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US announces troop withdrawal in Afghanistan as respite from violence ends

President Trump gloated about the stock market roaring back at a Monday night rally in Charlotte, N.C., while throwing barbs at the thinning Democratic presidential field on the eve of Super Tuesday’s big round of primaries.

Trump’s spirits were high after the Dow Jones industrial average soared nearly 1,300 points, or 5 percent, clawing back from a seven-day rout in which it dropped more than 3,500 points. Stocks rose on hopes that central banks will take action to shield the global economy from the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

‘‘Do you think our opponents were thrilled when they saw the stock market today?’’ asked Trump, who has taken credit for a bull market throughout his three years in office.

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The president threw some of his hardest punches at former vice president Joe Biden, who is coming off a decisive win in Saturday’s South Carolina primary. Trump picked at Biden’s propensity for rhetorical stumbles on the stump, suggesting it was a sign of senility.

“I honestly don’t think he knows what office he’s running for,” Trump said. He speculated that if Biden wins the White House, “he’s not going to be running it. Other people are going to. They’re going to put him into a home and other people are going to be running the country and they’re going to be super left radical crazies.’’

Trump allowed that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who finished at or near the top in three of the first four nominating contests, “does have some enthusiasm, but much less than we have.’’

North Carolina is one of 14 states voting in Super Tuesday. It’s a crucial moment in the nomination battle: Biden is making the case that moderates need to consolidate behind him to stop Sanders, a democratic socialist, and give Democrats a shot at beating Trump in November.

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Trump has offered daily commentary on the Democratic race, alternately boasting that no Democrat has a chance against him, ridiculing the top tier of candidates with derisive nicknames, and arguing that the party’s establishment is trying to steal the nomination from Sanders.

Associated Press

Chris Matthews stuns viewers by quitting show

Chris Matthews, the veteran political anchor and voluble host of the long-running MSNBC talk show “Hardball,” resigned Monday night, an abrupt departure from a television perch that made him a fixture of politics and the news media over the past quarter-century.

Matthews, 74, had faced mounting criticism in recent days over a spate of embarrassing on-air moments, including a comparison of Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign to the Nazi invasion of France and an interview with Senator Elizabeth Warren in which the anchor was criticized for a condescending and disbelieving tone.

On Saturday, journalist Laura Bassett wrote for GQ magazine online that Matthews had made inappropriate comments about her appearance in the makeup room of his studio on several occasions when she was a guest on his program.

On Monday, a solemn Matthews began his usual 7 p.m. broadcast by announcing to his viewers, “I’m retiring — this is the last ‘Hardball’ on MSNBC.”

In a brief monologue, he said he had agreed to step down “after conversations” with network executives, adding that his exit “isn’t for a lack of interest in politics.” He also acknowledged giving “compliments on a woman’s appearance that some men, including me, might have once incorrectly thought were OK.

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“For making such comments in the past, I’m sorry,” Matthews said.

His sudden signoff, though negotiated with senior network executives, came as a shock to some of Matthews’ most prominent on-air colleagues. Steve Kornacki, the anchor tasked with hosting the remainder of Monday’s “Hardball” episode, appeared stunned as the show returned from a commercial break.

“Um, that was a lot to take in,” Kornacki said, his eyes wide.

An MSNBC spokesman said Monday that a rotating series of hosts would fill Matthews’ time slot until a permanent replacement is found.

Matthews is an eminence grise of television news, his pugilistic and red-cheeked persona familiar to viewers from countless election nights. He spoke from experience: Before his move into punditry, Matthews served as a speechwriter in Jimmy Carter’s administration and spent years as chief of staff to Thomas P. O’Neill Jr., the powerful Democratic speaker of the House in the late 1970s and much of the ’80s.

NEW YORK TIMES

Trump yanks nominee who questioned Ukraine move

WASHINGTON — President Trump returned Monday to his post-impeachment score-settling, withdrawing the nomination of Elaine McCusker to a top Defense Department post. McCusker had questioned the suspension of assistance to Ukraine, a central line of inquiry in the president’s impeachment.

White House aides had forecast the punishment for McCusker last month, around the time the president was banishing Alexander Vindman and Yevgeny Vindman, twin brothers and both Army lieutenant colonels, from the National Security Council. Alexander Vindman testified during Trump’s impeachment proceedings.

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Trump also fired Gordon Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, who famously asked and answered his own question during the impeachment hearings: “Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.”

On Monday, staffers with the Senate Armed Services Committee said they had received paperwork — with no additional explanation — that the president was pulling her nomination.

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that McCusker was “another casualty of the Trump administration’s efforts to purge public servants who put country before fealty to the president.”

NEW YORK TIMES

Supreme Court appears divided on asylum case

The Supreme Court appeared divided Monday over whether the government can deport people who fail initial asylum screenings without allowing them to make their case to a federal judge.

The court heard arguments in the case of a man who said he fled persecution as a member of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority but failed to persuade immigration officials that he faced harm if he returned to Sri Lanka. The man was arrested soon after he slipped across the US border from Mexico.

The Trump administration is seeking a sweeping ruling that it could potentially use to deport millions of people.

Associated Press