Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 22, 2020

Harold Maass
Tourists in face masks in Hong Kong
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

1.

Senate approves McConnell's impeachment trial rules

Senators early Wednesday approved Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) rules for President Trump's impeachment trial after 12 hours of bitter debate. The 53-47, party-line vote came after the Republican majority defeated amendments proposed by Democrats, including a call to subpoena former National Security Adviser John Bolton and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Before the vote, McConnell backed down from his proposal for a condensed two days of opening arguments, adding a third day after meeting with Republicans who objected to his plan. Democrats strongly criticized McConnell's rules, accusing him of trying to "cover-up" evidence supporting the allegation that Trump abused his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democrats. The Senate will again consider whether to subpoena witnesses later in the trial. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]

2.

First case of Wuhan virus reported in U.S.

U.S. health officials on Tuesday reported the first U.S. case of a new virus that is spreading rapidly in China. The man is from Washington state, but he returned last week from Wuhan in central China, where the coronavirus outbreak began. The patient is in a hospital near Seattle, where according to health officials he is "very healthy" and not considered a threat to the public. The newly discovered virus can cause coughing, fever, and pneumonia. In China, it has infected about 300 people and killed six. U.S. health officials last week began screening passengers arriving at three U.S. airports — in New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco — after flights from Wuhan. [The Associated Press]

3.

Supreme Court declines to fast track ObamaCare case

The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down a request from a coalition of Democratic states and the House to fast-track a challenge to ObamaCare. The decision pushed the expected resolution of the case beyond the 2020 election, marking a setback to Democrats looking to make the effort to kill the Affordable Care Act a focus in the campaign. Texas introduced its lawsuit against the ACA in 2018 in an attempt to declare it unconstitutional, and a federal court ruled in Texas' favor. The judge let the ACA temporarily remain in effect because of the "uncertainty" a likely appeal would bring. Democratic attorneys general appealing the case to the Supreme Court requested a quick decision, arguing that dragging it out further would hurt the health-care system. [Politico]

4.

Hillary Clinton reportedly says 'nobody likes' Bernie Sanders

Hillary Clinton leveled harsh criticism at her former rival for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), saying in a new documentary that he accomplished little in the Senate because "nobody likes him." "He got nothing done," Clinton says in the documentary, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "He was a career politician. It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it." Clinton also told The Hollywood Reporter that Sanders' recent spat with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), one of his rivals for the 2020 nomination, fits a "pattern" that includes "his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women." Sanders declined to address Clinton's remarks, saying he was focused on President Trump's impeachment trial, and beating Trump in November. [The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters]

5.

Trump touts U.S. economy in return to Davos

President Trump made his first appearance in two years at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, taking credit for soaring stocks and historically low unemployment in the U.S. and meeting with global business leaders. It was Trump's first overseas event since the House approved two articles of impeachment against him, and Trump said little about his trial getting underway in the Senate, other than to dismiss the charges as "just a hoax" when reporters asked him about it. Trump said his administration had turned what he described as a sagging U.S. economy into a "roaring geyser of opportunity." He also pushed back against calls for action on climate change, saying "we must reject the perennial prophets of doom" and embrace optimism. [The New York Times]

6.

Lebanon forms new government after months of protests

Lebanon announced Tuesday that it had formed a new government led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, a computer science professor. The previous prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, resigned in October after a wave of protests fueled by allegations of corruption. Diab was approved with the backing of Hezbollah, its allies, and the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian political party. He said the protests had "unified the country and broke the imaginary barrier between the sects." The Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies, including President Michel Aoun, nominated Diab last month but negotiations continued until an agreement was reached on the makeup of his cabinet, which will meet for the first time Wednesday. [Haaretz, CNN]

7.

Supreme Court rules Flint water-crisis lawsuit can move forward

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a petition from city and state officials who were trying to block a lawsuit over the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. The city and officials have argued they should be immune from being sued. A lower court ruled against them, saying state and local authorities violated Flint residents' constitutional right to "bodily integrity" by providing tainted water after switching water sources to save money. The officials said that ruling "radically expanded" the concept of bodily integrity, but the Supreme Court turned away the case without comment, allowing a lawsuit against the city and water regulators to go forward. The suit claims officials failed to protect residents from exposure to lead, which was found in Flint's water at dangerously high levels in 2014. [Bloomberg]

8.

Report: Saudi crown prince hacked Jeff Bezos' phone

A digital forensic analysis indicated that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' phone was hacked after he received an apparently infected video file via WhatsApp from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2018, The Guardian reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the matter. The analysis of Bezos' phone, launched after the National Enquirer published intimate details about Bezos' private life, reportedly revealed that following a seemingly friendly conversation between the two men, the video file sent by the crown prince corrupted Bezos' phone. Large amounts of data were extracted hours later. It was unclear exactly what was leaked. Saudi Arabia has previously denied targeting Bezos' phone, but investigations determined with "high confidence" that Riyadh was behind the efforts. Saudi Arabia denied the prince hacked Bezos. [The Guardian]

9.

Boeing pushes back expected date for 737 Max return

Boeing shares dropped sharply on Tuesday after the aircraft-maker said it didn't expect federal regulators to approve fixes for the grounded 737 Max jet until this summer. That timetable pushed the resolution back several months from the schedule Boeing predicted as recently as a few weeks ago. The further delay could push the plane's return to service deep into or beyond the peak summer travel season, increasing problems for airlines. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that it was overseeing a "thorough, deliberate process" for approving Boeing fixes, including changes to a flight-control system cited as a cause in Max crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 that killed 346 people. [The Associated Press]

10.

Derek Jeter and Larry Walker elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

New York Yankees great Derek Jeter was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday, receiving 396 out of 397 votes cast in his first year of eligibility. A 14-time All Star, the shortstop spent his entire career with the Yankees, and was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1996. He retired in 2014, after scoring 1,923 runs and making 3,465 base hits. Larry Walker was also elected to the Hall of Fame; this was the British Columbia native's final year of eligibility. The outfielder played with the Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies, and St. Louis Cardinals during his 17-year career. While with the Rockies, Walker — the 1997 National League MVP — led the team to its first playoff appearance in 1995. [NBC News]