The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2017
TRUMP ADVISER SENT EMAIL ABOUT ‘PRIVATE CONVERSATION’ WITH RUSSIAN OFFICIAL

Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to President Trump’s campaign whose visit to Moscow during the election has drawn scrutiny, sent an email to fellow Trump aides during his trip describing “a private conversation” with a senior Russian official who spoke favorably of the Republican candidate, according to a transcript of Page’s appearance before lawmakers last week.

Page also wrote that he had been provided “incredible insights and outreach” by Russian lawmakers and “senior members” of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s administration during the trip.

It’s long been known that Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016, but he has said it was in his private capacity, unrelated to his role with the Trump campaign.

The email appeared to contradict earlier statements by Page, who had said he had only exchanged brief greetings with the senior Russian official, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, after he delivered a speech at a Russian university. In his July 2016 note, Page wrote that Dvorkovich had “expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to a vast range of current international problems.”

Page told the House Intelligence Committee he was invited to speak in Russia after joining the campaign -- a similar pattern to foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who was approached by a professor connected to the Russian government after the professor learned he was advising the campaign.

In the interview, Page says that he sought permission for his trip ahead of time and asked for advice about his remarks at a university, and afterward he offered to provide a readout to the campaign. Page also floated the idea that Trump travel to Russia in his place to give a foreign-country speech. Washington Post, CNN, NBC News
Related:
Business Insider: Carter Page’s Testimony Is Filled with Bombshells - and Supports Key Portions of the Steele Dossier
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AIR FORCE GUNMAN’S CONVICTION WASN’T REPORTED TO FBI
The Air Force failed to report the 2012 domestic violence conviction of the gunman in the Texas church massacre to the FBI’s criminal information database, which may have let him slip through a background check to buy the weapon he used to kill 26 men, women and children.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein have directed the service’s inspector general to review how Devin Kelley’s criminal record was handled, Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in a statement. They also ordered a review of Air Force databases to make sure other cases were reported correctly.

“Initial information indicates that Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations,” Stefanek said.

While authorities have not publicly identified a motive for the attack, they emphasized that the shooting did not appear to be fueled by racial or religious issues. Instead, they pointed to the gunman’s issues with his relatives, saying that Kelley had been sending “threatening texts” to his mother-in-law, who was not at the First Baptist Church when he opened fire on the congregation Sunday morning. Bloomberg, Washington Post

Pentagon health panel: The Defense Department — and not the FDA — would have the power to approve drugs and medical devices under the defense policy bill that's being hammered out by a conference committee, alarming congressional health staff and HHS who say it would undermine medical safety and potentially put soldiers at risk. Politico


FALL OF RAQQA DELIVERS BLOW TO ISIS’S MEDIA OPERATION
Since the fall of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s media operation, which was known for its sophistication, has gone almost silent. ISIS’s media output has dropped significantly, according to BBC monitoring, a division of the British media organization that gathers and analyzes communications worldwide.

Since the fall of Raqqa, the number of media items disseminated from ISIS channels dropped from about 30 to less than 10 items per day. In October, the group's monthly multilingual magazine was not published for the first time since its launch in September 2016. Daily radio bulletins on Al-Bayan radio, which have aired regularly since April 2015, also stopped broadcasting on October 25. Al-Bayan's online streaming link, where radio broadcasts are available as podcasts, is also inactive. NPR

IRAN-SAUDI COLD WAR INTENSIFIES
A cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, fought with proxies seeded across the Middle East, is sharply escalating as the two powers jockey to shape a regional order devoid of Islamic State. As ISIS’s territory has shrunk dramatically, the region has turned its focus to the long-running Iran-Saudi struggle, as each strives to carve out a dominant role based on divergent political and religious visions.

Saudi Arabia charged Monday that a missile fired at its capital from Yemen over the weekend was an “act of war” by Iran. By the end of the day Monday, a Saudi minister was accusing Lebanon of declaring war against Saudi Arabia as well.

Even before the launching of the missile on Saturday, which was intercepted en route to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, the crown prince had staged another surprise demonstration of the kingdom’s newly aggressive posture toward Iran and Lebanon. The crown prince hosted a visit from Saudi Arabia’s chief Lebanese client, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who stunned the region by announcing his resignation, via video from Riyadh, in protest against Iran’s undue influence in Lebanese politics. Wall Street Journal, New York Times
Related:
Washington Post: What Saudi Arabia’s Purge Means for the Middle East
New York Times: Ritz-Carlton Has Become a Gilded Cage for Saudi Royals
Slate: On the Prince’s Orders

TRUMP URGES NORTH KOREA TO MAKE A ‘DEAL’ WITH THE U.S.
In Seoul on Tuesday, President Trump asserted that his administration is making “a lot of progress” on North Korea, and he urged dictator Kim Jong Un to “make a deal” at the negotiating table on the rogue nation’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

“I believe it makes sense for North Korea to do the right thing, not only for North Korea but for humanity all over the world,” Trump said during a joint news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in after a bilateral meeting at the Blue House. “I do see certain movement, yes, but we’ll see what happens,” he added, without offering any details. Washington Post

U.S. ORDERS NONESSENTIAL WORKERS OUT OF MOGADISHU
The U.S. has ordered all nonessential employees of its mission to Somalia to leave the capital, because of “specific threat information” against them. The statement over the weekend said the information relates to Mogadishu International Airport. Associated Press


NIGER OPEN TO ALLOWING U.S. DRONES
Niger is open to allowing U.S. drone strikes against terror groups, the West African nation’s prime minister said, days after U.S. officials disclosed that an armed drone had been sought, but not sent, near where four American soldiers were killed in an ambush last month. Wall Street Journal

JOHNSON ACCUSED OF WORSENING UK CITIZEN’S PLIGHT IN IRAN
Britain’s foreign secretary faced accusations on Monday of having made a misleading and careless statement about a British citizen of Iranian descent imprisoned in Iran that could prolong her ordeal there.

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, spoke in Parliament last month about Iran’s imprisonment of the woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. He described her conviction for sedition as a mockery of justice but also said she had been “simply teaching people journalism.”

Days after Johnson’s comments, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken to a new court hearing, where Johnson’s words were cited as evidence that she had been engaged in “propaganda against the regime.” Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose plight in Iran has become something of a cause in Britain, is serving a five-year prison term on charges of seeking to overthrow the government. Her supporters have called the charges absurd. New York Times
TOP OP-EDS
The next phase in the war on terror: “How should we respond to this latest terror act on our soil?” writes Lisa Monaco in Lawfare. “Rather than demagoguing on immigration, launching divisive political attacks, or disparaging our criminal justice system, we should focus on what works. Effectiveness should be our lodestar. Russia is not the only one who wants to weaken the United States by sowing division in our country—the terrorists want to do so as well. We shouldn’t let them.”

21 years of war with al Qaeda? “Has the United States been at war with al-Qaeda for 21 years?” writes Benjamin Farley in Just Security. “During the most recent 9/11 military commission hearing at Guantanamo Bay, the prosecution finally articulated its view of when the U.S. and al-Qaeda entered into an armed conflict. According to the prosecution, that putative armed conflict began more than 21 years ago, on August 23, 1996, the day Osama bin Laden, the founder of the terrorist group, published a fatwa calling for attacks on Americans. The government characterized this fatwa as a declaration of war.”

Not everything is terrorism: “Why does it matter if one attack was terrorism while the other was not?” writes Yascha Mounk in Slate.com. “Perhaps there is no reason to treat mass killings of civilians differently when they do have a political motive than when they do not. Or perhaps we should broaden our definition of terrorism by dropping the requirement that it should have a political motive. I’m open to hearing arguments on both counts. But to pretend that either of these claims is so obviously true that anybody who disagrees with them must be acting in bad faith (or be a bad person) is not to make an argument; it is an exercise in blatant—and blatantly self-serving—gaslighting, worthy only of Congress members who rely on National Rifle Association donations for their re-election.”
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