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U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, left, and South Korea's Defense Minister Song Young-moo hold a joint press conference. Photo: Jung Yeon-Je / AP

Sen. Chris Murphy introduced a bill this afternoon that would bar President Trump from launching a first strike on North Korea, except in situations of imminent threat or authorization from Congress. The co-sponsors include Sens. Bernie Sanders, Liz Warren and Cory Booker, along with Brian Schatz, Tammy Duckworth, Jeff Merkley, and Tom Udall.

Why it matters: Democrats have been expressing concerns that Trump's rhetoric and tweeting about using the military option against North Korea could march the U.S. into an unprovoked war. And given some of the high-profile senators backing this bill — and the questions other Democrats raised about North Korea at a hearing yesterday — it's a good bet you'll hear about the issue again, even if the bill itself doesn't advance.

Already at the hearing on a new authorization for the use of military force Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis faced questions from democrats about whether Trump had the legal basis to launch a first strike against the North, and they hedged their answers.

  • "I think it's time that we start taking President Trump seriously when he repeatedly threatens military action against North Korea," Murphy told reporters on a call Tuesday.
  • Part of Murphy's concern is that Trump has shown "a willingness to ignore the advice of his advisors on critical issues," he said.
  • At stake: If the U.S. were to launch at North Korea, that risks the North's retaliation, which could include risking the lives of U.S. service members in the region as well as American allies and innocent civilians, with artillery, unconventional weapons, or chemical and biological weapons.
  • Could it pass? Murphy thinks "it has a very good chance of passing" if brought for a vote. However, he noted he thinks Republicans may "see this as a vote that could divide" the caucus, and admitted they may need to "force a vote on it."

Go deeper

Complaint to FTC: Amazon search results full of potentially deceiving ads

Photo: Nigel Kirby/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Amazon does not sufficiently distinguish between its search results and paid ads, potentially "deceiving millions of consumers," according to a complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Joan Moriarty, research director for the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions that filed the complaint, told the Washington Post the group is "very hopeful" that the FTC will investigate the complaint because Lina Khan (D), a known Amazon critic, is now chair.

3 hours ago - Health

Pfizer-BioNTech: Booster doses more effective at blocking Omicron

Prepared doses of the BioNtech-Pfizer Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Germany on Dec. 7. Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine were significantly less effective at neutralizing the Omicron variant in early lab tests, but a three-dose regimen was more effective.

Why it matters: Omicron, which has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization after being identified by scientists in South Africa last month, has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines against this specific new form of coronavirus.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden unveils "Building a Better America" branding

President Biden speaks on infrastructure while visiting a bridge in Woodstock, N.H., last month. Photo: John Tully/Getty Images

President Biden today launched a new website and unveiled bold new branding as part of a nationwide tour to sell the benefits of his infrastructure package.

Why it matters: The White House says passage of the new law shows the ability to "forge bipartisan consensus and prove our democracy can deliver big wins" even in these toxic times.

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