10 things you need to know today: January 30, 2020

Senators question both sides in new phase of Trump's trial, national security officials threaten to block Bolton's book, and more

Alan Dershowitz speaks to press
(Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

1. Senators question both sides in new phase of Trump trial

President Trump's impeachment trial entered a new phase on Wednesday as senators began questioning House managers and Trump's legal team about the allegation that Trump withheld security aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democrats. Defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz said even if a president tried to trade military aid for political favors to help him win re-election, "it cannot be impeachable" if he thought getting re-elected was in the national interest. Republicans are pushing to wrap up the trial quickly, while Democrats and a few key Republicans are pressing for testimony from new witnesses, including former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Senators will continue questioning House managers and Trump's legal team on Thursday, with a vote on whether to call witnesses expected Friday.

The Washington Post The Associated Press

2. Trump national security team threatens to block Bolton's book

The White House has told John Bolton's lawyer that the former national security adviser can't publish his book as written because it "appears to contain significant amounts of classified information," CNN reported Wednesday, citing a source familiar with the matter. Bolton's lawyer responded in his own letter saying that House managers are seeking Bolton's testimony in President Trump's impeachment trial, and if he testifies much of what he says will be similar to what he wrote in the book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir. Bolton reportedly wrote that Trump told him he wanted to withhold congressionally approved security aid to Ukraine to get the country's leaders to investigate Democrats.

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3. Trump signs updated accord to replace NAFTA

President Trump signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade pact on Wednesday in a White House ceremony with representatives from Canada and Mexico and about 400 other guests. The White House declined to invite any of the House Democrats who helped secure Trump his biggest trade deal. Mexico's parliament has ratified the deal, as has Congress, but Canada needs to approve it before it takes effect, likely in a few months. "The White House hasn't invited House Democrats to their USMCA signing ceremony," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) office said in a statement. "But we'll be well represented in the huge changes to the original USMCA draft that Democrats wrested out of the administration on labor, prescription drugs, environment, and enforcement mechanisms."

Reuters The Associated Press

4. International sporting events canceled in China as coronavirus spreads

The World Indoor Championships for track and field, previously scheduled for March 13–15 in Nanjing, China, have been postponed for a year as the death toll from a ballooning coronavirus outbreak surpassed 170. Olympic qualifying events for women's soccer and women's basketball were also moved to other countries, but China's women's soccer team was quarantined in Australia because it had passed through the epicenter city of Wuhan. Women's Olympic soccer qualifying matches for Australia, China, Taiwan, and Thailand, which had been set to be held in Wuhan then transferred to Nanjing, were rescheduled to take place in Sydney in February. Also on Wednesday, three airlines canceled all flights to and from mainland China, while others cut their flight numbers.

The New York Times Reuters

5. Fed holds interest rates firm, as expected

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that it was holding interest rates steady as moderate economic growth and strong job gains continued. The move was widely expected. "We believe the current stance of monetary policy is appropriate to support sustained economic growth, a strong labor market, and inflation returning to our symmetric 2 percent objective," Fed Chair Jerome Powell said following the central bank's two-day policy meeting, its first in 2020. The Fed last year cut rates three times, but President Trump has accused Fed leaders of holding back growth by failing to reduce rates faster and deeper. Powell also said the Fed was "very carefully monitoring" potential problems, including the possibility of economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak that started in China.


6. EU lawmakers approve terms of Britain's exit from trading bloc

European Union lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved the terms of Britain's exit from the trading bloc in a final vote. The reluctant approval by all 28 EU countries paved the way for the U.K. to leave on Jan. 31. "We will always love you and we will never be far," said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after the vote. Britain's exit on Friday after 47 years in the EU will mark the first time a member nation has left. "That's it. It's all over," said Nigel Farage, who helped lead the Brexit campaign. EU member nations said they feared talks on a new trade deal with Britain could collapse later this year, which could lead to a chaotic divorce.

The Associated Press

7. Dylann Roof's lawyers appeal death sentence for Charleston church massacre

Dylann Roof's lawyers portrayed him as "disconnected from reality" in a filing appealing his death sentence for killing nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof represented himself at his 2017 trial for the 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church, despite being "a 22-year-old, ninth-grade dropout diagnosed with schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, autism, anxiety, and depression, who believed his sentence didn't matter because white nationalists would free him from prison after an impending race war," his lawyers said in the filing. "Roof's crime was tragic, but this court can have no confidence in the jury's verdict," the attorneys wrote. U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel told Roof during his trial it was "strategically unwise" to represent himself, but "it is a decision you have a right to make."

CNN The Hill

8. Roberts blocks question naming alleged Ukraine whistleblower

Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday blocked a question from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) naming the alleged whistleblower whose complaint about President Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky triggered the House impeachment inquiry. Paul has strongly opposed the impeachment proceedings against Trump, and he has floated the alleged whistleblower's name in recent interviews. Roberts — who screens questions submitted for reading on the Senate floor during Trump's trial on abuse of power and obstruction charges — signaled earlier this week that he would not allow anyone to mention the whistleblower's name during questioning of House impeachment managers and Trump's defense team. Paul has said he just wants to ask a question on why the Ukraine investigation was launched.


9. Japan issues arrest warrants over Ghosn's escape

Japanese authorities on Thursday issued arrest warrants for three people, including a former U.S. special forces soldier, on suspicion that they helped former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn flee Japan ahead of his trial for alleged financial crimes. The warrants target former U.S. Green Beret Michael Taylor and two other men, George-Antoine Zayek and Peter Taylor, prosecutors said. Another warrant was issued for Ghosn, who fled to Lebanon late last year as he awaited trial for allegedly underreporting his earnings and misappropriating company money. He denies all of the charges, and says he fled because he wasn't going to get a fair trial. Lebanon and Japan have no extradition treaty. Lebanon, where Ghosn spent much of his childhood and has citizenship, typically doesn't send its citizens for trial abroad.


10. Kobe Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant, shares family's grief

Vanessa Bryant on Wednesday evening posted her first public statement since her husband, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday. On Instagram, Bryant thanked the "millions of people who've shown support and love during this horrific time." She said her three surviving daughters were "completely devastated" by the sudden loss of Kobe and Gianna, and there "aren't enough words to describe our pain right now. I take comfort in knowing that Kobe and Gigi both knew that they were so deeply loved. We were so incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. I wish they were here with us forever. They were our beautiful blessings taken from us too soon."

Vanessa Bryant ABC News

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.