Wednesday, 17 Apr 2024

Mueller Report, Thailand, Brexit: Your Monday Briefing

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Good morning.

Congress finds out what’s in the Mueller report, Thailand’s military appears to have won elections and Brexit continues to confound a nation. Here’s the latest:

Summary of the Mueller report is with Congress

Attorney General William Barr sent lawmakers a summary of the special counsel’s highly anticipated report on Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election. The key findings will be made public later today.

This much is clear: The Mueller report established no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, but left it to Mr. Barr to determine whether President Trump's actions constituted obstruction of justice. Mr. Barr found that they did not.

Our Washington Bureau is assessing the summary in greater detail now, and we’ll be updating the news story linked above and our live briefing.

Impact: The report’s delivery “marked a turning point that will shape the remainder of Mr. Trump’s presidency and test the viability of American governance,” our chief White House correspondent writes.

Other investigations: The special counsel, Robert Mueller, issued no further indictments but federal and state prosecutors are pursuing about a dozen other inquiries that grew out of his work, meaning President Trump hasn’t yet emerged from a looming legal threat.

Huge crowds march for a second Brexit vote

Hundreds of thousands of protesters took over the streets of Central London on Saturday, calling on lawmakers to break the political stalemate and hold a second referendum on Britain’s withdrawal from the E.U.

Few lawmakers have any appetite for a second public vote, however, so the march’s main impact may be as a reflection of growing popular frustration over the gridlock.

What’s next? Officials in the E.U. gave the British Parliament until April 12 to decide what it wants to do, so Brexit will not take effect on March 29, the date set two years ago.

On the table is Prime Minister Theresa May’s widely unpopular draft plan. If lawmakers approve it by the E.U. deadline, Britain will leave the bloc on May 22.

If not, Britain has three choices: a no-deal Brexit on April 12, no Brexit at all or a longer delay of possibly two more years. Parliament has strongly opposed all of these options, too.

Today: Lawmakers are to vote on proposed amendments to Mrs. May’s plan, including one that would allow for a rapid-fire round of voting on alternatives.

Analysis: Ellen Barry, our London correspondent, looks at how some Brexit supporters have shifted from the original goal of a less restrictive relationship with the E.U. to willingness to walk away from the bloc with no deal at all.

Thai elections cement the military’s dominance

A military-linked party seemed to have emerged as the winner of parliamentary elections, the country’s first vote since a coup in 2014.

With about 90 percent of the ballots counted as of Sunday, Palang Pracharat, the military’s proxy party, had 7.5 million votes, the Election Commission said. Pheu Thai, the populist party toppled in the coup, had been widely expected to finish first, but was second with seven million votes.

The remaining votes will be counted today, but it appears to be the first electoral failure since 2001 of a party aligned with Thaksin Shinawatra, the polarizing former prime minister.

Concerns: More than 5 percent of the ballots were invalidated, raising questions about the integrity of the results. And turnout was 66 percent, lower than the expected 80 percent.

Democracy activists say the new military-backed Constitution worked in favor of the country’s armed forces, which has orchestrated more than a dozen successful coups over the years. Electoral rules blunted the power of some blocs, and the threat of jail time hung over leaders of anti-junta parties.

The voting was for the lower house. The new Constitution gives the military the power to appoint all 250 members of the Senate, so its power in Parliament will be overwhelming.

The Islamic State’s caliphate crumbles, but the threat remains

A four-year military operation to push the terrorist group from Iraq and Syria ended on Saturday when American-backed forces took back the last speck of land in the region controlled by the group.

The end of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate, which at its peak was the size of Britain, is a major blow to the group. The group continues to exist, however, as a diffuse insurgency from Afghanistan to the Philippines, and experts say it is more powerful today than it was in 2011, enriched by years of collecting taxes in Iraq and Syria and returning to the guerrilla tactics it used in the past.

By the numbers: The group has tens of thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria as well as followers around the world. Since last summer, it carried out at least 250 attacks in Syria. ISIS followers have carried out attacks in at least 25 countries since 2017.

Recruiting: A modern, educated couple in the Philippines became key recruiters for the Islamic State, calling on followers to wage jihad in Muslim parts of the archipelago.

On the ground: Hours after a U.S.-backed militia announced victory over the Islamic State in Syria, a local driver working with a team of journalists from NBC News was killed in an explosion in the area. It was not immediately clear whether the group had been targeted, or whether previously unexploded ordnance from heavy militia bombing might have been involved.

Here’s what else is happening

Boeing: An investigation by The Times looks into how the aircraft manufacturer rushed to develop the 737 Max 8 to keep American Airlines from ordering hundreds of planes from its rival, Airbus, and how the frenetic pace played out for engineers and construction teams.

New Zealand: The country banned the so-called manifesto of the man suspected in the Christchurch massacre, making it a crime to possess or distribute the content in an attempt to limit the spread of hateful ideas and foil his desire for notoriety.

China-E.U. relations: President Xi Jinping secured Italy’s cooperation with his Belt and Road initiative and then headed to France to meet with European leaders, some of whom fear widening internal divisions over China’s increasing reach.

Cambodia: Top E.U. officials visited the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, to consider revoking a special trading deal because of the country’s deteriorating human rights record.

North Korea: The country’s state media escalated calls for South Korea to distance itself from the U.S., as the U.S. sent mixed signals over whether it would tighten or relax sanctions on the North.

Norway: A cruise ship stranded for nearly 24 hours by rough weather and engine trouble finally headed to shore, after about a third of the 1,300 people aboard were airlifted, one by one, to safety.

Coming this week: Apple will unveil its video streaming service on Monday, and Lyft — Uber’s main rival in North America — will make its debut on the stock market on Friday in what could be the tech world’s biggest initial public offering since 2014.

Russia: A marathon across the frozen surface of Lake Baikal in Siberia was a precarious endeavor through unpredictable and grueling conditions. “Baikal prepares new surprises,” said the founder of the race. “That makes it more interesting.”

Perspective: Calling Asian women “adorable,” “cute” or “beautiful” in professional settings is a form of racism that “dresses up its violence in praise,” the author R.O. Kwon argues in an Op-Ed.

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Recipe of the day: You can always toss roasted broccoli with something delicious, like a Thai-style vinaigrette. (Our Five Weeknight Dishes newsletter has more recommendations.)

Passion can be a gift or a curse. We have guidance on avoiding obsession as you pursue your most profound interests.

Knees are the body’s most taxed joint. Here are some ways to keep from injuring them.

Back Story

Last week, Emma Fitzsimmons, a transit reporter for The Times, wrote about the strange disparity in New York City’s subway lines, exploring why lettered lines — notably the F — performed particularly badly. We noticed that the subway system skips only a few letters of the alphabet, and asked her to explain.

The letters missing from the current subway map either were removed over the years or never existed because officials thought they might confuse riders. An I train could have been mistaken for a 1, or an O train for zero.

There was an H train — a shuttle line in Rockaway Park, Queens — but it was changed to an S for shuttle in 1992.

The K once ran along the C line in Manhattan, but the letter was retired in 1988.

Once a letter disappears from the map, that doesn’t mean it is gone forever. The W train, between Queens and Manhattan, was axed in 2010 and then reappeared in 2016 as part of new service after the opening of the Second Avenue subway, which diverted the Q train to three new stations on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

As for the Z, transit advocates held a funeral for the line amid budget cuts in 2009, but it has survived after all (for now).

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Alisha Haridasani Gupta writes the Morning Briefing. @alisha__g

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