US briefing: impeachment, China trade deal and Warren-Sanders row

Tim Walker
Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.

Senate prepares to open president’s impeachment trial

With a somber, ceremonial march through the halls of Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives on Wednesday transmitted its two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the US Senate, setting the stage for a trial to begin with opening arguments next Tuesday. Although Trump is expected to be exonerated by the Republican-controlled upper chamber, the trial could nonetheless unearth fresh, damaging evidence of his misconduct.

  • Before and after. Tom McCarthy and Miranda Bryant run down a timeline of the events that have led to Trump’s impeachment – and explain what will happen now that the impeachment articles have reached the Senate.

  • Pen palaver. Republicans are outraged by the House Speaker Nancy decision to use multiple pens – engraved commemoratively with her signature – to sign the articles of impeachment. She then gave the pens to her allies, apparently as souvenirs of the historic moment.

Parnas says Trump ‘knew exactly what was going on in Ukraine’

Lev Parnas, the Ukrainian-born businessman at the heart of the Trump-Ukraine scandal, has told MSNBC that the president “knew exactly what was going on” in the scheme to pressure Ukrainian officials to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Speaking to the interviewer Rachel Maddow with his lawyer at his side, Parnas insisted he had been doing the bidding of his close associate and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and of Trump himself. “I was on the ground doing their work,” Parnas said.

  • Marie Yovanovitch. Diplomats and Democrats have responded with outrage to the emergence of messages between Parnas and the Trump donor Robert Hyde, in which Hyde implied he had the then US ambassador to Kyiv under surveillance before she was recalled by the White House.

China plays down trade agreement despite Trump’s boasts

Trump and Chinese vice-premier Liu He sign phase one of the US-China trade agreement on Wednesday. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump called it “the biggest deal anybody has ever seen”. But Beijing’s response to the first phase of a new trade deal between the US and China was more muted, with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, describing it simply as “progress” in the ongoing economic conflict between the superpowers. The deal, signed at the White House on Wednesday, further opens the Chinese market to US firms but leaves in place most of the $360bn in US tariffs on Chinese goods.

  • ‘Regret and unhappiness’. The state-run Chinese tabloid Global Times said in an editorial: “The first phase of the agreement … leaves both sides with regret and unhappiness, which is exactly the response that a fair agreement will elicit.”

Progressives urge an end to Warren-Sanders dispute

Liberal Democrats and supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are desperately urging the two camps to make peace, after audio emerged from the aftermath of Tuesday’s Democratic debate in which the two candidates each accused the other of calling them a liar. Progressives fear the row could damage both campaigns, clearing a path to the presidential nomination for a centrist candidate such as Joe Biden.

  • Liar, liar. Warren approached Sanders after the debate and declined to shake his outstretched hand, saying: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.” “Let’s not do it right now,” Sanders responded. “You called me a liar.”

Cheat sheet

  • Lawyers for Harvey Weinstein are making a fresh attempt to have his looming rape trial moved out of New York, where they claim the proceedings have been sullied by a “deluge” of negative press coverage.

  • A team of Japanese scientists has cultured a species of microbe resembling eukaryotes, the ancestor that gave rise to the first complex life on Earth, in what has been called a “monumental” advance, shedding new light on an early evolutionary milestone.

  • A new lawsuit filed by the attorney general of the US Virgin Islands alleges that Jeffrey Epstein continued to sexually abuse and traffic young women and girls to his private island as recently as 2018.

  • The singer Andy Madadian, known as the Persian Bono, has become the first Iranian artist ever to be honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.


Bringing up the bodies: the couple who find drowning victims

Gene and Sandy Ralston, a married couple from rural Idaho, started assisting in searches for drowning victims in the early 1980s. With the help of specialist sonar technology, they have raised 120 bodies from lakes and rivers across the US and Canada. Doug Horner watched them at work.

Inside the tent immigration courts at the US-Mexico border

Trump’s makeshift tent immigration courts, set up under canvas just steps from the US-Mexico border in Texas, play a key role in the administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy, under which 0.2% of cases have so far resulted in asylum relief for applicants. Oliver Laughland observed the proceedings.

What midlife looks like for women

Middle-aged women in popular culture are often treated as the punchlines to a joke, writes Ann Neumann. But to the photographer Elinor Carucci, the menopause was a moment for fresh self-discovery, as documented in her book Midlife. “I really wanted to celebrate this time,” she tells Neumann.

The Turkish beekeepers risking their lives for ‘mad honey’

In 97BC, the Greco-Persian king Mithridates VI took out 1,000 Roman mercenaries by tempting them with so-called “mad honey”, whose psychedelic properties left them incapacitated and ripe for slaughter. Today, the honey is still being produced by beekeepers in the mountains above the Black Sea, as Bethan McKernan reports.


The Duchess of Sussex has become a battleground in Britain’s culture war. And she has shown courage by refusing to stay silent about her treatment, says Zoe Williams.

The tabloid press has always had the working assumption that no royal would ever do anything to jeopardise the institution, so there was unlikely ever to be much blowback, whatever was printed. This is demonstrably untrue for Meghan, who made a choice previously thought impossible: to walk away from the public role rather than swallow the vilification it brought with it.


Nike’s Vaporfly shoes, which have revolutionised marathon times with their carbon plate and foam technology, are unlikely to face a wholesale ban, according to reports from the the World Athletics working group tasked with investigating and potentially placing limits on their usage in professional running.

The former Duke star and No 1 overall draft pick Zion Williamson is at last set to make his NBA debut for the New Orleans Pelicans at home to the San Antonio Spurs on 22 January, after three months of recovery from a knee surgery.

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