August 4, 2020

Lebanese officials believe Tuesday's enormous explosion in Beirut's port was likely caused by 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse, and Prime Minister Hassan Diab vowed that those "responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price."

The blast killed at least 78 people and injured nearly 4,000, Lebanon's health ministry said, with many people still missing. The explosion leveled buildings, flipped cars, and blew out windows, and was so strong that it registered as a 3.3 magnitude earthquake.

Beirut's hospitals, already under stress due to the coronavirus pandemic, are now overwhelmed by patients, and medical facilities are asking for blood donations and generators. The city's governor, Marwan Abboud, told reporters he has "never in my life seen damage this enormous ... this is a national catastrophe. This is a disaster for Lebanon."

Lebanon is experiencing high unemployment and poverty rates, and Diab has asked for international assistance. Several countries, including Egypt, Jordan, and the United Kingdom, have pledged to help, and so has Israel, a country with which Lebanon is still technically at war; the country said it offered the Lebanese government "via international intermediaries medical and humanitarian aid, as well as immediate emergency assistance." Catherine Garcia

11:51 a.m.

Former President Donald Trump worked with a Justice Department lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, on a plan to oust former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and have Clark replace him, The New York Times reports. The strategy reportedly stemmed from the fact that Rosen had rebuffed Trump's pleas to use the Justice Department's power to cast doubt on and ultimately overturn Georgia's presidential election results, though it likely would have been unsuccessful in achieving the latter goal.

Regardless, Trump reportedly held a meeting that two officials compared to an episode of The Apprentice because he had Rosen and Clark — who denies devising any plan to oust Rosen — make their separate cases to him. Rosen eventually won out after nearly three hours, the Times reports, largely due to an informal pact among other Justice Department officials who unanimously decided to resign should Rosen get dismissed. In addition to potential chaos at the Justice Department, though, Trump was also reportedly swayed by the idea that firing Rosen could lead to congressional investigations and recriminations from other Republicans. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

10:53 a.m.

Russian police have reportedly detained more than 1,000 people across the country who took to the streets in support of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, a top rival of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was detained last week when he returned to Moscow from Berlin, where he had spent months recovering from a poisoning allegedly carried out by Russia's FSB spy agency. He was handed a 30-day jail term.

Among those reportedly detained at Saturday's rallies was Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, who had previously said she's been under surveillance since her husband's arrest. She posted a picture of herself inside a police van to her Instagram account, while CNN reports a video on social media shows her being stopped by officers at the entrance to a metro station in Moscow and led to the van. Lyubov Sobol, a prominent activist and lawyer for Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, was also reportedly detained, per Deutsche Welle.

The demonstrations began in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok and spread west throughout the day, with protesters in some cities bracing frigid temperatures.

Reuters estimates 40,000 people gathered in central Moscow, where mass arrests reportedly began before the protest officially started, DW reports.

Still, the demonstrators remained on the street for what it appears to be one of the largest anti-Putin rallies in years. Read more at Deutsche Welle and CNN. Tim O'Donnell

8:42 a.m.

Larry King, the longtime radio and television broadcaster, died Saturday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his production studio and television network, Ora Media, announced. He was 87. No cause of death was given, but CNN previously reported that King had been hospitalized with COVID-19 earlier this month.

King is perhaps best-known for his 25-year run hosting CNN's nightly Larry King Live, which ran from 1985 to 2010, though he continued working after that.

The Associated Press estimates King conducted somewhere around 50,000 on-air interviews, which included guests from all walks of life. Per AP, he claimed he never prepared for his interviews, delivering them in a non-confrontational style that "relaxed his guests," many of whom reportedly sought out his show because of his "middle-of-the-road" stance. The statement from Ora Media said King "always viewed his interview subjects as the true stars of his programs, and himself as merely an unbiased conduit between the guest and the audience." Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

8:13 a.m.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Friday night set the timeline for former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

As expected, the House will send over the article of impeachment charging Trump with incitement of insurrection Monday at 7 p.m. ET. Senators will then be sworn in as members of the impeachment court on Tuesday, and then House impeachment managers and Trump's defense team will spend several days drafting their legal briefs while the Senate will continue with non-impeachment business before both sides begin their presentations the week of Feb. 8.

The GOP seems pleased with the scheduling agreement. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who opposes impeachment, said it's "fair to all concerned," and a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who seems open to voting to convict Trump, called it a "win for due process ... especially given the fast and minimal process in the House." Read more at CBS News and Axios. Tim O'Donnell

January 22, 2021

COVID-19 is spreading among the National Guard troops sent to protect the Capitol.

About 26,000 Guard members from every state were sent to the Capitol area after Trump supporters' Jan. 6 attack, and many have remained to protect the area in the week after President Biden's inauguration. Close to 200 of those soldiers have since tested positive for COVID-19, defense officials tell The Wall Street Journal. Hundreds more are quarantining in hotel rooms after being exposed to the virus, Politico reports.

Guard members who arrived in the days before the inauguration lined the halls of the Capitol to sleep between their 12-hour shifts. They didn't get coronavirus tests before arriving, one Guard member told Politico, saying "right after the holidays they packed us together like sardines in buses and rooms for this." And things got worse Thursday as Guard members were told to set up their base camps outside the Capitol complex — and take their breaks outside too — after Capitol Police seemingly removed them from the grounds. Dozens were relegated to rest in a parking garage Thursday night, packed close to rest once again.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle spent Thursday night and Friday morning pointing fingers over the garage situation and offered up their offices for naps. Biden apologized to National Guard Bureau head Daniel R. Hokanson in a Friday call, and first lady Jill Biden dropped off some cookies. The Guard members have since been allowed back inside the Capitol, but Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) did call his troops back home. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 22, 2021

Tom Brokaw is signing off at NBC.

The 80-year-old veteran journalist announced Friday he's retiring from NBC News after 55 years with the network, CNN and Deadline report.

"During one of the most complex and consequential eras in American history, a new generation of NBC News journalists, producers and technicians is providing America with timely, insightful and critically important information, 24/7," Brokaw said. "I could not be more proud of them."

Brokaw served as NBC Nightly News anchor for 22 years, from 1982 to 2004. He first joined NBC in 1966, according to CNN, and the network noted in a press release he "has spent his entire journalism career with NBC News" after getting his start in its Los Angeles Bureau.

Brokaw in 2018 faced allegations of sexual harassment from two women, which he denied. He has been continuing to serve as a special correspondent for the network. NBC says Brokaw "will continue to be active in print journalism, authoring books and articles, and spend time with his wife, Meredith, three daughters and grandchildren."

NBC News' Kasie Hunt paid tribute to Brokaw on Friday, writing, "I'm still in awe I had the chance to learn from him and am so incredibly grateful for the interest he took in my career and the advice he gave so freely," while CNN's Brian Stelter described this as the "end of an NBC News era." Brendan Morrow

January 22, 2021

President Biden has issued another two executive orders aimed at the coronavirus pandemic's economic fallout.

Millions of Americans have claimed unemployment insurance as they lost their jobs amid the pandemic, not to mention thousands of noncitizen workers who haven't been eligible for the benefits. Congress has so far passed two relief bills aimed at helping those who have lost their jobs, though many families are still struggling. Biden is pushing Congress to pass another $1.9 trillion stimulus program, but took initial and immediate relief steps Friday with another round of executive orders.

The first order would increase how much families are given through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program each week. About 12 million families rely on the program, and this order would boost food stamp benefits for a family of four by 15 percent, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese tells The New York Times. And while Biden has called for another round of $1,400 stimulus checks, this order would direct the IRS to ensure Americans are getting their $600 payments as well. Notably, the order will also let people claim unemployment benefits even if they quit their job because they feel unsafe working it during the pandemic, among other economic benefits aimed at low-income Americans.

The second order meanwhile lays the groundwork for ensuring federal workers and contractors are paid at least $15 per hour and can access paid leave, CNN reports. It also undoes some of former President Donald Trump's orders that let a president hire and fire employees for political reasons and limited federal workers' bargaining rights.

Biden has spent the first two days of his presidency issuing executive orders to combat Trump's policies on immigration, climate, the pandemic, and more. Kathryn Krawczyk

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