President-elect Donald Trump will not push for a further investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, a matter which he does not clearly have the authority to pursue and which the FBI previously decided did not merit criminal charges following an independent investigation. Trump’s threat to “lock her up” was a mainstay of his campaign rallies, despite the fact that the White House does not have oversight over the FBI and Justice Department’s conduct in investigations and an order to investigate a political opponent would be a serious breach of democratic and rule-of-law norms. The New York Times has more.
Trump took to Youtube last night to deliver a review of a truncated policy agenda. Notably for Lawfare readers, the President-elect promised to work with the Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “develop a comprehensive plan to protect America’s vital infrastructure from cyberattacks and all other form of attacks.” The Times and The Hill take a look.
The mood is grim among Muslim Americans in the intelligence community, the Daily Beast writes. Muslims working in the Pentagon, the CIA, and the Department of Homeland Security are in the midst of an “anticipatory freakout,” concerned over their future in the government and whether they will soon be considered as threats to the nation’s security instead of citizens working to protect it.
A white supremacist conference in Washington, D.C. raised alarm yesterday when it ended with a Nazi salute and a chant of “Heil victory” and “Heil Trump.” The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum released a statement in response to the gathering and the President-elect’s strong support among white extremist groups, warning, “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.” In an on-the-record meeting with the New York Times today, Trump responded to widespread criticism of his popularity among extremists by saying, “It’s not a group I want to energize. And if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why.” He added, "I condemn them. I disavow, and I condemn."
U.N. special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura suggested yesterday that “international outrage” over the devastation in Aleppo could limit Trump’s ability to work with Russia in the Syrian crisis, as Trump has floated. The Times reports on de Mistura’s comments and the state of Aleppo, where bombing has continued. De Mistura declared that unless the situation changes dramatically, “eastern Aleppo will not be there by the new year in terms of structural destruction.”
The Syrian army has announced a volunteer corp to fight rebel forces, encouraging men to sign up to fight terrorism and return “security and stability,” the Washington Post tells us. The announcement likely signals the extent to which Syrian military forces have been degraded over the course of the grinding war, despite support from Russia, Iran, and Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
ISIS has used chemical weapons across Syria and Iraq at least 52 times since 2014, a new report by the IHS Conflict Monitor indicates. The Washington Post examines the report, which warns that the Islamic State may turn to chemical weapons in the battle of Mosul both to attack coalition forces and take revenge on civilians. The Times has more.
Iraqi forces have moved into the densely populated Zohour neighborhood in northern Mosul, beginning a siege of the area in an effort to rid it of ISIS fighters, the AP reports. Meanwhile, Iraqi troops continue to consolidate their hold on eastern Mosul. U.S. special forces carried out an airstrike on a bridge linking the city’s eastern and western halves, limiting the militants’ range of movement throughout the city; this is the third of the city’s five bridges to be destroyed by coalition forces since the Mosul offensive began.
A week after overturning a death sentence for imprisoned former president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s highest court has now overturned Morsi’s life sentence as well, the Wall Street Journal reports. The court ordered a retrial of Morsi’s case, though it did not set a date. Morsi is currently serving lengthy concurrent sentences on multiple charges following his imprisonment by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after the country’s 2013 coup.
Libyan authorities have arrested the wife of al-Qaeda-linked terrorist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the AP writes. Belmokhtar has been reported dead multiple times, most recently in a U.S. drone strike last summer, but now may be fighting in southern Libya.
Tensions remain high in the disputed Kashmir region as India casts blame on Pakistan for the deaths of three Indian soldiers, AFP reports. Indian army officials have accused Pakistani soldiers of conducting a “sneak attack” across Kashmir’s Line of Control. The two regional rivals have been conducting skirmishes and exchanging cross-border fire over the Line of Control following an attack on an Indian military base in Kashmir by militants based in Pakistan.
Reuters tells us that the United States and the Philippines have agreed to curtail joint military exercises and U.S. troop deployments, though the United States will remain involved in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and counterterrorism efforts. The announcement follows a string of confusing and contradictory statements by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte regarding his apparent desire to sever or scale down military ties with the United States.
ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare
Susan Landau argued that securing communications will be more important than ever under a Trump administration.
John Bellinger posted an excerpt from his Lloyd Cutler Rule of Law lecture on "Law and the Use of Force: Challenges for the Next President."
Jane Chong wrote that the roles of Stephen Bannon and General Michael Flynn in the Trump administration present a national security threat.
Daniel Byman laid out why an alliance with Bashar al-Assad against ISIS should be too costly for Trump to seriously consider.
Clara Hendrickson alerted readers to a new episode of the Chess Clock Debates, featuring Dan Byman and David Luban on whether there is a duty to serve in government under Donald Trump.
Quinta Jurecic reviewed the upcoming week.
Timothy Edgar asked how we can stop a Trump administration from “closing the internet up.”
Rick Houghton examined dispute resolution over Russian breaches of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
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