Fdd's overnight brief

November 25, 2019

In The News


Iran’s judiciary said Friday that about 100 people accused of having led violent antigovernment protests over fuel price increases had been arrested nationwide, and a top cleric said they deserved the “maximum penalty.” – New York Times

The deployment of 14,000 additional American troops to the Persian Gulf region since the spring has probably not dissuaded Iran from planning a major attack on the scale of the recent missile and drone assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, the commander of American forces in the Middle East says. – New York Times

Iran restored internet access in large parts of the country after a weeklong shutdown aimed at stifling nationwide protests, but threatened more arrests in a brutal crackdown that exposes the challenges facing a government struggling to cope with harsh U.S. sanctions. – Wall Street Journal

A federal judge on Friday ordered Iran to pay a Washington Post reporter and his family nearly $180 million in damages after the reporter was imprisoned for almost 18 months during which he was psychologically tortured and physically abused. – New York Times

As Iran restores the internet after a weeklong government-imposed shutdown, new videos purport to show the demonstrations over gasoline prices rising and the security-force crackdown that followed. – Associated Press

A senior commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has urged the country’s judiciary to mete out harsh sentences to what he described as “mercenaries” involved in protests against a fuel price hike last week, the judiciary’s Mizan news site reported. – Reuters

Iranian Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri on Saturday warned regional countries of unspecified dire consequences if it is proven that they meddled to stoke unrest in Iran, the semi-official news agency Fars reported. – Reuters

Iran has asked Russia to provide an additional $2 billion loan for projects including the construction of thermal power plants, hydroelectric power plants, railroads and subway carriages, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Saturday. – Reuters

Turmoil in Baghdad, paralysis in Beirut and flames of unrest in Tehran; it has been a bad few months for Iran at home and elsewhere in the Middle East, where more than a decade of advances are being slowed, not by manoeuvrings on battlefields or legislatures – but the force of protest movements. – The Guardian

Peter Huessy And Bradley A. Thayer write: Iran poses a serious threat to the U.S. because of its nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation efforts and its willingness to attack U.S. allies. Keeping maximum pressure on the Iranian regime is a justifiable consequence of its actions. To defend its interests, the U.S., with its allies, must sustain a joint military deterrent in the region and support the democratic movement among the Iranian people. – The Hill


When President Donald Trump abruptly announced plans to withdraw American troops from northern Syria last month, Nashville’s city hall and a bridge below the downtown skyline lit up in the green, yellow and red of the Kurdish flag. – Associated Press

Turkish-backed militias on Saturday attacked a Syrian refugee camp guarded by Kurdish and Arab fighters, an on-scene aid worker said. – Washington Examiner

Heavy fighting has continued despite a cease-fire deal in northern Syria after Turkey vowed to clear SDF fighters from a 20-mile-deep “safe zone” between the border cities of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn in October. A cease-fire was brokered by Russia with Turkey to end fighting in late October. But the war never stopped, according to sources on the ground. – CNBC

U.S. Central Command chief General Kenneth McKenzie said on Saturday about 500 U.S. personnel in east Syria are expected to resume operations against Islamic State in coming days and weeks. – Reuters

Syrian government forces captured Sunday a northwestern village from insurgents after clashes that left more than a dozen killed on both sides, state media and an opposition war monitor said. – Associated Press

A car bomb exploded in a Turkey-controlled northern Syrian town on the border Saturday, killing at least three people, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said. – Associated Press


Turkey will test a radar-detection system operated as part of the anti-missile batteries purchased from Russia, a defense official said on condition of anonymity. – Bloomberg

Over the next year or so, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party is planning a “grand congress” to rejuvenate decision-making by electing younger officials and women to bodies from the grassroots to the top echelons of the organization. – Bloomberg

Turkey said Friday it would offer four million lira ($700,000) for information leading to the capture of former Palestinian strongman Mohammad Dahlan, now exiled in the United Arab Emirates. – Agence France-Presse

This report will review the terror-related and jihadi activities of nine Turkish NGOs. The activities of these organizations include meeting jihadi leaders in Syria, housing jihadi fighters traveling to Syria, raising money for and organizing events with Hamas and Hizbullah, hosting Hamas leaders at conferences, and spreading jihadi ideology online and via printed matter such as books and magazines. – Middle East Media Research Institute


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing new political and legal challenges after being indicted on corruption charges, as Israel moves toward a likely third election in a year. – Wall Street Journal

Human Rights Watch Israel-Palestine director Omar Shakir will be deported from Israel on Monday. Earlier this month, the High Court of Justice endorsed the government’s decision not to allow the activist to remain in the country because of his support for boycotting Israel. – Jerusalem Post

The 107 Democrats who sent a letter on Friday to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking him to immediately reverse his recent announcement that Washington no longer views settlements as illegal have taken the bait the Trump administration left dangling. – Jerusalem Post

A well-known analyst and commentator from the Gaza Strip says the popularity of Hamas, the Palestinian enclave’s ruler, has dropped since it sat out fighting this month between Islamic Jihad and Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Hamas officials on Saturday denied reports about progress concerning a possible prisoner swap with Israel. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinian factions have called for a “day of rage” on Tuesday in protest of US administration decisions, particularly US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent announcement that settlements are not inconsistent with international law. – Jerusalem Post

A few days after Operation Black Belt in the Gaza Strip, Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi ordered the distribution of a document describing the progression of the operation and its achievements to all army units. And according to him, the operation was an impressive success. – Haaretz

The top US general is visiting Israel for meetings with top military leaders, the latest in a series of high-level military meetings amid heightened tensions with Iran. – Associated Press

Yoram Ettinger writes: Israel’s control of the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria highlights the synergy between the national security of the US and Israel, emphasizing Israel’s military and commercial contribution as the most effective US force-multiplier in the Middle East and beyond. – Algemeiner

Maya Jacobs and Yosef I. Abramowitz write: This means Israel’s energy security will become more and more vulnerable, as Hezbollah missiles become more and more accurate. In fact, once the new gas rig off Zichron Ya’acov goes live later this year, Hezbollah can quickly decapitate the Israeli economy with a barrage of missiles that can easily overwhelm Iron Dome. – Jerusalem Post

Alex Joffe writes: Trump and his administration have made a hallmark of defying dysfunctional conventional wisdom and foreign policy inertia that elevate process over results. But while the predicted calamities of this policy have not materialized, the administration’s lack of any Grand Strategy makes the benefits difficult to aggregate. – Besa Center


Lebanon is facing not just political turmoil, with daily protests across the country, but a financial emergency as well. – Washington Post

Clashes broke out between anti-government demonstrators and supporters of the Shi’ite groups Hezbollah and Amal in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, early on Monday, as tensions escalated when demonstrators blocked a main bridge. – Reuters

The Trump administration is withholding more than $100 million in U.S. military assistance to Lebanon that has been approved by Congress and is favored by his national security team, an assertion of executive control of foreign aid that is similar to the delay in support for Ukraine at the center of the impeachment inquiry. – Associated Press


Vice President Pence and his wife made an unannounced trip to Iraq on Saturday to visit with U.S. troops ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. – Washington Post

Mr. Pence made two stops: He landed with the permission of the Iraqi government at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq’s western desert, where many of the American troops are billeted while they train and assist the Iraqi forces fighting the remains of the Islamic State. He then flew to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. – New York Times

Security forces opened fire on protesters in Baghdad and several cities in southern Iraq on Sunday, killing at least nine people and wounding dozens of others, police and medical sources said, the latest violence in weeks of unrest. – Reuters

Iraq’s southern border with Iran reopened to travelers on Saturday after a week-long closure during mass protests in both countries, the Iraqi border ports commission said in a statement. – Reuters

Just after midnight, Baghdad time, the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the elite and popular Counter-Terrorism Service in Iraq announced that a coup was underway[…]. Within an hour it turned out the social media accounts had apparently been hacked. – Jerusalem Post

Gulf States

The United States and France are boosting Saudi Arabia’s radar systems following crippling drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure in September, which Washington blames on Iran. – Reuters

A French naval base in Abu Dhabi will serve as the headquarters for a European-led mission to protect Gulf waters that will be operational soon, France’s defense minister said on Sunday. – Reuters

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is making a push to develop high-tech military hardware that would give it control over critical defense capabilities and lessen reliance on imports. – Reuters

The U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia is set to take a sharp turn if a Democrat wins the White House in 2020. – The Hill

Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates launched a government-owned defense conglomerate formed with the aim of spearheading advanced technology development projects with other nations. – Defense News

Middle East & North Africa

Eight suspected Islamic State members were captured in this scarred city in recent weeks, Libyan commanders say. Militant sleeper cells, they say, lurk in some neighborhoods. – Washington Post

Egyptian security forces targeted one of the last remaining independent news outlets in the country on Saturday, taking a journalist from his home and detaining him in an unknown location, according to the news site. – Washington Post

An unmanned drone that was flying over Libya was lost on Thursday, according to the U.S. military.- The Hill

Korean Peninsula

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his troops to practice firing artillery near a disputed sea boundary with rival South Korea, Pyongyang’s state media reported Monday, drawing a quick rebuke from Seoul. – Associated Press

Japan and South Korea took fresh swipes at one another, raising questions about whether relations between the U.S. allies would improve after they reached a last-minute deal on Friday to rescue an expiring intelligence-sharing pact. – Bloomberg

Lawrence J. Haas writes: What hasn’t changed is the North’s threat to U.S. national security — or the doubtfulness that it would ever abandon its nuclear program, which provides the protection it seeks and the global legitimacy it craves. That’s why Trump must maintain U.S. sanctions and, despite the current funding dispute, reassure Seoul that he recognizes the danger from the North and won’t leave it vulnerable by reducing the U.S. presence on the Peninsula. – The Hill


A man claiming to be a disillusioned Chinese intelligence operative has told the Australian authorities that China’s military intelligence agencies were directly intervening in politics in Hong Kong and Taiwan, buying media coverage, infiltrating universities, funneling donations to favored candidates and creating thousands of social media accounts to attack Taiwan’s governing party. – New York Times

A former C.I.A. officer was sentenced to 19 years in prison on Friday for conspiring to deliver classified information to China in a case that touched on the mysterious unraveling of the agency’s informant network in China but did little to solve it. – New York Times

The United States is the world’s biggest source of instability and its politicians are going around the world baselessly smearing China, the Chinese government’s top diplomat said on Saturday in a stinging attack at a G20 meeting in Japan. – Reuters

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Monday told his Chinese counterpart that he is highly concerned about the Hong Kong situation and it is important that a free and open Hong Kong keeps on prospering under the “one country, two systems” model, a Japanese government official said. – Reuters

A senior Australian politician on Saturday said he was disturbed by the reported efforts of China to infiltrate politics in Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan detailed by an asylum seeker who said he was a Chinese spy. – Reuters

China, responding to allegations of interfering in Australian politics, said it had never tried to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs and wasn’t interested in doing so. – Reuters

Classified Chinese government documents made public by an international group of journalists describe the repressive inner workings of detention camps in Xinjiang, in a second rare leak in days of secret files concerning the troubled western region. – Reuters

China said on Monday the United States should stop abusing the concept of national security and abusing Chinese companies after the U.S. designated tech firms Huawei [HWT.UL] and ZTE as national security risks. – Reuters

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who has been in the job for four days, said on Saturday he had pressed his Chinese counterpart about the case of two Canadian citizens jailed in Beijing. – Reuters

Surging rare-earth production in China is presenting a new challenge to budding efforts in the U.S. and elsewhere to undercut the Asian giant’s dominance in a market for exotic materials used in everything from smartphones to fighter jets. – Bloomberg

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s ruling party denounced China as an “enemy of democracy” on Monday following fresh claims of Chinese interference in the island’s politics ahead of presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 11. – Reuters

China and the United States are ‘very close’ to a phase one trade deal, the Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said on Monday, discounting “negative” media reports. – Reuters

Josh Hawley writes: We need instead to prevent any other nation from becoming a hegemon—and that brings us to China. While American policy makers have embroiled this nation in multiple Mideast wars, China has steadily built its strength, its economy and its military—all at American expense. For years China has been stealing American jobs and intellectual property, abusing the international trade system. Now it is militarizing the South China Sea and preparing to project its power across the Asia-Pacific region. – Wall Street Journal

Kristin Tate writes: We may not be interested in the struggle for global domination, but those in Beijing are. From military to economic to technological matters, China is starting to best us on these fronts. As we focus on the less important markers of cultural survival, China is setting itself up to be an emerging superpower. Only with determined American leadership can we avoid an era under Chinese hegemony. The time for concerted effort starts now. – The Hill

Dean Cheng, Norbert Michel, and Klon Kitchen writes: The United States cannot assert significant influence over how China proceeds with its digital currency plans. It can, however, orient its own policies to create a prosperous environment for America’s financial innovations. Failing to do so heightens the risk that the U.S. will fall further behind international competitors in the evolving financial technology markets. To that end, Congress should remove barriers to entry in the market for alternative monies, and ensure that no single type of money enjoys a regulatory advantage. – Heritage Foundation

Tom Rogan writes: President Trump is right to pursue a trade deal with Beijing. But when it comes to intellectual property, Trump must be resolute. America will, he should tell Xi, continue protecting our intellectual property from Chinese theft and impose escalating costs on anyone who attempts to take what is ours. – Washington Examiner

South Asia

An American national working for the United Nations in Afghanistan was killed and two others were wounded in a blast targeting a U.N. vehicle in Kabul on Sunday, officials said, underscoring a growing threat to aid workers. – New York Times

Nearly two months after Afghans braved hundreds of Taliban attacks to cast ballots in a vote for president, the results have been repeatedly delayed, and protests have blocked election officials from auditing and recounting problematic votes in several provinces. – New York Times

Azeem Ibrahim writes: In either case, the bad news for Suu Kyi is that this trial at the ICJ is a serious affair. The effort, led by Gambia’s Attorney General Abubacarr Marie Tambadou and the Gambian Ministry of Justice, sets a new precedent in international relations: A state is taking another state before the ICJ for a breach of the Genocide Convention adopted by the United Nations in 1948 – Washington Post


The rising tide of young political opposition here was on full view in the dense residential neighborhood of North Point, packed with mainland Chinese immigrants loyal to Beijing, where incumbent Frankie Lo found himself in a rare fight to retain his seat on the local district council. – Wall Street Journal

U.S. legislation that could strip Hong Kong of preferential trade status if Beijing encroaches on the region’s political freedoms is dividing protesters who fought for it and business groups that fear it paves the way for economically painful measures. – Wall Street Journal

A record turnout of over 2.9 million voters delivered the pro-democracy camp control of 17 of 18 districts and over 80 percent of contested seats, the biggest electoral victory for the movement since Hong Kong’s handover from British rule in 1997. But it was also a rare chance for people within China to send their leaders a clear electoral message — that they want democracy, and were prepared to look past protesters’ violence. – Washington Post

Visiting the two Japanese cities razed by atomic bombs during World War II, Pope Francis called Sunday for a “world without nuclear weapons,” which he said are “immoral” for war or deterrence. – Washington Post

President Trump refused to commit Friday to signing legislation overwhelmingly passed by Congress to support pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, saying that he supported the protesters but that President Xi Jinping of China was “a friend of mine.” – New York Times 

Nearly two decades after a peace agreement marked the official end to a bloody civil war, residents of the island region of Bougainville will begin voting this weekend on whether it should become the world’s newest country and separate from Papua New Guinea. The vote in a small South Pacific territory of just 250,000 people is stirring the interest of larger global powers, including China, Australia and the United States. – U.S. News & World Report

US President Donald Trump said Friday he had saved Hong Kong from being destroyed by persuading Chinese President Xi Jinping to hold off on sending in troops to crush its pro-democracy movement. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: Mr. Xi isn’t a sentimental man and he’ll make a decision on trade talks in China’s cold-blooded national interest. If he thinks he needs the deal for the sake of China’s economy, he’ll agree to U.S. terms whether or not Mr. Trump signs the new Hong Kong bill. After Sunday’s demonstration of courage by Hong Kong voters, a veto by Mr. Trump would betray America’s values and be a show of weakness to China. – Wall Street Journal

Editorial: Taking on China’s unfair trade practices and imperial expansionist designs is important. But Trump’s trade war hasn’t done that in a disciplined way. Taking on China properly and smartly would require working with Congress. It would also require forming lasting partnerships with other Pacific nations like Vietnam. What we’ve gotten instead is a costly trade war that leads to limited and irregular job growth in Vietnam. – Washington Examiner

Louisa Lim writes: In a week when Hong Kong’s universities became tear-gas-scented battlegrounds, the escalating violence has been matched by an intensifying spiral of rhetoric from the governments of Beijing and Hong Kong. Words have always been weapons in conflict, but in the social media age, their potential as tools of mobilization is exponentially multiplied, and the terminology used to describe protesters seems like a signal of tough action ahead. – New York Times

Shuli Ren writes: Yet, our support for the protests is rapidly dwindling because we suspect that the anger on the streets has less and less to do with the city’s political system, and more to do with a nativist dislike of mainlanders and immigrants — not unlike the anger driving populist protests in the U.S. and Europe. […]I still love this city and want it to succeed. But, I hope my Hong Kong neighbors understand that no true democracy will emerge if people like me are too afraid to walk its jammed, noisy, exhilarating streets. – Bloomberg


Congress’s must-pass defense policy bill will be the vehicle to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s $11 billion project to deliver natural gas to Europe via a new pipeline from Russia to Germany, a top U.S. lawmaker revealed Friday. – Defense News

Christopher Nixon Cox and James Arnold write: Each time we threaten a country with sanctions, when they choose to purchase Russian weapons, we push them away from us and towards those whom they perceive as not looking to coerce and infringe upon their sovereignty. Do we wish any of these states to become better friends with Russia or China than with us? Certainly not. – The Hill

Joe Ferullo writes: Lying just below big headlines from the impeachment hearings was an urgent message for mainstream media: The rules of the journalism game need to change, because a formidable player — Russia — won’t leave the arena. The game I’m talking about is how “opposition research” becomes news. […]It’s clear now that Russia was the only winner in a game where the media thought they were sideline commentators but were actually active participants. – The Hill


Chancellor Angela Merkel was handed a damaging defeat at her party’s annual convention over her plans to allow China’s Huawei Technologies Co. to build Germany’s next-generation 5G mobile network. – Wall Street Journal

A long-delayed European Union goal of expanding to include more countries in the western Balkans is slipping further out of reach following French moves to rework how new members join the bloc. – Wall Street Journal

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was uncharacteristically furious. At a dinner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, she huddled with President Emmanuel Macron of France, who had just given an interview in which he cited the “brain death” of NATO and wondered whether its commitment to collective defense still held. – New York Times

French President Emmanuel Macron, self-appointed champion of Europe, wants to make it harder for other countries to join his club. – Washington Post

Bidders for German 5G rollout contracts must guarantee the network will be free of foreign state influence, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats agreed on Saturday, stopping short of singling out China’s Huawei. – Reuters

The formal launch of the Conservative Party’s election pledges Sunday centered around the key plank of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s campaign: making Brexit happen. – Associated Press

However, here in Britain, an endorsement from the US President is not always a good thing. He’s very unpopular with large sections of the public — and the politicians know it. Ever since the campaign got underway, Trump has been used as a weapon by many of Johnson’s opponents — most notably the main opposition Labour Party. – CNN

George F. Will writes: Just as the Holocaust was not inevitable, neither is the triumph of enlightenment: History is not a ratchet that clicks only one way. Today, in several parts of the world, including on the dark, churned and bloody ground of Central Europe, there are various forms of political regression. These are marked by a recrudescence of the blood-and-soil tribalism of degenerate nationalism, accompanied by thinly veiled, or not at all veiled, anti-Semitism. – Washington Post

Ira Stoll writes: I suppose it’s encouraging to see the Times covering the story of antisemitism in Europe. But if the Times is going to be offering these sorts of apologies—they were just resorting to antisemitism “occasionally,” to “make their points” against Israel—it almost might be better for the Jews and maybe also for the Times if the Times ignored the story altogether. – Algemeiner

The Americas

Concerned about the rising number of migrant families crossing from Mexico into the Arizona desert, Department of Homeland Security officials are preparing to bus border crossers more than 300 miles east into Texas so they can deposit them in Mexico instead of releasing them in the United States, according to two Trump administration officials. – Washington Post

President Trump said Sunday that he intends to soon announce the location of next year’s Group of Seven summit, adding that Camp David is under consideration. – Wall Street Journal

Protests against President Iván Duque stretched into a third-straight day with marchers accusing security forces of brutality and government officials claiming that an outbreak of looting and vandalism was part of an orchestrated terror campaign. The demonstrations in Colombia are the latest to roil South America and have Mr. Duque, a 43-year-old conservative U.S. ally, facing his worst crisis since he took office 15 months ago. – Wall Street Journal

The world’s first atomic bomb was detonated on July 16, 1945, in the New Mexican desert — a result of a highly secretive effort code-named the Manhattan Project, whose nerve center lay nearby in Los Alamos. Just 49 months later, the Soviets detonated a nearly identical device in Central Asia, and Washington’s monopoly on nuclear arms abruptly ended. – New York Times

More than 11,000 people have signed a petition urging the Canadian government to reverse its vote in favor of an annual United Nations resolution that deems the Western Wall and other sites of Jewish worship occupied Palestinian territories. – Algemeiner


More than a dozen U.S. utilities that were targets in a recent wave of cyberattacks have been identified by The Wall Street Journal. Some of the utilities, most of which are relatively small, are located near dams, locks and other critical infrastructure. – Wall Street Journal

The U.S. national security adviser urged Canada on Saturday not to use Huawei 5G technology, saying that doing so would put in jeopardy intelligence sharing with the United States and expose Canadians to being profiled by the Chinese government. – Reuters

Andreas Kluth writes: The West and its allies must therefore come to a common position on Huawei — and ideally on both China and data security generally. 5G and its successors have an almost utopian potential to solve many human problems. They also have a dystopian potential to turn our freedoms into a surveillance hell. The democracies need to confront this reality. – Bloomberg


Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer on Sunday over the controversial case of a Navy SEAL that has created high-level friction between the president and the Pentagon. – Wall Street Journal

President Trump announced Sunday that Kenneth Braithwaite, the current ambassador to Norway, would replace Richard Spencer as the secretary of the Navy shortly after Spencer’s ouster earlier in the day. – The Hill

By agreeing to a second short-term spending bill early in Fiscal Year 2020, Congress and President Donald Trump will keep government agencies open for another month, a move the defense industry says is better than the alternative, but not a great long-term strategy. – USNI News

Michael Chertoff writes: In the technology race against China, the U.S. should prefer to let competition drive innovation rather than support exclusive national champions. Apart from the economic inefficiency, a single-source national champion creates an unacceptable risk to American security—artificially concentrating vulnerability in a single point. The government’s argument in support of Qualcomm isn’t prudent, and if courts accept it, the result would be a self-inflicted wound to U.S. national interests. We need competition and multiple providers, not a potentially vulnerable technological monoculture. – Wall Street Journal

Long War

Several unaccompanied children have been repatriated from former Islamic State territory in Syria to Britain, as European nations grapple with questions about what to do with the potential return of citizens who joined the terrorist group. – New York Times

The Philippine military said Monday it rescued a British national and his Filipino wife who had been kidnapped by local militants linked to the Islamic State. – Washington Post

Philippine soldiers have killed a militant who had helped a local group linked to Islamic State to stage suicide bombings in the southern province of Sulu, the military said on Saturday. – Reuters 

German authorities say a 30-year-old woman who allegedly was a member of the Islamic State group has returned to Germany with her three children. – Associated Press

Trump Administration

The Republican defense of Mr. Trump became central to the impeachment proceedings when Fiona Hill, a respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a harsh critique during testimony on Thursday. She told some of Mr. Trump’s fiercest defenders in Congress that they were repeating “a fictional narrative.” She said that it likely came from a disinformation campaign by Russian security services, which also propagated it. – New York Times

A highly anticipated report by the Justice Department’s inspector general is expected to sharply criticize lower-level F.B.I. officials as well as bureau leaders involved in the early stages of the Trump-Russia investigation, but to absolve the top ranks of abusing their powers out of bias against President Trump, according to people briefed on a draft. – New York Times

Two associates of Rudy Giuliani tried to recruit a top Ukrainian energy official in March in a proposed takeover of the state oil-and-gas company, describing the company’s chief executive and the then-U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as part of “this Soros cartel” working against President Trump. – Wall Street Journal

A confidential White House review of President Trump’s decision to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal, according to three people familiar with the records. – Washington Post

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee said reports that he met with ex-Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin in Vienna last year were false, but declined to elaborate in an interview on Fox News. – Washington Post

A lawyer for an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani told CNN that his client is willing to tell Congress about meetings the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee had in Vienna last year with a former Ukrainian prosecutor to discuss digging up dirt on Joe Biden. – CNN