Where Things Stand: Barr’s Saving Face

This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 04: Attorney General William Barr arrives at the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on February 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump deliv... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 04: Attorney General William Barr arrives at the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on February 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump delivers his third State of the Union to the nation the night before the U.S. Senate is set to vote in his impeachment trial. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
February 19, 2020 11:18 a.m.

Three prominent news outlets reported this morning, citing unnamed administration officials, that the attorney general is mulling resigning over President Trump’s tweets about the Roger Stone case.

The Justice Department outright denied these claims, but it’s not the first time Barr has been publicly distanced from the President — whether by his own volition or not — since his department suddenly reversed its sentencing recommendation for Stone just hours after Trump tweeted criticism of the DOJ’s initial recommendation.

Last week, both Barr and Trump claimed that Barr was not directed to reverse course on the sentencing of Trump’s former associate, but Barr conceded to ABC News that Trump’s tweets about criminal cases make it “impossible” for him to do his job. As many-a-pundits have pointed out, that Barr admission was likely just an attempt to save face. Rather than admit that much of his time as head of the Justice Department has been devoted to digging into Trump’s political crusades, he suggested that Trump’s interference make it difficult for him to appear impartial.

And the latest reports about him mulling an exit smell eerily similar. He’s not bound to any decision because his department has combatted the reports on-the-record, but cable news will likely spend the day discussing whether the attorney general has had enough, in turn elevating the appearance of — or at least, the consideration of — impartiality.

But that’s just a theory. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following:

What The Investigations Team Is Watching

Tierney Sneed is tracking down reports that one of the top Pentagon officials who warned others about the freeze on Ukrainian military aid is expected to resign from his post.

Josh Kovensky is covering the Justice Department’s announcement of an arrest of a Mexican researcher who was recruited by Russia to spy on a U.S. government source living in Miami, Florida.

What The Breaking News Team Is Watching

We will continue following reports about Barr’s potential resignation.

Things are heating up between Democratic candidates ahead of the debate in Nevada tonight. Just this morning a press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) went on CNN and accused fellow Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg of having “suffered heart attacks,” which is reportedly not true. This is just one of many ways Democrats will likely go after Bloomberg tonight. We’ll continue monitoring this throughout the day and evening.

Today’s Rundown

10:30 a.m. PST: Trump will arrive at Porcupine Creek Golf Course in Rancho Mirage, California for a fundraiser.

12:25 p.m. PST: Trump will travel to Bakersfield, California with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy

2:00 p.m. PST: Trump will give a speech about water in California from JACO Hangar. Afterward he will head to Phoenix, Arizona.

6:15 p.m MST: Trump will visit the Veterans Memorial Coliseum and then will address a political rally at 7 p.m. MST. 

9:00 p.m. ET: Nevada Democratic debate will begin.

Yesterday’s Most Read Story

Ted Cruz Can’t Believe A Lawmaker is Trying To Legislate Away A Man’s Reproductive Rights — Cristina Cabrera

What We Are Reading

When Bloomberg News’s Reporting On China Was Challenged, Bloomberg Tried To Ruin Me For Speaking Out — Leta Hong Fincher

Rural California’s Delegate Gold Mine Suddenly Matters In Democratic Primary — Carla Marinucci

Everything You Need To Know About Jalaiah Harmon, The Girl Who Created Renegade AKA The Most Popular TikTok Dance — Ajani Bazile

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