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News Brief: Impeachment Trial, Kobe Bryant, Coronavirus Spreads


We have a good idea of what John Bolton would say if the Senate agreed to hear him at President Trump's trial.


The president's former national security adviser would undermine the president's defense. Bolton is writing a memoir. It's called "The Room Where It Happened," a title that plays off a song from the musical "Hamilton." Bolton writes that he was in the room as the president demanded investigations in Ukraine. Bolton says the president explicitly said the U.S. should blockade Ukraine until Ukraine investigated his political rivals, including Joe Biden. The New York Times first reported on Bolton's manuscript, and Bolton's lawyer confirms that manuscript leaked.

MARTIN: So what does this mean for Republicans who have declined to call witnesses up until now? Let's ask NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez in the studio with us this morning. Hi, Franco.


MARTIN: I mean, I imagine Democrats are hoping at least that this is some kind of breakthrough for them on this front.

ORDOÑEZ: It absolutely is what they are hoping for. You know, the Democrats issued a statement last night. They said the revelations bolstered their argument for calling Bolton as a witness. Now, this story cited accounts from multiple people, none of whom were named but who had seen drafts of the book that Bolton is writing.

MARTIN: The New York Times story.

ORDOÑEZ: Correct. And NPR hasn't seen a draft of the manuscript, but we did get a statement from Bolton's lawyer, Charles Cooper.

MARTIN: And what does it say?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, he's not disputing any of the information in the reporting. He said that he gave a copy of the manuscript to the White House for a standard security review. This is a review that makes sure no classified or sensitive material has been written. And Cooper said the publication of the article shows that that process was, quote, "corrupted and that information has been disclosed to persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript." I should note that President Trump is already firing back. Firing back hard in a trio of tweets, he said he never said that the aid was tied to investigations. He actually accused Bolton of trying to sell a book, saying if he did say this, he said that Bolton never complained about the hold up. And at the time - particularly at the time that he was terminated.

MARTIN: And I think Bolton's book is scheduled to be published in March, if I'm not mistaken. But he has made clear, hasn't he, Franco, that if the Senate were to subpoena him, that he would show up.

ORDOÑEZ: No, he did. He absolutely did. You know, at first, he had that battle with the House and said he'd only move if he was subpoenaed. Then there was a court case involving his deputy. Then surprisingly as the - right before the Senate trial got started, he said he would testify, but President Trump says that could be a national security problem.

MARTIN: All right. So let's look forward, if we could, because we are launching the White House moment. They get to launch their defense. We saw a preview of that on Saturday. But what are we expected to hear from the president's lawyers today?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, we're going to hear the president's defense team's case. They're going to really dive into the bulk of their arguments. They've been very clear that they're going to attack the process as well as the substance. And they're going to do so aggressively. We got a little taste of that on Saturday with White House Pat Cipollone basically saying the Democrats are trying to rip up the ballots for the 2020 election.


PAT CIPOLLONE: They're here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history. And we can't allow that to happen.

ORDOÑEZ: Key to their argument is that President Trump did nothing wrong and he acted within his powers and the national interests.

MARTIN: All right. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez, thank you. We appreciate it.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you.

MARTIN: And for more coverage of today's Senate impeachment trial, don't forget to check out NPR's Politics Podcast.


MARTIN: The greatest Laker of all time is gone. Those are the words of Magic Johnson yesterday on Twitter after learning, along with the rest of us, that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. Johnson called him a leader of the game who spent much of his life mentoring young players, boys and girls. But it was what Bryant did on the court that made him a global phenomenon.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Kobe, Kobe, Kobe, Kobe.

INSKEEP: We're hearing fans gathering yesterday outside Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles chanting Kobe, Kobe. The arena hosted many of Bryant's greatest games, including a 60-point performance in the final game of his career - 60 points. Teams who played against Kobe Bryant paused to recall him, too. Here's Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers.


DOC RIVERS: And this is just shocking news for all of us. And I'm sorry I don't have a lot to say. I just can't - I have to go talk to a team before a game and tell them to play and I can't.

INSKEEP: Part of this is so hard because of how it happened. Kobe Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash in the hills in California. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also on board, along with seven others.

MARTIN: We've got NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman with us this morning. Hi, Tom.


MARTIN: So let's just start with the investigation. Do we know anything about the cause of the crash?

GOLDMAN: We don't at this point, and we won't know anything definitive until the FAA and the NTSB finish their investigation.

MARTIN: What about the other people who died?

GOLDMAN: We know the LA County sheriff said yesterday that authorities weren't going to confirm any identities until the coroner's office finishes its work and all next of kin are notified. A California college, though, Orange Coast College, did release a statement confirming the school's veteran head baseball coach, John Altobelli, his wife and daughter were in the helicopter, and they died in the crash, too.

MARTIN: So, obviously, all the remembrances are pouring in for Kobe Bryant, who made such a difference obviously on the court but also off. What was it about him that transcended the game of basketball?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, he affected a lot of people, those he knew, many who he didn't know, didn't know him but who watched him over the years and were inspired by him during his playing days and after when he transferred that intensity he had on the basketball court that we all saw so many times. Two interesting different ventures in business, in the media - he won an Oscar in 2018 for producing an animated short called "Dear Basketball." And you heard comments from people gathered at Staples Center - what we heard from a little bit earlier - yesterday about how they were inspired by his drive and achievements and how they wanted to instill their kids with those same things, whatever they do in life.

MARTIN: I mean, he was always celebrating in others' victories, right? Like, even Saturday night, didn't he reach out to LeBron James to congratulate him for breaking one of his records?

GOLDMAN: He did. LeBron moved past him for third place on the all-time scoring list. And Kobe, you know, is one of those guys who retired and - but, you know, kind of let things go and moved on with his life into those new exciting ventures. And he was OK with people coming up and doing great things about him - after him. And so he congratulated LeBron and, you know, he mentored young players. And I think there are so many people who wanted to see so much more of that.

MARTIN: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.


MARTIN: All right. Shanghai's government this morning ordered that all businesses in the city are to stay closed until at least February 9.

INSKEEP: It's an effort to slow transmission of the coronavirus. Public health officials in China say human-to-human transmission has now been confirmed in every major Chinese city. Dr. Gabriel Leung, the dean of medicine at Hong Kong University, said today the numbers of cases will only grow.


GABRIEL LEUNG: We have to be prepared that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic.

MARTIN: We've got NPR global health and development correspondent Jason Beaubien on the line from Hong Kong where he's reporting on all this. Hi, Jason.


MARTIN: So let's just talk numbers, first off. What kind of numbers are public health officials predicting at this point?

BEAUBIEN: So Dr. Leung in this press conference that just ended, they're saying that they're modeling and what's happening right now shows an outbreak that's accelerating. It's accelerating rapidly. And the worst part is that in their predictions, this is only getting started. Leung, he's, like, the top epidemiologist here in Hong Kong. He worked on SARS. He led the city's response to bird flu in 2009. And he just presented this report that he just shared with us, the press, and it has the pandemic peaking in late April, early May with 150,000 cases a day in the city of Chongqing alone, never mind the rest of China. He's upfront that he's saying that this is a worst-case scenario, but it's based on the assumption that the acceleration they're seeing now continues and there's no new measures taken to get control of this outbreak.

MARTIN: So if there are no new measures. But what measures can be put in place to make sure this doesn't happen?

BEAUBIEN: You know, and that's the difficult thing. You know, they're saying that there is a lot that's being tried. There's still a lot that is not known about this virus. But they're saying the key right now is to isolate the sick, quarantine people who may have been exposed, limit large gatherings, you know. And some of this is happening, you know, as you mentioned earlier, that Shanghai has ordered businesses and government offices to be - stay closed through February 9. Hong Kong here has closed schools at least until February 17. You know, every day, it seems like more buses, trains and plane routes are getting shut down in China. And at this point, nobody thinks that there's going to be some magic pill or vaccine that's going to be developed to get this thing under control. Right now, it's about containment of the virus and containing the sick.

MARTIN: All the protections you've been talking about are limited to China. Did these public health officials say anything about what the threat outside China looks like right now?

BEAUBIEN: So the paper they were putting together was looking specifically at China. And that was what they were focused on. They're Hong Kong specialists, and they were to some degree looking at what is the risk to Hong Kong. But they had good access. They've got good experience with China. And so that was their main focus. But Dr. Leung said particularly if this worst-case modeling plays out and we're seeing hundreds of thousands of cases, he says this is going to become a global pandemic, not only with people getting the disease all around the globe but with sustained pockets of human transmission in many other parts of the world. Again, that's all based on if they cannot stop this rapid acceleration of cases that we've seen over the last week.

MARTIN: OK. NPR's Jason Beaubien reporting from Hong Kong. Thank you, Jason.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.