Fdd's overnight brief

March 14, 2019

In The News


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani capped his state visit to Iraq on Wednesday by meeting the country’s most respected religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani— a sit-down that has eluded previous Iranian presidents and American leaders alike. – Washington Post

Iran’s official IRNA news agency says President Hassan Rouhani has met with Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric — the first such meeting for an Iranian leader. – Associated Press

The Trump administration harshly criticized Iran in the wake of the sentencing of Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to decades in prison as well as lashes. – Newsweek

A key component of Iran’s military doctrine is the development of an indigenous ballistic missile program, and the country’s rapid development of missile expertise has raised concerns in the US and among its allies. – Algemeiner

‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the former editor of the London-based Saudi daily  Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and former director of Alarabiya TV, wrote that Iran is exerting intense pressures on Iraq in order to turn it into its proxy. Iran, he said, is trying to use Iraq as a shield against the effects of the U.S. sanctions, and also expects Iraq to bankroll its militias and to give up its own interests in favor of Iran. However, there is no reason for Iraq to pay the price of Iran’s troubles, especially since Iran brought them on with by refusing to give up its nuclear program and its extremist policies of spreading chaos in other countries.   – Middle East Media Research Institute

David Albright, Frank Pabian, and Andrea Stricker write: The Al Ghadir project was a vital, secret enrichment project under the Amad Plan. The archive demonstrates that the production of weapon-grade uranium for at least a few nuclear weapons per year was a priority for Iran. […]The Nuclear Archive raises again the deception of Iran about its past nuclear weapons activities and raises profound questions about the true purpose of this facility today and contingency plans for tomorrow, particularly when the nuclear limitations in the JCPOA end. That the international community has tolerated this continued existence of this plant speaks volumes of its failure to first determine and then ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is truly peaceful. – Institute for Science and International Security

Bobby Ghosh writes: Ostensibly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Iraq was meant to deepen economic ties between the two neighbors, historically divided by political and sectarian enmities as much as they are connected by geography. The trip was also meant to demonstrate to the U.S. that Tehran and Baghdad would still do business with each other, despite the Trump administration’s sanctions on Iran. – Bloomberg


The Syrian army, aided by Russian warplanes, attacked rebel-held towns in northwestern Syria on Wednesday in the most extensive bombardment in months against the last remaining rebel bastion in the country, rebels, rescuers and residents said. – Reuters

The United States is not discussing a Turkish offensive in northeast Syria with Turkey and believes no such operation is needed to address Ankara’s security concerns, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday, dismissing media reports to the contrary. – Reuters

Islamic State launched two counter-attacks on U.S.-backed fighters besieging their final shred of territory in eastern Syria on Wednesday but were beaten back without any progress, the Syrian Democratic Forces said. – Reuters

Bashar al-Assad has won his war for political survival but as Syria’s conflict enters its ninth year, his country is fractured, cash-strapped, and prey to both friend and foe. – Agence France-Presse

Top officials are warning that the crisis in Syria is not over and are calling for large-scale support for people in need on the eve of a major donors’ conference. – Associated Press

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces militia said it thwarted an attempted Islamic State group suicide bomb attack early on Wednesday during a last-stand battle for the jihadist group’s final enclave. – Reuters


The European Union should formally suspend Turkey’s negotiations to join the bloc, EU lawmakers said on Wednesday in a symbolic rebuke of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who Western governments accuse of widespread abuses of human rights. – Reuters

The Turkish government is pressuring its defense and aerospace industries to boost exports as part of an aggressive strategy aimed at addressing the country’s account deficit and plunging national currency. – Defense News


Brazilian right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro will visit Israel at the end of the month but he may not be able to deliver on a promise to move Brazil’s embassy to Jerusalem, a move opposed by military officers in his cabinet. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department changed its usual description of the Golan Heights from “Israeli-occupied” to “Israeli-controlled” in an annual global human rights report released on Wednesday. – Reuters

Senior Israeli officials on Wednesday delivered a detailed critique of a UN probe that accused its soldiers of possible war crimes in Gaza, saying investigators ignored key evidence, notably over the role of Hamas. – Agence France-Presse

An Israeli organization has minted a coin emblazoned with the face of Nikki Haley, President Donald Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, to commemorate her defense of Israel in the world body. – Associated Press

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning to Iran and Hezbollah on Wednesday, following the publication of new information on their activities on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. – Algemeiner

Daniel Gordis writes: While it is not surprising that Netanyahu found these challenges unsettling, what is stunning is the degree to which he has gone on the assault, not only against his rivals, but also against some of Israel’s democratic foundations in order to try to hold onto office. […]One way or another, the Netanyahu era seems to be approaching its end. How and when that will happen may actually be less important than the questions of who will replace him and whether Israel’s next administration can begin to repair the extensive damage done to its democracy by the man who seems certain that only he can save the Jewish state. – Bloomberg

Ghaith al-Omari writes: Fatah has long sought to get one of its own senior members appointed as prime minister, but reaching that goal comes at a cost. When Shtayyeh assumes his new role, he will be constrained by paralyzing succession dynamics, a worsening split with Hamas, and deteriorating economic and security conditions in the West Bank. As for relations with Washington, U.S. peace envoy Jason Greenblatt publicly welcomed the latest appointment, but political realities will likely prevent Shtayyeh from restoring contacts with the administration anytime soon. – Washington Institute


As President George W. Bush pressed the case for war in Iraq in the summer of 2002, top State Department officials warned that an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein could spark internal Iraqi chaos, Middle East upheaval and threats to U.S. interests, according to formerly classified documents released this week. – Wall Street Journal

Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday that Iraqi sovereignty must be respected and weapons kept in state hands, a veiled reference to increasingly influential Iran-backed militias. – Reuters

William J. Burns writes: This is a story of the road not taken, of the initial plan of coercive diplomacy in Iraq, which turned out to be long on coercion and short on diplomacy. It’s a story of forever wars from which we are still trying to disentangle ourselves, of the ways in which we accelerated the end of America’s moment in the Middle East and of our singular dominance of the wider international landscape. It’s a story of my own failure to do more to prevent a war that we did not need to fight. And it’s a story with lessons about flawed assumptions, broken policy processes and unilateral impulses that resonate powerfully today as another U.S. administration flirts with another regime change—this time in Iran—in a region where unintended consequences are rarely uplifting. – Politico

Barbara A. Leaf and Bilal Wahab write:  In addition to building Iraq’s capacity to curb the Islamic State’s resurgence, the U.S. defense relationship anchors a wide array of international actors to the larger effort of reintegrating the country into the regional community. Breaking Iraq out of its isolation and helping it regain stability through deepened economic and political relations with Jordan, Egypt, and the Gulf would give Baghdad the means to regain full sovereignty over its affairs and resist Iranian interference. While many of the Iraqi characters in the 2011 political drama that ended the U.S. military presence remain in place, Washington has a wholly different cast of policymakers set to repeat—or, hopefully, avoid—that mistake. – Washington Institute

Arabian Peninsula

The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that would end U.S. military assistance for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, reproving the Trump administration for the second time over its support of the kingdom. – Wall Street Journal

The State Department on Wednesday blamed Saudi Arabian government agents for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and for other “unlawful killings” in an annual world-wide survey of human rights that spotlighted abuses by U.S. allies and adversaries alike. – Wall Street Journal

Ahmed Fitaihi had waited more than a year for Saudi Arabia to release his father, a Harvard-trained doctor and a dual Saudi and American citizen who had been imprisoned without any charges or trial. – New York Times

Saudi Arabian women’s rights activists stood trial on Wednesday for the first time since their arrest over nine months ago, a case that has intensified scrutiny of Riyadh’s human rights record after the murder of a prominent journalist. – Reuters

Hala Al-Dosari writes: People in Saudi Arabia expected an end to the persecution of civil society activists after the state acknowledged his brutal murder. Instead, the regime has doubled down by continuing to prosecute a group of female activists accused of undermining Saudi Arabia’s security. On Wednesday, their sham trial began[…]. Respect for our rights and humanity allows for peaceful deliberation of public demands, neutralization of radical views and creative resolution of community challenges. If Saudi Arabia respects and values its citizens, it must immediately release the women. – Washington Post

Rauf Mammadov writes: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has wrapped up another round of checkbook diplomacy, showering up to $100 billion on Pakistan, India, and China during his visit to the three countries in late February. The trip was important for another reason as well: It showcased a new Saudi strategy of playing a more assertive foreign-policy role far beyond the Middle East. With demand for petrochemicals expected to rise significantly in the next five years, much of the investment the Saudis announced during the trip was for petrochemical projects. – Middle East Institute

Middle East & North Africa

On 1 March 2019, Moroccan authorities arrested a suspected jihadist in Fez. According to local media, the militant was suspected of being an Islamic State member and an expert in manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) who was planning to mount an attack, the details of which were not specified by authorities. – Jane’s 360

Max Fisher writes: Algeria’s turn, and the reaction to it, underscores how much the world has changed: A single step toward democracy now seems surprising, and is viewed much more cautiously than it might have been a decade ago. It highlights one of the most important but least understood questions of this dawning authoritarian era: How far will democracy slide before it returns — if it ever does? […]much of the backsliding has been incremental, rather than transformational: strong democracies becoming weak, authoritarian states becoming more authoritarian. – New York Times

Amr Salah writes: Thus, even excluding any discussion of another Arab Spring, what is happening now in both Sudan and Algeria—which may spread to other countries—should be taken as a chance to draw attention to the possibility of new wave of political unrest in a volatile region. Considering the ongoing regional crises, which range from terrorism to civil conflicts, proxy wars, a stagnant Palestinian-Israeli peace process, and the Gulf crisis, it is plausible that any additional source of tension could exacerbate these extant issues and spark a more overt political unrest. – Washington Institute

Korean Peninsula

Prosecutors won’t release a Vietnamese woman accused of killing North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in 2017, just days after her co-defendant was freed and sent back to Indonesia. – Wall Street Journal

Anthony H. Cordesman writes: The analysis concludes that the sudden breakdown in the latest round of U.S.-Korean nuclear arms control talks in Vietnam should scarcely come as a surprise to anyone. Both sides sought too much too soon and did so despite a long history of previous failures.  […]The failed U.S. negotiations with Korea sends a warning that any set of compromises that preserves Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, and creates a structure where negotiation can continue, will be better than provoking a crisis with Iran that can end in no agreement at all and alienate America’s European allies in the process. – Center for Strategic and International Studies

Gordon G. Chang writes: Considering everything, Pyongyang has so far taken an unusually bold stance in negotiations with the Trump administration. Few people truly know the extent to which that position has the support of Beijing, but there has been evident coordination between the Chinese and North Koreans during the Trump presidency. […]Now, most everyone expects Trump to come to some agreement with China, but Beijing should not be too confident that the U.S. will fall for this trick one more time. – The Daily Beast


President Trump warned Beijing Wednesday that he would not sign off on a trade deal that didn’t meet U.S. demands, in a sharp departure from his recent optimism. – Wall Street Journal

As China prepared to defend its record before the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United States on Wednesday led Western governments, academic experts and human rights supporters in challenging Beijing over its mass detention of Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang. – New York Times

State Department officials compared China to Nazi Germany on Wednesday, saying the Communist nation “is in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations.” – Washington Examiner

Citing poor media freedoms, racism and “ideological prejudice”, China hit back on Thursday in unusually strong terms after the U.S. State Department slammed China’s rights record, including equating abuses on its Muslim minorities with the 1930s. – Reuters

Gary Cohn, the former head of President Donald Trump’s National Economic Council, said the U.S. is “desperate right now” for a trade pact with China as negotiators from both countries seek to reach a deal. – Bloomberg

Arthur Herman and Lewis Libby write: Together the U.S., Australia and Japan have the tools through development aid, trade, capacity building and military cooperation to counter China’s complex game in the South Pacific. Together they can make the world aware of Chinese ambitions and actions in the South Pacific, as in Asia as a whole. Douglas MacArthur stated it best — the Pacific Ocean, including its vast chains of islands, constitute “a protective shield for all the Americas,” but also for America’s allies. We would all do well to pay heed. – Nikkei Asian Review


These two stories, related by a staff member at the Afghan Women’s Skill Development Center in Kabul, suggest that the Taliban, which controls more than half of all Afghan districts, is not always as rigid as when it held power in the late 1990s and routinely used cruel physical punishments to enforce extreme rules for women as well as men. – Washington Post

At least five Afghan soldiers were killed and 10 injured in air strikes conducted by U.S. forces in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan on Wednesday, Afghan officials said, in an apparent case of friendly fire. – Reuters

South Asia

China on Wednesday blocked a United Nations Security Council measure that would have blacklisted the Pakistani founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, the militant group that nearly brought South Asia to the brink of war last month after one of its suicide bombers attacked Indian forces. – New York Times

The United States and India on Wednesday agreed to strengthen security and civil nuclear cooperation, including building six U.S. nuclear power plants in India, the two countries said in a joint statement. – Reuters

Indian and Pakistani officials are meeting amid easing of tensions to discuss opening a visa-free border crossing to allow pilgrims to easily visit a Sikh shrine close to the border with Pakistan. – Associated Press


The wife of an Islamic militant arrested for plotting attacks in the Indonesian capital detonated a bomb during a siege of their home in North Sumatra, killing herself and her two-year-old child, the national police said Wednesday. – Associated Press

A U.S. Navy flagship has sailed through the South China Sea with its commander renewing an American vow to “sail, fly and operate wherever the law allows us to” amid China’s objection to U.S. military presence in the disputed sea. – Associated Press

Norwegian company Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace has entered into a contract with Japan to supply the initial deliveries of Joint Strike Missiles for the country’s fleet of F-35 Lightning II fighter jets. – Defense News

Australia’s prime minister said on Thursday he won’t put officials in danger by retrieving extremists from the Middle East after an Australian Islamic State group widow asked to bring her children home from a Syrian refugee camp. – Associated Press


Russia has accused the United States of quietly reclassifying nuclear weapons systems in a potential bid to hide the true scale of its strategic arsenal, which is limited by a treaty between the two leading powers. – Newsweek

Russian military planners are serious about using nuclear weapons in limited military conflicts, a top U.S. general warned lawmakers Wednesday. – Washington Examiner

Russia’s parliament on Wednesday approved new fines for people who insult the authorities online or spread fake news, defying warnings from critics that the move could open the way to direct state censorship of dissent. – Reuters

Nataliya Bugayova writes: The Kremlin’s increasingly assertive foreign policy, including its illegal occupation of Crimea in 2014 and its intervention in Syria in 2015, came unexpectedly to many in the West. These events were nonetheless mere extensions of the worldview held by Russian President Vladimir Putin. This worldview was built on more than two decades of compounded dissatisfaction with the West as well as Putin’s cumulative experiences in his ongoing global campaigns to achieve his core objectives: the preservation of his regime, the end of American hegemony, and the reinstatement of Russia as a global power.  – Institute for the Study of War


British lawmakers on Wednesday unexpectedly ruled out a no-deal exit from the European Union, throwing Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy into further confusion. – Wall Street Journal

Britain’s government will propose on Thursday to seek a delay to Brexit until June 30 if parliament approves a deal to leave the European Union by March 20, the parliamentary Speaker said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Poland’s parliament faced international embarrassment on Wednesday after one of its lawmakers spotted a newspaper on sale at the parliament’s hotel with the blood-curdling headline, “How to Recognize A Jew.” – Algemeiner

The United Kingdom office of the non-governmental organization Amnesty International has sent a message to Britain’s top companies, asserting they would be complicit in “war crimes” and other human rights violations if they did business with Israeli settlements in the West Bank. – Algemeiner

EU member states have no choice but to develop a certain array of military assets and capabilities that duplicate those of NATO and its largest ally, the United States, if Europe wants the strategic autonomy to deal with crises in its neighbourhood, avow European officials and policy analysts. – Jane’s 360

The ballooning scandal over the Anne Frank center’s comparison between Jews who were stripped of their citizenship by the Nazi regime and the German government’s plan to revoke the citizenship of Islamic State terrorists sparked criticism from Frankfurt’s mayor on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Migrants to Europe who have rid themselves of dictators can free themselves as well of antisemitic prejudices, the EU’s Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism said on Wednesday. – Jerusalem Post

Clive Crook writes: The U.K. can revoke Article 50 unilaterally, and should do so while it still has the option. With or without a general election, with or without a second referendum, the country needs to get itself out from under the thumb of the EU — and its only hope of doing that is to stay, until further notice, in the EU. – Bloomberg

Billy Fabian, Mark Gunzinger, Jan van Tol, Jacob Cohn, and Gillian Evans write: Although a major conflict between NATO and Russia remains unlikely, plausible paths to conflict exist that NATO cannot afford to ignore. At the same time, the NATO Alliance faces strategic and operational challenges that threaten to undermine its ability to deter and, if necessary, defeat Russian aggression along the Alliance’s eastern frontier. The U.S. European Deterrence Initiative and other efforts have done much to strengthen collective deterrence and defense, but serious challenges remain, especially where the potential for conflict is most acute and the NATO Alliance is most vulnerable: the Baltic region. – Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

United States

The American Jewish Committee has called on constituents to rally their congress representatives to join the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism following the surge of Jewish hate that has hit the United States in recent months. – Jerusalem Post

A spokeswoman for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has apologized after asking whether the “American-Jewish community has a dual allegiance to the state of Israel” — a comment condemned by Jewish leaders as anti-Semitic. – New York Post

Philip Klein writes: Anti-Semitism has proven resilient because of the way it constantly morphs to changing circumstances. Israel was established so that Jews would finally have a place where they could live safely without their Judaism being used against them to question their loyalty to the nation. Now, the existence of Israel itself is being used to question Jewish loyalty in the rest of the world. And in the United States, because liberals are generally critical of Israel, even those who aren’t themselves anti-Semitic, are allowing the old anti-Semitic canards to sneak their way into acceptable debate by santizing them as criticism of Israel. If this isn’t stopped, it will have dangerous implications for American Jews, and by extension, for the United States. – Washington Examiner

James Kirchick writes: Once the party whose leaders created NATO and stood stalwart against the threat of international communism, today Labour is led by people who sing the praises of anti-Western despots and terrorists. And once the natural political home of British Jewry, Labour today is mired in an anti-Semitic morass, to the point where 40 percent of Jews say they would “seriously consider” leaving the country were Corbyn to become prime minister. […]How Labour reached this deplorable condition is one that should seriously concern liberals in the United States, where a similar dynamic is playing out in the Democratic Party.  – Tablet Magazine

Latin America

President Nicolas Maduro’s government scrambled on Wednesday to return power to western Venezuela following heavy looting in the country’s second largest city, while China offered to help the OPEC-member nation end its worst blackout on record. – Reuters

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro may be fiercely opposed to the “imperialist” United States. But in one regard, a US invasion is already happening: the dollarization of his South American country. – Agence France-Presse

Two of the themes President Donald Trump is expected to hammer during his campaign for re-election are at odds as his administration considers whether to offer new deportation protections to tens of thousands of Venezuelans in the U.S. amid ongoing unrest in the South American country. – Associated Press

Trump’s sanctions on Venezuela have managed to reduce the country’s oil production by 100,000 barrels a day from January to February, enough to drive up oil prices for 2019, the federal government forecast Wednesday. – Washington Examiner

Eli Lake writes: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that all U.S. personnel would be withdrawn from the embassy in Caracas this week notes that the decision “reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela” and that the presence of those diplomats “has become a constraint on U.S. policy.” That last clause has prompted some speculation that military action is now more likely — but in this case, it’s evidence of the opposite. […]It’s always possible that Trump will change his mind. But deciding to intervene would be out of character for him. This is a president, remember, who is currently taking on the Pentagon over plans to remove U.S. forces from Syria and Afghanistan. He likes to brag about ending wars, not starting them. – Bloomberg

Cyber Security

Cyberattacks from Russia, China, North Korea and Iran are increasingly sophisticated and, until recently, were done with little concern for the consequences, the top Pentagon cyber leaders told a congressional committee on Wednesday. – Associated Press

MEPs have passed a resolution “expressing their deep concern” about cyber security threats from China, including the use of Huawei equipment in 5G network infrastructure. – Sky News (UK)

A cyberattack that leads to down time and lost data can be more costly for smaller companies than for larger businesses — an average of $763 per affected computer or other device versus $470, according to a 2018 study by the Poneman Institute, which researches data protection. Many small businesses don’t have sophisticated systems to protect themselves from hackers, viruses, malware and what’s called ransomware, which renders files inaccessible unless a computer user pays thieves to release them. – Associated Press

The U.S. military has the capability, the willingness and, perhaps for the first time, the official permission to preemptively engage in active cyberwarfare against foreign targets. – Navy Times

Details are crystallizing on new Army cyber units that will provide information-related capabilities from the theater level all the way to the tactical edge. – Fifth Domain

Google may no longer be providing artificial intelligence to the Pentagon under Project Maven, but the Silicon Valley company is moving ahead on other efforts that could ultimately support military operations. – C4ISRNET

U.S. Department of Defense tactical networking and command post programs widely acknowledge the critical need to improve mobility. The current state-of-the-art for tent-based command posts requires hours of setup, which includes thousands of feet of copper wiring that delay network availability, resulting in a dangerous lack of situational awareness for commanders. – C4ISRNET


The U.S. Air Force will procure a handful of A-29 Super Tucano planes from Sierra Nevada Corp. and AT-6 Wolverines from Textron to continue light-attack demonstrations, the service’s top general said Wednesday. – Defense News

The Army has clearly telegraphed its plans to terminate 93 programs and truncate another 93 to make room for next-generation technology under ambitious and rapid modernization plans and the first major programs to feel the ax blows in the next five years are vehicles in the current fleet. – Defense News

The Army Rapid Capabilities Office has already had a major metamorphosis since its inception in 2016, shifting from a focus on just three near-term challenges to an emphasis on a broader portfolio that aligns with the Army’s major modernization efforts. – Defense News

The Pentagon has formally stood up the Space Development Agency, and named its new director, according to a memo obtained by Defense News. – Defense News

The Space Development Agency was officially established as of March 12 — a move that goes against the wishes of the U.S. Air Force’s top civilian, who slammed the Pentagon’s plan for adding bureaucracy, creating risk by removing jobs and starting a new project that has yet to be validated, according to a memo obtained by Defense News. – Defense News

Editorial: The U.S. learned through hard experience in the last century that deploying troops abroad serves the national interest. The forward forces help to maintain global order and prevent aggression by would-be regional hegemons like Russia, China and Iran. They also enable the U.S. to quickly mobilize against terrorists and other regional threats. […]It makes sense to periodically review deployments abroad to see if they still fulfill their strategic purpose. But that review should be done carefully and in consultation with allies, not as an impulsive negotiating strategy leaked to the media.  – Wall Street Journal

Missile Defense

The Pentagon plans to develop two types of land-based missiles following the demise of a 1987 treaty with Russia, with flight tests beginning in August, defense officials said. – Wall Street Journal

The Pentagon is gearing up to test missiles banned by a Cold War-era arms control pact with Russia that is set to end formally this summer after President Trump’s withdrawal over Russian violations. – Washington Post

The Pentagon’s next-generation interceptor warhead to kill ballistic missiles, the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (KV), is at least two years away from working out its issues, despite years of development. That pushes back the fielding of the last pieces of a $40 billion dollar missile defense system that has struggled since the late 1990s. – Breaking Defense

Trump Administration

Minutes after Paul Manafort was sentenced on Wednesday to 43 additional months in prison for two crimes related to his political consulting work in Ukraine, New York prosecutors hit President Trump’s former campaign chief with new criminal charges. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether $100,000 donated to a Trump-related political fundraising committee originated from a fugitive Malaysian businessman alleged to be at the center of a global financial scandal, according to people familiar with the matter. – Wall Street Journal

The House began debating a resolution Wednesday to encourage Attorney General William P. Barr to release special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s full report to Congress and the public when it is completed[…]. Mueller is expected to wrap up his report in the coming days — and while House Democrats insist that the congressional investigations of the president’s alleged Russia ties are not dependent on his findings, they stress that knowing what ground Mueller has covered could save them precious time. – Washington Post

Senate Republicans on Wednesday confirmed the 36th circuit court judge under President Trump — a rapid clip of confirmations that may slow in the coming months simply because the GOP will have filled all the existing vacancies on the powerful federal appeals courts.  – Washington Post

A government watchdog group has asked the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into whether acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, violated ethics rules in his handling of matters related to his former employer. – Washington Post

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page defended herself and the bureau last year against accusations that bias against Donald Trump affected federal investigations of the Trump campaign’s suspected Russia ties and of Hillary Clinton’s emails, according to a transcript released Tuesday by the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. – Washington Post