Your Friday Briefing: U.S. to Unseal Trump Warrant

Good morning. We’re covering moves by the U.S. to unseal the Mar-a-Lago search warrant, Russia’s preparation for possible show trials and Taiwan’s undeterred diplomacy.

Attorney General Merrick Garland had come under pressure to provide more information about the search at former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence.Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

U.S. to unseal the Trump warrant

Merrick Garland, the U.S. attorney general, moved to unseal the warrant authorizing the F.B.I. search for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s residence in Florida. Garland said he personally approved the decision to seek the warrant.

Garland’s statement followed revelations that Trump received a subpoena for documents this spring, months before the F.B.I. search on Monday. It also came a day after Trump asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he was questioned by New York’s attorney general in a civil case about his business practices.

The subpoena suggests the Justice Department tried methods short of a search warrant to account for the material before taking the politically explosive step of sending F.B.I. agents, unannounced, to the former president’s doorstep. Here are live updates.

Details: Officials think the former president improperly took documents with him after leaving office. The Justice Department has provided no information about the precise nature of the material it has been seeking to recover, but it has signaled that the material involved classified information of a sensitive nature.

Analysis: Garland’s decision to make a public appearance came at an extraordinary moment in the department’s 152-year history, as the sprawling investigation of a former president who remains a powerful political force gains momentum. After coming under pressure, Garland said he decided to go public to serve the “public interest.”

The Mariupol Chamber Philharmonic will be used for upcoming show trials of Ukrainian soldiers. Credit…Associated Press

Russia readies for likely show trials

Russia has installed cages in a large Mariupol theater, an apparent preparation for show trials of captured Ukrainian soldiers on newly occupied soil. The trials could begin on Aug. 24, Ukrainian Independence Day.

Some fear that the Kremlin plans to use the trappings of legal proceedings to reinforce its narrative about fighters who defended the southern Ukrainian city and spent weeks underneath a steel plant. Ukrainian officials have called for international intervention.

Moscow may also use the trials to deflect responsibility for atrocities Russia committed as its forces laid siege to Mariupol. The Kremlin has a long and brutal history of using such trials to give a veneer of credibility to efforts to silence critics. Here are live updates.

Our Coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War

  • On the Ground: A series of explosions that Ukraine took credit for rocked a key Russian air base in Kremlin-occupied Crimea. Russia played down the extent of the damage, but the evidence available told a different story.
  • Drones: To counter Russia’s advantage in artillery and tanks, Ukraine has seized on drone warfare and produced an array of inexpensive, plastic aircraft rigged to drop grenades or other munitions.
  • Nuclear Shelter: The Russian military is using а nuclear power station in southern Ukraine as a fortress, stymying Ukrainian forces and unnerving locals, faced with intensifying fighting and the threat of a radiation leak.
  • Starting Over: Ukrainians forced from their hometowns by Russia’s invasion find some solace, and success setting up businesses in new cities.

Context: Concerns for prisoners’ safety have only grown since last month, when the Ukrainian authorities accused Moscow of orchestrating an explosion at a Russian prison camp that killed at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Other updates:

  • Satellite images show that Russia lost at least eight warplanes in a Tuesday explosion at a Crimean air base.

  • New shelling at a Russian-occupied nuclear plant in southern Ukraine added to concerns of possible disaster.

  • Turkey needs Russian cash and gas ahead of an election. Russia needs friends to evade sanctions. The country’s leaders have a wary, mutually beneficial rapport.

Taiwanese soldiers conducted a live-fire drill earlier this week. Credit…Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

China’s drills did not deter Taiwan

China’s continuing military drills have not deterred Taiwan, my colleagues write in an analysis.

In fact, the drills have hardened the self-ruled island’s belief in the value of its diplomatic, economic and military maneuverings to stake out a middle ground in the big-power standoff between Beijing and Washington.

Under Tsai Ing-wen, the current president, Taiwanese officials have quietly courted the U.S., making gains with weapon sales and vows of support. They have also turned China’s bluster into a growing international awareness about the island’s plight.

But Taiwan has held back from flaunting that success in an effort to avoid outbursts from China. When Beijing recently sent dozens of fighters across the water that separates China and Taiwan, the Taiwanese military said it would not escalate and took relatively soft countermeasures. Officials offered sober statements and welcomed support from the Group of 7 nations.

What’s next: American officials have considered stockpiling arms in Taiwan out of concern that it might be tough to supply the island in the event of a Chinese military blockade.



An undated North Korean state media photograph showed Kim Jong-un attending a meeting about Covid-19.Credit…Korean Central News Agency, via Reuters
  • Kim Jong-un declared “victory” over North Korea’s coronavirus outbreak, despite a lack of vaccines, state news reported.

  • Hong Kong suffered a record 1.6 percent population decline over the past 12 months, the South China Morning Post reports.

  • A new animal-derived virus, Langya henipavirus, has infected at least 35 people in China’s eastern Shandong and Henan provinces, the BBC reports.

  • Seoul announced a ban on underground homes after people drowned during recent flooding, The Korea Herald reports.

The Pacific

  • Olivia Newton-John will receive a state memorial service in Australia, CNN reports.

  • New Zealand’s tourism minister dismissed budget travelers and said the country planned to focus on attracting “high quality,” “big spender” visitors, The Guardian reports.

World News

After peaking in June, the lower price of gas is a welcome change for drivers.Credit…Gabby Jones for The New York Times
  • U.S. gas prices fell below $4 a gallon yesterday, back to where they were in March.

  • The Arctic is warming four times faster than the global average, not the commonly reported two to three times, researchers said.

  • The W.H.O. warned people to not blame monkeys for monkeypox after a report that animals were harmed in Brazil amid fear of transmission.

  • Wildfires are again ripping through France, weeks after the last heat wave.

A Morning Read

So-called carbon farming has become a key element of New Zealand’s drive to be carbon neutral by 2050.Credit…Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

New Zealand put a growing price on greenhouse emissions. But the plan may be threatening its iconic farmland: Forestry investors are rushing to buy up pastures to plant carbon-sucking trees.


Selling democracy to Africa

The U.S. unveiled a new Africa policy this week that leaned on a familiar strategy, promoting democracy. The challenge will come in selling it to a changing continent.

“Too often, African nations have been treated as instruments of other nations’ progress rather than the authors of their own,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as he presented the new U.S. approach during a tour that included South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

The U.S. “will not dictate Africa’s choices,” he added, in an apparent response to criticism that America’s stance toward Africa can be patronizing, if not insulting.

“I think, given history, the approach has to be somewhat different, and I would recommend a greater attention to tools that Africans have developed,” said Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign minister.

Along with their own tools and institutions, like the African Union, more African states are wealthier than they were a generation ago, Bob Wekesa, the deputy director of the African Center for the Study of the United States in Johannesburg, said.

“They can afford to say, ‘We can choose who to deal with on certain issues’,” Wekesa said. Those new partnerships include not only U.S. rivals Russia and China, but also emerging powers like Turkey and India. Traditional U.S. allies like Botswana and Zambia are likely to embrace the American strategy, but strongman leaders in Uganda and even Rwanda are likely to be more resistant, he added.

In Kigali yesterday, Blinken said that he had urged the leaders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to end their support for militias in eastern Congo. He also raised concerns about the detention of the U.S. resident who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” Paul Rusesabagina.

But just hours before his meeting with Blinken, President Paul Kagame poured cold water over suggestions that he would be swayed on the Rusesabagina case. “No worries … there are things that just don’t work like that here!!” he said on Twitter. — Lynsey Chutel, Briefings writer based in Johannesburg.


What to Cook

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times

Caramelized brown sugar adds complexity to this berry upside-down cake.

What to Watch

“Inu-oh” is a visually sumptuous anime film about a 14th-century Japanese performer.


Retirees are taking on part-time work loading baggage at airports or passing out towels to make their way through Europe on the cheap.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “Crucial” (three letters).

Here are today’s Wordle and Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. The Times will bring back its Food Festival for the first time since 2019. Mark your calendars: Oct. 8, in New York City.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on abortion in the U.S.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].

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