The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Trump Wields His Pardon Powers

    So-called "junk bond king" Michael Milken, disgraced ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik were among the white collar criminals who benefited from President Donald Trump's clemency yesterday. Acting on what he claimed was advice from friends and associates, Trump either pardoned or commuted the sentences of 11 people — most of them wealthy White men convicted of corruption, lying or fraud over the past few decades.

    Why does it matter? While previous presidents have also pardoned their friends and allies, observers say Trump has sidestepped the traditional Justice Department process.

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    Coronavirus Slows Its Spread in China

    "I am very keen to get off this ship." So said one of the hundreds of passengers who disembarked in Japan after more than two weeks quarantined on a cruise ship. Along with news that the number of new coronavirus infections in mainland China fell for the second straight day, it offered a rare dose of hope that the worst might be over. Still, the death toll has now exceeded 2,000, while analysts remain nervous about the health of the global economy too.

    What new steps is China taking? It's enlisting the help of tens of thousands of military veterans who say they're still "on a mission" despite hanging up their uniforms.

  3. william barr with trump square wikimedia commons

    Could William Barr Really Quit?

    While venting about President Trump's meddling in Justice Department matters, the U.S. attorney general has reportedly said he's even considered stepping down because of it. But an agency spokesperson said Barr "has no plans to resign." True or not, the reports add to mounting scrutiny of Barr's relationship with Trump, who said yesterday he has "total confidence" in his attorney general.

    What might life after Barr be like? The president would probably have a hard time replacing someone who's overseeing politically critical probes, like the one examining the origins of the Russia investigation.

    Read OZY's Donald Dossier about how Trump could run for a third term.

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    UK Shuts Out Unskilled Workers

    Saying it's taking "full control" of its borders post-Brexit, the British government has unveiled an immigration plan that won't grant visas to unskilled, non-English-speaking workers — including those from the European Union. Officials also urged local businesses to "adapt and adjust to the end of free movement." While the opposition Labour Party called the new policy exclusionary, Home Secretary Priti Patel said it's aimed at attracting "the brightest and the best."

    How will it work? In the Australian-style points-based system, immigrants will need to earn 70 points — 50 of which they'd get from speaking English and having an offer of skilled employment and an approved sponsor.

  5. Also Important...

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened a military operation in Syria's Idlib province after unsuccessful talks with Russia over the rebel-held region. China has expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters after the paper ran an opinion piece calling the country "the real sick man of Asia." And Utah's state Senate has voted to decriminalize polygamous marriage.

    OZYfact: Billionaire Democratic presidential contender Tom Steyer has already made nine trips to South Carolina, appeared at more than 50 events and spent over $18 million in ads ahead of the state's Feb. 29 primary. Read more on OZY.

    We heard you! This week we asked: Do you think the European Union should impose controls on Facebook and other social media platforms? OZY reader Gina H. does: "Algorithms are damaging public confidence and tearing at the fabric of 'civil' society, while playing into the hands of autocracies."


  1. Spacex

    SpaceX Will Launch Tourists Into Orbit

    In partnership with cosmic tourism business Space Adventures, Elon Musk's private spaceflight company says it'll send four tourists out of this world by early 2022. While it's unclear how much the journey will cost, the travelers would spend about five days in a Crew Dragon spacecraft orbiting Earth at more than twice the 250-mile altitude of the International Space Station.

    Does this mean new revenue for SpaceX? For now, experts say, the prohibitive cost for passengers would make it more of a "nice service" than a foundation of the company's business.

    Check out this OZY feature on the U.S. military's space budget.

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    Can Mining Become 'Responsible'?

    Dig this. Mining companies have long been accused of exploitation and neglect, as dozens of workers die on the job each year, rural peoples are displaced and ecosystems are ravaged. Enter Mexican psychologist Mónica Cantú, who's leading a groundbreaking effort to boost mining standards in her country. Along with a business partner, the 45-year-old says she's inches away from certifying the Western Hemisphere's first "responsible mine," OZY reports.

    What does that mean? Certification includes commitments to social and environmental responsibility, as well as a plan to help take care of local residents once the mine is closed.

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    Turkish Tycoon Acquitted — Then Re-Arrested

    Just hours after a Turkish court cleared Osman Kavala and eight other defendants of criminal charges over 2013 anti-government protests, the prominent businessman found himself back in police custody. This time, he's accused of playing a role in the 2016 attempted coup, which Ankara has blamed on U.S.-based religious leader Fethullah Gullen. Critics said Kavala's re-arrest "smacks of deliberate and calculated cruelty."

    So why was he even acquitted? The European Court of Human Rights demanded his release in December, citing a lack of reasonable suspicion — which raises the prospect that authorities might build a stronger case this time.

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    Reports: Boeing Doc Cleared for Takeoff

    The Chicago-based planemaker and its embattled 737 Max jet will reportedly be the focus of a new documentary series produced by Ron Howard's Imagine Entertainment. Filmmaker Rory Kennedy will spearhead the project, which is expected to shed new light on the faces behind Boeing's chaotic scramble following the two deadly crashes of the since-grounded aircraft. It's unclear when the as-yet untitled series will premiere, or how it will be distributed.

    What are Kennedy's credits? Her 2007 film Ghosts of Abu Ghraib snagged an Emmy, while her documentary feature Last Days in Vietnam was nominated for an Oscar in 2015.

    Read OZY's story about high-speed trains benefiting from Boeing's woes.

  5. LeBron James

    LeBron James Weighs In on Astros Scandal

    Call it a full-court press. The NBA icon took to Twitter yesterday to voice his concerns about the sign-stealing drama that's rattled the baseball world. "You need to fix this for the sake of Sports!" he said, directing his tweets at Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. James joined several Los Angeles Dodgers players — who were on the losing end of the tainted 2017 World Series — in slamming Houston's recent lackluster apology and Manfred's handling of the situation.

    What do critics want? Many are demanding the Astros be stripped of their 2017 title, while some are going so far as to suggest the players involved should be banned for life.