January 3, 2018

In its relentless pursuit of nuclear strength, North Korea's first land target may have actually been itself. The Diplomat reported Wednesday that an intermediate range ballistic missile launched by the regime last spring accidentally hit the city of Tokchon, which has a population of more than 200,000.

The missile was launched from an airfield just over 40 miles north of North Korea's capital city of Pyongyang. An unnamed U.S. official explained to The Diplomat that due to an engine malfunction, the projectile made it only a minute into its test flight and traveled about 25 miles northeast before hitting the ground.

The Diplomat cross-referenced the failed missile's approximate landing site with Google Earth and other satellite imaging to find that the suspected landing area did indeed seem to show signs of "considerable damage to a complex of industrial or agricultural buildings." Several structures appeared damaged in satellite images, reportedly by debris from the failed launch.

While there have been no confirmed reports of deaths in Tokchon as a result of the failed missile test, the images published by The Diplomat seem to show that the missile came perilously close to exploding in more densely inhabited areas, marking the risk of test launches. North Korea has launched two ballistic missiles since August, both of which flew over Japan and landed cleanly in the Pacific Ocean — but one concerning possibility put forward by The Diplomat is that a future missile could explode prematurely over Japan, which would "spark a serious crisis in Northeast Asia."

NBC News reported Tuesday that U.S. officials believe North Korea may be preparing for another missile test "in the next week or two." Read more about the failed missile at The Diplomat. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:43 a.m.

A group of House Republicans reportedly just stormed into a secure impeachment hearing with their cell phones in what's being described as a "significant breach."

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) held a press conference Wednesday with a group of Republican colleagues blasting the "secret" impeachment inquiry into President Trump, contending Democrats are trying to "overturn the results" of the 2016 presidential election and declaring he and his colleagues would be disrupting the proceedings by barging into a closed-door hearing, The Hill reports.

"We're going to try to go in there, and we're going to try to figure out what's going on," Gaetz said.

About two dozen Republicans subsequently "stormed" a secure hearing room, reports CNN's Manu Raju, and they reportedly carried prohibited electronics. This delayed the testimony of Defense Department official Laura Cooper, who was on Capitol Hill a day after a diplomat Tuesday testified that he was told Trump was linking Ukraine aid to the country announcing investigations that might help him politically.

Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports the room is now "being swept because of the cell phone violations."

"Phones in the classified area of the SCIF is a significant breach," Politico Kyle Cheney noted. "Rules on that are ironclad." He added, "unclear how this will be handled but this sort of thing just doesn't happen." Brendan Morrow

11:02 a.m.

The Democratic field isn't sitting well with Oprah.

Despite being enthralled with former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg early in the 2020 race, Oprah Winfrey is now reportedly dissatisfied with who's running. And she's not the only one — Hillary Clinton is still thinking about jumping into the race, The Washington Post reports.

Oprah has made her presidential ambitions for Disney CEO Bob Iger well known, and has reportedly "repeatedly begged" him to run. She said in September she hoped to be "knocking on doors in Des Moines, wearing an 'Iger 2020' T-shirt." "Bob Iger's guidance and decency is exactly what the country needs right now," she continued.

Clinton similarly "has not ruled out jumping in herself," suggesting she's also seeing "dissatisfaction" with the race's current frontrunners, two people tell the Post. Party leaders have said they're worried about former Vice President Joe Biden's involvement in President Trump's impeachment, and that the other top-tier candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are "too liberal" to beat Trump.

It all has Democratic National Committee member Elaine Kamarck saying she "could imagine much stronger candidates" leading the field, perhaps Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) or retired Adm. William McRaven, who led the raid on Osama bin Laden. Read more about the massive yet apparently unsatisfactory Democratic field at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:37 a.m.

Joe Biden is taking his rebound to a new level.

After briefly yielding frontrunner status to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a new CNN poll shows the former vice president is back on top of the Democratic field. He ended up with 34 percent support in the nationwide poll — his best CNN poll numbers since he launched his 2020 run back in April.

Biden's support doesn't seem to pull points away from any single candidate, CNN points out. Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are about even with their previous CNN poll showings, with 19 and 16 percent, respectively. Still, that's a big drop from Warren's peak 29 percent in a Quinnipiac poll earlier this month. Biden's rise also comes as he's dealing with being a major player in President Trump's impeachment investigation, and corresponds with big gains in support among "moderate and conservative Democrats," "racial and ethnic minorities," and "older voters," CNN writes.

Next up in the CNN poll are South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) with 6 percent, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke each at 3 percent. CNN and SRSS surveyed 352 people by landline and 651 by cell phone from Oct. 17–22, with a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:26 a.m.

President Trump's former acting attorney general just made one of the strangest arguments against his impeachment yet.

Matthew Whitaker, who served as acting attorney general for about three months after Jeff Sessions' firing, appeared on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show Tuesday at the end of an eventful day for the impeachment inquiry, during which a diplomat testified he was told Trump was linking aid to Ukraine on the country announcing investigations that might benefit him politically.

But Whitaker argued not that Trump didn't do so or isn't guilty of abuse of power, but that abuse of power simply isn't criminal.

"What evidence of a crime do you have?" Whitaker asked Democrats in the interview, Mediaite reports. "Abuse of power is not a crime ... The constitution is very clear that this has to be some pretty egregious behavior."

Abuse of power was, in fact, an article of impeachment against former President Bill Clinton, though it didn't pass the House, as well as against former President Richard Nixon before his resignation. It's also what House Democrats reportedly plan to focus on throughout their impeachment inquiry going forward, with NBC News recently reporting that they'll zero in on "a simple 'abuse of power' narrative."

"This is a really bad talking point," conservative Erick Erickson tweeted in response to the Whitaker clip, adding that if Trump's allies can't come up with a better argument, "the president is toast." Brendan Morrow

8:33 a.m.

Google just announced a major computing breakthrough.

The company on Wednesday said it has achieved "quantum supremacy," meaning getting a quantum computer to perform a task that a classical computer cannot, The New York Times reports.

Specifically, Google says its researchers' quantum computer performed a calculation in just over three minutes that would take the fastest supercomputer in the world around 10,000 years. The milestone, detailed in a Nature article, is one that the Times points out scientists have been working toward since the 1980s and that University of Texas at Austin computer scientist Scott Aaronson compared to the Wright brothers' first flight.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a blog post explained that "we're now one step closer to applying quantum computing to — for example — design more efficient batteries, create fertilizer using less energy, and figure out what molecules might make effective medicines." He also described this as the "the 'hello world' moment we've been waiting for — the most meaningful milestone to date in the quest to make quantum computing a reality."

This announcement was seemingly made prematurely last month when a paper featuring the claim briefly appeared online, but it's now official from Google. In anticipation of the unveiling Wednesday, though, IBM disputed Google's claim in a blog post, arguing that actually, "the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity."

Even if Google's claim is correct, Engadget notes the "feat has almost no practical use" right now and "was designed simply to show that a quantum computer could perform as expected." Pinchai acknowledged that in his blog post by saying that "we have a long way to go between today's lab experiments and tomorrow's practical applications." But as he explained in an interview with Technology Review, "if in any field you have a breakthrough, you start somewhere." Brendan Morrow

7:29 a.m.

Another day, another poll showing rising support for the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released early Wednesday, 55 percent of U.S. voters support the impeachment inquiry, a jump of 4 percentage points from Quinnipiac's previous poll, released just last week, while 43 percent disapprove. For the first time, a plurality of voters, 48 percent, want Trump impeached and removed from office while 46 percent disagree; last week, those numbers were reversed.

There is a wide partisan split in the results, but 58 percent of independents support the House impeachment inquiry and 49 percent want him booted from office, versus 41 percent who don't. As support for impeaching Trump rose, his job approval number dropped to 38 percent, with disapproval at 58 percent, tied for the lowest net approval of his presidency. In last week's poll, Trump's approval rating was 41 percent to 54 percent disapproval. A brutal 66 percent of women disapprove of Trump's job performance.

In FiveThirtyEight's aggregation of impeachment polls, support for the impeachment inquiry is now at 51.1 percent, with 42.7 percent not supportive, while 48.7 percent back impeaching Trump and/or removing him from office versus 43.4 percent who don't.

Quinnipiac's poll, conducted Oct. 17-21 among 1,587 self-identified registered voters nationwide; has a margin of error of ±3.1 percentage points. Peter Weber

6:36 a.m.

On Tuesday, William Taylor, a career U.S diplomat and the top U.S. official at America's Ukraine embassy, was deposed by House impeachment investigators. His testimony, described by Democrats as extremely damning, was conducted behind closed doors, but his opening statement was made public. In his 15-page statement, Taylor detailed how he came to learn that President Trump was withholding both U.S. military aid approved by Congress and also a White House meeting until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly committed to investigating a company that hired Hunter Biden and a conspiracy theory involving the Democratic National Committee.

ABC News ran through the highlights of Taylor's "explosive testimony" Tuesday night.

"If this were a trial you'd call Ambassador Taylor the star witness," congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes said at CBS News. "What he's been describing in great detail all day is exactly the quid pro quo that the president had been denying."

NBC News anchor Lester Holt said "Trump's oft-repeated impeachment defense that there was no quid pro quo may have crumbled today under the weight of [Taylor's] explosive testimony." CNN's Anderson Cooper said Taylor "revealed in great detail and no uncertain terms that President Trump himself directed his people to push for a quid pro quo with the president of Ukraine," making Tuesday perhaps "one of the most consequential days in the impeachment inquiry as well as, possibly, this presidency."

At Fox News, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) argued, unchallenged, that "there is no quid pro quo until someone from the Ukraine says 'We knew military aid was being withheld during the July 25 call' [between Trump and Zelenksy], and that testimony hasn't come and it's not coming." CNN's Chris Cuomo saw the upside to America finally learning the truth.

"The real only question that remains," Cuomo said, is "what should the consequence be" for Trump. Peter Weber

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