As the historic impeachment trial of President Donald Trump continues this week, explosive new revelations about Trump’s decision to freeze aid to Ukraine emerged Sunday. The New York Times reports former national security adviser John Bolton writes in his forthcoming book that Trump personally told him in August that he wanted to continue withholding nearly $400 million in security aid until Ukraine turned over materials related to former Vice President Joe Biden and supporters of Hillary Clinton in Ukraine. The reports are based on a leaked manuscript of Bolton’s book. Trump took to Twitter shortly after midnight Monday to deny the claims, writing, “I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”
This comes as Trump’s defense team is resuming their opening arguments today, after using just two hours of their allotted 24 hours Saturday. White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued that Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not explicitly tie aid to the investigations, and accused Democrats of trying to “overturn the results of the last election.”
This is Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Jay Sekulow speaking on the Senate floor Saturday.
Jay Sekulow: “We really intend to show over the next several days that the evidence is actually really overwhelming that the president did nothing wrong. … This case is really not about presidential wrongdoing. This entire impeachment process is about the House managers’ insistence that they are able to read everybody’s thoughts, they can read everybody’s intention, even when the principal speakers, the witnesses themselves, insist that those interpretations are wrong.”
Senators are preparing to vote this week on whether new evidence and witnesses can be introduced in Trump’s impeachment trial. Four Republicans would need to side with Democrats and vote in favor of the move. We’ll have more on the impeachment trial after headlines with Mother Jones reporter Dan Friedman.
The Pentagon said Friday that 34 American military members sustained traumatic brain injuries from Iranian airstrikes on the Al Asad Airbase in Iraq earlier this month. President Trump had previously said no American troops were injured in the attack, which came in response to the targeted U.S. killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. Trump dismissed concerns about the troops’ well-being last week, saying he thought their injuries were headaches and were not “very serious.” Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, called out the misinformation about the troops’ injuries, tweeting, “This is a big deal. The American people must be able to trust the government to share information about our sons and daughters in harms way. Nothing is more serious and sacred.”
In Iraq, security forces and unidentified gunmen attacked anti-government protesters over the weekend, reportedly killing 12 people and burning protest camps in Baghdad and the southern city of Nasiriyah.
Protester: “Unidentified men came from that direction in four large vehicles and two other cars and started firing randomly at protesters. I was in my car, and my son was sitting beside me. The bullets hit the car, came though car’s windshield, out through the rear glass.”
Up to 600 protesters have been killed since the demonstrations erupted in October. Protesters say the latest crackdown came after popular Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced Friday he would no longer support the anti-government demonstrations. Earlier on Friday, 200,000 people took part in a march in Baghdad supported by al-Sadr, demanding the U.S. withdraw troops from Iraq following the assassination of General Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport.
In Turkey, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake has killed at least 38 people and injured at least 1,600 others. The powerful quake hit the eastern province of Elazig Friday, trapping scores of people and collapsing at least 76 buildings. Over 40 people have been rescued from the rubble, including a 2-year-old girl. Tremors could be felt as far as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate is speaking out against racism in the media after she was cropped out of a photo featuring herself and other prominent climate activists in Davos, Switzerland. The other youth activists were white and included Greta Thunberg. The Associated Press, which published the cropped photo, said the photographer cut Nakate out of it because he thought the building behind her was distracting. AP also issued a statement apologizing for cropping the photo. Vanessa Nakate said the photo “erased a continent.” This is Nakate speaking on social media.
Vanessa Nakate: “This is the first time in my life that I understood the definition of the word 'racism.' … Africa is the least emitter of carbons, but we are the most affected by the climate crisis. But you erasing our voices won’t change anything.”
President Trump became the first sitting president to attend the anti-abortion “March for Life” in Washington, D.C., Friday. He told supporters that “unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” as he touted his judicial appointments and slammed Democrats — falsely accusing Virginia Governor Ralph Northam of supporting a bill that would execute babies after birth.
Also on Friday, the Trump administration threatened to cut off federal funding for some health programs in California unless the state ends its requirement that private health insurers cover abortions. California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state would not change its policy.
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is coming under fire for comparing the Trump administration’s fight to ban abortion to the fight to end slavery. She said, “[President Lincoln] too contended with the pro-choice arguments of his day. They suggested that a state’s choice to be slave or to be free had no moral question in it. … President Lincoln reminded those pro-choicers that a vast portion of the American people … look upon it as a vast moral evil.” She made the comments at an event last week for Colorado Christian University held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Massachusetts Congressmember Ayanna Pressley tweeted in response, “As a Black woman & the Chair of the abortion access task force, I invite you to come by the Hill and say this to my face. Would welcome the opportunity to educate you.”
In Boston, the founder of Insys Therapeutics has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison in a landmark case for the opioid crisis. John Kapoor and four other executives were convicted last May of a criminal conspiracy to bribe doctors to prescribe a highly addictive fentanyl spray to patients who didn’t need it. One of the defendants allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor at a company event in order to persuade him to prescribe the drug. Legal experts say the sentencing should be a warning to other drug company executives who have engaged in deceptive marketing practices and other schemes to push opioids.
In New York City, a fire has destroyed tens of thousands of art pieces and historical materials belonging to the Museum of Chinese in America. The fire erupted Thursday night on the eve of Lunar New Year and tore through the archives of the iconic Chinatown museum, which contained one-of-a-kind documents dating back to the 1800s chronicling the history of Chinese migration to the United States.
In Texas, an explosion at an industrial plant early Friday morning killed two people and damaged over 200 homes northwest of Houston. Authorities are investigating the cause of the blast at the Watson Grinding and Manufacturing plant. Two employees of the company were killed in the explosion, which was so powerful it shattered windows in homes up to a half-mile away.
Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles at the age of 41. The crash killed all nine people on board, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna and beloved college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and their 13-year-old daughter Alyssa. Officials say the cause of the crash is being investigated but could take months to determine.
Bryant won five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals and was crowned an All-Star 18 times. He played for the L.A. Lakers for 20 years before retiring in 2016. He was also known for being an ardent supporter of women’s basketball. Gianna Bryant reportedly hoped to one day play for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team.
Tributes continue to pour in on social media from fans, athletes and other public figures. Musicians Alicia Keys, Lizzo, Run-DMC and others remembered Bryant at the Grammys in Los Angeles Sunday night, and thousands gathered outside the Staples Center overnight to mourn his passing. But some are also calling on the media and supporters not to forget a sexual assault allegation from early in his career. In 2003, a 19-year-old woman who worked at a hotel where Bryant was staying accused him of rape. Bryant denied the charge, saying they had a consensual sexual encounter. The case was dropped after the woman decided not to testify and a civil suit was settled out of court. Many have called out his accuser’s treatment by the media and Bryant’s defense team. The sexual assault allegation resurfaced in 2018 when his film “Dear Basketball” won an Oscar for Best Animated Short at the 2018 Academy Awards. We’ll have more on Kobe Bryant later in the broadcast with author and sports journalist Dave Zirin.