Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 15, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
Agnes Buzyn
ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Image


France reports 1st coronavirus death outside of Asia

An 80-year-old Chinese tourist infected with the coronavirus died Friday in France, French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn announced Saturday. The patient, who was not named, is believed to be the first person to die from the virus outside of Asia and the fourth outside mainland China. The man's daughter is also infected, but is expected to be discharged from the hospital soon. Meanwhile, the United States is planning to evacuate Americans from the cruise ship that has been quarantined for more than a week in Japan after at least 218 passengers tested positive for the virus. Overall, more than 66,000 people have been infected with — and more than 1,00 have died from — the virus across the globe, though the latest 24-hour period saw a dip in new cases. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]


Barr assigns outside prosecutor to review Flynn's case

Attorney General William Barr is having an outside prosecutor review the criminal case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The New York Times called it a "highly unusual" move that could "trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors." Barr has reportedly been installing outside prosecutors to review numerous politically-sensitive cases including that of the former Trump adviser, who in 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Since then, Flynn has been trying to change his plea to not guilty. Jeff Jensen of the office of the United States attorney in St. Louis is reportedly examining the Flynn case. [The New York Times]


DOJ: Andrew McCabe won't face criminal charges

The Justice Department said Friday that its investigation into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired in 2018 for allegedly lying to investigators about a disclosure to the media, has been dropped, and he will not face criminal charges. McCabe has alleged his firing was politically motivated, in a lawsuit last year claiming it was part of a "plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees" who weren't "politically loyal" to Trump. The Justice Department's inspector general concluded in a 2018 report McCabe "lacked candor" under oath when questioned by investigators about authorizing a media leak. McCabe denied intentionally lying to investigators. President Trump has repeatedly blasted McCabe on Twitter, writing in 2018 after the release of the inspector general's report, "He LIED! LIED! LIED!" [CNN, The New York Times]


Border Patrol agents will be deployed to sanctuary cities

The Trump administration will deploy 100 tactical Border Patrol officers in 10 cities across the U.S. between February and May to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, The New York Times reported Friday. The decision is part of the White House's battle against so-called sanctuary cities where local authorities often don't cooperate with Washington when it comes to handing over immigrants targeted for deportation. Border Patrol usually operates at the border, airports, and ports of entry, while ICE conducts arrests throughout the rest of the country, but the latter agency has argued sanctuary cities and immigration advocacy groups have made their jobs too difficult. Naureen Shah, a senior policy and advocacy counsel on immigrants' rights at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the deployment "will put lives at risk by further militarizing our streets." [The New York Times, NBC News]


Dozens killed in Mali attacks

At least 31 civilians and nine soldiers were killed in a series of attacks in central Mali, the government said Friday, though they did not say who carried out the violence. One attack took place in a village, where gunmen burned houses, crops, and livestock. Another took place at a military camp in the Gao region, where one soldier was killed. The other eight soldiers were reportedly killed in an ambush. Mali has been mired in turmoil for some time with much of the violence stemming from inter-ethnic conflict in the center of the country. Human Rights Watch said more than 450 civilians were killed in the region in 2019. [Al Jazeera, BBC]


9 Democratic senators formally call for Barr's resignation

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Friday formalized her call for the resignation of Attorney General William Barr. Following up on her Wednesday insistence that Barr resign over his apparent interference in the criminal case against Roger Stone, Warren led eight other Democratic senators in a formal letter calling for Barr's departure. "We are writing to express our alarm about and opposition to the unethical political intervention" by Barr and the Justice Department in the case of President Trump's longtime adviser Roger Stone, the senators, including fellow 2020 candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) claim in their letter to Barr. Trump tweeted his opposition to the prison sentence federal prosecutors recommended for Stone. The DOJ stepped in to lighten the recommendation, though Barr insisted Trump's tweets had nothing to do with it. [Sen. Elizabeth Warren]


U.S. increases tariffs on European aircraft imports

The U.S. said Friday it will increase tariffs from 10 percent to 15 percent on European Union-imported aircraft which will take effect March 18. The decision stems from a dispute over aircraft subsidies. The U.S.'s Trade Representative's Office said Washington would still like to negotiate a settlement with Brussels, but it may depend on whether the EU imposes its own tariffs. Brussels said it would also like to negotiate, but will not be pressured into bending to Washington's will, per Reuters. European planemaker Airbus said it was disappointed in the news and would try to "mitigate effects" of the tariffs "insofar as possible." The U.S., however, decided not to raise tariffs on a broader range of imports from the EU. [Reuters, The Financial Times]


Bill de Blasio will reportedly endorse Bernie Sanders

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, once a 2020 Democratic contender himself, will reportedly endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for the presidency, and will soon join him to campaign in Nevada. De Blasio campaigned on a progressive presidential platform of his own for a few months last year until dropping out. When exactly de Blasio plans to announce his endorsement is unclear, but he is reportedly expected to head to Nevada on Sunday to start campaigning around the country. This reported endorsement puts de Blasio at odds with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is running a more centrist 2020 campaign than Sanders. [Politico, The New York Times]


R. Kelly faces new sexual abuse allegation

R. Kelly was hit with a new allegation of sexual abuse on Friday as a superseding indictment in Chicago alleged Kelly sexually abused one minor for four years beginning in 1997. Kelly was already facing charges in four jurisdictions for his alleged decades of sexual abuse and was charged in Chicago last year. This indictment appears to remove a person from the list of Kelly's victims as it adds a new one, and also seeks the forfeiture of assets from Kelly's production company and the company of his business manager and co-defendant. The disgraced R&B star's attorney tweeted Friday that "we continue to fight for him and look forward to the day he is free." Kelly's original trial scheduled for April will now likely be delayed. [The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times]


Bryant headlines finalists in epic NBA Hall of Fame class

The late Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash last month, joined fellow NBA stars Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, as well WNBA legend Tamika Catchings as finalists for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. The four players are all but certain to be enshrined in Springfield officially after the Hall's Honors Committee votes. Bryant, Duncan, and Garnett, contemporaries who enjoyed many on-court battles against each other, comprise one of the strongest classes ever, Hall of Fame chair Jerry Colangelo said. Between the three of them, they have 11 championships and four MVP awards. Catchings was a 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist. [ESPN, NBA]