Good morning. Here’s your Early Warning for Friday, 02 November 2018. (All times Central.)
The President is scheduled to fly to West Virginia and Indiana to hold Make America Great Again rallies.
Of Note: The President has a busy schedule for the next several days, holding Make America Great Again rallies in Huntington, WV (02 Nov), Indianapolis, IN (02 Nov), Belgrade, MT (03 Nov), Pensacola, FL (03 Nov), Macon, GA (04 Nov), Chattanooga, TN (04 Nov), Cleveland, OH (05 Nov), Fort Wayne, IN (05 Nov), and Cape Giradeau, MO (05 Nov).
Caravan Watch: “We don’t do stunts in this department. Thank you.” That was Secretary Mattis’ response to a reporter’s question on whether or not the deployment of troops to the border was a political stunt. Washington (and the world) has come to know retired Marine general Jim Mattis as a hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners thinker and doer. And his apparent support of using troops to bolster border security gives the president some much needed backing. Yesterday afternoon, President Trump addressed the country from the Roosevelt Room in the White House, where he announced that the administration would be tightening the rules for asylum seekers because migrants are being coached on what to tell Border Patrol agents to have their asylum applications accepted. The Trump administration recently clarified that asylum seekers would be accepted in cases of government oppression, but not for poverty and dangerous living conditions in countries of origin. Additionally, he announced that he would end the government’s “catch and release” policy of releasing detained illegal immigrants before their hearings. President Trump warned last night, “If these caravans are allowed into our country, only bigger and more emboldened caravans will follow.” He pointed to the second caravan, some of whom Mexican authorities are beginning to detain, as an example of that. I saw an interview with Vice President Mike Pence last night, where he said that the president of Honduras told him that the Venezuelan government had provided funding for the migrant caravan. [source] Lastly, for some reason I turned on CNN last night only to see Chris Cuomo violating the First Rule of Trump when Cuomo complained about the president saying that those who throw rocks at Border Patrol will be treated as if they’re carrying a rifle. Several former U.S. officials piled on to claim that President Trump was setting up members of the military to violate the rules of engagement and law of land warfare. But here’s what these people routinely miss — which really has become the First Rule of Trump — you take him seriously but not literally. His statement about rock throwers being treated as armed individuals shouldn’t be taken literally, but the president is serious about protecting Americans working on the border. This is the Art of the Deal, where he’s trying to discourage migrant caravan members from coming to the U.S. border and engaging in violent behavior, just like they did at the Guatemala-Mexico border. As for the caravan, they’re still potentially weeks away, especially if they remain primarily on foot. Recently, the Mexican government blocked buses from transporting migrants in the caravan. One reporter recently estimated the caravan as consisting of 4,200 people.
Between the lines: In late September, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis traveled to South America — Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Colombia — to sell U.S. support for peace and stability in the region. But he was also selling increased military ties, especially with Brazil, who Mattis described as a strategic security partner to take the lead on Venezuela. Yesterday, national security advisor John Bolton gave a speech in Miami, where he criticized the “troika of tyranny” that included Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. “We will no longer appease dictators and a despots near our shores,” he said. And in last night’s interview, Vice President Mike Pence name dropped Venezuela as being a financier of the migrant caravan. Meanwhile, earlier this year, former Secretary of State Rex Tilerson (who’s here in Austin this weekend — may be taking a job at the University of Texas) characterized the Monroe Doctrine — the policy of excluding foreign influence in the Western Hemisphere, with specific regard for Central and South America — as being ‘as relevant as ever’. Is a major policy decision underway for the Trump administration? It certainly looks like it. And that could mean a coalition of states — the United States, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and others — are setting their sights on Venezuela.
Secretary Pompeo is scheduled to speak with media officials, alongside Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, on a path forward with Iran sanctions. Media reports yesterday claimed that the Trump administration would reverse course on their decision to implement more sanctions on Iran.
Of Note: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson is on travel to Iceland, Estonia, and Poland, and will return after a trip to Jordan on 08 November. In Iceland, the under secretary will participate in the annual NATO conference on weapons of mass destruction, and discuss how NATO can press for international peace and stability. Estonia, the under secretary will meet with senior government officials and attend a Bilateral Cyber Working Group to “discuss cyber security and countering Russian cyber aggression”. In Poland, the under secretary will attend the Poland-United States Strategic Cooperation Consultative Group. All three European visits (Iceland, Estonia, and Poland) are focused on European security against Russia.
Defense Secretary Mattis has no publicly scheduled events.
These are the last publicly reported locations of these ships. Conflict requiring an aircraft carrier/carrier strike group does not appear imminent.
The Carl Vinson (CVN-70) was last reported as being underway in the Pacific Ocean.
The Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was last reported as being in port at Norfolk, but will be transitioning to a new home port in San Diego.
The John Stennis (CVN-74) was last reported as being underway in the eastern Pacific as it begins its shift to a new homeport in Norfolk.
The Harry Truman (CVN-75) was last reported as being in the Norwegian Sea. The carrier strike group is participating in the Trident Juncture 2018 exercise in Norway.
The Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) was last reported as taking part in joint U.S.-Japan military exercise Keen Sword off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. Keen Sword runs through 09 November.
The George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) was last reported as having returned to port in Norfolk.
* Indicates changes to last reported location or other amplifying information.
Significant House Activity:
- Nothing significant to report.
Significant Senate Activity:
- The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe will receive a briefing on “United States interests, nationalist movements, and the European Union.”
* Only events pertinent to national security are listed.
** Significant reporting will appear in this week’s Strategic and National Intelligence reports.
Yesterday, President Trump tweeted that he had a positive conversation with Chinese president Xi Jinping regarding the future of trade. That may be, but yesterday indictments against a Chinese company and several other individuals were unsealed in California. A state-owned Chinese tech company is being accused of conspiring to steal microchip technology from U.S. firm Micron.
I look back on all the gold and silver cheerleading that still goes on today, and note that the price of an ounce of silver this morning sits at $14.75. That’s about where it was in the latter half of 2009, for a grand total return on investment of zero percent. It’s actually a negative return once you factor in inflation. Yesterday, JP Morgan advised investors to avoid gold if they want to hedge against geopolitical instability.
HurricaneWatch: The National Hurricane Center reports that the Atlantic Ocean is clear of activity. About 28 days remain in “hurricane season,” which ends on 30 November. [source]
What I’m Looking at this Morning
Australia to expand naval base in Papua New Guinea (One word hint: China)
“It is a fact that when your national debt gets to the level that ours is, that it constitutes an existential threat to the society. And that kind of threat ultimately has a national security consequence for it.” – National Security Advisor John Bolton