Friday, April 23

China-India Dispute, Bolton Book, Premier League: Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning.

We’re covering the failures of England’s contact tracing system, explosive allegations about President Trump in a new book by his former national security adviser and the return of the Premier League.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is betting he can safely reopen a country hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than any other in Europe.

But he has fielded criticism over a botched school reopening plan, a controversial 14-day quarantine and an inconsistent contact-tracing operation that may risk a second wave of deaths.

The “world-beating” operation was supposed to trace people who had been exposed to the virus, bridging the time between lockdown and a vaccine. But more than a dozen public health officials, local government leaders and contact tracers told our reporters the system was begun on May 28 before it was ready.

Details: Since the operation began, some contact tracers have failed to reach a single person. Many, paid barely above minimum wage, began the work with little to no training. Call handlers have mistakenly tried to send patients in England to testing sites in Northern Ireland. And a government minister threatened to stop coordinating with local leaders if they publicly revealed the operation’s failings, three officials said.

Context: While the virus is cooling in London, infection rates remain high in parts of England, notably the northwest. Other European nations are building systems to pinpoint infection clusters for years to come. Germany, for instance, has hired contact tracers in 375 public health authorities, with doctors on hand to administer tests.

In other news:

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In “The Room Where It Happened,” John Bolton, the former U.S. national security adviser, claims the impeachment inquiry into President Trump should have investigated other troubling instances. (Our book critic called it “exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged.”) The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Bolton to stop its publication.

Here are a few of the explosive allegations about Mr. Trump’s foreign policy in the book, which our reporters obtained an advance copy of:

  • Mr. Trump asked Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, to buy a lot of American agricultural products to help him win farm states in this year’s election. Mr. Bolton writes that Mr. Trump was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win.”

  • Mr. Trump did not seem to know that Britain was a nuclear power and asked if Finland was a part of Russia. He never tired of assailing allied leaders and came closer to withdrawing the United States from NATO than previously known.

  • During Mr. Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korea’s leader, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Mr. Bolton a note disparaging the president with a vulgarity. A month later, Mr. Pompeo dismissed the president’s North Korea diplomacy as having “zero probability of success.”

  • According to an excerpt published by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Trump said Mr. Xi should go ahead with building internment camps for Uighurs, a Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang region. He said he thought it was “the right thing to do,” according to Mr. Bolton.

In the weeks since Floyd’s death, the issue of Confederate iconography has exploded. Protesters have toppled statues of Confederate leaders. NASCAR has banned the Confederate battle flag from its events. And a Senate committee, defying President Trump, voted to direct the Pentagon to begin the process of renaming the 10 bases.

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