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US Monthly Headline News February 2020 Page 6

By Doug Stanglin and Grace Hauck USA TODAY

A person has died from the new coronavirus in Washington state, the first death from the virus in the U.S., health officials confirmed Saturday. The person died in King County, Washington, the state's Department of Health said. More information was expected at a press conference at 1 p.m. PT. "It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus," Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement Saturday. "In partnership with the Washington State Department of Health, the Washington State Department of Emergency Management and local and community health partners, we are strengthening our preparedness and response efforts. I am committed to keeping Washingtonians healthy, safe and informed," he said. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump will speak at a press conference at 1:30 p.m. ET at the White House about the latest developments in the outbreak. The Washington state death comes a day after health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state reported four new apparent cases of the novel coronavirus, named COVID-19, raising concerns that it is spreading through West Coast communities. Authorities said three of the cases – an older Northern California woman with chronic health conditions, a high school student in Everett, Washington, and an employee at a Portland, Oregon-area school – had not recently traveled overseas or had any known close contact with a traveler or an infected person.

Trump is already calling coronavirus a Democratic "hoax" — and attacks on his opponents are just starting
By Lucian K. Truscott IV

You may be forgiven if you are under the impression that the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak is just one more example of his incompetence, aggressive ignorance, contempt for science and outright abuse of government. But it's worse than that. For the White House, and especially for Donald Trump's re-election campaign, it's an opportunity to put into play the massive disinformation apparatus they have built for the 2020 presidential race. Just look at what they've done so far. They unleashed their platoon of poodles in the right- wing media to pound the drum for the proposition that the Democrats have "weaponized" the coronavirus outbreak to "bring down Donald Trump," a line of outright horseshit pushed aggressively by Trumpazoid spokesbots Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity on their shows. Their "evidence"? Well, that terrible, nasty, mean Chuck Schumer has been critical of the Trump administration's initial request for only $2.5 billion to fight the virus, proposing instead that more than $8 billion will be needed. Trump himself doubled down against Democrats at his press conference on Thursday, unleashing a new attack on Nancy Pelosi. "I think Speaker Pelosi's incompetent. She's trying to create a panic. I think she's not thinking about the country," he added. "She should be saying we have to work together." As if that's not what Pelosi has been saying. But perhaps the most egregious thing they've done was to announce a rule that all statements coming from administration officials must be cleared through the office of Vice President Mike Pence. For the White House and the Trump campaign, saddled with an out-of-control narrative about a disaster they are singularly unequipped to handle, disinformation is no information at all. The Trump campaign's disinformation "Death Star," as one campaign operative described it to McKay Coppins of the Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/03/the-2020-disinformation-war/605530/ is located in an office building in Roslyn, Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington. "Heavily funded, technologically sophisticated, and staffed with dozens of experienced operatives," the Trump campaign plans to spend more than $1 billion on "the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history," according to Coppins' article. The Trump disinformation juggernaut is overseen by campaign manager Brad Parscale, who was digital director of the Trump 2016 campaign. The Trump campaign ran 5.9 million ads on Facebook in that campaign, according to Bloomberg News, while the Democrats ran only 66,000 Facebook ads. This year's campaign will make even more sophisticated use of the kind of micro-targeting they used in 2016. A political analyst on MSNBC recently pointed out that micro-targeting has become so effective that as few as 800 women in a mid-size city in Wisconsin could be sent a single anti-abortion ad on Facebook, thus eliminating the cost of broadcasting political content more widely.

Billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management has taken a ‘sizable stake’ and intends to ‘push for changes’, reports Bloomberg News
By Martin Pengelly

A major Republican donor has purchased a stake in Twitter and is reportedly seeking to oust its chief executive, Jack Dorsey. Bloomberg News first reported that Elliott Management has taken a “sizable stake” and “and plans to push for changes at the social media company, including replacing Dorsey”. Paul Singer, the billionaire founder of Elliott Management, is a Republican mega-donor who opposed Donald Trump during the real-estate magnate’s run for the presidential nomination but has since come onside. After a White House visit in February 2017, Trump said Singer “was very much involved with the anti-Trump or, as they say, ‘Never Trump’, and Paul just left, and he’s given us his total support and it’s all about unification”. Trump famously communicates with the public largely through Twitter, at the expense of traditional media strategy. Twitter made headlines in October when it announced a ban on political advertising. Its use and potential manipulation by politicians of all stripes, from Trump to Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg, remains a source of fierce contention. Dorsey, a co-founder of Twitter, is also chief executive of Square, an online payment company. In November, he announced a plan to live and work in Africa for part of each year.

By Brooke Seipel

Newly released emails from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reflect the internal concern over the agency's credibility after it released a statement backing up President Trump's forecast of Hurricane Dorian's projected path last fall. The emails, which were obtained by The Washington Post and other outlets as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, show complaints from members of the public to the agency's National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Ken Graham, as well as complaints from internal staff. One email from a member of the public reads: “I was heartsick and dumbstruck to see the NOAA announcement today supporting the president’s ludicrous and psychotic defense of his Alabama forecast garbage. Mr. Graham, as a fellow scientist and professional, would you kindly reassure me that the politics of a lunatic will not be affecting the science done at NOAA and the NHC?” Trump on Sept. 1 tweeted that Alabama was a potential target of Hurricane Dorian, writing, “In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” After Trump's remarks, a National Weather Service office in Alabama tweeted that the state would "NOT" be affected. Trump continued to stand behind his statement on Alabama, however, and on Sept. 4 displayed a map of Dorian’s projected path that appeared to show the path extended with black marker to include Alabama. Two days later, the NOAA issued an unsigned statement backing up Trump, saying the information provided to him and the public showed “that tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian could impact Alabama.” That unsigned statement sparked, according to one NOAA employee's email, more than 600 emails from the public. The employee wrote that "most are asking, in some form, ‘How can we trust NOAA?’ or stating that ‘NOAA has lost its credibility.’" Other emails from staff also raised concerns about the appearance of credibility. One employee wrote: “Our integrity as a science agency is priceless ... when the next storm comes by (and it will), will we be believed?” The new batch of emails expands on previously released internal NOAA emails expressing concern over the Hurricane Dorian storm path projections. They also come as the Trump administration already faces questions surrounding how it will deal with the press amid the coronavirus outbreak.

By Rick Jervis and Rafael Carranza USA TODAY

AUSTIN — Confusion ricocheted across the border Friday as a federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration’s policy of returning asylum-seekers to Mexico to await court hearings, a practice immigrant advocates have denounced as inhumane and deadly. An earlier decision Friday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco dealt a blow to the Trump administration. The process — called the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, also known as "Remain in Mexico" — had been seen as a successful tool in President Donald Trump’s asylum crackdown. Throngs of migrants in the program flocked to international crossings across the border, including Matamoros, Ciudad Juárez, Nogales and Tijuana, buoyed by the chance of being let into the U.S. The crossing this morning remained under heavy guard. But the decision — and migrants' hopes — lasted only a few hours. About 7 p.m. Friday, the 9th Circuit judges granted an emergency stay on the injunction, as requested by the Trump administration, effectively reinstating MPP while further arguments are heard. The case appears to be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. "This evening, with support of DOJ attorneys and CBP’s declaration, the 9th Circuit granted a stay of its earlier order enjoining MPP," Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan tweeted Late Friday. "@CBP will immediately reinstate MPP!"

Cases in the U.S. rose to 64, including three instances of community spread.
By Morgan Winsor and Erin Schumaker

Countries around the world are scrambling to respond to the influx of new novel coronavirus cases outside of China. The number of cases in the United States grew to more than 60 on Friday, including the second and third cases of the disease from so-called "community spread." There have been 2,791 deaths in China, among more than 78,000 cases, and 67 deaths outside of China, according to the World Health Organization.  A third U.S. case of coronavirus of unknown origin -- not through travel or known contact with an infected individual -- was announced by health officials in Oregon Friday night. The case, which was diagnosed through one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's testing kits, was found in an individual who works as a school employee in Clackamas County, who "may have exposed students and staff there," according to the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services. The sample will be sent to CDC's Atlanta headquarters for confirmation. The school where the person works is being closed as an investigation is ongoing and parents of students are being informed. "We are awaiting confirmation of the test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but at this time we are considering this a presumptive case," Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the health officer and state epidemiologist for the Oregon Public Health Division, said in a statement. "The person in now appropriate isolation and appropriate care."

By Thomas Franck

President Donald Trump said Friday that Democrats are using the virulent coronavirus as a “hoax” to damage him and his administration. “The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” he said from a campaign rally in North Charleston, South Carolina. “One of my people came up to me and said ‘Mr. President they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia. That didn’t work out too well.’ They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax that was on a perfect conversation,” he continued. “This is their new hoax,” he said, referring to the coronavirus. The disease, which originated in Wuhan, China, has now killed more than 2,800 people worldwide and infected more than 80,000. The latest reports from the World Health Organization show the pace of new cases in China slowing, but jumping in South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Iran. In the U.S., the Santa Clara Public Health Department announced a third case of coronavirus in the county Friday evening. The announcement brings the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in California to 10 and the total number of cases in the U.S. to 63, most of which were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and evacuees from Wuhan.

By David Welna

The U.S. and the Taliban have struck a deal that paves the way for eventual peace in Afghanistan. U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and the head of the militant Islamist group, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, signed the potentially historic agreement Saturday in Doha, Qatar, where the two sides spent months hashing out the agreement. Under the terms of the deal, the U.S. commits to withdrawing all of its military forces and supporting civilian personnel, as well as those of its allies, within 14 months. The drawdown process will begin with the U.S. reducing its troop levels to 8,600 in the first 135 days and pulling its forces from five bases. The rest of its forces, according to the agreement, will leave "within the remaining nine and a half months." The Afghan government also will release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners as a gesture of goodwill, in exchange for 1,000 Afghan security forces held by the Taliban. "We owe a debt of gratitude to America's sons and daughters who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, and to the many thousands who served over the past nearly 19 years," Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement celebrating the deal, which comes on the heels of a seven-day "Reduction in Violence" agreement in Afghanistan.

By Ewan Palmer

The commandant of the Marine Corps has ordered that all symbols connected to the Confederacy be removed from Marine installations, according to reports. Commandant General David Berger is said to have instructed that all Marine bases remove any "Confederate-related paraphernalia" worldwide, reported Task and Purpose. The directive was sent out as part of a memo, seen by Military.com, in which Berger demanded several initiatives be put in place, including finding ways to place more women in combat positions and to update their recruitment policies to prohibit those with prior domestic abuse convictions. Many of the new policies were revealed by Berger via Twitter on Friday. "While I am aware of the good work already being done across the force in support of my planning guidance implementation, these are some of my most important matters for immediate execution," he tweeted. The line in the memo about the confederate symbols being removed also tweeted out by military analyst B. A. Friedman. "Last week, the Commandant of the Marine Corps directed specific tasks be reviewed or addressed by Headquarters Marine Corps staff," Captain Monica Witt, communication strategy officer for Marine Corps, told Newsweek in a statement. "Many of the tasks were published on Twitter Friday. Other tasks not published previously are mostly administrative matters.

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

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

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

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

New Day

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

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

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

BBC

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

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

By Paul Farhi

Choose your scapegoat: Democrats, the news media, the Chinese government, the “deep state,” Bernie Sanders or even “identity politics.” All received some share of the blame this week from conservative media figures for the growing public concern over the coronavirus, the communicable disease that has spread across the globe. In fact, many conservative commentators have expressed less interest in the spread of the virus or efforts to combat it than they are in the story of the virus — a story they are convinced shows evidence of bias designed to harm President Trump. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson’s commentaries were a mix of paranoia, erroneous information and sometimes dangerous conspiracy theories about the virus, which has killed about 2,800 people, mostly in China, where it was first detected. Trump, who often engages in a feedback loop with allied media figures, has already picked up on one strand of the popular pundits’ thinking: That the news media and Democrats have hyped the threat posed by the outbreak. “Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC (Comcast) & @CNN are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible,” he tweeted Wednesday, misspelling the name of the disease in the process. “Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!” Hannity took Trump’s argument a step further on Thursday with focus on the Democrats, whom he argued were “sadly politicizing and weaponizing an infectious disease as their next effort to bludgeon President Trump.” Limbaugh — a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient from Trump earlier this month — was early to tar the media as the villain. The conservative radio titan said on his program Monday that the media’s coverage of the virus was “an effort to get Trump” and to spook investors. (The Dow Jones was down more than 1,100 points Thursday, adding to its drop over the past week.)

By Bill McCarthy

Fact-checking Rush Limbaugh’s misleading claim that the new coronavirus is “the common cold” Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh accused the media of overhyping the 2019 coronavirus that’s infected nearly 80,000 people worldwide, calling it "the common cold" and claiming, without evidence, that it’s "being weaponized" as an attack on President Donald Trump. "It looks like the coronavirus is being weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump," Limbaugh said Feb. 24 on his radio show. "Now, I want to tell you the truth about the coronavirus … I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold, folks." "The drive-by media hype up this thing as a pandemic," Limbaugh continued. "Ninety-eight percent of people who get the coronavirus survive. It’s a respiratory system virus." The recent Presidential Medal of Freedom winner went on to push the debunked conspiracy theory that the new coronavirus strain was created in a lab as a bioweapon. But we were also struck by his claim that the 2019 coronavirus is nothing more than "the common cold." We didn’t have to look far to see where Limbaugh went wrong. In a FAQ about the 2019 coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention addressed his confusion head-on. "A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified," the CDC wrote. "The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not that same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold."

The 2019 coronavirus is a novel strain of coronavirus
The current strain of coronavirus was first detected in December in Wuhan, China. It’s one of seven types of coronaviruses that can infect humans, according to the CDC. Named for the crown-like spikes on their surface, coronaviruses are typically found in animals such as camels, cattle and bats. Strains infecting humans were discovered in the mid 1960s. Most strains that affect humans are relatively mild and take the form of respiratory diseases such as the common cold. But more serious strains have emerged over the last two decades, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which spread across the globe in 2003.

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

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

"He dug in and fought us all the way to his last day in office," an activist who opposed stop-and-frisk recalled.
By Jon Schuppe

In the summer of 2013, as he sought to cement his legacy as a three-term mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg faced a pair of threats to his signature — and highly divisive — crime-fighting policy, known as stop-and-frisk. One challenge was in the courts, where a mostly black group of New Yorkers who'd been subjected to the pat-downs accused the city of systematic racial profiling. The other was in the New York City Council, where lawmakers wanted to hold police accountable for complaints of abuse. The dual challenges to stop-and-frisk marked an escalation in public resentment over the tactic, which focused aggressive policing in largely minority neighborhoods with high crime rates but fueled claims that it did more harm than good in those communities. Bloomberg scorned the critics. "I think we disproportionately stop whites too much and minorities too little," Bloomberg told a radio interviewer early that summer, arguing that stop-and-frisk targeted the people who were committing most of the city's gun violence.

BY Tracy Roof

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

By Maegan Vazquez and Caroline Kelly, CNN

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

By Lena H. Sun and Yasmeen Abutaleb

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

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

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

By Bill Chappell

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

By Zack Budryk

Federal officials on Wednesday arrested and charged four alleged white supremacists in a plot to threaten journalists and activists, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced. The criminal complaint alleges that Cameron Brandon Shea of Washington state, Kaleb Cole of Texas, Taylor Ashley Parker-Dipeppe of Florida and Johnny Roman Garza of Arizona conspired through online chats to identify journalists and advocates for intimidation, focusing particularly on Jewish journalists and people of color. The complaint alleges Cole and Shea created posters depicting Nazi iconography and threats of violence and electronically delivered them to members of Atomwaffen Division, a violent neo-Nazi group that has been tied to at least eight murders worldwide. The posters were later sent to a TV journalist who had covered the group in Seattle as well as people affiliated with the Anti-Defamation League, while targeting a magazine journalist in Phoenix. In Tampa, the defendants allegedly attempted to send them to another journalist but used the wrong address, according to the DOJ. “Today’s announcement serves as a warning to anyone who intends to use violence as intimidation or coercion to further their ideology that the FBI remains steadfast in our commitment to protect Americans from domestic terrorism,” said Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Jill Sanborn. “These nationwide arrests are the result of the robust partnerships among the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Tampa, Seattle, Houston, and Phoenix and we appreciate their collective efforts,” she added.

The right-wing personalities have a head-spinning chat about poor Americans on Hannity’s radio show.
By Ron Dicker

Bill O’Reilly showed a wealth of ignorance Wednesday in saying that impoverished Americans “live very well.” (Listen to the audio clip below.) The right-wing commentator made the remark to his old Fox News colleague Sean Hannity while the two discussed capitalism “through the prism” of the Democratic presidential debate. O’Reilly, appearing on Hannity’s radio show, accused Democrats of wanting to “destroy” capitalism. Hannity set up O’Reilly’s remarks by saying aspirations of having a nice house and car are “achievable, but only in America, but only because this system of capitalism has created the greatest advancement of the human condition, because we’re free.” O’Reilly replied that Americans have already achieved that standard of living, then spouted off on the disadvantaged. “Most people in America, even people in poverty, live very well,” said O’Reilly, who was a top-rated Fox News host until he was fired in 2017 for sexual harassment. “You know the studies, that poor people in America have air conditioning, have cars, have big-screen TVs. They live pretty well compared to the rest of the world.”

By Devan Cole, CNN

Washington (CNN) Catherine Pugh, the former Baltimore mayor whose tenure was cut short by a children's book deal scandal, was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison and three years of parole for corruption charges stemming from her role in the scheme. Pugh, 69, pleaded guilty last fall to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and two counts of tax evasion tied to the scandal. The government had called for Pugh to be sentenced to 57 months -- nearly five years -- in prison earlier this month. Pugh was also ordered by US District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow to pay $411,948 in restitution and to forfeit more than $600,000, including a property in Baltimore and nearly $18,000 from her campaign account. Pugh's transgressions dating back several years emerged during the months-long scandal over her self-published "Healthy Holly" books, which prosecutors said she fraudulently sold to local nonprofit organizations in order to obtain more than $800,000 to fund her campaign and enrich herself. "This morning was a sad occasion," Robert Hur, the US Attorney for the District of Maryland, said to reporters following the sentencing. "Holding public office is a rare privilege and an opportunity to serve the community and get things done that help our community. And unfortunately, the type of fraud and public corruption that Ms. Pugh committed -- and was sentenced to three years in federal prison for today -- undermines everyone's faith in government and what government can do for the people," he said. In a video address submitted to the court on Wednesday, Pugh, who resigned last May, apologized "to the citizens, to young people, to my partners, my friends, everyone I've offended, everyone I've hurt and the city's image." "When I think about me, and my capacity and my capabilities and all the things I've been able to do I said, 'How do you end up here? I mean, how do you mess this up?'" she said. "I messed up. I really messed up. I am so sorry. I really am sorry."

By Rosie McCall

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

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

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

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

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

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

By Bruce Golding

He wanted to be “America’s mayor” a whole lot longer. Rudy Giuliani secretly asked then-New York Gov. George Pataki to cancel New York City’s 2001 mayoral election so he could remain in office following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, a new book reveals. The bombshell disclosure is contained in Pataki’s upcoming memoir of 9/11, “Beyond the Great Divide: How A Nation Became A Neighborhood.” In an excerpt obtained by The Post, Pataki recalls how he attended a press conference with Giuliani and then-Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at Manhattan’s Pier 92 on Sept. 24, 2001. As they began leaving, Giuliani — who a day before had been hailed as “America’s mayor” by Oprah Winfrey during a Yankee Stadium prayer service — asked Pataki for a “private meeting” and they walked into a small room to talk. Following an exchange of the “usual formalities,” Giuliani “dropped a bomb,” Pataki writes. “Governor, you have extraordinary powers to extend my term in office,” Giuliani said. Pataki’s “heart sank,” he writes, noting that he initially backed the idea of repealing term limits so Giuliani, a fellow Republican, could seek a third term, but quickly realized it was a “bad idea both as a matter of principle and politically.” He also describes Giuliani’s implicit request as a desperation move following an “off-the-radar public relations campaign” in which Giuliani’s team tried, but failed, to “influence lawmakers through the media.”

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

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

As commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, I fought America’s enemies abroad. Now we must fight violent, hateful ideologies at home.
By John R. Allen

I combatted the threat of foreign terrorism for much of my career, fighting organizations that are grounded in virulent, hateful ideologies, and in many cases operate in a network of independent, loosely connected cells. Violent white-supremacist organizations operate in a similar fashion. Our failure to address these domestic groups and their networks, or to take them as seriously as their foreign counterparts, is costing us lives, diminishing our shared and cherished values, and compromising our credibility and unity as a people. This is happening now, not in some bygone era, and we have to act immediately if we’re to safeguard our republic. Last month, I testified before the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism about one element of the threat that white-supremacists pose: the risks of anti-Semitic violence and the ongoing threats facing our faith-based communities. Yet as we celebrate Black History Month and reflect on all that it represents, we should recognize the deep roots of racism and prejudice in America. Slavery is America’s original sin, and this “genetic birth defect,” as Representative Hakeem Jeffries recently called it, did not resolve itself with the end of the Civil War, nor with the heroic efforts of the civil-rights movement. The resurgence of white-nationalist ideologies and organizations is rooted in this legacy. For much of the past 50 years, white-supremacist groups were largely relegated to the fringes of American society, where they continued to survive, if not thrive, as a shameful artifact of history. Yet today they are finding a geopolitical landscape that has grown permissive, or even supportive, of their rhetoric and activities—and we need to do more to combat them. The recent decision of the FBI to elevate racially motivated violent extremism to a “national threat priority” is a strong start. These malign actors are terrorists, and that’s what we should call them. What’s more, we need a comprehensive domestic-terrorism law, one that would help bring the full weight of our laws and resources against the unaddressed and violent manifestations of racism that still persist in American culture today. Too many of today’s white-supremacist groups have taken unchecked strides to rebrand themselves as part of the contemporary political mainstream, emphasizing “heritage” or pseudoscience to mask their true, violent intentions. Identifying and prosecuting such organizations for the terrorist groups that they are—just as the international community rightly fought against the Islamic State’s attempts to brand itself as the true voice of Islam—denies these groups the credibility and narrative that they so desperately seek.

By Ben Feuerherd

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

Since 1900, the House and Senate have repeatedly failed to pass a bill making lynching a federal crime. Now the legislation could be on its way to the Oval Office.
By Jacey Fortin

Since at least 1900, members of the House and Senate have tried to pass a law making lynching a federal crime. To date, they have not succeeded. The bills were consistently blocked, shelved or ignored, and the passage of time has rendered anti-lynching legislation increasingly symbolic. Now, a measure to add lynching to the United States Criminal Code appears to have bipartisan support in both chambers. The Senate has passed a version of the bill, and the House is voting on its own version on Wednesday afternoon. This time, it might go all the way to the Oval Office, where President Trump is expected to sign it into law. The House bill, called the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, was introduced by Representative Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois. The Senate bill, which passed unanimously last year, was introduced by Kamala Harris, Democrat of California; Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey; and Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina. The House bill makes lynching a hate crime and describes it as “a pernicious and pervasive tool” that was often carried out “by multiple offenders and groups rather than isolated individuals.” “We are one step closer to finally outlawing this heinous practice and achieving justice for over 4,000 victims of lynching,” Mr. Rush said in a statement when the House vote was announced last week. He cited Emmett Till, one of thousands of lynching victims during the Jim Crow era. Emmett was brutally tortured and killed in 1955, when he was 14, after a white woman accused him of grabbing her and whistling at her in a grocery store in Mississippi. Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, fought against a quick burial so her son’s mutilated body could be viewed and photographed, to “let the world see what I have seen.” The two white men who were charged with killing Emmett were acquitted by an all-white jury. At the time, it was often the case that perpetrators of racist violence were either acquitted or not prosecuted at all. “The importance of this bill cannot be overstated,” Mr. Rush said in his statement.

By Clare Foran, CNN

Washington (CNN) Lawmakers will take a historic vote on Wednesday when the House of Representatives takes up legislation to make lynching a federal crime. The House will vote on HR 35, anti-lynching legislation introduced by Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois, called the Emmett Till Antilynching Act. Fourteen-year-old Till was brutally murdered in a racist attack in Mississippi in 1955, an event that drew national attention to the atrocities and violence that African Americans have faced in the United States and became a civil rights rallying cry. The measure that the House will take up on Wednesday, however, will be amended prior to a vote on final passage to sync up with anti-lynching legislation that has already passed the Senate. The Senate bill, called the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, makes lynching a federal crime by establishing it as a new criminal civil rights violation. The legislation would amend federal civil rights law to explicitly include provisions on lynching. It passed the Senate last year by a unanimous vote and was sponsored by the Senate's three black members: Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. A senior Democratic aide told CNN on Monday that the House bill would be amended to carry the language of the Senate bill, but would keep the House's title in honor of Till. The House vote is expected to pave the way for the anti-lynching legislation to ultimately go to President Donald Trump for his signature, although the exact process for reconciling the two bills so that a final version can be sent to the White House is not yet clear. The bills will still have different titles and numbers, meaning that additional action will be necessary in one of the two chambers before the legislation can go to the President's desk. The Senate, for example, may next need to take up the House-passed legislation and approve it before it goes to the White House.

By Arthur MacMillan, AFP USA

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

By Justin Strekal

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

By Katelyn Polantz, CNN

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

By Zack Budryk

A nonpartisan watchdog group in an ethics complaint Wednesday asked Congress to investigate how Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is paying for several ongoing lawsuits against critics. In its complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Campaign Legal Center notes Nunes’s annual congressional salary of $174,000 would likely not cover the costs of the various suits, indicating that he is either receiving free or discounted legal services or working on contingency with an attorney, all of which would require him to disclose the assistance. Nunes has yet to file a legal expense fund with the Office of Congressional Ethics. “Representative Nunes’s overt involvement with the highly-publicized lawsuits threatens to establish a precedent that the Legal Expense Fund regulations no longer apply to Members,” the complaint states. “Although Representative Nunes is entitled to legal representation and he may pursue any legal action to protect and defend his interests, he must comply with House rules," it continued. "An [Office of Congressional Ethics] investigation will preserve Representative Nunes’s legal right to counsel while upholding well-established House rules and precedent." Defendants in Nunes’s lawsuits include Twitter, CNN, McClatchy and two anonymous Twitter accounts that have mocked him.

By Krishnadev Calamur

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

By Russell Lewis

Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who was one of NASA's human "computers" and an unsung hero of the space agency's early days, died Monday. She calculated the flight path for America's first crewed space mission and moon landing, and she was among the women profiled in the book and movie Hidden Figures. She was 101. Her death was announced by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "The NASA family will never forget Katherine Johnson's courage and the milestones we could not have reached without her," Bridenstine wrote on Twitter. "Her story and her grace continue to inspire the world." Johnson was born in West Virginia in 1918. As a young girl, she was fascinated by numbers and it was clear early on she was gifted. She graduated from high school at 14 and finished college with degrees in math and French from historically black West Virginia State College. She initially became a teacher but, in 1953, took a job at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics — the agency that would become NASA. "Everybody there was doing research," she recalled in later years, "You had a mission and you worked on it."


The former movie mogul has been convicted in his New York sexual assault trial. He will be sentenced on March 11. A jury of 12 men and women has found former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein guilty on two of the five potential criminal charges he faced in his New York County trial. Weinstein has been convicted of criminal sexual assault in the first degree, based on the testimony of former Project Runway production assistant Miriam Haley, and rape in the third degree, based on the testimony of one-time aspiring actress Jessica Mann. The verdict was announced on Monday after the jury of seven men and five women spent five days deliberating on his fate. Weinstein was remanded into custody against the protests of his lawyers, who cited his health. He looked ashen and unstable as he was surrounded by court officers who helped escort him out of the court room. Weinstein will be sentenced on March 11. He's facing five to 25 years for the criminal sexual assault conviction and 18 months to four years for the third-degree rape conviction.

By Brian Naylor

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

By Maanvi Singh in Las Vegas, Nevada (now) and Julia Carrie Wong (earlier)

Bernie Sanders declared a resounding victory in the “first in the west” primary race. Just over a quarter of precincts have reported results. The Nevada Democrats are still tabulating the final results. Sanders is the projected winner and is by far the frontrunner so far. Joe Biden is currently in second place and Pete Buttigieg is third. Both campaigns have claimed second place. Full results could take a while to tabulate; party officials have to integrate caucus results with early votes. Nearly 75,000 Nevadans voted early, according to the Nevada Democrats. Sanders was boosted up by Latino supporters – who account for 1 in 5 voters.

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

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

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

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

By Mark Joseph Stern

On Friday evening, by a 5–4 vote, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration’s wealth test for immigrants to take effect in Illinois. All four liberal justices dissented from the order, which changes relatively little: Thanks to the conservative justices’ intervention in January, the wealth test was poised to take effect in 49 states, and Friday’s vote lets the government apply it in the last state left. What’s most remarkable about the decision is Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s withering dissent, which calls out—with startling candor—a distressing pattern: The court’s Republican appointees have a clear bias toward the Trump administration.  Trump’s wealth test marks a brazen attempt to limit legal immigration by forcing immigrants to prove their financial status to enter, or remain in, the United States. It goes far beyond any statute passed by Congress, forcing immigrants to demonstrate that they will be not a “public charge”—that is, they won’t rely on any public assistance, including Medicaid, housing vouchers, and food stamps. Because the policy departs so dramatically from federal law, several courts blocked its implementation in 2019. In January, however, the Supreme Court allowed the wealth test to take effect over the dissent of all four liberals. The majority did not explain its reasoning. But Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote a concurrence complaining that a district court had blocked it across the country, decrying the “rise of nationwide injunctions.” Gorsuch’s opinion raised the possibility that the conservative justices disapproved of the scope of the district court’s injunction, not the reasoning behind it. If that were true, the conservatives should not have unsettled a narrower injunction limited to Illinois. But they did just that on Friday, once again without explaining themselves. Once again, the liberals dissented, but only Sotomayor wrote separately, in an opinion notable for its caustic tone and candid assessment of her colleague’s prejudices. “Today’s decision follows a now-familiar pattern,” Sotomayor began. “The Government seeks emergency relief from this Court, asking it to grant a stay where two lower courts have not. The Government insists—even though review in a court of appeals is imminent—that it will suffer irreparable harm if this Court does not grant a stay. And the Court yields.” In other words, SCOTUS rewarded the Department of Justice for short-circuiting the appellate process and demanding immediate relief.

CNN

President Donald Trump's new personnel chief John McEntee told agency officials at a meeting to expect staffing changes and movements across the government, people familiar with the meeting told CNN. #CNN #News

By Toluse Olorunnipa, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey

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

By Matt Egan, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) Wells Fargo was hit with a $3 billion fine Friday by federal authorities outraged by the millions of fake accounts created at the troubled bank over many years. The settlement with the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission, years in the making, resolves Wells Fargo's criminal and civil liabilities for the fake-accounts scandal that erupted nearly four years ago. The deal does not, however, remove the threat of prosecution against current and former Wells Fargo employees. Prosecutors slammed Wells Fargo for the "staggering size, scope and duration" of the unlawful conduct uncovered at one of America's largest and most powerful banks. As part of the deal, Wells Fargo admitted that between 2002 and 2016, it falsified bank records, harmed the credit ratings of customers, unlawfully misused their personal information and wrongfully collected millions of dollars in fees and interest. "Today's announcement should serve as a stark reminder that no institution is too big, too powerful, or too well-known to be held accountable and face enforcement action for its wrongdoings," US Attorney Andrew Murray for the Western District of North Carolina said in a statement. The settlement focused squarely on Wells Fargo's fake-accounts scandal, not the mistreatment of workers, auto borrowers, homebuyers and other customers that the bank has been accused of in recent years.
Authorities said Friday that the criminal investigation into false bank records and identify theft at Wells Fargo is being resolved by what's known as a deferred prosecution agreement. Under that agreement, authorities have agreed not to prosecute Wells Fargo for three years as long as it abides by certain conditions, including its continued cooperation with "further" government investigations.


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