November 19, 2019

As recently as a few weeks ago, Republican lawmakers dismissed accusations that impeachment witness and decorated Army officer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was born in Ukraine but immigrated to the United States when he was a toddler, was harboring dual loyalties to his birth country. But that didn't stop GOP counsel Steve Castor from hinting at the notion while questioning Vindman during his public impeachment testimony Tuesday.

Castor spent a few minutes grilling Vindman about Ukraine's former National Security Secretary Oleksandr Danyliuk offering him the job of Ukraine's defense minister three times when Vindman traveled to Ukraine for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's inauguration this year. Vindman, who described the offers as "comical" since he doesn't hold a particularly high rank even in the U.S., calmly responded that he turned it down, reported it to his superiors in the U.S., and then never gave it a second thought.

Vindman may have kept his composure, but several observers were angered by the questioning, viewing it as a subtle — or maybe not-so-subtle — way for Castor to instill doubts about Vindman's loyalty, especially considering he asked Vindman if Danyliuk made the offer in English or Ukrainian. For the record, Vindman says it was the former. Tim O'Donnell

10:08 a.m.

Apparently Lara Trump didn't get the message about former Vice President Joe Biden's stutter.

Trump, who's married to President Trump's son Eric, decided to take a low blow at Biden during a Women for Trump event in Iowa on Thursday night. "I feel kind of sad for Joe Biden," she said, because "I'm supposed to want him to fail at every turn, but every time he comes on stage or they turn to him I'm like 'Joe can you get it out? Let's get the words out Joe.'"

Lara Trump probably should've heard by now that Biden worked to overcome the "debilitating stutter" he had as a child — a lesson former Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders learned when she mocked him for the same thing less than a month ago. Or perhaps she should've just followed first lady Melania Trump's "be best" advice and avoided sinking that low in the first place. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:40 a.m.

Eleven Americans were injured in Iran's recent missile strike on the Al Asad Air base in Iraq, which President Trump and the Pentagon previously said resulted in no injuries.

The military confirmed Thursday that 11 Americans were treated for concussions after Iran last week struck two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, The New York Times reports. "While no U.S. servicemembers were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed," a United States Central Command spokesperson told the Times.

Trump in an address last week said that "the American people should be extremely grateful and happy," as "no Americans were harmed" in the attack. The attack on the two bases came in response to a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and was authorized by Trump.

CNN notes that "concussions are not always apparent immediately after they've been suffered," and a defense official told CNN that the Pentagon previously indicating that there were no injuries "was the commander's assessment at the time" but "symptoms emerged days after the fact, and they were treated out of an abundance of caution."

With this in mind, CNN's Jim Sciutto observed that "the crux" of the story "is not the Pentagon mislead," as "these injuries emerged only after the fact," but rather "that the Iranian missile strike was a nearer miss than advertised." Brendan Morrow

8:09 a.m.

Guess who's back?

Eminem on Friday dropped the surprise album Music to be Murdered By, along with a music video for his song "Darkness" that advocates for gun reform while using imagery inspired by the Las Vegas shooting that left almost 60 people dead in 2017.

The disturbing video, which shows a gunman holed up in a Las Vegas hotel room and firing out the window, includes lyrics like "I'm a licensed owner with no prior convictions, so loss, the sky's the limit, so my supplies infinite."

The video ends with Eminem standing in front of a row of TV screens showing news reports of other mass shootings, pro-gun reform rallies, and President Trump, after which text on screen reads, "When will this end? When enough people care. Register to vote at Vote.gov. Make your voice heard and help change gun laws in America." The video also directs viewers to a website that highlights more information, including from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The title of the surprise album, Eminem's first since 2018, is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, and it even features audio of Hitchcock throughout. Of course, it wouldn't be an Eminem release if some of the lyrics hadn't already ignited controversy, and one stirring outrage makes reference to the Manchester Arena bombing that killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert. "I'm contemplating yelling 'bombs away' on the game like I'm outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting," Eminem raps on "Unaccommodating."

Watch the "Darkness" video from Eminem below. Brendan Morrow

7:26 a.m.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, led Friday prayers at a mosque in Tehran on Friday for the first time since 2012, trying to rally support among intertwined crises facing his government. On the foreign front, punishing U.S. sanctions have harmed Iran's economy and the Trump administration's killing of Iran's top general brought the U.S. and Tehran to the brink of war. Domestically, Iranians already angry over a hike in fuel prices took to the streets this week to demand justice and accountability for the Revolutionary Guard's downing of a Ukrainian jetliner, killing 176 people, most of them Iranian.

In nationally broadcast comments from inside the Mosalla mosque, Khamenei, 80, said the missiles fired on the Ukrainian jet were a "bitter accident" and defended the Revolutionary Guard, which reports directly to him. "Our enemies were as happy about the plane crash as we were sad," he said. "Happy that they had found something to question the Guard and the armed forces." He called President Trump, who has been encouraging the antigovernment protests, a "clown" who is only pretending to support Iran's people and would just as soon "push a poisonous dagger" into their backs.

Khamenei also addressed the missile strikes on two Iraqi bases hosting U.S. forces, calling the a "slap on the face" to the U.S. "The fact that Iran has the power to give such a slap to a world power shows the hand of God," he said, but pushing the U.S. military out of the Middle East would be the "real punishment" for America's "cowardly" killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, highlighting Soleimani's efficacy in battling the Islamic State. He added that the killing showed America's "terrorist nature."

"Leading Friday prayers in the capital is a symbolically significant act usually reserved for times when Iran's highest authority wishes to deliver an important message," BBC News reports, citing Mehdi Khalaji at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Peter Weber

6:00 a.m.

"This afternoon, the Senate officially opened the impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump," and "every single senator just swore to be an impartial juror," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show. "For weeks, Republicans have been ignoring mounting evidence that Trump knew everything that was happening with the Ukraine scheme, and Democrats have been praying for the other shoe to drop. Well, last night, an entire Foot Locker fell out of the sky," thanks to Lev Parnas, a "recently indicted goon" who worked with Rudy Giuliani "to help Trump blackmail Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden."

Parnas "tossed Trump under Air Force One" in several "juicy" interviews, Colbert said, claiming Trump knew everything he and Giuliani were up to and never cared about corruption, just Ukraine announcing Biden investigations. "The only way this could be more damning for Trump is if there was some sort of phone transcript of him demanding investigation of — oh...." Colbert deadpanned. Trump refrained from tweeting about Parnas most of the day, "but this afternoon, the pressure finally got to him, and he blasted off this gem: 'I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!'"

Yes, "it was an all-caps kind of day for the president of the United States today," Jimmy Kimmel laughed at Kimmel Live. When the trial starts Tuesday, "senators will not be allowed to use their phones" and "they will have to stand when they cast votes — which is a big deal, because for a lot of these senators, this will be the first time they've ever stood for anything." Meanwhile, "the bombshells are still falling from the sky" as Parnas continues "to spill the borscht," Kimmel said, laying out some of the more damning revelations from Trump's "smoking goon. ... The whole scenario feels like The Sopranos, except instead of organized crime, it's disorganized."

"If those other people smelled the borscht, [Parnas] actually made it," and he's spooning out "some pretty big accusations," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "And to make matters worse, a nonpartisan government agency declared that Trump withholding military aid from Ukraine was illegal. Yeah, the thing he actually did." And as Trump continues to claim he doesn't know Parnas, Parnas is responding "pics, it happened," he added. "You know the game is real when someone is threatening to open their camera roll."

Not that The Daily Show was waiting on Parnas. Peter Weber

3:23 a.m.

Despite a warning from Lev Parnas, President Trump claimed not to know him again Thursday. "I don't know Parnas, other than I guess I had pictures taken, which I do with thousands of people," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "I don't know him at all, don't know what he's about, don't know where he comes from, know nothing about him. ... I don't believe I've ever spoken to him."

Jospeh Bondy, Parnas' lawyer, brought the receipts, posting a video taken at Mar-a-Lago in December 2016, where Trump is clearly talking with Parnas, who is standing next to him and also Roman Nasirov, a former Ukrainian official charged with embezzlement.

The Washington Post used that video in a jaunty roundup of Parnas posing, often on multiple occasions, next to Trump and other Republicans who claimed not to know him.

Calling Parnas a "Giuliani associate" is "way too limited — he is a full-fledged member of Trump Co," Chris Cuomo said on CNN Thursday night. As he ran through the details, he showed photo after photo of Parnas and Trump or members of his family and inner circle. "There are so many that I had to leave pictures out," Cuomo said.

In fact, Parnas' connection to Trump stretches back to the 1980s, when he sold real estate for Trump's father, Fred Trump, The Washington Post reported in October. "When Parnas was 16, he worked at Kings Highway Realty, selling Trump Organization co-ops." Adam Entous elaborated at The New Yorker. Parnas told The New Yorker that job "was my first time knowing who Trump was, but, growing up in that area, you knew who Trump was, because his name was all over the place." After Parnas moved to Florida in 1995, Entous added, "on visits to New York, he stayed at Trump properties." Peter Weber

2:04 a.m.

The Senate impeachment trial of President Trump began on Thursday, with the House impeachment managers walking the two articles of impeachment to the Senate, lead House prosecutor Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) reading the articles to the full (and silent) Senate, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts taking an oath to administer "impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws," then asking the jury of all 100 senators to swear to the same. ABC News recapped the formal and solemn proceedings, noting that the impeachment trial is beginning even as new evidence emerges.

"After we were all sworn in, a surprise (at least for me): we were all requested to sign our names, one by one, in the trial's log book," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) recounted. "Afterward, one of my colleagues showed me his notes, where he had kept track of how many senators are left handed." And the number of southpaws — 13, by our count — does stand out as you watch the senators sign their names, sped up here by ABC News:

If you haven't perused the two articles of impeachment, you can read along as Schiff recited them for the Senate.

As Schiff read the articles to the "deathly quiet" Senate, journalist Jon Ward observed from inside the Senate chamber, "all senators listened intently, but note-taking was far more prominent among the Democrats," and "Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) let out a lengthy yawn, as did Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La)," while "Sen. Susan Collins [R-Maine] & Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R-Alaska] sat next to one another, with somewhat pained expressions on their faces." Trump tweeted: "I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!" Peter Weber

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