The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Impeachment Trial Begins Amid Fresh Evidence

    "Hear ye!" With those words from the Senate's sergeant at arms, the upper chamber yesterday launched its third-ever impeachment trial. As Chief Justice John Roberts administered an oath of "impartial justice" to senators, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said President Donald Trump broke the law when he withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine. Meanwhile, an indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani forked over fresh evidence implicating the president in Giuliani's efforts to pressure Kyiv for political help.

    What's unique about these proceedings? The trial is not only occurring during an election year — raising the stakes for both parties — but four of the senators acting as jurors are running for president.

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    US Reveals Troops Hurt in Iran Attacks

    Defense Department officials said yesterday that 11 American troops were being screened for traumatic brain injuries after the Jan. 8 missile strikes by Iran on two military bases in Iraq. At the time, the Pentagon revealed only that there weren't any deaths. Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led Friday prayers in Tehran for the first time in years as public anger mounts over the country's downing of a Ukrainian airliner last week.

    Where is the U.S.-Iran conflict heading? According to OZY columnist and former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, the absence of channels for de-escalation means a "volatile stalemate" marked by low-level violence is likely.

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    China Posts Slowest Growth in 29 Years

    With a GDP that grew 6.1 percent last year — partly hobbled by weaker consumer spending and rising unemployment — the world's second-largest economy expanded at its slowest rate since 1990. But it's not all bad news: Fourth-quarter growth remained steady from the previous three months, while industrial output, investment and retail sales all ticked up in December.

    What's next? To prevent a further slowdown, and to hit the Communist Party's target of becoming a "moderately prosperous" nation, officials will likely continue with a delicate stimulus policy.

    Read OZY's feature about U.S. public perceptions of China.

  4. FBI Arrests Suspected Neo-Nazis

    Three alleged members of a far-right extremist group known as "The Base" — including Canadian fugitive Patrik Mathews — were arrested Thursday on weapons and immigration charges ahead of a Virginia gun rally they were expected to attend. Mathews, a former military reservist, had been under investigation for his links to white supremacists when he reportedly slipped into Minnesota last August to train Base members.

    How lethal is the group? The Base, the English translation of al-Qaida, is an international terror cell linked to several murders in the U.S., and the FBI says it has evidence of the group plotting terror attacks online.

  5. Also Important...

    Google parent company Alphabet has become only the fourth U.S. firm to reach a $1 trillion market value. Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk has offered to quit after recordings emerged of him disparaging President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's understanding of the economy. And the head of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has criticized Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos for his newspaper's coverage of the country.

    Try This: Feeling presidential after a week of briefings? Prove it with the PDB Quiz.

    OZY is hiring! We’re looking for an ambitious, Washington-based political reporter to cover the 2020 presidential election — and beyond. Check out our jobs page and read the description here.


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    Want Union Benefits? Ride the Rails

    It may not have the same prestige as it used to, but railway work is a good bet for young Americans looking for steady employment with great benefits, OZY reports. While union membership is dropping across other industries, decent health coverage and other perks can still be found working on U.S. train and subway systems. In fact, 81 percent of workers are unionized thanks to decades of hard-fought battles.

    What kind of opportunities are available? With cities and states beginning to address congestion, many are expanding public transportation as a solution.

  2. Microsoft: We'll Be 'Carbon Negative' by 2030

    CEO Satya Nadella pledged Thursday that the tech giant's carbon emissions will be below zero by 2030 — and that it'll erase all the carbon it's ever produced by 2050. That includes all emissions from the company's energy use and its supply chain going back to 1975. But Microsoft, which went carbon neutral in 2012, says that ambitious goal will require new technologies. That's why it launched a $1 billion Climate Innovation Fund.

    Why does it matter? The company's announcement is part of a larger trend of tech giants eyeing innovation to help fight global warming.

    Don't miss OZY's original series on the new frontiers of climate change.

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    China's Birth Rate Sinks to Six-Decade Low

    Already grappling with a weakened economy, the Chinese government will likely be alarmed by another figure: Last year, mothers gave birth to 14.65 million children — the lowest number since 1961. Still, the country's overall population bumped up to 1.4 billion, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, and 64 percent are within the working age range of 16 to 59.

    Are these numbers reliable? Some experts say China's birth statistics are "very sloppy and highly influenced by politics," noting discrepancies in local reporting as officials manipulate data to meet targets.

  4. French Director Charged With Underage Assault

    Christophe Ruggia was indicted Thursday on charges of sexually assaulting French actress Adèle Haenel when she was a minor. Haenel, now 31, filed a formal complaint against the 55-year-old director in November, accusing him of touching and kissing her while filming The Devils in 2002, beginning when she was just 12. Ruggia initially denied the allegations but has since asked Haenel for forgiveness.

    What's the bigger picture? The #MeToo movement hasn't gathered much traction in France, though some top celebrities have praised Haenel for speaking out.

    Check out OZY's original series on #MeToo going global.

  5. New York Yankees' Carlos Beltran during a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim Stadium

    Mets Manager Latest Casualty in Astros Probe

    Carlos Beltran has left the New York Mets without managing a single game after he was implicated in the MLB investigation of Houston's sign-stealing scandal. As an Astros outfielder in 2017, he was accused of playing "a key role in devising the system" to use electronic equipment to steal and transmit pitch signs from opposing teams. Beltran was the only player named in the probe.

    Is the MLB in trouble? Beltran is the third manager to lose a job over the scandal, which analysts say puts the league in "a crisis of ethics."