US briefing: William Barr, Roger Stone case and Russian exiles | US news

Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.

Barr says Trump’s tweets make his job ‘impossible’

With his Department of Justice department under fire from the White House, the US attorney general, William Barr, told ABC on Thursday that Donald Trump’s tweets about criminal cases – including that of Trump’s associate Roger Stone – “make it impossible for me to do my job,” but insisted he would not be “bullied”. Matthew Miller, an Obama-era DoJ official, expressed skepticism, tweeting: “Barr is telling the president that his impulsiveness is making it politically harder for him to deliver the results he wants.”

Democrats urge chief justice to step in over ‘abuse of power’

Trump shakes hands with the supreme court chief justice, John Roberts, before the State of the Union address last week. Photograph: Leah Millis/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Democrats have called on the supreme court chief justice, John Roberts, to step in to protect a federal judge, who was targeted by Donald Trump after presiding over the Stone case. Meanwhile, another senior law enforcement official in Washington has quit after her oversight of Stone’s prosecution prompted Trump to pull her nomination for a top job at the treasury. Critics of the president have described his continued attacks on the judiciary as an “abuse of power”.

  • Head juror. Having first criticised Stone’s sentencing, Trump has now claimed the jury foreperson in the case, Tomeka Hart, had “significant bias”, after it emerged that she was once a Democratic candidate for Congress.

Kudlow attacks China’s ‘lack of transparency’ on coronavirus

US expresses ‘disappointment’ in China’s response to coronavirus – video

Larry Kudlow, the director of the US National Economic Council, has said the White House is “disappointed” by Beijing’s “lack of transparency” over the coronavirus outbreak, as China’s official statistics on cases continued to shift. On Friday, China added 121 new deaths to its overall toll – but also removed 108, which it claimed had been double-counted. Several affected Chinese cities are now under quarantine measures similar to those in Wuhan, in an effort to limit the continuing spread of the outbreak.

Banker who fled Russia blames ‘oppressive state machine’

Ananyev at his Moscow office in 2017. He now lives in Cyprus.

Ananyev at his Moscow office in 2017. He now lives in Cyprus. Photograph: Ekaterina Golubkova/Reuters

Dmitry Ananiev, the one-time billionaire owner of a Moscow bank and senator in Russia’s upper chamber, was forced to flee the country in 2017 after being threatened with fraud and money-laundering charges by Russian prosecutors. Now living in exile in Cyprus, he told the Guardian that he fell foul of the “oppressive machine of the state,” but remains reluctant to blame Vladimir Putin directly.

  • In exile. Ananiev is one of a steady stream of exiles from Russia to Cyprus, Monaco and London. Some are long-term critics of Putin; others are former allies of the Russian president who “suddenly develop an opposition voice” after leaving Russia, write Luke Harding and Hugh Miles.

Cheat sheet


A still from Cauleen Smith’s 2018 work, Sojourner, on show at the Whitney in New York from 17 February.

A still from Cauleen Smith’s 2018 work Sojourner, which is on show at the Whitney in New York from 17 February. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, and Kate Werble Gallery, New York

The best exhibitions of Black History Month

This year’s Black History Month marks the 150th anniversary of the 15th amendment, which gave black men the right to vote. Nadja Sayej selects seven art exhibitions to see across the US in February, from a visual history of hip-hop in New York, to a consideration of stereotypes from the Jim Crow era in Los Angeles.

Why the champions of civility keep losing

With rightwing demagogues and extreme partisanship on the rise across the globe, calls for a return to the civil, sensible politics of the past appear to be ignored. Benjamin Moffitt examines why moderates everywhere are failing in the fight against populism.

I made bombs for al-Qaida – here’s why I stopped

Saudi-born Aimen Dean was inspired to become an Islamic militant by the war in the former Yugoslavia and swore an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden. But after the 1998 bombings of two US embassies, he says: “I felt we were twisting our principles past breaking point. I no longer wanted to be part of it.”

Why musicians dread careless airlines

The Malian artist Ballaké Sissoko says US border officials broke his “impossible to replace” kora, a harp-like west African instrument, during a security check last week. As Amanda Holpuch learns, he is far from the first musician whose instrument has fallen victim to baggage handlers.


Massachusetts is suing Juul for targeting its advertising at children and teenagers. The e-cigarette company’s predatory tactics are even more appalling than you may have thought, says Nancy Jo Sales.

The lawsuit against Juul underscores the degree to which the internet and social media have increased companies’ access to underage consumers.


Pelé, the former Brazil striker who remains the only footballer ever to have won the World Cup three times, has dismissed his own son’s claims that his ill-health has made him depressed and reclusive. “I am good,” the 79-year-old said in a statement. “I continue to accept my physical limitations in the best way possible but I intend to keep the ball rolling.”

A shocking video emerged earlier this month, showing the world lightweight boxing champion Gervonta Davis choking the mother of his child in public. Other sports have rightfully punished athletes for gender-based violence; Bryan Armen Graham asks why boxing continually fails to hold such transgressors to account.

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