Cover: Mashley Morgan / Flickr – Al Asad, Iraq — Maintenance crews on the A-10 Warthog end their 12 hour duty day at the Al Asad Air Base in Iraq. The 438th Air Expeditionary Group A-10 jets perform 10 sorties daily providing top cover for ground forces in Iraq–900 sorties in this last four months. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Cecilio M. Ricardo Jr.) Released / CC 2.0
Welcome to America’s Newsletter from Tag The Flag, the best morning newsletter on the internet, bringing you nonpartisan news and every view of the Red, White, and Blue. Here’s what you need to know to start your day.
📌 BULLETIN BOARD
Breaking Overnight: A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 passengers and crew crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran’s airport Wednesday morning, killing all on board and turning farmland on the outskirts of the capital into fields of flaming debris.
🦅 U.S. NEWS
McConnell says he has the votes to set impeachment trial rules without Democratic support
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he has the votes to set the ground rules of the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump, without Democrats’ support. The rough draft for the trial leaves the question of seeking witnesses and documents until after opening arguments are made. Why it matters: That general framework would mirror the profile of President Bill Clinton’s trial. Importantly, it would also ignore Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s demands for witnesses and new evidence at the outset. Zoom out: the announcement comes just a day after former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, said that he would testify if he was subpoenaed by the Senate, meaning it’s a roller coaster ride no matter what side of the aisle you’re sitting on.
- On the left, Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III of The New York Times are hanging on to hope for a Bolton testimony asking, “Why Is Mitch McConnell So Afraid of John Bolton?” The pair argues Mr. McConnell is a lawyer (as are nearly 50 of his Senate colleagues) and that they should know “the importance of John Bolton’s offer to testify if subpoenaed.”
- On the right, Sen. Mike Braun and Sen. Steve Daines outlined in a piece for Fox News their decision to “join Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley in introducing a mandate that forces the House to deliver the articles of impeachment within 25 days.” They argue that “If Pelosi doesn’t think her case is strong enough to deliver within that timeframe, then the Senate should be allowed to dismiss the case and get back to real problems like lowering prescription drug prices and passing the critical U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement.”
Florida Man: Bloomberg’s Florida Blitz
Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has spent weeks flooding Florida media markets with ads touting his business acumen and jabbing President Donald Trump. Why it matters: it’s a state that could make or break the billionaire media mogul’s presidential aspirations, POLITICO writes. Zoom out: “The blitz is part of Bloomberg’s unconventional, skip-the-early-states strategy, which puts its focus on delegate-rich March primary states.” Flag This: Florida’s March 17 primary has pushed the state out of the national spotlight, but an extended primary could make Florida a contest kingmaker. Spare change: His campaign has been spending roughly $2 million a week on Florida advertising and in February he will air a 60-second ad slot during the Super Bowl in Miami. Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign also made a Super Bowl ad buy for 60 seconds, which cost roughly $10 million. Bloomberg’s Florida Blitz sounds familiar…Flashback to 2007 courtesy of the Orlando Sentinal:
- “It’s just seven days before the Iowa caucuses and 12 days until the New Hampshire primary, pivotal events that usually propel top finishers toward presidential nominations. And Rudy Giuliani is spending his precious, limited time on the campaign trail — in Florida.” Go Back in Time… (H/T POLITICO)
Facebook bans ‘deepfake’ videos in run-up to US election
Facebook has announced it will remove videos modified by artificial intelligence, known as deepfakes, from its platform, The Washington Post writes. That being said, the social media company will still allow altered content according to the Wall Street Journal. Why it matters: Social-media companies have come under increased pressure to stamp out false or misleading content on their sites ahead of this year’s American presidential election, but walk a fine line when trying not to come in the cross-hairs of the first amendment, which protects free speech. Connect the dots: In early December, we mentioned how Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, doubled down on his decision to not remove political ads that contain false information. Remember: Twitter is axing political ads from its site and Google is banning microtargeting and “false claims”. Back to the Present: This latest “deepfake” decision by Facebook is being labeled baby steps or attempted appeasement to potentially find some middle ground. The Crux of the Issue: there are different rules for ads on TV versus online. TV is regulated by the FCC, while social networks are currently self-regulated.
- The Longer Read: Who was one of the first presidents to use TV for political ads?
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🌎 WORLD NEWS
- Response: Iran’s foreign minister is calling the ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops “proportionate measures in self-defense.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also tweeted, “’We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
- Response: President Donald Trump tweeted ‘All is well!’ shortly after the missile attacks, adding, ‘So far, so good’ regarding casualties.
- Reaction: The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro: “If this was the extent of the Iranian response, which it appears it was, Trump should let it lie. Trading the top terror leader in Iran for an unsuccessful ballistic missile strike is worthwhile — and so is letting Tehran save enough face to stop the escalation.”
- Reaction: The President of Eurasia Group, Ian Bremmer: “There’s a real opening now for diplomacy between US and Iran.”
What’s next: The President will be making a statement this morning. None of this answers another larger question: What next for Iran’s proxy network after killing of Qassem Soleimani?
Venezuela’s Guaido forces his way into congress amid standoff
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó and opposition lawmakers pushed their way into Venezuela’s legislative building Tuesday following a standoff with security forces as the nation’s political divide deepens. Why it matters: Venezuela’s opposition is facing its biggest test yet after government-backed lawmakers announced they were taking control of what Guaidó supporters have described as the nation’s last democratic institution. From the Miami Herald: “Guaidó entered with his deputies, singing the national anthem and shouting that the people’s will must be respected”. Big picture: Guaidó is recognized by the U.S. and over 50 other nations as Venezuela’s rightful president, but Maduro still holds de facto control over Venezuela despite mounting international sanctions. – Fox News / Miami Herald
Toyota Plans to Build an Entire City
Toyota announced it has plans to build a “prototype city of the future” on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan to test and develop new emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles, according to CNBC. Details: Akio Toyoda, president of the automaker, described the “Woven City” as a “living laboratory” that will include thousands of residents and will test autonomous vehicles, robotics, personal mobility, smart homes, and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment. What’s next: The company did not announce a cost or timeframe for completion of the project, which plans to break ground in 2021. – CNBC
The Future of American Cars in China in Two Headlines
Yesterday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal Business section had adjacent headlines that summed up the future of American cars in China in under twenty words. The first headline read: “Tesla Set to Expand China Assembly With Model Y Compact SUV“. Directly underneath it, the second said: “GM Posts Its Biggest China Sales Decline“. In regards to the former, Tesla said it has begun preparing its new China factory for the auto maker’s next all-electric vehicle, a compact SUV, only a week after delivering its first locally made Model 3 sedans. And as it relates to the latter, General Motors warned of another tough year ahead, underscoring the challenges that U.S. carmakers are facing in China as the world’s largest auto market suffers its first protracted decline in nearly three decades. Why it matters: In roughly two sentences the Journal outlined how the future of American automobiles in China will be led by electric vehicles. – WSJ (subscription)
MLB to investigate reports 2018 champion Red Sox stole signs
Major League Baseball says it will investigate allegations the Boston Red Sox illegally used their video replay room to steal signs between opposing pitchers and catchers during their 2018 World Series championship season. The claims were made Tuesday in a report by The Athletic, which outlined how Boston players would visit the replay room to decipher their opponents’ sign sequence and then relay the information to the dugout. Why it matters: Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who guided Boston to the World Series title in his debut 2018 season, could also be facing discipline as part of MLB’s investigation of the 2017 Houston Astros for alleged sign stealing. – ESPN / AP / The Athletic
Sonos sues Google for allegedly stealing smart speaker tech
Audio company Sonos has sued Google for allegedly copying its patented speaker technology while undercutting it at market, according to The New York Times. Sonos claims that Amazon has also violated its patents with the Echo device family, but the Times writes that its executives decided against “battling two tech giants in court at once.” Why it matters: Google and Amazon each now sell as many speakers in a few months as Sonos sells in one year. – New York Times / The Verge
📅 ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
1877: Crazy Horse fights last battle
On January 8, 1877, Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse and his men—outnumbered, low on ammunition and forced to use outdated weapons to defend themselves—fight their final losing battle against the U.S. Cavalry in Montana.