January 3, 2020

If President Trump was watching Fox News at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday night, he got a violently mixed messages on his order to assassinate Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, national hero, and scourge of U.S. forces.

Sean Hannity called into his own show to tell guest host Jason Chaffetz that the killing of Soleimani was "a huge victory and total leadership by the president" and "the opposite of what happened in Benghazi." Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) channeled Ronald Reagan and praised Trump's "peace through strength." Oliver North, Karl Rove, and Ari Flesischer also lauded Trump's decision.

Earlier, fellow host Tucker Carlson saw neither peace nor strength in Trump's actions. He blamed "official Washington," though, and suggested Trump had been "out-maneuvered" by more hawkish advisers who might be pushing America "toward war despite what the president wants."

"There's been virtually no debate or even discussion about this, but America appears to be lumbering toward a new Middle East war," Carlson said. "The very people demanding action against Iran tonight" are "liars, and they don't care about you, they don't care about your kids, they're reckless and incompetent. And you should keep all of that in mind as war with Iran looms closer tonight." Trump, he added, "doesn't seek war and he's wary of it, particularly in an election year." When his guest, Curt Mills of The American Conservative, said war with Iran "would be twice as bad" as the Iraq War and "if Trump does this, he's cooked," Carlson sadly concurred: "I think that's right."

Media Matters' Matt Gertz pointed out that Hannity has always been more "bellicose" than Carlson on Iran, and both men informally advise Trump off-air as well as on-air. And "if you pay attention to the impact the Fox News Cabinet has on the president," he tweeted Thursday night, "Tucker Carlson has been off for the holidays the past few days as tensions with Iran mounted." Coincidence? Maybe. But on such twists does the fate of our world turn. Peter Weber

4:31 p.m.

Harvey Weinstein's defense will aim to discredit his accusers by citing alleged "loving emails," which a judge has just ruled can be referenced during his rape trial.

Attorney Damon Cheronis claimed in court Tuesday that Weinstein's defense team has "dozens and dozens and dozens of loving emails" from witnesses to Weinstein that it wants to use during the trial, The Associated Press reports. The defense claims that in these emails, women "describe being in loving relationships" with Weinstein or "describe him as someone they cared about both before and after these alleged sexual assaults," Bloomberg reports.

"We will counter with their own words," Cheronis said, also alleging that "witnesses who claim sexual assault with him also bragged about being involved in sexual relations with him," Deadline reports.

Judge James Burke said Tuesday the defense is permitted to reference what was allegedly said in these emails, although they aren't allowed to actually show them, NBC News reports. Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi blasted the defense's characterization of the emails as "blatantly inaccurate," per Bloomberg.

Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 80 women, is facing charges of rape and sexual assault, which he has pleaded not guilty to.

Although Weinstein's defense on Tuesday won the right to reference these emails, it lost another bid to move his trial out of New York City; Assistant District Attorney Harriett Galvin called this a "transparent attempt to delay the proceedings," per the AP. After a jury of seven men and five women was selected last week, opening arguments in the Weinstein trial are set to begin Wednesday. Brendan Morrow

4:17 p.m.

Anything you say can and will be held against you.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) got a little taste of that Tuesday when one of his potential future Democratic opponents for his Senate seat launched a new campaign ad. In the video, Jaime Harrison begins reading a statement, as Graham's voice creeps into the scene. Viewers are then transported back in time to 1998 as Graham, then a member of the House, advocates for a thorough impeachment case against then-President Bill Clinton in which "everybody had a chance to have their say."

Graham hasn't exactly maintained that position in the present day — he wants President Trump's trial over and done with it, and isn't one of the Republicans who's on board with calling witnesses. But despite Graham's staunch anti-impeachment stance, Harrison seems to think it's worth reminding the senator of the good old days. Tim O'Donnell

3:50 p.m.

Jay Sekulow apparently missed a few memos from the Trump administration.

Sekulow, who is serving as President Trump's outside lawyer in the Senate's impeachment trial, argued Tuesday that disputes between the White House and Congress are "why we have courts." But as the Department of Justice has repeatedly argued, including as recently as last month, that's not what this administration believes.

Arguments began Tuesday in the impeachment trial of Trump, during which House impeachment managers and Trump's defense team debated Republican-back rules for the trial. That's when Sekulow took shots at House Democrats who brought the charges against Trump, saying they should've let the courts rule on their subpoenas for documents and testimony from Trump administration officials before moving forward with impeachment. If they took issue with Trump claiming executive privilege to block those subpoenas, well, "it is why we have courts," Sekulow said.

Yet in December court filing regarding a House lawsuit against former White House Counsel Don McGahn, the Trump administration argued the opposite is true. Asking the court to "weigh in" on the subpoena "when political tensions are at their highest levels" reveals "why this sort of interbranch dispute is not one that has 'traditionally thought to be capable of resolution through the judicial process,'" the DOJ wrote.

Sekulow also alleged the Mueller report cleared Trump of collusion, which isn't a crime and not something former Special Counsel Robert Mueller even investigated. And as for Sekulow's claim that House Republicans weren't allowed into closed-door impeachment hearings, well, 48 of them were. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:22 p.m.

The Senate's impeachment trial of President Trump is underway, but it's already received a last-minute rule change.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday unveiled the proposed impeachment trial rules, under which each side would have 24 hours over two days for opening arguments. This proposal quickly drew criticism from Democrats, as it could see sessions stretching past midnight, beyond the point where most people would be able to watch.

But this rule was modified Tuesday with a proposal under which opening arguments for each side would still last 24 hours, but over three days rather than two, NBC News reports. This would see the Senate's sessions wrapping up around 9 p.m rather than after midnight, and it could extend the length of the trial by two days, Politico notes. CNN's Kevin Liptak reports this change apparently came together quite quickly, as the resolution received a handwritten update.

But although Democrats were critical of the rules, CNN reports the changes were actually "the result of concerns from moderate Republicans." A spokesperson for Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) confirmed to NBC that she was among these Republicans who complained, saying, "She thinks these changes are a significant improvement." Another rule change allows for evidence to be submitted automatically unless there are objections.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins further reports that the White House pushed for the two-day timetable, as "officials were concerned they may not get to make their full arguments this week with the 3-day period." These White House officials, Collins reports, "think it's better if all their arguments are made consecutively, instead of possibly being broken up and stretching into next week." Besides, as CBS' Kathryn Watson noted, "Most senators want to sit silently for 12 hours without moving/eating/looking at their phones as much as anyone else." Brendan Morrow

3:06 p.m.

The fact checkers came out quickly in response to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone on Tuesday.

In his opening remarks at President Trump's Senate impeachment trial, Cipollone argued that Trump faced unprecedented violations of due process while the House was conducting its impeachment inquiry last year. He said House Democrats were running the investigation from a "basement" and accused House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) of blocking his Republicans colleagues from entering the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

As it turns out, GOP lawmakers on the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight Committees were indeed welcome to join those proceedings, and while many of them chose not to attend, several participated. Tim O'Donnell

2:19 p.m.

President Trump is heavy on the plans and light on the specifics.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Trump confirmed he was considering adding more countries to his travel ban, said he would impose tariffs on European automobiles, and added he was working on a middle-class tax cut. Not that he said which ones, when that would happen, or just what the cut entailed, respectively.

Reports first indicated the Trump administration was planning an addition to its travel ban earlier this month. Trump told the Journal his administration does have plans to add more countries to the list later this month, but wouldn't say more. He also said his administration is "looking at many different things" when it comes to his longstanding — and now faded — push to oust Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.

Trump went on to say he's still working on a trade agreement with the EU, saying "I'm going to put tariffs on them if they don't make a deal that's a fair deal." He was asked when that would happen but didn't answer, just saying "they know what the deadline is." And as for policies back in the U.S., Trump said "we're talking a fairly substantial… middle-class tax cut" that'll be revealed in 90 days. The plan's implementation dependent on him being reelected, Republicans holding the Senate, and the GOP taking back the House — the third bit being very unlikely in a presidential election year.

Read the whole interview at The Wall Street Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:54 p.m.

The Wuhan virus, which broke out in China last month and has so far infected more than 300 people and killed six, has reportedly reached U.S. shores, a federal source told CNN.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to announce Tuesday that a person in Washington state has been infected, making the U.S. the sixth country to experience the outbreak of the respiratory illness, along with China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, and South Korea. The patient was hospitalized with pneumonia last week after having traveled to eponymous Wuhan, China, where the outbreak appears to have originated at a seafood and poultry market, The New York Times reports.

A lot remains unknown about the virus, although the latest development strengthens the hunch that it spreads from person to person. One of the most pressing questions, Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told the Times, is how frequent that human-to-human transmission is. Read more at The New York Times and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

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