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Westlake Legal Group > United States International Relations (Page 7)

Rick Perry’s Focus on Gas Company Entangles Him in Ukraine Case

Westlake Legal Group 07dc-ukraine1-facebookJumbo Rick Perry’s Focus on Gas Company Entangles Him in Ukraine Case Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Presidential Election of 2020 Perry, Rick natural gas Naftogaz of Ukraine Giuliani, Rudolph W Corruption (Institutional) Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — When Energy Secretary Rick Perry led an American delegation to the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president in May, he took the opportunity to suggest the names of Americans the new Ukrainian government might want to advise and oversee the country’s state-owned gas company.

Mr. Perry’s focus during the trip on Ukraine’s energy industry was in keeping with a push he had begun months earlier under the previous Ukrainian president, and it was consistent with United States policy of promoting anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine and greater energy independence from Russia.

But his actions during the trip have entangled him in a controversy about a pressure campaign waged by President Trump and his allies directed at the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. That effort sought to pressure Mr. Zelensky’s government to investigate Mr. Trump’s rivals, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to challenge Mr. Trump.

Mr. Perry’s trip raised questions about whether he was seeking to provide certain Americans help in gaining a foothold in the Ukrainian energy business at a time when the new Ukrainian government was looking to the United States for signals of support in its simmering conflict with Russia.

Mr. Trump seemed to suggest last week that he made a July 25 phone call to Mr. Zelensky, during which he repeatedly urged his Ukrainian counterpart to pursue investigations that could politically benefit him, at the urging of Mr. Perry. Mr. Trump told congressional Republicans last week that Mr. Perry wanted him to discuss the liquefied natural gas supply with Mr. Zelensky, Axios reported.

That topic did not specifically come up in the call between the two leaders, according to the reconstructed transcript released by the White House. Text messages released last week by House investigators showed that other officials were suggesting that the president speak with Mr. Zelensky to nail down an agreement for Ukraine to move ahead with the investigations being sought by Mr. Trump.

At a news conference on Monday in Vilnius, Lithuania, where he was meeting with Ukrainian and Polish energy officials, Mr. Perry said he asked Mr. Trump “multiple times” to hold a phone call with Mr. Zelensky.

Mr. Perry’s role in the diplomacy between the countries highlights the degree to which Mr. Trump entrusted his Ukraine policy to an ad hoc coalition of loyalists inside and outside the government, especially after the recall of the ambassador to Ukraine amid questions among Mr. Trump’s supporters about her loyalty to the president. It also reveals the extent to which Ukrainian politics and national security revolve around energy supplies.

Mr. Perry’s efforts, while broadly consistent with American national security and energy objectives, intersected with those of the figures involved in the pressure campaign. Two American diplomats who attended Mr. Zelensky’s inauguration with Mr. Perry — Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine — pushed Mr. Zelensky to publicly commit to the investigations and were involved in setting up the call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky.

They appeared to work on the effort with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and a leading force in the campaign to pressure the Ukrainian government to pursue the investigations. Two associates of Mr. Giuliani also sought changes to the leadership of the Ukrainian state-owned gas company, Naftogaz. Those changes would have required approval from a supervisory board Mr. Perry sought to shape.

One of Mr. Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas, pitched a liquefied natural gas deal to the chief executive of Naftogaz in early spring, as The New York Times reported last month.

The deal was rejected by the Naftogaz executive.

But Mr. Parnas and a partner who was also involved in Mr. Giuliani’s political efforts in Ukraine, Igor Fruman, also sought to install a presumptive ally as Naftogaz’s chief executive. They told a gas executive named Andrey Favorov that they could use their American political connections to help him become chief executive of Naftogaz, suggesting that, if appointed, he might steer the company to buy liquefied natural gas from them, according to Dale Perry, the managing partner of a company that competes with one run by Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman.

Mr. Favorov, who is a lower-ranking executive at Naftogaz, rejected the proposal, which was first reported by The Associated Press.

Dale Perry, who is not related to the energy secretary, said he found it “very troubling and disturbing” that Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman boasted that they had worked with Mr. Giuliani to force the recall this spring of the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch.

But people in Ukraine and the United States who are familiar with the conversations said the Ukrainian government had requested recommendations from Mr. Perry for Americans who could advise Naftogaz and the government on governance reforms and liquefied natural gas transportation.

Mr. Perry recommended four Americans as possible advisers on energy issues, according to the Americans and Ukrainians who are familiar with the conversations. Names floated included Carlos Pascual, a former American ambassador to Ukraine, and Daniel Yergin, an author and energy expert who has worked with Mr. Pascual at an energy advisory firm.

Mr. Perry, a former governor of Texas, specifically recommended two Texas-based investors who work in Ukraine, Michael Bleyzer and Robert Bensh, for a supervisory board of Naftogaz, according to the Americans and Ukrainians familiar with the conversations.

Mr. Bleyzer, a Republican donor, has proposed gas deals with Naftogaz, according to people familiar with his efforts.

Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said in a statement on Monday night that Mr. Perry “has consistently called for the modernization and reform of Kiev’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business in Ukraine.” As part of that effort, and at the request of Mr. Zelensky’s administration, Ms. Hynes said Mr. Perry “recommended the names of some widely respected individuals in the American energy sector, including government experts” at the Energy Department. But, she said Mr. Perry “did not recommend these individuals be placed on any board.”

Nonetheless, the circulation of the names of Mr. Bleyzer and Mr. Bensh as possible Naftogaz appointments led to speculation that Naftogaz was considering removing from the supervisory board a former Obama administration official named Amos J. Hochstein. Mr. Hochstein had worked with Mr. Biden on his Ukraine efforts as vice president.

That imbued the discussion about the board appointments with political overtones at a time when Democrats were beginning to build an impeachment case around the actions of Mr. Trump and his team to press Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden and his son, who had served on the board of a private Ukrainian gas company.

Adding to the complexity of the situation: When Mr. Zelensky dispatched one of his top aides to Washington in July to meet with members of Congress and the Trump administration, and to try to connect with Mr. Giuliani, some of the meetings on Capitol Hill were arranged by a Naftogaz lobbyist, and attended by a Naftogaz official.

Naftogaz, until just a few years ago a money-losing monopoly stained by corruption, has been substantially overhauled in recent years to survive without Russian gas and to compete in the European Union market.

To comply with European Union regulations and be able to sell Ukrainian gas to the bloc’s energy-hungry countries, the company has been weaning itself off subsidies and spinning off its gas-transmission operations into a new entity with a guaranteed income of at least $2 billion a year.

Naftogaz officials said that this company, which will come into existence in January, and Naftogaz’s operations storing gas underground could attract American investments, and that they were at the heart of what the United States administration was interested in.

Naftogaz officials said the American interest was sufficient that Mr. Sondland held further discussions about the planned spinoff of the transmission operations in Brussels.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS

Westlake Legal Group 07syria-facebookJumbo U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS United States International Relations United States Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria McGurk, Brett H Mazlum Kobani Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Free Syrian Army Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Before dawn on Monday, at a military base in northeastern Syria, an American general delivered the bad news to his Syrian counterpart.

The United States was going to allow Turkish forces to move into the area, leaving the Kurdish-led Syrian militia vulnerable.

“You are leaving us alone,” the Syrian commander, Mazlum Kobani, responded angrily, and accused the United States of complicity in a looming Turkish attack, according to a United States official and another person with knowledge of the meeting.

President Trump’s surprise announcement that the United States would allow Turkey to take over a swath of northeastern Syria, at the expense of the militia that fought alongside the United States against the Islamic State, could alter the course of the country’s eight-year civil war.

In addition to betraying the militia, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, analysts said, the move could empower Turkey, extending its control over another part of northern Syria. It could also create a void in the region that could benefit President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia, Iran and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

And it would likely further limit the United States’ influence over the conflict.

“The United States just threw away the last leverage it had,” said Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst with the International Crisis Group. Even if the United States kept its roughly 1,000 troops in Syria, Mr. Trump’s announcement late Sunday night made it clear to the war’s other combatants that he wants out.

“They are just waiting for the tweet,” she said.

After the jihadists of the Islamic State seized control of nearly a third of northeastern Syria, the United States partnered with a Syrian Kurdish militia in 2015 to fight them. Other groups also joined to form the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., which claimed control over the land it liberated from ISIS.

Since then, a small contingent of American troops, now numbering about 1,000, have backed the S.D.F. in holding the area.

After the decline of ISIS, the Trump administration came to see the S.D.F. as the best means to check the influence of Iran and Russia, prevent a jihadist resurgence, and maintain a stake in eventual peace talks.

But if the S.D.F.’s hold on northeastern Syria weakens, it could make it easier for Mr. Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers to reclaim the territory. An open conflict with Turkey could siphon Kurdish fighters to the front lines, allowing ISIS remnants to reassert themselves elsewhere.

Turkey has always objected to the S.D.F. presence on its border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw the Kurdish fighters who form the group’s backbone as an extension of the P.K.K., the Kurdish guerrilla movement that has fought a bloody, decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

He worried that greater Kurdish autonomy in Syria was a security threat and demanded a corridor, a so-called safe zone, up to 20 miles deep and hundreds of miles long, to keep Kurdish forces at bay.

For months, American diplomats had been working to ward off Turkish threats to send troops across the border, most recently carrying out joint security measures in a small safe zone with the United States.

But Mr. Erdogan was not satisfied, and he spoke by phone with President Trump on Sunday. Shortly afterward, the White House announced that the Turkish military would enter Syria and that United States “will not support or be involved in the operation.”

Mr. Trump argued Monday that the United States’ partnership with the Kurds had essentially served its purpose, writing on Twitter that the Kurds had fought well “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

He dismissed their conflict with Turkey as of no concern to the United States. “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Mr. Trump wrote.

The decision surprised many of the military and State Department officials who carry out Syria policy, and was met with opposition by Mr. Trump’s Republican allies in Washington. Mr. Trump later tried to mollify his critics, saying that if Turkey “does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate” its economy.

The S.D.F., which has said it lost most than 10,000 fighters battling the Islamic State alongside the United States, was bitter. Mr. Trump’s decision, Mustafa Bali, an S.D.F. spokesman, wrote on Twitter, “is about to ruin the trust and cooperation between the S.D.F. and U.S. built during the fight against ISIS.”

He and other Kurds also shared a video on Twitter of Mr. Trump lauding the Kurds as military partners during a news conference at the United Nations last year.

“We do get along great with the Kurds. We are trying to help them a lot,” Mr. Trump said in the video, adding that many of them had “died for us.”

“I can tell you that I don’t forget, these are great people,” he said.

On Monday, American forces pulled back from two observation posts in Syria, near the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain near the Turkish border.

Turkish media and military analysts have widely reported that Turkey will soon enter the area between the towns. Although Mr. Erdogan wants a buffer zone running the entire length of the Turkish-Syrian border, he said this summer that he would accept a smaller area to start with and proceed step by step.

A different group of Syrian fighters, known as the Free Syrian Army, are preparing to deploy with Turkish troops. They have said the plan was to enter the two border towns, but that the Turkish-backed forces would not enter towns where Americans are based.

But the Turkish incursion raises questions about the future of the entire area under S.D.F. control, which extends for hundreds of miles along the Turkish border and deep into Syrian territory on the eastern side of the Euphrates River. It includes major cities such as Raqqa, once Islamic State’s de facto capital, some of Syria’s richest agricultural land and a number of oil fields.

The S.D.F. warned in a statement on Monday that a Turkish military incursion could force it to divert its forces from areas where ISIS remains a threat in the south to defend itself against the Turks in the north. Abandoning anti-ISIS operations would “destroy all that has been achieved in terms of stability over the last years,” the statement said.

A Kurdish redeployment would put other American objectives at risk, too.

“Bottom line: Trump tonight after one call with a foreign leader provided a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS,” Brett McGurk, a former presidential envoy who pushed for the partnership with the S.D.F. wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

An immediate concern are the Kurdish-run prisons in the area holding captured ISIS fighters and at least two large camps for their families. One of the camps, Al Hol, houses tens of thousands of people including extremists whom the S.D.F. and aid organizations have accused of seeking to re-establish ISIS rule.

The White House statement said that Turkey would assume responsibility for “all the ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years,” but two United States officials said there had been no discussion with Turkey or the Kurds about a possible handover. The camps and prisons are far from the area Turkey is expected to occupy.

Not long ago, the Kurds were seen as among the biggest winners in Syria’s war, having gone from being a sidelined minority to the strongest component in a military force that controlled more than a quarter of Syria’s territory, thanks to their fierce fighting and their partnership with the United States.

As their military victories against ISIS mounted, they established local councils to govern and instituted Kurdish education in their communities’ schools.

Those projects are now at risk.

A decline in American support could leave them vulnerable to attacks by ISIS or by others who resent their rise. They have few other international allies, which analysts suspect could push them to seek an accommodation with Mr. al-Assad’s government in Damascus.

But even that may not protect them from Turkey, which has sent its forces into other parts of Syria further west, displacing Kurds and establishing zones where it has provided services and resettled refugees. It says it will do the same in areas now controlled by the S.D.F.

It remains unclear how the S.D.F. would respond to a Turkish incursion, but on Monday it called on the inhabitants of northeastern Syria to “stand with our legitimate forces to defend our homeland from the Turkish aggression.”

While the S.D.F. and United States officials have sought to play down the group’s ties to the P.K.K., many of its leaders and fighters have roots in the movement and could deploy its guerrilla tactics against Turkey if it entered Syria.

“So far they have been incredibly reasonable and have shown restraint,” said Ms. Khalifa, the Syria analyst. “But I don’t know how long that is going to last.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS

Westlake Legal Group 07syria-facebookJumbo U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS United States International Relations United States Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria McGurk, Brett H Mazlum Kobani Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Free Syrian Army Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Before dawn on Monday, at a military base in northeastern Syria, an American general delivered the bad news to his Syrian counterpart.

The United States was going to allow Turkish forces to move into the area, leaving the Kurdish-led Syrian militia vulnerable.

“You are leaving us alone,” the Syrian commander, Mazlum Kobani, responded angrily, and accused the United States of complicity in a looming Turkish attack, according to a United States official and another person with knowledge of the meeting.

President Trump’s surprise announcement that the United States would allow Turkey to take over a swath of northeastern Syria, at the expense of the militia that fought alongside the United States against the Islamic State, could alter the course of the country’s eight-year civil war.

In addition to betraying the militia, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, analysts said, the move could empower Turkey, extending its control over another part of northern Syria. It could also create a void in the region that could benefit President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia, Iran and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

And it would likely further limit the United States’ influence over the conflict.

“The United States just threw away the last leverage it had,” said Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst with the International Crisis Group. Even if the United States kept its roughly 1,000 troops in Syria, Mr. Trump’s announcement late Sunday night made it clear to the war’s other combatants that he wants out.

“They are just waiting for the tweet,” she said.

After the jihadists of the Islamic State seized control of nearly a third of northeastern Syria, the United States partnered with a Syrian Kurdish militia in 2015 to fight them. Other groups also joined to form the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., which claimed control over the land it liberated from ISIS.

Since then, a small contingent of American troops, now numbering about 1,000, have backed the S.D.F. in holding the area.

After the decline of ISIS, the Trump administration came to see the S.D.F. as the best means to check the influence of Iran and Russia, prevent a jihadist resurgence, and maintain a stake in eventual peace talks.

But if the S.D.F.’s hold on northeastern Syria weakens, it could make it easier for Mr. Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers to reclaim the territory. An open conflict with Turkey could siphon Kurdish fighters to the front lines, allowing ISIS remnants to reassert themselves elsewhere.

Turkey has always objected to the S.D.F. presence on its border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw the Kurdish fighters who form the group’s backbone as an extension of the P.K.K., the Kurdish guerrilla movement that has fought a bloody, decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

He worried that greater Kurdish autonomy in Syria was a security threat and demanded a corridor, a so-called safe zone, up to 20 miles deep and hundreds of miles long, to keep Kurdish forces at bay.

For months, American diplomats had been working to ward off Turkish threats to send troops across the border, most recently carrying out joint security measures in a small safe zone with the United States.

But Mr. Erdogan was not satisfied, and he spoke by phone with President Trump on Sunday. Shortly afterward, the White House announced that the Turkish military would enter Syria and that United States “will not support or be involved in the operation.”

Mr. Trump argued Monday that the United States’ partnership with the Kurds had essentially served its purpose, writing on Twitter that the Kurds had fought well “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

He dismissed their conflict with Turkey as of no concern to the United States. “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Mr. Trump wrote.

The decision surprised many of the military and State Department officials who carry out Syria policy, and was met with opposition by Mr. Trump’s Republican allies in Washington. Mr. Trump later tried to mollify his critics, saying that if Turkey “does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate” its economy.

The S.D.F., which has said it lost most than 10,000 fighters battling the Islamic State alongside the United States, was bitter. Mr. Trump’s decision, Mustafa Bali, an S.D.F. spokesman, wrote on Twitter, “is about to ruin the trust and cooperation between the S.D.F. and U.S. built during the fight against ISIS.”

He and other Kurds also shared a video on Twitter of Mr. Trump lauding the Kurds as military partners during a news conference at the United Nations last year.

“We do get along great with the Kurds. We are trying to help them a lot,” Mr. Trump said in the video, adding that many of them had “died for us.”

“I can tell you that I don’t forget, these are great people,” he said.

On Monday, American forces pulled back from two observation posts in Syria, near the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain near the Turkish border.

Turkish media and military analysts have widely reported that Turkey will soon enter the area between the towns. Although Mr. Erdogan wants a buffer zone running the entire length of the Turkish-Syrian border, he said this summer that he would accept a smaller area to start with and proceed step by step.

A different group of Syrian fighters, known as the Free Syrian Army, are preparing to deploy with Turkish troops. They have said the plan was to enter the two border towns, but that the Turkish-backed forces would not enter towns where Americans are based.

But the Turkish incursion raises questions about the future of the entire area under S.D.F. control, which extends for hundreds of miles along the Turkish border and deep into Syrian territory on the eastern side of the Euphrates River. It includes major cities such as Raqqa, once Islamic State’s de facto capital, some of Syria’s richest agricultural land and a number of oil fields.

The S.D.F. warned in a statement on Monday that a Turkish military incursion could force it to divert its forces from areas where ISIS remains a threat in the south to defend itself against the Turks in the north. Abandoning anti-ISIS operations would “destroy all that has been achieved in terms of stability over the last years,” the statement said.

A Kurdish redeployment would put other American objectives at risk, too.

“Bottom line: Trump tonight after one call with a foreign leader provided a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS,” Brett McGurk, a former presidential envoy who pushed for the partnership with the S.D.F. wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

An immediate concern are the Kurdish-run prisons in the area holding captured ISIS fighters and at least two large camps for their families. One of the camps, Al Hol, houses tens of thousands of people including extremists whom the S.D.F. and aid organizations have accused of seeking to re-establish ISIS rule.

The White House statement said that Turkey would assume responsibility for “all the ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years,” but two United States officials said there had been no discussion with Turkey or the Kurds about a possible handover. The camps and prisons are far from the area Turkey is expected to occupy.

Not long ago, the Kurds were seen as among the biggest winners in Syria’s war, having gone from being a sidelined minority to the strongest component in a military force that controlled more than a quarter of Syria’s territory, thanks to their fierce fighting and their partnership with the United States.

As their military victories against ISIS mounted, they established local councils to govern and instituted Kurdish education in their communities’ schools.

Those projects are now at risk.

A decline in American support could leave them vulnerable to attacks by ISIS or by others who resent their rise. They have few other international allies, which analysts suspect could push them to seek an accommodation with Mr. al-Assad’s government in Damascus.

But even that may not protect them from Turkey, which has sent its forces into other parts of Syria further west, displacing Kurds and establishing zones where it has provided services and resettled refugees. It says it will do the same in areas now controlled by the S.D.F.

It remains unclear how the S.D.F. would respond to a Turkish incursion, but on Monday it called on the inhabitants of northeastern Syria to “stand with our legitimate forces to defend our homeland from the Turkish aggression.”

While the S.D.F. and United States officials have sought to play down the group’s ties to the P.K.K., many of its leaders and fighters have roots in the movement and could deploy its guerrilla tactics against Turkey if it entered Syria.

“So far they have been incredibly reasonable and have shown restraint,” said Ms. Khalifa, the Syria analyst. “But I don’t know how long that is going to last.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS

Westlake Legal Group 07syria-facebookJumbo U.S. Pullback in Syria Could Aid Assad and ISIS United States International Relations United States Turkey Trump, Donald J Syrian Democratic Forces Syria McGurk, Brett H Mazlum Kobani Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Free Syrian Army Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces Assad, Bashar al-

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Before dawn on Monday, at a military base in northeastern Syria, an American general delivered the bad news to his Syrian counterpart.

The United States was going to allow Turkish forces to move into the area, leaving the Kurdish-led Syrian militia vulnerable.

“You are leaving us alone,” the Syrian commander, Mazlum Kobani, responded angrily, and accused the United States of complicity in a looming Turkish attack, according to a United States official and another person with knowledge of the meeting.

President Trump’s surprise announcement that the United States would allow Turkey to take over a swath of northeastern Syria, at the expense of the militia that fought alongside the United States against the Islamic State, could alter the course of the country’s eight-year civil war.

In addition to betraying the militia, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, analysts said, the move could empower Turkey, extending its control over another part of northern Syria. It could also create a void in the region that could benefit President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia, Iran and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

And it would likely further limit the United States’ influence over the conflict.

“The United States just threw away the last leverage it had,” said Dareen Khalifa, senior Syria analyst with the International Crisis Group. Even if the United States kept its roughly 1,000 troops in Syria, Mr. Trump’s announcement late Sunday night made it clear to the war’s other combatants that he wants out.

“They are just waiting for the tweet,” she said.

After the jihadists of the Islamic State seized control of nearly a third of northeastern Syria, the United States partnered with a Syrian Kurdish militia in 2015 to fight them. Other groups also joined to form the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., which claimed control over the land it liberated from ISIS.

Since then, a small contingent of American troops, now numbering about 1,000, have backed the S.D.F. in holding the area.

After the decline of ISIS, the Trump administration came to see the S.D.F. as the best means to check the influence of Iran and Russia, prevent a jihadist resurgence, and maintain a stake in eventual peace talks.

But if the S.D.F.’s hold on northeastern Syria weakens, it could make it easier for Mr. Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers to reclaim the territory. An open conflict with Turkey could siphon Kurdish fighters to the front lines, allowing ISIS remnants to reassert themselves elsewhere.

Turkey has always objected to the S.D.F. presence on its border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw the Kurdish fighters who form the group’s backbone as an extension of the P.K.K., the Kurdish guerrilla movement that has fought a bloody, decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

He worried that greater Kurdish autonomy in Syria was a security threat and demanded a corridor, a so-called safe zone, up to 20 miles deep and hundreds of miles long, to keep Kurdish forces at bay.

For months, American diplomats had been working to ward off Turkish threats to send troops across the border, most recently carrying out joint security measures in a small safe zone with the United States.

But Mr. Erdogan was not satisfied, and he spoke by phone with President Trump on Sunday. Shortly afterward, the White House announced that the Turkish military would enter Syria and that United States “will not support or be involved in the operation.”

Mr. Trump argued Monday that the United States’ partnership with the Kurds had essentially served its purpose, writing on Twitter that the Kurds had fought well “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.”

He dismissed their conflict with Turkey as of no concern to the United States. “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Mr. Trump wrote.

The decision surprised many of the military and State Department officials who carry out Syria policy, and was met with opposition by Mr. Trump’s Republican allies in Washington. Mr. Trump later tried to mollify his critics, saying that if Turkey “does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate” its economy.

The S.D.F., which has said it lost most than 10,000 fighters battling the Islamic State alongside the United States, was bitter. Mr. Trump’s decision, Mustafa Bali, an S.D.F. spokesman, wrote on Twitter, “is about to ruin the trust and cooperation between the S.D.F. and U.S. built during the fight against ISIS.”

He and other Kurds also shared a video on Twitter of Mr. Trump lauding the Kurds as military partners during a news conference at the United Nations last year.

“We do get along great with the Kurds. We are trying to help them a lot,” Mr. Trump said in the video, adding that many of them had “died for us.”

“I can tell you that I don’t forget, these are great people,” he said.

On Monday, American forces pulled back from two observation posts in Syria, near the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain near the Turkish border.

Turkish media and military analysts have widely reported that Turkey will soon enter the area between the towns. Although Mr. Erdogan wants a buffer zone running the entire length of the Turkish-Syrian border, he said this summer that he would accept a smaller area to start with and proceed step by step.

A different group of Syrian fighters, known as the Free Syrian Army, are preparing to deploy with Turkish troops. They have said the plan was to enter the two border towns, but that the Turkish-backed forces would not enter towns where Americans are based.

But the Turkish incursion raises questions about the future of the entire area under S.D.F. control, which extends for hundreds of miles along the Turkish border and deep into Syrian territory on the eastern side of the Euphrates River. It includes major cities such as Raqqa, once Islamic State’s de facto capital, some of Syria’s richest agricultural land and a number of oil fields.

The S.D.F. warned in a statement on Monday that a Turkish military incursion could force it to divert its forces from areas where ISIS remains a threat in the south to defend itself against the Turks in the north. Abandoning anti-ISIS operations would “destroy all that has been achieved in terms of stability over the last years,” the statement said.

A Kurdish redeployment would put other American objectives at risk, too.

“Bottom line: Trump tonight after one call with a foreign leader provided a gift to Russia, Iran, and ISIS,” Brett McGurk, a former presidential envoy who pushed for the partnership with the S.D.F. wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

An immediate concern are the Kurdish-run prisons in the area holding captured ISIS fighters and at least two large camps for their families. One of the camps, Al Hol, houses tens of thousands of people including extremists whom the S.D.F. and aid organizations have accused of seeking to re-establish ISIS rule.

The White House statement said that Turkey would assume responsibility for “all the ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years,” but two United States officials said there had been no discussion with Turkey or the Kurds about a possible handover. The camps and prisons are far from the area Turkey is expected to occupy.

Not long ago, the Kurds were seen as among the biggest winners in Syria’s war, having gone from being a sidelined minority to the strongest component in a military force that controlled more than a quarter of Syria’s territory, thanks to their fierce fighting and their partnership with the United States.

As their military victories against ISIS mounted, they established local councils to govern and instituted Kurdish education in their communities’ schools.

Those projects are now at risk.

A decline in American support could leave them vulnerable to attacks by ISIS or by others who resent their rise. They have few other international allies, which analysts suspect could push them to seek an accommodation with Mr. al-Assad’s government in Damascus.

But even that may not protect them from Turkey, which has sent its forces into other parts of Syria further west, displacing Kurds and establishing zones where it has provided services and resettled refugees. It says it will do the same in areas now controlled by the S.D.F.

It remains unclear how the S.D.F. would respond to a Turkish incursion, but on Monday it called on the inhabitants of northeastern Syria to “stand with our legitimate forces to defend our homeland from the Turkish aggression.”

While the S.D.F. and United States officials have sought to play down the group’s ties to the P.K.K., many of its leaders and fighters have roots in the movement and could deploy its guerrilla tactics against Turkey if it entered Syria.

“So far they have been incredibly reasonable and have shown restraint,” said Ms. Khalifa, the Syria analyst. “But I don’t know how long that is going to last.”

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Trump’s Green Light to Turkey Raises Fears About ISIS Detainees

Westlake Legal Group merlin_151067130_e3596fba-c47b-4ad2-a3ba-240d876c34ba-facebookJumbo Trump’s Green Light to Turkey Raises Fears About ISIS Detainees United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Turkey Trump, Donald J Terrorism Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Great Britain Germany France Europe Detainees Defense and Military Forces Belgium Assad, Bashar al-

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s sudden blessing of a Turkish military operation in northern Syria and his announcement of an American troop withdrawal from that region raised questions about the fate of thousands of Islamic State detainees that the Turks’ targets, American-backed Syrian Kurds, have been holding in makeshift wartime prisons.

Mr. Trump insisted that Turkey must assume responsibility for the captured ISIS fighters and their families. But it is far from clear what will happen to them, and a host of issues arose from Mr. Trump’s abrupt, if still murky, change in policy.

The situation is deeply complicated. For now, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces control northern Syria. They have been the primary American ally inside Syria in the war against the Islamic State, carrying out the brunt of the ground-level fighting with support from American airstrikes and weapons. They operate prisons where ISIS members are detained.

The Kurds are menaced from the north by Turkey, which has been fighting separatist Kurds inside its borders for years and considers the Syrian Kurds to be terrorists, too. Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, backed by Russia, controls the southern part of the country and wants to eventually retake it all, raising the possibility of a deal with the Kurds.

The presence of American troops has helped maintain a fragile peace. But the White House said that Mr. Trump has given a green light for a Turkish military operation into northern Syria, and Mr. Trump said on Twitter that it was time to pull out. “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out,” he said, “and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.’”

The Syrian Democratic Forces operate an archipelago of ad hoc wartime detention sites for captive ISIS fighters, ranging from former schoolhouses in towns like Ainissa and Kobane to a former Syrian government prison at Hasaka.

The prisons hold about 11,000 men, of whom about 9,000 are locals — Syrians or Iraqis — and about 2,000 come from some 50 other nations whose home governments have been reluctant to repatriate them. They also operate camps for families displaced by the conflict that hold tens of thousands of people, many of them non-Syrian wives and children of Islamic State fighters.

“If Turkey attacks these Kurdish soldiers, there is a grave risk that the ISIS fighters they guard will escape and return to the battlefield,” a bipartisan group of lawmakers who recently visited the Middle East said in a joint statement on Monday.

This is one of many unknowns. An American-brokered plan in the works would create a demilitarized “safe zone” a few miles deep along a roughly 78-mile portion of the Syrian-Turkish border to reassure Turkey and forestall any military conflict with the Kurds. That would not affect the Kurds’ ability to keep running the prisons.

But Mr. Erdogan, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly last month, has instead pushed for a much longer and deeper zone. A broader invasion could reach the prisons, and it would set off an armed conflict that could prompt the Kurds to pull guards from prisons so they could instead join the fight.

The “worst-case scenario” is that the Kurds are so frustrated and angered by the United States’ action that “they decide to release wholesale some of the detainees,” said Christopher P. Costa, a former senior director for counterterrorism on Mr. Trump’s National Security Council who now heads the International Spy Museum.

It was not clear. The White House said Turkey would “now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years.” But Turkey has given no public sign that it has agreed to take over that headache.

For now at least, the Kurds have told American officials that they will continue to hold the ISIS detainees. But a senior State Department official acknowledged that the best-trained guards could be pulled away in the event of a conflict with Turkey, calling it a “big concern” that some ISIS fighters could go free.

“It’s hard to imagine Turkey has the capacity to handle securely and appropriately the detainees long held by the Syrian Kurds — and that’s if Turkey even genuinely intends to try,” said Joshua A. Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council in the Obama administration.

The Kurds have implored countries around the world to take back their citizens who fought for the Islamic State and were captured. But that idea is politically unpopular in many European countries. Mr. Trump is correct that nations like Belgium, Britain, France and Germany have been largely content to let the Kurds bear the burden of detaining their citizens — particularly the male fighters.

Many European law enforcement officials fear that if they repatriate their extremist citizens, they would be unable to convict them or keep them locked up for a long time. European counterterrorism laws are weaker than those in the United States, where a conviction merely for joining a designated terrorist group can yield a 15-year prison sentence.

But Mr. Trump was wrong when he also said that the captured ISIS fighters were “mostly from Europe.” While scores of the imprisoned men have European citizenship, far more come from other countries that are part of the Muslim world — like Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, to say nothing of the thousands of local Syrians and Iraqis.

Unlike many other countries, the United States has taken its citizens off the Kurds’ hands. But there are two British detainees still in Kurdish custody whom the United States has a particular interest in keeping locked up: El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey.

They are two of the so-called Beatles, a four-member cell of British ISIS members who tortured and murdered Western hostages, including James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded in August 2014 for an ISIS propaganda video. Another member of the cell, who was later killed in a drone strike, is believed to have killed Mr. Foley.

The Justice Department intends to eventually bring them to the Eastern District of Virginia for trial, but a court fight in Britain has delayed that transfer. The lawsuit is over whether the British government may share evidence with the United States without an assurance that American prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

“It’s a good day for the Beatles,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is normally a staunch Trump ally but who denounced the president’s move as “complete chaos” and “a disaster.” In a phone interview, Mr. Graham vowed to lead a congressional vote to try to impose sanctions on Turkey if it invades northern Syria, despite Mr. Trump’s acquiescence.

Eric Schmitt and Lara Jakes contributed reporting.

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A Look at Who Is Affected by Trump’s Shift in Syria

Westlake Legal Group 07kurds-explainer1-facebookJumbo A Look at Who Is Affected by Trump’s Shift in Syria United States International Relations Turkey Trump, Donald J Syria Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Trump’s decision on Sunday to step aside and let Turkish forces come into northern Syria instantly cast into doubt the fate of ethnic Kurds there who have been the United States’ closest allies in the fight against the Islamic State, and who had worked to achieve a degree of self-rule in that stretch of Syria.

[Details on the sudden U.S. announcement and what it could mean for the region.]

Now, the question of who could provide a long-term deterrent to Iranian and Russian interests in the area — and help ensure that ISIS does not rebound in Syria — is suddenly very much in play again.

The prospect of a Turkish military push into northern Syria has caused deep fear in Kurdish areas there, as well as a burning sense that the Kurds have been betrayed by the United States after years of partnership on the battlefield.

The Syrian Democratic Forces — a loose coalition of militias that is led by Syrian Kurdish fighters and came together expressly to fight ISIS with American backing, training and air support — accused the United States on Monday of failing to fulfill its obligations, paving the way for Turkey to invade.

The S.D.F. also warned that a Turkish incursion could undo the gains made against the Islamic State.

“This military operation in northeast Syria will have a great negative effect on our war against the ISIS organization and will destroy all that has been achieved in terms of stability over the past years,” the group said in a statement.

It said it would “not hesitate for one instant to defend ourselves,” and called on the area’s people to “defend our homeland from Turkish aggression.”

It was unclear on Monday when and where Turkish forces would cross into Syria, but the sense of betrayal by the United States among Syrian Kurds was clear.

“U.S. forces on the ground showed us that this is not how they value friendship and alliance,” Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the S.D.F., wrote on Twitter on Monday, adding that Mr. Trump’s decision was “about to ruin the trust and cooperation between the S.D.F. and U.S.”

Still, the Syrian Kurds have few other supporters to turn to.

Inside Syria, most of what remains of the country’s rebel movement is backed by Turkey and opposes the S.D.F., and its relations with the government of President Bashar al-Assad are chilly.

Some analysts speculate that the Kurds will be forced to court Mr. Assad’s government for protection.

The Kurds are the driver within the Syrian Democratic Forces, which came together to help the United States fight the jihadists of the Islamic State.

Its fighters received air support and training from the United States and fought together on the ground with American Special Operations forces against the jihadists, losing thousands of fighters.

That has won the group praise from a range of top United States officials, and after eight years of war in Syria, the S.D.F. remains the only significant armed group still aligned with Washington.

While many of the group’s fighters and most of its leaders are ethnic Kurds, the S.D.F. also includes Arabs and members of Syria’s other religious and ethnic minorities. Its ideology is secular, and it promotes a form of democracy characterized by rule at the community level.

The United States has given the S.D.F. generous military support, but it has not endorsed the group’s political project, in part to keep from alienating Turkey even more.

Since the official destruction of the ISIS caliphate early this year, the S.D.F. has continued to pursue Islamic State remnants in cooperation with United States forces while seeking to strengthen the network of local councils that have been established to govern areas liberated from the jihadists.

The Kurdish forces have also become the de facto guardians of tens of thousands of former Islamic State residents and jailed fighters in northern Syria, and they receive limited aid to do so.

If a new conflict breaks out in the area, the question of what happens to those ISIS prisoners and their family members will become urgent.

The United States’ close cooperation with the S.D.F. has angered Turkey, a United States ally in NATO. Turkey accuses the Kurdish fighters of being terrorists and closely to the P.K.K., a guerrilla organization that has fought a bloody, decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Both Turkey and the United States consider the P.K.K. a terrorist organization. But American officials have publicly tried to play down the links between that group and the S.D.F. while privately acknowledging that they exist.

While there are few clear examples of militant attacks on Turkey originating from S.D.F.-controlled territory, Turkey has watched the growth of Kurdish autonomy across its southern border with a rising sense of alarm, fearing that it could pose a national security threat.

Turkey has often raised these concerns with the United States, and in recent weeks American officials had sought to bring down tensions by brokering security arrangements near the Syrian-Turkish border with both sides.

But those measures failed to satisfy Turkish officials, prompting the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to inform Mr. Trump in a phone call on Sunday that he planned to send his forces into Syria to root out the Kurdish forces.

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A Look at Who Is Affected by Trump’s Shift in Syria

Westlake Legal Group 07kurds-explainer1-facebookJumbo A Look at Who Is Affected by Trump’s Shift in Syria United States International Relations Turkey Trump, Donald J Syria Kurds Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Erdogan, Recep Tayyip Defense and Military Forces

BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Trump’s decision on Sunday to step aside and let Turkish forces come into northern Syria instantly cast into doubt the fate of ethnic Kurds there who have been the United States’ closest allies in the fight against the Islamic State, and who had worked to achieve a degree of self-rule in that stretch of Syria.

[Details on the sudden U.S. announcement and what it could mean for the region.]

Now, the question of who could provide a long-term deterrent to Iranian and Russian interests in the area — and help ensure that ISIS does not rebound in Syria — is suddenly very much in play again.

The prospect of a Turkish military push into northern Syria has caused deep fear in Kurdish areas there, as well as a burning sense that the Kurds have been betrayed by the United States after years of partnership on the battlefield.

The Syrian Democratic Forces — a loose coalition of militias that is led by Syrian Kurdish fighters and came together expressly to fight ISIS with American backing, training and air support — accused the United States on Monday of failing to fulfill its obligations, paving the way for Turkey to invade.

The S.D.F. also warned that a Turkish incursion could undo the gains made against the Islamic State.

“This military operation in northeast Syria will have a great negative effect on our war against the ISIS organization and will destroy all that has been achieved in terms of stability over the past years,” the group said in a statement.

It said it would “not hesitate for one instant to defend ourselves,” and called on the area’s people to “defend our homeland from Turkish aggression.”

It was unclear on Monday when and where Turkish forces would cross into Syria, but the sense of betrayal by the United States among Syrian Kurds was clear.

“U.S. forces on the ground showed us that this is not how they value friendship and alliance,” Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the S.D.F., wrote on Twitter on Monday, adding that Mr. Trump’s decision was “about to ruin the trust and cooperation between the S.D.F. and U.S.”

Still, the Syrian Kurds have few other supporters to turn to.

Inside Syria, most of what remains of the country’s rebel movement is backed by Turkey and opposes the S.D.F., and its relations with the government of President Bashar al-Assad are chilly.

Some analysts speculate that the Kurds will be forced to court Mr. Assad’s government for protection.

The Kurds are the driver within the Syrian Democratic Forces, which came together to help the United States fight the jihadists of the Islamic State.

Its fighters received air support and training from the United States and fought together on the ground with American Special Operations forces against the jihadists, losing thousands of fighters.

That has won the group praise from a range of top United States officials, and after eight years of war in Syria, the S.D.F. remains the only significant armed group still aligned with Washington.

While many of the group’s fighters and most of its leaders are ethnic Kurds, the S.D.F. also includes Arabs and members of Syria’s other religious and ethnic minorities. Its ideology is secular, and it promotes a form of democracy characterized by rule at the community level.

The United States has given the S.D.F. generous military support, but it has not endorsed the group’s political project, in part to keep from alienating Turkey even more.

Since the official destruction of the ISIS caliphate early this year, the S.D.F. has continued to pursue Islamic State remnants in cooperation with United States forces while seeking to strengthen the network of local councils that have been established to govern areas liberated from the jihadists.

The Kurdish forces have also become the de facto guardians of tens of thousands of former Islamic State residents and jailed fighters in northern Syria, and they receive limited aid to do so.

If a new conflict breaks out in the area, the question of what happens to those ISIS prisoners and their family members will become urgent.

The United States’ close cooperation with the S.D.F. has angered Turkey, a United States ally in NATO. Turkey accuses the Kurdish fighters of being terrorists and closely to the P.K.K., a guerrilla organization that has fought a bloody, decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Both Turkey and the United States consider the P.K.K. a terrorist organization. But American officials have publicly tried to play down the links between that group and the S.D.F. while privately acknowledging that they exist.

While there are few clear examples of militant attacks on Turkey originating from S.D.F.-controlled territory, Turkey has watched the growth of Kurdish autonomy across its southern border with a rising sense of alarm, fearing that it could pose a national security threat.

Turkey has often raised these concerns with the United States, and in recent weeks American officials had sought to bring down tensions by brokering security arrangements near the Syrian-Turkish border with both sides.

But those measures failed to satisfy Turkish officials, prompting the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to inform Mr. Trump in a phone call on Sunday that he planned to send his forces into Syria to root out the Kurdish forces.

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Italy’s Connection to the Russia Investigation, Explained

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr has said he is reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation. As part of the review, Mr. Barr met recently with officials in Italy, where in 2016 a Trump campaign adviser met Joseph Mifsud, a professor whose actions figured prominently into the F.B.I.’s rationale for opening the Russia inquiry.

President Trump and some of his allies have asserted without evidence that a cabal of American officials — the so-called deep state — embarked on a broad operation to thwart Mr. Trump’s campaign. The conspiracy theory remains unsubstantiated, and the Justice Department has not explained why Mr. Barr feels the allegations merit a review, though he would need to run down all leads if he is to conduct a thorough audit.

Mr. Mifsud was a professor at the London Academy of Diplomacy who also spent time as a political science faculty member at Link Campus University, a school in Rome.

Some of the president’s allies have pushed an unfounded theory that the Maltese-born Mr. Mifsud is a Western intelligence agent possibly under the control of the F.B.I. or C.I.A. whom the deep state officials dispatched as a counterintelligence trap for the Trump campaign.

Mr. Mifsud told a Trump campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, in the spring of 2016 that the Russians had “thousands” of stolen Democratic emails that could prove damaging to Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, if they became public.

James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, has called Mr. Mifsud a Russian agent. Mr. Mifsud maintained contacts with Russians associates, including a former employee of the Internet Research Agency, which used social media posts to sow discord in 2016 as part of Russia’s election sabotage.

Mr. Mifsud told an Italian newspaper in 2017 that he was not a secret agent. “I never got any money from the Russians,” he said. “My conscience is clear.”

Mr. Mifsud and Mr. Papadopoulos first met in March 2016 in Italy. The following month, after Mr. Mifsud had traveled to Moscow, they met again in London, where Mr. Mifsud revealed that the Russians possessed information that could damage Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Mifsud suggested that the Russian government could assist the Trump campaign through the “anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton,” according to the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who took over the Russia investigation in May 2017.

Mr. Papadopoulos bragged in May 2016 to a pair of Australian diplomats about Mr. Mifsud’s offer of Russian dirt about Mrs. Clinton’s hacked emails. The Australian government passed the information to the United States, but only months later — after WikiLeaks published the stolen Democratic emails.

The Australians’ account, including the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about the email hacking, was a driving factor in the F.B.I.’s counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any Trump associates conspired.

The F.B.I. began investigating him, along with three other Trump associates, as part of the counterintelligence inquiry. When agents questioned Mr. Papadopoulos about his interactions with Mr. Mifsud, he repeatedly lied, according to court records, hindering investigators’ attempts to potentially detain Mr. Mifsud.

He had been in the United States and agents interviewed him once, but Mr. Mifsud left the country. He has since disappeared from public view.

Westlake Legal Group impeachment-investigation-tracker-promo-1570214529724-articleLarge-v2 Italy’s Connection to the Russia Investigation, Explained United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Rome (Italy) Presidential Election of 2016 Papadopoulos, George (1987- ) Mueller, Robert S III Mifsud, Joseph Italy Great Britain Federal Bureau of Investigation Espionage and Intelligence Services central intelligence agency Barr, William P Australia

The Evidence Collected So Far in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry

The status of the documents and witness testimony being collected by congressional investigators.

Mr. Papadopoulos was eventually convicted of lying to federal investigators and served 12 days in prison.

Since leaving prison, Mr. Papadopoulos has promoted unfounded assertions and outright conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation. He wrote a book, “Deep State Target,” accusing the Obama administration of mounting a coordinated effort to spy on the Trump campaign and keep Mr. Trump from being elected and asserting that he was a pawn in that operation.

Mr. Papadopoulos has posited that Mr. Mifsud was “an Italian intelligence asset who the C.I.A. weaponized” as part of the unsubstantiated “deep state” plot. The president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani has claimed, also without evidence, that Mr. Mifsud was a “counterintelligence operative, either Maltese or Italian.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia last week alleging that one of its former diplomats who met with Mr. Papadopoulos was involved in the supposed plot. Australian officials rejected Mr. Graham’s characterization of the diplomat’s role in the episode.

On Friday, Mr. Trump also raised the specter of the conspiracy. “They think it could have been by U.K. They think it could have been by Australia. They think it could have been by Italy,” he said, without elaborating on the accusations themselves or who was making them.

Mr. Mifsud worked for neither the F.B.I. nor the C.I.A., former American officials said. If he had been an F.B.I. informant, prosecutors could have easily found and questioned him. If Mr. Mifsud were working for the C.I.A., the agency would have had an obligation to tell the F.B.I. as it investigated Mr. Papadopoulos.

So to believe the conspiracy that Mr. Mifsud was secretly working for the C.I.A. is to believe that either the intelligence community withheld from prosecutors that he was one of their agents or that prosecutors conspired to deceive federal courts.

To believe that another Western government secretly employed Mr. Mifsud as part of a plot against the president is to believe that an elaborate conspiracy entirely eluded the special counsel’s office in its exhaustive investigation, which included more than 2,800 subpoenas, nearly 500 search warrants, 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence and interviews of about 500 witnesses.

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Barr and a Top Prosecutor Cast a Wide Net in Reviewing the Russia Inquiry

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-durham1-facebookJumbo Barr and a Top Prosecutor Cast a Wide Net in Reviewing the Russia Inquiry United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2016 Papadopoulos, George (1987- ) Mueller, Robert S III Mifsud, Joseph Justice Department Italy Great Britain Federal Bureau of Investigation Espionage and Intelligence Services Durham, John H Classified Information and State Secrets central intelligence agency Barr, William P Australia

WASHINGTON — After a jet carrying Attorney General William P. Barr touched down in Rome late last month, some diplomats and intelligence officials at the American Embassy were unsure why he had come to the Eternal City. They were later surprised, two officials said, to discover that he had circumvented protocols in arranging the trip, where he met with Italian political and intelligence officials.

Everything about the visit was unusual — perhaps most of all, the attorney general’s companion and his mission. Mr. Barr and a top federal prosecutor, John H. Durham, who is reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation, sought evidence that might bolster a conspiracy theory long nurtured by President Trump: that some of America’s closest allies plotted with his “deep state” enemies in 2016 to try to prevent him from winning the presidency.

Mr. Trump has embraced the theory in his interactions with world leaders since the days after the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, testified to lawmakers in July that his investigation found insufficient evidence to charge any Trump associates with conspiring with Russia to help subvert the election. An emboldened Mr. Trump — who could benefit politically if Mr. Durham were to unearth facts that undermined Mr. Mueller’s investigation — began pressing close allies to cooperate with the review.

The trip to Italy generated criticism that Mr. Barr was doing the president’s bidding and micromanaging a supposedly independent investigation. But Mr. Barr seems to have embraced his role, signaling that he has made the investigation a priority and is personally overseeing it.

Now, glimpses of the Durham review are emerging. Investigators have interviewed F.B.I. officials about their work in 2016, examined intelligence files from around that time and cast a wide net in setting up interviews with a foreign cast of characters who played disparate roles in the pre-election drama.

One of Mr. Trump’s efforts to aid the review, a discussion with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine one day after Mr. Mueller’s testimony, so unnerved White House officials that it sparked a whistle-blower complaint, as well as formal impeachment proceedings and questions about whether the president hijacked American diplomacy for political gain.

Mr. Barr has portrayed the review as an attempt to ferret out any abuse of power by law enforcement or intelligence officials. But it is also a politically charged effort that takes aim at the conclusions of the American law enforcement and intelligence communities about Russia’s election interference based on years of work by multiple agencies.

The review could fray diplomatic relations with overseas partners and affect Mr. Trump’s political fortunes. And it is testing traditional boundaries drawn to keep the powers of American law enforcement out of electoral politics.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. This article is based on documents and interviews with current and former American and foreign officials as well as others familiar with the Durham review.

The review already created a minor diplomatic dust-up when Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and one of the president’s closest allies in Congress, fired off a letter to leaders of Britain, Italy and Australia on Wednesday, urging them to help “investigate the origins and extent of foreign influence in the 2016 election.”

All three countries play some role in a counternarrative pushed by the president’s supporters that the real story of election sabotage in 2016 was not the well-documented saga of Russian internet trolls and leaked stolen emails, but anti-Trump elements in the intelligence and law enforcement agencies working with sympathetic foreign allies to try to block Mr. Trump’s victory.

Mr. Graham asserted without evidence in his letter that an Australian former diplomat was involved in the supposed plot. Australia’s ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, responded sharply, rejecting Mr. Graham’s description of the role of the diplomat, Alexander Downer.

The president further stoked the flames on Friday, suggesting a broad foreign plot against him. “And just so you know — just so you know, I was investigated,” he told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “I was investigated. O.K.? Me. Me. I was investigated. I was investigated. And they think it could have been by U.K. They think it could have been by Australia. They think it could have been by Italy.”

He did not say whom he meant by “they.”

One consequence of the president’s attempts to investigate the investigators could be that some American allies might think twice before providing politically sensitive information.

“I’m gravely concerned if our Australian intelligence colleagues believe that they are sharing information with us for domestic political purposes, that trust could erode,” said Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Mr. Warner said he and his colleagues have pressed the Justice Department for information about the scope of the review but have gotten no response.

The president has handed Mr. Barr sweeping powers to conduct the review. It was not begun as a criminal investigation, though it is not clear whether that has changed. In conducting a review, Mr. Durham, the United States attorney in Connecticut and a veteran prosecutor who has broken up mafia rings and investigated C.I.A. torture, has no power to subpoena witnesses or documents and instead has the authority only to read materials the government already gathered and to request voluntary interviews from witnesses.

Typically, he would write a report at the end of his review summarizing his findings. If he finds evidence of a crime, Mr. Durham could make a criminal referral to the Justice Department.

Mr. Barr has asked Mr. Trump to help gain access to foreign officials for the inquiry, and the president has complied. Mr. Trump has called the leaders of Ukraine and Australia, and the attorney general has spoken directly to officials in Britain, Australia and Italy, according to a Justice Department official.

Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham traveled to Italy — the attorney general’s second trip there in weeks — where a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, met a Maltese professor in the spring of 2016. During a later meeting, Mr. Papadopoulos told investigators, the professor said that Russia had politically damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”

The professor, Joseph Mifsud, has effectively disappeared since the Mueller investigation revealed his discussions with Mr. Papadopoulos, and Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors suggested in a court filing that he may have served as a cutout for Russian intelligence.

Mr. Trump’s allies have asserted, without evidence, that he was actually a C.I.A. agent working as part of an Obama administration plot to spy on the Trump campaign.

“Mifsud was an Italian operative handled by the C.I.A.,” Mr. Papadopoulos wrote on Twitter on Sept. 27, the day Mr. Barr was in Italy. “Italy holds the keys to the kingdom. Right government, right time.”

On Friday, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy said he was suing Mr. Papadopoulos for slander because he told an Italian right-wing newspaper that Mr. Renzi, while in office, had taken orders from former President Barack Obama to try to derail Mr. Trump’s candidacy. “See you in court,” Mr. Renzi wrote on Facebook.

Mr. Papadopoulos served 12 days in prison last year for lying to F.B.I. agents in the Russia investigation, and investigators said his lies hindered their ability to question Mr. Mifsud. An Italian government official confirmed that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham traveled to Rome in part to gain more information about Mr. Mifsud.

Mr. Barr opened the Justice Department review this year after he said he did not get “satisfactory” answers when he asked why law enforcement officials opened the 2016 counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. He turned to Mr. Durham to review the origins of the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation and whether it was properly predicated.

Mr. Durham has a track record with delicate cases where the investigative focus is on F.B.I. agents and C.I.A. officers. In 1999, Attorney General Janet Reno asked him to investigate the F.B.I.’s handling of James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious mobster whom agents used as an informant. He secured convictions and unraveled a corrupt network of law enforcement officials working with Mr. Bulger.

Almost a decade later, Mr. Durham was directed to investigate the destruction of C.I.A. videotapes depicting the torture of detainees in secret prisons run by the agency. During that investigation, he interviewed Gina Haspel, now the director of the C.I.A., about her role in the destruction of the tapes. The investigation was expanded to include abuses of C.I.A. detainees. It ended with no criminal charges.

His most recent assignment involved investigating James A. Baker, the widely respected former top lawyer at the F.B.I., over a suspected leak of classified information. Mr. Durham quietly used agents with the United States Postal Service in that case because the Justice Department had decided that the F.B.I. could not investigate itself, people familiar with the investigation said. Mr. Baker has denied wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime.

For his review, Mr. Durham has enlisted Nora R. Dannehy, a veteran federal prosecutor who worked with him in Connecticut and led a two-year inquiry into whether department officials under President George W. Bush broke the law in firing several United States attorneys.

Many of the F.B.I. and C.I.A. officials that Mr. Durham is expected to attempt to interview have left government, including Bill Priestap, the bureau’s top counterintelligence agent during the Russia inquiry. Mr. Priestap privately told Congress last year that there was no F.B.I. conspiracy against Mr. Trump or his campaign.

He was also asked whether he met Mr. Mifsud on an overseas trip, a suggestion the F.B.I. was secretly working with the professor. Mr. Priestap said no.

For his part, Mr. Barr does not seem to mind that his travels in aid of the Durham review create an appearance that he is trying to protect the president. During a speech on Thursday, Mr. Barr recalled a recent episode when he was asked which country he planned to visit next. “Greenland,” he joked, a reference to one of Mr. Trump’s previous controversies.

Jason Horowitz contributed reporting from Rome, and Julian E. Barnes from Washington.

Follow Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner on Twitter: @MarkMazzettiNYT, @adamgoldmanNYT and @ktbenner.

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Kurt Volker, Ukraine and a Turbulent End in the Trump Administration

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WASHINGTON — “Please don’t publish this letter,” Kurt D. Volker, a former career foreign service officer, pleaded in 2016 with Eliot A. Cohen and Eric Edelman, two former Republican officials leading a “Never Trump” letter-writing movement.

Their arguments were not wrong, Mr. Volker told them, as both sides remember it. But he argued that Donald J. Trump might actually win the election. And Mr. Volker, who had seen his foreign service career cut short after a new President Barack Obama swiftly removed him as the United States ambassador to NATO, was not going to blacklist himself from a senior post in another administration.

He got a lot more than he wanted.

Mr. Volker, who was President Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine until his abrupt resignation late last month, is today a central player in a political uproar that is threatening Mr. Trump’s presidency with impeachment and contaminating American’s relationship with Ukraine. It has also saddled Mr. Volker with legal bills and may force his resignation from another post, that of executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University, based in Washington. (A final decision had been postponed.)

One bright spot for Mr. Volker, 54, a serious-looking policymaker with wire-rim glasses and a thick crop of salt-and-pepper hair, is that he was to be married Saturday afternoon at Washington National Cathedral to Ia Meurmishvili, a journalist and television anchor for Voice of America’s Georgian service. They met when he was her first guest on her television program; it is his second marriage.

Mr. Volker, who viewed his task as helping Ukraine remain independent against Russian aggression while working for a president with a curious crush on President Vladimir V. Putin, has emerged from his assignment as a man who seems a willing participant in an effort by Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to pressure a foreign government to investigate Democratic political rivals at home.

Friends counter that Mr. Volker is another victim of the Trump era — a career diplomat who thought he could reconcile his own ambition and public service while working for a president who blurs the line between personal gain and the country’s interests.

“I have no doubt he was trying to do the right thing,” said Daniel Fried, a former ambassador and 40-year State Department official who was Mr. Volker’s former boss at the National Security Council. “The question is not what his motives were, but whether what he was trying to do was just impossible because he was facing a situation so compromised, he couldn’t fix it with his usual skills.”

But friends who read the testimony that Mr. Volker gave to Congress on Thursday also said they were frustrated that Mr. Volker was papering over his own role rather than taking responsibility for it. They pointed to a disconnect between Mr. Volker’s testimony and a series of incriminating text messages he provided voluntarily to Congress, in which he is revealed as party to a plan for Ukraine to conduct politically helpful investigations for Mr. Trump as a condition for a White House visit.

Mr. Volker stated in his testimony that “at no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden.” He said that Joseph R. Biden Jr. was “never a topic of discussion” in the text messages. But the messages include references to Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden, a son of Mr. Biden, was on the board. The subtext, foreign policy experts said, was impossible not to understand.

Mr. Volker, for his part, views himself as blameless, according to people who have spoken with him. He has told associates that the text messages do not capture the whole story.

“Heard from White House — assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington,” Mr. Volker wrote to a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on July 25.

The text seems to show that Mr. Volker understood that pursuing a policy outcome he wanted — setting up a face-to-face meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky in order to reset the relationship — meant using highly questionable means and what critics call an extraordinary abuse of presidential power — to get there.

But Mr. Volker testified to congressional investigators on Thursday that ultimately he advised the Ukrainians to drop the arrangement and that he was, as he has told associates, simply trying to “stop something bad from happening.”

Mr. Volker, friends said, has remained upbeat, committed to the idea that he helped steer Ukraine policy in a successful direction, and that his decision not to sign the “Never Trump” letters and to serve in the Trump administration was, even in retrospect, the right thing to do.

When Mr. Volker joined the administration in July 2017, he was taking on a difficult task under normal circumstances — supporting democracy and reform in Ukraine while deterring Russian aggression. The added burden, friends said, was doing it all under Mr. Trump, a leader who ran a separate off-the-books foreign policy through Mr. Giuliani, and who wanted to maintain a close relationship with Mr. Putin.

In his testimony to Congress, Mr. Volker said he was aware that Mr. Trump viewed Ukraine as a corrupt country full of “terrible people” who were “trying to take me down.” That view, he said, was fueling a “negative narrative” that stood in the way of building a bilateral relationship with the new Ukraine government.

Mr. Volker — whose part-time, unpaid role as special envoy meant that he functioned outside of any formal State Department process — tried to explain his rationale for involving himself in Mr. Giuliani’s push for Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

He faced a choice, Mr. Volker said in his testimony: “Do nothing, and allow this situation to fester, or try to fix it. I tried to fix it.”

Foreign policy experts said that view was naïve.

“Donald Trump is certainly not someone who can be boxed in or fixed,” said Andrew S. Weiss, who was a Russia adviser to President Bill Clinton. “Everything we know about Giuliani points in the same direction.” Mr. Weiss said that under Mr. Trump’s leadership, “the level of dysfunction on Ukraine policy is stunning.”

The State Department declined to comment on Mr. Volker’s testimony, or his work in the administration. Mr. Volker declined to comment as well, and Mr. Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment.

But in an appearance on Fox News on Friday night, Mr. Giuliani described Mr. Volker as “a great diplomat” who “doesn’t know anything about investigating, doesn’t know anything about crime.’’

Mr. Volker’s former colleagues pinned the blame on the man who sets the tone for his administration from the top.

“Experience has demonstrated that the closer you get to Trump, the harder it is to stay clean,” Mr. Fried said. “Decent people are put in impossible positions. I don’t think Kurt deserves to be hurt. It could have been me.”

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