The Soufan Group Morning Brief


President-elect Donald Trump and President Obama met for the first time Thursday and pledged to work together, as preparations for the White House handover began in earnest. Trump also met with senior Republican congressional members on Capitol Hill and vowed to “lower taxes” and “fix health care and make it affordable and better.” Washington Post
Trump’s transition team, at first a bare-bones operation, is now heavily stocked with Washington insiders, think-tank experts, and lobbyists. The conservative Heritage Foundation is said to be playing a particularly prominent role, with dozens of staff members and alumni working on various transition teams. CNN
Mike Rogers, a former congressman from Michigan who was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee until 2015, is helping Trump’s national security transition team efforts and is seen as a leading candidate to head the CIA. Retired Lt. Gen. Burgess is also assisting the transition team for intelligence agencies. Rep. Michael McCaul (R.-Texas), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, is reportedly under consideration to be homeland security secretary. A list obtained by NBC News of those to be vetted for security clearances includes former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Mike Flynn; Ret. Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg; former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton; former CIA officer Clare Lopez; and Trump advisor Walid Phares. Wall Street Journal, NBC News
BuzzFeed: Pentagon Waits for Team Trump to Show Up
New York Times: ‘Never Trump’ Becomes ‘Maybe Trump’ in Foreign Policy Sphere
BuzzFeed: Trump’s Torture Promise Hits a Deep Never for the People Who Worked to Ban It
Iran nuclear deal may prove tough to undo
Trump has promised to swiftly pull the U.S. out of the international agreement to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program, but international commitment to the agreement remains strong, and the parties who negotiated it—China, Russia, France, Germany, and the U.K—have pledged to promote it. The impact of a unilateral U.S. pullout could also be limited, if other powers continue to build partnerships with Iran. Wall Street Journal
Muslim ban deleted, then restored, on Trump’s web site
After Trump’s win, the Trump campaign website temporarily redirected the page detailing his controversial proposal to temporarily ban Muslim immigration into the U.S. But the policy was swiftly restored online after reporters asked about it Thursday. Washington Post

Anti-Trump protests continue around the country
Demonstrations against Trump’s election continued across the country last night. In Portland, the police labeled the protest a “riot” after marchers smashed store windows, lit firecrackers, and vandalized cars. Trump himself tweeted late Thursday about the protests, saying they were being led by “professional protesters” and “incited by the media,” adding “Very unfair! He tweeted early Friday that he “Love[s] the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country.” Politico, CNN
DailyKos: Potential Trump Homeland Security Head Says Anti-Trump Protests Must Be ‘Quelled’
Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man accused of carrying out bombings in New York City and New Jersey in September, appeared for the first time in court in Manhattan on Thursday to face federal charges in connection with the bombings. The hearing was brief, and Rahami’s lawyer, David Patton, raised concerns about the medical care Rahami was receiving in detention. Patton said afterward that his client would plead not guilty when he was arraigned. Rahami was arraigned in New Jersey last month, on charges relating to the shootout with police when he was captured. New York Times, New York Daily News

President Obama has ordered the Pentagon to find and kill the leaders of an al Qaeda-linked group in Syria that has been at the vanguard of the fight against the Syrian government, U.S. officials said this week. The decision to deploy more drones and intelligence assets against the militant group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra reflects Obama’s concern that the group is turning parts of Syria into a new base of operations for al Qaeda on Europe’s southern doorstep, the officials said. Washington Post, Wall Street Journal
Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for an attack on the German Consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif late Thursday night. The attack killed at least two people and wounded at least 90. Reuters, New York Times
Iraqi military intelligence sources have told CNN that Mahmoud Shukri al Nuaimi, a senior figure in ISIS who also is known as “Sheikh Faris,” was killed in a coalition airstrike in western Mosul on Tuesday. ISIS confirmed his death in a video montage. The Iraqi sources said that al Nuaimi was formerly a high-ranking intelligence officer in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence services. CNN
New York Times: A Tajik Police Commander, Trained in U.S., Appears to Rise in Islamic State’s Ranks

Kremlin’s reaction to Trump: A spokesman for the Kremlin said on Thursday that U.S. President-elect Trump’s foreign policy approach was “phenomenally close” to that of President Vladimir Putin, giving Russia hope that tattered U.S.-Russia relations could gradually be improved. Reuters
Are there limits to Trump’s power? “If Trump can get Republican members of Congress to go along with him, he can do pretty much anything not banned by the Constitution,” writes Eric Posner in The New York Times. “He can repeal Obamacare, cut taxes and build his border wall. But limits remain. One barrier is the filibuster in the Senate. Another barrier is the courts. But the greatest constraint on Trump may be the federal bureaucracy.”
I’m Muslim, a woman, and an immigrant. And I voted for Trump. “A lot is being said now about the ‘silent secret Trump supporters,’” writes Asra Q. Nomani in The Wall Street Journal. “This is my confession — and explanation: I — a 51-year-old, a Muslim, an immigrant woman ‘of color’ — am one of those silent voters for Donald Trump.”
What Putin is expecting from Trump: “After a campaign that saw Trump repeatedly praise Putin’s leadership and promise to mend relations, the U.S. President-elect would likely need to grant Russia a string of concessions in order to fulfill that promise,” writes Simon Shuster in “To start with, he would need to lift the sanctions the U.S. imposed in response to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine in 2014. He may also need to pull back the troops that NATO deployed near Russia’s border in response to that conflict, and perhaps most important of all, he would need to scrap or at least scale back the missile defense shield that the U.S. had intended to build over Europe.”
We need Comey at the FBI now more than ever: “Whatever you think of Comey’s judgment or conduct during the campaign, his actions have unequivocally demonstrated political independence from his political bosses, as he has in the past,” write Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes in Lawfare. “And that is exactly what we will need from the FBI in the coming years.”
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