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Merrick Garland rapidly erasing Trump effect at Justice Department

Attorney General Merrick Garland is quickly negating the Trump administration’s law enforcement legacy, dismaying conservatives with a burst of aggressive reversals and new policies.

Why it matters: As a former prosecutor and respected federal judge, Garland's devotion to the rule of law has always been core to his identity. That reputation has taken on new importance in his first 50 days on the job, after four years of allegations that Trump's DOJ was improperly politicized.


  • Attorney General Bill Barr played a central role in the Trump administration's most high-profile controversies, from undermining the Russia investigation to intervening in the cases of indicted Trump associates to ordering the forcible clearing of protesters in Lafayette Square Park.
  • DOJ's broad authority also overlaps with many of the issues at the top of President Biden's agenda, including restoring faith in government, promoting racial justice and police reform, and curbing gun violence.

Driving the news: Liberal fears that the soft-spoken Garland might resist prosecuting Trump and his allies for the sake of unity were partially eased on Wednesday, when news broke that federal agents had raided the Manhattan home of Rudy Giuliani.

  • The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which Giuliani once led, is known to be highly independent.
  • But under Attorney General Bill Barr, the department repeatedly blocked SDNY prosecutors from executing a search warrant for Giuliani's electronic records in the final months of 2020, according to the New York Times.

The Justice Department also announced on Wednesday that three Georgia men were charged with federal hate crimes in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, whose death was a rallying cry during last year's racial-justice protests.

  • In Michigan, a superseding indictment was filed against five men accused of plotting last year to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, with prosecutors referring to the alleged crimes as "domestic terrorism" for the first time.
  • That shift comes amid new developments in the investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which has been described as the most complex probe in DOJ history. Garland, who played a leading role in the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, has vowed to make prosecuting the Capitol rioters his "first priority."

Other major steps taken in Garland's first 50 days include:

  • "Pattern or practice" investigations into the Minneapolis and Louisville police departments, following the deaths last year of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor.
  • A 30-day "expedited review" into how DOJ can better prosecute and track hate crimes amid a surge in violence against Asian Americans.
  • The revocation of a Trump-era policy that restricted federal funding for "sanctuary cities."
  • Responsibility for five of the six executive actions on gun control ordered by Biden.

What to watch: Garland's commitment to depoliticizing DOJ will undergo a key test when a charging decision is made in the case of Hunter Biden, whose finances are under investigation.

  • Special counsel John Durham is also expected to submit a report concerning alleged abuses by Obama-era intelligence officials during the Russia investigation.

Israel to continue Gaza operation, officials rule out cease-fire for now

The Israeli security cabinet on Sunday decided to continue the Gaza operation, according to military plans. Israeli officials said a cease-fire is not on the table right now.

Why it matters: There was a growing feeling within the military and senior defense establishment ahead of the cabinet meeting that Israel should start moving toward ending the operation.

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Liz Cheney says she regrets voting for Trump in 2020

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who was ousted Wednesday as the third-highest ranking House Republican, told ABC's "This Week" that she regrets voting for former President Trump in 2020, although she could never have supported Biden.

Why it matters: Cheney, voted out of House Republican leadership over her repeated condemnation of Trump and his unfounded claims of election fraud, plans to challenge the former president for ideological dominance of the GOP.

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Blinken speaks with Associated Press CEO after Israeli airstrike destroys Gaza office

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Associated Press CEO Gary Pruitt on Saturday after an Israeli airstrike destroyed the outlet's local media office in the Gaza Strip, which also housed the Al Jazeera office.

Why it matters: "The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what transpired today" Pruitt said in a statement — as fighting between Israel and Hamas continues to bring more casualties.

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Fashion

Consumers and retailers alike are still trying to figure out what Americans will want to wear as they head back out into the world after a year at home, in sweatpants.

Why it matters: The choices people make about their post-pandemic wardrobes will help define what, exactly, our “new normal” is. They'll indicate how both work and socializing have changed, and will tell the story of how people expressed themselves in the aftermath of a year of massive transformation.

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UN Security Council meeting on Israel-Gaza as Netanyahu vows to continue strikes

The United Nations Security Council was preparing to meet Sunday, as the aerial bombardment between Israel and Hamas between entered a seventh day.

The latest: Four Palestinians died in airstrikes early Sunday, as Israeli forces bombed the home of Gaza's Hamas chief, Yehya al-Sinwar, per Reuters.

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In photos: Protesters rally across U.S. and the world over Israeli–Palestinian conflict

Thousands of people rallied across the U.S. and the world Saturday following days of violence in Gaza and Israel that's killed at least 145 Palestinians, including 41 children, and eight Israelis, per AP.

The big picture: Most demonstrations were in support of Palestinians. There were tense scenes between pro-Israeli government protesters and pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Winnipeg, Canada, and Leipzig, Germany, but no arrests were made, CBS News and DW.com report.

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Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

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The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

A group of high-profile scientists published a letter calling for renewed investigation into the origins of COVID-19 — including the theory that it spilled out of a virology lab.

Why it matters: The possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was created in a Chinese lab and accidentally escaped — rather than emerging naturally from an animal — was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory. But the letter shows a potential lab leak is increasingly being taken seriously.

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