Apr 11, 2019

Top Democrats send letter to Barr questioning his independence

Top Democrats in both the Senate and House sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr on Thursday reiterating their demands for him to release the full, unredacted Mueller report to Congress — while also condemning him for comments he made on Wednesday suggesting that intelligence officials "spied" on the Trump campaign in 2016.

"[W]e would be remiss not to express profound concern about your comments before the Senate Appropriations Committee regarding your apparent view of the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Your testimony raises questions about your independence, appears to perpetuate a partisan narrative designed to undermine the work of the Special Counsel, and serves to legitimize President Trump's dangerous attacks on the Department of Justice and the FBI."

The backdrop: Attorney General Bill Barr told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday that he believes spying by law enforcement officials on the 2016 Trump campaign "did occur," before clarifying at the end of the hearing: "I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I am saying that I am concerned about it and I’m looking into it."

  • Defenders of President Trump have long accused Obama-era intelligence officials of spying on the Trump campaign for political reasons, alleging that intelligence tools, like the FISA process, were abused. These claims have not been corroborated.

Go deeper

O'Brien rejects intelligence report of Russia effort to re-elect Trump

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. Photo: Chris Usher/CBS via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien repeatedly rejected on ABC's "This Week" an assessment from a congressional briefing led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help President Trump get re-elected.

Why it matters: The report put the Trump administration under fresh scrutiny in regard to steps it has been taking to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. encountered in 2016.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 26 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Italy becomes site of largest coronavirus outbreak outside of Asia

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations as South Korea and Italy step up emergency measures in their countries amid rising case numbers on Sunday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed at least 2,462 people and infected almost 79,000 others, mostly in mainland China. South Korea increased the infectious disease alert to red, the highest possible, as its case numbers jumped to 602 and the death toll to five. Italy's government announced emergency measures as it confirmed a spike from three to 132 cases in matter of days, making it the largest outbreak outside of Asia.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health

Iranian state TV: Hardliners win landslide victory in low-turnout election

Photo: Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iranian state TV announced Sunday that hardliners won a landslide victory in the country's parliamentary elections two days ago, including all 30 seats in Tehran, AP reports.

Why it matters: Voter turnout in the election only reached 42.57%, according to Iran's interior ministry, the first time turnout dipped below 50% since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The low turnout may signal dissatisfaction with the Iranian government and the election system.

Go deeperArrow2 hours ago - World