Over 1,100 former Justice Department officials are calling for Attorney General William Barr to step down, after he intervened to reduce the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation for President Trump’s longtime friend and former campaign adviser Roger Stone. In an open letter published Sunday, the former officials write, “Governments that use the enormous power of law enforcement to punish their enemies and reward their allies are not constitutional republics; they are autocracies.” Barr intervened in the case after Trump called Stone’s sentence of seven to nine years a “miscarriage of justice.” Four federal prosecutors withdrew from the case, and one resigned from his job, over Barr’s actions. On Friday, Trump claimed he has the power to intervene in criminal cases. In response to Barr’s statement last week that Trump has never asked him to “do anything in a criminal case,” Trump tweeted, “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!” A group of nine Democratic senators, including presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, also called for Barr’s resignation in an open letter Friday.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Barr has reportedly assigned an outside prosecutor to review the criminal case against Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to federal investigators about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
In Nevada, early voters have been lining up at polling stations ahead of next Saturday’s caucuses. The Nevada Democratic Party reported some 18,000 people took part in early voting on Saturday, the first of four days of early voting. Some election volunteers have expressed concern that they have not received sufficient training or information about the Google forms that will be used to report results of the caucuses.
Meanwhile, the Iowa Democratic Party says it has started a partial recanvass of the state’s caucus results that was requested by the Sanders and Buttigieg campaigns.
Candidates are campaigning in Nevada and across states set to vote on Super Tuesday, March 3. On Sunday, Senator Bernie Sanders held a rally in Denver, Colorado, where he addressed an estimated 11,000 people.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “And we are going to end a corrupt political system in which billionaires buy elections. Democracy, to me, means one person, one vote — not Bloomberg or anybody else spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to buy an election.”
Coloradans will vote on Super Tuesday, as will residents of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.
In more news about the Democratic candidates, Senator Amy Klobuchar has come under fire after she did not know the name of the president of Mexico during an interview on Telemundo and was unable to speak about any of his policies. The Mexican president is Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Billionaire Tom Steyer also couldn’t name him.
And in other news about the 2020 elections, Facebook is coming under scrutiny for allowing certain kinds of political ads, which allow billionaire and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg to post so-called branded content for his campaign via the social media accounts of popular influencers. Bloomberg is paying to have the accounts post memes and videos of Bloomberg to raise his profile among younger voters.
Mike Bloomberg continues to come under renewed scrutiny for his past comments and positions, including promoting “stop-and-frisk” and his support for redlining. On Saturday, The Washington Post reported multiple lawsuits have been filed over the years alleging that women were discriminated against at Bloomberg’s company, including one case filed by a former employee who blamed Bloomberg for creating a culture of sexual harassment and degradation. Bloomberg and his organizations have been defendants in almost 40 sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits. We’ll have more on this and the candidacy of Mike Bloomberg after headlines.
LGBTQ activists of color disrupted a speech by Pete Buttigieg Friday at San Francisco’s National LGBTQ Center for the Arts. A Buttigieg supporter responded by calling the protesters “homophobes,” to which protesters responded, “We’re all gay!” The two protesters were taken out of the event after they were booed by attendees of the fundraiser. Outside of the fundraiser, activists from the group Queers Against Pete and other groups gathered to call out Buttigieg’s ties to Wall Street and his policies that they say do not reflect the progressive views of many queer-identifying people and people of color. These include his lack of support for Medicare for All, free college, and his track record on race issues during his time as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
In Yemen, 31 people were killed in U.S.-backed Saudi airstrikes over the weekend, including women and children. The strikes in the northern al-Jawf province came just hours after the Houthis said they had shot down a Saudi fighter jet in the same area. On Sunday, the United Nations said the Houthis and the U.S.-backed Saudi and UAE coalition had agreed to a major prisoner swap, the first of its kind in the long-running war. More than 100,000 have died, and far more have been displaced, since the conflict began in 2015.
In Syria, fighting is intensifying between government forces and opposition groups, displacing more civilians who have had to flee toward the northern border. This is a displaced civilian speaking from a refugee camp.
Jumaa Suleiman: “We fled five days ago from the western province of Anjara. We escaped the airstrikes and the shelling. The journey was very difficult. It was cold. We couldn’t find a car. We kept walking until we found a car to take us here. We’re now in a camp near Afrin, staying in a tent just to get by. The past three days have been cold on the road and on the streets.”
Eight hundred thousand people have been displaced since December, and the U.N. is warning of a humanitarian disaster. Syrian government officials said they seized most of the rebel-held Aleppo province Sunday amid their ongoing offensive. Turkish and Russian officials are holding talks in Moscow today.
In Afghanistan, an airstrike killed at least eight civilians, including a child, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, according to local reports. The latest civilian deaths came as the U.S. declared a seven-day partial truce with the Taliban and President Trump said there was a “good chance” of reaching an agreement with the Taliban to reduce the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. At the Munich Security Conference this weekend, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said a peace deal could come within days.
In Mexico City, Valentine’s Day protests called out the Mexican government and media for its inaction, and in some cases its complicity, in the high rates of femicide. The Friday protests were sparked by the publication of graphic images of the murdered 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla’s mutilated body in a tabloid, accompanied by the headline “It was cupid’s fault.” Escamilla was murdered by her boyfriend. This is Lilia Florencio Guerrero, whose daughter Diana Velázquez Florencio was raped and killed in 2017.
Lilia Florencio Guerrero: “It fills us with rage and anger how President López Obrador makes his statements about material things and how an airplane raffle is more important to him than the 10 women who are murdered every day in this country. So, yes, it fills us with rage and anger. And that’s why we’re here, because they’re murdering us, and this government and the last one are not interested in us.”
The Trump administration began deploying specially trained tactical Customs and Border Protection units over the weekend to “sanctuary cities” across the country, in the latest attempt to crack down on cities that refuse to cooperate with the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The CBP SWAT teams will reportedly help Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, carry out raids against suspected undocumented people. They are being relocated from the southern border to cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans in an ongoing deployment that will last through May.
In more immigration news, a new report by The Washington Post says that confidential notes taken in mandatory therapy sessions for immigrant minors are passed on to ICE, which can then use those notes against the children and teens in court.
A memo from the Trump administration about the U.S. targeted assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani last month does not refer to an “imminent threat,” which was President Trump’s justification for the attack. House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel said the report “shows that the justification the president offered to the American people was false, plain and simple.” The memo was released the day after the Senate voted to pass a resolution limiting Trump’s authority to attack Iran without congressional approval.
In New York, attorney Michael Avenatti was found guilty Friday of wire fraud and extorting Nike for up to $25 million. Prosecutors say Avenatti threatened to reveal damaging information on improper payments made by Nike to student athletes, unless they either paid him off or retained his services. Avenatti is best known as Stormy Daniels’s former lawyer during her hush-money case against President Trump. Avenatti faces a maximum prison sentence of 42 years and will be sentenced in June. He is also facing charges in Los Angeles of defrauding clients, and a federal case in New York, in which he is accused of stealing money owed to Stormy Daniels from a book publisher.
A federal appeals court struck down Trump’s attempt to impose Medicaid work requirements Friday, saying Health Secretary Alex Azar’s approval of the program in Arkansas was “arbitrary and capricious.” The measure allowed Arkansas to demand Medicaid recipients work in order to receive their health benefits.
The case against activists who were arrested last April while they were staging a weeks-long protest at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., ended in a mistrial Friday after a hung jury. The four activists were staying at the embassy at the behest of the Venezuelan government to prevent its takeover by U.S.-backed supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaidó. This is Margaret Flowers, one of the embassy protectors, after the mistrial was declared.
Dr. Margaret Flowers: “We’re very happy with this verdict. Of course, we would have been happier with an acquittal. But, for today, we remain innocent, as we are. And we appreciate the tremendous amount of support that we’ve received from people here coming to the trial, as well as people around the world sending us messages of solidarity. La lucha continua.”