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The Early Edition: June 2, 2017

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-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION

“Patriotically minded” private Russian hackers might have been involved in the cyberattacks that interfered with last year’s presidential election, Russian President Putin said yesterday, though he continued to deny any state role in the interference, Andrew Higgins reports at the New York Times.

Former F.B.I. director James Comey will testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday at 10 a.m., the committee confirmed yesterday, Morgan Chalfant reporting at the Hill.

Comey was asked to open a criminal investigation into whether now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions perjured himself at his confirmation hearing last year when he said that he “did not have communications with the Russians” by Democratic Sens. Patrick J. Leahy and Al Franken, who have released the three letters they sent to Comey. Charlie Savage reports at the New York Times.

The White House’s account of why Trump adviser Jared Kushner and a Russian state-owned bank’s chief executive held a secret meeting during the presidential transition last year is very different to that provided by the bank, which maintains that the meeting was held as part of a new business strategy with Kushner in his role as the head of the Trump family’s real estate business while the White House says it was one of the many diplomatic encounters Kushner was holding ahead of President Trump’s inauguration, report David Filipov, Amy Brittain, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger at the Washington Post.

Former leader of the U.K. Independence Party (U.K.I.P.) Nigel Farage is a “person of interest” in the F.B.I.’s investigation of possible Trump-Russia collusion because of his relationships with individuals connected to both the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks’ editor Julian Assange, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Nick Hopkins and Luke Harding report at the Guardian.

Reports that he is of interest to the F.B.I.’s investigation are “extremely doubtful” as “I have no connections to Russia,” Farage said yesterday, adding that the report was a “hysterical attempt” by “the liberal elite” to associate him with Moscow, Steven Erlanger reports at the New York Times.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are blocking key witness interviews in its investigation into Trump-Russia collusion, including those with former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, longtime Trump confident Roger Stone and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, report Austin Wright, John Bresnahan and Kyle Cheney at POLITICO.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) violated his recusal from the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation by issuing subpoenas related to it, the panel’s top Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) said yesterday, Joe Uchill reporting at the Hill.

The issues that would arise if President Trump invoked executive privilege to try to block fired F.B.I. director James Comey from testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday are explained by Charlie Savage at the New York Times.

“Disclose, or confirm our worst fears.” We are now at a point where it is reasonable to believe that something disturbing is occurring between President Trump and the Russians, a point where it is also reasonable for citizens to demand of Trump that he disclose his tax returns and financial information – also the president’s best chance at battling the Russia scandal if they are indeed exculpatory, writes Michael Gerson at the Washington Post.

“Washington has gone crazy.” David Ignatius finds out what the Russians think of the U.S. investigation into their alleged interference in last year’s presidential campaign at the Washington Post.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY

The Trump administration is sticking broadly with the approach of its predecessors to its Asia policy, emphasizing the importance of diplomacy and cooperation with allies, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today as he traveled to Singapore where he will deliver a speech at an international security conference tomorrow, in which he is expected to mention the challenges of North Korea and a rising China, and meet with Asian counterparts. Robert Burns reports at the AP.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster is being asked to tighten the existing standards for targeting terrorists outside of active war zones contained in the Presidential Policy Guidance by human rights and civil liberties groups in a letter sent June 1, Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.

White House speechwriter and domestic policy adviser Stephen Miller has elbowed his way into national security and foreign affairs and is trying to push the Trump administration to adopt hardline stances on issues such as refuges, reports Spencer Ackerman at The Daily Beast.

Would the U.S. really go to war over Estonia? The deterrent effect of Article 5 of the N.A.T.O. treaty is inherently a “barely believable bluff,” but this uncertainty is precisely why it works, and is why President Trump’s undermining of what credibility that deterrence has through his grandiose refusal to recommit to Article 5 in Brussels last week was so shocking, writes Charles Krauthammer at the Washington Post.

By treating the world as merely an arena for competitive advantage, President Trump and his advisers H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn – authors of an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday explaining that Trump sees the world not as a “global community” but as an “arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage” – they sever relationships, destroy reciprocity, erode trust and destroy the sense of fellow-feeling that all nations need when times get tough, writes David Brooks at the New York Times.

America First is now America Isolated. In the wake of President Trump’s decision to pull America out of the Paris climate agreement, David E. Sanger and Jane Perlez anticipate a re-ordering of the world’s power structure as allies and adversaries alike take advantage of the vacuum of global leadership the president has created writing at the New York Times.

The emerging Trump Doctrine could result in the slow erosion of the liberal international order, giving rise to a new, not-so-liberal order championed by the mercantilist and nationalist China and India – but equally it could result in the strengthening of this order, for instance through the re-emergence of Europe.  Fareed Zakaria suggests that while Trump might not cause the end of the Western world, he could end America’s role at its center at the Washington Post.

RUSSIA

Trump administration officials pressured State Department staffers to remove Obama-era sanctions against Russia soon after President Trump took office, Michael Isikoff reports at Yahoo News.

The Trump administration officials’ attempts to remove sanctions against Russia was thwarted by two career diplomats who lobbied Congress to block the move, Ken Dilanian reports at NBC News.

President Putin called on U.S. business executives to help restore normal dialogue with Washington at an economic forum in St Petersburg today, adding that good U.S.-Russia relations were in the interest of both countries, Reuters reports.

U.S. Air Force nuclear-capable bombers will take part in joint exercises with N.A.T.O. allies on Russia’s doorstep this month amid questions about the Trump administration’s commitment to European security, Zachary Cohen reports at CNN.

The KOREAN PENINSULA

There are doubts about the U.S. Ground Based Midcourse Defense System’s ability to defend the U.S. against long-range missiles as the successful intercept test on Tuesday was designed to maximize success and did not reflect realistic testing conditions, John F. Tierney explains at the New York Times.

An additional 15 North Korean individuals and four entities would be added to the a U.N. sanctions blacklist under a U.S.-drafted resolution circulated to the U.N. Security Council, which includes imposing measures such as a global travel ban and the freezing of assets of those linked with North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic activities, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.

AFGHANISTAN

Afghan intelligence is laying the ultimate blame for the devastating truck bomb attack in Afghanistan’s Kabul this week on Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which it says planned the attack then carried out by insurgent group in the Afghan-Pakistani borderlands the Haqqani Network. Ruchi Kumar reports at Foreign Policy.

The derailing of peace talks may be another casualty of the Kabul attack, overshadowing a conference on June 6 at which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was planning to drum up international support for peace negotiations, Mujib Mashal observes at the New York Times.

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Israel’s finance minister and Palestine’s prime minister met in the West Bank city of Ramallah for the first time since 2014 when U.S.-mediated peace talks collapsed this week, Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed, the AP reporting.

The waiver to put off the move of the U.S.  Embassy in Israel signed by President Trump yesterday damages American credibility because Trump made such a point of it during his campaign, but the bigger problem is that the Trump administration has decided it should spend insufficient political capital on a Palestine-Israeli peace that has proved out of reach for U.S. presidents for decades, according to the Wall Street Journal editorial board.

SYRIA                    

Syrian civilians fleeing besieged areas are providing intelligence to the U.S.-led coalition in its fight against the Islamic State, those interviewed by the Financial Times’ Erika Solomon and Ahmed Mhidi explaining that they provide the information in the hope that the coalition will bomb militant targets with more accuracy, saving civilian lives.

IRAQ

Turkey intends to build walls along its borders with Iraq and Iran similar to the one currently being constructed along its border with Syria, President Erdoğan said yesterday, the AP reporting.

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 23 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on May 31. Separately, partner forces conducted seven strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

If the ban on laptops and other large electronic devices onboard flights to the U.S. is expanded it might also apply to overseas flights that originate in the U.S., a Homeland Security spokesperson said yesterday, Pete Williams reporting at NBC News.

There is an approaching risk of “permanent war” in cyberspace between states and criminal or extremist organizations due to increasingly destructive hacking techniques, the head of the French cybersecurity agency Guillaume Poupard said yesterday, calling for a “global” response, John Leicester reports at the AP.

There is no evidence suggesting that Russia was behind the leaks of campaign emails from now-French President Emmanuel Macron after an investigation by his agency, Poupard also said, the AP reporting.

Officials from the Five Power Defense Arrangements countries the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore met in Singapore today, saying that they would continue to work together and use the internet to fight terrorism, Annabelle Liang reports at the AP.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

The Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to allow it to move forward with President Trump’s revised travel ban by overturning a decision of the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit maintaining the freeze on the order blocking citizens from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. yesterday, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow report at the Washington Post.

The U.S. Supreme Court is being urged to hear the case of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri accused of orchestrating the U.S.S. Cole bombing by a dozen retired admirals and generals, who argue that the justices should decide the threshold issue of the “legitimacy and legality” of Nashiri’s military commission now rather than post-conviction, as Congress intended, for national security reasons. Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.

Increasing outrage over the treatment of peaceful protesters by Turkish armed guards in Washington last month is putting the future of a$1.2 million worth of semiautomatic handguns to Turkey’s security force in question, presenting the State Department with the challenge of balancing geopolitical interests with domestic concerns in formulating its response, Nicholas Fandow writes at the New York Times.

A bomb attack at a market town in northern Yemen killed six civilians last night, with no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, Reuters reports.

A mortar attack on a U.N. peacekeeping camp in Mali injured several French soldiers yesterday, the al-Qaeda-linked group Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen reportedly claiming responsibility. The AP reports.

U.K. police investigating the terrorist attack on a concert arena in Manchester last week have found a car which they believe may be “significant” to their investigation, the BBC reports.

The Philippine general leading the operation to defeat pro-Islamic State militants in the southern town of Marawi has been relieved of his command today on the 11th day of the Philippine’s biggest security crisis in years, though the reason for his removal was unrelated to the ongoing fighting, according to a spokesperson. Tom Allard reports at Reuters.

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About the Authors

is the Assistant News Editor at Just Security. She is also Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE.

is an assistant news editor at Just Security and Legal Researcher at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK.