Marie Yovanovitch, the US ambassador to Ukraine who provided key testimony in the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump said the state department is in trouble.
“We need to re-empower our diplomats to do their job. We can’t be afraid to share our expertise or challenge false assumptions,” Yovanovitch said, speaking at Georgetown University, where she was being awarded by the School of Foreign Service. “Working off of facts is not the trademark of the deep state but of the deeply committed state … Truth matters,” she added, echoing the words of National Security Council officer Alexander Vindman, who also testified about Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine.
Yovanovitch retired from the state department last month. In May, she was abruptly recalled from her post in Kyiv, after she was targeted by allies of the president, including his personal lawyer Rudy Guiliani and his associates.
The ambassador’s appearence at Georgetown was her first public appearance since she testified before Congress. The university invited her to a ceremony where she was honored for “Excellence in the Conduct of Diplomacy”. The award has been previously presented to secretary of state Madeleine Albright, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Donald Trump has conditionally approved a peace deal with the Taliban, which would withdraw American troops from Afghanistan more than 18 years after the US invaded, according to reports.
From the New York Times:
The deal will only be signed if the Taliban prove their commitment to a durable reduction of violence over a test period of about seven days later this month. If the Taliban do end hostilities and a deal is signed, the United States would then begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops, and direct negotiations would start between the Taliban and Afghan leaders over the future of their country.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed Afghanistan’s top leaders in separate phone calls on Tuesday that Mr. Trump had given tentative approval to this approach, according to a senior Afghan official briefed on one of the calls.
The administration has said it was working on a deal for months. Talks with the Taliban were temporarily stalled in September. Plans to invite the militants to Camp David in Maryland fell apart after the death of the US soldier and once press and lawmakers realized the meeting would coincide with the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In November, Trump said talks were back on.
at 6.46pm EST
Iowa Democratic Party chair resigns
Following a chaotic Iowa caucus, the chair of the Iowa Democrats, Troy Price, has resigned. “While it is my desire to stay in this role and see this process through to completion, I do believe it is time for the Iowa Democratic Party to begin looking forward, and my presence in my current role makes that more difficult. Therefore, I will resign as chair of the Iowa Democratic Party effective upon the election of my replacement,” he said in a letter to the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee.
More than a week after the caucuses on February 3, the final results from the causes are still not available. The Iowa Democrats declared Pete Buttigieg, the winner, with Bernie Sanders trailing closely behind. But candidates have called for a recanvass of 143 precincts, and the party reviewed results from 95 additional precincts.
at 6.10pm EST
Amy Klobuchar has raised $2.5m million after finishing third in New Hampshire. About 60% of donations were from first-time donors, according to her campaign. The Minnesota senator has promoted herself as the most promising centrist candidate, an antidote to the “extremes in our politics”.
Her centrist competitor Joe Biden had raised about $4m since the Iowa caucuses. After his lackluster performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden is betting on Nevada and South Carolina, where he’s running radio ads in a push to regain lost ground.
Influential Nevada union says Bernie Sanders would ‘end’ its hard-won healthcare
The Culinary Union, an influential force in Nevada politics, released a flier yesterday warning that Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for all plan would “End Culinary Healthcare” .
Ahead of the Nevada caucuses next week, the group, which has not endorsed a candidate in the primaries, singled out Sanders among the top six Democratic candidates running for president as the one who will end union healthcare. The Culinary Union represents 60,000 hotel and casino workers in Nevada and it provides health coverage for more than 130,000 people.
Although Elizabeth Warren’s healthcare plan is similar to Sanders’ plan, the union flier says that hers would “Replace Culinary Healthcare after 3-year transition or at end of collective bargaining agreements”.
The Nevada Independent first reported the news.
The union had previously cast both Sanders and Warren as candidates who want to take away hard-won union healthcare. In a statement issued today, the group’s secretary-treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline said, “It’s disappointing that Senator Sanders’ supporters have viciously attacked the Culinary Union and working families in Nevada simply because our union has provided facts on what certain healthcare proposals might do to take away the system of care we have built over 8 decades.”
It’s unclear what effect the union’s despite with Sanders’ will have on his chances in Nevada . The group is encouraging members to participate, and directing them to early voting sites.
Sanders’s Nevada state director responded: “We will guarantee that coverage is as comprehensive or more so than the health care benefits union workers currently receive, and union health clinics, including the Culinary’s health clinic, will remain open to serve their members.”
at 1.55am EST
Here’s a summary of where things stand:
- Stunned reaction continued to unfold to a justice department reversal of a sentencing recommendation in the case of Roger Stone after Donald Trump complained on Twitter about the original recommendation.
- Four career prosecutors stood down from their posts in apparent protest following the reversal, and one of them left the justice department entirely.
- Trump said he did not want to comment on whether he was considering a pardon of Stone “yet”. “No one even knows what he did,” Trump said.
- Stone was convicted in October by a jury of his peers on seven felony charges including obstruction of justice and witness tampering for misinformation he gave to investigators examining Trump campaign ties to Russia.
- The House judiciary committee said attorney general William Barr, whom Trump congratulated for acting on his complaint about the Stone case, had agreed to testify on 31 March.
- Justice department veterans reacted to the Stone case news with distress, saying that Barr was enabling Trump’s efforts to use justice as a sword against his political enemies and as a shield for his friends.
- A week after voting to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Republican senators dismissed concerns about the sudden twists in the justice department:
- In the Democratic presidential race, Bernie Sanders declared victory in New Hampshire, with Pete Buttigieg coming in second.
- Senator Amy Klobuchar’s campaign showed new life after a strong third-place finish, underscoring that it could be awhile before Democrats arrive at a nominee.
And here’s video of Trump saying he’s not ready to say he’s considering a pardon for Stone “yet”:
Many people noting how far off is Barr’s scheduled date for testimony, 31 March.
The three items of concerning Barr behavior listed by Nadler might need updating by then.