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
A scaled-back travel ban addressing some of the legal challenges to the original order but continuing to block new visas for people from six Muslim-majority countries was signed by the President yesterday, Laura Meckler and Brent Kendall at the Wall Street Journal suggesting that the fate of the new order is likely to rest on whether courts view the restrictions as a constitutional effort to protect the US from terrorism.
The new order will go into effect on Mar. 16, unlike the previous order, which took immediate effect. The Washington Post explains the ways in which the new order differs from the former.
“Deep relief.” Iraq’s Foreign Ministry praised the county’s exclusion from the revised ban, saying it was a key step toward augmenting the relationship between Baghdad and Washington in combating terrorism. Asa Fitch and Tamer El-Ghobashy report at the Wall Street Journal.
Iraq’s lobbyists were in contact with officials from the Trump administration ahead of the decision to remove Iraq from the list of countries affected by the travel ban, new documents filed with the Justice Department show. Megan R. Wilson reports at the Hill.
The new ban only served to stoke a sense of “grievance and discrimination” in the six countries still on the President’s list, regional experts reiterating that the ban hands a propaganda victory to those who might weaken America’s security. Declan Walsh reports at the New York Times.
“This Executive Order will help achieve President Trump’s goal of making us safer.” Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted a copy of his statement on the executive order yesterday.
Legislation to block the revised travel ban will be introduced by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), he said yesterday, Jordain Carney reporting at the Hill.
The new order opens the door for other travel restrictions. This and four other takeaways from the ban are provided by Melanie Zanona at the Hill.
The revised executive order is still unnecessary, but at least this time the Trump administration appears to have thought it through and attempted to avoid the obvious legal traps, writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
The “Muslim Ban Lite” is an implicit acknowledgement by the Trump administration that it failed magnificently in its first major effort to deliver a campaign promise, observes the New York Times editorial board.
The new ban is “no less arbitrary and misguided” as a means of increasing national security, is the view of the Washington Post editorial board.
The changes in the new ban do not fix the “core problem” with the first one: “the administration is waging an all-out assault on Islam and Muslims,” write Farhana Khera and Johnathan Smith at the New York Times.
If the current order is motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice, it violates the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and/or equal protection of the laws, writes Richard Primus at POLITICO MAGAZINE.
The new order still assumes that people from the six countries concern pose a security risk, despite a draft homeland security report that found little evidence to back up that claim. Demetri Sevastopulo discusses the order and the criticisms it has attracted so far at the Financial Times.
There is no guarantee that the administration’s tailoring of the new order will eliminate the risk that one or more judges will agree to put it on hold. Josh Gerstein explains how the new order shifts the legal war to a focus on the refugee moratorium at POLITICO.
The new order requires the full implementation of a biometric entry-exit system, the likely added requirement of having to get fingerprinted and photographed meaning that foreign travel will become more onerous for all non-US citizens, writes Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast.
TRUMP’s WIRETAP CLAIMS
FBI Director James Comey was “incredulous” at President Trump’s allegation that the former president ordered a wiretap of his phones during his campaign, CNN’s Pamela Brown and Shimon Prokupecz report, citing a person familiar with the matter.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied reports that Comey had asked the Justice Department to refute President Trump’s wiretapping claims yesterday, Michael S. Schmidt reports at the New York Times.
The Trump administration must release any evidence backing up Trump’s claims that he was wiretapped on the orders of former president Obama, Sen. John McCain demanded yesterday, Austin Wright reporting at POLITICO.
“A battle between rival conspiracy theories.” Donald Trump’s accusation that Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of his phones and Obama’s last director of national intelligence James Clapper’s categorical denial that this was the case can’t both be right – or can they? Michael Doran writes at the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Trump’s request to Congress to investigate his accusations are fine, as long as doing so serves investigators’ larger purpose of finding out what how and why the Russians interfered in the US election and how to prevent future intrusions, writes the Washington Post editorial board.
The TRUMP CABINET’S RELATIONSHIP WITH RUSSIA
An inquiry into allegations that the FBI worked with the British spy who compiled a dossier on Donald Trump during the 2016 election has been opened by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Hill’s Jonathan Easley reports.
It’s “far too soon” to tell if a special counsel is appropriate to investigate Russia and the Trump campaign, Sen. Grassley will say at a hearing for two top Department of Justice nominees today, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reporting.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions insisted that he was “correct” to say that he did not have contact with the Russian ambassador as part of the presidential campaign in a letter to Congress yesterday, Matt Zapotosky reports at the Washington Post.
“Hysteria” in the US media is hurting America’s relations with Russia, spokesperson for Russian President Putin Dmitry Peskov told CNN’s Matthew Chance and Ralph Ellis.
The Trump administration’s tougher stance on Russia relations has generated alarm in Moscow and approbation elsewhere in Europe, even while controversy over Russia’s influence over Trump and his team continues to buffet the fledgling presidency, observe Jay Solomon, Alan Cullison and Nathan Hodge at the Wall Street Journal.
A “cessation of all consequential actions by this “president” until we can be assured that Russian efforts to hack our election … did not also include collusion with or coverup by anyone involved in the Trump campaign and now administration” must be demanded by the American people, argues Charles M. Blow at the New York Times.
The Republican Party is playing the role of enabler of Russian interference in America’s political system, writes Robert Kagan at the Washington Post.
The Turkish, US and Russian chiefs of military staff are meeting in southern Turkey to discuss developments in Syria and Iraq today, according to Turkey’s military. [AP]
Assad regime forces advanced to the outskirts of an Islamic State-held village in northern city where an important water pumping facility for the city of Aleppo is located, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said today. [Reuters]
US-backed Iraqi forces faced fierce counterattacks from the Islamic State has they pushed their way through a government complex in the center of western Mosul today after conducting an overnight raid on the buildings, Susannah George and Sinan Salaheddin report at the AP.
Chemical weapons were used by the Islamic State in the battle for the city of Mosul last week, according to a senior Iraqi security official. Mark Hanrahan reports at NBC News.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 11 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Mar. 5. Separately, partner forces conducted nine strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
The US began deploying its THAAD missile defense system to South Korea in response to North Korea’s latest ballistic missile tests, the first components arriving today, Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.
China will take measures against the US missile defense system deployed in South Korea, China warned today. [AP]
The international community condemned North Korea’s latest missile launches yesterday, the US and Japan requesting an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the matter, Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.
President Trump discussed North Korea’s recent missile launches with the Japanese Prime Minister in a phone call yesterday, the White House confirmed, Trump reportedly telling Abe that the US stands behind Japan “100 percent” in the face of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Reuters’ Ju-min Park and Kaori Kaneko report.
A North Korean military unit whose mission is to strike US bases in Japan was involved in the recent ballistic missile launches, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Dagyum Ji reports at NK News.
North Korea fired five medium-range missiles into the ocean late Sunday night and early Monday morning, not four, but one failed at launch, NBC News reports.
US and South Korean joint military exercises are pushing the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia toward “nuclear disaster,” North Korea warned yesterday, Edith M. Lederer reporting at the AP.
UN sanctions have largely failed to stop North Korea’s expansion of its nuclear program or significantly decrease revenues it earns from exports of arms and minerals, according to a report by the UN. Farnaz Fassihi reports at the Wall Street Journal.
It is “deeply regrettable that the DPRK has shown no indication that it is willing to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions adopted in response to its two tests last year,” the International Atomic Energy Agency Director Gen. Yukiya Amano said yesterday. [UN News Centre]
North Korea’s missile launches were failing too often: David E. Sanger at the New York Times recounts how this “eureka moment” launched him and a colleague into an eight-month investigation into evidence that the US was experimenting with a new form of missile defense.
North Korea said it was banning all Malaysians from leaving the country until “fair settlement” of the dispute over the assassination of its leader’s half-brother was reached, Malaysia responding in kind with an order to prevent all North Koreans from leaving Malaysia until the safety of Malaysians in North Korea could be assured, Richard C. Paddock reports at the New York Times.
Iranian vessels came “dangerously close” to the USS Invincible on Thursday and Saturday in the Strait of Hormuz, US officials confirmed yesterday, Carol Morello reporting at the Washington Post.
Default judgments in US courts against Iran on behalf of victims of terrorism attacks are colliding with another major legal and national security event: the Iran nuclear deal, as for the first time a group of attack victims go to a European court to try to enforce their default judgments, writes Charlie Savage at the New York Times.
Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia appear to be improving recently, observes Yoel Guzansky at the Hill.
Accusations that China is concealing its defense budget were rejected by China’s finance minister today, the AP reports.
China is catching up with the US in terms of defense equipment, organization and capability, though America remains dominant in Asia for the time being. Christopher Bodeen compares the two countries’ capabilities at the AP.
Pakistan temporarily reopened its border with Afghanistan today to allow thousands of Afghans to return home, Muhammad Sajjad and Riaz Khan report at the AP.
Fiver members of an Afghan family with special immigrant visas were released yesterday after more than four days in detention by Border Patrol officials after they arrived at Los Angeles International Airport, Jennifer Medina reports at the New York Times.
Canada means to extend its military mission in Ukraine by March 2019, about 200 Canadian soldiers continuing to provide military training and capacity-building assistance to their Ukrainian counterparts in the meantime, David George-Cosh and Paul Vieira report at the Wall Street Journal.
Neither the EU nor Washington wants a “new Cold War,” UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said yesterday ahead of a trip to Russia announced over the weekend, the first official trip to Moscow by a senior UK official in five years, Laurence Norman reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Closer cooperation on cybersecurity between NATO and the EU was called for by the UK Defense Ministry yesterday, the Hill’s Morgan Chalfant reports.
Lawyers in the USS Cole case debated whether it would be appropriate for jurors to be told that the CIA kept tabs on the mental health care of a detainee at Guantánamo Bay a decade after his torture at a black site yesterday, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
Former Guantánamo Bay detainee Yasir Ali Abdallah al Silmi was killed in ongoing US airstrikes on suspected al-Qaeda targets in Yemen last Thursday, the Pentagon said, Eric Schmitt reporting at the New York Times.
Libyan militias who occupied two major oil terminals last week intend to take the eastern city of Benghazi and overthrow Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, they said yesterday, Rami Musa reporting at the AP.
European Union member states are not obliged to grant humanitarian visas to refugees, the European Court of Justice ruled today, after a Belgian court in October ordered the government to grant visas to a family in Syria. [AP]