Good morning from Augusta. We’re continuing to collect responses from readers on the issues that matter to them in 2020 election coverage, so please take this survey if you haven’t already.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Ultimately, sometimes I ask people, if you don’t like what we’re trying with treatment and medicine, what’s your idea? Because it certainly hasn’t been working, what we’ve been doing since 1820, incarcerating people with mental illness and substance use disorders,” retiring Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills told the Bangor Daily News.
What we’re watching today
Maine’s senior senator said she saw U.S. intelligence saying a dead Iranian general planned ‘imminent attacks’ as Trump faces scrutiny for expanding on that claim. International tensions have died down since the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, but it is continuing to reverberate in Washington as both chambers of Congress consider measures aimed at curtailing President Donald Trump’s power to strike Iran offensively.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who sits on the Senate intelligence panel, hasn’t yet said whether she supports the Democratic-led resolution in her chamber, though she supported a similar one last year. When asked in Bangor on Friday if she considered the Solemani strike to be offensive or defensive, she didn’t directly answer the question.
Collins said she had “absolutely no doubt” that he was “the foremost terrorist in the region.” She said she had read intelligence indicating “he was planning imminent attacks against American citizens,” noting the Iraq embassy attack. That “imminent attack” justification has been cited by the Trump administration, but the definition of imminent largely hasn’t been fleshed out.
On Friday, Trump also added that he believed Solemani was planning attacks on four embassies. Members of his administration haven’t backed him up on that claim, as documented by The Washington Post. This will be a major non-impeachment topic in Washington this week.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Susan Collins working with ‘small group’ of GOP senators to allow impeachment witnesses,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “It could be a major development ahead of the trial, since leading Republicans have questioned the need for witnesses as Democrats have been pressuring Republicans to allow witnesses.”
— “Janet Mills vetoes sports betting bill, saying she’s ‘unconvinced’ Mainers want to expand gambling,” Shepherd, BDN: “In her veto message, [Gov. Janet] Mills said she was “unconvinced at this time” that Mainers want to expand gambling, questioning the strength of protections in the proposal for youth and others who were vulnerable to overspending on sports betting or gambling addiction.”
It could be New Hampshire’s gain. Maine’s neighbor opened its market on Dec. 30 with a ceremonial bid by Gov. Chris Sununu and saw $3.4 million in revenue during the first week, according to the state. During negotiations on the Maine bill, the state’s gambling regulator estimated between $3.8 million and $6.9 million in annual revenue. That, however, assumed a flat 10 percent tax rate. The vetoed bill would levy higher taxes on mobile and online revenue. Here’s your soundtrack.
— “Trump-led NAFTA update looks like a cinch in Congress. It isn’t in free trade-wary Maine,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “We don’t feel that [the revised agreement] is a template for the future,” said Cynthia Phinney, the president of the Maine AFL-CIO. “We are really proud of the improvements that we made because we were going to end up with an agreement that was worse than the original.”
No. 3 House Democrat runs for speaker
— He is the only remaining House Democratic leader not subject to term limits. Assistant Maine House Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, announced Saturday that he will run to replace the term-limited House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, in her leadership position if Democrats retain the House majority in 2020. These campaigns are often waged in private and candidates’ fundraising and time contributions to party campaigns. Fecteau is the only Democratic leader not subject to term limits, so his campaign is no surprise.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email email@example.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.