America’s deputy chief of intelligence resigned Thursday. Susan Gordon was reportedly fired by President Trump “after his allies urged her removal to block her ascension to acting director of national intelligence,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Gordon left a handwritten note for Trump “that made clear she was resigning because he wanted her to,” the Journal’s Dustin Volz tweeted with a photo of that note.
“I offer this letter as an act of respect & patriotism, not preference,” Gordon wrote. “You should have your team. Godspeed, Sue.”
America’s new acting top spy will be Joseph Maguire, who currently directs the National Counterterrorism Center. He will report for duty as acting Director of National Intelligence on Aug. 15, Trump announced in a Thursday tweet. “Mr. Maguire, a retired Navy vice admiral, was confirmed by a Senate voice vote to lead the counterterrorism center last December,” the Journal writes.
“Admiral Maguire has a long and distinguished career in the military, retiring from the U.S. Navy in 2010,” Trump tweeted. “He commanded at every level, including the Naval Special Warfare Command. He has also served as a National Security Fellow at Harvard University. I have no doubt he will do a great job!”
For the record: It’s been 12 days since Trump fired DNI Dan Coats, and one week since he withdrew his preferred replacement, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas. Ratcliffe, the Journal writes, is “a staunch ally who sharply criticized former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation,” but couldn’t overcome a thin resume and opposition from key senators.
“She has been a stalwart partner to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I will miss her candor and deep knowledge of the issues,” Sen,. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
“A devastating loss,” is what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called Coats and Gordon’s departure in a statement on Thursday. “These losses of leadership, coupled with a president determined to weed out anyone who may dare disagree, represent one of the most challenging moments for the Intelligence Community.”
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Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not a D Brief subscriber, sign up here. On this day in 378 CE, in the northwestern corner of modern day Turkey, the Roman army was defeated by the Visigoths in “one of the most decisive battles in history,” the Battle of Adrianople.
The key to Afghan peace talks: finding a way for both the U.S. and the Taliban to save face, the New York Times reports this morning from Qatar, where round eight of negotiations are still underway in Doha.
Leading the Taliban delegation: Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who spent “much of the past decade” in a Pakistani prison “for making contacts with the Afghan government to seek a peaceful resolution to the war at a time when the powerful Pakistani military establishment did not agree.”
Baradar has been traveling quite a bit in his new gig, visiting Iran, Russia, China and Indonesia, and also Uzbekistan on Thursday. “In Uzbekistan, he was seen hugging the country’s foreign minister before sitting down for talks,” the Times’ Mujib Mashal writes, noting, “When the cameras come on, the rest of the Taliban delegates, also in turbans, often walk so close together, taking steps in near-unison, that they look like a squad in practiced formation.” A bit more background color, here.
Turkey is trying to move 700,000 Syrians to that “safe zone” Ankara is trying to negotiate with the U.S., the Wall Street Journal reports off remarks from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday. Early signs the process has begun include police in Istanbul reportedly “conducting more identity checks” for displaced Syrians that are registered — that is to say supposed to be living — in a different Turkish city.
The number of displaced Syrians inside Turkey is believed to number four million. And the question of what to do with them has been lingering for Turkey since at least 2014. “But with the Turkish economy now struggling as industrial output contracts in many sectors and an annual 17% inflation rate in July, more Turks say the refugees have worn out their welcome, blaming them for problems including soaring unemployment and high house-rental prices.”
And Syria is also not interested in taking back those displaced, according to state-run media, Sana. For the record, “Turkish authorities say they haven’t forcibly deported refugees to Syria. They say about 340,000 Syrians have returned home voluntarily since 2016 and settled in two areas the Turkish army controls.” Read on behind the paywall, here.
Pharmacies are experiencing a run on iodine tablets in Russia’s northern port cities of Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk after a mysterious accident preceded a spike in radiation this week, Reuters reports.
“Everyone has been calling asking about iodine all day,” one pharmacy was quoted by 29.Ru, a media outlet that covers the Arkhangelsk area. If true, the questions about iodine likely stem from one nearby hospital’s reported advice to locals in the area to apply 44 drops of the stuff to every glass of drinking water, according to the BBC, citing Russian news site lenta.ru.
Additionally puzzling: “Authorities have shut down an area of the Dvina Bay in the White Sea to shipping for a month near the accident site, without explaining why,” Reuters writes.
Jeffrey Lewis has been watching the developments, and penned a Twitter thread rolling up the known-knowns so far — including the apparent involvement of the Russian ship, Serebryanka, which Lewis writes, “was one of the ships we believe was involved in Russia’s effort to recover a nuclear-powered cruise missile that crashed at sea” last August.
So was it a new Russian missile test that apparently killed two and injured six others? Even if it was, no one expects Russia to confirm such a thing. Meantime, watch the team of analysts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey — like Lewis, Michael Duitsman, and Dave Schmerler — for the latest.
Also from Reuters today: a timeline of Vladimir Putin’s “20 tumultuous years as Russian President or PM,” going back to August 9, 1999.
Tensions between India and Pakistan are rising after India’s prime minister announced on Monday that New Delhi would assert more control over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. NPR: “The constitutional change, revoking Article 370 of India’s constitution, strips Kashmiris of exclusive rights to buy property and hold certain government positions, allowing outsiders to influence laws and own a part of the contested land. Indian-administered Kashmir can no longer fly its own flag, and residents fear the measures could upend their customs and culture.”
Hundreds of people have been arrested this week in the majority-Muslim territory on the rim of the Himalayas. In the regional capital of Srinigar, reports ABC News, “An unusual silence cloaks the center of the city. Its streets, once teeming with traffic, are dotted with spools of concertina wire, blocking movement. Every road is sealed off. The population has been forced indoors while thousands of Indian soldiers in camouflage are on patrol, carrying guns at their waists.”
Jammu and Kashmir have twice been the flashpoint of war between India and Pakistan, though not since the countries obtained nuclear arsenals.
The White House has been fending off pleas from DHS to do more to fight domestic terror threats, including those from white supremacists, CNN reports, citing “current and former senior administration officials as well as other sources close to the Trump administration.”
“Homeland Security officials battled the White House for more than a year to get them to focus more on domestic terrorism,” one senior source close to the Trump administration tells CNN. “The White House wanted to focus only on the jihadist threat which, while serious, ignored the reality that racial supremacist violence was rising fast here at home. They had major ideological blinders on.” Read on, here.
Russia’s RQ-170 Sentinel-lookalike drone reportedly flew for the first time recently, AP writes off a Defense Ministry announcement Wednesday. It’s called the the Okhotnik (“Hunter”), and it stayed aloft for about 20 minutes on Saturday. “The project has been veiled in secrecy, but Russian media reports claimed that the new drone weighs 20 tons loaded and has a range of up to 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles).” Tiny bit more, here.
Kyrgyzstan special forces snatched up the country’s former president from his house this week and now he’s being “held in pretrial detention,” AFP reports. According to former President Almazbek Atambayev’s lawyer, his detention is “connected to the illegal release from jail of a well-known crime boss during Atambayev’s presidency.” That lawyer says he wants to bring the case before an international court. More, here.
FWIW: Atambayev is close to Putin — or at least he was. The Diplomat has more, here.
Weekend reading: “U.S. Sanctions Turn Iran’s Oil Industry Into Spy vs. Spy,” via the New York Times on Thursday.
Close call in southwest Missouri when a 20-year-old “was arrested Thursday after he showed up at a Springfield Walmart store with a loaded rifle and a bulletproof vest,” the Springfield News Leader reported shortly afterward.
A motive is still unclear, but perhaps the man just wanted to go “viral” since “As shoppers were panicking and fleeing the store,” he was reportedly seen “taking video on his phone and making comments to people while pushing a shopping cart.”
How the scene de-escalated: Voluntarily, apparently; because after being spotted pushing that cart, “the suspect then walked out of the store, where an off-duty firefighter held the suspect at gunpoint until police arrived moments later.”
It’s also not clear yet what the charges will be. One possibility is “disturbing the peace.” More from the News Leader, reporting separately, here.
Meet the Air Force general who could lead the Space Force, if his supporters get their wish. Military.com’s Oriana Pawlyk reported Thursday on the latest developments with Air Force Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, who “is expected to hang up his uniform soon” after recently departing “his post as commander of Air Education and Training Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.”
Background drama: “Kwast’s supporters say he was ‘blacklisted’ for promotion, and his career essentially ended, because of his refusal to comply with a service-wide gag order regarding space issues.”
Meantime, Kwast’s boosters “have quietly launched a campaign of persuasion, publishing a series of opinion pieces in recent days in a range of news outlets, including right-of-center political sites such as Breitbart and Newsmax. They argue Kwast, if not serving as chief of the Space Force, which would fall under the Department of the Air Force, should work directly for President Donald Trump to lead development of the new service.” Read on, here.
BTW: The Air Force has gotten its “pilot crisis” under control, U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman reported Thursday.
And finally this week: The Marine Corps’ new commandant is a trailblazer that all other service chiefs should emulate, according to this profile of Gen. David Berger by the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.
Why? In part, because in the face of a diversifying technological threat from the Chinese military, Berger is “ready to give up some existing forces to pay for modernization — a sentiment that’s rare indeed in a Pentagon that treasures its aircraft carriers, fighter jets and other legacy weapons.”
What’s more, Ignatius writes, “Berger’s boldest recommendation was that the Marine Corps move away from its insistence on having 38 ships available for amphibious assault.”
Forecast: Expect more vocal complaints in the months to come, since “Some Marines are already grumbling about Berger’s disruptive guidance, and their complaints will be amplified by the contractors that build the existing armada of exquisite amphibious-assault ships, and the members of Congress in districts where jobs might be lost.” More here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!