Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 21, 2020

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Harold Maass
Democratic presidential candidates on MLK Day
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

1.

McConnell unveils rules aiming for speedy impeachment trial

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday unveiled his ground rules aiming for a speedy impeachment trial for President Trump. McConnell is calling for 24 hours of opening arguments over two days, starting Wednesday. Senators will then get 16 hours to question the House impeachment managers and Trump's legal team, then four hours to debate whether to call witnesses. If a majority then votes for witnesses, the two sides will make motions for the witnesses they want to testify, followed by votes on whether to subpoena them. The rules are similar to those used in former President Bill Clinton's trial, although unlike in that trial, evidence from the House inquiry won't automatically be admitted. Democrats accused McConnell of rushing the trial and hiding evidence. [The Washington Post]

2.

Democratic candidates march together to show unity on MLK Day

Eight 2020 Democratic presidential candidates marched together in South Carolina on Monday to honor slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Former Vice President Joe Biden; Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; billionaire businessman Tom Steyer; former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) set aside recent feuding in a show of unity for the brief demonstration. "It's not snarling dogs that brought us to the inflection point, it's Donald Trump's poisonous, divisionist politics," Biden said. Trump marked the day with an unscheduled, unannounced trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to Trump, said the impeachment case against Trump is divisive and not "within Dr. King's vision." [NBC News, CNN]

3.

Trump lawyers file brief calling House impeachment case 'illegitimate'

President Trump's lawyers filed a brief Monday urging the Senate to dismiss the impeachment charges against him and labeling the House's impeachment process a "perversion" of the Constitution. The 110-page brief calls the House's impeachment case "flimsy," and says Trump has "been the victim of an illegitimate partisan effort to take him down." "All that House Democrats have succeeded in proving is that the president did absolutely nothing wrong," the lawyers said in the document. The House filed two impeachment articles against Trump — abuse of power for withholding aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democrats, and obstruction of Congress for withholding witnesses and documents from House impeachment investigators. The Senate trial starts on Tuesday. [The New York Times, USA Today]

4.

Gun-rights activists hold peaceful rally in Virginia

An estimated 22,000 gun-rights activists rallied peacefully at the Virginia Capitol on Monday, urging state lawmakers not to approve proposals to tighten gun-control laws. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) last week banned the demonstrators from carrying weapons on Capitol grounds due to a fear of violence by extremists. The proposed gun measures include a ban on military-style semiautomatic rifles and a bill seeking to let authorities temporarily take guns away from anyone deemed a threat to themselves or others. "We will not comply," chanted protesters, some of whom rode buses from other parts of the state to the capital city of Richmond. The rally was part of a citizen-lobbying tradition marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day. [NBC News]

5.

Central American migrants clash with Mexican troops at Guatemala border

Central American migrants tried to forcibly cross the Guatemalan border into Mexico on Monday, clashing with Mexican troops trying to block them. About a dozen of the migrants, who were traveling in a caravan from Honduras hoping to reach the U.S., tried to push through a gate on a border bridge. A larger group waded across the Suchiate River to reach Mexico but were stopped by Mexican National Guard troops. The caravan formed last week in Mexico, posing a major challenge to Mexico's effort to keep a promise to the Trump administration to block large groups of Central American migrants from reaching the U.S. [The Washington Post]

6.

Trump, Macron reach truce on digital tax

President Trump and his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, have reached a deal to end their dispute over digital taxes, averting threatened punitive tariffs this year, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing a French diplomat. "Great discussion with @realDonaldTrump on digital tax," Macron tweeted Monday. "We will work together on a good agreement to avoid tariff escalation." A diplomatic source told Reuters that Macron and Trump had agreed to a truce, delaying any potential tariffs until the end of 2020 while continuing negotiations on the digital tax. "They agreed to give a chance to negotiations until the end of the year," the source said. "During that time period, there won't be successive tariffs." The White House made no immediate comment. [Bloomberg, Reuters]

7.

Thunberg urges leaders at Davos to act faster against climate change

Hundreds of protesters gathered Tuesday in Davos, Switzerland, to call for world leaders attending the annual World Economic Forum to do more to fight climate change. Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg told policymakers in a panel discussion that they were running out of time to stay within the climate budget needed to give the world a 67 percent chance of holding global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. "With today's emissions levels, the remaining budget is gone in less than eight years," she said. "These aren't anyone's views. This is the science." [Reuters, CNN]

8.

CNN poll: 51 percent of Americans want Senate to remove Trump from office

A new CNN poll released Monday shows that 51 percent of Americans think the Senate should vote to convict and remove President Trump from office during his upcoming impeachment trial. Meanwhile, 45 percent believe the Senate should vote against conviction and removal. Almost 69 percent say the trial should include testimony from new witnesses who did not appear before House impeachment investigators. Republicans are split on whether there should be witnesses in the trial — 48 percent are in favor of new witnesses, while 44 percent are not. This was the first major national phone poll conducted since the articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate and Lev Parnas, the indicted Rudy Giuliani associate, appeared on cable news shows and implicated Trump in the Ukraine pressure campaign. [CNN]

9.

Uber sells India food delivery business to local rival

Uber agreed Tuesday to sell its Uber Eats food delivery business in India to local rival Zomato. Under the deal, Uber will get a 9.99 percent stake in Zomato, a startup recently valued at $3.55 billion. Uber Eats' drivers and customer information will be transferred to the Indian startup, and the Uber app will send customers who click on "Get Food Delivery" to Zomato for six months. The deal was the latest in a series of moves by Uber to shed money-losing businesses as investors increase pressure on the company to show profit. Uber Eats has been growing rapidly but strong competition from local companies in international markets has forced Uber to offer costly subsidies and promotions to attract customers. [The New York Times]

10.

China confirms human-to-human transmission of new pneumonia strain

A leading Chinese health official said Monday that a newly identified pneumonia virus is spreading between humans, confirming authorities' fears as the number of cases jumped. More than 150 new patients were infected over the weekend. The threat of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus, which already has killed at least six people, heightened concerns of a much larger outbreak in China as tens of millions of people are traveling around the country for the annual Lunar New Year holiday. "Right now is the time when we should increase alert," said Zhong Nanshan, a highly respected epidemiology expert. Among those infected are 14 medical professionals who were treating patients. [The Wall Street Journal, CNN]