Aug 22, 2019

Venezuela's Maduro regime in secret talks with U.S. on free elections: WSJ

Diosdado Cabello, who heads Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly, with President Nicolás Maduro. Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

U.S. officials are in secret talks with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's top aides for him to step down and enable free elections in the country, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Axios' Jonathan Swan reported Sunday that talks were taking place.

Details: Key Maduro regime figures are trying to negotiate for safety guarantees in order for elections to take place, according to WSJ. Senior Maduro representatives have offered opposition negotiators the possibility of a presidential election in the coming months, WSJ reports.

Why it matters: That offer, made weeks ago during separate talks in Barbados involving top Maduro officials — Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez and Vice President Delcy Rodríguez — is considered a key breakthrough since the regime has publicly said it wouldn’t be pressured into holding a new vote, according to WSJ.

The big picture: As Swan first reported, the WSJ said alleged drug lord and top Maduro aide Diosdado Cabello has been playing a key role in the talks. He aims to negotiate for U.S. assurances that he and others can remain in politics in Venezuela to take part in elections and not face sanctions if the regime loses power, the WSJ reports.

  • Venezuela and Maduro's regime have been crippled by U.S. sanctions, which President Trump expanded this month to include a total economic embargo.

What they're saying: Trump told reporters Tuesday that officials in his administration were "in touch" with Maduro regime members "at a very high level." "We're talking to various representatives of Venezuela," he said.

  • Maduro said in a televised address Tuesday, translated by the British news outlet The Times, that the talks had taken place for months "with my express and direct permission."

Go deeper: Embargo on Venezuela pits U.S. against China and Russia

Go deeper

Trump says he will campaign against Lisa Murkowski after her support for Mattis

Trump with Barr and Meadows outside St. John's Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. on June 1. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Thursday that he would endorse "any candidate" with a pulse who runs against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Driving the news: Murkowski said on Thursday that she supported former defense secretary James Mattis' condemnation of Trump over his response to protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing. She described Mattis' statement as "true, honest, necessary and overdue," Politico's Andrew Desiderio reports.

4 hours ago - World

The president vs. the Pentagon

Trump visits Mattis and the Pentagon in 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

Over the course of just a few hours, President Trump was rebuffed by the Secretary of Defense over his call for troops in the streets and accused by James Mattis, his former Pentagon chief, of trampling the Constitution for political gain.

Why it matters: Current and former leaders of the U.S. military are drawing a line over Trump's demand for a militarized response to the protests and unrest that have swept the country over the killing of George Floyd by police.

New York Times says Tom Cotton op-ed did not meet standards

Photo: Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

A New York Times spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the paper will be changing its editorial board processes after a Wednesday op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), which called for President Trump to "send in the troops" in order to quell violent protests, failed to meet its standards.

Why it matters: The shift comes after Times employees began a coordinated movement on social media on Wednesday and Thursday that argued that publishing the op-ed put black staff in danger. Cotton wrote that Trump should invoke the Insurrection Act in order to deploy the U.S. military against rioters that have overwhelmed police forces in cities across the country.