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

8:35 p.m.

The first Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses could reach vaccination sites as early as Tuesday, White House officials said on Sunday.

About 3.9 million doses have been shipped, and 16 million more will be sent out by the end of March. With Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine receiving authorization for emergency use on Saturday, the United States now has three vaccine options, with all of them safe and effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death, a senior administration official told USA Today.

In the U.S. clinical trial, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine had a 72 percent efficacy rate, and was almost 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths. "Having different types of vaccines available for use, especially ones with different dosing recommendations and storage and handling requirements, can offer more options and flexibility for the public, jurisdictions, and vaccine providers," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. "Getting vaccinated with the first vaccine available to you will help protect all of us from COVID-19." Catherine Garcia

8:21 p.m.

The 2021 Golden Globes didn't get started on the best note from a technical perspective, with audio difficulties almost derailing the very first acceptance speech.

Daniel Kaluuya won the Golden Globe for best supporting actor in a film for his performance as Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah. He was up against some tough competition, including Sacha Baron Cohen for The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Leslie Odom Jr. for One Night in Miami.

But after presenter Laura Dern read Kaluuya's name, the Globes cut to him, only for his audio not to be working. From there, the Golden Globes broadcast very nearly moved on without Kaluuya accepting the award at all, with Dern explaining, "As you can see, we unfortunately have a bad connection."

Fortunately, though, the issue was soon fixed, and Kaluuya was able to accept remotely after all. "Alright, we fixed it!" co-host Amy Poehler later celebrated.

Despite Kaluuya's win, Judas and the Black Messiah was one of a number of films with Black ensembles that was left out of the Golden Globes' best picture categories this year, in addition to Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods and Regina King's One Night in Miami. The group that hands out the awards, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, faced heavy criticism for this, especially after it was recently revealed the organization doesn't have a single Black member — a fact Poehler and Tina Fey repeatedly called out in their opening monologue. Brendan Morrow

7:47 p.m.

Iran's foreign ministry on Sunday said the country will not participate in an informal meeting with the United States and European powers to discuss reviving the nuclear deal.

The European Union offered to hold the talks, but this is "not the time" for such a gathering, spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said. Under former President Donald Trump, the U.S. abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal, and reimposed economic sanctions. Iran refused to renegotiate and instead began ignoring its commitments under the deal.

Tehran has said in order for there to be talks, the U.S. must lift sanctions, which the U.S. has ruled out. A White House spokesperson said on Sunday the U.S. will consult with the other countries that signed the nuclear deal — the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, and Germany — to determine "the best way forward." Catherine Garcia

5:08 p.m.

Just a few weeks after leaving office, former President Donald Trump was back in the spotlight on Sunday.

At the beginning of his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, he asked the enthusiastic crowd if they missed him already before telling them that he'll "continue to fight right by your side."

He then dismissed reports that he was thinking about breaking off from the Republican Party and striking out on his own. "I am not starting a new party," he said, claiming the idea was "fake news." Instead, Trump predicted the GOP will "unite and be stronger than ever before." Tim O'Donnell

4:30 p.m.

Unsurprisingly, former President Donald Trump won the Conservative Political Action Conference's 2024 presidential straw poll Sunday, and he did so handily, garnering 55 percent of the vote. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was the only other potential candidate to reach double digits at 21 percent.

It's unclear if Trump will run, but many Republicans, including some of Trump's fiercest critics, think he is the overwhelming favorite for the nomination right now if he does enter the ring. So, CPAC conducted a second poll without Trump. DeSantis led the way in that one at 43 percent, followed by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) at 11 percent. Meanwhile, former Vice President Mike Pence, who declined an invitation to the conference in Orlando, didn't gain much traction.

The polls, of course, come with many caveats attached. The election is a long way away, straw polls aren't the most reliable predictive method, and the CPAC conference is not necessarily representative of the larger Republican Party, which many analysts consider to be at a Trump-inspired crossroads right now. It's also worth noting that DeSantis' strong showing may be partly tied to the conference taking place on his home turf. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

2:28 p.m.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday defended President Biden's response to a United States intelligence report that directly linked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but questions over whether the administration went far enough seem likely to remain.

The Biden administration announced sanctions on dozens of Saudis involved in Khashoggi's killing, but did not include any direct penalties on the crown prince. Psaki said "historically" presidential administrations have not imposed sanctions on leaders of foreign governments with whom the U.S. has diplomatic relations. "We believe there are more effective ways to make sure this doesn't happen again," she told CNN's Dana Bash, adding that the White House wants to leave room to work with Riyadh on areas where the two governments agree.

Bash seemed unconvinced by Psaki's explanation, questioning if Biden's response really holds the crown prince accountable, and she wasn't alone. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that Biden deserves "credit" for the sanctions that were announced and acknowledged it's a challenging situation for the new administration, but said "there ought to be something additional" focused on Salman. Portman's fellow Ohioan Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) agreed further steps are needed to hold the Saudi royal family accountable, though he told a skeptical Chuck Todd on NBC's Meet the Press that he doesn't think Friday's sanctions represent the final say on the matter. Tim O'Donnell

1:40 p.m.

There are now three COVID-19 vaccines with approval from the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said people shouldn't overthink which one to get.

Making the network rounds on Sunday, Fauci repeatedly assured audiences all three were highly "efficacious," even though the trial numbers from Johnson & Johnson's recently-authorized single-dose shot appear less impressive than the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech candidates. He explained that while it's understandable that someone might prefer to wait until a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available based on the numbers, the candidates really haven't been compared head-to-head.

Fauci said multiple times Sunday that he would take the Johnson & Johnson shot without hesitation. Fauci did acknowledge he's already been fully inoculated with the Moderna vaccine, but told CNN's Dana Bash that "if I were not vaccinated now, and I had a choice of getting a J & J vaccine now or waiting for another vaccine, I would take whatever vaccine would be available to me as quickly as possible."

Fauci wasn't alone in encouraging people to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine; former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also said he would take it, explaining the trial data was indeed "quite strong." Tim O'Donnell

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