Cover: President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, senior White House advisors and senior military personnel, delivers remarks during a national televised address Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, from the Cross Hall of the White House, responding to the retaliatory missile strikes against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq on Tuesday by the Islamic Republic of Iran. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)
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: China’s chief trade negotiator will travel to Washington early next week to sign a phase-one trade deal with the U.S., Beijing said, in its first official confirmation over the signing of an agreement that could help ease bilateral tensions. (WSJ)
🦅 U.S. NEWS
Still At Odds: The Case for the Iran Strike
House Republicans were satisfied and Democrats exasperated by Wednesday’s Iran briefing from top national security officials, during which they argued that President Trump had legal authority to kill a top military commander without seeking Congress’s permission — and that he did so to ward off an imminent threat, Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post report.
- On the left: Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) said the Trump administration made “no case” that Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani posed an imminent threat and that their argument was “Sophomoric and utterly unconvincing.”
- On the right: Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) emerged from the same exact session calling it “the strongest and most decisive briefing that has ever been conducted in that classified setting.” (Remember: Meadows is retiring. Here’s what each side is saying about that decision).
- Notable: GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) ripped the administration announcing they will now support a resolution reining in President Trump’s military powers.
What’s next: The contrasting observations came as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Democrats will vote today on a resolution to limit President Trump’s ability to take future military action against Iran without congressional authorization.
Refugees: Should States or the Federal Government Decide?
On Wednesday, a federal judge voiced skepticism of a Trump executive order that gives state and local governments the ability to object to having refugees resettled within their borders. The Wall Street Journal notes that the policy is part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to tighten refugee entry. Trump’s “administration has lowered the maximum number of refugees the U.S. accepts each year, setting the cap at a record low 18,000 for the 2020 fiscal year that began in October; that’s down from a high of 110,000 set by Mr. Obama for 2017.”
- Opponents argue that the order violates federal law. Congress gave states and local authorities “a voice but not a veto” in deciding where refugees should go, said Melissa Keaney, a lawyer with the International Refugee Assistance Project
- Supporters say states and local governments should be able to have a say in any resettlement process since they are on the hook for some Medicaid costs and public education. In Tennessee, State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver says refugees cost the state of Tennessee “millions” of dollars per year.
Flag Poll: Do you think states should have the ability to dictate whether or not they accept refugees? Click here to vote.
U.S. Cancer Death Rate Drops by Largest Amount on Record
According to the WSJ’s Brianna Abbott “The cancer death rate in the U.S. dropped 2.2% from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop ever recorded, according to the latest report from the American Cancer Society, continuing a longstanding decline that began a quarter-century ago. Major Driver: “The drop is largely driven by progress against lung cancer, though the most rapid declines in the report occurred in melanoma. Advances in treatment are helping improve survival rates in the two cancers, experts say.”
- Related One: “Elizabeth Wurtzel, whose startling 1994 memoir, ‘Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America,’ won praise for opening a dialogue about clinical depression and helped introduce an unsparing style of confessional writing that remains influential, died on Tuesday in Manhattan” according to The New York Times. She was 52. The writer David Samuels, a friend since childhood, said the cause was metastatic breast cancer.”
- Related Two: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg confirmed that she is “cancer-free” after beating the disease for the fourth time. She underwent treatment for pancreatic cancer last summer.
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🌎 WORLD NEWS
In a Wednesday morning speech, President Trump addressed the American people about Tuesday night’s missile attacks on two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops. After emphasizing that no Americans or Iraqis had been killed and claiming, “Iran appears to be standing down, which is a very good thing”, the President led the speech in a direction that seems to indicate near term de-escalation. So what’s next? The response from the United States will be economic, as Trump said: “The U.S. will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime.” The President also made an appeal to NATO saying, “Today, I am going to ask NATO to become much more involved in the Middle East process.” That being said, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech that the “missile strike is ‘not enough”.
- What to watch for: Soaring tensions between Iran and the United States have reignited fears that the Strait of Hormuz could become a flashpoint – keep reading. Plus: we have reactions from each side of the aisle. See what each side is saying…
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 Fox News writes. What’s next: “Past crashes involving U.S. planemaker Boeing’s aircraft have compelled U.S. foes to overcome their resentments and allow American experts access to crash sites or to crucial evidence, because those countries lacked the capabilities or experience to lead complex investigations alone,” the Washington Post’s Rick Noack adds. This Time Looks to Be Different: Iran said Wednesday it would not hand over the jet’s black box to Boeing. Moreover, it is also unclear whether any U.S. agencies or Boeing would be willing or able to take part in an Iranian investigation, even if requested by Tehran. – Fox News / The Washington Post
Carlos Ghosn Speaks Out: ‘I did not escape justice. I fled injustice.’
Former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn slammed the Japanese justice system during his first public appearance since fleeing the country. “I did not escape justice. I fled injustice and persecution, political persecution,” Ghosn said at a press conference in Beruit, Lebanon on Wednesday. Remember: The high-profile auto executive was arrested in November 2018 at the airport in Tokyo on allegations of under-reporting his compensation and misusing company funds. Ghosn escaped Japan to Lebanon on December 30.
- If you have time this morning, this is worth a listen: “Inside Carlos Ghosn’s Escape From Japan” – WSJ’s Nick Kostov explains what led Ghosn to flee Japan in a box made for audio gear and how he pulled off his escape.
Macy’s is closing nearly 30 stores
Macy’s said Wednesday it will shutter nearly 30 stores, in an effort to boost its profitability and focus on its most profitable stores. Remember: On Monday, Pier 1 Imports announced it plans to close up to 450 locations, nearly half of its 942 stores. Why it matters: A week into 2020, the retail apocalypse rages on. By the numbers: Nearly 9,100 store closures were announced in 2019, 55% higher than total closures in 2018, according to a recent report from global marketing research firm Coresight Research. – USA Today / CNBC
Tom Brady on Instagram: ‘I know I still have more to prove’
Whether Tom Brady will return as quarterback of the New England Patriots next season is still an open question. But the 42-year-old on Wednesday gave another indication that he isn’t done playing football. What’s happening: In an Instagram post to fans, Brady said “I still have more to prove” following a season that ended with the Patriots failing to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 2015. Brady referenced a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, president of the United States from 1901-1909, saying the Patriots gave their all for a worthy cause while preparing “to fail while daring greatly.” Why it matters: Brady, who turns 43 on Aug. 3, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 18. The Patriots can’t assign him the franchise tag, which gives Brady leverage to dictate his plans. – ESPN / AP
TikTok Still on the Chopping Block
According to research published Wednesday by Check Point, a cybersecurity company in Israel, TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based company, fell victim to major vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to: A) Get a hold of TikTok accounts and manipulate their content B) Delete videos C) Upload unauthorized videos D) Make private “hidden” videos public and E) Reveal personal information saved on the account such as private email addresses. Why it matters: Available in over 150 markets, used in 75 languages globally, and with over 1 billion users, the wildly popular app has come under fire recently. The US Navy banned the use of the application for its personnel. Senior Democrat Chuck Schumer said that the app “poses potential national security risk”. Additionally, the US Army banned TikTok from use on government phones, reversing its policy on the entertainment app, which it recently used as a recruiting tool. – Check Point / USA Today / CNET / NYT / The Guardian
📅 ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
1493: Columbus mistakes manatees for mermaids
On January 9, 1493, explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, sees three “mermaids”—in reality manatees—and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.”
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