Posts tagged with "The Wall Street Journal"

As he accepts DNC nomination, Joe Biden vows to lead America out of ‘Season of Darkness’

August 24, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden cast himself as a capable leader prepared to put the coronavirus pandemic into retreat, as he formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday evening, August 20, and asked the American public to elect him in place of President Donald Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported..=

United, we can and will overcome this season of darkness in America,” Biden told the nation from an auditorium in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. “Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness.”

“This is not a partisan moment, this must be an American moment,” he added. “This is a life-changing election that will determine America’s future for a very long time.”

In his address, the Journal said, Biden portrayed the nation as resilient in the face of the pandemic and ready to move forward after racial unrest and economic losses. “I have always believed you can define America in one word: Possibilities,” he said.

Biden, who lost his first wife and infant daughter in 1972 and his son Beau Biden in 2015, spoke directly to the families of those who have died during the pandemic, telling them that he understood “how hard it is to have any hope.”

“I found the best way through pain and loss and grief is to find purpose, he said. “As God’s children, each of us [has] a purpose in our lives. We have a great purpose as a nation.” He also credited his wife, Jill Biden, and members of his close-knit family with giving him courage.

Biden spoke inside a darkened auditorium with a backdrop of American flags and the party’s convention logos, after the pandemic prompted Democrats to cancel their planned gathering in Milwaukee. According to the Journal, he never referred to Trump by name, calling him “this president” or the “current president” in his remarks.

The party has used the convention to showcase past leaders, including former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton—and to spotlight what it sees as its next generation, chief among them Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California.

The final night of the convention also saw former presidential hopefuls Senator Cory Booker (D- New Jersey.), Pete (“Mayor Pete”) Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg, and Andrew Yang deliver separate speeches that focused on the human and economic consequences of the pandemic.

In addition, the televised event featured liberals in the party, led by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Republicans such as former Ohio Governor John Kasich to send a message that any Americans who are disenchanted with Trump are welcome in Mr. Biden’s coalition.

Appearing in a video on Thursday, Sanders offered a testimonial to Biden’s character, referring to his former rival as “a human being who is empathetic, who is honest, who is decent.”

“At this particular moment in American history, my God, this is something this country absolutely needs,” Sanders said, according to the Journal report.

Following Biden’s acceptance speech, the candidates joined their spouses for a fireworks display. They stood on an outdoor stage before massive American flags. Wearing masks, they locked hands and raised them to the crowd.

For his part, President Trump had sharp words for Biden on Thursday afternoon in an appearance at Old Forge, Pennsylvania, near the former vice president’s childhood hometown of Scranton.

“At stake in this election is the survival of our nation. We’re dealing with crazy people on the other side. They’ve gone totally stone-cold crazy,” said the president, adding that Joe Biden was a “puppet of the radical left movement.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Google will extend employee work-from-home policy until Summer 2021

July 28, 2020

We doubt that there will be much pushback from employees, now that Google has once again pushed back the date when its offices will reopen—this time, to Summer 2021., The Wall Street Journal reports.

Previously, the search engine platform had said that employees would return to the office on July 6 of this year; then, had postponed reopening to September. The latest change of plans reflects the current COVID-19 landscape—with more than 4.2 million cases nationwide and deaths mounting—which has grown immeasurable more dangerous just since May.

Indeed, the Journal reports, Google CEO Sundar Pichai made the decision partly to help employees with children who may be facing a partly or mostly remote school year.

“To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email to employees obtained by the Journal. “I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland first reported that Google would announce as early as Monday, July 27, that it had pushed its return-to-office date back to July 2021 for nearly all of its 200,000 employees and contract workers.

Google closed its offices in March as the coronavirus hit the San Francisco Bay Area. Management is now looking at the situation in California with an abundance of caution; although Pichai said in his memo to employees that Googlers had returned to the office “with robust health and safety protocols in place” in 42 countries where conditions have improved.

Google is one of several tech companies mulling how and when to reopen offices. Microsoft has said employees will work from home through at least October, while Amazon has said employees will work remotely until January. Both companies are based in Seattle, where coronavirus cases are still on the rise.

Twitter, based in San Francisco, announced in May that employees could work from home forever if they wanted. For Facebook, which appears to have sent some employees back to the office in July, as many as half of all employees will most likely work from home permanently, CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said.

Research contact: @WSJ

Study: Chances of catching COVID are reduced by 79% on flights with empty middle seats

July 20, 2020

While such carriers as American Airlines are booking full flights now, a new academic study has found that, if  you plan to fly during the pandemic, you’re better off choosing an airline with a policy of keeping the middle seat empty. Such a policy lowers the risk of contracting COVID from 1 in 4,400 to 1 in 7,300, Fortune reports.

That estimate comes from Arnold Barnett, a statistics professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His findings—which suggest a “no middle seats” flight reduces risk by 79%—also note that the risk of dying from catching COVID on a flight are less than 1 in 500,000.

Barnett’s conclusion on the risk of middle seats comes as U.S. airlines pursue different approaches. For instance, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest have chosen to keep middle seats empty; while, in addition to American, United and Spirit are filling them.

The new research should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as Barnett himself acknowledges. In his paper, he emphasizes that his findings are “rough conjecture” in light of the difficulties in calculating such a risk.

Barnett’s calculations are based on numerous assumptions, including that all passengers are wearing masks—a step he says reduces risks of catching COVID by 82%. He also assumes that someone is more likely to catch COVID from those in the same aisle rather than from those in rows behind or in front of them

The findings also disregard the risk of catching COVID from trips to the restroom, or from boarding or getting off the plane. But the latter situation may pose a significant risk according to The Wall Street Journal, which notes the close proximity of passengers waiting to board or scrambling to store luggage.

The Journal, which cited the Barnett study, suggested that flying is not especially dangerous overall, in part because planes frequently replace the air in the cabin.

For his part, Barnett concludes by noting that middle seat policy will also be informed by economic considerations facing the airlines.

“The calculations here, however rudimentary, do suggest a measurable reduction in COVID-19 risk when middle seats on aircraft are deliberately kept open,” he writes. “The question is whether relinquishing 1/3 of seating capacity is too high a price to pay for the added precaution.”

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

SCOTUS rejects Trump bid to block New York subpoena seeking his financial and tax records

July 10, 2020

In a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court on July 9 rejected President Donald Trump’s bid to block the Manhattan District Attorney from enforcing a subpoena seeking years of his financial and tax records from his accountants—and potentially opening the president up to widespread scrutiny.

The case was one of two before the high court—brought separately by New York County and the U.S. Congress—in which the president challenged subpoenas that weren’t sent to him, but instead to his accountants and bankers, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Trump has been highly protective of his financial records. He is the only major-party presidential candidate in recent elections not to release his tax returns to the public.

Overall, the justices said that the New York prosecutor was entitled to access the president’s personal financial information—but dropkicked the decision on whether several committees of Congress should receive the records to a lower court.

Among the subpoenas under scrutiny:

Deutsche Bank since 1998 has led or participated in loans of at least $2.5 billion to companies affiliated with Trump, the Journal noted.

The Intelligence Committee said it needed the information as part of its probe of foreign influence in the U.S. political process, including whether foreigners have financial leverage over the Trump family and its enterprises. The Financial Services Committee is investigating bank-lending practices, including to Mr. Trump and his businesses.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) immediately commended the ruling in the consolidated cases of Trump v. Mazars and Trump v. Deutsche Bank., saying, “A careful reading of the Supreme Court rulings related to the president’s financial records is not good news for President Trump.The Court has reaffirmed the Congress’s authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people, as it asks for further information from the Congress.”

In turn, the Journal said, Trump argued that House committees infringed on his prerogatives as chief executive, and that the U.S. Constitution prohibits state prosecutors from subpoenaing records of a sitting president.

However, SCOTUS already had gone on-record about such prerogatives: In 1974, the Supreme Court required President Nixon to obey a subpoena for tapes and other records related to the Watergate investigation. In 1997, the court likewise ordered President Clinton to comply with a private lawsuit brought against him over sexual harassment allegations.

House investigators and state prosecutors argued that the burdens on Trump were minor compared to those cases, as the subpoenas were directed to third parties and the president need do nothing in response.

Lower courts upheld the subpoenas for the Trump records, but they have been blocked during the Supreme Court appeal.

Research contact: @WSJ

You’re too close to Grandma! American families can’t agree on reopening protocols

July 6, 2020

When shelter-in-place restrictions eased in May in Gurnee, Illinois, Laura Davis’ first thought was: When are people coming over? The teacher’s mother and two sisters live within driving distance, she said, and her backyard can accommodate social distancing.

It turned out that wasn’t going to be easy, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Davis, 38, landed and her older sister could not agree on get-together terms. Her sister and mother have health conditions that put them at risk for complications from the new coronavirus and said they would come only if they could sit outside, if no one ate, and if everyone wore masks—including all nine children.

That might sound fairly reasonable, but Davis couldn’t understand why food she prepared would be riskier than food delivered from restaurants. Her sister and mother wouldn’t budge.

“It’s been a weird balancing act,” she told the Journal. “I’m trying to understand them, but I’m also trying to push them a little bit. You can’t do this for two years until there’s a vaccine.”

The question of how to resume aspects of normal life months after the first known U.S. coronavirus death is confounding businesses and roiling state and national politics. It is also straining relations among friends and relatives.

What’s more, the recent surge of newly confirmed cases in many states has made the question more urgent—upending reopening plans, and prompting several states to reverse course or hit pause. Disagreement among federal officials, governors and mayors has led to shifting official messages and rules about how to stay safe.

Behind all the confusion are thousands of conversations and arguments every day in households across America about how to do the right thing—with disagreements on what that is.

Behavior one friend or relative deems essential around other people—mask-wearing, for example—is considered excessive by another. Differences over safety measures split some families on partisan lines, much as they divide parts of the country.

Summer is especially fraught, with vacation plans suddenly a subject of debate. The Journal spoke to Dani Duncan of Jacksonville, Florida, whose 12-year-old daughter traditionally spends a month with her in-laws in Daytona Beach each summer.

However, this year, the Duncans didn’t think it was safe and said no. Her in-laws took offense, she told the news outlet: “They were like, ‘You don’t trust us with her.’ ” Her husband replied, “Obviously, we do,” said Dani, 49. “It became personal.”

Her father-in-law suggested a weekend trip instead of a month, but she wasn’t OK with that, either. Her daughter was upset about the change of plans, she said, and her in-laws felt at a loss.

In America, who takes what position in the family debate over COVID-19 safety precautions is sometimes drawn by party lines. Some within families say the  threat has been overblown by political liberals and the media; others say politically conservative Americans have unwisely played down the threat.

Indeed, a June survey by the Pew Research Center found that political partisanship—more than race, geography, gender or age—was the biggest factor in determining comfort levels with various activities. The partisan difference widened since Pew conducted a similar survey in March, with Republicans significantly more at ease than Democrats about going to places like restaurants, salons and friends’ houses.

Mary Ellen Carroll, 48, who lives in Huntington, West Virginia, has barely left home since March. Her husband, Mike Carroll, plays golf several times a week and has been sitting outside on the country-club patio with fellow players after rounds—six feet apart, he said.

“I don’t want him to go because he’s 70 years old,” she said. “There have been arguments.” Her husband fudged it: “There’s been discussions,” but “we don’t really argue.”

They also disagree over whether their disagreement falls along partisan lines. The politically conservative Mike Carroll wears a mask only in the grocery store, he said. May Ellen Carroll wears a mask when she goes out and said she gets dirty looks from people—her mask says “Ridin’ With Biden,” she said, but she also gets negative reactions in a pink knitted one without a slogan.

“You know conservatives don’t believe in quarantine and masks,” she said. But the Carrolls have achieved an uneasy truce, and intend to go on in the same fashion.

And back in Gurnee, Illinois, the Davises have come to an understanding. Katie Clark, 41, the sister with diabetes, told the Journal that her sister, Laura, had misunderstood her objections. She said Laura’s inference that she didn’t want home-cooked food was a misunderstanding: She didn’t want people eating because they would have to take off their masks, which she didn’t think was safe..

Laura  “thinks I’m far too cautious, and I don’t think I’m too careful,” said Katie, a librarian. “We decided if we could be one person we’d handle COVID perfectly.”

Their mother, Kathy Clark, 70, said she’s coming around and has started spending time with the family indoors—six feet apart, wearing masks. “It’s just like anything,” she said. “The more you do the new thing, the more you get comfortable.”

Katie’s parents-in-law presented another dilemma. When she had them over in June, everyone agreed on the plan: Precautions included bring-your-own water bottles, mask-wearing, six-foot distancing.

But her 8-year-old and twins, 6, hadn’t seen their grandparents in months and had a hard time staying away. Her mother-in-law is immunocompromised. Katie could see her father-in-law getting anxious. “He kept saying, ‘Boys, you’re too close to Grandma,’ ” she said. “You could tell it was too much.”

Her mother-in-law, Linda Davis, 71, of Lake Forest, Illinois, told the Journal that she and her husband plan to see their grandchildren in a few days—outdoors, where the risk seems to be low.

“It makes me wonder what’s gonna happen in the fall,” she said. “But for right now, I’m happy to have that chance.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Kanye West to design Yeezy clothing line for Gap

June 29, 2020

He’s a rapper, he’s a designer, he’s a preacher, he’s a billionaire (or so he says), he’s a true Trump believer; he’s a father and the husband of reality star Kim Kardashian. And he used to work at Gap as a kid growing up in Chicago.

But can the multitalented Kanye West pull Gap’s retail empire out of its years-long slump? The casual-clothing retailer announced on June 26 that it is teaming up with West’s fashion brand Yeezy on a collection called Yeezy Gap that will debut next year, The Wall Street Journal reports. Yeezy will receive royalties and potential equity, based on meeting sales targets.

West, who has 21 Grammy awards and whose Yeezy fashion brand had a tie-up with Nike, and currently has one with Adidas, has talked about wanting to partner with Gap in various interviews over the years. A former Gap employee in his teens, West even mentioned the retailer in his 2004 song “Spaceship.”

“I believe that Yeezy is the McDonald’s and the Apple of apparel,” West told  the Journal in March. “In order to make the Apple of apparel the next Gap, it has to be a new invention. To invent something that’s so good that you don’t even get credit for it because it’s the norm.”

Founded in 1969 in San Francisco, Gap rose to fame by dressing several generations of Americans in its jeans, khakis, and T-shirts; but has since been overtaken by fast-fashion chains and new e-commerce players. Its sales have declined each year since 2013, dragging down results at parent Gap where its new chief executive, Sonia Syngal, is trying to fashion a turnaround in the middle of a pandemic.

Syngal told the Journal in May that she is using the upheaval created by the coronavirus pandemic “to refashion the company for what we want it to look like over the next 50 years.”

And she thinks West is the man to do it, with a new line of T-shirts, jeans, and hoodies.

At Yeezy’s Cody, Wyoming, studio, Mr. West has been working on perfecting the hoodie. His version is chunky and slightly cropped at the waist. “The hoodie is arguably the most important piece of apparel of the last decade,” .West told the Journal in March.

A version of the hoodie—along with T-shirts and jeans for men, women and children—will be available at Gap stores and on its website beginning next year. Prices will be in line with Gap’s other offerings, according to a company spokesperson.

Research contact: @Gap

All in the family: It’s hard to find a Trump who hasn’t voted by mail

June 24, 2020

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday morning, June 22, to rant about the threat he believes mail-in ballots pose to the integrity of U.S. elections—but his family seems to have never gotten the message, according to a report by The Daily Beast.

The POTUS  fired off another social media fusillade against the practice of submitting ballots through the USPS, which he has previously labeled as “horrible,” “terrible,” and “corrupt,” as well as “dangerous,” “fraudulent,” and for “cheaters.”

The Daily Beast opined, “The tweet on Monday, like his prior statements, reflected his fears over the expansion of vote-by-mail policies in several states amid the COVID-19 pandemic. ”

 “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” Trump tweeted in all-capital letters.

But such fears apparently have not deterred either Trump, himself, or members of his immediate family from entrusting their ballots to the U.S. mail.

In fact, the Beast reports, the White House has acknowledged that the president mailed in ballots in New York in 2018 and in Florida this year—and the Orlando Sun-Sentinel has reported that First Lady Melania Trump recently also has taken advantage of the Sunshine State’s remote voting program.

On reviewing records from the Manhattan Board of Elections, The Daily Beast discovered that Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and the First Lady all had ballots mailed to them in Washington, D.C., as recently as the 2018 election cycle, and have done so since decamping to the capital three years ago. Eric Trump, who remains in New York, similarly exercised his franchise via envelope and stamp in 2017. 

Various errors—from the First Lady’s forgetting to sign the crucial affidavit, to the First Daughter’s sending her ballot back too late, to Kushner’s failure to mail it back at all—prevented the Washington-based wing of the family’s votes from counting in 2017. But the Board of Elections documents show they all successfully returned their votes in the most recent election cycle.

Neither Eric Trump nor the White House immediately provided an on-the-record response. The president and White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who. the Tampa Bay Times found has voted by mail 11 times in the past decade, have sought to distinguish between absentee voting and “mass mail-in voting.”

But experts assert there is little difference between the two processes, which are both already widespread. Records show nearly 67,000 people besides the Trumps sent in absentee ballots in the 2018 general election in New York City, while the Wall Street Journal reported that more than 33 million people voted by mail in the 2016 presidential race.

The president’s spokeswoman and immediate family aren’t the only executive branch staff taking advantage of the system: Business Insider reports that Vice President Mike Pence and his wife voted via mail as recently as April. 

Monday’s rant marked the first time that the president has warned that hostile nations might dabble in the American mail stream. In the past, he has largely warned that blue states might refuse to send ballots to GOP-controlled districts, and claimed that U.S.-based fraudsters resort to outright robbery, The Daily Beast notes..

“They steal them, they hold up mailmen, they take them out of mailboxes, they print them fraudulently,” the president told radio host Michael Savage earlier this month.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Living the dream: Supreme Court blocks Trump repeal of DACA immigration program

June 19, 2020

In a 5-4 ruling that affects more than 600,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, the Supreme Court ruled on June 18 that the Trump Administration did not provide sufficient reasons for canceling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA); which was first announced by former President Barack Obama in June 2012.

In an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the SCOTUS rejected the White House’s decision to cancel the program, which has provided legal protections and work authorizations to undocumented immigrants, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“The dispute before the Court is not whether [the Department of Homeland Security] may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may. The dispute is instead primarily about the procedure the agency followed in doing so,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, joined in full or part by liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

He added that the decision didn’t address “whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” which wasn’t the court’s concern. But the government failed its duty under the Administrative Procedure Act to “provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” including “what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.”

Indeed, the Journal opines, “The ruling hands President Trump one of the biggest legal defeats of his presidency, and in the middle of an election year in which immigration is again a top political topic. The decision effectively provides relief to more than 600,000 DACA recipients, often referred to as Dreamers, who have been in limbo since Mr. Trump in 2017 decided to wind down the program.”

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Justice Thomas wrote. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote a separate dissent, the Journal noted.

The court’s ruling doesn’t mean the White House can never cancel DACA, but it will have to come up with new supporting reasons if it tries again to end the program.

The president and his advisers maintained that DACA wasn’t lawful because Congress hadn’t authorized any such policy. The White House and Congress have been unable to reach agreement on how to tackle the issue, or immigration policy more broadly.

According to the Journal, the cancellation of the program was scheduled to begin in March 2018, but lower courts issued rulings that blocked the administration from ending DACA. Judges previously found that the administration offered little explanation or support for its decision, in violation of a federal administrative law that requires government agencies to explain their decision-making to the public and offer sound reasons for adopting a new policy.

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump intended to fire Esper over troops dispute

June 11, 2020

Only “yes men” get tenure in the Trump White House. President Donald Trump last week was on the verge of firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper—who has held his position officially for less than one year—over their differing views about domestic use of active-duty military. However, advisers and allies on Capitol Hill talked him out of it, according to several officials who talked exclusively to The Wall Street Journal.

The officials said that Trump was furious with Esper for not supporting his intent to use active-duty troops to quell protests in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and elsewhere following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

The discord surfaced, the Journal said, when Esper said on June 3 that he didn’t think using federal troops in American streets was warranted at that time. The comments, made in an opening statement at a news conference at the Pentagon, echoed his remarks the night before in an NBC interview. The news conference comments weren’t vetted beforehand by the White House, and the statement caught officials there off guard, two officials said.

“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort,” the defense secretary said at that time. “And only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now.”

The disagreement between the two reflected the extent of differences on the issue of active-duty troops between the president and the Pentagon, where military and defense leaders were adamantly opposed to deploying federal forces to contain protesters as fundamentally at odds with military values.

A decision to fire the Pentagon chief that day also would have meant a major shake-up in the administration amid one of the biggest security crises of Trump’s presidency, the Journal noted.

The president asked several advisers for their opinion of the disagreement, with the objective that day of removing Esper, his fourth defense secretary, according to the officials. After talks with the advisers, who cautioned against the move, Trump set aside the plans to immediately fire Esper, the Journal reports.

At the same time, however, Esper, who was well aware of  the president’s feelings, was making his own preparations to resign—partly in frustration over the differences regarding the role of the military, the officials said. He had begun to prepare a letter of resignation before he was persuaded not to do so by aides and other advisers, according to some of the officials.

As advisers scrambled to avert the upheaval, Trump’s June 1 threat to send military forces into American cities emerged as a flashpoint, provoking national debate and drawing condemnation from onetime Trump aides.

Approximately 1,600 federal troops brought to the Washington, D.C., area were at that time poised for possible deployment in what was widely seen as a crossroads for the United States.

The officials said that President Trump and White House officials also were perturbed by Mr. Esper’s public comments indicating he didn’t know that a June 1 walk by. Trump and an entourage of officials that included Esper was set up for the purpose of taking photographs by a church near the White House that had been damaged in violence. Security forces including the National Guard forcibly removed protesters to allow for the photo session.

Advisers consulted by Mr. Trump that day included White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; longtime Trump friend and outside adviser David Urban; and Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), the officials said.

Research contact: @wsjournal

Barr: U.S. Attorney’s probe not likely to focus on Obama, Biden—or ‘Obamagate’

May 20, 2020

How low will he go? Even at the behest of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr said on Monday that he “doesn’t  expect” either to investigate—or to subpoena for testimony— former President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Barr, who to date has been all too willing to do the president’s bidding, said the former heads of state would not be scrutinized as part of an examination into the origins of a federal probe looking at whether the 2016 Trump campaign colluded with Russia. In doing so, he crushed Trump’s Obamagate hopes—making it clear that there would be no criminal prosecution.

Last year the AG appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to review the origins of the 2016 probe into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference. The investigation, according to people familiar with it, the Journal says, is proceeding on multiple fronts—examining how the initial allegations surfaced in 2016, as well as a separate 2017 U.S. intelligence report that concluded Moscow had interfered in the presidential election in part to help then-candidate Trump.

“As to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man,” Barr said in response to a reporter’s question during a news conference called to discuss updates to the probe of a shooting at a military base last year in Pensacola, Florida. “Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”

A spokesman for Obama declined to comment to the Journal. Biden didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barr didn’t provide details on exactly what or whom Durham was investigating, but he expressed concern generally about a trend to “gin up allegations of criminality by one’s political opponents based on the flimsiest of legal theories.”

He didn’t directly address remarks made in recent weeks by President Trump and some of his conservative allies that have suggested without evidence that. Obama and Biden—who is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and Trump’s expected 2020 opponent—had engaged in criminal acts to spy on his 2016 election campaign.

Speaking at the White House Monday afternoon, the president said he was a “little surprised” by  Barr’s announcement about the former president and vice president, adding that “if it was me, I guarantee they’d be going after me.” He said he had “no doubt” that. Biden and Obama were involved in what he called the “takedown of a president.”

Still, the president called Barr an “honorable man” and said he would rely on him to “make all of those decisions.”

Research contact: @WSJ