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We’re covering President Trump’s clemency decisions and China’s encouraging numbers in the coronavirus outbreak. We’re also looking ahead to tonight’s Democratic debate, the first to include Michael Bloomberg.
President Trump says he’s the law of the land
Calling himself “the chief law enforcement officer of the country,” the president on Tuesday renewed his attacks on the criminal justice system, demanded a new trial for his friend Roger Stone, and granted clemency to several white-collar criminals.
By the end of the day, Attorney General William Barr was said to be considering resignation, though the Justice Department denied such suggestions. The attorney general said last week that Mr. Trump was making his work “impossible,” and the president agreed with him on Tuesday, saying: “I do make his job harder. I do agree with that. I think that’s true.”
White House officials said Mr. Trump had followed recommendations from friends, celebrities and campaign donors in granting full pardons or commutations to 11 people. (A commutation makes a punishment milder without wiping out the underlying conviction.)
The details: The Supreme Court has ruled that presidents have unlimited authority to grant pardons for federal crimes. Here’s a full list of those who received clemency on Tuesday. Among them are Michael Milken, the Wall Street financier and so-called junk bond king of the 1980s, and Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor who essentially tried to sell the Senate seat that Barack Obama vacated after he was elected president.
Perspective: In the years since Mr. Milken was convicted of securities fraud, influential friends have portrayed him as a maverick crushed by the establishment. Not so, says our business columnist James Stewart, who wrote a book about Mr. Milken.
Spread of coronavirus in China appears to slow
The Chinese authorities reported today that, for the second day in a row, there were fewer than 2,000 new cases of the virus. The number hadn’t fallen below that threshold since Jan. 30, but public health officials have warned against excessive optimism.
Also today, hundreds of passengers began leaving a cruise ship in Japan after the end of a two-week quarantine. More than 540 people aboard the ship had tested positive for the virus. Here are the latest updates from around the world and maps of where the virus has spread.
Go deeper: As it works to contain the epidemic, China has sidelined groups that the Communist Party considers rivals. Our columnist writes: “Beijing has shown the world that it can shut down entire cities, build a hospital in 10 days and keep 1.4 billion people at home for weeks. But it has also shown a glaring weakness that imperils lives and threatens efforts to contain the outbreak: It is unable to work with its own people.”
Another angle: China said today that it would revoke the credentials of three Wall Street Journal reporters, after officials objected to a headline this month in the newspaper’s opinion pages: “China Is the Real Sick Man of Asia.”
Michael Bloomberg’s debate debut
Tonight is the ninth Democratic presidential debate, but it will be the first to include the former New York mayor, who has been rising in recent polls. The debate, held in Las Vegas ahead of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, starts at 9 p.m. Eastern. Here’s what to watch for.
News analysis: “After a mass introduction to the Democratic electorate on his terms, powered by hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money, Mr. Bloomberg is submitting for the first time to an uncontrolled setting on a national scale,” our political reporter Matt Flegenheimer writes. “This does not necessarily play to his strengths.”
Another angle: Bernie Sanders’s campaign said it would request a recount of the results in Iowa after the state’s Democratic Party said it had completed a partial recanvass, changing results in 29 precincts but shifting no national delegates.
If you have 9 minutes, this is worth it
The iPhone at the deathbed
In a collision of technology and culture, of new habits and very old ones, we are beginning to photograph our dead again. Such images may feel jarring on social media, but they have a long history. Above, the late Robert Alexander and his sister Kary Manzanares.
For families like Mr. Alexander’s who are choosing home funerals and eschewing the services of conventional funeral parlors, photography is a celebration of that choice.
Here’s what else is happening
Europe’s plans for tech: The European Union today outlined an attempt to restore what officials called “technological sovereignty,” amid concern that the region is overly dependent on services provided by companies based elsewhere.
Disputed result in Afghanistan: President Ashraf Ghani was declared the winner of the country’s presidential vote after months of delayed results. Hours later, his leading challenger also claimed victory. The dispute comes on the verge of a U.S. peace deal with the Taliban.
Snapshot: Above, civilians fleeing toward Turkey last week from Idlib, the last opposition-controlled province in Syria. About 900,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled their homes since December as the Syrian government tries to seize the area. “It’s like the end of the world,” one relief worker said.
What we’re reading: This joint undercover investigation by Correctiv and Frontal21, two German news outlets, into the Heartland Institute, an American organization that promotes the denial of climate science. Our climate reporter John Schwartz calls it fascinating.
Now, a break from the news
Jan Ransom had a lot of early starts. Now, she’s waiting for a verdict in the Weinstein case, but during the trial, the line to enter the courtroom in Manhattan Criminal Court stretched down the block by 6 a.m. Once the day’s proceedings began, around 9:30 a.m., she listened closely all day, every day, watching the movie producer’s facial expressions, noting the testimony of the witnesses and recording the reactions of the jury.
In many federal courthouses, cellphones, laptops and recording devices are not permitted, which means reporters must often take notes by hand, then call their editors or other reporters to relay the news.
“You’re back to being a reporter from the 1950s,” said John Schwartz, a Times reporter who previously worked as the legal correspondent for the National desk. “You phone it in and compose it in your head and provide that first bit of information just as quick as you can.”
There are often hours of proceedings that can include long exchanges between lawyers and the judge. Skilled reporters are able to discern important developments.
“It’s 99 percent tedium,” said Ben Weiser, who has covered the Manhattan federal courts for The Times for many years. “But you have to be listening and then suddenly someone will say something, and that will be your lead.”
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. Katie Van Syckle wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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