1/ Attorney General Bill Barr said Trump’s “constant background commentary” about the Justice Department “make it impossible for me to do my job” and that “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody.” Barr’s comments came in response to Trump congratulating Barr for “taking charge” and personally intervening to overruling career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone. Barr added, that “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases.” (ABC News / New York Times / Axios / NPR)
- 📌 Day 1119: Trump defended Roger Stone in a series of tweets while attacking the federal judge and prosecutors involved in the case. Trump also “congratulated” Attorney General William Barr for “taking charge of the case” – confirming that Barr intervened in Stone’s sentencing recommendation. Trump claimed that Stone was treated “very badly” and suggested that prosecutors “ought to apologize to him.” Trump also implied that U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the case, was biased because of her role in the sentencing of Paul Manafort and dismissal of a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton. Stone is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20. When asked if he would pardon Stone, Trump replied: “I don’t want to say that yet, but I tell you what, people were hurt viciously and badly by these corrupt people.” (Washington Post / New York Times)
2/ The former U.S. attorney in charge of the Roger Stone prosecution resigned – two days after Trump abruptly withdrew her nomination for a top job at the agency. Jessie Liu, who previously headed the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, oversaw several cases that originated with Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including prosecutions of Stone and Michael Flynn. (NBC News / CNN)
- 📌 Day 1119: Trump withdrew Jessie Liu’s nomination to become the Treasury Department’s terrorism and financial crimes undersecretary because of her office’s handling of the Roger Stone and Michael Flynn cases. While head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, Liu supervised the court proceedings for Trump aides and Mueller defendants, including Rick Gates, Flynn, and Stone. Liu served in the role from September 2017 until Jan. 31, and coinciding with her departure, the U.S. attorney’s office changed its sentencing stances in both Flynn and Stone’s cases. Trump pulled Liu’s nomination two days before her scheduled confirmation hearing. (Axios / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)
3/ Former White House chief of staff John Kelly called Trump’s request for Ukraine to investigate his political rivals “tantamount to an illegal order,” saying Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was right to report Trump’s July 25 call with Volodymyr Zelensky. “He did exactly what we teach them to do from cradle to grave,” Kelly said. “He went and told his boss what he just heard.” Kelly said Trump’s decision – to make aid to Ukraine contingent upon Zelensky announcing investigations into his political rivals – “essentially changed” U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Trump, meanwhile, responded by tweeting that Kelly “came in with a bang, went out with a whimper, but like so many X’s, he misses the action & just can’t keep his mouth shut, which he actually has a military and legal obligation to do.” (The Atlantic / Washington Post / New York Times / The Guardian / CNN)
4/ The Senate voted to limit Trump’s ability to order future strikes against Iran without first seeking Congress’s explicit permission. Eight Republicans joined all Democrats in voting 55 to 45 for the measure – short of the two-thirds supermajority needed to override Trump’s promised veto. The war powers resolution would block Trump from engaging in hostilities without consulting Congress except in cases where self-defense is required against a clear, imminent attack. Prior to the vote, Trump warned the Senate not to vote for the measure, tweeting that it would “show weakness” and “sends a very bad signal.” (NPR / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Bloomberg)
5/ The House of Representatives voted to eliminate the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which would ban discrimination on the basis of sex and guarantee equality for women under the Constitution. The measure passed the House largely along party lines by a vote of 232-183 with five Republicans voting in support. The amendment, proposed in 1972, originally had a ratification deadline of 1979, but Congress later bumped that to 1982. The deadline was never extended. Three-quarters of the states must ratify a proposed amendment for it to be added to the Constitution. Last month, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA. Mitch McConnell, however, has said he is “not a supporter” of the measure and is unlikely to take it up in the Senate. (NPR / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)
6/ The White House plans to take $3.8 billion from the Defense Department to build Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. For the second year in a row, Trump will dip into Defense Department funds earmarked for counterdrug activities and military construction for his border wall. The money will be drawn from several accounts intended to build fighter jets, ships, vehicles, and National Guard equipment. (Foreign Policy / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Defense One / Daily Beast)
7/ Trump’s rhetoric has been used by students and school staff members to harass children more than 300 times since the start of 2016, according to a review of 28,000 news stories. At least three-quarters of the attacks were directed at kids who are Hispanic, black or Muslim. Students have also been victimized because they support the president — more than 45 times during the same period. (Washington Post)
8/ Hope Hicks, Sean Spicer, and Reince Priebus will return to the White House. Hicks will report to Jared Kushner and work on Trump’s re-election campaign and other “strategic” matters. Her title will be “counselor to the president.” Priebus and Spicer will join the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. (New York Times / BBC / Washington Post / ABC News / Salon)
- Trump’s former body man recently returned to the West Wing. John McEntee was fired by John Kelly over security clearance issues. (Axios)
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