FirstFT: Trump accused of obstructing DoJ probe

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Good morning.

The US Department of Justice accused Donald Trump’s team of obstructing its investigation into the alleged mishandling of classified documents from his days at the White House, casting doubt on the former president’s claims that he had co-operated with federal investigators.

The FBI seized 33 boxes containing more than 100 classified records during its unprecedented raid earlier this month of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Prosecutors are investigating the former president for improperly handling information related to national defence in violation of the Espionage Act, as well as the obstruction of justice and tampering with government records.

In a court filing just before midnight, the justice department challenged Trump’s request for the appointment of a “special master” to review material recovered by the FBI during its August 8 raid ahead of a hearing on the matter tomorrow.

The DoJ filing included a photograph of some of the highly classified documents retrieved from Trump’s Florida home and questioned the level of co-operation offered by the former president’s team with the government investigation into missing documents.

“The government . . . developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the storage room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation,” the justice department said.

“That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the ‘diligent search’ that the former president’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of co-operation in this matter,” it added.

The former president has not yet commented on the latest development but has denied any wrongdoing and has denounced the investigation as a politically motivated stunt.

Thank you for reading FirstFT Americas — Gordon

1. ‘King dollar’ surges higher as Fed presses ahead with rate rises The dollar is on the cusp of its third consecutive month of gains after reaching a 20-year high against peers, in a stark reflection of diverging outlooks for interest rates and growth in the world’s largest economies. The dollar index, a measure of the US currency’s value against a basket of others, has risen 14 per cent since the start of the year.

2. Goldman Sachs to scrap most remaining Covid restrictions for US offices The Wall Street bank said starting on September 6 all its employees in the Americas region would no longer require a Covid-19 vaccination to enter its offices. In a memo, sent to all staff yesterday, Goldman said “vaccination, improved treatments and testing” meant there was less risk of severe illness from the disease. Has your company scrapped measures to protect staff against Covid-19 infection? Email firstft@ft.com and let me know.

3. ExxonMobil contests Kremlin decree blocking its pullout from Russia The US oil company is contesting a presidential decree signed by Vladimir Putin earlier this month that it says has stymied its efforts to exit Russia, setting the stage for a potential legal showdown with Moscow. Exxon said a recent presidential decree by the Kremlin had “blocked” its exit from Russia and it had sent a “notice of difference” to the Russian government.

3. Snap plans to cut 20% of staff Snap plans to axe a fifth of its 6,500-strong workforce, according to a person familiar with the situation, in a shake-up as the social media group battles a slump in advertising demand. Snap shares, which have lost nearly 80 per cent of their value this year, fell another 6 per cent in after-hours trading yesterday.

5. Japan plans big defence spending boost Japan will upgrade its cruise missiles and research hypersonic weapons as it seeks to significantly increase military spending to counter what Tokyo sees as the rising threat from China. The defence ministry today made a record ¥5.6tn ($40bn) budget request for the year to March 2024, compared with ¥5.4tn in planned spending for the current fiscal year.

The day ahead

Corporate updates Bed Bath & Beyond is set to provide a strategic update to investors this morning, little over a week after its largest shareholder Ryan Cohen sold his entire stake in the struggling retailer and sent its shares tumbling. Brown-Forman, the maker of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, is expected to report first-quarter earnings.

Monetary policy Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland president Loretta Mester will deliver a speech on the US economic outlook and monetary policy in Ohio. Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic will discuss fintech and financial inclusion with students and faculty at Georgia State University.

Economic data The Chicago Business Barometer, a gauge of business activity in the region, is estimated to have edged lower in August, according to economists polled by Refinitiv. The size of Canada’s economy probably remained unchanged in June, according to another poll.

What else we’re reading

Tough economic times lie ahead Central bankers have a clear mandate to control inflation — not just headline inflation, but core inflation — and they have failed to deliver, writes Martin Wolf. Central banks, notably the Fed, persisted with the pandemic’s ultra-loose policies for too long, he says, and now are playing catch-up because they fear that they risk losing credibility.

Big US mortgage lenders turn screws on smaller rivals Rocket Mortgage and United Wholesale Mortgage, the largest and second-largest mortgage originators in the US, are turning up the heat on their smaller competitors, offering discounts and other incentives to win market share as rising interest rates have slowed homebuying activity.

Chelsea’s new owners’ bet on Premier League English football club Chelsea’s new owners — a consortium led by US financier Todd Boehly and California investment firm Clearlake Capital that acquired it from Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich — have spent freely during the summer transfer window, hoping success on the pitch will unlock revenues from media rights and commercial deals.

Colombia’s new leftwing president tries to mend bridges with Venezuela As western nations consider what to do about Venezuela, Colombia’s newly elected leftwing president Gustavo Petro has re-established diplomatic relations with his neighbour. After years of tensions between the two Andean nations, newly appointed ambassadors arrived in Bogotá and Caracas this week.

Rishi Sunak warns of risk that markets lose faith in UK economy Conservative party leadership contender Rishi Sunak warned that it would be “complacent and irresponsible” to ignore the risk of markets losing confidence in the British economy, in a Financial Times interview. The former chancellor said he “struggled to see” how the promises of his opponent Liz Truss “add up”.

Don’t ban private jets — make them a green testing ground Public anger is growing against the carbon-belching elite, with rising calls to ban private jets. Should regulators instead turn such wasteful means of getting from A to B into a testing ground for new technologies and fuels, asks Pilita Clark.

Obituary

World leaders paid tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev after the former Soviet leader died at the age of 91. But reaction in Russia was more muted. Although he ruled in Moscow for less than seven years, the consequences of Gorbachev’s tenure rewrote the global order at the end of the 20th century.

Mikhail Gorbachev was lauded in the west as a hero but condemned by many in Russia for wrecking its economy © Boris Yurchenko/AP

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