Newsletter: The senator’s cellphone

The FBI has served a warrant on a prominent Republican senator in an investigation of stock sales linked to the coronavirus outbreak.


The Senator’s Cellphone

Federal agents seized a cellphone belonging to Sen. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina on Wednesday night as part of the Justice Department’s investigation into stock trades he made as the novel coronavirus first struck the U.S., a law enforcement official said.

Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, turned over his phone to agents after they served a search warrant on the lawmaker at his residence in the Washington, D.C., area, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a law enforcement action. The seizure represents a significant escalation in the investigation into whether Burr violated a law preventing members of Congress from trading on insider information they have gleaned from their official work.


To obtain a search warrant, federal agents and prosecutors must persuade a judge they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. The law enforcement official said the Justice Department is examining Burr’s communications with his broker. Such a warrant being served on a sitting U.S. senator would require approval from the highest ranks of the Justice Department and is a step that would not be taken lightly.

Burr, who has previously denied wrongdoing, is not the only senator who has come under fire for selling stock as the virus neared the United States.

An Air Pollution Conundrum

As experts warn that exposure to pollution can increase the risk of dying from COVID-19, the trucking industry, oil companies and port and shipping interests are pressuring California regulators to delay or roll back air quality and climate regulations because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The breadth of requests presents a conundrum for regulators who, even in ecologically minded California, have been open about the need to grant some measure of relief from environmental requirements in response to the pandemic. Though officials say their commitment to fighting climate change and air pollution remains unshaken, they are nonetheless postponing compliance deadlines and delaying pollution-reduction rules.

To minimize the effects on air quality and climate goals, officials said they are considering such requests on a case-by-case basis and trying to separate those specifically related to the coronavirus from those seeking to capitalize on the crisis for long-sought regulatory relief.

One Step Back at Ground Zero

In Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the global pandemic, the lockdown ended April 8. After more than a month of no reported new infections, six new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Sunday. That led to government orders that all Wuhan residents be tested for the coronavirus within 10 days — a seemingly impossible task.

Now, new restrictions and fears are sweeping over the city of more than 10 million people.

“What’s happening? We’re closing again?” one woman shouted at a security guard on the other side of a makeshift barricade of bikes. As he struggled to secure a tarp over the blockade, another woman clambered over, determined to take her planned route home.

Singapore’s Snoop Dog

How do you enforce physical distancing measures without endangering the enforcers? In Singapore, the government has turned to Spot to monitor Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and lay down the rules. It’s a doglike robot that can be described as either cute or creepy — or a little of both.

Developed by Boston Dynamics of Waltham, Mass., Spot is one of the world’s most advanced commercial robots, and has been seen opening doors, hauling a truck or dancing to Bruno Mars songs in promotional videos.

The two-week pilot program in Singapore is seen as a test of how machines and artificial intelligence could help reduce human contact in public spaces as some governments begin easing social restrictions.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

Los Angeles County beaches reopened Wednesday and more businesses were given the green light to provide curbside service to customers, but officials made clear the region still has a ways to go before a major lifting of stay-at-home orders is possible. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said all Angelenos, except for small children and those with certain disabilities, would be required to wear face coverings outside.

— California officials said 12 of the state’s 58 counties, most of them rural, will be allowed to more fully reopen and that talks are underway with 31 others.

— Federal regulators have offered new details about problems that have delayed a $1-billion deal between California and a Chinese automaker for respirators, saying they denied certification of the masks after inspections of the company’s factories in China and a review of critical documents belonging to the project.

— Even with 20,000 dead in New York, conflicting messages and differing attitudes have some residents still resisting masks.

— Will there be a second round of coronavirus stimulus checks? Probably not soon.

— Can the coronavirus live on clothes and shoes? And for how long? Here’s what scientists say.

— An Ojai man who made a conspiracy theory video called “Plandemic” says, “We made the video to go viral.”


In the spring of 1959, the Dodgers were locked in a battle with a small group of residents in the Chavez Ravine over the fate of the land they lived on.

When plans for a housing project were scrapped, the Los Angeles city officials traded the land to the Dodgers, who planned to build Dodger Stadium there. The land had been acquired by the city in 1951 and few residents remained. But according to The Times, negotiations fell apart with a group of holdouts. Tensions were further heightened when “an army of sheriff’s deputies” began forced evictions on May 8. The dispute would continue, with members of the Arechiga family returning to the property in protest.

May 13, 1959: After bulldozers destroyed their Chavez Ravine home, Victoria Angustian stands in the doorway of her family's trailer. With her are Manuel Angustian; children Ivy (sweeping) and Ira; and family matriarch Avrana Arechiga.
May 13, 1959: After bulldozers destroyed their Chavez Ravine home, Victoria Angustian stands in the doorway of her family’s trailer. With her are Manuel Angustian, children Ivy (sweeping) and Ira, and family matriarch Avrana Arechiga.
(John Malmin / Los Angeles Times)


— Republican Mike Garcia claimed victory in the race for an open congressional seat north of Los Angeles, the first time the GOP has flipped a California district from blue to red in more than 20 years. Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith issued a statement conceding even as more than 20,000 ballots remained to be processed.

— Columnist Steve Lopez looks at the story of what’s going on inside the Terminal Island federal prison, where a seventh inmate has died of COVID-19.

— Christopher Chester, whose wife and daughter died in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, has sued the company that operated the helicopter and the estate of the deceased pilot.

— The Los Angeles Police Department’s signature community policing program has prevented crime and made residents feel safer in public housing developments, according to a study by UCLA researchers.

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Paul Manafort, President Trump’s onetime presidential campaign chairman, has been released from federal prison to serve the rest of his sentence in home confinement due to concerns about the coronavirus. He had been convicted as part of the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

— The Supreme Court justices said they saw a danger of “creating chaos” after November’s presidential vote if electors were freed to defy their state’s popular vote and cast ballots in the electoral college for the candidate of their choice. In a close election, they noted, a few electors could have the power to flip the outcome.

— Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is one of the world’s most powerful leftists, but he’s making cuts to government spending while much of the world ramps up.

— The pandemic gives pandas, and it takes them away: While Ouwehands Zoo in the Netherlands welcomes a newborn cub, the Calgary Zoo across the Atlantic was forced to send two loaned ones home to China.


— For the first time in its nearly 100-year history, the Hollywood Bowl is canceling its entire season. That means an $80-million budget shortfall and staff furloughs and layoffs.

— Doja Cat’s “Say So” is the first chart-topper for both Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj — and for Dr. Luke, the songwriter and producer, since he disappeared from view following an allegation of rape by Kesha.

— Broadway star Nick Cordero has woken up after being in a medically induced coma for weeks while battling COVID-19: “We are on our way.” Among other complications, the actor had his leg amputated in his fight against the virus.

— Netflix’s “The Wrong Missy” is an Adam Sandler comedy without Adam Sandler.


— They called it hero pay: Bonuses or temporary raises to employees at major chains like Target, CVS and Walmart as coronavirus cases soared. Now they’re taking it back, an unwelcome surprise for workers.

— America has lost 600,000 clean-energy jobs. Here’s how experts say they can come back.

Tesla and San Francisco Bay Area authorities have reached an agreement on conditions for reopening after the company defied local restrictions.


— One of the first steps in sports returning to Southern California has come with Santa Anita being given permission by L.A. County to resume live horse racing on Friday.

The Rams revealed their new uniforms for the upcoming NFL season, more than four years since their return to Los Angeles.

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— After more than three years of relative self-restraint while Trump lambasted his character and eviscerated his policies, former President Obama has waded back into politics. It’s about time, writes columnist Doyle McManus.

— Don’t be taken in by stem cell firms offering unsubstantiated therapies for COVID-19, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes.


Stevie Wonder turned 70 this week. Here’s a look at “how he wrote the soundtrack for a fragile America.” (The Undefeated)

— L.A.–based travel photographer Erin Sullivan is re-creating outdoor scenes at her home indoors using pantry items, laundry and more. (Atlas Obscura)


Peafowl just might be the perfect ornithological symbol of Los Angeles. “Children of immigrants (brought to Arcadia from India in 1879 by Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, founder of Arcadia), peacocks are very beautiful and often quite irritating,” writes columnist Mary McNamara, who made a recent visit to one of their prime strutting grounds: the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Amid the pandemic, the Arboretum has managed to stay open, albeit with precautions. As for the peafowl: It’s mating season.

FOR THE RECORD: A photo caption in Wednesday’s newsletter incorrectly stated that a photograph of John Kennedy was taken at the Santa Barbara home of Peter Lawford. The home was in Santa Monica.

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