Advanced Early Warning: Special counsel Robert Mueller, whose probe of Russian interference with the 2016 election continues to expand, has hired additional prosecutors and added additional Justice Dept. resources. In addition to adding career prosecutors, he is also tasking more FBI agents. It could be he is laying the groundwork to hand off portions of his investigation to others within the department.
ALSO: President Trump reportedly will tell NATO countries at a summit next week that the United States cannot be “the world’s piggy bank,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said on Tuesday. “What the president is going to do is go into these meetings with the mindset to protect the American people, stand with our partners and allies – but as he has said many times before America is thought so often to be the world’s piggy bank. And that’s gotta stop,” Gidley told reporters. Trump has been pressing NATO allies to commit to spending 2 percent of their GDP on their militaries, as called for in the NATO treaty.
President Trump is heading to a campaign rally in Montana today. He will arrive at Great Falls, where he will host a “Make America Great Again” rally at 4:00 p.m. on behalf of Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale and Rep. Greg Gianforte. He will depart Montana enroute to Bedminster, New Jersey, where he will spend the night.
Secretary Pompeo is on travel to Pyongyang, Tokyo, Hanoi, Abu Dhabi, and Brussels from July 5-12.
Deputy Secretary John Sullivan will be attending meetings and briefings at the State Department.
Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. have no public or media events on their schedules.
Secretary Mattis is reportedly preparing to attend the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels days after returning from a trip to China, South Korea and Japan.
Aircraft carrier activity:
The Carl Vinson (CVN-70) is on a port call to Joint Base Pearl Harbor/Hickam Airfield following its participation in RIMPAC 2018.
The Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) is on patrol in the Atlantic.
The Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is transiting the Philippine Sea on patrol.
All other carriers are in homeport.
No conflicts requiring a Carrier Strike Group appear imminent.
The House of Representatives is in recess until 9 July.
The Senate is in recess until 9 July.
Significant political/congressional reporting:
- President Trump interviewed eight Supreme Court candidates this week as he decides on a nominee to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. The president has said his pick will officially be unveiled on Monday, but White House spokesman Hogan Gidley suggested this week that Trump’s pick could become news before then.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has become the latest progressive to call for the elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
- Financial and economic analysts are paying attention to rising oil prices. The president blames OPEC, while others fault U.S. policies such as calling on allies to shun Iranian oil.
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the U.S. has not fully considered the consequences of the administration’s threat to ban Iran’s oil. His comments on Wednesday were seen as another threat to potentially disrupt oil shipments from neighboring countries if the Trump administration continues to pursue its goal of forcing all countries to halt purchases of Iranian oil. Such an action could likely trigger a U.S. and allied military response.
- More businesses worried about trade troubles between the U.S. and Mexico say they see Trump as the greater threat to the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which also includes Canada, than Mexico’s new leftist president, AMLO.
- Beijing on Tuesday said China was fully prepared to respond if a trade war escalates after Friday, the deadline for Trump’s promised new trade tariffs on $34 billion in imports from China. [ADMIN NOTE: We address this issue in this week’s Strategic Intelligence Summary, due out later today.]
- FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was heavily involved in Hillary Clinton’s email investigation and was a member of special counsel Mueller’s team for a time, has been subpoenaed to appear before congressional committees looking into the bureau’s handling of the Clinton probe. But his lawyer said Wednesday his client may ignore the subpoena.
(1) The booming economy is a double-edged sword. Private payrolls grew at a disappointing rate last month in large part because businesses can’t find enough people to hire. Jobs in the U.S. grew by 177,000 in June, the report said, while economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected a gain of 190,000. June also marked the fourth straight month of jobs growth below 200,000. Jobs growth for the previous month, however, was revised up by 11,000 to 189,000. “Business’ number one problem is finding qualified workers,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said in a statement.
(2) But then we see this report: The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, even as the trend in jobless claims continued to point to tightening labor market conditions. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 231,000 for the week ended June 30, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims data for the prior week were revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.
(3) And oil remains high, even as Trump called on the Saudis to boost production (which he said the country would do). Oil futures were climbing on Thursday, with U.S. crude hovering at its highest in about 3-1/2 years as supply disruptions continue to support the market. In a July 4 tweet, Trump said many OPEC nations depend on the U.S. to defend them for “very little $,” so they should be doing more to increase supply and reduce prices.
(1) Showers and thunderstorms associated with a weak trough of low pressure located a few hundred miles southwest of Bermuda remain disorganized. Environmental conditions are still conducive for some development before the end of the week while the system moves west-northwestward and then northward between Bermuda and the east coast of the United States. The disturbance is then forecast to interact with a frontal system on Sunday, which should limit any additional development.
Formation chance through 48 hours…low…30 percent.
Formation chance through 5 days…medium…40 percent.
(2) Satellite images indicate that the shower activity associated with a small area of low pressure and a tropical wave located between the Cabo Verde Islands and the Lesser Antilles remains well organized, and a tropical depression could form at any time. This disturbance is forecast to move westward or west-northwestward at 15 to 20 mph over the tropical Atlantic Ocean. However, in a few days, upper-level winds are forecast to become unfavorable, and the system is expected to degenerate into a trough of low pressure before it reaches the Lesser Antilles.
Formation chance through 48 hours…high…70 percent.
Formation chance through 5 days…high…70 percent.
Yesterday’s Significant Reporting
Paul Bedard reports that “a majority of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States by claiming ‘credible fear’ back home do not actually file for it once they are released into the country,” according to Justice Department data. Bedard notes that new immigrants “gamed” the system so much during the Obama Administration that there has been a 1,350 percent increase in deportation orders for “sham asylum claims.”