10 things you need to know today: January 10, 2020

Harold Maass

1.

Officials from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. said Thursday that intelligence indicated that the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran was mistakenly shot down by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile. The Boeing 737-800 crashed early Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board. The jet, which was leaving for Kyiv, reportedly was in flames and tried to turn around before crashing. Iran said the cause appeared to be mechanical failure. Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, said Thursday that investigators were looking into unconfirmed reports that fragments of a Russian-made surface-to-air missile used by Iran were found near the wreckage. Iran, which hours before the crash launched ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing American troops, denied its military was responsible. [The New York Times]

2.

The House on Thursday approved a non-binding war powers resolution designed to limit President Trump's military actions against Iran. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), when she announced the vote Wednesday, called Trump's killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani "provocative and disproportionate." Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has sponsored a similar proposal, but it faces a steeper climb in the Senate. Democrats say that under the 1973 War Powers Act, the resolution would be binding on Trump if passed by both chambers, without Trump's signature. Many Republicans say it still would not be binding, and the courts have not ruled definitively. Pelosi said the House might also consider legislation to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq and a bill to bar funding for military action against Iran not explicitly approved by Congress. [The Associated Press, Nancy Pelosi]

3.

A majority of Americans believe that President Trump's decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani made the U.S. less safe, according to a nationwide USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll released Thursday. Fifty-two percent of the respondents said the move was "reckless," compared to 34 percent who said it wasn't. Forty-two percent, however, said they supported the drone strike against Soleimani's convoy in Baghdad, while 33 percent opposed it. Twenty-five percent said they did not know what to think about the strike. There was more agreement on the consequences. Sixty-nine percent said Iran was likely to respond with strikes against American interests in the Middle East, while 63 percent said there could be terrorist attacks in the U.S. Sixty-two percent said they believed the U.S. and Iran would end up at war. By a 52 percent to 8 percent margin, most of those polled said the clash would make Iran more likely to develop nuclear weapons. [USA Today]

4.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that she expected to send the Senate the two impeachment articles against President Trump "soon," resisting pressure from some Senate Democrats to send over the case so the trial can start. Pelosi has been waiting for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to announce plans for the Senate trial rules. Democrats want the plan to include provisions for testimony from top Trump aides prevented from testifying in the House impeachment inquiry. McConnell this week tried to get Pelosi to drop her hold by announcing that he had the votes to set the rules without support from Democrats. "I'm not holding them indefinitely," Pelosi said at a weekly press conference. "I'll send them over when I'm ready. That will probably be soon." [NPR]

5.

President Trump on Thursday proposed easing regulations to speed up approvals of new mines, pipelines, and other projects. The plan would loosen rules under the National Environmental Policy Act requiring impact assessments by federal agencies before construction on the projects, some of which could hurt the environment or contribute to climate change. The proposed rules would give local communities little influence over projects in their area. Industry has complained that the current process results in burdensome delays. Trump said the changes would let builders complete new highways "in a fraction of the time." "We will not stop until our nation's gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again," he said. [The Washington Post]

6.

Puerto Rico's top energy executive, Jose Ortiz, said Thursday that it could take a year to repair earthquake damage and bring the U.S. Caribbean territory's biggest power plant back online. The plant was severely damaged Tuesday by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake, the worst to hit the island in more than a century. The Costa Sur plant provides power for roughly a quarter of Puerto Rico's homes and businesses. Without it, the rest of the island's power plants will have to operate near capacity to keep up with demand. Two days after the powerful tremor, about half of the island of three million people remained without electricity, meaning many were without running water, too. The quake damage came as the island continues to struggle to fully recover from hurricanes Maria and Irma. [Reuters, NBC News]

7.

Boeing employees made disparaging remarks about federal rules, flight simulators used to train pilots, and colleagues involved in developing the 737 Max jet, according to internal messages delivered to congressional investigators on Thursday. "Would you put your family on a Max simulator trained aircraft? I wouldn't," one employee said to another in 2018, before the first of two crashes that killed 346 people and led to the plane's global grounding. Another employee suggested Boeing workers had not been forthcoming with the Federal Aviation Administration, saying in 2018, "I still haven't been forgiven by God for the covering up I did last year." Another employee said in 2017 that the 737 Max was "designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys." [The New York Times]

8.

The Justice Department has effectively ended an investigation into Hillary Clinton without finding anything worth pursuing, The Washington Post reported Thursday, citing current and former law enforcement officials. In November 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions assigned John Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, the job of examining concerns expressed by President Trump and his congressional allies that the FBI had failed to adequately investigate possible corruption during Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, and at the Clinton Foundation. The current and former officials said that Huber had nearly finished his work without finding anything significant, although his work has not formally ended. [The Washington Post]

9.

Army Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette has denied a request by retired Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who was pardoned by President Trump regarding an open murder case, to have his Special Forces tab reinstated. The Army disclosed Thursday that Beaudette, commander of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, had made the provisional decision, which next goes to an administrative panel. The panel will consider whether to expunge a letter of reprimand and give back the tab, as well as a Distinguished Service Cross, which is the military's second highest award for valor. Golsteyn was awaiting trial for the alleged 2010 murder of a suspected Taliban bombmaker in Afghanistan, which he disclosed during a 2011 polygraph when he was being considered for work at the CIA. [The Washington Post]

10.

The International Olympic Committee is letting athletes know ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games which political protests will not be allowed. The IOC released its guidelines on Thursday. They prohibit athletes from taking a knee, making hand gestures with a political meaning, and wearing armbands. Olympians will be allowed to share their political opinions on their social media accounts or during interviews with the media. Athletes who break the rules will receive disciplinary action from the IOC, a national Olympic body, and their sport's governing body, The Associated Press reports. "We needed clarity and they wanted clarity on the rules," IOC Athletes' Commission Chair Kirsty Coventry told AP. "The majority of athletes feel it is very important that we respect each other as athletes." [The Associated Press]

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