‘Start Here’: Trump’s Iran response and Prince Harry, Meghan Markle ‘step back’ as senior royals

It’s Thursday, Jan. 9, 2019. Let’s start here.

1. Capitol Hill fury

Addressing the nation from the White House on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said Iran “appears to be standing down” after firing missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq in response to the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani.

Trump and top officials have defended the decision, saying Soleimani was behind an “imminent threat” of attacks on U.S. diplomats and military personnel, but in closed-door briefings held with lawmakers on Wednesday, Democrats, and at least two Republicans, left unconvinced.

“What a scene it was, here were the secretary of state and the secretary of defense coming to the Capitol to brief senators … and both Democrats and some Republicans were livid,” ABC News Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran tells “Start Here” today.

2. Royal decision

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are stepping back from their roles as senior members of the Royal Family, according to a statement from the couple.

Harry and Meghan said they will “work to become financially independent, while continuing to fully support Her Majesty The Queen,” adding that they plan to “balance our time between the United Kingdom and North America.”

The decision may have caught Buckingham Palace off guard– ABC News has learned that none of the other members of the royal family were made aware of the announcement before it was released.

Buckingham Palace said in a statement, “We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through.”

There is no precedent for the pair’s plans, says ABC News’ Julia Macfarlane: “There is no previous blueprint. This is 100% Harry and Meghan kind of going rogue.”

3. ‘Truth and Lies: Jeffrey Epstein’

Months after multi-millionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest and sudden death, ABC News has uncovered new details about the convicted sex offender’s life and his decades of sexually abusing teenage girls.

Several of them share their personal accounts in the ABC News TV special and eight-part podcast “Truth and Lies: Jeffrey Epstein.”

ABC News’ Mark Remillard, who hosts the podcast, previews the series: “What we’ve tried to do over the last several months is to hear from them and have them walk us through not only what happened to you with Jeffrey Epstein, but what was the effect on your life?”

“Start Here,” ABC News’ flagship podcast, offers a straightforward look at the day’s top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or the ABC News app. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content and show updates.


‘Let us do what we have to do’: A growing number of Senate Democrats say it’s time for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to send over the articles of impeachment to the Senate, which would trigger a trial of the president.

‘These texts are false’: The U.S. Army is advising Americans that the military is not drafting individuals by any means, including through text messages, after texts began circulating this week alerting U.S. citizens that they have been selected for a military draft.

‘A truly transformative experience’: Virgin Galactic showed off its sleek new commercial spacecraft on Wednesday, announcing the ship had passed its structural “weight on wheels” milestone.

From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich says that foreign policy doesn’t usually affect elections — but could Iran be different?

Doff your cap:

Sports stars often visit sick children in the hospital as a show of goodwill — but how about paying for their care?

That’s what Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young did this week.

The 21-year-old made a $10,000 donation through his charity organization that helped wipe out a total of $1,059,186.39 in unpaid medical debt for about 600 low-income Atlanta residents.

The donation was made through the organization RIP Medical Debts, which buys up bundled medical debt on the secondary market, allowing debts to be erased for pennies on the dollar.

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