Newsletter: The price of a ‘favor’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Trump speak on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
(Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images)

Expect another day of fast-moving developments in the Ukraine story.


The Price of a ‘Favor’


Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, is expected to be grilled over the Trump administration’s handling of a whistleblower’s complaint when he appears before Congress in public and behind closed doors today as the first witness in the Democrats’ formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump.

The testimony comes after a whirlwind Wednesday, when the White House released a memo (read it here) of a July 25 phone call that showed Trump directly asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” while discussing U.S. military aid to the besieged country. Trump then went on to ask Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and to look into CrowdStrike, a California cybersecurity firm that did work for the Democrats in the 2016 election.

The details emerged as the Justice Department confirmed that the inspector general for the director of national intelligence had made a criminal referral about the call, questioning whether Trump had violated campaign finance law, but that department lawyers had determined he had not. Trump asked Zelensky at least five separate times on the call to work with Atty. Gen. William Barr and urged Zelensky several times to speak to Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney.

A portion of the White House memo on Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president.
(White House)

More About the Scandal

— After months of talk about a wide range of possible grounds for impeachment, House Democrats are preparing to make a narrow case to the American public that the president should be removed from office for seeking the help of a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election.

— Impeach Trump? On both sides of the political spectrum, anger is rising in the divided states of America.

— How would the framers of the Constitution view this? A number of scholars say it matches their idea of an impeachable offense.

— Ukraine’s president, a former actor, has assumed an unwanted role in the controversy. Trump and Zelensky held an awkward public meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Later, Zelensky told Ukrainian reporters that his government had not thought his side of the conversation would be disclosed in the White House memo. Here’s how it’s playing in Ukraine.

In Hot Water

A new U.N. report on the state of the world’s oceans and ice is warning of dire consequences for humanity over the next century and beyond: Climate change will make the oceans warmer and more acidic. Melting ice sheets will drive up sea levels. The total biomass of animals in the sea could drop by as much as 15%. A lead author of the report says reducing greenhouse gas emissions could make “the difference between an unmanageable problem and one that humans can deal with.”

A Page From Big Tobacco’s Playbook?

Turmoil has hit the world of e-cigarettes, with government scrutiny growing, the chief executive of Juul stepping down and a mysterious outbreak of a serious lung disease that appears to be linked to vaping. Many health experts say flavored vaping products make it easier to get addicted — just the way menthol cigarettes have long done so.

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Gold prospecting in the San Gabriel Mountains started in the mid-1800s and continues today. In the early 1930s, a mini gold rush hit San Gabriel Canyon. But as this story and accompanying photos from 1932 show, “it never was much of a rush, this quest for San Gabriel Canyon gold which began two years ago and drew thousands of hopeful prospectors with no more prospects than the tailings of a really frenzied rush of another, earlier day.”

September 1932: Charles T. Brown, a gold miner in San Gabriel Canyon, displays about $55 in gold in a pan.
September 1932: Charles T. Brown, a miner in San Gabriel Canyon, displays about $55 in gold in a pan.
(Los Angeles Times Archive / UCLA)


— Riverside County prosecutors say they won’t file criminal charges against an off-duty Los Angeles police officer who fatally shot an intellectually disabled man in June during an altercation in a Costco store in Corona.

Homeless people could lose the right to sleep on sidewalks if the city of Los Angeles, L.A. County and dozens of other municipalities in California and the West have their way in court.

— A new poll of likely California voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election finds Trump on track for the poorest showing by a Republican presidential candidate since the Civil War.

— After months of publicly considering mounting a return to Congress, former Rep. Darrell Issa appears to be on the verge of formally announcing his candidacy for San Diego County’s 50th Congressional District seat, challenging embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter in the Republican primary. Issa has a news conference scheduled for today.


— The reality series “Big Brother” has once again been struck by allegations of racism and inflammatory remarks by white participants.

— Actress Mj Rodriguez, best known from the show “Pose,” is starring in a revival of “Little Shop of Horrors” at the Pasadena Playhouse.

— With the film “Abominable,” out this weekend, Shanghai’s Pearl Studio and DreamWorks Animation are aiming for audiences in China and beyond.

— Oakland-based landscape and public artist Walter Hood is among 26 new fellows in the arts, science, law, social justice, education and other areas announced by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


— The Senate has passed a measure that blocks Trump from using emergency powers to raid the budget for construction projects on military bases as a way to pay for building his fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Democratic-controlled House is likely to pass the measure, but it’s doomed to be vetoed by Trump.

— British Prime Minister Boris Johnson brushed off cries of “Resign!” and dared the political opposition to try to topple him at a raucous session of Parliament, after Britain’s highest court had ruled he acted illegally in suspending the body ahead of the Brexit deadline.

Israel’s president has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government, giving the longtime leader the difficult task of breaking a postelection deadlock that has paralyzed the country’s political system.


Mattel is branching out beyond Barbie and Ken. It’s now selling dolls it calls gender-inclusive, by which it means that kids can choose between short hair and long and between skirts and pants.

— Southern California home prices were flat last month, and sales dipped from a year earlier, as sky-high housing costs deterred buyers.

— The Walt Disney Co. has announced a shakeup of its theme park leadership. It comes during a major campaign to upgrade and overhaul Disney resorts in Anaheim and Orlando.


— Back in 2013, Doc Rivers quit — briefly — after just six days as Clippers head coach after Donald Sterling decided to nix a deal to bring JJ Redick to the team. Columnist Arash Markazi has the full story.

— Can Errol Spence be the next Floyd Mayweather Jr.? He’ll certainly need to raise his star outside the ring.

— A bill to let college athletes get paid for endorsements is on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. His signature could hand advocate and former UCLA football player Ramogi Huma a victory two decades in the making.

Rich Hill passed Tuesday’s test, but the Dodgers pitcher’s future is still uncertain.


— Democrats should keep their impeachment inquiry focused narrowly on Trump and Ukraine rather than go fishing, lest the process suck up all of Congress’ attention, Jon Healey writes.

— If the White House’s release of a memo purporting to summarize Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president were supposed to allay the intelligence watchdog’s “urgent concern,” the move is an outright failure, Virginia Heffernan writes.

— Just in case online dating weren’t already hard enough, a new Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against the owner of, Tinder and other sites and apps suggests we should be suspicious not just of scammers but of the company itself, columnist David Lazarus writes.


— The 48 hours — or so — “that sealed Trump’s impeachment.” (The New Yorker)

— A Yale law school professor says American universities must decide whether they’d rather be equal or elite. (Time)

— These black cowgirls in Southern California are bucking stereotypes. (Los Angeleno)


The LAPD is turning 150, and that means its badges will go back — for the rest of this year, anyway — to the year of its founding. On Wednesday, Police Chief Michel Moore unveiled a commemorative badge that several thousand officers will wear until the end of 2019. The sunflower-designed badge is a near-replica of the one worn in 1869 by its first six officers and Chief William Warren. (The normal ones date to 1940.) Given the new old look, Moore said, Angelenos can ask to see an officer’s ID card if they’re skeptical of the commemorative badge during an encounter.

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