Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 7, 2020

Harold Maass
John Bolton in Minsk
SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images

1.

Bolton says he'd comply with subpoena for impeachment testimony

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton said Monday that he would testify if the Republican-controlled Senate called for him to appear in President Trump's impeachment trial. "I have concluded that, if the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify," Bolton said. Democrats said Bolton's unexpected statement strengthened their argument to call top current and former Trump aides as witnesses. Bolton, who often clashed with Trump, has hinted that he could provide important information on the Trump administration's campaign to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said if Senate Republican leaders now block testimony from Bolton and other witnesses, "they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover-up." [USA Today]

2.

Report: At least 35 die in stampede at funeral procession for Iran general

A stampede broke out Tuesday during a funeral procession for top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, killing at least 35 people, Iranian state TV reported. Another 48 people were injured. The incident occurred in Kerman, Soleimani's hometown. Funeral processions for Soleimani have drawn massive crowds. More than 1 million people participated in a procession in the Iranian capital, Tehran. Iranians consider Soleimani to be a national hero for his work leading the elite Quds force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. The U.S. blames him for attacks that have killed American troops in Iraq. The Trump administration has said President Trump approved the airstrike that killed Soleimani because the general was plotting imminent attacks against Americans. [The Associated Press]

3.

Julián Castro endorses Elizabeth Warren for president

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination on Monday. Castro is now the best known former Democratic candidate to throw his support to one of the candidates still in the running. Castro dropped out of the race last week after he failed to raise enough money or rise high enough in polls to be a contender. Castro, who was the only Latino in the field, focused much of his attention on immigration and criminal justice issues. He had spoken highly of Warren during his campaign. "Elizabeth and I share a vision of America where everyone counts," Castro tweeted Monday. "An America where people − not the wealthy or well-connected − are put first. I'm proud to join her in the fight for big, structural change." [Julian Castro, CNN]

4.

Esper says U.S. won't target Iran cultural sites, contradicting Trump

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday said the U.S. military would not target Iranian cultural sites in retaliation for any response by Iran to the killing of top military commander Qassem Soleimani, contradicting threats by President Trump. Esper said strikes against places with historic, artistic, or religious significance but no military value would constitute a war crime. "We will follow the laws of armed conflict," Esper said. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a rare appearance at a meeting of his government's National Security Council that any response to the drone strike that killed Soleimani in Baghdad must be a proportional attack on American interests conducted openly by Iranian forces, a departure from the use of proxy groups for attacks outside Iran. [The New York Times]

5.

Pentagon mistakenly releases draft memo suggesting Iraq withdrawal

The U.S. military on Monday sent a letter to the Iraqi government saying it would be moving U.S. forces in the coming days. The letter said the change was part of preparations for withdrawing, but the Pentagon later said the memo was sent by mistake and there was no plan to leave Iraq. The decision to move some or all of the roughly 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq would come as American forces halt operations against ISIS to prepare for possible attacks by Iran and its proxy groups in retaliation for the killing of Iran's top general, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands of mourners gathered in Tehran for Soleimani's funeral. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wept and prayed over Soleimani's coffin, referring to the late head of the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a "living martyr." [Reuters, The Associated Press]

6.

Pompeo reportedly rules out 2020 Senate bid

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has decided against running for an open Senate seat in Kansas, The Washington Post reported Monday, citing two people familiar with the matter. Pompeo reportedly gave the news to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had recruited him to help hold the seat for the GOP after the retirement of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). President Trump reportedly wanted Pompeo to stay on, and that desire has only increased as tensions with Iran mount following the airstrike in Baghdad that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Speculation about a possible run had increased recently as Pompeo made frequent trips to Kansas, and met with Ward Baker, a Republican strategist with close ties to McConnell. [The Washington Post]

7.

Blast kills 30 in Nigeria region where Boko Haram is active

An improvised explosive device blew up on a crowded bridge in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno, killing at least 30 people, Reuters reported Monday. Witnesses reportedly said more than 35 people injured in the attack were rushed to a local hospital. "I just heard a loud sound of explosions, before I realized I saw many of our friends and colleagues were killed," said Modu Ali Said, an eyewitness. Sources within the Civilian Joint Task Force, formed to fight the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, confirmed the early estimates of the death toll. Boko Haram is known to be active in the area, but no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. [Reuters]

8.

Ikea to pay $46 million to family of child killed by toppled dresser

Ikea on Monday confirmed that it had agreed to pay $46 million to the parents of a 2-year-old California boy, Jozef Dudek, who was killed when one of the giant furniture company's dressers toppled over onto him in 2017. The attorneys for the child's parents said the settlement could be the largest ever involving the wrongful death of a child in the U.S. "While no settlement can alter the tragic events that brought us here, for the sake of the family and all involved, we're grateful that this litigation has reached a resolution," the company said in a statement. IKEA dressers have been involved in the deaths of at least nine children. The company has recalled 17.3 million dressers for possible instability issues since 2016. [USA Today]

9.

Weinstein charged with sexual assault in L.A. as N.Y. trial starts

Los Angeles prosecutors on Monday charged disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another in 2013. "We believe the evidence will show that the defendant used his power and influence to gain access to his victims and then commit violent crimes against them," Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. The indictment came hours after the start of his trial in New York on separate charges of sexual assaults against two other women. Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty in that case. He could be sentenced to life in prison if he is found guilty of the most serious charge in that trial, predatory sexual assault. Weinstein's lawyers didn't immediately comment on the new charges. [Reuters]

10.

Natural stone arch destroyed in Puerto Rico earthquake

An iconic natural arch in Puerto Rico collapsed Monday when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook the U.S. Caribbean island. The stone feature was a popular site for visitors to Puerto Rico's southern coast. "This is really sad," Denniza Colon, a 22-year-old resident of the area, told The Miami Herald. "It was one of the biggest tourism draws of Guayanilla." Puerto Rico has suffered a series of earthquakes since late December. Monday's tremor knocked several homes from their foundations, and triggered rockslides that swept onto some roads. There were no immediate reports of casualties. A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck the island early Tuesday. It was expected to be the "largest quake for now," said Víctor Huérfano, director of Puerto Rico's Seismic Network, although aftershocks are expected to continue. [The Miami Herald, The Associated Press]