The Early Edition: April 10, 2019

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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.

D.H.S. SHAKEUP and IMMIGRATION POLICY

President Trump has signaled that he wants an even tougher immigration policy, pointing at a new direction following the resignation of Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and comments from White House officials that they are looking at a so-called “binary choice” proposal, which would be a modified version of the family separation policy. John Burnett and Mara Liasson report at NPR.

Trump said yesterday that he would not revive the policy to separate migrant families, denying reports that he has been pushing for it. Betsy Klein reports at CNN.

An anonymous administration official said that the so-called “binary choice” proposal is on the table but is “not ripe for consideration” at this point because there is a lack of detention space to hold families should the policy be implemented. Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report at the New York Times.

More D.H.S. officials could be forced out by the Trump administration, according to an official familiar with the situation. Andy Sullivan and Roberta Rampton report at Reuters.

The White House said in a statement yesterday that it would appeal a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling blocking the administration policy to send asylum seekers to Mexico while they await a decision on their legal right to stay in the U.S. The statement followed a message sent by President Trump on Twitter which called the decision “so unfair to the U.S.” The BBC reports.

The implications of the U.S. District Court judge ruling on migrants who have already been sent to Mexico by the Trump administration is unclear. Andrew Hay and Jose Gallego Espina explain at Reuters.

The inside story of the Trump administration’s chaotic handling of the D.H.S. and immigration policy is provided by David Nakamura, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim at the Washington Post.

Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns about Trump’s moves to purge officials at the D.H.S. and other agencies, fearing that the White House aide Stephen Miller is increasing his influence within the administration in order to pursuit his hard-line immigration agenda. Burgess Everett, John Bresnahan and Melanie Zanona report at POLITICO.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice will be delivered to Congress within a week, Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers yesterday, adding that he would provide details on redactions. Sadie Gurman and Byron Tau report at the Wall Street Journal.

Barr did not tell lawmakers whether he had briefed President Trump on the report and did not explain why he found that the president had not committed an obstruction-of-justice offense despite the fact that Mueller’s team had not made a determination on the matter. Katie Benner reports at the New York Times.

Barr has established a team to look into allegations that the beginnings of the Russia investigation were motivated by animus towards President Trump, according to an individual familiar with the matter. The Attorney General told Congress yesterday that he was reviewing the “conduct of the investigation” in an effort to determine “all aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016.” Christ Strohm and Billy House report at Bloomberg.

Barr said he would not ask for the release of grand jury materials related to the Mueller investigation, saying that the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) generally provides that proceedings from the grand jury be kept secret. Morgan Chalfant and Olivia Beavers report at the Hill.

“It was clear for us from the start that it would end like this,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday of Mueller’s investigation, dismissing the report and allegations of Russian interference; adding “a mountain gave birth to a mouse.” Vladimir Isachenkov and Irina Titova report at the AP.

“Congress has a responsibility, rooted firmly in the Constitution, to safeguard the integrity of the justice system, including to prevent obstruction of justice,” Just Security Editor Asha Rangappa writes at POLITICO Magazine, arguing that Congress must see the Mueller report.

An analysis of Barr’s congressional testimony is provided by Chris Cillizza at CNN.

LIBYA

The airport in the Libyan capital of Tripoli was reopened yesterday after it was closed following an airstrike on Monday conducted by forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar. The U.N. special representative for Libya, Ghassan Salame, called Monday’s airstrike “a serious violation of international humanitarian law.” Mike Ives and David D. Kirkpatrick report at the New York Times.

Gen. Haftar’s forces have been battling with forces loyal to the government in Tripoli today, forcing thousands of residents to flee the area. Ahmed Elumami and Tom Miles report at Reuters.

A U.N.-led conference to advance peace in Libya has been postponed in light of the increased violence in Tripoli. The U.N. News Centre reports.

Gen. Haftar’s military campaign has been pursued despite warnings by Western diplomats last month not to launch the offensive, Ulf Laessing explains at Reuters.

France, Russia, Egypt, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia and others have failed to condemn Gen. Haftar’s march on Tripoli, reinforcing their support for the “renegade” general in spite of his authoritarian leanings. Sudarsan Raghavan explains at the Washington Post.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears on track for re-election and is poised to head the next ruling coalition. Live updates are available at Haaretz.

Netanyahu may also want to thank President Trump if he is victorious. Adam Taylor provides an overview at the Washington Post of the actions Trump has taken in order to bolster the Israeli Prime Minister.

The KOREAN PENINSULA

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to meet with President Trump at the White House tomorrow to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Moon hopes to establish a plan for continued talks between the U.S. and North Korea after the last round of talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un collapsed. Timothy W. Martin and Dasl Yoon report at the Wall Street Journal.

Kim today called a meeting of high-level North Korean officials to address the “prevailing tense situation,” making the comments ahead of Moon’s visit to Washington. The AFP reports.

AFGHANISTAN

Violence has increased in Afghanistan this week ahead of another round of peace talks to end the 18-year war, with the fighting leading to dozens of deaths from Afghan forces and the Taliban. Taimoor Shah and Mujib Mashal report at the New York Times.

The Taliban raided border checkpoints on Monday night killing 20 troops, an official said yesterday. Rahim Faiez reports at the AP.

A U.S. military contractor who was reported dead following a Taliban attack on Monday was found alive yesterday, according to a U.S. military official. The car bomb near the Bagram Airbase killed three U.S. service members, Courtney Kube reports at NBC News.

The European Union “stands ready to support the [Afghanistan] peace process, including its implementation,” E.U. foreign ministers said after a meeting on Monday in Luxembourg. Laurence Norman and Craig Nelson report at the Wall Street Journal.

IRAN

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei yesterday condemned the U.S. decision to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (I.R.G.C.) as a foreign terrorist organization, calling it a “vicious move” that will “bear no fruit.” Parisa Hafezi reports at Reuters.

Iraq’s Prime Minister said yesterday that his government tried to stop the U.S. from blacklisting the I.R.G.C. and stated that his country would continue to invest in its relationship with both the U.S. and Iran. The AP reports.

An overview of the I.R.G.C.’s power in Iran and across the region is provided by Alissa J. Rubin at the New York Times.

President Trump yesterday discussed “maintaining maximum pressure against Iran,” Middle East stability and human rights with Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a White House readout of their call. Brett Samuels reports at the Hill.

SYRIA

Islamic State militants yesterday attacked a military post held by Syrian government forces, killing three soldiers according to state media. Separately, a suicide bomber attempted to attack a U.S.-led international coalition patrol convoy, the AP reports.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 250 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria between March 10 and March 23 [Central Command]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to a series of Latin American countries this week to highlight the situation in Venezuela and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Western Hemisphere. Courtney McBride reports at the Wall Street Journal.

Turkish President Reçep Tayyip Erdogan said today that his country could buy jets and additional air defense systems from Russia should the U.S. decline to sell them missile shields and F-35 jets. Tuvan Gumrucku reports at Reuters.

The U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes against two rebel Houthi targets in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a today, according to a coalition spokesperson. No casualties have been reported, but residents said a house was also hit in the strikes, Reuters reporting.

“I am not and I don’t think anybody is satisfied with the state of the proposal” from the Trump administration for a Space Force, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters yesterday. Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill. 

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About the Author(s)

Pouneh Ahari

Assistant News Editor at Just Security and Legal Researcher at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK