Day 762: Retribution.
1/ The Justice Department will potentially announce the completion of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation as early as next week. When that happens, Attorney General Bill Barr will likely submit a summary of Mueller’s confidential report to Congress. Mueller is required to submit a “confidential” report to the attorney general, which is not required to be shared with Congress or the public. Barr suggested during his confirmation hearing last month that the report might not become public, and has made clear that the Justice Department generally guards against publicizing “derogatory” information about uncharged individuals. Trump, meanwhile, will travel overseas next week for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Justice officials don’t want to interfere with the White House’s diplomatic efforts. Trump said “totally up to Bill Barr” as to whether Mueller’s report comes out while he is overseas. (CNN / NBC News / Washington Post)
The FBI developed a backup plan to protect evidence in its Russia investigation after James Comey was fired in the event that other senior officials were also dismissed. (Associated Press)
Trump intends to nominate Jeffrey Rosen as deputy attorney general. Rosen is currently the deputy transportation secretary and will replace Rod Rosenstein, who is expected to leave his post in mid-March. (Politico / CBS News)
Michael Cohen’s three-year prison stay has been delayed for two months because of a “serious surgical procedure” that requires extensive physical therapy. Cohen will now report to prison on May 6th instead of March 6th. (Bloomberg / CNN)
2/ Democratic 2020 candidates are already facing a coordinated barrage of social media disinformation attacks, with signs that foreign state actors are driving some of the activity. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke have been the main targets of attacks, which have been focused on undermining their nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation and distortions of their positions. (Politico)
3/ Democrats in the House and Senate believe a senior Department of Education official tried to oust the department’s independent watchdog because she pushed back against an attempt by the department to intervene in an investigation into Betsy DeVos. Lawmakers on four committees overseeing the DOE say the attempt to remove Sandra Bruce as acting inspector general was related to the probe of DeVos’ decision to reinstate an accreditor that had its certification revoked by the Obama administration. (NBC News)
4/ CNN hired a longtime Republican operative as a political editor responsible with shaping the network’s 2020 campaign coverage. Sarah Isgur was critical of Trump during the 2016 campaign, but later “kowtowed to Trump” and pledged loyalty to his agenda as a condition of getting the job as the Department of Justice’s main spokesperson under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Isgur has no journalism experience, and while it’s common for departing administration officials to join cable news networks as analysts or contributors, it is less common for them to oversee news coverage. (Vox / Politico)
- 😂 CNN reports that CNN’s hiring of an ex-Sessions spokeswoman to guide political coverage stirs controversy and concerns among CNN employees. (CNN)
5/ Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called on the Court to reexamine a landmark 1964 case that makes it difficult for public officials to win libel suits. Justice Thomas said New York Times v. Sullivan has no basis in the Constitution as the founders understood it, and that the First Amendment does nothing to prevent states from protecting the reputations of their citizens and leaders as they see fit. Thomas’ opinion comes in the wake of complaints by Trump that libel laws make it too difficult for public figures to win libel suits. (New York Times)
6/ Trump – angered by a New York Times report that he tried to influence and undermine the investigations surrounding him – attacked the New York Times as the “true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE” in the same week he called for “retribution” against NBC for satirizing him on “Saturday Night Live.” (New York Times)
Putin said he would respond to any deployment of new intermediate-range missiles placed in Europe by targeting the U.S. with Russia’s own new field weapons that could reach U.S. decision-making centers. During his annual address to parliament, Putin said the U.S. has the right to think they can place missiles anywhere they want, “but can they count?” he asked. “I’m sure they can. Let them count the speed and the range of the weapons systems we are developing.” Putin added that Russia is not looking for confrontation and would not take the first steps toward deploying missiles in the wake of Trump’s decision to pull out of a landmark Cold War-era arms treaty. (CNBC / NBC News / Daily Beast)
Trump is moving forward with plans to use his national emergency declaration to divert federal funds from other programs in order to build his border wall, despite multiple lawsuits challenging his authority to do so. The White House plans to start with funds from the Defense Department’s drug interdiction program and the Treasury Department’s civil asset forfeiture fund before moving on to siphon funds from military construction projects. Trump is currently preparing for the possibility that a federal court will issue an injunction and prevent him from accessing the military construction funding. (CNN)
The Transportation Department will cancel $929 million in federal funds for a California high-speed rail project and is “actively exploring every legal option” to claw back the $2.5 billion the state has already received. California Governor Gavin Newsom linked the Trump administration action to California leading 15 other states in challenging Trump’s “farcical” national emergency to obtain funds for his border wall. (New York Times / Reuters)
The Office of Government Ethics refused to certify a financial disclosure report from Wilbur Ross, saying the commerce secretary violated his ethics agreement by inaccurately reporting stock holdings in his 2018 financial disclosure form. (Washington Post / CNBC)
The White House is assembling a panel to assess whether climate change poses a national security threat. Trump dismissed a government report finding that global warming poses a major threat to the U.S. economy, saying, “I don’t see it.” (Washington Post)
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