Nebraska

Trump’s threat to bomb Iran ‘cultural’ sites is personal for Iraq War vets in Congress
Gallego urges Trump to uphold U.S. ideals and not stoop to the level of its enemies

Demonstrators and members of the military gather under a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday to mourn and condemn the death of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani. (AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and President Donald Trump’s subsequent threat to bomb Iran’s “cultural” sites if it retaliates touched personal nerves for many members of Congress who are veterans of the Iraq War.

Soleimani headed Iran’s elite Quds Force, which is responsible for killing roughly 600 U.S. soldiers during the Iraq War mainly through unconventional tactics such as roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices, the State Department reported last year.

Sources: Repealing health care taxes in play on spending deal
Tax talks appear to have picked up steam over the weekend

Sen. Charles E. Grassley tweeted over the weekend his concern that top Democrats might be cooking up a deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that would be "detrimental to farmers." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Congressional leaders were discussing a permanent repeal of three major health care taxes — on medical devices, health insurers and high-cost “Cadillac” insurance plans — as part of the final appropriations measures advancing this week, according to sources familiar with the talks.

The tentative development follows some skepticism about whether leaders would even be able to agree to attach an extension of expiring tax cuts and other tax policy changes to the package — and little expectation that the costly taxes would be repealed altogether.

Photos of the Week
The week of Dec. 13 as captured by Roll Call’s photojournalists

Top row from left, Reps. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, are seen as the House Judiciary Committee hears the House Intelligence Committee’s presentation on the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

At the Races: Walking and chewing

By Bridget Bowman, Simone Pathé and Stephanie Akin

Michigan Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens reminded a group of reporters yesterday, “It’s sort of the metaphor of walking and chewing gum at the same time that everybody likes to use around here.”

Republicans abandon tradition of whistleblower protection at impeachment hearing
Efforts to out the Ukraine whistleblower could have a chilling effect, put U.S. security at risk, experts say

From left, Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and minority counsel Steve Castor attend the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump in Longworth Building on Tuesday, November 19, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

On Oct. 8, Alan Souza, the lead Republican lawyer on the House Intelligence Committee, wrote an email to Mark Zaid, the lawyer representing the person who first anonymously disclosed concerns that President Donald Trump was pressuring Ukraine for his own political gain.

In the email, Souza assured Zaid that the panel “always maintains the confidentiality of the whistleblower,” according to a reference to the email in a Nov. 6 letter to the committee from Zaid’s law firm that is reproduced on its website.

Prisons chief critical of guards sleeping on the job
Bureau of Prisons director responds to bipartisan scrutiny

Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senators from both sides of the aisle pushed Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Tuesday morning on the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein in August.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., one of the Judiciary Committee members who focused on the Epstein case in questioning, ultimately turned his attention to broader problems.

Ben Sasse presses prison bureau director on Jeffrey Epstein death, guards sleeping on the job
‘It’s about the fact that that bastard wasn’t able to testify against his other co-conspirators’

Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the bureau on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

On the day that two federal correctional officers were charged in connection with failing to properly monitor sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who committed suicide in a New York jail cell, Sen. Ben Sasse had particularly strong words for the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

“As alleged, the defendants had a duty to ensure the safety and security of federal inmates in their care at the Metropolitan Correctional Center. Instead, they repeatedly failed to conduct mandated checks on inmates, and lied on official forms to hide their dereliction,” Geoffrey S. Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement announcing the indictments.

States in the East with outsize roles in the 2020 elections
Pennsylvania remains a presidential battleground, while Collins bid in Maine will be closely watched

Maine Sen. Susan Collins is a Republican running in a state that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016, but she has a strong personal brand that will help her if she seeks another term as expected in 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If there’s an abiding lesson from 2016, it’s that national public opinion in the presidential race is not as important as the votes of individual states. Republican Donald Trump won by taking 304 electoral votes to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 227, even as Clinton beat him by 2.9 million votes and 2.1 percentage points nationally.

In 2020, Democrats will be looking to recapture states Trump won that went for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. And many of those states will also be prime battlegrounds in the fight for control of the Senate, where Democrats need a net gain of four seats to take a majority (three if they win the White House and the vice president can break 50-50 ties), while Republicans need a net gain of 19 seats to retake the House.

Islamic State group leader in Syria killed by U.S. military, Trump announces
‘He died like a dog,’ president says in statement from the White House

President Donald Trump speaking Oct. 1 on the South Lawn of the White House. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

U.S. military special operations forces killed the leader of the Islamic State group in northwest Syria, President Donald Trump announced Sunday.  The action comes just weeks after Trump  announced the withdrawal of American troops from that country.

“Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump said during a morning statement from the White House. “He was a sick and depraved man, and now he’s gone.”

Republicans scramble to dispose of campaign cash from Giuliani associates
Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas plead not guilty Wednesday to violating campaign finance laws

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has ties to two men indicted for campaign finance violations. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican lawmakers unwittingly entangled in a campaign finance scandal have scrambled to get rid of contributions from two men at the center of the alleged wrongdoing, both of whom were back in court Wednesday.

Igor Fruman and and Lev Parnas pleaded not guilty to violating campaign finance laws when they appeared in federal court in New York for their arraignment. Fruman, Parnas and two other men were indicted earlier this month for “engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates.” The indictment alleged the two men did so to “buy potential influence with the candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments.”