January 6, 2020

President Trump's decision last week to order the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Quds Force commander and second most powerful official in Iran, and his threats over the weekend to bomb Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates, are hard to square with his stated and implied policy goals: To use punishing sanctions to force Iran to renegotiate a 2015 nuclear deal, or leverage that economic pain to foment revolt against Iran's anti-American leaders.

On the nuclear front, "Trump's gambit has effectively backfired," David Sanger and William Broad report at The New York Times. "Trump thought the nuclear deal was flawed because restrictions on Iran would end after 15 years," but "instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday" that those limits are "over after less than five." And America's European allies, who tried mightily to salvage the pact, blame Trump's unilateral withdrawal for today's military brinksmanship and gave Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a "chilly reception" when he called for their support after Soleimani's killing, The Washington Post reports.

Tehran's theocratic leadership also "basked in a surge of nationalist sentiment and anger at home," writes Ishaan Tharoor at The Washington Post. "Less than two months ago, security forces are said to have killed hundreds of Iranian protesters to quell an uprising spurred by the regime’s dysfunctional management of the country’s crippled economy." Now, hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of Iranian are turning out to mourn Soleimani. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept as he prayed over Soleimani's remains in front of a huge crowd. Soleimani's daughter and his successor both vowed vengeance on America.

"Even the hardliners, the religious hardliners here in this country, could not have thought that so many people would turn up today," CNN's Frederik Pleitgen reported from Tehran on Monday's New Day.

"At a time when his unprecedented sanctions had stirred unrest inside Iran," writes Mohammad Ali Shabani, a researcher at Soas University in London, "the strike on Soleimani, whose status approached that of national icon, will harden popular sentiment against the U.S. while simultaneously shoring up the regime." Peter Weber

2:30 p.m.

Mort Drucker, the beloved artist known for his work at MAD magazine, has died at 91.

Drucker died Wednesday at his home in New York, his friend John Reiner confirmed to The New York Times. Reiner told CNN's Jake Tapper his death was not thought to be related to COVID-19.

After joining MAD in 1956, Drucker's hilarious caricatures satirizing pop culture soon became iconic, and he illustrated more than half of the magazine's movie parodies from the 1960s through 2008, per the Times. In a 2000 interview with the Times, he noted, "I think I've drawn almost everyone in Hollywood."

Among Drucker's other notable work includes the poster for George Lucas' American Graffiti; according to The Hollywood Reporter, Lucas personally drove to Drucker's home on Long Island to convince him to draw it.

"The World has lost a not just an extraordinary talent but a shining example of kindness, humility and humor," the National Cartoonists Society said in a statement.

MAD fans on Thursday quickly began sharing their favorite cartoons from Drucker's legendary career, including his parodies of Jaws and Star Wars. "Many of his illustrations are as vivid in my mind as the movies and TV shows that inspired them," The New York Times' Dave Itzkoff wrote.

Reiner told CNN's Jake Tapper that Drucker's final words to him were, "I'm the luckiest man — I've had a wonderful life." Brendan Morrow

2:11 p.m.

First lady Melania Trump is officially donning a face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic, although the jury's still out on whether her husband will follow suit.

In a social media post Thursday, the first lady shared a photo of herself wearing what appears to be a surgical mask, touting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation "to wear cloth face coverings."

"Remember, this does NOT replace the importance of social distancing," she wrote. "It is recommended to keep us all safe."

Melania's masking comes one week after President Trump announced he would not be wearing a mask, despite the CDC-issued guidelines urging people to do so. At the time, Trump implied that it would be odd to be "sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful Resolute Desk" while wearing a mask, so it's unclear how he's taking this news.

The photo of the first lady appears to show her wearing a surgical mask rather than the CDC-recommended "cloth face covering," the former of which is recommended only for use by health care professionals and medical first responders amid critical supply shortages.