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Thursday, August 8, 2019 

 Trump Visits Dayton and El Paso 

President Donald Trump visited Dayton, OH and El Paso, TX on Wednesday, where he was met with large protests and political criticism. The president and first lady Melania Trump flew to El Paso late in the day after visiting the Dayton hospital where many of the victims of Sunday’s attack in that city were being treated. For most of the day, the president was kept out of view of the reporters traveling with him, but the White House said the couple met with hospital staff and first responders and spent time with wounded survivors and their families. In his only public remarks during the trip, Trump lashed out at Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley over their characterization of his visit with hospital patients. Outside Dayton’s Miami Valley Hospital, at least 200 protesters gathered, blaming Trump’s incendiary rhetoric for inflaming political and racial tensions in the country and demanding action on gun control. In El Paso, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke spoke to several hundred protesters at a separate gathering. O’Rourke, who is among the Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls, has blistered Trump as a racist instigator following the shootings. Associated Press, Washington Post 
 
Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) put the brakes on Republicans’ quick embrace of “red flag” laws as a response to last weekend’s mass shootings, saying on Wednesday that any gun-related legislation moving through the Senate must be accompanied by a House bill requiring background checks on all gun purchasers. Republicans, including Trump, have coalesced around the concept of “red flag bills,” and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is drafting a bill to develop a federal grant program to help states pass and carry out such laws. New York Times 
Related: 
New York Times: What Could a Domestic Terrorism Law Do?
Associated Press: Texas Governor Says ‘No Red Flags’ in El Paso Suspect’s Past
Los Angeles Times: Trump’s Tweets After Dayton and El Paso Shootings Undercut Visits
Washington Post: Gun Violence in America Prompts a Growing List of Countries to Issue Travel Warnings
Washington Post: Mexico Might Try to Put the El Paso Shooter on Trial. The U.S. is Unlikely to Hand Him Over.

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We worked to defeat the Islamic State. White nationalist terrorism is an equal threat:We both served as presidential envoys leading the U.S. global campaign to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group. In doing so, we worked with all departments and agencies of the U.S. government to develop a comprehensive and multifaceted campaign to defeat Islamic State terrorists on the battlefield, but also, and crucially, through counter-finance, counter-messaging and information-sharing across the United States and globally,” writes John R. Allen and Brett McGurk in the Washington Post. “The United States now faces a new national security threat. The enemy is not the Islamic State but domestic and homegrown white nationalist terrorism.”
 
A look at one way ISIS is trying to incite attacks inside the U.S.: “Al Qaeda's rival ISIS enjoys far more media attention, far more support from the younger generation of jihadis, and far more foreign fighters joining its ranks,” writes Steven Stalinsky in The Hill. “While its official caliphate has crumbled, it remains strong in the cyber caliphate and on social media and continues to successfully spread its brand and ideology worldwide.”
 
Trump’s asylum policies- and the troops who enforce them - are breaking the law: “These duties include implementing a policy that treats asylum-seekers as ‘invaders’ and criminals - instead of as vulnerable civilians exercising their human rights- and that deprives asylum-seeking civilians of their liberty while also aiming to keep refugee families on the Mexico side of the border,” writes Charli Carpenter in Foreign Policy. “Public officials who carry out these commands, including the 6,600 U.S. troops now deployed to assist in the task, are not only enabling policy that harms civilians and that is widely seen as inhumane and immoral. They are also violating the law.” 
 

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White House rebuffed attempts to prioritize domestic terrorism: White House officials reportedly rebuffed efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to make combating domestic terror threats a greater priority as specifically spelled out in the National Counterterrorism Strategy. “Homeland Security officials battled the White House for more than a year to get them to focus more on domestic terrorism,” said one source. “The White House wanted to focus only on the jihadist threat which, while serious, ignored the reality that racial supremacist violence was rising fast here at home. They had major ideological blinders on.” The National Counterterrorism Strategy, issued last fall, states that “radical Islamist terrorists remain the primary transnational terrorist threat to the United States and its vital national interests.” Some critics have alleged that the strategy minimized the threat of domestic terrorism, which is only briefly mentioned. “Ultimately the White House just added one paragraph about domestic terrorism as a throw-away line,” a source said. CNN
Related: 
The Daily Beast: DHS Official: Trump Can’t Admit ‘This Is Terrorism’
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: El Paso Shooting Sparks Renewed Calls to Make Domestic Terrorism a Crime in U.S.
The Guardian: 'Blood on Their Hands': The Intelligence Officer Whose Warning Over White Supremacy Was Ignored
 
House Judiciary sues to force McGahn to testify: The House Judiciary Committee filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday aimed at forcing former White House Counsel Donald McGahn to testify about his interactions with President Trump. McGahn was a witness in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation who, under Trump’s orders, has refused to testify before the committee. The lawsuit challenges the White House rationale that McGahn and other witnesses have “absolute immunity” from appearing and can defy subpoenas. The legal action comes at a time when more than half of House Democrats have said they support beginning an impeachment inquiry. Associated Press, New York Times 
 
Banks hand over documents on Russians possibly linked to Trump: Major Wall Street banks have reportedly given the House Financial Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee thousands of pages of documents related to Russians who may have had dealings with President Trump, his family, or his business. Investigators with the committees are working on a joint probe into potential foreign influence on Trump and his family. Some banks are also reportedly providing documents related to The Trump Organization to New York state investigators in response to a civil subpoena sent earlier this year by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Wall Street Journal 
 
Judge won’t reconsider daily fines against Chelsea Manning: Chelsea Manning will not receive a hearing to challenge steep daily penalties imposed on her for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. In an order issued Monday, Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia said that there were no “reasonable grounds” to reconsider his decision to impose the fines, which started at $500 per day and have now risen to $1,000 per day. Manning, who was first jailed in March for refusing to testify, could be in jail for up to 18 months, and her attorneys estimate that the total cost will be close to half a million dollars. Her attorney Moira Meltzer-Cohen said Manning “expects to remain” in jail for about 400 more days. Washington Post 
 
Puerto Rico swears in new governor: Puerto Rico now has its third governor in less than a week after the territory’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Pedro Pierluisi was sworn in on unconstitutional grounds. The ruling cleared the way for Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez Garced to become governor. Vázquez Garced, who faces widespread mistrust from Puerto Ricans and previously said she did not want the job, was sworn in at 5 p.m. Wednesday. “Puerto Rico needs certainty and stability,” Vázquez Garced said in a statement. “Our actions will be directed to that end, and it will always come first.” Vázquez Garced’s ascent to the governor’s office was expected to provoke more protests from Puerto Ricans, many of whom consider her to be an extension of former governor Ricardo Rosselló’s tainted administration. Washington Post 
 
U.S. orders freeze of foreign aid: The Trump administration has ordered the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to freeze much of the remaining money for foreign aid this year. The decision, issued in a letter by the Office of Management and Budget, covers a broad range of foreign aid that Congress had already approved and halts the agencies’ ability to distribute what is estimated to be between $2 to $4 billion of funding. The State Department and USAID  must give “an accounting” of all “unobligated resources” of foreign aid, meaning funding that has not been officially designated for specific purposes, the letter said. New York Times 
 
Foreign affairs officer outed as white nationalist: Matthew Q. Gebert, a foreign affairs officer with the State Department, was outed for his alleged involvement with white nationalist forums and for allegedly being part of a white nationalist group in Washington, researchers from the Southern Poverty Law Center said Wednesday. Gebert allegedly used the pseudonym “Coach Finstock” on white nationalist forums and hosted parties at his Virginia home for like-minded individuals. Gebert’s wife, Anna Vuckovic, was identified as going by the handle “Wolfie James” on Twitter. Her profile has also been connected to the white nationalist movement. Vuckovic also allegedly wrote blog posts with dating tips and parenting advice for white nationalist women and moms on the site “The Right Stuff.” NBC News 
 
U.S. agencies barred from buying Huawei equipment: Government agencies will be banned from buying Huawei equipment after the Trump administration implements a measure to crack down on Chinese companies seen as security threats. A rule issued by the administration bans several companies from supplying the federal government including Huawei; ZTE, a telecoms company; Hikvision and Dahua, manufacturers of surveillance cameras; and Hytera, which produces two-way radios. Financial Times 


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IMMIGRATION RAID RESULTS IN 680 ARRESTS 
Immigration officials raided numerous Mississippi food processing plants Wednesday, arresting 680 workers in what marked the largest workplace sting in at least a decade. Some children of those arrested were taken to a local gym where volunteers set up a makeshift shelter for the children after they came home to find their parents gone and their homes locked. WJTV’s Alex Love reported that there was food, “but most children are still devastated and crying for their parents and can’t eat.” Bryan D. Cox, a spokesman for ICE, said that all arrested individuals were asked “if they had any children who were at school or child care and needed to be picked up.” ICE’s acting director, Matthew Albence, said the children would be sent to live with relatives or with other families.

ICE Homeland Security Investigations conducted the operation in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi. The raids, planned months ago, happened just hours before President Trump was scheduled to visit El Paso, TX, the majority-Latino city where a man linked to an online screed about a “Hispanic invasion” was charged in a shooting that left 22 people dead. Workers filled three buses at a Koch Foods Inc. plant in Morton, MS and were taken to a military hangar to be processed for immigration violations. USA Today, Associated Press, Washington Post
 
Kimberly Breier resigns: Kimberly Breier, assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, has resigned, leaving a key vacancy in the diplomatic office in charge of the Trump administration’s efforts to control immigration from Mexico and Central America. Officials said Breier was not necessarily opposed to administration policies in the region but chafed at the level of control exerted by the White House over immigration and trade-dominated relations with Mexico and other matters. One senior administration official said she had been chastised by White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, who considered her insufficiently committed to publicly defending last month’s sudden agreement over asylum between President Trump and the government of Guatemala. Washington Post 


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Violence in Afghanistan worsens: Fourteen people were killed and 145 injured by a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul on Wednesday morning that targeted the gate of the district 6 police headquarters. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a media message from spokesman Zabiullah Mojahid. According to Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, three suicide attackers detonated an improvised explosive device at the gate of the headquarters. Wednesday’s attack follows a trend of increasing violence in Afghanistan. The United Nations said July was the deadliest month in the last few years, with 1,500 civilians killed or wounded. New York Times, CNN 
Related: 
Associated Press: Afghan Ambassador: Taliban Attacks Undermine Peace Talks
 
Yemen separatists storm presidential palace: Separatists in Yemen tried without success to seize the presidential palace in Aden on Wednesday. The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) had accused a local Islamist party allied with President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi of orchestrating last week’s attack on a military parade in order to gain more control over Arden. The local party has not commented on the accusation. The STC on Wednesday called on hundreds of its supporters, who had gathered to attend a funeral for some of those killed in the attack, to overrun the nearby presidential palace and overthrow the government. The attack is part of a growing rift within the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Iran-aligned Houthis: the separatists, who want an independent southern Yemeni state, are fighting alongside forces loyal to the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the Houthis. Wall Street Journal, Reuters 
 
U.S. and Turkey agree to cooperate in establishing ‘safe zone’ in northern Syria: The United States and Turkey announced on Wednesday that they had agreed to “address Turkish security concerns” and work together on the establishment of a “safe zone” in northern Syria. The statements, released by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and Turkey’s Defense Ministry, did not say whether the thorniest issue, the size and complexion of the safe zone, had been resolved. The Trump administration has worked to head off a Turkish offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria that Turkey considers to be a security threat. The agreement also said that the U.S. and Turkish delegations had agreed to a “rapid implementation of initial measures to address Turkey’s security concerns.” Washington Post 
Related: 
Washington Post: UN Official Says Over 100,000 Detained and Missing in Syria
The Daily Beast: ISIS, Assad, and Turkey Are Waging a Shadow War on U.S. Allies in Syria


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Pakistan downgrades diplomatic ties with India: Pakistan announced on Wednesday that it will downgrade diplomatic relations and suspend bilateral trade with India after New Delhi stripped the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir of its special status. India's High Commissioner will also be removed from the country, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. It added that Islamabad will not send its own ambassador to New Delhi. The series of announcements came after a National Security Committee meeting on Wednesday where the office of Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Islamabad would also review bilateral agreements with India and take the issue up with the United Nations and the UN Security Council. CNN
 
Meanwhile, Indian security forces have arrested more than 500 people since New Delhi imposed a communications blackout and security clampdown in Kashmir, where people remained holed up in their homes for the fourth day. Activist Ali Mohammed said that he has been organizing ambulances to carry sick poor people to hospitals in Srinagar, the main city in India’s portion of Kashmir, as local residents cannot use their phones to seek medical help. A petition has been filed in India’s top court challenging the lockdown. Associated Press 
Related: 
Reuters: U.S. Supports Direct Dialogue Between Pakistan, India on Kashmir
Financial Times: Modi Pledges ‘Better Tomorrow’ for Kashmir Under New Delhi
 
Britain’s counter-terror chief says policing alone cannot beat extremism: Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Neil Basu, said that police and security services are no longer enough to win the fight against violent extremism, and that the UK must instead improve community cohesion, social mobility, and education. Basu said that up to 80 percent of those who wanted to attack the UK were British-born or raised, indicating that domestic social issues were among the root causes. Grievances held by people who were “malleable” to terrorist recruitment were highly dangerous, he said, calling for sociologists and criminologists to take a leading role in helping police tackle the problem. The Guardian 
 
NATO monitoring China’s presence in the Arctic: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that NATO is carefully monitoring China’s increased presence in the Arctic amid growing divisions in the region. Stoltenberg’s comments come at a time when countries are scrambling to claim territory or boost their presence in the Arctic as thawing ice raises the possibility of exploiting much of the world’s remaining undiscovered reserves of oil and gas and mineral deposits. “We need to assess the security consequences, for all of us, of the rising military power of China,” Stoltenberg said. CNBC 
 
High-level cyber intrusions hit Bahrain: Suspected Iranian hackers infiltrated critical infrastructure and government computers in Bahrain within the last month, raising fears among leaders in the region that Tehran is stepping up its cyberattacks amid growing tensions. The intrusions reportedly rose above the normal level of Iranian cyber activity in the region. On Monday, hackers reportedly broke into the systems of Bahrain’s National Security Agency, the Ministry of Interior, and the first deputy Prime Minister’s office. On July 25, Bahrain authorities identified intrusions into its Electricity and Water Authority. The hackers shut down several systems in what the authorities believed was a test run of Iran’s capability to disrupt the country. “They had command and control of some of the systems,” a source said. Wall Street Journal  
 
China warns Hong Kong it will intervene: Zhang Xiaoming, a senior Chinese official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, warned that Beijing would intervene if Hong Kong’s government proved unable to contain protesters, calling the situation the most severe since China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997.“If the situation worsens further, and there is turmoil that the Hong Kong government is unable to control, the central government absolutely will not just watch without doing anything,” Zhang said. Wall Street Journal 
Related: 
Associated Press: U.S. Urges Increased Caution for Americans Visiting Hong Kong
 




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For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSC IntelBrief.
Editor-in-Chief, Karen J. Greenberg, Center on National Security, Fordham Law School
 
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