In our news wrap Thursday, Attorney General William Barr criticized public discussion of the Roger Stone case. Barr said in an interview that statements and tweets about Justice Department business “make it impossible” for him to do his job. Also, the Senate has voted to curb the president’s authority to attack Iran unless Congress approves it, but the vote fell short of a veto-proof majority.
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U.S. Attorney General William Barr is publicly upbraiding President Trump tonight over the Roger Stone case.
The president this week attacked federal prosecutors who wanted his longtime adviser to do up to nine years in prison for lying to Congress and witness tampering. Barr overruled the prosecutors and did recommend a lesser sentence.
But in an ABC News interview today, he called out Mr. Trump's actions.
Attorney General William Barr:
To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do my job.
Barr said the president never asked him to intervene in the Stone case, and he insisted that — quote — "I'm not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody."
Also today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi charged the president's actions amount to interfering with justice.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:
The president is again trying to manipulate federal law enforcement to serve his political interests. And the president is what he is. He thinks he's above the law. He has no respect for the rule.
But where are the Republicans to speak out on this blatant violation?
Meanwhile, Mr. Trump attacked his former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly today, saying he wasn't up to the job.
On Tuesday, Kelly said the president's phone call to the president of Ukraine asking him to investigate Joe Biden and his son was illegal.
The U.S. Senate voted today to curb the president's authority to attack Iran, unless Congress approves it. The resolution passed 55-45, far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a promised presidential veto. The House of Representatives approved its own resolution last month.
The U.S. Navy confirms it seized a large cache of Iranian-made weapons on Sunday. A statement says that a guided missile cruiser stopped a sailing vessel in the Arabian Sea and found the weapons. They included 150 anti-tank guided missiles and three surface-to-air missiles. They may have been bound for Shiite rebels in Yemen.
President Trump and top lieutenants talked up progress today toward making peace in Afghanistan. In a radio interview, Mr. Trump said that a deal with the Taliban could be very close.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that there's been a — quote — "breakthrough."
And, in Brussels, Defense Secretary Mark Esper suggested a temporary truce could be imminent.
Secretary Mark Esper:
The United States and the Taliban have negotiated a proposal for a seven-day reduction in violence. We have said all along that the best, if not only solution in Afghanistan, is a political agreement. Progress has been made on this front.
Some 13,000 American troops are stationed in Afghanistan.
The World Health Organization reports that the coronavirus outbreak is still spreading outside China, but slowly. That word comes as officials in China have reported a large jump, nearly 60,000 cases and almost 1,370 deaths, after they changed the way they account for infections.
Meanwhile, a 15th case has been confirmed here in the United States.
We will look at how the outbreak is rattling Chinese leadership later in the program.
Back in this country, the Trump administration is transferring another $3.8 billion in military funding to build a southern border wall. The Pentagon notified Congress today that the money will come from the National Guard and funds to buy aircraft and to build ships.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the transfer amounts to stealing.
Congressional Democrats moved today to revive the Equal Rights Amendment banning discrimination based on sex. They voted to remove the deadline for ratification. It expired in 1982, but Virginia recently voted to ratify, the 38th and final state needed.
Lawmakers today debated whether it is already too late.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif.:
The ERA is about building the America we want. It's about forming a more perfect union, because, simply put, there is no expiration date on equality.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga.:
House Democrats are trying to retroactively revive the failed constitutional amendment. Congress doesn't have the power to do that. Congress set the deadline, and it was passed. It didn't get approved. And now there is an end-run to go around that.
The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate may not take up the resolution, but the issue is already in the federal courts.
The state of Oklahoma plans to resume executions of condemned inmates. The practice was halted in 2015, after a series of botched lethal injections. Today, officials said they have secured a new supply of the necessary drugs. There are 47 inmates on Oklahoma's death row.
The newspaper industry has suffered another big blow. One of the nation's largest publishers, McClatchy, filed today for federal bankruptcy protection. The company owns 30 publications, including The Miami Herald, The Charlotte Observer and The Kansas City Star.
And, on Wall Street, worries about the coronavirus outbreak in China turned investors cautious. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 128 points to close at 29423. The Nasdaq fell 14 points, and the S&P 500 slipped five.