Reuters US Domestic News Summary

Following is a summary of current US domestic news briefs.

Some 70,000 Valentines sent to 104-year-old in tribute to military veterans

William White, a 104-year-old U.S. Marine veteran who earned a Purple Heart in World War Two, is celebrating Valentine's Day this year like never before, surrounded by a mountain of 70,000 love letters and well-wishes sent from all over the world. The cards and notes to "Major Bill," a retired major who lives in an assisted living facility in Stockton, California, began pouring in after a fellow resident launched a social media campaign called "Operation Valentine," asking friends and strangers alike to send greetings to honor White.

Jeffrey Epstein's estate blames U.S. Virgin Islands AG for lack of payouts to victims

A lawyer for Jeffrey Epstein's estate on Tuesday blamed the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands for its inability to begin payouts to victims of the late financier's sexual abuse. At a hearing in federal court in Manhattan, the lawyer Bennet Moskowitz said Attorney General Denise George's lawsuit and filing of liens against the estate, plus her intervention in the probate of Epstein's will, have left the estimated $577.7 million estate unable to pay even basic expenses.

Bloomberg turns heads with write-in win in New Hampshire hamlet

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's shadow over the Democratic presidential race grew a bit longer on Tuesday after his surprise write-in win in a hamlet that traditionally kicks off voting in New Hampshire's closely watched primary election. The billionaire businessman, who is skipping the first four state nominating contests as part of a long-game strategy to win the party's nomination to face Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election, received three of the five votes cast after the stroke of midnight by Dixville Notch residents.

U.S. evacuees freed from coronavirus quarantine, officials fear discrimination

Nearly 200 people evacuated from the China coronavirus outbreak were released from quarantine in California on Tuesday with officials urging Americans not to shun them, or workers who helped them, after both groups faced discrimination. The 195 U.S. citizens, mostly U.S. State Department employees and their families, underwent the United States' first mandatory quarantine since 1963 after they were evacuated from the coronavirus-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan.

Under pressure from Trump, U.S. seeks shorter sentence for his adviser Stone

Under pressure from President Donald Trump, the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday abruptly moved to seek a shorter prison sentence for veteran Republican operative and long-time Trump adviser and friend Roger Stone, with all four prosecutors quitting the case after the highly unusual reversal. Senior department officials - hours after Trump complained on Twitter that Stone was being treated unfairly - overrode the sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years made on Monday by the federal prosecutors who secured Stone's conviction. Stone was found guilty in November on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

Jussie Smollett charged again with making false reports to Chicago police

Former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett was charged on Tuesday in a six-count felony indictment with staging a phony hate crime, nearly a year after similar charges were abruptly dismissed by local prosecutors. The six-count grand jury indictment accuses Smollett, 37, who is black and openly gay, of making four separate false reports to Chicago Police Department officers related to his account that he was the victim of a hate crime.

U.S. says Michael Avenatti shook down Nike, defense disagrees as extortion trial nears end

Michael Avenatti's extortion trial neared its end on Tuesday as a federal prosecutor said the celebrity lawyer had an "agenda" to shake down Nike Inc by threatening to tar it with corruption allegations, while the defense said Avenatti was simply representing his client aggressively. Prosecutors have charged Avenatti with threatening to hold a press conference to discuss Nike's alleged payments to families of college basketball recruits, unless the apparel company paid him and another lawyer $15 million to $25 million for an internal probe and his whistleblowing client $1.5 million.

11 Democrats still in U.S. presidential race as New Hampshire votes

The presidential nominating contest for both the Democratic and Republican parties continues Tuesday in New Hampshire. For Democrats, what was once a field of more than 20 candidates has been whittled to 11, who are all aggressively making their case to New Hampshire voters to let them remain in the race.

Harvey Weinstein will not testify at his New York rape trial, defense rests case

Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein will not testify in his own defense at his rape trial, his lawyers said on Tuesday as they rested their case. Outside the presence of the jury, one of Weinstein's lawyers told Justice James Burke that Weinstein would not be taking the stand in the trial that began in New York on Jan. 6 and is a milestone in the #MeToo movement.

U.S. allows government staff to leave Hong Kong over coronavirus worries

The United States has authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. government employees and their family members from Hong Kong in light of the outbreak of a deadly coronavirus, the State Department said on Tuesday. According to a department spokesperson the authorization was made "out of an abundance of caution related to uncertainties associated" with the disease. Departure is not required and the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong remains open to the public.