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Today’s Headlines: Trump on trial, again

Donald Trump boarding Marine One
In this photo from Jan. 20, Donald Trump leaves the White House en route to his Mar-a-Lago resort. His second impeachment trial begins Tuesday.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Donald Trump faces his second impeachment trial, which his lawyers call a “brazen political act,” starting today.

TOP STORIES

Trump on Trial, Again

The second impeachment trial of former President Trump will begin today with up to four hours of debate and a vote about whether the process itself is constitutional.

Lawyers for Trump have criticized the impeachment case, arguing that it is unconstitutional because Trump is no longer in office and deriding it as “political theater” in a 78-page brief filed Monday. Democrats are contending that Trump “willfully incited violent insurrection” to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, an act they call “the most grievous constitutional crime ever committed by a president.”

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Given their narrow majority in the Senate, Democrats are likely to win that opening vote. After that, there will be four days of arguments, beginning Wednesday at noon Eastern time with House managers. And after both sides present their cases, senators will hear arguments for and against hearing from witnesses and obtaining documents.

The House voted to impeach Trump on a single article of inciting insurrection, one week after a mob overran the U.S. Capitol for several hours, resulting in five deaths, including that of a police officer, and delaying Congress from a ceremonial counting of the electoral college results.

Meanwhile, Georgia officials have launched an investigation into Trump’s telephone call to state Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which the then-president pressured the elections official to overturn the November election results.

More Politics

— Democrats on a pivotal House panel have proposed an additional $1,400 in direct payments to individuals, bolstered unemployment benefits and more generous tax breaks for families with children and for lower earners as Congress pieces together a $1.9-trillion COVID-19 relief package.

— The U.S. Senate confirmed Denis McDonough as the head of Veterans Affairs, making the former Obama chief of staff the second non-veteran to lead the department. Only six of Biden’s other Cabinet-level nominees have been confirmed.

— U.S. Rep Ron Wright (R-Texas) has died after a battle with COVID-19. He is the first member of Congress to die of the disease.

For more news and analysis, sign up for our Essential Politics newsletter, sent to your inbox three days a week.

A New Militia Movement

Ammon Bundy is best known as the leader of the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon — a deadly 41-day standoff between federal agents and militants who rejected the federal government’s authority over public lands in the West.

Now living in Idaho, Bundy has seized on the backlash against coronavirus restrictions as an opportunity to start a new movement. It has attracted tens of thousands of members and dispatched gun-toting protesters to the homes of politicians, health agency managers and even a police officer who had arrested one of the group.

Bundy describes it as “neighborhood watch on steroids,” while experts who track extremists say the network has significant overlap with white supremacist groups and other far-right organizations. (Note: Only L.A. Times subscribers have early access to this article now.)

The Key to School Reopenings?

More California elementary school students could begin returning to their classrooms by the spring if Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers settle their differences over when teachers and staff receive COVID-19 vaccinations, an agreement the governor has suggested could be reached in the next few days.

The moves in Sacramento come as school officials and political leaders face increasing pressure to reopen campuses that have been largely shuttered for 11 months, with political jousting breaking out in recent days in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

L.A. Unified School District Supt. Austin Beutner leveled his own political salvo on the vaccine issue, saying that if he got 25,000 COVID-19 vaccinations he could reopen elementary schools for a quarter-million children as soon as overall health conditions in the county permit. County health officials responded that they would not supply the doses — at least not for a few weeks.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

Black, Latino and Native American seniors in L.A. County are receiving COVID-19 vaccinations at a lower rate than white, Asian American and Pacific Islander seniors, according to data. The findings raise new concerns about inequity.

— Even as coronavirus cases are going down, officials are expressing growing concern about the dominance of a variant first identified in Britain that is believed to be 50% more transmissible than the conventional variety.

— As the pandemic sends thousands of recovering alcoholics into relapse, hospitals across the country have reported dramatic increases in alcohol-related admissions.

Pushing Back on Progressive D.A.s

The movement to replace traditional district attorneys has gained momentum over the years, helping to propel George Gascón to power in L.A. County. But his immediate orders weren’t well received by a staff that had questions for a boss it barely knows.

The union representing L.A. County line prosecutors — those who handle cases day to day — sued Gascón last year hoping to stall some of his changes. On Monday, a judge ruled largely in their favor. The decision will almost certainly be appealed and could ultimately reach the state Supreme Court.

The dispute is far from the only one, as many of the state’s old guard of district attorneys are openly sparring with reformer colleagues in a power struggle that could shape criminal justice in California and other states.

A Quake’s Aftershocks

When the deadly Sylmar earthquake rumbled through Los Angeles 50 years ago today, it not only terrified the city but also fixated the nation’s budding seismic community as none had before. The modern era of earthquake awareness and preparedness is deeply rooted in Sylmar.

Sixty-four people died in the 6.6-magnitude earthquake that struck the northeast San Fernando Valley and caused hospital buildings and freeways to collapse. Single-family homes, at the time thought to be resilient enough to ride out moderate quakes, sustained considerable damage. An even greater catastrophe was narrowly missed when the Lower Van Norman Dam near Granada Hills escaped collapse.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

In February 1978, children playing in a yard on West 119th Street made an unusual discovery: the roof of a car.

Days later, on Feb. 7, police called in an excavation crew, but their findings only deepened the mystery. It was indeed a car — a green 1974 Ferrari that sold new for around $18,000. Investigators told The Times the car had been purchased in 1974 by Rosendo Cruz of Alhambra, then reported stolen months later.

What wasn’t clear was how the car came to be buried. A Jalopnik story later theorized it was an insurance scam gone wrong.

three men observe a car in the middle of a dirt pit
Feb. 7, 1978: A buried Ferrari stolen in 1974 is dug up from a backyard on West 119th Street, still in good condition.
(Larry Sharkey / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Oakland police have arrested a man suspected of assaulting three people in a string of brazen, seemingly unprovoked attacks that set the city’s Chinatown on edge. Actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu were offering a $25,000 reward for information in one incident.

— The California bullet train authority will seek a $4.1-billion appropriation to complete construction in the Central Valley, as costs and schedules continue to grow.

— Bucking national trends that have closed down many European language programs, UCLA is doubling down on its commitment to European studies by redefining it.

— California’s largest utilities said that they will spend about $13 billion to reduce the risk of wildfires after the worst fire season in modern state history.

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NATION-WORLD

— A settlement has been reached in Martin vs. Boise, the “camping lawsuit” that came from enforcement of an ordinance that banned people who are homeless from sleeping in public. Under the agreement, the city of Boise, Idaho, will not cite or arrest people when no shelter is available.

— Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleaded not guilty as his trial on corruption charges resumed in a Jerusalem courtroom just weeks before national elections.

— Why did a takeout deliveryman in China set himself on fire? The country has made an impressive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the self-immolation was a reminder of how difficult the last year has been on delivery drivers and other blue-collar workers.

— Robotic explorers from three countries are ready to arrive on Mars. The stakes and anxiety are sky-high.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Bruce Springsteen starred in a Super Bowl ad that called for unity. But pop music critic Mikael Wood looks at the “questions about exactly what this vaunted unity looks like.”

Tim Burton, Timothée Chalamet and Winona Ryder don’t seem as if they’d make a Super Bowl commercial. But they did, a Cadillac ad that paid homage to Edward Scissorhands and received plenty of praise.

— Former U.S. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow will move into the Fox Business Network lineup next week, effectively replacing Lou Dobbs, whose program was canceled Friday.

— What does “Hamlet” have to say about Trump’s impeachment trial? Theater critic Charles McNulty explains.

BUSINESS

— It’s still not clear when Disney’s theme parks in Anaheim will reopen, but the House of Mouse hopes to appease its most ardent fans by holding a food and beverage festival on the grounds of its California Adventure Park in March.

Tesla invested $1.5 billion in Bitcoin and signaled its intent to begin accepting the cryptocurrency as a form of payment, sending prices to a new record.

SPORTS

Tom Brady had been to the Super Bowl before — nine times, to be exact. So it’s really no surprise that the 43-year-old veteran knew just what to say to his teammates in the days leading up to Super Bowl LV and it’s no surprise that those players believed him.

— At age 36, Lakers star LeBron James is somehow better today than he was yesterday, still in a prime that’s stretched across the last decade. Three factors are behind his age-defying dominance.

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at latimes.com/games.

OPINION

— There’s no question that California Gov. Gavin Newsom has fumbled at times while leading the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. But he doesn’t deserve to be recalled, writes The Times’ editorial board.

— Instagram, cultural cluelessness and a Trump piñata: Columnist Gustavo Arellano has been banned from the service’s live-broadcast feature and would like to remind you that piñatas are objects of joy, celebration and satire.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Months of meticulous planning go into the Iowa caucus. So how did it go so wrong in 2020? (BuzzFeed News)

San Francisco’s Board of Education decided to change the names of some 40 schools, including those named after George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Why? Here’s an interview with the board’s president. (The New Yorker)

ONLY IN L.A.

The pandemic has made traditional date options harder. But you can still enjoy Valentine’s Day safely and do it the L.A. way with a visit to the Huntington, a romantic hike in Griffith Park or by swapping out chocolate for mochi. And if you need further inspiration, Times readers shared their most romantic dates in Los Angeles.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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