Start Here: Terrorist-turned-informant atones, Pelosi says Barr lied to Congress

https://abcnews.go.com/US/start-here-terrorist-turned-informant-atones-pelosi-barr-lied/story?id=62779334

It’s Friday, May 3, 2019. Let’s start here.

1. ‘An imaginary world’

A former al-Qaeda member who’d plotted to bomb New York City’s subway system but then flipped on his comrades and helped investigators prosecute terrorists is set to walk free.

A federal judge in New York said he’s giving Najibullah Zazi, 33, a “once-unthinkable second chance,” sentencing him to time served after Zazi spent the last decade providing U.S. authorities with key details on the sprawling terror network.

“Zazi has given federal prosecutors, intelligence agents, law enforcement officials a window into al-Qaeda’s training and methods that [they] just didn’t have before,” ABC News’ Aaron Katersky explains on “Start Here.” “A lot of the American understanding of how al-Qaeda operates came from Najibullah Zazi.”

Prosecutors said Zazi “repudiated terrorist ideology” and deserved a reduced sentence for his “extraordinary cooperation.”

In a letter to the judge unsealed late Thursday, Zazi said: “Looking back, I can now see how gullible I was, actually living in an imaginary world.”

2. ‘Considered a crime’

Democrats are warring with Attorney General William Barr over his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Barr of lying to Congress after a newly released letter from Mueller in March revealed he’d complained about Barr’s summary of the Russia investigation’s findings. Barr in April was questioned by the House on whether he knew Mueller’s team was unhappy with how he portrayed their report, and Barr said he wasn’t aware of any discontent.

A Department of Justice spokesperson called Pelosi’s accusation “reckless, irresponsible and false,” and Barr defended himself in testimony before the Senate on Wednesday, saying he spoke with Mueller, not Mueller’s team.

Democrats fumed on Thursday after Barr declined to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, which is now in talks to have Mueller himself testify on Capitol Hill and has threatened to hold Barr in contempt after the DOJ missed a deadline to provide a full version of Mueller’s report.

“This will be politically embarrassing if it happens, but, legally, it’s not really clear what power Democrats really have in compelling Barr to do anything — because the DOJ won’t prosecute him,” ABC News’ Katherine Faulders tells us.

PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 1, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Barr testified on the Justice Departments investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.Win Mcnamee/Getty Images
U.S. Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee May 1, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Barr testified on the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election.

3. Turning the page

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has resigned amid a growing scandal involving sales of her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books.

Pugh, who has been on a month-long medical leave of absence, apologized in a statement on Thursday “for the harm that I have caused to the image of the city of Baltimore.”

Last week, federal investigators raided her home and offices. Pugh is under criminal investigation for book deals she made as a board member of the University of Maryland Medical System that were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. She has not been charged with a crime and denies any wrongdoing.

PHOTO: Federal agents arrive at the Maryland Center for Adult Training in Baltimore, Md., April 25, 2019.Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun via AP
Federal agents arrive at the Maryland Center for Adult Training in Baltimore, Md., April 25, 2019.

4. ‘This is unacceptable’

A new Pentagon survey finds that sexual assaults in the military rose to 20,500 in 2018, exceeding the 20,300 cases reported five years ago, highlighting how prevention efforts have largely failed.

“To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other,” acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a memo. “This is unacceptable. We cannot shrink from facing the challenge head on. We must, and will, do better.”

Pentagon officials are exploring new prevention efforts, including looking at making sexual harassment a crime in the military and creating a program to catch serial offenders, ABC News’ Luis Martinez tells “Start Here.”

“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:

‘He is the president’s defense lawyer’: Hillary Clinton criticizes William Barr, saying, “He is not the attorney general of the United States in the way that he has conducted himself.”

‘China also sometimes uses coercion or blackmail to manipulate overseas Chinese citizens to conduct influence operations’: A new Pentagon report highlights China’s plan for world domination.

‘His wife had been telling him, “Don’t pop your neck. You’re going to cause a stroke”‘: A man pops his neck and has a stroke.

From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

How mapping shots in the NBA changed it forever: Each one of these dots has a backstory. Each one has a shooter attached, a team attached and an outcome attached. We know who took each shot and whether it went in or not. And we can smooth out these dots statistically and map out the overall field-goal percentage of the NBA as a collective.

Doff your cap:

Swipe. Swipe. Swipe. Pause. Look at photo. Swipe. Pause. Watch video. Swipe.

How many times of day do you think you do this? A handful? A dozen? Not even close. On average, American adults spend the equivalent of 49 days each year on their mobile phones and tablets — a phenomenon that’s developed in less than a decade.

Experts, including some who are parents, recently shared some suggestions with ABC News as part of the two-hour special report — “ScreenTime: Diane Sawyer Reporting” — to help people rein in children and teenagers’ use of technology.

“We have to help youth understand,” said Dr. Anne Marie Albano, head of the Anxiety and Related Disorder Clinic at Columbia University, “sitting with a person, face-to-face, laughing, kidding with one another, you know, some contact, that is what’s important. That is going to make you feel less lonely, more happy, more engaged, more connected.”

Watch the full two-hour special, “ScreenTime: Diane Sawyer Reporting,” tonight at 8 Eastern on ABC.