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Trump Nominee William Barr Moves One Step Closer To Becoming Attorney General

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WASHINGTON, Feb 7 (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee, William Barr, moved closer to a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, winning approval from a key committee despite Democrats’ concerns about how he might handle Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Barr is expected to win confirmation in the Republican-controlled chamber as soon as next week, after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve him by a party-line vote of 12 to 10.

A corporate lawyer who previously served as attorney general under Republican President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, Barr has been praised by lawmakers from both parties as someone who is deeply familiar with the workings of the Justice Department and does not owe his career to Trump.

If he wins the job, Barr’s independence could be put to the test when Mueller wraps up his investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia during the 2016 election.

The Republican president has repeatedly criticized the investigation as a “witch hunt” and denies any collusion with Moscow.

Barr criticized the investigation last year in a memo to the Justice Department, but he told the committee in confirmation hearings three weeks ago that he would allow Mueller to conclude his work and said he would make as much of his findings public as possible.

But Barr has refused to promise that he will release the report in its entirety, citing Justice Department regulations that encourage prosecutors not to criticize people who they do not end up charging with criminal behavior.

Democrats on the committee said they were concerned that Barr’s expansive views of presidential power, as outlined in his memo, would lead him to suppress parts of Mueller’s report that address whether Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.

“I believe the memo is disqualifying,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat.

Republicans said they were confident Barr would make as much of the report public as possible.

“We need a steady hand at the Department of Justice, and I believe Mr. Barr provides that steady hand,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, the committee’s chairman.

For the time being, Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker will remain in charge of the department – and the Mueller investigation.

Breaking News

Trump Administration Plan To Reopen America Being Released Thursday.

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ABC News reports:

President Donald Trump’s plan to re-open the American economy after a near-total shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic consists of three graduated phases, according to a copy of the proposed actions obtained by ABC News.

Trump unveiled the plan in a video conference call with the nation’s governors on Thursday afternoon. The state leaders were instructed that they could move through the guidelines at their own pace and that the guidelines are not formal orders from the federal government, according to a person familiar with the call.

“Phase one” calls on employers to telework where possible, return to work in phases, minimize non-essential travel and make accommodations for the vulnerable populations within the workforce. It calls on all vulnerable individuals to “shelter in place,” and when in public, all individuals should continue social distancing.

However, a critical piece to this is the “gating criteria” that all states and regions should achieve before they can move on to phase one. This includes a “downward trajectory” of reported “influenza-like illnesses,” “covid-like syndromic cases” and “documented cases” or “positive tests as a percent of total tests” within a 14-day period, as well as the ability for hospitals to “treat all patients without crisis care” and have a “robust testing program in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.”

In “phase two,” non-essential travel for employers can resume. Schools and organized youth activity can reopen. Bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with proper social distancing measures in places. Churches can open with social distancing. Elective surgeries can resume.

The third phase says bars, gyms and large venues can reopen with limited social distancing and proper sanitation.

The president described the guidelines “as a bit of a negotiation,” a source said.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Preview the Trump Adminstration US reopening plan here or below.

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U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.

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LONDON (AP) — U.K. government extends national lockdown for at least three more weeks to slow country’s coronavirus outbreak.

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Bernie Sanders Suspends Presidential Campaign

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.

The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November. 

Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday.

Sanders initially exceeded sky-high expectations about his ability to recreate the magic of his 2016 presidential bid, and even overcame a heart attack last Octoberon the campaign trail. But he found himself unable to convert unwavering support from progressives into a viable path to the nomination amid “electability” fears fueled by questions about whether his democratic socialist ideology would be palatable to general election voters.

The 78-year-old senator began his latest White House bid facing questions about whether he could win back the supporters who chose him four years ago as an insurgent alternative to the party establishment’s choice, Hillary Clinton. Despite winning 22 states in 2016, there were no guarantees he’d be a major presidential contender this cycle, especially as the race’s oldest candidate.

Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small. 

Sanders amassed the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, which opened primary voting, and cruised to an easy victory in Nevada — seemingly leaving him well positioned to sprint to the Democratic nomination while a deeply crowded and divided field of alternatives sunk around him. 

But a crucial endorsement of Biden by influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and a subsequent, larger-than-expected victory in South Carolina, propelled the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of 14 states.

In a matter of days, his top former Democratic rivals lined up and announced their endorsement of Biden. The former vice president’s campaign had appeared on the brink of collapse after New Hampshire but found new life as the rest of the party’s more moderate establishment coalesced around him as an alternative to Sanders.

Things only got worse the following week when Sanders lost Michigan, where he had campaigned hard and upset Clinton in 2016. He was also beaten in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho the same night and the results were so decisive that Sanders headed to Vermont without speaking to the media.

Sanders had scheduled a rally in Ohio but canceled it amid fears about the spread of coronavirus — and the outbreak kept him home as his campaign appeared unsure of its next move. The senator addressed reporters the following day, but also sounded like a candidate who already knew he’d been beaten. 

“While our campaign has won the ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability,” Sanders said then.

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