July 19, 2019

Iran has seized a British-flagged oil tanker and a Liberian-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, it said via state TV on Friday.

The Stena Impero, of the U.K., was heading to Saudi Arabia in international waters when it "was approached by unidentified small crafts and a helicopter," the ship's owner and manager said via a Friday statement. They soon lost contact with the 23 people onboard the ship and the Stena Impero started heading northward toward Iran, though no injuries have been reported, the statement continued.

Iranian state TV reported that the country's Revolutionary Guard had seized the ship for "violating international regulations," CNN reports. Soon after, U.S. officials told CNN that they learned via maritime intelligence reports that Iran had seized a Liberian-flagged tanker as well.

The British seizure comes just hours after a British court decided to continue detaining an Iranian oil tanker that allegedly breached European sanctions on Syria, The Wall Street Journal notes. On Thursday, President Trump also announced the U.S. downed an Iranian drone that had come too close to the U.S.S. Boxer in the Strait of Hormuz. President Trump said America's ship was in international waters, but Iran has since disputed that, with its state-run media saying all its drones returned to their bases at the end of Thursday. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:55 a.m.

Celebrity defense lawyer and retired Harvard criminal law professor Alan Dershowitz closed out Day 2 of President Trump's impeachment trial defense Monday night, and unlike Trump's other defenders, he mentioned inconvenient new revelations from Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton. Dershowitz also differentiated himself by eschewing attacks on Joe and Hunter Biden or the unkindness of impeachment and instead mounted a "constitutional" defense of Trump. Republican senators appeared thrilled with the presentation.

Other legal scholars were less impressed. Dershowitz argued that the articles of impeachment approved by the House, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, are not "constitutionally authorized criteria for impeachment."

He went on to acknowledge that Bolton may claim he personally witnessed Trump link $391 million in Ukraine military aid to foreign help investigating Biden and Trump's other Democratic rivals, but argued that "nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true, would rise to the level of an abuse of power or an impeachable offense."

Dershowitz also conceded he held different views on whether abuse of power was an impeachable offense back in 1999, during President Bill Clinton's impeachment, but said he "was not fully aware of the compelling counterarguments" then and has reached a different conclusion after conducting his own research.

One of the few constitutional scholars he cited, Harvard Law's Niko Bowie, dismantled Dershowitz's argument on Twitter and in a new New York Times op-ed. Former Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, now a senator-juror and Democratic presidential candidate, also found Derhowitz's argument "nonsensical" and abstruse.

"Alan Dershowitz, to his credit, said that his own view was very much a minority view of what the impeachment provision means," CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said. "To his discredit, the reason why it's a minority view is because he's wrong." Peter Weber

12:03 a.m.

On Monday, 200 survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau came together to mark the 75th anniversary of the Nazi death camp's liberation.

On Jan. 27, 1945, the camp was liberated by the Soviet army. Most of the estimated 1.1 million people who were murdered there were Jews, with Poles, Roma, and Russians among the victims. The camp is in Oswiecim, Poland, and survivors came from as far away as the United States, Australia, and Peru to attend the anniversary. "We have with us the last living survivors, the last among those who saw the Holocaust with their own eyes," Polish President Andrzej Duda said. "The magnitude of the crime perpetrated in this place is terrifying, but we must not look away from it and we must never forget it."

There has been an increase in anti-Semitic attacks around the globe, and Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said he is astounded by "the open and brazen spread of anti-Jewish hatred. Do not be silent. Do not be complacent. Do not let this ever happen again, to any people."

Survivor Marian Turski, 93, recalled the Nazis starting small by banning Jews from sitting on benches in Berlin, and those actions led to the rise of ghettos and death camps. "Auschwitz did not descend from the sky," Turski said. If people become "indifferent, you will not even notice it when upon your own heads, and upon the heads of your descendants, another Auschwitz descends from the sky." Catherine Garcia

January 27, 2020

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton writes in his forthcoming book that last year, he privately shared with Attorney General William Barr that he was worried President Trump was doing favors for autocratic leaders, The New York Times reports.

People familiar with the unpublished manuscript told the Times that Bolton also says Barr told him the Justice Department was investigating two companies in China and Turkey, and he had his own concerns that Trump hinted to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping that he had influence over these inquiries.

Barr reportedly brought up a conversation Trump had with Xi about ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications firm. In 2017, the company agreed to plead guilty and pay fines for violating U.S. sanctions on doing business with Iran and North Korea. ZTE was prohibited from buying American products for seven years, which hurt the company, but in 2018, Trump ignored objections from his advisers and GOP lawmakers and lifted the ban.

On Sunday, the Times reported that Bolton writes in his book that Trump said he wanted to withhold military assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into domestic political rivals. This is central to the impeachment charges against Trump, and a claim he has denied. Catherine Garcia

January 27, 2020

The irony of Ken Starr declaring that the Senate is "being called to sit as the high court of impeachment all too frequently" was not lost on MSNBC's Ari Melber.

Starr, the former independent counsel who pushed for President Bill Clinton's impeachment, is now one of President Trump's impeachment defense lawyers. He made his debut on Monday, likening impeachment to "domestic war" and asking, "How did we get here, with presidential impeachment invoked frequently?"

When Starr was the independent counsel, he was a driving force behind Republican efforts in the House to investigate Clinton, and his Starr Report found that Clinton's conduct "may constitute grounds for impeachment." In 1998, his ethics adviser, Sam Dash, quit, writing in a letter to Starr, "You have violated your obligations under the independent counsel statute and have unlawfully intruded on the power of impeachment."

On Twitter, Melber said Starr's opening was "BEYOND RICH coming from him." Later, he told MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace: "This was a disaster for Republicans. A total unmitigated legal and constitutional disaster. Ken Starr at no point in this, dramatic at times, mournful opening explained in any factual or legal way what's different." This was "Starr vs. Starr," Melber continued. "Usually you want someone else's name on the other side. He was out there shadowboxing against himself. ... Constitutionally, we watched Ken Starr punch himself in the face and then walk off the floor."


During his own show, Melber played a mashup showing just how different the Starr of today sounds compared to the Starr of yesterday. Watch the clip below. Catherine Garcia

January 27, 2020

The National Transportation Safety Board provided an update on Monday afternoon about its investigation into the helicopter crash that killed Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others Sunday morning in Calabasas, California.

There was heavy fog in the area, and the pilot told air traffic controllers that he was going to try to fly higher to avoid a cloud layer, the NTSB said. When controllers asked him to share more information, he did not respond. Flight radar suggests the helicopter made it to 2,300 feet then began dropping down to the left, The New York Times reports.

Investigators are taking a "broad look at everything" around the accident, NTSB official Jennifer Homendy said. "We look at man, machine, and the environment, and weather is just a small portion of that."

Investigators are now searching a debris field of 500 to 600 feet for perishable evidence. The helicopter did not have a cockpit voice recorder. Catherine Garcia

January 27, 2020

Over the last few days, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has spoken with several of his Republican colleagues about the possibility of having two witnesses appear during President Trump's impeachment trial, three GOP officials told The Washington Post.

One of the witnesses would be called by Republicans, and the other by Democrats, the officials said. The Senate is scheduled to vote later this week on whether to have witnesses in the trial, with Democrats urging lawmakers to allow testimony from witnesses with firsthand information on Trump and the Ukraine scandal. On Sunday night, The New York Times reported that former National Security Adviser John Bolton writes in his forthcoming book that Trump said he wanted to withhold military aid to Ukraine until officials there launched investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Toomey, who is not up for reelection until 2022, is close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), but not President Trump or his top aides, the Post reports. Toomey has discussed his "one-for-one" proposal with Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the Republican officials said, as well as Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). On Monday morning, Romney said Bolton's testimony was "relevant," adding that it is "important to be able to hear from John Bolton for us to be able to make an impartial judgment." Catherine Garcia

January 27, 2020

After much speculation, President Trump's defense team finally reeled the Biden family into the Senate impeachment trial Monday.

For the most part, the case against impeachment was focused on poking holes in the Democrats' opposing argument, but former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who's defending the president, made former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and Burisma — the Ukrainian gas company upon whose board Hunter Biden sat — the centerpieces of her presentation, as did another Trump attorney, Eric Herschmann.

Their point was that Burisma's corruption made Trump's investigation request legitimate, and since the Bidens were connected to the company, they were worth looking into, as well. Bondi described the younger Biden's board membership as "nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst."

A few people sensed some hypocrisy in those comments, implying that Trump supporters don't have much ground to stand on when it comes to nepotism accusations.

There were a few other challenges to Bondi's argument, including the idea that, even if Hunter Biden's activities were corrupt, there are other ways to investigate foreign corruption than the Trump administration's methods in this case. Tim O'Donnell

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