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Vox Sentences: Brexit takes a U-turn

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Barr’s Senate confirmation hearings begin; the UK Parliament rejects May’s Brexit deal.

Barr and grilling

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • During his confirmation hearings Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, attorney general nominee William Barr tried to assure the members that if confirmed, he would act as an independent head of the Justice Department, especially when it comes to special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into President Trump and Russia. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • Barr said he likely wouldn’t fire Mueller, and criticized the idea of Trump trying to sway the investigation. But he also wouldn’t commit to making Mueller’s report public or to following Justice Department ethics guidelines on recusing himself from the investigation. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • Democrats on the committee repeatedly brought up a critical memo Barr wrote about the Mueller investigation, and Barr also discussed being asked to join Trump’s defense team in June 2017. [Politico / Marianne Levine and Darren Samuelsohn]
  • When pressed on immigration, Barr agreed with Trump on the need for a wall to secure America’s southern border. He described barriers between the US and Mexico as a “common sense matter.” [NYT]
  • Two leading Democratic senators — Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — also pushed Barr, the author of a 1992 report calling for increased incarceration, on his criminal justice record. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • Senators also asked Barr about other issues under DOJ’s purview, such as antitrust law. Barr said he would focus on promoting competition in the tech sector where large companies exist “under the nose of antitrust enforcers.” [Axios / Marisa Fernandez and David McCabe]

Brexit deal rejected

  • Parliament voted down British Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal 432 to 202 — the biggest margin of defeat in recent history for a British government. [Vox / Jen Kirby]
  • After her stunning defeat, May’s government will now face a vote of no confidence in Parliament. If she loses, it could trigger general elections. If she wins, she still has to come up with a plan for Brexit. [NYT / Stephen Castle and Ellen Barry]
  • The UK is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29. May may go back to the EU and attempt to win some new concessions. That might be tough, as the EU has said it’s this deal or no deal. And no deal would be very, very bad. [Axios / Dave Lawler]
  • A no-deal departure could mean severe and unpredictable economic consequences for the UK, from food shortages to ports of entry backed up for miles. [NYT]
  • That doesn’t sound great, so why did everyone hate May’s deal? Hardline Brexiteers thought it didn’t offer a decisive enough split with the EU and would rather risk a no-deal outcome to get the divorce they desire. [Washington Post / William Booth, Karla Adam, and Michael Birnbaum]
  • And then there are the pro-Europe members of Parliament who don’t want Brexit to happen at all. They’re still holding out hope for a second referendum — another vote that might include an option to stay in the EU after all. [Guardian / Damien Gayle]
  • One of the biggest sticking points with May’s deal was the Irish border. Correspondence from European Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to May addressed no-dealers’ fears, including assuring continued meetings with the UK during a transition period that ends on December 31, 2020. [Politico Europe / Tom McTague]


  • The 116th Congress includes 131 women, Democrats and Republicans from across the country. Here they are. [NYT / Elizabeth D. Herman and Celeste Sloman]
  • The Green New Deal is a proposal to decarbonize the American economy. President Obama tried this in 2009, but now the political stage is completely different. [Politico / Michael Grunwald]
  • Winter is coming. A polar vortex set to hit the East Coast will bring continued cold, snowy weather to the region through February. [Washington Post / Jason Samenow]
  • Home with a fever? Scientists are getting a better understanding of how elevated body temperature can fight illness. Basically, the heat of your body prompts the protein that carries immune cells. [Economist]
  • You hear his name every day: a love letter to Robert Mueller. [Vanity Fair / Rachel Dodes]


“Performing is the only excuse for my existence. What could be better than this?” [Actress and Broadway star Carol Channing, who died Tuesday at age 97, to the New York Times]

Watch this: How Brexit could create a crisis at the Irish border

The open border has helped keep the peace for 20 years. [YouTube / Sam Ellis]

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