The Soufan Group Morning Brief


As the American political establishment and much of the world shook off its shock Wednesday to absorb the news that Donald Trump had been elected president, attention began to turn to the deep uncertainty over just what Trump plans to do while in office and how he plans to govern. Armed with Republican control of both the House and Senate, Trump will be under tremendous pressure to deliver on a host of audacious campaign promises, such as repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. But a number of such initiatives could run into sizable political and legal obstacles, experts say. Washington Post, New York Times
Trump’s closest advisers says that even though the real estate mogul’s guiding principle has long been that the world is a zero-sum place, he is also a pragmatist, perfectly willing to dispense with seemingly core beliefs in return for negotiating advantage. That’s why, they say, some of Trump’s most headline-grabbing proposals should not be taken literally. “They are guideposts, the supporters suggest, not plans. New York Times
In fact, Trump’s agenda is largely unknown when it comes to dealing with issues including terrorism, Russian aggression, and multiple shooting wars in the Middle East. With little clarity on much of what he intends to do, the best initial indicator of Trump’s approach may be those he chooses for his national security team, reports the Washington Post. “Many of the names floated so far strike fear in the hearts of mainstream Republicans as well as Democrats, while others instill a sense of reassurance.” Washington Post
The world will be watching in particular to see how Trump’s administration handles Syria and the threat of ISIS, says the Center on National Security’s Karen Greenberg. She adds, “The country now must answer the call of self-reflection, of finding our core democratic values and of discovering new ways to build a sense of community and shared purpose across the nation.” Newsweek
Thousands of Americans marched in “not our president” protests across the country on Wednesday, determined to show their outrage at some of the uglier aspects of Trump’s campaign and record. New York Times
Washington Post: What Does Trump’s Win Say about Us as a Nation?
Team Trump is already scrambling to line up senior officials to run the government’s sprawling intelligence and homeland security bureaucracy. Hundreds of national security experts have either sworn they’d never work in a Trump administration or have directly turned down prior requests to join his advisers. Now many are struggling with the question “If he asks me, would I work for him?” And perhaps more to the point: “Would I be hurting the country if I say no?” Politico, Daily Beast
Washington Post: Why GOP National Security Experts Must Agree to Serve in a Trump Administration
Lawfare: The Duty to Serve in Trump’s America?
As Trump prepares to receive his first highly classified President’s Daily Brief as early as today, the intelligence community is struggling with what the Washington Post calls a “palpable sense of dread,” unsure of how to deal with a president-elect that has dismissed U.S. spy agencies’ views on Russia and Syria, threatened to order the CIA to resume the use of interrogation methods condemned as torture, and demonstrated abundant disdain for their work. Washington Post, BuzzFeed
Reuters reports that Trump’s surprise victory “has alarmed technology companies and civil libertarians fearful that a self-described ‘law and order’ president will attempt to expand surveillance programs and rejoin a long-running battle over government access to encrypted information.” Reuters
Time: President Obama Should Shut Down NSA Mass Spying Before It’s Too Late
Sen. Cotton and torture: Waterboarding isn’t torture, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said Wednesday, aligning himself with past statements made by Trump. “Anything that American troops volunteer for, and radio DJs volunteer for, is not torture.” Cotton is a member of the Intelligence Committee and the Armed Services Committee. CNN

The U.S. military said Wednesday that it has killed 119 civilians in Iraq and Syria since it began military operations against the Islamic State there in 2014. The disclosure was the largest admission of responsibility for killing civilians since the Obama administration launched its air war against ISIS two years ago. Many of the airstrikes, which took place between March 5 and Sept. 10, were blamed on civilians “entering the target area” after a fighter jet or bomber had released a weapon. Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post
Trump win celebrated by terror groups: Al Qaeda militants and prominent Salafist leaders have taken to social media to share their delight in the results of the U.S. election. Independent
Fight against ISIS in Mosul: Iraqi troops paused in their advance on the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday, regrouping as they clear neighborhoods and houses once occupied by ISIS fighters. Associated Press
ISIS leader: ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is reportedly preparing for his own death in the Mosul offensive and is considering whether to appoint a new successor. New York Post
What Trump’s foreign policy will look like: “Making predictions about Trump’s foreign policy is difficult, given his lack of experience,” writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. “But the most likely bet is that as president he will seek to do what he promised during the campaign in breaking from current U.S. approaches to Russia, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.” He will likely “move to improve relations with a combative, assertive Russia; start a joint military effort with Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to defeat the Islamic State; and push for European allies to pay more for their own defense.”
Trump’s foreign policy team: “What we do know is that Trump has surrounded himself with hard-liners and authoritarians, and he is reportedly considering some of them for top Cabinet posts,” writes Daniel Larison in “A Trump administration that includes the likes of Giuliani, Gingrich, Flynn, and Bolton will certainly not be a restrained or realist one. In broad strokes, a Trump foreign policy will probably be highly unilateralist, preoccupied with terrorism and Iran, and fixated mostly on the Middle East.”
Trump’s very full foreign policy inbox: “The good news is that the President-elect has broad executive experience, a businessman’s direct approach to dealing with turbulence and a distinctive style of negotiations in which he reposes plenty of confidence,” writes James Stavridis in “The bad news is that the challenges are worrisomely real, nearly intractable and full of contradictions. Buckle up.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief:  Trump’s Foreign Security Assistance Dilemma

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