President Trump is now trying to claim that “it doesn’t really matter” whether Iranian General Qassem Soleimani posed an imminent threat before the United States assassinated him in a drone strike at the Baghdad International Airport on January 3. Trump’s words — from a tweet yesterday — come after President Trump spent days claiming Soleimani was planning to attack four U.S. embassies.
But Trump’s claims began to unravel after his own defense secretary, Mark Esper, said he had not seen specific evidence of any planned embassy attacks. This is President Trump answering questions from reporters about his changing claims.
President Donald Trump: “First of all, I think it’s been totally consistent. But here’s what’s been consistent: We killed Soleimani, the number one terrorist in the world by every account, bad person, killed a lot of Americans, killed a lot of people.”
That was Trump speaking Monday. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is dismissing the Iraqi Parliament’s vote demanding the United States withdraw its troops from Iraq, which came after the U.S. assassination of Soleimani in Baghdad. The Wall Street Journal is reporting the State Department warned Iraq that the United States could shut down Iraq’s access to its own bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, if Iraq forces U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq.
And Iran says it has arrested several people as part of the investigation into how Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner taking off from Tehran, en route to Kiev, killing all 176 people on board. The plane crash came as Iran fired missiles at Iraqi military bases housing Iraqi and U.S. troops as retaliation for Soleimani’s assassination.
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has announced he is dropping out of the presidential race — leaving only one black candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, in the race. Six candidates will take the stage tonight for the seventh Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, the last debate before the Iowa caucuses. All of the candidates on stage will be white.
Tensions between Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders have been rising in recent days. Senator Warren issued a statement yesterday saying Senator Sanders came to her house for a private dinner, with just the two of them, in December 2018, and said, “Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.” Sanders called the claims ludicrous. This is Sanders’s senior adviser Jeff Weaver speaking to CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
Jeff Weaver: “For anyone to say that a woman can’t win, it doesn’t make sense. Hillary Clinton won 3 million more votes than Donald Trump did in the last election. So, there’s some wires crossed here, but clearly Bernie Sanders did not say that a woman could not win.”
New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she’s launching a new political action committee meant to challenge the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Ocasio-Cortez’s PAC would help fund progressive challengers to take on both Republican incumbents and centrist Democrats. The congressmember recently said she wouldn’t be “paying her dues” to the DCCC in the 2019-2020 election cycle and that she’d prefer to donate to individual Democratic candidates.
In immigration news, the Trump administration is planning to divert an additional $7.2 billion from the military budget for the construction of Trump’s promised border wall, bringing the total amount allocated to wall construction so far to over $18 billion. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, is detaining fewer immigrants. ICE says that’s because of new Illinois laws such as the TRUST Act, which bars police from detaining people based on their immigration status. Chicago’s sanctuary ordinance also prohibits police from giving ICE agents access to people who are in the custody of local police. This comes as a trial is underway in Arizona over the conditions in Border Patrol’s short-term detention facilities. Immigrant rights groups have condemned the “horrific conditions” inside these facilities, including overcrowding, freezing temperatures and lack of adequate food, water or medical care. And in more news on global migration, a 10-year-old child was found dead at a Paris airport in the undercarriage of a plane that had arrived from the Ivory Coast. Meanwhile, eight children were among the 11 migrants who drowned when their boat sank off the western coast of Turkey as they attempted to reach Europe.
Turkey and Russia have brokered a ceasefire for the Syrian province of Idlib, where the Russian-backed Syrian regime has been fighting a brutal offensive aimed at capturing the territory from rebel groups. There are some reports of the Syrian regime violating the ceasefire, which took effect midnight Sunday.
France says it will send about 200 additional troops to West Africa, even as many protesters in Mali and other West African nations are calling on France to withdraw the more than 4,000 troops it has stationed in the former French colonies. West African leaders are warning of increasing violence in the Sahel region. This is Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.
President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré: “2019 was a difficult year for the Sahel in general and for the Lake Chad region, insofar that I would say that the increase of attacks in the Sahel, the human and material destruction that we are suffering and the unprecedented humanitarian crisis we are experiencing in this zone has made us react and it shows us that we have to enter a more advanced stage regarding the coordination of our operations.”
In Pakistan, at least 55 people have died after avalanches swept through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir in recent days. About a dozen more residents are missing.
2019 was the hottest year for the world’s oceans on record. That’s according to a new study published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. The Earth’s surface temperature also recorded its second-hottest year on record last year, as the climate crisis leads to the warming of the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere.
Attorney General William Barr is demanding that Apple unlock the phones of the alleged gunman of a deadly shooting at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, escalating tensions between the Justice Department and Apple in a legal battle over personal privacy. Last month, Saudi Air Force officer Mohammed Alshamrani killed three sailors and wounded eight others on the base. Barr yesterday declared the shooting “an act of terrorism.” Twenty-one Saudi military cadets who were training in the U.S. are now being expelled from the country and sent back to Saudi Arabia, following an investigation launched after the Pensacola shooting.
This year’s Oscar nominations have just been announced. Among the top-nominated movies was “Joker,” for which Joaquin Phoenix received a nomination for best actor. “Edge of Democracy,” about Brazilian Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva, was nominated for best documentary. “Harriet” star Cynthia Erivo was nominated for best actress, making her the only black actor nominated for an Oscar this year. And not a single woman was nominated for best director, for a second year in a row.