The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2017
TRUMP AGAIN SLAMS SESSIONS FOR BEING ‘WEAK’ ON CLINTON INVESTIGATION

In a early-morning tweet on Tuesday, President Trump again appeared to criticize Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying -- apparently in response to a Fox News segment -- “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” He then took aim at acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, tweeting, “Problem is that the acting head of the FBI & the person in charge of the Hillary investigation, Andrew McCabe, got $700,000 from H for wife!” The Week

The tweets follow a swipe at Sessions on Monday, in which Trump called the attorney general “our beleaguered A.G.” and asked why Sessions was not “looking into Crooked Hillary’s crimes & Russia relations?”

President Trump and his advisers are reportedly discussing the possibility of replacing Sessions, and some confidants are floating prospects who could take his place were he to resign or be fired. Sessions’s tight relationship with Trump and the White House has unraveled since he recused himself in March from the Russia probe. The president had privately complained about that decision for weeks, and in an interview with the New York Times last week he said he would not have appointed Sessions as attorney general had he known that Sessions would do such a thing. Washington Post
Related:
Axios: Trump Ponder Rudy Giuliani for Attorney General
TRUMP ACCUSES WASHINGTON POST OF FABRICATING FACTS ABOUT COVERT CIA SYRIA PROGRAM
During a late night Twitter session on Monday, President Trump appeared to confirm a Washington Post report that his administration ended a covert CIA program that armed moderate anti-government rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad....” Trump tweeted, referring to a story published by the Post last week about his decision to stop the program, handing a big win to Russia and Assad.

While he did not elaborate on how the Post allegedly “fabricated the facts,” he did accuse that newspaper’s owner, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, of using the Post to bully politicians into not taxing the online retailer. “So many stories about me in the @washingtonpost are Fake News,” he tweeted. “They are as bad as ratings challenged @CNN. Lobbyist for Amazon and taxes?" A few minutes later, he added, “Is Fake News Washington Post being used as a lobbyist weapon against Congress to keep Politicians from looking into Amazon no-tax monopoly?” Washington Post, Los Angeles Times

MATTIS REBUKES PENTAGON FOR WASTEFUL SPENDING
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has scolded the Pentagon bureaucracy for “cavalier” use of taxpayer dollars, citing an episode of wasteful spending on private-label uniforms for the Afghan military that has caught the attention of Congress. In a memo obtained this week by The Associated Press, Mattis pointed to a June report by the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan that said the Pentagon had spent as much as $28 million more than necessary over 10 years on uniforms for Afghan soldiers with a camouflage “forest” pattern that are inappropriate for the largely desert battlefield. Washington Post, New York Times

KANSAS MAN GETS 30 YEARS FOR FOILED BOMB PLOT AGAINST MILITARY BASE
A Topeka, Kan, man who plotted to set off a bomb at Fort Riley, Kan., on behalf of ISIS was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison. John T. Booker Jr., 22, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., where he pleaded guilty last year to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted destruction of government property by fire or explosives. Booker first came to the attention of authorities in March 2014 after posting on Facebook that he wanted to wage “jihad.” Kansas City Star, Reuters


VIDEO SHOWS U.S. SOLDIERS SURRENDERING BEFORE FATAL SHOOTING IN JORDAN
Newly released video of the killing of three American Special Forces soldiers in November at the gate of a military base in Jordan shows that the episode, which was initially explained as a split-second mistake by a Jordanian guard firing on Americans who failed to stop, was actually a six-minute gun battle where Americans crouched behind barriers and repeatedly waved their hands in surrender as the gunman closed in and killed them.

The footage, which was made public on Monday by the Jordanian military, contradicts statements Jordanian officials initially made saying that the Americans had failed to stop at the gate, or that the accidental discharge of an American weapon sparked the shooting. New York Times

ISRAEL BEGINS REMOVING METAL DETECTORS AT AL AQSA MOSQUE
In a major reversal, Israeli security forces began removing controversial metal detectors early Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously ordered placed at the entrances to the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City after an attack earlier this month. The metal detectors angered Palestinians, who said the devices were not installed for their safety, but to increase Israel’s control over access to the mosque. The removal of the devices appears to have been part of a deal struck between Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who oversees the administration of the holy site as part of an agreement dating back to 1967. Washington Post

REPORT: VIDEOS SUGGEST RUSSIA COULD BE ARMING THE TALIBAN
The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government, according to exclusive videos obtained by CNN, adding weight to accusations by Afghan and American officials that Moscow is arming their one-time foe in the war-torn country. The two videos show sniper rifles, Kalashnikov variants and heavy machine guns that weapons experts say are stripped of any means of identifying their origin. Two separate sets of Taliban, one in the north and another in the west, claim to be in possession of the weapons, which they say were originally supplied by Russian government sources. CNN
Related:
Daily Beast: $700 Billion and 16 Years at War Is a ‘Modest Amount,’ U.S. Officers Say

UAE DOCUMENTARY ACCUSES QATAR OF COMPLICITY IN 9/11 ATTACKS
Sky News Arabia, owned in part by Emirati scion Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will release a documentary called “Qatar… The Road to Manhattan” on Wednesday. It focuses on 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammad’s visit to Qatar in 1996 as well as “Qatar’s long-term support for him, including protection and financial assistance, to achieve his terrorist goals and plans,” according to a report by Gulf News. Foreign Policy

Al Qaeda in Syria: Syrian rebels and activists are warning that an al-Qaeda-linked jihadi group is on the verge of snuffing out what remains of the country’s uprising in northwestern Syria, after the extremists seized control of the opposition-held regional capital, Idlib, last weekend. Associated Press

Taliban car bomb in Lahore: At least 26 people were killed and more than 50 others wounded in a Monday car bombing in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. The Pakistani Taliban has since claimed responsibility for the attack. The Atlantic


TURKEY OPENS TRIAL OF 17 JOURNALISTS ON TERRORISM CHARGES
Seventeen journalists and executives of the last prominent independent newspaper in Turkey, Cumhuriyet, went on trial in Istanbul on Monday, accused of aiding terrorist organizations under a government crackdown against opponents since a failed coup last year. The trial, which is expected to come to a provisional decision on Friday, is being seen as a test case for the freedom of the press in Turkey, now the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. New York Times, Reuters

CHINESE JETS INTERCEPT U.S. SURVEILLANCE PLANE
Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the East China Sea over the weekend, with one jet coming within about 300 feet of the American aircraft, U.S. officials said on Monday. The officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said initial reports showed one of the Chinese J-10 aircraft came close enough to the U.S. EP-3 plane on Sunday to cause the American aircraft to change direction. Reuters

Former Gitmo detainee deported from Morocco: A former Guantanamo Bay inmate -- who resettled in Uruguay, staged a hunger strike to leave and sparked a regional alarm when he went missing -- took another unexpected twist when he was deported back from Morocco, even though officials here were unaware that he had ever left. Syrian native Abu Wa’el Dhiab arrived in Uruguay’s capital on Saturday and was questioned by Interpol after being deported for carrying a false passport. Associated Press
TOP OP-EDS
Federal prosecution is a viable option for enemy combatants: “In cases in which the evidence is available, prosecution in an Article III federal court is not just a viable option, it has been the most successful long-term option since 9/11,” writes Mary McCord in Lawfare. “Bossert, and the Trump administration, should not foreclose it.”

A terrorism trial in the federal courts: Republicans used to cry foul when the Obama administration brought terrorism suspects to the U.S. to stand trial in federal courts, the New York Times writes in an editorial. “There was no similar outcry last week at the news that Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general, has agreed to try Ali Charaf Damache in a federal court in Philadelphia.”

Much ado about nothing - Cyber Command and the NSA: “Last week, word began to spread that the Trump administration was considering granting new powers to U.S. Cyber Command,” writes Michael Sulmeyer in War on the Rocks. “While the news is a good sign of the continued maturation of Cyber Command (and the acknowledgment of that maturation by the White House), there’s less here than meets the eye.”

How Trump should handle Iran: “The focus on the nuclear deal is missing the point,” writes Eric Edelman and Charles Wald in Politico. “The administration’s real agenda on Iran doesn’t hinge on the nuclear agreement—a dangerous deal that puts the U.S. in an impossible situation. Instead, the Trump administration’s priority should be restoring leverage against Tehran, so that we can dissuade Iran from sprinting toward a bomb and create far more favorable circumstances to negotiate an agreement that—unlike Obama’s deal—actually prevents a nuclear Iran.”

Mueller is trumping Congress: “The main headlines of the past week—Is Donald Trump attempting to undermine Mr. Mueller? Will Trump Fire Mueller?—all speak to the challenge a special prosecutor poses to the constitutional authority of the president,” writes William McGurn in the Wall Street Journal. “Far less scrutiny has been devoted to the challenge Mr. Mueller poses to the authority of the legislative branch.”
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