NBC News: “The Russian military has been jamming some U.S. military drones operating in the skies over Syria, seriously affecting American military operations, according to four U.S. officials. The Russians began jamming some smaller U.S. drones several weeks ago, the officials said, after a series of suspected chemical weapons attacks on civilians in rebel-held eastern Ghouta. The Russian military was concerned the U.S. military would retaliate for the attacks and began jamming the GPS systems of drones operating in the area.”
Washington Post: “Trump and the military hold frequently opposing ideas about exactly what winning means. Those differences have played out in heated Situation Room ¬debates over virtually every spot on the globe where U.S. troops are engaged in combat, said senior administration officials. And they contributed to the dismissal last month of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster who as national security adviser had pressed the president against his instincts to support an open-ended commitment of U.S. forces to Afghanistan.”
“Trump’s words, both in public and private, describe a view that wars should be brutal and swift, waged with overwhelming firepower and, in some cases, with little regard for civilian casualties. Victory over America’s enemies for the president is often a matter of bombing ‘the shit out of them,’ as he said on the campaign trail.”
President Trump “grew irritated with his top military brass and national security team on Tuesday when they advised him an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Syria would be unwise and could not provide a timeline for when American forces could exit,” CNN reports.
“In a sometimes-tense meeting of his national security team, Trump complained at length about the amount of American money being spent in the region, which he said had produced nothing for the US in return.”
New York Times: “A year into Trump’s tenure, Mattis has become a quietly central figure in an administration of near-constant purges. He may be the lone cabinet member to have survived with his status and dignity intact, and in the process his Pentagon — perhaps the one national institution that is still fully functional — has inherited an unusually powerful role in the shaping of American foreign policy.”
“The removal of Tillerson and the national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, has further reduced the core of the group once known as the ‘committee to save America,’ underscoring Mattis’s unique position and putting even more weight on his relationship with the president. Although their conversations are a tightly guarded secret, Trump is said to consult Mattis regularly about a wide range of subjects.”
“President Trump frequently said Mexico would pay for a wall along the southern border as he sought the presidency in 2016. Now, he is privately pushing the U.S. military to fund construction of his signature project,” the Washington Post reports.
“Trump, who told advisers he was spurned in a large spending bill last week when lawmakers appropriated only $1.6 billion for the border wall, has begun suggesting that the Pentagon could fund the sprawling construction, citing a ‘national security’ risk.”
Politico: “In their public comments, McMaster and Bolton have presented a stark contrast in their views on Moscow’s involvement in the hacks and online trolling that roiled the 2016 presidential election. While McMaster has taken a hard-line stance in blaming Moscow for orchestrating the digital disruption campaign, Bolton has made headlines by casting doubt on Russia’s role.”
“Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the battle-tested Army officer tapped as President Trump’s national security adviser last year to stabilize a turbulent foreign policy operation, will resign and be replaced by John Bolton, a hard-line former United States ambassador to the United Nations,” the New York Times reports.
“General McMaster will retire from the military… He has been discussing his departure with President Trump for several weeks, they said, but decided to speed up his departure, in part because questions about his status were casting a shadow over his conversations with foreign officials.”
President Trump “has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing potential replacements, according to five people with knowledge of the plans, preparing to deliver yet another jolt to the senior ranks of his administration,” the Washington Post reports.
“Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up.”
“The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration by Trump that is likely to include senior officials at the White House, where staffers are gripped by fear and uncertainty as they await the next move from an impulsive president who enjoys stoking conflict.”
“When I hear what Vladimir Putin was saying just yesterday about the nuclear capabilities he has, the President of the United States is tweeting about Alec Baldwin this morning, I mean, where is your sense of priorities? I think a lot of Americans are looking at what’s happening with a sense of — this is surreal. And I’m hoping that those in Congress as well as the 30 percent of Americans out there who still believe in what Mr. Trump is saying, will look past that and say, are we really doing what we need to do as a country to protect ourselves and ensure our children and grandchildren are going to be remain safe, secure and prosperous in the future? And I have my serious, serious doubts. And the longer this goes on, the worse it’s going to get.”
— Former CIA Director John Brennan, in an interview with MSNBC.
“The Trump administration is considering military action against North Korea if the rogue regime successfully builds a nuclear missile capable of hitting the United States… Senior national security officials believe a nuclear armed Pyongyang represents an unacceptable risk to the U.S.,” CNN reports.
“Beyond the missile threat to the U.S. homeland, the national security officials pushing for military action believe that if North Korea becomes a full nuclear power, it will proliferate, potentially sharing nuclear and missile technology with states such as Iran, Pakistan and Libya, and non-state actors.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia has developed nuclear weapons that can avoid any missile defense systems, the Washington Post reports.
“He also warned that Moscow would consider any nuclear attack, of any size, on it or its allies an attack on Russia that would lead to an immediate response — adopting Cold War-style overtones that appeared to ramp up Russia’s posturing against the West and its allies.”
“The speech, broadcast on Russian television, comes less than three weeks before a March 18 presidential election that is expected to hand Putin his fourth term.”
A new CNN poll finds 72% of Americans are concerned about foreign government interference in U.S. elections generally, including 90% of Democrats, 68% of independents and 53% of Republicans.
Meanwhile, 60% say they are not confident President Trump is doing enough to prevent foreign countries from influencing future American elections.
“Voters were undeterred by the 2016 cries of alarm from Democrats — and some Republicans — that Donald Trump was unqualified to be commander in chief, but a group of Democrats is betting Trump’s record in office will push national security issues to the fore in the 2018 midterms and the next presidential election,” the Washington Post reports.
“A group of mostly young veterans of the Barack Obama administration and the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign is launching a national security political strike force aimed at countering Trump and Republicans.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “is expected to propose to President Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the president’s call last summer for a ban on all transgender service,” the Washington Post reports.
“With tensions flaring between President Trump and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the Pentagon is considering options that would allow the President to potentially move the three-star general out of his current role and back into the military,” CNN reports.
“A search is quietly being conducted by the Pentagon to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster… Several sources told CNN that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump.”
Less than 24 hours after President Trump tweeted that “after consultation with my Generals and military experts” he would end transgender military service, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent emails to the country’s top generals saying Trump’s announcement “was unexpected” and that he intended to say he was “not consulted,” BuzzFeed News reports.
“America was attacked, and our commander in chief said nothing in response. He looks weak, not only in Moscow but throughout the world.”
— Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, quoted by the New York Times.
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.”
White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election is “now really incontrovertible,” CNN reports.
McMaster has said previously it had been difficult to say definitively because “technically it was difficult” but “also you didn’t want to divulge your intelligence capabilities.”
He added: “But now that this is in the arena of a law enforcement investigation it’s going to be very apparent to everyone.”