this is big
January 29, 2020

World Athletics announced Wednesday its World Indoor Championships for track and field wouldn't be relocated from Nanjing, China, over coronavirus fears. The championships would instead be rescheduled for a whole year from now, erasing an event that, for some athletes, could be a precursor to or even qualifier for the Olympic games in Tokyo this summer.

World Athletics had spent the past few days debating whether it would cancel the championships given that cases of a coronavirus-induced pneumonia were spreading throughout China. Because the spread of the virus was "still at a concerning level," the group eventually decided to put off the event, which was scheduled for March 13–15 of this year. World Athletics said it did consider relocating the event, but "given that concerns still exist regarding the spread of the virus outside China," opted for a total postponement.

The cancellation marks the biggest athletic event to be uprooted as the coronavirus leads to travel cancellations in and out of mainland China. The Olympic women's soccer regional qualifying tournament that was supposed to be held in Wuhan was first relocated to Nanjing, and then to Australia. Yet with China's team quarantined after their hotel after passing through Wuhan recently, the tournament will likely be delayed. An Olympic woman's basketball qualifier scheduled in China was similarly relocated to Serbia. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 24, 2020

There might be a big new dose of evidence in the impeachment case against President Trump.

In a recording reviewed by ABC News, a voice that seems to be Trump's is talking with the former Rudy Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The two tell Trump that former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has been "bad-mouthing" Trump, and Trump gives them a scathing order to "take her out," ABC News reports.

"Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don't care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it," is what the voice seemingly belonging to Trump says. The recording was made during a dinner at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. on April 30, 2018, apparently by Fruman himself, sources tell ABC News. "The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start is we gotta get rid of the ambassador. She's still left over from the Clinton administration," Parnas seems to tell Trump on the recording, prompting his fiery response.

Yovanovitch was not removed from her position for another year, but later testified to the House that she thought her firing was based on "unfounded and false claims." Recent evidence from the House's impeachment inquiry revealed text messages that seemed to show Parnas orchestrating some kind of surveillance on Yovanovitch. Parnas denied this was true. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 17, 2020

President Trump's impeachment defense team is getting the celebrity treatment.

As Trump prepares for House impeachment managers to share their case against him on Tuesday, he has reportedly tapped some big-name lawyers with impeachment and televised trial experience to defend him. Former Special Counsel Ken Starr, his successor Robert Ray, and famous defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz are all expected to join Trump's legal team, sources have told The New York Times, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow are slated to lead Trump's impeachment defense, the Times says. Dershowitz "will present oral arguments at the Senate trial," the legal team said in a statement, while Starr and Ray "are expected to play a constitutional and historic role," CNN reports. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Trump's personal counsel Jane Raskin will reportedly also be on the team.

Both Starr and Ray are known for their work during former President Bill Clinton's impeachment, with Starr serving as the independent counsel whose report led to Clinton's impeachment, and Ray eventually replacing Starr and finishing up the reports in Clinton's case. Dershowitz was on defense team for O.J. Simpson and gained notoriety in that televised trial. His reported appointment fits with Trump's desire to turn his impeachment into a "TV spectacle." Dershowitz was also recently questioned over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of running a sex trafficking ring. Kathryn Krawczyk

December 9, 2019

The FBI's Russia investigation had no basis in political bias, despite Republicans' claims, the Justice Department's inspector general has concluded.

The DOJ's inspector general released its report on the origins of the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia on Monday after investigating whether it was based in bias against President Trump. It concluded that while the investigation did make "significant errors" in some aspects of the investigation, the inspector general found no evidence that it was opened under "political bias or improper motivation."

Trump and his allies have claimed the Russia investigation was a "witch hunt" from its beginnings and that it was based on the controversial Steele dossier, but the investigation found no evidence the dossier played a role. Instead, while acknowledging that the DOJ and FBI had established a "low threshold" for opening this sort of investigation, the report concluded the FBI had enough information to satisfy that barrier. Republicans' claims that then-FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok opened the investigation under his own bias were also rebutted, as the inspector general found Strozk's supervisor had actually given the go ahead "after multiple days of discussions and meetings" with Strozk and others.

Still, there were "serious performance failures" in how investigators filed all four of their Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications, which allowed them to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, the report found. This sparked a new IG investigation into how FISA warrants are obtained. The IG also alleged some document tampering by an FBI lawyer, and recommended an overhaul of presidential campaign investigation guidelines.

Attorney General William Barr unsurprisingly said the report "makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions," and that the "evidence produced by the investigation was consistently exculpatory." Find the whole report here. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 20, 2019

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan announced Friday that white supremacy would become a top priority under the department's new strategy to fight terrorism and "targeted violence." The ramped up mission comes as mass shootings motivated by white supremacy seem to happen every week in the U.S., and McAleenan cites last month's shooting in El Paso, Texas as a major reasoning behind the change, The Atlantic reports.

After the shooting in a Walmart left 21 people dead, McAleenan told The Atlantic he recalled thinking "this is an attack on all of us." The shooting in a largely Hispanic community was seemingly motivated by racism, and much of DHS' workforce, especially at the southern border, is Hispanic. This and other shootings soon "galvanized" DHS to look "beyond terrorists operating abroad" and start tackling "violent extremists of any ideology," McAleenan said in a Friday speech.

The revised plan calls for analyzing the "nature and extent" of domestic terror threats and working more closely with local law enforcement to prevent them, NBC News reports. DHS will also crack down on technology companies who host hate-filled websites, provide more active shooter training to local law enforcement, and run antiviolence messaging campaigns, per the proposal.

The report came just hours after the House Oversight Joint Subcommittee held a hearing on confronting white supremacy, where conservative provocateur Candace Owens said that "white nationalism" isn't a problem for "minority Americans." As DHS's shifting priorities and general facts of life make clear, it definitely is. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 16, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is working her way up the primary ladder.

After interviews with five major candidates, the labor-focused Working Families Party announced its endorsement of Warren on Monday. It's a major blow to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who got the party's backing in 2016, and to former Vice President Joe Biden, who the party has explicitly opposed.

In a ranked ballot vote of "tens of thousands" of WFP members, Warren dominated five other candidates by earning 60.9 percent support, per The New York Times. Sanders, meanwhile, ended up with 35.8 percent. It was a "larger than expected" victory for Warren, a party spokesperson said, considering that Sanders has praised the WFP as "the closest thing" to "my vision of democratic socialism." But the Working Families Party's national director didn't see this as a "splintering of the Democratic left," the Times writes, and instead he called on other progressive groups to raise their powerful voices early to dethrone Biden's spot at the top of the polls.

Working Families interviewed five candidates it was considering for an endorsement: Warren, Sanders, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and New York City Major Bill de Blasio. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 4, 2019

Israel was reportedly far closer to attacking Iran in 2012 than the general public knew.

The strong possibility of war between Iran and Israel reached a head near the end of former President Barack Obama's first term, when Israel learned of secret nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. It all precipitated into the strong possibility of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu ordering a strike on Iran, and it "wasn't a bluff," he tells The New York Times Magazine in an article published Wednesday. If he'd "had a majority" of his cabinet behind him, Netanyahu says he "would have done it ... unequivocally."

It's possible Netanyahu is more confident today than he was at the time, but Obama sure took the threat seriously. Obama sent a senior official to Israel every few weeks to "Bibisit," a former senior official tells the Times. "For an Israeli official, it meant you knew you could not strike without feeling that you've deceived somebody while they were sitting in your office," Obama's then-ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro explained. The former president's Pentagon also bombed a "full-size mock-up of an Iranian nuclear facility" in the U.S. desert in anticipation of an Iran-Israel war, the Times reports.

Then-Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren fully anticipated a possible attack as well. "I went to bed every night, if I went to bed at all, with the phone close to my ear," he said, ready to tell the White House if and when Israel took action. Read more at The New York Times Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 7, 2019

The Trump administration is denying poor visa applicants like never before.

In the last year full fiscal year of former President Barack Obama's term, the State Department only denied seven Mexican visa applicants on the grounds that they could become too reliant on government benefits. But from Oct. 1 of last year until July 29, the State Department denied 5,343 Mexicans on the same "public charge" grounds — and that number will likely only grow as the Trump administration moves to expand the definition of what it considers a public charge, Politico reports.

As it stands, "public charge" grounds for visa denials aren't spelled out in State Department rules. They simply say "immigrants and visitors to the United States can be turned away if they’re likely to become a public charge after admission," Politico writes. Yet the Trump administration last year moved to spell out those so-called public charges, proposing that using food stamps, housing subsidies, Medicaid, prescription drug subsidies, or welfare could be disqualifying. These changes are expected to take hold in the next few days, Politico says, though advocates say immigrants have already stopped using public benefits they fear would hurt their visa chances.

Yet even before this coming change was proposed, the department revised other guidelines in January 2018 that made it easier to be declared a possible public charge. Visa denials promptly skyrocketed from 1,033 in fiscal year 2016 to 3,209 in fiscal year 2017 to 12,973 in 2018. Fiscal year 2019 doesn't end until October, but the State Department has so far already rejected 12,179 applications on public grounds, Politico reports via preliminary data.

Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

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