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Trump’s justification for Suleimani killing unravels after his defense secretary appears on TV

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Since the targeted killing of the Iranian general Qassim Suleimani by the US, the Trump administration has been on the defense. According to Aaron Blake writing for The Washington Post, one of the administration’s justifications for carrying out the attack just fell apart.

President Trump has claimed that Soleimani was plotting to  “blow up” the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as well as “four” other embassies, but according to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper speaking to CBS News, the claim of four embassies being targeted wasn’t based on an intelligence analysis; it was just something Trump “believed” to be true.

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Esper confirmed that there was intelligence to support the claim that Soleimani was targeting the embassy in Baghdad and that intelligence was “shared with the Gang of Eight, not the broader membership of the Congress” — a claim that was somewhat contradicted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told NBC News that the information was indeed shared with Congress. According to Blake, therein lies the contradiction.

“…Esper now says he hasn’t seen intelligence on the threat to multiple embassies, whereas Pompeo said the ‘specific information’ about imminent threats included threats to those embassies,” Blake writes, adding that “even if we’re to accept that Pompeo was speaking loosely and the intelligence was really just about the one U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Esper said that information wasn’t shared with ‘the broader membership of the Congress,’ but only with the Gang of Eight. Pompeo, in contrast, said ‘we did’ when asked if the information about attacks on embassies was shared in that wider briefing. He later deflected when asked to re-confirm, but he did confirm.”

Read Blake full analysis over at The Washington Post.


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Another fatality in China from SARS-linked virus as mysterious illness spreads to third Asian country

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A second person has died in China from a mysterious SARS-linked virus that has stricken dozens and appeared in two other Asian countries, officials said.

Local authorities said a 69-year-old man died on Wednesday in Wuhan, the central Chinese city believed to be the epicentre of an outbreak of a coronavirus from the same family as the deadly SARS pathogen.

The outbreak has caused alarm because of the link with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

At least 41 people have been hit with pneumonia linked to the new virus in China, prompting authorities in Hong Kong to step up detection measures, including temperature checkpoints for inbound travellers.

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Laurence Tribe predicts how John Roberts — his former student — will rule on impeachment witnesses

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The man who taught Constitutional Law to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts expects him to vote to allow witnesses if he needs to cast a tie-breaking vote while presiding over President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.

Prof. Laurence Tribe was interviewed by MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Thursday. In addition to having argued three-dozen cases before the highest court, Tribe has taught at Harvard Law for 50 years and even taught the chief justice.

"What do you expect and what are you hoping to see in your former student presiding over this trial, Chief Justice Roberts?" O'Donnell asked.

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Lindsey Graham rages at Democrats and the impeachment process on Fox News — hours after taking an oath to be impartial

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On Thursday, members of the U.S. Senate were sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, pledging under oath to act as impartial jurors and to consider all the evidence fairly.

But barely hours after taking that oath, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) went on Fox News to trash the whole process, and once again make clear that he had already picked a side.

"[Democrats] turned the trial into a complete circus. You're allowed to do that but not with my vote," said Graham. "I'm going to judge the case on the evidence assembled by the House. I'm not going to expand the record. This Parnas thing, I smell a rat. It is a complete, neverending desire to destroy everything Donald Trump. I took Mueller seriously. I don't take Schiff, Nadler seriously. And I don't take Chuck Schumer seriously when he says he's looking for the truth. He's looking to get back, to be the Majority Leader, nothing more."

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