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.
Discussions about having potentially “derogatory” information about President Trump and some of his top aides during the 2016 presidential race among Russian officials were intercepted by U.S. intelligence, CNN’s Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto and Dana Bash report.
A meeting between Trump adviser Jared Kushner and Russian banker and close Putin associate Sergey N. Gorkov last December is the current focus of federal and congressional investigators charged with probing ties between President Trump and Moscow, Matthew Rosenberg, Mark Mazzetti and Maggie Haberman report at the New York Times.
Kushner was advised to “lay low” by some within the White House following reports last week that he has come under F.B.I. scrutiny in the Russia investigation, a source told NBC News’ Ali Vitali and Kristen Welker.
Russian officials must be “laughing at the U.S.” about how a “lame excuse” for why the Democrats lost the presidential election has “taken over the Fake News,” President Trump tweeted this morning.
The Judiciary and Intelligence committees are increasingly bumping elbows as they fight for the same information about new allegations against the administration concerning the Trump-Russia probe, Jordain Carney writes at the Hill.
White House communications director Mike Dubke resigned, a senior administration official confirmed today, Philip Rucker at the Washington Post suggesting that it could be the first in a series of changes to President Trump’s senior staff amid the growing Russia scandal.
Changes intended to reset the direction of an administration plagued by expanding Trump-Russia probes were discussed by President Trump and top advisers yesterday and Sunday, Michael C. Bender, Kristina Peterson and Peter Nicholas report at the Wall Street Journal.
If Trump fails to fire Kushner he will turn the Trump-Russia scandal into a permanent nightmare, writes Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post.
The KOREAN PENINSULA
North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch Monday morning landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary telling an emergency news conference that the firing of the missile at this time “is extremely problematic in terms of safety of aircraft and ships” and in clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, Anna Fifield reports at the Washington Post.
“Specific action” with the U.S. to deter North Korea following the missile test was promised by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday, Jack Kim and Ju-min Park reporting at Reuters.
Even bigger “gift packages” to “the Yankees” were promised by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un following Pyongyang’s latest test, Al Jazeera reports, citing North Korean state media.
North Korea was showing “great disrespect” to China by firing another ballistic missile, President Trump tweeted yesterday.
The U.S. and South Korea held a joint drill involving U.S. bombers near to the Military Demarcation Line dividing the two Koreas for the second time this month yesterday, North Korea calling the move a “grave military provocation,” Jonathan Cheng reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. will test its ability to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile using its own long-range interceptor missile over the Pacific Ocean for the first time, in what is being viewed as a test of the U.S.’ ability to counter a North Korean missile, report Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne at CNN.
An investigation into why defense officials did not inform him about the arrival of several new launchers for the contentious U.S.-made T.H.A.A.D. anti-missile defense system deployed to South Korea was ordered by the country’s new President Moon Jae-in today, who called the incident “very shocking.” Hyung-jin Kim reports at the AP.
TRUMP IN EUROPE
President Trump criticized Germany’s trade surplus and military spending levels today in response to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comment Sunday that the U.S. and Britain may no longer be reliable partners for the rest of Europe. Reuters reports.
Germany’s relations with the U.S. are of “outstanding importance” but Germany must engage with other key nations in future, Chancellor Angela Merkel said today after a meeting between her cabinet and the government of India that produced cooperation agreements in various areas, the AP reports.
President Trump’s “short-sighted policies” have “weakened the West,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said yesterday, Al Jazeera reports.
“The end of an era.” The U.S. is heading in a “diametrically opposite” direction to Europe on key issues, a former U.S. envoy to N.A.T.O. told the New York Times’ Alison Smale and Steven Erlanger, following President Trump’s failure to endorse Article 5 during his speech to N.A.T.O. leaders in Brussels last week, followed by his decision to walk away from the Paris climate accord at the G7 summit.
DONALD TRUMP FOREIGN POLICY
President Trump will be unable to secure an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said in Jerusalem yesterday, adding that he did not believe the two-state solution was “viable” anymore. Yonah Jeremy Bob reports at The Jerusalem Post.
An Obama-era set of policies aimed at softening U.S.-Cuban relations will be reversed by President Trump, Alex Pfeiffer reports at the Daily Caller.
Russia is a greater threat to the world than the Islamic State, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggested yesterday in an interview in Australia, Brandon Carter reporting at the Hill.
Contacts between Moscow and the Trump administration have not yet led to a positive change in relations between the two nations, Russia’s deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying today by Russian news agencies, Reuters reporting.
The “American elite’s” political witch hunt of President Trump has left the U.S. and Russia in a “very dangerous” situation, frustrating any chance of improved east-west relations for the foreseeable future, the chief executive of Russia’s second largest state-controlled bank – and a prime target of any western sanctions on Russia – Andrei Kostin told the Financial Times’ Neil Buckley and Martin Arnold.
Russian state-backed media outlets R.T. and Sputnik are “agents of influence” that spread lies about him during his election campaign, new French President Emmanuel Macron said as he stood beside President Putin following the two leaders’ first meeting yesterday, explaining to reporters that they had discussed the situation in Ukraine and closer cooperation in Syria, Nicholas Vinocur reports at POLITICO.
President Putin will hold talks with Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Moscow to discuss the Syrian conflict and four cooperation agreements, Reuters reports.
A car bomb outside an ice cream shop in central Baghdad killed at least 13 people around midnight yesterday, the Islamic State claiming responsibility for the attack, the AP reports.
At least eight people were killed in a second suicide car bomb attack in Baghdad this morning, according to security sources and witnesses, Al Jazeera reporting.
Iran-backed Shi’ite paramilitary forces have been fighting their way through the vast deserts west and south of the city of Mosul along and across the border with Syria, the territory home to key supply lines into Syria and connecting Iraq’s north to capital Baghdad, meaning that control of it would be a key strategic prize for the forces and their backer Iran, Susannah George and Qassim Abdul-Zahra report at the AP.
French special forces in Iraq are enlisting Iraqi soldiers to hunt and kill French nationals who have joined the senior ranks of the Islamic State, providing the Iraqi troops with the names and images of as many as 30 men, Tamer El-Ghobashy, Maria Abi-Habib and Benoit Faucon report at the Wall Street Journal.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 17 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on May 27. Separately, partner forces conducted eight strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Islamic State shelling on government-held neighborhoods in the eastern Syrian city of Deir el-Zour killed at least 13 civilians last night, the AP reports.
“Annihilation tactics.” The U.S.’s strategy in Syria and Iraq has changed, the onus now on surrounding and killing militants rather than forcing them to flee, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in an interview Sunday, Tamer El-Ghobashy and Ghassan Adnan reporting at the Wall Street Journal.
France will respond immediately to any further use of chemical weapons in Syria, French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday at a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that he wished to forge a closer partnership with Russia in fighting the Islamic State in Syria. Angelique Chrisafis reports at the Guardian.
Philippine troops struggled to push militants loyal to the Islamic State out of the southern city of Marawi yesterday, clearing around half of the city of the Abu Sayyah and Maute groups and the foreign fighters backing them so far, Felipe Villamor reports at the New York Times.
The Philippine military urged the Islamists to surrender today, saying that it was close to retaking Marawi from the Islamic State-linked insurgents, Tom Allard reports at Reuters.
Foreign fighters including Malaysians, Indonesian and possibly Arabs have been killed by the Philippine military in the week-long siege of Marawi so far, the Philippine’s military chief said today. The AP reports.
A night-time curfew and increased police and security presence has been imposed in Iligan City to the north of Marawi as Philippine authorities fear that Islamist extremists might pose as civilians and sneak out of Marawi to open a new front in the fighting there, Oliver Holmes reports at the Guardian.
The Islamic State intended to set fire to Marawi, which is home to 200,000 people, after occupying it, according to a Philippine official. The AP reports.
How did Islamic State-linked rebels take over part of a Philippine city? Oliver Holmes explains at the Guardian.
Polish and Afghan forces backed by the U.S. freed 11 hostages from the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Poland’s defense minister confirmed today, Monika Scislowska reporting at the AP.
Can yet more American troops in Afghanistan make a decisive difference to what has become the U.S. longest war at 16 years, during which time $800 billion has been spent and 2,000 American lives have been lost? The New York Times editorial board examines the “Groundhog Day” war in Afghanistan.
UK TERROR ATTACK
Two internal investigations into how intelligence related to Manchester attacker Salman Abedi was handled has been launched by Britain’s MI5 security services after reports emerged that the public had warned British authorities about Abedi’s extremist views at least three times prior to last week’s bombing and it was revealed that he had been flagged by MI5 as a “person of interest” but not deemed dangerous and removed from a list of people under active investigation, Ceylan Yeginsu reports at the New York Times.
U.K. police have released images of Abedi wheeling a large suitcase through Manchester city center as they attempt to piece together his movements leading up to the attack, Helen Pidd reports at the Guardian.
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
Chinese-speaking hackers may have been behind the global WannaCry ransomware attack, according to researchers from Flashpoint, the BBC reports.
U.S. intelligence agencies must arm themselves for a cyber war and critics who argue against rules governing the hording of hacking techniques following the WannaCry attack are “naive,” former Obama cybersecurity adviser Michael Daniel told the Hill, Joe Uchill reporting.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a hacker, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said yesterday, adding that despite this he would allow Assange to remain at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the AP reports.
President Trump’s consumption of classified intelligence is ravenous, impatient and eager, yet there are signs that he may not be retaining all the intelligence he is presented or fully appreciating its nuance, write Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker at the Washington Post, examining Trump’s evolving posture toward the intelligence community since he took office.
The deadline for rebel disarmament is being pushed back by 20 days by the Colombian government under a peace deal in what President Juan Manuel Santos said was a joint decision between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the U.N. The AP reports.