Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today's Headlines and Commentary

By Quinta Jurecic
Friday, May 26, 2017, 1:42 PM

Donald Trump’s appearance at a NATO summit yesterday was “tense” and rife with palpable discord, the New York Times writes. Trump notably failed to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to NATO’s Article 5, promising mutual defense among allies, and instead castigated his fellow leaders for failing to adequately fund the alliance, suggesting incorrectly that the United States is owed money. In a meeting between Trump and European Union leaders and officials, the Europeans reportedly expressed anxiety over the increasing aggression of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

CNN tells us that former FBI Director James Comey was aware that a letter from a Democratic operative suggest that Attorney General Loretta Lynch would quash an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server was a fake engineered as part of the Russian disinformation campaign, but felt that the letter nevertheless placed pressure on him to publicly share his rationale for not recommending charges against Clinton. Comey feared that if the fake document was released, he would not be able to rebut it without revealing the sources and methods of the intelligence community—yet he did not tell lawmakers that the document was fake in a classified briefing on the subject. CNN also reports that the Kremlin is continuing its disinformation campaign to confuse the ongoing investigation into election interference.

The FBI is focusing attention on President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in the Bureau’s ongoing investigation into Russian election interference on the basis of Kushner’s extensive contacts with Russian officials, the Post reports. CNN also writes that investigators are focusing on Kushner’s relationship with Michael Flynn and his involvement in a data analytics firm used by the Trump campaign that may have been used to facilitate the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign. Importantly, reporting has not indicated that Kushner is either a subject or a target of the FBI investigation. The Wall Street Journal tells us that Kushner will cooperate with investigators on the matter, according to his lawyer.

The suicide bomber responsible for the Manchester attack opened a bank account a year ago that he used to buy materials for the bomb and rent an apartment for the explosives’ construction, the Times reports. According to the Telegraph, authorities were informed at least five separate times that Salman Abedi might pose a security risk and of his father’s links to a militant Islamist group in Libya. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that British authorities have resumed intelligence sharing with the United States on the Manchester investigation after sharing was halted due to a string of leaks from U.S. sources to the press.

Gunman attacked a Coptic Christian convoy traveling to a monastery in southern Egypt earlier today, killing 26 people, the Times reports. The attack is the latest in a string of deadly assaults on Egypt’s Coptic Christian community, including two attacks on Palm Sunday and the December bombing of a Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo. The Islamic State claimed credit for these earlier attacks. Responsibility has not yet been claimed or attributed for the assault on the convoy.

Airstrikes conducted by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria killed over 100 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The victims, more than 40 of whom were children, were chiefly family members of ISIS fighters. The strikes hit an ISIS-controlled town near the city of Deir al-Zor in Syria’s east. Reuters has more.

A Pentagon investigation has confirmed that a March airstrike conducted by the U.S. coalition killed over 100 civilians in Mosul, the Post writes. Two ISIS snipers were also killed. According to the Pentagon report, the unexpected civilian casualties resulted from additional explosives placed by the Islamic State in the targeted building, which caused the building to collapse when it was hit by the airstrike. In March, the Pentagon initially stated that the ISIS had used the civilians as human shields.

A video analysis by the New York Times shows just what happened when bodyguards of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked protesters outside the Turkish embassy during Erdogan’s recent visit to Washington, D.C. Members of the House of Representatives have introduced a resolution condemning the incident, which the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized as “one-sided.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit substantially affirmed in part a lower court’s nationwide preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s revised travel ban, writing that the executive order “drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions has promised to appeal the case, International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, to the Supreme Court.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes posted Rational Security, the “Glowing Orb of Peace” Edition.

Julian Ku pondered why U.S. officials refuse to go on the record about what appears to have been a recent freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea.

James Kraska also weighed in on the possible FONOP.

Carrie Cordero alerted us to a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on law enforcement access to data stored across borders.

I flagged a new AUMF introduced by Senators Jeff Flake and Tim Kaine.

I also posted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit’s ruling affirming in part a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s revised travel ban.

Daniel Byman considered Iran’s support for terrorist groups.

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