US briefing: Trump impeached, Obamacare and Australia fires

Tim Walker
Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

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

Trump holds defiant rally during impeachment vote

It was a moment long anticipated by Donald Trump’s critics, but the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, quickly silenced the celebrations in Congress after the House voted – mostly along party lines – to impeach the president on Wednesday. Trump is the third US president to face such a censure, on what Pelosi described as “ a sad day”. But for all its supposed significance, the vote may come to be seen as simply another battle in the US’s cold civil war. Tom McCarthy explains what is likely to happen next.

As the House voted in Washington, Trump was hosting a campaign rally in Michigan where he told supporters “the country is doing better than ever before,” and that he “did nothing wrong”. And, as Tom Perkins reports from Battle Creek, those supporters appeared to agree with him.

  • Fox News. Trump’s favourite news channel covered his impeachment in typical style, with its more serious anchors offering measured commentary on the debate in Congress – until the talkshows dived straight into rightwing conspiracy theories.

Court strikes down Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate

Barack Obama’s signature policy achievement will remain an election issue in 2020. Photograph: Michael Sohn/AP

A federal appeals court in New Orleans has ruled that the “individual mandate” of the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – is invalid. The ruling on Wednesday by the fifth US circuit court of appeals concurs with the 2018 decision of a US district judge in Texas, who found the mandate had been rendered unconstitutional by Congress, when lawmakers reduced the tax on people without insurance to zero in 2017.

  • Pre-existing conditions. The new ruling stopped short of striking down more popular features of Obamacare, such as protections for those with pre-existing conditions and allowing people under 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance.

Australia heat records fall again as fires rage on

Three firefighters were hospitalised with severe burns after battling bushfires in New South Wales, Australia, on Thursday. Photograph: David Gray/Getty Images

Three firefighters were admitted to hospital with severe burns while tackling a blaze that destroyed about 20 properties near Sydney on Thursday, as eastern Australia continues to reckon with bushfires of unprecedented scale. Meanwhile, the record set on Tuesday for the country’s hottest ever day was broken 24 hours later, with an average maximum temperature of 41.9C (107.4F) across the country. The heatwave is expected to last into the weekend.

Help the Guardian cover a historic moment for America

Donald Trump has been impeached by the House. The vote marks the latest twist in one of the most turbulent presidencies in US history. But the challenges to the democracy do not end today. Next year will be an epic one – and could define the country for a generation. The need for robust, independent reporting has never been greater.

Cheat sheet

Must-reads

Why the Cats movie is purr-fectly dreadful

The hotly anticipated movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats musical absolutely lives up – or should that be down – to its widely panned trailer, says Peter Bradshaw, who pays homage to the felines’ original creator, TS Eliot, with his review.

2020 Democrats place their bets on California

The major remaining candidates in the Democratic presidential race will descend on Los Angeles on Thursday for their final televised debate of the year. In the past the party has viewed California as little more than a cash cow, but after moving its primary to March, California is now a key battleground, as Andrew Gumbel reports.

‘Prince Andrew wanted to tell me everything’

The BBC’s Emily Maitlis is the journalist behind 2019’s most explosive TV interview: a rare audience with Prince Andrew, whose attempts to swerve the Epstein scandal instead left him sinking in controversy. “After a decade of silent frustration,” Maitlis writes, “he wanted to tell me everything.”

Inside the ski industry’s battle with climate change

For reasons scientists don’t fully understand, the Alps are warming faster than the global average – a serious problem for the region’s snow-starved ski resorts. Simon Parkin reports on efforts to bring the white stuff back to the mountains – and how artificial snow could hold the key to saving the world’s glaciers.

Opinion

Trump’s impeachment is historic, yet he remains highly unlikely to be convicted by the Senate. To Nathan Robinson, Wednesday’s vote felt like an anticlimax. But Andrew Gawthorpe argues that it was nonetheless crucial for Congress to defend the American ideal.

The issue raised by impeachment is whether America, at this stage in its history, has what it takes to stand up against the forces of tyranny.

Sport

Herman Boone, the inspiring high school football coach portrayed by Denzel Washington in the 2000 film Remember the Titans, has died at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, aged 84.

The La Liga clash, widely known as El Clásico, turned out to be less than classic on Wednesday night, as Barcelona drew 0-0 with Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. But there was drama off the field, as Catalan independence protesters confronted police in clashes that left more than 40 people injured.

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