So much for Midwestern nice
When sniping erupts between progressives Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, known for never having a bad word about each other, you know tensions are peaking in the race for the Democratic 2020 nomination.
The latest poll in Iowa showed four candidates bunched within 5 points of each other — 20% for Sanders, 17% for Warren, 16% for Pete Buttigieg and 15% for Joe Biden. On Tuesday night, six candidates will meet in the final debate before the state's Feb. 3 caucuses. Fireworks are in the forecast.
Warren said Sunday, “I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me." What brought that on was a Politico report revealing that Sanders volunteers reaching out to Iowa voters have been given a script hitting Warren's electability. It talks her down as an upper-crust candidate, supported chiefly by "highly-educated, more affluent people," who brings "no new bases into the Democratic Party.”
Warren also said Sanders was risking a repeat of "factionalism" that helped Donald Trump win in 2016, and she hopes “Bernie reconsiders and turns his campaign in a different direction.” (Watch a video clip.)
Sanders disowned the attack but took no blame, saying, "We have hundreds of employees, Elizabeth Warren has hundreds of employees and people sometimes say things that they shouldn’t." His national press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, framed the argument another way, tweeting, "Only Bernie’s volunteer army, fundraising numbers, and popularity with a diverse working-class coalition can compete” with Trump.
Biden also is facing sharper attacks from Sanders over his initial support of the 2003 Iraq War amid the uproar among Democrats over the Trump-ordered drone attack last week that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Buttigieg's support has slipped in Iowa, where a strong showing is critical to the 37-year-old ex-small city mayor's credibility as a presidential candidate.
Amy Klobuchar, from neighboring Minnesota, has counted on a surprise showing in Iowa to boost her candidacy as a moderate alternative to Biden and Buttigieg. Her 6% showing in the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa poll released Friday is not encouraging.
No intel inside Trump claim
When Trump expanded his case for killing Soleimani to a claim that he was plotting attacks on four U.S. embassies, was it a guess? A hunch? An assumption? Made up? Defense Secretary Mark Esper admitted Sunday it wasn't based on any intelligence finding.
"I didn't see one with regard to four embassies," Esper said during a round of talk show appearances. "The president never said there was specific intelligence to four different embassies," Esper said.
So what was it? "What the president said was he believed that it probably and could have been attacks against additional embassies," Esper said. "And I believed it, too."
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, accused Trump of "fudging the intelligence" and charged that administration officials "are overstating and exaggerating what the intelligence shows."
A new ABC News/Ipsos poll found Americans disapprove of how Trump is handling tensions with Iran by 56% to 43%. Also, 52% thought the killing of Soleimani made the U.S. less safe. For more, see Newsday's story by Scott Eidler and Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Impeachment trial this week?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to send the two articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate early this week. A trial could start within days.
On ABC's "This Week," Pelosi said Democrats have not “excluded” the possibility of subpoenaing former White House national security adviser John Bolton and other top Trump aides if the Republican-controlled Senate does not.
“Now the ball is in their court to either do that, or pay a price for not doing it,” Pelosi said about whether Senate Republicans will allow witnesses and new documents to be admitted at the trial over Trump's effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political foes. Newsday's story by Figueroa has more.
Janison: McConnell gets the save
As the Senate impeachment trial is shaping up, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is ready and eager to save Trump's presidency, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Any real assessment of the witnesses and evidence in the case will have nothing to do with the outcome.
McConnell has been campaigning against impeachment for some time with at least as much commitment as Pelosi has shown for the process.
In October, McConnell said in a fundraising pitch on Facebook: "Your conservative Senate Majority is the ONLY thing stopping Nancy Pelosi from impeaching President Trump. Donate & help us keep it!" The president will owe McConnell and his conference bigly if he doesn't already.
Trump 180: Trial's an error
In about a month, Trump has gone from wanting a dramatic vindication in a full-blown Senate trial to yielding to McConnell's design for a streamlined proceeding to now suggesting there should be no trial at all.
"Many believe that by the Senate giving credence to a trial based on the … Impeachment Hoax, rather than an outright dismissal, it gives the partisan Democrat Witch Hunt credibility that it otherwise does not have. I agree!" Trump tweeted Sunday.
Could it be that Trump now feels he's milked anger at the Democrats among his supporters for all he can?
Up to this point, reports Newsday's Figueroa, campaign finance reports and polling suggest the House impeachment proceedings helped, not hindered, his campaign fundraising and further galvanized his support among Republicans, which hovers near 90%.
"The whole impeachment vote plays into his narrative that he’s being targeted," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).
Nuts to you, too
Pelosi isn't crazy about Trump's current nickname for her, "Crazy Nancy," she said on "This Week":
"I don't like to spend too much time on his crazy tweets because everything he says is a projection. When he calls somebody crazy, he knows that he is."
What else is happening:
- Some of the troops maimed by roadside bombs in the Iraq War and loved ones of those killed see justice in the death of Soleimani. “I do take comfort that the last thing he heard was the sound of a United States missile coming down on his head,” Patrick Farr, who lost a son, told The New York Times.
- Trump tweeted support, in English and Farsi, for Iranians protesting in the streets after the Tehran government admitted it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner.
- Trump called on Iran to "let reporters roam free!" It's a departure in sentiment from his disinterest in press freedom in authoritarian countries with which he's friendly, such as Saudi Arabia, whose officials orchestrated the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- The White House is considering dramatically expanding Trump's travel ban on five Muslim-majority nations to as many as seven additional countries that also are mostly Muslim, The Associated Press reported. It's part of a renewed election-year focus on immigration by Trump, the report said.
- Trump sent birthday greetings to North Korea's Kim Jong Un. A statement by the state news agency KCNA said Kim still has "good personal feelings" about Trump, but there are no plans to restart nuclear talks without U.S. concessions.
- Michael Bloomberg says he is open to spending $1 billion to beat Trump, even if he's not the Democratic nominee and Sanders or Warren is, The New York Times reported. "I really don’t agree with them,” he said of the leftmost candidates, "but I’d still support them, yes, because compared to Donald Trump, that’s easy.”