January 14, 2020

The top 2020 Democratic candidates are about to face off during the crucial last debate prior to the Iowa caucuses.

Tuesday's debate in Des Moines, Iowa, will consist of the smallest group of candidates so far, as six Democrats qualified: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and billionaire Tom Steyer. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang didn't make the cut, meaning the debate stage will lack any people of color, NBC News notes.

Pundits are keeping a close eye on Sanders and Warren, whose feud escalated Monday after a report that Sanders told Warren during a private 2018 meeting that a woman couldn't win the presidency in 2020. Sanders denied it, and his campaign manager called it a "lie," but Warren subsequently made the claim on the record. How will the candidates address this dispute?

"Given her recent struggle for momentum and Sanders' rise, this is a fight that Warren wants and needs," The Associated Press observes, suggesting this may be Sanders' "turn for the front-runner treatment." Indeed, Politico writes that the debate "could be a doozy," as Democrats "reluctance to brawl is now a vestige of the past."

Expect plenty of foreign policy questions amid tensions with Iran, as well. During this discussion, Biden's vote for the Iraq war "could receive more scrutiny," especially from Sanders, The New York Times writes.

The debate, CNN notes, is also particularly important for the senators on the stage, who could soon be forced off the campaign trail for President Trump's impeachment trial. That's especially true of Klobuchar, who CNN notes "needs a breakout night." The debate is also Buttigieg's "last chance to stop" slipping poll numbers in Iowa before the caucuses, CNN points out.

The debate is set to air at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. The eighth Democratic debate is scheduled for Feb. 7, several days after the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3. Brendan Morrow

10:10 a.m.

House Democrats filed a 111-page legal brief ahead of President Trump's impeachment trial, arguing he threatens national security.

The House prosecutors laid out the argument against Trump that led to his impeachment last month on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The legal brief says "evidence overwhelmingly establishes" Trump's guilt and says the Senate "must eliminate the threat" he poses.

The White House defense team, meanwhile, has not filed its official brief, but rejected the impeachment managers' arguments as "highly partisan." Without directly addressing allegations Trump abused his power by withholding Ukrainian aid to push for a politically-motivated investigation of his rivals, the White House castigated the "lawless process" that led to his impeachment.

Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

10:05 a.m.

Hong Kong protesters were hit with tear gas and pepper spray after demonstrators allegedly attacked a plainclothes police officer during a mass protest, reports The Washington Post.

Demonstrations have been ongoing for months, and have recently erupted in occasional violence as pro-democracy residents continue to protest the local government. Several protesters were arrested on Sunday after tens of thousands participated in a rally in Hong Kong's central district, the largest demonstration since New Year's Day when over a million people gathered.

A plainclothes officer reportedly refused to show a rally organizer his identification card, which led to an altercation. At least three people were injured. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

10:02 a.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday claimed Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) campaign had released a "doctored" video that appeared to show Biden agreeing with Republican proposals regarding Social Security.

"It's simply a lie, that video is a lie," Biden told supporters of his presidential campaign in Iowa, per NBC News. He said "Bernie's people" had circulated the video, and he's "looking for his campaign to come forward and disown it, but they haven't done it yet."

The video showed Biden agreeing with former House Speaker Paul Ryan's proposal to privatize Social Security, but Biden's campaign said he called the plan "correct" sarcastically, reports Bloomberg.

Sanders' campaign said Biden should "stop dodging questions about his record" and pointed to Biden's numerous other comments on the program. Read more at NBC News and Bloomberg. Summer Meza

9:58 a.m.

War drama 1917 won the award for most outstanding film at the Producers Guild Awards on Saturday night, increasing speculation it could win big at the Academy Awards next month, writes The Hollywood Reporter.

Director Sam Mendes accepted the PGA Award, saying he hopes the film is a reminder "to never take for granted the peace that we all inherited." The winner of the Best Theatrical Motion Picture has gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars 21 out of 30 times, reports The Associated Press.

Also recognized were Octavia Spencer, who received a standing ovation while accepting the Visionary Award, Toy Story 4 for the animation award, Fleabag in the episodic comedy television category, and Chernobyl for best limited series.

Read more at The Hollywood Reporter and The Associated Press. Summer Meza

9:56 a.m.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said Venezuela is prepared for direct negotiations with the U.S. to begin repairing relations and improve Venezuela's damaged economy.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Maduro reportedly suggested President Trump should lift sanctions on the nation in exchange for possible benefits for U.S. oil companies from the OPEC member state. The U.S. recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's rightful head of state, and the Post noted any talks with Maduro would weaken that stance. Maduro insisted he was in control of Venezuela and had outmaneuvered the opposition, who say he wrongfully claimed re-election in 2018.

Maduro criticized recent handling of U.S.-Venezuela relations, blaming Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

January 18, 2020

Officials in Paris are fearing potential violence as protests continue to disrupt France's capital.

"Seditious groups want the law of 'might is right' to reign, to impose violence on all people who think differently from them," said Marlene Schiappa, the government's secretary of state for equality, per The Associated Press.

Her comments came after a fire on Saturday damaged a renowned Paris restaurant and protesters on Friday forced the Louvre to close. An investigation is ongoing, but Schiappa said the blaze "probably" stemmed from a criminal act.

She criticized the "hate and violence" she claims stems from the protest movement against pension reform in France that began in December. The "yellow vest" movement has reportedly begun to splinter into subgroups, with some protesters returning to work and others calling for continued demonstrations.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who patronized the restaurant affected by the fire, was also targeted by demonstrators on Friday as he attended a theater performance. "Video showed protesters chanting 'Macron resign,'" reports AP, "and some entering a door as surprised police tried to hold them back. A black car reported to be carrying Macron then sped away under a hail of boos."

Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

January 18, 2020

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the release of text messages between FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, Politico reported Saturday.

The Department of Justice revealed Rosenstein's authorization in a court filing — the filing shows Rosenstein said he allowed the release of the messages to the media in part to protect Strzok and Page.

The two FBI employees sent texts criticizing President Trump as an "idiot" ahead of his election. They have faced ongoing disparagement from Trump, who has used their messages as evidence of a "deep state" effort to block his presidency. A recent DOJ inspector general report found that FBI employees also sent pro-Trump messages during the agency's investigation into Trump's ties to Russia.

Page said last month she's "done being quiet" about Trump's attacks. Both she and Strzok have said that while they criticized Trump's character, they never acted in a biased manner during the course of their work. Trump has suggested they are guilty of "treason."

Strzok and Page filed lawsuits against the DOJ last year, alleging the release of their messages violated the Privacy Act. Rosenstein said he allowed the messages to be released to the media "with the express understanding that it would not violate the Privacy Act and that the text messages would become public by the next day in any event." Read more at Politico. Summer Meza

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