In Nevada, six leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination squared off Wednesday night in one of the most contentious debates of the primary season. Senator Bernie Sanders sought to defend his position as front-runner, while former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar tried to attract more supporters. Senator Elizabeth Warren led a night full of attacks on the new person on stage: billionaire former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump; I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg. Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop-and-frisk.”
Protests erupted at the end of Wednesday’s two-hour Democratic debate, just as former Vice President Joe Biden was set to begin his closing remarks. The protesters, Erika Andiola and Lucia Allain of the Texas-based immigrants’ rights group RAICES, shouted at Biden, “You deported 3 million people!” in a reference to the record pace of deportations under President Obama. They chanted “No kids in cages!” and “Don’t look away!” as they were escorted from the auditorium. This is Erika Andiola speaking just after the protest.
Erika Andiola: “We decided to interrupt. We’re not sorry. The immigration debate today — immigration became the last issue that they talked about, and they didn’t even have time to talk about the issue. This is not OK. We are being the most attacked by the Trump administration, and we deserve a conversation about how our lives are going to look like if any of those people get elected.”
Former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg is under fire after newly surfaced video showed him making transphobic remarks less than one year ago. BuzzFeed News first reported on this comment from Bloomberg, which came last March during a Bermuda Business Development Agency conference in Manhattan.
Michael Bloomberg: “If your conversation during a presidential election is about some guy wearing a dress and whether he, she or it can go to — and go to the locker room with their daughter, that’s not a winning formula for most people.”
The Nation magazine reports that Bloomberg’s campaign is forcing its staffers to sign a nine-page nondisclosure agreement — or NDA — that could prevent them from reporting workplace abuse and discrimination. Critics say the NDA is overly broad to the point of preventing incidents of sexual harassment and racism from being reported. We’ll have more on last night’s Democratic debate after headlines, when we’ll host a roundtable discussion — including Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation magazine.
The United Nations is warning of an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Syria’s Idlib province as hundreds of thousands of people fleeing a Russian-backed Syrian offensive are being forced into an ever-shrinking area near the Turkish border. On Wednesday, U.N. humanitarian affairs chief Mark Lowcock pleaded to the U.N. Security Council for an immediate ceasefire.
Mark Lowcock: “But in Idlib, nowhere is safe. Almost 50,000 are sheltering under trees or in other open spaces. I am getting daily reports of babies and other young children dying in the cold. Imagine the grief of a parent who escaped a war zone with their child, only to watch that child freeze to death.”
The U.N.'s warning came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to launch his own military offensive in Idlib by the end of the month unless Syrian troops withdraw behind a line of Turkish observation posts. Erdogan's warning drew a sharp rebuke from Russia’s government, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In Germany, a gunman with a high-powered rifle opened fire on patrons at two shisha bars in the town of Hanau Wednesday night, killing nine people. The 43-year-old suspect then returned to his home and killed his mother before turning a gun on himself. The attacks appeared to target people of Turkish and Kurdish ancestry, and German federal investigators said they’re investigating the killings as a likely right-wing terror attack. The killings came a week after German police arrested 12 members of a far-right group and accused them of plotting to use semiautomatic weapons to murder worshipers at mosques, in attacks that would mirror those carried out by a white nationalist gunman in Christchurch, New Zealand, last year.
Chinese officials said Wednesday they are expelling three Wall Street Journal reporters from mainland China over the newspaper’s coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. A government ministry spokesperson cited a recent op-ed published in the Journal titled “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia,” calling it racist. The expulsions drew condemnation from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, though the chief executive of Dow Jones, which publishes The Wall Street Journal, said he regretted the “upset and concern” caused by the opinion piece to the Chinese people. This comes as two elderly people in Iran died after testing positive for the new strain of coronavirus. They’re the first two deaths from the virus in the Middle East.
President Trump on Wednesday named U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as his next director of national intelligence. Grenell is a staunch supporter of Trump on social media; he’s also a “Gold”-level member of the Trump Organization’s Trump Card loyalty program. He brings to the job little experience in intelligence or with heading a large government bureaucracy. Grenell can serve up to 210 days without Senate confirmation as acting DNI; he’s expected to hold that position while keeping his ambassadorship to Berlin.
President Trump’s longtime ally and former adviser Roger Stone is set to be sentenced by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., today on seven counts related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including witness tampering, obstruction and making false statements. Overnight, shortly before 2 a.m., President Trump hinted at a pardon for Stone, pinning a video to his Twitter feed of Fox News host Tucker Carlson blasting federal prosecutors over Stone’s case. This comes as The Washington Post reports the White House is moving to take more direct control over pardons and commutations, with Trump trying to limit the role of the Justice Department in the clemency process.
Lawyers for Julian Assange told a London court Wednesday that President Trump offered the WikiLeaks founder a presidential pardon if he agreed to publicly state that Russia was not behind the leak of Democratic Party emails ahead of the 2016 election. The explosive allegation came as part of a legal filing by Assange’s lawyers, who are seeking to block Assange’s extradition to the U.S., where he faces up to 175 years in prison. According to the lawyers, then-Congressmember Dana Rohrabacher visited Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2017, claiming he had instructions from the president to make a deal for a pardon. Rohrabacher has since denied the allegation, saying he was on a personal “fact-finding mission.”
Lawyers for U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning filed a motion in federal court Wednesday asking for her release from a prison outside Washington, D.C., where she’s been jailed since March of last year for refusing to cooperate in a federal grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks. Manning could be held as for as long as 18 months on contempt of court charges.
In Mexico City, government investigators have opened a corruption probe into former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The investigation stems from a broader case against Emilio Lozoya, the former head of Mexico’s national oil company Pemex. Lozoya was arrested last week in Spain pending his extradition to Mexico, where he’s charged with accepting millions of dollars in bribes from a Brazilian construction firm and a Mexican steel company. At the time of the alleged bribes, Lozoya was a top official in Peña Nieto’s 2012 presidential campaign.
In Arizona, a federal judge has ordered the U.S. Border Patrol to provide clean mats and thin blankets to migrants within 12 hours after they’re brought to an immigration jail. Wednesday’s court order came after immigrant rights groups sued the Trump administration over overcrowded, unsafe, unsanitary, freezing and inhumane conditions at eight Border Patrol jails in Arizona.
In Nashville, Tennessee, 58-year-old Nicholas Todd Sutton is scheduled to be electrocuted to death this evening, after Governor Bill Lee declined to halt his planned execution. Sutton was convicted of three murders in 1979 and later sentenced to death for fatally stabbing a prisoner in 1985. Seven current and former Tennessee prison workers have called for clemency for Sutton, saying he reformed to become a model prisoner. One of them, retired prison guard Tony Eden, says Sutton intervened to save his life during a prison riot in 1985. Unless tonight’s execution is stopped, Sutton will become the fifth Tennessee prisoner to be killed by electric chair since 2018.
A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the state of Florida cannot require formerly incarcerated people to pay all fines related to their sentences before they can register to vote, comparing it to an unfair poll tax. Voting rights advocates warned the Republican-led move would have disenfranchised many of the 1.4 million people who were re-enfranchised in 2018 after Florida voters approved the historic ballot measure, Amendment 4.
In Argentina, thousands of reproductive rights activists held protests in dozens of cities Wednesday to renew their push to legalize abortion. Public support for abortion rights has grown since 2018, when a bill to repeal an abortion ban narrowly lost in the Argentine Senate. This is Pamela Martin, who joined a large protest in Buenos Aires’s city center.
Pamela Martin: “Today is a day of action for safe, legal and free abortion. This is our third protest. February 19th is a day for political influence, a day in which we ask ourselves to continue calling for, to demand and to struggle for our right to decide.”