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Donald J. Trump Senate Impeachment Trial

Donald J. Trump has been impeached by the house. Moscow Mitch and GOP Senators will make a mockery of our Republic to protect Donald J. Trump.   

Dedicated to Donald J. Trump's (aka Don the Con) time in the White House the ups, the downs, the corruption, the chaos, the destruction, the devastation and the hatred created by Donald J. Trump. Donald J. Trump has corrupted the white house, the DOJ, the state department and other government departments and agencies to protect and defend Donald J. Trump. Instead of putting America first, they are putting Donald J. Trump first. Donald J. Trump is threat to Democracy, our National Security, America and you, we are dedicated to shining a light on that threat. Trump is a bully who can dish it out but cannot take it, Trump does not punch back he lashes out like a child when his feeling get hurt. You cannot trust the information you get from Trump, his surrogates, the GOP or right wing media who lie, use fake news and alterative facts to distract from the truth and to promote the right wing agenda. If Trump opens his month it is probably a lie, Trump is a liar who lies about his lies; many of the Trump’s surrogates, the GOP and right wing media lie, use alternative facts and fake news to protect Trump and the GOP while attacking and destroying our Democracy. Do not take our word for it, read it for yourself and find out more about the real Donald J. Trump and how he is destroying America and our Democracy with the help of Fox News (Fake News) and right wing media (more fake news). The more you know the better informed you will be to make your own determination on the real Donald J. Trump (aka Don the Con). Looking for more information about Trump Administration Scandals, Trump Impeachment Inquiry, Trump EPA, Trump before the White House, Trump Lawsuits, The Trump-Russia Affair, The Trump-Ukraine Affair, Trump News, Moscow Mitch, GOP Watch, Election Fraud or Election Interference. Find out about the real Donald J. Trump. Donald J. Trump is a crook, a con man and liar who uses alternative facts and projection of himself on to other. Find out about Trump, Russia, Putin and the Mueller investigation. trump campaign colluded or conspire with Putin and the Russians. Is trump the king of fake news alternative facts? trump lies Donald Trump a racist? Learn about don the con trump and Russia. Find out about the trump Russia Putin connection. Is trump a traitor? Find out more about don the con, con man don and learn about the trump university, trump foundation, Russian collusion, money laundering, Trump the money launder and more…

Appeals court says Don McGahn doesn't have to testify in major win for White House

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) A federal appeals court Friday dismissed the US House of Representatives' lawsuit seeking to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify, in a major win for the White House in its attempts to block officials from testifying to Congress. In a 2-1 decision, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled it wouldn't police the standoff between the House Judiciary Committee and the White House. "If federal courts were to swoop in to rescue Congress whenever its constitutional tools failed, it would not just supplement the political process; it would replace that process with one in which unelected judges become the perpetual 'overseer[s]' of our elected officials. That is not the role of judges in our democracy, and that is why Article III compels us to dismiss this case," Judge Thomas Griffith wrote in the opinion. The case has tested whether the White House could block its current and former officials from speaking to Congress. However, by ruling that it doesn't have the authority to handle this case, the court didn't make a decision on the validity of the White House's sweeping claim of "absolutely immunity" for its current and former officials.

Just one American with coronavirus still in hospital: Vice President Pence

By Hilary Russ

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Of dozens of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, only one patient is still in the hospital, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday. “In every case, people are being treated and by all accounts are doing well,” he said during a live-streamed news conference with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. In total, there have been 15 confirmed cases across the United States, with 46 other cases among people who returned to the country from overseas and were quarantined. That number is one fewer than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent update on Friday of 47 total cases returning from foreign countries.

Donald Trump Jr. just said something unreal about Democrats and the coronavirus

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) Donald Trump Jr. is Donald Trump in extremis. If the President pushes boundaries, his oldest son crashes through them with glee. Witness this interview that Don Jr. did with "Fox & Friends" on Friday morning: Brian Kilmeade: And so now we're getting to sprint towards November for -- to -- to see if your dad can get four more years. Are you surprised the way they've been handling the coronavirus situation, meaning Democrats? Don Jr.: Not at all. I mean, we've seen -- like you said, we've seen this play out for four years. Anything that they can use to try to hurt Trump, they will. Anything he does in a positive sense, like you heard from the reporter that was just suspended from ABC, they will not give him credit for. The playbook is old at this point. But for them to try to take a pandemic and seemingly hope that it comes here, and kills millions of people so that they could end Donald Trump's streak of winning, is a new level of sickness. You know, I don't know if this is coronavirus or Trump derangement syndrome, but these people are infected badly. OK, so. The President's eldest son, who has made no secret of his interest in running for office and maybe even president in the future, is suggesting that Democrats are rooting for coronavirus to come to the United States and kill "millions of people" solely so that they might have a better chance of winning in November. What can you say about that line of logic? At its most basic level, this sort of stuff from Don Jr. is deeply irresponsible. What he is conflating is the Democratic criticism of the Trump administration for both a lack of preparedness and a lack of seriousness in terms of public statements about the threat posed by coronavirus with, somehow, Democrats rooting for Americans to die en masse. Trump Jr. has to know that's not what is going on here. No matter what you think of Democrats or Republicans, the idea that a political party would be actively rooting for people to get sick and die is beyond ludicrous. No rational person -- even if you disagree with every single policy Democrats push -- can think that.

Trump complains Democrats are blaming him for coronavirus

The president also suggested Democratic lawmakers had been “wasting time” on other legislative priorities.

President Donald Trump accused congressional Democrats early Friday morning of unfairly blaming the coronavirus’ threat to Americans on his administration, tying the global health epidemic even closer to domestic politics. “So, the Coronavirus, which started in China and spread to various countries throughout the world, but very slowly in the U.S. because President Trump closed our border, and ended flights, VERY EARLY, is now being blamed, by the Do Nothing Democrats, to be the fault of ‘Trump,’” the president wrote on Twitter just after midnight. In another message roughly half an hour later, Trump suggested Democratic lawmakers had been “wasting time” on other legislative priorities and efforts to denigrate Republicans as the coronavirus outbreak proliferated. “The Do Nothing Democrats were busy wasting time on the Immigration Hoax, & anything else they could do to make the Republican Party look bad, while I was busy calling early BORDER & FLIGHT closings, putting us way ahead in our battle with Coronavirus. Dems called it VERY wrong!” Trump wrote. That post mirrored a similar tweet the president issued Thursday evening but later deleted, in which he charged that Democrats were “wasting their time on the Impeachment Hoax” as he sought to implement preventative measures to combat the coronavirus.

Federal appeals court rules against Trump in two major immigration cases

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a block on the administration’s policy of forcing migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico while the cases play out.
By Daniella Silva

A federal appeals court on Friday delivered two blows to the Trump administration's immigration policy, ruling against a program to force migrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico and against a rule severely limiting the number of migrants who were eligible for asylum. In a long-awaited decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to reinstate a block on the policy forcing migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to wait in Mexico while their cases play out. The court also ruled 3-0 to uphold a block on a rule seeking to bar asylum eligibility for migrants who cross the border between ports of entry. In the remain-in-Mexico case, the court said it concluded that the policy, known formally as the Migrant Protection protocols, or MPP, “was invalid in its entirety” due to inconsistencies with the law and should be "enjoined in its entirety." "The court has finally affirmed what we always knew to be the case, that the provision on which the government is relying does not apply to asylum-seekers. Full stop," Melissa Crow, senior supervising attorney at the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, told NBC News.

Gupta on Trump's coronavirus claim: That's not true

New Day

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta fact-checks his exchange with President Donald Trump during a coronavirus press conference when Trump claimed the flu had higher death rates than the coronavirus. Source: CNN

Trump aides overtake health officials’ narrative – again

But the acting White House chief of staff also conceded to the seriousness of the virus.

Mick Mulvaney just broke his own rule. The acting White House chief of staff accused the media on Friday of stoking fear over coronavirus as a plot to take down President Donald Trump, warned of potential school shutdowns and appeared to chastise investors for monitoring news coverage of the outbreak. The freewheeling commentary at a conservative activist conference in Maryland contradicted instructions he had given a day earlier to bring order to the administration’s coronavirus messaging strategy by routing it through the office of Vice President Mike Pence. “That’s what this is all about. I got a note today from a reporter saying, what are you going to do today to calm the markets? Really what I might do today to calm the markets is tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours,” Mulvaney said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But Mulvaney also conceded to the seriousness of the virus, and said that the U.S. would “probably” see school closures as the illness continues to spread across the globe. Mulvaney’s comments come amid a tumbling stock market and bipartisan backlash from lawmakers as the Trump administration works to show it’s in control of the spreading global threat. Trump launched the federal government’s response this week, appointing Vice President Mike Pence to command the U.S. coronavirus response team. That move was followed a day later by Pence’s decision to appoint a government health official, Ambassador Debbie Birx, as the administration’s coronavirus “coordinator.” But White House efforts thus far have apparently done little to assuage public concerns or calm a tumbling stock market, which opened Friday by falling significantly once again.

White House: 'Media stoking virus fears to take down Trump'


The acting White House chief of staff says US media is stoking a coronavirus panic because they hope it will take down President Donald Trump. "The reason they are paying so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to bring down the president," Mick Mulvaney said. Speaking to a group of conservatives on Friday, he added people should ignore the media in order to calm the markets. Global markets have continued to fall as the virus infects over 50 countries. There have been 82,000 reported cases of Covid-19 worldwide and 2,800 deaths since the disease emerged late last year. All but 3,664 cases and 57 of the deaths have been reported in China. The number of Americans infected with with virus stands at 60.

What is Mr Mulvaney's argument?
"We took extraordinary steps four or five weeks ago," Mr Mulvaney said, referring to the Trump administration order to close the border to foreign travelers coming from China, where the virus originated. The move was widely covered in the media at the time. "Why didn't we hear about it? What was going on four or five weeks ago? Impeachment. And that's all the press wanted to talk about," he told a gathering of conservatives outside Washington on Friday.

House panel launches inquiry of Trump's attorney general over possible interference

Jerry Nadler sent William Barr a list of matters the committee finds ‘deeply troubling’ including Roger Stone case
Associated Press

The House judiciary committee is launching a wide-ranging inquiry into the attorney general, William Barr, and the justice department, demanding briefings, documents and interviews with 15 officials as it tries to determine whether there has been improper political interference in federal law enforcement. The committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, on Friday sent Barr a letter listing a series of matters that the committee finds “deeply troubling”, including Barr’s involvement in the case of Donald Trump’s longtime confidant Roger Stone. Stone was convicted in November of lying to Congress and other charges. Barr overruled prosecutors who had recommended that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, leading the four top prosecutors on the case to step down from it. Nadler is also questioning Barr about his involvement in other cases related to friends and associates of Trump and about internal investigations into department employees who investigated Trump after the 2016 election. “Although you serve at the president’s pleasure, you are also charged with the impartial administration of our laws,” Nadler wrote to Barr. “In turn, the House judiciary committee is charged with holding you to that responsibility.” The committee is asking for briefings on the issues listed and interviews with 15 justice department officials involved in those matters, including the four prosecutors who resigned from the Stone case.

Scaling back SNAP for self-reliance clashes with the original goals of food stamps

BY Tracy Roof

Trump administration officials are trying to cut enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP but still sometimes called “food stamps.” They say that too many people are getting this aid in a strong economy. The program helped about 35 million low-income people buy food in 2019. The average recipient gets US$128.60 a month, about $1.40 per person per meal. In December 2019, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced changes that require more SNAP recipients to work or lose their benefits. While speaking with reporters, he alluded to what he called the “original intent of food stamps” – moving “more able-bodied recipients off of SNAP benefits toward self-sufficiency.” The Trump administration is also seeking to take more executive actions that would cut back the eligibility of some elderly, disabled and working poor households. All told, these measures could affect up to 10 million people. And the government is taking additional steps bound to discourage legal immigrants from seeking SNAP and other food assistance. But while researching the history of food stamps and writing a book about the topic, I have found the government didn’t create this program to push people into jobs, as Perdue suggests, but to help those in need get enough to eat.

Trump says coronavirus will 'disappear' eventually

By Maegan Vazquez and Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump expressed optimism Thursday that the novel coronavirus would eventually be contained and eliminated in the United States, even as he acknowledged it could get worse first. "It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear," Trump told attendees at an African American History Month reception in the White House Cabinet Room. The World Health Organization says the virus has "pandemic potential" and medical experts have warned it will spread in the US. The President added that "from our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better. Could maybe go away. We'll see what happens. Nobody really knows." Trump's comments come as the administration battles both the virus and accusations of mismanagement among officials responding to the outbreak. Earlier on Thursday, CNN reported that Vice President Mike Pence's office would be in charge of all coronavirus messaging after several aides blamed negative coverage of the response on too many mixed messages from senior members of the administration. Later in the day, reports surfaced that a whistleblower at the Department of Health and Human Services is seeking federal protection after complaining that more than a dozen workers who had received the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, lacked proper training or protective gear for infection control. Trump spoke effusively of the administration's efforts during his remarks Thursday. "We have done an incredible job. We're going to continue," the President said, claiming that the media won't give the administration "credit" for a successful response to the virus. Speaking about the 15 individuals diagnosed with the coronavirus on US soil, Trump said that "the 15 will soon be down to three, four." Trump called his Wednesday appearance before the White House press corps to address the administration's response to the virus "really good" and "a calming press conference."

U.S. workers without protective gear assisted coronavirus evacuees, HHS whistleblower says

By Lena H. Sun and Yasmeen Abutaleb

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear, according to a whistleblower complaint. The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower, who is a senior HHS official based in Washington who oversees workers at the Administration for Children and Families, a unit within HHS. The whistleblower is seeking federal protection because she alleges she was unfairly and improperly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers to HHS officials, including those within the office of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. She was told Feb. 19 that if she does not accept the new position in 15 days, which is March 5, she would be terminated. The whistleblower has decades of experience in the field, received two HHS department awards from Azar last year and has received the highest performance evaluations, her lawyers said. The complaint was filed Wednesday with the Office of the Special Counsel, an independent federal watchdog agency. The whistleblower’s lawyers provided a copy of a redacted 24-page complaint to The Washington Post. A spokesman for the Office of the Special Counsel said he could not comment on complaints filed with the office.

Coronavirus 'could trigger damage on scale of 2008 financial crisis'

Analysts issue warning over Covid-19 as global financial markets continue to tumble
By Rob Davies , Richard Partington and Graeme Wearden

The coronavirus could wreak economic havoc on a scale not seen since the 2008 financial crisis, analysts have said, amid mounting concern over the spread of the disease. Financial markets plunged afresh on Thursday as countries stepped up efforts to contain the virus by banning travel, closing schools and postponing major sporting events and business conferences. The FTSE 100 slumped by 3.5%, extending a losing streak that puts the blue-chip share index on course for its worst week since the eurozone debt crisis in 2011. The sharp fall in markets came as British officials sought to prepare the public for all eventualities. The chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, said that in the event of a global pandemic public events may have to be cancelled and schools closed for more than two months. As three new cases were identified in the UK on Thursday, including the first in Northern Ireland, and Public Health England sent a specialist to Tenerife to help manage an outbreak there, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said there was still “a good chance” of avoiding a pandemic but he acknowledged it was a “potential outcome”. The value of London-listed companies has fallen by more than £150bn since markets opened on Monday, a prolonged selloff widely attributed to Covid-19. On Wall Street on Thursday, the Dow Jones at one point shed more than 700 points. By mid-afternoon it was down 590. The Dow had already lost more than 2,000 points in the first three days of this week. A flurry of big names joined the lengthening list of companies reporting a serious impact on their finances and warning of further pain ahead if the outbreak’s progress cannot be halted soon.

Diagnosis Of Coronavirus Patient In California Was Delayed For Days

By Bill Chappell

The first suspected U.S. case of a patient getting the new coronavirus through "community spread" — with no history of travel to affected areas or exposure to someone known to have the COVID-19 illness — was left undiagnosed for days because a request for testing wasn't initially granted, according to officials at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif. The patient in Northern California is now the 60th confirmed case of the coronavirus in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed the latest case Wednesday evening, as President Trump assigned Vice President Pence to lead the administration's response to the disease. "This case was detected through the U.S. public health system — picked up by astute clinicians," the CDC said in a brief statement about the new patient. UC Davis included more details about the case in its own statement, drawing on an email sent to staff at its medical center. It said the CDC initially ruled out a test for the coronavirus because the patient's case didn't match its criteria. "UC Davis Health does not control the testing process," the hospital noted. The new patient, who lives in Solano County and has not been identified, was transferred to UC Davis Medical in Sacramento County from another hospital this month. Staff at UC Davis then suspected the patient might be infected with the coronavirus that has caused more than 2,800 deaths. "Upon admission, our team asked public health officials if this case could be COVID-19," the hospital said. "We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC, since neither Sacramento County nor CDPH [California Department of Public Health] is doing testing for coronavirus at this time. Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered. UC Davis Health does not control the testing process."

From 'Smoking Doesn't Kill' to Conversion Therapy—Mike Pence's Most Controversial Science Remarks

By Rosie McCall

Vice President Mike Pence was selected to lead the country's response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak during a press conference on Wednesday, in spite of a rocky reputation when it comes to health related matters. In response to Trump's decision to name Pence "Coronavirus Czar," Brian Schatz, a Democratic Senator for Hawaii, tweeted some of the most anti-science opinions voiced by the VP over the years, from rejecting climate science to saying smoking does not kill.

Mike Pence is for conversion therapy. Mike Pence said smoking didn't cause cancer. Mike Pence doesn’t believe climate science. Mike Pence questioned whether or not condoms worked. So, 😬
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) February 26, 2020

Here are a few of Pence's most controversial science remarks.
"Smoking doesn't kill"

"Time for a quick reality check," Pence wrote in an op-ed back in 2000. "Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill." He then went on to list smoking-related statistics: Two out of three smokers do not die from smoking-related illnesses. (False—it may be the opposite: two in three smokers die as a result.) Nine out of ten do not get lung cancer. (It makes it 15 to 30 times more likely you will.) But he did add "smoking is not good for you" and suggested those "reading this article through the blue haze of cigarette smoke" should quit.

Trump takes a victory lap early on in the coronavirus fight

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump wants America to know he's doing a great job in keeping out the novel coronavirus, in a victory lap that could look premature if his own experts are correct in their more somber forecasts. The President spoke at a news conference on Wednesday about the worldwide health emergency that has seen the virus sweep into South Korea, Italy and every continent but Antarctica, sounding as if the danger had already passed rather than was yet to arrive. "The risk to the American people remains very low," Trump said, as he unveiled his big announcement: Vice President Mike Pence will head the government effort. The President's optimistic performance came hours before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a patient in California who has the novel coronavirus might be the first person to be infected who did not travel to an afflicted region and was not exposed to another known carrier. The case raises the ominous possibility that the virus is already moving through the community. In anxious times, including health emergencies, presidents are called upon to show authority and credible planning and to inspire confidence and national unity among Americans. The task is especially complicated for Trump, given the three years of divide-and-rule politics he has used to cement power, which has deepened mistrust among voters who do not support him. His upbeat, election-year tone contrasted sharply with predictions from his government experts, who are warning of possible severe disruption to American life if the outbreak swells into a pandemic.

Did Trump Fire the US Pandemic Response Team?

As a new coronavirus spread in 2020, so did concerns about the United States' preparedness for a potential pandemic.
By Bethania Palma

The Trump administration fired the U.S. pandemic response team in 2018 to cut costs. Amid warnings from public health officials that a 2020 outbreak of a new coronavirus could soon become a pandemic involving the U.S., alarmed readers asked Snopes to verify a rumor that U.S. President Donald Trump “fired the entire pandemic response team two years ago and then didn’t replace them.” The claim came from a series of tweets posted by Judd Legum, who runs Popular Information, a newsletter he describes as being about “politics and power.” The commentary is representative of sharp criticism from Democratic legislators (and some Republicans) that the Trump administration has ill-prepared the country for a pandemic, even as one is looming. Legum outlined a series of cost-cutting decisions made by the Trump administration in preceding years that gutted the nation’s infectious disease defense infrastructure. The “pandemic response team” is a reference to news stories from spring 2018 reporting that White House officials tasked with directing a national response to a pandemic had been ousted. Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer abruptly departed from his post leading the global health security team on the National Security Council in May 2018 amid a reorganization of the council by then-National Security Advisor John Bolton. Ziemer’s team was disbanded. Tom Bossert, who as The Washington Post reported, “had called for a comprehensive biodefense strategy against pandemics and biological attacks,” had been fired one month prior. It’s true that the Trump administration axed the executive branch team responsible for coordinating a response to a pandemic and did not replace it, eliminating Ziemer’s position and reassigning others, although Bolton was the executive at the top of the National Security Council chain of command at the time.

Appeals court rules Trump administration can block grants to sanctuary cities

By Ben Feuerherd

The Trump administration can block federal grant money from New York City and several states that do not give US Immigration & Customs Enforcement access to jails, an appeals court ruled Wednesday. The blow to “sanctuary cities” reversed a previous ruling that kept the federal government from withholding grant money from New York City and seven states — New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Virginia. The grant money, called the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, is doled out to local governments by the feds to assist with local law enforcement. “The case implicates several of the most divisive issues confronting our country and, consequently, filling daily news headlines: national immigration policy, the enforcement of immigration laws, the status of illegal aliens in this country, and the ability of States and localities to adopt policies on such matters contrary to, or at odds with, those of the federal government,” wrote Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Reena Raggi in the three-judge panel’s decision.

Trump in India: Anti-Muslim prime minister puts on a big show, bamboozles our president

Trump had a great time being hosted by Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi: Just another strongman yanking his chain
By Heather Digby Parton

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few days about Bernie Sanders' comment on "60 Minutes" that the authoritarian Cuban leader Fidel Castro had boosted literacy among his people. Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist so I suppose it's not surprising that this would attract some attention, but his comment really wasn't anything a standard-issue liberal wouldn't have made. In fact, the most revered Democrat in America, Barack Obama, said pretty much exactly the same thing when he moved to normalize relations with Cuba in his final years in office. Nonetheless, the subject was raised again at the presidential debate on Tuesday night when the moderators asked Sanders whether Americans could trust that a socialist would give authoritarians a free pass. I don't know whether anyone's noticed this, but Fidel Castro is dead. It's interesting that such a dull observation about literacy programs in communist countries would cause such hand-wringing when you consider that our current president's favorite global leaders are all authoritarian strongmen who are very much alive. In fact, Donald Trump was being fêted and fluffed by one of those at the very moment the press was calling for the smelling salts over Sanders' mundane comments. Trump was on a state visit to India, which he's been very excited about ever since Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to America and filled a stadium in Texas with 50,000 people, promising Trump he would deliver something even better when the president visited India. Last week, even as our entire country was riveted by the prospect of the Department of Justice and the office of the director of national intelligence being corrupted by Trump cronies and character assassins, Trump himself couldn't stop talking and tweeting about his upcoming state visit, telling the press corps on the airport tarmac that while India "treats us very badly," he likes Modi a lot. Why?

Henry Kissinger says pro-Trump quotes are ‘inventions’

By Arthur MacMillan, AFP USA

Facebook posts shared tens of thousands of times attribute flattering comments about President Donald Trump to former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger. The remarks are fabricated; his office described them as “inventions,” and there is no record that he made them. The posts -- here, here and here -- misleadingly combine false quotes with actual remarks made by Kissinger, who remains an important, if controversial, figure on foreign policy matters. The wording has been altered by different users, as has Kissinger’s age. He is 96, but some posts claim he is 95. Purportedly quoting Kissinger on Trump, one post says: “Liberals and all those who favor (Hillary) Clinton will never admit it. They will never admit that he is the one true leader." It also criticizes the presidency of Barack Obama: "After eight years of tyranny, we finally see a difference.” The post then goes to an overtly flattering quote about the US president, again attributing it to Kissinger: “Trump puts America and its people first. This is why people love him and this is why he will remain in charge for so long. There is not a single thing wrong with him and people need to open their eyes.” Some of the Facebook posts directly quote Kissinger, who served under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, though others cite the remarks as reported speech.

Congress should halt Trump's plan to upend states' medical marijuana laws

By Justin Strekal

President Trump is once again threatening to derail medical cannabis access in the majority of U.S. states that regulate its access and use. In his recently released 2021, the federal budget proposes, the president has called for ending existing federal protections that limit the federal government from interfering in the state-sanctioned regulation of medical cannabis. Doing so would place thousands of medical cannabis providers and the millions of patients who rely on them at risk for criminal prosecution. Some context: since 2014, Congress has repeatedly approved spending legislation forbidding the Justice Department from using federal funds for the explicit purpose of preventing states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia regulate the production and dispensing of medical cannabis products to over three million patients. All of these programs, and the patients served by them, would be at risk if the president gets his way. To those following this issue closely, the president ’s latest move hardly comes as a surprise. Despite Trump mentioning during his campaign that he supported medical marijuana and a general states-rights approach to cannabis policy, his presidency has consistently proven these words to ring hollow. Most recently, Marc Lotter, the director of strategic communications for Trump’s 2020 campaign, stated in an interview that the administration is intent on keeping marijuana illegal under federal law. “I think what the president is looking at is looking at this from a standpoint of a parent of a young person to make sure that we keep our kids away from drugs,” he said. “They need to be kept illegal, that is the federal policy. I think the president has been pretty clear on his views on marijuana at the federal level, I know many states have taken a different path.” Let’s be clear — the policy that the administration wants to keep in place is the same failed policy that has existed since 1970, which opines that the cannabis plant should remain classified in the same category as heroin and possesses no accepted medical value. This position doesn’t comport with either public opinion or scientific reality. The data speaks for itself. It is not an alternative fact that state-regulated medical marijuana has been proven to possess important benefits to millions of patients while not undermining public safety or health.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson criticizes Trump's attacks on Roger Stone juror

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Tuesday said attacks from President Donald Trump and commentary from conservative media are part of a campaign of intimidation and harassment of jurors in Roger Stone's criminal case. Jackson read the President's tweet attacking the Stone jury forewoman, as well as commentary from InfoWars' Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson from Fox News, to a federal courtroom, in deciding to hear testimony from jurors while protecting their identities after Stone asked for a retrial. Making jurors' identities public "would put them at substantial risk of harm," Jackson said. "In a highly publicized political climate ... the risk of harassment and intimidation of any juror" who may testify to the court today "is extremely high." "While judges may have volunteered for their positions ... jurors are not volunteers," Jackson said. "They are deserving of the public's respect." The hearing is ongoing, and at least one juror may be called to testify Tuesday afternoon in a closed courtroom. Trump has in fact tweeted about the Stone juror during the hearing. "There has rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case. Look at her background. She never revealed her hatred of "Trump" and Stone. She was totally biased, as is the judge. Roger wasn't even working on my campaign. Miscarriage of justice. Sad to watch!" the President tweeted roughly 90 minutes after the hearing began. (Stone was part of Trump's campaign in 2015, however.)

Trump Says Sotomayor, Ginsburg Should Recuse Themselves From Cases Involving Him

By Krishnadev Calamur

President Trump criticized remarks by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg as "inappropriate" and said the Supreme Court justices should recuse themselves from cases involving the president. "I just don't know how they cannot recuse themselves for anything Trump or Trump related," Trump said Tuesday in a wide-ranging news conference in New Delhi. "What Justice Sotomayor said yesterday was highly inappropriate," Trump added. "She's trying to shame people with perhaps a different view into voting her way." The remarks are an apparent reference to a recent Sotomayor dissent in which she wrote that the administration had made a habit of turning to the Supreme Court after losses in lower courts. "Claiming one emergency after another, the government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases, demanding immediate attention and consuming limited court resources in each," Sotomayor wrote. "And with each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow." She added that the Supreme Court was "partly to blame" because it "has been all too quick to grant the government's" requests. Ginsburg had previously criticized Trump before he was elected president. Earlier, Trump tweeted: "Sotomayor accuses GOP appointed Justices of being biased in favor of Trump. ... This is a terrible thing to say. Trying to 'shame' some into voting her way? She never criticized Justice Ginsberg when she called me a 'faker'. Both should recuse themselves." The visit to India offered a welcome distraction to the president who, despite his acquittal earlier this month by the U.S. Senate following his impeachment by the House of Representatives, has continued to rail against congressional Democrats. Trump has previously criticized the judge in the trial of his ally Roger Stone, prompting pushback from his attorney general, William Barr; and last week, prior to his departure, news reports said that intelligence officials had told a House panel that Russia seemed to favor Trump in the 2020 election.

Off The Record: Trump Administration Criticized For How It Keeps Documents

By Brian Naylor

The Trump administration is coming under fire for its handling of certain government records. Historians and activists charge that the White House has failed to keep notes of the president's meetings with foreign leaders, including with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and that other papers, including records of alleged abuses of undocumented immigrants, could be destroyed. Immigration activists fear that records relating to the treatment of undocumented immigrants — including detainee deaths, complaints about medical conditions and alleged sexual assault and abuse of detainees — could be destroyed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The American Immigration Council, an advocacy organization, along with three other groups last week filed Freedom of Information Act requests with ICE asking for the documents, as a way to keep them intact. Emily Creighton, the council's directing attorney for transparency, calls it "mind boggling" that some documents detailing detention conditions could be destroyed in 10, 20 or 30 years. "It's almost as though we are, you know, erasing our nation's conscience," she says. In a statement to NPR, ICE says it is following "standard government practice" for determining which documents to retain, and that the ultimate arbiter of how records are preserved is the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA.

Trump’s Efforts to Remove the Disloyal Heightens Unease Across His Administration

As senior officials are shown the door, a new personnel chief orders a search for political appointees as well as career officials deemed insufficiently supportive of the president.
By Peter Baker

WASHINGTON — In some of the most critical corners of the Trump administration, officials show up for work now never entirely sure who will be there by the end of the evening — themselves included. Even for an administration that has been a revolving door since Day 1, this has become a season of turmoil. At a moment when first-term presidents are typically seeking a stable team to focus on their re-election, President Trump has embarked on a systematic attempt to sweep out officials perceived to be disloyal. The headquarters of the nation’s intelligence apparatus roiled with the ouster of the acting director Joseph Maguire and his replacement by a sharp partisan amid a dispute over Russian election interference. The Justice Department remained on edge with whispers of further resignations, including perhaps even that of Attorney General William P. Barr, after the president’s intervention in a case involving one of his friends. Witnesses from the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump have been summarily dismissed. Dozens of policy experts have been cleared out of the National Security Council staff as part of a restructuring that will mean fewer career professionals in range of the president. A deputy national security adviser dogged by innuendo about disloyalty was exiled to the Energy Department. A Trump appointee’s nomination for a top Treasury Department post was pulled. The No. 3 official at the Defense Department was shown the door. And Johnny McEntee, a 29-year-old loyalist just installed to take over the Office of Presidential Personnel and reporting directly to Mr. Trump, has ordered a freeze on all political appointments across the government. He also convened a meeting to instruct departments to search for people not devoted to the president so they can be removed, according to people briefed about the session, and informed colleagues that he planned to tell cabinet secretaries that the White House would be choosing their deputies from now on. “Trump appears to be launching the biggest assault on the nation’s civil service system since the 1883 Pendleton Act ended the spoils system,” said Paul C. Light, a New York University professor who has studied presidential personnel. But career professionals are not the only ones in the cross hairs. Also facing scrutiny are Republican political appointees considered insufficiently committed to the president or suspected of not aggressively advancing his agenda.

Can we stop tiptoeing around the fact that Trump is behaving like a dictator?

We're slipping further into fascism as Trump indulges all his worst instincts, with the help of his toadies
by Lucian K. Truscott IV

There will come a time when we look back on this week as the moment in our history when we finally understood that we have a man as president who is acting like a fascist dictator. Just look at the headlines from one day's New York Times alone: "Alarm in Capital as Axes Swing in Growing Post-Acquittal Purge," "Justice Dept. Acts to Ease Sentence for a Trump Ally." If either one of those headlines had run on the front page of a major American newspaper before now, not to mention both of them at once, we would have believed as a people, as a citizenry, that we were facing a national crisis. But this week? Wednesday was just another day in Donald Trump's America. The day before that, in what became known as the "Tuesday night massacre," all four prosecutors in the case against Trump's longtime friend and political bad boy Roger Stone had resigned in protest of the intervention by Trump and his attorney general, William Barr, to reduce the sentence recommended by the Department of Justice in Stone's conviction for lying to congressional committees and tampering with witnesses. All of this followed closely the "Friday night massacre" of last week, when Trump fired two of the impeachment witnesses against him, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman of the National Security Council and Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union. But two "massacres" in a row was just the beginning. By mid-week, Trump was suggesting that Army officials with court-martial authority over Vindman should "take a look at" punishing him for testifying at the impeachment hearing. On Thursday, the New York Times front page trumpeted, "U.S. Lawyers Fear Removal of a Guardrail: Sone Case Stirs Worry of What's to Come." And by Friday morning, a panel of legal pundits on MSNBC were worrying about what would happen when Trump didn't merely step in to help allies like Stone but actually began prosecuting his political foes. Folks, let's not mince words: This is the kind of stuff we read about happening in dictatorships like Russia and North Korea and Iran. And yes, it's the kind of rule by strong-arm fiat that was practiced by Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. Before this week, I would have thought it an exaggeration to compare Trump's frequent rallies to the infamous Nuremberg rallies Hitler held during the1930s. No longer. Trump's rallies are unnervingly close to those held in Nuremberg. The MAGA hat has become a kind of Trumpian Nazi helmet. The denunciations of hated minorities are the same. As is his insane bellowing before a crowd screaming its slavish obeisance. Let's just stop for a moment and consider the angry chants of "Lock her up," first directed at Hillary Clinton, now at Nancy Pelosi. What do Trump's cheering crowds want his Democratic opponents locked up for? Neither of those women has faced criminal charges, much less been convicted of any crime. Neither is even under investigation for corruption or alleged criminal behavior. But that doesn't matter to Trump and his rally crowds. This stuff has been going on for so long, it's clear that they actually do want them locked up. When Trump stands before his screaming fans, raising his arms and smiling, it's obvious he does, too. To call for the imprisonment of political opponents without trial is not playing with rhetoric for effect. It's not political gimmickry. It's not cute. It's not funny. It's not clever. Let's say out loud what it is: It's pure fascism, plain and simple. The man who stands before those rallies and encourages such idolatry isn't merely running for president. He is calling, directly and without apology, for the kind of obedience and loyalty demanded by dictators. He is commanding worship and submission. It must be why he attracts so completely the support of evangelical Christians. He truly is the false idol their Bible warned them against. They have fallen for him in the same way the most conspicuously devout worshipers commit sins. The inevitability of Trump and his evangelical masses is jaw-dropping, and yes, biblical.

Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates

By Toluse Olorunnipa, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey

President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election. Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The push comes in the aftermath of an impeachment process in which several members of Trump’s administration provided damning testimony about his behavior with regard to Ukraine. The stream of officials publicly criticizing Trump’s actions frustrated the president and caused him to fixate on cleaning house after his acquittal this month. “We want bad people out of our government!” Trump tweeted Feb. 13, kicking off a tumultuous stretch of firings, resignations, controversial appointments and private skirmishes that have since spilled into public view.

The King Lear Era of Donald Trump’s Presidency

Unconstrained by the law, enabled by his staff, the unitary executive is raging.
By Dahlia Lithwick

On Thursday, President Donald Trump railed at the Oscars for awarding its highest honors to a foreign film. He then installed an acclaimed insult comic with no national intelligence experience as his acting director of national intelligence, because he prefers hearing from intelligence directors who tell him what he wants to believe as opposed to what is happening. He also indicated that when he threatens judges and jurors involved in federal criminal cases it’s OK because he has First Amendment needs that transcend the demands of rule of law. In other words, in the span of a few days, we’ve moved from unitary executive to peak Lear-wandering-on-the-heath executive. The only remaining operative question is: Who will be rewarded for loving the king as much as the king demands? The American constitutional order is comprised of two camps in this moment: the president’s enemies and the president’s staffers. Having asserted this week that he is the “chief law enforcement officer of the United States,” and having previously concluded that the Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want,” the president has carved the world into the only two categories he comprehends: his interchangeable fixers and his mortal enemies. Attorney General Bill Barr, who auditioned for his position by offering himself up specifically as a fixer, has tried as valiantly as possible to get the president to stop tweeting about ongoing criminal matters. He even said he might quit if the president didn’t stop treating him like the president’s pool boy. Needless to say, he didn’t quit, and is, as a formal matter now, the president’s pool boy. It would demand a smaller ego for Donald Trump to recognize that he was already a pawn in 2016 and is still a useful pawn in 2020. Even when they depart, nobody ever stops being on the president’s roster of lifelong staffers. Not Don McGahn, not John Bolton, not John Kelly, and not Hope Hicks. Some of them leave the White House and then some drift back to the White House, emptying ashtrays and hampering attempts at obstruction, but they’re forever on staff, lashed to the president by way of elaborate (unenforceable) NDAs, or legal claims of absolute privilege, or by their own paradoxical beliefs that they are not in fact essential to the plot, but also that you should definitely preorder their book about the experience on Amazon.

Trump Calls Warning of Russian 2020 Meddling a Democratic ‘Hoax’

The president said the intelligence finding that Russia was again meddling in a coming presidential election in his favor was a partisan “misinformation campaign.”
By Katie Rogers

LAS VEGAS — President Trump said Friday that a disclosure by American intelligence officials that Russia was again meddling in a presidential election in his favor was merely another partisan campaign against him, dismissing the warning as a hoax cooked up by rivals. “Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress saying that Russia prefers me to any of the Do Nothing Democrat candidates who still have been unable to, after two weeks, count their votes in Iowa,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Hoax number 7!” The intelligence assessment, delivered last Thursday to lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, determined that Russia is planning to interfere in the 2020 primaries as well as the general election. But the way it was delivered angered some Republicans, and the attendance of Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the committee who led the impeachment proceedings, particularly angered Mr. Trump. The president’s decision to remove Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, and install Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and a fervent loyalist, was also seen as a direct outcome of the briefing. On Thursday evening, Mr. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, an ally and a vocal opponent of impeachment, was one of the candidates under consideration as a permanent successor. By Friday morning, Mr. Collins said he was not interested. “This is not a job that interests me; at this time, it’s not one that I would accept because I’m running a Senate race down here in Georgia,” Mr. Collins said in an interview on Fox News. Mr. Trump has a long history of discarding assessments made by intelligence agencies that he has deemed unfair or unflattering. Multiple intelligence groups have determined that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and, before the 2018 midterms, delivered warnings that Russia was prepared to do it again. Early in his presidency, Mr. Trump grudgingly accepted those assessments before falling back on personal assurances from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “He said he didn’t meddle,” Mr. Trump said in November 2017. “I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.” Since then, Mr. Trump, with the assistance of his Justice Department, has moved to retaliate against the intelligence community rather than Mr. Putin: A federal prosecutor is scrutinizing how the intelligence officials assessed Russia’s 2016 election interference, targeting the former C.I.A. director John O. Brennan in particular. - It is not a hoax Russia is meddling again. What is Trump trying to hide?

CBS This Morning

President Trump was furious that Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of national intelligence, allowed one of his subordinates to tell House lawmakers that Russia appears to favor him in the 2020 election. Democrats are now calling for additional hearings, while Republicans are questioning the evidence presented, Paula Reid reports. - It is not a hoax Russia is meddling again. What is Trump trying to hide?

Why Putin would want Trump to win in 2020

Analysis by Nathan Hodge, CNN

Moscow (CNN) It's a familiar plot line: Top intelligence officials deliver a warning to lawmakers that Russia wants to interfere in the upcoming presidential election -- and that the Kremlin's preferred outcome is a win by President Donald Trump. But Russiagate 2 may not be a straightforward sequel for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Why would Putin want to put his finger on the scales of American democracy again? For starters, it's not clear that the Trump presidency has been a consistent foreign-policy win for Russia. The Trump administration delivered lethal aid to Ukraine, which is locked in a proxy war with Russian-backed separatists. Washington is at odds with Moscow in a range of foreign-policy crises, from the conflict in Syria to political turmoil in Venezuela. And Trump withdrew the US from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a move that drew condemnation from the Kremlin. Russia continues to bear the costs of confronting Washington. The Treasury Department under Trump has continued to aggressively sanction Russia for its election meddling in 2016 and the occupation of Crimea in 2014. And the US joined with its allies in booting out dozens of Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom. It's worth remembering two things, however. In 2016, Russia had to contend with the prospect that Hillary Clinton would win the White House, not Donald Trump -- something of major concern for the Kremlin. And regardless of how frosty relations between Moscow and Washington may be, Trump still appears to have a warm spot in his heart for Putin. Putin's animus toward Clinton was a matter of public record. In 2011, then-Prime Minister Putin blamed the United States -- and then-Secretary of State Clinton -- for stirring up anti-government protests that followed allegations of widespread fraud in parliamentary elections. Clinton's general hawkishness on Russia also riled the Kremlin. Candidate Trump, by contrast, was an open admirer of Putin, even publicly expressing the hope on Twitter that the Kremlin leader would become his "new best friend." That pattern has not changed during Trump's presidency. Most famously, Trump suggested at the Helsinki summit in 2018 that he valued Putin's statements about election interference above that of his own intelligence officials. "I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today," Trump said during a joint news conference with Putin.

Students Push Back Against Melania Trump Being Awarded Florida University 'Woman of Distinction' Honor

By Jeffery Martin

First lady Melania Trump received a "Woman of Distinction" award on Wednesday from Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) in Florida, despite concerns from some residents that she was undeserving of the honor. As the award is typically given at the Women of Distinction luncheon to Palm Beach residents who have greatly contributed to the community, some locals have faulted the nominating committee's decision-making process because Trump and her husband, President Donald Trump, have only been official Palm Beach residents since September 2019. "Our first lady is an exquisite human being, a magnificent wife and life partner, a superb mother and an outstanding first lady, who represents us brilliantly in the United States and worldwide," said event co-chairwoman Eileen Burns in January. "Melania is a perfect example of a Woman of Distinction and we are most proud to honor her." Some critics of the first lady voiced their disapproval. "This award has historically gone to women whose character and impact in Palm Beach have shaped the culture of our home," PBAU senior Graysen Boehning told The Hill, "and I have not been convinced that the first lady's character or impact here is worthy of that recognition." "While many students were excited that the school was bringing in the first lady of the United States to speak," Boehning continued, "others felt that her character was not representative of the community of love for people of all backgrounds and beliefs that PBA houses and fosters." "Why would a woman of no achievements have been selected?" wrote Carol Bodeen in a February letter to the editor of The Palm Beach Post. "We seldom hear from her or see her other than attending state affairs or exiting Air Force One with the president."

Russia Is Meddling to Re-elect Trump

A classified briefing to House members is said to have angered the president, who complained that Democrats would “weaponize” the disclosure.
By Adam Goldman, Julian E. Barnes, Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos

WASHINGTON — Intelligence officials warned House lawmakers last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 campaign to try to get President Trump re-elected, five people familiar with the matter said, a disclosure to Congress that angered Mr. Trump, who complained that Democrats would use it against him. The day after the Feb. 13 briefing to lawmakers, the president berated Joseph Maguire, the outgoing acting director of national intelligence, for allowing it to take place, people familiar with the exchange said. Mr. Trump was particularly irritated that Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the leader of the impeachment proceedings, was at the briefing. During the briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Trump’s allies challenged the conclusions, arguing that he had been tough on Russia and that he had strengthened European security. Some intelligence officials viewed the briefing as a tactical error, saying the conclusions could have been delivered in a less pointed manner or left out entirely to avoid angering Republicans. The intelligence official who delivered the briefing, Shelby Pierson, is an aide to Mr. Maguire and has a reputation for speaking bluntly. Though intelligence officials have previously told lawmakers that Russia’s interference campaign was continuing, last week’s briefing included what appeared to be new information: that Russia intended to interfere with the 2020 Democratic primaries as well as the general election. On Wednesday, the president announced that he was replacing Mr. Maguire with Richard Grenell, the ambassador to Germany and an aggressively vocal Trump supporter. And though some current and former officials speculated that the briefing might have played a role in that move, two administration officials said the timing was coincidental. Mr. Grenell had been in discussions with the administration about taking on new roles, they said, and Mr. Trump had never felt a kinship with Mr. Maguire.

NSC aide who worked to discredit Russia probe moves to senior ODNI post

Kash Patel, a former acolyte of Rep. Devin Nunes, is now a top adviser in the Office of National Intelligence.

Kash Patel, a former top National Security Council official who also played a key role as a Hill staffer in helping Republicans discredit the Russia probe, is now a senior adviser for new acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, according to four people familiar with the matter. It’s not clear what exact role Patel is playing in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the U.S. intelligence community. He started at ODNI on Thursday, according to an administration official. Patel, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, joined the National Security Council’s International Organizations and Alliances directorate last February and was promoted to a senior counterterrorism role at the NSC in mid-summer. He had previously worked as Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)’s top staffer on the House Intelligence Committee and was the lead author of a report questioning the conduct of FBI and DOJ officials investigating Russia’s election interference. Republicans later used the report to bolster arguments that the probe was a plot to take down President Donald Trump. Grenell, who has not served in any U.S. intelligence agency and will also continue as the U.S. ambassador to Germany, will not require Senate confirmation to serve as acting director. Nor will Patel in his new role.

Top NSC official reassigned as White House rejects rumors she wrote 'Anonymous'

By Kylie Atwood, Zachary Cohen and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

Washington (CNN) Deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates is leaving the National Security Council and going to the Energy Department, according to a statement released by the council on Thursday. The reassignment comes as rumors have been circulating that Coates was the anonymous administration official who wrote an op-ed in The New York Times in 2018 and published a book last November titled: "A Warning" by Anonymous. A senior administration official rejected those rumors Thursday and said that Coates' move has been in the works for some time. "The White House leadership rejects rumors that have circulated recently and does not put any stock in the suggestion that Victoria Coates is the author of Anonymous: A Warning or the related Op-Ed in the New York Times," the senior official said.

By Kristine Phillips, Kevin Johnson, Nicholas Wu USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in prison, a punishment that is likely to fuel criticism from the president and speculation that he'll pardon the flamboyant GOP operative. Though less than what prosecutors originally asked for, the sentence marks a stunning downfall for the longtime political consultant who has advised presidential campaigns stretching back to Richard Nixon. The 67-year-old was found guilty in November of repeatedly lying to the House Intelligence Committee and obstructing its investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential race. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone "took it upon himself to lie, to impede, to obstruct before the investigation was complete, in an endeavor to influence the result." She continued: "The truth still exists, the truth still matters. Roger Stone insisted that it doesn’t." Stone stood expressionless next to his three defense attorneys. Jackson also sentenced Stone to two years of probation and ordered him to pay $20,000 in fines. Stone, wearing a dark pinstripe suit and blue tie, smiled briefly as he exited the courtroom. He declined to respond to questions shouted by a gauntlet of reporters.

Trump tweets clip of Tucker Carlson urging Roger Stone pardon

By Mark Moore

President Trump on Thursday tweeted a clip of a Fox News host calling on him to pardon longtime ally Roger Stone. “Trump could end this travesty in an instant with a pardon and there are indications tonight that he will do that,” the clip showed Tucker Carlson saying Wednesday night. “Democrats will become unhinged if Trump pardons Stone, but they’re unhinged anyway,” Carlson added. Trump did not add any commentary in the posting. Stone, the 67-year-old self-described dirty trickster who was convicted last November of lying to Congress about the Russia collusion investigation and witness intimidation, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in federal court in Washington, DC. Carlson called US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a President Barack Obama appointee who will sentence Stone, an “open Democratic partisan.” “What has happened to Roger Stone should never happen to anyone in this country of any political party,” Carlson said. “It’s completely immoral, it’s wrong. Fixing it is the right thing to do.” The president on Tuesday granted pardons and commuted the sentences of 11 people, including former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik, financier Michael Milken and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Trump signs order diverting water to California farmers against state wishes

By Rebecca Beitsch

President Trump on Wednesday signed an order in California to re-engineer the state’s water plans, completing a campaign promise to funnel water from the north to a thirsty agriculture industry and growing population further south. The ceremonial order comes after the Department of the Interior late last year reversed its opinion on scientific findings that for a decade extended endangered species protections to various types of fish — a review that had been spurred by the order from Trump. Trump said the changes to the “outdated scientific research and biological opinions” would now help direct “as much water as possible, which will be a magnificent amount, a massive amount of water for the use of California farmers and ranchers.” “A major obstacle to providing water for the region's farmers has now been totally eliminated by the federal government,” Trump said Wednesday in Bakersfield, Calif., flanked by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as well as Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who helped shepherd the changes to the state’s water policy. Trump's order comes as the state has taken several steps to deal with the water scarcity that has lasted for decades. "It would be different if you had a drought," Trump claimed, despite concerns the state may be headed into another drought. "You don't have a drought. You have tremendous amounts of water." The state is expected to fight the order. “California won’t allow the Trump Administration to destroy and deplete our natural resources,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said in a statement after the speech. “We’re prepared to challenge the Trump Administration’s harmful attack on our state’s critical ecosystems and environment.” Critics fear the new plan, which would allow large quantities of water to be diverted from the San Francisco Bay Delta to the Central Valley in order to irrigate farmland, would ultimately harm chinook salmon and the delta smelt, a finger-sized fish that for three decades has stood in the way of the diversion. Trump in October 2018 had ordered Interior to reconsider the scientific evidence that helped bar redistribution of the state’s water. In October of last year, Interior released a new biological opinion limiting the longtime protections for the fish.

Trump’s words, bullied kids, scarred schools

The president’s rhetoric has changed the way hundreds of children are harassed in American classrooms, The Post found
By Hannah Natanson, John Woodrow Cox and Perry Stein Feb. 13, 2020

Two kindergartners in Utah told a Latino boy that President Trump would send him back to Mexico, and teenagers in Maine sneered "Ban Muslims" at a classmate wearing a hijab. In Tennessee, a group of middle-schoolers linked arms, imitating the president's proposed border wall as they refused to let nonwhite students pass. In Ohio, another group of middle-schoolers surrounded a mixed-race sixth-grader and, as she confided to her mother, told the girl: "This is Trump country." Since Trump's rise to the nation’s highest office, his inflammatory language — often condemned as racist and xenophobic — has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as 6 mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them. Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, a Washington Post review of 28,000 news stories found. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black or Muslim, according to the analysis. Students have also been victimized because they support the president — more than 45 times during the same period. Although many hateful episodes garnered coverage just after the election, The Post found that Trump-connected persecution of children has never stopped. Even without the huge total from November 2016, an average of nearly two incidents per school week have been publicly reported over the past four years. Still, because so much of the bullying never appears in the news, The Post’s figure represents a small fraction of the actual total. It also doesn’t include the thousands of slurs, swastikas and racial epithets that aren’t directly linked to Trump but that the president’s detractors argue his behavior has exacerbated. “It’s gotten way worse since Trump got elected,” said Ashanty Bonilla, 17, a Mexican American high school junior in Idaho who faced so much ridicule from classmates last year that she transferred. “They hear it. They think it’s okay. The president says it. . . . Why can’t they?”

Obama’s 2016 Warning: Trump Is a ‘Fascist’

The newly revealed comment is one of the former president’s strongest known critiques of his successor.
By Edward-Isaac Dovere

Barack Obama’s private assessment of Donald Trump: He’s a fascist. That is, at least, according to Tim Kaine, the Democratic senator from Virginia and a friend of the former president. In a video clip from October 2016, Kaine is seen relaying Obama’s comment to Hillary Clinton. The footage is part of the new Hulu documentary Hillary, which was obtained by The Atlantic ahead of its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival today. “President Obama called me last night and said, ‘Tim, this is no time to be a purist,’” Kaine tells his then–running mate. “‘You’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House.’” Clinton replies: “I echo that sentiment.” A representative for Obama declined to comment on the conversation. A representative for Kaine did not respond to requests for comment. In an interview at Sundance today with Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor in chief, Clinton elaborated on her exchange with Kaine. “If you look at the definition [of fascist], which I’ve had the occasion to read several times,” Clinton said, “I think we can agree on several things: One, he has authoritarian tendencies and he admires authoritarian leaders, [Vladimir] Putin being his favorite. He uses a form of really virulent nationalism. He identifies targets: immigrants, blacks, browns, gays, women, whoever the target of the day or week is … I think you see a lot of the characteristics of what we think of [as] nationalistic, fascistic kinds of tendencies and behaviors.”

'I've never sent hush money': Buttigieg hits back at Trump and Limbaugh

Democratic presidential candidate made remark after recent homophobic comments from conservative radio host
By Oliver Milman in New York

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has again taken aim at Donald Trump over the issue of “family values” by pointing out that his marriage has never involved him paying “hush money to a porn star”.Buttigieg, who came out as gay in 2015 and married his husband, Chasten, in 2018, has been the subject of recent homophobic comments by Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host, who told his listeners were “still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president”. Limbaugh, who was controversially given the presidential medal of freedom by Trump, said the US president told him to “never apologize” for his comments. Asked during a CNN town hall in Las Vegas whether he believed Trump would not be opposed to a president coming from the LGBTQ+ community, Buttigieg said: “Well, not if he’s sending out his supporters to talk in this way. “And, look, I mean, the idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values,” the Democratic presidential nominee said to applause. Buttigieg then made a pointed reference to the money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels by Trump via his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. “I mean, I’m sorry, but one thing about my marriage is it’s never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse with him or her,” he said. “So they want to debate family values? Let’s debate family values. I’m ready.”

Trump Offered Assange Pardon if He Covered Up Russian Hack, WikiLeaks Founder’s Lawyer Claims

Lawyers acting for the WikiLeaks founder said Dana Rohrabacher, a former Republican congressman, had brought the message to London from Trump.
By Nico Hines London Editor

LONDON—A lawyer for Julian Assange has claimed in court that President Trump offered to pardon Assange if the WikiLeaks founder agreed to help cover up Russia’s involvement in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee. Assange’s lawyers said on Wednesday that former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher offered Assange the deal in 2017, a year after emails that damaged Hillary Clinton in the presidential race had been published. WikiLeaks posted the stolen DNC emails after they were hacked by Russian operatives. The claim that Rohrabacher acted as an emissary for the White House came during a pre-extradition hearing in London. Assange has argued that he should not be extradited to the U.S. because the American case against him is politically motivated. He spent almost seven years hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in Central London claiming that he would be jailed in the U.S. if he wasn’t granted asylum. He was kicked out of the embassy last year. His lawyers told the court that Trump’s alleged offer to pardon Assange proved that this was no ordinary criminal investigation. Edward Fitzgerald, who was representing Assange in court, said he had evidence that a quid pro quo was put to Assange by Rohrabacher, who was known as Putin’s favorite congressman. Fitzgerald said a statement produced by Assange’s personal lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, included a description of “Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange... said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.” District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who is presiding over the pre-trial hearing in Westminster Magistrates’ Court, said the allegation would be admissible during the extradition hearing, which is due to begin next week.

Trump tweets Justice Department criticism despite Attorney General Barr’s threat to quit

By Dan Mangan

Your move, Mr. Attorney General. President Donald Trump on Wednesday retweeted claims that he is “the victim” of a Justice Department conspiracy, hours after reports that the department’s chief official has threatened to quit if the president continues such criticism. A tweet Trump promoted to his nearly 73 million followers also said that Attorney General William “Barr should clean house” at the Justice Department — and argued that Trump “can also appoint a special counsel directly” to investigate the purported conspiracy against him. That tweet was first posted by Tom Fitton, president of the right-wing advocacy group Judicial Watch, and included a link to a more than eight-minute-long appearance by Fitton on Fox News. Trump soon afterward retweeted another post by Fitton, who said Judicial Watch is “doing the heavy lifting exposing the worst corruption scandal in American history.” That post referenced so-called astonishing emails that show former Justice Department official Rod Rosenstein “had many Obama/Clinton and media friends” supporting him when he “infamously appointed” former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel. Trump’s retweets Wednesday morning came after reports on Tuesday night that Barr — who is the head of the Justice Department — has told people close to the president that he might resign if Trump does not stop making public comments about cases lodged by federal prosecutors who report to the attorney general.

Top Pentagon policy official who warned against withholding Ukraine aid resigns at Trump's request

By Jim Sciutto, Barbara Starr and Zachary Cohen, CNN

Washington (CNN) The Pentagon's top policy official who warned against withholding military aid to Ukraine last year resigned on Wednesday at the request of President Donald Trump, according to a copy of his resignation letter obtained by CNN. John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the Pentagon, is the latest senior national security official involved in the Ukraine controversy to be forced out following Trump's acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial. but sources told CNN that he broke with the administration on several issues, in addition to the handling of aid to Ukraine, leading to a loss of support from leadership. "It is my understanding from Secretary Esper that you requested my resignation from serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Senior administration officials appointed by the President serve at the pleasure of the President, and therefore, as you have requested, I am providing my resignation effective February 28, 2020," Rood wrote in his letter to President Donald Trump, dated Wednesday. CNN was first to report Rood's impending departure which was confirmed by Trump in a tweet Wednesday. "I would like to thank John Rood for his service to our Country, and wish him well in his future endeavors!" Trump wrote, also sharing a story from Bloomberg News which indicated that Rood "faced pressure to resign from some who lost confidence in his ability to carry out Trump agenda." Defense Department press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement that "Dr. James Anderson, the current senior official Performing the Duties of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy will take over the responsibilities of Undersecretary Rood until a permanent replacement is appointed by the President and confirmed."

Not just Ukraine
Officials tell CNN that Rood has differed with the administration on a number of issues including Afghanistan and Ukraine. Officials have said Rood often was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted. One official said some examples of Rood's differing views from some of Trump's key policy stances included being skeptical about peace talks with the Taliban as well as the administration decision to scale down military exercises with South Korea during talks with North Korea and him pushing for a more aggressive approach to Russia by supporting Ukraine. Rood is the Pentagon's top policy official and oversees aspects of the Pentagon's relationship with US allies and partners. He was involved in certifying to Congress that Ukraine had embarked on significant reforms to justify its receipt of $250 million in security assistance.

Trump commutes Blagojevich's sentence and grants clemency to 10 others

By Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump wielded his powers of clemency Tuesday for convicted white-collar criminals and the former Illinois governor accused of attempting to sell a US senate seat. The wave of pardons and commutations, some of which Trump has been considering for years, came amid a post-impeachment flurry of presidential prerogative, from ridding his team of aides he deemed disloyal to flagrantly inserting himself into Justice Department matters. Trump announced midday he had commuted the prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who has served eight years of a 14-year sentence for the pay-for-play charges. Trump had been weighing the move since at least since 2018. "He served eight years in jail, a long time. He seems like a very nice person, don't know him," Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews, suggesting the television appeals of Blagojevich's wife Patti helped cement his decision. Trump also announced pardons for former New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik, convicted of tax fraud and lying to officials; Mike Milken, an investment banker known as the "Junk Bond King" who was convicted of felony charges that included securities fraud and conspiracy; and Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers who pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to report a felony in a bribery case. In total, Trump granted clemency to 11 convicted criminals on Tuesday. The moves furthered the impression of a President unbound after the Senate acquitted him following impeachment charges he abused his power. Aides had worked to convince Trump against reducing Blagojevich's sentence, believing it would play poorly. And Republican members of Congress lobbied Trump to drop the idea. But aides say Trump feels newly emboldened after the Senate acquittal, and the steps he announced on Tuesday were long in the works. Trump publicly hinted he would use his clemency powers for Blagojevich, a Democrat, in August. But he faced sharp blowback from some conservative members of Congress, including from Illinois, as well as from some White House advisers who said it would undercut a message of draining Washington's swamp. On Tuesday, Trump linked Blagojevich's prosecution to a longtime foe, former FBI Director James Comey, a close friend of former US attorney in Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald, who led the prosecution against Blagojevich. "It was a prosecution by the same people -- Comey, Fitzpatrick -- the same group," Trump said, misstating the Illinois US attorney's surname. Trump has raged over the past week at what he says are prosecutors run amok, including in the case involving his friend Roger Stone, who is due to be sentenced this week.

‘We Knew They Had Cooked the Books’

The Trump administration’s attempt to kill one of America’s strongest climate policies has been a complete debacle.
by Robinson Meyer

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—On a drizzly day in January 2018, Jeff Alson, an engineer at the Environmental Protection Agency’s motor-vehicles office, gathered with his colleagues to make a video call to Washington, D.C. They had made the same call dozens of times before. For nearly a decade, the EPA team had worked closely with another group of engineers in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, pronounced nits-uh) to write the federal tailpipe-pollution standards, one of the most consequential climate protections in American history. The two teams had done virtually all the technical research—testing engines in a lab, interviewing scientists and automakers, and overseeing complex economic simulations—underpinning the rules, which have applied to every new car and light truck, including SUVs and vans, sold in the United States since 2012. Their collaboration was historic. Even as SUVs, crossovers, and pickups have gobbled up the new-car market, the rules have pushed the average fuel economy—the distance a vehicle can travel per gallon of gas—to record highs. They have saved Americans $500 billion at the pump, according to the nonpartisan Consumer Federation of America, and kept hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution out of the air. So as the call connected, Alson and the other EPA engineers thought it was time to get back to work. Donald Trump had recently ordered a review of the rules. Speaking from Washington, James Tamm, the NHTSA fuel-economy chief, greeted the EPA team, then put a spreadsheet on-screen. It showed an analysis of the tailpipe rules’ estimated costs and benefits. Alson had worked on this kind of study so many times that he could recall some of the key numbers “by heart,” he later told me. Yet as Alson looked closer, he realized that this study was like none he had seen before. For years, both NHTSA and the EPA had found that the tailpipe rules saved lives during car accidents because they reduced the weight—and, with it, the lethality—of the heaviest SUVs. In 2015, an outside panel of experts concurred with them. But this new study asserted the opposite: The Obama-era rules, it claimed, killed almost 1,000 people a year. “Oh my God,” Alson said upon seeing the numbers. The other EPA engineers in the room gasped and started to point out other shocking claims on Tamm’s slide. (Their line was muted.) It seemed as if every estimated cost had ballooned, while every estimated benefit had shrunk. Something in the study had gone deeply wrong.

Trump Pardon's Ex-San Francisco 49ers Owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. in Corruption Scandal

QuickTake by Bloomberg

President Donald Trump has pardoned Edward DeBartolo Jr., the former San Francisco 49ers owner convicted in a gambling fraud scandal. DeBartolo Jr., who built the San Francisco 49ers’ 1980s-’90s dynasty, was involved in one of the biggest owners’ scandals in the sport’s history. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony when he paid $400,000 to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards in exchange for a riverboat gambling license. The White House announced the surprise decision to reporters on Tuesday, along with NFL greats Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley.

Federal judges' association calls emergency meeting after DOJ intervenes in case of Trump ally Roger Stone

By Kevin Johnson USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – A national association of federal judges has called an emergency meeting Tuesday to address growing concerns about the intervention of Justice Department officials and President Donald Trump in politically sensitive cases, the group’s president said Monday. Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, who heads the independent Federal Judges Association, said the group “could not wait” until its spring conference to weigh in on a deepening crisis that has enveloped the Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr. “There are plenty of issues that we are concerned about,” Rufe told USA TODAY. “We’ll talk all of this through.” Rufe, nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush, said the group of more than 1,000 federal jurists called for the meeting last week after Trump criticized prosecutors' initial sentencing recommendation for his friend Roger Stone and the Department of Justice overruled them. Trump also took a swipe at the federal judge who is set to preside at Stone’s sentencing hearing Thursday. “Is this the judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something not even mobster Al Capone had to endure?” Trump tweeted last week, referring to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. “How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!" Jackson jailed Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, prior to his convictions in two separate financial fraud cases after he sought to tamper with potential witnesses. Rufe said the judges' association is “not inclined to get involved with an ongoing case,” but she voiced strong support for Jackson. “I am not concerned with how a particular judge will rule,” Rufe said, praising Jackson's reputation. “We are supportive of any federal judge who does what is required.” The unusual concern voiced by the judges’ group comes in the wake of an equally unusual protest. More than 2,000 former Justice Department officials called on Barr to resign Sunday, claiming his handling of the Stone case "openly and repeatedly flouted" the principle of equal justice.  

Bill Barr Must Resign

The attorney general is working to destroy the integrity and independence of the Justice Department, in order to make Donald Trump a president who can operate above the law.
By Donald Ayer

When Donald Trump chose Bill Barr to serve as attorney general in December 2018, even some moderates and liberals greeted the choice with optimism. One exuberant Democrat described him as “an excellent choice,” who could be counted on to “stand up for the department’s institutional prerogatives and … push back on any improper attempt to inject politics into its work.” At the end of his first year of service, Barr’s conduct has shown that such expectations were misplaced. Beginning in March with his public whitewashing of Robert Mueller’s report, which included powerful evidence of repeated obstruction of justice by the president, Barr has appeared to function much more as the president’s personal advocate than as an attorney general serving the people and government of the United States. Among the most widely reported and disturbing events have been Barr’s statements that a judicially authorized FBI investigation amounted to “spying” on the Trump campaign, and his public rejection in December of the inspector general’s considered conclusion that the Russia probe was properly initiated and overseen in an unbiased manner. Also quite unsettling was Trump’s explicit mention of Barr and Rudy Giuliani in the same breath in his July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, as individuals the Ukrainian president should speak with regarding the phony investigation that Ukraine was expected to publicly announce. When Donald Trump chose Bill Barr to serve as attorney general in December 2018, even some moderates and liberals greeted the choice with optimism. One exuberant Democrat described him as “an excellent choice,” who could be counted on to “stand up for the department’s institutional prerogatives and … push back on any improper attempt to inject politics into its work.” At the end of his first year of service, Barr’s conduct has shown that such expectations were misplaced. Beginning in March with his public whitewashing of Robert Mueller’s report, which included powerful evidence of repeated obstruction of justice by the president, Barr has appeared to function much more as the president’s personal advocate than as an attorney general serving the people and government of the United States. Among the most widely reported and disturbing events have been Barr’s statements that a judicially authorized FBI investigation amounted to “spying” on the Trump campaign, and his public rejection in December of the inspector general’s considered conclusion that the Russia probe was properly initiated and overseen in an unbiased manner. Also quite unsettling was Trump’s explicit mention of Barr and Rudy Giuliani in the same breath in his July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, as individuals the Ukrainian president should speak with regarding the phony investigation that Ukraine was expected to publicly announce.

With DOJ's intervention in Roger Stone case, William Barr cements his role as Trump's defender-in-chief

By Kevin Johnson, Kristine Phillips, Dennis Wagner USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – With the end of the Russia investigation looming, William Barr went to Capitol Hill soon after taking office to assure anxious lawmakers he was fully engaged in “landing the plane” for the public rollout of Robert Mueller’s explosive 22-month inquiry. Barr’s ultimate intervention unleashed a political firestorm: He concluded in part that there was insufficient evidence to charge President Donald Trump with obstruction of justice. It was only the beginning. A year after his confirmation Feb. 14, 2019, Barr and his Justice Department have embraced the mantle of Trump’s defender-in-chief even if it risks sacrificing the department’s long-prized independence, former Justice officials and legal analysts said. His agency's decision to back away from a stiff prison sentence recommended for Trump confidant Roger Stone has brought fresh recriminations. Democrats have called for an investigation, and Barr has been summoned back to Capitol Hill to explain himself. From the White House, however, there was the requisite, warm acknowledgement from an appreciative president. Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought," Trump tweeted Wednesday, a day after four federal prosecutors assigned to Stone's case withdrew from the case in apparent protest. Indeed, Barr has stepped into the breach at virtually every opportunity to guide Trump to safe harbor and offer a muscular defense of the president's authority. The attorney general helped shield the president from the most damning of Mueller's findings. Barr's public summary of Mueller’s findings led the special counsel to complain that his report had been mischaracterized. Last spring, Barr startled lawmakers by declaring that federal authorities had spied on the president's campaign. Then he announced a new investigation into the origins of Mueller's inquiry. In August, the Justice Department delayed Congress from receiving a whistleblower's complaint about Trump's dealings with Ukraine. And in a stinging address in November before the Federalist Society, Barr endorsed a sweeping view of presidential authority and cast the myriad investigations that have shadowed his boss as "sabotage." Earlier this week, analysts said, the attorney general may have taken his most provocative step yet when top Justice Department officials backtracked on prosecutors' recommended sentence for Stone.

More than 2,000 former DOJ officials call on Attorney General William Barr to resign

Last week Barr told ABC News, Trump's tweets make doing his job "impossible."
By Luke Barr

More than 2,000 former Department of Justice officials are calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign, according to the group Protect Democracy. "Political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department's core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law," according to the group, which has been critical of the administration in the past. The nonpartisan, nonprofit group said that the attorney general has "flouted" that fundamental principal. The former DOJ officials said it is "outrageous" the way Barr interfered in the Roger Stone case. "Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, it is unheard of for the Department's top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case," they wrote.

'No One' at the State Department Believed Trump Conspiracy Theory About Ukraine Election Meddling, Bill Taylor Says

By David Brennan

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor has said that no officials at the State Department ever seriously considered conspiracy theories alleging that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential elections to undermine President Donald Trump. Taylor—who appeared as a witness during the House impeachment investigation into the president—told CBS News' 60 Minutes program he saw no merit in the conspiracy theory, which has been propagated by the president and his allies. In the interview, broadcast Sunday, Taylor told correspondent Scott Pelley he was frustrated by Trump's parallel Ukraine policy, in which top advisers worked to bolster the president's political fortunes. The president's attorney Rudy Giuliani was at the forefront of this effort, as he tried to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and find evidence that the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee was directed from Ukraine and blamed on Russia. The theory alleges that the DNC then gave a key server that might contain evidence to Ukrainian company CrowdStrike. The theory has been debunked, but this has not stopped the president peddling the allegations. Taylor told CBS News that no one at the State Department was told to investigate whether there was a DNC server in Ukraine because "no one took it seriously." Asked if this was something that anyone at the embassy in Kiev was concerned about, Taylor replied, "No." Newsweek has contacted the State Department to request comment on Taylor's remarks. Taylor headed up the U.S. embassy in Ukraine while Trump froze hundreds of millions of military aid earmarked to the country. The president was allegedly trying to extort the new government led by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into announcing an investigation into Biden. Trump and his allies accuse Biden and his son Hunter of corruption, related to Hunter's position on the board of the Burisma natural gas company during President Barack Obama's tenure. During his House testimony, Taylor warned that Trump's conduct damaged U.S. and Ukrainian national security, and undermined Kiev's fight against Russian-backed separatist militias in the east of the country. Taylor told Pelley, "Ukraine's security is important to our security and the reason I believe that is that Ukraine is on the front line." He explained that Russia is waging "a hybrid war against Ukraine, but it's not just about Ukraine, they are fighting a hybrid war against Europe and against the United States."

The world is bracing for what another four years of Trump could look like

Analysis by Nic Robertson, International Diplomatic Editor, CNN

Munich, Germany (CNN) What will a second Donald Trump presidential term look like -- if it happens? That was the thought in many delegates' minds as they gathered over the weekend in the southern German city of Munich for a security conference. The official theme at the conference was "Westlessness," an intentional gripe at the impact of Trump's isolationist, America First policies. But what emerged at the event, attended by hundreds of world leaders and their top officials, was a soft-focus vision of the next four years if Trump wins reelection. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was a key speaker in Munich. Leaving Washington for Europe at the beginning of the week, one of his senior officials framed his mission to the MSC as, "China, China, China, Russia, China." He wasn't the only American official bringing that message. Attacking Trump has become something of a hobby at this annual Bavarian gathering. It is symptomatic of how many in Europe feel that America, and Trump in particular, is withdrawing from the post-World War II world order it built, leaving more than half a billion people this side of the Atlantic, and countless more around the planet without the deep pockets and security backing they have come to rely on. Germany in particular has drawn Trump's ire. Since his presidency began, the MSC has become a diplomatic skirmish and precursor to tougher battles to come. Only last year, host Chancellor Angela Merkel clashed with US Vice President Mike Pence over NATO, Iran and gas from Russia. This year's premise -- the West is weakening -- is an extension of those festering transatlantic differences. The working assumption here is that Trump is to blame for the loss of core values. Not for the first time in his two-year tenure as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo defended his boss. During his speech, which came shortly before Esper's on Saturday morning, Pompeo told the MSC audience of ministers and policy experts, "those statements don't reflect reality," he said. "I'm happy to report that the death of the transatlantic alliance is grossly exaggerated. The West is winning, and we're winning together." Doing it together emerged as another one of America's messages in Munich, but what has needed little communicating and where there was almost no argument is that Trump's world vision has traction and will continue. Few Westlessness believers doubt he will win a second term.

New round of Trump budget cuts could force more Californians into homelessness, advocates say

By David Lightman and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks

The Trump administration is proposing a cut in homeless assistance funding next year, frustrating advocates who say the crisis in Sacramento and other cities is worsening. The White House budget plan for fiscal 2021, which begins Oct. 1, proposes $2.773 billion for homeless assistance grants, slightly less than the current year. The administration also wants to cut funding for affordable housing programs as well as Community Development Block Grants, which help revive and improve neighborhoods. It’s part of a $4.8 trillion budget blueprint for the entire government includes deep cuts in environmental, health, education and housing programs. The Housing and Urban Development budget would be reduced by 15 percent. In Sacramento County, federal dollars go toward offering rental assistance or permanent housing that includes wrap-around services like employment training, education and other behavioral services. Cutting mainstay federal programs like housing vouchers and block grants for affordable housing will likely lead to more low income families sliding into homelessness, said Lisa Bates, CEO of Sacramento Steps Forward, the county’s main partner nonprofit on homeless services. “We definitely want to see an increase in federal support,” Bates said. “You’re seeing the state is having to come up with huge amounts of funding, providing billions of dollars, to address it in part because we haven’t seen a substantial increase to match our need from the federal government.” A new round of federal spending cuts could very well displace more people and force them into homelessness, critics said. “This budget is not really looking for solutions to the homeless problem,” said Steve Berg, vice president for programs and policy at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

These prosecutors want radical criminal justice change. Barr is fighting to stop them.

With progressive district attorneys on the march, Attorney General William Barr delivered a blistering attack speech.
By Allan Smith

Progressive prosecutors, coming off one of the biggest years in their movement's short history, are looking to 2020 with hope of winning key district attorney offices around the nation and boosting their influence with an overhaul of the system from within. Attorney General William Barr is standing in their way. Tensions reached a peak last week after Barr eviscerated the movement in a speech before the Major County Sheriffs of America. He said the "self-styled 'social justice' reformers are refusing to enforce entire categories of law, including law against resisting police officers." "In so doing, these DAs are putting everyone in danger," Barr added, asserting that their "policies are pushing a number of America's cities back toward a more dangerous past." In a response signed by about 40 reform-minded prosecutors from around in the country, the progressives said they "spend every day trying to make our communities safer and healthier." "We hold our jobs because our communities put us in them after we promised a different and smarter approach to justice, one grounded in evidence-based policies that lift people up while prioritizing the cases that cause real harm," they wrote. "Sadly, we are perceived as a threat by some who are wedded to the status quo or, even worse, failed policies of past decades." They added: "This is the same attorney general who in the span of 24 hours attacked reform-minded, elected district attorneys for being soft on crime, while demanding his own federal prosecutors lighten the punishment for an ally of his boss. He touts the importance of the rule of law, yet undermines it in the same breath."

Federal prosecutors weigh new charges that bring Lev Parnas investigation closer to Giuliani

By Kara Scannell and Erica Orden, CNN

New York (CNN) Federal prosecutors are weighing new charges against associates of Rudy Giuliani in connection with a company that paid him $500,000, according to people familiar with the investigation. Prosecutors with the US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York are considering whether to charge Giuliani associate Lev Parnas and at least one of his business partners with misleading potential investors for Fraud Guarantee, the Florida-based company that paid Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, these people say. Parnas co-founded Fraud Guarantee with the idea of providing insurance to companies to protect against fraud. The scrutiny of Fraud Guarantee brings the investigation closer to Giuliani, Trump's vocal defender, and raises questions about what role the former mayor played, if any, in the marketing of the company. A lawyer for Giuliani said his client never had any conversations about investor pitches or marketing with Parnas or his business partner David Correia. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan for months have been investigating Giuliani's actions, including his efforts to oust Marie Yovanovitch, then-US ambassador to Ukraine, and push for an investigation into the son of Trump's political rival Joe Biden. Giuliani has not been accused of wrongdoing. Yovanovitch was recalled early from her position in April 2019. In the case of Fraud Guarantee, investigators have focused on the marketing pitch, specifically examining whether the men duped investors about the value of the company and how they intended to use the proceeds, the people familiar with the investigation say. FBI agents and prosecutors interviewed investors who were pitched on the company, and through subpoenas have obtained text messages and other documents related to the effort. One person with knowledge of the company has said the men spent proceeds from investors on pricey personal expenses. The new charges, if they are brought, would significantly increase the legal pressure on Parnas and Correia. Those men, plus Igor Fruman, another Parnas business associate, and Andrey Kukushkin, an associate in a marijuana venture, have been charged by Manhattan federal prosecutors with campaign finance violations relating to donations they made to US candidates. All four have pleaded not guilty.

Trump pushed CIA to find, kill Osama bin Laden's son over higher priority targets

When the CIA gave Trump a list of major terror leaders to kill, he said he'd never heard of them. Instead he focused on a target with a famous name.
By Ken Dilanian, Courtney Kube and Dan De Luce

WASHINGTON — When intelligence officials briefed President Donald Trump on the most worrisome terrorist threats during the first two years of his tenure, they regularly mentioned the names of the senior terror figures the CIA was working hardest to find and kill, including the leader of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri. Trump would ultimately greenlight successful strikes on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Yemeni al Qaeda chief Qasim al-Rimi — perhaps the most significant names on the CIA list of potential U.S. targets. But he was more interested in a young and less influential figure much farther down the list, according to two people familiar with the briefings, because he recognized the name. "He would say, 'I've never heard of any of these people. What about Hamza bin Laden?'" one former official said. "That was the only name he knew," a Pentagon official added. Although Osama bin Laden's youngest son was not believed to be planning attacks, the U.S. ultimately carried out an airstrike that killed him in 2018, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter. At first, officials weren't sure of his fate, but in July, NBC News was the first to report that U.S. officials believed he was dead.

Trump, Barr Fuel DOJ Turmoil Over Cases Tied to White House

By Chris Strohm

Attorney General William Barr threw his Justice Department into turmoil this week as he seized control of cases tied to Donald Trump, risking a rebellion within the ranks, and publicly criticized the president amid accusations both men have politicized America’s top law enforcement agency. In the span of five days, Barr revealed that he’s established a private channel for Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to relay his allegations on Ukraine and ordered prosecutors to reduce their sentencing recommendation for Trump associate Roger Stone. News also surfaced that Barr has moved to review the prosecution of Michael Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser. At week’s end, the Justice Department’s reputation for independence was under siege in a way it hadn’t seen since Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Barr had managed to take steps that seemed likely to anger everyone from Trump to Democrats and Justice Department career prosecutors. “The history of the department, when it’s written, will have two parts -- before Trump and after Trump,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor. “This is the hinge.” After the beleaguered tenure of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Barr will have the biggest hand in shaping that history. Having helped Trump navigate through a special counsel probe of Russian election interference and an impeachment crisis, Barr now faces the biggest test of his leadership since taking over one year ago. Critics, including former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump weeks into his presidency, said the department’s reputation for independence built on the ashes of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s was being demolished.

More than 1,100 former prosecutors and other DOJ officials call on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign

By Laura Jarrett, CNN

(CNN) More than 1,110 former Justice Department officials who served in Republican as well as Democratic administrations posted a statement Sunday calling on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign. "Mr. Barr's actions in doing the President's personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than his words. Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice's reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign. But because we have little expectation he will do so, it falls to the Department's career officials to take appropriate action to uphold their oaths of office and defend nonpartisan, apolitical justice," the officials wrote in a statement. The rare statement from the officials -- mostly former career prosecutors, but also some former political appointees -- came in the wake of an extraordinary week at the Justice Department. In just one week, career prosecutors withdrew from a case after Barr overruled their sentencing, the attorney general pushed back against the President in an unusual interview and separately ordered an examination of politically charged cases involving those close to President Donald Trump. The statement went on to say career attorneys should report any troubling actions they see to the department's Inspector General. CNN has reached out to the Justice Department for comment. Barr has so far not given any indication that he is considering stepping down from his current role. The upheaval at the Justice Department began when all four federal prosecutors who took the case against Roger Stone to trial withdrew from the case Tuesday afternoon after Barr overruled their sentencing recommendation hours after the President criticized it on Twitter.

In his assault on justice, Trump has out-Nixoned Nixon

by Robert Reich

After Watergate, we worked for impartiality. Trump, Roger Stone and William Barr have dragged us back to the swamp. “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes,” Mark Twain is supposed to have said. My first job after law school was as an attorney at the Department of Justice (DoJ). I reported for work September 1974, weeks after Richard Nixon resigned. In the years leading up to his resignation, Nixon turned the justice department and FBI into his personal fiefdom, enlisting his appointees to reward his friends and penalize his enemies. He brought conspiracy charges against critics of the Vietnam war, for example, and ordered the department to drop an antitrust case against ITT after the conglomerate donated money for the 1972 Republican convention. During the Senate Watergate investigation, Nixon’s stooges kept him informed. Reports about how compromised the justice department had become generated enough public outrage to force the appointment of the first Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. Before Nixon’s mayhem was over, his first two attorneys general were deep in legal trouble – John Mitchell eventually served 19 months in prison – and his third resigned rather than carry out the demand to fire Cox. Watergate also ushered into politics a young man named Roger Stone – who, as it happens, also graduated from my small rural high school in Lewisboro, New York, although I didn’t know him. Stone’s first job was on Nixon’s 1972 campaign, working for the Committee to Re-elect the President, known then, and forevermore, as Creep. Stone joined some two dozen dirty tricksters hired to lie about, harass and dig up dirt on Democrats. After Nixon resigned, the entire slimy mess of Watergate spawned a series of reforms designed to insulate the administration of justice from politics. During the years I worked at the justice department, officials teamed up with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders with the goal of making justice the most independent part of the executive branch.

Trump administration to send tactical units to 'sanctuary' cities

Agents with military-style training will help Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in a move decried by rights groups.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has announced plans to deploy highly trained tactical border control agents to so-called "sanctuary cities" across the country to boost arrests of undocumented immigrants. Members of the US Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) will be among the officers deployed to cities including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Officers will also be sent to San Francisco, Atlanta, Houston, Boston, New Orleans, Detroit and Newark, New Jersey, CBP spokesman Lawrence Payne said in a statement on Friday. The move is the latest escalation in the administration's pressure campaign against cities and towns that have enacted "sanctuary" policies in which local law enforcement do not coordinate with federal immigration officers. "ICE is utilizing CBP to supplement enforcement activity in response to the resource challenges stemming from sanctuary city policies," ICE acting Director Matthew T Albence said in a statement. "As we have noted for years, in jurisdictions where we are not allowed to assume custody of aliens from jails, our officers are forced to make at-large arrests of criminal aliens who have been released into communities." BORTAC's members undergo a "grueling" training program designed to "mirror aspects" of US Special Operation Forces courses, according to details about the programme published on the CBP website.

‘Disturbing’: Federal Judge Blasted DOJ for Leaving McCabe in ‘Limbo’

“I think as a government and as a society we’re going to pay a price at some point for this,” Judge Reggie Barnett Walton told DOJ attorneys.
By Betsy Swan, Adam Rawnsley

Justice Department attorneys struggled with mounting frustration and skepticism from a federal judge about producing documents related to the investigation of former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, according to transcripts of closed-door conversations released in response to a lawsuit from a government watchdog group. The McCabe case—and President Donald Trump’s personal involvement in it—prompted federal judge Reggie Barnett Walton to call the government’s handling of it “disturbing,” a “mess,” and veering close to a “banana republic.” “I think it’s very unfortunate,” Judge Walton told prosecutors as the case hung in limbo in late September. “And I think as a government and as a society we’re going to pay a price at some point for this.” The comments were made in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) against the Justice Department. Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for CREW, said the eventual release of the court transcripts on Friday, after a lengthy court battle, showed that the government was “trying to cover up the fact that they were stringing this [lawsuit] along while looking for a reason to indict McCabe.”

She pushed Trump to exit the Paris climate agreement and roll back environmental rules. And she’s returning to EPA as chief of staff.

One of EPA’s first Trump appointees, Mandy Gunasekara, has run a ‘pro-Trump nonprofit’ since leaving the agency a year ago
By Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis

Mandy Gunasekara, who pressed for President Trump to exit the Paris climate agreement as the Environmental Protection Agency’s top air-policy adviser, is poised to return to the agency as its next chief of staff, according to two individuals briefed on the matter. Gunasekara left the EPA a year ago to start what she called a “pro-Trump nonprofit” in her home state of Mississippi. As head of the advocacy group Energy 45, she has argued on behalf of the president’s support for fossil fuels and other energy policies, writing that his approach “has brought both economic prosperity and cleaner air and water.” After joining the EPA in March 2017, Gunasekara oversaw the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation on an acting basis for nearly eight months under then-Administrator Scott Pruitt. Trained as a lawyer, she played a key role in working to scale back federal rules aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution, including replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan and federal gas-mileage standards.

Washington Post: Feds advanced Giuliani investigation as impeachment wrapped and DOJ reviewed his Ukraine tips

By Caroline Kelly, CNN

(CNN) Federal prosecutors in New York have advanced their investigation into President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, pursuing more documents and witness testimonies while the Justice Department simultaneously accepts information from the former New York mayor on Ukraine, according to The Washington Post. Citing people familiar with prosecutors' activities, the paper reported Friday that the department has been looking into Giuliani's business dealings as well as those of his indicted associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman throughout the final steps of Trump's Senate impeachment trial earlier this month, including witness interviews as recently as last week. Attorney General William Barr on Monday confirmed that the Justice Department has been receiving information from Giuliani on Ukraine, saying the department has an "obligation to have an open door to anybody who wishes to provide us information that they think is relevant." He added there's skepticism about anything coming from Ukraine, which has prompted the department to establish an "intake process in the field" so the department and intelligence community can scrutinize Ukraine information. The Ukraine allegations that Giuliani is providing to the Justice Department are being vetted by investigators in the US Attorney's Office in Pittsburgh, two US law enforcement officials told CNN on Tuesday. The officials told CNN that the Pittsburgh office has expertise on Russia and its cyber operations, including the 2016 disinformation campaign the Russians carried out. Meanwhile, prosecutors in the investigation into Giuliani have pursued details on Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine who Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman conspired to have removed, a person familiar with the request told the Post. A source familiar with the matter confirmed that Yovanovitch's name has appeared on a recent subpoena from Southern District of New York prosecutors that inquires about Giuliani and Parnas. Over the last few weeks, they have also looked into Giuliani in relation to his consulting firm Giuliani Partners, the paper reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. People familiar with the matter told the Post that Barr had been informed of the New York investigation into Giuliani's associates not long after becoming attorney general last year -- though whether or how much he is involved remains unconfirmed.

'Imminent threat' explanation noticeably absent in White House report justifying Soleimani strike

By Zachary Cohen and Sam Fossum, CNN

Washington (CNN) The Trump administration has repeatedly insisted that its decision to kill Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was justified because he posed an "imminent threat" to American lives, but that phrase was notably absent in an official White House report sent to Congress that outlines the legal and policy rationale for conducting last month's strike. A copy of the report -- released by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel Friday -- is an unclassified version of what is called a 1264 notification, which the White House is required to send to Congress if it changes its view on the legal framework for using military force. In this case, the notice not only outlines the administration's legal justification for killing Soleimani, but acknowledges that the White House expanded its interpretation of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force to include military action against Iran. "Iran's past and recent activities, coupled with intelligence at the time of the air strike, indicated that Iran's Qods Force posed a threat to the United States in Iraq, and the air strike against Soleimani was intended to protect United States personnel and deter future Iranian attack plans," the report reads. Washington (CNN)The Trump administration has repeatedly insisted that its decision to kill Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was justified because he posed an "imminent threat" to American lives, but that phrase was notably absent in an official White House report sent to Congress that outlines the legal and policy rationale for conducting last month's strike. A copy of the report -- released by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel Friday -- is an unclassified version of what is called a 1264 notification, which the White House is required to send to Congress if it changes its view on the legal framework for using military force. In this case, the notice not only outlines the administration's legal justification for killing Soleimani, but acknowledges that the White House expanded its interpretation of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force to include military action against Iran. "Iran's past and recent activities, coupled with intelligence at the time of the air strike, indicated that Iran's Qods Force posed a threat to the United States in Iraq, and the air strike against Soleimani was intended to protect United States personnel and deter future Iranian attack plans," the report reads.

U.S. Reaches 'Reduction In Violence' Deal With Taliban In Afghanistan

By Laurel Wamsley

The U.S. says it has reached a deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan that lays out what could be the first steps toward ending America's longest-running war. Administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity at the Munich Security Conference, say there will be a seven-day "reduction in violence," but did not specify when it would start. The seven days are meant as an initial confidence-building measure. The next step would involve the signing of an agreement between the U.S and the Taliban. That would pave the way for intra-Afghan talks to determine the future of Afghanistan and the role the Taliban could play in it. The U.S. military will monitor the reduction in violence, according to a senior administration official. A weeklong decline in violence would be an abrupt shift from one of the most violent years of the 18-year conflict. An overall deal with the Taliban would lay-out a four-and-a-half month timetable to 8,600 from around 12,000. This initial agreement was worked out by U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban over months of negotiations in Doha, Qatar. The U.S. and Taliban had reached an agreement last summer, but President Trump walked away from that near-deal in September after a U.S. service member was killed in a car bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Barr Installs Outside Prosecutor to Review Case Against Michael Flynn, Ex-Trump Adviser

Amid turmoil in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, the attorney general has also sent outside prosecutors to review other politically sensitive cases.
By Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, according to people familiar with the matter. The review is highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors. Mr. Barr has also installed a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review the handling of other politically sensitive national-security cases in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, the people said. The team includes at least one prosecutor from the office of the United States attorney in St. Louis, Jeff Jensen, who is handling the Flynn matter, as well as prosecutors from the office of the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen. Over the past two weeks, the outside prosecutors have begun grilling line prosecutors in the Washington office about various cases — some public, some not — including investigative steps, prosecutorial actions and why they took them, according to the people. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive internal deliberations. The Justice Department declined to comment. The intervention has contributed a turbulent period for the prosecutors’ office that oversees the seat of the federal government and some of the most politically sensitive investigations and cases — some involving President Trump’s friends and allies, and some his critics and adversaries. This week, four line prosecutors quit the case against Roger Stone Jr., Mr. Trump’s close adviser, after Mr. Barr overruled their recommendation that a judge sentence him within sentencing guidelines. Mr. Barr’s intervention was preceded by criticism of the original sentencing recommendation by Mr. Trump and praised by him afterward, and Mr. Barr on Thursday publicly asked Mr. Trump to stop commenting about the Justice Department.

Trump Just Comes Out and Admits to Entire Ukraine Scam

How are Republicans feeling right about now?
By Bess Levin

Years after O.J. Simpson was found not guilty for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, he wrote a book called If I Did It, in which he basically explained exactly how the two were killed with a level of detail that only someone who participated in the murders could possibly have been privy to. Now that Donald Trump has been acquitted by Republicans for extorting Ukraine for personal gain, he’s kind of doing the same thing, except (1) he freely admitted to many of the details of the alleged crime even before his Senate trial, and (2) he’s not even doing the people who let him get away with it the courtesy of throwing an “if” in there for plausible deniability’s sake. In a podcast interview with Geraldo Rivera that aired on Thursday, Trump was asked, “Was it strange to send Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine, your personal lawyer? Are you sorry you did that?” Rather than stick with his previous denials of ever having dispatched Giuliani to Ukraine to investigate the Bidens in the first place, Trump happily copped to it all, responding: “No, not at all...I deal with the Comeys of the world or I deal with Rudy,” the former of whom, per the president, left “a very bad taste” in his mouth due to the whole Russia investigation. “So when you tell me, why did I use Rudy, and one of the things about Rudy, number one, he was the best prosecutor, you know, one of the best prosecutors, and the best mayor,” Trump said. “But also, other presidents had them. FDR had a lawyer who was practically, you know, was totally involved with government. Eisenhower had a lawyer. They all had lawyers.” FDR and Eisenhower didn’t use their personal lawyers to uncover nonexistent dirt on their political rivals, but, sure, great history lesson.

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