The Early Edition: June 22, 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. 

JOHN BOLTON BOOK

President Trump’s administration has failed to block the publishing of Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton’s White House Memoir after a federal judge denied the order Saturday morning. In a 10-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth held that the Department of Justice (D.O.J.) had failed to establish that an injunction would be effective at this late stage due to the book’s wide circulation and media attention; however, Lamberth did criticize Bolton and highlighted that the decision does not preclude Bolton’s potential criminal liability. “With hundreds of thousands of copies around the globe — many in newsrooms — the damage is done. There is no restoring the status quo,” the decision read, adding: “Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States … He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil (and potentially criminal) liability.” Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times. 

Bolton gave an exclusive interview with ABC News which aired yesterday and offers “a brutal indictment of his former boss.” Details of the main headlines from the interview are reported by Conor Finnegan for ABC News.  

Bolton’s memoir “confirms the most essential and damning parts of the impeachment case against the president” on Ukraine quid quo pro, writes Co-Editor-in-Chief Ryan Goodman for Just Security, explaining how Bolton’s testimony fills the gaps that Senate Republicans said existed in the record. 

Details of Bolton’s brief in opposition to the Trump administration’s motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) or preliminary injunction are provided by Jack Goldsmith and Marty Lederman for Just Security, who conclude that: “A more basic point is that to the extent the information was only classified after Bolton divulged it, he hasn’t violated the plain terms of his SF-312 nondisclosure obligation.”

U.S. DEVELOPMENTS 

President Trump is expected to sign an executive order which will suspend some work visas – including H-1B, L-1 and other temporary work visas – through the end of 2020, numerous sources familiar with the plan have confirmed. The order, which comes at a time of record high unemployment in the U.S., would target: H-1B visas, designed for skilled works such as those working in tech industries; L-1 visas, which are for executives of large corporations; H-2B visas for seasonal staff such as hospitality and construction work; and J-1 visas, which are designated for research scholars. The plans are not expected to affect anyone already in the U.S., but if the order is signed it will be the latest move by Trump to place restrictions on immigration. Franco Ordoñez reports for NPR.

Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor Geoffrey Berman agreed to step down from his post Saturday after Attorney General William Barr demanded his resignation. Berman, whose office led the probe that sent Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to prison and is presently investigating Trump’s current attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said: “In light of Attorney General Barr’s decision to respect the normal operation of law and have Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss become Acting U.S. Attorney, I will be leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, effective immediately.” The ousting prompted House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to say he hoped Berman testified before Congress, as his removal was “the most disastrous management of the Justice Department in modern memory.” House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) also confirmed Saturday his intention to investigate the matter. Matthew Choi reports for POLITICO. 

Barr announced Friday that Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) chair Jay Clayton would be nominated for the position of U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, prompting Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to urge Clayton to withdraw his name from the consideration: “Forty seven years ago, Elliott Richardson had the courage to say no to a gross abuse of presidential power. Jay Clayton has a similar choice today: He can allow himself to be used in the brazen Trump-Barr scheme to interfere in investigations by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, or he can stand up to this corruption, withdraw his name from consideration, and save his own reputation from overnight ruin,” Schumer said in a statement. Jordain Carney reports for the Hill. 

Nadler said yesterday that Barr “deserves impeachment” but the effort would be a “waste of time” as the Republican-led Senate would block any move. “I don’t think calls for his impeachment are premature any more than calls for the president’s impeachment were premature, but they are a waste of time at this point,” Nadler said, which shortly followed the resignation of Berman. Jason Slotkin reports for NPR. 

The Department of Justice (D.O.J.) removed Friday several redactions from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The D.O.J. said the redactions were no longer necessary as the criminal case against Trump’s former campaign adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted earlier this year for lying to Congress and witness tampering, has concluded. Harper Neidig reports for the Hill. 

Newly unredacted parts of Mueller’s report also reveal that Mueller was investigating whether Trump had misled him in his Russia investigation, suggesting that Trump’s answers about WikiLeaks and Roger Stone were misleading. “It is possible that, by the time the President submitted his written answers two years after the relevant events had occurred, he no longer had clear recollections of his discussions with Stone or his knowledge of Stone’s asserted communications with WikiLeaks,” Mueller’s report reads, adding: “But the President’s conduct could also be viewed as reflecting his awareness that Stone could provide evidence that would run counter to the President’s denials and would link the President to Stone’s efforts to reach out to WikiLeaks,” suggesting Mueller considered this as potential obstruction. Brooke Seipel reports for the Hill. 

The Trump administration is determined to end the Dreamers program which protects illegal immigrants who have entered the U.S, after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the program last week, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf said yesterday. Reuters reporting. 

CORONAVIRUS

More than 8.9 million cases of the novel coronavirus have been recorded worldwide, including over 468,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. There are now 2.28 million coronavirus infections in the United States and almost 120,000 Covid-19 related deaths. Henrik Pettersson, Byron Manley and Sergio Hernandez report for CNN.

The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases yesterday, with the total rising by 183,020 in a 24-hour period. The biggest increase was from Brazil with 54,771 new cases; the U.S. was next at 36,617, while India tallied more than 15,400 fresh cases. AP reporting.

Nearly half of U.S. states are reporting a jump in new cases and some continue to break records in their daily confirmed cases, signaling the first wave of coronavirus in the U.S. is not over. Officials say more young people in the South are testing positive, and across the nation, experts continue to reiterate warnings underscoring the need for social distancing and face covers. Christina Maxouris reports for CNN.

The Pentagon declared Friday it is lifting coronavirus-related travel restrictions for U.S. military personnel in 46 states, as well as in the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, notwithstanding tracking data suggesting new coronavirus infections are on the rise in 23 states. Among the states considered fit for a resumption of travel by military personnel is Arizona, which has had a sharp uptick in confirmed Covid-19 cases over the past fortnight, as well as others with notable recent spikes in infections, including Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma. Only four states — California, North Carolina, Florida and Minnesota — are not included in the relaxing of travel restrictions by the Pentagon. David Welna reports for NPR.

The Navy will not reinstate the fired commander of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier following an inquiry of leadership’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship in March, the Navy’s top civilian and military official said on Friday. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said that the service will uphold its dismissal of Capt. Brett Crozier, who was removed from his post after a letter he wrote pleading for help with the outbreak leaked to the press. Crozier will also not be eligible for future command, Gilday told reporters at the Pentagon. Rebecca Kheel and Ellen Mitchell report for the Hill.

Top administration and campaign officials tried yesterday to play down President Trump’s comments at Saturday’s campaign rally about coronavirus testing, as well as the lower-than-expected turnout. At the event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where thousands of seats remained unfilled despite expectations of overcrowding, Trump called coronavirus testing “a double-edged sword” and claimed that he had asked advisers to “slow the testing down, please.”  A top White House official told NBC News that Trump “was clearly speaking in jest to call out the media’s absurd coverage” of the pandemic. Allan Smith reports for NBC News.

The United Nations denounced what it called recent “deliberate attacks” against healthcare workers and facilities in Afghanistan during the Covid-19 pandemic, in a special report released yesterday. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (U.N.A.M.A.) said it recorded 12 incidents of deliberate acts of violence between March 11 to May 23. The report said eight of the incidents were conducted by Taliban insurgents while three incidents were attributed to Afghan security forces. The most horrific attack, on a maternity ward last month at a Kabul hospital that killed 24 people, is yet to be solved. AP reporting.

Health authorities in South Korea said for the first time today it is fighting a “second wave” of novel coronavirus infections concentrated around its densely populated capital, stemming from a holiday in May. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (K.C.D.C.) had earlier said South Korea’s first wave had never really ended; but today, K.C.D.C. director Jeong Eun-kyeong said it had become apparent that a holiday weekend in early May marked the start of a new wave of infections focused in the greater Seoul area, which had previously seen few cases. Reuters reporting.

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.

Latest updates on the pandemic at The Guardian.

ANTI-RACISM PROTESTS

Conciliation procedures in two major human rights conventions — the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (C.E.R.D.) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (C.A.T.) — could be used to push for racial justice reforms in the U.S., writes Nawi Ukabiala for Just Security, noting, racial discrimination against Black people is finally again being discussed within the framework of international human rights law.

“It is time for a federal law designating the KKK as a domestic terrorist group,” Angela R. Pashayan and Docktrel Cromartie argue for Foreign Policy, following President Trump’s stated intention to list Antifa as a terrorist organization.

Live updates on the protests are available at CNN.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS 

The U.S. and Russia have resumed nuclear talks after a break of over a year and uncertainty over whether President Trump is interested in rescuing arms control in the last four months before elections. Trump’s new U.S. arms control envoy, Marshall Billingslea, is heading a delegation meeting the Russian deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, in Vienna. Trump had repeatedly requested that Beijing send a representative, but the Chinese government has declined. Julian Borger reports for The Guardian.

A New York Times examination shows how a Saudi pilot trainee and al-Qaeda loyalist exploited breakdowns in vetting systems in the United States and Saudi Arabia to carry out a deadly shooting on a U.S. Navy base. The Times review, including an analysis of government documents and interviews with more than two dozen current and former American officials and friends and relatives of Lieutenant Alshamrani, reveals wide-ranging lapses in how international military students are chosen, screened and monitored once in the United States, and notes even the advanced antiterrorism systems developed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks failed to spot the future gunman. Michael LaForgia and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.

Southern separatists have taken control of government facilities and military bases on Yemen’s main island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea, ejecting its governor Ramzi Mahroos and driving out forces of the Saudi-backed government which decried the action as coup. Reuters reporting.

China released new details of its draft security law for Hong Kong on Saturday, clearing the way for one of the most profound changes to the governing of the semi-autonomous territory, since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. A special bureau in Hong Kong to scrutinize and prosecute crimes deemed threatening to national security are planned for the area, as well as new police and prosecution units to investigate and enforce the law, according to details released by China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. Adela Suliman reports for NBC News.

Taliban militants kidnapped roughly 60 civilians in central Afghanistan over the last week, officials said yesterday, with over half still being detained amid efforts by the United States and other foreign powers to kickstart peace talks. The Taliban took the hostages in the central province of Daikundi after a woman escaped a Taliban-run village in a neighboring province, according to the provincial deputy governor, Mohammad Ali Uruzgani. Some 26, including women and children, had been freed and tribal elders were mediating to release the remaining civilians, Uruzgani added. Reuters reporting.

South Korea today called on North Korea to abandon a plan to launch propaganda leaflets across the border, after the North said it is prepared to scatter 12 million leaflets in what would be the biggest such psychological campaign against its southern rival. The pledge by the North to send anti-Seoul leaflets comes amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula, after North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its territory in anger over South Korean civilian leafleting against it. AP reporting.

Libya’s U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (G.N.A.) has said it will “boycott” discussions on the conflict in the North African country to be held by Arab League foreign ministers next week. Foreign minister Mohamed Taher Siala told the bloc’s executive council on Friday that the scheduled meeting would “merely deepen the rift” between Arab governments on the conflict, his ministry said. Al Jazeera reporting.

One of the victims of a weekend terror attack in the English town of Reading was a U.S. citizen, it has been reported. 39-year-old Joe Ritchie-Bennett was originally from Philadelphia but moved to England around 15 years ago, where he worked for a pharmaceutical company, his father told American media. Jamie Grierson reports for The Guardian. 

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

Associate 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)