Wednesday, June 20, 2018

As Outrage Over Family Separation Grows, Trump Sidesteps Issue in Talks with GOP

President Trump urged House Republicans to pass broad immigration legislation in a Tuesday evening meeting, but he stopped short of telling them he would immediately reverse a widely condemned policy that has separated thousands of migrant children from their parents.

In the private meeting, Trump discussed taxes, tariffs and the Russia probe before endorsing two different Republican immigration bills, according to lawmakers in the room. On the controversy over immigrant families, Trump said: “We have to take care of separation,” according to a lawmaker in the room. “It’s too nasty, it’s too nasty.”

Trump took no questions and engaged in no discussion on a day when family separations engulfed nearly every other issue. Many Republicans had come to the meeting prepared to press Trump to halt his administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy of detaining adult immigrants at the southern border, which has separated more than 2,000 children from their parents in less than two months.

Earlier in the day, in a fiery address to a group of small-business executives, Trump falsely blamed Democrats for the separation crisis and demanded a broad overhaul of the United States’ immigration laws, a process that would take months. At the same time, he belittled one of the central ideas behind the effort by Senate Republicans to immediately stop separating families on the Mexican border, dismissing as “crazy” a proposal by Senate Republicans to expedite processing of immigrant families by hiring hundreds of new immigration judges.

Rejecting a proposal by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to increase personnel in immigration courts with the hiring of 375 new judges, Trump suggested that many of the immigration judges could be corrupt, and he said that some lawyers who appear in their courtrooms are “bad people.”

Governors from at least eight states have announced that they would withhold or recall National Guard troops from efforts to secure the United States’ border with Mexico. Many of the governors opposed to sending troops were Democrats, from states including New York, North Carolina and Virginia. But two Republican governors who face re-elections this fall in Maryland and Massachusetts also reversed their plans. Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Politico
New York Times: Protesters Confront Kirstjen Nielsen at Mexican Restaurant: ‘Shame!’
Wall Street Journal: Judge Set to Rule on Splitting Migrant Families
Washington Post: Trump Didn’t Invent Family Separation, But His Administration Was Willing to Try It​


As the threat from ISIS evolves, so must our counter approach: “The battlefield success against ISIS does not mean the end of the group or its brand of transnational terrorism,” said Eric Rosand in The Hill. “Just as the threat from ISIS has evolved since the Global Coalition was established, so too has our understanding of the most effective ways to counter it. There is growing consensus among policymakers and practitioners that halting the re-emergence of ISIS and its durable influence requires much more than killing and capturing terrorists and countering their narratives.”

Legal considerations for separating families at the border: “Based on the information publicly available so far, and given the lack of written guidance for agents on the front lines to follow, agents separating families in order to achieve the goal of 100 percent prosecution may be operating in a legal gray zone,” said Carrie Cordero in Lawfare. “As far as can be discerned from public reports, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the homeland security secretary have not provided the workforce with official guidance explaining the legal basis on which they are removing children from their parents for sustained periods of time.”

They’ve had the handshake. Now it’s time to make a deal: “As the Great Dealmaker should know, it’s important to read the fine print,” said David Ignatius in the Washington Post. “And after a week’s reflection, the Singapore joint communique, for all the dramatic television coverage that surrounded it, looks like what real estate mavens sometimes call a ‘conditional offer.’”

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The Trump administration withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday in protest of what it perceives as an entrenched bias against Israel and a willingness to allow notorious human rights abusers as members.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has sought major changes on the council throughout her tenure, issued a blistering critique of the panel, saying it had grown more callous over the past year and become a “protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias.” She cited the admission of Congo as a member even as mass graves were being discovered there, and the failure to address human rights abuses in Venezuela and Iran.

“I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments,” she said during a joint appearance with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the department. “On the contrary. We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights.” Washington Post, Wall Street Journal

Republicans and Democrats sparred for a second day Tuesday over an internal Justice Department report that sharply criticized former FBI director James B. Comey for the bureau’s work investigating Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz answered questions for more than five hours at a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, a day after he testified before a Senate panel about his 500-page report.

One of the FBI agents at the heart of that investigation, Peter Strzok, was escorted from the FBI building Friday as part of the ongoing internal proceedings at the bureau on his conduct, according to a source familiar with the matter. Washington Post, CNN, Bloomberg

Trump’s 2020 campaign manager urges him to fire Sessions, end Mueller probe: President Trump’s 2020 campaign manager tweeted Tuesday that Trump should fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and “end the Mueller investigation.” Brad Parscale — who was the digital director for Trump’s 2016 campaign and is in charge of the reelection bid — wrote that because of the recent inspector general report, Trump should “end it all.” Vox, Bloomberg

WH deputy chief of staff resigns: White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin is stepping down, leaving behind another hole in the senior ranks of the West Wing. Hagin, who also served in the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations, played a central role in planning Trump’s summit in Singapore last week with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and is one of the most experienced aides in a White House that has often had trouble attracting top-tier political operatives. He is expected to depart next month. Politico

Russian trolls active ahead of midterms: With U.S. midterm elections approaching, Russian trolls found ways to remain active on Twitter well into 2018, trying to rile up the American electorate with tweets on everything from Roseanne Barr’s firing to Donald Trump Jr.’s divorce, a Wall Street Journal analysis found.


Taliban fighters have killed at least 30 Afghan soldiers in an attack on two checkpoints in western Badghis province. Abdul Aziz Beg, head of the provincial council in Badghis, told the Associated Press that the fighters first attacked the checkpoints, then ambushed reinforcements as they arrived in Bala Murghab district. The Taliban moved in large numbers, striking the army positions from different directions, and “very brutally killed them all,” Beg said. He said the attack started Tuesday night and continued into Wednesday morning. Associated Press

Coalition kills ISIS oil and gas head: The U.S.-led coalition in Syria said on Tuesday it had disrupted the Islamic State’s funding by killing the man who ran its oil and gas network and other members of the group last month. Reuters


On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his third trip to China in as many months to meet with President Xi Jinping. Xi used the opportunity to praise Kim and say that the Singapore summit with President Trump was an “important step toward the political solution of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.”

On Wednesday, North Korean state media said Kim and Xi reached an understanding on denuclearization and other issues following the Singapore summit. The report by the Korean Central News Agency did not give details on the views shared by the two leaders. But in the past, North Korea defined denuclearization as including an end to the U.S.-South Korean military alliance and a shift in U.S. defense policies to end nuclear protection for South Korea and Japan. Reuters, Washington Post, Vox

Dutch police have arrested three men whose DNA was found on weapons seized in a Paris suburb after law officers foiled a planned 2016 terror attack, Dutch prosecutors said on Tuesday. AFP

London man accused of plotting to kill UK PM: Police arrested a 20-year old Londoner in November, days before he allegedly intended to carry out a suicide attack on Downing Street to kill the prime minister, Theresa May. Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman believed he was corresponding online with Islamic State while planning the alleged attack but was in fact talking to members of the security services pretending to be from the terrorist group. BBC News, Guardian

Chinese hackers targeting defense firms: Chinese hackers are waging a wide-ranging cyber espionage campaign against satellite operators, telecommunication companies and defense contractors in the U.S. and Southeast Asia, cybersecurity firm Symantec said this week. Politico


For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSC IntelBrief.
Editor-in-Chief, Karen J. Greenberg, Center on National Security, Fordham Law School

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