July 17, 2019

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) apparently likes bringing business into his personal life.

While joining President Trump for a round of golf this weekend, Paul asked Trump to send him to meet with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, four U.S. officials tell Politico. Paul's plan, the officials say, is to soften the escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran — and Trump reportedly approved of it.

Paul's reported request just after Iran announced it violated enrichment levels set under the international nuclear deal Trump pulled the U.S. out of. Trump has responded with a so-called "maximum pressure" campaign on Tehran, which comes in the form of economic sanctions. Administration officials who support the maximum pressure move are "rankled" by Paul's apparent involvement in the deal, seeing as he's known to oppose foreign intervention, Politico reports. After all, Paul sent a letter alongside a bipartisan group of senators last month expressing concern over Trump's deployment of troops to the Middle East.

Zarif is in New York City this week for talks with the U.N., which is presumably where Paul would talk with him, Politico says. But Paul and his office have declined requests for comment, leaving the possible meeting up in the air. Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:26 p.m.

World Athletics announced Wednesday its World Indoor Championships for track and field wouldn't be relocated from Nanjing, China, over coronavirus fears. The championships would instead be rescheduled for a whole year from now, erasing an event that, for some athletes, could be a precursor to or even qualifier for the Olympic games in Tokyo this summer.

World Athletics had spent the past few days debating whether it would cancel the championships given that cases of a coronavirus-induced pneumonia were spreading throughout China. Because the spread of the virus was "still at a concerning level," the group eventually decided to put off the event, which was scheduled for March 13–15 of this year. World Athletics said it did consider relocating the event, but "given that concerns still exist regarding the spread of the virus outside China," opted for a total postponement.

The cancellation marks the biggest athletic to be uprooted as the coronavirus leads to travel cancellations in and out of mainland China. The Olympic women's soccer regional qualifying tournament that was supposed to be held in Wuhan was first relocated to Nanjing, and then to Australia. Yet with China's team quarantined after their hotel after passing through Wuhan recently, the tournament will likely be delayed. An Olympic woman's basketball qualifier scheduled in China was similarly relocated to Serbia. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:25 p.m.

The future is looking bright for solar physicists.

On Wednesday, scientists released the highest resolution images and videos ever taken of the sun's surface. The images, produced by the National Science Foundation's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on the summit of Haleakala, Maui, in Hawaii, will help scientists learn more about activity on the sun — a.k.a. space weather — per a press release from the National Solar Observatory.

Space weather can affect life on Earth by interfering with satellites and power grids. When Hurricane Irma made landfall in 2017, radio communications used by first responders were down for eight hours due to unrelated space weather coinciding with the storm, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This telescope will improve our understanding of what drives space weather and ultimately help forecasters better predict solar storms," said National Science Foundation Director France Córdova. With this information, governments can better prepare for space weather — potentially 48 hours in advance, rather than the current 48 minute standard, per the press release.

(NSO/NSF/AURA)

The circular structures in the images and videos are each roughly the size of Texas, and the movement is the hot plasma that covers the sun rising then falling as it cools off.

David Boboltz, program director in NSF's division of astronomical sciences, said in the press release the telescope "will collect more information about our sun during the first five years of its lifetime than all the solar data gathered since Galileo first pointed a telescope at the sun in 1612." Taylor Watson

2:57 p.m.

Well, that's one way to spin it.

President Trump's lawyer Alan Dershowitz argued Wednesday during the Senate impeachment trial that Trump's alleged Ukraine quid pro quo wasn't impeachable because he was actually just acting in the "public interest." Dershowitz's reasoning didn't have to do with rooting out corruption or anything of that sort, however. Instead, he was making the case that because every president believes it's in the public interest to win an election, any action geared toward securing victory is immune from impeachment.

You may have some questions — like, say, by that logic shouldn't Watergate have been acceptable? — and you're not alone.

Dershowitz's comments reportedly left some Democratic lawmakers flabbergasted, as well. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) apparently turned to Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and silently express his incredulity, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Merkely (D-Ore.) were left visibly frustrated, and a slow grin crept its way on to the face of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

2:51 p.m.

Senators from both sides brought some real "my question is more of a comment" energy to President Trump's impeachment trial.

After the conclusion of opening arguments, the impeachment trial Wednesday entered its next phase, with senators submitting questions for the House managers and Trump's defense. But most of their early questions weren't exactly hard-hitting.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked Democrats, for instance, "Is there any way for the Senate to render a fully informed verdict in this case without hearing the testimony of Bolton, Mulvaney, and the other key eyewitnesses or without seeing the relevant documentary evidence?" Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), given the perfect opportunity to make his case, responded that no, there's not.

Later, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) asked Trump's defense, in part, "Have the House managers met their evidentiary burden to support a vote of removal?" You'll never guess the response from Trump's defense: no, they haven't.

A few more useful inquiries made their way into the mix here and there, but they came in between questions that barely even qualified as questions at all, like when Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) asked, "Would the House managers care to correct the record on any falsehoods or mischaracterizations in the White House's opening arguments?"

"Many of the questions are thinly veiled efforts to tee up talking points," The Washington Post's Aaron Blake observed, while CBS News' Kathryn Watson tweeted, "Senators who ask rhetorical questions get milk dumped on their head." Brendan Morrow

2:06 p.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) isn't letting his USMCA fight die.

On Wednesday, President Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada agreement, a renegotiation of the NAFTA trade deal he's been working on for years. It proved a rare example of a Trump administration law that even Democrats agreed with — save for Sanders, who made it clear Wednesday that he's still not a fan of the deal.

Sanders, who's among the most popular choices for the Democratic presidential nomination right now, said that if he's elected, he'll "immediately begin renegotiating this disastrous deal." His main issues with it include that the deal doesn't "combat climate change, stop the outsourcing of American jobs, and end the destructive race to the bottom," he said in a statement.

Sanders later added a few more words to the matter, tweeting that he "proudly oppose[s] Trump's NAFTA 2.0" because "our trade agreements must stop outsourcing and address the climate crisis threatening our planet." That puts him at odds with pretty much everyone else running for president, with even his main progressive rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) voting in favor of the USMCA when it was in the Senate earlier this month. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:15 p.m.

Shortly before the Senate's impeachment trial resumes, another John Bolton revelation has arrived.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, revealed in a statement Wednesday that he spoke with Bolton, President Trump's former national security adviser, after his White House firing in September. In this conversation that occurred at Engel's request just one day before the impeachment inquiry was announced, Bolton evidently urged the committee to look into the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

"On that call, Ambassador Bolton suggested to me — unprompted — that the committee look into the recall of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch," Engel said. "He strongly implied that something improper had occurred around her removal as our top diplomat in Kyiv."

Yovanovitch was removed as ambassador to Ukraine in May 2019, and she testified in the impeachment inquiry her ouster was a result of a smear campaign backed by Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

This latest Bolton revelation comes after The New York Times reported on Sunday that the former national security writes in his upcoming book that Trump tied aid to Ukraine to investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Democrats want Bolton to be called to testify as part of the impeachment trial, and in his statement, Engel says he told his colleagues about this conversation and it "was one of the reasons we wished to hear from Ambassador Bolton, under oath, in a formal setting." Brendan Morrow

1:01 p.m.

And with that, Nigel Farage is on his way out of Brussels.

Farage, a British Member of the European Parliament and leader of the U.K.'s Brexit Party, at long last got to say good bye to the European Union after MEPs ratified U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's withdrawal agreement Wednesday, setting up the country's departure from the governing body at the end of the week. And, boy, did he enjoy it.

Farage and his bellow Brexit Party members stood up and proudly waved the Union Jack as a farewell before getting cut off for breaking parliamentary rules, and he didn't seem to mind one bit. His allies then began a "hip-hip-hooray" chant.

It certainly wasn't a happy day for everyone, though. Some British MEPs expressed their dismay over Brexit, while others said they were determined to one day bring the U.K. back into the fold. MEP Martin Horwood, a Liberal Democrat, received a standing ovation after declaring "We will be back." Tim O'Donnell

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