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.
DONALD TRUMP JR.-RUSSIAN LAWYER MEETING: NEWS
Donald Trump Jr. and senior campaign aides attended a meeting with a “Russian government lawyer” last June to discuss potentially incriminating information about rival Hillary Clinton they were told was being offered by the Russian government in its effort to support Donald Trump’s candidacy, emails his son published on Twitter yesterday seemed to confirm, evidence that the Trump campaign took up Russian offers of help in last year’s election that contradicts repeated statements by members of Trump’s campaign that they were not aware of Russian interference in the election, write Paul Sonne and Rebecca Ballhaus at the Wall Street Journal.
Special counsel Robert Mueller will examine the email chain posted by Donald Trump Jr., according to a U.S. official, Shimon Prokupecz, Evan Perez and Pamela Brown report at CNN.
Donald Trump Jr. is willing to testify under oath about the meeting, he said yesterday, Jordan Fabian reports at the Hill.
Donald Trump Jr. did not tell his father about the meeting as it was “just a nothing,” he said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity yesterday, adding that he should have handled it differently in retrospect, the BBC reports.
Donald Trump Jr. is “innocent” and “this is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!” President Trump tweeted this morning.
Donald Trump Jr. is “a high quality person and I applaud his transparency,” President Trump said in a statement yesterday, David J. Lynch and Max Seddon at the Financial Times.
The Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr. does not represent the Russian government, only herself, she insisted yesterday, the AP reporting.
Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya “couldn’t have had” information on Hillary Clinton, she also said, according to a report by the AP.
Most Republicans Senators simply shrugged in response to reports of the email release by Donald Trump Jr. yesterday, dismissing it as a “distraction” and pointing out that Trump Jr. is not given any particular role in the Trump administration, observes David Weigel at the Washington Post.
President Trump signed off on an initial statement released Saturday by Donald Trump Jr. in which he said that the meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was a “short introductory meeting” in which those present mainly discussed the adoption of Russian children, a statement so incomplete that Donald Trump Jr. has since released multiple follow-up statements adding details to the story, write Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman at the New York Times.
Why was Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya allowed to remain the U.S. after she was told to leave in early 2016? The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is asking in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.
Russian lawyer Natalia Vesilnitskaya has ties to Russian military and intelligence officials, an American financier who has been investigating Russian corruption for over a decade William Browder will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing next week on the Russian attorney’s ties to the Kremlin, reports Lachlan Markay at The Daily Beast.
British entertainment publicist Rob Goldstone who sent the emails that Trump Jr. tweeted yesterday is the manager of Azerbaijani-Russian entertainment artist and businessman Emin Agalarov – who also features in the emails – who often boasts of a close relationship with President Trump, explains Morgan Chalfant at the Hill.
How key Trump associates have been linked to Russia is explained by Jasmine C. Lee and Alicia Parlapiano at the New York Times.
Donald Trump Jr,’s emails are among the topics expected to generate headlines at today’s confirmation hearing for F.B.I. director nominee Christopher Wray, anticipates Katie Bo Williams at the Hill.
DONALD TRUMP JR.-RUSSIAN LAWYER MEETING: MEDIA OPINION
The question now is who will employ this evidence? While it comes within the remit of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump-Russia collusion, his probe is likely to take another year or so and it is not inconceivable that President Trump would sack him in the interim, leaving a second course of impeachment, writes the Guardian.
It is hard to believe that now-President Trump was unaware of the meeting given that his younger son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his campaign manager Paul Manafort attended the meeting, observes the New York Times editorial board.
Resorting to the excuse that the meeting as a “rookie mistake” by an “unsophisticated” campaign will not wash this time: the Trump team never should have taken the field, writes Dana Milbank at the Washington Post.
The clearest indication yet that Trump campaign officials and family members were at least prepared to collude with a foreign adversary in the mutual goal of taking down Hillary Clinton is provided by the emails between Trump Jr. and an intermediary for the Russians, writes Dan Balz at the Washington Post.
The Russian meddling story is “not just smoke but fire.” There can be no doubt of Trump-Russia collusion following the release of the email chain, writes the Washington Post editorial board.
The “dream” that the Trump-Russia collusion story would “shrivel up and blow away” died yesterday with the posting of Donald Trump Jr.’s email chain, which also brings with it the prospect of divisions breaking out within Trump world, writes Gerald F. Seib at the Wall Street Journal.
The “clear ideological affinity” between a portion of Trump’s inner circle and the Russian government signals a “different kind” of collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump administration compared with previous Kremlin overtures to American political campaigns, and that is arguably the more important aspect of the present revelations, writes Ishaan Tharoor at the Washington Post.
Donald Trump Jr.’s actions raise a slough of potential criminal and other legal violations for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, write former ethics lawyer for president Obama Norman L. Eisen and former ethics lawyer for president George W. Bush Richard W. Painter at the New York Times.
The emails could relate most directly to federal campaign finance law prohibiting the solicitation of any contribution or “thing of value” from foreign nationals, while legal analysts are also raising the possibility of perjury if, for example, anyone involved denied any Russian meeting to federal investigators. Joan Biskupic considers how much legal trouble Donald Trump Jr. might be in at CNN.
What is collusion? What is conspiracy? Questions about legal issues raised by Donald Trump Jr.’s disclosure are answered by Charlie Savage at the New York Times.
Donald Trump Jr. is not a traitor. Law professor Carlton F.W. Larson writing at the Washington Post argues that, assuming everything alleged against Trump Jr. is true, his actions do not meet the legal definition of treason under Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which limits the crime to two specific offenses: levying war against America and adhering to its enemies.
Focusing on the criminality or otherwise of those involved in the meeting misses the point: the deeper question is whether Trump administration officials can uphold the trust that has been afford to them as appointed stewards of the U.S. government, writes Asha Rangappa at the Washington Post.
The story of how Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya ended up at a meeting with Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort at Trump tower in June 2016 is told by Michael Kranish, Tom Hamburger, David Filipov and Rosalind S. Helderman at the Washington Post.
Natalia Veselnitskaya is a trusted Moscow insider who has been counted on to argue and win important high-profile legal cases of importance to the Russian government, not the one-issue activist consumed with getting the U.S. Congress to remove sanctions on Russian businesspeople she has been widely depicted as, write Neil MacFarquhar and Andrew E. Kramer at the New York Times.
“Counter actions” against the U.S. for confiscating two Russian diplomatic compounds last year were threatened by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov yesterday, the AP reports.
Sanctions legislation targeting the Kremlin stalled yesterday as House Democrats objected to a part of the proposed changes to the bill that would make it more difficult for the minority to force votes on the Trump administration’s sanctions policy requested by House G.O.P. leadership, Christina Marcos reports at the Hill.
Noted hardliner Anatoly Antonov will replace Sergey Kislyak as Russian ambassador to the U.S., marking what Ali Watkins at POLITICO anticipates will be a more aggressive chapter in Russian diplomacy.
“Confirmed information” that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead is in the possession of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the group confirmed yesterday, saying that their report is based on information received from militants in Syria’s eastern Deir al-Zour province, Kareem Fahim reports at the Washington Post.
“We learned of it today but we do not know when he died or how,” the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdurrahman said yesterday, making the claim – which could not be independently verified – a month after the Russian defense ministry stated that it might have killed Baghdadi in an airstrike. Al Jazeera reports.
“I don’t have a clue,” the U.S.’ top commander for the coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria Lt. Gen Stephen Townsend said yesterday in response to the reports of al-Baghdadi’s death, Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.
Syrian-Russian airstrikes near a school in southern Syria last month killed 10 civilians, according to Human Rights Watch, the AP reports.
A British man and two Americans have been killed in the battle against the Islamic State in Syria, the individuals having joined the U.S.-backed Syrian-Kurdish Y.P.G. forces to partake in the offensive on the city of Raqqa, Matt Blake reports at the Guardian.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 21 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 10. Separately, partner forces conducted two strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State fighters continued today in Mosul’s Old City despite Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s declaration of victory over the militants Monday, the activity in the city described as “clearing operations” by the Iraqi military. Stephen Kalin reports at Reuters.
Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition carried out “disproportionate attacks” in the fight to capture Mosul from Islamic State militants, according to a report released by Amnesty International yesterday, also highlighting the crimes committed by the Islamic State in the battle. Al Jazeera reports.
Amnesty International’s report that the U.S. military violated international law in its fight against Islamic State in Mosul is “irresponsible,” the U.S.-led coalition said yesterday, Susannah George reporting at the AP.
“I reject any notion that coalition fires were in any way imprecise, unlawful or excessively targeted civilians,” the U.S.’ top commander for the coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria Lt. Gen Stephen Townsend told reporters yesterday, adding that he believed that the Mosul campaign was the “most precise campaign in the history of warfare,” Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
The Iraqi government and the U.S. must take action to ensure stability in Mosul, and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi could start by bridging divides with Sunnis in the city and supporting effective and rapid rebuilding, while President Trump could negotiate a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq to serve a training and mentoring role, the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.
Mosul’s municipal government faces a huge task in rebuilding the city following the defeat of the Islamic State, with basic services needing to be restored, Karen Leigh and Asa Fitch report at the Wall Street Journal.
The Islamic State’s defeat in Mosul and its impending defeat in the Syrian city of Raqqa demonstrates that the U.S. can succeed militarily in the Middle East if it works with local forces and improvises military approaches in spite of political difficulties, David Ignatius writes at the Washington Post.
The U.S. and Qatar signed an agreement yesterday to improve efforts to track down terrorist funding sources, the agreement part of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s efforts to resolve the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain revolving around the Saudi-led bloc’s accusation that Qatar supports terrorism. Felicia Schwartz reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Tillerson will present the memorandum of understanding to leaders of the four Arab nations today, Gardiner Harris reports at the New York Times.
“I am hopeful we can make some progress to begin to bring this to a point of resolution,” Tillerson said yesterday in Doha during a joint press conference, Ahmed Omran and Simeon Kerr reporting at the Financial Times.
“I think Qatar has been quite clear in its positions and I think very reasonable,” Tillerson said yesterday, throwing his weight behind Qatar which rejected the Saudi-led bloc’s 13 demands before diplomatic relations could be restored, Adam Schreck and Maggie Hyde report at the AP.
The U.S.-Qatar agreement is “insufficient,” a joint statement from the four Arab nations said yesterday, adding that the memorandum resulted from their pressure on Qatar. Al Jazeera reports.
The U.S.-Qatar agreement did not satisfy the four Arab nations, the U.A.E.’s Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash stating yesterday that a “temporary solution is not a wise one,” Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.
The four Arab nations re-stated their 13 demands to Qatar yesterday before diplomatic ties could be restored, including reducing ties with Iran, shutting down the Al Jazeera news network, closing a Turkish military base in Qatar, and handing over all designated terrorists on its territory. Sylvia Westall reports at Reuters.
Qatar has been given 10 days to comply with the 13 demands and pay an unspecified compensation for “loss of life and other financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies,” Al Jazeera reports.
The timing of a leak of the “classified” Riyadh accords was questioned by Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani who said that the release of the publications, which were published by CNN on Monday and revealed agreements calling on Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.) members to refrain from supporting political groups that undermine G.C.C. countries constituted “clear efforts to diminish … the mediation by Kuwait, and the efforts of the United States to mediate this crisis.” Al Jazeera reports.
Iran and Oman have pledged to forge closer ties, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said today, making the comments amid the crisis enveloping the Gulf and denouncing the Saudi-led bloc for the sanctions imposed Qatar, France24 reports.
Turkey sent 197 cargo planes and other support to Qatar since the Gulf dispute began, according to Turkey’s Economy Minister Nihat Zeybecki said today, Reuters reports.
China’s warships conducted live-fire military drills in the Mediterranean Sea this week en route to joint exercises with the Russian navy, China’s defense ministry confirmed today, the AP reports.
China dispatched soldiers to its first overseas military base, in Djibouti, yesterday, a key part of its wide-ranging expansion of the role of its armed forces, the AP reports.
Turkish police killed five suspected Islamic State members in raids in Turkey’s central Konya province this morning, part of an investigation of an alleged Islamic State plot to attack a commemoration event, DW reports.
Lifting the state of emergency in place in Turkey since last year’s failed coup attempt is currently out of the question, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said today, Reuters reporting.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
President Trump will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris today where the two leaders will discuss collaboration on Syria and counterterrorism, Reuters’ Ayesha Rascoe reports.
A decision to permanently revoke sanctions against key U.S. counterterrorism ally Sudan was sidestepped by President Trump yesterday, who gave himself another three months to do so at a time when there is a dearth of Africa appointments in key U.S. departments, reports Katrina Manson at the Financial Times.
Further targeted unilateral sanctions on anyone who tried to hinder Democratic Republic of Congo’s already-delayed preparations for an election to replace President Joseph Kabila were threatened by the U.S. yesterday, Al Jazeera reports.
A possible $3.9 billion sale of Patriot air and missile defense systems to N.A.T.O. ally Romania was approved by the State Department, it confirmed yesterday, Ellen Mitchell reporting at the Hill.
The U.K. wants to purchase $1.04 billion worth of U.S.-made Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, the U.S. Defense Department said, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notifying Congress Monday that the State Department had approved the sale to support the “foreign policy and national security policies of the United States by helping to improve the security of a N.A.T.O. ally,” Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
A T.H.A.A.D. missile defense system successfully intercepted its target during a test run yesterday, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said, CNN’s Joshua Berlinger and Michael Callahan reporting.
International airlines threatened with the imposition of a ban on laptops in the cabins of flights bound for the U.S. are making progress on getting the ban lifted, with more carriers expected to follow the six airlines that have been exempted so far in the coming days, the Department of Homeland Security said, the Hill’s Melanie Zanona reports.
As the prospect of a “cyber 9/11” increases Congress should merge the various programs responsible for cybersecurity into one cabinet-level agency that also serves as the point of collaboration with the private economy – a risky but necessary response in the face of the magnitude of the danger and the present limits to America’s ability to defend against it, suggest H. Rodgin Cohen and John Evangelakos at the Wall Street Journal.