Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
U.S. intelligence officials discovered contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia last year, sparking concerns that Moscow could attempt to foster Trump’s associates, former C.I.A. director John Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee yesterday, shedding further light on why federal agents decided to launch a full investigation last year. Byron Tau and Joshua Jamerson report at the Wall Street Journal.
Brennan did not know if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and the contacts between them may have been benign, he said yesterday, the New York Times Matt Apuzzo reporting.
President Trump has retained the services of long-time personal lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz to help him navigate the Trump-Russia investigations, John Wagner and Ashley Parker report at the Washington Post.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is being served with two further subpoenas to oblige him to hand over documents related to his contacts with Russian officials, Senate Intelligence Committee leaders said yesterday after Flynn invoked his Fifth Amendment rights in response to a previous subpoena. Austin Wright and Burgess Everett report at POLITICO.
“All options should be on the table” if Flynn refuses to comply with the additional subpoenas, member of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) warned the former national security adviser via Twitter yesterday.
It is “not appropriate” to talk about his conversations with President Trump about the Russia probe, the Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday after he was asked about reports that the White house tried to recruit Coats and Director of the National Security Agency Michael Rogers to help with pushing back on the F.B.I.’s investigation into Trump-Russia ties. Madeline Conway reports at POLITICO.
Coats would be willing to disclose the details of his conversations with President Trump to the Senate Intelligence Committee, he said after the hearing, Martin Matishak and Austin Wright extracting five takeaways from the intelligence leaders’ Trump testimony yesterday at POLITICO.
Coats has “not discussed” the issue of President Trump’s reported disclosure of highly classified intelligence to Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting earlier this month, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, Morgan Chalfant reporting at the Hill.
The issue of leaks to the media was given a serious response from both current and former administration officials at Trump-Russia probe panel hearings yesterday, despite Democratic criticism of the G.O.P. focus on leaks as a partisan attempt to protect the president, Katie Bo Williams and Morgan Chalfant reporting on this and four other takeaways from a day of Russia probe hearings before various panels at the Hill.
“If the president crosses a line, he knows what he’s doing.” Ignorance is no longer an excuse for President Trump’s repeated attempts to subvert the proper boundaries between himself and government agencies investigating possible Trump-Russia collusion now that he has been widely rebuked for firing former F.B.I. director James Comey, writes the Washington Post editorial board.
Brilliant legal strategy – or just brilliantly stupid. Was White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer laying the groundwork for a “foreign policy defense” to potential charges of obstruction of justice over the firing of Comey with his explanation that Comey’s firing was necessary because he was making it difficult for the president to “engage and negotiate with Russia” as was suggested by former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal? Asha Rangappa considers the feasibility of such a defense at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
TRUMP VISITS ISRAEL
Israeli and Palestinian leaders are ready to reach a peace agreement, President Trump declared at the end of his three-day tour of the Middle East yesterday, without revealing how he intended to work with both sides toward that goal, Ian Fisher, Peter Baker and Isabel Kershner write at the New York Times.
The obstacles that have stood in the way of outside brokers of Israeli-Palestinian peace for decades have not been removed as a result of Trump’s trip to the region, where he outlined a “detail-free” strategy involving ignoring the key sticking points that have hindered talks in the past. Dan Perry takes a look at where things stand following Trump’s trip at the Washington Post. Continue Reading »