Attorney General William Barr has faced escalating scrutiny this week as his Department of Justice lowered an initial sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, who was convicted in November of witness tampering as well as lying to and obstructing Congress. The DOJ intervened after prosecutors initially recommended seven to nine years, saying they would seek a shorter sentence just hours after President Trump tweeted deriding the seven to nine year recommendation. Perceived DOJ interference prompted four prosecutors to leave the case and one to resign from his position as a federal prosecutor. Over 1,100 former prosecutors submitted a letter calling for Barr’s resignation in the wake of this event.
A public feud between Barr and Trump has drawn attention this week to the relationship between the president and his DOJ. Barr was criticized during the Mueller probe for not recusing himself from the Mueller special counsel investigation. While some see Barr as a staunch Trump ally, Barr lashing out at the president’s tweets has been alternately perceived as either real frustration at presidential interference or a mere attempt to preserve an image of DOJ independence.
The coronavirus death toll has risen to over 1,700 people, and over 70,000 have reportedly been infected. The virus has spread mostly within China, but other countries are seeing cases arise as well. A cruise ship with over 300 Americans on it had been quarantined off the coast of Japan for potential contamination, and the U.S. government decided to fly those Americans to the U.S. to military bases. Fourteen of these Americans tested positive for coronavirus, bringing confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. to 29.
The House passed a resolution on Thursday removing the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The amendment, which originally passed the House and Senate in 1971 and 1972, respectively, asserts that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied… on account of sex.” In 1972, Congress set 1982 as the deadline for 38 states to ratify the amendment to put it into effect. Virginia only became the 38th state to ratify in January of this year. Thus, this House resolution seeks to retroactively eliminate the 1982 deadline so that the ERA can become law.
Russia and the Assad regime have escalated bombing in the last rebel enclave of Idlib in Syria, and the Syrian government has asserted near complete control over the region of Aleppo. This escalation comes after Syrian troops killed eight Turkish soldiers last week, pitting Russia and Turkey against each other in a proxy-style conflict. Negotiations are set to occur between Turkish and Russian leaders on Monday, with the deescalation of violence on the agenda.
Finally, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has gained momentum in the Democratic primary race. Several congressional candidates that he has previously given money to have come out in support of him, and he is using his vast personal wealth to fund a flurry of TV ads and even meme content. For more news and updates about the presidential primary and campaign season, check out the 2020 Fever podcast from NBN here.