January 9, 2020

A majority of Americans don't seem to be buying the Trump administration's rationale for killing Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleiman, according to a new poll.

In a USA TODAY/Ipsos poll released Thursday, 55 percent of U.S. adults said the United States' recent drone strike that killed Soleimani and its immediate aftermath made the country less safe.

The administration has contended the opposite in the days since the strike. Vice President Mike Pence, for example, told Today in an interview Thursday that "America is safer" as a result of Trump's decision.

But only 24 percent of Americans in this poll said the strike made the country safer, and almost a third of Republicans said the strike made the U.S. less safe. Even so, 42 percent of Americans still supported the Soleimani strike, while 33 percent opposed it and 25 percent didn't know what to think about it.

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed also described Trump's behavior with Iran as "reckless," while 62 percent said the strike that killed Soleimani made it more likely that the United States and Iran will go to war. Forty-seven percent said they believe Trump authorized the bombing to distract from impeachment.

USA Today's poll was taken by surveying 1,005 adults online on Jan. 7 and Jan. 8, and it was completed prior to Trump's recent address. The margin of error is 3.5 percentage points. Read the full results at USA Today. Brendan Morrow

11:09 a.m.

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wants to hear from John Bolton.

After a report indicated former National Security Adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book would describe President Trump calling for a Ukraine quid pro quo, Sen. James Lankford (R-Ok.) said Monday that senators "should get access to that manuscript to see what they’re actually saying." Graham agreed with Lankford's proposal in a Tuesday tweet, but added he would like the manuscript to be viewed "if possible, in a classified setting."

Bolton's manuscript had gone to the National Security Council for review before its publication, and according to a Sunday New York Times report, it describes how Trump told Bolton he wanted to withhold Ukraine's security aid until the country agreed to investigate his Democratic rivals. Lankford said Monday that "we may" need "witnesses and additional testimony and additional evidence" if "questions are not answered" by the manuscript, though he did say "there’s plenty of microphones all over the country" Bolton should use to speak out now. It's unclear if Graham agreed with that part of the statement. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:51 a.m.

Stocks in East Asia have taken a hit since the outbreak of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has since resulted in an increasing number of confirmed cases in several different countries, including the United States.

Investors are reportedly concerned the virus' spread could turn into a "longer event" and harm global growth. But one company that hasn't suffered in the wake of the contagion is Japanese face mask manufacturer, Kawamoto, which has seen a rapid spike in shares since the outbreak of the respiratory virus that is transmitted from person-to-person (though it's still unclear how).

What's really telling about Kawamoto's surge is the apparent escalation of fears about the virus, exemplified by the expediency in purchasing products that can serve as preventative measures against its spread even as governments and health experts try to urge a sense of calm. Tim O'Donnell

10:04 a.m.

Republicans have compared the Senate impeachment trial to the 2018 hearing to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The main parallels they see are the leaks from former National Security Adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book or the release of a secret recording of President Trump ordering the dismissal of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. These revelations, the GOP says, are akin to Christine Blasey Ford's allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were high school students in the 1980s.

From this point of view, the Ford allegations and Bolton leaks are 11th hour attempts to "undermine" the Senate trial and have no bearing on the facts surrounding the confirmation and impeachment, respectively. But Republican critics have argued the GOP is off base, despite being right about similarities between the two cases.

It's not "Democratic gamesmanship" that's reminiscent of the Kavanaugh hearing, but rather "the power of stonewalling," Mother Jones reports.

The results of the confirmation hearing have left some observers doubtful that Democrats' efforts to bring in new information will be effective. In the Kavanaugh situation, former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) looked like he would change the course of the process, but ultimately "didn't close the deal." Now, those observers say, if Democrats want to achieve their goals, they'll need lawmakers in similar positions to Flake — like Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — to really follow through, otherwise there's a good chance Republicans will do what they can to keep things sealed as tightly as possible. Tim O'Donnell

10:02 a.m.

The John Bolton who worked in the Reagan administration probably never saw this coming.

According to Fox Business' Lou Dobbs, Bolton, who has never drifted from Republican politics in his 40-plus years in Washington, D.C., is now "a tool for the left." That's what a graphic on Dobbs' show declared Monday night, while a zany web connected Bolton to "foreign policy RINO" Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and former FBI Director James Comey.

Bolton was Romney's foreign policy adviser during his 2012 presidential run, and through Bolton, Romney is apparently connected to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his brother Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Dobbs' very simplified web map showed. Yevgeny Vindman is an attorney for the National Security Council, so Dobbs mirrored right-wing publications in alleging Vindman may have leaked the chunk of Bolton's book that reportedly implicates Trump in a Ukraine quid pro quo. Bolton also shares a book agency with Comey and fellow former Trump official Cliff Sims, which somehow apparently furthers the case that Bolton "has been reduced to a tool for the radical Dems," Dobbs said Monday.

Bolton, of course, was also Dobbs' Fox colleague for more than a decade before he left the network to become Trump's national security adviser. He worked in the three prior GOP administrations before that, and as The New York Times' Maggie Haberman noted, Fox owner Rupert Murdoch helped push Bolton over the edge when Trump was considering him for the national security spot. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:34 a.m.

Britain has decided to allow Huawei on its 5G wireless network, rebuffing pressure from the Trump administration.

Britain said Tuesday it won't ban equipment from the Chinese telecommunications company from the network, The New York Times reports, although Huawei will be limited to "less-critical parts of the new network."

This is despite the fact that the United States has warned the U.K. that Huawei, as Axios writes, "is a national security risk, claiming that China could use its equipment for espionage." With that in mind, the Times calls this decision the "starkest sign that an American campaign against the telecommunications company is faltering."

Just weeks ago, in fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo penned an op-ed in Politico writing that "it's critical that European countries not give control of their critical infrastructure to Chinese tech giants like Huawei," as the company "is implicated in espionage in the Czech Republic, Poland and the Netherlands, has allegedly stolen intellectual property from foreign competitors in Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States, and is accused of bribery and corrupt practices in countries like Algeria, Belgium and Sierra Leone."

The Times notes by "limiting Huawei gear," Britain does provide the Trump administration with a "partial victory." Still, TechCrunch wrote Tuesday that Britain's decision "signals a failure of U.S. diplomacy at the highest level," while Axios' Jonathan Swan called it a "disaster for the U.K.-U.S. relationship." Swan previously reported, citing U.S. officials, the decision "could ultimately lead to the U.S. government curtailing the intelligence it shares with its closest ally." Brendan Morrow

8:10 a.m.

President Trump is scheduled to unveil his administration's long-awaited Middle East peace plan at noon Tuesday at the White House, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There is widespread skepticism about the viability of the secret plan, three years in the making, because it is expected to be very favorable to Israel and Palestinians have rejected it out of hand. "It's been worked on by everybody, and we'll see whether or not it catches hold," Trump said Monday, alongside Netanyahu. "If it does, that would be great, and if it doesn't, we can live with it, too. But I think it might have a chance."

The Israeli news media have speculated that Trump's plan will endorse Israel's annexation of large portions of occupied territory that Palestinians would expect for an independent state, all but ending the broad international consensus that a two-state solution is the only workable end goal of Israeli-Palestinian talks. But "Trump has spent three years accruing political capital" with Netanyahu, Jonathan Swan speculates at Axios, and "if he offers the Palestinians their own state," it's "hard to imagine Netanyahu defying him even if he faces internal pressure" from his conservative nationalist base.

Whatever the details, the rollout of the plan will be a welcome distraction for Trump, whose ongoing Senate impeachment trial has been upended by leaked manuscript excerpts from former National Security Adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book, and for Netanyahu. Israeli prosecutors formally indicted Netanyahu early Tuesday on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases, hours after Netanyahu withdrew a petition for immunity from prosecution to be debated in Israel's Knesset, or parliament. He was expected to lose the vote, dealing him a political blow as he faces Israel's third election in a year on March 2. Peter Weber

8:08 a.m.

Hong Kong is restricting travel from mainland China amid the spread of the deadly coronavirus that has left at least 106 people dead.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam in a news conference Tuesday said that train service between Hong Kong and mainland China will be suspended beginning Thursday, and flights from the mainland will also be reduced, The Associated Press reports. Tour bus and ferry trips will be suspended as well, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Lam also announced China will "stop issuing visas for individual travelers to Hong Kong from the mainland," The New York Times writes. This comes as China's death toll from the virus that broke out in the city of Wuhan last month has reached 106, with more than 4,500 confirmed cases. Still, Lam "stopped short of completely closing the border between Hong Kong and China, saying it isn't warranted at the moment," the Journal writes.

Five coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control is urging U.S. citizens against travel to China. CNN writes that Hong Kong's new travel restrictions are a "big deal," noting that "memories of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002 and 2003 run deep in Hong Kong," while the Journal writes that the "curbs on travel are some of the most extreme measures ever taken." Brendan Morrow

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