14: The Democrats have their final debate before Iowa votes. Only five candidates have qualified so far to appear onstage at Drake University in Des Moines next Tuesday because of higher eligibility criteria set by the Democratic National Committee. Trump has scheduled a rally in Milwaukee for that night to counterprogram the Democratic debate. There’s speculation among the Democratic campaigns that their debate, scheduled to air on CNN, might get pushed back if it conflicts with the impeachment trial, potentially to the evening of Jan. 20, a federal holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Jan. 21-24: Trump plans to return to the World Economic Forum in Davos. His administration will send a sizable delegation to the annual gathering of the global elite.
Jan. 28: Michael Flynn is scheduled to finally be sentenced. A federal judge last month rejected the former Trump national security adviser’s attacks against the FBI and his request to find prosecutors in contempt. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington ruled there was no basis for the retired three-star Army general’s allegations that federal law enforcement officials entrapped him into accepting a plea deal from special counsel Bob Mueller for making false statements to the FBI about his Russian contacts.
Jan. 31: Brexit finally happens. The U.K. officially leaves the European Union after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s big win in last month’s elections.
Feb. 3: Democrats caucus in Iowa. The night after the Super Bowl takes place in Miami, up to 300,000 Iowans will gather across the state for hours of deliberation on a winter night. Starting with Jimmy Carter’s win in the 1976 caucuses, which put him on a glidepath to the presidency, the top individual vote-getter in the Iowa caucuses has gone on to win the Democratic nomination seven out of nine times.
Feb. 4: Trump delivers his State of the Union. That same day is the crowded Democratic primary in the special election to succeed the late Elijah Cummings in his Baltimore district. His widow is among the candidates.
Feb. 7: The eighth Democratic debate will take place in New Hampshire. ABC will air the Friday night debate from St. Anselm College outside Manchester.
Feb. 11: The New Hampshire primary is the following Tuesday. The results will significantly winnow the field.
Feb. 19: The ninth Democratic debate will be in Las Vegas and air on NBC, three days before the caucuses in Nevada.
Feb. 20: Roger Stone’s sentencing. The president’s longtime political confidant was convicted in November of seven felony counts of lying to investigators, obstructing a congressional probe and witness tampering. His crimes carry a combined maximum sentence of 50 years in prison. Stone’s lawyers secured a two-week extension from the judge last month to allow them to compile financial records.
Feb. 21: Iran holds its once-every-four-years parliamentary elections. The conflict with the United States will shadow these highly restricted contests. Recent protests against the regime appear to have given way, at least for now, to rallying around the flag after the strike on Soleimani.
Feb. 22: The Nevada caucuses offer Democrats their first racially diverse contest. Latinos could make the difference.
Feb. 25: The 10th Democratic debate will take place in Charleston, S.C. CBS will air the debate, co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. Will there any be any candidates of color left in the race? The DNC tentatively plans to sanction one debate in April and another in May, assuming the race continues, but the dates and sponsors have not been announced.
Feb. 29: The South Carolina Democratic primary is the final early-state contest. Joe Biden is counting on strong African American support as a firewall, but it could erode if he underperforms in the first three states.
March 2: Israel has its third national election in 11 months. Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor challenger Benny Gantz could assemble a majority coalition in the Knesset, their parliament, after the previous two elections. Talks broke down. So there will be an unprecedented third election in an effort to break the impasse.
March 3: About 40 percent of Democratic delegates will be awarded on Super Tuesday. Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia go to the polls. California and Texas are the two biggest delegate prizes of the whole contest. The Golden State has been terrible about tabulating results in recent years so, be warned, that it could be a few days before we know for sure who got the most delegates.
An undercard to watch that night: Former attorney general Jeff Sessions is running in Alabama to win back his old Senate seat in a crowded GOP primary. The winner will be considered the favorite in the fall against Democratic incumbent Doug Jones, who beat Roy Moore in the 2017 special election. Trump has remained angry at Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe, but Sessions is still trying to link himself closely with the president. The big question is how involved Trump gets in the race and, more specifically, whether he endorses one of Sessions’s opponents.
March 4: The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a challenge to the constitutionality of a Louisiana abortion law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have the right to admit patients at a nearby hospital. This is the first time that these nine justices will consider abortion restrictions, and it could lead to the rollback of Roe v. Wade.
March 5: OPEC meets in Vienna, Austria. What the cartel chooses to do with the global oil supply could become super significant for domestic gas prices if a hot war breaks out between the United States and Iran. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is scheduled to gather again on June 9-10. Oil prices rose above $70 a barrel today for the first time in more than three months because of this Iran donnybrook. (March 5 also happens to be the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre.)
March 10: This is being called Super Tuesday II. Michigan will be the biggest prize of the night. Bernie Sanders won a big upset over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, which foretold her weakness in the Wolverine state during the general election. Democrats also vote in Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and the state of Washington.
March 17: Democrats have primaries in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. If one candidate sweeps all four states, there will be pressure on everyone else to drop out and anoint that winner the presumptive nominee.
The big undercard on this night is the left-wing primary challenge to Rep. Dan Lipinski, an anti-abortion moderate in Chicago. He narrowly survived an expensive primary fight two years ago and faces a rematch against Marie Newman. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted over the weekend that Lipinski deserves to lose. Outside money has poured in from both sides of the abortion wars.
March 24: Georgia has the day to itself for a symbolically significant primary. Will Stacey Abrams, who lost the 2018 governor’s race but whose name still appears on list of potential vice-presidential nominees, endorse one of the Democrats?
March 29: Puerto Rico has a Democratic primary. Several of the candidates have campaigned in San Juan, with an emphasis on hurricane relief, over the past year.
April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this day, every household in America will have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. People are asked to say how many people live in their home as of April 1. In May, census takers will begin knocking on the doors of people who didn’t respond. The outcome of this count will have major impacts on redistricting for the next decade.
April 2: The Nationals play their home opener. The defending World Series champions, without a few of the guys who got us there, start the new season in New York on March 26 against the Mets and then go to Miami before coming home for their first game at Nationals Park. Opening Day has been an unofficial holiday in the District since baseball came back in 2005. This year it will be doubly so, thanks to all the fans who jumped on the bandwagon during last October’s magical run. Ticket prices on StubHub already reflect this.
For those of us who cannot wait until April for baseball, pitchers and catchers report for spring training the week of Feb. 10. And the Nats will play the Astros – in a Grapefruit League rematch of the World Series – at the stadium the two teams share in West Palm Beach on Feb. 22.
April 4: On this Saturday, Democrats will caucus in Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming and vote in a Louisiana primary. None of the states will be competitive in the general, but a not insignificant chunk of delegates will be up for grabs.
April 7: Wisconsin holds its Democratic primary. Sanders beat Clinton there by 13 points four years ago, another warning sign of her weakness across the industrial Midwest. Much will be made of what the Badger State does in the primary.
April 15: All 300 seats in South Korea’s National Assembly are on the ballot. This could turn into a referendum on Seoul’s approach toward Pyongyang, and Trump’s demands that the South contribute more toward its defense could become an issue. It’s also Tax Day here in the United States, which will be a peg for lots of stories about how much the debt has ballooned since Trump took office.
April 22: Earth Day turns 50. Big events are planned.
April 28: Six Northeastern states hold Democratic primaries. New York and Pennsylvania are the biggest prizes. Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Rhode Island also have primaries.
May 2: Kansas has its primary on a Saturday.
May 5: Indiana holds its primary the following Tuesday.
May 9: Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited Trump to come to Moscow for a parade to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Germany’s surrender in World War II. Trump has said he’s considering the invite. “I appreciate the invitation,” Trump told reporters in November. “It is right in the middle of political season, so I'll see if I can do it. But I would love to go if I could.”
May 12: A special House election in California to replace Katie Hill (D) could become competitive. She ousted GOP incumbent Steve Knight in 2018 in the 25th District, which includes parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, but she resigned this fall amid an ethics investigation into allegations that she was romantically involved with her legislative director. The former congresswoman, who identifies as bisexual, denied that. But she admitted to engaging in a consensual three-person relationship with her now-estranged husband and a woman on her campaign staff.
One of the Republicans running for the open seat is George Papadopoulos, the former Trump foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia-related contacts and served 12 days in federal prison in 2018. His remark to an Australian diplomat in 2016 that the Russians had “dirt” on Clinton over drinks at a bar in London, which was passed along to U.S. officials, helped ignite the FBI investigation of Trump’s campaign.
Nebraska and West Virginia have presidential primaries on May 12, as well.
May 19: Kentucky and Oregon hold primaries.
May 22: This is the first important deadline of the year on Capitol Hill for a “must-pass” bill. The expiration of funding for community health centers is being talked about by lawmakers in both parties as the only real shot at forcing a prescription drug price deal and some other changes to the health laws.
June 2: Democratic will vote in presidential primaries in D.C., Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. If the delegate hunt remains close, you might have candidates going to the Virgin Islands before the Democratic caucuses there on June 6. (Count me in to cover that.)
June 10: The Federal Reserve’s board meets eight times a year to decide interest rates, and Fed Chairman Jay Powell holds a news conference, including on this day. But most experts agree that how the economy is doing about six months before the election has the biggest influence on the outcome. That’s why this gathering is probably a key time for how the Fed describes the health of the economy and whether the board votes to add any more stimulus. Similar logic is why the June 5 jobs report will get a lot of coverage. But also keep an eye on the numbers in May and July.
June 10-12: Trump hosts the G-7 at Camp David. He initially announced that the summit of world leaders would take place at a golf resort he owns in Doral, Fla., but backed off under criticism and amid legal concerns that this could violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause. One flashpoint to watch will be whether Trump follows through with his announcement from last summer’s meeting that he intends to invite Putin. The Russian strongman, who has now called the shots in his country for 20 years, was kicked out of what used to the G-8 after he invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea in 2014. Trump, however, has expressed public sympathy for Putin over his pariah status, despite credible warnings that Russia is actively trying to interfere again in the U.S. presidential election on his behalf.
June 14: Trump turns 74. He will be the oldest world leader at the G-7. Three of the leading Democratic candidates vying to challenge the president in the general are also septuagenarians. Elizabeth Warren turns 71 on June 22. Sanders turns 79 on Sept. 8. And Biden turns 78 on Nov. 20. In contrast, Pete Buttigieg – who would be the youngest American president ever if he wins – turns 38 on Jan. 19.
Mid-June: The Supreme Court’s term ends. The justices are considering several cases that could lead to decisions with major political implications, including whether federal law protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination or being fired and whether the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Obama-era program that protects immigrants brought to this country as children are lawful. The court could also hand down a major Second Amendment decision and decide whether a state may withhold aid to private religious schools if it offers funding to secular ones.
July 13-16: The Democratic National Convention is in Milwaukee. You’ll probably read a lot of stories in the next few months about a contested convention, but Democrats haven’t had one since 1968.
July 24-Aug. 9: The Summer Olympics in Tokyo will overshadow politics for a few weeks. One wrinkle is that Aug. 6 is the 75th anniversary of the Enola Gay dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Aug. 9, the day of the closing ceremonies, is the anniversary of the U.S. bombing Nagasaki. V-J Day came Aug. 14.
July 31-Sept. 18: Congress is scheduled to take a 38-day summer recess. Lawmakers are scheduled to leave town again on Oct. 2 to campaign for the month before the election.
Aug. 24-27: The Republican National Convention is in Charlotte during the week before Labor Day. This will likely be every bit as much a coronation as the 2012 Democratic convention was for Barack Obama in the same city.
Sept. 18: Early voting begins in the presidential election. Minnesota is the first state that will begin voting – 46 days before the general election. Several other states will begin allowing early voting the next day. Expect a record number of voters to cast their ballots in the weeks before Election Day, continuing a trend that’s accelerated as more states have made it easier to vote by mail or get an absentee ballot. In 2016, 57.2 million Americans voted early, absentee or by mail – up from 24.9 million in 2004. In the last presidential race, more than half the votes were cast early in 16 states.
Sept. 29: The first presidential debate of the general election is at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. That’s Buttigieg’s hometown, where he just wrapped up eight years as mayor. One wildcard is that Trump has hinted he might refuse to debate.
Sept. 30: The government needs to be funded by this date, or there could be another shutdown. It seems most likely that both sides will want to avoid a showdown so close to the election, but Trump could use this deadline to demand appropriations for his border wall if he thinks picking a fight with Pelosi could be advantageous in the home stretch.
October Surprise: There always is something we don’t expect. In 2016, it was the FBI reopening the Clinton email investigation and the “Access Hollywood” tape that showed Trump boasting on a hot microphone about grabbing women by the genitals and kissing them without their content.
Oct. 5-10: The Convention on Biological Diversity meets in Kunming, China. Delegates from around the world will vote on whether to pledge to protect a third of the land and a third of the sea on Earth. The UN will convene a separate round of climate talks at some point late in the year, during which countries will declare their pledges for cutting greenhouse gas emissions over the next five years.
Oct. 7: The only vice-presidential debate is at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Which Democrat will Mike Pence face?
Oct. 15: The second presidential debate is at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oct. 22: The third and final presidential debate is scheduled for Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. This is also the day that presidential campaign committees must file their final pre-election fundraising report, which will give a last window into their financial strength for the final 12 days.
Oct. 29: The government will unveil its advance estimate of gross domestic product growth for the third quarter. This is the final read of how healthy the economy is before the election. Also, watch the stock market from Aug. 1 to Oct. 31. One of the most reliable predictors of the presidential election is whether stocks rise or fall in the three-month period. Stocks actually fell slightly during that stretch in 2016, implying a change in party control and a Trump victory.
Nov. 3: Election Day. A federal law in 1845 scheduled presidential elections for the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November so that voters in what was then an agrarian society wouldn’t need to travel on Sundays and could respect the Sabbath. While all Americans will go to the polls, voters in about half a dozen battleground states will determine whether Trump secures a second term. Could he again win the electoral college while losing the popular vote? The Senate and the House are also in play.
Nov. 4: The United States is set to complete its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. The Trump administration gave a required one-year notice in November. All the Democratic presidential candidates promise to rejoin if they win.
Nov. 9: The Mayflower arrived 400 years ago on this date. The Puritans would soon have what would be remembered as the first Thanksgiving in 1620, and the New World would never be the same. Expect the commemorations to be more sensitive to the impact on the indigenous peoples than past milestone anniversaries.
Nov. 21-22: The Saudis host the G-20 summit in Riyadh. Will Trump be a lame duck?
Dec. 31: This is the real Brexit deadline. The official exit date is at the end of this month, but there will be a transition period in which little changes as London and Brussels negotiate the future of the relationship. There’s a fine chance they go for a major break, which will lead to British businesses getting slapped with big new taxes in their biggest market, the European Union, and an uncertain future for the millions of Brits living in Europe and Europeans living in Britain. But Johnson, the prime minister, says Britain will be fully split from the E.U. by the end of this year come hell or high water.
Heather Long, Juliet Eilperin, Robert Barnes, Michael Birnbaum, David Weigel, Paul Kane, Mike DeBonis, and Tom Hamburger contributed ideas for dates.
THE WORLD IS A TINDERBOX:
-- “Trump served a bellicose brew of threats, rebukes and contempt on Sunday as he escalated tensions in the Middle East and awaited Iran's possible retaliation for the U.S. killing of one of its top generals,” Seung Min Kim and Philip Rucker report. “Trump projected a wartime posture as he wrapped up his holiday vacation, reiterating that if Iran took military action against the United States, he may order attacks on Iranian cultural sites, which could constitute a war crime under international law ... Trump threatened Iraq as well. He countered the Iraqi parliament's move Sunday to try to expel foreign troops, including U.S. forces, by telling reporters that he would respond by imposing ‘very big sanctions’ on the nation and demanding that Iraq reimburse the United States for the billions of dollars it had invested in a major air base there. Trump also flouted protocols at home, making a mockery of his necessity to advise Congress of military action by writing on Twitter that his tweets would serve as official notification of strikes. …
“The president's vow to target Iranian sites of historic and cultural significance prompted particular concern. On Twitter late Saturday, Trump said that the United States was targeting 52 Iranian sites, representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran four decades ago, and that some of those are ‘a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture.’ The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property bans the targeting of cultural sites with military action; there is a provision that allows for a waiver due to ‘military necessity.’ Iran has 24 locations on the U.N. list of cultural world heritage sites. … Trump’s tough talk is emblematic of a president who has flouted the tenets of international and U.S. law on war crimes. He has insisted that enhanced interrogation tactics such as waterboarding work, suggested killing terrorists’ families to fight the Islamic State and two months ago cleared three members of the U.S. armed services accused or convicted of war crimes over objections from senior military officials.”
-- Nancy Pelosi announced overnight the House will vote on a war powers resolution this week to limit Trump’s military actions against Iran. The speaker told fellow House Democrats in a letter that the strike on Soleimani was a “provocative and disproportionate military airstrike targeting high-level Iranian military officials” that endangered members of the U.S. military, diplomats and others. Pelosi said lawmakers were concerned the Trump administration acted without consulting Congress. Pelosi said the resolution would mandate that “if no further Congressional action is taken, the Administration’s military hostilities with regard to Iran cease within 30 days.”
“She said the House will introduce and vote on a resolution similar to one that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced in the Senate last week,” Donna Cassata reports. “Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a former CIA and Pentagon analyst specializing in Shiite militias, will spearhead the resolution in the House. The measure is likely to pass in the Democratic-controlled House and put Republicans on record on the issue, but won’t go far in the GOP-led Senate.”
-- Soleimani’s killing follows a long push from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for aggressive action against Iran. John Hudson, Josh Dawsey, Shane Harris and Dan Lamothe report: “Pompeo had lost a similar high-stakes deliberation last summer when Trump declined to retaliate militarily against Iran after it downed a U.S. surveillance drone, an outcome that left Pompeo ‘morose,’ according to one U.S. official. But recent changes to Trump’s national security team and the whims of a president anxious about being viewed as hesitant in the face of Iranian aggression created an opening for Pompeo to press for the kind of action he had been advocating. The greenlighting of the airstrike near Baghdad airport represents a bureaucratic victory for Pompeo, but it also carries multiple serious risks: another protracted regional war in the Middle East; retaliatory assassinations of U.S. personnel stationed around the world; an interruption in the battle against the Islamic State; the closure of diplomatic pathways to containing Iran’s nuclear program; and a major backlash in Iraq … ‘Taking out Soleimani would not have happened under [former secretary of defense Jim] Mattis,’ said a senior administration official who argued that the Mattis Pentagon was risk-averse. … Mattis declined to comment. …
“Trump chose Pompeo to appear on all of the Sunday news shows … But critics inside and outside the administration have questioned Pompeo’s justification for the strike based on his claims that ‘dozens if not hundreds’ of American lives were at risk. Lawmakers left classified briefings with U.S. intelligence officials on Friday saying they heard nothing to suggest that the threat posed by the proxy forces guided by Soleimani had changed substantially in recent months. When repeatedly pressed on Sunday about the imminent nature of the threats, whether it was days or weeks away, or whether they had been foiled by the U.S. airstrike, Pompeo dismissed the questions. Some defense officials said Pompeo’s claims of an imminent and direct threat were overstated, and they would prefer that he make the case based on the killing of the American contractor and previous Iranian provocations. Critics have also questioned how an imminent attack would be foiled by killing Soleimani, who would not have carried out the strike himself. ...
“Following the strike, Pompeo has held back-to-back phone calls with his counterparts around the globe but has received a chilly reception from European allies, many of whom fear that the attack puts their embassies in Iran and Iraq in jeopardy and has now eliminated the chance to keep a lid on Iran’s nuclear program. ‘We have woken up to a more dangerous world,’ said France’s Europe minister, Amelie de Montchalin. …
“A critical moment for Pompeo is nearing as he faces growing questions about a potential Senate run, though some GOP insiders say that decision seems to have stalled. Pompeo has kept in touch with Ward Baker, a political consultant who would probably lead the operation, and others in [Mitch] McConnell’s orbit, about a bid. But Pompeo hasn’t committed one way or the other, people familiar with the conversations said. Some people close to the secretary say he has mixed feelings about becoming a relatively junior senator from Kansas after leading the State Department and CIA, but there is little doubt in Pompeo’s home state that he could win.”
-- Iran said Sunday that it is suspending its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal and will abandon the accord's "final restrictions" on uranium enrichment and other activities unless U.S. sanctions are lifted. Erin Cunningham reports: "The government announced the move in a statement carried by state news agencies. … It added that Iran will continue to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog. ...
“Iraq’s caretaker prime minister urged parliament on Sunday to take ‘urgent measures’ to force the withdrawal of foreign forces following the strike. In an address to the legislature, Adel Abdul Mahdi recommended that the government establish a timetable for the departure of foreign troops, including the members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State militant group, ‘for the sake of our national sovereignty.’ … Lawmakers responded by passing a nonbinding resolution calling on the government to end the foreign troop presence in Iraq. But Abdul Mahdi, who resigned in November and has been serving in a caretaker role, is not legally authorized to sign the bill into law. As a result, the vote Sunday did not immediately imperil the U.S. presence in Iraq, but it highlights the head winds the Trump administration faces after the strike.
-- Despite Trump’s threats last night, experts believe ending America’s military presence in Iraq may not be that hard. Louisa Loveluck reports: “Unlike most deployments stretching back to the aftermath the 9/11 attacks, American troops in Iraq are not operating under a conventional Status of Forces agreement approved by the Iraqi parliament … Instead, the current military presence is based on an arrangement dating from 2014 that’s less formal, and ultimately, based on the consent of an executive which yesterday told the troops to get out. So, with the stroke of a pen, the 5,000-strong force could technically be asked to leave.”
-- Some of the 52 American hostages who were detained by Iran in 1979, who Trump cited when threatening to destroy the 52 Iranian sites, said they would rather not be mentioned by the president. From the Los Angeles Times: “Even though four decades have passed since Iranian protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took the Americans hostage, resulting in a 444-day ordeal, those wounds continue to haunt Americans. … William J. Daugherty, a 72-year-old former CIA case officer who lives in Georgia, said he didn’t believe Iran’s proxy war capability had taken a hit because of Suleimani’s death. ‘Suleimani has already been replaced,’ Daugherty said. ‘I’m not sure killing him will have any positive result.’”
-- A government website was “defaced” with pro-Iran messages and an image of a bloodied Trump. Hackers have claimed responsibility. (Allyson Chiu)
-- A former head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard threatened to turn Israeli cities “to dust” if the U.S. attacks 52 targets in Iran. “If America takes any measures after our military response, we will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust,” tweeted Mohsen Rezai, who currently heads the Expediency Council, a top state body. (Yahoo)
-- The Arab states in the Gulf, faced with the possibility of becoming Iran’s targets for retaliation against the U.S., are trying to keep tensions between Tehran and Washington from spiraling out of control From Bloomberg News: “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has instructed his younger brother, Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman, to travel to Washington and London in the next few days to urge restraint, the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported … The U.A.E.’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, called for ‘rational engagement' .... In Tehran, Qatar’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss ‘measures to maintain the security and stability of the region,’ state-run Qatar News Agency reported.”
-- The Department of Homeland Security stopped dozens of Iranian Americans and Iranians as they attempted to cross Washington state’s border with Canada. From the Times: “More than 60 of the travelers, many returning from work trips or vacations, were trying to come home to the United States on Saturday when agents at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Blaine, Wash., held them for additional questioning about their political views and allegiances, according to advocacy groups and accounts from travelers. Most of the travelers were released after the extra scrutiny, according to administration officials, although advocates said some were denied entry into the United States. Masih Fouladi, an executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said some were held in a waiting room and questioned for up to 10 hours. … When one family asked agents why they were being questioned, an officer told them, ‘This is a bad time to be an Iranian,’ according to Mr. Fouladi, whose group has spoken to the travelers. … Matt Leas, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, disputed the accounts and reports from advocacy groups that [DHS] had issued a directive to detain those with Iranian heritage entering the country, despite their citizenship status.”
-- A woman in Portland, Ore., allegedly tried to choke a Muslim student with her own hijab. Katie Shepherd reports: “Jasmine Renee Campbell allegedly tried to choke the student, who is Muslim, with her hijab before the victim shoved the attacker away. Prosecutors said in a statement Campbell then ripped the woman’s hijab from her head. … The affidavit also alleges Campbell mocked the victim’s religion and made fun of her hijab. The frightening encounter ended in an arrest after witnesses called the police, but left the Portland State University exchange student, who isn’t being named by law enforcement officials, afraid to wear her religious garb in public. On Friday, prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant after 23-year-old Campbell failed to appear in court for her arraignment on five misdemeanor charges.”
-- Al-Shabab militants launched a predawn attack Sunday on an airstrip used by the U.S. and Kenyan militaries, on Kenya's coast near the border with Somalia, killing one U.S. service member and two American private contractors. Two other American contractors were wounded and were being evacuated in stable condition, according to a U.S. military statement. Max Bearak reports from Nairobi:
“The attack marked a rare successful incursion by al-Shabab into a foreign military compound, let alone one outside its usual operating grounds in Somalia and one used by U.S. Special Forces and other defense personnel. Residents and tourists in the Lamu region reported seeing a plume of smoke and hearing gunfire at 3:30 a.m. that continued until midmorning. It was unclear exactly how the attack unfolded, but pictures of the aftermath indicated that al-Shabab was able to detonate explosives where U.S. military equipment such as helicopters and other aircraft would have been stationed. The U.S. military statement said reports indicated damage to six ‘contractor-operated civilian aircraft.’ U.S. forces train Kenyan soldiers at a base attached to the airstrip known as Camp Simba, and they use the airstrip for aerial missions against al-Shabab in Somalia. … Kenyan Defence Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Njuguna said the bodies of five attackers were found. …
“Al-Shabab, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, has mounted a string of attacks in Kenya recently, including multiple ambushes on passenger buses traveling in the region close to the Somali border. Last Saturday, the group bombed a busy intersection in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing at least 80 people."
-- Venezuela’s last democratic institution fell after President Nicolás Maduro attempted a de facto takeover of the National Assembly in a move orchestrated to rob international credibility from Juan Guaidó, who had led the legislative body and nearly a year ago staked a rival claim as head of state. Rachelle Krygier and Anthony Faiola report: “The dramatic events marked a sharp escalation in Maduro’s gambit to end Guaidó’s quest to unseat him and sparked immediate condemnation by Washington, which has strongly backed the 36-year-old opposition leader. Opposition officials declared the move an effective ‘parliamentary coup’ meant to consolidate Maduro’s near-dictatorial powers. … Later Sunday, Guaidó sought to counter the move by gathering opposition lawmakers at the headquarters of El Nacional, a local newspaper, to cast an official vote. In a 100-to-0 tally — enough to put him over the top in a full session of the 167-seat chamber — those present reelected Guaidó as head of the legislature. Twenty-eight of the 100 were votes from stand-ins of exiled lawmakers. But Maduro, in an address to the nation, hailed what he called the National Assembly’s ‘new leadership.’ …
“Opposition officials have warned since last month that Maduro’s government was handing out suitcases of cash to woo lawmakers. But they thought they had successfully countered the operation, and on Sunday, Guaidó began the day anticipating his reelection as head of the National Assembly, viewed internationally as the last democratic institution in the authoritarian South American state."
-- Masked assailants injured more than 30 students and professors at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Joanna Slater and Niha Masih report: “The incident comes at a moment of high political tension in India, where hundreds of thousands of people — including many students — have participated in protests against a controversial citizenship law passed last month. The law creates an expedited path to citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from three countries, a move that critics say is discriminatory and unconstitutional. The violence at the university was not directly connected to the citizenship law but was rooted in a separate dispute roiling the campus over fees that also pitted student supporters of the government against its opponents."
-- Rains have brought relief to Australia amid devastating fires, but the huge blazes are expected to continue. From the BBC: “Sooty rain fell down the east coast, from Sydney to Melbourne, with ‘torrential’ rain reported in some parts of New South Wales (NSW). But on Sunday night officials warned temperatures would rise by Thursday. They also said huge fires in Victoria and New South Wales could meet to create a larger ‘mega blaze.’ ‘There is no room for complacency,’ NSW state Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned on Monday morning. ‘This morning it is all about recovery, making sure people who have been displaced have somewhere safe.’ … The weekend saw some of the worst days of the crisis so far, with hundreds more properties destroyed. Rural towns and major cities saw red skies, falling ash and smoke that clogged the air. But by Monday, there were no emergency warnings in fire-ravaged states, following the weather change.”
-- Russia announced a plan to “use the advantages” of climate change. From the Guardian: “The document, published on the government’s website on Saturday, outlines a plan of action and acknowledges changes to the climate are having a ‘prominent and increasing effect’ on socioeconomic development, people’s lives, health and industry. … It lists preventive measures such as dam building or switching to more drought-resistant crops, as well as crisis preparations including emergency vaccinations or evacuations in case of a disaster. The plan says climate change poses risks to public health, endangers permafrost, and increases the likelihood of infections and natural disasters. It also can lead to species being pushed out of their usual habitats.”
-- Trump’s trade war is making lobbyists rich – sometimes by undercutting small-business owners. From ProPublica: “Overall, Trump’s tariffs have not had the effect that the self-described ‘Tariff Man’ promised. Companies have moved manufacturing out of China — and it has mostly gone to Vietnam, Taiwan and Mexico. Tariffs are chiefly behind a months-long decline in domestic manufacturing, Federal Reserve researchers have found. The total loss of jobs across the economy may be as high as 300,000. But constantly up-in-the-air trade agreements and the byzantine, opaque exclusion process has been a blessing for one set of players: Washington’s influence industry, including the firms of former Trump officials and allies like inauguration committee chief Brian Ballard, former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and Trump fundraiser Marc Lampkin."
-- U.S. tensions with China will outlast the trade war, the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos writes in a new piece on America’s future with China: “Eight American Presidents, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama, employed a strategy known as ‘engagement,’ based on the conviction that embracing China politically and economically would eventually make it more profitable and liberal. Despite China’s flagrant abuses of intellectual property and human rights, the strategy enabled the largest trading relationship between any two countries in the world, with an estimated seventy thousand American companies doing business in China today. … Trump wants none of that. He has always despised trade deficits. … Trump’s idea of ‘uncoupling’—pushing factories to leave China, reducing the flow of students and technology— was a fringe position, found mostly in hawkish books such as ‘Death by China,’ by Peter Navarro, a fiery economics professor who joined Trump’s campaign as an adviser. But, once Trump was in office, his confrontational approach attracted surprising bipartisan support."
-- Former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro announced he’s endorsing Warren, just days after ending his own candidacy. Chelsea Janes reports: “In the video he released Monday, Castro, who had been the only Latino candidate in the presidential field, said he was endorsing Warren because she was ‘one candidate I see who’s unafraid to fight like hell to make sure America’s promise will be there for everyone.’ Castro, who also served as secretary of housing and urban development under [Obama], will join Warren at a town hall in Brooklyn on Tuesday.”
-- The killing of Soleimani has sparked a new debate within the Democratic presidential field about how to characterize the death of the Iranian military leader. Kim and Rucker report: “Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and [Warren] have termed the killing an ‘assassination’ — a word that others in the race have avoided or even criticized more-liberal candidates for using. Speaking Sunday on CNN, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg said he was ‘not interested in the terminology, I’m interested in the consequences’ when asked about the use of the word. But in North Carolina on Friday, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg called the phrase ‘outrageous’ as it related to Soleimani, noting that the Iranian leader was someone ‘who had an awful lot of blood on his hands.’”
-- Joe Biden said Iran is now “in the driver’s seat” in the Middle East following Soleimani’s death and the Iraqi Parliament vote to remove U.S. forces from the country. (Des Moines Register)
-- Iowa voters aren’t pummeling the Democratic candidates with questions about Iran, David Weigel reports from Iowa: “Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota spoke to Iowans for 21 minutes before she mentioned [Soleimani]. [Sanders] kicked off the day with a speech opposing ‘this dangerous path to war with Iran,’ but by the end of the day, only one voter had asked him about it. … During [Warren’s] first visit to Iowa in the new year, no voters asked about Iran at all. It was up to Warren, in a back-and-forth with reporters, to clarify her position: She would not have ordered the killing, which she called an ‘assassination,’ and would never have quit the Iran nuclear deal in the first place. … At Warren's next stop, in Dubuque, no voter asked about Iran … The story from Iran and Iraq was moving fast, all weekend — faster than candidates could respond to, and far too fast for voters to quickly process. Further escalation could reshape the Democratic race, orienting it around the role of American power for the first time. If that were to happen, polling has consistently found that the party's voters trust [Biden] on foreign policy writ large. Sanders and Warren have overlapping anti-interventionist stances that have rarely been debated in this primary. Until Friday, national security issues were so absent from the race that pollsters with CBS/YouGov, the first to conduct a survey of the caucuses since November, did not even ask about them.”
-- That CBS poll showed Sanders tied or at the top of the polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire: “He's in a first-place tie with [Biden] and Pete Buttigieg in Iowa. All three are at 23%, and each would get a similar number of delegates out of the caucuses if they were to take place today … Sanders also now has a narrow edge in New Hampshire, with a two-point lead over Biden. [Warren] has slipped in New Hampshire since November, as liberal voters have moved toward Sanders instead. … Apart from recent gains in New Hampshire, Sanders' support is still best characterized by its steadiness and strength compared to other candidates who have seen more volatility. Nearly half (47%) of his New Hampshire voters say they've definitely made up their minds. By comparison, just 15% of Biden's backers in the state describe their choice that way. In New Hampshire, 65% of Sanders' backers call themselves 'enthusiastic' about supporting him ahead of all other candidates. Sanders also leads the field on these two measures in Iowa. Forty-three percent have definitely made up their minds, and 67% feel enthusiastic in a state where enthusiasm can be an important motivator for voters to go out and caucus.”
-- If elected president, Biden would give the country a "long-overdue interval of national healing rather than a season of dramatic transformation,” writes the New Republic’s Walter Shapiro: “Even if his restorationist campaign proves successful, Biden would be destined to be a transitional president. Sometimes, more than anything, a democracy needs a chance to exhale. There is no shame in competence, knowing how to govern, and a faith that compromise in a post-Trump world is possible.”
-- Biden secured the backing of several swing-state House Democrats, including Reps. Conor Lamb and Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.) and Elaine Luria of Virginia. (Politico)
-- Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) seems likely to miss the next debate. His Iowa supporters say it doesn’t matter. Holly Bailey reports: “The New Jersey lawmaker is trudging along as several other candidates, including Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Julián Castro, have bowed out. It’s not because he’s seen a spike in the polls or a sudden influx of money. Rather, Booker’s campaign seems buoyed by the unusually large crowd of undecided voters, along with some die-hard supporters unconcerned about electability. … ‘I don’t think it matters,’ said Scott Carpenter, an Iowa City mental health advocate who decided to formally endorse Booker last month with his wife, Leslie, after it appeared he would not make the December debate. ‘What matters in Iowa is relationships, your organization, your endorsements. . . . Those are the people who influence other people to go out and stand for you on a cold February night.’”
-- Here’s something that’s missing so far from the Democratic commercials: attacks on their rivals. From the Times: “Almost universally, the Democratic ads seek to address and quell a source of national anxiety — be it about [Trump], prescription drug costs, corruption, foreign policy or a changing economy. And they’re doing it politely. … In total, Democrats spent nearly $30 million on the airwaves in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2019, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm. Not a single candidate has run a negative ad on television targeting other Democrats. The relatively placid ads of the 2020 Democratic campaign reflect the risk-averse primary contest, in which candidates have been loath to unleash any negativity on an opponent."
-- Judge Judy recorded an ad for Mike Bloomberg. From People: “The judge-turned-daytime-TV-judge, whose real name is Judy Sheindlin, first announced her endorsement for Bloomberg, 77, back in October with an op-ed in USA Today, which raised some eyebrows because he hadn’t yet announced he was running for president. … Sheindlin, 77, made her endorsement doubly real on Monday morning in a new ad for Bloomberg. … ‘America is fractured,’ she [said]. ‘People are angry with each other because of their politics and it doesn’t feel like a family anymore.’ Bloomberg’s time running the country’s largest city and his years as a businessman were key selling points, as were some of his opinions on free speech.”
-- Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III outpaced incumbent Sen. Ed Markey, who he is challenging in the Democratic primary, in fundraising during the final months of 2019. (Boston Globe)
-- Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee is taking steps to make a second run for president, this time in a bid for the Libertarian Party nomination. Chafee filed paperwork with the FEC over the weekend, creating a Lincoln Chafee for President campaign committee based in Wyoming. (WPRI)
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested changing the Senate rules to begin Trump’s impeachment trial within days if Pelosi continues to withhold the charges against Trump. Rachael Bade reports: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was unequivocal in a Senate floor speech on Friday that ‘we can’t hold a trial without the articles; the Senate’s own rules don’t provide for that.’ But Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump, floated the idea of a unilateral GOP move, saying he would work with McConnell to allow the Senate to proceed without the two charges against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The suggestion, while unlikely due to the high threshold of votes required for changing Senate impeachment rules, underscores the pressure some Trump allies feel as the president stews over the impeachment delay. ‘Well, we’re not going to let Nancy Pelosi use the rules of the Senate to her advantage,’ Graham said on Fox … ‘If we don’t get the articles this week, then we need to take matters [into] our own hands.’ … Senate rules suggest such a move would be difficult, if not impossible. It would take 60 votes to pass a resolution on impeachment outside a trial and 67 votes to change the impeachment rules. That threshold would require Democratic support, since McConnell has only 53 Republicans — and Democrats would be loath to undercut Pelosi. The idea could be moot in a matter of days. Multiple Democratic officials expect Pelosi to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate as soon as this week — though Pelosi’s office said Friday that no decision has been made and declined to detail her plans.”
-- The daughter of a deceased Republican strategist made public files that the GOP wanted sealed. From NPR: “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. … Her decision to put the files online herself is just the latest twist in a series of one astonishing event after another. It had been more than four years since Stephanie had spoken to her father after a family dispute involving the custody of her children landed in court. But on the last day of September in 2018, she ‘had a hunch that maybe something was wrong,’ according to her testimony for a lawsuit deposition. Sitting in her car parked outside a convenience store in Kentucky, she used her phone to search online for her father's name and found an obituary for Thomas Hofeller, confirming that he had died at the age of 75 more than a month earlier in August. Stephanie then reconnected with her mother, Kathleen, and visited her parents' apartment in North Carolina, where she found four external hard drives and a clear plastic bag containing 18 USB thumb drives in her father's room. Stephanie says her mother encouraged her to take the devices.”
-- U.S. regulators are mulling ordering extra simulator training for Boeing 737 Max pilots. From the Journal: “The Federal Aviation Administration months ago rejected the idea—which would entail extra costs and delays for airlines—as unnecessary. But in recent weeks, these officials said, requiring such training before returning the grounded U.S. MAX fleet to the air has gained momentum among agency and industry safety experts. … The FAA’s formal decision isn’t expected until February or later, and the situation remains fluid. An agency spokeswoman declined to comment on specifics, saying more analysis and testing is required. … Boeing has long maintained 737 MAX pilots don’t need supplemental simulator training beyond what pilots receive to fly other 737 models, a stance that many FAA officials now regard with increasing skepticism, according to the officials.”
-- The problems with the Max 737 may go beyond its software issues. From the Times: “As part of the work to return the Max to service, the company and regulators have scrutinized every aspect of the jet, uncovering new potential design flaws. … Among the most pressing issues discovered were previously unreported concerns with the wiring that helps control the tail of the Max. The company is looking at whether two bundles of critical wiring are too close together and could cause a short circuit. A short in that area could lead to a crash if pilots did not respond correctly, the people said. Boeing is still trying to determine whether that scenario could actually occur on a flight and, if so, whether it would need to separate the wire bundles in the roughly 800 Max jets that have already been built. The company says that the fix, if needed, is relatively simple.”
-- An Army officer said his mother’s deportation is “completely inhumane.” From the Times: “It has been an emotional start to the new year for Rocio Rebollar Gomez and her family. On Thursday, after 31 years in the United States, a country where she had built a life and raised three children, including a son now in the United States Army, Ms. Gomez was deported to Tijuana, Mexico, where she had little family left. That son, Second Lt. Gibram Cruz, 30, who has been in the Army for five years and rushed to be with her the day after Christmas, said he was ‘shocked’ at the way his mother was treated … Ms. Gomez, 51, was previously scheduled to self deport and that plan was known to ICE, the family’s lawyer, Tessa Cabrera, said on Friday. Instead, as the family went to an ICE office to discuss her case, Ms. Gomez was taken across the border to Tijuana without a chance to say goodbye, Ms. Cabrera said.”
-- Gun rights advocates and militia members from around the country are urging thousands of armed protesters to descend on Richmond later this month to stop Democrats from passing gun-control bills. Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella report: “What began as a handful of rural Virginia counties declaring themselves ‘Second Amendment sanctuaries’ has jumped the state’s borders and become an Internet phenomenon. Far-right websites and commenters are declaring that Virginia is the place to take a stand against what they see as a national trend of weakening gun rights. … A Nevada-based group called the Oath Keepers said it’s sending training teams to help form posses and militia in Virginia. The leader of a Georgia militia called Three Percent Security Force has posted videos and calls to arms on Facebook, urging ‘patriots’ to converge on Richmond. The right-wing YouTuber ‘American Joe Show’ warned without evidence that Virginia will cut the power grid to stop the army of protesters — one of a host of false and exaggerated rumors spreading online. Law enforcement and public safety officials say they are monitoring the situation, including several instances of threats toward Gov. Ralph Northam (D). Even some gun enthusiasts expressed concern about the potential for violence at a rally planned for the state Capitol on Jan. 20. State police briefed Northam for two hours last week, according to one state official, and the governor plans to lead an all-staff meeting this week to go over increased security procedures.”
-- Thousands rallied in New York City in a march against anti-Semitism following a series of attacks in the region. From the Times: “The violence has shaken the Jewish community in the New York area and underscored the startling rise of these types of hate crimes across the country: Anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — the nation’s three largest cities — are poised to hit an 18-year peak, according to an upcoming report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. … Speaking to the crowd on Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that New York will increase funding for security at religious institutions and will also increase the presence of the state police force and hate crimes task force in vulnerable communities. Mr. Cuomo said he also plans to propose a new state law labeling hate crimes as domestic terrorism. … At the rally, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York announced a proposal to increase federal funding to protect houses of worship and increase the capacity for local police groups to fight hate crimes.”
-- Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s sex assault trial starts today. The case against Weinstein, who has been publicly accused by more than 80 women of sexual assault and harassment, has been boiled down to five felony charges based on claims by two women. (CNN)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee responded to Trump's Twitter "announcement":
Trump's hawkish former national security adviser, who has been critical of the president lately, praised his Iran escalation:
Another good day. Iran rips the mask off the idea it ever fully complied with the nuclear deal, or that it made a strategic decision to forswear nuclear weapons. Now, it's on to the real job: effectively preventing the ayatollahs from getting such a capability.— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 5, 2020
From a former Republican congressman:
I dont believe Pompeo. His record as Secretary of State gives us no reason to.— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) January 5, 2020
This appears to be Trump's modus operandi:
The one through line in Trump’s foreign policy is the Costanza rule: Whatever Obama did, do the opposite.— Blake News (@blakehounshell) January 5, 2020
Here are some of the Iranian cultural sites that Trump could be threatening:
Several shrines are completely covered in extremely intricate geometrical cut mirrors. Going inside any of them makes you feel like Iranians have found a way to capture all of the galaxy’s stars in a single building.— Sergio Beltrán-García (@ssbeltran) January 5, 2020
And Joe Biden's campaign has fully embraced the former vice president's iconic look:
|QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say the root of much of this is Obama envy,” said Ned Price, a former CIA officer who served as an NSC spokesman under Obama, about Trump's decision to kill Soleimani. (David Nakamura)|
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Comedian Ricky Gervais hosted this year’s Golden Globes, and he called out celebrities for pretending to be “woke,” telling them they’re in no position to lecture the general public “about anything”:
Read other scathing jokes from Gervais’s monologue here.
Actor Sacha Baron Cohen also used his time on the microphone to call out another powerful figure – Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg:
And “The Daily Show” looked back at some of the biggest "scandals" of Barack Obama's presidency: