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.
MICHAEL FLYNN RESIGNS
Acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates informed the White House late last month that she believed former national security adviser Mike Flynn had misled senior administration officials about his communications with the Russian ambassador and warned it that he was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, US officials told Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashime and Philip Rucker at the Washington Post.
Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser following revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US regarding US sanctions against Russia, Maggie Haberman, Matthew Rosenberg, Matt Apuzzo and Glenn Thrush report at the New York Times.
Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg was named as interim National Security Adviser last night, Bryan Bender and Eli Stokols write at POLITICO.
Potential Flynn replacements include Kellogg, former CIA Director David Patraeus, and retired Navy Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, Eli Watkins writes at CNN.
Russian lawmakers came to Flynn’s defense today, putting his resignation down to a campaign of “Russiaphobia” in Washington, Andrew Roth reports at the Washington Post.
A classified briefing for Congress on Flynn was called for by Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) last night, the Hill’s Cyra Master reports.
President Trump should publicly disclose Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s ambassador, House Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said in a statement yesterday, Mark Hensch reports at the Hill.
The last few days of Flynn’s time in office are described by Josh Dawsey, Alex Isenstadt and Tara Palmeri at POLITICO.
Flynn’s resignation follows the latest controversy in his career both in and out of the military, writes Paul Sonne at the Wall Street Journal.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
President Trump and his advisers agreed their response to North Korea’s latest missile test in full view of diners at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where Trump also conferred with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman report at the New York Times.
The Trump administration is being accused of jeopardizing national security over a string of high-profile controversies, Trump’s taking of a phone call about North Korea’s missile test while sitting in full view of guests at his Florida resort only the latest of these, POLITICO’s Darre Samuelsohn, Eric Geller and Matthew Nussbaum report.
No classified information was present at Trump and Abe’s public discussion on North Korea’s missile test at Trump’s Florida club, Trump’s top spokesperson insisted yesterday, while White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Trump “was briefed in a [Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility] – a classified room.” Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.
The meeting between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tomorrow is suddenly “clouded in uncertainty” after Trump appeared to soften his position on some key issues since he took office, writes Josef Federman at the AP.
“Personal chemistry can only go so far.” The first meeting between Donald Trump and Netanyahu will deal with issues that are as tough to resolve as they are consequential, writes the New York Times editorial board.
President Trump has yet to call the director-general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy, Yukiya Amano, Amano told the AP’s Jon Gambrell.
Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay of the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile has high hopes for President Trump’s support of dialogue between the Tibetans and Beijing as with former US presidents, he said. Mari Yamaguchi reports at the AP.
President Trump spoke with Nigeria’s president, whose countrymen have not seen in weeks, yesterday, the New York Times’ Sewell Chan reports.
The UK government rejected a petition signed by over 1.8 million people calling for President Trump’s state visit to be canceled, the BBC reports.
Trump will soon have to deal with the Syrian war in all its complexity, which he has so-far ignored except to denigrate its thousands of refugees, writes Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post.
The MUSLIM BAN
The Trump administration has reportedly filed to appeal the Ninth Circuit Court ruling effectively continuing the bloc on its travel ban. However the administration is not yet taking the case to the Supreme Court but will seek cases against the ban in Washington and Minnesota until the Ninth Circuit’s ruling can be appealed, Chris Geidner and Zoe Tillman report at BuzzFeed.
President Trump’s travel ban is likely unconstitutional, a federal judge in Virginia said last night, issuing a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the ban until it can be fully argued in court. Aruna Viswanatha reports at the Wall Street Journal.
This was one of the biggest defeats to the travel ban yet, observes Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast.
The federal government’s request to put a lawsuit in Seattle on hold while an appeals court considers further action regarding the travel ban was rejected by US District Court Judge James Robart yesterday, Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to say whether he agreed with Trump’s travel ban when the two leaders met yesterday, while Trump skirted the question of whether he considers the US’s border with Canada insecure since Trudeau held out Canada as a safe haven for refugees blocked from the US by the ban, Richard Pérez-Peña and Ian Austen report at the New York Times.
Syrian rebels accused Russia of failing to make any tangible progress on getting the government to fully comply with the ceasefire, casting doubt on whether they will attend peace talks this week, Al Jazeera reports.
The town of al-Bab is largely under the control of Turkey-backed rebels, Turkey’s prime minister said today. [Reuters]
Two days of fighting between rival jihadist groups in northwestern Syria have left dozens of fighters dead, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Reuters reports.
Turkish security forces killed one member of a Kurdish militia when they fired into its territory on the Turkey-Syria border yesterday, Reuters reports.
Four government-besieged towns in Syria face a “looming humanitarian catastrophe” if Assad’s forces do not allow safe passage for aid to some 60,000 trapped civilians, a senior UN official in Syria warned. [Al Jazeera]
Assad regime forces used chlorine gas attacks to pave their way into Aleppo, a new study from Human Rights Watch said yesterday.
A plan to surrender control of its caliphate in Syria and Iraq but maintain a virtual version of it online is described in a new report on the Islamic State’s evolving media strategy as its physical territory shrinks, Greg Miller reports at the Washington Post.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 15 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Feb. 12. Separately, partner forces conducted two strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
Militant hard-liner Yehya Sinwar has been chosen as the new leader of Hamas in Gaza, Isabel Kershner reports at the New York Times.
An annual meeting between the Israeli and German governments scheduled to take place in May has been “postponed” over increasing frustration in Germany with Israel’s settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, Reuters reports.
The US, South Korean and Japanese defense chiefs vowed to strengthen intelligence-sharing after North Korea conducted another ballistic missile test over the weekend, the US reaffirming its commitment to the security of its two allies, according to a statement from South Korea’s defense ministry. [BBC]
North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test was strongly condemned by the UN Security Council yesterday which warned of “further significant measures” if Pyongyang doesn’t stop the tests, Edith M. Lederer and Eric Talmadge report at the AP.
The timing of North Korea’s missile test leaves China in an awkward position as it will intensify pressure from both the US and Japan, whose prime minister was visiting the US at the time, to do more to restrain North Korea’s nuclear aspirations, writes Simon Denyer at the Washington Post.
An al-Qaeda suspect currently held in Yemen is an early test of President Trump’s campaign promise to send terror suspects to Guantánamo Bay detention facility, write Adam Goldman, Matt Apuzzo and Eric Schmitt at the New York Times.
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to working together on cybersecurity and protecting critical infrastructure yesterday, the Hill’s Morgan Chalfant reports.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) will officially open in London, UK, today, a part of the intelligence agency G.C.H.Q. designed to improve Britain’s resilience to cyberattacks, the BBC reports.
Attorneys for Army Sgt. Bow Bergdahl charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for leaving his base in Afghanistan in 2009 argue he cannot get a fair trial because of President Trump’s comments on his case, which included referring to Bergdahl as a traitor, NPR’s Rebecca Hersher reports.
Trump’s campaign comments about Sgt. Bergdahl were “disturbing,” a military judge said during a pre-trail hearing yesterday. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.
“Indicators of Mobilization to Violence.” A copy of the survey used by the FBI to determine whether someone is a likely terrorist has been obtained by The Intercept’s Cora Currier and Murtaza Hussain.
Clashes with Yemeni rebels over the past week have killed at least seven Saudi solders, Saudi state media reported. [Al Jazeera]
Pakistan Taliban breakaway faction Jamuut-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber attack on a protest in downtown Lahore yesterday, Daniyal Hassan and Salman Masood report at the New York Times.
Head of US Pacific Command Adm. Harry B Harris underlined Washington’s “deep and enduring commitment” to Thailand today at a naval base outside Bangkok as the US and Thailand held annual joint military exercises, the AP reports.
Over 600 people have been detained in Turkey on suspicion of links to Kurdish militants in the past 48 hours, Daren Butler reports at Reuters.
Recent increased fighting in two hotspots in South Sudan is having “devastating consequences” for civilians, the UN peacekeeping department said in a confidential not to the Security Council. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.