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 WIRETAP CLAIMS
The Justice Department needs more time to try to explain President Trump’s claim that his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower during the election campaign, it said last night, requesting an extension after the House Intelligence Committee asked it to provide information by the end of yesterday. Betsy Woodruff and Tim Mak report at The Daily Beast.
The Senate Intelligence panel has received “sufficient” responses about the wiretapping claim, Chairman Richard Burr told CNN’s Manu Raju, Theodore Schleifer and Ashley Killough, though he would not say if there was any evidence backing Trump’s claim.
President Trump “doesn’t really think” former president Obama personally tapped his phone, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained yesterday, Madeline Conway reporting at POLITICO.
The unusual and shifting explanations from Spicer and senior adviser Kellyanne Conway reflect the contortions that the President’s inner circle have used to try to explain his accusation, which he has yet to address personally, writes Julie Hirschfeld Davis at the New York Times.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
Donald Trump adviser Jason Greenblatt will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today, having met with the Israeli Prime Minister yesterday, marking the Trump administration’s first foray into Middle East peacemaking, reports John Reed at the Financial Times.
President Trump will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday, economics and trade anticipated to be the main topics of discussion since White House officials’ positive statements about NATO and sanctions on Russia have calmed German officials’ concerns about immediate, major changes in those areas. Anton Troianovski, Bertrand Benoit and Ted Mann report at the Wall Street Journal.
Trump is planning to host China’s President Xi Jinping for a summit at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida next month, a senior administration official told CNN’s Jeremy Diamond.
Secret new powers to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists have been given to the CIA by President Trump, according to US officials, Gordon Lubold and Shane Harris reporting at the Wall Street Journal.
The White House has instructed the State Department to look for ways to cut over half of US funding for the UN, including cuts to programs that fund peacekeeping missions, peace talks and nuclear weapons monitoring in states like North Korea, Colum Lynch reports at Foreign Policy.
The Trump administration may view Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as an ideal partner in fighting terrorism, but his tactics are draconian and counterproductive, and America should not become Egypt’s accomplice, writes the New York Times editorial board.
President Trump must treat Afghanistan with the same urgency as the fight against the Islamic State or the “stalemate” there risks descending into strategic failure, argue Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) writing at the Washington Post.
The Trump administration seems to be going ahead with the sale of 19 F-16 warplanes to Bahrain which the Obama administration had predicated on a private list of human rights concessions, “Exhibit A” for how the ascent of President Trump is leading to the deterioration of human rights, writes the Washington Post editorial board.
Who, if anyone, might become President Trump’s confidant on the world stage? Consider Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker at the Washington Post.
That Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help put Trump in the White House is the one political premise that is beyond the pale for this administration of conspiracy theorists, writes Catherine Rampell at the Washington Post.
The MUSLIM BAN
Seven states are now involved in a lawsuit asking a federal judge in Seattle to extend his ruling on the original travel ban to parts of the revised directive before it kicks in after midnight Thursday, Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.
Turkey is breaking its commitments to peace talks, the Assad regime has accused, as rebel groups it backs boycotted a third round of meetings due to begin in Kazakhstan today. [Reuters]
The senior Islamic leadership has escaped Iraq’s Mosul to regroup in Syria to prepare to defend the remains of the group’s caliphate there and wage an insurgent campaign in Iraq, according to the Pentagon and Iraqi officials, Susannah George reporting at the AP.
Bringing perpetrators of crimes including torture to justice is vital for reaching a lasting peace in Syria, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told the UN Human Rights Council today, Reuters reports.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out five airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on Mar. 12. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
The US will permanently station missile-capable drones in South Korea, it announced a week after neighboring North Korea tested four missiles that landed off the coast of Japan. Julian Borger reports at the Guardian.
“Merciless attacks” will be carried out in response if the USS Carl Vinson-led aircraft carrier strike group joining South Korean forces for exercises infringes on its sovereignty or dignity, North Korea warned today, James Pearson reporting at Reuters.
The death of the North Korean leader’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam was “the product of reckless moves of the United States and South Korean authorities,” North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador said yesterday, Edith M. Lederer reporting at the AP.
Malaysia decided it will deport 50 North Koreans for outstaying their visas, despite the ban on North Koreans leaving the country, as ties between the two nations remain tense following the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the BBC reports.
An inquiry into the death of Kim Jong-nam was demanded by the UN investigator of human rights violations in North Korea yesterday, essentially turning the murder into a human rights issue, Rick Gladstone reports at the Washington Post.
Major gaps in the ability of security forces to monitor movements in and out of Europe were revealed in a leaked EU report examining the terror attacks in Berlin, Paris and Brussels, Daniel Boffey reports at the Guardian.
Turkey criticized the EU for siding with the Netherlands in a diplomatic dispute over Turkish ministers’ plans to hold campaigns there in an attempt to garner votes from Turks eligible to vote in a referendum increasing President Erdoğan’s powers, saying its position “lends credence” to extremists. [AP]
Turkey announced a series of political sanctions against the Netherlands yesterday, including stopping high-level political discussion and closing Turkish airspace to Dutch diplomats, Suzan Fraser reports at the AP.
Erdoğan accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of “supporting terrorists” in a continuation of his rhetorical attacks on European leaders yesterday, Al Jazeera reports.
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
Why America’s nuclear weapons can be hacked is explained by Bruce G. Blair writing at the New York Times.
Trump’s Justice Department went to court Monday to fight those still investigating the emails of former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Dana Milbank reveals at the Washington Post.
The lawsuit that set the precedent that messages on a federal employee’s private email account can be subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act was shut down yesterday, Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.
This week’s testimony in the USS Cole bombing case is devoted to US agents collecting evidence from the ship soon after the Oct. 12 2000 attack, Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
Russia appears to have deployed special forces to an airbase in Egypt close to the Libyan border, a move that increases concern over Moscow’s deepening role in Libya, Reuters reports.
A suicide bomber drove a sedan filled with explosives into the side of a packed commuter minibus in Afghanistan’s Kabul yesterday, the second serious attack on the capital inside a week, Rod Nordland and Zahra Nader report at the New York Times.
The creation of a regional bloc similar to the European Union will be discussed by representatives from 23 Asian countries meeting in Islamabad today, according to a Pakistani government official. [AP]
The South African High Court did not challenge the legality or constitutionality of withdrawal from the International Criminal Court per se when it ruled that South Africa’s withdrawal in particular was as such, meaning the matter is inconclusively settled, writes Solomon Dersso at Al Jazeera.
The release of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak from the Maadi Military Hospital in Cairo was ordered by an Egyptian prosecutor, though as of last night the autocrat, toppled in 2011, had not left the hospital where he has spent most of the last six years. Declan Walsh reports at the New York Times.
Two UN officials including an American were kidnapped along with four Congolese in the country’s Kasai Central province, Congo’s government said yesterday, Saleh Mwanamilongo reporting at the AP.