Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 15, 2020

Harold Maass
Democratic candidates at the debate
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images


Democrats clash over policy, sexism, in final debate before Iowa

Six leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination clashed over domestic and foreign policy but jointly criticized President Trump in their Tuesday debate, their last before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses launch primary season. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) stood behind her claim that rival progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) once told her a woman couldn't beat Trump, and noted that she and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) were the only ones on stage who had never lost an election. Sanders denied Warren's allegation, saying: "Of course a woman can win." Former Vice President Joe Biden said the question was which candidate "can bring the whole party together." Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg defended his own electability in response to a poll showing him lagging among black voters. [The Washington Post, The Associated Press]


House to vote on sending impeachment case to Senate

The House plans to vote Wednesday on sending impeachment charges against President Trump to the Senate for trial, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. The House approved two articles of impeachment last month involving allegations that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democrats, then tried to obstruct the House's investigation into the matter. Pelosi held off on sending the charges to the Senate as Democrats tried to get Republican leaders to guarantee new witnesses would be called to testify, but relented after a month-long stalemate. "The American people deserve the truth, and the Constitution demands a trial," Pelosi said in a statement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate would wrap up other business this week and start the trial next Tuesday. [The New York Times]


Documents suggest Giuliani associate surveillance of Ukraine ambassador

The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released text messages and documents that suggested Ukraine's top prosecutor offered Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, damaging information about former Vice President Joe Biden as incentive for the Trump administration to recall then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. The evidence suggested that an associate of Parnas sent text messages that appeared to indicate he had Yovanovitch under surveillance in Ukraine. A lawyer for Yovanovitch said the matter warranted an investigation. The release of the documents prompted Democrats to repeat demands for the White House to provide documents about Trump's effort to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats, saying the evidence is necessary for Trump's looming impeachment trial. The White House and Giuliani did not immediately comment. [The Washington Post, Politico]


4 Republicans to back Senate war powers resolution, giving it majority

A resolution to limit President Trump's military action against Iran now has enough Republican support to pass the Senate, Democrats pushing the measure said Tuesday. Moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is expected to join three GOP colleagues already backing the resolution — Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — giving the chamber's Democrats the votes they need for approval. "We now have the 51 votes that we need for the version that's the bipartisan version," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who wrote the Senate version of the resolution. It was not immediately clear when the Senate will take up the war powers resolution, with impeachment proceedings looming. The House approved its version last week in response to the Trump-ordered strike that killed Iran's top military commander, Qassem Soleimani. [The Washington Post]


European nations accuse Iran of violating nuclear deal

Britain, France, and Germany on Tuesday formally accused Iran of violating its landmark 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers. The three countries said they still wanted to save the deal on curbing Iran's nuclear program, rather than joining the U.S. in resuming sanctions. Iran denies its nuclear program is intended to develop weapons. It has rolled back its commitment to abide by the terms of the deal since President Trump announced the U.S. was pulling out, and said flatly that it was no longer bound by the agreement after the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. Still, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tuesday that the European countries were making a "strategic mistake" by invoking a trigger mechanism that could lead to new sanctions. [Reuters]


Michael Flynn files motion to withdraw guilty plea

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is seeking to formally withdraw his guilty plea, court filings revealed Tuesday. Flynn, who served briefly in the Trump administration, was charged in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference more than two years ago. He initially said he lied to federal agents about his contacts with a Russian diplomat, but is now looking to change course. His attorneys reportedly said the decision was made because prosecutors didn't uphold their side of their plea bargain. His sentencing was planned for Jan. 28, but is now likely to be postponed. Flynn's filing does not result in an automatic plea withdrawal; a judge must approve. [Politico, NBC News]


Lawmakers object to Trump plan to divert more funding for border wall

Republicans and Democrats objected to White House plans to divert more Pentagon funding this year to help pay for work on President Trump's border wall. Trump reportedly wants to use an additional $7.2 billion allotted for the military to spend on the wall. The White House wants to shift $3.5 billion in counter-narcotics funds and more than $3.6 billion in military construction money, for a total of about $1 billion more than he diverted last year. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, called the plan "a slap to the military as well as a slap to Congress." Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, criticized the move but shifted blame to Democrats for not agreeing to more wall funding. [The Washington Post]


Jet returning to LAX dumps fuel, injuring dozens at schools

A jetliner dumped jet fuel onto neighborhoods and a half dozen schools as it returned to Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday, injuring or otherwise affecting 60 people on the ground. Park Avenue Elementary in Cudahy was the hardest hit among the five elementary schools and one high school where the fuel rained down. At Park Avenue, which is about 19 miles east of the airport, 20 children and 11 adults suffered minor injuries when fuel fell on a playground. "Drops of water were coming down. I thought it was a rainbow, and I looked up, and it was gasoline," a Park Avenue fifth grader said. Delta Air Lines said the plane that dumped the fuel was Flight 89, which "experienced an engine issue" after taking off for Shanghai, China. Planes are supposed to dump fuel before emergency landings, but not over populated areas. [CNN]


Supreme Court hears 'Bridgegate' arguments

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the New Jersey "Bridgegate" case on Tuesday, and at least six of the nine justices expressed skepticism over whether the George Washington Bridge traffic jam orchestrated by then-Gov. Chris Christie's aides amounted to a federal crime. "I don't see how this case works," said Justice Stephen Breyer. Chief Justice John Roberts asked Justice Department lawyer Eric Feigin how Bridgegate could be seen as a violation of federal law against taking public resources for public use, noting that throughout the traffic snarl-up the lanes of the expressway were "still being used for public purposes." Justice Elena Kagan noted that the two aides convicted in the case were found guilty of property fraud, even though the case involved creating a traffic jam to "benefit people politically" by punishing a local mayor. [CNN, NJ.com]


WNBA, players reach tentative contract hiking pay, benefits

The WNBA and its players' union have tentatively agreed to a contract that would raise the annual base salary for top players from $117,500 to $215,000. The maximum total compensation for stars would rise above $500,000, tripling last year's ceiling. The contract agreement, which still must be approved by union members and the league's board, also would provide generous maternity benefits. "What we have here is a multidimensional pay structure as well as benefit structure," Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. "We've really gone all out here. We're making a big bet on this league, a big bet on women." The deal comes as women athletes in many sports, including soccer, tennis, and hockey, are speaking out and demanding better pay and benefits. [The New York Times, ESPN]