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.
The MUSLIM BAN
Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates was fired by Donald Trump last night after she refused to defend his executive order banning migrants from seven Mulsim-majority countries, Michael D. Shear, Mark Lander, Matt Apuzzo and Eric Lichtblau report at the New York Times.
Dana Boente, US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, was sworn in as acting attorney general at 9p.m. last night. His tenure will last only a few days pending nominee Jeff Session’s approval by the Senate, CNN’s Theodore Schleifer reports.
Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Daniel Ragsdale was also dismissed from his post by Trump last night and replaced by Thomas Homan, the Department of Homeland Security confirmed.
Homan’s “extraordinary” deportation record is discussed by Lisa Rein at the Washington Post.
Senate Democrats introduced a bill which would withhold funding to stop the administration from enforcing the order yesterday, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.
State Department officials should quit if they disagree with Trump’s agenda, the White House warned yesterday, responding to a “dissent cable” asserting that the “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” executive order will not make America safer and may instead increase the threat of terrorism, Mark Lander reports at the New York Times.
Senior House Judiciary Committee staffers helped Trump’s aides draft the order while the Republican committee chairman and party leadership were not informed, POLITICO’s Rachael Bade, Jake Sherman and Josh Dawsey report, citing multiple sources involved in the process.
State Department officials have been told not to discuss the temporary travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries with Congress, according to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Mark Hensch reports at the Hill.
Former president Barack Obama released a statement fundamentally disagreeing with “the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion” in response to Trump’s travel ban yesterday, which, though “muted,” was significant for its timing: only 10 days after Obama left office vowing to give Trump time to succeed in the presidency, Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes at the New York Times.
Questions about the scope and legality of the order are increasingly focusing on its uncertainty caused by the White House’s circumvention of normal practices for formulating policies and their execution, write Amanda Taub and Max Fisher at the New York Times.
Two men fleeing Yemen to the US were forced to sign away their visas by Customs and Border Protection officers relying on Trump’s immigration order according to a lawsuit amended yesterday, Justin Glawe reports at The Daily Beast.
“The West will eventually turn against its Muslim citizens.” Radical Islamists online are absorbing Trump’s “Muslim ban” into their narrative that the US is at war with Islam, observes Maria Abi-Habib at the Wall Street Journal.
The Pentagon is compiling a list of Iraqi citizens who risked their lives helping US troops for exemption from the travel ban, Paul Sonne reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Why are Saudi Arabia and Egypt left of the list of banned countries? Asks Aryeh Neier at the Guardian.
The travel ban puts Saudi Arabia in an awkward position: expected to denounce the order because its affects key allies and because Saudi Arabia projects itself as the leader of the Muslim world, but hopeful of cultivating a better relationship with the Trump administration, observe Margherita Stancati and Ahmed Al Omran at the Wall Street Journal.
NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL ORDER
The new-look N.S.C. is not that different from the old one, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted yesterday. The Hill’s Joe Uchill reports.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo is being added to the N.S.C., President Trump announced yesterday, a move that amends Saturday’s memo establishing the N.S.C. and which marks the first time a CIA director has been on the Council since 2005, Eric Geller reports at POLITICO.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford will continue to present the N.S.C. with military advice, Department of Defense officials said. DoD News’ Jim Garamone reports.
Bannon was calling the shots on national security policy and process – with little input from the N.S.C. staff – even before he was given a formal seat on the principles committee, according to an anonymous intelligence official. Just Security’s Kate Brannen also writing at Foreign Policy explains how Bannon is making sure there’s no paper trail of the decision-making process at the N.S.C.
Bannon’s appointment is an unprecedented politicization of military decisions, former officials fear, Julian Borger and Spencer Ackerman reporting at the Guardian.
No presidential adviser has moved so audaciously to consolidate power as Stephen Brannon, or done as much damage with such speed to a President’s popular standing, observes the New York Times editorial board.
An “ideological and hardline” N.S.C. and White House will lead an “incoherent and dysfunctional” foreign policy process along with an “independent and reasonable” Pentagon, a “weak” State Department and an intelligence community “leaking like a sieve to counter the White House,” anticipates Ilan Goldenberg at Foreign Policy.
OTHER EXECUTIVE ACTIONS and CABINET CONFIRMATIONS
Senators voted 56-43 on a procedural hurdle yesterday, setting up the Senate to confirm Rex Tillerson as State Department head later this week, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.
President Trump will introduce his nominee for the Supreme Court this evening – and it will be either Judge Thomas Hardiman of the Third US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia or Judge Neil Gorsuch of the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Jess Bravin, Brent Kendall and Damian Paletta report at the Wall Street Journal.
Cutting a minimum 40% of funding to multilateral institutions including the UN threatens both the international system and those it aims to help and the US itself, argues Julian Egan at the Guardian.
DEFENSE SECRETARY MATTIS’ FIRST FOREIGN TRIP
Plans to deploy a US anti-missile battery to South Korea and the threat posed by North Korea will be top of the agenda for James Mattis this week when he visits South Korea and Japan on his first foreign trip, Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.
South Korea and Japan – hosts to tens of thousands of US troops – will be looking for reassurance that the Trump administration is not going to drop the ball on North Korea when Mattis visits, Eric Talmadge at the AP providing four reasons why North Korea will dominate Mattis’ trip.
Houthi rebels in Yemen launched a rare suicide attack on a Saudi frigate in the Red Sea yesterday, killing two crew members, according to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, Ahmed Al Omran and Asa Fitch report at the Wall Street Journal.
The women killed in a US commando raid in central Yemen over the weekend were al-Qaeda fighters, the Pentagon said yesterday, responding to reports that civilians were killed in the fighting. Eric Schmitt reports at the New York Times.
An attack on the De-escalation and Coordination Committee building which regularly houses UN Staff in Dhahran Al-Janoub in Saudi Arabia on the Yemeni border was strongly condemned by UN Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. [UN News Centre]
Both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels may have committed war crimes in the ongoing conflict in Yemen, according to a report to the UN Security Council. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
Right-wing Israeli politicians emboldened by a sympathetic Trump administration are poised to introduce a bill formally annexing the Ma’ale Adumim in the occupied West Bank, writes Ian Fisher at the New York Times.
Trump’s plan to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would risk a “political and diplomatic earthquake” and would upset decades of international consensus on Jerusalem, writes Jonathan Cook at Al Jazeera.
The next phase of the US-backed campaign against the Islamic State in Syria will involve encircling the jihadists’ last stronghold Raqqa to sever it from areas held by them in Deir al-Zor to the south, a Kurdish military source said today. [Reuters]
The US-led coalition has expanded its support for its Syrian allies since President Trump came to office, supplying them with armored vehicles for the first time, according to a spokesperson for the Syrian groups. [Reuters]
Arm the Syrian Kurds to defeat the Islamic State, argues former deputy secretary of state Antony J. Blinken writing at the New York Times.
Iraq’s parliament recommended a ban on Americans entering the country in response to President Trump’s travel ban which while not binding on the Iraqi government does create uncertainty for American aid workers, contractors and journalists who regularly travel there, the Guardian’s Martin Chulov reports.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 10 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Jan. 29. Separately, partner forces conducted five strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Iran conducted its first missile test since President Trump took office yesterday, David E. Sanger at the New York Times calling it an early test of whether the Trump administration will go through with its promise to strictly enforce the nuclear deal and a side agreement on missile testing.
The missile test was in “flagrant violation” of a UN Security Council resolution, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. [BBC]
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrived in Tehran for a two-day visit along with dozens of executives from French companies who are there to sign business deals, Ayrault releasing a statement yesterday saying that the nuclear deal is “already bearing fruit” in what the AP suggests was a veiled response to President Trump’s skepticism toward the deal.
There is no ban on US countries working in Iran’s oil industry in response to President Trump’s executive order banning immigration and visa processing for Iranians, Iran’s oil minister said this morning, Iran’s first response to the executive order. The AP reports on this and other live updates on Trump’s travel ban.
The US will deploy tanks to the Baltics this week in the largest deployment since the Cold War, a step aimed at reassuring NATO allies that America remains committed to their defense, Julian E. Barnes and Drew Hinshaw report at the Wall Street Journal.
The tanks and troops – committed by President Obama – are now coming despite the White House, not because of it, at the most unsettled time for US-European relations since World War II, writes Michael Birnbaum at the Washington Post.
Eight people were killed overnight in fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country, the AP reports.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May stood by her invitation to President Trump to visit the UK despite mass protests and a petition signed by 1.6 million people and counting calling for a ban on Trump entering the UK, Nicholas Winning reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Leaders of “intimate” US allies like Britain, Canada, Japan and Mexico are finding that “they draw close at their peril,” writes Steven Erlanger at the New York Times.
The US is not building a weapons depot in the Philippines – the basis on which Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to abrogate the 2014 defense pact that allows US troops to base temporarily at local camps – the US ambassador said today, the AP reporting.
Duterte asked China to patrol southern waters plagued by raids on commercial ships by Islamic State-linked militants, Reuters reports.
The French Canadian suspect in the shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder yesterday, Tracey Lindeman and Rob Gillies report at the AP.
The FBI issued Twitter two national security letters ordering the company to provide the personal details of specific users accompanied by gag orders in the last two years, Associate General Counsel at Global Law Enforcement Elizabeth Banker publishing both requests on Twitter’s website.
Turkey dismissed over 90,000 public servants as the post-July 2015 purge continues, Reuters reports.
Chad’s Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat was elected as the new chair of the African Union Commission, Ben Quinn at the Guardian reporting that Mahamat pledged to put development and security at the top of his agenda.