Fdd's overnight brief

January 16, 2019

In The News


Iranian officials traveled to Baghdad this week to push for expanded trade and energy ties as it tries to undercut U.S. efforts to weaken Iraq’s economic links to its neighbor. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is in Iraq this week with a delegation of more than 50 companies. – Wall Street Journal

Iranian officials said on Tuesday that a satellite launch that had been condemned by the Trump administration failed when the carrier rocket could not reach orbit. “I would have liked to make you happy with some good news, but sometimes life does not go as expected,” Iran’s minister of telecommunications, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, said in a Twitter post. – New York Times

U.S. police have arrested an American-born journalist working for Iran’s English-language Press TV on unspecified charges, the state-run broadcaster reported on Wednesday. – Reuters

Forty years ago, Iran’s ruling shah left his nation for the last time and an Islamic Revolution overthrew the vestiges of his caretaker government. The effects of the 1979 revolution, including the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the ensuing hostage crisis, have reverberated through decades of tense relations between Iran and America. Here are the key moments leading up to Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis. – Associated Press

On Jan. 16, 1979, Iran’s powerful Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi abandoned his Peacock Throne and left his nation, never to return home, setting the stage for the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution a month later. […]Now, 40 years later, The Associated Press is making its stories about the shah’s departure from Iran available, along with historic photos from that climactic day. The stories have been edited for typographical errors, but maintain the AP style of the day, such as using “Moslem” as opposed to Muslim. – Associated Press

South Korea imported no Iranian oil for a fourth month in December following the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, cutting its 2018 imports from the major supplier by 60 percent, preliminary customs data showed on Tuesday. – Reuters

The Trump administration’s waivers for Iran sanctions have had the most impact of any of the president’s actions to lower oil and fuel prices, according to the Energy Department, while his deregulation agenda has not moved prices much. – Washington Examiner

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stark warning to Iran on Tuesday over its presence in Syria, telling it to “get out of there quickly” or face further Israeli military action. – Algemeiner

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with US President Donald Trump before a major Israeli intelligence operation in Iran, in order to secure American support if the mission were to go awry, Israeli television reported Tuesday. – Times of Israel

German police have arrested a 50-year-old Afghan-German man suspected of passing military secrets to Iran. Federal prosecutors named the army linguist only as Abdul Hamid S. He is understood to have known details of German military operations in Afghanistan. – BBC News


Turkey said it would seek the extradition of a prominent NBA player, part of a global hunt President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched to capture supporters of a Pennsylvania-based cleric he accuses of fomenting the 2016 coup that nearly swept him from power. – Wall Street Journal

After a diplomatic snub, a string of conflicting messages and a threatening tweet, President Donald Trump and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to smooth over their differences. – Bloomberg

Enes Kanter writes: Anyone who speaks out against him is a target. I am definitely a target. And Erdogan wants me back in Turkey where he can silence me. […]My decision not to travel to London was difficult from a competitive standpoint but much easier from a safety one. It helps puts a spotlight on how a dictator is wrecking Turkey — people have been killed, thousands are unjustly imprisoned, and countless lives have been ruined. That is no game. – Washington Post


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas assumed the chairmanship of the largest bloc of countries at the United Nations on behalf of “the State of Palestine” on Tuesday in New York City. – Times of Israel

A man wearing military-style clothing was spotted in a Lebanese village on Tuesday afternoon, apparently after crossing the security fence from Israel, Lebanese media reported. The Israeli military confirmed that soldiers had spotted a tear in the border fence and tracks indicating that someone had traveled from Israel into Lebanon. – Times of Israel

Malaysia has imposed a blanket ban on all Israelis participating in events hosted by the Southeast Asian nation, as the government maintains its decision to ban Israeli athletes from taking part in the World Para Swimming Championships in July. – Reuters

New IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, officially entered the role on Tuesday at an installation ceremony at the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv. – Algemeiner

The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions issued a strong blow against the French Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by closing its account with an online payment service that has emerged as the go-to financial fundraising institution for many pro-boycott Israel organizations in France. – Jerusalem Post

Following Airbnb’s boycott of West Bank settlements, announcing in November to remove settler listings from its popular website of temporary rentals in 191 countries, Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis ordered state officials to refrain from using Airbnb when conducting state business. – Jerusalem Post

Five IDF soldiers, including a company commander and a squad commander, are likely to be charged with serious crimes and face lengthy prison terms for allegedly beating Palestinian detainees, according to a report Tuesday night. – Times of Israel

Three Italians who Hamas reportedly suspected of being an undercover Israeli special forces unit operating in Gaza were on Tuesday allowed to exit a UN building where they had sought refuge after their identities were confirmed. – Times of Israel

The state on Thursday its defended its decision expel the Israel and Palestine Director of Human Rights Watch, in response to his appeal against the move. – YNet

Residents of Netiv Ha’avot in Gush Etzion were shocked to discover recently that the man working the fields near their homes is Rizq Salah, a Palestinian terrorist who killed IDF soldier Guy Friedman 29 years ago. – YNet

The Palestinians will launch a bid to become a full member of the United Nations even though such a move will be blocked by the United States, the Palestinian Authority foreign minister said Tuesday. – Agence France-Presse

Matti Friedman writes: If you see only an “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict, then nothing that Israelis do makes sense. (That’s why Israel’s enemies prefer this framing.) In this tightly cropped frame, Israelis are stronger, more prosperous and more numerous. The fears affecting big decisions, like what to do about the military occupation in the West Bank, seem unwarranted if Israel is indeed the far more powerful party. That’s not the way Israelis see it. Many here believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. – New York Times

Uri Pasovsky writes: An outsider might reasonably conclude that Israelis are satisfied with the state of their economy, leaving Netanyahu’s opponents no openings to attack him. […]This means Netanyahu doesn’t have to expend any time or energy defending his economic performance. Instead, the prime minister has been able to make the debate about personalities, portraying himself as a towering, irreplaceable and persecuted leader: It’s me, stupid. – Bloomberg

Winfield Myers writes: Academic boycotts, rightly understood and employed, are an effective means of isolating and stigmatizing universities and other institutions that support authoritarian regimes (like Erdogan’s Turkey) or provide a platform for spreading pro-terrorist propaganda (as at An-Najah or Birzeit universities in the West Bank). […] But not all boycotts are defensible. The academic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel provides the most obvious example of an unjust act masquerading as high-minded activism. – Algemeiner

Gulf States

One hundred days following the murder of senior Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, below is a compilation of Khashoggi articles, statements and videos posted by MEMRI since 2003. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Karen E. Young writes: Crucially, the Gulf tendency to pursue highly-personalized diplomacy may backfire in countries with high government turnover. […]These experiences have taught regional leaders that they cannot not rely on deals reached with a single foreign representative. Rather, it is important to negotiate with foreign institutions in order to protect overseas investments. This learning process is still in its nascent stages and it will be critical to watch how Gulf Arab states manage it moving forward. – American Enterprise Institute

Yigal Carmon writes: Whether out of ignorance or venality, the U.S.’s clinging to Qatar despite its anti-U.S. actions dooms the Trump administration’s Middle East policy – just as the Obama administration’s Iran fixation doomed its Middle East policy. Likewise, Netanyahu will discover what is clear as day to everyone else – that that his enabling of Qatar’s support for Hamas will backfire in the next Gaza war, at the cost of many Israeli lives. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Middle East & North Africa

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrapped up an eight-nation Middle East tour Monday by defending Saudi Arabia as a key strategic partner in isolating Iran, even as he raised concern about Riyadh’s human rights record and said “every single person” responsible for the death of U.S.-based dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. – Washington Times

The new special UN envoy to Syria began his first trip to Damascus on Tuesday, facing the daunting task of rekindling moribund peace talks and succeeding where his three predecessors failed. – Agence France-Presse

A Texan who says he offered to work as an English teacher for the Islamic State and was captured earlier this month in Syria by U.S.-backed forces said he witnessed executions and crucifixions during the more than three years he spent with the terrorist group. – NBC News

Israeli satellite company ImageSat International released Monday images of the extensive damage caused to the ammunition warehouse at the Damascus international Airport following an Israeli airstrike on Friday night. – YNet

The United Nations Security Council is due to vote on Wednesday to approve the deployment of up to 75 observers to Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah for six months to monitor a ceasefire and redeployment of forces by the warring parties, diplomats said. – Reuters

Michael Knights writes: Though the Houthis appear to have deliberately sought a collapse of the ceasefire, performing provocative strikes,  blame will probably accrue to the coalition if they advance in Hodeida. The newly Democratic-controlled US House of Representative and a finely-balanced Senate still has an appetite for sanctions that would threaten the coalition’s access to US arms and support. This may be another reason for the coalition to adopt a gradual, low-profile reduction of the Houthi presence in Hodeida. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

It is one of the central questions in the negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program: What does Kim Jong Un want in return for giving up his weapons? Specifically, the issue is what Kim means by his insistence on the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” — and whether that includes a demand for U.S. troops to leave South Korea and pull nuclear-armed American bombers and submarines out of the surrounding region. – Washington Post

Three North Korean officials, including the top envoy involved in talks with the United States, are booked on a flight to Washington, Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday, suggesting a possible breakthrough in denuclearization talks. – Reuters

The U.S. and South Korea are discussing “corresponding measures” to reward North Korea’s steps toward denuclearization, South Korea’s foreign minister said, as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un prepare for a possible second summit. – Bloomberg

Patrick M. Cronin writes: Reciprocity works in theory but perhaps not in practice, when comparing the apples of peace agreements and sanctions relief with the oranges of denuclearization. Thus the ongoing stalemate, with Kim not sure what he is willing or able to give up by way of his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and the Trump administration undecided on what quid pro quo it would be willing to put on the table. – Hudson Institute


China’s military ambitions have given its leaders growing confidence about their capabilities, according to a new U.S. assessment that warns that Beijing may believe it can wage a regional conflict while maintaining its expanded global presence. – Wall Street Journal

A Canadian citizen sentenced to death in China for drug smuggling plans to appeal the verdict, which Chinese state media and officials are touting as a just display of judicial power. – Wall Street Journal

Concerns about China’s state-backed capitalism are prompting the European Union to reassess its competition rules with an eye to allowing large mergers or a more muscular response to foreign competitors. – Wall Street Journal

China’s drive to acquire cutting-edge weaponry and establish itself as a global military power poses an increasing threat to American defense superiority, a new intelligence report said Tuesday. – Washington Post

In his first public comments since United States authorities arranged for the arrest of his daughter Meng Wanzhou, who is also Huawei’s chief financial officer, Mr. Ren told a group of reporters on Tuesday that he missed his daughter very much, and that he would wait to see if President Trump intervened in her case. He called Mr. Trump a “great president,” and said that his tax cuts had helped American business. – New York Times

The United States and Britain have conducted their first joint naval drills in the disputed South China Sea since China built island bases there, the two navies said on Wednesday, as Washington seeks help from allies to keep pressure on Beijing. – Reuters

Chinese dissident Liu Xinglian marked his 64th birthday on Wednesday at Taiwan’s Taoyuan airport, one of two refugees who have been trapped in limbo there for more than 100 days, hoping for asylum overseas. – Agence France-Presse

Amid increasing tensions with Beijing, the Pentagon on Tuesday released a new report that lays out U.S. concerns about China’s growing military might, underscoring worries about a possible attack against Taiwan. – Associated Press

China is likely developing a long-range bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons and a space-based early warning system it could use to more quickly respond to an attack, according to a new report from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. The development of the bomber, when combined with China’s land-based nuclear weapons program and a deployed submarine with intercontinental ballistic missile technology, would give Beijing a “triad” of nuclear delivery systems similar to the U.S. and Russia, according to the report published Tuesday. – Bloomberg

Henry Olsen writes: Western governments will need to resist the temptation to take the easy way out and turn a blind eye toward China’s rise. Our technology and investment are making China a rich country. But it is one thing to help friends and allies be better off; it is quite another to pay for the rise of a technocratic autocracy that, to all appearances, seeks to supplant liberal democratic capitalism. Our free way of life is too dear to be sold. – Washington Post

Joseph Bosco writes: To deter defensive intervention by the United States, the only power capable of stopping Asia’s latest communist aggression, China threatens to obliterate Los Angeles and hundreds of other cities and to sink U.S. aircraft carriers for the purpose of killing thousands of Americans and frightening 300 million others. How poorly they understand the American people and our capacity to respond to aggression. – The Hill

Dan Blumenthal and Derek Scissors write: The administration has demonstrated some good instincts on China, but it must not be distracted by the next round of Beijing’s false economic promises. Protecting innovation from Chinese attack makes the United States stronger. Hindering the Chinese security apparatus makes external aggression and internal repression more costly for Beijing. China is our only major trade partner that is also a strategic rival, and we should treat it differently from friendly countries with whom we have disputes. If Washington wants the global free market to work, it must intervene to blunt Beijing’s belligerence. – American Enterprise Institute

Weifeng Zhong and Julian TszKin Chan writes: The upcoming visit to Washington by President Xi’s top aide Liu He will surely offer some clues as to how the trade talks will play out. But for those who think Mr. Liu will bring a major concession to the table, here’s our algorithm’s advice: Curb your enthusiasm. – American Enterprise Institute

Sean Kelly writes: There are more abstract considerations about the geostrategic consequences of China’s lunar goals. […] China wants to build a base that would be physically on the Moon, rather than orbiting around it. Having the two most powerful countries competing for territorial, resource, and scientific dominance on Earth’s Moon will increase the chances of conflict—especially because this jousting will take place in a relatively lawless environment. – Hudson Institute

Amy Searight and Brian Harding write: This year promises to be another dynamic one for Southeast Asia—and hopefully for high-level U.S. engagement with the region. With elections and governance challenges in many countries, the Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) returning to Thailand while it organizes an election and plans a coronation, the region’s trade architecture in flux, and the backdrop of growing U.S.-China strategic rivalry and trade friction, these are the key issues to watch in 2019. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Lily Kuo writes: China’s sentencing of a Canadian to death for drug trafficking threatens to escalate tensions between the two countries and set a dangerous precedent, according to experts. […] Experts say it is the timing and pace of Schellenberg’s case more than the application of the death penalty that raises questions. – The Guardian


Under a new interior minister, Amrullah Saleh, and an earlier influx of new security commanders, including General Roshandil, the authorities have begun a concerted effort to restore order in Kabul and to reinforce police forces that have been crushed by record casualties and weakened by a reputation for corruption, abuse and acting as the extended arm of warlords as well as the elite. – New York Times

The release of munitions by the US Air Force (USAF) over Afghanistan remained at a high level in November 2018, according to US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT). – IHS Jane’s

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: Is there a case for a thorough review of U.S. options in Afghanistan? […]The options are either to provide the time, resources, and conditionality that has a credible chance of ending the war with some form of victory, or conclude that the U.S. take the risk of actually leaving and develop a strategy based on an honest assessment of the risk and cost to U.S security and the Afghan people. Blundering into repeating Vietnam redux, and relying on the “fog of peace” to replace the “fog of war” is not the answer. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Albert Wolf writes: America is losing the war in Afghanistan. Neither remaining nor retrenching is a magic solution that can produce a “win” after 17 years of defeats. Both paths are sowed with costs and threats. But it will need to make a choice. – Middle East Institute


The United States has no detailed record of President Trump’s five face-to-face interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the past two years, The Washington Post reported last week. Russia, on the other hand, almost certainly does. Just don’t expect to see them anytime soon. – Washington Post

Russia is ready to work to save the landmark Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) despite numerous problems and hopes Washington will take a responsible approach to arms control treaties, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Russia said on Wednesday that it had caught former U.S. marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Russia on spying charges, red-handed as he was carrying out illegal activities in his Moscow hotel room. – Reuters

During her weekly, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova was asked to comments on Lukashenko’s remarks and on whether it is possible that that if Moscow refuses to compensate Minsk for losses from the tax maneuver in the oil sector, Russia could lose an ally to the West. […]The influential St. Petersburg blogger Anatoly Nesmeyan, known as El-Murid commented that Zakharova’s answer was part of Russia’s “diplomatic demagogy”. The truth, according to El Murid, is that Lukashenko was put by the Kremlin in a corner with little room for maneuver. – Middle East Media Research Institute

Mason Clark and Catherine Harris writes: The Kremlin took a significant step to enhance the military’s ability to control the information space within the Russian Armed Forces by establishing a Military-Political Directorate within the Russian Ministry of Defense. This Directorate could also support efforts to shape the information space abroad. The U.S. and NATO must recognize that Russia is serious about integrating information operations with both conventional and unconventional military operations down to the lowest levels of combat and adjust their preparations for potential conflict with Russia accordingly.  – Institute for the Study of War

Michael A. Cohen writes: Donald Trump may or not be on the Russian government’s payroll. He may or may not have been blackmailed by Vladimir Putin. He may or may not have actively colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign. But there’s one thing we know for sure: Donald Trump has been compromised by Russia. Every day that he remains president will mean that he is putting Russia’s interests ahead of America’s.  – Boston Globe


The British Parliament overwhelmingly rejected a proposed Brexit deal Tuesday, prompting a no-confidence vote against U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and further stoking extreme uncertainty around Britain’s exit from the European Union in just over two months. – Wall Street Journal

The government of Emmanuel Macron kicked off months of public debates intended to channel the anger of the “yellow-vest” protest movement and shield the French president’s pro-business agenda. – Wall Street Journal

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency took a first step on Tuesday toward placing the far-right Alternative for Germany party under surveillance as a threat to the country’s democracy, announcing that it would formally observe its youth wing, which it called “extremist.” – New York Times

A populist on the European Union’s frontier with Russia says he needs $1 billion to bolster the military. And he wants the U.S. to pay. – Bloomberg

Editorial: The danger is that there will be no majority in Parliament behind any new proposal — and that E.U. leaders will be unwilling to show flexibility. […]Ms. May, who opposes that option, said following her parliamentary defeat that “every day that passes without this issue being resolved means more uncertainty, more bitterness and more rancor.” That is true, but further disorder for a vital U.S. ally now is unavoidable. – Washington Post

Tom Rogan writes: Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal suffered an overwhelming parliamentary rejection on Tuesday, a rejection on the scale of Michael Dukakis’s rejection in 1988. The consequences for Brexit, as a reality as much as anything, are highly significant. May must now return to the House of Commons within the next week to offer a pathway forward. If she fails to do so, members of Parliament will put forward their own alternatives for a vote. But as a first step, expect May to travel to meet top European Union officials in Brussels. – Washington Examiner


Somali extremist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a deadly attack and siege at an upscale hotel and office complex here popular with tourists, business travelers and local elites. The gunmen moved from a local bank branch into the foyer of the Dusit D2 Hotel, a popular Nairobi meeting spot, where they detonated a suicide bomb, said Joseph Boinnet, Kenya’s police inspector general. “A number of guests suffered severe injuries,” he said. – Wall Street Journal

Security forces killed the militants who had staged an 18-hour siege of an upscale hotel-and-office complex in Kenya’s capital, an attack that claimed at least 14 lives and jolted a key ally in the U.S. war on terrorism. – Wall Street Journal

The International Criminal Court acquitted former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo on Tuesday of crimes against humanity linked to monthslong violence that followed 2010 elections and left 3,000 people dead. – Wall Street Journal

For decades, Kenyan authorities have struggled to contain the threat of extremism in their country. And on Tuesday morning, the militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for another attack there, this time on a hotel in the upscale Westlands neighborhood of Nairobi. […]Tuesday’s attack also came three years to the day after al-Shabab attacked a Kenyan-run military base in El Adde, Somalia, Williams noted. In that instance, militants detonated explosives and stormed the base, leaving as many as 141 Kenyan soldiers dead, according to a CNN investigation. – Washington Post

Caroline Goodson writes: Why should the US commit resources to a far-away fight? Because al Shabaab and al Qaeda are part of a broader Salafi-jihadi movement that has spread across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. […]And once they’re settled in Africa, we can be sure they’ll be on our doorstep once again. Far from walking away, the US and its partners must address the governance deficit in Somalia and the broader region. Walking away is little more than surrender. – American Enterprise Institute

The Americas

A new caravan of Honduran migrants has set out toward the U.S., prompting President Trump to press his case that a border wall is the only way to stop illegal immigration. – Wall Street Journal

A former associate of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán testified Tuesday that the accused drug cartel kingpin bragged of bribing former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto with a $100 million payoff, according to news reports. – Washington Post

Leaders of Venezuela’s opposition on Tuesday set in motion a plan to try to oust President Nicolás Maduro and create a caretaker government until new elections can be held. The National Assembly, the opposition-controlled legislative body, declared Mr. Maduro illegitimate, hoping to trigger a constitutional mechanism that would allow the head of the assembly to take over the leadership. – New York Times


The Navy’s next surface force may rely more on highly capable frigates and therefore need fewer large combatants – a notion that is changing how the Navy looks at its requirement for a future large surface combatant, the director of surface warfare told USNI News. – USNI News

With the resurgence of Russia and China in the maritime environment and a renewed era of what Naval Surface Forces commander Vice Adm. Richard Brown calls “Great Power competition,” the Navy must embrace “mission command,” the idea that subordinate commanders have freedom to make decisions, act and adapt as long as their actions support the commander’s intent. – Military.com

The Trump administration is considering ways to expand U.S. homeland and overseas defenses against a potential missile attack, possibly adding a layer of satellites in space to detect and track hostile targets. – Associated Press

The Army has kicked off the new year with upgrades in protection and firepower for its tanks, artillery and ground combat vehicles. – Army Times

Gil Barndollar writes: America should rebalance its military, cutting the large land forces we don’t need and prioritize the Navy that is critical to our national security. The man who called for a 350-ship Navy on the campaign trail should find a new secretary of defense who will fulfill that promise. – Defense News

Luke Strange writes: History shows that changes in these relationships tend to take time. With nominations pending before Congress for a new Secretary of Defense and a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, now is the right time to consider changes. These things are always hard to judge from the outside, but if senior Office of the Secretary of Defense civilians reach full strength—and if they stay in their jobs, as Ambassador Edelman mentions—it will be one indicator that the balance of power is beginning to shift back in their direction. – American Enterprise Institute

Ellen Sundra writes: The scale and rapid shift of supply chain threats is alarming, but consistent with well-known cybersecurity truths: There is no perfect fix and technology is fluid. Instead of physical tear-downs or reflexively trying to shun products based on where their assembly lines are located at any given time, defenders’ best bet is to shine a light on all devices and their true behavior to dispel “what-if” uncertainty and gain data necessary for real-time risk-based decisions. – Fifth Domain

Trump Administration

Attorney general nominee William P. Barr suggested Tuesday that any report written by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III might not be made public, signaling the possibility of future battles within the government over his findings. The remarks by Barr, who is expected to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, highlight the uncertainty surrounding how he will grapple with what many expect will be the final steps of Mueller’s investigation into President Trump, his advisers and Russian interference in the 2016 election. – Washington Post

Vice President Pence on Tuesday doubled down on the White House’s demand for funding for a border wall, asserting that the Trump administration “will not be deterred” by what he characterized as “Democrats’ obstruction.” – The Hill

No Democrats attended a lunch on Tuesday with President Trump designed to reach an agreement to end the government shutdown and fund a border wall, as the president’s attempt to force leaders back to the negotiating table fell flat. – The Hill

Eli Lake writes: It may well be that Mueller’s investigation is nearing its end, and this state of suspended speculation won’t last much longer. And of course he must be allowed to continue his investigation and to go where it leads. Make no mistake, however: This is not something that can be left in the FBI’s hands. It may be tempting for Democrats to use the FBI’s suspicions of Trump’s treason as a political weapon now. But it also makes for a terrible precedent. Democrats, especially, should be attuned to the danger of allowing the FBI undue influence in electoral politics. – Bloomberg