THINGS DRAWING THE LINE
Yesterday, the Senate voted to limit President Trump's military actions against Iran.
Let's do a quick recap. Last month, the US ordered an airstrike killing top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, whom the admin said was planning "imminent" attacks on Americans. The strike ratcheted up tensions with Iran, which retaliated by striking two Iraqi bases housing US troops. It also drew condemnation from Congress, including from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who said lawmakers should have been consulted. And so last month, the House approved a non-binding war powers resolution.
Ok, so is this the same thing?
Kind of. When the House passed a similar version, the resolution didn't carry the force of law. But yesterday, the Senate passed a new war powers resolution (through a bipartisan vote of 55-45). This resolution says Trump would have to pull any US troops from military hostilities against Iran within 30 days unless he gets the green light from Congress. But it would still allow the president to act swiftly against an imminent attack. Unlike the House's resolution, this one is binding and requires the president's signature. It's expected to pass the House before it gets to Trump's desk. But the White House has already threatened to veto.
The Senate just made a big move to rebuke Trump's foreign policy...on a bipartisan basis. It's not something Americans are used to seeing every day.
Attorney General William Barr has the mic.
By all means, what would he like to talk about?
Buckle up, this is about to get complicated. Earlier this week, prosecutors recommended up to nine years in prison for Roger Stone – a longtime adviser to President Trump who was convicted last year for several crimes, including lying to Congress. Hours later – after Trump made clear he didn't approve of the sentencing recommendation – the DOJ suggested a more lenient sentence. Cue all four prosecutors quitting the case amid concerns that the White House pressured the DOJ. Now, Barr is opening up about the ordeal in an interview with ABC News.
What's he saying?
That the president has "never asked" him to do anything in a criminal case and that he wouldn't be "bullied or influenced" by anyone. But he also wants Trump to stop tweeting about the DOJ because he said it makes it "impossible" for him to his job. Meanwhile, Barr has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, which he could do next month. In it, expect him to face questions about his apparent open-door policy with Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Trump's AG took the rare step of criticizing his boss's use of Twitter, after the rare step of intervening in a case tied to the president. Some see it as an exercise of the DOJ's independence. Others see smoke and mirrors.
Skimm This: Our latest podcast ep explains what else is on the agenda for the AG's testimony.
What's still in the hot seat…
Huawei. Yesterday, the Justice Department unveiled new charges against the Chinese telecom company and its subsidiaries. The charges include racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to steal trade secrets from US companies for over two decades. The DOJ accuses Huawei of stealing and copying US intellectual property (think: robots, cellular tech), and selling it in products around the world. Huawei denied allegations of spying on behalf of Beijing and called the DOJ's recent allegations "unfounded and unfair."
Not the first time: Last year, the DOJ accused Huawei of stealing US intellectual property, violating sanctions on Iran, and threatening US national security. The White House has since warned other countries of security concerns involving Huawei's products.
Antarctica. Scientists said the southernmost continent hit temperatures of over 68°F earlier this week – for the first time on record. And recently, an iceberg twice the size of Washington, DC, broke off there, raising further climate change concerns. The news comes as reports continue to note the rise of Earth's temperatures and the effects of global warming.
Arrokoth. Not a "Lord of the Rings" character – it's an object a billion miles beyond Pluto. Yesterday, NASA scientists published a report with pictures of the object. They said the discovery provides evidence that planets in our solar system, including Earth, formed from a cloud of dust. And that the universe itself may not have been created by violent collisions. They called it the best discovery "in the history of the solar system."
MLB. Yesterday, the Houston Astros apologized for sign-stealing in 2017, the year the team won its first-ever World Series. But critics believe the team should be stripped of their title, something the team's owner isn't on board with.
Mike Bloomberg, apparently.