Your Thursday Briefing: Trump Declines to Answer Questions

Good morning. We’re covering Donald Trump’s decision not to answer questions in a civil inquiry and details about the victims of Seoul’s floods.

Donald Trump left Trump Tower in New York City yesterday. Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

Trump sidesteps legal questions

Donald Trump declined to answer questions in a civil inquiry into his company’s business practices yesterday, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

He made the surprising gamble in a high-stakes legal interview with the New York attorney general’s office. His strategy is likely to determine the course of the investigation.

Trump’s office released a statement shortly after the questioning began yesterday, explaining that he “declined to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States Constitution.” Here are live updates.

Background: Since March 2019, the New York attorney general’s office has investigated whether Trump and his company improperly inflated the value of his hotels, golf clubs and other assets.

Context: In his statement yesterday, Trump cast the inquiry as part of a grander conspiracy against him. He linked it to the F.B.I. search at Mar-a-Lago, his home and private club in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday.

Analysis: Hissidestep could help him in a parallel criminal inquiry into whether he fraudulently inflated valuations of his properties.

Smoke rose after explosions were heard near a Russian military air base in Crimea on Tuesday.Credit…Reuters

Details emerge about Crimea blast

The damage at a Russian air base in Crimea appears to be worse than the Kremlin initially claimed.

After a series of explosions on Tuesday, Crimea’s leader declared a state of emergency and said that more than 250 people had to evacuate from their homes. Officials on the Russian-occupied peninsula said at least one person was killed and dozens more were wounded.

Ukraine has not officially taken responsibility for the explosions. But a senior military official said Ukraine’s special forces and partisan resistance fighters were behind the blast. Here are live updates.

Our Coverage of the Russia-Ukraine War

  • On the Ground: After a summer of few conclusive battles, Ukraine and Russia are now facing a quandary over how to concentrate their forces, leaving commanders guessing about each other’s next moves.
  • 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.
  • Ukrainians Abroad: Italy already had the biggest Ukrainian community in Western Europe before the war, but Russia’s invasion put a spotlight on the diaspora and forged a stronger sense of national identity.
  • Prison Camp Explosion: After a blast at a Russian detention camp killed at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war, Ukrainian officials said that they were building a case of a war crime committed by Russian forces.

Analysis: The blasts could be important, because any Ukrainian attack on Russian forces in the Crimean Peninsula would be a significant expansion of Ukraine’s offensive efforts. Until now, Ukraine has focused on pushing Russians back from territories occupied after the invasion began.

Nuclear plant: Russian missiles killed 13 people near a Russian-held nuclear plant in the south, a Ukrainian official said. Russia may try to divert its electricity to Crimea, which could intensify military competition for the plant and heighten the risk of an accident.

Press: Russian investigators detained a former state television journalist yesterday, months after she staged a rare on-air protest against the war in Ukraine.

Rescue officials pumped water out of this home in Seoul to find a family of three dead inside.Credit…Woohae Cho for The New York Times

South Korea mourns flood victims

Heavy rains caused flooding in the Seoul area, which killed at least nine people. A family of three, who lived in a semi-underground room, are among the dead: a 13-year-old girl, her mother, 47, and her aunt, 48.

Their deaths highlight the predicament of South Korea’s urban poor, who often live in such homes, called banjiha. (“Parasite,” which won the Academy Award for Best Film ​in 2020, dramatically depicted their flood hazard.)

South Korea faces a growing housing crisis and hundreds of thousands of people in the Seoul area live in similar damp, musty quarters. They fear floods each monsoon season, but stay to find jobs, save money and educate their children in hopes of overcoming South Korea’s growing inequality.

Details: The family knew the low-lying district was prone to flooding. But it was cheap and close to a welfare center where the girl’s aunt, who had Down syndrome, could get help.

Quotable: “When I returned home from work, I found my banjiha under water,” one resident wrote on the web portal Naver. “It felt as if heaven had crashed down on me.”


Asia and the Pacific

A U.S. Navy ship conducting a routine operation in the Taiwan Strait.Credit…U.S. Pacific Command, via Associated Press
  • The U.S. said it would continue operating in the Taiwan Strait in response to Chinese military drills that U.S. officials say are evolving into long-term military pressure on the island.

  • Fumio Kishida, Japan’s leader, reshuffled his cabinet yesterday, The Associated Press reported. The move, which happened a month after the assassination of Shinzo Abe, was an effort to distance his government from the controversial Unification Church.

  • New polling showed that New Zealand’s right-leaning coalition could have enough support to form a government, The Guardian reported. Jacinda Ardern’s popularity has plummeted.

  • The U.S. returned 30 looted cultural artifacts to Cambodia this week.

U.S. News

  • U.S. stocks jumped yesterday, following news that inflation slowed in July. Here are live updates.

  • The Justice Department charged a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard with plotting to kill John Bolton, a Trump-era national security adviser.

  • An Afghan immigrant was charged in the shooting deaths of two fellow Muslims in Albuquerque.

  • President Biden signed legislation to expand benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits.

World News

Antony Blinken visited Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.Credit…Pool photo by Andrew Harnik
  • Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, pushed the Democratic Republic of Congo to reconsider its plans to auction parts of its rainforest to oil and gas companies. The countries agreed to jointly examine the proposed extractions.

  • The U.S. and Iran are considering the E.U.’s “final” offer to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, before talks collapse for good.

  • Britain faces another heat wave.

  • An Emirati court overturned the sentence of an American rights lawyer who worked with Jamal Khashoggi. He is expected to be released.

What Else Is Happening

  • In several poor countries, a U.N. agency has joined with oil companies to protect drilling sites from residents’ objections.

  • Roughly 100 days before the World Cup starts, FIFA is seeking a schedule change to let Qatar, the host nation, play in the first match.

  • A stranded beluga whale died in France after a last-ditch mission to rescue it from the Seine river.

  • Astronomers think they have found our galaxy’s youngest planet: It may be just 1.5 million years old, so young that its building blocks of gas and dust are still coming together.

  • Canadians are flocking to see Serena Williams play after she announced her upcoming retirement from tennis.

A Morning Read

Imee Marcos, a sister of the president of the Philippines, is the film’s executive producer.Credit…Jam Sta Rosa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was elected president of the Philippines this year. Now, a new film paints a sympathetic portrait of his family. Instead of focusing on the torture, excess and martial law that characterized his father’s dictatorship, the film portrays the elder Marcos and his wife Imelda as victims of a political vendetta.

In so doing, historians and artists say, the movie opens up a new front in the battle against misinformation in the Philippines, bringing a popular myth that circulated online during the recent election into a new, more credible domain.


In China’s Shandong Province, 558 memorial tablets at a Taoist temple were inscribed with the names and hometowns of people who died from Covid.Credit…Tingshu Wang/Reuters

Mourning Covid-19’s victims

There have always been monuments to commemorate the loss of life from calamitous events: wars, genocides, terrorist attacks.

But Covid-19 poses a unique challenge. Millions of people have died, but not in a singular event or in a single location. Now, as the death toll continues to rise, communities are building new monuments and updating existing memorials, trying to keep up with their mounting grief.

“These are kind of odd memorials in that names are being added,” said Erika Doss, who studies how Americans use memorials. “They are kind of fluid. They are timeless.”


What to Cook

Credit…Bryan Gardner for The New York Times

Drizzle seasoned drippings from this grilled chicken dish onto corn, tomatoes and red onions.

What to Watch

“Easter Sunday,” from the standup Jo Koy, is a charming Filipino American family comedy.


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

P.S. “I let them talk”: Rick Rojas, a Times national correspondent, on how he covered the devastation of Kentucky’s floods.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the F.B.I. search of Mar-a-Lago.

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

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