Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 23, 2020

Harold Maass
Adam Schiff speaks to the press
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images


House impeachment managers launch arguments in Trump impeachment trial

House impeachment managers began their opening arguments in President Trump's Senate impeachment trial on Wednesday. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a leader of the prosecution team, said Trump led a "corrupt scheme" to abuse his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. He urged senators to be impartial. The impeachment managers will have 24 hours over three days to argue for Trump's conviction. Trump's legal team will have equal time to defend the president. "There's a lot of things I'd like to rebut," said Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, "and we will rebut." Trump, speaking in Davos, Switzerland, called Schiff and fellow impeachment manager Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) "major sleazebags," and repeated his denunciation of his impeachment as a "hoax." [The Associated Press, The Washington Post]


China locks down cities to contain coronavirus outbreak

Chinese authorities on Thursday closed off Wuhan to enforce a travel ban on residents of the city, the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 570 people and killed 17. The ban has been expanded to cover two nearby cities. Wuhan, a city of 11 million, is suspending urban buses, subways, ferries, and long-distance passenger transport. The Wuhan municipal government also is requiring people to wear medical masks in public places. The public notice announcing the policies said the travel ban was designed to "best prevent and control the epidemic of the new type of coronavirus infection, effectively cut off the transmission of the virus, and curb the spread of the epidemic." Cases of the virus also have been reported in the U.S., Thailand, Japan, and South Korea. [South China Morning Post, The New York Times]


Tanker crash kills 3 Americans fighting Australia fires

A C-130 Hercules air tanker crashed on a mission to dump fire retardant on bushfires in Australia on Thursday, killing the three Americans in its crew, Australian authorities said. The Canadian-owned plane "impacted heavily with the ground and initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground," said Shane Fitzsimmons, chief of rural fire services for the southeastern state of New South Wales. "There is no indication at this stage of what's caused the accident." The tanker was leased by Canadian firefighting company Coulson Aviation, which had a second C-130 Hercules fighting the bushfires. The company grounded its air tanker fleet pending a review of the accident. [Reuters]


Sanders edges ahead of Biden in national poll

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) jumped into the lead among candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in a CNN-SSRS poll released Wednesday. His narrow edge over longtime frontrunner former Vice President Joe Biden was within the survey's margin of error, though, "meaning there is no clear leader," CNN said. Sanders received 27 percent support among Democrats or Democratic-leaning voters responding in the national poll, with Biden at 24 percent. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) fell to a distant third at 14 percent. Sanders jumped 7 percentage points since December by eating into Biden's support among nonwhite voters and Warren's support among liberal Democrats. Sanders also has gained in early-voting states. [CNN]


U.N. court tells Myanmar to protect Rohingya Muslims

The United Nations' top court ruled Thursday that Myanmar must enact emergency policies to protect Rohingya Muslims. The International Court of Justice also said authorities in Myanmar must preserve evidence of possible genocide targeting the minority group. The ruling came on a request filed by Gambia that marked the first formal international pushback against Myanmar's military and its civilian government over the effort to drive the Muslim minority out of the country into Bangladesh with what human rights groups have said was a campaign of widespread killing, torture, and rape. The ruling was an early step in a legal process toward a final determination on genocide allegations that could take years. [The Washington Post]


D.C. sues Trump's inaugural committee for 'exorbitant' spending at Trump hotel

Washington, D.C.'s attorney general filed a lawsuit against President Trump's inaugural committee on Wednesday, seeking to recover $1 million in nonprofit funds it spent at Trump's own hotel. "An independent investigation by my office has revealed that the Inaugural Committee made exorbitant and unlawful payments to the Trump hotel to rent event space for inaugural activity," Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat, told reporters. "This came as a result of coordination between Inaugural Committee Deputy Chairman Rick Gates, Trump International Hotel Management, and members of the Trump family." Kimberly Benza, a spokeswoman for Trump Hotels, dismissed the lawsuit as "intentionally misleading and riddled with inaccuracies," saying the inaugural committee paid "what anyone else would have been charged for an unprecedented event of this enormous magnitude." [The Hill]


Trump removing environmental protections for streams, wetlands

In a victory for fossil fuel producers and real estate developers, the Trump administration on Thursday will remove an Obama-era regulation that protected 60 percent of the country's waterways. Under President Trump's new rule, landowners will be able to dump pollutants, including fertilizers and pesticides, into waterways and destroy wetlands for construction projects, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Trump called the regulation — which he likely encountered as a real estate developer and golf course owner — "horrible" and "destructive," and repealed it in September. The Trump administration has eliminated or weakened dozens of environmental regulations and laws, including those that protect endangered species and combat pollution. [The New York Times]


Arizona company vows to phase out coal in a decade

Arizona's largest utility provider announced Wednesday that it will phase out coal power just after the end of the decade. The company, Arizona Public Service Co., currently relies on its coal-fired Four Corners Power and Cholla Power plants for 22 percent of its electricity production. Cholla is scheduled to close in 2025. Four Corners previously was supposed to shut down in 2038, but APS said Wednesday it had moved up the closure to 2031. CEO Jeff Guldner said the company would completely shift to carbon-free power by 2050. The U.S. is the second biggest emissions producer in the world, with a quarter of the pollution coming from energy production. [AZ Central]


Gabbard sues Clinton for defamation

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on Wednesday filed a defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton, accusing the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee of smearing her by suggesting she was a "Russian asset." "I'm not making any predictions, but I think they've got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate," Clinton said on a 2019 podcast with former Obama adviser David Plouffe. "She's the favorite of the Russians." Clinton did not name Gabbard, but the lawsuit said the Hawaii congresswoman suffered damages of more than $50 million. Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill called the lawsuit "ridiculous." [CNN]


Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77

Writer and comedian Terry Jones, a founding member of the Monty Python comedy group, has died following a battle with dementia, his family confirmed Wednesday. He was 77. "Over the past few days his wife, children, extended family, and many close friends have been constantly with Terry as he gently slipped away at his home in North London," the family said in a statement. Jones' work with Monty Python included directing or co-directing the films Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian, and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, which he also starred in. Monty Python's John Cleese, one of many friends and colleagues who offered tributes, remembered Jones as "a man of so many talents and such endless enthusiasm." [The Hollywood Reporter, BBC News]