Wednesday briefing: Flynn a big help on Trump-Russia, says Mueller

Special counsel argues against jail term for lying to FBI … government due to publish full Brexit legal advice … and is tutoring for your children worth it?

Hello – it’s Warren Murray

Top story: Praise for ‘substantial assistance’ will worry president

Hello – it’s Warren Murray with a top-line summary to start the day.

Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn has given “substantial assistance” to the Trump-Russia investigation and should not receive a prison sentence for lying to the FBI, Robert Mueller has said.

In a sentencing filing, the special counsel said Flynn had provided first-hand accounts of “interactions between individuals in the presidential transition team and Russia” following Trump’s election. Flynn last year admitted lying to investigators about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the US. Mueller said Flynn deserved credit for promptly admitting wrongdoing and cooperating with investigators, while his 33-year military career and other public service also “distinguish him from every other person who has been charged”.

Trump and White House advisers had been anxiously awaiting the filing following other explosive developments in Mueller’s investigation. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former legal fixer, has admitted he lied to Congress about Trump’s plans to build a tower in Moscow, and Mueller’s team has scrapped a plea deal with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, because of his lying to investigators.


Brexit battle joined – Theresa May will continue efforts today to win MPs around and prime minister’s questions promises to be especially combative. Backbench MPs led by Dominic Grieve have got an amendment passed to give them more say over a “plan B” if the Commons rejects May’s Brexit deal. The amendment marked a third defeat for the government in a single day after ministers earlier failed to see off a motion finding them in contempt of parliament; as a result the government is today expected to publish the full cabinet legal advice on the deal. Amid a heated atmosphere in the Commons on Tuesday, May took a conciliatory line, acknowledging the doubts and worries about her deal from both remainers and hardline leavers. But she repeatedly warned that if her deal were defeated, the choices would be no deal or no Brexit: “Don’t imagine that if we vote this down another deal is going to miraculously appear. The alternative is uncertainty and risk.”


Midweek catch-up – A look-in on stories that continue to unfold …

> US senators have said they are sure the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. “If the crown prince went in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes,” said Bob Corker, a Republican, after a CIA briefing.

> Matthew Hedges has said the United Arab Emirates demanded he become their double agent against Britain as part of the “psychological torture” he endured. In desperation he confessed to spying charges after “having panic attacks for two or three days in a row”.

> The gilets jaunes protesters in France have vowed to continue their campaign of unrest despite the government suspending the fuel tax rise that triggered it all. The government has warned against further violence and mobilised extra police.

> Four men are on criminal charges in the US stemming from the leaked Panama Papers. German authorities raided Deutsche Bank last week as part of their investigation into alleged money laundering under the Panamanian scheme.


Reporting under siege – Journalism faces greater danger than at any point in the last decade, according to a report that finds 78 journalists were killed in 2017 while doing their job. Data from the Committee to Protect Journalists shows 2018 is likely to be no better – the number of journalists murdered as opposed to killed in war, on dangerous assignments or other incidents is on the rise. Jamal Khashoggi, killed by Saudi security forces in Istanbul in October, has been one of 31 journalists murdered so far this year. The rise of authoritarian governments and the threat of internet censorship has redoubled pressures on reporters globally, according to the human rights organisation Article 19, which found 326 journalists were imprisoned for their work during 2017, a substantial increase on the previous year. More than half of those behind bars were held in Turkey, China, and Egypt, often on charges of opposing the state.


Turner prize announced – A series of short clips filmed on an iPhone featuring the Scottish countryside from a train window, a T-shirt on a radiator and a cat pawing at a lamp has helped Charlotte Prodger win the £25,000 Turner prize for 2018. Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain, who chaired the judging panel, said Prodger’s work represented the “most profound use of a device as prosaic as the iPhone camera that we’ve seen in art to date”.

The Turner prize winner Charlotte Prodger flanked by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Tate director Maria Balshaw.
The Turner prize winner Charlotte Prodger flanked by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Tate director Maria Balshaw. Photograph: Peter Nicholls/Reuters

Prodger, 44, won for her solo exhibition at the Bergen Kunsthall in Norway, which featured two film works, Bridgit and Stoneymollan Trail. The 32-minute film Bridgit has been on display at Tate Britain as part of its Turner prize exhibition. Mark Brown writes: “The film is difficult to explain. There is lots going on, a lot of it apparently randomly. It explores class, gender, sexuality and neolithic goddesses.” Farquharson said: “I think the jury was united in a feeling that this work was introducing something new to the filmic medium and how it is used in art.”

Today in Focus podcast: In the room for the Brexit showdown

In July, Nick de Bois found himself as chief of staff in the Brexit department after the sudden resignation of David Davis and the appointment of Dominic Raab.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, and then-Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, left, with officials in Brussels.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, right, and then-Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, left, with officials in Brussels. Photograph: Olivier Matthys/AFP/Getty Images

So what did the fevered EU negotiations look like from the inside? And what happens now? Plus: Poppy Noor argues that the crisis on the high street is hitting women’s jobs hardest.

Lunchtime read: An education arms race?

“The world is very competitive and everybody is working very hard,” says shift worker Malik Ijaz, who with wife Ayesha has been bringing their two daughters to tuition for nearly two years.

An after-school tutoring session at Explore Learning in Bradford.
An after-school tutoring session at Explore Learning in Bradford. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

“I know the school are doing very well, but there are 30 students in each class … I realise if I’m going to give my kids some extra help it’s going to be brilliant for their future.” A growing number of parents and guardians are paying for children as young as four to receive additional tuition. Sally Weale looks at what is fuelling this booming industry.

Sport

The Rugby Football Union interim chief executive, Nigel Melville, is planning to speak to Warren Gatland as part of his search for Eddie Jones’s successor as England head coach. Pep Guardiola rotated his squad and, despite a late scare, came away from Vicarage Road with a 2-1 win over Watford, while 10-man Brighton eased past Crystal Palace and Lucas Pérez took full advantage of a Cardiff penalty miss in a 3-1 win for West Ham.

After 14 months of what has at times felt like glacial progress, English cricket is approaching closure over Ben Stokes, Alex Hales and the street fight in Bristol, with a two-day hearing by the cricket discipline commission beginning today. Musselburgh racecourse has received an important vote of confidence from trainer Philip Hobbs after four horses died during a single meeting on Monday. And after his embarrassing question to Ada Hegerberg marred Monday’s Ballon d’Or ceremony in Paris, French DJ Martin Solveig didn’t pass up the chance to keep on digging, writes Marina Hyde.

Business

Donald Trump has sown confusion on the markets with tweets about the US-China trade dispute, declaring himself a “Tariff Man” in one outburst. The Hang Seng fell 1.6% and the Shanghai Composite lost 0.7% while Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.4%. Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 retreated 1.2%, Seoul’s Kospi shed 0.6% and benchmarks in Taiwan, New Zealand and south-east Asia also declined. The pound is trading around $1.267 and €1.120 at the moment.

The papers

Theresa May’s shocking day in parliament dominates the front pages. The Mirror called yesterday’s House of Commons happenings “63 minutes of mayhem”, with the Telegraph labelling Tuesday “The day May lost control”. The Guardian says “May staggers on after three Brexit defeats in a single day” and the i adapts the Brexit campaign’s own slogan: “Parliament takes back control”.

Guardian front page, Wednesday 5 December 2018

The Express, a pro-Brexit paper, is not happy with what went on, with a headline that warns MPs: “Sabotage Brexit at your peril!”. The Mail also seems concerned: “Brexit on a knife edge”. The FT reports things pretty straight, saying “Prospect of no-deal Brexit cut as May suffers twin Commons blows”. The Sun’s main story is “Ghouls film sex attack in club”. The Times also chooses not to splash on Brexit, instead leading with its interview with Matthew Hedges, the Durham PhD student who is back in the UK: “My torment at hands of UAE captors”.

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