January 28, 2020

President Trump got his first full day of defense at his Senate impeachment trial on Monday. Trump's lawyers mostly whistled past inconvenient new revelations that former National Security Adviser John Bolton, in his forthcoming book, badly undermines one of their key arguments against impeachment: that there's no first-hand evidence Trump tied Ukraine military aid to investigations of Joe Biden and other Democratic rivals.

In fact, Trump lawyers Pam Bondi and Eric Herschmann devoted their presentations to attacking former Vice President Biden and his son Hunter. It wasn't until the night's last full presentation, by high-profile defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, that Trump's legal team even mentioned Bolton. And Dershowitz argued that "nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense."

Dershowitz and Trump attorney Ken Starr offered historical and legal arguments about impeachment, with Dershowitz taking the extreme minority legal view that impeachment requires "criminal-like conduct," and abuse of power and obstruction of Congress don't fit that bill. Starr's presentation "was a bizarre spectacle: the man who brought us the last impeachment of a president lecturing the Senate on the dangerous evils of impeachment," writes The New Yorker's Susan Glasser. You can watch some highlights from Trump's defense, curated by PBS NewsHour.

"I'm old enough to remember when, in 1998, Starr produced the most X-rated document ever to be printed under congressional seal, in service of lobbying for [Bill Clinton's] impeachment," Glasser writes. "Now, in 2020, the author of that report is acting as the sanctimonious guardian of congressional dignity, lecturing us all on the floor of the Senate about the unfair, improper charges against Donald Trump? Within seconds of opening his mouth on the Senate floor, Starr had his liberal critics — and lots of non-liberals, too — sputtering with outrage."

Still, Glasser adds, "in the end Starr's comments, trolling as they were, seemed inconsequential and destined to be quickly forgotten," at least compared to Bolton's bombshell. If the outcome of Trump's trial seems predetermined, Bolton's first-hand report of a quid pro quo might at least convince four Republicans to ensure witness testimony.

Trump's team had some factual errors in their presentation. The Associated Press tackles a few of them, and you can watch CNN's Jake Tapper fact-check some others — and Jeffrey Toobin denounce Bondi and Herschmann's "parade of lies" about Joe Biden — below. Peter Weber

1:50 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is not considered a favorite to emerge as the Republican Party's next presidential nominee. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that the suggestion prompted laughter from several sources, while multiple GOP strategists expressed doubt to The Washington Post recent, as well.

Mike Lindell, the Minnesota campaign chair for President Trump, said it will simply just "be harder for a career politician to be president going forward," but Alex Conant, who served as a campaign spokesman during Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) 2016 presidential run, thinks Pence's ties to the Trump administration could mean the vice presidency will remain the apex of his political journey.

"Trump could be our party's Iraq War," Conant told the Post. "I wonder if four years from now we are nominating someone who had nothing to do with the Trump era."

While Conant's larger point may stand, his historical comparison confused some observers, who argued that the Republican Party's "Iraq War" was, in fact, the Iraq War. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

1:09 p.m.

Slovakia has launched a program to test the country's entire population for COVID-19 over the next two days. Around 45,000 medical workers, army, and police are being deployed to collect samples at around 5,000 testing sites. The effort will utilize antigen tests, which give quick results, but are often less accurate than PCR tests, which require lab analysis.

The ambitious plan is not without critics. While Prime Minister Igor Matovic said it would save "hundreds of lives" and "will be our road to freedom," President Zuzana Caputova called it "unfeasible," noting that there are not enough trained health workers to carry it out effectively. And the Slovak Association of General Practitioners warned that the "mass concentration of millions of people" at testing sites could in fact contribute to the coronavirus' spread.

Further, France 24 reports that some citizens are wary, with one man saying the government is "threatening people." Participation is not mandatory, but people who fail to produce a negative test certificate if stopped by police could face heavy fines.

Slovakia's coronavirus infection rate is below the European Union average, but like many of its neighbors numbers are on the upswing. Read more at France 24 and BBC. Tim O'Donnell

11:46 a.m.

President Trump has seemingly made life difficult for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is hoping to see the GOP retain its majority in the upper chamber this election cycle, The Washington Post reports.

The committee's director Kevin McLaughlin, per the Post, explained last week that Trump is "losing Arizona" where "we think that he and [Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.)] are very intrinsically tied together." With Trump down, McSally's Democratic challenger, Mark Kelly, is viewed by both sides as the favorite to take the seat.

In Georgia, another state in which the presidential race and not one, but two Senate races are tightly contested, NRSC strategists believed the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, was polling at 50 percent at one point, which they reportedly found "terrifying."

Even in a state like Alaska which has reliably voted Republican for president since 1964, the NRSC reportedly found that Trump was actually losing at one point this month. Although that seems to be an unlikely result once the ballots are in, it did force the party's campaign arm to spend more on Sen. Dan Sullivan's (R-Alaska) re-election bid there. "You should've seen those [polls] three weeks ago when we had the president down," McLuaghlin said, explaining that Trump's drop sunk Sullivan, as well. "I mean it's not because of Dan Sullivan. I'm just telling you." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

10:33 a.m.

Sean Connery has died, his family confirmed Saturday. He was 90. A cause of death wasn't immediately known, but Variety notes it was believed the actor had been unwell for some time.

The Scottish-born Connery was well-known for his James Bond portrayal and is considered one of the best actors to take on the iconic role. Indeed, a Radio Times United Kingdom poll revealed Connery as the country's favorite Bond after he took home 56 percent of the vote. But his movie career spanned decades and included several other memorable parts in films like The Name of the Rose and The Untouchables, for which he won a BAFTA and an Oscar, respectively.

In a statement, Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said Connery "was and shall always be remembered as the original James Bond" and his "gritty and witty portrayal of the sexy and charismatic secret agent ... is undoubtedly largely responsible for the success of the film series." Read more at Variety and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

8:01 a.m.

The United States on Friday set another daily coronavirus infection record, tallying more than 99,000 new cases in a 24-hour period. That is also the highest single-day figure for a country since the pandemic began, surpassing India's previous mark of 97,894 cases.

This week, with the presidential election swiftly approaching, many states recorded their worst seven-day stretch of new infections, and 16 reported daily records Friday. The current wave is more widespread than previous ones and does not have an epicenter, though South Dakota and North Dakota are ranked first and second in recent cases per capita, and there are several other hot spots in the Midwest.

The rise in hospitalizations and deaths may be less striking than the case numbers, but both are trending upward, The New York Times reports. More than 46,600 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday, a 25 percent increase over the past two weeks, and more than 970 people died. Over the past week, the average number of fatalities per day was around 800, up from 700 a month ago.

Overall, the U.S. surpassed 9 million infections, which still leads the world, but it's far from the only country struggling with the virus. Belgium became the latest European country to announce a new national lockdown Friday, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering one for England next week. Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

October 30, 2020

President Trump made another visit to the swing state of Wisconsin on Friday evening, bringing some unfounded theories and repetitive rants along with him.

For starters, Trump celebrated reports that Democratic nominee Joe Biden wasn't driving Black voter turnout, framing it in a way that made it seem like he was happy about the disenfranchisement. "The Black vote is not turning out for him," Trump said of Biden. "They're not showing up to vote and others aren't either."

Biden's team is worried that he's failed to drive Black and Latino voters to the polls, Bloomberg reports. But far less believable — in fact, actually false — is Trump's claim that Biden will send the U.S. back to the 18th century. "There will be no heating in the winter, no air conditioning in the summer, and no electricity whenever the hell you want it," Trump claimed, for some incomprehensible reason.

Meanwhile Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), whom Trump ranted about despite not even being in her state, was having none of it. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 30, 2020

Taylor Swift is ready to make President Trump the head of the last great American dynasty.

Swift made her biggest political statement yet on Friday, allowing her song “Only the Young" to be used in a campaign ad for Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris. The spot comes from Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-Calif.) Remedy PAC, and promotes turnout among younger voters.

After the voice of Harris asks "Why are so many powerful people trying to make it so difficult for us to vote?" Swift's politically active tune from her Netflix documentary kicks in. Democratic voters cry after Trump's election, #MeToo protesters march, and then Republican men flash across the screen as Swift sings "their hands are stained with red." "They aren't gonna help us, too busy helping themselves," Swift continues over images of Amy Coney Barrett, burning wildfires, and closed businesses. But then Swift breaks into a triumphant chorus as children march for Black lives, gun control, and the United States Postal Service.

"They've marched for years on these issues," Swalwell explained to CNN. "The song calls on people to run, and essentially run to the polls." The ad comes at the end of Swift's most activist year yet, after her Netflix documentary revealed how she fought her management tam to raise her political voice. Kathryn Krawczyk

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