FirstFT: Trump announces he’ll skip primary debates

We begin today with Donald Trump’s announcement that he will not be participating in the upcoming Republican presidential debates. The announcement comes just days before the other candidates are set to square off on Wednesday night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“The public knows who I am and what a successful presidency I had, with energy independence, strong borders and military, biggest ever tax and regulation cuts, no inflation, strongest economy in history and much more,” Trump confirmed in a social media post on Sunday. “I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES”, he added.

Trump holds a commanding lead in the party’s polls. A CBS survey released on Sunday, cited by Trump, showed that 62 per cent of likely Republican primary voters now say they would back the beleaguered former president. This gave him his largest lead to date, even though his campaign has been overshadowed by criminal charges brought against him at a federal and state level.

Trump’s closest contender is Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who trails him by a wide margin, garnering the support of only 16 per cent of those polled. The seven remaining presidential hopefuls have only single-digit support.

The New York Times on Friday reported that instead of participating in the first debate, Trump was planning to sit for an interview with Tucker Carlson, the firebrand conservative television host formerly at Fox News. Trump has not confirmed that plan, but such a decision would be particularly painful for Fox because it is hosting the debate on Wednesday.

Former vice-president Mike Pence criticised Trump for not appearing, telling ABC News on Sunday, “every one of us that has qualified for that debate stage ought to be on the stage, be willing to square off, answer the tough questions and also draw a bright-line contrast [on various issues]”.

Here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • China: The country’s central bank has cut a benchmark lending rate but defied market expectations by leaving another unchanged as policymakers grapple with their response to slowing economic momentum.

  • Results: Zoom reports second-quarter results after calling for staff to return to the office this month. Demand for the video conferencing platform’s services has dropped as more companies adopt hybrid work. Self Storage Group also has earnings.

Five more top stories

1. Exclusive: Citigroup’s chief is considering a plan to disband the bank’s biggest division in what would be the most significant structural shake-up in nearly 15 years. The plan would affect the Institutional Clients Group, which generated nearly three-quarters of the bank’s net profits last year. Here’s why Jane Fraser wants to split it into three units.

2. Saudi border guards have killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants attempting to cross into the kingdom from Yemen over the past 18 months, a rights group has said, alleging security forces “fired explosive weapons” and in some cases asked migrants which of their limbs they would prefer to be shot. Here are more details from the 73-page report by Human Rights Watch.

3. Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese arranged a two-week internship at PwC in 2021. This is the latest sign of the close ties between the country’s government and the consultancy industry. The internship took place two years before it was revealed that a senior partner in PwC’s tax practice had leaked confidential government information to colleagues both in Australia and overseas about plans to crack down on tax avoidance by multinational companies. 

4. Ukraine nears deal with global insurers to cover grain ships. The scheme, which could be put in place as early as next month, is a vital step in the country’s attempts to create a safe corridor for exports after Russia withdrew from a UN-brokered deal last month. If successful it could see as many as five to 30 ships covered to travel to and from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

5. The $25tn global private funds industry is braced for one of the most sweeping regulatory reforms in its history as the US Securities and Exchange Commission prepares to impose tough requirements on private equity, real estate and hedge funds when it meets on Wednesday. Here’s more on the far-reaching rules.

The Big Read

A montage of popular world landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty in the US and the Taj Mahal in India
© FT montage

Welcome to the à la carte world. As the post-cold war age of America as a sole superpower fades, the old era when countries had to choose from a prix fixe menu of alliances is shifting into a more fluid order. The stand-off between Washington and Beijing is presenting an opportunity for much of the world: not just to be wooed but also to play one off against the other — and many are doing this with alacrity and increasing skill.

We’re also reading . . . 

  • Public health: Countries need to start working together on the most dangerous pathogens to avoid repeating the mistakes of Covid-19, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist said in an interview with the FT.

  • Credit Suisse: What started as Switzerland’s public embarrassment is now a source of increasing political pressure, writes Jonathan Guthrie, as voters watch UBS closely ahead of October elections.

  • Strength in solidarity: As autocrats around the world strengthen ties, human rights activists are calling for greater global co-operation, writes author and journalist Kim Ghattas.

Graphic of the day

Car manufacturers, mining companies and battery developers are all trying to carve out a space in the world of next-generation batteries, forming a series of alliances while placing technological bets. But whatever technology becomes dominant, batteries powering tomorrow’s electric vehicles will require vast amounts of mining and processing.

Diagram showing the flow of raw materials from mined ores to finished batteries and dispatch to end users in the battery supply chain

Take a break from the news

With the Church of Scotland poised to make some deep cuts, the FT Weekend Essay examines the social consequences of religious retreat and how Scotland lost the faith.

St Monans Church
St Monans Church © Photographed for the FT by Antony Sojka

Additional contributions from Benjamin Wilhelm.