The National Interest Foundation Newsletter, Issue 33

The National Interest Foundation Newsletter

Issue 33, February 20, 2020

Welcome to the latest edition of the NIF Newsletter. In this week’s headlines: President Trump grants clemency to multiple high-profile felons, more than 2,000 former Department of Justice officials call for Attorney General Barr’s resignation, the ninth Democratic presidential debate takes place in Las Vegas ahead of the Nevada caucuses, a date is set for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s corruption trial, and a rocket attack in Tripoli halts Libyan peace talks.

Trump Grants Clemency

President Trump granted clemency to 11 convicted felons, including former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. (Photo from AP)

President Trump Grants Clemency to Multiple High-Profile Felons

President Trump issued a wave of commutations and pardons this week, as he granted clemency to 11 convicted felons, most notably former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The disgraced former governor was convicted a decade ago on a number of political corruption charges, including trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat that President Barack Obama vacated when he was elected president. Prior to Trump’s actions and his release this week, Blagojevich had served 8 years of his 14-year prison sentence. The full list of Trump clemency recipients also included former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., financier Michael Milken, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and former lobbyist David Safavian.

Former DOJ Officials Call for AG’s Resignation

Over 2,000 former officials from the Department of Justice called on Attorney General William Barr to resign amid fallout from the Roger Stone sentencing debacle. (Photo from AP)

Former DOJ Officials Call for Attorney General Barr’s Resignation

Over 2,000 former officials from the Department of Justice (DOJ) signed a letter calling for the resignation of Attorney General William Barr, after he allowed President Trump to meddle in the sentencing of his associate, Roger Stone. The officials who signed the letter included political appointees and career officials who worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations. The signatories wrote that Barr’s interference in the Stone case tarnished the department’s reputation and undermined the work of the current employees within the DOJ. The letter was first published with 1,100 signatures, but has since risen to over 2,000.

Ninth Democratic Presidential Debate

Democratic presidential candidates took to the debate stage in Las Vegas before Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. (Photo from AP)

Ninth Democratic Presidential Debate Takes Place in Las Vegas

Democrats vying for the presidential nomination took to the debate stage in Las Vegas on Wednesday evening, in the lead up to the Nevada caucuses this Saturday, February 22nd. The candidates on stage were Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vice President Joe Biden, and Senator Amy Klobuchar. Mayor Bloomberg made his first debate appearance after sitting out the primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire to strengthen his campaign. Businessman Tom Steyer didn’t meet the standards to participate in the latest debate, as he failed to meet the polling requirements of 10% support in four separate national polls, or at least 12% in two polls in Nevada and/or South Carolina.

Date Set for Netanyahu Corruption Trial

Netanyahu faces multiple charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes, in relation to a series of scandals. (Photo from Getty Images)

Israeli Court Announces Date for Netanyahu Corruption Trial

This week, court officials announced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial on multiple corruption charges will begin March 17th, two weeks after Israel’s upcoming election. Netanyahu was criminally-indicted recently on charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes, and is facing a tough re-election campaign against former military chief Benny Gantz. He is accused of accepting lavish gifts and offering regulatory favors to local media moguls in exchange for positive news coverage. The upcoming election on March 2nd will be Israel’s third in less than a year, as the previous two have failed to result in the necessary parliamentary majority for a coalition government to be formed. Polls are predicting that yet again, both Netanyahu and Gantz will fall short of securing enough seats and would therefore need to form a unity government, but the prospects for this are unlikely if Netanyahu remains the leader of his Likud party while facing these criminal charges.

Rocket Attack in Tripoli

Tensions flare in Libya following a rocket attack on the capital city of Tripoli. (Photo from Reuters)

Rocket Attack in Tripoli Halts Libyan Peace Talks

An attack carried out by Libyan rebels has led to peace negotiations between Libya’s warring factions being called off. A spokesman for the Libyan National Army (LNA), a rebel group led by General Khalifa Haftar, took credit for the rocket strike that targeted a port in Tripoli. The rebels said that the strike was aimed at a vessel that was carrying weapons supplied by Turkey, a claim that has been rebuked by officials in Ankara. After the strike, Libya’s Tripoli-based and internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) withdrew from peace talks that were underway in Geneva. Representatives from various countries at the negotiations in Switzerland expressed displeasure at the escalation by Haftar’s forces, including the Russian delegation, who has supported the rebels.