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TOP OF MIND TODAY…
► Former National Security Adviser John Bolton announced today that he would agree to testify in front of the U.S. Senate on matters of impeachment if called as a witness. Aaron Blake of The Washington Post explains why this is such a big development:
Bolton is among the most potentially significant witnesses who have yet to testify about the Ukraine scandal. He was perhaps the highest-profile voice of dissent internally, objecting to the “drug deal” that he said Rudolph W. Giuliani was cooking up, according to testimony from Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser. Bolton’s attorney has also said that, as of early November, Bolton knew about “many relevant meetings” that hadn’t been testified to. Sources tell The Washington Post that the testimony would be damaging to Trump. [Pols emphasis]
It is not clear if the Senate will actually move forward with a true impeachment trial of President Trump that includes high-profile witnesses, but Bolton’s signal that he is open to testifying could open the door for him to be called as a witness in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Chris Cillizza of CNN says that Bolton’s statement today puts new pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
► The U.S. Senate is reconvening today after a couple weeks off, and the topic of an impeachment trial is still at the top of the to-do list. As Justin Wingerter reports for The Denver Post, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) remains as tight-lipped as ever:
Gardner’s every move is being closely watched as calendars flip to 2020, a year that will decide his political future. And in the Senate, where impeachment rules will require a simple majority vote, he can play the role of decider within the narrow Senate Republican majority. But he and his office have not answered questions about his impeachment preferences.
Gardner’s silence dates back months. His public appearances, never numerous in 2019, were rarer still this fall. He has avoided conservative talk radio, once a political safe space, along with most news media. His office agreed to arrange an interview with The Denver Post in Washington, D.C., during the House impeachment process, but later said he was unavailable and instead emailed a statement criticizing that process.
Asked last week whether Gardner believes Trump cabinet members should testify during the trial and whether he agrees with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to work in “total coordination” with the White House, Gardner’s spokeswoman sent the same statement, answering neither question. [Pols emphasis]
President Donald Trump dug in Sunday night on his threat to attack Iranian cultural sites if Tehran retaliates for the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top military and intelligence officials.
Speaking aboard Air Force One on his return to Washington on Sunday from a holiday at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump said: “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites. It doesn’t work that way.”
Trump was responding to backlash over the threat he made via Twitter on Saturday to attack 52 targets if Iran retaliates and his claim in a tweet that those targets would be “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” according to a pool report.
Asked about fears Iran might retaliate, the president told reporters: “If it happens, it happens. If they do anything, there will be major retaliation.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to introduce a war powers resolution in Congress intended to make sure that President Trump does not increase military hostilities with Iran without Congressional approval.
Colorado Public Radio queries Colorado’s Congressional delegation on the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
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