Iran, Grammy Awards, Carlos Beltran: Your Friday Briefing

Iran, Grammy Awards, Carlos Beltran: Your Friday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering a rare address from Iran’s supreme leader, the removal of the executive in charge of the Grammy Awards, and the latest repercussions in Major League Baseball’s cheating scandal.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Wall-to-wall news coverage is expected when President Trump’s impeachment trial begins in earnest next week, but the public’s only view of the Senate floor comes via a C-Span camera, which lawmakers are allowed to turn off for private discussions.

Journalists and spectators were cleared from the chamber during extensive closed-door sessions at President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999. Our chief Washington correspondent explains the rules.

Art Lien, a courtroom sketch artist who normally covers the Supreme Court, will be capturing the scene in the Senate, where no photographs are allowed.

Yesterday: With the formal opening of the trial, senators swore to deliver “impartial justice” and installed Chief Justice John Roberts to preside. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the process.

Related: The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said the Trump administration violated the law when it withheld nearly $400 million in congressionally approved aid to Ukraine last summer, a decision at the heart of the impeachment case.

News analysis: The trial starts as more details emerge about the effort to pressure Ukraine to pursue Mr. Trump’s political rivals, and “the missing information, like almost everything else in Washington these days, is seen through drastically different lenses,” our chief White House correspondent writes.

Federal prosecutors appear to be questioning whether the former F.B.I. director illegally provided details to reporters as part of an investigation into a years-old leak of classified information, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

It’s the second time the Justice Department has investigated leaks potentially involving Mr. Comey, a frequent target of President Trump. The timing of the case is unusual; such investigations usually occur around the time classified information appears in the news media, not years later.

The details: At least two news articles about the F.B.I. and Mr. Comey, published in The Times and The Washington Post in 2017, mentioned a Russian government document that hackers had provided to the F.B.I. The highly classified document played a major role in Mr. Comey’s announcement in July 2016 that the F.B.I. wouldn’t recommend charges for Hillary Clinton in her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

Response: A lawyer for Mr. Comey declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington.

In a rare public sermon today, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told tens of thousands of worshipers that God’s backing had allowed Iran to “slap the face” of the U.S. during the countries’ recent tensions.

It was Mr. Khamenei’s first such address since 2012.

Related: Eleven American troops were treated for concussions last week after Iranian missiles struck two Iraqi bases where they were stationed, the U.S. military said on Thursday. The attack was in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.

Duane Chapman, a.k.a. Dog the Bounty Hunter, started a reality TV revolution in 2004 with a show in which he led his bickering family in pursuit of those who had broken the terms of their bail agreements.

His wife, Beth, died of cancer last year. Now without a TV contract, Dog, 66, spoke to The Times about trying to move on.

Grammys leader is removed: Deborah Dugan, the chief executive of the Recording Academy, was placed on administrative leave after an allegation of misconduct. This year’s music awards ceremony is in nine days’ time.

Neo-Nazi suspects arrested: The F.B.I. arrested three men who had obtained guns and discussed heading to Virginia, where a rally next week is expected to draw white supremacists and other extremists. Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency.

Numerical milestone for Google: When the company reorganized under a parent entity called Alphabet in 2015, it announced it would buy back shares worth $5,099,019,513.59, a figure derived from the square root of 26 — the number of letters in the alphabet. On Thursday it celebrated another significant figure, reaching $1 trillion in value.

Snapshot: Above, rainfall in New South Wales, Australia. For the first time in months, thunderstorms hit parts of the country that have been ravaged by wildfires, and more rain is expected through the weekend.

In memoriam: Christopher Tolkien, the son and literary executor of J.R.R. Tolkien, worked for decades to promote the world of “The Lord of the Rings” that his father created. He died on Wednesday at 95.

Widening baseball scandal: Carlos Beltran stepped down as manager of the New York Mets after being implicated in the Houston Astros’ cheating scheme.

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

Modern Love: In this week’s column, a woman who lost her sight struggles to be seen.

Late-night comedy: Jimmy Kimmel explained one condition for the impeachment trial: “They will have to stand when they cast votes, which is a big deal because, well, for a lot of these senators, this will be the first time they’ve ever stood for anything.”

What we’re listening to: This podcast episode from “Song Exploder,” about the ’90s song “Closing Time” by Semisonic. “You may have listened to this at the end of a night out as the bar lights started to flicker,” writes Remy Tumin of the briefings team, “but the back story will make you hear it in a whole new way.”

Cook: Spend some time this weekend making classic lasagna.

Watch: With “Star Trek: Picard,” a spinoff following Patrick Stewart’s Starfleet officer, the franchise is trying to rediscover its place in a universe that it effectively invented.

Read: “Why We Can’t Sleep,” about the midlife anxieties of Gen X women, is among 11 books we recommend this week.

Smarter Living: Here are tips for finding a new home in a faraway place.

At least six passengers on a bus in Xining, China, died this week when the pavement collapsed under it.

Sinkholes, both natural and human-caused, are rare and rarely deadly. But they fascinate us because they seem to appear out of nowhere, and often in unusual places.

A sinkhole opened up in 2013 under a home in Florida — where much of the ground base is limestone, a soluble rock — killing a man in his bedroom. Another in 2014 swallowed eight cars at the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. A sinkhole also engulfed an entire building complex in Shenzhen, China, in 2013.

Natural sinkholes occur when underground water has insufficient drainage and begins to corrode the rock under the top layer of soil. Human causes include leaking or crumbling water pipes.

The damage gradually takes place under the surface, but when the layer at the top can no longer support itself, it can suddenly and violently give way.

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

— Chris

Thank you
Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. Victoria Shannon, of the briefings team, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach us at

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