Headlines: February 14, 2020
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:17 — 7.6MB)
Attorney General William Barr gave an exclusive interview to ABC News on Thursday in response to the growing scandal over President Donald Trump’s seeming intervention to reduce the DOJ’s sentencing recommendation for his friend and convict Roger Stone. Mr. Barr, who faces accusations of doing Trump’s bidding reportedly pulled his own federal prosecutors back, all of who then resigned from the case. But Barr implied during his interview that he was independent of the President’s influence and that in fact Trump’s tweets made it harder for him to do his job. The President immediately doubled down on Twitter and quoted Barr’s interview, “The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.” He then pointedly added, “A.G. Barr This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!” In declaring he has the legal right to interfere in federal cases Trump is claiming a right no President has ever before asserted.
Top Republican lawmakers affirmed Barr’s assertion of independence with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying, “Maybe the president should listen to the attorney general,” but others like Democratic Representative Val Demmings felt the AG and President were “in cahoots” with one another. Demmings said the President’s tweets were, “making it harder for [Barr] to get away with doing the wrong thing.” Meanwhile news broke on Friday morning that the Justice Department would not be charging former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe for authorizing his agency’s investigation of the President. McCabe has been one of Trump’s favorite targets. However, the Justice Department has also now authorized a review of the investigation into Trump’s first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who was convicted of lying to investigators but has yet to be sentenced. The New York Times called the review of Flynn’s case “highly unusual,” and that it, “could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors.”
On Thursday Trump met with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over the federal government’s targeting of that state’s sanctuary immigration policy. Just ahead of the meeting Trump tweeted a message that could widely be interpreted as yet another quid-pro-quo demand. He said, “I’m seeing Governor Cuomo today at The White House. He must understand that National Security far exceeds politics. New York must stop all of its unnecessary lawsuits & harassment, start cleaning itself up, and lowering taxes.” The New York Attorney General has several investigations underway of Trump’s own business dealings in the state. Meanwhile Trump is busy wooing wealthy Americans to fund his reelection bid. In what is the most expensive fundraiser of his political career, the President plans to attend a dinner where elite couples pay more than half a million dollars to attend.
The Washington Post did a study on the effect that Trump’s presidency has had on bullying in the classroom and the results are predictably disturbing. Since he took office, according to the Post, “his inflammatory language — often condemned as racist and xenophobic — has seeped into schools across America. Many bullies now target other children differently than they used to, with kids as young as 6 mimicking the president’s insults and the cruel way he delivers them.” The paper added, “Trump’s words, those chanted by his followers at campaign rallies and even his last name have been wielded by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016.” And, “At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black or Muslim, according to the analysis.” Not unrelated is the news of how Trump’s supporters are now taking aim at Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg – not for his policy proposals – but over his sexual orientation. Chief among them is the extremist shock jock Rush Limbaugh who Trump honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom recently. Limbaugh said, “how’s this going to look, a 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump?”
In other election-related news, reports emerged showing billionaire Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg in 2014 quietly rejoined whites-only and men-only clubs that he had resigned from publicly more than ten years ago. Bloomberg, who has been flooding Super Tuesday states with his own cash ahead of the March 3rd elections, has also been found to be paying social media influencers to post positive stories about him. Meanwhile, Democratic front runner Bernie Sanders has jumped to first place in a Texas poll and a new Morning Consult poll shows him at 29% support nationally, ten points ahead of his closest competitor Joe Biden.
The Trump administration is looking to revive the US’s uranium mining industry, demanding that Congress set aside $1.5 billion in the interest of “vital energy security.” Critics say that Trump just wants to help a handful of private uranium mining companies that have been struggling.
On the issue of climate change, new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that the earth’s average temperature has dramatically risen 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the average 20th century levels. The Guardian newspaper explained that, “Last month was the hottest January on record over the world’s land and ocean surfaces, with average temperatures exceeding anything in the 141 years of data.” Meanwhile, researchers in Antarctica just registered a temperature of 20.75 degrees Celsius – higher than the previous record of 20 degrees.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper is defending the Trump administration’s decision to redirect military funding to build a border wall with Mexico – Trump’s favorite idea since his political campaign for the Presidency. Esper said, “Border security is national security… and national security is our mission.” He added, “The action we took is legal under the law, and so it should be no surprise, and I’ll just leave it at that for now.” The Defense Department wants Congress to authorize a shift of nearly $4 billion from defense budgets for the wall. The ACLU has announced it will challenge the shift of funds.
And finally Associated Press is reporting that the US has reached a final truce agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan. According to AP, an anonymous high level official “said the agreement for a seven-day ‘reduction in violence’ to be followed by the start of all-Afghan peace talks within 10 days is ‘very specific’ and covers the entire country, including Afghan government forces. There were indications a formal announcement could come as early as the weekend.” A peace deal could precede the withdrawal of US troops from the longest official war the US has ever waged.