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FirstFT: US politicians draw battle lines over search of Trump’s home


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US lawmakers have demanded more information on the potential national security threat posed by the trove of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago during the unprecedented search at the home of former president Donald Trump.

The comments by Democrats and Republicans yesterday were among the first reactions from Congress to the release on Friday of the search warrant presented by the FBI on the day of the visit on August 8, revealing that Trump was being investigated for serious violations of the law related to national defence, the mishandling of government material and obstruction of justice.

They highlighted the sharp partisan divide with regards to Trump’s treatment by US law enforcement, with Democrats focusing on the legal gravity of his behaviour and Republicans sceptical and critical of the search.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, has asked the director of national intelligence to review the harm to American interests — formally known as a damage assessment — resulting from Trump’s decision to hold on to a trove of sensitive material after leaving the White House in early 2021.

“What is, to me, most disturbing here is the degree to which . . . it appears to be wilful, on the president’s part — the keeping of these documents after the government was requesting them back. And that adds another layer of concern,” Schiff said.

Republicans, many of whom have rushed to Trump’s side and attacked the Department of Justice, the FBI and US attorney-general Merrick Garland over the past week, asked federal authorities to release the affidavit in support of the search warrant. Affidavits, which typically remain under wraps throughout a federal investigation, contain details on the reasons why the DoJ asked a federal judge to approve the search.

Trump has maintained that the search was a politically motivated stunt, claiming to have declassified all the material before leaving office, though there is no record of such a step.

“I think it’s very important long-term for the justice department, now that they’ve done this, that they show that this was not just a fishing expedition — that they had due cause to go in and to do this, that they did exhaust all other means. And if they can’t do that, then we’ve got a serious problem on our hands,” Mike Rounds, a Republican senator from South Dakota, told NBC.

Happy Monday, and thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. We hope you have a great week. —Sophia

1. EU calls for an end to war talk in Balkans Tension between Serbia and Kosovo spilt over into violent protests and border disturbances last month. In a bid to avert conflict between the neighbouring states, the EU has demanded that they abandon talk of war as the bloc and Nato prepare to hold crisis talks this week.

2. US and China hold separate military drills in south-east Asia The rival superpowers displayed their military strength over the weekend; China dispatched fighter jets to Thailand yesterday while the US and Indonesia concluded two weeks of war games, marking the largest version of the annual Garuda Shield live-fire drills since starting in 2009. Japan, Australia and Singapore also joined for the first time.

3. Saudi prince made $500mn Russia bet around start of Ukraine war Kingdom Holding, one of Saudi Arabia’s highest-profile investors, disclosed yesterday that it poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Russian energy companies shortly before and after the invasion of Ukraine. Majority owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, Kingdom made the investments even as western leaders threatened sanctions against Russia.

4. Germany must cut gas use by 20% to avoid winter rationing Businesses and households are bracing themselves for Europe’s biggest energy crisis in a generation, which Germany has feared since Gazprom throttled supplies mid-June. Now, Germany’s top regulator has warned the country that it must cut gas use by a fifth to avoid a crippling shortage.

5. Saudi Aramco profits hits fresh record amid high energy prices Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused soaring energy prices, delivering profits that are now showing up in earnings results. State-owned oil group Saudi Aramco has broken its quarterly profit record set in May, recording a 90 per cent year-on-year increase in net income in the second quarter.

The day ahead

Economic data A wide range of figures are released today, including China’s July retail sales and industrial production data, Japan’s monthly industrial production figures, and India’s monthly trade statistics.

One year of the Taliban Today marks the first anniversary since the Taliban seized back power in Afghanistan.

Indian Independence India celebrates Independence Day on the 75th anniversary of the end of British rule.

Anniversary of Japan’s WWII surrender Emperor Naruhito, empress Masako and prime minister Yoshihide Suga attend a commemorative ceremony at the Budokan stadium in Tokyo today to mark the 77th anniversary of Japan’s surrender and the end of the second world war.

What else we’re reading

Afghanistan’s women speak Since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August last year, women across the country have had to find ways to cope with their lives being turned upside down. They have used an app to share their thoughts, fears and dreams. Read their messages here.

a girl reads in front of a window in a dark room.
The Taliban said they would defend women’s rights ‘within the framework of Islamic law’, but analysts and diplomats remain deeply sceptical

Polio virus reappears in rich economies After being nearly eradicated, the virus has turned up in New York City, London, Israel and Ukraine. Data from the WHO and Unicef show the largest sustained decline in childhood vaccinations in three decades, raising concerns that vaccine hesitancy and global conflicts could allow the disease to make a comeback.

We’re getting closer to a world without animal testing Experiments on animals have long been the only permissible way to test the safety of a drug — but many drugs that are effective in mice don’t work well in humans and vice versa. Now, scientists are using new technology to grow miniature human organs for more accurate and more humane research.

Computers in the classroom need a reboot Children don’t necessarily learn more from laptops than they do from textbooks, which suggests that perhaps we have been approaching technology in the wrong way for education.

Arctic melting four times faster than rest of the planet, study says Scientists have for a long time known that the Arctic is heating faster than the rest of the planet, but have not agreed on a rate. The warming effect, along with long-term declines in sea ice levels, are considered two main indicators of climate change.

Travel adventures

Find out where to get really away from it all, in Morocco, Chile, Lapland and New Zealand.

An angling trip in the Martin Pescador wilderness
An angling trip in the Martin Pescador wilderness © Eleven

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