Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: February 22, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Scott Olson/Getty Images


Report: Russia interfering in 2020 election to help Sanders campaign

U.S. officials told Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that Russia is interfering in the 2020 campaign to help him win the nomination, people familiar with the matter tell The Washington Post. President Trump and other lawmakers are also reportedly aware of the assistance, which is an apparent "effort to interfere with the Democratic contest." The Post didn't learn what kind of interference Russia was undertaking, but Russia did try to aid Sanders' 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton via social media. Sanders denounced Russian interference on anyone's behalf in a statement to the Post. Trump and the House Intelligence Committee reportedly learned earlier this week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 election to aid Trump's re-election. [The Washington Post]


Nevada Democrats take steps to prevent Iowa caucus repeat

Nevada Democrats are aiming to avoid a repeat of Iowa's vote counting problems by hiring a call center with 200 paid operators for Saturday's caucus, NBC News reports. The call center, which has dedicated reporting lines, will be used to take in results on Saturday. "We're taking no chances when it comes to reporting," a Nevada Democratic Party spokesperson said, adding that the extra phone lines should "ensure that our precinct chairs and site leads will be able to successfully report results on caucus day." The results from the Iowa caucuses were delayed after an app malfunctioned and phone lines became jammed. The Nevada caucuses will begin at 3 p.m. E.T. on Saturday. [NBC News]


WHO worried about coronavirus cases with no direct link to China

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Saturday the country is entering a "grave situation" after the number of coronavirus infections surged past 430, with more than 220 cases reported in 24 hours. More than half of the cases in South Korea are connected to the controversial religious group Shincheonji, whose members congregate in a way that puts them in close contact with one another for long periods of time. The World Health Organization announced it's worried about the number of cases outside of China, where the virus originated, including in South Korea, Iran, and Italy. Though the number remains small, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he's concerned specifically by the cases where there is no direct link to mainland China, such as travel or contact with a confirmed case. [CNN, The Washington Post]


Bloomberg says he'll release women from NDAs

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will release three women from the nondisclosure agreements he'd signed with them "to address complaints about comments they said I had made," his campaign announced Friday. His company "identified 3 NDAs that we signed over the past 30-plus years with women," and they will be released if they "contact the company." Bloomberg's choice is in no doubt influenced by Wednesday night's Democratic primary debate, where Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called on Bloomberg to release women from their NDAs. Bloomberg said those women didn't "accuse me of doing anything; maybe they didn't like the joke I told." Warren followed up by writing her own contract that Bloomberg could use to invalidate the NDAs and sharing it publicly on Thursday. [Politico, Michael Bloomberg]


U.S., Taliban truce takes effect

A reduction in violence agreement between the United States and the Taliban went into effect early Saturday in Afghanistan, and the U.S. has halted offensive operations. If it's successful, the week-long truce will be followed by a peace accord, scheduled to be signed Feb. 29 between the two sides, wrapping up the 18-year conflict. After that, the Afghan government plans to launch its own negotiations with the Taliban. But U.S. military officials do not anticipate a smooth process. It will reportedly be challenging to determine if any attacks in the next week will breach the truce because of the decentralized nature of the Taliban's operations. U.S. officials said Washington, Kabul, and the Taliban will maintain a channel to discuss any issues, such as allowing the Taliban to deny responsibility for an attack. [The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal]


Trump reportedly wants Bolton's book publication halted

President Trump is telling his staff he wants to block the publication of former National Security Adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book until after he leaves office, The Washington Post reports. The book, titled The Room Where It Happened, has a scheduled release date of March 17, but the National Security Council warned Bolton last month after reviewing his draft that it contains "significant amounts of classified information." Still, Bolton was told the council will try to make sure it gets published. Trump, on the other hand, has reportedly privately called Bolton a "traitor" and argues every conversation in the book between Bolton and Trump should be considered classified. [The Washington Post]


Supreme Court allows White House to move forward with immigrant 'wealth test'

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 Friday night to remove the final judicial order blocking the Trump administration's proposed "wealth test" for immigrants, making it easier to deny them residency or admission to the United States if they would depend on public assistance. A judge in Illinois had blocked the new standards, but the Supreme Court's decision dissolves the order. The court's conservative majority did not explain their reasoning behind the decision, as is common in emergency applications, and the liberal minority dissented. "It is hard to say, what is more troubling: that the government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the court would grant it," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote. [ The Washington Post, The New York Times]


Weinstein jury may be deadlocked on 2 charges

The jury in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial looks to be facing a potential deadlock on the two most serious charges against him. During the fourth day of deliberations on Friday, jurors asked what they should do if they can't reach a verdict on the two predatory sexual assault charges but can on the other three. Annabella Sciorra, who alleges Weinstein raped her in 1993 or 1994, testified to support these two charges, and it's her testimony that jurors have appeared to be focused on in recent days. The prosecution on Friday said they wouldn't accept a "partial verdict," and the judge instructed jurors to continue deliberations. Not long after, the jury was dismissed, with deliberations set to resume Monday. [Variety, The Hollywood Reporter]


South Sudan forms unity government

Rebel leader Riek Machar was sworn in as vice president Saturday in South Sudan as part of a unity government with rival President Salva Kiir. The two sides are hoping to end a years-long civil war that has led to at least 400,000 deaths and left millions of people homeless following the country's bloody conflict to secede from Sudan in 2011. Two previous peace attempts had failed, but key concessions were made last week which prompted the agreement. "This action signifies the official end of the war and we can now declare a new dawn in South Sudan," Kiir said at the ceremony. "Peace has come to stay, not to be shaken again ever in this nation." Still, analysts have cautioned it won't "drastically" change the young country and restoring peace remains a difficult task. [The Washington Post, Al Jazeera]


Friends reunion special officially announced for HBO Max

A Friends reunion special has been officially announced for WarnerMedia's upcoming streaming service, HBO Max, where the classic sitcom will also find its new home after its departure from Netflix. To be clear, this won't be a new episode of Friends, but rather an unscripted special in which the cast reunites on the soundstage where the series was shot for what's described as "a celebration of the beloved show." The special had previously been rumored, but it was officially confirmed on Friday. Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer are all on board, and Variety reports they'll each be paid at least $2.5 million. [WarnerMedia, Variety]