Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 19, 2019

Harold Maass
Sen. Bernie Sanders in Arizona
Ralph Freso/Getty Images
Our '10 things you need to
know' newsletter
Your free email newsletter subscription is confirmed. Thank you for subscribing!


16 states sue over Trump's national emergency declaration

California and 15 other states on Monday filed a lawsuit to challenge President Trump's declaration of a national emergency on the Mexican border. Trump said Friday he was declaring the emergency to free up money needed to build his promised border wall. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Trump was overstepping his authority by trying to sidestep Congress, which, in a deal to prevent a government shutdown, gave the president just a fraction of the $5.7 billion he was demanding for the wall. "The president admitted that there's not a basis for the declaration," Becerra said. "He's now trying to rob funds that were allocated by Congress legally to the various states and people of our states." [NBC News]


Bernie Sanders announces he's running for president again in 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced early Tuesday that he is running for president in 2020, joining an increasingly crowded field of nearly a dozen candidates vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge President Trump. "We began the political revolution in the 2016 campaign, and now it's time to move that revolution forward," Sanders told Vermont Public Radio. Sanders also sent out a campaign email. "I'm running for president because, now more than ever, we need leadership that brings us together — not divides us up," he said in the email to supporters. Sanders called Trump a "pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction." [USA Today]


Trump issues ultimatum to Venezuelan military leaders

President Trump on Monday called on Venezuela's military to get behind opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, warning of dire consequences if the armed forces continue to back President Nicolas Maduro. "You will find no safe harbor, no easy exit, and no way out. You will lose everything," Trump said, referring to Venezuelan military leaders in a speech at Florida International University in Miami. "We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open." Maduro, who started a second term last month despite allegations he won re-election by fraud, said Trump tried to give orders to Venezuela's military in an "almost Nazi style." "Who is the commander of the armed forces, Donald Trump from Miami?" Maduro said. [The Associated Press]


Protesters slam Trump's national emergency declaration

Demonstrators gathered in dozens of cities across the U.S., including Washington, D.C., and Chicago, on Monday's Presidents Day holiday to protest President Trump's declaration of a national emergency on the Mexican border. Activists called Trump's declaration, which he made to free up money to fund his border wall, amounted to an abuse of power trampling on Congress' authority to decide how taxpayer money is spent. Trump said the wall is necessary to curb illegal immigration and drug smuggling, but protesters said Trump was manufacturing a crisis for political purposes. "We disagree with the state of emergency declared by the president and stand with our immigrant colleagues and friends," said Darcy Regan, executive director of Indivisible Chicago, which organized that city's protest. [Reuters]


Trump says Rosenstein was involved in 'treasonous' coup talk

President Trump on Monday accused Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of "illegal and treasonous" activity after former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said he and Rosenstein had discussed the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. "Wow, so many lies by now disgraced acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. He was fired for lying, and now his story gets even more deranged," Trump tweeted. "He and Rod J. Rosenstein, who was hired by Jeff Sessions (another beauty), look like they were planning a very illegal act, and got caught." Trump's comments came after McCabe, who is promoting his book ahead of its Tuesday release, appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday. Rosenstein, who appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is expected to step down in March. [The Washington Post, Reuters]


N.C. elections chief: GOP operative ran ballot 'scheme' in contested race

North Carolina's elections director, Kim Strach, said Monday that a Republican operative oversaw an illegal absentee-ballot "scheme" aiming to benefit a GOP congressional candidate in last year's midterm elections. The GOP candidate, Mark Harris, led his Democratic rival, Dan McCready, by 905 votes, but election officials have refused to certify the election. Strach's testimony came at the start of a state elections board hearing on suspicions that mail-in ballots were tampered with in the 9th congressional district race. The first session of the hearing, which is expected to last days and determine whether to certify the election or hold a new one, did not produce evidence that Harris knew about the efforts of the operative, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. [The Associated Press, The New York Times]


Roger Stone apologizes for Instagram post with crosshairs near federal judge

Roger Stone late Monday took down an Instagram post with a crosshairs symbol next to the head of U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the judge overseeing his criminal case in Washington, D.C., and filed a notice of apology with the court. The photo and comment were "improper," he acknowledged, and he "recognizes the impropriety and had it removed." In the post's caption, Stone, a longtime Republican operative and adviser to President Trump, wrote that Special Counsel Robert Mueller used "legal trickery" to ensure that his criminal trial for lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction went before Berman Jackson. He said in a subsequent post that he did not intend to threaten the judge. [BuzzFeed News]


5 Americans arrested on weapons charges in Haiti

Five Americans have been arrested in Haiti on charges that they had illegal weapons, Haiti Foreign Minister Bocchit Edmond confirmed Monday. The Americans, along with a Russian, a Serb, and a Haitian national were arrested at a police checkpoint near the Caribbean island nation's central bank. They reportedly had assault rifles, pistols, bulletproof vests, and drones. The U.S. embassy has issued a "do not travel" alert as the country is engulfed in protests calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise following corruption scandals and economic troubles. Demonstrators have blocked roads with burning tires and other debris, and clashed with police. [CNN, Bloomberg]


3rd migrant in 3 months dies in Border Control custody

A 45-year-old undocumented Mexican immigrant died Monday in Border Control custody. The case followed the deaths of two children from Guatemala, ages 7 and 8, in the agency's care in December. The immigrant was arrested by police in Roma, Texas, on Feb. 2 after crossing the border illegally. He requested medical attention and was examined at a local hospital. He "was cleared" by medical professionals and returned to the Rio Grande City Border Patrol Station, according to a Customs and Border Protection statement. The next day the immigrant requested medical attention again, and was taken to another hospital, receiving a diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure. He was kept in the hospital and died Monday. [USA Today]


Sailor in iconic WWII victory photo dies at 95

George Mendonsa, a World War II Navy quartermaster shown in an iconic Times Square V-J Day photograph commonly known as "The Kiss," has died at the age of 95. Mendonsa was on leave in New York City, in uniform, when Japan's surrender was announced. He went to a Times Square bar for a drink. When he left, he saw a young nurse. Giddy and remembering nurses who tended to wounded comrades, he took her in his arms, dipped her backwards, and kissed her. Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped a picture and it was published in Life magazine. The authors of The Kissing Sailor concluded the nurse, once thought to be Edith Shain, was Greta Zimmer Friedman, an Austrian-born Holocaust refugee and dental assistant. [The Washington Post]