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D.C. Memo: 25 days till Iowa Caucuses

Iran situation; impeachment briefing; environmental spending; and more.

photo of dempcratic presidential candidates on debate stage
Seven Democratic presidential candidates will participate in a debate next week.
REUTERS/Kyle Grillot

The D.C. Memo is a weekly recap of Washington political news, journalism, and opinion, delivered with an eye toward what matters for Minnesota. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Thursday.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week in Washington, conflict with Iran, impeachment continues (slowly), and Klobuchar is set to release her top campaign fundraisers. Let’s get on with this.

The U.S. and Iran

The news of the week: the situation with Iran. Late last week, President Trump ok’d the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top officials, via airstrike. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the reason for the killing of of Soleimani was that he was planning an “imminent attack” on U.S citizens and allies, but provided no public evidence of this. Iran retaliated this week, launching missile strikes on U.S. military bases in Iraq. There were no American or Iraqi casualties and Iran suggested it would not continue with attacks, should the U.S. do the same.

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In an attempt to limit the president’s ability to unilaterally use U.S. armed forces without a congressional vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) put a War Powers Resolution for a vote on the House floor on Thursday. It passed largely along party lines. Reps. Barabara Lee (D-CA) and Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis released their own War Powers Resolution this weekend.

At a press conference this week, Omar said that there are still many questions about the situation in Iran. What precautions were taken before the airstrike? What about after? “War destroys lives,” she said.

Republicans in the delegation have been steadfast in support for the President’s actions. “I applaud President Trump for his decisiveness and for demonstrating that no attack on Americans will be tolerated, and I thank our courageous military members who carried out this mission swiftly and effectively,” Rep. Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota’s First District said in a statement.

For the Guardian, Mitra Jalali, St. Paul council member for Ward 4, writes about what her background as an Iranian-American means in this moment:

Childhood me didn’t know that in my lifetime I’d fight a Muslim travel ban, battle Iranian family separation, watch a historic Iran deal be created that was decades in the making, then be reneged on by the US one administration later. In 2018, I became the first Iranian-American elected official in Minnesota history. As a city councilwoman, most of my work is for my constituency. But my family stories and the fallout of US foreign policy on my life experience is what propelled me and so many others into politics.

For so many Iranian-American families, this moment of precipice has us sick and terrified. It isn’t just detached political analysis and smug Twitter takes to us. It is about a lifetime of broken US Iran policy shaping a volatile current we have swum in for decades.

Impeachment briefing

The House passed two articles of impeachment before the holidays, impeaching a U.S. president for the third time in history. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has, until recently, refused to formally submit articles of impeachment to the Senate. Her reasoning: Sen. Mitch McConnel has not promised to allow new witnesses, including people who have said they have pertinent new information, to speak during the trial.

But under pressure from both Senate Democrats and Republicans, Pelosi said she “is ready” to send the articles of impeachment formally to the Senate. But there’s a caveat: Pelosi has noted the trial cannot start until she names impeachment managers. And citing the same reasoning as before, she does not intend to do so until she and McConnel can reach rules they both find satisfactory.

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Environment spending

MinnPost’s Walker Orenstein has a breakdown of how the federal budget signed last month will boost spending on environmental initiatives in Minnesota:

The environmental spending was part of a larger $1.4 trillion budget package for the 2020 fiscal year signed by President Donald Trump in late December. While Trump had hoped to cut money from federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, many came away with more money than they had in 2019.


Rep. Jim Banks suggested it was impossible for Rep. Ilhan Omar to experience PTSD. Omar is the only sitting member of Congress to have experienced and escaped warfare in her own home country of Somalia.

“This is a disgrace and offensive to our nation’s veterans who really do have PTSD after putting their life on the line to keep America safe,” he said, after Omar said she is “stricken with PTSD because of recent events in the Middle East.”

“Hi Jim, I survived war as a child and deal with post-traumatic stress disorder — much like many who have served or lived through war,” Omar tweeted. “It’s shameful that you as a member of Congress would erase the PTSD of survivors.”

By the numbers

  • $200,000: The amount of money raised last month by Antone Melton-Meaux, a recent DFL primary challenger to Rep. Ilhan Omar, according to his campaign. Omar is a prolific fundraiser, taking in over a million dollars in the third quarter of 2019. Another interesting quick fact, according to the campaign: When Melton-Meaux worked at St. Jude, he worked as legal counsel for the Second District’s Rep. Angie Craig.
  • 25: The number of days until the Iowa Caucuses. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has basically banked her campaign on a strong showing in Iowa. Soon, we’ll see how that plays out.
  • 7: The number of candidates on the presidential debate stage next week. That includes: former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren.

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The president next door

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is set to release a list of her bundlers sometime soon, letting voters see who has been assisting more than most with gathering large groups of big donors (credit to Akela Lacy).

Klobuchar also dropped out as a host for the National Prayer Breakfast.

In other news

  • Rep. Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty to corruption last month, resigned from Congress this week. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he will not hold a special election, because of the timing of Hunter’s resignation, and so the seat will remain vacant until next year.
  • Up to 200 people, many Iranian-Americans, were held by agents at the U.S-Canada border. “My kids shouldn’t experience such things,” Negah Hekmati said. “They are U.S. citizens. This is not O.K.”
  • Former presidential candidate and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren for President.
  • As Minnesota counties vote on accepting refugees, here are the counties where refugees have actually moved in the last decade.

Quote of the week

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process…” a Facebook spokesperson wrote in a letter to Joe Biden’s campaign.

What I’m reading

Aída Chávez for The Intercept: Joe Biden’s Role In Creating The Student Debt Crisis Stretches Back To The 1970s

In the last few days, it seems like Sen. Elizabeth Warren may be ready to relive a conflict she’s had with Joe Biden since 2005, when Biden pushed for legislation that made it virtually impossible for student loan debt to be reduced via bankruptcy, over the very public objections of a then-bankruptcy expert: Warren. The Massachusetts senator this week released a plan to repeal these provisions, likely setting up a future confrontation on the debate stage.

Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic: 1776 Honors America’s Diversity in a Way 1619 Does Not

I typically only share content that I’ve enjoyed reading, but the rushing muddy rain-after-snow slurry of criticism for the 1619 project (see here) is slowly melting my brain. This essay in The Atlantic, in part, argues that people in modern America should not feel tied back to people of the same race from that era, and instead, everyone should be able to “identify with the enslaved victims from 1619 to 1865.” Setting aside the fact that the author seems to be ignoring racist policy structures that have pervaded in some way since chattel slavery to make this argument, it’s a pretty astounding claim that everyone should have claim the generational trauma induced by slavery. And by astounding I mean bad.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.