Happy Monday, Power People! Brent here filling in for Jackie today who will be back tomorrow. Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us.
🚨 THE AFGHANISTAN PAPERS: The Post has obtained a trove of documents depicting how officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations misled the American people about the country's longest war, spent billions in taxpayer dollars swallowed up by a corrupt Afghan government and failed to address the explosion in drug trafficking. The six-part report on the unusually candid assessments, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, begins with Craig Whitlock's investigation.
See all the documents here.
- Historic: The papers contain perhaps the bluntest assessment of a conflict since the "Pentagon Papers" were leaked in 1971.
- Key quote: “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” Douglas Lute, the nation's Afghan czar said in 2015. “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”
- The rosiest picture: “Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to U.S. military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”
- 'Lies': John Sopko, the head of the federal agency that conducted the interviews, acknowledged to The Post that the documents show “the American people have constantly been lied to.”
BREAKING: Russia has been banned from the next two Olympics for violating doping rules.
THE IOWA CAUCUSES ARE COMING: The multitude of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates – 15 at last count – means that the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Feb. 2 could be even more chaotic than usual. In recent years, the caucuses have produced winners with tiny leads – see Hillary Clinton in 2016, who won by just over a quarter of a percentage point – and in 2012, where the apparent Republican winner was later found to have lost though some precincts could never be accounted for.
This time, Iowa Democrats and local county officials believe it could be a close night again, if not for the winner than for second through fourth place finishers. Current polling shows South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg in first place and a statistical tie for second between Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and former vice president Joe Biden.
- If things are a mess, again: “It would be another argument for those who have always wanted to kill the caucuses, which is most other states,” former University of Iowa political science professor David Redlawsk, who help write the literal book defending the caucuses, said of the prospect of possible problems this time around.
Part of the drama may subside this time: That’strue because of a major caucus rules change being implemented for the first time in 2020. The change means that caucus-goers who back viable candidates on the 1st ballot – those with 15 percent or more of the vote, enough to move ahead in the process – can no longer change their choice on the second go around. Only those caucus-goers in what’s known as “nonviable” groups will be able to change their minds and caucus for another candidate in ensuing rounds.That means anyone embracing a viable candidate in the 1st round will be locked into their choice. And it could mean a tighter race between the viable candidates before a winner can ultimately be declared.
- Supporters for candidates outside the top four will be in a critical position: If their candidate isn’t viable on the first round, they will have two options as in past cycles: remain uncommitted and sit out delegates selection or switch their support to someone else.
- A little more Iowa nice: Preventing viable and major candidates from trying to change the outcome will dispense with some of the mathematical games for which caucus night is known.
Why this all matters: There are no recount laws on which to fall back. Iowans point out that close elections happen (just ask Floridians), but close caucuses have few, if any, of the guardrails of a traditional primary. In fact, given that caucuses by design don’t involve a ballot there hasn't been anything to recount for Democrats in the past if things go wrong.
- That is also changing: Iowa Democrats will now report the number of supporters at each precinct who back each candidate in the 1st round, something that has never been done before.
But this could lead to two “winners”: Based on the delegate formula, a campaign could theoretically have the most supporters on caucus night and not amass the largest number of delegates.
- Wait, what?: Theoretically, it is possible, especially on a close night, for a campaign to have more total supporters on caucus night and not the highest number of delegates. The delegate formula creates a ceiling for campaigns as they can only win so many delegates per precinct. (This is why having a strong organization in rural Iowa can make a big difference as campaigns can only run up the score so much in the cities and suburbs).
- One final note: We promise we’re not trying to confuse you. But when we say delegates here, we don’t mean delegates to the national convention in Milwaukee. That’s because the caucuses are just the first step in a process that goes to the county, district and finally state level before the delegates that help select the actual nominee are awarded. (Iowa awards very few actual national convention delegates, so the state's importance is almost entirely based on it being first.)
OH, THE PLACES RUDY GOES: "In the three years since Trump took office, [Rudy] Giuliani has expanded his lucrative foreign consulting and legal practice, taking on clients that span the globe, from Turkey to Venezuela to Romania to Ukraine," our colleagues Josh Dawsey, Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett report in a deep dive into the former New York mayor.
Even senior White House aides don't know the full extent of what he tells Trump: That's because Giuliani's conversations with Trump are protected by attorney-client privilege. But aides told my colleagues they are worried Giuliani is using his role as Trump's personal attorney to push his own private interests and clients.
- Meanwhile the probe into Rudy and his associates is widening: "The scope of the ongoing investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan is unclear," our colleagues write. But prosecutors have subpoenaed a firm connected to former FBI director Louis Freeh. Freeh's firm hired Giuliani to push Romanian officials to give amnesty to people charged with corruption who were also Freeh clients.
Barr to Trump, Rudy is bad news: "In several conversations in recent months, Attorney General William P. Barr has counseled Trump in general terms that Giuliani has become a liability and a problem for the administration, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations."
- Yikes: "In one discussion, the attorney general warned the president that he was not being well-served by his lawyer, one person with knowledge of the episode said."
What happened to Rudy?: Some of Giuliani's former associates and staffers say their old boss really changed after his failed 2008 presidential run. One described Giuliani, who has always been stubborn, as now "Rudy on steroids."
- Key quote: “There was a time when he wouldn’t take dirty money or questionable money or money of dubious origin,” Ken Frydman, who served as the press secretary for Giuliani’s 1993 mayoral campaign told our colleagues, noting Giuliani was known then for vetting donors especially aggressively. “Today, it seems he’ll take money from anyone.”
The New York Times has its own look this morning at how Rudy became central to the impeachment investigation into President Trump.
THIS WEEK IN IMPEACHMENT: Articles of impeachment could be drafted as soon as this week, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said.
- "We’ll bring articles of impeachment presumably before the committee at some point later in the week,” Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on NBC's "Meet the Press." (The timing of this was just a matter of when after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed bringing articles last week)
House lawyers present their findings: The hearings are back this morning. The Judiciary Committee is set to hear from both Republican and Democratic lawyers on the House Intelligence Committee as well as attorneys who work for the panel itself.
- A preview: Democratic staff attorneys for Judiciary rewrote and released a full update to a Nixon-era document "that outlin[es] in constitutional terms what the panel believes amounts to an impeachable offense," Politico's Kyle Cheney and Darren Samuelsohn report.
The notable absence: The White House will not be represented at today's hearing. Pat Cipollone, White House counsel, fired off a two-paragraph missive signaling the administration was unlikely to cooperate in the probe, our colleagues Seung Min Kim and John Wagner report. Cipollone never explicitly mentions a full-on refusal, but a senior administration official told our colleagues the White House sees no need to a participate because the process is "unfair."
- What this means: "It is an indication of how, in a deeply polarized nation where party rules above all else, a process enshrined in the Constitution as the most consequential way to address a president’s wrongdoing has devolved into another raucous partisan brawl," the New York Times's Michael D. Shear, Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman write on the refusal to cooperate and House Democrats' decision to press on.
The other news to watch today: "A long-awaited Justice Department Inspector General report examining the FBI’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia is expected to be released," our colleagues Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report.
- More details: "The report, which spans hundreds of pages, is expected to conclude that the top FBI officials running the Russia investigation were not tainted by political bias, and they had adequate cause to open a probe, according to people familiar with draft versions of it.
- But it will also find fault with applications FBI officials prepared to surreptitiously monitor a former Trump campaign adviser, and it will allege that a low-level FBI lawyer doctored a document in connection with those applications, the people said."
In the Media
- Space forced: "Democrats leveraged Trump’s fixation on Space Force to pursue parental-leave victory for federal workers." By The Post's Jeff Stein, Lisa Rein and Josh Dawsey
- Is Barr showing the future of the GOP? "Barr Dives Into the Culture Wars, and Social Conservatives Rejoice." By the Times's Jeremy W. Peters and Katie Benner
- A fascinating look at how left-wing media treats Warren:"How the Cool Kids of the Left Turned on Elizabeth Warren." By Politico Magazine's Ruairí Arrieta-Kenna