US briefing: Impeachment, new Epstein accuser and Israeli settlements

Tim Walker
Photograph: Shawn Thew/EPA

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

Alexander Vindman headlines blockbuster day of hearings

Lt Col Alexander Vindman, the national security council’s director of European affairs and the marquee witness for the third day of public impeachment hearings on Tuesday, is expected to use his testimony to reiterate his claim that “there was no doubt” Donald Trump demanded a quid pro quo from the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in their now-infamous 25 July phone call, to which Vindman was listening as the White House’s top Ukraine expert.

New Epstein accuser urges Prince Andrew to share info

‘Jane Doe 15’ with her lawyer, Gloria Allred, on Monday. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

A woman who says Jeffrey Epstein subjected her to a “vicious, prolonged sexual assault” when she was 15 has announced a new lawsuit against the late financier’s estate, and called on Prince Andrew to come forward with information about his former friend. “Jane Doe 15”, who held a press conference with her lawyer, Gloria Allred, in LA on Monday, is one of about a dozen women suing the dead sex offender’s estate over claims of sexual abuse.

US says Israeli settlements no longer considered illegal

Palestinian children in the West Bank town of al-Eizariya, in the shadow of the Maale Adumim settlement. Photograph: Raneen Sawafta/Reuters

In a dramatic shift in US foreign policy, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has said Washington no longer considers Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank to be illegal. A 2016 UN resolution declared the settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law, reflecting the long-held view of most US allies. But Pompeo said the legality of individual settlements should be decided by Israeli courts, “and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace”.

  • ‘Entrenching injustice’. Ayman Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister, said the US decision would “entrench” the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and “kill the two-state solution”, which is the most widely accepted blueprint for Middle East peace.

Help us to report on an epic new year

Since 2016, much of what the Guardian holds dear has been threatened. The Trump administration is establishing new norms of behaviour. Anger and cruelty disfigure public discourse. Lying is commonplace; truth is being chased away. But with your help, we can continue to put it centre stage. We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who supported the Guardian in 2019 – and, if you are enjoying this newsletter, we hope you will consider making a contribution to help us cover 2020.

Cheat sheet


Disney’s 1946 film Song of the South won’t appear on Disney+. Photograph: United Archives GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

The difficult legacy of Disney’s most shocking movie

The new Disney streaming app, Disney+, launched earlier this month with a back catalogue of all the company’s classic movies. All, that is, aside from one: the 1946 live-action/animation hybrid Song of the South, whose pernicious racism means it may never again see the light of day, writes Scott Tobias.

The local ‘fake news’ sites spreading ‘rightwing propaganda’

The shadowy, controversial company Locality Labs purports to be a local journalism organisation, operating scores of “news” websites across the US. But, as Adam Gabbatt reports, its critics say it is in fact part of a nationwide, rightwing propaganda effort.

Why are so many people terrified of tiny holes?

Sufferers of trypophobia, an aversion to clusters of holes or cracks, are outing themselves online as a reaction to internet memes. Chrissie Giles asks whether this increasingly common condition is a product of the digital world, or simply disseminated through it.

How bad ballot design can sway election results

The 2000 presidential election rested on Florida. And Florida rested, at least in part, on a confusing “butterfly ballot” with misaligned rows, which may have swayed the result away from Al Gore. Spenser Mestel reports on the efforts to design a better ballot.


Widening news deserts and the proliferation of fake news represent a profound risk for humanity, says Lydia Polgreen. If the climate crisis was the price of the industrial revolution, then the digital revolution may be costly in a different but similarly destructive way.

The collapse of the information ecosystem has already wreaked havoc on our political systems. It has undermined democratic elections. It has shaken basic trust in institutions. It has left us with a world in which anyone is free to choose their own facts. It threatens to fundamentally destabilize the existing world order.


Myles Garrett’s Cleveland Browns teammates have backed the defensive tackle after he sparked a rolling brawl with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the closing minutes of their game last Thursday, by striking the Steelers quarterback, Mason Rudolph, with his own helmet.

The Davis Cup, recently reformatted as a “World Cup of Tennis,” opened with some attention-grabbing clashes on Monday at Caja Mágica in Madrid. But all the clapping and screaming could not disguise the swaths of empty seats, writes Kevin Mitchell.

Sign up

The US morning briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.