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Morning Brief

Trump’s Impeachment Trial Ends as U.S. Election Season Begins

The U.S. president laid out his case for a second term in Washington on the eve of his likely acquittal in the Senate.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi welcome President Donald Trump as he arrives for his State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Feb. 4.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi welcome President Donald Trump as he arrives for his State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Feb. 4. MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Trump’s impeachment trial comes to a close in the U.S. Senate, the latest on the Wuhan virus outbreak, and Nigeria pledges to meet requirements to get off the U.S. travel ban list.

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Trump’s Acquittal in the Senate Is All but Certain

U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial concludes in the Senate today, with the Republican-held chamber nearly certain to acquit the president on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (To convict him would require a two-thirds supermajority.) Trump is accused of withholding military aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating his potential Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Today’s vote will formally end the impeachment investigation, but questions remain that could follow Trump into the 2020 campaign season, FP’s Robbie Gramer and Amy Mackinnon report. Both Democrats and Republicans are likely to invoke the trial record over the coming months, and a few Democratic senators from states where Trump is popular haven’t yet said if they’ll vote to acquit him—giving him the chance to claim a bipartisan victory.

The State of the Union. On the eve of his likely acquittal, Trump laid out the case for his reelection in his third State of the Union speech, delivered to Congress on Tuesday evening in Washington. In the dramatic 90-minute address, Trump took credit for what he called the “Great American Comeback.” He touted the strength of the U.S. economy, his immigration policies, and his foreign policy—highlighting the partial trade deal with China and recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, his guest, as the country’s “true and legitimate president.”

Waiting for Iowa. Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates were still waiting to hear who had won the first primary contest. The outcome of the Iowa caucuses, held on Monday, remained uncertain on Tuesday after technical delays. By early Wednesday, the state Democratic party had released results from just 71 percent of precincts in the state. The partial results showed former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg with a narrow lead in state delegates, followed closely by Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden were third and fourth.)

The rise of Sanders’s brand of progressive politics will shape the future of the Democratic party, as well as U.S. foreign policy, FP’s Michael Hirsh writes.

What We’re Following Today

Hong Kong records coronavirus death, WHO meets over travel. On Tuesday, Hong Kong reported its first death from the new coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan—the second death from the virus outside of mainland China. The victim had visited Wuhan. Thousands of Hong Kong’s medical workers are still striking to push the city government to close its borders with the mainland. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to put out new recommendations today to protect international airline staff so that they can resume flights to China.

Dozens of airlines have suspended or reduced flights to the mainland as the outbreak spreads beyond China. The WHO has already urged countries not to impose unnecessary travel restrictions on China.

Nigeria seeks to get off U.S. travel ban list. Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Oyeama said Tuesday that his government was working to meet requirements to lift a travel ban on potential immigrants to the United States from Nigeria. The comments came at a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington. The Trump administration expanded its travel ban last Friday to stop certain visas being issued to nationals from Nigeria and five other countries that don’t meet U.S. security and information sharing requirements.

Kọ́lá Túbọ̀sún argues in FP that there is little evidence to support the claim that the Nigerian immigration ban is about security issues. “It was always about curbing certain types of immigrants who look a certain type of way coming from a certain type of place,” he writes.

Russia-Turkey tensions rise in Syria. After an attack by Russian-backed Syrian government forces in Idlib province killed seven Turkish soldiers on Monday, tensions between Russia and Turkey have escalated. The two countries support opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, with Idlib one of the last remaining areas not under government control. Though they brokered a cease-fire last month, fighting continues and Turkey is concerned that the Syrian military campaign and Russian airstrikes will push more Syrian refugees over its border. Turkey has said it does not plan to withdraw soldiers from the area.

Keep an Eye On

What’s missing from Trump’s peace plan. Among the many problems with the Trump administration’s recently announced Middle East peace plan is water politics. Access to water has long been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and disagreements in the region more broadly. Trump’s plan barely gave the issue any attention—one key reason that the Palestinians rejected it out of  hand, FP’s Keith Johnson reports.

The future of cars in the U.K. Britain has announced plans to stop the sale of new gas, diesel, and hybrid cars by 2035—or earlier if possible. Speaking in London on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson used the announcement to tout the U.K.’s climate action credentials ahead of the U.N. COP26 to be held in Glasgow in November. Though it’s 15 years away, the ban threatens German car manufacturers: Britain is their biggest export market.

Imran Khan’s visit to Kashmir. Pakistan’s prime minister travels today to Pakistani-administered Kashmir, where he will deliver a speech to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day. Khan has been vocal in criticizing India’s treatment of Kashmiris, particularly since it revoked the region’s special status last year—despite not speaking out against China’s internment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

FP editor in chief Jonathan Tepperman interviewed Khan at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last month.

Odds and Ends

The Russian Orthodox Church is considering a proposal that would stop its priests from blessing nuclear weapons, military submarines, and space rockets with holy water—a longstanding practice, though the Orthodox Church has cultivated closer ties with Russia’s ministry of defense during President Vladimir Putin’s years in power. “The blessing of military weapons is not reflected in the tradition of the Orthodox Church,” the proposal reads.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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