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By Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke will head to New York next month for a live interview with Oprah Winfrey as he continues to mull a 2020 presidential run.

O’Rourke will be part of “Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations from Times Square” on Feb. 5. He’ll speak to Winfrey one-on-one as part of an event featuring others, including actors Bradley Cooper and Michael B. Jordan.

O’Rourke, 46, rose to national Democratic prominence while nearly unseating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in deep red-Texas last November.

Despite other top Democrats taking steps to likely join the 2020 presidential race, O’Rourke’s camp suggests he won’t make up his mind for at least a few more weeks.

Winfrey herself has been the subject of 2020 chatter, but has said she doesn’t plan to run.

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DNC names 20 candidates who will appear on stage for first Democratic debate

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The Democratic National Committee on Thursday named the 20 presidential candidates who qualified to appear on stage later this month in the first primary debate of the 2020 campaign.

They are:

  1. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
  2. Former Vice President Joe Biden*
  3. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey*
  4. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg*
  5. Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro*
  6. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
  7. Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland
  8. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii*
  9. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York*
  10. Sen. Kamala Harris of California*
  11. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado
  12. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington*
  13. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota*
  14. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas*
  15. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio
  16. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont*
  17. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California
  18. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts*
  19. Author Marianne Williamson*
  20. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang*

The DNC, which is sanctioning the debate, set two ways for candidates to qualify — fundraising and polling. To make the stage, candidates needed to have either at least 1 percent support in three qualifying polls, or provide evidence of at least 65,000 unique donors, with a minimum of 200 different donors in at least 20 states.

The candidates marked with an asterisk qualified through both polling and grassroots fundraising thresholds, the DNC said. The others qualified through polling only.

Those who did not meet the threshold for the first debate include: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel; Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam; and Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts.

Bullock told NBC News’ Chuck Todd Thursday in an interview on “Meet the Press Daily” that he was “disappointed” with the DNC’s decision but declined to say if he would challenge it.

“I certainly knew getting in at the time I did would give me fewer opportunities to be on shows with youand others, but I had a job to do,” said Bullock, who announced his bid in mid-May. “And if it ultimately ever came down to choosing between getting Medicaid reauthorized, getting 100,000 Montanans health care versus getting in earlier just to try to bump up on yet another poll, I would make that same choice time and time again.”

He added that he is an “important voice” in the field, since Montana voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump in 2016, and noted that there will be more opportunities to introduce himself to voters before the first primary next year, including future debates.

“I am the only one in the field that won in a Trump state and we need to win back some of the places we’ve lost,” he said.

The two-night debate, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo, will take place on June 26 and 27 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. The event will air live across all three networks from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m ET both nights.

Ten candidates at a time will appear on stage, but the lineup for each night has not been determined, nor has where the candidates will stand. Both nights will have the same format, NBC News previously announced. It is the first of 12 primary debates the DNC has planned.

Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balart will moderate the debate, NBC announced Tuesday.

The debate will also stream online free on NBC News’ digital platforms, including NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps, in addition to Telemundo’s digital platforms.

Dartunorro Clark contributed.

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Everything you need to know

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The field is set for the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 election, and it includes some longtime legislators, a former vice president and two political novices.

Here’s what you need to know about the first face-off of the Democratic presidential primary.

When and where is the first Democratic debate?

The debate will take place on June 26 and 27 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami.

The two-night event is hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo, and will air live across all three from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m ET both nights. The debate will also stream online free on NBC News’ digital platforms, including NBCNews.com, MSNBC.com, the NBC News Mobile App and OTT apps, in addition to Telemundo’s digital platforms.

Who are the moderators?

Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow and José Diaz-Balart will moderate the debate, NBC announced Tuesday.

Both debate nights will have the same format. Holt, the anchor of “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” and “Dateline NBC,” will moderate the first hour with Guthrie, the co-anchor of “Today” and NBC News’ chief legal analyst, and Diaz-Balart, the anchor of “Noticias Telemundo” and “NBC Nightly News Saturday,” appearing alongside him.

Holt will also appear in the second hour, with Todd, NBC News’ political director and the moderator of “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd,” and Maddow, host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC, moderating.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., May 18, 2019.Mark Makela / Reuters file

Who qualified for the debate?

The Democratic National Committee, which is sanctioning the debate, set two ways for candidates to qualify — fundraising and polling. The fundraising component included raising money from at least 65,000 donors, with a minimum of 200 donors per state from 20 states. The polling component required candidates to poll at 1 percent or above in three different surveys recognized by the DNC.

The DNC announced the 20 candidates who made the stage on June 13. The candidates who qualified under both criteria, according to the committee, are:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
  • Sen. Kamala Harris of California
  • Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii
  • Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington
  • Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro
  • Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
  • Author Marianne Williamson

Those who qualified by polling at 1 percent or above were:

  • Rep. Eric Swalwell of California
  • Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio
  • Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
  • Former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
  • Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland

Who did not qualify?

One of the last entrants into the race, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, hit 1 percent in two qualifying polls, but was unable to reach the mark in a third. Three other candidates, Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar, Florida, and former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska have not hit 1 percent in any qualifying polls, an NBC News review found.

How are the candidates be divided over two nights?

The DNC tried to avoid the “kids’ table” complaints that were lodged against the Republican National Committee in the run-up to the 2016 election — where front-runners in the large field of candidates were given one forum and lower-tier candidates another.

Candidates were divided into two groups — those who polled on average at or above 2 percent through midnight on Wednesday, June 12, and those who polled on average below 2 percent through midnight on Wednesday, June 12. A random draw took place on Friday, June 14, pulling from each of the respective above groups to create two separate groupings of 10.

The first group appearing on Wednesday, June 26 is:

  • Booker
  • Warren
  • O’Rourke
  • Klobuchar
  • Delaney
  • Gabbard
  • Castro
  • Ryan
  • de Blasio
  • Inslee
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders addresses a rally at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, California on May 31, 2019.Frederic J. Brown / AFP – Getty Images file

The second group appearing on Thursday, June 27 is made up of:

  • Sanders
  • Harris
  • Biden
  • Buttigieg
  • Bennet
  • Williamson
  • Swalwell
  • Gillibrand
  • Yang
  • Hickenlooper

Where the candidates will stand on stage each night has not yet been determined.

Will the rules change for later debates?

The DNC says it will use the same criteria for the second two-night debate on July 30 and 31 in Detroit, which will be hosted by CNN.

The benchmarks will change for the third debate on Sept. 12 and potentially a second night on Sept. 13, which will be hosted by ABC and Univision. To take part in that debate, candidates will have to show they’ve received donations from 130,000 different donors, including at least 400 from 20 different states. They’ll also have to hit at least 2 percent in four different qualifying polls.

These changes are guaranteed to reduce the size of the field.

Ben Kamisar and Alex Seitz-Wald contributed.

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Escalating tensions put U.S. and Iran on collision course, experts fear

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Attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman have sent tensions soaring between Iran and the United States, and reinforced fears that the two countries could be hurtling toward an unintended war.

With no diplomatic relations between the two countries, no serious dialogue underway despite efforts by other countries to mediate, and no letup in U.S. economic pressure on Iran, former U.S. officials, foreign diplomats and experts said there is a growing risk that a miscalculation, coupled with deep distrust, could trigger a conflict that neither side wants.

“In many ways, I feel like this is a 1914 moment for the region, that a single incident could put the entire region on fire,” Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group think tank, said in an apparent reference to the assassination of archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria that ended up leading to World War I.

“Although this particular incident might not be the one to push the parties over the edge of the abyss of war, each cycle of escalation brings us closer to the brink.”

Hours after the explosions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the incident as a “blatant assault” and said the U.S. had concluded Iran was responsible for targeting the Norwegian-owned and Japanese-owned ships along the vital oil transit route near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Pompeo cited intelligence reporting, recent similar incidents and the sophisticated nature of the attacks.

Pompeo said a previous attack against four ships last month off the coast of the United Arab Emirates that Washington blamed on Tehran, a drone attack on a Saudi Arabian pipeline, a rocket attack near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and other strikes were allegedly part of a deliberate pattern of “aggression.”

“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to international peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran,” Pompeo said.

Iran denied any role in the attacks. But Pompeo said Tehran was retaliating because of crippling U.S. economic sanctions that have slashed Iran’s oil exports and severely damaged its economy.

“Iran is lashing out because the regime wants our successful maximum pressure campaign lifted,” he said.

The U.S. Central Command released video Thursday night that it said showed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boat approaching one of the ships, the Kokuka Courageous, hours after the explosion and removing an unexploded mine.

The tanker attacks coincided with a spate of mixed messages from both countries, which former officials said added to the danger that each country could be misreading the other.

Although President Donald Trump has imposed punishing sanctions on Iran since pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, he has also repeatedly said he is open to talking to the country’s leaders.

On Tuesday, Iran released a Lebanese businessman and U.S. legal resident who had been imprisoned since 2015, a move that the Trump administration called a “positive sign.” Iran also has so far refrained from entirely abandoning the nuclear agreement it negotiated with world powers, which prohibits the regime from enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels.

But despite efforts by Japan, European and other governments to find ways to defuse the standoff between Iran and the United States, neither side so far has signaled a readiness to back off entrenched positions and make significant concessions.

In a bid to broker talks, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid an unusual visit to Tehran on Wednesday and said he brought with him “a message” from Trump.

But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, dismissed the offer. “I do not consider Trump as a person worth exchanging any message with and I have no answer for him, nor will I respond to him in the future,” Khamenei said in a statement.

The two adversaries are locked in a faceoff and the Iranian regime appears reluctant to take any step that would amount to caving in to U.S. pressure, experts said.

Retired U.S. Navy admiral James Stavridis, who served as NATO commander, said it was unlikely that Iran or the United States would climb down in the high-stakes showdown.

“We’re on a collision course here,” Stavridis, who is the chief international diplomacy and national security analyst for NBC News, told MSNBC.

Further complicating any attempt to find an “off-ramp” to the crisis is the collapse of diplomatic channels that had been forged during the talks that produced the 2015 nuclear deal. Former Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif spoke frequently and defused at least one potential crisis in 2016 when a group of U.S. Navy sailors were captured after straying into Iranian territorial waters.

The attacks Thursday on the two oil tankers drove up oil prices and shipping companies braced for a rise in insurance costs. Two oil tanker owners, DHT Holdings and Heidmar, have suspended new bookings for the Persian Gulf, industry media reported.

No group claimed responsibility for the incident. But some former U.S. officials and lawmakers agreed with the Trump administration’s assessment pointing the finger at Iran, saying Tehran had the necessary guerrilla warfare skills and a strong interest in pushing up oil prices for its own hard-hit economy.

Norman Roule, a former CIA officer who focused on Iran, said “the circumstantial evidence is vast and sufficiently significant that Iran was responsible for these attacks.”

Roule predicted there would be more efforts to disrupt oil shipping routes: “We should be concerned that attacks represent the new normal for the foreseeable future in Iran’s campaign to conduct unconventional attacks to pressure the international community to push back on U.S. sanctions.”

Although Iran had an incentive to drive up oil prices, it did not appear eager for a war with the U.S, Bruce Riedel, a former career CIA officer now at the Brookings Institution, said. Some other group or government keen on provoking a conflict had to be considered a potential suspect, he said. “The possibility of a mysterious third force can’t be ruled out here.”

If Iran was indeed behind the attacks in the Gulf of Oman that sent plumes of smoke billowing into the air, it was not surprising given the degree of economic pressure bearing down on the regime, said Ilan Goldenberg, a former senior official in the Obama administration.

“This is purely a function of Trump’s escalatory ‘maximum pressure’ campaign. You can’t just keep poking someone & expect them to sit around & take it,” Goldenberg, now a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security think tank, said in a tweet.

Supporters of the Trump administration said that Iran will eventually come to the negotiating table as the sanctions steadily strangle the country’s economy.

Pompeo vowed that the U.S. would “defend its forces, interests and and stand with our partners and allies to safeguard global commerce and regional stability,” though he did not explicitly threaten a U.S. military response.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a staunch supporter of the administration’s tough line on Iran, said he wanted to see Trump slap more sanctions on Iran as a result of the attacks that Pompeo blamed on Tehran.

“They need to feel pain for this escalation and additional sanctions would be the appropriate response,” Graham said.

It’s not clear whether the relatively small-scale strikes on foreign oil tankers are enough to prompt the president to approve military action.

Some more hard-line lawmakers and officials in the Trump administration, including national security adviser John Bolton, believe that the Iranian regime could collapse from the economic pressure caused by the U.S. sanctions, and they have not ruled out limited military action if Iran or its proxies attack Americans in the region.

However, U.S. military strikes designed to give Iran a “bloody nose” and force the regime to rein in its proxies could lead to a wider, unintended conflagration, with Tehran mobilizing its vast network of proxies and partners from Beirut to Sanaa, Bruce Reidel, a former CIA officer, and other experts said.

Some officials in the administration “have exaggerated expectations of what a bloody nose will lead to,” Reidel said.

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