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.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort surrendered to the F.B.I. this morning and the former Trump campaign official Rick Gates has been told to turn himself in. Manafort was indicted under seal by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which was obtained by a federal grand jury in Washington, on Friday. Matt Apuzzo reports at the New York Times.
The indictment is expected to be unsealed later today and the extent of the charges are not immediately known, Evan Perez and Jeremy Herb report at CNN.
Mueller’s investigation has also been considering whether Trump obstructed justice by firing former F.B.I. Director James Comey and the business dealings of Trump’s associates, and the president and his team have strenuously denied obstruction and any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Aruna Viswanatha and Del Quentin Wilbur report at the Wall Street Journal.
The President took to Twitter at the weekend to denounce the Russia investigations, urging for the investigations to focus on the 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, her use of private email and connections to an Obama-era uranium deal with Russia, adding in a tweet that the lack of an investigation into the dossier compiled by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele – partly paid by Democrats and the Clinton – which alleged links between his campaign and Russia had led Republican “anger” and “unity.” Julie Hirschfeld David reports at the New York Times, explaining how the president has sought to shift the focus away from his 2016 presidential campaign.
Republicans have questioned how information about the indictment was received with Trump’s longtime friend and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie saying that the leak of the charges may amount to a “criminal violation” and that confidentiality of the grand jury is essential for Republicans to have confidence in the process. Jenna Johnson reports at the Washington Post.
“Make no mistake, disclosing grand jury material is a violation of the law,” the House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said yesterday, adding that Mueller’s team must focus on “cutting out the leaks with respect to serious investigations.” Victoria Guida reports at POLITICO.
Mueller’s team have interviewed a number of current and former senior Trump officials and associates, including former White house chief of staff Reince Priebus, former spokesperson Sean Spicer and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. John Whitesides reports at Reuters, providing some context to the Mueller investigation.
The president has “no concerns” that information that may be provided by his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort or former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn to prosecutors would have “any impact,” the White House lawyer Ty Cobb said last week. Manafort and Flynn have been the subject of intense speculation due to their alleged ties to Russia, Matt Apuzzo reports at the New York Times.
Top lawmakers were unaware of the potential indictments, including the ranking Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), who said yesterday that he believed the charges were “likely to be either Mike Flynn or Paul Manafort.” Mallory Shelbourne reports at the Hill.
The role of opposition research firm Fusion GPS has drawn the scrutiny of the congressional investigations into Russia interference, the firm hired Steele to compile the dossier alleging links between the Trump campaign and Russia and reached a settlement with the House of Representatives at the weekend allowing it to protect its clients privacy in exchange for the panel receiving access to all documents needed for its investigation. Byron Tau reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The mood in Washington is one of anticipation as the charges may bring significant implications for the president and his legislative agenda. Stephen Collinson explains at CNN.
A timeline of the Mueller investigation is provided by Julian Manchester at the Hill.
The five key things to watch for following the indictment are set out by Barbara McQuade at The Daily Beast.
Trump could shut down Mueller’s investigation and leave the matter in the hands of Congress, the remit of Mueller’s investigation has been too wide and the claim that he may have obstructed justice is “frivolous.” David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey argue at the Wall Street Journal that the president should use his authority to issue pardons to avoid the criminal law being used as a political weapon.
“I cannot imagine a condition under which the U.S. would accept North Korea as a nuclear power,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday during a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, but played down talk of reintroducing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea. Jonathan Cheng and Gordon Lubold report at the Wall Street Journal.
“Any use of weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response,” Mattis also said, making the comments amid concerns about the impact conventional weaponry would have should a war break out on the Korean Peninsula. Adam Taylor reports at the Washington Post.
The U.S., South Korea and Japan called on North Korea to “refrain from irresponsible provocations,” the three countries said in a statement yesterday, following a meeting between their respective senior defense officials. Reuters reports.
“Somebody has got to talk to him,” the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ahead of a visit to Japan, the AP reports.
The increasing threat posed by North Korea and its technological advances have prompted South Korea and Japan to seriously consider developing their own nuclear arsenal. David E. Sanger, Choe Sang-Hun and Motoko Rich explain at the New York Times.
Another round of Russia-, Iran- and Turkey-sponsored Syria peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana have started today, with the aim of finalizing a plan for four “de-escalation” zones across the country, Al Jazeera reports.
The key points about the Astana talks are set out at Al Jazeera.
Syrian government shelling of a rebel-held area of the capital of Damascus killed at least 11 civilians and hit a school yesterday, Sarah El Deeb reports at the AP.
Islamic State fighters retreating from a town in the central Homs province released 25 apparent hostages yesterday, according to the Governor of Homs. Pro-Syrian government forces recaptured the town from the militants last week, the AP reports.
Russia hopes that Turkey can “fulfil their part of the obligations” in Syria’s Idlib province and “stabilize the situation,” a senior Russian diplomat said today according to the R.I.A. news agency, Reuters reporting.
Islamic State militants have been moving further into Syria’s desert as their self-proclaimed “caliphate” crumbles, the desert provides the possibility for hideouts from which to could launch an insurgency relying on guerilla-style attacks. Bassem Mroue explains at the AP.
Israel’s “Good Neighbor” policy, which offers humanitarian support for Syrians across the border, has sought to change Syrian perceptions of Israel. Neri Zilber explains at POLITICO Magazine.
President Masoud Barzani of Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (K.R.G.) resigned yesterday, weeks after he organized a controversial independence referendum which drew the ire of the central government in Baghdad and the international community. Isabel Coles and Ali Nabhan report at the Wall Street Journal.
The independence referendum organized by Barzani backfired, rolling back many of the gains the Kurds had made in northern Iraq. Barzani blamed the international community for betraying the Kurdish people, including political opponents who had worked with Baghdad and the U.S., and added that the overwhelming vote in favor of independence could not be “erased by history.” Tamer El-Ghobashy reports at the Washington Post.
How can Baghdad and the Kurdistan region resolve their differences? Zaid al-Ali sets out the possibility of a federal Iraq at Al Jazeera.
The U.S. Special Forces team in Niger was part of a larger mission before it was ambushed on Oct. 4, new information shows, however the mission, which is thought to have included an armed drone, was blocked by the chain of command. Julian E. Barnes, Nancy A. Youssef and Ben Kesling report at the Wall Street Journal.
The extent of the U.S. mission in Niger and Mali has come under scrutiny following the deadly ambush which killed four U.S. Special Forces members. Dionne Searcey and Eric Schmitt explain the U.S.’s role and the security situation at the New York Times.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) Yukiya Amano confirmed that Iran has been implementing its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, following a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other senior officials yesterday. The UN News Centre reports.
“We have built, are building and will continue to build missiles, and this violates no international agreements,” Rouhani said yesterday, making the comments after U.S. lawmakers in the House voted to impose new sanctions against the country’s ballistic missile program. Max Greenwood reports at the Hill.
Rouhani turned down a meeting with Trump during his visit to New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly in September, according to Iran’s foreign ministry, the AP reports.
Russia has been using its oil giant Rosneft as a tool to build foreign relations in areas where the U.S. has struggled to exert influence or has neglected, Clifford Krauss explains at the New York Times.
The Trump administration has been considering plans to provide Ukraine with defensive weapons in light of the threat posed by Russia, and “Trump must now decide if he will help Ukraine fend off Russian aggression.” Josh Rogin writes at the Washington Post.
AUTHORIZATION ON THE USE OF MILITARY FORCE
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are set to testify before the Senate on the authorization on the use of military force (A.U.M.F.) today, increased scrutiny of the power has come following the Oct. 4 ambush in Niger. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.
The power authorizing most U.S. military action abroad is based on the 2001 A.U.M.F. following the Sept. 11 attacks, Patricia Zengerle reports at Reuters.
A new A.U.M.F. could lead to “even more of a blank check” to the president, opening the possibility of Trump’s military mandate being expanded. Andrew Desiderio and Spencer Ackerman write at The Daily Beast.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FOREIGN POLICY
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner took an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia last week and was accompanied by national security adviser Dina Powell and Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt. Annie Karni reports at POLITICO.
Trump must speak up about the plight of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, and should use his upcoming trip to Southeast Asia as an opportunity to make a statement. The Washington Post editorial board writes.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley’s recent trip to Africa demonstrates the nature of her relationship with the president which is unusually direct, Anne Gearan explains at the Washington Post.
Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani is open to U.S.-hosted direct talks to resolve the Gulf crisis, the ruler said yesterday, referring to the diplomatic isolation of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, U.A.E. and Bahrain on June 5 due to Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism and ties to Iran. Reuters reports.
“Bahrain will not attend the G.C.C. [Gulf Cooperation Council] summit and sit with Qatar,” Bahrain’s foreign minister said yesterday, Al Jazeera reports.
The U.S. Navy has launched a homicide investigation into the death of a Special Forces soldier in Mali in June, two members of the elite Navy SEALS Team Six are under investigation. Barbara Starr, Eli Watkins and Ryan Browne report at CNN.
A military judge has said that the three civilian lawyers who quit the U.S.S. Cole case being held at Guantánamo Bay could not leave the case without his permission, one of the lawyers argued that the “order is illegal and neither I nor the other civilians are going to Guantánamo.” Carol Rosenberg reports at the Miami Herald.
Israel has delayed a bill aimed at entrenching settlements in the West Bank under pressure from the U.S., officials said yesterday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quoted as saying that there would be more coordination with the U.S. on the bill. Tia Goldenberg reports at the AP.
A U.S. citizen being held captive by the Taliban is in poor health, the Taliban spokesperson said in a statement today, saying that the U.S. would be held responsible should anything happen to him. The AP reports.
A mass grave containing 36 bodies was discovered near the Libyan city of Benghazi last week, the AP reports.