The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2016
TRUMP TRANSITION TEAM IN DISARRAY

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team was stymied by delays and discord on Tuesday, after it emerged that two officials who had been handling national security for the transition, former Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan and Matthew Freedman, a lobbyist who consults with corporations and foreign governments, had been abruptly pushed out. The dismissals followed the replacement on Friday of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as chief of the transition by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was said to be systematically dismissing people like Rep. Rogers who had ties with Christie, who famously put Kushner’s father in prison when Christie was U.S. Attorney in New Jersey. Frank Gaffney, a Reagan administration veteran, was brought in to assist on national security issues, as was Republican U.S. Reps. Pete Hoekstra and Devin Nunes. Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg
 
Rogers, who was recruited to the team by Christie and his aides, is a widely respected former FBI special agent and the former head of the House Intelligence Committee. His departure was also reportedly influenced by his leadership of the House committee, which released a bipartisan report in 2014 clearing Hillary Clinton of personal wrongdoing in the 2012 Benghazi incident. Washington Post, Boston Globe
 
Also on Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) weighed in on Trump’s efforts to work with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, saying any efforts to “reset” relations with Russia are unacceptable.
 
Eliot Cohen, a former State Department official who had criticized Trump during the campaign but said after his election that he would keep an open mind about advising him, said Tuesday on Twitter and in a Washington Post op-ed that he had changed his opinion. After speaking to the transition team, he wrote, he had “changed my recommendation: stay away.” Washington Post
Related:
The Hill: 76 National Security Experts Urge Trump to Keep the Iran Deal
Washington Post: Trump’s Administration Could Upend the Middle East
New York Times: Giuliani’s Business Ties Viewed as Red Flag for Secretary of State Job
THREE MORE TWIN CITIES MEN SENTENCED IN ISIS CASE
A federal judge in Minneapolis handed down three more sentences on Tuesday to Twin Cities men who pleaded guilty or were convicted for their roles in the country’s largest ISIS conspiracy case. U.S. District Judge Michael Davis sentenced Hamza Ahmed to 15 years in prison; he also sentenced Hanad Musse and Adnan Farah to 10 years each. Farah 20, tearfully thanked federal agents who arrested him. “If it wasn’t for them, maybe I wouldn’t be here today,” he said. He had earlier asked Judge Davis for mercy, adding, “I hope you can see I’m not faking anything here.” Ahmed also told the judge that he was thankful he’d been stopped from joining ISIS. The three final sentencings are set for today. Minnesota Public Radio, CBS Minnesota, Associated Press
 
House passes sanctions on Iran, Syria: The House passed two sanctions bills Tuesday, one targeting Iran, the other Syria. The House overwhelmingly passed a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, which forms the basis for energy, banking and defense sanctions against Iran’s nuclear and missile activities, and passed a measure imposing new sanctions on anyone who provides the Syrian government with financial, material or technological support. Washington Post
 
Bergdahl court-martial delayed: The court-martial trial of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who was held captive for five years after being captured by the Taliban, has been delayed for a second time as defense officials struggle with how to review reams of evidence in the case. The defense team has been unable to review some of the evidence in the case because it is highly classified. Washington Post
 
Guantanamo: NCIS investigators continue to look into the death of Guantanamo commissary worker Christopher Tur, 42, who was found dead in the waters off the base on Jan. 10, 2015, a day after he went missing. Miami Herald
 
Occupy surveillance: A federal judge has given the FBI, NSA, and CIA 60 days to turn over any potential evidence that they spied on Occupy Philadelphia protesters. Associated Press
 
NSA on Wikileaks: NSA Director Michael Rogers said publicly Tuesday that a “nation-state” consciously targeted presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in order to affect the U.S. election. Quartz
 

RUSSIA LAUNCHES NEW OFFENSIVE IN SYRIA
Russian missiles pounded opposition targets in Syria on Tuesday, the start of a much-anticipated offensive, while activists reported the resumption of bombing in rebel-held neighborhoods of Aleppo for the first time in nearly a month. Associated Press, Wall Street Journal
 
AFGHANISTAN’S POLITICAL CRISIS INTENSIFIES
Afghanistan’s Parliament was overtaken this week by what reports call “bickering and bedlam,” as seven government ministers were dismissed over the past four days, adding to the woes of a fragile coalition. Washington Post, New York Times
Related:
CNN: Ahmed Rashid Says Trump Will Face ‘Dire’ Situation in Afghanistan
 
Yemen: Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition have agreed to a ceasefire beginning Thursday. Reuters
 

TERRORISM DEATHS FALL GLOBALLY
The Global Terrorism Index, released Tuesday by the Institute for Economics and Peace, revealed that worldwide there had been 29,376 deaths caused by terrorism in 2015, a drop of 10 percent and the first decline since 2010. But wealthy countries experienced a spike in terrorism deaths compared to past years.
 
Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria accounted for 72 percent of all deaths from terrorism in 2015. ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al Qaeda were responsible for 74 percent of these deaths. Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden and Turkey all suffered their worst death tolls from terrorism in a single year since 2000. Guardian, Reuters, NPR
 
Germany ISIS raids: German authorities launched raids in 60 cities on Tuesday, targeting an Islamist missionary group that has been accused of recruiting for ISIS. Police searched 190 mosques, apartments, and offices connected to True Religion, an ultraconservative Muslim organization that is ubiquitous in the country. Washington Post, LA Times
 

Corruption case in Putin’s inner circle: In a development that shoot the Russian political establishment, Russian authorities detained the country’s economic development minister on Tuesday on suspicion that he demanded and accepted a $2 million bribe over a controversial privatization deal. Alexei Ulyukayev became the highest-ranking official to be charged with corruption during Putin’s tenure as Russia’s leader, and the first national minister to be arrested while in office since 1953. Some Putin critics say the arrest is a bid by Putin to keep his senior lieutenants in check. Washington Post
TOP OP-EDS
When Trump takes control of the Justice Department, be afraid: “During the campaign, Trump distinguished himself by his volatility, his vindictiveness, and a desire to strike back at his enemies— qualities that may have served him well in the rough-and-tumble world of New York real estate,” writes Elias Groll in Foreign Policy. “But critics fear Trump will harness the Justice Department to pursue political prosecutions against enemies and otherwise trample civil rights. He will enter the White House after 15 years of presidents—Democratic and Republican—who have wielded nearly untrammelled executive power to conduct investigations, war, covert action, and surveillance operations.”
 
Trump’s misdiagnosis of the jihadist threat: “During the campaign, candidate Donald Trump promised to eliminate the jihadist threat to the United States,” writes William McCants in Lawfare. “Although he diagnoses the problem very differently from his predecessors, President-elect Trump will be just as disappointed in the results of his prescribed treatment if he follows through with it.”
 
Why Giuliani shouldn’t be secretary of state: “The extent of Giuliani’s international experience has been largely limited to giving speeches and consulting work,” writes the New York Times in an editorial. “He lacks any substantive diplomatic experience and has demonstrated poor judgment throughout his career. Indeed, as he became Trump’s most bombastic champion, Giuliani at times appeared unhinged.”
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