US briefing: Trump goads Iran, Huawei block and Game of Thrones finale

Tim Walker

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Good morning, I’m Tim Walker with today’s essential stories.

Doves fear Bolton nudging administration towards conflict

With tensions already running high in the Middle East, Donald Trump tweeted a warning to Tehran on Sunday that “if Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran”. Trump has previously said he does not want a war, but the US has done little to cool regional tempers, pulling out of the nuclear agreement last year and recently dispatching an aircraft carrier group to the Gulf.

  • “Bomb Iran”. In Washington, there is concern that the national security adviser, John Bolton, is agitating for a conflict. In 2015, Bolton wrote a New York Times op-ed entitled: “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.”

  • Peace plan. The US has unveiled the first part of its Middle East peace plan: an economic conference in Bahrain, seeking to encourage international investment in the Palestinian territories.

Google blocks Huawei from Android updates after blacklisting

A silhouette of a woman on her phone in front of the Huawei logo

The Trump administration added Huawei to a US trade blacklist last week. Photograph: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

Google has suspended access to updates of its Android operating system for Huawei devices, after the Chinese company was blacklisted by the Trump administration last week. Chipmakers such as Intel and Qualcomm have ceased supplying chips to Huawei to comply with the president’s executive order, amid the ongoing trade war between the US and China. Huawei has previously said it was developing its own backup operating system in case it was ever banned from using US software.

  • South China Sea. A US warship has sailed close to the Scarborough shoal, a disputed area claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea, in an operation designed to “preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law”, said a US Navy spokesman.

Trump lashes out at Amash over call for impeachment

Donald Trump

Donald Trump was accused of ‘specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment’. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Trump has dismissed Justin Amash as a “lightweight” and a “loser” after the Michigan representative became the first Republican in Congress to claim the president’s conduct was “impeachable”. Amash, a libertarian who has openly flirted with a 2020 primary challenge to Trump, said on Twitter that the Mueller report showed Trump “engaged in specific actions and a pattern of behavior that meet the threshold for impeachment”.

  • Lawyered up. The attorney general launched an investigation of Trump’s political enemies, while the White House counsel told Congress it could not investigate him. Experts say administration lawyers are neglecting a higher duty by shielding the president.

  • Suspicious activity. Current and former employees of Deutsche Bank have told the New York Times that multiple warnings of suspicious financial activity by legal entities controlled by Trump and Jared Kushner between 2016 and 2017 went unheeded.

Winter is here: Game of Thrones reaches its icy, fiery end

Fans watch Game of Thrones

Fans watch the Game of Thrones finale at a viewing party in California. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

It’s no spoiler to report that Game of Thrones played its last hand on Sunday night, bringing to a close the most expansive – and expensive – television show in history. The conclusion of HBO’s dragon-based drama inevitably divided viewers, but reviewer Lucy Mangan says the epic final episode made up for some of the show’s recent mistakes.

  • Water palaver. Following the recent continuity controversy over a stray Starbucks coffee cup at the Winterfell feast, an unwelcome water bottle made its way into the series finale.

Crib sheet

  • Sweden has filed a request for Julian Assange’s arrest over a rape allegation, while US prosecutors are to “help themselves” to possessions left by the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, in what the group claims is an illegal seizure of property.

  • A group of seven gunmen killed 11 people at a bar in the city of Belém in northern Brazil on Sunday afternoon. State officials said only that a “massacre” had occurred, amid record homicide rates in the country.

  • Austin Eubanks, who was wounded in the 1999 Columbine massacre and campaigned to raise awareness of the dangers of opioids after developing an addiction to painkillers, has died aged 37. His family said he had “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face”.

  • Delivering the commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta on Sunday, the world’s richest African American, the billionaire technology investor Robert F Smith, pledged to wipe out the student debt of all 400 students in the class of 2019.


Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand: ‘President Trump’s Achilles heel is a woman who speaks her mind.’ Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Could ‘gender bias’ be what’s stopping Kirsten Gillibrand?

So far, the Democratic primary looks like a race between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, driven by the assumption that only a man can take on Trump in 2020. Kirsten Gillibrand tells Sabrina Siddiqui that, on the contrary, “President Trump’s Achilles heel is a woman who speaks her mind”.

Is the climate crisis to blame for stronger hurricanes?

As the Atlantic hurricane season approaches, Oliver Milman asks whether hurricanes have been becoming stronger or more frequent, whether the climate emergency is to blame – and how people are adapting to the realities of extreme weather.

Helping trans women find their voices

Trans women are often left with a voice that is disconnected from their female identity. Most have two options: vocal training, or surgery. Achieving a feminine voice, writes Serena Dariani, “can serve as a cloak of protection from bias and bigotry”.

Does Aladdin fetishise Middle Eastern culture?

Guy Ritchie’s new adaptation of Disney’s classic Aladdin boasts “one of the most diverse casts ever put on screen”, but Steve Rose says it still suffers from the inherent awkwardness of setting a family-friendly fairytale in a region that has been vilified and bombed to ruin by the US.


Trump’s love-in with Hungary’s hard-right prime minister, Viktor Orbán, proves the US president is out to disembowel a wounded EU, writes Natalie Nougayrède. This week’s EU elections are a chance to revive the founding spirit of the European project before it’s too late.

These European elections, the first since the refugee crisis, since Brexit and since Trump, will in many ways define what we can or can’t be – the story we want to tell ourselves and the rest of the world.


The Toronto Raptors have cut the Bucks’ NBA playoffs lead to 2-1 in the Eastern Conference finals, after Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points in double-overtime on Sunday to beat Milwaukee 118-112.

Brooks Koepka clung on by his fingernails to claim his second successive US PGA championship on Sunday, after five bogeys in his last eight holes left him a mere two shots ahead of second-placed Dustin Johnson.

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