The Early Edition: November 26, 2018

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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.

IMMIGRATION

A non-violent march by Central American migrants at the southwestern U.S. border spiraled out of control yesterday afternoon, with hundreds attempting to evade a Mexican police blockade and run toward the major San Ysidro border crossing that leads into San Diego. In response, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency (C.B.P.) shut down the border crossing in both directions, firing tear gas to force the migrants back from the border fence. Maya Averbuch and Elisabeth Malkin report at the New York Times.

Mexico’s Interior Ministry claimed that around 500 migrants had tried to enter the U.S. “violently,” issuing a statement pledging to deport the migrants and reinforce security. Meanwhile, U.S. Homeland Security (D.H.S.) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement that U.S. authorities will maintain a “robust” presence along the Southwest border and that anyone who damages federal property or violates U.S. sovereignty will be prosecuted, adding: “D.H.S. will not tolerate this type of lawlessness and will not hesitate to shut down ports of entry for security and public safety reasons,” the AP reports. 

The D.H.S. statement alleged that during the day there were “multiple instances of persons throwing projectiles at CBP personnel,” in addition to “multiple confirmed apprehensions” of those who tried to enter the U.S. illegally and “many additional attempts to cross the border illegally. Before 9 p.m. Eastern time, C.B.P announced that the port of entry had reopened, Sarah Kinosian and Joshua Partlow report at the Washington Post

“Would be very SMART if Mexico would stop the Caravans long before they get to our Southern Border,” President Trump said in a message on Twitter yesterday – adding: “or if originating countries would not let them form (it is a way they get certain people out of their country and dump in U.S. … No longer).” Scott Bixby reports at The Daily Beast.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) yesterday slated Trump for having “gut-punched” Congress’ legislative efforts to reform the U.S. immigration system, also claiming that lawmakers are prepared to raise federal funding for border security in exchange for certain reform measures. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,“ Klobuchar said that the president has “chosen […] to weaponize” and “politicize” the issue of immigration, Quint Forgey reports at POLITICO.

Incoming House Oversight Committee chairperson Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.,) yesterday claimed that any attempt by President Trump to keep migrants from claiming asylum in the U.S. would be illegal. “That’s not the law … they should be allowed to come in, seek asylum,” Cummings said during an interview on “Meet the Press,” suggesting that Congress will act if the president pushes ahead with the current policy, Leigh Ann Caldwell reports at NBC.

“Your plan to make Central American immigrants wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed– along with your threats to close the border entirely – could put a serious strain on Mexican resources … and your own budding relationship with President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador,” Samantha Vinograd warns President Trump in a “weekly briefing” at CNN.

A detailed account of yesterday’s border violence – “a serious escalation in the tensions that have roiled Tijuana in recent weeks” – is provided by Wendy Fry and Sonali Kohli at the LA Times.

An analysis of the legal framework underpinning the U.S. Military’s role at the Southern Border, with a particular focus on the “extraordinary” Cabinet order signed on November 20 by White House chief of staff John Kelly authorizing active duty soldiers to perform functions in defense of border agents, is provided by William Banks at Just Security.

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins last week announced in a Tuscon courtroom that Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz has been found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the killing of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez. Rodriguez (16) was killed in October 2012 when Swartz shot 16 rounds through the border fence from Nogales, Arizona, into Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, Ana Alderstein reports at NPR.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE RELATIONS

Russian coast guard forces detained three Ukrainian naval ships yesterday, opening fire on the boats and injuring six crew members, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service. The developments threaten to escalate tensions between Moscow and Kiev toward open confrontation and place renewed pressure on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko months before he seeks re-election, Thomas Grove reports at the Wall Street Journal.

The three Ukrainian ships were seized when were sailing in the Kerch strait off the coast of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014. Ukraine said Russia rammed one of its boats in an “act of aggression,” while Russia said the ships had illegally entered its waters, the BBC reports.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley yesterday announced that the Security Council will hold an emergency meeting over the Ukrainian-Russian dispute. “An emergency Security Council meeting has been called for tomorrow at 11:00am,” Haley stated in a message on Twitter, Brandon Conradis reports at the Hill.

Russia today resisted international calls today to release the three vessels. Instead, Moscow said it had opened a criminal case into the ships’ movements; meanwhile, spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry – Maria Zakharova – accused Ukraine of sending the ships to deliberately provoke Russia and said the ranking diplomat at Kiev’s embassy in Moscow would be summoned over the incident, Reuters reports.

Ukraine is today planning to impose martial law, with President Poroshenko ordering an emergency session of Verkhovna Rada – Ukraine’s lower house of parliament – to approve measure for a period of 60 days. Poroshenko cautioned that the step does not mean a declaration of war against Russia: “Ukraine is not planning a war against anyone,” he told the National Security and Defense Council early this morning, Al Jazeera reports.

Live updates on the developing altercation are provided at the AP.

RUSSIA: OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Russia’s foreign ministry today denied having any missiles that violate the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces arms control treaty (I.N.F.), that the U.S. has announced it plans to quit due to violations by Moscow. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters that the missile that Washington claims is contravening the pact has not been tested at a range banned by the treaty – adding that the U.S. has determined that Russia is guilty before receiving evidence to the contrary, Reuters reports.

Opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin were delighted Wednesday by the election of South Korean as the new president of Interpol, which saw Kim defeat the candidacy of former Russian Interior Ministry official Alexander Prokopchuk. Nathan Hodge explains in an analysis at CNN.

An explainer on the role of Interpol is provided at the Economist.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

 U.S. District Court Judge Randy Moss yesterday rejected a “last-ditch” bid by former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to delay his upcoming federal prison sentence. In a 13-page opinion issued just a day before Papapdopoulos was scheduled to report to serve his two-week sentence for making false statements to F.B.I. agents investigating alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia, Moss ruled that Papadopoulos’ legal arguments were not sufficient to delay the sentence he had imposed in in September, Josh Gerstein reports at POLITICO.

Legal scholar and Trump defender Alan Dershowitz said yesterday that the forthcoming report on Russian interference in the 2016 election by special counsel Robert Mueller will be “devastating” for the president. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Deshowitz added that “I know that the President’s team is already working on a response to the report,” Paul leBlanc reports at CNN.

JAMAL KHASHOGGI KILLING

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) yesterday offered a direct rebuke of President Trump’s assessment of the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, claiming that the president’s conclusion is “inconsistent with the intelligence I’ve seen.” In an extraordinary statement last week, Trump essentially absolved Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the murder, despite the C.I.A.’s apparent conclusion that the crown prince ordered the assassination of Khashoggi; Lee told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “intelligence I’ve seen suggests that this was ordered by the crown prince,” The Daily Beast reports.

Senators expect to receive a briefing this week from senior Trump administration officials on Saudi Arabia that could determine whether Congress moves ahead with imposing sanctions on the kingdom or blocking a major arms sale. Two congressional sources said an “all-senators briefing” is expected when the Senate returns to Washington after the Thanksgiving recess – a briefing that one Republican Senate aide described as “really important,” adding: “I’m not sure adding sanctions will happen but the Saudi situation is not over,” Alexander Bolton reports at the Hill.

SYRIA

Russia has carried out air strikes against Syrian rebels it accuses of launching a chemical attack on the government-held city of Aleppo. Both Syria and its Russian allies claim that shells carrying toxic gas injured about 100 people late Saturday, the BBC reports.

A leader in the Turkey backed rebel organization National Liberation Front (N.L.F.) has dismissed accusations that the organization used poisonous gas in the attacks. “I believe that this is an act carried out by the government … we’ve seen it in Ghouta and in Khan Sheikhoun in the past and the international community remained silent,” N.L.F. legislative office head Omar Huthayfa told reporters, Al Jazeera reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 168 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria between Nov. 11. and Nov. 17. [Central Command] 

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A Taliban ambush of a police convoy in western Afghanistan killed 20 policemen while 10 troops died in an insurgent attack on an army checkpoint in the north, according to Afghan officials today. Amir Shah reports at the AP.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Saturday called on Muslims across the world to unite against the U.S. In an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states which have close ties to Washington, Rouhani added: “submitting to the West headed by America would be treason against our religion … and against the future generations of this region … we have a choice to either roll out red carpets for criminals, or to forcefully stand against injustice and remain faithful to our Prophet, our Koran and our Islam,” Reuters reports.

Rep. Trey Gowdy  (R-S.C.) yesterday suggested recording a private interview with former F.B.I. Director James Comey, after Comey said he would comply with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena only if it meant holding a public hearing. Brett Samuels reports at the Hill.

Protesters in cities across Europe and elsewhere yesterday marked U.N. International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, with tens of thousands turning out in Madrid and demonstrators in Istanbul being met with tear gas. The AP reports. 

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About the Author(s)

Robbie Stern

Assistant News Editor at Just Security and Legal Researcher at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK - Follow him on Twitter (@robbieguystern).