Miami Open: Simona Halep sets up meeting with Venus Williams in last 16

Simona Halep next faces three-time Miami Open champion Venus Williams

Simona Halep moved closer to regaining the world number one ranking by coming from a set down to beat Polona Hercog 5-7 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 at the Miami Open.

The 27-year-old world number three lost her place at the top of the women’s game following Naomi Osaka’s Australian Open victory in January.

But after Osaka’s shock exit in the third round in Miami, Halep can return to the top if she takes the title.

She next faces Venus Williams, who swept past 14th seed Daria Kasatkina.

American seven-time Grand Slam champion Williams beat the 21-year-old Russian 6-3 6-1 in just under 75 minutes on Sunday to reach the fourth round.

At number 43 in the world rankings, three-time Miami Open champion Williams, 38, is ranked 21 places lower than Kasatkina.

Venus Williams swept past her third-round opponent, 14th seed Daria Kasatkina

Romanian Halep, the 2018 French Open champion, arrived in Miami having failed to get past the last 16 in Indian Wells and the quarter-finals in Dubai.

She will also go top of the rankings if she reaches the final and loses to anyone other than Czech world number two Petra Kvitova. Kvitova faces France’s Caroline Garcia in the fourth round.

It took her nearly three hours to beat 28-year-old Hercog, the world number 93 from Slovenia.

“She played unbelievable and it was such a tough match,” said Halep. “It was good to play for almost three hours though. I slowly found my rhythm but I always had belief so if I can keep doing this, I will have a good tournament.”

World number one Osaka was beaten by 27th-seeded Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan on Saturday, while Serena Williams was forced to withdraw with a knee injury.

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No Impeachment in View, but Democrats Push On With Investigations of Trump

“We’re going to move forward with our investigation into obstruction of justice, abuses of power, corruption, to defend the rule of law, which is our job,” Mr. Nadler told reporters in New York afterward. “It’s a broader mandate than the special prosecutor has. His mandate is only for crimes.”

Mr. Nadler said he rejected Mr. Trump’s claim of vindication, and zeroed in on Mr. Barr, whom he described as having prejudged the matter of obstruction.

“He auditioned for his job by writing a 19-page memorandum giving a very extreme view of obstruction of justice in presidential power and saying basically no president can commit obstruction of justice,” Mr. Nadler said, referring to a memo Mr. Barr wrote in June 2018 about executive authority. Mr. Nadler pledged to use every tool at his disposal to gain access to the full report and evidence — the public release of which Mr. Barr said Sunday raised challenges given grand jury and other sensitive information.

Mr. Nadler’s committee is not the only one scrutinizing the president and his administration. Since they took control of the House, Democrats have been investigating Mr. Trump’s businesses, his role in hush money payments during the campaign to a pornographic film actress who claimed to have had an affair with him, accusations of corruption in various federal agencies and other topics.

“I don’t know that any of our investigations depended on the red herring concept of collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin’s forces,” Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat and former constitutional law professor, said in an interview, referring to a series of ongoing investigations into numerous aspects of the Trump White House and Mr. Trump’s businesses.

The collusion theory is the basis, at least in part, for the House Intelligence Committee’s own investigation of Russian election interference, and it was less clear on Sunday how Democrats leading that panel would incorporate Mr. Mueller’s definitive conclusion that there had been no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to undermine the 2016 election. Then again, the committee’s chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, had in a sense already built in a response, framing his inquiry as not just about Russia, but any other foreign powers that could have financial or other leverage over Mr. Trump and his associates.

At least on the question of impeachment — a constitutional remedy so grave it has been pursued seriously against a president only twice in modern American history — the outlook appeared to be clearer. Mr. Nadler and Ms. Pelosi, students of the failed Republican attempt to remove Bill Clinton from office in the 1990s, have warned repeatedly that they would not go down that path unaccompanied by Republicans.

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Eager to Court Jews (and Fracture Democrats), Republicans Push Bills on Anti-Semitism

Ms. Pelosi has not said whether she would support the bill if it passed the Senate, and a spokeswoman declined to comment. A House leadership aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized publicly, said the bill was likely to draw extended scrutiny in House committees before — or if — it was ever considered on the floor.

It is not clear how Ms. Omar and other progressives would vote on the measure, although similar efforts have attracted opposition on the basis of objections by the American Civil Liberties Union and progressive Jewish groups.

“This legislation appears designed less to combat anti-Semitism than to have a chilling effect and to crack down on campus critics of Israel,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a liberal advocacy group that has been sharply critical of Israel’s government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said in a text message.

“It’s misguided to legislatively declare a broad range of nonviolent campus criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism, especially at a time when the prime driver of anti-Semitism is the xenophobic, white nationalist far-right,” he said. “This bill is part of a cynical effort by some of its right-wing proponents to turn the issue of anti-Semitism into a partisan political weapon.”

But in the past, the bill has had widespread support among lawmakers in both parties, and it has the backing of Aipac and the Anti-Defamation League. It also has the support of a powerful outside advocate: David Krone, the hard-driving former chief of staff to Harry Reid, the former Senate Democratic leader, who has used his contacts in the party to push the measure for several years in response to a wave of anti-Semitism on college campuses.

“I find great irony in what Congresswoman Omar said about the issue of Jews and dual loyalty,” Mr. Krone said in an interview. “I am certain that she found the whole birther movement disgusting, vile and flat-out racist. I agree. It was abhorrent to question the loyalty of President Obama. But how, on one hand, can she say it is wrong about people questioning President Obama’s loyalties, but on the other hand, question mine as a Jew? What she said and what some stupid birther said are equally idiotic.”

Ms. Omar’s spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Top Democrats are hardly ready to cede support of Israel to Republicans. Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the Democratic leader, gave a rousing defense of the American-Israeli relationship at the Aipac conference Sunday evening, promising to push for a resolution that opposes the boycott Israel movement. Without naming her, he took several jabs at Ms. Omar.

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Kirsten Gillibrand Formally Announces Presidential Run Outside Trump Hotel

NEW YORK ― Addressing hundreds of supporters in the shadow of the Trump International Hotel in midtown Manhattan, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) formally announced her campaign for president of the United States.

In Gillibrand’s speech, which elaborated on themes she introduced in a two-minute video advertisement earlier this month, she argued that she possesses the “bravery” needed to defeat President Donald Trump and overcome his divisive legacy.

Drawing on the “Star-Spangled Banner” line, “in the land of the free and the home of the brave,” the speech and video that preceded it framed Gillibrand’s career and candidacy as an extension of intergenerational struggles for racial, gender and economic equality that have succeeded thanks to individual acts of courage.

Gillibrand cited her work in Congress fighting sexual assault in the military, advocating an end to the exclusion of openly gay Americans in the military, and winning health care benefits for the 9/11 first responders as evidence that she has the backbone ― or “bravery” ― needed to reunite the country behind a vision of inclusivity and greater economic opportunity.

“I will go toe-to-toe with anyone to do the right thing. Whether it’s powerful institutions, the president, or even my own party,” Gillibrand declared.

“I’m fighting for an America where power truly belongs in the hands of the people ― where our leaders care about everyone in this country, and lead not from weakness of ego, but from strength of character; where compassion and integrity define our government, not self-interest and corruption; where we just don’t care about the profits we make today, but the future we’re leaving to our grandchildren,” she added.

Gillibrand’s formal announcement was an attempt at something of a reboot more than two months after she rolled out an “exploratory committee” for her White House run.

After eliciting some positive attention for her mid-January announcement and subsequent Iowa campaign swing, Gillibrand has struggled to break through in the press and the polls.

The junior senator from New York lacks the name recognition of colleagues like Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.); the devoted ideological base of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); or even the youthful novelty of South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D).

In a Des Moines Register poll of over 400 Iowa Democrats conducted earlier this month, not a single respondent listed Gillibrand as their first choice. (Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to announce his plans to run, led in the poll, followed by Sanders.)

Gillibrand’s televised town hall on MSNBC last Monday evening provided another demonstration of the challenges she has faced in carving a niche for herself in the crowded Democratic presidential field. It was a relatively rare moment of unfiltered national television exposure for Gillibrand, and she used it to unveil a new proposal to provide free college for Americans who volunteer for some form of national service.

But Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who held a live CNN town hall the same night, dominated the news cycle with her call to abolish the Electoral College.

And unlike Sanders, Warren, Harris and neighboring Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), it took Gillibrand two months to pick up an endorsement from a prominent elected official in her home state. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) announced last Sunday that she was backing Gillibrand’s presidential bid. However, neither Maloney nor any other elected officials spoke at Gillibrand’s Manhattan rally.

We can’t afford not to do this. We don’t have time to waste.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

In addition, Gillibrand is under scrutiny for her Senate office’s decision to discipline, rather than fire, a male employee accused by a female subordinate of unwanted sexual advances. The subordinate subsequently resigned in protest over what she perceived as an inadequate response to her allegation, Politico reported earlier this month.

The allegation runs counter to Gillibrand’s reputation as a crusader for the rights of sexual assault and harassment survivors. She has received both praise and criticism for becoming the first senator to call for Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign in December 2017 after women lodged multiple allegations against him of unwanted groping.

In a bid to turn the page on a rocky start to her run, Gillibrand emphasized her potentially eclectic appeal on Sunday, portraying herself as a working mother and women’s rights champion; a principled progressive with an unyielding record against Trump; and an upstate New Yorker with success in Republican areas. She occupies something of an ideological middle ground between Sanders and Warren on the left, and figures like Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who are more explicitly trying to appeal to moderate Democrats and independents less comfortable with the party’s leftward turn.

On the one hand, Gillibrand is keen to emphasize that her 2006 win in a heavily Republican House district in upstate New York equips her uniquely to appeal to rural Americans. It’s a pitch Gillibrand wielded frequently in her first campaign trip to Iowa in January ― a state she has since visited two more times ― and she invoked it again on Sunday.

“People told me: ‘It has more cows than Democrats ― you can’t possibly win!’” she recalled. “But, I took those odds, and I won.”

At the same time, Gillibrand has adopted a steadily growing list of progressive policies since she was tapped to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2009.

Early on in her Senate tenure, Gillibrand shed her past opposition to gun control and support for hard-line immigration enforcement policies. More recently, she has championed legislation that would provide 12 weeks of paid family leave, and a bill to transform the postal service into a nonprofit bank that could effectively replace the exploitative payday lending industry.

She has also embraced the $15 minimum wage, Sanders’ single-payer health care bill and the Green New Deal ― New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s multifaceted clean-energy infrastructure plan to combat climate change.

She even claimed she’d “go further” than some Green New Deal proponents by coupling it with a carbon tax.

“We can’t afford not to do this. We don’t have time to waste,” Gillibrand said on Sunday.

Gillibrand has nonetheless stopped short of her most left-wing colleagues. She has not endorsed tuition-free public college for all Americans. And she consistently describes a Medicare buy-in, rather than an immediate switch to single-payer health care, as her preferred method for achieving universal coverage.

Beatrice Sevcik, 47, and her husband Tony Gibney, 48, came in from the Westchester County suburbs to hear Gillibrand speak.

“I think it’s time that we had a woman running the country,” said Sevcik, a retired attorney. “I think she has a broad appeal. We need someone who can appeal to the suburban and rural populations, and I think that makes a difference.”

“I love Kamala Harris, but I don’t know if a progressive from San Francisco can win the middle,” she added.

Other rally attendees said they came to hear Gillibrand’s pitch, but had yet to decide on Gillibrand or any other candidate. Several said that while nominating a woman was not essential, it factored into their interest in Gillibrand.

Nicole McCloskey, a 30-year-old finance professional from Manhattan, said she was “still shopping” for the right candidate. McCloskey, who likes Gillibrand’s support for paid family leave, said she was attending the rally because, “[Gillibrand]’s my senator and I want to support other women running for office.”

Andrew Sapon, 62, a Manhattan attorney, joked that he was waiting for another “15, 20 Dems to announce.”

But he was impressed with Gillibrand’s work in the Senate on behalf of sexual assault survivors in the military. It would be nice, he suggested, to “replace one New Yorker with another in the White House.”

New York University students Daniel Cueto, 22, and Joseph Blakely, 21, are leaning toward Sanders or Warren, but they wanted to give Gillibrand a chance as well.

Blakely was skeptical of Gillibrand’s shift to the left.

“A lot of [her] material for this election seems kind of forced in a way, but I don’t follow it enough to say whether it’s authentic,” he said.

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New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski announces retirement

Super Bowl 53: Stunning Rob Gronkowski catch sets up New England Patriots’ touchdown

New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski has announced his retirement from the NFL in a social media post.

It ends a nine-year career that included helping the Patriots to another Super Bowl triumph in February when they beat the Los Angeles Rams.

“It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true,” he wrote on Instagram.

“And now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far.”

He added: “I will be retiring from the game of football today.”

In the post, Gronkowski – a three-time Super Bowl champion – thanked the Patriots, his team-mates and fans.

“Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be. But now its time to move forward.”

He ended the lengthy post by writing: “Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of what’s next.”

A four-time First Team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, Gronkowski caught 521 passes for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns in 115 games from 2010-18.

He added 81 catches for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns in 16 postseason contests.

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Booker wrestles with primary field lurching left

Cory Booker

Presidential candidate Cory Booker: “We should be careful about the traditions in this country and how we honor them.” | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

At the end of January, Cory Booker was emphatic in his defense of the filibuster. “We should not be doing anything to mess” with it, he said.

By springtime, the New Jersey Democrat had softened his stance considerably: “That door is not closed.”

Story Continued Below

As some of his 2020 competitors warm to dramatic reforms like eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold and adding justices to the Supreme Court, the White House hopeful from Newark is plainly wrestling with whether to follow suit.

In an interview, Booker laid bare what he is grappling with: He’s been in the minority most of the time he’s been in the Senate and seen the power of the filibuster block the conservative agenda. And he’s worried that if Democrats make changes to the fabric of the Supreme Court, it will be exploited to potentially greater effect by Republicans in the future.

“You have to understand that a lot of these that are talked about: If we do it when we have the control to do it, they can do it again. What we need to find is real solutions that are sustainable regardless of who is president,” Booker said. “We should be careful about the traditions in this country and how we honor them.”

But his institutional loyalties are being tested by an activist base lurching left and a need to break out of the sprawling Democratic field where he registers in the low- to mid-single digits.

His ambivalence toward such explosive changes reflects Booker’s broader positioning in the 2020 race and within the Senate Democratic Caucus. The 49-year-old senator has a reliably liberal record, though he’s clearly to the right of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and has worked closely with some Republicans to advance his priorities.

It’s a profile that could ultimately help him stand out among his 2020 counterparts — if his bipartisan leanings and campaign of “love” can connect with primary voters eager to take down President Donald Trump.

In just the latest example of the party’s rapid shift, Booker — long a pro-Israel stalwart — is attending the AIPAC conference in Washington this weekend but only to meet with New Jersey constituents. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sanders (I-Vt.) are staying away entirely.

And in an appearance with Pod Save America last week, Booker expressed new openness to killing the filibuster and admitted the progressive podcast fires “a lot of people up” on the kinds of process reforms once discussed only on the fringes. He’s also sounding increasingly open to changes to the Supreme Court, like imposing term limits on justices.

Yet in the interview with POLITICO, Booker deemed the tit-for-tat among Democrats and Republicans that eliminated the filibuster on all nominations over the past few years as a “race to the bottom.”

“Are we going to turn the United States Senate into a majoritarian body like the House? Because I think if that’s the case there would be regret among 100 senators, regardless of the party,” Booker said. “Is there a way to get back to creating a body that deals by comity and serves the American purpose?”

The party’s energy is clearly concentrated among younger, more progressive activists. But more than 60 percent of the Democratic electorate most likely to vote in primaries is 40 and older, a statistical reality that potentially benefits a candidate who is viewed as more in the middle and focused on pursuing bipartisanship.

Though Booker brandishes a progressive form of politics and is eager to seize the spotlight at committee hearings, he’s also developed surprisingly close relationships with conservative Republicans like Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Tim Scott of South Carolina. He often cites those friendships on the campaign trail as evidence that he is the candidate able to heal a divided nation.

At the same time, Booker says that Republicans are “clearly” playing by a different set of rules than Democrats. And he seemed particularly miffed that the “blue slip” tradition of allowing home state senators veto power over appellate court nominees has officially been abandoned by the GOP.

“That just creates a certain sense with the Democrats: When we are in power, we’re going to double down and do the same thing at least,” Booker said, deliberating as he spoke. “That doesn’t mean … that we should somehow not try to balance the scales.”

Liberal groups argue their party’s most ambitious proposals — not to mention counterbalancing the Supreme Court seat stolen from Barack Obama — are impossible under current Senate norms and rules.

Activists say Booker is listening to them, even as he refuses to embrace their strategies just yet. For instance, Booker argues a Democratic Senate majority could use budget reconciliation to repeal the GOP tax cuts without gutting the 60-vote threshold for legislation. People close to Booker say he’s unlikely to be the first to explicitly endorse killing the filibuster or expanding the Supreme Court.

His stances track neatly with a record that leans left, with an occasional tack toward the center.

He routinely votes against Trump’s nominees, endorses the “Green New Deal” and “Medicare for All” and said he’d risk expulsion in his fight against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

But he also took weeks before declaring his eventual support for Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, drew flak for opposing a measure aimed at importing drugs from Canada and made liberals squirm way back in the 2012 presidential campaign when he called attacks on Mitt Romney’s old firm Bain Capital “nauseating.”

In the previous Congress, Booker worked closely with Trump aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner to reform criminal justice laws, while teaming with Grassley and Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham to try and protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired by the president.

No one would call Booker a moderate, but in the spectrum of the Democratic primary he falls somewhere in the middle. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who plays basketball against the former Stanford tight end, described Booker and his politics this way: A “smart son of a B.”

Jim Demers, a Democratic strategist and longtime New Hampshire activist backing Booker, called the senator a “pragmatic progressive.”

“Voters are frustrated, and they’re frustrated because the country is so divided,” Demers said. “He’s walking a fine line of espousing positions that are very progressive but also recognizing that when this election is over, a president has to get things done.”

Simply by virtue of how many Democrats are in the primary, there’s also a decent chance that Booker falls short and remains a senator for decades. For that reason, his GOP colleagues say he’s unlikely to be the candidate trashing the Senate as a campaign tactic.

“He’s a positive person who looks for the best in situations. And he is critical when necessary. But not critical as a way of simply attracting folks to a conversation,” Scott, the Republican senator, said of Booker.

It’s also not clear whether process reforms resonate with voters, anyway.

“In Iowa, how many people are going to vote on your position on the Supreme Court? … It’s probably a mistake to overhype the power of some of those process litmus tests,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who is close friends with Booker. “Cory probably has a legitimate interest in trying to find a long term way for Republicans and Democrats to work together.”

There’s also some evidence that primary voters are leery of candidates who are moving too far to the left. In a recent Iowa poll where both Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders dominated the field, 44 percent of those surveyed said Sanders’ political views were too liberal. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the Iowa Democrats polled said Biden’s views were “about right.”

The same poll showed 42 percent believed Booker’s views were “just right,” with only 9 percent seeing him as “too liberal.”

“My sense is he is trying to distinguish himself,” said Brady Quirk-Garvan, former chairman of the Charleston County Democrats in South Carolina, who has endorsed Booker. “Booker is now saying: Here’s what is different and unique about me. Here’s what makes me uniquely qualified to be the nominee.”

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