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By David Shortell, Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz, CNN

Washington (CNN) Attorney General William Barr and his lieutenants have increasingly exerted authority in politically sensitive investigations at the Justice Department, fraying relationships with prosecutors at the powerful US attorney's office in Washington, DC, and leading to an unprecedented walkout of the career attorneys handling the Roger Stone case. People familiar with the situation at the DC US attorney's office said other prosecutors have discussed resigning in the coming days following the Justice Department leadership's decision to disavow and claw back a sentencing recommendation that prosecutors had made in the case of Stone, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump. Barr, who has a reputation in the department as a micromanager, has played a role in other high-profile cases that are of particular interest to Trump, including in the final stages of the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Barr's role in the Stone debacle this week has elevated perennial allegations of political tampering at the Justice Department, and drew immediate calls from Democrats for an investigation. It has also raised concerns about possible interference in other politically charged cases such as one in New York's southern district where prosecutors are investigating Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal lawyer. Barr has been keeping tabs on the case with periodic briefings from New York prosecutors, but he is not personally involved in the case, Justice officials say, leaving New York prosecutors to manage the investigation. Meanwhile, Trump doubled down, punishing Jessie Liu, an official who was accused was accused of weak-kneed oversight of significant cases when she had recently led the prosecuting office, and saluting Barr on Twitter for his intervention. "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 wrote early Wednesday.

Friction inside the Justice Department
It's not unusual for political appointees at the Justice Department to disagree with or even overrule trial attorneys on significant steps in a prosecution, but the public spat between the two sides this week quickly devolved into controversy. One by one, the line prosecutors who had handled the Stone trial announced their withdrawals from the case in court filings Tuesday afternoon. One resigned from his job at the Justice Department altogether. The prosecutors on the Stone case, two of whom had served under former special counsel Robert Mueller, had calculated on Monday night that Stone deserved a stiff sentence: seven to nine years in prison, including an increased penalty for threats that Stone made to a witness in the case. Even though the original Stone filing had been discussed with officials at the Justice Department, a senior department official told reporters Tuesday that the filing came as a surprise to top officials including the deputy attorney general and Barr, all of whom thought that an agreement had been reached to seek a less-lengthy prison term.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

Washington (CNN) It's time to stop asking whether President Donald Trump will learn lessons from the controversies he constantly stokes -- of course he does. But far from stepping back or opting for contrition as his critics and appeasers hope, Trump draws darker political conclusions. The result is that he expands his own power by confounding institutional restraints and opening a zone of presidential impunity -- while at the same time delighting his political base. Trump's interference in the sentencing of his long-time associate Roger Stone and a post-impeachment retribution splurge reflect a lifetime's lessons of a real estate baron turned public servant. On Wednesday, Trump publicly praised the Justice Department for reversing its call for a stiff jail term for Stone after his own critical late night tweet that laid bare fears of blatant interference in bedrock US justice. "I want to thank the Justice Department for seeing this horrible thing. And I didn't speak to them by the way, just so you understand. They saw the horribleness of a nine-year sentence for doing nothing," the President told reporters. He noted that the four prosecutors who quit the Stone case "hit the road," raising the prospect that their protests failed to introduce accountability to the administration and only served to further hollow out the government and make it more pliable to the President. Trump denied that he crossed a line. But his tweet left no doubt about what he wanted to happen. And his strategy, in this case and others, actually worked. Just as he used US government power to smear Joe Biden in the Ukraine scandal, he succeeded in getting favorable treatment for a friend in the Stone case -- though the final sentence will be up to a judge. The Stone affair has also added to evidence that Attorney General William Barr is acting more as the President's personal lawyer and less to ensure the neutral administration of justice. Trump's brazen approach was on also display Wednesday when he was asked what he learned from impeachment -- after several GOP senators said they hoped he would take lessons to be restrained. "That the Democrats are crooked, they got a lot of crooked things going. That they're vicious, that they shouldn't have brought impeachment," Trump told reporters.

“The last thing this country should do is rush into or blunder into another war in the Middle East," says Tim Kaine.

The Senate is set to pass a bipartisan resolution this week to limit President Donald Trump’s authority to launch military operations against Iran weeks after the U.S. killed a top Iranian general. The War Powers resolution, introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), will come to the floor Wednesday with a final expected vote Thursday. While the measure is not likely to garner enough support to overturn a likely Trump veto, its expected passage in the Senate nevertheless illustrates a rare congressional effort to rein in the president’s executive authority. In addition to all 47 Democrats, the measure so far has support from Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jerry Moran of Kansas. The Democratic senators running for president are expected to be in Washington for the vote on Thursday, ensuring that the 51-vote threshold for the War Powers resolution will be met. “The last thing this country should do is rush into or blunder into another war in the Middle East. And no matter who our president is, no president is smart enough to, on their own, make that kind of a decision without deliberation,” Kaine said in an interview. “The logic of the idea just gets more and more persuasive the more time that elapses after 9/11.” Indeed, Congress has abdicated war-making powers to the executive branch in the years after both chambers adopted authorizations for the use of military force against al Qaeda in 2001 and against Iraq in 2002. The war powers issue rose to prominence yet again last month in the days following Trump’s Jan. 2 order of an airstrike that killed Qassim Soleimani, the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds force and a longtime target of American military operations.

The Justice Department had moved against its own prosecutors to recommend a shorter sentence for one of President Trump’s friends, Roger J. Stone Jr.
By Eileen Sullivan

WASHINGTON — President Trump congratulated his attorney general on Wednesday for intervening to lower the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for the president’s longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr., broadening concerns that the department is ceding its independence to the White House. Later on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Stone was treated “very badly,” and that prosecutors “ought to apologize to him.” Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office ahead of a meeting with President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador, Mr. Trump denied that his tweet about Mr. Barr was political and called the prosecution of Mr. Stone “a disgrace.” Asked whether he would pardon Mr. Stone, the president said, “I don’t want to say that yet, but I tell you what, people were hurt viciously and badly by these corrupt people.” He added that it was unfair that prosecutors recommended that Mr. Stone be sentenced to nine years in prison when James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, has not been jailed. “You have murderers and drug addicts that don’t get nine years,” the president said. “Nine years for doing something that no one can even define what he did.” “In the meantime Comey walks around making book deals,” Mr. Trump lamented. Asked what lessons he learned from having been impeached and acquitted, Mr. Trump said that “the Democrats are crooked. They got a lot of crooked things going. That they’re vicious. That they shouldn’t have brought impeachment.” The Justice Department said on Tuesday that the Stone case was not discussed with anyone at the White House. The decision to override the recommended sentence was made by officials from the offices of Attorney General William P. Barr and the deputy attorney general.

The suggestion that Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman should now face punishment by the Pentagon was one sign of how determined the president is to even the scales after his impeachment.
By Peter Baker

WASHINGTON — As far as President Trump is concerned, banishing Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman from the White House and exiling him back to the Pentagon was not enough. If he had his way, the commander in chief made clear on Tuesday, the Defense Department would now take action against the colonel, too. “That’s going to be up to the military,” Mr. Trump told reporters who asked whether Colonel Vindman should face disciplinary action after testifying in the House hearings that led to the president’s impeachment. “But if you look at what happened,” Mr. Trump added in threatening terms, “I mean they’re going to, certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that.” This is an unsettled time in Mr. Trump’s Washington. In the days since he was acquitted in a Senate trial, an aggrieved and unbound president has sought to even the scales as he sees it. Colonel Vindman was abruptly marched by security out of the White House, an ambassador who also testified in the House hearings was summarily dismissed, and senior Justice Department officials on Tuesday intervened on behalf of Mr. Trump’s convicted friend, Roger J. Stone Jr., leading four career prosecutors to quit the case. More axes are sure to fall. A senior Pentagon official appears in danger of losing her nomination to a top Defense Department post after questioning the president’s suspension of aid to Ukraine. Likewise, a prosecutor involved in Mr. Stone’s case has lost a nomination to a senior Treasury Department position. A key National Security Council official is said by colleagues to face dismissal. And the last of dozens of career officials being transferred out of the White House may be gone by the end of the week. The war between Mr. Trump and what he calls the “deep state” has entered a new, more volatile phase as the president seeks to assert greater control over a government that he is convinced is not sufficiently loyal to him. With no need to worry about Congress now that he has been acquitted of two articles of impeachment, the president has shown a renewed willingness to act even if it prompts fresh complaints about violating traditional norms.

Senate minority leader warns president would turn US into ‘banana republic’ after justice department’s interference
By David Smith in Washington

Donald Trump has triggered “a crisis in the rule of law in America” and would turn the country into a “banana republic” if left unchallenged, senior Democrats warned on Wednesday as they demanded an investigation into political interference at the justice department. Washington is reeling from aftershocks of the department’s highly unusual decision to overrule career prosecutors and seek a lighter prison sentence for political operative Roger Stone, a longtime friend of the US president. The entire prosecution team resigned in protest on Tuesday. While Trump brazenly praised his attorney general, William Barr, for “taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought”, Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, sounded the alarm about an unprecedented threat to the independence of the legal system. “We are witnessing a crisis in the rule of law in America – unlike one we have ever seen before,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “It is a crisis of President Trump’s making. But it was enabled and emboldened by every Senate Republican who was too afraid to stand up to him and say the simple word ‘no’, when the vast majority of them knew that that was the right thing to do.” Trump was acquitted by the Republican majority in the Senate in his impeachment trial last week and immediately began a purge of officials who testified against him – fuelling Democrats’ fears that he would feel further emboldened, unleashed and able to act with impunity.

By Jordain Carney

Some Republican senators said on Wednesday that President Trump shouldn't weigh in on pending sentences after he publicly criticized an initial recommendation from the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the case of Roger Stone. The comments come as senators are facing an onslaught of questions over DOJ's decision to lower its sentencing recommendation for Stone, a Trump associate, overriding front-line prosecutors. "I don't like this chain of events where you have a ... proceeding, a sentencing, a recommended sentence, the president weighs in and all of the sudden Justice comes back, says 'change the deal.' I think most people would look at that and say 'hmm, that just doesn't look right.' And I think they're right," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters. Murkowski added while she didn’t “think the president should be determining what the sentences are,” she also didn’t expect that he would make the ultimate decision. Stone’s prison sentence will be decided by an Obama-appointed federal judge. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters that Trump "should not have gotten involved."

By Brian Naylor

President Trump hailed Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday after the Justice Department took the unusual step of intervening in Roger Stone's sentencing recommendation. Four federal prosecutors withdrew from the case. "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 said on Twitter. "Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!"

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. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2020

Former special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation are longtime targets of Trump's. Mueller's team documented extensive Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and some contacts with Trump's campaign, but said there wasn't sufficient evidence to bring conspiracy charges. The wrongdoing prosecutors said they did find included Stone, who sought to serve as an intermediary between Trump's team and WikiLeaks, which was fencing material stolen by Russian hackers, released to embarrass political targets in the United States. Stone lied to Congress about his role in the matter and obstructed its fact-finding, prosecutors charged; he was found guilty in November on all seven counts in his trial and is awaiting sentencing.

By Kyle Cheney

Attorney General William Barr has accepted an invitation to testify to the House Judiciary Committee next month, ending a year-long standoff that began when the panel first demanded his testimony in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The arrangement comes as Democrats have demanded answers about Barr's apparent intervention in the sentencing of President Donald Trump’s longtime ally Roger Stone, who was convicted last year on charges that he lied to congressional investigators and threatened a witness. Hours after Trump railed against Justice Department prosecutors for recommending a seven- to nine-year sentence for Stone, DOJ rebuked its own team and issued a revised recommendation calling for a lighter sentence. The four prosecutors assigned to Stone’s case abruptly withdrew on Tuesday.

The comments came days after the star impeachment witness was ousted from the White House.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the military will likely look at disciplinary action against Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, just days after the National Security Council official was ousted from the White House after giving damaging testimony during the House impeachment hearings. “That’s going to be up to the military, we’ll have to see, but if you look at what happened, they’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that,” Trump said in response to a follow-up question about what he meant when he said, “the military can handle him.” Trump also said he wasn’t “happy” with Vindman and his twin brother Yevgeny, who served as a senior NSC lawyer and was also recalled on Friday despite not being a witness in the president’s impeachment hearings. Trump, without providing evidence or specific examples, said Alexander Vindman reported “very inaccurate things” about the “perfect” call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “It turned out that what he reported was very different,” Trump said. “And also when you look at the person he reports to, said horrible things, avoided the chain of command, leaked, did a lot of bad things. And so we sent him on his way to a much different location, and the military can handle him anyway they want.” One of Vindman's lawyers, David Pressman, said last Friday that his ouster from the NSC was clear political retribution for his role in the impeachment inquiry. "There is no question in the mind of any American why this man’s job is over, why this country now has one less soldier serving it at the White House," Pressman said in a statement shared with reporters. "The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy," Pressman said.

By Chantal Da Silva

More than 50,000 people have signed a petition calling for an investigation into the Department of Justice's decision to slash the amount of prison time it is seeking for Roger Stone, the former Trump adviser convicted last year of obstructing Congress's probe into Russian inteference in the 2016 presidential election. "The Department of Justice appears to be putting Donald Trump's friends above the law," reads the petition which was published on MoveOn.org, reaching more than 51,800 signatures by early Wednesday morning. "The Justice Department's internal watchdog must investigate the corrupt about-face made at the seeming behest of Donald Trump and call out cronyism within its own ranks," it states. "But given how compromised disgraced Attorney General William Barr is, we cannot trust the Justice Department to correct its course. The House Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of Barr, must also investigate independently." Gaining tens of thousands of signatures overnight, the petition comes after four prosecutors who were working on the Stone case quit on Tuesday after the DOJ moved to reduce the proposed sentence recommendation it had just put forward on Monday. The reversal quickly sparked outrage, particularly given that it followed closely on the heels of a tweet from President Donald Trump, who branded the prosecution's initial recommendation of a seven to nine-year prison sentence "very horrible and unfair."

By Philip Rucker and Paul Kane

President Trump escalated his campaign of retribution against his perceived impeachment enemies Tuesday, railing in the Oval Office about a decorated combat veteran who testified about the president’s conduct with Ukraine and suggesting the Defense Department should consider disciplining him. “The military can handle him any way they want,” Trump said of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was ousted from his position on the National Security Council last Friday and reassigned to the Pentagon. Asked whether he was recommending the military take disciplinary action against Vindman for his House testimony in the impeachment proceedings, Trump replied, “They’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that.” Trump also leaped to the defense Tuesday of Roger Stone, his longtime former adviser and friend who faces a prison sentence after being convicted by a jury of obstructing Congress and witness tampering in connection with the Russia investigation. Stoking new worries about improperly politicizing the Justice Department, Trump admonished federal prosecutors for recommending a seven- to nine-year sentence for Stone, which the president felt was too long. Trump provided fresh evidence that he feels emboldened and will say and do as he pleases after the Republican-controlled Senate voted last week to acquit him in the impeachment trial. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Trump’s actions in recent days have seemed “almost delightedly vengeful” and are cause for “very deep and profound concern and alarm.” “It completely explodes this delusion that he’s learned his lesson and he will turn over a new leaf, which was magical thinking from the start and a fig leaf for a number of my Republican colleagues,” Blumenthal said. “We ought to be very, very afraid of this kind of dictatorial personal vengeance against dedicated public servants who stepped forward to tell the truth.”

By Reid Wilson

State attorneys general have filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits against the Trump administration, as Democratic-led states exercise new levers of power to block some of President Trump’s most controversial initiatives. States have formed coalitions to file 103 multi-state suits against the administration in its first three years, according to data compiled by Paul Nolette, a political scientist at Marquette University. The vast majority of those suits, 96, have been led by Democratic attorneys general. By contrast, states filed 78 multi-state suits in the eight years of President Obama’s administration, and 76 multi-state suits during President George W. Bush’s eight years in office. Democratic attorneys general sued Trump 40 times in his first year in office alone, more lawsuits than have ever been filed against an administration in a single year. “Every time this guy breaks the law, we take him to court,” said Xavier Becerra (D), California’s attorney general who has led 31 suits and been party to 25 others. Joining with other states to file suit “adds strength, it certainly adds value, and it shows unity. It demonstrates that the unlawful action that the Trump administration is looking to take impacts more than just one state.” The attorneys general have sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more than any other agency in government. All told, the EPA has faced 31 lawsuits over proposals to roll back Obama-era environmental laws or to implement new rules. States have sued the Department of Health and Human Services and the Interior Department about a dozen times each.

By Sonam Sheth

Since he was acquitted last week following an impeachment trial, President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr have carried out a series of targeted firings and legal interventions that have the DOJ in turmoil. "Can't recall a worse day for DOJ and line prosecutors," a former prosecutor told Insider. "A robbery in broad daylight in the middle of Chicago is more subtle than Barr's obsession to shield Trump and his co-conspirators." "I am aware of no precedent remotely like it in the history of the DOJ," another longtime former prosecutor told Insider. "It seems to me to be a classic hallmark of a dictatorial [or] fascist government." One former senior DOJ official who worked with the special counsel Robert Mueller when he was FBI director told Insider the last few days have been "a devastating breakdown" in the checks and balances on Trump's power. As California Rep. Adam Schiff wrapped up his closing arguments in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial last week, he warned Senate Republicans that if they didn't vote to remove the president from office for abusing his power, he would "do it again." "He has not changed. He will not change," Schiff said. "A man without character or ethical compass will never find his way. He has done it before and he will do it again." In the end, the Senate acquitted Trump in a nearly party-line vote, with key swing-vote Republican senators like Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander voting to acquit while expressing hope that the president had learned his lesson from the bitter trial.

Here's what's happened since:

Last Friday, Trump fired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who testified against him in the House of Representatives' impeachment hearings. Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., indicated that Sondland and Vindman were fired in direct retaliation for their impeachment testimony.

On Monday, Attorney General William Barr acknowledged that he had set up an "intake process" for the Justice Department to vet material that Rudy Giuliani, who is Trump's personal lawyer, collects from Ukrainian sources about former Vice President Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, Barr and his top aides publicly overruled the career prosecutors working on the government's case against the longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone and called for a lesser sentence than the one prosecutors had recommended. Barr's intervention led to the withdrawal or resignations of all four prosecutors working Stone's case.

Attorney General William Barr's intervention in Roger Stone's case wasn't the first time senior political appointees reached into a case involving an ex-Trump aide, officials say.
By Carol E. Lee, Ken Dilanian and Peter Alexander

WASHINGTON — The U.S. attorney who had presided over an inconclusive criminal investigation into former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe was abruptly removed from the job last month in one of several recent moves by Attorney General William Barr to take control of legal matters of personal interest to President Donald Trump, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. A person familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News that Trump has rescinded the nomination of Jessie Liu, who had been the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., for a job as an undersecretary at the Treasury Department. Liu also supervised the case against Trump associate Roger Stone. On Tuesday, all four line prosecutors withdrew from the case — and one quit the Justice Department altogether — after Barr and his top aides intervened to reverse a stiff sentencing recommendation of up to nine years in prison that the line prosecutors had filed with the court Monday. (Liu left before the sentencing recommendation was made.) But that wasn't the first time senior political appointees had reached into a case involving a former Trump aide, officials told NBC News. Senior officials at the Justice Department also intervened last month to help change the government's sentencing recommendation for Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. While the prosecutors had once recommended up to six months in jail, their latest filing now says they believe probation would be appropriate. The new filing came on the same day Liu was removed from her job, to be replaced the next day by a former prosecutor selected by Barr. Liu had been overseeing the criminal investigation into McCabe, who was accused by the department's inspector general of lying to investigators. McCabe has not been charged, despite calls by Trump for him to go to prison. The resignations and the unusual moves by Barr come as Trump has sought revenge against government officials who testified after congressional Democrats subpoenaed them in their impeachment investigation. In the days since the Senate acquitted him, Trump fired his ambassador to the European Union, a political supporter whom he nominated, and had other officials moved out of the White House. "This signals to me that there has been a political infestation," NBC News legal analyst Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney in Virginia, said on MSNBC. "And that is the single most dangerous thing that you can do to the Department of Justice."

Trump's budget would reduce $451B in Medicare spending over 10 years.
By Anne Flaherty and Jordyn Phelps

President Donald Trump said he wouldn’t touch Medicare before pitching a budget plan that would do exactly that, along with steep cuts to Medicaid. Democrats are calling it “savage” and “heartless,” while administration officials are insisting they are only slowing explosive growth in future years and that current Medicare benefits would remain untouched. Here are three things to know about the election-year fight on health care spending: Trump proposed spending $1.6 trillion less on future health care spending, including $451 billion less for Medicare. On Twitter, two days before releasing his budget, the president said, “we will not be touching your Social Security or Medicare.” It was a promise he also made in his State of the Union address.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) By bulldozing into Roger Stone's sentencing, Donald Trump sparked a mutiny by four career prosecutors, raised fears about the impartial administration of justice and showed how his impeachment acquittal unchained an already rampant presidency. The Justice Department's decision to water down a recommendation by its own prosecutors for Stone to serve up to nine years in prison that outraged the President sent shockwaves through Washington. It also appears to reflect Trump's redoubled determination to escalate pressure on core institutions of the US government to pursue his personal and political priorities. Wednesday morning, he brazenly offered 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," even though multiple courts have upheld former special counsel Robert Mueller's appointment, his authority, and the decisions he made. The sudden storm over Stone, triggered by an early-hours tweet by the President, is part of an accelerating pattern of unmoderated behavior since Trump was found not guilty of impeachable offenses a week ago by Republican senators -- some of whom expressed the hope that the scar of impeachment would temper his wildest impulses. Instead, the President appears to have drawn a lesson about impunity from his experience and seems committed to accelerating his bid to subvert constitutional and political norms. This may augur a period of expansive power plays by the President -- as he runs for reelection and that could become even more intense if he wins a second term. In another sign of his defiance, Trump last week fired officials, including White House Ukraine specialist Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, who were subpoenaed to testify in the impeachment inquiry in a manner that might have been interpreted as witness intimidation in a regular context and is likely to chill future accountability. On Tuesday, he said that he would "certainly" expect the military to look at disciplining Vindman, who testified that he was troubled by the President's call with Ukraine's President in July. Trump has also launched searing personal attacks on senators who voted to convict him, and questioned the faith of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who led the impeachment process there. Stone was convicted by a jury of lying to Congress and witness tampering. The Justice Department reversal that triggered the remarkable resignations of four top prosecutors in the case could fuel an impression that cronies of the President can commit crimes and get special treatment. It also poses the question of whether political appointees are undercutting the work of career prosecutors in a way that could prejudice the rule of law. "This is completely stunning. I have seen thousands of cases in my career as a federal and state prosecutor. I have never seen anything like this," CNN legal analyst Elie Honig told Jake Tapper. "It stinks to high hell. There are all sorts of problems here. This is not normal."

By James Walker

A senior adviser to Mike Bloomberg hit out at Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday, listing examples of his father's "racism and bigotry" after the president's eldest son shared a clip of the former New York City mayor defending his controversial "stop and frisk" policing strategy. In a thread posted on Twitter yesterday afternoon, Tim O'Brien described President Donald Trump as a "flagrantly hateful racist" and said his boss Bloomberg was not "in the same category" as the commander-in-chief. He went on to list examples of Trump being "racist" to people of color on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the world, both before and during his presidency. The senior adviser's criticism of the president came shortly after a 2015 clip of Bloomberg defending stop and frisk and putting "all the cops" in minority neighborhoods surfaced on social media, causing the hashtag #BloombergIsRacist to trend. A copy of the Democratic presidential candidate's Aspen Institute speech shared by podcaster Benjamin Dixon has picked up more than seven million views so far. In the clip of his speech, Bloomberg is heard saying: "Ninty-five percent of your murders and murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities, 15 to 25." He also said: "One of the unintended consequences is people say, 'Oh my god, you are arresting kids for marijuana, they're all minorities.' Yes, that's true, why? Because we put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that's true. "Why did we do it? Because that's where all the crime is. And the first thing you can do for people is to stop them getting killed." After the audio resurfaced, the president's eldest son tweeted a clip of the talk with the hashtag #BloombergIsARacist. Responding to the post, O'Brien tweeted: "Your father is the most overt and flagrantly hateful racist and bigot of the modern presidency and nothing—absolutely nothing—in Mike Bloomberg's background puts him in the same category as your dad." He went on to list several allegations and examples of President Trump's past racism including his support of the birtherism conspiracy theory that wrongly suggested former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

By Jonathan Chait

Two days after Senate Republicans acquitted President Trump on both counts of impeachment, the Trump administration fired a number of national-security officials: European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council staffer, for voluntarily testifying before the House, as well as the latter’s twin brother, Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Vindman, for being related to Alexander. Now, the “Friday Night Massacre” is extending into this week. The New York Post reports that the administration is retaliating against Elaine McCusker, whose nomination for Pentagon comptroller and chief financial officer has been pulled. What’s especially chilling about this move is the reason for the retaliation. McCusker is losing her job because she attempted to follow the law. There’s no cover story to rationalize it. That is the cover story. “This administration needs people who are committed to implementing the president’s agenda, specifically on foreign policy, and not trying to thwart it,” a White House official tells the paper. McCusker’s crime is quite literally having attempted to follow the law. Over the summer, the Office of Management and Budget was trying to hold up aid for Ukraine that Congress had passed into law, because it was trying to extort Ukraine to investigate Trump’s rivals. Defense Department officials, who were supposed to allocate the funds, attempted to implement the policy. Just Security obtained the email chain through the Freedom of Information Act. The emails show McCusker advising budget officials as to what the law said. She was not acting especially rigid about it. As Just Security’s summary notes, “The emails show officials bending over backwards to make every conceivable accommodation to keep the process moving without actually being able to obligate the funding.” One message shows McCusker writing to another official, “We need to continue to give the WH has [sic] much decision space as possible, but am concerned we have not officially documented the fact that we can not promise full execution at this point.” That is, she was trying to do everything in her power to give White House officials room to set the policy as they saw fit, without violating the law. Importantly, the Government Accountability Office later examined the question, and found that McCusker was right. Holding up the aid was indeed illegal. (It’s not complicated: Congress passed a law providing the aid, so refusing to carry it out would obviously violate it.) The message sent by McCusker’s punishment dovetails not only with the Friday Night Massacre, but other recent moves. The Department of Justice has opened an official process to allow Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, the current target of an investigation, to take and sift through his Russian-financed dirt. (There is no such avenue available for lawyers representing other presidential candidates.) And after Trump floated a pardon for his Russia-scandal accomplice Roger Stone, who is being charged with obstructing an investigation in order to protect Trump, the Justice Department has proposed reducing his sentence.

By Chantal Da Silva

Democratic lawmakers have accused the Trump administration of blowing up indigenous burial sites at Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for the sake of President Donald Trump's border wall. Last week, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency confirmed to Newsweek that a construction contractor had begun "controlled blasting" in preparation for a new border wall system construction within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain in the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson Sector. "The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month," a CBP spokesperson said, adding that the agency would have an environmental monitor present throughout the blasting. While CBP may have consulted an environmental monitor before undertaking the initiative, community members and lawmakers said there has been zero consultation with the Tohono O'odham Nation, which has lived in the region "since time immemorial," according to the tribe's chairman, Ned Norris Jr. And with the Trump administration determined to see 450 miles of the border wall built before the end of 2020, lawmakers say CBP has allowed sacred indigenous burial grounds to be destroyed in the process. "Remember when Trump threatened to blow up Iranian cultural sites?" Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who chairs House Committee on Natural Resources and whose district includes the Tohono O'odham Nation reservation, questioned in a tweet. "Looks like he set his sights on something closer to home." "To build his racist wall, he's blowing up sacred Native American burial grounds without notifying local tribes. This is wrong," he said.

By Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Ann E. Marimow and Spencer S. Hsu

All four career prosecutors handling the case against Roger Stone, a confidant of President Trump, asked to withdraw from the legal proceedings Tuesday — and one quit his job entirely — after the Justice Department signaled it planned to reduce their sentencing recommendation for the president’s friend. Jonathan Kravis, one of the prosecutors, wrote in a court filing he had resigned as an assistant U.S. attorney, leaving government altogether. Three others — Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, Adam Jed and Michael Marando — asked a judge’s permission to leave the case. Zelinsky, a former member of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, also indicated in a filing he was quitting his special assignment to the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office, though a spokeswoman said he will remain an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore.

By Ryan Pickrell

President Donald Trump on Monday doubled down on his assertion that the injuries suffered by US troops during an Iranian missile attack on US forces are "not very serious." Swiftly retaliating for the death of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani at the hands of the US military, Iran fired over a dozen ballistic missiles at US and coalition forces in Iraq in early January. In the immediate aftermath, the president announced that "no Americans were harmed" and moved to deescalate tensions. Since then, the number of US troops diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injuries has steadily risen to 109, the Pentagon said on Monday. Symptoms of a TBI can be slow to manifest and sometimes harder to detect than other injuries. The Department of Defense has offered this as an explanation for initial misreporting on injuries. While roughly 70% of the injured troops have already returned to duty, at least 21 have been transported elsewhere for additional care, suggesting their injuries may be more severe.

By Dan Mangan, Kevin Breuninger

A federal prosecutor in the criminal case against President Donald Trump’s ally Roger Stone dramatically resigned Tuesday shortly after the Department of Justice said it will force prosecutors to cut their recommended prison sentence for Republican political operative. Aaron Zelinsky’s resignation as a special assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., was announced in a footnote of a court filing notifying a judge that Zelinsky was withdrawing from Stone’s case. “This Court is advised that the undersigned attorney has resigned effective immediately after this filing as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia,” the filing said. A spokesman for prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the departure of Zelinsky, who earlier worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. On Monday night, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington told the judge in a filing that Stone should get a prison term of seven to nine years when he is sentenced Feb. 20 for crimes related to lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election and his efforts to get an associate, comedian Randy Credico, to cover for his lies. Zelinsky was one of four prosecutors who signed that sentencing memorandum.

By Dan Mangan, Kevin Breuninger

The Department of Justice will force federal prosecutors to cut their recommended prison sentence for Republican political operative Roger Stone — a longtime ally of President Donald Trump — from the term of seven to nine years that they first suggested Monday night. Justice Department officials objected to the very stiff recommended prison term for Stone, which was made by prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. A new sentencing recommendation is expected to be filed today in U.S. District Court in Washington. Stone, 67, is due to be sentenced there Feb. 20 for crimes related to lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election and his efforts to get an associate, comedian Randy Credico, to cover for his lies. Trump early Tuesday morning blasted the original recommended sentence for Stone. Trump called the original sentencing suggestion “disgraceful,” and also tweeted that “this is a horrible and very unfair situation.” It is highly unusual for the DOJ to reverse a sentencing recommendation after it has been made by prosecutors in a U.S. Attorney’s office that has prosecuted a defendant. The Justice Department is headed by Trump’s appointee, William Barr.

By Josh Wingrove

President Donald Trump again downplayed the severity of head injuries suffered by U.S. troops during an Iranian missile attack, as the injury total rose to 109. Trump spoke to Fox Business in an interview Monday, after the Defense Department said that 109 U.S. service members, or 45 more than previously disclosed, had been diagnosed with a “mild traumatic brain injury” after the Jan. 8 Iranian strike on the Al Asad airbase in Iraq. That strike was in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, an act Trump has regularly touted on the campaign trail. “They landed in a way that didn’t hit anybody,” Trump said of Iran’s missile strike. “And so when they came in and told me that nobody was killed, I was impressed by that and, you know, I stopped something that would have been very devastating for them.” He didn’t specify what he stopped. He said he later found out that there were “head trauma” injuries. Trump last month described the injuries as “headaches” and said he didn’t consider them similar to other injuries, such as losing a limb. He echoed that sentiment on Monday.

By Matt Keeley

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is under fire after a whistleblower complaint revealed that the department had given over $1 million in anti-human trafficking grants to two groups, Hookers for Jesus and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation, rather than highly recommended, established groups. A September 12 internal DOJ memo recommended that the grant money go to the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa of Phoenix, according to an exclusive report by Reuters. The recommendations were based on reviews from outside contractors. Instead, the grant money went to two organizations the contractors gave lower ratings: Hookers for Jesus and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation. The funding decision was made in order to "distribute funding across as many states as possible," according to a September 23 memo obtained by Reuters. Head of the Office of Justice Programs, Katharine Sullivan, approved the decision, telling Reuters, "Our funding decisions are based on a merit-based review system." Hookers for Jesus is a Christian organization founded by former sex worker and sex trafficking victim Annie Lobert in 2007. The organization operates Destiny House, a one-year safehouse program for sex-trafficking victims and women who want to leave sex work, as well as a number of other outreach programs.

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