Foreign Affairs

Trump Jr. to Give Foreign Policy Speech

“The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is making what’s been dubbed an unofficial visit to India to promote his family’s real estate projects there. But he’s also planning to deliver a foreign policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations at an event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the Washington Post reports.

“News that the Trump Organization would be offering buyers in the Trump Tower the chance to meet the president’s son sparked criticism of potential conflict of interest, and the fact that Trump Jr. will be giving a foreign policy speech while on a private business trip complicates the matter further.”

A Skirmish In China Over the Nuclear Football

When President Trump and his team visited Beijing last November, Chief of Staff John Kelly and a U.S. Secret Service agent skirmished with Chinese security officials over the nuclear football, according to Jonathan Swan.

“When the U.S. military aide carrying the nuclear football entered the Great Hall, Chinese security officials blocked his entry… Then a U.S. Secret Service agent grabbed the Chinese security official and tackled him to the ground.”

“The whole scuffle was over in a flash, and the U.S. officials told about the incident were asked to keep quiet about it. Trump’s team followed the normal security procedure to brief the Chinese before their visit to Beijing… but somebody at the Chinese end either didn’t get the memo or decided to mess with the Americans anyway.”

U.S. Must Fight Russian Meddling Without a Leader

New York Times: “After more than a dozen Russians and three companies were indicted on Friday for interfering in the 2016 elections, President Trump’s first reaction was to claim personal vindication… He voiced no concern that a foreign power had been trying for nearly four years to upend American democracy, much less resolve to stop it from continuing to do so this year.”

“The indictment secured by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, underscored the broader conclusion by the American government that Russia is engaged in a virtual war against the United States through 21st-century tools of disinformation and propaganda, a conclusion shared by the president’s own senior advisers and intelligence chiefs. But it is a war being fought on the American side without a commander in chief.

“In 13 months in office, Mr. Trump has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront Moscow for its intrusion or to defend democratic institutions against continued disruption.”

Russia Attacked U.S. Troops In Syria

Eli Lake: “If you’ve been listening just to the Kremlin and the Pentagon, you probably didn’t know that Russia attacked American forces and their allies in Syria last week, suffering heavy casualties.”

“Yes, all sides admit that there was an incident at a U.S. base in Deir Ezzor. And that elements of the Syrian regime and Shiite militias participated in the assault. The Pentagon and Kremlin both acknowledge that Russian “mercenaries” participated, too. But the line for now is that those contractors had gone rogue, and Moscow didn’t know anything about it.”
“But make no mistake: There is overwhelming evidence that those Russian contractors were working at the behest of the Kremlin.”

Police Say Netanyahu Should Face Graft Charges

“The Israeli police recommended on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, casting a pall over the future of a tenacious leader who has become almost synonymous with his country,” the New York Times reports.

“The announcement instantly raised doubts about his ability to stay in office.”

The BBC has a good backgrounder on the scandal.

Top U.S. Spy Issues Dire Warning to Congress

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress that this year’s midterm elections are a “potential target” for Russian influence operations, Bloomberg reports.

Said Coats: “We assess that the Russian intelligence services will continue their efforts to disseminate false information via Russian state-controlled media and covert online personas about U.S. activities to encourage anti-U.S. political views.”

Just days after President Trump signed a $300 billion budget hike, Coats also warned that the national debt is “unsustainable” and a “dire threat” to national security.

U.S. Strikes Killed Scores of Russian Fighters in Syria

“U.S. forces killed scores of Russian contract soldiers in Syria last week in what may be the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War,” Bloomberg reports.

“More than 200 mercenaries, mostly Russians fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, died in a failed attack on a base and refinery held by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region, two of the Russians said. The U.S. official put the death toll at about 100, with 200 to 300 injured.”

State Department Lost 12% of Foreign Affairs Specialists

“The State Department’s civilian workforce shrunk more than 6 percent overall during the initial eight months of the Trump administration, but that figure masks significantly higher departure rates in critical areas of the country’s diplomatic apparatus,” Government Executive reports.

“In December 2016, the department employed 2,580 people under the foreign affairs occupation series, according to data from the Office of Personnel Management. By September 2017—the most recent data available—that number fell to 2,273, a decrease of roughly 11.9 percent.”

U.S. Secretly Negotiated to Buy Stolen NSA Documents

“The United States intelligence community has been conducting a top-secret operation to recover stolen classified U.S. government documents from Russian operatives,” according to The Intercept.

“The operation has also inadvertently yielded a cache of documents purporting to relate to Donald Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.”

“The channel started developing in early 2017, when American and Russian intermediaries began meeting in Germany. Eventually, a Russian intermediary, apparently representing some elements of the Russian intelligence community, agreed to a deal to sell stolen NSA documents back to the U.S. while also seeking to include Trump-related materials in the package.”