Trump backs down; Bolton to Moscow; Letting Sudan off the hook; Korean War dead to return home; and just a bit more…

No more new family separations — for now. After a week of insisting that only Congress could stop federal agents from taking children away from their migrant parents at the border, President Trump backed down. But he and Attorney General Jeff Sessions continue their policy of indefinite detention and “zero tolerance” for illegal entry (a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $250 and up to six months’ imprisonment). “Trump’s solution is to detain kids alongside their parents. And that clearly runs afoul of Flores,” the court decision that says immigrant minors can generally be held no longer than five days, writes Mark Joseph Stern at Slate.

That means migrant families can be held no more than 20 days, a top Justice official confirmed yesterday. So stay tuned for more twists and turns.

Here’s a satellite photo of the tent city built to hold the more than 2,300 children seized as of Wednesday.

Mattis speaks: Reporters at the Pentagon asked the SecDef about eight governors withholding or withdrawing National Guard troops from the border  mission because of the child-separation policy. Task & Purpose transcribed the (short) interview, but here’s the bottom line:

  • Reporter: Governors are withdrawing troops from the national border due to the zero-tolerance policy. Is that something that is impacting the border security mission?
  • Mattis: Not right now, no.

How did we get here? Administration officials have offered many different and conflicting explanations for the separation policy, but it all started with Trump’s earliest campaign speeches, in which he called migrants a threat to national security and pledged to build (more precisely, extend) a wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border.

So, how much of a threat are they? Here’s a widely cited paper from 2015: “For more than a century, innumerable studies have confirmed two simple yet powerful truths about the relationship between immigration and crime: immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime.”

For a shorter, newer roundup of immigrant-crime studies, with charts, go here.

From Defense One

The US Is Letting Sudan Off the Hook // Marcel Plichta: Lifting sanctions allows the regime to continue to sow discord in a region that the U.S. and allies are spending billions to stabilize.

Here’s What Trump Actually Achieved With North Korea // Uri Friedman, The Atlantic: It wasn’t what he said. But it was much more than nothing.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. OTD1942: A Japanese submarine surfaces in the mouth of the Columbia River and lobs 17 shells at an Oregon fort.

Return of Korean War fallen? The remains of more than 250 American service members are supposed to be transferred from North Korea to the U.S., possibly as early as today, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The plan: “The remains would likely be brought to Osan, a U.S. military air base south of Seoul, where they would be repatriated in a tarmac ceremony with Gen. Vincent Brooks, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, then sent to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, to undergo scientific testing to help with identification.”
One macabre hitch: A U.S. official “said the remains would be ‘co-mingled,’ meaning there may be individuals of other nationalities included as part of the transfer.”
For the record: “About 7,700 U.S. troops are missing from the Korean War, about 5,300 of whom were lost in North Korea.” More (paywall alert), here.

Next week: White House National Security Adviser John Bolton goes to Moscow to lay the groundwork for an upcoming Trump-Putin summit, Russia’s state-run Interfax news reported Wednesday, citing “informed sources in Washington.”
Adds NPR’s Moscow correspondent Lucian Kim: “5 years ago [Bolton] called Obama ‘Putin’s buddy.’”

Back in DC, the new POTUS motorcade has a new vehicle that features “a menacing black bubble on top,” Voice of America’s Steve Herman tweeted Tuesday.
What it most likely is: the new White House Communications (WHCA) vehicle, CNN’s Jonathan Wackrow tweeted in reply.
BTW, here’s a look at Putin’s new limo, purportedly “Russia’s first luxury car that competes with Rolls Royce, Bentley and executive models of Mercedes.”

Apropos of nothing: Trump’s peace prize plans may be dashed, with the Secretary General of the human rights group, the Council of Europe, asserting Trump “is no longer the moral leader of his country or the world,” AFP reported Wednesday.  

Mass shooter may appeal to POTUS. Robert Bales — the former U.S. Army sergeant who massacred a village of Afghans, including seven children — is considering appealing to the president to grant him clemency. That is, if his lawyer “runs out of options in the courts,” McClatchy News reported Wednesday.
How the possible pitch could shape up: “Bales would likely request a commutation of the life-without-parole sentence ‘to provide a chance to one day be returned to his wife and children.’”
Meantime, “Bales’ next step is the Supreme Court. In a petition filed May 19, Bales’ attorneys argued that evidence was withheld during the former soldier’s trial that could have influenced the sentence.” Read on, here.

Your Thursday #LongRead: Life under the Taliban shadow government, a new report “based on first-hand interviews with more than 160 Taliban fighters and officials,” and drafted by Ashley Jackson of the UK-based Overseas Development Institute, and supported by funds from Denmark.

A few excerpts:

  • The Taliban control “around a quarter of the country’s mobile phone coverage;”
  • “Health and education in Taliban areas are a hybrid of NGO and state-provided services, operating according to Taliban;”
  • And this key point: “Governance does not come after the capture of territory, but precedes it. The Taliban’s influence on services and everyday life extends far beyond areas they can be said to control or contest. That the Taliban set the rules in vast swathes of the country is a reality with which few in the international community are willing to engage.” Read on, (PDF) here.

Thousands of miles away from Afghanistan, in Gitmo, “blue is the new orange” while the facility prepares for (possible) future detainees, Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald reports. During a trip there earlier this month, she saw “a navy blue prison uniform alongside white and beige versions, a new kind of color coding for the guard force that eliminated orange for those deemed the worst behaving or most dangerous.” More here.

And finally: The U.S. Navy could have 355 ships in just 15 years or so —  “if it invests more in maintaining and upgrading its current vessels so it can keep them longer,” Breaking Defense reported Wednesday off remarks from Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, in charge of Naval Sea Systems Command. Notes BD: Moore’s input marks “the first time we’ve seen such a senior officer give such a specific figure for reaching 355 ships faster,” moving it to a 2032-2035 time frame rather than the previous target of 2052-2055. More here.

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