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Could Tbilisi Decide Iowa Caucuses in 2020 US Presidential Race?    

Next week’s Iowa caucuses are coming to Tbilisi, the capital of the country of Georgia.For the first time, Iowa’s Democratic Party designated Tbilisi as well as Paris, France and Glasgow, Scotland as international satellite caucus sites, along with 96 new voting locations in the state and across the U.S. where Iowa Democrats can register who they want as their party’s presidential nominee.Expanding these voting sites will “make these caucuses the most accessible” in the party’s history, said Troy Price, the Iowa Democratic Party Chairman.The Iowa caucuses, to be held on Feb. 3, will kick off the 2020 U.S. presidential primary season, to be followed within days by the New Hampshire primary. Democratic candidates are competing to become the party’s standard-bearer and face off against the Republican Party’s presumed presidential nominee, President Donald Trump, in November.Unlike a presidential primary where voters merely cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice, the more time consuming caucus process requires voters to cluster together in support of candidate. Participants may try to persuade wavering voters to join their side — or even attempt to convince voters to switch allegiance.“What makes a caucus distinctive, of course, is that people are literally voting with their feet,” said Karen Kedrowski, director of The Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at the Iowa State University.Why Tbilisi?The Tbilisi site will be hosted by Joshua Kucera, a freelance journalist living in Georgia. Kucera, who is from Des Moines, told the New York Times, “there’s no specific reasons for an Iowan to be here.” So far, he said, only two other Iowa expats have registered for the Tbilisi caucus. As to why Kucera wants to host a caucus, he said “I’m a proud Iowan, nostalgic for Iowa and I like doing Iowan things.”Kucera told VOA in an email he plans to write about his experiencing hosting the caucus in Tbilisi for another news organization.The other international sites will be held at a university in Paris and at the home of a graduate student studying in Glasgow.The 99 Iowa caucuses satellite locations were designated by the Democratic Party following an extensive application process. Organizations and individuals interested in hosting a caucus had to estimate the potential number of Iowa participants in these areas.Symbolic impactWhile the Democratic Party has expanded access, it has limited the potential impact of the satellite caucuses, ruling that no more than 10%  of delegates will be selected based on the outcomes from these sites.But political analysts will be looking to see if the expanded caucus sites significantly increase participation among more diverse populations and what new voter patterns may emerge.“I’m going to definitely be watching to see if these folks who are participating in the satellite caucuses had a different outcome than those who went to the traditional caucuses,” said Kedrowski, with Iowa State University’s Catt Center for Women and Politics.The Republican party of Iowa will also be holding caucuses on the same night but will not participate in the expanded satellite locations. President Donald Trump, who is running for second term of office, is overwhelmingly favored over two other register Republican candidates, former U.S. Congressman Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld.Virtual optionThe Iowa Democratic Party considered but ultimately rejected a virtual caucus option, for voters to participate over the phone or on an online platform, due to cybersecurity concerns.  This year’s expanded caucus sites and schedules, the Democratic Party hopes, will facilitate greater participation among busy parents with children, people working night shifts, students away from home and Iowans living abroad.In the past, the downside of the time-consuming caucus process has been lower voter turnout. In the 2016 Iowa caucuses only 15.7%  of the voting population participated. In contrast, over 50%  of New Hampshire voters cast ballots in the 2016 primary.  Iowa Democrats also rejected proposals to allow early voting or mailing in ballots that would blur the distinction between caucus and primary.New Hampshire state law requires that its primary election be the first one held in the nation. By holding caucuses rather than a traditional election, Iowa’s contest technically does not conflict with New Hampshire’s traditional first primary position.  



Trump Team Closes Impeachment Defense

Lawyers for US President Donald Trump closed their defense Tuesday, telling the 100 senators weighing his removal from office he did nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine. The first phase of the Senate impeachment trial comes to a close amid a fight over admitting new evidence and witnesses – including former National Security Advisor John Bolton – into the next phase. VOA’s congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson reports on what’s next on Capitol Hill.



Bloomberg Creates a Parallel Presidential Race. Can he Win?

When the leading Democratic presidential candidates marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day by linking arms and marching through South Carolina’s capital, Michael Bloomberg was nowhere near the early primary state.The former New York mayor was instead in Arkansas, tossing out candy at a King Day parade and enjoying his status as the only presidential hopeful in town.“Mike Boomerang?” a woman asked, as the billionaire businessman walked by.“Mike Bloomberg,” a supporter clarified. “He’s running for president.”Bloomberg is running, but he’s on his own track, essentially creating a parallel race to the nomination with no precedent. While his competitors are hunkered down in the four states with the earliest primaries, Bloomberg is almost everywhere else — a Minnesota farm, a Utah co-working space, an office opening in Maine. He’s staked his hopes on states like Texas, California and Arkansas that vote on March 3, aiming to disrupt the Democratic primary right around the time it’s typically settling on a front-runner. Or, should Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, be that front-runner, Bloomberg could be a backstop to Democrats still looking for a moderate choice.Skipping the early voting states and banking on success in later delegate-rich contests has never been done successfully. But no candidate has ever brought the financial firepower that Bloomberg can — he is worth an estimated $60 billion and has already spent more than $200 million building a campaign in more than two dozen states, taking him well past Super Tuesday.“Every other campaign thinks about this as a sequential set of contests. They spend time in Iowa and New Hampshire … hoping that they’ll (get a) momentum bounce from one to the next,” said Dan Kanninen, Bloomberg’s states director. “We’re thinking about this as a national conversation.”There’s little public polling available to measure Bloomberg’s progress. National polls show his support in the mid to high single digits, similar to that of former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.But interviews with voters and party officials across the Super Tuesday states show Bloomberg is still just starting to make an impression. While officials marveled at the inescapable ambition of Bloomberg’s advertising, many voters still do not know who he is, or know only what they’ve seen on television. Others noted they were interested but were still waiting to see who emerged as a clear leader in earlier contests.“I’ve been trying to read up on him to figure out if he’s going to be my key player,” said Cassandra Barbee, a hotel worker who watched Bloomberg in the Arkansas parade. She said his ads about helping people access health care appeal to her.Bloomberg isn’t the sole candidate campaigning beyond the first four states. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign said it has more than 1,000 staffers, the same number Bloomberg has been touting, across 31 states. All the major campaigns have operations in California, the biggest delegate prize, and several are up and running in states like Texas and North Carolina.But no candidate’s reach matches Bloomberg’s. He had spent more than $225 million on television and digital advertisements as of mid-January, according to the tracking firm Advertising Analytics, and he’s run television ads in at least 27 states. That’s 10 times what each of the other leading candidates has spent, according to the firm’s tracking.Bloomberg has already campaigned in every Super Tuesday state, in addition to states like Florida, Michigan, and Ohio, which vote later but are major general election battleground states where Bloomberg thinks his message will resonate. Meanwhile, his campaign pushes out a steady stream of endorsements, policy plans and ads that keep him in the headlines as Iowa’s caucuses near.“He’s definitely piquing my interest,” said Erica Moore, a guidance counselor at Little Rock schools. Moore said she’s aware of Bloomberg because his ads air constantly but said she wasn’t sure whether she’d vote for him.How exactly Bloomberg plans to win enough delegates to capture the nomination is unclear. The campaign acknowledges public polls show he hasn’t hit the 15% threshold he will need to win delegates, which are awarded proportionally statewide and by congressional district. Kanninen would not set hard targets for what success looks like on Super Tuesday, when a third of all delegates are awarded. Bloomberg needs to win some delegates, Kanninen said, but regardless of performance, “we’re prepared to move on and compete vigorously.”But winning a share of delegates isn’t enough, said Democratic strategist Bill Carrick, who argued that Bloomberg needs to win several Super Tuesday states to be credible. And Bloomberg’s anti-Trump advertising may not move voters his way in the primary, Carrick said.“I think that people are going to separate out whether they want him to have a robust effort in the general election taking on Trump versus him being the candidate,” he said.The best boost to Bloomberg’s chances may be what happens in the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday. As national and early state polls show Sanders in a strong position, Bloomberg could emerge as a moderate alternative should former Vice President Joe Biden or other candidates look weak. While Bloomberg has said he would support Sanders if he were the nominee, the two differ sharply on policy.Winning the primary isn’t Bloomberg’s only aim. He hopes his ads and organizing soften the ground for whomever Democrats pick to challenge Trump and help Democrats in down-ticket races. Bloomberg has committed to continue to spend millions — keeping offices and organizers in battleground states — regardless of whether he is the nominee.One of those states is North Carolina, where the campaign announced this week it had more than 100 paid employees. That’s a staffing benchmark more typical for a general election campaign. Hardly a local newscast or game show passes by in a major TV market that a Bloomberg commercial isn’t airing.“He’s really giving North Carolina Democrats the chance to fight in the general election by running ads now,” said Justin Vollmer, a top Bloomberg adviser in the state.Those ads tout his record on issues like health care and gun control and attack Trump, branding him a “dangerous demagogue” and calling for his removal from office. “Mike will get it done” is the former mayor’s slogan.A former Republican and a businessman, Bloomberg believes he’ll appeal to moderates and conservatives frustrated with the president. But he has clear competition on that argument from both Biden and Buttigieg.Judy Eason McIntyre, 74, who attended a Bloomberg speech last week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, thinks he would match up well against Trump, but that’s not enough to win her vote.“I’m one of those older black folks that’s going to stick with Biden,” said McIntyre, a former state senator and longtime Democratic Party activist. “But out of the candidates I see, being practical, he and Michael Bloomberg are the ones who could beat Trump, and that’s what I’m after.”Bloomberg’s campaign says it’s not focused on comparison with other Democrats.“We’re not really running against the field — we’re running against Donald Trump,” Kanninen said.Bloomberg recently brought his anti-Trump message to Utah, where Democratic presidential primary ads are “relatively unheard of,” said Jeff Merchant, chair of the Utah Democratic Party. Speaking in Salt Lake City last week, Bloomberg appealed to left-leaning voters who feel overlooked in a state that hasn’t supported a Democrat for president since 1964.“We shouldn’t be writing off any state no matter how red people think it is,” Bloomberg said while speaking at a modern co-working space.In some Super Tuesday states, Bloomberg is coming with a history that won’t necessarily help him court moderates and disaffected Republicans. In Virginia, which offers the third-most Super Tuesday delegates, he helped Democrats win full control of the state legislature for the first time in a generation last year through spending by his gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety.Democrats are now set to pass a slate of gun control measures, prompting the National Rifle Association to put Bloomberg’s face on a billboard. Such notoriety could serve to bolster his credentials with Democrats but turn off voters in gun-friendly southern states.Perhaps the biggest question of Bloomberg’s candidacy is whether an ad blitz is enough to win over primary voters. In California, Republican businesswoman Meg Whitman lost statewide in 2010 after spending nearly $100 million, losing to the better-known Democrat Jerry Brown.And in Texas, it wasn’t a barrage of TV ads that laid the groundwork for Democrat Beto O’Rourke to nearly win a Senate seat in 2018. It was his up-close-and-personal campaign that took him to every single county that captured voters’ attention.So far, no major Texas officials have backed Bloomberg, even after he finished a five-city bus tour through the state earlier this month.But Garry Mauro, who was the Texas chairman for both Clintons’ presidential campaigns, sees Bloomberg’s strategy as sensible. Mauro, who supports Biden, says no candidate but Bloomberg has the money to saturate Texas’ many television markets, and there’s no guarantee that a clear front-runner will emerge before Super Tuesday.“He’s betting on nobody’s getting the momentum, and he can get his own momentum on TV,” he said. “That’s a totally different approach than what we’ve ever seen before.”



As Primaries Near, Buttigieg Struggles to Make Headway With Black Voters

Pete Buttigieg is betting big on Iowa and New Hampshire, hoping success in the largely white states will help him overcome dismal support from black voters by the time more diverse states weigh in on his bid for the presidency.Buttigieg’s most recent swing through South Carolina, the first state with a large black population to hold a primary, underscored the depth of his challenge with the critical Democratic voting bloc.Amid campaign stops designed to put Buttigieg before black audiences, the white, openly gay, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, faced continued questions about his record on race, his ability to earn black voters’ trust and his sexuality.”It’s South Carolina. We are gas, sweet tea and religion,” said Mattie Thomas, who co-chairs the state’s Democratic Black Women Caucus. “For many people, they believe their God won’t let them support him.”Buttigieg, 38, has spent the last year successfully courting Democratic donors and voters in the predominantly white states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where polls show the Harvard-educated, military veteran in the top tier of candidates a week before Iowa’s Feb. 3 caucuses.But a lack of black voter support could doom his White House chances. A national Washington Post-Ipsos poll this month showed Buttigieg with just 2% support from Democratic black voters nationally, far behind former Vice President Joe Biden’s 48% and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ 20%. In South Carolina, where roughly 30% of the population is black, Buttigieg has remained in the single digits.Buttigieg lacks the national profile and long-standing relationships with the black community that have boosted Biden. His recently ended tenure as mayor has come under scrutiny, including a lack of diversity on the local police force and a fatal shooting of a black resident by a police officer.He has tried to confront those concerns head-on. Buttigieg named black employees to key positions on the campaign and released a detailed policy proposal – dubbed the Frederick Douglass Plan, named after the 19th-century abolitionist leader who was born into slavery – that would send more federal money to black colleges and black-owned businesses, said Hasoni Pratts, the campaign’s national engagement director. On Monday, the campaign announced endorsements from three state officials, including the first black mayor of the small town of Anderson.”MOSTLY WHITE PEOPLE SHOWING UP”Yet at an event last week at Claflin University, a historically black college in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Buttigieg said most of his campaign events in the state still
lacked diversity.“I’ll be honest, it’s mostly white people showing up,” Buttigieg said. “In order to win, in order to deserve to win, I need to be speaking to everyone,” he added.Larry McCutcheon, a 69-year-old black pastor, said he was open to voting for Buttigieg and gets angry at the portrayal of blacks as homophobic. Looking at some empty seats in the university hall, McCutcheon said the bigger issue was that Buttigieg’s message had not resonated with enough black voters in the state.”You can see just from this event that he has a problem,” McCutcheon said.Buttigieg’s campaign blames his sluggish poll numbers on black voters’ lack of familiarity with the candidate, who did not have a national profile before entering the race. As that changes, so will his poll numbers, the campaign says.In a phone interview, Pratts said the campaign had been the victim of a “false” narrative that had “spiraled out control” about Buttigieg’s handling of race issues during his tenure as mayor.She said Buttigieg would keep showing up at events with black voters and answering tough questions.“ I get this is an ongoing process of earning trust,” Buttigieg said in Orangeburg. “I get that, as a new guy, I don’t have decades worth of experience with folks around the country. We have our story of our city, which is good, bad and indifferent.”Afterward, Delanie Frierson, 66, said it was unlikely she would vote for Buttigieg in South Carolina’s Feb. 29 primary. She believes he has falsely equated gay rights to civil rights, a comparison she describes as insulting.“Pete can walk into a room and no one will know if he’s gay,” she said. “A black person can’t do that.”



Pence Visiting Wisconsin’s Capital City, Liberal Stronghold

Vice President Mike Pence’s planned visit on Tuesday to Wisconsin’s liberal stronghold of Madison may signal the opening of a new front in the hotly contested campaign to win the battleground state.
Pence was coming for an event celebrating the private school voucher program, which began in Milwaukee 30 years ago and has grown in popularity in the state and country since then. It’s an issue championed by conservatives, and one that Pence supported as governor of Indiana, giving him the chance to appeal to Republican voters in a swing state.
“The Trump campaign is going to do everything they can to find every last voters they can, everywhere they can,” said Wisconsin Democratic strategist Scott Spector.
Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki said Pence’s visit is more about the event itself than where it’s located. But he and Republicans agreed that President Donald Trump is looking for every vote they can in Wisconsin, even in areas like Madison where there are few to be had.
Madison, home to the University of Wisconsin, has so long been the epicenter of liberals in Wisconsin that a former Republican governor in 1978 dubbed it “30 square miles surrounded by reality.” Democrats know they will win in Madison and usually don’t bother to campaign there, if at all, until the waning days of the race when the goal is to fire up the base.
Pence is coming for the first time as vice president, 10 months before the election and just two weeks after Trump held a rally in Milwaukee.
Trump narrowly won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016. He was crushed in Madison and Milwaukee, the epicenters of Democratic support in Wisconsin. Trump got just 15% of the vote in Madison and 18% in Milwaukee.
Even so, coming to Madison now in an election year makes sense because of the media attention the stops generate that will reach voters in more conservative areas far beyond the city’s border, said Republican strategist Brandon Scholz. It also shows that the Trump campaign knows in a tight race it will need to maximize its votes everywhere, not just in rural counties it easily won four years ago, Scholz said.
“They can’t rely on the rest of the state to put them over the top given the intensity the other side will have getting out their base,” he said.
Pence’s stop in Madison is more about securing Republican votes than it is about trying to make inroads with Democrats, he said. In Dane County, where Madison is located, more than 71,000 people voted for Trump in 2016. While it was just 23% of the county total, it was more votes than Trump got in all but two of the state’s 71 other counties.
Still, it is unusual for top-of-the-ticket Republicans to spend time in Madison. Former President George W. Bush, the last incumbent Republican president to run for reelection in 2004, did not campaign in Madison during the entire campaign that year when Wisconsin was also a priority for both sides.
In contrast, his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, held a massive rally with Bruce Springsteen just down the street from the state Capitol that attracted an estimated 80,000 people. Bush lost Wisconsin by just over 11,000 votes on his way to winning reelection.
In 2012, then-President Barack Obama held a rally in the shadow of Wisconsin’s Capitol, again with Springsteen, the day before the election and attracted 20,000 people. Just a month earlier in the campaign he attracted 30,000 people to a rally on the UW campus.
Pence was looking for an event during national school choice week to attend and picked the one in Madison, said Wisconsin School Choice President Jim Bender.
Pence may have been motivated to come by the topic of the event, but with it being in Madison he gets the added bonus of coming to a liberal city in a swing state that he otherwise may have never campaigned in, said the Democratic Spector.
“It’s a smart tactic,” Spector said. “They are taking nothing for granted.”  



US State Department Bars NPR Reporter from Pompeo Trip After Testy Interview

The U.S. State Department removed a National Public Radio reporter from the press pool for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming foreign trip, a press association and NPR said on Monday, days after Pompeo angrily responded to another NPR journalist’s interview with him.
The removal of NPR reporter Michele Kelemen, who was part of the traveling pool of correspondents with Pompeo on his planned trip to the UK, Ukraine, Belarus and Central Asia, can be seen only as retaliation for her colleague’s interview, the State Department Correspondents’ Association (SDCA) said.
“The State Department press corps has a long tradition of accompanying secretaries of state on their travels and we find
it unacceptable to punish an individual member of our association,” Shaun Tandon, the head of the association, said in
a statement.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pompeo was interviewed on Friday by NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly, and was asked repeatedly about Ukraine and ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch during a testy nine-minute exchange.
Yovanovitch’s removal was a key event in the actions that prompted the impeachment of President Donald Trump by the
Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives last month. Following the interview, Kelly said Pompeo cursed at her and
repeatedly “used the F-word” and asked her: “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?”
In a statement on Saturday, Pompeo said the reporter had lied in setting up the interview and in agreeing to conduct the
post-interview conversation off the record. His statement did not dispute what she said about the content of the
post-interview encounter.
NPR stood by its account of the meeting. On Monday, NPR confirmed the removal of Kelemen, who has covered the State Department for two decades, and said she was informed that she would not be traveling but she was not given a
reason why.
“We respectfully ask the State Department to reconsider and allow Michele to travel on the plane for this trip,” Tandon of
SDCA said.
 FILE – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks towards reporters to speak aboard his plane en route to Thailand, before taking off from Andrews Air Force Base, Md.Ukraine Trip
Pompeo, who is due to make an official visit to Ukraine starting on Thursday, will be the most senior U.S. official to
travel to that country since the impeachment process began.
His relationship with the press has been tense since his first months in the job, but it has deteriorated since the
impeachment inquiry as Pompeo, a former U.S. congressman, expressed dismay over reporters’ insistence to ask about
Ukraine.
The House impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power in his dealings with Ukraine and obstruction of Congress, setting up the trial in the Republican-led Senate. Trump, who denies wrongdoing and has condemned the impeachment process, is unlikely to be convicted.
At the heart of the impeachment lies $391 million in aid to Ukraine, which Trump is accused of freezing until Kiev helped
with investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Congress had approved the funds to help Ukraine combat Russia-backed separatists. The money was ultimately provided in September after the controversy spilled into public view.
Pompeo has occasionally snapped back at reporters for asking impeachment-related questions, describing the media’s persistent interest in the issue as “silliness” and “noise.” He has said he supports all State Department employees, but has declined, to date, to publicly offer words of support for Yovanovitch specifically.



Ten Things You Need to Know About Iowa Caucuses

The 2020 U.S. presidential campaign gets under way for real on Monday, Feb. 3, when voters in the Midwestern state of Iowa gather in schools, libraries and private homes to participate in the Iowa caucuses.Iowa does not always determine the eventual party nominees, but the caucus vote does play a key role in shaping the primary races and weeding out contenders with little support.Here are 10 things people should know about the Iowa caucuses.What are the Iowa caucuses?Once every four years, Iowa seizes the national political spotlight with its caucus vote. Party activists head out to local schools and other locations to express their preference for the various Democratic and Republican candidates running for president. The process can take hours, and the results are eventually used to award convention delegates to candidates who do well.How do the caucuses work?Upon arrival at the caucus site, Democrats taking part elect a local chairperson and form groups supporting the various candidates. After an initial round of voting, candidates who do not have at least 15% support among those at the caucus site are considered no longer viable. Their supporters are free to go to another candidate, and caucus-goers who support other candidates are free to try and persuade them. After this “realignment” process is complete, a final vote tally is taken and reported to the state party. The caucus results ultimately are used to allocate delegates to the national nominating convention in July committed to those candidates who draw the most support.Volunteers call potential caucus-goers at a campaign field office for Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, Jan. 13, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.Do caucus winners always win their party’s nomination?Since 1972, the winner of the Iowa Democratic caucuses has gone on to win the party’s presidential nomination seven out of 10 times. Jimmy Carter got a big boost by finishing second to “uncommitted” in the 1976 caucus voting, and Barack Obama used his victory in 2008 to demonstrate he was a serious threat to favorite Hillary Clinton. But winning in Iowa does not guarantee success in the primary race. Past Democratic winners have included local favorite Sen. Tom Harkin in 1992, Congressman Dick Gephardt in 1988 and Ed Muskie in 1972, none of whom won the nomination. On the Republican side, Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000 got a huge boost in momentum from winning the caucuses, and eventually went on to win the party nomination.Who are some of the recent winners, and how did they fare in later primaries?Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the caucuses in 2016 over Donald Trump, while Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly prevailed over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders is one of the top Democratic contenders again this year. In 2012, former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum won a razor-thin victory over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, only to see Romney eventually claim the Republican nomination. Romney was defeated by Obama in the general election.Why doesn’t Iowa hold a presidential primary like most other states?Iowa is one of only a handful of states that still prefers to hold time-consuming caucus meetings to begin the process of selecting national convention delegates. Nevada, Kansas, North Dakota and Wyoming are the others. Iowa has traditionally preferred the caucus model since it became a state in 1846. But several states in recent years have moved away from caucus votes to primaries, where voters simply show up at a polling place and cast a ballot. Primary elections draw a wider cross section of voters compared to caucuses, which are usually attended by the more motivated and committed voters. Caucuses also last hours, compared to the more traditional act of voting at the polls or submitting an early vote by mail.Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld steps off stage after speaking at a the Faith, Politics and the Common Good Forum at Franklin Jr. High School, Jan. 9, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa.Are Republicans holding caucuses in Iowa, as well?They are, even though Trump is a heavy favorite. The Republican caucuses function more simply than the Democratic ones. Voters simply show up at their local caucus locations and cast a vote and leave.Iowa Democrats have announced changes to the caucuses this year. What are they?In the past, Democrats would only announce the total number of delegates each candidate has won at the end of voting. This year, after pressure from Sanders supporters to be more transparent, Democrats have decided to also announce the raw vote totals from the first round of voting in the various caucuses, and from the final round of voting after caucus-goers are permitted to realign behind other candidatesIowa caucuses buttonWho decided Iowa should go first?  Iowa began this tradition of holding the first caucuses for Democrats in 1972 and for Republicans in 1976. It has become a point of pride for Iowa to host the first caucuses and for New Hampshire to hold the first presidential primary. New Hampshire’s tradition goes back to 1916 and took on added significance beginning in 1952. Both states have a long-standing pact that they will remain the first contests to the exclusion of all other states, and for the most part, political leaders in both parties have supported them over the years.Who is going to win in Iowa this year?Recent state and national polls show Sanders is surging. He is hoping for a breakthrough in a top tier of candidates that includes former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. In addition, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is hoping for a strong showing to break into the top tier. But in the final run-up to the vote, Sanders, Warren, Klobuchar and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet have been limited in their ability to campaign in Iowa because as sitting U.S. senators, they are required to attend Trump’s impeachment trial. 



Bolton Book Undermines Trump Impeachment Defense

The team around U.S. President Donald Trump is turning against his former national security adviser after John Bolton, in an upcoming book, undercuts one of the key points of the president’s defense in his impeachment trial.A senior legal adviser to the Trump re-election campaign, Jenna Ellis, who is also an attorney to the president, accuses Bolton of “willing to sell out America…just to score a book deal or 5 minutes of fame.”Retweeting Ellis on Monday, the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said this was “So true & so unfortunate.”So true, & so unfortunate. But it’s OK because @realDonaldTrump did nothing wrong, & is undeterred as always. He continues to work on behalf of this country, & most importantly – produce real results that benefit Americans & their families. https://t.co/iFpMHvM7De— Stephanie Grisham (@PressSec) January 27, 2020At least one senator of Trump’s Republican party is indicating the revelations in the book may compel witnesses, including Bolton, to be called at the impeachment trial.Senator Mitt Romney of the state of Utah says the former national security adviser has relevant testimony to provide and he thinks “it’s increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton.”
 
Trump’s defense team has maintained that president had valid reasons for withholding military aid from Ukraine.In their arguments to senators, the president’s lawyers are rebutting Democrats’ allegation of a “quid pro quo.” They say the president was not going to help Kyiv until Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky announced an investigation of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son who served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was in office.Bolton, in “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” to be published March 17, states Trump wanted to freeze military assistance to Ukraine until Kyiv’s government announced the investigation.The New York Times, which revealed online Sunday excerpts from the book, also reported after Trump’s July 25, 2019 phone call with Zelensky, Bolton raised his concerned with Attorney General William Barr that the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy.Trump, early Monday morning, denied Bolton’s account, saying his former adviser “never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book.”I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book. With that being said, the…— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2020The president later inaccurately stated in a tweet that Democrats never asked Bolton to testify during last night’s impeachment inquiry in the House.Contents of Bolton’s manuscript were submitted to the National Security Council for a standard security review on December 30, 2019.Bolton’s attorney, Charles Cooper, is blaming the White House for disclosing contents of the book.   Before Bolton spent 17 months as Trump’s national security adviser, he had a long track record as a hawk on foreign policy, giving him credibility among Republican senators who will have to decide if he should testify in the ongoing impeachment trial. 



Trump’s Lawyers Resume Defense in Impeachment Trial

U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyers resumed their impeachment defense Monday, as majority Republicans in the Senate weighed how to respond to a former Trump national security adviser’s allegation that the U.S. leader told him he wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine until it launched an investigation of a key Democratic rival.Senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Trump defender, told reporters he would support a subpoena of national security aide John Bolton’s upcoming book, “The Room Where It Happened,” to “evaluate the manuscript and see if it’s a reason to add to the record.”Bolton’s claim that Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden’s son before he would release $391 million that Kyiv wanted to help fight pro-Russian separatists undercuts a key Trump defense — that he did not engage in a quid pro quo deal with Ukraine, the aid in exchange for the politically tinged investigation.FILE – President Donald Trump, left, is flanked by national security adviser John Bolton, right during a press conference in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2018.So far, minority Democrats in the Senate have been waging a futile battle to get at least four Republican senators to join them in a simple majority to subpoena Bolton and other Trump officials to testify about their recollections of behind-the-scenes meetings with Trump about Ukraine in the June-to-September period last year.Trump’s lawyers have contended there have been no firsthand accounts of officials who spoke with the president directly about his Ukraine actions. But Bolton often met with Trump until the U.S. leader ousted him last September from his national security post.As the second day of Trump’s defense opened, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow told the 100 senators acting as jurors that Trump’s actions “at all times” were both legal and within his constitutional authority.Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, a Republican who supports calling White House witnesses whom Trump has blocked from testifying, said the Bolton book revelation makes it “increasingly likely” that more Republican senators will agree to hear testimony from Bolton and others.Senator Susan Collins of Maine, another Republican who has signaled she is open to witnesses, said news reports about the Bolton book “strengthen the case for witnesses.”But it was uncertain whether Senate Republicans supporting Trump, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who have opposed calling witnesses and subpoenaing Ukraine-related documents had changed their minds. Many Senate Republicans and White House officials are eager to see Trump acquitted of two impeachment charges by week’s end, ahead of next week’s State of the Union address. Calling witnesses could significantly extend the length of the trial.Trump is currently in the second week of his Senate trial on two articles of impeachment, one of them alleging he abused his presidency by withholding the military assistance while pushing Ukrainian leaders to investigate Biden, his son Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian natural gas company, and a debunked theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump is also accused of obstructing congressional review of his Ukraine-related actions.The president rejected Bolton’s reported account in a series of early Monday tweets.”I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens.  In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” Trump said.I NEVER told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, including the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book. With that being said, the…— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) House Democratic impeachment managers, from left, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.Democrats: Bolton should testify The lead House impeachment manager, Congressman Adam Schiff, told CNN on Monday, “The senators ought to hear him first hand. The senators should see the man testify live.”He said Bolton kept contemporaneous notes of White House meetings, which Schiff said “are more important than the manuscript” he has written. “The president is clearly trying to hide the truth here.”Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called the revelation of the Bolton claim “stunning. It goes right to the heart of the charges against the president. How can the Senate vote to not call that witness and his documents?”The White House blocked several current and former administration officials from testifying before House committees during the impeachment investigation, including Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, citing executive privilege to protect the sanctity of White House conversations.Bolton says he is willing to testify at Trump’s impeachment trial if the Senate subpoenas him.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during the second day of the Senate impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump in this frame grab from video shot in the U.S. Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S.,…Impeachment rule stipulations
The rules for the impeachment trial blocked any consideration of new witnesses at the outset, leaving only the possibility for a vote after both sides have made their presentations and the 100 senators have had 16 hours to ask them questions. White House counsel Pat Cipollone began his defense Saturday during two hours of arguments.Cipollone said Trump’s legal team does not believe the House Democrats came “anywhere close to meeting their burden” that Trump committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” – the U.S. Constitution’s standard for impeachment and removal from office.Now, Cipollone and other Trump defense attorneys have said they will expand on their defense, in part focusing on why they believe there was nothing wrong with Trump’s request last July to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens and the Ukraine election meddling theory. No evidence has ever surfaced against either of the Bidens.Trump is all but certain to be acquitted by the Senate with its 53-47 Republican majority. A two-thirds vote is necessary for conviction and no Republican has called for his ouster.
 




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