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US Monthly Headline News February 2020 Page 3

By Kevin Breuninger

If the past week is any indication, President Donald Trump has indeed learned a lesson from his impeachment — but perhaps not the one that GOP Sen. Susan Collins had in mind. Rather than growing “much more cautious,” as Collins predicted he would, Trump appears to be throwing caution to the wind since being acquitted Feb. 5 by the Republican-led Senate on articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Trump has ramped up attacks on his perceived political enemies and dismissed multiple officials in his administration who testified in the impeachment proceedings. Critics have characterized the moves as a campaign of “revenge.” He also weighed in on the sentencing of Roger Stone, his longtime friend and political advisor, who was convicted of lying to Congress about his contacts with the document disclosure group WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential elections. Trump’s salvos against the prosecutors in Stone’s case prompted accusations that he is putting his thumb on the scale in a federal criminal trial and politicizing the Department of Justice. “No serious person believes President Trump has learned any lesson,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “He doesn’t learn any lessons. He just does what he wants, what suits his ego at the moment.

Trump said Kelly has a "military and legal obligation" to "keep his mouth shut."
By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump blasted his former chief of staff John Kelly on Thursday after the ex-top aide said Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman did the right thing in reporting his concerns about Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president. "When I terminated John Kelly, which I couldn’t do fast enough, he knew full well that he was way over his head," Trump tweeted. "Being Chief of Staff just wasn’t for him. He came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X’s, he misses the action & just can’t keep his mouth shut, which he actually has a military and legal obligation to do." "His incredible wife, Karen, who I have a lot of respect for, once pulled me aside & said strongly that 'John respects you greatly. When we are no longer here, he will only speak well of you,'' Trump continued. "Wrong!" Trump was responding to comments Kelly made during a 75-minute speech and question-and-answer session at a Wednesday night event before students and guests at Drew University in New Jersey, which The Atlantic reported. The retired Marine Corps general, who also served as Trump's Homeland Security secretary prior to taking on his job as chief of staff, said Vindman was simply following his military training in reporting concerns about Trump's call. That phone call, in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden and Democrats, led to Trump's impeachment. Last week, the Senate acquitted the president on two charges, although it was the first time in history a member of a president's own party— Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah— voted to convict. Vindman "did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave," Kelly said. "He went and told his boss what he just heard." Vindman, who was the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council and testified in the House impeachment inquiry, was escorted out of the White House last week. Trump later attributed Vindman's removal to the impeachment. Kelly said Vindman was right to flag the call because it marked a huge change in U.S. policy toward Ukraine and suggested the content of that call was akin to hearing "an illegal order."

Bloomberg Politics

Feb.13 -- President Donald Trump’s nominees for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller, face questions from Senators about whether or not they can withstand pressure from the White House.

By Brian Cheung

Key Republican senators expressed reservations over Judy Shelton’s nomination for an open seat at the Federal Reserve, despite efforts from President Donald Trump’s nominee to backtrack on some of her previous writings. Shelton, a former economic adviser to Donald Trump, faced the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday and drew skepticism from some Republicans who were bothered by her stances on the gold standard and on foreign exchange dynamics. Alabama’s Richard Shelby said he was “troubled” by some of Shelton’s writings and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey disagreed with Shelton’s suggestion to devalue the dollar in response to global central banks lowering interest rates. “I’m concerned about the extent to which you advocate for our monetary policy to be influenced and reactive to the foreign exchange behavior of other countries,” said Toomey. After the exchange, Toomey reportedly said he was unsure if he would ultimately support her nomination. St. Louis Fed economist Christopher Waller, Trump’s other nominee, only fielded a few questions during the hearing. Shelton, who had served in an appointed-role as executive director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has published several op-eds and two books in addition to serving on Trump’s transition team as an adviser. In response to a question from Alabama Democrat Doug Jones, Shelton described her ideas as “out-of-the-box.” In August last year, she told CNBC that she would like to see the United States counter lower interest rates around the world with a weaker U.S. dollar. At the time, Trump was bashing the Fed for not lowering rates to take steam out of the strengthening dollar, arguing that a weaker dollar would help boost U.S. exports. Toomey said her thoughts on devaluing the U.S. dollar were a “dangerous path to go down,” prompting Shelton to backtrack on the idea of lowering rates for the specific purposes of manipulating the dollar.

By Danielle Kurtzleben

The U.S. House has voted to remove the deadline on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment in an attempt to revive the amendment. The 232-183 vote fell largely along party lines with five Republicans supporting the measure and zero Democrats opposing it. Changing the deadline is a key part of one route that some ERA proponents believe would lead to the amendment becoming a part of the Constitution, but the path forward is uncertain. The proposed amendment says simply, "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex," and it has had a renaissance in recent years, with three states ratifying it since 2017. However, the bill may well be stymied after this vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier this month that he's "personally not a supporter" of the amendment, and the Trump administration's Office of Legal Counsel has said that it considers the ERA "expired." In addition, there isn't legal consensus that Congress can remove the deadline in this way. The amendment, proposed in 1972, originally had a ratification deadline of 1979 attached to it. Congress later bumped that out to 1982, but by then, only 35 states had ratified it. Thirty-eight states need to ratify in order for a proposal to become an amendment. Illinois and Nevada ratified the amendment in recent years, and in January, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify. But the deadline has never been further extended beyond 1982. The bill passed by the House on Thursday would retroactively remove that deadline.

By Devan Cole, CNN

Washington (CNN) Former White House chief of staff John Kelly said Wednesday that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in President Donald Trump's impeachment inquiry, was right to raise concerns about Trump's July call to Ukraine's president, The Atlantic reported. Kelly also believes that Vindman, who was fired from White House last week, told the truth during testimony before House investigators last fall. "Having seen something 'questionable (in the call),' Vindman properly notified his superiors," Kelly said at an event at Drew University, according to the magazine. "When subpoenaed by Congress in the House impeachment hearings, Vindman complied and told the truth." "He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave," he said, according to the magazine. "He went and told his boss what he just heard." Kelly said that when Vindman heard Trump tell Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that he wanted the country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, the ask was for the aide "tantamount to hearing 'an illegal order,'" The Atlantic reported. Trump and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted corruptly in Ukraine. "We teach them, 'Don't follow an illegal order. And if you're ever given one, you'll raise it to whoever gives it to you that this is an illegal order, and then tell your boss,'" Kelly said, according to the magazine. The comments by Kelly, a retired Marine general who left the White House in January 2019, come as Trump has suggested Vindman could face disciplinary action, though a US defense official with knowledge of the matter told CNN there is no Army investigation into the Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient. Although Kelly has previously voiced criticism of Trump since leaving the White House last year, he touched upon a wide array of subjects in the new interview and prompted a Twitter blast from the President later Thursday morning.

By Faith Karimi and Jen Christensen, CNN

(CNN) Some of the coronavirus test kits shipped to labs across the country are not working as they should, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. As a result, the CDC is remaking parts of the test kits after some produced inconclusive test results. The kits were sent to the states to speed up the testing process, the CDC's Nancy Messonnier told reporters Wednesday. The states found out the flaw during the verification process. For quality control, when states get any test kit, they first verify that it works. "When some states were doing this, we received feedback that they weren't -- that it wasn't working as expected, specifically some public health labs at states were getting inconclusive results and what that means is that test results were not coming back as false positive or false negatives, but they were being read as inconclusive," Messonnier said. Some states notified the CDC that they were unable to validate the test, and the agency is remanufacturing a reagent used in the test that's not performing consistently. Not all states have been affected. The Illinois Department of Public Health said it has not had any issues with the kits and it's continuing with its testing for the coronavirus. State labs that have been successful in verifying that the kit works can continue with the testing. Those that haven't been successful have to wait for the CDC to ship out the replacement components. The CDC did not confirm how many states were affected or when they'll receive the replacement components.

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN) House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff offered a forceful rebuke of President Donald Trump's praise for the Justice Department's intervention in sentencing recommendations for longtime Trump associate Roger Stone, calling it a "direct attack" on the rule of law. "I'm struck by the fact that it's all out in the open. I mean, we will certainly learn about what's taking place behind the scenes, the sort of clandestine effort to weigh in and help the President's friends and hurt the President's enemies," the California Democrat told CNN's David Axelrod on "The Axe Files" podcast. "But the fact that this is being done in the open in a way makes it more insidious, because it is normalizing this attack on the independence of our justice system." The lead House impeachment manager's comments come after Trump congratulated Attorney General William Barr on Twitter for "taking charge" of the sentencing recommendation for Stone -- a stunning endorsement of the controversial and politically charged decision to reduce prosecutors' recommended sentence. The intervention prompted the four federal prosecutors who had successfully taken Stone's case to trial to withdraw their involvement Tuesday. Stone is set to be sentenced next week for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional committee proceeding. "We now have a President, and an attorney general who's willing to go along with him, that is in the business of investigating political opponents. That is in the business of providing lenient sentences for those that will commit crimes to cover up for the President and try to get harsher sentences on people like Michael Cohen or others that will speak out against the President," Schiff said. "I've never witnessed in my lifetime or my consciousness -- I mean, we saw some elements of this, I guess, during Watergate -- such a wholesale assault on the rule of law here," he said, adding that "it's hard, when you see this going on in real time, to be optimistic."

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.

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.

By Aris Folley

The measure, also known as House Bill 177, passed the legislative chamber in a 51-46 vote on Tuesday after clearing the body’s Privileges and Elections Committee in a vote last week. If the legislation is passed by the Senate, where Democrats also hold control, and signed into law by the governor, Virginia would subsequently be entered into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. “Under the compact, Virginia agrees to award its electoral votes to the presidential ticket that receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia,” a bill summary states. “The compact goes into effect when states cumulatively possessing a majority of the electoral votes have joined the compact.” “A state may withdraw from the compact; however, a withdrawal occurring within six months of the end of a President's term shall not become effective until a President or Vice President has qualified to serve the next term,” the summary continues.

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

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.

NBC News

The brother of the Ohio State University whistleblower is claiming that Rep. Jim Jordan asked him to "go against" his brother after being accused of overlooking the sexual abuse of male wrestlers by the team doctor, Richard Strauss.

By Liz Roscher - Yahoo Sports

Ohio congressman and former Ohio State assistant wrestling coach Jim Jordan has been accused of participating in the cover up of widespread sexual abuse in OSU’s wrestling program. Jordan was accused by Adam DiSabato, who was the team captain in the late 1980s and early 1990s. DiSabato was appearing in front of a hearing in the Ohio legislature as a witness for House Bill 249, which would waive the statute of limitations and allow the OSU athletes who had been abused to sue the university. DiSabato told the House Civil Justice Committee that several team officials, including Jordan, were aware that the team’s open shower facilities put them at risk of being abused and harassed by a team doctor, but did nothing about it. Then DiSabato detailed a phone conversation between him and Jordan, in which Jordan asks DiSabato to help him cover up wrongdoing.

"[DiSabato] also said Jordan called him repeatedly in July 2018, after media outlets quoted his brother, Michael DiSabato, saying Strauss’ abuse was common knowledge to those surrounding the wrestling program, including Jordan.</p><p>“Jim Jordan called me crying, groveling… begging me to go against my brother…That’s the kind of cover-up that’s going on there,” he said.</p><p>“Are you guys going to do what you’re voted to do?” he told lawmakers later. “That’s the only reason I’m here.”"

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 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.

By Manu Raju, Ted Barrett, Jeremy Herb and Clare Foran, CNN

(CNN) Congressional Republicans downplayed the involvement of President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr in the sentencing of Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone, saying they see no reason for the investigations that Democrats are demanding. The mostly muted reaction from Republicans to the Justice Department's move undercutting career prosecutors' recommended sentence for Stone of up to nine years -- which prompted all four prosecutors to withdraw from the case Tuesday -- fueled concerns from the President's critics that he's been emboldened in the aftermath of impeachment. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the President, brushed off the calls for his committee to hold hearings on the Stone sentencing, saying he didn't know why the four prosecutors had even stepped down. "I'm not losing any sleep over them stepping down. If they're pushing for seven-to-nine-a year sentence, in this case. I think that's ridiculous," Graham said, pointing to a letter from a witness in the Stone case, Randy Credico, saying he didn't feel like Stone intimidated him. Graham said he did not see any actions from the Justice Department that he needed to look into, though he added that the President "shouldn't be tweeting about an ongoing case. I've told him that." "If I thought he'd done something that'd change the outcome inappropriately, I'd be the first to say," he said. Trump's involvement in the Stone case is one of multiple actions he's taken decried by his critics since he was acquitted in the Senate's impeachment trial last week, including the firing of two witnesses who testified in the impeachment inquiry and the withdrawal of the nomination of a Treasury nominee who led the US Attorney's office in Washington when it prosecuted Stone. "He's gotten so much worse since impeachment," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat. "This retribution tour where he attacks, and attacks, and attacks -- I heard all kinds of Republican senators say, 'Well, he's going to get better.' Well, no sign of that at all and there won't be." House Democrats are vowing to look into the Stone sentencing, but they have routinely faced resistance in their efforts to investigate the Justice Department since taking control of the House last year. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats have called for the Justice Department inspector general to probe the matter, too, and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut called on Barr to step down.

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.

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 Republicans criticized Trump for intervening in the case but rejected Democratic demands for an investigation.
By ANDREW DESIDERIO

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has little interest in investigating the Justice Department’s abrupt reversal on a sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone — rebuffing a Democratic demand sparked by President Donald Trump’s attacks on the federal prosecutors in the case. Graham, a staunch Trump ally, said Wednesday he did not intend to bring Attorney General William Barr in for testimony aside from the committee’s general oversight of the Justice Department. And while Senate Republicans broadly criticized Trump’s Twitter forays into the case, they said further investigation was not warranted — dismissing Democrats’ calls for congressional action over allegations of politically motivated favoritism. “I don’t think he should be commenting on cases in the system. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Graham told reporters. “You want to let the legal process to move forward in the way it’s intended to,” added Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “The president weighs in on a lot of things. He tweeted about it I guess, so people perceived that as him having weighed in. But in the end, the Justice Department and lawyers over there need to do what they need to do to make sure justice is being served.” Trump appeared to confirm on Wednesday morning that Barr intervened in Stone’s case, writing on Twitter: “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.”

   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

Federal prosecutors initially recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years for Stone, a former Trump political adviser who was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation, making false statements and tampering with witnesses. Hours after the sentencing recommendation was filed, Trump took to Twitter to slam the decision as “horrible and very unfair;” and the following morning, the Justice Department overruled the proposal, prompting the four prosecutors to withdraw from the case or resign from the Justice Department altogether.

By Theresa Waldrop and Pierre Meilhan, CNN

(CNN) A University of Oklahoma professor has apologized after saying "OK, boomer" is the same as saying "n***er," the university's student newspaper.
When a student made the comment Tuesday that journalists must keep up with younger generations, the professor said that was "the equivalent of saying 'OK, boomer' to him," the OU Daily reported. "Calling someone a boomer is like calling someone a n***er," the professor then said, according to the paper, which said some of its staffers were in the class and witnessed the exchange. The professor apologized in an email to students Tuesday evening, the OU Daily said. "I realize the word was hurtful and infuses the racial divisions of our country, past and present," the professor wrote, according to the paper. "Use of the word is inappropriate in any — especially educational — settings."

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 Tami Luhby, CNN

(CNN) As Democrats push forward in the fight for the party's presidential nomination, one issue is at the top of voters' minds: Health care.
Both the New Hampshire primary exit polls on Tuesday and the Iowa caucus entrance polls last week showed that health care has been a key priority. But these voters remain divided over what the future of health care should be -- shifting to a government-run Medicare-for-All-style system or shoring up the current programs, primarily Obamacare. That split is a key reason the party is fracturing over the question of who should be the Democratic nominee against President Donald Trump, who continues to undermine the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. More than one-third of Democratic voters going to the polls in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary said health care was the most important issue in determining their vote, beating out climate change, income equality and foreign policy. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was the clear favorite among this group, drawing support from about one-third of voters, according to exit polls. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar each attracted about 1 in 5 of these voters, while former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who have also campaigned on health care, landed in the single digits. Six in 10 voters supported a single-payer system -- with Sanders attracting close to 40% of those voters and Buttigieg attracting more than 2 in 10. Among those who oppose single-payer, more than 3 in 10 backed Buttigieg and more than a quarter voted for Klobuchar. Biden received 13% of the vote, while Sanders and Warren were in the single digits.

By Erik Wemple Media critic

In an interview on his Monday night program, Fox News host Sean Hannity pressed Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii about her position on drug policy. When she didn’t directly answer his queries on heroin legalization, he said, “Don’t make me be a jerk.” Actually, Hannity needs no encouragement on that front, as he showed in another moment on Monday’s program. In a field trip to a rally for former vice president Joe Biden in New Hampshire, Hannity talked up the Democratic faithful. A highlight compilation featured the host in a series of good-natured exchanges with Biden supporters, who issued compliments about Hannity’s looks and demeanor. “You are nicer in person. You seem nicer than you are on TV, I have to give you that,” one woman said to Hannity. Yet Hannity couldn’t stop himself from spreading the sorts of false narratives that generally go directly to a much different audience with each edition of “Hannity.” For example, he approached an older man and mentioned the famous 2018 speech in which Biden boasted about withholding $1 billion in loan guarantees from Ukraine. “You saw the tape of Joe Biden: ‘You’re not getting a billion of our taxpayer dollars unless you fire the prosecutor investigating my son, who has zero experience in energy that’s being paid millions.’ Do you have a problem with that?” asked Hannity.

A half-century-long fight for equality is likely at an end.
By Ian Millhiser

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the most important feminist lawyer in American history. Long before she became a judge, she convinced the Supreme Court to hold that gender discrimination can violate the Constitution. She spent many of the following years working to strengthen those protections for women. Yet Ginsburg said on Monday that one of her life’s goals — writing a strong prohibition against gender discrimination into the Constitution — must be put on hold. At an event at Georgetown University’s law school, moderator and federal appellate judge Margaret McKeown asked Ginsburg about an ongoing effort to revive the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which provides that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Three-fourths of the states, or 38 total, are required to amend the Constitution. Last month, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA and one of only three states to do so since 1977 — but there’s a catch. Congress imposed a 1982 deadline on states hoping to ratify the ERA, though there’s doubt about whether this deadline is binding. Ginsburg’s comments on Monday suggest that she believes this 1982 deadline should be considered binding. “I would like to see a new beginning” for ERA ratification, the justice told McKeown. “There’s too much controversy about latecomers,” Ginsburg added. “Plus, a number of states have withdrawn their ratification. So if you count a latecomer on the plus side, how can you disregard states that said ‘we’ve changed our minds?’” According to the Washington Post, five states — Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota — voted to ratify the ERA but later rescinded that ratification. Ginsburg’s comments are likely to be the death knell for the ERA. Without Ginsburg’s vote, it’s tough to imagine that five members of the Supreme Court would agree the ERA was properly ratified. And while Congress could, in theory, start the ratification process over again, it’s also hard to imagine two-thirds of the House and Senate agreeing to do so in an age when Congress often struggles to perform basic functions like funding the government.

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

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."

CNN

CNN's David Chalian reports that while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) won the popular vote in both the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Pete Buttigieg is leading the field in delegates won due to how delegates are allocated.

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.”


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