THINGS ON CONGRESS'S MIND
The Middle East
The House wants to limit President Trump's military actions against Iran.
After Trump ordered last week's attack in Baghdad that killed top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said he missed the part where he was supposed to consult Congress. That's because although the president serves as the country's top military chief, only Congress can declare war. And Pelosi claims Trump inappropriately used a post-9/11 federal law to authorize force without a clear and legitimate strategy.
So what's the House's fix?
A resolution. It would limit the president's ability to carry out military activity by requiring that the Trump admin stop "hostilities" in Iran within 30 days if no other congressional action is taken. It's expected to pass in the Democratic-led House...but not in the Republican-led Senate. Even if it passed both chambers, the resolution could face a presidential veto. Meanwhile, there's Iraq.
What's happening there?
Earlier this week, Iraq's parliament – which includes reps from pro-Iranian militia groups – voted to expel US troops from the country. And yesterday, a leaked draft letter said the US military was preparing to pull troops out of the country. But Defense Secretary Mark Esper quickly shut the rumors down.
Both President George W Bush and President Barack Obama have used this post-9/11 law – the Authorization for Use of Military Force – to justify a wide range of military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond. Now, almost two decades later, Congress is threatening to crack down on presidential military action, before things with Iran escalate any further.
Congress's recess is over. Impeachment talk is back.
Right. What's the status?
Last year the Democratic-led House voted to impeach President Trump, charging him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, largely over his actions with regard to Ukraine. But until the Republican-led Senate carries out a trial, Trump stays in office – and has yet to be convicted or acquitted. In other words: he's in limbo.
So, when's the trial?
The key question. It's stalled, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has yet to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. She implied it's because she's worried the Senate wouldn't give the House's impeachment findings a fair shake. In the meantime, several GOP senators want to dismiss the charges against Trump, while one lawmaker intro'd a resolution to force the House to pick up the pace, giving it 25 days to send the articles over to the Senate. Pelosi could send those articles over as early as today...or not.
Yes. Former national security adviser John Bolton said he would testify in a Senate trial if subpoenaed. It's a big deal, since Bolton is believed to have had insider access to the president's conversations with Ukraine. At least four Republicans would have to vote 'aye' for Bolton to show up. And although in the past Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he wouldn't allow new witnesses at a Senate trial, now he says he hasn't ruled that out.
President Trump was the third ever US president to be impeached, largely along party lines. He's expected to be acquitted along party lines in the Senate...but a trial would need to happen first.
Whose legal team may be working overtime…
Harvey Weinstein's. Yesterday, prosecutors in Los Angeles charged the Hollywood producer with four counts of sexual assault...the same day his New York trial began on similar charges. These new charges stem from two separate incidents in 2013: the first, an alleged rape at an LA hotel room. And the second, an alleged sexual assault of another woman at a hotel suite in Beverly Hills the next night. The accusers first reported cases to police in 2017. Since then, the DA's office had reportedly been working to get the evidence needed to bring charges to court.
Speaking of the courtroom: Weinstein's lawyer reportedly said any new charges would be "prejudicial" to jurors in his New York trial. Weinstein still denies all allegations of non-consensual sex. And could appear in court in California once his New York trial is completed.
What's acting on its New Year's resolutions…
JetBlue. Yesterday, the airline said it's aiming to become the first US-based carbon neutral airline, with carbon neutrality on all domestic flights by July of this year. To make it happen, JetBlue says it will have to offset another 15 to 17 billion pounds of carbon emissions each year. How? By investing in forest conservation and renewable energy. Also, it'll start using sustainable fuel on flights from San Francisco International Airport later this year. JetBlue hopes these efforts will help "mitigate its contribution to climate change." And says it won't raise airfare to make all this happen. Cha-ching.
...Oh and speaking of good news, a new study found that moving from coal to gas has saved more than 26,000 lives in the US. It's apparently in large part because shutting down coal facilities helped save surrounding communities from respiratory problems and heart disease. Next up: moving from gas to more sustainable energy sources.
What's making changes…
Borden Dairy. Yesterday, one of America's oldest and largest dairy companies filed for bankruptcy. It's the second major milk producer to do so in months, after Dean Foods filed in November. Borden Dairy has been facing unsustainable debt and falling profits. And industry trends like the decline of cow milk consumption and the rise of alternative milks added to the challenge. The company says it will continue operations while it restructures.
What's being monitored…
Puerto Rico. The island was hit with another earthquake early this morning – the strongest in over a week of earthquakes. Power outages have been reported across the island, including in San Juan. And more aftershocks are expected. No deaths have been reported.