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January 22, 2020


“I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president’s counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.” —Chief Justice John Roberts, overseeing the Senate trial yesterday

POLITICS

1. The Senate approved impeachment trial rules last night in a party-line vote (53-47) following 13-hours of debate (ending around 2am ET). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did concede to extending each side’s opening argument to three days (from two), but held his caucus in line to reject demands from the Democratic minority to subpoena additional evidence and witnesses. Opening arguments begin today at 1pm ET, starting with the Democrats.

More context: The rules still allow for the possibility of opening up hearings to new witnesses later in the trial. Here’s a comparison to the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial format.

FOREIGN POLICY

2. FTI consulting determined that Saudi Arabia hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone with “medium to high confidence,” prompting the UN to call for an “immediate investigation” by the US. The digital forensics report notes that Bezos’ phone was hacked hours after receiving an MP4 video file over WhatsApp from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in May 2018. The report says that Amazon CEO Bezos was targeted “principally as the owner of The Washington Post.”

More context: Saudi officials immediately dismissed the allegations as "absurd."

WORLD

3. Lebanon formed a new government yesterday, ending three months of deadlock after Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned amid mass protests against government corruption and economic crisis. New Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his 20-member cabinet are now charged with calming continued popular rancor, including calls for a broader political overhaul.

US

4. The Supreme Court declined to expedite an Affordable Care Act-related appeal yesterday, leaving the future of “Obamacare” in jeopardy until next term (i.e., after the 2020 election). After a lower court ruling deemed the ACA’s individual mandate unconstitutional in December, a coalition of 20 Democratic-led states and the House attempted to fast-track an appeal seeking to definitively rule Obamacare constitutional.

Extra: The SCOTUS also cleared the way yesterday for victims of the Flint, Michigan water crisis to sue state and local officials (by declining to take up the case).

QUICK BITS

  • The CDC confirmed the first US case of the China-originated coronavirus that has killed 17 and infected ~500 people thus far; meanwhile, the WHO meets today to determine whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency.
  • French energy workers halted power generation at the country’s largest hydroelectricity plant today amid ongoing protests against proposed pension reform. Backlash to the President Macron-led pension overhaul began in early December.
  • Boeing expects the 737 Max to remain grounded until mid-2020 as the plane model awaits approval from the FAA and other regulators. The new timeline is months later than previously expected and could mean a second peak travel season without the popular model for carriers.

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BRAIN CANDY

A good job… done by a good friend.

Editors