Robert Mueller, Boris Johnson, Puerto Rico: Your Wednesday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering today’s congressional testimony by the former special counsel, the leadership transition in Britain, and the Senate vote to extend lifetime health benefits for 9/11 emergency workers.

The former special counsel is set to testify before Congress about his investigation into Russian election interference during back-to-back hearings today starting at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. The Times will stream his testimony, and our reporters will provide live context and analysis. Here’s what to watch for and 19 questions we have for Mr. Mueller.

Democrats want Mr. Mueller to bring to life his 448-page report and the acts of possible obstruction of justice by President Trump that it mentions. Republicans are expected to highlight Mr. Mueller’s decision not to charge anyone with conspiracy.

Boris Johnson is set to succeed Theresa May as prime minister today, after he receives the blessing of Queen Elizabeth II. Mr. Johnson, a former foreign secretary and mayor of London, is then expected to address the nation around 11 a.m. Eastern and begin announcing members of his cabinet.

One of the most prominent supporters of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, Mr. Johnson made clear on Tuesday that he would push for Brexit by the Oct. 31 deadline, even if there is no deal in place. We answered some questions about how the process might play out.

News analysis: President Trump referred to Mr. Johnson as “Britain Trump” on Tuesday, and is encouraging the new leader to push on with Brexit. But Mr. Johnson could be constrained by the complexities of British politics and his establishment background, our correspondents write.

Another angle: The famously rumpled Mr. Johnson has upended the rules of what leadership should look like, our fashion critic writes. He also brings a chaotic personal life to 10 Downing Street.

Quiz time: Including Mr. Johnson, how many prime ministers have served during Queen Elizabeth’s rule? The first reader to email us with the correct answer will get a mention in Thursday’s briefing.

The Justice Department said on Tuesday that it would examine how internet giants had accumulated market power, the clearest sign yet that the arguments that helped shield the tech giants from competition scrutiny are eroding.

Similar inquiries are underway in Congress and at the Federal Trade Commission.

The Justice Department didn’t name specific companies, but said it would look into concerns about search, social media and retail services, presumably a warning to Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Another angle: YouTube probably generates as much as $25 billion in annual revenue, but its financial results are lumped in with the rest of Google. The secrecy underscores the challenge in understanding how some tech companies make their money.

Beijing said today that it wouldn’t tolerate threats to the authority of Hong Kong’s government and suggested that it could mobilize troops to maintain order in the semiautonomous territory.

China also accused the U.S. of undermining global stability.

Quotable: “The behavior of some radical protesters challenges the central government’s authority,” Senior Col. Wu Qian, a government spokesman, said during a news conference announcing a new security strategy. “That absolutely cannot be tolerated.”

Related: The defense strategy, the first to be released in six years, also refused to rule out the use of force against Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory.

When the astronaut died in 2012 at 82, his sons contended that he had received lethally flawed care at a hospital in Cincinnati. The hospital defended the care but paid $6 million, a settlement that divided the Armstrong family.

The news of the dispute and the secret payment, never before reported, comes days after the 50th anniversary of Mr. Armstrong’s moon walk.

9/11 fund extension: The Senate approved legislation that gives thousands of emergency workers who became ill after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks lifetime health care and other compensation. President Trump is expected to sign it.

Puerto Rico investigation: Search warrants were issued for the cellphones of several people in Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s inner circle whose exchange of sexist and homophobic messages set off recent protests.

Defense chief is confirmed: The Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Mark Esper as secretary of defense, ending the longest period that the Pentagon had been without a permanent leader.

“Butcher of Beijing” dies: Li Peng, the former Chinese premier who was derided for his role in the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989, died on Monday. He was 90.

Snapshot: Above, an artist’s rendition of the Planetary Society spacecraft LightSail 2. On Tuesday, it successfully unfurled its sails in space, paving the way for travel powered by solar wind — a fuel-efficient option first imagined in the 1600s.

52 Places traveler: In his latest dispatch, our columnist visits the Falkland Islands, where he was among very few tourists but thousands of penguins.

Late-night comedy: “Several bars in Washington, D.C., will open early tomorrow so people can watch special counsel Robert Mueller’s congressional testimony,” Seth Meyers said. “So, by dinnertime, you’ll be just like the Mueller report: mostly blacked out.”

What we’re reading: This article from The Cut, on a Harvard professor who teaches a class on judgment — and got caught in a paternity trap.

Cook: Try creamy chickpea salad with fresh herbs and scallions for a refreshing lunch.

Watch: Hulu released its “Veronica Mars” revival a week early. It has lost its teen spirit, but still “finds ways to charm you,” our critic writes.

Eat: Our restaurant critic visits Mercado Little Spain, under Hudson Yards, and finds “more delicious things to eat per square foot than anywhere else in New York.”

Vote: Celery juice is gross, and “bikini bods” are the worst. The Times has collected and ranked some of the more random, incendiary opinions of the summer. Your vote can change the rankings.

Smarter Living: In an age of constant connectivity, it’s important to pay attention to the world around you. Rob Walker, the author of “The Art of Noticing,” recommends spending time looking at things that you wouldn’t normally look at while doing a mundane errand or task. Find more tips here.

And our Parenting site examines in vitro fertilization, and what fertility specialists look for in an “ideal” human sperm.

There’s more to Robert S. Mueller III than what he’ll be sharing with lawmakers on Capitol Hill today. Some of it is kind of fun.

For instance, when he was serving a 12-year stint as F.B.I. director, he was dubbed Bobby Three Sticks — a play on his patrician name and its imposing Roman numerals.

That “S.” is for Swan, inherited from Grace Swan, a great-great-grandmother on his father’s side. Genealogy records indicate that the Swan family came from Scotland, where the name appears to have derived from “swein,” meaning “servant,” introduced by medieval Viking invaders. A separate derivation of Swan — from the fowl — meant “purity.”

The Three Sticks moniker — bestowed during an era when Mr. Mueller often took on organized crime — has spawned T-shirts, a parody Twitter account and memes.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
To Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford for the break from the news. Andrea Kannapell, the briefings editor, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about President Trump’s re-election chances.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: When it’s a good idea to argue with strangers on the internet (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Sam Sifton, an editor at The Times, has been named one of the 20 power players of food media by The Hollywood Reporter.

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