Happening Today: Bowe Bergdahl, Tillerson, Budget Cuts, Justin Timberlake

What to Know

  • The fate of Bowe Bergdahl — the Army sergeant who pleaded guilty to endangering his comrades — now rests in the hands of a judge
  • Japan's leader pledged to tackle what he called two national crises: military threat from North Korea and an aging and shrinking population
  • Justin Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show as he announced in a video with Jimmy Fallon that he will take the stage Feb. 4

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Dramatic Sentencing Hearing Expected in Bergdahl Case

The fate of Bowe Bergdahl — the Army sergeant who pleaded guilty to endangering his comrades by leaving his post in 2009 in Afghanistan — now rests in the hands of a judge. A sentencing hearing for Bergdahl starts at Fort Bragg and is expected to feature dramatic testimony about soldiers and a Navy SEAL badly hurt while they searched for the missing Bergdahl, who was held captive for five years by Taliban allies after leaving his post. Bergdahl faces up to life in prison on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy after pleading guilty to the charges last week. Bergdahl made his plea without striking a deal with prosecutors for a lesser punishment, opting instead for a move known as a "naked plea," in hopes of leniency from the judge. The plea, legal experts say, may be a sign that the evidence against Bergdahl was strong. Eric Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University, said a naked plea can be advantageous by allowing the defense to refrain from agreeing to certain facts that it might otherwise have to concede to under a plea agreement.

Trump Urges House GOP to Move Quickly on Budget, Tax Cuts

President Trump warned House Republicans that 2018 would be a political failure for the GOP and disappointment for the nation if they fail on tax overhaul. A GOP aide familiar with the conversation said Trump told the lawmakers again and again that the party would have a steep price to pay in next year's midterm elections if they failed to pass his plan. It would slash the corporate tax rate to 20 percent and double the standard deduction used by most average Americans. The president also said that, beyond the looming elections, his plan was the right thing to do for the country, the person said. Trump and Vice President Pence both joined the House GOP conference call in which Trump called on members to adopt the budget passed by the Senate this week, so that they can move on to passing his tax reform plan. Trump told the members they were on the verge of doing something historic by passing the tax cuts, according to one Republican official.

Rex Tillerson Seeks Arab Help in US Effort to Isolate Iran

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took the Trump administration's case for isolating and containing Iran in the Middle East and beyond to two Gulf Arab nations, pushing for Saudi Arabia and Iraq to unite to counter growing Iranian assertiveness. He also called for a quick resolution to the ongoing crisis between Qatar and its Arab neighbors, which he said was unintentionally bolstering Iran. In Saudi Arabia and later Qatar, Tillerson denounced Iran's "malign behavior" and urged nations of the region and elsewhere, notably Europe, to join the administration to halt any business they do with Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard. He also demanded that Iranian and Iran-backed Shiite militia in Iraq either return to their homes, integrate into the Iraqi army or leave the country. In Riyadh for the inaugural meeting of the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Council — a vehicle that U.S. officials believe can wean Iraq from Iran — Tillerson told Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi that the nascent partnership between their countries held great promise for Iraq's reconstruction after devastating battles to wrest territory from the Islamic State group and its independence from foreign influence. Tillerson said countries outside of the region could also play a role.

Priorities Are North Korea and Aging Country, Japan Leader Says

Fresh off a decisive election victory, Japan's leader pledged to tackle what he called Japan's two national crises: the military threat from North Korea and an aging and shrinking population. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a news conference that he is committed to protecting the Japanese people's prosperity and peace from any contingency. He also referred to the Japanese kidnapped years ago and believed still held by North Korea. His ruling coalition was returned to power in elections for Japan's more powerful lower house. Abe said the result showed "strong support" and thanked the people for backing stability and his government's policies. He promised a comprehensive package by the end of the year to deal with Japan's demographic challenges, including investments in education, productivity improvements and pension system reform.

Justin Timberlake to Perform During Super Bowl Halftime Show

It's official: Justin Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show. The singer announced in a video with Jimmy Fallon that he will take the stage Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The announcement comes on the day the New England Patriots faces the Atlanta Falcons, a rematch of Super Bowl LI, on Sunday Night Football. This will be the third time for Timberlake to perform at halftime, the most for any entertainer. Timberlake performed at the 2001 Super Bowl with N'Sync, and he sang "Rock Your Body" with Janet Jackson in 2004 in Houston. That performance concluded with Timberlake ripping her costume to reveal her right breast bare except for a nipple shield. Lady Gaga was the last performer of the halftime spectacle when the Patriots won over the Falcons 34-28. During an interview broadcast at halftime of NBC's "Sunday Night Football," Timberlake laughed off questions about a repeat of the infamous moment, which drew CBS a $550,000 fine from the Federal Communications Commission that was later overturned. NBC will broadcast the 52nd Super Bowl.

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