Fdd's overnight brief

February 24, 2020

In The News


Iran’s conservatives won a landslide in the country’s parliamentary elections, strengthening hard-liners opposed to diplomacy with the West. But a record-low turnout dealt a public rebuke to the establishment’s call for unity in the face of escalating tensions with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is facing crises on multiple fronts as it grapples with the killing of its chief military strategist, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, and a domestic backlash over the downing of a passenger jet, according to analysts and officials in the region. – Washington Post

The world’s top antiterrorism monitoring group voted on Friday to keep Iran on its blacklist for failing to tackle terrorism financing at home, extending international sanctions at a time when the country had hoped to offset its struggling economy by doing business with Europe. – New York Times

Iran on Sunday announced a 42% turnout in its parliamentary election, the lowest rate since the 1979 Islamic revolution, while its top leader said Tehran’s enemies played up the new coronavirus threat to dissuade people from voting. – Reuters

Iran has sustained its military spending in the face of debilitating US sanctions, a military adviser to the supreme leader has said in a rare interview, dismissing the Trump administration’s claims that its maximum pressure strategy has forced Tehran to slash its defence budgets. – Financial Times

Anti-Western hardliners are set to sweep Iran’s parliamentary elections and appear favourites to clinch the presidency next year, but an economic crisis could force them to engage with the United States despite their tightening grip on power. – Reuters

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday accused foreign media of trying to use a deadly outbreak of coronavirus in Iran to “discourage” people from voting in a general election. – Agence France-Presse

Iranian authorities have shut schools, universities and some religious seminaries as it battles high levels of public distrust to reassure people that it is doing everything it can to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has so far killed eight people. – Financial Times

The Trump administration is waging a multi-pronged effort to thwart Iran’s expansion across the Middle East, including efforts at the United Nations to ensure global sanctions come back into effect in what would mark a final death blow for the landmark nuclear deal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Washington Free Beacon in an exclusive and wide-ranging interview. – Washington Free Beacon

Iran’s currency rial continued to lose value against major currencies on Saturday, reaching as low as 154,000 to the U.S. dollar at one point. – Radio Farda

Drawing conclusions about turnout from visiting a handful of polling stations is dangerous, and Tehran, along with Iran’s other big cities, may not be representative of the national mood. But the early signs on a chilly but sunny day were that huge numbers had decided to ignore Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s urgent call to send America a message and to show their support for the regime by turning out to vote. – The Guardian

Fariba Sahraei writes: Human Rights Watch has since estimated that the IRGC may have recruited as many as 10,000 Afghans; up to half of them are believed to have been killed.[…]  I hope he is safe, but it remains that Afghans continue to be persecuted in Iran. Having already fled the Taliban, many end up destitute or imprisoned — or gang-pressed by the Iranian regime into fighting for a genocidal Arab dictator. – New York Post


A Turkish soldier was killed in Syria’s Idlib region in a bomb attack by Russian-backed government forces, the defence ministry said on Saturday, Turkey’s 16th military death during a month in which talks between Ankara and Moscow have stalled. – Reuters

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has discussed the situation in Syria’s Idlib with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar, Russian news agencies reported on Saturday. – Reuters

Syria’s transport ministry declared the main highway between Damascus and Aleppo open to the public on Saturday after troops recaptured the major artery in a Russian-backed offensive. – Reuters

The leaders of France and Germany told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that the humanitarian crisis in Syria’s northwest Idlib province needed a political solution and that the three should meet soon with Russian President Vladimir Putin. – Reuters

Syrian President Bashar Assad almost gave up power and requested asylum in another country, but Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani allegedly convinced him not to, according to a report released by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. – Jerusalem Post


Turkey has closed its border with Iran and halted incoming flights as a precaution to stop the potential spread of coronavirus after the neighbouring country reported 43 cases of the disease, the health minister said on Sunday. – Reuters

Under President Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey is providing refuge to Pakistani jihadi terrorists, notably Ehsanullah Ehsan. On February 13, 2020, the Turkish president landed in Pakistan for a two-day visit during which he addressed Pakistani parliament and the two nations signed 13 bilateral agreements, including one for military training. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Turkey said Thursday it wanted no “face off” with Russia over its Syrian ally’s months-long offensive against Turkish-backed rebels in northwest Syria. – Agence France-Presse

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said he would hold a summit with the leaders of Russia, France and Germany on March 5 to discuss the escalating violence in Syria’s last rebel enclave of Idlib. – Agence France-Presse


Iraq has extended an entry ban for any non-Iraqis coming from Iran, the prime minister said, as authorities in Tehran announced 15 more cases of coronavirus and a death toll of eight. – Reuters

Iraq has shut its Safwan border crossing with Kuwait to travellers and trade at Kuwait’s request, the local mayor told Reuters on Monday without providing a reason, amid fears over the spread of coronavirus. – Reuters

One protester was shot dead and at least six wounded in renewed violence between anti-government demonstrators and security forces in central Baghdad on Sunday, Iraqi officials said. – Associated Press

The Pentagon has raised to 110 the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries during an Iranian missile attack on an air base in Iraq last month. – Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty

Michael Rubin writes: Taken together, this proliferation of universities—whether public or private—does Kurdistan a disservice. There is tremendous human capital in Kurdistan. Education is empowering. Despite Iraqi Kurdistan’s historical isolation, there is no reason to aim low. Alas, just as past dictators once used the lack of universities to undercut Kurdish educational opportunities, the tendency of Kurdish leaders today to proliferate universities does much the same thing.  – Kurdistan Times


Israeli military jets targeted sites in Gaza and Syria linked to Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Sunday night, hours after militants from the group fired more than 20 rockets into Israeli territory. – Washington Post

Pope Francis on Sunday warned against “inequitable solutions” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying they would only be a prelude to new crises, in an apparent reference to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal. – Reuters

Israeli police shot and killed a man who tried to carry out a stabbing attack in the old city of Jerusalem on Saturday, a spokesman said. – Reuters

Pope Francis has cautioned against “unfair” solutions aimed at ending the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. In a speech Sunday during a visit to the Italian southern port city of Bari to reflect on peace in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Francis lamented the many areas of war and conflict, including in the Middle East and Northern Africa. – Associated Press

European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has criticized Israel’s announced plans to build a new neighborhood in East Jerusalem and expand another, warning such action “would be deeply detrimental to a two-state-solution.” – Times of Israel

Zvi Bar’el writes: Once Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and rejects the option of reaching any diplomatic solution, and in the absence of a diplomatic process with the Palestinian Authority, violence reduction is a legitimate goal. It doesn’t obligate the government to give up its political principles, but will obligate it to either accept violations or respond to them in a very measured fashion. – Haaretz

Alex Fishman writes: Russian however can be expected to test Israel’s resolve, and an altercation with its forces is possible in the near future even if proxies are used. The Russians will make sure to inflict pain on Israel, a move that would lead to a slippery slope for the state of bilateral relations. The interim government should educate both its inner cabinet and the Blue & White party on the dangers facing Israel in Syria and their potential to trigger a war. – Ynet


France is ready to support Lebanon financially – bilaterally or multilaterally – its finance minister said on Sunday, warning against mixing economic recovery in the small Mediterranean state with U.S.-led efforts to counter Iran in the region. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will continue meetings with Lebanese authorities on Monday, sources familiar with the process said, extending a visit to provide technical advice that was expected to end on Sunday. – Reuters

Two people were wounded after a bomb exploded in a residential building in the Lebanese city of Tripoli on Sunday, security sources said. – Reuters

The existence in Lebanon of the new virus that first emerged in China has been politicized by some in Lebanon’s deeply divided population. – Associated Press


Al-Qaeda has confirmed the death of Qassim al-Raymi, the leader of Islamist group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Site Intelligence Group reported on Sunday. – Reuters

Naval forces from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen on Sunday foiled an “imminent terrorist” attack by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in the southern Red Sea, a major commercial shipping channel, the coalition said. – Reuters

Saudi Arabia said it had intercepted several ballistic missiles fired by Yemeni Houthi forces towards Saudi cities on Friday ahead of a gathering of finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 major economies in Riyadh. – Reuters


Italians have been haunted by the fate of Mr. Regeni, 28, a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge. A public clamor for the truth about his death, which was widely blamed on Egyptian security agents, has become a national preoccupation. It has been heightened by frustration with Egyptian officials, whom Italian prosecutors accuse of covering up the killing. The arrest of Mr. Zaki triggered that lingering trauma. – New York Times

Last weekend, 180 Jews from Europe, Israel and the United States traveled to the city of Alexandria on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast to attend religious ceremonies at a historic synagogue that was rescued from ruin. It was the largest such gathering of Jews in Egypt since they were pressured to leave during the Arab-Israeli wars of the 1950s and 1960s. – New York Times

The two sons of former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt were acquitted on Saturday of illicit share trading during the sale of a bank four years before the 2011 uprising that ended their father’s 30-year autocratic rule. – Reuters



Italian authorities have arrested the captain of a Lebanese-flagged cargo ship which was seized in the port of Genoa on suspicion of trafficking arms to Libya, including tanks and artillery, the city’s chief prosecutor said on Friday. – Reuters

Three thousand camels have been walked out of Libya’s capital Tripoli in an overnight evacuation after the port where they arrived came under artillery fire. – Reuters

Libya’s security chief called on the U.S. to set up a base in the North African country to counterbalance Russia’s expanding influence in Africa. – Bloomberg

Middle East & North Africa

Ksenia Svetlova writes: After all, in order to advance relations with our Arab neighbors, both sides must lower the bar of hatred. It is time that Israelis, too, understand and believe that we are an inseparable part of the Middle East, that we do not live on a lone island, and that despite the clear difficulties, cooperation with the region is feasible, first and foremost with states that are already Israel’s partners in peace – Egypt and Jordan. – Jerusalem Post

Dennis Ross and David Makovsky write: The Trump administration is not wrong to seek to adjust Palestinian expectations. It is not wrong to signal the Palestinians that there is a cost to saying no. […]But the administration was wrong to think that its offer would be taken as a credible initial move. To be credible, its offer had to provide for a contiguous state in most of the West Bank and not one largely segmented in roughly two-thirds of the territory. – The Hill

Seth J. Frantzman writes: Overall, the meeting of key Israeli officials in Doha could be part of the growing relations between Israel and regional states. Turkey’s Anadolu news calls this the “Arab-Israeli normalization picking up pace in 2020.” It could just be a pragmatic way to keep funds flowing to Gaza, it could be linked to Iran’s pressure and Israel’s stated focus on Iran’s threats during the campaign between the wars and it is clearly linked to Hamas wanting more international attention. – Jerusalem Post


China is Africa’s largest trade partner and is the biggest player in the continent’s infrastructure boom, funding and building highways, railroads, ports and presidential palaces. But as African governments have sought closer ties with Beijing, many like Mr. Soi have inveighed against the partnership, saying it was “one-sided” and amounted to a new form of colonialism. – New York Times

More than four dozen journalists at The Wall Street Journal challenged their bosses and criticized the newspaper’s opinion side in a letter that was sent to top executives on Thursday, the day after China announced that it would expel three Journal staff members in retaliation for a headline that offended the country’s leaders. – New York Times

Beijing on Monday warned its citizens against travelling to the United States, saying that Chinese tourists have been treated unfairly in the country due to excessive prevention measures over the coronavirus outbreak. – Reuters


As the U.S. and the Afghan Taliban started Saturday a seven-day partial truce ahead of a possible peace deal to end more than 18 years of war, the United Nations provided evidence of the conflict’s massive toll on civilians. – Wall Street Journal

Many details of the deal and how it will work remain murky. But here are five things to know now about the U.S.-Taliban deal. – The Hill

The agreement, which took effect Friday, calls for an end to attacks around the country, including roadside bombings, suicide attacks and rocket strikes between the Taliban, Afghan and U.S. forces. But in a country that has been wracked by violence for more than 18 years, determining if the agreement has been violated will be a tough task. And there are a number of other groups and elements in the country that would love to see the deal fall through. – Associated Press

Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces clashed in parts of Afghanistan on Saturday, a day after a week-long “reduction in violence” was announced, but the incidents did not spark immediate alarm on either side. – Reuters

Afghans on Saturday welcomed the pledge by the Taliban and U.S to reduce violence, despite uncertainty looming over the war-torn country. – Reuters

The Trump administration does not have a counternarcotics strategy for Afghanistan, the special investigator who oversees U.S. spending in Afghanistan has found, even though that country is the source for 90% of the world’s heroin and the Afghan drug trade fuels a deadly insurgency against American troops. – USA Today

A United Nations report says Afghanistan passed a grim milestone with more than 100,000 civilians killed or hurt in the last 10 years since the international body began documenting casualties in a war that has raged for 18 years. – Associated Press

As a peace deal looms between the Taliban and the U.S. warring parties in the 18-year long conflict are calling on their forces to be prepared to use self-defense, signaling a potential partial cessation of offensive operations across Afghanistan. – Military Times

Michael Rubin writes: Trump and Pompeo can celebrate, but Congress and the press should be clear: What happened on Friday makes terrorist attacks on Americans abroad and the U.S. homeland more likely. It mocks the sacrifice so many American soldiers have made since Sept. 11. It betrays a generation of Afghan women. And it rewards a government responsible for sheltering terrorists and killing people. Trump may want to end “endless wars,” but empowering the Taliban and al Qaeda will never do that. It will only bring those same wars closer to home. – Washington Examiner


Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad submitted his resignation, his office said, plunging the Southeast Asian country into political chaos less than two years after the 94-year-old leader took office in a historic election. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump is scheduled to land in the western city of Ahmedabad on Monday for his first presidential visit to India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has planned an epic spectacle.  – New York Times

Pakistan won an extra four months to meet international anti-terrorism financing norms on Friday when a global dirty money watchdog decided to keep the country off its blacklist for now. – Reuters

Ahead of US President Donald Trump’s first official visit to the world’s biggest democracy starting Monday, AFP looks at the main areas of agreement and discord with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. – Agence France-Presse


Almost three decades after the collapse of the Soviet empire, Russian President Vladimir Putin is on a mission to rebuild Moscow’s international influence in the Middle East and Africa. The campaign relies partly on building alliances with developing countries outside official channels, often through proxies such as private security contractors, businesses and advisers, according to people involved and European security officials. – Wall Street Journal

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that a Russian official was detained by Spanish police during a working trip on Feb. 14 after her arrest was requested by the United States. – Reuters

David E. Sanger writes: Mr. Maguire’s successor, Richard Grenell, the current American ambassador to Germany, is known for his political allegiance to Mr. Trump, not for his knowledge of the American intelligence agencies. He is widely viewed by career officials as more interested in making sure public intelligence reports do not embarrass Mr. Trump than sounding the clarion call that the Russians are coming — again. – New York Times

Kevin Ryan writes: Whether we save START or not, our real efforts must be focused on creating a new paradigm for strategic arms control — one that is based not on counting weapons but on preventing their use.  We should not refer to the agreement as a nuclear treaty because it needs to cover much more than just nuclear weapons. It should address weapons with strategic effects. And our effort must include more states than just Russia. It’s time to dedicate real brains and real money to creating a new model for preventing strategic attack on America. – The Hill


A British court on Monday is set to begin examining whether to extradite Julian Assange to the U.S. to stand trial on spying charges, the latest episode in Washington’s pursuit of the WikiLeaks founder for publishing a trove of secret documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. – Wall Street Journal

Italy reported a fourth death from the coronavirus Monday, as authorities imposed quarantines and other restrictions in the country’s economic heartland to fight what is now the world’s third-biggest national outbreak after China and South Korea. […]The crisis is starting to test Europe’s commitment to open borders and free travel, a core policy of the European Union. – Wall Street Journal

German officials have faced accusations for years of turning a blind eye to the threat posed by right-wing extremists. But after a German who embraced violent racist ideals killed nine mostly young people in hookah bars in the central city of Hanau this week, the response was swift and clear. – New York Times

Serbia has received a sophisticated anti-aircraft system from Russia, despite possible U.S. sanctions against the Balkan state, which is formally seeking European Union membership. – Associated Press

A man accused of stabbing a prayer leader inside a north London mosque appeared in court on Saturday charged with causing grievous bodily harm and was remanded in custody to appear again next month. – Reuters

European Union leaders fell out on Friday over their next long-term budget after fraught talks over a gaping Brexit hole in their joint coffers, with poorer countries demanding more aid and their “frugal” peers determined to rein in spending. – Reuters

Bulgarian prosecutors on Friday named the three Russians they have charged with the attempted murder of three Bulgarians whose poisoning is being investigated for possible links with the 2018 nerve-agent attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal. – Reuters

The Aalst Carnival parade included stereotypical depictions of Jews for the second year in a row and the Belgian government said that the anti-Semitism in the three-day festival embarrassed the nation and endangers society. – Associated Press

British Brexit negotiators are trying to find a way to avoid checks on goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K., according to the Sunday Times newspaper. – Bloomberg

EU governments will make a final push this week to toughen the bloc’s negotiating position ahead of the opening of trade talks with the UK, even though British officials claim that the EU27 countries are “divided” over their stance. – Financial Times

Since November 2019, the Telegram channel of an international neo-Nazi militant organization has been promoting neo-Nazi and fascist ideologies and calling frequently for violent action against African-Americans, Jews, journalists, politicians, and financial and governmental institutions. The group actively recruits new members across the world, claiming that its members have carried out “successful operations” in the U.S., U.K., and Sweden. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Western powers must step up military deterrence and investment to combat Russia’s growing strategic control of the pivotal Black Sea region, Georgia’s foreign minister has warned. – Financial Times

Jewish organizations on Sunday hailed the Bulgarian government’s decision to ban an annual neo-Nazi torch-lit march in the country’s capital of Sofia. – Algemeiner

Editorial: Germany has expelled two diplomats, saying Russia was not cooperating with the investigation, but that’s barely a slap on the wrist. The investigation by Bellingcat and its partners depicts a state-sponsored assassination on German soil, not unlike the earlier attempt to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain and, before that, the murder of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium-laced tea in London. Germany must show that such crimes will not be tolerated. – Washington Post

Miro Popkhadze writes: Skeptics in Washington may worry that the U.S. military base in Georgia could increase the risk of the U.S. direct conflict with Russia. […]But U.S. forces remain stronger, better equipped and more powerful than Russia’s by quite a bit. Considering U.S. military and economic superiority, and all the allies the U.S. brings to the table, Russia is far less likely to go to war with the United States over a military base in Georgia. A strong U.S. military presence in Europe deterred the Soviet Union during the Cold War. A similar presence in the Caucasus will deter a much weaker Russia in the future. – Washington Examiner


South Sudan President Salva Kiir swore-in opposition leader Riek Machar as his deputy on Saturday, marking a tentative start of a power-sharing government between two longtime enemies and the latest effort to end the devastating six-year conflict that has plagued the world’s youngest nation. – Wall Street Journal

Groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, at war with each other in the Middle East, are working together to take control of territory across a vast stretch of West Africa, U.S. and local officials say, sparking fears the regional threat could grow into a global crisis. – Washington Post

The U.S. Africa Command bombed an al-Shabaab compound near Dujuuma, Somalia, on Sunday, the seventh in a series of strikes on the terrorist group this month in operations coordinated with the Somalia government. – Bloomberg

Crouching in the sparse brush, maneuvering into formations through a divide, and then shooting at a target, about 10 soldiers from Burkina Faso are among a select group of African soldiers being trained to battle West Africa’s fast-growing extremist threat. – Associated Press

The Army, for the first time, will send soldiers from one of its new training brigades to Africa in the coming weeks, expanding the use of the new specialized units as the Pentagon looks at possible troop cuts on the continent. – Associated Press

Dov S. Zakheim writes: It is time that the Pentagon made it clear that it will not cease its support for French counterterrorism efforts in Africa. American support for these operations involves less than 1,000 troops — in other words, less than a battalion. The leverage that this small force provides to the War on Terror far exceeds their potential marginal contribution to a deterrent posture in either Europe or East Asia. – The Hill

United States

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders warned Russia on Friday to stay out of 2020 White House elections after U.S. officials had told him Moscow was trying to aid his campaign. – Reuters

Police evacuated an Albany, N.Y., Jewish Community Center (JCC) Sunday after it received an emailed bomb threat, authorities said. – The Hill

Douglas Schoen and Ana Nacvalovaite write: It is easy to understand why the United States wants to protect an already fragile financial system from funds originating in former Soviet states and laundered through European banks. However, it will be difficult for each side to agree on mutual standards from a risk regulation perspective, and surely a lack of common international financial standards needs to be addressed, as these contrasting regulatory requirements are causing irreversible damage to the prospects for global financial stability. – The Hill


Twitter Inc on Friday said it had started suspending and restricting dozens of accounts posting content promoting U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. – Reuters

Because cyber leaders had focused on staffing, training opportunities for defensive cyber operators had been sparse. To help solve that problem, the Department of Defense is expected to award a contract worth roughly $1 billion later this year for a global cyber training environment. But in the meantime, some units across the joint force have gone so far as to create their own small-scale training events and exercises to keep their forces’ skill sets sharp. – Fifth Domain

Peter Navarro writes: It is imperative the US and other Wipo members that are concerned about IP protection and its positive effect on investment and innovation wake up. If we are serious about IP’s ability to drive economic growth, we need a Wipo leader who will promote the protection and enforcement of IP rights everywhere. The US and the rest of the UN must also act quickly to assess — and counteract — China’s broader efforts to control other international organisations. – Financial Times


But as the U.S. Air Force gears up to defend its fiscal 2021 budget on Capitol Hill, lifting the veil of secrecy on some of these programs will be key to getting lawmakers on board with controversial retirements of legacy aircraft, defense analysts said. – Defense News

Further investments in advanced technologies like the autonomous combat drone known as Skyborg topped the Air Force’s unfunded wish list for fiscal year 2021, beating out the need to buy more F-35s. – Defense News

The U.S. Army’s fiscal 2021 wish list — also known as an unfunded requirements list — sent to Congress amounts to nearly $5 billion more than the service placed on its list last fiscal year, and it would give its multidomain units in Europe and the Indo-Pacific region a boost while providing more padding for its wartime funding account. – Defense News

The Pentagon intends to create a program of record for a new nuclear-armed, submarine-launched cruise missile in its next budget request, with the goal of deploying the weapon in 7-10 years, according to a senior defense official. – Defense News

The Defense Department is asking for tens of billions of dollars this year to maintain and modernize U.S. nuclear capabilities, while at the same time checking in with personnel at the remote bases maintainers and operators call home. – Military Times

Trump Administration

President Trump said Friday that the disclosure by American intelligence officials that Russia was again meddling in a presidential election in his favor was merely another partisan attack against him, continuing a pattern in which he has sought to dismiss warnings of foreign interference in American elections. – New York Times

Even for an administration that has been a revolving door since Day 1, this has become a season of turmoil. At a moment when first-term presidents are typically seeking a stable team to focus on their re-election, President Trump has embarked on a systematic attempt to sweep out officials perceived to be disloyal. – New York Times

President Donald Trump on Sunday accused Representative Adam Schiff of leaking classified information on Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. election to hurt Democratic presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser denied that U.S. intelligence officials have warned that Russia has been interfering in the U.S. presidential campaign to boost Trump’s re-election chances. – Reuters

Eli Lake writes: Regardless, Grenell would be an odd choice if Trump wished to downplay Russian threats. To start, he is a longtime Russia hawk. Last year, for example, he warned German companies building the NordStream II pipeline between Germany and Russia that they would risk U.S. sanctions if they went forward with the project. – Bloomberg