/Start Here: Trump blasts prosecutors in Roger Stone case, thanks DOJ for sentencing reversal

Start Here: Trump blasts prosecutors in Roger Stone case, thanks DOJ for sentencing reversal


It’s Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Let’s start here.

1. Barr ‘taking charge’

As Democratic lawmakers demand investigations into the Department of Justice’s decision to reverse its sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, President Donald Trump doubled down on Wednesday, blasting the four prosecutors who apparently resigned over the decision and congratulating Attorney General William Barr for “taking charge.”

But Trump insists he did not speak to the Department of Justice before the decision for a more lenient sentence, despite tweeting on Monday that the initial recommendation of seven to nine years in prison was a “horrible and very unfair situation.”

In November, Stone was convicted on seven counts including five counts of lying to Congress, one count each of witness tampering and obstruction of a proceeding.

Department officials are acknowledging to reporters that the situation was “totally bungled,” according to ABC News’ Alex Mallin on “Start Here” today.

“The excuse for this, essentially, is that senior department leadership was completely caught off guard by the recommendation that was put forward by these front-line prosecutors,” he says. “But that messaging with the president constantly tweeting, congratulating the attorney general for making this decision, it’s impossible to really separate the political implications that have entered what is a really contentious issue now with the sentencing of Roger Stone.”

2. U.S. forces under fire

“Gunmen surrounded the vehicles, they fired into the air with AK-47s.”

U.S. forces came under fire at a Syrian regime checkpoint while they were on patrol near the Turkish-Syrian border. ABC News Foreign Correspondent James Longman was embedded with the U.S. troops still on the hunt for ISIS in Syria when it happened.

“It just goes to show just how difficult the situation remains here in Syria,” he tells “Start Here.”

3. ‘After Parkland’

Two years after a gunman stormed Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the survivors of the tragedy and the victims’ families tell their stories of activism and finding purpose in the ABC Documentaries’ film “After Parkland.”

ABC News’ producers Emily Taguchi and Jake Lefferman were on the ground for the making of the movie and witnessed many of the Parkland students’ healing firsthand.

“I would say activism takes many forms and for the students, a big part of it is to be able to talk about their experience, making sure that their stories don’t fade from the media, from the national conscious, and in the hopes that nobody else in no other community has to go through what they went through,” Taguchi tells the podcast.

‘After Parkland’ is now screening in select theaters nationwide to commemorate the second anniversary.

“Start Here,” ABC News’ flagship podcast, offers a straightforward look at the day’s top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or the ABC News app. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content and show updates.

Elsewhere:

‘A fight to come’: The federal judge overseeing the criminal case against Theranos founder and former CEO Elizabeth Holmes and former Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani partially dismissed four charges against the duo, narrowing the case brought by the Department of Justice.

‘Democrats deserved better’: Troy Price, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, submitted his resignation letter on Wednesday, following the backlash that ensued when results of the Iowa caucuses were delayed last week due to “coding issues” with the state’s new reporting app. Following the confusion of the caucuses, Price said he was taking full responsibility.

‘Considerable doubt’: Three Nation of Islam members were convicted in the death of Malcolm X, who was killed 55 years ago. But now, a new Netflix series has prompted the New York City district attorney’s office to review those convictions and re-investigate the killing of Malcolm X.

From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

FiveThirtyEight takes an in-depth look at what’s behind the rise of Sen. Amy Klobuchar and if she can carry that momentum nationally.

Doff your cap:

The world’s oldest living man is still enjoying a full and fruitful life and said smiling is the secret to longevity.

To celebrate the milestone, Japanese resident Chitetsu Watanabe was presented with an official certificate and plaque from the Guinness World Records this week.

“Owing to his many years working for a sugar company, he loves sweet things. Brown sugar is his particular favorite, but since he has lost his teeth, he enjoys sweets that don’t need a lot of chewing, like custard pudding or the cream inside chou à la crème,” GWR said.

While not as active as he once was, Watanabe still takes part in daily exercise, origami, calligraphy and math exercises.

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