“There was no firsthand witnesses that actually said the president did anything wrong,” Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) repeated Sunday morning on Fox News.
Then the New York Times reported Sunday night that Bolton discloses – in a manuscript submitted to the White House last month for a classification review – that Trump told him directly last August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats, including Joe and Hunter Biden.
This erodes Trump’s insistence that there was never a quid pro quo, but it also adds to the body of evidence, including documents and sworn testimony, that the president was directly involved in the alleged scheme to coerce an ally, under attack from Russia, to announce an investigation of a leading 2020 challenger in exchange for delivering support that had been approved by Congress. Bolton aides testified during the House hearings that the then-national security adviser had referred to what was being cooked up vis-a-vis Ukraine as a “drug deal” that he didn’t want any part of. Bolton directed deputies such as Fiona Hill to raise their concerns with White House lawyers.
-- Over dozens of pages in his draft, Bolton reportedly offers new details that implicate senior administration officials who have refused to testify as having firsthand knowledge. For example, Bolton writes that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was present for at least one phone call where the president and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani discussed then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. “Mr. Mulvaney has told associates he would always step away when the president spoke with his lawyer to protect their attorney-client privilege,” Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt report.
According to their story, Bolton also says that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged to him privately that there was no basis to Giuliani’s claims that Yovanovitch was corrupt. He also allegedly believed Giuliani may have been acting on behalf of other clients. “Mr. Bolton also said that after the president’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, he raised with Attorney General William P. Barr his concerns about Mr. Giuliani, who was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by the president, and told Mr. Barr that the president had mentioned him on the call,” per the Times. “A spokeswoman for Mr. Barr denied that he learned of the call from Mr. Bolton.”
-- Two people familiar with the manuscript confirm to The Washington Post that Bolton details how Trump tied Ukraine aid to the desire for Biden probes and that he recounts conversations with other senior officials.
-- Trump denied Bolton’s allegations on Twitter this morning:
This is another moment when it would be politically advantageous if the president had not squandered his credibility with a flood of falsehoods. Trump made 16,241 demonstrably false or misleading claims during his first three years as president, our Fact Checker team tabulated last week.
-- These revelations have injected a jolt of unpredictability into an otherwise scripted trial. Bolton has said that he would testify if subpoenaed by the Senate. In conversations last night, senior Senate Republican aides told me that Bolton testifying would increase pressure for Mulvaney and others to answer questions. They worry that additional testimony might further undercut the absolutist insistence of Trump’s defense team that “the president did absolutely nothing wrong,” as White House Counsel Pat Cipollone told senators on Saturday. A vote to call Bolton would also ratchet up pressure from Trump’s allies to subpoena Hunter Biden, which could drag the process out.
-- Notably, Trump’s defense lawyers never mentioned Mulvaney during their opening day of arguments on Saturday. The Democratic House managers last week played the footage from October of Mulvaney in the White House briefing room. The acting chief of staff admitted that Trump had “absolutely” mentioned to him concerns about “the corruption related to the DNC server.”
“And that's why we held up the money,” Mulvaney said.
“What you just described is a quid pro quo,” a reporter replied.
“We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney responded.
He later issued a statement trying to walk this back, but he’s refused to answer any subsequent questions or participate in the congressional inquiries.
-- The White House could still attempt to delay the publication of Bolton’s book, scheduled for March 17, or block some of its contents by claiming that they’re classified. Bolton’s memoir will be entitled “The Room Where It Happened,” an apparent play on the song from “Hamilton,” and the cover art puts those words inside an oval, an apparent reference to the Oval Office. The 528-page book, which became available for preorder on Amazon last night, covers all 519 days that Bolton served as national security adviser.
-- Complicating attacks from the Trump team: They can call him disgruntled, but Bolton is no squish. The 71-year-old hawk held senior national security jobs under Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush before Trump brought him into the White House. A graduate of Yale Law School, he’s been known for decades as a skilled bureaucratic knife fighter.
-- The president’s allies quickly complained about the timing of the disclosure, but Bolton’s lawyer and spokeswoman contend that someone in the White House leaked to the Times, not anyone in their camp.
-- The White House has had a copy of Bolton’s draft manuscript since Dec. 30. Bolton’s lawyer Charles Cooper shared a cover letter that he sent to the National Security Council’s records management division that day for a standard review process, including a request that it not be shared widely. “It is clear, regrettably, from The New York Times article published today that the prepublication review process has been corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript,” Cooper said in a statement. Bolton spokeswoman Sarah Tinsley added: “The ambassador has not passed the draft manuscript to anyone else. Period.”
Bolstering their arguments, the Times story cites two sources saying that the submission of the manuscript to the White House “intensified concerns among some of [Trump’s] advisers that they needed to block Mr. Bolton from testifying.”
-- Democrats have been demanding four witnesses. In addition to Bolton and Mulvaney, they want to call Michael Duffey and Robert Blair. “Clear direction from POTUS to continue to hold,” Duffey emailed the Pentagon’s acting comptroller on Aug. 30, according to Just Security. Duffey, formerly the executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin and a longtime ex-Pentagon official, is the associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget. Blair was a top aide to Mulvaney.
-- Four Republican senators need to join the Democrats to vote for summoning Bolton as a witness. The quartet seen as most likely to favor testimony are Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.). “Romney and Collins have already indicated that they are likely to support hearing from witnesses and getting more evidence, and Romney has also said that he would like to hear from Bolton,” per Seung Min Kim, Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey.
Even if they don’t ultimately vote to hear from Bolton, the allegations in the manuscript will generate a fresh round of pressure on vulnerable GOP incumbents who are facing tough reelection fights, such as Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Colorado’s Cory Gardner and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reupped his push to call the witnesses “with direct knowledge” of Trump’s actions. “John Bolton has the evidence,” he tweeted. “It’s up to four Senate Republicans to ensure that John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, and the others testify.”
-- A joint statement from the seven House impeachment managers said the “explosive revelation … confirms what we already know”: “There can be no doubt now that Mr. Bolton directly contradicts the heart of the President’s defense and therefore must be called as a witness,” the Democratic lawmakers said. “The Senate trial must seek the full truth and Mr. Bolton has vital information to provide. There is no defensible reason to wait until his book is published, when the information he has to offer is critical to the most important decision Senators must now make — whether to convict the President of impeachable offenses.”
The House managers emphasized that Bolton didn’t testify during their investigation after the White House instructed him not to do so. “The President knows how devastating his testimony would be, and, according to the report, the White House has had a draft of his manuscript for review,” they wrote. “President Trump’s cover-up must come to an end. Americans know that a fair trial must include both the documents and witnesses blocked by the President — that starts with Mr. Bolton.”
-- If the Senate votes not to call Bolton, the trial could end with Trump’s acquittal as early as this week.
Sen. Doug Jones (D), facing a difficult reelection race in Alabama, suggested that the Senate should subpoena the manuscript:
From a former Republican congressman who is waging a long-shot bid against Trump for the GOP nomination:
A former GOP congressman from Florida, who has been critical of Trump, warned his former colleagues:
The Michigan congressman who left the GOP after endorsing impeachment said the president's excuses for not wanting Bolton to testify don't pass the smell test:
A chorus of Democrats also warned of "a cover-up," including the speaker of the House:
A Harvard Law professor who held senior legal jobs in the George W. Bush administration said that draft manuscripts like Bolton's are often widely circulated, even though technically they are supposed to be closely held:
Trump this morning retweeted several attacks on both Bolton and the Times from his loyalists in the conservative media ecosystem:
MORE ON IMPEACHMENT:
-- Former acting ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor rebuked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for suggesting to NPR that Americans don't care about Ukraine. From his op-ed in today's New York Times: “Ukraine is defending itself and the West against Russian attack. If Ukraine succeeds, we succeed. The relationship between the United States and Ukraine is key to our national security... Russia is fighting a hybrid war against Ukraine, Europe and the United States. This war has many components: armed military aggression, energy supply, cyber attacks, disinformation and election interference. On each of these battlegrounds, Ukraine is the front line. … The United States and our allies support Ukraine in this war by providing the Ukrainian armed forces with weapons, training and support. American security assistance to Ukraine regularly receives broad, bipartisan support in Congress; the importance of that assistance to Ukraine — and to U.S. national security — is not at issue. ...
“The Kremlin is attacking the rules that have guided relations among nations since World War II, rules that kept the peace among major European powers for 70 years. … Until Russia withdraws from Ukraine — both Donbas and Crimea — and recognizes that Ukraine is an independent, sovereign nation, other nations cannot be secure. Until Russia recommits to a rules-based international order, Western nations are in jeopardy. Ukraine is the front line.”
-- Pompeo claimed an NPR host lied when setting up an interview with him, but email records support the journalist’s account of how the exchange came to be. Paul Farhi reports: “The emails … indicate that Pompeo’s staff was aware that NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly would ask Pompeo about several topics in the interview and raised no objections, contrary to Pompeo’s characterization. In an extraordinary statement issued on State Department letterhead on Saturday, Pompeo blasted Kelly for repeatedly asking him why he refused to express support for the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Kelly said afterward Pompeo berated her using profanity and challenged her to locate Ukraine on an unmarked map, which Kelly said she did. … Pompeo’s statement implied that Kelly had agreed before the interview to confine her questions to developments in Iran and that he would not be asked about other subjects. … But emails between Kelly and Pompeo’s press aide, Katie Martin, a day before the interview show that there was no such agreement and that Kelly made clear her intention to question Pompeo about other topics.”
-- Trump stepped up his attacks against House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff on Sunday, tweeting that the lead House manager “has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!” Schiff (D-Calif.) said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he believes the post was "intended" as a threat. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said on Fox News that it was “ridiculous” for Schiff to claim that. “I think he means … [Schiff] hasn’t yet paid the price with the voters,” she said. “I mean, it seems he’s having a little bit of a mental issue when you sit on the floor for hours and hours and hours. He’s obsessed with this president and trying to take him down.” (Felicia Sonmez and Elise Viebeck report)
-- House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) disclosed that his wife, Joyce, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last month shortly after his committee voted to send two articles of impeachment to the full House. “She has undergone surgery and is taking further steps to address the spread of the cancer,” Nadler said in a statement. “On Monday, I will be in New York with her to meet with doctors, determine a path forward, and begin her treatment. I am sorry to miss some of the Senate Impeachment Trial, which is of critical importance to our democracy. I plan to return to Washington late Monday and appreciate the support of my colleagues and staff as I take this time to be with my wife and begin the long fight against her cancer.”
-- Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz once said that Trump, now his client, was “destabilizing and unpredictable.” The quote comes from a 2016 book entitled “Electile Dysfunction.” (NBC News)
-- Former Republican senator Slade Gorton (Wash.) encouraged senators to honor their oaths by voting to call witnesses the way that he did during Bill Clinton’s trial. “I worry that the Senate is falling short of its responsibility," he writes in an op-ed for USA Today. "Indeed, the impeachment trial has dawned with a series of party line votes, as was the case in the House. To be clear, the Senate is not the House. It’s supposed to be an institution where — particularly on issues of process, if not ideology — common ground is identified through careful compromise…. Senators have the chance to affirm what the framers envisioned and — even if it doesn’t change anyone’s mind — secure all relevant evidence and make an informed decision to defend the Constitution and the republic. … In any trial, the decision-makers need to hear from witnesses and see the evidence in order to reach the best possible verdict. And they can't hear witnesses who have been blocked or read evidence that has been hidden.”
-- Commentary from The Post's opinion page:
- Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt: “The White House offers senators a false, and poisonous, choice.”
- Max Boot: “Every day that Pompeo stays in office, he makes Tillerson look better by comparison
- E.J. Dionne Jr.: “Trump’s selfishness harms you, too.”
- Dana Milbank: “Trump’s lawyers are absolutely entitled to their own facts.”
-- Reality check: Many Americans are paying little attention. From the AP: “Voters in several states said … they’re only casually following the Senate trial, or avoiding it altogether — too busy to pay close attention, bored of the legal arguments, convinced the outcome is preordained or just plain tired of the whole partisan saga. ... 'I’ve been watching some really odd stuff just to avoid it,' said Kim Ashford, 50, a court-appointed advocate for foster children from Gilbert, Arizona. 'In my circle, everybody’s tired of hearing about it. There’s nobody budging. Let’s just agree to disagree.' ... The six major networks drew about 11.8 million viewers on the first day of the Senate trial … Combined viewership plummeted to fewer than 9 million people on the trial’s second day … By comparison, an estimated 13.8 million people watched the first day of the House impeachment hearings last fall. Around the time of the House impeachment vote last month, stories about impeachment averaged about 20 million page views each day. Last week, impeachment stories drew about 15 million page views daily, according to digital advertising and web tracking company Taboola. Google searches on impeachment have also declined since the House vote.”
-- Spiking the football? Trump and top White House aides are discussing how he should celebrate his presumed acquittal, Politico reports, including “whether he should deliver a rare Oval Office address to mark the occasion.”
-- Trump is in a much more competitive position to get reelected than he was last fall, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. “The state of the economy and perceptions of Trump’s handling of it pose a challenge for Democratic presidential candidates," Scott Clement and Dan Balz report. "Despite Americans’ concerns that the economic system favors the wealthy, the latest Post-ABC poll finds fewer than half are worried about maintaining their own standard of living ... Just over 10 months until Election Day, Americans see Trump as a slight favorite for reelection, with 49 percent expecting him to win and 43 percent predicting that his Democratic challenger will prevail. But those expectations are highly partisan, with 87 percent of Republicans saying they believe Trump will win reelection while a somewhat smaller 78 percent majority of Democrats say they believe their party’s nominee will win.
"The national Post-ABC poll tested Trump in six potential general election matchups and finds that registered voters nationwide are roughly split between supporting the president and backing the Democratic candidates. Neither Trump nor Democrats hold a statistically significant advantage in any matchup ... given the poll’s four-point margin of sampling error among registered voters. ... The close matchups between Trump and Democrats among registered voters represent a contrast with an October Post-ABC poll in which [Joe] Biden, [Bernie] Sanders, [Elizabeth] Warren and [Pete] Buttigieg all held double-digit advantages over the incumbent. ...
"The shift coincides with a rise in Trump’s approval rating from 38 percent to 44 percent among the public overall, with 51 percent currently disapproving. ... Trump’s improved standing ... owes in part to political independents. Trump receives between 47 percent and 52 percent support among voters in this group depending on his Democratic opponent, an improvement from October when he got between 39 percent and 42 percent support. ... The Post-ABC poll also finds 56 percent approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, up 10 percentage points from last fall and the highest rating on this issue of his presidency. The difference of 12 points between Trump’s economic approval rating and his overall approval is an indication of how public opinion on other aspects of Trump’s performance have been a drag on his popularity."
-- Sanders is facing a barrage of attacks from his rivals, as polls show him surging in the early states. Chelsea Janes and Sean Sullivan report: “‘Sanders could be the nominee,’ the campaign of Pete Buttigieg declared in an ominous-sounding fundraising message to supporters Saturday. ... The focus on Sanders represents a shift from much of the past year in which the top candidates largely ignored the senator … Several new public polls have shown Sanders on the rise, particularly in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he appears to have taken the lead. ... Much of the intensifying debate over Sanders over the weekend centered on his ability — or lack thereof — to beat Trump. … [Amy Klobuchar told] ABC News that Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan puts him out of step with voters in many more moderate or conservative parts of the country that might be open to voting Democratic in November. … Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), who offered her high-profile endorsement to Biden on Saturday, said a ‘pragmatic’ platform is key to fostering victories like hers in down-ballot races …
“A more cutting critique came Sunday from another candidate, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, who seemed to mock Sanders’s political ideology during a South Florida speech to Jewish voters. ‘I know I’m not the only Jewish candidate running for president. But I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz,’ he said, a reference to the socialism shared by Sanders and the Israeli collective farm where Sanders worked decades ago. … After Sanders was criticized for promoting the endorsement of podcast host Joe Rogan, who has made disrespectful remarks about the transgender community, Biden tweeted Saturday: ‘Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. There is no room for compromise when it comes to basic human rights.’ ...
“Sanders has sought to turn the sudden hostility he is facing into a battle cry that he hopes will energize his base to turn out in large numbers on caucus night. ‘The big-money interests are getting very nervous,’ he said, prompting cheers. ‘They’re looking at recent polls in New Hampshire and in Iowa, and they’re saying, ‘Oh, my god, Sanders can win.’’”
-- An example of the mounting scrutiny for Sanders: CNN unearthed a 1994 video of the Vermont liberal offering support for the controversial Biden crime bill, arguing that the country needed “some more jails.” Sanders has recently described the bill as “terrible” and apologized for voting for it, adding that his view at the time was that the bill wasn’t perfect but that he viewed it as a major step “in controlling and preventing crime.”
-- Iowans have been through a long and bruising hunt for a candidate to love. Jenna Johnson beautifully tells the story of one family: “When Tanya Keith and her teenage daughter Aviva Jotzke learned that their favorite Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, had dropped out of the race a few weeks before the Iowa caucuses, they cried and mourned with fellow supporters. Then they began to assess their options. Over the next seven days, they would attend three campaign events for different candidates, have numerous conversations with each other and friends who had committed to other candidates, and endure what seemed a never-ending weighing and reweighing of what issues and leadership traits matter most to them. ... Their desire to commit early is rare this caucus season. Iowans always feel a special responsibility in kick-starting primary voting, but that sentiment has been heightened this year by the party’s determination to defeat [Trump]." The mother and daughter decide at the end of the story to caucus for Warren.
-- It's still fluid: A new poll from Suffolk University and USA Today shows Biden leading in Iowa with 25 percent, followed by Sanders at 19 percent. Buttigieg is at 18 percent, Warren gets 13 percent and Klobuchar is at 6 percent.
-- Buttigieg made an electability pitch during a town hall on Fox News last night. "This network is known for having a lot more conservative viewers, but I don’t think you have to be a Democrat to see what is wrong with this president," the former mayor said. (Politico)
-- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang qualified for the February debate in New Hampshire after missing out on this month’s Des Moines debate. The candidate qualified after a CNN-University of New Hampshire poll pegged him at five percent in the Granite State.
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Reports of coronavirus infections and deaths are soaring in China, and a fifth case has now been confirmed in the United States. Gerry Shih, David J. Lynch, Simon Denyer and Brittany Shammas report: “The government in Beijing broadened an extraordinary quarantine to more than 50 million people — roughly equal to the population of Spain — enforcing a travel ban on 16 cities in central Hubei province, where the lethal virus first appeared. In the United States, health officials confirmed three new cases — one in Arizona and two in California — bringing the total to five. The patients — in Southern California, Chicago, Arizona and Washington state — had traveled from Wuhan, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. All are hospitalized. As of midafternoon Sunday, the CDC has been investigating 100 people in 26 states, including the five who were confirmed infected. Of those, 25 people have been tested and are not infected with the virus. … Chinese officials, however, say the worst is yet to come. Health Minister Ma Xiaowei said Sunday that the virus is developing the ability to spread more easily, while the vice minister of industry, Wang Jiangping, said demand for medical supplies is overwhelming China's ability to produce them. …
“China's national health commission reported that 2,744 people across 30 provinces had been infected as of Sunday. Eighty deaths have been reported, including in major metropolitan areas such as Shanghai. Several doctors in Beijing, the capital, also reported being infected. Patients also have been confirmed in France, South Korea, Japan, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan and Australia. … The galloping virus, which has crimped travel, shuttered movie theaters and idled factories, will further depress [economic] growth. … The virus will also imperil China's ability to meet the targets for additional purchases of U.S. goods contained in the trade deal President Trump signed earlier this month.” (Our graphics team has mapped out the spread of the coronavirus, illustrating why officials are so worried.)
-- Worries are growing that the quarantine in China won’t be enough. Gerry and Simon report: “Widespread suspicions on Chinese social media that government officials mishandled the early stages of the crisis were fanned dramatically on Monday by an unlikely player: the Wuhan mayor himself. In a remarkable interview with Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, Zhou [Xianwang] acknowledged that his city did not release ‘timely and satisfactory’ information at the start of the epidemic, and he appeared to blame higher-ups in his chain of command. ‘I hope everyone can understand that this is an infectious disease, and infectious diseases must be disclosed according to law,’ he said. ‘We can only disclose information after we receive authorization.’”
-- China has banned the trade of wild animals until the epidemic is under control, as evidence mounts the disease was transmitted to humans through snake meat sold at a market in Wuhan. The new restrictions ban the transport and sale of wild animals. Experts believe the country is paying a heavy price after the government failed to learn one of the critical lessons from the SARS epidemic 17 years ago: Diseases can mutate easily and spread to humans in markets where different species of live animals live in close and unhygienic proximity. (Simon and Lyric Li)
-- Three rockets crashed into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, wounding one. Louisa Loveluck reports: “The strike Sunday was the first known direct hit inside the U.S. Embassy’s heavily fortified compound. One missile hit the dining facility, while two others landed close by, officials said. The identity and nationality of the wounded individual was not made public Monday, but U.S. officials … said that the person had suffered a non-life-threatening injury and that a small fire had been extinguished.”
-- Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace plan will finally be released publicly tomorrow, Axios reports: The deal’s details have been closely guarded by the president’s son-in-law and his small team, which includes Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Palestinian leadership has already preemptively rejected Kushner’s effort and has been left totally out of the loop after cutting off contact with the administration after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
-- One of Brexit’s biggest impacts may be the end of freedom of movement. Karla Adam and William Booth report: “For a generation, for more than four decades, Londoners have been able to pack off to Lisbon, Berliners to Birmingham, Mancunians to Milan. No paperwork, no visas, no job offer needed on the other side — just buy a ticket and go. … But Brexit campaigners pushed the notion that Britain needed to ‘take back control’ of its borders. Europeans, the Brexiteers claimed — looking pointedly at the poorer countries on the eastern edge of the bloc — took British jobs and strained British social services. E.U. citizens will be able to continue to move here freely through the Brexit transition period, until at least December. But afterward, they will need to apply — and will no longer get preference over applicants from other continents.”
-- In an attempt to attract one group of foreigners it doesn’t want to lose, the U.K. has launched a new visa to lure researchers, mathematicians and scientists. From Politico: “The so-called Global Talent scheme will replace the Tier 1 visa program for ‘exceptional talents’ and is set to go live on February 20. It will not have a cap on the number of applicants allowed in and will enable recognized U.K.-based research projects to recruit talent from abroad without hurdles ... [U]p to 2,500 academics have left Scotland since the Brexit referendum, sparking fears of a post-Brexit brain drain.”
-- The Kremlin is struggling to control cyberspace at home, despite it being notorious for global meddling online. Isabelle Khurshudyan reports: “Russia so far has tread relatively carefully in its censorship efforts. Still, Internet-freedom monitors in Russia fear its new ‘sovereign Internet’ law could one day rival Chinese and Iranian online oversight. The London-based rights monitor Freedom House ranked Russia 51st out of 65 countries on its Internet-freedom rating last year. The legislation came into force in November, but it could be a year before the technology is in place. It aims to route Russian Web traffic and data through points controlled by state authorities and to build a national domain name system. This, supporters claim, would give Russia greater control of Internet content and traffic. … But critics see it as the government’s way of further cracking down on one of the few free sources of information remaining in the country.”
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS THAT SHOULDN'T BE OVERLOOKED:
-- The nation was shocked after NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash. The five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist was 41. Ben Golliver and Miranda Green report: The Bryants were “riding in an S-76 helicopter Sunday when it crashed just before 10 a.m. into a hillside near Calabasas, Calif., roughly 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The flight manifest listed nine people on board — one pilot and eight passengers — and there were no survivors … The smooth shooting guard, who patterned his game after Michael Jordan, entered the NBA straight out of high school in 1996. … By his fourth season, he had teamed with Shaquille O’Neal to win the first of three consecutive championships. ...
“Bryant, who retired as the NBA’s third-all-time leading scorer with 33,643 points, was expected to be inducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on the first ballot this summer. … Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli; his wife, Keri; and his daughter Alyssa were also passengers on the helicopter … In retirement, Bryant wrote children’s books and produced animated stories, while also pursuing assorted media and business projects with his Granity Studios. In 2018, he won an Academy Award for best animated short film for ‘Dear Basketball,’ his love letter to the sport. Bryant and Gianna shared a love for basketball, with Bryant serving as her coach and occasionally taking her to Lakers games. Just last month, they sat courtside for the Lakers’ victory over the Dallas Mavericks..."
-- Remembrances flooded the Internet. Athletes and fans, including politicians and celebrities, struggled to process the tragedy. (Rick Maese and Cindy Boren)
-- Bryant was a tireless competitor who became a global sports icon, writes columnist Kent Babb: “The journey had begun on his family’s driveway in Philadelphia, where on snowy days Mr. Bryant’s mother would ask him to clear the driveway. He would do so just enough to shoot hoops, sometimes putting up hundreds of shots per day as he perfected a form that would become internationally famous.”
-- The Grammys celebrated Bryant’s life in a touching memorial at the Staples Center, home of the Lakers, as thousands of fans mourned outside. Elahe Izadi reports: “Host Alicia Keys stepped to the stage and tried to make sense of the moment. ‘Here we are, together, on music’s biggest night, celebrating the artists that do it best,’ she said. ‘But to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now because earlier today, Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero and we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
-- Billie Eilish picked up the top four awards at the show, which was saturated with tension over the ouster of Recording Academy chief executive Deborah Dugan. Chris Richards reports: “Dugan was dismissed from her post just 10 days before Sunday night’s national telecast on CBS. Then, five days after her removal, Dugan filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — one that includes accusations of sexual misconduct by the Academy’s former chairman and current general counsel Joel Katz, as well as claims of a rigged voting process that Dugan said had been poisoned by a boys-club atmosphere. (Katz has denied the allegations.) But Sunday’s show somehow went on — slowly and exhaustingly, for nearly four hours, without anyone mentioning the elephant in the room. Instead, the big surprise was Eilish’s dramatic sweep in the top four categories. The 18-year-old pop prodigy won album of the year for her intimate and innovative debut … song and record of the year for her sauntering hit ‘Bad Guy’; and best new artist. In the final moments of the show, Eilish’s acceptance speech for record of the year was simply a bewildered, ‘Bye!’ ”
-- Trump’s longtime spiritual adviser Paula White called for “all satanic pregnancies to miscarry” during a sermon that has gone viral. Derek Hawkins and Angela Fritz report: “‘We declare that anything that’s been conceived in satanic wombs, that it will miscarry, it will not be able to carry forth any plan of destruction, any plan of harm,’ White said before an auditorium of congregants. … White’s words are largely being interpreted literally — that she wishes for evil women to have miscarriages — but she shared a rare response to the criticism in which she explained that she was speaking in metaphor, praying for evil plans to be foiled in her congregants’ lives.”
-- The New Orleans Saints football organization asked a court to conceal from the public hundreds of emails that allegedly show team executives helping do damage control for the area’s Catholic archdiocese to contain the fallout from a sexual abuse crisis. Attorneys for about two dozen men suing the church claim that 276 documents obtained during discovery show that the NFL team advised the Archdiocese of New Orleans on “messaging" to downplay revelations of abuse. (AP)
-- A site known for anti-Semitic remarks – including a claim by its founder that impeachment is a “Jew coup” – received press credentials to cover Trump's trip to Davos. From the Times: “Five employees of TruNews, which is based in Florida, received formal credentials from the White House to cover the president’s trip, [Rick] Wiles said in an interview last week from his hotel room in Switzerland — a room in a ski lodge reserved by the Trump administration for traveling members of the American press. (Like other media organizations, TruNews paid for its flights and lodging.) … Mr. Wiles’s ability to secure credentials after his anti-Semitic remarks — which prompted a formal rebuke from two members of Congress — has left civil rights groups deeply troubled. … TruNews was not granted special access to the president in Davos, nor did its members travel on Air Force One. But one of Mr. Wiles’s colleagues, Edward Szall, asked a question of the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump during a news conference.”
-- Amazon employees launched a mass defiance of the company’s communications policy in support of colleagues who were warned they would be fired if they criticized the company’s climate policies. Jay Greene reports: “Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group of workers concerned about the company’s business with the oil and gas industry as well as its carbon footprint, published quotes from 357 workers in a post on Medium. The comments, all of which are attributed to Amazon workers by name, are a mass defiance of company rules that bar workers from commenting publicly on its business without corporate justification and approval from executives. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)”
-- Michelle Obama can now add “Grammy winner” to her long list of achievements. The former first lady took home the trophy for the Best Spoken Word Album category last night for her audiobook recording of her memoir “Becoming.” (Entertainment Weekly)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Many took to Twitter to mourn Kobe Bryant:
How it's playing in Kobe's adopted hometown:
The legend's last tweet led to reflection, including from the wife of a college basketball coach:
Seven other people died alongside the Bryants, including a mother, father and daughter from Orange County:
Schiff expressed support for Jerry Nadler:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who is retiring, will cast the first vote on witnesses later this week:
Louise Linton, the wife of the Treasury secretary, posted and then deleted a picture on Instagram in which she sided with Greta Thunberg over her own husband:
And the secretary of state used scripture to send a thinly veiled message to his critics:
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Kobe recalled the first time he saw his Team USA uniform in this tear-jerking interview from 2008:
A video of Bryant and his daughter Gigi breaking down an NBA game went viral:
In case you missed it, "Satan" interviewed "Trump’s attorney Alan Dershowitz," played by Jon Lovitz, for the cold open of "Saturday Night Live":