Newsletter: The 53-47 split

After a partisan fight over the rules of President Trump’s impeachment trial, arguments from House Democrats are set to begin today.


The 53-47 Split

The Senate impeachment trial of President Trump got off to a strongly partisan and grueling, more than 12-hour start, with Senate Republicans repeatedly brushing aside Democratic proposals to subpoena witnesses and documents, putting off those questions until next week.

In a string of 53-47 votes following party lines (and one that split 52-48) and stretching from Tuesday into Wednesday morning, the Republican-led Senate rejected 11 Democratic amendments to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ground rules for the trial. With a final 53-47 vote, it approved those rules, clearing the way for House Democrats to start formally presenting their case at 10 a.m. Pacific today.

The votes came after McConnell had abruptly backed off a plan to fast-track the trial by squeezing arguments from House Democrats and Trump’s lawyers into just four days. Under pressure from some Republicans, McConnell agreed to a total of six days.


The session also provided the first glimpses of how both sides will present their cases. The rhetoric got so heated and personal at one point that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who is presiding, felt compelled around 1 a.m. to admonish both sides about making comments “not conducive to civil discourse.”

President Trump's personal attorney Jay Sekulow approaches the podium to speak during the impeachment trial against President Trump in the Senate.
President Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow approaches the podium to speak during the impeachment trial in the Senate.
(Senate Television via AP)

More Politics

— In Davos, Switzerland, Trump sharpened his break from the international community at the World Economic Forum, boasting about fossil fuel production and American economic success at a summit dedicated to fighting climate change and fostering global cooperation.

— Although the “Medicare for all” debate has dominated the Democratic presidential primary, voters in poll after poll say they are more concerned about high drug costs. Now the candidates are taking notice.

— In a new documentary, Hillary Clinton says of Sen. Bernie Sanders and his time in Congress: “Nobody likes him. Nobody wants to work with him. He got nothing done.” And in an interview with The Times last week, Clinton said she “absolutely” stood by the pointed criticisms she makes in “Hillary.”

An Outbreak Spreads

Health officials around the world are keeping a close watch on an outbreak of a new respiratory coronavirus centered in Wuhan, China, that has spread around Asia and reached the United States. Anxiety is running high in China, where nine people have died and more than 400 have been infected, just as millions of people are traveling for the Lunar New Year.

In the U.S., public heath officials say the virus poses a low risk and is unlikely to spread widely, even after a Washington state man fell ill after having returned home from a visit to the Wuhan area. Here’s what you should know about the coronavirus called 2019-nCoV.

#MeToo Moments

Recently ousted Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan is making some explosive allegations of harassment and discrimination in a 44-page complaint filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint comes just days before the Grammy Awards and accuses the academy of tactics reminiscent of those deployed by those defending movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Speaking of Weinstein: A jury of seven men and five women is expected to hear opening arguments today in Weinstein’s trial in New York on multiple counts of sexual assault.

Homeless but Not Friendless

Smartphones can be one of the few lifelines for those who have little. So a Facebook group for homeless people makes sense, even if it may strike some as unexpected. It includes nurses, doctors and social workers who are there to help. The ground rules are simple: Treat people with grace and kindness.


On this day in 2008, actor Heath Ledger died in Manhattan. A housekeeper and a masseuse found the Australian actor unconscious, and he was pronounced dead minutes later. He was 28. The New York City medical examiner’s office attributed his death to prescription drug overdose.

Fans, friends and colleagues across the country mourned his loss. His chiseled good looks made him a heartthrob, and his acting abilities earned him a reputation as one of the most promising stars of his generation. Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the 2005 movie “Brokeback Mountain.” At the time of his death, he had recently finished playing the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” His performance posthumously won him an Oscar for best supporting actor.

Ledger on a Manhattan rooftop in 2005. He said of his development as an actor, "It's been a long, slow process of making mistakes and changing it."
(Jennifer S. Altman / For The Times)


— A new Proposition 65 fight is coming: Should Tylenol be labeled a carcinogen?

— The LAPD helped pioneer the use of data to fight crime. Now, the approach is under scrutiny after officers were accused of falsely labeling civilian gang members to pad statistics and databases.

— Gov. Gavin Newsom says he opposes any tuition hike this year for students at the University of California, which enrolled a record number of in-state undergraduates in the fall.

— A 62-year-old welder convicted of murder in the beating deaths of his business associate and the man’s wife and two young children has been sentenced to death.

Mountain lion attacks like Monday’s in Orange County are rare but underscore the need for caution, from looking big to fighting back.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.


— What’s it like to be a first-time Oscar nominee? Four, including Antonio Banderas and Florence Pugh, told The Times how it feels.

— Even as Oprah Winfrey does damage control for backing out of a Russell Simmons documentary, she’s wading into another controversy with her book club’s new pick.

— A new study finds that despite some gains for women in music, men still dominate pop charts and Grammy nominations.

— “Misery is still the same.” Ladj Ly says he made his crime thriller “Les Misérables” to show what’s going on today in his neighborhood — the same Paris suburb that helped inspire the classic novel — and to issue a call to action to politicians.

Ozzy Osbourne says he has Parkinson’s disease. He revealed the diagnosis on “Good Morning America” with his wife, Sharon Osbourne.


James Mitchell, the psychologist who led the CIA’s harsh interrogation program after Sept. 11 and personally waterboarded Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, was unapologetic about his role in testimony before a military commission that is preparing to try Mohammed.

— Did the Saudi crown prince hack Jeff Bezos? The Amazon founder’s forensic experts say his phone started surreptitiously sharing vast amounts of data immediately after receiving an encrypted video file from Mohammed bin Salman’s WhatsApp account in 2018.

— Only a few drugmakers are even trying to fight superbugs, a new report finds. They can’t keep up with the rising threat.

Spain’s new government has declared a national climate emergency, a formal first step toward ambitious moves to fight climate change.

— A new Cabinet has been announced in Lebanon, breaking a months-long impasse amid mass protests and a crippling financial crisis. But protesters are not satisfied.


— Regulators are objecting to Riot Games’ proposed $10-million settlement of a class-action gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit, saying the women could actually be owed more than $400 million.

— At one major supermarket chain, the price of a coupon is what one expert calls “an extraordinary amount of surveillance,” writes columnist David Lazarus. But just how is it using all your data?


— The Astros are still cheating the Dodgers, Bill Plaschke writes — cheating them out of any show of remorse, any words of regret and any transparency that could lead to any sort of closure. Meanwhile, the L.A. City Council wants the league to award the Dodgers the 2017 and 2018 World Series titles.

— Along with Larry Walker, Yankees great Derek Jeter was just elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. But he was one vote short of joining teammate Mariano Rivera as the only unanimous selection.

Skateboarding will make its Olympics debut at the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Meet Team USA’s hopefuls.


— In the Rampart scandal of the 1990s, police were caught framing civilians and falsifying testimony. Its ghost hangs over the LAPD’s gang data probe, writes the editorial board.

— Polarized politics, electability and U.S. policy toward Iran: Mayor Pete Buttigieg in conversation with the editorial board.


— Quit your job. Quit grad school. Quit your skincare routine. It’s fine, we’re all quitters. (New York Times)

— “Like letting out the devil”: The brine produced by fracking is hauled, spilled, dumped and spread as road de-icer across America — and much of it is radioactive. (Rolling Stone)


Tacos. Avocado toast. Fried chicken? Los Angeles is home to some of the best stuff in the country, and Times writer Jenn Harris wants to eat and share it all. Enter our new series “The Bucket List,” a love letter to all the great fried chicken in L.A. and the people behind it. She’ll tell you where to find the best Taiwanese popcorn chicken or Korean wings and opine on the realness of Nashville hot chicken. And for 10 weeks, she’ll introduce you to a fried chicken to know, love and be eating right now.

Comments or ideas? Email us at