Long stories short
- At least 17 people drowned when a boat full of migrants from Haiti capsized off the Bahamas.
- Fires burned thousands of acres of forest in California’s Yosemite National Park.
- Russian missiles struck Odesa hours after Kyiv and Moscow signed a deal to transport grain from the port city to world markets (more below).
Must read: Brian Klaas in the Atlantic on what could be American democracy’s last act.
Six years ago Rupert Murdoch flew to Aberdeen to meet Trump on one of his golf courses and tell him he would back him for the US presidency. On Friday the pact ended. Editorials in the WSJ and the New York Post, News Corp’s main American print titles, said Trump had “utterly failed” his January 6 trial and proven himself “unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again”.
The wording was brutal, and no wonder. Anyone paying attention to the January 6 hearings has to conclude Trump was bent on overturning the election. “If you view the objective as creating an historical record of how close the United States came to a cataclysmic crisis in its democracy on January 6, the hearings have succeeded beyond our expectations,” says Willam Banks, a law professor at Syracuse University.
The last session before Congress broke for the summer showed how Trump did nothing for 187 minutes as the Capitol was attacked. As Republican Adam Kinzinger put it, “the mob was accomplishing [his] purpose, so of course he didn’t intervene”.
The hearings as a whole have shown the merits of focusing on facts (from more than 1,000 witnesses); bipartisanship (most witnesses have been Trump supporters even though only two committee members are Republicans); and message discipline – the committee never strayed from its theme that Trump was at the centre of efforts to undermine the election.
There have been five especially damaging moments for Trump:
- “I don’t f***ing care that they have weapons”. Dramatic testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, the former aide to Trump’s White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows established that Donald Trump a) had planned in advance to march to the Capitol, b) was told the crowd was armed and c) was determined to join it anyway.
- “What I’m asking you to do is just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me”. Donald Trump attempted to use the justice department to back up his baseless claims of election fraud. He tried to pressure his acting attorney general into saying the election was “corrupt”.
- “Potus is going to just call for it ‘unexpectedly’”. Texts sent by a January 6 rally organiser showed evidence of possible premeditation; Trump’s team knew the president was planning to announce a march to the Capitol but wanted to make it appear spontaneous.
- “We basically just followed what he said”. Convicted rioter Stephen Ayres testified that the president’s rally speech was taken as an instruction to march on the Capitol. Trump knew the crowd was armed, so the descent into violence ought to have been foreseeable too.
- “I don’t want to say the election is over”: Tapes played in Thursday’s session showed Donald Trump rehearsing for a recorded address the day after the Capitol riot. Even then he was still clinging to the “stop the steal” narrative.
The committee hasn’t sewn everything up.
The case for criminal referral. Evidence from the hearings could support a case that Trump committed two offences: conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of Congress. But it’s not clear the committee will make criminal referrals to the justice department; nor that Attorney General Merrick Garland would prosecute if it did. It would be the first time criminal proceedings were brought against a past president, and the DoJ would need an “absolutely watertight” case to move forward, according to Julie Norman of UCL’s Centre on US Politics.
Convincing Trump voters. Few Republicans think Trump was to blame for January 6, and in any case about 40 per cent of them think what happened was “nothing to worry about”. Trump still leads in most GOP primary polls.
But the hearings aren’t over. Liz Cheney, the other Republican on the committee, says it’s getting more information every day and will be back in September. By then Cheney is likely to have been beaten by a Trump-backed rival in the primary for her Wyoming district… and to be gearing up for her own run for the White House.
The question: if you are a Republican who doesn’t believe the 2020 election was stolen, can you vote for a candidate who persists with the lie that it was? If not, Trump cannot win in 2024 even if he wins his party’s nomination.
Fear and loathing on the Tory trail
The leadership run-off between Sunak and Truss is proving to be petty, dismal and squalid. Instead of growing in stature, the final two candidates are shrinking before our eyes.
CAPITAL ECONOMY, BUSINESS AND FINANCE
Russia’s economy is in rude health because Europe can’t kick its gas dependency and Russian oil can find markets elsewhere. Right? Two Yale professors say these and seven other theories on Moscow’s supposed economic health are in fact myths. Russia can’t sell much gas to Asia because its pipelines head overwhelmingly west. It can sell oil to China but its tankers take 35 days to get there and its oil infrastructure depends on western technology, all of which is sanctioned. It used to import a lot of consumer goods from the West but isn’t replacing as many of them as expected with goods from Asia because of Asian firms’ fears of falling foul of US sanctions. Domestic consumption isn’t strong; it’s slumping. And so on. Foreign Policy has the full list. It feels slightly less than the sum of its parts – only a fool would underestimate Russians’ capacity to ride out economic hardship – but the central message is clear: stick with sanctions. Ultimately, they’ll bite.
TECHNOLOGY AI, SCIENCE AND NEW THINGS
Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube have become the most popular news sources for British youth aged 12 to 15, according to a new Ofcom study. These three platforms have now overtaken BBC One and Two, which have historically ranked highest for this age group. TikTok users in particular note that only a minority of the news information they view on the platform comes from news organisations; 44 per cent say they get news from “other people they follow” instead, which raises obvious questions about where those people get their news. Interestingly, only about half of young people consider Instagram and YouTube to be reliable news sources, and fewer than 1 in 3 trust the news they see on TikTok. It’s the shorter, more personalised format of social media news that they like. Try Sensemaker.
The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT
Alzheimer’s study warning
An influential study of what causes Alzheimer’s disease is being reviewed after allegations it may have been based on “manipulated” data, potentially misdirecting researchers for years and wasting huge sums of funding. The 2006 paper from the University of Minnesota, which is one of the most-cited studies in the field, appeared to pinpoint a specific amyloid protein as a key factor in developing the condition. A six-month investigation in Science reported evidence that images in the study may have been manipulated; Matthew Schrag of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee says they should be seen as “red flags, not final conclusions”. The Minnesota authors say they stand by their findings, but the journal Nature has placed a warning on the original article and investigations are underway. With ten million new dementia cases diagnosed worldwide each year, a lot depends on where those investigations lead.
Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics
Ukraine grain deal
A deal signed last week by Ukraine and Russia is supposed to let more than 20 million tons of grain trapped by a Russian blockade for the past five months find their way out of the Black Sea at last, easing worldwide food shortages. The idea is that ships guided by Ukrainian pilots will leave the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi, monitored by a joint coordination centre in Istanbul. Officials said the first shipments would leave Odesa in a matter of weeks. Ukraine and Russia agreed not to attack merchant and civilian vessels or port facilities, but Zelensky’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak vowed an “immediate military response” in the face of any Russian provocation, and Russian missiles promptly hit what Moscow said were military targets in Odesa’s port. The context is an extremely tense military standoff in southern Ukraine, where newly arrived multiple launch rocket systems from the US are hitting Russian-held targets including bridges over the Dnipro river on which Russian forces in Kherson depend. Kyiv says it will retake Kherson by September. Germany’s agriculture minister says believing Putin will stand back in the Black Sea is like believing in Santa Claus. The grain crisis is far from solved.
CULTURE soCIETY, IDENTITY AND BELONGING
Herbert Diess had committed €89 billion to a colossal upheaval at Europe’s biggest car maker. He was going to turn VW electric, beat Tesla at its own game and overcome global chip shortages with a sparkling new electronics subsidiary intended to deliver self-sufficiency in the brains of the cars of the future. Then he was sacked. Late last week he got back from a trip to the US to find board members from the Porsche and Piech families, labour leaders and representatives of the state of Lower Saxony (one of VW’s biggest shareholders) had been scheming in his absence to remove him. Some were worried about his talk of job cuts. Others didn’t like his style, which could be abrasive and which had come to include a perplexing habit of comparing VW unfavourably with Tesla. On Thursday he was told the board had lost confidence in him. On Friday he quit. The big question his departure prompts is whether his successor, Porsche’s Oliver Blume, is as all-in on EVs as Diess. Blume’s biggest coup till last week was the all-electric Taycan, but the word on the EV grapevine is that VW’s struggles to secure basic EV supplies could force a big, expensive slowdown.
The week ahead
25/7 – BBC hosts first head-to-head Conservative leadership debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss at 9pm; Unite union to ballot dockworkers in Liverpool for strike action, 26/7 – Northern Ireland assembly sits for first time since May 30 to elect Speaker and Deputy Speakers; Scotland’s GMB union closes ballot for industrial action; decennial Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops begins in London and Canterbury; TalkTV and the Sun host debate between Truss and Sunak, 27/7 – Office for National Statistics publishes quarterly figures on profitability of British companies; RMT union of rail workers strike action; HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services publishes nationwide report; London Assembly annual report released; 28/7 – 22nd Commonwealth Games begins in Birmingham; membership hustings begin for Conservative party leadership election; two Met Police officers to be charged over Sarah Everard WhatsApp messages, 29/7 – Communication Workers Union staff employed by BT and Openreach hold day of strike action; AQA exam board staff strike action, 30/7 – National Eisteddfod celebration of Welsh culture held in Tregaron; 31/7 – Uefa Women’s Euro final held at Wembley Stadium
25/7 – Pope Francis meets Indigenous people in Canada; Spain marks Day of Galicia; Taiwan holds Han Kuang real artillery exercise annual war games; Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr delivers first state of the nation as president of the Philippines; 26/7 – World Economic Outlook update released; Revolution Day commemorated in Cuba; EU energy ministers meet in Brussels to discuss fuel supplies; Buddhists mark Asalha Puja to celebrate Buddha’s first sermon in Benares Deer Park; 27/7 – US Federal Reserve to make interest rate decision; North Korea celebrates Korean War ceasefire in 1953, 28/7 – WhatsApp and Snapchat face legal proceedings in Russia over refusal to localise Russians’ data; preliminary hearing for Highland Park shooting suspect Robert Crimo III, 29/7 – Islamic New Year; International AIDS Conference held in Montréal, 30/7 – ”Black Saturday” congestion expected on French roads as school summer holidays begin; 31/7 – Navy Fleet Day national holiday held in Russia with Vladimir Putin expected to attend parade; 55th Asean ministerial meeting held in Cambodia
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Additional reporting by Jessica Winch, Asha Mior and Nina Kuryata.
Photographs Getty Images
in the tortoise app today
Ukraine’s president has removed two top government officials citing many cases of treason in the two powerful organisations they led. What impact have the collaborators had and how serious is the problem?