Trump, Brexit, Fatberg: Your Wednesday Briefing


(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning.

President Trump’s address to the American people, new details in the Russia investigation and a 210-foot “fatberg.” Here’s the latest:

On the 18th day of the partial government shutdown, President Trump gave a national address from the White House, citing misleading statistics to declare that there is a “humanitarian and security crisis” on the southern border and demanding billions of dollars in funding for a wall, which he claimed would be “indirectly paid for” by Mexico.

That was one of many assertions we fact-checked in a live briefing on the address.

In a Democratic rebuttal moments later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joined by Senator Chuck Schumer, said that Mr. Trump “must stop holding the American people hostage, must stop manufacturing a crisis and must reopen the government.”

On the ground: Americans living near the border show little enthusiasm for a wall.

Looking ahead: Mr. Trump will travel to the Texas border on Thursday. But privately, he has dismissed his own new strategy of persuading the American people as pointless, and the shutdown is set to drag on. For many federal workers, that means no paychecks. So far, polls show Mr. Trump taking most of the blame for the shutdown, and Senate Republicans are increasingly anxious.

Video: Watch his address and Democrats’ response. (And here are the full transcripts.)

Paul Manafort shared Trump campaign polling data with an associate tied to Russian intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to prosecutors for the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

That was inadvertently made public in court filings by Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, who did not directly dispute that the sharing happened but said their client had not intended to mislead Mr. Mueller about it, blaming a memory lapse. They also revealed that Mr. Manafort “may have discussed a Ukraine peace plan” with the Russian associate “on more than one occasion.”

What’s next: His lawyers said Mr. Manafort would not pursue a formal challenge to prosecutors’ assertions that he lied in breach of a cooperation agreement, a decision that brings him one step closer to being sentenced for 10 felonies.

Also: Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with President Trump’s campaign team at Trump Tower in 2016, was charged in New York in a separate case that showed her deep ties to the Kremlin.

Ahead of a momentous debate in the British Parliament over Prime Minister Theresa May’s unpopular plan for leaving the E.U., her government has been preparing for a possible “no deal” withdrawal.

But it has offered contradictory messages: that such an exit would be a calamity for Britain, and that it would not be, because the government is prepared.

Details: As part of its preparations, in the past week the government has awarded a $17.5 million ferry service contract to a company with no ferries, as well as conducting an exercise — dismissed by truck drivers who took part as “window dressing” — to test whether Britain could handle a no-deal scenario’s expected snarls for cross-channel trade.

Another angle: Backing farmers’ fears, the environment minister warned of huge tariffs and resulting devastation for British agriculture in a no-deal exit.

In December, the nationalist, anti-immigrant Vox party of Spain won parliamentary seats for the first time.

Big picture: Vox remains a small player. It wants to replace border fences around Ceuta and Melilla, two Spanish enclaves in North Africa, with walls, and reclaim Gibraltar from Britain. It has consulted with President Trump’s former campaign manager Stephen Bannon, who is trying to build an international far-right movement. And its popularity has grown with a backlash against Catalan separatism, which is rekindling Spanish nationalism long after the Franco era.

Looking ahead: Some analysts say the party’s appeal could spread beyond its stronghold in the southern region of Andalusia, and it will be an important wild card in E.U. parliamentary elections in May.

In Germany: A lawmaker from the far-right Alternative for Germany party suffered serious injuries when he was attacked by three men, the police said.

Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to meet with John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, after Mr. Bolton said Turkey must agree to protect Syria’s Kurds — making an agreement between the two countries ahead of an announced U.S. withdrawal from Syria more difficult.

Emissions: U.S. carbon dioxide output rose by 3.4 percent in 2018, the biggest increase in eight years, according to a preliminary estimate. The uptick came even as a near-record number of coal plants across the country closed last year.

Bosnia: A grieving father dissatisfied with the official explanations for his son’s death started a one-man protest movement in Bosnia that has grown into the country’s largest antigovernment demonstration in decades, posing a challenge to Milorad Dodik, the longtime leader of Bosnia’s Serb autonomous zone.

China: In an effort to placate President Trump and end a trade war with the U.S., China has offered real concessions — alongside nebulous promises that may not be enough.

Iran: The E.U. penalized the country over allegations that its intelligence service orchestrated a series of assassination plots in Europe in recent years, including the killing of two Iranians in the Netherlands.

Diplomacy: The Trump administration downgraded the diplomatic status of the E.U. delegation to the U.S. last year without telling the bloc, a European official said on Tuesday. The reclassification is understood to have been reversed, at least temporarily.

Germany: The government revealed that a 20-year-old student was responsible for hacking into the online accounts of hundreds of lawmakers and personalities whose political stances he disliked, cracking passwords as weak as “1234.”

Fatberg: A 210-foot mass of oils, fats and wet wipes — longer than the Tower of Pisa is tall — has been discovered under a sleepy coastal town in Britain.

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Recipe of the day: Smoky bacon, red cabbage and a bit of cream make for a delicious pasta dinner.

A simple way to remember things? Draw a picture.

Five carry-on essentials for travelers who love to pack light.

How does The Times decide when to publish leaked information?

First of all, sharing government secrets is generally legal.

One exception, per the Espionage Act, is information related to national defense that could be used to harm the U.S. And some things, like nuclear secrets, are separately protected.

The Supreme Court has upheld the news media’s right to publish government secrets, citing the First Amendment. The landmark 1971 Pentagon Papers ruling struck down an attempt by the Nixon administration to keep The Times from publishing classified information about the Vietnam War.

Still, the Washington correspondent Charlie Savage notes in our Understanding The Times series, we don’t always exercise that right. Sometimes officials ask us to “consider voluntarily not publishing.”

Because “suppressing information is not something The Times takes lightly,” Mr. Savage explains, those decisions are handled by our most senior editorial leadership.

“It is extremely rare,” he adds, “for The Times to hold or kill such a story.”

Jennifer Krauss, from Times Insider, helped with today’s Back Story.

Your Morning Briefing is published weekday mornings.

Check out this page to find a Morning Briefing for your region. (In addition to our European edition, we have Australian, Asian and U.S. editions.)

Sign up here to receive an Evening Briefing on U.S. weeknights, and here’s our full range of free newsletters.

What would you like to see here? Contact us at

Source : Nytimes