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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.
The Department of Justice (D.O.J.) plans to release a lightly redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 400-page report today, which will provide a detailed insight into the allegations of obstruction facing the president, according to people familiar with the matter. The D.O.J. has already briefed the White House on the general details of the report, which will allegedly reveal that Mueller decided he could not come to a conclusion on the question of obstruction because it was difficult to determine Trump’s intent and because some of his actions could be interpreted innocently, Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig , Rosalind S. Helderman and Devlin Barrett report at the Washington Post.
Attorney General William Barr will answer questions about the report at a press conference scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EDT today, with Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller nearly two years ago and oversaw his work, also present. Barr is expected to provide an overview of the report and address “process questions” relating to it, according to a senior D.O.J. official. Sadie Gurman reports at the Wall Street Journal.
The D.O.J. will not deliver the redacted version of the report to Congress until after Barr’s press conference, according to a Democratic aide. The aide said lawmakers on Capitol Hill would receive the report at 11 a.m., Jacqueline Thomsen and Brandon Conradis report at the Hill.
House Democrats responded angrily yesterday to the plans for a press conference, accusing the D.O.J. of trying to spin the report’s contents and insulate the president. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Claif.) sent a message on Twitter arguing that Barr had “thrown out his credibility & the DOJ’s independence with his single-minded effort to protect @realDonaldTrump above all else,” adding “the American people deserve the truth, not a sanitized version of the Mueller Report approved by the Trump Admin,” Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney report at POLITICO.
The D.O.J. plans to provide key members of Congress with a more complete version of the report than what will be made public today, prosecutors told a federal judge yesterday. The plan was disclosed in a court filing in the case against long-time Trump confidant Roger Stone, Katelyn Polantz reports at CNN.
“I haven’t read it … but it’s just wholly unnecessary,” Trump attorney John Dowd commented regarding the forthcoming report, projecting that its publication may spell trouble for the president. “You just don’t need it … it’s pure mischief,” Dowd added, The Daily Beast reports.
An account of the behind-the-scenes discussions between D.O.J. and White House officials, and the “paranoia” amongst top Trump aides, is provided by Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner at the New York Times.
A separate Russia probe headed by D.O.J. inspector general Michael Horowitz could land as soon as next month, and is expected to take aim at the dossier provided by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele that contained salacious information about the president. One former U.S. official left an interview with Horowitz with the impression that the Inspector General’s final report “is going to try and deeply undermine” Steele, Natasha Bertrand reports at POLITICO.
TRUMP-RUSSIA: OPINION AND ANALYSIS
“As always … Trump will act as his own communications director and public relations crisis manager,” Nancy Cook writes at POLITICO, projecting how the White House will likely handle the report’s release, noting: “already he’s distilled the message down to a simple Twitter statement, before he’s seen the report: “No Collusion – No Obstruction!”
Although Attorney General William Barr’ “is essentially asking Congress and the public to take him at his word that his redactions will be proper,” there is cause to be skeptical about Barr’s judgment, the Washington Post editorial board comments, arguing that “there may be no satisfying end to this national saga until an independent referee steps in to sort out the controversy.”
The Mueller report is likely to unearth presidential behavior that – although legal – is nonetheless reprehensible, John Neffinger comments at NBC, writing: “no matter how much the president crows that he’s been vindicated, remember how much we didn’t need Mueller to reveal, and how frighteningly little Republicans seem to care”
“Those who oppose Trump and value our institutions will see that even this limited release of the Mueller report is one more battle in a long war,” Rick Wilson comments at The Daily Beast.
The KOREAN PENINSULA
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday supervised the test-firing of a new “tactical” weapon with a “powerful warhead,” state media outlet K.C.N.A. reported today, marking the first test of its kind since denuclearization talks with Washington stalled. The test marks an acceleration in tensions, just weeks after a summit between Kim and U.S. President Trump in Hanoi collapsed without agreement, AFP reports.
“The completion of the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power” of the North Korean army, Kim was quoted as saying. The exact class of weapon tested is not known, but “tactical” implies a short-range weapon, as opposed to the long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the U.S., the Guardian reports.
The test was reportedly “conducted in various modes of firing at different targets,” with K.C.N.A. also reporting that Kim “guided the test-fire.” The announcement comes a day after U.S. monitor the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that activity had been detected at North Korea’s main nuclear site, Al Jazeera reports.
Pyongyang has attempted to intensify pressure on the U.S. by demanding that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is removed from nuclear negotiations. A senior North Korean diplomat today accused Pompeo of “reckless remarks” that had undermined talks between Kim and Trump, urging his replacement as the U.S. point man, Seyoon Kim, Youkyung Lee , and Justin Sink report at Bloomberg.
President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner yesterday urged a group of ambassadors to keep an “open mind” about the president’s upcoming Middle East peace proposal and said it will require compromises from both sides, according to a source familiar with his remarks. Kushner said the peace plan is to be unveiled after Israel forms a governing coalition following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory and after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, reportedly adding “we will all have to look for reasonable compromises that will make peace achievable,” Reuters reports.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin yesterday formally nominated Benjamin Netanyahu for a fourth consecutive term as prime minister, officially kick-starting a process expected to result in a new government dominated by religious and nationalist parties in the coming weeks, the AP reports.
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels yesterday lambasted President Trump’s veto of the Congressional War Powers resolution that would have directed him to end support for the Saudi-led war in the country, claiming that the veto served as proof that Washington is behind the conflict. Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdelsalam sent a message on Twitter claiming that Trump’s decision “proves that the United States is not only involved in the war on Yemen but also was behind the decision to go to war,” adding that “others followed that decision and execute the wishes and ambitions of the United States,” in a reference to Saudi Arabia and its allies. AFP reports.
An account of the devastation and loss at the key Yemeni port city of Hodeidah is provided by Karl Schembri in Hodeidah and Rod Austin at the Guardian.
Fighting near the Libyan capital of Tripoli has killed some 205 people, including 18 civilians, and wounded 913 in the last two weeks, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) reported today. The capital has been subject to a two-week offensive by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces from the east of the country, Reuters reports.
Shells slammed into a densely-populated district of Tripoli late on Tuesday, in violence condemned “in the strongest terms” by the head of the U.N. Mission in the country, the U.N. News Centre reports.
CYBERSECURITY, TECHNOLOGY AND PRIVACY
Tech giant Facebook has admitted that it collected up to 1.5 million users’ email contacts without their consent, in the latest privacy fallout embroiling the firm. Daniel Shane reports at CNN Business.
Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei offered Berlin a “no-spy agreement” to address security concerns over the company’s involvement in constructing Germany’s next-generation 5G mobile infrastructure, German magazine Wirtschaftswoche reported yesterday. Reuters reports.
U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 52 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria between March 24 and April 6 [Central Command]
Saudi Arabia will host the 15th annual G.20 Leaders’ Summit on November 21 and 22, 2020 in its capital Riyadh, Saudi press agency (S.P.A.) reported yesterday. Reuters reports.
President Trump “may perversely be rewarded for making little progress on his top priority” of immigration, Janan Ganesh comments at the Financial Times.
Transgender students will be banned from attending the U.S. Naval Academy following the new Pentagon policy that prevents them from joining the military, according to USA Today. The school — which currently accepts transgender students —will implement the new directive in 2020, The Daily Beast reports.
The U.S. is now classed as a “problematic” country for journalists to work in, ranking below countries such as Romania, Chile, and Botswana in Reporters Without Borders’ (R.W.B.) annual World Press Freedom Index. Jim Waterson reports at the Guardian.