US briefing: Democratic debate, impeachment and violent cities | US news

Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories. The briefing will be back after Christmas. Until then, happy holidays…

Dems spar over fundraising, with little talk of impeachment

The final televised debate of 2019 featured seven remaining Democratic hopefuls, and it was Pete Buttigieg who proved the biggest target in Los Angeles on Thursday. The South Bend mayor was attacked by Elizabeth Warren on his fundraising from wealthy donors and by Amy Klobuchar on his lack of experience. But there was no clear winner, writes Nathan Robinson – and, notably, little discussion of Donald Trump’s impeachment.

  • Sarah Sanders. The former White House press secretary was apologised and deleted a tweet she had posted during the debate in which she appeared to mock Joe Biden’s lifelong struggle with a stutter.
  • China blackout. A CNN correspondent in China who was watching the debate on a live feed reported that the footage went to black while the candidates discussed Beijing’s human rights record and its treatment of Uighur Muslims.

Pelosi and McConnell face off over impeachment next steps

McConnell and Pelosi at a memorial ceremony for congressman Elijah Cummings in October.

McConnell and Pelosi at a memorial ceremony for congressman Elijah Cummings in October. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell, the two most powerful figures in Congress, are gearing up for a showdown over the next stage of the impeachment process. Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, has delayed the delivery of articles of impeachment to the Senate in order to cajole McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, into holding a substantive trial rather than the swift, cursory acquittal that Trump’s defenders may be hoping for.

Justice department plans crackdown on violent cities

The attorney general, William Barr, unveils Operation Relentless Pursuit in Detroit.

The attorney general, William Barr, unveils Operation Relentless Pursuit in Detroit. Photograph: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The justice department has unveiled plans for a crackdown on violent crime in seven US cities. William Barr, the attorney general, outlined Operation Relentless Pursuit at a press conference in Detroit on Thursday, flanked by the leaders of several federal law enforcement agencies. The plan will increase the federal law enforcement presence in Detroit, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee, which have crime rates higher than the national average.

Weinstein accused of sexual assault on teen in fresh lawsuit

The disgraced producer departs criminal court in New York after a bail hearing last week.

The disgraced producer departs criminal court in New York after a bail hearing last week. Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

A Polish former model has filed a fresh lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, accusing the disgraced producer of sexually assaulting her when she was a 16-year-old aspiring actor. After remaining anonymous as part of a previous class-action lawsuit, Kaja Sokola has gone public with her new suit, saying she “cannot accept … as fair or just” the $25m settlement reportedly reached between Weinstein and dozens of his alleged victims, which would not require him to admit wrongdoing or to pay a penny from his own pocket.

  • No accountability. Of the settlement, Sokola said: “There is no accountability for the perpetrators, insufficient compensation for all of the victims, and millions of dollars going to people that I believe enabled Weinstein.” Weinstein denies all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

Cheat sheet

  • Australia is bracing for more “catastrophic” bushfires this weekend, after two firefighters died in a road accident as they returned from battling a blaze near Sydney on Thursday. Another person was killed in a crash in a fire zone in South Australia on Friday.
  • Three Uber drivers and another driver from a rival rideshare service have been murdered in the Brazilian city of Salvador, in what police believe may have been revenge killings after a gang leader’s sick mother had a ride cancelled.
  • Underwater archaeologists have found two iron anchors close to where the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés first set foot in Mexico and scuttled his own fleet in 1519, raising hopes that the sunken ships may soon be rediscovered.
  • The world’s oldest known fossil forest has been discovered in a sandstone quarry in New York state. The approximately 386m-year-old forest contained trees that scientists say would seem entirely alien to the modern eye.


WeWork’s Adam Neumann in 2015, when his firm was being praised as a business ‘unicorn’.

WeWork’s Adam Neumann in 2015, when his firm was being praised as a business ‘unicorn’. Photograph: Chris Floyd/The Observer

Where did it all go wrong for WeWork?

At the beginning of 2019, the coworking firm WeWork was still considered a wild success by those not in the know, notionally worth tens of billions of dollars. But by the fall its IPO had been scrapped, its ludicrous CEO Adam Neumann exiled and its business model exposed as all but unworkable, as Matthew Zeitlin explains.

How toxic TV tourists took over Chernobyl

HBO’s dramatisation of the Chernobyl disaster was perhaps the most acclaimed TV show of 2019. But like the Soviet nuclear power program, it had unintended consequences. Julie McDowall reports on the boom in unwelcome visitors to Ukraine’s exclusion zone.

Trump’s trade wars lay waste to the midwest

Demand for farming equipment has shrunk amid Donald Trump’s trade war on China, which explains why John Deere is laying off factory workers in Iowa. Michael Sainato finds out how the dispute between Washington and Beijing is driving communities to despair in America’s manufacturing and farming heartland.

Martin Scorsese on making 2019’s best movie

The Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw has crowned Martin Scorsese’s 209-minute crime epic The Irishman his No 1 film of 2019. Scorsese tells Andrew Pulver why his latest film felt like a culmination: “I know that I’m at the end of a long, long ride.”


If you thought impeachment would pose a reporting challenge for conservative media, think again, says Jason Wilson. The president’s defenders have once again used the news as an excuse to attack his perceived enemies and to explain why this is actually good for Trump.

A careful and rigorous impeachment process appears to have changed few minds. Conservative media are working to ensure that its aftermath doesn’t either.


The 11-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater has missed out on a slot on the US Olympic surfing team after losing his semi-final heat at the Billabong Pipe Masters in Hawaii. That left the 47-year-old without sufficient points from the season to make it into the two-man team for Tokyo 2020.

As the season nears its halfway point, second-placed Leicester have a chance to go seven points clear of Manchester City when they face the reigning champions at the Etihad on Saturday. Frank Lampard will meet his old boss José Mourinho when Lampard’s Chelsea visit Tottenham for their London derby on Sunday. Those are two of 10 things to look out for amid this weekend’s Premier League action.

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