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People close to Kobe Bryant share the stories they're looking back on ahead of Monday's memorial.
LeBron James said he had been setting up Jaylen Brown all game to give up the fadeaway jumper that ultimately sealed the Lakers' victory over the Celtics on Sunday night.
The Dallas Mavericks have filed a protest over their loss Saturday night to the Atlanta Hawks, citing a "misapplication of the rules," sources confirmed to ESPN. The New York Times first reported the protest of a call with 8.4 seconds remaining.
The Milwaukee Bucks have clinched a playoff berth 55 days before the NBA postseason is set to begin.
Markieff Morris, a former Pistons forward, has cleared waivers and will sign with the Lakers through their $1.75 million disabled player exception.
Kacey Reynolds, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan whose wish was granted last year when he got to announce the Bucs' 2019 first-round draft pick, has died.
Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeo events under the alias Mason Saunders, and he won $26,560 in a team-roping competition in December, according to a story published Sunday by The Athletic.
The nail-biter at Staples was a worthy addition to the historic Lakers-Celtics rivalry. It also showcased how far these two storied franchises have come in the past 11 months.
Kobe and Gianna Bryant will be honored Monday (1 p.m. ET) with a celebration of life service inside Staples Center.
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We polled the ESPN NBA Forecast panel of experts for their predictions now that we are two-thirds of the way through the season.
The Super Bowl champs have a big decision to make on their star defensive tackle. Let's predict what's in store for the AFC West.
Can The Great 8 catch The Great One to break hockey's most cherished record? We assess his chances, with help from Gretzky and other stars.
Mourinho has some legitimate gripes about his injury-hit Spurs, but he should try a different approach with the players who are still standing.
Bruno Fernandes was sublime on Sunday as Man United enjoyed back-to-back wins for just the third time all season and put the top four within reach.
UCLA gymnast Grace Glenn's jaw-dropping beam routine earned a perfect score -- and made history -- on Sunday.
She lost her hair but not her smile. She clung tight to one dream and added another. Now declared cancer-free, Tiana Mangakahia is eager to star on the basketball court and off.
Dan Hooker narrowly defeated Paul Felder in the main event at UFC Auckland. Will Hooker get a top-five opponent when he returns to the Octagon?
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Former Vice President Joe Biden will finish second in the Nevada Democratic presidential caucuses, NBC News projected Sunday night, and will likely earn seven national convention delegates.
The second-place finish, added to the endorsement of South Carolina’s top Democrat, Rep. Jim Clyburn — which will come Wednesday, NBC News has learned — will give Biden momentum heading into this week’s South Carolina primary.
Official backing from Clyburn, colloquially known as the “South Carolina Kingmaker” for his heavy influence in the state’s Democratic politics, could help cement what Biden has predicted would be a first-place finish in South Carolina. Clyburn, who as majority whip is the third-ranking Democrat in the House, will formally endorse Biden ahead of the primary at an event Wednesday, according to two people with firsthand knowledge.
Read the full story on NBCNews.com
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Kicking off a whirlwind 36-hour visit to India that emphasizes pageantry over policy, President Donald Trump received a warm welcome Monday on the subcontinent — including a mega-rally named after a traditional Indian greeting — meant to reaffirm ties while providing enviable overseas imagery for a president in a re-election year.
As Air Force One touched down in Ahmedabad in western India, the final preparations were underway for that day’s enviable trio of presidential photo-ops: a visit to a former home of independence leader Mohandas Gandhi, a mega-rally at the world’s second-largest stadium and a trip to the famed Taj Mahal.
Dressed in traditional attire, dancers and drummers lined the red carpet rolled out at the stairs of the presidential aircraft as Trump was poised to receive the raucous reception that has eluded him on many foreign trips, some of which have featured massive protests and icy handshakes from world leaders. In India, he is expected to receive a warm embrace — literally — from the ideologically aligned and hug-loving Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Trump Administration
The sun-baked city of Ahmedabad jostled with activity the day before Trump’s arrival as workers cleaned roads, planted flowers and hoisted hundreds of billboards featuring the president and First Lady Melania Trump. Hundreds of thousands of people in the northwestern city are expected to greet Trump for a road show leading to a massive rally at what has been touted as the world’s largest cricket stadium.
Trump’s motorcade will travel amid cheers from a battery of carefully picked and vetted Modi loyalists and workers from his Bharatiya Janata Party who will stand for hours alongside the neatly manicured 22-kilometer (14-mile) stretch of road to accord the president a grand welcome on his way to the newly constructed stadium. Tens of thousands of police officers will be on hand to keep security tight and a new wall has come up in front of a slum, apparently to hide it from presidential passers-by.
“I hear it’s going to be a big event. Some people say the biggest event they’ve ever had in India,” Trump said before he departed Washington. “That’s what the prime minister told me — this will be the biggest event they’ve ever had.”
The “Namaste Trump” rally will be, in a way, the back half of home-and-home events for Modi and Trump who attended a “Howdy Modi” rally in Houston last year that drew 50,000 people.
Trump’s foreign visits have typically been light on sightseeing, but this time, the president and first lady Melania Trump are to visit the Taj Mahal. Stories in local media warn of the monkeys that inhabit the landmark pestering tourists for food and, on occasion, menacing both visitors and slingshot-carrying security guards.
Images of American presidents being feted on the world stage stand in contrast to those of their rivals in the opposing party slogging through diners in early-voting states and clashing in debate. This trip, in particular, reflects a Trump campaign strategy to showcase him in his presidential role during short, carefully managed trips that provide counter-programming to the Democrats’ primary contest and produce the kinds of visuals his campaign can use in future ads. His aides also believe the visit could help the president woo tens of thousands of Indian-American voters before the November election.
The visit also comes at a crucial moment for Modi, a fellow populist, who has provided over a steep economic downtown and unfulfilled campaign promises about job creation. When Trump touches down in Delhi late Monday, he will find a bustling, noisy, colorful capital that also is dotted with half-finished construction projects stalled due to disappearing funding.
The president on Tuesday will conclude his whirlwind visit to India with a day in the capital, complete with a gala dinner meetings with Modi over stalled trade talks between the two nations. Trade tensions between the two countries have escalated since the Trump administration imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from India. India responded with higher penalties on agricultural goods and restrictions on U.S. medical devices. The U.S. retaliated by removing India from a decades-old preferential trade program.
Eyes will also be on whether Trump weighs on in the protests enveloping India over its Citizenship Amendment Act. It provides a fast track to naturalization for some migrants who entered the country illegally while fleeing religious persecution, but excludes Muslims, raising fears that the country is moving toward a religious citizenship test. Passage has prompted large-scale protests and a violent crackdown.
Typically, Trump has not publicly rebuked world leaders for human rights abuses during his overseas trips. But one senior administration official said the U.S. is concerned about the situation and that Trump will tell Modi the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions and respect religious minorities.
Sheikh Saaliq contributed reporting from Ahmedabad, India. Lemire reported from Delhi
A federal judge denied former Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone’s request for her recusal from a potential new trial, saying in an order Sunday that there was no factual or legal basis to Stone’s claims, NBC News reports.
The judge, Amy Berman Jackson, of U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., sentenced Stone to three years and four months in prison last week for obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
In court papers filed Friday, Stone’s lawyers claimed that Jackson couldn’t impartially evaluate his request for a new trial over allegations of juror misconduct.
But Jackson rejected the claims, saying they were speculative and at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court and an appeals case cited in Stone’s motion.
Read the full story on NBCNews.com
Bernie Sanders’ commanding Nevada caucus victory made him a top target for his Democratic rivals and a growing source of anxiety for establishment Democrats worried that the nomination of an avowed democratic socialist could cost the party in November.
The win solidified Sanders’ front-runner status as the race turned to Saturday’s presidential primary in South Carolina. The Vermont senator was trounced in the state by more than 40 percentage points in 2016, but he is hoping that his success in diverse Nevada will prove to black voters in South Carolina that his campaign has broad appeal.
Any momentum that Sanders gains in South Carolina could be devastating to former Vice President Joe Biden, who is looking to the state for a commanding victory that can keep his candidacy alive through Super Tuesday. The March 3 contests will unfold in 14 states and award one-third of the delegates needed for the Democratic nomination.
With time running short, moderate Democrats grew increasingly nervous Sunday that Sanders’ call for a political “revolution” would drive voters away from the party, both in the matchup against President Donald Trump and in House and Senate races.
“I think it would be a real burden for us in these states or congressional districts that we have to do well in,” South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, the House majority whip and the top-ranking black Democrat in Congress, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Prominent Democrats expect Clyburn will endorse Biden this week. The congressman said he’ll back a candidate on Wednesday — after the next Democratic debate — and pointed to the impact a Sanders nomination would have on House districts Democrats flipped to take control of the House in 2018.
“In those districts, it’s going to be tough to hold on to these jobs if you have to make the case for accepting a self-proclaimed democratic socialist,” he said.
Sanders’ campaign argued he will bring in new and infrequent voters — largely progressives, young people and voters of color — who have been alienated from the process and seek a drastic overhaul of Washington, not merely trying to oust Trump.
He successfully relied on that coalition Saturday to dominate his Democratic rivals in Nevada, pulling far ahead of Biden, the second-place finisher, and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who came in third. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren landed in fourth, while Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and California billionaire Tom Steyer were in a close race for fifth as the Nevada Democratic Party continued to tabulate results.
Sanders celebrated the win in Texas, a top Super Tuesday prize and a state that Democrats see trending their way thanks to a growing Hispanic population and opposition to Trump in the suburbs.
Sounding like a candidate who had already secured the nomination, Sanders told thousands of cheering supporters who filled a basketball arena on the campus of the University of Houston that he would win in the state both next month and next fall.
“If working people and young people of this city, black and white and Latino, gay or straight, if our people stand together, come out to vote, we’re going to win here in Texas,” he said.
Sanders was announcing a plan to provide universal, government-funded child care until age 3 and universal pre-kindergarten programs after that. In an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night, he said he’d pay for it using part of the proceeds from his previously announced wealth tax, which would be levied annually on fortunes worth more than $32 million.
Sanders’ new status was clear as most of his rivals sharpened their focus on him.
On Sunday, Buttigieg ripped Sanders’ for his massive and often combative online following, saying the nominee’s job “is to call people into our tent, not to call them names online.”
Speaking to a crowd of thousands gathered in a high school football field in Arlington, Virginia, Buttigieg said Democrats should nominate someone who will focus on “mobilizing, not polarizing the American majority.”
“Politics will be fierce sometimes, but it is not just combat,” he said.
But some Democrats were worried that the new focus on Sanders may be too little, too late. For months, as several Democrats jockeyed to become the chief alternative to Sanders, they largely attacked each other on debate stages and in ads while taking relatively few punches at the Vermont senator.
Indeed, even after Sanders’ strong finish in Nevada, Warren avoided launching a direct hit at Sanders even when asked directly whether a Sanders nomination would be a risk for the Democratic Party. The Massachusetts senator is aligned with Sanders on a number of key policies and competing with the Vermont senator for many of the same progressive voters.
Speaking to reporters in Denver, Warren instead continued her attacks on rival Mike Bloomberg, calling him the “riskiest candidate standing on that stage because of his history of hiding his taxes, his history of harassment of women and his history of defending racist policies.”
Bloomberg, for his part, asked to delay a CNN town hall that was planned for Monday until Wednesday. The move will allow the billionaire former New York mayor to spend more time preparing for this week’s debate.
“The country can’t afford to let Bernie Sanders skate by another debate without a focus on his extreme record,” said Bloomberg spokesperson Galia Slayen. “Mike is preparing for Tuesday’s crucial debate, and looks forward to taking part in CNN’s town hall on Wednesday.”
Party leaders have been reluctant to appear to be putting their thumb on the scale, so as not to rile Sanders voters and further divide the party. It was not clear Sunday that there was any new strategy to try to knock Sanders off course or consolidate support behind a single moderate.
“We gotta hope that some of these candidates develop political skills quickly,” said James Carville, a Democratic strategist and one of the noisiest anti-Sanders voices in the party. “The risk in losing the election is deep and profound. We just gotta pray.”
Dan Pfeiffer, a former adviser to former President Barack Obama, said if no candidates drop out before Super Tuesday and the moderates continue to split the delegate, Sanders likely has a lock on the nomination.
“It’s just simple math,” Pfeiffer said, noting that he’s not advocating that any candidates drop out to stop Sanders, and that he doesn’t ascribe to the belief among some Democrats that Sanders can’t win.
“Each of these campaigns have a legitimate rationale for staying in the race,” he said of Sanders’ opponents.
On Sunday, those Sanders opponents pledged to stay in the race through South Carolina, and several signaled they would stay in through Super Tuesday.
Who’s Running for President in 2020?
The field of Democratic 2020 presidential candidates is packed, though some have already dropped out. Those still in the race include a former vice president, senators, businessmen, House members, a former governor and a mayor. As for the GOP, a former governor and former congressman are vying to challenge President Trump.
Click the photos to learn more
Updated Nov. 20, 2019
Klobuchar rallied supporters near the North Dakota-Minnesota border, speaking to voters in her home state, which votes on March 3, followed by North Dakota on March 10. Warren campaigned in Colorado, also a Super Tuesday state.
Biden was in South Carolina, the state his campaign hoped would revive his candidacy after poor showings in Iowa and New Hampshire and only modest improvement in Nevada. The former vice president resisted predicting victory in South Carolina and said he isn’t banking on Clyburn’s endorsement, a blessing that could help Biden shore up support with the black voters his campaign has long argued will be the springboard to a nomination. Clyburn said Sunday he had heard from Democrats disappointed in Biden’s debate performances.
Democrats will debate on Tuesday in Charleston, South Carolina. Steyer said Sunday he has qualified for that debate, after missing the mark for the stage in Nevada.
Jaffe reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi in Denver, Will Weissert in Houston, Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, California, and Bill Barrow in Charleston, South Carolina, contributed to this report.
Pete Buttigieg’s campaign has questioned his third-place finish in Nevada’s caucuses and called for the state’s Democratic Party to release a more detailed breakdown of votes and address reports of more than 200 problems allocating votes in Saturday’s caucuses.
In a letter sent to the state party late Saturday night and provided to The Associated Press on Sunday, the Buttigieg campaign said the process of integrating four days of early voting into in-person caucuses held Saturday was “plagued with errors and inconsistencies.”
The campaign also said it received reports that volunteers running caucuses did not appear to follow rules that could have allowed candidates to pick up more support on a second round of voting.
Bernie Sanders won Nevada’s caucuses, with Joe Biden a distant second and Buttigieg in third.
“Currently our data shows that this is a razor-thin margin for second place in Nevada, and due to irregularities and a number of unresolved questions we have raised with the Nevada Democratic Party, it’s unclear what the final results will be,” Buttigieg’s deputy campaign manager Hari Sevugan said in a statement.
Nearly 75,000 people cast votes during four days of early caucus voting — almost as many Democrats who participated in Nevada’s 2016 caucuses. Their votes, cast at sites anywhere in the county, had to be routed by the party back to the voter’s home precinct and added to the in-person votes cast Saturday by their neighbors.
Buttigieg’s campaign said it received more than 200 reports of problems merging the early votes, including cases where the early votes weren’t used, were incorrectly read or the wrong early vote data matching another precinct was used to calculate whether a candidate had enough support.
The claim matches a Biden campaign precinct captain who told The Associated Presshe witnessed two precincts on Saturday where caucus organizers announced midway through that they had switched the vote numbers for the precincts, before switching them back and forth at least four times.
The Buttigieg campaign called for the party to release more detail of the votes, including a breakdown of early votes cast by home precincts.
Nevada Democratic Party spokeswoman Molly Forgey said the party is continuing to verify and report results and is not going to offer a more detailed breakdown than it already planned to provide.
“As laid out in our recount guidance, there is a formal method for requesting a challenge of results,” Forgey said.
The party’s rules say any request for a recount must be filed by 5 p.m. Monday.
The Buttigieg campaign did not immediately have a comment on whether it intended to seek a recount.
It was the Trumpiest of offers.
A rally at one of the world’s largest stadiums. A crowd of millions cheering him on. A love fest during an election year.
President Donald Trump’s packed two-day visit to India promises the kind of welcome that has eluded him on many foreign trips, some of which have featured massive protests and icy handshakes from world leaders. He is expected to receive a warm embrace from the ideologically aligned and hug-loving Prime Minister Narendra Modi, complete with a massive rally soon after his arrival Monday and then a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal.
After hosting Modi at a “Howdy Modi” rally in Houston last year that drew 50,000 people, Modi will return the favor with a “Namaste Trump” rally (it translates to, “Greetings, Trump”) at the world’s largest cricket stadium in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. Tens of thousands are expected to line the streets.
Modi “told me we’ll have 7 million people between the airport and the event,” Trump said to reporters Tuesday, then raised the anticipated number to 10 million when he mentioned the trip during a Thursday night rally. Indian authorities expect closer to 100,000.
“I’ll never be satisfied with a crowd if we have 10 million people in India,” Trump said. And as he left the White House on Sunday for the flight to India, the upcoming spectacle was on the president’s mind again: “I hear it’s going to be a big event. Some people say the biggest event they’ve ever had in India. That’s what the prime minister told me — this will be the biggest event they’ve ever had.”
Trump’s motorcade will travel amid cheers from carefully picked and screened Modi loyalists and workers from his Bharatiya Janata Party. They will stand for hours alongside the neatly manicured 22-kilometer (14-mile) stretch of road to accord Trump a grand welcome.
Trump generally dislikes foreign travel and prefers being home in his White House bed; in fact, he noted to reporters upon his departure from the White House that it was a long trip to India and that he was only going to be there one night. But he has a particular affinity for India. He owned a hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, named the Trump Taj Mahal, and he owns multiple properties in India.
“There’s a lot of color. This is a loud and boisterous country, and that exactly in some ways really fits with the Trump style,” said Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow and director of The India Project at the Brookings Institution. She said Trump is likely to get a king’s welcome from a country well-rehearsed in the art of adulation. A half-million people gathered to hear President Dwight D. Eisenhower speak in 1959; former President Jimmy Carter had a village named after him — Carterpuri.
“In some ways, American presidents go to India to feel loved,” said Madan. She predicted Trump would receive an even grander welcome because the Indians recognize it’s something Trump expects and that could keep them in his good graces.
“It’s not about him, per se, for them. It is the U.S. relationship for India is crucial,” she said.
India has spent weeks making preparations for the visit. At a cost of almost $14 million, the government is blanketing the city with ads of Trump and Modi and hastily erected a half-kilometer (1,640-foot) brick wall beside the road Trump will take to the stadium, which officials are rushing to finish in time for Trump’s arrival.. Critics say the wall was built to block the view of a slum inhabited by more than 2,000 people. Stray dogs have been caught and exotic trees planted.
Trump’s foreign visits have typically been light on sightseeing, but this time, the president and first lady Melania Trump are to visit the Taj Mahal. Stories in local media warn of the monkeys that inhabit the landmark pestering tourists for food and, on occasion, menacing both visitors and slingshot-carrying security guards.
Presidents have often used trips overseas to bolster their electoral prospects. Images of American presidents being feted on the world stage stand in contrast to those of their rivals in the opposing party slogging through diners in early-voting states and clashing in debate.
This trip, in particular, reflects a Trump campaign strategy to showcase him looking presidential during short, carefully managed trips that provide counterprogramming to the Democrats’ primary contest and produce the kinds of visuals his campaign can use in future ads. His aides also believe the visit could help the president woo tens of thousands of Indian-American voters before the November election.
Some of Trump’s past trips have been overshadowed by diplomatic snafus and political gaffes. When Barack Obama was running for president, his reception in Germany in front of a massive crowd was featured prominently in an attack ad casting him as a mere “celebrity.”
Beyond the optics, there are serious issues to address as India faces a slumping economy and ongoing protests over a citizenship law that excludes Muslims.
Trade tensions between the two countries have escalated since the Trump administration imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium from India. India responded with higher penalties on agricultural goods and restrictions on U.S. medical devices. The U.S. retaliated by removing India from a decades-old preferential trade program.
Though trade will be on the agenda, Trump and administration officials are playing down expectations.
“Well, we can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on,” the president said.
India has been embroiled in protests over its Citizenship Amendment Act. It provides a fast track to naturalization for some migrants who entered the country illegally while fleeing religious persecution, but excludes Muslims, raising fears that the country is moving toward a religious citizenship test. Passage has prompted large-scale protests and a violent crackdown.
Typically, Trump has not publicly rebuked world leaders for human rights abuses during his overseas trips. But one senior administration official said the U.S. is concerned about the situation and that Trump will tell Modi the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions and respect religious minorities.
Trump is also expected to weigh in on the fate of the disputed territory of Kashmir. The Muslim-majority territory claimed by both Hindu-nationalist led India and Pakistan. Trump has offered to mediate and has encouraged India and Pakistan to work together to resolve their differences.
But there is likely to be little public divide between Trump and Modi, two leaders with a similar love of bravado and adoration. At the “Howdy Modi” event last fall, which incongruously linked the Indian prime minister with Texas’ cowboy culture, the two world leaders took the stage hand in hand at a rock concert-like setting that will be dwarfed by the scene in Ahmedabad
“Get ready to say #NamasteTrump,” tweeted the city, the largest in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, as it geared up to welcome the American president on his maiden India visit as president. It also invited people to join “#theBiggestRoadShowEver.”
Follow Colvin on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@colvinj and Lemire at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire
A burn-it-down candidate is topping a splintered field of more moderate contenders and setting the party’s establishment wing on edge.
It’s how Donald Trump began his unlikely march to the Republican nomination in 2016. And four years later, it’s how Sen. Bernie Sanders has cemented himself as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
The Vermont senator won his second straight contest on Saturday with a convincing victory in Nevada, the first racially diverse state on the primary calendar, after winning the New Hampshire primary the week before. He also effectively tied for first place in the opening contest in Iowa.
Sanders’ surge has energized his legion of liberal supporters, including young people drawn to his calls for a government-run health care system and eliminating student debt. But it’s sparked an outcry from rival campaigns and other moderate Democrats that mirrors the worries of Republicans who tried, but failed, to block Trump’s path in 2016.
They warn that Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, can’t win in the general election. They warn that he would badly damage Democratic congressional candidates facing tough competition in swing states. And they warn that his nomination is all but inevitable unless other candidates start dropping out and stop splitting up the anti-Sanders vote.
“Moderates need to either consolidate or see Bernie run away with it,” said Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist. “It’s time for some decisions or live with the outcome.”
But none of Sanders’ rivals appears ready to make those tough decisions. And there are no real party elders who can step in to help cull the field. The only Democrat in the country with that kind of sway is former President Barack Obama, who has vowed to stay stridently neutral in the primary contest.
And so, the Democratic field is expected to stay crowded, despite the realization among many campaigns that time is running out to stop Sanders. If he amasses a significant delegate lead in the Super Tuesday contests on March 3, when big prizes like California and Texas are up for grabs, it could be impossible for other candidates to stop his march to the nomination.
Advisers to multiple Democratic campaigns privately conceded on Saturday that they expect up to five other candidates to remain in the race through Super Tuesday: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Mike Bloomberg.
Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor, isn’t competing in the first four contests but is blitzing the airwaves with an unprecedented amount of primary advertising in the Super Tuesday states and beyond. But his shock-and-awe entry into the race was tempered by a shaky performance in last week’s Democratic debate.
Bloomberg is among the most aggressive candidates in warning about the risks of Sanders’ nomination. His campaign said Saturday that the Nevada results underscore that a “fragmented field” is putting the Vermont senator on pace for the nomination — despite the fact that Bloomberg’s candidacy is only fragmenting the field further.
He’s far from the only candidate who sees himself as the solution to the Sanders’ dilemma, and the rest of the field as the problem.
“We’re alive and we’re coming back and we’re going to win,” said Biden, who was on track to finish a distant second to Sanders in Nevada after dismal showings in the opening states.
Biden is hoping to claim his first victory next week in South Carolina, the first state to vote with a significant percentage of black voters, who make up the backbone of the Democratic Party. He’ll likely need that victory to be a resounding one, both to ease voters’ anxieties about his own rocky start and to draw out wealthy donors who have been reluctant to support his candidacy.
As the Nevada results came in, Klobuchar, who seemed consigned to a single-digit finish, also vowed to go forward. So did Warren, who hasn’t finished higher than third in the first three contests.
“We have a lot of states to go and right now I feel the momentum. So let’s stay in this fight,” Warren said during a rally in Washington state, which votes on March 10.
Warren’s rationale for staying in the race hinges on her strong debate performance last week, which re-energized her campaign and, crucially, her fundraising. But her campaign advisers have not publicly identified which states they believe they can win in the next round of voting.
Then there’s Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He’s gotten the closest to topping Sanders in the early contests, virtually tying him in Iowa and finishing less than two percentage points behind in New Hampshire.
Those results, Buttigieg argued on Saturday, prove he is best to take on Sanders down the stretch. He also hardened his criticism of Sanders, urging voters to “take a sober look at the consequences” of making him the party’s nominee.
But the outcome in Nevada, where Buttigieg was in third place with votes still being counted, raises questions about his viability in the more diverse states that are up next on the primary calendar. He’s struggling in particular with black voters, according to public polling.
Sanders, for his part, is relishing both his front-runner status and the anxiousness it’s creating among his more moderate rivals.
Like Trump, he’s been unafraid to challenge his own party’s traditional assumptions about what it takes to win both the primary and the general election.
As he claimed victory on Saturday, he declared: “We have just put together a multigenerational, multiracial coalition, which is not only going to win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep the country.”
The sun-baked city of Ahmedabad was jostling with activity Sunday as workers cleaned roads, planted flowers and hoisted hundreds of billboards featuring President Donald Trump, a day ahead of his maiden two-day visit to India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised him a boisterous public reception.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the northwestern city are expected to greet Trump on Monday for a road show leading to a massive rally at what has been touted as the world’s largest cricket stadium.
Trump’s motorcade will travel amid cheers from a battery of carefully picked and vetted Modi loyalists and workers from his Bharatiya Janata Party who will stand for hours alongside the neatly manicured 22-kilometer (14-mile) stretch of road to accord Trump a grand welcome.
Tens of thousands of police officers will be on hand to keep security tight and a new wall has come up in front of a slum, apparently to hide it from passers-by.
Monday’s event is the second act of growing bonhomie between Trump and Modi after they shared a stage last year in Houston at a rally called “Howdy, Modi!” that featured flashy Bollywood musical and dance numbers and was organized by a nonprofit group with Hindu nationalist links.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist government is pulling out all the stops, at an expense of more than $14 million, to woo the president and first lady Melania Trump. But experts have said that very little of substance will be achieved for either side beyond the pageantry and symbolism.
For Modi, however, the event could be a reprieve from opposition in the country against some of his recent policies, a slumping economy and ongoing protests over a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims.
Experts say a U.S.-India trade pact, which has been in the works from the last three years, seems off the table.
“They’ve been hitting us very hard for many, many years,” Trump said this week, while quickly adding, “I really like Prime Minister Modi.”
The slick extravaganza, to the annoyance of some locals, has not gone well for Modi’s rivals, who have said Trump’s visit will not benefit India but is aimed at boosting the American economy.
Jaiveer Shergill, a spokesman for the main opposition Congress party, said Saturday that relations between the two countries “should be weighed on scales of targets achieved” and need to remain beyond “hugs and handshakes.”
The pomp and show around the rally seem to have gotten to Trump, who on Sunday tweeted a mashup video from a blockbuster Indian movie. The video had his face superimposed on the protagonist and showed the president as a medieval-era war hero participating in a battle.
“Look so forward to being with my great friends India!” Trump said in the tweet.
Trump on Monday is also expected to travel to the 17th century monument to love, the Taj Mahal.
On Tuesday, he will participate in ceremonial events and meet with government officials, business leaders and U.S. Embassy staff, followed by a dinner at the presidential palace in New Delhi.
But his visit to Ahmedabad, Modi’s home turf, is seen as an important moment for the Indian leader, as the rally may help displace his association with deadly anti-Muslim riots in 2002 that landed him a U.S. travel ban.
Muslim leaders and human rights groups say that as chief minister of Gujarat state, Modi did little to stop the 2002 anti-Muslim riots, a charge he has denied. Suspicions that Modi quietly supported the riots led the U.S. to deny him a visa, which has since been reversed. Government investigators eventually ruled there was no evidence to charge him.
Ahmedabad is also the city where Modi rose up the ranks of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu nationalist group with millions of followers that eventually gave rise to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Associated Press videojournalist Rishabh R. Jain in Ahmedabad contributed to this report.
Sen. Bernie Sanders cruised to victory in the Nevada caucuses, heartening his supporters and stoking alarm among moderates who fear he is too liberal and would lose to President Donald Trump.
Takeaways from the Nevada caucuses:
SANDERS’ PRESIDENTIAL BID GETS ROCKET FUEL
Sanders’ convincing win means there is no longer an asterisk next to his status as the front-runner in the race. He proved his strength with a broad coalition that included Latino voters, union members and African Americans.
Now Sanders claims three victories in a row heading into South Carolina next Saturday, and more important, Super Tuesday on March 3 when about one-third of the delegates needed for the nomination are at stake. The biggest prizes that day, California and Texas, look a lot like Nevada demographically.
Another advantage: His opponents remain splintered and, with the exception of billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, under-funded to compete across such a vast terrain.
But now there will be extraordinary pressure to try to consolidate moderate support in an effort to stop Sanders’ rise. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren will have a decision to make on how much she tries to draw separation from Sanders since they are both competing for the progressive vote.
There is at least one strong note of caution about Sanders’ success. In Iowa and New Hampshire he didn’t seem to grow the electorate substantially. Data is still out in Nevada.
BUTTIGIEG ISSUES WARNING ABOUT SANDERS
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg ran well behind Sanders, but he tried to cast himself as the strongest alternative to Sanders.
In language uncharacteristically blunt, Buttigieg issued a warning to Democrats about the perils of nominating Sanders, whom he characterized as inflexible and whose ideas are not in the American mainstream.
“Sen. Sanders believes in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans,” Buttigieg told supporters. He held himself out as the only viable alternative. “We can prioritize either ideological purity or inclusive victory,” Buttigieg said.
He added: “Sen. Sanders sees capitalism as the root of all evil. He’d go beyond reform and reorder the economy in ways most Democrats — let alone most Americans — don’t support.”
Despite his forceful argument, there’s a serious risk to Buttigieg in the upcoming calendar. He will have to win over black voters in South Carolina, then pivot to a multistate primary with comparatively limited resources. Buttigieg put out a plea for $13 million from donors before Super Tuesday.
The former mayor of a city of 100,000 has repeatedly defied the odds in the presidential nominating contests, but the odds are getting longer.
BIDEN HAS HIS BACK AGAINST A FIREWALL
Former Vice President Joe Biden was hoping Nevada would turn things around for him after a disastrous showing in Iowa and then New Hampshire. He argued that he’d do better in a more diverse state.
But Biden again lost badly even as he told supporters at a union hall, “We’re alive and coming back and we’re gonna win.”
His last and best hope may be to win in South Carolina next Saturday. He’s counting on his support among the state’s black voters — they could make up two-thirds of the voters — to serve as his firewall.
If Biden doesn’t win South Carolina, the rationale for his candidacy will much harder to maintain.
In Las Vegas, he tried out a new rallying cry: “I ain’t a socialist. I ain’t a plutocrat. I’m a Democrat. And I’m proud of it.” Party loyalty may be all Biden has left.
MAYBE CULINARY ISN’T ALL-POWERFUL AFTER ALL
The 60,000-member Culinary Workers Local 226 represents workers in the casinos on the Las Vegas strip, and it’s routinely described, correctly, as the most powerful force in the state’s Democratic politics. But it’s not omnipotent.
Culinary didn’t want Sanders to win. It has strongly opposed his “Medicare for All” plan, warning its members that it would eliminate their own generous health plan. Some observers thought the union might end up backing Biden. But after the former vice president’s embarrassing performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, Culinary instead stayed neutral.
The calls from leadership went unheeded by many. Sanders had strong showings in some caucuses in casinos where crowds of Culinary members chanted the Vermont senator’s name and powered him to wins in most casinos. Culinary is driven by its members, many of whom are Sanders supporters, and there was no consensus among the rest about what they should do.
Leadership decided to refrain from a divisive fight, helping pave the way for Sanders’ win. It’s a reminder that even in places like Nevada with strong political institutions, those institutions ultimately derive their power from voters.
NO BOUNCE FOR KLOBUCHAR
Sen. Amy Klobuchar produced one of the few surprises of the race when she surged to a third-place finish in New Hampshire, announced that she had raised more than $12 million, and vowed to prove her doubters wrong.
Her momentum proved short-lived. She finished well behind the leading candidates, and in the process, prompted questions about her viability.
But in a speech to supporters in her home state of Minnesota, she was defiant and said she would continue. She even tried to make a virtue of the fact that Trump mentioned her name at a rally. “By the way, for the first time ever, he mentioned me at a rally,” she said. “You know I’ve arrived now. You know they must be worried.”
Probably not. Time is running out for candidates who haven’t finished higher than third in any contest. That also applies to Warren, also desperately needs a win. Her strong debate performance came after much of the state had already cast early votes.
NOT A GREAT RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Tom Steyer, the billionaire who made his fortune running a hedge fund, bet heavily in Nevada, more than $12 million on advertising, and lost big, finishing sixth. Steyer has made strong appeals to minority voters, but in Nevada, failed decisively.
But Steyer’s impact on the race could come next week in South Carolina, where he has spent even more money. Polls show that he has made significant inroads among African American voters. That would not be good news for Biden, who is counting on those votes to resuscitate his campaign.
Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and career diplomat who during the impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump offered a chilling account of alleged threats from Trump and his allies, has a book deal.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that it had acquired Yovanovitch’s planned memoir, currently untitled. According to the publisher, the book will trace her long career, from Mogadishu, Somalia, to Kyiv and “finally back to Washington, D.C. — where, to her dismay, she found a political system beset by many of the same challenges she had spent her career combating overseas.”
“Yovanovitch’s book will deliver pointed reflections on the issues confronting America today, and thoughts on how we can shore up our democracy,” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt said in an announcement.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but two people familiar with the deal told the AP that the agreement was worth seven figures, even though the book is not expected until Spring 2021, months after this fall’s election. They were not authorized to discuss negotiations and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss financial terms. Yovanovitch was represented by the Javelin literary agency, where other clients include former FBI Director James Comey and former national security adviser John Bolton.
“Ambassador Yovanovitch has had a 30-year career of public service in many locations, with many lessons to be drawn. This is about much more than just the recent controversy,” said Houghton Mifflin Senior Vice President and Publisher Bruce Nichols, in response to a question about why her book wasn’t coming out this year.
Yovanovitch told House investigators last year that Ukrainian officials had warned her in advance that Rudy Giuliani and other Trump insiders were planning to “do things, including to me” and were “looking to hurt” her. Pushed out of her job earlier in 2019 on Trump’s orders, she testified that a senior Ukrainian official told her that “I really needed to watch my back.”
Yovanovitch was recalled from Kyiv as Giuliani pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate baseless corruption allegations against Democrat Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was involved with Burisma, a gas company there. Biden, the former vice president, is a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
According to a rough transcript released by the White House, Trump told Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy last summer that Yovanovitch “was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news.”
The allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate a political opponent led to his impeachment in December on two counts by the Democratic-run House. Earlier this month, the Republican-run Senate acquitted him on both counts.
Yovanovitch, 61, was appointed ambassador to Ukraine in 2016 by President Barack Obama. She recently was given the Trainor Award, an honor for international diplomacy presented by Georgetown University, and currently is a non-resident fellow at Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.
Republican lawmakers in Maryland are criticizing a history lesson at a public high school near Baltimore that compared President Donald Trump with Nazis and communists.
A slide used in an Advanced Placement history class at Loch Raven High School in Towson shows a picture of Trump above pictures of a Nazi swastika and a flag of the Soviet Union. Two captions read “wants to round up a group of people and build a giant wall” and “oh, THAT is why it sounds so familiar!”
The Baltimore Sun reports that state Del. Kathy Szeliga arranged for copies of the slide and the school system’s response to be sent to her fellow Baltimore County lawmaker. She also posted the image on Facebook.
“It is horrific. It is educational malfeasance,” Szeliga said Friday at a meeting of the county’s delegation.
Baltimore County Councilman Wade Kach called it “a piece of propaganda” that didn’t belong in a classroom.
The school system said the slide was not part of the resources it provides for AP history teachers.
Charles Herndon, a spokesman for Baltimore County schools, said students in advanced high school classes are “discerning, intelligent students who are going to be able to draw their own inferences and draw their own conclusions.”
“The topics being discussed in the class included World Wars and the attempts by some leaders throughout history to limit or prevent migration into certain countries. In isolation and out of context with the lesson, the image could be misunderstood,” the school district said in a statement.
The school system said the issue had become a personnel matter “which will be appropriately addressed by the school administration and is not subject to further clarification.”
The Nevada caucus, the third contest in the Democratic presidential race, is Saturday. Here are six questions going into that fateful vote.
HOW WELL DOES SANDERS DO?
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has high expectations going into the caucus. He is leading national polls and his campaign has a huge footprint in Nevada, a state he narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
But Sanders also had lofty prospects going into New Hampshire last week because he won that state by 22 points in the 2016 primary, and he only eked out a narrow victory over former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Nothing’s guaranteed Saturday, especially in Nevada, whose young caucuses (this is only their fourth iteration) are unpredictable.
If Sanders wins, he solidifies front-runner status heading into South Carolina next week and, more important, into critical Super Tuesday primaries on March 3. But if something goes wrong, or he only barely pulls out a win, it will intensify questions about whether the self-declared democratic socialist can extend his support beyond his fervent base.
HOW WILL LABOR FLEX ITS MUSCLE?
Sanders and Joe Biden have long held themselves out as the champions of organized labor. Nevada will offer a fresh test of their appeal.
The Culinary Union, which represents many of the workers in the casino and hotel industry, is one of the most powerful political forces in the state. Its endorsement was coveted by all of the candidates, but the union decided to not endorse. In 2008, the union’s decision to back Barack Obama was critical to his success in the state.
Though Sanders would seem a natural ally, many union members prize the health care that comes with their jobs as a result of their membership and do not embrace Sanders’ plan for “Medicare for All”. Biden has hammered on this point, as he critically needs union members’ backing.
HOW HIGH IS TURNOUT?
Nevada Democrats have been heartened that their experiment with early caucus voting led to nearly 75,000 people marking preference cards in four days of initial balloting before the main event Saturday. That’s close to the 84,000 who voted in 2016. After a disappointing turnout in Iowa, Democrats hope Nevada shows their voters are enthusiastic enough about the election to defeat President Donald Trump in November.
Some Democrats hope Nevada surpasses the 118,000 who showed up at the 2008 caucuses when Obama faced Clinton. But Democrats should be careful about declaring victory based on raw numbers. There are more Democrats in fast-growing Nevada now than in 2008, when more than one-quarter of all Democrats participated in the caucus. The number of caucus participants needed for 2020 to surpass that 2008 rate would be above 150,000.
WILL NEVADA WINNOW THE FIELD?
This is the musical chairs portion of the primary. Normally, at the end of each contest, at least some candidates have to drop out due to poor performance and lack of funds.
It hasn’t worked that way so far because the field has been so evenly split, but that can’t last forever. Will Nevada be the end of one of the six main candidates? If not, will a disappointing finish in the state hasten an eventual exit?
Even if someone drops out, there’s another Democrat, billionaire former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, waiting on the ballot on Super Tuesday states, making it likely Democratic voters will still have numerous choices going into the busiest stretch of primary season. This is not necessarily a good thing.
WHAT DO MINORITY VOTERS DO?
After two early states that are overwhelmingly white — Iowa and New Hampshire — Nevada may change the picture. The state is among the most diverse in the nation. And even though caucuses require a greater investment of time, which can make it harder for minorities to participate, the event will feature a far more diverse electorate.
The problem is there is no reliable polling or data that will tell us how different demographic groups split. That’s because highly transient Nevada is notoriously difficult to survey. Still, by studying precinct level data, analysts and campaigns will glean indications of how candidates did.
Will Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar be able to broaden their appeal to Latinos, African Americans and Asians? Will Sanders, as he has been hoping, assemble a multi-ethnic coalition? Will Biden hold onto the minority voters that were once presumed to propel him to the nomination?
Nevada demographically resembles the diverse array of states scheduled to vote on Super Tuesday, when nearly one-third of the total delegates in the contest are up for grabs. It may hint at what lies ahead in the race.
DID THE DEBATE HAPPEN IN TIME FOR WARREN?
Many months ago, Nevada politicos viewed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the Democrat to beat in their state. She assembled a team of operatives to push her populist message of structural change that was expected to resonate with Nevada’s working-class Democrats.
But then Warren’s national position began to erode, and she limped into Nevada a political afterthought.
That changed on Wednesday night when Warren delivered a powerful debate performance highlighted by her skewering of Bloomberg. She saw an avalanche of money and attention. But a huge share of Nevada had already voted by then.
After weathering a disappointing fourth-place showing in New Hampshire, which borders her home state, Warren desperately needs a win. Will Nevada make her the next comeback kid?
Bernie Sanders scored a commanding victory in Nevada’s presidential caucuses, cementing his status as the Democrats’ national front-runner but escalating tensions over whether he’s too liberal to defeat President Donald Trump.
Joe Biden was a distant second, followed by Pete Buttigieg in third and Elizabeth Warren in fourth, with Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer in a close race for fifth. They all are pledging to stay in the race as the primary moves on to South Carolina this coming Saturday, with the Super Tuesday states voting on March 3.
Nevada’s caucuses on Saturday were the first chance for White House hopefuls to demonstrate appeal to a diverse group of voters in a state far more representative of the country as a whole than Iowa and New Hampshire. Sanders, a 78-year Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist, won by rallying his fiercely loyal base and tapping into support from Nevada’s large Latino community.
In a show of confidence, Sanders left Nevada on Saturday for Texas, which offers one of the biggest delegate troves in just 10 days on Super Tuesday.
“We are bringing our people together,” he declared. “In Nevada we have just brought together a multigenerational, multiracial coalition which is not only going to win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep this country.”
Saturday’s win built on Sanders’ victory earlier this month in the New Hampshire primary. He essentially tied for first place in the Iowa caucuses with Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has sought to position himself as an ideological counter to Sanders’ unabashedly progressive politics.
But for all the energy and attention devoted to the first three states, they award only a tiny fraction of the delegates needed to capture the nomination. After South Carolina, the contest becomes national in scope, putting a premium on candidates who have the resources to compete in states as large as California and Texas.
While Sanders’ victory in Nevada encouraged his supporters, it only deepened concern among establishment-minded Democratic leaders who fear he is too extreme to defeat Trump. Sanders for decades has been calling for transformative policies to address inequities in politics and the economy, none bigger than his signature “Medicare for All” health care plan that would replace the private insurance system with a government-run universal program.
Trump gloated on social media, continuing his weeks-long push to sow discord between Sanders and his Democratic rivals.
“Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada. Biden & the rest look weak,” Trump tweeted. “Congratulations Bernie, & don’t let them take it away from you!”
Buttigieg congratulated Sanders, too, but then launched an aggressive verbal assault on the senator as too divisive.
“Before we rush to nominate Senator Sanders in our one shot to take on this president, let’s take a sober look at what is at stake for our party, for our values and for those with so much to lose,” he said. “Senator Sanders believes in an inflexible, ideological revolution that leaves out most Democrats, not to mention most Americans.”
For Biden, a second place finish in Nevada could be the lifeline he needed to convince skeptics he still has a path to the nomination as the primary moves to more diverse states. He took aim at Sanders and billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who wasn’t on the Nevada ballot, but has emerged as a threat to Biden in contests that begin next month.
“I ain’t a socialist. I’m not a plutocrat. I’m a Democrat,” Biden declared.
Warren, who desperately needed a spark to revive her stalled bid, ignored Sanders and instead took a shot at Bloomberg’s height as she thanked Nevada “for keeping me in the fight.”
Rallying supporters in Seattle, she said she wanted to talk about “a big threat — not a tall one, but a big one: Michael Bloomberg.”
Also still in the fight: Billionaire Steyer, who spent more than $12 million on Nevada television and Minnesota Sen. Klobuchar, who hoped to prove her strong New Hampshire finish was no fluke.
Klobuchar, campaigning in her home state of Minnesota Saturday night, claimed Nevada success no matter her poor showing.
“As usual I think we have exceeded expectations,” she said.
The first presidential contest in the West tested the candidates’ strength with black and Latino voters for the first time in 2020. Nevada’s population aligns more with the U.S. as a whole, compared with Iowa and New Hampshire: 29% Latino, 10% black and 9% Asian American and Pacific Islander.
Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who dominated the political conversation this week after a poor debate-stage debut, wasn’t on the ballot. He’s betting everything on a series of delegate-rich states that begin voting next month.
The stakes were high for Nevada Democrats to avoid a repeat of the chaos in the still-unresolved Iowa caucuses, and it appeared Saturday’s contest was largely successful.
Unlike state primaries and the November election, which are run by government officials, caucuses are overseen by state parties.
Nevada Democrats sought to minimize problems by creating multiple redundancies in their reporting system, relying on results called in by phone, a paper worksheet filled out by caucus organizers, a photo of that worksheet sent in by text message and electronic results captured with a Google form.
In addition, it appeared Nevada Democrats were able to successfully navigate a complicated process for adding early voting to the caucus process. Nearly 75,000 people cast early ballots over a four-day period, and the party was able to process those in time for Saturday so they could be integrated into the in-person vote.
At the Bellagio casino caucus site, 41-year-old Christian Nielsen, a scuba diver for the Cirque du Soleil show “O,” said he backed Sanders because he believes the country needs a “major change in the White House.”
“We need somebody in the White House who has been on the right side of history for their entire career, somebody who stands with the working class, and will make things more fair for everybody,” Nielsen said.
The Democrats’ 2020 nomination fight shifted beyond Nevada even before the final results were known.
Only Biden, Buttigieg and Steyer were still in the state when news of Sanders’ victory was announced.
Sanders and Klobuchar spent the night in Super Tuesday states, and Buttigieg was headed to a third, Virginia. Warren, who began Saturday in Las Vegas, was to finish the day in Washington state, which hosts its election on March 10 but has already begun offering early voting.
Peoples and Slodysko reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe in Washington, Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta and Yvonne Gonzalez, Ken Ritter and Nicholas Riccardi in Nevada contributed to this report.
Hopes for ending America’s longest war hinge on maintaining a weeklong fragile truce in Afghanistan that U.S. officials and experts agree will be difficult to assess and fraught with pitfalls.
What if one militant with a suicide vest kills dozens in a Kabul market? Or, if a U.S. airstrike targeting Islamic State insurgents takes out Taliban members instead, does that destroy the deal?
The agreement, which took effect Friday, calls for an end to attacks around the country, including roadside bombings, suicide attacks and rocket strikes between the Taliban, Afghan and U.S. forces.
But in a country that has been wracked by violence for more than 18 years, determining if the agreement has been violated will be a tough task. And there are a number of other groups and elements in the country that would love to see the deal fall through.
“The reason this is a challenge is this is a very decentralized insurgency,” said Seth Jones, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an Afghanistan expert. “There are going to be a lot of opportunities for any militia commander, element of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and other local forces who don’t want to see a deal, to conduct violence.”
The Haqqani network is an insurgent group linked to the Taliban.
According to one defense official, any attack will be reviewed on a “case-by-case” basis. And much will depend on how well U.S. military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan can quickly determine two things: Who was responsible for the attack, and can any of the blame be traced back to the Taliban, particularly the group’s leaders who have been participating in the negotiations.
The Taliban issued a statement late Friday saying their military council has instructed commanders and governors to stop all attacks against foreign and Afghan forces. The council has a web of commanders and shadow governors across the country.
U.S. officials have made it clear that “spoilers” — such as militants associated with the Taliban who are not in favor of the peace talks — could launch an attack in a deliberate attempt to prevent them from happening.
Jones said the U.S. military has tried to get a good layout of where all the insurgent groups are operating so it will be able to determine where any attack comes from and who likely was responsible. And U.S. military officials said they were prepared and ready to make quick assessments.
If successfully implemented, the weeklong “reduction in violence” agreement, which began at midnight Friday local time (1930 GMT, 2:30 p.m. EST), will be followed by the signing of a peace accord on Feb. 29. That accord would finally wrap up the 18-year war and begin to fulfill one of President Donald Trump’s main campaign promises: to bring U.S. troops in Afghanistan home.
The U.S. will continue to have surveillance aircraft and other assets overhead to monitor events and help to determine who is responsible for any attack.
One senior U.S. official also said that the U.S., Afghans and Taliban will have a channel through which they will be able to discuss any issues that arise.
Another U.S. official said that communications between the groups will allow the Taliban, for example, to quickly deny involvement with an attack. But in all cases, officials said the U.S. military — led by Gen. Scott Miller in Afghanistan — will be responsible for investigating incidents and figuring out who is at fault.
The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the private negotiations.
Once Miller reaches a conclusion, officials said it will be up to the White House and State Department to make a final determination about whether an attack constitutes a violation of the truce and if it is enough to affect the peace deal.
The Pentagon has made it clear that U.S. troops may continue to conduct operations against Islamic State and al-Qaida militants as needed. But officials also noted that all sides want the peace agreement to be successful, so they will try to avoid anything that might scuttle it.
The Pentagon has said for months that it is poised to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from the current number of more than 12,000 to 8,600. That reduction is likely to be triggered once the peace agreement is finalized, but officials said Friday it could take several months for any troop cuts to begin.
Jones expressed some skepticism, saying the Taliban has expressed little interest in laying down arms or integrating into a government run by someone other than the group itself.
“This is a first down, we’re at the 10-yard line,” said Jones. “We have 90 more to go and I don’t know that we’ll ever get the touchdown.”
The agreement mapping out a plan for peace follows months of negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban that have broken down before. Both parties, however, have signaled a desire to halt the fighting that began with the U.S. invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Osama bin Laden’s Afghanistan-based al-Qaida network.
The only other cease-fire the Taliban had agreed to was for three days in 2018 over the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Then fighting ceased completely and Taliban and Afghan security forces were even filmed taking selfies together and laughing. The Taliban military leaders chastised its fighters at the end of the cease-fire for their frolicking with the enemy.
AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington and Kathy Gannon in Islamabad contributed.
Actor Dick Van Dyke’s video endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders for president lit up social media Friday night as the 94-year-old co-star of the original “Mary Poppins” tried to persuade people of his generation to vote for the candidate known for his younger supporters, NBC News reported.
Sanders, 78, already enjoys unusual support from voters native to the digital age as he seeks the Democratic nomination for president. Van Dyke wants to see more of his cohorts, who aren’t big social media users, get behind the Independent senator from Vermont.
In the video posted to Sanders’ Twitter account Friday evening, Van Dyke says, “It just doesn’t make sense to me that he’s not getting my generation. And I want to urge my generation to get out and vote for him, please.”
NBC News exit poll data from the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary earlier this month found Sanders was the top choice among those 44 or younger, and he fared even better with the 18-to-29 crowd. Voters 45 and older were more likely to prefer Sen. Amy Klobuchar, 59, D-Minnesota, and Pete Buttigieg, 38, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
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A festive mood has enveloped Ahmedabad in India’s northwestern state of Gujarat ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting there on Monday with President Donald Trump, whom he’s promised millions of adoring fans.
The rally in Modi’s home state may help displace his association with deadly anti-Muslim riots in 2002 that landed him a U.S. travel ban. It may also distract Indians, at least temporarily, from a slumping economy and ongoing protests over a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims. But beyond the pageantry and symbolism of the visit, experts expect little of substance to be achieved for either side.
“For Modi, Trump’s visit to India offers a useful distraction from the domestic political tumult playing out across the country,” said Micheal Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the U.S.-based Wilson Center. “I don’t think the visit will have much impact on domestic politics in either country.”
To welcome Trump, who last year likened Modi to Elvis Presley for his crowd-pulling power at a joint rally the two leaders held in Houston, the Gujarat government has spent almost $14 million on ads blanketing the city that show them holding up their hands, flanked by the Indian and U.S. flags.
It also scrambled to build a wall to hide a slum along a road that Trump and first lady Melania Trump will take, caught stray dogs, planted exotic trees and is rushing to finish a cricket stadium in time for Trump’s arrival. The buzz around the event has resonated in Ahmedabad, a city of 7.2 million people divided between those proud of Modi, a Gujarati tea seller’s son who went on to hold India’s highest office, and those who angrily remember his term as the state’s chief minister, when at least 1,000 people were killed in the anti-Muslim riots.
Trump has said Modi has promised between 6 million and 10 million people will turn up for their rally in the city, although authorities expect closer to 100,000.
A big trade deal that both sides had hoped to sign also seems increasingly unlikely.
India has tried to advance cooperation on a range of defense and strategic issues with the U.S., but Indian tariffs remain a major sticking point.
“We’re not treated very well by India,” Trump recently told reporters.
Still, with India’s economy registering its worst slowdown in a decade, expectations of a trade deal remain high in India.
“It would be embarrassing if the two countries cannot manage to strike a modest deal,” said Joshua White, who served in former President Barack Obama’s White House as senior adviser and director for South Asian affairs at the National Security Council.
The India-U.S. relationship, apart from trade tensions, has also experienced strain because of Washington’s desire to use India as a geopolitical buffer with China, while at the same time some members of Congress are criticizing its actions in disputed Kashmir.
A recent letter from four senators to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the Modi government’s decision to scrap the semi-autonomy and statehood of Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority region, last year.
Trump has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, both of which claim Kashmir, an offer India has repeatedly rejected.
While experts aren’t optimistic that any substantial gains will be achieved by the visit, they see plenty of parallels between the leaders’ planned rally in Ahmedabad, dubbed “Namaste Trump,” which translates to “Greetings, Trump,” and last year’s “Howdy Modi” event in Houston.
With flashy Bollywood musical and dance numbers, the Houston rally was the Indian-American diaspora’s grand welcome to Modi after his landslide reelection victory in 2019. But beneath the extravaganza, it was a political rally for the two nationalist leaders, organized by a nonprofit with Hindu nationalist links.
This grand style of event, likely to be replicated in Ahmedabad, could provide Trump an opportunity to appeal to Indian-American votes in the U.S. presidential election, experts say.
“By participating in such a huge event,” Kugelman said, Trump can go back home and “make a pitch to Indian-Americans, many of whom originally hail from Gujarat.”
For Modi, however, the visit could mean more.
Modi has long been trying to bolster his image as a respected leader on the world stage. The visit by Trump could be viewed as endorsing his Hindu nationalist policies that have contributed to a slew of recent losses by his party in state elections.
“President Trump’s visit will be taken as a personal vote of confidence in Modi, and a signal that the United States is willing to overlook his party’s increasingly assertive and troubling majoritarianism,” White said.
Modi has previously hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his home state while pitching the implementation of Gujarat’s development model across India. Bringing world leaders to Gujarat is a tactic to “pull crowds in his home turf,” said Ajay Umat, a senior journalist in Gujarat who has reported on Modi for the last 30 years.
“He loves to make an exhibition,” Umat said. “What better place than his own state?”
Muslim leaders and human rights groups say Modi, when he was the state’s chief minister, did little to stop the 2002 anti-Muslim riots, a charge he has denied.
Suspicions that Modi quietly supported the riots led the U.S. to deny him a visa, which has since been reversed. While government investigators eventually ruled there was no evidence to charge him, the shadow of the riots continues to hang over Ahmedabad.
A few days before the two leaders’ visit, Salim Mohammad sat in his modest house in Naroda Patia, a dingy Muslim-majority neighborhood where 97 people died in the riots. Mohammad said Modi’s invitation to the U.S. president to a city which experienced communal riots “under his watch” was like a “reopening of wounds.”
“But I am not surprised,” Mohammad said. “After all, both leaders are of the same ideology. They both promote divisive politics.”
Greyhound, the nation’s largest bus company, said Friday it will stop allowing Border Patrol agents without a warrant to board its buses to conduct routine immigration checks.
The company’s announcement came one week after The Associated Press reported on a leaked Border Patrol memo confirming that agents can’t board private buses without the consent of the bus company. Greyhound had previously insisted that even though it didn’t like the immigration checks, it had no choice under federal law but to allow them.
In an emailed statement, the company said it would notify the Department of Homeland Security that it does not consent to unwarranted searches on its buses or in areas of terminals that are not open to the public — such as company offices or any areas a person needs a ticket to access.
Greyhound said it would provide its drivers and bus station employees updated training regarding the new policy, and that it would place stickers on all its buses clearly stating that it does not consent to the searches.
“Our primary concern is the safety of our customers and team members, and we are confident these changes will lead to an improved experience for all parties involved,” the statement said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Greyhound has faced pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, immigrant rights activists and Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to stop allowing sweeps on buses within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of an international border or coastline. In many cases, the buses being checked were not crossing or even approaching an international boundary.
Critics say the practice is intimidating and discriminatory and has become more common under President Donald Trump. Border Patrol arrests videotaped by other passengers have sparked criticism, and Greyhound faces a lawsuit in California alleging that it violated consumer protection laws by facilitating raids.
“We are pleased to see Greyhound clearly communicate that it does not consent to racial profiling and harassment on its buses,” Andrea Flores, deputy director of policy for the ACLU’s Equality Division, said in an email. “By protecting its customers and employees, Greyhound is sending a message that it prioritizes the communities it serves.”
Ferguson said in an email his office will follow up with Greyhound to ensure compliance.
“Today’s announcement from Greyhound confirms what should have been obvious to the company since I contacted them a year ago – it has both the power and the responsibility to stand up for its customers, who suffered for far too long from Greyhound’s indifference to CBP’s suspicionless bus raids and harassment,” he said.
The Border Patrol has insisted that it does not profile passengers based on their appearance, but instead asks all passengers whether they are citizens or in the country legally. The agency says the bus checks are an important way to ferret out human trafficking, narcotics and illegal immigration.
Some other bus companies, including Jefferson Lines, which operates in 14 states, and MTRWestern, which operates in the Pacific Northwest, have already taken similar steps to those announced by Greyhound. Flores said the ACLU would continue to push others to follow suit.
The memo obtained by the AP was dated Jan. 28, addressed to all chief patrol agents and signed by then-Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost just before she retired. It confirms the legal position that Greyhound’s critics have taken: that the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prevents agents from boarding buses and questioning passengers without a warrant or the consent of the company.
“When transportation checks occur on a bus at non-checkpoint locations, the agent must demonstrate that he or she gained access to the bus with the consent of the company’s owner or one of the company’s employees,” the memo states. An agent’s actions while on the bus “would not cause a reasonable person to believe that he or she is unable to terminate the encounter with the agent.”
Greyhound previously argued that case law, including a 1973 Supreme Court ruling, did not extend the Fourth Amendment’s protections to commercial carriers.
The race to 1,991 is on for front-runners of the Democratic Party, with each presidential candidate raising and spending millions in early-voting states on ad buys and rallies before Super Tuesday.
On the Republican front, challenger William Weld continues to remain in the race despite an expected sweep of delegates for incumbent President Donald Trump. Some states have gone as far as to cancel their primaries and caucuses in Trump’s favor.
Data from NBC staff, NBC News Decision Desk and The Green Papers.
Just weeks into this year’s election cycle, Russia already is actively interfering in the U.S. presidential campaign in hopes of reelecting President Donald Trump, and is also trying to help the candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, intelligence officials have concluded.
The Russian efforts are aimed at undermining public confidence in the integrity of U.S. elections and stirring general chaos in American politics, intelligence experts say.
Lawmakers were told in a classified briefing last week that Russia is taking steps that would help Trump, according to officials familiar with the briefing. And Sanders acknowledged Friday that he was briefed l ast month by U.S. officials about Russian efforts to boost his candidacy.
The revelations demonstrate that the specter of foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election will almost certainly be a cloud over the campaign, and possibly even the final results if the contest is close. Democrats have consistently criticized Trump for not doing more to deter the Russians and others, and now they have fresh evidence to support their concerns.
There were some conflicting accounts about what the briefers had revealed about Russia’s intentions. One intelligence official said that members were not told in the briefing that Russia was working to directly aid Trump. But advancing Sanders’ candidacy could be seen as beneficial to Trump’s reelection prospects.
“That Russia would put its national intelligence apparatus in an operational mode to enhance Sanders and attack (Joe) Biden and others is only natural,” said Malcolm Nance, a veteran intelligence officer who wrote a book on meddling in the 2016 presidential election. “A damaged Sanders or one who would lose at a brokered convention would … assure another Trump victory.”
Sanders condemned Russia and called on President Vladimir Putin to steer clear of U.S. politics.
“I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president,” Sanders said. “My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.”
Trump, acknowledging nothing, took a different tack in responding to news that the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month had been briefed by U.S. intelligence experts that Russia was attempting to ensure his reelection.
On Friday he sought to minimize the new warnings by his government intelligence experts and revived old grievances in claiming any problem was just Democrats trying to undermine the legitimacy of his presidency.
The president started the day on Twitter, claiming that Democrats were pushing a “misinformation campaign” in hopes of politically damaging him.
Later, making light of the intelligence findings at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, he suggested that Russia might actually prefer Sanders in the White House.
“Wouldn’t he rather have, let’s say, Bernie?” Trump said. ”Wouldn’t he rather have Bernie, who honeymooned in Moscow?”
A senior intelligence official with knowledge about the briefing said the handful of U.S. election security briefers did not tell Intelligence Committee members in so many words that Russia was “aiding the re-election of President Trump.”
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified briefing, said the briefers covered election threats from Russia, China, Iran, non-state actors, hacktivists and ransomware, but that both Democrats and Republicans homed in on Russia’s activities. The official said some of the lawmakers reached conclusions that had not been made by the briefers.
The fresh warnings about Russian interference came in what has been a tumultuous stretch for the intelligence community.
A day after the Feb. 13 briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Trump berated the acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire in a meeting at the White House. Then this week, Trump abruptly announced that Maguire would be replaced by Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist who also will hold the job in an acting capacity.
In addition to Maguire, two other senior officials will soon leave the agency.
Andrew Hallman, one of Maguire’s top deputies, announced Friday he would leaving. He is expected to return to the CIA, where he has spent more than 30 years, according to an official familiar with the move, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the personnel move. Jason Klitenic, the general counsel for the national intelligence director’s office, is returning to private practice. Klitenic’s departure is unrelated to the sudden shakeup by Trump.
Former CIA Director John Brennan told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Friday that Trump’s ouster of Maguire and Hallman was a “virtual decapitation of the intelligence community.”
Like Trump, Sanders appeared to suggest there was a political motive to the revelations about Russian interference. Nevada Democrats are to hold their nominating contest on Saturday.
“One day before the Nevada caucus, why do you think it came out?” he said.
Trump erupted when he learned last week about the briefing to House members, according to a senior administration official familiar with the matter. It was unclear whether he was aware of the specific information briefed, but he was agitated that contents of the briefing could be politically damaging to him, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to dicuss sensitive matters.
Trump tweeted Friday that he was considering four candidates to serve as permanent intelligence director and said he expected to make a decision within the next few weeks. He told reporters Thursday evening that Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia was among those he’s considering.
But Collins, who is vying for one of Georgia’s Senate seats, said Friday he’s not interested in the job overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies.
The installation of Grenell, even in a temporary role, has raised questions among critics about whether Trump is more interested in having a loyalist than someone steeped in the complicated inner workings of international intelligence.
Grenell has a background that is primarily in politics and media affairs. Most recently, he’s been serving as Trump’s ambassador to Germany.
The Democratic chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, dismissed Grenell as someone who, “by all accounts, rose to prominence in the Trump administration because of his personal devotion to Donald Trump and penchant for trolling the President’s perceived enemies on Twitter.”
From the start of his presidency three years ago, Trump has been dogged by insecurity over his loss of the popular vote in the general election and a persistent frustration that the legitimacy of his presidency is being challenged by Democrats and the media, aides and associates say. He’s also aggressively played down U.S. findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
In addition to those findings by the major intelligence agencies, a nearly two-year investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller concluded there was a sophisticated, Kremlin-led operation to sow division in the U.S. and upend the 2016 election by using cyberattacks and social media as weapons.
Russia also took steps to support Sanders in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to a criminal indictment against a Russian troll farm and Mueller’s lengthy report.
Mueller charged 13 Russians in a covert social media campaign that prosecutors said was aimed at dividing public opinion on hot-button social issues as well propping up Sanders and Republican candidate Donald Trump while denigrating Hillary Clinton, the eventual 2016 Democratic nominee.
Organizers of that Russian effort circulated an outline of themes for future social media content, with instructions to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump—we support them),” according to the indictment.
Moscow has denied any meddling. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that the newest allegations are “paranoid reports that, unfortunately, there will be more and more of as we get closer to the elections (in the U.S.). Of course, they have nothing to do with the truth.”
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Julie Pace and Michael Balsamo in Washington, Zeke Miller in Las Vegas and Daria Litvinova in Moscow contributed to this report.
Mike Bloomberg said Friday he’d free three women from confidentiality agreements that bar them from speaking publicly about sexual harassment or discrimination suits filed against him over the last three decades.
The billionaire former mayor of New York also said his company, Bloomberg LP, will no longer use such agreements “to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct going forward.”
His remarks come after days of intense scrutiny over the treatment of women at the company he’s led for three decades, and amid pressure from Democratic presidential rival Elizabeth Warren to allow the women to share their claims publicly.Warren hammered Bloomberg over the issue in the recent debate, his first time facing his rivals. The announcement Friday highlights his efforts to remove a vulnerability ahead of the next debate, on Tuesday in South Carolina, and refocus his campaign ahead of March 3, known as Super Tuesday, when he will be on the ballot for for the first time. Bloomberg didn’t automatically revoke the agreements, but told the women to contact the company if they would like to be released. The three agreements he’s willing to open up relate specifically to comments he’s alleged to have made. His company reportedly faced nearly 40 lawsuits involving 65 plaintiffs between 1996 and 2016, though it’s unclear how many relate to sexual harassment or discrimination.
At this week’s debate in Nevada, Bloomberg called such nondisclosure agreements “consensual” and said women who complained “didn’t like a joke I told.” The remarks were viewed by some as out-of-touch with the post-#MeToo era, which has prompted far more serious scrutiny of sexual harassment and innuendo by men in the workplace. Bloomberg is one of the country’s richest men, worth an estimated $60 billion.
It was the first time Bloomberg was truly put on the spot in an otherwise choreographed campaign, where he’s been promoting his message via television advertising and scripted speeches rather than debates and town halls with voters.
Bloomberg said in a statement he’d done “a lot of reflecting on this issue over the past few days.”
“I recognize that NDAs, particularly when they are used in the context of sexual harassment and sexual assault, promote a culture of silence in the workplace and contribute to a culture of women not feeling safe or supported,” it continued.
One of the women covered by Bloomberg’s announcement is Sekiko Sekai Garrison, 55, who filed a complaint against Bloomberg and his company in 1995. She did not respond to a phone message seeking comment on Friday.
Garrison’s complaint, reviewed by the Associated Press, was filed when she was about 30 and alleged Bloomberg told her to “kill it” when she told him she was pregnant with her first child. The lawsuit details several other alleged personal interactions with Bloomberg and describes a misogynistic corporate culture where women were typically paid less than men, subject to routine sexual harassment and demoted or fired if they complained.
In the alleged incident, Garrison said Bloomberg approached her near the office coffee machines and asked about her married life. When she told him she was pregnant with her first child, he said “kill it,” in a serious monotone. He allegedly then repeated it and called her “number 16,” a reference to the number of pregnant women employees.
Bloomberg has denied making the remarks. But Garrison said he left her a voicemail apologizing and calling the remark a joke. She resigned from the company.
Lawyer Bonnie P. Josephs, who filed the 1995 complaint on Garrison’s behalf, told AP on Thursday that she later handed the case off to another attorney. Josephs said she was then told that Garrison had settled the case against Bloomberg for a “six-figure sum” and signed a nondisclosure agreement.
A longtime Bloomberg aide confirmed that case was one of the three agreements Bloomberg mentioned in his statement, in which an NDA was signed that directly related to Bloomberg. The other two cases never went to court and are not public.
On Friday, Bloomberg said his company would undertake a review of its policies on equal pay and promotion, sexual harassment and discrimination and the use of “other legal tools” that prevent cultural change. He also pledged to push policies if elected president that expand access to childcare and reproductive health and guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave.
“I will be a leader whom women can trust,” he said.
A seven-day reduction in violence between Afghan, Taliban and American forces will begin Friday in Afghanistan, a senior state department official confirmed. If that agreement holds, it would lead to the signing of a long-awaited, broader U.S.-Taliban agreement that could see U.S. troops withdraw from the country after 18 years of conflict, NBC News reports.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in a statement that the U.S. was “preparing for the signing to take place on February 29.”
The reduction in violence is seen as a test of the Taliban’s resolve to end the conflict in Afghanistan, which is America’s longest war. If properly implemented, a Taliban representative and U.S. Special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will sign the U.S.-Taliban agreement in Doha later this month, a senior state department official said.
The militants had previously rejected the idea of a full-blown cease-fire with Afghan forces, leading U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to pursue a deal to “reduce” violence.
Read the full story on NBCNews.com
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Twenty years ago, long before Nevada was part of the early presidential selection process, the phone typically rang unanswered at Washoe County Democratic Party headquarters in Reno during mid-term elections.
“We had a small conference room and a tiny reception area, but no staff at all,” recalls Chris Wicker, who started a seven-year run as county party chairman in 2002.
“There wasn’t any state party focus up here except in presidential years. If you talked to people, they would say ‘I didn’t know there was a Democratic Party in Washoe County,” he said.
In the last decade Nevada has undergone a political transformation from Republican outpost to a contested battleground to emerging Democratic hotbed. All but one member of the state’s congressional delegation is a Democrat along with all but one of the statewide officer holders. The Democratic swing has been so pronounced that President Donald Trump’s campaign views Minnesota — a state that hasn’t voted for a GOP presidential candidate since 1972 — as friendlier territory than Nevada. When Democrats caucus here Saturday to pick their preferred nominee for president, there will be 165,000 more total registered Democrats in Nevada than in 2008, the first time the state held its closely watched contest.
Nowhere is the new blue streak clearer than in northern Nevada’s Washoe County, a place not long ago considered a GOP stronghold. But as the growing suburbs tucked into the shadow of the Sierra have changed, so has Nevada’s political landscape.
California transplants have brought their politics with them. A tech boom — spurred by companies like Tesla, Apple and Microsoft — has drawn the young and college-educated, demographic groups that lean left as do Hispanics who made up 29% of Nevada’s population in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Now the phone is ringing all the time in county Democratic headquarters in Reno, which is staffed year-round.
For decades, the key to Republicans winning a statewide election in Nevada was to sweep the more conservative rural counties and build just enough of a margin in the Reno-Sparks area to offset heavily Democratic Clark County.
In 2008, President Obama became the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to carry Washoe County. Just four years earlier, Vice President Dick Cheney capped a campaign swing across the country with an appearance at a Sparks high school in a working class neighborhood the night before George W. Bush won re-election against Democrat John Kerry.
The GOP hasn’t carried Washoe County — or Nevada — in a presidential election since. Thanks in part to the once red bastion of Washoe, Nevada was one of the few swing states that sided with Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.
“You guys have turned this state around,” former Vice President Joe Biden told hundreds gathered last month in the same Sparks High School gymnasium where Cheney rallied the GOP troops in 2004. “You sort of hold the keys to the kingdom here.”
Republicans argue they have a comeback plan, one bankrolled by an incumbent president popular with his party and party donors. Keith Schipper, Nevada spokesman for the Trump campaign, said the GOP has built a “top-notch ground-game operation, unparalleled data program, and vast fundraising war chest” that will out match Democrats.
Most Democrats credit former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with building Democrats formidable ground force statewide. Reid for years collaborated with organized labor, worked with groups registering new, Latino and young voters and used clout to bring the early caucus and its national spotlight to Nevada. But demographic changes sweeping the West also worked in Democrats favor.
“I think we honestly have now joined the rest of the West Coast and Democrats are basically going to be in control like they have been for some time in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii,” said Fred Lokken, longtime head of the political science department at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno.
Bob Fulkerson, longtime leader of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada — a coalition of labor, social justice and minority groups in Reno — said a growing population of Asians and Pacific Islanders is adding to the influx of Hispanics, who the state demographer projects will account for one-third of Nevadans by 2029.
“I think we’re undergoing a sea change largely driven by demographics,” Fulkerson said. “It has been happening in Clark County for decades and now it is happening in Washoe.”
Those changes are seen at Democratic party events and in the prominence of progressive groups. But not all the California transplants are Democrats.
Wicker, the former Washoe County Democratic chairman, said the influx from California is a “mixed bag” politically.
“Many people are coming to northern Nevada to avoid taxes, or their company is moving here. They are not necessarily naturally Democrats just because they came from California,” he said, adding that many young people register non-partisan but show up at progressive group’s events.
But some observers note Nevada’s Republican Party hasn’t necessarily tapped into that new pool of voters. The party took a turn to the right, embraced hard line tea party politics and then later Trump’s bombastic, anti-immigration platform.
“It’s too conservative for many Republicans,” Lokken said.
As they ramp up their push to win Nevada back, Republicans are focusing on an economic message aimed at nonpartisan and moderate voters and arguing it’s Democrats that are too far out of the mainstream.
“If these 2020 Democrats honestly believe their socialist agenda is a winning message in Nevada, they are going to be severely disappointed,” Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald said in a statement following Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas. One of the leading Democrats in the race, including the one, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, identifies as a democratic socialist.
Republicans have been trying to grab the spotlight from Democrats whenever possible this week. Trump stayed overnight at his Trump-branded hotel in Las Vegas before he spoke at an event at police headquarters Thursday and planned a noon rally Friday at the convention center.
Republicans don’t have a caucus in Nevada this year. Instead, the state party’s central committee plans to meet in Pahrump Saturday to become the first Western state to formally bind their delegates to Trump.
Iranians voted for a new parliament Friday, with turnout seen as a key measure of support for Iran’s leadership as sanctions weigh on the economy and U.S. pressure isolates the country diplomatically.
The disqualification of more than 7,000 potential candidates, most of them reformists and moderates, raised the possibility of lower-than-usual turnout. Among those disqualified were 90 sitting members of parliament who had wanted to run for re-election.
Voting was extended for five hours, but there was no official announcement on turnout after the polls finally closed late Friday.
Initial results were expected to be announced Saturday. Presidential elections are expected to take place in 2021.
The election comes at a time of growing economic hardship for many in Iran. U.S. sanctions have strangled Iran’s ability to sell its oil abroad, forcing its economy into recession.
Also looming over the election is the threat of the new coronavirus. Many voters headed to the polls with face masks on.
Iranian health authorities on Friday confirmed two new deaths from the virus, which first emerged in China in December, bringing the total death toll in Iran to four, from among 18 confirmed cases. Authorities say all the cases have links with city of Qom, where the first two elderly patients died on Wednesday. Concerns over the spread of the virus prompted authorities in Iran to close all schools, universities and Shiite seminaries in Qom.
Iran’s leadership and state media haf urged people to show up and vote, with some framing it as a religious duty. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his ballot at a mosque near his Tehran office shortly after polls opened at 8 a.m.
“Anyone who cares about Iran’s national interests should participate in the election,” he said. Earlier in the week, Khamenei said high voter turnout will thwart “plots and plans” by the U.S. and supporters of Israel against Iran.
After the disqualifications, around 7,000 candidates were left vying for a place in the 290-seat chamber across 208 constituencies.
Tensions with the United States could strengthen hard-liners by reinforcing long-held distrust of the West. A parliament stacked with hard-liners could favor expanding the budget for the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has been sanctioned by the U.S. It could also tilt public policy debates toward hard-liners who are opposed to engagement with the U.S.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who had initially criticized the disqualification of so many moderate would-be candidates, cast his ballot on Friday and urged the public to stage another “victory” by voting in large numbers. “Our enemies will be disappointed more than before,” he said.
On the eve of the vote, the Trump administration ratcheted up its campaign of pressure on Iran by imposing sanctions on two senior officials of the Guardian Council, the body of clerics and judges that decides which candidates may run in elections. The U.S. also sanctioned three members of Iran’s elections supervisory committee, saying all those targeted were responsible for silencing the voice of the Iranian people by rejecting thousands of people from running.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election as a “sham” and a vote that “is not free or fair.”
The 92-year-old head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who was among those sanctioned on Thursday, mocked the U.S. decision and its apparently limited impact. “I am thinking what to do with the money that we have in American funds. Also, we cannot go there for Christmas and other occasions,” he was quoted as saying in local media.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted in official media saying the election showcases that Iranians are choosing their own fate and “do not allow a person sitting in Washington to make decisions for them.”
Ali Motahari, one of the pro-reform lawmakers who were barred from defending their seats in this election, said the incoming parliament will not be truly representative of the people. Still, he urged people to vote.
“We should still try to find moderate and clear-headed candidates from the existing ones and vote for them,” he said.
The parliament in Iran does not have power to dictate major policies, but it does debate the annual budget and the possible impeachment of ministers. Power in Iran ultimately rests with Khamenei, who has final say on all key matters.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington spiked after a U.S. airstrike in January killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. The strike led to a tense confrontation in which Iranian forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane after it took off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Most of those killed were Iranian.
The shoot-down, and attempts by officials to initially conceal the cause of the crash sparked public anger and protests in Iran.
Meanwhile, Iranians have seen the price of basic goods skyrocket, inflation and unemployment rise and the local currency plummet since President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear agreement with world powers and imposed sanctions.
The economic woes faced by ordinary Iranians fueled anti-government protests in November. International human rights groups say at least 300 people were killed in the protests.
Neda Ghorbani, a 31-year-old mother, said she was not voting Friday because she’s disappointed with Rouhani and other moderates in government.
“We voted in the 2017 (presidential) election hoping that our country’s situation would improve under Rouhani’s presidency, but we were wrong and we accept that we made a mistake (by voting),” she said.
Local TV stations broadcast images from Qom, around 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of the capital, Tehran, showing women and men, some wearing face masks for protection, lining up in separate lines to vote on Friday. Qom is a popular religious destination and a center of learning and religious studies for Shiite Muslims from inside Iran, as well as Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.
The Tehran governor tried to calm fears over the new virus, saying voters didn’t have to mark their fingers with ink after voting. Using the ink was optional, said Anoushirvan Bandpay, according to the official IRNA news agency.
“People should not be worry about spreading coronavirus,” he added.
Current parliament speaker Ali Larijani is stepping down after 11 years and is not running for reelection, though he was shown voting in his city of Qom. Mohammad Baqher Qalibaf, the former mayor of Tehran who is also the former head of the Revolutionary Guard air force, is seen as one of the front-runners to succeed Larijani.
The current parliament, elected in 2016, had more than 100 reformists and moderates, with the rest of the chamber split between independents and hard-liners. Some 90 current lawmakers were also barred from running in Friday’s election.
Nearly 58 million Iranians, out of a population of more than 80 million, are eligible to vote. Every Iranian above the age of 18 can vote.
Turnout has been over 50% in previous parliamentary elections. In 2016, it was nearly 62%.
The polls were originally scheduled to close at 6 p.m., but officials extended that to 11 p.m. to give people more time to cast their vote. Friday is a day of rest in Iran, as is the case across most Muslim countries.
Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
Many Democratic presidential candidates launched their campaigns last year with bold pledges to reject help from super PACs and dark money groups. But as the realities of a tough primary fight sink in, those promises are fading away.
Elizabeth Warren, one of the fiercest critics of money in politics, was the latest White House hopeful this week to accept help from a big money organization that can raise and spend unlimited amounts on behalf of political candidates. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders have done much the same.
The Democratic battle to take on President Donald Trump is entering a critical new phase as more than a dozen states vote within the next couple of weeks with about one third of the delegates needed to win the nomination at stake. Campaign finance disclosures made to the Federal Election Commission on Thursday offered the clearest look yet at who will have the resources to forge on deep into the calendar and who will be forced to soon reckon with the sustainability of their candidacy.
The disclosures include campaign spending and fundraising details for the month of January and laid bare the stark financial choices ahead for those other than former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sanders.
Bloomberg, a billionaire, has plunged over $400 million into his campaign, while Sanders is propelled by an army of contributors whose renewable stream of small online contributions helped him amass $25 million in January alone.
“Our campaign has built a nationwide organization that is engaging voters daily,” said Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey. “With over 2,400 staff across 43 states today, Mike is the only candidate with the record and resources to build the national infrastructure Democrats need to beat Donald Trump.”
In contrast, Warren raised $10.4 million, held just $2.2 million in reserve at the month’s end and borrowed $400,000 on a $3 million line of credit. Her campaign said that since then, during the month of February, she has raised $17 million, a good chunk of which came after a spirited debate performance Wednesday night.
Former Vice President Joe Biden raised $8.8 million in January and had $7.1 million in the bank. And Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar had $2.8 million on hand, though she has raised more than $12 million since a breakout debate performance before the New Hampshire primary.
Even Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, whose improbable rise to prominence was fueled in part by his massive fundraising success earlier in the contest reported taking in a lackluster $6 million in January. He also had just $6.6 million cash on hand after burning through $14.1 million that month. His campaign says he has since taken in another $11 million, but has not said how much of that he has spent.
That gives Sanders and Bloomberg an overwhelming advantage heading into Super Tuesday on March 3, when more than a dozen states will hold contests.
Buttigieg’s campaign highlighted what could be in store in an email to supporters that said he needed to quickly raise $13 million in order to remain competitive.
“We’ve had some of our highest fundraising days this month, but — frankly — our numbers should have been better,” the campaign wrote. “But here’s the reality: With Michael Bloomberg in the race, and with nine dark money groups supporting Bernie Sanders, the goalposts have moved.”
Party leaders have long worried that Sanders, a democratic socialist, would lose to Trump because of his embrace of left wing politics. Now, after a neck-and-neck showing against Buttigieg in Iowa, followed by a win in New Hampshire, he’s the one best poised to capture nomination.
Bloomberg, with his limitless resources, has emerged as a centrist candidate who has the money to compete with Sanders. But after a widely-panned debate performance on Wednesday where he was eviscerated by Warren, some are doubting that possibility, too.
Many now rue that early days of the primary were dominated by pledges of the sources of money campaigns would reject rather than building a fundraising network to compete with Trump. Along with the Republican National Committee, he has raised more than $525 million for his reelection effort since the start of 2019.
“It was a huge mistake to try to adhere to this level of financial purity. The only person who can do it is Bernie Sanders — no one else can. Barack Obama couldn’t, Hillary Clinton couldn’t and Donald Trump can’t,” said Rufus Gifford a prominent Democratic fundraiser who held high-level posts in both of Obama’s campaigns. “That will be the lesson of this primary — especially if Bernie Sanders wins.”
Warren, a Massachusetts senator, was a notable addition on Thursday to the ranks of people acquiescing to help from a super PAC, which are prohibited from coordinate spending decisions with candidates they support.
“It can’t be the case that a bunch of people keep them and only one or two don’t,” she said while campaigning in Nevada.
On Wednesday, the group Persist PAC announced it would spend more than $1 million on advertising supporting her.
“While we respect their views and agree on the need for campaign finance reform, we believe this election is too important and we want to do what we can within the bounds of existing law to support them,” said Christina Reynolds, vice president of the group EMILY’s List, which contributed $250,000 to the group, as well as another called Kitchen Table Conversations PAC that is supporting Klobuchar.
In the past, Warren and her allies sought to pressure rivals to reject their support. She sharply criticized Biden for reversing his super PAC pledge in November. The group backing him, Unite the Country, has spent $7.2 million on his behalf.
Her campaign also targeted Buttigieg, who is backed by VoteVets, an organization that operates both a super PAC. The group, which backs veterans running for office, like Buttigeig, has spent over $630,000 on ads supporting him in Nevada, which will hold its caucuses on Saturday.
Even Sanders, who has railed for years against super PACs and nonprofit dark money groups, has relied on them for help. He’s supported by Our Revolution and a handful of other nonprofits, which function much the same as super PACs but not have to disclose their donors and will not have to report the financial activity to the IRS until after the election. He founded Our Revolution after his 2016 loss to Hillary Clinton, which has taken in nearly $1 million, according to tax filings for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Much of it came from those who contributed six-figure sums. During the 2016 election he also benefited from ad spending by National Nurses United super PAC.
Warren said her reversal was prompted, in part, by Bloomberg and fellow billionaire Tom Steyer.
“They have the equivalent of a super PAC — it’s known as their sock drawer,” she said during a CNN townhall Thursday.
Associated Press writer Sara Burnett in Chicago contributed to this report.
Elizabeth Warren enters the final stretch before Saturday’s Nevada Democratic caucus with a new and enviable but nonetheless critical mission: capitalizing on a standout performance during Wednesday’s presidential debate.
The Massachusetts senator took a leading role in blasting rival Mike Bloomberg over his previous comments about women, his past support of policing programs that disproportionately targeted minorities and for deploying his vast personal wealth to, as she characterized it, buy the White House. Warren also hit fellow progressive and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar over health care, and had multiple, stinging criticisms for former Vice President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Those takedowns prompted a fundraising surge for Warren and revived interest in a campaign that has been flagging since disappointing finishes earlier this month in Iowa and New Hampshire. She finally displayed a sense of political urgency upon which her campaign may now depend — the trick will be to keep it going.
“The debate performance that she had last night will certainly help restore confidence in a lot of folks who may have been listening to the punditry, and now they will fall in love with her all over again,” said Wendy Brawley, a South Carolina state representative who has endorsed Warren.
But for all that energy, it’s still not clear where Warren might actually win. A sprawling political infrastructure didn’t help her in Iowa, nor did New Hampshire’s being basically in her political backyard. She is not favored in Nevada, where nearly 75,000 people participated in early voting and missed her strong debate performance.
South Carolina holds its primary next week and then comes “Super Tuesday” on March 3, when 14 states vote. With the possible exception of Massachusetts, which is among them, there appear to be few slam-dunks for Warren.
Pollster John Zogby called Warren’s debate performance “striking” but said it’s unlikely to make her political road any less rocky long term.
“Last night it worked,” Zogby said. “Beyond that? No. It’s harder to see.”
In the meantime, she beefed up her campaign schedule in Nevada on Thursday while also appearing on ABC’s “The View” and holding a telephone town hall with voters in South Carolina — hoping to prolong any immediate bump the debate provides.
There’s another debate in Charleston, South Carolina, on Tuesday, which could give Warren an opportunity to produce a repeat performance even as Bloomberg and the other candidates will likely be better prepared to defend themselves.
That’s why lasting political momentum is so important. Democratic strategist Rebecca Katz said, “Warren gave her supporters real hope.”
“Many voters in the later states have been frustrated that the top candidates are being decided by just two overwhelmingly white states,” Katz said.
Democratic strategist L. Joy Williams noted that other 2020 candidates saw their online buzz, polling and fundraising spike after breakout debates, only to have it all eventually evaporate. The most notable example was California Sen. Kamala Harris and her lashing last summer of Biden over his past criticism of federally mandated school busing. That turned out to be the high point for a campaign that ended in December.
“I think Warren had a great night. I think, from a fundraising perspective, she will have a great night,” Williams said. “The real question will be if her support and engagement translate on the ground.”
Still, her debate performance left Warren’s inner circle feeling as pleased as they were during the heady days of last summer and fall when its candidate rode a message of economic populism, built on proposals including a wealth tax targeting people like Bloomberg, to become a national front runner along with Biden, Sanders and Buttigieg.
Warren’s campaign initially tweeted that it had its best ever fundraising day on Wednesday, raking in $2.8 million. That edged the $2.7 million in donations raised by Sanders, which his campaign said was its largest haul on a debate day. But a Warren campaign spokesman said early Friday morning that the campaign had raised around $17 million so far in February, including an impressive total of about $5 million on debate night.
Warren had pulled advertising from South Carolina and the cash infusion could give her more options on when and where to get on the air before Super Tuesday.
She may need it. As of the second week of this month, Warren wasn’t spending anything on television ads in top “Super Tuesday” states. By contrast, Bloomberg at that time had already spent nearly $33 million on television advertising just in California, the largest prize on the Super Tuesday calendar. Billionaire hedge fund manager and environmentalist Tom Steyer was up to more than $16 million and Sanders was close to $3 million.
Warren’s rivals were also spending aggressively on TV advertising in several more Super Tuesday states, including Texas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.
Warren’s supporters are largely shrugging that off, though. They note that many of the same national airwaves where political observers questioned whether Warren’s fundraising would dry up after Iowa and New Hampshire are now buzzing about how well she did in the Las Vegas debate. And there could be more where that came from, they say.
“The free media coverage of Warren skewering Bloomberg will exponentially be more valuable than any TV ad buy,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “Elizabeth Warren the fighter who names villains and challenges power was on full display in the Las Vegas debate, and there’s every expectation that she’ll continue that in the future.”
Relishing in Democrats’ jumbled primary in the wake of a fractious debate, President Donald Trump offered stinging criticism of his rivals as he sought to take advantage of the moment.
Making a rare four-day swing through the West, Trump was exuding reelection confidence Thursday at a campaign rally in Colorado, after taking in the prior night’s prize fight of a debate in Las Vegas. He reveled in the intra-party squabbling and the weak debut debate performance turned in by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, according to aides and allies.
“I don’t know if anyone watched last night’s debate,” Trump told an arena of raucous supporters. “It got very big ratings, and you know what, Mini Mike didn’t do well last night. I was going to send him a note, saying it’s not easy doing what I do is it?”
He offered other biting assessments of the Democratic contenders, contrasting them to his own performance in debates four years ago.
“I became president because of the debates because unlike Mini Mike I could answer questions,” Trump said.
Feeling reelection odds rising after his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial and his campaign’s record fundraising, Trump seized on the deep divisions and personal tiffs on display in the Democratic field. But his preoccupation with the scrambled nomination race for the Democrats seeking to replace him has been clear throughout the trip.
When Trump woke up Thursday morning in his gilded Las Vegas hotel, his base during the four-state western trip, he tuned in to the post-debate coverage and displayed his glee.
Repurposing one of Bloomberg’s own quotes about the Democratic infighting, Trump tweeted: “The real winner last night was Donald Trump.” He tacked on his own coda: “I agree!”
The night before, after a campaign rally in Phoenix, Trump summoned reporters to his office aboard Air Force One to join him in watching a replay of the debate on the return flight to Las Vegas. He was scheduled to hold a rally in the city — his third in as many days — Friday on the eve of the caucuses, as he did before contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Bloomberg has been the most disconcerting force in the 2020 race for Trump since the ultra-billionaire entered the fray in November and spent more than $400 million, which rocketed him in the polls in just three months.
Bloomberg’s willingness to spend near-unlimited sums to defeat Trump this fall, and the mocking tone of many of his ads, have deeply rankled the president.
Trump’s campaign had organized itself around the strategy that it would be able to paint any rival as an extreme liberal, a “socialist” or worse, and concerns mounted that strategists would have to come up with a different plan should Bloomberg win the nomination.
Trump’s team saw the debate as validating his reelection strategy and providing a fresh opening for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, to gain a significant delegate lead on Super Tuesday. The president was hopeful that panic from more moderate Democrats at Sanders’ rise would only further fracture the Democratic Party.
On Thursday, Trump predicted the debate would be the end of Bloomberg’s campaign, and said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s campaign was also mortally wounded.
“I think you lost two last night,” he said in Colorado, adding that “it looks like Bernie” will emerge as the Democratic nominee.
Trump on Thursday placed a round of calls to confidants, echoing the thoughts he had posted on Twitter — at times with more colorful language — and opining that Bloomberg did not appear ready for the moment, according to two Republicans close to the White House who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Long insecure about Bloomberg’s wealth, Trump told confidants that the debate proved money alone did not lead to his own electoral success.
Between three rallies and a pair of high-dollar fundraisers, Trump sought to use his western swing to highlight administration policies that delivered on campaign promises and appealed to key demographics.
On Wednesday, he ceremoniously signed new environmental regulations that eased water restrictions on farmers in the heavily Republican California Central Valley. On Thursday, Trump spoke to a graduating class of ex-prisoners in a renewed appeal to communities of color, as he championed his administration’s work on criminal justice reform.
In Colorado Springs, Trump was rallying support for Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who is considered one of the most vulnerable senators seeking reelection this year.
“We are going to win Colorado in a landslide and you’re going to help us get Cory Gardner across that line because he’s been with us 100%,” Trump said, referencing his vote in the impeachment trial. “There was no waver with Cory.”
Between touting his administration’s accomplishments and attacking his opponents, Trump also critiqued the Academy Awards for awarding best picture to the South Korean film “Parasite” — the first foreign-language film to win an Oscar.
“How bad were the Academy Awards this year,” Trump said. “And the winner is: a movie from South Korea. What’s that all about?”
Associated Press staff writer James Anderson in Colorado Springs and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report. Lemire reported from Washington.
President Donald Trump is apparently not a fan of Oscar winner “Parasite,” his biggest complaint being that the movie was made in South Korea.
Trump started talking about the Academy Awards during a campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Thursday night. “Parasite” was named best picture, the first non-English-language film to get the top honor.
“What the hell was that all about?” Trump said. “We’ve got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of that, they give them best movie of the year. Was it good? I don’t know.”
Neon, the U.S. distributor for the subtitled film, shot back on Twitter: “Understandable. He can’t read.”
Meanwhile, Trump praised decades-old Hollywood movies, one of which was set during the time of slavery in the U.S. The audience booed when Trump mentioned the Academy Awards and then cheered when he said: “Can we get like ‘Gone with the Wind’ back please? ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ so many great movies.”
Trump would not let it go on Friday when he addressed another crowd of supporters at a rally in Las Vegas.
“Look, I get along great with South Korea, but you know I never saw that one before,” Trump said.
“Parasite” tells the story of how a family of four poor, unemployed people living in a slum basement apartment comically infiltrates a wealthy family residing at a luxurious mansion before things unravel violently and tragically.
The movie made history Feb. 9, the first South Korean film to win in the international film category, and the first foreign language film to win best picture. The wins put a diverse film front-and-center during a ceremony that had been criticized for its lack of diversity in several categories, with only one actor of color nominated and no women recognized in the directing category.
Those omissions came amid efforts by both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hosts the Oscars, and the broader industry to have more diversity in its films and filmmakers.Known for liberal leanings, Hollywood is a regular target of Trump’s conservative base.
Many have seen the best picture win as a sign that the film industry will become more global, a shift that’s already playing out in box-office receipts. Before the coronavirus outbreak, it was expected that China would become the world’s No. 1 film market, surpassing North America.
Trump has a record of criticizing Asian leaders, particularly South Korea’s, going so far as to mock them with a fake Asian accent.
Meanwhile, “Gone with the Wind” shot to No. 1 among topics trending on Twitter Thursday night. The 1939 antebellum epic, based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel, follows belle Scarlett O’Hara at her Georgia plantation home as the South braces for the Civil War. The movie went on to become a hit and snagged eight Academy Awards, including best picture.
But in the last few decades, the movie has been criticized for its romanticized portrayal of slavery, with its main characters oblivious to the horrors experienced by those kept in bondage.
The film has a complicated history in Hollywood. Hattie McDaniel became the first African American performer to win an Oscar, the supporting actress award for her portrayal of Mammy, an oft-criticized character. McDaniel was criticized by the NAACP for frequently playing maids onscreen. At the time, she defended herself and said she often was able to influence directors into toning down or omitting racist elements.
For the film’s 75th anniversary in 2014, Warner Bros. included in a home video re-release a 30-minute documentary that candidly assessed the film’s shortcomings and how Mammy’s status as a slave is ignored.
The re-assessment of the film hasn’t waned. Memphis’ Orpheum Theatre in 2017 ended its annual screenings of it after 34 years, saying it could no longer “show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population.”
Associated Press writers Anthony McCartney in Los Angeles and Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed to this report.
Intelligence officials have warned lawmakers that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election campaign to help President Donald Trump get reelected, three officials familiar with the closed-door briefing said Thursday.
The warning raises questions about the integrity of the presidential campaign and whether Trump’s administration is taking the proper steps to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. saw in 2016.
The officials asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. They said the briefing last week focused on Russia’s efforts to influence the 2020 election and sow discord in the American electorate.
The warning was first reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post. A senior administration official said the news infuriated Trump, who complained that Democrats would use the information against him. Over the course of his presidency, Trump has dismissed the intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s 2016 election interference as a conspiracy to undermine his victory. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting.
One day after the Feb. 13 briefing to the House Intelligence Committee, Trump berated the then-director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and he announced this week that Maguire would be replaced by Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist.
U.S. intelligence agencies say Russia interfered in the 2016 election through social media campaigns and stealing and distributing emails from Democratic accounts. They say Russia was trying to boost Trump’s campaign and add chaos to the American political process. Special counsel Robert Mueller concluded that Russian interference was “sweeping and systematic,” but he did not find a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Republican lawmakers who were in last week’s briefing by the DNI’s chief election official, Shelby Pierson, pushed back by noting that Trump has been tough on Russia, one of the officials said.
While Trump has imposed severe economic sanctions on Russia, he also has spoken warmly of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and withdrawn troops from areas, like Syria, where Moscow could fill the vacuum. He delayed military aid last year to Ukraine, a Russian adversary — a decision that was at the core of his impeachment proceedings.
The Times said Trump was angry that the House briefing was made before the panel’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment proceedings.
Trump on Thursday formally appointed Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, to replace Maguire as the new acting director of national intelligence. Maguire was required to step down soon under federal law governing acting appointments. The Times cited two administration officials as saying the timing, after the intelligence briefing, was coincidental.
Grenell’s background is primarily in politics and media affairs. He lacks the extensive national security and military experience of Maguire, as well as previous holders of the position overseeing the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies.
His appointment does little to heal the president’s fraught relations with the intelligence community, which Trump has derided as part of a “deep state” of entrenched bureaucrats that seek to undermine his agenda. The administration has most notably feuded with the intelligence community over the Russian interference and the events surrounding Trump’s impeachment.
Pierson told NPR in an interview that aired last month that the Russians “are already engaging in influence operations relative to candidates going into 2020. But we do not have evidence at this time that our adversaries are directly looking at interfering with vote counts or the vote tallies.”
Pierson, appointed in July 2019 by then-Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, works with intelligence agencies like the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to identify anyone seeking to interfere with U.S. elections.
Pierson told NPR that the U.S. doesn’t know exactly what the Russians are planning, but she said it’s not just a Russia problem.
“We’re still also concerned about China, Iran, non-state actors, hacktivists and frankly — certainly for DHS and FBI — even Americans that might be looking to undermine confidence in the elections.”
At an open hearing this month, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the House Judiciary Committee that Russia was engaged in “information warfare” heading into the November election, but that law enforcement had not seen efforts to target America’s infrastructure. He said Russia is relying on a covert social media campaign to divide the American public.
Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani and Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.
In the minute it will take you to read this story, billionaire media mogul Mike Bloomberg’s campaign will have spent about $5,000, if not more, based on the latest filing with the Federal Election Commission covering his campaign’s spending in January.
That filing showed Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, spent about $464 million in December and January on his late-arriving presidential campaign.
In January alone, the campaign spent more than $220 million — which works out to just north of $7 million per day, about $300,000 per hour, roughly $5,000 per minute and approximately $82 per second.
Read the full story on NBCNews.com
The branch of the U.S. military that oversees information technology and communications has suffered a potential breach of service members’ personal information, the branch said in letters sent to victims this month.
The letters, dated Feb. 11, told recipients that last May and June, “some of your personal information, including your Social Security number, may have been compromised in a data breach on a system hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency,” NBC News reported.
The Department of Defense confirmed the authenticity of the letters, but declined to share information on what system was potentially breached or how many service members were potentially affected.
“While there is no evidence to suggest that any of the potentially compromised PII was misused, DISA policy requires the agency to notify individuals whose personal data may have been compromised,” DOD spokesperson Chuck Prichard said in a statement to NBC.
Six candidates took the stage in Las Vegas for the ninth Democratic primary debate on Wednesday. They tackled questions on climate and immigration policy while fending off personal attacks. Here’s what each had to say during the sometimes-heated, two-hour event.
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Bernie Sanders
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Here’s video of the entire debate:
President Donald Trump pushed aside his acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, in anger over what he perceived to be an inappropriate congressional briefing by the top intelligence official in charge of election security, a former senior U.S. official familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News.
Trump’s anger cost Maguire a chance to become the permanent DNI, the former official said, confirming a report in The Washington Post.
Trump announced Wednesday he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, a highly partisan figure with no intelligence experience.
That was a shift; previously, Maguire, who had served as acting director of national intelligence since August, had been under consideration to get the permanent job of DNI.
Read the full story on NBCNews.com
Roger Stone, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in federal prison on his convictions for witness tampering and lying to Congress. He was also fined $20,000.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Stone’s crimes demanded a significant time behind bars, but she said the seven to nine years originally recommended by the Justice Department were excessive.
Stone’s lawyers had asked for a sentence of probation, citing his age of 67 years, his health and his lack of criminal history. Instead, he drew more than three years and two years of probation.
Stone had no immediate reaction in court when Jackson announced his sentence. Later, he emerged from the courthouse to a crowd exchanging back and forth chants of “Lock him up” and “Pardon Roger Stone.” Stone got into a black SUV without speaking to reporters.
His attorney Bruce Rogow said Stone and his team would “have no comment.” The judge delayed execution of his sentence while she considers Stone’s motion for a new trial.
The sentencing set off a parlor game of speculation in Washington, with many wondering when — not if — President Donald Trump would grant Stone a pardon. But Trump, who issued 11 high-profile pardons earlier this week, said he was holding off for now.
“I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States,” he said during an appearance in Las Vegas. “I want the process to play out. I think that’s the best thing to do because I would love to see Roger exonerated.”
But even the prospect that Trump might someday pardon Stone prompted a preemptive rebuke Thursday from critics like Democratic House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California, who tweeted after the sentencing that, “to pardon Stone when his crimes were committed to protect Trump would be a breathtaking act of corruption.”
But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a staunch Trump ally, signaled early support for such a move, tweeting that Trump has “all the legal authority in the world” to pardon Stone if he chooses.
Stone was convicted in November on a seven-count indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.
Jackson said during the hearing Stone’s conduct led to an “inaccurate, incomplete and incorrect” report by the House Intelligence Committee and rejected the defense’s argument that his actions didn’t have a significant impact on the Congressional probe.
She also pointed to Stone’s conduct after he was indicted. Stone repeatedly violated a gag order and was eventually banned from posting on social media for the duration of the trial after he posted an Instagram image of Jackson with what appeared to be crosshairs over her shoulder.
Jackson said Stone’s use of social media to stoke public sentiment against the prosecution and the court was intended to reach a wide audience.
“The defendant engaged in threatening and intimidating behavior toward the court,” she said. “This is intolerable to the administration of justice.”
Stone was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted of charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
The sentence came amid Trump’s unrelenting defense of his longtime confidant that has led to a mini-revolt inside the Justice Department and allegations the president has interfered in the case.
Trump took to Twitter to denounce as a “miscarriage of justice” the initial recommendation by Justice Department prosecutors that Stone receive at least seven years in prison. Attorney General William Barr then backed off that recommendation, prompting four prosecutors to quit Stone’s case.
“Why are you the one who is standing here today?” Jackson asked federal prosecutor John Crabb, who took over the case after the original trial team quit.
Taking a direct shot at the department’s argument that the initial recommendation was “excessive,” Jackson told prosecutors “who may be new to this” and only last week realized sentencing guidelines are too harsh, that defense attorneys and judges have long pushed for a case-by-case approach “and we don’t normally get the government to agree.”
Crabb said there had been a “miscommunication” between Barr and Timothy Shea, the former Barr aide who now serves as the acting U.S. Attorney in the nation’s capital.
Crabb asked the judge to impose “a substantial period of incarceration.”
The jail sentence seems likely to draw a public rebuke from Trump, who maintains that Stone’s entire case is just an aspect of the ongoing “witch hunt” against him and his allies by bitter Democrats and the “deep state” inside the FBI and the Justice Department.
The judge angrily denied Stone was being punished for his politics or his allies.
“He was not prosecuted, as some have claimed, for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president,” she said.
Given Trump’s recent clemency spree that saw him commute the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, as well as nearly a dozen others, there has been speculation that Trump could eventually pardon Stone.
“I haven’t given it any thought … but I think he’s been treated very unfairly,” Trump said this week. Overnight Thursday, Trump retweeted a conservative cable host’s comment that what happened to Stone “should never happen again.”
In Stone’s initial sentencing memorandum filed Feb. 10, prosecutors said Stone deserved a prison term lasting seven to nine years, in accordance with federal sentencing guidelines. Such a sentence would send a message to deter others who might consider lying or obstructing a congressional probe or tampering with witnesses, the prosecutors said.
Stone has denied wrongdoing and consistently criticized the case against him as politically motivated. He did not take the stand during his trial and his lawyers did not call any witnesses in his defense.
Trump Associates Indicted or Convicted During His Presidency
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Photos: Getty Images
Prosecutors had charged in the filing that Stone “decided to double- and triple-down on his criminal conduct by tampering with a witness for months in order to make sure his obstruction would be successful.”
“Stone’s actions were not a one-off mistake in judgment. Nor were his false statements made in the heat of the moment. They were nowhere close to that,” prosecutors wrote in the court papers.
But Justice Department officials said they were caught off guard by the recommendation, even though the acting U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., Timothy Shea, is a former top aide to Barr. The attorney general ordered a new memorandum with a less harsh punishment, though it left provided no specifics and left the details to the judge.
Barr’s decision became public just hours after Trump, in an overnight tweet, called the situation “horrible and very unfair.” He added: “Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
Barr later said in an ABC News interview that he had not been asked by Trump to look into the case. In a stunning public rebuke, he said the president’s tweets were making it “impossible” for him to do his job. Meanwhile, Barr’s actions on the sentencing for Stone prompted the entire trial team to quit.
The public debacle also prompted a rare statement from the Chief Judge of the D.C. District Court, Beryl A. Howell, who said “public criticism or pressure is not a factor” in judges’ sentencing decisions.
The evidence presented in the trial didn’t directly address Mueller’s conclusion that there was insufficient evidence to prove a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to tip the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. But it provided new insight into the scramble inside the Trump campaign when it was revealed in July 2016 that the anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks was in possession of more than 19,000 emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee.
Witnesses testified that Trump’s campaign viewed Stone as an “access point” to WikiLeaks and tried to use him to get advance word about hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton.
Prosecutors argued that Stone had lied to Congress about his conversations about WikiLeaks with New York radio host and comedian Randy Credico.
During the 2016 campaign, Stone had mentioned in interviews and public appearances that he was in contact with founder Julian Assange through a trusted intermediary and hinted at inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans.
Testimony revealed that Stone, while appearing before the House Intelligence Committee, named Credico as his intermediary to Assange and pressured Credico not to contradict him.
After Credico was contacted by Congress, he reached out to Stone, who told him he should “stonewall it” and “plead the fifth,” he testified. Credico also testified during Stone’s trial that Stone repeatedly told him to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli,’” a reference to a character in “The Godfather: Part II” who lies before Congress.
Prosecutors also charged that Stone had threatened Credico’s therapy dog, Bianca, saying he was “going to take that dog away from you.”
Victoria Coates, a top official on the National Security Council, is being reassigned amid fallout over the identity of the author of the inside-the-White House tell-all book by “Anonymous.”
Coates, who serves as national security adviser for the Middle East and North Africa,will be joining the Department of Energy as a senior adviser to Secretary Dan Brouillette, the NSC announced Thursday.
The move comes amid renewed speculation about the author of the book, “A Warning,” and a New York Times essay that were deeply critical of President Donald Trump, written under the pen name “Anonymous.”
But a senior administration official insisted the move had nothing to do with the speculation, saying top White House officials reject rumors that have circulated in recent weeks suggesting Coates is the author. The move, they said, has been in the works for several weeks.
“We are enthusiastic about adding Dr. Coates to DOE, where her expertise on the Middle East and national security policy will be helpful,” Brouillette said in a statement. “She will play an important role on our team.”
“While I’m sad to lose an important member of our team, Victoria will be a big asset to Secretary Brouillette as he executes the President’s energy security policy priorities,” Robert C. O’Brien, who leads the NSC, added.
The move also comes as the president has been working to rid the administration of those he deems insufficiently loyal in the wake of his acquittal on impeachment charges. Since then, Trump has ousted staffers at the National Security Council and State Department and pulled the nomination of a top Treasury Department pick who had overseen cases involving Trump’s former aides as a U.S. attorney.
At the same time, Trump has been bringing back longtime aides he believes he can trust as he heads into what is expected to be a bruising general election campaign.
Trump this week renewed questions about the identity of “Anonymous” when he told reporters that he knew who it was. Asked whether he believes the person still works at the White House, Trump responded: “We know a lot. In fact, when I want to get something out to the press, I tell certain people. And it’s amazing, it gets out there. But, so far, I’m leaving it that way.”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley declined to say Wednesday why, if Trump knows the person’s identity, they would still be working in his administration.
In the book, published by the Hachette Book Group in November, the writer claims senior administration officials considered resigning as a group in 2018 in a “midnight self-massacre”to protest Trump’s conduct, but ultimately decided such an act would do more harm than good.
Roger Stone, a longtime associate of President Donald Trump, was sentenced in federal court Thursday to 40 months in prison for witness tampering and lying to Congress. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson also fined Stone $20,000.
“He was not prosecuted, as some have claimed, for standing up for the president,” Jackson said. “He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”
The sentence will be put on hold while the judge considers Stone’s motion for a new trial.
Stone’s case received renewed attention when federal prosecutors quit after Attorney General William Barr overruled their initial sentencing recommendation after it was filed. The move came after Trump had criticized the recommendation, leading to accusations of political interference in the case. Trump has continued to tweet about Stone’s sentencing despite Barr warning such actions make his job “impossible.” Here’s what else you should know about Stone and his case.
Who is Roger Stone?
Roger Stone is a longtime Republican operative and associate of President Trump who’s been credited with pioneering modern political mudslinging.
Born in Connecticut, Stone said he first learned the value of misinformation in politics when his elementary school held a mock election and he convinced students to vote for John F. Kennedy by claiming Richard Nixon planned on introducing school on Saturdays.
The self-proclaimed “agent provocateur” and “dirty trickster” got his start in political subterfuge as a teen working for President Nixon’s re-election campaign in 1972. Stone dispatched operatives to spy on the campaign of George McGovern, the Democratic nominee. Stone said in the 2017 Netflix documentary “Get Me Roger Stone” that he also made a donation in the name of the “Young Socialist Alliance” to the campaign of Nixon’s primary Republican rival and asked for a receipt, which he promptly sent to the press to show that Pete McCloskey was a left-wing candidate. The scams came to light during the Watergate hearings where Stone made a cameo as the youngest person to testify before a grand jury in the scandal that forced Nixon to resign.
Stone later got a tattoo of Nixon’s face on his back “as a reminder that in life when you get knocked down, you have to get up and keep fighting,” he explained in the Netflix documentary.
Stone showed his own resilience by helping launch in 1975 the National Conservative Political Action Committee — a precursor to today’s SuperPACs — before opening a political consulting and lobbying firm with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and GOP strategist Lee Atwater. Stone counts the successful presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush among his victories.
A friend of Trump’s since the late 1970s, Stone has also claimed credit for persuading Trump to get into politics. Like Stone, Trump has a penchant for underhanded tactics, making bold, unsubstantiated claims and pushing conspiracy theories.
“The only thing worse in politics than being wrong is being boring,” Stone is often quoted saying.
Stone served as an adviser on Trump’s presidential campaign but the two parted ways in 2015. Trump claimed he fired Stone while Stone maintained he resigned over the then-candidate’s controversial comments about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Still, the two longtime friends remained close during the 2016 campaign and Stone continued to be one of Trump’s most loyal allies.
Stone told the New Yorker in 2008 his motto is, “Attack, attack, attack — never defend…Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.”
What Did Roger Stone Do to Get Convicted?
Stone was indicted in January 2018 as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Stone was accused of tampering with a witness, obstructing the House investigation and lying to Congress and the FBI about his attempts to connect with WikiLeaks to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton.
During Trump’s 2016 bid for the White House, Stone was an informal advisor to the campaign after being fired from his official role as political strategist. He found his way back into the campaign’s inner circle by purporting to have ties to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. According to testimony from Deputy Campaign Chairman Rick Gates, Stone told him in April 2016 — three months before WikiLeaks published the first batch of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee — that “WikiLeaks would be submitting or dropping information” that would help the Trump campaign.
The email dump lent credence to Stone’s claims and, eager to connect with WikiLeaks, the Trump campaign saw Stone as its “access point,” according to testimony from Steve Bannon, who served as the campaign’s chief executive.
Gates testified at Stone’s criminal trial that Stone often briefed Trump and top campaign officials of WikiLeaks’ plans to publish more hacked emails. Gates recalled a July phone call between Trump and Stone, in which the then-Republican nominee for president told him after hanging up with Stone that “more information is coming.”
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By the end of the summer, Stone was publicly claiming in interviews that he was in contact with Assange through an intermediary and hinted at inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans. When later asked by the House Intelligence Committee who he was referring to in those remarks, Stone claimed it was comedian and radio host Randy Credico, who had scored an interview with Assange in August 2016 when Assange was avoiding prosecution by sheltering in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He also denied to House investigators ever discussing with the Trump campaign information he received related to WikiLeaks.
However, Stone’s own text messages and emails obtained during the investigation contradicted his congressional testimony.
After Credico was contacted by Congress, Stone pressed him to either refuse to testify or back up his false claims, repeatedly telling him to “do a Frank Pentangeli,” a reference to a character in “The Godfather: Part II” who lies before Congress, text messages show. Stone also threatened Credico’s therapy dog, Bianca, saying he was “going to take that dog away from you.”
Credico testified it was only after he interviewed Assange on Aug. 26, 2016, that Stone began asking him to put him in touch with Assange. Credico said he told Stone, who had already claimed in public interviews to have a back-channel to Assange, to work through his own intermediary.
Prosecutors say Stone’s intermediary to Assange was actually conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi. In late July 2016, Stone emailed Corsi asking him to get in touch with Assange to try to obtain unreleased emails WikiLeaks possessed about Clinton.
“Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging,” Corsi responded eight days later. “Time to let more than [Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta] to be exposed as in bed w enemy if they are not ready to drop HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton].”
It was after this exchange with Corsi that Stone began making “a series of public statements that he was in contact with Assange, and that he knew what information Assange was planning to release,” prosecutors said in a Feb. 10 sentencing memorandum.
Corsi later told investigators the email he sent Stone in reply — which accurately forecasted the release of Podesta’s email in October — was based on his own deduction and not the result of any inside information or a source close to the group.
The collection of crimes for which Stone was convicted essentially amounts to exaggerating about how much he knew, then lying and scrambling to keep those boasts from being exposed.
During his trial, Stone’s attorney Bruce Rogow didn’t deny that his client repeatedly lied to the House committee.
“He did brag about his ability to try to find out what was going on,” Rogow said. “There was no intermediary between Mr. Stone and Julian Assange. It’s made-up stuff.”
But, he argued, Stone didn’t have any “corrupt intent.”
Stone was convicted in November 2019 of all seven counts in the federal indictment. He was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted of charges brought as part of the Mueller probe.
Why Did Prosecutors Initially Recommend a Stiff Sentence for Stone?
In a sentencing memorandum filed Feb. 10, federal prosecutors asked a judge to sentence Stone to serve seven to nine years in prison, saying Stone committed a “direct and brazen attack on the rule of law” by lying to Congress and obstructing a federal investigation.
They charged in the filing that Stone “decided to double – and triple – down on his criminal conduct by tampering with a witness for months in order to make sure his obstruction would be successful.”
“Stone’s actions were not a one-off mistake in judgment. Nor were his false statements made in the heat of the moment. They were nowhere close to that,” prosecutors wrote in the court papers.
Prosecutors also pointed to Stone’s behavior after he was indicted in January 2019. Stone repeatedly violated a gag order preventing him from speaking publicly about the case. He was eventually banned from posting on social media for the duration of the trial after publishing on Instagram an image of U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the judge presiding over his case, with what appeared to be crosshairs of a gun.
“Stone’s conduct over the past two years shows the low regard in which he holds the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation and this very criminal case,” prosecutors wrote. “That conduct suggests that a period of incarceration is warranted to achieve adequate deterrence.”
Why Did the Justice Department Intervene in the Case?
A day later, on Feb. 11, the Justice Department overruled federal prosecutors and said it would take the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek for Stone.
The department told a federal judge that its earlier recommendation “does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position” and asked Judge Jackson to impose a sentence that was “far less.” The move prompted the four lawyers who prosecuted Stone to quit the case.
The DOJ insisted the decision to undo the sentencing recommendation was not made in response to a tweet from Trump, who earlier in the day had blasted the original sentencing recommendation as “very horrible and unfair.”
Trump denied having instructed the DOJ to change its sentencing recommendation while insisting he would have the authority to do so if he chose to exercise it. Attorney General William Barr said in an interview with ABC News the decision to undo the sentencing recommendation was made before Trump’s tweet and that the president had not asked him to intervene.
In their revised sentencing memo, Justice Department officials argued the initial recommendation could be “considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances” but did not propose a specific punishment, deferring that decision to the court.
Democrats decried the decision, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling for an investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
At Thursday’s hearing, federal prosecutor John Crabb, who took over the case after the original trial team quit, contradicted the revised sentencing memo and argued in favor of the original recommendation.
Crabb apologized to the judge for the “miscommunication” and asked Jackson to impose “a substantial period of incarceration” for Stone’s threats against Credico.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump’s associate Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday to more than 3 years in prison on obstruction and perjury charges by a judge who has come under attack by the president as he assails the case against Stone.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson moved forward with Stone’s sentencing on seven felonies after Attorney General Bill Barr overruled his own prosecutors’ recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison and substituted an unspecified term. She can withstand the pressure from Trump people who know her say.
“She is made of steel,” said retired Massachusetts federal Judge Nancy Gertner, who is now a professor at Harvard Law School.
Jackson, who sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison and fined him $20,000, said she agreed that the original recommendation was too harsh, but added that the probation that Stone’s lawyers asked for did not go far enough. Stone’s crimes demanded a significant time behind bars, she said.
Jackson denied that Stone was being punished for his politics or his allies.
“He was not prosecuted, as some have claimed, for standing up for the president,” she said. “He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”
Jackson said Stone’s conduct led to an “inaccurate, incomplete and incorrect” report by the House Intelligence Committee and she rejected the defense’s argument that his actions did not have a significant impact on the Congressional probe.
Stone’s is the latest case before Jackson arising out of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian intervention into the 2016 presidential election. She nearly doubled the prison sentence for Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, who is serving seven and half years in prison for evading taxes and lobbying laws and obstructing justice.
”The defendant isn’t public enemy No. 1 but he’s not a victim either,” Jackson said then.
Jackson added that it was “hard to overstate the number of lies, the amount of fraud and the extraordinary amount of money involved.”
She also sentenced Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman, to 45 days in jail and three-year probation. Gregory B. Craig, a Democratic former White House counsel, was acquitted on charges of lying to federal prosecutors.
Stone ran afoul of the judge early on when he posted a photo of the judge on Instagram that seemed to show the crosshairs of a gun behind her head. She imposed a tougher gag order but after prosecutors accused him of violating the order repeatedly barred him from social media.
On Thursday, Jackson referred to Stone’s actions.
“The defendant engaged in threatening and intimidating behavior toward the court,” she said. “This is intolerable to the administration of justice.”
The case has caused a series of uproars, most recently when Barr intervened in the sentencing recommendation. The four prosecutors who worked on the case resigned, and more than than 2,000 former federal prosecutors are demanding Barr resign.
Jackson was appointed a federal judge in 2011, nominated by President Barack Obama.
She was in private practice before that in Washington, D.C., at Trout Cacheris, where she specialized in criminal and civil trials and appeals, and as a partner at Venable, Baetjer, Howard, and Civiletti. She also served as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, where she received awards for her work on murder and sexual assault cases.
She received her law degree from Harvard Law School.
“She is whip-smart and her ability as a litigator in federal court translates into the qualities that make for a first-rate federal judge,” said Michael Tigar, a criminal defense lawyer whose son, Jon Tigar, is a federal judge who also has come under attack by the president for his rulings on asylum seekers and who was defended by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts.
Trump has singled out Jackson on Twitter, falsely tweeting, “Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!”
Of the original recommendation for Stone’s sentencing, Trump wrote: “This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
Gertner said that with his tweets Trump “is creating this cacophony that (Jackson) has to then work not to listen to.”
“She’s really strong, and she’s really smart,” Gertner said. “And being smart makes all the difference in the world because you then know what the law requires.”
Asked this week whether he would pardon Stone, Trump said, “I haven’t given it any thought … but I think he’s been treated very unfairly.”
After the sentencing on Thursday afternoon, Trump said Stone had “a very good chance of exoneration,” and criticized the jury forewoman.
“It’s my strong opinion that the forewoman for the jury is totally tainted,” Trump said. He called her “an anti-Trump person” with “a horrible social media account.”
Michael Tigar was among the past chairs of the American Bar Association’s Litigation Section who published a letter in The Washington Post on Monday criticizing Trump’s tweets.
“The president’s recent tweet against Amy Berman Jackson, the judge in Roger Stone’s trial, must be called out for what it is: inappropriate and destructive to the role of an impartial judiciary in our constitutional democracy,” the lawyers wrote. “These attacks must stop.”
They noted that the president had falsely suggested that Jackson had ordered Manafort into solitary confinement when it is correction officials who control how prisoners are held and implied that she favored former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because she dismissed claims that Clinton had defamed Benghazi victims by defending herself against unsubstantiated accusations.
“Disagreeing with the basis for a judicial decision is one thing,” they wrote. “But degrading a judge, particularly when seeking to affect the outcome of a pending case involving the attacker’s ally, has no place in our society; the more so when it comes from the president. Delegitimizing the judiciary threatens the core of our democracy.”
So far Trump, in response to criticism, has insisted that he has a right to intervene in cases like Stone’s.
“Attempting to explain justice to President Trump is like trying to explain a sundial to a bat, and so I really don’t know whether he’s going to pay attention,” Tigar said. “There will certainly be influence on him from the people around him to moderate his tone and to moderate his conduct.”
Jackson at the beginning of the week refused to delay Stone’s sentencing but did indicate that she would delay execution of his sentence while his lawyers seek a new trial.
Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell released a statement last week in which she seemed to be defending Jackson though she did not name her.
“The Judges of this Court base their sentencing decisions on careful consideration of the actual record in the case before them; the applicable sentencing guidelines and statutory factors; the submissions of the parties, the Probation Office and victims; and their own judgment and experience,” Howell said. “Public criticism or pressure is not a factor.”
Jackson isn’t the only one in her family who makes headlines. In 2015, her son Matt Jackson had a run on “Jeopardy!” that TODAY described as leaving the internet obsessed with his slow-building smile and cries of victory after a particularly tough question. He finished with more than $400,000 in regular season winnings, the sixth-highest total in regular play.
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One after another, Democratic presidential candidates took turns at the start of their latest debate to take shots at former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. And each time, the crowd at The Abbey, a gay bar in West Hollywood, California, reacted with uproarious cheers, NBC News reports.
They cheered when Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., criticized Bloomberg for having spent his way onto the debate stage, and when Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said the party should nominate “someone who is actually a Democrat” — referring to Bloomberg — the crowd laughed and clapped again.
The applause at the West Hollywood watch party, hosted by the local chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, reached a peak when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asked Bloomberg whether he would release former female employees from nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs, legal contracts that prevent someone from talking publicly about an incident, usually signed in exchange for money.
“He’s toast,” said Dwight Clarke, 70, who lives in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.
Read the full story on NBCNews.com
Through a year of campaigning, the Democratic presidential candidates played nice, talking up party unity, disagreeing mostly politely on policy.
Wednesday’s debate signaled a sharp turn in the Democratic contest, with civility giving way to a combustible conflict that laid bare both the ideological divisions roiling the party and the personal animosities that have simmered for months.
Elizabeth Warren criticized Bernie Sanders for leading a movement that has provided a haven for online harassment. Amy Klobuchar accused Pete Buttigieg of calling her dumb. And all the candidates piled on first-time debate participant Mike Bloomberg, launching aggressive attacks on his record on race, gender and how he is wielding his vast personal wealth in pursuit of the Democratic nomination.
For many of the candidates, it was a strategy shift born of urgency and necessity. Though just two states have voted thus far, time is running out for some contenders, including former Vice President Joe Biden, to prove they still have a viable path to the nomination as the contest hurtles toward larger, more diverse states.
But the bareknuckle politicking also carries risks for a party that is desperate to rally around a standard-bearer to take on President Donald Trump in November. Democratic voters have warned for months against intraparty conflict, fearful of damaging their eventual nominee in the general election.
And Republicans indeed appeared to relish Wednesday’s infighting.
After the debate, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany declared: “The Democrat Party is in the midst of a full-scale meltdown.”
Despite Democrats’ attempts to maintain civility for much of the campaign, Wednesday’s scorching showdown was likely inevitable given how crowded the field remains and how fast the primary calendar is moving. Nevada holds its caucus on Saturday, followed by South Carolina on Feb. 29, and more than a dozen states in the March 3 Super Tuesday contests.
Sanders’ strong showings in the opening contests have left some rivals fearful he could begin to amass an insurmountable lead in March, when delegate-rich states like California and Texas vote. And more moderate candidates who view the Vermont senator — a self-described democratic socialist — as unelectable in November fear Bloomberg’s late entry in the race could further divide up the anti-Sanders vote.
Bloomberg hasn’t appeared on a ballot yet and won’t for two more weeks. Yet he’s quickly stood up a monstrous national campaign, and recent polls suggest he is getting a boost from the $400 million in advertising he is plunging into states that vote on Super Tuesday and beyond.
Wednesday’s debate marked the first opportunity for his rivals to begin puncturing the narrative he is carefully crafting on the airwaves. And they wasted little time in doing so.
Warren, who is urgently trying to salvage her once promising candidacy, was particularly blistering, comparing Bloomberg to another wealthy New Yorker: Trump.
“Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another,” Warren said. She also repeatedly put Bloomberg on the defensive over nondisclosure agreements with some female employees at his eponymous media company.
For Warren, the fierce attacks marked a particularly sharp shift in strategy. She’s repeatedly refused to allow herself to get drawn into direct combat with her rivals, but has appeared to get drowned out as a result. She finished a disappointing fourth in the New Hampshire primary, and unless she can rack up wins in the next two weeks, her candidacy is all but certain to end.
Bloomberg stepped on stage prepared for the attacks, which his rivals had been foreshadowing for days. Yet the former mayor and business mogul still appeared caught off guard by the ferocity of the pile-on, and he faltered at times in his defense, including when pressed on his past comments about women. He suggested female employees simply “didn’t like a joke I told.”
Bloomberg’s campaign offered a tacit acknowledgement of his stumbles.
“It took him just 45 minutes in his first debate in 10 years to get his legs on the stage,” said Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s campaign manager. “He was just warming up tonight.”
Bloomberg was at his best when tangling with Sanders, a candidate he views as outside the mainstream and unelectable.
“I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating President Trump,” Bloomberg said. “And if he goes and is the candidate, we will have Donald Trump for another four years. And we can’t stand that.”
Las Vegas Democratic Debate
Other candidates also piled on Sanders, accusing him of being too polarizing and too vague about the cost of the sweeping government-run health care policy at the center of his campaign. He beat back the criticisms as he has for months, predicting he could bring new voters into the electorate and use that enthusiasm to bend Washington to his will.
What was unclear at the end of the two-hour contest was how much clarity it provided for Democratic voters still searching for the candidate they believe has the best chance to defeat Trump. And the candidates themselves appeared prepared to fight on for months.
In the debate’s final moments, all but Sanders found one thing to agree on: They are open to bringing the race for the nomination to the Democratic convention in July if no candidate emerges from the voting contests with a majority of the delegates in hand.
President Donald Trump trolled his political enemies Wednesday in the first of three rallies in three days in the West as Democrats vied in neighboring Nevada to be the one to challenge him in the November election.
Just minutes before Trump regaled a friendly crowd in Phoenix, Democrats watched billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg make his debut on the debate stage ahead of Nevada’s party caucuses on Saturday. Trump took aim at the new target.
“I hear he’s getting pounded tonight — you know he’s in a debate,” Trump said about the man he has dubbed “Mini Mike” because of his short stature. “I hear that pounding. He spent $500 million so far and I think he has 15 points. Crazy Bernie was at 30.”
He gleefully derided Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” for her past claims of Native American heritage and claimed her presidential campaign had stalled. “Fortunately she self-destructed anyway,” Trump said.
“We don’t care who the hell it is,” he said. “We’re going to win.”
Arizona is a 2020 battleground state, but Democrats think with a little luck, the state could be in play.
The state is home to Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who stood by the president during the Senate’s impeachment trial. In her rally remarks McSally mentioned her Democratic opponent Mark Kelly, who has said he’d back Sen. Bernie Sanders if he is the party’s nominee.
“Mark Kelly is flying on Bernie Sanders’ wing and I’m flying on your wing, President Trump,” she said.
Trump was on stage for more than an hour and 20 minutes. Before he arrived at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, a crowd of protesters swelled into the hundreds. A large contingent of migrant rights advocates waved signs declaring “Dump Trump” and “Power to the people!”
After the president left, the Trump protesters, in a “free speech zone” near the coliseum, were confronted by Trump supporters. Lots of yelling ensued as tensions flared, but no signs of violence.
The president’s four-day, four-state trip features big-dollar fundraisers, back-to-back-to-back campaign rallies and a sprinkling of official presidential events. It’s an unusually long domestic trip for Trump, who prefers to sleep in his own bed.
Next best: He’s sleeping each night at his own hotel just off the Las Vegas Strip and making day trips to California, Arizona and Colorado. On Thursday, Trump will host a rally in Colorado Springs for another vulnerable Republican, Sen. Cory Gardner. On Friday, Trump will appear at a rally in Las Vegas.
Trump didn’t wait until evening to start his counter-programming, weighing in on his Democratic rivals via Twitter. Earlier in the day, Trump took a swipe at Bloomberg, who was criticized in 2016 for saying at Oxford University, “I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer.” The former New York mayor continued: “It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.”
“Mini Mike hates the farmer,” Trump said. “Never mind, I don’t think he’s going to be the candidate anyway, to be honest with you.”
Trump began his day with an unscheduled stop at a fundraiser in the gold-plated lobby of his hotel, where his son Donald Trump Jr. was the headliner. Then he hopped over to the Rancho Mirage, California, estate of billionaire Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison to raise more cash. The estate includes the Porcupine Creek private golf club, the site of a Trump campaign golf outing and fundraiser.
The president was expected to raise $7 million at the fundraiser, according to a Republican official familiar with the planning of the events but not authorized to speak about it publicly. Trump raised a similar sum Tuesday night in Beverly Hills. That money will be split among his campaign, the Republican National Committee and 22 Republican state parties.
California Republican National Committeeman Shawn Steel said Wednesday that the president used his Beverly Hills event to talk at length about how he ignored common wisdom and targeted Michigan in the 2016 election, despite its history of siding with Democratic presidential candidates in recent decades. Trump narrowly carried the state over Hillary Clinton.
Trump did have a policy component to his schedule for the day: a visit to Bakersfield, California, the hometown of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy. The president signed his administration’s reworking of environmental regulations that will direct more of the state’s precious water to wealthy farmers and other agriculture interests in the Republican Central Valley stronghold.
During his 2016 campaign, Trump was an outspoken critic of federal rules meant to ensure that enough fresh water stayed in rivers and the San Francisco Bay to sustain more than a dozen endangered fish and other native species, which are struggling as agriculture and development diverts more water and land from wildlife.
Associated Press writers Anita Snow and Bob Christie in Phoenix, Deb Riechmann and Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington, and Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Who’s got the goods on health care policy? That question was an undercurrent in the feisty Democratic presidential debate as rivals stood accused of being lightweights who have done little more than put up Post-it notes or slideshows on the subject.
Also in the Las Vegas debate, Mike Bloomberg spoke of coming to the realization that stop-and-frisk policing policies were being overused by his police department when he was New York mayor. Actually, a judge ruled against the practice and the mayor assailed the “dangerous” decision at the time.
From Phoenix, President Donald Trump ribbed the debating Democrats and twisted the health plans of some of them in the process.
A look at how some of their claims Wednesday night stack up with the facts:
ELIZABETH WARREN on Amy Klobuchar’s health plan: “It is like a Post-it note, insert plan here. … Amy, I looked online at your plan. It’s two paragraphs.”
THE FACTS: That’s not true. Klobuchar’s health care policies run thousands of words online, addressing coverage, substance abuse and mental health, prescription drugs and the elderly. Some of her material lacks specifics found in the plans of several of her rivals. Yet aspects of her agenda are grounded in detailed legislation led or supported by the senator from Minnesota.
It’s true that Klochuchar’s main health policy page devotes two paragraphs to summarizing her way of achieving universal coverage. But that’s not the extent of her plan.
KLOBUCHAR, smiling: “I must say, I take personal offense since Post-it notes were invented in my state.”
THE FACTS: Yes, Post-it notes are one of the most well-known consumer products of St. Paul-based 3M, once known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co.
BERNIE SANDERS, to Pete Buttigieg: “Let’s level, Pete. Under your plan, which is a maintenance continuation of the status quo — “
WARREN: Buttigieg’s health care plan is “not a plan. It’s a PowerPoint.”
THE FACTS: It’s more than the status quo and more than a PowerPoint presentation. Buttigieg’s plan would cover almost all U.S. citizens and legal residents, even if it’s not as far reaching as the proposals of Sanders and Warren.
An analysis of health care overhaul plans by the Urban Institute and the Commonwealth Fund found that an approach like the one advocated by Buttigieg ,would reduce the number of uninsured people from more than 32 million to below 7 million. Those 7 million would mainly be people who are in the country illegally.
The proposal from Buttigieg features a new government-sponsored “public option” plan that even people with employer-sponsored coverage could join voluntarily.
Warren’s put-down of Buttigieg’s plan comes after she reconsidered her own approach to “Medicare for All,” deciding to proceed in stages. She would first expand coverage by building on existing programs and postpone the push for a system fully run by the government until the third year of her presidency.
STOP AND FRISK
BLOOMBERG, on the stop-and-frisk policing policy when he was New York mayor: “What happened, however, was it got out of control and when we discovered — I discovered — that we were doing many, many, too many stop and frisks, we cut 95% of them out.”
THE FACTS: That’s a distortion of how stop and frisk declined. That happened because of a court order, not because Bloomberg had a revelation. When the ruling came out, Bloomberg called it a “dangerous decision made by a judge who I think does not understand how policing works and what is compliant with the U.S. Constitution.”
In Bloomberg’s first 10 years in office, the number of stop-and-frisk actions increased nearly 600% from when he took office in 2002, reaching a peak of nearly 686,000 stops in 2011. That declined to about 192,000 documented stops in 2013, his final year as mayor.
Bloomberg achieved his claim of a 95% cut by cherry-picking the quarterly high point of 203,500 stops in the first quarter of 2012 and comparing that with the 12,485 stops in the last quarter of 2013.
The former mayor defended the practice even after leaving office at the end of 2013 and only apologized for it a few weeks before declaring his candidacy for presidency.
TRUMP, on Sanders’ Medicare for all plan: “Think of this: 180 million Americans are going to lose health care coverage under this plan. But if you don’t mind, I’m not going to criticize it tonight. Let them keep going and I’ll start talking about it about two weeks out from the election.” — Arizona rally.
THE FACTS: That’s a thorough misrepresentation of the Sanders plan as well as similar plans by Democrats in Congress. People wouldn’t “lose” coverage. Under Sanders, they would be covered by a new and universal government plan that replaces private and job-based insurance. Democrats who stop short of proposing to replace private and job-based insurance would offer an option for people to take a Medicare-like plan, also toward the goal of ensuring universal coverage.
BLOOMBERG, citing his philanthropy’s work with the Sierra Club: “Already we’ve closed 304 out of the 530 coal fire plants in the United States, and we’ve closed 80 out of the 200 or 300 that are in Europe.”
THE FACTS: He’s wrongly taking credit for driving the U.S. coal industry to its knees.
The U.S. coal industry’s plunge is largely due to market forces, above all drops in prices of natural gas and renewable energy that have made costlier coal-fired power plants much less competitive for electric utilities. Bloomberg has indeed contributed huge sums to efforts to close coal plants and fight climate change, but against the backdrop of an industry besieged on other fronts.
U.S. coal production peaked in 2008, but since then has fallen steadily. That’s due largely to a boom in oil and gas production from U.S. shale, begun under the Obama administration, that made natural gas far more abundant and cheaper, and falling prices for wind and solar energy, partly because of improving technology in the renewable sector.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reaffirmed in a report in December the extent to which the market has turned away from coal.
Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire in New York, Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington and Amanda Seitz in Chicago contributed to this report.
EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.
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Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, a billionaire who has been advertising heavily against President Donald Trump, took the debate stage for the first time Wednesday in this year’s presidential race.
He went up against five Democrats who had already been vying for the chance to oust Trump in November. Those five — and in particular Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — greeted him with a series of sharp attacks.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont is leading the Democrats nationally in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday with 27% support. Clustered behind him are former Vice President Joe Biden, who has had disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Bloomberg, Warren and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota trails despite her third place in New Hampshire.
STOP AND FRISK AND “HORSE-FACED LESBIANS”
Bloomberg was immediately called out by his rivals, Warren in particular, on his record with women and the controversial “stop and frisk” policing policy in effect while he was mayor. A disproportionate number of black and Hispanic New Yorkers were stopped and searched, most of whom had not committed a crime.
“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” Warren said, “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.”
The New York Times has reported that workers at Bloomberg’s company assembled a book of his sayings that included those comments; he has never admitted to making them.
A Bloomberg spokesman, Stu Loeser, told the Times: “Mike has come to see that some of what he has said is disrespectful and wrong. He believes his words have not always aligned with his values and the way he has led his life.”
Women who worked at Bloomberg’s company have filed lawsuits alleging discrimination and accusing Bloomberg of enabling a culture of sexual harassment and a hostile workplace.
Sanders criticized Bloomberg’s policing policies that he said targeted “African-American and Latinos in an outrageous way.”
Bloomberg apologized for the policy ahead of his presidential run, acknowledging its disproportionate effect on blacks and Latinos and said that he realized it was wrong. Wednesday night he said that he was embarrassed by the policy, which he argued was intended to cut the 650 murders a year in New York City when he took office. When he realized it had gotten out of control, he cut 95 percent of the stops, he said.
His critics reject his apology, noting the policy was challenged in court. Warren said that he never criticized the policy just the way it turned out while Biden insisted Bloomberg was forced to act by the administration of former President Barack Obama.
“Let’s get something straight: the reason that stop and frisk changed is because Barack Obama sent moderators to see what was going on,” Biden said. “When we sent them there to say ‘this practice has to stop,’ the mayor thought it was a terrible idea we send them there.”
The Times found that Biden’s assertion was mostly false. The policy came to an end after the American Civil Liberties Union issued a report that showed how many stops had been made and lawsuits were filed. A judge appointed a monitor.
And the 95% figure is deceiving, because the stops increased by more than 600% over 10 years, according to FactCheck.org. Bloomberg cherry-picked the numbers, it said.
WHAT’S IN THE NON-DISCLOSURE AGREEMENTS
Bloomberg was asked again about his treatment of women and reports that his company was a hostile workplace for women.
“I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior the #MeToo movement has exposed,” he said.
Women in his company earn promotions, hold positions of responsibility and are paid equally with men.
Warren mocked his defense. She characterized it as: “I’ve been nice to some women.”
“That just doesn’t cut it,” she said.
She challenged Bloomberg to release women from non-disclosure agreements they had signed with his company for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination.
Bloomberg balked and insisted that there were very few non-disclosure agreements though he declined to say how many and maintained that were consensual and not up to him to dissolve.
“None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than they maybe didn’t like a joke I told,” he said.
A DO-OVER ON MEXICO
Klobuchar made amends for being unable to name the president of Mexico last week and offered greetings to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, though she stumbled a bit while pronouncing his name.
That wasn’t enough for Buttigieg, who noted she was running on her experience in Washington, where she was a member of committees overseeing border security and trade.
Klobuchar was “not able to speak to literally the first thing, the politics” of neighboring Mexico, he said.
“Are you trying to say the I’m dumb?” she responded. “Are you mocking me, Pete?”
Warren came to Klobuchar’s defense, calling Buttigieg’s comments unfair.
“Missing a name all by itself does not indicate that you do not understand what is going on,” Warren said.
“MAYOR BLOOMBERG, SHOULD YOU EXIST?”
“I can’t speak for all billionaires,” Bloomberg answered when asked that question. “All I know is, I’ve been very lucky, made a lot of money and I’m giving it all away to make this country better.”
The question of income inequality has been key to the campaigns of Sanders and Warren, especially, and Sanders was asked what he meant when he said billionaires should not exist.
Sanders said they represented a “grotesque and immoral” distribution of wealth, with Bloomberg owning more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans.
“That should not be the case when we got a half a million people sleeping out on the street, when we have kids who cannot afford to go to college, when we have 45 million people dealing with student debt,” Sanders said.
When Bloomberg said he had worked hard to make his money, Sanders responded that maybe his employees had played some role in his wealth.
Bloomberg argued that the very discussion of throwing out capitalism would help President Trump get reelected.
“We tried that and other countries tried that,” Bloomberg said. “It was called communism and it just didn’t work.”
Sanders responded: “Let’s talk about democratic socialism, not communism, Mr. Bloomberg. That was a cheap shot.”
HOW MANY HOUSES?
Bloomberg countered one attack on his wealth by noting how many houses Sanders had.
Nevada Democratic Debate
“What a wonderful country we have,” he said. “The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses.”
Sanders responded that he lived in Washington D.C., had a house in Vermont and a summer cabin.
“Forgive me for that,” he said.
Bloomberg, who mentioned his home in New York City, said he paid all of his taxes, though he had earlier fended off criticism about why he had not yet released his tax returns.
“And let me say I thought the senator next to me was half right,” he said, referring to Warren. “I agree we should raise taxes. I disagree with the senator on the wealth tax but I do agree with her that the rich aren’t paying their fair share. We should raise taxes on the rich.”
A POST-IT NOTE AND OTHER HEALTH PLAN CRITIQUES
Warren has been knocked for her single-payer, Medicare-for-all plan, which would cost $20.5 trillion over 10 years. To get there by the end of three years, she has proposed expanding public health insurance first.
So when the debate turned to health care, Warren methodically took on her rivals’ plans in one answer, with cameras capturing their reactions as she moved down the line.
Buttigieg’s: “a slogan that was thought up by his consultants to paper over a thin version of a plan that would leave millions of people unable to afford their health care. It’s not a plan. It’s a PowerPoint.”
Klobuchar’s: “Amy’s plan is even less. It’s like a Post-it Note: ‘Insert plan here.’”
Sanders’: “a good start but instead of expanding and bringing in more people to help, instead his campaign relentlessly attacks everyone who asks a question or tries to fill in details.” Sanders has made his Medicare-for-all plan a signature of his campaign.
From the opening bell, Democrats unleashed an aggressive verbal assault on New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg and raised new questions about Bernie Sanders’ take-no-prisoners politics in a contentious debate Wednesday night that threatened to scramble even further the party’s urgent quest to defeat President Donald Trump.
Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who was once a Republican, was forced to defend his record and past comments related to race, gender and his personal wealth in an occasionally rocky debate stage debut. Sanders, meanwhile, tried to beat back pointed questions about his embrace of democratic socialism and his health following a heart attack last year.
The ninth debate of this cycle featured the most aggressive sustained period of infighting in the Democrats’ yearlong search for a presidential nominee. The tension reflected growing anxiety among candidates and party leaders that the nomination fight could yield a candidate who will struggle to build a winning coalition in November to beat Trump.
The campaign is about to quickly intensify. Nevada votes on Saturday and South Carolina follows on February 29. More than a dozen states host Super Tuesday contests in less than two weeks with about one-third of the delegates needed to win the nomination at stake.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was in a fight for survival and stood out with repeated attacks on Bloomberg. She sought to undermine him with core Democratic voters who are uncomfortable with his vast wealth, his offensive remarks about policing of minorities and demeaning comments about women, including those who worked at his company.
Warren labeled Bloomberg “a billionaire who calls people fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.”
She wasn’t alone.
Sanders lashed out at Bloomberg’s policing policies as New York City mayor that he said targeted “African-American and Latinos in an outrageous way.”
And former Vice President Joe Biden charged that Bloomberg’s “stop-and-frisk” policy ended up “throwing 5 million black men up against the wall.”
Watching from afar, Trump joined the Bloomberg pile on.
Watching during his Western campaign swing, Trump joined the Bloomberg pile on. “Mini Mike Bloomberg’s debate performance tonight was perhaps the worst in the history of debates, and there have been some really bad ones,” Trump tweeted. “He was stumbling, bumbling and grossly incompetent. If this doesn’t knock him out of the race, nothing will. Not so easy to do what I did!”
After the debate, Warren told reporters: “I have no doubt that Michael Bloomberg is reaching in his pocket right now, and spending another hundred million dollars to try to erase every American’s memory about what happened on the debate stage.”
On a night that threatened to tarnish the shine of his carefully constructed TV-ad image, Bloomberg faltered when attacked on issues related to race and gender. But he was firm and unapologetic about his wealth and how he has used it to effect change important to Democrats. He took particular aim at Sanders and his self-description as a democratic socialist.
“I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating Donald Trump,” Bloomberg declared before noting Sanders’ rising wealth. “The best known socialist in the country happens to be a millionaire with three houses!”
Sanders defended owning multiple houses, noting he has one in Washington, where he works, and two in Vermont, the state he represents in the Senate.
While Bloomberg was the shiny new object Wednesday, the debate also marked a major test for Sanders, who is emerging as the front-runner in the Democrats’ nomination fight, whether his party’s establishment likes it or not. A growing group of donors, elected officials and political operatives fear that Sanders’ uncompromising progressive politics could be a disaster in the general election against Trump, yet they’ve struggled to coalesce behind a single moderate alternative.
Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, went after both Bloomberg and Sanders, warning that one threatened to “burn down” the Democratic Party and the other was trying to buy it.
He called them “the two most polarizing figures on this stage,” with little chance of defeating Trump or helping congressional Democrats in contests with Republicans.
Bloomberg and Sanders were prime targets, but the stakes were no less dire for the other four candidates on stage.
Longtime establishment favorite Biden, Obama’s two-term vice president, desperately needed to breathe new life into his flailing campaign, which entered the night at the bottom of a moderate muddle behind former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. And after a bad finish last week in New Hampshire, Massachusetts Sen. Warren was fighting to resurrect her stalled White House bid.
A Warren campaign aide said on Twitter that her fiery first debate hour was her best hour of fundraising “to date.”
The other leading progressive in the race, Sanders came under attack from Biden and Bloomberg for his embrace of democratic socialism.
Sanders, as he has repeatedly over the last year, defended the cost of his signature “Medicare for All” healthcare plan, which would eliminate the private insurance industry in favor of a government-backed healthcare system that would cover all Americans.
“When you asked Bernie how much it cost last time he said…’We’ll find out,'” Biden quipped. “It costs over $35 trillion, let’s get real.”
And ongoing animosity flared between Buttigieg and Klobuchar when the former Indiana mayor slammed the three-term Minnesota senator for failing to answer questions in a recent interview about Mexican policy and forgetting the name of the Mexican president.
Buttigieg noted that she’s on a committee that oversees trade issues in Mexico and she “was not able to speak to literally the first thing about the politics of the country.”
She shot back: “Are you trying to say I’m dumb? Are you mocking me here?”
Later in the night she lashed out at Buttigieg again: “I wish everyone else was as perfect as you, Pete.”
Las Vegas Democratic Debate
The debate closed with a question about the possibility that Democrats remain divided deep into the primary season with a final resolution coming during a contested national convention in July.
Asked if the candidate with the most delegates should be the nominee — even if he or she is short of a delegate majority, almost every candidate suggested that the convention process should “work its way out,” as Biden put it.
Sanders, who helped force changes to the nomination process this year and hopes to take a significant delegate lead in the coming weeks, was the only exception.
“The person who has the most votes should become the nominee,” he said.
Peoples and Jaffe reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced that Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, will become acting director of national intelligence, a move that puts a staunch Trump ally in charge of the nation’s 17 spy agencies, which the president has only tepidly embraced.
“Rick has represented our Country exceedingly well and I look forward to working with him,” Trump tweeted.
Grenell follows Joseph Maguire, who has been acting national intelligence director since August. It was unclear if Maguire would return to the National Counterterrorism Center. “I would like to thank Joe Maguire for the wonderful job he has done,” Trump tweeted, “and we look forward to working with him closely, perhaps in another capacity within the Administration!”
Grenell, a loyal and outspoken Trump supporter, has been the U.S. ambassador to Germany since 2018. He previously served as U.S. spokesman at the United Nations in the George W. Bush administration, including under then-Ambassador John Bolton.
News of the announcement was quickly criticized by those who said the job should be held by someone with deep experience in intelligence. Trump named Grenell acting national intelligence director, meaning he would not have to be confirmed by the Senate.
Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Trump had “selected an individual without any intelligence experience to serve as the leader of the nation’s intelligence community in an acting capacity.”
Warner accused the president of trying to sidestep the Senate’s constitutional authority to advise and consent on critical national security positions.
“The intelligence community deserves stability and an experienced individual to lead them in a time of massive national and global security challenges,” Warner said in a statement. “… Now more than ever our country needs a Senate-confirmed intelligence director who will provide the best intelligence and analysis, regardless of whether or not it’s expedient for the president who has appointed him.”
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 was signed by President George W. Bush after 9/11 to improve the sharing of information among all the intelligence agencies. The law states that the president shall appoint a national intelligence director with the advice and consent of the Senate. It also states: “Any individual nominated for appointment as Director of National Intelligence shall have extensive national security expertise.”
Susan Hennessey, a fellow in national security law at Brookings Institution and a former attorney at the National Security Agency, tweeted: “This should frighten you. Not just brazen politicization of intelligence, but also someone who is utterly incompetent in an important security role. The guardrails are gone.”
Trump named Maguire to the position after Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe removed himself from consideration after just five days amid criticism about his lack of intelligence experience and qualifications for the job.
Maguire became acting director the same day that former National Intelligence Director Dan Coats’ resignation took effect. It was also the same day that deputy national intelligence director Sue Gordon walked out the door. Democrats denounced the shake-up at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and accused Trump of pushing out two dedicated intelligence professionals.
Six candidates took the stage Wednesday night in Las Vegas for the ninth Democratic presidential primary debate of the 2020 campaign.
To review our live reporting on all of the night’s hits, misses, gaffes and spats, scroll below.
Speaking at a CNN town hall, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor turned controversial comments made by Limbaugh — in which he openly wondered whether Americans were ready to elect a gay man who was “kissing his husband on the debate stage” — back at both Limbaugh, who has been married four times, and President Donald Trump, who has been married three times.
“The idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values?” Buttigieg said Tuesday night.
“I mean, I’m sorry, but one thing about my marriage is, it’s never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse with him or her,” Buttigieg, who has been married to his spouse, Chasten, since 2018, said to applause.
Read the full story on NBCNews.com
A U.S. judge in Arizona sided Wednesday with migrants who have long-complained about inhumane and unsanitary conditions in some U.S. Border Patrol facilities in the state.
The ruling came weeks after the conclusion of a seven-day trial in which attorneys for migrants who sued in 2015 argued that the agency holds immigrants in extremely cold, overcrowded, unsanitary and inhumane conditions.
The order makes permanent a preliminary injunction that U.S. District Court Judge David C. Bury issued in 2016 requiring the Tucson Sector to provide clean mats and thin blankets to migrants held for longer than 12 hours and to allow them to clean themselves.
It also bars the agency from holding migrants more than 48 hours if they’ve been fully processed, which is common when other agencies involved in taking the migrants, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, don’t have the capacity to pick them up in a reasonable amount of time.
Bury is also banning the use of bathrooms for sleeping, which came to light during the trial this year, when video was shown of a man trying to reach a bathroom but failing to because migrants were sleeping in them.
“Today’s decision is a tremendous victory for communities everywhere fighting courageously to uphold human dignity and the rights enshrined in our Constitution,” Alvaro M. Huerta, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement.
The center was one of the advocacy groups that brought the case forward. The other plaintiffs were the American Immigration Council, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Their case was argued in court by attorneys for the law firm Morrison & Foerster.
“We are enthused that our justice system has intervened in a meaningful way to institute much needed change and hold CBP accountable,” Huerta said.
Customs and Border Protection didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Although the lawsuit predates last year’s surge in immigrant arrivals, it illustrates some of the challenges posed when migrants are detained, especially if they are children.
In his order Wednesday, Bury wrote that the Border Patrol and its parent agencies, or the defendants in the case, “administer a detention system that deprives detainees, who are held in CBP stations, Tucson Sector, longer than 48 hours, of conditions of confinement that meet basic human needs.”
Bury has been critical of the agency, saying it has done little to remedy issues, especially around overcrowding and migrants’ inability to sleep.
“Nobody has done anything. Is that why a court has to jump in?” Bury asked during the last day of trial on Jan. 22. “It just seems like the lack of a response to these numbers just calls for a court order.”
Government attorneys said in their closing arguments last monththat plaintiffs didn’t prove the agency violated any constitutional rights. It says many things are out of the agency’s control, such as whether other agencies involved in taking migrants have capacity.
Its facilities were built of short-term stays, for adults. Holding cells are in odd shapes, reducing the number of sleeping mats that can comfortably fit on the ground. On nights when agents arrest large groups of people, or when other agencies involved in immigration don’t have the capacity to pick them up, cells become extremely overcrowded.
A video displayed on the opening day of the trial showed a man walking over body after body as he tried to make his way to the bathroom. Once there, he realized all stalls had people sleeping in them.
Migrants have long decried conditions in Border Patrol facilities, now infamously known as hieleras, or iceboxes. And although the Tucson Sector hasn’t experienced the massive number of immigrants that other parts of the Southwest border has, the number of hours that migrants spend in custody there has continued to grow.
About 12,000 people were in custody for more than 72 hours in the Tucson Sector last year, or about 20%. The average time in custody was nearly 54 hours.
President Donald Trump has ousted the Pentagon’s top policy official who had certified last year that Ukraine had made enough anti-corruption progress to justify the Trump administration’s release of congressionally authorized aid to Kyiv in its conflict against Russian-backed separatists.
John Rood resigned Wednesday, saying he was leaving at Trump’s request.
The Trump administration’s delay in releasing the aid to Ukraine was central to the president’s impeachment by the House on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Senate voted to acquit the president. But in the wake of the Senate trial, an emboldened Trump has gone after officials he has perceived as being disloyal.
Rood is the latest official to be purged. His forced resignation comes as Democrats on the Hill express concerns that Trump is on a vendetta in the wake of his acquittal. Just days after the Senate vote, the White House reassigned an Army officer, Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, from the National Security Council, and pushed his twin brother, an NSC lawyer, out with him. Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union who also was a key witness before House investigators, was recalled from his post.
Trump tweeted Wednesday that he wanted to “thank John Rood for his service to our Country, and wish him well in his future endeavors!”
Rood, in his letter to Trump, did not mention Ukraine. “It’s my understanding from Secretary (Mark) Esper that you requested my resignation,” Rood said. Rood said he will step down as of Feb. 28.
Rood wrote in a May 23 letter to Congress that the Pentagon had made a thorough assessment of Ukraine’s anti-corruption actions and other reforms. And he said that, “I have certified that the government of Ukraine has taken substantial actions to make defense institutional reforms for the purpose of decreasing corruption” and making other improvements.”
Rood wrote that his certification, legally required before the aid could be released, was based on insights gained in “persistent U.S. engagement” with Ukraine, including meetings between the U.S. defense secretary and his Ukrainian counterpart.
Asked about Rood’s resignation, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman declined to speculate on the reason for Trump’s decision.
“The president has the opportunity and the ability to have the team that he wants to have in policy positions,” Hoffman said at news conference. He said Rood’s resignation letter spoke for itself.
Rood last year told reporters that, “In the weeks after signing the certification I did become aware that the aid had been held. I never received a very clear explanation other than there were concerns about corruption in Ukraine.” He also spoke in favor of releasing the aid, suggesting that withholding it would hurt America’s defense priorities.
Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah said James Anderson, who is currently serving as the deputy for policy, will take over the job until a permanent replacement is appointed by the President and confirmed.
Esper said Rood played “a critical role” on issues such as nuclear deterrence, NATO, missile defense and the National Defense Strategy.
Rood has served as undersecretary for policy since January 2018, but also had worked in various government agencies including the State Department, the CIA and the NSC for more than 20 years. He held senior policy jobs mainly during Republican administrations and also served as a senior policy adviser to Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
Rood also was a senior vice president at Lockheed Martin International.
Michael Bloomberg is touting his relationship with Barack Obama in a pair of new TV ads backed by $16 million so far. If you didn’t know better, the spots might lead you to believe the former president had endorsed the former mayor of New York.
He has not, as several Obama alumni have been quick to point out, NBC New s reported. The billionaire New Yorker, like many other candidates, is seeking to align himself with the former president, who is the most popular figure in the Democratic party. And the vision the ads conjure up of a close partnership between “a great president and an effective mayor” leaves out the repeated criticism on a variety of issues that Bloomberg has leveled at Obama.
Bloomberg did not endorse Obama during his first run for the White House in 2008. Obama, in turn, did not back Bloomberg during his final mayoral run in 2009. And Bloomberg waited until the last week of the 2012 presidential race to back Obama’s re-election over Republican Mitt Romney, and his op-ed doing so included as much criticism as it did praise.
But Dan Pfeiffer, a White House spokesman in the Obama administration, said Tuesday on MSNBC that Bloomberg’s ads “tell a story that is belied by the reality of that relationship that I think is somewhat complicated.”
Read the full story on NBCNews.com
Who’s Running for President in 2020?
The field of Democratic 2020 presidential candidates is narrowing. Here’s who is still in the race.
Click the photos to learn more
Updated Nov. 20, 2019
From the opening bell, Democrats unleashed an aggressive verbal assault on New York billionaire Mike Bloomberg and raised new questions about Bernie Sanders’ take-no-prisoners politics in a contentious debate Wednesday night on the Las Vegas strip.
The former New York City mayor was forced to defend his divisive record on race, gender and Wall Street in his debate-stage debut, while Sanders, appearing in his ninth of the 2020 primary season, tried to beat back pointed questions about his health and his ability to defeat President Donald Trump this fall.
In a fight for her political life, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was a leading aggressor early against Bloomberg. She called him “a billionaire who calls people fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.”
More than anything, the fiery affair marked a high-stakes coming-out event for Bloomberg, who had, until Wednesday, used his extraordinary wealth to run for president almost completely on his terms, in TV ads. The debate came just three days before Nevada voters decide the third contest of the Democratic Party’s turbulent 2020 primary season. .
The intense criticism he faced Wednesday threatened to undermine his surprisingly swift rise from nonpartisan megadonor to top-tier contender
Warren wasn’t alone in her willingness to lash out at ultrabillionaire.
Sanders lashed out at Bloomberg’s policing policies as New York City mayor that he said targeted “African-American and Latinos in an outrageous way.”
And former Vice President Joe Biden charged that Bloomberg’s “stop-and-frisk” policy ended up “throwing 5 million black men up against the wall.”
Bloomberg defended himself on all counts and took a shot at Sanders’ electability: “I don’t think there’s any chance of the senator beating Donald Trump.”
While Bloomberg was the shiny new object Wednesday, the debate also marked a major test for Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who is emerging as the front-runner in the Democrats’ nomination fight, whether his party’s establishment likes it or not. A growing group of donors, elected officials and political operatives fear that Sanders’ uncompromising progressive politics could be a disaster in the general election against Trump, yet they’ve struggled to coalesce behind a single moderate alternative.
Former Midwestern Mayor Pete Buttigieg attacked both Bloomberg and Sanders, warning that one threatened to “burn down” the Democratic Party and the other was trying to buy it.
He called them “the two most polarizing figures on this stage.”
Bloomberg and Sanders may have been prime targets at the outset, but the stakes were no less dire for the other four candidates on stage.
Longtime establishment favorite Biden, Obama’s two-term vice president, desperately needed to breathe new life into his flailing campaign, which entered the night at the bottom of a moderate muddle behind former South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. And after a bad finish last week in New Hampshire, Massachusetts Sen. Warren was fighting just to stay in the conversation.
Each of the Democrats took turns teeing off against Bloomberg, in particular.
He stumbled at the outset when pressed on his record in business and allegations of sexual harassment at his company. Several women alleged they were discriminated against and Bloomberg himself created a culture of sexual harassment.
Both Warren and Biden called on him to release women involved in the lawsuits from non-disclosure agreements.
“We have a very few non-disclosure agreements — none of them accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told,” he said.
“They are being muzzled by you and you could release them from that immediately,” Warren charged. “Understand this is not just a question of the mayor’s character, this is also a question about electability. We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has…(a) drip, drip, drip of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against.”
Bloomberg also waded into dangerous territory when he declined to say when he’d release his tax returns, declaring “it just takes us a long time.”
“Fortunately, I make a lot of money and we do business all over the world,” he said, adding that his returns would likely take up thousands of pages. “I can’t go to Turbotax!”
The debate was set at the Paris Las Vegas hotel on the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, bringing the political circus alongside the showgirls, slot machines and glitz that Las Vegas is known for. The casino, which sits directly across the Strip from the Bellagio’s famous fountains, features a replica Eiffel Tower out front with legs that extend inside into the casino floor.
As Democrats were clustered inside the casino, outside on the Las Vegas Strip, Republicans hired a mobile electronic billboard truck to drive slowly in front of tourists, flashing a message promoting Trump’s reelection.
Steve Peoples and Alexandra Jaffe reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, California, contributed to this report.
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