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.
An email informing Donald Trump Jr. that the material he would receive if he met with a Russian Lawyer in June 2016 was part of a Russian government effort to assist his father’s candidacy was sent to him before he arranged the meeting by publicists and former British reporter Rob Goldstone, according to three people with knowledge of the email. Matt Apuzzo, Jo Becker, Adam Goldman and Maggie Haberman report at the New York Times.
Donald Trump Jr. hired a private attorney yesterday and said he would work with congressional investigators who wish him to testify as part of their ongoing probe into Trump-Russia collusion, Rebecca Ballhaus reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Trump Jr. “did nothing wrong” when he met with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin last June, his lawyer said yesterday, dismissing reports that Trump Jr. was told via email that the meeting was to discuss potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton that was part of the Kremlin’s efforts to boost his father’s presidential bid as “much ado about nothing,” POLITICO’s Nolan D. MacAskill reports.
The Trump Jr. meeting “should be the end of the idea pushed by the administration and the president that there is absolutely no evidence” of Trump-Russia collusion, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said from the Senate floor yesterday, adding that he supports Trump Jr. testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee about the meeting. Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.
The Trump Jr. meeting is the first time the public has seen “clear evidence” of collusion between senior Trump campaign members and the Russians, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen Mark Warner said yesterday, joining Sen. Sesan Collins (R-Maine), also on the committee, in calling for Trump Jr. to testify before them. POLITICO’s Austin Wright reports.
“There was, at a minimum, an effort by the Trump campaign to have the Russians help Donald Trump get elected. That’s an attempt at collusion,” Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Daily Beast’s Andrew Desiderio and Spencer Ackerman.
“The only thing I see inappropriate about this meeting is the people that leaked the information about the meeting after it was voluntarily disclosed.” The White House tried to play down the significance of Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer as new details of the encounter emerged yesterday including that it had been arranged at the behest of a Russian family with ties to the Kremlin and with President Trump via a long history of business deals, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Saunders saying that the president had only learned of his son’s meeting “in the last couple of days,” write Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Greg Miller at the Washington Post.
“There’s no evidence of collusion,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway insisted yesterday, Nolan D. MacAskill reporting at POLITICO.
“Adoptions” means “sanctions” as far as the Kremlin is concerned. Donald Trump Jr.’s original defense of his meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya last year that the meeting was mainly about “adoption,” a seemingly innocent humanitarian issue, ignored the fact that as far as the Russian government is concerned, “adoptions” and “sanctions” are so inextricably linked as to be almost synonymous, explains Amanda Taub at the New York Times.
There is a very real chance that Trump Jr. committed a federal crime when he met with a Russian lawyer last year with the express purpose of obtaining information the Russian government had acquired on Hillary Clinton, and his statement yesterday that “it quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information” is, according to experts on national security and election law, no defense at all, explains Zack Beauchamp at Vox.
Criminal conspiracy would be one of the most likely charges if unlawful collusion took place between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals, and Trump Jr.’s meeting helps establish a few critical facts toward such a charge, argues Randall D. Eliason at the Washington Post.
So Donald Trump Jr. knew that Vladimir Putin’s government sought to elect Donald Trump months before the U.S. intelligence community publicly stated? That means many of the denials by the Trump family and top aides about Russia’s interference in last year’s election must now be considered lies, writes Justin Miller at The Daily Beast.
The question now is what does special counsel Robert Mueller think is important, and what kind of legal jeopardy might Trump’s closest associates, including his eldest son, eventually face, writes Eugene Robinson, explaining how Trump Jr.’s meeting is a legal game-changer at the Washington Post.
How can Americans believe anything Trump administration officials say in the “culture of dishonesty” the Trumps have generated since the president’s campaigning days? Ask the New York Times editorial board.
These latest revelations only add to the questions surrounding President Trump’s firing of former F.B.I. director James Comey, and increase the need for careful Senate vetting of his nominated successor Christopher Wray, writes the Washington Post editorial board.
Who is Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and why did she allegedly promise dirt on Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump Jr.? Max Seddon explains at the Financial Times.
President Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin discussed sanctions related to Russia’s election interference during their meeting last Friday, the White House said yesterday, contradicting an earlier statement by Trump himself, Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.
German engineering and electronics company Siemens says it was an unwitting pawn in a scheme to evade sanctions against Russia and break a blockade of electricity to Crimea by a Russian customer who illegally shipped two power plan turbines to Crimea instead of the agreed destination in southern Russia, Jack Ewing and Andrew E. Kramer report at the New York Times.
The U.S.-Russia ceasefire agreement in southwest Syria is generally holding “despite some teething problems,” the U.N.’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said yesterday in Geneva, stating that the de-escalation agreements would contribute to peace talks but warning that the deals should not lead to the partition of Syria. Al Jazeera reports.
Israel and Jordan have expressed concerns over the ceasefire as the de-escalation zone borders Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, giving Iranian-backed forces the opportunity to establish themselves in the area, Somini Sengupta and Ben Hubbard report at the New York Times.
U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) captured a town 10 miles to the south of the city of Raqqa – the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria – where the Islamic State ran a major military base and training camp, marking another significant advance in the battle to capture Raqqa, Reuters reports.
A video showing U.S.-allied Syrian-Kurdish Y.P.G. forces torturing detainees has been released, raising questions about the level of coordination between the Y.P.G. and the U.S.-backed S.D.F. on operations in Raqqa, Roy Gutman reports at The Daily Beast.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 16 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 9. Separately, partner forces conducted six strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
“I announce from here the end and the failure and the collapse of the terrorist state,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared last night, thanking troops and the U.S.-led coalition for their efforts to recapture Mosul – Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq – from militants, Al Jazeera reports.
“The victory in Mosul, a city where ISIS once proclaimed its so-called ‘caliphate,’ signals that its days in Iraq and Syria are numbered,” President Trump said in a statement yesterday, the top U.S. commander in the region Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend adding that tough fighting remains in the battle against the Islamic State. Gordon Lubold and Felicia Schwartz report at the Wall Street Journal.
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the liberation of Mosul from the Islamic State as a “great victory” for Iraq today, the AP reports.
Sporadic fighting continued in Mosul today despite Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s declaration of a “total victory” over the Islamic State, highlighting the ongoing threat from militants and the risks to civilians, Bram Jannsen reports at the AP.
Islamic State militants captured most of a village to the south of Mosul through the use of guerilla tactics, an Iraqi officer and civilians said today, Ghazwan Hassan reporting at Reuters.
The Iraqi government is going to have to do something “pretty significantly different” to prevent “ISIS 2.0” from emerging from the defeat of the militants in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend warned today, stating that the Iraqi government must build bridges with its Sunni civilians, the BBC reporting.
The U.S.-led coalition deployed unnecessarily powerful weapons in densely populated areas of Mosul, according to report by Amnesty International examining hostilities in the west of the city, a U.S. military spokesperson Col. Joe Scrocca dismissing the allegations as “irresponsible and an insult” to the nations involved in the U.S.-led coalition. The BBC reports.
A breakdown of the nine-month campaign to defeat Islamic State militants in Mosul is provided by Dan Lamothe, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Laris Karklis and Tim Meko at the Washington Post.
The fall of the Islamic State in the Iraqi city of Mosul stands to benefit Iran and its expansionist ambitions by making it easier for Iran to transport weapons through northern Iraq and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, creating a sphere of influence for pro-Iran Shi’ite militias in the region. Maria Abi-Habib and Asa Fitch write at the Wall Street Journal.
Mosul’s liberation poses an important question: can Iraq hold together? As national unity is threatened by Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian divisions, the possibility of Kurdish independence, a lack of governance, the challenge of reintegrating thousands of displaced civilians, and instability in neighbouring Syria. Tim Arango writes at the New York Times.
Serious political and military challenges remain in Mosul and Iraq including reconstruction, work on transitional justice, capturing the last pockets of Islamic State territory and combating insurgent tactics. Michael Knights writes at the BBC.
THE KOREAN PENINSULA
The Trump administration is heading toward unilaterally increasing sanctions against North Korea, targeting Chinese entities it says are funneling cash into North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Ian Talley reports at the Wall Street Journal.
A draft U.N. Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea in response to its test of an intercontinental ballistic missile last week was circulated by the U.S., two U.N. diplomats said yesterday, Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
Stop the “China responsibility theory.” China hit back at repeated calls from the Trump administration for it to put more pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs today, saying that all parties needed to pull their weight, Reuters reports.
There was no indication that North Korea is capable of arming a long-range missile with a warhead that could survive re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere in its recent missile test, South Korea’s intelligence agency said today, Alastair Gale reporting at the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. successfully tested its T.H.A.A.D. missile system in Alaska today, intercepting a ballistic missile target launched from Hawaii, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency stating that the test “bolsters the country’s defensive capability against developing missile threats in North Korea and other countries,” Reuters reports.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Kuwait’s emir and other senior Kuwaiti officials yesterday to discuss the Gulf crisis, supporting Kuwait’s mediation efforts in the dispute centering on Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain’s diplomatic isolation of Qatar based on its alleged support for terrorism, Al Jazeera reports.
Tillerson arrived in the Qatari capital of Doha today to discuss the Gulf crisis with Qatar’s emir and foreign minister, U.S. officials stating that Tillerson does not expect an immediate breakthrough, Al Jazeera reports.
The Saudi-led bloc’s 13 demands before diplomatic relations can be restored are not realistic, although some demands can be met individually, Tillerson said yesterday, Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.
“There are no clean hands here,” a senior adviser to Tillerson R.C. Hammond said yesterday, adding that the purpose of Tillerson’s trip to the Gulf is to explore “where a resolution can be found.” Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.
The contents of secret agreements between Qatar and Gulf countries help to explain what sparked the diplomatic crisis and include provisions barring support for the Muslim Brotherhood and a vow not to support “antagonistic media,” Jim Sciutto and Jeremy Herb reveal at CNN.
The publication of the secret agreements “confirms beyond any doubt Qatar’s failure to meet its commitments and its full violation of its pledges,” the four Arab nations said in a statement, contending that the publication of the Riyadh Accord on CNN demonstrates that Qatar interferes in the affairs of Gulf countries. Reuters reports.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to cooperate more closely on efforts to combat the Taliban and other insurgent activity, with Pakistan offering to re-establish joint counterterrorism operations, the plan coming ahead of the Trump administration’s review of its Afghanistan strategy, Saeed Shah and Dion Nissenbaum report at the Wall Street Journal.
Two businessman with backgrounds in military contracting presented alternative plans for Afghanistan to chief strategist Stephen Bannon and Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, Cyra Master reports at the Hill.
Greater reliance on contractors instead of U.S. troops was the basis of a plan by the businessmen which Bannon sought to relay to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis Saturday, who declined to include the plan in the U.S. Afghanistan strategy, Mark Landler, Eric Schmitt and Michael R. Gordon report at the New York Times.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
President Trump will likely visit the U.K. next year, reports the BBC.
The Secretary of State betrayed democratic ideals when he failed to salute those who have stood up against President Erdoğan’s brutal purges since the failed coup attempt last July when he spoke in Istanbul Sunday, observes the Washington Post editorial board, suggesting that this may have been because he was hoping to curry favor with the Turkish president ahead of a crucial discussion on regional security.
U.S. officials “play a dangerous and perhaps self-defeating game” if they display their “historical amnesia” in pressing for regime change in Iran – as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to suggest last month – without recognizing the enduring relevance of America’s role in Iran’s 1953 coup for Iranians themselves, writes Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post.
Fifteen additional states and the District of Columbia joined Hawaii’s effort to broaden the definition of family relations exempted from President Trump’s travel ban yesterday, urging a federal judge in Homolulu to rule that the exclusion of grandparents and other relatives from the list of exempted relations was wrong after a federal appeals court dismissed Hawaii’s solo effort last week, Pete Williams reports at NBC News.
The U.S., Indian and Japanese navies began war games yesterday involving submarines capable of moving undetected into the waters of the Indian Ocean to take positions near the Indian coastline, where Chinese military vessels are increasingly entering from the South China Sea, Hari Kumar and Ellen Barry report at the New York Times.
A U.S. soldier in Hawaii was arrested on charges that he sought to provide training and classified military secrets to the Islamic State, Devlin Barrett reports at the Washington Post.
The government could shut down if a spending bill does not include funding for President Trump’s wall along the Mexican border, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) warned separately yesterday, the Hill’s Christina Marcos and Rafael Bernal report.
A U.N. resolution authorizing a new political mission in Colombia focusing on reintegrating F.A.R.C. rebels into society was unanimously approved by the U.N. Security Council yesterday, the AP’s Edith M. Lederer reports.
A meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was convened by Austria’s foreign minister today to overcome what he called a “crisis of confidence” restricting the organization’s ability to carry out its work reaching decisions by consensus about issues ranging from the Ukraine crisis to filling key positions within the organization itself, George Jahn reports at the AP.
Further accusations of sexual exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers across U.N. missions globally are revealed in new data released late last Friday, Al Jazeera’s Azad Essa reports.