The Hill's Morning Report - Iran strikes US bases in Iraq; Trump to speak today

 

 

 

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Iran’s decision to strike two U.S. bases in Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. killing of a top general in the Revolutionary Guard escalated tensions in the Middle East and at the White House as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE prepares today to react to the missile attacks Tehran claims were “self-defense.”

 

Overnight, the Revolutionary Guard asserted that dozens of people were killed and hundreds hurt after more than a dozen ballistic missiles struck inside Iraq. U.S. officials did not immediately confirm initial assessments made by Iraqi officials who work with Americans that no U.S. or Iraqi forces had been killed.

 

“All is well!” Trump tweeted Tuesday night as damage assessments began. “So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far!”

 

The president, who met with his national security team in the White House Situation Room immediately after the attacks, said he will make a statement this morning at 11 a.m. EST about strikes against the Al-Asad base in Baghdad and a base in Erbil in northern Iraq following the killing of General Qassem Soleimani on Thursday.

 

Early on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe new war for soft power hegemony Organizing evacuations during a shutdown The Saudi-Russia oil fight is the last thing the economy needs in a pandemic MORE told reporters, “In the event the Iranians make another bad choice … the president will respond in a way that he did last week.” Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperPentagon may treat coronavirus patients aboard Navy hospital ship A defining moment in our medical supply chain crisis Military personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas MORE said on Tuesday afternoon that U.S. forces were prepared to respond to any Iranian aggression.

 

But there were signs that the United States and Iran are looking for next steps that do not involve escalating tit-for-tat military strikes. World leaders and members of Congress have called for de-escalation and diplomacy.

 

Iraq’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday night on Twitter that “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter. … We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”

 

Hours later, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed his countrymen in Iran. “What matters is that the presence of America should come to an end,” he said, speaking of U.S. forces in Iraq.

 

The renewed tensions between the United States and Iran began when an American military contractor was killed, Iranian-backed militias vandalized the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve and Trump ordered the drone killing of Soleimani at the Baghdad airport.

 

The New York Times: “The fierce revenge by the Revolutionary Guards has begun,” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a statement on a Telegram channel as Tehran fired what the Pentagon said Tuesday night were more than a dozen ballistic missiles into Iraq.

 

The Washington Post: Live updates on the U.S.-Iran situation.

 

The Washington Post: Iran launches ballistic missiles at bases housing U.S. military personnel in Iraq.

 

The Hill: Missiles hit Iraq bases housing U.S. troops. Iran claims responsibility.

 

The Hill: “All is well!” Trump tweets following Iran missile attack on bases in Iraq.

 

The Washington Post: Confusion, contradictions: Trump White House stumbles in initial public response to Soleimani’s killing.

 

The New York Times, by Peter Baker: A strategy for the Mideast that has even Trump’s allies scratching their heads.

 

The Hill: Stock futures plummet following news of Iran strikes at U.S. installations in Iraq.



LEADING THE DAY

IMPEACHMENT WATCH: After spending weeks in a holding pattern following the House’s Dec. 18 vote to impeach Trump, the Senate is set to take the next step toward a trial as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans 13 things to know for today about coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) declared that he has the votes to start one without requiring witness testimony. 

 

McConnell initially made the announcement during the weekly Senate GOP luncheon, saying that he had secured the votes to kick off a trial by following the precedent set by the 1999 impeachment trial of former President Clinton.

 

“We have the votes, once the impeachment trial has begun, to pass a resolution essentially the same, very similar to the 100 to nothing vote in the Clinton trial which sets up, as you may recall, what could best be described maybe as a Phase One,” McConnell told reporters after the luncheon.

 

"My hope is that the Speaker will send them on over," McConnell said of the House articles. 

 

The news from the GOP leader is a blow to Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar Trump lashes out at Schumer over call for supply czar MORE (D-N.Y.), who had been pushing for the Senate to pass a resolution at the start of the trial that would establish both rules and a deal concerning witnesses. Schumer has repeatedly called for acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOne year in, Democrats frustrated by fight for Trump tax returns Meadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE and former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office MORE, among others, to testify. 

 

They needed four Republicans to break ranks to push for the singular resolution, but that effort has been stymied by McConnell’s announcement.

 

"Make no mistake, on the question of witnesses and documents, Republicans may run but they can't hide. There will be votes at the beginning on whether to call the four witnesses we've proposed and subpoena the documents we've identified," Schumer said from the Senate floor. “America and the eyes of history will be watching what my Republican colleagues do.” 

 

 

 

 

The wait, however, is still on for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump says he opposes mail-in voting for November On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans The bipartisan neutering of the Congressional Budget Office MORE (D-Calif.) to send the articles of impeachment across the Capitol. On Tuesday night before the House opened for business, Pelosi did not reveal to her colleagues when she plans to send the articles to the Senate, although she spoke about the subject at length (CNN).

 

The Speaker told her caucus in a written communication on Tuesday that she wants McConnell to “publish” the resolution outlining Senate trial rules “so that, as I have said before, we can see the arena in which we will be participating, appoint managers and transmit the articles to the Senate.” 

 

The Associated Press: Pelosi’s next move on impeachment unclear as Senate waits.

 

The Washington Post: Pelosi says she won’t send articles of impeachment until the Senate reveals more about how it would conduct a trial.

 

Joining McConnell, some Senate Democrats are anxious for Pelosi to forward the House articles to the Senate soon. Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Maxine Waters unleashes over Trump COVID-19 response: 'Stop congratulating yourself! You're a failure' Coronavirus pushes GOP's Biden-Burisma probe to back burner MORE (D-Conn.) told The Washington Post he believes it’s time.

 

The Hill: Schumer vows to force votes on impeachment witnesses.

 

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump continued to play the hits, labeling the impeachment effort a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.” He also weighed in on the possibility of Bolton testifying at the Senate trial a day after his former national security adviser said that he is ready and willing to do so. 

 

“That's going to be up to the lawyers. It'll be up to the Senate, and we'll see how they feel,” Trump said. “He would know nothing about what we're talking about, because as you know the Ukrainian government came out with a very strong statement no pressure no anything and this from the boss. That's from the president of Ukraine. The foreign minister came out with a statement that was equally as strong."

 

***

CONGRESS: It has taken months for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, known as the new NAFTA, to make its way to the Senate for ratification. On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved the House-passed version by a vote of 25 to 3, teeing up a potential floor vote next week, if trade nudges its way ahead of a Senate impeachment trial (The Hill).

 

Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyLawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors Pelosi floats undoing SALT deduction cap in next coronavirus bill Democrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus MORE (R-Iowa) said it’s possible a final vote on the USMCA would be delayed a month if the House sends over its two articles of impeachment and the Senate begins a trial right away.



IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

POLITICS & CAMPAIGNS: With the situation unfolding in the Middle East on Tuesday night, the Democratic primary field was in wait-and-see mode as the candidates awaited more information on the Iranian missile attacks in Iraq, with some using the moment to continue to warn against full-blown war in the region.

 

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight Is Texas learning to love ObamaCare? Romney warns Trump: Don't interfere with coronavirus relief oversight MORE held back making specific remarks about the strikes, tweeting that he was awaiting more information, but spoke more broadly about what is happening in Iran and Iraq during a fundraiser in Philadelphia, saying the situation is “predictable.”

 

“What’s happening in Iraq and Iran today was predictable,” Biden said according to a pool report of the event. “Not exactly what’s happening but the chaos that’s ensuing,” he said, criticizing Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and missile strike killing Soleimani.

 

“Some of the things he’s done and said in the meantime have been close to ludicrous,” Biden said. “Including threatening to bomb holy sites…And I just pray to God as he goes through what’s happening, as we speak, that he’s listening to his military commanders for the first time because so far that has not been the case.”

 

Others, headlined by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill Democratic senators want probe into change of national stockpile description Democrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus MORE (D-Mass.), went a step further. Warren, who was holding a campaign rally in Brooklyn alongside former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro when the news broke, told supporters that the strikes were another sign that war with Iran is not the right course of action (The Hill). 

 

“This is a reminder why we need to de-escalate tension in the Middle East. The American people do not want a war with Iran,” she said. 

 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Energy: Oil giants meet with Trump at White House | Interior extends tenure of controversial land management chief | Oil prices tick up on hopes of Russia-Saudi deal Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden struggles to stay in the spotlight MORE (I-Vt.), did not weigh in one way or another, though has been a vocal opponent of war in the Middle East and opposed the Iraq War. Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharDemocrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout Hillicon Valley: Zoom draws new scrutiny amid virus fallout | Dems step up push for mail-in voting | Google to lift ban on political ads referencing coronavirus Democrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots MORE (D-Minn.) were among those who held back making specific remarks, saying that they were monitoring the situation and awaiting more news before commenting, though they all offered thoughts and prayers for U.S. service members in the region. 

 

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order The Hill's Morning Report — ,000,000,000,000: GOP unveils historic US rescue effort Gillibrand endorses Biden for president MORE (D-Hawaii), one of the few veterans in the Democratic field along with Buttigieg, tweeted that the news brought her back to her deployment to Iraq in 2005 and was another reminder of “terrible cost of war.”

 

“#IranAttacks on U.S. troops today brought back a flood of memories from my 2005 deployment at the height of Iraq war. Constant rocket attacks. A daily reminder of the terrible cost of war. Unimaginable suffering awaits if this escalation continues. #NoWarWithlran #IranvsUSA,” she wrote.

 

The Hill: Iran general’s killing adds new tension to 2020 field.

 

> Rivalry: With only weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, the long-simmering rivalry between Biden and Sanders is coming into full view. 

 

Along with Buttigieg, Biden and Sanders are among the candidates in prime position to nab the first-in-the-nation caucus state and are going to the mat to do so. In recent weeks, the two Democratic primary opponents are sharpening their attacks against one another, especially on foreign policy, trade and other items of interest for each campaign as they look to gain a leg up with voters. 

 

Despite Biden taking hold of the centrist lane and Sanders doing the same among progressives, the two heavyweights are duking it out over the same group of voters, as Max Greenwood writes: white, working-class voters who have yet to settle on a single candidate, but are wary of Warren or Buttigieg.

 

Biden tried to draw a contrast with the president on Tuesday by delivering a speech in New York on foreign policy. The former vice president charged that Trump engaged in a “haphazard” decision-making process to take out Soleimani and offered “tweets, threats and tantrums” instead of communicating why he made the move to Congress or allies. He added that Trump is “dangerously incompetent and incapable of world leadership.” 

 

“Democracy runs on accountability,” Biden said. “No one wants war. But it’s going to take hard work to make sure we don’t end up there accidentally” (The Associated Press).

 

The Hill: Biden: U.S. will have to bear the cost of “Trump's folly.”

 

Reid Wilson, The Hill: On The Trail: History is not on Biden's side.

 

The Hill: DNC says next debate will be rescheduled if it conflicts with impeachment trial.

 

 

 

 

> Super Bowl: It may not be the general election battle, but the president and former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergFormer Bloomberg staffer seeks class-action lawsuit over layoffs Bloomberg spent over 0M on presidential campaign The Hill's Campaign Report: Officials in spotlight over coronavirus response MORE are set to wage an air war on one of America’s biggest occasions: the Super Bowl. 

 

Trump and Bloomberg are each expected to spend roughly $10 million on ads on Feb. 2 in order to get their messages out to viewers of the big game. While Trump’s message for the ad spot is unclear, Bloomberg is expected to make the president the main theme of his, according to The New York Times

 

According to the Trump campaign, it had been in talks with Fox — the carrier of Super Bowl LIV — since the fall, reserved the airtime in December and paid for it last week (The Hill).

 

“President Trump made the unprecedented decision to keep the campaign open following his first election, which allows [the campaign] to do things like buying a Super Bowl ad. We got in early, which gave us a prime ad position early in the game,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “This is a clear indication that we’re ramping up the campaign, which also includes unprecedented pushes for black, women, Latino, and women voters.”



The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!



OPINION

In Australia’s nightmare, a vision of the planet’s future, by John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingMeadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress The Hill's Morning Report - Iran strikes US bases in Iraq; Trump to speak today In Australia's nightmare, a vision of the planet's future MORE, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/2FqpX7b

 

The House impeachment moved nobody, but threatens trouble for Democrats, by Keith Naughton, opinion contributor, The Hill. https://bit.ly/37LT29i



WHERE AND WHEN

Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features Chuck Rocha, senior adviser to the Sanders’s presidential campaign; Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute For Responsible Statecraft, to react to the situation in Iran, Michael Pregent, senior fellow, Hudson Institute, and Aaron Maté, host of “Pushback,” all to discuss the situation in Iran. Coverage starts at 9 a.m. ET at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10 a.m. at Rising on YouTube.

 

The House will convene at 10 a.m.

 

The Senate meets at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of Matthew Solomson to be a judge on the United States Court of Federal Claims.

 

The president will receive his intelligence briefing at 2:15 p.m.

 

Vice President Pence and Karen PenceKaren Sue PenceWhite House: Anyone 'in close proximity' to Trump or Pence will be tested for coronavirus UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus Trump says first lady tested negative for coronavirus MORE participate in a reception at 6:10 p.m. at the State Department for Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Mrs. Mitsotaki of Greece.



ELSEWHERE

Airplane crash in Tehran: A Boeing 737 operated by Ukraine International Airlines crashed in Tehran bound for Kiev shortly after takeoff on Wednesday with 179 passengers on board (Reuters). There were no survivors (NBC News).

 

 

 

 

Puerto Rico: Gov. Wanda Vázquez of Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency after a string of earthquakes that struck the U.S. commonwealth, including one 6.4-magnitude quake that is the strongest to hit the island in 102 years. Vázquez, who also activated the National Guard, said at a news conference Tuesday that the earthquakes killed one person, sparked power outages and cut off drinking water to 300,000 people across the island. Late Tuesday night, Trump signed a federal disaster declaration request (Reuters). 

 

Trends to watch: Borden became the second major U.S. milk producer since November to file for bankruptcy, prompted in part because of changes in consumer tastes, including the popularity of almond and other non-dairy milks and a decline in consumption of cereal (The Washington Post). Even as cereal and milk fall from grace, plenty of other breakfast foods have gained in popularity, along with plant-based offerings that simulate sausage, beef and pork at a growing number of fast food chains and fast-casual restaurants (Yahoo Finance).

 

Good news: In a category we’ll call “Make-a-Wish for Seniors,” we loved the smile on the face of 92-year-old Robert "Bob" Trulocke, who lives in a senior living facility in Great Britain and thought he’d missed out on his boyhood dream to ski. It’s never too late! His caregivers reached out to the staff of a nearby indoor snow slope and Trulocke soon tottered into Snozone on a walker and shot to the bottom of the downhill course with the help of an accessible ski and some staff assistance. "Weaving in and out, and whizzing down the slope — it made me feel alive," Trulocke enthused (CBS News).

 

 

 



THE CLOSER

And finally … More good news from the “never too late” beat! 

 

Sandi, a 12-year-old mixed-breed dog, lived in an animal shelter in Indiana for six years — longer than any of the shelter’s current staff — until a young couple discovered her charms. 

 

On Friday, Sandi, wearing a crown and her tail wagging, finally took her "freedom walk" out of the shelter and onto a red carpet to deliver some grateful kisses to rescuers Erin and Cary Rhodes (CBS News). 

 

More Sandi video from ABC News HERE.