Rudy Giuliani, Jeff Sessions, Twitter: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering a call for a recount in Kentucky, spying charges against former Twitter employees, and a Mona Lisa problem.

The top American diplomat in Ukraine told impeachment investigators that Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, instigated the Ukraine pressure campaign. House Democrats released a transcript of the private testimony by the envoy, Bill Taylor, and named him the first of several witnesses in open hearings next week.

In his testimony, Mr. Taylor recounted in stark terms how he came to understand that U.S. policy in Ukraine was subject to a set of politically motivated preconditions demanded by the president. But he also conceded that he had never spoken directly with Mr. Trump.

“Mr. Taylor’s testimony gave us what might be the most detailed account yet of how and why Mr. Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine,” Noah Weiland writes in our Impeachment Briefing. (You can sign up here.)

Go deeper: Interviews in Kiev with government figures, lawmakers and others show how high-level Ukrainian officials decided to acquiesce to Mr. Trump’s request — but, by a stroke of luck, never had to follow through.

Related: Mr. Trump asked Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference saying that no laws were broken in the call with Ukraine’s president. Mr. Barr declined.

Another angle: The president and his allies have used Twitter to frame his defense and attack key witnesses, including a decorated Iraq war veteran.

The Justice Department accused two men of using their access to Twitter’s internal systems to obtain information on American citizens and Saudi dissidents.

The men — one American, the other a Saudi citizen — were charged with acting as agents of a foreign power inside the U.S. Both men left Twitter in 2015.

Context: The case raised questions about the security of American technology companies. It also underscored the broad effort that Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and his advisers have conducted to silence critics both inside the kingdom and abroad.


Five years after Michigan switched the city’s water supply to the contaminated Flint River from Lake Huron, the lead crisis has migrated to its schools. Neurological and behavioral problems among students are now threatening to overwhelm the education system.

The water contamination exposed nearly 30,000 children to a neurotoxin known to have detrimental effects on developing brains and nervous systems. Medical experts say there is no way to prove that the lead has caused new disabilities, and pediatricians in Flint caution against overdiagnosing children as irreparably brain damaged.

Quotable: “We have a school district where all that’s left are damaged kids who are being exposed to other damaged kids, and it’s causing more damage,” said Stephanie Pascal, who has taught in Flint for 23 years.

At 17, Mary Cain was a record-breaking phenomenon, the fastest American girl in a generation. In 2013, she was signed by the best track team in the world, Nike’s Oregon Project.

Her male coaches were convinced she had to get “thinner, and thinner, and thinner.” Then her body started breaking down.

“I got caught in a system designed by and for men, which destroys the bodies of young girls,” Ms. Cain says in a video from the Times Opinion series “Equal Play.”

37 killed in West Africa: Gunmen in Burkina Faso ambushed a convoy carrying employees, suppliers and contractors of a Canadian mining business, the third deadly attack against the company in 15 months.

Drug maker sued: The Trump administration accused Gilead Sciences, a maker of H.I.V.-prevention drugs that can cost patients up to $20,000 a year, of profiting from taxpayer research without paying royalties.

Snapshot: Above, the crowd to see the Mona Lisa last month. Every day, about 30,000 visitors pass through the gallery where Leonardo da Vinci’s painting hangs. Our art critic says it’s time the Louvre moved it out of the way.

Late-night comedy: “Democrats just picked up a governorship in a state as red as Trump’s face when he heard about this,” Samantha Bee said about the Kentucky governor’s race.

What we’re reading: This Billboard interview with the musician Trent Reznor. Michael Roston, a science editor, writes: “The man behind Nine Inch Nails and a lot of movie and TV soundtracks has many interesting things to say, but maybe the best is how he describes telling his kids he was the accidental musician behind Lil Nas X’s viral megahit ‘Old Town Road.’”

Cook: A green okonomiyaki includes spinach, zucchini and Napa cabbage.

Watch: The HBO show “His Dark Materials” has a more rebellious, questioning outlook — adolescent, in a good way — than other fantasy sagas.

Read: “The Beautiful Ones,” Prince’s unfinished memoir, is a No. 1 debut on our hardcover nonfiction and combined print and e-book nonfiction best-seller lists.

Smarter living: Sleep isn’t always the answer for exhaustion.

NASA isn’t the only U.S. agency working in space.

This month, the Navy’s Research Laboratory is testing the idea that space equipment could draw on electrons in the ionosphere to enable fuel-free space maneuvering hundreds of miles from Earth’s surface.

A satellite launched from a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in June will, when given the command from Earth, split into two identical pieces, each smaller than a shoe box. They will unfurl between them a kilometer-long electrodynamic filament.

As they pull that tether through the Earth’s magnetic field, the minisatellites will draw in electrons at each end. Sending them through the tether in one direction creates a propulsive force, and in the other, drag. It’s the same physics — the Lorentz force — that drives an electric motor.

The experiment won’t generate enough current for meaningful propulsion, but if it works, it holds the promise of longevity for satellites, as well as a way to nudge a satellite at the end of its useful life into the atmosphere to burn up, to prevent the accumulation of space junk.


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

— Claire


Thank you
Melina Delkic helped compile today’s briefing. Mark Josephson, Eleanor Stanford and Chris Harcum provided the break from the news. Kenneth Chang, who covers NASA for The Times, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about a Supreme Court case on job discrimination against gay and transgender workers.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Weapon for a knight (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• The New York Times added 273,000 online subscribers in the third quarter, bringing digital subscriptions to four million and total subscription to a high of 4.9 million.


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