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 does not fault his son for meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016, a meeting “many people would have held” and of which he was unaware until a few days ago, he told Reuters’ Steve Holland yesterday.
The mood in the White House is “fantastic” despite the stepped-up scrutiny of his campaign’s dealings with Russia, Trump said yesterday, the BBC reporting.
President Trump’s policies run counter to Russia’s interests and President Putin would rather have had Hillary Clinton as U.S. president, Trump insisted in an interview yesterday, Michael C. Bender and Peter Nicholas report at the Wall Street Journal.
“There is nothing to investigate.” The release of the email chain between Trump Jr. and music promoter Rob Goldstone was the latest episode in a “long-running T.V. drama” that appeared timed to damage U.S.-Russia relations after last week’s meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said yesterday, Nathan Hodge reporting at the Wall Street Journal.
The reevaluation of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance following revelations that he attended a meeting with a Russian lawyer on the promise of information damaging the Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin was called for by a former ethics tsar in the Obama administration Norm Eisen yesterday, while Democratic Senators expressed more forceful positions including that Kushner should be fired, David Smith, Sabrina Siddiqui, Ben Jacobs and Amanda Holpuch report at the Guardian.
Aras Agalarov does not know Donald Trump Jr. or Rob Goldstone, the former Trump business partner whose name was mentioned in the email exchanges Trump Jr. published on Twitter Tuesday said yesterday. Natalya Abbakumova and Isaac Stanley-Becker report at the Washington Post.
Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was initially cleared into the U.S. by the Obama Justice Department under “extraordinary circumstances” before she went on to meet with Donald Trump Jr., according to court and Justice Department documents and interviews, report John Solomon and Jonathan Easley at the Hill.
Conversations between Russian government officials about Trump associates detected by U.S. intelligence agencies in spring 2015 are being re-examined following revelations that Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer last year, according to current and former U.S. officials, Shane Harris reporting at the Wall Street Journal.
The co-founder of the firm who hired form British spy Christopher Steele to compile a salacious dossier on now-President Trump will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week, the Hill’s Julia Manchester reports.
An article of impeachment against President Trump was filed by California Democrat Brad Sherman yesterday accusing Trump of obstructing investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election, Sherman acknowledging the article was “the first step on a very long road.” Al Jazeera reports.
Conspiracy or coincidence? Peter Baker takes a look at how the emails and meeting fit into the timeline of other events last summer at the New York Times.
“It’s pretty much a non-issue.” Anyone who imagines the Republican base will abandon President Trump over the latest Russia revelation is sorely mistaken, many members of the G.O.P. dismissing it as collusion between the Democratic Party and the media, if anything, observes Gabriel Debenedetti at POLITICO.
“Traitors.” Who leaked the story of Trump Jr.’s meeting? This is the question animating Trump’s staff, the same question that has been asked throughout an apparently unending series of damaging Russia stories, write The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay.
When will Trump have taken his alternate reality of fake news too far? Asks Aaron Blake writing at the Washington Post following Trump’s latest claim that Russian President Putin favored Hillary Clinton over himself, which runs counter to the intelligence community’s conclusions and his own son’s publicly-released emails.
If Russia is a hostile power, what does “hostile” mean? Not that Russia and the U.S. are about to go to war, and the two nations’ global interests– in theory, at least – not at too much of a divergence. What makes Russia hostile, argues the Washington Post editorial board, is President Putin’s adherence to and dependence on a set of values that are antithetical to those of the U.S. – at least until now.
British publicist Rob Goldstone’s association with well-connected but little-known Russian-Azerbaijani pop singer Emin Agalarov was what eventually placed him at the center of the controversy surrounding the Trump election campaign and allegations of Russian interference, Cynthia O’Murchu and David Bond explain at the Financial Times.
CHRISTOPHER WRAY SENATE HEARING
President Trump’s pick to head the F.B.I. Christopher Wray promised to be independent and not to let politics sidetrack F.B.I. investigations during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, which took place two months after his predecessor James Comey was fired by the President, Del Quentin Wilber and Aruna Viswanatha reflecting on the hearing at the Wall Street Journal.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump-Russia collusion is not a witch hunt, Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, adding that he would quit if the president asked him to do anything illegal. The BBC reports.
While Wray’s testimony was encouraging, lawmakers must also demonstrate that they deserve public trust, a test the G.O.P. majority is failing with its reaction to revelations that Donald Trump Jr. sought damaging material about Hillary Clinton from a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer during last year’s presidential campaign, writes the Washington Post editorial board.
Procedural spats holding up new Russia sanctions in the House are prompting growing frustration among lawmakers as concern about Moscow’s interference in the presidential election grows, the Hill’s Jordain Carney and Cristina Marcos report.
The General Services Administration will remove Russian cybersecurity form Kaspersky Lab-manufactured products from a list of outside products approved for use by government agencies “after review and careful consideration,” a spokesperson confirmed yesterday, Morgan Chalfant reporting at the Hill.
President Trump arrived in Paris this morning where he is due to take meetings at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence before being formally welcomed by his host French President Emmanuel Macron, CNN’s Kevin Liptak reports.
The visit is intended to focus on the long relationship between the U.S. and France, particularly on the battlefield, with the two leaders expected to focus heavily on the Syrian war and weakening the Islamic State during their private discussions, administration officials from other countries said, despite Trump and Macron’s until-now confrontational relationship, write the Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson and James McAuley.
The invitation to witness the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris from President Macron may establish France’s standing as America’s main point of contact in Europe, suggests Adam Nossiter at the New York Times.
Face-to-face talks between negotiators from the Syrian government and opposition groups could happen soon, U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura said today, but did not set out a specific date, stating that he is not “pushing for it” because he wants the talks to be “real” rather than a “row,” Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay report at Reuters.
A suicide bomber killed at least 12 jihadist rebels in the Syrian city of Idlib yesterday, according to a rebel source, Reuters reports.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 14 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 11. Separately, partner forces conducted five strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
Drone footage reveals that fighting against the Islamic State in the Iraqi city of Mosul continues and at least 100 civilians are trapped by the fighting, despite the fact that official victory against the Islamic State was announced Monday, Gabriel Chaim reports at the New York Times.
What comes after the fall of Mosul? The scale of the challenge should not be underestimated and the Trump administration has neglected to develop a comprehensive postwar strategy for Mosul – a necessary approach if Iraq is to establish itself as a stable and pluralistic country, the New York Times editorial board writes.
The military successes against the Islamic State must be followed by political and economic campaigns, while the liberation of Mosul and the impending defeat of the Islamic State in the Syrian city of Raqqa must be celebrated, military defeat does not constitute a defeat of their ideology and the U.S. must maintain a military presence and work with coalition partners to achieve stability and security. Former U.S. defense secretary Ash Carter writes at the Washington Post.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Qatar for an unexpected second visit today to discuss the Gulf crisis, which started when Saudi Arabia, U.A.E., Egypt and Bahrain diplomatically isolated Qatar on June 5 due to Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, Al Jazeera reports in rolling coverage.
A breakthrough in the dispute between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc remains elusive after yesterday’s talks in Saudi Arabia, as Tillerson’s attempts to mediate the dispute failed to bear fruit and the four Arab nations stated that the U.S.-Qatar agreement to counter funding of terrorism fell short of their demands before diplomatic relations can be restored, Carol Morello reports at the Washington Post.
“The amount of support for terrorism by Saudi Arabia dwarfs what Qatar is doing,” the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said yesterday, adding that he felt the dispute was propelled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who committed a “rookie mistake,” Al Jazeera reports.
An Al Jazeera network cameraman collaborated with Egypt’s security agency and reportedly coordinated with the security service in his lawsuit against the network for knowingly endangering his life, Al Jazeera reports.
The U.S. delay in permanently lifting sanctions against Sudan, a decision it was expected to make this week, has drawn criticism from Khartoum and may endanger potential intelligence-sharing and counterterrorism efforts, writes Matina Stevis at the Wall Street Journal.
The decision to delay lifting the sanctions against Sudan may hint at a new strategy toward North Korea and its nuclear weapons, a hint contained in the State Department’s news release Tuesday, which stated that the U.S. would need to ensure that Sudan “is committed to the full implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea,” writes Adam Taylor at the Washington Post.
Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have pressed for action on a new authorization for the use of military force (A.U.M.F.) against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the White House indicating limited support for the A.U.M.F. which would specifically target Islamic State, al-Qaeda and the Taliban and give lawmakers greater oversight over the President’s use of military force. Ellen Mitchell reports at the Hill.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) met on the House floor to discuss Lee’s amendment introduced last month that would repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (A.U.M.F.) and oblige Congress to vote on a new bill yesterday, Lee’s office confirmed to the Hill’s Ellen Mitchell.
A spending bill that would cut State Department funding by 14 percent from current levels in fiscal 2018 was proposed by the House Appropriations Committee yesterday, the Hill’s Niv Elis reports.
A series of U.S. Marine aviation crashes should be a cause for concern and the potential problems, such as the combination of funding cuts and old equipment, should be discussed, the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.
“[Act] for the sake of peace,” U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed urged yesterday, the U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien adding that the actions of the warring parties and their backers are causing Yemenis “unfathomable pain and suffering,” Edith M. Lederer reports at the AP.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ strategy of putting pressure on Hamas in the Gaza Strip may push Hamas to start firing rockets at Israel again, and Abbas’ high-risk tactics of stopping medical patients from leaving Gaza and cutting electricity payments has created further division and may also push Hamas toward Abbas’ rival Mohammed Dahlan. William Booth and Hazem Balousha explain at the Washington Post.
Hundreds of militants have sought refuge along Libya’s Mediterranean coastline following a series of victories against extremist Islamist militants, the lack of effective border control giving militants the opportunity to make money “from smuggling and arms trading,” according to Brig. Gen. Abdullah Nouredeen of the Libyan National Army. Rami Musa and Hamza Hendawi report at the AP.
The U.K. government has decided not to publish its report on the sources of funding of extremism in Britain in full, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said yesterday, prompting criticism that the government is trying to shield ally Saudi Arabia. Al Jazeera reports.
North Korea’s testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (I.C.B.M.) brings the country closer to being able to launch a nuclear attack against the U.S., but North Korea’s technicians have more work to do to develop an accurate I.C.B.M. that reaches beyond Alaska and Hawaii, Eric Talmadge explains at the AP.
Smaller social network sites face challenges in dealing with extremist users, finding difficulties identifying and reporting accounts that support terrorism due to lack of resources, language-barriers and confusion over the relevant jurisdiction, Alex Hern reports at the Guardian.
Israeli police have questioned the cousin and personal attorney of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his involvement in a $1.5bn deal for German submarines, raising possible conflict of interest issues, the AP reports.
President Trump has put his signature on America’s China policy, delivering three “blows” to China in June: sanctions on Chinese entities for abetting North Korea’s financial transactions; listing China in the category of worst offenders of human trafficking, and announcing a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan, as well as a series of “lesser jabs, putting Beijing on notice that Trump’s transactional approach is real, as are the potential consequences for failing to make a deal. Michael Auslin writes at the Wall Street Journal.