Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: January 24, 2020

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Harold Maass
Travelers in Hong Kong
Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

1.

House prosecutors: Trump pushed 'bogus Kremlin-backed conspiracy theory'

Democratic House prosecutors on Thursday outlined how they said President Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democrats and back up a "completely bogus" conspiracy theory that was being pushed by Russia and Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. On the second day of opening arguments in Trump's Senate impeachment trial, prosecution leader Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Trump attempted to boost his own re-election prospects by trying to bolster a theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. "That's what Donald Trump wanted investigated or announced — this completely bogus Kremlin-pushed conspiracy theory," Schiff said. Many Republican senators have rejected Democrats' arguments, saying Trump did nothing wrong. [The Associated Press]

2.

China expands coronavirus lockdown to cover 35 million people

Chinese authorities on Thursday expanded a travel ban in central China to cover an area with 35 million people in 13 cities. The lockdown started in Wuhan, a city of 11 million where the outbreak of the pneumonia-like coronavirus began. The death toll from the virus rose to at least 26, with more than 800 people infected in China and six other countries, including the United States. In Wuhan, frightened people with symptoms crowded into hospitals to be tested by medical crews in hazmat suits. "The city government told us there was a virus, but they didn't explain enough what we should do," said Sun Ansheng, whose wife was being tested. "They left it sounding too minor. Now look." [The New York Times]

3.

Pence: Trump to reveal Mideast peace plan

Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that President Trump soon will unveil his Mideast peace plan. Pence invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz to visit the White House next week to discuss the plan and "the prospect of peace" in the Middle East, Pence said. Gantz, the former military chief and leader of the Blue and White faction in Israel, is Netanyahu's primary rival in Israel's upcoming election. The Trump administration's peace plan, which has been largely developed by White House adviser Jared Kushner, is meant to broker peace between Israel and Palestinians but has been continually delayed. [The Washington Post, Politico]

4.

U.S. blacklists 4 companies for alleged Iran sanctions violations

The Trump administration on Thursday announced that it was blacklisting four international companies for allegedly facilitating exports by Iran's state-owned National Iranian Oil Company in violation of U.S. sanctions. The companies include Hong Kong-based broker Triliance Petrochemical Co., Hong Kong-based Sage Energy HK Ltd., Shanghai-based Peakview Industry Co., and Dubai-based Beneathco DMCC. The U.S. Treasury Department said it would freeze all assets of the companies that are within U.S. jurisdiction. U.S. companies and individuals also will be prohibited from having dealings with the companies. The blacklisting marked the latest in a series of steps Washington has taken to exert "maximum pressure" on Iran to accept tougher limits on its nuclear program. [Reuters, The Wall Street Journal]

5.

Trump administration restricts pregnant women's visas to stop 'birth tourism'

The U.S. State Department on Thursday unveiled a proposed new rule on visas designed to prevent what the Trump administration called "birth tourism." The guidance would let the government deny some visas to pregnant women if there is "reason to believe" they are primarily interested in visiting the United States so their child will be born there and entitled to U.S. citizenship. The State Department "does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the United States — an activity commonly referred to as 'birth tourism' — is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature," according to the new rule, which takes effect Friday. [CBS News]

6.

U.S. refuses U.K. request for extradition of diplomat's wife

The Trump administration has declined Britain's request for the extradition of Anne Sacoolas, a U.S. diplomat's wife, over an August crash that killed 19-year-old Briton Harry Dunn. Sacoolas, benefiting from diplomatic immunity, left the U.K. shortly after the accident. The family of Dunn, who was on a motorcycle when he was killed, said that Sacoolas was driving on the wrong side of the road when the crash occurred. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged President Trump to send Sacoolas back, saying she was wrong to invoke diplomatic immunity in the case. Sacoolas' lawyer said she would not return voluntarily to the U.K., where she could face jail time for "a terrible but unintentional accident." [Reuters]

7.

Drug-company founder gets 5 years for opioid-spray bribery scheme

John Kapoor, the 76-year-old founder of Insys Therapeutics, was sentenced Thursday to five and a half years in prison for contributing to the opioid crisis. Kapoor was convicted of racketeering last May after a 10-week trial. Prosecutors said Kapoor ran a bribery and kickback scheme that involved millions of dollars paid out to get doctors to prescribe the Arizona pharmaceutical company's highly addictive fentanyl spray, Subsys, a painkiller for cancer patients. Bribes were disguised as sham speaking engagements. "Kapoor ran Insys without a moral compass," prosecutors wrote in recent court documents. Kapoor's lawyers said other executives developed the bribery scheme. The India-born Kapoor, they said, developed the drug after his wife died from breast cancer. [The Associated Press]

8.

Mexico detains 800 migrants in crackdown

Mexican authorities on Thursday detained 800 Central American migrants who entered the country illegally from Guatemala hoping to reach the U.S. President Trump has been pressuring Mexico to step up efforts to prevent migrants from reaching the U.S. border to escape violence or economic hardship in their home countries. Mexico's National Migration Institute said it had transferred 800 migrants, including some unaccompanied minors, to immigration shelters. Security forces with riot shields earlier stopped large groups of migrants, including families with small children, who had entered Mexico by crossing the Suchiate River from Guatemala. [Reuters]

9.

Annabella Sciorra testifies that Weinstein raped her

Sopranos actress Annabella Sciorra took the stand in once-powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's sex crimes trial, and described a night in the winter of 1993-1994 when she said he raped her. Sciorra said Weinstein offered to drop her off at her New York City apartment after a dinner with a group at an Irish restaurant. She said she went home and was preparing for bed when someone knocked on her door. "(Weinstein) was there and pushed the door open," she said, adding, "Then he started to unbutton his shirt, and then I realized that in his head, he wanted to have sex, and I didn't want to." She said she felt "overpowered," and Weinstein raped her. Weinstein, 67, faces charges including rape and sexual assault, but he hasn't been charged in connection with Sciorra's allegation because the statute of limitations ran out. He says all of his encounters with his accusers were consensual. [USA Today]

10.

Longtime PBS anchor Jim Lehrer dies at 85

Jim Lehrer, the longtime PBS anchor who moderated more presidential debates than anyone else, has died at 85. PBS announced Lehrer's death Thursday, saying he died peacefully at home. Lehrer served as a PBS anchor for 36 years, founding PBS NewsHour with Robert MacNeil. He also moderated 12 presidential debates, the most of anyone in U.S. history, and wrote numerous novels, memoirs, and plays. "A true giant in news and public affairs, he leaves behind an incredible legacy that serves as an inspiration to us all," PBS p[resident Paula Kerger said Thursday. "He will be missed." Reporters paid tribute to Lehrer, with CNN's Jake Tapper remembering him as a "wonderful man and superb journalist." [PBS, The New York Times]