SENATE REWRITE spells out limits for Syria attack — LITTLE MARGIN for Dem. defections — SUCCESSFUL FIGHT could bolster Obama power, popularity — ADAM ERELI to Mercury — BRIAN STELTER b’day

COUNTING THE VOTES – “New Senate Syria plan limits President Obama,” by John Bresnahan, with Jonathan Allen and Reid J. Epstein: “Senate leaders are working on a revised resolution authorizing U.S. strikes in Syria that puts President Obama on a short leash … But whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can find the 60 votes he will need to overcome an expected filibuster of the new Syria proposal is still far from clear. Aides to Reid and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) have set aside a proposed Syria resolution submitted by the White House on Saturday night. That draft resolution — developed without congressional input — is seen as far too broad … Some of the options being considered … include a 60-day period for Obama to launch ‘narrow, limited’ strikes against Assad’s regime with the potential for a 30-day extension … Language barring the insertion of U.S. ground troops — but crafted to allow special forces operations or the rescue of a downed American flier, for instance — is also being considered … And Obama would be prohibited from making the toppling of Assad’s government the goal of any U.S. military effort in Syria … “The revisions are designed to win broad bipartisan backing from senators who are on the fence over whether to back a Syria campaign … While the revised resolution has not been shared with them yet, White House aides say they are willing to work with Congress and believe it is likely that the edits … are the kind of changes that the president will be able to live with. … Since Obama is going to Congress with a resolution authorizing the use of military force in Syria rather than ordering military strikes first and then informing Congress, as required under the War Powers Act, the use-of-force proposal will be fully debatable and amendable. Under the War Powers Act, a Continue Reading

New Focus on Yemen in Counter-Terror Fight

spent several months this year.At the end of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is home to a growing branch of al Qaeda that threatens to strike the U.S. again. And U.S. counter-terror forces are responding, as CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports.Under the black flag are the followers of al Qaeda in Yemen. It's an increasingly powerful, increasingly dangerous organization beyond the control of Yemen's beleaguered government.Yemen is fighting two wars: a civil war in the south and al Qaeda in the north. The U.S. has been training Yemeni troops in counter-terrorism and providing them with weapons - weapons used in the two strikes over the last week that killed about 60 fighters. "They are a threat not only to Yemen but they are also a threat to all our neighboring countries," Yemeni Foreign Minister Dr. Abu Baker Al-Kerbi said in an exclusive conversation with CBS News. "This is the beginning of our attacks against al Qaeda but I think our assessments of the attacks have had the impact we expected."Al Qaeda first struck a U.S. target in Yemen in 2000, with the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and then a car bomb attack against the U.S. embassy in Sana'a last year.But this is a threat that reaches beyond the region. Among those being sheltered in Yemen is Anwar al Awlaki, the American-born radical preacher who advised Maj. Nidal Hassan, the soldier who killed 13 in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood.There are at least a dozen former Guantanamo inmates among Yemen's al Qaeda members."They have helped al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, increased their capability and they are thinking what these people can bring is a great deal of experience and that is invaluable in any terrorist organization," said Peter Clarke, a CBS News consultant and former head of counterterrorism for the London police.More Coverage from Abdulmutallab Visited Yemen This Year What Lies Ahead for Air Travel Al Qaeda: We Planned Flight 253 Bombing Officials: In-Flight Restrictions Eased Continue Reading

BREAKING OVERNIGHT: Massive fire in west London — WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE: TRUMP slaps down House Republicans’ health care bill — POLITICO/MORNING CONSULT POLL: Voters trust Comey over Trump — B’DAY: Brian Fallon

Driving the Day Listen to the Playbook Audio Briefing ... Subscribe on iTunes ... Visit the online home of Playbook HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. PRESIDENT. Donald Trump turns 71 today (h/ts Reince and Spicer). Story Continued Below BREAKING OVERNIGHT ... THE LATEST FROM LONDON FIRE -- “6 dead in London fire; figure expected to rise” – AP/London: “London’s Metropolitan Police say six people have died in the devastating fire that engulfed a west London apartment block. Police say the number is expected to rise. Police commander Stuart Cundy says he can ‘confirm six fatalities at this time but this figure is likely to rise during what will be a complex recovery operation over a number of days.’ Cundy says many others are receiving medical care. Some 50 people are being treated in hospitals after a massive fire set a 24-story apartment block in west London ablaze overnight.” --THE GUARDIAN: “The blaze rapidly engulfed the full height of the 24-storey block, and was still burning strongly more than six hours later, with a thick pall of dark smoke visible across the capital. Residents could be seen waving and screaming from their windows, as firefighters wearing breathing apparatus fought to rescue them from their flats. Shortly before 8am, the London fire commissioner, Dany Cotton [said:] ‘In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never ever seen anything of this scale.’” Good Wednesday morning. IMAGINE IF you’re a House Republican, and voted for the leadership’s health-care bill in May after being told that you were doing the newly elected president a solid. You listened to the White House’s pleading -- perhaps you got a phone call from Vice President Mike Pence, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus or even the president himself. The administration was on the Hill nonstop to Continue Reading

Some TRUTH TALK about SOTU — HOUSE DEM CANDIDATE on the border says ‘no way’ to wall, and ties GOP candidate to Trump — SPOTTED at the French embassy dinner for Charlie Rivkin

Driving the Day FIRST IN PLAYBOOK -- A Democrat running for the House on the Texas-Mexico border is running the first television ad of the year criticizing PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S plan for a border wall -- and tying the GOP incumbent to the president. -- THE AD IS A NEAT ENCAPSULATION OF a pair of themes Democrats are trying to capitalize on in 2018. They’ll attempt to use Trump policies -- in this case, the wall -- as a political cudgel in a tough district. And they are seeking to boost candidates with strong, and at times nonpartisan, resumes and personal stories. For example, JAY HULINGS, a former federal prosecutor, says in his ad that he “fought the drug cartels and put corrupt politicians from both parties in jail.”Story Continued Below -- HULINGS, who is running against REP. WILL HURD (R-TEXAS) in a competitive south Texas district, says in the ad that Trump wants “$18 billion for another border wall. No way. … We know what our families need. And it’s not fear or walls. It’s education and jobs … I’m running for Congress to stop Donald Trump from destroying the American dream.” The spot is running in Spanish and English. In English … In Spanish SOME TRUTH TALK ON THE STATE OF THE UNION … IT’S KIND OF USELESS … -- TRUMP is unlike any president, in that he shares his unbridled opinions on Twitter every day. What’s the difference if he does it from the House floor? And even if he does offer something completely new and different, he could undo it with one tweet. -- IT’S THE HEIGHT OF POLITICAL THEATER: Republicans will whoop and cheer for President Trump. Democrats will jeer. Both sides bring guests to suit their political viewpoints. Democrats will leave saying they hoped for bipartisanship, but the president missed the mark -- a few will find a few points that they like, and say they hope the president’s Continue Reading

CBS News Logo Al Qaeda’s new No. 1 in Yemen is no lackey

LONDON -- Qassem Abdo Mohammed, AKA Qassem al-Rimi, AKA Abu Huraira al-Sanaani, was born in 1974 in the village of Namer, in Yemen's western Rima governorate. He became engaged in jihad in Yemen at an early age and was involved in a number of operations, including an al Qaeda suicide attack on a French oil tanker off Yemen's coast in October 2002. Despite his young age, al-Rimi was appointed top military commander of al Qaeda's branch in Yemen, known as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) upon its founding in January 2009, and thus became one of the most wanted senior jihadists in the world. The U.S. State Department said he "played a key role in reviving the regional node of al-Qaeda." Along with Nasir al-Wuhayshi, his predecessor as AQAP chief who was killed in a U.S. missile strike early in June, al-Rimi was among a group of al Qaeda operatives thrown into Sanaa's highly-guarded Political Security prison in 2004. In February of 2006, the two men -- along with almost two dozen other al Qaeda detainees -- escaped by digging a long tunnel that reached well beyond the prison walls. According to a Yemeni official, during his detention in the Political Security prison, al-Rimi demonstrated evident leadership qualities; He was the one leading the prayers, he delivered religious sermons on Fridays, railed against the rule of then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and negotiated with the prison's administration. Shortly after their escape, both al-Wuhayshi and al-Rimi resumed their jihadi activities, masterminding a suicide car bombing that killed eight Spanish tourists near the Queen of Sheba temple in Ma'rib Governorate in July 2007, as well as the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa on Sept. 17, 2008. It was shortly after that that al-Rimi appeared next to al-Wuhayshi and two Saudi ex-Guantanamo detainees, Saeed al-Shihri and Mohammed al-Oufi, in a video announcing the launch of AQAP. In the video, al-Rimi was introduced as the group's "military chief." From that Continue Reading

George Papadopoulos’ fiancée opens up about her interview with Mueller, that mysterious London professor, and her wedding plans

Natasha Bertrand, provided by Published 8:03 am, Saturday, January 6, 2018 Now Playing: George Papadopoulos' fiancée refuted the claim of him being a "low-level volunteer" in an ABC News interview. Media: GeoBeats Simona Mangiante says her fiancé, George Papadopoulos, is staying positive. "George is very calm," the 29-year-old Italian lawyer said in an interview with Business Insider this week. "There are moments, of course, when we get down. There are a lot of restrictions." Papadopoulos, a young energy consultant whose work for the Trump campaign has landed him squarely in the crosshairs of the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference, has been on house arrest since last July at the home he owns with his mother and younger brother in Chicago. Mangiante and Papadopoulos first met in person in New York in April 2017, she said, about seven months after they first started chatting on LinkedIn. They traveled to Europe that summer for a whirlwind vacation and parted ways in late July, with Mangiante staying in Italy and Papadopoulos heading back to the US. "We had traveled to Mykonos, to Athens, and to Capri," Mangiante said. "He had finished his work for the campaign and I had left my job at the European Parliament. We spent every second together." window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-4', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 4', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); Photo: Courtesy Of Simona Mangiante Image 1of/4 CaptionClose Image 1 of 4 "George is very calm," the 29-year-old Italian lawyer Simona Mangiante said in an interview with Business Insider this week. "There are moments, of course, when we get down. There are a lot of restrictions." "George is very calm," the 29-year-old Italian lawyer Simona Mangiante Continue Reading

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh lands in the United States

NEW YORK — The embattled president of Yemen arrived Saturday in the United States for medical treatment for burns he suffered during an assassination attempt in June. President Ali Abdullah Saleh arrived at an unspecified location in the United States, according to the country’s foreign press office. His journey had taken him from Oman, through London. The one-line Yemeni statement said Saleh was in the U.S. for a “short-term private medical visit.” His staff has said he is in the United States to be treated for injuries suffered during the assassination attempt. He was burned over much of his body and had shards of wood embedded into his chest by the explosion that ripped through his palace mosque as he prayed. After months of unrest, Saleh agreed in November to end his 33-year-rule of the Arabian state. His trip to the U.S. comes as Yemen, a key counterterrorism partner, prepares for an election on Feb. 21 to select his successor. Maneuvering and manipulation had been reliable tactics for Saleh throughout his rule over mountainous, semi-desert Yemen, mired in poverty and divided among powerful tribes and political factions. But his room to maneuver steadily narrowed when the Arab Spring revolts swept into Yemen last year. From late January 2011, hundreds of thousands of Yemenis marched in the streets nearly every day, despite crackdowns. After a particularly bloody shooting of protesters in Sanaa, many ruling party members, lawmakers, Cabinet ministers and, most importantly, powerful military generals and tribal leaders abandoned him, siding with the opposition. It is unclear how long Saleh intends to remain in the U.S. In a speech before he left Yemen for Oman a week ago, he promised to return home before the election, but the U.S. and its allies have pressured Saleh to leave Yemen for good. American officials don’t wish him to settle in the U.S., however, over concerns that it would be seen as harboring an Continue Reading

U.S. orders nonessential diplomats to leave Yemen as embattled leader still refuses to step down

WASHINGTON - The State Department on Wednesday ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to depart Yemen and urged all Americans there to leave as security conditions deteriorated with the country's embattled leader refusing to step down. The decision to tell most nonessential personnel and the families of all American staff at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa to leave was a sign of Washington's increasing concern about the situation in Yemen, where street battles between supporters and opponents of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh raged for a third day. The clashes have left at least 41 dead and dozens badly injured. "The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high due to terrorist activities and civil unrest," the State Department said in its advisory. "There is ongoing civil unrest throughout the country and large-scale protests in major cities." It noted that violent clashes were occurring in Sanaa, the capital, and "may escalate without notice." The "ordered departure" notice came in a new travel warning for Yemen released as the Obama administration stepped up calls for Saleh to transfer power under an agreement negotiated by neighboring Persian Gulf states. Speaking in London earlier Wednesday, President Obama called on Saleh to "move immediately" to implement the agreement. Saleh has balked three times at following through on verbal commitments to step down. A Yemeni army soldier stands guard at checkpoint in Sanaa, Yemen, on Wednesday. (Mohammed Al-Sayaghi/AP) The earlier U.S. travel alert for Yemen issued in March had allowed nonessential embassy staff and their families to leave at government expense. It had also urged Americans not to go to Yemen but had only told those already in the country to consider leaving. The new alert followed a defiant message from Saleh, who vowed not to step down or allow Yemen to become a "failed state." His stance, combined with renewed fighting, sharply increased chances that Yemen's three-month uprising Continue Reading

Yemen: British ambassador escapes suicide attack on armored car

SAN'A, Yemen - The British ambassador narrowly escaped what appeared to be a suicide attack on his armored car while traveling to work Monday morning, Yemeni officials said. British Embassy spokeswoman Chantel Mortimer said the ambassador, Timothy Torlot, was unhurt, but the attack underlined the precarious security in Yemen. An impoverished Arab nation in the southern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen has in recent years become a haven for al-Qaida militants taking advantage of the government's limited authority outside major cities and the control of rural areas by heavily armed tribes. The Yemeni officials said the vehicle was passing through a poor neighborhood in the eastern part of San'a when an explosion went off nearby. They said they believed the attacker was wearing an explosives belt and that he was killed in the explosion. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida. Witnesses said the attacker was a young man who wore a school uniform, apparently as a disguise. The officials said the Noqm neighborhood where the attack took place was popular with militants. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The Foreign Office in London said the embassy has been closed to the public and warned all British nationals in Yemen to "keep a low profile and remain vigilant." "We can confirm that there was an incident in San'a this morning. There was a small explosion beside the British Ambassador's car. He was unhurt. No other embassy staff or British nationals were injured," the Foreign Office said in a statement. "We are working urgently with the Yemen authorities to investigate what happened," it added. Security was visibly tightened around the U.S. and British embassies following the attack. The area of the explosion was sealed off as Yemeni and British officials inspected the scene of the attack. Yemen has been embroiled in a war Continue Reading

Two suspected Al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen; US and British embassies still closed

SAN'A, Yemen — Security forces killed two suspected Al Qaeda militants in clashes outside the Yemeni capital on Monday, officials said, as the U.S. and British embassies extended their closure for a second day because of threats of attack by the terror group's offshoot here. The clashes took place in a region northeast of the capital where last month the government carried out intensified raids against an Al Qaeda cell it said was plotting attacks against foreign interests, possibly including embassies. In that Dec. 17 raid, officials said four would-be suicide bombers were killed. The U.S. and British embassies closed on Sunday after what U.S. officials said were signs of Al Qaeda was planning an attack in San'a, possibly against the diplomatic missions. An officer on duty at the U.S. Embassy in San'a said Monday that the closure remained in force. A State Department spokesman, Fred Lash, said reopening would be assessed day to day, based on the perceived threat to U.S. personnel. The Foreign Office in London said the British were also reviewing the situation. The French Embassy has been closed to the public since Sunday, though the staff was working, the Foreign Ministry in Paris, and the ambassador urged French nationals in Yemen to avoid all nonessential movement in the country and to exercise vigilance. Spain's embassy in San'a restricted access to the public. In Monday's clashes, security forces attacked a group of Al Qaeda militants including Nazeeh al-Hanaq, a senior figure on Yemen's most wanted list, as they moved through the mountainous area of Arhab on Monday, security officials said. Al-Hanaq escaped, but two fighters with him were killed in the battle, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press. The officials said Monday's raid was not connected to the threats that prompted the embassy closures. Yemen has carried out a string of raids on Al Qaeda hideouts Continue Reading