Monday morning news – March 2, 2020

Coronavirus continues to spread » Cases of the new coronavirus are spreading in the United States.

Health officials in Washington state announced the first known death from the disease on Saturday. The man was in his 50s and had underlying health conditions. But he had no history of travel or contact with anyone known to have COVID-19.

Dr. Jeff Duchin is the public health officer for Seattle and King County.

DUCHIN: Novel coronavirus infection, as has been recognized, is spreading globally and we are having increasing cases in the United States and we expect to see increasing cases locally.

More than 50 people at a nursing facility near Seattle have coronavirus symptoms and two people connected to the center have tested positive for the virus. After health officials announced the suspected outbreak, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency.

At least 60 countries have now reported cases of COVID-19. More than 88,000 people around the world have contracted the new virus and at least 3,000 have died.

U.S. signs peace deal with the Taliban » Celebrations over the U.S.-Taliban peace deal signed Saturday didn’t last long. 

GHANI: [Speaking Farsi]

On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he would not free thousands of Taliban prisoners—a key component of the agreement. It calls for the Afghan government to release up to 5,000 prisoners before power-sharing talks between rival factions. Those are set to begin March 10th.

Ghani said freeing the prisoners cannot be a prerequisite for talks.

Despite the apparent roadblock, U.S. officials say they will move ahead with plans to withdraw troops from the country over the next 14 months.

President Trump said that should not be seen as a license for terror attacks.

TRUMP: If bad things happen, we’ll go back. Let the people know, we’ll go back and we’ll go back so fast and we’ll go back with a force like nobody’s ever seen. And I don’t think that will be necessary. I hope it’s not necessary.

The president also said he would meet personally with Taliban leaders in the near future, although he did not specify a timeline for those talks. U.S. involvement in Afghanistan has lasted for 18 years, making it the longest conflict in U.S. history. 

Biden dominates South Carolina, winnows Dem. field » Former Vice President Joe Biden has turned his attention to Super Tuesday after a dominant win in South Carolina on Saturday. 

BIDEN: Well, I think it’s a big boost. I think it starts the real comeback. And I think it, you know, we picked up a lot of delegates, practically speaking. And we now have amassed more popular vote than anyone running for the nomination. But we have a long, long way to go. This is a marathon.

Biden, speaking there on Fox News Sunday.

Biden won every South Carolina county and amassed almost 50 percent of the vote in a crowded field. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders came in a distant second and now holds a narrow lead in overall delegate count. 

Biden’s big win convinced billionaire activist Tom Steyer to end his campaign on Saturday. And on Sunday, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg ended his campaign. Buttigieg won the Iowa caucuses last month, but finished a disappointing fourth in South Carolina.

Fourteen states hold primaries tomorrow, when former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will be on the ballot for the first time.

Trump nominates Rep. John Ratcliffe as DNI » President Trump has again announced plans to nominate Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe as director of national intelligence.

That post has been vacant since Dan Coats stepped down last August. At the time Trump said he would nominate Ratcliffe, but the lawmaker withdrew five days later amid accusations of inflating his resume. 

In a Friday tweet announcing the move, the president called Ratcliffe an “outstanding man of great talent.” 

Ratcliffe is a former prosecutor and serves on the House Intelligence Committee. He has a reputation for being a staunch defender of President Trump on Capitol Hill—especially during the Russia probe: 

RATCLIFFE: But at the end of the day this was about quid pro quo and whether or not the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld, and on that most important issue, neither this witness nor any other witness has provided any evidence that there was a quid pro quo. 

The director of national intelligence oversees the government’s 16 intelligence agencies and is the principal adviser to the president on intelligence matters. 

Appeals court sides with White House in testimony dispute » A federal appeals court has handed the White House a major victory in a dispute with the House of Representatives. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg has details: 

SCHWEINSBERG: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit trying to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before a House committee in the Russia probe. 

The House Judiciary Committee brought the suit after the White House invoked executive privilege to block McGahn from testifying. 

The two-to-one decision reverses a lower court’s order. And if it stands, it’s a big win for presidential powers—setting a precedent for future presidents who want to prohibit subordinates from cooperating with investigations. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said he will seek to have the case re-heard before the full D.C. Court of Appeals. 

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

(Tom Gralish/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP) Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during his primary election night rally in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, after winning the South Carolina primary. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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