The Rundown for January 3, 2020

U.S. AIRSTRIKES IN BAGHDAD… A U.S. airstrike on a convoy in Baghdad airport yesterday killed five members of Iraqi paramilitary groups and two “guests,” according to reports from Iraqi paramilitary groups. The targets included Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The Pentagon released a statement claiming that Suleimani was planning attacks on American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Soleimani was Iran’s most revered military leader and was hailed as a “living martyr” by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

DEFENSE OFFICIALS FEARED HOLDING OF UKRAINE AID… The national-security forum Just Security has released unredacted emails that reveal Pentagon officials panicking about President Trump’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine and the legal ramifications involved. Defense Department officials feared that the decision to hold the promised aid would violate the Impoundment Control Act, which requires the Executive Branch to spend money as agreed by Congress. “Clear direction from POTUS to continue to hold,” associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget Michael Duffey told acting Pentagon comptroller Elaine McCusker in an August 30 email. The emails didn’t reveal why the aid was withheld, nor why it was later lifted.

MORE MUELLER INVESTIGATION DOCUMENTS RELEASED… The Justice Department yesterday released more than 350 pages of FBI memos from key witness interviews in the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The release followed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by CNN and BuzzFeed News. The memos include interviews with Stephen Miller, Sarah Sanders, Rob Porter, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, among others. Highlights included: Trump told White House counsel Don McGahn and then deputy White House counsel Uttam Dhillon that the communications team could not get the story right about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, so he was going to participate in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt to say what really happened; White House policy adviser Stephen Miller described the process for crafting the letter that was used to fire Comey; Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen told the FBI at some point he and Trump attorney Jay Sekulow discussed the concept of Trump issuing “pre pardons,” or pardons to everyone so that no one had to comply with the investigations; Translator Ike Kaveladze recalled Donald Trump Jr. asking, “Is there anything you have on HILLARY?” during a June 2016 meeting with Russians in Trump Tower; and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s claim that he used Fox News host Sean Hannity as a “back channel” to Trump in the period between the FBI raid of his apartment and his indictment months later.

CONGRESS WEIGHS IN ON ROE V. WADE… More than 200 members of Congress are asking the Supreme Court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, which guarantees the right to an abortion. 39 senators and 168 House members have submitted an amicus brief urging the court to uphold a Louisiana law severely restricting abortion. The brief is in response to the case of June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, which the Supreme Court will consider this spring. The plaintiff challenged a Louisiana law passed in 2014 that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital within 30 miles of the facility where the abortion is performed. Lawmakers argue that the Supreme Court should uphold the 5th Circuit appeals court decision that found that the law did not place an “undue burden” on women seeking an abortion.

CASTRO ENDS PRESIDENTIAL BID… Julián Castro announced yesterday that he is ending his presidential bid. “I’ve determined that it simply isn’t our time,” the former housing secretary and only Latino candidate in the Democratic nomination field said. Castro rarely scored more than 2 percent support in national or early-voting state surveys and qualified only for the first four primary debates. He nonetheless vowed to continue fighting.

SOME E-CIGARETTE FLAVORS BANNED… The Trump administration has imposed a national ban on some e-cigarette flavors to combat rising vaping among teens. The ban applies to mint and fruit flavors that are offered in cartridge-based e-cigarettes. Menthol and tobacco flavors, as well as fruit flavors delivered in other ways, will be allowed. South Korea, India, Brazil are among dozens of other countries that have announced widespread vaping bans. Restrictions have been imposed in other countries.

NETFLIX RENEWS ‘RAISING DON’… Netflix announced yesterday that it is renewing its superhero drama “Raising Dion” for a second season. The series is based on the Dennis Liu comic book and short film of the same name. It follows a young boy who begins to show superhuman abilities after the death of his father. Ja’Siah Young, Michael B. Jordan and Alisha Wainwright star in the series.

IN THEATERS… In “The Grudge,” a vengeful ghost curses a house and dooms those who enter it with a violent death. Tara Westwood and Junko Bailey star in the R-rated horror film.

Charlotte 109 – CLEVELAND 106… Devonte Graham knocked down a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 26 seconds remaining and the Hornets hung on to down the Cavaliers. Terry Rozier led all scorers with 30 points.

Denver 124 – INDIANA 116… The Nuggets overcame an early double-digit deficit to get past the Pacers. Michael Porter delivered 25 points off the bench. Nicola Jokic and Jamal Murray tossed in 22 points apiece.

MIAMI 84 – Toronto 76… The Heat clamped down defensively to smother the Raptors. Bam Adebayo led a balanced scoring attack with 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

MINNESOTA 99 – Golden State 84… The Timberwolves jumped out to a 15-point lead after the first quarter and never looked back in their win over the Warriors. Robert Covington and Shabazz Napier scored 20 points apiece. Covington also had 10 boards.

Utah 102 – CHICAGO 98… The Jazz took control with a 24-4 third-quarter run and held off the Bulls. Bojan Bogdanovic led the way with 19 points.

DALLAS 123 – Brooklyn 111… Luka Doncic scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks pulled away from the Nets. He also pulled down 13 rebounds. Seth Curry added 25 points off the bench.

Oklahoma City 109 – SAN ANTONIO 103… The Thunder came up big in the fourth quarter to win at San Antonio for the first time in 10 tries. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander pumped in 25 points.

SACRAMENTO 128 – Memphis 123… The Kings rallied past the Grizzlies in the fourth quarter after trailing by 16 points heading into the second quarter. They got 27 points from D’Aaron Fox and 26 from Buddy Hield.

L.A. CLIPPERS 126 – Detroit 112… The Clippers bombed the Pistons 37-16 in the third quarter and coasted to the victory. Montrezl Harrell came off the bench to score 23 points. Lou Williams added 22 points. L.A. had four other players score in double figures.

Miami is at Orlando…
Washington hosts Portland…
Atlanta is at Boston…
Houston hosts Philadelphia…
New York is at Phoenix…
the L.A. Lakers host New Orleans

Columbus 2 – BOSTON 1 (OT)… Pierre-Luc Dubois scored the winning goal 52 seconds into overtime to send the Blue Jackets past the Bruins. Goalie Elvis Merzlikins made 25 saves.

BUFFALO 3 – Edmonton 2 (OT)… The Sabres upended the Oilers after spotting them an early two-goal lead. Jack Eichel scored the winning goal on a penalty shot 1:09 into overtime.

Tampa Bay 2 – MONTREAL 1… Nikita Kucherov netted a tie-breaking breaking goal in the first period and the Lightning made it stand in their defeat of the Canadiens. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 38 shots at goal.

New Jersey 2 – N.Y. ISLANDERS 1… Nico Hischier scored the decisive goal early in the third period as the Devils edged the Islanders. P.K. Subban netted the tying goal with 1:27 left in the second period.

San Jose 3 – PITTSBURGH 2 (OT)… Brent Burns scored 2:02 into overtime to lift the Sharks over the Penguins. Goalie Aaron Dell made 36 saves.

Florida 6 – OTTAWA 3… The Panthers scored four unanswered goals in the second period to put away the Senators. Evgenii Dadonov scored two goals and had an assist.

Toronto 6 – WINNIPEG 3… William Nylander scored two goals and assisted on another as the Maple Leafs doubled up on the Jets. Kasperi Kapanen added a goal and an assist.

CALGARY 4 – N.Y. Rangers 3… The Flames clipped the Rangers after blowing an early two-goal lead. Sean Monahan scored the game-winner in the second period.

ARIZONA 4 – Anaheim 2… The Coyotes scored three straight goals in the third period to double up on the Ducks. Brad Richardson scored the tie-breaking goal.

COLORADO 7 – St. Louis 3… Nazem Kadri netted two goals to lead the Avalanche in their pounding of the Blues. Nathan MacKinnon had a goal and three assists. Samuel Girard assisted on four goals.

VANCOUVER 7 – Chicago 5… Adam Gaudette broke a tie late in the third period and Bo Horvat scored his second goal into an empty net as the Canucks outshot the Blackhawks. J.T. Miller had a goal and three assists.

VEGAS 5 – Philadelphia 4… Max Pacioretty scored two of the Golden Knights’ four first-period goals in the win over the Flyers. Paul Stastny had two assists.

Washington is at Carolina…
Dallas hosts Detroit

#21 Cincinnati 38, Boston College 6 in the Birmingham Bowl…
Tennessee 23, Indiana 22 in the Gator Bowl

Ohio plays Nevada in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Southern Mississippi plays Tulane in the Armed Forces Bowl

#1 Gonzaga 85, PORTLAND 72…
COLORADO 74, #4 Oregon 65…
#14 MICHIGAN STATE 76, Illinois 56…
#20 Dayton 84, LA SALLE 58

Buffalo is at Houston…
New England hosts Tennessee

Minnesota is at New Orleans…
Philadelphia hosts Seattle

NFL NEWS… Former NFL head coach Sam Wyche, who coached the Cincinnati Bengals to an appearance in Super Bowl XXIII, died yesterday morning after a battle with melanoma. He was 74. Wyche coached the Bengals for eight seasons from 1984 to 1991. He also was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for four seasons from 1992 to 1995.

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