Newsletter: In the Senate, so many questions

Jay Sekulow
Attorney Jay Sekulow wraps up the defense of President Trump during the impeachment trial in the Senate.
(Senate Television)

Senators will begin questioning both sides in President Trump’s impeachment trial, as the fate of key votes remains unclear.


In the Senate, So Many Questions

The impeachment trial of President Trump will move into a new phase today, with senators beginning their public questioning of Democratic House impeachment managers and the president’s defense team. As they do so, many things remain uncertain, including whether witnesses may be called.

In their final arguments yesterday, Trump’s lawyers dismissed the elephant in the Senate chamber: a reported firsthand account from former Trump national security advisor John Bolton that the president directly tied aid to Ukraine to his demands for the country to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

But the report appears to have shifted some Republicans toward calling Bolton and perhaps other witnesses. While Trump said Bolton was lying, his former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told an audience in Sarasota, Fla., that “I believe John Bolton.”


More Politics

— Celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who has sought to cast himself as a nonpartisan member of Trump’s defense team, says that he won’t earn money from his work in the Senate impeachment trial. If Dershowitz does not get paid by Trump, he would have to determine a legal way to donate his services to the president’s defense fund.

— Trump’s approval rating with California voters hasn’t changed: It’s still low. They disapprove of Trump by roughly 2 to 1, according to the latest UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, conducted for the Los Angeles Times.

— Trump’s long-promised plan to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict gives Israel virtually everything it wanted, including control over an undivided Jerusalem.

— The U.S. budget deficit is likely to break $1 trillion this year despite a strong economy, the Congressional Budget Office says in its annual report.

Desperate Measures

The race to curb the spread of the new strain of coronavirus that has killed more than 130 people worldwide has triggered shared grief, suspicion and multiplying tensions in China, along with a massive public health experiment: Chinese authorities have indefinitely barred more than 50 million people in 17 cities from traveling and advised them to stay home.

While some experts say it may work, others worry that the measures, which some consider inhumane, could backfire by stoking panic and mistrust in the government. It’s also unclear whether the tactic will remain in place as China begins begins accepting help from the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, the region’s government is being criticized for responding too slowly to the disease. Some see that as one more reason to demand greater autonomy from Beijing.

Crash Investigation Unfolds

The investigation into the cause of the helicopter crash that killed nine people, including Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, is still in its early stages, but officials have revealed some details about the final moments of the flight and the equipment on board. One detail: The National Transportation Safety Board says the aircraft was not equipped with a terrain alarm system that could have warned the pilot he was approaching a hillside.

As the investigation unfolds, reaction to the retired Lakers star’s death has continued, in barbershops, at USC and in women’s basketball. Some of the most public tributes? Murals going up across L.A.

Odd Couple in the Pursuit of Justice

Paul Wilson suffered unspeakable pain after his wife was killed in the worst mass shooting in Orange County history. Scott Sanders is the man who helped spare the life of his wife’s murderer. Wilson loathed him. But today, Wilson will say: “Scott Sanders isn’t just someone I’ve come to call my friend. I respect his work ethic, his honesty and his tireless commitment to making the criminal justice system work fairly.” How did that happen? Today’s Column One feature explains.


The wacky local advertisements that made Cal Worthington a fixture on L.A. television screens always introduced “Cal Worthington and his dog Spot!” — but the “dog” was never a dog.

On Jan. 29, 1974, The Times profiled the ubiquitous car dealer. “The car business bores and bothers him, a fact that may come as a shock to his fans,” staff writer Charles T. Powers wrote, calling him “a living civic monument to the automobile.”

The first “My Dog Spot” commercial aired in 1971, intended as a jab at rivals using puppies in their ads. The commercials were a hit, and by 2010, The Times reported he’d sold more than 1 million cars across dozens of dealerships. He died in 2013.

Cal Worthington, the L.A. super-salesman, does his schtick in a TV studio.
(Marianna Diamos / Los Angeles Times)


— The parents of Noah Cuatro, a 4-year-old Palmdale boy who died under suspicious circumstances, have been indicted on murder and torture charges in his death.

— Transportation officials are readying their biggest effort in a decade to stabilize the San Diego area’s increasingly collapse-prone Del Mar bluffs and protect the busy railroad tracks perched atop them.

— Los Angeles officials are pressing forward with a new strategy that could thwart plans to turn Westside apartments into condominiums, in an effort to protect renters from eviction.

— Eleven people have been arrested and accused of smuggling empty cans and bottles from Arizona into L.A.-area recycling centers to illegally redeem deposits in a scheme that cost California’s recycling fund more than $2 million.

Homelessness is a top concern here. What questions of yours can we help answer about the crisis?

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Ron Howard’s documentary “Rebuilding Paradise,” recently unveiled at the Sundance Film Festival, chronicles the year after the devastating Camp fire. Here’s how he earned the right to document the town’s destruction and rebirth.

Ocean Vuong wrote the first draft of his bestselling novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by hand and in a closet, the only quiet space in his home, he told Times reporter Carolina A. Miranda at an L.A. Times Book Club event Tuesday.

Laura Dern and Noah Baumbach on how her dramatic speech in “Marriage Story” came to be.

— Weight-loss reality show “The Biggest Loser” faced criticism for its methods before quietly stopping production. Now it’s back. Will a new approach be enough to shed critics of the show’s past?


— The Pentagon has raised to 50 the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran’s missile strike this month on an Iraqi air base, the third time the number of injuries has been increased.

— Retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, whose war crimes trial made international news, has a new video attacking the fellow SEALs who accused him of murder and shooting civilians and testified against him at his San Diego court-martial.

— Two grainy black-and-white pictures showing a man authorities believe to be convicted Nazi collaborator John Demjanjuk working at the Sobibor death camp were published by German historians, contradicting the late U.S. autoworker’s steadfast claims that he was never there.

— A Netflix true-crime docuseries about the death of a prominent prosecutor has ignited a firestorm in Argentina that’s engulfed the country’s president and former president.


— Beware “secret shopper” offers, write columnist David Lazarus. It’s a growing scam, and it’s persuasive enough to result in millions of dollars in annual losses.

— The union that handles every shipping container that crosses West Coast docks is bracing for bankruptcy.

— A Los Angeles federal judge has rejected the Food and Drug Administration’s effort to shut down stem cell clinics offering treatments the agency hasn’t approved, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes.


— 49ers offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers is breaking many barriers in the NFL. She’s the Super Bowl’s first female and openly gay coach.

— After she was diagnosed with a chronic nerve condition, Coco Vandeweghe had to learn to walk again before she could hit the tennis court. And she’s still rebuilding her muscles, stamina and ranking.

Chargers assistant defensive backs coach Chris Harris is leaving for the Redskins.


— Could the Democratic presidential primary race come down to Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg? Jon Healey makes the case for that possibility.

— Before voting on Trump’s impeachment, the Senate has to hear from John Bolton, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— A proposed ballot measure would use L.A.'s nuisance crime laws as a way to force homeless people into mental health and addiction treatment. That’s a misguided approach, says the editorial board.


Influencers big and small are everywhere. But not everyone wants to be a costar, and managing boundaries with friends and family is a delicate business. (New York Times)

Giant batteries have emerged as a key weapon in the fight against climate change. Too bad they also risk starting toxic, hard-to-extinguish fires. (Bloomberg)

Venezuela’s problem isn’t socialism. It’s kleptocracy. (Foreign Affairs)


Yoga teachers often use the word “grounded.” That’s a feeling you aren’t likely to get atop the U.S. Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles, which will begin a series of evening yoga events next month. And after you’ve done downward-facing dog from 70 stories up, you can take a ride on the SkySlide, a 45-foot, glass-enclosed slide outside the building. Ummmm....

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