The Early Edition: June 1, 2020

Curated summary of up-to-the-minute national security developments at home and abroad.

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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.  

GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS

Violent protests continued yesterday in Washington D.C. and outside the White House in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minnesota police, with several thousand people marching to Lafayette Square opposite the House. Protests started peacefully, however when the police pushed demonstrators out of Lafayette Square and into streets, violence, looting and torched buildings followed; Muriel Bowser (D), Mayor of D.C., ordered a citywide curfew and deployed the National Guard, with 18 people arrested that night. Rebecca Tan, Rebecca Tan, Marissa J. Lang, Antonio Olivo, Rachel Chason and John Woodrow Cox report for the Washington Post. 

President Trump warned demonstrators Saturday that the Secret Service were prepared to greet any violent protests outside the White House’s gates with “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons.” The state’s Mayor, however, responded saying, there “are no vicious dogs & ominous weapons. There is just a scared man … While [Trump] hides behind his fence afraid/alone, I stand w/people peacefully exercising their First Amendment Right after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd and hundreds of years of institutionalized racism.” Maggie Haberman reports for the New York Times. 

Hundreds of U.S. military units were put on standby for possible deployment in order to respond to growing unrest in Minnesota, the Pentagon confirmed on Saturday, releasing a statement that said: “At this time there is no request by the Governor of Minnesota for Title 10 forces to support the Minnesota National Guard or state law enforcement.” No such units have yet been deployed. Nancy A. Youssef reports for the Wall Street Journal.  

A large truck drove at full speed into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Minneapolis yesterday, but caused no injuries or casualties, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety confirmed, further adding: “very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators.” Phil Helsel report for NBC News. 

Some officers and National Guard troops across states have joined demonstrators in marching and kneeling, with further details of each state’s response provided by Hollie Silverman for CNN. 

Thousands of demonstrators in London, Berlin and Toronto have joined the protests against George Floyd’s murder. Justine Coleman reports for the Hill. 

The Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin who knelt on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter Friday, officials confirmed. “We are in the process of continuing to review the evidence. There may be additional charges later,” confirmed the Hennepin county attorney, Mike Freeman. Chris Mcgreal and Kenya Evelyn report for the Guardian. 

U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced Friday a federal civil rights investigation into Floyd’s death. Barr’s announcement, just minutes after Chauvin was charged, confirmed that “an independent investigation to determine whether any federal civil rights laws were violated” will be initiated, and described the videos circulating as “harrowing to watch and deeply disturbing.” Caitlin Oprysko reports for POLITICO. 

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) yesterday appointed state attorney general Keith Ellison to lead the prosecution into Floyd’s death, after Minnesota House members representing parts of the city of Minneapolis expressed in a letter to Walz that: “Unfortunately, our constituents, especially constituents of color, have lost faith in the ability of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to fairly and impartially investigate and prosecute these cases.” Upon accepting the role, Ellison posted on Twitter: “It is with a large degree of humility and a great seriousness, I accept for my office the responsibility for leadership on this critical case involving the killing of George Floyd … We are going to bring to bear all the resources necessary to achieve justice in this case.” Alex Johnson report for NBC News. 

Trump said yesterday that he will designate anti-fascist group Antifa as a terrorist organization, despite criticism from legal experts that he has no authority to do it. Al Jazeera reporting. 

GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS: OPINION AND ANALYSIS

President Trump adding Antifa to the list of terrorist organizations “is surely unconstitutional,” argues Peter Bergen for CNN.  

White Supremacist and far-right groups have infiltrated George Floyd protests, writes Mia Bloom for Just Security. 

An expert backgrounder on the conditions under which the president can order the military to respond to Minneapolis and the military’s rules for the use of force is provided by Mark Nevitt at Just Security.

Live updates on the protests available at CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

CORONAVIRUS

The United States has recorded nearly 1.8 million cases of the new coronavirus, including over 104,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than 6.1 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported across the world, including at least 372,000 deaths. Henrik Pettersson, Byron Manley and Sergio Hernandez report for CNN.

President Trump said Friday that the United States is “terminating” its relationship with the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) over its response to the novel coronavirus, less than two weeks after he threatened to permanently halt U.S. funding in a letter he had addressed to the W.H.O. leadership. Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump accused the W.H.O. of being under China’s “total control” and said that the annual $400 million that the U.S. contributes to the organization will be redirected “to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.” Reuters reporting.

Trump’s announcement was quickly slammed by health experts and government officials, who claimed it would set back global efforts to combat the pandemic. The European Union (E.U.) called on Trump to reconsider; in a joint statement, E.U. Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said that “as the world continues to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, the main task for everyone is to save lives and contain and mitigate this pandemic.” Karla Adam reports for the Washington Post.

Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people out of their homes and onto the streets in cities across America are sparking concerns about fresh outbreaks of the deadly coronavirus. Political leaders, physicians and infectious disease experts have appealed to demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, and have warned that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. Roni Caryn Rabin reports for the New York Times.

In the last few months, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) has transferred hundreds of people in its custody around the country. Immigrants have been moved from California to Florida, Florida to New Mexico, Arizona to Washington State, Pennsylvania to Texas. These shifts, which I.C.E. says were sometimes done to halt the spread of coronavirus, have led to outbreaks in facilities in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, according to lawyers, news reports and I.C.E. declarations filed in federal courts. Over 1,400 detainees have tested positive for Covid-19, I.C.E. data show. Lisa Riordan Seville and Hannah Rappleye report for NBC News.

The head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) said Friday that a new analysis shows the agency’s late rollout of coronavirus testing did not hamper the nation’s response to the pandemic. The coronavirus did not start circling round the U.S. until late January or early February, the C.D.C. analysis found, and it spread at low levels for quite some time. As a result, the availability of earlier widespread testing for the virus would not have been able to detect it, according to C.D.C. Director Robert Redfield. “It really would be like looking for a needle in a haystack,” Redfield told reporters in a briefing about the analysis. Rob Stein reports for NPR.

The White House announced yesterday that the U.S. will supply Brazil with 2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine and 1,000 ventilators as the South American country battles the coronavirus pandemic. The White House said in a joint statement with the Brazilian government that the doses of hydroxychloroquine will be used as preventative treatment for nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals as well as as a therapeutic to treat Brazilian civilians who contract the virus. The two countries will also launch a joint research effort, including randomized controlled clinical trials, to test the drug’s use as a preventive measure and early treatment of Covid-19, even after the W.H.O. suspended trials of the medicine routinely promoted both by Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro because of safety concerns. Justine Coleman reports for the Hill.

China reported 16 new coronavirus cases yesterday, the highest daily increase in infections in almost three weeks, as the number of so-called imported cases spiked in southwestern Sichuan province. The National Health Commission (N.H.C.) said in a statement today that all the fresh cases involved travelers from abroad, 11 of which were documented in Sichuan. Reuters reporting.

CORONAVIRUS: OPINION AND ANALYSIS

Is President Trump’s “withdrawal” from the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) legally void and what can Congress or public health advocates do to prevent the U.S. from leaving? Former State Department Legal Adviser Harold Hongju Koh answers key questions about the president’s decision to pull the United States out from participation in the U.N. agency in a piece for Just Security.

“Cutting funds as a tool to sway decisions and pressure reforms within the UN organizations won’t yield the expected results — on the contrary, history has shown that strong U.S. engagement is actually the best approach to reform the [W.H.O.],” argues Hajer Naili for CNN.

A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.

U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.

A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.

Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian and NBC News.

TRUMP-RUSSIA AND CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATIONS

President Trump’s new Director of National Intelligence (D.N.I.) John Ratcliffe announced Friday he had declassified and released transcripts of conversations between Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. “As I stated throughout the confirmation process, transparency is vital to allowing the American people to have confidence in the Intelligence Community. As the Director of National Intelligence, it is my obligation to review declassification requests with the overarching priority of protecting sources and methods, while also providing transparency whenever possible,” Ratcliffe said in a statement. Olivia Beavers reports for the Hill.

The transcripts reveal Flynn urged Kislyak to ensure Moscow had a “reciprocal” response to Obama sanctions: “Don’t go any further than you have to. Because I don’t want us to get into something that has to escalate … on a tit for tat. You follow me, Ambassador?,” the former national security adviser said. Olivia Beavers reports for the Hill. 

Top F.B.I. lawyer Dana Boente is resigning on June 30, officials confirmed Saturday, amid growing pressures on the Bureau from Trump and his administration about its investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Evan Perez reports for CNN.  

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A television journalist and a driver were killed in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday after a roadside bomb targeted a minibus carrying 15 employees of private television channel Khurshid T.V.. The blast, which wounded another four employees, was claimed by the Islamic State group (ISIS) and occurred during an overall drop in violence across much of Afghanistan since the Taliban instigated a surprise three-day ceasefire on May 24. Al Jazeera reporting.

Iran’s parliament speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf said any talks with the United States would be “futile” as he gave his first key speech to the conservative-dominated chamber yesterday. The newly formed parliament “considers negotiations with and appeasement of America, as the axis of global arrogance, to be futile and harmful,” said Ghalibaf, a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ air force who was elected speaker last Thursday after February elections that tipped the balance in the legislature towards ultra-conservatives. AFP reporting.

A top United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) official said today that any unilateral move by Israel to annex portions of the occupied West Bank would be a major setback for the Middle East peace process. “Continued Israeli talk of annexing Palestinian lands must stop,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in message sent on Twitter. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said cabinet discussions would start on July 1 on his proposal to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and all settlements across the West Bank in accordance with the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan. Reuters reporting.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is demanding a sharp increase in money from the country’s rich class to counter the dual threats from coronavirus and sanctions. As North Korea faced its steepest economic downturn since 1997, analysts said its leader was “reasserting centralized control over the economy,” possibly undercutting the move towards marketization and emergent signs of capitalism. Edward White reports for the Financial Times.

The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution Friday extending for one year an arms embargo on South Sudan and a travel ban and financial penalties for specified individuals, with Russia, China and South Africa abstaining. The U.S.-drafted resolution welcomes “encouraging developments in South Sudan’s peace process,” including the beginning of the establishment of a transitional government. But it also expresses “deep concern at continued fighting in South Sudan” and denounces violations of the peace deal and cessation of hostilities agreement. AP reporting.

Democratic leaders in Congress announced on Friday that three committees were calling top State Department officials to be formally questioned in an expanding probe into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his part in the sudden sacking by President Trump last month of the department’s inspector general, Steve Linick. Lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,  the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Oversight and Reform Committee are  looking into whether Pompeo urged Trump to fire Linick to protect himself from Linick’s inquiries. Edward Wong reports for the New York Times.

Trump said Saturday he will delay until at least September the G-7 summit scheduled to take place in June and invite other countries — including Russia, South Korea, Australia and India — to join the meeting. “I don’t feel that as a G-7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world. It’s a very outdated group of countries,” Trump told reporters. Anne Gearan and Seung Min Kim report for the Washington Post. 

About the Author(s)

Nat O'Connell

Associate News Editor at Just Security and Legal Fellow at JUSTICE, a law reform and human rights organization based in the UK - Follow her on Twitter (@oconnellnat).

Siven Watt

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