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.
TRUMP’S SPEECH TO CONGRESS
“According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.” Fact-checking Trump’s statement, made during his first speech to Congress last night, Isaac Arnsdorf at POLITICO cites data compiled by the New America Foundation which found that every “jihadist” who carried out a lethal attack in the US since 9/11 was a US citizen or legal resident.
A muted reaffirmation of Trump’s “America First” foreign policy was offered last night, one Mark Lander at the New York Times suggests is rooted in the “realities of the complex world” Trump has confronted while in office rather than the “uncompromising vision” he laid out during his campaign.
Trump continued to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” in his speech last night, despite advice from new national security adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Katie Bo Williams reports at the Hill.
There was no direct reference to Russia despite the allegations of Russian interference in the election that have dogged Trump throughout his presidency so far, observes the Hill’s Morgan Chalfant.
The US military is one of Donald Trump’s “many mirrors:” Frank Bruni dissects the President’s talk on the military, so little of which adds up, at the New York Times.
Trump’s plan to cut 37 percent of the State Department’s budget would put those who serve overseas at risk and is misguided and dangerous, according to lawmakers, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying the proposed cuts would “probably not” pass. The Hill’s Sylvan Lane and Rebecca Kheel report.
“We’ve defendant the borders of other nations, while leaving our own borders wide open, for anyone to cross.” Illegal immigration flows across the Southern US border in fiscal 2015 were at the lowest levels since 1972, except for in 2011, and although 2016 marks an increase, there is still an overall decline since 2000, explain Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, fact-checking this and other statements in Trump’s speech at the Washington Post.
“V.O.I.C.E.” Trump announced that he will create a Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement – V.O.I.C.E. – office to assist victims of crimes by immigrants during last night’s speech, Al Jazeera reports.
President Trump announced an “aggressive strategy” to dismantle Mexico’s drug cartels which have spread throughout the US and ratified plans to construct a border wall along the Mexican-American border, reports La Jornada.
President Trump used his first address to Confress to demonize immigrants, Betsy Woodruff writes at The Daily Beast.
An annotated version of Trump’s speech to Congress is provided by Aaron Blake at the Washington Post.
SPECIAL OPERATIONS RAID in YEMEN
The special operations raid in Yemen last month was “highly successful” and revealed “vital intelligence,” Trump said during his speech to Congress last night, citing Defense Secretary James Mattis, the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports.
The widow of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed in the raid, was a special guest at Trump’s speech yesterday, during which the President paid tribute to her husband. Missy Ryan reports at the Washington Post.
The Yemen mission was already on the cards before Trump took office and was “something that was, you know, just – they wanted to do,” the President told “Fox and Friends” yesterday, the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel observing that this was an apparent attempt to blame his generals for the death of Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens.
Trump’s shifting of the blame for the death of US Navy SEAL Owens to his military commanders will go down as one of the “most contemptible and cowardly acts ever committed by a US commander in Chief,” writes Colbert I. King at the Washington Post.
The TRUMP CABINET’S RELATIONSHIP WITH RUSSIA
A Democratic measure to push the Trump administration to hand over documents detailing the President’s ties to Russia was defeated by Congressional Republicans yesterday, Kyle Cheney reports at POLITICO.
Director of national intelligence pick Dan Coats pledged to fully cooperate with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election including by handing over the intelligence key Democrats have requested, Martin Matishak and Austin Wright report at POLITICO.
The FBI reached an agreement with the former British spy who compiled a dossier on behalf of Trump’s opponents alleging ties with Russia to pay him to continue his work, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman report at the Washington Post, citing several people familiar with the arrangement.
There are now tangible signs that the integrity of the Senate and House inquiries into Russian influence is at risk, observes the Washington Post editorial board.
The Congressional Intelligence Committee may lack the technical skills demanded by a detailed investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election, writes Jenna McLaughlin at The Intercept.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
The Trump administration is reviewing its participation in the top UN human rights body with an eye to reform that ends the forums “obsession with Israel,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Erin Barclay confirmed today. [Reuters]
Director of national security nominee Dan Coats faced questioning on the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, up for reauthorization, during his confirmation hearing yesterday, Joe Uchill reports at the Hill.
Coats tried to reassure lawmakers that he would not be cut out of President Trump’s national security decisionmaking process yesterday, the Hill’s Katie Bo Williams reports.
The Kremlin is courting the Trump administration for its support for controversial Libyan general Khalifa Haftar whom Russia sees as the best chance to defeat Islamist extremists and re-establish order in that country, reports Thomas Grove at the Wall Street Journal.
The “time is right” for an compromise immigration bill that could grant legal status to millions of undocumented migrants living in America, President Trump told reporters at the White House yesterday, CNN’s Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer and Tal Kopan reporting.
The announcement surprised lawmakers last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying that Senate Republicans are “anxious” to act on the proposal, which was not on the GOP agenda just a few weeks ago. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports.
Should the US designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization? Mokhtar Awad and Samuel Tadros weigh up the pros and cons at the Wall Street Journal.
Trump’s presidency ushers in a new age of militarism, writes Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post.
“Has the State Department been shoved aside in the making of foreign policy?” The Washington Post editorial board considers the question being asked in Washington about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The MUSLIM BAN
Plans to sign a revised travel ban tonight were delayed late last night following positive reviews of Trump’s speech to Congress, an official telling CNN’s Laura Jarrett, Ariane de Vogue and Jeremy Diamond that the administration wanted the executive order to “have its own ‘moment’”.
The signing of the revised executive order has been delayed until later this week, NBC Politics tweeted last night.
Trump’s revised travel ban drops Iraq from the list of seven Muslim-majority countries targeted, a White House official told POLITICO’s Tara Palmeri, Nahal Toosi and Ted Hesson.
The new travel ban exempts current visa holders, people familiar with the order told Matt Zapotosky at the Washington Post.
The absence of US policy at the “Geneva IV” peace talks is being keenly felt, Liz Sly writes at the Washington Post.
Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council resolution that would have imposed sanctions on parties using chemical weapons in Syria yesterday, the UN News Centre reports.
US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley accused Russia and China of refusing to hold Syrian President Assad to account for the use of chemical weapons, telling the Security Council after the vote that they had “put their friends in the Assad regime ahead of our global security.” Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
Russia’s decision to veto the resolution proved once again that there is no crime heinous enough to compel it to oppose the Assad regime, while the Trump administration’s decision to vote for the measure – despite Trump’s affinity with Russian President Putin – was “unexpected and encouraging,” writes the New York Times editorial board.
Is Nikki Haley ready for war? Every US ambassador to the UN has to confront their own “Srebrenica moment,” but in Haley’s case the job is made tougher by the fact that she has to address diplomats’ concerns about her own “rogue state,” writes Richard Gowan at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
US-backed Iraqi army units took control of the last main road out of western Mosul today, trapping the Islamic State in a shrinking area of the city, Reuters reports.
The Islamic State is increasing its use of “Mad Max” style suicide vehicles and armed commercial drones as it defends the city of Mosul, Australian Defense Force Chief Mark Binskin said today. [AP]
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 15 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Feb. 27. Separately, partner forces conducted 16 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
China and Russia agreed to increase their joint opposition to the deployment of a US missile-defense system in South Korea which they worry can undermine their security, Reuters reports.
A fishing ban imposed on Vietnam by China in parts of the disputed South China Sea has been condemned by Vietnam as a violation of its sovereignty, the AP reports.
China’s government is deeply anxious to build rapport with the “hawkish” US government, led by a man who sees Beijing as one of America’s fiercest competitors, writes Simon Denyer at the Washington Post.
ISRAEL and PALESTINE
The Israeli government failed to explore diplomatic solutions to prevent the 2014 Gaza war, a long-awaited report by Israel’s government watchdog said yesterday, Al Jazeera reporting.
Israel’s military was underprepared to counter the threat of underground tunnels used by Hamas during the 2014 Gaza war, the report concludes, Aron Heller reporting at the AP.
The report is highly critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials for failing to thoroughly brief Israel’s government security cabinet on the threat of Hamas tunnels, Rory Jones reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Eleven “key headlines” from the “scathing” report are presented by Barak Ravid and Gili Cohen at HAARETZ.
The European Union is to create a new military unit as part of plans for increased defense cooperation, Jacopo Barigazzi writes at POLITICO.
Italy commuted the sentence of former CIA officer Sabrina de Sousa, opening the way for her to serve her sentence outside of prison and bringing a resolution to a ten-year legal battle over the extraordinary rendition of a terrorism suspect by US intelligence agents nearer, writes Elisabetta Povoledo at the New York Times.
The release of detainees from Guantánamo Bay was criticized by director of national intelligence nominee Dan Coats yesterday, Tim Johnson reports at the Miami Herald.
Two Taliban-claimed suicide bombings struck Afghanistan’s capital Kabul today, an Afghan official told the AP.
North Korea is violating UN sanctions by trading in banned weapons and other goods and using evasion techniques “that are increasing in scale, scope and sophistication,” according to a report by a panel of UN experts monitoring sanctions against Pyongyang. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
Nine leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested in Egypt pending investigation into charges of belonging to a terrorist organization and plotting to overthrow the government, the AP reports.
WikiLeaks’ chief spokesperson quietly stood down from his job during the 2016 presidential election, leaving Julian Assange as the only public face of the organization, writes Raphael Satter at the AP.
There was no violation of mass killer Anders Behring Breivik’s human rights by Norway for incarcerating him in near-isolation since he was jailed for massacring 77 people in 2011, an appeals court ruled today, Reuters reporting.