President Trump can (and did) make Preet Bharara vacate his office as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York — firing him on Saturday after Bharara refused to resign. But he can't make him go quietly.
By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like.
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) March 12, 2017
The Moreland Commission was set up by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in July 2013 to investigate corruption in state politics — then abruptly disbanded by Cuomo in March 2014 after, The New York Times reports, "Cuomo had hobbled its work, intervening when it focused on groups with ties to the governor or on issues that might reflect poorly on him." Bharara — who successfully prosecuted more than two dozen New York politicians of both parties for corruption, including the leaders of the state Assembly and state Senate — looked into Cuomo's handling of the Moreland Commission but ultimately concluded there was not enough evidence to prove a federal crime.
So Bharara's tweet on Sunday suggests that he was fired while he was investigating either Trump or his allies. On Sunday's This Week, House Government Oversight Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) touched on that possibility:
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) March 12, 2017
Without clarification from Bharara, there's only speculation as to what he meant. Bharara had a lot of enemies and critics: on Wall Street, in government, abroad — the leaders of Russia and Turkey had targeted him — and at Fox News, which Bharara was reportedly investigating, along with its former chief, Roger Ailes. The top name floated to replace Bharara is Marc Mukasey, a white-collar defense lawyer who once worked as a prosecutor in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office; he's also the son of former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and a member of Ailes' legal team.
CNN's Jeffrey Toobin also noted on Saturday night that Bharara "has been involved in a lot of investigations that are at least peripherally related to Donald Trump," apparently including "some investigations that involve the Trump Organization and Russia." The ongoing investigations in Bharara's office are expected to continue with minimal interruption under career prosecutors, at least for now.
A White House aide criticized Bharara's refusal to resign, telling The Wall Street Journal that all 46 sacked U.S. attorneys were treated in the same way and "45 of the 46 behaved in a manner befitting the office," while "Preet wants everything to be about Preet." Reached for comment, Bharara responded: "It was my understanding that the president himself has said anonymous sources are not to be believed." Peter Weber
He declared the Democratic counter-memo, published earlier that day, "really fraudulent" and its congressional authors worthy of investigation. Trump specifically targeted for critique Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who oversaw the counter-memo's creation and release, labeling him a "bad guy."
On guns, the president again proposed arming teachers as an antidote to school shootings. A mass shooter would be deterred by "some offensive power in there," Trump said, while "a gun-free zone is like target practice" and beloved of "bad guys."
And though he insisted "the generals would love" a military parade, the president seemed to back off from the idea by noting it could be too expensive. "We'll see if we can do it at a reasonable cost," he said. "If we can't, we won't do it." A Military Times poll found nine in 10 readers believed the parade is "a waste of money and troops are too busy."
Watch two excerpts of the interview below. Bonnie Kristian
President @realDonaldTrump on Dem FISA memo: "A lot of bad things happened on the other side, not on this side, but the other side. And somebody should look into it because what they did was really fraudulent." pic.twitter.com/PgEyKLAYEM
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 25, 2018
President @realDonaldTrump on gun legislation: "Perhaps we'll do something on age...it doesn't seem to make sense that you have to wait [until] you're 21 years old to get a pistol but to get a gun like [Nikolas Cruz] used in the school, you get that at 18." pic.twitter.com/hNAni2iIot
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 25, 2018
Mexico's president reportedly changed his mind about visiting the White House after talking to Trump
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto scrapped plans to visit Washington in February or March after an argumentative phone call with President Trump on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported Saturday night, citing officials from both countries.
Trump reportedly "lost his temper" in a discussion of his unrealized pledge to build an extensive wall along the United States' southern border with Mexican funding. "Trump believed it was unreasonable for Peña Nieto to expect him to back off his crowd-pleasing campaign promise of forcing Mexico to pay for the wall," American officials reportedly told the Post.
Also at issue, the Post story says, is Peña Nieto's dissatisfaction with Trump's refusal to commit to a meeting agenda that will avoid embarrassment. A column in Mexico's El Horizonte newspaper on Friday likewise said the Trump's "volatility" and the "lack of certainty about his commitments and actions" makes the Mexican president wary of a public conversation.
The North Korean delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, indicated "North Korea is willing to have talks with the U.S., and the North agrees that inter-Korean relations and North Korea-U. S. relations should advance together," said a statement from South Korea's presidential administration Sunday. South Korean President Moon Jae-in "pointed out the urgency to hold dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. in order to fundamentally the resolve the issues on the Korean Peninsula and to improve inter-Korean relations," the statement reported.
In a public statement earlier Sunday, however, the North Korean regime condemned the United States' latest round of sanctions against North Korea, announced Friday. "The two Koreas have cooperated together and the Olympics was held successfully," Pyongyang said via state-run media, "but the U.S. brought the threat of war to the Korean peninsula with large-scale new sanctions."
President Trump has repeatedly expressed an interest in direct negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. However, he frequently vacillates toward more aggressive rhetoric. On Friday, he suggested that if these sanctions fail, he will move on to an unspecified "Phase 2" which could be "rough" and "very unfortunate for the world." Bonnie Kristian
Trump declares House Democrats' counter-memo 'a nothing' — while claiming it proves surveillance abuses against his campaign
House Intelligence Committee Democrats on Saturday published their counter to the Nunes memo, a controversial document compiled under Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee chair, and released earlier this year.
The Nunes memo alleges the FBI acquired FISA court permission to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page using the Steele dossier, which was created with funding from a Clinton campaign lawyer, not telling the court the information's source.
The new memo defends the FBI, claiming the agency was conducting its own probe of the Trump campaign for seven weeks before obtaining the Steele dossier. The dossier was only narrowly used in the surveillance application, the counter-memo says, with proper identification of its political provenance.
President Trump promptly denounced the counter-memo, calling it "a nothing" and "really fraudulent" in a Fox News interview Saturday night. On Twitter, he misquoted Fox to attack Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who oversaw the counter-memo's creation and release. He also declared the counter-memo proves his own campaign's persecution. "Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done," Trump wrote. "SO ILLEGAL!"
Read the counter-memo below. Bonnie Kristian
Syrian government strikes have killed some 500 civilians, including about 120 children, over the course of a week in the East Ghouta suburb of Damascus, reports the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The activist group says Russian planes are assisting with the attacks, but Russia denies direct engagement.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces reportedly used barrel bombs and artillery shells to target the area where some 400,000 people have no option of escape. Civilians are "being forced into bunkers and many of them can't even find the time to bury their dead," reports NPR's Lama Al-Arian. The Assad regime says its goal is to liberate civilians from a nearby rebel enclave.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is pushing for a U.N. resolution implementing a 30-day ceasefire so humanitarian aid can be delivered to East Ghouta. "I am deeply saddened by the terrible suffering of the civilian population," he said, describing the situation as "hell on Earth." If the resolution passes — Moscow is demanding edits in exchange for its support — its prospects for enforcement are dubious.
Delta and United Airlines on Saturday announced they are cutting ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Delta is reaching out to the NRA to let them know we will be ending their contract for discounted rates through our group travel program. We will be requesting that the NRA remove our information from their website.
— Delta (@Delta) February 24, 2018
United is notifying the NRA that we will no longer offer a discounted rate to their annual meeting and we are asking that the NRA remove our information from their website.
— United Airlines (@united) February 24, 2018
The airlines join the Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Alamo, and National car rental brands as well as First National Bank of Omaha, Best Western hotels, MetLife insurance, and more than a dozen other companies in ending deals with the NRA. Delta previously offered discounted airfare for NRA members, and United offered discounts on flights to and from the organization's annual conference.
Companies are distancing themselves from the NRA in response to outrage following last week's mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school. Customer responses to the tweeted announcements were predictably mixed. Bonnie Kristian
A daring squirrel narrowly cheated death Saturday while attempting to sprint across the course of the women's parallel giant slalom competition at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Austrian snowboarder Daniela Ulbing just barely maneuvered around the animal, which appeared to reconsider its choices after she passed. Watch the squirrel's moment of destiny below. Bonnie Kristian
WATCH OUT SQUIRREL. pic.twitter.com/rtQ94MQeDj
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 24, 2018