The Soufan Group Morning Brief


President Donald Trump will announce Wednesday that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and will eventually relocate its embassy there — a declaration that leaders in the Middle East and Europe have warned could spur violent protests in the Middle East and undermine the White House’s effort to strike a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

The decision, which upends nearly seven decades of American foreign policy, is driven not by diplomatic calculations but by a campaign promise. He appealed to evangelicals and ardently pro-Israel American Jews in 2016 by vowing to move the embassy, and advisers said on Tuesday he was determined to make good on his word.

Trump still plans to sign a national security waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months, even as he set in motion a plan to move it to Jerusalem. Officials said the process would take several years.

The president began informing his counterparts in the region of his decision Tuesday, prompting warnings from several countries that the move would inflame Muslims and disrupt progress toward a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. U.S. allies in Europe, including France, also have opposed such a change in policy, and the State Department sent a classified memo to embassies in the Middle East late last month warning of potential anti-American protests.

“Our president said, ‘You don’t have anything that would make up for this on Jerusalem,’ ” said Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who said Abbas had personally briefed him on the call. Abbas told Trump that he would “not accept it” and warned that the president was “playing into the hands of extremism.”

The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation said that changing Jerusalem’s status would amount to "naked aggression" against the Arab and Muslim world, and the head of the Arab League, said it would be a “dangerous measure that would have repercussions” across the entire Middle East. There were also warnings from Jordan's King Abdullah, Egypt's President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In recent days, the European Union, Germany and France have all implored Trump not to take action on Jerusalem. Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Politico
USA Today: Trump’s Jerusalem Decision Alarms World Leaders
Deutsche Bank AG received a subpoena earlier in the fall from U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s office concerning people or entities affiliated with President Donald Trump, according to multiple reports on Tuesday. The subpoena requested data and other documents about accounts tied to relationships with Trumps and those close to him. Deutsche Bank has lent at least $300 million to entities associated with Trump. Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg

But Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, said Deutsche Bank has not received any subpoena for financial records relating to the president as part of Mueller’s probe. “We have confirmed that the news reports that the Special Counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the president are false,” Sekulow told Reuters in a statement. “No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources.” Reuters

The Senate voted on Tuesday to confirm Kirstjen Nielsen as the secretary of homeland security, elevating a top White House aide and former agency official to oversee the department central to President Trump’s plan to crack down on illegal immigration and beef up border security. The vote was 62 to 37.

Nielsen will replace John Kelly, who left in July to become the White House chief of staff. Nielsen served as Kelly’s chief of staff at the Homeland Security Department, and he brought her along to the White House to be his deputy. New York Times

Special Agent James M. Fitzgerald took the witness stand at the Guantanamo war court on Tuesday, as prosecutors challenged a defense motion to dismiss the case against 9/11 defendant Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi on the grounds that he does not meet the criteria under international law to be charged by a military commission at the U.S. base in Cuba.

The pre-trial hearing provided the most detailed look to date at the prosecution’s case against al-Hawsawi, a 49-year-old Saudi portrayed by his lawyer as, at most, only a minor participant in the plot that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. Associated Press, Miami Herald

Appeals court hears case of Russian Taliban fighter: A former Russian military officer who received a life sentence for leading a Taliban attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2009 was a soldier, not a criminal, and should have been treated as a lawful combatant, his lawyer argued before a federal appeals court Tuesday. But a Justice Department lawyer told the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that Irek Hamidullin, who led the attack on behalf of the Taliban and its allied terrorist organization, the Haqqani Network, was not entitled to protections given prisoners of war. Associated Press

Pentagon review finds rampant failure to share criminal data: The military justice system’s failure to share critical information with civilian law enforcement agencies is far more rampant than initially believed, the Pentagon’s independent watchdog has found — in some cases nearly a third of the time. Politico, USA Today

Mueller deputy praised Yates in email: A top prosecutor for Special Counsel Robert Mueller sent an email praising Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general fired by President Donald Trump, for refusing to defend Trump’s travel ban.
Andrew Weissmann sent the email to Yates on the night of Jan. 30 offering support for her move after she told the Justice Department not to enforce Trump’s executive order temporarily banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The email was among 379 pages of Justice Department documents released by Judicial Watch, a conservative group that obtained it through a lawsuit. Bloomberg, Washington Post  

The Saudi-led coalition intensified air strikes on Yemen early on Wednesday as the armed Houthi movement tightened its grip on the capital after it killed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who switched sides in the civil war. Saleh’s exiled son, Ahmed Ali Saleh, has also vowed to take revenge on the Houthi rebels in retaliation for his father’s death. Reuters, Wall Street Journal

Nine terrorist attacks have been prevented in the UK in the past year, the director general of MI5, Andrew Parker, told British lawmakers this week. He revealed the information during a presentation to cabinet members on the terrorist threat facing the country.

“There have been five attacks that have got through – four of which are related to Islamist terrorism,” May’s official spokesman told reporters after the briefing. Guardian
Guardian: MI5 and Police ‘Thwart Plot to Assassinate Theresa May’

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s reception in Brussels on Tuesday was distinctly chilly, as disappointment among European diplomats in President Trump’s nationalistic tone and insulting messages on Twitter built into quiet fury on the eve of an expected announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In a brief public appearance beside Tillerson, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, gave the kind of stone-cold statement of facts that she would normally provide standing beside her Russian counterpart, not the American one. She made clear that the European Union saw the Trump administration’s possible announcement on Jerusalem as a threat to peace in the Middle East.

“We believe that any action that would undermine these efforts must absolutely be avoided,” she said. “A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as a future capital of both states.”

Tillerson’s spokesman, R.C. Hammond, acknowledged the less-than-warm reception. “Allies have been very frank today in sharing some of their views,” Hammond said. New York Times
How can the president obstruct justice? “Although the president is unitary, certain structural limits exist over his control of federal law enforcement. The president can obstruct justice. However, the president cannot obstruct justice when he exercises his lawful authority that is vested by Article II of the Constitution,” writes Josh Blackman in Lawfare. “Thus, the question whether the president obstructs justice will turn on whether his actions are supported by Article II itself.”

Trump is guilty: “Trump’s failure to deliver doesn’t change the probability that a corrupt bargain with Putin existed,” writes Max Boot in Foreign Policy. “No other hypothesis can account for the copious links that have emerged between the Trump campaign and the Russians. And if there was an innocent explanation for all of these contacts, why is it that everyone in the Trump campaign, from the president on down, has lied and lied and lied about them? Those are the damning questions that no Trump defender can answer.”

How to stand up to the Kremlin: “To fight back, the United States must lead its democratic allies and partners in increasing their resilience, expanding their capabilities to defend against Russian subversion, and rooting out the Kremlin’s networks of malign influence,” write Joe Biden and Michael Carpenter in Foreign Affairs. “The United States has the capacity to counter this assault and emerge stronger, provided that Washington demonstrates the political will to confront the threat.”
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSC IntelBrief.

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