Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the weekend. Here’s today’s news.
The outgoing head of Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, has signaled that Israel is responsible for a series of attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear program. During an interview that appeared timed to help former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before the parliament vote on Sunday, Yossi Cohen “revealed details of operations long attributed to Israel. Those included the assassination of the top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and an explosion at an underground centrifuge hall in Natanz,” Peter Beaumont reports for the Guardian.
Israel’s parliament on Sunday approved the new coalition government, ending Netanyahu’s 12-year rule. The fragile coalition of eight parties across the political spectrum was approved by a narrow vote of 60 to 59, with Naftali Bennet becoming prime minister. Josef Federman reports for AP.
President Biden has welcomed Israel’s new government, reaffirming that the U.S. remains “unwavering in its support for Israel’s security” and would work with its new government. “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations,” Biden said in a statement, adding that “Israel has no better friend than the United States.” Reuters reports.
Israel’s new foreign minister has said that Israel must change the way that it deals with members of the U.S. Democratic party, who he said had been abandoned by Netanyahu. “The Republicans are important to us, but not just them. We find ourselves, as you know well, facing a Democratic White House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic Congress,” Yair Lapid told Israeli diplomats, “and these Democrats are angry.” Reuters reporting.
Netanyahu may face challenges for leadership of his right-wing Likud party, but to oust him his rivals would first need to defeat him in an internal primary. Patrick Kingsley provides analysis for the New York Times.
An explainer of Israel’s new “patchwork” coalition government is provided by Ari Rabinovitch reporting for Reuters.
Israeli police have said that a woman with a knife who ran towards an Israel military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank was shot dead. “Police said the woman, identified as a 28-year-old resident of a West Bank refugee camp, had ignored calls by the guard to stop,” AP reports.
TRUMP-ERA JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Former President Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) subpoenaed tech giant Apple Inc. for information about an account belonging to Trump’s former White House counsel Don McGahn in February 2018. Apple was barred from telling McGahn about the subpoena at the time and it is not clear what FBI agents were investigating when they sought the information. “Department officials have so far declined to comment on its subpoenas for records of reporters and lawmakers, citing an inspector general investigation into whether they were proper,” Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman report for the Wall Street Journal.
In a DOJ investigation into unauthorized disclosure of information about the Russia inquiry, prosecutors sent Apple a subpoena for data on congressional staff members, their families and at least two House Intelligence Committee members, Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Adam B. Schiff (D-CA), which appeared to have been primarily focused on Michael Bahar, then a staff member on the committee. “It remains unclear whether agents were pursuing a theory that Mr. Bahar had leaked on his own or whether they suspected him of talking to reporters with the approval of lawmakers. Either way, it appears they were unable to prove their suspicions that he was the source of any unauthorized disclosures; the case has been closed, and no charges were brought,” Michael S. Schmidt and Charlie Savage report for the New York Times.
The DOJ under Trump sent a broad request to Apple in February 2018 requesting metadata on 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses, as part of the DOJ investigation that collected data on members of Congress, staffers and their families, Apple said Friday evening. A nondisclosure order prevented Apple from informing the customers and Apple has said that “it limited the information it provided to metadata and account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures,” Brian Fung and Evan Perez report for CNN.
DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz has announced that he will review the Trump-era leak investigations, including the use of secret subpoenas to obtain the data of reporters, lawmakers and others. Matt Zapotosky, Felicia Sonmez and Karoun Demirjian report for the Washington Post.
Former Deputy AG Rosenstein says that he was not aware of any subpoena for lawmakers data, source says. Katelyn Polantz and Pamela Brown report for CNN.
Former attorneys general William Barr has said that he does not recall being briefed on the subpoenas, report Daniel Lippman, Andrew Desiderio and Betsey Woodruff Swan for POLITICO.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) both vowed to probe the actions of the DOJ during Trump’s term, including its move to seize the communication records of Democratic lawmakers. Pelosi described the latest revelations as “just another manifestation of [the DOJ’s] rogue activity” under Trump and Schumer vowed to subpoena both former attorneys general William Barr and Jeff Sessions to “testify under oath as part of a formal congressional investigation.” Susan Cornwell reports for Reuters.
G7 SUMMIT AND BIDEN’S EUROPE TRIP
President Biden and G7 leaders issued a joint communique on Sunday about Russian and Chinese government behavior, but they had trouble finding consensus on some big issues. The communique includes calls on Beijing “to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” especially in relation to Xinjiang and Hong Kong’s, and on Moscow to “urgently investigate and credibly explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil, to end its systematic crackdown on independent civil society and media, and to identify, disrupt, and hold to account those within its borders who conduct ransomware attacks, abuse virtual currency to launder ransoms, and other cybercrimes.” Although the communique shows a degree of unity, “it did not settle on a timeline to eliminate the use of coal for generating electric power, and climate activists said that signaled a lack of resolve to confront one of the world’s leading causes of global warming … And while the leaders called on China to respect ‘fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang,’ there was no agreement on banning Western participation in projects that benefited from forced labor,” report David E. Sanger and Michael D. Shear for the New York Times.
China denounced the communique and urged the grouping to stop slandering China. “China’s embassy in London said it was strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to mentions of Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan that distorted the facts and exposed the ‘sinister intentions of a few countries such as the United States,’” reports Reuters.
Biden touched down in Brussels Sunday ahead of the NATO summit on Monday followed by a summit with top E.U. officials tomorrow. After Brussels, Biden will travel to Geneva to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16, reports Reuters.
The White House said yesterday that NATO alliance leaders would launch an “ambitious” set of initiatives to ensure it continues providing security through 2030 and beyond. The statement said that NATO will revise its “Strategic Concept” to guide its “approach to the evolving strategic environment, which includes Russia’s aggressive policies and actions; challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China to our collective security, prosperity, and values; and transnational threats such as terrorism, cyber threats, and climate change.” “NATO leaders will [also] endorse a new Cyber Defense Policy boosting coordination to ensure the alliance “is resilient against the increasingly frequent and severe threats … including disruptive ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure,” reports Reuters.
NATO leaders are expected to announce Monday a tougher stance on China being a security risk to the Western alliance. “Diplomats said the NATO summit’s final communique would not call China an adversary – and Stoltenberg said China was not an enemy – but would demonstrate concern, calling it a ‘systemic’ challenge to Atlantic security as it joins Russia with military drills, launches cyberattacks and rapidly builds up its navy,” reports Reuters.
NATO will discuss topics including the challenge posed by Russia and China, including the need to respond to Moscow’s disinformation campaign, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today when arriving at the summit. Merkel also said that the leaders would “discuss ways in which they could work with Georgia and Ukraine, two countries seeking closer ties with NATO as a bulwark against the threat from their giant neighbor Russia,” Reutersreports.
No breakthroughs are expected from Biden’s first meeting with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan at the NATO summit. It is expected that the leaders will “discuss problematic bilateral ties on Monday including Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles, but there is little hope they will resolve any of several disputes that divide NATO,” Gabriela Baczynska and Humeyra Pamuk report for Reuters.
Lithuania told the NATO summit leaders today that Russia is trying to “swallow” Belarus and that NATO needed to be united in deterring Moscow. “Belarus is losing the last elements of the independence, and those trends are very dangerous,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on arriving to the summit. Reutersreports.
Five key takeaways from the G7 Summit by David M. Herszenhorn for POLITICO EU.
Two separate bombs have hit minivans, killing at least seven people and wounding six others, in a mostly Shiite neighborhood in Kabul, the Afghanistan Interior Ministry said. AP reports.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, saying in a statement that it blew up two minivans carrying “disbeliever Shiites” using sticky bombs, being bombs that are slapped onto cars in Kabul’s busy traffic. Tameem Akhgar reports for AP.
President Biden is heading to the NATO summit amid increasing frictions from NATO allies over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. “European officials say they are frustrated by what they saw as the Biden administration’s failure to sufficiently consult with allies ahead of the announcement, and the decision to move from a conditions-based withdrawal to one based on the calendar,” Lara Seligman reports for POLITICO.
NATO allies are seeking clarity on maintaining secure facilities in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. NATO and other partners are hoping that Biden will provide further clarity at the upcoming NATO summit as to “how Kabul’s international airport and the main medical facility that diplomats and aid workers depend on will be kept operational and secure … where counterterrorism surveillance and other assets will be based outside Afghanistan,” Karen deYoung reports for the Washington Post.
A bipartisan group of senators have introduced a Senate bill that would remove hurdles to obtaining U.S. visas for Afghans who helped U.S. troops. The bill comes amid increasingly urgent warnings about the safety of such Afghans as the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
Iran has regained its voting rights in the U.N. General Assembly after making the minimum payment on its U.N. dues, and has criticized the U.S. for maintaining sanctions that have prevented it from accessing billions of dollars in foreign banks. In a tweet, Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said: “illegal U.S. sanctions have not just deprived our people of medicine; they have also prevented Iran from paying our dues in arrears to the U.N. After more than 6 months of working on it, the U.N. today announced it has received the funds. ALL inhumane sanctions must be lifted NOW.” Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
The U.S. and Iran are making progress in the indirect talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, however as the sixth round of talks began this weekend, the Biden administration remained unsure as to whether they were any closer to reaching an agreement. A senior administration official said that remaining gaps on most issues could be closed “in a matter of weeks,” however this would not matter “until basic mistrust between the two sides is overcome and political decisions are made to accept the negotiated results,” Karen DeYoung reports for the Washington Post.
Republican senators have introduced a bill that would make any deal with Iran over its nuclear program subject to Senate approval with a two-thirds majority. The effort is being led by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has been a vocal critic of President Biden’s foreign policy priority to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.
President Biden has said that he agrees with Russian President Vladimir Putin that U.S.-Russia relations are at “a low point” ahead of the upcoming summit between the two leaders. Putin had told NBC News that the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Russia “has deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years.” “I think he is right, it’s a low point. And it depends on how he responds to acting consistent with international norms, which, in many cases, he has not,” Biden told reporters at a news conference before departing the G7 summit. Kate Sullivan reports for CNN.
Putin has also expressed optimism about working with Biden, saying that he believes Biden would not make any “impulse-based movements” and that he is “radically different from Trump because President Biden is a career man” during an NBC News interview. Celine Castronuovo reports for The Hill.
Putin has said that Russia is prepared to extradite cyber criminals to the U.S. on a reciprocal basis. According to Russia’s state-run TASS news agency, Putin told state TV channel Rossiya-1 that both Russia and the U.S. must “assume equal commitments,” and that “Russia will naturally do that but only if the other side, in this case the United States, agrees to the same and will also extradite corresponding criminals to the Russian Federation.” Olga Pavlova reports for CNN.
Putin and Biden will not hold a joint news conference following their meeting on Wednesday, U.S. officials said. “We expect this meeting to be candid and straightforward, and a solo press conference is the appropriate format to clearly communicate with the free press the topics that were raised in the meeting,” one official said in a statement sent to reporters over the weekend, “both in terms of areas where we may agree and in areas where we have significant concerns.” Michael D. Shear reports for the New York Times.
The trial of Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is to begin today with the junta court hearing its first testimony. Suu Kyi faces a raft of charges, including illegally accepting 11 kilograms of gold, flouting coronavirus restrictions and breaking a colonial-era secrecy law, all of which her legal team have denied. Agence France-Presse reporting.
U.S. journalist Nathan Maung has been released from detention in Myanmar and is due to fly out of the country on Tuesday. According to his lawyer the case against Maung, the editor at Kamayut Media was dismissed by a court after the plaintiff withdrew the lawsuit. Reuters reporting.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The Pentagon has announced $150 million in security assistance to Ukraine to help the country bolster its borders against Russia. The package “includes training, equipment, and advisory efforts to help Ukraine’s forces preserve the country’s territorial integrity, secure its borders, and improve interoperability with NATO,” according to a Defense Department statement. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
President Biden has yet to take a position on former President Trump’s recognition of Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Trump’s recognition, which came in the context of a normalization deal between Israel and Morocco, broke with years of international consensus and rejected the U.N.’s official designation of Western Sahara as a “Non-Self-Governing Territory.” However, Biden’s unclear position is drawing criticism from analysts who say that “it further undermines the administration’s pledge to honor international norms in its foreign policy.” Joseph Stepansky reports for Al Jazeera.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least 13 people have been killed and many others injured in an attack on a hospital in a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkey-backed fighters. “It was not immediately clear who was behind the shelling, which came from areas where government troops and Kurdish-led fighters are deployed,” AP reports.
Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Albania, Ghana and Gabon have been elected to join the U.N. Security Council. The election of all five countries to the 15-member strong Council was unopposed and it will be Albania’s first time serving on the Council. Edith M. Lederer reports for AP.
A drone rigged with explosives has fallen on a school in Saudi Arabia’s Aseer province, with no injuries having been reported. Saudi state TV and news agency reported that civil defense authorities had received a report that a projectile, which turned out to be a drone, launched from Yemen by the Houthi movement had fallen on a school in Aseer. Reuters reports.
A senior U.N. official has accused Eritrean forces of deliberately starving the people in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. More than 350,000 of Tigray’s nearly 6 million people are living in famine conditions, according to an analysis by U.N. agencies and global aid groups, and the U.N.’s top humanitarian official, Mark Lowcock, has accused Eritrean forces of using starvation as a weapon of war and “trying to deal with the Tigrayan population by starving them.” Katharine Houreld and Giulia Paravicini report for Reuters.
Two confidants of a senior Jordan royal, King Abdullah II’s half-brother Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, have been charged with sedition and incitement. The charges following the events in April where Hamzah was placed under house arrest and the two senior associates were arrested, amid allegations that they tried to destabilize Jordan with foreign help. AP reports.
The Pentagon will redirect $2.2 billion in funds allocated by former President Trump’s administration to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border back to military construction projects. “The money will go to 66 projects in 16 countries, 11 U.S. states and three U.S. territories in fiscal 2021, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks wrote in a memorandum,” Ellen Mitchell and Rafael Bernal report for The Hill.
President Biden will nominate Carlos Del Toro, a Navy veteran who is the CEO of a tech firm in Virginia, to be secretary of the Navy, the White House has announced. Rebecca Kheel reports for The Hill.
YouTube suspended Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) from posting videos for seven days following his remarks touting unproven treatments for Covid-19, including using hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. Tal Axelrod reports for The Hill.
The coronavirus has infected over 33.46 million and now killed over 599,700 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 176 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 3.805 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The G7 nations on Sunday called for a “timely, transparent, expert-led, and science- based” World Health Organization-convened Phase 2 COVID-19 origins study including, as recommended by the expert report, in China. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
The G7 nations also pledged to provide 870 million COVID-19 vaccine doses over the next year, working closely with the private sector. Carlo Martuscelli reports for POLITICO EU.
Vaccine maker Novavax announced on Monday that its coronavirus vaccine candidate was found to have an overall efficacy of over 90% in a Phase 3 trial conducted across the U.S. and Mexico. “The trial results appear consistent with the efficacy and safety profile the vaccine previously showed in a Phase 3 trial conducted in the United Kingdom, Dr. Gregory Glenn, president of research and development for Novavax, told CNN,” reports Jacqueline Howard for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
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.