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.
President Trump asked the director of national intelligence Daniel Coats and the director of the N.S.A. Adm. Michael Rogers to push back against an F.B.I. investigation into possible Trump campaign-Russia ties, a request both Coats and Rogers refused, according to former and current officials. Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima report at the Washington Post.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn refused to comply with a subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee as the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) wrote a letter to committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) referring to a previously undisclosed document alleging Flynn had “lied” to security-clearance investigators about payments he received “directly” from Russia in relation to a Dec. 2015 gala he attended, Karoun Demirjian reporting at the Washington Post that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee must now vote to decide whether to hold Flynn in contempt or accept his invocation of his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has “plenty” of options to respond to Flynn’s refusal to honor a subpoena for a list of his communications with Russian officials during the presidential campaign, contempt among them, chairman Richard Burr said last night, calling Flynn’s denial of the request nonsensical. Austin Wright and Burgess Everett report at POLITICO.
The Senate Intelligence Committee will “vigorously pursue” Flynn’s testimony and his production of any and all relevant materials, Burr said yesterday, Jordain Carney reporting at the Hill.
Former F.B.I. director James Comey will not appear before any congressional committees this week as Comey wants to speak to special counsel Robert Mueller before testifying publicly, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz confirmed yesterday, Cristina Marcos reporting at the Hill.
Newly appointed special counsel in the Russia investigation Robert Mueller has been briefed on the memos James Comey used to document his interactions with President Trump, Pamela Brown and Shimon Prokupecz report at CNN.
Former Trump campaigner Paul Manafort and unofficial Trump adviser Roger Stone handed over documents requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its probe into Russian election interference, NBC News’ Ken Dilanian reports.
President Trump is close to appointing outside counsel to see him through the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker report at the Washington Post.
Former acting attorney general Sally Yates warned the White House about former national security adviser Michael Flynn so that the Trump administration could “act,” she said in an interview with The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza.
The White House may be preparing to claim that special counsel Robert Mueller has conflicts of interest that stop him from assuming his role – a claim that does not hold up, explain Richard Painter and Norman Eisen at the Washington Post.
TRUMP VISITS ISRAEL
“I never mentioned the word or the name ‘Israel.’” Donald Trump denied specifically divulging that Israel was the source of the highly classified intelligence he reportedly shared with Russian officials earlier this month as he stood beside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, Nolan D. McCaskill pointing out that Trump was never accused of explicitly telling the Russians that the intelligence came through Israel at POLITICO.
In insisting he had not named Israel Trump seemed to confirm reports that Israel was the source of the classified intelligence he revealed to Russian officials, writes The Daily Beast.
Intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is “terrific,” Netanyahu told reporters, Philip Rucker reporting at the Washington Post.
President Trump said he will “do everything” to assist Israel and Palestine in achieving peace at talks with the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem this morning, the BBC reports.
President Trump and Sunni Arab nations see peace with Palestine as an integral part of the new regional alignment Netanyahu has wanted for years, Trump indicated yesterday at the start of his two-day visit to Israel, Peter Baker and Ian Fisher reporting at the New York Times.
“The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon … and must cease its deadly funding training and equipping of terrorists and militias.” President Trump expanded on his anti-Iran theme of Sunday’s speech in Saudi Arabia in a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin yesterday, and then later at a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont and Saeed Kamali Dehghan report.
President Trump is encouraging Israel and its Arab neighbors to unite around the “common cause” of their deep distrust of Iran, highlighting the extent to which opposition to Iran is an organizing principle of the president’s attempts to remake the U.S.’ relationship with the Middle East, writes Julie Pace at the AP.
How far antipathy toward Iran is the “glue” that binds what some like to believe is an emerging coalition between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf States is “unclear,” explains Jonathan Marcus at the BBC.
Netanyahu may grow disappointed with President Trump in the coming months and years as Trump increasingly shows signs of taking a similar posture to his predecessors rather than breaking from the past as hoped, writes Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post.
It will take years to see whether the personal relationships Trump is cultivating in the Middle East in lieu of a step-by-step road map are enough to untangle decades of suspicion and competing objectives in the region, Karen DeYoung, Philip Rucker and William Booth write at the Washington Post.
Israel will cut President Trump a lot of slack for his day-to day stumbles because of his decidedly pro-Israel stance and the possibility of a reset with Washington following strained ties under former president Obama, write Emily Tamkin and Robbie Gramer at Foreign Policy.
TRUMP VISITS SAUDI ARABIA
Important U.S. regional allies in the war on terror Iraq and Lebanon have expressed concern and anger over President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia Sunday which singled out Iran and its proxy Hezbollah while reinforcing the U.S.-Saudi relationship, Maria Abi-Habib and Margherita Stancati report at the Wall Street Journal.
While the president urged Muslim leaders to drive extremists out in his speech Sunday he provided no guidance as to how the war against extremism could be won, and demonstrated no appreciation of the fact that Wahhabism – the fundamentalist orthodoxy that legitimizes Saudi Arabia’s royal family – has inspired the Islamic State and other regional terrorist groups, writes the New York Times editorial board.
UK TERROR ATTACK
A lone suicide attacker detonated a bomb as people left a concert by U.S. singer Ariana Grande at England’s Manchester Arena last night, killing at least 22 people including children and injuring 59, the BBC reports.
A 23-year-old man was arrested in connection with the attack in south Manchester this morning, Greater Manchester Police tweeted.
The identity of the attacker is known by police and security staff, but they will not reveal it for now, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said this morning. [AP]
“Evil losers.” President Trump denounced those responsible for the attack and extended his sympathy to the victims this morning, Reuters reports.
The attack was also condemned by Iran, which advised that “terrorism will only be uprooted” by “taking comprehensive measures, and avoiding double standards,” while “artificial alliances” would not assist, Reuters citing the comments as an apparent swipe at Western security cooperation with Gulf Arab states.
The KOREAN PENINSULA
The medium-range ballistic missile launched by North Korea at the weekend was not capable of flying far enough to strike U.S. military bases in Guam as analysts had feared, South Korean defense officials said yesterday, Choe Sang-Hun reporting at the New York Times.
Warning shots were fired at a suspected North Korean drone by the South Korean military today, more than 90 shots fired in return before it disappeared from radar screens, Ju-min Park and Christine Kim report at Reuters.
The U.N. Security Council vowed to “fully and comprehensively implement all measures” imposed on North Korea, urging other nations to do the same, following a meeting yesterday, the U.N. News Centre reports.
A car bomb in Syria’s Homs killed four this morning, two days after Syrian state television stated that the city had passed back to full government control, Reuters reports.
“You’re doing ISIS wrong.” Israeli military and intelligence units POLITICO’s Bryan Bender spoke to on a recent trip to Assania Mountain on the Israeli-Syrian border consider the U.S. strategy in Syria and Iraq to be making the situation only worse, by radicalizing the population and spreading the most dangerous militants into neighboring Lebanon and Jordan, and beyond into Europe and possibly America.
The liberation of Mosul is “imminent,” the U.N. envoy for Iraq said yesterday, adding that fighting remains a “tremendous challenge” because of the Islamic State’s increasing use of civilians as human shields. Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 18 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on May 21. Separately, partner forces conducted four strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
A plan to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan that President Trump will decide on in the near future would involve almost doubling the number of American Special Operations forces in the country, explains Pamela Constable at the Washington Post.
Several militant attacks including a Taliban assault on a military outpost killed at least eight soldiers, seven civilians and a police officer in Afghanistan, officials said today. The AP reports.
The U.S. ambassador was summoned last week by Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to protest the “aggressive and unprofessional actions” by U.S. security toward President Erdoğan’s bodyguards during his recent trip to Washington, Ned Levin and Felicia Schwartz report at the Wall Street Journal.
Turkish police are seeking 144 people including police, soldiers and prosecutors over suspected links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen blamed for the failed coup last year, Reuters reports.
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
A group with links to North Korea is highly likely behind the global WannaCry ransomware attack this month, according to cybersecurity researcher Symantec’s analysis, reports Timothy W. Martin at the Wall Street Journal.
The leak of an extremely sensitive and highly classified document by a very senior person. The leak of the memo of the conversation between President Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Oval Office, in which the president reportedly told Lavrov that former F.B.I. director James Comey was a “nut job,” to a New York Times reporter suggests a real attack on Trump from someone within his inner circle who should have resigned rather than eschew the proper processes for whistleblowing, writes Michael Gerson at the Washington Post.
U.S. forces carried out a raid on an al-Qaeda compound in Yemen, killing seven militants, the military confirmed today, adding that the primary objective of the mission was to gather intelligence. Alex Johnson, Courtney Kube and Ken Dilanian report at NBC News.
A study of the costs involved in permanently stationing U.S. troops in Eastern Europe has been requested from the Pentagon by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the Hill’s Rebecca Kheel reports.
The U.S. delivered six coastal patrol boats to Vietnam’s coast guard in an expansion of the two nations’ security cooperation amid ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, the AP reports.
The first draft of a proposed global treaty to ban nuclear weapons was presented by the U.N. disarmament panel yesterday, Rick Gladstone reports at the New York Times.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will arrive in Moscow today for a five-day trip during which he will meet his “favourite hero” President Vladimir Putin and try to shift the Philippine’s alliances further away from the U.S. and toward Moscow, Shaun Walker reports at the Guardian.