Unidentified officers seize people in Portland; Fires out on Bonhomme Richard; Russians on alert; New COVID cases shatter record; And a bit more.

Homeland Security has sent police to apparently snatch people off the streets in Portland, Oregon a city where crime “has been LOWER than average over the past several weeks,” Fordham University Law Professor John Pfaff tweeted Thursday evening after looking at DHS statistics for Stumptown. 

What DHS says is going on: “The city of Portland has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob while local political leaders refuse to restore order to protect their city,” the department’s Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said Thursday. “Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.” As of July 7, the costs to the city were nearly $300,000, according to the Oregonian, with some “$4.8 million in property damage to businesses.”

Context: “Nightly protests have seized Portland’s downtown streets since George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in late May,” the Washington Post reports. “For more than six weeks, Portland police have clashed with left-leaning protesters speaking out against racism and police brutality. Tear gas has choked hundreds in the city, both protesters and other residents caught in the crossfire. Protesters have spray-painted anti-police messages on the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center, which serves as the local jail and a police headquarters.” 

That brings us to about a week ago, when “Trump sent federal officers to the city, allegedly to quell violence.” The Associated Press has more on that decision here. (And about that decision, on Wednesday, the president claimed “they called us in”; state and local leaders say that’s a lie.)

For the record, “over half the acts cited by DHS [on Thursday] are graffiti,” and “graffiti isn’t a violent crime,” Pfaff writes. 

The latest worrisome trend:Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Streets,” Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday. And the practice has been ongoing since at least July 13. “Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off,” OPB reports. 

Some of the same units that roughed up peaceful protesters in front of the White House are now deployed to Portland. That includes the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC. 

Bigger picture: This all follows President Trump’s June 23 tweet “authoriz[ing] the Federal Government to arrest anyone who vandalizes or destroys any monument, statue or other such Federal property in the U.S.”

Anatomy of a street-snatching: One of the people seemingly kidnapped by police was reportedly put in a jail cell and asked “if he wanted to waive his rights and answer some questions, but [he] declined and said he wanted a lawyer.” What happened next? “The interview was terminated, and about 90 minutes later he was released. He said he did not receive any paperwork, citation or record of his arrest,” OPB reports. 

OPB has several good questions of police that have (to our knowledge) yet to be answered. And those include: 

  • What is the legal justification for making arrests away from federal property? 
  • What is the legal justification for searching people who are not participating in criminal activity? 
  • Why are federal officers using civilian vehicles and taking people away in them? 
  • Are the arrests federal officers make legal under the constitution? If so, how?

The view from Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden: “Trump and Chad Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well with right-wing media.”

Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown wants the feds to go home. In a statement on Thursday, Brown said DHS Wolf is on a “mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes.” What's more, “This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government.”

Here are three Fox News headlines on the latest developments out of Portland:

  1. Portland protesters flood police precinct, chant about burning it down
  2. Hannity slams Portland's leaders for letting city be 'ripped apart' by 'malicious so-called anarchists'
  3. Portland cop slams hypocrisy of Black Lives Matter protesters for having fewer minorities than police

How have other Oregon leaders responded? Stumptown’s ABC affiliate KATU2 rounds up a bevy of unwelcome responses to DHS’s actions — from the Portland mayor to regional sheriffs — here.

From Defense One

Russia’s Attempted Vaccine Hack Suggests Research — and Putin’s Grand Plan — Has Stalled // Patrick Tucker: The Kremlin’s cyber attack on the UK, U.S., and Canada suggests their coronavirus vaccine — and a key Putin promise — is far from reality.

Wednesday’s Hack Shows that The Whole World Is in Your Twitter DMs // Patrick Tucker: We treat direct messages on Twitter as private conversations. Last night’s hack shows that isn’t the case.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Pentagon eyes more export reforms; Defense spending outlook; L3Harris’ big win; and more...

A Second Coronavirus Death Surge Is Coming // Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic: There was always a logical explanation for why cases rose through the end of June while deaths did not.

Happy Birthday to the Bomb // Tom Z. Collina and William J. Perry: If we want to avoid nuclear destruction for the next 75 years, we must take the president’s finger off the button.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1402, a man named Zhu Di overthrew his nephew to assume the throne and become the "Yongle Emperor" of China's Ming dynasty. On his watch, which ended with his death two decades later, the legendary admiral Zheng He completed six "treasure voyages" of 15th-century power projection, sailing with some 30,000 men to as far as modern-day Somalia. China's naval power, relative to its peers around the globe, has never been greater than it was under the Yongle Emperor. Learn more about China then and today in our latest podcast, here.

Russia’s military has put 150,000 troops on alert — presumably to get both the troops’ and our attention. State-run meda TASS reports the units are primarily focused in the southern and western military districts, which border the Caucasus and Eastern Europe, respectively.
Purportedly involved: “414 aircraft and 106 warships” participating in “56 tactical exercises" across "35 training grounds and camps and 17 naval ranges in the Black and Caspian Seas," according to TASS.
What this exercise is not: Anything like Putin’s October 2016 drills, which allegedly featured "40 million people rehearsing a response to chemical and nuclear threats."
By the way: Putin’s military has an aging problem. “Moscow has increased its spending on national defense to the highest level since Soviet times,” Paul Goble of the Jamestown Foundation wrote this week, citing the Russian government’s data. However, “the labor ministry has projected that a decade from now, pensioners will form one-third of the Russian population, their largest share ever.”
Why that matters: “If the Kremlin leader tries to extract more money from the population to pay for a military buildup, he would probably see his support decline for the same reasons,” Goble argues.
And that puts additional pressure on the development of next-generation weapon systems (of the unmanned sort, e.g.), as well adding to the temptation for Putin to use that military to reach for a “victorious little war,” possibly to break a deadlock in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. More from Jamestown, here.

Fires are out — maybe — aboard Bonhomme Richard after nearly five days. On Thursday afternoon, Navy officials told reporters that “all known fires” aboard the amphibious assault craft had been extinguished. But early on Friday morning, smoke was again seen coming from the ship’s bow area, ABC 10 News reported.
The investigations begin. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday is planning to visit the ship pierside in San Diego, a prelude to two formal Navy investigations: “A safety investigation, which are generally not released to the public so that witnesses can feel free to speak openly, and a more formal administrative investigation, which generally comes with disciplinary recommendations and are releasable to the public,” writes Defense News’ David Larter.
Enough sailors and training? Gilday has already asked the heads of Fleet Forces Command, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Naval Forces Europe to ask all ships’ captains whether they have enough people and training to prevent fire and flooding when their ships are in port. Read on, here.
The ship’s fate is unclear, but the disaster is a reminder that a fire can put a warship out of action for years. Task & Purpose has a bit on what that means for U.S. war planners, while former Navy history chief Jerry Hendrix talked about it on WBUR’s Here & Now.

Space Force, staffing up. The newest service branch has picked 2,410 airmen from 8,500-plus volunteers to fill space and space systems operations jobs, beginning on Feb. 1, Air Force Times reports.

We made it this far without mentioning the coronavirus. But we have to now, because the U.S. “posted a single-day record of more than 77,000 new cases on Thursday, while surges elsewhere took the pandemic to new heights around the world,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “World-wide, a single-day record of 249,800 new infections was tallied Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, more than the previous high of around 230,000 set a day earlier. The U.S. had 77,300 new confirmed cases Thursday and the death toll there rose to 138,359.”
U.S. troops are bringing the disease overseas. South Korean officials expressed concern after 12 servicemembers and two dependents tested positive upon arrival in the country over the past week, Stripes reports. Similarly in Japan: “Coronavirus clusters at military bases in Okinawa are causing fresh strains between Japan and the U.S., with Tokyo questioning if American service personnel are dodging local rules and causing infections to spread,” Bloomberg reports.

Twenty-seven European leaders are meeting today and tomorrow in Brussels where they “will haggle over a potential pot of $2 trillion, a combination of their coronavirus economic rescue plan and the ordinary E.U. budget that sets up winners and losers for the next seven years,” the Washington Post reports.
Under discussion: “Policy toward China and Hong Kong, as well as Turkey, was under discussion, topics on which E.U. members have sharp differences.” AP has more, here.

And finally this week: The Taliban has shaken up its leadership ahead of possible intra-Afghan peace talks, “put[ting] the son of the movement’s feared founder in charge of their military wing and add[ing] several powerful figures to their negotiating team,” AP reports today from Islamabad.
Now in charge of its military: “30-year-old Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob,” and he actually took command, as it were, in May. Since then, "The Taliban have stepped up their military activity against Afghan government forces" in what AP calls "a sign the militants under his leadership may see battlefield wins as upping their leverage at the negotiating table."
Meanwhile, “Countries have been lining up to host [peace] talks, with Germany being the latest to put in an offer and Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Japan and Norway reportedly among the nations volunteering.” Read on, here

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!