Trump camp sought Russian dirt on Clinton; Syria’s sort-of ceasefire; China stands up first overseas base; USAF general: ‘We don’t need a Space Corps’; and just a bit more…

Emails released by Donald Trump Jr. say he set up a June 2016 meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer after he was told that a Russian official “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

Read those emails, which the president’s eldest son posted Tuesday after being asked for comment on them by the New York Times, here.

The emails say Trump Jr. was accompanied in the June 9 meeting by his father’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort; and brother-in-law Jared Kushner, which puts the lie to the Trump team’s many denials of contacts with Russians.

But is it collusion? At Lawfare, Benjamin Wittes parses the question and concludes that “if the Trump campaign didn’t collude with the Russians, it wasn’t for lack of trying.” That’s the same place National Review’s David French winds up: “The Russian investigation isn’t a witch hunt anymore, if it ever was. It’s a national necessity.”

So now what? NBC News has a short list of unanswered questions, including “Why does Jared Kushner still have a security clearance?” (It’s not clear whether the June 9 meeting was among those that Kushner reportedly failed to note on his SF-86 background-check form; withholding such information can be punishable as a felony.)

Speaking of Trump’s multitasking son-in-law: “Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.” That’s from McClatchey, here.

Software alert: Kaspersky Lab “developed products for the FSB and accompanied [Russian intelligence] agents on raids,” Bloomberg reported Tuesday. Kaspersky officials call the claim bollocks. But emails from 2009 suggest otherwise. (Background: Kaspersky’s anti-malware software is widely used by the U.S. government.) Story, here.

Happening tomorrow: Come to the 2017 Defense One Tech Summit, featuring top technical thinkers in government, academia, Silicon Valley and beyond.

The goal: discuss how the innovative, game-changing tech of today will become the game-winning resources of tomorrow.

Location: The Newseum in Washington, D.C.

The date and time: Thursday, with registration beginning at 7 a.m. EDT, and opening remarks scheduled an hour later.

Register for your spot in advance, here.


From Defense One

Ceasefire or No, US and Russia Remain ‘A Second or Two Away’ from Accidental War Over Syria // Patrick Tucker: The head of Air Combat Command says one mistake by a pilot in an advanced warplane could mean an unintended escalation in Syria.

We Need to Focus on Space; We Don’t Need a ‘Space Corps’ // USAF Gen. John “Jay” Raymond: The U.S. military’s top space commander wants deeper integration and more resources, not a separate corps.

The Next Battle: State Department, US Military Divided Over Kurdish Fighters In Syria (And Russia) // Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: Frustrated sources on the ground say the State Department is struggling to get behind the Syrian Kurds and the U.S. military would struggle to proceed without them. As for Russia, well…

How Can Iraq Rebuild? // Jack Watling: Winning the peace means paying for reconstruction — and inevitably, losing money to corruption.

Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Have something you want to share? Email us at the-d-brief@defenseone.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)


A new Space Corps? The military’s top space commander tells Congress thanks, but no thanks. In an op-ed on Defense One, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, Air Force Space Command, lays out an extensive list of things the military already is doing to integrate space across the military services and elevate the space commander’s rank from a 3-stars to 4-stars. “While I applaud the leadership of Congress and the welcomed focus on national security in space, which I view as a national imperative, our approach is to normalize, elevate, and integrate space as a war-fighting domain,” Raymond writes.

The Trump-Putin-brokered ceasefire is not going so well in southern Syria, says one Syrian opposition party — counting up more than 15 alleged violations of the agreement by forces aligned with the Assad regime. That, here.

The U.S. military has a few remote bases in Syria, and The Daily Beast would like to point some of them out for you — or rather, TDB would like to tell you about them. (There are no images.) Their spill-the-beans write-up, here.

Two Americans and a Briton recently died fighting ISIS in Syria, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. “Nicholas Warden, 29, and Robert Grodt, 28, died last week on the outskirts of Raqqa, according to U.S. officials and a statement released by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the YPG. Warden served with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and did a stint in the the French Foreign Legion, a fellow YPG fighter said. Grodt did not appear to have any prior military service. Another westerner, a British man named Luke Rutter, was also killed in the fighting, the statement said.”

And more broadly, “Warden and Grodt’s deaths bring the total number of Americans killed fighting alongside the YPG to roughly a dozen.” Full story, here.

In Mosul, ISIS welded doors shut to trap civilians inside buildings. Also, the coalition fighting ISIS sometimes used “excessive force” to crush the insurgency. Those are some of the allegations in a recent report from human rights monitors of Amnesty International.

The coalition’s response: “I reject any notion that coalition fires were in any way imprecise, unlawful or excessively targeted civilians,” U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday. “I would challenge the people from Amnesty International or anyone else out there who makes these charges to first research their facts and make sure they’re speaking from a position of authority.” More from The Hill, here.

In video: Some truly remarkable drone footage of the destruction of Mosul, via al-Jazeera.

The U.S. military’s THAAD anti-missile system hit an air-launched IRBM-class target in a high-stakes test on Tuesday over Alaska. “Until the latest test, the THAAD system had an unproven capability against IRBMs, missiles that have a range of between 1,800 and 3,100 miles (3,000 to 5,500 km),” Reuters reported. “Guam is approximately 2,100 miles (3,400 km) from North Korea. In order to hit the mainland United States, North Korea would need to fire an ICBM, which is defined as a missile with a range greater than 3,400 miles (5,500 km)… This success leaves THAAD with a 100 percent track record for all 14 intercept attempts since flight testing began just over a decade ago.” More here.  

BTW: South Korean intelligence agents doubt Pyongyang’s ICBM could survive re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. That, via The Wall Street Journal, here.

China is officially standing up its first overseas military base over in Djibouti, Africa, the Associated Press reported Tuesday from the Chinese capital. Beijing’s defense ministry “said the personnel would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos on the website showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.” Read more about the base and the new troops, via The Diplomat, here.

Additional reading:

  • Why the U.S. must support democratic processes and hold the government accountable to international law in Djibouti.
  • And Djibouti’s foreign minister pushes back on assertions China is elbowing Americans out of the strategic East African footprint. That, here.

One more thing: The Chinese navy just popped off some training rounds in the Med, days ahead of a joint naval drill with the Russian navy, AP reported this morning. “The destroyer Hefei, frigate Yuncheng and support ship Luomahu took part in Monday’s drills involving the ship’s deck guns and small arms, the ministry said in a notice on its website.” Story, here.   

SecState Tillerson signed counter-terrorism financing pledge with Qatar on Tuesday. And it instantly became a “cudgel for Qatar to use on neighbors,” the Washington Post reports this morning from Kuwait City. “The agreement Tillerson signed, weeks in the making, calls for the United States and Qatar to share information to track down sources of funding for terrorism for years to come… In a statement, the Qatari government spokesman crowed that Qatar was the first gulf country to sign such an agreement and suggested that it be a model for its neighbors to follow instead of pointing fingers of Qatar.” More here.

Monday’s KC-130T crash that killed 15 Marines and one Sailor is the worst U.S. military aviation accident in years, The New York Times reports in a roll-up of what happened and what to do from here. “The flight, which took off from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, was headed to Naval Air Facility El Centro in California and was transporting personnel and equipment, the Reserve said in a statement. Six of the Marines and the Navy corpsman belonged to the Second Marine Raider Battalion, based at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina… the Raiders were scheduled to conduct ‘routine’ training in Yuma, Ariz., lasting a few days to a couple of weeks, for small teams preparing for deployment overseas.” Read the rest, here.

Afghanistan is not lost, Michèle Flournoy and Richard Fontaine write over in The National Interest. But we ought to begin by admitting, “The current approach is plainly inadequate,” they say. After laying out six steps before the U.S. military bolsters its troop levels in the country, the two finish with this recommendation: “If President Trump is going to send additional Americans into harm’s way, he needs to take ownership of the effort and make the case to the American people. He should explain the theory of success, the stakes and why, after all these years, America’s longest war must persist.” Read their full take, here.

For your ears only: a new podcast from the folks at CNA Corp. that digs into some of the takeaways from a new report entitled, “Decade of War: Applying Past Lessons to the Counter-ISIS Campaign.”  

Discussed: “the rapid adaptation of technology and information operations by non-state armed groups; how legitimate nation states can respond to non-state armed groups which are not bound by truth; and how lessons learned from adversaries can be most effectively integrated into future tactics across the US military.”

The talking heads: Author of the report, CNA’s Dr. Larry Lewis, whose scholarship focuses on “civilian casualties, lethal autonomy, counterterrorism, human rights, arms transfers and security assistance, and [International Humanitarian Law] compliance,” as well as “counterinsurgency and high value targeting in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Colombia, and elsewhere.” And Zack Gold, associate research analyst focused on “non-state armed groups, Egyptian security, Islamist political and violent organizations, and U.S. policy in the Middle East.”

Lastly today: Return to the Gulf of Tonkin, where a marine biologist just might have a clue to who—or what—was responsible for one of America’s most infamous war mysteries. We’d share more, but that might ruin the surprise. So go check it out over at The Atlantic, here

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