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Trump fires second key impeachment witness Gordon Sondland in Friday purge – as it happened

Gordon Sondland arrives to testify in the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on 20 November 2019.
Gordon Sondland arrives to testify in the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on 20 November 2019. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Evening Summary

An updated evening summary of today’s key political news as we close this blog for tonight. But as one blog closes, another opens: You can follow the Democratic presidential debate live blog for continued live updates.

  • Two key witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial were fired by the White House: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and European Union ambassaor Gordon Sondland. Vindman’s lawyer issued a statement saying that he was escorted out of the White House. He “was asked to leave for telling the truth,” his lawyer said. Vindman’s twin brother, a lawyer for the National Security Council, was also fired.
  • Pundits dubbed the firings a “Friday Night Massacre,” in reference to the Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” in 1973.
  • Democrats condemned the firings; Republican lawmakers said “good riddance.”
  • Meanwhile, Bill Taylor, another witness in the impeachment trial, went on CNN to defend Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Ukraine, who was subject to a smear campaign that led to her own firing. “It of course bothers me any time I see someone like Masha Yovanovitch or Alex Vindman unfairly attacked,” Taylor said.
  • Trump spoke at an event in North Carolina this afternoon where he mocked Democrats for messing up the Iowa caucus and said that he would continue to hold rallies even if he wins the 2020 election.
  • As Democratic presidential candidates prepared for another televised debate, the feud between Iowa front-runners Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg started to gear up today. Sanders slammed Buttigeg for having “the most exclusive billionaire donors of any Democrat.” #PetesBillionaires was trending on Twitter this afternoon.

Saturday Night Massacre Prompted Angry Telegrams

Some more historical comparisons: 1973 was a different time.

Do you remember what it was like when all major breaking news did not happen simultaneously?

How good is the Saturday Night Massacre comparison?

Curious how well the White House’s actions tonight compare to Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” in 1973?

You can look back at what Nixon did via:

Welcome to Trump's Friday Night Massacre

On a Saturday evening in October 1973, in the midst of the scandal that would lead to his resignation, President Richard Nixon demanded that his attorney general fire the special counsel assigned to investigate Watergate.

Nixon’s attorney general and deputy attorney general refused, and resigned. Then solicitor general Robert Bork became the acting attorney general, and he did what Nixon wanted: he fired special counsel Archibald Cox, who had refused to go along with the White House’s plan to turn over only summarized material from the White House Watergate tapes to Cox’s investigation.

The forced resignation and firing became known as Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.”

Political pundits are already calling this Friday evening in Washington Trump’s “Friday Night Massacre,” with two of the witnesses who testified in the impeachment inquiry against Trump already fired by 7 p.m. in the evening.

Other commentators, like Rachel Maddow, are arguing that it’s not quite an accurate comparison.

Full statement from Second Fired Impeachment Witness

Report: White House Fires Another Impeachment Witness, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland

The White House has moved to fire another person who testified in the House impeachment inquiry against President Trump: Gordon Sondland, who also testified about the president’s efforts to pressure top Ukranian officials to investigate his political rivals, the New York Times reports.

“I was advised today that the president intends to recall me effective immediately as United States Ambassador to the European Union,” Sondland said in a statement just hours after the White House fired a top National Security expert on Ukraine, Lt Col Alexander Vindman, who had also testified, the Times reported.

Sondland expressed gratitude in the statement to Mr. Trump “for having given me the opportunity to serve.”

In November, Sondland delivered what had been characterized as “bombshell” public testimony against Trump, saying, “Was there a ‘quid pro quo [with Ukraine]?’ As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

Just a reminder: there are 269 days until the 2020 presidential election!

Tonight, the Democratic presidential primary continues with a televised debate. My colleague Joan Greave has more details on our debate night live blog.

In a week marked by impunity and vengeance in Washington, my colleague Ed Pilkington has a story on a black radical who has finally won his freedom. The release of the final incarcerated member of the Move 9 comes more than three decades after Philadelphia police dropped an incendiary bomb on a row house where black activists lived, resulting in the deaths of eleven people, including five children, and a fire that razed dozens of homes in a predominantly black neighborhood.

One of the great open wounds of the black liberation struggle of the 1970s has finally been healed with the release of the last member of the Move 9, the group of radicals rounded up in a Philadelphia police siege in 1978 and held behind bars for more than four decades.

Chuck Sims Africa, 59, walked free from the Fayette state correctional institution in La Belle, Pennsylvania, on Friday morning. The youngest of the incarcerated group, he has been in custody since shortly after he turned 18.

His freedom marked his reunion with his family for the first time in almost 42 years.

Schumer Responds to White House firing Vindman

“This action is not a sign of strength,” senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

Presenting this statement without comment, since the emoji I need is not available on this liveblog.

White House Fires Twin Brother of Impeachment Witness

The twin brother of Lt Col Alexander Vindman, a national security expert who testified during Trump’s impeachment trial about his concerns about the president pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, his political rivals, was also fired by the White House today, multiple news outlets reported.

Vindman’s twin brother, Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Vindman, was a lawyer at the National Security Council.

The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump spoke publicly yesterday, at a prayer breakfast, about his antipathy toward “Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and his twin brother.”

Early GOP responses on Vindman’s firing

Lois Beckett here in our West Coast office, taking over our live politics coverage at the end of a week that has been quite uneventful, really, just an impeachment vote and some lively discussions about democracy in Iowa. (Remember last Friday, when the UK left the European Union?)

Politico’s Kyle Cheney has some early reactions from GOP lawmakers to the White House’s choice to fire one of the key witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial today.

In two words: “Good riddance.”

Afternoon summary

Here’s what has happened this afternoon:

  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, one of the key witnesses in the impeachment trial, was fired from his post on the national security counsel. His lawyer issued a statement saying that he was escorted out of the White House today. He “was asked to leave for telling the truth,” his lawyer said.
  • Meanwhile, Bill Taylor, another witness in the impeachment trial, went on CNN to defend Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Ukraine, who was subject to a smear campaign that led to her own firing. “It of course bothers me any time I see someone like Masha Yovanovitch or Alex Vindman unfairly attacked,” Taylor said.
  • Trump spoke at an event in North Carolina this afternoon where he mocked Democrats for messing up the Iowa caucus and said that he would continue to hold rallies even if he wins the 2020 election.
  • The feud between Iowa front-runners Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg started to gear up today. Sanders slammed Buttigeg for having “the most exclusive billionaire donors of any Democrat.” #PetesBillionaires was trending on Twitter this afternoon.

Updated

Congressional Democrats are on Twitter expressing their shock at the news that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was fired from his post on the national security counsel.

White House fires Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an adviser on the national security counsel who testified in the impeachment trial, was fired from his post.

“Today, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman was escorted out of the White House where he has dutifully served his country and his President,” said his attorney, David Pressman in a statement. “LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth.”

The news comes just hours after Donald Trump told reporters that he is “not happy with him” and made vague comments saying “they’ll make that decision” about whether he would be keeping his job.

Later, Trump retweeted posts on Twitter that called on him to fire Vindman.

Vindman was considered the top expert on Ukraine on the national security counsel. During his testimony in Congress, Vindman expressed concerns about a call Trump had with the president of Ukraine where he demanded an investigation into Joe Biden.

“It was improper for the president of the United States to demand a foreign government investigation of a US citizen and a political opponent,” Vindman said during the testimony in November.

Vindman is largely respected as a veteran who came to the United States when he was three after his family fled Ukraine. He served multiple tours overseas and was wounded by a roadside bomb during a combat deployment in Iraq, earning him a Purple Heart. He went on to earn a master’s degree in Russian from Harvard and served at US embassies in Kyiv and Moscow.

During his testimony, Vindman outlined why he felt comfortable coming forward with the information he had through a message to his father.

“Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family,” he said. “Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth.”

Updated

Bill Taylor: Smears against Marie Yovanovitch ‘unconscionable’

Bill Taylor, a former acting ambassador to Ukraine who testified in the impeachment trial, told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview that the smear campaign against Marie Yavonovitch, former US ambassador to Ukraine who also testified in the impeachment trial is “unconscionable”.

Yovanovitch was removed from her post after attacks from Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, went on a smear campaign with the goal of removing her from office so the investigation into Hunter Biden could continue.

While Tapper did not reference Donald Trump specifically in his question, the president lashed out against Yovanovitch on Twitter in November, seemingly as backlash against her testifying in front of Congress. “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” he wrote.

Defending Yovanovitch, Taylor said he believes the former ambassador’s credibility. “It of course bothers me any time I see someone like Masha Yovanovitch or Alex Vindman unfairly attacked,” Taylor said, referring to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an adviser on the national security counsel who testified in the impeachment trial.

Updated

If you see your local influencer gushing about former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg on Instagram anytime soon, here’s why: Bloomberg is turning to social media influencers to help him gain traction in the 2020 election, according to the Daily Beast.

The Bloomberg campaign is using Tribe, a platform that connects influencers with brands for advertising purposes. Bloomberg’s campaign is specifically targeting “micro-influencers” – users who have between 1,000 and 1,000 – for $150 posts on why they support the mayor.

The campaign’s posting on Tribe asks influencers to “Show+Tell why Mike the candidate who can change our country for the better, state why YOU think he’s a great candidate”.

Mike Bloomberg
Mike Bloomberg Photograph: David Goldman/AP

Trump just ridiculed Democrats during a speech he delivered in North Carolina, saying, “They can’t count simple votes, but they want to fix your healthcare system,” he told the crowd at the Opportunity Now Summit in Charlotte.

Donald Trump is now giving a speech at the North Carolina Opportunity Now Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here’s a little cheery nugget from his speech:

Reminder that rallies are typically for presidential candidates looking to run for office, which a president cannot do if they just served for two terms.

Updated

Sanders lights into Buttigieg campaign in NH

With Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders still neck and neck amid the ongoing Iowa debacle (still no official winner), and Buttigieg surging into a position as surprise threat in New Hampshire, Sanders has been chewing the fat at the traditional Politics & Eggs breakfast in event the Granite State.

“I’m reading some headlines from newspapers about Pete Buttigieg,” he said. “Pete Buttigieg has most exclusive billionaire donors of any Democrats, that was from Forbes. The Hill: Pete Buttigieg tops billionaire donor list. Fortune: Pete Buttigieg takes lead as big business candidate in 2020 field. Washington Post: Pete Buttigieg lures even closer look from Wall Street donors following strong Iowa caucus performance. Forbes magazine: here are the billionaires backing Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign,” Time reports.

“I like Pete Buttigieg, nice guy,” he added. “But we are in a moment where billionaires control not only our economy but our political life.”

And this:

Sanders must have thought he was a shoo-in for a strong win in New Hampshire, being a left-wing fixture for decades in next-door Vermont.

Campaign signs for Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates stand in the snow in Manchester, New Hampshire
Campaign signs for Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidates stand in the snow in Manchester, New Hampshire Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Buttigieg is nipping at Sanders’s heels in the latest opinion poll in New Hampshire.

The Boston Globe/WBZ-TV/Suffolk University poll showed Sanders just in the lead in New Hampshire at 24 percent, with Buttigieg at 23 percent. Then a gap before the third-placed Elizabeth Warren, also a New England politician as the Senator for nearby Massachusetts, but now in danger of stalling in the middle of the leading group despite a solid performance in Iowa. Warren received 13 percent support, ahead of the flagging Joe Biden on 11 percent.

Donald Trump retweeted this afternoon two tweets that recommended he fire Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an adviser on the national security counsel who testified in the impeachment trial. This morning, Trump said he wasn’t happy with Vindman and that decisions would be made about his post. Here are the tweets – one is from November.

Afternoon summary

Here’s what has happened so far today:

  • Donald Trump said that he is not happy with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and alluded to “decisions” that would be made about his standing on the national security council, essentially confirming reports that the White House is thinking about moving him out of his position.
  • All attention is on New Hampshire ahead of the state’s Democratic primary on Tuesday. A new poll showed senator Bernie Sanders and former South Bend Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg are head-to-head for New Hampshire voters. Sanders has a slight lead at 24%, while Buttigieg polled at 24%.
  • A US appeals court in DC ruled that a lawsuit brought forth by congressional Democrats that says Trump violated the Constitution by not turning over information about his personal investment has no standing. Trump celebrated the news about the “Witch Hunt” with a tweet.
  • A Washington Post reported this morning that Trump’s properties have billed Secret Service agents as much as $650 for a night’s stay while protecting the president, ultimately paid by US taxpayers.

Updated

House passes Puerto Rico aid package

The House just passed a $21bn emergency aid package in response to the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck the island 7 January. The earthquake left one dead and destroyed dozens of homes and structures, along with disrupting power and water for days.

“In recent weeks, thousands of families in Puerto Rico were forced from their homes, schools were flattened, roads and infrastructure were severely damage,” said US rep Nita Lowey, House appropriations chairwoman, in a statement.

Congressional Republicans, 17 of whom in the House voted for the bill, have indicated that they will give the package trouble once it gets to the Senate. Donald Trump has already threatened to veto it.

A man rides his bicycle pass by a collapsed house in Guanica, Puerto Rico on January 15, 2020, after a powerful earthquake hit the island.
A man rides his bicycle pass by a collapsed house in Guanica, Puerto Rico on January 15, 2020, after a powerful earthquake hit the island. Photograph: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

Is this a preview of the kind of content former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg’s campaign Twitter will be spitting out during tonight’s debate? Only time will tell.

Trump on Lt Col Alexander Vindman: ‘I’m not happy with him’

Standing outside the White House for some Chopper Talk this morning, Donald Trump said that there will be a decision sometime in the future about what to do with Lt Col Alexander Vindman, a member of the national security council who testified against the president during the impeachment trial. Bloomberg News reported last night that the White House is thinking about moving Vindman out of the council and rotate him to a position in the Department of Defense.

One reporter said that a source close to Vindman indicated that he was at the White House yesterday and will likely work today as well, amid reports of his departure.

When asked about any plans to remove Vindman from his position, Trump said that he is “not happy with him” and that a decision about what do with him will be made later.

Trump also denied reports that the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, is on his way out.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.
Lt Col Alexander Vindman. Photograph: Michael Brochstein/ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Updated

Comments that pundit Donny Deutsch made on MSNBC’s Morning Joe about senator Elizabeth Warren’s electability is getting some heated backlash on Twitter this morning.

When the show’s host, Joe Scarborough, asked Deutsch and Vice reporter Shawna Thomas why they think Warren has fallen behind senator Bernie Sanders, Thomas made the argument that it was because people weren’t comfortable about the electability of a woman. “If you look around and your neighbors, they’re not sure a woman can beat him, that starts to wear on a campaign,” Thomas said.

Deutcsh cut in.

“Is it a woman or is it her? There’s a certain stridentness to her that, do we want to invite her into our bedrooms and living rooms every day for four years?” Deutsch said. “I don’t think it’s a gender issue – it’s a likability issue.”

Something interesting to keep in mind: Educational attainment is a top determinant for who shows up to the polls.

During the 2018 election, those whose highest degree is a high school diploma had a 42% turnout rate in 2018, while those without a high school degree had a 27% turnout. Comparatively, 65% and 74% of those with a bachelor’s degree and advanced degree, respectively, went to the polls.

US appeals court rules ​no ​standing on ​emoluments ​​lawsuit

A US Appeals Court in DC just ruled on a lawsuit brought forth by lawyers for over 200 congressional Democrats that argues Donald Trump violated the Constitution’s Emolument Clause by not allowing Congress to approve his financial interests.

The suit was meant to allow Democrats to figure out how Trump has profited from foreign dignitaries in his business dealings, like when they stay at his hotels. The clause bans the president from receiving gifts or titles from leaders of state governments or foreign countries and requires Congress to approve any gifts the president receives.

The lawsuit is one of multiple that charges the president for violating the clause.

Updated

Would you like a side of politics with those eggs?

Senator Bernie Sanders is scheduled to speak this morning at a quirky event that’s become a New Hampshire tradition: Politics & Eggs.

The event, which has been held for over 20 years, largely consists of local business leaders, giving politicians a chance to schmooze and campaign for the upcoming primary.

Politics & Eggs even comes with souvenirs for attendees. Commemorative wooden eggs from the event have become something of a collectible in the state, especially since candidates are often asked to autograph the eggs while attending the breakfast.

And if you were wondering, the eggs are actually made in nearby Maine.

Trump pockets up to $650 when his own Secret Service agents stay at his hotel

The president’s company charges his own Secret Service agents up to $650 a night to stay at his properties – a bill that is ultimately paid by U.S. taxpayers – when they stay the night protecting him, the Washington Post reported this morning. Here’s more from the Post:

At Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the Secret Service was charged the $650 rate dozens of times in 2017, and a different rate, $396.15, dozens more times in 2018, according to documents from Trump’s visits.

And at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, the Secret Service was charged $17,000 a month to use a three-bedroom cottage on the property, an unusually high rent for homes in that area, according to receipts from 2017. Trump’s company billed the government even for days when Trump wasn’t there.

These payments appear to contradict the Trump Organization’s own statements about what it charges members of his government entourage. “If my father travels, they stay at our properties for free — meaning, like, cost for housekeeping,” Trump’s son Eric said in a Yahoo Finance interview last year.

Dostre effect a la today’s Washington Post

B-boys are battling it out in town

Though Democrats are still trying to wrap their heads around what the hell actually happened in Iowa this week, the race still goes on. The candidates will be brawling on TV tonight for the latest Democratic debate in New Hampshire tonight before the primary vote takes place on Tuesday.

The scene in New Hampshire is tense in the wake of the Iowa caucus. Former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg’s on-the-margin win in Iowa helped him surge in a recent New Hampshire poll, putting him in a near-tie with senator Bernie Sanders, who closely followed him in the caucus (though declared a caucus victory of his own). Sanders received 24% of support in the poll, while Buttigieg got 23% – a huge soar compared to the 11% he scored in a New Hampshire poll on Monday. Expect the two to throw punches at each other on stage tonight.

Former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign appears to be quickly losing momentum. In the poll, Biden trailed senator Elizabeth Warren – who received 13% of support in the poll – getting 11% of support. Biden recently got backlash for a cringey video of Biden apparently stroking the face of Samuel Habib, a 20-year-old student and disability rights advocate, who approached the candidate asking him what he will do to support students with disabilities. Habib has since said the interaction felt patronizing.

Pete Buttieg is making his way to the top after the Iowa caucus, setting him up to be rivals with senator Bernie Sanders.
Pete Buttieg is making his way to the top after the Iowa caucus, setting him up to be rivals with senator Bernie Sanders. Photograph: Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Updated

US adds 225,000 jobs

The US added 225,000 jobs in January, a much higher figure than expected. For all the jobs numbers, reaction and analysis, here’s our business live blog.

After retweeting various people praising him and attacking enemies like Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi, Trump has welcomed actor James Woods back to Twitter after he left the platform, claiming it was censoring him.

Trump told him: “Welcome back James!” and earlier on retweeted a post by Woods that called Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “moron”.

He also weighed in on the Democrats’ inability to declare a winner in Iowa, suggesting that they should blame Russia and making a disingenuous comparison with their plans for increased health coverage. Trump has always poured scorn on the US intelligence community’s assertion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election in order to help him win.

Will Trump punish Vindman?

How Donald Trump and his allies will react towards his perceived political enemies now that he has been acquitted in his impeachment trial remains to be seen.

Bloomberg News reports that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman – who gave evidence against Trump during the impeachment – may be moved from the National Security Council.

Trump made reference to Vindman as he hit out at his foes during his post-acquittal speech at the White House yesterday. “Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and his twin brother, we had some people that were really amazing,” he said, before moving on.

Alexander Vindman giving evidence to the impeachment inquiry in November.
Alexander Vindman giving evidence to the impeachment inquiry in November. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Meanwhile Yahoo News reports that the US Treasury Department has given congressional Republicans access to financial information relating to Hunter Biden – the son of Democratic hopeful Joe Biden, whose work in Ukraine played a key role in kicking off the impeachment.

Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin has blocked Democratic requests for access to Trump’s tax filings, saying: “The legal implications of this request could affect protections for all Americans against politically-motivated disclosures of personal tax information, regardless of which party is in power.”

Nevertheless, Axios has reported that there is little appetite among the Republican leadership in Washington to pursue the Bidens. Alayna Treene wrote: “Some Republicans fear aggressively pursuing any investigations about Burisma will give the appearance of trying to hurt Joe Biden — a former Senate colleague —politically, which isn’t worth it to them, the aide said, ‘especially since the Biden campaign looks like it’s toast.’”

Updated

Walsh placed third in the Republican Iowa caucuses this week, with 1.07% of the vote.

His move leaves former governor Bill Weld as the only Republican challenger to Trump. He got 1.32% in Iowa.

Trump came in first with 97.14%.

The president mused about his two challengers during his speech yesterday.

We also had an election out there and we got 98 percent of the vote. We have two people running, you know. I guess they consider them non-people. One is a governor, but they’re running. They said, who is that crowd over there? It was Trump, right, Mark Meadows? It was Trump. This was a Trump crowd.

Walsh said today: “Donald Trump is the greatest threat to our republic right now ... The rest of this country needs to come together to stop this guy, period.”

My colleague David Smith interviewed Walsh recently.

Joe Walsh drops primary challenge against Trump

Former congressman Joe Walsh has dropped his primary challenge against Donald Trump, telling CNN: “It’s not a party. It’s a cult. He can’t be beat in the Republican primary so there’s no reason for me, or any candidate, really to be in there.”

Joe Walsh: over and out.
Joe Walsh: over and out. Photograph: Matt Marton/EPA

Updated

Good week / bad week in US politics

It’s been a rollercoaster week in US politics, starting with the voting debacle in Iowa on Monday and carrying on through Donald Trump’s divisive State of the Union speech and his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial. But who are the losers and winners from a dramatic few days for Republicans and Democrats?

5/5: Donald Trump

A swaggering and aggressive US president called his speech at the White House on Thursday a “celebration” – and well he might. He was coming to the end of a week in which he had spent 80 minutes making the case for his re-election on primetime TV in his State of the Union speech and had been acquitted in his impeachment trial – with only one Republican breaking ranks to vote against him. A Gallup poll put the president’s approval rating at 49%, the highest level for that survey since 2017, and on top of that the Democratic primary race got off to a disastrously shambolic start in Iowa. Holding up a newspaper front page that said “Trump acquitted”, the president told his White House crowd: “Let me take that home; maybe we’ll frame it. It’s the only good headline I’ve ever had in the Washington Post.” His speech sounded like a preview of the one he plans to make on 4 November after winning the election.

4/5: Pete Buttigieg

If anyone managed to wring any momentum out of the mess in Iowa, it was the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who more or less declared victory before the results were in and went on to grab as much of the spotlight as possible. Did he even win? With almost 100% of the vote in, Buttigieg is only 0.09% ahead of socialist rival Bernie Sanders in the delegate count, and Sanders is ahead of the young pretender in the popular vote. But the veteran Vermont senator will now have to wait until New Hampshire next week to grab his share of the glory.

Pete Buttigieg campaigning in Merrimack, New Hampshire.
Pete Buttigieg campaigning in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Photograph: Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

3/5: Mike Bloomberg

The billionaire former mayor of New York’s decision to sit out the early states and instead blanket California with advertising seems partially vindicated. With the usual momentum conferred on the winner of Iowa blunted, a strong showing from Bloomberg in the array of states voting on Super Tuesday (3 March) is bound to launch a thousand think-pieces asking whether Bloomberg can elbow aside Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg and unite the centre. Feel queasy about a rich man buying the race? Bloomberg has an answer. “Someone said, ‘Are you spending too much money?’ and I said, ‘I’m spending money to get rid of Donald Trump.’ And the guy said, ‘Spend more.’ ”

Michael Bloomberg campaigning in Rhode Island.
Michael Bloomberg campaigning in Rhode Island. Photograph: David Goldman/AP

2/5: Joe Biden

Barack Obama’s former vice-president went into the week as the frontrunner in the Democratic race and still leads most national polls and match-ups with Trump. But coming fourth in Iowa – a result he called a gut-punch – has seriously dented his pitch that he is the most electable candidate. If he underperforms again in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Biden could find supporters and donors abandoning him for Buttigieg or Bloomberg.

Joe Biden campaigning in Somersworth, New Hampshire.
Joe Biden campaigning in Somersworth, New Hampshire. Photograph: Rick Wilking/Reuters

1/5: Nancy Pelosi

The leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives took a lot of persuading to agree to impeach Trump, only doing so when the strength of the evidence in the Ukraine case became overwhelming. She initiated the process knowing it was almost certain Trump would be acquitted, but hoping to put his impeachment on the record for posterity, gum up his legislative agenda, and damage him ahead of this November’s election. She has succeeded on the first two points, but the latter is very much up for debate. And on top of that, Pelosi – usually so poised in her dealings with Trump – risked losing the moral high ground when she tore up her copy of his State of the Union speech on live TV, leading secretary of state Mike Pompeo to liken her to Lisa Simpson. (Critics said he hadn’t understood the episode.)

Nancy Pelosi rips a copy of US President Donald Trump’s speech after his State of the Union address.
Nancy Pelosi rips a copy of US President Donald Trump’s speech after his State of the Union address. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

0/5: The state of Iowa

Iowa was already facing criticism that as a small, 90% white, largely rural state it had a disproportionate impact on the Democratic race even before Monday’s debacle, in which apps failed and telephone lines were overwhelmed, meaning that even by Friday Democrats were unable to say who had won the first contest of primary season. In the results the party eventually released, vote tallies did not add up, and figures contained inconsistencies and errors, according to the New York Times, leading the national party chair to demand a review “to assure public confidence in the results”. Conspiracy theories raged that the party was deliberately sabotaging Sanders’ chances – and the Trump campaign gleefully fanned the flames. If the Iowa state party had deliberately set out to undermine its own place in the primary hierarchy it couldn’t have done better than this.

A precinct worker counts ballots in Iowa.
A precinct worker counts ballots in Iowa. Photograph: Jim Bourg/Reuters

Updated

Donald Trump has been tweeting his support for his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as Beijing struggles to deal with the coronavirus (you can read the latest on that here).

China is reportedly worried about what the virus means for its ability to stick to the terms of its new trade agreements with the US, and some officials are apparently angry at Washington’s travel restrictions and commerce secretary Wilbur Ross’s comment that the outbreak “will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America”.

Who has won the Iowa caucuses? We still don’t know.

With almost 100% of the vote in, former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg is only 0.09% ahead of socialist rival Bernie Sanders in the delegate count, while Sanders is ahead of the young pretender in the popular vote.

The Associated Press says it is still too close to call.

Both Buttigieg and Sanders claimed victory last night.

CNN asked the centrist former mayor for his reaction to the latest tally. “That’s fantastic news, to hear that we won,” Buttigieg said.

Meanwhile, Sanders pumped out social media posts baldly claiming “Bernie wins Iowa” – and basing that in the small print on his lead in the popular vote. “We did very well,” Sanders told CNN. “We won in Iowa.”

In truth, it’s probably accurate to call Iowa a draw. The Democratic race will be decided based on the number of delegates won, and both Buttigieg and Sanders will probably come out of Iowa with the same number.

That said, Sanders went in to the contest as the narrow favourite, so in terms of perception and momentum it has probably been a win for the former mayor.

The winner certainly wasn’t the Iowa Democratic party. National party chair Tom Perez called for a “recanvass” of the tally on Thursday. “A recanvass is a review of the worksheets from each caucus site to ensure accuracy,” he explained after some confusion about that. He later said he was only calling for a recanvass in certain sites.

To add to the confusion, AP reported that “it was unclear if the party planned to follow the directive of the national leader to recanvass those results … Iowa chairman Troy Price suggested in a statement Thursday that he would only pursue a recanvass if one was requested by a campaign.”

“We’ve got enough of Iowa,” Sanders told CNN on Thursday night. “I think we should move on to New Hampshire.”

That contest is on Tuesday and uses a conventional voting system.

Also today:

  • 8.30am ET (1.30pm): The monthly US jobs report will be released
  • 1pm ET: Trump will speak at the North Carolina Opportunity Now Summit. He will later speak at the Republican Governors Association Finance Dinner in Washington
  • 8pm ET: Democratic candidates will take part in a debate in New Hampshire

Updated

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Trump fires key impeachment witnesses Vindman and Sondland
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Top ally defends Trump's firing of two key impeachment witnesses
WASHINGTON _ Sen. Lindsey Graham defended President Donald Trump's ouster of two witnesses from his administration whom he blames for…
Donald Trump defends sacking impeachment witness Alexander Vindman from White House
Donald Trump branded National Security Council aid who testified against the president as an impeachment witness "insubordinate" as he defended…
Buttigieg and Sanders harness Iowa momentum at NH debate, as Klobuchar commands spotlight too
GOFFSTOWN, N.H. _ Seven Democratic candidates gathered in New Hampshire on Friday night for the first debate since Donald Trump's…
Trump publicly admits he fired White House official as retaliation for impeachment testimony: 'He was very insubordinate'
US president lashes out at Lt Col Alexander Vindman hours after Ukraine expert escorted from office
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Trump responds to impeachment acquittal with rambling, vitriolic speech – as it happened
Trump speaks at White House for first time since acquittalReport shows Iowa caucus results ‘riddled with inconsistencies’Buttigieg lead over Sanders…