August 7, 2019

For the first time in years, there appears to be bipartisan momentum in Congress toward passing significant gun restrictions. The most popular gun legislation, universal background checks, has hit a wall in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), but President Trump and GOP leadership appear open to passing "red flag" laws.

What are "red flag" laws?
Also called "extreme risk protection orders," they authorize law enforcement to temporarily confiscate guns from a person a judge deems an imminent danger to themselves or others. Typically, police or concerned family members or friends request the court order after a gun owner expresses a suicidal or homicidal intention. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws on the book.

Are red flag laws effective?
"For 'red flags' to work, someone has to raise them," The Washington Post notes, and an FBI study found that "those most likely to spot dangerous warning signs often feel loyalty to the attacker, refuse to believe they could commit violence, or fear what would happen if they reported the issue." There's little evidence yet that red flag laws are effective at preventing mass shootings, but there's a growing body of data that such laws can reduce suicides, which account for two-thirds of all U.S. gun deaths.

Are gun rights advocates on board?
The National Rifle Association has been fighting red flag laws in states for years, and an NRA spokeswoman said Tuesday that any such laws "at a minimum must include strong due process protections, require treatment, and include penalties against those who make frivolous claims." In most states, gun owners can petition the court to get their guns back.

What "red flags" should people look for?
Along with expressed intent to harm others, people who commit mass shootings tend to have low self-esteem, significant extended trauma, a history of violence — especially domestic violence — substance abuse, multiple DWIs, outbursts of anger, and access to guns NBC News reports, citing multiple studies. Mental illness does not appear to be a significant factor. Peter Weber

10:10 a.m.

The House has a new demand before President Trump's impeachment proceedings get under way.

The House has deemed White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, one of Trump's top impeachment defenders, a "material witness" to the charges against Trump, a letter to Cipollone sent Tuesday reads. Cipollone now faces a possible "disqualification" from defending Trump, and must "disclose" any evidence he has as the trial begins, the House's impeachment managers continued.

The first impeachment article against Trump alleges he pressured Ukraine to get investigations opened into the Bidens and the 2016 election, and the second says he obstructed Congress' attempt to investigate that campaign. "Evidence indicates that" Cipollone has "detailed knowledge of the facts regarding the first article and played an instrumental role in the conduct charged in the second," the letter from the House reads. "Ethical rules" would therefore "generally preclude" Cipollone from being a lawyer in this case, given that he's also a "necessary witness," the impeachment managers continue.

"At a minimum, [Cipollone] must disclose all facts and information" he has "firsthand knowledge" of that may come into play during the Senate's impeachment trial into Trump, the letter concludes. Whether Cipollone actually does that is doubtful. Find the whole letter here. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:59 a.m.

Despite Washington and Beijing having agreed to an initial framework, it might not be time to breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to the U.S.-China trade war, says the Peterson Institute for International Economics' Chad Brown.

In fact, Brown says the so-called phase one "may be doomed from the start" thanks to "unrealistic" export targets. Brown finds it highly unlikely China will be able to purchase the additional $200 billion (and then some) worth of U.S. exports by 2021, even when working with generous projections.

If China does indeed fall short of expectations, that could spell trouble for international trade. It could imperil other aspects of the agreement and re-ignite trade tensions by way of U.S. retaliation. But it wouldn't only harm the two superpowers. Brown suggests China could try to hit its U.S. numbers by diverting imports from other trade partners, which could potentially make other deals more challenging.

Other factors could also hamper China's ability to meet the Trump administration's goals, including the U.S. restricting exports on tech products on national security grounds, fallout from previous tariffs, and even the outbreak of African swine ever on China's pig stock, which has reduced the country's demand for key American products like soybeans.

All told, Brown hints that a lot could still go wrong. Read more at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Tim O'Donnell

9:38 a.m.

Weeks ahead of the 2020 Oscars, the Best Picture race already seems to be over. But is it, really?

After a big win at the Golden Globes, 1917 this past weekend cemented its status as Oscar frontrunner by taking the top prize at the Producers Guild of America Awards, one of the most reliable Best Picture bellwethers. The PGA winner has lined up with Best Picture at the Oscars about 70 percent of the time, IndieWire notes.

Just as important as what won at the PGA Awards was what lost, though: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which was considered the Best Picture frontrunner weeks ago. But Quentin Tarantino's film has been taking hit after hit, especially after not earning an editing nomination at the Oscars; it's rare for a film to take Best Picture without a nomination in this category.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood also didn't win the top prize of Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards, despite a star-studded cast that many thought would provide it an easy victory. Instead, SAG chose a dark horse: Parasite. With this win, Parasite surges into a strong second place in the Best Picture competition behind 1917, and The New York Times argues it's now a two-way race between these films. Working against Parasite is the fact that no foreign-language film has ever won Best Picture, though that was also true at the SAG Awards until this year.

All eyes now turn to the Directors Guild of America Awards and the BAFTAs, where Once Upon a Time in Hollywood could regain momentum, Parasite could prove to be an even bigger threat, or 1917 could continue its domination. For now, the consensus is that Best Picture is 1917's to lose after its back-to-back Golden Globes and PGA victories. But Parasite is quite well positioned for a history-making upset. Brendan Morrow

9:29 a.m.

No, this isn't the leaked plot for the next James Bond movie.

Back in August, Swiss police uncovered what appears to be a Russian attempt to secretly surveil the World Economic Forum happening this week, Zürich’s Tages-Anzeiger newspaper first reported. In what sounds like a ridiculous whodunnit, a pair of suspected Russian spies posed as plumbers and stayed in the Swiss resort of Davos for an "unusually long" time before their alleged intentions were discovered, the Graubünden police department confirmed to the Financial Times.

The two men had been staying in Davos for an unspecified amount of time before Swiss police were "alerted to their unusually long stay in the high-end resort," the Financial Times writes. The men then "claimed diplomatic protections, but had not been registered as official diplomats with Bern," the Times continues. And while there was no indication the men had committed any crimes, "police and Swiss federal officials suspected the pair of being Russian intelligence agents, posing as tradesmen in order to install surveillance equipment at key facilities around the town" in anticipation of this week's WEF.

It's unclear just what Russia would've learned from the WEF, which is packed with events that eventually get reported to the public. But "the gathering is nevertheless a rare concentration of global power and influence that is tempting to spymasters," including visits from President Trump and Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Times says. Read more at the Financial Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:53 a.m.

Ready for a return to the 2016 Democratic primary?

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is bringing it back by blasting Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the upcoming documentary series Hillary. The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Clinton goes after Sanders in the documentary, saying, "He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it."

Clinton, asked by the Reporter if this assessment of Sanders still holds, simply responded, "Yes, it does." She declined to say whether she'll endorse Sanders if he wins the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, while criticizing "the culture around him."

"It's his leadership team," she told the Reporter. "It's his prominent supporters. It's his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it."

Asked about the recent allegation from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that Sanders told her in a private 2018 meeting that a woman couldn't be elected president in 2020, which Sanders denies, Clinton called this "part of a pattern."

"If it were a one-off, you might say, 'OK, fine,'" Clinton said. "But he said I was unqualified. I had a lot more experience than he did, and got a lot more done than he had, but that was his attack on me."

Read the full interview with Clinton sure to generate tons of discussion at The Hollywood Reporter. Hillary will begin streaming on Hulu on March 6. Brendan Morrow

8:02 a.m.

Greta Thunberg returned to the World Economic Forum a year after famously observing that "our house is on fire" with a familiar warning.

The Swedish climate activist spoke Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, returning to the event after saying in a 2019 speech there that "our house is on fire." Opening a panel called "How to Save the Planet: Averting a Climate Catastrophe," Thunberg recalled her speech a year ago while advocating for "radical emission cuts at the source, starting today."

"From a sustainability perspective, the right, the left as well as the center have all failed," Thunberg said. "No political ideology or economic structure has been able to tackle the climate and environmental emergency and create a cohesive and sustainable world. Because, in case you haven’t noticed, that world is currently on fire."

Thunberg went on to blast what she referred to as being "worse than silence" from leaders: "empty words and promises which give the impression that sufficient action is being taken." She also asked leaders at the forum "what will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing the climate chaos you knowingly brought upon them?"

She concluded by echoing her previous warning, saying, "Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. We are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else."

Thunberg spoke after an address from President Trump, who said "we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse." Brendan Morrow

6:55 a.m.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton has said he is willing to testify at President Trump's Senate impeachment trial, and "Trump's legal defense team and Senate GOP allies are quietly gaming out contingency plans" to make sure that doesn't happen, The Washington Post reports.

Under rules proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate won't vote on whether to allow testimony from new witnesses or other new evidence until after House impeachment managers and Trump's team lay out their arguments and senators ask questions, and four Republicans would have to join all 47 Democrats to approve witnesses. If 51 senators allow subpoenaing witnesses, "McConnell is expected to ensure that those individuals are questioned in a closed-door session rather than a public setting," the Post reports, and Bolton's deposition could be moved to "a classified setting because of national security concerns, ensuring that it is not public."

"But that proposal, discussed among some Senate Republicans in recent days, is seen as a final tool against Bolton becoming an explosive figure in the trial," the Post reports. "First, Republicans involved in the discussions said, would come a fierce battle in the courts," with Trump invoking executive privilege to keep Bolton from talking then asking the courts for an injunction if Bolton "refuses to go along with their instructions."

Republicans are also warning Democrats that if they win on Bolton's testimony, Trump's team will subpoena Hunter Biden — though Senate Democrats seem pretty comfortable with that trade, or perhaps calling that bluff. Nobody's sure if Bolton would help or hurt Trump, but Republicans are not eager to find out. At the same time, a CNN-SSRS poll released Monday found that 59 percent of American adults and a 48 percent plurality of Republicans want the Senate trial to include testimony from witnesses not interviewed by the House. Peter Weber

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