President Trump, Coronavirus, Brexit: Your Friday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning.

We’re covering the potential for a quick end to the impeachment trial, Britain’s impending withdrawal from the European Union, and a Times investigation into chain pharmacies.

ImageSenator Lamar Alexander said that this year’s election, not the Senate, should determine whether President Trump remains in office.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

The impeachment trial may end as soon as today, after a key Republican senator said he would vote against considering new evidence.

Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee had been among a handful of Republicans who were seen as undecided on allowing more witnesses and documents in the trial. But on Thursday he said that while Mr. Trump had acted inappropriately, his dealings with Ukraine were not impeachable offenses.

What’s next: A vote on whether to allow new evidence is expected today. If it fails, Republican leaders could move the trial to final deliberations and a speedy up-or-down vote on each article of impeachment.

Catch up: On Thursday, Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, declined to read aloud a question from Senator Rand Paul that included the name of a person widely thought to be the C.I.A. whistle-blower whose complaint prompted the impeachment inquiry. Here are six takeaways from the question-and-answer session.

News analysis: Alan Dershowitz, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, said his arguments that presidents have virtually unfettered power when seeking re-election were mischaracterized. But Mr. Trump himself has promoted an expansive view of executive power that didn’t start with Ukraine, our Washington correspondent writes.

Chinese health officials reported today that nearly 2,000 new cases of the coronavirus were recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the worldwide total to nearly 10,000. The vast majority are in China, where it has killed at least 213 people. Here are the latest updates.

The State Department issued its highest alert on Thursday as it advised Americans to avoid traveling to China. The World Health Organization also declared the outbreak a global emergency after clear evidence emerged of human-to-human transmission of the virus in countries other than China, including the U.S.

The details: Our maps track the spread of the virus.

Related: Facebook said it was taking steps to prevent the spread of misinformation related to the virus. That includes claims related to false cures or prevention methods — like a claim that drinking bleach cures the coronavirus — and those that create confusion about health resources, the company said.

What’s next: The virus is a serious public health concern, but the risk to most people outside China remains low. We looked at six factors that will determine whether the virus can be contained.

After years of anguished debate, the country formally leaves the European Union tonight, and our London bureau chief reports that the prevailing emotion is “a characteristically British reflex: Get on with it.”

While it’s the official end of a 47-year partnership, little will change immediately, as Britain will abide by European Union regulations for the rest of 2020 while the two sides conduct trade talks. Here are the latest updates.

The details: Because the European Union dictates Britain’s departure, Brexit will be official at the stroke of midnight in Brussels, which is 11 p.m. in London. (That’s 6 p.m. Eastern.)

Another angle: Anti-Brexit “remainers” are struggling to maintain a movement that may not get a chance to reverse Brexit for a generation.

In letters to state regulatory boards and in interviews with The Times, pharmacists at companies like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens described understaffed, chaotic workplaces and said it had become difficult to perform their jobs safely, putting the public at risk of medication errors.

The last comprehensive study of medication errors was over a decade ago: The Institute of Medicine estimated in 2006 that such mistakes harmed at least 1.5 million Americans each year.

Quotable: “I am a danger to the public working for CVS,” one pharmacist wrote in an anonymous letter to the Texas State Board of Pharmacy in April.

Response: The companies said in statements that patient safety was of utmost concern, with staffing set to ensure accurate dispensing. They also said that technology like e-prescribing had increased safety and efficiency, and denied that pharmacists were under extreme pressure or faced reprisals.

Related: Patients can’t control what happens behind the pharmacy counter, but they can watch for errors. Here are some steps you can take.

William Bradley Pitt was born in 1963. But Brad Pitt sprang forth in a 13-second scene in the 1991 film “Thelma & Louise” in which the camera panned from his chest to his face, an ode to masculine beauty.

Ever since, his acting skills have been undervalued — by the academy, fans, journalists and casting directors alike, our film critic Manohla Dargis writes.

What Iowans have to say: The Times polled 584 Democrats who are likely to caucus on Monday and found a divide on whether to support a candidate they most agree with or one they feel has the best chance of beating President Trump. Here’s what they told us.

Snapshot: Above, the Thwaites glacier in Antarctica, where scientists have recorded unusually warm water beneath the ice. The Florida-size glacier plays an important role in holding back ice that, if melted, would raise the world’s oceans nearly four feet over centuries.

News quiz: Did you follow the headlines this week? Test yourself.

Modern Love: In this week’s column, a woman writes about romance on a cruise ship.

Late-night comedy: Jimmy Kimmel discussed the Republican argument that allowing new evidence at the impeachment trial would delay the Senate’s other business: “As if they’ve done any business. Blockbuster Video has done more business than the Senate in the last three years.”

What we’re reading: This essay in Cleveland Magazine. Stephen Hiltner, an editor on the Travel desk, writes: “Dave Lucas, Ohio’s poet laureate, ruminates on the beauty and the mystery of Lake Erie’s annual freeze.”

Cook: Pasta with sausage, peppers and broccoli riffs on a classic Italian combination.

Read: A collection by the poet Robert Hass is among 10 books we recommend this week.

Go: A show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York traces the history and cultural heritage of kingdoms on the Sahara’s rim.

Smarter Living: When giving money to environmental organizations, here’s how to make your donation count.

On Sunday, around 100 million people are expected to tune in for the Super Bowl. But with growing concern over the violence of football, what are the ethics of watching the biggest U.S. sporting event of the year? Our culture critics have their take, and here’s what Ken Belson, who has been reporting on the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated hits to the head, told Remy Tumin of the Briefings team.

What keeps fans coming back?

It’s an event that transcends the sport. The N.F.L. has been brilliant in turning it into a spectacle, and there’s nothing like it. That’s partly because of how the league has structured it — one final game, winner takes all, in a neutral city, on the first Sunday of February, every year. Other sports don’t have the same permanency.

You’ll be watching from the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. What can you see that viewers can’t?

Often when there’s an injury timeout, they go to commercial. I’ll be able to see doctors tending to players, including a neuro-trauma consultant who is on the sidelines (and wears a red hat). If the consultant gets involved, it means someone has had a concussion.

What would you say to fans who are having moral issues?

It’s a collision sport at heart, and if you don’t want see it, turn on something else. If you can’t reconcile that violence — and it is violence — then there are other sports. I think it’s O.K. to watch it and have misgivings. It’s human nature — you can both admire and be horrified by the same thing.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” In today’s episode, The Times’s executive editor, Dean Baquet, discusses the lessons from our coverage of the 2016 presidential election.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Half a pint (three letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Copies of The Times Magazine’s “1619 Project” are back in stock in our online store.

Leave a Reply