President Trump, Belt and Road, Huawei: Your Monday Briefing

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Good morning.

President Trump’s impending political war, China’s aggressive ambitions in Africa, and Nissan’s unexpected popularity in Britain. Here’s the latest:

The shift of power in Congress and news reports are combining to confront President Trump with the prospect of a protracted and intense political war for survival “that may make the still-unresolved partial government shutdown pale by comparison,” writes our chief White House correspondent.

News reports: A Times report detailed how, after Mr. Trump fired James Comey as F.B.I. director, the bureau became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they took the aggressive step of opening a counterintelligence inquiry into whether he had been working on behalf of Russia.

And The Washington Post reported that the president had taken extensive steps to conceal his conversations with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin over the past two years.

Congress: Democrats in the House will, on Tuesday, grill former Attorney General William Barr, who has been nominated by Mr. Trump to assume his old office, about his approach to the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Next month, they’ll question Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

China’s investments in Africa are central to President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative. The Trump administration sees it as an aggressive debt-trap scheme aimed at extending Beijing’s political influence around the world.

Case study: In 2016, an American consortium of oil and gas executives from General Electric put in a bid to build a $4 billion oil refinery in Uganda that could be the largest in East Africa. It faced long odds against the competition, two Chinese energy companies with deep pockets, Beijing’s support and significant pull with the Ugandan government.

Why it matters: The Ugandan case demonstrates the difficulties western governments face as they try to push back against China. In October, the Trump administration set aside $60 billion in financing for global projects — though that is still a fraction of what Beijing has pledged to spend.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, dozens of boys are held at a juvenile detention center as national security threats, charged with planting, carrying or making bombs and trying to become suicide bombers.

The Times, which was granted exclusive access to the prison a few months ago, found that many bear deep cuts and bruises — some self-inflicted, others from the bombs they are said to have detonated. None admit the full range of the crimes they’re accused of.

“The Taliban made me fight for them,” said one. “The local police beat me to force me to confess,” said another.

The problem: So far, counseling the boys to steer them away from extremism hasn’t seemed to work. So what are the authorities to do with them at the end of their sentences, when their added years could enable them to cause worse mayhem?

Huawei: The Chinese telecommunications giant fired an employee who was arrested in Poland on charges of spying for Beijing, the latest diplomatic tangle for the company after the arrest of its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, in Canada.

Syria: The U.S. military started withdrawing some equipment from the conflict as part of President Trump’s order to wind down America’s presence there, amid growing confusion and mixed signals over the pullout.

Saudi Arabia: The young Saudi woman who fled from her family and spent a week lobbying for her freedom from Bangkok’s international airport arrived safely in Canada, where she was granted asylum. Her case has brought the status of Saudi women and the difficulties of escaping the kingdom into sharp focus.

From Opinion: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia to meet with the crown prince and discuss the killing of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi. A Saudi woman living in Belgium argues that Mr. Pompeo should also bring up the fate of jailed female political prisoners — like her own sister.

Nissan: In 1991, the Japanese automaker created a small batch of the quirky Figaro model and never even exported it out of the country. But today, it enjoys immense popularity in Britain.

Indonesia: A woman who recorded her boss’s lewd phone call was fired and eventually jailed, while his career flourished. The case, whose final appeal is before the Supreme Court, has become a very public example of the country’s lack of sexual harassment protection for women.

Who is MacKenzie Bezos? A novelist who, as the wife of Jeff Bezos, played an integral part in getting Amazon started. And now, after 25 years of marriage, she could be awarded one of the largest divorce settlements to date.

SpaceX: Elon Musk’s rocket company is cutting 10 percent of its work force in what the company said was preparation for the “extraordinary challenges ahead.” With its remaining 6,000 workers, the company plans to move forward to create space-based internet and launch a capsule to carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

Beauty of the beasts: The extravagant splendor in the animal kingdom is pushing biologists to rethink Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Recipe of the day: Start the week with a comforting bowl of Tuscan farro soup.

How to be writer? There’s no shortage of advice from famous writers, from J.K. Rowling to William Faulkner.

Never miss another super moon. Or solar eclipse, or meteor shower. Sync your calendar with the solar system.

On Wall Street, it’s “earnings season.”

Before your eyes glaze over, here’s what that means — and why it’s more interesting than usual.

We’re about to see how corporate America did in the past three months.

It’s the first chance for investors to hear from chief executives since the market went haywire in December. A big reason for that sell-off was concern about the economy and corporate profits.

In the “preseason,” Apple warned that fewer people in China were buying iPhones than it would like, and American Airlines said it wasn’t getting as much revenue from every passenger as it wanted.

Such details help gauge the health of the economy, and that’s where the trouble can begin. If too many chief executives start to warn about problems ahead, investors could see their worst fears confirmed — and stocks could start to fall again.

Maybe don’t check your 401(k) until this is over.

Mohammed Hadi, our business news director, wrote today’s Back Story.

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