– – – Tearline – – – Mar. 23, 2017

In this week’s Tearline: Tillerson went to Asia without the press, Britain begins its Brexit, Trump needs a foreign policy strategy.

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Tearline noun | ‘ter • līn
The portions of an intelligence report that provide the substance of a more highly classified or controlled report without identifying sensitive sources, methods, or other operational information.

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What was that?!

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first trip to Asia as secretary has kicked up a lot of dust in the press, from North Korea to his parroting of Chinese talking points. But the most worrisome part of Tillerson’s trip was that he clearly doesn’t understand his job. In his first interview—given to the only journalist allowed to travel with him—Tillerson said, “I’m not a big media access person. I personally don’t need it.” Alas, that’s not Tillerson’s choice; he is the chief spokesman for U.S. foreign policy. Tillerson owes it to the American people—whom he works for—to regularly explain what he is doing. So far he is acting as though he either doesn’t understand his job or doesn’t really care about doing it well.

What we’re missing

A strategy for defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and then winning the peace—does President Donald Trump have one? During the campaign, Trump repeatedly criticized former President Barack Obama’s strategy for retaking Mosul and claimed to have a secret plan. And yet two months into his presidency, his plans are unclear, other than trying to indiscriminately bar Muslims— including those who have fought alongside American forces—from coming to the United States, which only helps the Islamic State. If anything, Trump appears to be continuing Obama’s military strategy without a plan for what comes after. As the fall of Mosul gets closer, Daniel Benaim and Jeffrey Prescott make clear that, “As continued military progress has shown, Trump’s critiques of President Obama’s Mosul campaign were largely illusory. But the risks ahead, especially if President Trump sets aside the advice of his most experienced aides in search of a more cynical or expedient path, are all too real,” including a “Mission Accomplished”-style refusal to invest in civilian tools after military victory.

What’s on deck in the world next week

Brexit begins. Next Wednesday, March 29, the United Kingdom will officially notify the European Union of its intention to withdraw from the organization. This step will trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty, beginning what is expected to be a lengthy process of negotiations. The U.K. government is aiming for the process to be completed in March 2019, but in order for this to happen, they may have to negotiate a 50 billion pound “ divorce bill” to split from the European Union’s single market. And despite all the chaos and uncertainty it is creating, Trump thinks that Brexit is great.

Better ideas

Unfortunately for, well, everybody, the United States is only one of many examples of Russian interference in democracies around the world. Russia has been—and continues to be—actively attempting to undermine democracy across Europe by supporting right-wing parties. CAP Senior Fellow Ken Gude published an in-depth investigation into this Russian campaign and its consequences, along with recommendations as to how the United States can respond to support its European allies, including strengthening NATO, applying sanctions, and investigating what happened in 2016.

Quote of the week

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told Gen. Robert Neller that his words “ring hollow,” for “it is a serious problem when we have members of our military denigrating female Marines who will give their life for this country in the way they have with no response from leadership.” Gillibrand was referencing the Marines nude photo scandal that first broke in January. The scandal adds to the controversy surrounding U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ confirmation and his past skepticism on pushing “social change” in the military. Mattis, to his credit, quickly issued a statement denouncing “unacceptable” behavior. Our commander in chief’s response? Crickets. The scandal is a reminder of the need to remove these cases from the military chain of command, as a CAP report recommended.

Read of the Week

In his first week in office, President Trump signed an order reinstating the Global Gag Rule, or Mexico City Policy, that prohibits U.S. funding from going to organizations that perform abortions or actively promote them as a part of family planning. The policy will have a very clear consequence: “A lot of African women are going to die as a result,” according to an in-depth story this week in Foreign Policy that is worth your time.

Weekly Trump-Russia reminder

On Monday, FBI Director James Comey confirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. If that doesn’t seem surprising to you—the ongoing FBI investigation has been an open secret for months—then stop and try to take it all in: The campaign of the sitting president of the United States is under active investigation by the FBI for ties to a foreign country that interfered in the election to help the sitting president win. It’s past time for some answers. That’s why CAP Action has launched the Moscow Project to investigate the extent, nature, and purpose of Trump’s Russia ties. Help us uncover the truth here.

62 days still violating the Constitution

President Trump has been violating the Constitution’s prohibition against corruption by foreign governments for 62 days because his companies are receiving payments from foreign governments.

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Michael Fuchs

Senior Fellow

Stefanie Merchant

Special Assistant