March 2, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that he will recuse himself from "any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States" following reports that he had twice spoken with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 election.

Sessions, when asked during his Senate confirmation hearing about contact between President Trump's campaign and Russia, said under oath he "did not have communications with the Russians." Sessions sometimes served as a campaign surrogate for Trump. He has defended his response in light of recent reports, noting he met with Kislyak in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and not on Trump's behalf.

On Thursday, Sessions said his answer was "honest and correct as I understood it at the time." President Trump said he had "total confidence" in Sessions and that he should not have to recuse himself from investigations of the Trump administration's ties to Russia. Jeva Lange

7:09 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden pitched his "Buy American" plan Thursday in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, which his campaign says would create at least five million jobs in manufacturing and innovation.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's plan narrows restrictions on what can be considered an American-made good and calls for investing $400 billion in manufacturing and $300 billion in research and development for several diverse industries, Politico reports. "America can't sit on the sidelines in the race of the future," Biden said. "The Chinese are spending multiple billions of dollars trying to own the technology of the future while we sit with our thumb in our ear."

Biden said President Trump has been all talk and no action, and "after three-and-a-half years of big promises, what do the American people have to show for all of the talk? He promised health care, a health care plan, but never even offered his own bill as he continues to try to wipe out Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic." While Trump has spent the coronavirus crisis "almost singularly focused on the stock market," Biden promises that if elected, he will be "laser focused on working families." Catherine Garcia

5:47 p.m.

The forced resignation turned firing of former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman wasn't the first time Attorney General William Barr tried to push Berman out of his job, he says.

Barr announced last month that Berman had resigned from his job, and, after Berman said he hadn't done so, Barr had Trump fire Berman at his direction. Berman gave written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday telling his side of the story, and it reveals a deeper campaign to get Berman out of office, Politico reports.

Berman got an unexpected message from Barr on June 18, and had a 45-minute meeting with the attorney general the next day, Berman's testimony reads. "The attorney general began the meeting by saying that he wanted to make a change in the Southern District of New York," Berman wrote, and suggested Berman take a job in the Justice Department's Civil Division. Barr wanted to slot Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Jay Clayton into the role, Berman testified.

"I responded that I loved my job and my colleagues at the Southern District," and that "there were important investigations in the Office that I wanted to see through to completion," Berman continued. But Barr's prodding didn't stop, and eventually he said Berman would be fired if he didn't step down, Berman wrote. Berman then left the meeting and prepared to take legal action if he was ousted.

Berman, a Trump appointee, previously led the investigation into hush-money payments made to two women who alleged affairs with Trump, as well as probes into other Trump associates. He was also heading the investigation into financier and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:18 p.m.

Former CDC Director Thomas Freidan and Education Secretary Arne Duncan of the Obama administration, along with former President George W. Bush's Education Secretary Margaret Spelling, teamed up for an article in The Atlantic weighing in on how to safely reopen schools. "We need to reopen schools this fall," the officials argue, and go on to list eight very specific steps to ensure doing so doesn't "backfire."

The officials start by acknowledging "severe illness from COVID-19 in children is rare." That's why it's more important to focus on "how well communities control the coronavirus throughout the community," and how schools fit into that puzzle. And to be sure, "in places where the virus is spreading explosively," reopening may not be possible for a while.

But where it is, schools should start by "shielding the most vulnerable" and keeping at-risk students and staff at home. For those who are at school, we should "reduce risk wherever possible" by cutting certain high-risk activities like team sports and choir. Barring nonessential visits will help "keep the virus out," the officials say, and wearing masks is essential. Class sizes will also need to shrink, perhaps into smaller "pods" and split schedules that "reduce mixing among students and staff" and "reduce occupancy" as a whole. "New health and safety protocols" will be key, and above all else, schools need to "prepare for cases" and be ready to close at any time.

But as Brown University Economics Professor Emily Oster noted to NPR on Thursday morning, all of those things will take supplies and money that many public schools simply don't have. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:09 p.m.

Kylie Jenner might be busy ignoring California's nonessential travel ban, having popped over to Utah with her friends, but you can rest assured that she's taking all precautions.

Late Wednesday, Jenner posted photos of herself wearing an elaborate, beaded outfit made from thousands of "healing crystals." According to the designer, Erika Maish, who spoke with British Vogue, the "tangerine quartz" ensemble "symbolizes perseverance and strength" and "promotes creativity and acceptance of change," which sounds helpful during a raging national health catastrophe.


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special kind of energy.

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Maish added that her collection "explores this archetype of people leaving the city trying to find themselves in nature and new-age living," to say nothing of people leaving their states against the recommendations of their local governments. Jeva Lange

5:04 p.m.

All I want for Christmas is … Mariah Carey's memoir. Thankfully, no one will have to wait quite that long: On Thursday, "the greatest female artist of all time" announced that her memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, will finally be released on September 29, People reports.

"It took me a lifetime to have the courage and the clarity to write my memoir. I want to tell the story of the moments — the ups and downs, the triumphs and traumas, the debacles and the dreams, that contributed to the person I am today," Carey wrote on Instagram, adding that "it's been impossible to communicate the complexities and depths of my experience in any single magazine article or 10-minute television interview."

Are you obsessed yet? You can preorder a copy here. Jeva Lange

4:10 p.m.

President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, managed to avoid falling for one of Sacha Baron Cohen's pranks just weeks after the Who Is America? star successfully duped a crowd at a far-right rally into a racist sing-along.

On Wednesday, Giuliani was invited for an "interview," supposedly about the administration's response to COVID-19, when "a guy comes running in, wearing a crazy, what I would say was a pink transgender outfit," Giuliani recounted to Page Six. "It was a pink bikini, with lace, underneath a translucent mesh top, it looked absurd. He had the beard, bare legs, and wasn't what I would call distractingly attractive."

Giuliani didn't immediately recognize Cohen, and called the police, but later said he "felt good" because he didn't fall for the prank. "I am a fan of some of his movies, Borat in particular, because I've been to Kazakhstan," Giuliani explained. Jeva Lange

4:08 p.m.

The Justice Department has changed its mind on Roger Stone's coming imprisonment.

Stone, an ally of President Trump convicted of seven felony counts in charges stemming from the Mueller investigation, previously requested to delay the start of his prison term for 60 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. DOJ prosecutors in Stone's case backed his request initially, but reversed that in a Thursday court filing.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed to a two-week pushback of Stone's sentence in late June, but denied the delay until Sept. 3 that Stone had requested. Stone's lawyers then appealed the decision to a higher court. Federal prosecutors said in their Thursday filing that they supported Jackson's denial of Stone's request, and asked the appeals court to back up her decision.

Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison earlier this year for witness tampering and making false statements to Congress, among other charges. His lawyers sought to push back the start date of that sentence, citing "the COVID-19 pandemic and the medically documented life-threatening health risks that Stone would face if incarcerated at this time."

Facebook announced Wednesday it took down dozens of accounts, pages, and Instagram accounts it found to be connected to Stone, largely claiming he is innocent of his crimes. Kathryn Krawczyk

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